Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New Post, New Paintings

It's been several months since my last blog - an interim in which these two paintings got done and delivered to their new home in New York State. You'll also notice that my website looks different, and soon the News Page will have frequent postings in a Wordpress format.

I'll be posting videos and a photo essay of the process of preparing paintings for transport - using the painting above right, Summer Grasses in Fog, as the example.

I'll post process shots for both of the paintings - showing the initial studies and the stages of the paintings from blank canvas through major intermediate stages to the finished work.

I was never much of a photographer, so I find the iPhone to be the perfect low-tech tool for documenting  whatever I'm engaged with. So easy to record the day's progress at the end of each painting session! However - I have Jim Nickelson to thank for the studio shot above. Jim does a great job of capturing finished works for my archives.

Stay tuned for more of what's happening in the studio, and see Jim's work here. His images of the Maine landscape are gorgeous.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Red, White and Blue

I like red and white - quilts, polka dots, seersucker sundresses, flags. You name it. I was excited about going to the Park Avenue Armory today to see the collection of  650 American quilts from the collection of Joanna S. Rose. And I was not disappointed, but I got something different than I expected. Being in the Armory, standing under these astonishing constellations of quilts, I felt like a small Alice through the keyhole and into Wonderland. Lovely! 

But the nostalgia that I had expected was nowhere to be felt.  Under the high vaulted ceiling of the Armory, the numbers of quilts and the numbers of people  made for an experience that was distanced from the remembered coziness of one small me in the "pleasant land of counterpane." I realized that the most magic of quilts are those where the pattern elements and quilting stitches are very, very intimate and where the smell and feel of old cotton are tangible and near. 

From Red and White to Blue and White: post-Armory, I wandered back out onto the street and came upon a Greek celebration and parade-in-the-making. Greek flags everywhere along Fifth Avenue. I love a parade!

And then, just because it's March Madness and this is a nostalgia post, I can't resist-  

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bye Bye Kitty!!!

Article - Gopnik Nawa PixCell Deer Bye Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art, at the Japan Society, has received outstanding reviews already, so I won't recap them here. (Links are at the bottom of the blog and the catalog's essays are excellent.) This is an exhibition that puts paid to the easy simplifications of Japan's cult of cute (kawaii), of which the Hello Kitty phenomenon is the slickest and cutest. Bye Bye Kitty!!! recognizes Japanese artists born between the mid-1960's and the early 1980's, whose work looks deeply and thoughtfully at the imbalances in society and nature, and at our deepest fears, both real and imagined.  The complex pen and ink drawings by Manabu Ikeda, PixCell Elk #2 by Kohei Nawa, and Makoto Aida's print, Harakiri Schoolgirls, have the strongest hold on me by far, but there is almost nothing in this show that I did not respond to positively. Though the catalog refers to previous earthquakes including Kobe in 1995, the terrible scenarios unleashed by the March earthquake, tsunami, and atomic disaster could not have been predicted to coincide with this exhibition. In fact they happened one week before the show's opening, and surely intensify its impact on viewers.

From the UN Plaza and the Japan Society, I headed west to Chelsea, where by contrast the vacuousness of certain Western artworks was more obvious this time than is usual. Robert Miller has a triple star show - drawings by Andy Warhol, postcard sculptures by Gilbert and George, and an installation by Yayoi Kusama. I generally like stopping in at Miller for looks back at recent art history, but this was a triple flop. Warhol's drawings could have been done by any talented highschooler, the G&G composites had all the appeal of video game screenshots, and  - biggest disappointment - Kusama's installation (titled Heaven and Earth and priced at an astonishing $1,000,000) consisted of 40 fabric covered boxes from which protruded 285 fabric forms reminiscent of tentacles. As a single installation set in its own seagreen space, it was devoid of the disorientation that I look for and like so much in her work.

