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POETS 2012-01-28 15.28.13 auto2

My Top Ten Favorite Poets, acrylic on canvas 1995 by Frank Gaard, Droid Shots,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2012, photos © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All
rights reserved.


There aren’t many things more satisfying than the combination of music, literature, philosophy, and art. In January we attended opening weekend of Frank Gaard: Poison & Candy, a 40-year retrospective at Walker Art Center. The work is a visual feast. Layers of eye-popping color on canvas, vinyl, and CD fuse the past to the present with timeless themes that stretch far into the future. By the time I arrived at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), Frank Gaard had been teaching there for 17 years and was a legend. From 1974 to 1994 Gaard was the mastermind behind Artpolice, an underground ‘zine about art, war, politics and life. The Walker show features over 50 works including portraits, illustrations, and sketchbooks (he has kept a dairy all his life) and runs through May 6th.

After attending the opening, I could not pass up the opportunity to hear Frank speak. Gaard On Gaard, his gallery talk on February 9th, woke me up. I’d like to listen to it again and write a longer piece. When you hear lifelong artists speak about their lives, you learn things about the craft that can’t be taught in books. The artist in me came away inspired by the strength of his voice; he was fearless. The writer loved the way he incorporated his love of writing, philosophy, and music into his art. My favorite paintings include his walls of portraits and his lists. Which of his poets would be at the top of your list?





RESOURCES:

Walker Salutes the Old Gaard by Mary Abbe – Star-Tribune, January 26th, 2012

Frank Gaard: Poison & Candy, Walker Art Center, 2012

The Life & Work of John Keats

Emily Dickinson Electronic Archives

Ezra Pound: The Poetry Foundation

Ted Hughes: Poetry Archive

Rilke at The Poetry Foundation

Bertolt Brecht at International Brecht Society

RPO Selected Poetry of Alexander Pope

Stephane Mallarme – Biography

Edmund Spenser at Poetry Foundation

The Life & Works of Vladimir Nabokov

Georges Bataille – 5 Poems


Frank Gaard Portraits At The Walker: Poison & Candy

Frank Gaard Portraits, Droid Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2012, photos © 2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

-related to posts: Does Poetry Matter?, Got Poetry? National Poem In Your Pocket Day, Emily’s Freedom


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Balloons
Balloons, paint, pen & ink on vellum, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, December 2010, photo © 2010 by Louis Robertson. All rights reserved.


While we were digging out from a December blizzard in Minnesota, my brother was painting in Pennsylvania. His transplant recovery is going well. He’s driving again, working full-time, and almost able to lift as much as he could before the surgery. We chatted a little about his painting when we talked on the phone this morning. I asked what it meant. He said, “What does it mean to you?”

I see layers. Color. Community and separation. Vellum, which resembles parchment paper, is an unusual medium which was once prepared from the skin of a young animal, like calf or lamb. The word is derived from the Old French Vélin, for “calfskin.” These days paper or vegetable vellum is commonly used for technical drawings and blueprints. I always look at paper and media choices when I look at art. Process is important to me.

Maybe it’s a piece about process. On the other hand, the painting could simply be a bundle of balloons. What do you see in his painting? What does it mean to you?


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, December 12th, 2010

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Me, By Pham Luc, portrait of Roma, 26×36 inches, August 2009, image
© 2009 by Pham Luc, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
In a small travel agency that sits just around the corner from the Hanoi Cathedral, I wait as the owner, Tony Pham, fills out paperwork for my weekend tour. It is hot, unbearably hot in August in Hanoi, and in spite of the fan, I mop sweat from my neck.
 
On the wall behind Tony I see a painting of a red horse against a black background. It’s a small painting but it stands out. The horse wears a cinch around its barrel chest and sloping neck. It is regal, a dancing, prancing stallion.
 
“Who painted the horse,” I want to know.

Tony looks up from his papers. “Ah, he is a famous painter, mentor to my painting teacher.”

“You paint?” I interrupt.

“No, not really.”
 
He brushes off my question and points to the artist’s several other paintings hanging in the office. They are bold. Thick black lines contrast with deep, sometimes bright colors. Each piece moves with energy.

Tony tells me he has many more paintings in his home, that he’ll take me to meet the artist.

“Tomorrow afternoon,” he says.

“Tomorrow afternoon,” I repeat, and as I walk through the crowded streets back to my hotel, it dawns on me that Tony is an artist living as a businessman. No wonder his tours are so beautiful and magical.
 
