April 24, 2015

Art: A Catalyst For Intimacy

Sometimes I think writing my blog is very much like writing a letter to an old friend..
filled with the personal details, thoughts, and answers to questions granted by a certain intimate personal knowledge and history. 
Like we already know each other so I can say this this way
and you'll know what I mean without having to wonder about it. 

Gerhard Richter

































I think of all the desires I've confused myself with in my life, it is the desire for intimacy that encompasses them all. What is it about us human beings that cannot exist without this?

All things being filtered through my art; over time my paintings have become my representatives, speaking for me through metaphors and parables of color, line, and texture. They reveal my need to reveal myself. They act not only as a means of communication but encapsulate a part of me I don't even understand.

They share my deepest secrets... and there is nothing more intimate than a secret shared. It can give you almost a smug feeling to know someone has chosen you to reveal themselves to. 

That's what I want my art to be: a secret moment shared.

It involves more than just me, the creator. You the viewer are just as important. You get to feel smug about it and in return give back something as well.  

Because at its best and bravest art has the ability to do that, to act as a catalyst, moving us from one place to another, even if just in our imaginations.



April 14, 2015

Interview with Painter Brenda Goodman

Here is an inspiring, wonderful interview with painter Brenda Goodman posted by Figure/Ground. Follow the link to read it in it's entirety but here is one snippet I love.

© Brenda Goodman and Figure/Ground
Brenda Goodman was interviewed by Ashley Garrett at her show on Life On Mars Gallery on March 29th, 2015.

And in my work I’ve always dealt with what was going on in my life. People say my paintings are so from the heart. I used to give intensives to people who had creative work blocks. And I was really good at intuiting people’s issues of what’s causing those blocks. And it’s usually that they won’t go to the dark side in their work. They’d rather paint nice. 

Self Portrait 4, 2004, oil on wood, 64 x 60 inches.  Courtesy the artist and Life On Mars Gallery.
Self Portrait 4, 2004, oil on wood, 64 x 60 inches. Courtesy the artist and Life On Mars Gallery.


































I like that expression, ‘paint nice’!

Paint nice – like getting praise, or nice colors, or it looks like something, it’s realistic, or something like that. I’d say – what’s the worst experience you’ve ever had? It often has to do with your mother for some reason, and I’ll say let’s paint that. And people will react: “I can’t paint that! That would be awful!” Like they would die if they painted what they felt. And I always said no, unless you can go there – you don’t have to stay there, like I have for so many years – but if you go there you can come back and paint how you want to paint, but it won’t be out of fear anymore.

I don’t get in front of a painting and think I’m going to be open or I’m going to be vulnerable or I’m going to be light or I’m going to be pretty or I’m going to be sad, it’s so who I am to the core. What I don’t like about work is when I look at it and there’s a wall between me and it. And that’s what happens when I do the intensives with people who have creative blocks, that wall is going to disappear the wall between the painter and the viewer. Everyone comes from a different place and there’s great things in the different ways people work. But I can always spot when someone has this wall. I strive in my work to have no wall between my painting and the person looking at it. You should want to be seen! I mean, what’s the point, what’s the wall for? Who are you? Be vulnerable! When people see my work it feels real to them, it’s not bullshit, it’s from the heart, there’s no barrier between me and them. When you meet me, who I am is what you get. I don’t have that kind of facade.

April 2, 2015

Artist Communities

I just found this article that I saved a while back from Stephen B. MacInnis' blog Painter's Progress. I'm including it here as a follow up to my next best thing to community post, part of the conversation about artist communities.

Painter's Progress

Works in progress by Stephen B. MacInnis




Artists questioned. How does an artist make connections and become part of an arts community?


Krista Svalbonas, S8NC_02 mixed media on Khadi 8 x 8, 2013
Krista Svalbonas, S8NC_02 mixed media on Khadi 8 x 8, 2013

All artists have questions they seek answers to. Sometimes they ask themselves the same questions over and over again, and sometimes they seek out friends and mentors who provide answers to their questions. If you ask the same question to several people you will most likely get several different answers, and then it is up to you to select the answer that is best for you.  
So the question is… How does an artist make connections and become part of an arts community?

