• Artists Interviewing Other Artists Since 2008. Founded by Kimberly Brooks.

Essays

Craft and Diving In

I never buy the Financial Times. But it was pink, it was in the olden days when I was at an airport traveling and I wanted to read the feature on David Hockney and that is when I saw this haunting quote:

Unfortunately they gave up teaching painting and drawing. What’s going to happen? If you stopped teaching mathematics, bridges would fall down.
-David Hockney, Financial Times June 26, 2016

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Painting in the Time of Corona

It is March 12, 2020, the Corona virus crisis is dawning on everyone here in America and we’re told were 10 days behind Italy where it’s unfathomably bad. My college aged kids are told no spring quarter. Everyone is stressed and worried.

There’s a scene in Roman Polanski’s The Pianist where the main character runs around trying to figure how to hide something valuable before the German’s invade Poland. As their conditions get worsen and they end up in the concentration camps you can’t help but to reflect on how futile that initial worry was.

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John Baldessari: Friend, Mentor, Artist, Comedian

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The best artists I know are secretly hilarious. They giggle and laugh and are more often mischievious or odd or out of sync, often absurd often visual thoughts bouncing from out of nowhere in the conversation like a stray soccer ball from a neighbor. But when you take our picture, we have to look really fucking serious. Deadly serious, like Picasso.

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Book Announcement –
Oil Painting Safe Practices: The Essential Guide

I’m thrilled to announce the publication of Oil Painting Safe Practices: The Essential Guide, a little black book just for oil painting of all the materials I would need and why.

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The Amazing Thing About Skin

The amazing thing about skin is that there are so many different ways to depict it.⁠ Like a religion, there are many different sects and belief systems.

You can either attempt to replicate skin tone exactly, as if you’re sculpting flesh from scratch.
You can capture the ways it reflects light, against a pool and sun.

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Getting to the Ribbons of Color Faster

Painters all have a fantasy that the images in our head will flow from our fingers, brushes and minds in ribbons of color onto a surface; that we don’t pause or hesitate too much. It just comes.

We’re all angling and positioning ourselves for that moment.

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The First Time I Painted In Oil

I remember the first time I ever painted in oil as if it were yesterday.  I was initially hesitant to use the medium for 2 reasons:​  ​First​ly​, I put it on a pedestal, as if one needed a right or permission. ​ ​Second​ly​, I knew it involved materials that were somehow dangerous.

I did it anyway. I knew then that I would be using this medium for the rest of my life.  And I was right.

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Leonardo’s Brain

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LEONARDO’S BRAIN NEWS & REVIEWS

It is with great joy and gratitude that I announce the posthumous publishing of my father, Leonard Shlain’s last book, Leonardo’s Brain: Understanding Da Vinci’s Creative Genius which he completed shortly before he passed five years ago.

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The Creative Process in Eight Stages

I made a great big canvas. For three weeks it sat in the center of the studio like Jack’s massive desk in The Shining. No matter how many “painting miles” I’ve earned, there’s really nothing more terrifying. Of course, I have some ideas, a subject, a palette in my mind. Several in fact. But I’ve encircled it, ignored it, worked on smaller paintings instead. Finally, today, I took six different shades of pink. Some cadmium red light, rose and violet, and I just attacked it. It’s okay, I wasn’t totally committed because I knew it was just the ground of probably ten layers that will live above it. But it was a start.

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India, My Heart

January 5

Dear Friends,

I hope your new year is off to a great start.  Despite my perpetually lying on Instagram about my location (like posting pictures from my November trip to India weeks after I returned), I have indeed returned to home to California and have been quietly painting, planning and immersed in life.CityPalaceUdaipur_KimberlyBrooks
I took the above picture Inside the City Palace Museum which is across the water of the Lake Palace in Udaipur, India. There are rooms of walls just covered with Indian miniatures which chronicle the court life of the Mewar family who still rules after seventy six generations — the oldest dynasty in the world. You can spot how the introduction of perspective and portraiture seeped into the way artists depicted events at pivotal moments after the British came and gave art as gifts. *Sigh*

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If I Were Queen, Kids and Screens

If I were Queen, I would make everyone repeat after me:

“Technology is addictive and allowing children to attempt to regulate themselves is akin to helping them regulate their use of cocaine or alcohol.”

