Archive for January, 2010

Millet – The Angelus

January 27, 2010

Rob brought up this painting last night before we all went out to see Darien Brahms play at Port City Music Hall. (She played Green Valentine for Cole)! We barely talked about the subject matter: Man and woman in a field, bent over, revering a basket. We mostly talked about how it was painted and why? Why?! Rob was interested in our thoughts on what could inform a painter to paint a particular way.  In this example with smooth, sharp, realistic execution, joined to a broken up, disparate, playful display of woven color. I am predisposed to the latter disparate way of making marks, a way of showing the world as being anything other than smooth, yet still fluid. So i quickly reacted to the replication in Rob’s art history book as beholden of valid ways of seeing the world with your own eyes.

I imagine the bottom and sides of the painting to be executed differently from the center and top because of our own eyes inability to focus on the periphery. The sharpness falls on our focus, our subject, the people we are looking at. The surrounding areas inevitably fall off and are recreated in pieces because they are not the focus of light or of our vision, but are still being molded into appearing by the light. I went all the way to say that painting something in a situation that is more direct to the actual light source depicted in your painting makes it a better painting. I know, i say things like this in very limited company, and then write down the word “better” here. Don’t know if i really want to say that, but lets just put it our there, and now talk about what Rob brought this painting to our attention for.

Rob and Cole had talked about the piece briefly before, they noted The Angelus as being a painted work displaying evidence of strong influences of photography. Cole agreed with Rob that Millet was depicting a vision that was not seen before photography. They thought that the way the periphery is painted — blurry, broken up, less focused — is indicative of a camera’s ability to re-present the world. In other words, the camera begins to show things as somewhat vignetted as a lens is rounded. They speculated that Millet surely looked into a camera obscura and had access to the technologies of the day which could re-present a scene in this way. No one spoke of the painting being made FROM a photograph, simply that it had the potential to have been INFLUENCED by a photograph.

The great and complicated relationship painting has to photography still eludes me in definition. Its helpful to be a part of a conversation like this. Its helpful to remember dates and times of advancement in sight. Its helpful to talk about the medium’s respective differences and also to note when we see them coming together to create a singular vision, like we presume they are in The Angelus. Recognizing when one is exposed to technologies which help us record and re-present the world help us to understand the trajectory painting has taken to get to now. Things that have never been seen before begin to show in Millet’s example of multiple ways of seeing the world. A way that shows us the beginning of a painter’s — an artist’s — ability to make a version of the world which includes multiple perspectives, not disproportional re-presentations, but more than one way of seeing in one thing.

Either way you break it down — as a personal vision or as a way of seeing perpetuated by photography — there exists an undeniable admittance that photography did exist at the moment in time this painting was made. Chronologically reassuring us that photography was accessible.   It also reminds us that painting has a strong ability to evolve and incorporate different ways of seeing the world into itself in order to connect with a viewer. An ability to take different views and impart, coerce, weave, collect, relate, multiple impressions to show a clear singular thought and vision.


January 27, 2010


New Logo: The Sphinx

January 17, 2010

Oedipus and the Sphinx - Gustave Moreau

Sitting at Ozzie’s, a coffee shop on 5th ave and Garfield in Brooklyn’s Park Slope area, i came across an astrology book printed in the 70’s, but first published in 1943.  Its writing described an aspect of astrology that i began to understand a few years ago, yet had found little other writing to support a way of thinking about the zodiac.  Simply, it is an analogy of the cycle of the development of human life (from young to old, infant to elderly)  to that of the sky’s cyclical system of rotating zodiacal signs.  The western astrological cycle does not correspond to our sense of time in years with say, January being the beginning.  Instead it begins at the end of March in Aries.  In this way of understanding the zodiac, Aries is the beginning, the infant, the blank slate, the state of wonder of the world.  Pisces (which comes right before Aries) is the end, has seen it all, tried everything and understands through experience, or from innate empathy for it encompasses what has come before.
This book at Ozzie’s, Astrological Signs – The Pulse of Life by Dane Rudhyar, illustrated a striking state of the transformation of time between Leo and Virgo.  This point in the zodiac interests me as my love, partner and collaborator, Cole Caswell is a sun in the cancer-leo cusp and i am a virgo-libra. We live together on the bridge from Leo to Virgo.  Here Rudhyar describes is where:

Productive activity on the basis of strict individualism and emotional self-expression presents to man a riddle.  How can physical and nervous exhaustion, emotional tragedy and disillusionment be avoided?  In essence this is the question which man everlastingly asks of the Sphinx; and there is a fitting tradition which says that the point of the zodiac which ends the sign Leo and begins the sign Virgo carries the symbol of the Sphinx.  This mythical creature which still faces today the sands of Egypt has the body of a lion and the head of a virgin — this is indeed the meeting point of Leo and Virgo.  It symbolizes the answer to the eternal query we have just stated.  What is this answer?
The answer is two-fold; yet the two sides of it should be integrated and that integration, difficult in practice though simple in theory is the very secret of the Sphinx, which is two being in one.  One side of the answer refers to the wear and tear produced by the impulsive and stressful type of activity and its dramatic gestures.  The answer can be summed up in one word: Technique.  The other side of the picture deals with a repolarization of the emotional nature itself.  Technique and emotional repolarization are the two keys to the secret of the Sphinx.          p.70-71

I found it fitting that the symbol of the Sphinx is one that presents us with riddles and answers to the meaning of being alive.  Life, here, is composed of both animal and human parts, two perspectives Cole and I often consider in our work.  As artists, Cole and I collectively rack our brains and trudge onward wondering how to avoid and cope with “physical and nervous exhaustion, emotional tragedy and disillusionment” coming up with methods for coping and staying conscious become the crossbeams that allow our learned techniques in the visual arts to build a larger and more secure and sustainable structure where we can continue to produce work under.    With the head of the virgin and the body of a lion, i imagine an accurate representation, a well organized example of curiosity, emotion, and integration of what leo-virgos do in the time between each other.

NYC (Blue Hammer @ Issue Project Room)

January 17, 2010


January 11, 2010