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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.
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.
II.
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.
III.
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.


IV.
I like that the Roman numeral four looks like an IV.
VI.
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


VI.
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.
VII.
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.
VI.
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.
VII
Yoga, day 22. My body still loves me.

2 comments :

Carla said...

Great post. I am house-sitting/plant-sitting a Cereus. It's outside all summer, I accidentally under-watered it during the drought, then it's inside for winter. I water about every 10 days. It's about to take over the room, it's so big. It has off-spring - I could do a switch-a-roo next time I visit, but you'd have to forget I told you about it.

I have always thought a benefit of living here (non-coastal, non-art center) is that an artist can more readily engage in strange personal narra-scapes. Not necessarily as an escape, or an overt rejection of broader art dialogues, but as genuinely independent investigations. I think such work does fit back in to the larger dialogue, in the more serious/established art centers. Unfortunately, I think such work is more likely to be dismissed by the local art establishments, where obvious,known signifiers of artistic value are a prerequisite.

The photo doesn't show just how dark that half of the show was. It was truly unviewable, which is ridiculous. Still, fun to meet and see the rest of the show, and MAH!

Elaine Mari, Painter and Drawer said...

Yes, great post. I love this part.

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."