Sunday, December 30, 2007

resisting paint

I had a back-and-forth, restless time in becoming a painter. While loving color and pigment, I still resisted its dominance, spending most of my time making fanzines, windows and works with found objects. Looking at gorgeous painting was a double-edged sword, too, because really great painting can humiliate as well as inspire.

Monday, 25 January 1985
I study a lot of painting now and it looks so difficult. Yesterday Luke and I were at the De Young Museum. I spied the Robert Henri. This work, plus a few others, I stared at a long time.
- Then at night I was reading about Moholy-Nagy. Feininger wrote his wife: “All this talk about mechanics, light and motion and throwing the Old Painting away. Poor Klee is worried.” Frustrated Klee might have been, but he probably wasn’t that worried. Klee was such a master. Still, I feel for Moholy’s idea. There’s a part of me that hates the idea of painting, a framed thing on the wall to go oooo and ahhh over.”

It’s odd to read this now, after all these years and all this painting. But maybe that is why I have never framed anything – and still have, to this day, a complex relationship to paint. The past few years I thought it was all about money, but maybe it’s something else.


Anonymous said...

i think that for some the relationship with paint starts long before you actually get to work with it. For me it was almost an unconscious decision...i don't know who would want to get mixed up with it unless perhaps you were brought up well adjusted and you thought, geeze that looks like fun...something i never had to worry about...the well adjusted part, i mean.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous. When I was a kid it seemed like of course I would be a painter because many people around me were ... my mom was (none of them were very well adjusted either...). But getting into dada/punk meant all these other things, other mediums and messages. A great thing about the poster and collage was that I could actually afford it and carry it with me anywhere...
But it got very little respect.

When I started thinking about really taking on painting, I got all romantic about it, which is the best way to be.... in museums, in books, in a world of paint... even though the immense history, which I found so fascinating, scared the shit out of me...
I was afraid paint would swallow me whole - financially and in other ways. That is exactly what happened too. No regrets though.


Duane said...

I think we tend to forget that people go through a series of stages in growing toward a personal understanding of art. My observation is that this applies to the artist in learning how and what to create, and to the viewer in learning how to interpret and judge art without the need for anyone elses expertise.

The term I use is esthetic autonomy and it doesn't happen over night with any particular set of insights, but rather over a long period of time.

In the beginning regardless of whether you are creating or simply viewing art, you start with the subjects and elements that are familiar and appealing to build a foundation. Then as you gain experience and understanding of the world you live in and the context of the life you live in that world, you explore, experiment and push the boundary of your knowledge and understanding.

The artist explores media, content, form, and techique in learning how to create an iconic visual vocabulary in oder to work through issues related to personal identity and expression.

The viewer explores the range of artistic imagery and expression available, hunting for iconic objects that help in defining that same personal identity and that gives a context for life in the world of the viewer's experience.

I find it facinating that the very first two paintings I committed to buying and living with mean more to me now than they did when I bought them. Although they are less sophisticated in content than many works of art I bought later, I understand that these early acquisitions are beautifully crafted and conceived, and they became a foundation for understanding and appreiciating much more challenging work.

All the works I aquired later in my collecting take nothing away from those first two paintings, but rather, have only validated my instinct and taste in what I find meaningful and fulfilling to live with.

I believe it is helpful and important to understand the paralel experience of art for both the artist and the viewer. I understand that the subject comes up in academic circles, but I see no metion of this subject in the popular dialogue about art.

Anonymous said...

Interesting what you said about the first pieces you collected Duane. Recently I was over at a collector's house and they still had the first piece they bought. It was not in the front room, as their taste had evolved along the way, but they still had it and I could tell it had an emotional value to them.


Duane said...

Well E, if a person buys a piece of art for the right reasons, they don't out grow the piece. The first piece is a corner stone in the foundation one builds for understanding and appreciating an ever widening range of visual artistry.

This takes us into the subject of why the this piece of art a person buys is so important. The first piece opens the door to and understanding of how and why art is personally relevant and it set a standard for the quality and content a person searches for. In the context of developing a new collector it's essential that the artist and the dealer to make every effort to find the best possible fit for the buyer.

Back to the original comments, paintings are great place for most people to start collecting because of the almost primal connection people perceive between painting and art. After all, I would say that a majority of the most famous works of art are paintings.

Anonymous said...

Hi Duane,

I still think there is a big difference to collecting and making paintings. What it all is, depends on the person, but I know that for me to start making paintings was like taking on a drug addiction and knowing it would be like that in advance.

