October 23, 2020

STRIPES

Prismacolor markers on Tyvek, 24 x 24"
Everything counts. And everything's connected.

It's almost exactly a year ago that I started making these striped drawings. I was having a lot of anxiety at the time, and the only thing I could think of to calm my nerves was to color long straight vertical lines over and over. 

So much has happened in one year. I have gone back and forth, working on the stripes, then putting them away, working on more stripes, then putting them away, in different mediums, materials, and sizes. All along, I struggled to see their relevance within the context of my painting practice. I knew they were worthwhile to make, but I didn't know what to do with them. 




Four 5 x 7" drawings, prismacolor markers on card stock, the backs of old gallery postcards


With the pandemic and quarantine, the need for anxiety reducing activity became paramount, and the stripes suddenly were brought to the forefront of my studio practice. Working on these scraps (literally, since some of the drawings are on scraps of cardboard, and the knitted pieces are mostly made with leftover scraps of yarn) has been a great source of reassurance and consistency for me. And, as with most things, the more you do, the more you discover. The work has grown in scope and importance. The stripes seem to have taken on a life of their own, infiltrating even the large paintings now.


detail of knitted piece


I still don't know exactly how it all fits together, but my color choices, and the energy behind them, the organic nature of so much of it, which includes the imperfections of the handmade and hand drawn object, all of that speaks to what interests me in my work. I can't say I'm pleased with the 'extra bout of anxiety' that first led me to the stripes, but I'm pleased I made something out of it, and that I keep making, in spite of not knowing why or where it's going.

I keep reminding myself, everything counts, and everything's connected. 


Grasping, prismacolor markers on fluorescent cardstock, with collaged elements


See more drawings on my website.






October 3, 2020

Lean Into It

I spent the full day yesterday taking pictures of new work and updating my website. Check it here: www.samanthapalmeri.com

This pandemic has me feeling frayed and unfocused. I've started five different projects in the past six months, adding to the growing pile of bits and pieces on my studio floor. Yes I've been working, but I've also been pacing, biding my time, and letting the dirty dishes pile up. 

I'm a visual person. I need to see things in front of my face. So getting all these pieces photographed and uploaded and organized feels like a little miracle! I even came up with titles for the new work, most of it at least, which can sometimes be a daunting task. 

Lean Into It is one of those titles. I thought of it for this painting below, because I see it as images literally leaning on and into one another, but I ended up using it for a different piece. 

I had a vague notion of what made me think of the expression to begin with, but when I looked up the meaning, I was so pleasantly surprised. It perfectly describes this entire body of work, and my state of mind during this strange time, and I chalk that up to the power of serendipity and the subconscious.


Fake It Till You Make It,
the inevitable final title of this piece: oil, oil stick, and oil pastel on canvas, 64x58 inches


Lean into it-

To embrace; to experience fully or respond to wholeheartedly. To take on or embrace something difficult or unpleasant, usually through determination or perseverance; to find a way to benefit from, or alleviate the harm of, risk, uncertainty and difficult situations.  

Cheers to leaning into it! Hopefully we'll all be able to clink our glasses together, in person, real soon...



September 2, 2020

Together in Isolation

In July I participated in a project at The Re-Institute in Millerton, NY called Together in Isolation. Artist Henry Klimowicz, owner of the space, started the project in April as an ongoing record of this time. 

Artwork is created inside a clear plastic box that is then buried in the ground and lit up at night. The work is spaced along a path in the landscape and viewers experience the work while walking at their own pace looking down through the top lit "window" of each piece. 

My piece is titled "Unraveling" 

We long to be seen and heard, and to feel our presence in the world. So we make a mark. In a time of uncertainty and isolation, we create, in order to feel ourselves, connected, anchored.

These are unfinished drawings pieced together on found cardboard, rock and driftwood from the shore, and knitted yarn, some partially unraveled. Representing the scattering of time and focus, the comfort in the handmade, and the groundedness of the earth.


Some of the pieces that went into my box

Samantha Palmeri "Unraveling"

View of the grounds at Re-Institute

Samantha Palmeri "Unraveling"

View of the artwork lit up

Artist Christian Pietrapiana "So?"

Artist Nancy Daubenspeck "Consider the Lilies"




-from the press release:

A primary objective of the show revolves around the inherent paradox of its title: Together in Isolation. While the artists are each creating work alone in their studios, they are simultaneously contributing to the exhibition as a whole which continues to weave and morph in surprising ways. The show’s growth is organic and unpredictable and layers of meaning are created and recreated as each box is buried in the ground. The exhibition is a poignant and lasting record of this time of isolation, hardship, and sadness, but it also delivers unexpected glimmers of hope.

