Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
12" x 18"
oil on panel
This is a fairly straightforward landscape color field type painting. The directness of it comes from its basic composition of a horizontal rectangle halved with a circle in the top part. A friend was recently sick on an airplane with me and it increased my appreciation of the fundamental importance of being able to see the horizon. I think that line of earth meeting sky is hardwired into us and is a good place to start when making a peaceful image. Such a simple line and areas above and below can be quite compelling in real life as well as in art.
I just saw the Courbet show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where the painting, The Wave, is on view. It is as encompassing as a Rothko and I was thrilled to have Cezanne's words in my mind as I took my turn before it. From the Met website "Cézanne later recalled his impressions of this painting: 'The one in Berlin is marvelous, one of the important creations of the century. ... It hits you right in the stomach. You have to step back. The entire room feels the spray.' " The Wave is a churning subject painted in a way that amplifies that sensation. Courbet's The Desperate Man is a depiction of himself in a state of angst. It is the cover image for the show's brochure and to me it has parallel emotional content to The Wave. The Desperate Man is an amazing painting for its innovative expressivity combined with its technical virtuosity. It captures the topsy-turviness that many people feel in their early twenties (Courbet was twenty-five when he painted it) and it shows that Courbet was an edgy painter, approached painting with a freshness that matched his reputation as a rebel in his time.
No longer painting churning landscape abstractions as I did in my twenties, Cream, White Circle, Blue goes more in the direction of Agnes Martin.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Twenty Below by Paul Engle. It talks about the hardness of winter wind, loneliness, and the way "cabin fever" can bring about intimacy. It has been very cold and snowy here in Western New York, but my painting doesn't focus on the same things as Engle's poem. Sky and Snow is lyrical despite its lack of Matisse-like arabesques. The blue and the white shimmer radiantly; the air feels crisp. The line of snow meeting sky softly undulates, human, not stark. The space is inviting for all its apparent emptiness, calm and open, no trace of a cabin. It is a friendly place, not unlike an illustration from one of my favorite picture books, Caldecott winner A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. His book is described on his website as "sparkling with atmosphere." I remember being enchanted by it as a child, and again as an adult reading to my son. I think my painting has some of that sense of wonder, but the narrative is removed and it is very still.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Don't dismiss it yet. It's not nothing. There is a square and a vertical, smaller rectangle. The latter hangs in space, glowing. It is like a mirror without a reflection. Peaceful, it seems impenetrable at first, but closer inspection reveals fracturing in its facture, hints of atmosphere. Maybe it is a looking glass to pass through. The light blue rectangle has the singularity and scale (hard to tell in a reproduction) of a head; that when the viewer approaches it stands in opposition, ready to greet or be met.
There is a hint of alchemy, of substances, colors mixed, subtly woven into the two opposing blues. Their overall contrast makes me think of the sky-blue atmosphere of earth and the universe beyond. Although we can't see outer space with our naked eyes, it is very real all the same. So the picture is about mystery and human limitations. It is about conception and reality, the flat world and the round, the search for clarity and the frontier. It is also a light blue rectangle and a blue square.
While in the MFA program at the University of Pennsylvania I had the opportunity to study with Robert Slutzky and later be his TA for Drawing I. Bob died in 2005 and I remember him as a caring, extremely intelligent teacher known for his expertise in both architecture and painting. He studied with Joseph Albers at Yale, taught art and architecture at Cooper Union, worked with architects John Hejduk, Peter Eisenman, and Richard Meier. Then he came to Penn and was always a central figure in critiques for architecture, painting, and sculpture students. His geometric paintings are filled with light, color, and transparency; stunning, please click here.
It is funny to see one's own work next to a mentor's. Bob's work dazzles me but the thinking of space, placement, color, makes the work so strong, far beyond eye candy. The work of mine that I am posting is not more about opacity, atmosphere, singularity, something somber. I would so have liked to have had more conversations with Bob because he always made me feel that painting is important and my painting is important.