Saturday, November 27, 2010

Just a Little Somethin'-Somethin'

To avoid a total vegetarian boycott of my blog, I'm posting a little something so I can move on from that horrid image of the naked, partially pink turkey. Sorry to all those offended, but turkeys do happen.

Leo and Friends
Regular readers probably know that I'm very big on biographies. There's just something about reading the details of a person's life that really interests me. However, I seem to be having trouble reading these days. I stay on the computer much too late, and by the time I hit my bed, where I do most of my reading, I'm a goner. For the past two or three months I've been trying to get through a biography of Leo Castelli, gallerist and artist star maker.

Castelli by Andy Warhol

It's not all my fault that I've been falling asleep. The first part of the book goes on way too long about Leo's grandparents, parents, the political and social milieu of Trieste, where Leo was born, and, in fact, the larger persecution of Jews by the Nazis and the whole world situation prior to and during World War II.

Certainly a reader likes to have the scene set before the entrance of  the person being bio-ed, but a good editor might have put most of this section in the rear of the book as an addendum so that those who wished to know more about Leo's forebears would have it available to them. Anyway, I dealt with it over many nights when I drifted off with the book on my chest (or sometimes landing on the floor or my face - a good reason for only reading paperbacks although this is a hardbound). I refused to give up and finally got to the good parts.

Leo didn't open his gallery until he was 50 (or in his fifties, I can't quite remember), but anyway, it was later in life. Somehow he had inserted himself into the New York art life prior to that, hanging around the Cedar Tavern and even becoming one of the founding members of The Club with all the Ab-Exer boys. I'm not going to get into all the details now because I'm not finished with the book and pressed for time, but perhaps everyone has heard the story of how Leo "discovered" Jasper Johns through Robert Rauschenberg. This story has to be every artist's dream of instant success:  Leo seeing a Johns painting (Green Target) in a show, noticing and remembering Johns' name and a couple of weeks later happening to hear his name again while visiting Rauschenberg's studio. Leo gave Johns a solo show nearly instantly, invited Alfred Barr of MoMA to see the show, Barr instantly bought four paintings for the museum and Johns was off. Meanwhile, Rauschenberg was left int he lurch to be rescued by Leo's then wife, Ileana Sonnabend, who soon opened her own very successful gallery.

Ileana in later years

It was all so dramatic and arty and unlike the situation today where artists plug along in obscurity for a lifetime, lost amongst the vast hordes of other artists plugging along.

I guess I didn't end on a very cheery note, but, hey, I'm one of the reality-based people.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Double-D Recipe for Disaster

And I thought the magenta turkey was a result of color perception gone amiss! But not so. A blog called "Unwholesome Foods" featured something they called the "TurDunkin" that resulted in a pink turkey after brining.

They brined this turkey in orange and strawberry Coolatas (although not enough of them),  plus 4 cups of kosher salt, 1.75 gallons of water, 3 bay leaves and 3 cinnamon sticks. And, oh, yes, the brining container was an empty kitty litter pail. They boiled the brine mix first before covering the turkey with it. (They don't say whether they cooled the brine before putting the turkey in.)

The turkey was stuffed with Dunkin Donuts munchkins plus sauteed onion, seasonings and broth.

When the turkey was nearly finished cooking, it was covered with a glaze based on the ingredients list for DD glazed donuts: 1 lb confectioner's sugar, 1/3 cup corn syrup, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 tsp agar agar and a squirt of lemon juice (no doubt from a plastic lemon). The turkey was basted with the glaze, roasted until it reached 175 degrees, then taken out of the oven and glazed again. Then it was covered with sprinkles (as the crowning touch).

The finished product

As a final step, the cooks attempted to make coffee gravy to go with, but admit they were unsuccessful in attaining enough coffee flavor. Next time they may make the turkey glaze from jelly squeezed from DD jelly donuts.

Then they actually tried to eat this creation along with mashed DD hash browns - and nary a vegetable in sight.

