July 21, 2016

Where's your studio?

So here's another question for you artists:
Which do you prefer, studio space outside your home or inside your home?? 
For two years I've been telling the world how madly in love with my studio space I am and now I'm trying to rationalize the possibility of not being able to afford it anymore.
I told myself when I got it that I'd never have a studio in my house again.
There's something about physically going to work that is so appealing. Paying for a separate space forces me to work harder and take it all more seriously. I don't think about the computer or the dirty dishes or what we're eating for dinner. I barely even look at my phone.
Having a professional space makes me feel more like, um, a professional. 
But it also has a lot to do with having something all to myself which is really important too. The problem is if I can't afford it then that something for myself turns into something else entirely.
How selfish do we artists get to be? 
Especially when there's no money coming in from the work, only going out.....

Samantha Palmeri painting
unfinished painting, oil on canvas

I'm an artist who has tinkered away in the studio mostly unnoticed for years, and I suspect that will be the case for more years to come. Not that I'm complaining about it, well, I don't mean to anyway. I know I sound like I complain about a lot of things! About rejection notices and staying motivated and burning bridges, about solitude, both the desire for it and the lack thereof. I've complained about wanting a muse after losing one I thought I had, and also about not really needing a muse to begin with, etc. etc. I'd like to think they're not really complaints so much as comments on the topic.
I think spending a lifetime making art can sometimes be confusing like this, and at certain times it does feel a little like a useless endeavor. Nobody really needs it, do they?

I used to have a slogan, pinned up in the storefront window of my first art gallery with white twinkly lights around it, that said Art Is A Necessity. One day a known local artist asked me with a quizzical smirk on his face if I actually believed that. It never occurred to me not to believe it. I think about that all the time. I don't know why, because I don't really know how it affects me one way or the other except that I've always made art because it was a necessity for me. I don't know about anyone else but I need it.

Anyway, my hesitation, anticipation and anxiousness about getting back to work in the studio tends to do this. This wallowing in existential revery sort of thing. I've been reading Philip Guston books lately like I'm studying for the next quiz. Philip I'm ready whenever you wanna lay it on me! Except reading about it and doing it are very very different. I don't want to be him anyway. I'd like to be myself if I can figure out what in the world that looks like, and where to do it.............................





July 14, 2016

The Killer of Imagination

I think I've been wrong.

Agnes Martin
Agnes Martin

What can I say. Some people who know me intimately will think that's very funny. But yes, I think I've been, I mean I know I've been overly self-conscious, which is the killer of imagination and impulse. All my musing about muses and audience can't possibly be right. I don't need more people looking over my shoulder, I need less.

We should learn to be our own muses is my new motto. 

I have been away from the studio for probably the longest stretch since moving to Beacon, NY two years ago. I've worked hard in that time, making over 25 paintings and countless works on paper, so I very much needed this break... At least that's what I'm telling myself.

Agnes Martin
Agnes Martin
It all started with this year's Beacon Open Studios at the end of May. I spent two full days gibbering to strangers (and friends) about my artwork. Something a lot of us who participated in the event noticed was that after a while of describing your work to people, you start repeating yourself over and over. The same descriptive words start flying out of your mouth. And you hear yourself saying things you never heard before. You're like, oh, so that's what my work is really about!!

So what did I hear myself saying all day for two days straight? That my paintings were in a transition phase, that they weren't exactly the kind of paintings I wanted to be making but somehow they needed to be made, that they were more formal and more figurative than I wanted them to be. Although I had very positive feedback, I found my own self-effacing comments very revealing. It was clear to me that that series of paintings was done with. But what to do next? And why did I need to make all those paintings that now felt forced and untruthful?

So, I've been away from it for a while.

Agnes Martin
Agnes Martin
The timing has been impeccable since I did just move, and moving as we all know, is hell. But now I'm ready to go back and I can't imagine what to do.

For starters, I've decided to refrain from sharing works in progress, so you probably won't see any new photographs for a while. In this age of sharing every second of our lives with everyone on the planet, I've suddenly found myself needing some privacy.  

I have a lot of work to do. Whatever it is that's been keeping me from the most truthful work I can possibly make has got to go! So I may need to close off the world for a bit, hole up in the studio and not come out till I figure something out. 

 
Agnes Martin
Agnes Martin



Promise I won't be MIA for too long..............




July 8, 2016

FREE INSPIRATION

There are certain artists I can never get enough of. No matter when or where I happen to stumble upon them, their images never fail to fascinate and inspire.

Here are three of my favorites, Bill Jensen, Gerhard Richter, and Richard Diebenkorn. With one extra by Will Barnett.

