I am finally moving in to the new studio. You can see how I feel by today's hot off the press dog painting. I've also included some photos of my beautiful studio. I feel very lucky. So call me the B-word all you want. This dog is doing a happy dance.
Sometimes you stumble on places that are a mother lode of wonderful images waiting to happen. Certainly if you are in the Grand Canyon, it is not a surprise. Recently we had dinner on a hidden street in New York, Freemans Alley. We discovered an art bonanza. There was even a small Shepard Fairey. Drinks, dinner, art and Andre the Giant. What could be better?
Kurt was talking about the photographer's golden 20 minutes at dawn and dusk where light sources are mixed and transitional. I agree that these are the truly glorious moments for photographers, liquid and vibrant, blessed by the gods of Kelvin.
It was a surprise to me that my daughter has decided to do photography. Even more surprising was the realization that this generation is so much more visually sophisticated. I guess they grow up with a bombardment of images advertised and self generated. It's not uncommon to see her doing homework on laptop with visual windows open—friends present as talking Lilliputians. Or using cell to snap and send. Here's a selection of her lovely images.
Or more appropriately, the language of abstraction. Last week in an acrylic class I was taking, a student showed an abstract work and said that she'd like to paint realistically instead of making scribbles like that. It was a famous painting and I was bothered by her comments. I find it harder to paint abstracts because the good ones are all generated by a language of their own. Each abstract painter must come up with their own visual language and also invent something new (never spoken or heard before.) It seems like a monumental task. After class I floated around the studio. I took some images of the art leavings, stains on the tables, pieces of floor etc. They are certainly abstract, but tell me, do they have a language that speaks to you?
As artists we try to create, through assemblage of imagination, surrounding and impression, a cohesive view that affects the viewer. Nature, the biggest artist of them all, stepped in last night, giving us a light show in the Western Hemisphere as the Earth's shadow crossed the moon. We missed most of last year's Lunar eclipses, a banner year I might add, as cloud cover made it difficult in the Northeast. But oh what a show last night!
Here the moon steps through the phases until it's an amber shadow with a silver handle. Just as it reminds us how small we are, there will inevitably be a reminder that we are also eternally optimistic. A couple on a nearby roof top fired away with their little disposables, thinking to light the moon with a flash some 239,000 miles away.
As a New Yorker, I find one of the pleasures is taking a taxi trip and shooting out the window. Yesterday's haul had nice mixed light, historic buildings and the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Honestly, look at the photo on the left, I went by fast but isn't that a Michaelangelo?
As the election approaches, we've been thinking about the images of the political landscape from a purely visual point of view. We notice the stars and bars we see on a daily basis. The post 9/11 Americana fuses with electoral fervor. Which images make us think of politics and which our country? Here are a few both old and new. I particularly love the flag created with chain link and Dixie cups. The one at left is titled "Hillary in the White House." It was taken during the Clinton administration. It was observed at the Building Museum in a scale model of the White House. Perhaps Hillary can use it for wishcraft.
The memory of one of our previous blogs, concerning the different ways in which people see, was refreshed the other day by a difference in interpretation of a pictograph. The pictograph, whose overuse has some humor in and of itself, has been intended to convey, without the problem of language translation , a message. And the meaning should be universal. This is one of the core goals of any art, from literature to the largest physical scupltures; to touch people in some core way that is part of the human nature. Not all art can cut it, however, as our hero pictured above was interpreted as being blown out a window by some and crushed by a gate by others. To save the suspense, our harried fellow is being crushed by the very gate that protects the space leading to some of Susan's paintings. I can only wonder about the more complex pictographs that convey an improbable action. To wit, some years back, I saw in those pages of a VCR manual that are only frequented by the legal eagles, the admonishment to not sit on the VCR that the manual was about. The pictograph showed the VCR stuffed in a man's back pocket as he started to sit, never minding that the VCR was about 10 lbs., a foot wide and about 4 inches deep. In this spirit I bring you a pictograph that only the inveterate pictograph hunter would ever notice. Visible only at the edge of an elevator, peering through that mercifully small space between elevator and floor was this gem:
Finally getting back to serious work. This snap is from late at night after leaving the studio at The Educational Alliance. Painted three days this week—none of it good. But it feels good and I have faith that as fluidity returns things will fall into place.
I can literally see the light at the end of the new studio construction. The basic space is done and painted. With the skylight well now white, it truly shines in the daytime. Shelves and painting storage racks are done. The stainless sink and grease separator should arrive next week (I hope the elevator is fixed by then). As my daughter might say, I am mad hot to begin!
Susan Shaw is an internationally exhibited painter and photographer. Private and public collections include the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Shaw is the recipient of two New York State Artist’s Fellowships and 2007/2009 residency fellowships at the Vermont Studio Center.
Kurt Hoss is a freelance photographer capturing the exuberance of
New York City for 35 years. A favorite project has been documenting life in south western Louisiana, culminating in two recent books, Going to Lafayette and Bosco Swamp.
Shaw and Hoss recently received an AVA gold award for video production, as producers of The Mermaid Parade.