The biggest piece of news is that I am now eighty years old. For a long time I expected to leave this earth at an early age as that was the case with my mother and her mother. But it looks like I will live as my father and his siblings did and last for a while longer. The real surprise, however, is that life is so good. I can honestly say it has never been better. I remain in good health and if I get a nap, I can work a full day. And though the brain cells are falling away, I am painting better than ever. Painting is not a rational pursuit, not the way I do it, so I guess something essential to the process has remained.
More news is that I am not planning to do an open studio this year. I didn’t want to give it up but preparation for the solo show I have ahead of me requires a lot of time and energy. Some of you are familiar with Humboldt State University’s First Street Gallery where I exhibited in 2008. I had the big, beautiful front room then and reveled in the experience. This time, for the show that opens on July fifth, I will have the entire gallery, which means that in addition to the space allotted to me before, the spaces leading to the back entrance will be included. It’s a fantasy made reality. The plan is to do an installation in the back which will be a less formal presentation of work, something more like how I arrange work in progress on my studio walls. A delightful project to think about and realize. I have a bright and competent young woman who has been my studio assistant and is an invaluable helpmate. And two more smart young women from the galley staff will work with us. Sometimes I wonder about how my life got to be so good but I do not ask questions when good things happen. One that came my way recently was a grant to help with the costs of the exhibition. This has made possible more framing than I had originally planned. And there will be a brochure in addition to the card mailer that I will be able to help pay for. I am so grateful.
By the way, I have a new web site at joangoldart.com
. The old one (and it was old) was hard to manage: uploading new work and making changes was hard labor. This new site is a piece-a-cake. There’s a contact page where you can tell me what you think. As always, I love to hear from you.
The image above: REDBUD 2013, Mixed Media on Canvas, 23" x 92"
A number of people have told me that they miss my blog. I miss it too. I loved getting notes from my readers. It provided some balance to the solitude of the studio and helped me to feel I was part of something more real than my visions of paintings.
But it was not a mistake to stop that Friday morning dedication to words. The (almost) total attention of my old age energies on painting is yielding a fine return. There is an image in my mind’s eye that eludes me. Courage is required because every time the work morphs into something simpler I imagine my audience leaning away. I need that audience. I need the sales and want the applause. But as I have heard said (somewhat altered here) “The artist is her own harshest critic” the work is never quite as strong as it could be. I can do better.
So now I have forty-two paintings in progress. They are, as usual, made of papers that I paint and then assemble into paintings. At this point they are pinned to boards and I am refining them by moving pieces around and substituting one element for another. The easiest and most enjoyable part of this process is the beginning: painting the paper. The hardest: the final mounting onto canvas. And what I am doing now falls somewhere in the middle. This is where the effort to make something that I will consider well resolved becomes the focus and when it happens, is hugely rewarding.
So, the above is just to let you know that I am still above ground. What follows is a kind of newsletter that some of you might already have received via you ordinary email. No matter - I have read that repeating information makes good advertising.
News and announcements: I will be hosting an open studio, along with many other Humboldt County artists on the first two weekends of June. Please mark it on your calendars and pay me a visit.
North Coast Open Studios
Two Weekends: June 1-2 and June 8-9, 2013
11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
2320 Albee Street
If you send me an email address (for those not already on my email mailing list), I will send you a reminder when the date is closer.
More news: I will be giving another workshop, this time it will be the first three Saturday mornings of September. It will be about using acrylics (“To Make Color Sing”) with some emphasis on mixed media. It went well last time, exhausted me but I enjoyed every minute of it. There was a great group of participants from people who had never held a paintbrush to accomplished artists. And somehow it worked. Therefore, worth doing again.
Here’s some old news: I was the happy recipient of the Victor Jacoby Grant in December of last year. And the year before, I received the Ingrid Nickelsen Award. This influx of cash has allowed me to put aside the urgency about marketing and to be able to work at whatever pace the work requires. I have been able to study and refine the paintings in progress now without having to judge anything finished before I believe it can get no better. This is luxury for which I am deeply grateful.
