Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Burning Question

Michelangelo burned most of his sketches and drawings. The Seattle Art Museum currently has a show titled: Michelangelo Public and Private: Drawings for the Sistine Chapel and Other Treasures from the Casa Buonarroti, Oct. 15-Jan 31st, 2010.

The primary focus of the exhibition is M's preliminary work for the Sistine Chapel in Rome, including a selection of working drawings for the Sistine Chapel and the LAST JUDGMENT. Together, these drawings give modern viewers insight into the artist's working process. "The exposure would have appalled Michelangelo who burned many of this drawings, hoping to sustain the idea that divine inspiration was responsible for his celebrated masterpieces." (This is a quote taken from the Seattle Art Museum website).

"If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all."

"I wouldn't have wanted to go down in history as a literary arsonist."
---Dmitri Nabokov on his decision to publish his father's unfinished novel despite Vladimir Nabokov's wish that it be burned.

When Vladimir Nabokov died in 1977, he left instructions for his heirs to burn the 138 handwritten index cards that made up the rough draft of his final and unfinished novel, THE ORIGINAL OF LAURA. But N's wife, Vera, could not bear to destroy it, and when she died, the manuscript went to her son, who has finally decided to publish it. However, one wonders how Nabokov would have felt. The final card in the manuscript is a list of synonyms for efface -- expunge, erase, delete, rub out, wipe out, obliterate.

Any Artist will tell you he's really only interested in the stuff he is doing now. He will, always. It's true, and it should be like that.
---- David Hockney

So, to burn or not to burn? Should artists have final say over their works? Should their wishes be respected and honored? Should the world be denied their last piece of great works?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

To Plan or Not to Plan

Acrylic and collage, 2008
I approach my painting and collage in a very planned and thought-out way. I paint in a series, choosing subject matter and content that is personal to me. I plan out my elements, and placement of textures and subdued colors. I choose papers and move them around until they "feel" right.

Photograph by Werner Bischof, 1951-52.
Stones, large and small, are a major component of most Japanese gardens, from the very beginning. Much thought is given to the setting of stones, the selection and placement, giving the stones a reverence and spiritual component.

The spirit of the sabi natural stones: Stones used indoors and outdoors in Japan are selected for their size, shape, color, character and the "feelings" that they radiate. The stones thus form an additional link between humans, the earth, and nature. They have a calming effect on the spirit.

The Zen garden, Daisen-in, is an elegant example of karesansui or dry landscape rock garden. It was constructed in 1509 on the grounds of the Zen temple, Daitokuji. The karesansui dry 'stream' flows from a rock that represents a Mount Horai mountain, down a dry waterfall and under a stone bridge. All the rocks are placed to represent the "river of life". It plunges through the rapids of youth, into adulthood.

One enters the wall of doubt to the "treasure boat" when one reaches maturity. Next to the boat is the turtle rock (trials of life) and the crane rock (long life and happiness).
I plan out my paintings/assemblages before I even begin. But I know other artists that "go for it" right away, and then go with what comes. They see and work with what emerges. I think both ways of working are perfectly valid. It is the end result that matters. Where do you fit in?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Obsessions & Flea Markets

"Whether we call it collecting, scavenging, accumulating, scrounging, gathering, or junking, it's all about the urge to surround ourselves with our stuff, our loot, our stash, our hoard, our mother lode of treasures, and to reap the inspiration that these sometimes inexplicably irresistible objects provide." Lynne Perrella, from her book ART MAKING, COLLECTIONS & OBSESSIONS. This is a wonderful book which includes the collections and artwork of 35 wonderful artists. You can find out more about this book and how to acquire it here.

We do love things that bear the marks of grime,
soot, and weather, and we love colors
and sheen that call to mind the past that
made them. ---Tanizaki Junichiro

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Purity of Mind

Water dipper, Torei, 1721-1792, Ink on paper

I also saw many of these stone water basins at the entrances to small homes and restaurants.
There seemed to be a quiet calmness- a pocket of serenity-- in these small areas. The basins were usually set in with large and small rocks, plants and sometimes moss.

Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted.
Only in quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.
----Hans Margolius

These small stone basins at the entrance of a home or restaurant represent the ritual of "clearing the dust of the world".
This symbolic act of cleaning thus enables one to sense the pure and sacred essence of things, man and nature. This purity, through the simple act of cleaning, is part of my search for myself in my art -- the act of clearing out the "old" ways to explore and experiment with new experiences, and feelings.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Entering it
You enter yourself:
The world connects
And closes like a ring.
---Octavio Paz

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
Where everything shines as it disappears.
---Rainer Maria Rilke

assigned to my brush came closer,
ready now to be described better than they were before.
----Czelsaw Milosz

At Nishiki Market, Kyoto

Torii are gateways at the entrance of Shinto shrines, or "jinja". They are typically made of wood, stone or sometimes, iron. Most wooden torii are painted in red. Torii literally means "where birds reside". It sometimes happens that Buddhist temples have a torii, too. The most amazing place to see torii gates is Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Taisha, where hundreds and hundreds of them are lined up in a tunnel-like fashion. The Inari shrine honors the Kami of rice. There you will also find fox statues as they are the messengers of Inari.
I felt that these torii gates were my first "welcome" to another world. These gates are the division between the physical and spiritual worlds. When I stepped under the gates into the temple grounds, a feeling of renewal come over me.
Odds are you could
Find yourself
Here in this passage between
And dawn,
Seeing change
Through the backwater eddies
And the mainstream flows
Of the world around you---
Thinking through
And chance,
About things
That have already been
Might yet be.