Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Photography and my art

I've been taking a lot of photos lately. My intention is for it to inform my artwork. I look at these as studies in composition and shade. The richness I see in the photos I take is something that I would like to get into my art.

Here are some pictures of buildings I've taken over the last week:

My artwork is done in digital 3D. The language is the same as photography; there is a camera, there are lights, I work with different lens lengths, different f-stops. For a bit I was calling my artwork photography because the similarities are so strong. But I've decided to stop calling it that because frankly I think it's confusing. The big difference between my art and photography is that my art all happens in a digital world. I'm not taking pictures of real, physical things. My art lives in the world of 1s an 0s in my computer.

There is another connection between my photography and fine art. I mostly take pictures of buildings, and my fine art predominantly deals with the inner and outer body. Both these subject matters house something. For the body, it's consciousness, the soul, our mind, or emotion. Buildings house our physical bodies and our stuff. Maybe a tenuous connection, but it's something I feel nonetheless. I'll carry on taking pictures and doing my art till it becomes more clear. The photography may be purely exercises for my art, yet people are responding to the photos very well. Eventually I can see an exhibition of my photography and my artwork together. There needs to be a ton of more development before this happens.

2011 is about educating myself. With a lot of help from the studio I'm getting to openings every week and going to many galleries. I've always had a negative opinion of the current art scene. But I've been realizing that I don't honestly know much about it so how can I have a valid, informed opinion? I've been going to the exhibitions with a open mind, looking for what I like in the art on display rather than just deeming the work crap.

Personally I've had a couple of rough days and I'm not feeling very inspired, I'm having a hard time writing now. But when things are difficult that can be the best time to push on.

With this said I've been working on a proposal for a video installation. For about a year I've had this idea percolating in my head to create a meditation room or chapel filled with my video art. The subject would be consciousness. It would be about looking at what we truly are physically. It would deal with the place where energy and matter meet. To be honest after the last couple of days I have no interest in communicating such lofty things. Right now I'm angry and frustrated with my personal life and I want my art to be a reflection of that. This makes me a little nervous because in the end I've always wanted my work to be inspiring and for it to make people feel better after looking at it. My work is about truth, be it physical or emotional or spiritual. And I'm feeling like dogshit. So my current art is starting to reflect this. But maybe this truth I'm trying to convey will uplift people in the end. There hopefully will be a recognition of the human condition. God! I am so self conscious as I write this.

My art (and my life) has been about yearning and searching for some kind of fulfillment. The monumental woman I do are mother figures in the end. But I want to start trying to communicate how I feel in my art. And I'm not the most happy camper. But I'm concerned the work will start to revel in the negative, something I really want to avoid. How do I deal with shitty emotions and keep the work positive and inspiring? Or is this something I shouldn't be concerning myself with? Is it just about truthful energy, be it positive or negative? There's a difference between reveling in negativity and looking at it objectively with acceptance.

There are wounds I have because of my past that just don't go away. I'm learning how to just accept this rather than trying to fight them off. There's a scrim I see the world through. I find this extremely frustrating. But the fact is it is there. It's a part of me the same way my viscera is a part of me. I think it is time to accept the fact that this will always be apart of me. In the past I tried so hard to get over it. To meditate and pray it away so to speak.

The hearts in my recent figures have been dark:

At first I was a bit surprised with the dark hearts. But the more I look at these pieces the more I am drawn to this darkness. I feel as if something is coming out. I think the overall feeling of the piece of beauty, and gentleness, but there's definitely something going on with the heart. So maybe the positive and negative aspects of myself can peacefully coexist in my art.

Maybe the meditation room should be a reflection of my state. Should the room be a concretized version of my inner world? This sits with me well today. Now I just have to start working on the damn thing! Winston Churchill said something I love, "If you want something done, give it to somebody who is too busy to do it." Energy breeds energy. And I find it amazing how much I'm capable of doing when my heart is into it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A pause

The studio flooded while I was in London. This weekend the crew finally came in to fix the water damage. On Friday Priska and Victoria disassembled my computers and wrapped everything in plastic, including my piano. Here's what my studio looks like now:

I like wide open spaces, and we're going to keep my work area as empty as possible moving forward. I need the space to think. Last Thursday a interior designer came in for a consultation on how to organize our space. We moved here to Greene street about a year ago and the way it's set up has just organically evolved. In other words it's a fucking disorganized mess. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the designer does. How the space is set up effects so much how we work. I am able to work anywhere to some extent, but the set up does have a direct connection with how well I work.

So the computer I do my art on is down, and I'm forced this morning to sit here and think and write on my laptop. I can't wait till I'm set up again to work. I love working and I love what I am working on. Right now there are so many possibilities to explore in my art. I can't tell you how good it feels to be creating everyday, it feels like something that's been missing for most of my life has been rediscovered. I'm very young as an artist; I've only been working full time on it for maybe 8 months. Erica tells me I'm just beginning to find my voice. When she first said this I was taken aback, but I now agree with her.

There's a element of narcissism to bogging I'm discovering. Right now I just feel like going with it rather than trying to change anything. What's the line between narcissism and self awareness? I have no clue. I don't know if it even matters. Blogging is helping me in the creation of my work. I do hope you, the reader, find it interesting at times.

Anyway, I can't wait to get back to art-making. Today I'll be working on a proposal for a video installation to eventually present to a few galleries in London. I'm considering posting the progress on the proposal here on this blog, but am not sure If that this is appropriate.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A new photo and Andy Goldsworthy

Here is a photograph I took last week:

I really respond to the abstraction of this piece. I like the way the color is blending. It takes on a watercolor like quality. I'm playing around with the balancing act between pure abstraction and recognizable form. With this photo I'm starting to see more of a direct connection between my digital art and my photography. 

John Kamitsuka, my piano teacher, told me the other day that the best way to strengthen ones connection to his or her art is to write about it. That's the intention behind this blog.

I''ve been skeptical about grand philosophical writings of artists in the past. It's usually smelled of bullshit to me. (This says more about me than it does about the artists I'm reading.) So I am writing self consciously. Happliy I am experiencing that the writing directs and informs my art. Through writing I become aware of new avenues to explore in my art. The artwork becomes more directed, more layered, and more subtle.

I do hope that you are finding these recent posts interesting.

I'd like to talk about one of my favorite living artists and how he influences me.

Andy Goldsworthy is a british artist living and working in Scotland. To call his work visionary is a understatement. His artwork is such a fascinating balancing act between the artists hand and the material he uses: nature. For me he completely gets out of the way and lets the material sing. This idea of getting out of the way is something I think about often. The beauty of the body and how it's composed is right in front of us. As an artist I feel my job is to get out of the way and let that beauty come forth. You can most clearly see this in some of my earlier work that has an Xray-like quality. For instance, this piece:

There is an inherent geometrical beauty to the heart that would be hard to see if you cracked open someones chest and tore out it out. Whenever I cook a chicken and take out the organs from the cavity, I never think, "Wow, how beautiful!" (Although I do think that the slightly iridescent fascia that covers the heart is pretty.) By draining the color and making everything transparent I'm able to focus on the beautiful forms of the heart. I think most about what I choose NOT to show in this piece. This is why Chopin is one of my favorite composers. What he choose to leave out is astounding to me. He never quite completely gives you everything.

Erica, my studio manager, told me that she feels my work deals with the seen and unseen. This resonated for me. I'm interested in how our organs, our muscles, our skeletal system work together to create the body. I'd say most of us are relatively obsessed with how we look to other people. I know I spend plenty of time in front of the mirror. Yet there is such an inherent beauty just below the surface of our skin. The forms that create the whole of our bodies are so wondrous. This is what I am trying to get at with this piece:

I can't honestly say how conscious I was of what I wrote about above while I created this piece. I was mostly responding to the beauty of all the systems in the body and trying to let them come out. Beauty is a very important part of my art. I love beauty, and I want all my work to be beautiful.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Plum woman progress

Here's what plum woman is looking like:

I'm struggling with this piece. It looks mushy to me. But maybe that's fine. Yet I feel I want the lines of the woman's skin to be more defined.

My background is in medical and technical illustration. I've been doing this since 1996. So for 15 years I've been trained how to tell a story and explain something very specific; namely what ever the content of the story my illustration will be accompanying. The absolute final goal of my illustration work is clarity. The work must explain something easily and beautifully.

My feeling is that art serves a different purpose. It's much more ambiguous. I'd like people to draw their own conclusions about my work. I do have certain moods and feelings I wish to capture and have the viewer experience. But nothing so specific.

Often my intention for a piece has nothing to do with the final outcome. I would like to write about the following piece:

Initially I wanted to create a soothing picture of a woman floating. I wanted the piece to be a meditation on contentment within the body. It wasn't until we printed the piece at actual size, 60"x 120", that I realized I had created something a bit different. It was a exhilarating experience seeing this large scale and not just small on my monitor. I couldn't really comprehend the art to be honest. It was intense, a bit scary, sad and mysterious. I had a sensation that I hadn't myself created the work because it was so different from my intention.

I love asking people what they experience and feel when they look at this picture. Some people see a woman masturbating. Some see a woman in extreme pain. Some see a dying woman with a broken neck. Some see a woman giving birth. Some see a woman in utero. I love that people have such varied reactions to the work.

If I do a illustration about breast cancer for a woman's magazine and people experience such a wide variety of things looking at the picture, I would say that the illustration is unsuccessful. That for me is a big difference between art and illustration. Illustration is about a specific concept that lives outside of the illustration. Illustration (at least the illustration my studio does) is logical and ordered. My art is about peoples interpretation. It's about the thing itself. It can be illogical. It is emotional and intuitive.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Plum woman

The color background I'm working with has migrated towards plum. Here's what it is looking like:

I suspect I have a mild case of synesthesia. I first noticed it 15 years ago when I was working on a illustration for a home repair magazine. It was a explanatory drawing of how to build a deck. As I was applying color to it I started to smell sawdust. I figured someone was doing construction next door, but I wasn't hearing the whine of a saw. I realized that the artwork I was working on was bringing about the smell. It was a wonderful experience.

I taste certain colors. The plum of the piece above is one of them. I have a tart sensation in my mouth when I look at this. This may or not be synesthesia. It's such a specific color to plum and wine that my mind may just be playing tricks on me as opposed to neurons being mixed up.

Wassily Kandinsky was obsessed with creating music out of his paintings. He had extreme synesthesia. I remember reading his description of the time he first squeezed oil paint out of a tube. He likened it to listening to a Beethoven symphony. Yellow sounded like the brass section, green the violins, red the percussion section.

When color works I can usually taste it. I also have this primal urge to eat the work. Seriously. This isn't quite happing with "plum woman" yet. But I feel it's getting close.

I want to explore drunkenness in my work. While I was in Florence last year I read Neitzsche's "The Birth of Tragedy." He discusses two aspects of art; the Apollonian and Dionysian. In his argument, the visual arts and prose fall under the Apollonian- ordered, logical. Music falls under the Dionysian- free, emotional, illogical, a drunken ecstasy. My interpretation is that the visual arts try to make order out of our chaotic world, and music revels in the chaos. (Of course in creating most beautiful music there has to be a incredible structured order and logic, but the end result is a feeling of wonder and ecstasy.)

He states that upon his writing the two have come together only in Greek tragedy. You have the order of the written play mixed with the raw emotion of the chorus. This was the pinnacle of great art for Neitzsche.

I believe this essay was highly influential for the Abstract Expressionists. They were interested in getting the Dionysian into their visual art. I know for a fact that Rothko drew great inspiration from the essay.

I want to read it again. I'm pretty sure I have a few large gaps in my explanation.

I'm also working on a black and white version of this piece:

I'm finding the black and white version more soothing to look at. The plum color is a bit oppressive in comparison. With the black and white version the curves are more apparent. There's a slight fertility icon quality for me in this piece.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

More words

I read through most of my blog yesterday on my train ride back from Maplewood to the city. I noticed an absence of words, or descriptions and of explanations of what I am doing and why I am doing it. This blog has been an amazing tool for keeping me producing work. Every morning I start the day knowing that I'll have to post something on this site, and that gets me aligned with art making. So for me it has been serving it's purpose wonderfully. But now it is time to start writing more and explaining the intention behind my work. I find this aspect of being an artist extremely difficult.

I've had a assumption for years that the work should just speak for itself. One of my favorite quotes is by Jackson Pollock. When he was asked to describe what he thinks about and what his intentions are for his paintings he answered, "I just fucking paint." But Jackson Pollock I am not.

I'm interested in getting more emotion in my work. Emotion is something I've kept away from either consciously and unconsciously. In the past I've been focused on our physical make up and spiritual make up. I just came to believe that the emotional world is the world that connects the physical and the spiritual. I've been playing with color because for me color is the home of emotion in art. There are exceptions of course. But for me color is really where it's at. So these exercises in color I've been posting are my beginnings in dealing with emotion consciously.

I want to get to know each color. Sonny Rollins said that he practices long tones so much because that's the only way he gets to know each note on his horn. Each note has a personality and color. This is how I'm approaching my new work; I'll be playing with different colors repeatedly, getting to know how purple works with my figures, how maroon works with my figures. I'll be thinking about what images these colors convey, what emotions that conjure up for me.

I'm currently working mostly with purple. Purple is a royal color, if used right it has a depth and mystery. It can resonate with class and elegance. It has a slight opulent quality. It's the color of comfort and luxury. Basic comforts are so important for my kids. I feel like all that a child needs is to feels safe, loved and physically comfortable. Obviously a bit of an over simplification. But that's all that's needed on some levels. I feel purple is the home of comfort.

So here are two of the new purple pieces I'm working on:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Purple study

Here's a new figure on a dark purple background:

More Maroon movements studies

Here are some new takes on the maroon figure I'm working on:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Trees by Greenwood lake

I took these shots yesterday:

Maroon angel

Here's what the movement and new color study is looking like. I'm excited with this new color background. I like how the color is mixing now. I'm considering cropping in tighter on the figure.

Father's Day

Yesterday I went out to Maplewood for Father's Day. We ate dim sum at China Gourmet, our favorite chinese restaurant in Jersey. From there we went to my father's weekend house in Greenwood Lake, N.J.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I created this last week. I feel ambivalent about it. It may be a bit too obviously provocative for my taste. But the more I look at it the more I like what I see.

Lucius's kindergarden graduation

This last friday was Lucius's kindergarden graduation. Yes, one now "graduates" from kindergarden. The Dennis Leary in me is dying. That said, I cried. Here are some pictures from the ceremony:

Buildings shot on Saturday

Here are three shots I took on Saturday:

Washington Square Park on Saturday

I took these two shots yesterday:

New studies on movement

Here are some new pieces I've started. I don't really know what I think about them yet.