 
 
 

* * *

 
 
 
Pham Luc’s home is built in the typical Vietnamese style. Narrow and tall, like a shoebox turned on its end. The bottom floor is a one-car garage, then three floors of living space above. It is the first Vietnamese home I’ve been in that hasn’t been converted to a restaurant or shop. I have a feeling it’s a lot nicer than most Vietnamese homes, yet it’s also simple. Some furniture and a lot of art. Besides the bed and sitting area, plus a kitchen and bathroom, the rest of the house, it seems, is dedicated to Pham Luc’s paintings. Making them and storing them.
 
Pham Luc is having tea when we arrive. He is a compact man, not so much small as solid, as if he is accustomed to physical labor. His hair is black-black, just a hint of gray at the temples, and he has thick eyebrows and a thick mustache that seem to go together. I have no idea how old he is. Later, when asked to guess, I put him at about 55. I am way off.

A Vietnamese collector of his works is also there, drinking tea with Pham Luc. After introductions, Tony and I walk up the two flights of stairs to rooms filled with paintings. One small room holds nothing but works on framed canvas. Tony flips through them, occasionally pulling out ones he especially admires. A young Vietnamese woman who speaks no English appears at the door. She helps Tony move the paintings around so we can get a better look.

Another room is filled with even bigger pieces, some almost as tall and wide as the walls themselves. These are painted with lacquer on black board. They seem massive and wet, as if dripping still with layers of gold and red and black.

We spend a good amount of time upstairs, looking at the paintings, talking about themes. Pham Luc paints rural scenes, festivals, women and babies, old women, nudes reclining. There is no air-conditioning and by now I am sweating so much that I have used up the tissues I brought with me. Pham Luc’s assistant notices that my face and neck are wet; she leaves and returns with a napkin. Her skin is dry. The Vietnamese, I have concluded, do not sweat.
 
 
 
 

* * *

 
 
 
I could have spent a century in those rooms, looking from one painting to the next, trying to see how they change. If not for the heat, I could have spent forever trying to guess what his emotional state was when he went from yellows, pinks, and lime greens (elated) to browns and grays and navy blue (depressed).

I gather that he paints his moods, that, yes, he has a fundamental style (in fact, the book he gave me of pieces spanning three decades of his work shows as much) but that nothing about him is static.
 
We drink green tea, strong and bitter, and I try to keep up with the men, as if the tea were bourbon. Pham Luc mentions that he does not drink beer, and I get the feeling that it was a decision he was forced to make—beer or art?, art or beer?—at some point in his career.

But hot tea comes in pot-fulls, brought out by the assistant who doesn’t sweat, always in the same small teapot that looks like it’s made of jade.
 
Somewhere along the line, Pham Luc tells me he would like to paint me. Tony translates: “He wants to paint you and give you the painting to take home.” A small photo album is produced, and in it I see images of beaming Westerners standing next to their Pham Luc portraits. It is something he sometimes does, I later learn from watching a CD he sends home with me, in order to delight his visitors.

I’m game. (Isn’t it game, after all, that got me here?) I stay where I’m sitting, still dressed in the black blouse and white linen slacks that I wore to my day’s appointments. I look away from Tony and the collector, towards a flat screen TV and more paintings leaning against walls. The assistant comes in with paints and a large canvas stapled to a wooden easel, which Pham Luc props against a chair. He squats in front of the canvas, paints by his side, and he works quietly and quickly.

I don’t look at what he’s doing, partly for the same reason I hate looking at photos of myself and partly to not break the pose. Every now and then I turn to Tony and the collector so that I can ask them questions. They speak in Vietnamese, but Tony translates.

I learn that there is a Pham Luc Collectors Club, that some collectors have thousands of Pham Luc paintings, that his works are owned by ambassadors and dignitaries and people all over the world, and that he has had exhibitions in France, Italy, The Netherlands, Canada. They tell me he will come to Boston in 2010 and, maybe could I go?

If I stay facing Tony and the collector too long, Pham Luc asks me to turn my head back the other way.
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
My lips are fuller, cheekbones higher. I look French. I look beautiful, and it makes me feel beautiful to know he saw that in me. And for that I immediately love this compact man with the black mustache, and I love Vietnam even more than before, the North especially—erudite, intellectual, lovers of art.

He completed the painting in maybe 30 minutes, although now I can’t be sure. Looking back, time passed and I lost track of time. For example, I have no recollection of him smoking, although I have a photo of his pack of Camel cigarettes, the words SMOKING KILLS in block letters on the front. He must have lit up while I was there, I am sure of it, but I don’t recall being bothered by the smoke.