New pieces will continue to be accepted until such a time as we may all safely gather indoors together again. Then Together in Isolation will end as it began – paradoxically – with a celebratory closing instead of an opening.


The gallery is open on Wednesdays and Fridays from dusk until dark by appointment via the website, www.TheReInstitute.com









 

 

 

 

 

August 24, 2020

Pandemic blues and opportunities



This week I picked up the paintings from my show at Pen & Brush. Thrilled to have been asked to participate, thrilled that we were able to have an opening reception right before the pandemic, but crushed that no one got to see the show, and that those paintings are now rolled up in storage and will probably not get shown again. Also this week I finally got word about the artist residency program I was supposed to participate in this month at Arts Letters & Numbers. It is now officially postponed until further notice. 

I am extremely fortunate to be on my own, with a place to live and work, and the freedom of time and commitment, but having all communal activities shuttered or postponed, some indefinitely, is certainly bittersweet. 

Time itself is bittersweet. The state of the world, our country, our communities, leaves me feeling scattered and restless. 

I'm aware that this time I've been given is a gift, an opportunity to be focused and introspective, innovative, productive. So, each week I start all over with lists of how not to squander it. How to make the most of these moments. 

As today is Monday, I guess I'm sending this out into the world to anyone else feeling this way-
Keep working! little by little by little... 


Untitled Pink I, oil on canvas, approx. 46x40 inches

Untitled Pink II, oil on canvas, approx. 46x40 inches

Untitled Pink III, oil on canvas, approx. 27x35 inches





June 6, 2020

New Drawings

Learning patience is not an easy thing.
The second I asked for it, all my markers and pens ran out of ink simultaneously! No joke! I'm grateful for the lesson, and in spite of that, I'm really enjoying these drawings, not only for the process of making them, but because I feel certain they will make their way to larger paintings, and that makes me happy. The series is ongoing and is titled Fill My Cup, each one is 8 x 10 inches, art markers and colored pencil on paper











April 23, 2020

OF POWER AND TIME




I have been rifling through my bookshelf these days. 
Thank you to my lovely friend whose comment reminded me I own this gem by Mary Oliver, Blue Pastures. Grateful that I can access these inspiring words at any time. Of Power and Time is so very relevant right now, I couldn't resist copying and pasting (except for a few omissions) the entire piece here. Within the confines of time, it is approximately a 7 minute read. Enjoy! 

















Of Power and Time











It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone.
    Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart—to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.
    But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley's birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back in to the mist.
    It is this internal force—this intimate interrupter—whose tracks I would follow. The world sheds, in the energetic way of an open and communal place, its many greetings, as a world should. What quarrel can there be with that? But that the self can interrupt the self—and does—is a darker and more curious matter.

I am, myself, three selves at least. To begin with, there is the child I was. Certainly I am not that child anymore! Yet, distantly, or sometimes not so distantly, I can hear that child's voice—I can feel its hope, or its distress. It has not vanished. Powerful, egotistical, insinuating—its presence rises, in memory, or from the steamy river of dreams. It is not gone, not by a long shot. It is with me in the present hour. It will be with me in the grave.
    And there is the attentive, social self. This is the smiler and the doorkeeper. This is the portion that winds the clock, that steers through the dailiness of life, that keeps in mind appointments that must be made, and then met. It is fettered to a thousand notions of obligation. It moves across the hours of the day as though the movement itself were the whole task. Whether it gathers as it goes some branch of wisdom or delight, or nothing at all, is a matter with which it is hardly concerned. What this self hears night and day, what it loves beyond all other songs, is the endless springing forward of the clock, those measures strict and vivacious, and full of certainty.
    The clock! That twelve-figured moon skull, that white spider belly! How serenely the hands move with their filigree pointers, and how steadily! Twelve hours, and twelve hours, and begin again! Eat, speak, sleep, cross a street, wash a dish! The clock is still ticking. All its vistas are just so broad—are regular. (Notice that word.) Every day, twelve little bins in which to order disorderly life, and even more disorderly thought…. Another day is passing, a regular and ordinary day. (Notice that word also.)

