Tag Archives: casey
I found out this past week that my all time favorite art/painting teacher is in hospice and about to die of a large (advanced) tumor in his colon. I think he is about 93-94, and is a total yummy old school abstract expressionist.
I was one of his favorites when I was in school (and he was obvious about his favorites). He called me “Curly” because my hair was pretty insane – as Alabama is waaaay humid. He could also be a total dick, and make people cry. He did not coddle his students. He did not condone mediocrity – which is actually what I liked most about him. Most artists are sofa king sensitive and need to get over themselves anyway. There was a rumor that he use to toss off crappy work from the 4th story painting room balcony during critiques. But the Dean put a squash on that after a few years.
I remember the first time he invited me to see his studio – and I was in awe. Rarely do you ever get to see what your professors are like beyond class. It was a real art studio. Messy, and eclectic. Huge cans of paint I knew cost about $80-$100 each – even way back then. Huge canvas. I wondered if I would ever be able to afford paint/materials and canvas like that. I wondered if someone would even buy my work after I graduated. I tried to absorb it all…… He was from New York – and always talked about New York City. In my little culturally starved 20-year-old-mind, he seemed waaaay too sophisticated to be teaching art in the middle of Podunk Alabama. I idolized him. I imagined what New York must be like.
Even thought I have not seen him or maintained any contact with him in about 20 years – I think of him often. I wonder if he would even like what I was working on these days. I rarely seek approval from people, but I think I would have liked to have known what he thought today, even if it was harsh. Maybe he would think my work is crap? Who knows. All I know is that he left an impact on me. I constantly hear him whispering in my ear as I work.
Anyway, he led a full life. I wish him as little pain as possible. Thanks for everything Sella.
Sella passed away 5 days after I found out he was admitted to the hospice facility.
Sometimes when people find out you are an artist they automatically assume you can paint anything, fix anything, are naturally crafty, and all things creative are your forté. You would not believe the kinds of things I have been suckered into. Well, believe it or not, I suck at a few things.
When I was in college, they make you take a little bit of everything. I was a painter through and through so sculpture did not interest me. In fact, I was the only person in my class that wanted to cast something (make a carved mold out of Styrofoam, bury it in sand, and pour hot metal in the tube leading to the mold and then the mold melts away) cast a copper masks of three muses, and painted them with enamel paint, much to my professors dismay. I hated ceramics because the clay made my hands dry. I could not throw a decent pot to save my life, so I stuck to hand building, and again, was more concerned with glazing. I would even take my pieces to a local paint your own pottery shop and use low fire glazes on my work just so I could have prettier glaze choices. I told you I was a painter) And photography was a bit too time consuming, scientific and structured for me (developing your own film, chemicals, timing, dodging and burning, F-stops) etc. And the hours spent in the dark room without even seeing daylight for hours on end, and back pain from standing so long……Not my thing. I just preferred to leave my camera on “Automatic” and at times I cheated and had my film developed at the local photo mat (I did have to print it myself though.) I just could not be bothered with anything beyond the initial composition – where the real art was in my opinion. And even if I did come up with something decent here and again, I considered photography one of the lowest art forms there is (sorry, but that is how I feel) – so I never really pursued it beyond two semesters. But the one thing I did learn from photography was how to look at the world with an artists eye, and though the lens. I notice things that other people do not. Floating through life finding beauty in everything. And you can crop out the bull crap in a zoomed second.
That being said, I was recently cleaning out my office, and came across all my negatives and a few photographs from College – 1992. Yes, folks that was 20 years ago. I was not the best photographer (kids, the digital camera was not invented in 1992 – I was using an old school manual 35mm camera) and the photos are not that great, but it was a self-portriat assignment. Shot in my tiny kitchen with a black sheet taped on the wall. My girlfriend and I were making silly poses, in strapless bras pretending we were naked – and the person that took the photos off-ed himself the following summer. I always liked these photos of myself, but the memory was bitter sweet. Lost youth.
