The "Comforter" series as a whole -
4 canvases W X 5 H above; and 5 W X 4 H below:
Comforter 18 (2013) oil/canvas, 11" X 14". The entire completed series is here.
Over the last several rainy days water has seeped into my basement office/library, and my keyboard garbled its functions (but who am I to judge?). Some unprotected papers had, unbeknownst to me, slid from a rolling file surface and are now scattered in the studio drying. Hardly tragic, but I was delayed editing the final 5 images in the Comforter series. Getting caught up in the boat studies diverted me too, but much more productively so.
The works did have a couple of months to start curing, though, and that's useful for documenting them accurately. The first 12 of the 20-piece series are still at a small loan exhibition on Capitol Hill. My goal is to see them shown as a tightly gathered group, organized as the source materials were. There's potential for that which I must help along a bit. I have, as I've mentioned, 20 identical Utrecht ready-made canvases. I was thinking of exploring the quilt panels further on the new supports, but the boat series is calling them. Insistently.
Before I tackle the little ones, I'll work on, and likely complete, the bigger painting conceived for my rehabbed 30" X 40" surface. I need an expansion of gesture, and of my back.
n mid-December I began collecting reference images for future works and put them in a folder titled Onward. The next series of works, now in the planning stages, will bear that name too.
Another 30" X 40" older painting lightly sanded and ready for a new composition. Minor abrasions are part of growth.
My friends P and C are lovingly restoring a vintage boat, and documenting the project in a series of exquisite photos. In many of them the vessel is depicted in close detail as it's undergone extensive overhauling of hull, fittings, mechanics, and finishes. Here she is being moved into position at the beginning of the process.
The images are so compelling that I've collected them - after discourse with Paul - as springboards for future paintings. I'm beginning by playing with the original images in Photoshop. Here are 2 of the results.
I digitally recanvas, crop, distort, brush, smear, smudge, tint, filter, and what have you till I feel I'm getting somewhere. I've never used Photoshop this way before but it felt right this time. All the photos of the project thus far are here.
I'm seeking painting language conveying vessel, motion (arrested and free), fluidity, compartments within vastness, projection and wake, etc. that's congruent with my practice, without being rigid or rote. I'm re-introducing curvilinear forms into my repertoire as well. The weightlessness of the digital studies gives me absolute freedom to do whatever weird garish unaccustomed incoherent thingy I wish, and at the same time the control of precisely and instantly altering the outcome via the editing tools I mentioned earlier. I won't begin to answer many questions until I begin moving actual paint around, but I knew that already.
Anything screaming oh, how cute, Michael is painting boats is to be avoided at all costs.
Whatever works arise will be, like the Comforter series, altered radically from source material anyway. I feel really pushed to paint from the boat photographs, but matters nautical are not deeply woven into my biography. Considerations of what connects me to the subject, besides the appeal of the forms, are paramount.
Well, I know the heart, vision, and labor inherent in the preservation of a beloved artifact, and of transforming both object and reverence for it into the work. So far, that's it. Moving deeper into dialog with the boat's owners is furnishing some clues, though. The first working title of the series, Navigation, connotes moving into the unaccustomed. Flying blind is another over-used but spot-on metaphor. I'm no stranger to either, certainly. It's odd that the first photo of the sanded canvas, taken before I conceived the series, looks like the bow of a ship. I'm reasonably assured for now that it's not that of a metaphorical Titanic.
I'm an odd mix of "never enough" and being ecstatically grateful for the smallest gift. Stan's cooking has freed up a number of metal cans and glass jars over the last couple of weeks. I love love love getting a new oil-paint-friendly vessel for the studio. Did I mention that I'm insanely grateful for new cans and glass jars? The studio is cleaned and organized more thoroughly that it's been in months. How that small room concealed a giant bag of old clothes for the rag pile, several canvases, and various other supports, tools, etc. I have no idea. I managed to clear a 3" X 4" flat work area, create safe little platforms for work to cure, throw out fossilized medium in irreparably clogged containers, and finds missing lids for - wait for it - several glass jars. I now know know exactly what fresh supplies I need. At the moment, none.
