Sunday, January 13, 2019

Nancy Oakes Hall: 1957-2018

I first met Nancy as a student of mine at Anderson Ranch here in Snowmass, Colorado. She would eventually take four of my workshops:  two before she was diagnosed with breast cancer and two after. In the first two workshops she struggled to find her voice, but after she returned from her treatment to get rid of the cancer,  she was fierce.  In each of the two latter workshops she progressed rapidly, finding ways to express herself that were novel to all of us, but especially to her.  She worked hard and consistently, the old nagging voices of self doubt gone, replaced by confidence, curiosity, and courage.  In the last workshop she took with me she brought in large, 24”x24” panels, and proceeded to fill them with strange and beautiful landscapes using paint, dictionary pages, and contact paper.  She was focused, and worked about as hard as anyone can work in a room full of 12 other people, keeping her socializing to a minimum, not letting herself be distracted from her work.

On April 18th of this year, Nancy succumbed to her cancer.  She left a legacy, not just of her courage and determination, but two endowments to help other women in their own journeys.  One is a yearly scholarship to help woman in the snow sports(having grown up in Aspen, Nancy had been both a ski racer and a ski instructor), and the other, again, yearly, is for a female artist to take a workshop at Anderson Ranch. I hope I’m lucky enough to have one of those students in one of my workshops.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Beautiful Woman 2016

"Beautiful Woman", finished three days ago

The work of "Izzy" found at the Restore in Asheville, N.C. this last April. 20 paintings at $2 each.

This past fall I've been chasing my tail in the studio.  I'd start something, then jump to something else, then find another process or idea that interested me--usually some new way to do a transfer.  I experimented, messed up, continued, had some success, then would go back to the pieces I had been working on earlier, but still not finishing them.  I'd print things out from my computer to use in my images, then sit in front of the screen and read the news, hunt for full frame Nikon cameras on eBay or craigslist, or look at Facebook posts.  The minutes, then the hours would go by.  Still, nothing done. I found myself consciously trying to make things ugly.  I did, and they were indeed ugly.  I decided to use old nude photos of myself taken when I was in my 20's, then backed out, nervous about having them out in the world. And so I continued to circle, and circle, and circle. 

Then a few days ago I thought to pull out the paintings I'd bought in North Carolina from a thriftstore earlier this year.  Only one is signed, but they are all by the same hand--Izzy's.  They aren't great art, but they have a liveliness and an authenticity to them that I was attracted to, and so I ended up buying 20 from the more than 50 that were there.  I removed all my work from the long shelf in my studio and put Izzy's work up. I looked at them for most of the afternoon--really looked.  They were energentic, bold, and unafraid, all qualities that I seemed to have been lacking this fall. I played around with a few of Izzy's portraits, adding mouths and eyes and lips to them, and then, quite unexpectedly I started working on my own pieces.  Within a few hours I had laid out four panels, then finished them all off in the next few days.  For me, they were strange, quirky, and oddly wonderful, all portraits, "Beautiful Woman" being the last of the four.  

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Bird with Spots 2017

Drawing for "Bird with Spots"

Drawing:  a graphic representation by lines of an object or idea, as with a pencil; a delineation of form without reference to color.
When we do one of the transfer techniques that I teach,we end up with millions of little pieces of paper from rubbing the backs off of our photographs.  It's obsessive-compulsive work, and most of us like doing it, at least for awhile. Then we'll get bored, or our fingertips will start to hurt from the constant rubbing(some of the more obsessive of us even getting blisters).  The paper lays around on the table top in a messy, annoying way, but then--something happens in that part of your brain that makes those kinds of connections that you have learned to listen to.  You decide to collect and lay out all of those paper crumbs, then spray them with black ink. What you are left with are thousands of little black rolled up balls of paper. And after pleading not to be tossed in the nearest trash can, those little black balls began to really speak to you. They might, for example, began to want to be a bird.  So, you move them onto a piece of white paper so that you can see them clearly, and before too long, a little bird shows up. With the addition of a photographic eye taken of one of your students, you might then have a tough little bird with a soft, warm, human eye.