Julie Alexander  
Making connections and being a part of an arts community can be hard. I have so many demands on my time with a job and kids. That said, I also think there are many ways to be a part of the arts community that are unique to each of us. I am still feeling my way around and shifting what it means to me to be part of the conversation. I am a member of a collective gallery in Seattle (Soil) that features a curated show each month rather than the more insular model of focusing on members. As a gallery and as a member of the gallery, I am part of the arts community in Seattle. I have also had some good connections happen on facebook. I have been included in opportunities and have curated a show from connections that began on line. Other than that, I think just showing up to things – openings, lectures, discussions – and doing studio visits all bring you in contact with the arts community. I intend to do more of that in perhaps a more targeted way in 2014.” JA

Marc Cheetham
I would say the best way to make connections and be apart of a community is to go to openings, open studios, etc. Getting out and talking to people, especially those that are artists, and can help you in making new acquaintances. Since this isn’t always a feasible option, due to location, work, etc, for most people I would recommend Facebook. It becomes very easy to connect with artists from all over the world. You can get feedback on your work from this interaction which is an important thing and the dialog is instantaneous. I feel that all artists, even though you should be making the work for your self, need some form of validation as well. It helps in pushing your work forward and also opening up your mind. You also get to see a wide range of work you may not get to otherwise see. Unfortunately, seeing a digital copy is not as good as seeing in person, but seeing in some form is better then not at all. Increasing your knowledge of Art will also, I think, help put your work in a general context of the world. Also, being apart of the online community can lead to many opportunities to show your work. Often times artists that you are friends with may have curatorial projects going on or even just a chance to put something together and may ask you to be involved. If you have the chance to curate a show, etc. you now have a larger pool of artists to choose from as well.” MC

PE Sharpe
“The short answer is network, network, network.
For some people being comfortable with others is a natural part of the way that they move through the art worlds they inhabit, be it for business or pleasure. They find it easy to be amongst strangers, are able to put themselves forward in an open and friendly manner, can remember the names of the people to whom they are introduced, and have impeccable manners. For the majority of us, it’s not so easy. Add in the complications of the many hierarchies both visible and invisible in the arts communities we see around us and it’s a wonder any of us ever leave the house. Times have changed since I tried to break down the door to my local art community; bearing that in mind these are my suggestions to help boost your chances at finding your familiars when you are the new kid at the rodeo. I’ll stick to attending openings for artists but it’s broad enough advice that it can be useful for other circumstances.

Ready? Take a deep breath. Exhale.

Be yourself. It sounds easier than it is. The reality is that you are under scrutiny at all times when entering into any new community and it also holds true in the art world. Your entree goes beyond what or who you know – it’s a community in which people have many pursuits outside of a shared interest in art. You don’t need to know everything about the brave new world in front of you, but you have to be ready to engage with the strangers you want on your team. Give yourself the task of saying hello to at least one person you have never met before. If you don’t have a sponsor or mentor making introductions for you, introduce yourself. Make sure you don’t mumble, mmmkay?

What will you talk about? Don’t go in with an elevator speech or speed dating script in your back pocket – being ambitious for your work is not in and of itself a bad thing but starting with self-promotional screed is not the best tactical approach to building a sustained dialogue within a community. Talk about your interests and let the interests lead the conversation. Don’t be afraid of small talk – ask the people you meet how they know the host or the guest of honour at the function you are attending. Be fearlessly sincere in asking questions about the interests of others and you may find out that the business end of things fall into place when/if the time is right. Struggle too hard at being the most outlandish person in the room or be too obvious at schmoozing and you may find others backing away from you while making the sign of the cross: nobody likes a hard sell.We are artists, we have things to say about the world in which we live. Artists by their very nature are already at the top of the Intrigue Olympics. Be cool with it.

Art communities in particular place a very high value on an individual’s reputation. If you talk smack about people be prepared to be assigned to the smack talkers. It’s the most entertaining table to sit at when it’s party time, for sure, but nobody wants to think that they are going to be your next target. Be judicious. Be ethical. Don’t lie for effect. It will always come back to bite you in the ass.

