Saturday, February 23, 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

John Currin

In a few sentences--this man can really paint still lives above and beyond. I think his housewives, busty women, impastoed faces and new pornography are awful, though. It’s a case of not have his intellectual thinking match his observational abilities in the handling of paint.
If one needs attention, it’s easy to get it. Eric Fischl consciously did admitted to doing just that with his early representational paintings. “I didn’t want people to see how I was struggling with the figure” he said or a paraphrase thereof.
I guess if I wanted to, I could do the same thing with sensational renderings of...well, I don’t have to go into it. If all I wanted was attention, I would have already done that.
The point of good art is to not only affect viewers is a palpable and mind-changing way, but to bring the domain itself forward to somewhere new. It’s not enough to paint well and here’s where Currin’s technique is at odds with his message.
How ‘bout that turkey, though! Oh my....

Water Babies, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Falling Babies"



There's something quite strange about celebrity being attached to someone one has known from babyhood and watched grow up in front of them. Can this be the shy girl that couldn't manage an all-night sleepover at age 12?
Went to see Ingrid Michaelson at Webster Hall last night with her parents and some other friends of theirs from Staten Island. The crowd was twenty to thirty somethings for the most part and this sold-out concert was entertaining, albeit physically uncomfortable to some extent. And we had seats! What is the deal with people in the VIP section talking (loudly) through the three warm-up acts and pushing their bodies into the back of our chairs when all we could do to accommodate them would have been to throw ourselves two stories down into the crowd? In fact, what is the deal with paying to stand up for four hours? Not my idea of music appreciation.
Ingrid was charming and very funny. She thinks on her feet quickly and comes up with amazingly clever observations as she goes. Which of course, is why her lyrics are so strong. If nothing else, the songs alone will sustain her into her old age because they are timeless and they strike a chord with "real" people. She performs in such a way that the audience is a large part of things--there are sing-alongs and clap-alongs and she's not afraid to respond to what is called out to the stage.
She has proven that the "No guts, No glory" philosophy is true. I was worried that she was giving up her health insurance when she quit her part-time NYC Department of Recreation job!
I just want the world to know that I had her perform at my salons when I had my Edgewater House many years ago and she sang at my wedding in 2004. I'm as proud of her as a non-Mom can be and I so look forward to what comes next.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

If I Ran the World--Part 1 of 3,457,647

It’s a big mistake to complain sometimes, because then people call you on it to make it better and you wind up in charge of something. I am very good at complaining--I like to think I am making the world a better place even though I’ve been told I’m clearly making it worse for them--but I have little or no interest in taking more projects on.
That said, I was at a conference--Using Technology in Art Education--that should have lasted one hour but was stretched out to all day. The mailing said it started at 8:30 so I dutifully got there at 8:30. It didn’t start until 9:30. The materials said continental breakfast. I didn’t know that that meant a plate of sliced lemons for the tea-drinkers--the only solid stuff around. The speakers for 10:00 weren’t in the room so the second presentation went first. It was fine in its way, but was mostly a commercial for a long-distance learning program for the Met Museum, where this was being held. Then we had two presenters who talked about the Met’s Watson Library and the classes they hold and such but no one in the audience could use any of this because it’s for staff members only. I said to the woman who organized it--a very well-meaning person from the Board of Ed--oops I mean Department of Education--that it was like showing us all this candy but then telling us that we couldn’t have any of it.
It was time now for lunch and we were sent to the Met Cafeteria--quite a hike--which of course, was not yet open. We wound up at the balcony cafe/bakery area. Up until then, what had I learned about technology? Nothing!
The last hour was somewhat better with presentations from MOMA and the Gugg. followed by an impromptu look at the Met’s Timeline project which audience members might actually use in their classrooms.
Sponsored by the University Council for Art Education, this was not a worthwhile event, not worth $40 and not worth my time overall. Luckily, I enjoy looking at art and had the late afternoon free, so I wandered the collection without students to worry about. I spent time at the Lehman collection--the Master of Osservanza will knock your socks off--and roamed around the Greek/Roman galleries. Which brings up a topic for another day: why I like painting so much more than sculpture.