Hyperallergic's Review
Blake Gopnik's review in The Daily Beast
PixCell Elk #2 via The Daily Beast

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Black and the White

My take-away from the fairs this week: Black and White. I got around to Pulse and Impulse, the Red Dot Fair and the Korean Art Fair (housed together on Mercer) and the Armory. Also managed to squeeze in Esteban Vicente's collages at NYU and Lynda Benglis at the New Museum, but for now I'll just comment on a few of my favorites at the fairs.

Mario M. Muller at Pulse: an elegant installation at Mary Ryan of Mario's quintessential silhouettes. I loved the finish and restraint of the landscape on the right.

 Not sure if these arrows piercing the corner angle intentionally reference Saint Sebastian, but he was certainly part of the mix at the Armory, where (at a different booth) a stack of take-aways asked viewers to comment on 21st century martyrs.

People too come mostly in black.

One of my all-time favorites, Yayoi Kusama at the Armory. It's the disorientation of pattern dots that I love.

And girls love horses.

A beautiful installation. Sorry that I did not make a note of the booth or the artists.

Below: graphite and paper, if memory serves me correctly. This was a stunner.

And to round it out, Yoshitomo Nara. He takes the particularity of German medieval gothic and dissolves it in the contemporary.

All photos courtesy of my iPhone. Such a handy device. For a much more in-depth look at all the fairs where they were and who was there, see Hyperallergic's blogs for the week.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Economics and Art

Ready to go - my Fundred Dollar Bill

Following up on my previous blog, I've mailed my contribution out to the Fundred Dollar Bill Project. Here's where to get your template and where to send it to convince Congress to clean up lead-contaminated soil in New Orleans. Why should you do this? Lead poisoning leads to health problems, impedes learning ability and contributes to violent behavior. Mel Chin's website says it best: This is an important local and national project of interest in the areas of art, science, health, education, environment and social activism. An armored truck, three million kids, Congressional leaders, need we say more?

And thinking about how imagination (art) works in the service of society, I'd like to mention the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. From time to time I serve as an Artist-Teacher working with their MFA students, and it was nice to meet Danielle Dahline, the MFA in Visual Art Director, and other members of the faculty, at the CAA reception last week. Vermont College's program promotes art that is collaborative and takes on its significance through a relationship with social, cultural, political and economic concerns. In their words, "All artists have an obligation to understand and struggle with these extra-artistic issues."

I just have to get my licks in - add them to the many voices speaking out against yet another round of cutting programs and funding for all the arts - and say that devaluing the creative process can only hinder intelligent thinking in all areas including science and economics. When will they ever learn?

Monday, February 14, 2011

More from CAA

Last Friday's programs at the CAA Conference included a panel discussion of current practices in painting, a presentation of global opportunities for artists who want to work outside the US (and for artists from away looking to come here to work), and finally, an interview with Mel Chin.

There's a unresolved conflict between the modernist notion that paintings are objects, and post-modern practice which posits that paintings are events that take place over time, and that the resulting image is simply the residue of those events. When I'm working, I like knowing that the essence of change is always implicated in the painting, and that paintings come out of doubt rather than out of historical certainty. The unresolved conflict bit comes in when, in spite of the painter's doubts and uncertainties, the paintings themselves are inevitably resolved not only as objects, but often even as uncomplicated objects of beauty.

One of the presenters - my notes don't record which one - spoke of the computer as offering a new complexity for painters, a new way toward the sublime. I like that idea too - that the sublime as located by the Hudson River Painters for instance, and as run to ground by the Abstract Expressionists, will now have a 21st century residence.

And then, Mel Chin. Since the early 90's and Revival Field, I have been in awe of his decision to move away from making discrete objects and toward implicating all of us, whether we are aware of it or not, in taking responsibility for the things that are wrong with society. In awe too of his ability to put ideas into practice. Using imagination and humor rather than ham-fisted accusations achieves much. Have a look at his Fundred project for cleaning up the lead pollution in New Orleans. Make your own Fundred Dollar Bill and send it in. I have my template ready to color in.

