Saturday, June 26, 2010

Woohoo! Solo Show at Trois Gallery at SCAD-Atlanta

I'm really happy to report that I made it back home to Savannah, safe, sorta sound, and grateful to experience the gentle Southern glide that distinguishes our fair region! There were so many things I found stimulating and interesting about nyc but these days I am really basking in the greenery and ease of movement here.
I went into nature withdrawal up there (yes, I know about the parks but so do 100,000,000 other new yorkers) and so I am re-gratified when I see a scarlet finch on my window sill here or even a cardinal or bluejay!  Yes, one has to be patient to endure my chipperings of amazement these days:).
New York is a people (and pigeon) zoo. Once you accept that and treat it as such you're good to go. Just enjoy the incredible variety of facial arrangements people possess. Just enjoy standing, walking, or sitting shoulder to shoulder with strangers, feeling quite comfortably as if we are just amiable fellow travellers in the concentrated spaceship called the big apple.  Just experience the collective rush towards the opposite end of the car, anguished cries and moans of horror of a crowded subway when a poor, inebriated college student vomits on the floor. Truly an observant person's paradise; things that usually occur within the privacy of one's vehicle or home are kindly offered for your viewing pleasure without having to do anything electronic.
Other than that, a very welcome and disarming thing I discovered is how open, friendly, and helpful people were. Expressive, yes (horns blasting, yelling, crying, making out)  but if you need help finding a place they'll just about carry you there. So delightful...adding touches of human grace to at times bedraggled schleppings around.
A sure thing: one of the best things about the residency was just learning my way around, discovering in a general way what's what and where so that when I go back I'll be more oriented. All in all this trip was both a galvanizing and grounding experience.
So, for the follow-up! The above pic is of me standing under the heading of my solo exhibition in Atlanta, which opened a couple of weeks after I got back, so there was some scrambling to be done (framing, mounting) when I hit the ground here! About mid-way through the residency, SCAD-Savannah Exhibitions proposed a show at SCAD-Atlanta  highlighting my New York paintings.  So in the end, the works were created with that goal in mind.
Jon and I visited last week and I was really impressed with the professional look of the show, and with the gallery itself, located on the same floor (4th) as the SCAD library.  It was a really great experience to see my work up like that under nice lighting and arranged thoughtfully on the walls. It's the first time I've seen a whole slew of my paintings together in such a 'supportive' situation and it really gave me a shot in the arm  in how I feel about the whole painting trip. It's just really rewarding and I look forward to more experiences  like this!
Here (the one above with the red figure walking fast) is one of the 4 pieces  spawned from the original big giant fiasco (BGF) painting. I'm calling the painting "The Next Best Thing" meaning the tendency to focus on whatever's ahead on the horizon while tripping over the little paradise right at our feet. Those 4 pieces were mounted on wood panels.
The one below it, "SpoiledGirl" was one of the illustration board pieces. That one and another piece "The Anxiety of Flowers" (the black one above) I had framed at my favorite place on Earth, Maldoror's Frame Shop in the Starland District of Savannah. Whoopee! Jenny, the owner of the shop is one of the most gracious, conscientious, and generally exceptional people I know.  I adore that such a gem of  a place and person resides right here in Savannah. Thank you, Jenny, for your careful attention to your craft and to your customers.
I added a little paper figure painted in gouache of Jesus as a Hypnotist to this painting when I got back to Savannah. I think it completes the piece, putting a spin on being mesmerized, hypnotized by oh, so many your poison/salvation.
This blog has been so much fun to do that I'm going to continue it, though most likely under another heading (or two). I really hope that you've enjoyed reading it, and that you'll continue to accompany me on my thought journeys. Happy Trails!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Final Countdown

