Tuesday-Thursday, March 24-26:
In the past few days we have seen the news become worse and worse, with the NYC metro area suffering huge numbers of infected and new infections mounting exponentially. The issue of New Yorkers fanning across the country to flee—or just wait out— the problem is finally much in the news, with some states requiring quarantine.
This has been on my mind here in the Catskills, where every second or third home is a weekend place and many others are AirBnB investment properties, currently rented. I would do the same if I lived in nyc and had a place up here, but I would have come up weeks ago and then stayed, like my sister and brother-in-law did. It’s the recent arrivals that pose a risk to us all.
However, we are all supposed to be behaving as if we and every other person has it. I would say that, for those coming from the global epicenter, this should extend to face masks while shopping. And, since recently trailhead parking lots in the Skills are full when the weather is nice, remembering to keep your six feet from other hikers—it’s easy to forget while out in the fresh air. Gloves and speed at the post office, as many of us in this rural area have to pick up our mail.
On the whole, it seems that folks are good and buttoned up in their homes, as they should be, wherever they come from. Since we have a lovely series of hiking trails just up my dead-end road, our road is always the choice for neighborhood dog walkers and hikers, and it is so nice to stop for chats, as in the past, but with more distance between us. I haven’t seen many of the new arrivals in this mix, but we are all good as long as we maintain our six feet.
Cases are mounting in Ulster County, though we have had only one in Shandaken for quite a while now (maybe a week, in our new telescoped time). Otsego County, where my Dad lives in Oneonta, went from zero to five in the past few days. My dear friend Di (known locally as “Dr. Di” and also my Dad and his partner’s yoga teacher) is now City Health Officer for preparedness for Covid-19. When we chatted the other night she described their local efforts, but there had yet to be a known case in the county. I am sure that they are now on higher alert to avoid community spread.
In other Covid-19 news, the NY Times published an article yesterday by a woman in NYC whose husband has a pretty bad case—just teetering on hospitalization—and how she and her 16-year-old daughter are coping with nursing him and trying not to get it themselves. It is clear that at his level of misery, there is no way he could take even the most basic care of himself.
This brought it home in a very concrete way, since with this illness all previous protocols are out the window. Family is not supposed to step in, no one is supposed to get near—the only help can come from folks dropping off needed supplies, whether medical or food. Each household, no matter how small, is on it’s own, with a bit of doctor’s advice and the worst case solution of being hospitalized.
I am glad that we have worked so hard within our household to stay safe, though we could still, of course, be unlucky.
Daughter Tessa called yesterday, just a check in before she goes back into the Minnesota woods to continue maple sugaring until her original target date of April 13 or 14th. It was so great to hear her voice.
I had left her a voicemail with a little bit of info on what’s going on in this country, and she seemed unable to let go of the idea that Jack and I are reacting with outsized anxiety. It is such an unprecedented situation that if you are not living it, of course it would seem like that…
She is now with only six others of the original crew, all having ben there for over a month, safe and happily out of contact with the world. How she will get back here to pick up her car, and then onto her Vermont home has yet to be determined. I am dead set against using her plane ticket to Newark.
In the studio I finished the sand flats painting, Soft Glow over Tidal Flats, 30″x60″:
I wonder when I will see the sea again? Almost surely not the first of May, as originally planned, for my seasonal drop-off at Louisa Gould Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard.
Work is also progressing on the watershed Site Map; here, a detail of the most developed sections:
I have started painting the planned small oil-on-board pieces.
I am so focused on these projects that the studio constantly calls to me…I would happily spend even more time there every day, but there are both necessary and lovely other things to do—yoga, hike, cook, yard work, read, paperwork and phone calls (Jack’s job is shut down for the duration and mine—who knows?—so we are applying for all of the things), and all of the email and phone connecting with friends and family.
Hello all, happy oncoming 2018! I have quite a lot to report in this year-end update, both from 2017 and about events on the schedule so far for the coming year.
Many folks have asked me to send out a save-the-date for my Atlas/Hudson River Valley show opening on Match 31 at the Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham New York. I’ll do a separate email soon so that it’s easy to find in the inbox, but here on my blog I can talk about the exhibition in more detail.
This will be the first full-size installation of one of my Atlas Project-themed exhibitions. Later themes might be Atlas/Cape Cod or Atlas/Forms of Water, but I an delighted to be launching this within my own Hudson River Valley/Catskills, both as the theme and the locale of the show. Included will be monoprints, mixed media/collages, and pastels along with the oils, and the Site Map that explains it all.
The Site Map is an integral part of an Atlas Project installation, a map of the show itself which includes tiny monoprints of all of the oil paintings in the show overlaid on a collaged map of the Hudson River Valley. It includes numbered map tacks that show the locales of the scenes depicted; river towns and bridges and a key to the map and the show.
