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. 

1 comment :

Carla said...

It's fascinating when the untrained and the trained artists go to a similar place visually.