Say you have bought a ticket on an airplane and you intend to fly from New York to San Francisco. What do you ask of the pilot when you climb aboard and take your seat next to the little window…. 
    Most assuredly you want the pilot to be his regular and ordinary self. You want him to approach and undertake his work with no more than a calm pleasure. You want nothing fancy, nothing new. You ask him to do, routinely, what he knows how to do—fly an airplane. You hope he will not daydream. You hope he will not drift into some interesting meander of thought. You want this flight to be ordinary, not extraordinary. So, too, with the surgeon, and the ambulance driver, and the captain of the ship. Let all of them work, as ordinarily they do, in confident familiarity with whatever the work requires, and no more. Their ordinariness is the surety of the world. Their ordinariness makes the world go round….for the world has a need of dreamers as well as shoemakers….    
    And this is also true. In creative work—creative work of all kinds—those who are the world’s working artists are not trying to help the world go around, but forward. Which is something altogether different from the ordinary. Such work does not refute the ordinary. It is, simply, something else. Its labor requires a different outlook—a different set of priorities. Certainly there is within each of us a self that is neither a child,  nor a servant of the hours. It is a third self, occasional in some of us, tyrant in others. This self is out of love with the ordinary; it is out of love with time. It has a hunger for eternity.
    Intellectual work sometimes, spiritual work certainly, artistic work always—these forces that fall within its grasp, forces that must travel beyond the realm of the hour and the restraint of the habit. Nor can the actual work be well separated from the entire life. Like the knights of the middle ages, there is little the creatively inclined person can do but to prepare himself, body and spirit, for the labor to come—for his adventures are all unknown. In truth, the work itself is the adventure. And no artist could go about this work, or would want to, with less than extraordinary energy and concentration. The extraordinary is what art is about. 
    Neither is it possible to control, or regulate, the machinery of creativity. One must work with the creative powers—for not to work with is to work against; in art as in spiritual life there is no neutral place. Especially at the beginning, there is a need of discipline as well as solitude and concentration….
    No one yet has made a list of places where the extraordinary may happen and where it may not. Still, there are indications….It likes the concentrating mind. It likes solitude. It is more likely to stick to the risk-taker than the ticket-taker. It isn’t that it would disparage comforts, or the set routines of the world, but that its concern is directed to another place. Its concern is the edge, and the making of a form out of the formlessness that is beyond the edge.
    Of this there can be no question—creative work requires a loyalty as complete as the loyalty of water to the force of gravity. A person trudging through the wilderness of creation who does not know this—who does not swallow this—is lost. He who does not crave that roofless place eternity should stay at home. Such a person is perfectly worthy, and useful, and even beautiful, but is not an artist. Such a person had better live with timely ambitions and finished work formed for the sparkle of the moment only. Such a person had better go off and fly an airplane.
    There is a notion that creative people are absent-minded, reckless, heedless of social customs and obligations. It is, hopefully, true. For they are in another world altogether. It is a world where the third self is governor. Neither is the purity of art the innocence of childhood, if there is such a thing. One’s life as a child, with all its emotional rages and ranges, is but grass for the winged horse—it must be chewed well in those savage teeth….The working, concentrating artist is an adult who refuses interruption from himself, who remains absorbed and energized in and by the work—who is thus responsible to the work.

On any morning or afternoon, serious interruptions to work, therefore, are never the inopportune, cheerful, even loving interruptions which come to us from another. Serious interruptions come from the watchful eye we cast upon ourselves. There is the blow that knocks the arrow from it mark! There is the drag we throw over our own intentions. There is the interruption to be feared!
    It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absent-minded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.
    There is no other way work of artistic worth can be done. And the occasional success, to the striver, is worth everything. The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time. 







March 24, 2020

WHEN PAINTINGS COME TO LIFE

detail The Swimmer
I made this painting 15 years ago,
based on a photograph of the Icelandic band

múm

 from Index magazine, April 2002.

When my daughter was a baby, I stayed home with her and didn't get a lot of painting done. The only work I have from that time are a few paintings from a series titled The Swimmer. This one is my favorite, and is hanging at my mother's house.

I have spent a lot of time looking at this girl's face! There were a lot of unsuccessful versions of the painting as I recall, and I still stare at it now every time I visit my mother.

I don't remember listening to the band's music before now, but a lot of it is ethereal, and atmospheric, and beautiful, just like the images in the magazine. I love the way they described their album, Finally We Are No One:
The record comes from an imaginary place, maybe there's a valley, a swimming pool, some hills, a tunnel. It's not clear what goes on there. It's open for interpretation. We wrote the music in this really isolated lighthouse. We had to take a little rubber boat to get out there.

