Saturday, October 30, 2010

Life Drawing

On an impulse last Sunday, I went to a life-drawing session at Alan Emerson Hick's studio in the Ravenswood area of Chicago, with Judith Roth. To be honest, I have not drawn from a life model, indeed a life anything for a very, very long time, essentially since graduate school. I did not even have anything resembling a sketchbook in my studio.

My way of working for the longest time, my process, has been to work directly with the painting, with the drawing. The painting or drawing and I engage in a kind of dialogue or what used to be called worked organically. From those conversations I have made a lot of art for years.

My undergraduate art-education background is rooted in one of the American successors of the Bauhaus; design, photography were hailed as the modern forms, life-drawing and crafts were sneeringly derided as "beaux-arts" and "basket-weaving," respectively, by my professors.

Then in graduate school, having been admitted, a professor in my major group insisted that I did not have sufficient life-drawing classes, so I was shunted off to what was essentially a remedial class with the freshmen. Graduate school, even then, was expensive, those extra classes would have constituted a delay in graduation and extra dollars of tuition. Another professor poached me to his group and I never looked back at the need to do more life-drawing. I began the process of working directly as an abstract expressionist with my paintings and drawings.

I should add that it might be thought presumptuous to attend a life-drawing session with Judith, who is one of the best at looking at the human form and bringing it to life on canvas or paper.

I learned a valuable life-lesson in this life-drawing session. Amongst my conclusions, wow, it's really really hard, it takes time and patience to learn to reproduce relatively faithfully the illusion of the human form with your hand and eye. Really, really hard.

I learned that the observation of the model in front of me added a third kind of voice to the dialogue that existed between myself and the substrate. Looking at the model, at the drawing, at my hand, listening to my art-voice, the one that makes seemingly a thousand million decisions at once, slowed my head and hand almost to a crawl. I had to reconcile the visual space between the model and the drawing paper AND my need to make a meaningful image that made some sort of compositional sense, AND had some interest.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Want to See More of This

[caption id="attachment_491" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Frank Stella and kids, MoCA"]Frank Stella, MCA[/caption]

I want to see more of this at museums in my city. Much, much more. I want to see children enjoying art by making it in the museums. The top photo is from the MOCA in Los Angeles in front of a Frank Stella painting.

[caption id="attachment_492" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Picasso Museum, Paris"]Picasso Museum. Paris[/caption]

Above is one that I took in Paris at the Picasso Museum.

Sitting for a Portrait by Judith Roth

I served as Judith Roth's muse in a collaboration for the October ARC Gallery Members' Show, just past.

[gallery link="file" columns="4"]

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Work at Sapere Gallery, Chicago

[caption id="attachment_134" align="alignleft" width="217" caption="Cri de Coeur, 18 x 24 x 2in., watercolor, prismacolor pencil, graphite pencil on birchwood panels. 2010"]Cri de Coeur, 18 x 24 x 2in., watercolor, prismacolor pencil, graphite pencil on birchwood panels. 2010[/caption]

With the help of Scott Simons, this painting, one of six, delivered to Gary Marr, gallerist of Sapere Gallery, 1579 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, last week.

I've been working with watercolor lately, for about a year (view recent work here). I find an immediacy and a brilliance that excite me in these pieces. To get the intense color I have been mixing the pigments myself and just flooding the surface with it. The substrate is just a birchwood panel, totally unprepared, no gesso, no ground, nothing between the paint and the wood.

The panels are hand made by Joel Fromer of Art Services.

There will be more pieces, I just obtained 35 additional panels for my next year's anticipated production.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Juried into the Art Loop Open--Counting Down

Counting down to Friday, October 15th at 5:00 pm. Today the Art Loop Open Facebook page sent out a video which literally displays all 191 of the pieces in the show in 1 minute 41 seconds.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Juried into Chicago Art Loop Open

Rainbow's End, 44x30in., pencil, prismacolor, charcoal, oil stick, oil wash on 90# white Stonehenge, 2009This is going to be an interesting set of experiences coming up in the next couple of weeks. My piece, "Rainbow's End," has been selected by the jurors of the Chicago Art Loop Open. The opening is Friday, October 15 at 5:00 pm. simultaneously at ten venues around the Chicago loop. My piece, "Rainbow's End," will be at Block 37.
The organizers have set up a system of voting via cellphone texting or an app downloaded to a smartphone. Visitors can vote for as many artists as they wish, but only once for each artist. The organizers clearly wish to avoid the likelihood that us artists would have encouraged all of our friends to vote over the internet, art-work sight unseen. The organizers want the public to come and see the art, to look at it all in person and make informed decisions and ultimately to show off good art.