Friday, February 1, 2008


Taste in visual art is not quantifiable or easily assessed or agreed upon. The old saw "I don't know anything about art but I know what I like" makes the point well. You don't have to have any knowledge or experience of art in order to have a certain taste in or for art.

When I taught a college course called Visual Literacy, I thought it would be interesting to investigate the idea of good taste and bad taste as a beginning assignment. Students were asked to bring in something that they considered good taste and something they considered bad taste and we were going to discuss their choices. Most students brought in what I expected: well-designed objects for good taste and souvenirs or tacky knick-knacks for bad taste. But one young woman brought in a seashell and a plastic horse and exactly reversed her objects. The seashell, she explained, was just something you can find on the beach--they're common, everyday items. But the plastic horse (which, by the way, was so crudely made that the seams were very obvious) had to be made. Someone sculpted it before it was manufactured, she said. Her take on it was that good taste and hard work were related. She had no background in aesthetics. She truly didn't know that you could find great beauty in a natural object and find a plastic horse ugly and commonplace. It was very instructive to me and I dare say this woman also learned a lot that semester.

So why don't people have better taste? I ask myself this often. I wonder why people buy Thomas Kinkaides. His stuff (I can't bring myself to call it art), is hideous, plain and simple. Another questions: Why do people like huge, flashy, buckled designer handbags? They're super ugly. Is is a lack of art education? A lack of good art education? Could I be wrong about my own taste? I am rarely in a quandary when I look at an artwork, building, outfit, interior, etc. as to what's wrong or what's bad or good. I like to think I can back up my taste with solid arguments about originality, changing my view of the world, making me puzzled, angry, amazed, etc.

My son who is 28 and an educated person thinks it is arrogant of me to think that my taste is in some way superior to that of, say, an uneducated migrant worker who has never gone to school or been to a museum. I justify my position in that I've spent years of my life in galleries and museums and through my background and eye-sweat (now there's a name for a blog or website--don't steal it, it's mine!), I have a right to my feelings of superiority. Do I?

So can we teach taste? Maybe, sort-of, kind of. We know that drawing from observation trains one's eyes to see. Perhaps taste can be developed and refined by art lectures, travel, going to museums and watching educational television. The teacher in me would love to think so.

But to get back to the idea of what's good and what's bad--it's an ongoing debate, most likely never to be solved. It's also what makes the art world so interesting. Don't think for a second that all of today's Van Goghs are the same people whose work you see in all the big museum shows. There are plenty of art geniuses who are obscure or under-appreciated today, just like Van Gogh was. The contemporary art world of has much more to do with commerce than with what's good or bad. Cynical? Of course! It feeds my work.

Can One Be a Good Mom and an Artist Too?

Being an artist involves a big time commitment and a lot of selfishness. Motherhood involves a big time commitment and a lot of selflessness. If you think about famous female artists, many either didn't have children or screwed them up royally. Men seem to be better at going to the studio whether or not their kids have the flu or need a new pair of shoes or help with a project. Given this dilemma, artists like me choose our children over our art. So it's harder to be a success and get on the fast track. Dealers can smell your ambition. They can also smell your "baby love."

I like to imagine Picasso doing many of the things Moms need to do or feel pressured into doing:
•Picasso bakes cupcakes for the school fair
•Picasso drives to Staples at 11 p.m. to get a tri-fold science board
•Picasso gives a Barney Birthday Party for 10 toddlers
•Picasso cleans up vomit
•Picasso changes sheets in the middle of the night, etc.

So we keep our sketchbooks going, we make our work as best we can and hopefully we live long enough to realize ourselves. My mantra is make the work and worry about the career aspects later on, or never.