Be prepared to be viewed with suspicion as a newcomer. Don’t take it personally. There is a lot of professional envy out there and it really has nothing to do with you. The art world makes people do crazy things under duress. Try not to do those things either to yourself or unto others.

Keep your wits about you at all times, even when others appear to be losing the plot. All that free beer and wine at the openings that you will attend? Don’t use it as your personal invite to get shitfaced on someone else’s dime. It’s not your birthday and you didn’t get handed a ‘get out of drunk-mode free’ card.  Don’t be greedy, and if you do try to steal that wheel of Brie for dinner at least try to be discreet. As you leave the event, remember your manners: thank the host, be it the gallery owner, event organizer, artist who invited you, say goodbye to the people you met. Try to remember their names for next time. Joining a community isn’t about signing up, it’s about showing up and becoming recognized as a supporter of other people who are in the same boat with you. Don’t forget to sign the guest book on your way out – it serves as a record of your attendance to others who watch for that sort of thing.

In the end it’s about being social, remember? Staying home while trying to become part of a community works on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr maybe, but that’s a topic for another day.” PS

Krista Svalbonas 
I don’t believe there is a single definitive way to do this. Speaking from experience, there are many ways one can become part of or form an arts community. For me, community is really about building a network. I find that attending residencies are a fantastic starting point in building a community. Social media is an extremely effective force for following up and continuing to strengthen relationships created there. One may attend a residency program miles away or on another continent and still be able to easily stay in touch with those they’ve met. It’s easy to find like minded people on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Artstack, etc. I’ve befriended some fabulous artists and just great people through Facebook, many of whom I most likely would’ve never met otherwise. Also, depending on where you live, your local Arts organizations are a great place to start building a network. As a former resident of Jersey City, ProArts gives artists every opportunity to meet one another via openings, social events or happenings. I’m also a member of the College Art Association, which gives artists and teaching artists opportunities to network and meet one another. Though I can’t speak from experience on this, I would assume that having a studio in an arts building could land you in the middle of an arts scene. I think its important to find out what works for you and what makes sense in your daily life.” KS


March 5, 2015

the next best thing to COMMUNITY

Gilbert and George
Preparing yourself to paint on canvas must be similar to an actor getting ready to perform. You've got to get totally inside your head and be in control but completely lost in it at the same time.

My husband has been wanting to make a film of me painting. It's been a long time that I've been saying no to him because I would much rather paint than have to talk about me painting. I am under the impression that if I were very good at speaking in general I wouldn't have become a visual artist. He insisted I wouldn't have to speak, so finally last week I said yes and he showed up to my studio with cameras in tow. Some artists don't mind other people around them while they work but I am not one of them. I spent the day self-consciously fake posing and got absolutely no work done! No surprise there.

What I hadn't realized, though, until that moment was just how wonderful it is to have not only the ability but the contentment to work by oneself all day long.

It is such a luxury to have a private art studio. That being said... at the same time it does occasionally get a little lonely. Standing on your feet alone in a closed room for five or so hours a day does eventually take its toll and can lead to a bit of urgent restlessness. Sometimes I wonder how I or anyone else can take it.

My studio building is extremely quiet. It really needs a community room for those of us solitary workers who need some company every once in a while.

I've been having this conversation with a lot of different people lately.  
People like me, who need the solitude to work but who also desire a proper community to engage with at the end of the day. 
Sometimes I wish I had been an artist 50 years ago when like minded artists really were all actually starving and huddled together out of necessity and common interest. When artists weren't too busy to visit each others studios or contemplate their purpose in life.

Triadic Ballet
I'm told social media is the new stand-in for real community these days but I'm having trouble completely believing that.

Take Jerry Saltz for instance. For the last eight years New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz has been actively engaged in lively art dialogue with his almost 5000 followers on Facebook. He's described it as a 21st century Cedar Tavern or Max's Kansas City. Of course as I write this several of Jerry's 'friends' have just gotten him temporarily kicked off the site for images they disapproved of. It would've been much more fun to see some real fists thrown over the debate, but all this is to say we take what we can get these days.

I like Jerry's page. I've occasionally chimed in to some of his discussions, and for a while it was definitely feeling very real and prescient, however, there's something off-putting about not knowing exactly who you are having an argument with. It's hard to keep up an active conversation with an endless barrage of obscure little profile pictures of people you know nothing about. You could find out you're arguing with an artist whose work you love or with someone who isn't even an artist and just likes to argue with people on Facebook. Or you could start to think that you're actually friends with some of your 'friends' only to find out they disagree with pretty much everything you stand for.

James Ensor
I'm a big fan of Facebook but at the same time it leaves me with a bad after-taste, a virtual, non-reality tinny zing. I am certain that so much of the dialogue on Facebook is mere virtual dialogue and sometimes I just want to look someone in the face when I talk to them.

Community.
There are a ridiculously large number of separate definitions for the word, some involving physically living close to one another and others referring to the idea of unification, common interests, etc.
Wikipedia states
A community is a social unit of any size that shares common values. Although face-to-face communities are usually small, larger or more extended communities such as a national community, international community and virtual community are also studied.
The article goes on to discuss identity, intent and belief.

artists @ Blue Mountain Center. photo Karin Hayes
Further contemplating the idea of communities that do not require a computer hookup, I decided to look up Artist Residencies in the hopes of finding an environment where groups of artists actually commune in person, at least temporarily. After serious research I've discovered there are about a million Artist Residencies all over the world also called Artist Communities, Communes, Colonies, Collectives, or Retreats. They exist just about everywhere for every genre, purpose, belief and intent! Most of them, however, do emphasize the luxury of isolation in lovely tranquil settings.


artists @ Blue Mountain Center. photo Shelly Silver
So far out of the hundreds of Artist Residencies that I've perused, only a handful of descriptions have mentioned hanging out with the other artist residents. Project 387 in northern California boasts a community driven "creative exchange around the dinner table and in the studio". I like that.
Headlands, also in California, offers a "dynamic community of artists... allowing for exchange and collaborative relationships to develop". Also a winner.
Blue Mountain Center in upstate New York goes so far as to state, "by the end of the session many of our most solitary, introverted residents are loath to lose the comforts of communal living". Now that I like the sound of.

In the long run I suppose there are plenty of artist communities out there in the world. I want to say that globalization has somehow homogenized the world and made it more difficult to have an authentic identity, intent and belief. I want to say that the internet could never be a good enough or suitable replacement for real life community and that there's nothing that could replace actual physical interaction between people... but,
I do realize I am typing this on my computer and will at some point click a button that will send these words virtually across the planet. I may even get a few comments from people I've never met and probably never will. For now I'll take what I can get. I'll probably check my Facebook as soon as I write this. Maybe I'll send out a few applications this week. I might even inquire about that community room for my studio building...

You can visit my Facebook page here
or better yet, visit my studio in real life at
211 Fishkill Ave. #206C,
Beacon, New York



March 4, 2015

unique truths

How does one tell a "unique truth" 
as Richard Foreman talks about in his book Unbalancing Acts?
As he puts it, "we feel our lives as a series of multidirectional impulses and collisions."
"It is the impulse that is your deep truth, not the object that seems to call it forth. The impulse is the vibrating, lively thing that you really are."

Art is able to do this, to get to the core of what is really real and who we really are. It not only is able to relay an artist's own mind and spirit but it allows the audience the freedom to experience their own impulses simultaneously. In this way not only is the artist telling their unique truth but the audience as well is experiencing their own unique truth through it.

I think we recognize these truths when we realize that no other artist can give us this particular experience, and once we recognize it we could never mistake that work as belonging to anyone else.

My ultimate criterion for all great visual works of art includes such unique truths,
as well as a term I jotted down from I don't remember where and is now hanging on my studio wall, "extraordinary visual encounters".

As I'm writing this I'm trying to think of examples that apply: A work of art that could never have been done by anyone else; a unique truth and vision that is so powerful it becomes embedded in our subconscious and enlightens our perception of our selves and our world.

I would include the following:

Picasso's Guernica.

Guernica by Pablo Picasso








I think Monet's Waterlilies.

