Friday, April 25, 2008

Artropolis™ delivers a knockout

Chicago's citywide celebration of arts, antiques and culture, Artropolis™ started off with a sexy preview. I describe the preview as sexy because I believe the preview-- as a whole-- was HOT compared to last year. There was a certain energy in the air during the preview... it rejuvenated me after my long drive. In other words, though tired from the drive I was not about to throw in the towel. The preview showed me-- once again-- that the Chicago art scene is not about to throw in the towel either!

Last year there was some concern about Chicago's place in the art market. I can remember members of the press and art bloggers doubting Chicago's place in the artworld. I think this year proved-- without a doubt-- that Chicago is still kicking. I'd go as far as to say that the exhibits in the Merchandise Mart came to the fight swinging uppercuts! There was some powerful work on display. Art Chicago and NEXT can be credited with the hardest hits. In my opinion, Art Chicago could go blow for blow against any art fairs I've observed as of late.

For those who don't know, Artropolis™ attracts thousands of visitors to Chicago. For the visitors’ convenience and enjoyment, The Artist Project will run concurrently with Art Chicago, The Merchandise Mart International Antiques Fair, NEXT, and The Intuit Show of Folk and Outsider Art – all within The Merchandise Mart. Educational programs, guided tours, music, theatre and dance performances are planned at a variety of venues throughout the city: from major museums to small galleries, from world-class concert halls to cutting-edge clubs, from lakefront parks to exclusive private parties.

In my rush I found time to stop by The Artist Project briefly. I was very pleased to discover that Jane Fulton Alt, Connie Noyes, and Ted Stanuga-- all members of the community-- were included on the roster of artists involved with the exhibit. The Artist Project is Artropolis’ key event dedicated to the independent artist. This year The Artist Project featured over 300 established and emerging artists who are currently unaffiliated within the gallery community. The exhibit offers collectors a rare opportunity to discover and obtain interesting and affordable art. It is always great to observe artists representing themselves in this manner.

Jane Fulton Alt
Connie Noyes
Ted Stanuga

(Nohra Haime Gallery-- SOPHIA VARI: PLENITUDE DE L'AIR, , bronze, black patina & blue oil, ed. 1/3, 50 3/8 x 17 x 15 3/4 in. 128 x 43 x 40 cm. JIM DINE: BLAZE FURY, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 40 in. 101.6 x 101.6 cm.)

While at Art Chicago I stopped by booth 12-647-- the Nohra Haime Gallery. I have interviewed several of the artists represented by Nohra Haime (Carol K. Brown, Margeaux Walter, Valerie Hird and Hugo Tillman) and I've long admired the quality of art that is displayed at the gallery. The booth at Art Chicago was a joy to view. You can find the interviews I mentioned at Also, Valerie and Margeaux are members of the community--,

Cedar River 3 Michigan-- Casey Rae

Wildwood Press returned to Art Chicago this year. Wildwood Press featured 15 new giclee print images by Casey Rae. Those who attended Art Chicago last year may remember that Casey Rae's haunting photographs of the Great Lakes in winter captivated viewers. I was told that the artist Valerie Hammond would be on hand to discuss her work, but in my rush I missed her. I was really impressed by what Wildwood Press had to offer.
Guirlande-- Valerie Hammond
Garland-- Valerie Hammond

At NEXT I was very interested with RONMANDOS booth. RONMANDOS presented work by four very gifted Dutch artists: Silvia B., Katinka Lampe , Levi van Veluw and Meinbert Gozewijn. These four artists create work that I can only describe as deceptively wonderful.

Here is the run down on the four:

Angel-- Silvia B.

"The meticulously and patiently crafted sculptures of Silvia B. are in the first instance highly attractive, luring the viewer to come and take a closer look. It is then that their disquieting aesthetic becomes apparent as it is realized that their beauty is of no ordinary kind. These figures are hybrid beings: between man and beast, doll and robot, confusing gender and age."

Untitled (605810)-- Katinka Lampe

"Katinka Lampe strives to create images that agitate and unsettle the viewer. She first photographs child models in specific poses and attire. It is at this point that she starts to paint and any concrete link with reality is lost: these figures appearing in unlikely but also disturbing ways, wearing such socially loaded attire as headscarves, capes, balaclavas or with suggestive make-up. Katinka Lampe ’s portraits are visual statements; a collection of pictorial fragments systematically combined to confront the viewer and disrupt his or her normal modes of perception."
Carpet-- Levi van Veluw

"Levi van Veluw´s photo series are all self-portraits, drawn and photographed by himself: a one-man-process. His works constitute elemental transfers – modifying the face as object – combining it with other stylistic components to create a third visual object with a large visual impact. The work you see therefore is not a portrait, but an information-rich image of colour, form, texture, and content. The image contains the history of a short creative process, with the artist shifting between the entities of subject and object. Assigning familiar elements such as a ballpoint-line a new context results in a confusing conflict between the objects normal associations and the novel values given to it in this new context. "

"In his project 'Trophyheads', Meinbert Gozewijn uses photos of CEOs, randomly downloaded from the internet via search-terms such as 'CEO', 'chairman' and 'president'. These drawings are portraits of the photo itself, the portrait of an image rather than the portrait of a per son. The title 'Trophyhead' refers to the tradition in some older cultures to safe keep the head of an enemy or ancestor as a holy or magical object. The title also refers to the word 'headhunter'; someone who identifies and approaches suitable candidates to fill often high profile, business positions."

(I'll have more to report soon. I will be adding more to this post throughout the day. I need to track down some images as well)

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Art Space Talk: Lisa Beck

The art of Lisa Beck is driven by certain preoccupations and obsessions, that can be seen as divided between the earthly - nature, the landscape, elemental forms - and the heavenly - science, astronomy, the universe. Lisa graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in 1980. Since that time she has had several solo and group exhibits, including exhibits at Feature Inc. and White Columns. Lisa has been reviewed in ARTnews, Artforum, Frieze and several other publications.

Glimpse (detail), 2003; acrylic paint on wall, lucite balls, cable; 80 x 50 x 40"

Brian Sherwin: Lisa, you studied at Rhode Island School of Design. Can you tell us about your academic years? Who were your mentors at that time? How did your education prepare you for the decades to come?

Lisa Beck: My time at art school was the era of high conceptualism and semiotics. Semiotics- we studied everything in light of that. You know how, as a kid you make up games with other kids, and spend all your time arguing over the rules and no time actually playing? That’s how it was. A lot of discussion about the system of the interpretation of art- not much feeling or visual appreciation. We didn’t get much technical instruction. Painting was viewed as an anachronism, or an unhealthy fetish.

I did some installations and a film- in fact I got my BA in film, but I still made paintings throughout my time there. No one really paid attention to painting, so it was free of the rules of coolness and intellectuality. I’d say I got the most out of school from my interactions with my peers and just uninterrupted concentration on my work. How did this education prepare me? I guess I learned to be wary of "isms," and to rely on my own judgment.
Glimpse, 2003; acrylic paint on wall, lucite balls, cable; 80 x 50 x 40" installation view, White Columns, NY

BS: Since that time you have had a successful exhibition history in New York. You have been involved with several exhibits at Feature Inc. and White Columns... you have exhibited at Paula Cooper Gallery, Envoy, PS 1... the list goes on. What do you enjoy most about exhibiting?

LB: I most enjoy making the work, and in the case of the wall paintings, getting it to succeed in public, because of the deadline factor, and the fact that my studio is pretty small, and even though they are planned out, it’s always different on site. People are watching you work – it’s a bit nerve wracking. I don’t like to go to my own openings so much. I like for people to see my work, but I don’t like to be on display myself. I’ve been told that On Kawara stipulates that he will not attend his own openings- that sounds perfect to me.
View, 2002; acrylic paint on wall; 80 x 50 x 40"installation view, Feature Inc.

BS: Lisa, your art has been reviewed in Artnews, Artforum, Frieze and several other publications through the years. One could say that you have been very successful. What is your definition of success as far as creating art is concerned?

LB: That is a huge question- it can be answered in so many ways. A review- I guess that means someone noticed the work- that’s ok. Does someone else’s approval make it better, or their disapproval make it worse? A sale- I guess that means someone wanted to own the work- that’s ok. Did they understand it? Who knows? After a review or a sale, I still have to wash the dishes.
I think that an artwork is successful when it has an air of inevitability- when it seems to have reached its ultimate form.
Fountain, 1998; oil, alkyd on wood; 52 x 40"

BS: Allow me to ask some specific questions about your art. You have stated the following, "I’ve always appreciated the way we refer to an artwork as a "piece." For me, the artwork is a selection out of a continuum, like a snapshot is a piece of stopped time."... can you go into further detail about your views?

