Archive for the ‘Art Theory’ Category

Charles and Dorothy Clark Art Gallery

Charles and Dorothy Clark Art Gallery

It’s a strange and interesting dream an artist has … to succeed in getting your work into a museum … only to be buried and forgotten in a sub-basement somewhere and never seen for decades. A piece of yourself stored and catalogued as an artifact unless a new craze arises that makes your work relevant for a brief time. Doesn’t this seem like a peculiar ambition?

The path to get into the museum is dictated by the whims and self-interest of the dragons at the doors of the museum. The curators who dictate “contemporary taste” and long to discover an unknown artist and tie their business and personal star to this artist.

The artist must have a “cohesive body of work” and hopefully an eccentric lifestyle to elicit interest by the media who will expose the artist to the worldwide public. Meanwhile the artist must continue to produce work to fit into that “body of work” which is being touted.

Is it best to be an egomaniac and shout to the world, “Look at ME!!” …  or to just make art and enjoy the abundance of flowers, birds, clouds , rivers, mountains that surround us all?

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Delightful guests!  How can one resist those chattering, provocative individuals who spark a room with their wit and knowledge?  So what is the problem?  They bring the pleasure of new information, company, and good cheer. Yet as they wave goodby the energy consumed keeping up with them is the exact same energy which would have been spent on a painting or other creative endeavor.  Balance is needed but how to achieve it?  Social obligations suck up the time available for thinking and the day is fractured.  Now comes the effort to get back in the creative groove.  I loved the visit, and the fresh berry pie and the smiles and hugs. Yes, they were a huge reward.  Yet now I cannot find the thread leading to a resolution of the color dilemma this set of dried palm fans poses as they sit in the corner of my studio. Is this the “right” blue for that yellow?  Perhaps I should change the yellow?  Add a bit of orange or a piercing yellow-green?  Does it really matter so much which blue goes with which yellow?  YES!  YES!  The two together will either sparkle or thud and I am the one responsible for picking the one which will sparkle.  If I hit the magic combination there will be exhilaration and a pleasant feeling of “rightness.”  If I miss that combination there will be deflation and grim determination to try again … and again … and again.  Another chance to get it right.  Thanks the Gods there are always chances.  There is randomness and there is serendipity and we need a fine mixture of the two. Now here is an interesting thing … some artists like to flit between this and that … each project adds something to the other.  If you persist in doing a project when the time is not right it is like walking across a muddy clay field … every step adds a bit of clay to the soles of  your feet until you have a heavy platform shoe and you cannot go forward.  The  lesson the artist learns, over time and trial, is to let it flow and to lessen the tight control which is so tempting.  Serendipity is splendid … let it roll over us in productive waves.

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LInes, by Mary P Williams

Lines, by Mary P Williams

How shall I LINE thee? Let me count the ways …

Thick … thin … curved … straight

Vertical … diagonal … horizontal

LINE you can vary in width … direction or length

PLAY with Line!

it is the joy and delight of the Artist.

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Magritte …

Good morning!

Lestat's on Park

Lestat’s on Park

Wandered down to our local Lestat’s On The Park cafe and what did I find?

Magritte table at Lestat's

Magritte table at Lestat’s

A table with a spoof of Rene Magritte’s painting! …

Mural across from Lestat's

Mural across from Lestat’s

and across the street a truly horrible mural …

so I thought back to the book I just finished titled “WHAT GOOD ARE THE ARTS?”by John Carey which offers ” a delightfully skeptical look at the claims made on behalf of art.” Per The New York Post: “This book is brilliant, funny, and insightful” … Oh ?? maybe brilliant and a bit funny.  It was published in 2006 and examines the place of art and “high’ culture in our lives.

Glad I read it … would I recommend it ? … somewhat tedious but a thorough examination of the value of art ……..

Ciao from San Diego…

Mary and D.L.

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A last burst of creativity before the semester ends:  Chad Farris gives us a list of bands and tells us to “pick a band and do a piece using each song on the CD”. My pick is GRAILS …”Grails is the premier instrumental rock act of the Northeast Portland area. An emerging new artist, ready to take the word by storm.” And they do! Just check the title of the CD I bought: “The Burden of Hope”. Then the titles of the songs they collectively wrote: Canyon Hymn, White Flag, Broken Ballad, Space Prophet Dogan, Invocation, In The Beginning, The Deed, and Lord I Hate Your Day. Yes, they are inventive with their words … words used carefully with lots of connotations.

My sculpture/painting used each song as one of the torn, painted pieces of watercolor paper covering a wooden base and crowned with a glistening seashell … three cheers for music and mystery!

