Friday, May 4, 2012

About Soft Structure

I’ve been reading a biography of painter Joan Mitchell and thinking about her painting. Her work was all over the place the last time I was in NYC. There were two gallery shows and a museum retrospective and articles in newspapers and magazines. The paintings, many of them monumental in size, are gorgeous, full of passionate and fiery energy. I find the dark areas in some too dense and cold but that’s a subjective criticism and small flaw to find in such majestic work.

I often find something to take or learn from the paintings of others but when thinking of Mitchell’s I realized that what I want is very different from her kind of startling beauty. I want to paint quietness and order. I want peace, serenity and joy. Which I also want from life. I don’t want excitement or adventure. The challenge is to make the painting something to step into, a place of light and warmth. A place to rest. Well, as I said, it’s a challenge. 

Mitchell’s history in Manhattan preceded my school years there by about ten years but was spent in the same neighborhoods and from the photos I’ve seen she spent some years in the same building my then boyfriend lived and painted in. But that is the only way I feel even slightly connected to her. Our differences have made clear to me the plan for the paintings I am beginning to work on now. I have been moving back and forth between more or less structured paintings. From collaged hard edged works with some architectural drawing as in August Four (below) or softer, more organically inspired works like Bower (also below). The vision of the moment is for a soft structure. I wonder what I will be able to make of that.

So after getting clear about the direction I want to take now, thanks to Joan Mitchell, I am going to lay my brushes aside for a bit to focus on supporting the habit. I will be the artist-in-residence at Plaza , the new business on Arcata's plaza, set to open next week. For those not familiar with this beautiful piece of California, Arcata is ten minutes north of me (in Eureka) and home to Humboldt State University. This new venture means I will have paintings in a periodically revolving exhibition. While the business part of my operation is not where my aptitudes are best employed, I very much want the paintings to be seen and the prospect of showing new work spurs me on. This is the best of all possible worlds.  

August Four ©2011, 16” x 20” Mixed Media 

From writer and Nobel Prize winner Romain Rolland: “It is the artist's business to create sunshine when the sun fails.”

Bower ©2009, 50” x 37” Mixed Media

Andy Warhol was another kind of thinker: “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” Warhol was unlike any artist I have ever known or read about. 


  1. Wonderful about being artist-in-residence! I look forward to seeing what will be revolving there...and perhaps even seeing you as well.

  2. Thank you, Chipmunk. There will be a reception and invitations. I hope to see you; it's been a long time - again!