Don Voisine Pan

Pan, 2011 Oil on wood 13 x 24 inches, © Don Voisine, Courtesy McKenzie Fine Art, Inc.

On a mini gallery crawl in Chelsea, topping my list was McKenzie Fine Art, Inc., where I stopped by to see Don Voisine’s show just before the opening. I was disappointed to not be able to take in all the energy of the opening, but there was a great advantage of having the gallery to myself – the calm before the storm. It was electrifying!

Voisine is a notable player in an increasingly visible contingent of artists painting in an abstract, hard-edged geometric style. Neo-geo, minimalism, I’m not sure what the current tag is for this work, but the jargon and semantics hold little interest for me, especially when the work itself is so compelling. I believe the loosely connected group of artists, if one would call it that (more like a Facebook friends’ mutual admiration society?), might be clustered around a vision of  ‘reductive abstraction’ or something like that. I suppose labels are effective marketing tools, but that’s not the point of what’s going on here.

Don Voisine

Off Register, 2011 Oil on wood 16 x 17 inches, © Don Voisine, Courtesy McKenzie Fine Art, Inc.

The artist and blogger Joanne Mattera is among the ranks of these seasoned and sophisticated painters, and happily she has found a way to use Facebook for good instead of evil. Recently, she asked her Facebook friends who are working with geometric abstraction to send her images of their work featuring rhomboid shapes. Mattera then curated a wildly varied and potent on-line exhibition of these works.  A piece by Voisine is included, and the grouping is a great overview that demonstrates the startling variety of approaches and visions within this relatively cohesive bunch of contemporary artists. Introducing the show, “Rhomboid Rumba,” Mattera writes, “The works in this scroll-down reflect a variety of ideas: tectonic shift, Archimedian displacement, spiritual thinking, a textile sensibility, references to the body, constructivist principles, optical challenge, formal push/pull, and the pure pleasure of geometric abstraction. Materiality, another of my interests, is very much in evidence here as well.” Minus Space is another place to visit to extensively explore work in this vein. (Voisine can be found here too, along with some others worth knowing about like Karen Schifano and Douglas Witmer.)

Don Voisine

N, 2011 Oil on wood 20 x 16 inches, © Don Voisine, Courtesy McKenzie Fine Art, Inc.

Voisine’s bold blacks and crisp compositions have enough of the artist’s hand visible and enough sensuality to engage the viewer immediately. The work is hard-edged but with a dry wit instead of just being dry. It says HEY to get your attention, but the conversation immediately gets deep.  The paintings slyly change as you move in front of them, rewarding the patient eye over and over with their idiosyncratic symmetries, subtleties and shifting planes and voids. Voisine’s self-imposed limitations result in a flourishing body of work that feels anything but restrictive and repetitive. These are paintings made to stand up to a lifetime of looking.

I recently saw Voisine’s work at the American Academy of Arts & Letters Invitational exhibition, and had hoped to have a chance to write about it then. Happily, I heard he received a coveted Arts & Letters Purchase Prize, so the work can still be seen at the gallery on Audubon Terrace until June 12th, as well as at McKenzie until June 11th, and I will definitely be making another trip to revisit this show before it closes. Here’s congratulating Don Voisine for doing terrific work and garnering well-deserved recognition for it.

Don Voisine

Otto, 2011 Oil on wood 32 x 60 inches, © Don Voisine, Courtesy McKenzie Fine Art, Inc.

I sometimes make note, at least a mental note, when gallery owners or staff are either exceptionally talented or awful in their dealings with the public, collectors, press, and/or artists. In this case I would like to recognize gallery owner Valerie McKenzie for her friendly and knowledgeable interaction. Her enthusiasm and astute conversation about the work she is representing are superbly refreshing. She sets the bar a little higher for others in the field.

Why physics is so fantastic, not to mention sexy:

This Harvard physics apparatus uses a series of pendulums of varying lengths, swinging together, to make a mesmerizing dance:

The period of one complete cycle of the dance is 60 seconds. The length of the longest pendulum has been adjusted so that it executes 51 oscillations in this 60 second period. The length of each successive shorter pendulum is carefully adjusted so that it executes one additional oscillation in this period. Thus, the 15th pendulum (shortest) undergoes 65 oscillations.

