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 . . .


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)


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.

Cry, Cry, Cry

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Onions, 1881. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Onions, 1881. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Legend tells that when I was a tot, my mother placed a slice of onion and a piece of candy side by side on my highchair.  I reached for the onion and ate it every time, candy be damned.  (The bright beginnings of masochism.) But today I don’t have to choose. Renoir paints these tear prone alliums like luminous cotton-candy meringues. Onion candy.

This man could make anything breathtaking. Though he usually picked lovely subjects, innocents. Smooth-skinned children and freckle-free women washed in pink serenity. The layering of beautiful style on beautiful subjects curiously turns me away. Sweetness too saturated.  The too painful re-telling of the monumental beauty myth.

For being yellow onions, there is a paucity of that color. Instead, pink, cerise, and salmon rule highlights of green and yellow.  The background, in strong diagonal strokes, rains down patches of green and blue. A storm, tossing bulbs about. The onion tops wave like flags in a gale. The curve of the table  forcefully pushes out the perimeter of the painting  and the whitecap napkin catches onions and garlic in a blue ribbon net.

Renoir plays cruelly with us here. Making us desire these blushing onions, this Venus candy. Knowing full well the bitter wince if we bite. Tears will flow. Some will burn. Finally he tells us the truth about beauty. So fearsome, so lovely and so deeply desired.  It will bring us to tears.

And you can buy it in the Kimbell gift shop to hang in your kitchen.


Yago Hortal KL30, 2011

Yago Hortal KL30,2011

I got happy this weekend. Which is quite a feat for a gal prone to existential crises erupting every hour, on the hour. Like Old Faithful. Shop at the mall, existential crisis. Clean a corner of the garage, existential crisis. Devour all that chinese take out. You guessed it, existential crisis. Go ahead, set your watch by me.

But not this weekend. A happy velocity overtook me. Stopped the ticking annoying my pocket. And all by chance. . . I didn’t know about it, didn’t plan it. Had no idea it was coming.

Like this painting. The colors fly across the canvas with laughing velocity. The colors, so immediate, overlapping,  joyriding. You feel their delight in your body. A wave of color splashing onto your skin. Giddy.

This is light in all its Technicolor, charging towards us. Busting through the little chains of worry that snap the universal pocket watch to our belt loop. It’s rainbow-split light that ball bounces through our remote souls. Smashing that sulky radar — its constant pinging and greenglowing  anxiety graphing.

Spin me around, you Hallelujah color. I’m coming with you.

Soundtrack (excuse the mustache)  Bob Schneider, Let the light in

Hairy Situation

Kezban Arca Batibeki's Hairy Tale 2011,  embroidery and collage on canvas COURTESY OF LEILA HELLER GALLERY, NEW YORK

Kezban Arca Batibeki's Hairy Tale 2011, embroidery and collage on canvas COURTESY OF LEILA HELLER GALLERY, NEW YORK

This jewel-like piece comes to us from a Turkish artist working in Istanbul.  Batibeki, a women herself, stages these ladies like puzzle pieces in interior poses. En masse, their forms join to create a graphic harem, a feminine “one.”  Around them roam lions or possibly cougars. They are in danger and unaware, or the animal’s power symbolizes their own power, in complete control. Could they be “on the prowl?”

A branch bisects the field of the canvas or perhaps a crack of some sort.  The power of their collective beauty splitting the fabric of a culture or growing into it.

The group, preoccupied with beauty, wears elegant beaded dresses. One lady applies makeup. Some are reading.  But the velvetblack  hair captures our full attention. The hair with a mind of its own, seems unconcerned with the poses of the women. Defying gravity and convention.  The punctuation-like hair styles voice the feminine spirit.

An ocean blue background unifies the ladies and their bold black tresses. The color blue in European tradition often signifies the divine (the color of the Virgin Mary).  However in Mediterranean cultures, blue wields protective power as a shield from evil spirits.  Everywhere you go in Turkey and other middle eastern countries, you see evil eye amulets worn (like crosses in the West) as an omen to ward off evil.

Do these women need protecting or are you their prey?

Nazar Boncugu - evil eye amulets

Nazar Boncugu - evil eye amulets