This reminds me of Alain de Botton’s continuous effort to show art is good for us. It’s therapy. It’s an education. It’s moral training. You can’t disagree with anything said here about literature–and by implication, art or music or movies–but why does it seem utterly simple-minded? I wonder if anyone, having read Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary, decided, “Ok, then, I’m not going to have that affair with the butcher (prince, corporate raider, bass player).” If so, that’s fine, but doesn’t it miss the point? Art isn’t “for” anything, unless life itself is “for” something.
When you go — not if, but when (and soon, by the way; the show closes Sept. 21) — I suggest you bring a thesaurus. Because it wasn’t long before we found words failing us. An image of an acrobat caught midleap on a Manhattan street, for instance, struck the three of us as the epitome of “amazing.” So did another photo. Then another. Upon seeing the first few dozen of the more than 175 prints on view we pledged that we would not use that word to describe every single photo. Beautiful, incredible, joyful, strange, very sad — we made it as far as the second room before we were back to the A’s.
“It is just so… amazing,” said Katy, who’s 18 and an aspiring photographer, as if she’d been rendered helpless by yet another example of the Bronx-born artist’s particular genius for street photography. I nodded in sympathy. In a world plagued by intractable problems — police shootings, Ebola spreading, spiraling civil wars, planes falling from the sky — lacking sufficient synonyms for a work of art seemed a good one to have.
When we reached the last room, I asked Katy which picture was her favorite. She led me back to the one that had stumped her in the synonym department. Her sister, Emily, who’s 14 and had been off wandering through the Met’s collection of European paintings, then showed me her favorite piece in the museum: a Monet water lily painting (the first she’d ever seen) from 1919.
This is when I let each girl in on a secret: It can be yours. No different from falling in love with a song, one may fall in love with a work of art and claim it as one’s own. Ownership does not come free. One must spend time with it; visit at different times of the day or evening; and bring to it one’s full attention. The investment will be repaid as one discovers something new with each viewing — say, a detail in the background, a person nearly cropped from the picture frame, or a tiny patch of canvas left unpainted, deliberately so, one may assume, as if to remind you not to take all the painted parts for granted.
From The New Yorker, in an article about “creativity creep,” which has pushed the notion of creativity out into discussions about the nature of all work, a reminder about the purposelessness of creative awareness–non-practical, un-work-like, non-results oriented:
Among the many things we lost when we abandoned the Romantic idea of creativity, the most valuable may have been the idea of creativity’s stillness. If you’re really creative, really imaginative, you don’t have to make things. You just have to live, observe, think, and feel. Coleridge, in his poem “Frost at Midnight,” uses, as his metaphor for the creative imagination, the frost, which freezes the evening dew into icicles “quietly shining up at the quiet moon.” The poem begins: “The Frost performs its secret ministry, / Unhelped by any wind.” The secret, silent, delicate, and temporary work of the frost is creativity, too. It doesn’t build, but it transforms. It doesn’t last, but it matters.
A solo show of Matt Klos’s sabbatical project, Fragments of Fort Howard, runs throughout September at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, MD. I saw most or all of the work here at Oxford Gallery. It’s great, quickly executed, focused on the balance between representation and abstract formal issues, with a bright but subtle palette. See it at John A. Cade Center for Fine Arts Gallery, Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold, Maryland.
“The drama of the work is unleashed only by the viewer’s interaction with it. When, at the official unveiling last week, I spotted two small children gleefully trundling a boulder into the middle of the artificial stream I felt a lurch of horror – and not just because the children happened to be my own. So ingrained is our expectation of the imperative to look but not touch when encountering an artwork, that there is something disorienting about a piece that so openly invites intervention. Indeed, Riverbed demands it; every visitor who walks across the unstable surface of this artificial landscape necessarily effects a transformation in it, causes damage of some kind.” –The Telegraph
A nice bonus of participating in the Tallahassee International turned out to be the first-rate catalog they published of the exhibit. Each artist was given equal space with a full-color plate and the opportunity for an artist’s statement about the work. In the back, they’ve offered a brief profile of each artist with a listing of awards. Outside of the marvelous catalogs Manifest produces for each of its shows, this is the highest-quality catalog I’ve gotten for any show I’ve participated in over the past seven or eight years.
David Campbell, in Perceptual Painters at Manifest
A show I’d love to see, if Cincinnati were any closer.
