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In Memoriam

A painting for my father.  This is a painting of a print of a painting–my dad’s only fine art print, a Monet from Monet’s Houses of Parliament series.  I grew up looking at this print, and became intrigued with it again after being asked to create something for an exhibition Totem, exploring family history and the power of objects.

I recently learned that Monet was criticized for using photography to help with these renderings.

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Tom Wesselmann and I

WESSELWORK

Breakfast Table (inspired by Tom Wesselmann’s Still Life No. 60), 12″ x 16″, Oil on Canvas

Photo by Artworks Cincinnati.  Tom Wesselmann Still Life No. 60 Downtown Cincinnati Mural.  8th and Main

Photo by Artworks Cincinnati. Tom Wesselmann Still Life No. 60 Downtown Cincinnati Mural. 8th and Main

Over the summer I lived with Tom Wesselmann.  More accurately, I lived with the work and specter of the late Cincinnati pop-art icon Tom Wesselmann, through the execution of several projects including an enormous outdoor mural downtown with teaching artists and teen-apprentices.  It was easy to develop a personal connection with the late Cincinnati master, who shares my love of objects, painting, women, and was even an accomplished songwriter as well (a song of his appears in the soundtrack to Brokeback Mountain. movie only not the CD).

I also met his wife Claire, who was lovely. And during the mural project Wesselmann’s one-time studio assistant in New York, Kevin T. Kelly (who is also a well-known pop artist) was gracious enough to spend a little time with me and the apprentices.

Tonight, we were finally able to dedicate the mural, a project of non-profit Artworks, to the city of Cincinnati.  The mural was created in preparation for the Wesselmann retrospective at the Cincinnati Art Museum, which opens this weekend.  In addition to the dedication, as a way to have a more personal creative dialogue with Wesselmann’s body of work, Meredith Adamisin from Artworks and myself staged an tribute art exhibition, Wesselworks, that opened wednesday at Align Furniture Store across the street from the mural on Main.  The exhibition features works by apprentice artists, teaching staff who worked on the mural, as well as my piece seen here, Breakfast Table.

Finally, I will be involved in two events at the Cincinnati Art Museum in the next few months:  On November 15th I will lead a program for kids–Art in the Making: Pop Painting–at the Cincinnati Art Museum.  On January 18th I will lead another program called Creative Encounters, for adults of all ages which is also one-part workshop one-part museum tour.  So, it is safe to say that I have developed something of a relationship with Wesselmann.

Still Life #60, 1973

Tom Wesselmann’s Still Life No. 60

The source image for the mural, Wesselmann’s Still Life No. 60 came into my life precisely as I had begun a new series of photographic still life’s and was considering the vast array of possible meanings that relationships between objects in a picture plane can create.  I had also just serendipitously begun arranging items in stage-like compositions as well.  So it was with great pleasure that I took on the mural project, created a painting in response, and continue to be engaged with Wesselmann’s work.

Options - 8.5" x 14" - Archival Digital Print

Options – 8.5″ x 14″ – Archival Digital Print

Although my recent photographs are borderline, my tribute painting is decidedly not pop-art.  But Wesselmann and I have some similar formal interests including clarity of line and form, a love of high contrast and bold color on muted fields, etc.

For this tribute painting, I essentially took Wesselmann’s Still Life No. 60 and flipped it on its head.  Instead of larger-than-life I worked small.  Instead of flat I worked with naturalistic angles and lighting.  I did, however, retain Wesselmann’s selection of objects, or at least five of six of the objects: the nail polish, sunglasses, lipstick, matchbook, and ring.  But instead of the necklace beads I have included grapes.  This is partly an inside joke–in the early summer I mistakenly identified the beads as grapes and presented the work to apprentices artists that way–but partly a reference to the Dutch Golden Age breakfast table paintings I have been looking at lately as well.  My painting also references another American master from yet another generation, painter of beautiful trompe l’oeil still life’s William Harnett.  These are my three muses lately.  I have some other paintings in my studio that are more “for me” and feature the kinds of weird objects that have been appearing in my photos lately.  But this one’s for Tom Wesselmann.  May your match continue to smolder!

Nov. 15, 1-3 p.m.:Cincinnati Art Museum – Art in the Making: Pop Painting, for kids ages 6-12 and a parent. Reservations required. $10 per pair members, $20 nonmembers ($3/$6 for each additional person).

Jan. 18, 1 p.m.:Cincinnati Art Museum – Creative Encounters visits the Great American Nudes series, then creates figure drawing inspired by the exhibition. Reservations required. $10. $5 members and college students.

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Selfie or Self-Portrait? Van Gogh and the Art of Sharing

Under the pretense that I was an artist, and that the lives of artists should be documented through self-portraiture, I began taking photos of myself around 2000.  At that time the idea of turning a camera on one’s self was still commonly seen as odd, despite (or perhaps because of) the sudden proliferation of bad MySpace mirror profile pics.  While the practice of spontaneous digital self-portraiture received an enormous boost of in 2013 due to increased usage of camera phones and image-based social media services like Instagram, many still view the practice of taking a selfie as odd or worse–vain, absurd and a reflection of the millennial generation’s self-obsession and inability to enjoy the present moment.  But what happens when an artist makes an image of herself?  Where is the line between a selfie (#selfie) and self-portraiture?

The artist has long enjoyed a special status in culture, an expectation of self-centeredness or even self-obsession.  Thanks to Van Gogh and many others, the self-portrait is connected with ideas of authorship, genius and creative struggle.  Strictly speaking, the selfie is a photograph taken with a digital camera and posted to a social network.  However, self-portraiture is inherently social in nature; through painting or photographing their own faces and bodies, artists attempt to reveal to others some aspect of their very essence or being.  What could be more social than that?

VanGogh-self-portrait-with_bandaged_ear

Does Van Gogh’s Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear from 1889 prefigure the #selfie? #vangogh #urgentcare #sucks #whatwasithinking #omg #ear #holyshit #dutchmedicalcare #artist #suffering #torturedartist #modernism #postimpressionism #gauguin #hatehim #sad #lonely #yellowhouse #arles #injured #bandaged #forlorn

Van Gogh’s famous self-portrait with a bandage on his ear is perhaps the art world’s first #selfie in that it succinctly captures the image-maker in a peculiar moment.  While the source of Van Gogh’s injury is still unclear, one thing is certain–the event involved his man-crush of the moment and fellow post-impressionist Paul Gaugin.  Perhaps, Van Gogh cut off his own ear in a fit of depression upon hearing Gaugin’s decision to leave their yellow house studio in Arles, France.  Or, was it Gaugin that sliced it off during a fencing accident?  Either way, the image is nothing if not a provocative update about Van Gogh’s status.

For centuries the words visual artist essentially meant image maker.  An image-maker was a particular kind of person and making compelling images required life-long dedication and skill.  Now that photographic and digital media technologies have become less expensive and the speed of transmission is approaching instantaneous (i.e. Instagram), nearly anyone with the means and motivation to acquire and learn to use a cell phone can become a prolific–although not necessarily adept–visual creator.  This renders the majority of self-portraits in existence anything but artistic.  Could an unending stream of images tagged #bored, #drunk, and #cleave really be Joseph Beuys’ dream of the democratization of art?

A Self-Portrait by Albrecht Dürer, 1500.

A Self-Portrait by Albrecht Dürer, 1500. #selfie #artselfie #blinging #robes #mirrorselfie #jesusstyle #pimpcoat, #fur #selfportrait #self-portrait

Since the Renaissance, the self-portrait has been a form of advertising.  We feel no shame; as artists, self-promotion is a necessary part of life, for who can survive without patrons?  Thus, the self-portrait has survived and enjoyed lasting popularity in art as a two-punch tool: a way to communicate proficiency in one’s chosen medium while maintaining appearances.  But Millennials in the twitterverse are not searching for their Medicis.  We (and I use “we” loosely as I am caught between Millennial and Gen-X stereotypes) have been voraciously consuming–or reluctantly swallowing–images our entire lives.  Why should the right and responsibility to promote and preserve one’s image be reserved for artists and corporations?  Seen in this light, the selfie is subversive:  The audience becomes the artist, the consumer becomes the producer selling herself back to the world.

For all the selfie’s alluring sociopolitical ramifications and high entertainment value, the quick digital image simply neglects to do well the things that art does well.  The selfie does not conform to the elements and principles of design.  The selfie is of a positively low-quality.  The selfie is impulsive.  But isn’t that precisely its charm?  The selfie does not apologize for its vanity nor attempt to hide its self-consciousness.  The self-portrait, on the other hand, takes itself so seriously that the posturing of artists is often comical.  After decades of living in a culture of government and corporate lying and spying, is it any wonder that Millenials distrust the idea of authenticity itself?

