50 Northwest Artists

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I purchased a book at Third Place Books when I went there about a month ago that is called 50 Northwest Artists.

It’s a book that I looked at a lot in my 20s, and it was something that I think I felt was going to be my life. When I saw the Fay Jones show a month ago, I kind of felt the same way. What I think I am getting at is these people made art and lived a quiet life and it worked out. Now, I feel like it is impossible to do that with out the chaos of keeping up with the internet, going to all of the openings, keeping up with your peers, giving a shit about what is going on in New York, and the Frieze Art Fair. I couldn’t even read the brief article in Vanity Fair about Frieze. It is apparent that no matter how I try, I don’t care.

Originally when I wanted to paint again, it was with the thought of returning to painting the flowers in my backyard, painting Bonnard-esque domestic scenes that are not trying to impress anyone. Joan Mitchell. Although sadly she did care.

When i bought that book, I wanted to meditate on what it originally meant to me to want to be an artist and I guess almost will myself back there.

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Daybooks

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I started reading Anne Truitt’s Daybook again. I feel as if I’ve never set eyes on her writing before. Actually Amazon has packaged her three books into one e-reader, so I am wondering if I started in the wrong place. I know I have read at least two of her books.

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Back when I was a young artist, which sounds ridiculously mythical, the Ellensburg City library and the world of literature at large did not offer much documentation on female artists. The only other person that comes to mind is Judy Chicago. It would be really interesting to go back into my own journals to see what is the case (Editor: interesting only to you most likely).

In the book I’m reading currently, Truitt is writing from Yaddo at the age of 53. She has just had a retrospective put together with Walter Hopps (I would not known of either Yaddo or Hopps the first time I read the book). As Ken Johnson states below, her writing is indeed graceful and composed.

I can’t help but want to know more though. How does one, a divorced woman with three children steal away to the South West and then go make work in Yaddo? What drove her to start making work in the first place (Wikipedia, trusty Cliff Notes tells me she has a degree in psychology). What were her resources? How did she know David Smith? It is possible that was my route to Truitt as well. I see from Wiki that Clement Greenberg championed her, which makes me finally wish to read the Greenberg book.

So many questions. The truth is most artists are not writers and it is still rare to find a document like Truitt left behind of a daily record of her life. Of course, being one who too writes a journal (some years and decades much more than others), I can see the appeal.

I hope my questions are answered after reading the books.
I think I can appreciate minimalism much more now than I could have when I was first reading Daybook.

 

Here is Ken Johnson:

A writer of uncommonly graceful prose much admired for her published journals — “Daybook” (1982), “Turn” (1986) and “Prospect” (1996) — Ms. Truitt described her works in psychological terms. In the catalog essay, Ms. Hileman quotes a revealing passage. Recalling her junior year at Bryn Mawr, Ms. Truitt wrote, “I was obsessed with the idea of MYSELF as a citadel, an inner stronghold for which the experience of my life would on the one hand provide nourishment and other the other build more and more intactly.”

This may explain why works that depart from the stele are less powerful. An anthropomorphic, integrative container of the self, the monolith had a personal significance for Ms. Truitt unlike any other form. She added moldings or crosspieces to some works, but those elements only disrupt the unity of the stele without contributing anything very exciting formally or metaphorically. “Grant” (1974), the only large piece that lies horizontally on the floor, has nicely colored bands of mauve and ochre around it and an additional, short plank on its dorsal side for formal variety, but it has none of the imposing impact of the stand-up works.

Oil paint has gotten more expensive than I thought.

Especially for the good colors.

I like Thursday nights. I pour myself a glass of wine and head out to the studio.

I open the oil mediums for the first time in years. That smell makes me swoon. I used the pliers to open a tube of white paint and make a small  drawing. I think I like working from my sketches, so I need to do more of those.

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On to Duxbury. I need to check the spelling but I am certain those were the tide pools that we went to in Bolinas this summer.

I remember saying while standing there, ‘these are so gorgeous, no artist should or could try to replicate them’. And then they become the marking moment of the trip and I am now trying to think about painting them. Perhaps they are more about people looking for things in the tide pools. It’s almost a bridge to the Radiolaria I guess, as the sea anemones and what ever else is submerged in there were beautiful. The color was awe inspiring.

