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Monthly Archives: August 2010

More on Otto Dix’s work

Talking to a colleague about the Dix exhibit has me thinking more about the medium of etching being ideal for the series on war. The process of etching utilizes an acid bath to create lines. The longer the plate sits in the bath, the darker the lines will appear when printed. The war series that Dix created depicts the corrosive and harsh effects that chemical warfare, used for the first time in this particularly devastating war, had on the people involved. So, as both a process, and for this subject matter, the medium was an ideal choice.

To further clarify what I stated in my last posting, the painting does not deliver the same sense of ‘eating away’. It relies predominantly on the actual visages and bodies depicted to convey the corruption of society, and the individual within a corrupt society. There is almost no sensuous quality to be found in the paint itself. Oil paint is a sensuous, almost voluptuous medium. Dix shies away from these inherent qualities, and his paintings suffer for it. They leave the viewer cold, while the etchings and drawings do not.

Otto Dix exhibit at the Neue Galerie

First and foremost, Dix is a powerfully expressive artist. Etching is the medium that most successfully expresses the suffering and cruelty he experienced firsthand during World War I. When he began to depict the superficiality of society after the horrors of the war, the painting medium did not do his imagination justice. Although a successful portraitist, his works in oil and tempera, perhaps handcuffed by the new objectivity, tend to be more mannered and less powerful than his graphic work. Although he ridiculed the academic style of painting, he seemed to absorb it, and most often, was not willing to experiment with, or subvert it, as he did with his drawings and etchings.

Before I was beaten over the head by the war etchings, I enjoyed eating at Cafe Sabarsky. The food was not overwhelming, but I savored my time there. The coffee was brilliant, and the surroundings, dignified.

My walk uptown from the Port Authority Bus Terminal allowed me time to enjoy the sounds of the city: cars and buses whooshing past, peoples’ exotic accents, and bits of conversations. Because it was fairly early, the city wasn’t quite alive yet, so I also had moments of silence when I could delight in a lovely breeze on my neck and face.

Perhaps due to the subject of Dix’s work, and the later, inevitable overcrowding I felt walking back to the Terminal, I was eager to return home. As Dix knew, the world is a lonely and corrupt place. Home and loved ones are sanctuaries. The bus ride home was not as warm and fuzzy as the ride in, when the driver stopped at the ticketing agency to allow new passengers to purchase their tickets for much less than they would have if bought directly from him: an everyday act of loving-kindness. Two drawings from my day:

Enjoying crepes, coffee, and marzipan cake
Bodhisattva and human suffering

14 days of paintings

I have set a new goal for myself today. Beginning Monday, I am going to make a painting each day for 14 days. The time seems right for it, as in these last days of summer, work is slower than usual. This morning, I made sketches of each painting. Once I start painting, the imagery may change. Sammie has begun to be a lap dog. She jumped on my lap while I was sitting on the front porch this morning. Of course, I had to include that in a few of these sketches. To motivate me further, I am going to schlep into New York early on Sunday to see the Otto Dix exhibition at the Neue Galerie before it ends. The cafe there has a Marzipan-Guglhupf which is a marzipan cake. ON the menu, it has an asterisk next to it, which means it is served with whipped cream. I can’t wait! Other exciting news: Marijke may be able to help us when we pick up the Baby Reliance in New York. That is a work in progress, as I am waiting for the inventory sheet from Mr. McCrea. But I have the feeling that it won’t be long before I will be printing linocuts and woodcuts galore…Maryanne just told me I can’t shirk my responsibilities around the home, so I will be supergirl, and get everything done.

Days 1-3 of a painting-a-day
Sammie on my lap
There will be farm animals too

What a great day

I have spoken to two wonderful people today. I do believe that if you reach out to people, good things happen. The two people I spoke with are elderly, and one is fairly ill, I believe. But their spirits could be felt through the telephone when they talked. I imagine them warm and kind. And, of course, they are artists. The man, James, and his wife, Ruth are both illustrators and created various pieces of ephemera on their proofing press. James said he didn’t know that the press he had was not intended for type, so he used it for both type and illustrative work. He is sending me an inventory and I hope to be speaking with him again soon. I believe my obtaining the press through him is one way to keep this couples’ work alive.

