Trending Articles

Friends of SOAR

For great posts about the business of art, check out The Artsy Shark HERE!
ArtistsBillofRights.org reviews competitions and appeals seeking creative content, listing those that respect your copyrights and highlighting those that don't. Art Matters! publishes calls to artists, and not all of them may be compliant with ABoR's standards. Visit their site to learn more.
We support the Embedded Metadata Manifesto.  Metadata is information such as copyright notice and contact info you can embed in your images to protect your intellectual property, save time when uploading to social sites and promote your art. Click to visit the site and learn more.

Start With Yes – 2019 thank you print

For the third year running I’ve made a risograph print to thank our donors. This year we took a little phrase we use around the C4AA to share with you.

Why start with yes?

“Start with Yes” is a shared philosophy around collaboration at the C4AA. It means start in agreement, start with acceptance, start with trust. It means saying yes to wild ideas. Yes to the world we want. Yes to love. Yes to working together. Yes to sharing. Yes to successes. Yes to aiming higher. Yes to making it weirder. Yes to the unexpected. Yes to Utopian dreams. Yes to odd combos.

Yes and. Yes to the future. Yes to everyone. Yes to big risks. Yes to possibly, probably looking like a fool. Yes to talking. Yes to listening. Yes to dreaming. Yes to pushing it a step further. Yes to thinking. Yes to feeling. Yes to doing. Yes we will do the impossible. Yes we will win.

We hope a reminder to “Start with Yes” can help your collaborations also!

About the print

11×17 Risograph
Edition of 100

Created in edition of 100 as thank you when you support our end of year fundraising campaign.

The print is made with a Risograph printer. Similar to silkscreening, Riso printing enables a layering technique to produce multi-colored prints. It’s printed on high-quality Speckletone paper, the first-ever recycled sheet with flecks and “shives” created in 1955 by the French Paper Co.

Each print has slight variations. All are signed and editioned by Steve Lambert.

start with yes full view

Get yours!

Make a contribution of $50 or more and get a Start with Yes print.

Double your impact!

$4,088 of $10,000 raised












$

 








Dedicate this contribution to someone special…


Honoree Details








Notification Details



Notification Details






















Select Payment Method

Personal Info



Billing Details







Donation Total:


$250.00

One Time

{amount} donation plus {fee_amount} to help cover fees.



Fine, Call Me Pop

I’m beginning to realize it’s entirely fair to classify some of my work as Pop, and I’m comfortable with the idea. It doesn’t clarify anything—categorizations and schools and movements just obscure what’s actually going on in a painting—but I’ve begun to warm up to what Pop was doing, historically. It made me uncomfortable in the past, because I didn’t arrive at what I do as a way of emulating Pop Art at all. I’m sympathetic with the non-intellectual aims of that movement, the notion that visual art can be accessible and enjoyable to anyone with eyes and that visual art can, maybe should be, entirely a perceptual matter. I’m happy that Arthur Danto considers Andy Warhol’s Brillo boxes to have been a major philosophical meditation calling into question the nature of art and putting an end to the notion of progress in the history of painting—but I don’t think that sort of philosophical investigation was Warhol’s mission. Whether it was or wasn’t, Danto’s insight made me realize, in my thirties, that I could consider myself a contemporary visual artist, rather than just a latecomer. I don’t think Danto would agree with me that people now have permission to do exactly the sort of thing done in the past, without irony, and create work that is absolutely vital and compelling and fresh. But his insights make this conclusion inescapable.

I conclude from Danto’s thesis that for the past seventy years or so artists have been free to do anything at all, including exactly the sort of work that has been done in the past, and what they produce can be considered entirely relevant and contemporary. Everything is permissible because anything can be art. (This doesn’t mean anything is great or even good art: that’s as rare as it ever was.) Ending the tyranny of art history is the last, great liberation for individual painters—and it was Danto’s genius to recognize all of this. The challenge now is to become oneself, in whatever idiosyncratic way works, even if the outcome looks like a painting rooted in traditions from thousands of years ago. Picasso already understood this between the wars when he was borrowing stylistic inspiration from Ingres and the figures on attic vases for the Vollard Suite.

What I’m beginning to realize, though, is that I’m sympathetic with the way in which Pop Art pushed back against art of the previous decade, along with its advocates, primarily Clement Greenberg. Pop tried to prove that art didn’t require the existential pretensions of abstract expressionism—its self-conscious Zen profundity, its rootedness in the subconscious. (Although I happen to love that.) Pop showed that art didn’t need to have any intellectual significance whatsoever, though Danto can write at length about its philosophical weight. I’m more and more convinced that much of Warhol’s work was done in an innocent spirit, without irony and without cynicism: formally, it’s in a neighborhood close to the Matisse cut-outs. But his two-dimensional renderings of Marilyn Monroe’s face or a Campbell’s soup can were also a sort of taunt, at the time, from a planet orbiting far from Matisse. With Warhol’s rendering of a familiar object or face, reducing it to its flattest possible form, he seems to mock Greenberg’s worship of painting’s “flatness” even while pleasing the masses with something Greenberg must have considered kitsch.

I’ve always been put off by what seems self-consciously hip posturing in Warhol’s productions and yet I wonder if he was often too absorbed in the challenge of what he was doing to have any sort of ironic agenda. I had lunch with AP Gorny eight years ago in Buffalo and he recalled an experience Mary Griffin, a friend of Gorny’s, had with Warhol:

I have a friend, Mary Griffin, who was the Director of The Kitchen NYC for ten years. What helped them survive every year was an annual gala. There were ‘heavy hitters’ on their board. One was Warhol of course. When you hear the stories of what he was like to be around, you realize he was always ‘paying attention’ and thinking. What happened? Of course, the Kitchen was artist-initiated with artists running everything. So it’s a sort of improvised, screwed up mess. Mary describes having worn her highest heels for this most important annual fundraising event. She ran with two slide show carousels missing their locked retainer rings. Speeding across the lobby she trips and, literally, the carousels fly out of her hands, and hundreds of slides are on the floor. Who comes out from the restroom? It’s Warhol. The lobby’s empty. Of course he seems not engaged with this crisis, but he kneels down on the floor, and helps her pick them up. But as he picks the slides up, he’s looking at them. Staring at the images he starts saying: ‘This is interesting’. He’s committing the experience to memory! 

I had the impression from this story that Warhol was not only memorizing the experience, but was simply transfixed by what he saw in the slides, receptively aware of anything and everything as a channel for delight. He couldn’t help himself. There was an important slideshow presentation waiting (could there be such a thing in the days before the Powerpoint deck?) but Andy couldn’t tear himself away from these random slides. I can identify with childlike rapture over the commonplace. That kind of delight is partly why I absorb myself for weeks with an image of taffy.

The first time I was aware someone would call my work Pop was around the time of that conversation with Gorny. Before I was represented by Oxford Gallery, I found an article about Art Brokerage, an entirely web-based platform for selling artwork—primarily from people who want to resell work they’ve purchased in the past. I surfed around at the site and noticed that it was seeking paintings by Thiebaud for a particular buyer. I found an email for the company’s owner, Donna Rose, and wrote, “Are you looking specifically for Thiebaud or will any old painting of candy do?” She was amused and said, no, just Thiebaud, but she asked to see my work. She offered to put them up for sale, and she sold some. This was not something she often did—posting new work directly from a painter rather than reselling work already in someone’s collection—and she didn’t want me to advertise the fact. I’m now represented exclusively by Oxford Gallery and it’s been years since I’ve worked with Donna. I wasn’t entirely alone; she sold original, new work by friends of hers: Ed Ruscha and Russell Chatham, for example. She’d also sold work by Lisa Yuskavage early in her career, when Yuskavage was still unrecognized, and, I think, hanging out in Vegas, where Donna’s company is headquartered. When Donna tagged my candy jars as Pop I was startled, because it hadn’t entered my mind. The series of salt water taffy paintings I’m doing now represent a reprise of the same situation: they could easily be considered Pop, with subject matter that would have been deemed unworthy of representation before Pop.

Yet when Donna tagged my candy jar paintings as Pop at artbrokerage.com, it irked me because I hadn’t arrived at them with Pop Art in mind at all. There were only two Pop artists who had found a place in my heart over the years: Jim Dine and Wayne Thiebaud, especially Dine. Though I have been painting candy for years, it wasn’t as a result of my admiration for Thiebaud’s confections. With her painting of four stacked honey jars, arranged to almost entirely fill a square canvas, Janet Fish gave me the idea of filling an ordinary jar with gum balls and enlarging the image dramatically to create a unified field of color across the surface. After gum balls, I moved on to jelly beans. Chiclets. Breath mints. And so on. The motive was to solve a formal challenge: to find a way to paint a straightforwardly realistic still life while making color the primary consideration and giving it as much real estate on the canvas as possible. But the repetitive format had roots, as well, in the way Rothko could paint the same horizon line, the same format for his subtle color, over and over. Monet with his haystacks. And Warhol with his color variations within the armature of the same arrangement of flat patterns to depict the same face. The fact that I was painting in a traditionally realistic way seemed, for me, to put the work somewhere outside the category of Pop. I’ve warmed up to this designation because I’ve become more conscious of the way Pop was a repudiation of a dominant theoretical aesthetic—it was a conclusive rejection of the last real set of rules, a repudiation of theory itself.

There was a mixture of defiance and ironic acquiescence in the way Pop accepted, as a tease, (while it was also rejecting) Greenberg’s influence over the art world at the time. Flatness still demands tribute from painters everywhere, including the perceptual painters, and their results can be wonderful. It’s always on my mind as well, whether I’m doing it justice or not. But I like Pop’s punk eagerness to do what was forbidden. It defied Greenberg by being kitschy, even as it submitted to him, ironically, by being flat—paradoxically short-circuiting his dominance. Try to get flatter than this, Clement! That kind of defiance-cum-acquiescence runs throughout what I do in a slightly different way, especially in the candy paintings, because I’m embracing a lowly, unserious subject for formal reasons—and also out of love for its humble beauty and appeal and almost erotic physicality—while painting these objects with highly realistic methods that ultimately stretch back centuries. The paint itself becomes more and more my focus, in ways that probably wouldn’t be of interest to anyone but me. Oddly enough that aligns me just a bit, alas, with Greenberg but he would wince, thank God, since I’m haunted more by Manet and Velasquez and Welliver than anyone striving for flatness, when it comes to the feel of the paint as I apply it.

Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that now.

Making marks

The Light in The Room, detail, oil on linen.

My most recently finished still life makes me uneasy. If I look at it in a dim light, before going to bed, I’m gratified that I did almost exactly what I set out to do—capture a glowingly illuminated kitchen in the middle of a bright, summer day. But during the daylight hours, if the surface of this painting is well-lit, I want to crawl into a corner and close my eyes. 

I had this same feeling a year ago last month when I went to see my prominently displayed paintings—I could see them through the front windows of the museum while parking my car on the street—at the Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art exhibition in Wisconsin, jurored by Frank Bernarducci. Once I got up close, by virtue of the unsparing gallery lighting, the brushwork made my skin crawl. I felt exposed. The execution didn’t appear to have bothered anyone else, considering the placement of the two paintings. But ever since that opening, I’ve been concentrating on the thickness of the paint—endeavoring to get a Goldilocks feel, not too thick, not too thin—and the way I need to handle it, wet on wet. I’ve been conscious of the desire to user thicker paint for years, but this determination to paint wet into wet began when I returned from Wisconsin last year. (I make exceptions when this isn’t possible, when I see something in the already dried coat that makes my stomach tighten with disappointment, as it did yesterday with the taffy painting I’m doing now. But I make my amendments by putting down uniform areas of wet color and then going back to push detail into them immediately.)

I don’t want what I’m rendering to look hyper-realistic. The paint should look like paint, not the surface of a photograph. But it needs to flow gradually from one spot to the next. No rough edges where edges don’t form clear lines and borders in the source. So now, today, the formerly irksome part of the painting doesn’t make me want to hide when I look at it. It’s all about the nature of the brushwork, the energy and visibility of the mark (or just the way the paint flows from one tone into another) as catalyst for how the eye flows across the image and reads it. I don’t expect my brushwork to be what it is in Van Gogh, or Sargent, or Manet, or Hals, or Thiebaud, or Jenny Saville. But the brushwork now doesn’t get in the way of what pleasure I get from looking at what I’ve done. It isn’t at odds with the image. But when I see areas where the paint is applied skillfully in terms of value and hue, but it just looks awkwardly scumbled, dragged across already-dry paint, and the edges of each spot of color make it look scuffed and chaotic, then I want to slip the painting away into storage. I don’t, because it’s a decent enough painting. Yet his knowledge doesn’t help, which I take as a good thing. Excellence requires striving.

It’s all about whether or not the eye bumps into a spot of paint or glides over it, riding the energy of the paint itself, the life it imparts to the act of looking. I am probably right in reacting this way to the work I’ve done. But maybe not. When it comes to painting, it’s best not to be certain of anything except in those rare cases when I know the painting is really finished and as good as I can make it. (I’m certain about the prefection of most of Vermeer, and quite a bit of Piero, but that’s a pretty safe certainty and though I know I’m looking at a painting when they’re the ones making it, the marks they make aren’t all that visible.) The less refined execution might end up being what people value most in some of these paintings I want to avoid seeing—the way in which the surface is at odds with the image it induces you to see. In fact, I’m constantly trying to do smaller, more improvisational paintings that are all about the visibility of the paint and where the areas of paint look abstract and unrecognizable up close—in other words, simplified and much more painterly work. But this isn’t what I’m after in the sort of paintings I’ve been exhibiting over the past decade—with the exception of one small interior with figures, quickly executed with easy brushwork, I showed at a pop-up in London years ago. 

The humorous element here is that with either kind of brushwork, my current painting looks roughly the same from a few feet away—and the magic of Chardin resides in how, up close, it is just a chaotic mess, while a little farther away, it’s amazing. But it’s a good chaotic mess up close. His paint was thicker, more sensuously applied, more like Thiebaud than Vermeer, so that the paint itself was a pleasure to see. As opposed to what I’m dealing with. But I’m working on it. 

Window to the future

The Window, Matisse, oil on canvas, 57″ x 46″

One of the treasures from my visit to the Detroit Institute for Arts Museum, and displayed near two equally excellent paintings. Historically speaking, it’s only a short walk from this painting (hanging with two equally beautiful pieces by Matisse) to the work of Richard Diebenkorn.  Yet this was painted half a century before Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series. What’s baffling is how so much lyrical feeling can be invested in such a restrained and limited range of colors.

H.K. Freeman’s husbandry of her medium

Moment #34, H.K. Freeman, oil on panel, 18″ diameter

I collect spoors, molds and fugus.

Egon Spengler

In the fungus among us, H.K. Freeman sees a world suffused with seemingly chaotic but purposeful mystery. That alone marks her as someone worthy of attention. Fascination with things almost everyone else ignores or shuns, for me, is a springboard for originality in visual art. She is yet another interesting artist I discovered in Manifest’s recent Painted exhibit. Freeman’s current obsession reminds me of Emmett Gowin’s full immersion in the South American rain forest, devoting himself to capturing moths, not with a net but with his photographic lens.  Yet moths are already beautiful. Anyone who has come across a cecropia moth, as I once did in our back yard many years ago when we lived in Utica, will not be able to look away, the wings are so Blakean in their eerie glamour. With fungus, not so much. Noting the mold on my basement cinder blocks after a rainy month, I reach for the bleach. 

But Freeman is a spiritual cosmologist. She sees wonder and mystery in what others recognize only as decay. She marvels at a devouring life form that is neither animal nor vegetable, but something that eats the world’s leftovers as an after-after-party clean-up crew. In all fairness, anyone who has enjoyed a portobello or truffle knows that fungus can taste pretty good, as well. Freeman shows us something more rarefied in her sometimes tiny spherical paintings of fungus that look like miniature worlds viewed through a microscope, or the surface of planets light years away. 

She’s at her best when she finds a symbiotic strength in her medium’s proclivities, offering a little guidance here and there—like a color field painter pouring and steering a flow of paint. It’s both a practical and a symbolic relationship with materials. Anyone who has worked in the natural world, say, growing a garden, recognizes the partnership. The garden does most of the work. Anyone who has tried to steer himself or herself through the world recognizes how free will represents a tiny marginal allowance you earn through prior discipline, simply for the chance  to choose against the daily inertia of one’s character. You are there to nudge things—including yourself—this way and that, toward the desired end. When she finds the effects she wants by letting the paint do what it does on its own, but intervening where needed, the work is enchanting.

What’s marvelous is that, in this fascination with one of the lowliest of life forms, she sees God. She doesn’t preach, just passes along her awe at how much order and beauty and shines forth from the world of decomposition. She’s working a field Richard Wilbur tilled in his great poem about the vulture, and how that carrion bird’s meals serve the same purpose as an ark, delivering life from death.

From Freeman’s website:

The intricate worlds of lichens, fungi, and mosses serve as a starting point for my paintings. These sublime organisms help ensure and maintain life on earth. I draw upon the history of landscape painting and abstraction, together with eco-theology, to communicate spiritual ideas in relation to creation. Using the finite to think about the infinite, the paintings evoke the mysterious, wondrous, interconnected process of existence.

I alternately manipulate the paint and playfully relinquish control to create these worlds. The imagery simultaneously fuses and dissolves, oscillating between certainty and uncertainty with the promise of resolving into something familiar. The luminosity of the colors and the use of abstraction convey the euphoric, transcendental sensation of my initial encounter with the subject matter. The abstraction and the colors stimulate not only the visual senses, but also act on the psyche to contemplate the painted microcosms. I hope the references to creation will invite viewers in, while the abstraction will challenge viewers to perceive in a way that goes beyond the surface of the painting, so they can explore their own thoughts and beliefs.

Free Art Presentation to Benefit Climate Action

Babel and Blood Moons, 2015 Painting from the Digging out from the Dirty Decade collection, by Catie Faryl

Babel and Blood Moons, 2015 Painting from the Digging Out from the Dirty Decades collection, by Catie Faryl

Digging Out From the Dirty Decades

1999–2019

Art Presentation to Benefit Climate Action

Featuring an inspiring art slide show with humorous observations by West Coast Artist Catie Faryl.

Sunday November 17th
two free shows – 3 pm & 5 pm
(30 minutes each)
Bellview Grange 1050 Tolman Creek Road in Ashland, Oregon

Artwork will be for sale at discount prices to benefit Southern Oregon Pachamama Alliance & Project Drawdown Climate Actions

On Sunday November 17th, West Coast Artist Catie Faryl will be sharing her recent art collection, “Digging Out from the Dirty Decades,” at Bellview Grange, 1050 Tolman Creek Road in Ashland, Oregon.  There will be two half-hour art slide presentations, one at 3 pm and one at 5 pm, during which Catie will discuss her art and commentary on events beginning with Y2K in 1999 through the past 20 years, ending with our current situations in 2019.
Faryl is launching her Digging out from the Dirty Decades Card Deck, which is 72 art cards in chronological order along with ironic political satire and revealing environmental commentary.
Sales of Catie’s greeting cards, her popular Balance Deck Art Cards, matted prints, framed and matted originals will benefit climate crisis actions and education programs of Southern Oregon Pachamama Alliance. Also Catie will offer a sneak preview of her next project called “2020 – The Year of Living Frugally”.
For more information please contact Catie Faryl at 541 535-1854 or by email.
Catie’s greeting cards and Art Card Decks are for sale locally at Bloomsbury Books.  If you can’t attend, donations can be mailed to Bellview Grange, P.O. Box 3372, Ashland Oregon 97520    www.catiefaryl.net
For more information contact Catie Faryl at 541 535-1854 or by email at [email protected], and please visit The Gentle Rebellion – a plan to reduce energy use and waste on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/The-Gentle-Rebellion-a-plan-to-reduce-energy-use-and-waste-2456972324539793/

 

The Revellers, New Years 1999 painting from the Digging out from the Dirty Decades collection by Catie Faryl

The Revellers, New Years 1999 painting from the Digging out from the Dirty Decades collection by Catie Faryl

Ed Clark, 1926-Oct. 18, 2019

Ed Clark, Maple Red, Oil and mixed media on canvas, 73″ x 76″

I discovered this magnificent painting at the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum on a visit late last month to Detroit. I recognized the artist when I saw it from a distance only because I’d recently discovered him after news of his death. I felt like Art Brut singing about their ignorance about The Replacements: “How have I only just found out about Ed Clark?”

Dana Saulnier

 

Untitled Study, 2014, oil on canvas, 42″ x 56″

I can say that my drive to make art is a desperate issue for me. If I was motivated narrowly by my desire to place myself in some kind of professional situation, where I was primarily concerned with the work’s status within a narrow set of theoretical discourses, then I am not sure that I could proceed with the faith and doubt necessary to the work. I want the work to make sense to people whether they are educated in art theory or not. Like good music I hope good art takes you in. It is hard work to make art and I want to think that it matters to people. That it enlarges our capacity for living.

                                                                                                                         —Dana Saulnier

In an interview a bit harder to penetrate than this lucid remark in the middle of it, Dana Saulnier offers a couple of tangentially related thoughts. I spotted his work in the recent exhibit at Manifest Gallery, so I delved deeper into the paintings already familiar to me from his show at First Street. In this brief observation, Saulnier resists the professionalization of art.  It sounds as if he’s saying that he refuses to find his place in whatever happens to be going on theoretically or, as I would put it, conceptually, in the art world. He doesn’t need to belong. I like this, because he’s asserting his individuality, but also because theory comes second here. Starting from conceptual premises works against painting’s ability to convey an awareness more oceanic than conscious thought–so it’s ass backwards to make a painting to illustrate an idea or a theory of art. To look for significance in visual art can obscure what it’s actually doing. An industry of critical thought depends on the need to extract significance from creative work. As Tom Wolfe pointed out in The Painted Word, to make work that depends on criticism for elucidation or justification upends the relationship between creativity and critique: the critic rules the creator. Postmodernism depends on this. Painting begins to obey the need to be significant in such a way that it will attract critical approval. What gets put aside is attention to what a painting can do, in contrast to what, say, a novel does. Work that arises out of a theory of art, or any conscious purpose, reduces a painting to the role of “signifier” which has, at least, the virtue of keeping critics busy. It sounds as if maybe Saulnier wants to sidestep all of that and allow his work a more elusive impact—though his own critical thought about his work throughout the rest of the interview would seem to argue otherwise.

In this short reflective comment, though, he also says he wants his work to be available and effective, in some way, for people who know little or nothing about art in general—again suggesting that a painting’s work is unmediated, requiring neither commentary nor training. Looking is required; thinking optional and not advised. (Tolstoy’s theories of art toward the end of his life took a similar stance, repudiating much of the Western canon that most educated people would have considered sacrosanct—and quite a bit I would hate to lose, personally. But his intent was to remain true to the wisdom he earned after narrowly avoiding the impulse to kill himself over his inability to understand life intellectually, all of which he dramatized in Anna Karenina.) Granted, some of the most thrilling and powerful visual art has significance in the sense that it conveys much that can be clarified by criticism and commentary and training. It represents ideas, it has significance, the way language does. Yet, for me, the greatest painting has no significance whatsoever, but is instead a perceptual catalyst, a representation only in the sense that an aroma represents a meal. A scent doesn’t signify anything but its provenance—it’s an element of its life-sustaining origin and it brings you toward that origin in the way a painting by Braque could be said to embody the world it invites the viewer to inhabit. How it does this is utterly mysterious, and that isn’t a reality that offers much mileage to critical conversations about it.

Opportunity in the overlooked

Laid Down, Erin Raedeke, oil on canvas

I first noticed Erin Raedeke’s paintings when she was a member at First Street Gallery in Chelsea some years ago and was immediately charmed by her handling of color. Her delicate, playful images of birthday party detritus, strewn across the field of view, gave her endless ways to improvise with tones that created deeply felt, personal color harmonies. The work was representational but also “all over,” without the negative space typical in a still life, the objects in the foreground against an empty background. The work was fine-tuned, with attention to unique details, but gracefully and effortlessly executed. If she worked from photographs, it didn’t show. My first thought was that Fairfield Porter would love the work. Nothing is overdone; the paintings appear to be first responses to whatever she sees without much going back over earlier marks. I saw her work again in 2015 at a group show curated by Matt Klos at Anne Arundel Community College. The painting in that show was simpler and harder to read, but still executed in the same steady, quiet and idiosyncratically personal insistence on representing humble objects in recognizable space in order to come up with results as close to abstraction as representation.

Her birthday party images give her an ample and varied palette of hues—almost any color can be made to fit into an image. Conical hats and flaccid balloons could be strewn across a surface to create patterns and shapes at will, though she was sedulous about keeping her subjects as random-looking, as “found” as possible. Departing from the party leftovers, she has used layered fabrics to create quasi-minimalist abstractions, some almost as radically simplified as Rothko or a Barnett Newman zip. The top layer of fabric would be torn or punched in places to reveal the color or pattern of what was underneath. Some of these paintings were as large as five feet tall, adding to their sense of kinship with abstracts from the mid-20th century. Yet even in this flat, minimal work, Raedeke has been just as diligent in capturing factual detail—the frayed tendrils of thread bristling from a torn edge running across a canvas as demarcation between large areas of nearly uniform color. She has an insistence on rendering lines as thin as spiderweb. Such minute detail in a sea of color seems like a pyrrhic effort to pull back from the larger strategy of enveloping the viewer—but it works. Oh, OK, we’re looking at cloth. There is something compulsive in this, in the way that much of what’s best in a particular artist’s style represents a surrender to inarticulate instincts about what needs to happen simply to make a picture come alive. Yet that adherence to minor detail makes even these larger, more amorphous paintings approachable, humble, amiable—when you recognize what’s been represented they snap back into insignificance, studies of what nearly anyone else wouldn’t even have bothered to notice. The fabric even looks a little stained. 

Her recent work is included in Manifest’s Painted, and it seems like a culmination, in a way, of what she’s been doing over the past decade, from the versatile color of her birthday party messes to the almost ascetic renunciations of the fabric paintings where she seems to want to improvise as simply as possible with color and form and space and yet still show you something you might actually see on the surface of a bed or countertop. She’s sticking with fabric, but there’s more depth—and the patterns of this fabric give her room to vary color and line and shape It hangs like a curtain, and its decorative print gives the painter a way of bringing back the musical tones. In this case, it’s just a pair of muslin sheets, it seems, decorated with floral patterns, a scattering of blue pansies on the cool side of the painting. The fabric hangs in supple folds, against a deep red background that shows as a slash of color at the bottom, beneath the hems. It’s as humble and unspectacular as possible, but the patterns are rendered with care, almost gratitude for the opportunities they offer.

The particular integrity she brings to her work shines through in this insistence on painting nothing but what she sees—even if it’s merely the torn edge of monotone, porous cloth—in order to create a nearly flat field of color. If you allow for varying degrees of flatness, this is a pursuit common to countless painters, but she brings a lyrical, almost wistful quality to her images, as if she’s nostalgic for the moment, a few seconds ago, that she last glanced at her subject. And in the work I enjoy the most from her, the impression of flatness gives way to depth—albeit the shallow relief of curtains or layers of wrapping paper under a half-eaten hamburger. They’re fragments of a larger experience, not signifying anything but rather saturated with her sense of how life feels.

Mighty mite

Towards Dam, Michael McCaffrey, oil on panel, 8″ x 8″

This little work is lit with an intensity that Van Gogh went south hoping to find, painted with an economy of means Edwin Dickinson pulled off in his premier coup canvases. It’s tiny, eight inches square. At that size, Michael McCaffrey invests a humble power and life into his kinetic, tactile marks. It makes De Kooning’s slashes of paint seem hyperbolic and theatrical by comparison. McCaffrey’s targets are way harder to hit, being so finely calibrated, which concentrates the power of his marks, his accuracy of representation making the brute physicality of his brushwork so energizing. The stucco promontory in the front looks as dazzling as coral, and yet also gently evocative of early growth in the spring. It works observationally, gives a convincing glimpse of a grassy patch, yet that sandpapery swath of color easily could be a detail from Braque.

One of the many mysteries of painting is how such rough execution, such raggedy shreds of paint, applied as if the project were masonry rather than a picture, conveys the raw light and air, no less, the clean scent of that tumbling breeze, almost by accident–the way rhyme somehow coincides with the exact articulation of something new in a sonnet. The sky and clouds are a sort of hyper-blue that feels like one of those noons in March, warm with spring sun but still chilly with late-winter wind. The wiped-away blur of olive and ochre and murky blue-green across the middle works as a distant landscape with a tree for this miniature world to pivot around. It looks as if he’d painted with blunt, bristly instruments, and maybe a cotton rag, that little random scribble under the cloud carved into the wet paint with the dull point of a brush handle, like a jerky signature.  Michael McCaffrey’s work can be seen in Painted at Manifest Gallery, and spotting his name in that show, I went hunting, and I found this wonder from the past along with a few equally impressive little landscapes, executed with the same kind of heedless joy.