From the Manifest website:
This exhibition of paintings by two groups of artists sharing a common approach to their art making is one of six selected from among 165 proposals submitted for consideration for Manifest’s tenth season. Manifest is proud to showcase this tour de force of perceptual painting, and to welcome thirteen artists from the Perceptual Painters collective to Cincinnati. The exhibit, proposed by David Campbell, was conceived to explore and celebrate the common ground shared between the Perceptual Painters group, all from outside the Cincinnati area with many either from, or having crossed paths in, Philadelphia, with a group of five artists currently or originally from the Cincinnati area. Furthermore, it pleases us to share that the five artists in the ‘Cincinnati Group’ are Manifest alum, having exhibited at the gallery or instructed courses or led life drawing sessions in our Drawing Center program over many years. Most continue to be involved in our programming today. The outreach of the Perceptual Painters to invite these artists in our own community to share in this exhibition suggests Cincinnati has a part in this important contemporary movement, and that Manifest has fostered a rich environment in which this can happen.
There’s Spoon and then there’s everything else in contemporary music. When Parquet Courts released Light Up Gold, after a few listens, I thought: hm, look out, Spoon. I emailed the hosts of Sound Opinions praising them for ranking the Parquet Courts debut as one of the brightest moments in music last year. Yet I regret to confess that I actually ended that email with the something like the following words, knowing Jim and Greg love Spoon: “Move over, Spoon. There’s a new sheriff in town.” (Me with my giddy crush on “Master of My Craft”.) Though the second effort from Parquet Courts has a few tracks that rank with the best from Light Up Gold, in general it left me a little crestfallen. It sounded as if they were being petulantly difficult, upping the noise and monotony—which worked on their first album. Now they sound as if they’re daring you to not to like them—just to prove they didn’t care if anybody would pay to hear them assert their defiant low-fi integrity. I still love them on principle, but I’m not as in love with them now, if you know what I’m saying. (I once had a pet theory that Sinead O’Conner shaved her head because she was too beautiful to get taken seriously with a full head of hair.) In other words, PC seems to be pushing back against the risks of popularity they know they might achieve if they upped the production quality to Spoon level—which they do perfectly, just to show you they can, on one or two tracks from Sunbathing Animals. If Parquet Courts would just relax and make the irresistibly gut-punching music they know how to make, pop-punk songs offset by complex, poetic lyrics, in such a seemingly effortless way, imagine a concert where they would open for Spoon. Who could top that?
That’s a long way to say They Want My Soul may have already become my favorite Spoon album. Better than anyone recording music right now, Continue reading ‘Art is an ark’
This is one of the best commencement addresses I’ve ever heard, and though it isn’t addressed to artists, it certainly applies to anyone who struggles in obscurity with few tangible rewards. From Admiral William H. McRaven, who has been a Navy SEAL for 36 years. “Every morning in SEAL training our instructors would show up in our barracks room and the first thing they would do was inspect my bed. Every morning we were required to make our beds to perfection. It seemed ridiculous at the time since we were aspiring to be real warriors. But if you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day and will encourage you to do another task and another and another, and by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. The little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. If you come home from a miserable day you will come home to a made bed. A bed you made.”
It applies to painting as well. What you make is what makes you.
I’m shamelessly stealing this link from Heather Armstrong’s blog, Dooce, which is worthwhile simply for her fantastic photographs of her kids and dog. The frisson of her potty-mouthed Mormonism is cool and occasionally she lists a ton of odd/fun/interesting things she’s finds while maundering around the Internet. She’s like Kottke; she must spend half her life surfing the Web, she comes up with such randomly good stuff. Or she’s got Snowden on retainer, combing through his archives for her.
“It seems that the more I tried to make my life about the pursuit of art, the more money controlled my life: collecting unemployment insurance, the humiliation of borrowing money from friends and family, tossing and turning at night while trying to figure out how to pay the rent. To survive I had to work hard jobs and afterwards I’d feel too tired and too stressed to paint. It’s very hard to create under those circumstances. Creativity is a delicate process. Often times I wonder if I should have just pursued a career for the first half of my life, obtained some degree of financial security, and then transitioned into art.” from Humans of New York instagram feed
If you wait to make money and then paint, you’ll never paint. Gotta juggle.
Business Insider ranks Albrecht Durer as having the fourth coolest signature in human history. For some reason, it always looks kind of samurai to me. Go Al. Ahead of Picasso, but behind Banksy. (That’s just wrong.) Somebody needs to unseat John Hancock.
