Process and Information Seeking
Today I am writing about my summer reads, I recently finished a couple that I’d like to share. Let me begin by saying I function seasonally as do many other artists. In the Fall I am in high production mode, making paintings, drawing, doing some prints, reading books and watching videos. My readings around this time are focused on academic topics like color, painting, art theory, art criticism and all kinds of history.
In the Winter my production slows because usually I am diligent on my 9 to 5 job. I do draw a lot in the winter months, however rarely do I accomplish much in personally guided reading as I am reading a lot for work.
In the Spring I read drama and love stories for enjoyment and relaxation. I love to watch movies that have simple story lines, lots of comedy and sitcoms. In the Spring I don’t spend a lot of time in the studio since I am still diligently working.
In the Summer I am making stretchers and lining up my readings for the Fall. Normally I am meticulous about getting work started, but I am also traveling and seeing a lot of art in museums. I travel to Philadelphia annually to see family, discover new topics and be inspired. I can start between five and ten books and finish about three finishing the rest in the Fall. So I am sharing some of the information that I thought readers may like.
I know I am late and everyone has probably seen this already, but it was new for me and I like to share my findings. While perusing the library I came across this gem, Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace 2014 PBS Show of Force. This documentary is an invitation into the super star artist Kehinde Wiley’s world of art making, travel, fashion, art assistants and exhibitions. For any artist this is the dream, since rarely do artists get to live in such a glamorous lifestyle. It is fantastic to see his work and even more enlightening to see his process.
It is striking to experience African American artist own European art historical traditions, reminiscent of the way Neoclassical artists did Greek and Roman themes. This is significant because the encouragement to attach the self to African themes often seems foreign to artists like me who were raised under the auspices of a hierarchical Western tradition.
This is a good film for the layman as well as the practicing artist for the sheer fact the art star exists even if in rare form.
To preview this video click below:
So today I make this connection to Creative African at the Philadelphia Art Museum. On view densely patterned fabrics that references current subjects. The central display with its dark background takes your breath away. The designers enhanced traditional African fashion and intricately altered the fashions to reference nature’s forms, snakes, bird’s wings, leaves, flowers; through careful embroidery and dense folds the designers share story and form. The myriad of displayed pattern designs lend infinite insight into the many personalities that inhabit the continent. It is a go see show; go see it.
On display in the Philadelphia Art Museum’s Perlman Building until December 4. Go see it!
"The Philadelphia Museum of Art is presenting five exhibitions and many programs featuring a broad spectrum of the arts from across the African continent. These exhibitions will include historical works of art as well as contemporary fashion, photography, design, and architecture." philamuseum.org
Learning to draw involves multiple skill sets. Primarily this involves the following:
Most college programs require proof of some mastery prior to acceptance. If all an artist needed to do was master a technique, making art would be easy. The complication of the subject lies in the content and mastery of content takes a lifetime. The context is the overlooked but integral part of the artistic process. Context is the connection between the choice of media and its content. Formally, drawing is the initiation of every medium. The artist must choose that media with which he has his most personal connection. Drawing therefore is a means to an end, not the end itself.
With this said, I viewed two drawing shows this weekend during the First Friday Art March that were worth discussing. The drawing displayed in Sketch-An Informal Art Show, at Sulfur Studios, (one never to miss on the March) had an inviting simplicity. Each drawing created within a day scaled between fantasy and representation. Many have an intimate sweeping beauty such as the serendipity of a rose on a post it note or the ink study of the sweeping cape of the grim reaper. Contextually the reality of a rose demands attention, however fleeting the reality of the rose may be. In such a ballpoint pen drawing in the recall of office procedure, this beauty of a drawing bears witness to the same. My affinity for sequential art has difficulty enjoying it outside its context.
Upstream at Non Fiction Gallery, Franklin Delgado presents his thesis show and his resolved portraiture was on display. The MFA Shows enable students to place two years of working with experienced faculty on exhibit. The large charcoal portraits are intense and intimate drawings. The large white walls provided a clean vantage point for the pieces. It was not difficult to make the connection between these pieces and those of SCAD Professor Chin-Chen Hung, nor is there a shortage of figurative references. In each piece, Delgado uses a sensual treatment of hair in the mastery of his technique and the mystery of the profile. There is variety in the choices of subject; still the future holds a material challenge as charcoal gives way to pastel and pastel to painting, in the resolution of content, context and conviction one faces with each commitment.
