May 2, 2019

Making it up the mountain

I've been making my way up the mountain. That's both real and metaphorical.




The walk up Beacon mountain starts just three houses from mine. I've climbed to the top a bunch of times, but lately it seems like more of a struggle.

Today I'm happy to say I made it even further up.
The bugs getting stuck in my hair were actually more of a challenge than the steep climb. Which reminded me of course of a song my father used to sing to me. Because most things in life remind me of a song my father used to sing to me.

Hair from the play Hair:
"Darlin', give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair. Shining, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen. Give me down to there hair, shoulder length or longer. Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair. I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, Matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen. Hair, hair, hair, hair."

I have this idea to make a book of photocopies of my hair. Here are the first two.










March 18, 2019

Shaolin*: the forgotten borough

Who we are has so much to do with where we are from.

Something's been on my mind about place and belonging. So many artists talk about where they're from and how much it's influenced their work and their lives. Whether they left a place by choice or not, whether they stayed, returned, or were never able to, whether they hated it or loved it, it has played an important role.


I was born and raised in Staten Island, New York, and lived there until I was 29.



Staten Island has a very ghetto mentality. By that I am being quite inclusive as far as race and discrimination. It's less about poverty, but definitely about fear, isolation, and cultural starvation.

Staten Island is divided by neighborhoods. There are 19 stops on the Staten Island Rapid Transit. Each one has its own personality. In my era, neighborhoods were divided into territorial gangs. My neighborhood gang was called the Albee boys because we lived on the cross street of Albee avenue. The Albee boys were rivals of the New Springville boys. In 1991 Thomas Bickerton's big brother was beaten to death with a baseball bat by the New Springville boys and his name was spray painted under the overpass a block from my house. I remember this distinctly because Thomas Bickerton had jumped up to kiss me in the courtyard of PS 36 during our Kindergarten recess, and I had been friendly with him ever since. I graduated from a high school with a population of almost 4,000. There were exactly two African American students in my graduating class. In the last election almost 75% of the people from my old neighborhood voted Republican.

Staten Island is divided by the north shore and the south shore. My neighborhood on the south shore was made up mostly of people who had moved from Brooklyn to Staten Island, including my family. People who commuted to Manhattan to work every day but didn't spend much time there after working hours. My friends and I didn't hang out in the city, we hung out on the corner, in back of the high school parking lot, or literally at the giant rock in the woods by my house.

In 1986 I was accepted to the high school of performing arts for ballet. I didn't go. I have no recollection of what that conversation was like, but for a sheltered 13 year old from Staten Island, the idea of riding the ferry to the train by myself to Fiorello La Guardia every day wasn't even in my peripheral.

There are five boroughs of New York City: Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island. Staten Island is the only borough that doesn't physically connect to Manhattan. There is no bridge or train that goes directly to the city. Commuters take a train to a ferry, or a bridge to a tunnel, or some combination which often includes driving from New York to New Jersey to New York again. From Annadale it took me an hour and a half to get to midtown Manhattan. A half hour train ride, a 20 minute ferry ride, a ten minute subway, plus the walk to, and the wait for, each of these operations. There are three bridges that cross over to New Jersey and exactly one bridge that crosses to Brooklyn. This is not an accident. It symbolizes a great cultural divide. In 1993 65% of Staten Islanders voted to secede from NYC. With mostly no interest in taking advantage of/enjoying any of New York City's culture, art, spirit, energy, there was also no interest in paying its expenses/tax bill.

Staten Island, often referred to as the "forgotten borough", if you didn't already know, was also once home to the largest garbage dump in the world. T h e   w o r l d.  It was seen from outer space... for real. On a particularly stale day one could smell the dump from miles away.

It took me years to accept that the place I grew up in was, well, kind of embarrassing. A way more suburban than urban, left out, dumped on borough under a giant shadow of one of the greatest cities in the world. When I worked in the city I never volunteered that I was from Staten Island. People would make fun of the dump or the ferry or the fact that New Jersey was easier to get to.

I hated Staten Island when I was growing up. I was shy and artistic and I didn't get anyone's inside jokes about the Staten Island mall. I was a cheerleader but I couldn't do a cartwheel. I had no connection whatsoever to the place I was from. When I was a senior and about to graduate high school, my parents went to an open school night and incidentally met with my art teacher. Mrs. D'Agostino was shocked that I had absolutely no plans for any specific college or to pursue art in any way. She's the reason I became an art major. Not because she was particularly inspiring, but because she was the only one who'd suggested it.

I think I let the place I was from define me for a long time. I'm beginning to understand that the place itself is just part of a story I tell myself about who I am, and that's something I can change.




*Shaolin is what the Wu Tang Clan called Staten Island in the early 1990's.


February 22, 2019

NYC ART: 3 MUST-SEE SHOWS

I went to see some gallery shows yesterday, in particular Dana Schutz at Petzel Gallery, Judy Pfaff at Miles McEnery, and Brenda Goodman at Sikkema Jenkins.

Judy Pfaff, detail of Quartet II

Judy Pfaff, Quartet II, 2018, Photographic inspired digital image, steel frame, acrylic, expanded foam, aluminum discs, lightbulbs, wood, melted plastic, Styrofoam. 128.5” x 160” x 60”

Dana Schutz, Trouble and Appearance, 2019, Oil on canvas, 90 x 96 inches

Brenda Goodman, Let the Match Begin, 2017, oil on wood, 60 x 72 inches

Brenda Goodman, Possibility of Age, 2018, oil on wood, Two parts: 80 x 144 inches overall


WOW. These three artists are kicking ass with uncontained, unbridled energy, intention, and material-love. Monsters of color, detail, and form. I saw the shows in that order, Schutz, Pfaff, and Goodman. I left the Dana Schutz exhibition feeling like I should just give it up right now. The work feels so big, and a lot of it is so big. Big and bold and juicy. I imagined my paintings next to hers like little puny specks. Then I walked into Judy Pfaff's show and just started smiling uncontrollably. She is total exuberance! I was still smiling when I got to the Brenda Goodman show. Goodman has been at it for so long, I think of the saying, slow and steady wins the race. She is persistence. The surface details and little unexpected moments everywhere are too marvelous!

These women are laying it all out there. Led by a very personal, intuitive layering of material and meaning. I am so inspired. I feel like I have to go back and soak up some more.

These shows prove that seeing is believing. Visual art NEEDS to be experienced in person. Not one online image I viewed of any of these artworks came even close to what it feels like to be in a room with them.

Both the Dana Schutz and Brenda Goodman exhibitions end tomorrow, so if you haven't been, high tail it over there. Judy Pfaff's exhibit runs through March 9th.


Dana Schutz, Painting in an Earthquake, 2019, Oil on canvas, 94 x 87.75 inches

Brenda Goodman, Bringing it Home, 2018, oil on wood, 16 x 20 inches

Judy Pfaff, Quartet I, 2018, Photographic inspired digital image, wire frame, acrylic, melted plastic, aluminum discs, fungus, paper, glitter, Styrofoam, florescent light. 120.75” x 156” x 32”

Judy Pfaff, detail of Quartet I

Dana Schutz, Washing Monsters, 2018, Oil on canvas, 94 x 87.75 inches

Dana Schutz, Boatman, 2018, Oil on canvas, 88 x 75 inches

Dana Schutz, Smoker, 2018, Bronze, 28 x 30 x 12 inches

Brenda Goodman, Pink, 2018, oil on wood, Two parts: 50 x 72 inches overall

Brenda Goodman, Pushing Through, 2018, oil on wood, 14 x 18 inches

Brenda Goodman, Say It's So, 2018, oil on wood, 12 x 16 inches

Dana Schutz, The Visible World, 2018, Oil on canvas, 108 x 140 inches

Judy Pfaff, Quartet III, 2018, Photographic inspired digital image, acrylic, expanded foam, aluminum discs, Melted plastic, paper, acrylic, melted plastic, Styrofoam, lightbulbs. 121” x 149” x 21”

Judy Pfaff, Installation view

Dana Schutz, Washing Monsters, 2018, Bronze, 44 x 38 x 17 inches

Dana Schutz, detail of Strangers, 2018, Oil on canvas, 88 x 84 inches






February 6, 2019

#artistproblems

Some of you already know, but just to say for the record, I have left my job at the Garrison Art Center.

That's a long story but the positive is that I've been able to get my painting schedule back and focus on full time work in the studio again.

Here's how it's been going. Last week out of sheer frustration I threw my paint brush on the floor while exclaiming, I can't believe I forgot how to paint! A few days later I was feeling like a painter again and actually enjoying myself. Hashtag artist problems. This morning I added a new painting to my website www.samanthapalmeri.com. I'm excited that work for my upcoming show in September at the Catalyst Gallery is finally well on its way.

I've decided to leave the paintbrush on the floor just to remind myself, every day is a new day.


half blurry picture of paintbrush on the floor.
palette table with that little rubber hand I won at a Funky Spunky Literature Night
I'm kinda obsessed with it. 
my newest painting. doesn't have a title yet. oil on canvas, 40 x 40 inches



January 29, 2019

Kiki Smith, Art Exhibitions, Journal Writing, Inspiration, Vulnerability


from the exhibition Genevieve and the Wolves, Sainte Genevieve, 1999, ink on Nepal paper, 7 feet 8 1/4 inches



Kiki Smith


My Blue Lake, 1995, color photogravure with a la poupée inking and lithograph in colors, 33.7 x 45.8 inches


Sojourn installation image at the Brooklyn Museum, 2010

book cover



I got a great book for Christmas this year, Kiki Smith: Photographs
Published on the occasion of the exhibition I Myself Have Seen It: Photography and Kiki Smith, March 6-August 15, 2010, at the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle. Organized by Elizabeth A. Brown.

