The Power Is With Images

I recently read a BBC news article by Will Gompertz and it made me want to stand up and cheer for figurative art, for painting, and for the landscape. Enjoy a few of my favorite excerpts below or read the full text here.

David Hockney thinks that over his lifetime art has become "less". He blames the art establishment (museums, galleries, art schools) for becoming over-enamoured with conceptual art: "It gave up on images a bit" the artist laments. By which he means that the artworld ignored figurative art: paintings, sculptures, videos and installations that aim to represent the known world: the sort of work Hockney makes: landscapes, portraits and still lifes. 

Instead he feels, museums and galleries have jumped too willingly into the unmade bed of conceptual art where lights go on and off in a game of philosophical riddles. But Hockney says "the power is with images", and in neglecting them the artworld has diminished the very thing it aimed to protect: art. 

"But they're wrong," he told me. "A camera cannot see what a human can see, there is always something missing." He talks about the inability of a camera to reproduce a sense of space and volume. 

He makes the point that a photograph documents only a split second in time. Whereas a landscape painting, portrait or still life might appear to be a moment immortalised in a single image, but it is in fact the culmination of days, weeks and in the case of many artists (Cezanne, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Hockney), years of looking at a single subject. 

It is a result of vast quantities of stored information, experience, jottings and spatial sensitivity that has eventually appeared in the colours, composition and atmosphere of a final finished artwork. 

When people told him that the "landscape genre was worn out" he thought it illogical. "The way of looking at it [the landscape] might be worn out, but the landscape can't be," he said. "It needs re-looking at…[to] look at it afresh."

Rizzio, Bok, Brady

Besides the Carl Little curated "Wish You Were Here", there are two more shows in Midcoast Maine that, had I more time during my end-of-May visit, I would have loved to see. 

Margaret Rizzio's first solo show at Dowling Walsh has been extended through this month. Go see her colorful assemblages of "perfect woman" ephemera pop against the dark walls the gallery created to highlight her work. Margaret is a great friend and pop-up conspirator whose work I truly enjoy. Her mail art subscriptions make the best gifts!

Painting power-couple Gideon Bok and Meghan Brady have works on show at Perimeter Gallery (located in Chase's Daily in Belfast) through July 3rd. Please, go and see this "Two Part Invention" for me. I am a huge fan of Brady's subtle and precise color work! From the press release:

In one sense, the two artists--who are married and raising a family together in midcoast Maine—work at opposite ends of the painting spectrum.  Bok obsessively observes the migration of light and objects in his cluttered studio building, carving out simultaneous but often-conflicting records of time and space.  Brady’s abstract work fuses raw painterly gesture with geometric elements, making use of the friction between order and chaos, symmetry and asymmetry, transparency and opacity. 

However, both artists share an appreciation for the physicality of paint itself, and both navigate a path between balancing and unbalancing.  Whether it’s Brady’s abstract forms repeating and shifting in unexpected ways, or Bok’s description of interior space and its occupants from multiple angles all at once, the result for the viewer is the pleasurable experience of becoming oriented within something that might not immediately make sense.

Margaret Rizzio,  Blended Mint and Molasses , mixed media, 2016

Margaret Rizzio, Blended Mint and Molasses, mixed media, 2016

Gideon Bok,  Another Green World , oil on linen, 2015

Gideon Bok, Another Green World, oil on linen, 2015

Meghan Brady,  Tussle , oil on canvas 2016

Meghan Brady, Tussle, oil on canvas 2016

If I Had More Days In My Maine Visit...

...I would have gone to see this show! I couldn't make it, but you still can. Carl Little has pulled together a fantastic group of artists to express a brilliant and beautiful idea.

Vintage Photos And Contemporary Art Come Together In Unusual Penobscot Marine Museum Exhibit

On view at PMM from May 28 through October 16, 2016

As part of its Wish You Were Here: Communicating Maine summer programming, the Penobscot Marine Museum will present Maine: A Continuum of Place in the Main Street Gallery, May 28 to October 16. An opening reception for the show, with Guest Curator Carl Little, is planned for Friday, May 27, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

Carl Little, author of Paintings of Maine, Art of the Maine Islands and other books, chose vintage photographs and postcards of coastal Maine from the Penobscot Marine Museum’s collection and paired them with images of those places by contemporary Maine artists. The photographs, which will have been enlarged, and the artworks will be displayed side by side.

“Pairing vintage photographs with modern-day paintings of similar subjects by artists active today was not only great fun, but also a way to highlight what I call the ‘continuum of place,’ ” says Little. “Maine’s landscape has inspired a remarkable sense of place over the past 150 years,” he notes, “and that vibrant tradition continues today.” The exhibition features the work of 17 artists from across Maine: Joel Babb, Susan Lewis Baines, Nancy Morgan Barnes, Mary Bourke, Sam Cady, Alison Goodwin, Philip Frey, Liddy Hubbell, Tina Ingraham, Ben Lincoln, Jeff Loxterkamp, Caren-Marie Michel, Linda Norton, Winslow Myers, Karen Spitfire, Jude Valentine, and David Vickery.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of “Maine Postcard Day”, Penobscot Marine Museum’s 2016 series of exhibits Wish You Were Here: Communicating Maine presents a hundred years of images which have been used to communicate the unique qualities of Maine to the outside world. Using postcards, photography, and contemporary art, these exhibits explore the changes which have taken place in the images which have we have used to communicate “Maine”.