My one-word review: YUCK!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Old Birds and Winging It

My brother Franklin used to have cockatiels and canaries as pets. At the same time, he had his mother-in-law living with him and his wife Carol. His mother-in-law lived to be 105, I believe it was. Franklin said that whenever he put something new in the cage with his birds or even moved something from one side of the cage to the other, the birds would get into an uproar. They just couldn't stand anything new in their little world. It was the same reaction, he told me, that he got when anything changed in his mother-in-law's room. She would go into a tizzy the same way that the birds did.

Eleanor's magenta turkey

Wednesday afternoon my mother got a new electric recliner delivered to her room at the nursing home, courtesy of another brother, Robert, and his wife Carol. (All three of my brothers have wives named Carol - pretty confusing.) So the bird/old person frenzy was in full swing when I arrived after work on Wednesday. I understand her reaction to something new and fully appreciate that a person's world can become so small that she's like a bird in a cage. She was not happy at all and kept moving the chair up and down with the remote trying to find that elusive comfortable spot. I kept trying different things - pillow, no pillow, forward, back, forward, back. It was making us both crazy and after an hour or so had gone by in complete frustration, I left thinking this was going to be a problem.

But by the time I got there on Friday, the new chair had become one with the old chair in her mind. "How's your chair doing?" I asked her. "Oh, fine," she said, "it's just like the old one."

 "Don't get old," she keeps telling me. If she used the word, she would say that getting old sucks. I know that's what I'd say - with a few more pungent adjectives.

Eleanor in her new chair (at age 93)

Anyway, due to her memory problems and limited hand mobility, she's unable to crochet, read or do puzzles as she used to. Her new pastime is coloring, but her color perception is way off. She sees magenta as brown. It makes for some interesting images and maybe we'd all be better off if those beige/brown/tan living rooms that you see on all the home shows were actually magenta/fuchsia/hot pink. My mother took up landscape painting in her 70s, by the way, and was the one who inspired me to pick up some oil paints and canvas boards at Ann and Hope and start painting. What a strange beginning for my illustrious art career.

Eleanor's vision of the classic beige/tan living room

Tied Up
Last week I was chained to the computer making a new website for myself. The result is well worth it, but it does take a lot of tweaking, twiddling and long hours. (By the way, if you are interested in making a website for yourself, try - simple and not too much technical expertise required.) The new site has the same old address You will see much larger images and a more roomy look. Also I have used the professionally photographed images of the Running Stitch series. (Photos by John Polak of Easthampton, who also does a lot of work for artists from Boston and elsewhere in New England. I highly recommend him.)

Bandito, 24" x 24" (click to enlarge). This is the revamped Bandito with red added.

One good thing is that this has pushed me to polish up a statement I wrote recently and to write a short bio. I still have to retype my resume and get it looking better. That stuff is always such a pain. Now I'm working on a postcard and then writing grant applications. Fortunately I have started listening to the instrumental soul station on Pandora Radio and it does make computer time a lot more fun. But who said that all artists do is work in the studio? It feels like years since I've been there.

Happy Thanksgiving to All
From the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. I, published this week:

“Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for — annually, not oftener — if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side, consequently it was proper to thank the Lord for it.” (quoted in the NYTimes 11/20/10)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

YES, A New Beginning for New England Wax

Those members present at a meeting of New England Wax yesterday voted to continue New England Wax with a new structure in 2011. This is very good news for all of us who have benefited so much from the wonderful friendships and networking that have resulted from this group.

I was not present at the meeting, but those members who were undertook the task of setting the direction for the revamped organization. They did a wonderful job by honestly evaluating the group and deciding how to move forward in the best way. I commend them on their decisiveness and wisdom about how to proceed.

Membership for 2011 will be by invitation, and they have prepared a list of 48 current members who will be invited for 2011. They have put in place a temporary structure to carry the group forward until voting in more permanent officers at a planned meeting at the end of January. For the time being, they have tabled some decisions about further shaping of the group, but they have put them on the agenda for the future. I admire and applaud the deliberation and action that was taken. My name is on the list of 48 and I, along with Kim, Sue Katz and Lynette Haggard, have been offered a complementary membership for 2011. I will be happy to accept and settle in as one of the many fortunate members of the new NEW. I think I will enjoy plain, old membership a lot without having to do so much work. Of course I will be happy to volunteer for various tasks, but I am resolving to let someone else have a chance at taking charge.

