Friday, August 31, 2007

Painted listening to bagpipe airs all day long, then looked up, and it was 6 o'clock... time for Margarita Madness and the Rock School DVD....
(click to enlarge)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

My Secret Indulgence

Got my "Raised in Craftivity" postcards today.
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The weekend after Labor Day, I am off to Kansas City again. I am taking down the Belger show, and attending the opening of the "Raised in Craftivity" show... I can't wait to see the work, there are some great people in the exhibition. After all the work is done, will be scoping out some of that amazing Kansas City lamb BBQ, and going to the new wing of the Nelson Atkins (It opened a day after I left last time.... and how lucky am I? There is a Kiki Smith show there right now.) I have unofficially sold a piece, so that means I get to make a trip to Anthropologie while in the big city. Normally, my shopping is done at thrift stores, often altering or augmenting my finds, but whenever I sell a piece, I pick one extraordinary thing out at Anthropologie, John Fluvog, or buy a vintage 50s dress from Ebay. The rest goes back into feeding my artmaking addiction.
The sale of this painting is inexorably intertwined with this velvet coat in my mind:
The last two sales bought me these red boots and these shoes, only my shoes were in teal.

And every time I put them on, I remember the painting... think about making it, about letting it go, and I visualize it on someone's wall someplace and hope they are enjoying it.
It sold.

Damian's skull, that is. According to Reuter's, an investment firm has purchased it, but D.H. has retained partial rights to it, so that it may go on a global tour and generate more income (don't forget, Hirst's agent used to promote circus acts).

"As an indication of the wealth he has amassed since being spotted in 1991 by art collector Charles Saatchi, Hirst, who financed the skull himself, said he couldn't remember whether it had cost 10 or 15 million pounds to make....

He rejected suggestions that his works were more a standing joke against the art establishment than real works of art.

But when asked at the time of the exhibition what his next project would be he immediately replied: 'Two diamond skeletons shagging -- no just kidding.' "

A woman in California covers her house and car with Howard Finster-like, anti-government messages that were "dictated by God". The neighbors are upset. A message above the garage reads, "Help worse crime ever: evil and out of mind: from Bush to neighbors using witchcraft + technology against people not belong their religious group".

I would much prefer this woman to the people on my block who come outside to pick up the individual leaves from their front lawn each morning, the ones who remind us at every annual block party: "It's a pretty street, but you know, it only takes one..."
"I'd say, 'Ok, I'll do something, then I'll write', and then I don't write that day. I don't write the next day. After a month of not writing, I don't know how to write. I forget. If you write every day, it's like another kind of existence." - Maria Irene Fornes
In the blog Big, Red & Shiny, artist Jennifer Schmidt writes about her experience at Elsewhere, a strange place in nearby (to me) Greensboro, where resident artists can spend time manipulating mountains of strange, already-existing stuff in a large space to create installations. Sort of an artist's perpetual play room.
To my old friends: get a residency there, and you can stay with us, at Kate & Kevin's artists' B & B!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Great painting day. I am burning through 18/0 and 20/0 brushes like crazy, ordering them by the dozen now.
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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

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So tonight, when I was SUPPOSED to be preparing two packets for Chicago galleries, I got lured over to the painting side of the studio to glaze the reflected light bouncing off the floor and hitting the underside of the pant creases, the darkest values in the shirt, and the darkest value in the hair. Now, at 10:30, I have lots of brushes to clean and two packets to assemble.

"Writing a novel is like driving at night. You can only see as far as your headlights let you, but you can make the whole trip that way". - E.L. Doctorow

Monday, August 27, 2007

The "Pricked: Extreme Embroidery" page is up at the Museum of Arts & Design website. Look at the amazing work... I am so thrilled to be a part of it! One of the artists shown, Tilleke Schwarz, just had a book of her work published.... I got my copy last week, and it is gorgeous. Everyone I know who does fiber work has ordered a copy, after someone brought it to the last Stitch N Bitch.