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After perusing the Fall 2011 issue of Cabinet magazine (a magazine of Art and Culture) I was tempted to visualize the categories Professor S. Ngai discussed in her article. The words used to discuss art was her topic. They include Cute, Disgusting. Zany, Merely Interesting, Interesting and Sublime … sorry, no discussion of Beautiful. I could not resist the temptation to pick out some bowls, which were to be discarded in the ceramics lab, and paint them and arrange them as a Tea Service … in a portable tray … to deposit on a table with a pot of hot tea. Prof. Hyslin had instructed us to use the Majolica glaze and produce some objects.

"Aesthetic Categories Tea Service"

"Aesthetic Categories Tea Service" with Cabinet Magazine

Here it is!!  Tea in aesthetic bowls!! The kewpie doll in the magazine also illustrates the “cute” category.

"Aesthetic Categories Tea Service" close up

"Aesthetic Categories Tea Service" close up

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December, 2011

Having been out of the academic loop for over 25 years an assessment is in order. Has the role of “artist” changed? If it has changed, how has it changed? I was thrilled to come back to painting … I was challenged … and what do I find?  The emphasis is no longer on the act of producing a painting, a sculpture, a film, or a performance! No indeed … the new buzz words are RESEARCH, INNOVATION, and INFORMED … it is not about product (actually painting a picture?) .. .no, it is about rationalizing and explaining your “concept”. Should the viewer be allowed to form their own opinion of the painting? Should the painter attempt to communicate non-verbally (visually) with the viewer?

In 1983 I graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute. It is instructive to think about where the European Art Academies are headed. As a returning student to the MFA program at University of Texas, Edinburg, I have a different overview of art education. One of the unusual events at UTPA was our introduction to Mark Cloet, a visiting artist/scholar from Belgium. The question: Why is he here in Texas? Having attended two of his lectures and reading  “Art and Research – A Journal of Ideas, Contexts, and Methods 2” by Dieter Lesage a glimmer of where the art world is headed pointed me in the following direction.

On the Internet you can go to Wikipedia and type “Research” and you will be given a definition of the word.

Research is “defined as the search for knowledge, or as any systemic investigation, with an open mind, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories.”

On the Wikipedia page we are given a brief rundown of the three sub-categories.  Number 1 is Scientific Research. Number 2 is Research in the Humanities.  We all have ideas about what these categories are about. Then Number 3, which is Artistic Research, and what a mind-boggling category that turns out to be !

“Artistic Research, also seen as practice-based research, can take form when CREATIVE works are considered both the RESEARCH and the OBJECT of research itself.  It is the debatable body of thought which offers an alternative to purely scientific methods in research in its search for knowledge and truth.” The key word here is “debatable.”

So … what does this mean for the working artist? Are we to strive to match the scientific community with their repeatable experiments? Where does Creativity enter this equation? Or does it enter the equation?

To proceed, we see under the heading  CONTENTS  a list of subjects including #10, Artistic Research. Click on that and LO! up comes a description as follows :

“The controversial trend of artistic teaching becoming more academic-oriented is leading to artistic research being accepted as the PRIMARY MODE OF ENQUIRY IN ART as in the case of other disciplines.”

Read this explanation if you wish and then go down to item 17.  “Who’s Afraid of Artistic Research? On measuring artistic research output.” by Dieter Lesage in ART and RESEARCH – A Journal of Ideas, Contexts, and Methods 2 retrieved August 14-2011. At last! The crux of all this verbiage … Who controls the money? The funding, the grants, the scholarships?

Again Dieter Lesage enlightens us with “A Portrait of the Artist as a Researcher”  in which his fictitious artist explains the way universities and public authorities are trying to “get a grip” (his words, not mine) on the emerging field of artistic research.”  He gives us the ideology involved.   One item is “Our society is not only a ‘society of control’ as Foucault wrote, it is a ‘quality control society’.  so … we must have some criteria for quality control agencies.

The participants of The Bologna Process are willing to set up the controls. Without boring you … what has happened is that the European Union participants have formed The Bologna Process.  This process “is supposed to lead to the establishment of a European Higher Education Area in 2010 … which should … contribute to establishing  the EU as the world’s biggest knowledge economy from that same year on.”

There are cogent arguments for and against this emerging field of artistic research.

My response: Dear God!! What would have happened to Vincent Van Gogh under this system?? Or Dali? Or O’Keeffe?

The political implications are vast! Any person interested in attending college in the Arts or attaining a Masters degree, or a PhD would be advised to study these papers.