Thank you, NEW members, for rising to the occasion and believing in the value of keeping New England Wax.  Onward and upward into the new year!

(Images from the internet except for the NEW logo, designed by Sue Katz)

Friday, November 19, 2010

New England Wax - A New Beginning?

New England Wax is undergoing a big change. Will it survive the resignation of its Chair, Co-Chair and Advisory Panel? Only time will tell. Here's the story from my perspective.

I've been a member of NEW for three or four years, and after I organized NEW's side of The Diptych Project, I became the Co-Chair to Kim Bernard's Chair and also managed the group's website. From its beginning, the group was loosely organized as a way for New England artists interested in painting with encaustic to get together, share ideas and network. NEW members had eight or nine juried exhibitions together, and we also published two catalogs of shows. After a while the group grew to a size that required a lot of work to manage. Rather than cutting off membership at a certain number, we decided last year to begin requiring a little more stringent application process for membership. Kim and I also invited five members to form an Advisory Panel to assist us with decisions and give their input on various aspects of group management.

NEW members at the opening of The Diptych Project, Whitney Art Works, Portland, Maine, April 2008

This fall the seven of us (Kim, me, Lynette Haggard, Misa Galazzi, Kathleen "Scout" Austin, Sue Katz, Greg Wright) began lengthy discussions about the future of NEW. The pressure of increasing applications for membership had started to make itself felt, and we also thought that the group needed to be given more structure by instituting by-laws, officers, perhaps a jurying process for membership, etc. Also, despite our intention to involve more people in volunteering to perform various group tasks, this did not happen due to lack of volunteers, lack of delegation, lack of insistence on task sharing, or a combination of all of the above. A very few people were doing all the work of maintaining the group and becoming burned out.

NEW meeting at Mass. College of Art, November 2009

Members at Mass. College of Art meeting

As the discussions went on, we decided that we, as individuals, did not want to be involved in the restructuring.because we thought it would take too much time and involve some lengthy discussions in which we did not want to be involved. Also, we were all working on our art careers, having some success moving things forward, and thought that doing the heavy lifting for NEW would distract us from our individual work. We also thought about what the group might become after going through such a reorganization, and we decided that it did not fit the description of what we each wanted from a group.

Binnie Birstein, Dawna Bemis, Joanne Mattera, Misa Galazzi at NEW's show at Fairfield Arts Council, April 2010

As a result of our discussions, Kim and I and the Advisory Panel have all decided to resign from group management of New England Wax. This Saturday, NEW will have a meeting to decide whether it will continue in some new form or dissolve.

I am writing this post to let the encaustic community know what is happening because New England Wax was the first encaustic group to be formed after International Encaustic Artists (originally West Coast Encaustic Artists) and is well-known by many people. NEW was formed at the suggestion of Joanne Mattera and got its start because of networking through the encaustic conference. Before any other announcements are made or rumors are circulated about the evolution or devolution of New England Wax, I wanted to let people in on what brought us to our decision, and also to say that New England Wax has been one of the best things to have happened to me personally. It has enabled me not only to form strong bonds with many other artists in and outside New England but to further my work in encaustic more quickly and more deeply than I would have imagined. Between NEW and the encaustic conferences, I have been able to build a foundation of knowledge and expertise that has let me find my own way in using this wonderful medium.

Kim Bernard at the opening of her show at the encaustic conference 2009

I am very grateful to Kim Bernard for starting New England Wax and for being the competent, inspiring and diplomatic leader that she has always been. She has been a role model for us all. Thanks go also to Lynette Haggard for maintaining our Yahoo site, to Sue Katz for designing cards and other materials - including the NEW logo - for us, to Scout, Misa and Greg for their support and advice in the Advisory Panel and to all the other unsung members who have contributed to the success of New England Wax. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Busy Day of Arting

I spent the day today on the other side of the brush - looking at art. For some reason I wasn't thinking about blogging as I usually do and taking pictures of everything in sight. Instead I was into either full-on looking or chatting up a storm with friends I ran into.

Gregory Wright: Tidal Dance, diptych, 36"H x 42"W, encaustic, oil, pigment and shellac on birch, 2009. This painting is one of my favorites in the show.

