October 17, 2016

Philip Guston, Who The Hell Wants Paint On A Surface?

Philip Guston painting
Philip Guston, Alchemist, 1960, oil on canvas, 61 x 67 inches

Philip Guston in an interview with Joseph Ablow 1966

"For reasons which I did not understand at the time... when I went into nonobjective painting or at least non-figurative painting, I felt I was even then involved with imagery, even though I didn't understand the imagery, but I thought it was imagery.

For some reason that is not quite clear to me yet, and maybe I don't want to be clear about it either, I was forced and pushed into the kind of painting that I did. That is to say that the demand, in the dialogue of myself with this, was that I make some marks.
It speaks to me, I speak to it. We have terrible arguments going all night for weeks and weeks.
"Do I really believe that?" I make a mark, a few strokes, and I argue with myself. Not "Do I like it or not?" but "Is it true or not?" And "Is that what I mean? Is that what I want?"

But there comes a point when something catches on the canvas, something grips on the canvas. I don't know what it is. I mean, when you put paint on a surface, most of the time it looks like paint.
Who the hell wants paint on a surface? 
You take it off, put it on, it goes over here, it moves over a foot. As you go closer, it starts moving in inches not feet, then half-inches. There comes a point, though, when the paint doesn't feel like paint. I don't know why. Some mysterious thing happens. I think you experience this, maybe in parts of canvases or something like that. If you can do it by painting a face or an eye or a nose or an apple, it doesn't matter. What counts is that the paint should really disappear. Otherwise it's craft or something like that."
Philip Guston painting
Philip Guston, Portrait I, 1965, oil on canvas, 68 x 78 inches







September 12, 2016

Music to listen to in the art studio


Yesterday in my studio I meditated to John Coltrane's Interstellar Space... 
It was only a few minutes, but wow. If you would've told me a year ago that I'd be into this album I'd have thought you were crazy, but all of a sudden it's working for me. I find myself tangled up in the color and light of the sound, breathing in all its breaths. I open my eyes to the brightness of my room knowing exactly what I want to do with the painting on the wall.

I don't usually meditate before I start painting, and I don't usually listen to free jazz while I'm working, but I'm glad for whatever gave me the impulse.

About the album, Robert Christgau wrote in his column for The Village Voice that he was amazed by the duets, which "sound like an annoyance until you concentrate on them, at which point the interactions take on pace and shape, with metaphorical overtones that have little to do with the musical ideas being explored."

I couldn't have said it better myself! Here, take a listen:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le4iF-ZAJ3g&list=PLd56fNeWVkFn6OqF_4JR86Gz5Db9MYpmP


Music has that magic ability to set a mood and tone for the day, bringing up memory and emotion, good or bad.
You can wallow and get lost in it, or it can drown everything out. Usually I spend half my day in silence and half of it with music on. There are periods when I listen to the same thing almost every day. Years ago I did a whole series of paintings to Peter Gabriel's Us. Then there are periods when I'm not satisfied with anything I listen to.

Because I'm aware of how much I'm influenced by it, lately I've been trying to be much more conscious of the music I listen to.
Last month out of frustration I spent several days in complete silence. I ended up listening to Pink Floyd's Final Cut for an entire week after that. Bitches Brew by Miles Davis is another current favorite.

When it comes down to it there is certain criteria that needs to be met. If the music I'm hearing can jolt me emotionally in one direction or other without overwhelming me, I'm in. If it echoes the same mood as the painting I'm working on, that's good too. But it can't impede on the work. If I'm paying more attention to the lyrics of the song than the colors on my canvas, that's no good. There needs to be enough space in the music that I can subconsciously float myself into. Philip Glass is really good at that. If a whole album flies by and I realize I didn't hear any of it because I was lost in my work, that's perfection!

I just realized that everyone on this list is male, so here, to balance that out, depending on the mood: Concrete Blonde, Ani DiFranco, Nina Simone, Fiona Apple, Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Blondie, Yeah Yeah Yeah's, Zap Mama, Martha Wainwright... okay well, that more than balances it out!

Happy listening.






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??????????