Liat Yossifor

For everyone living in Southern California right now, the heavy black smoke spewed by the wildfires has thrown the entire region into an altered state. The palette, which is often so bright, has descended into a muted orange grey. Visual anchors that we count on — the sun, the moon, the horizon — look surreal and abnormal. A silent dread building up over years of drought preceded this. But now that it’s here, we are in it. And it’s all-enveloping.

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“Tender Among us I”, 62 x 72 in. Oil on Panel. Liat Yossifor

In Liat Yossifor’s latest series of paintings, “The Tender Among Us,” she depicts and captures the thick fog of war and the ambiance of battle scenes. For the majority of Americans who are aggravated by and constantly worrying about the war, but are not serving in it, it remains in the abstract — the gulf between picking up a new package of socks at Target and what it must be like to man a checkpoint in Baghdad post suicide-attack is enormous. Yet gazing at these paintings, especially in person, has a way of wrapping around you and shrinking that gulf.

Kimberly Brooks: What inspired you to make this body of work?

Liat Yossifor: I have been thinking about the romantic landscape of battle scenes as seen throughout art history and the relationship of cinematography in war films to painting. Recently, I have also begun researching various war monuments and their peculiar forms and the way they memorialize war.

Some of my new small paintings and sketches include references to bronze figurative monuments. The paintings serve as a continuation of the sculptural, war-like figurations which are part of a new series of work entitled “The Dawning of an Aspect.”

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“Tender Among us II”, 62 x 72 in. Oil on Panel. Liat Yossifor

KB: What is your process of making these paintings?

LY: My paintings are done in one sitting, or, more accurately, are worked on as long as I can keep the same layer of oil paint wet (up to three days for a single painting). The process is fast and focused, especially for large scale paintings. Essentially, I sculpt figure-like elements in a dark palate out of a thick layer of oil paint with quick repetitive brush strokes. This method encourages the viewer to experience the work slowly and panoramically.

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“Blue” 72 x 64 in. Oil on Panel. Liat Yossifor

KB: Was there a certain experience or moment that led you to create these works?

LY: Since I began my new series of landscape paintings, I have been completely engrossed in the work of El Greco. Filled with stormy, irrational brush strokes that symbolize conflict even in some of his most quiet pieces, his backgrounds move me. I was especially fascinated by “The View of Toledo.”

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“View of Toledo” El Greco 1541-1614

Last month, I saw it at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was as if the past and present coexisted perfectly at the moment I viewed it. I have had this experience before when seeing a historical piece in person, but this experience was like no other.

KB: What message or mood do you seek to impart to your viewers when they see your work?

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“Dusk” 72 x 64 in. Oil on Panel. Liat Yossifor

LY: I feel that my viewers are ultimately faced with the language of painting. There are so many things which I draw from while painting – among others: art history, field photography, and film – and I hope this allows the viewers to relate to the work from a boarder context and to feel a sense of timelessness.

Liat Yossifor graduated with an MFA from the University of California, Irvine, and a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Most recently, in 2007, Yossifor exhibited her new work: in a solo show at the Pomona College Museum of Art entitled “The Tender Among Us,” in a group show at the Torrance Art Museum, and a project show at the Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects entitled “The Dawning of an Aspect.” Previously her work has been shown in solo and two-person exhibitions such as: “Portraits of Yfat” at Angles Gallery, LA; “New Paintings” at Anna Helwing Gallery, LA; “The Black Paintings” at Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, Israel. She has been included in group exhibitions at the Lyman Allyn Museum, New London, CT; Museum of Modern Fine Arts, Minsk, Belarus; New Wight Gallery at UCLA, LA; University of California Gallery, Davis, CA; Claire Trevor School of the Arts Gallery at UCI, Irvine; Occidental College Art Gallery, LA; and Deep River Gallery, LA. She was also included in several art fairs such as Art Basel Miami Beach; the Armory fair in NY; and Art Forum Berlin. Read more about Yossifor in theNY Arts magazine article “Training Ground” by Carrie Paterson.

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Liat Yossifor in her studio

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Katherine Guillen

I just got back from New Orleans where I saw but a glimpse of the heartache and devastation that Katrina wrought. And yet, to be an artist is to have a silent fascination with the sight of such decay; with the moldy walls of an abandoned building, the rust on a faded green car or the way a drop of oil slicks over a polluted puddle of water.

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When I recently interviewed this week’s First Person Artist, Katherine Gullien, her answers gave that fascination, and my trip to New Orleans, a certain oxygen, and it made me view it, through the prism of her work, in a new way.

Kimberly Brooks: What is the inspiration behind your work?

Katherine Guillen: Mold spread through my garden this year. All it would take was one infected plant leaf to lean on another and soon there would be puffy white spots traveling up the stem. It was both life and death; just as a new development might be at the edge of the desert. The idea haunted me all summer.

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Because of the sprawling nature of Los Angeles, I drive a lot. Often as I braced the curve of the off-ramp I have visions of earth being scraped and cut-into in ever deeper spirals. The compulsion we have as a society to create and therefore destroy ourselves has inspired most of my recent paintings.

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“Foundations of Sentiment” by Katherine Guillen 20×26 in. Goauche and Transfer on Paper Courtesy Junc Gallery

KB: Tell me about your process of working, any routines that might be curious or exemplify a larger message you are trying to communicate?

KG: I started painting a few years ago. I would sketch very controlled lines and then practically color in my drawings. Then I gave up on sketching and would take notes, sometimes in stick figure simply to remember the idea. Lately I have been trying to push myself to respond more to what I have already put down. The intuitiveness and mystery that comes from thoughts that lay on the other side of my consciousness’ wall seem to present themselves only when they have long silent periods of cajoling and something to hold onto. Many of my favorite pieces have actually come from misinterpretations of a forgotten sketch. That moment when the idea somehow jumps the wall is exactly the reason I make art. Before and after is work, like any other work almost. But finding those moments where everything aligns is definitely what keeps me painting.

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Oddly, I have very little art work up in my house. In fact, my walls are white. I think I am so visual that anything (even a little messiness) outside me is easier to latch on to than what I find if I can just get inside my head. I wish there was some solution to this. I almost feel like people must doubt how much I truly like art if I don’t have any up. But it isn’t a matter of like — I almost too sensitive to it — it will just take me over.


Katherine Guillen
is a Los Angeles-based artist whose current exhibition at the Junc Gallery lasts through November. She is featured as an “emerging artist” in the upcoming STEP magazine and she is will also be featured in the Giant Robot-GR2 show in February. Prints and publications can also be found at Papermountainparade.com.

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Duane Keiser’s Painting A Day

Ever since technology essentially air-lifted artists’ work out of their studios and galleries and put them online, on any given evening (for those of us who prefer to work in natural light) you can find mobs of artists, usually very solo creatures, roaming around the Internet looking at other artists’ work. A few years ago, during one of my nightly expeditions, I stumbled upon a freak phenomenon called the “Painting A Day Movement” (affectionately referred to as “PAD”). It started when a single painter named Duane Keiser decided to challenge himself to make a single painting a day and sell them online. He was smart about it, the paintings are small, he set up a simple group on Google, collected email addresses, threw the paintings up on Ebay, and the next thing he knows he’s not only selling work, people are bidding up the price, he has legions of fans, is making a great living and has been credited with starting the movement by USA Today and the New York Times.

Curious, I signed up for his newsletter and everyday I receive a painting in my email box. The subject matter is simple and very well rendered. With an odd sort of “Being John Malkovitch” sensation, it’s as if I’m in the studio, sitting in his brain and seeing what the artist sees every day, every morning. While I may have made him miss a day, I caught up with Duane in his studio and talked to him about it:

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“Sunbeams and Pushpins” 4 x 6″ Oil on Panel. Duane Keiser

Kimberly Brooks: What was the spark that possessed you to make a painting a day?

