Friday, July 17, 2009

First meeting with mentor, Page Coleman

Over lunch today I met with Page Coleman, my mentor for semester #1. I am so excited to be working with her. She was a great choice. Here's a summary of some of the things we discussed.

- Schedule. Not ideal; challenging. So, how about getting up a little early (4:30-ish -- Dave's right eyebrow rises...4:30?..."Separate beds, maybe?") and using early morning to do quick painting work. Get some ink, some cheap paper. Start slapping stuff around and see what happens. The work you do that isn't supposed to be a finished object is as important as, if not more important than, the finished, polished piece. Page noted that she thinks art students are forced into "the series" frame work. Oh, and no excuses. We set up a very generous schedule of meeting every three weeks. There's NO WAY I'm going to embarrass my sorry ass by complaining to Page. She has worked very hard and juggled a lot of different things to make her art. Page seems very empathetic, but all of us are juggling this thing and trying to make it work. I get no gold stars for kvetching. I'm very grateful for a challenging schedule to keep me on track. I want to be pushed and challenged.

-As yin to the yang: Go back, go back, go back. I think Page was perhaps a bit dismayed(?) that I finish my paintings in one session. She encouraged me to keep working on the same paintings for multiple sessions with an eye toward the following:
  • Eliminate information. Many artists will work around a favorite area that's become precious to them. Sometimes the painting is stronger without them. She told me about a painting she was doing in school -- a figurative work. The figure held a fan. And she loved that fan. It was gorgeous and carefully worked. Her professor told her to get rid of it. She did and suddenly all kinds of areas started to pop and things started to happen.
  • Get out my old rolled up paintings. Paint over them, again, eliminating and simplifying. The eye needs a place to rest.
  • How do you make a quiet area interesting? It's much harder to work with quiet areas than with the gestural brushstrokes.
  • Try to stop thinking of this work I'm doing as finished pieces. Get rid of the preciousness. Don't be afraid to mess things up.
- Try working in different formats. Work some things flat (Heather at the residency recommended this).

- Go out and see other artists. Visit galleries, talk to artists, see if you can visit their studios. Page told me about an organization I'd never heard of before: The Contemporary Art Society (here in NM). I'm sending them an e-mail tonight to get on their mailing list. They're a non-profit and sponsor visits to artists' studios, collectors' homes, museums and other institutions and events with visiting artists and critics. Who knew? In tracking down their e-mail, I discovered "Friends of Contemporary Art". I love the description: "A support group of the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe with the primary mission of supporting the contemporary art program of the museum..." The next studio tour with foca is Sat. Sept. 26 (Nic Nicosia, Forrest Moses and Zachariah Rieke and Gail Rieke).

- Explore the history of contemporary art in New Mexico. Here's a start with an article in the New Mexico "Collector's Guide."

So, in summary, as Jan Avgikos suggested: daily practice. Nothing substitutes for time with your materials. I love the morning painting idea...groggy, grumpy, before the dawn, pushed by the first caffeine jolt of the morning. Sandwiched between situps and PB&J sandwiches... MESSY ART.

Oh. Almost forgot. Page said (when I squirmed about painting a painting in more than three hours, and maybe destroying precious "historic" (i.e., musty rolled up) paintings for the hell of it): it's supposed to be uncomfortable. Note: the things that feel most uncomfortable are probably the things I need to do most.

So, oh hell, bring on the discomfort. Hopefully I can make some really ugly paintings this semester that my mom would never want in her living room.

Addendum: How could I forget? Page loved the annoying assignment of setting a kitchen timer and changing brushes and paints when the bell goes off. Aargh. It's my destiny this semester.

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