Summer is my slow season for workshops. So while I’ll be in there working, my studio (always open by appointment) will be closed to a regular schedule of encaustic workshops until fall. Stay tuned! Fall dates for Basic and Continuing Encaustic, and Encaustic Transfer coming soon. Can’t wait until then? Email me to schedule a private lesson.
Like many artists, I make ends meet doing a variety of things. The goal for me (and it’s an elusive one) is to balance income with studio time. Since I prefer setting my own hours as opposed to logging time at an away-from-home, away-from-studio workplace each day, freelance work that I can do at my own pace works for me. It doesn’t work for everyone. Some people prefer a more regular gig outside the home with set hours. Or something more social. The key is to know yourself enough to know what works best for you.
Anyway, I’m happy to announce I’ve added a new freelance gig to my mix, writing about bees for the bimonthly mag, Countryside & Small Stock Journal. My first piece about honey and veganism, July/August 2016, is out now. So far I’m enjoying the writing and believe it’s added something, a different energy and style of thinking, to what I do in the studio. I see it as a complementary as opposed to a draggy gig.
Spring beehive in a grassy field, Boulder, Colorado
The line between art and entertainment can be hard to draw. It’s actually easier to say what art has in common with entertainment than what makes it different. They’re both diverting. They’re both cultural products. The differences, I think, have to do with intention, context, and the feeling produced in the viewer. Art offers something extra in that realm. Sometimes it produces an inchoate yearning that has to do with your potential as a human being. Or maybe it evokes awe, or startles you, or is weird. Whatever the feeling you get from it, art gets under your skin.
The Knick, a TV show directed by Stephen Soderbergh, is piece of entertainment that feels like art to me. It has atmosphere. The cinematography is intimate. The sound design, modern, driving. The editing, sensitively done. None of the trailers I’ve see for it do it justice. But here is one . . .
Here are four encaustic samplers made by four different artists in a recent Basic Encaustic workshop at my studio. We make samplers in Basic Encaustic so artists new to the medium can explore it freely without the pressure to produce art right off the bat. It’s exciting to see the results people get. The sampler format with its constraints reveals something interesting about each artist’s sensibility.
The receding “S” or shoulder shape that emerged in this texture sampler is rich with symbolic meaning for the artist who created it. Any visual symbol that feels potent to you is worth exploring and could be the start of a series.
Each of the three or so samplers this artist produced was characterized by loose, sensual brushwork and a natural, almost relaxed approach to composition. Already, I think, she is ready for a larger panel size to accommodate the span of her gesture.
The incised marks in this texture sampler have a wonderful, expressive quality that remind me of printmaking panels.
With her thoughtful approach to composition, this artist rapidly build a sense of depth on her panel by applying translucent and opaque layers of paint.
It’s spring 1985 and I’m on a bus, traveling with my track teammates to a meet at another Maine high school some miles away from our town. We sing to pass the time. Paradise by the Dashboard Light by Meatloaf and Raspberry Beret by Prince.
Have you thought lately about why you make art? What you’re in it for? Here’s another quote I like a lot from Olivia Laing’s book, The Lonely City.
People make things – make art or things that are akin to art – as a way of expressing their need to for contact, or their fear of it; people make objects as a way of coming to terms with shame, with grief. People make objects to strip themselves down, to survey their scars, and people make objects to resist oppression, to create a space in which they can move freely . . .
She goes on to explain that while art doesn’t have to be reparative, just like it doesn’t have to be beautiful, it very often is. I like the quote because it’s gritty. There’s an urgency to it that in-it-for-the-long-haul artists can lose touch with.
Every now and then I read a book that so wholly absorbs me I want to share it with everyone with whom I think it might connect. The Lonely City by Olivia Laing is one of those books. Part memoir, part art history, and part criticism, The Lonely City chronicles Laing’s experience living in New York after moving there from London to live with a lover who subsequently abandons her. A writer and critic, Laing trains her lens on the art that moved her most deeply, the paintings, photographs, videos and stories that comforted and pricked during her lonely stint in New York.
“Almost the only thing I found consoling was watching music videos on YouTube, curled on the sofa with my headphones on, listening again and again to the same voices finding the register for their distress . . . It was during this period that I first came across Klaus Nomi, mutant chantant, who made an art of being an alien, like no one else on earth . . . The film I liked best was of his very first appearance, at Irving Plaza on 15th Street in 1978, performing at a night called New Wave Vaudeville. He appears on stage in a see-through plastic cape, with wings painted around his eyes. A science-fiction figure, gender indeterminate, he opens his mouth and out comes ‘Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix’, my heart opens to your voice.”
Dishy and deeply researched, Laing opens each chapter with a personal anecdote that blossoms into an essay about a particular artist’s work, explaining how and why she connected with it, and making it newly relevant to contemporary viewers awash in digital culture.
“Warhol is often thought of as being completely subsumed by the glossy carapace of his own celebrity, of having successfully transformed himself into an instantly recognizable avatar . . . But one of the interesting things about his work, once you stop to look, is the way the real, vulnerable, human self remains stubbornly visible, exerting its own submerged pressure, its own mute appeal to the viewer.”
If ever a book called out for hypertext, it’s this one. Containing just a few images, mainly photographed portraits of the artists she writes about: Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, David Wojnarowicz, Henry Darger, Klaus Nomi, and a still from a documentary about Josh Harris’ project, We Live in Public, each chapter bubbles with alluring descriptions of visual art, the people who made it and their happenings.
By blending anecdotes with insights and thoughtful writing about art, The Lonely City challenges the creepy paradox of the internet, the way it simultaneously isolates and connects, in a way that feels personal rather than analytical. While Laing cites several other excellent, recent books about how devices are changing culture, like Alone Together by Sherry Turkle and The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, The Lonely City doesn’t follow their lead. It’s not a warning bolstered by cognitive science. Nor does it offer advice. But rather the author offers her vulnerability, her experience feeling lonely in a connected-all-the-time culture, as a gift to the reader in a fascinating read that places art and people rather than science and data at its center.
A post-snow flush of green pushing its way up and out.
Lavender, just greening, April 2016
Enjoy garden design? Check out A Little Chaos directed by Alan Rickman. It’s the only costume drama I can think of with a plot that turns on the idiosyncratic placement of a single pot. Middling performances by some terrific actors and a fascinating performance by Rickman. Beautiful shots of formal and informal gardens in various stages of completion.