Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mary Josephson + Heart of the City

Mary Josephson just completed a public art project for the city of Stockton called Heart of the City. I visited her new studio in Linnton which looks out over the industrial Willamette several times over the course of making this huge mural. The mural focuses on life in the big valley and has inlayed glass mosaics as well. She tells us about the whole process of making public works from start to finish in this video.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


The only curators who have seen my targets in the flesh are men, older men and maybe demographics don’t matter - but the one thing they’ve both said is that they might be better if the women were not known - more anonymous.

Famous women have surely already been done by Hamilton, Warhol, Cornell and so on - that territory didn’t look like it was going to dry up anytime soon. Storm Tharp travels that down that road too and we talked a bit about it in his interview. If you’ve got any input on it one way or another, I’d be curious.

“I don’t want to see her,” said one man who obviously hated Liza Minnelli. But must we like her personally? And if we don’t like her, is this a bad thing? I recall that Jackie O was really unpopular for awhile too. All throughout my childhood she graced the covers of the National Enquirer, surely to rot in hell because she remarried a rich, greasy foreigner.

The fact that these women were known and had worked hard at putting themselves in the public’s eye was part of their hold over me. I’m not saying that anonymous women can’t be interesting but their story is then more up to us.

It reminded me of the model’s role: look good and be quiet. Even I was a little put off when I heard Linda Evangelista talk in Unzipped. Great model, maybe the greatest, tarnished in a second. The collage below is actually not quite anonymous for me. She’s made by a good painter, Wayne Thiebaud, crammed into a Judd box.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

back home for keeps

Still slowly working on my Joe is Home Now series. Next year I'm showing photomontages and maybe we'll show some of them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

the self-appointed

About once a year I write a post in defense of the blog. That’s because about ten times a year I am in the crossfire, casual or not, about the worthlessness of blogs. So here goes again. My yearly crap-shoot: I have a friend who refers to a couple of artist-art-bloggers as “The Self-Appointed.” While I may have plenty to say about them as artists or writers, the fact that they have appointed themselves means nada to me.

Could this be generational? He’s not the only friend of my generation who has a problem with blogs and sometimes just with websites, period. But not all of us can wait for someone else to appoint us! Not all of us go through the usual system of grades and graduation, awards, reviews, approvals and promotions successfully.

Also, there’s a few “positions” which do not involve permission and submission. They ask for invention and self application. - Isn’t that what the punks did and all these “DIY” exploits which followed? Appoint themselves? Stop waiting? No one else was going to press our records and open a club for us; at least that’s how it was here in P-Town. We weren’t asking for anything that already existed, we weren’t taking away from someone’s audience. It was a new audience altogether, baking a new pie.

I used to think that the Internet was a new pie too, not cutting in on anyone’s action really. But now so much is up for grabs - the decline of the newspaper is but one example – it’s like this rumble between the traditionally-placed and the self-appointed. I see it in the anger of those who were quite fine, thank you, with the old system. And so they dismiss the threat. Most of us aren’t appointing anything. We’re just not waiting, that’s all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

you're not original

Recently Roberta Smith wrote of two shows she saw back to back. She observed that both the artists owed just a little too much to Gerhard Richter. Two Coats of Paint made note of it here, where some comments insisted that there was plenty of room to work in paintings which look like blurry black and white photography; plenty of originality to go around.

But I was actually a little happy to see her call them on it. Because I think it’s the kind of thing that many artists are called on if somehow the work is not of the moment or of the trend. Or if you need to poke holes because the artist is not in your comfort zone.

I had a recent excursion into “You’re not really original here” land - but guess what was on the walls while the curator is telling me this? Paintings that owed a shitload to Gerhard Richter. In this case they were color and the artist was from behind the Iron Curtain and he even claimed in his glossy catalogue that if indeed there was any artist he could relate to, it was Richter.

Well hell yes. And it was celebrated, a fact to enjoy, not a thing to dismiss into the Land of You’re Not Original.

The curator looked over my Targets and Women photomontages. You could you tell he was interested because the ten minutes he said he would give me turned into almost an hour, but he hemmed and hawed because well, Laurie Simmons (see above) does work like this.

Laurie Simmons? We are both women. And we’ve used images of women in pop culture in our work. Beginning and end of the story. Oh, but he would have to “defend,” he said and “explain” this work. I almost turned to the work on the walls and said “So how to do you defend that?” but I didn’t.

He produced a color postcard from when he showed Laurie Simmons. A color photograph of two ceramic female legs spread, coming out of a ceramic globe. Cool photograph but can you tell me how she has done it all already?

