Saturday, October 29, 2011

Birth of The Dark Series

The series of works that I have been making for nearly a year, The Running Stitch, is framed in my mind as relating to the way memory is built up and breaks down over time. The mixture of materials that I use and the fragments of text, books, objects and colors metaphorically represent segments of experience that are stored sequentially but retrieved in a fragmented and almost random order. I enjoy making The Running Stitch and I think that my most successful pieces in that series contain a dark aesthetic.

The Black One, 2011, tarpaper, book covers, patinated aluminum, oilstick, encaustic, tacks, 36"x36"

That said, sometimes I feel compelled to make works that are related to but not part of this series. These works celebrate the color black and revel in darkness. This part of my oevre precedes The Running Stitch by many years and seems to be my natural aesthetic. So here are two large works in what I have named "The Dark Series." (Click pix to enlarge.)

As far as the context and/or antecedents of this work, I think it derives from my great admiration for and study of African and African American art. This is my connection to Leonardo Drew and El Anatsui. At the same time, it relates strongly to the early work of Lee Bontecou and to Louise Nevelson, both white American artists. I believe that Bontecou's canvas work of the 1950s and 1960s was also strongly influenced by an African aesthetic as was Nevelson's.

Material World, 2011, cardboard, rubber, book parts, album cover parts, rubber,
patinated aluminum and copper, oilstick, encaustic, tacks, 36"x36".  (Most of the
cardboard in this piece comes from the boxes that the tacks are packed in.)

Both The Running Stitch and The Dark Series are composed of found and invented objects in a form called "bricolage," which I have written about many times (and which is the subject of my Art of Bricolage blog). Bricolage has probably always existed and predates the use of conventional or specialized art materials. The Italian Arte Povera movement of the 1960s claimed this use of "everyday materials" for their own to "break down the dichotomy between life and art" (to quote from MoMA's statement on the topic). However, that movement did not combine the free or low cost materials in a geometric presentation, and geometry seems to be a major part of my own aesthetic and of both my continuing series.

I like this idea of having two ongoing series. It lets me feel free to experiment more. Someone recently called me a rebel, and I guess that all of us who grew up in the '60s have a rebellious outlook to some extent. That seems to have become stronger as I've grown older and witnessed the way the world threatens to break apart. It won't be long now before I'm out there on the streets occupying something, but right now I'm quite busy occupying my studio.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Painting Freedom

Coming soon - a post with my newest work. I am having two pieces re-photographed because I made changes after the first go-round. (The photographer says some people have gone for three and four times on the same work, so I guess I'm ahead of the process.)

Anyway, meanwhile, I just noticed this today:

Joan Mitchell, untitled, 1991

Willem deKooning, 1983

I thought the Joan Mitchell piece had a lot of the same feeling of deKooning's late work in its openness and freedom of marks. This imagery seems just as different for her as deKooning's did for his oevre. Maybe we all get to that place in our work as we release our hold on life?

The Joan Mitchell image is from her New York dealer, Cheim & Read, where an exhibition of 13 of Mitchell's works called "Last Paintings" will be shown November 3 - January 4.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

SHIFTING at UMass Amherst

Sick of hair! So how's about some art for a change?

In the center foreground - part of a work by Sue Katz, to the left - work by
Donna Talman and to the right - work by Toby Sisson.

Last Saturday afternoon I went to the Hampden Gallery at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus, about half an hour from where I live, to the reception for SHIFTING, a show of works in encaustic curated by Sue Katz. I took some pictures with my iPhone that are not the best but will give you an idea of the work. The show is up until November 10th and you can see the hours on the Hampden Gallery site. It's well worth a trip! I am also giving the website address for each artist for more info about their work. Click each name for that artist's website. CLICK PIX TO ENLARGE (By the way, here's a link to a very nice article about the show in Preview Magazine.)






In the gallery with Pam Farrell, Lynnette Haggard and Catherine Weber

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More On Hair

I don't want to beat the subject of men's hair to death, but I saw the following picture, and just had to share it with you since so many apparently enjoyed my last post on the topic.

A unique look (This appears to be a prison look - all those empty hours.)

This great photo is from a blog called The Hair Hall of Fame. The link to the blog was sent to me by Catherine Carter after my post last week. Normally, the blog posts images of women's hair and the headliner (wink, wink) is the image below.

How many cans of hairspray went into this creation?

Check in daily for a chuckle.

Meanwhile, I was wondering if the Big Hair of Phil Spector (shown in the last post) influenced the Big Hair of his one-time wife Ronnie or vice versa. (Ronnie is the Patron Saint of The Hair Hall of Fame.)

Ronnie Spector (and the Ronettes)

Phil Spector during his trial for murder

It's like the chicken and the egg, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Something Different: New Work

Well, maybe not that different, but exploring the Running Stitch in a couple of different directions. I've been thinking for a while about stripes so I made a couple of smallish pieces to begin working with a couple of stripey ideas. These images are just me and my poor photography skills, not the really GOOD professional photos, but it's just to give you an idea of what I'm up to. (CLICK PIX TO ENLARGE)

Last Garden, 2011, 24" x 24",
painted cardboard, book parts, patinated copper, album cover parts, tacks, encaustic

Last Garden detail

Remnant of a Dream, 2011
painted cardboard, book parts, patinated copper, tacks, encaustic

Remnant of a Dream detail

And now here's one below that I've been thinking of for a while - a mostly black painting made with tar paper. The image below shows the piece in the laying out stage without all the tacks and encaustic. The top left part is just bare panel painted with black gesso and with the marks of the previous piece that I stripped off of it. That look is what really prompted me to make this new work.

