Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Names in the news and reasons to exhibit…

I should have been stretching paintings for the exhibit, last evening, instead I started painting a new 32”’x 78” oil of another map, only breaking to eat and watch the last-half of a rerun of “House” staring Hugh Laurie.

As I enter the final 4-5 weeks prior to my next museum exhibition, I realize that I’ve hit the stage of the game where I put-off the detrimental exhibit details - such as framing; ordering glass; measuring for stretcher bars; compiling a final list, for the museum staff, of each piece I actually plan to place in the show. How do I usually spend that time, instead of preparing for my show… ironically, I paint more large pictures, which in turn leads to needing more solo exhibits to sell the work; so I can make more room to paint in the studio. Vicious circle…. Like most process-oriented artists, I could really care less about having/getting to exhibit my work. I do it, however, as an end to justify the means.

Artnews has a list of who they believe will be famous in 105 years. But "Jeff Koons, whose collectors include billionaire Eli Broad, and Damien Hirst, whose shark is owned by hedge-fund manager Steven Cohen, failed to draw a vote from museum curators nominating artists who'll be famous in 105 years' time for U.S. magazine ARTnews." Bloomberg 10/30/07

Yeah, I need exhibitions to sell (and survive?)… but… how much of the commercial aspect of the art world game is truly inconsequential? Does the fact that two of the highest selling living contemporary artists, Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, never actually “did it for me” suddenly have some deeper meaning in my own search for artistic immortality? If I won the lottery and just gave away everything I painted (hence, not needing the subsequent income)… would my value to or place in the future of art history be diminished, flawed or non-existent? - DN

Monday, October 29, 2007

Do Explanations Help Art?

"It is a commonly held view in the art world that the public resists conceptual work because it is difficult to understand. Its reputation for being pretentious and "not as good as painting" would improve, they argue, if it were properly explained. In many exhibitions - the pavilions at the Venice Biennale this year being one example - reams of text, and even books, are handed out to visitors to help them interpret what they see." – The New Statesman, 10/18/2007

I’ve included narratives with my paintings for as long as I can remember. In my work, the story is inseparable from the initial reason to make the painting. –DN

Friday, October 26, 2007

Serial Monogamy

My hiatus from writing has been influenced by the mad rush to complete works for the upcoming December show at the Margaret Harwell Museum in Missouri. While I should be busy stretching paintings from the pile of completed canvases on the corner studio shelf, instead I find myself working to create from those final surges of mad energy often associated with works of greater dimension.

Currently, I have two large (3’x7’) oil map-paintings stretched and drying. Its never a question of what to paint, just one of where to put them whilst they dry and I carve out a new one. I’ve returned to oils with these last two works and I find myself swimming in the continuous inhalation of mineral spirits I temporarily abandoned. Maybe its related to the process of marking, tracing and manipulating the movement of space across a composition that forces the frantic desire to continue my painting narratives. I build these make-shift stretched canvas structures as quickly as possible so that I can lay my hands down and allow the rotation of my arms to overtake their sockets and my perception of depth. Painting with one’s entire body is a sensation unmatched by anything constructed outside the natural world. A computer mouse and Photoshop have nothing on a jar of the purest thinned paint and two fists of Chinese brushes, brayers and sticks.

Once the work is dry, I re-stretch over heavy-duty kiln-dried stretcher strips, exhibiting with wrap-around painted sides and deliver unto the outstretched paths of the world… allowing me to forget them and love another. - DN

Thursday, October 25, 2007

He was good... but not scientist good...

"Jackson Pollock, famous for his dripped and poured paintings, was one of the most explosively innovative American artists of the 20th century. But was he also decades ahead of his time in terms of the paints he used? Did he have access to pigments and resins that weren't marketed or patented until well after his death in 1956?" The question arose after several supposedly authenticated Pollocks were found to contain such pigments. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 10/24/07

Click here to read the entire article.

ahem... (cough) forgery... ahem... - DN

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Old... Modern Art

Archaeologists have discovered an 11,000-year-old work of art in northern Syria. --The Telegraph, London, Oct 10, 2007

Maybe the modernists did come first…click here to read the entire article. - DN

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


So many contemporary art movements want to accentuate the artistic freedom to work without boundaries or formats. While I appreciate and often even feel lured towards this creative perspective… I have to stop and wonder what qualifies the members of an “anything goes” art movement as a group?

At what point does the philosophy of an art group’s manifesto have to give way for actual cohesion of style or subject, so that an actual art movement can form? My own work runs the gamut of (1) travel-inspired works, (2) abstracted landscapes that propel movement as a binding force and (3) introspective anthropological narratives – at what point do I take one or all of these directions and build some sort of unified front to stamp a permanent spot upon the present or future art world. Within my lifetime will that even be possible for a painter stuck in the current conceptual art time warp? After all these years, try as I might, I can’t help but feel more passion for painting over all other mediums. – While I still don’t believe they hold the answer for the direction I see my work taking, I think I just had a small epiphany with regards to what motivates the Stuckists’ art movement.

Could the most ridiculous of all the twentieth century questions (Is painting dead?), be the button that sets me off? My personal motivator to prove that painting is or should be the high art of choice? Surely the contemporary art world has not branched so far out that something as simple as stating “I am a painter” is a call to arms or binding factor for an art movement... I am a painter. - DN

Monday, October 15, 2007

Defense of the Ignorant - the art made me do it?

Vandals Slash Serrano Photos In Swedish Gallery - Around 3:30, half an hour before closing, four vandals wearing black masks stormed into a space known as the Kulturen Gallery while shouting in Swedish, "We don't support this," plus an expletive. They pushed visitors aside, entered a darkened room where some of the photographs were displayed and began smashing the glass protecting the photographs and then hacking away at the prints. By the time the masked men had finished, half the show — seven 50-by-60-inch photographs, worth some $200,000 over all — had been destroyed. The men left behind leaflets reading, “Against decadence and for a healthier culture.” The fliers listed no name or organization. - The New York Times 10/09/07

Read the complete article, here.

So violence leads to a healthier culture? I appreciate that not everyone approves of the works produced by Serrano, but who grants the right to destroy the property of another in the name of decency? The entire concept of destroying art to prove righteousness is absurd. Its right up there with bombing abortion clinics to stop “murder” or claiming that disagreement with the government is unpatriotic.

However this phenomenon is not limited to only the most controversial of art, last week, another vandal destroyed a Monet… a Monet… who would have something against a Monet? Ninety-nine percent of Impressionists’ paintings do nothing more than feed the human soul with goodness and beauty. Vandals. I hate it when the world reminds me that there are still dregs in society. - DN

Friday, October 12, 2007

More about the crack at the Tate...

Click here to read a few other opinions about the crack at the Tate and its art "worthiness". - DN

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Living with Art...

Now this is a great story... the last line in the article is the best:

A crack in the floor which forms Tate Modern's latest installation has claimed its first casualties. Three visitors lost their footing and fell into the gap made by Doris Salcedo's art work. They were among more than 12,000 people who viewed the installation, which runs the full 167 metres (548 feet) of the Turbine Hall.

The Tate said the trio did not sustain serious injuries. "We can confirm that three visitors missed their footing and tripped in the Turbine Hall at the opening event. "They were attended to immediately by Tate security staff trained in first aid but there have been no serious injuries. Twelve thousand people visited the installation on the first day and there have been no further incidents," a spokeswoman said.

"Tate staff are monitoring the space carefully to ensure the safety of our visitors. "Tate has a lot of experience handling complex installations and visitor safety. We have thought carefully about visitor safety, working closely with Southwark Council and there are measures in place. There are no plans to barrier off the work at this stage."

Tate staff are on hand with leaflets warning about the dangers of getting too close to the piece. Gallery attendants have also been instructed to give verbal advice to visitors.