They were scheduled to play at Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House, tomorrow. Besides really liking the music, I got so excited about the idea of seeing this girl's face in real life. I was just about to buy tickets when it got postponed, like everything else, but I have promised myself that the next time they play I am definitely going to see them!



The Swimmer, 2005, oil on canvas, 44 x 50 inches

Listen to

múm


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iu21Q34OSvQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ui6ERk-AySw

Index Magazine








March 2, 2020

In like a Lion.....I am my father's daughter

I need a project. Something to rally around. To focus my random thoughts and obsessions on. Do you know that feeling?


my daughter in front of his grave stone
Here is the beginning of a story I want to write about my father. At the moment it is merely a scattering of thoughts and notes. It could also just turn out to be another self-reflective blog post, but we'll see!


I think of my father as a pillar holding up the world.

My father was sick for six years.
March 24, 2011, he died in the morning sometime between 6:30 and 7:00am. I know because I was staying at the house and I got up twice to go to the bathroom. At the time, the unearthly sound of his breathing could be heard throughout the house. When I got up the second time, I noticed it was quiet, and I ran to my mother, sleeping on the couch, to say, I don't hear him anymore.

When people called on the telephone we used words like gone and passed. You didn't say he's dead, he died this morning. You said, he's gone, he's not with us anymore, it's over. When they took his body away, I have a clear memory of my mother crying, saying that the bed was still warm.

Every March I think about these things. Sometimes I forget it's March and can't figure out why I'm more depressed than usual.

My father was an amazing storyteller. Before he died, family members tried to record him telling his stories, but only a few got saved. He was fascinated by human behavior, and had experienced the world through many means. He was a NYC police detective for twenty five years. Born in Brooklyn, to parents whose parents were born in Sicily, and grew up in Little Italy. My grandmother worked at a candy factory in Brooklyn. We used to see the factory buildings from the Gowanus Expressway, and every time we crossed it my father would say, that's where grandma used to work. They lived in a two bedroom apartment where three brothers slept in the same bed.

In Like A Lion, 2011, oil on canvas, 50x72"
My father grew up playing stick ball in the street, at a time when everybody on the block knew everybody, and looked out for each other. Everyone was an immigrant then. He was not prejudiced in any way, and was equally friendly and unimpressed by people of all walks of life. He could strike up a conversation with anyone, rich or poor, bad guy, good guy, criminal, movie star, celebrity. He had street smarts that outtalked the highest paid lawyers in New York, and was still the most humble person I've ever met. He was a writer, a thinker, and a seeker of truth. I helped him with a book he started writing once. I typed out his handwritten pages. People he knew were all getting movies made about their stories, and he had been part of some of the biggest criminal cases in the world.

When he got drafted into the army during Vietnam, his war was not a bloody one, it was a cerebral one. He was an MP, and his job was to stand guard and protect the perimeter of the camp. Alone in a hand built wooden hut staring into the jungle for hours through the night, waiting for enemy soldiers to appear. He told the story of that palpable fear, of hallucinating and trying to stay awake, of burning the trees and brush. He told the story of meeting God in that jungle. He wanted me to paint a picture of it, but I never thought there were enough materials in the world that could depict that kind of profound experience.

his necklace that I inherited
Since he died I have made some terrible decisions in my life, and have been involved in a succession of terrible relationships, all starting that fall in 2011. Looking back, although these different relationships were with seemingly very different people, I can see now that they weren't that different at all. In fact the similarities are jarring. I've thought this whole time that each of them pulled the rug out from under me in one way or another, but the truth is, there was never a rug there to begin with.

I think I've been searching for the safety and security of that pillar holding up my world. Maybe now that I realize this, maybe now I can finally grieve this loss properly and be my own pillar. I am my father's daughter, and I am proud of that. He was a man among men. He walked in love because he really believed it, without ever seeking or needing a reward for it.

March is said to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. For me it has stayed a roaring lion all this time. I'm ready for the lamb. In all the losses I grieve for, suddenly I find myself grieving for him as if he just died.

I think my father would be disappointed at my rotten decision making, but I know he would still love me, because his love was unconditional. There were no conditions, or limits. He would walk to the ends of the earth for you, and he'd let you know it. He'd whistle, and sing you a song about it all along the way too. He had a song for everyone, and he was always singing it. One of the many songs he sang to me was Peggy Sue, which he changed to Sammy Sue. If you want to know how I know the words to every 1950-1960's oldies tune, my father is the reason! There's a picture of me at my last exhibition opening where I think I look a lot like him. More than anything, it's the expression on my face. It's a proud look, and it's the same way he looked at me so often throughout my life.