For the last piece of news, I have been juried in to have a show at Humboldt State University’s First Street Gallery for July - August of 2014, when I will be eighty years old. Who knew that old age could be so good? The last show I had with this gallery (in 2008) was a wonderful experience. The young people who intern in the space, students from the university’s Art Museum and Gallery Practices program, proved to be competent and delightful assistants and the show was arranged and hung and supported by their efforts better than I could have dreamed.
I once lived in the hills outside of Caracas in Venezuela; this was a long time ago. My isolation there was complete. I had no car, no phone and no neighbors near enough to see or talk to. My husband was gone all day and often was away for several days at a time. I remember that one day, as a treat, we left the kids with friends in Caracas and attended some kind of party. And, embarrassing to remember, I couldn’t shut up. Words just poured out of me. I am reminded of this now because after being deprived of my blog for so long, I could go on and on here. My warmest regards to my readers. I miss you, too.
The image attached here is of one of the new pieces, still pinned to board and ready to be mounted on canvas.
I have decided to give up writing this blog for a while. It has become too difficult to give it my Friday mornings when I want to be in the studio.
There are a few other things I need to do that have been waiting for a long while. It remains to be seen whether I will get to them now. This current painting project has become all-consumimg. I imagine the fever will abate once it comes close to being finished but that also remains to be seen.
I will use the blog for announcements of shows and such and also to promote the June open studio event. And I might even write on a somewhat sporadic basis. I'm pretty sure that when this new work is more resolved I will want to put images on the blog. And maybe there will be something I want to say now and then. We'll see.
I started the writing on October fifth, 2009. There have been one hundred and fifty-two posts (counting this one). I planned to stop in March of 2014 when I would reach my eightieth birthday, but alas, my best laid plans needed rethinking. The truth is that I seem to have run out of words for the moment. It might be that a few weeks off will restart the engine but at the moment I am full of painting and short on talk.
So my dear readers, I thank you all for the time and attention you have lent me. I have enjoyed hearing from you and loved feeling connected and making the friendships. I bid you a fond (and perhaps temporary) farewell.
”An artist is not paid for his labour but for his vision."--. James MacNeill Whistler.
The value of this blog for me is that it compels me to use the lazier part of my brain. I have to become rational and clear-thinking before I can attempt to find the words that will make my thinking understandable to other brains. I don’t look forward to Friday mornings, my writing time, because I want to be in the studio and I have often considered giving up the blog. And I will, sometime early in 2014. But for now, I have to recognize how good it is for me to gain some understanding of the puzzles my life presents. I believe this writing is of more value to me than to my readers. After last week’s research and writing I had some of the best painting days of my life.
The unsettling question of this week is about how creativity, which with the help of John Cleese and a couple of other experts, I got clearer about last week, is not enough. Feeling free to explore and being inventive and productive is not going to make the Guernica
s and the Mona Lisas happen. Something more and essential is needed. It is commonly called “the vision”. It is not the same as inspiration which is the provocation or impetus that the artist might begin with (or not). No, it is something she dearly desires which is (I am beginning to think) unattainable. And yet it surely does exist. I find it all over museums, at concerts, in books and many other elsewheres. I looked for a definition on the web, put “artistic vision” into Google Search, and came up with questions rather than answers. Which was fine. I didn’t really want some intelligent explanation of something so ephemeral.
On a more personal plane (as if the above were not so), I have some elaborate “pieces” of painting on paper which I will soon have to orchestrate into cohesive paintings meant to conform to a very simple format (which is as close as I get to describing the vision). The complexity and patterns and design elements in these pieces is what happens when I give free rein to my impulses. These diagrams are about how I want to put the pieces together:
My favorite museum exhibit of all time was “Byzantium”
at the Metropolitan in NYC in 2004. Very ornate and deliciously opulent art and artifacts, a true feast for the eyes. My favorite painter of all time is Ellsworth Kelly; a bare and beautiful minimal vision. Some not minimal material is what I will use to present a minimal (dictionary says: characterized by simplicity and lack of adornment or decoration”)
, vision. How to do it? Aye, there’s the rub. But the way to deal with the impossible, I have learned, is just to blunder on and make it happen. And that’s why, according to my lights, the vision is never attained. I suspect that Picasso never thought that any of his work ever totally fulfilled the hunger behind it. Which is probably why he lived so long and worked non-stop.The images at the top are two unfinished pieces started last week.