First stop was Greg Wright's opening at Regis College in Weston. His show, "Microcosm/Macrocosm? - a Fantastic Journey," will be up until December 12th.. Greg is giving an artist's talk in the gallery on December 4th, see the link for details.

Since I didn't take pictures at the show, I tried to take some from Greg's website but they came through as low-resolution - too blurry and pixilated to make a good representation of his work.. Instead I'm using some images that I had on file from a previous post about Greg. The actual paintings are mind-boggling and there were 25 to 30 pieces in the show - a lot of work. When you see how detailed each painting is, you will appreciate that the show represents a tremendous investment of time and energy.

Effervescent Ascension, 36"H x 30"W x 2.5"D, encaustic, oil, pigment, shellac on birch, 2010 

I have written about Greg's work here (and here) before and his true mastery of unusual effects with encaustic and added materials such as pigment and shellac. Greg says that Microcosm/Macrocosm is "inspired by topographical formations and movement" in which he seeks to "define the connectivity that exists between the cosmos, the terrestrial and the cellular from different points of view."

Refuge From Overcrowding, 48"H x 30" W, encaustic, oil, pigment and shellac on birch, 2010   

Reaching for a Certain Outcome, 36"H x 30"W x 2.5"D, encaustic, oil, pigment and shellac on birch, 2010

Several of us agreed that "Reaching for a Certain Outcome" was an outstanding painting that manages to offset the tendency of yellow/gold to come forward visually. Greg has been able to create the illusion of deep space despite the color. The contrast between the yellows and the darker edges that are achieved by burning shellac is really lovely in person.

Entwined by the Tempest Along the Way, 48"H x 30"W, encaustic, oil, pigment and shellac on birch, 2010

This one is an unusual painting for Greg, I think. It's darker and less complex than many of his works but I find it very intriguing because of the darkness. 

Congratulations to Greg for a great show!

Chatting, Always Chatting
It's so nice to run into friends at an opening and catch up with what they're doing. I had a great time talking with Lynette Haggard, Linda Cordner, Kathleen Austin and Jeanne Griffin at Greg's opening. I only intended to stay for a few minutes, but I was there a couple of hours hearing what was happening with their work and lives. I'm excited to hear that Lynette is now working more sculpturally and I'm looking forward to seeing what she's doing. We had a two-person show together last year and it was a good experience for us both. Going through all that work getting organized and then gallery sitting for hours at a time brought us closer together. It's nice to share that art connection.

Blossom, a piece by Lynette Haggard that was recently shown at the Danforth Museum

Ted Larsen at the Clark Gallery
When I finally dragged myself out of Greg's opening, I was headed off to Concord but stopped along the way to see Ted Larsen's work at the Clark Gallery. I had seen his work before online and in Lynette's blog but never in person. He is a Santa Fe artist who works with pieces of found automotive metal that he assembles into sculpture. His work is really lovely - very minimal but with the surface of found objects that have spent time in the world. I think it has a connection with my Running Stitch pieces but my work is softer and more intricate.

Ted Larsen: Eye Dazzler Variant I, automotive metal and annealed wire, 60" x 70", 2008. This piece was not at the Clark, but he had another Eye Dazzler that was a red and yellow quilt-type work around this same size. I loved it.

Rivet, automotive metal, 5.5" x 5", 2008

I tried to add another image but Blogger was just not cooperating. Anyway, most of the works in the show were of the small, sculptural type like the white piece above. There were only two of the larger quilt-type pieces to which I was drawn. Larsen seems to be working flatter now. His new work looks a bit different from either of the pieces pictured here. Check out his website and you'll see.

I really appreciated his statement:

The works I create supply commentary on minimalist belief systems and the ultimate importance of High Art practice. An artist's work usually adheres to the construct of a cohesive direction with the work illustrating a single theme or underscoring a didactic agenda. But such a logical order has no specific place in my studio practice. 

Introducing salvage materials to my own formally driven abstract sculpture, I hope to bring purist shapes and surfaces back down to earth. I quest for new materials, "non-art materials" to create my work. I am constructing assemblages of detritus in order to re-purpose the materials and re-identify their meanings: to re-contextualize and re-label the idea of Ready-mades. It is my on-going experimentation with contexts, hybrids, and scale.

