July 29, 2005 (Friday) – Extra! Extra!

Someone has taken Adele Shaw’s Bikini Top without her permission.

It happened last night, 7/27. From its location on 19th Ave between Font and Holloway – next to SF State University.

If you see it or have word please let her know -it probably wouldn’t fit anyone else, anyway.

Hopefully whoever took it has a sense of humor and will do something interesting with it…
but she wants it back!

Please pass this on to anyone who might know something.

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July 29, 2005 (Friday) – di Rosa Collection of Contemporary California Art

Tyler Green started a list of “really good, but less-considered, art museums that are nowhere near Fifth Avenue”, which made me think about the the di Rosa:

This is not flyover country, and it’s not technically a museum (it’s a collection) but the Di Rosa Collection of Contemporary California Art has got to be on the top ten list of most-overlooked art viewing spaces in the country. It’s one of my favorite art viewing spaces, but its inaccessibility means I only see it once every couple of years.

At some point after I moved to San Francisco, I noticed that almost all of my favorite stuff in local museums was on loan from the same guy – Rene di Rosa. So when I found out he was opening his collection to the public, I had to see it.

He basically opened up his home, which is an old stone winery built in 1886 (he moved into another building somewhere else on the property.) The collection is housed in several art buildings alongside a private lake. Some of the buildings are converted farm buildings, and the others are built to be used as galleries, but they look like tractor barns, and silos, etc.

It’s an absolutely astounding collection. Not only the sheer number of artworks, but the fact that most of it is by contemporary, Northern California artists (artists you’re familiar with, but whose work you only see once in a great while) plus the idiosyncratic curating, make this an unforgettable experience. There are no labels, wall tags, or curator’s text plaques in the galleries. Rene di Rosa says that, “talking about art is like trying to French kiss over the telephone. The point is that words can and do get in the way. They distract more than they illuminate. Knowing who did it when and the title can be interesting on some level. But wall labels do not reveal the work and can be insistent distractions. People bring their own baggage to the viewing experience. We invite them to open that baggage and participate in the conversation between themselves and the art. I believe the absence of labels is empowering. It makes some people nervous, but most enjoy the vacation.”

Rene di Rosa has eclectic tastes, but I think it’s fair to say he favors funky, conceptual, colorful, funny, thoughtful work that displays strong craftsmanship. The property is dotted with glass houses, ceramic preachers, cars hanging from trees, giant polychromed figures lounging about under the trees, cows on water, and of course drawing, painting, photography, installations, sculpture, kinetic sculpture, earth works, art cars, an underground cathedral and a large flock of peafowl.

Some of the (more than 900) artists represented in his collection are Terry Allen, Robert Arneson, Anthony Aziz, Clayton Bailey, James Barsness, David Best, Elmer Bischoff, Sandow Birk, Chris Brown, Joan Brown, Deborah Butterfield, Squeak Carnwath, Enrique Chagoya, Bruce Conner, Jay Defeo, Roy De Forest, Mark Di Suvero, Viola Frey, Wally Hedrick, Mildred Howard, Robert Hudson, David Ireland, Jess, Paul Kos, Manuel Neri, Nathan Olivera, Mel Ramos, Rigo, Scott Siedman, James Weeks, William T. Wiley… and he has multiple examples of works by these artists.

I should really make more of an effort to get there at least once year. But it IS an effort, especially without a car. It’s in the Carneros region, just south Napa & Sonoma, about 1.5 hours drive from San Francisco. It’s really in the boonies. And it takes at least two days to see it all, because you have to make reservations to get beyond the gatehouse gallery and you can only make reservations for the galleries OR the grounds (not both.) I’ve never gone for the grounds tour, because it would kill me to go all the way up there and not be able to see the big gallery. I’ve made do with glimpses of the grounds from traveling between the gallery buildings. Whichever tour you choose, it’s about 2 hours long, and then you have to drive quite a few miles to find something to drink or eat. (My advice: pack a lunch.)

Rene di Rosa quote and images from “Local Color” (a book about the collection – ISBN 0-8118-2377-6) and from di Rosa promotional brochure.

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July 28, 2005 (Thursday) – Sacramento Valley Landscape Exhibit

The following review was written by Central Valley artist, Ramona Soto:

I want to tell you about the Sacramento Valley Landscape Exhibition at the John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis, but first I need to explain a little about landscape art here.

As you can imagine, the Sacramento Valley provides a special challenge to the landscape artist. There are few “built-in” spectacular scenes such as those clamoring for attention in the Bay Area. The valley is essentially, well, FLAT. So artists come to see the valley floor as a canvas in itself. The landscape’s moods are widely changeable; the weather, the water, and the growing things vary greatly from season to season. Every variation is capitalized upon.