Our apparatus was built from a design published by Richard Berg [Am J Phys 59(2), 186-187 (1991)] at the University of Maryland. The particular apparatus shown here was built by our own Nils Sorensen.

[via boingboing.net]

Image captured from David Wojnarowicz's video "Fire in the Belly," removed from the National Portrait Gallery's exhibition

As an individual who values artistic creation and freedom of speech, I would like the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Institution to know that I am deeply distressed and saddened over the cowardly decision to censor the exhibition “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” by removing the video by the late artist David Wojnarowicz titled “A Fire in My Belly,” thereby displaying an unnecessary capitulation to political pressure from various conservative and right-wing factions.

As Blake Gopnik notes in his excellent article on the subject,National Portrait Gallery Bows to Censors, Withdraws Wojnarowicz Video on Gay Love,” published November 30th in the Washington Post, if museums were to remove every piece of art that upset some person or group, our museums would be pretty empty.  Can you imagine this kind of censorship applied to our libraries?  Because that’s the kind of logic being used, and if we don’t speak out against this, book censorship is not far down the line.

This is not a small, isolated, unimportant incident.  Many people will remember the late Senator Jesse Helms, and how he was able to escalate conservative outrage over Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” in order to effectively eviscerate the NEA.

Wojnarowicz, a highly regarded American artist who died of AIDS in 1992, sadly cannot add his own voice to our outcry of disgust about this act of censorship.  I’ve signed lots of petitions but never started one before now.  This seemed like a good time to start. Please take action against museum censorship today, and pass this along:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/no-to-museum-censorship/

For another good read on how we got to this point, check out New York Magazine’s article “U.S. Representative John Boehner Is Now a Curator”.

This is not an issue of quality. Who the heck knows why museums show half of what they do?  Like why does the winner of Bravo’s (un)reality show “Work of Art” get a solo show in the Brooklyn Museum of Art?  The public is not collectively qualified to be in charge of making curatorial decisions.  I support the National Portrait Gallery’s decision to mount this exhibition, and would like to see the curators continue to have the freedom to do their jobs, while the public reserves the freedom to decide whether to go see the show or not.

Whether or not you or I think a work like Serrano’s “Piss Christ” was any creation of startling genius or not isn’t really the point, the point being that Jesse Helms was able to use it, regardless of the quality or even the artistic intent behind it, to end NEA grants to individual visual artists – a moratorium still in effect today.  This means other deserving artists (and I’d like to think I can include myself), are no longer eligible to apply for those NEA dollars.  And that’s not Serrano’s fault.  It’s Helms’ fault and his supporters’ fault (from their standpoint, a victory), but also all the fault of all the lazy-ass artists, dems, and freedom of expression lovers who were too complacent and apathetic to stand up against Helms and his thugs.  And don’t think I didn’t take notice that there was a selective focus on giving visual artists the shaft then that’s just as vehement and selective this time too.   NEA grants for individual writers & composers still exist.  Somehow, the right-wing nut-jobs don’t realize that the pen (or typewriter or computer or musical instrument) can be equally “subversive” or “offensive” – or shall we say “powerful?”  Oh yeah…all you have to do is look at a few Tea Partier signs to know they don’t read anyhow.  Reading is for illeetists like our un-American, Kenyan President.  But maybe he’s not reading either, since it sure seems he’s not reading the writing on the wall clearly spelling out that a bunch of us are feeling pretty concerned about the whereabouts of his spine.  But I digress…

Beyond the issues of censorship and freedom of expression, it is hard to ignore the anti-gay rhetoric being brought into the argument by those who have lobbied for the removal of the Wojnarowicz video.  This, and not the 11 seconds of the video, is the kind of hate speech of which our society should be wary.