After a few months of either scrambling to put together and then take down the solo show in Chelsea, as well as working feverishly on a book proposal with Peter Georgescu, I’ve got a little down time between writing sessions. I haven’t painted in weeks, and my batteries are recharged, which is good, because I have a two-artist show at Oxford Gallery in April, and I need to do more than a dozen new paintings for it, but at the moment I can’t. Soon though.
I did a little yard work this weekend. On Saturday afternoon, after a brief thunder shower, I sat under our cherry tree that drops one or two butterscotch-colored leaves every day, as it always does starting in late July, getting a head start on autumn mid-way through the summer. It’s been especially cool for about a week here in the eye of the polar vortex, but aside from a little too much rain for a few days, I’m loving the weather. I think our cherry, which serves as a huge beach umbrella over our brick patio, has been fooled, at night, into believing it’s October already.
It’s been a summer of fulfillment in our yard, bushes and trees and plants I put in back in 2004 have matured, fully grown or at least as large as I’d like them to be. Everything in the garden and lawn seems developed now, after all these years of tending, feeding, pruning. In the spring, I raised the beds around the patio and wheelbarrowed half a yard of topsoil into the boxes I built with pressure-treated lumber and anodized door hinges, so that the lengths will form a half-circle around the back of the bed. As a result, the dahlias are nearly seven feet tall already in some places, because of the new soil and the excellent drainage, and everything else is thriving in these intermittent showers we’re getting, along with plenty of sun: rudbeckia, phlox, begonias, campanula, shasta daisies, nasturtiums and a few petunias here and there. Nothing exotic or labor intensive, but I’m looking at all of this growth now Continue reading ‘Stalled, but still looking’
Miracles of Modern Science, John Younger, oil, 68″ x 48″
I was pleased to be included in the 78th Midyear Exhibition at the Butler Institute, and to have been awarded an Honorable Mention for Carpe Diem: Autumn’s Last Flowers, which was one of the works in my solo show at Viridian Artists this summer. The catalog for the show arrived today, and it was heartening to see so much great work in the exhibition. I made it into last year’s Midyear as well, yet the work in that show I found a little discouraging, though chalked it up to the fact that I was looking at thumbnail reproductions. This year, though, even at such a small scale, the bulk of the art looks great. There’s a marked emphasis on the human figure and portraiture, and some of my favorites in the show depict people set in unexpected settings, or presented in surprising ways, all rendered with amazing skill: Miracles of Modern Science, by John Younger, Brooklyn, by Marc Winnat, and Earth Angels, by Allan Charles Orr. It’s cheering to see so much representational art, many of them beautiful in a way that isn’t cloying. Plenty of abstract work got into the show. Even without the award, I was honored to be included.
“Freud’s early works were strongly marked by Morris’s influence, with an exquisitely linear style, brittle and subtly exaggerated. What you remember about them — and they are mostly portraits — are the subjects’ wide, haunted eyes. One sitter later recalled how “he always started with an eyeball, then he imprisoned the eye and then an eyebrow, then a nostril.” Freud hadn’t much money in those days, but he never lacked for patrons or for opportunities to pursue his “violently closely held belief to carry on with lords and ladies,” as one of his daughters put it. He enjoyed the lowlife just as much. By the mid-’50s, though, his art dissatisfied him. “I was getting approval for something that wasn’t of great account,” he felt, and he found his way toward the more painterly, rather clotted and lugubrious style that made him rich and famous. Freud recalled how Kenneth Clark, the former director of the National Gallery, “wrote a card saying that I had deliberately suppressed everything that made my work remarkable . . . and ended, ‘I admire your courage.’ I never saw him again.”
Clark was fundamentally right, I think, and yet Freud remains a fascinating artistic oddity, his work unlike anyone else’s. This brief biography by Phoebe Hoban — the author of full-length lives of Alice Neel and Jean-Michel Basquiat — negotiates with equanimity a life that seems a disorderly maelstrom of sex, fighting, art, gambling, all obsessively pursued and so mixed up it’s sometimes hard to tell one from the other.”
As a follow-up to my last post, a friend sent me this:
Kurt Vonnegut: “…my father, who struggled to become a painter after he was forced into early and unwelcome retirement by the Great Depression. He had reason to be optimistic about his new career, since the early stages of his pictures, whether still lifes or portraits or landscapes, were full of pow. Mother, meaning to be helpful, would say of each one: “That’s really wonderful, Kurt. Now all you have to do is finishit.” He would then ruin it.”