Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunset 2017


Sunset: the time in the evening when the sun disappears or daylight fades,
a period of decline, especially the last years of a person's life

I had had an image of retirement as a glowing beacon far off in the distant future, a time where one would have no cares or concerns, but instead would lounge about, wearing one's robe and slippers all morning, watching as much TV as one's heart desired.   And then, wham-mo, it's there and it's not quite what you expected.  For one thing it's a sign that the end is near, even if that end is 20 or so years away.  It means that of those 20 years--if you are lucky--you only have perhaps ten more years of good health and reasonable facility.  If you are lucky. That's not much time, just a blink in the eye of an 80 year life span. Your identity from what you did professionally is no longer valid.  Who you were and what people thought of you shifts, and you are suddenly free floating, not really sure who you are. And while the time seems short, suddenly your days are wide open and you aren't sure exactly what day of the week it is, or how you will fill that day.  You know each day is precious, but you can't quite seem to get out from under that filmy gray cloud of depression and anxiety.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Anderson Ranch Immersive Winter 2017

On January 8th of this year, at 4:30am, I left home in our little Mazda, loaded down with suitcases, art supplies, cross country skis, and snacks for the drive.  I was headed for Anderson Ranch in Snowmass, Colorado https://www.andersonranch.org/, a nine hour drive over a high mountain pass with  a ferocious winter storm forecast to hit later that same day(hence the leaving at 4:30 in the morning).  I made the trip safely, and was settled in by the time the storm did hit, dumping lots of snow in the Colorado high country. 

For the next three weeks it snowed and snowed and snowed.  Every morning when we headed out for the school, tediously scraping the snow and ice off the windshield of the car, we could hear the cannons booming in the mountains, releasing the snow that could cause dangerous avalanches at the nearby ski area. And I loved it(except for the tedious scraping). In the mornings I would meet and work with my group of nine students who were learning to integrate their photographs with their own painted surfaces.  However, the afternoons were mine.  I was given a large studio to work in(half of the printmaking area), a brand new Mac, and a large Epson  printer( I had brought the rest of what I would need with me).  And while it snowed, I worked and worked and worked.  No meals to prepare, or dishes to wash, or errands to run.  Nowhere to go unless you were bundled up in hat, gloves, boots, and down parkas.  When I left on Jan. 28, after three weeks away,  I had over fifteen new paintings in the back of my car--fifteen new paintings that were unlike anything I'd ever done before.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Woman with Yellow Arms 1987

In 1987 I was still forming the vocabulary that was to inform my images for many years to come:  my figures were becoming more and more simple, often with stick like arms that are outstretched, either in an imploring gesture or showing fear or distress.  Although the images were always based on a photograph(I painted with oils directly on top of a black and white gelatin silver print), the mid to late 80's seems to have been the time I started to discard as much of the photograph as I could get away with.  As with Woman with Yellow Arms, there is no photo that I can discern, only the drawn scratched lines which reveal the darks and lights of photo beneath.

In 1987 the world was an anxious place for me.  I was only 35 at the time, and working through many personal issues as well as dealing with the larger concerns of my world.  At that time we had been living on the Zuni Indian Reservation for four years(we stayed for eight), and was I becoming familiar with their customs of masked dancers:  a figure inside a figure, something that I was completely fascinated with(and still am).  When I look at this painting now, 30 years later, I see a love of the painted surface, and a struggle to define a complex personal view through a single figure.

* Woman with Yellow Arms is going to be included an exhibition at the Tucson Museum of Art called "Body Language:  Figuration in Modern and Contemporary Art"(Feb 25-July 9, 2017).

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Woman Descending a Staircase 2016


                                              
Marcel Duchamp Nude Descending a Staircase(2) 1912
                                        


     Gerhard Richter Woman Descending a Staircase 1965
Edward Muybridge Study, Woman descending a staircase 1887
                                     

What rattles around in an artist's brain?  When I did "Woman Descending a Staircase" I had a vague memory of Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, not an image that particularly resonated with me, but one that I knew from my art history.  In my mind, I was doing the Holly Roberts version of Duchamp's masterpiece.  Come to find out that I was not the only one, and that Duchamp was probably using Muybridge's wonderful study from 1887 as inspiration for  his controversial and naughty piece.  Good company indeed!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Woman with Brown Hair 1995

When we first moved to our home in 1991, the street was almost empty, with only a few houses.  Directly across from us was a family with three girls; a teenager and two younger girls, closer to the ages of our daughters.  The eldest daughter became our babysitter, and then several years later, she posed for me.  She had shaved her head, leaving a forelock which she dyed black(she was blond).  Heavily made up for our shoot, she chose to wear a simple black dress and high heels. She was fifteen, and not long after that, as a troubled teenager, she left home and moved to California.  Things continued to be difficult for her, and finally, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  This past Wednesday her mother called me to tell me that she had died, probably due to a bad combination of alcohol and prescription drugs.  She was thirty-nine.

When my young neighbor posed for me I saw a beautiful young girl, marking herself as different with her radical haircut, the height of punk fashion. I had no idea of what was to come when I did this painting, but now,  I'm stuck  by it's prescience, it's accurate portrayal of what was going on, both inside and out.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Black Dog Running 1998 & Dog Running 2016


In 1998, when I made "Black Dog Running", I had a large, very nice darkroom here in my studio.  I am a barely competent darkroom photographer, not anyone you would turn over your most precious BW negatives to.  When I made a print, I usually only made one.  Unlike most photographers, I was generally happy with what I had on the paper, having been only too delighted in the magic of the image coming up in the developer, and not being overly concerned with exposure or dust spots or flaws in the photo.  With "Black Dog Running" I made a small, 5"x 7" print from a photo of one of our dogs, and then adhered the print onto a panel, sealed it with polymer, then painted over it with oil paints. I usually finished the painting part in a day since I really only liked painting wet into wet.  I worked this way for almost 25 years.

Now, almost 20 years later, I have developed into another animal. I no longer have my analog darkroom, but instead have a digital one.  Two monitors, a large Epson printer, two scanners and a lightbox are what fill the room now.  I take my photographs with a digital camera(although in the case of "Dog Running" I scanned an older BW negative), and then alter them in Photoshop. It's only in the last few years that I have achieved any kind of skill with Photoshop, and that's after having had it on my computer since 2004.  When I print out an image now I make lots and lots of that image--dark, light, big small, reversed, inverted, etc.  In this case there is an underneath image of the dog that got covered over with acrylic paint, and then another transferred on top of it. The image took me about three-four months to complete.  In comparing the two, I am struck by how similar the two images are, even though they are separated by 18 years and two completely different ways of working. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Advice


This is from a workshop I gave in 2008 at Anderson Ranch in Colorado.  It was, as most of my workshops are, a ton of fun.  The students all decided that they wanted to write down what I said(over and over and over) for future reference, so they came up with this list, kind of a cheat sheet for when I wasn't around and and they needed to bring my voice back into their art making realities.  Here is what they came up with:

So now, 8 years later, I find myself re-reading this list(especially #3, #4, #5, #7, #9, #11, #14) and thinking,  "No wonder you've been having problems! You haven't been taking your own advice!"