Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

April 23, 2020

OF POWER AND TIME




I have been rifling through my bookshelf these days. Now that I have a bookshelf for the first time in years, I can easily see what books I have, and what books I have no use for. Some I can't remember why on earth I own, or if they're even mine, so, one by one I am reading through them all! Thank you to my lovely friend whose comment reminded me I own this gem by Mary Oliver, Blue Pastures. Grateful that I can access these inspiring words at any time. Of Power and Time is so very relevant right now, I couldn't resist copying and pasting (except for a few omissions) the entire piece here. Within the confines of time, it is approximately a 7 minute read. Enjoy! 

















Of Power and Time











It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone.
    Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart—to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.
    But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley's birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back in to the mist.
    It is this internal force—this intimate interrupter—whose tracks I would follow. The world sheds, in the energetic way of an open and communal place, its many greetings, as a world should. What quarrel can there be with that? But that the self can interrupt the self—and does—is a darker and more curious matter.

I am, myself, three selves at least. To begin with, there is the child I was. Certainly I am not that child anymore! Yet, distantly, or sometimes not so distantly, I can hear that child's voice—I can feel its hope, or its distress. It has not vanished. Powerful, egotistical, insinuating—its presence rises, in memory, or from the steamy river of dreams. It is not gone, not by a long shot. It is with me in the present hour. It will be with me in the grave.
    And there is the attentive, social self. This is the smiler and the doorkeeper. This is the portion that winds the clock, that steers through the dailiness of life, that keeps in mind appointments that must be made, and then met. It is fettered to a thousand notions of obligation. It moves across the hours of the day as though the movement itself were the whole task. Whether it gathers as it goes some branch of wisdom or delight, or nothing at all, is a matter with which it is hardly concerned. What this self hears night and day, what it loves beyond all other songs, is the endless springing forward of the clock, those measures strict and vivacious, and full of certainty.
    The clock! That twelve-figured moon skull, that white spider belly! How serenely the hands move with their filigree pointers, and how steadily! Twelve hours, and twelve hours, and begin again! Eat, speak, sleep, cross a street, wash a dish! The clock is still ticking. All its vistas are just so broad—are regular. (Notice that word.) Every day, twelve little bins in which to order disorderly life, and even more disorderly thought…. Another day is passing, a regular and ordinary day. (Notice that word also.)

Say you have bought a ticket on an airplane and you intend to fly from New York to San Francisco. What do you ask of the pilot when you climb aboard and take your seat next to the little window…. 
    Most assuredly you want the pilot to be his regular and ordinary self. You want him to approach and undertake his work with no more than a calm pleasure. You want nothing fancy, nothing new. You ask him to do, routinely, what he knows how to do—fly an airplane. You hope he will not daydream. You hope he will not drift into some interesting meander of thought. You want this flight to be ordinary, not extraordinary. So, too, with the surgeon, and the ambulance driver, and the captain of the ship. Let all of them work, as ordinarily they do, in confident familiarity with whatever the work requires, and no more. Their ordinariness is the surety of the world. Their ordinariness makes the world go round….for the world has a need of dreamers as well as shoemakers….    
    And this is also true. In creative work—creative work of all kinds—those who are the world’s working artists are not trying to help the world go around, but forward. Which is something altogether different from the ordinary. Such work does not refute the ordinary. It is, simply, something else. Its labor requires a different outlook—a different set of priorities. Certainly there is within each of us a self that is neither a child,  nor a servant of the hours. It is a third self, occasional in some of us, tyrant in others. This self is out of love with the ordinary; it is out of love with time. It has a hunger for eternity.
    Intellectual work sometimes, spiritual work certainly, artistic work always—these forces that fall within its grasp, forces that must travel beyond the realm of the hour and the restraint of the habit. Nor can the actual work be well separated from the entire life. Like the knights of the middle ages, there is little the creatively inclined person can do but to prepare himself, body and spirit, for the labor to come—for his adventures are all unknown. In truth, the work itself is the adventure. And no artist could go about this work, or would want to, with less than extraordinary energy and concentration. The extraordinary is what art is about. 
    Neither is it possible to control, or regulate, the machinery of creativity. One must work with the creative powers—for not to work with is to work against; in art as in spiritual life there is no neutral place. Especially at the beginning, there is a need of discipline as well as solitude and concentration….
    No one yet has made a list of places where the extraordinary may happen and where it may not. Still, there are indications….It likes the concentrating mind. It likes solitude. It is more likely to stick to the risk-taker than the ticket-taker. It isn’t that it would disparage comforts, or the set routines of the world, but that its concern is directed to another place. Its concern is the edge, and the making of a form out of the formlessness that is beyond the edge.
    Of this there can be no question—creative work requires a loyalty as complete as the loyalty of water to the force of gravity. A person trudging through the wilderness of creation who does not know this—who does not swallow this—is lost. He who does not crave that roofless place eternity should stay at home. Such a person is perfectly worthy, and useful, and even beautiful, but is not an artist. Such a person had better live with timely ambitions and finished work formed for the sparkle of the moment only. Such a person had better go off and fly an airplane.
    There is a notion that creative people are absent-minded, reckless, heedless of social customs and obligations. It is, hopefully, true. For they are in another world altogether. It is a world where the third self is governor. Neither is the purity of art the innocence of childhood, if there is such a thing. One’s life as a child, with all its emotional rages and ranges, is but grass for the winged horse—it must be chewed well in those savage teeth….The working, concentrating artist is an adult who refuses interruption from himself, who remains absorbed and energized in and by the work—who is thus responsible to the work.