Mary Bourke, Bathers, acrylic on birch panel, 2015, 18 by 18 inches

Mary Bourke, Bathers, acrylic on birch panel, 2015, 18 by 18 inches

Pairing PMM’s Three Bathers photo with Bourke Bathers

Pairing PMM’s Three Bathers photo with Bourke Bathers

A New Favorite

Richard Diebenkorn has been one of my favorite painters, if not the favorite, ever since Colin Page introduced me to his work when I was a freshman at Cooper. (Colin, the sage senior, also gave me the life changing and course setting advice to study with Susanna Coffey and Don Kunz.)

A couple weeks ago I found a Diebenkorn painting that I had never seen before posted alongside an article on Bluinartinfo

I love this painting! I don't think I would ever tire of looking at it.

"Seeing Atmosphere"

Sometimes I use this blog as a way to catalog certain paintings or words by others that I want to "keep." I'm recommitting to more posting along these lines! To this end, an interview with Eve Mansdorf on Painting Perceptions is making the rounds amongst painter friends and I, too, have found riches in it. I especially love what Mansdorf has to say about "painting the immaterial aspects of what makes the thing be there," which to me seems connected to her thoughts about leaving her paintings open. 

"Early on it was a very conscious thing to try to get air in my paintings. At this point it has become intuitive and I can’t help it. With still lifes I would set things up to make that happen. I would group things so that objects would merge into each other and then, in comparison, other things would appear more distinct. So there is a kind of seeing atmosphere and figuring out how to paint that atmosphere as much as trying to paint the objects themselves. It’s like painting the light as much as you’re painting the object. Painting the immaterial aspects of what makes the thing be there. But with the larger figure paintings there is a way I’m moving the painting around for quite awhile during the process of painting it, so it’s literally open in a certain way for a long time and maybe parts of it don’t ever completely close up. I’m still pushing it around when the painting is just about finished.... 

"I will work on a painting as long as it’s still in the studio and hasn’t been shown yet. It’s always up for grabs. My painting process at this point allows for that to happen. I often start a painting and really go at it for a while but after several months reach this point where I get stuck and don’t know what to do next or maybe I just hate the painting and don’t want to look at it for a while. I will let it sit while I work on something else. I wouldn’t have done this earlier in my painting life, I might have been more destructive, but I now realize it can be a fruitful thing to leave it just sitting there. I will start something else and it usually seems like after about 6 months I’ll turn around one day and get a new idea about it and start painting it again. However, once I’ve put the work in a show or it’s really been seen in a public way I can feel detached from it. Even if it comes back to the studio; it’s almost like it’s not mine anymore, even if I realize things I should have done."

Eve Mansdorf,  Kiddy Pool , 48 x 40 inch oil on linen on panel

Eve Mansdorf, Kiddy Pool, 48 x 40 inch oil on linen on panel

Eve Mansdorf,  Shark Pool , 32 x 24 inch oil on muslin on panel

Eve Mansdorf, Shark Pool, 32 x 24 inch oil on muslin on panel

At The Movies With Dior, Hockney, Vermeer, & Pollock

Here are four film's I've really enjoyed in the past few months, all about artists, art, and the creative process. I can't tell you how many times I whisper-exclaimed, "Oh, that's beautiful," during Dior And I. In Tim's Vermeer my mind was blown. And in Pollock kept hearing echo of my freshman year drawing professor at Cooper, Lisa Lawley, telling stories in class about the time she was hired to paint the work featured in this movie. She had to paint Pollock's at every stage of development. Click on the movie posters to view trailers.

The Amazing Ashley Bryan

"I grew up during the Great Depression years, but I was always drawing. Why? Because there was the free Works Progress Administration (WPA) founded during the Depression by the government to employ artists and musicians in communities throughout the country. And my parents sent their six children, and the three cousins my parents raised after my aunt died, to these free classes in music and art. We all learned to play instruments. We were all drawing and painting. These things had nothing to do with what we would become in life. It had everything to do with being human."

"When I was about 12 or 13 years old, the church leaders at St. John’s said to me, “Ashley you have a talent. You must therefore share it. We will give you the room and the materials and you will have classes in drawing and painting for the people of the community, the children and all.” And that is how my love for teaching started. I found right off that I loved sharing what I enjoyed doing in the arts with others, so I knew that teaching would be an area that I would always be involved in.

When I was to be employed later, it was in the teaching of art that was a natural fit to me because it was the area in which I had the most to give. And it was that training from the church—you have a gift, you must share it with others—that I learned you don’t hold onto what you have.

I believe the excitement that a teacher feels is what the student is tapping into. If the students feel the teacher is excited about what he or she is sharing, and is not just in it because he or she is being paid to teach the course, they often tap into it. They may not become sociologists or dancers or singers, but they will have felt inspired by the excitement of what the teacher is sharing."