The whole reason I know about them and the whole reason I fell in love with Anne Lamott’s writing were these very tide pools. There is a passage in Traveling Mercies that takes place there that I need to have right here:

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In August of 1977, Duxberry Reef was green with the crust called lichen, made of algae and fungus; it covered the lava rock like slippery fabric. Lichen is what reduces rock to soil and sand. It was a heathery, sage green.

The tide pools were full of wafting hairline algae and wonderful kelp like emerald green lasagna noodles. You had to be very careful when bending down to inspect the creatures who lived in the pools, or you would fall on your butt. Spikey sea urchinsdug in the crevices of the lava rocks; sea anemones, highly pigmented in August, yellow, pink, deep red, lots of little crabs picking their way through the algae and kelp. The three of us were paying more attention than usual, trying to tether ourselves to the earth, because the world was coming to an end…..that day at Duxberry, pelicans flew so low to the water you’d think their bellies were wet with surf, and there were hundreds of seagulls, cormorants, Arctic terns, geese and ducks and egrets and herons.

Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies, Lichen. (here is the original Salon article that sold me on Lamott)

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I still haven’t written about Diebenkorn. That trip was too, surreal, and I think is going to come out in different places when I am not expecting.

I listened to Tyler’s podcast tonight, he interviewed 75 year old Vija Clemmons. It was a heartbreaking. I wish the art world still let people be like her, not quite sure, not quite confident but so genuine. Her art work is beautiful. I am probably a fan of hers because of Tyler. I really enjoyed hearing her talk to him.

David Park

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I’ve just started reading Nancy Boas book David Park – A Painter’s Life and was excited to see a post about Park on the front front page of The Painter’s Table today, leading to a nice blog entry by Left Bank Art, where writer Carl Belz posts a 1983 essay on a Park exhibition.

Park was a favorite of mine in my early painting years and after seeing the Diebenkorn Berkeley Years exhibit in San Francisco this summer it is hard not to have a restored crush on the Bay Area Figurative painters. Boa’s book is dense and printed in very, very small type which is leading to a slower than usual reading rate, but I am very thrilled to see someone like Park given his due in print. I am a little shocked to find that he died as such a young age (49).

I’m partial to this one:

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David Park, Mother-in-Law, 1954-1955; oil on canvas, 26 in. x 19 1/2 in. (66.04 cm x 49.53 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Collection of Vicki and Kent Logan, fractional and promised gift to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; © Estate of David Park

SourceSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Fischl

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Just listening to Tyler Greene’s podcast interview with Eric Fischl, discussing his new book. Fischl asserts that when he was just getting out of grad school he went through a period of making Diebenkorns. Only a person who studied painting on the West Coast would be familiar. He said Diebenkorn left the door open for other painters, as did DeKoonig, while Pollack and Picasso closed it. I thought that was beautiful and of course agree. I have been thinking a lot about Diebenkorn lately as a painting re-entry.

I thought of another thing while listening to Tyler’s podcast, which is pronunciation. For those of us farm-raised and still wet behind the ears (i.e. don’t live in New York City) the lack of knowledge of correctly pronouncing artists names can be a hilarity.

At any rate, Tyler’s podcast is as thoughtful as his the writing he produces. He is such a champion of art. I’ve been a long standing fan and he, along with Diebenkorn are helping me pick up the pieces here.

Visiting Artist

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When I was at PS1 during my whirlwind stint in New York the days before going South, I came across what become a talisman of sorts for me during the next few weeks. In PS1’s cute little bookstore (new since I had last been there) I found a tiny book by painter Amy Sillman comically enough titled: Visiting Artist.

As time marched on and a bizarre homesickness settled in I found her book strangely comforting. Amy’s own predicaments, laid out in illustrated form develop a slight echo, her version horribly amplified which I found hilarious and true all at once.

Here is a sample:

I SPEND MOST DAYS AND ALL NIGHTS ALONE, EXCEPT FOR THE DOG.

I GIVE A SLIDE TALK ON MY WORK. THE DIRECTOR OF THE PROGRAM SNEAKS OUT EARLY. THE ONLY QUESTIONS AT THE END ARE ABOUT WHAT KIND OF PAINT I USE.

NO ONE SIGNS UP FOR A MEETING. FINALLY A FRESHMAN SIGNS UP BUT IT TURNS OUT HE WANTS ME TO COME TO HIS DORM PARTY AND GET STONED.

