Tiny Tortures
oil enamel and oil on canvas
72″ x 60″
11/87

Thinking a lot lately of when I first fell in love with painting and gathering up my heroes from that time. I’m certain Matisse’s The Red Studio was a heavy influence here. Also thinking about trying to find the beauty in the everyday, which is what those lovely French painters  Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard strove for, as well as my beloved Bay Area Figurative artists such as David Park, Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischoff and Wayne Thiebaud AND Joan Brown AND Elizabeth Murray.

This painting was about the panic of mice living in my apartment at the time. I just realized I posted about it previously in 2015.

 

War Hawks

War Hawks (Ken’s Dream)
charcoal and pastel on paper
1984
(Drawing with Ken Cory)

This past December, in some effort of tidying up messes I digitized 35 years of 35mm slides.  It’s an ongoing organizational shamble but also a pile of joy. Lots of imagery I haven’t thought about for a long time. There is always a conflict I guess of divulging stuff from years ago that is still important to you, like you are supposed to abandon ship on your old ideas?

I’ve  maintained an ongoing dilemma that all of the work could be important because it is diaristic, so it becomes hard  to parse out the good with the bad as far as “you shouldn’t be mentioned” and “you are the best”. Sure, a lot of it is cringe worthy but because it represents a specific place in time I feel protective of it. Time has marched on but I  still have a compulsion to think about it.

This drawing War Hawks in particular I hadn’t seen for years. The original is long gone, but I kept thinking about it. Ken Cory was my metalsmithing professor when I was an student at Central Washington University and one of those solid supports I wish I’d had more of  in my future. A real character. Memory serves that he told me about a dream he had about us flying fighter planes that I went on to illustrate in this drawing. He’s the fighter pilot in the top plane of the drawing and that is me in the pink fighter jet. Honestly the whole thing is pretty ridiculous in the most awesome way. In hindsight I’m interested in it now (outside of a fond memory for Cory) due to the coincidence that I am using plane imagery in my current work again for completely different reasons.

Ken Cory was a hilarious person and a clear influence on me. Known for creating “an atmosphere completely lacking in pretense or convention”, I wish at the time I had taken things a little more seriously. I loved his class but I wanted to spend all of my existence in the painting studio. Subsequently to pass his class I stayed up all night the last evening of the term super gluing my projects together rather than learning any true metalsmithing techniques. He never said if he caught on. The silliness of the drawing War Hawks indicates what kind of dialog he had going on between all of us.

Rest in peace Professor Ken Cory who passed away in 1994 at the incredibly far too young age of 50. I wish I’d had more like you in my life.

It gave me such a thrill to open a metalsmithing drawer at the Tacoma Art Museum the last time I was there and to find his legacy lives on in his work which is now part of their collection.

Ken Cory was an iconoclast, punster, collector, and extraordinary jewelrymaker and metalsmith. Participating in the California funk art scene of the 1960s, then teaching more than 20 years in Washington State, Cory (1943-1994) was one of the artistic forces who propelled the Pacific Northwest to the forefront of contemporary jewelry.”

Thanks Ken.

PS I now obviously can’t help but think of Hopper’s Nighthawks when I review the title here, but I seriously doubt that was on my radar at the time.

What to do with old work?

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I have been sifting through the stacks that have piled of old work. What to do with it?

I have some really large drawings that I did in after living in NYC for 3 or 4 years. I had become obsessed with nature, feeling particularly deprived. I did these large charcoal drawings of bird houses- at human scale. I only showed them once, at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis. So I think I still like them-they’ve been rolled up in a tube since- moved from one storage place to another.
After that wall space or floor space to produce work at that scale was non-existent as I closed that studio making tiny panel paintings in a small corner of the apartment.
Should the drawings languish?

Sometimes I hold on to old work just as a reminder of what the hell was I thinking or on the flip side the piles of life drawings from this era remind me I wasn’t totally stagnant. Other times I just get rid of stuff I really hate-or in practical moments I’ve turned large panels (actually hollow doors) over and used them as worktables.

Cleaning up the studio-these are the times I envy writers or those that follow less “thing oriented”, conceptual work. To those that can place their entire life’s work on a CD or just cart around a laptop, I am envious. Us painters and drummers hauling around all that stuff- then just add a little turpentine to the responsibility. For gods sake, I won’t even go into the needs of sculptors. I live with one who hung up his sculpture hat and always threatens to take a load to the dump. No! I say.
Still one wonders the burden of these things we make.

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Things to not think of in the studio:

Artists are often concerned with the archival quality of their work, yet museum storerooms continue fill up with unseen works and landfills pile high with discarded work. As a young retail clerk in an art supply store I remember being pointedly amused by people buying shopping carts of acrylic paint and stacks of foam core only to tell me at check out to “save the bag— to save a tree”.