Another part of what makes this interesting is that I personally know of a large number of very good artists who were not juried in; and yet, when I look at the list of acceptances, I'm delighted to be in such good company,Jason Messinger (at Palmer House), Renee McGinnis (at Merchandise Mart), Sandy Holubow (at Block 37), Jesse Howard (at Block 37), Pamela Johnson (at theWit Hotel), Beth Kamhi (at Hard Rock Hotel). My scan of the art pieces submitted via the artists list on the website signals the possibility that the jurors worked to select a wide range of art across the Chicago art-making spectrum. I'll know better about this as I work my way through all ten venues.

Shown: Rainbow's End, 44x30in., pencil, prismacolor, charcoal, oil stick, oil wash on 90# white Stonehenge, 2009

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Caffeine IV at Murphy-Hill Gallery Chicago

I attended the opening of the Caffeine IV group exhibit at Murphy-Hill Gallery last night. A stellar line-up of who's who in Chicago art exhibited as many as three pieces of work each in this huge, spectacular space seemingly designed for museum work, in the old main Sears-Roebuck building in Garfield Park.

[gallery link="file" columns="4" orderby="rand"]

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Photographing Artwork in the Museum Good or Bad?

Today’s New York Times has an article entitled “When It’s Illegal to Photograph Artwork,” by Jennifer Saranow Schultz. The topical conclusion is framed as the answer to this question asked of lawyers. The lawyerly answer, of course, totally parrots copyright law, 70 years. Ms. Schultz failed to ask museums why they forbid photography.

I think this is a topic worth pursuing and questioning. My operative philosophy as a working artist is that I look at the art of other artists, both my contemporaries and from history, with great intensity. I say directly in my personal artist’s statement without any hesitation that I stand on the shoulders of my artist predecessors.

The Art Institute of Chicago’s recent Matisse exhibit not only forbad photography, but sketching. When queried as to why, their answer was that they were concerned about dangers posed by messy sketching materials.

Given that museums are desperate for money, and given how blockbuster exhibits relentlessly push viewers into the gift shops, I think that the stronger reason for banning reproduction is obvious.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ownership Isn't Everything

This is an interesting quote from an article in The Art Newspaper by Maxwell Anderson, entitled “Ownership Isn’t Everything,” concerning the utility of moving art from venue to venue in and out of circulation, so that more of us can be exposed to more art, with less static reliance on standing collections.

“If we gather art for research and display, we don’t have to own it. We can commission it, or we can borrow and return it. Stewardship is the new normal—ownership matters less and less in the increasingly restless worlds of both bits and atoms, as ebooks and timeshares have proved. Museums have to devote the largest part of their budgets to caring for the permanent collection, but the public is increasingly demanding impermanent experiences, such as loan exhibitions, and tires of seeing the same works in the same context year after year. While as museum curators and directors we shake our heads at this dismaying phenomenon, and make pilgrimages to see familiar works in familiar places, that covetousness is becoming quaint. In an era of jet travel, careful packing and shipping, high-quality digital reproductions, and licensing versus buying, the enjoyment of static collections is less important to most people than the enjoyment of works not before seen, or not before seen in combination with other works.”

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Repetition, Bad Habit or Not?

From one of my favorite bloggers: Ancient Artist: Developing an Art Career After 50, in a post labeled Repetition How Do You Know It Isn't a Bad Habit(Drawing, "I Found It Just Like Anything Else, I Stopped Looking," by Nancy Charak, 44"x30", oil wash, oil stick, prismacolor, graphite on 90# Stonehenge.)

Key quotes:

  • How do you know if what you are doing is part of your creative process or a habit you need to break?

  • Do I feel passionate about this or is it just fun to play with pretty colors?

  • Am I mimicking or exploring?

Mimicking is making duplicates of the same thing, "If you copy - you have two of same thing, who needs it?" Exploring is looking for depth.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ancient Greek Sculptures NOT Monochromatic!