On any morning or afternoon, serious interruptions to work, therefore, are never the inopportune, cheerful, even loving interruptions which come to us from another. Serious interruptions come from the watchful eye we cast upon ourselves. There is the blow that knocks the arrow from it mark! There is the drag we throw over our own intentions. There is the interruption to be feared!
    It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absent-minded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.
    There is no other way work of artistic worth can be done. And the occasional success, to the striver, is worth everything. The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time. 







June 24, 2018

the patience of making art


Thank you Brainpickings for posting this this morning:


Rilke on the Lonely Patience of Creative Work


“The most regretful people on earth,” the poet Mary Oliver wrote in contemplating the artist’s task and the central commitment of the creative life“are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”
That is what Rainer Maria Rilke (December 4, 1875–December 29, 1926), another great poet with a philosophical bend and uncommon existential insight, explored a century earlier in the third letter collected in his indispensable Letters to a Young Poet (public library) — the wellspring of wisdom on art and life, which Rilke bequeathed to the 19-year-old cadet and budding poet Franz Xaver Kappus.
1902 portrait of Rainer Maria Rilke by Helmuth Westhoff, Rilke’s brother-in-law
Rilke’s first letter to his young correspondent had laid out his core ideas about what it takes to be an artist. Building upon that foundation in the third letter, he echoes his contemporary Franz Kafka’s assertion that “patience is the master key to every situation” and considers the master key to the creative life:
Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide. I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: patience is everything!
The patience of making art is a lonely patience — one that demands the solitude essential for creative work, be it art or science, so widely recognized by creators across time and discipline. “Oh comforting solitude, how favorable thou art to original thought!” wrote neuroscience founding father Santiago Ramón y Cajal in considering the ideal environment for intellectual breakthrough“Nourish yourself with grand and austere ideas of beauty that feed the soul… Seek solitude,” Eugene Delacroix counseled himself as a young artist in 1824. “Solitude, a rest from responsibilities, and peace of mind, will do you more good than the atmosphere of the studio and the conversations,” the young Louise Bourgeois counseled an artist friend in the following century, just as the poet May Sarton was exulting in her sublime ode to solitude“There is no place more intimate than the spirit alone.”
Art by Isol from Daytime Visions
Rilke articulates this vital incubatory solitude of creative work to his young correspondent in a sentiment of growing poignancy and urgency amid our age of instant and ill-considered opinions:
Leave to your opinions their own quiet undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be pressed or hurried by anything. Everything is gestation and then bringing forth. To let each impression and each germ of a feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own intelligence, and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity: that alone is living the artist’s life: in understanding as in creating.
He echoes Goethe’s largehearted, increasingly needed wisdom on the only appropriate response to the creative labors of others and writes:
Works of art are of an infinite loneliness and with nothing so little to be reached as with criticism. Only love can grasp and hold and be just toward them.
Letters to a Young Poet — which also gave us Rilke on what it really means to lovethe life-expanding value of uncertainty, and why we read — remains one of the most beautiful, profound, and timeless works ever composed. Complement this particular portion with Rachel Carson on writing and the loneliness of creative workand Virginia Woolf on the relationship between loneliness and creativity, then revisit Rilke on the nature of creativity.




