March 5, 2015

the next best thing to COMMUNITY

Gilbert and George
Preparing yourself to paint on canvas must be similar to an actor getting ready to perform. You've got to get totally inside your head and be in control but completely lost in it at the same time.

My husband has been wanting to make a film of me painting. It's been a long time that I've been saying no to him because I would much rather paint than have to talk about me painting. I am under the impression that if I were very good at speaking in general I wouldn't have become a visual artist. He insisted I wouldn't have to speak, so finally last week I said yes and he showed up to my studio with cameras in tow. Some artists don't mind other people around them while they work but I am not one of them. I spent the day self-consciously fake posing and got absolutely no work done! No surprise there.

What I hadn't realized, though, until that moment was just how wonderful it is to have not only the ability but the contentment to work by oneself all day long.

It is such a luxury to have a private art studio. That being said... at the same time it does occasionally get a little lonely. Standing on your feet alone in a closed room for five or so hours a day does eventually take its toll and can lead to a bit of urgent restlessness. Sometimes I wonder how I or anyone else can take it.

My studio building is extremely quiet. It really needs a community room for those of us solitary workers who need some company every once in a while.

I've been having this conversation with a lot of different people lately.  
People like me, who need the solitude to work but who also desire a proper community to engage with at the end of the day. 
A community we haven't exactly found yet. Sometimes I wish I had been an artist 50 years ago when like minded artists really were all actually starving and huddled together out of necessity and common interest. When there were no second jobs making everyone too busy to visit each others studios or contemplate their purpose in life.

Triadic Ballet
I'm told social media is the new stand-in for real community these days but I'm having trouble completely believing that.

Take Jerry Saltz for instance. For the last eight years New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz has been actively engaged in lively art dialogue with his almost 5000 followers on Facebook. He's described it as a 21st century Cedar Tavern or Max's Kansas City. Of course as I write this several of Jerry's 'friends' have just gotten him temporarily kicked off the site for images they disapproved of. It would've been much more fun to see some real fists thrown over the debate, but all this is to say we take what we can get these days.

I like Jerry's page. I've occasionally chimed in to some of his discussions, and for a while it was definitely feeling very real and prescient, however, there's something off-putting about not knowing exactly who you are having an argument with. It's hard to keep up an active conversation with an endless barrage of obscure little profile pictures of people you know nothing about. You could find out you're arguing with an artist whose work you love or with someone who isn't even an artist and just likes to argue with people on Facebook. Or you could start to think that you're actually friends with some of your 'friends' only to find out they disagree with pretty much everything you stand for.

James Ensor
I'm a big fan of Facebook but at the same time it leaves me with a bad after-taste, a virtual, non-reality tinny zing. I am certain that so much of the dialogue on Facebook is mere virtual dialogue and sometimes I just want to look someone in the face when I talk to them.

Community.
There are a ridiculously large number of separate definitions for the word, some involving physically living close to one another and others referring to the idea of unification, common interests, etc.
Wikipedia states
A community is a social unit of any size that shares common values. Although face-to-face communities are usually small, larger or more extended communities such as a national community, international community and virtual community are also studied.
The article goes on to discuss identity, intent and belief.

artists @ Blue Mountain Center. photo Karin Hayes
Further contemplating the idea of communities that do not require a computer hookup, I decided to look up Artist Residencies in the hopes of finding an environment where groups of artists actually commune in person, at least temporarily. After serious research I've discovered there are about a million Artist Residencies all over the world also called Artist Communities, Communes, Colonies, Collectives, or Retreats. They exist just about everywhere for every genre, purpose, belief and intent! Most of them, however, do emphasize the luxury of isolation in lovely tranquil settings.


artists @ Blue Mountain Center. photo Shelly Silver
So far out of the hundreds of Artist Residencies that I've perused, only a handful of descriptions have mentioned hanging out with the other artist residents. Project 387 in northern California boasts a community driven "creative exchange around the dinner table and in the studio". I like that.
Headlands, also in California, offers a "dynamic community of artists... allowing for exchange and collaborative relationships to develop". Also a winner.
Blue Mountain Center in upstate New York goes so far as to state, "by the end of the session many of our most solitary, introverted residents are loath to lose the comforts of communal living". Now that I like the sound of.

In the long run I suppose there are plenty of artist communities out there in the world. I want to say that globalization has somehow homogenized the world and made it more difficult to have an authentic identity, intent and belief. I want to say that the internet could never be a good enough or suitable replacement for real life community and that there's nothing that could replace actual physical interaction between people... but,
I do realize I am typing this on my computer and will at some point click a button that will send these words virtually across the planet. I may even get a few comments from people I've never met and probably never will. For now I'll take what I can get. I'll probably check my Facebook as soon as I write this. Maybe I'll send out a few applications this week. I might even inquire about that community room for my studio building...

You can visit my Facebook page here
or better yet, visit my studio in real life at
211 Fishkill Ave. #206C,
Beacon, New York



March 4, 2015

unique truths

How does one tell a "unique truth" 
as Richard Foreman talks about in his book Unbalancing Acts?
As he puts it, "we feel our lives as a series of multidirectional impulses and collisions."
"It is the impulse that is your deep truth, not the object that seems to call it forth. The impulse is the vibrating, lively thing that you really are."

Art is able to do this, to get to the core of what is really real and who we really are. It not only is able to relay an artist's own mind and spirit but it allows the audience the freedom to experience their own impulses simultaneously. In this way not only is the artist telling their unique truth but the audience as well is experiencing their own unique truth through it.

I think we recognize these truths when we realize that no other artist can give us this particular experience, and once we recognize it we could never mistake that work as belonging to anyone else.

My ultimate criterion for all great visual works of art includes such unique truths,
as well as a term I jotted down from I don't remember where and is now hanging on my studio wall, "extraordinary visual encounters".

As I'm writing this I'm trying to think of examples that apply: A work of art that could never have been done by anyone else; a unique truth and vision that is so powerful it becomes embedded in our subconscious and enlightens our perception of our selves and our world.

I would include the following:

Picasso's Guernica.

Guernica by Pablo Picasso








I think Monet's Waterlilies.

Monet's Waterlilies at the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris

Monet's Waterlilies at the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris








































I want to say Rothko's Chapel but I'm not sure if it is more of an extraordinary spiritual encounter than visual, and if that originates with the artwork or the context thereof.

the Rothko Chapel


the Rothko Chapel
















Francis Bacon.

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
















































































As usual, I end with more questions.
I wonder how much of this stuff can be learned.
Is the consistent act of creating going to end in enlightenment?  
Can a unique truth or vision be purposed and pursued, or is it something you either have or you don't, or even something you stumble upon accidentally?
Maybe I haven't found my truth yet. I'm spending a lifetime looking for it but maybe I'm looking in all the wrong places..