[caption id="attachment_556" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Elgin Marbles"]Elgin Marbles[/caption]

Actually art-historians suspected this a long time ago from the paint flecks buried in the cracks of ancient sculptures, but orthodoxies die hard. Now the notion that Greek antiquities were polychromatic to the point of gaudiness is gaining acceptance.
The first picture is one that I took in 2004 at the British Museum of the Elgin Marbles taken from the Acropolis, from the running frieze. The next photo is a color rendering of possible coloration.

You can bet that looking up at the Acropolis from the streets below in Athens must have been a delight to see some 2,500 years ago.

And once again a hat tip to,

Imagine what Michelangelo's David or Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa would be had they been modeled on and inspired by full color antiquities. We'd all be living now in a very different post-Renaissance world.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Call for Papers on Artists' Statements?

This is an interesting thing to me; I certainly mean no disrespect to the serious intentions of the editors of this academic journal, the Special Issue of Forum for Modern Language Studies. It is a call for papers about the Artists' Statements: Origins, Intentions, Exegesis by art historians at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. As a practicing artist I am constantly called upon to produce an artist’s statement. When I am asked to provide one, what I really want to say is as follows:
“It is not my responsibility to tell you, the viewer, what to think when looking at my artwork. It is not my problem. This is not, however, to imply that I’m saying ‘there’s nothing to see here, move along,’ like a Star Wars droid. What I make are maps, signposts, guidance of my journeys into unknown places, into terra incognita, because I never know where my art pieces will take me, let alone you.”

My problems with artists’ statements are many. First and foremost, they slow down and impede the visual process, the important part of actually looking at the artwork. All too often I see art viewers moving along reading title cards and statements with more care than they give to the actual visuals of the art works. Reading and language are so important in our culture that they take primacy of place and thus in an visual art setting, care needs to be taken to emphasize the art over the written verbiage. Another problem is that all too often the artist’s statement doesn’t match the work, or even more confusing the statements are extraordinarily similar but the work is totally different.

Visual art is meant to be looked at, for more than a glancing second. Viewers need to slow down, take their time and stop reading. Reading does not enhance visual art.

I certainly agree with the statement in the call for papers: “For centuries artists have made statements about their work in order to explain and promote it or to construct narratives about its origins and their intentions. The artist’s statement is now an integral – and taught - component of contemporary practice, and a seemingly incontrovertible primary source for art and cultural historians, literary critics, anthropologists and philosophers. However, artists have written about themselves and their work in many contexts and formats, both public and private, including correspondence, manifestoes and interviews. In some cases, such statements may overshadow, displace, or even constitute, the artwork itself.”

This is a result of the academization of art practice, with the massive numbers of MFAs justifying their work to academic committees, so that theses can be produced, copied and then put on shelves in the libraries and the graduate offices. I know, I’ve done it myself, written a totally useless thesis to go with the slides from the thesis exhibit.

Just for grins, this is my current statement that goes out to my public:

My function as an artist is not to tell the truth—it is to captivate viewers for as long as I can hold their attention. It is not necessary for the artwork to be any more than what it is. What is necessary is for the art to flow from inside and to allow the paintings and drawings to spring from my entire set of experiences and sensibilities as an artist.

My current favorite giants, to name just the women, are Agnes Martin and Joan Mitchell for the purity of their thought and action on the canvas as well as Linda Karshan, Sandra Blow, Vija Celmins, and Katherina Grosse. Whether what they do is lyrical, expository or just plain brash, to my way of thinking they are all pure abstract expressionists who make marks, lines, shapes, colors on paper, canvas, even buildings, and say to us, "here look at this, make of it what you will."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Just Because an Artist Says It Is Art. . .

[caption id="attachment_566" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Artist: Garvin Nolte, title: Crossroads."]Artist: Garvin Nolte, title: Crossroads.[/caption]

"This is not art. It's a statement and a metaphor and all that good stuff, but it isn't art. Just because Duchamp pointed out that we can call anything art, it doesn't follow that he thought we should." Comment found on Gizmodo re a piece of installation art.

Empty Art

From Prospect Magazine, article entitled, “The dustbin of art history” by BEN LEWIS 24th May 2010 — Issue 171, a discussion on the overinflated value and systemic emptiness of contemporary art produced by Koons, Hirst and Murakami, that yet idolized by museums and collectors.

“I believe that this decline shares four aesthetic and ideological characteristics with the end-phases of previous grand styles: formulae for the creation of art; a narcissistic, self-reinforcing cult that elevates art and the artist over actual subjects and ideas; the return of sentiment; and the alibi of cynicism.”

