Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The azalea is blooming!

Christmas Eve

Chris and I are lazily wrapping gifts, and enjoying the quiet, lovely darkness of the house--beautiful, beautiful Christmas Eve--have always LOVED this night.

Monday, December 22, 2008

If I had gotten it together to make a Chrismas card...

I think I would have used this image. Perhaps. Christopher snapped the photo last night through my office/drawing studio window. Those are little red berries in the lower right corner, not, as you might suspect, a reflection of red Christmas lights.

I like the fact that the photo seems to suggest story.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Farmer's Market Finds

Alexander and I arrived at the Farmer's Market late today--but not so late to prevent us from picking up the last two stalks of brussels sprouts from John of Weatherhand Farm. While Christopher has a fantastic recipe for brussels sprouts (one that actually makes me want to DEVOUR them), I must confess my first impulse toward buying these was aesthetic.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Studio Bits

In the last week I've been deeply involved with a 4'x5' collage, another one of my collider images--it's been on the wall all semester and has had various lives, but I'm finally nearing the end--these images are a couple details of note.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Studio View (miniscule, but telling)

Recipe for range of texture + subtlety of color punctuated with bits of intensity--that blue, that orange, Picasso's menagerie looking on: all in proximity.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lisa Sigal

Check out this swift little interview with the artist Lisa Sigal.

Sometimes artists appear, or in this case, reappear at a moment when they are needed most in one's studio. Sigal talks about the act of framing being the first step in making a painting, painting being a kind of shelter or fort, and the idea of creating a kind of pictorial space of the architecture--all exactly what I need to hear right about now--as I muddle through the end of one painting and the beginnings of some others, and as I perpetually push against/hybridize the definition of a painting.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Some precepts for my paintings--

1. To not plan at all--not even one step ahead
2. to let the paintings lead--both visually AND materially
3. to not limit:
ways of laying on
paint materiality
4. to search for as many methods of laying on paint as I can discover, AND once again, to let the painting lead in such endeavors
5. to embrace subjectivity wholeheartedly
6. to believe I will be able to follow the painting (acknowledging the difference between following and finishing/resolving)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Blue layers

1. some truncated, suggesting an expanse that is not visually apparent
2. truncating being a means of stopping evidence of action
3. opulent movement narrowed--fit into a strip of paper both set into another piece of paper and layered above/set above
4. periodic ruptures of color: pink, pale pale orange, a triangle of black, barbs of pthalocyanine rimming an edge, lemon yellow.

reiterating the wall
paralleling the wall
building by adding and subtracting
building by accumulation,
ruptured accumulation

Thursday, December 11, 2008


1. Toile in our bathroom
2. reminiscent of blue Toile wallpaper in the dining room of my childhood home/am I remembering incorrectly?
3. repository (therefore) of reverie, recollection, memory
52 actions (at home) is a list of mundane and often sense-heightening activities conducted at home. I began compiling the list several months ago, with no real direction as to what the list would accomplish save sating my curiosity. What would a day look like if reduced to a straightforward list of written actions?

On some level, I think of my paintings/collages/drawings as a list of actions--a list of actions analogous to actual movements of my limbs, my body. My relationship to the history of painting and drawing and, in general, two-dimensional image-making is complicated by the fact that I do not relish (first and foremost) the potentials in pictorial illusion. I relish the possibilities of the expanse--

1. as performative ground
2. as probable infinite

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

52 actions (at home)

Fumble in the dark.
Brew a pot of tea.
Sit on the couch in silence.
Pour a glass of water.
Make a bowl of oatmeal.
Read for several minutes.
Let the cats in.
Read for several minutes.
Fold a load of laundry.
Swallow a daily vitamin.
Respond to a crying child.
Change a morning diaper.
Wash a sink of dishes.
Spoon yogurt into a bowl.
Cut a banana.
Pack lunch for school.
Close a door.
Watch from a window.
Walk up a flight of stairs.
Put away clean clothes.
Take a shower.
Wring out a wet washcloth.
Dry a wet body.
Pull on soft clothes piled at the foot of a bed.
Smell the residue of brewed coffee.
Wear a pair of red worn sandals.
Sweep a rock strewn path.
Sweep a hairy floor.
Make an unkempt bed.
Correct a thesis paper.
Prepare for drawing class.
Pour a glass of water.
Drink a cup of tea.
Push a stroller down the street.
Buy a cranberry-orange scone.
Read part of an article.
Roast a pile of bright red beets.
Make a piece of buttered toast.
Wipe a crumb-strewn counter.
Close a half-open window.
Listen to the quiet of a house.
Put away the remains of dinner.
Load an empty dishwasher.
Paint toenails red.
Peel a newly bought orange.
Cover a blister with a band-aid.
Stand up straight.
Stretch a tight body.
Walk up two flights of steps.
Fill the tub with water.
Sit in stillness.
Give the cats some food.

Lydia Heuston Herman's Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

1. a way to make
2. another's version of something seemingly known
3. object/image/text
4. a paper with sentimental value
5. age contributing invaluable aesthetic appeal

Monday, November 24, 2008

Taking apart

Good things do come from letting go--after what seemed like an eternity of ill-will toward the wall-sized collage adamantly stuck in its own hermetic self-knowledge, I simply took the thing apart on Friday. A small victory!

And today, I put it back together--in two new sections, one nearly complete and one very much recast and ready for a different, more assured direction.

I wish I didn't postpone the admission of failure--or I wish I more readily leaped to seeing failure as merely a non-working permutation of something eventual and better.

Note on these photos as of late: Being that finding my camera, taking a photo, uploading it onto my computer, formatting it for the blog, and then uploading it onto my blog--on a regular basis--takes time I just don't have, I have resorted to the natty little camera IN my computer...definitely not one of those lovely food blog photos I adore...forgive me for the moment. When the semester concludes, I'll ratchet it up!

Friday, November 21, 2008

State of the Studio

Friday afternoon--an hour and a half of time without obligation, an eternity!

Xacto knife

neutral pH adhesive

paper at the ready

ipod charged

tea kettle going

nothing more to write

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Site Q

With mounting excitement I announce another blog endeavor, Site Q--a collaborative venture hatched by myself and Elisabeth Workman, a poet and long time collaborator based in Minneapolis. In addition to Beth and I, the blog has contributors from our rich enclave of artists here in central North Carolina, AND more hailing from Pennsylvania, Michigan...and perhaps Tennessee and Virginia as well.

Site Q is a repository for fragments, detritus, phrases, bits of ephemera, addendum, indexical referents, the haphazard and intuitive, the ridiculous and unnameable, that which unfolds, part by part by part--all right up my alley in terms of aesthetic interests as you may have gathered by now.

Check it out when you have a moment!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Addendum to yesterday

On an earlier jaunt across campus to a unexpected meeting I thought I didn't want to attend (mostly because attending meant leaving the studio day yawning uninterrupted ahead of me) I gained some unexpected clarity about yesterday's/today's drawing. I sat down to jot a few notes prior to joining my fellow meeting-ers, lest I forget. I'll list them here, weird punctuation/line breaks/light blue ink and all:

looking at trees on my way to _____ noticing they are mostly just
punctuated w/ a leaf, here and
there, very sporadically, on the tips
for the most part.
and I realize
what seems important is not the
leaf itself but the fact that the
leaf punctuates, marks, identifies
the end of the branch, a twig.
marking a moment
marking a place
marking the intangible reality as a
way of making it tangible

much like my blue/red drawing

not making the moment
but marking of placeness

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Drawing with blue and red

I began this drawing last Wednesday.

(I realize this is not the best of photos--so I will explain...and promise to post a better image when the drawing is complete.)

In sorting through the piles of collage material mounding all over my studio floor, I came across several pieces of paper--painted blue rather haphazardly on the front. I made them earlier this semester, and they were not to be used as images in and of themselves--but rather as color and texture for a wall-sized collage in progress. In their disuse however, they made their way to the bottom of my "blue" pile.

(I organize collage material in terms of color, and strangely I have a noticeable absence of purple--a color I cannot seem to bring myself to use much at all--in painting, drawing or collage.)

So I found these blue papers last week--and ended up being quite interested in their backsides. While these papers were drying--way back in September no doubt--their white backsides (their verso, eh) picked up residual ink from my studio floor--and an undulating, unpredictable, staggered periphery is the unexpected result on most of these papers. The one I chose to work with also has a squarish inset shape--again delineated by a staccato border. I do not know how that inset occurred.

