December 4, 2017

I do not wish I had straight hair



I want to write a cookbook very badly... I'm in the gathering stages as they say. Did you know that you cannot publish a recipe that someone else has published unless you've changed at least three ingredients and have altered the description/instructions? Unless you do that you will need to give credit where credit is due. The law indicates that a list of ingredients by itself doesn't belong to any one author, but that the way you describe something in your own words does. With that said, I would like to thank my FB friend, talented writer and photographer Alina Noir for inspiring this little writing exercise.
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I don't know how to dive and I hold my nose when I go underwater.
I don't know how to play chess.
I bat lefty even though I'm a righty because that's how my grandfather taught my father and that's how he taught me.
I am terrible at geography and have no sense of direction.
I can keep a beat and sometimes don't notice that I'm moving my body to random music in my head.
I love the smell of lemon thyme.
I fear I will never be more than a mediocre painter.
I do not wish I had straight hair.
When I was a kid I wanted to have long blond straight hair and be a secretary named Suzanne Merino.
I wish I knew how to sew my own clothes.
I'm afraid to ride a ten speed bicycle.




CONSUMERISM

I am obsessed with decorating magazines. I admit it. House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Architectural Digest, Domino, Lonny, Dwell, Moon to Moon, etc. etc.
It's kind of a problem because all it does is make me want to go out and buy all the things on the pages, which is the point of course. I know ultimately it's all a farce, but I do love looking at other cultures and the way other people all over the world live. I find it inspiring. Unfortunately it also leads to sweeping generalizations about America and the way we live, the way I live.


Samantha Palmeri art
magic marker on tissue paper, 19 x 24 inches
American culture... where everything has to be brand new, pristine, shiny, and big. We think of ourselves as slightly more moral and decent than the rest of the world, dare I say uncorrupted, at least up until recently, and we like our products to reflect that. When things get used we replace them. Throw out the old and bring in the new. This reinforces our entire way of thinking and living. It's one side or the other. We don't face our problems, we either toss them completely or we rebrand them, clean them up, package and ship them out. Is this really the American ideal? If we stripped away this idea of shiny newness what would that look like?

Well, certainly the answer can't be found on the pages of a glossy magazine, eh! But just look at that old stone cottage, Italian countryside, wild nature climbing all over it, where not one shred of anything is manufactured in China, where maybe the people who live there are as real as the materials... ugh.. I really have to stop subscribing to these things.

Lately I've been searching on the internet for things like how to darn socks and dye old fabrics, and now that it is officially Christmas season this all seems relevant...? I am NOT free from American consumerism by any means. Not all the things on my Christmas list are used/vintage (FYI I just spent a ton of money on a very shiny new kitchen sink), but I also cannot bear to buy one more product from Home Depot or Target. I have no interest in living a life that looks like a sterile hotel room or an ad in a home and garden box store circular. And anyway I can't think of anything warmer and more inviting than objects and interiors and even people that are slightly rumpled and used. Even the body in all its never quite clean, natural pungent irregular messy and imperfect parts.

And that leads me to what I really wanted to tell you about. I know I've gone off on a tangent, but besides my Christmas list, I really have been thinking of all this in relation to my work. If I could embrace that bit of messy nature, of wild rambling vines and the familiarity of the slightly used and rumpled... I'd be very happy.


Samantha Palmeri art
magic marker on tissue paper, 19 x 24 inches
At night while I watch TV I've been making drawings with magic marker on crumpled tracing paper. It feels very liberating. When I started to paint on paper instead of canvas last spring I had this need to not take my materials so seriously. I was feeling pressured with the responsibility of costly canvases and I wanted to not be precious with anything. I want to be free and unencumbered with my materials but also I want to make work that is more natural, less laborious and ultimately more accessible for the viewer. Although I've been going back and forth between canvas and paper, I'm approaching it differently. Less preciousness, less earnestness, less pressure, more natural, more immediate, more personal, more accessible. Nature is a wild beautiful miry mess and I'd like to embrace that, at least in my work if I can.

... off on a tangent or not, I'm planning to give everyone jarred peaches for Christmas this year, tied with a used ribbon and a handmade paper card... we'll see how well that goes over.


Happy Season to you all!
Happy Making, and thinking, and being!


art podcasts and approachability

I haven't posted anything in a while although I've been writing a lot. Sufficient to say, I'm still here... happily trudging along. Eventually I'll probably post some of these so feel free to act surprised..

