Saturday, March 31, 2007

Bow Down to the Ones You Love

A former and favorite teacher of mine, Michael St. John, has a show at Marvelli this month called Revolution Blues. The work refers to all my favorite things: Philip Guston, revolutionary figures, loss, the Black Panthers. And formally speaking, I’m tickled pink: a 1960s graphic sensibility, text, appetizing surfaces.

What I wonder is, is it enough for work to draw on values and visuals I hold dear? If the photograph of Fassbiner in this painting were of someone I did not admire, would I be so attracted to the work? How much of the appeal is right there in front of me, and how much comes from my head, from what I come to the work with?

I’ve sometimes wondered the same about Martin Scorcese’s use of music in his film. I am always happy to hear a Stax hit or even a loud Rolling Stones tune, but does the soundtrack do more than just make me happy. Does it serve a separate work or does it make the work?

As I don’t think anyone reads this blog, this debate will remain mostly in my head. Of course, if there’s anyone out there…

Friday, March 30, 2007

Lonely Mind

In The Truman Show, the main character liberates himself from the shackles of the mundane by drawing on the power of his independent thinking. It’s such a romantic premise, who couldn’t love it!

As an artist, I wonder about how independent my thinking is all the time. I struggle with an (un-independent) need to feel unique and authentic and recognized as such on one hand; and a desire to meet the potential of art in my own terms on the other.

All the art work I love seems to share a certain will-do-it-despite-it-all spirit. I’m not saying certain risks didn’t fill the artists with ambivalence. But, the work works because it is its own.

But, what are you going to do. Go into the studio and say, “today, I will make something to the beat of my own drum?” Hogwash. It doesn’t work like that.

Update on the definition of emerging status: Now that I will be 35, I think I will simply say that I’m an artist. I’m dropping the emerging, even though my cv classifies me in that category.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Networking is the most uncomfortable necessary evil. You do it because you need to, and the insincerity of your moves is palpable. You end up calling people, asking them for favors, when you know they don’t have the time to help, nor the will. You come off as the typical polite and needy woman, who speaks in a head voice, but who in fact is aggressive and perhaps desperate or nuts.

Oh, if I only never had to make another follow-up call again.

People have made follow up calls to me (not for art, but for translation). On occasion I’ve felt the tickle of power, and have played up the busy, cold, or uninterested. On occasion, I’ve also offered generic advice, without offering more. I understand not wanting to be networked.

What is an artist to do.

And more importantly, how long can I claim to be emerging?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

My Life and Others

In The Lives of Others, the German film about being an artist under the Stasi in East Germany circa 1984, the argument is made, loud and clear, that art is powerful. It is so powerful, in fact, that a repressive bureaucrat, moved by beauty, risks his entire life to protect the couple he is surveying. As an artist, this is my romantic ideal. Somehow, it is this dream – that art can make a difference – that keeps me going.
Towards the end of the film, there’s a scene where an ex-official teases the main character, blaming his lack of productivity on the fact that there’s no longer anything to fight against (the Wall had come down). Despite the risk of message art, art does need to fight against, it needs to challenge definitions, boundaries, and the status-quo. But, how successful is it nowadays?
I’m still not sure if art can make a difference. In the film, writing, journalism, has reverberations. This I can believe. But, how about other forms of art. Really.
Thank god for Jacques Rancière, who I am being introduced to in this month’s ArtForum. He’s just starting to convince me that there is hope.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Be Unfashionable

My preliminary skim of the March issue of ArtForum was unpleasantly interrupted by full-page fashion ads. Seventy-five percent of the magazine are ads for galleries and museums. I’m used to this. These ads are almost the point of getting ArtForum to begin with. The ads are a way to get a feel of what’s happening and to make a list of what I want to see and don’t. Why all of a sudden are there ads for Tse, Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga, and some store that claims to be run like an artwork. I want ‘em out.

I’m going to be a purist here: I don’t want fashion designers near my art. Not in ArtForum, not in The New Yorker Style Issue. I know, I know. Advertising is what’s happening in our culture. And art is all about advertising and money and selling. It’s just a sign of the times that art and advertising mix. And yes, I know, art can even take this head on. But, please. Let’s have some decency here and just draw those lines, define those boundaries. Art for galleries and public performance is different from Art on bodies sold in stores.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Back to Basics

I’m interested in the difference between wanting to be a successful artist, and grasping at that desire.

Wanting to be a successful artist implies believing that art is in fact important. It implies that I am committed to it, through thick and thin, for better or for worse. Grasping at the desire means hunting for recognition, holding on to a definition of myself as an artist for definition sake, becoming enthralled with the idea more than with the work.

I confess, it’s sometimes hard to tell where I stand, what motivates me, what inspires me. Is it great work or the thought of great work? Depending on the day, and depending on how honest I’m feeling, my answer may vary.

Here are five good reasons to be an artist that I can list today:
1. What I make might be revelatory, both for me and any viewers.
2. Art keeps my mind from falling asleep.
3. Art can go down deep, maybe deeper than other forms of communication.
4. Art looks good.
5. It can go beyond the material.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Beat of a Different Drummer

Francis Alÿs’s Green Line performance is poetic politics and political poetry. On top of it, it’s a mesmerizing video experience. Alÿs walked through Israel with a leaking can of green paint, tracing a line across the country. Various dialogue and commentary on the historical significance and on the artistic act is heard as voice over.

The shows that have impressed me the most recently – Alÿs and Gordon Matta-Clark – are about symbolic acts in the public sphere. The emphasis is not on formal qualities – although they are there – but on large-scale undertakings that are essentially metaphorical, and perhaps socially effective. Art is taken out of the market, onto the street, into the moment. The work is unpredictable, and as a result, energetic.

The experience at both shows feels almost like study, although a visceral quality is there. But the digestion of the work is slow.

At this point, I feel like I’m too attached to my ego, to the object as proof of myself, to really pursue this direction. But, in my head, this is the direction I should go. And so should art.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sorry State of Affairs

Alan Riding in the New York Times today echoes my own thoughts on a recent trip to Paris:

"The French art scene has lost its buzz. The culture of the past looks safe, with government-owned museums, opera houses and theaters all well attended. But today’s creators, from visual artists to writers, often seem out of touch with society. In a country gripped by uncertainty about its identity, in a campaign dominated by the word change, they have little to say.

One explanation may be that, like many people in France, artists are obsessed with protecting their privileges, which they consider a birthright. At the same time, the culture ministry, which spends a quarter of its budget on itself, guards its power, viewing greater private-sector involvement as a threat to its independence and an invitation to dumbing down.


Yet when the French lament the morose state of contemporary art here, they instinctively blame the government, as if artists and galleries share no responsibility."

And Jerry in the Village Voice reminds us:

"Despite all appearances to the contrary, only about one-percent-of-one-percent of all artists make money from or are lauded for their work—possibly much less."

Also out this week: The New Yorker's Style issue, which has several articles on the art world. When did art stop being culture?

All this on a day when I received yet another rejection, this time from Aljira, for the Emerge program. This time, I was not even asked for an interview.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Crumbs and Carrots

After receiving this email, I have no choice, do I.

Hi Molly,
I appreciate your interest in Art Omi and wanting to have feedback. It is really such a difficult process of review and each year we receive more and more applications, nearing 1000 this year. Even more, we can only accept about 4-5 from NYC. That said, your application has been favorably reviewed in each of the 3 years. Your piece from last year with the kids playing while the maid is cleaning and this year, the french dialgoue piece were both particulary noted among the board and to be honest you were quite close in making the final list, but regrettably it didn't come to pass. In fact a few of the invited artists have also applied, 2,3, 4 times from NYC. Have you been up to Open Studios? If you are around and have the chance to come up it would be great to meet you in person and we can talk more. Otherwise, I would just encourage you in the direction you have been moving in. It's clear that you are developing some unique and thoughtful ideas into video and don't hesitate to apply again..but always include some new work, as you have, for the selection committee.
Thank you.
All the best,
Art Omi International Artists' Residency

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Never Ending Push

She didn't take me by the hand to meet Chrissie Isles. She didn't exclaim, "I want that now for the show on protest I'm working on." She didn't pick up the phone and call Bill to insist that I be considered for the Biennial.

So, I confess, there's a bit of disappointment.

She did however:
like my work
spend an hour with me
ask me a lot of questions
suggest people I should call
accept that I use her name

So, what's there really to complain about.

I guess the prospect that it will be work, work and nothing but work throughout this whole career.

I'm coming to realize just how much the need for admiration gets mixed up in this whole process for me. There is definitely a vivid fantasy of succeeding, of being publicly respected, of even being envied. And at the same time, there's contempt for fame, a desire to drop out, and a huge discomfort of having something others want.

Keep forgetiing. I love art.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Boycott Art Omi

Can anyone tell me who gets into residency programs? What do you have to do? Be twenty? Be a star? Be a painter?

I have now applied to Art Omi three times, and I get the same rejection letter every year. I feel obsessed with that joint. Why won’t they in particular let me in? Oh, I guess I feel the same way about the AIM program in the Bronx. Why won’t THEY let me in?

Two conclusions:
1. I’m a bad artist
2. I don’t have a residency profile

In any case, tomorrow I have a big studio visit at the Whitney. This indeed feels like the opportunity of an early career. I can’t say that today’s rejection fills me with confidence, though.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

All Hail Matta-Clark

What follows is unadulterated praise, no critique, no analysis:

The current Gordon Matta-Clark retrospective at the Whitney is entirely mind blowing. His architectural manipulations – in public space and in the studio - is socially poignant, poetic, spiritual and funny. And the show installation is fresh, not stodgy. There are free-floating monitors on tables with little stools scattered throughout, there are 16 mm projections, there are sculptures, performance detritus, documents, photographs, and even a blow-up of some writing by the artist with its editing marks.

One of the most moving documents, is a film from Paris, circa 1970. He had received permission to do a cut in a condemned building adjacent to the construction site of what was to become the Centre Georges Pompidou. The film shows the birth of the cone-cut (pieces of wall fall), views from the street, and views from the inside the cone. And all this in Paris thirty years ago! The piece is all the more powerful that it is ephemeral.

What I am inspired by the most, is Matta-Clark’s independence. He really did his own thing. Where did he find that confidence? And what fed his ego to keep going?

Is there any work with this kind of courage being made now?