The summer brings the sun as an all-pervading force, providing hot, dry days, long, warm evenings, increased activity along the deep blue rivers, the patchwork patterns of crops, and trees in full leaf. In the autumn, the effect of the sun is less intense. Workers and their machines begin to harvest the crops, turning the fields back to brown, and leaves turn an astounding array of colors before falling into fiery piles that carpet whole neighborhoods. As autumn stretches on toward winter, spectacular thunderstorms start rolling through the valley, causing eerily bright sun rays to shoot beneath vast black cloudscapes.

With winter, the landscape becomes sketchy: the whole season needs nothing more than pencil, charcoal, and ink to express it. Tule fog blankets the valley floor in the late night and early morning. Fields are fallow. Skeletal trees provide little shelter from the cold and rain. Rivers run rough and gray. Finally, in the spring the landscape begins to wake again to soft greenness, plentiful water, and warmth.

It’s against this backdrop that you’ll be able to enjoy the full flavor of the landscape exhibit at the Natsoulas Gallery.

The exhibit covers over 100 years of landscape art, from a few small chromo-lithographs and watercolors of valley scenes from the 1800s and early 1900s, through a couple of small Maynard Dixons from the early 1920s, to many large and small contemporary paintings – one of which was completed just this past week at the Landscape Conference.

One of the artists featured is Anne Hysell, a pastelist who who creates very large landscapes in small (5″x15″, 9″x20″) horizontal formats. She also presents, in a larger format, a beautiful, shadowed world of leafy trees interspersed with paths of light.

A few years ago Wayne Thiebaud began painting aerial views in his prismatic style, rising up above the landscape until the horizon appears less than an inch from the top of the canvas and the pattern of the fields and waterways is revealed below. One of these paintings (“Brown River” – at right) appears here on the first floor, brilliantly grouped with the two Maynard Dixons and works by Deladier Almeida and Gary Ernest Smith, who show the influence of the older artists – as does the work of Phil Gross.

Gregory Kondos is represented by a colorful, buttery riverscape in his signature style. Patrick Dullanty’s paintings show the influence of people on the landscape (“Cutter Industrial”), as do many of Boyd Gavin’s gorgeous paintings of late afternoon light on buildings, silos, and trucks.

Pat Mahoney’s landscapes have a distinctive style. The colors she uses are rather acidic; she makes use of dark greens and oranges, and the dark colors of the land are repeated in splotches in the light sky, almost giving the appearance that the atmosphere has caught fire. As unusual as this style is, after seeing quite a few of these, I began to want to see her do greater variations on the themeor else begin another theme.

D.A. Bishop’s “Waterpipe” and “Knoll” are two of my favorites, though it’s hard to say exactly why. At first glance, “Waterpipe” seems like a typical, traditional valley landscape of a field with a pipe emptying out into a stream. But for some reason I was immediately drawn to it, utterly fascinated with what? the composition? the technique? the idea that Bishop noticed this totally ordinary, unremarkable scene in the first place, and considered it worthy of recording? It’s a wonderful painting.

Besides the featured exhibit, the Natsoulas Gallery itself is irresistible: four floors, plus the roof… and the stairway walls are COVERED with art. (Just in the stairway between the second and third floors, I counted 47 pieces.) The owner, John Natsoulas, is welcoming and is very supportive of the arts community.

Sacramento Valley Landscape Exhibition
July 6 – August 21, 2005
John Natsoulas Gallery
521 First Street, Davis, CA

Images (top to bottom):
“Haystacks” by Gregory Kondos
“Baled” by Gary Ernest Smith
“Coming and Going” by Phil Gross
“Brown River” by Wayne Thiebaud
painting by D.A.Bishop
“River Life” by Gregory Kondos
(images link to sources)

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July 27, 2005 (Wednesday) – Misc Stuff…

Dropped off the rest of my paintings at the gallery today (for the Aug/Sept show.) This is a huge, huge, HUGE load off my mind. Now if I can just wrap up this slideshow/talk preparation, I will be able to focus my full attention on a wonderful portrait commission that I would like to finish in time to enter the National Portrait Competition. It’s a person I’ve painted before, someone who already owns a few of my paintings, and she called me the very day I first heard about this competition. So I figured it was kismet, and I’d better do it.

After I got back from the gallery today, I did a major overhaul of the sidebar (see –>). Links are now organized alphabetically (more or less) within categories and the categories have changed to reflect blog authors’ POV (as I understand it.)

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July 26, 2005 (Tuesday) – Listening
Ever since I started recording interviews with artists, little genies have been buzzing around me, whispering, “pod cast”, “web cast”, “mp3”, “Quicktime”, “downloadable”, and so forth. But take my word for it, you would NOT want to listen to the quick and dirty recordings I’ve been making. Lots of ambient noises, scritches, pops and a prolonged “sszzs” sound on every pronunciation of “s,” giving everyone a serious lisp. Still, transcribing those recordings is a major, time-consuming pain in the patootie. And I DO have the technical capability for making a decent recording, if I just paid attention and made more of an effort to get a clean sound. So I can foresee a possible podcast offering in this blog’s future.

