in a row

OK you duckies, get in a row….

It always takes a bit of an adjustment. A reset,  after finishing up some sort of art event- coordinating one, participating in one, or being one in the case of the recent two day studio tour in town.

This feels different from working towards a large solo show for two years, and shipping it off, and all the activities tangential to that. The lull that happens after that intense focus and effort is the kind that leads to wondering, “what next?”  (Or just needing a realllly long nap.)

Now, it’s more a feeling of needing to get the ducks in a row. Follow through on some tasks. (OK, bathroom, I know your walls are waiting for some plaster and a coat of paint…)

Art decisions are sometimes thrust upon us.  In the case of this year, I will not be spending any time coordinating and hanging a large silent auction benefit art show because the non-profit in question is putting it on hold to reevaluate its relevance.  So I lose income but gain a whole lot of time that is relatively stress-free.

I know I am engaged in the current work, and also know I don’t want to make large pieces.  At least for now.

In the case of goals to be working towards, there is a small show locally in a theater in September, and then a large open void.  Hmmmm, what will come next?

It seems that I have actually been the one selling/marketing my own work for the last four years.  Perhaps I should get more serious about that and make it possible for folks to purchase on-line.   Although some would frown on putting prices on a website or blog.  But I have no gallery to compete/coordinate with, and frankly I’m past the point of caring what most people do.   But what if I enter into a future agreement with another gallery?  Well, I’m not actively looking.  At least not for a venue out of state.  So, perhaps that’s a non-argument.

My life has downsized, my needs are not huge, and I mostly want to see what I do find an occasional audience . . . and if I am fortunate… a home.

Wonder if other people’s goals start to change after reaching 60 or thereabouts…

the end of this beginning…

Many artists around the country have had the distinct opportunity to participate in a Creative Capital Professional Development Weekend.  And this last weekend was my chance. (big shout-out to Beet Street for bringing in a second annual one)

The presenters, Maureen Huskey, Colleen Keegan, Aaron Landsman, Jackie Battenfield, and Byron Au Yong, were all incredibly generous and helpful- I think everyone felt like they took away quite a bit that was not only useful, but truly personal and meaningful to each participant.

At the wrap-up, Colleen used the expression the “end of the beginning” to refer to our impending activities- filtering all this good stuff, starting to address issues unique to our own practice and moving forward, armed with clearer intentions (can you say “strategic planning?”) and optimism.

As it happens, I have been following “Communicatrix”,  Colleen Wainright’s blog for a while  (although it is much more than that) and today, something arrived in my mailbox with her last in a series of “embracing the tiny” observations.  Coincidence?   I think not.

For my part, I left the two days, filled with new energy to lead myself back to work that was more personal and meaningful to me- something that made me excited to keep moving forward, not something that I assumed would be embraced by a too-specific audience.

I (re) learned that I need to make the work that matters, and then move it out into the world, so the right audience can find it.  I will feel blessed, and I think those finding it will feel fortunate when they do.

what to do with old slides…?

If you are an artist who has practiced solidly for the last 25 to 30 years, and you have spent any time teaching/applying  for teaching jobs….you no doubt have hundreds of slides of former work. I have stored mine for years in two serious black metal three drawer cabinets.
But just yesterday, I was in the local university library, making use of their Nikon slide scanner, beginning the odious and seemingly endless task of scanning my slides and saving the digital files to then edit….. so what is everyone else doing? To save or not to save… that is the question.

“the most you can do is try”

Nathan Oliveira
“Western Site XI,” 1978
monotype, 26″ x 22″
Collection Saint Louis Art Museum

this past weekend, Nathan Oliveira, an incredible painter, printmaker, and teacher died. I haven’t thought about him for a while, although when visiting the SF Bay Area, it’s not hard to run into his paintings in galleries there. When I was in grad school, he came to Iowa as a visiting artist.  Standing in the printmaking studio watching him do a workshop on monotypes, was a revelation to me – sending the plate through the press time after time, each pass laying on  another thin veil of atmospheric color.

I continued to make monotypes while in school and beyond, and carried some of the techniques and sensibilities he shared with us into my own prints. In particular, I was really taken by his various series of “Site” monotypes. The forms that emerged in a vaporous, timeless landscape; the remnants of structures in various states of decay; the absent, but yet felt, human presence all made an imprint that informed my own work in later years.