I love the fact that residual mark left definitive shape and edge.
I love the fact that I MADE the shape and edge I just described--but I didn't know I'd made them until I happened upon the image last week. Indeed, discovering the paper felt like a delightful gift.

Now I know I've talked on this blog about not being able to really plan much of anything in my studio, but every so often I make an image that rather hands me it's definition right at the start. "This is what you will do." And then I go ahead and do THAT...whatever THAT happens to be. Oh, such clarity of direction is very, very rare, but last week I realized I had to take small pieces of red line (already made and nicely organized in my box of hand-made red lines labeled HUSKY) and rim the precarious edge of my blue tinged paper, a bit sporadically. So this is what I am doing, and I hope to finish the drawing tomorrow.

I don't know why I am doing this, but I know I must, and I really want to see what it all looks like in the end.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Making a space at home

I've stayed home today--typically I head to school on the days I do not teach as (for the time being) I have my studio on campus. But today, I'm at home, drinking lots of tea, making piles and piles of applesauce, and taking time to turn a small, rectangular, wood paneled room into a more efficient, agreeable, aesthetically pleasing office/small drawing, collage, painting studio space. My little room here at home may be minute, BUT it is rimmed on one side by a row of eight windows--really, there are eight! Indeed curtains would provide me with a bit more warmth as our frigid North Carolina winter approaches, but I cannot bear to block any of my lovely white, clear, country light. I suppose my space would only be a better room if it somehow possessed in addition a row of built-in wooden bookshelves--full of my favorite books--is there a more precise symbol of sorting out/wondering than a repository of one's very, very favorites? Just as the "studio" is a physical manifestation of an individual's idiosyncratic internal inclinations, is not an individual's book shelf also a particularly telling compendium/index? (Someday I will have a studio with built in bookshelves.)

Oh, but this move to the country has afforded us a brilliant luxury--for the first time in our married life a wall of built-ins (not so very far away from my wood-paneled room actually). Space for a wall of books--a very good reason to buy a home we thought, and truly one of the most pleasing of images. I cannot imagine my life (and too, my making) without books.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Easing into

I cannot believe it is November. I remark on the fact because the month of October was a dismal month in the studio--erratic due to the time I spent amassing my third year review binder (bit of an anticlimactic title for that which devoured hours of my studio time)--and time does indeed seem to fall away into nothingness and no-accounting-for when my studio rhythms are off.

Thankfully though, I've cracked the studio open again--tentatively. (Hmmm, is it possible to crack open anything tentatively, or is this a telling indicator of the nature of studio time for now, until things get moving again.) Some facets of the week in the studio: I have been surveying the collage put on hold--now disassembled and prime for reconfiguration. OR separation into two smaller collages. Some small collage drawings are already finished--singular shapes comprised of collage detritus--the more vague the fragment the better. They are parts, not-quite-whole. And I've been reading about abstraction--a constant fascination. On Wednesday I spent the morning reading through the essays found in a monograph of Tomma Abts, a painter I've been taken with for a little while. Some excerpts I am still mulling over:

In Laura Hoptman's Tomma Abts: Art for an Anxious Time,
"To create rather than represent can be seen as active, even activist, because the artist herself is positioned to communicate the most profound, if inchoate, ideas in language that is nonspecific and timeless."

" is interesting to consider the possibility that abstraction in this moment might be a useful vehicle to escape the relative safety of extreme specificity shading into solipsism."

I find the last quote particularly interesting as one of the more frequent criticism's lodged against abstraction has been the notion that one who engages in a language not referencing the world around us is devolving into a kind of inward self-absorption that is at best, quaint, and at worst, unforgivable.

In Jan Verwoert's The Beauty and Politics of Latency: On the work of Tomma Abts,
"There is something provocative about the insistence on remaining abstract. First of all, abstraction is the opposite of information."

"True abstraction creates a singular experience of suspended meaning, the exhilerating sensation of the horizon of perception opening up and the mind reeling as new ways to see, think, and feel become tangible."

I've been visually entrenched in abstraction for a relatively short amount of time--a little over ten years--so I have a long ways to go in terms of any sort of artistic maturation. But few visual experiences excite me more than being confronted with an image I know nothing about, am not able even to wholly understand in fact, do not possess the language to even approach, cannot grasp...but ardently believe in nonetheless. Verwoert nails it--my inclination toward the notion that there are way of seeing, thinking and feeling we (collectively) have not happened upon shores up my visceral attraction toward abstraction. Mostly I tend to believe we are perpetually in a fog, and even so-called objective looking is not enough to pull us out of our blindness. Abstraction is the longed-for treasure brought back from some determined scout, momentarily granted clarity before the clog-inducing cadences of being human resume.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Katharina Grosse

One of Skowhegan's visiting artists this summer....when I read the following little blurb in their catalog, I became VERY excited.

"Katharina Grosse's large scale site-specific abstract paintings are created by spraying pigment, often directly onto walls or other structural surfaces, to interact with interior and exterior architectural elements. She employs a vibrant palette applied with sweepingly physical gestures. Visual drama is created by by the combination of texture.color, and immediacy of motion across surfaces and through space. "

Messud's market

This past summer I read (and greatly enjoyed) The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud. While poking through a wonderful used bookstore this summer, I found a copy of an earlier Messud novel, The Last Life.

Last night I fell into the most visceral of passages from The Last Life, and for one who simply adores outdoor markets/farmer's markets of any kind, Messud's lush description of an outdoor market in Algiers is too delirious not to post/read:

"The visiting hawkers arranged themselves in front of these sleepy shopfronts in an implacable order prescribed by long tradition, mysterious to the uninitiated. There were vegetable men and fruit women and stalls selling both, blushing mounds of peaches alongside plump and purple eggplants, exuberant fronded skirts of frisee salads cozying next to succulent crimson cherries, pale, splayed organs of fennel pressing their ridged tubes and feathered ends up against the sugar-speckled, wrinkled carcasses of North African dates. There were florists whose misted anemones and roses glistened as if it were dawn, and the cheese vendors' ripe piles, wares which, from behind glass, leaked their fetid and enticing stinks out into the crowd. There were olive men and herb men, buckets of punchent rosemary and spiky bay leaves, cheesecloth sachets of lavender, blue bottles of rose and orange water, and teas for almost every ailment--for tension and bad skin and insomnia and constipation. There were tables of candlesticks and salad servers and pickle tongs; there were great strings of garlic and waxy pyramids of lemons. At the bottom, near the quay, the fishmongers sold their bullet-eyed, silver-skinned, slippery catch, blood-streaked fillets and orbed, scored steaks, milky scallops and encrusted oysters, all laid out on trays on ice in the morning sun, their rank fishiness rising in the air with the day's temperature; while opposite them, in their own corner, a family of young brothers hawked cheap women's clothes and glittering baubles, shiny earrings and gilded anklets, leopard-print leggings and lurid synthetic T-shirts with sequin lionesses, or fringed white vinyl jerkins with matching cowboy boots, all manner of sartorial novelties whose rampant success could be gauged from the ensembles of the women out shopping."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

State of the Studio

Newly organized, 2 recently made canvases stretched and waiting PVA size, finally new box of kombucha tea: full pot at the ready, kind of seeming like a treehouse (up high, beautiful fall light streaming in through my wall of windows!), getting ready.

Why I do what I do (the fun answer)

1. I love being alone.
2. While alone, I love being surrounded by a plethora of tubes of paint, containers of colorful ink, piles of paint brushes, an infinite assortment of paper scraps, art books, paint-spattered clothes and shoes, charcoal dust and more.
3. I like problem-solving.
4. I am fine with complete clue-less-ness on the way to revelation.
5. I relish making things I long to see but haven't yet seen.
6. I think artists' studios are fascinating places.
7. I can really think when I am alone.
8. I can really hear myself when I am alone.
9. I am addicted to being surprised (which happens a lot to one who is not able to do much planing in the studio.)
10. I believe making art helps me begin to understand the nuance and vastness of the world.
11. Making art helps me see that world is a whole lot stranger and therefore more wonderful, then most people know.
12. I think paint is one of the most amazing materials on earth--especially oil paint.
13. I believe not many materials record the barest movement of the human body in the way that oil paint does and has for hundreds of years, and I love the fact that paint is still not fully exhausted.
14. I believe I am in dialogue with all who have come before me and all who will come after me--quite a community.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why I do what I do

A week or so ago I mentioned having to be a bit away from the studio due to a big report, my third year review, a-state-of-the-artist-teacher sort of deal which MUST be turned in tomorrow (!!!!). Of course I've saved the hardest task for last--writing about why I do what I do in the studio. So, in a moment of supreme stuck-ness, I'm tackling a bowl of winter minestrone AND posting some of what I've got here. I'll add more later when I've sorted it out. Until then...

My work’s conceptual framework
In Fall 2006, I began my current position well in the midst of redefining my studio approach to painting. A year and a half earlier, having completed the first serious body of paintings post-graduate school, I confronted the necessity of newly defining basic questions like, “How do I make a painting?”, “What does it mean to make a painting NOW?” and “How do I expand my conception of what a painting IS?”
To back up slightly in order to give context, such questions ground my painting practice, and have since Fall 1998 (my first semester of graduate school) when I realized my conception of painting at the time, heavily defined and influenced by my education of course, was of little interest to me. Faced with the decision of giving up painting altogether if indeed painting fit into the narrow constraints I’d carried into graduate school, I set about a course of studio action now integral to my work as a painter—I simply stopped making paintings in the way I’d been making them (oil paint on canvas) and I switched to working with acrylic paint on paper. The simple material changes were not the result of mere media boredom, but of a consuming realization--I needed to essentially re-construct my understanding of how to make…..


Friday, October 31, 2008

Hallway noise (friday afternoon)

Friday afternoons are lovely afternoons in my studio (which for now resides at the university where I teach.) There are few, if any classes, and the hallways are generally quiet, save the periodic burst of flurried movement, and today,
the drop of keys
a door slamming
a burst of deep, deep, whole body laughter reaching me from well down the hall,
rubber shoes smooshing against a concrete floor and the drop of weight in the snack machine,
my neighbor in low consultation,
a metallic crash, and far far away the beeping of an elevator or movable lift?

I am off to meet Christopher for a game of pinball.

Collage on my shoulder

The little shape hovering above my shoulder is a recent collage--and when I view it here, away from the studio, I am reminded of its making:

1. working away and suddenly sensing, hmmmmm, this is not what I expected, it's MORE than what I expected.

2. "What is this? (May I never get to the point of knowing.)"

3. "Am I the lucky one who really gets to make this THING?"

4. I really, really want to kind-of-connect the black lines that hover about the edge, and that longing is rather inane but still desired.

5. I had no idea I could expect THIS to exist.

6. What?

7. "Let me just enjoy making this and let me prolong its making to savor the potential of what might appear."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Abstraction, a compendium of definitions and thoughts surrounding the term

my thoughts:
1. that which has no name but which is nonetheless real
2. wordless
3. specific but unknowable
4. beyond the self
5. or so deep in the self so as to not be perceived
6. never seen but somehow known
7. what is wished for
8. what is longed for
9. reason for being is internally derived
10. a world in itself (possessing own gravity...physics and perhaps even biology)
11. to give new form
12. what might be
13. perceiver has no preconceived mode of approach, approach is gleaned from the thing itself
14. the thing itself
15. manifest of potential
16. beyond reach
17. could be

my students' thoughts:
1. simplification, reducing space to core elements (Karen L.)
2. nature, unpredictable (Adam V.)
3. taking something from nature and putting a twist on it (Brenda V.)
4. exaggeration of something (Lauren Pl.)
5. relative, very different, not portrayed as something seen in real life (Lauren Po.)
6. portion or part or belief that exists outside the boundaries set by what we consider the whole of things (Michael M.)
7. artist looking within (Adam V.)
8. harder to understand quickly (Lauren Po.)
9. not literal, all have different opinion (Adam H.)
10. random in such as way as to be coherent (Justin R.)
11. own point of view (Janie S.)
12. risky (Berklee B.)
13. pushing the limit, process that allows you to enter your own world, as well as others (Cassidy W.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Afternoon light

(Ah, my computer is able to be turned on again...a brand new power cord delivered just yesterday remedies and replaces the severed end of my older, dingier cable.)

