Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Heavy Animation

This is an animation of a story told between mother and son on StoryCorps.  I've listened to these recordings for a while but this one blew me away and continues to devastate me.  At the end of the audio episode they explained that StoryCorps has recently partnered with POV to create an animation set to the voices.  It is poignant and depressing and disgusting and timely.  I think the visual is well done and the use of a medium that is usually light and humorous in such a contrasting way heightens the devastation of the story. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Resources and Renovations

We moved a few months ago and a big part of why I have been semi-absent here and stressed out in other areas of my life and feeling like its all pointless anyway because there are much more important things going on in the world (previous post) is because I've been spending way too much time trying to make this new place feel good.  

I think its getting to that point.  While I love the creative energy that goes into design and composing little nooks, I am totally spent in that department.  After 20 nooks, they get a bit old.  So I figured a way to put a stop, or at least a pause on all that is to post a few of the best resources I found in the process and maybe that will make me feel like some of the universe's time that I wasted at 3am looking for a pillow online can be saved if other people don't have to repeat that same slog. 

I did find a pretty sweet pillow though.  The kilim pillow pictured above came from the Decolic Kilim Pillow shop on Etsy.  As I write this there are 1,797 beautiful items in the shop that come directly from Turkey and the prices are way better than many similar shops -- they range from about $15-$30.

Another thing I spent way too much time trying to find is furniture.  I refuse to buy new dressers, tables or other items made of wood.  There are so many beautiful old pieces at thrift stores and on craigslist and keeping them out of the waste stream for cheap is really necessary when you see the shitty shitty crap crap that Overstock or Target sell for 4 times the price.  

The best stores I found like that are: Bryn Mawr Thrift (so much furniture!  I got a dining set for $140 with 6 chairs and two leaves)  
All Things Shoppe in Hatboro (its a little further out, like 45 minutes from center city, but so worth it, the prices are actually good unlike so many similar stores in northern liberties)
Craigslist -- where I got the above deco dresser painted this beautiful blue for $100.  
Estate Sales (if you sign up at estatesales.net they send you a weekly circular of sales nearby.  Again the city ones are priced high but we drove out to Springfield and got a few great things including this chair which was $20.  Also the email usually has links to hundreds of photos so you can see if the type of things you are looking for might be at each particular sale)

I guess I can't save anyone time on this one, but ebay was a place I figured out how to work way better for interesting things.  I got a pair of these sconces above for $25.  I basically started typing in weird combinations of words one night: tole + candle + flower or lamp + poodle + milk glass and got results that didn't come up in more general searches and were not being 'watched' by 200 people.  It seems like there are weird corners of ebay that don't get picked up by the search and its kind of like the slot machines you have to get three random terms to line up and get lucky.  Sort of fun when you have nothing to do and two glasses of wine -- a game I won't be playing for a while though...

Another thing I've been doing a lot of is refurbishing old things I have.  The mirror next to that sconce was gaudy gold and I painted it a bright green which seemed to give it new life.  And then the nightstands above which were Alex's brother's growing up --  I totally hate for their clunky wood and top heavy ways (literally they fall over sometimes) but I couldn't rationalize buying more so I painted them and put a rope handle on, and I think I can live with them for a bit longer.

I'm back to dying things with indigo dye -- had half a packet left and figured what the hell?  I think this lampshade looks a bit less generic.

Last thing we decided was living in South Philly, it is so densely populated and concrete, more plants inside would be a good idea.  They are also pretty inexpensive and good quality at places like Produce Junction or Home Depot (the one on Columbus has a weirdly great nursery) so every time we go there for something random, which is about every night, we buy a plant.  A friend taught me how to make the hanging planters above, it takes 5 minutes (google it) and I've been using chairs (Alex's sister's growing up -- why don't they take any of their furniture -- I don't know perhaps we are the most desperate) as plant stands.  

So that's that for now.  I am resuming my regularly scheduled life with teaching and painting, a few exciting shows and such upcoming -- I'll be back here with details asap.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Mirka Mora and Creative Lives Lost

Mirka Mora
An artist can only hope to live to the place that Mirka Mora is in this picture.  Standing in front of a wall size painting wearing a matching sweatshirt.  She is triumphant.  One of the few to make it out of a Nazi concentration camp alive and go on to spread so much energy and effusive joy through her work and life.

