February 27, 2014

new spray foam paintings

I'm having so much fun this week working on these new pieces made with spray foam and oil paint. 











View of my work table with nine untitled pieces

February 15, 2014

the making of an art piece


Here is a video I made with the help of my editor husband. 

I now know how to edit my own videos!



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCg9almatQE


This video is made in real time and emphasizes the artist's role as Hand Worker
Although we can see that it is a rope of some kind, the specific thing that is being made remains a mystery. The ruddy and fibrous wet strands of material are undisclosed, allowing the viewer's mind to wander.


Continuously working and engaging in the art making process allows for unexpected moments like this. I originally wanted to film this project to document the process of  making the rope, but I am very happy with the video as its own art piece. I'd love to see this projected on a gallery wall one day!



February 13, 2014

Master Dabblers

Thank you to the ladies at MasterDabblers.com for publishing an article I just wrote on their blog titled The Clothes We Wear. Check it out! 
Their site is very cool with provocative kits to purchase like "Legit Kits", interviews with contemporary artists, and regular events like field trips to meet artist Polly Apfelbaum in her New York studio.










February 10, 2014

Studio Habits: Are You Efficient With Your Time?

I have a confession to make, I do not spend eight hours a day toiling away in my art studio; 


I hardly ever get work done late into the night; and more than anything, I no longer feel guilty about it!

For as long as I can remember I've felt pressured that I wasn't making the most of my time. As a working artist this culminates into literally counting the hours that I spend in the studio. After I graduated college I started making myself a written weekly schedule that mapped out the days I'd be at my various part time jobs and the days I could spend on my artwork. Not that much has changed in all the years except now my schedule includes things like spending time with my daughter and husband, doing laundry and going food shopping. The art world has changed, though. That old model of starving artists struggling in their studios 12 hours a day is a bit outdated, but I still can't help but feel a tiny twinge of - disapproval.
I think of de Kooning who didn't even take a vacation without first procuring temporary studio space, or Bacon who reported to his cramped studio everyday regardless of relentless hangovers.

If time were a test, sometimes I think I'd fail. 

I have to remind myself that having to stop painting to cook dinner every night does not make me any less of an artist or less devoted to my work.


I usually work in the studio for about two hours straight without looking or thinking about the time. I may take a short break and then go back for another two hours or so. Occasionally I'll work for the full four hours without a break, but it's rare that I go longer than that on any given day. That doesn't include going back to look at the work later in the evening which can sometimes amount to hours of sitting and staring or writing notes.

view of my home studio



Some days I don't end up getting those last few hours in. My studio is in my home, which has many good points and bad points, one being that there are a lot of distractions. Over the years I've gotten used to spending a few days a week out of the studio. I've realized that I work best when I can come back to works in progress with fresh eyes. I've also learned how to work on smaller projects that I can do around the house while everyone's home.

Today is a typical day. I was up at 6:30 to help my daughter get ready for school. I made coffee and checked email and facebook, sat at the kitchen table and paid the bills for the week, put my painting clothes on and went into the studio. I worked for two hours, stopped to eat lunch and did some laundry. I'll go back to work for a few more hours and then my daughter will be home from school at 3:00. I usually wind down whatever I'm doing around then and clean up. I like to spend time with my daughter when she's home because I don't always have that luxury. I've worked on and off part time and full time at various jobs throughout the years including teaching and running my own galleries.

Even if I need the occasional reminder,

I'm sure that enjoying a full and well balanced life adds to my artwork in ways I could've never planned for.


Not that it's always so well adjusted, but certainly it is full.

I think the best artwork is often made out of the restrictive struggles we regularly encounter. Artists have as many unique and surprising ways of dealing with such struggles as the artwork we produce.


January 23, 2014

Art Wrestling in 2014

It's been just over one year that I've been publishing my blog.

After my recent two week interlude without a computer, of all the time sucking online activities I've decided to eliminate from my life, my blog, I'm happy to say, is not one of them.

What started as a simple way to connect myself to the ever growing online community has turned out to be a very fun and useful extension of my work and life.

When I began I was just entering my second year as the owner and director of The Art House Gallery. It was a huge part of what I was wrestling with on a daily basis. Part of my intention was to expose the experience of running a gallery, and part of it was to regularly share my artwork. In fact I think my first post (which has since been deleted) said something about making new artwork and writing something once a week to start.
That of course never really happened. I didn't even post any images in the beginning. If you've been paying attention you know that I'm much more naturally inclined toward the inconsistencies of life than in rigid routines. Most of what I publish comes directly from my writing journals which I've kept for years and which are generally all over the place.