I wish I could photograph the brilliant, brilliant silver light reflecting off of these blinds in my studio. Alas, it is impossible--the photo only a placeholder for my assurance to you that the light here is sparkling!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Red Scrape

As an artist, I'm interested in the idiosyncratic rhythms of any given studio--my own of course but also my students. An artists' studio (of the sort where material is bandied about that is) seems a kind of physical philosophical space. Ideas rise and fall based on adamantly materialist negotiations. Stances toward the universe, the world, a nation, or maybe just a room (a world nonetheless) flesh out into form as paintings or drawings or collages evolve, arise, appear.

I view my own studio, when it is running efficiently, as a sort of singular country, a fragile monarchy I suppose, where bits of paper and paint are endlessly contriving against their idealistic queen, who strives toward democracy, perpetually spouting out, "No, you tell ME what I'm doing here! You are after all, the-thing-itself, YOU know what you are!" And still I only get glimpses. This is MY particular studio though, and my daily flailing is only due to the fact that try as I might (and for some reason, when I am less connected to the work I still do try), I cannot head into any creative endeavor with concrete direction. (Is there anything more boring, concrete direction that is?) According to Malcolm Gladwell's very interesting recent article in The New Yorker, I am a "late bloomer." To simplify what he thinks this means, I do not head into making with firmly fixed conceptual goals; I figure/understand by experimenting.

Periodically I become attached to various experiments of mine that somehow seem significant despite their oddness or lack-of-fitting-in-to-the-rest-ness or just plain ugliness.  The image to the right, called Red Scrape, is one such experiment.  I can't quite post it on my website because aligning it with all the other finished, cleaned up images suggests it's value resides in resolve.  On the spectrum of articulation, Red Scrape is a guttural sound, a visceral motion-as-image "drawing" that calls out to me because 

I like the fact that the scraped paint took on a pattern--and a bit of an awkward one.

I'm interested in the fact that pattern is simultaneously gesture. 

I like the fact that the gesture gets undermined by the cut down the near-middle--the narrow seam ruptures continuity, doesn't quite let a gesture be a gesture.  

I like that gesture, when accumulated, takes on shape. 

I am not sure in full why all of these qualities are important to me.  But I do sense Red Scrape is a prelude to more amplified notions--it is a solitary tread into an unknown space, the first dove sent back from the great unknown.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Climax fire

I'm quite taken with this photograph.

My husband Christopher took the photo this evening while burning piles of dropped pecan leaves behind his studio. I've a myriad of close-ups which may make their way into tomorrow's post, but for now this is the one that makes me think of my own studio.

I'm interested in the image because of the burn pile's structure--wide, rounded nest of twigs and brush mounding up from our wild tangle of tough North Carolina crab grass and weeds. And then aloft the twig mound--disintegrating logs (moldy and therefore suspect for indoor fires), those pecan leaves with some rotting pecans still clinging to the branches (they spit and shoot, sending Alex inside to warn me while I stand at our stove, cooking evening's dinner), and the fire--a violent cap to the whole piling.

These are the kinds of structures I look for in my paintings, or invariably end up making--culminating masses which possess an undulating place, a seething moment portending explosion. A new friend, colleague and critique partner, the painter Jennifer Meanley, mentioned violence in the work a couple weeks ago--she perceived it in places, and I was internally astonished at first. I suppose it is the word violent that jarred--but in the end, I am drawn to these collisions of matter and light, eruptions of the most radical sort. Predicting...creating even?

"When protons crash into each other at 99.9999991 per cent the speed of light, the resultant mess is usually just that--the subatomic equivalent of shattered glass and twisted metal. But stranger things can happen. Just as it is possible to convert mass into energy--as in nuclear explosion--the reverse is also true: energy can be transformed into mass according to the Einsteinian equation E=mc2 (c being the speed of light). In this way, new particles can be produced that are more massive than those that entered the collision in the first place."

Elizabeth Kolbert, from the article Crash Course in the May 14, 2007 issue of The New Yorker

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Stephanie Backes and photo 21

I am still planted in front of my computer compiling and compiling and listing and gathering and sorting through all I've done these past couple years as a teacher and artist--it is important work to do for my place of employment, and I respect the necessity of it, but...
I am looking with longing at all that is still unfinished on my studio wall (see left), all that is in mid-sentence--would so love to pick up the string and carry on.

