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.

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