In other news, around the first of the month, I resumed a gym routine primarily for flexibility, burning fat, and seriously tending to the chronic left hip soreness. This beginning is rather in fits and starts but I go back tomorrow or early Tuesday. n the evenings after the gym, my left leg is very cranky. Sustained evening walkabouts will have to wait for a bit. But when I wake up next day there's a little less pain and more mobility. I'm managing to avoid bellowing and cursing freely during my half-hour sessions on the foam roller. Increments, increments.
I've missed a couple of February's Art Walk Thursdays, as the damp chill makes my leg feel prehistoric. Fortunately, I expect to be much more mobile in a couple of weeks. March brings a round of new works and an opening at Roq la Rue Gallery of a group show titled Infusion. Zachari Logan, whom I've not head of before, will be among those showing. After seeing these drawings, one from the gallery's Facebook page, the other from the artist's website, I have to get to this show.
Title unknown (2012-2013). The gallery showed this image on their FB page and, sadly, gave no other information. Logan chose not, as far as I can tell, to include this drawing on his site. It must be, judging from similar works in 3 recent series, in the same medium as this one.
Wildman 3 (2013) blue pencil on mylar, 22" x 42".
Blue pencil on mylar. Seriously. More info and other examples of his amazing work can be found here. Below is a gorgeous detail image from the Hi-Fructose link. Apparently, in his new Eunuch Tapestry Series Logan is working with pastel, which cannot be fixed onto the mylar as it can on paper, making for an incredibly fragile surface. However, the photos in this post are all, according to my sources, rendered in blue pencil.
I have many, many faults, but I cannot envy talent rigorously exercised and applied. Admiration is a far easier place to occupy.
I was not yet 15 when I first heard Rod Stewart's 1976 release The Killing of Georgie (video embedded below) on my grandmother's radio in Meridian, MS. By that time I was quite aware I was gay, but I'd never encountered any reference so public as to who I was, except for a fairly objective 1972 article in Collier's Yearbook about the increasing visibility of queers. Oh, I almost forgot about the pertinent pages in Abnormal Psychology. The Boys in The Band was a bit before my time.
My readings indicate that the song was based on the life and death of a friend of Stewart's. Perhaps then it can be spared consignment to the queers always die category. Incidents like this were and are a stark fact of life. Though the story indicates that the murders were robberies gone bad, there's a subtext that G and his lover were an easy mark given their arm-in-arm (publicly affectionate) walk home.
Part of me experienced the song as a perfectly credible, almost sadly ordinary, narrative. My experience with shaming, harassment, and assault had prepared me. I was also dimly conscious - now clearly so - that I was witnessing an extraordinary and risky departure from earlier rock and pop.
Stewart got tons of critical flak, of course, for releasing Georgie. An uglier anecdotal incident was the spreading of a rumor that, after a backstage orgy, Stewart was rushed to the hospital to have his stomach pumped because it was so full of...
This was a running joke at my high school. I had no idea at the time why. Now I do. I can't be sure of this, but I have a strong sense that, if a tune of like impact were released today (adjusted for contemporary shifts in both activism and public awareness) it would be banned from many stations in my birth state. For all I know, Meridian - nicknamed, ironically, The Queen City, may have been a special case.
I don't state this as a point of pride - see the fifth sentence in this paragraph for the reason. I just didn't. I witnessed quite a few reactions, though, on various social and other media, over the last couple of days: a torrent of commentary slamming this or that performer, band, or writer, discussions closer to home about how (primarily) visual artists deal with peers who achieve a certain kind of success, and, on a more general but local note, feelings pro and con about hometown or civic pride. This last item pertains mainly to the Seattle Seahawks playoff/Superbowl thingy. Though the practice of disdain is detrimental to my character - and is unflattering to others - I'm hardly a football maven. I merely add this category for completeness' sake.
