Work has begun on Permutations 2, a painting on 15 birch panels measuring a total of 100″ x 60″. For this piece I am using a limited palette of just four colors as well as playing with the idea of leaving part of the raw birch panel exposed. I realized that during the process of Permutations 1, I thought the piece was really dynamic before it was finished and all the raw space had been filled in with color. There was a play on geometry that was erased as soon as all the wood was painted over. Here is an image of the painting in progress:
So for this new piece, I am experimenting with leaving 7 inches of panel exposed on the right side of half of the panels and 7 inches exposed on the left side of the rest of the panels. Even with the concept of being able to arrange and rearrange the installation of the panels, there will still be a play of connections and breaks in the lines as they meet up in shape and/or in color. I also haven’t decided if the panels could be installed with some on their side or if they should all remain vertical. Here is a detail shot of the same piece:
There are many articles being published about Tracey Emin right now as she has an exhibition up at White Cube gallery in London. The reviews have generally been glowing but the one article that caught my attention via an artist friend (and former Londoner) in Tanzania, was the one about “having it all”. I was never really a huge fan of her work but now I’m definitely a fan of her. She says out loud what the rest of us are thinking: “There are good artists that have children. Of course there are. They are called men.” The author of this article in The Guardian claims that Emin’s statement is, “either her ruthless honesty or her conservatism speaking”. I see the raw honesty for what it is: the truth. We cannot have it all without either career or family getting shortchanged. The author goes on to say that with all her money, she could have hired a nanny to raise a couple of kids. I have many friends who have nannies, baby sitters, and lots of other help with their children while they pursue careers and they are good moms doing a good job. But I thank her for coming out in defense of her decision in regards to having an artistic career. Perhaps if I had had early success the way she did, I would have thought twice about the impact children would have on my career. I have sacrificed a lot for my children and am not looking back. When they go to college, I’ll look forward to having that second chance at career success while my creative process is uninterrupted by being a good mom.
This is not to say that I haven’t been working while I have been a full time mom, I have. I did manage to find a gallery to represent me and exhibit my work. I’m not sure if any of that would have changed had I chosen not to have children but my full time focus has not been on my art. I wouldn’t say, like Emin, that my children’s presence has been an artistic distraction, I just have less time to actually make work. Now that they are each in school a full day, I find more hours during the week to work, which has been great. I actually never thought I would be a full time stay at home mom. The minute that baby was in my arms, I knew immediately that I was the only one to raise that child; completely my choice and one I don’t regret for a minute. If you had told me at the age of 32 that my career might be on hold for the next 18 years, I would have cried my eyes out. Now, more than 10 years later, I still feel as young and artistically energized as ever. In fact, only now do I feel my work is finally getting good.
I used to work for Laddie John Dill a well-known artist in Venice, California right after college. Several years later I went to one of his exhibitions with one of my children in tow. He was happy to see me and complimented how well I and my child looked. He also expressed relief to hear that I was still making art because as he told me, “most women give up trying to be an artist after they have kids.” I wasn’t insulted by his comment because I knew he was fond of me and didn’t mean anything negative by it. He always supported my painting efforts and put me in a lot of early career shows for which I am very grateful.
Making a full circle back to Venice, CA, this month I attended a studio tour and lecture presentation by Cliff Garten. This RISD alum gathering was at Cliff’s studio in Venice not half a mile from where I used to work for Laddie. His main work to date has been large public sculpture or installations throughout the United States. He presented a wall of smaller sculptures as what he called his “gallery” work.
Cliff started his career in ceramics but he told us he became disillusioned with the medium as well as with the gallery world which he left in the mid-eighties to pursue public design. The new wall installation was about Colony Collapse and he explained how each insect or part of nature depicted was somehow distorted from its original form: a snail cast out of metal with a soft shell and a hard body, a bee covered in ominous red spots, a blue honeycomb melting into a distorted form, and an ant covered in what appeared to be sawdust. All depictions of the bastardization of nature as he sees man has perpetrated on the ecosystem.
He explained that after many years of working on large scale projects involving many collaborators and even more bureaucracy, he was ready to flesh out these ideas of sculpture on a more intimate level. I found the pieces to be very engaging both in concept and construction. During the studio lecture I was also excited to meet fellow grads, industrial designer Sarah b. Nelson and photographer/installation artist Regina Mamou.
This month’s music: Kimbra