Saturday, July 30, 2005

Transitional connections

Checked out You, Me, and Everyone We Know last night. It's a small, quiet film centered around relationships and transition. It takes place during a time of major and minor upheavals in the lives of most of the characters.The film seems to exist neither here nor there but somewhere in between. By the end, there are revelations but not much in the way of resolution; the future is an open book for these characters. It's very 'artsy', which is no surprise since it's written and directied by Miranda July, a performance artist and filmmaker. Her take on what some artists go through with their work and getting it recognized is fairly dead on. This is the first non mainstream summer movie I've seen this year and I'm glad I took the time to take a break from the usual brain candy.

I felt a connection with the transitional aspect of You, Me,... as it relates to one of the foundations of my artwork. I began using abstract imagery years because I wanted to explore a similar ambuguity. I needed to use imagery that was not recognizably 'this' or 'that' but existed someplace in between. It was the logical thing for me to do in adopting a visual vocabulary that went beyond the established symbolic meanings associated with representational images or objects. Abstraction or Non-Objectivity freed me from the constraints of meanings readily placed on recognizable subjects; I was now able to construct images that could possibly have infinite levels of meaning for viewers.


What does it mean to have an image exist 'in between'? In between what? In between where?

At the end of a long work day, my mind rapidly begins to 'empty out'; it starts to drift and wander here and there. I'm well aware of my surroundings, but I'm also turning inward a little. As my mind quiets down from the overstimulation and demands of work, I begin to hear my own footsteps as if for the first time. I'll slow down and think about things such as all of the minute and grand things that are taking place as I take each step. Not only that, but what's happening as my other foot is making the move forward-the heel of my sneaker rising, my foot arching, the heel touching ground again. How much do you think has happened in those couple of moments? All over the world, trillions upon trillions of events have taken place and we are only consciously aware of a tiny fraction of them.

Any event I might think of as 'in between' really isn't really that at all. I think it's nearly impossible to define what's 'in between'. So why try to capture it at all if it really can't (as far as I know) be captured at all. There's the quandry-how do you capture something you aren't even sure exists? Especially with a static medium like paint on canvas. Can it even be defined as an image, sound, or combnination thereof? Who knows? Maybe...However, that leaves me with one thing: the challenge of the chase. I know I'll never really capture or own 'in between' in any manner whatsoever, but I can use my limited understanding of it, along with what I know of my interactions with my surroundings to construct a visual narrative. Thinking back over the years of work I've done, I've always returned again and again to various incarnations of my fascination with the spaces between things, places and events.


Spent some time painting today. I can't say I had the best concentration. I had to take care of some pre-show stuff which included dropping off drawings at Seven Arts framing. Bridgette's going to pick them up on Saturday, Aug. 20th. We also set an installation date: Monday, August 22nd. The show opens on Wednesday, August 31st and the reception is on Friday, Sept. 3rd. I'll go in and work some more tomorrow evening.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

On the needs of visual artists

I was catching up on my art blogs today and came across an entry on Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof's Artblog that caught my eye. The post is from sculptor, Charles Hankin and is titled "On The Needs of Visual Artists". Just scroll down the page a bit to see it. The following is my reply:


I agree with a lot of what sculptor Charles Hankin wrote in his entry. Particularly the part about artists advocating on behalf of themselves and the arts:"We need to teach our friends, family and neighbors about art and why we are important creators. Respect for art will come from personal relationships not from an Arts Council or other government agency.

I couldn't agree more. It begins with how we view ourselves, what we do and how we present it to the outside world. I think a lot of visual artists tend to downplay what it is they actively do with most of their time. Most of us have day jobs to make ends meet, myself included. However, when someone asks me, "What do you do?", in reference to occupation, I always respond with "I'm a painter". Period. Inevitably, the question of how I support myself and my work comes up and I'll tell them that I have a job, but my main occupation is that of a painter. To me, this simple declaration puts me in a better position to be taken seriously. Not only that, I tend to take myself more seriously as a creative person.

I think a lot of us shy away from making distinct declarations because of a misguided idea that it's somehow not good to speak highly of what we do as creative people. Perhaps that is because the fine arts have some to be so devalued in our society that, for some, it's almost a stigma to mention they are an artist of some type. Maybe there are flashbacks to a childhood where parents and others made it known that pursuing the fine arts wasn't an 'appropriate', i.e. 'lucrative' or of a high enough status. That's nothing new, as it's been going on for centuries, but this attitude still defines how many of us approach our relation to the world outside of art.

Another important aspect is to speak about art and what we do in a way that viewers/participants can make connections with thier experiences in the world. That's key. If you can talk to someone who perhaps has no background in art history and get them to see connections with what you are doing with your work and the world around them, then half the battle is won, I think. This is particularly important when it comes to abstract painting, video, or installation work.

People do want to know who we are and what we do, but we have to be willing to give a little more, sometimes. We must seriously believe that what we are doing is vital to everyone, bring that messege to people in ways that inspire them, and most importantly, continue to challenge ourselves as artists, keep making the work and put it out in the world for others to experience.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

getting there...

Received a pdf file with the proof of the exhibition brochure. There were a few corrections that needed to be made, but overall it looks great. I'm looking forward to seeing the final printed version.


Didn't get a lot of painting done last week, but I plan on making up for it this week. I have a meeting with Bridgette on Thursday to discuss which of the second batch of newer works I should have photographed. There's a bunch of paintings she hasn't seen yet.


This fall is going to be a busy one. First, there's the show in September. Then, on October 12th, I'm on the jurying panel for an international exhibition of disbled artists at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital. The show is called, 'Art Ability'. The weekend of October 15th/16th I'm doing the Philadelphia Open Studio Tours. Finally, at the end of the month, I'm going to have work included in Bridgette's booth at the 'Affordable Art Fair' in New York. I'm planning on being there for at least one of the days. There are a couple of friend's places I could stay while there, which is good.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

upside down in reverse

I walked into the studio just behind Gabrielle, who shares the front half of the floor with me. It's stifling hot. One of the first things both of us do is head over to open the window and doors to the fire escape. I turn on the industrial fan just before opening the window. I'm sweating buckets from the bike ride up there and there's a part of me that just wants to flop down on the couch for half an hour just to cool down, but I'm also hyped to get to work.

Gabby and I catch up on how our weekends went, I change into my painting shorts and shirt, put some music on and set up to paint. Waiting for me are two paintings I began last week. Both are in for some changes. I like some of what I did, but they don't quite feel done yet, so I study them for a while, trying to figure out what needs to change and what possible directions I can take them next. I like the look of some of the colors and forms together, but the parts aren't adding up to a whole yet.

Over the past few months, I've been challenging myself to push past what I was doing last year and the three years before that. Mainly, this means embracing a wider range of mark-making and color choices. All of which I'm very happy to do. However, there's the issue of getting what's inside of my head onto the canvas. I'm continuing with pictorial ideas that include various gridded forms placed in front of one another. There's ten or so paintings on the wall behind the easel that I'm constantly refering to for ideas to use in the newer paintings. I use the older paintings to jump start the newer pieces. I look a them and mentally pick them apart to see what I can use and if I can use some of the older ideas in a different way.

There's a constant dialogue between the newer paintings and the older ones. I try to not repeat myself too much and attempt to find any way I can to break apart what I did previously and re-make it in new ways. That's one of the biggest challenges I have as a painter; how many ways can I take a core idea and re-invent it from painting to painting until I feel it's potential is exhausted? The experimentation is great, but the paintings have to stand up on thier own. The ideas contained on the surfaces must be clear, even if they don't seem to be so upon the first viewing.

The paintings I worked on today are causing me to reconsider some ideas I have about a 'finished' composition. The forms I'm using now are much more open than previously and much less centered in place; lines and colors are moving all over the place. I let some areas build up with an accumulation of marks while others are flat and let the eye rest a bit before being taken up into more activity. The flow of information is continual and the possibilities seemingly endless. Through this process, I'm trying to let go of a default painting ideology I accumulated over the past few years and embrace more readily the open-ended spirit of the new paintings.

phantom brush

I've not held a paint brush in my hand for just over a week. That's way too long. It's been like that because I had to deal with the mailing list debacle towards the end of last week.

I've felt odd in the past when I hadn't been working in the studio for a while, but this time there's a palpable difference. You know what they say about people who have a limb amputated, that the amputee continues to 'feel' the limb even though it's not there. I believe it's referred to as a 'ghost limb' or something like that. Well, that's how I've been feeling since at least a couple of days ago. I usually paint with my right hand but have used my left from time to time. It's my right hand that my mind has assigned the feeling of a missing brush to. It's a distinct feeling, also. It's one of my larger brushes. I can make out the smooth wood and the slight change in thickness along the handle. It's as if I'm just about to lay down some color or make a line or two.


turned it upside down
laid it on the floor
painted some more
put it back on the easel
that'll work...for now
leaned it against the wall
started over with the second one...

Friday, July 15, 2005

take a deep breath

The past couple of days have been something of a pain in the ass. I needed to update my snail-mail art list after almost two years of not touching it. Bad thing to do and here's why: All the information I had was on old floppy disks that are way out of compatibility with the eMac purchased last year. Not only that, but the programs the list was originally made with are obsolete. Long story short, I had to re-type everything into the my computer and learn to use the mailing/label-making program that came with the eMac, Appleworks.

Fine. Souldn't be that hard, right? Uh-uh, I don't get off that easily. First, I had to find the label format, spend five hours total typing in all the information and then figure out how to format the labes for printing. All of which I managed to do, but not before I lost half of the addresses and had to re-type them in, adding another three hours to the task. I attempted every way I knew of to retrieve the document, but to no avail.

I lost the information because I clicked the mouse once too many times and hadn't saved the document. I know most people have gone through this and I've also lost documents to the electronic ether before. However, this was hard to take because I was already tired from staying up the night before working on the list and now it was gone. I also had a deadline to meet. Needless to say there was much swearing, gnashing of teeth and banging of the head on the desk. Like the South Park episode, I must have set a record for dropping the "F" bomb.

Well, I got though it all after leaving the apartment for a while. I bought some new sneaks, a book, and a couple of magazines. That helped dissipate the anger of being too much in a hurry and losing the information.

Yep, retail therapy, works every time...

Friday, July 01, 2005

having enough

It felt good to make a run to Utrecht for paint and not have to choose between buying a pint of one color and wait a week to get the other one. Due to a recent sale, I was able to buy enough pints to last months. Just one less thing to worry about. Nothing kills the creative spark quicker than not being able to afford the materials you need. Of course, when I've run low on paints in the past, I got by with doing drawings or something else for a time, but when I have the urge to paint, it's difficult to accept that another activity will suffice. It's especially hard when you're in the midst of a good creative period.

Now I won't have to worry about running out of paints for a good while. I hope not, at least. I'll probably use more now that I have a lot, which is fine. It's all being put to good use. That being said, I still had a hard time leaving all of the pints of acrylic paints on the check-out counter after I'd picked them out. I could afford it all of it and even more but I couldn't help defaulting to my usual mind-set of "Can I really afford all of this right now?" I stood at the counter just staring at the paints wondering if I should put this one or that one back on the shelf. My worries were unfounded, of course, but I'm really used to not being able to buy what I want as opposed to what I can afford. There's a big difference and my mind hasn't quite caught up to the reality.