An Announcement and a Sale

I'm excited to announce...

...that I’ve been awarded a month-long residency at the Vermont Studio Center, the largest artist/writer residency in the United States. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ll be in the little town of Johnson, Vermont - drawing, painting, and writing to my heart’s content.  I’m looking forward to (and a little overwhelmed by) the opportunity to step out of the daily grind and focus all of my energy on creating new work.

Keep an eye out for lots of ‘work in progress’ and studio shots! (Photo: Ryan Mitchel)

Keep an eye out for lots of ‘work in progress’ and studio shots! (Photo: Ryan Mitchel)

The notification of my acceptance could hardly come at a better time.  Lately I’ve been incredibly busy with freelance work, which is great for paying the bills, but I’ve been feeling the hurt on the creative side of things. But now I’ll get to use the end of the year to get my studio hustle on and start 2018 (2018!?) off on the right foot.

Speaking of hard work, for Labor Day Weekend everything in my web shop is 20% off from right now through next Sunday the 10th.  Just use “LDW17” at checkout.

PICT0246_crop.jpg

Psst, this discount applies to pieces that may not be listed in my shop, like larger paintings.  If you’ve been interested in one of the paintings in my current portfolio or something you’ve seen in a studio visit (or, let’s be honest, on Instagram) now is the time to reach out.

The big girls

"Oh, you're still painting these big girls"

"Um, yeah..."

I ran into an acquaintance a few weeks ago... My interactions with this guy feel like they're out of the pre-digital New York era.  We've had great conversations about art, but I have no contact info for him.  I don't even know his real name, so there's no looking him up on Facebook.  I only have the pleasure of chatting with him when we physically cross paths.  Anyway, I ran into him again the other day, after maybe 6 months of not seeing him.  Last time we talked, I had showed him the first couple of Caitlyn paintings.  He's always very encouraging about my paintings, so he asked what I'd been working on lately, so I showed him two Caitlyn paintings I currently am working on.

He connects them to the previous work, and not in any derogatory or dismissive way (he made a Jenny Saville comparison -- I'll take it!) but I still found myself stumbling over myself to talk about why I'm painting what I'm painting.  I'm never great at speaking eloquently about my work, especially the body of work or particular painting(s) I'm currently in the middle of, but it's frustrating to feel like, if I can't even talk about it to someone who has shown enthusiasm for my work, how am I ever going to talk about it to an unreadable gallerist or intimidating collector.

Needless to say, I've been thinking about why I'm painting what I'm painting a lot lately.

My older work (Portland post-college work, so ~2007-10) was this sort of abstracted approach at dealing with my fears about the body.  They were very deeply rooted in an effort to recover from or at least pushing back on my eating disorder and its attendant body image baggage.  I hate the trope of art as therapy or art as healing, at least as far as the rationale for a professional-level body of work is concerned.  (Art can be incredibly therapeutic and healing and I'm not trying to deny or dismiss that whatsoever.)  But working out my baggage through paint is when I started to make work that seemed actually, objectively good and felt like mine rather than just the skilled execution of an assignment.

And then I started feeling drawn strongly to figurative work just a little before I moved to New York, where I started working from actual models.  Maybe I was sick of working in isolation, me alone in my studio basement painting this anxiety-scape from inside my own head.  But I still didn't know why I was making the images I was making.  I'd meet with my model and shoot a bunch of reference images very loosely inspired by some visual prompt.  I shot Sarah trying on a bunch of dresses she'd worn to various events; I shot Noah painting his face gold. Whatever resulted from the shoots shaped the paintings I made from them.

To be honest, I like that sense of collaboration in a process that is often by its nature very solitary.  I like not having to come to the model stage with pre-established compositions sketched out, any sort of Philip Pearlstein-level staging.  But maybe working with models is also an attempt to seek meaning outside myself.  Not that that's a bad thing, but it switches the meaning-making process around a bit into a interpretation-of-meaning process.

Once I have a pile of reference shots, I have to create compositions from them.  Some decisions I make are purely formal.  The compositions I create are what I can piece together from the pieces available to me.  The paintings often seem like an obvious or inevitable outcome.  But this isn't Ikea furniture; in the hands of someone else, the pieces would become something else entirely.  So why am I making the choices that I am?  Why am I more drawn to this pose or that image; why am I assembling them this way?

Why am I painting "the big girls?"  By the time I shot Caitlyn, I had actually really been wanting to work with a plus-size model for years.  But why?

