April 30, 2015

Everything is Foreplay

Absolutely Everything Is Foreplay
(given the right context of course....)

My painting teacher at the School of Visual Arts had an amazing (and scary) knack of making her students hyper aware of every single minute detail in the painting studio. In the studio, in the work itself, the easel, the brushes, the floor, the light. I remember her coming in one day and making us paint the walls white before we could begin our critique. It became quite difficult to get any work done in her class because we became so self-conscious of every little thing. You would pick up a brush and pause midway between the palette and the canvas with the thought, is this the right brush, is this the right color, is this the right canvas?
To this day everything she taught is ingrained in my psyche. I cannot go to an exhibition without obsessively considering the wall labels, their size and font and proximity to the artwork. I become aware of the floor, the walls and the ceiling without ever making a conscious decision to do so.

 
Foreplay is a word that implies the prelude to a main event. Before, ahead of, in front of..

You could say cooking dinner is foreplay. That is, if you're trying to get someone's attention. The tablecloth, the wineglasses, the candle in the center of the table. Changing your clothes for dinner and the music you dance to when everyone is done eating. Foreplay. All the particulars to an evening that you want to end well.


In the same way you could say opening the front door to the gallery is foreplay for the exhibition. The space, the lighting, the way the show is hung. All the details that suggest meaning and point to the main attraction: the artwork and how it is perceived.

Success would mean, in either case, that we're all turned on and paying attention.

What makes it so? Intention.
Intention. Intention. 
Even if you're the only one who knows. If you are focused and committed enough to it, that intention somewhere along the way becomes palpable. The idea becomes tangible, and you end up succeeding in creating an environment ripe for whatever climax you're hoping to achieve.

On the other hand, ignore the walls or the floor, wall labels too big, too clunky, burnt chicken, stale wine... things get a little dry, confusing, anti-climactic. Pay attention. Advance. Suggest. Preface....

Everything is foreplay.

April 24, 2015

Art: A Catalyst For Intimacy

Sometimes I think writing my blog is very much like writing a letter to an old friend..
filled with the personal details, thoughts, and answers to questions granted by a certain intimate personal knowledge and history. 
Like we already know each other so I can say this this way
and you'll know what I mean without having to wonder about it. 

Gerhard Richter

































I think of all the desires I've confused myself with in my life, it is the desire for intimacy that encompasses them all. What is it about us human beings that cannot exist without this?

Eventually all things get filtered through the lens of being an artist. Over time my paintings have become my representatives, speaking for me through metaphors and parables of color, line, and texture. They reveal my need to reveal myself. They act not only as a means of communication but encapsulate a part of me I don't even understand.

They share my deepest secrets... and there is nothing more intimate than a secret shared. It can give you almost a smug feeling to know someone has chosen you to reveal themselves to. 

That's what I want my art to be: a secret moment shared.

It involves more than just me, the creator. You the viewer are just as important. You get to feel smug about it and in return give back something as well.  

Because at its best and bravest art has the ability to do that, to act as a catalyst, moving us from one place to another, even if just in our imaginations.



April 14, 2015

Interview with Painter Brenda Goodman

Here is an inspiring, wonderful interview with painter Brenda Goodman posted by Figure/Ground. Follow the link to read it in it's entirety but here is one snippet I love.

© Brenda Goodman and Figure/Ground
Brenda Goodman was interviewed by Ashley Garrett at her show on Life On Mars Gallery on March 29th, 2015.

And in my work I’ve always dealt with what was going on in my life. People say my paintings are so from the heart. I used to give intensives to people who had creative work blocks. And I was really good at intuiting people’s issues of what’s causing those blocks. And it’s usually that they won’t go to the dark side in their work. They’d rather paint nice. 

Self Portrait 4, 2004, oil on wood, 64 x 60 inches.  Courtesy the artist and Life On Mars Gallery.
Self Portrait 4, 2004, oil on wood, 64 x 60 inches. Courtesy the artist and Life On Mars Gallery.


































I like that expression, ‘paint nice’!

