June 29, 2011

wind. caution. throwing.

The day before yesterday was a disaster in the studio. Nothing stuck. Paint went down, paint wiped off. Paint went down, paint wiped off. I am reluctant to walk away from the studio, without anything to show for it, so I guilted myself into staying and and repeating this sad cycle over and over until I could no longer take the defeat. In reality, nothing is ever wasted. These kind of days happen. I don't know why and I am grateful not very often, but I know that that do. As a precaution though, I took yesterday off. My mind needed to wander. I did some yard work until I either killed my weedeater or ran out of line. Hopefully, the later. I forgot what else I did yesterday. Oh right, yes, the other side of the coin: some business, lite. And lemons. Fresh lemonade and a run.

Today I was back in the studio. No, I did not paint all of these in one day. Today was simply a productive, calm, and clear-headed day in the studio- and with relative ease, I deemed all of them finished today. Weed-eating is apparently a twofer.

There is a symmetry to the work. I think it's obvious, but then again, I'm on the inside, looking out, looking in.

Proposed titles:
First Winter, 2011, oil on linen, 10 x 8 inches
Mirror #1: We Can Hardly Contain Ourselves, 2011, mixed media on canvas, 20 x 16 inches
Mirror #2: Leitmotif, 2011, mixed media on canvas, 20 x 16 inches
Mirror #2: Obfuscation, 2011, mixed media on canvas, 20 x 16 inches
Self-portrait with Plates, 2011, oil on linen, 10 x 8 inches

The usual disclaimer: shot with an iphone. I need to make a date to document the recent work.

June 28, 2011

What I've been reading and looking at out of the corner of my eye.

I love books. I have bought, and then later donated or sold, hundreds over the years. I've moved a lot. Moving books is easy on one hand- they fit in a small box neatly and are quite efficient to pack, but OMG, the weight, the number of boxes, and the wall space. I've done books as coffee table bases with glass tops, stacked as molding along the perimeter of a room, poised as columns,  and strewn about as though I was in a reading frenzy. You name it, but in the end, I've had to let go of some. To my credit, I have repurchased only 2 or 3 titles. 

I go to the library now. 

I forgot what prompted me to pick up a book on self-taught outsider art. I'm clipping through things in the studio at a rather fast pace. Maybe it was my self-portraits. It could have been the visionary work my alter ego has been doing. The nice thing about having an alter ego is that you don't know what they're really thinking. They don't write artist statements. They don't over think the work. They just make the work. Sometimes they go to the library.

Here are a few paintings from The Anthony Petullo Collection. I saw it in the library while picking up the monograph on Alice Neel. An interesting fact I discovered about outsider art has nothing to do with the art per se, but it's rise to prominence. The entire field is a construct that was brought to the public attention through its collectors. 
"By focusing less exclusively on artists and more generously on the myriad of other shapers of taste, we allow the collector  more visible place on the stage of art history. At the same time, our eagerness to embrace a host of unconventional artistic traditions has given new legitimacy to self-taught art. And, most curious of all, there seems to be a subliminal connection between these two phenomena, for the recent surge of interest in self-taught art is almost entirely a collector-generated initiative."
Petullo, Anthony. Self-taught & Outsider Art: the Anthony Petullo Collection. Urbana: University of Illinois, 2001. 

I'm posting strictly for the images, but I'll admit the accompany text about the role of the collector is a good read for those who are not initiated in the art world dialogue or who prefer to ignore those things as if they don't exist.

James Dixon (1887-early 1970's)
"Loving Cup," 1964
oil on paper
20 x 14 in.

Sylvia Levine (1911-1998)
"Cornish Landscape with Donkeys, 1987
oil on board
13.5 x 14.75 in.
Sylvia took art classes at the West of England School of Art and was well-aware of the professional art world and the galleries and museums in London. An employee at the local art supply store sold her a palette knife, and the rest was history as they say.
James Lloyd (1905-74)
"Girl with Horse"
Gouache on paper, 15 x 10 in
Alfred Wallis
"Cottage in the Woods, St.Ives"
oil on card
39.5 x 47.5 in

Justin McCarthy
"Freddie Trenkler, 1963
oil on board
22 x 14 in.

