Saturday, February 28, 2009

New Work in Paper

And you thought I was still on the couch reading the Times! But, no, I've been back in the studio dealing with the failed pieces I had put together. I've been making some new work for corporate collectors and have five done so far. (There was a #6, but it hasn't made the cut - yet.) They are untitled for now and I'm just calling them "March Paper 1-5." I'm starting with March because that's when I'm planning this project will be done.

March Paper No. 1 - 34" x 34" - acrylic on ricepaper with collage

March Paper No. 2 - 34" x 34" - acrylic on ricepaper with collage (lower right quadrant needs more color)

March Paper No. 3 - 34" x 34" - acrylic on ricepaper with collage (needs some color adjustment)

March Paper No. 4 - 34" x 34" - acrylic on ricepaper with collage

March Paper No. 5 - 34" x 34" - acrylic on ricepaper with collage

Of course No. 5 is my favorite because of the predominance of blue and the more freestyle lower left quadrant, but yellow and orange seem to work best for the corporate market for some reason.

So you'll note that these pieces all have the same basic format, a limited color pallette (for me) and a limited number of patterns. Most of the patterns started with stamping simple shapes in black. These restrictions are the way I've decided to approach the problem I was having with the work looking too scattered because of too many patterns and colors. I think that six pieces in a group is probably the maximum number I'll want to do, so now I'll have to come up with a different layout for the next six. I'll also change the color pallette a little but probably stick with some version of yellow, orange, green and blue - with black of course.

Photographing the work and seeing it all together in a smaller size is a good way to assess everything - both to see how it all goes together and how each piece stands up. How fortunate we artists are now to have digital photography! I was thinking about how many corporate pieces I have sold without having an image of them because I didn't have time to get them to the photographer. They exist in my memory just as vague shadows. Now I can make an instant record of the work as it happens and even before committing to the final version. It's a great tool to have and a real benefit in the studio. "Don't you just love technology?", she asked a bit sarcastically.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Boostering the MassArt Auction

OK, I'm off politics for the moment and thinking about art again. (I actually never stopped thinking about art, just posting about it.) So anyway, here's my selected painting:

"Over the Rainbow", encaustic and mixed media on 3 joined panels, 12"H x36"W x 1.75"D, 2008.

This piece will be offered for sale at the 20th annual Mass. Collage of Art benefit auction on Saturday, April 4th. It will be part of the silent auction, not the live one, and was juried in from more than 1000 pieces submitted by alumni and others.

Unlike many auctions, at MassArt artists can actually share in the sales revenue, being able to receive up to 50 percent of the sale price. The minimum that can be offered by a prospective buyer for a piece is 50 percent of the price listed by the artist. So if a piece is priced at $3,000, for example, a buyer could offer the $1500 minimum by writing their paddle number in on the sale ticket for the piece. If no one else makes a higher offer before the silent auction closes, the proposed buyer would be able to purchase the piece for $1500. I, as the artist choosing to receive 50 percent of the sale, would receive a check for $750 and the college would gain the other $750. In essence, I have donated $750 to the college.

While it is true that the $750 that I theoretically receive is 50 percent less than I would receive if the piece sold for its real retail value of $3000, I have the benefit of donating to my alma mater and of having extra exposure for my work. I think it's a worthwhile cause and have participated in the auction since I graduated in 1988 - more than 20 years ago. In the past my work didn't always sell, but for the last five or six years it has and for more than the minimum. I consider this a success for me.

I think that the MassArt auction has really improved over the past 8 or 10 years by making several changes:
  • Jurying entries, making for a better selection of work

  • Raising the minimum offer from one-third of the price (where it was for years) to one-half of the price, making it less of a bargain hunt

  • Classing up the event by raising the ticket price and getting everyone to dress up, creating a feeling of art patrons gathering to collect quality work

For as long as I've known about the auction, Karen Keane has presided over the live action. She is CEO of Skinner, a regular participant on Antiques Roadshow and a master of the gavel. I am unable to tell if she will participate this year (note to MassArt: why not have the auction on your alumni site?) but if it's not her, I'm sure it will be someone equally adept.

All the work for sale will soon appear on the auction website and you'll be able to preview and even bid in advance, I believe. So go to the auction, buy my painting (or someone else's), go home happy with your selection after a wonderful night of art, great food, and hobnobbing with the cognoscenti.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fashion/Political Commentary - Read at Your Own Peril

I'm still on that lousy article about my favorite newsperson, Rachel Maddow, in Sunday's NY Times. Does this woman (in photo) look like she knows anything about glamour - lesbian or straight? Yet Daphne Merkin (yes, it's her at right) claims to be an expert. Sheesh, what a mess! You can tell right away that she's NOT a lesbian because there's no sign of glamour.

Perhaps she should get some tips from Rachel, who always looks good whether she's on the air or off.
(images courtesy of the blog)

In fact, I think our pal Daphne bears a striking resemblance to another media star - this one with a face suitable for radio, the Schlockmaster himself. If Howard took off his glasses and jacket, then put on someone else's shirt and opened it nearly to his navel, the resemblance to Daphne would be uncanny - sort of separated at birth. I think I'm on to something here. Their knowledge and understanding of lesbians is on a par too.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

And the Oscar goes to...

Sunday is a day I treasure because I usually spend it ensconced on the couch reading just about every word of the Sunday NY Times. I am a fairly new convert to this paper, having grown up on The Boston Globe, but happily having graduated from that paper after moving to western Mass. I now consider the tone of most Globe articles despicably snotty and I wonder if the change is in the paper or in me.

So yesterday I was reading away in the Times and arrived at "T" - the "style magazine" of the Sunday Times that occasionally has articles about art and current events. Many Sundays I skip this magazine because it's full of emaciated models in excruciatingly-expensive designer clothes posed in decayed buildings or vacant lots. (Not exactly my cup of tea.) But yesterday there were two articles of interest to me - one that absolutely made my blood boil and the other that I loved because of the photo of fabulous art and biographical info about the artist. The surprising thing is that both articles had a connection to Cummington, a small town out here in western Mass. (I'm always looking for that place connection.)

First the good news, some time ago Joanne Mattera included an image of work by El Anatsui on her blog. I was bowled over by the work's shimmering beauty that reminded me so much of the glowing, golden Byzantine mosaics at St. Mark's in Venice.

(Image at right shows the golden ceiling mosaics in the Basilica di San Marco, Venice, made from clear glass tiles with gold leaf on the back.)

Rather than mosaic, El Anatsui composes his works from aluminum bottle tops flattened into rectangular shapes or circles and joined into a sort of fabric with copper wire.

"Dusasa I" by El Anatsui, 20 feet by 30 feet, image courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery, Chelsea

The article about El Anatsui in yesterday's "T", was entitled "A Thousand Bottles" and written by Alexi Worth (an artist himself whom I met years ago when he lived in Boston). The print story featured just one photo of Anatsui's work but the online version has a slide show of several pieces. There was a photo with the story of Anatsui, who is a Ghanaian and professor of sculpture at a Nigerian university. The article related that this work started when Anatsui found a discarded bag of bottle caps, brought them back to his studio and began experimenting.

Reading about the various styles and bodies of work Anatsui made over the course of his career was very inspirational because it shows that some artists take years to find their stride, but when they do strike it, they know what they're doing because of all the years and experiments behind them. This work is fabulously beautiful, but the artist does not treat it as precious and insists only that when it is exhibited, it be draped like fabric rather than hung flat. Exactly how it is draped is up to the gallery or museum although Anatsui does prefer horizontal ripples or folds.

"Red Eyes", 8 x 9.25 feet (also courtesy of Jack Shainman gallery)

This was a wonderful story and I really enjoyed it. (And the Cummington connection was that Anatsui had spent a residency in Cummington, MA some years ago where his use of a chainsaw led to a new body of work. I thought the chance of Anatsui ending up in Cummington from across the globe was really a strange little factoid.)

Now we come to the blood boiler, entitled "Butch Fatale: Lesbian glamour steps out of the closet. Daphne Merkin applauds." This sexist essay, supposedly celebrating lesbian glamour and centered on Rachel Maddow (part-time resident of West Cummington), displays Daphne Merkin's ignorance of and disdain for lesbians in nearly every line. Beginning by calling them "wallflowers at the homosexual dance," she goes on to decry lesbians with and without makeup, with and without fashion, famous and unknown, who participate in "a silly game played by a tiny pack of unalluring inverts."

Too bad you are so ignorant, Daphne. Why write about a topic on which you know worse than nothing?

Rather than lauding Rachel Maddow for her outstanding intelligence, awareness and ability that has taken the world of political commentary by storm, Daphne chooses to focus on Rachel's appearance and the fact that "she's not trying to pass, but she's willing to prettify her image sufficiently to endear her to male viewers." This is among the most ludicrous statements I have ever encountered and it can only be saluted with a chorus of loud Duhs followed by several letters to the editor. You are an insulting fool, Daphne, and I hope that you drown in the sea of stupidity that is your alleged writing. You get the Oscar for Best Supporting Homophobe.

And speaking of Oscars, if you didn't manage to stay awake (as I was not able to), take a look on Youtube at Sean Penn's gracious and intelligent acceptance speech for winning Best Actor and listen to what he has to say on the subject of civil rights for non-heterosexuals.

It's All About the Paint, Isn't It?

Physical Geography, the show that Lynette and I have up at ArtSpace Maynard is nearly over. It runs next Wednesday through Friday and then we take it down on Saturday, 2/28. Both of us are pretty damned sick of the whole thing. We have had to be there the last 5 Saturdays in a row and next week will make 6 (although I bailed one Saturday and Lynette gallery sat by herself.) It is feeling more like work than pleasure because it's taking time away from being in the studio.

So now I'm thinking about the whole process of making art and all it entails: photographing, cataloging, proposing exhibits, hanging it, exhibiting it, marketing it, wrapping it, shipping it, etc. and how much it becomes about the physicality of the product, like moving iron instead of joyously expressing some component of your inner being. (A little sarcasm there, but you get the point.)

Our pal Sue Katz, fellow New England Wax member, came to our talk on Saturday and asked Lynette about the meaning of her work and/or her inspiration. Sue loves to talk about this subject and we have had many conversations about it. (She is also giving a participatory talk about it at the encaustic conference in June.)

Lynette Haggard: "Circa 013", 2008, encaustic on panel

Lynette was a little nonplussed because she had already spoken about some of the work in the show being inspired by trips to Europe and Cuba where she saw ancient (or at least old) walls that had been scarred by time and use into a patina of old paint, wallpaper, dirt and marks representing layers of human life. Beyond that, she wasn't ready to dig too deeply into her motivation or meaning since she thought her work was more about the process of making the thing itself than expressing some inner belief or need.

Nancy Natale: "Red Pearl", 2008, encaustic and mixed media on panel (alias the Nipple Piece)

Someone once asked me what a particular piece was about and I said, "Paint." When I make a painting, it is what it is, not what it represents. I am all about process and object making. However, as the process of making a piece evolves, it may suggest things to me; perhaps it reminds me of an old wall or a textile or an undersea world, but that's not what it's about - I am not trying to create that thing.Usually when you have to confront this subject of meaning in your work, it's because you have to write that dreaded (or dreadful) artist's statement. Some of that stuff is such high-falutin' blather that you could never understand any of it, and the less said, the more words it takes to say it in. Yet people (especially curators) love to read this stuff (which is a little silly because if they really get into your work and study it, they make up their own meaning anyway).

These days, when I write a statement, I usually say my work is about gardening: the structure in the painting representing the man-made elements in a garden (hardscape) with the paint and/or plant inclusions representing the organic components (planting). But often it is described as "quilt-like," which I guess it is, although this is not on my mind when I make it and doesn't occur to me afterwards. (A recent art writer said it was "a Willy Wonka take on Mondrian.")

So these are the two meanings I'm thinking about today: the meaning of making art (as in, what's it all about, Alfie?) and the meaning of art being made (as in, what the hell's that thing?).

Friday, February 20, 2009

Soul Survivor

Never mind all this crappy economic theorizing about art being a luxury: art is a necessity - especially if you make it. We need art for our souls, not for investment, and when I stay out of the studio for a week, I can feel my soul shriveling.

This past week has been filled with things keeping me out of the studio from work to pet emergency to visiting my elderly mother to laziness, avoidance and postponement - you know, the usual. Every time I stay away like this, there are physical, emotional and spiritual consequences - not to mention my becoming impossible to be around. And now I have another consequence to add to the list - no blog topics. Oh, God, the guilt! Just what I needed - more guilt!

So, the best I can do is to promise to go to the studio tomorrow...OK, run to the studio tomorrow, and meanwhile, post some cheery photos of my world.

That darkish spot center right is the head of Bobby Budha, a statue that sits beside a walkway to the upper part of the yard.

I posted the garden in spring the other day - lush, green and verdant. Now it's a soggy mess of spring snow overlaying a thick crust of ice and underlaid by mud. These photos were from this morning after an overnight wet snow of 3" or so.