Paint nice – like getting praise, or nice colors, or it looks like something, it’s realistic, or something like that. I’d say – what’s the worst experience you’ve ever had? It often has to do with your mother for some reason, and I’ll say let’s paint that. And people will react: “I can’t paint that! That would be awful!” Like they would die if they painted what they felt. And I always said no, unless you can go there – you don’t have to stay there, like I have for so many years – but if you go there you can come back and paint how you want to paint, but it won’t be out of fear anymore.

I don’t get in front of a painting and think I’m going to be open or I’m going to be vulnerable or I’m going to be light or I’m going to be pretty or I’m going to be sad, it’s so who I am to the core. What I don’t like about work is when I look at it and there’s a wall between me and it. And that’s what happens when I do the intensives with people who have creative blocks, that wall is going to disappear the wall between the painter and the viewer. Everyone comes from a different place and there’s great things in the different ways people work. But I can always spot when someone has this wall. I strive in my work to have no wall between my painting and the person looking at it. You should want to be seen! I mean, what’s the point, what’s the wall for? Who are you? Be vulnerable! When people see my work it feels real to them, it’s not bullshit, it’s from the heart, there’s no barrier between me and them. When you meet me, who I am is what you get. I don’t have that kind of facade.

April 2, 2015

Artist Communities

I just found this article that I saved a while back from Stephen B. MacInnis' blog Painter's Progress. I'm including it here as a follow up to my next best thing to community post, part of the conversation about artist communities.

Painter's Progress

Works in progress by Stephen B. MacInnis




Artists questioned. How does an artist make connections and become part of an arts community?


Krista Svalbonas, S8NC_02 mixed media on Khadi 8 x 8, 2013
Krista Svalbonas, S8NC_02 mixed media on Khadi 8 x 8, 2013

All artists have questions they seek answers to. Sometimes they ask themselves the same questions over and over again, and sometimes they seek out friends and mentors who provide answers to their questions. If you ask the same question to several people you will most likely get several different answers, and then it is up to you to select the answer that is best for you.  
So the question is… How does an artist make connections and become part of an arts community?

Julie Alexander  
Making connections and being a part of an arts community can be hard. I have so many demands on my time with a job and kids. That said, I also think there are many ways to be a part of the arts community that are unique to each of us. I am still feeling my way around and shifting what it means to me to be part of the conversation. I am a member of a collective gallery in Seattle (Soil) that features a curated show each month rather than the more insular model of focusing on members. As a gallery and as a member of the gallery, I am part of the arts community in Seattle. I have also had some good connections happen on facebook. I have been included in opportunities and have curated a show from connections that began on line. Other than that, I think just showing up to things – openings, lectures, discussions – and doing studio visits all bring you in contact with the arts community. I intend to do more of that in perhaps a more targeted way in 2014.” JA

Marc Cheetham
I would say the best way to make connections and be apart of a community is to go to openings, open studios, etc. Getting out and talking to people, especially those that are artists, and can help you in making new acquaintances. Since this isn’t always a feasible option, due to location, work, etc, for most people I would recommend Facebook. It becomes very easy to connect with artists from all over the world. You can get feedback on your work from this interaction which is an important thing and the dialog is instantaneous. I feel that all artists, even though you should be making the work for your self, need some form of validation as well. It helps in pushing your work forward and also opening up your mind. You also get to see a wide range of work you may not get to otherwise see. Unfortunately, seeing a digital copy is not as good as seeing in person, but seeing in some form is better then not at all. Increasing your knowledge of Art will also, I think, help put your work in a general context of the world. Also, being apart of the online community can lead to many opportunities to show your work. Often times artists that you are friends with may have curatorial projects going on or even just a chance to put something together and may ask you to be involved. If you have the chance to curate a show, etc. you now have a larger pool of artists to choose from as well.” MC

PE Sharpe
“The short answer is network, network, network.
For some people being comfortable with others is a natural part of the way that they move through the art worlds they inhabit, be it for business or pleasure. They find it easy to be amongst strangers, are able to put themselves forward in an open and friendly manner, can remember the names of the people to whom they are introduced, and have impeccable manners. For the majority of us, it’s not so easy. Add in the complications of the many hierarchies both visible and invisible in the arts communities we see around us and it’s a wonder any of us ever leave the house. Times have changed since I tried to break down the door to my local art community; bearing that in mind these are my suggestions to help boost your chances at finding your familiars when you are the new kid at the rodeo. I’ll stick to attending openings for artists but it’s broad enough advice that it can be useful for other circumstances.

