Sunday, February 12, 2017

'Cake Hole' at Mrs.

Totally thrilled to be a part of this show of painters I idolize who paint one of the top subjects in my book: cake!!  (Wayne Thiebaud?? Wha?!)  Totally bummed to miss the opening because I am supposed to have my baby in two days...and the sacrifices begin.  Hoping to get up on the tail end of the show or at least find the install shots and live through the digital version.  I will share what I find. For now here are some works from the show and the press release.

Will Cotton, Persistence of Desire 2, 2012, Oil on Linen, 47 x 32 inches

Press Release
Mrs. is excited to present Cake Hole, a group exhibition in collaboration with Doppelgänger Projects opening February 11 - April 1, 2017; including works by Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw, Robert Chamberlin, Caroline Wells Chandler, Jennifer Coates, Will Cotton, Gary Komarin, Aubrey Levinthal, Tracy Miller, Walter Robinson, Amy Stevens, Wayne Thiebaud and Mie Yim.
Wayne Thiebaud, Dark Cupcakes and Donuts, 2006Direct Gravure, Printed on Gampi Paper Chine Colle, 26 x 31 inches 
"The cake is for celebration, success, remembrance.  The cake is for the day you were born, first and foremost.  The cake can also commemorate the day you married your favorite person, the one who will hurt you worse than anyone else in your life (besides your mother).  The cake is smeared on your face, its crumbs sully your smile, its frosting corrodes your teeth.  The layers interspersed with goo are a sculpture for your mouth to dismantle with chewing and swallowing.  The digestive apparatus is an art critic writing a terrible review that ends in the toilet.  But first, where does cake come from?
Ancient Egyptians made breads sweetened with honey.  The Greeks had a form of cheesecake and the Romans developed early versions of fruitcakes which migrated through time and space to 14th century Britain.  Chaucer writes about enormous cakes made for special occasions.  The word cake was brought to England by Viking invaders, derived from the Old Norse “kaka.”  The marauding Vikings also brought the words knife and death.  Here is your dessert now let me stab you.

 Mie Yim, Chocolate Cake, 2015, Pastel on Martha Stewart Paintchip, 3 x 4 inches 

Cakes were originally decorated for displays at parties held by European aristocracy as far back as the 17th century.  In 19th century France, decorated cakes became available for everyone.  After World War II, American companies tried to sell cake mix to women who were transitioning from the wartime workforce back into the home.  Apparently, women found it too depressingly convenient to just add water to a pile of powder, so marketing psychologists determined that adding an egg might make them feel they were doing just enough for their families while also symbolically offering their fertility to hard working husbands.
The round shape of the cake connects to the sun and moon and annual cycles - ancient people offered them to the gods and spirits who exercised powers at certain times of the year.  But what of the piling, the layering of the cakes?  What is the origin of this confectionery architecture?  The impulse to pile can be traced to the stone cairn.  Humans have been piling rocks since Paleolithic times to use as burial monuments, for ceremonial and astronomical purposes, to mark trails.  This need to stack and layer is deep.  When you eat cake you are communing with celestial beings, you are merging with your ancestors, you are exerting magical manipulations on the cosmos.  When you enter the cake hole, you emerge fresh, new and holy."
-Text by Jennifer Coates
For more information and sales inquiries, please contact

Walter Robinson, Iced Lemon Pound Cake, 2016, Acrylic on Paper, 12 x 9 inches

Tracy Miller, Banana Stand, 2016, Oil on Canvas,  54 x 48 inches

P.S. Since I couldn't be at the opening I decided to finally conquer my tall Jello mold.  I've tried through the last couple years and epically failed.  So after three takes this weekend I finally got something....its creepy and so unappetizing!!  But it made me feel a little better.

(click on it for a jiggle)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Fernand Leger

Fernand Leger 1881-1955

"The feat of superbly imitating a muscle, as Michelangelo did, or a face, as Raphael did, created neither progress nor a hierarchy in art. Because these artists of the sixteenth century imitated human forms, they were not superior to the artists of the high periods of Egyptian, Chaldean, Indochinese, Roman, and Gothic art who interpreted and stylized form but did not imitate it."

 Love this sentiment from Leger.  The great myth of progress-- everything getting better with each generation and advancement is feeling not only like a farce but too narrow a way to look at the world.  Allowing for a plethora of people and cultures and their ways of thinking, making and interpreting as not only valid but valued is nourishing in art and society.   (a.k.a. F@*k you Trump)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

NY Sun Review and Images

Microwave Mug, 2015, Oil on Panel
 Today my show, Refrigerator Paintings came down.  With New Year's starting the month and the apocalyptic hate-mongering Trump presidency beginning to bookend January, it has been a hard time to think about painting and really a time that feels a bit selfish to be holed up in the studio.  

I was really happy to have a review by Xico Greenwald in the NY Sun which gave me some reflection on the show that I can think about in months ahead.  But for now, I'll just share that and some images and move on to calling Pat Toomey with all the things at the forefront of my brain.  Here's his DC number if you are interested too (and a PA constituent):   (202) 224-4254.  I'm aiming for calling every Monday with my three biggest issues of the previous week.  Trying to find a way to cope that is both productive and self preserving...

Cereal Eater, 2016, Oil on Panel

Raiding the Fridge for Inspiration
By XICO GREENWALD, Special to the Sun | January 25, 2017

Philadelphia-based artist Aubrey Levinthal (b. 1986) raids her fridge for inspiration. She repurposes her leftovers, turning Tupperware containers packed with fruit salad and spaghetti into inventive still lifes. Milk jugs and the condiments in the icebox are arranged into formally rigorous compositions that show off Ms. Levinthal’s feel for paint. Stroked, glazed, scraped and sanded, textured canvases here depict late-night binges and bubbling lasagna.

“Refrigerator Paintings,” a little exhibit in Chelsea now in its final days, is a breath of fresh air. Ms. Levinthal is a student of art history, and her unpretentious canvases of everyday subjects dialogue with modern masters, particularly School of Paris artists. Visitors to her show will leave reassured that the great tradition of painting is alive and well in the able hands of this millennial.

In “Microwave Mug,” 2015, the lonely light of a microwave oven nuking coffee updates Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” 1942, the urban American noir masterpiece. Here the glow in the night comes from a kitchen appliance, not a corner coffee shop, but both pictures capture after-hours solitude.

In “Cereal Eater” 2016, the vantage point is from inside the refrigerator, letting viewers peer out to what seems to be a loose self-portrait of the artist at the open fridge door, perhaps about to grab the last of the milk. The nearly all white picture is suffused with refrigerator light and the roughly painted figure recalls the Art Brut characters of Jean Dubuffet.

All but a sliver of canvas is covered over with a white refrigerator door in “Fridge Closing,” 2016. The off-kilter design recalls playfully lopsided compositions by Pierre Bonnard. In an artist’s statement, Ms. Levinthal explains, “I had painted an entire composition of food stacked to the ceiling, like it would be before a party. It was too crowded and flat and I didn't know what to do. And then I thought, I'll zoom out and put the door on top of the stuff.” The formula-free artworks here are worked and reworked, each piece achieving its own unique pictorial resolution.

Ms. Levinthal is expecting a baby in February and papier-mâché sculptures of food displayed on shelves are labeled “Things I Crave, Pregnant” (Pop-Tarts, soft-serve) and “Things I Can't Have, Pregnant” (lox, beer). The artist says these sculptures are “sort of like characters from the paintings.”

Though the artworks here are fun, even funny, Ms. Levinthal’s achievement is profound. After all, translating the human experience into compelling works of art is what painting has always been all about.

Aubrey Levinthal: Refrigerator Paintings, on view through January 28, 2017, The Painting Center, 547 West 27th Street, Suite 500, New York, NY, 212-343-1060,
More information about Xico Greenwald's work can be found at

Monday, January 23, 2017

Second Look: Will Barnet

The Three Brothers, 1964

Will Barnet is one of those painters I have known of since I can remember but I didn't always appreciate.  I didn't like his work much in school and the irony is now I show him to students and they don't really see the exquisiteness either.  But I think he is a real master.  