This image of the three paintings I am working on using thin washes of color. I am enjoying doing what I love, obsessing over the edge. To form these I use organic formulations that intertwine and overlap. That curved shape is directly from nature it is friendly and feminine.
When we use nature as a source there are infinite possibilities. Artists throughout time extracted elements from nature using animals, plants, earth, stone, the elements, light and shadow, the living and the dead all taken as source matter into the artist studio. Art Nouveau based its "whiplash curves" on using nature as resource rather than art historical relic. In graduate school a teacher Nick Cripple, shared with me an element from his ceramic work and it made me evaluate the connection between identity and the simple form. I at once identified in his form peace, serenity and masculine confidence. Today I want to call to the fore all the artists who reference the organic, such as Martin Puryear, Anish Kapoor, Terry Winters, Louise Bourgeois, Brice Marden and countless others.
Nature is a go to; a place that won’t deceive it crosses time and space. When my oldest called me from Architecture school, fearful that she had no new ideas, I responded, “Sweetheart, you can always go to nature.” So when kids no longer play outside and their reality is inside an electronic screen, there inevitably will be a disconnect between them and the natural world.
I was leading a college critique when I encountered a situation where one of the students used a computer game as a reference. Frankly, I couldn’t identify. All the students in the room were aware of this particular game. As the critique progressed, it seemed that the students were confusing reality with gaming and were speaking of the game environments as if they were real time and space, not one invented by human beings.
My fear was that in time art created in response to nature would become alien to these young electronic consumers and because nature was an unnecessary and alien entity it would cease being a resource. I could not make a definitive argument about plagiarism in this critique, the student had created their own art from the game. That was years ago and it still baffles and befuddles me.
In my own work my goal is to animate the inanimate using nature as a reference to create that shape. The possibilities are infinite manipulating color, light, line and texture and any other means to push against the boundary.
Today I will take my readers along as I meander down the primrose path of my childhood connection to the outdoors. I will lead us once again to the Luxembourg Gardens, this time to the sculpture of Louise Nevelson. Through painting I attempt to recreate the surfaces and colors of nature in abstract form, juxtaposing the rough and the smooth as water contrasts earth.
Being outside was always important, being on my bike, going to the park, walking or riding through the park on my days off. I enjoyed changes in the weather a brisk breeze in my face and the changing colors of the seasons. Visually my childhood looked like stony cliffs with dark ground, dense foliage speckled with Queen Anne’s lace. After spending multiple rainy summer days using my hands to dig my own tiny streams out of rocks, mud and left over puddles, I was given a little plot of land, which failed to produce since I couldn’t stop digging with my hands after planting seed. Even today I enjoy using my hands in the mud and rain; I hold a strange obsession with capturing the falling rain in massive rain barrels and digging drainage trenches. The process of using my hands in different ways has become part of how I use my hands as an artist.
Just as the rain had let up a bit, it was a pleasant surprise to find the Louise Nevelson (1911 – 2010) hand sculptures at the Tuileries of the Luxembourg Gardens. I knew little of them, but was drawn to their blackness the beauty of the reflection and their delicate balance on the massive rocks which they were contained. These hands invited the caress of living hands, I watched as others before me placed their hands in and around the beautiful blackness. Nevelson used her own hands and those of her assistant in making the pieces. As in much of Nevelson’s work this sculpture references a personal connection to the tenuous. There are four views of the helping hands of the assistant intertwined with that of the creator and that brings to mind past and present, guidance and direction. In another (there are five) the small hand is helplessly alone. The disconnected rounded of the limbs are reminiscent of Nevelson’s early phalluses. I applaud France for honoring the work of Nevelson who lived in New York until her death in 2010.
As I write to you from Philadelphia I am reminded of another French sculptor, August Rodin (1840 – 1917). The Rodin Museum with its immense Thinker sits on the parkway within it the display of hand sculptures of Rodin. No doubt when Nevelson conceived of these five works in 1996 was aware of the numbers of layman who would interact with the work in both Paris and Chicago.