Meanwhile, how do the other art podcasters sound? Chris at ZekesGallery reviewed a bunch of them last Monday. Plus he emailed me about the 17Reasons podcasts of local (SF) art shows and artists – these were good quailty, and interesting – I’ll download more, even though I’m probably the last person in San Francisco who lacks a cell phone and high speed internet access. Guy Diehl emailed me about Franklin McMahon’s Media Artist Secrets. I wasn’t that impressed with Media Artist Secrets, but Guy said, “There is a lot of information starting from episode #1 that makes you look at what you’re doing right and certainly what you’re doing wrong. The key here, like any information, is to glean what is useful and apply it to your benefit.”

Image from Caption-this.com

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July 25, 2005 (Monday) – Alice Neel and Chain Link Fences

I spent quite a few hours this weekend, with Larry Morace, working on our upcoming slide show / artists’ talk (Sept. 1st – email Newmark for info.) One of the topics we’re touching on is how other artists have influenced us. It was tough to choose just a few. We kept thinking of more and more artists we wanted to include. It was when we had to explain how a particular artist influenced our work, in what specific way, that we started editing the list down again.

It occurred to me that there’s a difference between inspiration and influence. The artist that has inspired me the most, without a doubt, is Alice Neel. But I can’t honestly claim to see any influence from her in my work. Mainly because I can’t figure out how she did it. I am stunned, awed, amazed, and envious when I look at her paintings, but I don’t even have a clue how to do that kind of expressive clarity. On the other hand, artists like Hopper and Bechtle have had such a deep effect on my way of seeing that there probably isn’t a single painting of mine that doesn’t reflect that in some way. Then there are the artists who give you the mini master class when you see their work on a quiet day, alone in the museum…

A few years ago I’d been struggling with how to paint chain link fences. They’re a common sight in the city, and frequently show up in scenes I’d consider painting. But they’re tough to paint. When I tried, they always came out too meticulous, or too messy. I started looking to see how other cityscape painters handled the problem. The predominant solution seemed to be avoidance. That was my solution, too. Until I saw a show by James Doolin. He’d nailed it! He used careful, measured, isolated strokes for each bend of the wire, but there was lots of empty space around each one, to let the background come through. It created the illusion of that barrier that you don’t really see. I studied those paintings repeatedly, and then went back to the studio, psyched to try it for myself. It worked, and now that’s one more thing I don’t have to worry about when working on a composition.

Images:
upper left: “Ellen Johnson” by Alice Neel, from “Alice Neel: Women” ISBN 0-8478-2480-2
lower right: “Form vs. Content” by James Doolin, from “Urban Invasions” ISBN 0-938175-23-8

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July 22, 2005 (Friday) – On schedule
I’m heading downtown today, to get the last two paintings shot at Almac. Then I’ll walk over to the gallery to drop them off, and pick up some more postcards. I might actually be able to go visit some downtown art spots for the first time in two months. There’s still a lot of fiddly things to do here, like address & mail these cards, and tweak the slideshow for the next artist’s talk, but the hard stuff is done. Vince Romaniello has a show coming up, too – he says he’s “still painting but less so since I started all the fun things like framing, placing ads, shooting the work etc.”

Getting ready for a show is a weird process for a person who works alone and generally prefers solitude. Toby Judith Klayman (in her “Artists’ Survival Manual”) compares a show to a wedding:

Like weddings in general, shows are seldom easy or problem free. There are dozens of questions, doubts, and fears: will the “marriage” succeed? what is the relationship between and artist and those who see and collect the work? How do you make a public statement about what is essentially a very private, very personal endeavor – your artwork? And there are also dozens of arrangements to make – a slew of discussions and decisions and details to attend to.

So I’m off to attend to those details….

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July 21, 2005 (Thursday) – Jury Fees
Carole Es has a heart-felt and oh-so-true complaint about jury fees on her blog. I recommend that that you read the whole thing, but if you need some encouragement, here’s a few excerpts:

“if you’re going to start an arts organization or business, then you should be willing to look at art and weed out what you do and don’t want to exhibit. fund raise some other kind of way. why is funding your organization (that i may or may not be a participant in) my problem? sounds like your problem. as an artist, i got my own problems. believe you me.

a few non-profits are responding to the thread, justifying their reasons for charging fees to artists, posting their overhead, their rent and utility bills, etc. more of their problems. i have rent and bills too. what if

artists charged galleries to view their work? how is this more or less ridiculous?

my real advice is to use your 20 bucks more wisely. be as original with your self-promotion as you are with your art. you will have more successes the more you stay true to your ideas and morals. ”

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July 21, 2005 (Thursday) – Color
Last night I gave a lecture at the public library on the ways I use color in my paintings. Afterwards, a few people came up to me and asked me to post some of this info on my web site, so here it is:

The painter uses color for:

1. Mood, emotion

2. Composition:

a. contrast
b. depth
c. movement
d. unity / cohesion

3. Symbolism:

Cross-cultural color symbolism at factmonster.com
Good basic America color symbolism info at color-wheel-pro.com