I've been thinking a lot recently of all the life and also artistic brilliance lost to war and circumstance.  How many paintings never made and books never written and impacting lives never lived.  Here are two remarkable stories I heard recently: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram, a woman in the Vietnam War on KCRW's Unfictional and Abdi and the Golden Ticket, a Somali refugee's struggle on This American Life.  

I wonder if anyone reading who knows of a good way or organization to aid refugees, immigrants, or other most vulnerable populations would post or email a comment to me.  I feel so lucky to be able to spend so many of my days in the studio and am looking for ways to be supportive of others.  It's a seed of an idea but I'm always surprised where the conversations that come from this blog take me.  Thank you.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Horace Pippin at Brandywine River Museum


I saw the survey of Horace Pippin at Brandywine River Museum today.  It was so good to see.  There were a lot of paintings and his work is well deserving of a deeper examination.  Being able to look at so many works at once I felt better able to figure out why I always gravitate to his paintings.  He is so subtle in breaking rules.  

In school you are told never to put anything dead center of the composition or make it symmetrical or make the top of a composition too heavy.  But if you do break those rules you should do it in an overt way, so its not a question of whether it was purposeful.  

But in Pippin's paintings, he does all those things and does them quietly.  Things are too symmetrical or a little out of proportion or a bit warped in perspective.  That slight skew makes for a really heightened engagement with the painting and the narrative, it isn't easy to breeze over.  

And then the color is the other thing, he really uses it in a personal way.  The value is always completely full spectrum from bright white to rich blacks.  These tonal shapes make up large majorities of most paintings but then saturated reds, greens, and yellows sit in harmony.  They don't read as sugary or easy among the bigger tonal areas painted into such deliberate shapes.  Seeing a few pieces (one pictured above) of unfinished paintings made me think about this, how drawing and value play such a big role in the paintings and help establish mood through scale and contrast almost immediately.

Pippin remains a favorite of mine for his personal interpretation of the things around him and in his thoughts.  The show is up through July 12th, here is a link.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Wisdom from Anne Tabachnick

Anne Tabachnick, “Cambridge with Tulips and View” (late 1960s), acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 38 x 48 inches

There is this thing that happens very occasionally.  I think everyone has felt it happen to them.  It's where the world conspires to get you to notice one thing in a heightened way, so when you see it, it feels nearly predestined.  (Maybe some call that fate but I don't believe in that) 

Here's what happened:  I spent about 1.5 hours this morning trying to respond to an email that I had been putting off for about 2 weeks.  I was trying to describe essentially what I think is important in painting, what I paint.  That thing no painter wants to or can define.  So I fumbled through this email and sent it off.  It was cobbled sentence fragments.  Then I stared at 8 different paintings on my easel for the next 2 hours.  I was too hyper aware of what I was doing and so everything was shitty.  I gave up and decided I needed to reorganize myself.  I needed to look at paintings, do some reading and figure out some jumping off points that I was excited to paint from.

I grabbed 9 books to start that process and the first one I open, first page I open to is this.  An Anne Tabachnick catalog that I have looked at many times but never taken the extra time to read.  This is literally the first thing I read:

"My basic preoccupation as an artist has been an apparently formal concern with painting as painting, per se.  Yet, I am simultaneously guided by the notion of mystical presence of art that made me fall in love with painting in the first place.  I could be called a Second Generation New York School painter, an identity which places me in an artistic, ideological and temporal milieu but does not begin to characterize my work.  I have called my work 'lyrical expressionism' hinting at its evocative nature.  My pictures are figurative - always insisting on some reference to natural visual phenomena - but are expressive through abstract means."

I feel like she reached through time and space to give me those words at this moment.  I LITERALLY KNEW BEFORE I googled her name that she died 20 years ago to this day.  I was positive that the world would answer back to affirm its awareness.   I was one day off.  She died June 20, 1995.  I honor you today Anne.  A great painter and thinker, your work sustains that mystical presence that guided you.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Second Look: Irving Penn

Irving Penn, Still Life with Watermelon, 1947

Some of Irving Penn's still life photographs feel the smallest bit dated.  The color and objects pulling from too specific a time, so that their once timely and daring components now reference the past too much, taking away from their form.  But not this image above.  This image seems to defy time.  It strikes such a deep chord of art history, with references to 17th century feast paintings, and contrasting with that modern, simple shape and color of the watermelon and white background.  It is the perfect composition.