Thursday, December 21, 2017

Small is Beautiful, Right?

After a two-person exhibition, “Shaking Loose,” with the artist Rhys Davies at Hope and Feathers (Amherst, Massachusetts), I am back to small works...

Why? I had been working, steadily, slowly, towards abstract works that shimmer with color and stay largely clear of line and image, clear of outlined foreground and background. Here are a couple of examples from the Hope and Feathers show. The first is called “Friday Noon,” and the second “Tuesday Morning, 10:30.”

I love these paintings. I do.  But they are, I have discovered, their own end-point.  If I look through all of my paintings (, I can see the work change over time, and I can see what lead to these paintings... but I can’t take this work any farther. No lines, no discernible shapes... what could come next? I could, I suppose, by painting, say, an all-blue canvas.  So where can I go?

I looked online, pulling up “abstract” and “zombie formalism” and the names of various strong abstract artists. I saw too many paintings that shared sensibilities, colors, and brushwork with mine. We constitute a small country, us abstractionists, and it became difficult for me to sort my work out from anyone else’s. The art critics are tired of it, and the woman who comes into the gallery from the cold doesn't feel it. 

So I am working small, with digital means (adobe sketch)

 or inktense blocks and gouache and watercolor and the occasional flourish of acrylic. 

The sizes are 14” x 17” and 11” x 14” for now... I may be able to blow these up to billboard size at some point. But for now, I am going back in to places and moments and drawing lines and text and the slightly wonky images that I see when I think with closed eyes.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

An Ekphrastic poem by Charles Tarlton

James McNeill Whistler’s Red and Black: the Fan (1894)  and Kenneth Paul Block’s Drawing for the cover of James Brady’s novel, Fashion Show (2009)

All good colors are equally beautiful;  it is only in the question of their combination that art comes in.
                         -- Oscar Wilde

In the austere harmony of red and black there is at once both contradiction and beauty.  Where red is nearly all, the thinner black slithers up, punctuates the shape of red.  Oh, that long black feathered line down the middle of her red dress!  On the right, the black dress flaunts a splash of bright red flowers or ribbons in the décolletage, and catches our eye, the black dress slinky as the boa on the red.  I would make metaphors of these two, and have each contemplate the other in her gaze.

strike me a Grecian
coin between hard iron dies
a silver drachma -
heads, the goddess Athena
a wise old owl comes up tails

my lady in red
leans forward in the mirror
dreaming of a black
gossamer frock dotted red
dreaming herself into it

see the girl inside
that black dress.  What does she crave?
to hang on a wall
where the museum displays  
its admired Whistler women