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??????????

May 12, 2016

Best Rejection Letter

Samantha Palmeri Contemporary Artist
paintings included in my application: "Green couch #1"
Nobody likes getting rejection letters. Most artists like me spend a fair amount of time in search of good opportunities, filling out applications and grant proposals on a regular basis. Some you get but most you don't. I've gotten used to the rejection letters but it's still disappointing no matter how you look at it.

There's always that brief moment of optimism when you realize the organization you sent an application to 6 months ago, and that you totally forgot all about, is finally getting back to you. Some of these letters are quick and to the point and when I ran my gallery I always tried to do that, but some are so long and drawn out, it's torturous. Paragraphs and paragraphs about the uncommonly large number of applicants this year and how great it is that you're pursuing your art career and how great they are for providing such wonderful funding for the arts, etc. etc.

I'm at the point where I don't read it. My eyes quickly scan for that one word that says it all. Once I see the word then I go back and actually read the whole letter.  
The word, of course, is unfortunately. 

This morning I got a rejection email that didn't get to the point until four paragraphs down. Finally there it was:

Samantha Palmeri Contemporary Artist
 "Green couch #2"
"Unfortunately, we are not able to fund your application, but we want you to know that we are inspired by your commitment to your craft and by the sacrifices you're making to pursue it."

Okay so we've all been there, done that, but here's the prize at the bottom of the cereal box, they actually gave me feedback! That hardly ever happens, on top of which I thought it was pretty good feedback. Six paragraphs down it said:

Our jurors are invited to provide feedback about the applications they review. We wanted to share the following:
"Intelligent, muscular contemporary abstracts that have the flow of de Kooning combined with the chunky organic expressionism of Philip Guston!"

"I see a great dedication in your studio practice. There is a long standing investigation one can see in your works. I'm curious to see where it goes."

Samantha Palmeri Contemporary Artist
"Green couch #3"

I mean, I'd rather have gotten the $6,000, but still,
this might be my favorite rejection letter of all time.
This one I'm keeping!

May 4, 2016

new painting cart

I finally got a new painting table. Yay
$10 at a yard sale. Granted it's pretty silly looking but it works. I can't believe it but two, yes two, Januarys ago I posted my need for a new one in Why I Hate January
So, as promised here are pics. Not that exciting, I know. But it makes me happy!

April 12, 2016

Artist of the Week: Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Emily Kame Kngwarreye painting
Yam Dreaming-Awelye, 1995, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 36 inches

I just saw some pictures of this artist's work on pinterest and needed to share..
Emily Kame Kngwarreye was an Australian Aboriginal artist 1910-1996.
She had a few different styles of painting but I was particularly drawn to these (no surprise there!)
Some online sources were difficult to decipher so hopefully I've gotten all the info. correct on these images. Enjoy!

Emily Kame Kngwarreye painting
Kame Colour, 1995, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 36 inches

Emily Kame Kngwarreye painting
Wild Yam Dreaming, 1995, acrylic on canvas, 47 x 35 inches

Emily Kame Kngwarreye painting
Yam Awelye- Body Paint, 1996, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 36 inches
Emily Kame Kngwarreye painting
Awelye, 1995, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 85 inches
Emily Kame Kngwarreye painting
Kame Awelye, 1995, acrylic on canvas, 89.5 x 58.5 inches

Emily Kame Kngwarreye painting
Bush Yam Dreaming, 1994, acrylic on canvas, 54 x 104 inches
Emily Kame Kngwarreye painting
Kame Colour II, 1995, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 36 inches
Emily Kame Kngwarreye painting
Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 59 x 48 inches
Emily Kame Kngwarreye painting
Anooralya Awelye, 1995, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 36 inches

Emily Kame Kngwarreye painting
Untitled, 1996, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 36 inches

Emily Kame Kngwarreye painting
Emily Kame Kngwarreye, painting

April 5, 2016

new painting series

working on a new series since January. I think these four are now finished.
still a working title:
Stories from the green couch

Samantha Palmeri painting 2016
Samantha Palmeri, oil on canvas, 50 x 72 inches

Samantha Palmeri Contemporary Artist
Samantha Palmeri, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 inches

Samantha Palmeri Contemporary Artist
Samantha Palmeri, oil on canvas, 54 x 54 inches
Samantha Palmeri Contemporary Artist
Samantha Palmeri, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 inches

April 2, 2016

"Any Time Spent In The Studio Is Not A Waste Of Time"

Speaking of rituals, which I seem to do a lot of,
I was wondering what other artists do in the studio...

Yesterday I went to the studio for the first time in a little over a week and it felt like I hadn't been there in a month. I thought I was going to end up sitting on the couch staring into space and conveniently procrastinating the day away, but I totally surprised myself and got to work right away.

Samantha Palmeri painting in progress
here's the painting I worked on, still unfinished. See it finished HERE

It made me realize that there are a lot of ways to procrastinate (no kidding). But a lot of the things I used to think were taking up, a.k.a wasting, too much time are actually necessary parts of the whole process. Yesterday I did what I always do and took the time to empty all the clumped up skins of oil paint at the bottom of my paint jars. I refilled them with new colors, mixed up a fresh jar of medium, threw away old rags, and poured new Gamsol. By moving through my regular routine I was able to naturally move right back into the paintings themselves without too much painful effort. I also sat and looked for a long time which used to feel like serious loitering but is another important and necessary tool.

The truth is that sometimes just standing around doing nothing is helpful, as if simply absorbing it all in is as much of an activity as the painting itself. Regardless, I'm still glad that wasn't the only thing I accomplished yesterday.

I used to have a sign in the studio that said Any Time Spent in the Studio is not a Waste of Time, which by the way I just found out is quoted in a bizarre little book JERRY SALTZ ART CRITIC's Fans, Friends, & The Tribes Suggested ART STUDIO DOOR SIGNS of Real Life or Fantasy.

I still think it's true.. 

So back to all you studio workers, what are your rituals or routines that help you get going??

March 30, 2016

Tropical Inspiration

After a week's vacation spent at the Gulf I'm convinced I belong in the tropics!

It's no joke that even with the worst cold I've had in 3 years, the salty air and hot sun were able to transform misery into... paradise. Lush greens, turquoise blues, cool floury sand and the fiery heat of the sun all played a part. And those twisting, knowing vines and roots on every pointy cactus and palm frond were enough inspiration for a whole new series of paintings.

So much inspiration and good living makes a week away from the studio just about worth it! Sources say the name Palmeri means pilgrim or palm depending on where you look. I'm going with the palm definition. It reminds me of my house growing up that was filled to the brim with plants: ferns, ficus trees, marginata, philodendron, begonias, and of course the giant palm that prominently appeared in the background of every important family photograph.

Although I'd like to plan ten more trips like this, clearly that's not about to happen. Here's what will be happening though: when we move into our new house, our new sun room will be filled with all things tropical, not least of all a giant palm tree.