"Painting is a very difficult thing. It absorbs the whole man, body and soul... thus I have passed blindly many things which belong to real and political life.... what I want to show in my work is the idea which hides itself behind so-called reality. I am seeking for the bridge which leads from the visible to the invisible." -Max Beckman

Sunday, August 26, 2007

'To become truly immortal a work of art must escape all human limits: logic and common sense will only interfere. But once these barriers are broken, it will enter the regions of childhood vision and dream.
More important still, we must hold enormous faith in ourselves: it is essential that the revelation we receive, the conception of an image which embraces a certain thing, which has no sense in itself, which has no subject, which means absolutely nothing from a logical point of view... I repeat, it is essential that such a revelation or conception should speak so strongly in us, evoke such agony or joy, that we feel compelled to paint, compelled by an impulse even more urgent than the hungry desperation which drives a man to tearing at a piece of bread like a savage beast." - Giorgio De Chirico

Ornery Artist
"You are so much at better at being a grown-up than I am", I said to my husband this morning. After a Radley health scare, 2 days of entertaining a visiting mother with the accompanying emotional exhaustion involved in not strangling her, prepping for a garage sale until the wee hours of the morning, then getting up at 6 to sit in the 100-plus degree heat (the whole sale experience is for another blog, but here in NC, professional yard sale shopping is a rude, ruthless, aggressive sport), I wanted to retreat from the entire world and spend a few consecutive days in my studio. Now.

But the garage still had leftovers from the sale that needed to be boxed and separated: some carefully wrapped for Ebay shipment, and others thrown into a box to be picked up by Goodwill. We needed to be able to park our cars back in the garage.

I did not make a face. I did not stomp my feet, though I really felt like it. "I am willing to commit 2 hours to this project, then I have to go paint", was all I said, then I dove into the work. We are usually pretty silly when we are working on an unpleasant task together, but I had no reserves to draw from, so refraining from any childish petulance and doing what needed to be done was the best I could muster. Two hours later, I announced I was finished and went upstairs.

One of the great differences I am noticing between the old life of university teaching with artmaking squeezed in and the new life of full time painting is that it takes me a much shorter period of time to get cranky if I am not painting. Used to be, if I spent 4 or 5 days putting up a BFA show with my students, then had a series of critiques or meetings, by day 7 or 8, of I had not painted, I would become increasingly unhappy, and sometimes downright unpleasant. My brother, who knows me very well, could tell by talking to me on the phone that I had not been in the studio. "When's the last time you picked up your paintbrush?", he would ask. These days, when I am spoiled by being in the studio as a matter of course, it takes only a few days for me to feel like I am experiencing withdrawal. During these dry periods, I am plotting out the painting in my head as I sit in a movie theater with my mom, planning the next 5 glaze layers as I am falling asleep. Finally comes the moment when I walk up the stairs, close the door, pick up the brush, and all is right again.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


One of the great regrets of my life is that I never learned to play an instrument. I feel guilty, as though there is some critical part of my brain that I am not exercising. I have crossed off my list most of the things that defined the kind of person I set out to be when I was younger (lived in France for a few years, flew planes, jumped out of them, got a great dog, learned to cook and bake well, rode through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in my hair, and made it into the New York Times, however small the column inches), but the instrument thing (that, and keeping plants alive) mark the places where I have fallen short in my own definition of a human being with a well-lived life.

I do love listening to music… and I have always liked to think my taste is pretty eclectic, spanning many generations and genres. I am a bit peculiar in that I tend to gravitate towards solo musicians rather than groups. I have a very extensive collection of singer/songwriters, music that is the result of one person’s vision: they write the music and the lyrics (which are often poetic), and perform it themselves, often with little or no backup. It’s not really a conscious choice (and I have lots in my collection that does not fit this description), but I think I tend to be interested in pure, undistilled personal vision over collaboration in my daily listening. I suspect it is yet another aspect of my control-freak thing: if I WERE making music, I would want to do it all myself.

As I have only known my husband for 3 ½ years now, one of the things that we enjoy sharing with each other is the music we do not have in common. We both LOVE blues, funk, classic rock, but from there, we diverge. We have spent the last few years trying to introduce each other to these divergent areas. Last night’s Adrian Belew concert was another traversal past my frontier and into the wilderness.

