Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thoughts first

Don't get me wrong, it is of value to write about ones work. Self reflection is necessary to articulate ideas that drive the work. Critical thinking informs the creative process, no doubt. I think writing and art production are close friends.

Indeed, artists have the final word on their art. But, I don't paint when I write and I don't write when I paint. Research shows we use different parts of our brain to read/ write than draw/ paint. Thoughts come first, regardless of which vehicle gets used for expression.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Zen and Art

Zen in the Art of Archery has got me thinking about why it is so difficult for artists to talk about their art. I'm beginning to think that there is more to it, than a laziness or an inability or stubborn unwillingness to articulate that keeps some artist from talking about their work. Maybe it has to do with the nature of art and the experience of creating?

Students of Zen don't talk about "the way" or what Zen is. This non-explanation forces a student of Zen to go through the "fires of truth" for themselves. No one can or will show them the way. Zen can only be understood by one who is immersed in the experience of it. Part of Zen practice is to annihilate the ego or small self; the part that separates the "I" from the "we". It is considered a betrayal of Zen to talk about Zen because one "renders an account of what one has thrown away" in the very act of describing Zen.

Ok, now substitue the word 'Zen' for 'Art' and 'student' for 'artist'. It costs me "grave heart searching" to analyze my creative process. It feels like betrayal as I intellectually describe my creative process. Doing so robs my intuitive process of the energy and time I need to use to birth visual images.

When I write about my work, I do not produce art. I produce written work about art and the written work is the product. Writing and art production seem to be unable to occupy the same space within me. One mode of expression gets energy and focus while the other does not. One costs me the other.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New Insights

The meeting with Qimin proved extremely insightful. We looked at all my work from last semester. I shared the feedback I got from the residency and he offered his own critique of my work.

In the Letterform Series, I was concerned that many people were viewing them as design exercises. He suggested I could push the painterly qualities with more texture to increase the differences between painting and design. I could use an impasto technique similar to Wayne Thiebaud's and punctuate the background with a relief texture in paint. It would then be clear that the emphasize was painting. I was trying to create a texture by using metallic highlights, but was unsuccessful.

I didn't make a loud enough statement between painting and design with this work. Am I going to change them? I'm tempted, but there is something appealing about a quiet statement and it can't be both.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

New Mentor for second residency

I'm meeting Qimin Liu who is my new mentor at my studio this coming Monday. I've been organizing and preparing my studio for this meeting, after the whirlwind of residency. It will be good to discuss our plan for this semester. He is a fantastic painter and a knowledgable experienced teacher. He currently has work on exhibit at the Wadsworth Antheneum Musuem of Art in Hartford Connecticut, up until August 12, 2007

My last mentor was Eric Goldberg. His mentoring style was unstructured, intuitive and just the right amount of guidance at the right time. It was very effective for me. It takes skill and experience to teach this way. It is much easier for a teacher to impose an external predetermined plan on to a student but not as productive sometime for the student. Eric's laid back approach and his trust in my process helped me figure out where to focus. I gained confidence in myself and my work. He was adamant once, only when I asked he said "Paint, paint, paint!"...and he was right.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It's in the Cards...

Last semester, my friend asked me to pick a card from The Voyager tarot deck http://www.voyagertarot.com/ She said I was suppose to meditate about what this card symbolized as I went through the semester. I picked "Ace of Crystals".

This semester, my friend wanted me to pick another card, "Do one for each semester, she said." What the hell, I thought and picked "The Sun". Ok...If anybody wants to explain...

Residency Summary II

June 22
The Beech Tree Inn is a quiet bed & breakfast in Brookline and was home for ten days. It wasn’t so quiet when I came to breakfast and saw Judith Barry,Dike Blair, Michael Newman, Jan Avgikos and Oliver Wasow show up at the breakfast table. John Chang rang the doorbell at 7 am and woke me up as my room was on the front porch. He had flown in from LA that morning. We were the only two students staying there and we walked to and from AIB.

The program began by signing in, greeting everybody and setting up my space. The fluorescent lighting significantly altered all the colors in my paintings and gave them an unpleasant cold blue/purple cast with an inordinate emphasis on those colors. I did find two incandescent spots which seemed to help neutralize some of the ill effects. I wasn’t happy with the lighting...I let it go.

Before I came to the residency my mentor helped me see how each piece was successively connected to the next.The feedback I received did overall affirm that I communicated my intentions.

That evening graduating students started their final presentations. One of the graduating students briefly mentioned the idea that all animals start out as the same simple embryo shape, regardless of their species. This comment got my attention because I created a pastel and some digital prints exploring this idea. I was attempting to draw attention to the fact that as human beings we all start from identical physical form. The monotypes of war and death and were deliberately hung next to the embryonic pastel, Across the Species to signify regeneration and life.

