We recently re-potted all of our many houseplants and moved them around, including bringing my over-ten-years-old vine into my studio area, where it now presides over my bookcase. The antique rocking chair is a new addition to my studio space, too, bought at a yard sale two months ago. It's nice to take a break there, sit and read books or rock and look at my artwork and think. No wonder Agnes Martin liked to have a rocking chair in the studio. The motion and the gentle creaking are conducive to pondering.
Nasturtiums oil on panel 2016-2017
I finished working on my nasturtiums, and now they sit on my drying shelf where I can look at them every day. One of the nicest things about having artwork at home is getting to see it in all kinds of light. In the museum, light is so carefully controlled---but at home you can see a painting lit by the raking golden light of sun-down, and watch it glow in a whole new way.
I work at the kitchen table because our apartment is so small. The table is my drawing desk, a place to eat and talk with my husband, my spot to set up still lifes. Sometimes it is where I write letters to friends and family long distant, or make observations in my small red journal. Sometimes Ryan clears everything off and we play a board-game at night, with the blinds closed behind us, and the lamp overhead very yellow in the dark. During the day it is one of the more pleasant places to sit in the apartment, since I can lean my head on my hand next to my houseplants and gaze out the window at the wind tossing the distant trees, far off over the rooftops. It gets so dark in winter.
detail of a drawing in progress of apples
After such a prolonged absence, I intend to get the past two and a half month's worth of artwork updated on this website over the next week. My husband and I moved to be closer to his new job and it left me without a chance to document my work for a while. It is so slow, trying to settle in a new place, bringing order to a new apartment, making all the appointments and taking care of the little and large things that demand so much attention. . . But I am catching up, bit by bit. In the mean time, I am working steadily. The photo above is a detail of an autumnal drawing that is so very close now. . .
Below are a few photos of different corners of my new studio space.
I am pleased that you want to write more reviews about artists who are women after you read Maura Reilly’s Art News article on gender disparity in the visual arts. It strikes me as a problem, though, that if you only found the work of 17 women interesting enough to write about before considering their gender that if you seek out more artwork by women to write about, the issue of importance remains----did you look at their work because you felt it was important and interesting in itself, or to rectify your previous omission? When I read Reilly’s article it occurred to me that at least part of the problem for women is one of perspective, especially the perspective held by the viewer of what is ‘important.’ Because the subjects that a woman finds important because of her life experience may well be different than what a man finds important because of his. It is an old distinction in the history of painting, most obvious in still life. Norman Bryson wrote eloquently about the concepts of megalography and rhopography and their relationship to gender in Looking at the Overlooked: “For as long as painting’s mode of vision would be constructed by men, the space in which women were obliged to lead their lives would be taken from them and imagined through the values of the ‘greater’ existence from which they were excluded.”
It takes a revolution of perspective to see past one’s own expectations. When you are a cat in a world of cats, it may be difficult to empathize with the perspective of a rat. When you are a man looking at a woman’s artwork, a leap of empathy may be needed, a change in perspective, an openness to unsettling your previous judgments about hierarchy and importance. Looking at art allows one to try on another person’s eyes for a while, to look about in their brain, to see into their life and philosophy. Importance necessarily shifts from artist to artist; judgment must be suspended until the other world view is fully inhabited.
You may not remember an evening five years ago spent visiting the studios at a small art school, but I vividly remember the first sentence you spoke as you entered my space: “Why so domestic?”
I was taken aback at the time, and didn’t have a chance to answer your question with my own: Why not? Our inner lives are most revealed in the privacy of the home. It is a space all share; everyone goes to sleep somewhere, has parents somewhere, fill the needs of the body somewhere. Domesticity is universal. Why would that be your first question unless, as I guessed to myself later, you felt that such a subject was unimportant and therefore my interest in the home needed to be justified?
It is the puzzle of perspective – we look at the same thing with different eyes --- and whose view is closer to the truth?
Life is lived within the circumference of gender. To make artwork about something means the artist feels such a thing is important, should be looked at, thought about, remembered. One’s own sphere of experience affects all definitions of importance. When you go out looking at women’s artwork with the intent to write more equitable reviews, I would like to ask you to stop and question what assumptions you bring with you. Can you make the leap of empathy – can the cat see a rat’s world with rat-like eyes?
Some day when you next look at my artwork, I hope you might not look at it straight with all your old judgments and assumptions, but slant, and backwards, and sideways, to see from where it was lived, and with what concern and wonderment.
Regard a Mouse
O'erpowered by the Cat!
Reserve within thy kingdom
A "Mansion" for the Rat!
Snug in seraphic Cupboards
To nibble all the day
While unsuspecting Cycles
Wheel solemnly away!
The Dream oil on linen 2015
I just added this recently finished oil painting to the 'paintings' tab of the website. You might recognize the chair and clothing from the painting below, which I finished in December. I've started working on 'the Dream' at the same time as I worked on 'Little Sleeper Sleeping,' but 'the Dream' is larger than the 'Little Sleeper' and took much longer to bring into balance.
Little Sleeper Sleeping oil on canvas 2014
The paintings make an interesting set of sorts with this painting I made of my husband. They are all oriented the same direction and set in the same area of our living room, they are all devoted to the theme of rest, sleep, dreams.
Private Life oil on canvas over panel 2013
I read a few books about the sculptress Louise Nevelson last month and one particular thing she said has held fast in my mind. I will paraphrase her: No one gives you the title of artist. You choose it for yourself.
It is something I think over often while I work in the studio. Here is a photo of my painting desk while 'the Dream' was still in progress. I feel shy about sharing work in progress, but the light was so beautiful as it lit up the painting that I wanted to make a record of it. The roses are from my mother's garden. The water buffalo carving was my grandmother's. I keep it close to remind me to be steady, to continue, to endure.
HomeMaker graphite on paper 2013
What I do is care. To make representational art is to care about one's subjects. To make art is to care about living.
Care can be a weight. A burden of care.
Care is what a wife does. What a sibling does. What a daughter does.
I take care.
I care for animals, I care for plants. I take care of the laundry, the garden, the mending, the groceries, the cleaning, and the organizing.
I care for Gia, she cares about me. I care for Ryan, he takes care of me. I care for my mother, she cares for me.
At the end of a letter, the words: take care.
I care for my paintings and eventually they come into being.
Life is a list of cares. To care is to hurt. Caring makes one tired. Caring makes things matter. Care is attention.. Care is a natural response. To care is to work. Care is love at work.
You can't live without caring.