Full Studio view with 5 new panels on left that I just started. 24 x 60 inches each.
Claremont Graduate University Art Department is happy to open it’s doors to the public on April 29th 2012, from 12-5. Everyone is welcome to come out to meet the artists and see the work. The graduating students will have a group show in the two main galleries. Additional shows will be up in 13 additional spaces. Location: 251 E 10th Street, Claremont, CA. Please stop by!
My Studio is ready! 
Most recent work, 9 panels, gesso, paper, canvas, cardboard, acrylic, and ink.
Wall of food work. Many use Encaustic – set-up can be seen on work table.
Same wall and some unfinished work on the floor.
Newest work a bit closer up.
My desk and older work and soon to be used panels.
 Thanks for viewing! Hope to see you if at all possible. 
Studio visits can be arranged by appointment too: 707-738-5886.

Gotta Do It

So, ya wanna be in a top notch gallery or a museum? Very few artists do both. But so what? My thoughts a few weeks went all over the place. Painting got better – check! Talk to teacher about life after grad school – check! Visit to the Long Beach Airport to pick up my son for spring break – check! Took my son to the Museum of Jurassic Technology (, Nova Color ( – a painters paint store in Culver City, and Venice beach – check! Homework, physical fitness, groceries, laundry, taxes done, meals prepared, reading done, papers to write – check! 

Brown Rice, String, and Wire on Canvas

I started school for one reason and now I am stuck in the quagmire of reality. When my kids, two boys 12 and 14, come home I begin to wonder: am I doing the right thing? Am I in the right place? What you don’t know is that I sent them both off to boarding school so that I could be in graduate school full-time. I really wanted to be at CGU ( Still do. Then they come home and my emotions go amuck. I signed myself up for this trip into the Art World. I want to make art and I want to bring people together in community with art as the glue. I Gotta Do It.

I am fairly certain I am meant to do this. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line I did not pick up enough self-esteem to believe in myself fully and I am feeling that way right now this week. This feeling of being unsure comes and goes. The feeling worsens when I look around. I have classmates that are taking enormous risks, sharing stories about themselves, stuff I hide and stuff inside. I see artists in our class readings that are asking big questions, presenting what I consider to be really tough topics – topics that have made me question what I hide. The work that I have been reading addresses some of the following topics: questions of women’s experience, identity, race, and the “absurdity of existence” (pg.164, Taylor) as well as questions of teenage angst and even childhood. I continue to hide, behind my layer paintings. I am unsure and unready to say more, unless I could become anonymous. That’s not what artists do. Picasso says this in a different way, “Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” My art is not lying but the whole truth is not yet represented in my work.

These thoughts bring me back to the beginning of this semester when questions presented themselves: What does open and transparent really mean? How about reveal and conceal? Find and hide? Show and tell? Does transparency also mean that one needs to be open to questions and worse, critiques of the self? A statement came up in class this week that made me think deeper. Artists try very hard to undo what they know so that they may present from their inner voice. Picasso said this differently, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” I know of no other profession where adults go into the deepest recesses of emotion and pain and curiosity and then work from there only to come up again, as if for air, and try to act like a stable adult in the “real” world. You have recently asked us what is counter-culture today and what is radical? I think about that. Is it radical to be a stay-at-home mom who becomes artist, or do I need to tell more of my story?

I have been painting with food lately – rice, lentils, noodles – it is real food.

Noodles, Canvas and String on Canvas

I go to the grocery store instead of the art store to purchase what I need. I will be asking the viewer to interact with what is real but it is not real anymore because it is archived on canvas with gesso, varnishes and bees wax – the food I use can never be cooked or eaten – in a way it is archived.

Yellow Peas and Wild Rice Well Organized in Clear Gesso on Panel

Museum Morsbroich has a show of Michael Schmidt’s photographed food – in production, processing, packaging and presentation ( In my mind, a photograph removes the viewer from reality because it is a presentation of a moment in time captured on film.

Michael Schmidt, “Untitled, # 22,” from: “Lebensmittel,” 2006–2010. Photography, 54,1 x 81,8 cm. © Michael Schmidt

Instead I have food either organized or in chaos on canvas with string and wire layered at times to “anchor” the piece or give the food structure – much like the fields it was grown in – and much like the societal structures we endure. The first time I made a rice painting I used about 2 cups of rice – enough for eight servings, when cooked.

I hated myself for painting with rice; yet I felt compelled to keep going and make more food paintings.

Yellow Peas and Wild Rice in Encaustic on Panel

I don’t know how to explain the works. While at Nova Color ( with my son I bought more supplies to make more food paintings. My son thought it was great to hear and see me buy supplies in a place that has a doorbell to get into and that to be taken seriously I had to know what I was talking about to get in and to buy the supplies. I keep hoping the idea will come; about why am I painting with food.

Pop Corn in Encaustic

There is not a simple answer like: I miss cooking for my children, grocery shopping and family dinners. I really don’t – or do I?

Picasso says, “The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web. ” Painting in food allows me to buy larger quantities of food like I did when my children lived at home.

Mixed Lentils, String and Wire on Canvas

Obviously there is more to it than that. I hated grocery shopping – still do. I love family dinners. How will I ever talk about the abstract concepts and art historical relationships to my works in food when I cannot figure it out? I am in a prison of my own making, I sent the kids away and now I make art – they come home and I want to make art but I need to go grocery shopping and cook meals. Paul McCarthy said it so well: “the experience of being confronted with my existence was suddenly overwhelming.” (pg. 164, Taylor) The only way to live in the box I created is: I Gotta Do It.

Taylor, Brandon. Contemporary Art: Art Since 1970. Prentice Hall, 2005.  (

Taking Things To The Next Level.

Well, I have decided that I DO want writing to be a key component to my art practice and I am honoring my commitment by taking a class. So here goes:

With a commitment to building a more vibrant blog, I signed up for the 4-week Blog Triage class with Cynthia Morris and Alyson Stanfield. Today’s assignment is to describe the people I want to visit and read my blog. Signed by Suzanne!

Getty Villa – Creating an abstract from a stone wall.

The audience that I expect will be interested in what I blog about will be students, artists and art lovers – especially those who want to hear about what is going on in and around the Los Angeles and Orange County Art Scenes. It helps if you have a passion for contemporary art.

I will blog about current trends and current shows in museums, galleries, open studios and alternative spaces. Occasional private sneak peaks into artists studios will add spice to the mix.

Every once in a while I may just toss in a few extras like new art products that I think are just great and sometimes non-art venues will be looked at. I will also drop notes in when I feel there is a particularly interesting article in an art magazine or in one of my many art books that I am required to read while I pursue my MFA at Claremont Graduate University. Are you ready to join me? I am an emerging artist in Southern California and I will look at what is emerging in today’s art world. I’m ready to share some thoughts and provoke some dialog so come along.

More about Cynthia who I am looking forward to meeting during this on-line class:

More about Alyson who wrote a great book called I’d rather be in the studio! (it’s on my studio desk and I refer to it often):

Taking things to the next level means for me that for all the events that I go to I will form an opinion and get myself ready to write about what I think and see. It means not just reading books and magazines about art but also digesting them and sharing my personal insights. It is very likely that my own art practice will grow as I take more than a passing look or read at all the opportunities that are available to me in this still-new home base for me called SoCal.


Provisional Painting – Part 2

Provisional Painting Part 1 (my essay and blog post) ended on this statement: I’d rather make a living selling the work, but I frustrate myself because why should the energetic somewhat messy work I make sell for the prices I think it deserves if I myself often dismiss other artists’ less-than-well crafted work as careless? I must continue to explore this problematic area. As a way of entering into the topic of energetic expressive work versus neatly crafted work, here are a few of the adjectives Rubinstein’s uses to describe his exploration of what he calls provisional painting: gloriously dumb, endless obliterations, humble beauty, free of touch-ups, impossibility, risking inconsequence, extensive doodling, and abject awkwardness. I personally can relate to all of these adjectives and often have thoughts of this nature – including the desire to show my hand and thinking in my finished works.
As I come to my studio time and set about the goals of creating work – work that matters – to coin the term that caught my eye on the CGU web site before I attended school here; I dig deep to find my thoughts and feelings. I want my work to look hand-made and emotional, but I wonder how that fits in with my preference to view finished work that looks deliberate and well crafted. Last week I visited the work of Máximo González (well crafted) and this week I took a detour to visit Rauschenberg and Motherwell (both worked with what looks like to me as more immediacy) at MOCA. As much as I hated Rauschenberg’s “Bed” painting when I saw it as a child, his work now intrigues me. Sadly it has been a long time since I have been deeply touched by a work of art, for the past six years or so I am always looking at works of art and asking myself, “how was it made?” or “I’ll have to try that.”
How does painting matter? How can I make it matter for me when even other artists freely question painting’s relative importance? Consider this quote from an article on Provisional Painting in response to Rubinstein, June 2, 2009 by Wes Freese: “The idea of impossibility in painting is an effect of the somewhat real fact that painting has no significant role on society, or even culture.” He goes on to discuss why he says this at great length, then turning a 360 or would it be a 180, in his article and stating that painting matters to him very much!
Painting matters to me too, it has been my entry into understanding things in the world. When I was as young as 6 years old, I would spread out on the floor and paint and paint and paint. Then, during middle and high school, my way of dealing with the reality of living in this strange land called the USA (I grew up abroad) was to escape into the art room as much as possible; both at home and at school and I would draw or paint away my time. Even in college, while studying Graphic Design I can remember covering my carpeted dorm room floor with newspaper so that I could paint well into the night, not even for class or a grade – and that’s while in college! In my first home, the living room became my studio. I got married and almost lost a part of me; I did not paint for 4 years. The growing of my first child inside my belly re-awakened that part of me that needed to paint. I haven’t stopped since. I paint because I can and because through painting I have found a way to exist in this world. My own painting informs me, regardless of whether it informs anyone else. I can say: painting matters to me. As I finally say that out loud and with courage, while here at CGU, I also am beginning to realize that history is exciting, and the whole world has begun to have a context for me through seeing things through other visual artists attempts at making meaning. This is an exciting time for me.
Still, does it matter to others when the work looks dashed off? Have I really reached into my most deep well of courage to really show how much I care about painting? My teachers are beginning to tell me that they don’t see it – that they hear my passion but that my work does not yet show it. Is this a game too? What if I have already done my best work? Am I attracted to the idea of “Provisional Painting” as an excuse to dash off “inconsequential work” while I really feel that the best painting in the Art World shows a huge amount of care and craft? I don’t think so, I am drawn in by Rubinstein’s thoughtful quote describing painters painting what he coins as provisional painting: “They also harbor a broader concern with multiple forms of imperfection: not merely what is unfinished but also the off-kilter, the overtly offhand, the not-quite-right. The idea is to cast aside the neat but rigid fundamentals learned in art school and embrace everything that seems to lend itself to visual intrigue—including failure.”

Provisional Painting – What’s all the fuss about?

In Chapter 5, In and Beyond the Museum: 1984-1998 of Contemporary Art, Taylor, the topic of conceptualizing against the idea of fine art seems to be glorified and exaulted. With chapter subheadings like: Art as the Subject Itself, Installation as Decay, and Some Counter-Monuments the topic seems to be to make Art that does not belong in a gallery or museum, but then to be overwhelmed by joy when a museum or history book does pick up the work, especially if it is properly understood. Earlier this week, I was talking to Pagel about a painting of mine that has faces of young boys on it with bright red lips and I said, “The lips are bright red just to make fun of Pop-art.” Pagel did not like this comment and all but asked me to retract it – I couldn’t. Then in this chapter, I read: “Duchampian readymade joke, a Warholian play with the banal, and often a Beuysian fascination for the atavistic.” I wonder, am I not to have a little fun until I am written up in a book?
For some reason, the topic and idea of pushing against the institution made me want to look up the biographies of some of the artists in the chapter as well as some of the biographies of my current teachers. I suppose I became curious because many artists that are rebelling against institutions are educated in institutions; then institutions themselves evolve to accommodate the perceived rebellion, for example re-designed museums. I stumbled upon as I looked for biographies. What a surprise to me! As artists work towards freedom from commercialization, commoditization and being misunderstood they are simultaneously being commercialized as objects themselves in an online ranking format. I am sure has a sophisticated system of gathering data from across wide art market platforms to rank artists from one to a hundred and beyond. What is the art world if exhibition statistics, auction results, age, and sex are made available publicly and on-line? Are even the artists themselves a commodity to be counted and ranked like stock prices based on company performance? Is the whole world like this? Makes me want my Mom job back! At least the kids would instantly tell me when I was liked or hated and nothing was an “industry standard” in my days and hours with them. Not to mention the fact that I am not dead – the entire Artist ranking system exists in it’s entirety dead or alive!
I ended my last essay with a question: The next level of contemporary what? Now I ask: will the contemporary art market keep paying extraordinary prices for works of art that are not well crafted? This is a subject that came up for me when I visited the Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) this week. Normally I would not have visited this museum* because it is a “craft” or “folk art” museum not a “fine art” museum, but now I wonder why do we settle for so many pieces of fine art works that are not finely crafted? Several examples can be found in current exhibits down the street from the CAFAM in slick galleries. Why is it ok to go through an MFA program that requires no drawing skills or attention to craft? So much of what is talked about is conceptual this and that.
For two weeks now I have been reading and re-reading an article by Raphael Rubinstein about Provisional Painting; it is his second article on this topic the first was written in 2009, which I have also be reading and re-reading. There exists inside of me an extreme – on the one hand I appreciate finely crafted items and take them to be more serious, and on the other hand I tend to dash out my work depending on the mood or idea of the day wishing for my energy and enthusiasm and emotion to show through in the finality of the work. Often my desire for this burst of energy to show through conflicts with my desire for myself to have work that looks polished, finished, and well thought out. The conflict becomes problematic in what I can feel proud to say it is my work. Every piece whether fully planned or energetically created takes work, time, energy and passion. The question is what will be taken more seriously or what will sell. I realize that some of my peers have the goal of history books for their practice. I’d rather make a living selling the work, but I frustrate myself because why should the energetic work I make sell for the prices I think it deserves if I myself often dismiss other artists’ less-than-well crafted work as careless?

Contemporary What?

I saw a portion of this quote on a blog called Two Coats of Paint (I then went to the LA times web site):

“Clotheslines, floor mats and document shredders come to mind in Lorenzo Hurtado Segovia’s exhibition at CB1 Gallery. Hand-woven fabrics, pixelated imagery and religious tapestries are also evoked by his grid-bending abstractions, whose insouciance provides a nice balance between goal-oriented authority and seat-of-the-pants improvisation.”
–David Pagel, LA Times, 2/10/12

I saw this posted on Facebook (then looked quickly for more information on-line):

hi i am talking this Saturday 2/11 3:30-5:30 re future of Art Orgs with some cool folks at USC Harris Hall followed by thei LLACPS art opening i expect a great discussion3:30 to 5:30 p.m.: Over the Edge
Rochelle Steiner, dean of the USC Roski School of Fine Arts, will moderate a panel featuring artists, cultural critics and arts administrators on the future of community within the arts. Panelists include Mark Allen, Edgar Arceneaux, Anne Bray, Evelena Ruether and Carol Stakenas.

I was invited to this event through Facebook:

An informal selection of paintings and drawings by Ruth Trotter are on view from January 30 – February 24, 2012 at the Historic Gas Company Lofts Building in downtown Los Angeles.Reception for the artist: Saturday, February 11th from 5:00 – 7:00

This is but a snap shot of the Art World events that can be found in and around LA on any given weekend. What is amazing is that I have lived here only 7 months and I am beginning to feel plugged into the contemporary art scene of Los Angeles. As a potentially emerging artist what does this mean for me and how does it all relate? How does visiting all three events alter how I see myself as an artist?

I have come to CGU to pursue my MFA because I am an artist and I have had the desire to take my work to “the next level” for many years. This week has turned out to be one of those pivotal weeks of graduate school for me (this is my second masters degree so some of the institution of obtaining a degree is already familiar to me). I had recently decided to add contour drawings of figures to my usually abstract grid works. This week I had 5 studio meetings all of which asked me: “why the figure?” Basically the question was more of a statement of – don’t paint the figure it’s not working for you! So while I am trying to absorb the different voices of my professors I am simultaneously trying to find my own voice as well as listening to and looking at the work of others.

As I visited the three events listed above and read all of the assigned essays I have become clearer while at the same time more confused by my efforts. The chapter on Collectors in Lindemann’s book and Chapter 4 in Taylor had one similar theme that I could latch onto: introducing the general public to contemporary art. It was only a short 5 months ago that I would have considered myself knowledgeable in the art world – knowledgeable enough to have wanted to pursue this degree; enough because I had been to many museums and some galleries throughout my childhood and adult life; enough because I have considered myself a painter since high school. However, I am not as knowledgeable as I would like to pretend that I am or am I?

Segovia’s works at CB1 Gallery are very interesting and could be viewed from both sides. I felt like I had been transported into my childhood when I walked into the gallery. The woven paper pieces reminded me so much of “going to market” with my mom and our maid as a child growing us in Mexico and Brazil. I could not tell you if it was the colors he used or the fact of the weaving reminding me of the bags we carried to market to bring our goods home. The nods to my childhood experiences could be because of the slightly cockeyed raw feeling the pieces have as they hung on a line between the walls, not unlike how our maids hung their laundry in their rooms without windows while they hung our laundry on lines outside. Has the fact that these pieces pulled up childhood memories made me a contemporary art insider or a member of the general public enjoying something outside my regular routine?

My next stop was to go to the Panel Discussion at USC on: The Politics of Community. I was attracted to this event because I am currently leading a class on Collaborative Arts and Community and the panel proposed to discuss “looking to the future of community within the arts.” Each of the panelists was animated and passionate about their role in the art world in Los Angeles. I was most fascinated by the talk given by Mark Allen, the director at Machine Projects. The premise of Machine Projects as I understand it – it is to stage events that rely on audience participation and audience engagement with the artist(s) while embracing the possibility of “failure” or incomplete work. His explanation is that the events that Machine Project puts on are considered “completed projects,” even as they intend to blur the lines of “familiar and new,” “enjoyable and awkward,” and “finished vs. unfinished.” He also stated his own personal artistic need to explore the relationship between artist and audience or community. His focus is on introducing the public to the contemporary art world. Since I was a child, I have completely loved bringing people together to work on art projects – my mother has told me that I used to set up the long stone hallway in our home in Mexico with paper, crayons, and paint and I’d invite the neighboring kids in to “have an art class.” Over the past 15 years I have worked both in my city of residence and within my family to build community through shared art experiences. I often did not worry about “expected outcomes” because my focus was usually on what the participants could learn from one another through the shared experiences or my hope that the participants, if even for a brief time, would feel like they are an artist. Have I already been operating in a contemporary art mode all my life by engaging my public sphere in shared projects?

The third event I attended was to view the work of Ruth Trotter; a painter and art professor. I have been working with her since September as her TA at The University of La Verne – and yet I had never seen her work in person. In viewing her work I was at once struck by the feeling of delicate boldness of brushwork. Accomplished work in exquisite colors and compositions. Do I see this because I am beyond the “general public” or would anyone see the paintings and enjoy them on some level? I am really not sure. What I can say about her event is that friends of her friends were what I would consider the “general public” – they were at the show as partners to the people who directly knew Trotter. In speaking to several “general public” directly they had little to say about the art nor did they seem to care; they were much more interested in going out to dinner and other activities after the art show. As much as I enjoyed viewing her work, I left the show feeling empty while questioning the “art reception” concept.

So, why is this week pivotal? I think mainly because even in receiving harsh criticism for a risk I took in my own practice I did not cry, whither or back away; instead it brought me some clarity as to my process and my longer desires for myself as an artist. I will still attempt to put the figure into my work, but maybe not in such a literal way as a contour drawing in paint. I will continue to have the desire to bring people together through shared art experiences, I now know that there are many other artists in the LA community bringing this topic to the forefront of contemporary art practice. They ask the question: building a community vs. making art, as they search for a new framework. I labeled this essay “Contemporary What?” Because I feel like I need to define for myself: What is Contemporary Art? Is it making work or is it having others making work? Does contemporary art practice need to be loaded with abstract ideas similar to those presented in the Krauss and other similar essays? Can the artwork be unfinished and made by the public? If contemporary art practice continues to push the boundaries of artist and audience what will exist for the collector to collect? Are current trends an extension of Baudrillards’ ideas of what is real? My opening quotations came from the Internet and are all related to people I have met while at CGU. In a county with 10 million people it will take huge amounts of exertion to work on my goal of bringing myself to the “next level,” and as often is the case in graduate school finding answers only leads to more questions. The biggest question being: The next level of contemporary what?

Unsold Inventory

Besides being a wife and mother I have done lots of different kinds of work over the years. One of the things I have excelled at is real estate. I have purchased and sold 7 homes since 1989. I currently own 2. I know a little bit about the real estate industry. As I delve into the Art World, I try to make sense of it through what I know. In the real estate world, the slogan most oft repeated is: location, location, location.

In the art world it seems that the most important information in building a strong collection of art is: name, name, name – the artist cannot be an unknown or the purchase becomes “risky” not unlike the risk of buying a home in a poor location. For typical home purchases buyers consider the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square feet, garage, fireplace, and so on. Still, in real estate the most important and relevant information is location and price.

How does this correlate to the increasingly complex and growing art market? Is the name of the artist and the price the most relevant information? What else is relevant? In art, as in real estate there are variables to consider such as: size of work, type of work, idea behind the work, where the work has been before, cost of production, and more.

In a gross simplification of the process of bringing a home to market, a builder constructs the home and then the home is sold to the first buyer of the property. A typical sale of that same home after the current owner has decided to move includes: sellers’ agent, sellers’ agent’s broker, buyers’ agent broker, buyers’ agent, buyer and the mortgage officer. Typically the brokers are invisible for most of the sell/buy transaction; a process that can take anywhere from one month to over a year. However, brokers have the highly important function of branding and maintaining inventory.

In the art world, the artist is like the builder. Roughly speaking, the brokers are the galleries and the auction houses. The art consultants are the agents that work with buyers and/or sellers. I have worked with several wonderful real estate agents over the years, both as a buyer and as a seller, as well as an assistant to a Damien Hirst type agent, the art consultant chapter in the “Collecting Contemporary Art” by Adam Lindemann felt very familiar. Each transaction is nuanced and involves many players.

The relationships that I built with my real estate agent(s) made all of the difference in how smoothly my transactions to purchasing or selling a home worked out. Often, it is all about who they know and the relationships they have developed that can seal (or break) a deal. In fact, in situations such as mine, where I was the seller 7 times (3 of those in the same town) my relationships to key players also played a role in the service I came to expect and in the deals I was able to put together. I completely loved the process of hiring contractors to re-create homes to my specifications (I created the drawings and shared my vision) and then I would ready the home for sale to work with my agent and find a buyer.

In my life before grad school, I was able to play the role of creator (remodeling with the help of contractors) and collector. As I begin to see these correlations I must ask myself – what role do I see myself in after school? Where would my talents best fit? How can I incorporate what I already know how to do in creating the life I want to live? Have I been thinking big enough? I have, in the past, worked with budgets over $10,000 and now in school spending $1000 on art supplies feels like too much.

A home can shelter a family and art – well, I want to believe in its importance and I am searching for answers. One answer came to me a long time ago. In 1984 when I went to the mall to buy some prints to decorate my first apartment, I came home with no purchases. It occurred to me while I was at the mall that I could paint my own wall art. I have been doing just that ever since. I have been painting in order to not spend money on other artists’ work. If thinking big and spending $10,000 on creating an art piece seems ridiculous to me now then I really do not have a chance in hell of building my career as an artist. Yet I did not start with budgets of $10,000 in real estate. In fact, in the first home I bought and re-sold in Mountain View, CA I think I spent $1000 to “fix-it-up.” However, it DID sell. I see far too many artists, including myself, sitting on unsold inventory – therein lies the rub!

Thinking Long Term

Have you read these words: I think I can – I think I can – I think I can? These words “I think I can” are from a popular children’s book, “The Little Engine That Could,” by Watty Piper. Following in the footsteps of last weeks’ writing, I thought I might try to synthesize this weeks learning and readings through the idea found in “The Little Engine That Could.” In this story, the main character is a little blue female train that finds out she has important work to do even though she has never done the work before that is being asked of her. As a child, this story was my favorite.

Why make art? Why paint at all? Do we really need the work? Having written about Daimen Hirst last week, I felt that the only way to truly immerse myself in what I have to learn about his work, and the question of why make what no one really needs, is to go and see Hirst’s work in person – so that’s exactly what I did. I went into The Gagosian Gallery for my very first time. The Spot Paintings are beautiful and exquisitely crafted (except the oldest one in the LA gallery that had little holes in the middle of each spot). Standing in the gallery the colored spots dance, mostly because of the way our eye and brain works, and all of a sudden you are seeing even more spots – the afterimage of colored spots (Itten). I think The Spot Paintings sell because they are easy to understand on a level of brutal simplicity making no need for Art History or Art Appreciation in order to enjoy the paintings. My favorite spot painting has spots that are tiny – 1 millimeter in diameter each – and there are 25,781 spots, but who’s counting? At a certain point my guess is that Hirst kept making this work because they kept selling. Making a living selling art is a cool thing – something I aspire to do! I think I can.

There were a handful of really good reasons for me to walk into The Gagosian Gallery; the primary reason being the “I think I can” attitude that I am working so hard to foster in my creative endeavors. If I can’t walk into The Gagosian Gallery, how can I ever presume to make art that reaches a level beyond the local community cooperative gallery I used to belong to? Larry Gagosian is a dealer of art at a high level. I tend to learn and remember things better when I go in person to learn. On this field trip, I was amazed to learn that many of the works on display are actually borrowed back from their owners for the worldwide Spot Painting event and that the event is short in duration – about a month in most locations. The Gagosian Gallery epitomizes my favorite quote from the readings this week: “It takes balls to open an expensive retail store that sells stuff that nobody actually needs and that nobody may want to buy” (Lindemann). While I was at The Gagosian, I ventured to talk to the “beautiful receptionist” and the lack of conversation was icy at best, but maybe it was my accent? (Insert smile here.)

No matter, I had other plans for the afternoon. Having felt the need to work in encaustic recently I went to go see encaustic work by Helen K. Garber at dnj gallery in Santa Monica. I was under impressed with the encaustic work. The Ruth Bachofner Gallery was nearby so I ventured in because the last time I visited this gallery I was impressed with the quality of the work and wanted to see what was new. Currently, Robert Kingston has his work on display and it reminded me a lot of Cy Twombly’s work so I decided to look at Kingston’s bio at the desk. I was pleased to find out that he attended CGU. To my surprise Ruth, (the owner I presume) treated me with incredible kindness answered my questions and even showed me a few pieces of work in her back room that were done by CGU students. I was shown so much kindness even after telling her that I am a current student that my familiar refrain came to mind – I think I can, I think I can.

Every day I ask myself: Why make objects that really have no value? Yes, harsh for sure! However, I feel as though if I am going to bring more paintings in this world there better be a really truly good reason for them. In this weeks reading, the art dealer Sadie Coles gave me two good reasons: “Art is an investment of money and ideas.” The money part was covered in my visit to The Gagosian Gallery. Art serves capitalism. The ideas part is what I have been spending hours and hours with during my studies at CGU. According to Robert Hughs (an Art Critic), the conditions that produce great art are: patience, internalization, ruthless self-criticism, and an engagement with the past. Marianne Boesky insists that artists must: have a level of skill, a deep knowledge of art history, and a deep commitment – as in being an artist by birth not by choice. The story of the little blue engine that could embodies persistence, believing in oneself, and relying on friends along the way, while embracing the possibility of doing something bigger and better than you initially thought you could do.

Returning to grad school after years as a mother and wife is difficult to say the least. Each day I try to dig up as much persistence, belief, and peer support as I can; thankfully that has been the easier part of this journey. Embracing the possibility of doing something bigger and better than I thought I could do is the much more challenging task ahead of me. I have yet to find a really good reason for making my paintings; I just know I have to. Twyla Tharp calls the reason for making the work “the spine” like a true north or a contract.  Hirst kept making the Spot Paintings because for that body of work his “spine” was that they are all about the love of color. So, it’s “off to work I go” to come up with the ideas behind my work – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can. In all honesty, I will keep working until I can get to the end of the story like the little blue engine: I thought I could.  I thought I could.  I thought I could.  I thought I could.  I thought I could.



The Art of Color, Johannes Itten, 1973

“The Little Engine That Could,” Watty Piper

Consumer Consuming Simulacra

This week I bring you the story of myself as a consumer consuming simulacrum of simulacra. We will consider, Daimen Hirst’s spot paintings and the main character in Robert Lopshire’s “Put me in the Zoo!” a children’s book. Hirst’s spots are traveling around the world right now and being displayed in museums and galleries – locations that I have just learned are called “white cubes” in the Art World. Currently, some of the spot paintings are on view in nearby Beverly Hills. All the advertising around Hirst’s spot paintings reminded me of, “Put me in the Zoo!” a book I read to and with my children many times when they were young. The creature in this popular children’s book has spots that he can change. The creature may be a cat or a leopard, but we never really know because he is just an imaginary creature that never existed, except in the story that was originally published in 1960 and continues in publication today.

Now I need to share my unorthodox train of thought here – Lopshire’s spotted creature is the original simulacra or the place marker for the real thing. The spotted creature is an imaginary animal that can talk and learns how to be himself while altering his spots in an infinite number of ways. In my mind, Hirst’s spot paintings are the simulacrum of the simulacra: they are the spots (from the spotted creature) but they have no image or reality, only color spots. Hirst’s assistants have completed over 1400 of these spot paintings since 1986. In my opinion, the spot paintings are mass-produced commodities and the Art World seems to be embracing them. I could make a version of the work myself, as a painter it would not be that difficult at all to emulate the spot paintings – they are made with a formula of sorts. However, I would rather like to join the Art World by creating my own work. I say to you, please put me in the Zoo! You would if you knew what I could do! Here I am! I study for my MFA so that I might join the postmodern movement or whatever.

It is at this point that I began to wonder if anyone else has made the connection of the spotted creature and the spot paintings, so I Googled it! Sure enough the Gallerist NY has published an article about Hirst and the connection to the spotted creature. According to an article I found in the New Yorker, Hirst “has recycled tropes from Marcel Duchamp, Surrealism, Francis Bacon, Minimalism, and numerous near-contemporaries” in making his spot paintings. Good for him! Hirst has figured out his formula for success in the art world. I have found out that his path has been circuitous and unconventional to say the least. As I read assorted articles this week and I see Hirst at it again – this time his pig in formaldehyde – the following poem happens to pop into my mind:

This little piggy went to market.

This little piggy stayed home.

This little piggy had roast beef,

This little piggy had none.

And this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home.

Then when I view the title “This Little Piggy Went to Market, This Little Piggy Stayed at Home” I realize oh! I knew that. On Friday, on my way home from my school studio, I really did feel like running all the way home and staying at home because what is real and what is meaningless is all mixed up for me.

Over the past 15 years I did stay home to take care of my children and I have returned to school because I felt ready to move out into “the real world.” The problem of course is how to define myself in this most strange world called The Art World. A construct with Artists, Gallerists, Critics, Curators, Collectors, and a crazy white man like Hirst who calls himself an artist but as far as I can tell he is an idea man not necessarily a crafts person, builder, creator, painter, or sculptor. Concepts run paramount to art creation, or so I have been told. I understand that the idea has to be good to keep it interesting then I think oh shit, shit…who is copying whom here? If I take a few of my favorite children’s books and paint from them, a body of work I will have made, but the connection to the art historical references would also need to be made as well. Then I feel a dull boredom thinking about art making in this way. There must be a different way. In the end, in the story “Put me in the Zoo,” the main character defines success by what does not work for him. He is not welcome in the zoo. This is not insignificant. I am not Damien Hirst, nor do I ever want to be. I am not a spotted creature in a book; all I ever want to be is Me. So that brings me to my final thought, I am a consumer consuming simulacra while considering creating more of the same.