December 28, 2015

Which Of These



I've been picking up new books like crazy lately and can't decide which one to read first. Started two of them already but haven't gotten very far, two are brand new from Christmas, and the Secrets and Psychology of Waiting in Line I half read out loud at the bar at Spotty Dog.  

What do you think? Which of these should I read first??
 
clockwise from top left: Hold Still by Sally Mann, M Train by Patti Smith, Why Does The Other Line Always Move Faster by David Andrews, Daisy Miller by Henry James, Lady of Yaddo by Lynn Esmay, This Is Not It by Lynne Tillman, A Backward Glance: An Autobiography by Edith Wharton, New York Diaries edited by Teresa Carpenter, Solitude by Anthony Storr


 

December 21, 2015

Are You Ready

In wishing you all A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year
I will just say that I am very happy to be looking to the future rather than dwelling on the past, and I am t h r i l l e d to never have to write 2015 ever again. I'm definitely ready for a new year!

I just came across a statement written by Robert C. Morgan circa 1997, about a year or so after I took a memorable class with him at SVA. It oddly does not feel in any way dated by 18 years:

"In today's art world there is a certain price to be paid by any artist who chooses to follow an inner-directed position as opposed to the consensual signs of an external discourse. Most often, it is the latter option which has become symptomatic of the critical and curatorial establishment. In a highly pragmatic culture, fashion and science are still the ultimate models upon which success is measured and understood. These models are predictably mediated by public consensus- the harbinger of neutralized taste."

It makes me wonder if I should be down right grateful that the last five applications I submitted to show my work were all rejected. How does an artist know if their work is just plain awful or just way too interesting and idiosyncratic for the public's 'neutralized taste'?

New Year's Resolution #1: I am going to pretend to not care and keep working regardless.
New Year's Resolution #2: I will send out fifty submissions this year so at least the rejection percentages will be more balanced out.

Cheers everyone!






December 10, 2015

The Art of Looking

As in looking for something, not looking at something. Big difference...


Powers of observation go a long way.

Every time I'm not at home and I get an emergency phone call from one of two family members who are desperately looking for something important they can't find, I remind them that knowing how to look is the first step to finding what you're looking for. I refer to it as The Art of Looking. There is definitely an art to it since it's clear that some people have no problem with it while others (including the majority of the population) will have a life long struggle with it.

According to research, the average American wastes approximately 55 minutes a day looking for things.

The average person will waste approximately one year of their life looking for lost possessions. As one online source put it, considering that we only laugh for around 6 minutes a day, that's pretty depressing statistics.

Not immune to this problem but trained at an early age I feel I can safely offer some sage advice on the topic. Since aforementioned one of two family members is likely to read this I figured I'd get it all down now...

No. 1
Take a deep breath in, then breathe out.

No. 2
Realize that whatever you're looking for is not gone forever. No one has come to your house to steal your car keys, wallet, passport, ipad, or sunglasses. They are not lost, they're misplaced, or more likely, they're right in front of your face. You just can't see them for the hurried, frantic frustration you're currently engulfed in.

No. 3
Slow down. Rushing and looking do not go hand in hand. If you're moving too fast you've probably rushed right by what you were looking for like ten times already.

No. 4
Keep in mind that rifling, rummaging and grabbing are all synonyms for burglarizing. If it concerns paperwork, which it often does, you actually have to pick up each and every single paper separately. This is not the time to fan through the pile. This can occasionally require a bit of eye hand coordination like picking up papers with the right hand (if you're a righty) while holding them with the left hand. If the pile is that big, you're going to need a system, trust me.

No. 5
Don't assume. If you have an image of what you're looking for in your head it can actually get in the way of finding it because if we assume, we usually wrongly assume. We think the paper we're looking for has an orange letter head when in reality it has a blue letterhead with orange writing. Or we forget that the black hat actually has a huge colorful logo in front and clearly that's not what we were looking for. Without the assumption of what something already looks like, we're forced to look more closely at every single thing in the pile. How many times do we say, well that's not what I was looking for that's why I couldn't find it. Or we say, how can I find it if I don't know what I'm looking for.

The Art of Looking 



Here I'd sarcastically say, you know, Open your eyes. Maybe I should say instead, Open your mind.







No. 6
Employ only the most loyal family members to help in the search. It will most definitely grow tiresome and it's important to know where your unconditional love is coming from. Of course there are instances when relying on someone else's eyes is literally essential (like in my case), when someone who needs glasses to see far away can't find her glasses.


Well, for me that about sums it up. I suppose there's an art form to everything if we think about it. I also think some of these suggestions could work pretty well for half a dozen other things that plague us on a daily basis; if we consider that breathing, slowing down, appreciating help from others, and positively reassuring ourselves are all good things in themselves.

No doubt there's much more that could be added to this list.

If you have any other interesting insights into The Art of Looking, please send them my way.





December 4, 2015

How To See A Painting

According to Mallarme, "to name an object is to destroy three quarters of the pleasure we take in the poem..."

This as applied to abstract painting;
the pleasure "which is derived from the enjoyment of guessing by degrees, of suggesting it..."

My work these days is a flurry of suggestive activity on canvas,
which at times seems aimless, literally going in circles,
but certainly it's a lot more than that.