Although you love the drawing you've made from the tiny rolled up pieces of paper, black ink and the eye of your student, you probably feel that it isn't quite enough. So, you go through all the smallish, abstract paintings you have(and there are many) until you find one that suits your drawing.  Then, through the magic of Photoshop and another equally magical transfer process, you marry the two, ending up with "Bird with Spots".  You feel good about your strange little drawing and it's final home.

"Bird with Spots"

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Coyote Drinking 2018

On almost every major intersection in Albuquerque, I see pan handlers, usually with signs asking for help.  Hand written on cardboard, often misspelled with the writing getting smaller as it gets closer to the bottom, they are missives wanting us to know that they are hungry, cold, disabled, and sad.  They look to make eye contact with us as we wait for the light to change, hoping that we will roll down our windows and hand them some money.  Not far away, on the corner, their metal shopping carts sit patiently, filled to overflowing with blankets, sleeping bags,clothes and who knows what else one needs to survive without a home.  At night, the panhandlers in our area are gone, headed for the Bosque, the dense cottonwood forest along the Rio Grande River, to set up camp.  If they are unlucky, someone will call the police and while they are panhandling, their tents and sleeping material will be swept away, so that even that temporary home will be gone.  They will need to find another place in the Bosque, that hopefully won't be raided as they stand in the cold, or sun, or wind waiting for something to make their lives a little better.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Adam and Eve(with Apple) 2014

Here, we only see the aftermath of the Big Event, Eve having taken a bite of the forbidden apple, which of course, causes she and Adam to be cast out of Paradise, nude, into the world.  Paradise, which had been theirs, is no longer available to them, and for all time going forward, there will be woe and strife between men and women, men and men, and women and women(but not so much as the first two).  The devil, disguised as the snake that tempted Eve, lays under Adam's foot, accidentally being crushed by a bumbling and unaware Adam.  The two float on clouds of different colors, Eve striding forward confidently, Adam hesitating, unaware that, from now on, the two of them have doomed all mankind.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Sad Woman/Angry Man 1992

Because of the attention brought to the "Me Too" movement by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford*, I've been looking at my own "Me Too" moments, and, as well, asking my close woman friends about their experiences.  It's been eye opening, to say the least.  Friends I've had for years, good friends, I'm now finding out were raped, and in some cases, not just once, but twice. Of the three close friends that I see on a regular basis, all have had some sort of negative, aggressive sexual encounters as younger women. I myself had bad experiences as a child, a teenager, and as a young adult, some events worse than others. Something that was so traumatic to us, so devastatingly harmful, we seem to have swept under the rug so that we could go on with our lives.  Like Dr. Ford, we had chosen to live our lives without comment or conversation about these awful things, until finally, the door has opened and we see that it wasn't just us.


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Hungry Bear 2018

Fall usually finds me in the Roaring Fork Valley, in West Central Colorado.  Because of this I've become familiar with the community of black bears that live in the area.  They come down out of the mountains each fall to bulk up for their winter hibernation.  Some falls are rougher for them than others, depending on how much forage they've had in the high country that spring and summer.  If it's been a bad year(drought usually, or a late freeze in the spring), then, desperate to fill themselves with enough calories to last them through the rough Colorado winter, they head for the luxurious, million dollar homes that fill the landscape.  An open window, an unlocked car, the smell of something cooking in some one's house, a fruit tree loaded with fruit, and that's where they go, using their paws as a human would to open things and start feasting.  One late night, as I headed down the highway towards Basalt, a small town in the valley, I spotted what I thought was a human figure, laying in the middle of the road.  As I got closer, I realized it was a bear, having come down looking for food, then gotten hit and killed trying to cross the highway.  When I finished this piece, and stood back and looked at it, I realized that "Hungry Bear" was an homage to that unfortunate bear.