Friday, September 28, 2007

You live in the middle of nowhere. You are down to your last 18/0 brush, and it is rapidly losing its point. Do you paint on another area of the painting? Drive to the nearest civilized town to hope they have some tiny brushes, then pay twice what they're worth?
Suddenly, the doorbell rings... it is the UPS guy with the great legs..... with... reinforcements!
Over at The Guardian, Jonathan Jones asks if running the same old tired stories about different works of art is actually harmful to the public's perception of what art is all about. He accuses journalists of being lazy, essentially reframing the same six genres of questions (the comments provide a few more good ones), reducing and sensationalizing how the world of art is perceived by those reading about it from the outside.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Today, got up very early, psyched for a great morning of painting. Worked for about three hours before I looked up on my wall and realized that today was the postmark deadline for the Columbia (GA) Biennial*. Spent the rest of the morning putting that together. Spent half of the afternoon culling through hundreds of slides, to scan old work and convert to digital. Sent that off this afternoon. A week from Saturday, my brother arrives, and we are spending an intense weekend overhauling my website: all these images have to be ready by then.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Art & Fashion Intersect Again, or The Artist as Social Scientist

The concept of fashion is baffling to me: otherwise intelligent, successful women get their names on a list for the opportunity to buy a five thousand dollar handbag, or have the need to purchase shorter skirts and ankle boots because someone, somewhere, said that they can't possibly wear the clothes that they bought last year. Simple concepts of manufactured status and market-driven, planned seasonal obsolescence seem to escape the fashion-conscious woman, no matter how intelligent she might be in other areas.

On the other hand, I understand the love of beautiful clothes. Perhaps it was all the old movies I watched as a child, or maybe it is the artist in me, equipped with an insatiable desire to experience the weight, texture, and intensity of hue in a gorgeous piece of fabric. I have collected vintage clothes since I was in high school. These days, when I go to NYC, I spend at least one day in the garment district, fondling fabrics. While I sometimes look at fashion magazines and see things that are beautiful, I don't get the status thing. Although my husband, the Darwinist, has explained it to me in very simple terms on several occasions, I still think it's just stupid.

Just as the research of celebrity worship for "Blessed Art Thou" took me to some bizarre new places I had never been before, I found myself playing the stranger in a strange land while researching fashion status objects for one of my new paintings. I learned, for example, that Victoria Beckham somehow procured this Roland Mouret Moon dress several months before any other mortals could acquire it, wore it someplace she was sure to be photographed, the images have spread like wildfire across the web, and knockoffs are already being manufactured. (How DOES she walk on grass without the spike heels sinking in?) The fascinating backstory is here.

And here is the still-in-progress dress in my painting (the subject in my painting would have the skirt shortened), with a Ferrari limited edition phone, pink Dior pleated leather pumps, and a Fendi bag:
(click to enlarge)

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This article in the Village Voice was referenced by Ed Winkleman this morning (I swear I read about 10 art world blogs/newsites to keep up, his is just usually the best):

Youth is a Prize (Price?) in Chelsea's Art Galleries
by Christian Viveros-Fauné

So nice to see someone address this issue head on in a review.
"So, in my previous life as an art dealer, I learned a few things. First, always pretend that you live on the sunny side of the street (even if it's raining tax audits and razor blades). Second, it's always possible to raise the price of an object, but not lower it. And third—but by no means last—in the art world, it's correct to curve age down. It drives collectors nuts, among other things, to know that their artists are old enough to be lawyers and gastroenterologists.

In the art world, youth is a prize (price?) commodity. No surprise here. After all, why should the art world be different from the music and the film businesses? As things spiral upward in a bullish economy, collectors, curators, artists, and dealers think they've earned the right to create their own Britneys and Justin Timberlakes. But the bulls have morphed into bears, you say? Well, then, it may be time for a reality check."

One of the ways in which I seem to be blessed is that I often get ideas, and while they are percolating, I get some kind of "sign" (frequently in a circuitous or subconscious form) that this particular piece should be moved to the front and made. The above article was a such a sign. You'll see what I mean in a few weeks.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wow. The great Ed Winkleman focused my attention on this hilarious post on Broadsheet about the competitive nature of artists.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Worked until 5 a.m., was afraid I would fall off my step ladder, so I slept from 5 to 8, got up, painted some more, shot and emailed images around 11:30 this morning. Painted some more 'til 4, hoping to get one area I like to a point where I could mail one additional image. Decided that the area I was working on was not far enough along, so I did not email the last bonus image I was hoping to email. On top of this, the publication could still choose to publish something that is already finished, despite requesting the in-progress shots, and the night could have been for naught.