LB: An artwork is finite – even a film has a limited amount of time in which it takes place. Our perceptions and ideas are amorphous and evolving- at least mine are. So an artwork is an encapsulation of a particular moment in that evolution. There are other possibilities that may come out in other work or they may remain unexpressed.

BS: Would you say that you follow a certain philosophy with your work?

LB: No. There are certain concerns, certain interests that I have, and I employ different means to address them. Maybe the piece takes the form of a sculpture, painting, a combination of those things. Maybe it is completely abstract, or not. It's whatever works.
Red (heaven/hell) for S.P., 2006, acrylic on canvas, 80 x 56"

BS: My understanding is that you feel a work of art is never finished in that the manner in which the work is completed has unlimited possibilities to reach that end, correct? In that sense, would you say that a work of art is a continuing cycle... a life of its own, if you will?

LB: All of the work is part of a continuing process. It's not that a particular piece is never finished, but that the thought process is never finished. So I may address a particular idea in several different ways, but individual artworks do come to a conclusion. It's just that I don’t feel that there is only one valid conclusion. I don’t believe that any particular work or notion is "the answer."

To allow for or to encourage things I never saw coming, I've made installations that have components which can be rearranged: paintings combined with reflective objects, paintings with multiple parts, paintings on top of wall works, paintings that can be looked at through glass balls. And often, these are all in a room at once.

BS: You value the use of negative space and you connect it to the natural world and aspects of the universe. Can you go into further detail about that?

LB: Well, in solid matter there is a lot more space between atoms than there are atoms, even in really dense materials. This proportion of nothing to something hold true across the boards; another example is the "dark matter" that makes up the majority of the universe. I recently heard a discussion of this where a string theory scientist was explaining this phenomenon as the evidence of alternate, concurrent reality or realities. This is so interesting to me! What is unsaid or unseen is helping to form what is expressed. In my work I try to demonstrate the involvement of nothing with something. Nothing keeps it all together.
Influx, 2001, acrylic balls, cable, hardware, 14" diameter, var. heightPseudoisochromo #1,2001, acrylic paint on wall, 24 x 24" Installation view, Grazer Kunstverein, Graz, Austria

BS: So in your work you seek these connections, correct? Do you search for these connections in the work of others?

LB: My work is driven by certain preoccupations and obsessions, that can be seen as divided between the earthly - nature, the landscape, elemental forms - and the heavenly - science, astronomy, the universe. What interests me is the earthly AND the universal — the place where they meet or interact or blend. The earthly is a shorthand name for the observable aspects of reality, the stuff around us. The universal is a shorthand name for things that are really too vast or too tiny for us to grasp completely — that necessarily becomes a kind of abstraction. I'm concerned with where I stand, or where anyone stands, in relation to these aspects of existing reality … the act of observation of that place in between; visual awareness and perception as a way of understanding, like a filter. There's everything and there's us, and although we're part of the everything we also stand outside as we perceive, analyze, and annotate everything.

This is what interests me. Some other artists’ work deals with this too. Some doesn’t. If it’s there, hopefully I see it, but that isn’t the only criteria I have for appreciating the work of other artists.

BS: Speaking of other artists... are you influenced by any specific artist or art movement? Tell us about your influences...

LB: It’s not only artists, but writers and musicians as well. There are too many for a complete list, and it’s always changing. Here is a selection in no particular order: Charles Burchfield, Alien Beings, Barry Le Va, Hiroshige, NASA, Pavement, Imi Knoebel, Haruki Murakami, Daniel Figgis, the Wiener Werkstadt, Pema Chodron, landscape architect Jacques Wirtz, William Eggelston, Ernst Haeckel, Inuit poem entitled "Into My Head Rose", My Bloody Valentine, James Tiptree Jr., Tadanori Yokoo, landscape by an unknown artist I saw on a Chinese restaurant calendar, Giotto frescoes I saw in Italy last year, Ansel Adams, Flaming Lips...

BS: What are you working on at this time? Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

LB: I am working on multiple panel paintings. There are some exhibitions planned for next year.

Reflection, 2004; acrylic balls, concrete; 24.75 x 8 x 8"

BS: Do you have any advice for emerging artists?

LB: For me, art making is a means for addressing questions or feelings that really don’t have concrete answers. So I would pose some questions. What don’t you already know? Is this artwork that you’re making leading you there? Out of all the options that you have, why are you doing this?

BS: Finally, would you like to close with some more information about the thoughts, methods, and motives behind your art?

LB: Symmetry and mirroring are important in my work in terms of different kinds of reflection or refraction — the way that water mirrors in nature on a horizontal axis, or the way that a Rorschach pattern mirrors in abstraction on the vertical. Symmetry works as a way to make sense, with the emphasis on "make." Because really, it's a very simple device — you can take any bunch of stuff, dots, let's say. The first dot paintings I made were based on the paper towels I used to clean brushes with, and on their own they’re just random. But if they repeat, a pattern is born. I guess it's a coping mechanism for the brain to look for, and to construct patterns in order to avoid being overwhelmed by the barrage of perceptual information. It's an artificial view. But it also occurs in nature, and everywhere.

Circles are another constant for me. They have so many references: star, cell, atom, hole, whole, infinity. They appear most often in patterns, either as the positive or negative aspect. The acrylic balls that I use are part of the fascination with roundness. They focus and condense what's around them — a whole room in one small sphere. Easy to grasp, literally and figuratively. But the reflection is upside down and backwards. So it reveals itself as an illusion, although a very pretty one. And maybe it doesn't matter if we fool ourselves with this illusion that things match up and dance together in an orderly fashion. Because maybe there really is order beneath the chaos. Sometimes with art or science or with drugs one can catch a glimpse.

Lately I've been interested in mixing representational and abstract imagery. I can't say exactly how I translate those images to an artwork and I don't want to. I mean, I can have a picture around for years and one day it suddenly finds its way into a work, like a lost puzzle piece that finally turns up. Or maybe it just remains an inexplicit influence. I find planning too far ahead extremely boring. I can only go so far in that stage and then I have to start working and change my mind, change it back, mess it up, deal with that.

With the multiple panel paintings, I‘ve developed some new guidelines. One is that I can combine whatever types of imagery comes to mind. Another is that I don’t have to plan ahead how it will play out, thus the ability to change the order of the sections. I've looked at Japanese painted standing screens, and one of their attributes is that each section works as an image on its own. Because I'm separating the panels, I want them to be able to hold their own, so to speak. Each moment is part of a continuity of time, but when you stop to think about it, it separates from the flow. There’s a slight delay in the brain for the processing of perceptions, our eyes are blinking, we go to sleep, so our experience of the world is not continuous. We fill in the blanks. But the blanks are important too.
You can learn more about Lisa Beck by visiting the following website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Art Space Talk: Fred Wessel

Fred Wessel is a professor at the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford. Fred teaches drawing, egg tempera painting and lithography. He currently co-directs Workshops in Italy, bringing small groups of artists and art-lovers to Tuscany and Umbria to paint and study the Italian Renaissance. His work is included in many private and public collections including, The Museum of Modern Art, NY; The Brooklyn Museum, NY; The Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; The Library of Congress; The Wichita Museum of Art, KS; Smith College Museum, MA; The University of Tianjin Fine Arts College, People's Republic of China.

Venetian Scarf and Tassel, Tempera, 24" x 18"

Brian Sherwin: Fred, you studied at the University of Massachusetts. Can you recall your academic years? Who were your mentors at that time? What about your influences at that time?

Fred Wessel: I went to UMASS to study with Bill Patterson six years after earning a B.F.A. in Advertising Design/Illustration at Syracuse University. Bill was a grad student at Syracuse in the Printmaking Department and I took a printmaking course with him as an elective in the second semester of my senior year. He gave me a great gift….the love of drawing, which has served me well ever since.
I worked at an Ad Agency in NYC for a couple of years following my graduation from S.U. then set up a small cooperative printmaking studio in Boston. Six years later I decided to return to college to earn my M.F.A. I discovered that Patterson was teaching at UMASS and followed him there. He became my mentor and also became a great friend.
Bill has since retired and UMASS, unfortunately, has become a school that is no longer very friendly to the realist tradition.
Melancholia, Tempera with Gold Leaf, 14" x 18"

BS: Since those years you have went on to become an educator. From 1976 until present you have been an art instructor at The Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford. My understanding is that you are currently a Professor of Printmaking. Can you tell our readers about your educational philosophy? What do you expect from students? Also, how have you found balance between teaching and creating your personal work?

