January 19, 2020

A Seat at the Table: A Tale of Two Chairs

A Seat at the Table: A Tale of Two Chairs

Artists often like to debate the merits and shortcomings of each other’s genres. Abstract, performance and installation artists might claim to be more cutting edge than those artists devoted to carefully composed studies of objects rendered from direct observation. Purveyors of realism sometimes claim that artists who choose the former modes of expression do so because they lack basic skills. The "modern" or "cutting edge" argument does not exactly hold much credence, because the roots of most abstract, performance and conceptual art has its roots in art movements that are now over a hundred years old. ( Indeed, performance could be considered a few thousand years old!) There are expressive qualities to abstraction, however, offered by freedom from constraints and the possibilities for exploration, which make this pursuit in art refreshingly tempting. The drawing skills argument is also pertinent, however. Although many artists might not admit it, skills not practiced are skills lost.

I work in more than one genre, and as a result see the merits of many alternatives to making art. My abstractions allow for a certain type of expressive brush work that would be difficult to maintain in an art work that relies upon carefully delineated forms based on observable reality. I must admit, however, the truth that not keeping in practice drawing from nature does indeed result in an erosion of that skill. I noticed this recently when making large drawings for an exhibition on the theme of chairs.

I had been spending a significant amount of time writing, marketing, and applying for professional opportunities. A number of weeks went by and I had not put brush to canvas and pencil to paper. When this happens, I find that sitting down and applying myself to making art again can be rough and rusty.

Generally, when attempting to get back into practice, it is a good idea to start small. Drawing from life is basically an ability to transfer, in increments of held visual memory, a three-dimensional object onto to two-dimensional surface. Even for the trained artist, it is Not easy. And the larger the object transferred, the more difficult the task. Therefore jumping right in to making life size renderings of chairs on large pieces of paper resulted in some false starts.

In my first attempt, my out -of- practice sense of perspective and proportions kept causing distortions in my drawing. What resulted, however, was a dark picture that had some nice expressive qualities. At that point I had to make a decision about whether or not I would keep those efforts. I decided to be honest with myself and admit that the results were not entirely what I had originally intended. So I dispatched with the drawing along with all the hours of time put into it, and started over. I made tracings of my first attempt and transferred this onto a new sheet of paper, lifting the form higher up on the page. I set to work rendering the chair from life, deliberately and slowly. In the weeks that followed, I had a stronger form. Not perfect, but stronger.

January 1, 2020

A Seat at the Table: Article in Carolina Arts January 2020

Happy New Year!  Carolina Arts is just out with an article about our upcoming exhibition at Spartanburg Artists Cooperative on Main Street.  Turn to page nine and eleven for an illustrated  overview of the show:

December 28, 2019

A Seat at the Table: The Chair as Aesthetic and Social Construct in Spartanburg

My last painting for our upcoming group exhibition in Spartanburg was finished shortly before the beginning of our holiday break. As with most of my work, the painting evolved and changed over time. The painting is somewhat larger than how I generally work, so it took a few weeks to complete, with plenty of opportunities to change my mind and add or subtract to the composition.

I had originally conceived the painting, Abandoned Porch with Chair, as a contrast between a black and white interior with a view of a world of vibrant color - much like the way Dorothy, in the film The Wizard of Oz, opens the door of her tonal world to reveal a colorful Oz. It seemed a fitting end to the old year with sanguine hopes for the new. To this end I made an underpainting in black and white and used colorful oil glazes of pure mineral pigments for the scene beyond the abandoned porch. After reading about the film, The Wizard of Oz, however, I found that the bucolic home scenes of Kansas were not filmed in black and white but in sepia tones, like an old photograph. This influenced the colors that I began to lay in over the black and white underpainting - introducing browns and ochres. The background I left with bright, almost garish colors, to impart a sense of a strong afternoon light. To keep the scene vibrant I changed the original black doorway to one of golden yellow.

The chair was painted several times. It was originally an abandoned rocking chair, but I changed it into something more sturdy. During several repaints, the chair acquired new upholstery based upon the African Kuba cloth designs that I had viewed earlier at the Stanback Museum here in Orangeburg.

In the original scene, there were various and sundry pieces of debris scattered along the surface of the dilapidated porch. I converted these into all my sketches of chairs that never made their way into paintings or finished drawings. It somehow felt cathartic to liberally sprinkle these emblems of unfinished work into my last painting of the year. The large drawings of chairs are in the works for certain, but will have to wait until March to be shown. I will post on their progress in January!

The exhibition, A Seat at the Table: The Chair as Aesthetic and Social Construct, will open on January 6 at the Artists Collective on 578 West Main Street in Spartanburg, South Carolina 29301. For more information call 864 706-2474. Visit their website at www.westmainartists.org 
Links to articles:

December 10, 2019

My Women, My Monsters: An Interview with Professor Sarah Wyman

Just Updated with a more direct link:

My interview with Professor Sarah Wyman on my upcoming illustrated poetry book, My Women, My Monsters.  In this week's online journal, The Ekphrastic Review: http://www.ekphrastic.net/ekphrastic/my-women-my-monsters-dr-sarah-wyman-interviews-janet-kozachek-about-her-new-book

December 2, 2019

Transformations and Translations: The Art of Una Kim and Janet Kozachek

For our closing lecture at the I.P. Stanback Museum tomorrow, I will be telling stories not told before, discussing art work not show previously, and my upcoming book from Finishing Line Press, My Women, My Monsters.  I will have a preview copy and extra pages available.  I am happy to have yet another opportunity to discuss this enigmatic work that incorporates eastern with western influences. 

November 13, 2019

A Seat at the Table: New Painting with an Imagined Art Collection

Turning to revisions on older paintings, I have made something of this painting of Scot from about ten years ago. The painting was created from an original drawing I did as Scot posed in an old red wooden chair and holding a rock.

To update the painting, I changed the rock into red blocks and incorporated art work from my colleagues, Lee Malerich and Janet Orselli. The rocks that originally rested on the shelf behind Scot were transformed into brightly colored Orselli sculptures. The sculptures that I chose were Orselli’s Ladybug and The Doc is In. I chose them mostly to complete a red, blue and yellow color triad in the center of the painting, but they also add content as well. Although not visible in the painting, The Doc is In sports a small blue colored pawn from a collection of chess pieces.
 The oversize and overwhelming head on the makeshift blue couch serves to underscore the feeling of manipulation.

In order to use Ladybug, I had to turn the piece in my imagination so it would rest at the right angle on the shelf in the painting. Fortunately the painting is so small (9" x 9") any awkwardness in my having done this is mostly forgiven by scale.

The sculptural work on the floor of the painting has been influenced by Lee Malerich’s Build Your Wall, an essentially deconstructed chair. In this sense my new art work, has become an ekphrastic work - paying homage to the art of other artists. Perhaps there will be more of these ahead.

November 12, 2019

Book Marketing for the Introverted, Hesitant, Overwhelmed and Confused

When an artist or writer publishes a book, even a small chapbook like My Women, My Monsters, the work does not end there. In this age of self help, self promotion and self advocacy, the author is obliged to help find homes for her book children. These fledglings do not fly out of the nest and onto the bookshelves on their own. To this end I have been reading books on the marketing of books. I find the subject fascinating - if only in that this is something that I am not naturally good at, being inherently introverted, hesitant, and technologically somewhat confused.   I am reading these books with the same curiosity and admiration that I had reserved for that massive economics text I had mentioned in a previous blog - Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. I did not understand the equations, but admired people who could apparently keep such equations in their heads while simultaneously discussing the social issues that the math impacts upon.

Similarly, in reading about marketing, I can admire the ability that some artists and writers have to acquire and sustain an audience of followers, even though I don’t do that terribly effectively myself. I will address this and other questions from time to time because artists and writers are so very much on their own and need to learn from a variety of experiences as to what works and what doesn’t.

Today I found what might be called a niche market.  Finding one's audience is something that is not always immediately apparent to an artist or writer. But it is essential to figure out who one’s audience is and then make your work known to them. Once again, I make a disclaimer here because even doing this does not guarantee that a niche audience will also be willing to open their wallets for you. Ironically, so far, the niche audiences that have been recommended to me by the advice in the books I have been reading have not panned out ( over 55, women, etc) yet. What I did find was a place that specifically works with poets who write about visual art: The Ekphrastic Review.  For a very reasonable fee, I have posted my work there. I will post later when or if more comes from this.  As for now, I see that I am in good company with a book about the Canadian Group of Seven, that I might have to buy.

November 9, 2019

A Seat at the Table: Cafe Bebe Gets a New Chair

A patron lent me an odd little chair that someone had made a homemade dress for. She thought it might inspire me to make a painting of it for the upcoming group exhibition, A Seat at the Table: The Chair as Aesthetic and Social Construct. As my opening line suggests, I found the chair a little strange and discomfiting. I found it confusing as well. I was not certain if the dress was made for the chair or the chair for the dress. And there was this tangle of ribbons sewn to the crest and arms of the chair which obfuscated the form.

For months I could not figure out what to do with it. Even though the patterns were attractive, the form seemed to defy any definition, no matter what lighting was applied. And what would this chair, which appeared to be made for a doll, mean? Generally the chairs I had been using served a narrative, and there was nothing about this chair that inspired me to want to tell a story, imagine a story, or recall an interesting piece of history.

As I was restoring what was left of my old painting series, The Monologues, I came across one with a scene of a couple in a Café in Germany. Some of the paint had been pulled off the surface while it was in storage and it was badly in need of repair. So I carefully removed the varnish, let it dry a few days, then gave the paint a light sanding.

The painting, Café Bebe, was used to illustrate a poem about a painting hanging in that bar in Konstanz, that, for some reason, made me feel mildly annoyed. The painting was of a flock of winged cherubs frolicking along a river of emerald green. Looking back on that poem written years ago I must have been more repulsed by the art than I remember because I referred to all those pink putti as "winged hams." Revisiting that phrase made me laugh at my utter inability to understand putti appeal.

It then occurred to me that the little doll’s chair that confused me belonged in the corner of the painting that included an art work that my sentiments could not comprehend. The undefined form was made slightly more definite by manipulating the light in ways that did not coincide with reality - but made a seat discernable.

Some of the people viewing the new painting liked the little chair and it presence created a pleasant narrative for them. Secretly, I thought that a winged ham might just fit on the seat!

November 7, 2019

A Seat at the Table: Chairs in the Wild

Exhibiting in Charleston at the Nina Liu and Friends Gallery brings back fond memories. Nina Liu often held exhibitions on specific themes: the trees, the angels, the hearts. As with most of these exhibitions, I would enthusiastically produce a body of work, sell about one eighth of it, and then bring home the rest for storage. Eventually I might sell a few more of these over the years, but there generally remained four or five painting that would refuse to leave home. The tree exhibition was no exception. I included in this exhibition some paintings of truncated trees that I had made in Holland. Three of these were somewhat intimidating, made even more so because I gave them titles like Tree of the Wicked Spring. I have not decided what to do with Wicked Spring yet, but two of the paintings of this trilogy have been re-purposed for the upcoming exhibition A Seat at the Table: The Chair as Aesthetic and Social Construct, at the newly designed venue, Artists Collective, Spartanburg.

The pale winter scene in Holland is now embellished with the mysterious presence of an ancient Egyptian chair in the background, and an overturned chair in the foreground. The former came from my studies at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the latter from an old Charleston chair from our private collection. The painting is still haunting but a little less spare.

My painting, Truncated Trees, now has an addition of an African chair from the permanent collection of the local museum here in Orangeburg - the I.P. Stanback Museum. I needed a very strong structure as a focal point to balance those massive trees and the African chair seemed to suit. I liked the way the top piece was fashioned from a single branch.

Just one more or more two revised paintings to go before I start painting and drawing new compositions again.