I EAT LUNCH WITH A STUDENT WHO ANNOUNCES THAT HE’S A GENIUS AND ASKS ME IF I HAVE ANY CHILDREN YET.

UNHAPPY FACULTY MEMBERS REVEAL THEIR LAMENTS IN THE FACULTY LOUNGE: ISOLATION, DIVORCE, DENIED TENURE, UNDERPAID, STAGNATION. TWO PEOPLE TELL ME SEPARATELY THEY WERE ABDUCTED BY ALIENS.

editorial footnote: I would have killed to have had my dog with me.

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Regency Art Press has also published other cool little books, one by Sean Landers that I almost bought, as they remind me of these Cartoons he used to have posted at Max Fish five million years ago that used to crack me up (one in particular comes to mind completely ridiculing a small baby back pack trend that didn’t look so great on most people). However that day, I left with only my one small purchase.

Being Gustav Klimt

No!

I loved Being John Malkovich, although Malkovich himself I find hard to stomach sometimes (obviously the point of BJM).
I truly love Gustav Klimt’s work, although the poster industry has done a pretty good job of ruining him by sanctioning far too many dorm rooms with The Kiss.

But Malkovich as Klimt, I might not be able to suspend reality long enough. At least they are filming in Vienna. I guess I am coming to this party late as I see now the news about a Klimt movie has been hatched since July 07, 2004 (according to SurfWax).
Film synopsis: A portrait of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt (Malkovich) whose lavish, sexual paintings came to symbolize the art nouveau style of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Footnote– Malkovich is also starring in this year in Art School Confidential, coming to you from the Ghostworld team of Daniel Clowes/Terry Zwigoff.
Film synopsis: Convinced that art school will put him on the path to fame, Jerome (Minghella) must come to terms with his anemic talent, as he watches the girl of his dreams fall in love with another student. Then, strangely, he’s arrested as a suspected murderer – only to discover that crime might actually pay.

PS. Pretty funny Metafilter exhange on Klimt including the dorm room reference I was praying for and and a tip off to the book The Painted Kiss (a genre of books I have resisted so far).

Annotated super footnote, I guess I’m on a roll here. ..I saw an amazing exhibit in 1997 in Amsterdam called Wenen 1900: Portret en interieur that literally gave me goose bumps. Two flights down (this was at the Van Gogh Museum) I had been windy winding my way around the huge crowds out to see Van Gogh, as always- hard. Upon entering the top floor though I found this showcase of Vienna Secession artists , forgetting my irritation as I was literally blown away. There were KlimtsSchielesKokoschkas and many of the not so well knowns such as: MollGerstl,Boeckl.
I have the catalogue which is the only reason my memory is serving me so well at the moment; unfortunately it is in Dutch, which in the last 8 years I have failed to learn. The decorative arts in the exhibit were additionally to die for. A wonderful sense of design went into everything from the mustard pot to your door handle. I’m really such a sucker for this whole era.
When I visited the Neue Gallery in NYC for the first time and saw more art from this same period (including an entire room of Schiele drawings) I had almost the same reaction. I’m sure this has been on my mind lately after reading Roberta of artblog’s posting about her recent visit there. It’s quite the gem of a place if you have any interest in German or Austrian modern art. I would link to their website but it appears to have disappeared.

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I can’t help it, this stuff is still circulating in my brain:

When I got back from my time away someone at work had put this clipping (from one of the NY newspapers) on my desk, only because it was location related. I love how tragedy can be reduced to an irrelevant news blip found at the bottom of the lifestyles section -like“oh by the way“:

She Jumped, as Urged

This is a nation in a hurry,its roaring motorists notoriosly immpatient with any snag. That haste took a particularly dark turn when-in laid back Seattle,no less- a woman climbed onto a highway bridge above a ship canal. While police tried to talk her down,rush-hour drivers were less understanding,taunting her and urging her to jump. After three hours,she did just that. As she began recovering in a hospital,though, a shudder of remorse rippled through the city, and bouquets and cards poured in.