In the previous paragraph, he says “Over the last decade, not only conceptualism—perhaps the dominant movement of the past three decades—but the entire modernist project has been going through a similar process. Of course, some important and inspired artists have made important and inspired work in recent years—from famous photographers like Andreas Gursky and painters like Luc Tuymans to lesser-known video artists like Lindsay Seers and Anri Sala. But there is something more fundamentally wrong with much of this century’s famous art than its absurd market value.”

Author Lewis likens paintings by Boucher, labeling them as 'soft porn' to Murakami's presentations.

[caption id="attachment_575" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="The Toilet of Venus, 1751 François Boucher (French, 1703–1770) Oil on canvas"]The Toilet of Venus, 1751 François Boucher (French, 1703–1770) Oil on canvas[/caption]

Rococo’s “heavenly soft porn” replaced baroque’s classical values: The Toilet of Venus (1751) by François Boucher

[caption id="attachment_576" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Takashi Murakami - installation of Second Mission Project ko2, 1999, at Wonder Festival, 2002"]installation of Second Mission Project ko2, 1999, at Wonder Festival, 2002[/caption]

Postmodernism, the grave of the modernist project: Second Mission Project ko2 (1999) by Takashi Murakami.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Marks in Time and Space," seeking space

[gallery link="file" columns="4" orderby="rand"]

Art by Nancy Charak, Sharon Swidler, and by Marian Carow. We have put together a three-artist show called Marks in Time and Space. We're looking for quality venues to exhibit these works. Contact us at

Increase Museum Attendance

The problem of how to increase museum attendance and educate visitors is described by the new director, Thomas Campbell, of the Metropolitan Museum, in an article from the Financial Times. The issue being framed is that museums feel that they are in competition for patronage in an increasingly frenetic audio-visual world replete with many, many other choices that offer much more immediate gratification. Thus the Brooklyn Museum offered up exhibits on Harley Davidson motorcycles which brought in visitors to see the bikes but never made it back to see any of the other good things in the place. (Hat Tip: Arts Journal)

“That engagement with contemporary art is part of what he describes as a “fundamental shift” in the presentation of the Met’s displays, helping to make them more accessible. “We assume a great deal of knowledge in our audience; I’m conscious that we need to do more for our general visitors.”

““We assume people know who Rembrandt is, for example. We have wonderful, thoughtful labels next to each Rembrandt painting, but there’s no overview of who he was and, frankly, considering our international audience, I doubt whether many of them do know who [he] was, or the significance of a particular period room, in a broader context.”

““What I’m trying to do is to get the museum rethinking the visitor experience from the moment that people arrive at the museum: the signage they encounter, the bits of paper they pick up, all the way through to the way we deliver information in the galleries. And obviously that’s an enormous task. We’ve got a million square feet of gallery space and tens of thousands of objects on display, so nothing’s going to change overnight.””

I have a suggestion on how museums can get attendance, beyond signage and bits of paper, beyond the elitism of assuming that visitors know who Rembrandt was; offer up free family tickets on a once or twice a year basis to all citizens of the town, be it New York, Brooklyn or Chicago. I note that the Art Institute of Chicago sits on land donated by the Park District, a tax levying entity. Surely all those within the park district’s boundaries should be entitled to free attendance at the museum at least once a year. Mayhaps then we can have a polity that knows who Rembrandt is, and that values art, art education and museums.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Alice Neel: Kept it Real

[caption id="attachment_590" align="alignleft" width="219" caption="alice neel, self-portrait"]alice neel, self-portrait[/caption]

Alice Neel, at L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice, California , Review by Marlena Donohue. in Visual Art Source. You have until 20 May - 26 June 2010, to see this show.

Quoting from the review: "One line of reasoning is that “the art is the art,” which is to say that it ought not matter that Alice Neel was one of few women painters tenaciously practicing when gifted artists like Elaine de Kooning and Lee Krasner were — by acquiescence or cultural pressure — conceding to roles as archivist or muse to male partners.

"As this argument goes, one stands in front of a work and it should not matter that Neel lost an infant daughter to illness, then had another taken by her husband to Cuba, then attempted suicide, then moved to Spanish Harlem to be closer to things a tad more 'real' than the silver ‘n black circle of Mary Boone.