July 13, 2017

Artist of the week: Anne Truitt


Installation view of the exhibition, Anne Truitt Sculpture 1962-2004 at Matthew Marks Gallery
Anne Truitt is an artist I first came to know through her writing. Her three memoirs, DaybookTurn, and Prospect: The Journey of an Artist, are must reads for any studio worker, especially for women and mothers.

First, 1961, Acrylic on wood, 44 ¼ x 17 ¾ x 7 inches. 
Because of her writing, when I see her sculptures I feel like I have a shared intimacy with them. Her work is such a perfect reflection of who she seemed to be. They are at once subtle yet straightforward, delicate yet powerful, thoughtful yet severe.

Watauga, 1962, Acrylic on wood, 46 x 56 x 7 inches

Spring Dryad, 1975, Acrylic on wood, 76 x 13 x 8 inches

Currently there's an Anne Truitt installation at DIA Beacon so I wanted to post this while you can still see the show. It really is just a glimpse, and I wish there were at least five more rooms full, but in order to understand and appreciate what she was all about you do need to stand in the real presence of her work. As she writes in Daybook:
"I am most profoundly grateful to have had the opportunity to see my work... Like the night at the Corcoran Gallery of Art... I walked up and down the dark corridors between their massive forms, most of which towered over me, and held out both my hands to feel them, not touching them. They stood in their own space, in their own time, and I was glad in their presence."
I could easily quote from the entire book since after reading it three times already I am still completely enthralled, but I'll leave it up to you to go get a copy and see for yourself!

Gloucester, 1963–72, Acrylic on wood, 74 x 72 x 13 inches

Morning Choice, 1968, Acrylic on wood, 72 x 14 x 14 inches

Hardcastle, 1962, Acrylic on wood, 99 ¾ x 42 x 16 inches

Pith, 1969, Acrylic on wood, 85 ½ x 18 x 18 inches

View, 1999, Acrylic on wood, 81 x 8 x 8 inches

Second Requiem, 1977, Acrylic on wood, 84 x 10 x 8 inches

Shrove, 1962, Acrylic on wood, 60 x 10 x 10 inches

View of Anne Truitt's Washington D.C studio, 1980

Seven, 1962, Oil (semi-gloss enamel) on wood, 53 ¾ x 32 x 7 ⅞ inches

Southern Elegy, 1962, Oil (semi-gloss and flat) on wood, 47 x 20 ⅞ x 6 ⅞ inches
A Wall for Apricots, 1968, Acrylic on wood, 72 ⅝ x 14 x 14 inches

Anne Truitt in her studio















 

Most of the images here are from the very comprehensive website: http://www.annetruitt.org/
I've selected only her sculpture but her paintings are also significant and worth viewing: http://www.annetruitt.org/works/selected-paintings



April 13, 2017

what does success mean to you?

I'm posting this on my birthday, in the hopes that this year will be more successful than the last....

IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs is an interesting book. The founder of Design Sponge, Grace Bonney, asks this diverse group of inspiring women a series of questions describing their creative paths.

A book like this, with artists answering the same questions over and over, makes me imagine how I would answer the questions myself. It's only natural to make those comparisons. I won't bore you with the details, but what I want to talk about is the one question I was stuck on.  