The works keep possession of pleasing formality and visceral elegance while making fun of modernist purity. This is a tribute to anti-triumphalism, the spontaneous, non-hierarchical, un-monumental thematic artistic landscape which offers no specific resolution and no isolation of meaning.

I am not so sure that his work is making fun of modernist purity because it seems too carefully made to be constructed purely for irony. There is something humorous about them but they are beautiful, too, in the way that old things are, and they are pure in their intent. I like the "assemblages of detritus" since that is what I'm doing now only with a wider range of detritus.

Onward and Upward
From the Clark Gallery, I journyed on with my usual directionally-challenged driving to the Concord Art Association, where I saw a show of encaustic works by Kellie Weeks. Kellie had a large number of pieces displayed in a colonial-era house that unfortunately was not the most art-friendly space for an exhibition. Nevertheless, Kellie's brilliantly-colored work stood out prominently against the white walls and had the luminous sheen of glass. In fact, two people who were looking at the exhibition while I was there originally thought that the work was composed of glass until they read Kellie's statement. Here are a few images that I took from Kellie's website.

Kellie Weeks: The Bridge, encaustic on panel, 30"H x 24"W

The Eternal Ascent, encaustic on panel, 30" H x 24"W

Together We Travel, encaustic on panel, 30"H x 24"W

Kellie says that her paintings relate to familial and social relationships where "objects are often seen yielding to one another and/or competing for space. Shapes are at times incomplete, interrupted or overlapping." The saturated colors in her work "can also indicate bold intentions versus subdued reactions. All of these elements speak of relationships, journeys and transformations."

The show of Kellie's colorful, gleaming paintings is up at the Concord Art Association until November 29th. Congratulations, Kellie!

Home Again, Home Again
It was a lovely day for driving today, bright sunshine, clear blue sky and a mere hour and a half or so for me to get to all this great art and artist friends. Driving west into the setting sun on the Mass Pike on my way home was a bit difficult and nearly migraine inducing, but I managed to struggle through until that great ball of light descended far enough not to blind me. It did look like a great round disc through the trees on the western hills as I made my way home, singing along to the nasty sentiments expressed by Bob Dylan in Positively 4th Street and other geezer faves on my radio. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Sometimes I have a clear notion of what a blog post is about and at other times, such as now, I'm kind of at a loss. I've decided to mix and match by continuing to show some of my early work and intersperse the images with contemporary comments instead of narrating my life history. That way you get a little past with a little present. Stir, and you've got me.

Self portrait ca. 1987 looking a lot more dramatic than the real one because I darkened it in Photoshop. I think I actually look more like this today than I did then except that I have more of a wattle now. This makes me look like I was already wearing the glasses that have become my face decoration in the past couple of years. Perhaps it was a vision of the future. The hair is certainly as white now as was indicated then.

What's On My Mind Today
Tonight, as I drove the four miles home from my Wednesday job in Northampton, I listened to NPR as usual. After a few minutes I noticed that even over the radio I could hear a noise coming from the car motor. This is the car that I "affectionately" call the Roachmobile. It looks like the car that the roach drives in the Orkin commercials. It's a 1994 Dodge Intrepid, dark brown with rusted out holes under the doors. It has 112,000+ miles on it. A couple of weeks ago I had to replace the catalytic converter to the tune of $446. This car actually has three, count 'em, three catalytic converters. The mechanic said he would only replace what he had to and he got away with just one.

The noise I heard tonight grew in decibels to the point that I thought the motor was going to explode by the time I got home. When Bonnie and I later drove to the mechanic's in our separate cars so I could drop off the Roachmobile, the noise was gone. I parked and shut off the engine at the mechanic's. Then I started it up because I couldn't believe that there was no noise. The second time the noise roared back.

This car has to last me through the winter and I can't afford a new one right now. Can I just say that I hate effin poverty? It's probably time to ditch this car and start over - you know the saying about pouring good money in after bad. Chances of me being able to do that? Slim to none.

