Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Workity work

two small sketches (9X12)
ans the big one I've been slaving over

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

So I have been working on this, very slowly for me. Spent a lot of time on the hands, because I really wanted them to be the focus. Still a long road on this one.
This is 32 X 40 on a prepared (and cradled) board.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New piece I am working on. 40 X 32 on archival foamcore.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Some new stuff

I met with my mentor, Sarah Roche, last week. Then I visited the Sydney Goodman exhibit at PAFA, go see it if you are in Philly! It was great!

So this is my first kinda expiremental piece. I love feedback if you have opinions!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Summer 2009 Residency

-I was encouraged by my mentor to take a picture of my set up on the first day, and compare my reaction to it then and then again later on. My first reaction was that the over all look of my display was more consistent than last semester. I think this is because unlike in the past, I focused on one particular project in the last 6 months.
-The discussion of materials came up repeatedly. Stuart Steck asked me how I could tie in my materials with the labor I am portraying in my subject matter. My mind immediately asked the question “Where do my materials come from?” This seemed to dove-tail right in with the elective class I took, Tony Apesos's class on Matter. We discussed whether artists needs to be tied to materials (for example, someone who identifies as a painter) vs the idea of artist as “art director”. We also discussed the inherent worth of materials (like pigments made of precious stone) and how that adds to the worth of a painting.
-Laurel Sparks also addressed materials, particularly the ground of my drawings. Before the residency I had thought of the drawings as a preparatory stage of the painting. We discussed incorporating the ground into the drawing more, and even making the surface more interesting, perhaps with plaster. Laurel suggested making the surface “gorgeous”.
I was asked many times whether my drawing were preparatory or finished works. The question of “when is something finished?” is something I consider often when I work. There is a freshness and openness to a good drawing. I think this residency has shown me that I need to respect the drawing more. They have a sense of mystery that can be lost in a full blown painting. The drawings of figures on red ground evoked many different responses from viewers. Some said they had a “surveillance” quality or an “x-ray” quality.
-Some of my best critiques were from fellow students. RJ Calebrese asked me if I had considered my bias towards the people I was representing. This was something I had not really considered. I had chosen glassblowers because I admire their work and also because I could document them working without them being self conscious of me. As I consider painting workers (in factories or wherever they may be) I need to think about what I am trying to say about them. Does it become about race or class? The more I think about it the more I wonder if I can do this project without interviewing the workers or people I am trying to portray. I want to know how they feel about what they are doing.
-I came up with some ideas for where I would like to go to research the idea of labor. The first two are large corporations, so getting access to their facilities may prove difficult. They are the Generals Pencil Factory and The Fredrix Linen Company. On a smaller scale, I hope to go to some handmade art supply places, like the Williamsburg Paint Company and Townsend Pastels. I would also like to visit a foundry and the shop of a friend of mine who makes kilns. Lastly, I would like to talk to other artists and see what part of their art practice involves labor. Do they make their own grounds, stretch their own canvases, etc?
-A question I was asked often this semester was if I was using photographs for reference. Prior to last semester I has been working totally from life. Of course, I couldn't really bring my easel into the hot shop! So using photography for me was a whole new ballgame. My mentor seemed to think I was too dependent on the photographs ( for example, if a guy was wearing a green shirt I want to paint him in a green shirt because that is how it is in the photograph). I think that dependance comes from my training from life, which was very much about looking and matching colors. I have come to realize that working from photographs requires more editing and manipulation than working from life. I also know that in my studio practice I will always continue to do painting from life, because it provides me with the knowledge I need to work from photographs. I hope when I go to the aforementioned places that I am able to do sketches, take photos and audio. I also want to try to train myself to take impressions of where I am and perhaps do some memory drawings and sketches.
-I thought the graduate talks this semester were really well done. One that stood out to me was Alison Williams's talk. I really enjoyed seeing the progression of her work, and how she responded to the struggle of trying to find her own way. I find the most interesting talks to be the ones where we get to see the journey of the artist through this program.
-I did have the chance to see the Titian and Tintoretto show at the MFA during this residency. I found the Tintoretto painting to be particularly inspiring, I think because of the weight of the figures. They had a real “mass” to them, which is something I strive for in my work. I made a trip to the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum also during the residency. It was thrilling to see some of my favorite paintings in person (like El Jaleo by Sargent) but I was quite intrigued to see many drawings and etchings by the artists. I was drawn to the etchings by Zorn because they were very linear and tonal at the same time. They really inspired me to experiment more with my drawings.
-The flip side to the trip to the MFA was Cory Arcangel's talk. His use of humor and his manipulation of pop culture was fascinating. He takes the lowest of art, Photoshop filters and bad home movies, and makes something you can't help talking about.
-My last critique of the residency was with Deb Todd Wheeler. Her advice was to “break the predictable”. In a way that ties together Sargent and Arcangel. It has inspired me to keep working, to break the predictable, to take what I know and make art that surprises and intrigues.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Paper on Vitamin P

Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting has an outstanding cover. Tiny bits of paintings are encapsulated in the shape of pills, floating across the width of the book. I see lips, eyes, a nipple, a belly button, and a butterfly among the colorful and more abstract "pills". The cover is a perfect representation of what is inside the book; a smorgasbord of contemporary painting that includes both the abstract and the representational. As Barry Schwabsky says in the introduction,
It may seems strange to speak of a specific content
for contemporary painting in general when, on one
hand, anything goes, and on the other, every artist
is called upon to invent a unique stance or position
that differentiates him or her from other practitioners.
As I browsed this book, I began to think about that "unique stance" of which Mr. Schwabsky speaks. At first thought, it seemed to me that this stance could be interpreted as "rules". What rules does the artist make for herself, and why?
It was when I was reading about Djamel Tatah that I really began to think about "rules". Next to his paintings it reads " In 1986, when he was twenty-five, Djamel Tatah.made an important decision from which he has not faltered since; he would paint only figures on neutral, quasi-monochromatic background, at full scale.(318)" This statement really got me thinking. On one hand, I thought it was the craziest thing I ever heard. I would never want to box myself in with rules like that, and especially not for twenty plus years! I really could not wrap my head around it.
So, I started looking at other artist in Vitamin P and tried to figure out, what are their rules? Yen Pie-Ming uses mostly black and white, white Katharina Grosse seems to revel in an abundance of color. Many painters (still) limit their work to traditional square canvases, while others paint on floors, doors, chairs etc. Under this umbrella of painting there is such a variety of techniques and subject matter that the only way one can be successful is to make some rules for oneself.
But maybe rules in not the right word.
I was struggling with finding the right word when someone dropped it in my lap. That person is Frank Hyder, my mentor this semester. As he looked over my work he said to me , "You need to find something and stick with it. You need an investigation." This is the word I was looking for. It does not have the negative connotation that rules has. Rules are strict, unbending. Rules lock you in a cage. But an investigation, that sounds exciting. Investigations are open. Frank gave me the example of Vermeer, who worked for years investigating the light coming through his studio window. Even though his scope was relatively narrow (interior, young women) he found a universe of interest in it.
Investigation entails more than what materials are used, or what palette is preferred. It means setting out with a purpose to thoroughly understand that which you are investigating so you can make it clear to your viewer. Coming to this conclusion made me look at the artist in Vitamin P in a new light. There are many to discuss, but I am going to pick two and discuss their investigations and what I glean from them in my own work.
Cecilia Edefalk's paintings interested me at first because it is figurative work. If I were just to see a reproduction of one of her paintings, it would be a pretty straightforward painting; a man and a woman interacting in front of a blue background. However, as one looks and reads deeper it becomes evident that her work is basically about repetition. She is not investigating figures or portraits or Laurel and Hardy. As she said, "In the Laurel and Hardy series I wanted to work with recollections, with what is familiar. Incidentally, recollecting something is akin to repeating it." (102) By repeating the same piece over and over again, by reproducing and re-reproducing her paintings Edefalk says she is able to "express totally different things(102)"
I chose to discuss Edefalk because my mentor has been encouraging me to make multiple versions of the same painting using the same source material. This has been an eye opening process for me because it has made me focus on not only the technical aspects of painting (the effects of grounds, color choices, etc) but also the knowledge gained thought the repetition process. I have been using photographs for reference, but I also reference the previous paintings. And while it is in my nature to start a piece and finish it up before the next one, I have been encouraged to work on several similar pieces, to open up my investigation.
While on the subject of repetition, I want to discuss the work of Francis Alys. He says of his work,
The style of my painting is borrowed from hand-painted
advertisements encountered in my neighborhood.In 1993
I commissioned various sign painters to produce enlarged
copies of my smaller original images. Once they had completed
several versions I produced a new 'model' compiled from the
most significant elements of each sign painter's interpretation.
This second 'original' was in turn used as a model for a new
generation of copies by sign painters.(035)
Truthfully, I find the story, the investigation, more interesting than the paintings themselves. His methods bring up many questions about authorship, about high art verses low art, and about the art market itself.
By having sign painters reproduce his originals he is really questioning "who is the artist?" He creates a kind of communal creation process where the finished product contains only a small portion of his original. His original sketches are changed in the same way words become transformed in the childhood game of "whisper down the lane."
I find Alys's investigation interesting and worth of discussion, but what he is investigating is not a path that I wish to follow. My work in the past has been very much about the technique that I use. I could not see myself "farming" that out to other artists. However, recently I have been focusing on figures in a space and how they interact. I am playing with the effect of the ground showing through in pastels. I see all of these issues as being tied in to my continuing investigation.

If there is one thing Vitamin P has done for me, as a reader and artist, it is to show me that contemporary painting has as many investigations as there are colors in the rainbow. The challenge is to find where I stand as a contemporary painter. Throughout the history of art, painters have investigated everything from light on haystacks to color fields to feminist issues. I am not sure where my investigation will lead me, but I am ready to take in the view.

Reference and Reading Material
Schwabsky, Barry Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting New York: Phaidon Press Inc, 2002.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What I've been working on

This is pastel on a prepared panel, 20 X 30. I am working on a couple of these at the same time, so won't have anything finished for a while.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Crit 1 Response

Critical Theory I Response

The artist is the man who makes life more interesting and
beautiful, more understandable or mysterious, or, probably
in the best sense more wonderful. His trade is to deal in
illimitable experience. It is therefore only of importance that
the artist discover whether he be an artist, and it is up to society
to discover what return it can make to its artists.
George Bellows (Protter 206)

What is the role of the artist? Is he a mad genius, blessed with a gift beyond his own control? Or is he a skilled worker, perfecting technique with years of study? As one begins to look at modern and contemporary art even more questions arise. What are the models of authorship and how to they apply to contemporary art? This concept kept reoccurring in the Critical Theory One reading and I believe it is an important one to discuss and apply to my own work.

Staniszewski discusses the first major shift in thinking of the role of the artist in her book Believing is Seeing. She sees the shift from monarchial rule to democratic rule as having an major effect on the role of the artist;
In modernity, visual culture does not embody the mysteries
of myth and ritual conjured by powers beyond humanity. It
is not produced upon command of church or crown…
Traditionally great modern Art is made by one creator,
who is inspired to produce it. This kind of inspiration has been
understood as the rare gift of genius!

This idea of ‘artist as genius of self expression’ is quite different from artist as craftsman or as a ’servant’ creating works of art for a king or pope. Staniszewski goes as far as to say that such artists were not creating “Art” in the sense that we regard it today because their work was basically controlled by those who commissioned it.
While I can definitely see this shift (to free will)of which the author speaks I disagree with her on one point. She seems to discount any art that was commissioned. Just because Michelangelo created the Sistine Chapel to glorify the Church and God does not mean that he did not utilize his own elements of self expression. I particularly look to his use of anatomy. The figures are larger than life because of the emphasis on the musculature and form. He used his own visual language to create power and expression in his figures. This creation of a visual language, specific to his own work, seems to me to be a very direct expression of the free will and genius we associate with modern artists.
The artist as genius subject is discussed by several authors through out the reading material for critical theory one. Linda Nochlin’s “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” states “On this basis, women’s lack of major achievement in art may be formulated as a syllogism; If women had the
golden nugget of artistic genius, it would reveal itself. but it has never revealed itself QED women do not have the golden nugget of artistic genius. “(198) Why would people buy into the idea of genius when there are so many factors that make more sense? We could compare the income of their parents, or as Nochlin suggests, the profession of their fathers (199).