Most of the painted heads from the previous post are the size of my thumbnail, it is an odd place to be, working on these tiny faces with 20/0 brushes in the middle of the night. It is amazing that I do not wear thick glasses by now.

Still brain-dead, despite a mid-day nap. Swiped the following Frank Gehry quote from the Hungry Hyena blog, in my current mental state I could not figure out how to link to that specific post, as the usual tricks are not working. The quote is from Gehry's essay "The Relationship Between Art & Architecture":

"The true artist is like a drug addict; he dwells in a tight little dream world all his own, and the men about him, whom he observes obliviously spending their days pursuing money and power, genuinely puzzle him, as he doubtless does them. He prides himself on being an unbribed soul. So he is byway of being a philosopher, too, and sometimes he makes art not because he suspects that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant. Under his smiling coat of tan there often lurks a layer of melancholy and disillusion, a quiet awareness - and acceptance - of the fugitive quality of man and all his enterprises. If he must chase a will-o'-the wisp he prefers that it be art. And so the artist arts. It is at once an act of humility and small rebellion. And it is something more. To him his art is an island of reality in a world of dream and shadow."

Which reminds me... we watched "Bukowski: Born Into This" this weekend, and I loved it. One of the highlights of the documentary was Tom Waits reading "The Laughing Heart". I have read some of his poetry, and the film based on his short stories, "Love Is A Dog From Hell", seen 20 years ago, became somewhat iconic for me, and is not unrelated to my painting "Fate of A Technicolor Romantic". The film was impossible to find for two decades, then was reissued as "Crazy Love", and I have done some research, but can never find out why the film disappeared, only to resurface under a new name. Nevertheless, I need to get me some more Bukowski.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Painting my *ss off in order to send off in-progress pics of new paintings that I feel good about for a Monday morning deadline. Will stop for 4 hours to make indian dinner for a friend that I do not want to cancel on again. Looking forward to a good all-nighter in the studio.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

If you haven't yet seen this lecture that Carnegie Mellon's Randy Pausch gave on living your childhood dreams, you should. How amazing to use the internet to send stuff like this around the world, instead of vicarious rubbernecking at celebrities. I think if you go to YouTube, it is there in its entirety, but in 10 parts.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Painting a tiny Fendi bag, about as big as three thumbnails.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

Been a bit under the weather over the weekend, trying to get back in the studio today despite feeling yucky. It has cooled off here, so all the AC is off and the windows are open.... my favorite time of year.

I wanted to point out the Maria has added links to all the artists (the ones that have links) in the "Raised in Craftivity" show here, as well as installation shots. My favorites were: DeAnna Skedel who made the gorgeous (and grossly underpriced) altered sugar spoons, The anti-depressant carpet pillows by Laura Splan, (her website has a fascinating collection of projects that are really up my alley and beyond, and she will be in the upcoming MAD museum show) and the sexy ceramic pieces by Heather Nameth-Bren. The Orly Cogan was a great example of her work (Orly has a show at the Byron Cohen Gallery at the Crossroads in KC, and I got to meet her and hear her speak about her work during this trip). I was mesmerized by the subtlety of Claire Joyce's glitter painting... apparently there is no paint pigment in it, it is all done with regular and x-tra fine glitter. (Yours truly still has $100 worth of glitter sitting in the back of her studio, waiting for a project). Claire got her graduate degree at my alma mater, the University of Georgia.

Elaine Bradford made the terribly clever postcard piece of the two deer heads covered and connected by a crocheted "cozy": I have seen her awesome tree sweaters published elsewhere. I really want to own one of Maggy Rozycki Hiltner's pieces made of cut up pillowcases that our grandmothers embroidered a few decades ago. There is a lot of embroidery being done right now, and the way that she combines the found work with her own, as well as the subtle, provocative gender issues she brings up really put her work above a lot of the easier work that is being done in this genre. Karen Reimer's work kicked ass, as usual.... Maria was able to get a few great pieces... her embroidered cup was outstanding.

Friday, September 14, 2007

When in Doubt, Apply for the Grant

I am completely wrung out from writing two intense grant applications in two days. The second one was dropped into the Fed Ex box ten minutes before the last pickup today, and I am still trying to figure out how to bring myself down from the adrenaline rush.

Because you always want to include the newest work in your proposal, grants often get done later rather than sooner. Then, when there are only a few days left, it is always tempting to paint rather than spend the day writing a grant, especially if you are in an awkward stage in your work and think that you don't stand a chance this year.

Then you remember the story that you used to tell your students.