I'm a mother, an artist, a thinker, a worker, a teacher, a curator, a director. I balance food shopping each week with stretching canvas, cooking dinner with mixing paints, cleaning the house with organizing my art studio. This is what I do everyday. Occasionally I open up a shop or a gallery or start a group, but I always come back to my artwork.

The Art Wrestler is about all of this. It's about the balance between the everyday, mundane and repetitive; and the creative and sublime.

I know there are others who can relate.

Daybook by Anne Truitt is an inspiring book of this sculptor's published journals all about raising a family and being an artist


During a studio visit I conducted back in 1999, when I owned my first art gallery, Catherine Street Gallery, I met with a wonderful artist living in Brooklyn. She had a lovely detached home at the end of the block that she shared with her husband, her kids and her dog. Her studio was in the attic at the top of the third floor, and as we climbed the three flights of stairs we passed by all the commotion and mayhem that made up her life. I remember leaving there thinking, I hope I never have to juggle that many things in life to be able to do my art and make a living.
Ahh... Ha! How naive I was to imagine I could escape the chaos of life while still being a part of it.









January 18, 2014

what we do matters, even if we don't post it, pin it or write a blog about it

watercolor & mixed media collage
I am so happy to be able to write this on my newly refurbished iMac....AAHHH

For the past two weeks my computer has been on the nod. 

As in (if you didn't know), to quote the urban dictionary, "this dope is wild, it had me on the nod". Or in computer talk, it was so slow the mouse only stopped spinning occasionally to take a nap.

It has been an eye-opening experience. I cannot believe how long I have been wasting time on this thing. Although I managed to check emails and messages once a day on my iPad, which is no substitute by the way, I haven't been away from my computer for this long in, I'm sad to say, years. Even with heavy withdrawal setting in at day two and three, I can't even believe how much work I got done! I am amazed at how different life used to be, and how quickly those changes have worked themselves so seamlessly into my life. Instead of my usual habit of wasting hours every morning at the computer I actually went into the studio and got to work. Instead of getting bored around dinner time every night and browsing Facebook or some random blog post or youtube video,  I did the dishes and read a book. Gee, what a revelation! Why is it so easy to get sucked into this thing? Part of me understands this idea of showing the world everything we've been doing every minute of the day, but really...admitting you have a problem is the first step. And especially for artists, we're getting exposure for our artwork in a way that was never possible before so it becomes a little easier to justify the countless wasted hours.

Speaking of exposure, I often question my work with that philosophical question, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound. If no one sees the work I do, does it exist, and more importantly is it worth doing at all?

Doesn't visual art require a viewer at some point to complete the visual nature of it?


I just read a quote by Dominique de Menil
     "stored away, objects remain inert.
     Art...needs attention and love to become alive.
     We are all familiar by now with the famous statement of Rothko:
     'Art lives by companionship'."

After two weeks without my companion, I can tell you, what we do matters, even if we don't post it, pin it, or write a blog about it. Getting your work seen is important, of course, but if you're not in the studio actually making the work, what's there to be seen?


Here's a small sample of some of my work from the last 2 weeks...
Included are watercolors, drawings and collage:


studio view















December 11, 2013

People Don't Actually Like Creativity




Gerhard Richter

Thanks to some facebook friends who shared this article this morning by Jessica Olien posted last week on Slate.com

In the United States we are raised to appreciate the accomplishments of inventors and thinkers—creative people whose ideas have transformed our world. We celebrate the famously imaginative, the greatest artists and innovators from Van Gogh to Steve Jobs. Viewing the world creatively is supposed to be an asset, even a virtue. Online job boards burst with ads recruiting “idea people” and “out of the box” thinkers. We are taught that our own creativity will be celebrated as well, and that if we have good ideas, we will succeed.

It’s all a lie. This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it. Studies confirm what many creative people have suspected all along: People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise.

“We think of creative people in a heroic manner, and we celebrate them, but the thing we celebrate is the after-effect,” says Barry Staw, a researcher at the University of California–Berkeley business school who specializes in creativity.

Staw says most people are risk-averse. He refers to them as satisfiers. “As much as we celebrate independence in Western cultures, there is an awful lot of pressure to conform,” he says. Satisfiers avoid stirring things up, even if it means forsaking the truth or rejecting a good idea.

Even people who say they are looking for creativity react negatively to creative ideas, as demonstrated in a 2011 study from the University of Pennsylvania. Uncertainty is an inherent part of new ideas, and it’s also something that most people would do almost anything to avoid. People’s partiality toward certainty biases them against creative ideas and can interfere with their ability to even recognize creative ideas.

