Writing an Artist Statement/ Value Proposition

Molecular Prison

I’m participating in an Artist 2 Work incubator program designed by Professor Ellen Wetmore of UMASS Lowell.  So far we’ve had lectures from professors on value proposition, basic marketing concepts tailored specifically for artists and the art market, branding, and targeting the luxury market.  I’ve learned many new things and relearned things I’ve forgotten that I knew.

Our first homework assignment was to write a value proposition.  She asked for 2 sentences and I wrote a paragraph.  Typical.  Separately from the class I read advice on applying for grants that seemed sound- have 3 people review your grant proposal before you submit it, and include at least one person who does not speak the lingo.  The rationale is that not everyone on the board of folks reviewing your grant will be fluent in art speak, and you need to reach them too.  So I had my husband read my value proposition, and at first I though he just didn’t get it, but by the next morning I realized that I just wasn’t being very clear.

Good advice, that.

Deborah Santoro: The Asana Series

My prints and multi-media pieces inhabit the space between yearning and falling, between striving to realize a potential, and the habits/patterns/programs that enmesh us in ways of being that do not serve our higher selves.  The LIQUORS sign becomes a stand-in for addictions of all kinds, and the hopelessness that trails them. The asana, or yoga poses, represent an embodied, intuitive knowing that links human potential with universal themes; dendrites and star charts, our mitochondria like tiny suns inside our bodies.  In the time bound dance between despair and enlightenment, time, pattern and color all have their part to play.

Altoon Sultan & Recent Happenings

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I recently went to Wellesley to see the Kathe Kollwitz/ Krieg Cycle exhibit at the Davis Museum & Cultural Center.  I’d write about that, but Altoon Sultan already did that here. While I was in the vicinity, I went to Altoon’s current exhibit at the David Hall Fine Arts Gallery downtown. I went with children, and so didn’t have quite as much time to really look as I would have liked.  It’s a bit distracting when your middle daughter starts rolling around the gallery on a wheeled chair, even if the owner is exceedingly nice and even encouraging.

Still, I have admired her from afar for some time and it was wonderful to see these exquisite little works in person.

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I was also given a large full color catalog with a full length essay about her work, which I will read as soon as I remember where I put it.  It was been that kind of week.  Two weeks, really.  But today I’m back in the studio and it’s been so long since I updated my website/blog, that I’m feeling slightly ashamed.

Not for lack of working, however.  Here is a new piece:

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It’s similar to what I’m working on today, only now it’s a diptych, with more orange.  An interesting confluence, to me at least, is that the way Altoon’s hooked wool rectangles hang from pins on the gallery wall causes them to be not perfectly straight.  The gelatin plates I’m using are the same way, and as they age they become more and more irregular. All in the interest of subverting the tyranny of the rectangle.

The diptych idea popped into my head about a month ago, but it requires a bit of a set-up to line everything up, which I finally did today.

One more thing.  I’ve become hooked on listening to the Modern Art Notes Podcasts while I work.  They had a really interesting one on Picasso’s sculpture at the MoMA, and today I listened to an older one on Marylin Minter and David Ireland.   If you like modern and contemporary art, they are a great way to learn while you work.

http://manpodcast.com

Museum Visits and Studio Notes

February 2015 was the longest month ever, enough said.  But it’s March now, and as the days lengthen, and my daughter’s art class starts up again, I find myself in Boston with more frequency.

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A taut exhibit in a corrider at MFA Boston has me exploring contemporary Chinese Art.  This show is from the collection of Carolyn Shu and Rene Balcer.  The above piece is one of the Face Mazes of Lu Shengzhong.  This is just a teaser, I’ll have to get back next week to document it better as the MFA does not seem to be hyping this show so much.  I’ve learned to forgive the MFA its excesses because it comes out with gems like this, and I figure it has to pay the bills some how.

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This is a reflection of myself in a piece by Teresita Fernandez, a MacArthur Grantee whose exhibit at MassMoCA (which might still be up) was just… it induced perspectival epiphany, among other things.  There’s a talk by her somewhere that was also quite good.  Forgive me but I didn’t make a note of the title of the piece.  It’s over where the side entrance used to be, if that helps.  On the first floor, contemporary side.

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Hommage á Monsieur Matisse, collage and monotype

This small collage was made after a trip to the MoMA to see the Matisse Cutouts, which were glorious.  It’s not yet glued here which is interesting to me because Matisse himself didn’t glue down his cutouts.