What does success mean to you?
This is, of course, a completely subjective thing, but I find the very notion of success a bit fleeting. It changes with the times, at least for me. When I was young I thought fame and fortune played a big part. Recognition, accolades, maybe raising a family, maybe being a good person. But any one of those things just by themselves has never really done it for me. I've thought about it a lot.

When I read Ping Zhu's reply, that "when things are harmonious, even for a moment, I try to savor it",  

Paul Klee, New Harmony, 1936
I realized that was it. That was the answer. Success is not a concrete thing after all, it's a moment when everything is working together in perfect harmony. And if that's true, then there's the possibility for moments of great success every single day in everything we do!

I recently watched an episode of Chef's Table on Netflix. I love this show! This one was about the Korean Buddhist nun Jeong Kwon.
Jeong Kwon used the word orchestra to illustrate the kind of unifying harmony where everything is working together. She was referring to nature and her place in it, but it's indicative of her all-inclusive philosophy about her food, her means of expressing her life, and her gratitude. Even more interesting was Ms. Kwon's notion that that very harmony was what she considered true freedom.

Hmmm.
I love this idea that maybe what success really means is true freedom. A freedom almost like a weightlessness, where all the elements are equally balanced, where nothing is too heavy or too light, nothing unnecessary or out of place, no interference, no mistakes. Even if it's just for a brief moment.

It's so simple isn't it? True freedom, true success, is the ability to not be burdened with expectations but to allow things to fall into place. I think the more we get away from the idea that we are the center of the universe, that life should wait for us, should adhere to our every want and whim, the closer we'll get to feeling at peace with ourselves and the things around us. Everything has a place and a purpose if we choose to see it that way. If we get out of our own way, perfect harmony can be happening all around us.

Henri Matisse, The Dessert: Harmony in Red, 1908









Success is harmony and harmony is freedom.

And there ends my sermon for the day! haha


December 23, 2016

"Gorgeous Nothings" Envelope poems and paintings

Emily Dickinson's Envelope poems



 

This morning I came across a review of the book The Gorgeous Nothings, which highlights Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems. I was immediately reminded of the Envelope Paintings of my Facebook friend and artist Julia Schwartz, so I thought I'd share. 

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

If I could curate a show with all of these lovely pieces side by side I would! Here is the full article which was posted by Tupelo Quarterly and written by Hannah Star Rogers. Sounds like a good idea for a last minute Christmas gift too!

Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems Hold New Pleasures


 
Emily Dickinson’s The Gorgeous Nothings offers an incredible inquiry into the material practice of Emily Dickinson’s poetry and an argument for why we should take not just the visual culture of poetry into account, as so many new editions of Dickinson’s poetry do, but also the materiality—as both constraint and possibility.
The Gorgeous Nothings, from Christine Burgin/New Directions, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin with a preface by Susan Howe, is the first publication of Emily Dickinson’s complete envelope writings in facsimile from her visually-oriented manuscripts, rendered here in full color and arranged as if they were pressed into a scrapbook. The book is no doubt the dream of poetry and visual culture scholars (very literally as it took Werner, a Dickinson scholar, and Bervin, a visual artist, to bring the book together), but beyond important academic contributions, this book is a lot of fun to open and toss through as though it was a box of Grandmother’s letters—if your grandmother was the Belle of Amherst.
The editors made great choices that allow us these pleasures: the facsimiles are collected together in such a way that we can enjoy the puzzle. The book replicates the material experience of opening an archive, while the shape of the envelope and text is detailed for legibility in schematics that reflect the envelopes’ shape and dimensions. A 252 gives us a sense of the Dickson we recognize, while adding an the extra layer of the material constraints of the envelope:
ED2 copy
What is added by knowing that Dickson met the corner of the page with the word “power,” and arranged her lines to fill the space, gives us a new sense of the space that the poem occupies and of her agility in working not only in acoustic constraints and vital rhythms, but also in another layer of formal concerns. Even a glance at the forms of the envelopes tells the reader something magical is happening in the details of the poems:
ED1 copy
Dickinson’s work has been unfolding for us slowly, revealing her mastery in new ways. First, as Howe writes in the preface, in the 1951 Johnson edition with those characteristic amazing capitals and dashes, then with the word lists of alternate possibilities, and finally, here, with the full materiality of her envelope letters. Maybe it is only now that the reading world is ready to embrace the found and the forgotten in this work, that we are really ready to revel in the glory of the envelope poems. Our own material turn is making these artworks no longer something difficult or illegible, but a celebration of the parts of her poetry that only words not born in typeface can offer.
What may not be immediately legible in the material constraints surely informed the publication choices regarding what parts of the manuscripts would be preserved. These acts of legitimation may have been a part of creating the Emily Dickinson legacy. Perhaps “scraps” (the Dickinson community’s easy reference word for these poems) did not a major poet make, particularly if they came from a woman who largely wrote for herself. In any case, the poetry universe is certainly ready for a revised visual understand of Dickinson’s work that this text brings us.
Yet another wrinkle in the story of why this is the moment for considering the material elements of these poems may be the digitization project at Amherst College’s Archives & Special Collections, which preceded this edition. Poets (and indeed humanists more generally) are being asked often to account for the effects of technology on their work. In this case, the appearance of Dickinson’s work in a digital form precedes an important account of new dimensions of her poetry. Rather than simply spreading copies of her work more broadly, as in so many digital humanities projects, a real discovery and novel way of thinking of Dickinson’s work has been revealed by its digitization. Of course, it has long been possible to imagine an exhibit (as Howe does) or color copies of these poems being created for a book, but the ease and availability of scanning may have given both affordance and occasion to study the material aspects of this work.
Bervin’s essay also leads us toward a new image of Dickinson. Rather than a poet grabbing at envelopes when she was struck by inspiration, Bervin calls our attention to the variety of ways the envelops are folded and cut, suggesting that the poet had prepared these envelops in advance for the moment when an inspiration struck. Her lines flow across surfaces that we perceive only by her attention to them: stops at corners or folds and changes in handwriting and letter size to accommodate her poems to the space the material alots, while transforming the envelope to make spaces for words which readers might not see without the poet filing them. This preparation points not just to thrift, but to how Dickinson perceived her poems as objects rendered with care, what Howe calls, “visual productions.”
This curation of the envelope poems reveals the way the poet turned the borders of the envelopes that she cut and tore into shapes to write on into constraints to complicate her poems: making them fascinating visual objects. Like metrics, rhythms, and rhymes which structure as they aestheticize, Dickinson’s envelope offered her a new method for inspiration. The folds and corners of her thrifty paper uses create new layer of self-imposed limitation which generated new possibilities for the poem. The Gorgeous Nothings is proof that one of our most important poets can still amaze and teach us new thing about the practice of poetry.
 

June 6, 2016

Secrets of the Muse

Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is such a good book. Even though I don't consider myself a writer per se, most of what he talks about could easily be applied to any artist of any discipline. He may have a whole chapter on vocabulary and grammar but it could just as well be about color, line and composition. There's so much to talk about with this book. His fascinating personal history, cool background information on some of his best novels and the Hollywood movies they turned into, the realities of being a working artist, the pragmatics of writing and persevering, etc. I've earmarked so many pages I will probably have to read the whole thing all over again.

Louise Bourgeois, The Insomnia Drawing no.14, 1995
One of the major things that struck me was the idea of a muse or an "ideal reader". It's been on my mind since page 215 which was like 2 months ago. King writes,
Someone- I can't remember who, for the life of me- once wrote that all novels are really letters aimed at one person. As it happens, I believe this. I think that every novelist has a single ideal reader; that at various points during the composition of a story, the writer is thinking, "I wonder what he/she will think when he/she reads this part?" For me that first reader is my wife, Tabitha.
Gerhard Richter
The first thing I thought about when I read this was a blog post I wrote almost a year ago that started with that very person's name who said the thing about writing like you're writing to one person. I never published the post, ended up deleting the whole thing, and subsequently cannot remember who the person was either. crazy.