Image: Geologics, oil on canvas, detail, has absolutely nothing to do with Mel Chin, but very much to do with paintings as objective accretions of process, and a whole lot more to do with Google limiting today's image choices to its surreptitious storage on Picasa of my own work.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Voy a viajar

The subject of today's afternoon session at the College Art Association ARTspace conference was: Residencies. I've done residencies both locally, at Spalding University in Louisville and at the Art Center at Kingdom Falls in Maine, and also internationally at Pouch Cove in Newfoundland. This year, I'll be spending October at the Can Serrat Residency in Spain.

I have always loved to travel in search of the artistic grail, and I have always loved languages. Therefore, being awarded a stipend for a residency at Can Serrat is perfect. When I applied, I promised myself that if I got this, I would learn Spanish, and I'm well on the way to doing so now. I'm attracted to the geological splendor of the region (see above image), and the more I look into the region's history, the more I find connections to the medieval mysteries of Catholicism. All of this will feed my work in ways that I can only guess at now.

My thanks go out to ARTspace and the Services to Artists Committee of the CAA for excellent programming, and I'd also like to mention ResArtis and the Alliance of Artists Communities. If you are looking for residencies - and there are at rough estimate some 500 in the US and 600-700 world-wide - then these are your go-to resources.

Image credit: Can Serrat website

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


The College Art Association is in town this week, hosting its 99th Annual Conference. The ARTspace "conference within a conference" offers programs free to the public, as a service to artists. This morning's sessions were titled  "The Aesthetics of Sonic Spaces" - four talks on the nature of sound art, what it is, what the tools are, and how sound art intersects with environmental art. Like installation art and performance art, sound art had its genesis in the 60's and in situational esthetics. Two of today's questions were "who owns the air space in which sound occurs?" and "how do we make sound art that does not reference music?"

So the image I've chosen does not accurately represent what today's talks were about, but it does identify a seminal modern composer and sound architect whose drawings were the subject of an exhibition last year at the Drawing Center in Soho. I am sorry I missed that, but grateful for the opportunity today to be introduced to his work. I see it as a point of entry for my own installation work - not to jinx the subject, I'll save writing about that for later when I'm deeper into it.

Other take-aways from the talks today:

Jonny Farrow's Soundwalks along the Gowanus Canal and in Fort Greene. I'll walk more slowly and listen more intently next time I'm headed for the studio.

China Blue's Seventh Kingdom projects that invent new "bioforms" from the detritus of urban life. Her use of seismic recorders to catch vibrations in the structure of the Eiffel Tower - and then ratchet them up so as to be audible to humans - make me wonder what the inner shiftings of the earth sound like, to paraphrase Octavio Paz, sounds from the other side.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Erosions at Coleman Burke Gallery New York

Some images from my exhibition Erosions at Coleman Burke Gallery New York
January 27 through March 10, 2011

Erosions, geologics & terrains, the exhibition catalog with an essay by Mark Wethli, is available at the gallery and from

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

So here I am in my apartment, having started the day by sketching the flowers on the windowsill. When you try to come up with marks that read as chrysanthemums, you do begin to understand Van Gogh and Japanese art. The trick is to avoid photographic representation and rather to provide a language, a transcription, a translation, a geomantic summons of the Family Asteraceae.

Driving down to New York this time, I stopped at a Barnes & Noble in Norwalk to pick up a map of New York State. Maps that you can lay out on the table are far superior to the disjointed bits of information dispensed by the smartphone or the 27" display where an involuntary flick of the wireless mouse can transport you instantly from the spaghetti junction at Worcester, MA to the twilight zone of Central OH. And then what? How to get back? Paper maps allow me to possess my territory, to locate myself in space, to see my path, to know - for future reference - what other paths I might have taken.

But maps, useful as they are, lack the smell, sound, movement and dimensionality of the "real" world. The perceived/received world is always changing itself and changing us, and so provides a richer source for visual language than any given by a printed or digital layout. This is why I am always so delighted to come into my light-filled Brooklyn apartment and find the vase of florist's brilliant yellow mums  - and why I am equally pleased to be out among the profligate early yellow buttercups and late spikes of goldenrod in Lincolnville.