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Truth Teller Tribe Returns

During my 40 some years of being an artist and teacher, Tribes of Truth Tellers have manifested themselves in many ways.

I taught Sculpture for many years in public schools and tall, cylindrical sculptural forms showed up in paper maché and clay forms. It was so fascinating to see the variety of expressions that resulted when a challenge was put forth to 30 students and they found 30 ways to express it. I worked along with them in order to teach technique. As always happens, we all inspired each other to make our sculptures unique.

The Tribe has also shown up in layered textural acrylic paintings and in collaged, cut, and layered painted paper forms. These two new ones are acrylics painted on paper with a forest in mind. However, the Tribe inserted itself into my consciousness, so I cut them free from each other and re-assembled them on painted wooden panels. I also cut a tree from another painting to add to the mystery.

There they were in all their glory, telling me Truths I hadn’t known before. As it turns out, the story they tell each viewer is specifically tailored to each individual.

SOSA Meetings Resume!

SOSA Meetings Resume Next Month

Our first SOSA meeting in over a year will be August 23rd, 7 pm, at the Medford Public Library!  Central Art Supply will come to show us some of the new products we may have missed during our hiatus.

Please note the library doors lock at 7pm.

Grants Pass Artist Call – Deadline August 4!

Grants Pass Artist Call for the Art Box Project!

$250 stipend and great exposure 

Grants Pass Artist Call for the Art Box Project! Come be a part and add to the beauty of our City with your talent in the arts. The City of Grants Pass seeks local artists to add a splash of color via direct painting or digitized vinyl wrap, and to be a recognized participant in the City’s “Art Box” project.

Show the City your creative vision of what makes our town so special and unique through fresh colorful scenes, abstract graphics or even dramatic photography.

We are funding this fun assignment. We will pay each selected artist $250 to embellish a utility box on 7th Street in downtown Grants Pass. In our first campaign of 5 separate boxes, the opportunity is limited, so please fill out and submit your application before the August 4th deadline. We look forward to seeing your ideas.

A special thank you to the following sponsors:

Fourway Community Foundation logo - Grants Pass Artist Call
Josephine County Cultural Coalition - Grants Pass Artist Call

Susan Seereiter
Business Advocate OcED
www.grantspassoregon.gov
(541) 450-6014 (Direct)
City of Grants Pass
101 NW A Street
Grants Pass, OR 97526

Frank Bowling

Texas Louise, Frank Bowling, acrylic on canvas, detail

You can get a powerful overview of Frank Bowling’s work at Hauser and Wirth on 22nd St. in Chelsea. His efforts in moving paint around can be epic, but he also imported into his abstract expressionist technique images from the world map. A triptych visible as you walk into the gallery shows three images, not of Africa, but of South America, repetitive as a Warhol portrait, but in subtle and rich earth tones, striking and simple. The show runs to the end of July. From the gallery’s website:

The exhibition charts Bowling’s life and work between the UK and the United States. Born in Guyana (then British Guiana) in 1934, Bowling arrived in London in 1953, graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1962. He later divided his time between the art scenes in London and New York, maintaining studios in both cities. London is the city where Bowling trained as a painter and achieved early acclaim. New York is the city that drew him to itself at the height of the Civil Rights movement, where he became involved in discussions of Black Art – New York was a place of fresh energy and ideas for an artist in search of new ways to make paintings.

Brief Beauty

So brief, these.

So long from seed to blossom

then so quick to drop their petals.

But worth the pink while.

Santelli, from the vault

Bill Santelli, Appearance of White, acrylic on canvas at his home

I saw this painting, Appearance of White, completed years ago, at Bill Santelli’s home on my recent visit for coffee with him and Bill Stephens. I was stunned by the mastery of his paint handling here, the restraint of the color, and the rigorous simplicity of the composition. It looks like a visualization of both an internal state of illumination but also simply an evening sky, with the abstract and representational elements so resolutely distinguished from each other, Santelli forces them to wrestle for dominance, the black geometry jutting up from below and also sweeping down across what seems to be a beautifully, naturally executed image of a cirrus-swept evening sky. The long black rectangle, like a squeegee, seems to swipe across the sky from the upper corner, turning that muted purple atmosphere to rusty orange, as if the sun has broken through just at the horizon to immediately tint everything with one last memory of warmth. The angular black voids reach a minor truce with this abstract sky in the bottom right corner, where the sky bleeds into the black and offers a gradual, lovely but precipitous fade into night. The little strip of white, along the edge of that squeegee blade, hints at a greater illumination, and I imagine it takes pride in the fact that the title’s more interested in it than anything else in the painting.

Chance, the painter

Gerard Richter, the Cage paintings.

In the May issue of AEQAI, Ekin Erkan makes an interesting argument against the role of chance in Gerhard Richter’s paintings. He’s responding to an exhibit of Richter’s Cage paintings, a series of abstracts produced according to John Cage’s guidelines for composing music randomly. This sounds like a dry and cerebral exercise, but the paintings themselves are anything but. They’re gorgeous, in large part because, like Rothko, they reach back and employ some of the basic structures of landscape painting and conceal/utilize them in these square fields of smeared, squeegee’d paint. What’s most powerful about this particular series is Richter’s lyrical restraint in the use of color. Deep, rich, and subtle blues and greens peer at you through the gray fabric, the haze, that dominates a canvas. You feel as if you are trying to find your way through a wilderness in the fog, where you get disorienting, tantalizing glimpses of the forest’s beauty, while thoroughly lost. In other words, Richter’s abstraction here seems much more rooted in the the brain’s prehistoric training to look for sky, horizon, land and water, the brain’s predisposition to spot both predator and prey. It isn’t hard to imagine a horizon line across the center of these canvases and see woods, sky, reflections in a lake, evoked by the smears of Richter’s intentionally limited palette.

Erkan seems intent on debunking the role of chance, the “aleatory” element in the production of these, or any paintings, because what evolves in the process of making them has been structured and determined in large part by the rules, conscious and unconscious, the artist observes in the use of paint. This is accurate, and applies even to Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, which have to be the most random canvases ever produced. But any painter knows how, in its most crucial ways, a particular painting is utterly unrepeatable. The exact proportions of paint in any mixed color will always be subject to the accidents of mixing them in the heat of a session at the easel: there is no way to precisely duplicate anything that happens in the execution at any point in the making of a painting. The Pointillists may have tried. Conceptual artists who simply write out the instructions for the production of a particular work, like Saul LeWitt, might be said to have eliminated chance from the game. Or someone who devised elaborate, scientific guidelines for how to mix favorite colors and how to apply them. Yet ordinary mortals who have only once done an entire painting in one sitting, alla prima, know how magical the process can be when it turns out exceedingly well. What goes into these results, what produces them, remains mysterious: a certain intense quality of attention, a compelling desire, a hunger, to put certain colors in certain ways on a canvas, a certain level of pleasure in the unfolding results that intensifies the desire, and so on, all of which have as much to do with unrepeatable happenstance as they do with conscious control over the process itself. In other words, it’s a state of flow, which is as difficult to achieve as a great painting–they are one and the same, the flow and the outcome of it. Yes, years of practice and discipline make it possible. Yes, it’s the outcome of rules and intentions. But no, it is not without dozens or hundreds of unpredictable and happy accidents, unrepeatable because they weren’t learned and can’t be taught. What’s most crucial in a great painting isn’t the outcome of empirical knowledge and can’t be predicted: otherwise you could teach anyone with a certain level of skill how to make a great work of art. The act of painting can also involve moments of despair when the entire thing seems hopeless and lost only to emerge again in success–by misdirections you find your direction, to paraphrase Hamlet. None of which is predictable. The unintentional results, the moments and outcomes that surprise the artist, as well as the viewer, are what make painting such a life-affirming calling, why it is a quest, not a job.

There’s a great summary of John Cage’s approach in the essay:

What is distinct in Cage, and something difficult but not impossible for a visual artist interested in “chance” to capture, is that in Cage’s “chance” works—e.g., Music of Changes (1951), Two Pastorales (1951-2), Seven Haiku (1951-2), For M.C. and D.T. (1952)—Cage utilizes a compositional tool over which he does not have control. In 1958, Cage introduced his ideas regarding indeterminacy in Darmstadt, Germany, in a lecture entitled “Composition as Process.”[1] At this period of his life, Cage had discarded the ideas and methods underlying his earlier compositions, which had included: numerical structures, considered improvisation, unambiguous notation, and preconceived form. In this lecture, Cage presented his ideas of “non-intention.” In “Composition as process,” Cage lectures on composition that is indeterminate with respect to its performance, remarking that:

“… [t]hat composition is necessarily experimental. An experimental action is one the outcome of which is not foreseen.”[2]

“… [t]he early works have beginnings, middles, and endings. The later ones do not. They begin anywhere, last any length of time, and involve more or fewer instruments and players. They are therefore not preconceived objects, and to approach them as objects is to utterly miss occasions for experience.”[3]

“… constant activity may occur having no dominance of will in it. Neither as syntax nor structure, but analogous to the sum of nature, it will have arisen purposelessly.”[4]

If Cage aims at music which is unforeseen and purposeless, it is because this music is free from the intentions and expressions of the composer’s mind. But this is not something simply left up to improvisation—for one’s “feeling” of being a conscious driver of their artistic process does not mean that they are not acting out of intention, wittingly or not. Thus, Cage implemented models for the realization of this kind of music.[5]

Chance in music, and in visual art, cannot simply “happen” due to the improvisational whims of the artist and their “feeling” of not being in control. It is necessary to provide a mechanism within which it will operate. Thus the composer of a “chance work” or the artist of a “chance painting” must first design some system in which chance has a role to play. A system must therefore provide for certain “givens,” or fixed elements: e.g., collections of musical materials that are to be manipulated, such as the overall structure of the work. This system must have a collection of rules or procedures to be followed so as to produce the final score (or painting), where these rules draw upon the given materials and structures to make decisions based on some random factor, such as the toss of a coin or a computer-generated random number.

Designing the system in which chance has a crucial role in the outcome is not the same as controlling the outcome, nor does it create the other extreme, where the results are entirely random. Painting is a balance between intentions and fortuitous accidents. The optimum spiritual or mental state for an artist to achieve while painting is a perfect balance between what can be predicted and repeated and what cannot–like a surfer staying upright on an enormous wave. What makes a painting strong, up to a point, can be duplicated again and again–what makes it great is another matter entirely. And that factor may not entirely be aleatory, but it can’t be controlled. It’s a gift.

Incomprehensible beauty

Woman in White, Picasso, oil on canvas, 1923

If you can say what beauty means, then you’ll be able to explain what any great painting means. But, as Iris Murdoch observed, the more clearly you see beauty, or truth, or goodness, the more mysterious it becomes, the more inaccessible to the easy manipulations of reasoning–and the more it becomes something you serve rather than understand and control.

The reactionary, neoclassical work Picasso did after the cataclysm of World War I represents his greatest and most heartfelt struggle to capture what drove him to paint again and again: the beauty and allure of women. He expressed this in so many ways, some far more impressive in hindsight than others.  In the neoclassical work, his only showmanship was in easy ability to convey profound gratitude through a series of edges drawn with brilliant, childlike simplicity and proportion. I came upon this example during my visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently. Every time I see work like this from the past, I feel I’ve never really fully appreciated it until now, which is exactly how I felt when I saw another example of this period and style from Picasso at my last visit to LACMA . In such a delicate image, I am always surprised, up close, to see how rough he could be in the way he applied the paint, applying it more like joint compound or spackle, smeared, scraped, and generally handled with expedience and no regard whatsoever for how the marks will look up close. Velasquez and Sargent would weep at his heedlessness, and I almost did as well, but not in disappointment. Picasso’s gift was nearly unique, a line as rare as Ingres, but there’s so much more heart here, so much more of a surrender to the essential mystery of what he’s yearning to show you. Beauty like this silences you on the spot, this post notwithstanding.

Anyone who wants to understand Picasso’s comment, sent along to me months ago by Bill Santelli, about the meaning of painting has only to look at Woman in White to understand that a great painting can be utterly meaningless and also the embodiment of everything you most need to see:

Everyone wants to understand painting. Why not try to understand the songs of a bird? Why does one love the night, flowers, everything around one, without trying to understand them? But in the case of painting people have to understand.

From Christian Zervos, “Conversation avec Picasso” in Cahiers d’art, 7/10, Paris, 1935, p. 178

Insalaco transformation

Tom Insalaco, one in his new series of studio paintings

For quite a while now, Tom Insalaco has been working on a suite of paintings that remind me of the world Braque inhabited–both pictorially and spiritually–at the culmination of his career when he was painting abstract images of his studio. Braque spoke in his notebooks about transformation as the essential thrust of painting: to take what’s seen and magnetize paint around the imagery the visible world lodges in your soul. Insalaco has immersed himself in painting after painting of artists at work in various studios, finding sources in films on the Internet and then transforming what he observes into what could be interpreted literally as double-or-triple exposures, scenes superimposed upon one another. But he’s after something outside time and space, indefinable, one’s true life, in accessible to the daily conscious mind. And focusing on the studio as the portal, a window, into this extra-temporal reality, he’s trying to get at why we paint at all. It isn’t to change the world. It’s to witness what’s actually there, everywhere, inaccessible to our chattering, busy minds. Of course, every painter I know and love is trying to do exactly the same thing, but in his or her own way.

Here what appears to be a dancer either stretches or practices in the center of the painting. Layered over this, a remote scene of a performance on stage, a singer or actor, like a remote, lonely puppet, and finally what gives the painting its structural coherence, a studio where two sculptors are working from a nude male model. What’s easy to miss is what appears to be a little quote from Velasquez, as it were: a slightly jumbled hint at Las Meninas, maybe the greatest studio painting in Western art. Insalaco didn’t consciously put that there, but he saw the unintentional reference himself, when I pointed it out. The seated woman in the foreground seems part of the scene with the dancer. Everything melds together into a unity that has its own dreamlike disengagement from familiar time and space, which is Insalaco’s true north, the disorienting transcendence of the surrealists, but closer to Chagall’s ecstatic Cubist-influenced dreams of his love for Bella, his heart’s home, where gravity knocked but never got in. Time here is Proustian, and space is both as small as the amount occupied by a mosquito arrested in amber and as large as the Milky Way.

 

 

 

AGA June Art Opportunities

Ashland Galleries
June Visual Arts News
June = Art Opportunities

We’re excited to share a handful of art opportunities that are being offered this month to foster your inner creativity. 

Denise Miller, Sunrise on Lake Miller, Mosaic

The Rogue Gallery & Art Center 
Berryman Gallery in The Craterian Theater at the Collier Center for the Performing Arts
Deadline: Ongoing (June – September) 

The Lindsay Berryman Gallery is a satellite exhibition space of the Rogue Gallery & Art Center, located on the second floor lobby of the Craterian Theater. The Berryman Gallery is open to the public before performances and to ticket holders during performances. Please see the Craterian’s website for performance dates. Artists working two-dimensionally may apply for solo exhibitions lasting approximately two months each, between September and June.

For those who are interested in participating, please click here and visit craterian.org



Jerryck Murrey, Untitled, Acrylic 

Central Art Gallery
Display Your Artwork!
  Deadline: No Deadline 
  Central Art Gallery is a 650 square foot exhibition space located at 101 N. Central Avenue in Medford. The gallery will be offering exhibition opportunities for visual artists monthly during Downtown Medford’s Third Friday Art Walk.  

For those who are interested in participating, please click here or email all inquiries to [email protected]


Cherri Van Syoc, Oh, Happy Day, Oil

Grants Pass Museum of Art
Volunteers Needed!

  Deadline: Ongoing 
1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Interested in being surrounded by art and in a museum setting? 

The Grants Pass Museum of Art will be offering full hours soon and help will be needed. Hours are 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. and tasks include greeting visitors, answering questions about current exhibitions, and general office-related tasks. 

For those who are interested, please click here


Dawn Cerny, Untitled, Sculpture (2020 Recipient)

Seattle Art Museum
Call for Entries: The Betty Bowen Award

  Sunday, August 1, 2021 11:00 a.m.

Administered by the Seattle Art Museum, the annual Betty Bowen Award honors a Northwest artist for their original, exceptional, and compelling work. The winner is awarded an unrestricted cash prize of $15,000, and a selection of his or her works is shown at the Seattle Art Museum in the spring of 2021. In addition, up to two Special Recognition Awards in the amount of $2,500 are often granted at the discretion of the Betty Bowen Committee.

The award is open to visual artists in all media working in Washington, Oregon, or Idaho. Artists of diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

Please click here to apply and for more information. 

 
Art by Elin Babock and Coloring by Ann DiSalvo Copyright © 2021 Ashland Gallery Association, All rights reserved.

AGA Outdoor Open Studios
Support A Taste of Ashland! Purchase a Coloring Book!
Saturday, June 19, 2021
12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

  In lieu of the traditional Open Studio Tour, the AGA has decided to bring the art outdoors! Chat with artists and watch live demonstrations while enjoying acrylic and oil paintings, textile art, plein air and abstract paintings, and glass work. Works in clay, silver jewelry, mixed media, textiles, wood, and garden art can be viewed inside of the galleries.

A Taste of Ashland Coloring Books will be sold at a suggested donation of $10.00 to assist with future planning of A Taste of Ashland. The limited-edition coloring book is a great way to escape, decompress, and create a collaboration between you and all of the local artists who created pages for it. 

This will be a free outdoor event hosted by Ashland Art Works, located at 291 Oak Street.