FW: I am like a utility player in baseball, Brian. Each semester I teach three courses selected from lithography, advanced graphics, freshman drawing, figure drawing and egg tempera painting.

My educational philosophy is simple; I expect a "marriage" of artistic vision and a mastery of the craft needed to execute it from my students. I am one who believes in first teaching students technique, which has become a dirty word in some of today’s art schools. My teaching effectiveness depends on my success in building a student’s self confidence then motivating the student to embrace the piece of artwork and do whatever is necessary to nurture it and let it grow.

The balance you speak of is difficult. I find my painting production decreases by a good thirty percent while I am teaching. Fortunately, I think I have created a balance by entering into a phased retirement program at the university. I will teach only one semester during each of the next 3 years after which I will retire in full. I adore my students….this will provide me a way to wean myself away from teaching them that which I have to offer them and continuing to interact with them without quitting cold turkey.

Jillian in Cucina, Tempera, 27" x 17"

BS: Fred, your art can be found in several public collections, including-- The Museum of Modern Art (NY), The Library of Co ngress, and The Brooklyn Museum. Your work is also in several college and university collections, including, Harvard University, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and S.U.N.Y. Where should our readers go to view your most current work? You are represented by The Arden Gallery, correct?

FW: Unfortunately, most of the works in the collections mentioned above are not on permanent display. The Evansville Museum (Evansville, Indiana) is an exception and has two paintings permanently displayed in its figure and still life collections. I am represented by the Arden Gallery, 129 Newbury Street, Boston, MA, and my work can always be seen there.

BS: Allow me to ask some specific questions about your art. My understanding is that you have long been interested in realism and that you utilize several traditional techniques-- such as the use of egg tempera and 14th Century painting methods. Can you further discuss this interest and the methods that you utilize?

FW: I am interested in playing with realism to idealize both positive and negative shape and form. I am speaking here about tweaking the abstract nature of every good piece of representational art. I love the paintings of Raphael who took this idealization to its height. Part of the inscription on his tomb in the Pantheon states that while Raphael was alive Nature feared that the beauty of his artwork would overtake the beauty that she could create.

I absolutely love the egg tempera process. I discovered it for myself in 1984 on my first trip to Italy. The rich beauty of the early Renaissance art in the Uffizi Gallery quite literally brought me to tears. I paint using the techniques documented in the early 15th century by Cennino Cennini in his book Il Libro dell’Arte. Tempera is the perfect medium for someone like me who loves to draw.
The tempera process is closer to drawing than it is to painting, with colors and tones slowly developed using a myriad of small, crosshatched lines. Luminous colors are achieved by layering thin films of these tones with veils of intense glazes. I came to this medium through a career in printmaking. Both require a love of "process" and patience.
Molleye's Gazing Back, Tempera with Gold Leaf, 15" x 16"

BS: Can you go into further detail about your influences? What specific artists have inspired you?

FW: Again, Brian, it is the great early Renaissance masters like Ghirlandaio, Mantegna, Botticelli, Simone Martini and especially, Fra Angelico that have had the most influence on my work. Whenever I am in Rome, I visit the grave of Fra Angelico in the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva and bring a gift of a rose, a used brush or something else I deem appropriate at the time. The serenity in his work, his color and magical use of gold always humble me. He is, without a doubt, my "main man". I have become a pretty good gilder and can make my background gold do many things yet I am absolutely humbled by Fra Angelico’s enchanting use of the gilding process.
Last fall I was a visiting professor with the University of Georgia’s study abroad program in Cortona, Italy. The crown jewel of the little town’s formidable art collection is Fra Angelico’s Annunciation, found at the Museo Diacesano. Designs punched with a variety of tools into the gilded angel’s wing reflect light in controlled patterns and make it visually kinetic…. the wings almost seem to flutter as one views them from different vantage points in the room. I would go down to the little museum that housed this beauty at least twice a week, unsuccessfully trying to figure out the masterful technique that Angelico used to enable this illusion to take place.

I look to these artists of the early Renaissance as a source of inspiration that I can use along with contemporary content and image making. I look to the Renaissance as the artists of that time looked back to early Greek and Roman art--not as a reactionary but as one who rediscovers and reapplies important but forgotten visual stimuli.
The Turkish Scarf, Egg Oil Emulsion, 16 1/2" x 12"

BS: As a painter interested in realism and traditional techniques and methods of painting... are you concerned that those traditions are being lost in schools today? Or do you feel that they will always be with us in one way or the other? Does the direction of the mainstream art world concern you?

FW: I am inclined to put my faith in the latter, Brian. Yes, in some cases, traditions are being lost in some schools but realism/representational has survived and flourished since the beginnings of art and will continue to survive because it is timeless. I can anecdotally state that my classes are always fully enrolled and often have a waiting list for openings. There will always be students who want to learn how to capture an event, a personality or even a simple subject, infusing it with the sensitivity of color and form while sharing this with the viewer in a realist vision.

I am not at all concerned with the direction of the mainstream art world. The art world is a huge place and there is ample room for us all. As I get older, I become less interested in the ever-changing "isms" and where I fit in or don’t fit in the general scheme of things. I am passionate about my painting and that is all that I care about. I just want to finish the work to the best of my ability and put it out there… then begin a new piece. The public and critics can sort out which is my best and which is my worst and where it all fits or doesn’t fit into the grand scheme of the art world.
Becca (Tuscany), Tempera with Gold and Palladium Leaf, 9" x 6"

BS: Tell us about the workshops that you have been involved with. How can our readers find out more about them?

FW: After my 1984 trip I realized that I needed to return to Italy to carefully study the masters that had so impressed and influenced me. Bill Patterson and I started a workshop abroad for students from UMASS and the Hartford Art School. Our original workshops included visiting artists such as Gregory Gillespie, William Beckman, Jack Beal, Sondra Freckelton, Scott Prior and many others. This evolved into Workshops in Italy, a series of two week workshops in Tuscany and Umbria for artists and art-lovers.
We still bring a small, select group of art students with us but the trip has evolved into a workshop for adult artists of all levels of expertise. I am now doing the workshops with Jeremiah Patterson, Bill’s oldest son. I teach traditional egg tempera in our Italian studio while Jeremiah takes members of the group painting "en plein air". Teaching in Italy is a real thrill since it affords one the opportunity to work and visit the many fine examples of tempera available in Italy’s many museums and churches.
Our workshops offer our participants a unique opportunity to work in breathtaking landscapes, study great art treasures, get to know some of our wonderful Italian friends and sample the best of Italian wines and cuisine. We believe one can’t fully understand the art of Italy without sampling the food, wine and culture of this amazing country. Those interested can find more info at:

BS: You paint still life, flowers, and figures... do you favor one over the others? Also, would you say that you are more interested in the process of painting itself than the end result?

FW: My work (paintings) started with still life painting, which I still enjoy producing once in a while. My flower pieces came out of a past association with Sherry French Gallery in NYC. Sherry often had themed shows that she encouraged her gallery artists to be involved in. One such themed show was the annual "February Flowers" exhibition. I painted a number of floral pieces for these exhibits but haven’t done another since leaving the gallery last year. Like still life painting, I still enjoy painting flowers…and I think I still have more of these paintings left in me….but my real joy now is my figure painting.

I’ve known Molleye Maxner, the model in many of my figure pieces, since she was a young child and started painting her when she was in her early twenties. Molleye has a dance company with her husband, Kelly, has traveled the world and is passionate and knowledgeable about many things. I work from photos and, if possible, directly from my model. As she’d sit for me we have many discussions about our travels, her dance experiences in places like Turkey and Vietnam or courses she was involved with at Mount Holyoke College. I strived to put all of that history into the portrait paintings I did of her. I know most of my models quite well and it is important to me that the painting reveal their inner as well as their outer beauty.

I do love the process of painting…it is very meditative…yet it is the final painting and the viewer’s connection with it that interests me most.
The Red Dress, Tempera with Gold Leaf, 25" x 19"

BS: Tell us more about your process... what is the preliminary work that goes into your paintings? For example, do you draw often? Do you keep journals?

FW: I start a painting "in the 21st century" by developing its plans and color studies on my computer with Photoshop. I used to do them as watercolor studies in bound journals (part of me misses this ritual) but I can accomplish what used to take me 2 or 3 days to do in a single afternoon. This gives me much more pure painting time.

After planning my image, I shut down my computer, mentally return to the 15th century and begin executing my painting. I often listen to books on tape, opera and even Gregorian chants while painting.

The tempera painting begins as a full, tonal drawing in ink on my hand prepared panel. I often start by doing a silverpoint drawing then cover it with a fully developed ink drawing. If I am applying gold to my painting using the traditional water gilding technique, it must be done now. After gilding, thin layers of color (pigments mixed with egg yolk) are carefully applied until the painting is complete. A larger painting can keep me busy for four to five months.

BS: What have you been working on lately? Can you describe the direction that your work has taken as of late?

FW: I have always used gold leaf in the background of my paintings. In past paintings I have used it decoratively by tooling ornate patterns into the gold. Recently I began drawing into, and with, the gold by using selective tooling and burnishing techniques. I have been working on a series that has drawings of charts of the constellations in the gold background. The charts are interpretations of 17th century engravings made by the astronomer artist John Flaamsteed.

I found Flamsteed’s work on a large and beautiful web site, Atlas Coelestis, which is the creation of Italian historian, Felice Stoppa, of Milan. I emailed Stoppa and asked for permission to use Flamsteed’s work in the background of my painting, Becca (Sundial). Felice took an interest in my work and we became friends. He sent me a hand made, limited edition book of Flamsteed’s engravings and I made a silverpoint drawing of his daughter, Giulia, for him. My wife, Lee-Ann and I finally got to meet and visit with him during a 3 day excursion from Cortona to Milano this past fall.

I have also started to create drawings by laying different colors of gold one next to the other. I am now working on a larger painting that references Fibonacci’s spiral in the gold background behind my model as she contemplates this sacred geometry in the simplicity of a conch shell.

Tunic and Pearls, Tempera with Oil Glaze and Gold, 12" x 16"

BS: Will you be involved with any exhibits in 2008?

FW: I had a very successful show at Arden last Spring and I am in the process of amassing enough work to have a show there again, probably in 2009. It takes me at least two years to produce enough work for a one person show. I am also very excited to be involved in the planning stages of a three-person tempera show in an important gallery in Chelsea, also for 2009. Unfortunately, it is too early in the planning process to elaborate on it at this time.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art and the direction that you have taken?

FW: I want my work to possess a certain spirituality (not religious) and radiate with a beauty that deeply affects the viewer. I can’t help but think about something my good friend, Jack Beal, said about his early painting goals. Jack once told me he wanted to make paintings "so beautiful that the viewer couldn’t ignore them!"

I believe that in our search for novelty in post-modernist art making, we often lose touch with certain basics: beauty, grace, harmony and visual poetry are nowadays rarely considered important criteria in evaluating contemporary works of art. I strive to re-introduce these basics back into my work.
You can learn more about Fred Wessel by visiting his website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

Monday, April 21, 2008

Art Space Talk: Camille Patha

Camille Patha has been an important part of the Northwest art scene since 1970, when she was invited to participate with the famous Washington State delegation to the Oska World’s Fair. Her work is in numerous public collections including the Tacoma Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, Jundt Art Museum, and the collections of numerous cities in the state of Washington.

Accelerant Red, Oil and Encaustic on Canvas, 36 x 48", 2006

Brian Sherwin: Camille, you were born in Seattle and currently reside there. Would you say that your experiences of living in Seattle have influenced your work directly?

Camille Patha: Though I live and paint in Seattle, my work has had several other important influences... primarily my color sense. When I moved to Arizona to attend Arizona State University, my pallet became very intense and colorful. The sun blazed everyday and the light was clear and intoxicating. To this day my palette remains pure and seductive. This is very unlike the Northwest climate, which is dark, moist and sometimes somber.
I returned to the Northwest after two years and earned my Bachelor and Masters of Fine Arts degrees from the University of Washington. Other influences have been my travels to Europe, Canada and Mexico. Seattle’s bonus for me is its thriving arts community, public support of the arts (I served seven years on the King County Arts Commission), knowledgeable collectors and galleries and a great art museum.
Lucent Thicket, Oil and Encaustic on Canvas, 103 x 75", 2005

BS: You studied at the University of Washington and Arizona State University. Who were your mentors during your academic years? How did those years help guide you on your artistic direction?

CP: Many professors had many things to say. However, the most influential I think were the visiting professors from other areas, for example Charles Cajori, a New York painter, and William Siebner, a German painter from Canada.

BS: Can you discuss some of your influences? Are you influenced by any specific artists or art movements?

CP: I started as an abstract painter, working first in oil then switching to acrylic. In the 1980’s I became restless with the absence of realism. So I experimented and developed of full language of realism. The settings were very surrealistic and intriguing. I stayed in that mindset for about fifteen years. I longed again for the purity of abstraction and its broader range of meaning – I went back to oil and have since included some encaustic in the works. It’s hard to name any specific artists who influenced me, but certainly the surrounding world of art has been part of my awareness.
Present Company, Oil on Canvas, 48 x 48", 2007

BS: I really enjoy your piece titled Present Company. I'm also fond of New Blue. Can you tell us about these works? What do they represent to you? Also, tell us about your state of mind while working... for example, is your work intuitive? Do you attempt to block outside thoughts while working?

CP: The creative process is very complicated. I am totally isolated (no music or radio) when I work. My fullest attention is focused on the weaving of color and form. I use a lot of transparent color and shapes, intricately placed to give the illusion of deep and shallow surfaces. You mentioned two paintings on my website, "Present Company" and "New Blue". Both are I think interesting paintings. The pallet range of each is quite different but there is a harmony of intent in each. Though I always prefer the larger paintings which to me are more satisfying.
New Blue, Oil on Canvas, 2007

BS: Camille, can you tell our readers about your process. For example, you utilize oil and encaustic on canvas often. You have also utilized airbrush.

CP: I use encaustic in a sparing quantity. So many artists I think use encaustic in a very gimmicky way, it can become a cliché that waxy look can become a substitute for painting ability. I also use airbrush in small amounts.

BS: I've read that when you work it is as if you are surrounded by a constant blur of energy. You move all around the canvas with active strokes of the brush. Working on large surfaces-- you do not use help from assistants. In that sense, the energy captured in your work is purely you-- so to speak. There is a very physical side to your work as far as the movement involved. Do you gain inspiration from the act of creating itself? Do you tap into that energy?

CP: When I work on a ten foot canvas, of course, I move around. Usually up and down a ladder. My work is not gestural, but carefully planned and executed. Yes, I do need and have lots of energy.

BS: When I view your work I often discover fragments of figures hidden within. It is as if the paintings take on a narrative of their own. The paintings remind me of a combination of layers that one can pull back with his or her mind in order to discover new meaning and visions. With that said, I've read that you avoid narrative consciously during the act of creating and that you view your work as being purely abstract... do you find it interesting when viewers observe something in your work that you did not set out to do? When viewing your work do you ever 'see' things other than your original intention?

CP: Yes I agree my paintings are multi-layered with transparent and solid complexities. Viewers each bring to a painting what they have within themselves. I am pleased when someone comprehends what I am doing and understands that it is intended as the purest of abstraction and void of figurative imagery. But I can’t help if people read their own interpretation into the work. As long as the viewer enjoys being in the presence of the painting and finds it stimulating, then with that I am okay.
Primary Flux, Oil on Canvas, 68 x 60", 2005

BS: With the question above in mind-- are you interested in psychology as far as your work is concerned? If so, can you go into further detail about that?

CP: My work is the culmination of my education and years of experience. It is a composite of my complete psyche both left and right brain sides. Psychologically, it speaks to everything I was, and now am - that which is very apparent as well as the hidden under fold of my personality. The results are unique and as individual as my finger prints.

BS: When I interviewed Sylvia Sleigh she discussed the difficulty that women have had in the art world. She did mention that things are better now than they were a few decades ago... but made it clear that there is still a division between male and female artists-- at least in the gallery scene. You have been very active since the early 70s... what can you say about these issues through the years? In your opinion, how can we combat sexism and other forms of prejudice in the art world?
CP: My friend Judy Chicago has always been a fervent advocate for feminism. Clearly, women artists are treated differently from their male counterparts. Though, as with racism, it is hard to pinpoint. As a young painter I used only my first name initials so no one would know I was a woman. But as I became more and more well known I dropped them and now use my first and last name. I know my work was treated more fairly when people didn’t know I was a woman. I think things are somewhat better today. Certainly there has been change.

BS: Camille, what are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers some insight into your current work?

CP: I’m continuing my investigation into the silent language of color and its relationship to space. I find this search exciting and with inexhaustible possibilities. I have just completed nine large paintings in the current series and am at work on an eight foot work now.

BS: Your work can be found in numerous public collections, including the Seattle Art Museum and Jundt Art Museum. Where can our readers observe your most current pieces-- aside from your studio... do you have any upcoming exhibits?

CP: I will have another show at Davidson Contemporary Gallery ( in 2009. And I’m anticipating the Tacoma Art Museum’s new show "Past Mystics" in late 2009.
Phoenix, Oil on Canvas, 92 x 81", 2004

BS: I understand that a collection of your art was published. Where can our readers purchase a copy of that book?

CP: Yes, the beautiful new hardback book Geography of Desire by art critic and author Matthew Kangas with preface by Judy Chicago is on sale now at book stores and through Partners West and World Wide Books: Davidson Contemporary Gallery or Normandy Park Editions, Elizabeth Paulsen manager.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art and the direction you have taken with it?

CP: I have spent my life as a painter, chasing the illusive butterfly of creativity. My work is a composite equally challenging and satisfying. My current work is for me the most satisfying and powerful of my career. All artists are basically paranoid, they say they aren’t, but they are. It is important for me that my work is taken seriously. Fashion changes, but good art endures.

You can learn more about Camille Patha by visiting her website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Art Space Law: Nonprofit Fiscal Sponsorship

Gary Schuster, an attorney with Jacobowitz & Gubits, LLP (Walden , New York), has once again offered his time and knowledge-- this time concerning nonprofit fiscal sponsorship.

Brian Sherwin: Gary, what can you tell us about nonprofit fiscal sponsorship? How does it work and what do artists need to know?

Gary Schuster: Many arts organizations are structured as tax exempt, not-for-profit corporations rather than for-profit entities. This allows the entity to seek contributions from donors who can take advantage of the tax-deductibility of qualified charitable donations. However, forming and operating a not-for-profit corporation, and applying for tax-exemption, can be daunting. Also, some artists seek funding for projects that are temporary and do not need to form a corporation that, theoretically, can exist perpetually. A vehicle that enables unincorporated persons or projects to obtain the benefits of charitable donations is fiscal sponsorship.

In fiscal sponsorship in an arts setting, the artist partners with a pre-existing tax-exempt entity, the sponsor. Once the artist finds donors for her project, the tax-exempt entity can accept the donations and provide the donors with the necessary documentation for their tax deductions.

One requirement of fiscal sponsorship is that the intended activity of the artist comes within the declared charitable purposes of the sponsor. For example, an artist could not seek fiscal sponsorship from a tax-exempt hospital. The hospital’s charitable purposes probably do not include arts and cultural activities. The purposes of an entity are found in the Articles of Incorporation that were filed with the State when it was formed. It will not do to simply ask the President or other officer what the entity’s purposes are. The artist needs to confirm that the Articles of Incorporation include arts or cultural activities. Failure to do so could put at risk the tax deductibility of contributions received.

The sponsor has many legal and financial duties and obligations. The sponsor will receive the donations and give the donors the receipts that will be used in claiming tax deductions. The sponsor will pay the suppliers or vendors that the artist needs to pay to implement her project. The artist, quite literally, may never touch a single penny of the donations. The sponsor will maintain financial books and records concerning the donations and expenditures. The sponsor will prepare and file the annual reports and tax returns required by federal and state laws. The sponsor is also required to closely supervise the use of the contributed funds to insure they are used lawfully, efficiently, and for the declared charitable purposes. The sponsor is primarily liable for the use of the funds, both to the donors and to the IRS. The sponsor will keep close tabs on what the artist is doing. If an artist is not comfortable with that kind of supervision, fiscal sponsorship may not be the right choice for the artist.

Entities that are willing to serve as fiscal sponsors are generally not willing to take the next step, that being, finding actual donors for the artist’s project. The artist must still find the donors. However, artists may find that some donors are more comfortable in contributing, knowing that financial management of the artist’s project will be handled by an experienced entity.

A sponsorship should be the subject of a written agreement between artist and sponsor. Sponsors are usually paid for their services, in a range from 3% to 10% of the funds administered. While many sponsorship projects are short-term, sponsorship is also appropriate for the long-term. Sometimes, sponsors don’t just manage finances, but help develop and promote the artist more generally.

Somewhat surprisingly, fiscal sponsorship is rather rare and underutilized. The benefit to artists is obvious, but potential sponsors also benefit by being able to pursue their corporate goals without having to conceive, implement and closely manage suitable projects. Fiscal sponsorship should be explored by both artists and tax-exempt arts entities.

The information in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice for any particular person or circumstance, or for Internal Revenue Code purposes as described in IRS Circular 230. This article is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney based on your particular circumstances.

Links of Interest:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Art Space Talk: Vito Acconci

Vito Acconci has developed a diverse body of work through the decades and has been tagged with just as many labels by art critics-- 'Pioneer of Performance', 'Godfather of Transgression', and 'Master of Conceptualism'... just to name a few. Vito has explored poetry, performance, film and video, sound, sculpture, photography, and architecture.

The Brooklyn-based artist is currently focused on architecture and landscape design that integrates public and private space. He is the founder of Acconci Studio, a group of architects who design projects for public spaces-streets and plazas, gardens and parks, transportation centers, and building lobbies. The architectural practice is based in Brooklyn, New York.

Vito studied at Holy Cross College and the University of Iowa. He has taught at numerous institutions, among them the California Institute of the Arts, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, San Francisco Art Institute, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, School of Visual Arts in New York, Parsons School of Design, and Yale University.

Through the years Vito has participated in numerous exhibitions-- including exhibits at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Tate Liverpool, and the Guggenheim Museum. His work can be found in public and private collections throughout the world.

Diary of a Body 1969-1973, installation-- Barbara Gladstone Gallery

Brian Sherwin: Vito, I've read that your father took you to museums and opera houses when you were a child. Can you recall these early artistic influences? How did these childhood experiences help you find your path as an adult?

Vito Acconci: He took me to the Metropolitan Museum and the metropolitan Opera the way you would go to any other place; they were part of everyday life. My father read me Dante in Italian (I didn’t know Italian) but he also read me Faulkner; he played me Verdi, but also Cole Porter. Because of my father I didn’t have to find my path; that path was already set – in order to rebel I would have had to have become a doctor or a lawyer. But I didn’t have to rebel, because my father made that path fun. My father’s language was a dictionary of puns: ‘What’s honeymoon salad? Lettuce alone. Don’t look now, Mayonnaise is dressing…’ Words made the world fall apart: it was like living in a Marx Brothers movie.

Fan City, convertible architectural unit, 1981

BS: Vito, you have been called many things during your career-- the 'Pioneer of Performance', 'Godfather of Transgression', and 'Master of Conceptualism' come to mind. What do you think about labels like this? When people try to place you in a group, so to speak? Would you rather they simply focus on your work?

VA: Everybody uses labels: they give you a handle on things – an over-simplified handle, sure, but without labels, without ads, without words, the world would be an indistinguishable mass, a blur. You can hope, maybe, that people ascribe so many labels to you that none wins out…

BS: Vito, I've read that you do not consider yourself an artist. You view yourself as a designer. Can you go into further detail about that? Have you always viewed it that way? Also, can you explain others ways that your philosophy has changed-- evolved-- through the years? Or was it really an issue of just finding yourself?

VA: In 1969, when I realized the stuff wasn’t poetry anymore, wasn’t writing, I wanted desperately to be called an ‘artist.’ In the mid-70’s, when I couldn’t do performances anymore, when the stuff became installations, I desperately wanted the work to be called ‘sculpture.’ In the beginning of the 80’s, when my stuff was meant for people to use – in the mid-80’s, when the stuff was usable as furniture – at the end of the 80’s, when I stopped working as a single agent and formed Acconci Studio – then I wanted, and I still want, the work to be called ‘design,’ ‘architecture’.
It matters what people call you because what they call you shapes how they see you, it shapes what they expect of you, what they ask you to do, no matter what it is that you actually do. As long as I’m called an artist, our work won’t be taken seriously as architecture: the ‘art-part,’ whatever that is, will come first, and use is secondary, whereas for us the two are inextricable together – we want use whose plot is thickened.

Back to your question about change of philosophy: art has viewers, and I was never comfortable with users – gradually, I accepted the fact that my work needed participants, inhabitants, users – and that’s what design has, that’s what architecture has.

Back to names again: yes, it mattered to me at the end of the 60’s that other people called me an artist, but I never called myself an artist; I was an ‘art-doer,’ an ‘art-agent,’ a ‘situation-maker’ – I wanted to be something, do something, that could be factually proven.

BS: Vito, you started out as a poet, editing 0 To 9 with Bernadette Mayer in the late 1960s. It was at this time that you started to do performance and video art-- using your own body as a subject. Can you recall why you decided to venture into that form of expression?

VA: I didn’t think of my body as a subject; I thought of it as a means, as an instrument – my body walked, did exercises, turned in on itself and turned on itself, interacted with another body. I did what the time was doing, I did what everybody was doing at the time, maybe in a slightly more concentrated way: it was a time when the common language was ‘finding yourself,’ as if the self was something you could separated from the rest of the person, as if the self was something to be contemplated, as if the self was a precious jewel. I did what Neil Young was doing, what Van Morrison was doing…

Seedbed, installation/performance, january 1972 (at the Sonnabend Gallery).

BS: Vito, in the 1970s you expanded your process by utilizing audio-visual installations. During that period you created Seedbed. In Seedbed you lay hidden underneath a gallery-wide ramp that was installed at the Sonnabend Gallery. As visitors entered you vocalized-- into a loudspeaker-- about your sexual fantasies. I've read that you did this while masturbating. This piece was considered controversial for the time. Can you recall your motives behind it? What were you attempting to convey?

VA: It wasn’t about ‘conveying’; it wasn’t that there was a theme, a meaning, that you could phrase in some other way – in writing, say, in talking – and then you demonstrated it in some situation, in some activity. The aim was in the opposite direction: you set up a situation, you performed an action, so that you – and others, the receivers – could see what complex, what mix of meaning and themes might possibly be stirring inside.
In the case of Seedbed: I didn’t want to be a point, a target, a focal-point in front of visitors to the gallery – so I would disappear into the architecture of the room, I would become part of the floor – therefore a ramp was built, so that I could be under the floor, under the space where visitors walked – I crawled around this space, it’s highest point was two, two and a half feet high, I crawled around under visitors’ feet -- once I had titled the piece Seedbed (a synonym for floor, under current, sub-structure), I knew what my goal had to be: I had to produce seed, the space I was in should become a bed of seed, a field of seed – in order to produce seed, I had to masturbate – in order to masturbate, I had to excite myself.
I could hear visitors’ footsteps on top of me, I could build sexual fantasies on those footsteps, those sexual fantasies could keep my activity going, keep my masturbation going – but the visitors had to know what I was doing, so, just as I heard visitors’ footsteps on top of me, they had to hear me under them – so I spoke my fantasies aloud: I came, a visitor might think I was doing it just for her, just for him – my goal of producing seed led to my interaction with visitors and their interaction, like it or not, with me…
TELE-FURNI-SYSTEM, multichannel video installation with monitors, speakers, and steel and pipe armature, Dimensions, videos, and number of components variable, 1997

BS: Vito, your work has often allowed viewer participation. May I ask why you like viewers to be involved with your work? Do you view it as permitting them to take part in the overall creation of the work-- or do you see those who participate as a part of the piece itself? In other words, do you view the onlookers as materials, so to speak?

VA: The condition of art is: the viewer is here and the art is there – so the viewer is in a position of desire, there are ‘Do not touch’ signs, the viewer frustrated, those ‘Do not touch’ signs are reminders that art is more expensive than people… I wanted something different than the passive viewer… Yes, I know, the viewer is in a state of contemplation, but maybe I don’t understand contemplation, I don’t know how to prove thinking, I wanted a viewer to be active, to be doing something.
Once I started doing installation in the mid-70’s, there were two conditions I started with: the site – a gallery or museum space – and its (temporary) inhabitants -- I couldn’t start thinking about a piece until I had a place: once a place was given to me, for a three-week show, for a three-month show, then I could start to think -- I could find the specific quirks of this space, I could try to do something here that, ideally, I could do nowhere else, ideally the installation couldn’t be repeated somewhere else (if it were repeated, it would have no meaning, or it would have a completely different meeting)… Once I was thinking about the place, I was thinking about its people: a piece in New York had to be different from a piece in Los Angeles-- had to be different from a piece in Milan – what would people do here? how could I pressure them? how might they fight back?...
housing project in Beaumont, 2006

BS: Vito, your recent installations have focused on the architecture and landscape design that integrates public and private space. Can you go into further detail about this interest? Why did you decide to concentrate on that interest?

VA: What drew me to design was: something can be done, designed, re-done, for all, for any of the possible occasions of everyday life – yes, we can design a building, but we can also design a glass, a spoon…Clothing is the first architecture: skin and bones are inside clothing – then the body-inside-clothing is inside an arm-chair – then the body-inside-clothing-inside-armchair is inside a room – then the room is inside a building, and the building in inside a street, and the street is inside a city…
Seoul Performing Arts Center, 2005 winning project.

BS: Vito, due to your interest in architecture you founded 'Acconci Studio', a group of architects who design projects for public spaces-streets and plazas, gardens and parks, building lobbies and transportation centers. The architectural practice is based in Brooklyn , New York . Why did you decide to do this? Also, what projects are being worked on at this time? Can you tell us more about the studio and the architects who work there?

VA: Reason #1: I wanted to do architecture, but I didn’t know how, I had to work with people who did know how. Reason #2 might be, ultimately, more important: I became afraid that, if you begin something alone, from only one person, if you begin something private, then it can end only private, it can never come out of itself – so, if you want something to be public, you have to start at least semi-public, at least quasi-public: public starts with the number 3 – 1 is a solo, 2 is a couple or a mirror-image, 3 starts an argument, and that’s when public begins…

We’re fishing up a perimeter for an apartment-complex in Toronto : the slats of a fence twist and warp and braid to become wind-screens, seats for passer-by. We’re in the middle of a design for a bridge

that doubles as a restaurant: the bridge is over a lock, when a shop comes in the bridge has to retract, people stay in the restaurant as it coils up like a snake. We’re beginning a prototype for pre-fab housing, it doesn’t have to be modular anymore, it can be para-modular, custom-modular, a video-game between designer and buyer…

The way the Studio doesn’t work is: I have an idea and everybody carries it out. The way the Studio does work is: sometimes – not always – I start a project with a general method: that’s what I do best, general ideas, overall structures, I’m not so good at details – then we talk a lot, discuss and argue, compare hand-sketches, scrawled notes, computer models, rough physical models, and all the ideas change so that nobody knows anymore which is whose, and nobody cares…

The Studio is a mix of math & science (their world) and language & poetry (for better or worse, my world). The Studio is a mix of scripts, directives: computer-scripting, codes (their world) and narratives, wild-theory (again, like it or not, my world).

United Bamboo store in Daikanyama, Tokyo, 2003. steel mesh, steel pipe, faceted glass, PVC projection material, fluorescent lights, photo-booth camera, computer screen, video projection, i-pods & headphones.
interior of United Bamboo store

BS: Vito, do you hand-pick the architects who work in your studio? What advice would you have for a young architect who wishes to work with you?

VA: I always interview a prospect with at least one other person in the Studio. Sure, I hand-pick the people who work here; but nothing’s private here -- everybody else in the Studio has a hand, someway or other, in hand-picking them, too.

A person who works here now has to know 3-D computer programs, computer-scripting, like second languages; the person has to be a generalist – totally committed to architecture but at the same time in love with music, movies…

BS: Vito, I've read that you see a direct connection between the music of the moment and the visual art that is being produced. What music do you tend to listen to while working? Would you say that music and the many aspects of visual art walk hand-in-hand?

VA: No, no connection between visual art and music. And no connection between sculpture and architecture. But an intimate, inherent connection between architecture and music: both music and architecture make a surrounding, an ambience -- you can do other things while listening to music, while in the middle of architecture – architecture and music both nurture multi-focus, the adaptable behavior of the 21st century…

Installation view at Kenny Schachter ROVE-- 2005

BS: Vito, You have taught at many institutions-- including, Yale University , School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Parsons School of Design. What is your teaching philosophy? Also, how did you find balance between teaching and creating your art? Many have noted that their is often a conflict and that one ends up overtaking the other. Did you experience this problem?

VA: I always, everyday, have problems with the work I’m doing, the work the Studio is doing – it’s hard, then, to push my own problems aside and concentrate on a student’s problems…But, at the same time, that’s probably what makes teaching possible for me: I can admit to my own problems, and use them as a reference when I talk with students…

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your work?

VA: Sometimes I can’t distinguish the Studio’s work from the work of architects we pay attention to; everybody’s using the same methods, and doing the same project. Maybe nobody’s made the right, fertile mistake yet; certainly we haven’t. Yes, I love the idea of a sign of the times – like the Nouvelle Vague of the early 60’s -- but I hate the fact of the generic.
You can learn more about Vito Acconci by visiting the following website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Art Space Talk: Connie Noyes

Connie Noyes is an award winning painter whose work has been exhibited in galleries in Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and abroad in London, Florence, and Malaysia. In the 4th Annual Florence Biennale in 2003, she took a 5th place prize in painting from a field of 500 painters. She has been selected for prestigious residencies, including the Emaar International Art Symposium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (2005), the Thupelo International Workshop in Cape Town, South Africa (2005) and the 6th Annual International Symposium of Art in Bulgaria (2006). Connie's work is in a number of public and private collections including that of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she earned her MFA.

Which Way is UP? No. 10, beeswax, oil, asphalt on canvas, 24" x 24", 2007

Brian Sherwin: Connie, you earned an MFA at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. Can you tell us about your educational background? Did you have any influential instructors? Also, do you have any advice for artists who are considering the academic study of art?

Connie Noyes: Wow… The Art Institute was a long time ago. I was VERY young. I actually studied photography when I was at SAIC. I never really considered myself a photographer though. My photographs looked more like paintings, very manipulated and the photograph was just a jumping off place or the skeleton of the work. I think at that time I was influenced most by artists like Rauschenberg. I was at SAIC in 1979 and 80 and a retrospective of his work was traveling around the country. I stumbled into it 4 times in different cities.

I also have a degree in psychology and worked as an Art Therapist for 9 years, 4 in private practice seeing mostly adult clients. Training as a therapist has probably impacted me the most in regards to my art. I find my creative process to be very similar to sitting/working with a client in therapy. This training taught me not to be afraid of the chaos in the work, to trust the process, not impose my will, follow the work and stay in the moment...

I started painting in 1998. I was a therapist at the time. I took a class with Larry Robinson who teaches painting and drawing at UC Berkeley as well as in a group studio he runs. .He was a wonderful teacher. He met every student where they were in terms of skill and drive. He was instrumental in helping me find my voice in paint.
Once I began to paint I was on a mission. It is truly a passion and I have never stopped. I closed my private practice in 2001 to pursue art full time. I have never looked back. Someone told me at the time...."making a living from your art will only work if you give yourself no other options." So far this has proven true!

My advice to younger artists: an MFA is helpful. The most important thing I got from it was I how to think about my work and form a cohesive body of work.... to take an idea, a structure a material and push it to the limits. Since I have a bit of ADD, I am currently working on three or four different bodies of work and I still feel there is more for me to learn and explore from each one. I find the most important thing is that I pay attention to the life I am living. This is my best source material. It keeps me and my work honest.

Which Way is UP? No 2, beeswax, oil, asphalt on canvas, 24" x 24", 2007

BS: Connie, my understanding is that you are currently represented only by SFMOMA Artists Gallery, but have been represented by numerous galleries in the past. What advice can you give about the artist/gallery relationship?

CN: Honestly, I haven’t had much luck lately with the galleries who represent me and just let go of a major gallery for reasons I would rather not discuss. Just say, even with a contract, galleries don’t always fulfill their end of the now I am a little gun shy. GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING is my advice. I am still trying to break the code with the gallery scene, so if anyone has any advice for ME, I would love to hear it!!!

Actually, I recently hired an agent in NY to help me figure out where my work belongs and how to get it in front of gallerists, curators etc. who can further my career. Through my agent, I did just begin working with a gallery in Alba Italy--

The SF MOMA Artist Gallery is a different situation entirely. The Gallery was started by Marian Parmenter 30 years ago as a way to support Bay Area Artists. She just retired last year. It is primarily a rental gallery, though sales do happen... often. The Artist Gallery carries the work of over 1200 artists. Everyone who works there is a gem and wonderfully supportive to the artists. I don’t think they have a website. The rental gallery is part of the larger SFMOMA website.
Within the past two years I have been working closely with several art consultants, Soho Myriad in Atlanta, Isabella Trimper outside of New York, Daniel fine Art in Southern California to name a few. The consultants work VERY HARD and these relationships have been much more lucrative financially for me than with the galleries. I also have a more personal relationship with the consultants in the sense that we work closer together to make things happen. Now don’t get me wrong, if there is a gallery who believes in my work and has a strong market for it, well, perfect!!!
Emerge, beeswax, oil and asphalt on canvas, 36" x 72", 2007

BS: In your opinion, what should artists think about when seeking gallery representation?

CN: There are two questions to ask yourself when seeking representation...Do I want to sell my work? Or Do I want to get known? They can be and usually are two very different things, although a good gallery can do both.

If you are wanting to get known, the key is to find venues that get reviewed, gallerists who have connections with important collectors, museums, critics and are willing to promote your work in these places. I am convinced in addition to having good work, it doesn’t hurt to have someone create "buzz" for you. I say that and then I think of this saying we had in grad school... well I won’t repeat it; just say networking is important. Nobody is going to come looking for you. Art Fairs are super important right now internationally. When looking for a gallery I think this is an important consideration right now.

For the past couple of years though, I have been more focused on sales, with the goal being to be self-sufficient as an artist. Though it has been tough financially at times, in general, the market has been really good to me. In addition to Art Consultants, I participate in Open Studios and am ALWAYS willing to talk about my work.

One other comment... I think as artists we are often so grateful to have representation we will engage in relationships with galleries that are often detrimental to our career, not to mention our self-worth! I know I have been guilty of this. I also tell people, especially in the US, it may be different in Europe and other places ,to be wary of vanity shows, or vanity galleries. I question the incentive of these types of venues to sell work or support the artist. Maybe there needs to be a period of courtship between artist and gallery. Like dating, It is much easier to to get more involved or walk away if you go slow. Develop the relationship first........ don’t sleep with the gallery (so to speak) on the first date!

Cathexis, beeswax, oil and asphalt on canvas, 72" x 120", 2007
BS: Connie, you are a member of an international group of abstract painters called Pintura Fresca. Can you tell our readers more about Pintura Fresca and why you are involved with them?

CN: PF was started in France by artist Thierry LEBAILL. Pintura Fresca is an international group of abstract painters who met through the Internet and are now working together on various art projects. The essential drive of Pintura Fresca is to encourage dialog and demonstrate that articulate abstract expression still thrives and remains vibrant in the new millennium. What we propose, in contrast to being dead, as some critics and curators will lead the public to believe, abstract art has matured and grown in nuance and refinement of thought over the last century.

Membership in PF is by invitation only. However PF is currently recruiting new members from Africa, South America, Asia and Australia. Please send us a message if you are an abstract painter from one of these areas and would like to be considered for membership--

In 2007 PF exhibited in Singapore and Slough, outside of London. Slide shows of both exhibitions can be seen on the website, This year we have already been offered an exhibition at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and at Knauer Gallery at West Chester University in West Chester, PA

BS: Connie, you have been selected for prestigious residencies, including the Emaar International Art Symposium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (2005), the Thupelo International Workshop in Cape Town, South Africa (2005) and the 6th Annual International Symposium of Art in Bulgaria (2006). Can you tell us about those experiences?

CN: With the exception of the Thupelo workshop in Cape Town, these experiences are actually called symposiums. Though similar to residencies, the idea is someone sponsors the event, such as Emaar in the UAE or the local government of Monastir Tunisia where I was last September. Thirty to fifty artists from all over the world are selected for each symposium. All expenses are paid lodging, studio, materials, food and sometimes even the ticket for the artists to attend. We paint together for 10 days to 2 weeks and then leave the work for the sponsors in exchange for the experience.
This has been THE MOST marvelous way to travel. I have met artists from all over the world and have become life long friends with many of them. During the symposium we get to know so much about each other, our lives and culture. Questions are asked, debates happen, barriers and biases that may have been present in the beginning are erased. In many instances communication through our visual language - painting, hands and smiles is enough. I am convinced that the governments of the world need to take a lesson from artists --- to develop more creative intelligence!!!

BS: How have those travels influenced you as an artist?

CN: It seems, because my work is so processed oriented, each experience becomes filtered through me into my art....and each time I come back to my studio, the paintings just seem to pour out of me. The Holding Patterns (on my website, work was done in 2 months after I came back from Africa for an exhibition at Spur Projects in California. I was shocked. I had this huge gallery to fill and actually produced enough to fill the gallery 3 times!!!

One image that I took away from Africa was of the barbed wire that was so much a part of the landscape that it became the landscape. It became a decorative element, a graphic metaphor for not only restraint, but for protection. The expression of that paradox -- between being safe and being stuck, between being held and being restrained – evolved into this exhibit.
The FLESH work was done after Bulgaria. There, I felt like I was brought back to life after having experienced a dreadful bout of clinical depression. Suddenly, all in one place was EVERYTHING that feeds me and my spirit- painting, the sea, kayaking, dancing every night until I couldn’t stand and love... I loved the artists there. We were like children, laughing and painting and playing. It was so difficult to leave. I am still very much involved with this work as the series continues,... and am dying to go back to that magical place which not too many people know about ( I am told).

BS: Connie, let us go into more detail about the work itself. Tell us more about the techniques and methods that you utilize...

CN: I am very materials based as an artist. I jokingly say I am the Materials Girl. When I was in San Francisco, where everything is recycled, I began painting with sludge. Sludge, the waste from past paintings, the gunk that is in the bottom of the jar, that builds up as you clean your brushes over and over. I would reuse the terp as it cleared and the sludge sunk to the bottom. Eventually however, I had a sludge farm- jars and jars of this gunk. So I started painting with it to see what would happen. I ended up using it as a jumping off place... much as I had the photograph in earlier days. This sludge was very unpredictable, it would crack at times like raku and became the underlying texture in the work.

More recently, after moving from SF, sludge became harder to come by, especially for all of the larger work I was doing, so I began experimenting with beeswax as a texture. I will do an under painting, put wax on the canvas in all sorts of different ways then paint as I had before with layers of glazes and whatever else I might add such as asphalt, graphite powder or these luscious powdered pigments that I still get from Sinopia in SF. The colors are so pure and transparent which is really conducive to the way I work. The underlying theme in all of my work, from the beginning, is about contrasts, dualities. Opposite emotions existing in the same space or where the internal meets the external. So mixing these materials, sludge, wax, asphalt etc. which are hardly considered beautiful, with this pure color is just another layer in the same theme.
Most recently, I have been working with other recycled materials. I shred everything I can get my hands on. I am still playing with different ways of incorporating paint with these raw shredded materials such as used studio gloves, old work that I never liked, plastic/wooden flowers, used nails. books , roofing paper etc. I recycled scrap from a house that was torn down in my old neighborhood and made a series of small panels called Refuse-Wall. It was a way to recycle resources and posed questions about beauty and usefulness. Not only were the materials of the building recycled, but through consumerism, the resource of money was regenerated. Proceeds went to Project Aids Orphans,, a charity two friends of mine started to help the orphans in Kenya.

Refuse- at sunset,recycled roofing paper, oil, resin on panel, 36" x 36", 2007

Refuse- Wall, recycled pieces of a demolished building, oil, resin on panel, each piece 14" x 9", 2007
Refuse- Through, recycled roofing paper oil, resin on panel, 36" x 36", 2007

BS: Would you say that you are focused on the process just as much as you are focused on the message that your work conveys to viewers? Or is the message the most important part?

CN: The process is very important in my work. It is intrinsic. Through the doing more ideas occur. I am an extremely kinesthetic person., very physical. I learn everything through my body, through doing. I will take notes when working, often writing on the walls of my studio. I have learned that my work HAS to go through some period of chaos or struggle . Without chaos the painting is lifeless.
Sometimes this chaos is short lived and the painting happens very fast. Other covers a much longer period. Usually when I am ready to throw the entire canvas out the window is when something new or unexpected happens and the way out of the chaos is clear. It seems when the piece is totally lost I surrender and there is nothing to loose by taking a risk. Afterwards I can say I LOVE these moments!!!

BS: At some point we all face someone who questions the validity of our work. Charges such as "painting is dead" are often muttered. Do you enjoy the challenge of defending your art? Is it a challenge?

CN: Pintura Fresca did an exhibition outside of London with that title, "Is abstract painting dead? I think the conclusion was that abstract work has changed over the last hundred years, is more nuanced and refined and anything but dead. Even as a photographer my work was abstract. One of my earliest influences and memories was of Steiglitz’s clouds, his "Equivalents", which were metaphors for internal emotional states. My work is a metaphor for emotional states - the pull between centripetal versus centrifugal emotional forces. The picture changes the more you look at it. It is actually possible for the viewer to learn something about themselves if they are so inclined to do so. As in life my art †is about interaction ,cause and effect. This fascinates me.

The viewer is very much part of the process in my work as each individual brings their own experience to the painting. There are multiple layers and complexities in my paintings. People see what they need to see in the moment. It is all projection. I don’t take it personally. Some viewers need the anchor in reality that figurative painting gives, but truly non-objective work it is about not-knowing. It is about experiencing the work without expectations. Sometimes it isn’t comfortable to be put in this situation with art or life!
To me the way someone responds to my work, often says more about the person looking than it does the painting. I had a couple in my studio looking at the same painting. It was a large painting, dark deep reds, many layers and an area of light. The woman couldn’t stop gushing how beautiful and inviting it was. On the flip side, the man thought it was evil and sinister. He said it scared him and he couldn’t live with it. ...and both views were perfectly valid!! I have done many workshops in looking at abstract work with the general public. It is wonderful when people finally get it -there is no right or wrong way of viewing this type of art.

BS: Connie, can you tell us more about your thought process as it pertains to your art? For example, are you more likely to be hit with an idea while going about your daily activities? Or is the 'light bulb' more likely to flash while you are in your studio, so to speak?

CN: I talked about this a bit in the previous question. But at some point all of this happens..the light bulb moment, the inspiration within the process of painting or from daily life Actually, I often get ideas while in the shower and seem to problem solve best in those moments between being asleep and waking up. It is important for me to write things down though, if I don’t... I lose it.

BS: Some people define success as the amount of wealth that you procure... others define it as the number of people you can inspire with your art. In your opinion, what makes an artist successful?

CN: I don’t really know. I think for each artist it is different. Right now as I mentioned before I am trying to support myself with my art. Fortunately I am doing well, and am incredibly grateful that there now seems to be a market that supports my work, but there is always room for financial improvement. Right now, I am pushing really hard painting and trying to get my name out there. It is difficult with out a posse of support. There is always another brass ring in regards to getting known.

What I would like? I could make a very lengthy shows, a good gallery in a major market which is supportive of my work and moving my career forward. I want success in the usual sense, reviews in major art publications, people lining up to collect my work, basically I want to be rule the world!! (Oh wait, that was the Material Girl!) But, honestly I believe that kind of success gives one the option to affect peoples lives in profound ways, which was the reason I tried my hand at therapy and is ultimately my goal with my art.
I wish I could say I didn’t need any of those material wants and would be perfectly happy to return to my fisherman’s cave on the Black Sea in Bulgaria. It is a very romantic notion. And a good escape, but the long term truth for me is very different. I want to do more than survive as an artist. I want to make a difference in peoples lives if only for a moment. I think art does that -I believe MY art does that.

Mining in the Modern World 01, beeswax, oil, asphalt, graphite powder on canvas, 48" x 36", 2008

BS: What do you have planned for 2008? Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

CN: I was accepted into the ARTIST PROJECT which is a satellite show of Artropolis 2008,, The Artist Project is Artropolis’ key event dedicated to the independent artist. The second annual exhibition and sale will feature original work from a juried selection of 300 established and emerging artists who are currently unaffiliated within the gallery community. I will also be in an exhibition at Anna Bondonio Camandona Art Gallery in Alba, Italy at the end of May and am working on a few other opportunities which I can’t really talk about right now.

Pintura Fresca has two exhibitions coming up this year, one in San Francisco and the other in Pennsylvania. Right now, getting ready for the Artist Project, I am working on a new series called Mining in the Modern World. This can be seen at
Mining in the Modern World 03, beeswax, oil, asphalt, graphite powder on canvas, 48" x 36", 2008

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

CN: I think that about covers it. Thank you for your questions and allowing me the opportunity to participate in this process. As always any feedback is greatly appreciated.
You can learn more about Connie Noyes by visiting her website-- Connie is also a member of the community-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin