Friday, April 30, 2010

Art Blog: Our ART ROOTS

Today, I was preparing a movie set. I had a big “floral” student made acrylic painting and hung it as a back drop. Then, I started to place vases of fake flowers around to give it a 3-D garden feel. I imagined the actors sitting in front of the backdrop amongst the flowers. The movie would be about the “seeds of success”. Basically, we are going to make a short video about setting goals and watching them grow.

As I hung the backdrop it was like Déjà vu all over again. I can remember being in elementary school and setting up scenarios. I was the kid on the block who would do weird, creative things. I was always looking for a new creative angle or project. Puppet shows were a main stay in my backyard. Dressing all the neighborhood kids in hand me down clothes, decorating their bikes, and scheduling a bike parade was one of my specialties. There was also the time, I convinced a neighbor boy to dress up like Santa. I decorated my basement as a “winter wonderland” and charged kids a dime to enter. All proceeds would go into a raffle kitty and the winner would win a giant candy cane. I got into trouble for that because a neighbor mom was outraged I was charging to see Santa. Looking back, I realize I was ahead of my time. How much does it cost to sit on Santa’s lap nowadays???

As I prepped the backdrop for our little video, I realized I have been doing this same job all my life except I get a few more dimes. Even though it is more than 45 years later, I am still doing the same kinds of things. I was telling someone today about how I would order art catalogs when I was a little girl just so I could go through them page by page. I might not buy anything. Instead, those catalogs helped me learn about art supplies, what was available for artists to use, and what you could make if you used them. This is how I taught myself to be an artist long before I matriculated into any art school.

The point I am making is that so much of what and who we are has always been there. Some us chose to express our attributes very early in life and if we are lucky. We are allowed to continue to do what we do best as we grow up, out, and into old age. Now, I only wish I had a basement. I think I could do an even better “winter wonderland” now. LOL

This is the backdrop we are using for our video. It is so amusing for me to look at because this 10’ x 4’ painting. It was painted by children; I acted as facilitator. It makes me laugh because this is exactly the way I would have painted this painting when I was ten or eleven years old. In other words, our art roots are ever present. It is good when we think about them once in a while.
Click pic to see detail view

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Art Blog: The Place of ART

Where do we stand? As human beings, Americans (most of us anyway) and artists, where do we fit? I will be honest. I am a hot mess right now. I have been thinking and thinking. I have been analyzing my every art move. I am sure some of this writing will sound disjointed and bizarre. That is because I am really struggling to understand what is going on right now in our art world.

Last night, I was delighted to watch Art 21, fifth edition. Cindy Sherman spoke about her work over the years. Then there was another artist. I am not going to mention any name. I just remember that he pulled himself through a puddle of white paint and made some kind of bizarre body trail across the room. OK. I didn’t give up watching. There was more. I forgot it.

Then there are artists like me. At this point, I feel like I am an art nobody. Despite working for decades, my work is just my work. There isn’t much to say about it really. I just have created a lot of stuff. I would hope somebody relates to it. Maybe so. Maybe not. That is a moot point because I will continue to make art regardless of the world climate. However there is a very real part of me that asks

“Why make more? What is the point?”
I bet there are some of you have thought the SAME THING!

I have to ask this question.
Where does our art fit into this world right now?

One of the problems I see as so obvious is that I will not underprice my work. I have sold much work over my art life. However, it seems most art similar to my “level” is being bought now on the “cheap”. I can’t do that. If you figure materials cost and time spent doing the work, why would an artist sell for pennies? Huh? I have no interest in that. It is kind of sadly weird right now. The average person can’t buy my real art. Hmmm.

I am not asking for that much. My day job is teaching. Teacher’s salaries are awful compared to other professions. However, if I ever tried to make my teacher salary via art sales I would be in huge trouble. Oh, I could do this if I started painting assembly line pet portraits or Florida landscapes. I am not about any of that. I kind of think many underprice their art because they want to say they SOLD. Well, I have been there done that. I have no interest in that ego boost. I think I need to find a happy medium. I know I will never be heralded as an artist of the stature of those on Art 21. However, I am not ever going to be a pet portrait artist or a painter of big eyed girls. I am somewhere in this weird, nebulous middle.
It is a strange place to be.

So what is the answer?
I think I know, but don’t want to acknowledge it.

What do you think? What is the answer?

I end with my piece “World Watching”.
I feel this way right now. The world watches. It sees.

Will ART be in its vision?
Click pic to see entire piece

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Art Blog: Phil Kutno, Master Artist

I actually got my ass off the couch and went somewhere last night. I talk about it on my new blog: St. Pete Peeps. I went to the Tampa Bay Blues Festival. I had a great time.

When I first entered the gates, I was on a mission to get a beer. On my way down the midway, I noticed an artist’s booth. Normally, I save my browsing for later. When I see the work at artists at street fairs and festivals, I go in, look at the work, and give a little nod of approval. Then get another beer. This time was different. Something drew me into the tent. As soon as I entered, I looked to the left. There was a wall of gorgeous, beautiful, and masterful drawings. The work actually took my breath away! This little hippiesque type guy sat in the middle of the booth. This was
Phil Kutno, the artist.

I struck up a conversation and told him that his work was phenomenal. It is so rare to see work of such high caliber and skill at a festival. He had prints of the drawings and lots of celebrity paintings/drawings throughout his tent. I told him I wanted to write about him on my blog. He gave me his card and I am following through with my promise. If you are on Facebook, you can become his “fan” at Phil Kutno Studios.

Also, I have posted his website link below. The sad part is online photos of his work doesn’t do it justice. Standing in front of each piece in person (albeit they are very well done prints), you can see all the tiny, intricate, and elegant details. Even on his website, you miss the up close experience. However, his studio gallery online is worth a look. Be prepared to be awestruck by his pencil work. Maybe someday you will be lucky like me and see Phil hanging out in his art booth at a festival near you!

“The Juggler”
Phil Kutno
Click pic to Phil’s website!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Art Blog: Robert Crumb – Genesis

"Keep On Truckin" By Robert Crumb

“Keep on truckin” seems to be my motto these days. I just figure if I keep moving and doing and creating, I will get to the end of this bizarre tunnel in which I have found myself wandering. I have fond memories of this "Keep on Truckin" image. It was created in 1968 by artist Robert Crumb. Like other rebellious, hippie-wannabee teens of the era, that logo became a tribal badge of honor. We wore it well.

I lost interest in Crumb’s work over the years. I have never liked comics and Crumb’s use of stereotypes and sexist imagery didn’t help to keep my attention. Back in the mid 90’s, I remember going to see the documentary “Crumb” and I wanted to walk out because some parts were so sophomoric and disturbing to me. However now, his work has poked me once again all these decades later. His recent accomplishment, “Book of Genesis” is a true eye opener. The drawings from the book are being shown now at David Zwirner Gallery.

I am not at all religious or even close to being a bible thumper, but looking at this book from an art standpoint is mind blowing. The graphic details and mastery of imagery is truly amazing. The sheer volume of work is unbelievable. Yes, this book keeps Crumb’s raunch intact. The illustrations depict all the titillation, sex, and violence associated with his work. However, the Bible is full of that kind of stuff. Crumb just put it in pictures!

“Book of Genesis” by Robert Crumb
Click pic to see some of the pages close up

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Art Blog: “Mad Men of ART”

Periodically, I go on art video watching jags. I like to think of them as a kind of feeding frenzy of art ideas. When I get hungry, I put in a DVD and end up watching two, three, or four in a row. This can go on for days. I have quite a collection of art vids. Yet, I tend to watch certain movies over and over again. This week, I have bombarded my eyes and mind with those relating primarily to modern art of the 20th century.

One video I watched was “Painters Painting”. To be honest, there isn’t much painting going on in this lengthy video. Sit down artist interviews are the running theme. This video was made in 1972. It concentrates on the history of the New York art scene, 1940-1970. I have seen snippets of some of the footage before which has been included in other videos. However, this film gives me the chance to see the interviews in their entirety.

As I watched this movie, I became increasingly uncomfortable. I started to squirm and feel anxious. About half way through the viewing, I realized it seemed so bizarre to hear all these MEN talk. Where are the women in this movie? There are twenty-one artists/dealers featured in this film. All of them are men and there is one female artist. Most of the scenes reminded me so much of the television show, “Mad Men”. Yes, things were really like that. The one woman artist is Helen Frankenthaler. During the brief interview with Frankenthaler who was dressed in a smart, tailored suit akin to a Barbie stewardess uniform, I anticipated someone stopping the interview so she could go get the film crew coffee!

For those who read this and want to balk, I will say I agree art shouldn’t be about gender. That isn’t a criterion. However, we all have differing points of view and ALL includes men and women. When Frankenthaler was asked about being a “female artist”, she said something like “well, it isn’t about being female, it is about being an artist”. That is all well and good, but I would have liked to see her jump up and scream at the videographer and ask “YEAH! Why am I the only woman artist in this movie?!!!!” She didn’t do that. She just sat there like a lady with her nylon clad legs crossed so elegantly. Too bad.

I wish we could rewrite art history. I would like to see this film again, but including the female painters of the time. With all the austere bravado of the dialogue in this film announcing “portraits of ourselves”, “the new American art”, “national art”, “the best artists”, “American Artists” making “high art”, I really don’t understand how they didn’t see they were excluding half of the artists of these generations. However, as I look at current art book and video selections, I continue to squirm. Yes, things are a bit different now, but have we come a “LONG” way baby?
I don’t think so.

Click pic to see movie trailer