I do remember that after he finished the portrait and turned the canvas for us to see, we let out a collective gasp. Then Pham Luc walked to us, pointing to his arms and gesturing excitedly. The hair on his forearms stood on end; confused, I looked to Tony for translation.

“It’s good, it’s good,” Tony assured me, “it means the painting is great.”

For the moment, Pham Luc is pure energy.
 
Later, when I ask Tony in the taxi why Pham Luc would give me a painting, even after I pleaded to purchase it instead, he says it is because of the gift that I gave to Pham Luc. “He knows that now, after his visitors are gone, he will be able to paint.”
 
 
 

Pham Luc paints at night, during daytime, when awake at night, or even if he has just recovered between sicknesses and can sit up. The motivation behind his creation is like a karma, a curse of fate. If he can’t paint he will get sick and will be like a flu-infested chicken. Many times I saw him grubby in a mess of colors and lacquer as if haunted.
 
                    ~Dr. Nguyen Si Dung, from Painter Fạm Lực

 
 
 

* * *

 
 
 
It takes an hour, maybe two, for the painting to dry. We continue to sit and talk. At one point I look across to Pham Luc; he is holding a large white envelope close to his face, sketching a doodle of me. When he is done, he shows it to me. Another gift to take home. 

Later still, he walks over to a dresser and picks up a small piece of art done in lacquer on wood. I admire it, hand it back, and then Tony translates. “No, it’s for you.”

Then Pham Luc goes and gets two more and asks me to choose from among the three. They are nudes done in simple black lines on gold leaf. I like them all, but Tony and the collector have a strong opinion that I take one in particular, so I choose it.
 
We talk, drink more tea. Pham Luc gets up and again rummages around the room, notices behind one of the larger paintings a small, colorful portrait of himself on canvas. In the painting, he wears no shirt and holds a cigarette between his fingers. Again, he hands me the painting. A gift.

“Please,” I tell him, “please, it’s too much.”

He says something in Vietnamese, which Tony translates. “You are my friend, and I am his friend, so now you are his friend.”
 
I glance at the beautiful Roma on the large canvas that is still drying, and I marvel at my luck. Yes, luck! Karma, good fortune, call it whatever you want, but here I am sitting, talking, laughing, drinking tea, being painted, being feted with generosity and brilliance. I am a small thing basking in the light of a huge thing. Someone ordinary touched by someone extraordinary.
 
 
 

I am disabled but crazy about Pham Luc’s paintings. Many Vietnamese and foreign friends coming to my home to see my collection were amazed at the creations of Pham Luc. Many asked me why I collected so many paintings. I replied, “Each painting is a support for me to overcome handicap and integrate into life. His paintings give me confidence in life and aspiration to rise up. In my difficult times and in pain, I come to his paintings to seek consolation, sympathy and often find in them peace amidst the storms of life.”
 
                    ~Ngo Quang Tuan, from Painter Fạm Lực

 
 
 

* * *

 
 
 
Pham Luc was born in 1943 in the village of Hue. He was a soldier and painter in Vietnam’s People’s Army, documenting the scenes he saw. From the books and brochures I have about him, I understand he became a major in the army, but always he was a painter. He told me that the reason he is not married—he’s been divorced twice—is that his wives did not understand his need to constantly paint.
 
There is a painting upstairs in one of the rooms, of a woman with a rifle, behind her a water buffalo. The colors are muted but the overall effect is of activism. Pham Luc painted the piece in 1986, and Tony and I found it behind other, more recent works. Before I leave Pham Luc’s home, I ask the assistant to bring it down so that I might look at it again. There are many beautiful paintings here, but always my eyes go back to the woman with the rifle.

I buy the painting from Pham Luc. For a song.
 
 
 

He doesn’t need money. He spends all his money on charities, his children, and buying gold, silver, lacquer and colors. So what does he need? To build his fame? May be, but may be not. In fact, he is already very famous. Many people know him and admire him. Ambassadors in Hanoi buy his paintings and make friends with him. So the answer to his efforts lies in his passion. Because he can’t do otherwise.
 
                     ~Dr. Nguyen Si Dung, from Painter Fạm Lực

 
 
 

* * *

 
 
 

Sòn d âù, (I hope that spelling is correct), 32×24 inches, 1986, image © 1986-2009
by Pham Luc, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
I am deeply grateful to Tony Pham and to Pham Luc. The three hours I spent with the two of them that day in early August are among the best memories I have of Vietnam, of travel abroad, and of life experiences, period. In Tony, I found a kindred spirit, an artist inside his heart, and someone whose love of art infuses his daily work. In Pham Luc, I found kindness, happiness, and what it means to give of oneself.
 
