Saturday, June 27, 2015

Painter Tomory Dodge at #VermontStudioCenter

A RISD and CALarts grad, Dodge gave a summarizing PowerPoint of his career path within hours of arriving from Los Angeles. Soft spoken and honest about his doubts, Dodge has always liked the precarious image and the, (his words) "materiality of paint." His large, (average 8 x 8 foot), paintings have transitioned from representation to abstraction since leaving grad school.
From Dodge's Space Junk series of 2008
Using a high contrast of lights and darks, crisp lines versus a soft-edge blend, and some nifty cartoon visual tricks, Dodge creates a foreground "figure" with receding windows and hallucinatory exaggeration. His work veers towards the philosophy of AbEx with a sense of the genius soul latent in every gestural mark and scrape, BUT he uses California candy colors- like hot pink and turquoise.
Only 40 years old, his work was early on snapped up by dealers. He is now in permanent collections everywhere ...
Berkley Art Museum, Berkley, CA
Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, FL
Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, TN
Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, C T
and... represented by galleries in London, Los Angeles, NYC and Zurich!
He will be making studio visits until next Wednesday.
Dodge came to my studio first thing this morning and it was good to get a response suggesting that there is way more work to do. Having painted straight for three weeks, I am slowing down. I am getting tired. I am, to be truthful, starting to look forward to getting the hell out of Dodge next week.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Can I still call him my "baby" after 20 years?

Time flies. Feels like just a few years since when I was so eager to first meet him.  Even though he was yelling when we first met, he has proved to be mostly the silent type. More often than not, he is always "fine", though this past year has been more challenging than he deserved. Lots of intense lessons. I guess that is a good way to leave the teenage years behind and move into the wider space of adulthood.
Goodbye teenager!!! Happy 20th birthday, Max, my baby, (always)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What a poetic evening!

An amazing performance of literature readings by VSC residents and guests left me pretty pumped up and speechless. I went through a roller coaster of emotions: from laughter to gulping tears, from shock to commiserate comfort. The energy in the church was raw and throbbing and at times, exploded. The place was packed. People were at the edge of their seats. We became a community of vulnerable tenderness and bonding. Still reeling from it, the poems and stories continue to be the conversation topic at mealtimes. I have a book list as long as my arm. Jerriod's poetry is in a few magazines. Beth read her hilarious poems made up from google searches and spying through trash. Her poem about the news of her dad's death left us breathlessly suspended similar to her spider like"fingers over the keyboard". Lesley had some really good poems about family gatherings, and I was glad to find that she has a wonderful website of her poetry. Alan, most notable as an actor, is working on a new collection of poems that are inspired by snapshots he has taken, where he both describes each object and spirals away in a line of thought, and excellent storyteller. Sanderia read an excerpt from her novel, Mourners Bench, which will be released this fall. Pre-order on Amazon. Demisty read three poems and I really liked the one about the inelegance and embarresment of merging bodies; it reminded me a bit of my layered life drawings. Stacy shared visions of growing up with angels and/or mental patients. And Matt, a very published poet, screamed some of his shorter  poems and an excerpt from his 180 page poem he is currently working on.
I think I am so moved because of the richness of the experience, the talent, the evident hard work and fearless searching... The evening was one vision that I imagine of Paradise.
Matt Hart performing poetry
Alan Cummings, Sanderia Faye, Jerriod Avant, Stacy Seidl, Demisty Bellinger, Lesley Wheeler, Beth Roddy, Matt Hart
*****All photographs by Maxwell Mackenzie*****

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Figuratively speaking

At VSC, one of the many perks is access to live models every day! I've been going to the life drawing studio just to warm up. By repeatedly reusing the surface front and back sides as well, I loosen my expectations, and flow with the accidental intersections.

Inevitably there is some psychological drama created. Emotion is a reaction to a mental (here: visual) interpretation.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Deana Lawson Questions

We had the privilege this week to have Deana Lawson, photographer, as a visiting artist to VSC. She shared her work with us on Thursday and then came to my studio on Friday. A lecturer and soon to be professor at Princeton and an MFA graduate from RISD in 2004, Lawson’s work has been shown all over, including at MoMa, the studio Museum in Harlem, and the Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago.  Her photographs and stories have been featured in magazine such as the New Yorker and Time.  
Question one, for both Lawson and for myself: Who are you to tell this story?

Lawson with one of her pictures
Working mostly in the Brooklyn, Rochester and New Haven areas, Lawson recently won a Guggenheim Fellowship that allowed her to travel to the DR Republic of Congo, Jamaica and to Haiti. A good storyteller, Lawson cited both a real and almost mythical Kodak photographic lineage and referenced the “photo Gods” at play in her work. When Lawson spoke of the designs and compositions of her shots she gave a nod to Hieronymus Bosch, Diane Arbus, Egyption iconography, soft porn magazines and, (in preparation for Haiti), Maya Deren.

Her images are mostly of nude women within domestic interiors and in contrast to clothed men. She celebrates skin and the dynamic relationships captured in the shot between multiple figures. I was reminded of Manet’s Le Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe. 

There is a definite shock value to the nudity as well as the prominent stare of the subject to the photographer /us. Being a beautiful black woman, Lawson is able, I might suggest, to tackle this subject and get away with not seeming to be totally exploitative.

Question two: How important is the story?

Lawson's appropriated photos of a cousin's jailhouse visits
Her photography practice, as Lawson tells it, serves to affirm the connection between black men and women and defy the stereotypical media emphasis on the separation of the black family, due to things such as the neighborhood prison pipeline. She both directs her desired scene, (hiring models and sharing a sketch with them ahead of time) and uses appropriated photographs and online screen shots.

Ms. Lawson must be an excellent teacher. Carting a three-month old baby daughter with her, she tirelessly visited studio after studio. Our visit resulted in a fruitful list of resources to check out: book titles, artists, etc. She questioned my multiple bodies of work and suggested that I narrow the focus for the next few weeks to just one aspect of the work, and that I take more time to suggest rather than illustrate. She asked me to answer the questions above, and, ironically those were the same questions I had for her work as well.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dad has always served as a touchstone.

A stone crazy colorful rock
Through his eyes I can judge the value of a thing and weigh the quality of an experience. I think the most important lesson he taught me was that there is something to learn every single day.  Even a bad experience was what he called, “tuition”. As a young dad, when he came to wish my sisters and me goodnight, he would ask us to tell him something that we had learned in the course of our waking hours. We had to come up with something. It could be grand, such as being nice to people is important, or trivial like the way a frog would change it’s colors between states of wet and dry. It was a demand to be awake and aware, and to never lose the curiosity of new people, places or things. He taught us about the stars, and took us around the world and read Rootabaga stories by Sandburg and recited the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by TS Eliot.

I have learned much today at the Vermont Studio center…
In the room people come and go
Talking of Michelangelo

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Finding the unexpected

Two young artists at the Vermont studio residencies have taken me a bit by surprise.
Over looking the waters, my sun starved eyes slowly focused on a new addition to the rock pools. It has been raining a lot here, with intermittent spots of sunshine, but these bits of color were not here before.

They are the work of Lauren Eve Skelly, a ceramic artist. Skelly uses clay to emulate nature and has situated her pieces around the residency in ways to make your eyes open. She just received her masters degree from RISDI in May and recently served as a moderator on a panel, “MFA: is it worth all this” at NCECA. 

clay and mixed media by Skelly

Devin Balara, a visual artist (and see card), plays with nature with a decorative and fairly absurd approach, as if committing a domestic remedy or home improvement on it. Balara does “neighborhood greening”, (temporarily covering parking lots and outdoor areas with green bath rugs), and upholstery bombing, adding ruffled seat cushions to tree stumps.  From Tampa Florida, Devin is exactly half my age and she is a bad ass. 
Upholstery bombing by Balara