(By the way Moira spoke of this as it happened. I just find the trickle down effect strange and weird,seeing how news items piggy back and get reduced by each other as they travel across the country)

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And I started reading a really great and entertaining book while en route to Seattle, which unfortunately was a little too appropriate considering the subject matter:
Our Band Could Be Your Life  (by Michael Azerrad).
I only got a few chapters in before doing a hand off to a bunch of guys headed to Chicago for the Noc.Emissions showcase, but I am hoping to pick up where I left off next week. A not so earth shattering fact already garnered from said book: Henry Rollins is an only child. Hmmmm.
Mike Watt is fucking hilarious by the way. But you already knew that.
I can only imagine what they will do to regurgitate the past. I hope it isn’t as horrifying as the December 1992 issue of Vogue magazine.And seriously before getting too carried away with all this nostalgia nonsense, I just have to make one last comment regarding the fact that VH1 is running their “Grunge” special next Thursday.

Particularly funny:
Grunge-Where Are They Now File.

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If you are in Chicago tonight,
Kung Pao is playing at the
Double Door.

May 20, 2001

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We can accept the unintelligibility of the world, because in the end it is good. It’s good to be alive. The world is happy. We can open the refrigerator and drink a whole liter of orange juice right out of the carton. How delicious is that!
-Adélia Prado

Awhile back (I think more than a year ago)Bomb Magazine published an interview with Brazilian writer ADÉLIA PRADO, which has haunted me for some time now. Recently I have been frantically looking all over my apartment for this said back issue, and I can’t locate it anywhere.

All is fine though,unbeknownst to myself Bomb has kept its magazine on-line and the archives are plentiful.
I do not know much about Adélia outside what I had read in this article,but her approach to her writing is so lacking in pretense,strangely optimistic and full of humility I have been dying for English translations of her work to surface.

I did find Portuguese sites that contain tributes to her writing. Unfortunately, while it’s truly lucky for all of us now that search engines will run translations for you, I’m afraid as they say, a lot gets lost…. I am wary any eloquentness that might be emptied out of the writing. Fortunately Ellen Watson who sought Adélia out for this article has become the English translator of some her poetry. A book titled:The Alphabet In the Park has been published(edit:which I will undoubtedly be seeking out).

At any rate, this is a wonderful interview between two writers. One reason I felt compelled to seek Adélia Prado out again was by the concise tone she speaks in:

“My concern, my obligation is to reproduce the emotion as faithfully as possible. So I write a poem, and then I read it and say, No,that’s wrong, and then I cut it.

A word of caution for your patience. The Bombsite,bless them,loads rather slowly sometimes, but I recommend sticking with it because I think this is one of those gems.


A little FYI, Bomb’s current issue is up now too and there is a great interview with Wong Kar-wai, whose movie In the Mood For Love, was one of the lovelier cinematic experiences I have had this year.

PS Bomb is also responsible for the discovery of another one of my favorite authors, Jenny Diski, but I will save that for another time.

April 27, 2001

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I can’t get vending machines off my mind. Ever since my friend Susan thought they could be the best money-making scheme since,I don’t know, sliced bread, I’ve had ridiculous visions of coin operated gadgetry dancing in my head. Then I found Raphael Carter’s web site. Like they say, its ALL been done before.

I guess they remind me of what I was really dreaming to find when I moved to NYC. A serviceable Automat. This notion occurred to me from reading the E.L. Konigsburg book From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (a story of two siblings who try to teach their parents a lesson by escaping to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art) too many times as a kid (albeit naive and unknowing of the East coast). They were always eating in Automats. It seemed so exotic. Now so extinct.

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“They went to the Automat and used up a dollar’s worth of Bruce’s nickels. Jamie allotted ten nickels to Claudia and kept ten for himself. Jamie bought a cheese sandwich and coffee. After eating these he still felt hungry and told Claudia she could have twenty-five cents more for pie if she wished. Claudia, who had eaten cereal and drunk pineapple juice, scolded him about the need to eat properly. Breakfast food for breakfast, and lunch food for lunch. Jamie countered with complaints about Claudia’s narrow-mindedness.”
                     -50-

“Claudia read the paper while they ate breakfast at Horn and Hardart’s. That morning she didn’t eat breakfast food for breakfast. Crackers and roasted chestnuts in bed at night satisfied only a small corner of her hunger. Being hungry was the most inconvenient part of running away. She meant to eat heartily for every cent Jamie gave her. She bought macaroni and cheese casserole, baked beans, and coffee that morning. Jamie got the same.”
-60-

Happy eating.

