Classmates Rock

The sun is out, my black coat is put away, and New York is perfect again.

At the SVA Flatiron Gallery is a two-woman show that you should see if you can.  Lulu Zhang and Sarah Dineen are both first-year students in my MFA program, but are producing work of the maturity and complexity of established artists.  Damn them!

Sarah Dineen Certain Dark Things #28

Sarah Dineen
Certain Dark Things #28

Sarah’s abstract works are big and bold painted collages that are satisfying in size and create intriguing visual spaces.

Sarah Dineen Certain Dark Things #22

Sarah Dineen
Certain Dark Things #22

Lulu’s works on paper are dense explorations of obsessive mark-making in ink and paint. Each piece contains hundreds of magical moments which contribute to the dense jungle feeling of the whole painting.

Lulu Zhang Sunset

Lulu Zhang
Sunset

Lulu Zhang Fallen Red

Lulu Zhang
Fallen Red

If I were an art adviser, I would recommend you buy these young artists before they’re discovered.  But I’m not.  I’d like to keep them all to myself, but that would be selfish.

The show runs through April 11th, and the reception is April 3rd from 5 – 7.

Meanwhile, I’ve been painting ogres in an effort to exorcize them.  And in a funny way it worked.  Now the ogres are my children, not my enemies.

Elizabeth Cook Emperor Ogre

Elizabeth Cook
Emperor Ogre

If you’re not already here, come to New York.  Look at the art.  Look at the people.  Look at the little dogs in their funny coats.

 

Hibernation

I don’t mean to hibernate in winter.  I’m not a bear, or even a groundhog.   But when it goes on and on with no hope of ending, I find myself staying pretty close to home, especially in the city which requires walking and walking and walking and not just running from one’s front door to the car.

Nonetheless, this being New York, even in hibernation mode I can’t avoid art.  My own, of course, since I’m in the studio every day (it’s half a block from my apartment), but other people’s as well.  So here’s what I’ve seen and liked lately.

Like Honey is the Sleep of the Just, by Julia Garcia

Like Honey is the Sleep of the Just, by Julia Garcia

The BFA Visual and Critical Studies Department at SVA (which teaches multiple art disciplines grounded in art criticism and philosophy) recently hung a show called “Points of Experience”, curated by Isabel Taube.  I walked past it several times before realizing that I was enjoying it and should pay more attention.

As in Childhood We Live Sweeping Close to the Sky, by Julia Garcia

As in Childhood We Live Sweeping Close to the Sky, by Julia Garcia

Julia Garcia’s paintings attracted me because of their color palettes and paint application.  I am a sucker for color.  I think it’s my favorite aspect of art.

Then around the corner I ran into Kyle Lefkowitz’s work: a huge sculptural open book full of crazy pages hanging on the wall.

 

Unrequited: Love Me Like an Open Book, Slam Me Like a Door, by Kyle Lefkowitz

Unrequited: Love Me Like an Open Book, Slam Me Like a Door, by Kyle Lefkowitz

I have done some printmaking and bookmaking while at SVA, and this work reminded me of Esther K. Smith’s “Combo of Crazy Papers” from her excellent book, How to Make Books from Potter Craft.

Esther K. Smith's example of a Crazy Papers Book

Esther K. Smith’s example of a Crazy Papers Book

I can’t believe it’s my last semester at SVA, and I haven’t even tried to make a Crazy Papers book!

As for my own work, the urge to paint flowers has not left me, although I am also working on a 25 foot mural (too soon to show).  These paintings are probably not finished, but they’re getting there.  And then I’ll paint some more.  It has been a joy to return to oil paint after a semester drawing and cutting paper.  Not surprisingly, I still have all the same painting faults I used to: not enough value contrast, painting too fast, getting discouraged.  But thanks to Gamblin Galkyd medium, at least I can paint on my flowers every day.

Flowers, left-handed

Flowers, painted left-handed, 12″ x 12″

Flowers, right-handed

Flowers, painted right-handed, 12″ x 12″

I hope the flowers make you feel just a hint of Spring coming.

 

 

Home Front

Our MFA Second-Year group show “Home Front” opened yesterday amid snow flurries.  It will remain up at SVA’s Chelsea Gallery until February 1st, and then we will take it down as frantically (one day) as we were casual about hanging it (five days!).  Many of you are not in New York to visit the show, so here’s a peek.