My favorite color books, for the painter:

The Acrylic Painter’s Pocket Palette, by Ian Sidaway,
North Light Books, ISBN 0-89134-581-7

Color In Contemporary Painting, by Charles Le Clair,
Watson-Guptill, ISBN0-8230-0738-3

The Color Compendium, by Augustine Hope and Margaret Walch,
Van Nostrand Reinhold, ISBN 0-442-31845-6

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July 20, 2005 (Wednesday) – Can There Be Progress In Art?
Simon Caterson, an Australian writer, was inspired by a show of work by Dutch masters to wonder about, “the question of whether there can be anything like progress, much less continuity, in the arts.”

Some excerpts:

Simon Schama begins The Embarrassment of Riches, his history of 17th century Holland, with these words: “It is the peculiar genius of the Dutch to seem, at the same time, familiar and incomprehensible.” That duality could easily provide a basis for defining history itself. Culturally, technologically and geographically, we are far enough away from the world inhabited by the Dutch Masters that the parallels that might be drawn between their world and ours are provisional, to say the least.

Art’s preoccupations are often out of sync with the expectations of the wider society. At any given moment in cultural history, artists and movements may be considered ahead of their time or behind it, and their work may be in or out of fashion, neglected or overpraised. An artist like Turner is difficult to classify, since he was painting impressionistically some time before the Impressionist period officially began. One of Turner’s most celebrated paintings, Snow Storm – Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth, was dismissed at the time of its unveiling as “soapsuds and whitewash”.

The English essayist William Hazlitt argued that it is wrong to apply the same progressive standards to art that are normally applied to the sciences. The analogy, he asserts, is false: “The arts hold immediate communication with nature, and are only derived from that source. When the original impulse no longer exists, when the inspiration of genius is fled, all the attempts to recall it are no better than tricks of galvanism to restore the dead to life.”

According to Hazlitt, if art were merely a matter of invention and refinement, then progress could be measured the same way that the development of other examples of human ingenuity can be traced: “What is mechanical, reducible to rule, or capable of demonstration, is progressive, and admits of gradual improvement; what is not mechanical or definite, but depends on genius, taste and feeling, very soon becomes retrograde, and loses more than it gains by transfusion.”

Science steadily builds on its discoveries, but the creative process is erratic, since the truths of human experience it seeks to capture are as elusive as they are universal and timeless. The means of expression has to change but the source material of art essentially never does. It is for that very reason that the Dutch Masters can speak to us with such clarity, and why art can remain meaningful long after the context in which it was produced has faded away.

In the West, the popular belief in human progress has, if anything, grown since Hazlitt’s day. In A Short History of Progress, historian Ronald Wright argues that “our practical faith in progress has ramified and hardened into an ideology – a secular religion that, like the religions that progress has challenged, is blind to certain flaws in its credentials”. Our society is geared to constant change, which is why the word reform is used so often by politicians and bureaucrats and why planned product obsolescence is such a vital part of our consumer society.

Excerted from “Raiders of the lost art”, by Simon Caterson, published July 16, 2005
Images: Upper – Vermeer, from Holland.com; lower – Teo den Boon from Newmark Gallery

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July 19, 2005 (Tuesday) – Call For Entries: ISAW
San Francisco’s Inner Sunset Art Walk 2005 (ISAW)
July 18, 2005

Deadline: August 12, 2005 – The Inner Sunset Art Walk (ISAW) committee is now seeking submissions from artists interested in exhibiting in a very public and unique venue, the Inner Sunset Business District. This first ever event will be held from September 17th thru October 1st, 2005.

A juried process will be used to choose participating artists, and locate works. This exhibition event will take place in the public areas, windows and interior walls of participating Inner Sunset retailers.

In addition, exhibiting artists will be encouraged to take part in a neighborhood-wide open house and Art Walk on Thursday evening, September 22nd, and to attend a closing reception Saturday night, October 1st.

Entry Fee: free

Image Submission:
Please email your digital files (up to 5, .jpg format)
to: isawsf@gmail.com
between now and August 12, 2005

Eligibility:
This event is open to all local (Bay Area) artists. All work must be original.

Media and Specifications:
Work in two- and three-dimensional form is eligible. Two-dimensional work should not exceed 50?60×8 inches, including frame, and must be suitably framed in Plexiglas (when applicable), with hardware, ready to hang. Content should be family oriented, as the work will be shown in areas visible to the general public, including children. This is not a gallery exhibition.

Delivery and Installation:
Accepted works are to be delivered and installed by the artist, with cooperation by business owner on September 15th and 16th. Artwork will be taken down after Saturday October 1st, by prior arrangement with business owner.

Sales and Reproduction:
Sales will be handled by artists, with no commission taken by ISAW or the exhibiting businesses. ISAW reserves the right to photographically reproduce work for publicity and exhibition records.