Raised beds as they look now - buried beds under a mound. Poor man's fertilizer? We can only hope.

Kirby's pool and forlorn chairs amid the drooping hemlock branches.

Kirby's pool in happier weather with Mr. K in his favorite spot and Mr. H doing the heavy looking on. (He doesn't indulge.)

Da Boyz with Chippie (stuffed, not dead)
So there you have it. Snow, garden and dogs - where the hell's the art?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Marking Time

When I posted that item about my name becoming "Natale" yesterday, I said it was about 20 years ago. But thinking about it later, I decided it was closer to 30 years ago. Tempus does fugit. And that's on my mind today since it's my birthday.

It's not a particularly memorable birthday, but it does mark time. I spent part of the day doing something no one should never do on their birthday (maybe not on any day) - trying on pants. What the hell was I thinking??? Well, it was actually not too bad, all in all. I did find some pants even though the state of my body is, shall we say, regrettable.

But, we're moving on from that to a better day tomorrow - hopefully getting to the studio to plunge in again to some new work.

Meanwhile, I'm so sick of this yucky winter - freezing cold in the low teens every night, the yard a mass of ice so we have to wear cramp-ons to walk around and surrounded by dirty snowbanks everywhere - will it never end? The only green we're seeing are the green lights on the St. Patrick's Day shamrocks in the window across the street. (The holidays charge frequently and punctually over there.) So, here are some garden photos to share something a little green and tender in this drag-on season.

Early spring with seedlings and seeds just starting. Those metal circles are raised beds planted in fire rings. This is end May/early June.

This photo was taken June 22nd - probably three weeks after the first photo. The arugula and lettuce are up, peppers and broccoli growing.

And this is mid July - another couple of weeks later. It's amazing how much growth emerged in just a few weeks.

Here's another view from early July.

These pictures were all taken in 2007 because last year was such a miserable spring that our garden was pretty horrible. It was cold very late and then extremely wet all spring and most of the summer. The tomatoes were drowned and got fungus blight, and I didn't plant much of anything else besides chard and arugula - not even beans. I'm hoping that this year will be better both for the weather and for my interest and energy.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Demo Turns Up New Non-Family

On Saturday Lynette and I did an encaustic demonstration for Physical Geography at ArtSpace. We had a really great turnout of about 40 people who asked plenty of questions about the process and paid close attention to our presentation.

Show and Tell table with sample in-process panels, samples of raw wax and resin, handouts, etc.

We had a fun time with our tag team approach. First one of us showed something and then the other stepped in. If one of us forgot something, the other filled in the blanks. It worked very well and was much better than demonstrating alone - a lot more fun and less nervious-making.

Lynette at the Show and Tell table talking about supports.

Here I demonstrated fusing with a heat gun while Lynette prepared to show how to fuse with a propane torch.

Another shot of the tag team approach - Lynette overpaints with red while I think I'm rubbing off excess oilstick.

View from the back of the room.

We also spoke about the work that was hanging in the show and explained how various effects were achieved. I revealed the identify of many of the materials incorporated in my paintings and made everyone sign secrecy agreements before they left.

Here I'm showing that it's important to use only one hand for fusing so that the other will be free to gesture.

Probably the most important information we conveyed in this demo was that ENCAUSTIC IS NOT TOXIC when wax is kept at the proper temperature. So many people have misconceptions about this. We talked quite a bit about temperature, composition of encaustic paint, non-inclusion of solvents, etc. to counter people's previous ideas and showed them the R&F Paints handout about setting up your studio for proper ventilation.

An interesting thing that happened after the demo was that four people came up to me whose name was "Natale." (They pronounced it "Natalie" like the woman's name, whereas I say Natale with a silent "e" the French way, as in femme fatale.) They came to the demo because they had seen my name in the paper and wondered if I was a relative. They had a now-deceased sister named Nancy Natale who was also an artist, and while they sat through the demo, they were looking for resemblances between me and their family. They did see several physical points of comparison, but I had to tell them that it was just coincidence because "Natale" is actually an acronyn name that I composed and adopted about 20 years ago. It comes from the initials of my birth name, the last names of two ex-husbands and a final "e" for "end." They were very gracious about it and didn't seem too disappointed, but neither did I get the invite to the family Sunday dinner.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Tales of Woe

Tale No. 1 - I was walking out of the studio Thursday night thinking to myself how lucky I was. I had just spent a few hours there painting, listening to the radio and thoroughly enjoying myself. Wow! I feel very grateful that I'm able to be here, do this and have a great life, I thought. And then...No, nothing bad happened. I still feel that way and I'm still lucky.

It's just that the next day, I went to the studio and couldn't make keeper art. I put together two paper pieces, and then just when it was time to leave for the day, I looked at them and told myself that they really sucked and that I had wasted the day. They were too complicated (as usual) and I would have to begin all over again in another direction. It feels very frustrating and I wish I didn't have days like this. I have that Philip Gustom comment on my wall saying that frustration is everything in art, but it's not easy to live by as a maxim.

So here are the two suckee pieces (see how much I'm willing to share with you?):

Suckee No. 1

And Suckee No. 2.

I don't know what happens to me that I turn into a pattern-making machine. I should have been a decorative painter - some may say that I still am. Maybe I should switch to little ducks and whales or something.

Tale No. 2 - Today I went on a job interview for a part-time job and...I got the job. Yes, some would be celebrating and I admit that I am pleased about it because I do need the money and since my friend Deborah recommended me, I was pretty much able to just walk in there and get it. The hours are not fixed, the pay is decent, the amount of time per week is flexible, the people are nice, and I know I can do the job. But although I will be earning money, I will not be in the studio wasting time and kicking my ass for not being able to make keeper art.

Is there a moral here? Something about never being satisfied and exuding the Boomer never-gratified mentality? Wow, this feels very confessional. I hope you don't send me a bill for your time.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My Encaustic Learning Curve

"Blue Skies", encaustic, plant parts and raffia on board, 12"x12", 2007

In 2004 I attended a 3-day introductory encaustic workshop taught by Cynthia Winiker at R&F Paints in Kingston, NY. That was a big deal for me to spend that much money and time away from home, and it showed the extent of my interest, but for the life of me I can't remember what prompted my initial interest in encaustic. Crazy, huh? Oh, well, I've forgotten more important things, I guess. Anyway, I just loved encaustic and the workshop was wonderful - all the info I needed to set up my studio and get going with the new medium. I bought a bunch of paint and tools and drove home ready to make it my own.

Then, pretty much nothing for three years or so. Oh, I dabbled and played around but the work I made didn't look much like anything I was making in any other medium and even the pallette of colors I used was not really me: many of the original pieces used red, yellow and white. What the hell was that?

So 2004 and 2005 were pretty much a bust. If you look at the picture of my old studio in the right column, you'll probably see why. Then 2006 was the Year of Moving. Bonnie and I spent that whole year packing, getting rid of or moving stuff to storage near where we would live, and generally getting ready to sell our house and 20 acres in Ashfield. Originally we were going to be part of a mill building redevelopment into loft spaces in North Adams, but that project fell through (thank God), and we decided to move to Easthampton (next door to Northampton and near Amherst and Springfield). I was without a studio for nearly the whole of 2006 until November 1st when I began leasing my current space in the Eastworks Building.

That meant I didn't begin painting with encaustic again until 2007, and not until then did I start making work that I felt was more my own. I had a lot of false starts and experiments, but when I hit on the idea of incorporating parts of plants from my garden, it started to make more sense to me. I also joined New England Wax in November 2007 and that has been so important to the development of my work in encaustic. Being able to network with other artists painting in encaustic has really broadened my idea of what encaustic can be and at the same time helped me to focus on what I want to do with it.

Encaustic pieces painted in 2007 - about half made the cut

Another very important aspect of belonging to N.E.W. is that it has pushed me to make work to submit for shows. Making work is what has to happen to gain control of the process, so whatever motivates me to do that is really valuable. I need prodding, as most of us do. The Malcolm Gladwell tenet about needing 10,000 hours to master something is probably true - not that I've spent that long working in encaustic, but I'm getting there.

Of course, the encaustic conference has been a wonderful benefit. What a great opportunity to be able to learn various technical processes, discuss the world of encaustic painting, listen to critical panels, see juried shows of top-quality work, hear important keynote speakers and just generally hang out with pals in the cozy confines of the encaustic world. We are so fortunate to have this treasure every year. Thank you, Joanne! (and Montserrat)

I haven't really been comfortable enough to show my encaustic work outside of the encaustic bubble, but I'm starting. This year, I submitted one of my encaustic pieces to the jurying process for the MassArt auction and it was accepted (for the silent auction - not on the block). I've always sold my work here, and even though it goes for half price, it's seen by a huge number of people and exposure is a Good Thing - right, Martha?

Last year (and this) I've made a big push in the studio to make more work in encaustic because of the show that Lynette and I presented at ArtSpace which needed so many pieces and also because there were a lot of juried shows to enter that overlapped and required that different work be submitted to each. I made way more work in 2008 than ever before and finally got to work much bigger than previously.

I have set up a way of working that is comfortable to me, and I can control the medium to accomplish what I want (so far). My next goal is to get my table saw set up for making panels and to get a vent fan installed. Here again, N.E.W. is invaluable because I took Kim's course in using power tools and I can consult with two friends (Lynette and Sue) for advice on setting up the vent system.

I think I'm in a good place with encaustic - even though I'm not working in it at the moment (still working on those saleable paper pieces). I know where I want to go with it for my next series and choosing that direction is most of the battle for me. Wax on!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Selected Painting of the Day + Love Words

Just a Little More, oil and cold wax on canvas, 2008, 36"x36"x1.5"

There's something about this painting that reminds me of Guston's work. It looks a little cartoonish but at the same time has a certain dignity. I gave it that title because at first it was much more an all-over field and then I started putting in boxes. I kept adding more and more of them until they almost filled up the whole work. Then I started over-painting and taking back the field. And then more boxes came back and I kept painting...just a little more. Like eating peanuts - whoops! not these days.

I made this painting as a companion to an earlier piece:

This one is titled Ooooo because of the ooooo in it and also because I was so enjoying working with this medium.

I like to use cold wax medium when I paint with oil. Dorland's is the most well-known brand, but I prefer Gamblin's because it has less solvent, is more creamy and dries to a more flexible skin. When you mix it with oil paint as a medium, it will let you spread the paint with pallette knives like butter. It dries to a matte finish.

Note for those painting in encaustic, this cold wax medium has nothing to do with encaustic and should not be used with it. If you heat it, it will release toxic fumes because it contains turpentine (solvent).

Aromaphilia (Not a real word, but I made it up to mean "love of aroma.")
Back when I attended MassArt, every time I walked into the building where we had student studios, the smell of oil paint let me know that I was home. I just love that smell - I think even more than the aromatic smell of beeswax and damar resin. Oil paint just wafts me away on a pink cloud more than the most expensive perfume.

Yesterday, after finally recovering from that nasty virus, I decided to clean the house. I felt so sick of winter and so badly in need of uplift from something. When I spotted two wrapped paintings standing against the wall in my bedroom, I decided that they were the change of vision I needed and that hanging them would be my mission before mundane tasks like vaccuuming.

As soon as I peeled apart the bubblewrap, I could smell the oil paint and it was luscious. The painting I hung in the bedroom was Just a Little More, and I hung it opposite the bed so I could look at it morning and night. This is not something I would have done years ago, but I'm fairly happy with this painting and don't mind looking at it for extended periods. That is, I'm not constantly thinking about how I could repaint sections. Progress?

Chromophilia (love of color)
One thing about the bedroom is that the walls are magenta, as in Pipilotti-Rist-at-MoMA-magenta. The surprising thing is that I didn't paint them that color, the prior owner of our house did. At first I was taken aback by it, but I grew to really like it, so here's the painting as it looks on magenta:

Deciding to post this image got me thinking about other backdrops for artwork in our house. We have really strong colors on the walls - no white box for us - so here is more art hung on chromophiliac walls.

Encaustic paintings on deep turquoise.

Another wall in the same room with a work on paper (Pale Guide, 1999).

An oil painting (Mission to Mars, 2004) on dark orange.

Two little oil paintings on a blue-grey wall.

I like the way the art interacts with the wall behind it. It's always a surprise to hang something and see how the wall color changes your perception. Too much interference with art's sanctity? What do you think?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hey, Wait a Minute

We swept Barack Obama in on a surge of pride, hope and desire for change. He was inaugurated only 20 days ago and now some members of Congress are making a mockery of the people's desire to turn the ship of state around and head for peaceful blue water. Maybe it's my weakened state that's making me sensitive or perhaps it's the video from President Obama that I received, but believe me I am feeling anxious about the stimulus package that is getting the hell beat out of it but that we need so badly.

Probably you are here because this is supposed to be about ART, but before anything, we are all citizens and need to be engaged in our government's operation. Our apathy led to eight horrible years of Bush/Cheney and unimaginable deviation from the rule of law under which America was founded. We need to pay attention and become engaged citizens. This is our country and we must speak up to claim it.

Remember this?
You could get more of the same.

Out here in western Mass., where incidentally Rachel Maddow got her radio start, there is another very smart political commentator, blogger and radio host named Bill Scher. Bill explains the political process in a clear and direct way and has an in-depth knowledge of the way things operate politically out here in the liberal boonies and inside the Beltway in Washington, D.C. (Liberal and Campaign for America's Future)

Apparently what moves congressional votes in Washington more than anything else is phone calls from constituents - not email and not letters. Who knew? I usually email. Bill says that no one understands and uses this fact better than the Rush Limbaugh army who will move to the phone when summoned and make their views known ad nauseum. These Limbaugh Conservatives have been phoning members of the House and Senate non stop and that is why Obama's stimulus package is getting so beat up. Bill has heard several reports that calls were running 100 to 1 from the Conservatives against either the whole package or various parts of it. (Notice that they picked off the contraceptives before anything else? - why do they always go straight to sex??)

Now that the call has gone out to Obama supporters, the tide is starting to turn, but it's really important that we get on the phone and call our senators and congressmen. If you don't know where to call, take a look at Just type in your zip code and it will pop up all your federal and state reps. If you click on one of them, you'll first get their bio page and you can select "contact" to get phone numbers, address, email, etc. (This is a handy website to know about because you can also look up voting records on particular legislation.)

By the way, since the Washington numbers are getting a lot of call volume, it will probably be better to call the local office. Your rep will still get the message about your support. And, it's not necessary to go into a lot of detail about what you want. For the most part, they are recording PRO or CON stimulus. If you think that it should be a big, bold package with certain things being put back into the package such as aid to the States (so firefighters, police officers and teachers are not laid off), education and school modernization funding, mass transit funding, ARTS funding (the Senate cut $50 million from NEA and banned any aid to museums, art groups and theatres), etc., etc. then just mention a couple of these items.

I was surprised to learn from Bill that even though in Massachusetts our senators and congressmen usually vote the liberal/progressive way, we still need to call because this is how they determine the strength of support they have. Please remember this and make your calls. This is too important not to spend a few minutes on it.

Call your senators and congressmen. Obama can't live on pride, hope and desire for change alone. He needs your help to bring the change. The country needs your help.

P.S. If you are not an Obama supporter and arrived here looking for Art, call in support of the stimulus package anyway. It'll make you feel more Ahrty. It's true.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Out of Action

There is a horrible virus going around here in western Mass. that put me out of action for three days. I think I am OK now although still a bit weak. Suffering from something like that really makes you appreciate good health and how we take it for granted.
I hope to post again later today or tonight when my energy level gets a little stronger. Meanwhile, wax on!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Recycling Encaustic Paintings

Reworking encaustic paintings is pretty simple because you can just use some heat and scrape off whatever you don't want - either a layer or two or the whole thing, but yesterday's post about reworking acrylic paintings got me thinking about another way of recycling paintings - combining an older painting with newly-painted partners to make a diptych or triptych.

So here's an encaustic painting I made in 2007. I called it "Trinity" and it's 12"x12". I never showed it anywhere because the color pallette is really different from the one I normally use. This painting primarily uses three lovely Evans Encaustic colors: "Joanne Loves This Red" - a rich, dark orangey red, "Duochrome Blue Green" - a fabulous color that breaks to a bronzy sheen when painted over black, and "Cloisonne Pink" - a dense, reddish pink. It also has some drawing in black, a little streaky white, embedded plant parts and black oilstick.

I liked this painting because of the strange placement of the three components, the kinda weird color combination and the way some of the colors broke when painted over what was underneath. What to do with it? I could paint more in this pallette, let it kick around the studio as a singleton, sell it to someone who was on the same strange wavelength - or paint some companions to go with it.

Here's what it became: I chose to turn it around and paint two other panels to combine with it, making it a triptych that I called "Red, Black and Bumpy," 36"H x 12"W. Turning "Trinity" sideways caused the central image to look like an eye (maybe an eye wearing a cute little hat) and that made it a little mysterious. I like the way the more geometric elements in the two panels below play off the original, more organic panel. But don't think that this solved the problem because now I have the triptych as an oddball! Guess I'll just have to paint more to go with.