Monday, March 29, 2010

You already do look the part

(Mondrian in his Paris atelier, 1933)

Is anyone getting sick of posts about me trying not to care what other people think? I am. I’m sick of how art is on my mind.

Like on Friday, my dear friend got photographed in her studio for an article. My first reaction upon seeing the portrait was, “But if the people down at Canada (the gallery) see this, they're going to think you're a dilettante.” She politely told me to screw off. It’s true, why should she try to be anyone else.

I still think that if anyone is going to take me for a real artist, I’d better dress the part: stained clothes, long bangs, long frown. And don’t forget the mess in the studio, the tortured mess. Like Francis Bacon. What a stereotype.

As this same friend reminded me, what about Mondrian’s studio or the portrait of Barnett Newman in wearing a polka dot tie.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why so scared, white girl?

This is a model of Jean Nouvel’s design for the National Museum of Qatar. Its forms – inspired by sand roses - and colors integrate into the desert and reflect its lightness and shifting. In Nocolai Ouroussoff’s review in the Times Monday, he notes that the design aims to bring attention to the “fading world of the Bedouins from which modern Qatar sprang, while also embracing the realities of a rapidly urbanizing society.”

The design seems truly beautiful to me, but what interests me too is how a European architect has addressed and drawn on a culture that is not his own. I was in college at the height of political correctness and it is still ingrained in my head that one is not supposed to take in another culture and develop it in one’s own way. That would be disrespectful and worse, colonizing. I know we had post-modernism, but I seemed to have missed that.

Of course you have to know what you’re borrowing. That’s a given. But it still feels scary to me. Literally. Am I being exploitative? These days the designs of traditional African fabrics are making their way into my drawings. And I’m going with it. But am I allowed?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Meditation, anyone?

(Chris Martin, Ain't It Funky, 2003-2010, humongous)

My most recent drawings look like patterns and backgrounds to me. I’m concerned because I’m coming awfully close to making décor. What is the difference between décor and art exactly? I’ve always considered the latter to have more personality, to have depth, even if the person making it is the only person to see it. After all, it’s art if you say it is, although no one else may agree.

Meaning and intention used to be a top priority for me. It was to the point that I’d decide on the meaning before even starting the execution. This made me feel ready for any oncoming attack. It felt safer. But, we don’t control or own the meaning of our work. Besides, is there really a point in making something if you already know exactly what’s going to come out? I'd even say the work suffers when it goes according to plan.

These days I don’t know what I’m doing at all. It’s the extreme opposite. And it’s scary and I pretty much hate it. I hear the attacks, and the piece isn’t even complete.

I recommend seeing the Chris Martin and Joe Bradley show at Mitchell, Innes and Nash, up through the end of the month. Here’s an excerpt from their press release, in the form of a conversation:
It’s like being inside and outside at the same time. On the one hand you are in a trance, on the other hand you are watching yourself paint. And I think the key is that when you are watching yourself paint you don’t judge, you just watch. The less I judge the more I can actually create and see what I’m doing.

You think Martin knew in 2003 what this baby was going to look like?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Some thoughts about Facebook

(Brenda Goodman, Burial, Oil on Wood, 52" x 56", 2010)

Since I can remember, I’ve had it in my head that it’s embarrassing to want recognition. This is how the voice goes: it’s virtuous not to want it; it’s below what a real artist does, which is work endlessly towards expressing a true self, a true self that furthermore must be genius. Also it’s insecure to want recognition. If one were a real artist on a real quest, why would it matter what anyone else thought?

That voice is complete baloney. Of course we want recognition. It keeps us going. It makes us feel like we exist. If you say you don’t need it, you’re either running away from risk or you’re a megalomaniac.

Now that I’m coming to accept it, what I’m learning is that recognition can come from all kinds of sources. Of late, the most unlikely source is turning out to be Facebook. I’ve been giving that networking culture a whirl, and it may or may not be substantial. While the thrill of being “friends” with Zach Feurer or Kara Walker fades quickly – it can even be a turnoff - it definitely feels motivating when someone you don’t know compliments you on a jpeg. Could it ever be a replacement for the traditional gallery route?

It is also through FB that I’m also finding artists I didn’t know about, and that are appealing – on screen at least. Brenda Goodman is one.

Finding like-minded artists is de-isolating, and may or may not be good for my own drawing. I go back and forth on whether community is reinforcing or just something that makes you conventional. I bet it’s something between the two. But this is the stuff of another post entirely.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Inspiration Sminsperation

(One of Ross Bleckner's studios)

I do know one artist who’s also a DJ, has no permanent address, makes no plans ever and makes art in spurts. And he's incredibly moody. As such, he does match one of the artist stereotypes we have in our head: we can call it the Caravaggio stereotype. But, he’s really an exception, not the rule.

Most artists, I’d say, are extremely routinized, predictable folks. In Joe Fig’s entirely pleasurable collection of interviews, Inside the Painter’s Studio, you find out, for example, that Dana Schutz’s schedule is entirely normal, except for the time slot. She wakes up between 10 and 11:30 am, goes to the studio, and leaves between 2 and 4 in the morning.

Ross Bleckner wakes up at 6:30 am, reads, meditates, gets to the studio by 8am, works until 5, and then works out. And he has the same tuna sandwich at the same time for lunch. All this happens seven days a week. He says, “I am the happiest and most psychologically balanced when my days follow the exact same pattern day after day after day.”

I think we need the structure to hold looseness, to make it possible. Inspiration isn't really part of the equation at all, despite the myth. Someone I know called last week and asked if he was interrupting my inspiration. No, I was just working.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Breaking away from the mall

(Robert Adams, West Edge of Denver, Colorado, circa 1980)

This happens to me every now and then: I need out of the art world. I’ve burned out.

I didn’t go to a single art fair this weekend, which is at once a relief and guilt-making; the latter because, the voice goes, if I were really serious, I’d show my face (to whom, I’m not quite sure).

Relief because I don’t like malls under any circumstance. Relief because in order to continue making work you have to somehow believe that you’re not predictable; that there aren’t seven hundred other people who are approaching it like you are; that “they’ll” actually be able to distinguish you.

At this point I usually stop drawing for a bit, until the itch comes back. And it does. Also, I drain out the ambition, which is better for the drawing anyway.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The WB

(Roland Flexner, SN2, 2006)

The Whitney Biennial is already a week old, so it’s really too late for me to chime in with my opinion. If I were really on it, I’d tell you about the Armory, which hasn’t even opened yet.

What’s more, strong, satisfying words on the WhiBi have already been put out by Christian Viveros-Fauné in the Voice and also Peter Shjleldaldalj (couldn't find the link) in the New Yorker. I can’t say it better than they do, really, but to sum it up: most of the art in the show is either gutless or brainy. If the curators are indeed drawing a parallel to Obama’s first year, as they propose, well… (although I personally like brainy in my politicians, but bring on the guts, please.)

Having not really said anything yet in this post, I should add that my favorite pieces in the WB (I’m trying to invent a good acronym) are:

Alex Hubbard’s painting-video in which he resurfaces a Ford and what’s behind it, turning the video frame into a canvas or piece of paper. I like my lively in art.

Also, Huma Bhabha’s cobbled together detritus. It’ visceral and primitive, and therefore stands out in the staid selection of work.

Finally, I liked Roland Flexner’s small, other-worldly drawings made by dipping the paper into water with ink on its surface. I think they get lost because of their size – and they might be a bit like illustrations. But at least there’s something to really look at.