Tag Archives: painting

In the studio with Melissa Brown

Melissa Brown in her studio

I recently had the opportunity to visit Melissa Brown’s studio. I have known Melissa for a long time through my friend Joe Grillo. I saw her show Paper Fortune at Canada Gallery back in 2009 when everything was doom and gloom and her show reflected that attitude. The woodcuts she presented were critical of wealth and the symbols surrounding it.

Since then, Melissa has found herself painting landscapes, trying to envision a panoramic view in the gallery space – most recently with Palisades at Kansas Gallery and an upcoming show in Connecticut.

Melissa BrownBut what Melissa is most excited about now is a group of paintings that explore the technique of printmaking through painting. With this work, she is also looking at an object and shifting the plane to abstraction. Rocks are her figures that become abstraction and then figure again through the idea of pareidolia – the perception that there is some sort of pattern or meaning where there is none (i.e. seeing a face in the clouds).

Melissa Brown Mirrored RocksShe uses stencils to create the dominant figure in each series of paintings. Melissa blends colors beautifully and creates depth by juxtaposing sharp lines and soft textures, highlighting the paintings with vibrant streaks. It all adds up to a visual image that is interesting and smart and engaging.

Melissa BrownMelissa is also working on a series of stop-motion animations that tie in nicely with the paintings – layered and captivating throughout.

I really enjoyed the way Melissa spoke about her work. She was very much aware of her creative arc. She has certain goals and the mindset and the talent to achieve them.

All in all, I was happy to spend an evening in her studio learning more about her work and I look forward to seeing it progress.

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Pink Happens: A Conversation with Joan Snyder

Joan Snyder in her studio with unfinished Proserpina 2012

Joan Snyder in her studio with unfinished Proserpina. 2012.

I am going to preface this post by saying – you just never know. You never really know what’s next and you never know what kinds of people you will encounter in your life.

I found myself on the brink of my birthday feeling sentimental, reflecting on what had happened in the past year and what I was to look forward to in the upcoming year. After my amazing road trip through the Midwest in my Chevy Camaro, I was itching for the next adventure, the next challenge. I found myself thinking, what’s next?

And that’s when I got to know Joan Snyder – a talented artist but also a woman that I could admire and respect. And so, in my never-ending search for life advice, I asked her to answer a few questions for this blog.

At first, I was excited about this interview with Joan. Then, I was nervous that I would sound stupid. Then, when I had thought of questions to ask her, my research answered all those questions. Then, with some advice from a good friend, I decided to look inward and see if there might be an angle of Joan Snyder that had not been covered by the multitude of interviews she has done during her lifetime. I thought I had the answer by asking more reflective questions, but she was way ahead of me. Turns out, Joan has all the answers and all the right questions to see what it is that drives you. And she has the compassion to look after every one. Even me.

From a woman who has it all – what does someone like me do? Here is the conversation that I had with Joan Snyder in her studio in Brooklyn on December 10, 2012.

Pink Happens: A Conversation with Joan Snyder

Maria Kucinski: What did you envision your life to be like?

Joan Snyder: I remember at one point when I was really young, thinking that I wanted to have it all. What “all” meant to me, I don’t know – but I think I wanted to try everything.
I never, as a young woman, thought of myself as being gay, that’s for sure. But that interested me because I did feel a certain attraction to women.
And I didn’t know that I wanted to have a kid. In fact, I aborted my first pregnancy. And then, I really suffered after that and regretted it. So I got pregnant again and then had a miscarriage, it was a late miscarriage and that was very difficult. And then I got pregnant with Molly – so I was basically pregnant for three years in a row. During that time, I never stopped painting.
As far as my art and career, I knew that when I started painting – and I was not a good painter at all in the beginning – I always say it took me 8 years before I made a good painting (Lines And Strokes, 1969)… but I knew that it was something that I was going to be really good at. I just knew that instinctively and it’s not as if I was really good at anything before that.
I’m still very anxious, but I was a really anxious kid and teenager. When I started painting I realized that this could be a language that I would be able to develop and speak. Then something clicked miraculously. And I took it seriously and my work developed over many years. I wasn’t looking for fame or fortune, or anything…but it happened – I have been very lucky. Of course, it came with a lot of very hard work.

MK: How did you get through those tough moments in your life?

JS: Suffering…living with a lot of anxiety…therapy…which oftentimes was not useful. That’s an understatement. I ended up having an affair with my therapist when I was in my 40’s. Crazy. Really crazy. But my therapists often kind of fell for me in ways that were not healthy for me. Over and over…

MK: You say that approaching a painting is like approaching an altar, can you say something about that?

JS: Well, I know that when I was in graduate school, my final thesis stated that my work was my religion. I have made a lot of altar paintings but I can’t say that the metaphor really works today that easily – although every painting is exciting and serious and I feel very devoted to each work. They are more reflections, personal expressions than anything religious.
It’s a language that I am speaking. That is what young artists sometimes don’t understand. It takes many years to develop the language. It is like a baby learning to speak. You have to be able to make mistakes and sound stupid and do ridiculous things but you really are developing a language that hopefully doesn’t exist yet. It’s something new and different. So, for me, that’s what I have been up to over the years, developing and speaking this language.

MK: So with this language, do you know what it is that you ultimately want to say?

JS: Ah, well, it always starts from somewhere and then goes to other places because what I might be thinking in my head as a topic for a painting doesn’t always stick. Because once you put one mark down, or one step, or one note, it’s going to have its own mind and go somewhere else. That doesn’t answer your question. Who knows what they ultimately want to say?
Specifically, with Proserpina, the painting is based on a song that Kate McGarrigle wrote at the end of her life. The song is based on a Roman myth about a daughter who is kidnapped and brought to the underworld with her mother searching for her and threatening all sorts of awful things if Proserpina doesn’t “come home to mama.” I heard this song a few years ago, at a time when my own family was in the midst of a major drama. That song just so spoke to me. I made some sketches at the concert. The lyrics have so much great imagery of fields, the earth, of stones, heat, of mother and mama and come home, you know, it has everything. Then, what further inspired me was meeting Martha Wainwright after I painted Tell My Sister, 2012 – her telling me about her mother, Kate McGarrigle, and hearing stories that related to Tell My Sister and Proserpina.
It’s easy to say what inspires the beginning of the painting, but what happens with the painting is ultimately its own journey. At a certain point, I go on automatic pilot when I am painting because I totally trust myself and my process. That is not to say that I don’t step back, that I’m not cautious. The marks might look haphazard but I am monitoring every drip, every mark.

Joan Snyder Still, 2011 oil, acrylic, paper mache, twigs, glass beads, cheesecloth, silk, burlap, rosebuds on linen 48 x 63 inches

Joan Snyder, Still, 2011. Oil, acrylic, paper mache, twigs, glass beads, cheesecloth, silk, burlap, rosebuds on linen. 48 x 63 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and the Cristin Tierney Gallery.

MK: Looking at your work over the years, and at the new paintings in your studio, can you talk about the color pink in your work?

JS: The color? No. Why?

MK: [Sheepishly] Because I love the color pink…

JS: I think it’s variations on red that I like. I wouldn’t necessarily say I love pink although what happens when I mix certain reds with certain blues and add white then it gets to be pink. But it’s not like I go after pink…pink happens. I guess that’s what you can call the interview.

MK: Well, now I’m heartbroken…but when I look at your work, I often see the limitations of the female body – that physically we are limited by our bodies.

JS: Really? How do you see that in my paintings?

MK: In the recent paintings, I see the struggle of women through the abstract forms. In Still, 2011 for example, I feel that painting. It has the female form. The blood. And the drips.

JS: Well that painting really is about fragility in a lot of ways, that is true. That one went out to the limits in some ways in terms of fragility. It’s funny because I don’t necessarily think of it as the fragility of a woman or a woman’s body. But then I’m mincing words because it is about how delicate it all is. I don’t ever think of dripping reds as blood. I don’t think I have ever thought of blood per se. It’s not where I go in my head. I mean there are forms that are vaginal and sexual and vulnerable and things like that. I just absolutely love the color red, but I don’t say to myself, “I’m gonna drip some blood here.” Never.
So what’s interesting is that what people see and relate to, and identify with when looking at a painting, is often very different than what I might have been thinking or relating to or identifying with when I painted it. That’s why I have often told young artists that you can put anything into a painting, tell any secret, no one will get what you’re putting in anyway. Everyone is going to read it differently. And so my paintings have often been confessional and upfront and diaristic. I have always been quite confessional…
But it is interesting to me that you’re feeling this kind of fragility…

MK: Outside of your art, what are you interested in? What motivates you?

JS: I have been writing a play for seven years.

MK: What is the play about? Why did you want to write a play?

JS: The play is about the exploitation of younger people by older people, about power. It moves between two different time periods. It’s about Carl Jung and his patient, Sabina Spielrein. And it’s about me as a young person and about my psychiatrist, who happened to have been a woman. The cast includes Sabina and Jung and Sabina’s parents and then of course Freud and me and my psychiatrist. It’s about Jung’s behavior, his genius and his anti-Semitic ways, about my doctor who was a holocaust survivor. And finally about Sabina, who became a renowned child psychiatrist herself. She and her two daughters died at the hands of the Nazi’s. It’s filled with subject matter that very much interests me.
Gardening used to be a great passion of mine. But a couple of years ago, we had a family drama which took place in my garden. The Garden of Eden. And nothing has been the same in the garden since. I’m hoping to get back to my garden next year.
One thing I am not ambitious about is my career. The New York art world is not interesting to me. I only go to openings of close friends. I don’t hang out. When I started seeing Maggie, 25 years ago, one of the first things I said to her was how I regretted that I didn’t go to more openings. And Maggie said, “I seriously doubt that on your deathbed, you’re going to say that you regret not having gone to more Leo Castelli openings. She’s right. I am not going to say that.
One day, many, many years ago, Pat Steir was in my studio on Mulberry Street. And I remember saying to her that she was so lucky to be showing in Amsterdam. And she said, “Yes, but you have Molly.” And Molly was my priority. I was a single mother and she was my priority. I met Maggie when Molly was eight years old and Maggie became a serious part of our lives a few years later. Not to say that I haven’t paid attention to my career but my work and my family have always been my priority.
I am really lucky. I mean, really, really lucky to have accomplished all that I have accomplished. I started with nothing. My parents had nothing – they were working class. Everything I earned, I earned on my own.
I have lots of interests but I also spend a lot of time alone quietly. I think that for me, that’s very important because that is when I work – without working.

MK: What piece of advice would you give to someone like me?

JS: I’d have to interview you first to know more about you because I don’t know anything about you, really, Maria. So it would be hard for me to give you advice.
How old are you?

MK: 25.

JS: 25…So, your problem – knowing nothing about you – I know what your problem is, your problem is probably that you’re good at a lot of things, exceptionally good at a lot of things. So it’s hard to figure out where to land. That’s hard. I think I was good at one thing, which was painting. I promise you. That was the lucky thing that happened to me. I wasn’t good at a zillion things or at least I didn’t recognize that I was. I was just anxious more than anything else. Then I started painting. [Pauses, glances at Proserpina] I am happiest when I am in my studio.

_________________________

And I was happy to have the opportunity to speak with Joan Snyder in her studio. The conversation continued about painting, Iyengar yoga, my stupid hip, music, Twitter, smoothies, and life in general. So aside from the disappointing fact that Joan believes pink is really a variation on red, I learned a lot from her and I learned a lot about myself. I look forward to working hard and approaching the next exciting challenge.

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Hermann Nitsch at Leo Koenig

Hermann Nitsch Die ApothekeDie Apotheke / The Pharmacy by Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch at Leo Koenig stimulates the senses.

The performance or “action” begins with statements by Nitsch and ends with everything covered in blood. As a naked man sits on the ground with a pig carcass above his head, five musicians known as the Quintetto Nitsch play music beside a table filled with fresh produce and raw meats. On the other side of the room, the “cabinet of curiosities” holds items used in the performance and nostalgia of actions past.

This work was very intense. I was surprised that the most overwhelming aspect of this work for me was the smell. It was not the dead pig, the naked man, the endless amounts of blood, or the religious symbolism that provoked a reaction from me. No, it was the smell of the pig, raw meats, blood, and body odor combined with the perfume oils, flowers, and fruit that were so distinct and strong that I felt uneasy.

Which leads me to ask myself – Have I become so anesthetized that the imagery of the work doesn’t even bother me anymore? Was I more concerned with getting blood on my freshly dry-cleaned white coat that I didn’t let myself get lost in the tactile use of the blood? What would I have focused on if the smell had not been so pervasive?

All in all, regardless of my hangup with the smell, the work of Hermann Nitsch is powerful and attacks from all angles.

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Kenny Scharf at Paul Kasmin

I attended the opening of Kenny Scharf’s Naturafutura and Three Dozen! at the Paul Kasmin Gallery. I’ve gotten to know Kenny over the past two years from his Cosmic Cavern parties to his show at The Hole. His work is vibrant and fun and expertly executed. Naturafutura is a new series of large-scale paintings inspired by his time spent in Brazil. And with donuts being my favorite food, I obviously love Three Dozen! I also enjoyed the donuts that we could eat – I chose the pink one. Delicious.

Naturafutura and Three Dozen! will be on view January 27th through February 26, 2011 at Paul Kasmin 293 Tenth Avenue and 511 W. 27th Street respectively. Here are some photos from the night (though I unfortunately didn’t get any of the man of the night):

 

Joe and Laura
Joe Grillo and Laura Grant in front of Swamp Style, 2010
Sam and Erin
Sam Gutman and Erin Kennedy in front of Oil Painting, 2010
Donuts
Donuts in Space (and in my eventually in my belly)
Lino
DJ Lino playing the hot jamz at the afterparty
Dance
The dance party begins

All in all, it was a great night to celebrate the work of a very talented man, Kenny Scharf.

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Wood, light, mesh, and paint

When the four elements of wood, light, mesh and paint are combined the result is Allotropisms, a new, site-specific installation by Alois Kronschlaeger at the Cristin Tierney Gallery. Alois’ work exists at the intersection of art, architecture, fashion and design. His forms are surreal and his materials simple, in the tradition of earlier artists such as Frederick Kiesler and Buckminster Fuller. Alois is best known for his site specific installations and sculptures, which demonstrate a preoccupation with environment and light, as well as an interest in exploring time and space via geometry.

I have had the immense pleasure of working with Alois this week on the installation – his most ambitious project to date. The opening of Allotropisms is Thursday, January 13, 2011, 6-8pm at the Cristin Tierney Gallery, 546 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001.

Here is a sneak peak!

Allotropisms by Alois Kronschlaeger

(More to come after the opening!)

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My week with Dearraindrop

In October 2010, my friends Joe Grillo, Laura Grant, and Owen Osborn of the artist collective Dearraindrop along with Pop Art legend, Kenny Scharf had a show at The Hole Gallery in New York City. The Hole is a new gallery in Soho run by Kathy Grayson and Meghan Coleman – gallerinas extraordinaire, who previously worked with Jeffrey Deitch at Deitch Projects – and wanted to fill the “hole” in the downtown art scene in NYC.

I had the wonderful opportunity to spend the week at The Hole as they got ready for the show aptly titled, Hot Glue Hullabaloo (for the amount of hot glue used to create Cosmic Cavern by Kenny Scharf and the “junk sculptures” by Joe Grillo).

Here is my week in photos:

Joe Grillo Painting

My week starts with Joe Grillo painting.

Laura Grant and Owen Osborn

Laura Grant and Owen Osborn get ready to install the trigger synthesizers with gourd speakers and the guitars.

Tea Party LL Cool J Contest Next Door

Tea Party LL Cool J Contest Next Door

Found this note from Owen in the morning: Went to Philadelphia. Back for lunch.

Synthesizers and Gourds

When Owen returned, we installed the synthesizers and gourds.

Guitars

Then we installed the guitars.

Placement

The next day, we put everything in place for the opening.

Kenny Scharf spray-painting

Kenny Scharf spray paints.

Laura Grant

Laura Grant wearing her own hand-made dress, standing in front of her painting.

Joe Grillo in Cosmic Cavern

Joe in the Cosmic Cavern.

Owen Osborn with Kaleidoloops

Owen toting around his Kaleidoloops.

Meghan Coleman and Kathy Grayson

The Hole Gallery owners, Meghan Coleman and Kathy Grayson.

Lady Miss Kier

Lady Miss Kier plays the guitar.

Scott Brewster

Hole gallerist, Scott Brewster, wearing a Dearraindrop hoodie.

Maria Kucinski, Joe Grillo, Laura Grant at Hot Glue Hullabaloo opening

All in all, I had an amazing time working with these talented artists on an awesome and fun show.

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