I started to have the desire to be Queen when smartphones invaded my children’s elementary school. The first time I noticed it was when a third grader with divorced parents was discovered to be showing video porn to classmates and a few second graders during recess. When some horrified mothers found out and alerted the boy’s mother, a nurse, she put the iPhone on the kitchen counter and smashed it with a hammer. In fifth grade, another boy took a picture of some girls doing cartwheels that showed their underwear and then regularly threatened to post it on his Facebook page. It was weeks until the girls’ mothers, seeing their children visibly upset and suddenly not wanting to go to school anymore, got to the bottom of what was bothering them and had to get the principal and the mother involved before the boy deleted the pictures from his iPhone.

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Life by Me

Life by Me

(The following interview is the aggregation of answers to a series of questions posed by Sophie Chiche)

I used to be fueled by independence and artistic freedom. I came out of the gate wanting to shock and be shocked by the universe. But that has transformed into a love of much smaller moments, usually in the studio or with my family and people I love, like hours two through six in my studio, a gorgeous view, and cooking a great, healthy meal for my children when they come home from school.

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Welcome to the New Huffington Post Arts Page

About four years ago, Arianna Huffington asked me to blog about my paintings and process as I made them. At first I demurred, saying that it would be impossible for me to expose myself or my work that way. The real truth was that the proposition terrified me. A few days later, I thought to myself, well, perhaps I could interview other artists about their work and start a conversation.

Since then, I have had the privilege of interviewing and writing about over seventy eight artists for a column I started here called First Person Artist. Featuring my own and other artists’ work, I covered range of topics including politics, photography, fashion, the last election, climate change, war, feminism, facebook to my own creative process. I made writing and having a conversation with other artists an integral part of my art practice. The act alone gave me courage. And unless you subscribe to the Emily Dickinson model of posthumous discovery, a huge part of making art requires courage, oxygen and getting it “out there.” We are encouraging artists, curators and critics alike to write about their work, review others’ work, curate their own online exhibitions, and write about newsworthy items that inspire further thought or a strong opinion.

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The Magnificent Merger of Arts & Culture

I’m lucky enough to have caught on video the exact moment when I was running along side my daughter’s bicycle as she was learning how to ride for the first time and I let her free. As soon as she was balancing on her own, I had this huge beaming smile on my face as I watched her circle back towards me in a wide loop and then did it again. I feel no different today as the beloved “Arts” vertical, something that I created from scratch, merges with Culture and to become a “Super Vertical”, “Arts & Culture”, which is exactly how it should be.

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The Merging of Arts & Culture. Illustration by Priscilla Frank

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Art & Physics and Me

“The artist, with little or no awareness of what is going on in the field of physics, manages to conjur up images and metaphors that are strikingly appropriate when superimposed upon the conceptual framework of the physicist’s later revisions of our ideas about physical reality. Repeatedly throughout history, the artist introduces symbols and icons that in retrospect prove to have been an avant garde for the thought patters of a scientific age not yet born. “
Leonard Shlain, Art & Physics” Chapter One: Illusion/Reality

This was the huge meme that grew inside my late father’s head throughout my childhood. It spilled forth onto our dining room table, on walks along the beach during family outings, on napkins where he diagrammed what it would look like to sit astride a beam of light and how Einstein’s Theory of Relativity corresponded with, say, Cubism and Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Nude Descending a Staircaise’ and it spilled forth within the reams of paper that I edited, chapter by chapter of what would become his first best-selling book, throughout high school in and college.

