This spring my mind has been on many of the seasonal imperatives, like creating new work for my galleries on the Cape and Islands and sorting through and shipping or delivering their selections. It has also, after a huge jump-start on my Atlas Project during my residency at the Nantucket Arts Association, been very much on advancing that exploration; and the spring has been spiced up by a few other new projects.
I have scheduled a talk to discuss my Atlas Project for July 15 during the Shandaken Artists Studio Tour, 4:30-6pm. I am currently developing the third sequence, Atlas/Hudson Valley segment. This means that, in addition to other work in my studio, I will hang a grouping of each of the sections that I have been working on this year: Atlas/Forms of Water/Snow; Atlas/Island (Nantucket); and the most extensive sequence to date, the Hudson River and Catskills work and mapping thereof.
In my studio work progresses on my third prototype map for this grouping, which will include mini-monotypes of the paintings involved; maps of various sorts of the area; and a number of other elements, both descriptive and visual. I am hoping that this map will be the working template that clicks for me so that I can use it for new groupings/exhibitions going forward. This involves lots of trial and error, applied problem-solving and then experimenting with the materials (maps, acrylics, printmaking, rice paper, collage, river mud, etc.).
I have found that when I pose myself a complex creative problem to be solved, following a simple process works quite well. I start by seeing how far I can think my way into it, often using moments when I am driving or walking, and when I hit an aspect or aspects that stump me, I plant those as a seed, and then let go of the conscious effort. Some time later—usually weeks—the answer will pop into my head, my subconscious having been at work on it all the while, sometimes aided by new information that comes my way in the interval.
Here is where I am so far with the latest Site Map and associated prints:
Above and below are a few of the Hudson River & Valley/Catskills paintings that are part of the new sequence:
My new series is bringing me ever closer to the many aspects of the natural world that I have in the past observed, researched and delighted in. Which of these things and how they can manifest in the work is the adventure. As is true of most meaningful new endeavors, the space this holds for me is both stimulating and disquieting.
My first gallery show of Atlas/Hudson Valley is scheduled for 2018 at Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham, NY.
To view more oil paintings that are currently in my studio, click here:
During spring I am always preparing to deliver or ship new work to my galleries in Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and/or Cape Cod. Below are some new pieces at the Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard. She always has a beautifully installed grouping of my work on display throughout the year, so please stop by if you are on the island.
My residency at the Arts Association of Nantucket in February resulted in many advancements in my problem-solving curve for the Atlas Project; a number of small paintings; and some monotypes (see my blog post on the residency):
The five monotypes hanging below are a the results of printing sessions in both Woodstock and Nantucket.
And a few others:
See more of my prints and pastels here:
In April I flew to South Florida to do a large painting for friends with a new house there. I managed to pack in one big suitcase everything I needed, including the 16″x20″ version of the wave image that I had painted ahead of time. The one thing that did not fit in my suitcase was the 48″x60″ stretched linen canvas, which we had shipped from my wonderful stretcher-makers in Vermont, Brickyard Enterprises.
I had exactly one week to do this large piece and so, concerned about the possibility of things going wrong, I put in long days for the first several, working under an overhang in the pool enclosure.
Happily, nothing did go wrong, so we had a finished piece on the wall ahead of deadline and then I got to play, spending time at the Morikami Gardens and the beach (more wave paintings to come!).
My winter-spring show with Albert Shahinian Fine Art wrapped up in early April. We had a nice run of of two receptions—one at the gallery and one at my studio; a number of sales of pieces small and large, old and new; and an interview with the Poughkeepsie Journal containing questions that I quite enjoyed:
Several of the pieces that went to new homes from our show “Gallery/Studio: A Symbiosis”:
I am teaching four more workshops in 2017, several of them new. In my workshops I emphasize composition as well as color, and share not only my techniques, but also an eclectic delight in many styles and aspects of contemporary and historical art.
The Woodstock School of Art:
I have plans for some new pastels in the near future—its a good time of year to approach these, with the studio windows wide open (ah, and I must mention sounds of birds and the creek behind my studio), mitigating any effects of flying dust. Below is a fairly recent one, in which I was pushing the color somewhat.
Over the years I have at times felt pressure from some of my galleries to work brighter. I am very often a moody painter, though I don’t ever want to limit myself to any palette, locale, format, or mood. I do love a bright sunny day, but painting dramatic clouds and subtle, tonal color often draws me, and many of my collectors will follow me into that terrain.
