This month I was slated to do another residency at the Vermont Studio Center. For various reasons I had to bow out. I was very sad about it, and tried to define some of the things that made VSC special for me so I could see what I could put in place this month while on home ground. The number one special emerged as freely talking art all the time, anytime, like a studio drop-in with beer. Some of my art colleagues live in places like Montana, Ohio, Louisiana, Egypt, etc. so I decided to set up a virtual VSC. Skype and a $29 Macally web cam, and presto — art Show and Tell 24/7. Critical discussions, taunting of my work, materials and procedures demonstrated — I haven't enjoyed anything so much in ages. P.S. This image is of skyping with sculptor Jon Berge, VSC alumni and best bud.
This famous clip is from the show, What's My Line, and it's truly surreal.
And in the shameless plug department—and neither strange nor surreal—a few friends of mine are performing for one night only! Sex Machines and Shameless Hussies at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City Monday February 2, 7 pm sharp!
The Avian Music program includes new music by Corey Dargel and Raymond Lustig, Conrad Cummings' notorious song cycle based on 1950’s marriage manuals, Joseph Hallman’s piece based on porn star Jenna Jameson, and other songs by Peter Flint. Additionally, world reknowned burlesque performer, Miss Dirty Martini will be making a return appearance with the ensemble as well, including a reconstruction of Sally Rand’s legendary fan dance set to Debussy’s Clair de Lune.
Last Friday we trekked over to the Joyce to see “Zydeco Zaré,” choreographed by Elisa Monte to a musical score by Jonno Frishberg (we are fans of an earlier group of his, Charivari) that featured Jeff Broussard and the Creole Cowboys as well as fiddler, David Greeley. Zydeco is a lively mixture of Cajun music, blues, R&B, and Juré religious singing of southwest Louisiana. Juré evolved from jurer "to testify." I love Jeff Broussard's music and he is a good guy too. Before the performance we spotted him, lit by streetlight, phoning another friend of ours in Louisiana. I was visually alerted to his presence from across the street because his ever present toothpick glinted in the light.
It was interesting to see the fusion of the two. It made me realize that there is risk in collaboration, because it always takes on a life of its own. It reminds me of the Chinese character for crisis. It is made up of a combination of danger and opportunity. The New York Times was not so kind to the choreography but it made our friends, the musicians, very happy.
I used to do photographs printed on Rives BFK where I coated with a silver nitrate solution called Van Dyke Brown. I found the formula while researching the early development of photography. As you might imagine, it was a laborious process with 20x24 inch contact negatives, mixing dangerous chemicals, coating with glass rods, 1 hour exposures in the sun and so on.
I'm no longer doing this work in my own practice but am heartened to see others who have picked up the baton in this digital age. Check out the artist, Su Blackwell as well as the the Alternative Photography website. They have old formulas, pracitioners and more. In addition I may be returning — I've got that yen again and I've been experimenting with Golden's Mix More Media. I love digital—no darkroom need apply. But paper? It sings a siren song.
According to the New York Times, "Art...both reflects and facilitates change. For more than a century the Educational Alliance on East Broadway has democratically provided instruction, studio space and exhibitions to artists. Important careers have emerged from it. " (Lets hope one of them is mine.) I still take classes at the Alliance which I love. It's a great place and I feel connected to the history of New York here. Mark Rothko was a student here and Louise Nevelson taught here. I found it through my son, who studied cartooning here as part of the Young Artists Program. This painting of mine, Green Vase, was done using the studio window. You can see some of the ever present LES new construction in the distance.
There are two new Drawathons coming up: Saturday Jan 31st "Making Faces" and Saturday Feb 21st "Gershwin Hotel" The one at the Gershwin ought to be double fun. It's the "art" hotel on 27th street, you know, the one with the lighted sculptural protuberances, right down the street from the Museum of Sex...
