Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Painting hair all day for the second day in a row.....
"Shock Art"

By now, I am sure that all of you have heard about the controverisal Yale student's art project. (Almost as interesting as the questions posed by her actions are the media and blog variations on what actually happened.) Elizabeth Redden interviewed art professors from several universities on the subject in The Chronicle of Higher Education, and got some intelligent responses. Anyone who has ever taught art at a university has had to deal with these questions in a greater or lesser form, and the questions posed by the instructors in this article are the ones that I have always asked my students who are interested in doing work that might be questionable in intention or motivation.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cool breezes (carrying the smell of spring flowers) and a Peter Gabriel marathon wafting through the studio today.

Monday, April 28, 2008

More on Large Corporations Stealing Ideas from Poor Artists...

Today discovered a new website,, and added it to the top of my blogroll. It is a website devoted to artists whose designs and ideas are stolen by (mostly) big companies. Some of the claims seem to be legit, some not, (one of the blog features allows viewers to vote on whether a claim is valid) but one of the most infuriating posts was recent, concerning artist Jen Stark, whose work I have admired for a long time... her sculptural paper work was reproduced identically (save a change in color) in a Banana Republic window in London.

There was an Ed Winkleman post about a similar situation where Barney's department store had windows decorated with Jack Pierson-like signs. To my surprise, though most of the people who read Ed's blog are art world people and artists, most did not seem to think it was a very big deal. (Do a lot of the readers make their living doing graphic design, maybe?)

I posted on a related subject back in January. I referenced a high level international company that specializes in "trend spotting".... this means that they employ people whose job is to go to art exhibitions, photograph the work in detail, and then post extensive documentation of these pieces "to inspire" their extremely high-profile and high-paying customers. The museum I was exhibiting in got a pdf copy of their newsletter, and viewing it as just another PR article about the exhibition, forwarded a copy to us.

Only a few weeks ago, I noticed about twenty people had followed a link to my website and looked at an average of 25 pages each. When I followed the link, it was from this same company, on a newly published "trends watch" page. As it is a members-only site, I have no access to the context that my work was put in: I will never know what images were referenced or reproduced referring people to my website. I still don't quite understand how this can be legal. As most of the company's customers are fashion places, I decided to spend $45 a pop to register copyrights for some of my more marketable clothing pieces. I then printed out and saved the web hits report with the link information, as well as the server info for those days, just in case.

It seems many people take this so casually, saying, "nothing is really new, everything has already been done anyway", and proclaiming that it is no big deal when this happens. But there is something so perverse about it. Many artists (myself included) left commercial art or chose not to participate in the first place because we did not want to be a part of it, even though it meant we might be paid decent money for our creative ideas. (And myself, well, I could never get excited about fonts...). We chose the higher and tougher road, the one that doesn't pay so well, for the freedom to own and execute our ideas without restrictions, making work for the greater good, or at least for our own good. Then our ideas get co-opted anyway, to sell some product we don't believe in, only we don't get the credit for the idea OR the money. And because most people have long ago given up on trying to hold corporations accountable, I am made to feel like an indignant, fussy paranoid school girl with her panties in a twist.
A Very Green Rainy Day.....

Thursday, April 24, 2008

No posts for the next two days... I am off doing "human being-type" things. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sleep Deprivation Hangover

The first photo shoot went so well last night that I could not sleep thinking about how I am going to use all the great shots I got, so I got up, and watched 49 UP as I got back to working on this piece:

Picked up a tie this morning that I plan to alter as a "thank you" gift to a certain gentleman who has set in motion tremendous career opportunities as of late. Will work on that later, anxious to get back to painting......

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I've seen some duct tape art before, but these prom outfits are the best. Thanks to Pretty Lady for the reference.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Model Shoots Begin...

Tomorrow evening is the first of my upcoming month of model shoots. Some of the acting students at nearby Elon University have generously agreed to come and pose for my next few series of works. I will get a few hours of painting done tomorrow, but most of the day will be spent setting up for the shoots, constructing and collecting props, marking spots on the floor, getting any necessary supplies, etc.
Today, spent a few hours thinking like a film director and making lists of what shots I need to get from each person, lighting, POV, etc.
Speaking of Blood on Paper...

I wish I could be in London to see Blood on Paper: The Art of the Book at the V & A.
Blake Morrison at the Guardian gives a history of artists' books and a brief review of the show here.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hair and Blood as Art Media, and Other Messy Things

At the risk of jinxing it, I am aware that I am entering an extremely creative period. I have been married for two years now, and I have attempted to make changes in my life and schedule to allow my life to mesh with my husband's to a certain point, but I am realizing that there are some things I can do little about. For example, these past few days, I have awakened quite suddenly at 5 a.m. (even after 4 hours sleep the night before) with imagery and realizations that force me to get up and work (or in the case of this morning, blog). I have been staying up most of the night, consumed with working, even when there are no more deadlines.

So I awoke with a start this morning realizing that people are probably really scared/put off by my recent materials.

I have been discussing materials (in particular, blood) with my friend Sarah who has similar artistic sensibilities, and a similar need for deep meaning in her work. She is the one who became obsessed by, and bought, a drawing a while back that used pig's blood as a medium. We discussed it a bit at that time, and again yesterday. Being raised Catholic, I have all these amazing references that are not just external intellectual symbols, they are ingrained in me, I FEEL them, even though I am no longer a church goer. I feel the concepts of martyrdom, the sacrificial lamb, the strange mingling of grace, beauty and pain inherent in Catholicism. This morning, as I was lying in bed before dawn, it occurred to me what the impetus was for my last piece. I remember having a strong impulse to make it, looking for a beautiful way to articulate a particular emotion I was feeling, and did not stop to analyze where it came from. I have a family member whom I love dearly who is lost, self-destructive, suffers from addiction and depression, and is in a lot of pain. I worry about this person almost daily, sometimes at night I can't stop the worrying and it keeps me up. "The Initiate" was a piece about him, about how he "fell into" his place in the universe and in our family, and, now I realize, "Bloom" is about him, too. When I got the original idea for "Bloom", I wanted to bleed in sympathy for him. The truth is, when making the piece the other night, I tried to cut my finger to use my own blood, but couldn't do it. I made one little paper cut with an xacto and squeezed one drop of my blood into the gouache, then gave up, put some antibiotic cream and a band aid on my cut, and went to work. I had previously inquired about getting someone to take some of my blood correctly at a doctor's office, but was told it could not be done (to my partial relief, because I just about pass out every time they do it.) I was a bit disappointed the other night that I did not have the wherewithal to contribute more than a symbolic drop of blood, but then I got an idea. Lamb's blood. I remember 6-8 months back being at the Guggenheim and being stopped in my tracks by a painting of a bound sacrificial lamb. The painting was completely incongruous to the rest of the show, it was a Pop artist retrospective, (maybe Rauchenberg? Warhol?) and the painting was an early work. The sacrificial lamb was a perfect symbol for this family member, for his pain and his inability to escape his own life. All the pieces fit together perfectly. So, I got up the following morning and went to get some lamb, and finished the painting, using blood for the middle to lightest values. There is no other medium that could convey the strong and complex emotions that I brought to this painting.

As I responded to a comment made a few days ago by a woman who was "repulsed and fascinated" by the hair embroideries, it never would have occurred to me that people would have a problem with them, as there are so many contemporary artists who have been so much more extreme. Unlike many artists who do entire bodies of work about confronting the body's boundaries, I am merely reaching for the medium that will make each work as powerful and meaningful as it can be. Sometimes that means hair. or blood. As one of my undergraduate professors, Angelo Ippolito, used to say, "A painting that has a compromise is a failure." Once the pieces all fall into place, and they point to using blood in the piece, if you don't , you have failed, and the work has failed.

For many years I have been making art about extreme emotion, realizing that it was something that people were very uncomfortable with. Despite the fact that it is only human to experience extreme rage, grief, or joy, many people would prefer to go through their lives avoiding any confrontations with deep emotions. I feel the same way about contemporary society's inability to deal with bodily fluids. Throughout the centuries, people have engaged in powerful rituals and rites of passage that involved the body (such as keeping a lock of a deceased person's hair). These were activities that gave meaning to life. (note to self: is conceptual art a part of a movement away from "the messy"?) I sometimes wonder if fear of bodily fluids is fear of contamination or fear loss of boundaries as writers say, or if it is really fear of how charged with meaning these materials are, and fear of the corresponding deep emotions they elicit.

P.S. Completely off-topic (I must be ok, because in addition to being a blood painter, I am also a Williams Sonoma consumer and a bread baker), spent a few minutes today making this lemon rosemary bread, which is tremendously easy, and the best bread I have ever had.... it is better than cake, honestly. Everything about it is perfect... taste, texture, crust. I used twice the yeast 'cause I was scared, and King Arthur artisan flour.

Late addition: In relation to bodily fluids, but not bread, Sarah sent me this link to a beautiful Stan Brakhage film made about the birth of his first child.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

For Once, Artistic Gratification in Less than 24 Hours

So, today was the deadline for a Works on Paper exhibition. Most of the pieces I was submitting were older, so I wanted a new piece to enter. Because the hair embroidery went way over schedule, I realized I could only get one new piece done, instead of the 2 or 3 I had originally hoped for. When it became apparent to me last night that the piece I was working on had no way of being finished without compromise to integrity, I switched gears at midnight (see previous post). I have been playing with this idea for a long time, and I realized that it would not take long to execute. So I was up until 4:30 a.m. working on the gouache painting. This is not the final photo, you can see the center frame is a little cocked, and I want to get a center frame that is a little more cherry wood in color, but you get the gist of it. No major deadlines in the foreseeable future....... real sleep tonight, a day or two to unwind, be a human, and get the studio in order, then blissssssful working.

In progress: Bloom., gouache & blood on watercolor paper, silk, velvet, frames, convex glass, 14 x 11".


Gouache and blood on watercolor paper....

Will go back to the previous gouache painting tomorrow... have to spend the day finishing this piece up (this is only part of the piece), archiving it, and delivering the disc. Very tired.