A sample of Ellsworth Kelly:
And something from Byzantium:
And who but Don Quijote, the quintessential impossible dreamer, would inspire this:
To dream ... the impossible dream ...
To fight ... the unbeatable foe ...
To bear ... with unbearable sorrow ...
To run ... where the brave dare not go ...
To right ... the unrightable wrong ...
To love ... pure and chaste from afar ...
To try ... when your arms are too weary ...
To reach ... the unreachable star ...
This is my quest, to follow that star ...
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far ...
To fight for the right, without question or pause ...
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause ...
And I know if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm,
when I'm laid to my rest ...
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach ... the unreachable star ...
It’s sweet to find the words of an expert to support one’s own line of thinking. In this case the expert was the multi-talented John Cleese
. There’s a great video
of his talk on creativity. One of the conditions he mentions as being key is “Confidence to allow spontaneity and audacity. To get properly into the creative mode, you need to pull up the tiresome anchor of reason. There are no mistakes, and nothing that you think or do in your confident state can, for the time being anyway, be wrong.” He mentions also space, time, time, and humor. Time is cited twice because of its importance.
I have struggled with all of these. The space was resolved long ago when I made workspace more important than living (home) space. Time is always a hard one but it’s more or less manageable. Humor is easy for me; I can make myself laugh in my dreams. The great challenge is the one he calls “confidence” that I planned to write about as “courage”. If you google “courage and creativity” you will find a huge mass of information. Rollo May dedicated an entire book to the subject (The Courage to Create
) and there is much more.
It’s difficult to write of something one doesn’t entirely understand but I’ll do it in the same way as I paint — when I am painting well. That is to just put down whatever occurs to me and let the devil beware. It’s not even about trusting the self. It’s just doing it. (As Nike most famously said.) As I believe those olympic athletes are doing now. As a painter, my experience is that I sort of fall into the operation and let my hands and eyes take charge. That can be hours in which the operation takes over. And then, usually the next day, I look at what I have done. Sometimes whatever I have produced requires additional layers of paint and the process is continued. Sometimes I am not sure of what I have and I put it aside and go to something else. But often, oh glory! I am delighted and I have a keeper.
But it’s me I have pleased. My trip into a color, a color combination, a series of lines, dots or soft shapes, or clear drawing of architectural or organic shapes, whatever was the impetus, is such a personal experience that I cannot but wonder about how that could possibly have anything to do with the very different challenge that lies ahead. That is using this object of paint on paper or canvas as a means to making a living. It is an almost impossible bridge to cross and I just do it. But not without a lot of performance anxiety. The other side of that is some excitement about showing the work but please notice: it’s just a jumble of feelings, not a rational, orderly procedure at all. And somehow, it has worked. The marketing part is, of course rational and orderly, but it is the poorest part of what I do. Not done as well as it could be but it is has provided most of what has supported me all these years.
I should stop here but hang on — just one more thing. Last week I wrote of curiosity being what provokes new works and keeps older quests for answers from becoming completed paintings. Once the results are apparent, the curiosity is satisfied and the more difficult task of resolving that into a finished work remains. Often it is the answer that is the painting and I wonder if it is a painting. In the words of Jun Kaneko
I found this: “I do things I am curious about. This creates new ideas and this brings more questions and more curiosity to the original idea. This is how creative energy expands rapidly.” Words from an expert.
Today’s images are “pieces” painted this week, that will eventually be integrated into the large collage paintings that are my current project. The orange one is complete. The blue one is waiting for a decision about whether those white dots are needed or if something else would be better.