On a heavier note, here is a painting I created last night, after I was unable to get the thought of a dead young deer out of my mind. I had seen it in the middle of Route 518 early one morning. Today I looked at a book of paintings by Chaim Soutine and I thought of this deer. Soutine expressed pathos so well. I hope one day to be able to do that. The other image is my drawing for the day: wishing love to be transmitted through the air to you.

An image from my commute
Another offering

Maria Callas and the artist’s lament

Every month or so, I revisit my artist’s lament: Should I wreak havoc on my wonderful home life, and forfeit material possessions to paint full-time; or just continue as I have been for years, working and painting, feeling as if I have two jobs, neither of which is quite satisfying enough? Either position seems like failure to me, yet still I ruminate and make myself miserable in the process. On the bright side, I saw great examples of painting in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. Two painters I particularly liked: one very well-known: John Hartman; the other less so, Lisa Birke Looking at their work again online, I am inspired, and feel like changing my artist’s lament to an artist’s prayer, thankful that I am an artist.

Back to Maria Callas: listening to Rigoletto, I was angry about Gilda being locked up by her father, and by her ultimate demise at the hands of a conniving lover. But, since the story is based on a woman at court who actually might have been happy about being seduced by a stud, so she could get a respite from her much older, and ungainly husband, no need to despair too much. Still, my painting depicts a very angry Callas, by an artist under the influence of the above-mentioned painters. I also include some drawings from the week.

After the Princeton downpour
Some days, I feel like this woman
Other days, I feel like this
Benign is the best word
Gilda's or the artist's lament?

Vancouver Art Gallery

I have to say something about the best part of the vacation. That is, I was fortunate enough to see the exhibit, The Modern Woman. It is the first exhibition of drawings from the Musée d’Orsay. The exhibition explores women’s changing role in 19th century society and how that was reflected in French art. To see just how spectacular the show actually is, visit their site After reading the first paragraph of curator Isabelle Julia’s  essay, Imagining the modern woman, I know why the exhibit moved me so:

Love Lines

Pliny the Elder relates that the maiden Dibutade, faced with her lover’s departure, traced the profile of the boy’s shadow on a wall with a piece of charcoal, thereby introducing the art of drawing to Greece. Love invented the pencil stroke to hold onto a shadow, … Others report that a prince fell in love from gazing at a portrait. Which came first, drawing or love? The two emerged together, of course, inseparable as the body and its reflection, as the line and the paper supporting it. We love while drawing and draw while loving. To look at women and girls in their various states of being means to draw them for the sake of love, for love of the body and of drawing, for love of the fleeting shadow that the hand tries to hold back. To draw already means to love.     — The Modern Woman: drawings by Degas, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and other masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Isabelle Julia, Curator. Vancouver Art Gallery/Musée d’Orsay, publishers.

About my trip

Although the places we visited were extraordinarily beautiful, and the experiences we were fortunate to have, such as high tea at the Empress Hotel, were enjoyable and memorable, my neurotic side, ever vigilant, still found time to express itself. I believe this is due to being raised with my father’s favorite expression still repeating in my head: from laughing comes crying. But He may have heard it first in German: vor Lachen weinen kommt. I have switched to using pencil, rather than markers, so to see these images well they must be clicked on two times to view the largest size.

After a visit to the Butchart Gardens
Anticipating high tea at the Empress Hotel
This totem was on the Pacific Rim Trail
Illustrating some lines from a Margaret Atwood poem
Although this may seem out of context, it is appropriate for our trip.
My design for a totem
At last, some whimsy
A funny little drawing of my funnier little
A more serious portrait of Maryanne
Final farewell to British Columbia and our vacation

Finishing strange girl at your service

A few thoughts on love
Lovers embracing or wrestling
For my friends
My favorite image from this sketchbook
Serving up a strange assortment

I returned recently from an emotional trip to Vancouver, Victoria, and Ucluelet, B.C. These drawings complete the sketchbook, Strange girl at your service, and were made early in the trip. I tend to be an anxious traveler, and the figure of death will appear throughout. Peace to my friends.