Calendar:
August 12: Entries emailed after this date will not be accepted.
August 29: Notification of accepted work sent to artists.
September 15 – 16: Installation of accepted work by artists.
September 17: ISAW opens.
September 22: open house and Art Walk.
October 1: Closing Reception.
October 2 – 5: Artwork is uninstalled by artists.

Contact:
Inner Sunset Merchants Association
Craig Dawson
1032 Irving Street, Suite 711
San Francisco, CA 94122
Phone: 415-665-1077
Email: mediacraig@mindspring.com

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July 15, 2005 (Monday) – Preshow Countdown Begins

Ahhh… the insanity of the last couple of weeks before a show… run over to Dick Blick for gaffer’s tape to wrap the canvas edges – they’re out. Great, now I have to go to Pearl, where I grab the last roll. Run by the gallery to pick up cards. Get stamps, update the mailing list, print labels, arrange for a car to get the paintings to the gallery… speaking of which, I still have to finish that last painting. I have maybe a day-and-a-half’s worth of work to do, so here I go…
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July 15, 2005 (Friday) – Another New Art Space
Receiver: another new gallery in the neighborhood – this one is in the Inner Sunset (1324 – 8th Ave. at Irving.) I was there last evening to meet with some other local artists and merchants, to talk about organizing a neighborhood art event in September. (More info about the art event in a week or so.)

The Receiver gallery is a design studio run by Jafon Hakkinen (that’s him at the computer, in the photo at right.) They’ve got a nice show up right now, “The Boy’s Club”, a collective of twelve female Canadian and American illustrators. Some painting and mixed media work… lots of t-shirts, too. I’m starting to notice t-shirts at all the hip new galleries (LOTS of t-shirts at Mollusk – see yesterday’s post.) Everything in the show is up on their web site.

I was particulary impressed with paintings by Korin Faught (left, below) and Karen Silverman (right, below.) They both had portraits in this show but there wasn’t anything in the gallery I didn’t like. Check it out – the show’s up another two weeks.

Images from the Receiver web site:
left -Faught- “Captain Handsome and the Dog Face Boys”
right – Silverman – “Man and Dog”

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July 14, 2005 (Thursday) – New Art Space
Yesterday I visited a new gallery space in my neighborhood. It’s in the Mollusk Surf Shop at 4500 Irving Street (at 46th Ave, in San Francisco.) Even though it’s only a few blocks from here, I haven’t been over to that block since the Cajun restaurant closed last year. So I first heard about Mollusk when I read Alan Bamberger’s account of the opening (lots of photos of the art there.)

The space is airy, light, open, with high ceilings and a very relaxed vibe. There’s a small, dedicated exhibit space in the back of the store, but a lot of art is on the wall over the racks of surf boards and behind the cash register.

Bamberger mentioned a Barry McGee painting that had been nailed to the wall, but that’s not the case – the visible nail heads are part of the art work. The piece of art is hung on the wall in the usual way.

My favorite piece in the show was a big painting of sea urchin spines, under a translucent wrap of some sort. It’s beautifully painted, but it’s painted on styrofoam. What happens to styrofoam when it ages? If it lasts, if it doesn’t fall apart in a few years, it’d be a good use of the material.

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July 13, 2005 (Wednesday) – A Blogospheric Grid

a super fantastic blogospheric griddy guide for visual thinkers

Photo sources: Allana Spence; Terry Teachout; Antonia Hollander; Carol Es; Carolyn Zick; Caryn Coleman; Charles T. Downey; Chris Hand; Cinque Hicks; Cynthia King; David Byrne; Duane Keiser; Elise Tomlinson; Franklin Einspruch; Rachael Buffington Baldanza; Jack Rasmussen; James Wagner; Joy Garnet; J. T. Kirkland; F. Lennox Campello; Libby Rosof; Marja-Leena Rathje; Mark Barry; Anna L. Conti; John Perreault; Tyler Green; Mark Vallen; Martin Bromirski; Hans Heiner Buhr; Matt Petty ; Gregg Chadwick; Roberta Fallon; Sarah Hromack; Danny Gregory; Todd Gibson; Mat Gleason.

July 12, 2005 (Tuesday) – Advice and Response

Did you ever have to go through this to get the 3D to 2D conversion down? I had a drawing teacher who made us use this method for a while… I still have my frame with the string grid, down in the basement somewhere.

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Todd Gibson at From the Floor mentioned the current issue of “Art on Paper”, with its cover story about advice for young artists. He posted seven solid gold items, and the only thing I’d add is – practice every day (with or without the grid.)

James Wagner wrote about the Zipcar, New York’s version of Carshare – joining one of these organizatons is a tip for urban artists. Most of time, public transportation does me just fine. Even when I take my paintings to Almac each month, I usually do it on MUNI. But every now and then, you need to go pick up some really big stretcher bars, or transport a whole bunch of big paintings, or go to a friend’s show in some godforsaken outpost with no public transport. With Carshare, I can rent a pickup truck or a Scion, or a Beetle or whatever for just a few bucks per hour (gas included!)

