June 20, 2014

drawings at the beach

here's what I've been doing with my time off: a few simple drawings each day in my composition notebook with my trusty uni-ball black pen. the following images are of shells stuck in the sand that I observed while walking on the beach. mostly interested in the compositions naturally made by the water, and the abstract organic shapes that I can't help but see in almost everything~

drawing by Samantha Palmeri

drawing by Samantha Palmeridrawing by Samantha Palmeri

drawing by Samantha Palmeridrawing by Samantha Palmeri

drawing by Samantha Palmeridrawing by Samantha Palmeri

drawing by Samantha Palmeridrawing by Samantha Palmeri

drawing by Samantha Palmeridrawing by Samantha Palmeri
after a couple weeks of shells and broken crab legs I decided to challenge myself with drawing the foam from the waves as they broke in front of me. I say challenge because it was virtually impossible. although I made something of a game of it, my hands were never quite quick enough to capture on paper what I witnessed with my eyes. 

drawing by Samantha Palmeri

drawing by Samantha Palmeri

drawing by Samantha Palmeri

drawing by Samantha Palmeridrawing by Samantha Palmeridrawing by Samantha Palmeri

drawing by Samantha Palmeri

drawing by Samantha Palmeri

drawing by Samantha Palmeri

drawing by Samantha Palmeri
drawing by Samantha Palmeridrawing by Samantha Palmeridrawing by Samantha Palmeri

there's something about intently staring at the subject you're drawing that gives you an understanding of it in a way that nothing else can. I think I'm learning a lot about the ocean, and am starting to see patterns I've never seen before. I hope to get some of these thoughts onto canvas very soon...

all images copyrighted 2014 Samantha Palmeri

May 26, 2014

is anyone else as sick of hearing about me move as I am?

when we get there........

this has been a week from hell. for all intents and purposes moving should be avoided in life as much as humanly possible.

it is desperately debilitating.
I am now eyeball deep in boxes, labels, and tape that doesn't stick where I want
but sticks to everything else.

gobs of every material reality of our life are overflowing out of the garbage receptacle on the street. we have only managed to suppress the trauma with martinis and chinese take-out.

the positives of the experience:
it is finally happening and our lives are about to change in ways that we've only dreamed about.

needless to say you may not see a post from me for a little bit. we have a month long detour at beautiful Long Beach Island. perfect scenario as I will be passed out for a while after this.
there will be a lot of loafing and idling, lying in the sand, staring into the sunset etc.

actually maybe I'll get more writing done than I think as I'll have not much else to do!

May 15, 2014


Here's a question for you:
Is there a way to have your work, your career, to climb that ladder of success, AND to enjoy your free time, your moments of solitude, family, and nature simultaneously?
Can you have your cake and eat it too?

I can hear my mother saying "all things in moderation", 
but that idea doesn't seem to go over too well in the 21st century. We are way too busy working way too hard in an effort to obtain every single thing under the sun. Every single thing, that is, except the time to actually enjoy any of it. 

As an artist who has owned several businesses throughout the years, along with trying to run my household, take care of my daughter and focus on my artwork at the same time, I have seriously pondered this one.
The answer seems to me a resounding NO. You cannot live two or more lives at once and actually have time to enjoy them all. One or more items will have to be shelved, forfeited, neglected. There are just not enough hours in the day. Here's the part I think about a lot: which parts am I willing to neglect? and more importantly whose rule book is telling me I need to even want all these things simultaneously?

illustration from The Idler 
Now let me refer you to the amazing work of Tom Hodgkinson, his Idler Magazine, and specifically his book from 2005, How To Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto. I cannot say enough about this book. They should be teaching it in every poetry class in the country along with every business, liberal arts and fine arts program as well. It's such a simple message that it flies right over most heads with hardly a thought, and it is this:

Take the time to actually Enjoy Living... and stop feeling guilty about it. 

According to the Idler Magazine web site, also known as

Literature for Loafers:

The Idler magazine was founded in 1993 by Tom Hodgkinson and Gavin Pretor-Pinney in order to explore alternatives to the work ethic and promote freedom and the fine art of doing nothing. In that time it has passed through many incarnations, and inspired thousands of people to cast off the shackles of corporate or bureaucratic life, and find freedom. It now exists as an annual collection of essays, published in hardback book form. The current issue is a compilation of twenty years of interviews from the Idler, and includes David Hockney, Damien Hirst, Terence McKenna, Jeffrey Bernard and many more.
It is astonishing how relevant this book is right now, and I bring it to your attention because there are a few items I've touched on here at the Art Wrestler that you might recall. It was just about a year ago that I wrote about my affair with a lounge chair and learning to relax without the guilt. There was also my post on solitude and needing time to think for yourself, being in the moment with my artwork, and most recently enjoying the pleasures of good food and drink. Although I can't agree with ALL of Tom's thoughts on rioting and debauchery, mixed messages about the bible, etc., I can concur with 99% of it.