Ready? Take a deep breath. Exhale.

Be yourself. It sounds easier than it is. The reality is that you are under scrutiny at all times when entering into any new community and it also holds true in the art world. Your entree goes beyond what or who you know – it’s a community in which people have many pursuits outside of a shared interest in art. You don’t need to know everything about the brave new world in front of you, but you have to be ready to engage with the strangers you want on your team. Give yourself the task of saying hello to at least one person you have never met before. If you don’t have a sponsor or mentor making introductions for you, introduce yourself. Make sure you don’t mumble, mmmkay?

What will you talk about? Don’t go in with an elevator speech or speed dating script in your back pocket – being ambitious for your work is not in and of itself a bad thing but starting with self-promotional screed is not the best tactical approach to building a sustained dialogue within a community. Talk about your interests and let the interests lead the conversation. Don’t be afraid of small talk – ask the people you meet how they know the host or the guest of honour at the function you are attending. Be fearlessly sincere in asking questions about the interests of others and you may find out that the business end of things fall into place when/if the time is right. Struggle too hard at being the most outlandish person in the room or be too obvious at schmoozing and you may find others backing away from you while making the sign of the cross: nobody likes a hard sell.We are artists, we have things to say about the world in which we live. Artists by their very nature are already at the top of the Intrigue Olympics. Be cool with it.

Art communities in particular place a very high value on an individual’s reputation. If you talk smack about people be prepared to be assigned to the smack talkers. It’s the most entertaining table to sit at when it’s party time, for sure, but nobody wants to think that they are going to be your next target. Be judicious. Be ethical. Don’t lie for effect. It will always come back to bite you in the ass.

Be prepared to be viewed with suspicion as a newcomer. Don’t take it personally. There is a lot of professional envy out there and it really has nothing to do with you. The art world makes people do crazy things under duress. Try not to do those things either to yourself or unto others.

Keep your wits about you at all times, even when others appear to be losing the plot. All that free beer and wine at the openings that you will attend? Don’t use it as your personal invite to get shitfaced on someone else’s dime. It’s not your birthday and you didn’t get handed a ‘get out of drunk-mode free’ card.  Don’t be greedy, and if you do try to steal that wheel of Brie for dinner at least try to be discreet. As you leave the event, remember your manners: thank the host, be it the gallery owner, event organizer, artist who invited you, say goodbye to the people you met. Try to remember their names for next time. Joining a community isn’t about signing up, it’s about showing up and becoming recognized as a supporter of other people who are in the same boat with you. Don’t forget to sign the guest book on your way out – it serves as a record of your attendance to others who watch for that sort of thing.

In the end it’s about being social, remember? Staying home while trying to become part of a community works on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr maybe, but that’s a topic for another day.” PS

Krista Svalbonas 
I don’t believe there is a single definitive way to do this. Speaking from experience, there are many ways one can become part of or form an arts community. For me, community is really about building a network. I find that attending residencies are a fantastic starting point in building a community. Social media is an extremely effective force for following up and continuing to strengthen relationships created there. One may attend a residency program miles away or on another continent and still be able to easily stay in touch with those they’ve met. It’s easy to find like minded people on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Artstack, etc. I’ve befriended some fabulous artists and just great people through Facebook, many of whom I most likely would’ve never met otherwise. Also, depending on where you live, your local Arts organizations are a great place to start building a network. As a former resident of Jersey City, ProArts gives artists every opportunity to meet one another via openings, social events or happenings. I’m also a member of the College Art Association, which gives artists and teaching artists opportunities to network and meet one another. Though I can’t speak from experience on this, I would assume that having a studio in an arts building could land you in the middle of an arts scene. I think its important to find out what works for you and what makes sense in your daily life.” KS