Last summer I found the above painting up in the attic. It was rolled tightly and as I unrolled it, it started to crumble. It's painted on brown paper. I thought it was tempera paint, but the back looks like the figure might have been painted with oil or maybe oil pastel. The face does have a mouth, but the lips are dark and do not stand out. There are reddish tones  and cross-contour lines in the face and neck. It's fragile and I used regular scotch tape on the back to keep it intact. Not exactly archival, but it worked in an emergency. I'm certain I did not paint this as a child. I have no recollection of it. A highly educated guess would be that it was done either by my mother or my grandfather, though it's all speculation. I'm clueless. It could be a portrait of someone who worked for my grandparents, or it could have been a classmate. The outfit looks like it may be a uniform, but again, speculation. I suppose if I were to take a few decades off, I could read through all the letters in the attic and see if there were any mention of this occasion, but no, I am not going to do that. Someone cared enough about it to keep it, pack it, (albeit we are not exactly a family of archival conservators) and move it from my grandparents' house to the house I currently live in. Out of all the things I have unearthed in this house, it's one of my favorites. They're are a few other portraits in the house, family members and ancestors, but they appear to have been done by professional artists. One day I will post the family tree ´a la artists' renditions. 

Merlin James,
"Empty Lot & Building, New York" 2002-04
acrylic on canvas
14.5 x 20.75 in.
Yesterday during an interview I was talking about my pools and flower paintings and/or my smaller scale paintings, and Merlin James' name came up. 

On a separate note, it was brought to my attention that my micro-residency, while a generous plan, was best kept as just MY micro-residency. Possibly more about that later. Or not. 

June 26, 2011

Interlude, The Cryptic Post

I had an interesting conversation today. If I told you more than that you'd send the funny bus to my house. No matter, I've got some points to ponder. Number one on the list: I have to clean the attic.

June 25, 2011

I'm doing a mini-residency today at my micro-residency.

But not really as I already had to go to the grocery store, after which I came home and prepared homemade cream of broccoli soup. Perhaps I am doing the work-study version.

This is all to say that I need unfettered think time, some time to play around. I have a solo show coming up this fall as part of the residency program, but now I hear it's loosely scheduled for October. It's hearsay at this point, but once I confirm it, I need to start thinking about a title and what to show. I've been making work of course, but residencies- for me- are about exploration. A place to experiment and let the work take on a life of its own with no agendas. This is quite different than production mode for a show which is sometimes extremely focused: the goal is to have X paintings by X date; they fall under the show title/concept of X. etc, etc. My production MO for the last 4 months since having the TC studio has been more in the line with that of a Circus Ringmaster only instead of orchestrating freak shows and trapeze acts, it's self-portraits, abstracts, plants, more pools, and some still lifes. Natch I did a wiki on ringmaster and discovered the term, "Monsieur Loyal" which is another term for the ringmaster taken from, "Anselme-Pierre Loyal (1753-1826), one of the first renowned circus personalities." After discovering Monsieur Loyal, which I prefer to pronounce as Loyale, as though I'm Vincent in Pulp Fiction explaining to Jules that in Amsterdam the Quarter Pounder is a Royale with Cheese, I started throwing Monsieur Loyale around as a possible show title. Only no one would get it. The end. God, I hate when I'm so clever that only I can understand the intricate complexity of such a fantastic title. A crying shame.

Anyway, I need to make more work. It's a rather lengthy linear space and my original idea of inviting others to participate might not be the best fit now due to the possible red tape of organizing such a show with relatively little time, especially since I'm not in charge of the space and all the exhibition details. But I'm thinking of it.


I was going to take it easy today at the micro-home residency and read, but I ended up working on another small self-portrait. I'm conflicted by my desire to be accurate, yet intrigued by how difficult it is to work from a mirror and keep the same pose with the same perspective for a few hours. I caught myself distorting a self-portrait on purpose this past week, or rather exaggerating some features in order to capture a particular mood, and wondering if it was too soon to break away from my self-imposed structure.  (Self-imposed structure for a self-portrait. How fitting.) Plus you know, the paint, always the seductive paint. Other times, I struggle to nail some particular feature, like the eyes for instance. I obsess over the eyes and my dark circles. I loathe the fact I can't see close-up unless I wear my glasses, so there's this ongoing battle with looking, seeing and painting—with and without my glasses. Criminy, I don't know anymore. A friend offered up some Lacanian Mirror Stage BS as a way of explaining the difficulty. I was pretty sure it's because I never studied figure drawing. But hey, I'll throw the Mirror Phase around if it helps. After grad school, you'd be surprised at how difficult it is to slip psychoanalytic theory buzzwords into your daily conversation.

Oh, and I almost forgot. "Couillarde." Picked that term up from a book on Cezanne's self-portraits. Derived from couille, and roughly translates as balls or guts.

June 22, 2011

When it rains, it pours

I mean this in a good way. Time to play the lottery.

Day Job

I could go into details, but why spoil the fun. Click on the links to find out more. The pool is serving double duty as a backdrop. The house is good to me.

June 20, 2011

The Frog Story

Bullfrog #1

I think he's trying to communicate with me, and no, I did not kiss him. 

 Meanwhile on the other side...
Bullfrog #2

I'll be jumping around and backtracking, but the first line of reportage is an update on the pool and its inhabitants, which means that in order to tell you about that, I need to explain that a long time friend of mine from back in the UT painting days, OxBow, and then Chicago, came in town last Thursday for the night. Coincidentally, another friend of mine from Chicago asked if I would host a friend of hers who was in town doing the American Artisan Festival, and I said of course, since I consider hosting visitors in keeping with the spirit of my micro-residency. I sort of forgot they would overlap one night, but all was well. I had a clean house, the lawn was cut and of course, drum roll......... the pool was in full swing. 

Let me explain. About a week ago, I was giddy when I discovered that the snapper, who I now call Tyler Durden, was scrambling out of the water one day, checking out dry land, also known as the deep end of the pool. I was seriously mesmerized. I went to get my camera, but when I came back, he sensed me and quickly scrambled back in the water. The two bullfrogs, as you may recall, are masters of camouflage, so when I walk out, I don't see them at first, and by the time I spot them, they spot me, squawk, and jump back in the water. And thus, the status quo of life on the back 40 wetlands. Until today. 

I was showing Kate, my new hatmaker friend, the pool. (Here's Kate's facebook page called Strong Wear). We took pictures, of course. The lichen and moss are lush so we decided to climb down the shallow end, and low and behold Bullfrog #1 is sitting quietly off to the side. He does not jump when we descend, which is totally unusual. Bullfrog #2, also a master of disguises, goes undetected. He squawks and splashes into the water. Bullfrog #1 is still sitting, unfazed. Kate does this Laurie Anderson-like performance thing where she's moving closer to the Bullfrog #1, but in imperceptible increments. He does not move. She gets about 3 feet from him and starts taking his picture. He's just sitting there like no big deal. She wraps up the shoot, inches her way back up and then it's my turn to sneak down doing the same stealth performance routine. 

So here's the scene: Bullfrog #1 is on the far left side of the pool by the waterline, I am on the far right side. My plan is to descend to the waterline on the far right side and then do a crab walk over to the left side to cozy up to Bullfrog#1. I am about 1/3 of the way across when Bullfrog #2 jumps OUT of the water and lands maybe 3-4 feet from me. I am tripping. At this point I have both bullfrogs about equal distance on either side of me. Bullfrog #1 is more photogenic, so after a couple of shots of BF #2, I keep making my way toward BF #1.

It may not sound that exciting in prose form, but it was one of those special moments. 

I also sold the kayak today. Kate took it back to Chicago, from whence it came. Strange, huh? That kayak has seen Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, a few rivers, the Pacific Ocean, Lake Havasu, Mono Lake, and a few other lakes out west.  It has some good stories. So long and enjoy. 

June 15, 2011

One for the road.

 Mary Addison Hackett, "Self-portrait with Volunteers," 2011
oil, graphite and interference acrylic on paper
30" x 23"

It seemed apropos to set up shop in the den again. Sometimes I fantasize about the open loft, white cube studios of days gone by, but realistically, even in manic mode, I can only work on so many paintings at a time. I gessoed all the paper at the train car space because I don't have much accessible wall space here. What's that joke about sculpture? "Sculpture is something you back into while looking at a painting." Furniture, sculpture, same thing. After I run out of paper and linen, I'm afraid I'll be working on found wood and cardboard if things don't pick up. Not saying that would be a bad thing, but it might be the point of no return. That, and when I start doing "street art" on the side of the house. 

Speaking of which, some new works are posted over at the doppelgänger site. 

June 13, 2011

It makes perfect sense if you think about it.

Mary Addison Hackett, "Pontiac," 2011, oil on linen on panel, 10 x 8 inches

Mary Addison Hackett, "Zombie Paintarm," oil on linen on panel, 10 x 8 inches

My work has always been diaristic at some level or another, be it the abstract paintings, the videos, or the blog. Self-portraits are the ultimate form of self-scrutiny. Just add paint. The studio tendrils are coming together again. I bought some large paper yesterday and gessoed 10 sheets. I'm excited. All I want to do is paint. I'm ignoring some of the obvious problems with this obsession to be in the studio non-stop— however, the great thing for me about being an artist is the seamless line where art and life come together. When I get whiney about having to do chores or work on the business side of things- I just need to remember these things are fodder for the paintings, and without my experiences I wouldn't have the work. Pontiac, above was taken from a mirror from the old Pontiac we had. The car was an engagement present from my dad to my mom. When they finally sold it, they kept one of the mirrors. I found it last summer in the garage. The abstract work is still going on but at a lower volume. Background noise. Kind of like the electrical hum of unknown origin here in the house. This is my life. 

