What is it that makes an artist realize a painting? What does realized mean? To me, it is when a painting feels complete, full bodied and substantial. I was looking at two Grace Hartigan's the other day. One of the paintings felt undone, unrealized, begun but not finished. Some reasons were that the white areas lacked character, the shapes were too similar and my eye went from one area to the next without enjoyment, variety and nuance. It was more a duty than a pleasure. But, the other Hartigan was alive and full and of one mind, one fine mind. We could tell that the act of completion was fully realized because our hearts became fuller the more we moved from area to area. The strokes were similar in their intention but unique in their activity. Shapes varied in softness and solidity. Elements were rich and nuanced. You felt you could return over and over and be thrilled. As thrilled as it was in the making.
What I want in Art

What is it I want in a painting. I want to be stretched, not just my brain but my heart and spirit. I want to feel something big is happening under the surface. That I have a larger life that can be widened by this picture.  This does not have to be so grand a thing.   Even a small shift in color or rhythm might add value to one's life and inform one's moment.  

Perhaps it is the story going on or the color combinations or the way the shapes echo each other. I admit, I don't want to use my brain the way I did in High School Classes or most college classes: Analyzing, synthesizing, summerizing. But I want to use my brain and my heart in loving more by feeling the connection in all things, by feeling something is being built naturally, that the artist is evident in the paint strokes and lines and choice of values. I want to be taken away like Turner takes me away with his huge skies.  Of course this kind of being taken away is from the Masters.,  but it does not have to be so large.  It can be subtle and nuanced and allow one to peek over the hill to a new fresh place or an old remembered pain.  

Some thoughts on Art making:

The focus and intensity and love that is the energy you can use to paint will determine the spirit, state, source energy, awe, mystery, magic and beauty of the artwork.  The sustained, carried through, intense energy will determine the real value of that piece of art.  Sometimes we are in that state more purely than others and this will show.  Just being a manipulator of form, line, shape or concept will not count as much in the end.  The artwork created in the source energy, the 6th sense, a higher state will inhabit and inform that artwork.  It will embed itself into the paint, the brushwork, the line....  This state informs the artwork more than the concept, or cleverness or mind. This is why it matters less what the form of art is.  If it lacks state, source vibration, soul, it doesn't matter what performance, concept, landscape abstraction exists.  It will not "work" unless it has source energy.

The key to art is to be novel, but not the novelty of only mind and idea.  The source vibration that the artist inhabits will create a world, if the artist allows the depth.  The difficulty is to allow and dip deep into the well.  This has been sorely discouraged in our society so it is far from easy.  Too often schools teach finding before feeling.  It is much easier to teach the mechanics of writing than to bring forth the kernel of one's fire.  Usually mechanics take precedent over discovery.  But this kind of learning corrupts the ability to feel honestly and deeply.  It encourages idea and product before the well is filled.

Arshile Gorky

This summer I had the opportunity to see the Gorky exhibit at the LA MOCA 3 times. He is an amazing painter, particularly after 1942. His pre 1942 work is derivative, I believe. Not that there are not some fine pieces before 1942, but, something happened in 1942 and 1943 that made Gorky find his song. His painting became looser, thinner, and much more gestural. He never went back to his cubist thick paint. I believe it was Roberto Matta who encouraged Gorky to be Gorky. Matta got him to paint thin and to paint using the surrealist subconscious. You feel this in Gorky’s work after 1943. He is moving his whole arm, his whole body and his whole self. Just by becoming thinner, he goes deeper and the marks feel more felt and they mean that much more. Before, in his earlier work, his mind was in control but now his feelings are the catalyst and his mind works in conjunction with these memories, these inclinations, these deep emotions.

It is easy to see he was influenced by Miro and Kandinsky, but it is also easy to see Cezanne’s influence. The paint handling is not as tight as Miro or loose as Kandinsky but more disciplined like Cezanne. Even more than Cezanne, Gorky can walk an edge of chaos and still hold his balance.

Nothing is overdone in Gorky. Nothing hurried. There is gesture with restraint that makes you feel the power of a coiled spring. He uses the whole canvas to weave rhythms of complex but simple movements and color. There is no minimalism here. It is full bodied opposition of deep and shallow space, thin and thick paint, vague and exact edges, fluid line, simple and elegant shapes. His drawing of lines act as a scaffold, and he dances color in, around, over, through and under these lines. Everything vibrates on the verge, but in the end, you feel the order of a sine wave.

Sean Scully



Most often it is better to look at a body of work, and I had that fortunate opportunity to see Sean Scully’s 2006 Wall of Light Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. What astounded me was the substantiality of his artwork. Not only because each painting was large, which it was, or because these paintings were so bold, which they were, but because each piece felt solid in its attention, intention and execution. There was lots of nuance, lots of variety, tenderness and wit but no timidity, no holding back within the massive rectangles. Not only was each rectangle alive, but also the spaces between rectangles were alive and vibrating with rhythm and personality. These narrow spaces revealed subtle nuance of texture, color and gesture.

In all, I felt Mr. Scully’s greatness as if his building and sculpting of each artwork was happening in real time. This is what much of contemporary art misunderstands. Yes the artist wants the viewer to participate (complete the process?) but too often contemporary art gets the viewer to participate in concept only and not in the gut. I was participating with Scully because he gave me a scaffold and showed me his vision and heart. At the same time, I brought my experience, vision and heart to his painting. We met there and I was in awe because I recognized something in me was in him. However, he did not do this intellectually or timidly.

No jpg can aptly describe this living body inside or outside these walls of rectangles, but because Scully is a master, he offers up just enough source to make me want to search every inch of his bold canvas, taking nothing for granted.

After being with Mr. Scully’s artwork, I came away bigger and bolder and more alive than ever before. This is what fine art can do. It can nourish your life.

Patrick Graham Painting

This painting excites me. It moves and vibrates. The color is subtle and it is loud in places.  The brush marks are frantic yet contained.  The painting borders on chaos and neurosis but is so well painted and constructed.  Constructed not only by conscious intention but by the deep down psychic unconscious.  Some feeling bubbling up from below made this.  It looks like it was made in haste but it was out of necessity and it was from a deep place.  None of his other artwork in the show looked so daring in emotion, but perhaps the other pieces are more daring in concept.  

I just love the reds and the head with just a little red circle for the mouth.  The purple gray slashes around the head.  The so well tender painted top area and the below area which is dark and bold.    Yes, he is holding his penis.  It adds to the meaning and story but it mostly adds a hot pink form to the other pinks.  I feel the sexuality in the whole painting and not just the sex organ.  Look at the drips and the energy about the head. The body in the center is apart from and part of the whole. 

Look how organized and regular the crosses in the upper left are, a similar color as the marks around the head.    The body is quite centered but the weights around the canvas are so well painted differently and uniquely that the painting doesn’t feel so balanced.  Besides the variety in strokes, direction and thickness of the brush marks and paint consistency and texture add so much variety all over the painting.   It looks like it was done at one time.  I can feel the struggle but it still feels unified and done in one big burst of energy. 

I feel the maximum amount of variety in the maximum amount of unity. I feel this in that and that in this.

What do you think?