In part, I can say that it's a formal choice.  Thin bodies fill space differently from fat bodies.  Fat bodies have folds, curves, volumes that thin bodies don't have.  And fat bodies are different from what we're visually bombarded with on a regular basis.  Thin bodies are the vast majority of what's visible in the media, but even figure drawing studios skew strongly that direction as well.  And on the one hand, I get it.  An athletic body with relatively low body fat and relatively defined musculature is a great way to learn the construction of the body as it is relevant to creating figurative art.  Bony landmarks, muscle placement: of course they're easier to see under lean, un-marked skin.  But ultimately, they're only an idealized specimen that doesn't much represent the full rainbow of human bodies.  

I think my desire to work with a plus-sized figure was, at least initially, a continuation of my more abstract work, attempting to exorcise my anxieties about the body.  About my own body.  But the more I work with these images, and even as I'm thinking about who I want to work with next, I think maybe what I'm trying to do is create a world in which all bodies are worth painting.  In which all bodies are worth seeing, are valid, are interesting.

I hesitate to say "beautiful" because my thoughts on whether a painting -- or a body, for that matter -- must be beautiful in order to be "good" or worthwhile is a whole separate rant.  And it's also worth noting that the act of wondering why I'm making the images isn't keeping me from going ahead and making them.  I'll make what I feel drawn to make, and figure out what it means along the way.

Return of the Skeleton Shirts

It's that time of year again.  The leaves are changing colors, you're pulling the winter jackets out of storage, and people are expecting you to dress up for Halloween even though you're a full-grown adult.

Don't worry, I've got you covered.  (Eh, at least the ladies in the room.  Guys, there are still a few T-shirts from last year's batch if you're feeling left out.)

Last year I experimented with putting my skeleton design on racerback tank tops -- I liked the idea of the spine running up the back strap, but the printing just wasn't working out.  This year I got it figured out.

This year's shirts are discharge printed on a 60/40 cotton-poly blend.  So grab one now to cover your Halloween-inspired wardrobe needs, and then wear it to the gym all winter.  The print is actually embedded in the fibers of the fabric instead of sitting on top like paint, so it'll take a beating in the wash along with your other gym shirts.  (Just no bleach!!)

For fit, I've found the size chart to be accurate with my own body measurements.  The difference between sizes is small, but the fabric has a fair bit of stretch, so the fit is pretty forgiving.  For example, I found the medium most comfortable, but I can get the extra-small on without a problem.  So if you like a snugger or looser fit, go ahead and order up a size up or down.

Whether you're getting your spook on or just haunting the gym, submit your order by this Thursday to ensure delivery before Halloween weekend.

Exquisite Poop: Blind Reproduction (My first NY opening!)

Exquisite Poop: Blind Reproduction

March 10 – April 15, 2012
Opening Reception Saturday, March 10, 6-9pm
Live performance by Abacus Jones, 8pm
$10 voluntary donation / Refreshments served

A Gathering of the Tribes
285 East 3rd St. 2nd Floor (Between Ave C & D, near F at 2nd Ave or Delancey/Essex)
New York, NY 10009 (212) 674-3778

info@tribes.org / gatheringofthetribes@gmail.com

Original: Mine (Carly Bodnar)
Description: Casey Plett
Reproduction: Lorra Jackson

You are cordially invited to what may be the very last art show at Tribes. Inspired by the different descriptions Steve Cannon’s visitors would give of the art on the walls, and by taking the blind professor to art openings, curator Janet Bruesselbach organized an elaborate art and writing project between 13 artists and writers. It aims to consider the subjectivity of attentive visuality in art writing and the absurdity of symbolic imagery.

The artists were invited to contribute a small two-dimensional work, and commit to another. Images, titles, size and media information were then assigned to the writers, who were charged with describing the art as thoroughly and sincerely as possible. These descriptions were nearly randomly assigned to the contributing artists, who were tasked with recreating the artwork they thought the writer had described, without knowing the artist or seeing the original image.

The first stage of translation from visual to verbal varies hugely in style and focus, even given stylistic restrictions. The artist’s job is even harder and even more subject to the variations of personality and style. Not only was it hard to communicate the most basic aspects of artwork or even the rules of the game, the variations in series are indescribable. The resulting illustration of mis/communication varies from wondrous to farcical and demonstrates the impossibility of translation.