I've been following Kiki Smith's work for a long time. I remember one of the first exhibitions I saw of hers in the 1990's of black birds and bent over bodies hanging on the wall and scattered on the gallery floor. The psychological, emotional, and physical relationships she explores: self to nature, nature to animal, animal to human, and so on, mesmerize and enthrall me. She seems to be an artist who is so completely enveloped in her work, consistently working on numerous projects at once, in complete servitude and surrender to her art.

It both inspires and intimidates me. On Christmas Day I wrote in my journal,

Kiki Smith inspiration. I am not an artist/person who lets it all hang out. I am full of fear not vulnerability. I do not photograph myself naked or give myself tattoos. I am not fearless. I am covered. I want to break through like piercing the yolk of a poached egg. I want to completely dissolve and disappear into my absolute. I wonder if this is a thing everyone is even capable of. I'm starting to think this is the thing that makes great artists, and this is the thing I do not have.


Ribs, 1987, terracotta, ink, and thread, 22 x 17 x 10 inches

Silver bird, 2006, ink on Nepal paper with silver gouache, mica, glitter, and graphite, 72 1/4 x 58 1/4 inches

Lilith, 1994, bronze, silicon, and glass

Lilith detail



Fawn, 2000, Etching and aquatint, 22 1/2 x 31 1/4 inches


Daisy Chain, 1992, steel and bronze, chain 100 feet


Untitled (red man), 1991, ink on gampi paper in four parts


Rapture, 2001, bronze, 67 1/4 x 62 x 26 1/2 inches






Touch, 2006, suite of 6 prints, aquatint, etching, and drypoint, 30 x 22 inches


Wolf Girl, 1999, etching and aquatint on paper, 8 x 11 inches




Jewel, 2004, suite of three prints, aquatint and etching, each 14 x 17 inches





Cat, 1999, cast porcelain, 3 x 3 x 3 inches





Kiki Smith


further looking and reading:

Art21

ArtObserved

Shoshana Wayne Gallery




January 25, 2019

How to: the personification of punctuation

Elizabeth Murray, C-Painting, 1980-81, oil on canvas, 109 x 114 inches

Texting is changing the way we communicate. I've noticed lately that I use an inordinate amount of exclamation points when I'm texting or writing emails.

!!!!


I'm reminded of that Seinfeld episode where Elaine breaks up with her boyfriend for not using exclamation points, and then gets reprimanded at work for using too many!! When her boss reads out loud the sentences where she used them, dramatically emphasizing each word, it's hilarious.

Dramatic emphasis is exactly what exclamation points are intended for. Yourdictionary.com states that:
Exclamation marks were originally called the "note of admiration." They are still, to this day, used to express excitement. They are also used to express surprise, astonishment, or any other such strong emotion. Any exclamatory sentence can be properly followed by an exclamation mark, to add additional emphasis.

Yes, punctuation is used to clarify meaning, however, because of the ineffectual nature of virtual communication, there is a lot of over compensating going on. The mechanisms we use to connect with each other are so detached and removed from real human connection. We're more likely these days to use punctuation to personify way more than a single human assertion. It's like there aren't enough emojis or punctuation marks in the world to completely articulate our thoughts and feelings in a text message.

Every part of texting has become a complicated playing field requiring deciphering skills akin to war time code cracking. Nothing is inconsequential, or goes unnoticed. Every word, letter, image, and punctuation mark, indicates a host of signs and secret or not so secret messages. Even the length of a text message is important. How long it takes you to text back is monumentally important. Taking too long can be perceived as a slap in the face, while texting back the second someone writes to you can either be seen as super reliable-I'm-always-here-for-you, or totally desperate behavior.

With all these underlying assumptions, misinterpretation seems inevitable. Things like ugh, ack or lol can replace whole sentences so you better be sure to use the right one. The use of ALL CAPS or all lowercase has serious emotional implications. I mean, HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO DECIDE WHICH EMOJI YOU WANT TO USE? I'll often ask my daughter when I'm writing something if I've used the proper emoji, (which I usually haven't). I'll add extra exclamation points so it looks like I'm making a joke and then she'll say that it wasn't funny to begin with. sigh

I know I don't use punctuation properly at all. Exclamation points personify a whole slew of emotions and thoughts all at the same time for me. I use one ! as a sign that I'm being positive and have a smile on my face. Two !! is very funny. More than a few !!!!! indicates total surprise, which could be positive or negative, or it could mean don't listen to me I don't know what I'm saying, lol. I'm starting to think I must sound like an idiot or come across like I'm trying too hard, but I have this strange notion that I'll look too serious or depressed without them. hmmm.


Maybe you noticed it too.
peut-être l'avez-vous remarqué aussi?

(btw, I was just informed, nobody uses lol anymore. ugh.)