One point that came up in our class discussion was Foucalt’s idea that it is not the artist himself but rather his discursive function; his importance as a commodity and a myth. There is a reason that Pollock and Warhol are the most remembered modern artists; people know who they are in an almost characterized way. Warhol, with his shock of white hair and Pollock as the brooding lone ranger are easily digestible figures. They became famous. Warhol particularly played with the idea of fame and authorship. He challenged the idea that the artist had to physically create his masterpiece. Factory production and the use of ‘low art’ were groundbreaking ideas. Warhol ushered in the age of artist as brand, as conductor, as idea maker.
The acts and personality of modern artists often became as much of a myth as the art work himself. “In The Greatest Homosexual“, Larry River’s escapades seem to overshadow his work.
In becoming an artist, Rivers performs a further act
of self-othering through his identification with the queer
artistic community of which he also became a part. This
is to view him in the late 1940’s and 1950’s as a kind of
queer-acting, or at least queer-identified, straight artist”
( 111)
Rivers purposely made himself into the ‘other’ as a way to create a niche for his work. Although Rivers was a painter, he was about much more than putting paint on a canvas. His social scene, which includes the innuendoes in his paintings, is just as important as his work.

The major shift we discussed from modern to postmodern art is the shift from the artist to the viewer. The works of art become less about the artists feeling and experience and more about what the viewer experiences. The works of art are not complete until the viewer “fills them in”. Where does this leave the artist? I would say this makes the Post Modern artist more of a conductor. He is conducting the production of his pieces (or performances) and also attempting to manipulate his viewers to make his concepts available. We discussed this with Damien Hirst, whose work is more about the art system (auctions, money exchanges, valuation) than the actual pieces produces.

These ruminations on the role of the artist inevitably lead me to question my own role as an artist. I started off, as many artists do, with a more craftsman-like approach to art. I had to learn about mediums, grounds, and ways to apply paint. There was a lot of trial and error before I could even begin to make paintings that looked like what I envisioned. Despite the fact that some believe that “the still image is dead” I still find paint and pastel compelling mediums in which to work. Perhaps because our society is bombarded with moving images, on our phones, our computers, our televisions there will be a longing for the still images. Having an idea, an emotion, an entire story captivated in a still image is, to me, still a relevant form of communication. Painters at this point in time are able to look past the conventional modes of distributing their work because of the internet and computers. Look at the portrait of Obama by street artist Shepard Fairey. This is a image that has become iconic in a Warhol-like way, except it was never in a gallery (although the original eventually ended up in the National Portrait Gallery). It was disseminated through the internet and political campaigning and now thousands of people imitate it with the help of a website that allows you to plug in your own photograph.
The above example is just one way the artists are using creativity and technology in the Post Post modern world. The role of the artist is ever changing. Every artist needs to decide why, and for whom, she is creating her art. I see myself as an artist in the George Bellows quote at the beginning of this paper, as someone who deals in a boundless experience. This experience is what I bring to my paintings and hope to share with viewer.

Comments by Stuart Steck:

1) I find it interesting that you refer to the Artist by using a masculine pronoun (see your first three sentences). This is especially true given your discussion of authorship. It seems ingrained in our cultural consciousness that we think of the "artist/author" as a masculine subject. In this respect, I would argue that we need to employ different semantic structures in order to recast how we think of the "author" (this is certainly a point made by feminists).

2) While Michelangelo certainly developed his own visual language, I think Stanizewski would argue that people in the early 16th century did not possess a sense of "individual" consciousness. That is to say, they did not see themselves as autonomous beings, and thus did not approach the task of picture-making in terms of "self-expression." In other words, their work was not a deliberate expression of "selfhood." For Stanizewski, the idea of "ART" (as we know it) only begins to surface when artists see their work as a conscious act of self-expression (rather than as a means of visual communication or propaganda). After all, a clear sense of selfhood must precede the act of self-expression.