Louise Bourgeois | Art21 | Preview from Season 1 of "Art in the Twenty-First Century" (2001)
Louise Bourgeois: welcoming hands for you in Paris Tuileries Gardenhttps://parisconnected.wordpress.com/2008/05/31/louise-bourgeois-welcoming-hands-for-you-in-paris-tuileries-garden/
There were several places on my list to visit when I finally got to France. The main places I wanted to go were The Louvre, the Palace of Versailles and Monet’s Garden. The last day of the trip was perhaps my final opportunity to see Monet’s famous and preserved home and garden. My oldest, whose flights had parted earlier that morning, left us directions, instruction, and a script in French with which to take the bus, the subway and the train. She, having missed two flights, was not one I wanted to rely on that day. Reminiscent of the daisy’s petals, I kept asking myself, “should I or should I not.” Not wanting to miss our 7 PM scheduled flight, we checked out of the hotel and placed our three bags of luggage in an exorbitantly expensive taxi cab ride and were finally on our way to see The Gardens.
My oldest daughter, who was the one in our group who could actually speak a bit of French, was no longer with us and the taxi driver did not speak much English. The ride however took us on a highway beyond the city limits to an area he seemed to never have traveled. Kind as he was, he dropped us with our belongings at the entrance of what appeared to me a vast compound of gardens, restaurants and shops. We learned in the first location, the museum, we were not permitted to take our bags inside even as I explained our lack of other options. Thankfully my husband agreed to stay with the bags while we viewed the museum in Monet’s Garden. My fearful question at this point was “would we be permitted with these suitcases into Monet’s home and garden?”
After struggling through the crowd and reaching our turn in line, the ladies at the entrance said (in French) what I surmised to be, “sure you can go in with your luggage, but you must carry it with you and it must be looked through.” So thankfully we were able to struggle through, or should I say dreadfully we had to drag our luggage through the garden. Once again my gracious husband agreed to stay with the bags, this enabled my youngest daughter and I to see the home of the greatest painter to ever live.
I want to highlight, no pun intended, Monet’s yellow dining room. Three months earlier I was in Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home in Virginia and was equally taken by that yellow dining room. Jefferson’s room carried a greater chromatic, perhaps this intense yellow was reminiscence of his time in France. Monet’s paler yellow reflected the inspiration of light. Throughout the house color married light as light connected with the garden by the large airy open windows. Blues, greens and yellows, Monet made color an intrinsic and inspirational part of his every day.
In the next couple of posts, we shall discuss what influenced me in Paris. The fantastic gardens, incredible art and fashion and pastries, and anyone who has been to Paris will appreciate the density, color, variety and artistic integrity of Paris’s public gardens.
I was breathlessly gazing into the trees while walking through the Luxembourg Gardens when it began to rain. I ran into what appeared to be a large utility shed when in actuality it was ὰ l’Orangerie du Sénat now a contemporary gallery, and it seemed I chanced upon an opening of contemporary artists work made of natural materials, Mosaïque Contemporaine. Although each art piece was two dimensional the show was impressively diverse. The show contained landscape, figurative and abstract pieces with a large range of artists. Each image had a picture with a description beside it. Sadly, I don’t speak French, so I had no idea what the descriptions said. Since image making is a universal communicator; therefore, I am happy to share the work with you now.
Each artist worked out their image in a form of mosaic with a gravel material similar to what was spread on the walkways in all of the parks and gardens we visited, along with the floor of the gallery itself. They used this material to color their pieces in order to create a realistic depiction, or to emphasize the work’s natural coloring for abstraction, or a conceptual depiction, or concentrating on the density, by laying pieces with depth next to pieces less dense to show the push and pull of space. Although I tend not to be partial to the literal image making, I thought about the diversity of cultures, educational levels, ages and backgrounds that would view this show in the park.
One of the works I most enjoyed was this triptych. The artist of this piece cleverly uses color density and patterning to reinforce the natural material of the gravel. This piece exhibits sensitivity to the repetition in organic environments is emphasized in the work to which gives credence to the eternal.
On the other side, in a separate gallery space, was the artist Mireille Fulpius. Fulpius created immense process laden works made with bamboo. The black ink on white imagery reflected densely woven marks made on large pieces of paper. She is using instruments made from bamboo, and by crisscrossing, intertwining and overlapping forms repetitiously infinite patterning. Black becomes shadow and white light as the viewer travels through these enormous images. Nature is illuminated due to the use of materials and the way the mark is transmitted to the paper, and the wonderful way white light is transmitted.