"More than any realist of her generation, Neel honors Cezanne in the way she suggests anatomy from the architecture of paint rather than through perspective or logic. There is this tight fusion between the plastic and formal reality of an art work, and the equally undeniable accuracy and depth of the view the artist offers us of us, of our world, our place and predicament in it.

"We might indeed leave the messy life stuff out and still marvel at this artist. But that is not how or why art lingers. We continue to make and be seduced by art because its warp (form) and weft (content) can’t be taken one at a time and are more than the sum of their parts. There is in Neel that inseparable weave between the parts of experience defying language and their communication through utterly unrelated analogue actions like pencil lines, piled brac a brac, steel or, in Neel's case, oil on linen."

Alice Neel, Louise Bourgeois refused to be marginalized, bless them, because they honored the messy stuff in life and in their lives and put it up for us to marvel at.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Matisse: Black is a Color Too

[caption id="attachment_597" align="alignleft" width="198" caption="Portrait of Yvonne Landsberg by Henri Matisse"]Portrait of Yvonne Landsberg, Matisse[/caption]

I finally took myself to the Art Institute of Chicago to see the “Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917” exhibit last night. My favorite piece in the show is Portrait of Yvonne Landsberg.

Quoting from Black Is Also a Color, by Barry Schwabsky, June 2, 2010, which will appear in the June 21, 2010 edition of The Nation.

“This seeming suppression of color was something new for a painter whose calling card since 1904 had been the fearless use of color. Again, though, it can hardly be called typical, but that Matisse did recurrently experiment with gray and black after 1913 is inarguable. French Window at Collioure and another painting of 1914, Portrait of Yvonne Landsberg, may be the most extreme examples here, but paintings like Head, White and Rose (1914–15); Goldfish and Palette (1914–15); Apples (1916);The Rose Marble Table (1916); Portrait of Auguste Pellerin (II) (1917); and Shafts of Sunlight, the Woods of Trivaux (1917)—not to mention The Piano LessonThe Moroccans and Bathers by a River—are all ones that Matisse could not have made earlier because he would not have used black or gray so emphatically except to mark a contour.”

In addition to the dominant use of black, what is also evident on viewing the art in the real is that I learned that Matisse used sgraffito to create shades of gray, black and surface articulation. This was evident in many other works in the exhibit. Being able to see these is certainly a strong argument for looking at artworks in person rather than in books or on computer screens.

Schwabsky goes on to say: “. . .Matisse felt vindicated (after showing his work to the ageing Renoir). ’I'd won my point all the same,’ he told Masson. ‘The Impressionists had banished black from their palette; I put it back—and prominently—and a painter as in love with color and light as Renoir had the honesty to confirm it: Black is not only a color but also a light.’ This conquest of a color that's not a color and a light that's not a light is the inner story of Matisse's art in the war years. His sudden intense production in 1913 of monotypes in which fiercely elegant white lines pierce voluptuous black fields—the two elements perfectly matched so that the delicate line is as substantial as the massive field, the black as luminous as the white—must have convinced him that something similar had to be possible in painting.”

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Creatively Thinking Outside the Box

[caption id="attachment_599" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Collage, "Urbs in Horto," Nancy Charak artist, 2010, 18"x24""]Collage, "Urbs in Horto," Nancy Charak artist, 2010, 18"x24"[/caption]

I have recently been having discussions with a musical friend who says of us visual artists that we are quirky. I had been vigorously denying the notion of quirky to her, saying instead that we artists are less afraid of having unconventional thoughts than non-creative people.

Here's a quote from a blog called Dose Nation: Creative People are Just High Functioning Schizophrenics. There's more at » more at:

"Thinking outside the box might be facilitated by having a somewhat less intact box," says Dr Ullen about his new findings.

The post refers to dopamine D2 receptors and "High creative skills have been shown to be somewhat more common in people who have mental illness in the family. Creativity is also linked to a slightly higher risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Certain psychological traits, such as the ability to make unusual or bizarre associations are also shared by schizophrenics and healthy, highly creative people. And now the correlation between creativity and mental health has scientific backing."


Tracy Emin talks about Louise Bourgeois

Louise BourgeoisLouise Bourgeois, dead at 98, eulogized by Tracy Emin...

