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Gola, mixed media on canvas, 48 x 54″, included in the show, “Acquire/Inquire” at Rhode Island College, March 2012

I will be showing my latest body of work at an upcoming exhibition at Rhode Island College next month. I am looking forward to seeing these pieces outside of my studio and all the visual clutter that comes with it. The shift in seeing can sometimes be surprisingly revelatory. I hope it helps me deepen my understanding of the new territory I am exploring.

That’s the show part of the heading. The sojourn part starts tonight when I head to England. I’ll spend time in the Lakes as well as in London.

I am still perplexed by how deeply I am affected by a change in venue, something that works on others just as powerfully as it does on me. In a recent interview with the writer John Logan (his play, Red, is reviewed here), he describes how he travels to Death Valley every year by himself, going at the height of the summer so he can “scorch everything away. It cleanses the palate of my imagination. Writing is a hard job and it takes a lot out of you, so you need to take the time to replenish it.’’

England is no Death Valley. But the verdant green and the abundance of ancient sites (Britain has more than 1000 stone circles alone) seep in me and do some quiet rewiring of my insides. It is one of my ways of cleansing the palate of imagination. The desert can bring a powerful reset as well, but it works on me in a very different manner. I long for regular exposure to both.

I will be back to Slow Muse on February 22.

Show info:

Acquire/Inquire
March 1- 29, 2012
Artist reception: March 1, 5-8pm

Bannister Gallery
Rhode Island College
600 Mt Pleasant Ave
Providence, RI 02908
401-456-9765
bannisterassistant@gmail.com

Description:
ACQUIRE/INQUIRE: A GROUP EXHIBITION

To inquire—to engage in the intentional act of discovery—is the vital cord that connects the work of Deborah Barlow, Marcia Goodwin, Doris Weiner, and Denyse Wilhelm.

The objects, books, and memories they have acquired are the results of lives lived in purposeful inquiry, provoking and sustaining their work. Walk into any one of their studios and see possessions that are intensely personal: a Chinese wedding basket, peridot tinted vintage glass, Javanese puppets, or shards of pottery. In the work of these four artists, elements of nature, culture, mysticism, choreography, and music are transformed into visual ideographs that are dimensional, vibrant, ambient, and atmospheric.

This exhibition is curated by James Montford, director of Bannister Gallery.


The inimitable Thomas Derrah plays Mark Rothko in the Speakeasy’s New England premiere of Red, by John Logan. The play runs through February 4th.

In John Logan’s Tony award-winning play Red, Mark Rothko delivers a steady stream of tough love lessons on the meaning of art to his young studio assistant. Advice is rarely this engaging, provocative and timeless.

It’s a category all its own, giving advice. And advice in a field like art where transgression, the driving need to dismantle the previous generation, and pulling something out of nothing are de rigeur is particularly hard to give and hard to hear. Maybe this is more extreme for fierce autodidacts like me who never gave anyone else a seat at the head of my table.

But ambient wisdom (rather than the personal kind) is useful, and Red is full of it. So is the commencement address given by Richard Serra to Williams College graduates in 2008. Here is a passage that caught my eye when I reencountered it in my increasingly bottomless TO READ file today:

Rather than being told which tools are available for which ends it is more useful to invent your own tools: As Audre Lorde has pointed out, “ … the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Rules are overrated. They need to be changed by every generation. That is your most important mandate: If it’s not broken, break it. One way of coming to terms with the prevailing language of a cultural orthodoxy is to reject it. It may be necessary to invent tools and methods about which you know nothing, to act in ways that allow you to utilize the content of your personal experience, to form an obsession and to cut through the weight of your education. Obsession is what it comes down to. It is difficult to think without obsession, and it is impossible to create something without a foundation that is rigorous, incontrovertible, and, in fact, to some degree repetitive. Repetition is the ritual of obsession. Don’t confuse the obsession of repetition with learning by rote. I am suggesting a form of inquiry, a procedure to jumpstart the indecision of beginning.

The solution to a given problem often occurs through repetition, a continual probing. The accumulation of solutions invariably alters the original problem demanding new solutions to a different set of problems. In effect, as solutions evolve, new problems emerge. To persevere and to begin over and over again is to continue the obsession with work. Work comes out of work.

There is enough here to fuel me for weeks.

I am off to New York tomorrow but will be returning to Slow Muse on Wednesday.

For anyone who is susceptible to the energetics of color (my hand is up), reading about it can also be intoxicating. Here are a few great books for those who revel in this inexplicably mysterious and lush bennie of life on this planet:

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Written by a journalist who travels the world exploring the original sources for artist palette colors, Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay is a fascinating and readable account of everything from the ochres to the bone blacks (which originally came from burned human bone remains…I know, eaw.) Finlay makes her search an adventure.

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Amy Butler Greenfield comes from a family of dyers. Combining her family background with an expertise in Renaissance Europe, A Perfect Red traces the rich and varied history of the color in Western culture. I have always loved the story of how the red found in Mexico baffled Europeans for years. Animal or vegetable? As hard as the Spanish tried to keep it a secret, the true source for that highly desirous red—the tiny cochineal insect that thrives as a parasite on the nopal cactus—was eventually exposed.

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Blue does not have the ancient pedigree of the reds and yellows. In fact some historians have posited the possibility that ancient people could not decipher the color at all. Blue: The History of a Color is written by historian Michel Pastoureau who also wrote The Devil’s Cloth: A History of Stripes and Striped Fabric. (What a title—who knew!)

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These two books, The Primary Colors and The Secondary Colors are written by Alexander Theroux. A literary stylist rather than an artist or historian, Theroux has written an extended poetic meditation on color more than a factual and informative account. I love to just pick up either of these two books and open it at random. Every paragraph is an invitation to a revelry of color.