Thursday, February 8, 2018

Postcard from the Studio

I've been working in the studio like a mad man.  I have 13 paintings heading to Volta in March and on top of finishing them I am building all the frames, you can barely see the floor most days.  But the space still manages to be the most sanctuary-like of any space in my life.  I'm so thankful for it and the fact that I have something so fulfilling to do for work.  I think after this semester I am leaving teaching for a while.  It's been good, there are things I will miss, but my plate is too full and happily I'm busy in the studio for now.  

A few of my new paintings are about making paintings and looking at paintings.   Seems like the thing I am seeing a lot and thinking about a lot so inevitably it becomes the subject.  And tulips.  There is nothing better to look at in the winter than tulips.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Museums Shows at the Met!

Favorite moment of the Hockney Show

I went up to New York for my opening and was able to get a few hours in the Met and Met Breuer before.  There are so many strong museum shows right now.  I saw Hockney, Michelangelo, Rodin and Munch.  My eyes were bleeding by the end.  The shows were very crowded which always detracts from the looking for me.  It's amazing how some visitors seem so unaware and like they are the only one in the place.  How? I wish I could be like that.  I spend half my time watching their insane behavior.  

I wanted to look at Michelangelo's copy of Massacio's expulsion, which is one of my favorite paintings ever.  But I listened to one woman blow smoke up another woman's *** about it for so long that I could no longer stand there, she literally said nothing for 10 minutes but her mouth did not close.  Anyway, I eventually just chose a few drawings that were less popular and tried to calm down and enjoy them.  

Beyond that, Hockney was great to see in person for all the little moments that are lost in reproduction.  So many of the paintings are so big that there are all these little still lives and funny side notes within.  The work is so seemingly carefree and easy, California and pools feel like such the right subject.  I preferred the beginning half of the show much more than the end.    

Munch at the Met allowed for a much calmer environment and that made sense for the work.  It is so depressing you just want to weep.  This painting detail above of his sister's deathbed was really heartbreaking, and the color was sick and beautiful at the same time. I heard one lady say she likes the look of the paintings but can't he just paint something a little happier?  haha.  He seems to be a real master of color and value. But there was something in his brushstroke I didn't always care for.  He seems so set on expressing immediately the misery and turmoil that the brushwork can be unfelt and too fast somehow?  And the bottom edges of the compositions feel odd a lot, things cut off at weird places.  I think that was okay, it was distressing but I think that made its point.  

Anyway, a lot to see and worth the visit.  But maybe go with earplugs...

Monday, January 8, 2018

Couple Paintings at NMG Jan 2018

Fruit with Toaster Reflection, 2017, 24 x 24 inches, Oil on Panel

I've been working like crazy in the studio recently.  There is no heat except my space heater, and the water was just shut off this week so the pipes don't freeze.  I feel like the sacrifice in no ways makes my work better,  but I like being able to complain here about the things painters go through for their work haha.

These five paintings are in a group show opening Thursday Jan 11th at Nancy Margolis Gallery.  I will also have my work at Volta in march.  So hopefully the big paintings I'm fighting come to some resolution this winter...

Bouquet Among Pines, 2017, 24 x 19.5 inches, Oil on Panel

Cereal on Snowy Sill, 2017, 24 x 18 inches, Oil on Panel

Dog Park Pile Up(Snow), 2017, 32 x 24.5 inches, Oil on Panel

Woman with Flurries, 2017, 10.5 x 13.5 inches, Oil on Panel

Friday, December 8, 2017

Herculaneum Frescoes, Anonymity and Ego

I've been enamored with Italian frescoes since studying abroad in Florence over 10 years ago.  Visiting what seemed like every tiny cathedral and town within a couple hours and seeing Masaccio and Giotto and Piero pretty much floored me to the ground for a long time.  It was so revelatory for me, I barely made anything for the year after, but then when I did start working again, I worked with an understanding that was honestly just much better.  The scale, the surface, the history of eyes that had come to study these things...being in their presence is as close as I have come to a spiritual experience in a religious space in my life. 

I look at those images a lot.  The image can never do justice to the physical experience, of course, but I think it can remind, if experienced in person at some point.  Early Renaissance has had me for a long time for its organization of space, the strength in shapes and value that compose the picture plane, the flat color.  And while I appreciate the later high Renaissance fresco work, it never had the same resonance for me.

