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. 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?

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...








November 23, 2015

more black tar drawings


Still working on this series of drawings. almost ready for some canvas action!
I think my favorite are the half erased ones which makes sense because they are also
the most work..

charcoal on watercolor paper 11X14"

charcoal on watercolor paper 22X30"

charcoal on watercolor paper 22X30"

charcoal on watercolor paper (top) 22X30" (bottom) 18X24"
series of drawings hung together, charcoal on handmade paper 11X14" each (& Don't mind the blue tape)
charcoal on handmade paper 11X14"



charcoal on handmade paper 11X14"

charcoal on handmade paper 11X14"






October 22, 2015

MINDFUL DRAWING on a Thursday afternoon

I'm supposed to be practicing mindfulness.*
I've given myself to meditation, and occasionally, yoga. Even gave myself a trip to three day holistic retreat. I should be feeling like heaven on earth, but the more I think about it, the farther away from Zen I get. And that's just the point. I have to keep reminding myself to stop thinking.

I'm going to venture to say that 90% of my blog posts include the question why repeatedly, well probably even more than that, which maybe some of you have noticed.
It's a hard habit to break..

With that said, I'm taking this moment to reflect on what's happening right now and accept it as is. No why's in this post, no past, no future, just here's what I'm doing without having any idea where it's going or why it's happening.

New drawings everyday being made with minimal materials including charcoal, eraser, fingers, hand, paper, wall... 

*Mindfulness means being aware of what is going on around you in the present moment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them.
When you are on a journey, it is certainly helpful to know where you're going - but remember: the only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. that's all there ever is.
 from the little book of Mindfulness

So here is one full week's worth of mindful drawing, posted on a Thursday afternoon:






















September 30, 2015

unavoidable metaphors everywhere


here's what I just learned this week: that muscles do not actually grow bigger the more you work them out. muscles develop tiny little tears that repair themselves, which makes them thicker and stronger than they were before. the body repairs the damaged muscle with new and improved muscle protein. in other words, muscles need to break down before they can build themselves up. and interestingly, this does not happen while you're actually doing the workout, it happens while you rest, after the workout.

I think that is amazing. I think it's amazing that God would make it that way (yes... I said God), and it makes me wonder and imagine all the million billion minute details of our bodies and our lives that God has also made that way.

in essence, nothing was really meant to be easy. we have to just figure out which battles are the most important, and how to carve out little moments of peace for ourselves.

Samantha Palmeri drawing
2 drawings from 2 days ago

today I plan to carve out some more charcoal drawings for myself, a similar process of breaking down and building up. like both a battle and a moment of peace at the same time.




September 24, 2015

Back in the Saddle Again

It's been a crazy long hiatus from the studio 
so I am very happy to report that I am  
I'm even happier to report that I've actually went and done it and stuck to my guns (sorry, Gene Autry is still singing in my head), including getting my comfy white couch settled in its new home, and finally starting my new "Black Tar" drawing series.


Samantha Palmeri art studio


Drawings are charcoal on heavy handmade paper colored with watercolor wash, approx. 11X14"
















here's some more drawings from today, September 25th. same handmade paper but with no watercolor wash...












August 25, 2015

Is happiness a talent?

That seals it. I need to go to Italy soon... very soon.

Spaghetti Carbonara
Life is taking an unexpected turn toward trying new things. Like Spaghetti Carbonara. and Elizabeth Gilbert. I know. Spaghetti Carbonara is not a new discovery, but it's new to me, and let me add that it is an absolute revelation. Not sure why I've never made it or ever eaten it. And here's where a good blogger would research all sorts of historic details about the origin of the recipe, but I don't have time for that now and it's not really what this post is about... Anyway, like the Carbonara, Elizabeth Gilbert is also a revelation. Author of Eat Pray Love which book (also not new but new to me) I am now midway through has some very interesting insights. I admit I watched the movie, which is irrelevant, and I also admit I only checked the book out of the local library because I liked a recent article about seduction she wrote for the New York Times Magazine, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/magazine/confessions-of-a-seduction-addict.html
Regardless. Here I am midway through characters like Luca Spaghetti and phrases about genius Italian culture like,
The beauty of doing nothing is the goal of all your work... The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life's achievement... Anyone with a talent for happiness can do this, not only the rich.
If you've read my blog you know that the beauty of doing nothing is a wonderful goal I do wish to achieve, 
but the thing that caught my attention most was the idea of happiness actually being a talent. 

