Excerpts from my blog diary from March 16-18.
Monday March 16th:
We made the trip to a parking lot in Newburgh to hand off this painting to Janet Schwarz, JSO Art Associates.
It is impossible to know if the two interested parties are really going to follow through with a viewing, mostly because of the stock market and fears of a long recession. But at least she has it and that bit of business is taken care of. Also, a large painting leaving the studio feels safer for all of the rest. (No, this is not social distancing, just the moving-things-around risks!)
On our way back we had planned a “last” shop at Hannaford in West Hurley not so much because we need anything for ourselves but because Tony is coming back tonight from college and to shop for my MiL, who has not yet focused on stocking up.
Hannaford was brutal. There was one parking space left in the lot when we rolled in at about 2pm, and the place was mobbed, a number of shelves bare. They had just restocked, but the cashier—who was whipping the items through, knowing that everyone wanted to get the hell out of there—said that the parking lot was almost full when they all arrived before 6am. Some folks were wearing masks.
Everyone was polite, though. So far, still Woodstock.
Back in the car, I observed to Jack, what would it be like if this were a really deadly plague, like Ebola? He came back with the opinion that armed folks, gun nuts, like someone we know from the old Marvel days, would have their machine guns at the ready in the toilet paper isle.
We are still good for a laugh.
Niece has been self-quarantining in the the Berkley area since a colleague in her Phd program tested positive a few days ago. Her boyfriend had been visiting during his spring break from Duke, so he was also in the net, and today has a fever. She has three housemates..also caught. She is trying to figure out how to get him tested. (There is so much wrong with that sentence.)
A few hours later we heard that the Bay Area is under a new “shelter in place” order.
___ _____________________________________ ___
Tuesday March 17th:
No test for my neice’s boyfriend. Bad sign. Now all five of them are just going to have to wait it out, and will it ever be known if they have it? It does not bode well, this continued lack of testing, since we have no idea of the scope of the epidemic without.
Numbers are ratcheting up day by day, and known cases getting closer. Saugerties has one now, and there are more in Kingston and Rhinebeck. Westchester declared a state of emergency. They declared a 8pm curfew in NYS for all restaurants, which can now only offer take-out.
Sara, who owns the yoga studio where I practice and teach, wants me to zoom a basics class a week, and I will start to think about that in a few days. She also proposed having me and/or the other teacher at CTH be her student in the studio while she zooms her classes. I love that idea, but realized that if I stayed away from the studio last weekend to avoid students and she taught, I should probably stay away from her for another few weeks. Otherwise, what was the point of that?
But, we could stay far apart, so I am tempted.
Note: Sara is a lovely teacher and is zooming her classes with online sign-up. You can check it out at:
Some nice painting studio time today, getting a layer in on on the sand flats piece. I got a late start because Tony got in and stayed up late and I found myself sleepless at about 5am.
We are setting up a small studio for him for silverpoint, cutting lino, and his remote classes in Tessa’s room, adjoining his own, and he can use my studio for messier work, like painting.
___ _______________________________________ ___
Wednesday, March 18, 2pm: I am thinking this morning, and last night while falling asleep, about what other studio endeavors I might want to begin just now. I am working on the grouping for Louisa Gould Gallry on MV and will be for a bit, to be ready with new work whenever the time is right. Also, a few more paintings for my online show with Butters Gallery, scheduled for mid-May. I also promised Judi at Gallery Jupiter that I would do some oil-on-board 8″x8″s or her (for whenever, no hurry!) that have the depth to stand on a table or shelf, like the 6″x6″s that she has; but for these the images goes all of the way out to the edge. Here are an examples of each version.
Below are five of these 6″x6″s from my end-of-residency show at the Artists Association of Nantucket in November of 2018, sitting below three hand-colored linocut maps of the island.
This is the new version, 4″x12″, on the shallower board meant for hanging.
My students and other artists and a number of collectors have loved the top version, with dark float, but several galleries are reporting that it makes the image even smaller—for the price point—and so I am experimenting with the second version, which also involves adjusting the color of the gesso on the sides to fit the image. So far, I like it.
It’a an instance of how innovation can happen based on market considerations, if taken as a creative challenge. If you are flexible and can get excited about the idea, this can work—if you are resentful of the suggestion, it’s unlikely that any good will come of it.
Here are some other ideas.
Ongoing or occasional pursuits:
~Dye more rice and mulberry paper for collaging.
~Circle back to printmaking, maybe joining Tony with a 3-color (hand) printing of a lino.
~Figure out how to make collages with failed monotypes, probably using my dyed rice papers along with. Looking at them today, I realized that some would be appropriate to use as the basis for a pastel, since the print papers are the same as what I have for years used for pasteling. I have found that trying to tweak a print with pastel doesn’t work well, since the paper really needs to have a density of pastel applied to be able to move it around, and this means pastel over the whole thing.
~Maps using walnut ink, mixed media, some found/vintage objects, using more natural materials.
~Other in-studio printmaking projects, maybe finding new ways to use maps.
~Work on watershed Site Map.
The watershed Site Map has been confusing me because I am thinking about either this Atlas theme or a Cape Cod (or Cape and Islands) version for next, and these environmentally themed projects are an enormous amount of work.
That’s what indecision does—stalls the brain, and stalls progress. I got a nice start on prepping the Watershed map on its 48″x36″ board last year, but got side-tracked with various painting projects, from my November show at Jupiter Gallery in NJ to the commissions this past winter, and more.
I have just talked myself through the dilemma (decision fatigue making even the low-pressure ones stressful), hooray. It makes sense to carry forward with the one that I have started. When the studio gets crowded I spend too much time moving things around.
This is the Site Map for Atlas/Forms of Water, finished last summer and the guide to the show I had of that name at Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck. The new one will have a similar format. For more about this show see my blog post:
First painting of the year to get to dry in the yard! With this accelerated drying time, I can work on the second layer tomorrow and likely finish it.
And now, for a walk in that sunshine.
8pm: Terrible news all around, numbers and economics. I have gone from reading every little thing back in early January to tolerating just measured doses of news. Despite the dread that I felt when I was first reading the reports from Wuhan, putting it all together required an attention to detail and cross-referencing with other material that engaged the grey matter . This is now onslaught after onslaught of of news that is worse by the hour, punches in the gut. It will only get worse, so let’s gear up the intestinal fortitude…
This time of the year always brings of thoughts of change and transition, loss and renewal. As 2019 has rolled over into 2020, these reflections are much more intense, intricate, and prolonged for me, as I recently lost my mother…a major life event; a huge transition.
My father-in-law, not a religious man nor particularly self-reflective, used to have a timely observation in times of trouble. It went something like this: “The chapters of the good book begin with ‘And it came to pass…’ They don’t begin with ‘And it came to stay…”
The things/people/practices that we love don’t always come to stay, any more than the difficult or painful situations. It is one of the things that is interesting about mindfulness practice, that as we focus on the moment, the moment is gone. And then the next, and the next, and the next…
My understanding of mindfulness is more like riding a wave, the mind following each moment along the way with focused attention. I discussed this form of happiness as it applies to a creative practice in an earlier blog post, “Creativity and Happiness”.
And this brings us to the winter studio. As life is quieter and the colors less vivid outside of it than during the warmer months, the potency of the creative life inside intensifies.
Snow cover bounces light into the studio and makes a perfect neutral foil for open color exploration within. Instead of open windows and doors inviting in the sound of the stream and birds, I often play the radio or listen to podcasts or music. The summer feel of expansiveness is replaced by a distillation of energy as focus narrows and intensifies.
My winter work often feels sunlit. Without the canopy of leaves covering our hamlet in the central Catskills, the sun streams at a dramatic slant into my house, my studio, and the yoga studio where I practice and teach…and then is gone, as day moves quickly into evening. We count the minutes of returning daylight…
In December I ordered an enticing assortment of custom-stretched linen for my winter work, and now have, at the ready, this stack of canvases in an array of sizes and formats:
I started work immediately on the largest one, a 44″x66″, almost finished:
I am also generating ideas for my next Atlas Project installation, this one focusing on rivers and streams, exploring the ecology of my local watershed. In my Atlas/Forms of Water show I solved several problems that I saw carry over from the previous Atlas Project installation. At issue now are verbal/written components more than visual ones: how to get my “Mapping Memory” stories in a more accessible form; and how to bring more natural history and climate change discussion into the installation.
I am seeing stream-like formations wherever I go…including places I have been many (for this image, thousands!) of times. Can you tell what we are looking at?
And the other day I saw this gorgeous Motherwell painting in a catalogue that I have in my studio. Viewed vertically rather than as the horizontal that it is…another stream…
A few paint-mixing sessions with my good friend Jenny Nelson in her winter studio have yielded new teaching tools. My color-mixing workshop (next held at the WSA, June 22-23) brings the student back to primaries and how all color evolves from there, which is a very complex undertaking.
Our intention with this collaboration was to pretty much do the opposite of that detailed breaking down of color, instead creating simple, limited palette exercises—using mixtures or primaries from the tube— for new students or those who feel color-blocked.
I will use some of these prompts in my next workshop at the WSA. Constructing/Deconstructing the Landscape (April 17-19) focuses on compositional strength, so a few structured color shortcuts to augment this emphasis are a welcome tool.
These were the palettes that evolved as we brainstormed and mixed, discarding some earlier versions. Now we will each re-do these on paper in our studios with better placement and clear labeling for sharing with our students.
Our ongoing conversations about our classes and workshops always include the abstract/landscape discussion, since Jenny teaches abstraction. Mixing color is one thing when you are using a reference of any sort, including working from life, even if you will likely want to tweak and adjust. It is quite another when you have not even a suggestion of a road map and mixing your palette is the first step in figuring out your abstract painting on the easel.
The collage exploration continues to fascinate me. I went from earlier just-barely-landscape versions (about 8-10 years ago) with altered papers, book bits, pattern paper, a bit of paint:
To the collaged maps, made with many bits of hand-dyed rice papers and other things (wasp wing, samara, dried leaves, pattern paper, old books, a bit of paint):
To a simplified version of the above, where I am working more with effects created while dying the papers, and then using larger swaths of them. Here are some of my latest:
I am very pleased with this beautifully produced recording of my December interview with audience Q&A at Albert Shahinian Fine Art, by Brett Barry of Silver Hollow Audio. The discussion ranges from my decades of contemporary landscape painting to the environmental themes of my Atlas/Forms of Water show to the gallery-artist relationship. You can listen here:
I am doing final updates on the blog post about this Atlas Project show, which was the highlight of my exhibition season for 2019. Here is the link:
On this day of pouring snow, everything else I had planned has been canceled. And so, I get to be in here:
And soon enough, it will look like this:
As the finale of this show and thus this post, I offer a beautifully produced recording of my interview with audience Q&A by Brett Barry of Silver Hollow Audio. This discussion ranges from my decades of contemporary landscape painting to the environmental themes of this show to the gallery-artist relationship. You can listen here:
Water is ease, water is in our dreams, water kills. Water is 60% of our bodies and covers 71% of the planet. We float, swim, sink, ride on, drink, cook and grow with, own, fight over, drown in, boil, crave, gaze at, and are mesmerized by water. It bears repeating: Water is life.
Water use has also been political since the beginning of our time on earth. As thirst, water rights and fights; severe storms; droughts, fires, floods; and sea level rise become increasingly critical on much of the planet, I have been catapulted into creating an expanded rubric for water imagery in my work. This focuses in on our environment and the challenges it faces, while continuing to celebrate the beauty our planet provides.
Atlas /Forms of Water maps the environmental theme while mapping my body of work, revealing a web of meaning around and between the individual pieces that I create. The matrix that connects all of my landscape imagery is saturated with memory, both personal and collective. To make these connections, I have created a site map for the body of work on view.
Maps functions as an aid to find our way. In this context, I am mapping our bodies and states of water; the paintings in the exhibit; memory and self; and threats to our environment, among other, more elusive things.
The Site Map has small monotypes running up both sides that are interpretations of the major paintings in the show. The four other prints are a conversation about threats from global warming: bigger hurricanes in upper left; sea-level rise in upper right: and stream/river flooding in the two at bottom, before and after.
At the top, I have included topographical contours, a loose and flattened version of the Escarpment that curves around Woodstock and then runs north parallel to the Hudson River.
Mountains are the first source of our surface water, and the painting below includes that form of water visible as the Catskill Mountains rising above the back shore, as well as mists, a cloud, and the Hudson River.
Another new collaged map for the show is of the NYC watershed, water tunnels included. New York City has negotiated—and renegotiated, multiple times—a pass on national regulations that mandate the filtering of drinking water. This exemption is a huge deal, and requires constant monitoring and regulation of the watershed townships within the areas shown, and many mandates for property owners to keep the water flowing into NYC reservoirs clean. While this makes our relationship to our larger neighbor to the south a complex and co-dependent one, it also has transformed our stewardship of our land and streams.
The below same-size collage from the year before is of the Hudson Canyon, which is essentially an underwater extension of the Hudson River, extending southeast until it drops off the continental shelf.
Also in mixed media/collage, “Forms of Water: A Taxonomy”. This small tintype drawer contains the following seven categories, from the top row moving down: states and phases of visible water; geographical bodies of water; wetlands; types of clouds; storms; waves; and human made forms of water.
Creating pieces in vintage boxes, drawers, muffin pans, and child’s blackboards has been one of my ongoing series for some years now. It requires a listening attitude to select and then bend the imagery to work with the support that I have chosen, starting the process in a different way from a blank canvas. In the below piece, the box and the piece of wood that I painted on had elements that determined both what imagery I chose and how I painted it.
For decades now, I have been devoted to painting fog, suspended water that softens our landscapes, sometimes obscuring, sometimes defining:
Many of my paintings depict wetlands, so gorgeous and vital for controlling flooding caused by excessive rain events, storms, tidal flooding, and sea-level rise; as well as filtering sediment in water and providing habitat for wildlife. Visually, salt marshes in particular create color and shape that I return to paint over and over again.
Manmade forms of water are included in the show, as seen in the flood image near the top and in the vertical painting below, which depicts a wetland developed by humans to cultivate cranberries.
The pieces in the show include landscape imagery in oil on linen; monotypes; small works in oil on board; water imagery using vintage boxes, blackboards, and other containers/support; and map collages.
I was motivated in fall of 2016 to move towards creating shows that place my open, color-field landscapes within a complex experiential web. Three major factors came into play at just that time.
The first was anticipation of a residency in Nantucket scheduled for that winter, and this dovetailed with the second, some thoughts about turning 60 later on in 2018. Given that my background is in contemporary art and that I have always viewed my progressions in landscape painting through that lens; my question to self was—what do I want to do, now, that I haven’t yet?
Among my answers to this question was learning monoprint and linocut techniques, which I now employ both for stand-alone prints and also for the Site Map. Below, some recent monotypes.
The third factor was key. Feeling profound grief over the outcome of the 2016 election, my mind returned repeatedly to the single biggest issue on the table, climate change. The conviction that time is running out here and that four years could be critical was decisive in determining the direction that my work has since taken. The acceleration of bad news in this arena since then is eye-popping—sea level rise predictions alone are much, much higher and sooner than was predicted while I was researching the topic in my February, 2017 Nantucket residency.
Snow and ice appear in my work and in the context of Atlas/Forms of Water, depict one of the main three phases of water, solid.
Water vapor, the gaseous state of water, is invisible. The closest thing that is visible is steam, such as the image of a geyser below.
Globally, precipitation has shifted so that many of the wet places are wetter and the dry locales are dryer. For this reason, I decided to create and include several pieces that depict water’s opposite, fire.
My imagery is heavily weighted toward the Northeast of the United States, as that is where I have spent much of my life. But I could be anywhere on the planet, exploring the same themes, and I bring with me memories of living in the arid Andes and central Castile; painting in rain-soaked Western Ireland; traveling Northern California to capture the coastal golden hillsides of late summer; and returning to the Nebraska flatlands of my early childhood. It all informs the matrix. It is all water.
This show builds upon my Atlas/Hudson River Valley show in March of 2017, which you can read about here:
We are collaborating with Riverkeeper and Catskill Mountainkeeper on a fundraising benefit October 12th, 5-8. That evening, 15% of sales will go to these vital local environmental organizations, as well as the proceeds of a raffle for this 12″x12″ painting:
(Note: Raffle was drawn on 11-16. Tickets were $20. We raised almost $1,300 from the raffle alone!)
This last week of April/first in May I am hard at work preparing paintings to go to Louisa Gould Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard. My sixth season with the gallery—and 20+ showing on the Vineyard—we are in a good groove together, and both excited about this line-up for the season.
For more, you can go to the gallery website:
A recent sale at Louisa Gould Gallery was the winning selection of a fellow who thoroughly researched my galleries’ websites and then sent inquires about pieces that he liked to five different galleries. After careful consideration, this is what he chose:
Reaching back to last winter…gone but not forgotten. I taught my Constructing/Deconstructing the Landscape workshop at the Woodstock School of Art. This is a very structured course, especially the first day+, dialing in on compositional shifts and how they affect movement, directionality, and mood. I always love what evolves, and this incarnation was no exception.
Here are a few of the student-executed exercises.
First, just hillside and tree or two in black gesso. Then move them around; change angle and division of picture plane; different type of tree. Several thought to break up the hillside.
This workshop feels like a slow flowering from tightly following direction early on to a much more open expression, integrating lessons learned along the way. I feel grateful for the trust that I am given to lead this guided work, since at the beginning of the workshop students feel a little hemmed in and have to go on faith that there are reasons for this, and that we are headed somewhere quite satisfying.
The first quarter of 2019 has been busy not just in the normal progression of events, projects, and deadlines, but also unusually so in the shear number and complexity of sales. Some of these required a fair bit of waltzing on my part, often accompanied by one of my galleries or consultants and assisted by my husband.
As you can imagine, each of these has a story.
A few of these stories:
In late February a designer I work with in Piermont NY, Ned Kelly, called in regard to the large painting below, wanting to show it to a client who already owned a smaller piece of mine. So off we went, my husband and I, that painting and a few others in tow, to meet up with the designer at the client’s home.
The piece actually didn’t work in the planned spot, so Ned headed upstairs to look for another likely wall, finding it above the bed in the master bedroom, across from my smaller piece that they owned.
With five people in a huge house, conversations splintered off, grouping and regrouping. By the time the painting was settled upon and the below smaller piece brought in from the car and actually installed, we had ranged far and wide, through good-natured expletive-laced teasing and the performative appearance of a shot gun. Add in two gorgeous dogs and a couple of cute kids and you have the whole picture.
Shortly after that I picked up a phone message from a person unknown to me but with a familiar last name, inquiring about a piece on my website. She turned out to be the new wife of a long-time friendly acquaintance. He and his (now I am understanding) ex-wife had remained on my mailing list for some years since I had last seen them, and I had been picturing them together, with the visiting grown kids and grandkids, exactly where I had seen them every summer for about twenty years.
But big changes had taken place. His new wife wanted to purchase a piece for her husband for their 3rd wedding anniversary. Apparently, the first wife had gotten the painting that they owned in the divorce (something I hear fairly often, actually) and he had been forwarding my invitations and updates along to his new wife, expressing enthusiasm for my work.
I had assumed years of silence meant lack of interest. But this is why I don’t take anyone off my mailing list unless they ask to be removed—I never know who is looking and enjoying and who deletes without opening.
So, after much back-and-forth and a delivery of three pieces for a staged viewing on the anniversary itself, this five-part vertical seascape was selected. I even got to have lunch and catch up with my old friend when he brought the other two paintings back to my area.
There is something in this story that feels very rich to me, maybe starting with the fact that it spans decades of time. There is a lot of life-essence in it—changes, losses, new beginnings, time passing, reconnections, and tracing the timelines of entwined lives.
We did a pop-up house party, a big collaborative effort, in Riverdale, NY. I hadn’t done one of these since the several that I did about a decade ago with Asher Nieman Gallery:
My co-conspirators this time were Albert Shahinian Fine Art, my husband, and my sister and brother-in-law, who opened up their apartment for the event. With this crew I had a driver; art handlers; a chef; a party planner; and a galleriest. Lucky me!
Below, a few of the pieces that departed for new homes:
I have two very different workshops coming up in May and June in the Catskills.
At the Emerson Resort in Mount Tremper, for all levels, an exploration of the imagery of our beautiful Catskill Mountains in May color:
And in June, for more experienced painters looking to explore a different concept:
On deck in my studio is another incarnation of my environmentally -themed Atlas Project. Atlas/Forms of Water, a solo show, will open at Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck this September, exact date TBA.
This show will feature all sorts of water imagery along with a new site map, in progress below. Along with the oil paintings, look for map pieces in collage and lino/mono print exploring climate change and sea level rise/storm flooding.
This builds on the show that I had at Thompson Giroux Gallery last spring, Atlas/Hudson River Valley (you can see the site map for that show in the upper left background). If you missed seeing or reading about the show, here is the link to my blog post on it:
Forms of Water explores a more a global rather that locale-specific theme, though my personal forms of water have most often been experienced in the Northeast.
Also upcoming, a small duo show with my friend Polly Law at the Roxbury Arts Group; more workshops; and fresh work heading to Nantucket. More on all of this soon!
If you are not on my mailing list and would like to be, contact me at email@example.com.
In 2011 I wrote a post describing some quirky and heartwarming stories that led to a sale or sales of my work:
Since then, I have accumulated a few more that I want to share.
My seven-year-old collector:
Several years ago I was approached by acquaintances who live in our little hamlet. Could their younger daughter interview me for a school project on her favorite artist?
Juliet had accompanied her father Brett to an open studio I had hosted several months prior, and so thought of me (the other kids did mostly Picasso or Van Gogh, I think!).
So we did that, and then Juliet returned to my studio for a private art class. Her mom, Rebecca–who I barely knew, at that point—read in the yard while we did our session, and at the end she came into the studio and we chatted. Juliet was still quite shy at that time, but summoned her courage to ask me how much I charged for my paintings. Her mother feared that the question was rude, but I said, no, that asking for price in an artist’s studio was perfectly acceptable.
So I pointed to a 36″x36″ and said, “This painting will go out to one of my galleries shortly and is priced at $6,000”, and then I pointed to a few other pieces in a stack and continued, “but those pieces in this stack” and I pulled out one that had been in the possession of my sister for years, “are much, much older and I will sell to a friend for a few hundred dollars”.
Her mom and I continued chatting, and then Juliet tugged on her mothers clothing. “MOM, I want to buy a painting.” Rebecca was floored and a little embarrassed, so I picked up what I thought was just a conversational ball. “Juliet, if you were going to buy a painting, which one would it be?
“That one”—she pointed to the stack, where I had stashed the earlier piece behind a few others. I pulled it out again. “I want to buy THAT one.” Her mom tried to backtrack, or at least table the conversation for later, but Juliet was having none of it. “How much would you charge me for it?”
I thought quickly. I could certainly have happily gifted her the piece, it was clear that she wanted to purchase it. So I told her that I would sell that painting to her for $150. “MOM, she said, I have savings and I WANT to buy the painting.” It went back and forth like that for a bit, Juliet also insisting that they take the painting NOW.
And so they did.
Her parents made the great call to have her go with them to the bank and make her first ever withdrawal and then bring me the money herself.
The angelic-looking and very strong-willed young artist:
I have since enjoyed getting to know the whole family better, as Brett and Rebecca have acquired a few pieces of their own and we have shared a glass of wine or two.
__________________ _____________________________________________ ____________________
She googled “Moody Greenscapes”:
And the study for the piece:
So that was just about that for that, as she explained:
Painting from 1987:
A few months ago I received an email from a fellow asking about the inspiration for this painting:
I have to say, I was very excited to see this piece, to me a standout from my abstract figurative period in the 1980’s when I was living in NYC. I remembered the sale of it to a woman who was accustomed to collecting high-end work, and I had always wondered if/how long she had held onto it. Frankly, given what else she had on her walls in her Sutton Place apartment, I was afraid that it had ended up in a dumpster.
It turned out that she does indeed really love her art–all of it, no dumpsters—even those pieces that have been switched around to different residences and in and out of storage. A few years ago, she offered to gift this piece to her sometimes personal assistant/friend and her husband. And so, it ended up in their California home…and sparked the inquiry.
I was communicating with Rich, the husband, batting info back and forth. Eventually, it was his idea to purchase two small pieces to go on either side, accommodating their budget. After studying the photo of their living room with the painting (which we started calling simply the “Sisters” painting, as is is a stylized image of me with my sister Karin behind me), I realized that monotypes would be the best bet, both for color/affect and for price. I recommended going with the pop of warm color that is in the painting, rather than trying to match the greens.
Then the couple decided that they wanted two more prints, for other spots in the room. I sent the four of them off and the next day got the email below:
“Love them! Thank you. I can’t wait to get them framed!
These are the other two that they acquired:
________________ ______________________________________________ _______________
Does a gift qualify as a sale?
Some 12 or so years ago we had a holiday party and Gary Alexander, art and science writer from Woodstock, came with his girlfriend. He had been introduced to me years before by my then-gallery, the James Cox Gallery, and had gone on to, over time, write extensively about my work. (This included an 8 page article that got into Freud and brain science and required some serious focus, even for me.)
I had my studio heated and lit that night for those who wanted to take a look, and Gary, of course, did. After a bit of circulating on his part, we went out together and he pretty quickly got snagged by a 36″x36″ painting that was almost totally in black and white, big stormy sky gleam over our Catskill mountains backlit to black.
I can’t find a jpeg of the piece, but it had a look very similar to this one, but with a black mountain range in front:
A bit later, when I went back out with another friend, Gary’s partner was kneeing on the floor, rapt, in front of the same painting.
A few months later, this piece began to—ugh!—develop fine cracks in the surface. It was a new brand of stretched linen I had tried, quite pricey, and I think now was actually stretched too tight, a rare thing. Sadly, this painting was not going out to one of my galleries, even though these cracks were not visible from a few yards back.
I knew immediately what to do. I called Gary and left a message on his machine. Can you come by the studio, I have a surprise for you?
He was there within the hour. A gentle, laconic fellow, he did not stay around to chat after I gave him the painting, but his face said it all.
I am quite sure that it was the last time I saw him. He passed away in 2017.
I hope his girlfriend is still enjoying the painting.
________ _______________________________________________________ _________
To Madrid on the private jet:
One more, a quick one, because that is how the sale happened.
In June of 2017 a fellow was drawn into my gallery on Martha’s Vineyard, the Louisa Gould Gallery, by a very large marsh painting in the window. That piece was too big, but sitting still wrapped in the gallery was my season’s delivery, dropped by my husband earlier that day. The fellow, from Madrid, helped unwrap a new 44″x68″, and fell in love with the piece instantly. His wife concurred. Problem was, would it fit in their private jet?
Just then, his pilot walked by the front of the gallery and was promptly hailed. Would this piece fit? Hurried consultation in Spanish. Yes, it would!
The piece was wrapped back up and invoiced and paid for, and out the door it went.
The whole encounter took about 20 minutes.
_______________ _____________________________________________________________ ______________
I have been steadily selling my work for decades, resulting in many hundreds of pieces going out to homes, offices, and public collections around the country and the world. These stories remind me to be grateful for each and every one of those sales, but you can see that most of the ones that stick with me are not necessarily big in dollar amount, but big in heart.
The surface of a body of water is a reflective, moving, open expanse. Beneath it, the water roils with life—rooted or crawling or burrowing or swimming, lifeforms going about their business of feeding off of each other and reproducing and eventually dying. Above it, life also carries on.
One day last July, while staying on Otsego Lake near Cooperstown, NY, I headed to the dock to sit and gaze at the water for a few moments. Looking down at the dock to find my seat, I heard a throaty, loud honk/squack. We had been enjoying visits all week from a mama duck and her nine ducklings, so my first thought as I turned my head was, “that was not a duck!”.
Nothing behind me, but as I straightened to face the side I was now seated at, I saw an adult eagle taking off from the water about 25 feet in front of me. It had been addressing my intrusion, I think!
Shortly after, I decided to make a call to my friend Jenny, with whom I had been playing phone tag. I got her voicemail, and the message went something like this: “Hi Jenny, we’re playing phone tag but I am around today so give a OH MY GOD THAT IT THE BIGGEST *#!%ING FISH I HAVE EVER SEEN IN A LAKE GOTTA GO BYE”.
The fish was directly below my dangling feet, at least two feet across, lit up by slanting sunlight. I know there are fish in these waters, despite an altered ecology due to Zebra mussels—my husband has caught some other years from our small boat and I have seen them feeding off of bugs at sunset. And yet, it was as if this big fish had crawled up on land and joined us on the deck for cocktails, such was my sense of worlds colliding.
I am puzzling out, ever since, what was so startling about this fish sighting. After all, I have been among whales in our 16 foot boat off Race Point in Provincetown—including a pod of killer whales; froliked with a mola and some dolphins in the harbor; snorkled off St. Thomas among all sorts and sizes of sea life.
I think that my jolt of surprise was about expectations, so often the case. I had for days been focused on the surface reflections, and I lost track of the awareness of how much is going on underneath and that during my daily swims, I was intruding upon their busy world. Seeing this large fish directly under my feet brought that crashing back.
As artists we are concerned with both surface appearance and deeper function and meaning. The surface is mesmerizing and ever-changing, feeding our visually-linked emotional hunger, and soothing our quotidian bumps and bruises. The complicated churn beneath, however, mirrors life in its day-to-day, demanding a nuanced and dedicated attention.
This summer has served to remind me of how much I appreciate my galleries. It can be rewarding, sometimes, to hop off that train and do something self-generated like an open studio or studio tour; or an event at a non-gallery venue. But ultimately, a gallery is where people go to view and buy art. It is a business whose purpose is to exhibit and sell art, and therefore all effort is going to that end.
Invitations generally go out in a timely fashion, instead of getting buried in the more pressing things that a non-gallery venue might have to attend to. The galleriest installs the show, with beautiful results based on years of experience. Folks walk in off the streets who are interested in art; search for the local galleries when visiting; respond to invites. A showing of a grouping of selected works in a collector’s home gets on the schedule without delay, follow-ups are done to inquiries as a matter of course…and so on.
That said, the mom-and-pop galleries struggle to stay afloat, with many more friends and lookers than buyers. So collectors, please support your favorite galleries!
And if you are an artist with gallery representation, this is how you can help:
I had a lovely time teaching this past June in Woodstock and August on Nantucket, with a full house for my color-mixing workshop in both places.
These are the demo pieces that came out of the two landscape workshops:
My week on Nantucket was filled with not only with my wonderful students, but also with salt air and good food and warm friendship.
I organized an informal gathering at Thomas Henry Gallery so that my students could see my work there, all of the sea or the island:
The Woodstock School of Art invitational Monothon in July was a printmaker’s dream. Imagine having a printing staff at your beck and call, both master printmakers and monitors, facilitating your every move. Master printmaker Anthony Kirk guided and facilitated my hoped-for plan, my first monotype triptych (and then a few more).
One 8″x10″ was chosen from each participating artist, to be sold at the show there opening September 8th, 3-5pm This is my donation print that will be featured, followed by some of my other wave monotypes.
We will be featuring monotypes and my vintage series, along with oil paintings, in my grouping for the upcoming four-artist show at Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck, NY, their yearly Luminous Landscape exhibition. The show opens on September 29, 5-8pm.
Several of my summer sales:
One of my favorite pieces from the past decade, Perceived Acuity pleases me for its simplicity, movement, elegant shapes, and unusual color:
Link to in-studio available works in oil and on paper:
Coming right up, my teaching week in Provincetown, Sept. 17th for Color Mixing and 18-20th for the Landscape Painting Intensive. If you are feeling inspired and spontaneous, come and join us!
Also upcoming: another residency on Nantucket in November. My focus there and in my studio will be on Atlas/Forms of Water, from the sky to the land to the ocean, and everywhere in between.
Some time back I wrote a post to inform fellow artists what they can do to encourage sales, behave ethically, and in general help their relationship with their gallery grow.
I always intended to write a partner post from the artist’s perspective: what can our galleries do to be responsive to us, encouraging open communication and trust?
I have for years maintained a positive attitude toward my galleries, always grateful for their hard work and the skills that they bring to their job. At the same time, I am repeatedly struck by certain patterns of behavior that make my life more difficult. My career artist friends are often adversely impacted by exactly the same things.
Just as I am always counseling other artists—and myself—not to make life more difficult for our art dealers, this discussion is centered on how gallerists can avoid behaviors that wear us down and potentially waste time for all involved. Since most of my galleries do avoid these habits most of the time, I know it is possible. (And we need to forgive the occasional lapse, just as we hope that they will forgive ours.)
The pay discussion is always a big one. Many galleries have a set policy of paying for this month’s sales on the first or the 15th of next month. Galleries often argue that, just like any other retail business, they pay artists out of the overall earnings rather than specifically from the sale of your piece. This works out well when/if they pay on time, because the artist can count on when to expect the check, but not so well when the days slide by and your mailbox remains empty.
One thing to point out here is that unlike other retail businesses, galleries don’t have to buy inventory. The artists own the inventory, and when a piece of theirs sells, half of that money is theirs. One gallerist of mine said it best years ago: “I like to pay the artist right away because if that money sits in my account for any length of time I’ll start thinking it’s mine.”
I had a gallery for a period of years that sold my work well but often was very late in paying. The argument from the dealer was that they had to keep the doors open, and so would pay rent, electric, and so on, first. Basically, then, the pay-policy was eventually-after-some-time-has-gone-by-I’ll-start-looking-around-and-see-if-I-have-money-to-pay-you-but-if-not-you’ll-have-to-wait. It was excruciating, the waiting and the not-knowing. They had received payment for their 50% and mine both, and yet I was left to beg for my money—-and was essentially floating them a loan.
This can lead to other kinds of disfunction. The gallery in this case would often avoid my phone calls that were on other matters—things that were directed at bringing us business—because they owed me money and feared being asked. So we both potentially lost money.
Artists calling and nagging about money makes everyone feel bad about each other. But to reiterate an important point: most often we are not demanding nor begging, but simply looking for info on an ETA for our money.
What is my advice to galleries?
-Have a clear pay-policy, whether it’s as-soon-as-the-check-clears or a date next month. If the former–and we all so appreciate the immediate payment–and the gallery has need to wait a week or so to pay, tell the artist. If the latter, send checks out when you say you will. In a busy season it might be hard to find the time to sit down and write a big stack of checks for all of the previous month’s sales, but make it a priority. If for any reason checks will unavoidably be late that month, inform your artists.
-If an artist calls or emails to inquire, give a short answer right away. “Just got paid–sending you a check Monday.” “Waiting for payment.” “In the mail.” “Your contract says the 15th of next month.” Bear in mind that even if the answer is “two weeks from now”, you are giving the artists the consideration of info with which to plan how to pay their bills. And to repeat: it is the artist’s money. It’s not that you need to keep every artist updated on the payment status of every sale, but answering direct questions is a simple courtesy.
Which leads me to another source of stress and feelings of disrespect for the artist.
For all of us who have reached a certain level in our career, we are there because we are responsive to our galleries. I have curated group shows and I regularly organize my mentoring meetings and groups for emerging artists, so I understand well how organizing artists can truly be like herding cats. However, galleries generally cannot operate if artists don’t ship work or send jpegs when they say they will, and those artists who have a pattern of flaking out tend to fall by the wayside.
So when one of my galleries asks me for anything, it behooves me to respond fully and quickly. Sometimes requests could have been made earlier and there would be less stress all around, but those are typical job-related problems. So, if they ask me to jump, I do it right away. If I am traveling without my laptop (which is rare and only for a few days), I do the short reply: “Traveling without access to my files, but I’ll send you jpegs on Sunday evening when I am home”.
The problem comes in when the situation is reversed and I need some info from them. Often my questions have to do with serious planning issues that, just like the gallery, I have to settle so that I know when I am showing where and what pieces are going to which gallery. Sometimes I can wait painfully long for these answers, preventing me from settling dates and artwork for other galleries.
I imagine that part of the issue here is that a number of the artists that I show with may have only a gallery or two, so they don’t have the stress of the juggle. If their show is going to be July or August, it isn’t always a big deal to wait to find out. But for those of us who show with multiple galleries, this comes back to the two-way street: if I am to be understanding that you, the gallery, are juggling multiple artists (as well as clients and PR and so on, of course) and I am not the only one in your pantheon, I would like you to understand that I am juggling multiple galleries, schedules, ferries, accommodations, and artwork. And I want to do right by everybody.
So, advice for the gallery:
If you don’t have the answer to my question yet, please acknowledge the email or phone call. It feels really bad to be ignored. It also is a big waste of energy for one party to have to send reminder emails repeatedly. Again, short answer is fine, “working on it!”, or “we’ll decide by next week”.
A third bit of communication that varies from gallery to gallery is when they notify the artist of a sale. Often, when new to a gallery, I just let this evolve over time and get a feel for their M.O.
But then, just when you think you know that X gallery will email you within a few days of making a sale, you get a check–maybe even a big one—from sales for last month. Well, on the one hand, who doesn’t love a surprise check? But on the other, maybe it is a slow spell and you have been stressing for weeks about where your next check is coming from, so if they had notified you sooner you could have avoided all of that worry.
Have a policy (which some galleries do have, stated in their contract) on when you notify artists of a sale. Within the week certainly seems doable. As a point of trust, we will rarely know exactly when a sale or payment takes place, so we always assume that our galleries are telling us the truth. Period.
(Just for the record, there are several reasons why an artist will promptly take their leave from a gallery. One is if somehow the artist receives reliable info that dates of sales have been fudged in order to avoid timely payment. Another is if a gallery gets caught padding prices and putting the extra in their own pockets. But this post is not about egregiously unethical behavior on the part of a few galleries but instead about unintentional lapses on the part of many that can fairly easily be addressed.)
All of these things come back to communication and making life easier for those around us. Several years ago I wrote this post about communicating when a sale falls through, particularly one that has required a lot of time and effort on the part of the artist:
At the root of this whole discussion is the aspect of power. Do the galleries see themselves as our bosses, or our partners? If it is true that there are way more artists than there are galleries to show them, does this mean that artists are just supplicants, grasping at strewn crumbs?
I have heard of art dealers that look at their artists in that way, but I would not be working with them in any case. Most often, we are appreciated as the cherished talent, the sources of these amazing, unique objects. And if there are others of us eager to fill our spot should we leave a gallery, that doesn’t mean that our personal, artistic terrain can be filled by another. In my experience sensitive gallerists attach to our unique work, and to us.
That said, we are, here at least, acknowledging the power of the purse and of having needed information, while pointing out that galleries are not paying us their money, but only ours, and keeping us informed on what we need to know to carry the partnership forward.
So are any of us perfect? Am I positing that gallerists should never be allowed a slip-up? Not hardly! In fact, the more consistently considerate a gallery has been to me the more I can easily let go of a forgotten email or a perceived error in judgement. This is true in all human relationships, and I hope that others—including my dealers—grant me that leeway as well.