* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
You give yourself a creative life – pursuing those questions and aesthetic conditions that mean the most to you. What are you interested in? Landscape and gender and nuclear power are each worthy subjects and there are plenty more. Do you aspire to exhibit in museums or public spaces or virtual realms? Your job is to figure out how to best engage these distinct contexts. Your studio may be a large industrial space or a second bedroom or the kitchen table, where you can work days or nights while wearing your favorite sweatpants and drinking tea as music blasts or silence is maintained. You might produce five or fifty objects a year, using bronze or oil paint or folded paper, and these can be large or tiny, made to last for centuries or a few weeks. Maybe you’ve been a printmaker for several years and all of a sudden you decide to make videos. OK. You might be influenced by Pop Art or Minimalism or Feminism or Fluxus. How are you using these various histories to your advantage? Does Edward Hopper or Gordon Matta-Clark or Agnes Martin or David Hammons inspire you? If not, who does? Try to understand the reasons for your choices, and if you feel the need to shift gears, indulge that impulse. Grant yourself the permission to acquire new skills, travel to biennials, buy a new computer, start a reading group. Risk not knowing what will happen when you do.
Stephen Horodner in THE ART LIFE: On Creativity and Career
Comments are welcome!
A: I have been in my West 29th Street space for seventeen years, but from the beginning, in the mid-1980’s, I had a studio. My first one was in the spare bedroom of the Alexandria, Virginia, house that I shared with Bryan and that I still own. For about three years in the 1990s I had a studio on the third floor of the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a building in Alexandria that is open to the public. People come in, watch artists work, and occasionally buy a piece of art.
In April 997 an opportunity to move to New York arose and I didn’t look back. By then I was showing in a good 57th Street gallery, Brewster Arts Ltd. (the gallery focused exclusively on Latin American artists; I was thrilled with the company I was in; the only fellow non-Latina represented by owner, Mia Kim, was Leonora Carrington), and I had managed to find a New York agent, Leah Poller, with whom to collaborate. I looked at only one other space before finding my West 29th Street studio. An old friend of Bryan’s from Cal Tech rented the space next door and he had told us it was available. Initially the studio was a sublet. The lease-holder was a painter headed to northern California to work temporarily for George Lucas at the Lucas Ranch. After several years she decided to stay so I was able to take over the lease.
My studio continues to be an oasis in a chaotic city, a place to make art, to read, and to think. I love to walk in the door every morning and always feel more calm the moment I arrive. It’s my absolute favorite place in New York!
Comments are welcome!
Q: In light of the realities you discussed last week (see blog post of Aug. 24), what keeps you motivated to make art?
A: In essence it’s that I have always worked much harder for love than for money. I absolutely love my work, my creative process, and my chosen life. I have experienced much tragedy – no doubt there is more to come – but through it all, my journey as an artist is a continual adventure that gives me the ultimate freedom to spend my time on this earth as I want. In my work I make the rules, set my own tasks, and resolve them on my own timetable. What could be better than that?
Furthermore, I know that I have a gift and with that comes a profound responsibility, an obligation to develop and use it to the best of my ability, regardless of what it may cost. And when I say “cost,” I do not mean only money. Art is a calling and all self-respecting artists do whatever is necessary to use and express our gifts.
In “The Gift” Lewis Hyde says, “A gift is a thing we do not get by our own efforts. We cannot buy it, we cannot acquire it through an act of will. It is bestowed upon us. Thus we rightly speak of “talent” as a “gift” for although a talent can be perfected through an act of will, no effort in the world can cause its initial appearance. Mozart, composing on the harpsichord at the age of four, had a gift.”
Comments are welcome!
A: In the late 1980s when I was studying at the Art League in Alexandria, VA, I took a three-day pastel workshop with Albert Handel, an artist known for his southwest landscapes in pastel and oil paint. I had just begun working with soft pastel (I’d completed my first class with Diane Tesler) and was still experimenting with paper. Handel suggested I try Ersta fine sandpaper. I did and nearly three decades later, I’ve never used anything else.
The paper (UArt makes it now) is acid-free and accepts dry media, especially pastel and charcoal. It allows me to build up layer upon layer of pigment, blend, etc. without having to use a fixative. The tooth of the paper almost never gets filled up so it continues to hold pastel. If the tooth does fill up, which sometimes happens with problem areas that are difficult to resolve, I take a bristle paintbrush, dust off the unwanted pigment, and start again. My entire technique – slowly applying soft pastel, blending and creating new colors directly on the paper (occupational hazard: rubbed-raw fingers, especially at the beginning of a painting as I mentioned in last Saturday’s blog post), making countless corrections and adjustments, looking for the best and/or most vivid colors, etc. – evolved in conjunction with this paper.
I used to say that if Ersta ever went out of business and stopped making sandpaper, my artist days would be over. Thankfully, when that DID happen, UArt began making a very similar paper. I buy it from ASW (Art Supply Warehouse) in two sizes – 22″ x 28″ sheets and 56″ wide by 10 yard long rolls. The newer version of the rolled paper is actually better than the old, because when I unroll it it lays flat immediately. With Ersta I laid the paper out on the floor for weeks before the curl would give way and it was flat enough to work on.
Comments are welcome!