It was sometime in the late 90s. It was time to apply for the South Florida Cultural Consortium Grant, a whopping $15,000 prize that was awarded to artists just for doing good work. There was no proposal, just send slides and a resume. I was vacillating about applying this particular year: I had applied the year before with what I thought was an amazing, cohesive portfolio of visually stunning paintings. I decided that, this year, I shouldn't apply, because my new work was going off in several different directions, and there was no way that they would make any sense of this pile of assorted drawings and paintings that came from I-know-not-where.

I woke up the morning that the grant was due, and changed my mind. This was back in the days of slides, mind you.... so I set up my easel in the driveway, photographed all my new work, drove the film to the slide developing place, assembled the grant materials, picked up the slides a few hours later, masked all the slides with tape, labeled them, and got to the post office a few minutes before they closed to mail the package. Unlike the year prior, when I was waiting daily to hear from the Cultural Consortium people, I promptly forgot about this application, because I didn't stand a chance... until I got the phone call a few months later.

That grant bought me six months of uninterrupted studio time.
So, my friends... this is only the beginning of grant season, you know what to do:
do the research, find the grants, then suck it up and do the paperwork. When you are finished, order Chinese, have a nice glass of wine and a long, hot bath.

Then go back to painting and forget about it.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Maria Buszek, the curator of "Raised in Craftivity", has put up a site for the exhibition that includes links to the artist's websites as well as instalation views, and Extreme Craft has posted on the show as well, with an image of one of my favorite pieces. I promise to introduce you to some of the great artists that were represented within the next 24 hours, after I get my two $#!@ grant applications out the door.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Hit the Ground Painting

10 a.m.
3:30 p.m.

"The truth of the matter is that we see with different eyes at different times. We see things one way in the morning and another in the evening, and the way we view things also depends on the mood we are in. That is why one subject can be seen so many ways and that is what makes art so interesting." -Edvard Munch

Monday, September 10, 2007

My Defense Mechanism Coat His Defense Mechanism Coat

Today I leave Kansas City 150 lbs lighter: my coat will stay behind at the Belger Art Center as part of their collection. Mo was very patient as I blathered incessantly on my way out the door, only looking at me like I was slightly crazy. I was exactly like a new mother leaving her infant with the babysitter for the first time... no, I was exactly like an obsessive control freak mother leaving her baby alone with the sitter for the first time, trying to think of every contingency: "If the baby needs to burp, call my mother, because she does it best... oh, oh, and if the baby's head falls off, call 911."
Defense Mechanism Coat, 2001, velvet, nails, wool, hand embroidery, 45 x 28 x 12"

I made the coat in 2001. It has been around for a while, and I have shown it many times without incident (except once, when my instructions were not followed), and there is no reason to be believe that anything will go wrong, but it has never been hung without yours truly there to oversee the process. The one time I was not there to oversee the take-down, they put it (don't ask me how) directly into the wood crate without its protective blanket, and I spent hours pulling little wood slivers and lint from between the nails the next time it was shown. I am nervous because it is not exactly like selling a painting. I have never made anything before it or since that that was even remotely like this coat. Just make sure the hanger is always facing in the right direction before you lift it, or the weight will fall backwards and the coat will slide off the hanger. But if you hang it properly, you won't be able to budge it, even an inch, once it is hung, so make sure everything is positioned where you want it to be before you raise it up. Don't forget the moth balls if you are not going to put it in a case.

The precursor to the Defense Mechanism Coat was a heart shaped box, made to decorate my home, not to exhibit. Originally, the interior was painted with veins, then I added the quilted, embroidered padding. A visiting curator decided to put the box in my solo show, "Fate of A technicolor Romantic", at The Hollywood Art & Culture Center in Hollywood, FL in 2000. The piece was purchased by some collector friends after the show and was not exhibited again. Their housekeeper hates dusting this box.

The coat itself was created during the months of May, June, July and August in 2001. It occupied the dining room table for four months in my small, but quaint, rented bungalow in Hollywood, FL. Occasionally, I got help moving it in order that I might have a dinner party. I hired my first assistant to help me complete the coat when my wrists began to give out from pushing all the nails through the wool.

The original blue wool coat was found at the Red, White and Blue Thrift store in North Miami. I wanted a blue coat to contrast with the complementary-colored interior, and the nails, which would eventually rust. The coat originally had a black fake-fur collar. Roofing nails were chosen for their bruise-like blue/purple/green patina, as well as the large heads. They were acquired at Arch Creek Lumber in North Miami, in three separate batches of 50 lbs, as I had no idea how many I might need. One of the batches was free, provided I return with a photo of the artwork. When I returned with a photo a few months later, the longstanding business had closed, a result of the new Home Depot down the road. The coat weighs approximately 150 lbs. I ripped out the lining of the thrift store coat, and used it as a pattern to make a new lining of flesh-colored velvet. In the original sketchbook drawing, the lining was to be flesh colored satin, but while in NYC shopping at MOOD, a favorite designer fabric remnant place, I spotted flesh-colored velvet. It was a supreme sacrifice to use it for the coat rather than a dress for myself. A few months later, I spotted a magazine photo of Kate Hudson in a Jean Paul Gaultier dress made out of this very fabric.

The interior of the coat was hand embroidered with all the major veins and arteries of the body.
Several days before the exhibition opened, after many sleepless nights finishing work for the show, I stood staring at the coat in a sleep-deprived stupor and wept, because I had rarely made any three dimensional objects before (being a B- student in 3-d design), and had never made anything this substantial and massive: I could not believe that it had evolved from a little sketch in my sketchbook to this behemoth.
The coat was first exhibited at the Broward Community College Art Gallery, in Davie, FL. The coat was one of 5 new pieces for that show. The exhibition opening reception was on August 30th, 2001, a week and a half before 9/11, so the opening was well-attended, but the exhibition was not.

When Radley was only a few months old, we took a 10 day long road trip to Amherst, MA, to drive the coat to the Fiber Arts Foundation. This photo was taken on that trip. As a single woman with two herniated discs, there were times when I dragged the coat by myself, lifting one end, then the other, into the back of my Honda CRV, swearing that I was never going to show this *!%$ coat again. But then I drove it up and back to Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, the Frost Museum in Miami, past post-9/11 security at the Miami International Airport gallery, and SUNY Geneseo in upstate NY. In between exhibitions, I tripped over the huge crate stored in the corner of my studio. Once I got married, there were two of us cursing this poor unwieldy monster of an artwork every time we had to move or store it, wondering when we would find a home for this 150 lb. limp porcupine.

And now we have. I've a check in my pocket, 4 more months' worth of credit in studio time, an additional 12 square feet in my house, and I never have to move that bloody thing again. And I am sure that, after a few months, I will no longer have the urge to call and check with the Belger, just to make sure everything is alright.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Back in May, I wrote a post about the (time, energy, and) money one invests in each exhibition, always in the hopes that "something might happen". The point was that, usually, very little happens… maybe you sell a piece once in a while, maybe you get a good review. Despite the articles one might read about those sold out MFA shows that immediately put 24-year-olds "on the map", the impact of an individual exhibition for most artists usually amounts to a few more lines on the resume. Looked at on a case-by-case basis, it does not seem to be worth the effort & sacrifice. But, like giving birth, you forget the pain of the previous experience, and you are always willing to put it out there again, because this time may be different, but also because this is just what you DO. It is your job, the life you have chosen, and it is better than any other kind of life you can imagine, because you get to spend hours on earth doing what you love.

The irony of my May post is that this show WAS different. When I came here initially to install my show at the Belger, the strange feeling of well-being that I experienced in Kansas City was difficult to articulate. Part of it was the old industrial brick buildings with the black and white block-lettered text, coupled with the railroad going through town. (One of my first serious drawings in high school was of the railroad tracks where I used to hang out, surrounded by similar buildings.) The people in Kansas City are friendly and open, and there is tremendous support for the arts. There is a very funky (as opposed to conservative) retro vibe to this place. And the people at the Belger, as well as the building itself, were amazing.

I have been to Kansas City three times since June, and have fallen in love with the city. I have made some new friends, seen lots of great art, and discovered lamb barbecue. There were a few reviews of the show, and people who understand what goes into making my work got exposed to it through the surface design conference. I got curated into another show in the company of some amazing artists, and it looks like I have sold a major piece to a prominent collection, one that will circulate the work and place it in much better exhibitions than I ever could on my own. The sale means one more semester spent in the studio, rather than the classroom. One more semester of “seeing what will happen” in this full-time artmaking experiment.

I always reminded my students (when they were feeling discouraged) that people in various parts of the country respond differently to various types of work, so what may be uninteresting to art audiences in LA might be fascinating to viewers in Atlanta. So I feel that Kansas City has been lucky for me in an inexplicable way. I am developing an almost superstitious feeling about this city. When I checked into my hotel this time, I told them I wanted a room that was as high as possible, to look out over the city, and I almost always have the drapes open, with a clear view of the railroad racks and the Belger building. Last night, I am certain that the people dining at the rotating restaurant at the top of the Hilton had a clear view of me sitting in my flannel PJs, embroidering in my room.

