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19 May 2013

Paradigm Shift...

For a long while, I've been very jealous of certain artists who, in addition to creating amazing work, also manage to have an equally strong conceptual basis underpinning their work. Matthew Barney (creation through overcoming physical resistance); Gottfried Helnwein (the consequences of physical violence, especially--intentionally or unintentionally--against children); Patricia Piccinini (the self as refracted through a genetically-modified "Other"); Ron English (a critique of Mass culture through the subversion of commercial imagery)...

And, for many years, I've been frustrated in my own efforts to understand the possible meaning(s) in my own work--or, perhaps, to impose such meanings.

Conceptualism in visual art is usually a double-edged sword; I certainly don't want my work to merely "illustrate" an idea, nor do I want the work to become too "arid", dry, and stale--the "problem" with so much "conceptual" art, IMO, being that the ideas behind the work are far superiour to the work itself. (And, yes, I'll name names: Sol Lewitt, On Kawara, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Joseph Kosuth...)

But, a cleaner understanding of a set of "possible" meanings can have the effect of unifying a body of work, as well as providing ways by which the work can be...complicated, and yet remain thematically unified.


I'm reading a book at the moment, "Tiny Surrealism: Salvador Dali and the Aesthetics of the Small". Having been singularly impressed by the small paintings at the Dali Retrospective in Philadelphia in 2005, I expected the book to discuss Dali's small works, perhaps explaining their importance in Dali's oeuvre.

But, the book does much more. It places Dali's interest in small things (ants, grasshoppers, breadcrumbs, atoms) within the larger context of his published writings, poems, and personal correspondence. It outlines a conceptual framework that unites much of the imagery in his small paintings as well as his large masterpieces. Further, it shows how the emphasis on small things, combined with Dali's technique (often vilified as merely "illustrative", or ignored completely) was an affront, as well as a response to (and a critique of) both Modernism and Surrealism.

Oddly, I may have found the beginning of a conceptual basis for my next few paintings, ideas Ive had in my head for some time, but which have felt "thin", undeveloped...until now.

14 May 2013

More Drawing!

A couple of new "spider drawings". I have written lately about wanting to draw more, and more frequently--and (I'm pleased to report) I have been! I've been struggling--lately and always!--with the temptation to clean the studio, build more panels, read something, update my computer, catch up on emails, organize my bills, make more lists--basically, anything to waste time that could (should) should be spent actually getting artwork made...moved forward...finished.

My free time keeps getting filled, so I really don't have much time to waste. (Just tonight, a friend who has helped me move on several occasions needs my help moving this Saturday. I had hoped to spend the day in the studio (we are going out with friends Saturday evening), but I can't really say no about helping this particular friend move.

So, I have a choice--and a few free hours tonight. I can spend tonight cleaning the studio, building panels in the garage, playing games on the iPad--or creating in the studio.

So, I'm headed to the studio, to make art.

Right now.

I need to work on some new figure drawings; tonight is as good a night for that, as any.

I'll post them when they're far enough along to be interesting.

"Tres Ragni Rossi"

I finished this little painting last night. (The title means, "Three Red Spiders"; somehow, it sounded better in Italian!)

This is the first painting I've completed in 2013, and I do feel like such a slacker, writing that here. I have been working on "The Presentation of Spiders", and I hope to have an updated photo of it, soon. I've also been drawing lately, and I'm nearly ready to start painting another spider!

And, I have a new sculpture started, too.

I do feel like I'm more focused, lately, than I have been in a long time. I'm trying to concentrate on making art, more than building new panels (no sense spending time making panels, when I have paintings that aren't finished!), or cleaning my studio. (No one will compliment me on how tidy the studio is--but I will suffer if there isn't enough work for a show, soon.)

So, here's the first new painting of the year. More new stuff coming soon. Thanks for your patience, and your interest!

07 May 2013


A thread was started at Wet Canvas today which addressed my work, specifically. I had posted an in-progress photo of the "three red spiders" painting, in a monthly "post what's on your easel" thread. A member apologized to the other artists who had posted their images on the same page as my painting, that she might have missed seeing some of their paintings, since she had to scroll down the page really fast, to avoid seeing "the scary spiders."

Then, today, this same person started a thread asking the Wet Canvas Moderators if they could create a "spider icon" so viewers would know, from seeing the spider icon, if there were spider images in a given thread, without having to accidentally stumble across them.

I have to admit, I feel a certain sadistic thrill when people are frightened by my paintings. I created an installation at the Kansas City Art Institute, titled "The Walk", where I hung a new spider sculpture on the ceiling of a long hallway, every day for a week.

I remember one afternoon, watching students walking down the hall between classes. Occasionally, someone would look up, see the spiders making their way across the ceiling, and flinch.

That was fun!

(I remember another classmate of mine who seriously didn't seem to believe that some people really are scared of spiders--and I related the true story of the naked man who was admitted to the emergency room with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his foot; he was taking a bath, and had seen a spider crawling on his foot. Somehow, the idea of using a nearby gun to shoot the spider, struck him as reasonable.)

Anyway, it's interesting when people are discussing my work without reference to me, just the subject matter.

At least, they're talking!