Participating artists: Alexis DuqueLorra JacksonBrian EligBlair KamageCarly BodnarRobert ScottJoseph MaterkowskiSamuel BjorgumLauren KolesinskasJessica DalyDavid Hollenbach, BMIP (Babyhead), and Nick Musaelian

Participating Writers: Allison Moore, Maddie Drake, Josh Crowley, Jenny Bhatt, Casey Plett, Kaitlin Heller, Adam Kavulic, Zane Hart, Matt Keeley, Amanda Spitzer, Jon Boulier, Ammon Ford, and Chris Heffernan

----

In other news, I scored passes to both the Scope and Armory art fairs. A picture-filled post will hopefully be forthcoming.

Love-Hate

All my paintings, or at least the ones I consider the most successful, go through a stage where I completely hate them. The ones that make it from idea to actuality without passing through the hate zone just seem to be missing something. Maybe it's just in my own interpretation, because I haven't "fought" for it, but maybe it's from the lack of physical buildup of markmaking that results from reworking a piece or obscuring the surface, turning it on its head, and nearly starting over. (There was a period where I literally was spitting on my paintings during this part of the process. Talk about hate.) The easy paintings, the ones that don't feel so hard-won, make me a little wary, like the early stages of a new relationship. We haven't been through shit together, we haven't worked through the flaws, so I'm not sure it's worth it yet.

That's not to say that the hate phase is pleasant. It sucks. It's full of self-doubt and standing face-to-face with a painting so ugly that I can't not do something about it. But that's the genius in it. Without that freedom to try something, anything -- why not, there's nowhere to go but up -- and see where it goes, I get stuck in preciousness. I get so caught up on the good bits, fall so in love with them that I can't bear to lose them. Even when it's clear that the painting as a whole just isn't working and needs something drastic, I'm afraid to let the sweet spots go. Perhaps this comes from a doubt in my ability to make anything quite so perfect again. I desperately want to save a copy, so that if I completely, irreparably screw it up, I can revert back to my last saved version.

But that's not an option, and won't be, by virtue of the medium. And despite the unpleasantness of the fear and the self-doubt and the clinging and the feeling stuck, that's one of the things that attracts me to it. It's part of why I have a hard time with the idea of digital painting; the potential for failure is essential.

The current painting in progress is stuck in that clingy, fearful, pre-hate phase. There are a few real sweet spots, glimmers of what it could become, but it's absolutely not there yet. I have no choice but to push it through the hate phase. If I've learned anything about my process, it's that momentum is a big help. So, the plan for tonight is to rush headlong into ugly, to obscure and destroy, drip and splatter -- and to have faith that the painting and I will come out the other side stronger for our trials -- until I have no other choice but to fix the mess I've made.

Sweet spot. In memoriam.

The Unwilling Feminist. Or, dealing with the role of gender in one's own art.

I hopped the Metro-North up to New Haven yesterday to attend Yale's MFA Open House. On the way back, my tired mind inevitably wandered to the topic of my own artwork. It looped idly around the whats and whys, contextualized by having just visited a dozen studios of first-year MFA students as they approach the end of their first semester in the country's top painting grad program. My conversations with them tended toward a discussion of their work itself and how its direction is changing since coming into the program, the where and when of their undergrad, and the portfolio and interview portions of the application process. And so I was left pondering how the disparate tangents of work that I'm making and brainstorming (the bodyfolds, the babies, the dress paintings) make sense together as a body of work.

This isn't a new rumination, by any means. Since mostly abandoning my previous 'style'/approach, I've been trying to let myself paint whatever it is that attracts me, without [too much] judgement. There have been ample fits and starts and dead ends, though, leaving a wake of scattered ideas and unfinished pieces. How to bring it all together into something cohesive and application-worthy (whether for grad school or another opportunity) is something I'm often trying to figure out.

Bodyfolds 1
Oil on canvas, 23"x23"

Baby #3: Dexter
Oil on canvas, 17"x17"

This train of thought keeps bringing me to the same conclusion: I seem to be painting about "women's issues." And every time I reach that idea, I'm quite taken aback. Surprised, and dare I say, appalled. And then I'm a little horrified or embarrassed at my own reaction. Is it really so horrible to think that I might be painting about "women's issues," whatever that means? Is the thought of being a feminist artist so terrible?

