Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Haiku of Painting

Escape by Sharon A. Hart

Recently, while working on a new painting, I’ve been thinking about Frank O’Hara, the late reviewer for Art News and Assistant Curator of Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions for the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Perhaps it’s because recently a book of his selected poems, edited by Mark Ford, has been released. There’s an informative review of the book found in the New York Times.

However, even prior to learning about the publication of the book, I had been reflecting on O’Hara’s poem Why I Am Not A Painter because it beautifully articulates the creative process; the result is unexpected, the process is improvisatory, ever- changing and the final product is found in the process itself which may involve a process of obliqueness or even extraction.

Why I Am Not A Painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.

(originally published 1957, Evergreen Review)

I can relate to the understanding of “too much in the painting”, for the very painting I’ve been working on initially had been planned much too complicated. Once I started painting, the life of the painting directed me to remove certain aspects of the design, even parts initially painted. As the painting was a watercolor, this created certain demands, but I believe I was able to rise to the challenge. Spatial differences, alliances and references enter into the experience of the artist until it is imbued with a seemingly natural expression related to haiku. Sometimes it is in what we don’t add or say that we express the most.

Mike Goldberg

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Stating the Obvious

Louise Bourgeois in 1990 with her marble sculpture Eye to Eye (1970) Photo by Raimon Ramis  Louise Bourgeois

In Issue 4 of the Special Edition of The Art Basel Fair Edition of The Art Newspaper, Iwan Wirth, of Hauser and Wirth, is quoted as saying, "Female artists as a whole are shockingly undervalued by the market." He further elucidates, "In May, Lucian Freud became the priciest living artist at $33.6 m and Louise Bourgeois became the priciest living female artist at €2.9m [$4.6m—at Christie’s, Paris, on 27 May.] It is not my mission, but it occurred to me again, on the back of these records, how far female artists have to go."

Women's artistic efforts have consistently been undervalued by society. This isn't "news". It's one of the reasons why Virginia Woolfe wrote the classic A Room of One's Own, other women, such as Mary Ann Evans, have published under pseudonymns such George Elliot, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts is the sole museum in the world dedicated to recognizing the contributions of women artists.

I doubt that change is going to come about in our life time. Perhaps we need to follow the lead of women authors and consider selling our work under pseudonyms?