And every night since I have been here, I fall asleep watching the animated light of the Western Auto sign go round, thankful that, after 20 years, I feel like I am experiencing some momentary momentum.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

"I got to Kansas City on a Friday..."

That song, from the musical Oklahoma, is my 4 year old niece's favorite song..... she sings it with the accent n' everythin'. I am off to Kansas City at the crack of dawn tomorrow.

Today is a paperwork and packing day : (
(I have to pack up an entire show in Kansas City and bring the art home in my carry-on) but if all goes as anticipated and I don't feel like sleeping tonight, I might get some oil painting done so it can dry while I am gone.

If you know anyone in Kansas City, drop them a line, and tell them to come to the art opening tomorrow night:

"Raised in Craftivity"
opening Friday September 7th
Greenlease Gallery at Rockhurst University
1100 Rockhurst Rd, Kansas City
gallery talk 6:30-7pm
opening reception 7-9 p.m.
show runs through September 29th
Curated by Maria Buszek, author of "Pin-up Grrrls: Feminism, Sexuality, Popular Culture"

"The exhibition "Raised in Craftivity" spotlights the work of contemporary artists working in craft media to celebrate, challenge, and subvert our expectations of these media and cultures with which they are associated....

The work on display in "Raised in Craftivity" suggests that it is unsurprising that such old-fashioned, handmade images and objects should resonate with artists and audiences in our high-tech world: in today's "information age", the sensuous, tactile "information" of craft speaks... of a direct connection to humanity that is perhaps endangered, or at the very least being rapidly reconfigured in our technologically-saturated, twenty-first century lives."

(click on postcard image to enlarge)

It is "First Friday" night in KC, and it is also the last day to catch my solo show, "Undressed", at the Belger Art Center.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Different Kind of Master Artist.....

Back in the beginning of June, Damien Hirst put his diamond encrusted skull on display, declaring it to be "the world's most expensive artwork". The piece got a lot of press, and a lot of criticism, but no one was willing to plunk down the money and risk the possibility of being labeled the world's greatest fool of art acquisition. Two weeks ago, the piece was reported as being "sold to an unnamed investment firm". Friday, reported that Hirst himself is part of the "temporary investment firm" that has purchased the skull. The plan is to tour it around the world, and then sell it later.

"The sale keeps Hirst in the news, reinforces the demand for his work and makes everyone who spent money at White Cube feel good about their investment,'' said California private dealer Richard Polsky. ``This is all about investment, not about art collecting.'' "

Large-testicled scheme. Scheme fails. Respond with a scheme that takes even bigger gonads.

I sort of understand it. When you are a millionaire artist who has been led to believe you might be able to sell your own gold-plated poop and stick an astronomical price tag on it, you almost need to up the risk-taking ante to the point where the bottom might fall out from under your work, or you're not having any fun.

So, I am starting an art investment firm. Interested parties please contact me via email.

Meanwhile, in the artists-with-paintbrushes-making-paintings department:

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

"For a century, there have usually been two versions of each art, one real, but poor and underground, and one fake, although rich and conspicuous. The latter ingests the former as needed." - Donald Judd (on why there are so few masterpieces)

Monday, September 03, 2007

(click to enlarge)
"Becoming a playwright involves a very public learning process. You have to be brave to make mistakes in public." - Louise Page

Woke up early this morning to paint.... the skylight was casting leaf shadows across my canvas. I always do the hardest stuff first thing in the morning, when I am fresh.... the things that make you hold your breath when you paint them, because you simply CANNOT mess them up. This morning I was painting the barely perceptable wisps of hair in front of the ear and at the nape of the neck.

This is a working holiday weekend for my sweetie and I, at least during the daylight hours: too much needs to be done. The weather has broken and it is beautiful outside... if we meet our respective goals, we might sneak in a root beer float and a motorcycle ride late this afternoon.

Art grant season is descending upon us, and I will only be filling out 3 or 4 applications, as painting is the priority this year. I am also skipping my usual fall conferences, in a single-minded attempt to finish 2 canvases before Art Basel Miami Beach.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Reuter's reports on "breaking news" about Leonardo DaVinci's painting technique, which is now apparent through new technology, allowing them to "see" the steps he took, layer by layer. (He glazed his color, building up layers rather than mixing color on the palette). I thought that we already knew that this was his technique, based on the looks of unfinished paintings left behind, but I love that Leonardo is still making the news in 2007.

Burning Man is happening right now. Add that to the list of things I want to do before I die. My understanding is that it has changed tremendously in the past 10 years... lots more spectators, as opposed to participants. Sort of like the vacationing frat boys who used to come to the naked beach in Miami with their clothes on to gawk at the sunbathing women.