Delirious. Dangerous. Toxic (for indeed oil paint is). Beauty. Riches. Poverty. Big space. No space.

I could carry most of my art life around from city to city in portfolios when I worked in paper. Moving back here from NYC, another story!

But you are right about paint. Every single one you choose to keep, this mere surface of pigment, it's like some kind of icon. And when it doesn't feel like that anymore, I ditch it... I've thrown away a lot of paintings....


julie said...

I have always felt i was the creator, and not the receiver or collector of art. I never collected anything, and I feel maybe my ego was partly to blame. I mean, who could make anything that could say the message like I could??? So haughty was I!!
Last summer, I went to an exhibit by Matthew Rose in Vermont. I drove 3 hours in order to meet this person and see his work up close and personal. I purchased my very first work of art at that show. The cost was minimal, but at the time I really was totally broke, and spending money seemed utterly ridiculous. This was a pivotal moment for me tho, because somehow I gained appreciation and respect for others in the experience.
I have to admit I have not purchased artwork since then, but I have began to collect some printed works done by artists.
Fascinating discussion about artist and always eva, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Well, Julie, people "collect" in many different ways. I never thought of myself as any kind of collector, for I do not go to exhibitions (or studios) with an eye to buy. Just making my own work eats up every dime. (That's one of the reasons I started radio, etc. - trying to find a way to contribute, since I did not have the bucks....)

But as an artist finding other artists, work can just come to you. Eventually I had portfolios called "Other Artists" and that was all it contained. Still got 'em....of course they're all works on paper, but I am so glad I have it - for one thing, I've got a nifty record of late 70s/early 80s mail art, posters and fanzines.

If you are busy and working with cheaper materials, it is easy to do. I gave away alot and got it back in spades.

Then of course it all changed with... painting! There were still exchanges, but on a much different level. And I don't know that one kind of art is really better than another, in retrospect, because I have so much more in paper than in paint, a real record of a time, something hard to acquire in paint. That kind of collection does take a commitment - in money and space...

Carolyn said...

I have been thinking of you all night. I have been unpacking boxes, unearthing things for the studio that have been packed up for a year. I came across a tube of Lefranc and Bourgeois Cadmium red oil paint, still in it's original packaging. Speaking of resisting paint, I have been saving this paint until I get "really good" WTF does that mean I ask myself now? Maybe I will be buried with it as the sad part of the story is I bought it a long time ago when I was working in an art supply store and it was quite the splurge...but still.

harold hollingsworth said...

Was that when you were at Dan Smith? I have a few items still from when I worked there too, funny how they now seem like a vintage wine, and I'm afraid to use it, to ruin some imagined moment that I will someday have.
Painting is a odd one on one relationship with an audience, aware of them, but for me, not caring so much what they think, as I just want to see something that I haven't seen before, if there was a substitute, perhaps I would go there, but I really enjoy my alone time with paint, and painting...

Carolyn said...

Hi Harold!
Yep, when you and I were at Dan Smith. And we know that was a bit ago.
Vintage indeed.

Anonymous said...
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Eva said...

Harold, I like what you say about your audience. You just want to see something; if people come along, great. If not, you still paint what you want. I think it's the same for me, though I still love it when my peers - when other artists - like or get what I am doing.

Carolyn, the preciousness of paint (and the cost) is why we hold on to little tubes of it for years... I wonder if that stuff goes bad? I still have some paint that one of my clients from Bergdorf Goodman gave me in... oh... 1988 maybe. I keep it only for sentimental reasons. No, I don't paint with it. Just kept it anyway...

I'll bet it was hard and heavenly working in an art supply store. Like a shooting gallery.

Outside The Lines said...

Eva, Yes, paint does go bad. I have several tubes of gouache and acrylic from the late 70's, and they have hardened and/or turned gummy. I still have not been able to part with them....its weird, I just love them in an odd sort of way. I finally decided to use some of the tubes in a mixed media piece, which was coincidentally about my struggle with painting.

Anonymous said...

Hi Outside the Lines,

I figured paint must, to some degree, go bad, even though it is so archival when applied the right way.... Still, I wonder if a mummified artist was ever found in an Egyptian tomb with his/her art supplies... with the paint intact? Just about everything else those Egyptians buried stayed miraculously preserved...

As to hording art supplies, when I first went to Europe (1975) I bought a set of Caran D'Ache watercolor pencils. They were a big deal back then - many art supply stores stateside did not carry them. I coveted them, still have them today. Makeup is even more of a precious memory lane item - still have the first set of Yardley eyeshadows I received for a 12th birthday in 1968. Beautiful silver and white eyeshadows.