This map will have to be finished and photographed at the last minute, when I am sure of exactly which oil paintings are going into the show.
A side panel is Mapping Memory/Wildlife of Particular Interest that includes lino-monoprints and some text of my associated personal memories. Three panel extensions coming asymmetrically off the right side and top and bottom of the main map include a collage/lino/mono of the upper Hudson, the source of the river in the Adirondaks; another of Hudson Canyon, which continues out to sea from New York Harbor for 400 miles; and a third comprised of short discussion and collage/prints of three local trees endangered by climate change.
New Blog Post
In current news, I have recently published a blog post on the intersecting themes of teaching, independent studio practice, and group dynamic for the artist:
I welcome any comments on the post!
Many Things Nantucket
In January I will again be part of an exchange between artists of Woodstock and Nantucket, this time to take place at the Woodstock School of Art. We will be working together for three days in the graphics studio; doing a few studio visits and looking at the historical connection between the two arts colonies; eating and schmoozing. (What could be better?)
Part I of this exchange took place in September at the Artists Association of Nantucket with a show of the four Woodstock-area artists seen below, who had all taught and/or done a residency there:
The plan was for the four of us to show up for a closing reception and artist’s talk on September 23rd, and my plan was to to do a tour of the Cape and Islands with my husband, starting in Provincetown, checking in with and delivering to or picking up from my three galleries in the area.
Just as we were coming onto the Cape Tropical Storm Jose was approaching the area, causing concern over the Cape bridges closing as well as cancelled ferries. From Provincetown we saw some amazing sights during the storm, particularly the surf from the high dunes on Longnook Beach.
We had a ferry reservation to continue on to Martha’s Vineyard, and from there I had another res for the fast ferry to Nantucket a day later.
Three of the four artists did manage to get on Cape, or in my case, to Martha’s Vineyard, and then reschedule ferries to arrive for our reception at the AAN. We suffered a rocky crossing and then enjoyed a lovely evening of spirited discussion and camaraderie.
I also arrived in time to pay a visit to my new gallery on Nantucket, Thomas Henry Gallery. I am looking forward to painting some large, open seascape and marsh imagery for the 2018 season there:
My residency at the Artists Association of Nantucket in February was one of the highlights of 2017 for me, beautifully intensive and key in advancing the rubric for my Atlas Project:
The below was my second prototype for a site map for a grouping of Atlas Project work. From here I was able to take what works best (the monotype thumbnails of paintings that I had done) and change things that I didn’t (particularly the text) for the next map, for Atlas/Hudson River Valley. I would also love to return to Nantucket for a more fleshed-out exploration of of the theme.
Fall Studio Demonstrations
This fall I did three second-Saturday demo/open studios, starting in October. During the first I worked on small oil-on-paper pieces, like this:
The below I developed during the November demo, which had the theme of working large in oil. I had a nice group who I can only describe as riveted, watching for about two and a half hours while I painted and explained. Then the mood shifted to jolly when I called for a break and lively conversation ensued over a glass of wine.
The slightly textured surface of this piece is something I love to do every so often, allowing a little more of the underpainting to show through, creating a subtle vibration.
Here is a link to the video created by the Woodstock School of Art from a painting demonstration that I did there a few summers back:
For the last demo, in December, I worked in pastel, completing both of these during the two afternoons:
Other Highlights from 2017
I had a successful show last winter/spring with my gallery of 20 years, Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck. It is such a pleasure to work with Albert and Joanna, who are also friends and neighbors in our Hudson Valley arts community.
Here is a link to my post on the show, updated to label pieces that sold later in the year, as well as those that went during the show (the others are, of course, still available):
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In April I went to Florida to do a large painting for my friends Karen and Len:
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During my third year with Louisa Gould Gallery and my 18th or so showing on the Vineyard, we had the kind of year that the artist really looks for. I had some relaxing off-season visits that gave us more time to connect. The crazy Cape and Islands tour in September with Hurricane Jose was followed by several days of sun/fog/sun/fog, rolling in and out, that had even islanders exclaiming. This started as I was leaving Nantucket on the ferry, included a wild rainbow at sea, and continued into the next day while I photographed favorite and new locales on MV and Chappy with my husband. There will be paintings to follow!
This piece, which I delivered to LGG the next month, was of a moment just after the fog cleared.
In 2017 Louisa and I sold work big, medium, and small and in a range of palettes and formats. When this happens, I feel truly appreciated and at home in the gallery. The below are a few that found new homes since my last post.
Older Favorites Find New Homes
In the past several months I have been delighted to see a number of pieces that, despite generating admiration, have lingered too long in gallery or studio leave my walls for others:
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The Luminous Landscape at Albert Shahinian Fine Art continues through the month of January, closing with a last reception on January 27th. I have several pieces in the show and many more in inventory, accessible for viewing. I look forward to the reception, which is also a 20th-year anniversary party, an opportunity to enjoy the warmth of our arts community during the winter months.
En Masse, the dynamic small works show at Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham, NY, continues to January 7th. They have been generating anticipation for my spring show with the many small works they have of mine seeded throughout the gallery, as well as larger pieces in inventory. One of my last sales of 2017 was Blue Tidal Pool, one of my favorite paintings from the past decade:
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I have a new workshop at the Woodstock School of Art, rescheduled for March 3rd-4th. The theme, somewhat more descriptive than my workshops that emphasize formal elements, is for students to create a suite of paintings of the four seasons.
Many representational painters explore a zone on the spectrum of realism, on one end, and very abstracted imagery, on the other. I have often emphasized the abstract in my teaching, feeling that the go-to for landscape painters early on is to try to copy everything they see within a scene. So my approach is to encourage students to think instead about the needs of the painting, inventing an image that is not a copy but a new reality.
In the past year I have been closely examining my connection to place through my Atlas Project. The theme of this new workshop, more descriptive than abstract, may have emerged from these musings. That said, students will be focusing their attention, with my help, on all of those formal elements in order to create compelling, personal paintings.
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I look forward to a focused, productive year ahead. We have much work to do on the national level, and also need our creative retreats more than ever. I hope you enjoy yours, and am filled with gratitude that you have supported mine. ♥
Last month I led a retreat for six artists on Cape Cod, using the cottage where I have been vacationing with my family for 18 years as our base for making art, meetings to discuss the artists bodies of work and career direction and, of course, exploring the tidal flats (see my first post, “Back on the Sandflats”). I also had private discussions with each artist, following up on their accomplishments and contacts with ideas for further progress in exhibiting and selling their work.
The retreat was modeled on the mentoring groups that I lead in the Catskills, often with a mix of artists in different stages of work and career development. There are many things that the artist likes to think about, and other things that the artist needs to think about. Below, a discussion of our week, and some of the issues that surfaced for the artists in this group, Polly Law, Loel Barr, Sylvia Weinberg, Sue Desanna, Helen Kohler, and Maureen Burr.
Maureen, who took my painting workshop in Provincetown last summer, is returning to making art from a long absence. A pressing question for her: is it all right to be exploring many different things, or should she be narrowing in on one or two?
Early on, the artist should be following her interests wherever they lead. Being “all over the place” is ideal, much as a young art student will typically try different styles and media for years before finding a mode of working that is of abiding interest. Nothing else matters but the process. Creating one’s own style is partly a function of limiting alternatives, so this should not be forced, but allowed to happen through exploration. As the inner voice and eye hone in on an individual expression, other options drop away naturally.
Loel has been sifting through permutations of this question for years. Multi-talented, she has found satisfaction in slices, each media or style scratching a different artistic itch.
After years of working with this variety, it would be more satisfying to find one or two directions that focus all of her talents and ways of seeing the world. At this stage, “all over the place” can feel overly scattered. Honing in on a focused direction still should not be forced—ever—but the mind, both conscious and unconscious, can be alert to paths that present themselves that will unify the work.
I also first met Helen in one of my painting workshops. It turns out that she is pursuing two bodies of work, one landscape painting and the other fiber art. In this case, the discussion of multiple directions takes a different turn.
If you are an artist working happily in two completely different veins, you are lucky indeed! The only challenge in the marketplace is that you will probably have different exhibition venues for the two bodies of work. Years ago, an art consultant told me that when I submit to galleries, I should pick one or the other of the bodies of work I was doing at a time, because galleries would get confused, and then think that I was.
A little tongue-in-cheek, but good advice. The artist in this position has to research venues with a dual intent, but there is nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, you may find a gallery that likes and establishes you with one body of work, and then takes an interest in what else you do later on.
“I am just processing all the information I got last week from all of you and it will keep me busy for weeks to come,” observed Helen in a follow-up email.
Artists in the mentoring groups learn from each other. I have observed repeatedly that when a group of artists is discussing a body of work, they might disagree on a particular passage in a painting, for example, but will invariably agree on what is working overall. While looking at Sylvia and Sue’s landscapes, the group unanimously preferred the looser, more open, interpretations. This meant not that the group all had minimalist taste, but that those were the pieces that stood out within their bodies of work.
Artists can also be the most important contacts of all for each other. Currently, with so many galleries closing and their artists searching for new ones, the best way to get the attention of a gallery is to have an intro to the owner or director, which one artist can provide for another. Artists can also support each other by sharing information on exhibition opportunities, consulting with each other on thorny questions of conduct, and critiquing each other’s work.
Sylvia, an accomplished watercolorist, has been focusing on finding a technique in oil that is equally satisfying. She is also returning her energies to finding new venues for showing her work after a period of years during which personal matters took up much of her attention.
Sue was also looking to refocus, and just bump up, in general. An experienced pastelist, she is always honing her voice, and is currently looking for new venues to show her work.
When looking for a new gallery, make sure that you are a good fit, both stylistically and in terms of resume and pricing. If you are an emerging artist and there is no mention of that in the “about” the gallery, look at the resumes of the other artists. If they are all international art stars, your time would be better spent looking for a more appropriate gallery. On the other end, if the gallery charges artists to show, check to see if they curate, or if it is just “pay to play”—a vanity gallery. Sometimes an artist needs to share expenses with a gallery early on in the resume-building process, but a straight vanity gallery has no collector base, and no prestige.
Stylistically, you don’t want to be too close to any artist already in the gallery, but too far away from anything that they show. Above all, you need to like their aesthetic.
Polly has been in a unique and mature voice phase of her work for a good number of years. This can raise the issue of staying fresh, stimulated, and challenged—the opposite problem of following too many paths. “I had closed myself into a box of what was allowable and what was not in the way of my work. Incorporating the bits & bobs of beach combings would not have been allowed before. As you can see I had really been closing down artistic opportunities- egad. Well, just walking out onto the tidal flats that first evening was like opening a window and taking a broom to the dusty, fusty, tired, stale attic my brain had become. I became fascinated by the wabi-sabi of the elements on the beach (wabi-sabi is a Japanese term to describe the reflection of the history of an object onto its self.) Ideas came to me when I picked up objects and held them in my hand- I could see how they could be used. It was very exciting.”
Some artists work in quite different series every several years. Others shift a bit from year to year. I tend to work in concurrent series, maintaining bodies of work with small tweaks and changes to interest me from piece to piece, and then every so often bring in a new series when I feel the need for a really new challenge. In any case, change is necessary to stay stimulated, and the mature artist (especially one with an identity and a following) has to find his/her own path to that—looking deeply inside your process can provide clues, as can looking way outside of your habitual references and patterns. Inside/outside—look in, look out. If you have been doing too much of one, try the other.
We also did a gallery crawl in both Wellfleet and Provincetown. The artists split up and made rounds, looking at art, assessing galleries with information that we had discussed beforehand, and chatting with gallery staff and owners. Maureen later observed, “I was really comfortable talking to the gallery owners and feel like I made a couple of good contacts for sometime in the future. For now, I will plan on popping in again the next few times I am down to continue our conversation”.
This is a good way to get to know a gallery and for them to get to know you—keep showing up. If it is the gallery of your dreams, you might want to do this for years—I know of someone who finally got into the NYC gallery that he coveted after a decade of showing up, and repeated submissions!
I had introduced Polly and another friend, Jenny Nelson, to Julie Heller, my Provincetown gallery, over the summer. During our visit to P’town, Polly met Julie and her staff and brought new work (which drew attention immediately from gallery-goers), and I was able to nail down details of a show I will be co-curating with Julie of my, Jenny’s, and Polly’s work next summer.
I am often asked by artists if they can use my name when approaching a gallery. I have no problem with this, but it will not provide any real connection. The only way to help another artist is to make a strong personal recommendation to your gallery, and that only works if you have a relationship of trust with them. Then, of course, they have to fall in love with the work.
Further, many galleriests have told me that when choosing from the big talent pool out there, they are looking for artists who are professional and easy to work with. I see this as a quality of life issue. So many stresses seem unavoidable, so why wouldn’t a gallery owner or director try to circumvent that of a difficult artist?
I know a great number of artists through my galleries, the community, mentoring, and teaching. The only time I intro them to one of my galleries is when I feel that it is as beneficial to the gallery as it is to the artist to do so. Otherwise, I would lose the ear of my dealers, and thus not be able to help anyone at all.
When I said goodbye to Julie after our day in Provincetown the last thing she said to me was, “thank-you for Polly and Jenny”.
Finally, from Maureen, I will include a lovely commentary on the week. “I think the next retreat should be called, “Things they don’t teach you in Art School”, because I left Brewster armed with so much knowledge. The experience of being able to speak to other women artists who have the same insecurities and similar perspectives was incredibly helpful. I left the retreat with much more confidence, and between the class I took with you at PAAM and the retreat, I have found that it I have lost that old paralyzing fear of “what if this piece isn’t perfect?”. I am better able to play with ideas and if they work out, then great. If they don’t, I can try something else. It’s not the end of the world. That in itself is worth everything to me.”