Of course, as I suggested in Critical Theory I, I think Stanizewski made a strategic mistake in choosing Michelangelo as an example. Historically speaking, Michelangelo seems to have been a transitional figure -- one who began to perceive his own autonomy as a creative agent. That said, I would still argue that the notions of "artistic genius" and "selfhood" are culturally determined/mediated (rather than natural or innate).

3) I agree with your suggestion that all artists function as "discursive subjects" (i.e., they fulfill certain roles and personae). And I think this is true for unknown artists ... as well as Pollock and Warhol. In fact, I would say that we all fulfill some kind of "discursive function" in our culture (i.e. we all perform prescribed roles and functions). After all, we exist within a cultural framework that dictates the parameters of our individual behavior. Even our attempts to transgress social norms are determined by the very society we seek to subvert.

4) I would agree that the postmodern artist functions as a "conductor" -- one who manipulates cultural images, objects, and meanings to achieve certain results. Indeed, I would contend that the most important medium for artists is culture itself! In this regard, I certainly agree with you: The artist must have a clear sense of purpose when she create her work!

Reference and Reading Material

Butt, Gavin “The Greatest Homosexual? Camp Pleasure and the Performative Body of Larry Rivers.” in Performing the Body/Performing the Text, by Jones, Amelia; Stephenson, Andrew: Routledge, Chapman, and Hall, 1999.

Nochlin, Linda “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” in Women, Art and Power, and Other Essays, Westview Press/Perseus, 1989.

Protter, Eric. Painter on Painting. New York: Dover Publications, 1997.

Staniszewski, Mary Anne. Believing is Seeing. New York: Penguin Books, 1995.

Residency 1 Response

Group 1
Residency Response

The learning process of residency one began for me the minute I opened my portfolio and contemplated hanging my work on the wall. Although I have presented my work before, I had not really thought about how the order and grouping of my work affected the viewer. I also had not seen all of my work laid out before my eyes. Therefore, I would say that the first critique I faced was my own. My work looked smaller on the wall then it did in my mind.
Before I began the residency I was nervous what kind of work my fellow students would be presenting. Because I come from a traditional painting background, I feared that I would not connect to the other students in the program. I was happy that my fear was quickly eradicated. Walking through the student galleries was an exciting and intriguing. I was most struck by the wide range of work. I enjoyed that the content of each room was greatly varied. This mixing of ideas and styles was one of the best aspects of the program that I experienced.
The first official critique for me was with Jan Avgikos. Her very first questions of my work were based on my palette. She remarked that there was an overwhelming amount of brown in my work. My knee jerk reaction to that was “What’s wrong with brown?” Of course there is nothing, in theory, wrong with brown. However, I had not seen how strong the thread of brown ties together my work. Jan challenged me to think beyond the comfort of the colors with which I am used to working. Admittedly, I have worked with a limited palette for the past five years. I think getting away from the “brown” may be a matter of getting out of the studio, throwing open the curtains, and looking at some new things. Most of my work has been done in the same room with natural light and similar backdrops. Even in this first critique I realized that I need to question why; why am I setting things up this way, why am I choosing my subjects, and why am I painting in the style I paint?
Truthfully, these questions came at me in an overwhelming way. My next critique with Andreas Fogarsi added to the whirlwind. His first statement about my work was
“ This reminds me of what we still have on our walls. We have them but we don’t like them.
They are old and dusty.”
This statement stands out as one of the most memorable things I was told. I cannot say that I agree with Mr. Fogarsi; but I know there is a kernel of truth there. My paintings have an “old” feeling to them. Thinking about this comment has lead me to one of the biggest questions I will face as an artist; how do I make representational and figurative painting relative in the 21st century?
The first answer to that question was made clear early on; look at modern painters. Every critique was filled with suggestions of painters for me to explore. It was almost as if I had been living in a bubble prior to the residency. I looked at many books, but most of them were from the 19th century. Contemporary painting, to me, represented the deskilling of art. However I have come to realize that I cannot be ignorant of what is going on today. Therefore, I will look in to contemporary paintings. I also will make it a point in the future to go to galleries and see paintings, because photographs often do not do them justice. I am grateful for teachers (and students) who give me plenty of names to look up, because that gives me a starting point.
Another idea that I found to be helpful was to take a lot of pictures. I have a complicated relationship with photographs. I have only recently begun to use them a reference for paintings, and even then I only used them after observing and painting from life. I have never wanted my paintings to look like photographs. In fact, my favorite paintings are usually more sketchy and lively, not labored over to look photographic. So when using photographs was suggested to me I immediately balked. Then I realized that I could use the photographs not as reference, but as a kind of ‘visual bookmark’. They could give me ideas compositionally or they could capture things that I could never observe to paint. I have decided to just go crazy with the camera and see what happens.
One of the biggest impressions that I came away with from Residency One is that people really want to see me “come out of my comfort zone”. The idea of stepping out of the rules I have set for myself as a painter is slightly terrifying. The freedom to play is not something I have allowed myself in my painting, although I have always enjoyed drawing and doodling in a more relaxed, fun way. Painting has always been a very serious endeavor. One very enlightening thing for me to see was the graduate talk by Ms. Swearington. This talk resonated with me because she showed her “journey” in the graduate program. It was fascinating to see how she really took a leap and worked in a way that was almost totally opposite from where she started out. I enjoyed seeing how other artists tackled the idea of stepping out of their comfort zone.
Overall, the residency was exhilarating, overwhelming, and incredibly informational. I feel like I have the freedom to pretty much do anything. I have these “traditional” painting skills, which is what my work coming into the program represents. Now I have to take these skills and find out why I am painting and what I want to say. I also have to give myself the freedom to let the journey happen, even if that means lightening up a bit.