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I Survived Giving a TED Lecture

What would you do if you had 18 minutes to impart a meme on a stage in front of an audience with three cameras and no notes?   I created a lecture that combined the ideas of three essays I had written in the past, and then added some personal stuff.  They encouraged making it personal in the “TED Commandments” materials that I received when I agreed to strip off my clothes and waltz around in a bikini… I mean talk on stage and be fascinating with no notes… I have done so many things that scare me in one year.  I’m actually getting use to it.  If it doesn’t scare me than what’s the point?  Now I wait while they edit.  Honored to be chosen as the guest speaker.  Still recovering..

Naked Summer Newsletter

In an interview with artist Ethan Murrow, I depicted a spectrum I call “The Nudist and The Chemist”. On one side, there is “The Chemist”, who works in a pristine lab with a Bunsen Burner and the thinnest of pipette; on the other, there is “The Nudist”, who slathers paint with a spatula in one hand, a glass of wine in the other, all- while naked. While every artist’s approach is different, I’m leaning towards “The Nudist”.  I think of the elder Matisse, who worked in bed into his eighties with yards of fabric, a big pair of scissors and sunglasses that the doctor prescribed he wear for fear the colors might get him too excited.

For this recent show I’ve been painting directly on oil primed linen, stapling it to the wall and then stretching it afterwards. All the themes I’ve been working on as a painter — portraiture, narrative, the language of costume– have melted into one another the way meat falls off the bone after it’s been roasting for a long time– no longer recognizable in its former incarnation, but more succulent. Whereas my previous exhibitions revolved around specific subjects, including people wearing specific types of styles (“Mom’s Friends”) or people who wield style altogether (“The Stylist Project”), I now let folds and patterns serve as a vehicle for a kind of abstraction.  I’ve created a series of “unportraits” where the figure no longer serves a purpose like telling a story. It’s a shape, a part of the painting.

The Gap Logo, New Coke and the Legendary Walter Landor

The introduction and subsequent rescinding of The Gap Logo unleashed a series memories of my younger self and the visionary designer Walter Landor.

I was a freshman at UC Berkeley. Being the always drawing-painting-coloring-designing “creative-type” kid, my father thought I might enjoy a lecture at SFMOMA by the legendary designer Milton Glaser who was introduced by his West Coast Counterpart, Walter Landor of Landor Associates. I was raised in Mill Valley so my university, my hometown and the glittering lights of San Francisco were all only a bridge away.

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7 Rings, My Turn

Today I played 7 Rings, the game created by Rebecca Campbell and Nicole Walker on the Huffington Post.   Each participant has 24 hours to respond to the previous artist’s work.  I was responding to the poem below by Alison Deming called The Mirror.


“Chains for Alison” 2010, gouche on paper, 9″ x 12″ Kimberly Brooks

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A Vigil for my Father, Leonard Shlain

As I write this, my father, Leonard Shlain, is dying of a brain tumor. A couple of weeks or months ago, I might have said “living with a brain tumor.” But now that is just not the case. I write from the top floor of the beautiful home in Mill Valley that he built and helped design with San Francisco sparkling to my left and Mount Tamalpais sleeping to my right. My father is in the bed behind me. I am sitting at his desk. He drifts in and out of consciousness (mostly appearing to sleep) and this is where my family is holding vigil.

I was going to tell the editor that I cannot write this week or next or maybe for a while. I may still do that, I don’t know. But I cannot be the only one in pain. I thought maybe if I shared this sorrow that it might make me feel better or maybe it could even make someone else feel better who is going though something similar. Also, he is an unrepentant ham and when I asked him if he wanted me to devote this week’s column to him, he squeezed my hand and grunted one of the three words that he uttered that entire day which was yes.

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Mothers Against Plastic

My first real introduction to inane plastic over-usage was having children. There’s nothing quite like the mountains of toys and bits and pieces that only seem to be enjoyed during the “opening” portion of a birthday present. Then I’d notice curiously that my kids would receive far more hours of enjoyment over a cardboard box. It’s less about the material itself, but that kids are suckers for brightly colored things. Once they get over the rush of tearing open the clam shell plastic packaging, they literally never play with it again. I’d end up filling large plastic Glad bags (the really large one for leaves) with bits and pieces of toys that, once torn asunder, were never decipherable again.

And then, there are the straws.

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Typical way restaurants serve kids drinks.

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The Man Who Attended His Own Funeral

My father, Leonard Shlain, passed away three weeks ago.  I wrote about the vigil my family had been holding for him the night before he died.

We buried him the next day in a plain unlined pine box — a green burial — in a beautiful hillside that I used to look at when I was growing up as a kid in Northern California.  The spot he chose is on a 35 acre nature preserve with hawks soaring overhead, an ocean breeze and views of Mt. Tam. I could hear the kids playing at elementary school I once attended.   In lieu of headstones, the funeral home buries a GPS device 18 inches from the surface so we can find his exact place on the hillside when we return.   It is a perfect place to spend forever.

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What Climate Change Might Look Like: Chris Larson’s Deep North

Every now and then an artist so vividly articulates a quiet fear that it takes my breath away. Fresh from the celebration of Earth Day, a year long celebration, I wanted to share with you “Deep North” by artist Chris Larson.

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Chris Larson, Deep North, 2008, C-Print mounted on aludibond, 35 x 35 inches, Edition of 5 + 2 AP’s, Courtesy of magnus muller, Berlin

As an artist, I do not profess any deep knowledge about the science of climate change, but I do have specific images that come to mind when I think about it. There is a moment in “The Inconvenient Truth”, for example, when Al Gore explains how the Gulf Stream– the conveyor belt of ocean currents that guides warm water around what would otherwise be a much colder climate, might break and could theoretically plunge Europe into a rather a rather sudden ice age.

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The Art of the Headshot

As I navigate the web, both as an artist and a new media person, I think about the images we use to present ourselves. Other than movie stars and professional personalities such as Oprah and Martha, real estate agents were actually the first profession to use headshots as one of the means of conveying who they are and what they would be like to work with. In the marketing and advertising world they call it “branding”. But since that always makes me think of seared flesh on a cow’s ass I tend I stay away from that expression. Whatever you call it, we’re all doing it now.

Take my friend Sharona, for example. Occasionally I receive postcards or web announcements with her face smiling at me. She’s smart, confident and looks it. When I see her picture, I also instantly hear her signature sexy voice. I think to myself, “Man, if anyone is going find me a great house it’s going to be her.” As realtors go, she’s pretty low-key. (She also has the curious distinction of being the namesake of the Knack’s famous song “My Sharona” so she doesn’t have to sell as hard.) But most real estate agents take it much further, putting their faces on everything from billboards, bus stops and print ads. I often wonder when the trend started. It must have been in the seventies, and some blond babe, probably here in Los Angeles, an out-of-work actor, perhaps, thought “I bet if I put a picture of myself on every business card and bus stop, billboard and sign outside the house, people would rather buy a house from me.”

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Facebook and The Death of Mystery

I received an email recently notifying me that I was “tagged” in a facebook entry called “25 Things You Don’t Know About Me” from an old friend. We actually went on a few dates many many years ago and I haven’t seen him in about three years, but we’ve remained friends. Curious, I clicked on the link and learned twenty five things about him I never knew, like the rest of his four hundred friends. He’s a very witty guy, so it wasn’t quite like “I like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain,” but in another way, it was oddly close. By tagging me he was requesting, or essentially daring me, along with the other nine friends he had tagged, to do the same thing. I impulsively started to do it and then never posted anything

My facebook life started off about a year and a half ago with friends and people I know closely, then my family started dribbling in, and the next thing I knew my friends included that person from a job I had ten years ago, students I’ve taught at art school, that really weird guy from high school, and an old roommate in college… and on and on it continued. That was the first sign of “friend leakage”, where I had expanded beyond the scope of intimate friends and was venturing into people outside of my circle, but usually by only a few degrees — at least I knew them.

