Saturday, July 2, 2011

Holiday Weekend

Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958 - from the Whitney Museum website

Holidays are not made for artists. It's either a hassle to fit in family goings-on with your own schedule or you just give that up and take advantage of a long weekend by putting in extra hours in the studio. I'm hoping to spend some time painting if I can drag myself away from reading the new Joan Mitchell bio, Joan Mitchell, Lady Painter: A Life by Patricia Albers.

Joan Mitchell in the studio in the mid-1950s. I saw in the bio that this is one
of the photos taken of Mitchell by Art News for her interview by Irving Sandler
 in the "--- Paints a Picture" series. This was in 1957.

I do love a good book you can sink your teeth into, and reading about women artists is always fascinating to me. This biographer, Patricia Albers, uses a lot of purple prose and inserts many of those fictitious omniscient narrator statements that I find so annoying. (Joan breathed a sign of relief and ...) Once I got over all that, I started to find the detailed story of Mitchell's life interesting and to marvel at her accomplishments in the art world of her day, or of any day for that matter. (I have written about Mitchell previously in the blog here.)

This Mitchell diptych appears on the cover of the Klaus Kertess book
(and looks much more alive, by the way). The title is "Lille V" from 1986.

Reading this bio motivated me to pick up one of the large format books of her work that I have in the studio to look at the development of her paintings. (The book I like best is the one by Klaus Kertess. It has better reproductions than the one by Jane Livingston.) Looking at the way her work changed over time was inspirational.

With all the drinking, carousing, socializing and psychoanalysis that went on in her life, the fact that Joan Mitchell was able to keep working for more than 40 years is amazing. That she regularly made extremely large paintings (the smallest was about 5 x 6 feet) and developed her work into the dynamic, airy and lyrical paintings which comprise the bulk of her oeuvre is really remarkable and a testament to the power of determination and persistence. Working that large requires a real physical effort as well as a heavy emotional, intellectual and aesthetic investment.

But that's what it's all about - continuing to work, pressing on despite it all, giving up holidays, flag waving and crepe paper in the bicycle spokes, in favor of the hot studio, the smell of paint, the brush in your hand and the whole wide world in front of you, just waiting to come alive.


Leslie Avon Miller said...

Yes and yes. I do my real work on weekends, holidays and when ever I can find moments. I always appreciate your reports on books about artists. It is inspiring to read about those who went before us. Thanks Nancy.

Nancy Natale said...

Thank you, Leslie. I'm glad you're enjoying. Happy working!

Judy Wise said...

Yes, my heart is always torn as I've chosen to have a family and yet I burn to be in the studio every moment. This pull in two directions is most uncomfortable.

Anonymous said...

Well now I just returned from a day at the studio, where I enjoyed the fact that not many folks were there. Listened to my music with no concerns. Actually didn't think ONCE about the 4th until I saw the Jasper Johns piece on your blog. Haa.

I would love to own that Joan Mitchell book. Can you leave it to me in your will? It sells for $170 on Amazon. booohooo.

Thanks once again for a fun post.

Nancy Natale said...

Judy - it's a struggle when you want to be two places at once. Somehow my mind is always in the studio even when my body is elsewhere.

Lynette - I'm writing you into my will. Now you have to make sure that I go first! Surprisingly,when I wrote my earlier post about Mitchell, that Klaus Kertess book was listed at $270 used on Amazon. So the prices are going down - or maybe people are just not selling?

Unknown said...

Hi Nancy,
I am a new visitor to your blog. I found you while doing a search on Phillip Guston. Love what you are writing and I will be back. Thanks for this piece on Joan Mitchell. I, too, am a big fan of her work.

Nancy Natale said...

Thanks, Karine. I'm glad that you're now following. Welcome!

smellofpaint said...

Hi, Nancy! Joan Mitchell is a real favorite. E.g.: I find her pastels of the 1980's simply incomparable -- an amazing example fo the use of color and very inspirational to me! BTW, the recent MoMA reinstallation of their AbEx collection featured all of 1 (one) Joan Mitchell painting... segregated into what was effectively the women's painters' room too -- with one piece each (Elaine de Kooning, etc.) And here we thought those days were over... not so fast apparently... ;-) .