“Painting is Painting” is an account of an individual quest for self-knowledge through the act of painting. Artist Jeannine Hunter Lazzaro examines how her initial understanding of Modernism and its rigid painting “rules” became an impediment to her desire to express life’s visual experiences. The paper details how she reevaluated the tenants of Modernism, risking incoherence and confusion, in her search for an authentic means of expressing her worldview. The philosophical concerns of Lazzaro’s early paintings focused primarily on the process of art making and the meaning of the act of painting itself. Over time Lazzaro has evolved into an artist who uses the experience of recording the visible world as a means of accepting life’s terms.
Painting is Painting
Jeannine Hunter Lazzaro
Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts
Art Institute of Boston
Painting is Painting…. a rose is a rose is a rose…
Society’s fads and fashions come and go. Styles in art become popular then fade away. What remains are the marks drawn by people who love deeply and follow their hearts. 1
I have deliberately chosen these words by Heather C. Williams from her book Drawing as a Sacred Activity to begin this thesis because of their down- to- earth tone. It is extremely difficult to stay focused and humble in this writing. However, I have reached the conclusion that that is where I want to be coming from--from someplace humble and truthful.
The essential truth present in the marks that artists make on a surface is in many ways the truth of humanity. The need to create to make art is essential to, the human condition. This urgency exists and has existed for all time on a level that has nothing to do with the art market or even the art world. The human need for self-expression is like an addiction or an obsession. Walk down a city street and this need is expressed everywhere one looks. Graffiti, at times only legible to the actual graffiti writers is scattered across urban areas and often accomplished at great risk of bodily harm. These are the cave paintings of today. Colorful, decorative and communicative, graffiti has a language all its’ own crying out, “I am here! I am here!” --a primal scream made visual, at times humorous and yet sacred and ritualistic at the same time. The transformative power of art to heal and to serve as a community vehicle for working through pain and suffering has been apparent in recent years. The human need for expression is evident in the outpouring of art made in a response to the horrible events of 9/11, a ritual of mourning that the AIDS quilt has come to symbolize, and the shrines that spring up around the locations of horrific tragedies. Yet there is something much more significant than the mere therapeutic aspect of the arts, both visual and performing. As Mark Rothko states in Writings on Art:
The satisfaction of the creative impulse is a basic biological need, essential to the health of the individual. Its aggregate effect on the health of society is inestimable. Art is one of the few important means known to man for the articulation of this impulse. 2
In my work in education I am disturbed at the lack of attention that the arts are given. In the rush to standardize public education the arts have lost value. Sadly the reality is that this basic need to create is being ignored and stifled. All the same, many feel the need to make art everyday despite the fact that their effort may never garner recognition or acknowledgement. It is one thing to receive compensation for the art you make, but countless artists practice their craft in the face of great adversity and hardship, often without ever achieving fame and fortune.
A recent exhibit at DavisMuseum and CulturalCenter at Wellesley, dealt with Holocaust victims who risked their life to create art. Although some of this artwork exhibited remarkable skill and creativity these were for the most part not museum masterpieces, but work that had to be done all the same. All of the artists died in the Holocaust. Some had been threatened with death if they continued their art making and yet continue they did. The need for self-expression, the need to make art and leave a mark was so powerful. From the exhibition catalogue:
In the microcosm of Auschwitz examples of art were created that call into
question the noble and edifying role we have automatically assigned to art.
The exhibition posits broad questions of how art served as a document of camp
atrocities and a testimony to the existence of an individual; how art served as a
means of subjugation by the perpetrators or as a means of survival-physical,
psychological, or emotional-for the victims ; and how art reflects the multifaceted
role of creativity in the lives of human beings and in the making and
interpretation of history. 3
The reference to “the noble and edifying role that we have automatically assigned to art” is relevant on many levels. My own need to create and make art come from similar sense of urgency. I believe that creative expression is the most basic need that we as individuals possess. On a spiritual level this is a way to tap into the original self, find out who and what we are and to recover whatever it is that makes us who we are. There is also a reflective aspect of art-making. It affords an opportunity to look at life and to process the experience.
Modernism, the “age of certainty” and rigid parameters.
Early in his book Sculpture in the Age of Doubt Thomas McEvilley discusses the confusion that developed in the art-world at the advent of what later became known as post-Modernism:
Modernism was what might be called an age of certainty, feeling itself to be founded on universal truths and to grasp clearly the direction in which they tended. In contrast, the new age, with its conspicuous lack of universals and directions, strikes many beholders as confusing and undefined; so accustomed are they to boundaries and markers that without such indicators, they feel there is no frame for meaning. For them the new age dawns with a sense of betrayal……The most widely used name for this era is ‘post-Modernism’-an odd name because it does not seem to refer to what the period is but to what it comes after. 4
This pretty much sums up my feelings and experience after an initial indoctrination in Modernism. My “sense of betrayal” was profound, “confusing and undefined” being an understatement. My own eventual disillusionment with the rigid parameters of Modernism was indeed caused by a “sense of betrayal.”
I spent my early college years at RamapoCollege, a small state college nestled in the RamapoMountains in Mahwah, New Jersey. The school was opened in 1971. After a somewhat checkered high school career I turned in 1971 to this new college as a last resort to continue my education. Coming as I did from a dysfunctional and abusive family life, art was what I wanted to study because it had always been a safe harbor for me. I had a need to make art.
RamapoCollege, because of its close proximity to New York City, attracted a number of contemporary working artists from the city. These artists were diligently making art in the climate of the day. It was obvious, even to me, then that culture was at some kind of a juncture in the seventies. The questioning that had started in the fifties had not yet evolved into what became known as Postmodernism. To my mind, an important part of that evolution was Pop art. In the words of Julian Stallabrass:
The wide influence of Greenberg’s sweeping account of the development of modern art as a Hegelian progress towards formal abstraction helped stimulate Pop Art, its explicit refutation. 5
Whatever the case, it was apparent to me that something was about to happen or was indeed happening. I can only attribute my awareness of this change to the quality of the art faculty at RamapoCollege at the time. Perhaps it was partly the earnest manner in which all this new information about art was given to me. I accepted that the only way to look at art history and art was through Meyer Shapiro’s innovative approach to interpretation. The art historian, Carol Duncan, who had been a student of Shapiro’s at ColumbiaUniversity, was on the faculty at Ramapo while I was a student there. I took it for granted that art could be interpreted to mean more than what was materially present in the work itself. As part of her teaching philosophy, Duncan encouraged students to,” look critically at the institutional settings within which art is produced and interpreted” and that “art objects become more intelligible when considered in historical context…” 6
This practice of looking at the social conditions of the time to understand the art of the period was easy for me to accept and somehow helped to make the many avenues and arenas of life add up. In fact, it is clear to me that many of the aspects of the present postmodern climate of our culture presently are apparent in the kind of art that is popular today.
However, it was not until years later that I realized that this was such an innovative approach to looking at and interpreting art. At one point I told someone that I had read the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley for an art history course on Romanticism. The individual was obviously confused as to why a novel might be pertinent to an art history class. It was only then that I began to wonder at and value this perspective. For me it was a way to the truth. History is written by the powerful or victorious and does not necessarily reflect the true reality. Piecing together the remnants of a period and searching for reasons for the art that was produced in a particular time are just some of the ways to discover what really occurred.
As a result of my early education, I developed and tried valiantly to follow a rather dogmatic interpretation of Modernist painting “rules” in my work. This was a common interpretation or as pointed out by Paul Schimmel in Hand-Painted Pop:
For a brief moment, sometime in the first half of the 1950s, there was a conviction among painters that a gesture could be pure and unencumbered, and reveal nothing but itself and the action of making a picture. Painting was an ‘act’ that existed in time. Paintings themselves became viable when their real subject was their own making. 7
Although this has been isolated as a moment occurring in the fifties I think that the seminal occurrences often resonate for a longer period of time then history records. I was acutely aware of the struggle that the artists on the faculty at Ramapo were engrossed in. The ‘postmodern condition’ had not yet been identified, but it was clear to me that their attempts to apply Modernist rules to their work were often futile. Donna De Salvo in Hand Painted Pop:
Before he began his Pop paintings, he (James Rosenquist) produced a body of abstract work, including drawings based on Indian symbols; that he as well as Lichtenstein and even Warhol, felt the need to make abstract paintings as late as 1959 reflects the continuing dominance of Abstract Expressionism. 8
Hearing and seeing the war between the New York School and the still emerging Pop artists, I became completely absorbed in stain-painting. image 1 image 2 image 3
For me the flatness of modernism that was so appealing in the staining process ultimately lost its initial satisfaction. Later on building painting surfaces out of fabric and canvas and then staining these became a kind of truth--my own.
image 4 image 5 image 6
Ultimately struggling through with what I perceived to be a very rigid line between Abstract Expressionism and Pop and coming to Post-modern painting is part of what my art is about. The journey of self discovery and the exploration of the world around me has been at times both enhanced and encumbered by the tools, weapons, and armor that I have collected on my way. A metaphor for life, often the very same coping skills that developed from facing adversity later become hindrances to growth. The Modernist concern with formalism that was so basic to my college years became my only creed. Looking back it becomes more apparent why I came to believe so heart fully that painting must have a doctrine. The Modernist preoccupation with formalist concerns that came out of Abstract Expressionism was presented to me as absolute fact by people whom I admired and believed in totally. These ideas were presented not so much as a theory or a possibility but as the truth at a time in my life when I was desperately in need of structure, and some truth.
“Something’s coming I don’t know what it is but I know it’s gonna’ be great…” West Side Story. Steven Sondheim
Throughout the fifties, sixties, and then seventies, there was also a stirring in the air. It was like the entire cultural climate was exploding. You could almost hear it Pop (pun intended). Something was about to happen or was happening. It was also becoming increasingly apparent to me that art was more than what was merely in the gallery, on the canvas or cut into stone, wood or iron. One thing was for sure suddenly what was being said was becoming equally as important as what was being made by the artists. Gregory Battcock wrote about the increased importance of the art critic and writings on art in 1966:
The art of our time, in all its violence and obscurity, is produced in a society in a rapid flux that is often blurred in origin, content, and direction. The artist and, in consequence, his interpreter the critic are probably among the few people who can be relied upon for some sort of intuitive understanding of the contemporary situation. 9
“The contemporary situation” see what I mean? The “age of uncertainty” was needing to be interpreted. It was awhile before this “stirring” was actually nameable, and even then it may only have come about in hindsight. Aahh…Postmodernism! But of course, after all what should follow Modernism-but Postmodernism. Much of this plurality and multiplicity of method and material that was eventually to become the postmodern age was alluded to by Allan Kaprow in October of 1958 in his now famous essay “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock”, which eulogized Pollock and possibly the death of painting:
We must become preoccupied with and even dazzled by the space and objects of our everyday life, either our bodies, clothes, rooms, or if need be the vastness of Forty-second Street. Not satisfied with the suggestion through paint of our other senses, we shall utilize the specific substances of sight, sounds, movements, people, odors, touch. Objects of every sort are materials for the new art: paint, chairs, food, electric and neon lights, smoke, water, old socks, a dog, movies, a thousand other things will be discovered by the present generation of artists. Not only will these bold creators show us, as if for the first time, the world we have had about us but ignored. But they will disclose entirely unheard-of happenings and events, found in garbage cans, police files, hotel lobbies; seen in store windows and on the streets; and sensed in dreams and horrible accidents. An odor of crushed strawberries, a letter from a friend, or a billboard selling Drano; three taps on the front door, a scratch, a sigh, or a voice lecturing endlessly, a blinding staccato flash, a bowler hat-all will become material for this new concrete art. 10
Later on in the Seventies these words began to ring even truer for me.
I was “dazzled” at least. What could this possibly mean for me when I had believed so intensely in the principles of Modernism laid out so clearly by St. Clement (Greenberg)? My world was shattered. Painting was dead. I was disillusioned and disappointed by the inaccessibility of Modernism that became glaringly apparent in the seventies. McEvilley calls this “a sense of betrayal” or “the age of doubt”…when civil rights, peace and love and the hippie-crunchy-granola nation was at a high point, the rigidity of the formalist concerns of Modernism seemed out of place. The Modernist attempt to create a universal language in the guise of abstract art was clearly a dismal failure or as Mary Anne Staniszewski refers to this:
“Rather than being a universal language for the modern world, abstract Art was - and remains today-an arcane, esoteric subject that is understood and appreciated by an informed few. This has been called the failure of modernism and the failure of abstract Art. 11
More importantly for me the structure of Modernism that I had only just begun to understand was gone. Not only that, but the truth had missed the point or even worse.
