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Archives for art criticism

Sloppy Craft: It’s Getting Interesting….

The phrase, “Sloppy Craft”, the title of a recent panel discussion and a forthcoming exhibition at Portland’s Contemporary Crafts Museum, had to be checked out. Whatever could it mean? How could the Contemporary Crafts Museum have been drawn into featuring sloppiness? What kind of provocation was intended by the title? What are the implications of honoring such a concept as sloppy craft for art as well as craft?  Tell me more, tell me more.

A bit of background: when I was working textiles, I regularly engaged in a “discussion” with quilters (some traditional, some contemporary) about whether the stitching work done on my textiles ( specifically in construction and quilting) should strive for perfection. I always maintained that my goal was “competence.” My attention was entirely on the image and impact (on, I maintained, the art).  The craft was there only to hold it together and/or to add to the art. Hence my seams were not necessarily straight and the back of the art was decent but not flawless (I didn’t bury my threads, for example, simply tidied them). I used the quilting stitches as part of the design, which meant that they were generally not even in length and that they were heavy in places and light in others; this can make the quilted art hang wonkily, requiring heroic measures to make it perform well.

This is an example of a old piece of mine that I claim has “competent” craft:

SophieEmergingwSophie, Emerging, 84 x 73″, 2002, Materials: hand-painted cotton, canvas, silk, stretch-polyester, felt. Methods: hand- painted-and-dyed, airbrushed and commercial fabrics. Machine stitched.

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Two Tricky Concepts

A reference to a recent New Yorker Critic at Large (March 30th)  review suggests that a work of art is good if it rises out of necessity and if the artist is capable of carrying out the idea to its appropriate end. As a letter writer paraphrases:

“This matters; this has purpose” and “I can do this, I am able, I can carry out this task to its appropriate end” (correspondence from Joachim B. Lyon, Stanford, California, New Yorker, May 4, 2009).

I found these notions both bemusing and contra-indicated. What do you think?

(Oh, and here’s an image from Rhyolite Nevada ghost town. I don’t know if it has either purpose or, if I paint it, as I intend to do, if I am adequate to the chore.)

The Void: painting the desert

As Steve noted not long ago, perception — how, as well as what, we see and record — is prime territory for this group. Some weeks ago I wrote about painting in the desert, the Great Basin to be more precise, and, even more specifically,  the Amargosa Plain just outside of Death Valley.

After having spent 6 weeks in the desert, perceiving and painting, mostly plein air, I am now back in Portland reading about desert perception in William L. Fox’s The Void, the Grid, and the Sign.

Fox has spent most of his life in and around a variety of deserts and back-of-nowhere lands, but in The Void he’s primarily concerned with the Great Basin, that large space between the Rockies and the Sierras, where water flows in, but never out, where there is no river coursing to the sea.  He says that outside of Afghanistan, this area contains the most mountain ranges (316) in the world, but there are also 90 basins, places where what little water exists is captured between ranges and sinks or evaporates. The best known of these basins is perhaps Death Valley, although that lies outside Fox’s attention. The place I was painting, the Amargosa Plain, is also just outside his wide-ranging travels. However, much of what he says is apropos of the Amargosa and Death Valley.

Death Valley at the Beatty Cut-off, March, 2009

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Art (criticism) and perception

One of our shticks at A&P (in a good way) has been our interest in learning about perception through findings in neuroscience, psychophysics, and related fields, as well as through introspective observation of our own seeing and art-making. Though this interest is not unique to A&P, it certainly isn’t very common, either. So I was delighted to come across two examples in a day of cognitive science finding mention in current art criticism at a rather higher level of visibility. It was especially nice that these references truly illuminated the discussion of the art viewer, in one case, and the artist, in the second.

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Pattern and Decoration, a reprise

“Pattern and Decoration” (P&D) is the name of an art movement that had its moment of visibility in the post-modern pluralism of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Its practitioners include Valerie JaudonMiriam Schapiro, Joyce Kozloff, Kim MacConnel, Tony Robbin, Robert KushnerRobert Zakanitch, and many others. P&D often serves as an unheralded theoretical base for the quilted arts that I am familiar with.

Robert Zakanitch, Red Watercolor, 34 x 36, 2007

Pattern and Decoration: An Ideal Vision in American Art, 1975 –1985 is the printed catalogue of an exhibit held at the Hudson River Museum in 2007 -2008. The catalogue has excellent essays by Anne Swartz, Arthur Danto, Temma Balducci, and John Perreault, as well as including short biographies of the artists and plates of the exhibited art. Most of the words which follow come from the catalogue.

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Texture, the Internet, and Other Conundrums

I have just joined Facebook (thanks, D.) and of course, instantly found a group dedicated to a textile artist’s focus: namely, texture.

The photos of “texture” on the group site were close-ups, both of quilted fabric and of objects that showed as textured. I started through my photos and quickly realized that deciding on what shows texture is not as easy as might be imagined. Here are some possibilities from my files.

The High Note, JOU, Computer images on Silk, quilted, 12 x 12″, 2008.

The upper layer (of computer-printed sheer fabric) is turned back to show under layer. Normally the sheer would fall over the entire piece, showing through as it does on the right bottom. This dropping of the sheer obscures much of the texture while at the same time, contradictorily, adds to it.

Vilhelm Hammershoi, Sunbeam (and various other titles), 1900, oil on canvas.

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Is an Academic Degree really necessary for a real painter?


Looking back through the years, I do not remember when I started painting with oils and watercolors… maybe I was about 13. To be honest mostly of I know today has come from my own experiences of try and error.

To me, making a painting was never an issue but something that happens naturally with whatever materials come to my hands. Oils are my favorites, but recently I’ve been painting in a very quick method and found out that a mixture of acrylics, oils, glitter and others mediums work better for my new style.

In the past 3 years I decided to do a Fine Art degree as a nice “add on” to my previous qualifications. To my disappointment, I have learn nothing new but of a chaotic, hypocrite and delusional world from the Art teachers.

If you an artist with already some success and experience I recommend you to aim higher and not to go back to an educational institution. You see, despite your good intentions you setting yourself back and giving your own murder sentence to the chances of being ‘stepped on’ and muffled by the tutors, who also called themselves artists. You must have no previous artistic experience because no matter how you try to please and befriend this so called “artist teachers” you will always be seen as a threat rather than a student.

Unfortunately we live in a world that demands all this qualifications to be taken seriously. I have learned from my own mistakes, maybe because I was a bit naïve, full of dreams and hopes that a new qualification would push my career further, but realize that I brought this to myself to the point I had nothing but verbal abuse, bullying, harassment, intimidation and discrimination from lecturers. In the end I felt from as high I dreamed and have gain nothing but a new pretty BA words in my cv and an awful demoralizing experience I must rather forget!

Waiting Godot

More new painting in my redesigned website www.magicpaintings.com