I can hardly believe it, but yes, I'm on the final leg of this odyssey called the Studio Workspace Opportunity. Still standing, folks, a little wrinklier, feet throbbing, but here nonetheless. I think it's going to take a while to process this whole experience. All I can say for now is there's no substitute for the direct confrontation of yourself alone (basically) in this city, making art. I feel like I learned more valuable lessons about myself than anything else, but that is what really counts in the long run.
For EXAMPLE--I learned that I really don't much care for working big. At least when the canvas is unstretched, as mine was, it's highly cumbersome to keep turning it this way and that unless it's on the floor. With my way of working, gestural, scumbling, dripping, wiping out, that is a challenge. You have to step into the middle of the painting without getting footprints anywhere and smearing paint. There's also no substitute for getting a painting on the wall and critiquing it from a distance. (Perching on a ladder looking down on it just don't cut it). Getting the thing up on the wall is an issue if paint is still wet esp. without extra hands. It goes without saying, that working this way makes it difficult to turn the painting upside down and all which ways in order to discern a new angle to pursue. (For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I start with an image, work on it a bit, then turn it upside down or sideways to regain a fresh perspective and therefore a more idiosyncratic image direction. I may do this several times within a few weeks' painting span in order to arrive at a startlingly [to my mind, at least] original image.)
It may have been slightly easier using a stretched canvas, at least that way it's easier to change its orientation on the wall. So, I won't really know until I try that too. I did take some folks' advice and use acrylics at certain stages in order to save money on paints.  I think using acrylics with oils is great and easily achieved once you get the hang of it. But I like the effects of wiping out an underlying oil-based image, an acrylic one just sits there smirking, forever. I much prefer using the acrylics (very dry) atop oils in order to make details.
In short, I learned that I am a heavily process oriented painter who likes to use the canvas as a punching bag of sorts--a mirror image I can heavily, easily manipulate. Here is (above) the yucky painting I almost completed as you see it: I couldn't stand it cause I felt I was being too careful, calculated. An interminable experience.
Sooooo......I cut the darn thing into four pieces, and immediately felt much better, thank you very much.  I will attach the finished pieces here; the babies of the mothership painting that sank.
This one to the above left is called Eyestix (Just Curious) a further variation on my ongoing theme of making candy out of body parts, eyes make great candy cause they're sad and spooky. The conduits you'll see repeated in other paintings came up as a subconscious response to subway maps and the gridded outlay of the city streets. I was always of course, as a newcomer, excruciatingly conscious of following these convolutions (in the real world) to get from point A to point B. The yellow and black motif is the "Caution" signage I'd see occasionally which also served as an inner subconscious warning to not get lost or on the wrong subway! It also serves as a symbol of existential angst! Always handy....
The one below that is called KnittingandEating, a sad image. I had to stop somewhere and probably if I had been at Scad and not had to pack these guys up to go home to Savannah, I may have continued to work on this one (well, all of them most likely) and it would have turned out totally different from this. But I think it's haunting and not too pretentious. I like the varying shades of gray and it was helpful to use acrylic for the details of the knitted cap. 
The piece below that one is tentatively titled OilGoil. A timely one maybe, considering the horrible recent gulf oil spill. Taking tragedy and turning it into something candylicious is a bittersweet way to deal with these mulitudinous "uneases" that happen every day in ways that range from being immensely consequential on a global level to small injustices that are only personally repugnant. The black I'm using is glossy enamel, courtesy of former savannah SCAD student Yi Hseng, who left quite a few containers of very screamin' hot  colors here in the studio.
The red character in the painting above shows how I felt walking here, in the city, as if my life depended on it, and everyone else doing the same thing. A constant urgency, a rush rush rush to get there NOW, doesn't matter where there is, but man you better get there fast. It shows my simultaneous yearning to lie down under a palm tree. It's been extremely windy here too, so I felt myself doing this extra Sisyphean thing of pushing into the wind....past the swirling trash, etc.
So, those are churren of the big ole yucky painting that some may have liked but it just felt false to me. The others l'll show are done from illustration boards I found in the efa hallway next to my studio. They are about 40x52" in size.

To the left is the finished piece. Above is a detail shot. I used Golden's Flexible Modeling Paste to create the nipples, and Golden's Course Pumice gel to get the raised rough areas. I had of course no clue as to where I was headed with making these 3-D parts, I just felt a compulsion to try something new and tactile on the flat surface, which of course those of you who know my work know I've been experimenting with this treatment but using questionable stuff to achieve. This way I think is kosher, and therefore maybe not as much of an adventure! But, it's good because it won't crack if you fold the painting for shipping or whatnot. Shall I show you one incarnation this black beauty went through before it got to its final sinisterhood?
What do you think? It felt like way too much going on, even for me, and I wanted the beauty of the raised parts to shine through. Too much of too much.
This one above is also done on illustration board, with raised relief lollipop (glowing) icons. It's called SpoiledGirl. I totally followed my nose on this one just to have something else for Open Studio, but I think it's kind of charming and fun. Those are brass tacks I stuck in the hardened modeling paste "cakes."