A close friend of mine works for a tech startup. She is an intensely creative and intelligent person who falls on the risk-taker side of the spectrum. Though her company initially hired her for her problem-solving skills, she is regularly unable to fix actual problems because nobody will listen to her ideas. “I even say, ‘I’ll do the work. Just give me the go ahead and I’ll do it myself,’ ” she says. “But they won’t, and so the system stays less efficient.”

In the documentary The September Issue, Anna Wintour systematically rejects the ideas of her creative director Grace Coddington, seemingly with no reason aside from asserting her power.



This is a common and often infuriating experience for a creative person. Even in supposedly creative environments, in the creative departments of advertising agencies and editorial meetings at magazines, I've watched people with the most interesting—the most “out of the box”—ideas be ignored or ridiculed in favor of those who repeat an established solution.

“Everybody hates it when something’s really great,” says essayist and art critic Dave Hickey. He is famous for his scathing critiques against the art world, particularly against art education, which he believes institutionalizes mediocrity through its systematic rejection of good ideas. Art is going through what Hickey calls a “stupid phase.”

In fact, everyone I spoke with agreed on one thing—unexceptional ideas are far more likely to be accepted than wonderful ones.

Staw was asked to contribute to a 1995 book about creativity in the corporate world. Fed up with the hypocrisy he saw, he called his chapter “Why No One Really Wants Creativity.” The piece was an indictment of the way our culture deals with new ideas and creative people:
In terms of decision style, most people fall short of the creative ideal … unless they are held accountable for their decision-making strategies, they tend to find the easy way out—either by not engaging in very careful thinking or by modeling the choices on the preferences of those who will be evaluating them.
Unfortunately, the place where our first creative ideas go to die is the place that should be most open to them—school. Studies show that teachers overwhelmingly discriminate against creative students, favoring their satisfier classmates who more readily follow directions and do what they’re told.

Even if children are lucky enough to have a teacher receptive to their ideas, standardized testing and other programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top (a program whose very designation is opposed to nonlinear creative thinking) make sure children’s minds are not on the “wrong” path, even though adults’ accomplishments are linked far more strongly to their creativity than their IQ. It’s ironic that even as children are taught the accomplishments of the world’s most innovative minds, their own creativity is being squelched.

All of this negativity isn’t easy to digest, and social rejection can be painful in some of the same ways physical pain hurts. But there is a glimmer of hope in all of this rejection. A Cornell study makes the case that social rejection is not actually bad for the creative process—and can even facilitate it. The study shows that if you have the sneaking suspicion you might not belong, the act of being rejected confirms your interpretation. The effect can liberate creative people from the need to fit in and allow them to pursue their interests.

Perhaps for some people, the pain of rejection is like the pain of training for a marathon—training the mind for endurance. Research shows you’ll need it. Truly creative ideas take a very long time to be accepted. The better the idea, the longer it might take. Even the work of Nobel Prize winners was commonly rejected by their peers for an extended period of time.

Most people agree that what distinguishes those who become famously creative is their resilience. While creativity at times is very rewarding, it is not about happiness. Staw says a successful creative person is someone “who can survive conformity pressures and be impervious to social pressure.”
To live creatively is a choice. You must make a commitment to your own mind and the possibility that you will not be accepted. You have to let go of satisfying people, often even yourself.


Jessica Olien is a writer and illustrator living in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @jessicaolien.

November 12, 2013

Laundry Meat Rope Project

the story of the laundry meat rope project starts with me wanting to create a very large knitted piece. I was imagining it like a large blanket covering an entire gallery floor where you'd have to walk around the edges of it. I began to make yarn out of the laundry meat but it was not holding up well to the demands of knitting.


 all the wrapping and twisting around both knitting needles kept tearing the yarn. so my first thought was to alter the yarn to work better



but I loved the way it looked all by itself; the variations of thickness and color from all the separate batches of laundry meat. I wanted to use the yarn as it was without having it have a specific purpose. I ended up looking at a bunch of youtube videos on how to make rope. using a freshly made batch of laundry meat that I purposely dried in thin strips I started the project.



today's rope making station

on the kitchen table


separate batches of laundry meat piled together. strips are made from this first and then twisted together to make the rope
so far I've made almost 35 feet

details of laundry meat rope



making the rope is an enjoyable process, although at the same time very tedious. it feels very primitive for the fact that there are no tools except my own two hands. and I love the fact that I am creating a potentially useful tool, and then the irony that there's nothing useful about it at all. this is the first time I've worked on a project of this nature and although I have no idea what will become of it, it is satisfying work. it can be very meditative but I find that after a long session of thinking that I'm getting so much done, I've only made a few feet of rope. in retrospect I may conclude that this is just another extension of my fascination with the body and perhaps one can see a correlation to umbilical cords and such, but right now I'm going with a flow that I only subconsciously know anything about!

more on laundry meat here


part of finished project