It must be said that my husband is a musician when he is not being a scientist: he’s been playing tenor sax for decades, but also composes on a combination of keyboard and computer. He worships at the altar of Frank Zappa. His attempts to introduce me to Prog Rock often leave me feeling ashamed of my ignorance and unsophisticated taste. I am certain that it is similar to the feeling he gets when we go to a museum together, and he points out a Renoir that he likes, even though he knows that I think it is pure bubble gum.

But I am making progress: he played some Frank for me when we first started dating, and I could not take it: too chaotic, discordant and shrill, too much like home for someone who grew up in a large, dysfunctional family. Later, he showed me some DVDs of his concert footage, and I began to appreciate Zappa’s subversiveness and genius. At that point, I felt about Frank the way that I feel about most sports: I would NEVER watch them on TV, but if someone had tickets for a live game, I would go and actually enjoy it. So, while I could see from the concert footage that he put on a great show and was a genius, I could not see going home and just putting on one of his CDs while I was painting.

When we went to the Adrian Belew concert last night, I was not unfamiliar with him: Kev dumped a slew of his stuff onto my Mac last year. I played and replayed a few of his more accessible songs and truly enjoyed them, but have not played the more difficult ones since. Obviously, I just wasn’t ready yet. My brother (the one who tried to introduce me to this same stuff two decades ago) loves to remind me of a time when I could not stomach Tom Waits, and now he is at the top of my short list.

So last night, while we were waiting in the rain at The Cat’s Cradle with two other people an hour before the doors opened, Kevin started to talk to me again about King Crimson and Adrian Belew. I recalled that, back in high school, when I was the only girl in the Mathletes club, most of the guys listened to King Crimson. Kevin responded that, funny I should mention it, his impression is that King Crimson fans, and prog rock fans in general, tend to have higher IQs than other audiences. We eventually got out of the rain, got our hands stamped, and went into the dilapidated black box of a room. Fans were photographing Adrian’s guitars that were already set up onstage.

In a real role reversal, Kevin liked the warm up act, while I, the connoisseur of lonely people with guitars and stories to tell, did not quite get the choice, despite his good looks, bonafide singer/songwriter status, and the emotional honesty needed to write a song about a blow up sex doll. But the obviously humble and down-to-earth, iconic Adrian and the dazzlingly talented Eric and Julie Slick (a.k.a The Adrian Belew Power Trio) blew me away. SO tight and on-spot with the most complex compositions (“duh”, I can hear my husband say), they expanded my understanding of what music could be: like the Grinch whose heart grew three times larger that day, the portion of Kate’s brain that processes music has been stretched, and will never be the same.

Apparently, Eric and Julie Slick were featured in the movie Rock School, a film we have heard about but have never seen (and have since moved to the top of our Netflix queue). They are brother and sister music prodigies, 20 and 21, playing drums and bass, respectively. I want to email their Mom, Robin Slick, who is a writer, and ask her what she did to/for them when they were tykes. I defy any audience member to keep from falling in love with the bass player Julie, blessed with Pre-Raphaelite beauty as well as soul, sinew, and fever.

Adrian seemed to be having a great time while he did mesmerizing things with guitar that I didn’t know people could DO with guitars. I felt truly fortunate to catch him in such a small venue, where I could really see and appreciate what he was doing. And after pulling out all the stops on stage in an amazing performance, this legend stayed after the show to sign autographs.

I’m no music critic, but even a sonic sophomore like myself could easily grasp that this show was not even a shade shy of brilliant. Catch it if you can, and take someone whose mind you love.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Last night, after the Adrian Belew concert, I had a dream:

It was a holiday in Burlington (I unofficially sold a major piece yesterday), and we were walking by a bridge, and there were hundreds of people looking over the edge of the bridge to the river. When we did the same, we saw that there were a hundred more people having a race down the steep side of the riverbank, ice cream cones in hand, trying not to drop the ice cream. Later, we were in our house, and I looked out the window & showed Kevin that there hundreds of ice cream cones (sans ice cream) floating down the river. Then I looked out the front of the house, and there was a tornado, very menacing, very close, heading straight towards us. We had discussed the drill previously, so I got Radley and went down to the basement, screaming for Kevin because I started to hear the train sound, and I knew he was off doing boy scout type things, gathering what we would need, etc, but I wanted him downstairs with me and the Scoob. The basement was already wrecked and chaotic, and the tornado had not yet hit, but there was water seeping under every door and, mysteriously, the refrigerator's doors were wide open and the contents were all over the floor.