 
 

He was born in a poor countryside in a deprived village in the Central region of Vietnam and used to be a soldier fighting in the wars. He lives and paints with qualities of a farmer and Uncle Ho soldier. These qualities have become his humane belongings. No wonder many people sympathize with, love, and are crazy for his art. He is so happy!
 
                    ~An Chuong, from Painter Fạm Lực

 
 
 
 

* * *

 
 
 
 

GALLERY 

 
These are works that I photographed during my visit. They are my favorites among the many that I saw that day. I do not have names, dates, nor sizes for any of the paintings. They all appear to be oil on canvas, and almost all of them are fairly large. They are reprinted here with the artist’s permission.

 
 
 
 
     
 
 
                                     
 
 
   
 
 
                                                           


                    


                            
 
 
 

LINKS




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Minnesota State Fair Poster Art, detail of art by painter Leo Stans, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

The century-old Grandstand stood quietly in the distance when I rounded the corner by the historic J. V. Bailey House. I was driving to St. Paul for an ice cream social at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. The occasion was the June 11th unveiling of the 2009 State Fair commemorative painting by Belle Plaine artist Leo Stans.

Summer cottonwood flew through the air when I lined up for my root beer float. A few minutes later, I walked into the historic Bailey house and literally bumped into my friend Teri who works at the Fair. She introduced me to her coworkers, we talked a little Minnesota State Fair history, then she led me over to meet the artist.

Like poet Ted Kooser, Minnesota artist Leo Stans started out as an insurance salesman, dabbled in art, and began painting full-time in 1980. He painted wildlife, golf courses (he’s an avid golfer), and eventually transitioned into historical street scenes. In a newspaper quote, he said: “My thinking was that if you wanted to buy something nostalgic or historical, the only thing being offered was small towns and barns. I thought I would create a niche.”

According to an article by John Brewer in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Stans said he had been trying for the last 5 years to get a booth at the Grandstand to sell his work during the Fair. Ironically, that led to his applications making their way to the Fair staff and to his being awarded the 6th commission in the commemorative series last November.

 
 

Artist Leo Stans & MN State Fair 2009 Commemorative Oil Painting, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Minnesota State Fair Commemorative Oil Painting (Detail), St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Artist Leo Stans & Minnesota State Fair 2009 Commemorative Oil Painting, Minnesota State Fair Commemorative Oil Painting (Detail), St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

I shook Leo’s hand and immediately began asking him about the 28″ x 42″ oil painting. He said he did the research for summer’s “Great Minnesota Get-Together” in the dead cold of a Midwest winter. It took him 3 weeks to sketch it out, another 3 weeks to put paint to canvas.

He explained to me that the painting moves back in time as you walk from the Grandstand to the Ferris wheel, blending clothing styles of the past with those of the present. And like Hitchcock who appears in many of his films, Stans paints himself into all of his paintings. (If you stare long enough at the top photograph, you can spot him walking down the Midway.)

For many, the Minnesota State Fair is about making memories, a family tradition going back for generations. By choosing the 100th birthday of the Grandstand as the central theme for 2009, and including other historic icons like the carousel and mascot Fairchild, Stans captures and brings those memories to life through paint.

I’m a history buff and drawn to his dreamlike Twin Cities street scenes. The 2009 Fair painting has much the same feel and has been reproduced on postcards, posters, and buttons with proceeds benefiting the Minnesota State Fair Foundation. (The State Fair has a long history of being independently funded and has not received government appropriations since 1949.)

 
 

  Minnesota State Fair Postcard, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Minnesota State Fair Poster Art (II), St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Minnesota State Fair Postcard, Minnesota State Fair Poster Art (II), St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
 
 

The Minnesota State Fair 2009 begins August 27th and ends September 7th. And if you become one of the Friends of The Minnesota State Fair you will receive exclusive benefits including gate tickets, pre-sale access to Grandstand shows, bricks, benches, and more. Purchasing a $50 Yellow Ribbon package by August 1st, 2009 grants you the following:
 

  • Friends of the Fair card
  • FunFair news
  • Invitation to annual pre-fair event
  • Hospitality invitation to J.V. Bailey House during the State Fair
  • 2 State Fair and/or parking admission tickets
  • 1 State Fair annual pin
  • 1 Blue Ribbon Bargain Book with 100 great State Fair deals

 

There are also Green, Red, Blue, Purple, and Silver packages to choose from. Liz and I are looking forward to this year. Happy Fair going!

 
 

Belle Plaine Artist Leo Stans & MN State Fair Commemorative Oil Painting, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

 

Thanks to Leo Stans for permission to photograph him and his work, to Teri for reminding me about the art event, and to John for providing me with the newspaper clipping from the June 12th St. Paul Pioneer Press article by John Brewer – Painting Celebrates Fond Fair Memories.

 
 

Minnesota State Fair Space Tower, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

 

Below are links to past red Ravine posts and photographs about the history, foods on-a-stick, and fun available to all at the Minnesota State Fair. And if you check the comments on several of the posts, they are dripping with little-known Fair facts, trivia, and nostalgia from a mutual friend of ybonesy’s and mine, Teri Blair. For more of the Fair experience, you can also view my Minnesota State Fair Series on Flickr.

 
 
 

 

-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

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warbell slight contrast

 
Warbell (from the POISONED WORLD series), mixed media on wood, 47″ x 48″ x 3″, 2006, painting © 2006-2009 by Cathy Wysocki. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
Cathy Wysocki’s pieces fill the main gallery of the Harwood Art Center in Albuquerque. Gripped: Excerpts from Poisoned World does exactly that. The works of art, many three-dimensional, come at you from the walls, grip you by the shoulders and shake you out of whatever state you might be. They collectively caution you to never deny nor forget Suffering in the world today.
 
 

Cathy Wysocki paints discomfort and dark worlds, twisted and refigured. Like a visionary chronicler of the times, her expressionistic and surrealist imagery is dramatic & disturbing, conveying a beauty in the horror portrayed.

~Spring/Summer 2009, volume 14, issue 1/2, Harwood Art Center

 
Struck by the raw power and originality of her work, we were curious to know more about Cathy. Who is she, what has been her journey as an artist, and what moves her to produce the art that she does? We sent Cathy a list of our most pressing questions, and she wrote back with answers.
 
 
 

Nineteen Questions with Cathy Wysocki

 
 

Q. How long have you been painting?

A. I have been painting — doing mixed media work — for 30 years.
 
 
Q. How has your work evolved over time?

A. I think my work has evolved over time through my expanded use of media and text within my paintings and the growing complexity of the imagery, but more importantly, I have gone from a more personal mythology, let’s say a micro-cosmos, to a more universal, world view, a socio-political macro-cosmos.
 
 
Q. Who are your influences?

A. Living in the world is THE influence. But if you want to know who…key influences…I’d say foremost would be the Buddha because of how the teachings have illuminated my path in the world. Then I would say my husband and friend for 29 years, Wayne Hopkins, who is an incredible painter and printmaker — dedicated and always pushing the edge. He has been an enormous supporter of my work/vision. Also, my brother, Michael, had a very strong influence on me during my high school and college years, introducing me to a bigger world and a way to freedom for my creativity and ideas, setting me on my path.
 
 
Q. What living artists do you most admire?

A. Sue Coe, Louise Bourgeois, Neo Rauch, Anselm Kiefer, Thomas Hirschhorn, Lee Bontecou. Unfortunately, there are many more dead artists that I admire/connect with, such as Edward Kienholz, Leon Golub, Jörg Immendorf, Francis Bacon, Philip Guston, George Grosz, Otto Dix…well…all the German Expressionists, the Surrealists, and Art Brut artists: Adolf Wölfli, Martín Ramírez, and Carlo Zinelli, to name but a few!
 
 
Q. Describe a typical day.

A. An ideal typical day is waking up at 5 a.m. to read a Buddhist text while I drink a cup of decaf coffee. Then practicing sitting meditation for 50-60 minutes. After which I walk my dog for 45 minutes, come home get the caffeine brewing, get the music pumped up, and start working — stopping later to put on more coffee, have toast/breakfast, then back to work until about 3pm. I am much more productive in the earlier part of the day.
 
 
 
 
 
El Bruto, mixed media on wood, 59" x 72" x 8", 2009, painting © 2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved
 
 
 
               Unrelenting, mixed media on wood, 61" x 72" x 3", 2009, painting © 2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved
 
 
 
                              Enough, mixed media on wood, 50" x 63" x 7", 2008/2009, painting © 2008-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved
 
 
From the POISONED WORLD series, El Bruto, mixed media on wood, 59″ x 72″ x 8″, 2009, Unrelenting, mixed media on wood, 61″ x 72″ x 3″, 2009, and Enough, mixed media on wood, 50″ x 63″ x 7″, 2008/2009, paintings © 2008-2009 by Cathy Wysocki. All rights reserved.
 