As if you could be born with this talent or not born with it. As if there could maybe even be the possibility of learning how to do it better, or do it at all.
It got me thinking about my own happiness or unhappiness. And then of course, how does this translate into my artwork...
I don't know if I'd consider myself a happy person or if I have a talent for making happy paintings... but lo and behold I just found an entry in my journal from last December telling myself how happy I was and that I thought I was actually making happy paintings! Who knew.

Do I even want to be making happy paintings?

Samantha Palmeri painting
"abstract painting #7"
Samantha Palmeri painting
"abstract painting #9" two paintings I imagine I labeled at the time as happy
I've read some interesting theories about what makes for more popular art. As in what do collectors like to purchase, and what do commercial galleries like to sell, etc. It has been suggested that brown paintings do not sell, blue paintings do sell, red paintings are exciting, and if you can't fit it in the elevator you're probably not taking it home with you.
Ms. Gilbert remarks that,
Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one. Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that's not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment.
As the two words arts and entertainment are so entwined in American culture, it doesn't seem that far off that visual art is a form of entertainment. Not that the pleasure you get from a wonderful piece of art could really be considered entertainment, but at the same time you need to want to spend most evenings enjoying its company.

So then the question is, do people want to hang happier paintings on their walls??
Death and murder make up a huge part of our entertainment as well.  
I imagine that there must be a comparable number of melancholy art collectors as there are happy ones, right? 

I for one have no intention of choosing my paint colors based on statistical data. I do admit, however, that I spend a lot of time thinking about things like this. In fact it crosses my mind each time I unload a very murky brownish mustard color off my paintbrush. I am a painter who loves color and puts a lot of meaning into the colors I choose and the emotional effects they will have on the viewer. So I can't really help it.

Anyway it turns out, and I am happy to report, that in the theme of trying new things, along with planning my trip to Italy, the crisis of happy or unhappy and brown versus blue is currently being solved, at least temporarily, with plans for a new series of paintings... all in black and white.

Samantha Palmeri painting
"ADT" what will turn out to be one of the last paintings I made before the new black and white series






August 1, 2015

nuances of creativity

unfinished painting (don't smoke crack II)
There are some months where I can write and write, and nothing else -
where my mind is so clear all I want to do is sit in a room and think -
where words come out automatically, without permission or request.

There are also months where I can't put two sentences together no matter how hard I try -
not ironically coinciding with me barely having a clue about what I'm thinking or doing.

Painting is not like that.
I realize that for me, painting does not require a clear mind, and in fact a tangled mess can sometimes lead to wonderful accomplishments in the painting studio.

I am amazed at these nuances of creativity.
There are so many parts of us that need exercise, practice, restraint, contemplation, time, space, etc. -
each part playing a slightly different role, but just as important
because all of it together makes up the whole.

I'm so glad that when words come I have a place to write them down,
and when paint is flying it has a place to land.







July 15, 2015

some new paintings

Sometimes work just needs to fester, and you need to fester with it. Here are four paintings that although were all completed within the last two months, have taken many many months to come to fruition. I think they all say something different but speak the same language...


Samantha Palmeri Contemporary Artist
Save me from my desires, oil on canvas, 60X60"

Samantha Palmeri painting
Go figure, oil on canvas, 60X60"
Samantha Palmeri painting
ADT, oil on canvas, 50X50"
Samantha Palmeri painting
Bird brain, oil on canvas, 50X50"

June 10, 2015

"You see, I want a lot"

One of my favorite books of poetry is
Rilke's Book of Hours/ Love Poems to God
by Rainer Maria Rilke

detail of current painting in progress titled Save me from my Desires

I've read it through so many times yet I always find something inspiring.
Written in German and translated, here are two worth rereading:
 

Ich glaube an Alles noch nie Gesagte

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.


Du siehst, ich will viel

You see, I want a lot.
Maybe I want it all:
the darkness of each endless fall,
the shimmering light of each ascent.

So many are alive who don't seem to care.
Casual, easy, they move in the world
as though untouched.

But you take pleasure in the faces
of those who know they thirst.
You cherish those
who grip you for survival.

You are not dead yet, it's not too late
to open your depths by plunging into them
and drink in the life
that reveals itself quietly there.