Topics I've been writing about run the gamut:
no longer a vegan
cut my hair
deadlines, real and imagined
upcoming exhibits
thanksgiving dinner
new kitchen counters
messy painters
art fairs
podcasts
social media
Corinne Bailey Rae
having the flu in October and a cold in November/December...

I have been painting a lot, trying to get to a place I haven't been. Is running while standing still an expression? that's how I often feel. Oh, Google tells me it's running to stand still and they reference the current state of affairs, no pun intended. that seems about right.

Anyway, I have been painting a lot but I've also been paying attention a lot, which isn't necessarily always the case. I'm making sure to allot the same amount of time for sitting and looking as for standing and painting. this is helpful because I think painter's psyche works this way (or maybe it's all artists I don't know). We have the capacity to work instinctually, allowing the spiritual, the unknown, the subconscious to take the lead, but we're also quite cerebral and need to think a lot and sort it all out. We are in it and out of it which is a good explanation for painting being so much about the push and pull of it all and the tension between the two.

I've been talking about my work a lot lately too, which is very helpful. Abstraction is not a discernible concrete thing to be easily discussed. A lot of people don't know how to talk about it which makes it hard to know how these things are coming across. I am now making strides to add some context to my work. I've had this purist notion that the painting itself should be doing all the talking, but without accessibility there is a clear disconnect. You can't identify with something that is so unfamiliar you don't know what it is. I want to create a clearer entrance for the viewer. Pure abstract formalism has never been my goal. Abstraction has given me a broader range of meaning, but I need my paintings to say more than what they've been saying. I'm not quite sure how that will all work. It's complicated because I'm not really commenting on anything, yet I'm not interested in decoration either. I want to evoke a feeling in the viewer, a memory, a moment, and I want them to take it personally somehow. Is that valid? I realize I have to create it from a personal place to begin with, and, well, that's exactly where I am going to start..

Of several new obsessions, listening to podcasts while I work is by far the most useful. I've listened to a number of artists talk about the same exact things I've just mentioned, specifically about painting and context, and that validation is a real comfort in what is usually a pretty uncomfortable space. The studio that is, the place of refuge and struggle at the same time, comfort and conflict!

More posts on the way... For now check out my favorite podcasts: Magic Praxis, The Conversation

Further listening and reading: Should Artists Talk About Their Work



October 5, 2017

September 26, 2017

WHY DO WE FOLLOW RULES?

I make up a lot of rules for myself. Rules that may or may not actually exist, that I may or may not have invented all for myself. And I follow them, maybe out of tradition or convention or fear or doubt or bad habit or laziness, or maybe because it's what I see other people doing so I think this must be how things are done. Rules that seem perfectly logical and reasonable.

But it's like WHY?? Why am I following all these rules that I may or may not have had anything to do with and that maybe have nothing to do with me.

Painting is a very traditional medium. It's been around for thousands of years now and has accumulated a VERY long list of rules. So many rules that even breaking traditional painting rules has become a rule.

I think I've been very conventional in my thinking about my work. For the most part I'm a stretched canvas, paint brush and palette of oil paint and medium kind of painter. And that's been fine except that all of a sudden it's not!

Hangover painting, 2017, acrylic and oil on cardboard


I've been very precious with these things and it's holding me back. Following these painting rules whether self imposed or not, is holding me back. It's created four walls around me that I keep banging up against. I want to feel free, like there are no rules at all, like I've just discovered painting for the first time, like a child. I especially want to feel like if something's not working I'm not forcing myself to try to gloss over it to make it better. Working through painting issues and the problems we create on canvas is all very well, sometimes even the whole point, but trying to make it work just because it's already there and because I've already spent so much time on it will never work! The only rule really should be, if you know in your gut it's not working destroy it and start over. But I also have a rule about time... I think I consider some paintings finished when they're definitely not because I feel like I've spent ample time with them. Or the opposite, where I keep working on something that may already be finished, because I feel like I've invested so much money and energy in the materials and preparation it can't possibly be done after a few hours of work. These are ridiculous self imposed rules that are clouding my judgement.

Being precious with your work gets you nowhere. I need to get rid of this way of thinking and be free to get at the thing I'm supposed to be getting at! I have no idea exactly how to do that, but recognizing the problem is a good first step!




August 8, 2017

How The Hell To Write An Artist Statement

Artist statements: a never-ending battle!

