Blog

In the Making

The new year delivered a great thrill when Weinberger Fine Art opened "Building Blocks" on a very cold January night in Kansas City. Featuring work by Michael C. Driggs, Jeremy Rockwell and myself, the curated exhibition is meant to emphasize each artist's unique components in their individualist compositions. The January 8th reception brought an even warmer glow to WFA, Kansas City's most elegant and hospitable gallery, and gave me an opportunity to make remarks about my new and recent works to an affectionate audience. For those who missed it, I thought I would share my comments below:

"Each painting is the story of its creation and in the narrative of these works, color is protagonist and patterned blocking is structure. Having these stalwart guides allows my work to find me. In the studio, I choose intuition over agenda and aesthetics over ideology. Sometimes easily coaxed in arrival, other times deeply flawed and messy, my works are the pure expression of my experience.

When I make a painting, I feel as though I am walking a line between a romantic ideal and total disaster. When the state of a painting makes me restless, I begin again, using a wash of flat color over the entire surface. This superficially obliterates the work I’ve done, but it also leaves a history that I can reach back into if I desire. I challenge myself not to be precious, or, better stated, not to be precious too early on in the process.

The surface of a painting is the most personal element. Persistent layering of paint over time ultimately delivers one that is rhythmic and richly textured. How I leave the surface makes a painting identifiably mine. I use a free hand when painting. The resulting “soft geometry” means the only straight edge you will see is the canvas itself. The imprecision of my hand’s work is meant to engage you as a viewer, to interest you in finding the “flaws” - the bowed lines, colliding fields of color, drips of paint allowed to remain where they fell. 

For 25 years painting has been my chosen medium. What inspires and motivates me to begin is the excitement of not knowing the ending. Each work’s resolution can be a nail biting thriller or a tedious drawn out soap opera. I am the first viewer of my work and my standard is high for a level of optical excitement that also has longevity.  Until I am satisfied that that a painting will remain interesting to the eye in the long term, it is not finished.

Each new painting is a chance to start over, to use the new and the old, to combine art history and my experience. The goal of each work is finding a balance between the great sense of urgency to accomplish something beyond what I have before and a need to patiently explore its individual direction. Some paintings will boldly shout for attention from across a room, others will modestly whisper for notice. 

The meaning is in their making."

"Building Blocks" is open through February 24, 2018 at Weinberger Fine Art in Kansas City. 

Pluck that Chicken

In September, I presented as part of the “Strategies for Artists” series at the Kansas City Artists Coalition. It was a rewarding exercise that required reaching back into my archive and presenting my work and efforts to exhibit and sell it over the past 20 years. When the Q & A opened, an artist sitting in the front row asked me “what has made you so confident?”

The answer? Failures. Or at least, what seemed like failures at the time. How many “I regret to inform you” letters have I received? If I had to count accurately, we’d be here until next Thanksgiving. And those are the private shoot-downs, enjoyed within the walls of my in-box.

Public events, where I watched what seemed like the whole world move past, without a glance at my work, much less an actual sale, were painful economically and, in the early days, had the power to create crisis and confusion within my own mind. What I admitted to the artist in the front row, as well as to everyone in the room was “I knew I’d turned a corner when I had sat at an art fair for three days without a sale, and my response was to not change my work but, instead, to embrace it even more fully.” Let the audience and other conditions share in the responsibility while I go back to painting.

My friend, the artist Garry Noland, once said to me that you must be the best advocate for your work. The folks you invite in to your studio “will know if you are not behind it.” Filmmaker Walter Hill told my favorite podcaster Bret Easton Ellis “You need to have an almost unshakable belief in yourself” as an artist. Painter Laura Owens recently commented on the importance of trusting one's own efforts as an artist: “You are not trying to make good art.” Artists who avoid risk-taking “because they really want to be sure they are doing good art...History tells us that is not the way to make art.”

When a turn-down is a relief, it means we’ve crossed over into considering that the next opportunity we seek is a better one. Even an incurable romantic like me can get with that.

Laura presenting at Kansas City Artists Coalition, September 28, 2017

Laura presenting at Kansas City Artists Coalition, September 28, 2017

August

In the European tradition, August is a sleepy time overall. In the New York art scene of days gone by, galleries are on hiatus until fall. Not so, in my world. This month, my work continues to be on view in three gallery exhibitions:

Click on the photo above for a slideshow of exhibition highlights, August 2017

In addition to these fine galleries where you can see my work in person and interact with their engaging staffs, you may view and purchase paintings from the comfort of your chaise lounge via the Artful Home catalog. Just announced, my paintings are featured in the Artful Home Fall Collection, in both the print catalog and online. I'm told work tends to move quickly from inventory, once the catalog circulates to over 700,000 homes, so don't hesitate if you see something you like. 

It's back in the studio for me!  Plaza Art Fair is in four short weeks and I've got ambitions to debut two new large paintings at the show Hope to see you in Kansas City, September 22 - 24.

Mid-Life, Mid-Summer

“...because the road is long and it is easy to go astray.” 

I don’t remember where I read or heard that quote but it struck me as significant enough at the time that I both wrote it down and committed it to memory. I believe it was spoken by someone in the context of being an artist and the difficulty of staying on a directed path when there is much distraction and many influences ready to de-rail one’s progress.

It is an important idea to keep close when plotting one’s course as an artist. Setting goals and aligning oneself with them, means having a guide for when to say yes to an opportunity and, very importantly, when to say “thank you, but no.” Likewise, being too heavily weighted by or dependent on one way to show and sell ones work becomes a problem when the one way is no longer working.

The literal “road” for me was a career dominated by traveling around the country to juried art fairs. While this particular track included some stellar adventures and countless sold paintings, it also meant many weeks and weekends away from home and the studio. For a growing chunk of each year, I was going to a show, at a show or headed home from one, primarily to wash clothes and re-pack my vehicle for the next trip. This lacked balance. Well, let’s say, I lost my balance. 

With unequal parts design, circumstance and necessity, I am currently testing out the idea that I am “retired” from art fairs. At the very least, I am on an extended hiatus. This does not mean that I have pivoted to spending long, languid days in the studio. Coming off the road is a challenging transition involving partnerships with galleries, the pursuit of commission projects, scheduling exhibitions for 2018 and being open to the novelty of extra work that pays up front, or at least by the end of the week. 

An unforeseen bonus of staying where I live means being present in my arts community of which I am a proud member and advocate. I no longer have to send my regrets for weekend events. I can reciprocate the support I’ve received by attending the openings, talks and studios of peers here in Kansas City.  This summer, as I begin my term as Board President of the Kansas City Artists Coalition, I can better imagine my role in encouraging others to participate in an organization that has benefitted so many artists, including me. Being here as opposed to everywhere else has a meaningful momentum of its own.

Have I missed being on the road this year? Not really. Do I miss my friends? YES! The one outdoor show I have scheduled in 2017 is the prized Plaza Art Fair. It is conveniently located just a few miles down the road from where I live and features many of my favorite artists and friends from the past decade. Seeing them only in passing at such a big show will, I hope, open up the possibility of being more intentional with our visits in the future. Why wait for an art fair to bring us to the same town when we could plan a meeting or trip somewhere that would deepen our friendships and our work? 

In the meantime, I am headed to Nashville this week for a talk and opening at The Arts Company with artist Marilyn Artus. I am proud to be showing with Marilyn at this vibrant venue run by a passionate art crusader, Anne Brown.  Anne’s staff produced a video of my recent visit to deliver work for the show as well as commissioned works for one of their largest clients. If I don’t see you in Nashville, I will look for you at the Plaza Art Fair and beyond. I am sticking to this long road, keeping it “between the ditches” as we show warriors would say, and endeavoring to stay in touch, always.

Where From Here

We are feeling a big loss these days. After nearly sixteen and half years with us, our beloved Deacon died on the 24th of April. His last week was fairly quiet. He was slow to get around, but still eagerly got up with me at 5 o'clock each morning, taking his medicine and a going out for a brief walk in the dark. He ate only what I cooked for him: bacon, eggs, cheeseburgers, sweet potatoes. Donald gently brought up what we might have to do for him, but said he would wait for me to come to terms with it. Deacon had a knack for perking up after a long day of sleep and each evening, I could easily justify more time with him. After all, when I arrived home, or just walked in the room, he welcomed me as he always did - up on all fours, a wagging tail, audible, excited sounds at the front door.  Donald would say "you should hear him when your car turns onto our block. He knows you are almost home." At some point, in his very old age, I started calling him "Little Buddy." It was my softhearted reaction to the physical changes I saw in him. His diminished hearing seemed to make him cling to me even more. He'd stay close to me in the house, so as to not lose track of me. He would not wander too far in the yard, looking back to make sure I was right behind him. It all reminded me of his first few weeks as our puppy. In January of 2001, we spent nearly every moment together as I attempted to house train him from a third floor walk up in Chicago. I balanced him on my lap as I painted, to discourage "accidents." We would run up and down the stairs, every hour at first, and walk along the frozen tundra of Lake Michigan. He'd cry after enough time on the ground and I'd gather him up into my parka, carrying him the rest of the way home. He was the "new kid" on the block. attracting the attention of fellow dog owners who met at sunrise and sunset on Jarvis Beach. Similarly, as a very senior dog, people stopped more frequently to greet him and ask, "how old is Deacon now, anyway."  "Sixteen!" I would reply with gusto. I was proud that we'd made it, this great distance, together: Cross country car trips, endless hours in the studio, 10,000 miles of walking, never sleeping too far from one another when we were under the same roof. In my years of traveling to and from art fairs, his keeping company with Donald at home made me less anxious about being away.

In what we didn't know were his last couple of hours, Deacon attempted one final to retreat to his bed. Donald was there and helped him to lay on his side. I was urged to come home quickly so that we could take him to the vet one last time. When I arrived, his head turned toward me in response. I stroked his face and body and placed my hands on his chest to feel his slowing heartbeat. "He's still here," I said to Donald. I moved my hands away so that Donald could do the same. "I don't feel anything," he said. I looked into Deacon's eyes, and could see that he was gone.

In the days after, we tried to be consoled by the way that he left, at home with just us there. We welcomed the chance to take a quick trip to deliver artwork to Nashville. The brief change of scenery was only that, though. Coming home to a house without Deacon, an empty doorway, a vacant bed, meant we could not avoid the sad reality of his being away from us. It is an exceptional adjustment that will take the forgiving passage of time to grow into. The joy of sharing life with Deacon, my Little Buddy, can't be diminished by his absence.  His soft, comforting fur that I so often laid my head on at night, his enthusiastic companionship and pure longevity deserve to be remembered in the full light of love.