Archive for August, 2014

Beautiful bonus

photo (5)


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.

Perceptual painters at Manifest

David Campbell's contribution to Perceptual Painters at Manifest

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.

Berkshire landscape

©7/14 r potak
Berkshire Landscape
11 x 14″ 
acrylic on treated canvas paper

Art is an ark

photo (3)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’

Selling without selling out

An inventory of Gertrude Stein's favorite objects

An inventory of Gertrude Stein’s favorite objects

Interesting post from Brain Pickings on how to succeed–in the sense of making money (in my book, Van Gogh succeeded even though he wasn’t a “success”)–without lowering your standards:

 . . . for many working artists, who straddle the balance between creativity and commerce, art swells into a form of uncomfortable self-consciousness . . . cartoonist Hugh MacLeod captured this perfectly in proclaiming that “art suffers the moment other people start paying for it.” Such sentiments, argues artist Lisa Congdon in Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist (public library), are among the most toxic myths we subscribe to as a culture and reflect a mentality immeasurably limiting for creative people.

It includes a nice compare-and-contrast guide to the “Starving Artist Mindset” and the “Thriving Artist Mindset.”

Never give up

make your bedmake your bedThis 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.


Bansky pastiche, done with Lego blocks

Banksy pastiche, done with Lego blocks

A Banksy re-imagined (in a Lego medium) at

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.


Humans of New York


Unidentified NY painter on Instagram

Unidentified NY painter on Instagram

“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.

Signature style

albrecht_durer_signature_monogram_necktie-rece9d3580b2244b9bf08dd07899ac993_v9whb_8byvr_324Business 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.

Current exhibitions

Baboon, detail

Baboon, detail

I have work in several exhibitions this month and into September:

Next April I’ll be showing new work in a two-artist exhibition at Oxford Gallery.


Stalled, but still looking


Rochester, from the roof of the Genessee Brew House

So it isn’t Niagara Falls, but it’s our falls.

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’