Now, most poignantly, when I am going through a period of wondering if what I do is relevant, or worth doing any more, various voices seem to be reaching out to me, reminding me why I started this journey.

“Success in what I do is measured by surviving into one’s mature years and continuing to find enough genuine reasons to work,” said Oliveira, who retired in 1995 and continued to paint up until his death, when he left 30 paintings in progress.

Coincidentally, I’ve been going through old videos tapes, getting ready to have a few things put on DVD to edit.  Watching a somewhat fuzzy copy of “Philip Guston: A Life Lived”- which is a wonderful film, using the occasion of a large retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to show him discussing and reliving the process of working.

Guston is another painter who is incredibly inspiring in that at a fairly late point in his career, he kept moving in new directions that felt compelling on a personal level.   as he says in the film, “things are constantly opening up to me.  . . . “the most you can do is try”

So, I’ve come to believe (again) in the process of just doing the work-  not for an intended audience, not for a resume, not in contrast to what anyone else is doing. Just for the pure joy of experiencing the process and seeing where I will be led.

Ultimately, we all end up in a 100 square foot room

I’m thinking about lots of things not directly related to painting these days. Most notably, my 90 year old mother who has been in a “health care center”  -(when did this euphemism for nursing home appear?) for several months. At first, it was just to get stronger, so she might return home, or to assisted living. Then she got over confident and had a fall (fractured hip) then she had surgery and came back weaker, and now has some pain which prevents her from getting any physical therapy, hence, getting weaker still.
So, between her situation, and the many like it that I have witnessed as a hospice volunteer, I am keenly aware that despite all we acquire and seem to inhabit in our prime, there’s a good chance most of us will come to reside in a much smaller universe during the final chapters of our lives.
In some ways, this is a relief  – downsizing-   getting rid of things extraneous- from relationships to belongings to expectations and self-judgments.

It just so happens that my studio is about this size, and I feel that I am about to undergo some sort of transition there as well.
Perhaps it will be from painting to drawing as a primary activity. . .  perhaps I’ll haul in my small (but extremely heavy) etching press. Making work again that can indeed be stored flat or easily ripped up.
The universe and its walls can only absorb so many paintings and other two-dimensional visual work, and let’s face it- this seems to be a time when everyone and their aunt thinks that after taking a couple workshops, they are ready to quit their day job and be a “professional artist.”

So, quantity has mushroomed, quality has suffered, the market is glutted and, yes, marketing becomes the name of the game.  As I was telling a friend today, there now seems to be a whole entire insidious “profession” of art marketing coaches, making lots of money off of these same recently hatched “artists”.

But, here’s the truth as I lived it getting my training as a painter….I don’t think I was compelled to be a painter because I wanted to go into marketing and sales. If that was the case, I would have gone straight to business school.  Do no pass GO.

More as this fork in the road develops….

facebooking in the new year

yup- I guess I waited a respectful amount of time to let the youngsters have their say, but then my daughter informed me (with a note of indulgent disdain) that everyone’s parents are doing it, so it seemed like the time to jump in.

The ironic discovery is that so many people from my graduate school and other past lives are to be found this way, and I was really happy to reconnect with this virtual art group, having never really found a similar experience where I now live.

Maybe it has something to do with a shared language or experience of what it meant to be truly committed to thrashing around and finding a unique voice- don’t know.

It also has made me look back and evaluate some of the choices I’ve made career-wise, and learn that I can perhaps resurrect myself one more time (at least).

Even if we had our insecurities early on, back there in the Midwest, we were not prone to indulge in them at the expense of others. No one seemed overly needy and we all supported each other’s efforts.  Everyone embodied ambition for the work, more than for its own sake.  I truly admire the paths these people have taken, and the integrity with which they have traveled.

(I just have to make sure it doesn’t become a huge time suck!)

I also have to decide when to make a move with the newest body of work.

Still starting new paintings!

Is the world still contracting and reeling? or are people ready to expand and add more painting to it, build new environments and reconfigure older ones?  Soon we shall see.