November 12, 2018

Edgar Jerins: Large Drawings and Small Gems

I first met Edgar Jerins at his studio in New York. This was an opportunity that was facilitated by my husband, Professor Nathaniel Wallace. Nat had published a pivotal book in art criticism, Scanning the Hypnoglyph: Sleep in Modernist and Postmodern Representation. One of my mosaics proudly graces the cover. This text discusses the work of a number of contemporary artists working in the figurative tradition, such as Vincent Desiderio.* Although Scanning the Hypnoglyph had been published by Brill in 2016, any good book deserves spin off articles on the same subject, so we still were on the look out for contemporary figurative artists.

Nat’s search led us to Edgar Jerins, who creates monumental charcoal drawings of figures within complex interiors - most often family members and friends.

The first thing that impressed me about Edgar Jerins’ studio was how well the artist was making use of a small area - space is at a premium in New York so it pays to be organized. Black charcoal pencils sharpened to precision points were carefully placed in neat rows on a dove grey shelf. Always one to notice the minutiae first, I wondered to myself how the artist managed to sharpen these utensils so finely, as my own charcoals always crumbled when I sharpened them. I felt that I was staring at hallowed ground so did not think to ask this question out loud.

Next to the charcoal and graphite pencils was a small colorful portrait of a middle-aged woman smoking a cigarette and gazing with a somber and somewhat wistful expression. I was immediately smitten by this small 4" x 6" portrait. It was unusual for being a colorful, tiny gem among the large black and white drawings. Mr. Jerins explained that it was a drawing in charcoal on pencil that was coated with amber shellac. This imparted a warm glow to the surface. The shellac also sealed the paper, making it possible to paint on the surface with oil glazes. The golden ground and the transparent colors gave this small work a jewel like quality reminiscent of the Durer portraits on small panels I had admired in collections of German and Flemish art. The portrait, I later learned, was of a beloved cousin.

Edgar Jerins’ large scale drawings were almost exclusively articulated in charcoals. In this small space, what I saw was an admirable feat - an artist who can use the most basic of tools to create sublimely complex drawings. It was a bold choice - to wield such fundamental things as sticks of burned wood, erasers and masking fluid. The only things left for an artist to rely upon when restricted to basic tools would be virtuosity and an engaging narrative. And these were in abundance.

Edgar Jerins drawings cannot, and should not be given just a cursory glance. Instead they must be explored. Mr. Jerin’s drawing compositions reveal layers of meaning depending upon the distance from which they are observed. Overall they are figures in interiors and landscapes. Move closer and they become psychological profiles. Observing closer still they become minutely defined patterns; a world in a dress; a jungle in a patch of twigs.

Unlike the figures of painters featured in my husband’s book, Mr. Jerins’ subjects are anything but somnolent. They are wide awake, confronting the viewer in a direct gaze. Some of these people could be said to have been summoned out of a permanent sleep, as they have been reborn from untimely deaths. Two brothers of the artist and a young female relative tragically ended their lives. Their beauty haunts these large environments.

Despite having borne witness to life altering tragedy, Edgar Jerins had a ready wit and a magnanimous nature. Undaunted by what he considered various permutations of a cultural status quo, his favorite topic of conversation was art world duplicities and the questionable value placed upon dubious art (a subject I will return to in my next post).

Edgar Jerins’ own art in this studio was unquestionably masterful and carefully crafted. These impeccably composed drawings had been worked to a high degree of finish. This was complimented by the same degree of finish, or closure, in the narrative content. Figures were not just present in these compositions. They had a role in shaping stories, almost like stills from a play or cinema. In the drawing, Tom in Winter (charcoal on paper 60" x 96"), Mr. Jerin’s deceased brother stood impassively in the foreground set against a background slice of suburban America on a cold winter night. It was an unsettling juxtaposition - houses seemed to represent a comfort and warmth that remained inaccessible to this man. One could still observe life in the surface desolation of Tom in Winter. Dessicated remnants of plants, a reminder of verdant times past, formed a complex rhythmic counterpoint to the stark architecture. There was something of comfort in the bittersweet persistence of the dry leaves and branches poking defiantly out of the snow.

It was something of a shock at first to learn that one of the drawings which most captivated my senses included a young girl who had taken her own life and a brother who had died homeless. Just as instantly, however, it became clear that their visages were so vital, so necessary to this art. How often had I read, heard, or experienced a person’s life summarized by their final months or even their last moments: an addict, a homeless person, a suicide? Such defining silenced the full scope of their humanity just as it truncated their history. In this respect, Mr. Jerins’ drawings restored wholeness. The direct gaze completed a picture, like the sticks in snow that remain from a previous spring serving to remind us of the persistence of memory.

Next: An Interview with Edgar Jerins


* Vincent Desiderio

October 21, 2018

The Beauty of Solo Voice in the Art of Elizabeth Colomba

I first became acquainted with the paintings of Elizabeth Colomba on a summer trip this year to the Princeton University Art Museum. My original intent was to see the Frank Stella Exhibition of his monumental prints from the late 1980's and 90's. The Stellas were stunning and almost overwhelming in their exuberant complexities. I found that in room after flashy room, though, my appreciation was bothered just a bit by a little thought creeping in to the back of my mind...this is what a man can do with a healthy supply of cash, a team of technicians and the accolades of a supportive art world. The thought did not color my view exactly - these works were masterpieces. The notion simply provoked a yearning for something quieter and more intimate, a solo voice to sound against the backdrop of the great orchestra.

I found what I was looking for in the exhibition, Revealing Interiors, that the Princeton University Art Museum displayed on two modest walls in an adjacent gallery. Revealing Interiors featured mostly small works on paper on the subject of single figures in intimate spaces. I had just finished my own illustrated poetry book on that very subject a few months previously so the display felt like a kindness to my soul. Notable in this small grouping were two works of WPA artists Minetta Good and Dox Thrash, both working in the late 1930's to 1940's. Good portrays herself working in her studio and Thrash lovingly depicts a woman preparing for a Saturday night party. These prints and drawings flanked a small watercolor by the artist Elizabeth Colomba. To my delight I noticed by the date on the painting that she was a contemporary artist.

The watercolor painting by Elizabeth Colomba was entitled "Clytie." The painting was rich in narrative content and allusive subjects. Sunflowers rested in a classically decorated vase. A fireplace mantel was lovingly decorated with a detailed frieze of grotesques that cavorted above a relief sculpture of Apollo in his chariot. Above the mantel was a painting of the lower half of the the god Appollo with his lyre. Clytie here is depicted as a woman of color, to overlay another dimension to the classic tale of the sea-nymph of the same name that appears in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In the original tale, Clytie is spurned by Apollo, wastes away and is transformed in to a heliotrope, or sunflower.

"Clytie" like many other paintings by Elizabeth Colomba, is an ekphrastic masterpiece. The image rested in my smart phone gallery for a time when I would be so bold as to contact the artist via her web site to find out more about her work. I was graciously helped by Ms. Colomba’s curator, Monique Long, who gave me detailed explanations of the iconography in the figurative paintings that filled the website, which I have linked to below.

My first impression of Elizabeth Colomba’s oil paintings was how technically proficient they were. Ms. Colomba received training in classical oil painting at the Estienne School of Art and the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris in the early 1990's. This was a time when figurative art had still not made its resurgence in popularity that we are just beginning to experience today, and it demonstrates a certain pluckiness to say the least for the artist to persist in a medium and a subject that might not lead to deserving accolades. But persist she did, creating an oeuvre of impeccably crafted works of art.

Looking at Elizabeth Colomba’s paintings, what is immediately obvious is the mastery of a style of painting closely tied to classic masters such as Vermeer. Without knowing, one would think that many of them were indeed newly discovered Vermeers or another heretofore unknown Dutch master. Some might consider painting in this way somewhat anachronistic. Yet there is purpose in making use of these old materials and old techniques. For Colomba, it would seem to be a way of completing an untold, or perhaps under told story, fittingly described in her own narrative as a "reappropriation."

In the painting 1492, for instance, there is a reckoning of what has become in popular folklore, a date of discovery and adventure. As a bicultural artist, Caribbean and French, Elizabeth Colomba brings to bear in this sumptuous work a duality that is painful to recognize. There is the spilled sugar, whipping a hurricane like fury through the atmosphere of the painting. Clearly this is a destructive disruption that will leave its mark upon generation upon generation - as depicted in the stain on the woman’s otherwise beautiful blue dress.

Other paintings seem to exist just for the sheer joy of celebrating all that is beautiful about the female presence in a world resplendent with wondrous things. It is difficult to tear oneself away, for instance, from a lavish golden still life that seems the stuff of dreams. These dreams may carry a hint of the nightmarish, yet the overall truth revealed is that the sublime and the frightening often do exist in tandem.


