A. That is a long story. To get far away from New York for the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, my friend, Donna Tang, and I planned a two-week road trip to see land art sites in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. (Donna did excellent research).
We hoped for a private tour of Roden Crater with James Turrell, which is not easy to arrange. I had also invited my friend Ann Landi, an art critic and arts writer, to join us, hoping she might get an interview with Turrell and write an article for Artnews. Turrell has been working on Roden Crater for 30+ years so Ann was interested in seeing it too! Ann contacted Turrell’s gallery – Gagosian – but they later relayed Turrell’s refusal.
We were planning to see other land art sites. As an alternative to Roden Crater and Turrell, Ann pitched a story to The Wall Street Journal about Sun Tunnels and Nancy Holt (Robert Smithson’s wife, who as the only woman in the land art movement, has never been given her due). The Journal said yes, so Ann made plans to join Donna and me in Salt Lake City.
The three of us visited Sun Tunnels, Spiral Getty, and other sites together. Ann had a brand new point-and-shoot camera that she hadn’t yet learned how to use. I always take lots of photos whenever I travel. After we returned home, I sent Ann a few images and she asked permission to submit them with her article. I was thrilled when The Wall Street Journal requested JPEGs. It was the first time I’ve had a photograph published in a major newspaper.
Comments are welcome!
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
The most demanding part of living a lifetime as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadily along the nerve of one’s own most intimate sensitivity. As in any profession, facility develops. In most this is a decided advantage, and so it is with the actual facture of art; I notice with interest that my hand is more deft, lighter, as I grow more experienced. But I find that I have to resist the temptation to fall into the same kind of pleasurable relaxation I once enjoyed with clay. I have in some subtle sense to fight my hand if I am to grow along the reaches of my nerve.
And here I find myself faced with two fears. The first is simply that of the unknown – I cannot know where my nerve is going until I venture along it. The second is less sharp but more permeating: the logical knowledge that the nerve of any given individual is as limited as the individual. Under its own law, it may just naturally run out. If this happens, the artist does best, it seems to me, to fall silent. But by now the habit of work is so ingrained in me that I do not know if I could bear the silence.
Anne Truitt in Daybook: The Journal of an Artist
Q: Your pastel-on-sandpaper paintings are very labor intensive. Do you typically have just one in progress at any given time?
A: For many years I always worked on one at a time because I have only one or two ideas – never more than that – about what I will make next. Also, I believe that “all art is the result of one’s having gone through an experience to the end.” (It’s on a note taped to the wall near my easel). So I would work on one painting at a time until all of the problems in it were resolved. Each piece that I undertake represents an investment of several months of my life and after nearly three decades as an artist, I know that once I start a piece I will not abandon it for any reason. When it is the best painting that I can make – when adding or subtracting anything would be a diminishment – I pronounce it “finished.” In the past I would start the next one only when the completed piece was out of my sight and at the frame shop.
But a few years ago I began working on two pastel paintings at a time. When I get stuck – or just need a break from looking at the same image day after day (I am in my studio 5 days a week) – I switch to the other one. This helps me work more efficiently. The two paintings interact with each other; they play off of each other and one suggests solutions that help me to resolve problem areas in the other. I’m not sure exactly how this happens – maybe putting a piece aside for awhile alerts my unconscious to begin working deeply on it – but having two in progress at the same time is my preferred way of working now.
A note about the painting on the left above, which was previously called, “Judas.” I happen to be reading “Cloud Atlas,” by David Mitchell and came across the word “judasing” used as a verb meaning, “doing some evil to a person who profoundly trusted you.” I’d never heard the word before, but it resonated with an event in my personal life. So the new title of my painting is “Judasing.” This is a good reminder that work and life are inextricably (and inexplicably) woven together and that titles can come from anywhere!
Comments are welcome!