There's been an interesting series on Nashville Public Radio called Transitioned, "stories of Tennesseans who are learning to survive and adapt to an uncertain marketplace, and an economy in flux." It's an engaging program. People of various professions, including a few creative professionals, have shared their stories about having to get second jobs or switch careers altogether in order to live the lifestyle they want or make ends meet.. Everyone has different priorities and different necessities. It's interesting to hear how people define themselves. There's lots of talk about leaving egos behind and breakthroughs that can occur when this is done. I think I left my ego in a two-car garage studio back in Culver City, California. The ego thing has given me pause on a few fronts, including why I chose to hide behind an alter ego to sell affordable work done in a style that I actually embrace. I have no cause for shame here. One of my peeps back in LA who played arm chair psych with me suggested I drop the alter ego, claim the paintings as my own, and work bigger—and if I was hard up for petty and not so petty cash I should just do T-shirts or graphic design. I'm slowing heeding portions of that advice. 

In 2 days, I will have been in Nashville for one complete year. I don't really know what to say about that other than it's been a milestone, for sure.

[*credit to Sherie' Franssen for the term, 'paintarm,' which I stole to use as part of my title in the Zombie Paintarm  painting above.] Here's what Sherie's paintarm does: 
Sherie' Franssen, "Blood Muscle Meat," oil on canvas, 78" x 78"

June 11, 2011

Killing Me Softly

In progress. I was going to crop the image, but I always think it's funny when something outside of the canvas lines up perfectly with a mark on the canvas, so I left it in situ.

I also think it's funny that it looks like a small painting. It's 52 x 43 inches. It's killing me to remain true to local color and a limited palette. TRYING to keep a straight line at that scale and TRYING to keep the background in the back is mentally hard. I want to deviate. Blame it on the paint. I like rules, but it's driving me crazy. Yesterday, I imagined throwing out every tube of green, along with all my blues and yellows after this is over. I suspect it will continue to morph, but my rule is that it must represent the plant clipping. Less some unsuspecting visitor think I'm just painting a plant for the helluva it, I mentioned earlier that it is a plant clipping from a 100-year-old plant that died. I don't make sketches on the canvas beforehand, so in that sense it's like the abstract work with constant negotiations. I keep swearing I will never work like this at this scale again, and yet, I'm thinking of torturing myself and doing a series of them based on the concept of propagation, though I doubt I have the stamina. Whoever said telling the truth is easier than lying was lying. Maybe it is a lie, maybe that's why is so hard. I'm telling a lie and I have to keep covering up my lies. This all begs the question of why I'm even back with representational work, or perhaps to better phrase the query, why the deviation away from abstract again. I don't know. That's a lie, too.

I went far outside my comfort level today and had a friend, a civilian, sit for me. A little over an hour later, I threw in the towel. At a certain point, I felt like a 2-year old. I just wanted to play with the paint. I wanted it to be over and felt guilty for asking someone to sit for me when it became obvious it wasn't going anywhere fast.  How is it that I can remain interested in a lamp, a plant, or a swimming pool, but not a face? She was sitting in half darkness so half her face was in dark shadow. I had no real lighting to see my canvas. It was a disaster on all fronts. I get why people strive to paint representationally- immediate gratification- plus the pats on the back for making something look like something. You never get that with abstract painting. Abstract painting is an intrinsic activity. Representational painting is an extrinsic activity. Painting shouldn't be a chore. It's 92 degrees. I wish I had a functioning swimming pool. That's all I'm good for today. Idleness. And whining. I'm also tired of house chores and the computer. And food. I'm bored with food.

June 09, 2011

X, A, and M: another discussion on abstraction and representation.

I'm working on a large scale painting. One that swings decidedly to the representational side of things. I'm wondering about brain activity and how I engage in the act of painting when I think I already know something. Simply put, it's oh, how shall I say this, boring, to paint the "background." Before you smirk and act like I haven't thought this through, rest assured, I have. I understand that it is not simply a "background." I understand all the fundamental and relative aspects of what I'm doing, but what I find disengaging is the struggle to keep to my plan, the one which states that this will look like that, and that will exist in some sort of known perspective, and adhere roughly to the palette and value system I have imagined ahead of time. It's not there isn't any wiggle room- it's that this a priori way of working is tedious for me. I have to take frequent breaks, but when I step back, I feel gratified differently than I do with the abstract work. Not better, not worse, just different. Maybe my OCD is not strong enough to battle the monotony of a large patch of canvas painted roughly the same color. At a smaller scale, I am engaged, perhaps due to the abstract nature of the individual brushstrokes and my proximity to the canvas. I'm wondering if abstract painting, the act of, is more of a brain-teaser. It's possible I need to paint faster and more furiouser. That might solve The Last Year In Marienbad state I find myself in when working on a large-scale representational painting.  Is it truth? Is it fiction? Didn't I do this before? Haven't I been here? I could have sworn I worked that area before. I'm here again? No, Yes. Welcome to my château.

June 07, 2011

I may ask myself, well,

I had to buy a couple of new brushes today. The 0's have been getting a workout, but as I took a brief look at all of my brushes I realized some of those guys have been with me a long time, 30+ years. How did I get here?

June 04, 2011

Picture Theory: I'm also a sucker for the mundane.

Changeling (Shake-a-Pudding)
oil on linen/wood panel

We, not the royal 'we,' but the nuclear family, 'we,' had a plant that was over 100 years old. It was once in a conservatory at my grandmother's house. When NaNa came to live with us, the plant came too. At the time I recall my mom saying the plant was about 75 years old. It sat around in a large pot looking awkward and ancient. It was about 5 feet tall and spindly. Toward the end of my mother's life she neglected to water it. At one point she had been the president of her garden club. The plant always looked on the verge of death, but it usually pulled through. Finally though, it died. I was sad. For the plant, but also because my mother had let it die. Somehow she managed to save a clipping from it. A bail-out option I suppose. It sat in the Shake-a-Pudding cup for the last few years. No soil, just water. I finally repotted it. It's a nightblooming cereus. Supposedly it blooms once a year. I will care for it.


I once again stumbled upon this link- 1000 painters.  And once again, became overwhelmed at the copious amounts of fantastical painterly abstraction being produced today. And then thanks to my RSS feed, I came across a passage, well actually the whole post, from Henri Art Mag  that resonated with me as I continue to question my own motives more than occasionally. 

After 2 years of working small, unleashing my inner giant on large canvases felt right, though I went too far with the first one, so I backed it down and let gut instinct and inner apathy take over. I don't mean this to sound as negative and dysfunctional as it sounds. Nor when I refer to them as a Abject Abstractions am I trying to be clever and coin a sub-genre of Slacker Abstraction. It's merely a representation of how things were progressing and abject came to mind as being apropos. Indicative Abstraction might also be a useful term. Perhaps I am coining terms. 

In a recent review over at Temporary Art Review, the writer, Sarrita Hunn, makes some insightful connections to Vitamin P as a source for this type of abstract painting-which if you're an abstract painter with an internet connection it seems almost viral- and goes on to ask, "But then one must ask: Is ‘newness’ an inherently desirable trait?" She goes on to quote Barry Schwabsky for some possible answers.

Which leads me, or takes me back to the post at Henri Art Mag in which Mark Stone discusses what he's missing or not missing: "...the thing is not like the others. It may not be exemplary in the sense of the unique, it may not be “One of a Kind”, but it will be dissimilar, unfamiliar maybe. And for the moment I want to see and experience what isn’t if that makes any sense to any of you."

It does make sense which is why I keep struggling to mediate my imaginary battle with painting. New vs. Old. Old vs. New. Picture vs. Theory.

I'm still mulling over titles for these. All are 2011 and are of the 54" x 43" scale. 
Working titles include:
Card Game
and something having to do with a floating spirits or presence. Maybe that it's-
The Presences

Oh and a little self-promo- The Art in the Embassy Program catalog is online now as is the archive of the exhibition.  

And yes, the rumors are true, The Thack is back for a rare showing of 15 miniature paintings at the June 4th art crawl, Cummins Station, 6-9pm. And a few pieces by me as well. I hung it today and went back tonight to do lighting and sweep. Found some silver spray paint in an totally unrelated sentence and started a new painting. It's so past my bedtime. 

4.4.11 UPDATE : Oh wow. The subconscious rises. The painting in the Art in the Embassy exhibition was actually the first pool painting. I completely forgot about that. Fascinating. I should look through the archives to see what else was happening back then. No. Maybe not. It's easier than re-reading journals, but only because I think I'm the only one who knows what they say. Good times or not, it's still a document and conjures up the past. Maybe that's why painting persists. Enigmatic code embedded in a bunch of brushstrokes. No wonder many collectors don't want to know anything about the artist or what a painting means. No wonder painting sometimes strives to be meaningless.

"Swim," 2006. Mixed media on canvas.