My next words spring from 23 years as a working artist and 31 years as a student, by necessity, of my own behavior and motives. The latter lends itself to, in fact, demands, the cultivation of a keen (but not infallible) observation of other individuals and contexts. Everything I denote below, I've seen within myself first, at times to an ugly extent meriting regret and amends.
While genuine critique is the - intended, at least - spine of many of the statements I've read, in a number of cases the motives are cloudy or downright dirty. Bitterness, envy, cynicism-as-costume, the desire to elevate oneself, brandish one's sophistication, to belong to a group or to proclaim oneself an iconoclast (please, not again) taint many a discourse. Again, remember that I've been and am still vulnerable to the employment of these devices. To say I've been guilty of conduct unbecoming is a huge understatement.
I'm fully aware that the concept of success has been institutionalized and grossly manipulated by myopic and avaricious cultural, economic, and political forces, all in service, one way or another, to oligarchy, and that the resulting pressure f*cks with people. If you think I don't get this, and have no experience struggling with it, or feeling absolutely beaten down by it, meet me for coffee and we'll have a talk. A long one.
I issued a general statement to my wider acquaintance on FB yesterday, but it bears repeating, even if just to remind myself.
Yes, maybe so-and-so doesn't deserve this/is a whore/makes crap...AND? Y'all do kick-ass art/music/other stuff. I know this to be true. Crank out some more magnificence. I can't wait to witness it, and I'm not alone in my anticipation. Don't shut up - be critical as hell. My own path indicates, however, that criticizing and critiquing are related, but not synonymous.
Who says you should be happy? Do your work. - Colette.
And good folks besides. Allyce Wood and I met in undergrad and have been friends since. In fact, she was one of the people that formed our small wedding party. She's at least 25 years younger than I and already has an excellent reputation in Seattle and elsewhere. Meticulous, imaginative, and devoted in the studio, bright, funny, and kind in person.
Petal Stockpile (2013) - Watercolor on paper.
Oil is a million times more forgiving than watercolor. The dimensions are not in the website text, but I've seen a number of similar works and none of them are large - the biggest around 24" X 30", the smallest 9" X 12" or so. Respect.
I met Juan Alonso-Rogriguez in person at this gallery, after several enjoyable snippets of interaction on Facebook, though we already had many mutual friends - in actual time and space as well as socially...well...mediated.
Mine (2011) - Acrylic & steel shavings on wood panel, 36" X 72".
His practice has a very wide range, which is always a pleasure for me to see. I look forward to getting to know his very stylish, witty self and his work better over time. He recently published this gorgeous book of photographs from an excursion to his native Cuba. Over the 10 years I've been in Seattle I've gradually seen more and more unapologetic chroma in work. Then again, if something looks like a 1970's designer sheet, I tend to bypass it.
Sheet by the immortal Vera Neumann. In fact, I said some years ago, to a friend who understood the reference, I keep expecting to see Vera's signature in the bottom right corner.
Rodriguez was exhibiting in conjunction with the fabulous Laura Castellanos. We'd not laid eyes on each other in at least a couple of years but had renewed our acquaintance via FB for a couple of months before we re-met at the show.
BIrd on a Wire - charcoal, acrylic, latex and oil pain on drop cloth, 70" X 50". From the Assorted Idols series.
No gesso, no concern about eternal durabiity: the mediums will sink deeper into the fibers, altering the piece over a much shorter time span than a museum timetable.
She and I certainly weren't at a loss for lively discourse; we also both admitted to being serious introverts in many situations. It's been my experience that introverts often converse easily, with an animation and volubility belying stereotype. Perhaps the secret is in the pairing. Neither is going to stare at/cajole/be perplexed at the other for not providing eternally bigger/louder/faster/more discourse.
As time passes, I'm focusing more on the people, places, and actions that are truly and mutually enriching.
Loneliness is not longing for company, it is a longing for kind. And kind means people who can see who you are, and that means they have enough intelligence and sensitivity and patience to do that. It also means they can accept you, because we don’t see what we can’t accept, we blot it out, we jam it hastily in one stereotypic box or another. Marilyn French, The Women's Room, 1978.
