2017 started off with a bang! Probably the most exciting thing has been my very first installation/performance piece. Let me preface this by saying I usually find performance art to be very uncomfortable as a viewer...I just end up feeling kind of embarrassed somehow, but this was a bit different.
One of my main teaching gigs is at Cerritos College, here in Southern Ca, and have we been fortunate enough to get a brand new building for the art department. We started teaching in it in January.
Our gallery director, James MacDevitt, sits on the board of the FAR Foundation, a group that helps artists who work outside of the traditional gallery scene. He had the brilliant idea to use the old Cerritos art building to host a FAR Bazaar to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the original (an alternative art show/installation) before it was torn down. There is a great article about it here. He organized more than 50 artists, art collectives and MFA programs from the region and each group was assigned a room of the old building where they could curate an installation of their choosing....the show was only up for two days, as the building was scheduled for demolition. It was an amazing event. The blog/website Art and Cake posted a great photo essay of the event.
As an adjunct faculty member I was offered one of the smaller spaces, which turned out to be the former faculty kitchen so I created my installation "the Adjunct Kitchen".
Here's my statement: The kitchen is a metaphor for a place of creation and it is the utilitarian production center of a home. It is where we prepare our meals and often serves as a meeting place for discussion or celebration.
Working in the kitchen is symbolic of my roll as adjunct faculty at Cerritos College and elsewhere. Although the term adjunct literally means “supplementary rather than an essential” I believe we are often the work horses of college education doing the foundational rearing of future (art) students.
I will use this kitchen as a space to make food and artwork that reference the suburban home and garden, using the space to bring into focus the connection between my roll as adjunct faculty and how that may mirror the roll of the domestic caretaker/mom/nanny.
Kitchens are often a magnet for social gathering and in keeping with the F.A.R. Foundation’s stated mission I hope this nurturing environment will foster dialogue and interaction between myself, as an artist working outside the traditional gallery circuit, and the public, while challenging the perceived disparities between domestic nurturing, teaching and art making.
To challenge the notion of art as commodity and to highlight to the relationship between creating (creator) and consuming (consumer), I will be giving away the food and artwork made in the space during the exhibition.
I spruced up the kitchen with a coat of paint, created a gallery space on one side, made wallpaper out of large format xeroxes of one of my paintings and rolled out real grass sod on the floor, it looked fantastic! Literally hundreds of people passed through my "kitchen" and just like at home people wanted to hang out there as a sanctuary from the "real" gathering. I had so many lovely discussions about my work and how often the weeds are more beautiful than the garden, the soup made from leftovers is better than the original meal....how so often the little bits we find between the big moments are the ones we remember. I also used my pasta machine as a printing press and gave away over a hundred intaglio prints that I printed right there on-site.
It was just last weekend so I am still processing the whole thing but I wanted to post some pictures.
Does Spring Break count if you had no winter? My garden is pretty pathetic this year due to the lack of rain...may be time to ditch the grass all together and transition to more natives. The studio, on the other hand, feels pretty fertile! Staying focused on my subject that I have come to refer to as "Substitute Nature" which really refers to the scraps of nature that manage to survive in suburbia. The juxtaposition of hard edges and biomorphic form, the beauty of the organic vs the brute of manmade.
I am constantly struggling to find a way to exploit this dichotomy visually. Sometimes the square of the canvas is enough of a foil for the lushness of the trees and plants. Including houses or telephone poles also work, but I keep trying to mix in purely abstract geometric elements with limited success.
Yesterday I did this painting on Duralar, a synthetic "paper" that will hold up under oil paint, taping of a grid before painting. The surface of the Durlar is super smooth allowing for a slippery, wet on wet paint application which kept the painting alive. The grid is doing (attempting to do) three things: Adding the element of geometric, hard edged abstraction, referencing suburbia with its window like pattern and creating a screen like separation between the viewer and nature. All of these concepts support my intent to show our voyeuristic relationship with nature in suburbia: Look, but don't touch.
I'm happy when a piece I've made helps me understand what I'm trying to do, it's cyclical.
My plan was to use a shotgun approach: Start on all of the ideas that were bubbling up in me (an intricate tree/neg space lino, the three large panels, a series of tiny foggy landscapes and the exploration of jewelry making...oh, and a continuation of the ink work). I'm now realizing how frustrated that has made me. Having so many irons in the fire has limited the time I can spend on each project to the point that I am overwhelmed.
Today I decided it was important to finish up some ideas so I can more effectively focus my energies. I have decided to return to oil paint for my large panels (I had given up oils due to toxicity, but I just miss the richness too much.) So I finally finished the lino cut that I started months ago...lots of tedious work (which I love...I know, weird!) and managed to pull a few prints today. It was the first time printing without a press (the old wooden spoon method) and I only had black ink so I screwed around with Chine Colle for color. Pulled five prints...I'll probably do a handful more then put printing aside for a bit so I can focus on the oils over xmas vacation (of course I'm also looking forward to getting away...cannot wait to see the David Hockney show at the deYoung in S.F.)!
A very hectic autumn indeed! My schedule is happily filled with painting, drawing, printing, teaching (yay! the economy is clawing its way back!) and getting the yard in shape for winter (and all the regular life stuff)! I was fortunate enough to participate in MAS Attack (an excitingly huge exhibition of 100 or so LA artists) organized by Max Presniel and his people at the Torrance Art Museum. (There's me and my olive tree in the picture!) The best part was getting a real sense of how many fantastic artists there are living and working in the area and the range of work. All of these men and women slugging it out in their studios doing what they do.
Speaking of slugging it out: I had planned to complete three of these larger (3' x 4') panels this summer....ugh! What the hell am I doing? It's been awhile since I've worked large...feels and looks great in the studio. I've finished the damn thing, like, five times and then I show it (or it is seen) and I realize it's not done. I know I want the stupid little squares (hard edge vs illusionism/the stage-set quality it brings to the image/authentic vs imposed, yadda, yadda, yadda) but it's not quite there. I'm going to take the advice of my favorite critic and turn it to the wall and paint some more panels. I heard a quote by Chuck Close recently: "All of the best ideas come while you're working." So I'll just keep slugging it out!
Summer schedule has arrived! Minimal teaching schedule leaves a lot of studio time....although somehow everything seems to take longer (perhaps I'm just moving slower). I still feel new to Southern California, transplanted here from Marin County twenty something years ago. I find myself going into a bit of a panic with the thought of the late summer heat just around the corner. I cling to the "may gray" and "june gloom" mornings and aside from a quick early heatwave we are still enjoying the a.m. gray. Going about my early morning walks and errands I have become infatuated with the fog as it moves through the olive trees.
As much as I lamented the end (or hiatus) of my recent printmaking foray I am happy to be painting again. I got stuck on the "one tree per square" format which offered up all kinds formal and conceptual avenues but the shallowness of the space began to become an issue for me. The emphasis on atmosphere, air and space, along with the coolness of the fog has been commanding my attention.
Nearly all of my painting experience has come from oils but I'm sticking to acrylics for now, trying to keep the fumes down. The small paintings have gone well (like the one pictured) but I've just begun a large painting (3'x4') and I'm finding the acrylic challenging (read nightmareish)....like I'm needing to re-learn how to paint, or maybe it's because I've been working small for so long. Regardless, I'm enjoying the struggle (kinda) and letting the fog keep me cool.