Due to the preoccupations of surviving from day to day, raising a family, making a living and finding my way I became distracted for a period of time during the Eighties. The happenings of the art-world were just a noise in the background. Meanwhile there was a great deal happening in painting. In accepting the “arcane” and “esoteric” precepts of Modernism, I had relinquished the experiential aspect of painting, the experience of expressing the subject at hand or trying to understand the world around me through painting. I have come to believe that the truth is what exists in the moment and just painting the various complexities of life, my life could become the means to my truth. I am trying to return to this one day at a time, step by step. The choices I make in subject matter are meant to express my moment in time, stripped of pretension and dogma, put down in paint, carved out of the surface painted, drawn. Drawing is not painting; painting is not drawing, but together through them an image can emerge and possibly “suggest through paint…an odor of crushed strawberries” (Kaprow).
The language of painting has changed dramatically in recent years. It has become much stronger in many ways. The formal issues confronted by contemporary painting are more exclusive to painting and not necessarily shared by other media such as sculpture, installation, or video. This dialogue resurrected out of the death of painting alluded to by Allan Kaprow in his eulogy for Jackson Pollock. The paintings of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha speak in a different way than the more contemporary work of Martin Kippenberger, Peter Doig, and Dana Shutz. They may be saying some of the same things but they are using a totally different language.
I wanted to paint in a more figurative manner and express a narrative and personal philosophy and ultimately understand painting on a new level. A whole new language had developed in painting and I wanted to learn it. Recently, I set about wanting to at least understand what it was that I did not know. So I chose to work with an artist whose work reflected a focus on conventional skills and formal issues. The exploration of the surface of the painting and the arrangement of my subject became immensely important to me. Painting from direct observation and setting up dynamic still life arrangements became pivotal to my process as did creating heavily textured canvases, making the paint sculptural and carving the images themselves out of paint. By using both brush strokes and scraped-in lines, drawing and re-drawing the image somehow making it exist there more than if it were merely put down once. I was exploring the picture plane and coming to terms with the vastness of space on the picture plane and the negative space surrounding these objects. At this time I chose to concentrate on one subject arranged in a variety of ways.
image 7 image 8
I felt I would understand subject better by exploring it from a number of perspectives. This also became an exercise to produce a number of drawings and studies as preliminary to the paintings.
image 9 image 10 image 11
The artist Giorgio Morandi’s work was extremely important to me at this time. I was inspired by the silence and subtlety expressed by Morandi in his many paintings of virtually the same subject confronted numerous times. It is like listening to the same song over and over again. There is so much more there each time one listens or looks again. The gentle color gradations and tonal changes in Morandi’s paintings are powerful and intense, forcing the viewer to look and then slow down to ponder what he was actually trying to say. Morandi’s subjects--vases, bowls, and bottles--were somewhat benign and yet this apparent domesticity seems altered by his intention. Why this subject? Why these objects? Why these arrangements? Is it possible that Morandi only intended to explore his subjects from a purely formal perspective? Understanding what is there, the objects, the space around the objects, the color, the values and the composition itself, this is in a way the sound of silence, but a loud silence, a consistency and a lack of human presence. These objects are so obviously there only to be painted. This is not a scene interrupted and portrayed for any other reason. This exists only to be painted.
Many of the concerns and issues that I confronted at this time were similar.
image 12 image 13
image 14 image 15
My question in looking at Morandi’s work was-how does this work relate to my current interests? How is this relevant to my work? My initial grappling with formal issues needed my total concentration and attention as an artist. I felt that I needed to understand the language of painting to be able to say all the things that I wanted to say and understand all the things that I wanted to understand. I wanted to somehow fill up myself with this object and somehow fill up the canvas with me. A small task - Ha! Now is probably the time to point out that I had it in mind to express everything that I have ever felt (socially and politically…) in each and every painting. Also, to be correct in the manner in which I chose to paint them!!!!!! Slowly I began to be intrigued by simply painting. Simply understanding what was before me and around me and not so engrossed in whether my method was right or wrong.
While I was grappling with the degree of formal skill and consideration that I wanted to achieve and maintain in my work the artist Philip Guston’s name came up repeatedly in my critiques with my mentor, the artist, Tim Peck. My question at the time was always how far did I want to immerse myself and my work in these formal issues? After looking at the history of painting I find that an immersion in formalism is a foregone conclusion for a painter as it constitutes the act of painting itself. Philip Guston turned to more figurative and pictorial narrative work after an initial period of abstraction. Guston in many ways served as a bridge between Abstract Expressionism and Pop and then Postmodern painting. The figurative impulse that culminated in the art of the Eighties and Nineties can clearly be seen beginning in the late work of Guston.
Another artist whose work was influential for me at this time was the painter Wayne Thiebaud. His paintings of ordinary objects initially have the flat look and “objective” appearance of commercial art. In reality they have areas of heavy impasto and upon closer inspection, the brushwork has been deliberately left or made apparent. It is obvious that this is a painting meant to be a painting. Cakes painted as though with frosting, slices of pie oozing with filling coming off the canvas, pinball machines that nearly sound as loud as they look. The studied confidence with which Thiebaud applies the paint denies the slapdash, splashes of color that are actually assembled on his canvases. Reproductions of Thiebaud’s work are inadequate in conveying their painterly and gestural immediacy. This is a painting not a photograph, and needs to be seen as a painting. So, in his own way Thiebaud’s painting is painting about painting.
The plurality and lack of universals and constraints that is so much a part of contemporary art is in many ways the rumbling reaction over time to the rigid dogmatic theories of Modernism. Everything that has transpired since has been “post”- Pop, Minimalism, Conceptualism, Neo-Expressionism. It may be that history repeats itself or simply that somewhere there is a recurring need to say something about one’s moment by portraying it through the banal and ordinary objects of the everyday. A common theme of both Pop art and Postmodern art is often the representation of consumer goods or still life--Pop, Postmodern still life.
There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he looked upon, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years. Walt Whitman
Still life… still… stillness…portraying humanity and humanness in the stillness of the flat canvas. What is it that the artist wants to portray in a still life? Is it the humbleness of everyday life, the grandeur of opulence or almost always the impermanence of time and life? How long is it still for? Only while the painter paints, only for this moment? The challenge of interpreting various aspects of today’s culture and portraying those aspects in my work is tremendous. To do so, I use the objects in my everyday life, objects that I see all the time and objects that can be understood in more ways than one.
In a symposium about Pop that Peter Selz organized at the Museum of Modern Art in 1963, Hilton Kramer-never a fan-made the following statement:
Pop art does not tell us what it feels like to be living through the present moment of civilization; it is merely part of the evidence of that civilization. Its social effect is simply to reconcile us to a world of commodities, banalities and vulgarities which is to say, an effect indistinguishable from advertising art. 12
This statement obviously predates Ways of Seeing by John Berger, in which he
draws a parallel between the imagery in art and the advertising world:
Compare the images of publicity and paintings in this book, or take a picture magazine, or a walk down a smart shopping street looking at the window displays, and then turn over the pages of an illustrated museum catalogue, and notice how similarly messages are conveyed by the two media. A systematic study needs to be made of this. 13
This comparison has in fact been done to death in the 30 years since. For instance Dave Hickey: “Art, must not be mistaken with idolatry and advertising, but idolatry and advertising are, indeed art, and the greatest works of art are always and inevitably a bit of both.” 14
Some evidence and some idolatry
I can remember the smell of coffee throughout my childhood. The scent of fresh coffee brewing wafting through clouds of cigarette smoke…adults arguing about politics, issues of the day…the adults, the grown-ups, the coffee drinkers, A & P coffee, “Chock full of Nuts” (so heavenly). Coffee drinking has become a very different experience today and symbolizes much more than it did in the past. Nicolas Bourriaud discussing the “social bond” of relationships being commodified says in Relational Aesthetics:
So here we are summoned to talk about things around a duly priced drink,
as a symbolic form of contemporary human relations. You are looking for
shared warmth, and the comforting feeling of well being for two? So try our
coffee… The space of current relations is thus the space most severely affected
by general reification. The relationship between people, as symbolized by goods
or replaced by them, and signposted by logos, has to take on extreme and
clandestine forms, if it is to dodge the empire of predictability. The social bond
has turned into a standardized artifact. 15
In another way and from a purely marketing perspective, from the book No Logo by Naomi Klein referring to the popularity of “branding” and citing a discussion at a marketing meeting at Starbucks:
With Starbucks we see how coffee has woven itself into the fabric of people’s lives, and that’s our opportunity for emotional leverage…A great brand raises the bar-it adds a greater sense of purpose to the experience, whether it’s the challenge to do your best in sports and fitness or the affirmation that the cup of coffee you’re drinking really matters. 16
Drinking coffee is not as simple as it once was, Cappuccino, Latte, Caramel Latte, flavored coffees. The Starbucks drinkers vs. the Dunkin Donuts drinkers. In many ways this has become a cliché. It’s a political thing or a class thing, but not just a cup of coffee anymore.
The image of the paper cup or Styrofoam cup of coffee that was once only present at the summer picnic, blood drive, political speech, AA meeting, and pot luck dinner is all over the streets and highways. Today our fast-food, disposable culture so hurriedly on its way, ironically leaves a trail of non-biodegradable Styrofoam litter that will last until the end of time. These are the icons of our age that replace the fruit, flowers, wine bottles, freshly killed game that were portrayed in still life paintings in the past. Icons that represent our time and that are understood and say something to today’s viewer in a way that a bowl of fruit, a vase of flowers would not. The vanitas still life painting that spoke of the impermanence of life and the constant presence of death was readily understood by the viewers of the past. The symbols embedded into the vanitas are illegible to the contemporary viewer. The “branding” that is so much a part of contemporary culture would not have been possible without the preponderance of consumerism that defines late-capitalist society. AsJulian Stallabrass states:
Postmodern theory itself, as it moved from being an account of a potential utopia or dystopia to being a flat description of an existing reality, lost its critical and ethical force. In its reduced state, consumerism and the supposed empowerment of the shopper were central to postmodernism’s disquisitions. 17
Contemporary simulacra, signs and symbols are as much a part of art in today’s culture as they are a part of mass media and the advertising industry. For instance, it is taken for granted that Dunkin Donuts can appropriate the colors orange and pink for mass marketing of their coffee brand. By “appropriate”, I mean the manner in which they somehow claim “ownership” over the colors orange and pink to the extent that a novel advertising campaign recently focused on the sale of “orange and pink” bracelets for the Hurricane Katrina victims. The orange and pink immediately identifiable with the Dunkin Donuts brand. Their recent ad campaign, however, goes one step further by creating an immediately recognizable hieroglyphic-like message-
It is probably naïve of me to say that this bothers me. Perhaps it would be better to say that it intrigues and fascinates me. Discussing this with high school students it was a revelation to discover that they assume that this is natural. The constant media hype and on-slaught of images and messages is simply part of the way it is. The way the world is today. These may seem like benign images but they represent the values and concerns of today.
I was initially caught up in the narrative aspect in my painting. An obsessive and nearly addictive urgency overcame me and in a somewhat caffeinated-like flourish I became mesmerized by expressing this subtle although seemingly benign substance abuse. The addictive quality of caffeine that is somehow taken for granted in our society and manifests itself regularly among all ages of our community. Cast off Styrofoam cups that line the highways and streets as evidence of a corporate mass marketing success that we not only tolerate but consume gleefully. This symbol of post-modern extravagance was intriguing and fascinating to me and somehow just a little addictive too.
So, why paint?
All the things I want to express in my work could be said equally well in any form, not necessarily painting. So why paint? This is the means that I have chosen to explore and express visually the things that matter to me. I have come to the conclusion that it, the narrative, my narrative will be there regardless of whether I consciously put it there or not. This has made me more focused on saying what I want to say about the object that I am painting. Also, somewhere along this journey it has become clear to me that it is possible to understand the world and myself through painting, to somehow recover a sense of being and a sense of self through painting. Many of the issues that I have dealt with on the canvas are oddly the same ones I deal with in life-the need for control, structure, the need to let go of preconceived notions, the need to stay in the moment. It’s ironic to realize that neither my lack of formal training nor my earnest efforts to learn what a “real” artist needs to know are really the main issue. James Elkins expresses this well:
I hope to be flexible, to think in as liquid a way as I can, and even to risk incoherence. And above all, I want to continue to change-I do not wish to remain the same jaded eye that I was a moment ago. Art is among the experiences I rely on to alter what I am. 18
I am presently working with Ruth Dealy, a painter based in Providence, Rhode Island. Ruth has been plagued with vision disabilities throughout her life and was even temporarily blind for a brief period. Yet she has always persevered and continued to paint. As she frequently says: “If you have to do it, then you just have to do it.” Her conviction and determination coupled with the fact that I really like her work were some of the reasons I sought her out as a mentor. It is inspiring to talk about painting with someone who obviously does not take vision for granted. However, along with the many valuable suggestions, recommendations and insights she had to offer me, the most valuable was this: “A good painting is 5% ability and the rest is truth.” And a big part of the truth is-painting is painting.
Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
1. Williams, Heather C. Drawing as a Sacred Activity.California: New World Library, 2002, 9.
2. Lopez-Remiro, M., ed. Writings on Art: Mark Rothko.New Haven: YaleUniversity Press, 2005, 28.
3. Gallery Guide (2003), The Last Expression: Art and Auschwitz. DavisMuseum and Cultural Center, WellsleyCollege
4. McEvilley, Thomas. Sculpture in the Age of Doubt.New York: Allworth Press, 1999, 3.
5. Stallabrass, Julian. Art Incorporated.Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press, 2004, 151.
6. Duncan, Carol. The Aesthetics of Power:Essays in Critical Art History.New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993, xi.
7. Ferguson, Russell, ed. Hand-Painted Pop;American Art in Transition 1955-62. New York: International Publications, 1993, 19.
8. Ibid., 80.
9. Battock, Gregory, ed. The New Art.New York: E.P. Dutton &Co., Inc., 1966, 15.
10. Antin, David. “Allan Kaprow, 1927-2006.” Art in America. June/July 2006, 53.
11. Staniszewki, Mary Anne. Believing is Seeing: Creating the Culture ofArt. New York: Penguin Books, 1995, 193.
12. Ferguson, Russell, ed. Hand-Painted Pop;American Art in Transition 1955-62.New York: International Publications, 1993, 117.
13. Berger, John. Ways of Seeing.New York: Penguin Books, 1972, 138.
14. Hickey, Dave. The Invisible Dragon. LA: Art Issues Press, 1995, 11.
15. Bourriaud, Nicolas. Relational Aesthetics. Paris: les presses du reel, 2002, 9.
16. Klein, Naomi. No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies.New York: Picador, 1999, 21.
17. Stallabrass, Julian. Art Incorporated.Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press, 2004, 78.
18. Elkins, James. The Object Stares Back.New York: Simon & Shuster, 1996, 41.
1. Red Spot 1975
acrylic on canvas 36” x 48”
2. Green Ramapo Painting 1972
acrylic on canvas 4’ x 8’
3.Untitled Indian Red and Blue Painting 1973
acrylic paint on canvas 5’ x 6’
4. Shield Painting/Defeat 1993
acrylic and canvas 16” x 28”
5. Shield Painting/Triumph 1993
acrylic and canvas 25” x 15”
6. Mango Orange & Clancy Blue 2002
acrylic paint, fabric and canvas 4’ x 4’
7. Untitled Cups 2005
oil on canvas 30” x 40”
8.Untitled Cups 2005
oil on canvas 30” x 40”
oil on paper approximately 18” x 24”
10. Cups 2005
oil on paper approximately 18” x 24”
11. 12.Cups Drawing 2005
charcoal on paper 18” x 24”
12. Giorgi Morandi
Still Llife 1947
oil on canvas
13. Giorgi Morandi
Still Life 1947
oil on canvas
14. Dunkin Donuts Still Life 2005
oil on canvas 24” x 30”
15. Pink Cups 2006
oil on masonite 9” x 9”
16. contact sheet numerous cups and media
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Foster, Hal, ed. The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays in Postmodern Culture.New York: The New Press, 1998.
Hopkins, David. After Modern Art 1945-2000. Oxford: the OxfordUniversity Press, 2000.
Saatchi Gallery, “The Triumph of Painting” London: Jonathon CapeRansom House, 2005.
Schwabsky, Barry (intro). Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting.New York: Phaidon Press, 2002.
Twitchell, James B. Branded Nation:The Marketing of Megachurch, College Inc., and Museumworld. New York: Simon & Shuster, 2004.
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