Julia Buntaine

Julia Buntaine

Donna Cleary

Donna Cleary

 

Elizabeth Cook

Elizabeth Cook

George Davis

George Davis

Nadia Haji Omar

Nadia Haji Omar

Katrin Hjordisardottir

Katrin Hjordisardottir

Rachel Jantzi

Rachel Jantzi

Jee Hee Kang

Jee Hee Kang

Shinyoung Kim

Shinyoung Kim

Yeonji Kim

Yeonji Kim

Andrea McGinty

Andrea McGinty

Jon Sedor

Jon Sedor

Art Vidrine

Art Vidrine

Drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, assemblage, video, photography, performance, and some work that defies description.  Do yourselves (and us) a favor and come visit!  The opening reception is on Thursday, January 23rd from 6 – 8 p.m. at 601 West 26th Street, 15th Floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold, Cold, Brrrrrrrrrrrrr

Yellow Irises with Pink Cloud Claude Monet, 1917

Yellow Irises with Pink Cloud
Claude Monet, 1917

I know we’re all cold, but I’m especially cold because I no longer have my gall bladder to keep me warm.  (See previous post.)  Just kidding.  It was completely useless, and I feel much better without it.  But I AM cold.  Day after day, the cold is insidious.  I have dreams of Florida.  Haven’t I heard that DisneyWorld is a hotbed for contemporary artists?  I visited Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico once, and found that it really was a very vibrant art scene.  Of course I remember that I also thought living there would be like dwelling on the moon.  Deserts, mesas, xeriscaping – it was all completely foreign to my New England soul.

Of course that soul is now shivering and thinking that a desert is a REALLY good place to live.  (I keep wanting to type “dessert”.  Would a dessert be a good place to live?  Maybe a hot one – bananas foster or something else with toasty caramel.)  But I digress.

We begin installation of our big second-year MFA show this coming Friday.  That means that I move almost everything out of my studio and into an enormous gallery.  Into which I hope hundreds of people will pour to look at the interesting art – preferably “discovering” us as artists and giving us a clear path beyond art school.  I know I’m not the only one of my classmates who views graduation with trepidation and uncertainty.

Which is why I feel compelled to paint flowers.  Not the disturbing images I’ve been working on for the last three semesters, but pretty flowers.  Comforting flowers.  Flowers full of color and polka dots and stripes.  Flowers with soul-delighting blue shadows.  The kind of flowers that make one think the world is all right.

Red Flower Elizabeth Cook, 2008

Red Flower
Elizabeth Cook, 2008

Christmas – Do As I Say

There are lots of wonderful ways to spend Christmas, and lots of ordinary ways, and some pretty good ways to ignore it completely.  And yet I have managed to find a fourth way:  It a painful lonely way which I do not recommend.  So,  please, do the best to cope with/enjoy your holiday traditions, or you could end up with one like mine – BAD IDEA.

Not one of my drawings - an actual photo of my pre-Christmas face (destroy immediately).

Not one of my drawings – an actual photo of my pre-Christmas face (destroy immediately).

Important steps to take if you want a Christmas disaster:

First, be sure to cancel your surgeon’s appointment on December 20th.  After all, your Gastrointestinal Doctor assured you that you could easily wait three or even four months before having your gallbladder removed.  No problem if you reschedule for January.  WRONG!

Plan a literally jam-packed ski trip but then make sure that your abdominal pains start precisely when everyone is ready to go and has reached peak excitement.  FEEL YOUR HOLIDAY SLIPPING AWAY.

Spend a full day in the Emergency Room, transfer by ambulance to Yale New Haven Hospital and then barely catch your preferred surgeon so that he can squeeze you in right before he leaves for two weeks in Austria.  Say goodbye to your gallbladder.  Be very grateful that it’s gone.  Be very sad that your ski trip is also gone.  And all of your Christmas plans.  Remember with humiliation, not the excruciating pain, but the embarrassing loss of dignity that goes with hospital stays.  The many times that the curtains open before the robe has closed.  The many strangers who want to poke you under the rib cage (WHERE IT HURTS THE MOST).

Be released in time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas as they drive off to Vermont. Spend several days alone because your suitcase is too heavy to lift and travel is out of the question.  (To say nothing of skiing.)  Do some laundry.  Pay a bill.  Watch too much t.v. Sleep too much.  FORGET that it’s Christmas.  Then REMEMBER that it’s Christmas.

I’m counting my blessings, most of which start, “it could have been worse.”  I had a great doctor, fantastic hospital care, and I’m recovering at the fast end of the predicted 4 day to 4 week time frame.  I would like to feel REALLY sorry that I don’t have delicious cakes, cookies, and pies to go with my oatmeal Christmas dinner, but I’m not allowed to eat any of those things.  YAY!  SAVED FROM MYSELF.

Even for me the Christmas spirit peeks through.  Endless holiday movies on t.v.  Snow still on the ground in Connecticut.  I actually like oatmeal.  And my gall bladder must have weighed 3-4 ounces AT LEAST!  So there’s losing weight, which counts twice as much at Christmas because everyone else will be gaining.  HAH!

Hope your Christmas is Merry and Bright.