I'm included in a recent book, Light and Lens by Robert Hirsh. It's in the section discussing Figure Ground relationships — no surprises there. The image is from the group of photographs I call "Parallel Tracks."
Well...it was really Rodney Dangerfield. But in what I've now discovered to be a much longer running dialogue with the US government, Calvert Vaux stated his view of artists and their work in an 1852 article in The Horticulturalist, " that it was time the government should recognize and support the arts." Calvert Vaux was an architect and landscape designer. He is remembered as the co-designer (with Olmsted) of NYC's Central Park. Another project of Vaux's which I adore is Olana, Frederic Church's house, upstate along the Hudson River. Church was a member of the Hudson River School of painters along with Thomas Cole. Church's paintings abound here in the city including the New-York Historical Society and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
"The next conversation I have with President Obama is to beg for a secretary of arts," Quincy Jones said in a recent radio interview. He wants the new prez to create a cabinet level post. I'd have to agree with him. Maybe we'd finally get some respect!
Artists, art and politics aside, I'm always amused by six degrees of quirky. I listen to Jones' jazz when I paint along with Eric Dolphy and Miles Davis. The image above is one of Church's iceberg paintings — a subject that floats me. I also LOVE the iceberg paintings of Gregory Amenoff, who moved out of his studio on the westside of NYC, where it was next occupied by abstract artist, Cora Cohen, who is curating a show I'm going to be in, opening March 8 (more on this later) entitled, "Snippets Samplings Static." I also painted icebergs for a while, while I dreamed of going to Antarctica.
When I'm sad, I play with art in way that doesn't really have to do with the core practice of my work. Other times I like to contemplate mysterious images where you'll never know what's going on. I took one while diving in the Red Sea, the other while diving in photoshop.
Working Artists and the Greater Economy, W.A.G.E., a group composed of artists are raising their voices and our consciousness about money; but more specifically, about how artists aren't getting their fair share. Artists are frequently invited to exhibit their work in major institutions and likewise curated into important and highly visible exhibitions. Not only does one get nothing at all, but in some cases you pay real $$ for the privilege to compete for these exhibitions. Canadian artists have been entitled to royalties on exhibited works since the late 1980's — something we in the United States only dream about.
Most artists also work a second job just so they can support their art. If 98% of Americans have a moving experience with art at some point in their lives, why do only 27% think artists should be paid reasonably for their labors. Artist moonlighting, that second job beyond art to pay for food, heat, rent etc., is also related to greater levels of education. The most prominent aspect of this trend is that in 15 of 18 survey years, the highest rates of taking a second job were observed for artists with over 16 years of education. I ask you, in what other field do you invest in greater professional education to earn less?
Over the past several decades artists have experienced unemployment rates roughly twice those of other professionals and have had annual earnings on average 30% less than other professionals. We as artists bring tourism to cities, homestead derelict neighborhoods to revive them and generate income for centers of culture. Nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity every year—$63.1 billion in spending by organizations and an additional $103.1 billion in event-related spending by their audiences. I used the arts and economic prosperity calculator to discover that even if only 200 people see my work this year, I will be worth $35,610 to New York's economy.
And to further stick it to the artists, artists and collectors were entitled to market-value deductions on donations before changes were made to the tax code in 1969, when artists (not collectors) were excluded in an effort to stem abuses of the code (allegedly, artists had been claiming inflated prices for their works). Imagine...you create a seminal work on paper, you spend six months working on it, you have a small studio and can't store it. A major museum curator loves it and offers to take it if you donate it. You figure why not? It's a credential and solves the storage issue. You might be entitled to a tax break of the $25 you paid for the paper and pencils and nothing on those six months of hard work. Yup folks, we can barely give it away!
Go to W.A.G.E.'s site. We need to organize into a powerful voice to shout out for our own economic futures.
