Friday, March 9, 2012

Videos on Women Who Make Things

I am laid out with a cold today, so I did the natural thing to do- watch a bunch of art documentaries while not moving out of my chair for hours on end.  The only other thing I felt I could possibly do was to blog, so here I am.
My go-to site for art videos is Art:21 and my absolute favorite is Mary Heilmann's video.  Even though I am not the hugest fan of her work, (some I like, some not so much), watching her talk about herself and also watching her paint, is really quite entertaining.  I could watch people paint for hours.  

Watch Fantasy on PBS. See more from ART:21.

Another great full-length documentary is "What Remains" (available in 3 parts on youtube) about photographer Sally Mann.  My friend, Libby Black, swears by this film, and makes all her graduate advisees watch it.  Watching someone make work, live as an artist with their family, and how they struggle both with concepts and failure as well as success, provides a ton of worthwhile life lessons.  

I also watched a documentary on netflix that I thought was pretty well made, "Our City Dreams", directed by Chiara Clemente, daughter of the famous artist Francesco Clemente. Something about an artist, (or at least having artist blood), making a movie puts a more pleasing visual spin on film, like when the over-hyped painter Julian Schnabel made the great movies "Basquiat" and "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly".  
Clemente's film focuses on five female NY artists from varying countries.  The women are interesting choices more for their breadth than because of their work, for me; Serbian artist Marina Abromovic, who totally shares the same over-saturated cultural domination as Kanye West, is not appealing to me but I understand why she was included.  Performance art just totally bores me to death.  
Swoon, the street artist-turned-museum-phenom, (just like the rest of those graffiti guys), doesn't have the drawing skills to really impress me, but her crusty lifestyle was an interesting addition.  It made me wish for an instant that we could all be that free, but I know it's not glamorous or enjoyable to float down a rickety raft on a river with a bunch of stinky punks when all you want to do is be alone in your apartment with hot water.  
Kiki Smith, an artist that almost everyone on the planet attributes as an influence, was lovable in her acceptance of becoming middle-aged and it was comforting to watch her sculpt her clay pieces.
Egyptian artist, Ghada Amer, was totally endearing as a foreign weirdo who just wants to fit in with the rest of us art weirdos, and not conform to a sexist, oppressive lifestyle as in her homeland. 
Nancy Spero, a total babe in old photos, and now a frail and dominating 80 year old woman, must be applauded for trying to get women artists the credit they deserve, though I wasn't a big fan of her prints.

What to learn about all these women on screen?  I was surprised, thinking about all the videos, at how much I lean towards watching female artists in films.  Perhaps it's because they are more emotionally interesting subjects.  To be honest, I take it for granted that there are lots of women artists out there, but it's still quite difficult to be an artist period, but especially a woman.  In Clemente's film, they all address the choice to have or not have children with shocking honesty.  The act of making art is always a very selfish thing to do, and unfortunately it sort of goes against the expectations of a mother.  I hear by raise my glass (cup of breathe-right tea) to all the women out there, who are making it as successful artists, and especially artists who are mothers.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In the Studio

I have taken a bit of time off from making things since grad school ended in May, mostly just to catch my breath.  This break has helped me figure out some things about my practice; what do I really care about, what do I really like to make, and who's going to stop me if I don't quite know what it all means first?  I really think these are all important steps in shedding the grad school skin, and emerging as new versions of ourselves: triumphant, self-determined, and excited about the work we make.
With a solo show coming up in September at Soo Visual Art Center in Minneapolis, I finally got the push I needed to take my meandering motivation and harness it to a lightening bolt of energy (sometimes!).  With a full time job plus a teaching gig at Berkeley, I am barely hanging on, but pushing full-steam ahead.  No time for socializing, I have three jobs to do.
One thing which helps me actually get anything done is that I have set up shop in my house as studio one, and a little drawing space by my office as studio two.  In a perfect schedule, I make use of both of these spaces, but I'm not going to lie- a lot of the time I can barely wait to go home and watch Gossip Girl.  That being said, I don't see anything wrong with working this way as opposed to paying rent on a studio space.  While it would be nice, and I hope to have one someday, I don't think not having the means for a room of one's own makes me any less legitimate as an artist, contrary to that old grad school mode of thinking.

Here are some studio shots from my phone of what's in the works.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Stuff I Like Looking At

As an artist I am always looking, and always surprised by what interests my eye.  I have walked by the same patterns, and the same plants for multiple seasons and am still drawn to look at certain things.  Now that I have an iPhone, I have been documenting these weekly reminders of form and pattern for my work.  Even if they never physically make it into a painting, the act of photographing them (albeit through an amateur lens), solidifies the images for me in the archive of my art brain.

In my neighborhood I go for walks often, on uphill sidewalks and along mostly partially-cared-for gardens.  If my neighborhood was slightly wealthier, the gardens would be homogenized plant life presentations landscaped by professionals.  However, here the local and store-bought plants mingle with weeds and sunlight-loving lounging cats.  If the neighborhood was worse (and I have lived in those as well), there would be no gardens at all, and instead disheveled concrete plots with the occasional determined weed, leaving me longing for beauty so badly that I might go slightly insane from the lack of stimulus.  No, I much prefer my working-class streets and their attempts at order and style, which is the perfect complement to each yard's unique arrangement of natural disorder.  I never get tired of looking at these gardens because the combinations of color and exotic plants mixed with ordinary blooms create a constant treasure hunt for me as the visual huntress.

Lucky for me, in addition to these garden-lined streets are artsy stores on Piedmont Ave. and the amazing Chapel of the Chimes mausoleum, designed by architect Julia Morgan.  With all of these things, plus the cemetery, (more on that later!), I never run out of things to get inspired by.

Pink and burgundy
Little cup flowers remind me of being a kid and imagining stuff like where fairies would live 
Thorny, repeated shapes and the fire-like ombre of these flower colors
Great pattern ideas for my headdresses
Love the black, the symmetry, and the sculpture element
Inside the Chapel of the Chimes- so many amazing tile patterns
Flowers, patterns, and a glistening pool
Passion flower vines are a beautiful shape, and these fuchsia flowers are unusual 
Weirdly enough, this image jumped out at me even though it's kind of banal.  I used the same idea of green geranium leaves and just a small amount of red flowers in my latest painting.
So many colors and textures, including the weird gray blue of a succulent
This candelabra would make a good headdress
Some ranunculus flowers at Whole Foods
Love the little white daisies and red tulips at the cemetery, like a valentine
Old patterned cement at the cemetery
I like the combination of the black gate and trailing pink pointy jasmine buds
I don't go into Starbucks very often, but every time I do, in every bathroom is this same light fixture and it always reminds me of an awesome pope hat headdress
Getting ideas for things standing on other things
More Chapel of the Chimes patterns
I like the barren sticks and these triumphantly bright carmine colored blossoms
Archways and geometry