ArtBusiness guy, Alan Bamberger frequently has advice for artists scattered throughout his reviews of art openings. Here’s a recent sample from June 25th:

Now I’m gonna tell why I ask what some might consider “uninformed” questions like “What happens to it when the show’s over?” or “Do you sell enough to make a living?” or “How long did it take to make?” or “So how do you make money?” One of my main missions in life is to help more artists sell more art better, so that hopefully, one day, they can support themselves entirely by making art and live lives of uncompromising creativity– because that’s what they want to do. To complicate matters, lots of artists don’t have outside jobs (maybe they don’t want ’em; maybe they can’t get ’em), or outside sources of income, enough money to pay next month’s rent, or sometimes even enough money to buy a decent meal. I ask my questions for them, those artists who struggle mightily to survive, on the off chance I might reconfigure an occasional answer to render their struggles a little less mighty. There you go. And thanks for taking the time to answer.

Readers of Working Artist’s Journal sound off:

in response to what you wanted to say:

i think that the free day thing for musuems is culturally responsible but also that charging other days is economically responsible. So, the cost of art is a matter of concern and responsability.

so here’s a thought – what about standardized art pricing – i mean, since the whole thing seems to be getting obviously and blattantly out of hand. The means of pricing are tough to work out but it goes something like an appraisal, giving a reason for each point and justifying it against a standard. I believe that anyone who argues that art is priceless would give it for free (ha-ha), but by the same token would argue for a pricing (ha-ha-ha) if they are trying to sell it (justifiably) I think the field would level out, some prices going up, and others down. Anyhow, i am brainstorming this concept for categories and meters. let you know.

jake

On your weblog you have mentioned the ‘discovery’ of vermeer’s studio by dutch árt historian ‘Daan Hartmann. In holland he is known as a very dubious artdealer and certainly not as a historian of any kind. His alleged find was just a way to direct people to his business (which has been under attack both from banks and the taxman and private citizens for fraud). Details can be found in many dutch newspapers and on several websites and weblogs.

reuters is not always a reliable source…..
(from a Dutch reader)

Your pride (or defensiveness) in your literalness, all too easily reveals your limitations as a visual artist or a commentator.
(from an installation artist)

Hi Anna,
Had a chance this week to check out your blog and your site in general, and wanted to send my compliments! It’s so far-ranging and informative and beautiful. Love your work: the writing and the painting. And thanks for posting my news on Mexico. So far, we have 4-5 folks who want to go, not quite enough, but we’ll see….
All the best,
Marianne Rogoff

(image at top is from a clip art collection called Desk Gallery, by Zedcor, Inc.)

July 11, 2005 (Monday) – An Artist’s View of the City
Yesterday I gave a talk at the Studio Gallery about the artist’s view and the city. (left: Jennifer at the Studio Gallery, making last minute adjustments.) Earlier in the weekend I’d seen a documentary about Richard Avedon (“Darkness and Light”) that gave me an idea of where to begin. At the beginning of the movie Richard Avedon said, “To be an artist (to be a photographer) you have to nurture the things that most people discard. You have to keep them alive, in order to tap them. I have to be in touch with the fragility… the man in me, the woman in me, the things I’m afraid of. By exploring things I’m afraid of, I’ve been able to lay the ghost. It’s out of me and onto the page.”

My interpretation: artists stay open to chance and serendipity. They take the time to slow down, stop, and look at the things most people rush past. It’s part of human nature to look for and recognize patterns, but artists take it a little further.

Visual artists keep a vast personal museum of images in their head. They shuffle through these images constantly. This makes it natural for an artist to look at a pile of litter by the curb and see a beautiful composition, or an interesting juxtaposition of objects, or a symbolic statement, when most people would rush by without seeing it, or see it but dismiss it as “trash.”

The gift of the artist to the rest of the community is to show, point out, or emphasize things they’ve seen. Often this is a familiar scene or subject from an unfamiliar point of view. For instance. Paul Madonna’s ink drawings of San Francisco roof tops have made a whole lot of people start looking up as they walk around the city. (Above left: Madonna drawing from the Newmark Gallery.) Nobuhito Tanaka’s “Mini Mini Cooper” (image right, at the Studio Gallery) shifts the viewer’s point of view, to pavement level.

For the last year or so, I’ve been focusing on urban caves (tunnels, garages, etc.) My point of view has been from a dark place, looking out (or not) towards the opening, and light.