Comments by Stuart

1) Remember, the "de-skilling" of art doesn't necessarily involve a rejection of skills per se. It simply involves the development and employment of a new/different skill-set. In fact, the process of making conceptual art requires a highly refined set of intellectual skills! In the end, however, one set of skills is not inherently "better" than another. Nor does one set of skills necessarily preclude another. Each problem that an artist faces will not only demand a specific solution, but it will also require a specific set of skills.

2) Brown is not simply a color. It is also a "signifier" that conveys certain associations and meanings. When Jan commented that you make "brown paintings," she was referring to the fact that your palette is dominated by earth tones. But she was also suggesting that your paintings evoke a very particular set of meanings that we associate with the past (hence, Andreas's comment that your work seems "dusty"). Remember, style communicates meaning independently of content or subject matter.

3) I am thrilled that you have made peace with photography. I love the idea of using photographs as a means of both developing your visual sensibilities and exploring compositional possibilities. This is great!

4) Finally, I want to encourage you to try new things ... and to work outside of your comfort zone. Now is the time to explore and experiment. Don't be afraid to fail ... or to make some truly awful work. We only expect one thing: That you produce, produce, produce. You have total freedom to follow your whims -- no matter how wacky they are.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Surviving Grad School

So here I am, at my first residency at Art Institute of Boston, dipping my toes into to the world of graduate school.

It is overwhelming.

This process of being immersed into the art world, thrown into critiques and assaulted with theory is a lot more intense than I expected.

What did I expect?

I expected to come in to this program and continue as I was, working in my studio. I thought I could carry on as I have been for the last 5 years, although with some added paperwork.

I am seeing that is not how it works.

The pressure to explain your work, to get down to the meaning, to analyze and place yourself in context of contemporary art is overwhelming, and truthfully I am feeling a bit adrift.

What do I want my work to be?
Where do I want it to go and who is going to mentor me along that path.

There are many questions and I feel like I am getting pulled in many directions.

It doesn't help that there is a nagging doubt. Am I even like these people with their intellectual approach, their fervent belief that art must be much, much more than a visual experience?

I can relate this feeling in only one way. It is like having someone question your religion. Having someone make you justify your entire belief system, having them question that which is in the core of your being.

What do you believe and why do you believe it? This program is going to make me figure that out whether I like it or not.