 
 
 
 
Q. What drives your art?

A. Initially, my art is driven by my intuition and imagination, but that is factored into living as a sentient being in a world of suffering.
 
 
Q. What messages are in your art?

A. Currently, my series of work is called POISONED WORLD and it is about the three poisons in the world referred to in Buddhism — greed, hatred, and ignorance — and from them the consequences that abound and devastate. It is my hope that my work can bring a startled awareness to such issues as war, shameless consumption and waste, complacency, self-absorption, and to inspire reflection, compassion, and action.
 
 
Q. Who are your favorite writers?

A. Right now I am reading 2666 by Roberto Bolaño and I think his writing is unbelievably great. Idiosyncratic, insightful, dense, sharp, witty, dark — all characteristics I love in a writer. Other favorites are Franz Kafka, Thomas Bernhard, Kurt Vonnegut, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Flannery O’Connor, Kenzaburō Ōe, and Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Buddhadasa for Buddhist writings.
 

Q. Favorite foods?

A. All things vegetarian.





Count Rade and Princess Ula, mixed media on canvas, 24" x 18", 2002, painting © 2002-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reservedMagnolia, mixed media on canvas, 18" x 14", 2001, painting © 2001-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved


From the FLOWERS, ROYALTY, THE COSMOS, & MORE series, Count Rade and Princess Ula, mixed media on canvas, 24″ x 18″, 2002, and Magnolia, mixed media on canvas, 18″ x 14″, 2001, paintings © 2001-2009 by Cathy Wysocki. All rights reserved.





Q. Where do you go for inspiration?

A. That depends on the series I am working on. As for the current series, POISONED WORLD, my inspirations are found in observing the consumer culture around me, the devastation of our planet, and the sadness, anger, conflict, and injustice in our society. To compound and intensify that inspiration I read books and articles, as well as watch documentaries on such topics as corruption and corporations; the former Bush Administration; the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; genetic engineering and food; human, animal, and water rights. Music is also a big inspiration — Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Perfect Circle, John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, The Kronos Quartet, Messiaen’s Quartet For The End of Time. So I guess you could say my work is the bare bulb shining the light within the depths of the darkness.


Q. You’ve been told your work has an “Outsider” quality. Do you consider yourself an Outsider artist?

A. I would say I am a self-taught artist. The art classes I took in college were free-form, I didn’t have any technical training in painting, drawing or sculpture, and I just followed my own vision, did my own thing in my own style, often obsessively. I was not, and am not now, concerned with art trends or commercial viability.


Q. Do you feel inside or outside the art scene (New York City, San Francisco, etc.) and does it matter where you are relative to that scene?

A. I definitely feel outside the art scene here in New Mexico. It does matter because I would like to get the work out there — to broader audiences, more responses, more dialogue — which could be New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Berlin. Who knows where my audience is?!





Corparboreal 26, mixed media on wood, 14" x 9", 1999, painting © 1999-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved Corparboreal 16, mixed media on canvas, 36" x 32", 1998/1999, painting © 1998-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved


From the CORPARBOREAL series, Corparboreal 26, mixed media on wood, 14″ x 9″, 1999, and Corparboreal 16, mixed media on canvas, 36″ x 32″, 1998/1999, paintings © 1998-2009 by Cathy Wysocki. All rights reserved.





Q. What are the pluses and minuses of living the artist’s life?

A. The plus of living an artist’s life is the freedom to create and express your visions. That plus is so huge it is plural! As for a minus: having to generate an income!


Q. What is your favorite city?

A. I don’t think I have a favorite city. I loved San Francisco when I lived there many years back and I love New York City for all it has to offer culturally. Vienna also left a very strong impression on me as well. I need to travel more!!


Q. If you could live anywhere, where would you choose and why?

A. I don’t have a specific place at the moment, I am in search of it, but I do know there would be an ocean or sea nearby, lots of art museums and galleries, and some great vegetarian restaurants and cafes!


Q. How old were you when you knew you wanted to be an artist?

A. Early on, around the age of four, I had a very rich internal world — active imagination in thoughts and words. However, up through junior high school I didn’t really express myself visually; it was in words and speech. In high school I found the freedom, invention, and originality in visual expression. It became a necessity.