Brazilian sculptor Salcedo says the work, entitled Shibboleth, symbolises racial division.
The crack represents the gap between white Europeans and the rest of the world's population. According to Salcedo, the fissure is "bottomless... as deep as humanity"...
However, it appears to be around three feet at its deepest point. - UK Times Online, Oct 10th
Always nice to know the human condition really only rates three feet... - DN

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why Immersion Travel Art?

I recently met my most interesting local, yet, in the southern Midwest… given the fact that I’m originally from this area – that’s saying a lot.

The woman was a teacher in her late fifties, both employed and residing within fifty miles of where she was raised. That in it’s self is not uncommon, I dare say that many of my neighbors have rarely (if ever) made the three-hour-drive north to St. Louis or south to Memphis. However, the person, to whom I refer now, seems to have traveled, though exactly how widely, I do not know. She herself is well educated and her daughter is a writer, currently living in Los Angeles and doing script-work for the television show “Jericho”. None of this is what stood-out in our conversations, though. Instead, I was completely intrigued by her stories of attending the “Negro School” prior to desegregation taking root in the Mississippi Delta region of southern Missouri.

I expected tales of want and discomfort and instead was met with … a happy childhood. While she made distinction that not all students of segregated education had a “fine experience”, she remembered her own experience as boasting a school that offered limitless opportunities for education as it was well-funded with new books, a nice well-kept brick building and only the best support materials (new chalk-boards, desks and such). "We had everything the White School had," she told me. The Negro School was located behind the White School (adjoining properties), with the playgrounds divided by a gravel road. She told me that when one side’s ball would bounce over the line, the group of children on the other side would happily toss it back. It was a surreal discussion on race without any real mention of color or class distinction.

Located in the middle of corn and cotton fields, only a few miles across the Mississippi River, with Dyersburg Tennessee as the nearest neighbor - this pocket of uncommon racial co-habitation continues to exist to some degree, today. The schools are now joined as one, with the former Negro School serving as the district’s Middle School. The interior of the school boasts photographs of the school district’s history, hiding nothing in the shadows. Proudly displaying throughout the halls images of multi-racial graduating classes from their school, over the years. Even now, there continues a small black population mixed intermittently amongst the predominately white classrooms, but the race relations seem nowhere near the strain found in other regions of the country, or even other neighboring sections of southern Missouri.

Why Immersion Travel Art?… for stories and interactions, just like the one above. I could have never heard this story from the mass media, or read about it in a travel brochure provided by the local Chamber of Commerce. Now what do I do with this information, this aspect of “knowing” that exposes intimacy of relationships and turns my mind and actions from tourist to indigenous. – DN

Monday, October 08, 2007

Mass Marketing Dreams

Another great website, click here to view. Interesting to read about others' dreams. Sure some are ridiculous; many are materialistic and consumerist-driven… but then there are those beautiful few that want nothing more than a moment of guileless unrelenting quality… a dream worth something from a purely individual standpoint not based on the skewed perspective of society.

What is the exhibition of art, but a dream to attain acceptance from society? Why else display it? I don’t paint to a mold, do I exhibit towards one? Is it really possible to display work with the same individuality as one creates art? – DN

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Looking for art in a technical world...

For a while I’ve read, in silence, the occasional abbreviated words of another. “Nietzsche's Wife (Ecce Mulier)” is probably my favorite blog - minimalist, simple, and indignant of others.

Even the postings in the archive read as if they are indifferent to time, her blog lives in the moment… “Nietzsche's Wife” has quite possibly figured-out how to turn a simple blog into process-oriented art.

Click here to read. – DN

Friday, October 05, 2007

Morris Graves Museum

Opening tomorrow, click here. - DN

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Endorsements and Labels of Affection

“Teachers Endorse Hillary” was the headline I read this morning when I sat at my computer, coffee in hand, for my morning news overview. That’s curious, I don’t recall anyone EVER asking me whom I endorsed during my itinerant public school teaching career. I do remember something having to do with political buttons leaning hard to Democrat while I was under the guise of the local teacher’s union in St. Louis (guild of thieves is probably a better description), more than a handful of years ago. Don’t get me wrong… I tend to lean Democrat, despite my disgust with the party and politics in general… but I still don’t like the implication that one has to check their brain at the door when voting, just because a union demands the final say… it seems twice as despicable when you consider that we’re discussing teachers or the molders of minds... relenting their objective right to choice.

