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February 26, 2010

Truths revealed.

Truth #1
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Truth #2

I posted this the other day in response to a thread on "authenticity." It just sort of flew out of the keyboard. I think it might be my artist statement.


I was about 18 when I took my first painting class. I was told I needed to find something to paint about. That tripped me up because I kept trying to find "something" and I didn't understand "about". My first painting was of a pair of Mardi Gras beads and sunglasses. It felt pretty empty at the time, but I was 18 and that's who I was. I kept painting and I kept looking for something to paint about. It took me awhile to realize that that the constant searching was not just part of the work, but that it was the work. 25+ years later, I'm still searching. Life happens. The process of painting is an ongoing narrative. Not only within each painting, but in the bigger picture (no pun intended.) Sometimes it's lame, sometimes its a failure. Sometimes it's shallow. Sometimes it's beautiful and funny, or tries to be heroic, and sometimes it's sad and painful. I have no idea. That's about as authentic as it's going to get for me.



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Truth #3

And here's a good one.

I'm flying to Nashville tomorrow morning. I had a student tonight who had never heard of Nashville. Like she had no idea what state it was located in. She's in college. She said she had never heard of David Bowie either.

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Truth #4

That painting of the Mardi Gras beads and sunglasses is still in Nashville. It's stored behind a bookcase. Shows absolutely no promise, but I kept it anyway. I'll try and take a picture of it. After which, I'll try and talk myself into uploading it.

February 21, 2010

Hope

"Too often in the past we have thought of the artist as an idler and dilettante and of the lover of arts as somehow sissy or effete. We have done both an injustice. The life of the artist is, in relation to his work, stern and lonely. He has labored hard, often among deprivation, to perfect his skill. He has turned aside from quick success in order to strip his vision of everything secondary or cheapening. His working life is marked by intense application and intense discipline. As for the lover of arts, it is he who, by subjecting himself to the sometimes disturbing experience of art, sustains the artist — and seeks only the reward that his life will, in consequence, be the more fully lived." —JFK, 1962

I had a bout of insecurity yesterday. Fear of the unknown and all that stuff. Matt had stopped by and I told him I felt like a dope because the only thing that I feel like I can do, and that gives me some sort of peace, is working in the studio, making paintings, and that even though sometimes painting was a struggle it was a good struggle, but that I was feeling like it wasn't enough. He mentioned this JFK quote and sent it to me later.

February 18, 2010

Turns out I might know what the work is about and how to articulate it after all.

And, I might add, without mentioning specifics. Unfortunately I did not tape the convo, but no matter.

I had a studio visit today with a woman who used to be the curator for the Skirball Museum. She's conducting a class in conjunction with a George Segal piece recently acquired by the museum. Because of the nature of this piece, the class will be focusing on artists and their processes. The class will be visiting different artists' studios and she has included me in the schedule later this spring.

She stopped by this morning for an initial meeting and although I cleaned up a little, I pretty much just showed her what's been going on in the studio the last few months. I'm always surprised at myself when I make sense, get to the point, and don't drag in messy details that are directly responsible for the work. It was also the first time anyone has seen the work in the studio since late last summer-the new direction, if you will. I showed them along with some of the earlier new works and talked about the relevance. I talked about scale and gesture, time and space, specificity and abstraction, control versus lack thereof, and linear narratives. I'm writing this down here so I can remember it. It was a good visit.

So although I have yet to write an updated statement for the work, I discovered I have internalized it to the point where I can speak about it with some sort of distance. It's been a year, after all. The paintings have become some sort of residue. This pleases me.

I felt better after the studio visit. She noticed last month's moribund floral arrangement sitting on my painting table, along with yesterday's fresh buttercups, and commented that I work from life. If you looked at the paintings, you'd be hard-pressed to identify the flowers as coming from real life. I explained that it was more about the concept of setting up flowers in the studio as a marking of time rather than the actual need to paint from them verbatim, though I do try for some sort of accuracy in the beginning. I mentioned the garden club calendars.

