The other morning when I turned on the TV, it was frozen on an image from the 1936 movie A Woman Rebels, which was being shown on the Turner Classic Movies channel. Since I could not get the image to ‘unfreeze’, I decided to photograph it. I liked it so much for what it had to say about Kathryn Hepburn, the star, that I decided to paint it. I have also been thinking about Forrest Bess as I recently read the book that accompanied the exhibit by curator Clare Elliott. Last night I started scribbling images of symbols that mean something to me. The painting I began today includes them.
Comments (0) | More: Paintings
Besides the very obvious but often neglected aspects of life that one is grateful for: love, friendship, shelter and security, it is a blessing to be able to draw. Drawing is a way to slow down, to really look and see. It is the artistic soul’s equivalent of a spa day. That is why I am very excited about the The Morgan Library and Museum’s two drawing shows which are up now. One is of Leonardo’s works, the other consists of the Morgan’s collection of 18th century Venetian drawings. Looking forward to seeing both of these on my birthday. Closer to home beginning in late January the Princeton University Art Museum will be mounting an exhibit of some of their Italian drawings. Although the exhibit is a departure from the traditional old master works, the description of the Brush Writing in the Arts of Japan show at the Metropolitan Museum pertains very well to the classic draftsperson of the Western world. For a fresh take on drawing, the Newark Museum’s Papyraceous is an offbeat look at works on paper. At this time of year, when multitasking and distraction is even more pronounced than usual, it is wonderful to quietly observe and linger.
Comments (0) | Tags: broken, children, decapitated, figurines, Goebel, heads, Hummel | More: Paintings
Jacquie had several Hummel figurines. These intrigue me the way old movies about warm, loving families do. I can relate to a family like the one in Donna Tarrt’s The Little Friend: depressed, fragmented, mostly selfish. But bright-eyed, sappy children: I just don’t get them. When a bunch of the figurines came to my house broken, they made more sense. I have been a little despondent since returning from Florida having helped my mother with her tangled finances. As usual, books and art have helped me climb out of it. Aminatta Forna has written a masterpiece in The Hired Man. Its main character, Duro Kolak, embodies the loss, grieving and emotional bewilderment of war. We feel love and tenderness for him right away, and his tragic story, and the lives of his fellow townspeople as well as its animals, haunt us. Forna has done everything right, from the characters, the cultural dissonance between the privileged and those who have not and the petty dislikes that turn into hatred during wartime. Just so good. I have also been reading about George Bellows and Henry Darger, two artists with nothing in common, personally or professionally. One, a he-man athlete, who depicted boxers and the changing world around him, the other a queer and sensitive soul who created an alternate universe to help him overcome his Dickensian childhood. Elledge’s biography of Darger is a compulsive read.
Comments (0) | More: Books, Paintings
I was horrified one day when my sister did publicly what I usually do privately. She sniffed the pages of a book she had picked up at the library. Both of us seem to share a love for books. Not just for the written words but the make up of the book itself. We skim the pages with our fingers as we read. We look at each cover, each spine, literally getting a feel for what the tome will contain inside. In my case, I think my love for the book as object has a lot to do with being an artist. Artists develop a love for materials, for the physical presence of paint, wood, canvas, ink, graphite, charcoal, etc. But this desire to want to handle books is more than that.
I trace it back to our childhoods, my sister’s and mine. Besides books being refuge, they also provided, I should say provide, a form of what a psychologist may call mirroring. In the pages, in the smell, in the colors or the type are presences that I can examine undisturbed: attention is brought to them and I am rewarded with a form of love. Speaking of love…
I prefer the sort of love that is not messy. I find drama to be wasteful. Yelling is verboten. My idea of love is akin to my mothers’ constant pronouncement that children should be seen but not heard. So, love for me means internally keeping a constant vigil of longing. This is quite easy to do. I just don’t allow myself to desire too much, but I do allow myself to desire just enough. For each person this is of course defined differently.
This long preamble is a way to introduce my love of sketchbooks. Sketchbooks seem to define bibliofeelia best. They provide the inner workings of a creative mind in tangible, loving, deeply personal ways. Take the sketchbooks of Derek Jarman as discussed and illustrated in the beautiful Thames & Hudson production edited by Stephen Farthing and Ed Webb-Ingall. Jarman would buy several books at a time. These were beautiful to begin with. But, as an indication of his subversive ways, he would put a layer of paint on each sumptuous leather cover before using the book. To someone with my level of repression this is tantamount to sacrilege, but it fits in perfectly with Jarman’s work. There are pages filled with photographs, feathers, dried flowers, printed ephemera, and shells. But what really brings these beautiful books to life, and into our hearts, is the excitement displayed in the writings and drawings. The marks themselves are alive. This is true for Jarmans’ marks as well as within the writings of others, which he has pasted onto his pages. We become aware of the filmmaker’s money woes, his health concerns, and his relationships with people in his immediate community. The sketchbooks show a man deeply involved with the world, and the people around him. He is influenced by them, as well as the great artists whose works he encountered, including Caravaggio and Goya.
What a privilege to examine this man’s warm and creative mind in one of the most personal ways possible. Pure, unadulterated bibliofeelia, without any mess or fuss. No gloves required.
An informative video about the sketchbooks themselves: Inside Derek Jarman’s sketchbooks
Comments (0) | Tags: artist, Caravaggio, collage, Derek Jarman, filmmaker, sketchbooks | More: Books
A few weeks ago I had visitors who wanted to see Lambertville. We went to The People’s Store, a wonderful place filled with curiosities. I spotted a decrepit, once velvet-covered photo album. Seeing its’ contents, and in spite of my wish to save money, I knew I had to have it. One of my kind visitors asked if she should save me from myself, but, since I knew I didn’t want to be saved, I said no. Now I am the proud owner of many old photographs containing visages of unknown people. I painted this woman first because of her unusual face. I wonder if the elderly woman is one of her ancestors: a forbidding face if ever there was one. In fact, she reminds me of someone I admire, aged many years. I am anxious to paint her also.
Comments (0) | Tags: face, old photographs, photo album, portrait, woman | More: Paintings
Several years ago, I forced Jacquie, my mother’s partner of 36 years, my mother and Maryanne to visit with the Phillie Phanatic at a local college’s alumni weekend. The Phanatic loves to mess up people’s hair. Jacquie was always fussy about how she looked, but she was a good sport that day. (I think she was holding on to the mascot’s hands so they wouldn’t wander). Jacquie was a generous soul who could maintain her dignity even when being manhandled by a 6-ft. tall, very green, and very furry creature. In heaven now, Jacquie’s hair is being permed while she is getting a mani-pedi and reading Star magazine or The National Enquirer, with a Slot machine not far away. Rest in peace.
Comments (0) | Tags: death, funny, Jacquie Malone, mascot, Phillie Phanatic, portrait, woman | More: Paintings
I make up. I want to know. I am pretty sure is worth knowing; is not worth knowing. Can fill a book. Can fill a swimming pool? I don’t know so much. When I was in high school (nostalgia, again) I met a young man, a boy, really. He worked at the gas station my father always went to. He would clean the front and back windows of my father’s car. My father would tip this young man a lot. The young man would look at him, almost with love, or at least reverence. I felt embarrassed when I saw this. One day, after school let out, this boy came up to me, and said he would like to be my boyfriend. I told him he already had a girlfriend who was good for him-he did. Her name was Lorraine. She was very friendly. He said she was not all that great. I said I thought she was, and I reminded him that I already had a boyfriend. He said that he really liked my father. I am not sure how that sentence followed the others. I just remember him saying my father was a nice man, and he liked him. At the time, I thought that this boy’s father must be pretty awful, if he could say that about a complete stranger. Soon after graduation this boy shut the garage door, started the engine of his car, and killed himself. There were rumors of a violent father. Nothing more came out about his suicide. I still think of this boy, and wonder about what he must have suffered.
Comments (0) | Tags: boy, fathers, High School, portrait, suicide, yearbook | More: Paintings, Stories
One of the most heinous things we have done for the sake of fashion is to bring species to the brink of extinction. I began to think about this as I looked at a Library of Congress photograph of a woman wearing a “Chanticleer” hat of bird and feathers. This reminded me of the atrocious fox stoles I have seen-imagine the whole baby fox wrapped around a woman’s shoulders! Yikes. But, of course once we are in the throes of being fashionable and leading with our vanity, none of these things seem absurd. So I wondered if at the time Teddy Roosevelt was killing hundreds of animals while on safari, (perhaps still fashionable among some?) it wouldn’t be too far a stretch to see human anomalies worn for the sake of fashion. Certainly our curiosity concerning such “wonders” was high in the mid to late 19th and early 20th centuries. And, this gave me an excuse to paint a person with hypertrichosis while I reflected on all of those fashionable women Manet and many French impressionists painted. I also love to lose myself in various shades of black, brown and gray. The woman’s features are a combination of my grandmother’s and my sister’s.
Comments (0) | Tags: black, Chanticleer hat, fashion, hypertrichosis, portraits, werewolf syndrome, woman | More: Paintings
I wonder if many other people feel a longing for a past that never existed. I focus on portraits because I have spent so much time wishing to be seen, and having another’s eyes to look at feels like a sort of recognition. Not big-time recognition like the women in Bling Ring, but something simple, on par with a person saying hello at work. I also gravitate to old things more and more. Simple ephemera, books, or photographs. The old movies my sister and I watch give a wonderful serenity that was unavailable in our past, and really appreciated in our lives now. The woman’s face was just grand to see at the Gay Pride Parade in New Hope this year. Finding the color lithograph bread advertisement and the tintype portrait of a sad young man were both joyful experiences for me, and I thought that putting them together would provide a nice balance of emotions. All of these things take up a lot of my thought process while I am painting, or thinking about painting, these days.