Monday, July 30, 2007

The Validity of the Inner Child




Children are simply not discussed in art circles. Partners, lovers, husbands and wives, yes, but kids, no. It’s just not a hip subject.

I confess that I’ve bought into this prejudice, and tend to keep my family and my art circles separate. So, for me, I’m going out on a limb for this post (or series of posts).

I have a stepdaughter who lives with us during her vacations; in the summer, six weeks. While I find it virtually impossible to work on my own work while she’s here, she and I have undertaken (or plan to undertake) a few art activities that I’m sure some artist could capitalize on if exaggerated.

1. Drawing without looking at your paper; especially portraits.
2. Massive still lifes that combine the usual flowers and vases, but also cell phones and remote controls.
3. Putting Queen Ann’s Lace in a vase of water with food dye.
4. Making “screen prints” from layers of cardboard cut out into body parts and symbols.

I tend not to like craft-based art. But, I’ve noticed that these activities are loosening me up a bit. We’ll see about the impact when I return to the studio.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Road Rage


I have no thoughts about art for this post. Just a report on my break: I read almost an entire review today. Therefore, I have hope that the tank is slowly refueling.

I did have this unrelated thought while driving and seeing the ubiquitous “God Bless America” bumper sticker. Each word in that phrase is basically a concept, and therefore has no concrete meaning. And yet, we know exactly what is meant by it. But, can that dominant meaning be subverted?

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Career of Magical Thinking



Believe it or not, I’m actually being considered for the Whitney Biennial.

It started with a studio visit with a curator at the Whitney who I have known for a while. Although she in not involved in this year’s exhibition, I asked her how I might be considered. She told me about her experience curating it some ten years back, how her office filled with proposals overnight and how the whole exhibition is basically a political mess. Nevertheless, she gave me the name of a consulting curator based outside NY for the 2008 show. Miraculously, he picked up the phone when I found the courage – from god knows where – to call him. He accepted to receive a package.

After a month of light nagging, he wrote an email informing me that he forwarded my work to the other curators (back in NY). Then I worked my way through the labyrinth at the museum and got hold of an assistant. She told me I was on their radar and would be reviewed.

This high lasted a week.

Then I wrote the consulting curator outside of NY to thank him again, and to basically remind him that I exist.

Today, I called the assistant again and asked whether the film and media review had been completed. She just responded, clearly exhausted and overwhelmed, that the process was still in progress, and that I would be contacted if there were questions.

No high today.

Sounds like I’m one of thousands. The chances that I’m put into the film and media program are almost nil. But, I still have a grain of hope.

At this point, I truly feel there’s nothing left to do.

Unless, there is. All suggestions welcome, including mantras, candle-lighting and downright begging.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What I did over summer vacation















That’s it. I’m at the end of my rope.

I cannot absorb not one more review in ArtForum, The New York Times, The New Yorker, TimeOut, The Village Voice, Tema Celeste, Modern Painters, Flash Art, or any other publication.

I cannot prepare not one more application to an open call, to a residency, to a career-enhancement program.

I have no energy left to sit down at my computer to create not one more text-based video, to take out my camera, to pull out my notebook as my thinking pad, to simply lie on my back and let the work come.

I am officially taking a break.

The problem is, I don’t have the faith that breaks are finite. I don’t really believe that “real artists” take them. And, despite Rilke’s moving assertion that ideas must gestate, that the mind must lay fallow, if you will, I don’t trust it.

So, in this break, I’m taking a leap of faith. But, most of the time it just feels plain depressing.

I will continue with blog entries twice a week.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Updated Website













I've updated my website a bit, adding two excerpts from recent work, a new statement and a current cv.

www.MollyStevensVisualArt.com

Feedback appreciated.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Radical Stamina

I may be one of the few emerging artists who likes New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman. His apparent scathing disdain for contemporary art seems conservative to most. But, I usually think he’s accurate.

In his recent review of the Venice Biennale, he had this to say about the new work by YBA artist Tracy Emin, of soiled bed fame.

“…they left an impression that Ms. Emin has her sights on the art market while also suggesting that even the cheekiest British artists are really reactionaries at heart.”

