Richter’s Squeegee

I love this old German. The ballsy dedication of one’s life to the Great Squeegee. He creates world renown kick-ass art with it. And he’s 80. Currently he’s the top grossing artist in the world.

The dragging, adding, the taking away again. The adding, the taking away.

Smear on. Redact. Smear on. Redact.

And I find myself mesmerized. Its existential process draws me in. The way this paint pulls me apart and puts me back together. A surreal humptydumpty life.

what’s surface? what lies beneath? occupies the same plane.

What you are when your “title” is taken away. Who you are on your new business card. You, in juicy given youth, who you are as gainsaid,  it peels away. (A forty-year-old anachronism) The email in your inbox – gives you hope, a slightsound of paper handed – takes it away.

Can the senselessness of the giving and taking away – can it be lovely? Can I, by some craft of hand or soul make it so?

Gerhard Richter Painting

Click above link to watch him in action.


Unfinished business

Lucian Freud, 152 Portrait of the Hound, 2011

Lucian Freud, 152 Portrait of the Hound, 2011

Ninety Freud paintings at the Modern FW devoured me. But I live to tell the tale.

And yes, I was very inappropriate at the museum.

“He’s such a virtuoso with the texture here,” I pointed out to a young man. It was kinda uncomfortable because we were discussing a penis juxtaposed with a rat’s tail.  And I was using nice museumy language to soften the image of rat tail and penis laid together, side by side, central to the painting. The young man winced as a woman walked up to him. I laughed (inappropriate).

“You brought your mother to the Freud exhibit?”  (Very inappropriate) They walked away.

I didn’t mind, we all skulked around, eviscerated, swallowed in a flesh sea.  Stunned looks and furtive eye contact, what the hell is this? Too big heads, too little heads, too big hands, too big eyes. Contortions and legs, naked, bare. A flesh-eating exhibition pulling no punches. Clashing angles pushed hard against each other and bodies truncated, not fit in their painted rooms. As they did not fit into my head.

I approached the teenage docent, “So are you shell-shocked?”

“It was hard the first week,” he admitted. “They started to rotate us, so I’m ok now.”

My favorite  – the last painting of the show. The unfinished one of Freud’s assistant David.

“Disturbing,” murmured a passing Dallasite.

Damn right and it should be. Why be subjected to these horrors of flesh? Because I extrovert beauty and introvert truth. It’s too bright, too hard, too loud, too flesh. I admire Freud for drawing me in with beautiful paint strokes, daring emotion and pushing me away with awful contortions and rooms that defy balance. It’s the pushpull between loveliness and grimy street truth. It’s unfinished business for me.


Run the Experiment

Patricia Qualls, Mystery of the Margins, courtesy of Patricia Qualls

Patricia Qualls, Mystery of the Margins, courtesy of Patricia Qualls

I’ve collected Patricia Qualls art for several years now, and I am in good company. Beyond being an artist whose energy, empathy and clear vision speaks through her canvases, she’s a smart-as-tacks person and arms-wide-open kind of friend. Patricia is hidden gold in Carmel Valley.

California recently tried to outlaw gold mining in these mountains, but you can follow a lovely winding road down to her gallery/studio and uncover it still.

Her favorite phrase is “run the experiment.” She told me this as I held a hair pick slathered with color over a blank piece of canvas (too chicken to pick up a brush). Her twinkle eyes convinced me to paint one day while on a studio visit. We were at the point in the process when the white paper yawned wide and my hand hovered in midair, paint dripping, stuck in a fear struggle between desire to create and ominous-cloud certainty that the outcome would be total crap. I listened to a silent thought croaking, I have the talent of a toad. A warty toad. A talentless warty toad.

She said, “run the experiment.” And the pick finally careened toward the canvas. See, I am the sort of person that demands a beautiful result every time. Like Venus rising from the waves. In my imaginary Pintrest life.  Forget the wild impossibility of this thinking -of catastrophe courting  this high-stakes perfectionism. Venus rising is a myth, an ancient lie.

Forget beauty. Damn expectations.

Run the experiment. Try things out. See what you like. What pulls you forward? Swirl it all around and do it again, and again.

Do thousands of them –  Patrica did.  Play outside the margins of myopic judgement. Run the experiment. Let’s just see what happens. . .


Spoiler alert

Tony Feher, Mediodia 2011

Tony Feher, Mediodia 2011

Guess what this is? Blue painter’s tape masked painstakingly to a window, creating a temporary stained glass effect. Before the installation was peeled off, the artist took a few photos, now available for your walls. I’ll confess, I was disappointed. I would be salivating over this color if a brush made it. It’s magical Chagall-like luminosity.

Tony Feher, Atardecer, 2011

Tony Feher, Atardecer, 2011

Is it less beautiful now that I know it’s common painter’s tape – like the bent roll I have leftover in my garage? Yes.

I do admire the ingenuity. Beauty and ingenuity, generally a winning combo. But for me, the mystery of this piece held its beauty. And clearly, I must love mystery over ingenuity.

I’ve made my Monday list and it’s way too daunting (typical). So I think I’ll transform my small office portal into a blue stained glass window – a worthy Monday diversionary exercise. When the boss asks what I’m doing I’ll say. . .

Tony Feher at work

Tony Feher at work

I have a fascination with consumer products that contain within them both physics and philosophy. There’s no such thing as a straight line—that’s a human construct. . . it doesn’t really exist. There are no straight lines in nature, unless maybe when you get to the molecular level and you’re looking at how molecules bond together. When you get to biology, it’s all lumpy and gooey and amorphous. But when you get to the edge of a piece of tape, you can’t make a straighter line than that. . . And then when you tear the piece off you’ve got the ragged edge, and all of a sudden you’ve got the tension between the molecular-level perfect and the biological ragged edge— Tony Feher

And my guess is, she’ll leave me to it . . .


Missing

Slava Tch, Missing Cloud, Lanning Gallery, Sedona, Arizona

Yes, I am missing a cloud today. I’ve looked for it in several places, the usual ones. But not to be found.

Like I look for my life on a Monday morning, in all the usual places, sometimes not to be found. And I’m jealous of these white houses standing so upright and sure. Confident in themselves and their plans. Smug-happy they made the right decisions. Strutting out red-roofed optimism.

They do not lean in, searching. To find that thing they are missing, the white cloud. But the rest of the painting does. The lake and the horizon pinch together in the middle, pull the hills and trees inward, a landscape search party. Bowed around the center.

Ah here it is. The cloud, blithe floating on the convex lake, off-center. Taking a break. Tired of holding up the sky. Gonna leave that job to the others. Maybe it should have been fog in the first place.

But the land does not release its searching tension. The charcoal sailboat still tilts. Maybe we have found what we were looking for, maybe we haven’t. Here the joy is in the looking.


Barton Springs

Patrick Puckett, Barton Springs, 2012, © Patrick Puckett

Patrick Puckett, Barton Springs, 2012, © Patrick Puckett

When you visit Austin, TX (ATX), come take a dip here at Barton Springs. The fountain of Austin’s eternal youth. Some will recommend Hippy Hollow in the spirit of naked rollicking fun, but it’s a drive. If you want to dive into the heart of the city, this is your place.

Surrounded by Zilker Park and sky-spanning oaks, Barton Springs bubbles up from the aquifer at a beautiful 68° degrees year round. And year round you’ll find people swimming its luminous three acre length. With the salamanders and the occasional snake.

Tonkawa Indians bathed in the springs for sacred cleansing. The Spanish built a mission. Texas legislators cobbled compromises on its grassy slopes. You’re just as likely to meet a naiad here as the love of your life. And tops are optional.

I like this painting because it captures a timeless Barton Springs–the centuries layered under this paint. Reflects the sense of wonder that an actual place can melt into our skin. Touch a collective conscience as past memories lap against the bodies of today’s swimmers. A warrior cleansed, a convert baptized. Every bather’s released worries, friend’s wacky stories, and lovers’ stolen kisses; they all incarnate this spring. You can meditate laps or cannonball dive, either way refreshed to give soiled Life another go.

Citrusy colors capture the bright vibrant atmosphere. The creative diptych (two panels) calls out the quirky-fun vibe. Trees in solid motion cast shady pools and remind me of Japanese prints with elegant economy of line. There’s a splash of mid-century aesthetic, but its dripping modern all over.

And although you can’t own Austin’s limpid crowning jewel, this work is still available. A treasure sparkling down at the bottom of Barton Springs. Just a dive away.

(see the rest of Patrick’s work soon at Wally Workman gallery, ATX)


Honk

Claude Monet, Geese in the Brook, 1874. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Claude Monet, Geese in the Brook, 1874. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Oh Claude, you old wizard!

With deft alchemy you have melted the trodden path into water.

And made the pool sprout  golden leaves.

Brushed into silence, my paddling tongue.