Sunday, January 31, 2010

Delight (in two images)

Old studio wall

I am in the midst of prepping/revising/updating my artists talk--have to give one this coming Tuesday evening in Tennessee.
The process has me searching for some old images and while looking I found these two shots of an old studio wall of mine--I think this is 2006?
(I miss my old, beautiful studio.  Look at all that light!)
More importantly though, I'm happy to see some nice moments in these images--they remind me to get back to making more true collage fragments--bits and pieces made in the studio and meant to stay in the studio.  I've so "formalized" collage in my studio practice over the last couple years that I've somewhat forgotten the delightful informality of the medium.
(Funny...I recall making this wall.  I was pretty confused at the time...didn't quite know what to do in painting.  There was more going on than I knew.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010


A Simple List/Squeak Carnwath

1. It's simple really,
to paint is to trust.
To believe our instincts; to become.

2. Painting is an investigation of being.

3. It is not the job of art to mirror.  Images reflected in a mirror appear to us in reverse.  An artist's responsibility is to reveal consciousness; to produce a human document.

4. Painting is an act of devotion.  A practiced witnessing of the human spirit.

5. Paintings are about:
observation &

6. Art is not about facts but about what is; the am-ness of things.

7. All paintings share a connection with all other paintings.

8. Art is evidence.  Evidence of breathing in and breathing out; proof of human majesty.

9. Painting places us.  Painting puts us in real time.  The time in which we inhabit our bodies.

10. Light is the true home of painting.

11. The visible is how we orient ourselves.  It remains our principal source of information about the world.  Painting reminds us of what is absent.  What we don't see anymore.

12. Painting is not only a mnemonic device employed to remember events in our lifetime.  Painting addresses a greater memory.  A memory less topical, one less provincial that the geography of our currently occupied body.  Painting reminds us of what we don't know but what we recognize as familiar.

13. Painting, like water, takes any form.  Paint is a film of pigment on a plane.  It is not real in the way that gravity-bound sculpture is real.  It is, however, real.  Painting comes to reality through illusion.  An illusion that allows us to make a leap of faith; to believe.  To believe in a blue that can be the wing of a bug or a though.  It makes our invisible visible.

I've spoken about my teachers before on this blog--always with reverence and appreciation.  I suppose it is not surprising at all that I would become a teacher myself.  When a teacher meant something to me he or she slid into a vaulted position; they became more than probably they ever were in reality.  I say these things not because I am striving to be that person in my students eyes, but because I believe teaching is a noble profession, and one of great, great importance--especially to students.  A good teacher can radically crack open one's world in my experience, and this is an amazing, amazing ability--and certainly not an ability to be taken lightly or callously; good teaching is equally about generosity and an awful lot of compassion.  Certainly my world was cracked open while I studied painting with Squeak Carnwath in graduate school.
I gave my students an excerpt of some of her writing, and in the process of pulling that assignment together I remembered this list of Squeak's.  I love how she thinks about painting; it has very much influenced my own thoughts about painting.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The last few for Knoxville--

Last week, while beginning the first week of Spring semester, I had the task of finishing up the last few paintings for a solo painting show in Knoxville, Tennessee--at UT Knoxville.  I was about to write a little painting show just then, and indeed the PAINTINGS are little, but there are forty of them in all.  What began way back in August as a purely private move into some paintings on canvas has turned into a very alive and productive part of my studio.
These are the last two made--definitely rather nutty, like I just rammed on ahead with no knowing where I might land--which was indeed the approach to these final moments of the show.  (But it's perfectly OK because there are 38  more of them....)

Drawing Marathon/Week 1

I teach a graduate class this semester called Drawing Marathon--we meet together all day Friday and Saturday for the first four weeks of the semester.
This past week, we wrestled with our looking--questioning habits of our hand as well as our eye.  We also opposed our tendencies in drawing--looking and identifying methods of thinking through drawing in the images set before us, and then purposefully working in opposition.
We began by building a contraption that was intentionally meant to be "too much."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Back to school