Some on my friends list are already aware of the recent series of entries, starting here, covering the last couple of months' worth of life and practice. For those who are not, and readers who follow the link on my main website to get here, I've culled the new blog posts from a medley of Facebook and Flickr updates, process notes and photos, and conversation, online and off, with fellow artists, family, and friends. I also wished to cite the work of a few talented colleagues whom I've not yet mentioned.
Now, everything I thought reasonably pertinent and (I hope) interesting can be found in one place.
I'm also in the midst of making sure external sites like this one are up-to-date with regards to inventory and titling. As I note here, one of the Comforter series was completely reworked, and, it being the very last to complete, assigned a new number. Pieces finished earlier got new numbers....simply put, #16-20 (the last 5 works) are done and the re-ordering of the series is causing a small Butterfly Effect throughout my documentation.
Flap, flap, flap, flappity flap. It beats floundering. Ciao for now, Gentle Readers.
Utrecht, a favorite art supply store, was bought last fall by larger purveyor of same Dick Blick. Luckily, as the Blick brand ready-made canvases employ much flimsier stretcher bars than their new acquisition, the U-brand products will continue to be sold in-store and (in more abundance) online for the foreseeable future. I took advantage of a recent sale and 20 more 11" X14" deep-sided critters sit in a corner of the studio.
As I wrote earlier, though I'm done with the original series of 20 Comforters, the source photos invite new composition ideas. It's also possible I could go off on a tangent yet unknown to me. What I'm quite sure of is that the new works won't be titled Discomforter 1...etc.
Well, here we are. The month is flying by and the days are lengthening. It's been an odd couple of weeks or so. Stan came down with what turned out to be pneumonia starting around Jan. 6 - fortunately, he was able to stay home and recover after Dr. C's diagnosis and a stiff round of antibiotics I looked after him, and fussed and worried as subliminally as I could since it's not conducive to a patient getting much rest. By the 12th he was well enough (so he said) to go back to the office, taking it very easy at first. He's now nearly back to his old self, fortunately.
The small paintings are dry enough to be photographed, and then hung in the studio to clear surfaces. The Seattle Erotic Art Festival announced a call for art & I may take them up on it. Should I accept this challenge, I'm torn between making a big abstract with erotically rich tones and interlocking (wrestling?) forms, and diving back into extravagant figuration. I would be working these themes anyway so I needn't wig about the outcome being "extra special" I tend to shy away from making shitty work - at least as far as what I present publicly. Of course, I have to generate some (or a lot of) what I will call oddities behind the scenes. A. Lot. A propos:
When I put the last stroke on the Comforter paintings in December, I scraped together piles of leftover paint on the palette, and distributed it, with the pigment still embedded in brush bristles, onto a a rather mediocre figure study from early undergrad on 11" X 14" canvas board. No, I don't know either. 2 more of these (from Cornelia's studio stock), a 30" X 40" oil, and possibly a 36" X 48" ancient acrylic in line for recycling. I keep forgetting I have a decent stock of large achival paper heavy enough to gesso and paint over, and maybe one more 20" X 20" canvas to cannibalize.
I don't want for other supplies, certainly. Stan gave me sable for Christmas - as in an assortment of red sable detail brushes and a couple of medium brights. Some would say I only deserve hog bristles - well, I got those too. I've been using the same liner brush since 2006 so to have 3 now to choose from is heaven. Under my care brushes live a long time - I only toss them in extreme cases - but not forever. A few staple 150ml tubes and some smaller ones of what I call "boutique hues" completely stuffed an already very fat metaphorical stocking.
The small paintings are dry enough to be photographed, and then hung in the studio to clear surfaces. The Seattle Erotic Art Festival announced a call for art & I may take them up on it. Should I accept this challenge, I'm torn between making a big abstract with erotically rich tones and interlocking (wrestling?) forms, and diving back into extravagant figuration. I would be working these themes anyway so I needn't wig excessively about the outcome.
Last weekend I checked to make sure my face works. Yep, still there. The eyelids are wide open.
Not for long. Goodnight, folks.