In the comments section of last Friday’s letter, Sharon Lalonde asked, “What is the responsibility of an artist to be a good host at her opening, and what would that look like? I have been to openings where one has to guess who the artist is, or the artist is comfortably in a corner with a few friends and does not engage. I think some education in this area would be valuable.”
The other day I happened to be paying a visit to one of my galleries. I noticed a guy moving slowly along a wall — his nose almost dragging on the paintings. “He’s an art student — comes in here all the time,” said the dealer. “He’s studying all the artists and trying to figure out their secrets.” The guy was making notes, lost in his own world.
Like the novel or memoir many of us feel we have lurking inside but will probably never put to paper, there is undoubtedly a painting or two that simmers in the arm and hand of all creative beings. More primal than writing, mark-making begins in early childhood, to be perverted later into a messy and inconvenient activity where the exception to do it in adulthood is made only when it serves an industry. A lawyer friend once invited me to his basement to show me an appealing, sort-of pointillist portrait in cheery colours. “Can you help me get a show?” he asked.
Yesterday, after some friends had left my studio, I realized that I’d been bumbling around and lacing the atmosphere with some odd words and phrases. While gathering up the empty glasses, I also reminded myself that, as individualists, we all have the right to “name and claim” our own terms. Here, in an attempt at clarity — for you five treasured friends — are some definitions:
A young Canadian artist wrote, “I had meant to ask your dad about those mahogany wood panels. I have been looking for a wood panel that is cheap in cost so that I can paint more and is time tested and archival, and something I can trust. I tried to look into it myself, but can’t seem to find them. I would also use the wood panels to glue canvas onto for oils and acrylics. Are these mahogany wood panels still a professional choice to sell the work compared to a stretched canvas, or are they only good for studies? Does it matter?”
I’m laptopping you from under a red sugar maple beside an old habitant cottage in Charlevoix County, Quebec. Artists of all stripes have come here for generations to paint and fall in love with the beauty and charm. The legacy continues today. The town where I’m staying, Baie-Saint-Paul, population 7000, has more than 30 art galleries and at least 100 professional painters. On some nearby roads you cannot go a kilometer without seeing a palette sign hung on a veranda and an invitation to a studio within. As many tourists and collectors are drawn to the area, some painters do very well.
Peggy Cooper Cafritz, the most ardent champion of African and African-American artists, this week bequeathed her entire collection to two of her most beloved institutions.
Six hundred and fifty artworks have been divided between the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, the school Peggy helped found while still in her junior year at George Washington University. These works were not Peggy’s first collection. In 2009, when she was 61, a lifetime of art collecting was destroyed in the largest residential fire in Washington D.C. history when Peggy’s home burned to the ground while she was out of town.
I’m laptopping you from a quiet nook in the garden of Audubon House, a small museum in Key West, Florida. In April of 1832, Audubon stayed in this house and counted nineteen species right here in this garden. He also painted some of the locals including the Roseate Spoonbill (I saw five of these overhead this morning), the Brown Pelican and the Great White Heron. Now the evening sky glows and beyond the quay pelicans are diving in the last light.
“To be put in any category not defined by one’s work is to be falsified,” said Elaine de Kooning, responding in 1971 to being characterized as a “woman artist.” She was pushing back against a new field of art history which was burgeoning on the sidelines of the contemporary art world called, “feminist art theory.” She wanted to be judged not by gender but solely on her ideas and skill.
Called “The Order of the Golden Day,” here’s a bit of fun that can change your life:
You set aside a clear and uncluttered day to work and love your craft. Start early; end late. You put your head down and push yourself from one thing to another. It’s a day where everything comes out of the end of the brush (or pen, or chisel), a luxury day where all that counts is the universe of your creation. After, on your weary way to bed, you can give yourself a badge.