Some random Instagram Selfies.

Some random Instagram Selfies.

The bad selfie (and most are bad) could be seen as a reflection of the distrust of propaganda (as evidenced by the hashtag “nofilter”): a willingness to put oneself on display without the handling, designing, research and development, testing, photoshoping, retouching, reshooting, retooling, editing and censoring, all the artifice of bureaucracy.  The artist too, unfortunately, has no choice but to self-censor, selecting and editing ad nauseam, having lived forever with an unforgiving, internal overlord, possessed by the specter of art history and bent on getting things just right.  Just maybe, the less a selfie resembles a self-portrait, the closer the image is to truth.   For to create art is to lie.  To represent is to misrepresent, and to create a self-portrait is to, well, #filter.

Vincent van Gogh Self-Portrait (Dedicated to Paul Gauguin), September, 1888

Vincent van Gogh Self-Portrait (Dedicated to Paul Gauguin), September, 1888

Van Gogh was indeed an interpreter (not a truth teller) but his willingness to interpret, to stretch, to bend and color made him a master and a great innovator of modern art.  His paintings are some of the most moving works of all time, in any media; in the strokes you feel his presence, his suffering, his joy, his life.  This connection with future viewers, forged by a willingness to overshare, secured his legacy.  Most people will never attempt to become great painters or photographers.  But our desire to share our sadness and madness and joy and everything between through images with any available technology is a reflection of our humanness.  Unfortunately, a quick look at the latest selfies in my feed reveals that society at large still has a great deal of catching up to do–the artist has been sharing for a long, long time.

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For a continued exploration of this topic in a fun way, I created an Instagram account dedicated to self-portraits of artists.  Follow me on your cell phone or browse the images so far at instagram.com/artselfie.

Art Self artselfie selfie

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New Paintings

The show at DAAP was a success.  I will try and find some photos of the reception.  Here are some images of the paintings, as well as installation shots from the exhibition in 840 Gallery at the Department of Art Architecture and Planning at the University of Cincinnati last week.  the paintings look so much smaller in these photos!  maybe the camera adds ten pounds to people but it subtracts a few feet from paintings.

It was so nice to see the paintings in a clean space with good light after living with them in my cramped and often messy studio for months.  I was especially pleased with the way the colors read in this space.  i received a great deal of valuable criticism and praise.  i feel pretty satisfied with this small series; i am considering ways i can expand and push things from here.  i am also working on an internet project that relates to these paintings; i hope to launch that in the next couple weeks.

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Pieces of Paintings

I believe every inch of a painting should be considered.  Here are some small areas of the surfaces of my paintings that help make color, texture, and the physical properties of oil paint so exciting for me.

 

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Boxes: Point of Departure

Tower – Oil on Canvas, 36″ x 36″

I am making paintings of boxes. I have several canvases in my studio at various levels of completion, each with compositions of stacks of jumbled, sometimes anti-gravital configurations of wooden and metal boxes and drawers.  Some areas of the paintings are straightforwardly representational.  In other areas passages of paint become only paint, creating dripping or pixel-like obstructions.  This may or may not sustain my interest as i begin to consider my MFA thesis at the University of Cincinnati.

"Tower" Oil on Canvas - detail

I did not initially understand my compulsion to make these paintings or my attraction to boxes and drawers but I am getting closer.  Throughout the next few weeks and months I hope writing in this blog will help to solidify my understanding of my own psychological interests in compartmentalization and containment, outline a clear course for further exploration of these themes, and perhaps even make a compelling case that something as seemingly banal as an old box can also be endlessly extraordinary and deep.

some initial somewhat random thoughts about boxes and stacks of boxes:

  • a box has two states: open and closed.  Open and closed can be thought of as a metaphor, the yin and yang of our experience of the universe.  people, paths, goals, spaces, personalities, impulses, stores, homes, windows, compositions, melodies, sentences–many many things can be open or closed.
  • a box is containment, means containment.
  • we were born in a contained state.  the womb is a box.
  • containment is safety; containment is also imprisonment.
  • the box is a metaphor for our minds.
  • the mind is often conceived as having compartments for different functions.
  • a pragmatic understanding of the universe is only possible when we shut ourselves off to the reality of interconnectedness, preferring organizational strategies that draw lines around seemingly disparate phenomena, placing these phenomena in imagined compartments and boxes.
  • a box can conceal that which should not be seen. thus,
  • a box holds secrets
  • a lock on a small box is absurd, since the box can simply be stolen.  thus,
  • locks on small boxes (especially decorative locks) are an expression of our cultural reverence for our small treasures and our secrets
  • “all these weird creatures who lock up their spirits…and live for their secrets” -Radiohead (lyrics from “Subterranean Homesick Alien”about potential alien observations on humans)
  • For psychologists, compartmentalization is useful mechanism to hold opposing viewpoints within the same mind.
  • for social scientists compartmentalization may involve the division of labor. the industrial revolution as well as mechanical time and other kinds of new systems that have imposed radical fragmentation and separation of aspects of daily life.
  • fragmentation has become our natural condition
  • “defrag” is to defragment a hard drive–to move components (imagined as cubes) and to pack them tightly into the same area like stacked boxes
  • perhaps defragmentation as a metaphor could be extended
  • maybe my interest in fragmentation is a manifestation of my own feelings of disconnection from myself, having had to adopt sub identities to exist in the worlds of music and art, to meet the expectations of different audiences
  • a painting is a box.  thus,
  • the paintings, as fragmented representations of information storage, are metaphors for themselves–they (hopefully) synthesize several psychological and sociological themes in creating unified artworks
  • a stack of closed boxes expresses inherent tension between separation and unity
  • a box is more contained than a drawer because it can be solitary
  • a single removed drawer should read as lonelier than a single box, since singular is an unnatural condition for a drawer
  • boxes are tiny museums,
  • mummy memories,
  • undead documents, periodically reincarnated
  • “…there will always be more things in a closed, than an open, box.  To verify images kills them, and it is always more enriching to imagine than to experience.”  – Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

more to follow.

 

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Walking a Path / My Studio

For the last few months I have been trying to find my way into a new series of paintings. It has taken me a few starts and stops but I believe I have found a good path. I hope to have some images of new paintings for this website soon. In the meantime, I have uploaded some photographs of my studio.

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First Place 2D Artists of the 21st Century Exhibition

My painting, “My Mother in the Evening”, won first place in the 2D category in the Artists of the 21st Century exhibition at the West Tennessee Regional Art Center in Humboldt, Tennessee! The Juror was Andrea D. Rudloff, the Community Relations Manager at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, TN. Andrea is also a professional visual artist and was recently appointed to a three-year term on the Kentucky Arts Council Board by Governor Steve Beshear.

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April Fools!

Self-Portrait as Mary Magdalene, 12" x 14", Egg Tempera, $450

I am pleased to be included in an upcoming Juried exhibition entitled Fools. The show will be held at Passages Gallery in Cincinnati and will feature humorous, dark, and deceptive art from regional artists including fellow NKU graduates, students, and my former painting instructor Kevin Muente.

My painting, “Self-Portrait as Mary Magdalene” is loosely based on a painting by Bernardino Luini, a painter who worked in Leonardo Da Vinci’s workshop. My painting was made using egg tempera paints, a technique that requires mixing pigment with egg yolk and painstakingly overlaying many fast-drying strokes. Until Leonardo and others realized the benefits of using slow drying oil as a medium in the 15th century, egg tempera was the chosen medium of painters.

Passages Gallery at Goodman is a new not-for-profit art gallery housed in a historic, 1920s, former elementary school in North College Hill, Cincinnati. The gallery’s mission is to bring art to the students and community of North College Hill.

Fools Opening Reception
Free and Open to the Public
Saturday April 9th, 6pm-9pm
Passages Gallery
1731 Goodman Avenue
North College Hill, OH, 45239-4844

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Passages-Gallery/124280864290817

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Artist of the 21st Century: West Tennessee Regional Art Center

My Mother in the Evening, Oil on Canvas, 36" x 36", $550

My painting, “My Mother in the Evening”, has been selected to be included in the Artists of the 21st Century exhibition at the West Tennessee Regional Art Center in Humboldt, Tennessee. The exhibition will contain works from artists in Tennessee, Kentucky, and surrounding southern states. My painting was selected by the juror Andrea D. Rudloff, the Community Relations Manager at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, TN. Andrea is also a professional visual artist and was recently appointed to a three-year term on the Kentucky Arts Council Board by Governor Steve Beshear.

Artists of the 21st Century
Opening Reception April 7, 5-7pm
Exhibit runs from March 30 – April 21
West Tennessee Regional Art Center
Humboldt, TN

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