To make a seemingly long, at times angst-ridden  story short, that's my production this past 5 weeks. I have to say I missed the constant flow of feedback to and from my peers and profs at Alexander.  I don't think it's a great way to work, just you backtalking you, but I think it gave me the experience to know I can do it, to just persevere through the doubts, push something out, and it'll probably be OK.

Our dear Masumi showed up a couple of weeks ago. It was great to see her! Here she is waving to all of you back in Savannah. I'm sure you'll agree it won't be the same without her there.
She helped me get my Open Studio act together, my postcards, and notifying people. Above is the front of my postcard, which shows a detail from the Eyestix painting, and below is the announcement.

Open Studio was pretty quiet, with a few very nice people who showed up. My little event had to compete with the Yale Open Studios, Mother's Day, e-coli outbreaks, and about 10,000 other art events happening in the city at the same time. I'm keeping the studio open this week, though,  hoping that a few people can make it at a more convenient time.
 My dear Jon (above) made it to help with Open Studio and the next day we were able to finally just relax. We took the subway down to Union Square where there was an enormous flea market, which included lots of food stands. How oddly compelling I find these chocolate covered marshmallows....hmmmm. They are quite inspirational. Jon is browsing through art books at  The Strand, the famous used book store located in the same couple of blocks as Union Square. They have a dizzying variety of books, including many artists' monographs I've never seen anywhere else.

This is my last week here. I took a break this afternoon and walked down to Chelsea. There is always something there that knocks my socks off. Today's treat was Amy Sillman's show at Sikkema Jenkins. It's the first time I've seen her work in person (I didn't bring my camera). She really put together a solid show of large oils on canvas and lots of little muscular charcoal drawings. Other shows were pretty compelling as well by lesser known artists who are nonetheless doing first-rate work. (Jason, I thought of you while perusing John Wesley's solo show. A very witty show.) I may try to get back down there before I leave and take some pics for this blog.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Inspirational Window Displays

Aside from the great art this city offers,  I find unexpected inspiration while strolling through the Garment District,  which is only a block east from my studio. I like the very naive, almost slapdash compositions of the fabric shop window displays. They are far removed from commercially savvy manipulations, yet they retain a manic kind of beauty.  The ones that do seem composed with care seem based on  an endearingly homespun idea of what's elegant. It's refreshing in this age of hyper-aggressive marketing tactics that these old-school displays exist. I want to share some with you before they disappear for good!

Monday, April 19, 2010

month-long survey of my nyc residency

I've more or less settled into my studio, and I will miss it when I leave! It's been good to be able to work larger, but it doesn't mean working larger is any easier. I'm using this space as an experiment to see how upping the scale of the paintings goes.
Since I work from all angles, changing the orientation, I have to keep the work on the floor. It's too big to be taking it off the wall and turning it this way and that without an extra pair of hands. I aim to stretch the finished canvases when I get back to Savannah.
These are all works in progress, some further along than others. The only one I'm happy with in its current state is the largest one (7' x 8') with the turquoise foam. Though it will almost certainly change a lot before its done.
The others may be only experiments, done on paper board someone left in the hall, and they are the usual 36 x 50" size. The mounds you see on them are acrylic flexible modeling paste that I molded into various shapes. The downfall is they make the pieces a lot heavier.  But, I find that medium handy; it's clean and dries pretty fast. Out of my few experiments with unorthodox materials, this is probably the safest for adding lumpy textures. The other more gritty lumpy areas are acrylic pumice gel. Also heavy! Good experiment, though.
I am also using high-gloss alkyd house paint for its particular effect, along with acrylics. For cost effectiveness and for faster drying time, I am also using acrylics for the first layers in some areas on the larger canvas ones, then applying oil atop or alongside that. For larger pieces that is probably the way to go.
Here are some shots also of my messy comfortable studio. I have covered everything from stem to stern in plastic so I hopefully don't have to paint the walls and floor once I leave!

Since this is really my first time in New York (I've visited briefly before with others leading the way) I have felt like a body of eyes and ears. Just absorbing the assault of horns honking, strangers' conversations, subway squeezings, turbo walking everywhere, and the visual feast of seeing every kind of being dressed in every conceivable way has left me dizzy. The constant contact is visceral, a real dose of culture shock (in pleasant ways for the most part) for one spending most of the time insulated from others within the confines of one's car! I like it this way better, much more freedom and opportunity to meet up with someone you know on the street. I love that.
Spring is here also, and I wanted to add some pretty shots of that. New Yorkers are out in droves when the sun shines...but I am savoring the chilly weather too. The above shot is a tranquil one in Chelsea, and the next one is from right outside my front door on West 34th and Ninth. The Empire State Building is included, and looks strangely puny in this age of the spectacle!
Also delightful was stumbling across Hell's Kitchen Flea Market which is open every weekend and only a block away from the studio. One more shot taken in Greenwich Village and then I'll move on to Great Art I've Seen!

The German-born artist Charline Von Heyl is one of my role models. Her 'eccentric abstractions' (my term) have gained in prominence and acclaim. She shows with Friedrich Peitzel (spelling?) in Chelsea. I was really excited to see a solo show of hers a couple of weeks ago there. The paintings are large, about 7 x 8' on average, and seem to result from a struggle to wrestle forth an image that is unconventional and arresting, something that never existed before.  I strongly identify with that quest.
I also find refreshing her penchant for using tried and true materials (oil and acrylic) to create fresh imagery.

Peter Halley is an artist I never gave much thought to, but when I stumbled across a show of his in Chelsea, I was confounded by the scale and shock value of his paintings! Yes, they are hard-edged, carefully planned out works, very methodically done, but the day-glo colors and his Rolla-Tex hotel room textures really ignite a visceral charge. I was really delighted by the show, and it just goes to show you how nothing compares to seeing works in person. A photo (these included, I'm afraid) just cannot provide the up close and personal experience of beholding scale, true color, and detail.
Before I move on to my other favorite heavy hitters, I want to include (above) a few shots of random artists' work (that unfortunately I don't have the names of right off hand) who were also showing at different spots in Chelsea.
Others are more well known, like Tami Ben-Tor (the video still of lady with glasses) and George Condo.
I went to a group show opening at a Chelsea gallery, Edward Thorpe, that I've long been intrigued by because he shows artists who are not so slick and 'market-oriented.' The works shown there have a more personal sensibility that I find very attractive. It was a great show, all women, including one of my favorite artists, Judith Linhares, (above) whose work I'll show next. These pics don't do justice to the opulent colors and sensual brush strokes that really give her work its power. Though her work recalls Dana Schutz, Linhares is an artist in her sixties who has been working in this vein for many years, long before Schutz appeared on the scene. I met Linhares at the opening and she was very polite as I pumped her hand and gushed about how I had admired her work for years and how great it was to meet her!
These four works above are random ones I took at the show, and I'm not sure who the artists are. But I think they exemplify the very un-craft-oriented sensibility of the show. By the way, some of you may remember Matt Blackwell, who was our visiting artist from NYC back in Fall 09. He is one of the gallery's artists and was present at the show. It was great to see him. I also ran into 2009 SCAD alumni Rachel Fainter, who lives and works here now.
Now to Rock Star Fiona Rae, whose show at PaceWildenstein on the East Side was a TKO knock-out. Paint-eater that I am, I usually don't fall into staring at a painting for very long, moving on after a respectable couple of minutes or so, but Rae's works are so packed with technical virtuosity, with seemingly every kind of iconography and painting language imaginable thrown into each canvas, that I was drawn over and over into immersion in these works. Completely spellbound. Though it is not so apparent in these pics, much methodical care is taken into masking off varying spots, using stencils, airbrush, splatters, spills, and loading brushes with varying colors to attain those sensuous waves of multi-hued strokes.  It really boggles the mind how much tedious grunge work (even perhaps when working with assistants, though I'm sure that's welcome!) goes into creating these opulent, explosive, merry, scary extremely fun paintings.  A deep curtsy and hats off to this British painting legend.  I hope you too enjoy these pics but damn they rock in person. (Not so big, though, only about 50"x62".) These works contained a whiff of Easter, which is when they opened, as indicated by the detail of the little bunnies above.
Before I go today, just want to highlight a couple of other impressive artists, one of whom is veteran painter Shirley Jaffe. She also had a show going on in the same building as Fiona Rae.
The other is all-time favorite Beatriz Mihazes, whose new work (at least shown here) was much more simplified and graphic than her usually more ornate style. But, I'll take it.