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12 March 2006 @ 09:10 pm
Studio art majors are required to take art history courses.
Art history majors are not required to take studio courses.

This makes me think less of art history as an entire field of study; even if an art historian does studio work on their own, the fact that their academic work is done in a field that does not recognize the importance of doing the thing you are studying is unbelievable. I can't think of any other fields that get away with this. It's like letting an anthropologist get everything they know from things other people have written and not expect them to ever do an ethnography of their own. Darren compares it to set designers who don't actually build sets; they end up designing things that can't actually be made.

I'd like to ask art historians, how much can you say about what Max Beckmann was trying to do with a self-portrait if you've never done one of your own? How well can you understand Caravaggio if you've never stared at a still life set-up for days on end trying to figure out with your own eyes what the hell is going on with the light? Cuz I've done both those things before looking at their work and I'll tell you, you don't know as much as you should.

The fact is, everyone needs theory and history to inform the work they do. Also, days are pretty short. We need people who devote most of their intellectual time to art history because they'll get more done that they will publish and share with the rest of us. But if your work is focused on looking at things other people have made you must have a background in the process of making things. Otherwise you're just sitting around thinking about shit.
03 February 2006 @ 12:40 pm
Yesterday I learned the word for la duende and I know now why I've left Siddha Yoga.
26 December 2005 @ 02:02 pm
"...[W]e must stop treating beauty as a thing or quality, and see it instead as a kind of communication.... Beauty is an unstable property because it is not a property at all. It is the name of a particular interaction between two beings, a 'self' and an 'Other': 'I find an Other beautiful.'... If the Other is an artwork, it is inanimate by definition; many people would argue that the perception of a woman (or man or child) as beautiful reduces her to the status of a thing as well."

-Wendy Steiner, Venus in Exile: The Rejection of Beauty in 20th-Century Art

This opinion lacks subtly and flexibility in both thought and perception. We are material beings and our physical selves have lives because we are also visual beings, constantly interacting with one another on this level. If beauty is about communication, then finding a woman beautiful does not "reduce" her (implying all of her) to an object; it recognizes and responds to her physical person, an act that I see as either neutral or positive. It is not inherently demeaning because our material selves are worthy of recognition, but also because the act doesn't end there. Our ability to communicate with beauty is not shallow nor is it purely physical. By this new definition it is dynamic, which means that the Other is at least an active player; even if the Other is an object, this is not necessarily a lesser position. As communication is not a physical act, neither is beauty; it is an intellectual act based around physical information. Neither can the Self nor the Other exist in complete objecthood.

But before I end there, I need to say that I'm bothered by how we downplay what we call the "purely physical." As I've said, a beautiful Other is not purely physical but even if it were, we shouldn't talk about that quality as "just" or "only" physical. It should go without saying in a discussion about art that working in the physical/visual world is a worthwhile pursuit all on its own. Or, to take it a step further, we should deny that it is even possible to only work in with physical things, us being emotional, spiritual, and intellectual creatures.
11 December 2005 @ 05:40 pm
A friend of mine knows an old abandoned paper mill in upstate New York. From his last trip he brought back a folio of prints of machine plans and the schematics for a boiler room. Fell right the fuck in love. Bartered with him for one and a frame for the lithograph I'm doing of them for his room, which is stacked with old collected things, most of which are suitcases and steamer trunks and other wonderful brown things. Pictures of the plans and the lithograph coming soon, as soon as I get out of the art barn and back into the world.

I've also been spending time with an engineer lately and started thinking about buildings and moving parts in very different ways. I think the focus of my Div II, which was storytelling, is changing as I work on every new image. The shift is moving instead towards record keeping, a subtle difference I've just pinned down and continue to think about. Your thoughts more than welcome.
22 November 2005 @ 01:02 pm

Paul Cezanne, Madame Cezanne In a Red Armchair, 22.5" x 28", 1877

This painting does not quit.
It is baffling and huge and extraordinary. You can see an under-drawing in places in the folds of her skirt and it throws your world around. You can see every possible expression in her face, you can see Matisse in the lighting and Pisarro in the textures.
I stood looking at the self-portrait next to it for a long time before I made my way over to Madame Cezanne. When I left the Post-Impressionists to go on to other rooms she was my favorite of the two. When I came back to see the self-portrait again, I could barely stand to be in the room with her I was so terrified, though I couldn't articulate it at the time.

In my notebook I kept jotting down names and ideas but with Cezanne I just wrote: "Holy fuck."

Later I think I muttered, "brilliant."
Current Mood: green line
Current Music: Nick Drake
13 November 2005 @ 06:18 pm
Judith told us to give ourselves an assignment for the weekend. So tonight with the memory of driving at dusk on the Mass Pike, red lights and blurred white passing lines, I am painting a poem-slash-self portrait.
27 October 2005 @ 11:14 am
So, there are people who don't know what I'm working on right now. The current project (outside of classes) is an artist book of woodcuts and text. This semester I'll finish three images, a cover, and three written stories; hopefully there will be even more after Jan term. I'm having a love affair with relief printmaking right now and this winter I think we'll move in together for a trial period, see if we can still stand each other after spending all our time together for a couple weeks of heavy snow.

The idea with this book is for the images and stories to describe moments in the lives of fictional characters. The images all show single figures moving from one activity to the next, the stories span no more than a few minutes. I want to say there is a theme of solitude but really these characters are not alone; the stories are told from the perspective of someone else who knows them or watches them and the images all contain a focus point (the figure looking somewhere) that implies the presence of another person or invites the reader into the picture as an unseen viewer. The pages will be bound/presented in no clear order. In fact, they'll be bound to make it obvious that there is no order but with enough connections between pages that the readers will be allowed/encouraged to make up chronologies or relationships for themselves.

I've finished the first couple stories and will post them for comments, here or in tupelo_lights. When I get around to finding a good scanner I'll get the first woodcut up.
19 October 2005 @ 02:29 pm
On the wall of the bathroom in the art barn someone wrote in all caps black pen:

Quote from Judith for the week, made during a slide lecture on Van Gogh on the careful experience of a painter:
"I'm looking, I'm thinking, I'm feeling. I exist. I have materials in my hand...."
16 October 2005 @ 10:09 pm
"I just bought this vintage wool skirt I'm going to wear to class tomorrow because we're not painting, we're doing a crit. Do you know I never wear nice clothes anymore? Because there is not a single day I don't spend in the studio and I'll just get ink and paint all over them."
"Well, art sucks, honey. I told you..."
12 October 2005 @ 11:31 pm
It occurred to me the other night, during a speech by Noam Chomsky, that the social sciences, though based in perspective which is subjective, allows people to promote those perspectives as morally, intellectually, or politically "righter" or "better" than the opinions of the people with whom they disagree. For instance, Noam Chomsky, having done the research recognized as necessary within his field, has come to certain conclusions about The State oF Things that he feels are not only in line with his personal code of ethics but correct in some kind of universal sense. In social sciences, even if you recognize that no one can tell anyone they are right or wrong, you still must pass "right or wrong" judgment on people who believe that they can.

In art, it seems to me, perspective is the end of what you are trying to express and communicate. My painting of an apple tree can be worlds apart from your painting of an apple tree, but there is no necessary argument between them or us. I don't meant to suggest that artists don't fight over method, approach, tradition, etc., or that there is no depth to analyzing the variance in means of expression. Neither do I mean that social scientists can't get along. Just that in the world of art, one painting of an apple tree (or one career of paintings of apple trees) can never prove someone else's painting wrong, and artists seem to harbor fewer delusions that it can.
Current Music: October