Monet's Waterlilies at the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris

Monet's Waterlilies at the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris








































I want to say Rothko's Chapel but I'm not sure if it is more of an extraordinary spiritual encounter than visual, and if that originates with the artwork or the context thereof.

the Rothko Chapel


the Rothko Chapel
















Francis Bacon.

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon

















































































.




February 18, 2015

Seductive in White

It is mid February and I have been freezing for the past two weeks. All I see when I look out the window is white. How to make that not depressing? Look at some amazing artwork in white!

Robert Ryman

Robert Ryman



Robert Ryman
Agnes Martin
Agnes Martin
Agnes Martin
Agnes Martin

Anne Truitt

Anne Truitt

Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly
Ad Reinhardt

January 26, 2015

Taking Advantage of Art History

I'm currently reading a fascinating biography on Arshile Gorky.

Arshile Gorky

Arshile Gorky
One of the things I think is so interesting and that I'm discovering more and more as I read other artist biographies, is the reverence, devotion, and obsession in some cases, that these old great artists had for art history, and even for their fellow artists. Gorky walked around with a book on Ingres for years. De Kooning followed Gorky around for years even though it sounds like he was a real jerk to him before they became friends. And it seems like everyone from that 1930's era was completely fawning all over Picasso and his cronies.

Picasso in his studio

They copied each other, they studied each other, they knew every drawing and painting ever made. They became apprentices, and when they'd copied every single work they could, they suddenly emerged with their own voice and their own way of making things. Amazing.

Amazing because we don't do things that way now. I mean, we learn art history in school because we have to. We collect our heroes along the way, but I think one of the downfalls of my generation of artists is that we don't think we need those old great artists from art history. For some reason there is a whole generation of artists now who think they've invented the wheel and are actually making art that is that most ridiculous and impossible word of all... original.

I suffer from this myself. Not that I believe in originality, but I definitely do not hang out at museums nearly as much as I should. Outside of school assignments I can't think of a time I ever sat down and started copying another artist's work. I think maybe it's time.

Even at this point in my artistic life it still makes sense why it would be beneficial. As an abstract painter I'm pretty much dealing with the same issues that every abstract painter has ever dealt with. So why not take a few cues from artists who've already figured it all out?

Cezanne
I just need help figuring out whose work I want to copy...


Joan Mitchell

Picasso










January 20, 2015

PASSION

painting by Cecily Brown
The word has been coming up quite a bit lately
as certain words have the habit of doing.


Whether it's for art or love or friendship or just living life, being passionate is one of those necessary human elements you can't get away from. Or is it?
Maybe passion is more of a human function we can't get away from? An element is an essential feature, a fundamental part of something, while function is more of a job, an occupation or mission. . .
big difference that starts with the C word:

Choice.


I wrote a poem once that ended with the line, "passion lies on the closet floor with the dirty laundry".
I know I didn't write that line about me because I'm not sure even the most enormous pile of dirty laundry- even if it covered the whole planet- should ever keep one's passion at bay.


If you're an artist you're passionate. The two go hand in hand. Can you think of one without the other?

painting by Cecily Brown

Yet when working in the studio reality becomes altered. It's a strange phenomenon. Passion becomes broken up into tiny molecules floating separately around the room that eventually start to mingle with other molecules of doubt and fear and frustration. I'm pretty sure it goes something like this: passion is that nature that has no mind, no logic, no thought. It is pure impetuous feeling and nothing else. But humans do not run on feeling and nothing else. Along comes thought and reason who like to hang around with fear and doubt. We are rolled up balls of contradictory rationalizations, organizing and picking things apart.

This is how I see myself and my artwork: Internal globs of being strewn around and fighting it out. But I am a creator and the beauty of all this is that I get to pick and choose, at least in the art studio. I can rearrange the order of things, clarify or cancel out. I can be reckless or steadfast, or what I usually am, a little of both.

I've spoken before about ambition, which has a lot to do with passion, and am always wondering the same thing, about whether or not it is a given or a choice. I still have no answer. I think we have all the control and none of it at the same time. At least in the studio these thoughts get played out in paint and line and form.  
Physical things that attempt to describe the invisible. That's what abstraction is at least. 

All I can tell you is that passion
is definitely not on the closet floor these days...

painting by Cecily Brown