A lot of times the term 'wooden' is negatively used in critiques of figurative work that doesn't have life or emotion.  Barnet's figures are certainly wooden but they are full of life and emotion.  He is able to simultaneously hold the most simplified, flat, closed shape to stand for a figure and capture a feeling in their pose, a mood in the face.  He uses shape and composition to add that gravity and the simplicity is like a poem.  

Nothing is in excess, everything is consciously decided on.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Few Install Shots of The Painting Center

I hung my show Refrigerator Paintings at The Painting Center in Chelsea yesterday.  It went better than expected.  Someone with a strange (read: bad) abstract spatial sense like me sometimes can really mess up visualizing a space and scale of things.  But I think I brought the right work and it hung well together.  This work plays much more with value and low saturation than some of my other work so the color didn't fight as much.

The show is all paintings with the subject of the refrigerator as a jumping off point (with a microwave and oven thrown in for good measure).  I don't know why I started with this subject but once I did I found it touches on so many of the things I like to challenge in my work.   


These are intimate spaces but they are also isolated and matter of fact.  They are like stages for still life, objects stacking and overlapping in fortuitous ways.  These are spaces where the sense of light is dramatic, especially in value.  They are spaces where the point of view can be surprising.  Compositionally there are deep spaces and occlusions of that space in the shape of a door or shelf.

In one piece, Fridge Closing, (I don't have a close up image of that one installed) I had painted an entire composition of food stacked to the ceiling, like it would  be before a party.  It was too crowded and flat and I didn't know what to do.  And then I thought, I'll zoom out and put the door on top of the stuff.  Knowing that it was all in there behind the door was pretty freaking satisfying.

Then I read this snippet from Guston interviews:  "...then I just covered it up with a brick wall.  It felt good.  So in my mind, everything's behind the brick wall."  He does everything first.  But I still felt good knowing I got there too.

The other thing that feels unexpectedly good about the show is how the space mimics the idea of a refrigerator.  The project space is very narrow and feels like you must enter into a compressed area.  That was the reason I felt the show needed a tight relationship in terms of subject.  But the space adds to that impression and my content I think.

The last thing I was able to do because I have control of the curation, is show my paper mache sculptures.  I have made these off and on since graduate school but I never show them and never intended to.  There is one wall in the space which has a door on it, and is hard to get any distance from, and I thought-- I don't want to put any paintings there.  Then in my studio one day making the sculptures for no obvious reason but enjoyment I thought, hmm, these sculptures might be just related enough and more playful, sort of like characters from the paintings.  I expanded on them and made one shelf Things I Crave, Pregnant and the other Things I Can't Have, Pregnant.  

These are the only things I think non-pregnant people want to know about pregnancy.  They want the middle of the night pickle peanut butter story which I don't have (and question its origin haha).  But food is definitely on the mind at nearly 9 months pregnant and for me pop tarts, banana cream pie and spaghetti are the top.  I also think pregnancy feels taboo as a painter.  It seems like some people expect you will stop painting (what?) and is a physical reminder of being a woman in a man's profession.  So I  wanted to put it out there loudly and continue to allow my work to touch on my life in whatever way that seems to crop up.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Baby DIYs

I'm having a baby boy in February.  It's getting exciting.  I'm going to continue teaching and painting but I know things will change.  Working hard to get ready for two shows and a residency in Ireland in May, which Alex and baby will come along for.  In the midst of these things I'm trying to get ready for baby in reading books and getting his room ready.  

Being a painter and person who cares about the color, shape and surface of things I feel like there are two main roads to go down.  The loud fisher price plastic neon road or the million dollar faux amish hipster road.  Feels a lot like wedding planning: small budget, specific taste.

I've decided less is more, especially since we will have so little stuff in Ireland.  I'm keeping it simple and trying to put care into a couple special things.  One is an old lamp from when I was a kid that I repainted.

Freshly Painted...

The other thing I did is make an 'activity gym'.  This is something you see on Etsy and Pottery Barn and wherever else for over $100.  When I saw one in person I realized I can make this with leftover wood from making frames.   Its very simple.  So it only ended up costing the price of the dowel, something like $5.  Then I can buy or make some cute toys to attach.

left: Land of Nod $30(handy like mom, not dad haha) right: Ukranian Etsy Shop LanaCrocheting $20