Anyway as soon as I read it it was everywhere. It's like every article I've read since then has some artist naming his/her spouse as their muse or "ideal reader", the person they show their work to first and whose opinion they most rely on. It's been an epiphany for me. It's one of those subconscious things that you're aware of without realizing you're aware of it. Like when you're stuck on a piece of artwork. You know something is wrong but you can't articulate it until someone else comes in and points it out. Then it's, oh my God of course, that's what I knew the whole time.

Cy Twombly
The epiphany is that I realized I do not have a muse, and what's worse, I think I need one... badly.

So what the heck is a muse anyway? King writes,
... she's the one I write for, the one I want to wow... when I write a scene that strikes me as funny... I am also imagining my Ideal Reader finding it funny... He or she is going to be in your writing room all the time... You'll find yourself bending the story even before Ideal Reader glimpses so much as the first sentence. I.R. will help you get outside yourself a little, to actually read your work in progress as an audience would while you're still working.
There are plenty of arguments about the role the audience or viewer plays in works of art. Some artists claim they don't care and only make the work for themselves. I have a hard time with that. My thought is that visual art is visual. It needs a pair of eyes on it to complete the whole process. King seems to agree, at least about writing, when he says, "if you really feel that way, why bother to publish at all?"

Louise Bourgeois
Since I believe the viewer is an important part of my  work, then it goes along that a muse might also be important.
It's nice to have someone to want to impress, and what artist can't use another pair of eyes? If not to lavish their opinionated bits on you then at least to point out the things you can't easily see by yourself. It's kind of like having an extra standard to hold the work up to. A criteria that's outside yourself. That's what makes it useful. Because as artists we are so absorbed in our own heavy heads, it's important to step away sometimes and see things from a different point of view.

So the big question is, do you believe in the muse. Is it important? Is it necessary? Do you have one? Do you need one like me, and if so, where do you find one??????????


February 12, 2016

Artist's Daily Rituals

Here's a great book for artists I recently read that I must share with you,
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, edited and with text by Mason Currey.

Daily Rituals by Mason Currey
It presents detailed descriptions of the daily routines of 161 artists, mostly in their own words. It includes artists of every genre throughout history including writers, composers, painters, choreographers, playwrights, poets, philosophers, sculptors, filmmakers, and scientists.

I am so fascinated by books like this. I love to hear how other artists spend their days in and out of the studio. With all the vagaries of artist temperaments, and all the disparate ways of getting things done, what amazes me is that in the end I think we are all exactly the same, all fighting with ourselves over one thing or another, and for the same end purpose: creating. So many quirks and peculiar habits: charts and time clocks to track the time, pots of coffee and chocolate and opium and whiskey to keep us up when we should be down and down when we should be up. Rising at 3am or at noon or not sleeping at all, working in pajamas or while lying in bed or at the kitchen table. All leading up to the most important aspect of our lives, the work. I think most artists agree that inspiration is either non-existent or so constant we don't think of it as inspiration at all. The key is getting to work, whether we feel inclined at the moment or not. I love reading about an artist who lived two hundred years ago who went about his day similarly to the way I go about my day. Not to get too overly sentimental (if it's not too late), but I think it's important for artists to feel this connection, like we're continuing something important, something we can't help to begin with.

Willem de Kooning
photo of Willem de Kooning
I was thinking the other day that I can't remember an article I've read about contemporary painting in maybe the last five years that did not mention de Kooning at least 4 times. I wonder how he would feel about that. I used to imagine de Kooning's work ethic the epitome of what an artist's life should look like. Like being in your art studio 12 hours a day seven days a week was the only way to be a real artist. The man never stopped working. After years of struggling with that notion I've finally accepted my own way of doing things, which needless to say is a far cry from someone like Willem de Kooning.


Willem de Kooning
Woman Landscape XII, Willem de Kooning

Everyone needs to find their own way, so if four hours in the studio gets me to the best work I can make, so be it. 

Books like Daily Rituals confirm all my ideas about being an artist. It's wonderfully encouraging to see how other artists have been dealing with all the same issues but in so many different ways for so long...

For Like Ever, poster
for like ever.



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


 

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