Sunday, October 28, 2007

looking for targets

Lately I’ve been thinking about the target, and collecting them. My love for them was once large, when I started with small ones in collage and went into big ones, which were colored not all that differently from how I paint today. I don’t even have photographs of the big ones, which all belong to someone else now, and wish I did. Perhaps I am just not done with them.

Sure, you can talk about Jasper Johns; Vale of Research used to say the same name to me in the 80s, taunting me. But I’m not worried. We get to have our obsessions. I mean does Malevich and Albers own the square? Certainly not. Plus just recently I saw the work of Julian Dashper online (see above). The critic said something like he’s “…driven the final stake into the corpse of painting…” Argh. Must we?

I have fond memories of going into the San Francisco Gun Exchange, being the only female in the store. The fellows would trip over themselves helping me and never charge me for any of the targets I took away.

A far cry from today! I went into several stores, finding not only lackluster targets but lackluster service. Gee, what a difference 25 years makes! The guys were like yeah, well, we only have a few and they’re over there. Help yerself....

It’s odd how the small the choice was – there used to be such an array. After all, this is gun country. You might not know it from hip PDX, but this state has plenty of people polishing their ammo out there. The trip out to G.I. Joe's was especially enlightening. I ended up out in strip mall hell.

For me, it did not always have to be a circle. It’s the shape within a shape within a shape. Perhaps the fascination started at the Ashland Rifle Range, up beyond Lithia Park. Ross Sutherland and I would go up there and nick the already fired through targets and many were of the human form.

Friday, October 26, 2007

size matters

If you were see these, would you rather have them small and all in the original, or big and blown up?

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Since I started Lulu with you, it seems only right to wrap it up here too. Well, that narrator (named Mia) who was the frustrated artist, she hangs up that hat - she quits art. Like I said here before, she suspects that she has no Talent.

So she decides to write the book and it’s all such an easy transition.

Hanging up your hat – the “disappearance” – we’ve been sorting that out here, we can believe it. There’s so much keeping us from making art, let alone the Art Career.

The biggest veracity comes in the one or two moments when Mia feels complete envy - bordering on sorrow, to see her new friend Lulu gain a flush of emerging-artist-fame. Lulu was a Wall Streeter who takes a brush to canvas and well, the rest is history. She’s So Talented.

That’s around the time the narrator suspects that she is not.

But this is also where the book is, au contraire to what Gagosian says, absolutely nothing like the real art world. For is Talent all it takes to make it as an artist in New York? I am not sure it is even the main ingredient.

I wanted to shake this Mia and say to her Good God, woman, wake up and kick some ass. Who cares about your lack of talent? It’s about hard work, work and then more work. I can’t think of many artists, 25 years into their career, who wake up with the tools in their hands, all “inspired” and oozing with “Talent.” No, I think a lot of it is more like ok…to the studio… after my 6th cup of coffee….

(PS... oh but the story ends on a happy note because she gets the guy in the end...)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

a re-emergence

We were talking of how an artist, once fairly well known in their community, could fall off the planet. But I think it is possible to disappear and "re-emerge" - time and time again in fact. I Know I've done it and I am not the only one.

There was one man in particular who had disappeared and it shocked me. He was so forceful, had so much presence and personal power. I had even met people in SF, who when I talked about him, would say: "You are not the first person to talk to me about him. That guy changes lives."

He was an art dealer and he inspired in many ways. But he was also, I found out, an aspiring artist. Once we got close, his ideas were all he talked about.

But it was all talk and so often I wanted to say to him - "Well just fucking do it!" and this was way before the Nike ads.

My mom had told me that you shouldn't talk about your art ideas, that it drains them and then, they might not happen. I think she's right about that...

He had one idea in particular which he described in great detail; I loved it, but also felt it must take pretty good skills, and I had never really seen him make anything.

So anyway, I used to joke with my girlfriend about it. Like his famous stretcher bars he would rattle on about - how they had to be just so - finding the right studio - he had a million reasons to NOT paint! - I always thought that if I ever ran into him, maybe I would finally have the nerve (or just brazen sense of humor) to rib him about it. "Hey, did you ever find the stretchers that you needed?"

Well, when I got into Google, I tried to find him. And what was odd was how much, how completely, he had fallen off the face of the earth. This man who had once been the talk of the town - for his vision, his opinions and his ability to make things happen. And for also, no doubt, his volatile relationships. Gone. All I could find was one exhibition history of an artist who had him on there as a curator of some show in the 80s. It just blew my mind.

And it saddened me a little too, because he had so much fire.

Well, guess what? I finally found him. He just showed in a San Francisco group show - a painting of this idea he had rehashed so many times! ...So he finally made (and shown) one after all.