So in the interim, a brief look through Beautiful/Decay leads me to temporary aesthetic respite:

Stephanie Backes, a German artist making remarkable and fastidious little (?) sculptures. I'm having some trouble finding more than what I've got linked to her name, but WOW!

And lastly in regards to this post's computer's photo booth function tells me the above photo is actually "photo 21"--hmmm, now what hidden meaning might I cull from this mechanical naming?

Dreaming of my studio in the meantime....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wish I could be writing here..

Well now, isn't this an arty photo?

Sometimes the life of an artist/professor requires temporary immersion in the compiling of most every thing I've ever done at my place of work--this is where I reside for now, and I have little else to post today. More tomorrow, I promise.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thoughts on taking pictures, visual thinking and Errol Morris

I do not purport to be a photographer (and am made even more aware of that fact recently by my perusals of many a lovely food blog dotted with brilliantly arranged plates of luscious delight; my photos are SO anemic by comparison) but I do take a lot of pictures.

An accurate way to think of these images would be to compare them to my note-taking tendencies. Generally, in a moment of "not sure what to do now" studio flailing or "don't have more than a few moments in the studio before class starts" or "I've got to go pick up Alex, so quick, what's the fastest way I can access my studio mind and keep the thread going" I grab my teeny, aesthetically lovely camera (my criteria for camera-buying) and snap away. Usually I zero in.

To be honest I think the actual photos are secondary to what I see when I view the world through an LCD screen. In graduate school, in order to get a more "objective" view of a particularly cantankerous painting in progress, I would take polaroids. My stacks of old polaroids are not important any longer, save for the nice record of process they afford. As their initial purpose was to hand me a swift gasp of separateness--something I could get ONLY the very first moment they cleared--and I've long since lost that separateness, or rather no longer need it now that those paintings are either finished or abandoned, those images have become a bit sad in their irrelevance.

Now that polaroid film is nearly extinct and more and more pricey when I find it, I've moved to my little digital camera, and I'm still finding the actual photo a little irrelevant in the end. But the looking as mediated by the screen is not irrelevant, and for some reason I cannot dismiss the actual "taking the photograph" as irrelevant either. I am not sure right now why I think taking the photo is significant, though I am intrigued with why I would claim the action as necessary.

And too, all this musing on looking and photographs is swirling about after having read a number of Errol Morris's articles from the New York Times--they are worth a read through and are posted on his website.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I am fascinated with the notion of some sort of order underlying all mess/chaos. My fascination probably stems from wanting to believe a kind of logic exists that is able to make sense of even the most incomprehensible glut of matter. I suppose there is romance in the notion, and I'm not opposed to heady ideas from which one never returns, BUT in my studio, it's really just a problem to be solved. (OK, that is a LITTLE simplistic I know, there is a lot more in play, so I promise to return here when my head isn't a muddled mess from a full day of teaching.)

I work on the problem in the studio but also when I'm away naturally--in looking over the piles of cars/trucks/motor vehicles perpetually dotting my house for instance. Endlessly helpful.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Inventing a language

In June, about a week after dropping what seemed like a zillion boxes into our much-longed for place in the country, my son came creaking down our wooden stairs, big yellow-papered drawing (covered in blue and magenta embellished amoeba-like ?, little x's or crosses--some filled in and some left open, tornado-ey swirls abounding) in hand.

My husband and I, both abstract painters with four art degrees between us, were floored. Our three year old, ostensibly upstairs taking a nap, had spent his time making the most specific, most focused, most intentional drawing I'd ever seen him make (let alone myself and most of the other drawings I'd happened to see of late), AND it seemed to drop into his head and onto the paper before us with no precedence. (Make a brilliant, idiosyncratic, highly pointed and formally thoughtful drawing today? No problem, just leave a pile of old paper and some crayola markers scattered about will you?)