No, of course not. But it's not something I identify with, either. I've never considered “women's issues” or feminism at all central to my existence or philosophy, perhaps to the chagrin of the women around me. I have been content to essentially see the world as somewhat ungendered, or to accept and live by "men's" rules (and often, to win by them, at least according to my own scorekeeping). The way I see it, I am a body but I don't feel like a terribly gendered body.

Except when I do feel like a terribly gendered body, which of course makes me incredibly anxious. And my paintings tend to come from a place of anxiety. If the challenge is now to figure out the underlying impetus of my imagemaking (rather than what the images themselves have in common, which worked for me in the past) then maybe there's your answer.

So, now to deal with this idea that I might be painting about "women's issues" or making "feminist art" or something along those lines. I think one problem I have with owning those sorts of statements is that they feel incredibly universal, whereas I'm intending to make work about the personal. I'm primarily just sorting out my own shit here; if it's relevant or resonates with someone else, that's great, but ultimately it's secondary. I identify more closely with the multitudes of artists who use personal mythology, psychology, and narrative as content. Furthermore, there's some frustration over the tendency for the question of gender to always be brought up in the context of women's work, but not in a man's.

Help Is Not Appealing Karla Black, 2010 Sugar paper, chalk, spray paint, ribbon

Help Is Not Appealing
Karla Black, 2010
Sugar paper, chalk, spray paint, ribbon

“It bothers me that only women's work is gendered. I wouldn't mind these questions if male artists were also asked them.” - Karla Black, interviewed in Modern Painters, October 2011
But I also wonder if that tide might be turning a bit. Both Andrew Salgado (whose show, “Anxious,” was up at Tache Gallery until just today, I believe) and Aaron Smith are working with ideas about masculinity and its portrayal in a way that seems akin to how some women artists who really own their feminine or feminist content have been dealing with those issues.

Untitled (After Bataille)
Andrew Salgado, 2010
Oil on canvas, 40"x36"

Zooshy
Aaron Smith: 2011
Oil on panel, 60"x48"

In examining my work, where it comes from, and where it fits, I think what is closer to the truth is that it comes out of my failure or refusal to embrace women's role(s). The bodyfolds paintings definitely arose out of a tense relationship with my own flesh. The baby paintings arose out of my anxiety (and if I'm totally honest, my attraction/repulsion tension) over children and childbearing. The dress paintings started with inklings of feminine costume or artifice -- quite literally the "trappings" of womanhood? -- perhaps involving mother-daughter relationships and coming-of age rites, and are now shaping up to have something to do with a feeling of foreignness in my own skin.

Lastly, part of my rejection or discomfort over where or whether my art might intersect feminist art comes out of the fact that I'm almost wholly uninformed about the whole thing. Feminism and art? I have no clue, really. I was at the Brooklyn Art Museum a few weeks ago with a friend, where we saw the Dinner Party and got into a discussion about its merits or lack thereof. All I could really say is something like “well it's art-historically important.” I have embarrassingly little knowledge of that whole realm, both historically and whatever may be going on contemporarily. Luckily, to fix that, I just need to read up.

Balloons.

I've recently developed a slight obsession with balloons. Basic party balloons from the dollar store. Quite possibly because of the image from two posts ago with the arms wrapped around that big balloon-like thing. But also, maybe, because at our cramped corner dollar store the party section is right at the door, so all of a sudden balloons are literally on my radar.

(They've actually been on my radar intermittently for years, in experimental sculptural/installation work that I failed to document. At the time, I wasn't really taking it seriously because "I don't do sculpture." I've been kicking myself pretty hard for the past month or two. Lesson learned.)

They've become this vehicle for working through ideas, at least in my head, showing up in two recent proposals/applications. The idea is that I'll use them as still lifes to draw from directly, and also as photography subjects to build a collection of images to paint from. Sort of like taking the Of Flesh and Fruit project all the way to fruition in paintings. But I'm still figuring out how to work with them adeptly in real life.

Right now they're getting pinned to the wall of the studio in joyously cancerous little clusters. They make me think a little of Ross Bleckner's early stuff (who, by the way, has been letting Art Blog Art Bloguse his Manhattan studio space for gallery shows while he's at his studio out in the Hamptons or wherever).

I've been doing some basic skill-building type drawing, just getting used to working from life again instead of just out of my head or from a flat image. What's coming out isn't exactly prodigious, but at least I feel like I'm getting somewhere.

