Sunday, November 30, 2008

Response to 40 Years Old and Still Waiting

[caption id="attachment_263" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Pentimento II, 22x30in., Colored pencil, oil stick, graphite on 140 lb. 100% rag paper, 2005"]Pentimento II, 22x30in., Colored pencil, oil stick, graphite on 140 lb. 100% rag paper, 2005[/caption]

My studio mate Norbert Marszalek, a wonderful artist, and a thoughtful blogger with strong opinions, has a post "40 Years Old and Still Waiting to Emerge" in which he questions the definition of what is an emerging artist. I'm 60 years old and just emerging. Norbert references Malcolm Gladwell's article in the New Yorker contrasting the lives and achievements of precocious artists versus late bloomers.
I think that there has been way, way too much emphasis in our culture on youthful precocity. I consider myself to be a late-bloomer, even though I knew I wanted to be an artist from when I was seven or eight, went to art schools to study art, design, painting and drawing, getting a BA and an MFA. But after obtaining that MFA at the crest of the baby-boom and futile attempts to find a teaching position at art departments in universities and colleges nation-wide, I wandered off the art-path to search for a career. Never found a career but found a good day job, one with real benefits, health insurance etc.

But five years ago, I got the itch and issued a challenge to myself; I wanted to know if I was still capable of making art. I bought 100 sheets of 18x24" watercolor paper, some colored pencils, an oil painting starter set. I decided that I would know after those 100 pieces of paper were painted if I was an artist, capable of continuing. I only got to 70 but I knew that I was "back."

The main difference between myself as the younger artist and now is that I'm not waiting for the big ideas, not worrying about "being" an artist. I make art. I have a discipline now that I never had when I was younger because I spent and wasted a whole lot of time worrying about the big idea. I have discovered that for me the making of art is a process, not a big idea. I have discovered that the big ideas come only after the making of the art. For me art is a making not a thinking.

Which isn't to say that I don't think. I have a mental process in which I am making a thousand million decisions about what to do and where to put my hand with the pencil or brush. But it is a process that is as unself-conscious as I can do. I have learned to then sit and look and think. I know have a whole mental vocabulary of analytical tools in my head that I never had 30 years ago.

None of this answers Norbert's question, which goes to recognition. Like Norbert, I resent and question the attention that is given to super-stars just out of their MFA programs at the age of 25 or 30. They haven't lived much of an artistic inner life of making and thinking. And there is the frustration of finding our audience, our customers, our own recognition.

The greatest artists become truly great in their old age, Rembrandt, Louise BourgeoisLee KrasnerAgnes MartinAlice Neel.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Evolution, We are Evolved

From an article in Science Daily headlined: "Evolution Of The Visual System Is Key To Abstract Art."

Abstract artists are still painting what we can see, we have inherited a basic visual system through genetics that provides very selective information about the world. We cannot see electromagnetic radiation or follow the leg movements of galloping horses. But just as soon as we enhanced and created prosthetics to view the micro, we have ways of visualizing the electromagnetic, we can "stop motion" the movements of horses. Because we use and expand these prosthetics, we can see more and more and imagine more and more in our art work.

“Artists were experimenting with abstract shapes long before scientists began analyzing our nature of perception. Through observation or trial-and-error, artists have been identifying these aesthetic primitives - critical shapes and arrangements - and have indirectly defined the nature of our visual processes. In purely abstract painting, as with much music, form is all we have. Popular works have shown that essentially we like looking at what we are good at seeing.”

Rational Tax Policy

An article in THE ART NEWSPAPER, "Artists should have same tax deductions as collectors when donating works of art," pleads the case as follows:

Art museums large and small depend on donations from art collectors to build and sustain their collections. By creating a tax incentive for these donations—donors receive a tax deduction for the fair market value of works of art they donate—the US Congress has supported the development of non-profit art institutions and expanded the public audience for art. But artists donating their own works receive a deduction only for the cost of materials used to create the work, for example canvas and paint.

I would be more disposed to donate to a museum or to the frequent calls and pleas I receive from innumerable good causes if I could at least deduct the presumed sale value of my work beyond the cost of the materials. My 24"x30" masonite panels cost about $2.50 each, the acrylic paint might cost out to $1.00 per panel (remember the dilution factor), I might use 1/8th to 1/16th of 10 or 12 pencils that cost me $1.25 each, so totting that up is about $5.50 tops, and there's no factoring in time or years of experience or schooling. I try to sell these for at least $200, having sold about 4 total. A decent quality frame is $55.00, that's without a matte or backing of any type.

So, remember to buy art from a living artist such as myself or any of the wonderful artists listed in my sidebar in the LINKs section so we can buy more paint and supplies. And write your congress people in support of the "Artist Museum Partnership Act."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Economic Challenge New WPA?

My good friend, Joyce Owens, posits the question in her blog about the possibility of setting up a new WPA (Works Project Administration)reminiscent of the New Deal to assist artists in particular and the public in general. Like Joyce, I invite your comments. Joyce sees it as a good, a public good. I worry that, as in the 30's, art will be pulled to a "social realism" definition, pulled to subject matters potentially defined by lowest or lower common denominator tastes.

Tardy Yes

I haven't posted since August 23, 2008. I was obsessed with the then upcoming election and happily the results are everything I worked, paid and hoped for. I have been "dialoguing" a bit with Joyce Owens, whose web-blog is always refreshing to read, and thought-provoking. And as I say in my UPCOMING EXHIBITS sidebar I am in a planned phase of concentrating on making art in preparation for setting up a new round of exhibits.