I have a good many friends who are painters, and a number of them live in the space that looks as if it exists after photography and its transformations, after Modernism and its shocks; they participate in the return to figuration, narrative, and realism, but they aren't fully realist in the sense of someone like Jacob Collins or Juliette Aristides. I have an interest in the how and why of the return to realism among so many artists, especially since it parallels the return to meter and rhyme and forms in poetry. Lately I have looked at or listened to videos and podcasts about that resurgence; many of the video/audio pieces below fall into that category but not all.
In poetry and fiction, we have a sense of the materials, the sound and sense of words--yes, we can be carried beyond the work in some way. We can be lost in sound or story for a time. But art in words is both guide dream and little black marks on the page or, read, aloud, "a mouthful of air"; as readers, we're busy translating and so are in two places at once. Paint can go very far, can become photo-realistic, can fool the eye. Where is the line, how much finish ought there to be, how much should the viewer be aware of the medium? Is some pleasure lost when we lose that sense of brushstrokes and layerings of paint? I suppose the contrast with writing is more the difference between limpidity and roughness or an aureate style.
I'm especially fond of the Suggested Donation series with Tony Curanaj and Ted Minoff, all with the recording engineering (and sometimes co-comments) of musician Jay Braun. I have not found one that is not an interesting listen. Great coming-of-age stories, great turning-of-the-wheel of art toward the future by harnessing tradition, metaphysical flourishes, practical discussion of skills. The psychology of art video is also intriguing.
A short film by Alvaro Aro about Missouri artist Ali Cavanaugh. (Vimage Studios 2011.) Youtube. Watercolor on kaolin. People often ask me about how I have managed being a poet, novelist, and a mother of three--well, here's a modern-day painter of frescoes with a batch of lively children. Cavanaugh makes compromises, having to use fragments of time and also utilizing photographs of her models. (My version of this also involves bits of time. And concentration in what time I have.) The David Jon Kassan podcast also deals with this problem, as he took care of his son as a baby and has continued to be responsible for him.
Burton Silverman. Suggested Donation. Episode 31. Ideas of the universal, painterly qualities to the work, self-indulgence in art, artists and family, curators and teachers who think arts started with Cezanne, work that is "halfway" between realism and Modernism, the illusion of self-expression as belonging to Modernism, annihilation of skills as important in Modernism, teachers' attempts to suppress his childhood skills, not becoming a slave to the past, transformation after WWI, declining roles of church and royalty, retrieval of the academic tradition, a type of cloying, retrogressive painting, "the more I know, the less I know," the importance of being unsure, the "itness" of things, etc. He talks about Modernism as exacerbating a feeling of public uncertainty--Modernism's paintings with a lack of story as bound to inhuman environments, corporate mentality, and inhuman environments, and more. Validation, patronage. Witnessing and recording history: illustrating seminal black protests in Alabama in the 60's. A little low in volume but well worth a listen.
Daniel Sprick. Suggested Donation. Episode 32. Daniel Sprick is widely considered one of the leading realist painters. His work is featured in numerous private and public collections including the Denver Art Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, and the Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock.
David Kassan (KAS-san). Suggested Donation. Episode15. "Falling down the stairs and landing on your feet." Skills and weight in painting. (I really like the podcasts that try to grapple with what it is that takes a painting beyond realism to something more--the heft or freight of life, the energy of life.) Lots of interesting talk about contemporary painters outside North America, including various Israeli painters and Antonio López García. Discussion of the difficulties of being the at-home parent and trying to paint.
Suggested Donation: Jacob Collins. Podcast series. Episode 4. http://www.suggesteddonationpodcast.com/blog/2014/4/14/episode. Major figure in the return to realist art. Founder of the Water Street Atelier, Grand Central Academy, and Hudson River Fellowship. For more about Jacob Collins, see Adam Gopnik's "Life Studies" in the New Yorker. Clip from "Life Studies": Jacob was always trying to strike a decent mean between affirmation of his secret faith that art had been going wrong since the eighteen-sixties and his desire not to get caught up in the reactionary grievance-keeping that disfigured much of the revivalist world he lived in. “You’ll outgrow wanting to draw the world as it is, searching for this beauty, this place where light and the body meet—that was the attitude of most of the art teachers I had,” he went on. “So I had to re-create a world in which I could do the kind of drawing I wanted to do. I wasn’t alone in this. There were quite a few of us trying, and, bit by bit, and book by book, and practice by practice, we tried to remake the world of atelier realism that had been discarded and abandoned.” Over time, he assembled a group of teachers and students and enthusiasts, all given over to the practice of classical drawing from life and plaster casts, and from that nucleus came this studio and then the Grand Central Academy.
Suggested Donation: Juliette Aristides. Podcast series. Episode 20. Instructor of Aristides Classical Atelier at the Gage Academy of Art. Lovely, literate, thoughtful discussion of life, beauty, skills, brokenness, what lasts, and the nature of a life of making art. This one is a real discussion, interesting back and forth, and Aristides is wonderfully able to form her thoughts in words. "Juliette Aristides is a monumental figure in the classical art community. Her . . . books on painting have been hugely influential to a generation of artists . . . ." Issues of investment of self in a time without proper response, the online world as a response to the debased environment, the classical atelier and the narrative arc of education, truth and art, art and the feeling that life matters, a context for work that lasts and has meaning, the ability to think and go deep (vs. online life), the personal encounter with paintings, art as backdrop for real life in earlier times, drawing as meditation and connection with life and self--as an antidote to the remoteness of current life with its online hours, physical beings needing physical connections to a physical world, etc.
Michael Klein. Suggested Donation, Episode 9. Interesting podcast with a painter from rural Minnesota who found his way to New York and Argentina. It reminds me a bit of Makoto Fujimura because he talks about being troubled by beauty and what it is for and resolves the issue some time after he becomes a Christian.
Odd Nerdrum: The Self-portrait. Nerdrum Pictures, 2015.
Odd Nerdrum. Time Water Recollection. Norwegian documentary, 1992. Strange and beautiful, with lots of images of Iceland and Nerdrum's home in Norway. The sub-titles end part-way through, but it's still wonderful to see.
Patricia Watwood, Part 1. Suggested Donation. Podcast series, Episode 3. "We talk about her solo show "Venus Apocalypse", education, influences and her perspective as a female artist."
Sharon Sprung. Suggested Donation. Episode 26. Great story about Sharon Sprung at 19 and Harvey Dinnerstein. She says Dinnerstein taught her what it meant to be an artist. A purist. "I'd never seen anybody so immersed in anything." Dan Green taught her skills. Quirky coming-of-age story, with lots of talk about older writers and a keen understanding of her own nature and particular demands. I'm still listening to this one... She's a character, quite stubborn and particular in her desires in how to work. And she's one of many examples of how an early death in the family forges a path in the arts. I find it fascinating that her mother threw away every image of her dead father to protect herself, and later Sharon Sprung became a maker of figurative images. Lots of good talk about teaching, too, and the importance of working from life. She's funny! A real character.
The Nerdrum School. Interview w/ Luke Hillestad (2013)
Two Autumns. London: BBC. I'm fond of Thomas Reidelsheimer's lovely Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time, a great documentary about Goldsworthy in the landscape. If you like that one, try this! Filmed in Scotland and Japan. If hobbits were less satisfied with home and good cooking went on adventures more often, I'm sure they could produce a visual artist like Andy Goldsworthy.
Year in Review. Episode 13, Suggested Donations. 2014. Tony Curanaj and Ted Minoff and Jay Braun talk about the podcast. Close attention to one of Tony Curanaj's paintings.