Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Last week I started doing some things on paper, and found that I could do a couple at a time and I seem to suffer less over them than the larger canvases. They have been for me predictable, like work I've done before, and work I've seen before, except for the last two. Here they are. I don't know what to make of them, I don't know exactly what's going on, only that something seems to be very engaging about them.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
I dropped a couple words from the last post in a sentence near the bottom. Make up any thing you think would work.
About the same time as all the studio Tour, Atlas Building stuff was spinning into its own momentum, I was teaching a three-D design class. The class is a basic level examination of the elements and principals of design in a three dimensional format. One of the more difficult things to convey to students is not that the principals and elements can be applied in three dimensions, it's that when you look for some kind of statement, and don't know what that is, there are ways to find out. These ways are a lot like playing. If we know what we want, we can go right to it. If we don't, we have to look around, see what's out there, explore some things, and if something seems to move in an interesting direction, follow it. Andy Goldsworthy is a great example of that. In the process of trying to present them with problems to solve and lists of materials or at least places to look for materials, I began wandering through Dollar General. I found some interesting things without much trouble, and together with some other things that I have no excuse to keep except to create with, I threw together some sculptural works. These are the works (above).
The Peeps were from the dollar general just before Easter, the tin was one of a bunch of things I have saved without any real reason, other than materials for work. The sheet of grey card stock was just to hide some spackle on the wall, but helped to contain the composition. The egg shells, another one of those things I save to use some where some day.
The ironing board and plastic funnels, with the cans of milk, same thing, milk from Dollar general, funnels, dollar general, and ironing board from a house going on the market, left behind and given to me by a friend who is a realtor.
The ladder was found on a trash pile at the curb where a house was being cleaned out for sale. The objects that were added to it were things that I save and don't actually know what I will do with them, dead and wilted roses, wasp nests, and rope. The plants were originally something I ran across at my neighborhood garden shop, Ted and Debbies, and were scotch moss. The color was bright lime green and the plastic pots were rectangular, which had a denser shape, but I had to find something else when I moved it into the dark spaces of the Atlas Building.
All of these works were made to show students in the design class what one of the possible statements could be with materials like these. For me, enjoyed working within the limitations of the materials and the time I allowed to complete the work. Finding the caned milk at dollar general, and the label on the cans are the spark that started the idea in that direction. there are so many fabulous objects all around us all we have to do is see them and start putting them together.
That brings me to the next big point that I want to make, Art can and should be fun. Yes, there are very serious works that expose deep and heart felt ideas but there are also humorous and light statements that have elements of deeper and serious statements. Why not, if it is possible to read the work in a variety of ways can't that be built in as another contributing component of the richness of the work. Humor helps break down the formality that sometimes stands between art and audience.
Bottom line, for me is that between now and where I will end up there stands a vast variety of work, why not let it all out. If I hadn't been teaching the 3-D class I may not have ever tried these things. If I hadn't agreed to try working at the Atlas, I may not have ever done the work that was done there. This is what I have learned, things change and you have to brave the wind, step out into the storm see what happens.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
The first thing I did in the space was hang up the two canvases, 46 x 54 inches, along two walls that met at a corner so that I could work one and have the other over my right or left shoulder. I also pinned up some drawing paper 18 x 24 inches next both. Then I began drawing on the paper.
after a while I moved on to the canvases, and the back to the paper. Then the paint in the same way. I find that the paper and working those problems slowed down the editing and changing process just enough that I didn't destroy things so fast.
I think that at any point in a period of time the expression, and processing of thoughts are consistent and it doesn't matter how many things you work on at a time during that period, the ideas will be consistent with the ideas at that point in time. When only one thing is being worked, and time passes, at the end of that time the work will have evolved somewhat and the next piece will only be expressed in the language and terms of the new position.
The first two paintings were all over the place in respect to knowing where I was going, or what I was looking for. Some things stay with you for a long time, one of those things was that when I found myself lecturing about Hoffman's work, I began to learn more about Hoffman than I had ever known. The insight from that experience influenced the first two paintings. I wanted to push and pull the space, keeping the surface, 2D strength in a strong dynamic battle with the information relative to the 3D illusion. In the process, things would constantly spin out of control, there were not enough lighter colors, or there was to much arbitrary drawing, or perhaps the worst of all, I was repeating myself and becoming predictable.