In this same vein, Alex Ross ends his New Yorker portrait of Sibelius this week quoting composer Morton Feldman: “The people who you think are radicals might really be conservatives. The people who you think are conservative might really be radical.”

This reminded me how, often, the subversive spirit is just trend, and therefore pretty empty. Effective counter-culture is often so simple, it could go unnoticed. Flare is foregone for carefully meditated and radical pognancy. Many of Marina Abramovic’s performances are prime examples, in my mind. And this pared down pointed-ness is what I aim for in my own work.

Roberta Smith sums up the idea in her review of Rudolf Stingel at the Whitney:

“Art takes a lot of thought and deliberation, no matter how simple it may seem; and indolence has its rewards. The implication is that artists in particular should do as little as possible. The sign of a successful artwork is its ability to derive the greatest effect from the least means. Another lesson to be extracted from this elegant show is the oxymoronic nature of the notion of ‘empty beauty’ that has been bruited about extensively in the last decade. This show suggests that if art is empty, it is not beautiful and vice versa. If something is beautiful in any sustained way, it contains, at the least, an idea about beauty and usually much more. It is the result of something being worked on and worked out. Beauty is the state of operating at stunning efficiency, a triumph that can’t be empty.”

Monday, July 9, 2007

Art for Art's Sake


















Anyone who is developing a form of self-expression (and anyone who reads this blog), is probably familiar with the fact that the art path is a winding one. There’s rejection, disappointment, self-doubt, but also discovery, growth and sometimes deep satisfaction.

Recently, my road has been a bit more rocky than smooth, which has prompted some of those dearest to me to encourage me to focus more on the pleasure of making than the pressure of exhibiting.

I’m not sure this is possible for me.

Because part of me is convinced that art (in any of its forms) is a public act. Art will atrophy if it is not seen, heard or read by an audience. Art is about contributing to and extracting meaning from how we live as a society and as individuals. But in order for art to do what it can do, it has to exist out there.

But maybe it is possible.

Because another part of me is suspicious that I make because I crave to be recognized, seen, heard. Perhaps I am motivated by a desire to fill a psychological deficiency. Perhaps if I just finally accept that the Mother will never say “Beautiful Job!” I’ll be set free and be a better artist.

Anyone getting the impression that I’m starting to repeat myself in these posts? Next time, I'm changing the subject.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Sophisticated Sunday Painter


There are a few channels in the New York art world that support emerging artists, offering us group exhibitions, solo shows, career advice, residencies and sometimes moolah. Candidates are usually considered through open calls. I have been applying to these things for a few years now. I had one success, a show at Living Arts of Tulsa, which was a great experience. This is positive, I realize, but, I’m overwhelmed by the mass amount of rejections. Seems like I never get anything.

And it seems like some of my colleagues always do.

My concern today is: Am I na├»ve to think that an artist doesn’t necessarily have to go through these channels to become recognized? I’d like to think that cutting corners is possible. This is how I’ve mostly functioned anyway through life. (For example, I didn’t study art at all in college, but ended up getting my masters). But, is this just wishful thinking at this point?

And more importantly, when am I just a dilettante? Or worse, simply someone who hasn’t yet understood this isn’t going anywhere?

Monday, July 2, 2007

Seriously Funny




Ever notice how really good serious art has humor? Gordon Matta-Clark is a prime example. You’ll be watching a video of him cutting through the layers of a building, thinking about all the implications of doing so, admiring the formal quality of it. Then all of a sudden, you’ll find yourself laughing; not only because of the oddity, but because of the attempt (and success) of going beyond what is deemed possible; or because the act or image is so simple, it’s obvious and true.

I’m not sure if an artist can go into a piece with the intention of making it funny. I think humor might be a result, not a motive. But, I’d love examples in which it isn’t.

Now, with good comedians, it’s the opposite. They go in with the intention of humor, and what emerges, when it’s really good, is gloomy truth. Richard Pryor.

Now, of course, I'm not talking irony. Irony is anti-art, in my mind. And, while irony in general seems to be waning on the cultural level, it’s still out there, and as dangerous as ever. In this category, I lump: “boy art” (white guys who literally recreate messy rooms in galleries because they can. I ask, who’s gonna clean that shit up?); most burlesque (women acting out sexual fantasies); and political sarcasm.