Q. Did your family support your chosen vocation, and if so (or not) how did that affect your path?

A. No, they did not support me being an artist. Perhaps that gave me a stronger drive, subconsciously seeking their approval or support? Regardless, I knew what I was meant to do. Doing something else for their sake would be a false life.





Coming or Going, What's the Difference, oil on wood, 48" x 48", 1991, painting © 1991-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved 


                                                             Altitude Without Dimension, oil on paper, 44" x 30", 1990, painting © 1990-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved


From the BIRTH, DEATH, & REBIRTH series, Coming or Going, What’s the Difference, oil on wood, 48″ x 48″, 1991, and Altitude Without Dimension, oil on paper, 44″ x 30″, 1990, paintings © 1990-2009 by Cathy Wysocki. All rights reserved.





Q. Where do the themes in your work come from?

A. Earlier on I mentioned where my current body of work derives from, but some past series have dealt with such issues as the cycles of birth, death and rebirth inspired by the deaths of both of my parents; a series called CORPARBOREAL, images of tree beings inspired by all the walks with my dogs in the woods of New Hampshire and Massachusetts; and a series of paintings with short tales that I wrote called FLOWERS, ROYALTY, THE COSMOS & MORE. It sprung from finding a collection of old fruit packing labels, and it was about compassion, generosity, right choices. Those are a few examples.


Q. What comes next? Or are you still steeped in the current themes?

A. Yes, I am still currently immersed in the POISONED WORLD — not that there won’t be some toxic offshoots that may metamorphose into another body of work!





Gripped by Cathy WysockiAbout herself, Cathy writes: I was born and raised in northwest Indiana. With great excitement I departed to the West Coast for college. First to Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles for a few years, then I transferred to San Francisco State University for a change and to get my BA. My time in California was transformative, clarifying my personal vision and actifying my presence in the world. This was in the late 70’s.

A friend of mine suggested a move to Boston to get studios. Another change. I figured I could always get back to San Francisco. Well, my friend never got there, but I ended up in Boston and the environs from 1980 until 2003, another transformative time, solidifying and strengthening my creative discipline.

In late 2003 I moved to New Mexico. Yet another change in location. New Mexico is fine, but I feel another change in location coming within about 10 years. California?

During my time in San Francisco until the present in New Mexico, I have always worked in my studio and exhibited.

I have had several solo shows, most recently in May, 2009, at the Harwood Art Center in Albuquerque, NM. I have also exhibited extensively in the Northeast and Southwest in group shows at museums and galleries. Recent group shows I have exhibited in: “Mass Consumption,” Mesa Art Center, AA; “Binational,” Museums Of Art in El Paso, TX and Juarez, Mexico; “Cautionary Tales – A Visual Dystopia,” 516 ARTS, Albuquerque, NM; “Originals 2007,” Harwood Art Museum, Taos, NM.

Cathy’s latest show, Gripped: Excerpts from Poisoned World, closes today at the Harwood Art Center in Albuquerque. However, you can keep apprised of Cathy’s works by following her on Flickr.

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Flower Power, second in a series, gouache and spray paint on gessoed canvas, image and painting © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.











 

Mr. President:
Yes you can. Give peace a chance.
My message to you.













-related to posts This, That & The Other, The Making Of A Painting Painter, and haiku 2 (one-a-day)

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Tossed away.

A subset of my doodles on FlickrIn fall of last year I had an opportunity. A gallery owner in New York City saw my doodles on Flickr and invited me to join a group show in spring 2009. (Several artists on Flickr were asked to join.)

I rejoiced in being invited yet hemmed and hawed about whether I’d accept. In the end I signed up, making a vague notation in my brain about April being a key month for getting the paintings done. Then I went on with my life.

Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went, as did the new year. I made the intention to Finish what I start. President Barack Obama was inaugurated. I rejoiced again.

I bought canvases for the art show, gessoed them, set them aside in my writing room. Looked at them most days, noted that it was time to begin painting, procrastinated.

In early February I decided to get serious about starting the pieces. I cleaned off my work table, filed three months’ worth of bills. We took on a Mexican exchange student from February 7-21. A pinched sciatica kept me in bed for almost two weeks.

By the time I sat down to paint, I had frittered away four months. I looked up the date when the paintings needed to be in Manhattan. February 28. The show was in early April. I missed the deadline. 


Second chances.

A subset of my doodles on FlickrI have a new opportunity. Our community, which boasts an inordinately large number of artists and craftsmen, holds an annual art studio tour. This year the tour happens the weekend of May 2-3. I will be showing in a gallery with a handful of other artists—real artists.

Here is my chance to make the leap.

When Obama was inaugurated, I did a quick doodle. As soon as I finished it, I knew I wanted to do a series of Obama faces on 12″x12″ canvases for the New York City art show. My problem was never a lack of ideas; rather, it was a lack of follow through.


Showing up.

I picked up the paintbrush in March. When I started, I painted to the tempo of a little voice saying, I don’t know how to do this. I’ve never painted on canvas. If gessoed, I figured, canvas should act similar to gesso on wood. I was wrong.

Painting is a process. This painting, the first in a series, is a work in process. I thought it was almost done, but then I realized that I hadn’t learned how to control—or, rather, let myself lose control—of the paintbrush. 

When I began thinking about painting on canvas, QM suggested that I do a post about my process. I agreed even though I had no idea if my ideas about process would work. I’m not done with this painting, but I can tell you this—it’s not the actual process that’s important. What matters is that you have one. 


Learning process.


My original "quick and dirty" Obama doodle, pen and ink on graph paper. I enlarge it to fit my canvas and drew the outline onto tracing paper.

My original "quick and dirty" Obama doodle, done with pen and ink on graph paper. I enlarge it to fit my canvas, add a background, and draw the outline onto tracing paper.





Step One: Transfer the image outline to canvas

I transfer the image outline to the canvas using good ol' carbon paper, the kind used in days past for typing mimeographs. This prep work takes a lot longer than I expect, about half a day.





Step 2: Paint first layer of gouache (watercolor) on canvas

I paint the first layer of gouache (watercolor) on canvas, starting with Obama's face. I don't like this color of blue; it's too purpley. I still haven't figured out how to mix colors to find the right one nor how to use my brush as a tool versus an obstacle.





Never working with watercolor on canvas, I'm afraid to make mistakes. I notice when I'm bold with color, I end up going too dark, such as the brick red portion of the circle behind Obama.

I paint slowly. I'm afraid to make mistakes, and I notice that when I go bold I end up adding too much paint, like in the orange portion of the circle beside his head. I need to dig in but I'm stuck at not wanting to mess it up. I procrastinate again.





I add more paint and texture to the face, going in dark and then using lighter paint to emphasize shadow. Now that the face is coming into focus, my ideas about the background are changing completely. Good thing gouache is maleable.

Finally, I pick up the brush after a hiatus. I add more and more paint and texture to the face. To create dimension---shadow and light---I go in dark with shades up to black and then use light paint to take away the dark. Now that the face is coming into focus, my ideas for the background are changing. Good thing gouache is maleable.





While watching American Idol, I find that I loosen up with the paint. I'm also trusting that I can fix mistakes, that nothing is permanent. I experiment with using the brush the way I would a pen.

While watching American Idol, I loosen up. I'm trusting that I can fix mistakes, that nothing is permanent. Also, if the room is kind of dim, I have a better time seeing contrast. I notice that I have too much light paint on the tip of Obama's nose. I'll go in next time and put in more shadow at the bottom.





In my original doodle I forgot to capture Obama's mole next to his nose. I got it this time, although I'm not sure if I'll change it to blue to match the rest of his skin.

In my original doodle I forgot to capture Obama's mole next to his nose. I got it this time, although I'm not sure if I'll change it to blue to match his skin. I notice his eyebrow is too dark, but I can go in, lighten it and add texture to make it look more natural. (Although, is "natural" a consideration when his entire face is bright blue?)





His mouth needs work; it's clownish looking to me, and I've barely touched his teeth and gums. But I am enjoying his cheeks and those deep crevices he gets when he smiles. Also, I experiment using the brush the way I would a pen. Amazingly, painting is not that different than drawing.

His mouth needs work; it's clownish looking to me, and I've barely touched his teeth and gums. But I am enjoying his cheeks and those deep crevices he gets when he smiles. Also, I experiment using the brush the way I would a pen. Amazingly, painting is not that different than drawing.




Overcoming fear.

Here’s what I know. I’m the only person who’s ever stopped me from realizing my dreams. I’ve gotten out of my own way this time. Next time I might be right back in the middle of the road with my hands out in front of me yelling STOP! But not today.

My goal is to paint six pieces for the early May show. I have less than a month to go, and I can only paint in the evenings and on weekends. I went to a carpenter and asked him to make me wood boards to paint on. Canvas works, but I still like wood best.


Just painting.


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Gouache postscript.

Thanks to QM’s curiosity, I’m adding these excellent links on the topic of gouache.

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