These suggestions are just as much brought to bare by the viewer as by the painter.
What does one see when looking at the activity of a painting?
The activity of a painter and her paints, color, texture, movement...?
Do you hear the song I am listening to, can you tell the mood I'm in?

My marks, my flight across the canvas,
like a spider weaving its web,
catch you in a moment of looking.
Two shapes connecting,
many shapes connecting.

As to color, which can only be related to one's perception of color,
is it universal to automatically associate red with blood, blue with the sea, brown with shit, peach with flesh, and black with death?
I'm literally running out of colors to use.
I make attempts to restrict my palette only to wind up with the same colors I love.
I make attempts to use color not for emotional purposes only to wind up doing exactly that.

When does a painting become a painting about making paintings, and who wants to see that?

Samantha Palmeri painting
Samantha Palmeri, Untitled, 2015, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 inches


I like the idea of this mass moving through space.
A tangled mass of color and line.
Body fluids and parts, thoughts, ideas, feelings, moments,
sinews connecting tissue and nerve endings.
This rattles me.
This brings me peace.
This is a journey I do not want to go on.
This is a journey I do want to go on.

"The contemplation of objects, the images
and flights of fancy arising from this contemplation
These constitute the song..."

"...one gradually conjures up an object so as to demonstrate a state of mind, or, conversely, one chooses an object which, when gradually deciphered, reveals a state of mind."

This is my struggle to get viewers to not see a duck or a face. I want them to recognize the work, the feeling of it. Is there a way to actually change perception? Can pink ever signify more than little girl's rooms and stuffed animals?

It's a phenomenon that people are so inclined to tell you what they think your painting is all about.

I imagine most people have no idea how many of their comments are insulting, but I'm sure that whatever they think my painting looks like, it's exactly whatever is on their mind not mine. Apparently a lot of people's minds are filled with ducks and mermaids, cartoon characters, shoelaces, and faces from their past. 

If everyone views a work of art from their own distinct personal experience and perception, how can the artist speak to everyone at once? If it's even possible at all, then the only way to do it is to start with your own. Your own voice, experience and perception.

Let's just face it, some people will love black and hate pink no matter what you do.......





December 3, 2015

A Safe, Easy Way To...

I'm currently working on a project with a writer friend. He sends me writing, I send him pictures in response. At least that's the plan. So far all I've managed to do is read and re-read the words he's sent me over and over. It's more challenging than I first imagined because every time I read them, they sound completely different and I keep coming up with different answers...

It's making me realize how easy it is to misconstrue things, and with all our preconceived notions, how quick we are to jump to conclusions and assign swift judgements. Human brains do this automatically. We categorize everything the second our senses get hold of it.

When it comes to the written word, there's no doubt that the more times you read something the better you understand it. I'm sure that I've thrown out and deleted so many letters and messages that I completely misunderstood because I looked at them too quickly. You read something like a text message once and immediately respond thinking you know exactly what it's all about, but it happens that if you read it again three or four times you start to hear that person's voice a lot clearer and realize that you may have had it all wrong. I'm sure there are little misunderstandings like this going on all over the place all day long.
But I'm getting off the subject...

What I want to say is that when you look at a painting, it's exactly the same thing. It needs to be contemplated over and over. Because art is complex, every time you look at it you might see something different. It's naive to expect viewers to be open minded but it's kind of a requirement when looking at art. Letting things go opens you up, opens your mind. Letting go of the quick judgement/categorization that automatically happens when we look at a work of art frees us to see it in a more truthful light, as it really is.

Once you've assessed and categorized something it's like you've closed the box on it. For example, it looks like a whale, it must be a whale, all I see is a whale, end of story. You've already dismissed it and you probably only spent about 15 seconds on it. According to statistics, the average museum visitor spends an average of 15-30 seconds in front of a work of art. 
(It took me longer to write this paragraph.)


detail work in progress, charcoal on canvas
Lately I've attempted through the strictest frugality of materials to discourage this kind of quick categorization of my own work, but it's nearly impossible. I'm fine with people seeing whales or dancers or whatever else they see in my abstractions, as long as the story doesn't end there. There should always be more to discover the more you look at a work of art. No simple explanation should be able to easily dismiss it.
Like great poetry or jazz, you should be able to discover something new every time you stand before it.

detail work in progress, charcoal on canvas
I recently had an interesting conversation about the significance of working in a museum. How profound an experience it is to be exposed to a collection of artwork something like 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Being in the presence of great works of art for that amount of time, especially if there are few others around, can be a meditative and intimate experience. (The Rothko Chapel comes to mind.) One gains a rare understanding of the work in a way that the average viewer never could. When I worked as a gallery assistant during an exhibition in 1997, After The Fall curated by Lilly Wei, I learned so much. I would say I learned more about abstract painting from that experience than 4 years of college. 

It's a serious luxury to have that kind of intimacy with a roomful of great artworks, but there are great luxuries to be had everyday by most of us if we pay attention. Knowing first hand how challenging it is to keep an open mind, if anything at all can be gained from a better understanding of the world around me, of art, of life, I'm willing to make an attempt to slow down a tiny bit and give it at least a few more seconds of my time.

Hopefully you are too...