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Michelle Obama’s New White House Portrait

The White House revealed the new official White House Portrait of Michelle Obama today. I’m working on a series of portraits right now and am obsessed with the subject. Even though I love her signature bare arms, I found the blue curtain exploding directly above the center of her head a curious choice of composition, as well as the white rose blocking her hand.

Michelle Obama Portrait

It reminded of John Baldessari’s “Wrong”, a photograph he made in response to a photography book telling would be artists that strong vertical design elements sprouting from people’s heads in a photograph or painting is wrong.

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INTERVIEW: Shay Kun & Larissa Bates

If every cell in my body had a face, it would resemble that of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”, with each of the mouths getting wider and wider until November 4th is over with.

As an artist, I have, like the rest of my species, huge antennas and right now I find it simply impossible to make or write or think about art and not think about the election.

Watching history being made in every regard is to see reality afresh; when a few elements are tweaked, whether the first African American or the first woman vice president.  Although let’s be real about the latter—McCain’s injection of Sarah Palin into his campaign was less history and more like an over-dosing Uma Thurman getting a shot directly in the heart a la “Pulp Fiction”. I attribute the genuine history making moments to Obama and Clinton.  And thanks to them I do not think as a country that we will ever see four white guys lined up on those debate stages again.

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Sarah Palin First Impressions

Before I had even a moment to recover from the history making of last night and Obama’s incredible speech, my cup overfloweth with excitement about McCain’s vice presidential announcement this morning, a visual bonanza! So much to see, so much to chew on, I don’t even know where to begin!
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I will try not to dwell about lame TV producers of McCain’s announcement this morning.. God knows what screens to the left and side of his head that made everyone behind him look like they were either shifty or channeling Ramtha. Nor McCain, whose peeps can’t get it together to use a teleprompter and look us in the eye. (Hello, McCain.. there’s new technology out there…Google much?) Today’s on screen gaffe was almost as bad as when Hilary had every member of the Clinton administration standing behind her when she was defeated in Iowa vs. Obama’s endless sea of admiring smiling faces.

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Artist as Exhibitionist

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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.

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Artist Porn: 10 Things That Turn Me On

Writing a weekly column about artists that turn me on omits a gigantic portion of what turns me on as an artist. The truth is that more artists don’t turn me on than do— there are a hundred for every one I feature. But there are certain things, not by fine artists, per se, that really turn me on and I affectionately refer to them as “Artist Porn”.

Note, the dictionary definition of porn is: “obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, esp. those having little or no artistic merit.” I certainly don’t use the word by this definition. One of my friends insisted that I was describing a “guilty pleasure.” But, no, that is just not the case. Dark chocolate is a guilty pleasure. Making love before breakfast is a guilty pleasure. Doing it during a conference call, well that’s just plain kinky, but I digress. No, this is clearly “artist porn.” These are things that light up my brain like a hormone-addled teenager gazing upon some moaning glistening assemblage of limbs. Behold this partial list that I encounter in daily life that visually rock my world:

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Rock Stars, Orphans and Rescue Missions: Preparing the Solo Show

As I write this, I’m sitting on a stool in the middle of my studio. My solo show is less than five weeks away. I have over fifteen canvases of all sizes strewn about, the finished ones hanging on the walls, the rest facing the walls. I’ve divided the paintings into three categories: Rock Stars, Rescue Missions and Orphans. There’s nothing like a deadline to align all the atoms of the universe so I can see with crystal clarity.

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Kimberly Brooks Studio Five Weeks and Counting
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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.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/kimberly-brooks/the-nudist-the-chemist-a_b_91633.html

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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.
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“Three Flags” Jasper Johns 24″ x 16 1/2″

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Why Artists Shouldn’t Have Blackberries

A few months ago, after an unfortunate incident involving a melted chocolate bar and my cel phone in my car’s console which rendered the latter useless, I decided to try a Blackberry. It was something I’d been debating with friends, family and myself for years. I was extremely hesitant. I would regularly interrogate the people I knew who had them as if they’d just casually used the Orgasmatron in Woody Allen’s Sleeper.

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Woody Allen in Sleeper
“What’s it like? Is it weird? Is it really that great?”

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The Macho Art World

I considered writing a piece this week relating relationships and art to Valentine’s Day, but found myself struggling with it. This was not because I knew that papers and the Internet would already be dripping with pink and chocolate, nor because there’s any lack of artists who make love with their subject. Rather, I struggled because I find the art world so inherently macho.
That is not to say that artists themselves are necessarily macho: artists are dreamers and essentially romantic, aspirational people- to even call yourself one and place yourself near the canon of artists before you- is a lofty enterprise. An artist’s relationship to his or her ultimate realized self is often just as essential as it is to other people.

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David Hockney imagining himself being drawn by Picasso, whom he never met.


Artist and Model, 1973-74. Etching, 22 5/8 x 17 1/4 in., Courtesy of the artist. ©David Hockney. All rights reserved. Courtesy of LACMA

It is also not macho because art prices are soaring and it is still so male-dominated. Even this Thursday the feminist group called “The Guerrilla Girls” called on its members to send a letter to BCAM demanding that the museum reconsider the curation of it’s predominantly white male collection.
No, I find being an artist in the art world macho for other reasons. There’s a required toughness to stick it out, get to work and put it “out there” — more exhibitions, more galleries, more museums — constantly pushing to get on the radar. And the most macho part of all is the need to reach thirty feet inside your own guts for content. Picture young medical students eating pastrami sandwiches around the cadaver they’re studying to show it doesn’t phase them.
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Photographic Painting of Gerhard Richter’s daughter Betty
Certainly there are other spheres of the art world that are different. There are painters who paint flowers and sunsets on the weekends. But even within that sphere there are ardent realists who seek to recreate reality down to the molecule. This is especially prevalent in the water color world where first prize winners are often indistinguishable from the photograph it was copied from. Realism is very macho. When my artist friends and I swoon over one of Gerhard Richter’s photo paintings, we undoubtedly stalk and make the same noises as young men admiring a red muscle car.
Combine all this machismo with the feminine sensuality of working with paint and color, then the act of being an artist itself forms the ultimate couple.read more ›

The Painter Directs: Julian Schnabel And The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

I watched The Diving Bell and the Butterfly the other night. I couldn’t wait to sink my eyes into what I knew would be a visual extravaganza by painter Julian Schnabel. Film is a great medium. It’s such a new art form, still licking the placenta off its ears, compared to others. But I’m a tough audience — after most movies I just want my money back. But to have someone already established in the Grande Dame of painting, and Julian Schnabel no less, I just knew I was going to be in for a ride.

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Installation of Paintings by Julian Schnabel
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From Miami Basel with Love

Right now, there is a giant pulsing orb of a fair going on known as Miami Basel singeing most artists’ arm hairs. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it was started only five years ago as a sister fair to Art Basel Switzerland and has since mushroomed into an extravaganza with over 20 satellite fairs and numerous insane parties and festivities to go along with it. I’m not there, but some of my paintings are, and I have no arm hairs left to speak of.
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A Sculpture by Uri Nir who has a film at the Pulse Fair in Miami. ABS and Stainless steel.
Image Courtesy of Braverman Art Projects.