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A good day in the studio yesterday.  Sometimes it feels like you spend all day to get one interesting thing at the very end.  It took the whole day to get there.  Not that I’ll throw out the others, but suddenly it all crystallized.  That, that indefinable thing that I didn’t know I was looking for until I saw it.

Reach

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One place where I have not done well as an artist is dealing with rejection.  I sort of suck at that.  Today I received a rejection to a show I was hoping to get into.  What I normally do with rejection is is to stop trying for a while.  This is not a productive or useful response.  Today what I will do is read a chapter from The War of Art, and then decide what to apply to next.

The important thing isn’t that I please others.  The important thing here is that I am absolutely true to my inner vision.

I reject that rejection.

MFA Boston

These trips to the Boston MFA are beginning to blur. I can’t say how amazing it is to go back, to look again, to look from a different angle or even from a different state of mind.

Here’s a fragment of a fragment, Jasper John’s Fragment of a Letter, in which he presumably added his own handprint.

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Below are 2 shots from a Shinique Smith installation, a small room entirely missed on my first visit in which I was chased away by an obnoxious woman who began asking me questions while I was trying to look.  Forgive me but I didn’t write down the title, but I did write down my thoughts:

“It’s like painting with smoke, bright primary colored edges keeping it from flattening into the wall.”

Okay- that actually refers to a triptych called ‘the step and the walk’ and not the installation, but still…

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This installation incorporated sound and smell also, although I didn’t smell anything.  The light bounced off the mirrors and hit the wall in beautiful shapes, seen here:

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Of course it’s interactive in that you can see your reflection in the mirror.  It felt a bit like being in an inner city subterranean environment without so much the frisson of danger.  It’s also calligraphic, the implication of Arabic script, the gorgeous interplay of light, sound, reflection, and sinuous line.  I spent some time in that little room.

Finally, here’s what Jen Mergel (Beal Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at MFA Boston) wrote about Shinique (referencing Cy Twombly and the famous “zips” of Barnett Newman):

“Fully aware of this American art history, Smith lets her liquid line flow as calligraphy with its own freestyle and emotional force.”

I just can’t seem to get enough… back to the studio.

Playing with the Camel

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Something happens to the tile pattern when it’s pressed into the gelatin, and everything sort of smooshes in a way that I don’t care for.  It workes better if I press it directly against the paper.  The same cannot be said for these stencils…

The secret to working with the Akua inks lies in also using the blending medium and the transparent base so that you can control the viscosity. Thank you again Catherine Kernan!

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This one was a bit of a surprise, I thought the ghost figure would be more prominent but I like it this way.

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Here I used the rollers to lift off patterned ink from various surfaces and layer them down on the plate.  Sort of a hodge podge but there’s potential here, a direction for future working sessions.

Meanwhile, last week I went to MFA Boston.  My brilliant (if you don’t mind me saying so) strategy there was to sign my daughter up for a sculpture class at MassArt, leaving me a few hours of free time to linger at the MFA.  I live more than an hour from the MFA and usually it’s a race through to see everything I want before heading back home.  Never enough time to linger.  Now I will have hours to dally and it is heaven.  First I visited a favorite Neil Welliver painting they have in its own nook, the Sargent Rotunda Niche: http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/goulds-hill-34175

Then off to the Art of the Americas wing to see the Jasper Johns print exhibit.  Here’s a picture.  Mind you I’m not sure if I’m supposed to post pictures from the MFA here, but this is in the hopes of enticing  more people to go.

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Jasper Johns lithograph, 0-9.

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Jasper Johns, Untitled.  First etchings, second state. 1967-1969.

And this is a similar print, but it’s Jasper Johns meets Art Nouveau.  Completely unexpected.  This small print show revealed that John’s influence runs deep in my work.

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Here he’s working with liquid graphite.  It’s often little details like the gooey edge where the cream paper is mounted to the white backing paper that get me excited.  These things often don’t show up in reproduction, and are one of the reasons why it’s important to see original work whenever possible. I’m forever peering at the sides of the canvas to see if the artist painted those as well.

Which brings us to Shinique Smith, who painted the sides of a trio of canvases in bright primary colors that sizzled on the walls of the Henry & Lois Foster Gallery.  I didn’t like everything Shinique did, but she’s young yet and I liked enough to warrant further attention.  Bold and brash is great, but sometimes I want more depth.  I think she has that depth, but it could be developed further.

http://www.mfa.org/exhibitions/shinique-smith