I expect that where I start will not be where I end. – Me
I’ve recently had the accidental pleasure of realizing my trajectory in the studio has some echoes to an artist that I have never been in love with to the degree that the general public and museum patrons have. I’ve been busy finding my art sisters and mothers – all the beautiful feminists sharing the world of women with viewers, and never gave male artists their due. I saw a play about his life years ago called Red, and left feeling so sad for this man who committed suicide after years of an intense and successful work life. Me not understanding – why on earth would you refuse to paint a commission for the Four Seasons restaurant? Oh yes, the same reason why my intellectual hero Asger Jorn refused to accept a Guggenheim Fellowship – refusing it as if someone just thrust a dirty napkin in his face. (“I hope to paint something that will ruin the appetite of every son of a bitch who ever eats in that room.”)
He and I share some spooky similarities: 1) he started coming undone at the seams from an aesthetic perspective the same age that I have, both undoubtedly pulled by the events of the time – he WWII and me the social and cultural shit storm we are living in now); 2) we both share a foundation of working figuratively; 3) we both admire children’s art; 4) next an obsession with the myths (he Oedipus and Iphigenia, and I Psyche and her tasks), 5) topped off with a commitment to working directly with feeling using abstraction (i.e. tragedy, doom and ecstasy) and dumping all the artifice we dabbled in before. (“…it was with the utmost reluctance that I found the figure could not serve my purposes.. .But a time came when none of us could use the figure without mutilating it.”); 6.) lastly and trivially he landed in Portland, Oregon area for some strange convenient reasons predicated by family early in his life.
I found our connections while researching my manifesto of sorts. I am writing this manifesto less for public consumption or assurance, and more to give myself principals to ground me as I fly around the studio like a bird stuck in a parking garage. Words have always comforted me, and they give me some limitations which help me move past creative obstacles.
Here is the manifesto (actually an excerpt from a letter to the New York Times editorial board in 1943) by Adolf Gottlieb and Mark Rothko. And yes, it turns out Mark Rothko and I are spirit twins. Completely presumptuous I know, but uncanny the connections. And I have no interest in killing myself, and yes Four Seasons, call me if you want a commission for your restaurant in Manhattan. And I do find myself very lonesome at times and strangely averse to sharing my work with the public (conflict is an inherent pattern in reality). Understanding one’s art family, historical or otherwise, is one of the most exciting things for an artist – we are not islands or bubbles, but extremely interconnected humans and sets of consciousness. So here is their manifesto, of which I will willingly steal no. 2 and no. 5 for my own:
1.To us art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explored only by those willing to take the risks.
2. This world of the imagination is fancy-free and violently opposed to common sense.
3. It is our functions as artists to make the spectator see the world our way—not his way.
4. We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth.
5. It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing. We assert that the subject is crucial and only that subject matter is valid which is tragic and timeless. That is why we profess spiritual kinship with primitive and archaic art.
It is worth it to read the entire letter, and to understand these artists are trying to educate the critics and media. Nowadays it seems artists are so impressed and inspired by the media they would hardly write them a letter to re-check their position on the arts, for fear that one wrong move will send them flying into the gates of art purgatory, or Camas where I live. It’s high time it was done though – the art press is so tired and boring, and frankly writing short missives to Jerry Saltz’s instagram feed or FB page is ineffective.
Wishing you dear reader peace, inspiration and happy hunting for your art brothers, mothers, sisters and fathers.
“…art to me is an anecdote of the spirit, and the only means of making concrete the purpose of its varied quickness and stillness.” – Mark Rothko