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.


City Bugs

This one was created about a year ago, but I never posted it. Someone special in my life admired it and so I will send it to her, but first it gets a little on-line time.

I enjoy working in this process. I added a very thick layer of acrylic, then a thin layer of gesso and a painting layer in oil. I let the first oil layer dry completely. Then I came back in and layered thick knifed on paint with Cold Wax Medium by Gamblin mixed in. When the surface was covered in thick paint I began to scratch out here and there, no reason, much like termites would eat away at wet wood creating their own design. 24 x 18 inches.


Slop Painting

Why in the world would an artist call a painting that was created with care a Slop Painting? I would because that is exactly what it is. When a painter sets out on a painting session a palette of paints is created by squeezing out the quantities of paint one might think they are going to use. These blobs of oil paints are then mixed and cajoled into an assortment of colors as the painting session continues. Often quantities of other paints are squeezed out and added to the palette as the painting calls for different colors than anticipated at the beginning of the painting session. After anywhere from 3 – 7 hours or more of painting an artist ends up with a palette of meticulously mixed and created colors with added mediums on the palette.

At a certain point in time the painting session comes to an end, maybe there is hunger or maybe there are other life necessities pressing in for time, maybe the muse has gone or the paintings are loaded with wet paint with nowhere else to go at the time. The reasons for ending a painting session are many. What to do with the wet paint still on the palette?

Some artists will come back to it in a few hours or even the next day – oil paint does take a while before it completely dries. Some artists scoop up all the left over paint and toss it into the garbage. Some artists may just leave the mess of beautifully created colors to be dealt with at a later time. Personally, I cannot put paint into the garbage – landfill, bad for the environment all that. However, paint I must because it is the way in which I express myself. Some people give lectures, some play music, some talk – the list goes on people like to express themselves. I paint regularly and as often as I can and I use my “left-over” paint in what I call Slop Paintings. The beauty of this is that the complexity of color in these paintings comes from a minimum of 15 painting sessions from a minimum of 5 other paintings. I hope you enjoy the Slop Paining presented here. Size 36 x 48.


Angle Lady

Angle Lady is an Oil Painting of tall proportions. She is painted on a 24 x 48 inch canvas. Originally I was going to make her in Black and White and Gray only – but that was not who she wanted to be. You could read all sorts of things into this one – that she wants to be chiseled, modeled, or that she’s on fire or icy. Who knows. I did create her curves in angles on purpose, but what purpose I am not sure myself.


Woman at Beach Edge

So here is an almost abstract image of my mother looking at my children swimming in the ocean in Florida. I left the children out. I was sitting behind her drawing. The moment happened almost a year ago – the painting was made recently. I began with a layer of orange and red and painted the whites and blues on top adding only a little red and orange back in as I went along.

This painting is 24 x 24.

I am feeling like I will be painting more women alone on a canvas as I go forth the next few months or so…check back in. Thanks.


Woman With A Mandolin

I painted for 7 hours straight with a live Costumed Model in a workshop taught by Karen Lynn Ingalls recently. Karen’s blog is: This workshop was my first ever chance to paint with a live model. 
I loved hearing the other people scrapping paint or chatting quietly. I enjoyed the workout of trying to get everything down that I could see and feel in a pre-determined time frame. I knew I had to capture the energy and the calmness of the pose during the class because it would all go away when class ended. Woman with a Mandolin represents 3 solid hours of the workshop, painting non-stop capturing everything I could, including adding some of what wasn’t even there. I suppose this is a bit how plein air painters feel as well – capture it or else, you don’t. I started by representing colors the way they were but then, I didn’t. The model didn’t seem to mind her blue hair when she saw herself. The canvas size is 24 x 48.  
Our model was Lindalou, she and her husband, Michael Ryge, are singer/songwriters – playing folk/Americana music. They’ve got a website, where you can also listen to downloads of their music, at They often play around Calistoga, CA and are definitely local favorites.