Sunday, April 5, 2009

Art Blog: Go Ask ALICE (Neel)

I gave myself permission to relax this weekend. I decided to entertain myself with one of my art video marathons. I love watching videos about art. I have a growing library which specializes in contemporary artists. I watched one video three times! I just bought it. It is a documentary about artist Alice Neel.

Clic pic for more info

Alice Neel is another artist on my list of favorites. I love the way she painted. I love her attitude and personality. I love looking at her. I just LOVE Alice Neel! From what I have learned via books and video, Alice and I share a lot of similar traits. I feel a kinship with her. I am a fan of artist biographies for this very reason. Learning some of the truth about an artist’s life makes them more human and jerks them down from an imaginary pedestal.

This documentary is especially enlightening. Produced by her grandson, Andrew Neel, it tells a lot of truth about Alice’s life. Some of it isn’t flattering! The film interviews Alice’s two sons, other relatives, friends, and some of her “models”. Art critic types provide an ample supply of historical commentary. The art blah, blah, blah is far less interesting than the personal stories told by her sons and close friends.

While watching Alice schlep around her cramped N.Y. apartment studio in her frumpy oversized smock and crack wise with visitors, it occurred to me how many of us glamorize and romanticize artist’s lives. We only see the end result. They might be celebrated in the media or have a tremendous retrospective, but that is (usually) after the culmination of many difficult years of struggling. Alice didn’t sell much work in her lifetime at all. She lived hand to mouth for decades. She even had to draw welfare when her children were small. In fact, her life wasn’t a bed of roses by a long shot. The loss of two children and resulting psychological issues remained with her throughout her life. Alice kept painting through all kinds of very tumultuous times. She didn’t get much recognition until the very end of her life. Regardless, she was obsessed with her art. This is why I love and respect her so much.

I would love to have known her. I think we would have hit it off very well. In my fantasies, I can imagine having conversations with her. If I was ever in a jam or needed an answer to a question, I would love to be able to say:
“Well, I will just go ask ALICE!”
It is so nice to dream!

ADDENDUM: Be forewarned! As stated in my “Art Couples” post, I am making it my business to learn as much as possible about the artists on my creative couples list.


This is a great video if you want to learn about Leon Golub. If you are looking for info on Nancy Spero, don’t buy this video. She and her work are mentioned very briefly here. Leon is the star of the show. Gee, what a surprise. I just wonder why they titled this video as such. It is a misrepresentation! The DVD is worth having and I love Golub’s work. However, I am on a mission to learn more about the female artists on my list. Watching this video was frustrating. I kept yelling at the screen; let’s get to the Nancy part! Well, her “part” never came. Hmmmmmmm……

4 comments:

Gilda said...

Sheree do you remember when Alice lectured at WSU? She was coming in for a show at Hilberry, it was during a really bad winter blizzard.

deb said...

How funny, I watched a video marathon this weekend too, previewing movies for my classes tomorrow because it is Spring Break here and we are all too tired to work... I watched a great series from the BBC (naturally) "How art made the world" which I will use and then I fell asleep to a documentary about Andy Goldsworthy, not because it was boring but because the sea lulled me to sleep. I love his work!!

Sheree Rensel said...

Gilda,
I have no idea how I could have missed Alice when she was in Detroit. I wonder what year that was. Do you remember?

Sheree Rensel said...

Deb,
I don't think I have ever seen that video "How art made the world". I will have to check it out! Thanks for the tip! :-)