Not All Art Lives in New York City

Jasper Johns Flag on Orange, 1998

Jasper Johns with John Lund
Flag on Orange, 1998

We are city-centric in New York.  We think all the best restaurants are here, all the best museums, all the best art, etc.  This must irritate people from other places – of whom I am about to be one.

So as I prepare to move back to Connecticut, where I can go to my day job in person instead of by Skype, and where I will have loads of room for a studio, I decided to see what kind of art I can find outside of the city.

First stop (so far): the Katonah Museum of Art, in northern Westchester County.  I went to see their Jasper Johns/John Lund show of Johns’ intaglio prints.  Intaglio, as I learned, is an umbrella category that includes any printmaking technique based on incising the image into a plate.  Etching, aquatint, and drypoint are forms of intaglio.  (My own printmaking experience ends with silkscreen and woodcuts.)

Jasper Johns/John Lund Untitled, 1998

Jasper Johns/John Lund
Untitled, 1998

I liked the images, but the highlight of the exhibition for me was actually the video of John Lund discussing his lifelong collaboration with Johns.  Lund is the master printer who produced Johns’ wide variety of prints.  It was good to see the printmaker getting some credit for the art he made possible.

In another gallery, to my surprise, was an exhibition of Rosemary Wells’ art from the covers of her books.  I am a longtime Rosemary Wells fan and was delighted by this serendipitous discovery.  Wells’ books, ostensibly for children, are slyly witty, with perfect illustrations of animals with human expressions.  I still enjoy them and highly recommend them, especially Max’s Chocolate Chicken and the series of stories about MacDuff, the dog.

Rosemary Wells cover art from Yoko Learns to Read

Rosemary Wells
cover art from  Yoko Learns to Read

The Katonah Museum was also hosting a print sale.  I saw a Wolf Kahn (that I couldn’t afford), two by James Siena, and plenty by lesser-known artists, starting at $100.

Prints by various artists, including James Siena, top center and top right.

Prints by various artists, including James Siena, top center and top right.

So I learned a lesson in bucolic Katonah as I wandered through the pristine museum. Not all art lives in New York City.

 

Color Makes My Heart Sing

When I was at Lyme Academy, studying for my BFA, my wonderful teacher Susan Stephenson asked my class which colors didn’t go together.  I thought (briefly) and answered: pea green and orange.  Buzz.  Wrong answer.  Correct answer: ALL colors go together.  Damn, I thought, I should have seen that one coming.  It was an important lesson to me, and eye-opening, and plenty of times since then I have happily placed pea green and orange together and been quite pleased with the result.

Susan Stephenson, 2014

Susan Stephenson, 2014

Susan has a show coming up.  See it if you can! – details at http://online.inkct.com/ink_issues/may2014issue/html5/index.html?page=1&server=#

I recently asked a friend what was his favorite color.  He thought for a brief minute and said, “I don’t understand the question.”

“You know, ” I said, “the color that makes your heart sing.  The color that makes you smile and feel warm.  The color that makes you happy.”  He still didn’t get it.

“I don’t have a favorite number, either,” he said, as if the two equated.

Wolf Kahn Barn Atop a Ridge, 1987

Wolf Kahn
Barn Atop a Ridge, 1987

It’s hard for me to understand people who don’t understand the potent emotional content of colors.  Physiologically, our eyes crave color.  My brilliant classmate Julia Buntaine recently painted her whole studio red.  Every single thing in it, including the ceiling and the lights.  Then she put red objects in there.  It was amazing to see the objects turn green in my vision, because my eyes so needed the complement of red.

Wolf Kahn Distant Shower, 2002

Wolf Kahn
Distant Shower, 2002

I’ve been winding down my final semester at SVA for a week or more, and now I’m completely finished except for graduation and cleaning out my studio. In order to counteract the stress, I had been sneaking out to see movie matinees to avoid thinking about art non-stop.  I can highly recommend Fading Gigolo, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Draft Day, and Transcendence.

But now that I’m free, I’m free to go back to looking at art.  And since today is a beautiful day in the neighborhood, I took off this morning for the Chelsea art district specifically to see the Wolf Kahn retrospective at Ameringer|McEnery|Yohe (www.amy-nyc.com).  It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote about Kahn’s new work, but this was a great opportunity to see some of his older paintings.  Talk about color!  Eye candy (in the best way), artgasm (always good), and a big grin on my face as I wandered around the gallery.  Also there was a puppy, which didn’t hurt.

Wolf Kahn Trees Turning Yellow, 2011

Wolf Kahn
Trees Turning Yellow, 2011

There are some fabulous books of Wolf Kahn’s work in case you can’t make it to his show, and I recommend buying all you can afford and leaving them open in your home or studio so you can surprise yourself with a smile.  I only wish I could show you more here. Check out the gallery website for a wonderful display.

Stephen Maine – Halftone Paintings at 490 Atlantic

The misshapen dots are mesmerizing.  They create vibrating space, and optical illusions.

The colors are carefully chosen – off-kilter complements or dark pairings.  There is one large painting in which, if you stand close enough, you can see the purple that hides between the orange and green.  It is a sublime combination.

And Stephen, long a painter, has begun making wonderful books full of mono prints and drawings and colors and tape, carefully hand-sewn together.  At his opening on Saturday (crowded and successful) the changing group of viewers around the very large book that he showed was hypnotized as the pages turned, back and forth, revealing paintings and lines, and collages from which we could not turn away.

These are highly considered artworks which give you more the more you stand and look at them.  So go stand and look at them!

The show is up until May 10th at 490 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.  It’s just a couple of blocks west of the Barclay Center and every subway in the city will take you there.

http://www.stephenmaine.com

http://www.490atlantic.com 

Congratulations Stephen.

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.

 

Art Beats Winter

I long ago conceded that in order to survive this winter I was going to have to wear a coat (black, of course) that made me look like I was walking around in a sleeping bag.  Kind of like a Goth Michelin Man.  AND a scarf pulled up over my nose and ears.  AND earmuffs inside my hood.  It isn’t pretty, but I’m certainly not alone.

I recently conceded that winter is never going to end in New York, and I have started going back outside, by which I mean heading further afield than my studio building, which is only half a block from my apartment.

Even though I know that going to the Chelsea galleries is a walk that gets colder and colder as one makes it (Hudson River approaching!  Blowing wind is torture!) I was out on Thursday night for an important gallery opening: David Row’s There and Back at Loretta Howard at 525 West 26th Street (http://www.lorettahoward.com).

David (http://www.davidrow.com) is an amazing painter and a faculty member at SVA, and I took his workshop my first semester in the MFA program.  We discussed art criticism, took a field trip to look at galleries, and David visited our studios and gave us lots of important feedback.  He was certainly one of the first to tell me to change everything I was doing, and although that sounds harsh, it was critical for me to hear at the time.

His new show of shaped canvases is stunning.  In the best possible way, they are paintings about painting.  The surfaces are mesmerizing – scraped, overlaid, pieced together – the colors are intoxicating, and while clearly abstract, they have a richness and depth that draws in the viewer.

I also saw some exemplary student work this week, namely self-portraits from freshmen in Brooke Larsen’s drawing class.  Using the technique pioneered by Chuck Close (large portraits gridded and filled in with multiple colors), I found two especially compelling.

Kathryn Thiele

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kathryn Thiele detail

Kathryn Thiele detail

 

Naomi Hia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kathryn Thiele’s is made entirely of tiny strips of colored paper, and Naomi Hia’s consists only of the repeated use of her first name.  And these are freshmen!

Stay warm during our endless ice age.  Go see the David Row show if you can.  And make art!

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.