To know ahead of time what you’re looking for means you’re then only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting, and often false.
As a fan of Dorothea Lange’s photography, I was very open to her take on what an artist– in her case, a photographer– is seeking. I’ve written a lot here over the years about searching for something in my work but what that thing is, quite honestly, I do not know. I know that it is not something I can find without releasing a lot of myself including my fears and preconceptions.
Lange’s idea of preconceptions being limiting is one that rings very true to me, coinciding with my constant chorus that painting is best done without thought, without having an idea of where it might end up. Preconceptions create expectations and these too are limiting. The best work often comes when there are no expectations and no idea of what I am trying to accomplish. Well, it holds true for my painting, at least.
Her idea ( and mine, I suppose) of searching is so devoid of planning or purpose that it actually reminds me of Picasso‘s thoughts on searching: I have never had time for the idea of searching. Whenever I wanted to express something, I did so without thinking of the past or the future.
They both very much say the same thing but in differing ways.
And I agree with both.
Posted in Photography, Quote | Tagged Dorothea Lange, Pablo Picasso, Photography, Quote, Quote of the Week | 1 Comment »
Ormond Gigli is an American photographer born in 1925 who is famous for his photos of celebrities from the worlds of stage, screen and fashion. I recently came across his most famous photo (above) which is called Girls In the Windows. It is considered to be one of the great fashion shots of the 1960’s and just a great photo in any category.
The photo came about in 1960 when a group of brownstones in Manhattan were being demolished across the street from Gigli’s East 58th Street studio. Gigli wanted to capture those brownstones on film and had a vision of 43 fashion-clad women adorning the windows. Working quickly, arrangements were made to get permissions, models and the Rolls-Royce in place so that the photo could be taken during the workmen’s lunch break before the buildings hit the ground. Some of the models couldn’t stand on the windowsills as they were so crumbly.
It’s a stunning visual. You never know what will inspire something new in your own work and looking at a photo like this triggers all sorts of reactions within my mind. I am sure this was the same for others who sort of borrowed from this photo in the years after it was taken. For instance, I am pretty sure the artist who did the cover for Led Zeppelin‘s 1975 album, Physical Graffiti was inspired in some way by Gigli’s photo to place iconic images in the windows of a crumbling apartment building.
Ormond Gigli has a website devoted to his work and the stories behind some of his more famous shots that you can visit by clicking here.
Posted in Favorite Things, Influences, Photography | Tagged Led Zeppelin, Ormond Gigli, Photography, Physical Graffiti | Leave a Comment »
I am a little busy this Monday morning but I wanted to run something to replace yesterday’s post at the top of this blog. Something a little lighter in feel I came across this entry from back in 2011 and it made me stop. It’s about an old experiment from my formative years along with a great little piece pf music. Enjoy!
Looking through some old work, most of which was done early on while I was still forming my technique and style and before I showed my work publicly, I came across this oddity that I noted as Hogback Heaven. It’s a goofy little scene of a rough hewn home and yard somewhere out on a back country road, the kind of place that I often passed years ago in my treks on the backroads around my home area. All that is missing here from my memories of those places are a barking hound and a toddler in a sagging diaper playing in the gravel of the driveway.
Whenever I come across this piece, I have to smile. I don’t know if it’s the subject or the crazy electric feel of the cobalt blue sky and hills and the red neon outlines of the house and ground. I’m still trying to figure out where that color came from. Maybe it’s a smile of embarassment that this little painting is hovering in my past. But there’s something in it that makes me not want to destroy it.
I wanted to set this post to some fitting music and in my search came across this other sort of oddity. Called Yiddish Hillbillies, it’s a vintage 40’s era cartoon that has had the soundtrack replaced ( in a very clever and coordinated way) with a song from Mickey Katz. Katz was a comedian who specialized in Jewish humor, with Yiddish-tinged song parodies of contemporary songs of the time being his specialty. Think Borscht Riders in the Sky or Sixteen Tons (of Latkes). While much of the Yiddish-tinged wording goes over my head I do enjoy the klezmer feel here. A note on Mickey Katz: His son is actor Joel Grey which makes him the grandfather of actress Jennifer Grey.
Posted in Early Paintings, Music, Video | Tagged Early Work, Joel Grey, Mickey Katz, Music, Video | 1 Comment »
Another week with another tragedy that seems more and more uniquely American. Is this what is what people mean when they say American Exceptionalism?
The airwaves are filled as always with the same expressions of shock and outrage from public figures, which leave me cold. It happens so frequently that there is almost a standard protocol for reaction in place for the media and public officials. You know as soon as this happens what the outcry will be and how it will fade in several days except for those who lost family and friends in the gunfire.
Until the next time, which unfortunately will not be too long in coming. So we wait and shrug our shoulders, saying, like The Onion headline above, “There’s no way to prevent this.”
And there isn’t so long as we refuse to make difficult decisions.
Maybe putting off hard choices is our exceptionalism. We are wonderful in that capacity.