Before you stop reading this post (because let's face it, is this just another mom waxing eloquent about her 3 year old artistic prodigy?) let me get to my point. I'm not talking about my son because I want you all to tell me how remarkable his drawing is, or isn't for that matter. I post this image and relay June's encounter because what strikes me most about his drawing IS that Alexander made his own language. Maybe this is something all kids do, but the fact is, it sure isn't something most adults do. And given MY dedication to helping many, many people sort out WHAT their idiosyncratic visual language is whilst cultivating my own--despite all our blasted hang-ups, preconceptions, fears, prejudices, educational training/biases, ego-driven confusions, spiritual wranglings, etc.--well, Alexander's ease in making was/is merely/hugely this lovely gift of grace, the promise of what might be, what we all have, what we've never seen but know, and yes, thank you, thank you for it in whatever form it comes.

Thank you too to:

Thomas Noskowski

John Dilg

Tomma Abts

Hamlett Dobbins

Erica Svec

Amy Sillman

Rose Wylie

Hilma af Klimt

Rebecca Morris

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Positing Note-ing

1. I am an inveterate note taker, fascinated with accumulating the incidental.

2. If I record all momentary flash of thought, will I better understand what I am doing, what I am making?

3. Can those bit and pieces--a word, phrase, fragment of a whole--when gathered, approximate/better approach the fullness of my thinking chaos?

4. And then what if all those leaves of letters (when compiled) DO comprise something more. Enough. More than
enough even. More than the initially perceived whole? Part of me really wants the fragment to yield MORE than the whole in the end--because such a result leaves POSSIBILITY in play, wide open?

5. And then what if I cut all the notes apart and begin to construct an overarching structure/construct/scroll-in-a-sense piling all--allowing phrase to bump up against quote in relation to question above or below singular verb and/or noun---all different hands from different times, collapsed and in relation nonetheless?

6. "It is in rereading one's notebooks, especially the old ones, that one discovers the repetition of certain concerns, the recurrence of certain issues, certain chronic themes that are one's own." Lyn Hejinian, from A Thought Is the Bride of What Thinking

7. I am interested in a word corollary (a veritable deluge of letters) to my images--not description, not justification, not in-place-of. But a corollary. If these images were not images, but words, what words would they BE, and in what order?

Katherine Sherwood interview

Here's a great little interview with west coast painter Katherine Sherwood--from Beautiful/Decay magazine.

I've also got her web page link posed under Great Artist Links...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Some thoughts on collage (1)

I am something of an evangelist for collage. In addition to making sizable collages in my own studio these days, I'm also teaching a class on the history and practice of collage, AND I'm bit obsessed with following it's increasingly frequent appearance in contemporary art. (To that end I do think the New Museum's fairly recent show on collage was a pretty uninspiring "state-of-the-medium" show.)

I've been engaged in making collages since I began studying art at Penn State's School of Visual Art. My obsession with sketchbook-keeping really took off at that point, and making quick, improvisatory collages as often as I could was a major means of keeping my visual mind agile. I still make those kinds of collages as often as I can in my sketchbook, even as I've moved the medium center stage in my studio practice.

What I loved/and love about collage?

1. its propensity toward informality
2. its adamant materiality--oh I love drawing too, but collage is just a bit weightier and I respond to girth--hence my love for oil paint as well.
3. its picture plane trickery flicking us back and forth between illusion and physical actuality
4. collage's materiality necessitates figuring by making/doing. I once heard Jessica Stockholder characterize making as a "kind of thinking"--wow that comment resonated. And indeed, I am most happy/clear when I'm really mucking about in a lot of stuff--it just makes the most sense to my head and hands.
5. collage's anguish-filled relationship to painting--I'm a proponent of combativeness being a means toward re-definition in painting, antagonism coaxing out the fresh mark--collage is just enough of a threat to painting's unblemished, "unalterable" surface to send me spiraling into all kinds of wonderings about where painting could go, what it could be, etc.
6. swiftness
7. when collage is really good it has the capacity to take an object's/entity's original definition and completely re-define what that object/entity IS, fundamentally! Metaphysical brilliance!
8. Mark Bradford.

To end with Picasso's attitude toward collage:
“We must have been crazy, or cowards, to abandon this! We had such magnificent means. Look how beautiful this is—not because I did it, naturally—and we had these means yet I turned back to oil paint and you to marble. It’s insane.”
Picasso to Henri Laurens, 8 July 1948, on seeing one of his collages of 1914 (cited in Kahnweiler, Entretiens avec Picasso, 1956)