Open Studios 2013 version 2.0

 

My Mural: Large Toad

My Mural: Large Toad

Open Studios is an endurance test for the student/artist, and possibly for the attendees as well.  After all, 60 studios, each one deserving of critical attention, full of artists who grow more weary as the three-day marathon continues.

Will I be discovered?  Will anyone?  Will anyone come?  Will they like my work?  Or take my business card?  Or just poke their head in my door, roll their eyes and back out quickly.

My Mural: Snake Breath

My Mural: Snake Breath

My art isn’t for everyone.  No one’s is.  I mean, there are even critics who dismiss the whole Renaissance.  (It’s not my favorite period either, to be honest.)

These days the art world is supposed to be open to all comers.  It’s okay to paint and draw, to sculpt, to make videos or performance pieces, to include the audience in the action or just make them watch.

My Mural: Snake Hat

My Mural: Snake Hat

This morning I was back in my studio, working on my mural (so close to the end, now), when I decided that it was a good time to take photos of some of the work still displayed in the Open Studios aftermath.  The most colorful work photographs best, and I am still a crow, drawn to the bright and shiny.  I couldn’t include everybody here, but these are a few of my favorite Second-Year artists.

Nadia Haji Omar www.nadiahajiomar.com

Nadia Haji Omar
www.nadiahajiomar.com

Rachel K. Jantzi

Rachel K. Jantzi

Yeonji Kim www.yeokim.com

Yeonji Kim
www.yeokim.com

 

George Isaac Davis

George Isaac Davis

Donna Cleary in her studio. www.donnacleary.net

Donna Cleary in her studio.
www.donnacleary.net

 

Julie Bahn www.juliebahn.com

Julie Bahn
www.juliebahn.com

My classmates are amazing.  I wish I could show work from all of them.  But you know how you can see it?  Come to the second year shows at the SVA Gallery in January and in March.  And don’t miss our thesis show in April.  You’ll be amazed.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Believe Them

After migrating this site to a new host because the old one (I won’t name names) couldn’t keep up with WordPress updates, I have one important thing to say: when they tell you that the process will take 24-48 hours, DON’T BELIEVE THEM!  24 – 48 days is more like it!

But happily we are back now and encourage you, if you are not already a subscriber, to please subscribe and enjoy not only today’s usual fare of art plus angst, but future angst as well.

During the period when the blog was out of commission, I saw some great shows, including Rented Island at the Whitney, the Mike Kelley retrospective at MoMA’s P.S.1, and the Magritte show at MoMa.  Plus, through the group critique process I’ve seen a lot of amazing work from my fellow students in my own program, and by T.A.ing for Richard Mehl in the Advertising Department of the undergraduate school, I’ve been bowled over by what freshmen, driven and sleepless but never giving up, can accomplish.

I used to think that looking at too much of other people’s art would unduly influence my own.  I don’t think so anymore.  My giant paper scroll and I are doing fine together (term review in five days and I am NOT panicked.  Repeat: NOT panicked).  I’m pretty sure that the series of self-portraits with snakes and/or toads (not both – that would be gross) is my own idea.

If you’re interested in seeing my art, or that which is being produced by my classmates, please come visit us during our open studios next week, or plan to attend the second-year MFA exhibition that opens January 18th at the SVA gallery on West 26th (reception on January 23rd from 6-8 p.m.)

One of the best ways that artists can make a community is to show their work together and see how ideas are shared or opposed.  And one of the best ways art lovers like you and me can join that community is to see art and talk about it.

Who have you seen recently?

Luckily…

Luckily, in one of those art miracles that you read about, I’ve had a total breakthrough and my art is on a new track that pleases and surprises me.  Ha.  Not.

My art is still a struggle every day.  And I work on it every day.  I go to the studio with my bagel and my iPad and look around to see what fires my imagination.  Is it time to draw the polka-dotted mug (again)?  Should I use the rubber rat?  Is it a charcoal day, or a pastel day, or a Sharpie day?

A Very Timid Beginning

A Very Timid Beginning

I look at the enormous roll of paper that winds around my studio (and miraculously hasn’t fallen down) and I am at least satisfied that I have filled it up to the first corner.  It is harder to put 27 drawings on one piece of paper than to do 27 different drawings.  They have to look right together.  Sometimes I want them to complement each other, and sometimes I want them to fight.  Sometimes I want to make it pretty, but lots of times I’m aiming for “eeew, gross!”.

Real Snakeskin, Fake Me

Real Snakeskin, Fake Me

I realize that I am drawing several narratives, starting at the far left and moving to the right. Besides the polka-dot mug and its various adventures, there are the small blue people who seem to be reacting in horror.  What is their story?  There are the self-portraits with snakes and rats.  Why do I have snakes and rats coming out of my mouth?  If I knew, I wouldn’t have to draw it.  I draw to find out.

There is a fairy tale starting, and I’m not sure where it’s going, but I like fairy tales (old, original fairy tales) because they so often combine the charming with the shocking.

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time

I got the very good news on Halloween that my first choice thesis advisor, Stephen Maine, selected me back in the double-blind, three and a half twist process that the office uses to match us up.  It was while talking to him that I had the idea about the big paper to begin with, although clearly some subconscious giant origami still lingered.

More Pills, Please

Maybe when I’ve drawn all 30 feet of my paper I should fold it into a graceful paper swan. Now THAT would be a thesis project!

 

Horror Vacui

Graduate school rewards exploration.  That is, until it doesn’t.

Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders

Last week I handed in my thesis proposal, and during the process of writing, rewriting, rethinking, rewriting, self-doubt, and more rewriting, I realized that it is called a thesis project because it is meant to be a connected body of work.

What's For Dinner?

What’s For Dinner?

Which rules out the explorations I’ve been making: gouache paintings, suicidal paper dolls, murdered rag dolls, self-portraits, drawings of pill bottles, board games with snakes, and woodcuts.  In the past year I’ve been all over the place, and it’s been fun, in a wholly stressful way, but now I need to focus.

Murder Crib

Murder Crib

Step One: clean my studio.  This was either a desperately needed activity or an excellent form of procrastination.  I gave away rolls and rolls of colored paper (the raw material for future failed giant origami), several excellent pieces of studio furniture, including my favorite pink chair, primed panels, boxes of still-life props, and a gorgeous ten-foot slab of half-inch glass.  The Barbies I kept.

Step Two: hang cream-colored drawing paper, 42″ wide and 30 feet long, around three bare walls of my now empty-ish studio.

Terrifyingly Blank Paper

Terrifyingly Blank Paper

I’m going back to drawing.  Not on pads of paper, but all over my walls.  In public. I’m terrified about the mistakes that I’ll make, but I know it’s time that I face my art, my skill, and my talent and see if it’s enough.

And it just keeps going

And it just keeps going

I have one and a half semesters to go.  In no time, SVA is going to throw me out into a brutal art world (some people call this graduation) and I’d better be ready.  I have to replace my teachers’ evaluations with my own. I have to stand up for my art.

And I have to start now.  It’s that simple, and that difficult.

Making Paintings

Stuart Davis The Mellow Pad

Stuart Davis
The Mellow Pad

I’ve always had trouble making abstract art.  I admire the ability, but it’s difficult for me to overcome the delight I feel when I capture a likeness or represent what I see.  For me, abstraction isn’t easier than representation (the “my kid coulda done that” school of thought), it’s harder.

I love creating the illusion of space and depth on a two-dimensional plane.  Some abstract artists embrace the same challenge, and some work hard to avoid making any allusions to the natural world.

Jackson Pollock Number 8

Jackson Pollock
Number 8

In my second-year seminar class last week we read articles about Alfred Stieglitz, the ground-breaking New York Armory Show of 1913, and several of the artists working then. Not all artists are good writers (of course, not all writers are good painters), but Stuart Davis, a painter from that period explained abstraction in a way that makes the most sense to me.

Stuart Davis Swing Landscape

Stuart Davis
Swing Landscape

In his article, “Autobiography” (included in Diane Kelder’s collection Stuart Davis – Praeger Press, 1971), Davis discussed why he hated when viewers asked what his paintings were “about”.

“There is no simple answer to these pesky questions because in reality they are not questions about art at all.  They are in fact demands that what the artist feels and explicitly expresses in his work be translated into ideas that omit the very quality of emotion that is the sole reason for its being.”

He goes on, “In the first place let me say that the purpose of so-called “abstract” art is basically the same as all other art, and that it always has a subject matter.  In fact the difference between ‘abstract’ and ‘realistic’ art is precisely one of subject matter.  It would be more accurate to say that it is a difference of aspects of the same subject matter. The ‘abstract’ artist lives in the same world as everybody else and the subject matter available to him is the same.”

“…But the development of ‘abstract’ art has not been merely a matter of temperaments.  It is the reflection in art of that attitude of mind manifested in scientific materialism by which the world lives today.  Through science the whole concept of what reality is has been changed….  why should the artist be questioned for finding new realities in his subject matter?”

Stephen Maine HP12 - 0301

Stephen Maine
HP12 – 0301

Or perhaps in Hamlet’s words,

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your Philosophy.”

 

My seminar class is taught by the wonderful abstract painter (and writer) Stephen Maine (www.stephenmaine.com). Here he is in an interview with Gorky’s Granddaughter discussing his paintings and his process.  If I could paint like he does, I might give up reality, too.

http://www.gorkysgranddaughter.com/2013/09/stephen-maine-august-2013.html