Going home is going back to one's roots. I am doing this. In fact, I am returning to the roots of classical art. I have tried, repeatedly, to defeat classicism. Picasso accepted classicism as truth. Picasso gave into the reality that classicism had determined the best way to engage the viewer. Classicism was centuries old before Picasso got here, even older before I got here. Classism had challenged many ways of presenting imagery. Picasso accepted that classicism had succeeded. The invention, and the success of Modern Art, is not about compositional challenge; that had already been done. No matter the degree of distance Picasso put between his images and naturalism, the force of his compositions always accepted classicism's compositional dictates. Every image Picasso presents is "in your face," "straight ahead," composed to engage by laterally depicting his images within the defined rectangle. No matter the wildness of Picasso's forms, his compositions do not disturb the viewer's natural way of digesting an image. The wildness of Picasso's image are attenuated by his acceptance of pure compositional classism. I am now doing the same. It took me longer to get to here, to this insight, then it did Picasso (or Van Gogh or Matisse or Philip Guston or Willem de Kooning, for that matter). Those five (Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse, Guston, de Kooning) are my heroes, my main mentors. Four of them were my mentors from a distance, but Philip Guston mentored me in person.
Take a look at today's drawing. I accept classical composition. Why, I ask, has it taken me so long? This acceptance frees me to invent via form, color, scale, shape, and space. It frees me because I accept the basic rules that are classical composition. No more will I fight the tenets of classical composition.
Below I show you two daring works of art. They do not challenge "Classical Composition." The do challenge how we see. Both of these paintings creating a reality that challenges our visual world through imagery, not through composition.
The drama and solidity of this composition tells me, "I am here! Here, at last!" Getting to the here and the now, with complete honesty as the tag, makes this moment real. It has not come easy. Can I sustain it? Why not? Philip Guston sustained it, and he was no less human than I. This is the most important part of Guston's mentoring. If not for Philip I could not have understood this as the most important component of making art.
Home is where the heart is... that describes my search. I want to be comfortable with my art-making. This is new for me. I have, for years, challenged my own assumptions, my own education, and my learning. I doubted everything I had been told or learned from books and mentors. This brings me here, to today. I am seeking the comforts of home. Thus comes these drawings. Finding a cozy home is not easy. Think about; you live in a home. Is it perfect for you? Like making art, arranging a home to satisfy oneself, to represent oneself, is an ongoing, never-ending process.
I have been away from the studio. I was attending serious business. I visited museums. I had a dream in which I dialogued with Picasso. I contemplated. I retreated from Making-Art. I contemplated Making-Art. My many recent exhibitions left me confused. "What am I doing?" and "Why am I doing it?"
The art-making I seek requires skill and talent. Today's contemporary art scene often appears devoid of skill. That said, there is a talent there, one that causes public and private interest and engagement. We live in a world where celebratory personalities head countries and engage many followers. Upon inspection, some of these leaders are devoid of the required skill and knowledge to do their jobs well. However, there is talent there, a talent that causes public discourse and public interest. That is the definition of Artist. This illustrates my personal quandary. My confusion is comprehensible. I received a lot of positive feedback from artists, some gallery and museum directors expressed appreciation of my art. I did not get a lot of sales. I take lack of sales as lack of engagement. My viewers did not choose to put my art on their walls. Desire speaks of engagement. I want espousal; I want my viewers to want my art. If they do not want it they must not need it. I have failed if my viewers don't need my art, if they don't need to buy it, or own it. I feel I did not fully engage my viewers. This saddens me. I want more. I want my relationship with my viewers to be consummated!
My skill is extremely high. I can do anything on paper (or canvas) that I can imagine. Perhaps I have restricted my imagination to knowledge already acquired. I must engage my skill with greater abandon, with ambition to disclose more deeply than that which I intellectually comprehend. I am not who I think I am; I am more. The only way to know oneself is to uncover oneself. I must walk naked into the world. People love to look at naked people. They are unable to NOT look. Is this the gap I have been unable to fill between my viewers and I? I need to take off all of my clothes.
Referring to popular culture, this is what I see, We have a president of the United States who is more reality TV star than successful statesman or successful business person. This man obtained his lofty position by appearing to be upfront and personal (despite the many questions surrounding his truthfulness). He has engaged our entire population despite his lack of skill for his current office. That is his talent. It is talent that may serve me well as artist. I want to engage. I want people to pay attention to my art. There are NO limits to what I can do because I have the necessary skill to do it. My failure to fully engage my viewers is my lack of a certain kind of talent. One can see the talent I am missing in our current president, also it is present in reality TV stars, in pop music artists, and in show business celebrities. The artist Andy Warhol was more a successful celebrity than a skillful artist. This explains a talent I must nurture in order to fully engage my viewers. My extreme artistic skill is squandered if I do not have the talent to engage my viewers.
I dreamed I was with Picasso in his studio. Picasso threw me out. Picasso silently waved goodbye to me. I reluctantly gave in; I said goodbye. I walked away from one of my great educators. I do not need mentors any longer. I must rely solely on myself. It is no longer about what I know; it is about what I do not know, what I need to discover.
Yesterday's drawing is much different from the one in this blog's previous post. There is a two-week gap in time between these two drawings. I have begun to take steps without knowing where I am stepping. I step in confidence without knowing where the next step will lead. That is a good thing.
I just keep going along, self-doubting myself into returning to seek meaning in myself. Doubt creates problems to resolve. However, recently things have changed for me. I am respecting my instincts. I follow them. By acting upon instincts I am better at discovering self-truth. The painting, "Seriously?", exhibits more truth now (in state 13) than it did in state 12. Philip Roth's attitude, that work causes self-revelation, has helped me enormously. It is important to find camaraderie in people who have come before; people who have used creativity to find personal reality. I am assured working, experiencing, does unravel truth. Effort is leading me onward, but it is comforting to have a predecessor, a mentor, to tell me this can be done. Again, thank you Philip Roth!
I was looking at my principal mentor's art. I realized he, like I, sought a monumental response to his images. He was Philip Guston. Yesterday's work strongly brought on this monumentality. It is the same strength I like in Anselm Kiefer's work. And so it goes; and in so it comes....
This drawing looks forward, looks back. There is a dangling whip there, so it must look back to my mentor, Philip Guston. It looks forward because it is only something I would do. I do not know anyone so completely involved, so entranced, by simultaneous in and out and across composition.
Two Works by Philip Guston
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