I've been feeling disconnected from the seemingly important and uber hipness of the art world here in L.A. or anywhere for that matter. There's so much hype for the trendy and popular, the gimmicks and the one-liners. It seems I am better when I forget about how, when, or why my work does, or does not fit in, and just focus on the work. It's nice to have the work appreciated for what it is, rather than dismissed for what it is not.

February 17, 2010

Recap

Highlights from some posts that I did not publish:

2/08/10- Painting flowers is killing me.
2/10/10- I'm sick of writing artist statements. I noticed that my writing style mimics my painting process.
2/16/10- The Santa Anas wreck havoc with my head; I was down for a good 2.5 days as you can read in this dramatic account:
"I exhibited symptoms of general malaise along with quaint feelings of dizziness and lethargy. If I had a fainting couch, I would have laid limp on it, alá Edward Gorey. One of the problems I have with not feeling well is that it's hard for me to stay still. The other problem is that it's LA; there's not a dark or gloomy room in the entire house. Since restlessness, sunshine, and lethargy don't mix well, I kept moving from surface to surface trying to remain inert. I suppose the solution would be some kind of therapy involving a motorized hammock in a dark room. Yesterday, my #1 priority was procuring a can of OMS, so a quick trip to the art supply store was underway before the general malaise turned into an eye headache- the kind where I envision a router drilling out my eye socket as a form of pain management. I worked a tiny bit in the studio before giving in to the couch, the ice pack, the heat pack, and a hot bath, all to no avail. Finally at 6pm, I walked over to the Thai massage place as a last ditch effort to get rid of the headache, and after being kneaded to a pulp, I felt better. I went to bed at 10:30 pm and slept for all of 2 hours. The rest of the evening/morning, I fretted over stuff. Fretting sucks. The good news is that I teach tonight, so I should be completely zombified by the time I get to class."

2/16/10- I blew my allowance on a couple of spooky looking palette knives, that apparently I could not live without.

Meanwhile in real time, I'd like to consider hiring an intern, but it's almost as though delegating the work would take as much time as doing the work.

Meanwhile, still in real time, I'm in a group show. The opening is this weekend:

February 11, 2010

Images from my world in progress

None of these have been titled yet, though I think I have a working show title. They're in various stages. The works can change quite drastically as I work on them, until one day, I no longer notice a need to work on them. They'll either survive or not, but at some point, we say goodbye.



^ You might recognize this from a few weeks ago when it aspired to be a romantic flower. If I hang it upside down, I'm better with it. Either way it makes my teeth hurt.



^ I'm about to call this one finished.

Another pool


It's like I'm always trying to fix something with duct tape.

February 10, 2010

So good.

Mark Dutcher. I love his work. He recently posted a body of works currently underway in his studio and I'm completely struck. So, so good. Perfect timing. I really needed to see that.

My favorite paintings in my own studio are usually the ones I feel only a mother could love, the difficult ones I won't let die, or the ones that try but never reach their full potential. Idiot savant paintings, dyslexic paintings, misfits and slow learner paintings. I feel like making a flag and marching in a parade.

February 08, 2010

Hello People, talk to me...

I'm curious what other people think about identity and place in the context of being an artist. Some of these are devil's advocate questions.

  • What makes an artist, a "Los Angeles/New York/Chicago/Midwest, Southern, Canadian, Kansas City, Peoria, etc" artist? Did you notice any stereotyping as you read that list?
  • Is identifying as an artist from a specific place relevant in understanding the work, or just a convenient byline to add to the bio?
  • If too much emphasis is placed on identity and location, how is this different from regionalism?
  • Does a city need or want a cohesive artistic identity? Why? Wouldn't that lead to a closed system or stunt artistic growth?
  • Does simply being identified with an arts capital give an artist more weight, regardless of what kind of work they do?
  • How does any of this affect the actual art being made and the opportunities for growth as an artist?
  • Do artists still strive or need to leave smaller cities in order to live a fulfilled life in the arts?
  • If there is a certain stigma to being an [insert city] artist. If so, why?
  • Every now an then I see some Utopian arts village being advertised located far from the maddening crowd. Cheaper space, a community for artists, lots of valid reasons enticing artists to relocate. Why don't these work?
  • How can smaller cities become more vital in the arts?
  • Do all artists suffer from what was referred to as a "malaise" in being from a smaller city?
  • When I lived in Chicago 15 years ago, people were talking about leaving to go to NY or LA, so really, what's place go to do with it; we can't all live in 2 or 3 cities?
The reasons are usually obvious why artists leave smaller cities, so I'm more curious on finding solutions or innovations for why and how artists can make smaller cities more vital.
And by smaller cities I mean cities independent of a major arts-centric city. Like for instance, Long Beach or Hoboken wouldn't cut it in my discussion.

Obviously, I've my own reasons for posing this question, but I'd love to hear from anyone, including dealers, gallerists, curators, collectors etc. who stumbles upon this post.


Thanks,

m.a.h.

Today's goal: aim higher.

February 07, 2010

Would it surprise anyone if I said I have NOT done my accounting?

Doubt it.

Part 1.
After a 2 hour yoga inversion workshop, I headed (no pun intended) to Pasadena for the Ruth Trotter closing and lecture. I missed the first hour of the lecture because my inversion workshop didn't end until 3:15 and it took me about 45 minutes to get to Pasadena. Even on a good day in the LA freeway system, it's tough trying to be two places at once. The show was at Project 210, an intimate project space run by Quinton Bemiller and Chuck Feesago. I missed Ruth actually talking about her work, but I was there for part of the discussion about teaching art, artist's expectations, hype, BFA's and MFA's, and gasp, even questioning the necessity of getting an MFA. Afterwards, I was involved in a mini-discussion with a couple of artists about how we (the collective we of our culture here in most of the United States, save, perhaps Manhattan) need to offer an educational curriculum in collecting art, instilling in children (I would LOVE to see a MOCA Tiny Tots collector group asking toddlers to pony up their allowance to join and schmooze with other well-bootsied toddlers) and adults, the value of collecting original, contemporary art. It was nice to see Ruth's work in person. Drawings were in the main room and a few paintings around the perimeter. Very nice.

[intermission. Time lapse film sequence of sun setting, sun rising and sun setting again]

Part 2.
I won't tell you what search words I used, but it lead me to a blog(s) I peruse from time to time, and more or less, the discussion of my search query. Along the way, I spotted a quasi-rant on what appears to be high on the list of turn-offs in the art world: work that is a highly personal reaction to some event in the artist's life. Well, this kind of sucks now, doesn't it? I mean, damn, that frigging sums up a year's worth of studio production quite frigging succinctly, not to mention current work. I also came across a post that I would have sworn I had written, had it not been for the spelling and grammar atrocities, along with a few other discrepancies. It was like I had consulted an oracle. Fascinating.

Part 3.
Not worth it.

February 05, 2010

It's raining today. Hello laptop.

It's raining today. I have to do my accounting. I'm a tad behind. Not much. Just a tad.

I'm thinking about hashing out my statement about the new work, here in public, on this blog. Rough draft, snippet form, just to get rolling. My Process Blog voice ironically seems to be more unguarded than my Word voice when I work solely on the laptop. When I write for the blog, I feel like I'm addressing an invisible audience of clones. I say things I'd probably leave out in a formal statement about the work. I can also meander here, maybe getting to the point a few posts later. But like painting, sometimes, it's the meandering that is the point.

I also put off writing about the work until the last possible minute. I like to be surprised about the work. Writing fills in the blanks and sometimes I'd rather they not be filled in by me.


Every so often, I do a true/ false thing with my statement, literally breaking each line down into list form and asking myself if that sentence is still true.

For instance,
1. As an artist, I have taken on the task of sorting and re-arranging information. [True]
2. My work investigates the desire to construct meaning out of chaos through the use of personal iconography and the language of painting. [True]
3. I am partial to abstraction because of its intrinsic inability to illustrate, and the ensuing challenge this presents. [In my heart of hearts I believe this is true, but it's not a black and white issue anymore]
4. information is missing, incomplete, or thwarted. [True]
5. Culling from the history of painting, I play with formal constructs by employing visual tropes such as drips, biomorphic shapes, hard edges, and Expressionistic gestures throughout the work. [True, though I noticed less hard edges and kitchen sink approaches within the last year]
6. By fusing together disparate elements, I’m able to create a mashup of events, a conglomerate universe in miniature. [True. Notice the foreshadowing with the use of the word, miniature. When I wrote this statement, I despised small paintings, wouldn't give them the time of day. Contempt prior to investigation, yes? I think so. This sentence deserves to be fleshed out.]
7. While architecture, technology and landscape have been prevalent themes throughout the recent work, I do not rely on themes as a primary source of motivation, but instead address issues as they arise. That said, there are remnants of my vocabulary in all of the work. [True. Core.]
8. The work reflects my response to, and filtration of, events, memories and moments that make up each day. [True. Responses may vary.]
9. Through processes such as automatic drawing, layering, and excavation, I am constantly negotiating boundaries between control versus loss of control. [True, but again, the idea of "loss of control" and "excavation" seem to be a foreshadowing of issues more prevalent in the recent work than I would have imagined at this writing.]
10. Ambiguity is intentional, and incongruity is evident as fragments of information compete with one another for attention. [True, though it depends on the painting for how competitive the environment on the canvas is. ]
11. Each mark reflects an ongoing dialogue, an open-ended exchange. [True]
12. I approach painting as a verb, rather than as a noun. [True, though the pools and flowers by default of their inherent function in the grammar world exist in the realm of the noun. Fortunately, my loophole is the word, approach. Verdict: still true.]
13. The emphasis is on the act of painting; the representations that remain are traces of the production. [True. The act of painting is not in service of the object defined. The object, if there is one, is the result of the act of painting.]

Okay, so as a basic statement, it still holds true, but the work has evolved to include specifics I still feel the need to address somewhere.

February 02, 2010

The studio, the computer, the telephone and the file cabinet.

I spent most of January divided between the studio, the computer and the telephone or file cabinet. And yoga. A whole month of consecutive yoga. Yes!

The Computer:
A couple of applications and way too much writing and thinking.
I finished a short essay entitled, On being critical in the 21st century, with the caveat that I am a painter. It was for an online arts journal specifically interested in how we define critical. The essay was under 1000 words and I left out a lot of tangential meanderings that otherwise might have found their way into the more casual conversation of this blog. My definition of critical in the context of that essay was based on a system of viewing work and having conversations about the work in galleries and other spaces, either in the established system, or out of the established system. I don't think it's possible in the 21st century to make art outside of some system. Even if you're exhibiting in a parking space or a closet, it’s relevant for discussion. Otherwise,what would happen to all the blurbs and press links living in my inbox? They would be nomads, wandering cyberspace without a home.

The Studio:
Pools, Flowers, mostly flowers last month. At first the flowers were alive, but now they're dead. At first the paintings were pretty and kind of representational, now they are gunky and abstract.

The Telephone and the File Cabinet:
After 23 years on the lam, I'm moving back to Nashville at the end of the school semester to take care of my mom. There. I've said it out loud. It seems to be the easiest solution, given all the elements that play into this decision. Part of me is thinking maybe it's temporary until I need another solution, but if it's not, that's okay too. I've spent the last 2 weeks making phone calls at 6:45 BC (Before Coffee) to another time zone in order to establish a home heath care service in the interim. (Fingers crossed.)

(2.3.10. addendum: home health care was a total wash. They saw tire tracks in the driveway from the mail truck and deduced my mom was not home bound. Then my mom told them she drove the dog around the block every day and she didn't want or need anyone to help her. There you have it. The art of beautiful logic.)

February 01, 2010

Today is a studio day, but first....

An online arts journal, called Nashville Critical recently started up with something of a call to arms in defining what's critical in Nashville. Having moved away from Nashville about 20 years ago partially due to a lack of professional exhibition opportunities, I felt compelled to contribute.


Addendum: (To clarify- when I say a lack of professional exhibition spaces, what I really meant to say, was that there were only one or two commercial galleries in town. Didn't want anyone to get the impression that there was a plethora of non-professional spaces in town, or that there was a total dearth of professionalism. Just not many spaces, period. Why, back in the day, there weren't even coffeehouses, and I had to grind my own pigment and chop my own wood.)


I'm tired of thinking.