I feel like there's something right around the corner as far as the work is concerned. I feel like I'm on the verge of finding something really fruitful, this thing that maybe I've been looking for all along. And then I get swallowed up momentarily by this worry over whether what I'm doing is worth doing at all. And then I realize that maybe this feeling, this being on the verge and wondering if it's actually there, maybe that's what this whole thing is about. Maybe I just need to get used to that feeling, because it's certainly the most purposeful and excited I've felt in the studio in quite a while.

Experiments and Developments in Studio Furnishings

Note: If you're looking to read things about the mysical/revered/ineffable creative process, there won't be much in this post for you. If, on the other hand, you geek out over minuscule technical developments and love seeing how other people function on a practical level in their studios, then read on!

The first big deal in the studio is that I replaced my many-years-old Liquin squeeze bottle solution. Backstory: I love Liquin, but I like to get it in the big 1-liter glass bottle, the top of which gets all gunked up over the course of opening and pouring and closing repeatedly. Plus, you have to shake it like an uncooperative ketchup bottle. I actually emailed Winsor & Newton a few years back, asking if they knew anything about Liquin's interaction with plastics, as it's a petroleate. They had no idea; I was on my own. So I got a squeeze bottle made of that sort of gummy soft plastic. And it worked fine, for a long time.

Old Liquin Bottle (Deceased)

Old Liquin Bottle (Deceased)

There was clearly some air communication through the walls of the container, causing a skin to form, but in the basement studio, where the temperature was really controlled and the air a bit humid, it wasn't much of an issue. Scene change to NYC, cue heat wave. The skin formed so fast that it was just a waste, and then the squeeze bottle split up the side in a final throe of death.

In search of a new bottle -- and quickly -- I came upon an almost-empty ketchup in the fridge, contained in the new Top-Down bottle from Heinz. Thank god for food packaging innovations (I'm only half sarcastic here). It's kind of perfect. The plastic is rigid, not gummy, but squeezable. (I don't know my plastics, but the recycle code on it is 1 and it says "PETE" below. Does that mean it's PET plastic? I don't know. I could probably google it, though. The previous squeeze bottle didn't have a code.) And of course it's meant to stand upside down so it's always ready to dispense. And it has a valve! Actually, the valve has been a bit problematic, because the Liquin has been wanting to separate lately, perhaps because of the heat, but I'm finding a good violent shake does the trick. And the best part is: no skin has formed yet. Even through our patch of 100-plus-degree days. I think I've found a winner.

Heinz Top-Down Bottle Repurposed as Liquin Dispenser

Heinz Top-Down Bottle Repurposed as Liquin Dispenser

Second on the list of neat experiments is a custom oiling-out formula I put together. On the wallpaper painting, I was having a terrible time with glare on the darker edges. Even using my photographer's even lighting we couldn't get it to photograph sufficiently well. Furthermore, this is one of those things that I just have to troubleshoot because it becomes a problem on all my work. Not having had a very good technical painting education, I hadn't heard of oiling out. But, thanks to YouTube, I had subscribed to Gamblin's feed, and they had recently put out a video on the topic. (I was on a YouTube kick for a while, so I watched that, and about a million other things, including Art21's new series, which is totally worth a look.) A good artist-friend of mine had also passed along the tip that Lavender Spike Oil was supposed to reduce shine on dark areas when used as a medium. So I hodge-podged together a recipe for my own oiling-out solution, hoping for a finish would be even and maybe a little satin.

Collection of Painting Mediums

Collection of Painting Mediums

My recipe is as follows:

  • 1 part Odorless Mineral Spirits (1 small pour, maybe a tablespoon? two?)
  • 1 small lump Cold Wax Medium (lima bean size)
  • Smash and stir til dissolved
  • 1 part Galkyd
  • 1 1/2 or 2 parts Lavender Spike Oil

Then you brush it on evenly and rub it in with a cloth (cheesecloth, ideally) using circular  motion.

It definitely seemed to help considerably. Now the painting is at the photographer's again, and I'm awaiting results. She may still have to use polarizing filters to get it just right on film, we'll see. But I have high hopes. And already the in-person experience of it is improved, the colors glow and the corners don't glare. (Storing the leftovers in a tin can with plastic wrap, however, was a failure. I got a glass jar with a rubber seal for storing future batches.)

Development number 3 involved a trip to Ikea. The Brooklyn store is kind of a hell-hole, and that's not just because I'm partial to the Portland one. But we drove out over the Brooklyn Bridge, and coming back into the city the view was just beautiful, so the trip was arguably worth it just for that. It's funny to realize that there's a lot of the city I haven't actually seen, despite having traveled past/through it, because I'm so often underground. It feels like a strange treat to be in a car.

Anyway, we made the Ikea trip because I've had my eye on the Bygel cart since before I moved.

New Painting Cart

New Painting Cart

It's very compact, not too rickety, and only $30. Hard to argue. I also got some glass shelves to use as palettes. It's so nice to be mixing on glass again. Plus, I have my desk area back, now that my palette and brushes are all loaded onto the cart. I can't help but miss my old painting cart, with it's 4 swiveling wheels and hugeness, but for my current space this is a vast improvement.

The last and most recent development is that we finally got sufficient air conditioning installed to deal with this heat wave. And it's been glorious. I can finally paint without dripping sweat, and without my paint literally drying on the brush. Oh, a/c, how I love thee.

Clippings

Things are moving along here in this New York adventure. Two months in, and it looks like I'll be joining the ranks of the employed day-jobbers. More details when they're set in stone.

Exhibition news should be coming soon, as well as a new print.

Until then, here are some of the lovely things that have been saturating my retinas lately...

Eliot Lee Hazel's work is astoundingly beautiful. Ethereal, ambiguous, but captivating. I especially like his Moby Ohno set, from which this first image comes.

See this image in motion in the Moby Ohno video teaser here

See this image in motion in the Moby Ohno video teaser here

Also on the radar are three artists from the Columbia University 2001 MFA Thesis Exhibition:

Chris Jehly comes from the world of, or is at least strongly influenced by, street art. Dude knows what he's doing with line. Of course, the pieces he had in the MFA show aren't online anywhere (that I can find) which is a shame.

Brie Ruais is a sculptor working primarily in ceramic and plaster. And, sometimes, sticks. I don't like all of her work, but what I like, I like a lot.

Weighted by the Sunset, 2010 Plaster, pigment, fabric

Weighted by the Sunset, 2010
Plaster, pigment, fabric

Undoing Persephone, 2011 Plaster, fabric, steel, wood, found branch (included in MFA Thesis show)

Undoing Persephone, 2011
Plaster, fabric, steel, wood, found branch
(included in MFA Thesis show)

The third is Joseph Michael Lopez, a photographer working in a somewhat journalistic style, I suppose. I mean that in the sense that he shoots the world around him, people on the streets, etc., rather than setting up shoots or creating worlds. His shots still have that dreaminess to them, though. Apparently that's what does it for me in photography. His site is flash, which means I can't pull images. But go look at it anyway... The link above goes straight to my favorite shot of his.

And then, last but of course not least, is the Alexander McQueen show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: "Savage Beauty."

Overwhelming in the best way. Past his mastery of the craft, of tailoring itself, McQueen was undeniably an artist. These things he created are sculpture as fashion, or fashion as sculpture... The pieces and other artifacts were supported by video of some of the runway shows. McQueen runway shows are not exactly your run-of-the-mill, walk-and-turn shows, and seeing the garments in his version of motion was very informative. (Runway shows can be viewed in the Runway Archive.) The presentation of his collections grouped more by theme than by seasonal collection, which made it more difficult to get a clean chronological grasp of his work, but was incredibly useful as a source of inspiration.

Jumping With Both Feet

Hey there. Long time no see. How've you been? Oh, what's new with me? Well... I moved to New York City. Last Friday.

When the subject comes up, total strangers and close friends alike seem surprised that I would ever leave Portland. Why? they ask. Portland's so livable. New York is sooo expensive! My answer is, mostly, that it was just time. Things lined up, opportunities presented themselves, doors swung open. And the truth is that, although the art world is decentralizing, New York City is still its center. Plus, if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere.

Projects on the horizon include:
- renewed commitment to the Gloriously Awash in Sin blog, possibly with a more fictional direction from Casey Plett;
- a food/kitchen macguyver blog project with Stephen Moles (details yet to be hashed out);
- and of course, a whole new set of paintings.

As my life started to seriously change direction in Portland, so did my painting. If you follow me on flickr, you will have seen some of my new work in progress. That's where I'll be starting when I get the studio up and running here... and then I'll just follow it where it takes me.

One day at a time.

New work in progress: 'Curl'


For now I'm calling it "Curl." (Now that I'm taking progress shots of my paintings, I have to give them some sort of working title so I can make a folder... damn you technology.) Finished dimensions will be about 44"x36" I think.

I like the linear/gesture quality at this point. Not what I had originally envisioned, but now I don't really want to lose it... The constant battle between the image in my head and what comes out on the canvas. I wish I knew more what I was doing when it comes to the figure, on an anatomical/technical level. Should've paid more attention in figure drawing (or kept in practice after the class ended). I've been thinking I really need to start getting myself to the Hipbone every now and then.

In other news, I finally broke down and bought a roll of pre-primed canvas with my last Blick order. This is my first painting on it. No complaints so far, except that there's less procrastination I can get away with... Feels pretty heavy duty, so we'll see how it stretches when we get there.

On Femininity

A friend of mine, who identifies along the transgendered spectrum, wrote in a recent piece that he intends to physically transition in the next year or so. I have been aware to some extent about his progress in that direction (and have a love and affection for him that is, as I have told him, "outside of gender," something I really can't say about anyone else I have known) but for some reason this timestamp, this statement that he's not just going to float about in the middle between genders, has thrown me for a loop.

I think it is because it comes crashing up against recent understandings I've come to have about my personal affiliation with femininity and its role in my artwork.

I've never considered myself particularly feminine. An only child to a father who I suspect would have been much more comfortable having a son, I was raised somewhat like a son. Not to say that he denied my being a girl, but we bonded via power tools. He is the reason that I have an extensive power tool collection today. My mother raised me pretty gender-neutrally as well -- I suspect that, in her mind, being a girl child equated to a very painful experience, so she was conscious not to pass that on.

Jump forward to the current day, my artwork is arguably one of my most feminine expressions of self. Lots of pink, and flesh, and sexuality. Looking at the subject matter itself, it's very much about the physical component of being female: female genitalia, breasts, the consequences inherent in a uterus (birth, cramps, blood). Only sometimes does it break past the purely physical into something bordering on societal: excessiveness versus voluptuousness (fat is a very culturally baggage-laden subject, especially where it intersects with the feminine); the binding or hanging of the flesh, which can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, whether gendered, relating to the 'human condition,' socio-economic, emotional, etc.

A work in progress. Ostensibly having to do with the heart, but just as much (for me, at least) about menstrual cramps and the sort of reoccurring, copious blood that is part of the female experience.

So now, mentally juxtaposing our two versions of femininity, my friend's and mine, I don't know what to make of it. His wardrobe is far more feminine than mine; my sense of femininity is mostly related to the anatomy over which I had no choice in being given. Like if you could blend us up and edit out the incongruous parts, we could be a 'complete woman' in both gender expression and biological senses.

Maybe I shouldn't make anything of it. Maybe that's the point of all this, to show me how irrelevant these culturally-loaded terms can become in the face of very real personal experience. How diverse personal experiences really are, and how insufficient language is to express them in their fullness and nuances.

But this friend of mine would probably have something to say about that -- he is a writer, after all.

Little synaptic sparks of memory

I've had quite a surge of inspiration/impetus to paint lately, but of course, the nature of such things is that they ebb and flow, wax and wane. And now it has waned a bit (in part because I have new painting ideas, but must gesso more muslin to get started... puts the brakes on a bit).


Tonight, to fill the void of inspiration, and the time between coats of gesso, I've gone back to working on the second Hemlock Semiconductor commissioned painting. I feel like it's going in a really nice direction, one that I didn't have much trouble picking back up on even though it's been a little bit since I've touched it. Plus, I have to say I welcome the technical challenge of this one in particular. The transparency, slight waxiness, and internal structure of the quartz still has me baffled -- I'm currently just glazing layers of semi-transparent color and hoping that something strikes me. And the polysilicon ingots, though much more of a predictable geometric and solid shape, still make me think hard due to their changing angles and the sheen of their surface. I've always had a hard time with surfaces and sheens in paintings; all of my textures come out the same. But I'll be very surprised if I haven't improved that particular skill by the time this one's finished.

Blocking in the silhouettes of the furthest-back ingots, I got a memory flash of Charles Demuth's "My Egypt," which I once wrote a paper on for Art History class. Something about the current flatness and linearity of the ingots, and their shape, similar to grain silos, and the general verticality, I suppose. Clearly not very similar paintings, but the connection made me smile.

Charles Demuth: "My Egypt," 1927, oil on composition board, 35 3/4 x 30 inches