More to come. Stay tuned.
Most artists know the the pain of starting something new. The blank canvas, the raw wood, the block of earth, the quiet room: they are a haunting lack of presence. The fear of failure never seems so prevalent when you’re staring at the blank. Its very unsettling to have the compulsion to create only to be halted by insecurity. This insecurity mostly comes from lack of confidence in ones own work, that what you create won’t be understood or more accurately that your work fails to true represent what you feel. To
combat that insecurity, you practice. The idea of practice generally leads to concentration on the details. One usually starts developing the details, intensely. So one becomes master of one thing, a specialist. The modern artist can easily be drawn delicately into a corner by itself. Like so.
It means absolutely nothing to me. But its easy. One dimensional. Lifeless. While this delicacy will eventually shine in more dear works, its effortlessness is frustrating. Why can’t I summon the courage to do that when I want. How do I link my hand and my heart? ‘The big picture’, a haunting common phrase, is my judge. It hold’s me to a creedo that demands everything and promises absolutely nothing. As I am a selfish man I will do very little when promised nothing. When I speak of getting a return, I’m not asking for acknowledgement, accolade, and definitely not money: I am speaking about continuity and clarity. The big picture will not allow such a thing. To force the habit…to force the big picture out, or at least a bigger one, can be possible. Teacher’s think this can be taught. They start with shape recognition, which is exactly like learning how to read. We read by shapes; of words, numbers, and even sentences. Image vocabulary is very important for an artist, both in absorption and association. This allows you to pull out what you see and feel more readily, very important in brain storming and initial sketches.
The next logical step, though a very difficult one, is bravery with color. Lay it on thick. Be wild. Be deliberate. This stage is a commitment to the image. Think impressionist, very concerned about capturing a moment of time. Think Lucian Freud, concerned about connecting with the flesh on and outside the canvas.
As maturation is reckless without goals both physical and mental, I am seeking a new regimen to mature as an artist. Two things are guiding me; the painters maxim “generalize often and use every color”, and a simple but obtainable body of work. As sort of a new years resolution, I plan to paint on portrait a week for the next year to be featured here(allowing two weeks reprieve). Somewhat inspired by the movie Julia & Julia, but mostly from the following portrait of my dear friend Lindsey.
Three colors on a post-it note. Simple and direct. I hope to carry this idea forward graduating to 4×4 canvas panels and more than three colors. Even If I only accomplish half of my goal (25), that is a decent body of work and hours of practice. So wish me luck as I move forward with this project, and I wish luck for your new years endeavors and patience for those task that last longer than a year.
Happy New Years
somewhere above the distinction, but below the line. Bury me with
your good intentions. I’ll fall for it, I will fall hard. I’ll fall
into the cold hard ground. Driven deep, stakes for the circus tent.
Let me be the structure for something appropriate, something cheap
and frivolous. Let it be temporary. I don’t have the bones for
something old, I don’t have the salt of a good meal, I don’t
breathe well. I can help your coming and going attractions.
But I only ask,
that when the crowds leave, and after the vultures have pick
clean, let the gift of snow rest on me. Let it sit pure for just a
while so that I might know peace, beauty, and clean.
At the beginning of November, I went with a friend to National Gallery of Art (NGA). There on display was the shocking and alluring centerpiece done by Philip Haas, featured in the video above. (Apologizes for the filmography, though I am proud of the music) I will return that work and the genius of Arcimboldo, but first we must discuss it’s housing.
The NGA was created in 1937, primarily because of a gift from former Secretary of Treasury Andrew W. Mellon. Former is a generous word, as ousted is slightly more correct. He glad accepted an ambassadorship in the UK. But never mind his politics, his nose for opportunity, or his attempt to liquidate America during the great depression…he got us started.
It seems quite appropriate that National Gallery has its beginnings from the generosity of American wealth. Being a young country, we can always count on the wisdom or forced generosity of the established. UVA’s library, began on the heels of Thomas Jefferson’s, in the valley below Monticello: the NGA began with the thrifty acquisitions of an accountant. Now I don’t want to be to hard on Mr. Mellon, his generosity is well received, but I just find it curious the fourth wealthiest man in America is know for his contributions to the art world, and for hiding in Europe during the great depression.