BULLETIN - Update Thursday afternoon

Thanks to the wonderful mechanics at Easthampton Tire, I paid only $35 to get my car fixed! Can you imagine, an honest mechanic who doesn't rip you off and take advantage of your auto ignorance! Based on the decibel level, I thought the car was a goner, but it seems it was only some air conditioning clutch that froze up. (Who knows what that means?) They said that my air conditioning wouldn't work now, but it wasn't working anyway, so who cares!!! What a relief! When you're this close to the edge, the least thing can send you over the side into the great abyss. I'm saved!  And now onto the next thing to worry about...

Another self portrait from 1988. This is closer to the way I feel today.

The Only Salable Artist is a Dead Artist
The news via Lindsay Pollock's Art Market Views today is all about the sales at Sotheby's contemporary auction yesterday which made $222.5 million in sales, largest since May 2008, and far exceeding last year's contemporary sale that brought in only a mere $134 million. If you were a painting by Warhol, you could name your price since the market's appetite for you knows no bounds, according to Lindsay's article. And even a 1955 Rothko, sold by architect Graham Gund, who had owned it since 1969, brought $22.5 million from an Asian buyer. (When I think of how Rothko struggled to make a living from his work during the 1950s, it brings tears to my eyes - but I guess I'm just in that mood. You can read here from my previous post on Rothko that he was not able to make a living from his work until 1957 when he was 53 years old, and then he was only making about $20,000 a year.)

Other dead artists whose work was included in the sale were Roy Lichtenstein ($14.1 million), Louise Bourgeois ($3.5 million for a spider - after all she was a woman so prices are that much lower), Francis Bacon ($14 million), Willem DeKooning ($9.9 million), Ashile Gorky ($3.6 million) and Larry Rivers ($1.1 million. Of course there were more dead artists and even a couple of live ones, especially Gerhard Richter, two of whose works sold for $13.2 million and $11.2 million.

Model in studio, ca. 1988. This model was actually also a student at MassArt and quite a character. She looks pretty pissed off at having to take this job sitting for painting students.

Apples and Oranges
So I'm not a contemporary art star and I'm still alive, but this is a pretty weird game that we artists play. We want nothing more than to be in the studio churning out this stuff. Either it all ends up in the dumpster after we die, or by some lucky spin of the wheel, we make a living at it - enough to keep doing it, that is. Some of us even become art stars after death. Very few make it while still alive and there's a price to pay for that. You could get trapped in a style and be expected to make only the one thing - over and over again, like manufacturing widgets.

Yellow Apron, about 1986, a still life I set up when a student of Geoge Nick at MassArt. He hated it. We had a mutual disaffection society. (The white patch at the bottom is the sheen off the shiny oil surface. Guess I didn't use a polarizing lens.)

And Another Thing
Now that the Republicans (or Repugnicans as JM calls them) have taken back so much power, they've decided that they're going to start whittling down the deficit by cutting back Social Security and Medicare. Now you may know that Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit because it's separately funded and not included in the budget. Secondly, what they really want is to privatize it and drive that money to Wall Street. Wouldn't that be a coup for some pol! A billionaire investment banker named Peter G. Peterson (son of truly imaginative parents) launched a $10 million PR campaign called "Owe No" designed to convince us poor slobs that we should give over our meager S.S.$ to the likes of this fat cat and his pals. In response, the Strengthen Social Security coalition (a progressive response movement) has begun "Owe No You Don't" to stop this crap and make the truth about this highway robbery known. Wouldn't I like to see the marches and protests like they had in France fill the streets of  the U S of A over this! Oh, yeah. That will happen.

Isn't it enough that the top 1 or 2% have more money than the rest of us can even imagine? Do they have to wring the pitiful remnants out of us geezers? Hands off our Social Security! I'll be working until they heave me into the ground, but the little bit from S.S. lets me get into the studio a couple of days a week. If you want me to become a dead art star, you rich mothers, you better let the S.S. continue untouched! (I guess I'm getting a little riled up about this.)

Dream House, acrylic and mixed media with collage, 1990

The American Dream
I don't know why, but I never really bought the American Dream. It sounded to me more like what Mad Men portrays - the insufferable life in the suburbs, conformity, monotony, grinding day to day sameness, divorce, drunkenness, bad behavior - you know, Life.  Those 2.3 kids with husband and the little home on the cul-de-sac just never materialized for me - thank you, Great Whatevers. This painting is as close as I ever came and you see what a muddle it is.

Are We Dead Yet?, acrylic with collage and mixed media, 40"H x 44"W, 1989

But Wait, There's More
Even though I said I wasn't going to talk about the work pictured here, I've already broken my intention so I'm going to continue...This painting just above was a breakthrough for me and I would have to number it among the best of my career. It's not that the painting per se is so great but it's what it signifies for me. It's the first time that I was able to combine some kind of pattern making with a central image that portrayed - something? A visitor from Germany really wanted to buy this piece for what was then a fairly substantial amount and I turned him down because I knew it was a turning point. And where is this magnificent and important painting today? you might ask. Damned if I know, is my answer.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Blasts from the Past

Remember all those slides I told you I was sorting through? Well, I just got back 40 of them that I had converted to digital images. These were not 40 of my best works by any means, but I thought I could see a train of thought running through some of them that led to my current work. (Note: you can click to enlarge each image.)

Learned to Laugh, printed and collaged elements on paper with dental x-rays in found frame, about 24"Hx30"W, ca. 1995

Like many artists, I have gone through several phases in my career where I experimented with various mediums and methods of expression. In the mid-1990s I worked with printed photographic images for a few years. I settled on a couple of images of myself - one as a child of three or four years old and the other as a Girl Scout at ten or eleven. The work was autobiographical to a certain extent, but I tried to bring it to a more universal level as well. The image above was used on the postcard for a solo show in 1997 that I won at the Provincetown Art Association & Museum (PAAM).

A wall in the PAAM installation

I had the whole Ross Moffett Gallery for my show, called Rest Area,  and it was quite a thrill for me.

Double Hair Fan, , 1996. (Collaged paper on board with drawings and artificial hair, 34"H x 23" W.

I won the show as a prize for Double Hair Fan in the National Competition Exhibition in 1996. The show was juried by Ann Temkin, then curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and now Chief Curator at the Museum of Modern Art, NY. Winning was quite a surprise because PAAM had not notified me of the prize in advance, and I only learned about it when I went to see the show.

1995 and 1996 were highlight years in my career. I won a Pollock-Krasner award - a Very Big Deal. I also had a piece accepted into the biennial at A.I.R. Gallery in New York. It was my first Girl Scout work and the piece had actually been sold and borrowed back for the A.I.R. show. That piece was the Merit Badge Quilt below.

Merit Badge Quilt, 1995, quilted textiles with monotype and Xerox collage, 50"Hx35"W.

Badges were for:
Pigeon Nurturer         Group Tangoist          Edith Wharton Imitator
Hand-Holding Sycophant      
Sombrero Balancer     Dishcloth Wrangler
Salvaging Mermaid       Pastoral Romanticist             
Nude Posturer    Tamdem Rowbowist   Sexual Innuendoist    Empire Builder       
Braid Model     Adolescent Homoeroticist     Sybaritic Bather    Ugly Swimsuitist

Another piece from around that time was part of a series of Girl Scout quilts that I made which were mostly paper, some with hair and lace, and all using that photo of me.

Duty Calls, 1996, Collage on quilted rice paper, 45"H x 36"W.

The premise of the quilts was the weird combination of skills that Girl Scouts taught - part nurse/part woodswoman. I did a number of pieces about knots and first aid.

This was my paper quilt era and I also made some that were not about the Girl Scouts.

Blue Aureole, 1997, Mixed media collage on quilted ricepaper, 45"Hx40"W

This one didn't have any phographic imagery or text.

Dress for Success, 1996, mixed media collage on quilted ricepaper, 45"H x 36"W

Dress for Success was an ironic commentary on women's professions and the clothing they wore for them. The central text was about dressing as camouflage and/or cross dressing. Of course I snuck in a picture of myself - as well as my mother and grandmother.

It's All Connected, 1996, Collaged monotype and Xerox images with drawings, 13"H x 39"W.

It's All Connected was my explanation of how an imaginary umbilical cord (or chord) stretched throughout life from daughter to mother to grandmother. Yes, more irony.

Official Portrat at Age 50, 1995, monotype collage on boards with added paint and stamps, 74"Hx29"W

One of the pieces in Official Portrait

Official Portrait at Age 50 was put together at the Millay Colony, where I had a residency in 1995. It used the picture from my driver's license and told a story about my first car. The shape of the text boxes came from the official shield of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles that appeared on the driver's license.

Nancy and Ellen (now Alya), at the Chinatown studio, late 1980s/early 1990s.

And finally, because no trip down memory lane would be complete without an embarrassing personal photo, here's one of me with my studio mate Ellen, now Alya Romeos, at 109 Kingston Street in Boston's Chinatown.

Thought of the Day
Here's a question I would like to pose: Can you identify a certain number of your best works made over the course of your career? That is, can you come up with a Best 5 or 10 or 20? I think that trying to make a distinction like that would be interesting to contemplate. Would a "best" mark a turning point of development or something that really came together in color or composition or prizes, etc? I'd like to hear what you think about it. Can you make such a hierarchy of your work over time or is the last one completed the best?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Working, Working - New Work

I've been cranking it up in the studio trying to get work completed for a photo shoot date next Monday. Here are two new pieces in the Running Stitch series - one of which is done and the other that just needs a bit of color tweaking. (Note that you can click to enlarge the images.)

Tic Tac Nature, encaustic with book parts and other elements on panel, 24"x24", 2010

Tic Tac Nature side view

Tic Tac Nature closeup

This first piece is the one that's finished. After making several in this series, I have now decided that while I may compose and edit elements as I assemble, the final cogitative review where I pull together the color is one of the most important parts. It's like making any painting - you need that time in the armchair looking at what you've done and trying to sneak up on it so you can see what's really there. (Every time I think about that, I think about my painting teacher, Rob Moore, at MassArt who said that seeing what was really there instead of what you think is there was the hardest part of painting.)

Not a Day Goes By, encaustic with book parts and other elements on panel, 24"x24", 2010

Not a Day Goes By, side view 

Not a Day Goes By, closeup

This second piece has gone through an abbreviated review after assembly and paint application, but the color still needs to be brought together. I don't feel that it's all that it could be yet so I'll have to sit with it for a while, see it out of the corner of my eye from across the room, and generally study it while appearing not to be looking so that I can tell what's really happening and get it to come to life for me.

So other than tweaking Not a Day Goes By and reworking one of my earlier pieces in the series that I think could be made stronger, I'm about finished with the work I want to get done before Monday. I'm having 10 pieces photographed - a good number, I think. Ill be using the photos to apply for grants and to post on my new website.

How Strong Is The Connection?
Beginning Tuesday night and continuing throughout last night, I was having trouble with my internet cable connection. At first I thought it was because of the election and so many people being online, but when it continued on Wednesday morning, I suspected something was wrong. I could not connect with my gmail account. I went to one of my day jobs that morning and connected to gmail just fine on their computer so I knew it had to be me. Last night I tried resetting my cable connection several times. Each time I did, I could connect for five or ten minutes and then it shut me off again.

So last night I couldn't follow my usual pattern of taking a look at Facebook before going to bed. Neither could I check out blogs, look things up or write a blog post. I was disconnected and it was a very lonely feeling. Here I was, late at night, working at one of my home jobs on the computer, and I was shut off from that whole wide world out there. It was a surprising feeling of isolation. Who knew I would feel it so strongly?

Election Recap
Yes, I'm disappointed at the losses by Democrats, but here in the Northeast, the results were not as strongly negative as elsewhere in the country. Luckily we are one of the last bastions of Liberalism and a Democratic stronghold, so we re-elected Governor Deval Patrick in Massachusetts and voted in a full Democratic slate for other offices and the state legislature. New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont all elected Democratic governors and Rhode Island voted in an Independent. Maine came close to voting in an Independent governor as well.

I'm in a wait and see mode for what will happen next, but it's like going to the movies and closing your eyes when you hear the scary music. I don't want to see what's next because I'm afraid of the monster mess that I can hear slouching toward Washington.

And on a lighter note, per New York Magazine's Daily Intel, four dead people were elected to public office on Tuesday. Apparently no one noticed they were six feet under even though they were on the ballot. They'll probably do a better job than some of the live ones just voted in. (Me, cynical? Nevah!)