In a search for some particular letters, I found a few from a male artist, a painter, I knew in SF in the 80s.

His work was almost like cartoons... black lines, bright, flat colors, figurative, strange poses... but he probably had more in common with Max Beckmann (certainly not a bad thing).

Anyway, in one of the letters, he says "It's interesting that we are more in communication now that you are in New York than when you lived here. I wonder why that is..?"

I wonder if I ever told him why. Doubtful.

When we first met, he wanted to draw me. From the start, he wanted me naked, but I did not do that. But I liked being over at his house because he was a real character and a painter and because he had a great art book library. We had some marvelous conversations about art.

He had mentioned that he was house-sitting a gorgeous flat off Grant Avenue - North Beach. North Beach was always my favorite area and I visited several times a week the entire time I lived in that town. So of course I visited him.

He'd been drinking (nothing strange about that per se) and eventually lunged at me, with big, open mouth - really aggressively. I hate those kind of kisses anyway, which assume you are something to be sucked up and violently swallowed, but I really hate them as any kind of initial introduction. And I had never shown any of that kind of interest to this crusty old pirate of an artist.

Then he calls the next day and says: "Uh, what happened last night?" He doesn't remember. I would call that very convenient - mouth wide open with the eyes wide shut!

He then goes on to say I am making a big deal over nothing, to which I said: "Maybe I can talk to your wife about that. I wonder what kind of deal she thinks it is?" That shut him up.

So, yeah, maybe the distance of 3000 miles would let us really talk about art and art making, instead of being pounced on. I could never be alone with him after that, whether he didn't "remember" it or not.

I googled him - to no avail. It's amazing how many people, really creative people, disappearred.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Both Lulu Meets God and Spending have a first person narration provided by a woman artist. Both of these artists are figurative painters and maybe even a little defensive about it. Characters abound (in especially Lulu) who are snobs about installation or performance or conceptual work and turn their noses up at painting. Especially figurative painting.

I can't help but notice, though, that figurative painting is very successful in these stories, sort of a "gotcha" moment...

And the road to masterpieces is slowly, finely detailed - the moments of observation, the translation, the pensive brush to the canvas, the method of a recording not photographic.

I did not think about it one way or another when I read Spending – Mary Gordon did a spectacular job of plugging into the artist’s mindset, especially the act of observation and drawing. But after reading another novel in which the artist draws representationally, I am wondering if indeed the road to abstraction (or collage, performance, video, installation, maybe anything else) is a difficult for the non-artist to bridge, to write about.

Any of these practices can be every bit the intense spiritual journey that figurative painting can be.

….I thought I was going to write about everyday ongoing struggles of feeling dissed, the gallery system, ceaseless distracting love affairs, yadda yadda yadda….

That's all there, but I also ended up writing a lot about art, about big shows and small, private works, and more than anything, the spiritual embrace necessary for at least this protagonist to cross over into a body of work which will matter.

I wonder if it is easier for the regular reader (whoever that is) to read about figurative art, to “get it” - ? Is it too big a leap to carry them to other mediums, other styles, and still maintain the vision? The translation is just easier. Perhaps the tone is too serious here, but writing a cynical work which makes fun of everything or is just lightly bitchy is not interesting to me. They are boring to read too.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

more on the Blogger Show

How marvelous that the Blogger Show is picking up steam.

Edward Winckleman posted a thoughtful bit about artists who write. And then the New York Times mentioned the hosting gallery, Digging Pitt, in their travel section. Hurrah!

The photomontage above is what I sent to Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

again, the spectator

During the summer I researched novels on the art world, especially the genre of chick lit, which I then recounted here. But one book must be fairly popular, as it was not available (at the library) until just a couple of days ago. It fact it is so popular that the film rights have been sold.

I haven't finished Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him, but from the start I was impatient, bored and disappointed. The reviews have said that this is a great story for those who want to know about the art world, but it is mostly made of snippets barely held together by hollow characters - explanations of auctions, primary and secondary art markets....zzzzzzz.

What was missing? The passion.

The narrator is a gallerina, whose main virture is that she actually smiles (and most gallerinas don't, you see).

Oh, and she's a struggling, very private artist - even her boss doesn't know she's one and she's worked there five years. She suspects she has no talent.

Well, I know what it's like to not tell everyone, especially those in your day job. So many questions, suggestions, judgments, dreams explored and then dashed. But those dreams are still inside.

I am sadly not curious as to what happens to this girl, who is in awe over some male artist (again) - she turns him into the interesting part of the story. He enters the gallery and the story, makes the sweeping statements, which she narrates from the sidelines with her sweet, persistent smile.

It's painted as a virtue, to hide yourself and be all humble, but I can say with absolute confidence that it is not all that interesting letting someone else always walk the walk.