I woke up, heart pounding, still somewhat panicked, and realized... sure enough, today is the day my mother arrives.
(Oubilette I, human hair embroidery on cotton, 2006.)

Monday, August 20, 2007

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In every painting that I do, I try to challenge myself by doing something new (usually experimenting with light) that I have never done before. This figure swallowed by light is so much fun that I might do a larger version (maybe in encaustic, so it does not take me a year). Painting a figure this small takes me far out of my comfort zone.

"Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the song of a bird? Why does one love the night, flowers, everything around one, without trying to understand them?.. If only they would realize above all that an artist works out of necessity, that he himself is only a trifling bit of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things which please us in the world, though we can't explain them.
People who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree. " - Picasso

Intense painting day today and tomorrow as the real world brings art business details, a two-day Mom visit, and a long-overdue yard sale later in the week.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

"I would call that man a born artist whose soul nature has from the very beginning been endowed with an ideal, and for whom this idea replaces the truth: he believes in it without reservation, and his life's task will be to realize it completely for himself, and to set it forth for the contemplation of others.... from the beginning, I felt within myself the existence of a standard by which I could shape my own judgement... and, strictly speaking, its shaping has been my life's main task." - Hans Von Marees

After a day of painting yesterday, took my husband to a Patty Griffin/ John Prine concert last night at the gorgeous Booth Amphitheater. Being back in a place where I can go to outdoor summer concerts is one of the best things about getting out of South Florida... almost none of the people that I like to see ever toured there, and I have been trying to make up for the ten years of concerts that I have missed at every opportunity.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

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"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent cannot, nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." - Calvin Coolidge

Shrimp dumpling containers make great palettes.

Unexpected life intervention yesterday. As if in compensation, today has been a great studio day so far. Things starting to happen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you. Never excuse yourself. " - H. W. Beecher
Got back from Chicago last night. Found an Italian deli close to the hotel that provided me with arancini that were every bit as good as the ones I fell in love with during our honeymoon in Sicily. We listened to some "not just plain old blues, but gutbucket blues.... like, in the alley... with the rats." Had a drink at sunset at the top of the Hancock building. Made my Ivan Albright pilgrimage, saw some great art in the galleries, met with a few friends.
Felt so guilty about leaving my painting that even though I took a sleeping pill, I got up from bed and painted until the wee hours of the morning. Which reminds me.... back to work.

P.S. I just found out that Elizabeth Murray died a few days ago. Discussion about her subject matter has prompted a great post by the ever insightful Ed Winkleman about how we look at paintings differently when they are painted by a woman vs. a man. Murray was an artist's artist. I remember an interview with her on one of the videos I used to show my BFAers... she had a family, apparently, in addition to her intense studio life, and did not spend much time networking. Her line was "when was the last time you got a great idea at a cocktail party?", and I think of that often when I am setting my priorities.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I am off to Chicago, embroidery in tow. It is getting so I can embroider half a pair of overalls each trip. I am getting pretty good at these commando gallery raids on cities I have never been to... I drop off my bags at the hotel, freshen up, and hit the pavement. My art world is getting smaller and smaller. While doing Chicago research, I found a gallery that represents the woman who occupied my graduate studio right before I did. I found another woman who does really cool fiber work, Karen Reimer... I checked her resume, and she is going to be in the "Raised in Craftivity" show with me next month in Kansas City.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Third glaze on the shirt and pants.

I remember in grad school, the professors would pop into our studios 1-2x a week. Most of my colleagues had a new painting to show them each week, or every other week. I was in there day and night working, but when the professor came in, I often would have to point out what I had been working on, because essentially, the imagery looked the same, just more intense or more volumetric.

This figure is especially difficult as it is very small: only 10 inches tall. Have to finish glazing the pants (below the hips) before I leave for Chicago, which means another late night, as there are lots of other things to do before leaving. Wish I could stay and work, but the thought of seeing those Ivan Albright paintings, and the chance to scout galleries from a free hotel room is just too good to pass up.(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"These are the seductive voices of the night: the Sirens, too, sang that way. It would be doing them an injustice to think that they wanted to seduce; they knew they had claws and sterile wombs, and they lamented this aloud. They could not help it if their laments sounded so beautiful." Franz Kafka

The soul, aspiring upwards, flying free of the restraints of the earth bound body seeking the heavenly light, only to have to return to the earthly consciousness again after the meditation, the alchemist symbolised by the bird. Thus the bird symbols, in alchemy, reflect the inner experiences of soul alchemy, the soaring of the soul free from the earth bound body and the physical senses. The soul, in the meditations of soul alchemy, touches upon the spiritual world, and brings something of this back into the outer life again. The birds as symbols mediate between the physical and spiritua1 worlds, they reflect certain archetypal experiences encountered by the soul in its development through the alchemical process.

Morris Graves bird paintings…. Symbols of an inner life, corresponding to artist’s hidden, reticent personality.
The symbol of a bird is thought to have been a symbol of the soul.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual.... become clairvoyant. We reach then into reality. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom. It is in the nature of all people to have these expreiences; but in our time and under the conditions of our lives, it is only a rare few who are able to continue in the experience and find expression for it.
At such times, there is a song going on within us, a song to which we listen. It fills us with surprise. We marvel at it. We would continue to hear it. But few are capable of holding themselves in the state of listening to their own song. Intellectuality steps in and as the song within us is of the utmost sensitiveness, it retires in the presence of the cold, material intellect. It is aristocratic and will not associate itself with the commonplace... and we fall back and become our ordinary selves. Yet we live in the memory of these songs which in moments of intellectual inadvertance have been possible to us. They are the pinnacles of our experience and it is the desire to express these intimate sensations, this song from within, which motivates all masters of art." - Robert Henri, from The Art Spirit

Spent the morning Photoshopping images like the one above. This is a great week, as Kevin is out of town, and that means Radley and I can keep "single artist" hours, meaning great strides on the paintings. Then, at the end of the week, I am off to Chicago for the first time. It will be a short visit, as I cannot afford too much time away from my own paintings, but will be checking out the galleries, and finally, finally (if they are out) seeing a bunch of Ivan Albright paintings together. Ivan Albright is one of my oldest painting heroes. I have seen individual works, but never an exhibition, and the Art Institute is supposed to have a lot of them in their permanent collection.
Ed's got a great post today on an interview with Richard Tuttle. Tuttle blew me away with his words, even though I have never given much time to his paintings.

Monday, August 06, 2007

"In such an ugly time, the true protest is beauty". - Phil Ochs, 1967

Friday, August 03, 2007

"We all have two lives: the real one which was our childhood dream and which we still dream about in adult life, though it is set against a background of fog... and the false one which we experience in our relationship with others: the practical, useful life in which we are finally laid into a coffin.
In the other life, there are no coffins or corpses, there are only illustrations from childhood: great colored books which are meant to be looked at, not read... in the other life we are ourselves, in the other life we live: while in this one, we die." - Fernando Pessoa

Thursday, August 02, 2007

"Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark." -Agnes de Mille
Meet "The Man Behind the Legend" in this Guardian article by Sean O'Hagan. The guy who manages Damien Hirst used to manage circus acts... it is all becoming clearer... "Step right up, folks!"

Forgive my redundancy if you read my comment at Ed Winkleman's yesterday, but I have been pondering his question, as well as the Thinkers vs. Makers question for last few hours... when artists do not make their own work, not only do you have a problem with authentication*,
but if we are entering a new age of art where the kids who were rich enough to attend the ivy-league art schools simply come up with ideas, and the kids who went to the low-tuition, skill-teaching schools execute the elite's paintings for them in true blue-collar fashion, these "artists of ideas" could theoretically be "creating" work for decades after their own deaths by minions continuing to follow their instructions and diagrams. What do you think? Would the value of the work then go up (the artist is dead) or down (he [there are no "shes" doing this in the art world so far, but that is for another post] is no longer overseeing)?

And... if Da Vinci designed the first flying machine, but the Wright Brothers really got it to work, who gets the credit?

* Painting by Charles Thompson. Saw it at one of the Basel fairs a while back, and laughed out loud. I do love Tracy Emin's work, and I think she makes most of it herself, for the record.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost." -Martha Graham