"I don’t think artists know what retirement means, really. I always have a sketch book in hand. It doesn’t matter where I am or what it is, that sketch book will always be active whether I am on what you would call vacation or whatever. I don’t think of retirement. You must wake up as a child. You must wake up with the feeling of curiosity and adventure that [a] child faces when awaking."


For the full, inspiring interview and many more photos of Ashley and his work, click here.

Form built by and holding perfectly-pitched color

I'm currently looking at John Dubrow's paintings and, wow...I am both challenged and encouraged by the weight of the color in his work.

I'm also challenged by his most recent experience in the studio. Last year he had two dreams in which, "a specific old painting of mine hangs on a gallery wall, and I am instantly dissatisfied, both the me in the dream and the me as the dreamer. But as I keep looking, the painting transforms itself into an entirely different kind of image- almost as a digital pixilation- and becomes darker with more resonant color, a looser quality of drawing and a more activated movement.  I wake each time with such a clear image, what was that? After the second dream on awakening I decide to chase the images in the dreams." He reworked all his available older paintings and the exhibition Transformations in the result. I have some of the notes he made during his reworking time pinned to my studio wall right now:

Every day is an intense battle with my old impulses.

During my 10 hours with Giotto In the Scrovegni Chapel last year I glimpsed what I think of as Sacred Form. Form built by and holding perfectly-pitched color, based in devotion.  Maybe all of the greatest paintings have this.

A key is breaking down what one expects.

Subvert expectations. Allow paint to break off and exist as itself - as long as it holds on to light and color.

Trance state. My eyes have been half closing when I start painting. It feels like I’m simultaneously looking both inward and out.  My field of vision blurs, my eyes seem to be looking at the image of the painting that my brain is holding, not only what is in the studio in front of me.  An alternation of inward and outward  looking. Circular looking. After 35 years of work, this is new.

Reformulate constantly. Don't get stuck. Or DO get stuck and then get unstuck.

View From the Studio, Brooklyn  , 2001   — 2006,   oil on linen, 68 x 95 in

View From the Studio, Brooklyn, 20012006, oil on linen, 68 x 95 in

A painting left untitled on Dubrow's website

A painting left untitled on Dubrow's website

No Good Life Is Possible...

No good life is possible unless it is organized around a vocation. If you try to use your work to serve yourself, you’ll find your ambitions and expectations will forever run ahead and you’ll never be satisfied. If you try to serve the community, you’ll always wonder if people appreciate you enough. But if you serve work that is intrinsically compelling and focus just on being excellent at that, you will wind up serving yourself and the community obliquely. A vocation is not found by looking within and finding your passion. It is found by looking without and asking what life is asking of us. What problem is addressed by an activity you intrinsically enjoy?

The Road to Character


This is a 4" x 4" painting of my friend Margaret working in her studio; it was commissioned by her boyfriend as a gift to her. We both appreciate that she is an artist truly pursueing her vocation. She serves her work. As a result she gets to make a living as an artist and serve the world with surprise and beauty.

Not All Apples & Nipples

The quotation of the week from Painting: The Power of Observation:

What does it mean, "abstract" ? Does it mean to abstract from something— to start with an image and transform it into essentials, like Mondrian’s tree series? Maybe it means some kind of freedom from the image so we can get directly to the serious part and not get lost in apples or nipples. Maybe it means the big idea itself— painting as physics or philosophy. Maybe it means to be purified or to be closer to concrete essences. Maybe it’s a formal design strategy with invented rules, a graphing or charting of information. There is no guarantee of freedom in abstraction ... The painter Max Gimblett says "The impulse moves between the instant and the gradual... In alertness and attention. In silence with the paint. Painting is inherently mysterious, it’s a state of being where there is no recognizable ‘Mind’..."

From Everything is Finished Nothing is Dead, an article on abstract painting by Chris Martin

Three paintings by Emil Robinson, whose work I've been looking at over the past few days:

Polar Bear Club,   2015, oil on linen, 72x96

Polar Bear Club, 2015, oil on linen, 72x96

Obannon  , 2014, oil on panel, 36x48

Obannon, 2014, oil on panel, 36x48

Winter Morning 2  , 2014, acrylic on paper, 16x14

Winter Morning 2, 2014, acrylic on paper, 16x14

As Monet Said, Famously...

"Try to forget what objects you have before you — a tree, a house, a field or whatever. Merely think, ‘here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow’, and paint it just as it appears, the exact color and shape."

Here are three paintings I've been looking at this week (clicking on an image will take you to the artist's website):

David Campbell,  T  ouching My Wife's Hair While She Sleeps , 13 x 16, 2012

David Campbell, Touching My Wife's Hair While She Sleeps, 13 x 16, 2012

Erin Raedeke,  Refuse 1 , 12 x 16, oil on board, 2013

Erin Raedeke, Refuse 1, 12 x 16, oil on board, 2013

John Lee,  Dead Hall , oil on linen, 2014

John Lee, Dead Hall, oil on linen, 2014