Black One, 36" x 36", tar paper, book parts, patinated aluminum, tacks

You can see that it's really not all black because the book covers do add color, although the color doesn't look as strong in person as it does here. I am excited about making this one because it relates to previous works that I made with tar paper back in the mid-'90s. Here is one of those below:

Tar Paper Piece, mid-1990s, about 22" square, tarpaper, found wood, tacks, nut shells, paint

Of course when I look back at old work, it makes me wish that I knew then what I know now after many more years of working, thinking, experimenting and looking. That "if I only knew then" is the kind of remark my mother always used to make to me when I was growing up, but youth always has its own ideas. There's no short cut to knowledge. It has its own timetable.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Men's Hair: A Few Complaints

I'm taking a little holiday from art and from the political atmosphere here. I was going to write a really snarky post about the many, many, too many men I see who are basically bald but have a smidge of a ponytail stuck on the backs of their heads. Then I thought: "Gee, that's kind of mean. I better not do it." But I live out here in the capital of earthy crunchy and many of these guys are aging hippies who've been wearing their hair this way since the '60s. There are so many of them. No, it's not their fault that the rest of their hair has disappeared and left only that weird, wispy thing on the backs of their heads, but they need to update their look for this century.

Image from the internet - but it could have been from Happy Valley, Mass.

You see, the rest of us are stuck looking at their heads. And if you think it's fun to stand in line behind one of these guys, think again. So, men, if you have one of these, please cut that thing off the back of your head. Do your public a favor.

Definitely not a good look!

I am sometimes (when in a charitable mood) reminded by one of these hairdos of the Egyptian boy hairstyle.

- although it looks much better on the hieroglyph. Apparently this ponytale-on-the-side-of-the-head style was just for boys. As they hit puberty, they shaved their heads completely (apparently due to the heat, the head lice and the need to wear wigs). I should point out, of course, that this was probably just for the aristocracy. The rest of those guys busy providing bread and beer, building the pyramids, mummifying bodies and digging tombs were probably not dressed in diaphanous linen with beaded collars, nor in jeweled ponytails or decorative wigs. In fact, they may have been dressed just like the guys doing all the heavy lifting at those archaeological sites you see on TV with some kind of head covering and loose caftans. In that climate, there's not much else that's comfy. (And we won't even get into what the women wore, now will we?)

But I digress. I also want to lodge a complaint about men with long hair. I know, I know, many people (women included) like the long hair on men. I happen not to care for it. Is this a sign of aging, do you think? Back in the '60s, I liked it OK, but that was 50 years ago. Am I old or is the hairstyle?

Brad Pitt

Remember Fabio - long hair with shaved/depilatory-ed chest

Keith Urban - he really goes for the greasy look

Snoop Dogg - the braids are at least neat but give him kind of a girly look, I think

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow - his hair (wig) looks fairly clean here but is usually skanky. I think the double braid beard is a cool touch. But beards are an entirely different subject. Just wait till I get around to that.

Ian McKellen as Gandalf

I especially don't like it when it's greasy - intentionally or not - that is, made to look greasy with hair product or just greasy from not washing.

Now, you notice that I have given you images of actors or other famous men with long hair and none of them look particularly horrible. They are also not shown in real life, at the grocery store or walking around the streets of Happy Valley in all their hairiness.

The reality is more like this. Clean but wouldn't he look better with short hair? Really?

Or this. Well, this is in a world of its own
(bet it doesn't look like this now that he's behind bars.)

It's just not very attractive. Wouldn't you agree?

But, you know what I'm leading up to, don't you? It's The Combover or comb over or comb-over. And there's that Prince of Combovers, the Donald. (first had a typo that said "Price of Combovers." Guess the Donald's money was on my subconscious mind.)

It's all too easy to make fun of this bird's nest.

OK, this is in the same league as the bald ponytail. In fact, you sometimes see them together - the bald combover ponytail - all three on one head. There is no doubt that it's quite an intricate task to keep those pieces of hair aiming in the right direction to cover that spot that keeps getting bigger day by day no matter what you do. In fact, Wikipedia says that there is even a comb over patent:

It's quite a weaving job - better than a handmade rug...(get it?)

I found some pretty bad looks


Well, I won't include any more. Let's just say we all know what they look like. And "we" know them from the back and sides as well as from the front.

I'm sorry, guys. I know it must be a big adjustment in your self-esteem to lose your hair. But it's either Hair Club for Men or get out the razor. Bald really is better than these things above.

Michael Jordan

Bruce Willis

Vin Diesel

Now those guys all look great. And if you have any doubt, just compare them with the following:

Brian May, former guitarist with Queen

OK, he's lucky enough to have hair but he looks like he's wearing one of those wigs the British barristers wear. Brian, think about it: wouldn't you look better with short hair? Really?

He used to look like this, but those days are long over.

This is him with hair dye in 2008.

All right. I've been mean enough and picked on the poor guys sufficiently.

Getting older is no picnic. You think you look one way, then you look in the mirror and see some old stranger. "Who's that granny looking back at me?" you wonder. "OMG, it's ME!" Yeah, yeah, it's no fun but I tell you what, I'm not planning on growing a pony tail or learning how to do a comb over.