I had such a wonderful time this last weekend. Of course I was teaching…one of my very favorite things to do! I gave a class on figure painting…without a model…kind of a tricky thing to do but I think turned out just fine. Nude models in areas like The Dalles or Hood River are hard to come by. Many people around this area are…what can I say…a little bit back in the early eighteen-hundreds? To be fair, that’s not everyone, and things are moving into the twenty-first century… slowly but surely.
I taught two great students on Saturday and Sunday. Both creative people open to new ideas, funny, serious and very inspiring all at the same time. We played with the theme of “Fashion Week”, a yearly fashion “happening” held a few weeks ago in both New York and Portland. For class, no models? No problem. I had prepared early by tearing out “model” pictures from various fashion forward magazines…some actually ripped out at my doctor’s office as I waited for an appointment (sneeze…rip) no one noticed. I also love New York Style Magazine for great exaggerated poses and blank dramatic kind of ignorant looking model expressions. It must be a surprise to some of you that I think about fashion. My usual uniform (as described recently by artist and writer Nancy Coffelt) is jeans (left over from the 70’s), sometimes grey sweat pants (the kind with elastic around the bottom and covered with acrylic paint…from wiping brushes on my knees), Birkenstocks (also splattered with paint) topped off with my hair in a messy ponytail tied back with a scrunchy. BUT I consider myself a fashionista. I can say honestly that I’ve never missed an episode of Project Runway and I read Vogue and Vanity Fair. In fact I just asked the Uggs Company to trade art for some new Jimmy Choo designed boots. I fell in love with their ad that came to me like magic on the internet. Of course I painted the experience. Waiting for My New Jimmy Choo Shoes (watercolor) was done with inspiration from my figure painting class and the great styling of Jimmy Choo.
I started thinking (dangerous) as I was teaching. Since I began to sell my work…over thirty years ago, people have labeled me as “whimsical”, “funny”, “weird”, “uninhibited”, “shocking”, “cuckoo” and “not to be taken seriously”. I’ll cop to the first six labels. But believe me, humorous painting, movies, stories, books, cartoons and the like are serious art. I’d like to add a quote from a daily letter from Canadian painter Robert Genn that many artists subscribe too. It lit up in my mind like a light-bulb. You can read the entire letter at email@example.com if you like. I’ll just touch on the high lights. Genn was advising a young painter of the usual landscape type who was complaining that traditional landscape (what I call the mountain with two trees on the left and two on the right) was “not even me, I want to do something fun, imaginative, whimsical, goofy, cuckoo.” Robert didn’t disappoint me. He answered that “Cuckoo is serious business…comedies are the toughest movies to make. Context is everything, Marcel Duchamp, the patron saint of visual humor, made art of the incongruous.”
In fact Duchamp said, “Humour is very important in my life. It’s the only reason for living.” (Right on Marcel!)
Woody Allen said, “Humor is just truth, only faster.” (Always happy to quote one of my most favorite directors and writers)
Now I’m not putting down good and expressive landscape painters. There is always a place for a beautiful take on a special place. Painters Judith Cunningham and Becky Joy come to mind. But paintings with unusual subjects, cartoons, humor, bright colors and things that make you laugh and sometimes question your very values cannot just be considered done on a “whim”. All of us need to learn to treasure individuality. Because something is the same as the other, matches your recliner, your friends won’t be disturbed if you buy it, or it is just a pretty picture are NOT reasons to buy a painting. As I told my students over the weekend, “There are no rules in art.” Let go. Buy and create unusual outrageous things just for the fun of it. Our society has slowly been becoming a society of fear. We’re afraid to take stands that aren’t popular, afraid to express our real feelings, afraid to make a mistake when we’re just putting paint to paper. We’re afraid of offending anyone. I say try and stand out and be seen and heard. Be original! Comb your cobwebbed brains for what you’ve always wanted to say or do but have been afraid to make real. I have lost most of my filters as time passes and I feel free!
A few notes.
Hooray…don’t ask don’t tell is a thing of the past!
Bart and Homer Simpson have been deemed Catholics by the Vatican press! Hilarious!
Thanks to my students Ginny and Sandra for making my weekend special.
My birthday is coming up October 24th…just a reminder for anyone who wants to buy me clothes or other trifles. I consider my b-day a month long occasion. I’ve felt I’ve been living on borrowed time since I passed my seventeenth birthday.
Don’t forget our Holiday Sale on November 6th and 7th in Portland. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information (also can be found on my previous post). See you there.