So I’m up on my soapbox today, and I’m staying here!  To heck with the righteous wingnuts. If they want “art,” they can have all the Thomas Kinkade they want. (And I’m NOT giving you a link for that.  You can just go google him if you must.)

p.s. Another mighty fine link for those who care about this issue: Tyler Green on artinfo.com

“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others…for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.” ~ Albert Einstein

I’ve been known to have my gripes about the institutional machinery churning out MFAs, and the economic chicanery of the commercial art world that promotes the idea that this degree denotes superior artistic talent, intellect or dedication.  As Jerry Saltz writes in NY Magazine, “These days, if a young artist starts out showing at Larry Gagosian it feels silly, misguided, out of scale, and odd — like the artist is in it for the wrong reasons.”

Yes, an MFA does denote a bigger debt load (or bigger trust fund), but we all know there are plenty of artists out there who have and continue to produce incredible work by following less traditional paths.  Let us not forget that the supposed indispensability of having an MFA is a fairly recent development for visual artists.  But that aside, while I may have reservations about certain institutions, my point here, and I promise to get to it, is to speak out loudly in favor of teachers, and the importance of all of us being very vocal and visible in supporting the role of arts in the public education programs for the nation’s youth.  (If you’re in NY, here’s a good place to start advocating for the arts.)

“A teacher’s purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image. “~ Unknown

Don’t you fondly think of those who have formally and/or informally offered insights, guidance, opinions and encouragement along the way?  I speak from experience to say that you might be surprised at how much showing your appreciation might mean to them.

Here are a few of the people I have to thank:

Incredibly perceptive, sharp and frank Regina Granne, who taught me that looking hard and drawing well are indispensable abilities, but aren’t enough if one isn’t honing one’s thinking skills all the while.

Knox Martin, at 87 and still painting away, eternally mischievous, irrepressibly lustful, playful, and passionate – an unaffected cad of sorts.  [His current solo show at Woodward Gallery runs through November 13, 2010.]

The late Richard Pousette-Dart, irascible by association, though not in manner, whom I have to thank for encouraging me to look deep within and pursue my creative vision, for caring not a whit when it diverged from his own, and for telling me to use a bigger sketchbook.

The late Robert Beauchamp, an uncompromising painter’s painter, who made it undeniably obvious how sexy paint can be.

Bruce Dorfman, who taught me the difficult lesson of mining successes from self-proclaimed so-called failures.

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” (Albert Einstein, again.)

And I’ll leave you with some views from teachers’ perspectives:

A post by Julia Hensley on teaching and making art and a typographic video version of Taylor Mali‘s spoken poem “What Teachers Make.”

And if you want to be impressed more, check out Taylor Mali’s mission to inspire 1000 people to become teachers.  So far, he’s convinced 580, and counting!

My previous post, “Not So Fan-tastic,” describes my receipt of a “fan” letter in the mail from teenager Suzanne Lopez, requesting  my autograph on a blank, white index card she had enclosed.  Before responding to what was a decidedly unusual request, I did some research and found out that the identical letter had been sent internationally to many artists of all disciplines.  Well, the almost identical letter.  Suzanne revised her age randomly between 17, 16 and 15, and her return address changed often.

Today I received an email from Suzanne, using a different name, who was upset to find that I had publicly aired my skepticism.  I will add my rough translation of her message and the original French at the bottom of this post.  The few points I’d note before asking for your comments are as follows:

First off, I have no desire to alienate or criticize anyone who genuinely appreciates my work, or to get into a virtual pissing match with any professed admirer.  People out there have hobbies that are a whole lot weirder than collecting autographs, and I’m not passing judgment.  However, I would find it more genuine to receive a compliment from an adult who doesn’t feel the need to masquerade as a teen, more meaningful to receive one from someone who can remark even in some small way about how the work speaks to them, and maybe even someone who expresses enough interest in my work to subscribe to my email list before asking me for something, even if it is just my signature.

Secondly, if Suzanne is an admirer of mine and familiar with my work as she says, I’m  puzzled why she remains unaware of my gender and addresses me as Monsieur.  It is clear on my website’s home page, my bio/cv and reviews that I am not male.  One thing about her original letter that struck me as odd was that it was entirely impersonal – worded identically to those others had received, except for artistic discipline.  In her recent communication with me, she still says nothing personal or specific about my work, other than quoting “Dear   O  Applause!  to you.  I was impressed.  You’ve done it again!” indicating only that she’d seen the faux postcard on my contact page.

Finally, regarding personal addresses, my studio address is on my website, which is how she was able to contact me by mail in the first place.  I like the USPS and encourage people to contact me, but maybe she’s right that such info shouldn’t be generally available.  As a courtesy, I have removed Suzanne’s return address from my earlier post.

Though this whole thing makes me kind of sad, I mean no disrespect to Suzanne, who may indeed have an “Imaginary Museum” of artists’ autographs, enjoying a vaguely quirky hobby for over 35 years.  I hope she will continue to love art and discover artists she admires, and that she eventually finds a truly personal way to connect with people where she feels comfortable just being herself.

P.S. There is no international inquest, call for witnesses, or FBI involvement.  Just me and you, the true friends and supporters who come visit this little blog of mine.

Dear Mr. Sky Pape

I am writing you this message in French. I don’t know whether you know this language, but I think that having reliable detective talents, you know how to translate it or have it translated. I read with great surprise and some amusement the article on your blog about “Suzanne Lopez” and the letter you received in June.  Surprise and amusement because I never thought such an innocent letter could provoke an international inquest, along with a call for witnesses!  For as you will agree, you only received a letter asking you for an autograph, and you had total freedom faced with this request to respond or not respond. The request is not specifically illegal, and the intervention of the FBI may perhaps be a bit of an exaggeration [overreaction], even if we do live in an increasingly policed society: I am surprised that an artist would completely agree.

First, I will reassure you that there is no underlying bank card fraud or similar project. I believe that you would have already heard about it.  So, I will reveal the scandalous secret: it is just…a collection of autographs!  Amazing, right?  The “Imaginary Museum” is a collection of autographs.

One confession, still…Indeed, it is the only “scam”, the age is not true.  And I will tell you why.  This collection started when Suzanne Lopez was 15 years old…16, 17…and the letter has remained much the same since.  I “fixed” on that age, which was a good time in life.  And this collection started in 1973.  Do the math.  (At that time there was no Internet, and fewer amateur detectives.)

There.  This “truth” will undoubtedly disappoint you.  Whatever.  Know in any case that I don’t find it appropriate to give the world a personal address. Would you want a stranger doing the same with yours?

My collection does not include the autograph of Sky Pape.  Too bad.  I like what you make a lot.

Dear   O  Applause!  to you   .  i was impressed.  You’ve done it again!

Sincerely,
Suzanne Lopez

Cher M. Sky Pape,
Je vous écris ce message en français. J’ignore si vous connaissez cette langue, mais je pense, qu’ayant des talents sûrs de détective, vous saurez la traduire ou la faire traduire. J’ai lu avec beaucoup d’étonnement et un peu d’amusement votre article sur votre blog au sujet de “Suzanne Lopez” et de la lettre que vous avez reçue en juin. Etonnement et amusement, car je ne pensais pas qu’une innocente lettre puisse provoquer une telle enquête internationale, assortie d’un appel à témoins! Car, vous en conviendrez, vous avez seulement reçu une lettre vous demandant un autographe, et vous aviez toute la latitude face à cette requête de répondre ou de ne pas répondre. La demande n’est pas spécialement illégale, et l’intervention du FBI serait peut-être un peu exagérée, même si nous vivons dans une société de plus en plus policière: je m’étonne qu’un artiste abonde dans ce sens.
Je vais d’abord vous rassurer: il n’y a là-dessous aucun projet d’escroquerie à la carte bancaire ou autre projet similaire. Je crois que vous en auriez entendu parler. Alors, je vais vous révéler le “pot-aux-roses”: il s’agit simplement d’une…. collection d’autographes. Incroyable, non? Et seulement cela. Le “Musée imaginaire”, c’est une collection d’autographes…
Un aveu, quand même… Effectivement, et c’est la seule “escroquerie”, l’âge n’est pas le bon. Et je vais vous dire pourquoi: cette collection a commencé quand Suzanne Lopez avait 15 ans… 16,17… et la lettre est restée un peu la même depuis. J’ai “bloqué” sur cet âge, qui était une bonne époque. Et cette collection a commencé en 1973. Faites vos calculs. (A l’époque, il n’y avait pas Internet, et moins d’apprentis détectives.)
Voilà. Cette “vérité” vous déçoit sans doute. Peu importe. Sachez en tout cas que je ne trouve pas très opportun de donner en pâture au monde une adresse personnelle. Voudriez-vous qu’un inconnu fasse de même avec la vôtre?
Ma collection ne comprendra donc pas l’autographe de Sky Pape. C’est dommage, j’aime bien ce que vous faites.
Dear   O  Applause!  to you   .  i was impressed.  You’ve done it again!
Bien à vous,
Suzanne Lopez

Things handmade and handwritten have a special appeal to me — perhaps it’s something about the humanness of their imperfection and scale. Who doesn’t like to find a real letter in the mailbox amidst the stack of bills and solicitations? Postmarked from France, I turned the envelope over in my hands and opened it with curiosity.

Written on stationery imprinted with two pretty leaves in the upper left and a return address from Suzanne Lopez in France, it was dated June 28, 2010, and read as follows:

Dear Ms. Sky Pape,

I am 16 years old and Art is my passion. I’m writing to you to express my admiration and my enthusiasm for your artistic way and for your works, your creations – I find them wonderful.

I would be very happy to have your autograph on the small card I’m sending you, for my ‘imaginary Museum’…

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,
Suzanne

Suzanne Lopez letter

Sweet, right? For about a second, I was flattered.  It was just that part about putting my “autograph” on the small card, a blank, white index card, that had all my alarms going off in a deafening cacophonous din.  I am not saying I don’t have fans — it is a source of  great pleasure that I happen to know personally or virtually almost every kind soul who has collected or ever admired my work.  Clearly, this was a case for some detective work (i.e., Google), if there ever was one.

In a matter of seconds, I found my answer in an article by Sarah Hall from the Salisbury Post, dated June 27, 2008.  Ms. Hall, a composer, had received the same letter, essentially verbatim, from Suzanne Lopez – with the notable exception that back in 2008, Suzy was claiming to be 17, and “music is my passion.”  According to Ms. Hall, she heard from people from across the US and Europe who had received the same letter.

Having been a victim of identity theft in the past (a nightmare to be sure!), I had no intention of sending my easily scannable signature to anyone.  Still, though this reeked of being a scam, it seemed like a very expensive one, having someone write letters by hand and pay for postage? For what ends? What does a signature even mean anymore? Maybe this “imaginary museum” was just the pet project of some oddball who thought they needed to pass themselves off as a teenage girl in order to get the desired response.

It’s hard for me to imagine what this person would want with my signature.  It’s not as if my work is anything that could be easily forged and then have my signature appended to it for authenticity. (Though BEWARE, some work is indeed much easier to rip off — case in point: Lori McNee and the copycat artist.)

I’m no a stranger to fan mail, having been on the sending end more than once.  As a kid, I sent George Harrison  a flawlessly rendered pencil portrait of him, capturing the soulful gaze of the ‘spiritual’ Beatle.  I requested no reply and even though I never heard back from him, surely he treasured it — as sensitive as he was.  As a tween, already interested in pursuing art and busy working on honing the skills required for realistic representation of the world, I wrote to one of Canada’s eminent artists at the time, Ken Danby, asking for any advice he might share.  He wrote back, offering some encouragement and aphorisms about being an artist.  In recent years, I’ve even written to a favorite teacher from junior high school, telling him how his teaching  made a lasting impression on my life, only to hear back that when he received my note, he happened to have been carrying a photo of me and a fellow student in his briefcase for weeks, intending to show his current students how kids dressed “back in the day” when he started teaching.  There have been other letters sent from time to time.  It feels good to let people know that they have meant something to me — that they and their work, ideas, and experience have value and meaning.

In their efforts to shepherd their work into the world, artists tend to be particularly vulnerable to people trying to take financial and personal advantage of them. Many people know I like to do my bit to keep the USPS alive, but like everyone else, my bullshit-detector must always be on.  If Suzanne Lopez is a real person, I don’t mean to poke fun at you or be cruel.  However, I think I’ll save the postage, and just post my reply online:

Dear Suzanne Lopez,

I’m writing to you to express my appreciation for your ‘admiration and enthusiasm of my artistic way.’  A sincere letter of thanks or admiration can be a wonderful thing, and it’s always meaningful to know when someone has felt a connection with the work.  I am sorry, but in this age of crime and identity theft, it seems unwise and against my better judgment to provide you with a copy of my signature.

If you really exist and don’t want people to think you are a con artist or criminal, I’d suggest writing something individualized and sincere to every artist and composer to whom you reach out, refraining from lying about your age or falsifying any other information about yourself, and not asking for anything in return.  I hope you develop a passion for truth that exceeds your passion for art and music.

Sincerely,

Sky

If anyone else has received similar “fan” letters, please feel free to comment below!

The past few months have been pretty much non-stop with work and all sorts of excitement, but I’m happy to at long last have a moment to stop here and say hello, and happy spring!

The day after my solo show at June Kelly Gallery ended, I was on a plane to Italy for a month-long residency fellowship at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center on Lago di Como in northern Italy (above).  It was an incredibly productive time for me, an honor, and an extraordinary experience in every way.

In addition to the site’s natural beauty and fascinating history, the Bellagio Center is exceptionally distinctive because of its vision and understanding of the ultimate progressive value of interdisciplinary and international discourse to all positive human endeavors:

“Through conferences and residencies, the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center brings together people of diverse expertise and backgrounds in a thought-provoking and collaborative environment to promote innovation and impact on a wide range of global issues.

We have seen the powerful results of investing in and unleashing human capacity. The Bellagio experience fosters a robust exchange of ideas between scientists and artists, theorists and practitioners, those who make policy and those who are affected by it.

Located in northern Italy, the Center infuses unorthodox, radical thinking into searches for solutions to critical social, political, health, environmental and economic challenges.

It encourages all to debate on globally relevant issues and push the boundaries of collective knowledge to translate theory into action.”

It would take a lot more than a blog post for me to describe the profound impact of sustained interaction with an intimate, international coterie of scholars, scientists, and creative thinkers — all brilliant and genial.  Instead, I will just share a very simple story.

My Italian studio, I soon noticed, came with a personal rainbow.  Not that I’m all mystical, but as I held this rainbow in my hand, it seemed to impart not only the wonderful energy and beauty of that place, but also the creative good karma generated by all the artists who had previously inhabited that space.  It was much like the welcome I felt when I opened the supply cupboard to see their names written there, some extra supplies they’d left behind, and even a chocolate — all three practices that I was delighted to continue as tradition. [For the curious, here is a sampling of some of the drawings I did during my residency.]

Being able to work and participate in the community at the Bellagio Center was a long-held dream of mine, and one that I was not sure would ever be realized.  But one of the many things I took away from that transformational experience was the justification — even the imperative — of dreaming as big as possible, and not giving up on the pursuit of those dreams.

Upon arriving home, and I will admit that the reintroduction to reality has been a challenge (like a bad case of the bends!), I have had opportunities to attend inspiring celebrations honoring two women who have exemplified through their lives and actions exactly what I mean.

Over the weekend, Just Food held an event in honor of Joan Dye Gussow, the unstoppable — even subversive, if you will — matriarch, pioneer, teacher, leader, activist and icon of the organic food movement. [Also see: http://joansgarden.org/] And yesterday, I attended the memorial celebration for Jeanne-Claude, who passed away last November.  From each of these spectacularly intelligent, luminous and energetic women, I learned that in the pursuit of big dreams, passion, precision, and perseverance count.  Rules and “No”, not so much.

Many times an hour, both waking and sleeping, I keep returning to my time at Bellagio.  I often think about that rainbow in my hand; how happy and fortunate and connected it made me feel.  Jeanne-Claude was quoted about the temporality of life and art, and the fact that such temporality imparts a sense of urgency.  As she put it, “For instance, if someone were to say, ‘Oh, look on the right, there is a rainbow,’ one would never answer, ‘I will look at it tomorrow.’”

Whatever may or may not have been done before, a full life begins with dreams that will not be denied, disparaged or deferred.

Sky Pape - Cocktail

Well, tonight you will find me blinking in the light like a bear newly emerged from a season of hibernation.  I’ve been hunkered down preparing for my solo show, “Water Works: Surface Tension,” which opens at 6pm tonight (until 8pm), February 5th, a few short hours from now.  If you are awaiting a personal, virtually-engraved invitation to the show, this is it! Please stop by and see it if you can, between now and March 5th, at June Kelly Gallery, 166 Mercer Street, Floor 3, New York, NY.  As far as experiencing art, you know there ain’t nothing like the real thing!

The gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11-6pm.  In addition to the opening, I’ll be stopping by the gallery now and again during the run of the exhibition.  I don’t know my precise schedule yet, but I will post times on the home page of my website, so please check there if you’d like to connect in person, or you can email your plans and I’ll see whether we can coordinate.

Thank you for looking and reading and cheering me up and onward with your comments, messages, kindness, humor, intelligence, and generosity of spirit. It’s with the utmost gratitude and appreciation that I find myself surrounded by such talented and wonderful people.  And you’re all really good looking and sexy too.

And now to go get gussied up myself.  It’s showtime!

[above image: Sky Pape, Cocktail, 2009, ink on paper, 37"h x 25-1/4"w, courtesy June Kelly Gallery, photo: Jean Vong, copyright Sky Pape, all rights reserved.]

P.S.  I am no fan of the persistent idea of the “starving artist” and think art is better viewed with a satisfied stomach! No sooner did I post this than I learned that the masterful gourmet chef Viviane Bauquet Farre of Food and Style has invented a special recipe and wine pairing in honor of this show (and my love of mushrooms).  I couldn’t be more flattered!

It was around this time of year,  and I was walking on a gentle mountain trail with my absolute favorite person.  Yes, I’ll admit I have favorites. Happily, it’s a long list, and if you’re here reading this, you’re on it.

It’s wonderful how walking activates the mind as if the legs were cog cranks specifically designed to directly engage those tired cranial gears.   Being fall, I was less intent on noticing the birds, and started talking about ideas that were surfacing, wondering what would take shape.   “So, what’s it going to be?” seemed to be the question confronting me.  The “what” referring to creative output.  Out of my ramblings on the mountain came a perception of what I want the core of my work to be at its very best — what I want it to do for me, and ideally, for you.

The challenge, it seemed, was, and is, to create something positive, regardless of the specifics of what it might actually look like or by what means it might ultimately be made.  If it could impart some joy, perfect, or a sense of possibility and wonder, even better. I’d settle for a twinge of some ineffable connection.

My inner cynic is always ready to make an uninvited appearance, but I don’t find the snark’s offerings compelling or absorbing.  Don’t bring me down. Do I want or need to see more interpretations and fantasies of violence, abuse, and humiliation visited by humans upon everyone and everything?  Is it shocking? No. Titillating? Eh. Obvious? Yes. On the other hand, the optimist and idealist risk seeming naive, their contributions cloying, sentimental, new agey, utopian, obscure, self-important, simplistic, and again, obvious.  Personally, I decided to see what I could do while keeping my drawings non-objective, staying away from being literally descriptive, keeping my personal baggage in storage.  By eschewing the obvious, maybe I’d find a way to get a little closer to the ideal of making something  instrinsically positive.

It’s tricky.  Positivity and optimism are not the same thing, nor are positivity and skepticism mutually exclusive.  There are so many varied paths, and as I’ve kept this challenge in the forefront of my mind, I’ve taken more notice when I’ve seen it faced successfully in the work of others.

I was recently (half) joking about the arts and artists deserving a stimulus package and government bailout, when I found myself involved in one of those 140-character-or-less virtual conversations with a complete stranger who questioned whether art deserved any public money at all.  “Should the working class fund entertainment for the middle class through taxes?” he justifiably wondered.  I succinctly replied, “Tax $ 4 art: Funding entertainment? Maybe not. But art that inspires innovation, creative thinking, learning, problem solving?”  His next response was to call me to task to provide examples, and guess what?  Well, I have a few things I want to share with you.  They may or may not have received funding, though in my opinion they deserve it, but I can promise, they won’t bring you down.

Art on Library Walls including work by Maira Kalman (below).  Just about anything by Maira Kalman.

Let’s not forget Liza Lou, beginning with her glittering masterpiece, “The Kitchen” (detail below).

And so much more.

With that in mind, I’m off to the studio.

Dear Eva,

You seem the same as always, and being you, hate every minute of it. Don’t! Learn to say “Fuck You” to the world once in a while. You have every right to. Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder, wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, gasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, rumbling, rambling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting, nit-picking, piss-trickling, nose sticking, ass-gouging, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding grinding grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just DO!

From your description, and from what I know of your previous work and your ability, the work you are doing sounds very good. ‘Drawing — clean-clear but crazy like machines, larger, bolder, real nonsense.’ That sounds wonderful — real nonsense. Do more. More nonsensical, more crazy, more machines, more breasts, penises, cunts, whatever — make them abound with nonsense. Try and tickle something inside you, your ‘weird humor.’ You belong in the most secret part of you. Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool. Make your own, your own world. If you fear, make it work for you — draw and paint your fear and anxiety.  And stop worrying about big, deep things such as ‘to decide on a purpose and way of life, a consistent approach to even some impossible end or even an imagined end.’ You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to DO! [The DO's are drawn and decorated and very large.] I have much confidence in you and even though you are tormenting yourself, the work you do is very good. Try to do some BAD work. The worst you can think of and see what happens but mainly relax and let everything go to hell.  You are not responsible for the world — you are only responsible for your work, so do it. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be.  But if life would be easier for you if you stopped working then stop. Don’t punish yourself. However, I think that it is so deeply engrained in you that it would be easier to DO.

It seems I do understand your attitude somewhat, anyway, because I go through a similar process every so often. I have an “Agonizing Reappraisal” of my work and change everything as much as possible = and hate everything I’ve done, and try to do something entirely different and better. Maybe that kind of process is necessary to me, pushing me on and on. The feeling that I can do better than that shit I just did. Maybe you need your agony to accomplish what you do. And maybe it goads you on to do better. But it is very painful I know. It would be better if you had the confidence just to do the stuff and not even think about it. Can’t you leave the “world” and “ART” alone and also quit fondling your ego. I know that you (or anyone) can only work so much and the rest of the time you are left with your thoughts. But when you work or before your work you have to empty your mind and concentrate on what you are doing. After you do something it is done and that’s that. After a while you can see some are better than others but also you can see what direction you are going. I’m sure you know all that. You also must know that you don’t have to justify your work – not even to yourself. Well, you know I admire your work greatly and can’t understand why you are so bothered by it. But you can see the next ones and I can’t. You also must believe in your ability. I think you do. So try the most outrageous things you can – shock yourself. You have at your power the ability to do anything.

I would like to see your work and will have to be content to wait until Aug or Sept. I have seen photos of some of Tom’s new things at Lucy’s. They are impressive – especially the ones with the more rigorous form: the simpler ones. I guess he’ll send some more later on. Let me know how the shows are going and that kind of stuff.

My work had changed since you left and it is much better. I will be having a show May 4 -9 at the Daniels Gallery 17 E 64yh St (where Emmerich was), I wish you could be there. Much love to you both.

Sol

[Letter from Sol Lewitt to Eva Hesse, April 14, 1965.]

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