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…..