October 17, 2018

Patient Figures in Art and Science

Patient Figures in Art and Science

Art and science have an old, often under recognized confluence. The very word "scientist" is a relatively new term. The British polymath William Whewell, in the mid-nineteenth century first invented the word "scientist" as a parallel to the term "artist." The physicality of the artist’s world, even today, can be described in parallel terms to that of a scientist. A scientist has a laboratory, the artist, a studio. A fundamental truth is sought, in both realms, through experimentation with materials. That truth is realized through both a subjective and an acquired understanding of the laws of aesthetics in art and through the immutable characteristics of natural laws in science. Both benefit from observation and attention to details.

William Whewell’s other linguistic contribution was his term, "consilience," as in a "consilience of inductions." In this form of parallel reasoning, a common conclusion is reached through the paths of diverse disciplines coming together. Over time and history, I would conclude that in both art and science, the gaze upon the human form, the understanding of bodily presence, has changed in tandem, particularly in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. These changes caused shifts in how a body is perceived in medical science and how the human form figures in to social and political trends in art.

Men and women of science (a pre-Whewell phrase), as well as those in other disciplines, may feel, especially in recent decades, at some distance of understanding about art and artists. This may be due in part to the development of language that might be obfuscating in the realm of art and technologically challenging in the realm of science. Since I have the benefit of a science degree and training in Latin, scientific language has its charms, although with the cessation of Latin grounding in new scientific language, even this is changing. (Anyone for sonic hedgehogs?) * Artistic language, too, in the form of modern criticism, can at times be confusing, open to misinterpretation, and often not terribly enlightening.

One method of understanding commonalities in art and science is through the physicality of materials and the availability of technology. In order to do this with art, one must first observe change through the prism of materials. Change in forms have come through new theories and have been influenced by literature and philosophy. Yet materials and technology are often the driving forces behind the man (or woman) who makes the art. To give an example, relying on humanist theory alone, late nineteenth century impressionist painters suddenly "discovered" the great outdoors and decided to paint the human form under natural light, inspired by color theory as well as the late nineteenth century Conrad Fielder’s "inner workshop" of the human mind. One could also argue, however, that the invention of paint tubes, allowing artists to venture outside with portable paints, had just as significant a bearing on how artists began to see and describe their world - In Vivo (in nature) vs. In Vitro (in studio) to make a rather laboratory like comparison.

Certainly technology and material developments have had an impressive impact on both art and science, especially in the last fifty odd years with the introduction of plastics, latex, and resins. Benefits in areas of medical science have probably outweighed the advantages, at least long term, for visual arts. Recent research has proved many of these materials to be particularly unstable over the course of time, often within a person’s lifetime. In medical science, since a human life span is limited, the issue of permanence in materials is not necessarily of concern. Yet the same classes of materials that found their ways into our bodies have also, since the late 1950's and early 1960's, been actively marketed to artists. Recent concerns of preservationists point to the disintegration of the plastics, and other materials, used in art work, threatening the disappearance of an entire compendium of art and the cultural history that it represents. The life span of the human body, therefore, defines the life span of a body of work. Materials and technology may serve one discipline well, while threatening the posterity of another.

Most of the innovative industrial materials; resins, plastics, and latex compounds, were actively marketed to artists during the post war era, and some industries like Dupont still advocate their usage in modern abstract and conceptual art. Some artists from this first generation of alternative materials such as the late Eva Hesse, were well aware of the limited life span of the stuff with which she constructed her art in the 1960's, to the extent of expressing some remorse at selling her soft and floppy sculptures that would only "live for today" to collectors. Some contemporary artists, however, may not even be aware of the short-lived nature of their creations. I surmise this from reading of a contemporary artist now making plastic saran wrap creations, but being careful to construct these with the use of archival tape. What might that mean when a seeming desire for permanence is articulated through ephemeral means? Does the artist still desire that her art will stand long after her own body disintegrates? Does she know that it will not through default and not by design?

The body, as it is represented in both art and science, in particular medical science, has traditionally held a central importance. Yet in both disciplines, for reason of social politics and fashion in art and for reasons of technological changes as well as economics in science, the human presence has appeared, disappeared, and appeared again. Traditionally, an artist trained, and often still trains, by carefully studying and rendering the human form. This training, if applied rigorously, can take years. The artist trains to interpret a three dimensional human presence in space on to a two dimensional plane. Getting that right, anatomically correct and believable, takes concentration and honed skill. The medical scientist too, trains to know the human body inside, outside, microscopically and macroscopically.

For thousands of years in the history of visual art, the human figure has always appeared, disappeared and reappeared. It has been presented naked, draped, idealized, codified and modified. But for the purpose of this essay that can never serve the scope of this subject justly, I will highlight just a few examples from over the past 75 years or so. In our century, figurative art has been greatly influenced by social politics, by wars and by economics. There was a blossoming of figurative art in the United States in the 1930's with large commissioned murals as well as quiet, intimate studies. The 1930's was an egalitarian time for artists in general and for figurative artists in particular. The WPA (1935 - 1943) supported a number of women artists, artists of color, and artists of variable social, economic and demographic backgrounds.

With the advent of the United States’ entry in to World War II, and the subsequent disbanding of the WPA in 1943, the role of figurative art changed considerably. Most notably was the rise of Abstract Expressionism in the 1940's and 1950's. Post war art owes much of its formation and growth to the atmosphere of the cold war. In her meticulously researched book, The Cultural Cold War, Frances Stonor Saunders detailed the influence of the CIA (established 1947) in promulgating a new vision of American Art that countered Soviet Socialist Realism. The new work would be anti-figural, bold, and unfettered by traditional tools and materials. This art would be promoted not only in the United States, but across the post war globe as well, as a flagship for the ideology of the new American Century. Saunders’ claims that the American government, through its covert economic support of Abstract Expressionists as well as the critics, museums and scholars that promoted them, were challenged in the early part of this century. Yet much of what she wrote seems plausible, especially since this research is framed within the context of battling ideologies rather than the conspiracy theorist charge that has at times been leveled at her.

Despite the support for art that was emptied of the human form, covert or otherwise, there were pockets of backlash against the tide of Abstract Expressionism and its chief proponent, Clement Greenberg, in the 1950's and 1960's. Most noteworthy were the Bay Area Figurative painters, led by David Park, who, legend has it, drove all his abstract canvases to the Berkeley dump and gave them the heave in order to cleanse his mental palette for his figurative and landscape paintings. Winning out over abstract painter Clifford Styl, Park took the reins of the California School of Fine Arts, securing his counter cultural movement for a least a decade. Challenges came from the east as well, with the publication of "The Reality Manifesto,’ signed by 52 figurative artists attacking the trend to ignore figurative at the Museum of Modern Art.

The battle lines in the art world, drawn decades ago, run just as deep today, with the repeated canard that figurative painting was for the most part side-lined. Yet there are many who persisted in their craft, insisting on a human presence, and even took pains to spend years in academic training on the subject. Perhaps persistence has paid off to an extent, with figurative art, at least in some circles, actually becoming fashionable again.

Many figurative artists still contend, however, that finding a place for themselves in the contemporary art scene has been hard won and fraught with difficulty and bias. It is tempting to think of these difficulties arising still from the politics of the cold war, even a generation or two removed - as if the struggles of a different era imprinted themselves on the human psyche like an epigenetic marker, exerting an influence long after its original value has disappeared.

Can a parallel be drawn, figuratively speaking, between the diminished representations of the human form in art and the human presence in medicine, too, becoming a shadow? Certainly advances in technology can make care more efficient, more directed, and faster. It could also be argued, however, that an over-reliance on these technologies turns the human body in to an abstraction. And this type of abstraction may also have unwelcome consequences. Despite technological advances in medicine, medical error is at present the third leading cause of death in the United States. Does a human presence become lost by medical bureaucracy, by a clinical reduction to an algorithm, and a statistic on a chart? One possible consequence of a focus shifted away from the patient and towards his or her abstract presence is the loss of a personal narrative. We often hear calls by sagacious physicians to listen to the patient, as clues to what is wrong will often be revealed through their own words and history. And this makes perfect sense. Only the patient knows his particular history, his family history, how much pain he experiences and where it is located. There are certain points that can only be conveyed through empirical experience of what treatments make a quality of life better or worse. Some larger institutions, such as the Mayo Clinic and Inspire Corporation haven even begun to publish patient’s stories, giving them platforms such as their Experts by Experience series. They have made a satisfying decision to include patients who are also artists in this series.

