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.

November 2, 2019

A Seat at the Table: The Red Thread Gets Reinvented

This little square painting used to house just a solitary man squatting on the floor and looking out at the viewer with a quizzical expression. His home was a mass of wild and wooly red lines. The painting was originally completed for the poem, The Red Thread, from my poetry book manuscript recently given the new title of A Rendering of Soliloquies. (The new title seems to lend itself to typos so I have some minor regrets about this update. It almost went off to the last publisher with a glaring spelling mistake right there front and center in the title - not the best way to make a first impression).

My second update was in the painting itself. With the addition of a chair, the painting will now serve a double duty. The chair entered because this will now be used for the upcoming exhibition in Spartanburg in January 2020: A Seat at the Table: The Chair as Aesthetic and Social Construct.

This particular chair was patterned after a late eighteenth century mahogany American armchair that I had sketched from life at the National Gallery.  Including this chair from the days of our founding fathers served as a good contrast, with its orderly, rational and upright form, to the chaos of swirling red lines in the squatting man’s environment.

Early American chairs had symmetrical structures formed around a centerpiece called a spat. The spat was carved into decorative designs that often depicted charming and harmonious musical instruments like harps or lyres. For this chair I made a design where the spat should be that is in the shape of an American dollar sign. This dollar sign crept into the work as a product of present concerns and recent reading.

I had just finished reading Thomas Pikkety’s Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century, a brilliant work that encompassed more than two hundred years of economic trends. In a carefully researched analysis, this 750 page tome tackled the question of why societies tend towards wealth inequalities and proposed some solutions to prevent this from becoming so extreme as to be socially destabilizing. At the same time, I had been ruminating on tackling a complicated and prickly financial transaction. As a result, the dollar sign in the chair has shifted from where it should be as a center spat, and has moved rightward. Something to ponder!

November 1, 2019

My Women, My Monsters: The Duchess of Lists

The Guenall Lioness, mentioned several blog posts ago, was a monster misidentified. Other monsters from my chapbook, My Women, My Monsters depict monsters within. Many can relate to the feeling of not living up to internalized demands. I’m no exception. It occurred to me that one manifestation of this was my compiling impossibly long "to do" lists, which would only exacerbate feelings of inadequacy at the end of the day when ruminating upon all those items not checked off the list. Enter the monstrous, "Duchess of Lists." Like the lists on her page, the poem also spilled out onto a second page. This left a blank area in need of a second illustration. For that I made a second detail drawing of the Duchess’ sleeve. But if you look carefully, Edvard Munch’s "Scream" is hidden up her sleeve.

A few lines from the Duchess:

The Duchess of Lists
is the sorceress of the clock’s hours.
She ties strings to your ankles,
adding weights for good measure
that hold you back to slow you down
as she speeds up time.

To reserve your copy of "My Women, My Monsters" follow the link to Finishing Line Press:

October 31, 2019

The Woman With Two Expressions: A Halloween Portrait

I once knew a woman named Frankie. Now, that sounds like the opening line of a limerick. So before I tell my story I must first get that out of the way:

I once knew a woman called Frankie

who would smile when she gave you a spanky

For the tears that you’ld shed, she’ld just shake her head

and not even offer a hanky

The real and not the literal Frankie was someone I knew decades ago as an ex-patriot. She had a peculiar habit of paying a compliment, then she would immediately follow the compliment with a second observation that would completely nullify the previous positive remarks. It would go something like this:

Compliment: "You know, I think that you are an exquisitely beautiful person, both physically and intellectually."

The Downer: "But I’m often told that I have bad taste and am a poor judge of character."

But Frankie would not leave it at that. She would follow this antithetical couplet with a look - a look that I would not have thought humanly possible had I not seen it with my own eyes. After delivering this dual observation, she would look you right in the eye and smile, but with only one side of her face. The other side would sport a grimace. Seeing both sides at once was confusing to process. Who could tell which side was for you? Both perhaps. Today I tried to immortalize that look with this little portrait that seems appropriate for Halloween. Scary, yes?

In order to see the two expressions clearly, cover one half of the face at a time with a piece of paper.

October 23, 2019

The Book of Marvelous Cats New Activity

One benefit of publishing a second book is that it rekindles interest in the first one.  This next book signing event is for a benefit:

The Book of Marvelous Cats is supporting Authors for Literacy, a fundraiser for Turning Pages adult literacy tutoring at Lexington County Library. For this special one day event, The Book of Marvelous Cats will be available at the bargain price of just ten dollars a copy. Come and meet the author, Janet Kozachek, who will personally sign and dedicate each book to you or to a designated recipient.

Where: Lexington Library 5440 Augusta Rd. Lexington, SC

When: 11 am - 2 pm Saturday, Dec. 7.

There will be twenty other authors there as well who will personally autograph their books for you or someone you want to give the books to.

October 15, 2019

My Women, My Monsters now available at Finishing Line Press

After numerous revisions, polishing of drawings, and a bit of luck, my illustrated chapbook, My Women, My Monsters, is now available through Finishing Line Press. The book is now available through their website. Follow the link here:  If you have trouble placing an order, then email the publisher at: