January 21, 2013

Observations and Random Acts of Blindness

Everything in between. Tiny oil sketches from my kitchen. 

Avoid doing evil (what is deadening, what drains you)
Cultivate what is skillful
Purify the mind.
This is the teachings of the buddhas.

-from The Dhammapada Verses 183

I've been thinking about the act of looking and seeing. More than usual. Many people aren't able to see- to really perceive what is in front of them, or perhaps, they are, but they don't take it to the next step and think about what they are looking at and why.
I'm obsessed with making tiny oil sketches from my kitchen. Smaller than even the previous small work, they are 6 x 4 inches, oil on gessoed panel. I've cut a number of panels and primed them. I'm painting them around breakfast time or right before bed. Two things. One, I am calling them sketches to differentiate between the stretched linen paintings. I know we're still in a bigger is better world, but these little sketches are absorbing. Why? I thought about that in the tub last night. It all comes back to mortality and death and chaos and order. Deal.
In between school starting, working in the studio, and misc prep work for some upcoming exhibitions,  I attended Jered Sprecher's talk at Vanderbilt last week. Although I met Jered a while back in LA, I hadn't heard him speak in depth about his work. It took me back to the process involved in abstraction regarding the references, remnants, signs, signals, and signifiers that appear on the surface of a painting, and the backstory, whatever that may be. It prompted me to reflect on my roots and where I am now. It also made me realize that listening to someone talk about abstraction, on the surface, might sound more interesting than listening to someone talk about paintings containing identifiable objects simply because with abstraction, the odds of being 100% certain of what you're looking at is not a given, and thus the artist talk can serve to enlighten. Maybe it's the obvious gap between language and surface that people feel is more conceptual with abstraction. Maybe people don't see the gap with figurative work.

Jered Sprecher at Vanderbilt University

I've lost count how many times I've heard people dis flower paintings and representational work since moving here. I realize not everyone pans flower paintings as if they're the black hole of intelligent thought process, but still... they're good scapegoats. Long ago, I remember my own bias. To me, representational work was more opaque than abstraction. I wanted there to be more, but for whatever reason I didn't have the patience to get there. I obviously no longer feel this way and at times feel like I've crossed an invisible barrier to the other side. Nowadays, I'm more prone to be bored with theory, as though in the long run, it's not a sustainable form of energy. I think about this quite a bit, sometimes smugly.
That evening I caught Rebecca Cambell's excruciatingly beautiful post on the HuffPo. If you have a moment I encourage you to read it.

Rebecca Campbell, "Lay your burdens down," 2012, 12" x 20," Oil on Canvas, Image Courtesy of LA Louver.

I like that the Roman numeral four looks like an IV.
I attended the Perceptual Painters exhibit at The Kentucky School of Art. I started writing a long post about it and by the time I got around to getting over the the fact the the entire back wall of the gallery was completely unlit and in darkness, I was too tired to talk much about the show. Carla and I met at the gallery. It was a 3-hour drive for me and about 2 hours for Carla. The show is in two galleries. The second gallery was well-lit. After we quit casting about dim-witted one-liners about not being able to see a show about perceptual painting, we walked over to the second gallery which was bathed in light. It was a pleasant excursion, in part because it's always a treat to see Carla, but it was nice to see work by some painters that were new to me. It was also a brilliant reminder that if you're running an art gallery, please light the gallery and treat the work with some respect. I'm talking to you, Huff Gallery at Spaulding University.

Perceptual Painters at Huff Gallery and the Kentucky School of Art

I attended an estate sale yesterday looking for a small, used pochade box. I did not find one, which is  fine, so my cigar box will continue to suffice, but while ambling about a neighbor's home, I realized I like my home, and my house of a thousand props, even if it does have a Formica kitchen counters and needs some TLC.
I'll be traveling to LA for an exhibition and during my trip  I'm supposed to be focusing on what it would be like to move back and live there again. I would miss my props, these things I am surrounded by and that I paint. As much as I like the desert, I don't see myself painting the desert. Maybe I would. I don't know. I'm not sure what I would coax out if I were to relocate to a new old environment. On the other hand, change needs to happen. Shoot. I already questioned this concept of change 2 posts ago.
I'm desperately trying to save Son of Night-blooming Cereus, technically, an Epiphyllum oxypetalum, the offspring of a 100-year old plant that did not make it through my mom's depression. She managed to save a cutting and I finally transplanted it. A year later, though, it's no longer thriving. I bought cactus potting mix today and took a few new cuttings. The lady at the garden center had never heard of it and had no idea about how to care for it or how to propagate.
Yoga, day 22. My body still loves me.

January 13, 2013

Two and a half years later...

I finally found the box of cd's and dvd's that had my yoga practice cd in it. I still am not unpacking the box.

January 12, 2013

Yoga Day 13.

Today was a twofer. I went to flow practice. It was great. My jumps back to plank felt perfect and I lowered down into Chaturanga Dandanasa as though I was born to hover. Hip openers are still the bane of my existence, hence, a tattoo on my ankle written in Japanese characters that means "patience." It only means patience when I look at it with my legs crossed in pigeon pose. Otherwise it's gibberish. I could have chosen a turtle or some other symbol for patience, or criminy, even gothic lettering that would have looked like I did time, but I played it safe with the Japanese character thing. Oddly enough I was inked years ago on an MLK holiday and my plan was to get a new one every year. At some point, a Japanese artist told me it meant endurance. He thought I was into scarification because I had a fresh scar from a drunken shaving accident on the opposite ankle. At the time, I was doing a residency in the Netherlands, as was the Japanese artist. Although I don't drink anymore, I don't shave while standing up either. I've thought about camouflaging my oh so trite Japanese characters meaning patience, but the story of pigeon pose + drunken shaving and endurance still makes me laugh, and the whole package is just too good of a reminder about a lot of things, so I don't. However maybe another tat this MLK.

But back to my twofer. I am practicing at a new yoga studio that has an amazing introductory offer, so after my amazing flow class I stayed for the super amazing restorative class. Props. Props. Who's got props. The instructor was so good I cried. Embarrassing yes, but there I was in a triple supported child's pose getting a bit teary as she talked about acceptance and change and that part of change was maybe accepting where one was. Ouch. I'm not a particularly touchy-feely person, though I'm sensitive as hell, but that was a little to close to home, literally speaking.

On the way home I stopped in a new vet to check out their boarding facilities for the furry guy. Everyone seemed nice and the place had a good vibe. I feel like we're the family that keeps moving or changing schools when the kid gets in trouble. He's really a good guy, just special.

January 10, 2013

Art and Yoga

I've been practicing yoga for about 13 or 14 years. And here's an un-yogini thing to say- I wish I had been practicing consistently for 13 or 14 years.  My MO has been to practice for a couple of years and then drift away due to injury or changes in my schedule and then I suddenly realize that it's been weeks or months or a year since I practiced, and I begin again, or I start running and then I drift away due to an injury or changes in my schedule and then I suddenly realize that it's been weeks or months and so forth and so on. It's a pattern I have had for about 14 years. On the bright side, I am consistent.

It's not exactly like starting from square one each time, but it's close. I lose flexibility, stamina, and lightness when I am away from my mat. The good news is that I have surprised myself by being able to do a pose that for years I thought was difficult or have no recollection of being able to do. Conversely, major breakthroughs like Bakasana and Tolansa are a distant memory, though I do remember feeling giddy. On a more positive spin, I've learned patience and my current philosophy is wherever you go, there you are. 

I tried a popular yoga studio when I first moved to town but it was insanely crowded and everyone was chatty and although I had lost about 3 months of practice while packing and moving across country during The Great Devastation of 2009-2010, it felt like 3 years as I made a feeble attempt to adjust, which means I didn't. I wasn't in the mood for chatty or crowds, and with only one tattoo, I felt oddly vanilla. After losing my balance in a headstand and practically collapsing through a second story window, I decided I wasn't ready to be social and I went back to running and a haphazard home practice that wasn't very much of a practice. Goals being goals, I decided to take a break from running and start off the new year with yoga again. Painting is a solitary activity. I am a solitary person. I thought I might be ready to interact with humans again. I found a new studio that looked less trendy.

I was a bit wary of the new yoga studio at first. An alignment class held poses for 15 seconds, (yes, I counted). The deep stretchy class seemed a bit too casual, and whenever I approached an instructor at the beginning of class asking if they did adjustments, they said not really. But here's the interesting part- I've learned some new supportive poses using props, which in the past I had dismissed as wimpy and I've learned to work my way into some poses from inside out instead of outside in (which in a way I liken to how I teach drawing- first by observing positive space, then observing negative space or contour, until finally you've settled into a reasonable representation of the thing you're drawing).

I'm on my way back to feeling the benefits of a consistent practice and bonus: I feel fabulous in my striped yoga pants I found on sale. Yes, gear is a good motivator. The secret is to keep up this momentum after next week which is when everything kicks into high gear. I'm scheduled to teach 3 classes this spring, I'm taking a few art trips between now and March, and I have applications in progress with January deadlines. I'm also curating a show, I'm in a couple of shows, and I need to plan some studio visits for when I'm out in LA. My life is full, not busy, but I remind myself that's it's good sometimes not to give too much of a flying fuck. The secret is to keep letting go of what's not contributing to the work and to keep investing in things that do contribute to my life as an artist. I love simplicity.

I'm on the 3rd painting of the new year.

Easy does it. Nasmaste, Bitches. 

January 08, 2013

Alla Prima

One of my goals for the New year is to commit to an Alla Prima practice. Wait, you say. What about toiling days and weeks on end over a painting by building the surface through scrapping, exfoliating, indecision, moments of clarity and in general, the mayhem and Protestant work ethic we've come to know and love.

2013. The Year of Letting Go.

My goal then is to start and finish every painting within a couple of sessions, or as long as I can work wet-in-wet (say, on a larger painting).

I realize I may break from this, but it is a goal and I'm very excited by the first 2 paintings of the year.
DETAIL from the First Painting of 2013. 

Also, let it be noted that I'm practicing yoga seriously again, setting aside an hour every day. Flexible body, Flexible Mind.

January 05, 2013

And we're off...

Dear Ms. Hackett,
Thank you for submitting your materials to ______ for review.  I am most appreciative of the quality and seriousness of your work.  Regretfully, we find that it is not a good fit with our contemporary program. I wish you the very best with your future endeavors.


Blah Blah, 
Director of Contemporary Art
Blah Blah Blah
Blahblah, Blah

Addendum: I should add that the perplexing issue is one of being a good fit for their "contemporary" program. Perhaps I need to ditch the late 19th century props and add some more buzzwords to my statement again. Or go back to abstraction. There's always that. Contemporary. Jeesh. Like what- as opposed to an anachronistic program?