Painting painting painting - then, "OK, is it done? No let's try something totally different over here that I've never even thought of doing before!" This is why I love this so much. Truly. Much better than the same old same old, and yet some people think I just do the same painting, over and over again. That's true too. I yam who I yam.
I was introduced to "Chicago Art" while a student at NIU in DeKalb. Before that, I had no inkling of anything. I knew about Picasso, Toulousse-Lautrec, Modigliani, and I had seen magazine articles and books about Pop Art.
Basically, Carl Hayano introduced me to this whole other world, and I think the word "other" is a key factor. The Hairy Who, Ed Paschke, and then many other artist who weren't "Imagists" like Frank Piatek and William Conger became part of my world. This was all before the internet, so you had to actually go into the big city on the weekends.
Friday nights at the galleries were quite the thing, free white wine, hob-nobbing with famous people... probably didn't really happen all that much, but it was fun.
I actually didn't know that the School of the Art Institute was a real thing. I thought that people just took weekend classes there. Then, come to find out, my teacher had gone there, and yes, it was an actual school. In fact, the museum was built around the school to give students a first-hand experience with real art. The museum eventually became the largest collection of Impressionist paintings because of that.
In the early 90s, I married a woman who had gone to school with the Imagists. She told me that she used to eat lunch with Christina Ramberg. She knew everyone. I always loved hearing about all the things they did and what she knew about all of those people.
I had lived in Chicago on the north side for a couple of years in the late 80s. In my apartment building I had a small studio in the basement (cellar). It was cold in the winter, and damp in the summer. It had a tiny window with a little curtain on it - I kept the curtian open so that on the off-chance that Ed Paschke or anyone else might be driving by, they might glance over and see me painting there with my airbrush. (LOLOLOL!) It was a symbolic thing, OK? I knew that wasn't going to happen. You couldn't possibly even see in there while driving down the street, but I've always had my dreams. So, don't take my dreams away.
Chicago still is a big part of me and my art.
"I think viewers have affective responses that lead them to make-believe subjects or representations... ambiguous form encourages open-ended allusions. There's nothing in subjective make-believe that I would exclude from my paintings. I'm often surprised by the affects and allusions they provoke in me. All are accepted and all are contradicted and thus the work keeps returning to a state of meaninglessness." - William Conger
I think he really says it well here. Much of what I have been trying to do for decades. I was aware of his work back in the 1970s. When I see his work from that time I feel a real kinship with his work.
A while back, I was looking at some paintings I did back in the late 70s. A lot of the colors had faded away - the rich reds and violets, the pinks. What was left were the blues and black and grey.
I started thinking about the tattoos that an old sailor had when I was just a kid. He lived next door to us, and he showed us one night when he was over in our yard drinking beers with my dad. He had horses, various names, stars on his knuckles, and some kind of half naked harem girl on his chest. He had been in the Navy for 40 years. Everything on his wrinkly, tanned and white, old man skin was faded to mostly blue.
I wonder about all the pretty young girls, starting 10-15 years ago, who were getting tattoos on their lower backs, will, or already look. They probably spent quite a bit of their student loans on that.
Back in the time a group of us were painting with our airbrushes in grad school, we were a lot like the tattoo artists downtown. The renegades of the artworld, painting flesh, skin, sometimes in lurid night-time colors. Now we are old and wrinkling, and our colors are fading away too.
But the skin on my paintings from that time is still smooth with hardly a blemish at all on the surface. Maybe a little rough around the edges from being all the places they have been in the last 40 years, but too nice to just be thrown away.
By 2002, I had been creating personal artwork on the computer. Maybe not everyone will concede that it is/was fine art, but it was personal. I was working at a newspaper, and along with everything else, I was sneaking my own artwork into my schedule whenever I got the time to do so. I was already using Photoshop. I had gotten some of my smaller prints into national, regional, and local shows.
I had decided that I wanted my work to get bigger, and I wanted to print in color. Nobody seemed to know anything, and then, all of a sudden, there were experts all over the place. I asked questions, but I wasn't getting any answers. So, I began looking around, farther afield. I found a place in Santa Fe that was offering workshops in Digital Printmaking. This was exactly what I wanted to do. Exactly, and not only that, it was being conducted by a guy who was closely connected to Crosby Stills and Nash. That would be cool, I thought.
Mac Holbert, at the time, was part owner of Nash Editions in California. He and Graham Nash had worked together to take large format inkjet printers into the realm of fine art printing. They took a hacksaw to an Iris printer so that it would accept larger, fine art-type paper. They eventually worked with Epson to invent pigmented inksets. Holbert became an expert at and worked with the people at Photoshop. I became more and more excited. I even got a grant from the Arizona Commission of the Arts to go.