That brings me to this week’s Sunday musical choice. It’s fittingly titled If Not Now from Tracy Chapman from way back in 1988. Maybe if we hadn’t kicked that can down the road back then…
Posted in Current Events, Music, Opinion | Tagged American Exceptionalism, Music, Sunday Morning Music, The Onion, Tracy Chapman | 2 Comments »
This is a new painting that I have been working on recently. It’s a 24″ by 24″ canvas that has a working title of October Sky. It has nothing to do with the movie of that title — the one about how Homer Hickam, the son of a West Virginia coal miner. overcame long odds to become a rocket scientist. I’m not fully sure of the reason for the title except that during the time I was painting this the sky was gray and rainy. The title just seemed to emotionally fall to this piece but that might change as I live with it.
And it’s a piece that I like living with right now.
It’s darker tones and clashing, interweaving lines satisfy something in me at this time. There’s part of me that feels that I need to bring more light into it but I find myself wondering if that is just a remnant of my past experience with my dark work from the aftermath of 9/11 that was not as well received as my lighter and more brightly colored work of that time. It was my first experience working on a dark base and it took time for me to develop the style I use now where I create more color and light on the surface, far more than was on those earlier pieces.
So I have become accustomed to working past stages where the darkness is still strong in my work, sometimes when I am deeply drawn tot he darker aspects of the work.
And this is one such piece. Looking at it now, I think it might be diminished by going too much further into the light. But that is at just this moment and might change. This is one of those pieces that require deliberation, time to ponder the painting’s real point of existence and feeling. Some pieces announce themselves before the last strokes are even considered and others are more ambiguous.
And it is this ambiguity that I think gives this piece its strength. It doesn’t announce itself as one thing.
And I like that.
I’m going to continue looking at this for a while, just taking it in for what it is in the moment.
Posted in Painting, Recent Paintings | Tagged Dark Work, GC Myers, Homer Hickam, New Painting, October Sky, technique | 1 Comment »
Stan Herd’s Take on Van Gogh
Stan Herd is an an American artist who uses the land as his canvas, creating large earthworks that reveal themselves from great heights. He has been at this for over 40 years, beginning in 1981 after a short and less than satisfying career as an abstract expressionist painter. Working in the tradition of other great earth artists such as Robert Smithson and Christo, Herd has traveled around the globe for his art and has been tabbed as the “Father of Crop Art.” He has even been the subject of an acclaimed movie, Earthwork, that tells the story of a 1990’s project where he creates an environmental artwork on a NYC property owned by Donald Trump— yeah, that guy.
His most recent is a project from this year that he took on in conjunction with the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) that had him replicating Van Gogh‘s famed painting, Olive Trees, in plantings. It was situated so that fliers arriving at the Minneapolis airport would be able to see it as they were landing. There’s a great short film below that shows a little of the process and gives you a better idea of the artist.
Take a look at Stan Herd’s website by clicking here. Great stuff…
Posted in Neat Stuff, Video | Tagged Christo, Donald Trump, Earthworks, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Robert Smithson, Stan Herd, Van Gogh, Video | 2 Comments »
Scott Coulter- Ohara
When I was in Alexandria for my annual Gallery Talk last weekend, I ran into an old friend, the wonderful painter painter Scott Coulter. I hadn’t seen in many years and had a chance to briefly catch up with him while he manned his booth at the very busy King Street Art Festival. Canadian-born Scott Coulter was one of the first painters I connected with when I began my career when he was still living in this area, the Finger Lakes region of New York. He now divides his time between Florida and Minnesota when he’s not traveling around the country to display his work and to capture some of the natural splendor that he paints so well.
Scott Coulter -Upper Elk 48×60
While we paint with very different styles and processes, I found it very easy to become a big fan of Scott’s atmosphere filled landscapes as well as the way in which he painted them. Every painting is just him and his brushes with perhaps a photo or two to guide him. There are no projected images onto his canvasses, no airbrushes to create his beautifully graded colors, no digital assistance of any kind– just him and an unerring ability to build magnificent, and often very large, paintings with a palette that is instantly recognizable to anyone who knows his work. I remember seeing him paint years ago and being so impressed with how he made the very difficult seem so easy. He’s master of his art.
He was influential in my desire to paint very large. I remember one piece he was commissioned to paint that was huge, so much so that the patron provided him with a space, a small but tall inner courtyard they owned, in which he could paint because it was too tall for any space available to him. It was something like eleven foot tall and had an incredible visual impact. I am sure it still brings oohs and aahs in its current home. Rogue’s Gallery, shown below, is another large piece at 66″ square that I would love to see in person.
In recent years, he began painting railroad cars and physical features such as underpasses with graffiti covering them and it fits into his body of work so well that it seems like it has always there. Hard not to like this as well.
For more info on Scott’s work check out his website by clicking here and if you’re in the NYC area this weekend, check it out in person at the Gracie Square Art Fair.
No two ways about it– just good work. Great to see you, Scott. Look forward to seeing you again!
Scott Coulter – Bob’s Boys 18×24
Scott Coulter- Stone Cold Merced 60×48
Scott Coulter – Rogues Gallery 66×66
Scott Coulter -BNSF 403775 18×24
Posted in Favorite Things, Influences, Painting | Tagged Gracie Square Art Fair, Graffiti, Painting, Scot Coulter | 1 Comment »