Bill Jensen Art
1. Bill Jensen
Gerhard Richter
2. Gerhard Richter
Richard Diebenkorn
3. Richard Diebenkorn

Gerhard Richter
4. Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter
5. Gerhard Richter
Bill Jensen Art
6. Bill Jensen

Richard Diebenkorn
7. Richard Diebenkorn
Will Barnet
8. Will Barnet

Richard Diebenkorn
9. Richard Diebenkorn
Richard Diebenkorn
10. Richard Diebenkorn

1.  Bill Jensen,

2.  Gerhard Richter, "Sinbad" (series), 2008, enamel on back of glass, 11 x 9 inches
        Follow the link to view the entire Sinbad series of 100 paintings

3.  Richard Diebenkorn, "Untitled", c. 1952. Gouache and graphite on paper, 11 x 8 1/2 inches
4.  Gerhard Richter, "Sinbad" (series), 2008, enamel on back of glass, 11 x 9 inches
5.  Gerhard Richter, "Abdallah" (series), 2010, enamel on back of glass, 12 x 12 inches
6.  Bill Jensen, "With Color XIII", 2009, egg and oil tempera on paper, 20 1/4 x 15 inches
7.  Richard Diebenkorn
8.  Will Barnet, "Untitled", c. 1957. Watercolor on paper, 7 x 4 7/8 inches
9.  Richard Diebenkorn, "Untitled", c. 1952-53. Watercolor and graphite on paper, 12 7/8 x 18 7/8 inches
10.  Richard Diebenkorn, "Untitled", c. 1952-53. Gouache on paper, 17 1/8 x 14 inches




FREE INSPIRATION

There are certain artists I can never get enough of. No matter when or where I happen to stumble upon them, their images never fail to fascinate and inspire.

Here are three of my favorites, Bill Jensen, Gerhard Richter, and Richard Diebenkorn. With one extra by Will Barnett.

Bill Jensen Art










































Gerhard Richter Sinbad
Gerhard Richter, "Sinbad" (series), 2008, enamel on back of glass, 11 x 9 inches.                                                            Follow the link to view the entire series of 100 paintings. 













Gerhard Richter, "Sinbad" (series), 2008, enamel on back of glass, 11 x 9 inches








































Richard Diebenkorn, "Untitled", c. 1952. Gouache and graphite on paper, 11 x 8 1/2 inches






Gerhard Richter Abdallah
Gerhard Richter, "Abdallah" (series), 2010, enamel on back of glass, 12 x 12 inches

Bill Jensen Art
Bill Jensen, "With Color XIII", 2009, egg and oil tempera on paper, 20 1/4 x 15 inches











































































Richard Diebenkorn
Richard Diebenkorn, "Untitled", c. 1952. Gouache and graphite on paper, 11 x 8 1/2 inches
Richard Diebenkorn
Richard Diebenkorn, "Untitled", c. 1952-53. Watercolor and graphite on paper, 12 7/8 x 18 7/8 in
Will Barnet
Will Barnet, "Untitled", c. 1957. Watercolor on paper, 7 x 4 7/8 inches

Richard Diebenkorn
Richard Diebenkorn, "Untitled", c. 1952-53. Gouache on paper, 17 1/8 x 14 inches



June 20, 2016

Artist of the Week: Philip Guston

Philip Guston
Philip Guston, Alchemist, 1960, oil on canvas, 61 x 67 3/8 inches
Philip Guston
Philip Guston, Position I, 1965, oil on canvas, 65 x 80 inches

Since I'm moving to a new house next week my time at the studio, or anywhere else for that matter, has been temporarily taken over with packing. Thankfully last week I was able to take a slight reprieve to go and see the Philip Guston show at Hauser & Wirth. Although I needed to climb over a few boxes to write this to you I wanted you to read it before the show closes next month.

Seeing this exhibit couldn't have come at a better time for me. While I'm at the cusp of an important address/life change, my work is also having a moment. It has reached its point to change directions.


With that, I think I can safely say this show has changed my life! Although it has left me with more questions than I know what to do with, I'm inspired to dig deeper within myself to find the thing that most interests me.

Philip Guston
Philip Guston, Portrait I, 1965, oil on canvas, 68 3/8 x 78 inches
I need to know why these paintings work!
How they work. It is baffling me. I've never been so perplexed by an exhibition. Why not paint to the edge? Why the same size brush throughout? Why the color choices? Why the muddy grey that's somehow not muddy at all? How is it possible for that black to work so well as a figure? How is he pulling this off? A line here, a gesture there and somehow we know exactly what he's trying to say. I don't know how he's done it but I'm determined to find out!
Philip Guston
Philip Guston, Inhabiter, 1965, oil on canvas, 76 1/8 x 79 1/4 inches

Guston believed artists don't always choose the kinds of paintings they inevitably end up making. That might go without saying. Guston was an artist who changed his course more than once and at no small cost to his professional career.

When I consider that, it makes me wonder why I am making the kinds of paintings I'm making...

Philip Guston
Philip Guston, Untitled, 1962, oil on canvas, 66 x 73 inches
Philip Guston
Philip Guston, Group II, 1964, oil on canvas, 65 1/8 x 79 1/8 inches

The show at Hauser & Wirth highlights the period smack in the middle between Guston's pure abstraction and late figuration. It's interesting that you can almost see his wheels turning, each brush stroke transporting him from one important moment to the next. Perhaps this work would look wholly different if we weren't able to place it so effectively in its historical place. But perhaps it would have succeeded just as well. I'm not sure about that, but I am sure that his mode of expressive painting seems to have chosen him rather than the other way around. No matter what, Guston was open to finding his absolute truth and the best way to represent it.

Philip Guston
Philip Guston, Painter III, 1963, oil on canvas, 66 x 79 inches


Philip Guston
Philip Guston, The Wave I, 1967, Brush and ink on paper, 13 7/8 x 16 5/8 inches

I'd say that's kind of where I'm at: I'm searching for my absolute truth and the best way to represent it.


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!