 

 

April 24, 2001

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Earlier today, upon a lead I had from perusing metascene, I grabbed the New Yorker and discovered a short article by one of my true favorites, author Lorrie Moore. Maybe this is an indication that she might be finally publishing a new book? I don’t know, I really don’t know the mysteries of the publishing industry. At any rate, the piece can be seen on the currentNew Yorker web site (section: FIRST JOB), bunched in with other authors recounting first job experiences. A nice passage by Jonathan Franzen thrown in for the measure.

An excerpt from Lorrie Moore’s Self Help:

1973. At a party when a woman tells you where she bought some wonderful pair of shoes, say that you believe shopping for clothes is like masturbation- everyone does it, but it isn’t very interesting and therefore should be done alone, in an embarrassed fashion, and never be the topic of party conversation. The woman will tighten her lips and eyebrows and say,”Oh,I suppose you have something more fascinating to talk about.” Grow clumsy and uneasy. Say, “No,” and head for the ginger ale. Tell the person next to you that your insides feel sort of sinking and vinyl like a Claes Oldenburg toilet. They will say, “Oh”? and point out that the print on your dress is one of paisleys impregnating paisleys. Pour yourself more ginger ale.

         -How to Talk to Your Mother (Notes)

Nabokov’s Blues; The Scientific Odyssey of a Literary Genius Nabokov, who never learned to drive a car, estimated that in the glory years, between 1949 and 1959, Vera drove him more than 150,000 miles all over North America, mostly on butterfly trips.

March 23, 2001

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On the local front:

Wburg Quarterly updates their content for a new Spring 2001 issue. Once again I am drawn to their ongoing “bookshelf” feature, this time a Brooklyn-centric selection. Subsequently I also found myself enjoying the Suzanne Wise “Stalking Writers” piece. She takes time to ponder a burgeoning writing life in the neighborhood and reflects briefly on the past,to overview famous authors who have graced the humble sidewalks here and then moves on to a few new ones too.

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Speaking of reading lists:

On my list of books this year to conquer is William T.Vollman’s most recent novel The Royal Family. Weighing in at a daunting 780 pages of pure ambitious Vollmanisms, I think he is one of the more overlooked authors of today. Vollman is someone who doesn’t strike you as pining for the limelight,so I’m sure this lack of notoriety leaves him unconcerned, as long as he has the resources to continue the pursuit of writing.

That one fact is why I can almost applaud Mr. Guccione Jr. for sending this man to all faces of the earth, to research and photograph articles for Gear Magazine. While in general I abhor the content in the rest of the magazine,I always splice his articles from the copy we receive at work, for later reading.

This month he reports on his travels to Kazakhstan (he titles it “the bleakest place on earth”) to investigate the health crisis associated with the oil company Tengizchevroil (TCO).The article provides enough conspiracy confirming details to make you want to scream your head off over our said ongoing American “energy crisis”. Vollman’s journalism always concerns its self with the other side,or the smaller side of the story,and here he spends a lot of time trying to get to know the working class people in the area:

“I myself did not have anything against TCO. In fact, my plan was to compare the life of a worker at Tengiz with the life of a municipal worker in Old Town- say,a member of the “Moskva Brigade” of snow shovelers. The snow shovelers all liked me. I photographed them day after day. They told me to bring vodka some evening when their “general” had dismissed them from work, and we could have a party and I could ask all the questions I wanted. But TCO refused to grant me permission to visit their operation, which made my intended comparison rather difficult. So I decided to go to Tengiz with out permission, and see what I could learn outside TCO’s gates. I still didn’t have anything against the company. I was just curious.”

Vollman’s writing can range from the poetic and romantic in his historical novels (he is writing a lengthy ongoing “Seven Dreams” project) to the dark, concrete harsh-reality reporting found in his earlier journalistic work (and currently Gear). While I don’t always agree with his politics (he recently wrote an article for Gear outlining why he is pro-gun ownership)I think the inventive, intelligent and the powerful scope of his prose deserves the attention of anyone willing to be absorbed by his world.

Read a recent interview with Mr. Vollman.

Also read about the sometimes hilarious extremes he went to regarding the start of his writing career in this interview .

Hopefully I will now go on to read a book.