In last saturday’s workshop, one of the technical assignments was to do a transfer using Golden Mix More Media and the image provided by the instructor was of the Mona Lisa. Da Vinci's painting is indelibly engraved in all our minds as one of the images that signifies art. It also crosses the line of art and commerce—you can buy your own "Mona Lisa" on almost any product, from umbrellas to fireplace screens. Here is a group by differing artists, who like Don Quixote are tilting not at windmills, but at art. In order: Duchamp, Dali, Warhol "If one is good, thirty are better", Basquiat, Rauschenberg, Wiley and my favorite an obento sushi lunch box.
'The Seduction of Light: Ammi Phillips/Mark Rothko Compositions in Pink, Green and Red', open until March 2009 at the American Folk Art Museum is one of those ideas held by a very slender thread. The correspondences the curator sees in the works in looking at the effect of light through such elements as color and form and in color mixing by artist's hand could be applied to any number of painters. She further stretches the thread by referencing the rapturous pinks of European religious painting and suggests a reference in these two painters, one of whom never left an early America. Linking painters throughout history who love the art is certainly democratic, but this show has too slender a premise for me. That being said, you should run up and see the show, one glorious painting after another, a slender ray of light enormously satisfying and illuminating.
We've posted images of the newsstand by my studio before. It still brings the joy of a constantly evolving artwork. Here are some recent images of the stand including another Shepard Fairey. You have all seen his Obama poster, yes? I purchased one for my younger son, who had the thrill of being a first time voter, having his candidate win and making history all on the same day. Joy #2.
You can take the photographer out of the photograph but you can't take the artist out of the art. Here are four photos of the snow outside our window. Two are Kurt's and two are mine, it's easy to guess which because...sing it now... "You can't take the artist out of the art!"
Lately I've been challenging myself to draw more. So I've been looking for venues through meet-up and other places and have ended up in bars, galleries and dog runs. One of the more interesting is Michael Alan Art's Drawathon. It's theater art with puppets, costumes and nude models all channeling the spirit of the Living Theater. I've been to two so far, one before Christmas channeling the Grinch and one last night having to do with...uh, cannibalism. I must say I love the challenge of constantly moving performers, pads precariously balanced on a knee and the people who love to draw and pose. My latest improvement (since I'm the klutz always dropping my charcoal) is a front pocket apron, kinda like an art geek tool belt, with pockets for sticks, kneaded erasers, stumps/tortillions and rags.
It started out great. I chatted with a sculptor friend in ohio, using Skype with video.It's great! Instant show and tell. Then I delivered a piece to a competition in Katonah. It was sort of a minus experience --throw your papers in the box--no we don't want a statement--unwrap your piece and give it expediciously to the art handlers--etc. I was very worried because without my statement my piece could be misinterpreted in a negative way. So here it is, my return to my old friend textiles in the form of a woven photo tapestry. look at the photos first, make your decisions and then read the statement--you decide. Does it hit the mark? Can it stand alone?
"Security Blanket" S. L. Shaw 2009 Wrapped in secure blanket womb, the mother pushes her baby towards a hopeful future. Woven photo tapestry (cotton thread) with baby carriage
"Security Blanket" addresses child rearing as a universal experience, woven through an equation of parenting since the events of September 11, global instability has mandated a neo-maternalism that is threaded through generations by an undercurrent of anxiety.
The draped mother is a surrogate for the universal job description that is also our name, "Mom". Her presence woven in this blanket represents a familiar security, and shows the hours upon hours of feminine labor. Today a mother lives in two generations, one a new world of technology with the cell phone that connects her to the world. The second generation is the past, which muffles her speech by the barriers of gender. She cannot be heard yet it is her job to raise the next generation though this silence to have a voice to speak out for peace.
Decided yet? Anyway, to continue this very long blog. We zipped over to Chelsea to Winkleman Gallery to see a pice of Stephanie Patton's. You remember she's one of friends in Louisiana. The one with the family purses. Her piece which started this blog (and is ending today's entry) is called, "Golden Handcuffs." Oh, and that's Kurt documenting it all.
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.