“The thing I really loved about Louise Bourgeois was that she wasn't afraid of her emotions; she wasn't afraid of being totally female and releasing those kind of emotions into the world through her art as a lot of men have done through history - whether it's Van Gogh, whether it's Edvard Munch with his jealousy, whether it is Picasso about love. Woman are actually much better at this kind of thing than men, and Bourgeois wasn't the Queen of this, she was the King.”

[caption id="attachment_603" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Louise Bourgeois, "Seven in a Bed""]Louise Bourgeois, "Seven in a Bed"[/caption]

Monday, May 31, 2010

Agnes Martin: Empty Yet Meaning-full

Agnes MartinAgnes Martin, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, UK, Financial Times, By Robin Blake, Published: May 31 2010.

"Can a work of art be both empty of meaning and a pleasure to look at? It is a particularly tough question about abstract painting, because iconography, through which meaning and intention are found, is missing or concealed. Yet we always do find ourselves seeking out significance, and we look to the artist to help us."

[Agnes Martin's] "This work had all of minimalism’s patent characteristics: radically spare in appearance, made from immediately evident materials and with none of the traditional painting techniques that tend to make a holy mystery of artistic creation. After five years or so, most other leading minimalists grew bored and drifted in new directions but Martin remained on this track for the rest of her long life – no theory, no hiding of technique, no reference to actuality. “I paint,” she said, “with my back to the world.”

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Art is a Conversation, Not a Patent Office

Thank you to David Shields, author of a new book, "Reality Hunger: A New Manifesto." Headlined at the Huffington Post as "In Writing, Art and Music Everybody Steals." As I've always said about my own work, I stand on the shoulders of giants, and at the present moment, Helen Frankenthaler's work is very much in my art-head.

Quotes from the article:

"Art is a conversation between and among artists, not a patent office."

"Reality can't be copyrighted."

"William Gibson: Who owns the words? We all do, though not all of us know it yet."

"And once we all did: artists have plundered one another since the beginning of time; copyright has existed only during the last 60 years."

"In digital culture, it's especially important for us to be able to sample, remix, mash-up materials available to us at the click of a button, but the law has a stranglehold on literature, perhaps because both literature and the law are verbal."

"The mimetic function has been replaced by manipulation of the original."

Shields lists numerous examples of artists using the work and ideas of predecessors. The image is my drawing, "Mountains and Sea," in definite homage to Helen Frankenthaler's own piece of the same name, 44"x30", 2009, pencil, prismacolor and oil stick on 90# Stonehenge paper.

European versus American Museums

A minor comparison based solely on anecdote. I shot one picture at the Quai D'Orsay in Paris in August 2009 of Whistler's Mother forgetting to turn off the forbidden flash. Two guards walked past me from 20 feet away and merely smiled and said quietly, "no flash." I said thank you and turned it off. Similarly, I shot Picasso's Guernica at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid several weeks ago, deliberately breaking the no pictures inside the room rule, and certainly without the flash, and similarly the guard smiled, shook his finger and said in Spanish accented English (I guess I'll always look like an American on my travels), "please, not inside the room, you may shoot from the doorway."
All over the Prado I saw artists with easels doing copy work in oil in front of masterworks; not done very much here in the states, but this is an old established means of learning how great artists think, try to reproduce what they've done. It's harder than you think it might be at first try.

My questions are first why don't we see more artists doing this kind of copy work in American art museums? And what is the extreme bias that American art museums have against photographing "without flash"? I toured the Art Institute of Chicago's show of Benin Bronzes, where it was even forbidden to sketch, much less photograph. Why?

Wondrous Opening at ARC Last Night

Charlotte SegalAnn Fairley Gainesand Geoffrey Novelli held court last night at the ARC Gallery, 832 W. Superior, Chicago. The gallery was filled with friends and fans of the artists. The show is up until 6/19, so get yourself over there soon.

[gallery link="file" columns="4" orderby="rand"]

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Charlotte Segal Artist Retrospective at ARC

Charlotte Segal is having a retrospective exhibit at the ARC Gallery in Chicago, Illinois opening this Friday, May 28, 2010. She's a wonderfully lyrical artist.

Monday, May 17, 2010

20th Evanston + Vicinity Biennial 2010

The Dreamer and The Dream, pencil, prismacolor, oil wash, oil stick on 90# white Stonehenge, 2009Jurors John Himmelfarb, Chicago artist, and Julie Rodrigues-Widholm, MCA Curator, selected this painting, "The Dreamer and The Dream," 2009, 30"x44", oil wash, pencil, prismacolor on 90# Stonehenge, for inclusion in the Evanston Art Center's Biennial.

Reception Sunday May 23 from 1 to 4, the show runs from then 'til June 27.

The venue is free and it has parking in an absolutely awesome location, 2603 Sheridan Road, Evanston, Illinois.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Free Art Sucks What?

I have argued in a previous post "Why Museums Need to be Free." Here's an interesting counter-argument by Mat Gleason in Coaguala Art Journal, Issue #98, with the title of "Free Art Sucks. Take My Money and Get out of My Way. Mr. Gleason describes attending a Culver City Art Walk., ". . .the art had actually been pretty good. . .oh sure, some trash here or there, some rentals by the trustafarians and some grad school masturbation, but, all in all the art was a good slice of L.A. Contemporary."
This could, without the L.A. Contemporary, describe art walks I've attended here in Chicago, ArtWalk Ravenswood (an event I have participated in for the past 6 years and will do so into the future), the oldAround the Coyote, open Fridays at the Flat Iron Building in Wicker Park (where my gallerist, Gary Marr's Sapere space is) or in Pilsen, Chicago Arts District. It's all there, the grad school masturbation, regurgitations of anime, and on and on.

Then Mr. Gleason opines that the experience of attending the art walk as a free event cheapened it by making so accessible to the public, "Would you rather pay five or ten dollars and bump up against strollers and suburbanites or pay a hundred dollars to see an art show and have twenty people tops, silence, the option of curatorial commentary straight from the source and maybe a nice dinner out of the deal?"

He goes on, "Idiots are pulling art down to their level, demanding artists and galleries make the exhibition experience a potty-training exercise for the eyes without the psychological damage. The art has followed suit and is made for imbeciles by the addled, dull and fearful in the hopes of narcissistic hunger being satisfied and a few bucks made on the side. The great art is out there and it is time for people to get fucking angry and elite about it."

I argue something a bit different, yes, there's a lot of bad stuff out there, and we have a potential mass audience desperately in need of art training and art appreciation. The only way to do that is make the art accessible at free or nearly free museums and art events.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Judith Roth and the Power of the Uh-Oh

Artist, Judith Roth, "Seated Dancer on Green Chair", 2009, 48"x50", oil on canvas, currently on display at A.R.C. Gallery, Chicago until February 27, 2010, as part of a group exhibit, "Off Center" under the auspices of the Chicago Women's Caucus for Art.
Judith Roth is a classically trained artist, out of the Boston Museum School and Skowhegan. Perhaps uniquely nowadays, she works exclusively from live models, even in this age of the ubiquitous and multiple photo realities.

Ida ApplebroogThe real title of this piece could be "Uh-Oh and Proud of It." If you look closely,  you can see that this work of art is a diptych, made up of two canvases, there's a joint that you can see in the right side foot. Judith started the piece and ran out of room to finish. A lesser artist would have repainted and in so doing, adjusted the scale to fit the existing canvas. But what Judith did instead, in a flash of creative problem solving, was run to get a second canvas to extend the scale of the work. In so doing, she honored and preserved the immediacy of the marks and trusted her eye and hand. She trusted her years of painting and drawing.

Just for grins is a work on paper by Ida Appelbroog, demonstrating much the same happy accident.

Robert Motherwell Wisdom

[caption id="attachment_818" align="aligncenter" width="408" caption="Image by Robert Motherwell, from the Lyric Suite, Ink on Japanese Paper."]Image by Robert Motherwell, from the Lyric Suite, Ink on Japanese Paper.  [/caption]

From "On the 'Lyric Suite.'" 1969, essay excerpted in The Writings of Robert Motherwell, edited by Dore Ashton with Joan Banach, University of California Press, 2007.
"On an impulse one day in a Japanese shop in N.Y.C., where I was buying a toy for a friend's child, I bought 10 packets of 100 sheets each of a Japanese rice paper called "Dragons & Clouds". . .


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Inchoate Jargon

[caption id="attachment_816" align="aligncenter" width="517" caption="Painting--Nancy Charak, 2010, Primordial Soup 10, 16"x14", watercolor, pencil, prismacolor on birchwood panel."]Painting--Nancy Charak, 2010, Primordial Soup 10, 16"x14", watercolor, pencil, prismacolor on birchwood panel. [/caption]

At Sapere Gallery, 1579 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL.

The annual College Art Association conclave (CAA) has been meeting in Chicago, so as a committed former member I went to a couple of the free panels. On Thursday, February 11, the panel was "Investigating the Need for Women's Art Galleries, Exhibitions, and Organizations: From our Center." Joyce Owens, Beate MinkovskiAmy Galpin and Joanna Gardner Huggett were on the panel. While the conversation and audience response went somewhat off target (as such are prone to do), there was general agreement that until such time as the high-end market (galleries and museums) is completely responsive to the work of so-called minority artists whose voices have been squelched, then so-called alternative spaces will be necessary.

My own added view is that the member institutions of the CAA graduate so damned many artists out of its BA and MFA programs that there is in essence an over-supply of very, very good, well trained people. The CAA should be teaching artists what the realities of the job markets are.

Then I went to another panel discussion yesterday, Saturday, February 13, titled "Feminist Painting, What Does it Mean to Paint Like a Woman and How Might that Differ from Painting as a Feminist?" That room was jam packed, standing room only. The panelists, Harmony Hammond,Carrie MoyerPaula Wilson and Amy Sillman offered up what I can only summarize as "inchoate jargon." At one point the question was asked and answered whether or not this particular panel could have been titled something like being about lesbian or queer art. In addition to the mind numbing jargon there was constant reference to the battles of the 70s, 80s and 90s. My thought is that women have been making art much, much longer and I would have liked a longer historical perspective rather than one tied to the academic squabbles.

A quote was offered up from, I believe, Arthur Danto, that for a woman to engage in abstract expressionism, which is my oeuvre, is for her to engage in aesthetic cross dressing. I had to do everything in my control to keep from blowing my lunch. I'm not saying that I didn't understand what the panelists were talking about, because I did; what I couldn't deal with was the fixation on the academic squabbles, of the big fight against the male dominated establishment, which clearly still isn't won, as evidenced by the talk in the other panel discussion that I attended, of the continuing need for alternative spaces.

My last plaint is that each of the artists, perhaps logically, talked almost totally about their own work, with some slight references to those women who have gone before. I wanted to stand up and shout out the following names, Helen Frankenthaler, Linda Karshan, Sandra Blow, Katherina Grosse, Joan Mitchell, Pat Steir, and Agnes Martin.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Judith Roth and Joyce Owens Two of My Favorite Artists

[caption id="attachment_810" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Joyce Owens, A Love Puzzle"]Joyce Owens,  A Love Puzzle[/caption]

Joyce Owens and Judith Roth, two of my favoritest artists are being honored today by the Chicago Women's Caucus for the Arts for Excellence in the Arts at the Chicago Cultural Center at 4:00 pm today. I won't miss this.

[caption id="attachment_812" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Judith Roth, the Tangle"]Judith Roth, the Tangle[/caption]

Judith and Joyce are artists, advocates and educators. They believe in and act on the power of community for artists, women and minorities. They care about art and artists of all stripes and colors. I am proud and pleased and honored to know them and to call them friends.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

You Need a Scientist to Tell You This?

So I'm reading an article from the esteemed Wall Street Journal titled "How Art Affects the Brain", (hat-tip to Painter's Post). Here's the amazing quote that one must put into the snarky category of "You Need a Scientist to Tell You This?" HAH. This is from a discussion about how scientific research is assisting the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore enhance or increase their potential audience.

In 2007, the museum experimented with a show of landscape paintings by Gustave Courbet which included classical music playing in the background. The lighting changed subtly every 60 seconds to create a variety of moods.

The result was that visitors spent four times as long in the exhibit than they did in other shows of the same size. Science could be used to come up with similarly creative—and cost-effective—ideas for making exhibitions more engaging for visitors.

Sorry, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell viewers of art that it's much more pleasant to listen to music, while sitting and listening, look at great works of art. Geesh. This is a plea to all art museums, galleries, sculpture gardens, please, please put out the chairs and turn on the music.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

When You Don't Have Anything To Say, Show a Picture....

[caption id="attachment_191" align="aligncenter" width="504" caption="Counter-Structure #0053 8x8in.; watercolor pieces collaged on clayboard 2009"]Counter-Structure #0053 8x8in.; watercolor pieces collaged on clayboard 2009[/caption]

It's a collage of pieces of trimmings of watercolors done on 140# Arches paper mounted to an 8"x8" clayboard. 2009. View the whole series here.