Then, as I read more, I began to get a sense that this whole thing was oriented to Photography. I hadn't even thought of that. It said Digital Printmaking, but the school holding the classes was Santa Fe Workshops, and as I looked at all of the other course descriptions, I saw they were all about photography. So I had to ask. Then Mac said, "Sure, let him in. It could be interesting."
Two or three days into the workshop, the director came walking through our classroom. He looked at what I was doing and asked Mac, who was standing across the room. "Is he using photography with this over here?" He actually seemed a little bit irritated. Mac said, "No, actually he's using raw pixels, starting completely from scratch". The director just kind of shook his head and continued on his way around the room. I don't remember him saying anything to me at all.
Afterwards, I tried to incorporate what I had learned about layers. It was quite a big leap for my work, and I also began trying to add that into my traditional painted works. I'm still working with all of that. I've owned and worked with several large format printers. I've added to everything I've learned along the way through experience. I've never worked with algorithims. I've never worked with fractal programs. My digital works and my paintings are closely connected, although I think they are also separate kinds of work.
Of course, you know Myrt goes out to the mall, and she sells her paintings in those art shows they have out there. She goes great guns! One weekend she sold 4 or 5 paintings and made over $100. She goes great guns!
But you know me... I can't even draw a stick figure!
Well, she took a class out to the Junior College. Yeah, she thinks she's all hoyty toyty now. Taking classes at the Junior College! The very idea!
Marty said, "Why don't you go out there? You could take the bus from the Senior Center..."
I said "What the hell would I take out there? I can't even draw a stick figure!"
He said, "Well you know they got basketball games out there..."
"Oh sure, for you! I don't watch basketball! What the hell would I want with that damn Junior College?! No way!"
Course, Myrt goes out there. She likes it. She goes great guns with that sorta thing!
I read an article yesterday written by a self-annointed expert about fine art. I won't mention his name, but he writes about the "art biz". His article went on and on about how artists need to use only the finest materials, and the most exquisite craftsmanship, and he went on (and on and on) about how artists need to be careful about not making mistakes and changing directions in a piece...
The guy kept writing paragraphs that said the same things, over and over. He talked about how he carefully went over every piece of art to make sure that the utmost care had been taken in its execution. Artists would not be able to simply make excuses if he was on the job.
It was almost nonsensically naiive. I started thinking about Franz Klein and Jackson Pollock using house paint. I remembered a piece that Harmony Hammond had at TMA one year in the Biennial - I remember a series of old doors, some of which seemed to have maybe been burnt. I thought about Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns, and suddenly I wondered if this guy had ever actually gone to a museum and seen any kind of Modern or Contemporary Art. He doesn't seem to have a clue about the creative process.
I had a difficult time sleeping. I kept waking up thinking that maybe I should just throw most of everything I've done in the trash. Now that I'm fully awake, and have been for many hours, I've decided he's just full of shit, and he probably wouldn't know a good painting if it bit him in the ass.
I'm not saying that artists should just throw a bunch of crap together and call it "Contemporary Art". I think it's important to at least try to use a certain level of craftsmanship and materials that have a chance of lasting at least for awhile. Nothing is going to last forever. I do the best I can. I use the best materials I can afford. I have at least learned how to do things and make an effort.
I've been having a little conversation within a conversation about Formalism on Facebook. I struggle because some of these people have read a lot of philosophy, and I have read, basically, none, but I have some ideas about art, maybe not always the correct ideas.
I brought up that, as a student, I remembered discussions about "Pluralism". I don't remember having discussions about Postmodernism until I was already out of school. I tried to delete that but I guess, not fast enough. Maybe if I had taken a class with Josh Kind I would have heard about Postmodernism. Probably.
Saul Ostrow Pluralism was a code word for regionalism/ and minor practices - rather than diversity - and multiplicity, which is what post-Modernism was meant to signal.
So, upon further reading - A kind of populism or democratization in the artworld. The idea that the outer regions could produce anything as vital seemed to threaten the Mega-center, and then in a reverse way, the artists "out west" had chips on their shoulders. It's kind of insulting in a way, but you can go live and New York if you want to, or you can always carry around with you the stigma of working and living outside New York, and so, outside the artworld.
Both Pollock and Rauschenberg came from those outer regions, but they had to create their work in NYC for it to be validated, or maybe their work would not have developed somewhere else? I suppose you could wonder about that, argue about it. They're both gone.
The "isms" keep shifting in their meanings over time. Stella's work shifted greatly itself - I wonder if that's related somehow, and how conscious was he in that shift. Were his minimalist early works too confining?
I wonder if west coast art is considered "regional/minor"? I suppose it is, just like Chicago. And I live in Arizona, not even... But still, I persevere, kind of.