Saturday, September 24, 2011

Recent Work of All Sizes

If you re a regular reader, you have no doubt realized that I've been shirking my blogging duties recently. I have felt that there was not much to be said about anything. I blame this on Facebook sucking away my writing energy. Yes, yes, it's all Facebook's fault. I take no responsibility. So, since Facebook has taken it upon itself to make drastic changes in its format that no one seems able to understand or master, I feel overwhelmed by it and unable to cope. It has driven me back to blogging.

This too, too obvious title came to mind for my post, but I resisted. (The book title originally
belonged to  Thomas Hardy, of course, but I liked this image better.)

Anyway, tonight instead of Facebook, I went down the list of blogs I used to follow in pre-Facebook-Obsession days. One of those was Alexandre Masino's blog and his post was called "Oeuvre Recente" (except with an acute accent over the first "e" which Blogger won't let me put in). I loved that post title and even understood it with my limited (read, mostly nonexistent) French. It has a much more distinguished and arty feel than "Recent Work." However, I am resorting to the English translation for my post.

What my work table looks like when I'm making little pieces

Little Work
Today I finished up making 13 small pieces in the Running Stitch series. They range from 6"x6" to 22" x 10". Although I have previously made some small ones, I overpainted all the elements with encaustic so they had a much different look. These little ones were made in the standard Running Stitch way. I didn't photo all the pieces, but just had a photo from the other day when there were only eight of them.

Note that they still have their blue tape on the sides. The sides, when untaped, will all be black.

This one is my favorite (10"x8"). I love this green color of the encaustic,
a color I mixed but one that is near a new color Hylla Evans is considering making.
This piece is being gifted to the dear Binster.

What brought on this surge of littleness? -  you might ask. I have a submission in mind and am making them for that purpose.

Next on the docket are three pieces I am making for the MassArt Auction. This year, because I am represented by Arden Gallery, my work will be eligible for the live auction. That is, if they jury in one of my works. I thought it would be worth the opportunity of experiencing the live auction and the publicity for me and for Arden. We'll see what happens. If they don't want anything, shame on them and I'll have another three smallish pieces in my inventory. More about this later.

Another view of the same thing, from the other direction. Feel any different?

Big Work - In Another Medium
It all started when I happened to see a sale on big stretched canvases at a local art supply store. They were discounted 50 percent, and I thought it was a really good deal since they had a lot of 48" x 48" and larger for pretty cheap prices. The stretchers were inch and a half deep with canvas wrapped around the sides, and while they were not finest quality, they were not bad (Windsor & Newton). So I first bought six of the 48" x 48". The next week, I went back and bought six more 48" x 48" plus two 60" x 48". In the interim of purchasing the two lots, I had been invited to have a solo show next year at an art center in Springfield, and I thought these canvases would be just the thing. (Note - you can click on pix to enlarge)

Aqua Electric, 48" x 48", oil and oil pastel on canvas

Big Sea, 60" x 48", oil and oil pastel on canvas

You see, I had a hankering for working in oil paint. I really love mixing color, and while I do some of that with encaustic, it's much easier with oil. I also wanted to just paint instead of doing the constructing that I do with my encaustic work.

Sunrise, 48" x 48", oil on canvas

Sunset, 48" x 48", oil on canvas

Clouds, 48" x 48", oil on canvas

I did have fun with these. I bought a supply of some great medium that was alkyd based, sort of a semi-gel thing that came in a quart-sized can. I mixed individual colors on small paper plates and I used chip brushes that I could throw out instead of having to clean. I wanted my oil painting experience to be as much fun and as pain free as possible.

Bright Future, 60" x 48", oil and oil pastel on canvas

So outside of their having some dumb titles, I am quite happy with these pieces. They are not masterpieces but they are colorful and uncomplicated. I am hoping that my art consultant will sell them in the corporate market in the interim since I can always paint more for the show next year.

I wish I had some photos of my studio while I was painting these because it had to be turned over strictly to oil painting while I was working. It's a messy process compared to encaustic - at least the way I work, but I do enjoy it. The smell of oil paint always gets to me since that's the medium I first used.

Although you might not pick these pieces out in a crowd as genuine Natales, I think you can see the relationship to my Running Stitch work. We all have a way that we work that can't be hidden no matter which medium is used - or which size.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Finding the Real in the Midst of All That Fake Crap

Over the Top, mixed media with encaustic on panel, 30" x 30", 2011

Mona Lisa, mixed media with encaustic on panel, 30" x 30", 2011

These two new pieces are headed for Arden Gallery in Boston on Saturday if you are in the neighborhood and want to see them in person. The newest material I am using in the mix of elements is record album covers. If you click on the images to enlarge, you may see some evidence of that.

Last Sunday I sat in our newly-arranged dining room, which is now more like a reading/sitting lounge, and read the NY Times. I haven't done that for a while and it was great to page through all that stuff and try to find something of interest. What struck me was how many articles I saw that dealt with authenticity or The Real. I guess now all those TV reality shows have finally become reality. That is, there is nothing real any more; there are just people claiming that they are real.

Rant alert: By the time I got to the end of this post, I was rip roaring, so if you're not in a mood for a political, anti-war rant, stop reading now and just think mild, pleasant thoughts.

A case in point about authenticity: Stephanie Rosenbloom under "Cultural Studies" cites the following people who claim they are "authentic:" Michele Bachmann, Anderson Cooper, Sarah (Duchess of York) Ferguson, Jon Huntsman, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Katie Couric, Rick ("I hate the Gays so much that I must be one") Santorum and Pope Benedict XVI.The only names missing from that list are the Kardashians, authentically fake celebrities - famous for nothing except being famous.

According to Rosenbloom's article, the problem of people claiming to be authentic, which makes them automatically inauthentic, is that they are maintaining virtual selves in their social media personae. We are all apparently split personalities because of Facebook or because we're trying to be celebrities/politicians. We all want to edit out the boring parts (the "real" parts?) and just get to the personalities and faces we want to present as our authentic selves.

Or, if we can't blame it on Facebook and Twitter, we can chalk it up to Oprah, who popularized finding your "authentic self" in the 1990s (she's gone now and can't object). If it's not that "O," then it's the other O, as in the prez. You have to know that Obama's in trouble when Maureen Dowd turns on him, as she's been doing in her columns for a while now. Last Sunday she called him the Sleeping Beauty President who only awakes when his polls take a downturn. He's a split-personality president, she says, who is divided between Energizer Barry and Enervating Barry and that confuses people (no wonder) because we never know which one we're gonna get.

This sets the stage for Rick Perry, who always comes across (this is me talking) as Worse than Bush.

He is authentically frightening. When the languid, non-combative Obama is the only figure standing between this bible-thumping, death-sentencing, climate-change-pooh-poohing, evolution-denying, swaggering, anti-intellectual and us, we are in some disastrous trouble. I thought we had dug ourselves out of the black hole of Bush-Cheney, but it's not looking good.I am authentically worried by the looming reality of this possibility. And let alone the horrific damage he can do to our country, how can I even stand listening to Lamebrain II? Don't make me have to live through this again. Pullease!!!

Post 9-11
Then there was the article about 9-11 headed "Outdone by Reality: How artists and writers struggled to find a deeper meaning--or simply turned up the volume and headed for the Jersey Shore." You see what I mean about reality shows permeating culture? Could this fake authenticity have started with the 9-11 attack? Yes, it happened and it was horrific, but look how many politicians took advantage of it -- starting with Bush and Juliani? And then Bush-Cheney started the unending wars that have bankrupted our country and killed and wounded so many thousands. Meanwhile, we all go on with our lives and pretend those wars are not happening. No, it's not Vietnam all over again because there is no draft. There are no marches in the streets, no protests except for a few "nuts", there is no civilian pressure to end the wars. In fact, it's the reverse. People worry that if the Defense Department cuts back, they will lose jobs manufacturing arms and materiels. Those wars could go on forever just like 1984. Who can deal with the reality of all this?

I have to stop reading the paper.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Photographing in the Studio

Sometimes you have to supply a picture of yourself in the studio. Of course you want this image to represent both you and your studio in the best way, but that's not so easy. Today Bonnie, my official photographer, and I went to the studio to get an image I could use for a couple of requests. Here are a few of the rejects and the one success that I'm including for your consideration. (Of course I'm not showing you the ones that were so bad that I deleted them. These are just bad enough to learn from.)

Image #1 - REJECTED
Image #1 - I wanted to show some things in the foreground that I work with and in the background some of my work. Why it was rejected: I am too far away from the camera, there is old work in the background, and the work is lined up with my head, materials in foreground are too random and unidentifiable. It looks too cluttered.

Image #2 - REJECTED
Image #2 - I wanted to show that this was a large space, well lit and that I had plenty of room to work. Instead I look like an ant in the corner - who is that over there? Too much stuff on the tables and the floor. A big trash can is right in the foreground.

Image #3 - REJECTED
This is closer to me so it's a little better because at least you can see that it's me. I like seeing the work behind me, but what's all that stuff in the foreground? Looks messy. Do I want to show off the diet Polar drink and handiwipes? Am I a painter or a carpenter?

Image #4 - REJECTED
Too much dirty floor, shot into the window so details are lost.

Image #5 - REJECTED
Who is that over there? Why are they showing off the chair, the fan and the trash can - not to mention that dirty floor again?

Image #6 - REJECTED
This shot is better because it shows the encaustic set-up in the foreground and me supposedly working on a panel, but did I lose my best friend?

Image #7 - ACCEPTED
OK, this is the one. I like the set up, I'm smiling, the work shows in front of and behind me. I wish you could see more of the work on the wall, but at least you can get a hint of it. I would also have preferred it without those black lines of paint on the wall, but that's what's there.


With emphasis on the "DUM(B)"

Image with no black lines

Thanks to friend, blog reader and Photoshopper Linda Cordner, I no longer have black lines on my wall in the accepted image! Somehow I never remember that reality can always be improved through the magic of Photoshop. This is a big improvement, I think. (Also thanks to Karen Jacobs for pointing out that the clone tool works wonders.) Much better!

We also made a short video in the studio this morning. I was able to download it from the iPhone to the computer but getting it from the computer to the blog was beyond me. I guess I need to find a 15-year-old to educate me.

Now where's the reader who knows how to load a video?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Two Abstract Painters

Joan Mitchell, 1991

Lee Krasner, 1973

I debated what to call this post. Should it be Two Strong Women? Two Women Painters? Two Biographies of Women Artists? Or maybe Two Art Icons? As you can see, I finally decided to avoid gender and focus on genre in the title, but gender plays an important part in their personal histories as well as their places in art history.

Krasner, Milkweed, 1955

What brings these two painters together in this post is that I just finished reading the two recent biographies about them:  Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter by Patricia Albers and Lee Krasner: A Biography by Gail Levin. I strongly recommend both of these books. That's not to say that they are easy going; they demand commitment on the part of the reader because they are filled with detail - people, paintings, problems, successes, failures - all the things that make up full lives of artists. But they do a good job of presenting the personalities of Mitchell and Krasner - both strong and opinionated women, who struggled with relationships with men in their lives as well as trying to continue making their own work and carving out a place for themselves in the patriarchal art world.

Joan Mitchell, City Landscapes, 1955

Lee Krasner was 17 years older than Joan Mitchell (Krasner born 1908, Mitchell born 1925) but they were both part of the Abstract Expressionist painting scene in New York during the 1950s. Krasner, of course, was married to Jackson Pollock and moved out of Manhattan with him to Springs (East Hampton) on Long Island in the mid-1940s. Mitchell moved to France in the mid-1950s to be with her lover, artist Jean-Paul Riopelle, and lived there for the rest of her life.

Mitchell, untitled, 1960

I can't recap their lives except to say that if they had been men, their lives as artists would have been a hell of a lot easier and they would have received the recognition they deserved. As it was, they had to fight so strongly for everything that it gave them both a hard edge and a cynical attitude toward life. Abuse of alcohol played an important part in both of their lives: for Mitchell, it was her own over-consumption, while Krasner spent years of her life coping with and trying to manage Pollock's alcoholism. Once Pollock had perished at age 44 in a drunk driving accident, Krasner was free to pursue her own career, but she was always under Pollock's long shadow, on guard against comparisons of her work to his as well as trying to fend off those who tried to gain control of his work by approaching hers.

Both Mitchell and Krasner died at fairly young ages (Mitchell at 66 and Krasner at 75) and had painful ends. Krasner suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and diverticulitis. Mitchell had cancer of the jaw and lung cancer. I can't help thinking that their struggle to prove themselves and continually battle against those who minimized or failed to recognize their artistic achievements wore them down.

Krasner, The Seasons, 1957

One major note about both these artists is their legacy to artists of the future. They both established foundations to benefit  artists in need. In fact, I was the recipient of a generous grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation in 1995 and that validated my art career to me as nothing else had. It made a very definite improvement in my life. The Joan Mitchell Foundation also awards grants to painters and sculptors annually and funds art education for New York City youth. Not to start a gender battle, but how many male artists established such foundations to benefit artists and make a lasting investment in the future?

New York Gallery representation: Lee Krasner - Robert Miller Gallery, Joan Mitchell - Cheim & Read 

Pollock Krasner House & Study Center (great website)