Ultimately, though, the viewer decides on the point of view for each work of art. Mike Nichols said it like this, at the end of the Richard Avedon documentary: “Art doesn’t come to ultimate conclusions. A great work never closes the issue – it leaves things open, undecided, not yet dealt with… things for later, things for us (the viewers) to deal with.”
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July 7, 2005 (Thursday) – Getting out of the studio

I’m getting buggy – I haven’t left the studio in over a week, except to sleep & occasionally scrounge in the kitchen. The painting is going well, but I think it’s time to get some fresh air and few UV rays, so I’m heading out to the park to paint today.
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I’m impressed with sfgate.com’s entry into the group-blog arena. The writing is good. It’s attractive, lively, covers fluff as well topics like “eat where you live” Even the art category is off to a good start, with Matt Petty doing most of the art reporting.

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July 6, 2005 (Wednesday) – Public Art

In respnse to Tyler Green’s Boston Globe op-ed about why it is wrong for the MFA Boston to rent out art to a private gallery in a Las Vegas casino:

Why shouldn’t public (non-profit) art museums rent out their collections? Because for godsake, we’re buried in money exchanges as it is. It takes an extreme act of will and almost constant vigilance to keep oneself from being sucked into the “everything-has-a-price-and-mine-is-higher-than-yours” mentality. Is there no end to the the constant barrage of messages, saying in essence, “you aren’t good enough, but buy this and maybe you can pass?” Look at all the flashing boxes around the borders of most web pages: it’s a virtual walk down any major (US) city center, with panhandlers shaking cups at you, left and right. Aren’t these museum people rich enough already? No, of course not, because money doesn’t fill that hole. Neither does whiter teeth, smaller pores, bigger cars…

OK, you pushed a button, but I’ll stop before I really get carried away. What I wanted to say is:

Admission to PUBLIC art museums, to see PUBLICLY OWNED art should be FREE at all times to everybody (i.e. the PUBLIC.)

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July 5, 2005 (Tuesday) – Practice
A few days ago a friend of mine (another painter) dropped by to see what I was up to. I was having trouble deciding which, if any paintings to submit to a particular venue. All of my current work (stacked in the hall and around the living room) is already promised to various places, so it would mean submitting work that was at least two years old. We went down to the basement to pull a few pieces out of the racks and take a look. I hadn’t seen these paintings in quite a while. At first, they almost looked to me like they were painted by another person. I was shocked. I saw all kinds of things I’d do differently today. Yet, at the time I finished these pieces, I thought they were the best I’d ever done.

How can such a short time make such a difference? Especially when I’m not consciously trying to “improve” anything? Each time I work on a painting, I just keep at it until I think it’s as good as it can be. Some are harder than others, but I’m usually satisfied with the result. So why, after a few months go by, does it no longer meet my standards? Because, in some mysterious process, those standards have shifted.

I know it has something to do with practice. Lack of practice can slow, stall, or even reverse the progression of skills. But I also think there’s more to it than just practice. Is it desire, intent, focus, or … ? I don’t know. It’s something to ponder today, while I practice.
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July 4, 2005 (Monday) – Fairfield Porter, reality and idealism

From the book, “Poets on Painters,” Edited by J.D. McClatchy
©1988, University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-06971-4

Excerpts from the chapter, “Respect for Things As They Are” by John Ashbery:

In his introduction to Fairfield Porter’s posthumous collection of art criticism, “Art in Its Own Terms,” Rackstraw Downes quotes a remark Fairfield Porter made during what must have been one of the more Byzantine discussions at the Artists’ Club on Eighth Street, around 1952. The members were arguing about whether or not it was vain to sign your paintings. With the flustered lucidity of Alice in the courtroom, Porter sliced this particular Gordian knot once and for all: “If you are vain it is vain to sign your pictures and vain not to sign them. If you are not vain it is not vain to sign them and not vain not to sign them.” We do not know the reaction of his colleagues; quite possibly this mise au net fell on the same deaf ears that ignored the urgent but plain and unpalatable truths that Porter voiced again and again in his writings on art, at a time of particularly hysterical factionalism. … His reputation as an eccentric remains, though it stemmed from a single-minded determination to speak the truth. Handsome is as handsome does; actions speak louder than words: who, in the course of the Artists’ Club’s tumultuous sessions, could pause to listen to such drivel?

I hadn’t known this statement of Porter’s before reading Downes’s preface, but somehow it caused all my memories of the man I knew well for more than twenty years (without, alas, pausing very often to look or listen well) to fall into place. Porter was, of course, only the latest of a series of brilliant know-nothings who at intervals have embodied the American genius, from Emerson and Thoreau to Whitman and Dickinson down to Wallace Stevens and Marianne Moore. Her title “In Distrust of Merits” could stand for all of them and her preference for winter over summer reminds me of Porter’s saying in a letter to a friend: “November after the leaves have fallen may be one of the best times of year on Long Island. That is, I like the way the trees don’t block the light any more. ” And I realized after such a long acquaintanceship that his paintings, which most people like but have difficulty talking about (Are they modern enough? Too French? Too pleasant? Hasn’t this been done before?), are part of the intellectual fabric that underlay his opinions,his conversation, his poetry, his way of being.