Duane Keiser:
Several years ago I sat in my studio and looked at several small oil studies I had made and I wondered what I should do with them. Back then I was almost completely reliant on galleries to sell my work. I decided to use my studio as a gallery (complete with makeshift track lighting) and have an opening for my family and friends. The prices on my larger paintings had risen over the last decade, to the point where many of my original collectors could no longer afford my work. So I priced the work at $100 each. I called them Postcard Paintings because of their size and because, like the dime-store postcards you send while on vacation, each painting kind of says to it’s recipient, “this is what I saw.” I called the show “100 paintings for $100.” The opening was a hit. I sold a lot of work, everybody had a great time, and a lot of people bought their first original oil painting. I had several more shows after that and started to learn my way around the web and how to present my work via zeroes and ones.

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“Egg” 4 x 6 in. Oil on Linen. Duane Keiser

KB: How did that experience end up a movement?

DK: I started experimenting with a blog (actually I just wanted to find out what the hell a blog was.) I remember thinking the journal-like aspect of blogging seemed appropriate for what I was doing, so I posted a few images and called the blog “A Painting a Day.” About a week later I got fifty emails in my inbox from all over the world. The next day even more. They were all emailing me about my work and my blog. I couldn’t figure out what was happening until someone emailed me that BoingBoing.net did a little story on my project. And that is when I discovered the wonders of “viral marketing.”

At the time, the paintings were sold first-come first-served for $100: the first person to email me got the painting. They started to sell within minutes. Unless you were tethered to a computer all day it was hard to buy one. So after several months I decided to try Ebay. This gives people the time to consider a painting over the course of several days and then, if interested, decide what they think it’s worth. It’s like having my own Sotheby’s. After about a year and three months I felt like the strict painting-a-day project had served it’s purpose for me. I am still making close to a painting-a-day, but now I have the freedom to work on other projects.

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Video of Ice Cream Melting 4 Minutes 13 seconds. Duane Keiser


KB:
What kinds of other projects are you doing now?

DK:I’m about to publish a book via blurb.com and I also have an internet project brewing that I intend to unveil soon. Lastly, I’m continueing to work on some large still life pieces (like the big doughnut on the homepage) and, as always, my postcard paintings.

KB: How do you think the PAD movement has affected your audience?

DK:
I’ve been struck by how many emails I have received from artists and non-artists alike wanting to start their own PAD projects. Many aren’t interested in selling or even showing their work publicly. They often have full-time jobs and kids. It finally occurred to me there is something going on here that goes beyond wanting to learn how to paint a pretty picture, and I think it taps into an underlying attraction to the idea of making a painting a day: We go through our lives with a perpetual cursory glance. We see but we don’t notice. We simply aren’t used to observing things firsthand, of investigating them, and I think we sense this–that we’re missing something; that we have, to some degree, become spectators of our own lives. Cell phones, computers, TV, video, 24 hour news etc– all of this information forms the visual equivalent of white noise. It is hard to see and appreciate the colors in a candle flame when it is seen against a fireworks display– and if we are only looking for fireworks in the first place, we will not only not see the subtleties of that single flame, we won’t notice the flame at all. In effect, the flame ceases to exist to us. Direct observation and the patience it requires has become less natural to us.

I think this is one aspect of the PAD idea that draws artists and non-artists alike to the idea of making a painting a day. Even to the uninitiated, there is the notion that painting makes us participants again. The idea of bringing painting into our life holds the promise of experiencing a moment each day when we can be still. We turn off the TV and the cell phone, and we paint. On the one hand painting is a brief respite from the electric hum of modern life but on the other it is the opposite–a way to face and thus reenter our visual world. Annie Dillard wrote, ” Admire the world for never ending on you as you would admire an opponent, without taking your eyes off him, or walking away.”

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Artist Photo: Duane Keiser

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