Which leads me to the question of “how to endorse a style or genre of art?” I’m sure this is not a unique area of conflict… every artist that is interested in creating work for the sake of the process, must at some point grow tired of pigeon-holing into a series, style, subject…etc. Yet, do we place ourselves into the position of defining our art or do we simply cave to societal pressure?

I would have to say the most common question that accompanies, “so whadya do?”… has to be “what kinda art?”

After all these years, I still have nothing short of a half-assed response when faced with this question. “uhhmmm, I paint a lot, no really a LOT”. But what happens if I start to utilize the kiln in the corner of my studio (you know… the one under the box of travel books)?

Some additional common questions I field:
Is it landscape or abstract (what about when I venture into figures)?
Is it paint or ink (what about when I mix the two... mixed-media)?
Are scrolls still paintings, in the strictest commercial sense of the word, if they’re not on canvas or framed behind glass?
And my favorite: Does it hurt your value if you produce too many paintings in a year (supply and demand)?

By the way, I don’t care for any of the candidates but I dislike Obama the least, so that's how I lean in our current political climate. - DN

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Enough is Enough?

Now this link is interesting a little story on a modern Secessionists in the USA and its not exactly whom you would have thought. Click here to read. - DN

Monday, October 01, 2007

Individual Narratives

"Samuel's Drawing, age 4", Sharpie & Watercolor on HP Photopaper

My son has already acquired an interest in working with non-traditional painting media. This painting, along with ten more, was completed a month before his fifth birthday. Since that time he has started an intensive pre-school program that has been wonderful for his social development and maturity, but has done serious damage to his natural artistic technique. That nice three-dimensional figure you see above has been replaced with traditional stick figures with scribbles for bodies. Today, when we work in the studio, we’ll have to practice the process of unlearning what I refer to as… idiot-socialized art (the faux-modesty that occurs when a student joins a group of peers and suddenly prefers to paint or draw like everyone else in order to be accepted as “nothing-special”).

Which brings me around to narratives. Stories about life, seemingly insignificant moments in time, and what happens to dreams when mortality gets in the way. That special desire to be accepted as less than exceptional, particularly in the South and Midwest… Garrison Keillor has used the ideal as the basis of his writing and radio program for nearly forty years. That concept that extols – what’s good enough for one man should be more than enough for a generation.

But I’m alluding to the negative, again; who’s to say mortality can’t emphasis rather than unravel a fantasy of self-confidence and artistic alienation. After all, it’s the richness in the details of existence that make life worth living.

Abstract concepts in a literal world, occasionally, are harshly received. I’ve previously mentioned my admiration for the writings of John Haines. A painter turned poet that wrote every word like the scratch of a minimalist painter searching for the perfect brushstroke. His beautiful genius for detailing metaphors from analogies is a rare find in the most perfect of situations. However, it was even more out of place for an east-coast native with an on-again, off-again romance with mid-twentieth century Alaskan homesteading. Innumerable winters and a couple wives later, he was suddenly old. No longer in the place he loved. Instead he was conducting readings in New York and other university-infatuated cities along his book tours. He learned his lesson and returned to the source of his passion, unfortunately… naturally, though… lives continued while he was away. The best moments seemed to have passed into realms of technology and we only have his poems and prose as a record of that time as a path to relive it. His best poems and stories were the ones derived from chance encounters with locals along lonely hunting excursions and the very occasional all-night storytelling camps with fellow sourdough dreamers in remote shacks reserved as meeting places originally intended for joining men with whiskey.

Humans are social beasts, but that does not mean that we should lose our individuality for the prospect of further association; quite the contrary, it is our individual character that defines our purpose. – DN