11:30 p.m. - 4:30 a.m.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Lisa Hunter, author of The Intrepid Art Collector book and blog, interviewed me about the process of hair embroidery as part of her series "1,000 Words: Stories Behind the Pictures", and the result is here, hot off the press.

Monday, April 14, 2008

(click any image to enlarge)

Oubliette II, 2008, human hair embroidery on found linen doily, hand-dyed velvet, convex glass, frame, 9 x 9", 13 x 13" framed.

The embroidered area itself is a little under 2 x 3 ".

This piece will be shipped tomorrow to the Packer/Schopf Gallery in Chicago.

In the near future, I will be creating large-scale photographs of this hair embroidery face-mounted to oval plexiglass, to be sold in limited editions of 10.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

An Addiction, Like Any Other

If you are one of the loyal masochists (or sadists) who have been following the creation of this piece for the past three months, you know that this has been a long road.

My husband, God bless his soul, asks me how it's going every day. Recently he began asking me daily (with great cheerleader enthusiasm) when I would be finished, and, after the deadline was pushed back 4 or 5 times, I finally said, exasperated, "I have no idea... I have absolutely no idea."

It gets so exciting at the end, as it nears completion, but as I work on one area of the piece, it inevitably requires work in some other area. You tighten one area, then another looks unfinished, or you up the contrast in one area, then other parts look shallow by comparison. The past few days, I was frequently heard to say, "only a few more hours", or "there are only 5 more things on my list to fix"..... "only 3 more hairs...."

After a few months of regular studio hours, I have been at this piece from morning till night (and sometimes well into the a.m.) for the last few weeks. On the weekends, I tried to take time out for some human activities and quality time with my hubbie, but embroidered up until the last minute, and ran back upstairs after our walk or meeting in the hammock, to get back to work. The closer I got to the end of the piece, the more single-minded I became, and the more I hated to be interrupted. Many of my responsibilities have been on hold, I am behind on my emails, I owe several thank you notes, and, as usual at the end of a project, my studio is a mess. I have been icing my wrists each night before I go to bed, to ensure that I will be able to work to fullest capacity the following day.

But it is finished. Or, I summoned my willpower and stopped myself. Because this piece could, theoretically, go on forever, as could I. I ripped it off the backing and disassembled the embroidery frame, just for good measure. I am on the wagon again, at least for the time being. Official pics tomorrow, when it gets framed.
tweak tweak tweak.......

Friday, April 11, 2008

Thursday, April 10, 2008

In each thing that I make, there is a threshold that is passed where I then know that the piece is going to work, and that it will possess the magic that I am looking for... up until that time, I am just working with blind faith, hoping that it will all lead up to something.

In this particular work, it is about the space. Even though the piece is not finished, I have hit that point.

At this point, will work on the landscape and then essentially tighten everything up.

I should make it into a contest.... can you (even begin to) guess which part Kate has been working on for the last three hours?
...and, in the corner of the room, waiting for me to finish.....

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Compelled to take a break from work to look through old sketchbooks to find this note, which, alas, has no reference....

Margaret at the spinning wheel: Ich spinne
"I'm weaving, I am a spider, I am mad, I am the rapture of a dream...."
A full and long day of work. No husband tonight, and Radley is dopey from having a spot removed from his belly today. Stopped for an hour to eat, watch the Ovation show on Rauschenberg and give my hands a rest. A shower to wake me up and I am back upstairs.....

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Kate Finally Gets Smart
So, as I have been working on this hair embroidery, I have become increasingly discouraged about the future of my hair embroideries, thinking I will probably never do another one like this (this is the 4th mouth, and the 3rd mouth with a tornado, there is really no reason to spend another 3 months of my life doing another one.) It is incredibly hard on my hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders to grip hairs and tie them off, even with adopting my husband's recent brilliant suggestion that I employ hemostats to help tie off my knots. I know I have only so many hair embroideries in me. No one looking at the pieces in person can imagine what goes into making them or how long they take, and there is no precedent for this kind of work that allows me to charge what should be charged for them.

Today, while working and listening to the Leon Golub tribute on PS1 Radio, I was thinking about a crit I received in grad school. One of my professors was looking at my paintings, which can be so detailed ("wrought" is the way my friend Nora describes them), and the professor said "They look like Michelangelos that are ready to explode". I thought about these hair embroideries, and how I just keep compressing all this time and work into an area measuring just a few square inches. I keep packing in more stitches, and it seems the more I do, the more needs to be done. The tornado image is my symbol of building anxiety, and the process is the manifestation of the anxiety. It feels like this tiny area I have been working on IS ready to explode.

Later, while icing my wrist, I was showing my husband the extreme close up of the embroidery back in my previous post, which I am fascinated with, and it occurred to me: large, gorgeous photos of the hair embroideries mounted onto the back of plexi. Limited editions. The enlargement would allow people to really see and appreciate what is there, and the play on the scale would be fantastic. I am extremely excited about this.....

Of course, this means I may have to work on it another day, as the bar is raised now that it will be blown up......
(for fun, click to enlarge)

the brown velvet background turned out gorgeously.... onward.