The role of a human narrative is perhaps the predominant feature of figurative art as well. It is one of the main reasons, for instance, why some formerly abstract, or non-objective artists often returned to the discipline of directly studying the human form. Painters such as Philip Guston, for instance, started out as a WPA artist creating figurative murals in the 1930's, became an abstract expressionist in the 1950's, returned to figurative painting in the late 1960's, then returned again to abstraction in the 1980's. One could view this trajectory as politically expedient, although the artist himself claims that he returned to incorporating the human form in his work because he wanted to "tell stories."

I love abstract and non objective painting when it is done well. I love figurative art and decorative art too, when these are meaningful and well crafted. I have practiced all of these art forms with great joy and have joyously written about them. In recent years, however, I have often returned to figurative art, popular or not, because it was the best way for me to illustrate my own parallel stories of health and art. This new focus has led me to explore the art of others working with the human presence in their art as well.

For my next blog posts, I will be featuring contemporary figurative artists as I find my favorites and seek to know more about them. Their work is thematically well thought out and they are all using materials that have withstood the test of time. Their work is expertly crafted, detailed, and lends itself to a rich narrative. Some of these artists incorporate issues of health in to their work. Others allude to bodily integrity in more oblique ways. Still others are hale and hearty, the characters of their paintings having a presence just as commanding as their own sturdiness. These artists’ works have moved me to find out more about their creative process and the narrative that supports their vision. My first four artists will be Elizabeth Colomba, Edgar Jerins, Tyrone Geter, and Erica Chappuis. What they share is a sophistication in artistic accomplishment and the ability to engage with viewers in such a way as to invite the viewer in to an exploration of complex vistas. Perhaps the central unifying truth, a consilience of inductions if you will, is the persistence of and insistence on humanity maintaining its visibility. "We are here!" They tell us. "Hear us. See us."

Links to Artists:

Elizabeth Colomba

Erica Chappius

Edgar Jerins
Large Drawings

Tyrone Geter
Mixed Media 

* Sonic Hedgehog is a gene named after a video game character.

Resources/ Links:

Saunders, Frances Stonor, The Cultural Cold War - The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters

New York: The New Press, 1999.

October 14, 2018

Epiphany at the I.P. Stanback Museum

A new exhibition on the theme of epiphany will open this week at the I.P. Stanback Art Museum at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. The exhibition will be on view through December, 2018. A number of my drawings and mosaics will be included. Here is a selection:
Pencil on Paper, 5" x 8.5"

An annunciation by its very nature evokes epiphany. A life is there that previously was not and all will change as a consequence. This drawing was based upon a fragment of a faded wall painting, the details worn away. I added the sumptuous decorations.

Faith Healer
Pencil on Paper,8" x 10"

Faith Healer is a drawing that was reworked after an experience. The initial sketch was a drawing after a religious icon. I had muscle spasms in the waiting room of a doctor’s office that were so severe as to cause a seizure like reaction. A kind woman came forward and claimed to be a faith healer. She laid her hands on me and my body did feel a flow of something that I can only describe as "grace." That a complete stranger would express empathy for another stranger enough to take action was profoundly moving. When I returned home, I picked up the drawing of the icon that I was working on and included those hands.

The Empty Room
Charcoal on Paper, 9" x 12"

My poetry book, Moments in Light and Shadow, is written in Euroboric style, with the last poem a mirror of the first one. The first poem, First Step, depicts a woman in a room with an embroidered foot on the table in front of her. What follows is a series of poems about single people alone in interiors. The final poem, The Empty Room, repeats the motif of the foot, a trace within a trace.

Three Intruding Fanatics One Throwing a Rock
Ceramic, Metal, Glass, Stone, 14" x 18"

The compositional figure - ground relationships in my mosaics has roots in both eastern and western academic art training. Many of the small hand made tiles in my mosaics have an ancient form of Chinese writing, call zhuan shu, stamped on them. These are stamped from stone seals that I learned how to carve while a graduate student in Beijing. Many of these have pithy yet poignant messages on them in a script that at one time was thought to have apotropaic powers. The two stamped tiles in this mosaic read "With a Home" and "Without a Home." Jia, or "home" in Chinese characters can have a second meaning that refers to a school of thought, or an ideology. Read in this sense, one could interpret the tiles as signifying opposing ideologies. This mosaic was in fact originally created after being exposed to excessively volatile rhetoric over two opposing ideas about the purpose of an art exhibition.







