Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Strange Associations

Last Thursday, the sky was that of a Dutch Landscape painting with silver and grey clouds interrupted by bits of bright manganese blue. The skies depicted in the landscapes were, I once thought, fictional. Then, while traveling in Russia 6 years ago, I saw this sky for the first time, with the elusive silver gray clouds blowing in from the Gulf of Finland. Last Thursday, this sky hung over the most unlikely place - Brooklyn.

That same day, I had a one-on-one critique with a professor. We spoke for a long time about a painting I am working on. I had mentioned this painting in my last post. Annunciation, is composed of a pair of denim clad legs, a raven and a piece of cake. My professor was struck by the fact that the most innocuous, banal image in the painting, the cake, is actually the hinge on which the painting opens to the viewer. I am currently too "in" the painting to know this. I am also too doubtful of my own work, while working.

What I do know is this: that beauty and surprise do exist, and that they can be found in the most unexpected places. If we are lucky, we notice.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Revisiting Feminist Art

This is an attempt to understand my role and responsibility as a woman attempting to exist as an artist in 2009. I am not speaking of fame or a retrospective at MOMA. I am speaking of earning a living as a working artist. I have been reading Wet written by Mira Schor and From the Center, Lucy Lippard’s essays on Feminist Art. I value reading these works 25 years after college with some life experience under my belt.

As an undergrad at an all women’s liberal arts college during the Reagan years, the flutter blustered around Judy Chicago’s celebrated Dinner Party, now permanently ensconced at The Brooklyn Museum. What now strikes me is the impression that a woman artist identified notable women as dinner plates and vaginas. I rarely feel objectified, but feel this sting each time I now reflect on the work. I hope I am more than these two components. In addition, and new to mind, is the awareness of the Hegelian subject-object relationship made manifest in the anonymity of artisans that crafted the work appropriated by the author.

In fact, almost all circumstances of objectification that I’ve experienced have come from the “other”. While I agree with Simone de Beauvoir on the theory that men had constructed the mystery of the “other”, I believe that women have cultivated it. One reason that patriarchy continues is that women adapt it, with their own methods of assassination, for their own use. As evidenced in, marketing, branding and celebrity, they are complicit. One graduate professor I recently encountered, a woman artist of some talent and acclaim, felt it necessary to share with me, in a disparaging tone, that Helen Frankenthaler had her nylons pressed. Indeed, she encouraged her students to attend a lecture of David Salle’s. I happen to be in the camp that David Salle is a misogynist; I also believe that his is learned behavior. For me much of the feminist art of the 1970’s is akin to screaming at a dyslexic for poor sentence structure.

It is not a surprise that so many women that I went to college with, after championing the women’s movement, opted out, for the perceived comfort and protection of suburban life. I think of Hannah Wilke’s work and can’t help but rue the posthumous acceptance of her work by a substantial number of women artists. This occurred only when she was no longer young, beautiful and naked, but swollen, disfigured and dead.

In my own attempts at editorializing socio-political issues I fall short, either due to my own lack of experience, the immaturity of my opinion, or my continued ambiguity for the referenced experience. So often I find feminist art rages even at its constituency. I wholeheartedly support freedom of choice, but based on my experience, a sterile suction curette, no matter how available, is as emotionally charged as a coat hanger.

Thus, I am attempting to document my own experience regarding those eternally grand themes artists encounter: life, death, love, hate, sin, despair and even happiness. A twice-monthly series of paintings attempts to honestly examine my aging body; a recent installation of t-shirts accompanied by personal wish-list addresses my greed; another installation of test tubes reflects the clinical detachment I felt watching someone die.

I am also assessing some Biblical themes. A current painting is based on the Annunciation. The Virgin is a pair of denim-clad legs. The Archangel is represented as a black raven. Archangels are bad-asses and as purely spiritual and intellectual beings – not particularly gender based. A Seed, is represented as a piece of frosted layer cake. Being informed of a virgin birth would be frightening for any woman, but if you believe Christian myth, and some of it I do, only a woman had God in her and on her and from her.

This notion speaks to what is most necessary in art today: clarity and quality of content, intent and production. In addition, there must exist an interaction with the observer that demonstrates respect and requires their participation. Whether abstract or representational, male or female, gay or straight, the ghettoizing aspect of artistic subcultures is tiresome and worn. There is also nothing new. As an artist, I don’t need to strap on a strap-on as was necessary at the time it was necessary. But, if only I am speaking, I can’t hear you and if I cannot hear you, there is no discourse. Everything will stay the same. I look forward to hearing you.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Open Studios at Pratt Institute

Brooklyn, New York. – The Pratt Artists League (PAL) invites the public to visit the studios of candidates for the Master Fine Arts, Friday, April 17, 2009, from 5:00 - 10:00 p.m. The event will take place on the Brooklyn Campus of Pratt Institute, 200 Willoughby Ave., Brooklyn, New York, 11205.

The event gives the public the opportunity to see the art-making process and communicate directly with the students who create the work. More than 50 artists will open their studios. The event is free of charge.

The Master of Fine Arts program at Pratt Institute offers the following major areas of emphasis: painting/drawing, printmaking, sculpture, photography, and new forms (nontraditional investigations). The mission of Pratt Institute is to educate artists and creative professionals to be responsible contributors to society. Pratt seeks to instill in all graduates aesthetic judgment, professional knowledge, collaborative skills, and technical expertise.

Maps and studio information may be collected at the information booth on Campus. Please visit the website www.prattartistsleague.com for more information.

Directions from Manhattan: Take the Brooklyn-bound A or C train to the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station. Cross platform and take G train (front car) to the Clinton-Washington station. Use Washington Avenue exit and then follow directions above to campus.