1. "Drawing is absolutely quintessential to knowing the self."   Richard Tuttle
2. "After Beuys left the Dusseldorf Academy in 1951, he commenced a period of isolation that resulted in one of the most remarkable outpourings of drawing in this century.  Beuys spent close to a decade elaborating a personal idiom, doing so almost entirely in the medium of drawing…Working in solitude in Dusseldorf, Beuys drew prodigiously: thousands of works on paper in oil, watercolor, and ink and pencil record the themes and ideas he was investigating.  The intensity with which Beuys worked during these years finds few equivalents in the art of his predecessors.  The analogies are to periods of crisis…"
Excerpt from essay Joseph Beuys: Life Drawing by Ann Temkin
3. "In 1966 Guston had an exhibition of his recent paintings and drawings at The Jewish Museum in New York.  At about the same time he stopped painting, and for the next two years concentrated on drawing.  He felt exhausted, drained of the creative energies that had sustained him through the early sixties paintings and the haunting, dark gouaches of 1963-1964.  Now he needed time for renewal.  But it was to be a period of anxiety, both personal and artistic: two years of struggle.
Within that two-year span he executed hundreds of drawings—“pure” drawings as he called them, as well as images of objects—in brush and ink or in charcoal.  Again feeling encumbered by the accumulated baggage of his experience, he turned once more to drawing, trying to reinvent the way to 'locate the mark.'"
Excerpt from essay The Drawings of Philip Guston by Magdalena Dabrowski

4. “I wrote the poems individually and then, after about a year, I found I wanted a bigger form, and then I was writing prose.  It expanded into this huge mongrel thing and I wondered if I might be going crazy when I was writing it.  Later I went back and looked at it.  I knew I had to find some kind of shape and form for it.  That was probably the most difficult thing I had to learn—how to shape the material—place three hundred pieces into an organic structure that seemed natural, and still juxtapose a gentle scene with something violent.  I think that was when I became interested in how a collage works.”
-Michael Ondaatje describing the genesis of his novel, Billy the Kid to interviewer Tom Barbash in the August 2007 issue of The Believer.

Today is my first day of teaching in about 8 months;  I cannot believe it really!  So today is a day of syllabus reading (hence the quotes, all from the tops of my syllabi), answering questions, talking about materials and getting them thinking about drawing (and some collage as well of course).  I teach three classes today--two beginning drawing classes and one intermediate drawing class called Variable Topics in Drawing.
I'm ready to be back--a bit calmer I think, more measured.  I do hope I can keep my equilibrium as the days pass.
(More studio pics soon--and this semester...more classroom pics I've determined!)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

From Herta Muller's The Appointment

Quick as a handful of flour hitting a windowpane, the bathroom light cast a face into the mirror, a face with froggy creases over its eyes which looked like me.  I held my hands in the water, it felt warm; on my face it felt cold.  Brushing my teeth, I look up and see toothpaste come frothing out of my eyes--it's not the first time I've had this happen.  I feel nauseous, I spit out what's in my mouth and stop.  Ever since my first summons, I've begun to distinguish between life and fortune.  When I go in for questioning, I have no choice but to leave my good fortune at home.  I leave it in Paul's face, around his eyes, his mouth, amid his stubble.  If it could be seen, you'd see it on his face like a transparent glaze.  (p. 15)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Another Alexander art post

Now this one does not fit into the category of those drawings of course, but it's pinned onto our special art wall because....well, it is so ODD.  I never imagined some pressed together bits of clay on a paper plate could be so uncannily articulate.  And I love the "Alex T." written in green by his teacher above the eye brows.

Alexander's drawing as of late...

Oh it has been awhile since I posted some of my son's artwork here, so perhaps you can forgive me for indulging in such shameless behavior today.

My husband and I converse (as only two art teachers and artists might) on how fascinating it is that advances in Alexander's work always happen overnight--literally.  One day he is making drawings that look a certain way and then the next day some new tendency arrives--fully formed and utterly captivating.  One such leap happened last Sunday in church.  I gave Alexander a sheet of the attendance pad because it has a blank back; of course HE preferred the lined front and proceeded to make the drawing in one go.  I recall very little of that sermon as I kept sneaking a peak at his progress...and thankfully was able to save it before he went a little too crazy with the poking holes phase of the drawing (an endlessly enjoyable church activity you know).

He received some peer affirmation at school the next day from all the little boys in his class; Chris found them hovered around Alex while he completed another version of his "bat castle" series.  He generously listened to and added all their suggestions and THEN allowed them all to demolish the drawing since it was on a dry erase board.  We wanted another for ouselves so the FOLLOWING day he came home with the second drawing you see here--for his dad and I to keep.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Opening/1708/Richmond First Friday

Richmond supports its artists it seems--typically (on a non-freezing night) 1708 sees between 2,000 and 5,000 people through its doors--this shocked me to say the least. 

Painting (in part, and in pieces)

Chris and I installed the show all day on Thursday--a long, long day, but in the end I am pleased with the rhythm between the small paintings and large collages.  I feel like the show signals the end of a body of work--freeing me up now to head into the places I need to go studio wise.