Only recently I started looking to fresco that pre-dates these heroes, as so many of the books and research concentrate on this high time.  But these images above, from Herculaneum, around 50-80A.D. bring up much that I love about the early Renaissance work.  And they are of such simple subjects.  I would really like the see these in person, without that experience it is hard to fully appreciate.  But I can imagine the surfaces must have that same power.  

I think I respond too to the pure randomness and anonymity of their survival.  These are preserved only thanks to the volcanic activity that froze bits of time.  It is unknown who painted them (as far as I am aware?) and that is actually refreshing.  

So much of painting is wrapped up in the ego of the painter.  This has always been true I guess, the personality and persona of the maker figures its way into the work.  As years go by, those particulars are less of a factor, but still the maker is central to the work, at least in much of western art history.  As a painter I know there is something about trying to outlive your mortality that making exquisite work promises.  But somehow I think the relationship of maker and work is in danger of being reversed in contemporary painting.   

Right now so much mediocre work gets attention for the maker's digital presence.  So little time spent on the actual object made, but so much time spent on shopping it around and the virtual aura surrounding that person.  The simple repetition of seeing the same thing on multiple social media outlets makes it seem like it is important and worthwhile and therefore of value.  But really much of the time it is vacuous and boring and makes me want to live in a treehouse without wi-fi.  And I have felt the trappings of this myself, but I try to stay on high alert, committed to what is visually meaningful to me, my own judgement.  

These frescoes serve as a reminder that obscurity is a relief and maybe allows for truer looking.  As a recent friend wrote to me there is such a necessity for the 'quiet dignity of simple things' today.  So maybe it is even more beautiful and startling to future lookers and makers if a painting can live on completely unmoored from its maker.  

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Subtle, Still Life

Giorgio Morandi, Still Life, 1960
My show is down, my baby is crawling (and therefore finally taking good naps) and I can get a half hour of thinking time to myself.  I remember everyone saying having a baby is so hard, or, your life will never be the same.  And while I believed them and knew that would be the case, I pictured it more as a physical change of running around, changing diapers, cleaning bottles.  This is true and difficult.  But the hardest part as a painter is the mental space it occupies.  It's so important outside of the studio to be able to walk around and daydream, observe things, in a sort of free association.  But having Clyde makes for worrying and planning in every minute, where even if I am out in the world I'm not seeing spontaneously, because of the to do list etched in my mind's eye.  It's depleting in that way.  But fulfilling in other ways I've never had.

I've actually seen a ton of shows recently, going to NY for my show and catching them here and there, and needing destinations for our walks in Philly, I have seen a lot of painting in person recently.  And the more I see the more I keep retreating back to a few paintings and ideas etched even deeper in my mind's eye than my to-do list. 

E.M. Saniga, Beets, n.d.

Sanyu, Five Pears, n.d.

Andre Brasilier

Andre Brasilier

Sydney Licht, Still Life with Sardine Can, 2015

I didn't realize it then but my revisiting of these paintings and ideas of subtlety
 started on the residency in Ireland in May.  Not only did I have the whirlwind in my personal life but changing physical spaces and studios is very uprooting.  

The first week or two that we got there I kept feeling the need to try to paint what I was seeing, these vast, majestic, deep spaces.  The studio building is filled with great plein air work from previous residents.  But these paintings are not paintings I make or have interest in making.  On our daily walks I started gathering flowers along the road and little objects from our cottage and brought them into the studio.  Along with a little mirror, I was able to make paintings that were much more interesting to me and felt like mine, small self portraits and still lives.  

Part of me felt very out of place in this landscape making these paintings.  They had nothing to do with the direct observation of the surroundings, aside from the color.  But the paintings are in direct opposite reaction to the chaotic and dramatic personal experience I had.  Again I felt the power and conviction in making the subtlest, quietest paintings.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Installation at Nancy Margolis and Gorky's Granddaughter


Above are installation images from my show at Nancy Margolis Gallery this past month.  There is a digital catalog here which has all 15 paintings, two are not documented here.

You can also see the show in video format on Gorky's Granddaughter below.  

Zach and Chris generously came to the show and we discussed the work on camera.  You can watch me repeatedly refuse to make any revelatory insights or sweeping statements.  I think it makes the work seem a little more simplistic than I hope it is, but I would rather that than the alternative. 

The alternative manifests itself in this 6 minute 'Jim Carrey, I Needed Color' film which is simultaneously my biggest fear and my favorite art documentary ever.  Please do yourself a favor and watch here.  I hope everyday that he comes out and declares it a mediocre comedic riff on us painters,  but so far no such luck.