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Archives for March, 2009


For some time I have been talking about shaped plaster and a final admission that the material, even though host to a number of effects, has not held up well. I was obliged this last summer to dispose of a large number of pieces that were suffering damage, with the prospect of further degradation.

A likely alternative has been to substitute plastic for plaster – either poured or in the form of sheets that can be deformed through the application of heat. Clear sheet being more available at this time, I have been experimenting with what comes of hot plastic sagging. It’s been a kitchen thing with the oven pressed into service. I arranged some silverware on a cookie sheet and laid a thin sheet of clear Plexiglass over top. A temperature of 400 F. gave me a vacuum-formed quality as the sheet draped itself into every available declivity. I then poured black varnish into the larger depressions, and once that set, poured transparent red into a few on the other side. I sprayed a little gold (Hi Karl) and some forest green on the other. This was then backed up with an application of white.

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How do you feel about gold in art?

Frame in process of being gilded

Frame in process of being gilded

Gilding is easy, though it requires attention to detail. Gilding is also fun. I gild when I make my own frames. I recently went into the gilding process in detail on my own site. Not many artists gild or use gold. I sometimes wonder why.

Does gold have a place in modern/contemporary art? Would you use gold if you knew how? Or is gold something of a symbol on being not-modern?


Listening I
12 x 12, oil on board
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Whose muse?

I read a post last month on Slow Muse that linked to a video of a TED talk by author Elizabeth Gilbert. I highly recommend it (and if you don’t know the TED talks, please browse among the many fascinating offerings, all under 20 minutes). Not only is Gilbert an engaging speaker, but she touches on a subject close to the heart of many artists, whether they think about it much or not: the nature of creation.

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World Depression II: Great Time to Become an Artist — Bad Time to Be a Dealer?


What I am really wondering here is,

Will our Dealers Survive?

Every artist has a relationship with at least one dealer — even if it is only a one-sided voyeuristic relationship. So it is relevant to ask:

Are they all going to go bust?

And if so, what happens to us? Do we need the dealers, or is the Fall of the Art World (as we know it) the best thing that could possibly happen?

On the one hand, the idea of cataclysmic change is always interesting, especially if it is happening to someone else. On the other hand, if you have been cultivating good relationships with dealers over the course of years, as Hanneke and I have, then the prospect of these people going out of business is pretty distressing. Distressing from an economic standpoint, not to mention from a personal one, since dealers can be pretty nice once you get to know them.

But it certainly does not look good. The New York Times paints a grim picture of the current art market:

Auction houses have begun to report sales that are less than half their level a year ago. In November 2007, the Christie’s evening sale of postwar contemporary art in New York totaled nearly $325 million; in 2008, the same sale brought in just $113 million. A share of Sotheby’s stock, which peaked above $50 in late 2007, now trades in the $6 range. . . the prices of work by young artists . . . are falling like bank stocks.

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Decorative Elements, Beatty Nevada

One of my preoccupations in painting inhabited space is to see how people perceive and decorate their surrounds. In cities, it seems to me, conformity sometimes rules — or perhaps there’s too much unconformity to make sense of a singular type of decorative decorum. Whatever the case, I find that peering at small towns and villages gives me a certain kind of data; both individually and collectively, people seem to want to dress up, decorate, make order of what lies around them. And in places with few people, it’s possible to suss out what that decorative impulse consists of.

A particular caution that I remind myself of — looking at what people do to dress up their trailer houses requires a disciplined mind. My goal is to neither romanticize nor to satirize. I allow myself no irony about individual choices, although lots of irony can abound when examining communal structures (like bridges and mine tailings). What I want is to see what’s there without indulging in judgment.

So what is the predominate beautification element of Beatty Nevada ( 220 miles south of Reno, 110 miles north of Las Vegas, population 1200, where the Amargosa River surfaces, just for a minute, before being swallowed by the Amargosa desert [a subset of the Mojave desert])?

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More Radial Patterns

In my last post I described an experiment in which I performed a scan of my living room employing a laser range finder. A radial pattern emerged as the range finder, mounted on a swivel, performed a circular sweep of the space.

It would appear that I have become infatuated with radiant things. Last year I was making fan shapes with mason’s lath. That little campaign, extending over the summer and fall, produced a lot of junk, but a few things did emerge that indicated a way forward. This is one that worked out.

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