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First Person Artist- New Column by Kimberly Brooks

I was walking down Rose Avenue in Venice the other day and the sky sparkled a fantastic shade of blue above a row of rumpled clouds and faded buildings. I rushed to get my camera to take a picture of the way it was playing out. But you just can’t capture that sort of thing on film. As a painter, light and instinct are the currency of my work. I work on many paintings at once and face the ones that are drying against the wall. When I turn them around I look at them afresh and try and let my gut guide the next move.
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Ron Pippin

I ran into a friend of mine recently in a restaurant, and while greeting her with a kiss on the cheek, I accidentally knocked out a “Bluetooth” earpiece that allows her to answer the phone without touching a phone with her hand. “Oops! My Bluetooth!” she said as it fell in her salad.
I once had swaths of time and space when I wasn’t connected to any one and cell phones were shaped like small refrigerators. Now, I feel like I forgot my foot if I don’t have mine with me. I think about this a lot as I continue to resist the urge to be reachable by email or have access to the internet when I’m not sitting in front of the computer at the end of the day. At my studio, there’s nothing but a radio (okay okay, it’s cable), glass jars, chairs, tables, easels, turpentine, paint, brushes and canvases. That’s it.
I constantly marvel over how technology has integrated itself into our very being making us practically unrecognizable to our prehistoric selves. This was on my mind when I walked into the Obsolete Gallery and discovered, among other treasures, the work of Ron Pippin. There I found an antique canoe with a plastic heart inlaid in resin suspended from the ceiling next to a zebra skull with a piston jutting into it’s jaw beneath a glass museum case.

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Burchell Zebra Museum Box, 2005
skeletal taxidermy, mixed media, found objects, wood,
plexi glass 45″L x 13″W x 20″H Ron Pippin
Courtesy Obsolete Gallery

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Skin Tone and the Challenge of Depiction

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I’ve often sought a literalness when depicting the color of flesh. Overtime and many techniques, I eventually landed on a restricted palette which uses burnt sienna as a base along with french ult. blue, cadmium orange, sap green and crimson.

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Mom’s Friends

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When I was a young girl, I remember my mother and her friends, their clothes, their dinner parties and their laughter, as a distinctly as a perfume.

 

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These women were not fifties housewives who stayed home and marvelled at the new technology of the dishwasher.

 

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This was Marin County in the 1970s, when love songs oozed from the radio, a geodesic dome spung from the lawn in our backyard and my mother put rhinestones on everything.

Now that I am a mother with a daughter of my own, I see the way she studies me and my friends, how she imitates the way I walk and talk or wants to traipse in my heels. While the imagery of women I paint in this series is unique to this time and place, the group itself is universal. In this series, investigate young mothers as a powerful subtribe around which everything evolves.

Speed of Light

I was at a dinner party tonite and a man was telling me how his ninety four year old mother was dying. She woke up in the middle of the night last night and said,
“Oh Henry, I thought it was seventy years ago and you were six years old and I was getting you a glass of milk!”
“No, mom, it’s not. It’s just me and I’m an old man and you’re an even older woman.”
“My god.” she clutched his arm. “It went by so fast.”

Van Gogh’s Head, Cezanne’s Grave

Last night we watched a film about Vincent Van Gogh.

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Here’s how it was structured: an actor read all the letters in chronological order while visuals of the Dutch landscape and eventually his drawings and paintings illustrated the voice over, Ken-Burns-Civil-War Style. They never showed the letters (below), I could only heard them through the voice over.
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Later, I took a shower and scrubbed my skin with lavender salts I had bought at Trader Joe’s. On the label, the word lavender is inscribed with a font called Cezanne. Someone took Cezanne’s letters and manuscripts and separated each alphabetical letter, turning it into a font. Now Cezanne’s handwriting adorns everything from book covers, bath salts, greeting cards, bath salts, anything to connote authenticity. They also made a font out of Van Gogh’s handwriting but it’s not as popular.

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Lavender Oil from the same product line
I used to avidly keep a journal. I had a beloved fountain pen to write entries, make sketches and draft letters. The bending nib captured my every gesture and stutter– it recorded my aesthetic DNA– my emotional state, my discipline, or lack of it with the ruthless accuracy of a blood pressure machine. People hardly write letters anymore. I don’t keep a journal anymore but for skywriting on WordPress. I really love technology but sometimes I mourn the things it has displaced.

First Person Artist

Artists Interviewing and Looking at other Artists
since 2008.
Founded by Kimberly Brooks