What is weird about this is when I shared the story with another woman who makes photomontages with women, she said that the same thing was said to her! “Your work looks like Laurie Simmons.” She then told me that she didn’t really think about it at the time because, well, she doesn’t think about Simmons one way or another. Actually neither do I.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Audrey Flack

It is time for me to return Art Talk to the library. There are so many interviews that I wished to quote in here or comment upon; Hartigan wasn’t really the best but obviously it was the timeliest…

-Save to observe that out of all the artists interviewed in this book, you might say that Eva Hesse “won.” Some of the artists in the book, we don’t even know who they are anymore (or at least I didn’t). You look at the work and think “why this?” Their work dosen't hold up very well - whereas many, many artists today have Eva Hesse lurking somewhere in their bones if not out front and center.

The interview to really speak to me was Audrey Flack’s – because she touched on a topic we had covered here – that of beauty and aesthetics, of pretty and of ugly.

Flack went way against the tide in painting realist in the 1950s - she was a forerunner of photorealism. That wasn’t easy – her Prof at Yale was Joseph Albers, who wanted her to make some version of “square” paintings. Eventually she refused any critique of her work from him at all and he respected her decision by not requiring her to take his courses.

She was also a rebel because when the Photorealism term was finally coined (as by Ivan Karp), it was associated with a cool, unemotional, technical approach - supposedly “masculine”- and this wasn’t her thing at all. She painted vibrant and intensely crying Madonnas and her mother’s vanity dresser, things which clearly had an intimate, very personal feel and content. Even when she painted cars and motorcycles, she did not paint them with the typical Photorealist detachment, nor wish to.

She was also painting realist works of the Kennedy assassination by 1964, all based on the photograph - way ahead of the curve. But as you can guess by now she is not this big feature in art history.

Previously here and here we talked about still life. It’s on my mind again as soon Katherine Ace will have a show at Froelick and we’re going to talk about it on KBOO. Audrey Flack discusses in Art Talk how her still lifes were seen in the 1960s, how the mere beauty of them could not be accepted. She referred to a big review she received in the Times about Jolie Madame (above):

…. (it) set up the pattern for interpretations. “Audrey Flack’s painting Jolie Madame is a wholly satisfying painting ‘in drag.’ It is gorgeous, decadent, opulent and jeweled. It is vulgar and risky: a gorgeous comment on the artificiality and absurdity of the good life. This painting is one of the most beautiful-ugly paintings I have ever seen." We should reexamine the current attitudes towards the concept of beauty and ugliness. I think we have been brainwashed into believing that beauty is a bad word and ugly is a terrific word. Cool is desirable while feeling and emotion are put down.

Not long ago Jacqueline Ehlis told me how dangerous beauty was, that people were afraid of it. I think there is something to this statement. What is interesting to me is that this interview with Flack took place in the 1970s, referring to the 60s, but is completely related to ones I have with all kinds of artists today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Storm Tharp on KBOO

Tomorrow I am going to begin an era of some hosting on KBOO’s Art Focus and my first guest is Storm Tharp. He currently has a show up at PDX. Art Focus is on Thursdays at 10:30AM.

You can listen online to the archived interview here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Grace Hartigan

Grace Hartigan has passed away – right at a time when I am reading Art Talk: Conversations with 15 Women Artists by Cindy Nemser. She’s in there.

Even in this book, written by a feminist in the 1970s, the first sentence to describe Hartigan is “blond, beautiful and vivacious.” No wonder she spends a considerable amount of energy throughout the entire interview assuring us that being a woman painter in the art world machts nichts to her.

Nonetheless he son bitterly opposed her painting. He went to his father at age twelve and never saw her again (or at least not by the time of the interview). She chose art over everything else - something many women artists were not really doing as they worked to support their genius mates. She had no trust-fund, no room for romantic notions about living as an artist. No wonder she had no mercy and cut no one, herself included, any slack.

CN:…you had a very sensuous stroke…
Hartigan: You’re saying that because I’m a woman.
CN: No, not at all.
Hartigan: I don’t know that there is any more sensuous a touch than Rothko’s for instance.

They bat the ball like that quite a bit. She lived during the Georgia O’Keeffe fallout, when women painters of any lushness at all had sexual predilections attached to their work as a matter of course. But who is really on Hartigan’s mind? Goya, Velasquez. And of course she was a great admirer of Francis Bacon.

She disappearred when the 60s became defined by Pop and she was first female Ab Ex artist to be thoroughly exorcised by John Canaday at the New York Times. But when the chroniclers were coming to her later, ready to write her story and make sure she is a part of history, that she has her retrospectives and all, she said she didn’t want to think of herself in that way. “I just think about the next painting.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

the evil union helped some artists

Reading about the evil of unions and the UAW has me thinking about how my husband, a member of UAW, was the silent partner in so much of what I did. Without him, there would have never been a radio show or podcast which exposed all of those artists and which helped facilitate dreams.

I have never received health insurance for any gallery I have worked in. It was UAW. People in the middle and upper classes, those in the snooty art world, may think that UAW are way beneath them, but without that union, they would not have had those shows. Hell we did not even have a gallery phone or gallery computer for a long time – my husband helped in so many ways. And that computer manifested so many press releases with those artists' names on them - hundreds in this town, a union member helped make that happen.

What I see is that people seem to feel very disconnected to what is happening now to the American worker. They think it has nothing to do with them. But they're wrong. If it wasn't for the union worker getting more wages and benefits, the nonunion people would not get them either. And that goes for all the benefits that white collars enjoy too. They brought up the standard of living for everyone.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Stephen Hayes at Elizabeth Leach

Yesterday I interviewed Stephen Hayes about his latest exhibition at Elizabeth Leach. He has some interesting things to say about landscape and about crossing over into images more reliant on paint as opposed to what he actually sees in nature. He’s also got some input about aesthetics, a definition of beauty and as he says, “moving past what you know to find out what you don’t know.”

Monday, November 10, 2008

Minus Space

Douglas Melini, Endlessly, 2008

I believe it was through the blog of Joanne Mattera that I found out about Minus Space. They have a project space in Brooklyn and a kickass website. And then recently James Kalm posted a great video of a visit to an exhibition Minus Space curated for PS1.

Get to the end of the video where Matthew Deleget (one of the founders) talks about the goals of Minus Space and why there was a need for it. They show and share work from all over the world. Some think of reductive work, minimalist and colorfield work, pattern and abstraction as some kind of one-note wonder which hit its stride in the 60s and had no more to say. The curator insists that new kinds of work are being made now all of the time by all ages in all kinds of mediums and in ways that we haven't seen before. I absolutely agree and am excited about the project.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Laura Ross Paul at Froelick

What an amazing day and night. In the afternoon I interviewed Laura Ross Paul for this video about her new show (which opens tomorrow) at the Froelick Gallery. Called Northwestopia, the show looks at living in this part of the world, using the figure in landscape. Laura has a very interesting process and technique. What I enjoyed most of all was the investigation into color theory towards the end of the video.

And then the night just got better and better. Along with most of this country, I cried and then went out to dance in the streets. Yelling Yes! Yes! Yes! into the air, Edward barked joyously as the cars passing by honked like crazy.

About two weeks ago I had an incredible dream: Obama was somehow related to my husband’s family and we all got together for dinner. His home was very warm, horizontal and inviting and there were members of his family there from the old country. Then suddenly he had won. I was thinking: Gee, we’ll be able to come over for Christmas and was all excited about being at his house for the holidays. When I woke up, I thought oh my God I love this man. He’s got to win. But I could hardly tell a soul of the dream because the past had been so disappointing and this dream was particularly emotional.

My neighbor wanted the other party. Next time I see him, I think I will just smile and give him Reagan’s mantra from 1984: “It’s morning in America.” Because that’s what it feels like to me.

Monday, November 3, 2008

life is life

For about a month I’ve been working on a new painting. I am not sure what to think of it. Perhaps it will not be new enough for me, different enough, but I need to start somewhere after a fairly long hiatus from the last show. It feels good to be down in the basement, even if it is just a basement, on my own with loud music and broad bands of color.

But does the world need them? Fuck no. Paintings are very unnecessary. In this respect I feel oh so differently to the stance I took in the 80s. I thought art was so necessary, that art was life. But now I am more inclined to agree more with Virginia, an artist I knew back then, who recently said here that she used to think that art was life but now she thought that life was life.

And what is funny about this statement is that my life is more about art than it ever was – I make it, show it, write about it, record, video and interview it. Art. I know it best. But the sun no longer rises and sets on it in that idealistic, almost spiritual way it did when I was in my late 20s.

In a way I am bothered by this. Perhaps we expect some kind of spiritual resolution as we age. You want to believe more, not less and when that turns out to not be the case, it’s disappointing. Art was your church. But then your church became a business.

However, when I look at the paintings, especially the new one, I see that the spiritualism is there. No longer words or ideals per se, the painting itself is the artifact of all I read and I thought but no longer really consider on a day to day basis. I just paint it, that’s all. You might say it’s a practice as opposed to a doctrine.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sherrie Wolf at the Art Gym

As part of Homage, a group show of reenactments at the Marylhurst Art Gym, Sherrie Wolf is exhibiting her version of Gustave Courbet’s “The Painter’s Studio.” I saw this ambitious work yesterday and we made a video around it. This artist is known for her interest in art history and for painting still lifes in particular. The reception at the Art Gym is tomorrow. Wolf is also showing at the Laura Russo Gallery this month.