Now days, any douche bag with a digital camera, and a Flicker account fancy themselves a photographer……
Part of one of the amazing things about having an art studio open to the public is that I can interact with people on a whole other level. And believe me – this has not always been a welcomed act (on may part.) I’m sure I sound like a broken record on that subject. I don’t exactly care for most people, I’m shy, I’m not a people-pleaser, and I don’t seek validation from people to prove my self-worth (as an artist). Oh, and I dread small talk. Also, my bull shit tolerance level is very low…..I guess I could go on and on. Those are not exactly the greatest qualities to possess, especially when you are trying to sell things. (Ooooops) So having an open studio has helped me interact with people and learn to work around interruptions, and be more patient with people. I am generally a joyous person even though I make myself sound like a troll, just not a people person.
That being said, I met this older gentleman the other day. He was very interested in hearing me explain my art – because I could tell that he could not understand it, or relate to it in the least bit. Upon further conversation, I learned that he really did love art – but preferred more realistic, and especially enjoyed plein air. He was so passionate when he was describing a certain piece of art he had in his possession – that he could tell that it was painted at several different times of day because of the light, etc. He even managed to track down the exact small town where it was painted (and from what I remember, it was even in a different country.) I was completely impressed that he spent so many hours analyzing the painting. Some people like things (art, music, movies) that remind them of a past experiences, past places, their youth, etc. And he was defiantly one of those people (stuck in the past). On the other hand – I enjoy art, and making art that makes me use my imagination, tap into my adventurous side, seems unpredictable, more progressive, and explores the unknown. I am drawn to the mystery. This mirrors how I live and embrace life.
This gentleman went on to talk about his previous work life, (I think oil/geology related,) and he was particularly interested in Fractals (Fractal Geometry – I think). He is obsessed with observing and predicting patterns in everything, and this is where my art frustrated him. Because he is used to applying logic to everything in his life – and my work appeared illogical at first glance. He could even apply Fractals to Jackson Pollocks work, and I attempted to understand his explanation. (And BTW I’m waaay past sticking a bird in my otherwise non-objective painting art so some blow Joe logical left brainer can find something to relate to, and be OK and breathe easy the rest of the day) I simply explained that the outcome of my work meant absolutely nothing, and was non-objective, and intuitive. That there was no need to over analyze it – that you are to enjoy it as “Art, for Art’s Sake.” That the things I am inspired with absolutely have nothing do with a subject matter – or at least a subject that can be decoded by mere humans. I am more inspired by energy, mood, and experimenting, and that I find my work very challenging, and that is my main priority. While, yes, my eventual goal is to sell my paintings and financially support myself, I do not set about making a pretty picture that will match a sofa when I sit down at the easel. The outcome is completely unrelated to the process. That my art is my therapy, and I am relaxed and clear when I work. That the process is a grounding experience for me and it is the journey that is the most important. Because it is mine, and mine alone. The secret communication and intimacy that transpires is only mine to understand. When I am finished – I will let you see, I just don’t care or want you to understand. I could make something up about how deep and meaningful my work is – but I hate to admit it – there really is nothing to explain. My work is an extension of MY personality. I am not a particularly deep or meaningful person. I’m a realist and don’t think I am a decidedly special, or exceptional human being. Just average – and I’m OK with that. I don’t care about politics, I am straight-forward, at times rude, and superficial. I am also passionate, focused, humorous, fun, and loving – and just don’t take things seriously or over-analyze things. I’m just trying to fly below the radar, and trying to enjoy life before the world implodes.
How to define art has been a subject that has been debated by an infinite number of people since the dawn of human civilization. And there seems to be no definite solution to define such a simple subject. But most will agree, that art is subjective and different in the eye of the beholder. Art stimulates different parts of our brains and evokes emotion. Art is a way to be creative and express ones self. For some people, art is the entire reason they get out of bed in the morning. And you might say that art is something that makes us more thoughtful and well-rounded humans. It is amazing how different people from all walks of life can see, enjoy, experience, and perceive things completely differently.
But the fact that my art even evoked something in this man, was intriguing to me. You know the saying “The only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about” – Oscar Wild. I guess that is true – depending what lies are told.
He was very intelligent and knowledgeable about art – and I enjoyed talking with him – but he just did not care for non-objective abstract art, no matter how I tried to explain it to him. And that was OK. I enjoyed our conversation because I rarely think about what I am doing, let alone articulate what I am doing. I realize I live in a little vacuum, and feel like a turtle most of the time; keeping to myself, and interacting very little. I forget that I need a little artist intellectual stimulation now and then.