Monday, November 12, 2012

the object

most of my painting involves obliterating the object. I rely on visual stimuli from nature, but then boil it long enough that only a few of the strongest ingredients remain.

but sometimes, and usually in my drawing practice, I long for representing actual objects. it could just be a reaction to all of that loose, slapdashery that is my typical painting process, but the draw is strong none the less.

yesterday, here in Astoria, we walked by this dilapidated machine part (no idea what it is or was) sitting in the river just off the bank. it is probably twenty feet tall, and it is fantastically animated. it is like a sad, tired old robot that has been left in the sea to die. it reminds me of Rouault's Old King or the moon-skiing robot from Wallace and Gromit. sad and beautiful and funny (Rouault's king isn't funny... just sad and beautiful)

anyway, I felt compelled to draw this thing this morning.

Friday, November 2, 2012

the bravest artist

philip guston was certainly the bravest artist of the 20th century.  in the 50's and 60's he was creating these fantastic abstract paintings that put him in the ring with Pollock and De Kooning.  his dealer loved them, collectors loved them, and critics loved them.  they were challenging and original.  he was at the pinnacle of success in every way imaginable.

Philip Guston, "Dial", 1956
but then he starts painting like this.

Philip Guston, "By the Window", 1969

everyone tells him he has lost it.  even his artist friends ridicule him.  and yet he perseveres and continues to paint these incredible, shocking images for the next decade.  critics panned the first public exhibition of these paintings in 1970. imagine what was going through his mind.  imagine the conversations around the dinner table with his wife.  does he go back to what was "successful" in the past?  has he made a terrible error of judgement? 




and thankfully, ultimately, the paintings came to be understood and embraced by many as among the best of their day.

for his bravery he is one of my heroes.  i pray that i can muster the courage to be so honest in my work, in the face of everything that strives to conform it to expectations.  "define success", as my friend Kurt says.