One of the interesting things about having a public art studio is that I get to meet all sorts of people I would not normally interact with. By nature, I am a bit shy with people I don’t know, so this can be a difficult platform. The past 13 years of maintaining an open studio has helped me come out of my shell as I search for words to articulate my process, and create a balanced studio practice. I often surprise myself and learn new things about myself as I describe the work to others. Many years ago an elderly gentleman came into my studio and looked around at my work, completely flabbergasted – at both my prices and my style of work. (which is fine – you don’t have to like all art) He asked what else I did – meaning: “You could not possibly make a living creating this crap – what other kind of job do you have?” But I ignored his implication, and laughed. I superficially replied “…I make lots of messes, walk my dogs, and like to drive really fast.” On the other end of the spectrum, I also meet people that completely freak out, gush over my work, and the fact that they actually get to meet me. Those people are the best!
I had someone come in my studio the other day and looked around – although a bit out of obligation (she was already up there looking in the other art studios) She was older retiree and a novice painter herself. She prefers to paint lovely pastoral scenes in France, and local marsh scenes plein-air. She looked curiously at a particular painting, then asked what my inspiration was. I rattled off my stock answer… “I am very process driven, and I rely on mood, color, energy…” I find this intuitive process more rewarding, challenging, and full of endless possibilities – rather than trying to recreate a particular subject matter on my terms… I continued, “My work is non-objective and the titles are drawn from a running diary of words or phrases that I have written down over the years while reading or listening to an audio book, movie, music, current events/news, etc. The painting is meaningless nonsense and it is paired with a title of equivalent absurdity.” She then started rattling off more questions in an attempt to “understand” (for lack of a better word) “Well, no – what artists are you inspired by?” I thought about it for a minute, then reverted back to my 20 year-old college self – stating “I guess I always admired the Abstract Expressionists – they left the most imprint on me – because they were so energetic, intuitive, and process oriented – like Willem DeKooning, Cy Twombly, Joan Mitchell and Philip Guston (early work). And while we are at it – I love Mark Rothko, Richard Diebenkorn, and Lee Krasner…The color of Henri Matisse, and humor of Norman Rockwell (I use to stare at his work for hours as a kid). And as far as contemporary artists go – I just drool over anything Cecily Brown does, She is a real painters painter. She is about my age, lives in NYC, and cranks out multiple paintings at once in her huge Union Square studio. As far as I’m concerned – she a complete rock-star making it in the art world.”
“But your work does not look like any of those artists – I just don’t get it…”
I was a bit taken back by that comment. My 40 year-old self does not aspire to paint like other people. I realize I did not really invent what I do, and I don’t think I’m extremely special – but when I’m in the studio, it is just me and the surface. I’m drawn to the ambiguity of abstraction, and outright contradiction. I just try to create honest work that I am proud of, and keeps me out of trouble. I am constantly learning and experimenting. (Sometimes I am thankful that I live in my little creative vacuum and not surrounded by to many artists – so that their work does not creep into my subconscious.) While it is nice to sell my work and is my ultimate objective – going to work is something I do out of an innate desire to stay grounded to the universe, and maintain mental balance. I don’t really look to other artists (past or current) for my inspiration like I did when I was a young impressionable college student trying to find my style. I mean, thanks to social media – we have enough copy-cat artists to contend with. But they don’t fool anyone. They just make me feel sad for them as they can’t seem to find their own voice.
I realize “everything has been done” but does that mean we should give up on ourselves and continue to copy or draw inspiration from the past (or present for that matter?) Or is this person just an idiot? I’m hoping it is the latter. I’m a jaded bitter bitch about some most things – but I want to think there is still hope for the art world.
Here are a few of my favorites: