Artist as Exhibitionist

2008-06-13-nytimescover.jpg Much has been made of the recent Memorial Day Weekend Issue of the New York Times Magazine displaying, not a war veteran, but former Gawker editor Emily Gould languishing on a bed sporting a wife-beater and tattoo. It is not about the blog culture so much as an 8,000 word autobiographical tale about her experience in it. She paints a portrait of herself as a compulsive over-sharer where she describes, in great detail, how she blogged about her every thought, told amusing stories of boyfriends, skewered media insiders and experienced total humiliation by Jimmy Kimmel on live television before being ousted from New York’s subculture and media world. Aside from babes on beds selling more magazines, the repentant pose begs us to pity the entire generation of bloggers who expose too much of themselves online. “Poor, poor generation…“, say the editors “See how naughty you’ve been? Just like the tattoo, you’re gonna regret it!” Meanwhile, there she is, the “recovering exhibitionist” lying half naked on the bed. The joke’s on us and especially the NY Times. In fact, I think this picture I found of Emily is far more apt:

2008-06-13-emily2.jpg Emily Gould
As an artist, I was captivated by the piece on several levels. The narrative details Emily Gould’s journey piercing through the event horizon of celebrity culture and going from being the observer to the observed. What fascinated me most, however, was the x-ray view inside the mind of someone who craves the attention of strangers. As the entire spectacle of her feature betrays, Emily Gould is a masterful exhibitionist. In a sense, the second picture summarizes the ideal attitude you need to have to be an artist– act like you don’t care, but do it half-naked and look hot (i.e: express/expose yourself and make great art).

For fine artists, often solo creatures, it’s easy to get lost in the monastery of the studio (except for those artists with factories of people who paint for them, such as Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami or Kehinde Whiley) and frankly shocking to suddenly then have to lift one’s head above the walls and care what other people think. I suspect there are more artists of talent and skill uncomfortable exposing themselves than artists with less talent that are and the latter always gets more action.

I am not an exhibitionist by nature. Yet writing here has taught me a great deal about getting over the fear of vulnerability. I started writing this column on an intellectual dare from Arianna Huffington, a friend and collector, who always told me “Dahling, I love the way you think, you have to write it down, you should blog about it!” “But I’m not a writer, I’m a painter,” I would protest. Writing is hard for me. Unlike painting — which I can get lost in — I don’t get lost in writing. I squeeze out every sentence. If I do get lost, it might be for a paragraph, but then I have to bludgeon it into spontaneity until my arms ache.

Although I certainly don’t write about my shampoo or my dog, writing online gets easier each time I do it and I start to understand the compulsion. I think of it like this: if I could take all the pages and pages of confessional material on the web and plaster it on the interior of a gigantic dome, I can envision this universal mind, and I start, by putting something out there weekly, to feel my place in it — as if I represent a couple of neurons or glands and if I stop I might make the mind lose the abliity to see the color red or find its keys.

2008-06-13-firstpainting.jpg Kimberly Brooks. “The Conversation.” First picture at an exhibition.
I painted for years in silence before showing my work. The first time I hung a painting at a group exhibition, I was as nervous as if it were a first date. I arrived late and saw people standing around and talking about it. I blushed and laughed behind them. I assumed that they would know it was me who did it, like they could tell. The Internet was far more terrifying. The first time I uploaded my art work, I created a password-protected website. I then handed out postcards with the password on it and attempted to control who viewed the work. The thought that anyone could look at it anytime was akin to someone watching me take a shower. I finally took it off for the world to see.

I keep relearning the concept of the artist’s impulse and the need to share; that the desire to express and loving the Zen of process are separate from seeking and desiring the admiration of strangers. Now I’ve come to see acquiring an ease with attention itself as just another tool of the trade, like turpentine or a good studio space. As an artist I remain an exhibitionist-in-training. As for Emily Gould, in that regard, anyway, I tip my hat.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments closed

The Nudist and The Chemist

As an artist, I consider art on a sort of spectrum in my mind by the manner in which it is rendered. I picture two opposing ends: one a chemist, who has a pristine lab and measures everything in the most precise manner, conducting experiments in a white coat with the thinnest of pipette, a Bunsen burner, and a notepad to meticulously record results. On the other end is the nudist, someone completely of the body who paints without a trace of inhibition, who never decides what to put on the canvas in advance but just instinctually slathers it on with a huge brush or spatula, perhaps even while sipping a glass of wine with the other hand, all while naked. In my mind I call the two types of artists “The Nudist and The Chemist.” With every painting, I fall somewhere in between–with “The Nudist” being my ultimate goal as an artist, like Howard Hodgkin or perhaps the elder Matisse, working in bed into his eighties with yards of fabric, sunglasses and a big pair of scissors.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kimberly-brooks/the-nudist-the-chemist-a_b_91633.html

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments closed

Judging The Campaigns By Their Colors: Shades Of Red And Blue

I have election fever and everything else I had intended to write is out the window. It has been an all out Red and Blue assault–everywhere the eye can see. Not Prussian or Cerulean blue, mind you, but a pure, pungent royal blue. And the red–the purest cadmium deep– not a touch too orange or blue, the color of a bullseye, the color of blood.