They are intellectual in the classic American tradition of the writers mentioned above because they have no ideas in them, that is, no ideas that can be separated from the rest. They are idea, or consciousness, or light, or whatever. Ideas surround them, but do not and cannot extrude themselves into the being of the art… Porter had a horror of “art as sociology,” of the artist who “treats art as though it were raw material for a factory that produces a commodity called understanding.” For art and that commodity are one, and art that illustrates an idea,however remotely or tangentially, has forfeited its claim to be considered art by introducing a fatal divisiveness into what can only be whole. Politically “concerned” artists continue to make pictures that illustrate the horrors of war, of man’s inhumanity to man; feminist artists produce art in which woman is exalted, and imagine that they have accomplished a useful act; and no doubt there are a number of spectators who find it helpful to be reminded that there is room for improvement in the existing order of things. Yet beyond the narrow confmes of the “subject” (only one of a number of equally important elements in the work of art, as
Porter points out) the secret business of art gets done according to mysterious rules of its own. In this larger context ideology simply doesn’t function as it is supposed to, when indeed it isn’t directly threatening the work of art by trivializing it, and trivializing as well the importance of the ideas it seeks to dramatize.

As a citizen he was preoccupied – almost obsessed, in fact – with questions of ecology and politics, and politics of a most peculiar sort; he had been something of a Marxist in the thirties but in later life his political pronouncements could veer from far left to extreme right without any apparent transition. And in conversation he could become almost violent on subjects like pesticides or fluoridation, to the extent that his friends would sometimes: stifle giggles or groans, though one almost always had to agree with him, and the years since his death in 1975 have proved him even righter than he knew. Nevertheless, this passionately idealistic man felt threatened by idealism. If I understand him, it is not idealism that is dangerous, far from it, but idealism perverted and destroyed by being made “useful.” Its uselessness is something holy, just like Porter’s pictures, barren of messages and swept clean, in many cases, by the clean bare light of November, no longer masked by the romantic foliage.

In an earlier letter to Mrs. White, Porter complained about several sentences in an article she had written about him and submitted to him before publication. One was:”Since he does not like the white, misty summer light of the Hamptons he goes to an island in Maine in the summer.” This nettled him because: “the fact is, we go to Maine in the summer because I have since I was six. It is my home more than any other place, and I belong there. . . . The white misty light would never be a reason for my doing anything.” And no doubt the suggestion that he would travel to paint in a place where the light was better was inconceivable, since the whole point was to put down what was there wherever he happened to be, not with approval but with respect. Another sentence that Porter objected to in Mrs. White’s article was this: “The Porters are quiet, intense and rather fey and seem to live on an enchanted planet of their own.” He did not give a reason for his objection, and perhaps none was necessary. But Mrs. White could not really be blamed for her assessment; there was an element of truth in it despite the discomfort it caused Porter. His house in Southampton was an enchanting place: large and gracious but always a little messy and charmingly dilapidated. One of the bathrooms was more than that, while in an upstairs hall the wallpaper hung in festoons and no one seemed to mind. The children were strangely beautiful, wide-eyed, and withdrawn, and they spoke like adults. There were idiosyncratically chosen paintings by de Kooning, Larry Rivers, and Leon Hartl (a little known artist whom Porter admired enormously) on the walls, along with Audubon and Ukiyo-e prints and a strange Turner drawing; there was a lovely smell in the house, made up of good cooking, oil paint, books, and fresh air from the sea. He painted his surroundings as they looked, and they happened to look cozy. But the coziness is deceiving. The local color is transparent and porous, letting the dark light of space show through. The painting has the vehemence of abstraction, though it speaks another language.

In the same letter Porter quoted from memory a line of Wittgenstein that he felt central to his own view of aesthetics: “Every sentence is in order as it is.” And he went on astonishingly to elaborate: “Order seems to come from searching for disorder, and awkwardness from searching for harmony or likeness, or the following of a system. The truest order is what you already find there, or that will be given if you don’t try for it. When you arrange, you fail. ” I think it is in the light of statements like these that we must now look at Porter’s painting, prepared to find the order that is already there, not the one that should be but the one that is.

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From the book, “Poets on Painters,” Edited by J.D. McClatchy
©1988, University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-06971-4

Image of Porter is a self portrait from artchive.com; painting of girl on front of mirror is from Yale Press; painting of “Breakfast” is from artnet.com

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July 1, 2005 (Friday) – July shows to see
The summer fog has settled in, out here by the ocean. I haven’t seen a ray of sunshine in over a week (except for Tuesday, and that was because I went over to the Mission for most of the day.) I’m still working on the July calendar and I’ll try to post it later today. These look like pretty good picks:
Braunstein/Quay Gallery
Paul Pratchenko, Paintings, mixed media
July 6–July 30, 2005
Reception: July 9, 2005

Elins Eagles-Smith Gallery
Pia Stern , “Gravity,” New work on canvas and paper
July 7 – August 15, 2005
Reception first thursday (July 7th) 5:30 – 7:30