Yet the quotes on the book jacket confirm its authenticity. Richard Prince says he wishes he wrote it. Larry Gagosian says the story is very accurate, the art world is just like that. Whose art world?

But even if it was, even if I was the cog in the art world machine, the interior world is still reeling.

The story of a tremendously successful woman artist I may or may not be able to tell. I am not Cindy - I don't know that life. But to express a love of art and a life lived for it - is far more accurate that a perspective of the constant spectator. Move over! That's what she should be saying. Move all the way over.

The tenor of the novel only changes when the narrator tells us about a painting. She walks us through it and through this story, she finally gains some humanity. The novelist is indeed a collector – so she must love art (although sometimes, you gotta wonder). That’s what needs to come through.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Charles Schultz

I can't believe what a ruckus there has been over the recent biography on Charles Schultz. People seem to be shocked that he is written as depressed, highly sensitive and often full of melancholy.

I can't imagine him any other way, whatever smiles he gave for the camera. How could anyone so consistently provide such a human picture of a vulnerable kid, someone so affected by everyone and thing around him? You could dream that up once or twice, but to pursue it so successfully for three decades, and build an empire around it, is something else.

He wrote and drew about a deep internal sadness. How could he not live it.....?

The NY Times has an op-ed on how we might like our artists to be suffering, like no one could make stuff like that and be normal. I don't know - I do see "normal" people make art all the time. I mean people who are not maniacs, depressed, crazy or on the verge of suicide.

BUT... I see as many who are! And often the better their art, the more highly singular it is, the more singular the individual.

The work is coming from this unknown place. This place no one goes to but the artist.
So, you go to that place to make your work. Like a tunnel. Or maybe indeed it is a bright heaven, who knows. But you go alone and then you come back here, and you're supposed to fit right in. Be all socialized and good to go. But it doesn't work out quite that way. Making great work is not necessarily the same as living "the good life," no matter what success.

Turns out Charles Schultz was just like Charlie Brown, in love with a red-headed girl who rejected him. I am not surprised.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Judd Montage, etc.

While making photomontages, I've still concentrated on showing paintings. Maybe next year I can shift it a bit, and show these Judd Montages.

Speaking of collage, there is a reception for James Archer at the First Unitarian Church downtown today, 2-4pm. It's called Collage. I have known Archer as a curator; he's turned me on to a lot of artists.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

for the Blogger Show

For the month of November I have art scattered to the winds, to the four corners of this country. Well – just about: Southern California with Jeffrey Crussell, Pittsburgh and NYC with Digging Pitt’s Blogger Show. But having never been to any of the actual spaces, I don’t have a visual image or emotional take on what it all means. Just know that I had to paint overtime to make it happen, so that there was still plenty left for a show at Augen in December.

Over the past two months, I made five pieces taking off from 60s/80s and Orchid. Three went to California and the above diptych is going to New York. On the wall there you see a sphere by Matthew Haggett.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Herbert Bayer (and an old collage technique)

Scraptorium wrote about hauling in a new, abundant (and cheap!) stash of magazines – I know the feeling, one of the best feelings for a collage artist. The future all lies out ahead. One of the most luxurious times is just reading all the stuff before you cut it up. I am not sure if other collage artists do this, but for me it is essential.

Scraptorium’s stash held Fortune – one of the best designed magazines of the 40s and 50s. I especially loved all the sleeves designed by Herbert Bayer.

I met Herbert Bayer once, at a show he had in SF in the 80s. He had been a student at the Bauhaus, under Kandinsky, Gropius and Moholy-Nagy. His name might not be all that famous, but when you see his work, you know you’ve seen it before. Some say that outside of a few outstanding montages, he was merely a proponent of “Good Design.” This, however, is no small achievement.

The Lonely Metropolitan (above) is one of my favorite photomontages. I wrote a poem based on the collage and when I used to read it at readings, I would pass the image around.

Anyway, the course of notes at Scrapatorium refer to coating collages with something as a means of archiving them. This reminded me of something I used to do, although a little different, and I wonder of anyone is doing this now:

In high school, the first photomontages I ever made, we laminated them with a laminating machine... sort of like ironing on a shiny coat….

Then... I put those collages under water, soaked them and the lamination separated from the paper with the images on it! So I had see-through photomontages which I then adhered to a window - like stained-glass but with photographic images instead. I recall very well one that had early pictures of Lucille Ball with flaming red hair. I also recall that this technique only worked with fairly sturdy paper, nothing too vulnerable.

Eventually I removed these collages from the high school art room windows and glued them on my index card boxes for my debate class, which was not a great use of them, but my card boxes looked like no one else’s.

Has anyone done this lately? Or seen it done? The only time I ever did that was back then, early 70s.