This may sound odd, but I am basically lazy, and when I get into a jam, I will look for an easy way out. The thing is that the easy way is often the cheap trick and as soon as it is placed on the canvas I know I can't live with it. So, staying away from cheap tricks and insincere imagery. The trick seems to be to discover what lies beyond the cheap tricks and easy answers. I spend a lot of time painting out large portions of what I call clutter.
Sorry about the quality of these images, I keep moving the lights and moving the work and can't seem to get an image that gets all the problems solved.
These are some of the work done at the Atlas Life Building in Downtown Tulsa. The building is the current location of the Courtyard Marriot, and has loads of people moving through the street level hallway, both on their way up to the second floor check in and back toward the Atlas Grill (great sandwiches), or the Tulsa Press Club. The space is being donated for use by working artists who will work on location so that visitors can see the progression of the work and interact on an informal level with the artists.
This was for me something that when offered the chance, not such an exciting thing. I went to all the places that you would think one would go, "you want me to let people watch me work?" Followed by "I'll have to drag all my stuff down to ...". There were many excuses. The Tulsa Studio Tour was just a few weeks away and at that time it seemed like a great opportunity for the artists on the tour to begin to get publicity. There was less that a fabulous response, but I was committed and thought that I would continue to try it and see what happened.
The first and most exciting thing was that I had walls. Lots of walls and with fewer than expected artists working, I could us lots of them. At the beginning, I stayed in the front of the area I was given, and had two solid walls and some temporary walls to paint on. This gave me the ability to paint on two or more things at a time. (more later)
Friday, June 17, 2011
17 June 2011,
lots has happened, and as I try now to look back, I can't remember when the last time was that I even thought about adding some images and ideas. There was for some time last summer a period of stagnation beginning I think in mid summer, and continuing into the fall. It seems that often at the end of a work, or a series of work when there is nothing new waiting in the wings, or when a project or calamity comes up, which interupts the daily pilgimage to the canvas, enough of a break is created to let all kinds of conversations begin in my tiny little mind. These are not the good kinds that seem to begin with words like "what if..." which I connect with inspiration, they are conversations that go more like "who am I fooling", or "am I just going around in circles", and even get to the point where I start thinking that if I am boring myself, I can't imagine how other people might feel. The only thing I can say is that some where along the way I had gotten farther away from the work.
In july I had taken a hand full of drawings, and works on paper and I think five paintings to Hawley Design. This was a lot of work, framing, matting, and moving things in the hot summer sun, but it seemed like it may help get some things sold and some money comming in in the months of not teaching. Some where in that time I had been asked to teach a class at the Philbrook in conjunction with a gallery talk about Hans Hoffman's work. I took advantage of the time there wandering through the exhibition, through the museum, looking at reference material in the library, to think about the work and where it wasn't going at the moment. I was still drawing durring that time, mostly portrait studies. It seems important now to do this, because it allows me to move through a simple process and try to organize all the thoughts. I have since grad school been very interested in the work of Gorky, De Kooning, and John Graham, especially the work early in their lives which played with the abstraction of the figure. I had attempted to paint a reclining figure a couple years ago, and have tucked the canvas away in a miserable state of dissapointment for the moment, but this idea of the figure and an abstracted statement still calls to me.
The school year began and I have to admit I was relieved to have some other conversations to compete with the internal noise. The conversations in the classroom are as important to my processing as the time spent with a brush in my hand. Abstraction and organizing the conversation around abstraction is always difficult. Most of us want to make it into some big monster that someone, like a medicine man, or expert understands, and should therefore be consulted in order to understand the monster. This idea of an intersessor in the process of communication has always seemed strange to me. Experts should help us to understand things we don't, but visual art is a thing which relies on a language of color, shape, marks, and placement. These things are easy for every one to see. Visual language takes work like learning to read,and I think that is where the problem is, or part of the problem. We think that we can't understand without help, and we don't trust our own eyes and head to read and understand what we see. I use the term we because I am exactly one of these people. I have been in this place. I had no idea what abstraction was all about and I thought some person who had the secret would have to explain it to me.
I mention all of this because abstraction is the larger issue, and becomes the connective tissue in the class room.
(more later, must go to the Atlas studio)