I am paying attention when another artist has the same idea I do and produces work along that same idea. I became aware of this happening more frequently and have mixed feelings about it. Sometimes, I feel aggravated especially when I am invested in creating something new and different. Sometimes it is exciting especially when I think the idea or artist has merit. And sometimes I find it comforting particularly when I have self doubts. It reminds me that I am part of something larger than myself and am on the right path.

It happened with the Letterform Series when Hartford artist Carol Padberg (see Art New England, April/ May 2007) created similar letterform compositions, and again when I saw Wegman’s paintings at the Addison Gallery. There are differences, Wegman used postcards and I used digital photos of geodes, Padberg used encaustic paints, I used oils.The idea or concept is still the same.

There is a name for a related phenomenon called the Hundredth Monkey Effect.The idea is that a learned behaviour spreads instantaneously from one group of monkeys to all related monkeys once a critical number is reached, regardless of time and place. I wonder if this phenomenon happens within the human species. I think it has relevance to Jung’s theory of a collective unconscious.

June 23
Saturday morning was the first group critique. I was the only painter in a group of photographers. I didn’t mind because got a chance to think about issues related to photography, for example why print in black and white when shooting digitally?

John Kramer led the critique. He initiated a re-organization of my art work, I was grateful he did. Letting him curate my work helped me see what was important by giving me some distance from it. It allowed the strongest pieces a chance to be seen. I was having trouble figuring out what to hang and how much of it to hang. After I explained how the work was connected, the group had no trouble telling me what to hang up and what to take down.


The feedback from the group on the Letterform Series was they looked like design exercises. I was taken aback that they didn’t go beyond that obvious origin.


Without my prompting, Coelynn McIninch went into a very accurate description of what she thought Sea Glass was about. She described in detail what I was aiming for when I painted that painting. That conversation was one of the many highlights to come of this residency.

I really admired the paintings of Alison Williams and Brenda Van Der Beek from group one. Last semester, I discovered contemporary Swedish abstract painter Eva Ryn Johannissen , who makes the distinction between abstract painting and non-objective painting. I would like to see her work in person; I think it is extremely difficult to paint in this way and do it well.

June 24
Sunday, I met with Julia Scher who was my last semester advisor. True to form, interacting with Julia is always a new experience. She wanted to see what I was currently doing. I explained about my interest in Chinese brushing painting. This was a new development as I had not had a chance to share it with her before this residency began. She ended up giving me a parting assignment. She asked me to create a piece of work called the “one kilometer project”. She wants me to base a piece of art work on the concept of spatially representing one mile or one kilometer. Unknown to Julia, I was walking exactly 1k to the bed and breakfast so I had a very tangible idea of what that amount of space looked like.


In addition, Mary Mayer bought me a small gift of a pencil called the “3 mile pencil”, also not knowing about the assignment Julia had given me. The pencil is calibrated with a scale printed on the outside, to show the output in miles as you write, using up the pencil. I thought about painting a small ink brush painting showing overlapping shapes creating space to represent the distance of 1K. The level of synchronicity throughout this residency was over the top.

June 25
The Space seminar began that morning and was another high point of the residency. I enjoyed the depth of conversation regarding types of space and the creation of the illusion of space. It was thrilling to be in a class with other artists thinking critically and sharing their ideas about space. It was a great group!

At the lecture that evening, I was still thinking about space. I thought about how a person inhabits the physical space of their body, but can change their outward appearance to adjust to social and cultural norms. The title ‘Virtual Immigrant’ suggested two different cultural spaces in one physical body. Inner and outer space in this work showed up together in a very psychologically revealing way. It was fascinating how each person actually looked like different people just by changing their clothes.

June 26
We met with our new faculty advisors in the morning. Tony Apesos asked me specific questions that showed me he understood what I was doing especially when he identified the text in the background of the Letterform Series as referencing bits of unintelligible conversation. He modeled what I call “long looking”. It’s a way to slow down and really take the time to figure out what is going on in an image. And it's a great way to sharpen ones perception and thinking.

The Weng exhibit at the Museum of Fine Art that afternoon, finished off a truly splendid day.


June 27
That morning in Critical Theory II, we discussed the previous evenings lecture, deep philosophy and aesthetics in relation to modernism, mass production, the condition of how works of art become public and art as a form of social transformation. The discussions and readings were designed to make us think outside our comfort level.

