Finishing my painting under the watchful eye of my toughest critic, my daughter Florence.
Cindy Tower, making it look easy.
Today I participated in a group performance which was organized by artist Cindy Tower. It consisted of thirty two painters and musicians facing off in a spectacle of improvised music and plein air portraits. The event was hosted in conjunction witht the Contemporary Art Museum’s “Open Studio” program. People showed up and the rain stayed away, so we’ll call that a successful event. The artists may reconvene at a later date to exhibit the finished works together.
I’ve spent the last week or so building stretchers, stretching the canvases, and priming the new surfaces. It is a process that I now enjoy, but that was not the case when I was first learning how to do the work. It seemed like a waste of time when I wanted to get on with the activity of painting. Then one of my professors, Barbara Duval, explained to me that the time spent preparing the surface was valuable time for giving thought to what might happen on that surface. I put that into practice. These days the plot has thickened– my impulse for making the painting comes first, and I determine the dimensions/proportions to suit that vision. As I begin making the stock for the stretcher bars, I am already, in effect, making the painting.
Ten years ago my wife Christine was good enough to buy The Mooring of Starting Out, The First Five Books of Poetry by John Ashbery for me as a Christmas present. As I was scraping the ground across a large canvas this week, I found myself pondering the contradiction built into that title. I often find myself at odds with Ashbery’s work, but it is only because he refuses to do what I want him to do. I enjoy his work for the same reason. Our points of agreement are more often individual lines than complete poems. And so it was with this title, The Mooring of Starting Out. It felt appropriate to the work at hand, that I would stop painting in order to start painting. It is strange, and suitable.
Christine keeps busy with the camera, Florence loves the water, and I can't stop collecting
Yesterday we returned to our home after our annual trip to the east coast. We relaxed for a week at the beach in NC before heading to the woods in SC. We look forward to these trips as an opportunity to catch up with our family, but they are also one of the most inspirational and productive times of the year for us. Christine has been pursuing documentary photography projects at both locations for the last six years, and the project in SC is one where we collaborate. More on that later.
I have included four images of some of my inspirations from the trip. This year I was really taken by the worm-eaten remnants of shells, which have many of the characteristics of Chinese scholar’s rocks in miniature. I settled for photographs in most cases, as I am trying to be increasingly selective about what I drag back to my studio. I was also able to dig up some nice additions to my rock collection from the fill dirt around my parent’s property. I am considering the purchase of a few tons next year just so that I can sort through it for treasures. There are always potholes on the lane that need filling, after all.