October 11, 2018

A Sympathetic Drawing for Dysautonomia

The drawing "Dysautonomia" was recently reworked. Dysautonomia refers to a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, a division of the peripheral nervous system. The drawing is part of a series for an illustrated book, Making Invisible Disease Visible. What is being made visible in "Dysautonomia" are sensations likely to be experienced when the system that regulates heart rate, respiration, sweating, blood pressure and possibly reflexes, runs amok.

In my initial drawing, the pots of coffee were connected by intravenous to the arms of the figure. During days when my own dysautonomia was marked I once described it as feeling as though I had just received 50 cups of coffee via intravenous. Nerves tend to feel "prickly" and sometimes quite painful. Other patients have noted an over-reaction to every day stimuli. One patient even described choking, gagging, then vomiting in response to simply brushing his teeth. Yikes!

In order to depict this nervous system on edge, I began to draw a face on the male figure’s torso. This was my sympathetic response (pun intended) to the story of the teeth brushing debacle. To many patients, it can sometimes seem as if the entire body becomes a sensory organ; seeing, hearing, tasting, responding too much.

The still life in front of the figure denotes the three divisions of the autonomic nervous system; enteric, parasympathetic and sympathetic. While revising this drawing, I decided to write an ancient Chinese poem from the Book of Songs on to one of the bottles. It is a very sympathetic poem:

Don’t push a cart you stand behind

The dust will rise and cloud your view

Don’t dwell on the one hundred troubles of your mind

Or you will never see them true

Dysautonomia is a disease of the nervous system and not of the mind, so this poem could be misleading. I just happened to like the script.

October 10, 2018

Meet and Greet the Artist at the Portfolio Art Gallery

On Saturday, October 20, the Portfolio Art Gallery   will be hosting a Meet and Greet the Artist event.  I will be available to talk about new work, old work, and to answer questions about my art.  The event will run from 1PM to 4PM.  The gallery is located on Devine Street at Five Points in Columbia, SC.  For more details contact the Portfolio Art Gallery at 803 256-2434. 
The mosaic pictured above is a ceramic and glass piece that was created some time ago and was a part of a traveling exhibition in 2002.  The mosaic, called “Awakening” came home after the exhibition and stayed with me in Orangeburg.  I decided that this is now something I should part with.   It is a large, complex piece, made in several parts and using glass that has gold and silver leaf adhered to the back. 
The central face and hands were made from life casts of a friend’s face and my hands.  The braided hair was formed with twisted clay coils then fired with a glaze.  The face itself is decorated with cathedral glass and fused glass.
All of the eyes were made in my kiln by fusing glass over mica chips.  These mica chips developed a metallic sheen in the firing process.  The light penetrates the clear tinted glass and refracts off of the embedded mica. 

October 5, 2018

The Thug Slug

This autumn finds me working on articles, grant applications and gallery applications. Despite this flurry of literary activity, I managed to carve out a small fragment of time to work on text and illustrations for my book, You Look Great! Making Invisible Disease Visible.  This most recently completed drawing, however, makes a feature of certain connective tissue disorders more svelte than scary.  The skin sign that this picture alludes to is a condition known as striae, or stretch marks.  These are stylized on the subject’s thighs in my drawing, transformed in to something like a decorative tattoo.
This illustration was an amalgam of two completely unrelated observations from nature.  The first one was a model that I drew from a life drawing class many years ago in, of all places, The People’s Republic of China.  The figure’s top half is transformed in to the head of a large black slug, the type which I saw on a trip to the mountains of Norway.  I named the picture “The Thug Slug,” after a comment from a friend when he saw my original picture of the enormous black slug I saw in Norway.  I am not certain if he was referring to the slug’s impressive size, or to the fact that it was an invasive species, but I liked the sound of the phrase “thug slug,” so it stuck.
The phrase “thug slug,” brought to mind a sound that I often here in the Southeastern United States.  It is a southern accent that makes a short “u” elongated and sounding almost Germanic, as if it should have an umlaut over it.  With this in mind, I wrote a rhyme which works exquisitely well if recited in this accent.  I think that I have exhausted the possibilities for words that rhyme with “slug.”
Thug Slug
Thug slug wants to give you a hug hug
and give the skin on your thighs a tug tug
so that they look chaffed upon a rug rug
or the tracks beneath a train that goes chug chug
Thug slug wants to crawl across your mug mug
like a slimy squirmy little bug bug
that squirts goo up your nose to make a plug plug
stuck up so tight and snug snug
that you can only loosen it up with a drug drug
You can make fun of me and act smug smug
But I’ll just laugh it off with a shrug shrug

September 18, 2018

Renewed Still Life Paintings

It has been a long time since a blog post. But I have been active in art. For my most recent paintings I have repainted old still life compositions and added a large new one. Even the new painting was a remake, although the painting underneath was a figure study. The emphasis on tiny black calligraphic lines that delineate areas of intense color breathes new life in to these old compositions.

These three paintings make use of ceramics from our collection. Thus our collection is now legitimized as studio props. The bowl that holds the pears was based upon the pottery of Jeri Burdick. Jeri also created the oblong platter upon which the grapes rest.

For the largest of the three paintings, I selected the carved porcelains of Michael Sherill. These were acquired at the Blue Spiral Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina. Perhaps these were the most inspiring to use of all. The intense textures and colors suited the freshly harvested dahlias, zinnias and gerber daisies from my garden. The background of this painting preserves much of the original pattern that was present in the figurative painting, although now turned on its side.

August 2, 2018

Doodle Paintings from 1980 Revisited in 2018

In 1980, during my senior year at Douglas college, I was studying with the painter Joan Semmel. Feminism in art was in vogue in the late seventies and the early 1980's. Douglas, the woman’s campus at Rutgers University, was at the forefront of a galvanized interest in historical contributions of women in art as well as inquiry in to the female expressions of contemporary artists. Lucy Lippard and Judy Chicago were the heroines of the day.

On the local college level there were, I recall, exhibitions of collages made of female panties (painties?) and a plethora of art on such themes as menstruation. These were topics that I generally wished not to think about. But I was intrigued by the question of whether or not there was a female approach to abstract painting that differed from their male counterparts. Some claimed that one could deduce the gender of the artist just by looking at an abstract painting. I was not so certain about that but just for fun, decided, with a touch of irreverence, to execute a series of nine abstract paintings on wood panels that would look feminine. I called them "Doodles" because they were based upon the doodles I would freely make in the margins of my notebooks. I figured that anything that was intrinsic in nature would be most likely to emerge from free association. Professor Semmel admitted that she was uncertain as to how to evaluate these stream of consciousness paintings because they were so "quirky."

The paintings were displayed in the college gallery, then taken down and put in to a square box. They remained in that box for 38 years. This past summer, I retrieved them from storage. I almost discarded the entire box. Who wants to be reminded of their callow youth? Yet I decided to take them home with me anyway.

Last week, in an act of plagiarism of my own younger self, I restored, repainted, and re-posted these paintings. Some were just cleaned up a bit. Others were almost completely redone. I then posted the "new" works on social media. Someone wrote in and called them "quirky."

I’ve posted the before and after paintings here, quirky or not, as an interesting comparison between the young woman painter of 1980 and the old woman painter of 2018 who may or may not have learned a few new tricks over time. Having some technical difficulty on posting the revisions, but will try.

In 1980  they looked like this:

July 26, 2018

Pigeons in my Book

There is nothing quite like a little bit of pressure to finish work. I have been working sporadically for two years on my book You Look Great! Making Invisible Disease Visible. Many things got in the way of completing this, both visible and invisible. There was the problem of managing disability itself, with sluggish downtimes and time consuming medical appointments. Then there was the daily distraction of household and property maintenance, as well as my sometimes "real job" of producing art work for galleries that may or may not actually sell it.

The biggest delay in writing my book was the fact that there were two other incomplete books in the pipeline ahead of this one. But those are finished now and I am in the process of sending them out to prospective publishers, getting them back again, and then sending them back out to different places. At my age it is basically a mechanical process.

I actually have two or three other incomplete manuscripts but they will go on the furthest back burner. My incomplete part memoir/part medical adventure/big part illustration text looms over me. This is where applying just a little bit of pressure comes in. A short article for the Mayo Clinic will be published this fall. In this article I casually mention my work on You Look Great! Making Invisible Disease Visible. It helps make the goal of finishing this a bit more real.

I have begun setting a bit of time each day to write and work on illustrations. This last one, Piezogenic Pigeons from the chapter "Barrier Beasts." The rocks were drawn mostly from life and on location in Norway. Loved the vacation but allowed a little bit of pressure to intrude in order to bring my book illustration to life.