Saturday, January 05, 2008


Happy New Year, everybody!

This year is going to be interesting. After getting completely enveloped in The Blogger Show, including chauffeuring the redoubtable John Morris to Pittsburgh in a snowstorm with a truck full of art, I'm beginning a collaboration with Susan Constanse of Digging Pitt, and her blog oranje.

We are both terrified.

I was drawn to Susan's work because it is a lot like mine--organic, layered, nuanced, subtle. Particularly in her line quality, she does what I do, only better, which may not necessarily be the best reason to collaborate, but will certainly be challenging. On some level, it seems that we resonate.

Susan Constanse, 'seed 1,' silverpoint on paper, 4" x 6"

We decided to start small, by mailing each other three 4" x 6" 'seeds,' which could be anything. Then we'll mess with them, and send them back.

Susan Constanse, 'seed 2,' collage on canvas

I once wrote, in a review of an exhibit by Alicia McCarthy, about the joys and pitfalls of collaboration:
Looking at it I was overwhelmed by longing, for such courage and such comfort, such lack of neurosis, that two people could share a studio and a gallery, drip all over each other's paintings, and not kill one another. It was like watching a litter of puppies, sleeping in a pile, knawing on one another's ears, never knowing loneliness. Most artists are way, way too uptight to work like that.
Neither Susan nor I have ever collaborated like this before; until now, visual art has been the one area of our lives over which we were able to execute complete control. Thus the reason for starting small, and long-distance.

Susan Constanse, 'seed 3,' mixed media on paper

I really love these first three that she's sent me, and it was a bit intimidating, coming up with adequate pieces to send in return. I won't post mine, or my alterations to hers, until she's received them; they went in the mail today.

I realize that although the essence of artmaking for me is spiritual, and spirituality for me is about connection, that I've always made art in virtual isolation. You spend a year or two in your studio, editing, tweaking, adjusting, and destroying the evidence, then you hang a show, and voilá! you finally invite other people in to see it.

This sort of collaboration makes you a lot more vulnerable. The other person gets to see all your false starts, failures and procrastinations. At the same time, the possibilities for really engaging and pushing things to a new level are legion. So, Susan, here's to becoming the artists we were meant to be!

P.S. For the first time in my life, I've been mentioned in an art review written in English, which was not written by a friend of mine. Hoo whee!


Susan Constanse said...

I am overwhelmed and humbled by your remarks. And I am really looking forward to receiving your seed packet. I feel that we resonate, which seems like a very good reason to collaborate.

Thank you, by the way, for all that you've done.

Sunil said...

Will be interesting to see what comes out of this collaboration. Looking forward to it.

Chris Rywalt said...

I've mentioned on one of my blogs that I go to this drawing group. For the first time this week I decided to paint there. I dragged a whole bunch of my paints and brushes and some panels I'd primed and so forth and set up while our model Karina got into one of her longer poses. I wrapped up one painting in about an hour and then, after dinner, I stayed and started another painting, which was a portrait, because Karina was posing for a portrait Dorian's been working on for three sessions or so.

Some of the other artists stayed too. My painting went...well, it didn't go that well, but I've done worse. One of the other artists was, not struggling, exactly, but interested in learning more. So she invited Dorian over to see what was happening and then, after a bit, Dorian began painting on her painting, explaining what he was doing as he went.

I found this really interesting. I've never even conceived of anyone else touching my paintings; it's not so much that I imagine it's bad as I've never imagined it at all. It's unimaginable to me.

Anonymous said...

this is fascinating - how's it working out? Superb match-up -