When I moved to Savannah in 1992 I had no idea so many things around me would be different. The first thing that struck me was the vegetation, the Spanish Moss, palm trees, Crepe Myrtles. This tropical climate was so different from the elm trees, poplar trees and the silvery stone I was accustomed to. In Philly the seasons changed and life was marked by those changes. The rhythm of the seasons affected my work, causing me to include rich tones of drastic seasonal shifts, Prussian Blue, Yellow Ochre, and Alizarin Crimson dominated my palette in those days. Now permanently residing in Savannah, the light, the gray moss covered trees, even the beach has made an indelible impression on how I produce.
In my practice I've made major shifts in the use of color and seriously contemplated how light has affected my concept and content. I shifted from a brightly colored, heavily patterned figurative in 1980s, to patterned monochromatic bleach on black paper images in the 1990s. The bleach pieces were as much about light, and environment as they were about restrictions in space. The work evolved to address process and gender.
Artist through time have been affected by color and light. In 1871, James Whistler created the famous image of his mother, better known as Arrangement in Grey and Black Number 1. I was always impressed that Whistler was contemplating value far before the subtle shifts in value made by Mondrian in Composizione (1920). White is never really white is it. This is when the push and pull of depth in space and the administration of chroma to an achromatic base is at its best. Can I produce a colorful body of work that appears to be purely achromatic? I'm in the studio addressing the depth of field using shallow space by employing incremental shifts of chromatic value.
I am confining myself to a complex flat shape that unpredictably extends beyond its limited perimeter. The work inevitably becomes about gender, and race. The shape with all its encroaching dimensions is confined within the canvas it's flatness won't allow it to move forward and it can't go beyond its own four walls. It can only draw into itself or billow around aimlessly within its own space.
Next post I am going to talk about going to the light.
Today my focus is on the connection between the content of the art and the medium. Truly artists each pursue a specific medium or find themselves drawn to a particular media. I describe myself as a "trained painter", painting has always been my medium. However, on the side I bead, crochet, photograph, weave, garden. All these things inform my work and develop my sensibilities of color, space, texture, and surface.
While in graduate school I had a comrade who said," a painter paints because they believe in the fantasy of the picture plane, on the other hand a sculpture sculpts because they like to experience the physicality of the form." I see many graduate shows in Savannah. I often go into these exhibitions and wonder, was that the best media to get your point? Alternatively, I think, what are you trying to say? Does the method/ medium you chose really convey that?
An art show should read like a book, each section a chapter, the individual image the content. The medium the work produced in assists in the reading. Viewing an art show should not require one to have to read words to comprehend the imagery. There is a fabulous essay by Mira Schor, titled, Modest Painting from her book, A Decade of Negative Thinking (2009. Duke University Press). She emphasizes the importance in the application of the medium, such as in the works of Gerhard Richter. Shor directs her reader to understand that painting does not have to be grandiose to communicate effectively. It is the method, which communicates the idea.
In my recent painting, I focus on capacity and constrained space. I use the painted surface, as a portal, it can be inviting, or, confrontational. My paintings show the sculptural form on a two dimensional surface, a comment on the limitations and the falsified illusion of dimensional space. Is paint the best direction to comprehension? Years ago, I concluded that a painting should be able to do everything I needed. The paint could be hyper-realistic, intimate, hard metal or, soft clay. This freed me from the intimidating feeling that I should be exhibiting in some other medium. It also cleared me from the feeling that painting had to be useful like a cup or bowl. The purpose of the painting is to share the earth's many stories.
I work in other mediums, I crochet, photography, bead, and weave it is the tactile quality I like. Looking across the repetition of the work is also pleasurable I even enjoy the finger motion and the meditation in that process. When editing my photographs I enjoy shifting contrasts and the heightened drama of light and shadow. In beading, it is color combinations, contrasts of surface, and natural stone. These works are ephemeral in nature for me, mere exercises.
In my next post, I will discuss the multiple two dimensional methods to convey this idea.
These pictures show a struggle to connect color to concept, a transition to earth related tones.