Friday, April 30, 2010

The Obsessive Ones...

I am drawn to, and fascinated by artists who seem obsessive to me. When I looked up the word OBSESSION I realized that perhaps that is not quite the word I should be using. These type of artists I am referring to work with very small pieces of paper, or wood, or cloth, or metal and end up creating very large scale art works. Perhaps the word I am looking for is PERSISTENCE or TENACITY. For example, when I saw some of Leonardo Drew's assemblages (featured below) at a gallery in NYC, I was 'blown away' by the size of the entire artwork that consisted of hundreds and hundreds of wooden boxes. I realized that this sort of obsession is not the same as when I say to myself that I am obsessed with collecting rocks or tools.

Through a labor intensive process of cutting and gluing thousands of pieces of board and paper, Lance Letscher, creates large scale collages. He obsessively crafts his collages out of cutting fragments from old ledgers, diaries and books.

You can find a fabulous book of Lance Letscher's collages at You can find his work at the DBerman gallery here.

Mark Bradford transforms materials scavanged from the streets into wall-sized collages and installations. His map-like multi-layered paper collages often refer to city streets as well as social commentary. He cuts up very small pieces of paper to become part of very large billboard sized artworks. You can find his work in the gallery Sikkema Jenkins here and in museums all over the world. You can also find more of his work at this website here.

Leonardo Drew builds up his assemblages with rows of hundreds of stacked wooden boxes, covered with found objects, and caked with rust to suggest decay. Drew's gigantic wall assemblages function as social statements and as meditations on creation and process. You can find his work in museums and in the gallery Sikkema Jenkins here. You can also go his website here to find his bio and see more of his work.

You can find a truly wonderful book of Drew's monumental assemblages at
The title of the book is EXISTED: LEONARDO DREW. The title refers to the profound human urge in the face of life's transience to leave a trace, to state "I was here".

"I shall become a master in this art only after a great deal of practice, until eventually the results of my theoretical knowledge and the results of my practice are blended into one---my intuition, the essence of any art."
---- Erich Fromm, THE ART OF LOVING

Monday, April 26, 2010

Personal Expression Part 1

I have recently returned from teaching a workshop on Personal Expression. I help artists explore and search for deeper meaning in their art. They participate in many exercises and activities and one of them involves answering questions about themselves. One of the questions I ask the artists/participants is: Who are the artists you admire, and why? I believe the answers can help discover what an artist is thinking, and more about their aesthetics and how other artists influence their own work. For myself, I am attracted to subdued colors, textures, mark making, circles, dots, minimal or limited palettes. I also am very attracted to art that expresses a more personal concept or feeling. And I love work that is quirky or unique or different. Here are a few artists whose works I have been attracted to for many years or who I have just recently discovered.

Franz Kline (1910-1962) is famous for his black and white abstractions. His expressive calligraphic lines and bold contrast of color is well known in museums and in books.

Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) was a realist painter. His favorite subjects were the land and people around him, that he was most familiar with. His love for both shines through in his subdued colors and subtle textures. You can find his work in museums and in books.

Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993) began as an abstract expressionist. He evolved into a figurative and still life painter, and eventually came back to abstraction ending with his Ocean Park series. You can find his paintings in museums and books on his life and works.

Geoffrey Gorman works with wire, bones, paper, and found objects to create his whimsical animals and birds. You can find his work at his website here and at the Jane Sauer gallery here.
He writes in his statement "Found and lost objects assembled into curious and evocative shapes is what excites me." Me too.

Gary Weidner is a minimalist painter who uses a limited palette, marks, and subtle textures.
You can find his work at his website here, and at a number of galleries including the Gruen Gallery in Chicago.

Leonor Anaya works with clay, incorporating subtle textures and subdued colors. You can find more of her work at Reece galleries here.

Hisako Sekijima works with natural fibers, twisting, binding and tying. She has a book available at and you can find more of her work here.

"Art is creative for the sake of realization, not for amusement: for transfiguration, not for the sake of play. It is the quest of our self that drives us along the eternal and never-ending journey we must all make. -- Max Beckmann

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Searching for Heritage

...Each venture
Is a new beginning...
...what there is to conquer
By strength and submission,
has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times,
by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate--but there is no competition
There is only the fight to
recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again....
--- T. S. Eliot

For some time now, I have been searching, reading, and exploring my Japanese heritage.
I went to Kyoto, Japan last October with that search in mind. A trip to Japan had been a life long dream and I felt such a strong connection to the culture and aesthetics that I am planning another trip there next year. I feel as if my search has only just begun.

Here are bits of Japanese papers, old letters, receipts, and worn and rusty objects that I found at the temple flea markets in Kyoto. I hope that some day they will find themselves in some of my collage paintings. Below is a collage by Paul Horiuchi.

Paul Horiuchi has been dubbed a "Master of Collage". He was born in 1906 in Japan, and died in Seattle in 1999. He created graceful juxtapositions of texture and color, using paint, ink and paper. He pieced together torn pieces of calligraphy and textured papers, visualizing strong aesthetics of his Japanese culture.

Horiuchi drew on his heritage, creating works that abstractly evoked the forms and textures of nature. His work exudes quiet energy and calm. Horiuchi once said that his collages were "attempts to produce areas of peace and serenity...". His meditative collages are strongly connected to reality. In the surprising collage titled "Rock Garden" (below) Horiuchi abandoned his more well-known very flat abstractions to provide a sense of space and place.

You can find the book on Paul Horiuchi's life, works, and collages at There is a current exhibition of Horiuchi's collages in Seattle, WA through May 8th, 2010 at ArtResource,
625 First Avenue, Suite 200, or

"As soon as I think of Japan, my mind feels beauty, my heart feels purity, and my life feels humility." -- Sri Chinmoy, Japan: Soul-Beauty's Heart-Garden

Friday, April 2, 2010

Beyond Textures

I have always been attracted to textures. I love textures on paintings, collages, assemblages.
I look for textured papers and ways to texture the paint and the surfaces of my paintings and collages. There are different ways to achieve texture. One way is to paint or draw lots of small shapes, lines or dots. Another way is to apply textures like rough papers, straw, dirt, clay or whatever you want. There is something very seductive and sensual about textures because they imply the idea of "touch".

Textures can be found everywhere.... old walls, sidewalks, doors... weathered and worn wood, and rusty metal. Nature and the passage of time can work its magic on the surface of the world around us.

There is subtle beauty and texture on the surface of a stone.

Fred Otnes is a collage artist who uses textures and imagery to create a world where secrets and mysteries emerge from his torn papers and scratched away paint. If you are interested in his book you can go to his website here to purchase it.

Antoni Tapies was born in Barcelona in 1923. His heavily textured works involve large surfaces covered with paint, sand, marble dust, wire, paper, or cloth. He has immersed himself in a Zen-like minimalism of color suggesting a highly spiritual content. His rough textures have an organic feel. Tapies is a visual poet, capturing the human imprint of what has been used and what has existed. You can find his work in museums all over the world and there are many books available at

Anselm Kiefer was born in Germany in 1945, the year Nazi Germany surrendered to the Allies.
He grew up in the aftermath of the war. Poet, Paul Celan, was born in Romania in 1921. In 1945, he had survived the labor camps but his parents and family members had died in the concentration camps. His poetry is linked to his memories of the Holocaust, and his poetry has influenced Kiefer's work on every level. The above book, and others on Kiefer's works, are available at

Kiefer portrays or reveals the imagined desolate, wasted landscapes by using straw, ashes, earth, clay, sand, hair-- all exposed to the passage of time. His works are monumental, measured in feet, not inches.
"I never see a forest that does not bear a mark or a sign of history." --- Anselm Kiefer

Texture of Life
Taste the dew on leaves
with your tongue
Savor the lushness of grass
beneath your feet
Inhale the redolence of
fresh morning air
Touch the textures with
tender fingers.
---- Chanti