Let's put it this way, there's a whole chapter on how to enjoy a good hangover. The man is a genius! 

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Artists are usually the dreamers, idlers, and starers into space of society, and there is a lot of animosity that goes along with that. More to the point there are things about being an artist that society is constantly trying to make us feel guilty about. Things that I have learned to accept about myself- like not having a job because I would rather stay home and paint and take care of my family. Things like spending more time reading and writing in my journal than cleaning my house, going for long walks to think about the day, not for the exercise, a glass of wine before 5pm, and spending whole days in the middle of the week lying on the beach. 
I do not frequently drink my coffee "to go" as I enjoy it in a real cup with a real saucer. I do not wear a watch because no one is waiting for me. I get most of my best work done alone, in complete silence and often seemingly staring into space, and I do not use a cell phone because I don't want my silence or staring to be interrupted. Yes, I do not use a cell phone. I admit I have one, but it stays in my bag for emergencies only. Does that count?

Anyway, How To Be Idle has a whole chapter dedicated to almost every one of these things. It is laugh out loud funny and has wonderful references to almost every historical genius from ancient to modern times. It has taught me a lot about history's warped ideas of progress, and where my own thoughts of progress and success fit in. Art is often considered a leisurely activity, a hobby, an unnecessary luxury. I of course consider it a necessity. I would much rather luxuriate in my own space with my own creativity on my own time than lend myself out to a boss who could never give me enough time or money.
photo by Stacey Kath

As I mentioned my mother, it turns out there's a few things the mothers were right about after all. Mostly all the things that required us to be patient and wait our turn, like being sent to our rooms to "calm down", like not running or talking with your mouth full, or sitting down to eat and not getting up until everyone at the table was finished. I've also heard the phrase "sit there and think about what you just did!" My mother would make us sit next to her and not move until we behaved. These days they call that a time-out. How To Be Idle is all about giving our adult selves a whole lot of time-outs,

and who couldn't use a moment to sit completely still in the midst of the turbulent tantrums of life?

I think time only goes as fast as we allow it. There are moments that desperately need to be "savoured not endured", as Mr. Hodgkinson puts it, and look at it this way, your boss is not willing to give them to you, neither is your babysitter or the daycare center. You're certainly not going to get back the time you've wasted on your cell phone, computer or TV set either.

There is no going back- so enjoy the moment right now!

April 24, 2014

whitney biennial

After reading countless reviews,
and now that all the hoopla is over with, 
I finally made it to see the Whitney Biennial in person. 
(I know I'm a little late on the bandwagon...)

This year each floor of the museum was curated by a different curator, so I have to say it was a little tough going in with unbiased eyes. I've been a big fan of Michelle Grabner, the curator of the fourth floor, for a while now, taking some cues from her inspiring life of teaching, exhibiting, curating, raising kids, etc. Her Suburban was a huge influence when I opened my own suburban art gallery a few years ago. 

For what it's worth, I tried my best to be as impartial as I could.

view of fourth floor

I'm not usually much of an optimist so I started at the bottom floor with the idea of saving the best till last. Although I kinda liked Charlemagne Palestine's sound installation in the stairway,

I could've easily saved my tired feet, went straight up to the fourth floor and called it a day. 

It's taken a second look back at some of the work on the lower levels to keep myself from getting too repugnant, but if you haven't seen the show yet, to quote Jillian Steinhauer from Hyperallergic, "you won't be too put out, turned off, or riled up."

There were a lot of forgettable pieces in this show, mainly the entire second floor.

Charline Von Heyl
Charline Von Heyl, who I am a fan of, had some nice yet underwhelming black and white collages, and I struggled to stay focused on Rebecca Morris' paintings.

view of Rebecca Morris' paintings

Floor three was a little more lively. I didn't completely mind Ken Okiishi's painted video screens, however there were some major problems. 

view of Ken Okiishi's work

Bjarne Melgaard's multi-media room filled with mannequins and videos fell very flat especially after reading the sign on the doorway warning of explicit sexual and violent content. There seemed nothing sexy or violent about it and it came off rather staged and artificial, although maybe that was the point.

If the Biennial is meant to represent the most relevant artwork of our time, than perhaps in this case our time was well documented. I'm just not happy being overloaded with a lot of noise and media and absolutely no substance. Rather than regurgitate the noise back to us why not make some art out of it?

At some point I just wanted to yell at the artists, "give me more than just your obsessive compulsions!"

"Talk to me in a language that merits a deeper investigation, that warrants being put under the glass and scrutinized."

By the time I got back around to the elevators I found myself looking everywhere for something I could sink my teeth into. I was feeling overwhelmed with lackluster confusion.

As a whole the third floor felt rather disjointed, and it bothered me that the curator's statement made it seem like this was his intention. You can't posture a whole show with mish mash just because you claim that mish mashing everything together is your intention. It doesn't make it work any better.

In contrast, and I just can't help it, I thought the fourth floor had a better flow and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Although there were rooms that were jam packed, there were also some quieter rooms with plenty of space. When it all works together, that's called dynamics and I thought this show had it.

Sheila Hicks

I had a slew of favorites: ceramics by Sterling Ruby, Ricky Swallow's sculptures, video by Jennifer Bornstein, Jacqueline Humphries, Sheila Hicks, Zoe Leonard's room size camera obscura- all good stuff, and there are a lot that I'm missing.

Sterling Ruby

Jacqueline Humphries

All in all, you just can't go without witnessing the biennial in all of its long winded surprises, sensations, blunders, and achievements.. I guess I'm glad I didn't totally skip the work I didn't like, but at the same time somebody please give someone like Ms. Grabner a chance to curate the whole damn thing next time. It shouldn't matter whether it's a museum or a gallery, commercial or non profit. Exhibitors of art and culture have a responsibility to do whatever it takes to truly represent the artists of our time without constantly watching their backs, their reputations and their pocket books....

Now I'm being an optimist!

detail of Joel Otterson's beaded curtain

April 18, 2014

the word CULTURE

Lately the word culture has been coming up a lot. 

As an artist I am wholly concerned with perception, that very subjective notion of any given thing. It's my job as a painter to sway the viewer's perception one way or another. To bring my personal viewpoint to their world. Painting after all is an illusion, and even if the painting is more about the object itself than the illusion, you still must address the viewer's awareness of these things.

I'm finding out that perception is what makes the world go round, and is the answer to most of my questions.

So here is the word culture, that has a myriad of subjective meanings. 

I've been using the word culture in my life in pretty much one specific way; as a broad term for anything art related such as the opera, the ballet, art institutions like galleries and museums, live music, the theater. When I talk about living in an area with nothing cultural going on those are the types of things I'm referring to. My thesaurus complies by telling me that culture suggests a certain education and sophistication and cites words like erudition and gentility.

Recently, however, it's occurred to me that my awareness and use of this term culture has been quite limited. It came about while I was watching a documentary where the person being interviewed was describing her childhood as culturally Jewish even though she did not believe or practice Judaism in any way.

I thought how stupid of me that I'd never used the word culture in that sense, although I'm sure I've described it that way without realizing it. 

This could be a duh moment for some of you reading this, but bear with me...

In a way you could use the word to describe almost anything, like the culture of urban or suburban life, the culture of soccer moms and restless dads, the culture of any race or religion, the culture of any neighborhood, Brooklyn culture, uptown culture, downtown culture, jazz culture, theater culture. In Long Beach Island it'd be the surf culture. There is the art world culture. Miami has a culture, New York City has a culture. I just filled out a personal profile for some web site that asked where I lived, but also added that it could include my philosophy, state of mind or where I'm from, which could've also just said your culture. So I put NYC.

map of New York City

Please feel free to chime in at any time as I'm sure you all have had your own experiences with the word CULTURE-

The revelation to me is that I've been complaining about a lack of culture in my life without recognizing that it's this true multilayered meaning of the word that I'm really protesting. The culture I seek is less about the institutions it inhabits and more about an entire community lifestyle, traditions, habits and ways of living, ways of thinking, dressing, and talking. It can now be the simple answer to everyone's question of why are you moving

Barbara Kruger, Culture
Barbara Kruger

My husband and I have always created our own culture, or to put it another way, have taken our culture with us wherever we went. We've initiated art galleries and music festivals, happenings and events in every town we've lived in. We've formed alliances with every cultured group we could find or invent, yet we still haven't found what we're looking for. (thanks Bono for getting that song stuck in my head) Now that we're moving, it's nerve wracking to expect so much from one little unknown dot on a map. It's hard to know what we'll find, but it makes me feel better that at least we know what we're looking for. When people ask why we're moving now I can simply say... CULTURE

April 10, 2014

It may not always start in the art studio, but somehow, eventually, it all gets there!

..been going to the local library a lot lately. 

Being that to me the local indicates Manahawkin New Jersey, you have to understand that there are not a whole lot of cultural reading materials available (and I'll get to that word cultural in another post I'm working on). The only art books are on knitting, crafts, and the most general art history chronologies. Occasionally there'll be something so unexpected you'd think someone slipped it in there when no one was looking- A rare head turner like Gerhard Richter: Panorama by Achim Borchardt-Hume, which I've taken out twice already.

One has to get truly creative when poring through the non-fiction shelves, and amazing as it is there are plenty of gems to be found. You just have to look. 

Lately I've been looking in the cooking section and other random areas. 

My new absolute favorite book to read before going to bed, and one I'm hoping I can somehow permanently renew, is All the Time in the World: A Book of Hours by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins.

I think I accidentally picked it up because I thought part of the title was "Encyclopedia of the Exquisite" which peaked my interest, but it turns out I didn't notice the words "Author of" above that. Either way, it is just as well an encyclopedia of the exquisite with every chapter a remarkable tidbit of life from every era, genre and subject in the world, like "feasting on fresh crab" at 12:50pm in China's Ming era (1368-1644), and Henry David Thoreau breaking from his solitude every day to eat lunch at his mother's house, 12:20pm. The author's incredible wealth of knowledgeable information, not to mention wit and charm, is very contagious and has prompted me to pull a few forgotten gems from my own dusty bookshelf. 

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers by Jessica Theroux has been another pleasant surprise and has prompted me to seriously consider writing a cookbook with my own 91 year old Italian grandmother. What I really liked about the stories had much less to do with cooking than with the art of living itself. And of course I couldn't help but relate some of the author's challenges to some of those I face in the art studio.

Last but not least this week I picked up The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook by Mireille Guiliano. A little revelation by a woman who used to run one of the most successful champagne companies in the world. I've always felt that a cookbook is only as good as the stories the cook can tell about the food they're making, and here I was captured by the author's charming childhood memories of France. The most endearing character in the book was not breakfast lunch or dinner but lovely Tante Berthe who reminded me a lot of my great aunt Edith. The first recipe in the book is called Magical Breakfast Cream and is said to keep you satisfied for half the day and healthy as can be. So I tried it. I kept checking to see if I'd forgotten something because it was, well, not exactly what I was expecting. Anyway, today for lunch I decided to give it another try after reading about all the variations one could attempt. Delicious!

So here is my version of 
Magical Breakfast Cream:

1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (2% Fage)
1 teaspoon organic flaxseed oil (Flax Liquid Gold)
Juice and pulp of 1 Clementine
1 teaspoon organic honey
2 tablespoons shredded wheat (100% whole wheat with no salt or sugar)
1 tablespoon coursely chopped almonds
Pinch of ground cinnamon
& my secret ingredient that makes everything better: a drizzle of almond extract
Start with the yogurt in a bowl and mix each ingredient separately into it. Eat right away!

I know I know, what does magical breakfast cream have to do with art, right? Well, all I can say is, these things are part of an art wrestler's life too. Sometimes we're led to find truth and meaning in roundabout ways. It may not always start in the art studio, but somehow, eventually, it all gets there!

How do artists adjust to instability and changing environments?

Sometimes life takes over and the studio gets a little dusty for a while-
well, here is some 'life' for my blog about art and life:

All signs are pointing towards us finally selling our house. It certainly isn't a done deal yet as we've been at this point before, but we're hoping for the best, me and the family...

With that said, I just came across a blog about how to stay creative on the go. Interestingly it had really nothing to do with creativity at all and more to do with what to pack in your backpack, but it got me thinking: how will I manage to keep my work going through the next few months?

How do artists adjust to instability 

and changing environments?

aforementioned backpack
I've always wanted to be one of those artists who walked around with a bag full of art supplies ready to go. You know, like a photographer with their camera, only with pencils and paper and paint and brushes that I could whip out on the fly. Inspiration could hit at any moment and I'd be like wow, look at that amazing tree or crack in the sidewalk etc. At one point I did assemble a little plastic backpack full of drawing materials just to take around with me. Truth be told, that backpack has taken quite a few trips-
shoved under my painting table, buried in the closet, and flung on the studio floor, still unused.

I just don't think I'm much of an on-the-fly kind of artist. 

It's hard to stay focused on so many things at once. I've been so caught up in this house selling thing I feel like I'm getting the evil eye from my works in progress. The other night I went in the studio just to swish some paint around so I wouldn't feel so guilty, but I don't think it made much of an impression. Although this past year I managed to undertake quite a few diverse projects at once, they were mostly very low key and tidy, and I've only recently been able to get back to my oil paint in all of its glorious untidiness. 

What can I say- this is life. On the one hand I have no deadlines looming, and with that the obvious implications; on the other hand, it is a great luxury to be able to come and go as I please.

At some point I know I will have to wash my oily brushes out. For the moment I will pretend to keep working, at least until I am forced to start packing up the room.

Hopefully I won't bore you with a bunch of moving house photos, before and afters, etc. 
But I am excited to find and make a new studio space, and that I'll keep you posted on!

work in progress, mixed media, approx. 22X26"

work in progress, mixed media, approx. 20X28"
detail of work in progress, foam, acrylic & oil paint