Monday, July 31, 2006

Hot Dog Art

couldn't resist, folks..... if you click on the sculpture, there are how-to instructions. I am excited about this, as I have plans to teach my nieces and nephews how to do food sculpture when their parents aren't around.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

On Being Too Attached to One's Babies.....

So I just brought back 3 Crying Men paintings
from Miami, having picked them up from Chelsea Galleria so that they can go to an upcoming show... (they will go back to Chelsea, along with NEW Crying Men, during Art Basel). I was itching to get home, so that I might hang them up in my studio and finally get another good look at them. They went directly to the Frost Museum show last summer, then to Chelsea, and I have not seen them since. So here's the thing: I realize that I am happier to have them back than I would be if they all sold and I got a check. As I mentioned a few days ago, I have recently dropped off a landscape to the gallery that I might never see again. This is distressing, and a part of this new deal that I had not bargained for.

Up until recently, when I was still single, I would bring whatever painting I was working on into my bedroom each evening: I would look at it for a while while falling asleep, then look at it again with fresh eyes in the morning before getting up. It would allow me to see things that might not work, see it wih fresh eyes in a new space, etc. I always work on a painting until there was not one possible thing that I could do to it to make it stronger. Towards the end, I would sit in front of it for a long period of time and make a list of all the things that needed to happen to it before it was done, and cross them off one by one. Then I would declare it finished, and I would hang it on a prominent wall in my home or studio, someplace where I would be sure to see it every day. I would look at it some more. There was, on average, one more hour's work that went into each of these paintings before I released them into the world.

SaraP wrote in a comment to an earlier blog:
"On a somewhat related note - six years ago my mentor was dropping off a year's worth of work to her NYC gallery (this was comprised of 5 highly-detailed, 3-by-5 foot architectural paintings of NYC scenes with slightly built-out relief surfaces of only about 2 inches deep). She had unloaded 4 from her car and a man standing in the gallery purchased them on the spot. She panicked and told the gallery director that was all the work she she could keep the last piece that was still packed in her car (this painting still hangs in her house). The real bummer, so to speak, was that the guy lived out of the state so there was no gallery show for her that year. Clearly the work sold ($20K plus for her) but there was no glory in the end - so perhaps the opportunity to exhibit is as much a part of the art, too?"

This is the art world dream, right? Haven't we all heard the stories about artists who are so "hot" that there is a waiting list for their work? How are those artists different from someone knitting sweaters as fast as they can to sell them? The above story is my idea of a nightmare. It clearly spells out to me what I want and don't want for my own work. I think, if it were up to me, I would sell my work only to museums, or only after 5 years had past, and it had experienced an active exhibition life. Not only would I be less attached to it, but people would have had the opportunity to see the work, write about it, etc., and I could go see it when it was being exhibited in the various venues. I learn from my own work: I try to do something new in each painting that I have never done before. How can I absorb the lesson if I never see the work again once it leaves the easel?

When you work on a painting for 6 months or a year, the details of every millimeter of the canvas are burned into your brain. You remember painting the stitches of the sweater, the highlights on the stitches, glazing the rows between the stitches, then the shadows that cause these loops to look like they go UNDER those loops. My paintings are not infatuations, but full blown, long-term love affairs. When you work on a painting for that long, the meaning often changes during the course of the process. "Fate of A Technicolor Romantic" started off as a painting about class and shame: an easily dismissed white trash living room, full of films and books to make the viewer take pause in making judgments. It developed into a self-portrait of my core values, then a war of light between the idealism of the blue TV light and the reality of a dim 40-watt light bulb. This painting has strong ties to my family: I remember sobbing in front of this painting more than once while working on it, partially because it was succeeding in doing what I wanted it to do, and partly because it was so successful it brought me back to places I didn't really want to be. I was doing two weeks of all nighters to finish another painting for a show in 1996, and my sleep-deprived brain had the strong desire to lick the surface, because I was so happy with the texture. On another 2 a.m. final-crunch occasion, I cried with joy when I realized that The Defense Mechanism Coat, my first 3D object, went from a conceptual sketch to a 150 lb. real thing, and it was actually going to work, not fall apart the minute I hung it up.

To use a common but inauthentic (I have never given birth to a PERSON) metaphor, I devote myself to the creation of a piece, think about it as I am falling asleep every night and waiting in line at the supermarket, and usually have a lengthy, painful, exhausting finish that feels like I have taken years off my life. Then, when I go to see it hanging in the gallery, I can't believe I made that thing hanging on the wall, and I forget the pain.

In undergraduate school, it was vulgar to talk about selling one's work. You made the strongest work possible, and no one ever talked about what was supposed to happen after that. Today it seems (maybe I am wrong) that most artists want to be famous, and to sell lots of work for lots of money. What is the point? The artists often don't know who purchased their work, because everything is handled by the dealer, and they like it that way. What if a complete as*hole who likes the work for all the wrong reasons wants to buy an important piece that you devoted half a year of your life to? The thought is disgusting, vulgar, and not too far away from selling your body.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

My Tragic Flaw.....

I remember the very moment that I knew that I was an artist. I was sitting in Ms. Dwyer's AP English class at Seton Catholic Central High School. I had stayed up late the night before, reading Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" in one sitting, and my head was still spinning from it. At the time, I was doing drawings of the Susquehanna & Chenango rivers at night, with their illuminated bridges and streetlights. In the novel, there is a pivotal scene involving the protagonist and the effect of streetlights, and I remember being transfixed by the similarities of feeling that I shared with Stephen Daedalus. (May have to pull it off the shelf for a reread, it has been 20 years...). The following day, the enchantment continued when Ms. Dwyer gave a lecture on "artistic temperament": it was there that I received my long-awaited diagnosis, and my fate was sealed.

Ms. Dwyer was my hero back when I was 18: she was a "Ms.", rumor had it that she lived with her boyfriend, being perpetually engaged rather than being married (a state I would mimic later in my life), and she was smart, articulate, and funny. I enjoyed Lit class, and absorbed many profound insights that I reference to this day. One of my favorites is the concept of a tragic flaw. When I met my future husband, I asked him what his tragic flaw was on our first date. He was not scared off, and, although it was the perfect opportunity to give an interview-type response, his answer was forthright.

MY tragic flaw is grossly underestimating the amount of time that it takes for me to finish any given task. My notebook for today contained a list of to-dos: Ruth Chenven Foundation Grant, Fiberarts Magazine Sampling submission, prep Crying Men for Fed Ex shipping, Hair Embroidery, and work on Master Contact List. Only the first two were ultimately crossed off the list. My husband is partly to blame, as we had an early dinner, then he dragged me off on a school night to see Mem Shannon and the Membership at the Blue Bayou. They put cajun spice on the fresh popcorn, it tastes great with the beer. They have free Wi-Fi there, but I don't think I would have made much progress on the Master Contact list even if I had brought my laptop, which is a big nod to Mem.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Fingernails, Cleavage, and the Cracker Barrel....

Last Saturday, before my trip, Kevin roused me and said that we had to run out the door if we wanted any good stuff to be left at the yard sale in the historic neighborhood, and we don't have to eat because we were going to breakfast afterwards. He announced that we were eating out or doing take out all day today because we both have a crunch day, and we shouldn't have to worry about food.

We went to the Mayberry Diner, and the Blue Ribbon Diner, but none had breakfast. People MUST go out to breakfast in Burlington, NC, but where do they go? After driving around, we found that every bruncher in town was at the Cracker Barrel. We got seated right away, but we noticed pretty fast that there were quite a few people looking at us: pointing, shaking their heads disapprovingly and whispering. At first, we thought it was because Kevin had a baseball cap on (inside a building in the South) to hide his bedhead, but after a few more John Deere caps walked in, we figured that it must have been my clothing selection. When Kevin woke me up, I threw on a camisole with built in shelf bra , a skirt, and some sandals, and you would think I was walking around in my underwear the way they were looking at me. Jezebel. If they looked closer, they would have disapproved even more, as I had lots of blue and green paint under my fingernails. Dirty Jezebel. I use my fingernails as a maul stick. With the fine work that I do, it helps to grow my fingernails out and use them to steady my hand while I paint, without smudging the paint.

Once when I had some really intense weeks at FIU and I had not been in the studio for a while, I had a dream about Charles Eldred, my mentor. He came to me in the dream, and saw that my fingernails were long and polished, and said "what's wrong?! You're not working!". It always makes me smile to think of that when I can't get all the paint out from under my nails, and I have to go out in public.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


One week. Two paintings delivered to Atlanta and Miami. 4 paintings picked up. 2 dinner parties, 2 nights out, brunch with some of (it's off season) the gang. Several hours at the Red, White & Blue Thrift Store looking for stuff for the next Psychological Clothing pieces. 16 hour drive down, 11 hour drive back. My body still feels like it is vibrating from the road, but I thought out many of the details of the next major painting, and composed all the text for a pseudo-children's book. Denny's now has free Wi-Fi, so I could transpose from my tape recorder to my laptop while waiting for my salad to come out.

Discussed what will hang in the gallery during Art Basel and a show next year. Best of all, I have had this large, involved painting idea that has been haunting me. I started gathering references, then said to myself, "You have never done anything like this before, and you cannot do another major, 6 month painting!", and I would put everything away, but then it would tease me, and I would be working the details of the painting out in the back of my brain, even though I said this painting wasn't going to happen. I thought about it on the ride down, and knew that this is the painting that I want to make now. I mentioned to the gallery director that I had this idea that was not letting go of me. As I explained it, she got much more excited about it than I was, and said she would put it front and center in her booth at Art Miami.

So I write this from my studio, not perched on a bed someplace in the middle of the night. I am still feeling a bit dull, but today is the day to set the studio up for the next round of stuff: finishing the hair embroidery so it can be photographed, ordering canvas for "the big painting", and getting an area ready to assemble a massive mailing (new hair embroideries on CD to curators and galleries around the world, with a focus on Europe). Luckily, in my absence, SarahP has sent 4 CDs full of new music that should make some of these unromantic artist's tasks more palatable.

Highlights of the trip: seeing my friends, dinner at Plein Sud in North Miami, crossing from Georgia to Florida and seeing a large billboard that said, "Attention visitors: be warned that Florida residents are allowed to use DEADLY FORCE!", with a big picture of a gun shooting a bullet through the "Attention Visitors" part. Welcome to the Sunshine State! Courtesy of Jeb, no doubt. (It was the turnpike. no place to back up, pull over and photograph.) And my friend Jim, who shared his lovely Palm Beach home for a relaxing final two days after the whirlwind of Miami, told me the story of a brief obituary he recently read that I cannot shake. "Her soul was pure, but her life was difficult: she was a flower in a mud puddle."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Miami Landscape II, detail...
A new experience for me, finishing a painting and immediately handing it over to someone to sell, perhaps never to see it again. Thinking really hard on how I feel about that....

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Delivered to Chelsea Galleria in Wynwood yesterday: Miami Landscape II, 36 x 48", oil on canvas. Picked up Crying Men. Currently at FIU picking up the last of my office files, then up to Palm Beach for a few days with friends. Blogging will be sporadic untiI am safely back in NC Monday evening. Looking forward to responding to your posts!!!! xo K

Friday, July 21, 2006

Tornadoes, Family, and the Florida Turnpike

On Tuesday morning, after 3 hours sleep and another reoccurring dream of tornadoes hovering on the horizon, I set out at 8:30 for Atlanta. Five hours later, I was in the 100 degree parking lot at The Defoors Centre emptying my entire car in order to unload the painting that I was delivering to the Women’s Caucus for Art show. The painting fit so tightly into the back of my Honda CRV that it had to be loaded in at a certain angle, then midway through the process, the angle had to be shifted dramatically to have it lay flat and fit perfectly. Now, with the other Miami-bound painting and all of my luggage leaning against the outside of my car, sweat dripping down my face, arms, and legs, several other artists had come and gone from the parking lot while I wrestled with various angle combinations to liberate the painting from the back of my car. It was one of those moments that you mentally note, to be certain that you will never repeat that particular mistake. I was back on the road at 2, and planned on driving ‘till 6, but around 4:30 I decided that I was a danger to myself and others, and needed to get off the road.

After 4 nights of painting-induced sleep deprivation, I was just drifting off at the Ramada Inn in Cordele, GA, when my cell phone rang. It was 10:15, and I considered not answering. I saw it was my sister, and picked up: "Could you call, back tomorrow, Chris? I haven’t slept and I am exhausted…" She couldn’t call back tomorrow, because she would be in Asia tomorrow, and the latest family crisis was happening NOW. I got the various details from her, told her not to worry about it, go on your business trip, and the rest of the sibs and I will handle this one. I took a pill and a warm shower and tried to go back to sleep, but to no avail. I wrestled with the wireless internet service provided by the hotel, refining and publishing last night’s already mostly written blog, (below).

The last numbers I remember seeing on the clock read 3:30 a.m. I had a dream that I was driving a car, but I was in the back seat trying to steer, so I stopped the car, sensing that this was dangerous (I have this dream a lot, but usually I keep driving from the back seat, careening). I had another dream that one of my ex-boyfriends cleanly sawed my car in half, separating the front half from the back. At 6 a.m., the yip-yip dogs in the hotel room next door started to cry. At 6:30, I emphatically cried out "PLEASE!" very loudly, and they removed the dog sounds to I care not where. There was no sleeping after that, only trying, though I delayed my alarm and departure till 8:30.

The highlight of this particular drive (NC, Atlanta, Miami) is Gaffney, SC, the home of the giant obscene peach, and that was appreciated yesterday, so today there was a only a nine hour drive, punctuated by many phone calls from various players in the family crisis, to look forward to. I got the largest coffee that they had at the mini mart, and a bag of bourbon praline pecans, because, beneath the sugar, I rationalized, there was some protein.

The Florida State Line, 11 a.m.: The trees change, from deciduous to Spanish moss to palms. "Somebody has to actually go down there and sign a paper, saying that they will pay if he doesn’t show up."

Tampa, 12:00 p.m.: The burned-out spots near the turnpike, where I saw those fires on the news. "It’s too late for that, they want the money instead."

Orlando, 1:00 pm: I am pulling out of a rest stop, not going fast enough for the person behind me, and someone honks their horn at me for the first time in 6 months. "Where does she think the money is going to come from? We haven’t been paid back from the last time."

Fort Pierce, 2:00 pm: People start passing on the right, going 95 m.p.h. The knot of pain begins at the base of my skull. I am stretching my ever-tightening neck muscles by tilting my head from side to side. "She’s going down there anyway?.. what does she hope to accomplish? Could she be more enabling?!"

West Palm Beach, 3:00 pm: Someone cuts across 4 lanes in front of me to make a late exit. Pull your shoulders down and back now, not hunched up in your years. "I had to sleep with Mom’s car keys under my pillow, so she would not leave in the middle of the night, and just start driving."

Fort Lauderdale, 4:00 pm: I watch as a window rolls down, and a hand holding a Taco Bell wrapper sticks out, fully experiencing the flutter before letting it go. I flex my hands as I realize that I am clenching the steering wheel. "It’s not going to change his behavior to help him out again, I say we let him stay there for a few days."

Miami, 5:00 pm: Traffic has slowed to a crawl, taillights across 5 lanes of traffic, but on the far right shoulder are the fast moving lines of cars, containing people too important to wait in traffic with the masses. Back in the Land of Entitlement, I start deep breathing, long on the exhale. "This is the last time, I’m not doing this any more", I said.

I have gotten soft after so many months of living in NC. I have forgotten that, in South Florida, you do not put on your turn signal if you want to change lanes on the highway, because people will speed up to close the gap, so that you cannot change lanes and get in front of them.

I arrive at my friend Barbara’s with just enough time to find the key, let myself in, bring my stuff into the house, and shower before meeting friends for dinner. But, with 5 minutes to go before I must leave, I realize that it is overcast, and a perfect day to photograph the new painting, rather than waiting for tomorrow, when it might be sunny and impossible. In 5 minutes, I have set up the tripod and photographed the painting, leaning it against each side of the car, to be certain that one of them will be perfectly lit. I am sweating, and the mosquitoes are biting as I press the shutter release for the final time, whisk the painting back into Barbara’s house, and get on the road to meet my friends.

My family is the looming tornado always on the edge of my subconscious horizon. Along with occasional bouts of insomnia, they have given me my obsessive art making techniques, the steely nerve to drive on Florida Turnpike with 2 hours sleep, and the ability to snap the perfect photo on a 5 minute deadline, unflinching, while being eaten by mosquitoes.

I slept last night in Barbara's guest room like I used to when I was single, with the painting I have just finished in my bedroom with me, so I can see it first thing when I wake up…. at 11:30 a.m.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hello my friends...
in Miami doing business and seeing my long lost friends. Postings will be sporadic for the next few days, but have been writing offline.... will post finished painting tonight and some of the travel journals, artist delivering paintings across Southeast, etc. xo Kate

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Happy Art, Fluffy Art....... Vapid Art?

Now that I have moved to the middle Atlantic, I am anxious to look into some places in this part of the country that might show my work: Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia, etc. I was looking at a postcard the other day, the kind with an individual image from each of the artists represented by the gallery. I have been planning on approaching this gallery, because they are really the only one in this particular city showing art that is even slightly "edgy" or contemporary, and they often feature work made with non-traditional materials.

But looking at the artists that they represent en masse (all galleries should do this, as it really gives one a strong visual sense of what they are about at a glance), I suddenly realized that they would probably not be interested in my work, because none of the art on the postcard seemed to be "about" anything, or, more specifically, that none of the art seemed to be "about" anything IMPORTANT. I apologize for the lack of specific visual references, but I am already well on my way to alienating myself from any possible source of art world income in the future by impulse blogging, but if you get out to look at art with any regularity, I hope that you will recognize the genre I am referring to: the work seems to have no weight. What I see in front of me are several things that look like doodles from high school or middle school notebooks, some psychedelic nostalgia imagery, things made from unusual materials for the sake of novelty (not because the chosen medium informs or contradicts the content), at least one artist making something sparkling or glittery, and some regurgitation of Pop culture, with little or no transcendence.

I'm not talking about lack of drawing skill, because I love that kind of rawness... I collect folk art, and buy children's drawings off the wall of grammar schools and frame them when afforded the opportunity. One of the reasons that I love folk art is that it is often about love, death, or God. I am talking about a kind of deliberate, conscious superficiality.... as if the people making them have only been looking at various illuminated screens and magazines their whole lives, not walking around on this chaotic, shrinking planet, falling in love, experiencing grief, struggling with moral dilemmas or wrapping their minds around a concept. The art is as flat as the original imagery it is derived from.

(So maybe I don't get it because I don't watch TV....)

I'm not saying that the Art Lite can't be seductive, either. I remember going to shows in Miami, where this sort of thing is multiplying like spores and getting reviewed and discussed (!?) ad nauseum, and thinking, "you know, I would like to take this art painted on shiny vinyl home and hang it on my wall because I would like to look at it", but the enthusiasm I was feeling about the object was akin to finding a really cool pair of shoes. Those who know me know that I can get pretty excited about a cool pair of shoes, but thoughts of footwear don't keep me up nights.

This kind of art seems to have no ambition beyond being Prom Queen, and, lucky for them, the current art establishment has stuffed the ballot box in their favor. Am I a snob to think that, in a world filled with so much art, it should aspire to be more?

I mentioned a while back that there is a drawing that I want make a trade for. I will publish the image only if I am lucky enough to ever get it into my hot little mitts, so no one buys it out from underneath me. But when I reconnected with this artist from grad school, I saw some of her work for the first time in years, and I printed a few of them out and tacked them on my wall. Every day, I see this image out of the corner of my eye while I am working, and now I need to possess it. It has wormed its way into my brain through my eyeballs.

I am doomed to always be unfashionable... Years ago, I remember reading something about the new "post ironic" art, and I got so excited, thinking, "finally, my work will be in synch with what is cool", and then 9/11 happened, and I thought, "this will really do it, how can anyone make fluff after this?" but some people still do. Am I just getting old? We all reach this point, right?... when we look at what younger people are doing and worry about the future of art, and don't get it because the game has changed and we haven't? But I don't think it is a generation gap, because I have been teaching for a long time, and I have seen work made by twenty-somethings that is layered and powerful, that makes me think and feel rather than just sitting there, resting on my retina.

I remember having a revelation at the Laura Owens exhibition at MOCA a few years back. I was looking at all the paintings with the cute fuzzy animals, and another piece of two people snuggling in bed, and I thought, "Not only is she daring to use all the tricks and bad painting techniques that you see taught on cable television, but she is just painting things that make her HAPPY!" The thought was so revolutionary and liberating, honestly, I was a bit manic leaving the exhibition. I could do it too, I thought, "So, what will I paint?... Radley? Deep blue Hydrangeas? My niece twirling in a new dress or my nephew sleeping with his stuffed puppy?" Immediately, my inner censor intervened: "BEEN DONE BEFORE! IS THIS THE LEGACY YOU WANT TO LEAVE?!! TOO CUTE! CLICHE!, TOO MUCH LIKE A HALLMARK CARD" I would fail someone who brought something like that to a crit. But I might buy it from them after the crit, and hang it on my wall as a "guilty pleasure"... we have all seen work that straddles this interesting fence, and sometimes the executor is not even aware that they doing it. (But that is for another blog...)

Now I am thinking of last year's Art Basel, where the same kind of impressions were hitting me again: "bad painting techniques & cliche images, that is the theme", I thought, "I can't believe they have the balls to do this, and that none of the collectors are saying, "I watch Bob Ross, and this entire painting looks like it was done with 'the magic brush' from his painting kit". History repeats itself.... break the cardinal rules, and popular taste will follow, finding it revolutionary, whether the concept is born of boldness, or naivete.

It is time to question my own firmly held convictions, and ask myself, "Where did I get this idea that art was supposed to be IMPORTANT? Who put this rule in my brain?", and "As much as I hate to hear people talking about their 'inner critic', has mine saddled me with a battery-powered collar and erected an invisible fence while I wasn't looking, keeping me from wide open, true artistic freedom?!"

I can get emotional and yes, even judgemental, talking about art: sometimes, when I need to see things clearly, I pretend that one of my students is asking me the question that I happen to be turning over and over in my own head. My unbiased, professorial answer to my student-self wondering "why?" is this: "Maybe this kind of work is a commentary on how superficial life appears to these particular artists. Perhaps it doesn't even go that deep, maybe this is truly how the world appears to them, and they are just replicating it and throwing it back out there. Me? I make the art that I make because I have stood in front of art that I admire, asking myself what makes it "great" or "effective", and I try to integrate those qualities into my own vision. I suspect that is the same process that leads other people to make the work that THEY make. The real question is... what kind of art do you want to spend YOUR precious hours on earth making?"

Radley, running in a sea of blue hydrangeas, his ears flapping in the breeze, with clouds made of tagliatelle in truffle sauce.....

Come on, I would really like to hear back on this one, you can comment anonymously, you just click the "comments" below.......

Monday, July 17, 2006

Artist on the Road.....

Painted 'till 3:30, slept 'till 8:30. Here is a teaser, the light rays are the only thing that are not in there yet, you'll get a real high quality finished picture in a day or two.....
Need a place to photograph in the studio to get the colors right... there is a lot more to this than chartreuse. Kevin is putting up color corrected bulbs while I am gone. Tonight I get a good night sleep, then hit the road in the morning. Dropping off a painting in Atlanta, then continuing on to Miami, to drop off the above painting to The Chelsea Galleria, and pick up Crying Men

so that they can be shipped off to Columbia SC for a show next month. Will probably end up crashing in Jacksonville or thereabouts. Love roadtrips, get my best thinking done alone while driving.... now I bring a tape recorder with me every time I do a long drive. It is also my time to call people and catch up. Will check in from the motel tomorrow night with a blog that I have been kicking around that is sure to get me in trouble.... :)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Soundtracks to paintings......

My work doesn't really come to life for me until the last few days when I am working on it, it somehow gets activated at the end when the final glazes go down. This is the next-to-last day I will be working on this painting, and I am listening to Tori Amos' "Under The Pink" as I wrap the painting up. There are a few artists and a few musicians that truly feed me, and they are all what I call "tapped in....", accessing something far beneath the surface of things.
Rather than try to describe what this means, I will refer to one of the many quotes I have on my wall:
"The Descent Into Self....
And so, for the first time in my life perhaps, I took the lamp and, leaving the zone of everyday occupations and relationships where everything seems clear, I went down into my innermost self, to the deep abyss whence I feel dimly that my power of action emanates. But as I moved further and further away from the conventional certainties by which social life is superficially illuminated, I became aware that I was losing contact with myself. At each step of the descent a new person was disclosed within me of whose name I was no longer sure, and who no longer obeyed me. And when I had to stop my exploration because the path faded from beneath my steps, I found a bottomless abyss at my feet, and out of it comes- arising from I know not where- the current which I dare to call MY life." - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

So as I paint, it is as if the music is in the air, gets breathed in, and (I hope) comes out the end of the brush.... layers, and layers, and layers.....

Friday, July 14, 2006

Was up until 2 a.m. ....

finishing a grant last night, then tossed and turned for another hour and a half. Up at 8, paint til 12, Dr.'s appts and errands the rest of the day. Drove to Durham for the Branch Gallery opening... it is a small place, but very cool, they are showing really interesting work. Rachel Bernstein's work was fun, most of the pieces were very long tubes of flesh colored felt, stuffed, then bent and hand sewn together at points to resemble intestines. There were 5 or 6 of these, then there was an arm/hand and a foot with felt exteriors and awkward but obsessive embroidery (that I am really jealous of) over the tubular stuffed interior.

I am always trying to do awkward embroidery, like the boys in fiber class, but it always "neatens up" somehow. This started as a wild, freeform embroidery stitch that I kind of made up as I went along, trying to keep it sloppy and it did not work. I need to embroider with the "wrong" hand, like they used to make us do in drawing class. Anyway, the highlight of Ms. Bernsteins' work was a scrotum piece: I might not have registered "scrotum" in the first second, because one is not used to seeing one a.) independent of a penis, and b.) flayed open to reveal the embroidered testicles. I am also jealous of embroidered testicles. The effect was humorous but unsettling, they literally look like 3D illustrations from an anatomy textbook rendered in handmade felt and found threads of various thicknesses. There were a few wall pieces that were flat handmade felt with monochromatic embroidered veins of single limbs that were vaguely reminiscent of Kiki Smith's "Nervous Giants" pieces, only smaller and under glass, giving them the quality of a specimen, the rough felt being rather pelt-like . If there was a fire, I would have saved the scrotum.....

Stopped at the Blue Bayou Club on the way home for one beer. It is one of the coolest places around here, in Hillsborough. We are members, it costs $5 a year (yep, the cost of parking at a parking meter for one night on South Beach, if you are lucky enough to find one). Mighty Lester was playing, we saw them at the Blues Festival in Greensboro a few weeks back: and it was tempting to stay, but I had to get home to paint. : (
Seeing Mighty Lester for a few minutes has inspired Kevin to break out his saxophone: his studio is in the basement, mine is on the 3rd floor: I hear nothing.... that's why we live in Burlington, because your money buys lots of house. Now I will stop blogging and paint: we are only at a mildly scary point in the painting, upbeat music to keep me awake, but no need for chocolate.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

ART & FEAR, or courting that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach for fun...

My apologies to David Bayles and Ted Orland , who wrote a book of the same name, a very good book, as I recall: I recommended it to many a student. So this morning, I was working on this part of the painting

and listening to "In the Deep" by Bird York (that amazingly haunting song at the end of the film "Crash"), when it occured to me that I did not know what I was going to do with this area of the painting, that I had no idea how I was going to make it work, only that I had to do it now. Where else have I experienced this feeling? Then I realized... I am a thrillseeker: I especially love being up in the air. I have taken flying lessons, jumped out of airplanes, rode in gliders, the blimp (thanks, Sam), and helicopters, all to get that feeling in my stomach, that mixture of excitement and fear. I wonder if it has lead me to the kind of paintings that I make, where the painting is almost finished, then you put down a glaze over the whole thing, and if it's wrong, the painting is dead. (I know that other artists reach similar moments of anxiety in their work, heck, that's all Francis Bacon talked about in the last book I read.) I got into the car with Radley, did a drive-through (Burlington has ONE [new!] Starbuck's) and went to get a Java chip frappacino to quell my anxiety. I sat drinking my... well, let's face it, it's a milkshake with bits of chocolate it, and stared at my painting, then picked out my "Beautiful/Mellow" Playlist and began:

The next layer comes tomorrow. The fun part of today was doing leaf highlights... after all the drudgery, I finally get to make them "pop" a bit, and some space begins to happen.

Playlist from today, where most moments were scary, and I needed "the big guns", my most beautiful, inspirational music to help me pull it off:
Gypsy Suzanne Vega
Tori Amos - Losing My Religion (REM Cover) Tori Amos
Stop Your Fussin' Toni Childs
In The Deep - Bird York
Today Has Been Okay Emiliana Torrini
In Your Eyes (long version, live) Peter Gabriel w/Paula Cole
Carmen Paula Cole
this womans work kate bush
Cowboy Junkies - Sweet Jane
Ribbon in the Sky Stevie Wonder
Cowboy Junkies - Wild Horses
With Arms Wide Open Creed
I'm Still Here Tom Waits
Nobody's Crying Reprise Patty Griffin
Sweetness Follows REM
Walking in Memphis Marc Cohen
You Are Not Alone Patty Griffin
Taking My Chances/One Big Love (Acoustic) Patty Griffin
Landslide Tori Amos
Forgiven Deb Talan
Your Ghost Kristen Hirsh
Wrapped Around Your Finger (live Police cover) Tori Amos
Into Dust Mazzy Star
Enough To Be On Your Way James Taylor
Copperline James Taylor
Kite Song Patty Griffin
I'll Be Home Randy Newman
Man of the Hour Pearl Jam
The Ballad of Mary Magdalen Cry Cry Cry
Why Worry Dire Straits
Breathe Me Sia
Still I long for your kiss Nancy Griffith & Lucinda Willi
After All Dar Williams
Tori Amos & Tool - Amazing Grace
Cry, Cry Mazzy Star
Every Little Bit (acoustic) Patty Griffin
The Luckiest Ben Folds
Dave Matthews Band - Crash Into Me
It's a Hard Life Nancy Griffith
U2 - With or Without You
Monster In Law Soundtrack - - Dar Williams - The Beauty Of The Rain
Sweetest Thing U2
U2 - One
Lucinda Williams - A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall
Joy Lucinda Williams
Rock and Bird Cowboy Junkies
Sarah Mcglaughlin- I will remember you
I Want You To Hurt Like I Do 4:06 Randy Newman
I Think It's Going To Rain Today 2:51 Judy Collins
plasir d'amour 4:48 Judy Collins
April Come She Will 2:37 Simon And Garfunkel
Someday Soon Judy Collins
Nightswimming (feat. Michael Stipe) Coldplay
Long Ago And Far Away Joni Mitchell & James Taylor
Why Not Smile R.E.M.
Talk Coldplay
She Talks To Angels (Acoustic) Black Crowes
u2 - One (Acoustic with Michael Stipe)
Don't Think Twice It's Alright Indigo Girls w Joan Baez
All the little horses Judy collins
Speed Of Sound Coldplay
Moses (Full Band Live) Coldplay
Beautiful World Coldplay
The Scientist Coldplay
Fix You Coldplay
Joni Mitchell - For Free
Wonderwall Cat Power
Night Ride Home Joni Mitchell
The Eagle And The Hawk John Denver
Suzanne Leonard Cohen
The Greatest Discovery Elton John
Joni Mitchell - Urge for going Joni Mitchell
Will The Circle Be Unbroken June Carter Cash
Mazzy Star - Fade Into You

If you are not a downloader and want some of these, let me know. I just bought 500 CD mailers for my next art mailing, I should have 100-200 left, and I am making CDs of The Most Beautiful Music I Know for xmas presents, I'll put you on the list. As most of my old sources for new music are busy being grownups now, I have found a great site for finding new music.
I will take suggestions as well.

And your prize for reading to the bottom of the blog: I know the Saatchi registry was a mixed bag, but here's one with good art.... The Irving Sandler Artist's File. Worth an hour of your time, and it is great perusing other people's work, as well. 10:45 p.m. Time to work on July 15-30th grants. Tomorrow is the infamous opening with the fiber art glove!!!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


A few days ago, SarahP commented on the difference between visual arts & music, suggesting, "Imagine if you could complete a drawing or painting, set it on a stage and have a room full of people clap or "boo" a response!!!". It reminded me that somewhere (in an article or a blog I read) someone suggested an annual Academy Awards ceremony for artists.

I remember back in grad school, when the Guerilla Girls came to visit. They talked about art world politics, the importance of "connections", and having the right people "back" your work, citing these as reasons that women artists were at a disadvantage. I already knew that juried shows were not taken very seriously by "those who know".... now that I have juried a few shows, I understand why this is true. But part of me wondered why there were no "serious" blind competitions... real work instead of slides, jurors who have no vested interest in any of the artists applying, etc. ... wouldn't this even the playing field?

What kind of categories would we have for an Artists' Academy Awards? Painting/installation/video/sculpture of the year, most innovative use of medium, risk-taking or "stepping outside your comfort zone" award, best body of work by an artist who grosses less than 20K from art sales (like an indie award), best conceptual work fabricated by someone else, etc.

BBC reports that someone had an idea for a reality-based TV show looking for the World's Best Painting. This story was written in late 2005, and I could not find anything more recent on this attempt. Maybe the idea morphed into ARTSTAR, and that will be the end of it...(can't you just picture the meeting where this happened?).....if true, that would be most unfortunate.

Although it could easily happen in the current environment, and that would be another tragedy, the "world's best painting" should not be confused with the world's most expensive painting, recently in the news. It is interesting to note that the world's most expensive painting to date, a Klimt, was considered by the purchaser to be Klimt's SECOND best work, after "The Kiss". If $=greatness, does that automatically mean that "The Kiss" is the world's greatest work of art?

Britain had 118,000 people vote on their favorite painting, but it had to be hanging in a British museum. Here's another guy who has already decided on the Best Painting in the Western World.

What do you think the qualifications should be for "the world's greatest painting"? Should it be judged in the context of when it was made, i.e., a breakthrough in art history, or a cross-centuries, empirical "best of"....?

I think my criteria would be: how many people are moved by it and simultaneously made to think? You would need to allow the "wow" factor to happen, create an insulated environment where you met the art, face to face, and looked at them side by side. I think that the 5 runners-up should be hung in a room, with the walls painted black, and the judges should go in, one at a time, take as long as they want, and then move to a black decompression chamber, where they could reflect and see which one haunted them, resonated, even after they had left its presence.

Who would the judges be? The Academy Awards are juried by one's peers. Who could we trust as a juror who knows art, but has no agenda? Maybe for the regionals, we could bring in curators from the other side of the world, ones who have been carefully screened for for painting biases, but who would judge the finals? Artists, curators, or a mix of both?

What if the world's greatest painting was done by someone that nobody ever heard of, someone who is not in "the system"? Museum directors and collectors could nominate pieces in their collections, but a true judgment calls for a "far and wide" search, like in the fairy tales, where a year is spent disseminating information, with all of the news media participating, because artists sometime hide out in their studios for months at a time, and it would be tragic if the world's greatest artist was so busy working that they did not find out about the contest. There would be flyers and mass mailings and everyone would be talking about it, even in line at the supermarkets, so all the artists would know where to bring their painting, and on what day, for the preliminaries. And, of course, a stipend for the dirt poor artists who can't afford to cart their large masterpiece anywhere.

Elsewhere, in the studio today, I painted the dark spaces IN BETWEEN the leaves I painted yesterday, here (lower left of painting)

and here (upper left of painting).

I would liken the experience to cleaning the grout between 4 inch tiles in a 500 square foot men's shower with a toothbrush. I had to take a break and do some hair embroidery. My neck and arms hurt. Makes me want to learn Photoshop, take photos with my digital camera, and email the images to someone who will blow them up, mount them on the back of some luscious plexi or on the front of some sexy aluminum, and ship them to the gallery for me. : )

Finally, have a drink tonight and toast a non-fictional artist in Australia who did herself in while preparing for a big show. 47 year old Bronwyn Oliver dedicated her life to her work, and was found yesterday in her studio.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

An example of outright plagarism, and a day of painting leaves....

While googling "world's best painting" (tomorrow's blog), I happened upon this, a blog about an Italian guy who had an entire body of work plagarized by an award-winning Japanese artist. One of my favorite responses was a quote,
"The master has a responsibility that the dilettante does not have, to hold his work up against imitators, and thereby allow the enlightened to spot the difference." "Spotting the difference" works when looking at the real thing, but through the 72 dpi lens, I wonder who could spot the difference? The BBC account of the international scandal is here.

Speaking of spotting the difference, here is the painting again after a whole day (8a.m. - 8 p.m.) of work.

here is a detail of the leaves that I spent most of the day working on, even though I have no idea if the technique will work, it has been so long since I have done a landscape.

Here is Radley's view of the painting setup....
and the man himself, unimpressed with the number of leaves Kate has painted.

I am off for a date downstairs to watch our NetFlix for the week, "Bad Education". Kevin has promised a new experiment with the ice cream maker. "I'm a scientist!!" he said, when I commented about our waistlines, "you can't keep me from my research!" More leaves tomorrow. xo Kate

Monday, July 10, 2006

Painting Update/Deadlines.....

Last night I went to bed about midnight, then proceeded to toss and turn till about 4. Could have been painting instead. I have one week to finish this painting... it is a self-imposed deadline. Next week, I embark on a week long painting delivery roadtrip, and this painting will be in the car, bound for Miami.
I remember being an undergraduate, and all the rules we absorbed.... we were trying to learn not only how to make art, but what beliefs we needed to hold to be considered "serious artists". Half of these rules have gone out the window with the current widely-accepted careerism, like "while you are in school, don't be thinking about how to get into a gallery, get a University Teaching job, or write a grant... concentrate on the work."

The rule I am thinking of is, "don't paint for a show." In theory, I agree with this: knowledge of an impending show should never influence content or technique, there should never be any compromises in the work under any circumstances. But since the beginning of my artmaking career, I have dreamed of unlimited time to create my work, and I have finished MAYBE a handful of work under those circumstances. Now I question whether that is the ideal. I once sat down and made of list of the best work I have done, and every single one of them was finished under the duress of an impending show. I wish I had the insomnia under control for good, but when I get close to a show, I am lying awake and obsessing about it anyway, I might as well be painting.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Worth checking out....

This weekend was spent in Va Beach, delivering my old red couch to my sister, and stopping to get some sun. Hit the contemporary Art Center where there was a great Carrie Mae Weems show, and a regional juried show that was mostly unremarkable and derivative, lots of digital photographs sent out to someplace to be blown up and mounted behind Plexiglas. One of the exceptions was work done by Stephanie Frantz, (this example not one of the photos in the exhibition) a series of photographs that read as underwater environments from a distance, dense with atmosphere and anthropomorphic texture, revealing themselves to be somewhat disgusting piles or mixtures of food upon closer inspection.

Spent the 4 hour drive home working on the mailing list... a new laptop has reduced my previously wasted or mindless time time to almost nothing! I can now work almost anywhere instead of relaxing.

If you have not visited the Saatchi Gallery website lately, you should, they are turning themselves into a kind of WWW art hub, complete with a section called Your Gallery, where n'aporte qui (that means you) can upload up to 6 images of work, resume tidbits, your website link, etc. for free. I did not waste too much time perusing the other artists' pages, because, as you might guess, there is lots of BAD ART. But there was some good art in there as well, and it could not hurt.... they also have blogs, debates, a place to post essays, links to NYT articles, and updated art news every 15 minutes from around the world. Another line blurred as a private enterprise works to establish itself as a seemingly unbiased, authoritative source of valuable information.

In a complete non-sequitur, I was at the XXXX Museum of Art the other day, and there, framed on the wall, was a John Currin GICLEE print. I have never seen this before, has anyone else seen any Giclees on museum walls? This was a small museum, but, nevertheless, I did not know that this was now an acceptable art form.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Back to work....

So it is great being back in the studio after 3 days of being a (fairly) regular person: two days of company, then one day with my sweetie at a 3rd of July celebration in Garner, NC. It was like a scene from a 1950's movie. Near as I could tell, we were the only ones breaking the "no alcohol" rule by smuggling in a bottle of wine. It was at a park, in a big field, with kiddie rides at one end, a bandshell with a live band doing OLD standards (we're talkin' Gershwin), and thousands of families with watermelon, potato salad, etc.... kids doing cartwheels and teenage girls swing dancing with each other. At the other end of the field were booths with fried candy bars, or BBQ, manned by boyscouts or the Miss Garner Scholarship fund volunteers. It was surreal. There were a few scary evangelistic tee shirts, and the homogeneity was sometimes unsettling (I usually spend this holiday with my friends Jim & Scott, and had to call them 'cause I missed them so much), but in general, a pleasant experience. No one was obnoxious in any way.... no one encroached on your space, or played their CD player in competition with the music, the kids were reined in when they were being anything but appropriately exuberant. Great fireworks topped off the evening, followed by everyone politely taking their turn during the mass exit.

Yesterday, the 4th, we both had work to do, but, in honor of the holiday, we did it together on the back deck, Kevin reading, and me adding to my mailing list. I am not OC in any normal way, I mean, I don't wash or clean compulsively, or count or check things, but when it comes to actually working on an art project, or surfing the web to add to my mailing list, it is very hard for me to stop, even if I am in pain. After my trip to Miami in a few weeks, I am gearing up to do a big mailing. I ordered my CD mailers today and just got my cards in the mail Monday.

I am excited, because I am finally realizing a goal I have had for a long time: instead of sending full packets (resume, slides, reviews, catalogs, etc.), I am just sending a CD, along with a printed card to entice them to LOOK at the CD. Because the cost is so much less than a regular packet, I can send out more. So today, I obsessively continued surfing the web and adding curators and galleries and collectors to my mailing list, until I forced myself away from the computer at 2 p.m. to start painting. Then, after dinner, I started up with the computer again, another 4 hours... this site leads you to that one, etc. (I usually find at least one big score, today it was an international list of all the museums with textile collections by country, with a designation for type of collection.) Then I dig up the site and get contact info... if it is not there, I google or email the museum to get the contact name. Then I subscribe to about 10 art news services that tell me when the curators change posts, which is often. I have so many hours into my mailing list that I should start selling them, like Caroll Michaels.

Artists: The City of New York has a Percent-for-Art Program registry, you don't have to be a resident, and it is one of the easiest applications that you will ever execute. No excuse not to do it, really...

While You Were Sleeping....

on Friday night, I was up pushing brads into a wood block car, painted to resemble a hedgehog. It got especially tricky at the end, when most of the surface was covered with points. I remembered that I have a stash of old stuffed animals in the back of the closet for an art project, so I was able to find the perfect size eyes and nose. After starting the car on Thursday, I had spent the whole day Friday cleaning, shopping and cooking for company, and Kevin had to work late, so I did not get started working on this until 10 pm. He cleaned and made more bread dough while I grabbed each nail with pair of pliers, dipped it wood glue, then PUSHED it hard into the wood (the wood swells slightly when painted). There was occasionally swearing, the usual "why do I do this to myself, I obviously need more therapy..." comments, and even once or twice around 3 a.m., I thought, "you could just stop this and go to sleep, no one cares about this thing", but my hands kept doing it. I need to research "compulsive making". So Kevin comes up to say good night at about 1, and I announce that I am going to run out of brads (I had 6 boxes) before I finish, that means that I will have to get up at 7 and run to Lowes in the morning before I get in the car at 9 to deliver my piece to SECCA in Winston Salem (about an hour away) and drive back before my company gets here.

Then my amazing husband goes downstairs, and comes back up 5 minutes later with a coil of wire exactly the right thickness, and a set of wire cutters. "You can use this for the more delicate barbs around the face", he says, and "I'll drive you to Winston Salem in the morning to deliver the car so you don't get into an accident".

I finished at about 5 a.m., got a few hours sleep before Kevin put a travel mug of coffee into my one hand, a bagel in the other, and drove me to Winston Salem with my shoebox full of hedgehog. Lucky girl.