I am continually rewriting and rewriting mine. So many subjective questions I don't know the answers to, like how casual, humorous or conventional to make it, how long, how short, how specific, how ambiguous, how poetic, existential, philosophical, art historical, how personal, how formal, do I give every detail away or leave them wanting more, etc. etc.

Of all the written advice I've read over the years on the topic, I do try to remember two things: to write it out the way I would describe it in person if someone were visiting my studio, and to describe the specific process but keep the reader wanting to actually see the work in person. 

Shouldn't be personable but not longwinded also be on that list? I don't even know anymore. I'll let you be the judge. Here is the statement that's currently on my website:

some artwork to reference while reading the description!
"Momento (ribbon)", 2017, oil on paper, 33.5 x 38 inches

My work is informed by both the inward and the outward, 
by things observed, and things that cannot be observed. 
By entangled forms found naturally or unnaturally
in the body, in nature, in everyday objects; and

equally by chance and feeling.



Process oriented and gestural, these abstractions entice 
the viewer's subjectivity, while allowing me the freedom to access 
a wider range of resources both physical and emotional.

And here is the newest statement I've written:

I start a painting or a series of paintings with a simple thought or inspiration. I don't usually sketch it out first. I prefer to tackle the canvas all at once and let the materials and process of painting dictate the direction. I work on up to five things at once. I'm an observer and am usually looking at something while I paint. I try to keep myself emotionally connected to the specific object or memory I begin with, but painting has a way of prescribing its own journey. Success would mean that I've allowed the painting to take me someplace unexpected while maintaining some hint of my original intention.
I'm interested in posing a question rather than an answer, and I prefer to evoke the feeling of a thing rather than make a statement about it. I'm interested in the process of making, in paint, color, line, handwork, women's work, repetition, knitting, sewing, braiding, rope making... entangled forms found naturally or unnaturally in the body, nature, or everyday objects; and equally in chance and feeling.
My work is about connections; the intertwining and overlapping of the physical, spiritual, metaphorical. The connection of shapes and color, form to form, body to body, mind to mind.

July 13, 2017

Artist of the week: Anne Truitt


Installation view of the exhibition, Anne Truitt Sculpture 1962-2004 at Matthew Marks Gallery
Anne Truitt is an artist I first came to know through her writing. Her three memoirs, DaybookTurn, and Prospect: The Journey of an Artist, are must reads for any studio worker, especially for women and mothers.

First, 1961, Acrylic on wood, 44 ¼ x 17 ¾ x 7 inches. 
Because of her writing, when I see her sculptures I feel like I have a shared intimacy with them. Her work is such a perfect reflection of who she seemed to be. They are at once subtle yet straightforward, delicate yet powerful, thoughtful yet severe.

Watauga, 1962, Acrylic on wood, 46 x 56 x 7 inches

Spring Dryad, 1975, Acrylic on wood, 76 x 13 x 8 inches

Currently there's an Anne Truitt installation at DIA Beacon so I wanted to post this while you can still see the show. It really is just a glimpse, and I wish there were at least five more rooms full, but in order to understand and appreciate what she was all about you do need to stand in the real presence of her work. As she writes in Daybook:
"I am most profoundly grateful to have had the opportunity to see my work... Like the night at the Corcoran Gallery of Art... I walked up and down the dark corridors between their massive forms, most of which towered over me, and held out both my hands to feel them, not touching them. They stood in their own space, in their own time, and I was glad in their presence."
I could easily quote from the entire book since after reading it three times already I am still completely enthralled, but I'll leave it up to you to go get a copy and see for yourself!

Gloucester, 1963–72, Acrylic on wood, 74 x 72 x 13 inches

Morning Choice, 1968, Acrylic on wood, 72 x 14 x 14 inches

Hardcastle, 1962, Acrylic on wood, 99 ¾ x 42 x 16 inches

Pith, 1969, Acrylic on wood, 85 ½ x 18 x 18 inches

View, 1999, Acrylic on wood, 81 x 8 x 8 inches

Second Requiem, 1977, Acrylic on wood, 84 x 10 x 8 inches

Shrove, 1962, Acrylic on wood, 60 x 10 x 10 inches

View of Anne Truitt's Washington D.C studio, 1980

Seven, 1962, Oil (semi-gloss enamel) on wood, 53 ¾ x 32 x 7 ⅞ inches

Southern Elegy, 1962, Oil (semi-gloss and flat) on wood, 47 x 20 ⅞ x 6 ⅞ inches
A Wall for Apricots, 1968, Acrylic on wood, 72 ⅝ x 14 x 14 inches