All quotes are from the Wikipedia definition of “research”.
As for me … I will give it a whirl. I will try to do “research” and see if that leads me to unusual and exciting places within myself. It might!

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Thoughts about the Mid-term critique … The students assembled at 8:30 to upload their USB’s into the computer for projection and around 9:30 some of the faculty drifted in and we began.  A timer was set to limit each persons time and an “Artists Statement” was distributed to the faculty to read.  Then they made comments on the art work and asked the artist about their “process.” Each student was to have one or two physical artworks available for the faculty to see and a set of digital images to project on the screen. Richard Phillips, art historian, often named a few artists the student could reference which pertained to the style of work the person was doing. Other faculty chimed in with remarks on style, process, and relevance to contemporary art work being done around the world. Since my painting was 4′ x 10′ I set it up during lunch break.

Drought in Texas - Climate Change

Drought in Texas - Climate Change - Are We Caring for the Planet?

All my time was used on the painting and so none of my digital photos were projected on the screen. It was a tedious process and faculty changed all the time with a few faculty staying the whole time.  We wound it all up after 4:30 and one student told me we would be getting a written evaluation at some time in the future.  Did I learn anything?  A little … and most of that listening to the review of other students. Wonder what the Final Critique in December will be like?

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… The door opens onto a living room with one wall completely taken up by white canvas … unstretched and tacked to the wall.  The couch is covered with more white canvas as is the armchair … the surface of the coffee table is a rectangle of white canvas with long-stemmed red roses lying in a state of dehydration … still some color, but fading.

Mark Cloet

Mark Cloet

Mark gestures to the canvas covering the furniture and says he will use the canvas in the future.  The marks from daily use and unforeseen circumstance will become part of the finished piece.  I idly think of spilt red wine and black coffee … the marks of childish shoes … a charcoal drawing pencil dropped.

Mark Cloet Work Table

Mark Cloet Work Table

He has a drawing on a work table … it revolves around “borders”.  Being from Belgium, borders are a reality in the lives of people.  Here in the Rio Grande Valley the mention of borders elicits a passionate response. Which side of the border you are born on has a dramatic effect on your choices and the quality of your life.  Everyone has an opinion on borders and immigration.

Mark has written on the drawing “standing on the borders of two totally different cultures, one side considers me a stranger … the other side considers me as different.” He is exploring the idea or concept of borders.  It is poignant that he dwells in McAllen, Texas across from Reynosa, Mexico. He is here on a Fulbright scholarship for 9 months … at the University of Texas in Edinburg.

My questions, and his answers ( as best I can relate ) are as follows :

  1. Are you a painter?  …a sculptor?…  a performance artist?
    “I am a painter/sculptor.  Performance is an act.  I perform in daily life.”
  2. What is your definition of a successful work of art ?
    “Not relevant. ”   … ( at a later time he said “Art is never a winning thing, but it is knowing that and still resisting it.”*  * a reference to B. Oosterlinck, Belgian artist.
  3. What is your definition of success as an artist?
    “I refuse to answer this because there is no definition.”
  4. At what age did you know you wanted to be an artist ?
    “At 18 I went to a Theater School in Antwerp.  After that I went to a school for the plastic arts, which in Belgium is the Education/Social major.  It leads to being a teacher.  As I decided not to pursue teaching I became financially independent of my parents. ”
  5. How have the financial uncertainties of being an artist affected you and your family?
    “As an artist you can make your own choices, … but it is dangerous. Your audience can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ which will affect the way you proceed.  It is difficult to know how to manipulate this aspect of art.  A person needs to understand the economy, the way to make a living, and to laugh but have knowledge.  For my family, they are in a position of being surrounded by rich and poor.  This is not easy for children to swing between the two and understand it.
    There is also the political situation which artists need to understand. I refer you to Francis Ponge, an artist who wrote only on soap.  He wrote the Book of Soap in which he analyzed the situation in which he found himself living … the society he lived in … the interactions of the community. Everyone understood his references to the ruling government  which was unable to arrest him.
    My description would be what it is to ride a horse … actually the horse is riding with you … to go forward or backward you must communicate with the horse … you must respect the horse …  just as the artist must respect the community he works in.   You do not want to be dependent … I would say you wish to be available on your own terms.”

You can see Mark’s work by visiting this link: www.markcloet.be

Finally :  After this interview ( or interaction )  he asked me … now WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF IT ??
I interpreted this to mean what art work will I produce as a result of thinking about these concepts. What I took away with me was the pleasure of having met a formidable intelligence … and the comfort of knowing that he exists in my world and is working on many levels to improve it.

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