Moving far forward to the National houses of art. The NGA features classical and modern artworks which are housed in two buildings, the west and east wings respectively. The west is a spartan, but typical dc building. A very plain neoclassical building from the outside, but the details inside are worth their weight. For instance, the stair cases on either side of the main hallway are magnificent, especially the subtle curves to the end caps. The most redeeming feature is the dome center, with a proper oculus. That feature sets the mood and diction for the rest of the west wing.
from the east looking to the west
The west wing, is striking and seemingly out of place, resting at the feet of the capitol. It is however, remarkable. Designed by I.M. Pei, who gave the Louvre its pyramid, it is wonder of space and light. Here is where I stumbled upon this elementary theory about the relationship between classical and modern art on the national stage. In the west wing of the NGA, the formula is tried and true. The format encourages the flow and discovery. I can go in for the hundredth time and still be drawn through seeking the details that are pushed out by the walls and wood floors.
In the east I enter hungry, desperate, encouraged by the prospect that such beautiful walls can hold something equally if not more beautiful. But every time I find my self greatly disappointed. The space is abundant, the work is stagnant and few. Calder’s mobiles struggle in futility to keep you entranced. Is modern art, is the open invitation that no one can fill? Is it the understanding that our modern format is chaotic, scattered, and largely with out consensus? The large statement seems to be, we built this big house to feed the souls of man, however all we can afford is light and air. To any artist that is enough, but this house isn’t for just for we who call ourselves artists. Any good gallery haunts the day dreams of all who enter it, convincing anyone that you feel too. The east wing, for the most part, continues to leaves me unaware of anything new and with little hope.
then you walk up on this…
Winter (after Arcimboldo)-Philip Haas
This sculpture is one of those you have to see. It takes all the noise out of your head, tunnel vision sets and your just there observing something completely different. The feeling is much more profound if you approach from the basement level as the photo illustrates. The illusion of this fauna-humanoid growing from the cold polished stone is a beautiful sight. Mr. Haas chose right.
When you learn about Arcimboldo, its never quite the credence you would expect for some who defied convention as much as he did. This is 4 centuries before dada, before dali or Magritte. Some say he was just responding to the times, and to daVinci’s grotesque heads. While this is partly true, his works dwell within a state of imagination that goes beyond the general renaissance inquisitive spirit. Our modern artists thrive with character’s swimming in distortion, begging for a pulpy story. The characters of Arcimboldo, are satirical, and on their own a incomprehensible examination of the human form. This work is great encouragement to anyone seeking some art-food. Arcimboldo’s drastic innovations more than 400 years ago spur new thought, and once more awaking the possibility that new ground is out there, new feelings lie cold waiting to be shook.
This exhibit is on through 1.9.11 and it features the sculpture by Philip Haas, as well as more than a dozen paintings by Arcimboldo. Go see it if you can.
while the sun does enough to get me out of a reluctantly wonderful state… a morning shower will always be the best cycle for my senses
the steam releases me from lands unknown, and I creep towards obvious light
suddenly a shock, a glance at the floor reveals silk strands
instinctively i reached to the back of my head to find nothing
…i had forgotten in that instant I cut my hair
…i had forgotten that she was now here
it seemed i wake only in the need to be more awake
sleep comforts me with knowledge of the unknown
awakening is the struggle to remember the surprises of being alive
Recently, in a issue of Blue Canvas(wonderful magazine), I read an article about the amazing painter John Brosio. He has a distinct expressionistic style, full of surrealistic commentary. His tornado-scapes are breathe taking, full of texture and wispy strokes. The interaction with light remind me of Turner, and that makes me especially happy. But his true mark seems to be in that placement of his subjects. The plain people placed by larger than life items, seem to poke fun at the the struggles of our feeble race. That we will continue to put ourselves at risk despite what nature, history, or our mother says. But beyond the exposure to his work, Blue Canvas also gave me some of his words. Some words that a creative will soak up.
A superman complex with complex empathy, thank you John. With art world devoured by marketing, human needs are rationalized as dollars and cents. Its refreshing to have a practicing painter thinking about the hypothetic needs of earnest people. Also a hint of optimism by using the word “if”. And extreme skepticism with the word “currently”.
He is given the question: Do you find it hard balancing your teaching responsibilities with working on your own stuff? No, right now they offset one another quite nicely. Painting can be a very isolation endeavor and teaching brings a very social dynamic to the whole thing. The only thing that gets in the way of painting is the tedious errands that can truly kill things for the day. Ain’t that the truth. Once again thank you, John.
Check out his paintings at johnbrosio.com
Also check out bluecanvas.com