Anne Truitt in her studio















 

Most of the images here are from the very comprehensive website: http://www.annetruitt.org/
I've selected only her sculpture but her paintings are also significant and worth viewing: http://www.annetruitt.org/works/selected-paintings



July 7, 2017

Artist of the week: Lynda Benglis & Arlene Shechet


I haven't posted an artist of the week in a while. Here are two sculptors: 
Arlene Shechet and Lynda Benglis. 
Although two very different artists, different mediums and approaches, they both embrace process and have a painterly, corporeal quality to them. And of course, all that luscious pouring and hand-building of color and form!

Lynda Benglis, Corner Piece, 1969

Lynda Benglis is a heroine of mine, and not just for her audacious artworld antics back in the day! I first saw her work in 1997 at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center where I worked. It was a floor piece from the 70's that I looked at everyday for the two months of the exhibition. I have to admit that at the time I really did not get it at all! 

Lynda Benglis, King Pin III, 2007

Fast forward to 2011. I was playing around with spray foam making little gold sculptures for a show I was curating, and who did I come across but Lynda Benglis and her pieces Helios and King Pin, which not only looked almost exactly like what I was making, but were way better, more sophisticated, and executed a whole decade before mine! Needless to say, I took the time to really look at her work after that. She's been creating relevant artwork for five decades now. I'm embarrassed I was so clueless when I first encountered that floor piece! but she has become one of my favorite artists..

Arlene Shechet, Blue Velvet, 2010, filed ceramic, wood

Arlene Shechet, detail, Swoon, 2006, glazed ceramic, hydrocal, concrete, steel. 61.5 x 18 x 18 inches

Lynda Benglis, Storm Pattern, 2003, Bronze

Arlene Shechet, Mountains are Aware, 2012, glazed ceramic on concrete base
48 × 15 × 15 inches

Lynda Benglis

Lynda Benglis, Pink Ladies2014, cast pigmented polyurethane and bronze

Arlene Shechet, Because of the wind, 2010, glazed ceramic, steel, glazed kiln


Arlene Shechet, detail, Not Knot, 2010, glazed ceramic, hardwood, steel, 16 3/8 x 16 1/4 x 74 inches

Arlene Shechet, Beyond Itself, 2011, ceramic and glazed fire brick, 12 x 8 3/4 x 5 inches
Lynda Benglis, Bravo, 1972

Lynda Benglis, Zita, 1972, cotton bunting, plaster, paint, glitter over aluminum screen, 44 × 15 × 11 inches

Lynda Benglis, Proto Knot, 1971 Wire mesh, cotton bunting, plaster, gesso and sparkles

Arlene Shechet, in foreground, Not Knot, 2010, glazed ceramic, hardwood, steel, 16 3/8 x 16 1/4 x 74 inches

Lynda Benglis, Untitled (VW), 1970, pigmented polyurethane foam

Arlene Shechet, Full On, 2016, glazed ceramic, painted and carved hardwood, gold, 19.5 x 16.5 x 12.5 inches
Lynda Benglis, Wing, 1970, cast aluminum, 67 x 59 1/4 x 60 inches
and EAT MEAT, 1969/75 Bronze 24 x 80 x 54 inches
Arlene Schechet, Clue, 2015, glazed ceramic, 11 × 8 × 8 inches

Arlene Shechet, Tumbling Through Time, 2016, glazed ceramic, hardwood, aluminum, steel. 35 x 18 x 17 inches
Philip Guston, Untitled, 1968, acrylic on panel, 18 x 20 inches.
Lynda Benglis Hills and Clouds, 2014, cast polyurethane with phosphorescence and stainless steel
(yeah, it glows-in-the-dark!)
Arlene Shechet, Tattletale, 2012, glazed ceramic, glazed kiln brick and kiln shelf, and Plexiglas
63 × 24 1/2 × 22 inches

Arlene Shechet, Sounds Like2013, glazed ceramic on glazed kiln bricks
107 × 17½ × 17 inches

Arlene Shechet, Glazed firebrick

Lynda Benglis next to Helios, 
1999, bronze with gold leaf, 24 1/2 x 21 x 10 inches

Further looking and reading: