Monday, September 29, 2008
Studio work has been harsh. So I've been pushing myself this week, recommitted to daily photos, hoping that the discipline with exercising my eye will flow onto the canvas. Once in a while, I'll get a snippet of pleasure at a stroke but overall, I haven't been pleased with the painting for 3 months. It really feels as if I'm painting in the dark.
The show I saw last week and wrote about on Friday is still sitting with me. Wondering who I am as painter weighs on me. What do I want to say with my work? I'm trying not to let unanswered questions freeze the painting yet instead, attempting to use the mystery to push me through something...anything.
To balance the confusion I'm getting more physical, extra walks including a little hiking a couple weeks ago with Matt (I still have a few photos to post from that)...and doing what I can to shake up my routine. It still requires a fair amount of alone time, but it's different.
I am curious to see how it all evolves.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Not knowing if it was going to be a train wreck or what, I needed a decadent treat to watch the debate with. Food delivery. It was time to try Pagliacci's new seasonal pizza, prosciutto fig primo. At the same time I ordered their creamy fuck your mouth chocolate gelato.
On an olive oil base:
Large pieces of basil
And to die for.
I'm not sure how many more weeks it's being offered and so will take advantage of it by ordering it one more time in the next week.
Friday, September 26, 2008
“I am an artist . . . enamored of charcoal (the tool that does not lie) and the act of drawing. . . Although both charcoal and pastel can be fragmented, crushed, and reduced to dust in a single arbitrary or careless moment of time, both of these media can project into visual art potent and sensuous powers of endurance that will resonate with the same epic, intimate, universal and demonic obstinacy as life itself.” - Selma Waldman
Last night I saw work that moved me in a way no work has before. I left...extremely humbled, and even questioning my own purpose as artist. It was the opening reception of "Pornography of Power - The Anti-War Art of Selma Waldman"
From the M. Rosetta Hunter gallery website:
Following the most recent declaration of the “War on Terror” in 2001, Selma Waldman, (1931-2008), an artist with a life-long commitment to social justice, created an extraordinary series of 100 drawings, The Black Book of Aggressors, a profound and relentless response to the degradation of human beings and the systematic abuse of power in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and elsewhere. Two “walls” from this series, along with earlier work, comprise Pornography of Power. With searing line and jarring color, Waldman explicitly exposes the atrocities of war.
The exhibition also includes a selection of earlier works, selections from her notes and sketchbooks, and an evocation of her intense working environment including an unfinished work surrounded by photographs, notes, and sketches.
I had never heard of Waldman before and so googled for her this week with a desire for a little awareness before I faced her work. Other than the Seattle PI link, the other links all carry examples of her work.
From Art and Politics Now blog
From Gila Svirsky's website
Selma Waldman died in April 2008. A year before she died, Regina Hackett, of the Seattle PI wrote a wonderful piece which included a challenge to the Seattle arts community:
It's time for Seattle to prize an artist Europe already does
The idea that difficult artists flourish is only true at the top. For everybody else, the idea that they can behave badly and do well is a fiction.
Few people with any art world power want to acknowledge that they can't rise above being treated badly. But why spend time on an artist who attacks with the heat of a desert prophet when another whose work is equally alluring is a pleasure at dinner?
Selma Waldman has almost no supporters in Seattle art circles, although in European museums, especially those focused on genocide, her work is prized. She has spent her career painting the blunt-force trauma of rape, degradation and murder. These are tough subjects, yet nobody holds such subject matter against Leon Golub, Sue Coe or Michael Spafford.
Waldman's problem is her prickly self, which should not be a problem. These 48 torture scenes in colored chalk on black notebook paper do not illustrate her themes, they embody them.
Like Golub, she's focusing on the perpetrators, in this case at Abu Ghraib. Even though as great an artist as Richard Serra was defeated by Abu Ghraib, Waldman's burrowing intensity brings each frame to corrosive life.
I challenge Seattle curators, collectors, dealers and critics to look at these drawings from her "Naked Aggression" series, each inventive in a distinctive way, and explain why the woman who made them is not on their radar.
As I said, the show left me with questions regarding my own work -
~what am I trying to say?
~how will it manifest itself on a greater scale with the values I prize dearly: passion..a deep eroticism that flows through everything and created by justice, honesty, compassion?
~am I being selfish?
~am I still afraid of revealing myself on canvas?
I've pretty much always believed that the personal is political. Social change begins with change in self. Some are called to grand outward gestures and others live quieter lives. But what am I trying to say with my work...my life?
Waldman's images are floating through my head right now and still bring tears to my eyes. She wasn't afraid to express her passion. Am I?
The show runs at the M. Rosetta Hunter gallery until October 24th. The images in the links don't do the work justice. Seeing over 100 pieces, most on black paper about 11x14, with a few larger pieces, including a massive unfinished work is...well...astounding.
The unfinished piece is set up in an installation that recreates her studio. She began it in the fall of 2007, choosing not to go for chemo so she could work on the drawing and died before its completion.
If in Seattle, I strongly recommend you see the show.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
3, From Ten Winter Tools, 1973
A suite of ten lithographs
30 x 22 inches
Painting and simplicity~
After working the Rose paintings I hit a wall. Although I wanted to return to the studio, my creative energy felt gone. In reality it was being used in another aspect of my life.
A month ago, while in the Seattle Asian Art Museum with Bill, the creative hunger began to return. Looking at an exhibit of work by a Korean artist, Bohnchang Koo (or Koo Bohnchang depending on the website) offered great inspiration.
He was showing very large images, maybe 4 by 4 feet. All a warm black and white. They were simple. And gorgeous. Each was a vessel. From far away they appeared to be beautifully rendered pencil drawings. I was quite surprised to discover they were photographs.
The gracefulness of each piece moved me. There was power. And silence.
You can see some of his work here.
(Note that on this site, the photos of the vessels are tinged with magenta and look very different than what I saw.)
In that moment I knew I needed to return to my love of still life. Keep it simple.
Last week I began painting a pitcher. One pot.
A couple days ago I remembered Jim Dine's tools. Those pieces have touched me from the first time I was introduced to his work, many, many years ago.
I've been thinking about my former mentor and my therapist. Each taught me about simplicity. Paring down. Mindfulness. Get rid of the clutter in my life will assist with easing internal clutter.
Working these paintings has become a meditation that I'm carrying into my daily life. When things become tumultuous inside...crazy-making...I focus once again on simplicity. Yesterday, in an old copy of Ode Magazine that is currently in the bathroom at work, I read an interview with Anselm Grün, a monk. A nugget struck me:
"This is sorely needed, given the number of people Grün encounters who have become trapped in consumerism. “It hurts me to see how empty many people’s lives are,” he begins. “They’re nearly completely focused on material things. Silence has become frightening because it will reveal the truth about them. People are afraid of the pain, fear, doubt or disappointment they have hidden away. They do nothing but fill up the silence.”
According to Grün, people can only be happy and free if they’re prepared to look at their pain. He speaks from experience: “For years, I was focused on trying to be ‘perfect.’ I took myself far too seriously and wouldn’t accept any shortcoming, which meant I suppressed my imperfection and negative feelings. Most people have overly high expectations of themselves. They always want to be controlled, perfect, cool or friendly. But the soul rebels with fear or depression. You have to live realistically. You have to do justice to your inner self.”
This latest painting challenge is exciting because the more I dig in, the more I discover that simplicity is not easy to achieve. Here are 5 that I'm working on. The smallest ones are 8x10" and the largest is 2 by 3 feet.
You can see that I'm struggling with the paintings. Last night, the two smallest ones changed again. I painted out the fruit and returned to the pitcher alone.
To say so much with so little is a daunting challenge. Over the year I've seen how my art and my life are interconnected. By working this latest mystery on canvas, I hope it will seep in and maybe embody such simplicity in my own day to day.
Here are more Dine images.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
- Leonardo da Vinci
He who buys what he does not need steals from himself.
- Author Unknown
Simple pleasures are the last refuge of the complex.
- Oscar Wilde
Less is more.
- Mies van der Rohe
I'd like to live as a poor man with lots of money.
- Pablo Picasso
Be wary of any enterprise that requires new clothes.
- Henry David Thoreau
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex,
and more violent. It takes a touch of genius--and a lot of
courage--to move in the opposite direction.
- E. F. Schumacker
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I'm pushing myself to get back on track with the painting...attempting to regain the rigorous discipline I had before the summer - at least 5 days a week in the studio.
Today was perfect. At work by 5:30 am, home by 3:30, at the studio before 5 pm where I grabbed dinner, had some wine and painted. Home at 8pm. Filling my work week like this feels good. I don't need to be hanging out on the computer or watching tv. There is much I want to accomplish in the studio. It's a harsh time - the painting is a struggle. And the only way I'll break through is to do it.
I'm learning so much about myself and life has been quite challenging. Because of the struggle I have to wonder, by seeking this discipline am I escaping life or diving into self?
Friday, September 19, 2008
How many 6 week olds get to spend time in a painter's space?
Rose and her baby came by the studio today so she could pick out a couple paintings that I promised her for sitting for me. Aren't they beautiful together?
In addition, she also purchased a few others. One was chosen specifically for the nursery. It was Henry's first art purchase. And the bonus...? Holding him while mom was looking at the work.
(For those of you who had expressed interest in some of the paintings, feel free to contact me.)
Thursday, September 18, 2008
List of good things.
In spite of the tremendous grief I'm going through, there are and have been phenomenal miracles, magic moments and plain simple lovely good times. Most I haven't been talking about, except with my therapist or confidante. Some of them just aren't appropriate for the blogging world because it's well…too personal. These times are always in the forefront of my mind even when grief is pressing forth.
But I feel its important to publicly affirm some of the goodness:
~The boat trip.
~A couple sessions of good play with different folks, all spontaneous and needed.
~A wonderful invite for an upcoming event (that has me feeling quite honored and extra special.)
~See and feel the relationship with my dad change some more. We are getting to know each other in lovely ways. He is curious about the mundane in the life of his girl. And with that, it softens me more to him…in my desire to learn more about him.
~Having had Bill and Daniel here for a bunch of weeks as well as earlier visits with Mike and Connor.
~In one week, each day had someone different (mostly strangers) come up to me and note my strengths. Every day, with each person, it was a singular strength that was affirmed...once for sex, one for art, one for work, etc. It made for a surreal week.
~I've learned and am still learning so much about shame. How we all carry it. How it affects our choices. The roots of my own. And most importantly, watching its dismantling.
~Knowing what I need and expect from the more intimate relationships in my life by experiencing the continuing development of a couple intimate relationships. Seeing that it is possible to have someone close to you willing to speak and listen...sensitive to your needs as you are to theirs. Giving each other space and at the same time being brutally honest when needed. Mutual vulnerability.
~Being asked to assist with a variety of different projects (film, books, shows, and someone else's healing)
~Learning that I'm drawn first to the character of a person, their personal values, how they handle times of great challenges, and that attraction will override any identity attraction (ie, queer, kinky, physical type, etc…)
~Feeling my power grow and burn in a manner I've never before felt. Even with the massive stumbling and the crazy-making of art….the deepest part of me is taking hold. Even in my low lows, there is a new sense of solidity within.
And I am seeing how much more there still is to learn.
None of this goodness could have happened without the pain and without the guidance of my therapist: his caring...enough to be not only a soft pillow sounding board but also when needed, a get on my case kinda guy.
All of this, and all the grief can live side by side. One doesn't discount the other yet instead reminds me how life is complex. They each offer greater understanding into the other.
The more I embrace both, the more textured my life.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
Photos from our boating dinner/cruise last Thursday evening. A perfect summer evening. About 20 of us, up on deck, enjoying wine, cheese, figs, grapes...and good company. I didn't get a photo of our host's boat, but it was quite lovely. And a good size. A few state rooms...nice kitchen/living area. It's the home of our host. Before taking off into the bay, we were introduced to the captain and first mate.
Dinner was served after we took off and headed out of the marina. It was a delicious meal of southern cooking with rich (yet not heavy) and at the same time delicate flavors. The cornbread had a hint of coconut. The chicken, not fried but marinated in limes. A large platter of tender pulled pork and probably THE best macaroni and cheese I've ever eaten.
It was a " please take your shoes off" boat...
Not the boat we were on but a beautiful and very large cat moored right next to us.
Shilshole Marina from our boat while still enjoying drinks.
The marina has its own sea creature.
The quintessential sunset photo from the water, a little fuzzy and underexposed.
It was a wonderful, much needed evening... and a very kind and generous gesture on the part of our host.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Yeah...there were a few days of silence.
I've been feeling so lost with the painting. I'm still working still life, painting the same metal pitcher. Over and over. Keeping it simple. There are currently 3 small paintings and one large. By yesterday, I just broke down in the studio and sobbed. My heart hurts too much to paint. Or more accurately, to know how to paint.
I've been grieving for a year now. But it was muddy. In the last 3 weeks, it's transformed into a clean grief. Pure. And with that, I finally know down deep that I'll get through it. Now that it's clear, it will pass. Not sure when...not sure how but it will happen. Thing is, the present is challenging. Even the act of putting brush to canvas hurts. Each mark carries pain.
Although I carry the grief in my daily life, distractions are more readily available. It is in the studio where the grief is stripped bare. In a large room of white walls and big windows, smelling of oils and medium, I can't hide from myself.
Over the summer, after the Rose series, I was at a loss, thrown in a state of no longer trusting myself. Of course, it made sense that my painting would suffer. In the last month, my inner strength has been increasing. I've seen how my intuition has been right on...and so can trust myself. In that, I expected my painting to return. But this new level of grief has shown me a different view. One in which there are no bad guys and yet instead we are all wounded souls. It sees tragic experiences and in that, great melancholy.
I am screaming inside.
I love and it hurts.
In the meantime, I have to figure out how to paint.
The art is a mess.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
It seems my head is still in the water. I saw this at the busstop this afternoon.
I've made it down to the studio every day since Sunday even though I haven't always felt like it. Today I bumped into the curator of the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge. So it's official. October is crazy painting month.
I'm still working on the first still life and began a second one today. The colors are more muted. It's interesting. While painting today I was thinking about color, how much softer it is right now, and wondered if it's because I'm slowly regaining my creative spark. I am very curious to see how these paintings evolve.