These are the colors of our patriotism. Red is the color of power, passion, aggression, and war. It’s the id that overpowers all colors. Blue is the color of wisdom, calm, hindsight and thoughtfulness. In this light, I love the design of the American flag. Admittedly, I’d love to update it (another post), but it captures what I view as the colors of America. Furthermore, the colors assigned of Red=Republican and Blue=Democrat, undoubtedly by some anonymous graphics editor, seem seem totally apt.

2008-02-05-1.jpg
“Three Flags” Jasper Johns 24″ x 16 1/2″

Artists are constantly thinking color: which ones to use and when, when to make one or two dominant, how they change next to each other. As a painter, the colors form an entire language both spatially and mood-wise–for example, warmer and darker colors push forward on a plane. Cool and lighter colors go backwards, etc. They start to become friends with frequent use and then they hang around in your palette and the studio becomes a never-ending party.

For more than a decade in the nineties I didn’t own a television. Yes, I might have seen it occasionally at friend’s houses, but it wasn’t how I got the news. I read the paper in black and white–”Just the facts, ma’am”. But the first time I saw BBC News on television I was traveling in Europe. I put my hand to my mouth in shock that its branding and backdrops were mostly bright blood red underscoring every story and interview. In my mind’s eye, when I heard their cool objective accented voices on the radio I thought of blue! I wrote a letter to the president telling him it was all wrong–a terrible choice. Needless to say, they didn’t change it.

2008-02-05-2.jpg

Even though blue is typically considered cool and recessive, there exists a hue that has essentially no right to be considered in the blue family. The closest I could replicate it with paint would be Pthalo Blue which is so obnoxious that even a drop will overpower any painting. It’s so hot it rivals red. It was synthetically created in the last century as a replacement for Prussian, a great deep blue pigment favored by Matisse, but Prussian is considered less reliable in that it changes over time. (They call pigments like this “fugitive” and I always picture the color escaping off the canvas and going into hiding.) As a painter, I try and stay away from Pthalo. That said, add a little white and you have something quite divine.

Unfortunately, TV video editors like to bathe themselves in it every morning and this makes my retinas bleed. Fox News is one of the worst offenders, given their hawkishness it’s no surprise. They always use the the strongest most condescending ALL CAPS Pthalo blue and red together–their swirling graphics so spastic it more resembles a drunken peacock then a television station.

2008-02-05-3.jpg

CNN, even if it can be just as hawkish, thanks to touches of Cerulean, seems tad more objective and sobering.

2008-02-05-4.jpg

Barack, who never voted for the war, is the candidate for peace and his website is in various shades of blues. The blue use is respectful and doesn’t talk down to us. Given the red hot passion he inspires, he’s smart to counteract it with his sensible branding, although I do wonder if I can open a checking account.

2008-02-05-5.jpg

Clinton, a Democrat, but slightly more hawkish. She uses a Prussian blue. Note that jacket and the blue screen behind her. It’s not her fault, but once again, shame on those television editors!

2008-02-05-6.jpg
Hillary Clinton’s Website Homepage www.hillaryclinton.com

John McCain, who rides the “straight talk” express, uses black and white, and doesn’t want too much color getting in the way. Although the effect has more in common with the consol of a late 1990s video game with the handy logo serving as crosshairs. In case we might be blind, McCain’s website displays the branding not twice but three times, the ultimate sin. Bang bang! Fire the web designers!

2008-02-05-7.jpg

This is in stark contrast to Mitt Romney who rivals Fox in Pthalo-abuse along side a swooshing logo which makes me want to ask the price of overnight delivery. [Since writing this column, he suspended his campaign.]

2008-02-05-8.jpg

Let’s not talk about Bush. I think he might be color blind. Too much red isn’t good for anyone.

2008-02-05-9.jpg

The election is not close to over, but this artist looks forward to seeing green and yellow and brown, yellow and turquoise again.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments closed