Friday, May 28, 2010

Second Semester Summary

My studio work for this semester began with my black and white paintings which were the pieces that received most of the attention during my last residency critiques. The work was described as lyrical, graphic, and organic. The consensus was that the vivid brush strokes which have an expressive randomness was interesting and held the viewer’s attention. These paintings conveyed an idea of a grid, interconnectedness, and some implied system of counting. I was encouraged to take the next semester to further explore this series and see how my work would develop. My research this semester included artist using nature as the point of departure. I investigated books written from the 1980s to the present on Abstract Expressionism. In addition I looked at the work of several artists: Peter Doig, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Laura Owens, Robert Motherwell, Agnes Martin, Donald Sultan, Jennifer Bartlett, John Walker, Kristin Quinn, John Chamberlin, Cy Twombly and Helen Frankenthaler.

I followed Hannah Barrett’s suggestion of using pieces of paper all the same size with a limited amount of black to explore positive and negative space - using small to large shapes. This technique would push my understanding of possible compositions for future paintings. I also decided to use Google images with aerial perspectives of highways, roads, on-ramps and off-ramps as the point of departure for the work. A surprising coincidence that I discovered in my research was that the first highway to span the U.S. goes through the university town of Davis which is located just 14 miles from my studio. The highway was first conceived in 1912 and originally spanned the continent coast-to-coast from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco through 13 states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California. I find American roadways fascinating from several perspectives - from the impact of urban planners, to car designs, to big oil’s gripping control of the US economy combined with the staggering 14.5 billion dollars spent annually by car manufactures on advertising.(1) All of these elements combined and their direct effect or how they shape the ever changing American landscape is of interest to me.

While I feel the new abstract work is evolving I still have been struggling this semester with trying to bring together the work that I show in the galleries so they have some reference to the abstract paintings and my papers. At this point I feel the only common point of interest is my appreciation for the American landscape, which includes automobiles, 50s, 60s and 70s architecture and the influences that globalization has had on both the urban and rural American landscape. I don’t have any interest in trying to combine the specific techniques that I use in each body of work. The process and materials that I use are completely different with the end result of each successful. While working on the abstract works I realized that my process of trial and error for the work that is shown in the galleries was has been a long and challenging process which has taken at least 12 years. I am realizing with the new abstractions that it will perhaps take the same amount of trial and error in order to develop this into a fully mature idea. I feel the need to resolve this conflict by the end of my third residency so that I can proceed with my direction for the MFA thesis and exhibition. At this point it feels the final resolution would be to drop the abstract paintings and to go in the direction of the work that I show in the galleries, my original work. There has been a benefit to this experimentation. I am actually experimenting more now and enjoying the process and in a way it feels like I am even more open and innovative than ever before.

This past semester my work was accepted into the Caldwell Snyder Gallery and the Campton Gallery. I am scheduled to have my first San Francisco solo exhibition in September and my first New York solo exhibition is scheduled for June 2011. I feel a great amount of excitement about this as it has taken me many years to get to this point. My work will also be going to International fine art fairs for the first time within the coming year. It will be interesting to see how my work will be received in the International venues. In addition to getting into the new gallery I had a piece acquisitioned into the Napa Valley Museum collection. Additionally, the University of California, Davis, has hired me to teach for the second time a class for the Design Department. This summer the class is Design Drawing.

The weekend of May 20th through 23rd the gallery took my work along with several of their other artists to the San Francisco Fine Art Fair. There were galleries from all over the US. It was my first opportunity to see my work juxtaposed with the work of so many artists from all over the world. As I looked at the broad scope of work, which included Donald Sultan, an artist I studied over the past semester, I found it interesting to see how my work fit into the overall scope. I feel stronger about my work, both in terms of imagery and my process and feel it looks well executed and stands somewhat alone in the particular iconography I am attracted to. For years I have looked at my art work as a dialogue between Americana meets Pop Art. I ask, wouldn’t it be best, in order to get the most out of my time in the MFA program, if I let my school investigation reference my gallery work? Visiting artist Rita McBride was a real inspiration for me personally. Her rattan Toyota Celica still really inspires me and I still find myself thinking at some point it would be interesting to think about casting a car as sculpture as an option for my work.

I have continued to work with Tom Holland as my mentor. Tom has continued to offer a critical eye and has encouraged me to bring both bodies of work closer together. I’m not sure how I feel about this idea. I have two mentors lined up for the next two semesters’ work. The first is Boyd Gavin, a painter whose work I admire greatly. For my last semester I have Scott Shields, Senior Curator of the Crocker Art Museum all lined up. He has been watching my work evolve over the years and would at some point like a piece in the museum collection. He has a keen eye and extensive knowledge of contemporary art with an emphasis on landscape. I feel this will be helpful for my last semester as I attempt to coordinate my theses and my final work.

1. Art & Copy, Director Doug Pray. 2009