Monday, April 06, 2009

It's spring! Art is in the air.

Forgive me peeps, this is going to be an untethered ramblefest. But at least the links will take you to pretty pictures.

Somewhere last week someone (might have been Jezebel) was writing about muses. Why are they always young women musing older men? Do women artists have muses? I certainly have a reappearing character in my paintings who looks very much like me. Does that make me my own muse?

I was talking to Ruth this weekend. 13 years ago, when i left the kid's dad and dropped out of college the first time, I was studying art. I figured I couldn't be a broke ass artist and a single mom and that I needed to study something more practical. Now I live the life of a starving artist anyways, but without the portfolio to show for it. Irony is kicking me in the ass.

And good lord I am desperate to paint. All of my brushes were lost in the move. My good set of Kolinsky sable brushes will cost nearly $500 to replace. To say nothing of canvas or paints or pallets or palette knives. Even my drop cloth is gone. That ugly old paint stained sheet had lived through numerous cross country moves and 15 years of paint and red wine.

I guess I will have to make due with my $5 colored pencils and grocery store sketch pad. The real problem is the size. My work is usually big, 48" x 48". On such a small scale as an 8" x 11" sketch pad it looks cartooney and I can't get proportions right. So instead I've been drawing trees and trying to get myself to break the abstract barrier. Mondrian started his abstracts with trees. Then he got to the graphic colored boxes we all know so well. Lemme tell you that there is something incredibly happy making to the eye when you put down a bright primary color next to a hard black line in a negative white space. It's like jazz music for eyeballs. Klee and Miro and Kandinsky and any of the New York School abstract expressionists for examples.

But at the same time that I am trying to break out of figurative painting into abstraction, there is an idea (well two actually) that have been fermenting in my head for a good long while that are more traditional. Well, tradition tuned on it's head. I'm back to the muse and thinking of the male gaze and women as objects. I want to take a series of master paintings like Ingres' Odalisque or Picasso's Women of Avignon and turn the woman's body into negative space. What happens when we're just left with a woman shaped hole in the pieces we've been taught to admire? Do we realize that women in art are objects just as much as a piece of fruit in a still life?

Or what if we turned the nude woman idea around. What if it was two well dressed ladies having a serious discussion about philosophy while a nude man posed for the artist, instead of the way Manet saw it? And wouldn't it be a much more profound commentary if Annie Leibovitz made fun of her own photo of Tom Ford (a man who spends his life clothing people) and two naked actresses by making the clothier the naked and vulnerable one, instead of stuffing 3 grown men into body suits?

That is what I want to create. I want to make art that asks questions like that.

But I am stuck with crayola pencils and a real starving artist budget. Que sera sera.