With the pastel above, I set myself the intention of not going as dark along the horizon as I often do in a seascape, and in general keeping the colors more saturated or desaturated with white instead of grey. I wanted to see if I could make myself happy with a lower contrast, brighter image. And I did.
This is turning a request, essentially, into a creative problem. When people ask me how and whether being a full time, self-supporting artist affects my decision-making in the studio, that is part of the answer—that if I feel that I am being nudged in a particular direction, can I turn that into an interesting problem? And after I work that one out, what else can I do that is generated exclusively by, to use Kandinsky’s term, inner necessity?
I recently had an invitation to place my work in the newly renovated space of Terrapin Restaurant in Rhinebeck, NY. The designer, also a collector of mine, thought that my work work be perfect to bring views of the Hudson Valley into the restaurant, long known for its locally sourced food.
Immediately looping my gallery—Albert Shahinian Fine Art, located just a few blocks away— into the process, we came up with solutions to some of my concerns. Lighting, in restaurants, is always a big one, as well as how to make clear to diners the names of the artist and gallery; that the work is available for purchase; and that a price list is available, without overly obtrusive wall cards and signage.
At chef Josh’s suggestion, we settled on using mostly farm field and meadow imagery.
Fast forward several weeks and the designer, JT, and Albert and I arrived for the installation. Dodging the still working painters; metal fabricators; and workers with a lift to do the lights in this vaulted space, we commenced hanging on the walls that we could, and Albert finished the job through the course of that week.
After all was said and done, the space looks like this:
Before the launch party, Abbe Aronson, PR person for the event, asked for comments from us and composed this:
MODERN UPDATE OF “FARM TO TABLE MEETS BARN TO TABLE”
RHINEBECK, NY – After drawing gasps of appreciation for food, décor and setting for 15 years in its current location in the historic circa 1825 “First Baptist Church,” award-winning Terrapin restaurant is undergoing a stunning renovation in its main dining room, to be unveiled on Thursday, May 5th at a “First Look, First Taste” cocktail party.
“First Look, First Taste” celebrates not only the redesigned space but also the new spring menus in both the dining room and adjacent Bistro. The party takes place from 6-8 p.m. by invitation only, after which the dining room opens for reservations. As always, emphasis on organic, local cuisine shines at Terrapin, but now will be presented in a chic new setting that, while refreshed, still evokes key sensibilities of the Hudson Valley.
“It was time for a change,” said Chef Josh Kroner who said long-time restaurant patrons as well as new guests were defaulting more and more to Bistro, not because they necessarily preferred the casual menu there but because the dining room had become known as ‘formal’ – “and that’s not the way I intend for people to eat at Terrapin.”
Enter JT McKay of bluecashew Design, an offshoot of neighboring bluecashew Kitchen Pharmacy and longtime friend of Kroner’s. “Josh was ‘farm to table’ before farm to table became a marketing term. That sort of food wasn’t a gimmick for him. So when we began to discuss the dining room redesign, we decided to give a proverbial ‘nod’ to this world.”
McKay continued, “There’s a real sense of bringing the outside inside with the new look here. We’re focusing on modern earth tones in the palette and using furnishings and design elements that evoke history and substance, so the two-inch thick red and white oak tables, which are old barn wood with contemporary finishes, are more than just reclaimed materials – they have real presence. Their age and history inform the energy of the entire room.”
Kroner added with a laugh, “I’ve wanted to collaborate with JT for years. The first time he came to my house, he rearranged all of the furniture and the lighting, so I know he was dying to get his hands on this place!”
Nearly all the key elements in the redesigned Terrapin dining room are new, including the lighting scheme, carpeting, place settings, metal railings and chairs, much of which are sourced locally and some of which are available for purchase through bluecashew Wabi Sabi Wood (WSW), based here in Rhinebeck, was tapped to create the dining tables, the true anchor of the room now that the restaurant is abandoning tablecloths in lieu of a more updated look. Company co-owner Patrick Neri explained that in this project, Terrapin and WSW “have focused on bringing the highest quality ingredients into the hands of skilled craftsmen. WSW uses wood reclaimed from the hand-hewn beams of 18th century barns. These beams once stood as trees in the Hudson Valley’s long forgotten old growth forests. The material represents some of the finest wood that ever grew from American soil. With these ingredients we built tables to be the foundation on which the craftsmanship of Terrapin will be displayed. Beneath every dinner plate lays a stunning display of hundreds of years etched in wood grain and patina. This truly will be ‘farm to table meets barn to table.’”
Paintings from Hudson Valley artist Christie Scheele will grace the new walls, curated and installed by Albert Shahinian he of the eponymously named fine art gallery also located in the village of Rhinebeck. Says Scheele, “The single most distinctive aspect to what I do as a landscape painter lies in my ability to reduce a scene to its essentials. This gives the viewer what is important, without the distraction, or visual clutter, of too much detail. Both by providing this overview and by using soft ‘scumbled’ edges, my paintings can quiet a viewer’s mind and evoke a direct response.”
She continued, “My work is, above all, about creating space—within the image of the painting, most often a wide-open vista—but also emotional and mental space for the viewer. The large, open space of the restaurant and the new color scheme in soft cream and a deep, slightly grayed green are perfect for my work. The elegance of the off-black metalwork that accents the room, with its strong, clean lines, also meshes beautifully with my strong, albeit soft-edged, shapes and sweeping contours.”
Shahinian said working with Kroner and Terrapin was a very natural and important collaboration for the neighboring businesses. “Many of our gallery visitors ask us about dining in the village. For years we’ve suggested Terrapin as one of the top places to dine. It seems logical that part of a Terrapin ‘experience’ could suggest a visit to the gallery! There is synergy between such diverse businesses: we both present high standards of quality, presentation, respect for our product and clientele, and offer high value for our visitors. One could say, ‘It takes a village to support a village!’”
Rhinebeck is a great town for a day trip, which could include a glorious stroll to the Hudson at Poet’s Walk; a visit to Albert Shahinian Fine Art; and dinner at Terrapin, where my work will be up for at least the next six months. Hope you make it!
“Contour/Distillations” has been extended to October 11th.
We are tremendously drawn by stuff. The content of our lives—acquiring possessions; taking care of or replacing said possessions; packed schedules; busy brains—loudly demands attention. What we need the most for balance is intervals of the absence of our stuff, and yet it is hard to reset and choose openness over content.
Creating space in my life is an ongoing project, and has long drawn me both to spend a great deal of time outdoors and to paint my landscapes in an open and minimalist manner. This approach quiets the mind, evoking a direct response. Abstract elements can elicit deep, complex feelings, (a theme beautifully explored in Vassily Kandinsky’s 1910 “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”) and larger, flatter shapes with soft edges awaken the wide-open feeling of being outdoors in our atmospheric world.
Delving further into the less-is-more discussion, I think that less is different. If there are many details to look at in a painting they tend to compete for attention, creating an experience that remains purely visual or intellectual without going deeper. With fewer elements and more open space, both the emotional and formal content have enormous impact, often visceral. At the same time, what is there has to hold up under analysis, as there is no hiding.
My process in the studio is comprised of long swaths of time in which I am intensely focused and living within the emerging painting, punctuated by intervals of scrutiny and analysis during which I observe the elements with as much distance as possible. This rigor is, ultimately, what allows the viewer to sink into the piece—-many small just-so decisions to create a seamless whole.
The landscape inevitably holds powerful associations, so painting it becomes a back-and-forth between exploring the narrative and focusing on the formal elements of shape, composition, surface, color, and edge. In this body of work, drawn from the past several years, I am presenting the most open, color-field aspect of my work. Viewers can bring their own memories to these paintings, as mine are only suggested, or simply experience them as a conduit for feeling.
Both the above and below are from my Affinity Series. These pieces start with fraying the edges of raw linen; gluing it down to the board; priming with dark primer, and gridding the whole thing with graphite. Then I do the actual painting, and when it dries some selective regridding. The series evolved from the desire to manipulate my support in a way that moves my other choices in a more abstract direction, and brings attention to the surface.
Sometimes, as in the new postcard piece, “Tender Reds”, there are more shapes included. I see this as being a rhythmic approach—repetition of similar shapes moving across the surface of the painting.
This piece is less minimalist, but just as abstract. The reduced palette with a white sky allows it to hover between a dreamy in-the-moment being there and an on-the-surface color-field painting.
If one were to consider this as a totally abstract piece, the exercise would be to turn it sideways, or upside down. Compositionally, upside down would work very well, but not sideways—too strong of a horizon line, now going vertical. This would be true of every painting I do—abstracted, but not abstract, and usually with a clear horizon line as an anchor.
“White Trail” has a number of horizons, but the strong line in this piece moves on a skipping, slightly diagonal vertical, emphasizing the format. This piece, too, has a sense of rhythmic repetition of forms.
I have been exploring for this show how a large composition can be successful in small format with these oil-on-paper pieces.
Quiet, tonal color is most often my choice, as it tends to sit back, creating emotional space and allowing for introspection.
But every so often I like to move to stronger color to intensify the timbre of the experience. Whites work well—like a thirst-quenching drink of water— when paired with strong, saturated color.
Most of my pieces have quite a bit of contrast, moving from an atmospheric white or off-white (often tinged with a bit of Mars Violet) to a true black. I find, though, that low-contrast pieces can be intensely riveting in a different way, kind of like a full-throated, low hum. “Evening Shoreline”, below, is an example of this.
“Continuing Progression” is really a study in monochromes. The detail of the row of trees on the right, seemingly very subtle, actually pops more because of the reduced palette.
The body of work presented represents the core of my thinking, my base of operations. Albert Shahinian Fine Art, my gallery of longest standing, is the perfect venue for this theme-based exhibition, having shown, over the years, every possible exploration that I have launched from this base.
I hope you can join us for the reception on July 25th and my talk on August 2nd to see all 40 pieces and hear more about landscape, form and mood.
Link to a short but sweet article on the show by Paul Smart in the Almanac:
The installation and reception, below:
Additional work in the show:
The pleasures of late spring and early summer as they affect my studio experience and the tasks related to showing and selling my work are too many to list. Must-mentions: painting with windows and door open to the yard and the stream behind my studio; drying my paintings in the sun in my yard so that I can resume work on a second layer within just a day; doing my daily work on the computer sitting on my screened-in back porch with the sound of the stream as accompaniment; and driving my work around for deliveries surrounded by the visual joy of many-colored lilacs, poppies creating a splash of brilliant orange next to purple dame’s rocket, and amazing, shifting, spring-soft greens.
Ellsworth Kelly at Thompson Giroux Gallery
I had the pleasure of attending an exhibition and 90th birthday party for Ellsworth Kelly on May 31st, the day of his actual birthday, at my gallery in Chatham, NY, Thompson Giroux. Chatham is familiar turf for Ellsworth– the dinner was thrown in the same space that he rented for his first upstate studio back in the early ’70s, and is of course the source for the title of his “Chatham Series”.
It was lovely to see again the botanical prints that we studied and admired back when I was in art school as iconic line drawings from life—spare, fluid, and subtly quirky.
I was most interested to read that Ellsworth based his abstract paintings on “observed reality”, a departure from the ethic of the day. Comparing this with the work of the abstract artists that I am closest to, Jenny Nelson, Melinda Stickney-Gibson and Marie Vickerilla,, whose imagery evolves from within the process of developing each canvas (and whose shows I have also recently seen) has set me thinking. I plan a blog post on this discussion, coming up next.
Then, I may not be able to resist jumping into the issue of prices and how crazy the art market is. Discussing an artist whose work brings some of the highest prices of any living artist in the same breath as three mid-level artists makes it hard to avoid that particular elephant in the room.
What is the realtionship between quality and price in the art market? Why do these four artists have such different price points?
Shandaken Art Studio Tour July 20-21
Save-the-date for the Shandaken Studio Tour, when it is my pleasure to arrange and open up my studio to new folks doing the tour, my collectors, fellow artists, and friends. This is a busy weekend for me, though oddly grouped sometimes (last year about half the people who came by seemed to be there just after 2pm on Sunday!). Here are a few of the pieces that I plan on showing.
Favorite Pieces at my Galleries
Within the past month six of my galleries have either received new work or been delivered the whole grouping that they will show for the season. I have chosen a favorite piece from each location to show you below—I hope you get a chance to visit these wonderful galleries!
An Invitational Show in Newburgh
A Few Recent Sales
Upcoming painting workshops
Landscape and Mood, the Woodstock School of Art, June 24-26. http://woodstockschoolofart.org/
Landscape and Mood, The Provincetown Artists Association and Museum, September 16-19 (this will be on their website soon). http://www.paam.org/mspaam.html
I have been puzzling over what makes a piece a standout within my body of work. It is not a question of “better”, nor of “favorite”. There is consensus around these pieces, and the five I have selected (more in future posts!) have also withstood the test of time—they date from 1993 to 2008.
A major attribute that makes these paintings stand out is that they all push a particular direction to the furthest point along my spectrum. There are a number of avenues of exploration that have held my interest over the course of years, allowing for many subtle permutations along the way. These five paintings epitomize the categories that they represent—signposts, in their way, whether they came early or later .
My plan for this piece was to do a scene of Castille, complete with red soil and olive trees. (I much later did the image with additional detail as a pastel, which I also consider a marker piece, as discussed below.) This was all before I started working on the dark ground that has long been part of my technique, so I created an underpainting with black oil to create the mass of the the large landform and used a light grey in the sky. I carefully scumbled the top line to embed the tree shapes and hill into the sky.
When I returned to my studio ready to work back into the now dry first layer, I was struck by how powerful the piece was in just black and white, and so decided to find a way to honor that simplicity. Brushing a little thin almost white into the sky created a soft vibration there, and setting the piece on the floor, I added a wash of deep green, leaving the edges of the piece black.
This piece went so far in the direction of a totally abstract, minimalist color field painting that once it was finished, I felt thoroughly satisfied and never again felt the need to take another piece quite so far in that direction. With “Dark Castille”, I managed to wed landscape imagery with the open feel of a Rothko.
“Red Fields”, hewing more closely to the original reference, pushes my palette in exactly the opposite direction as “Dark Castille”. It is not only one of my brightest pieces ever, but also has a larger range than most—quite bright blue in the sky. resounding reds, then into rusts and greens, both olive and sage. The matte surface of pastel on paper is ideal for creating a brighter and more inclusive palette that feels rich rather than jarring. Like the first version above, the treeline at the top of the hillside is the kind of focal point that I find absolutely delicious to paint. The detail and rich color in “Red Fields” makes me profoundly happy.
“Fireflies” is simply the blurriest painting I have done to date. The softness captures the resonant beauty of a rainy summer day in the Catskills, tonalist greens and blues deepened by the low light. Since I have been doing paintings incorporating approaching headlights, I have been astounded at how different the points of light can be, depending on atmospherics. Here, they are oh-so-soft, and yet they buzz around the picture plane with a great deal of energy.
This effect is achieved because this triptych is, rather than one image divided into three panels, actually three different paintings. As I was working on them separately, I repeatedly brought them together to check on how they were interacting, establishing variation in placement of headlights, horizon, roadway, and other elements. The eye is thus invited to travel around laterally between the panels, complimenting the implied movement of the headlights moving toward the viewer..
“Divided Fields” sparks two of my favorite discussions. One is about the summer palette of blue sky and green field or grass, and the other is about minimalism and color field painting.
This piece explores flatness and abstraction in a manner different from “Dark Castille” . The picture plane is divided up into long, horizontal wedges within the hillside, and the sky functions partly as one horizontal shape, and partly as clouds/blue sky. The upward direction of the clouds brings the eye back down to the horizon, while their diagonal directionality creates a rhythm that helps the eye sweep along the expanse of the entire piece, almost like reading—left to right. The flatness is far from absolute, with lots of soft scumbling and hue variation to create vibration within the planes of color.
All of my pieces create mood, though I do not aim to create narrow, specific emotions so much as broad, subtle and complex resonance. Moody, tonalistic paintings are second nature to me, loving as I do weather and dense atmospherics.After some years of that exploration, however, I wanted to be able to also capture the sheer joy of a sunny summer day. The open, abstract nature of “Divided Fields” pairs strong blues and greens with the assertive lines of the field divisions to walk exactly the line that I am after—a duality of delight in time/place/season along with the pure pleasure that planes of composed color can provide.
“Dark Cloud” also has a reductive, color field affect, but departs from the pieces discussed so far in the dynamic of the cloud. There are only three shapes in the whole piece, including the negative space of the sky, and the cloud is the most assertive of them.
Clouds can be, and be painted, in countless ways. In this painting I pushed the cloud into the most dominant position of any piece that I have done, partly by creating just a single cloud, and partly by its size and color. I worked the subtle variations within and at the edges the way I do with any cloud, so that they are embedded in the sky rather than seeming to float on top of it. Yet, this cloud is clearly read as a shape that dialogues aggressively with the wedge of hillside below. The landform holds its own, in turn, by being totally black and having a tree lifting into the sky in such a way that the cloud seems halted by it. With this strong play of elements, “Dark Cloud” contains an edge of tension resulting from both narrative and formal elements.