June 28
A visiting artists critique by Mareen Gallace was scheduled the morning. Thanks to Mary's suggestion to write down a list of question, I asked Mareen the following:
Q: What was it like living in the New York art scene? A: “Very busy, hectic, production all the time. Selling all the time, no down time”... Q: What do you have to do to succeed as a painter? A: “Going to graduate school is a good place to start, network with everybody, and get to know people”... Q: Is being female a hindrance to succeed in the art world? A: “Well, ha ha...it’s a man’s world... pick and choose when to take a stand”...Q: Do you have any advice to give an emerging artist? A: “calm down, don’t be so intense...”


In the afternoon we went to the Fogg Museum. It was another intense three hours of long looking. I did not realize as art students, we could request certain original works from master artists to study. I saw a photographer take out Westons’ original photographs, a student studying a Michelangelo drawing, actual prints of D├╝rer, watercolors by Blake, it was almost overwhelming!


Nancy McTague Stock wrote down the artists’ names and I concentrated on getting photographs of the work. Our plan was that she would give me the names once I posted the photos online, they would be accessible to all of group two.

Thursday’s dinner was a working critique. We each brought in a piece of work related to the discussion of space we had been having all week. I brought down that small abstract landscape painting to discuss. I was really irritated with myself for choosing that small abstract landscape because I hadn’t figured out how to talk about the space in that work.

Although it is a good example of how I treat volume in painting and has developed over the years and seems to be one of the few consistent things I do when I paint. Is this my true visual voice? How do I know? Maybe brush painting will reveal insights to my painting style.

At that evenings lecture with Dike Blair, I observed that he worked in a minimalist abstract style and then alternated to a detailed highly realistic style. In Dike’s last slide, I really got a sense of how his sculpture was like 3-dimensional painting. The painting and sculpture resonated and somehow became one work.


June 29
“Ignorance on fire is stronger that knowledge on ice” said Coe. It was was in response to me angsting over "lumpy forms".


I was scheduled for an individual critique with graduating student Debra Marek. She went straight to the Letterform paintings and said she thought they were beautiful. She insisted that they were paintings and said she appreciated that I was playing with the differences in painting and design. She mentioned she had training as a designer and intimately knew what those where.

Mary Mayer created a great little photo board book with a self binding system using duct tape. Hala Wittwer created a cool book with photos with pieces of vellum in front of the photos so she could trace the contour lines of the shapes found in the photos. These books were wonderful and Mary and Hala showed me how they made them.


I decided to reconsider my sketchbook size because of a comment Tony made and look for a smaller one. John offered to help me find rice paper that can only be purchased from China.

June 30
At the morning new advisors meeting, Tony asked me a difficult question, “what did I think my work was about?” Without hesitation I answered "transcendence". My unguarded answer was rewarded with a reading list I honestly want to read.

In the afternoon we went back to the Museum of Fine Art and did more long looking. I brought the camera along and was able to take pictures of both the 18th-19th century paintings and the Weng exhibit. I walked back to the inn from the museum and thought about how great it would be to live in Boston.

At the final graduate celebration that night, I ended up sitting next to Julia...she gave me another assignment! She ordered, “Keep a visual record of what is happening right now”, so I did. I showed it to her and she started talking about mind mapping and an artist who did work in the mid-60’s using colored blotter acid (LSD) paper on a grid and how beautiful it was. I laughed, but then got serious when she mentioned something about rice paper. I found myself thinking about image making way beyond ink brush painting.

June 31
I was going to get up early and write my plan of study, but was too tired from being up late packing. We met as a group to review my advisors expectations for the coming semester. My plan of study got written up, then and there.

I had an informal meeting with Stuart Steck. He visited my exhibition space just after I had taken all the work down. We had this great conversation about my invisible work. We slung around art speak and aesthetic ideals and historic references as we pointed to the blank wall. It was great fun, sometimes critiques get so heavy and it was entertaining to not take ourselves so seriously. It was startling how believable it was to do a critique on nothing.

One of the things that we were asked to do in preparation for Critical Theory II was to pick out four artists we thought illustrated concepts discussed in the readings for the class. I chose Blue Man Group as the fourth artist. Not one artist but a true collaboration of three. They deal with issues of technology, installation, theater and social commentary. Their performance touches on mass culture, identity and marketing so said the critics. I had been thinking I would really like to see a performance by them.

Hippocrates said: “Life is short, the art, long...judgment is difficult. It is not enough to do what is necessary...the circumstances must be favorable.” As I was checking out of the bed and breakfast, the innkeeper mentioned that a couple had left the inn early and she had two tickets to an afternoon performance of Blue Man Group, was I interested?

This residency ended with me seeing Blue Man Group before traveling home to the quiet corner of rural Northeastern Connecticut. The circumstances were favorable; I could not have planned a better residency even if I tried.



Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Second Semester

The end of the second residency at The Art Institute of Boston is the beginning of this blog. It was an amazing residency for me, check out the summary.