April 20 , 2020


Afternoon 55 degrees looks like rain. Not much to add to all the commentary on the Virus , so much writing as it peaks in New York.when I started to blog I thought it would be a way I could write many friends at once. But I have found an email is more personal whereas people don’t read blogs as much. Indeed it seems like 40 Percent of Americans seem to read next to nothing.

As someone who was a teacher albeit a college teacher at an art school I do have some experience with students who simply don’t read or have read very little. It may be different now as I have been out of teaching since 1987 doing a few guest spots but I am pretty much done. I was fired by the art college I worked at for all sorts of reasons. One dean said my classes were too difficult for undergraduates that was my favorite. But I was a pain in the ass, too frank to direct and I was not doing what they wanted done. Plus of course the school was going through a purge in those days letting go of people who drew big salaries and hiring temps and adjuncts without benefits or any hopes of tenure or rehiring. This was everywhere, the art school survived on tuition so advertising and promotion were the main departments, something like propaganda or just plain bullshit. It was effective the impression was given that a BFA or MFA was the ticket a good job as a creative maybe even a requisite credential in the academic art world and the larger more upscale art world. But it was not made clear how competitive these sort of things were. Indeed it was a sort magical thinking that this sort of experience will beget a generation of better brighter artists.

Indeed the truth be told the art schools were simply a holdover from 19th century academies and even the University Art Departments were not very useful though you might meet a famous artist or have some interesting guest artists but resident faculties are mostly tenured and not really in a critical role, though many times a great teacher may be in an art department like Peter Saul at the University of Texas in Austin. There are always exceptions particularly in California where their are so many art and design schools. But you are lucky to have a few great people there or passing through.  And luck is not something you can teach anybody!  But I had some good fortune and met some artists who were critical influences on my art. Indeed since I taught I met many artists and teachers over nearly 20 years I was blessed. Thing is it is very difficult to make a career out of this line of work. Being an artist is a very hard gig whether you teach or you don’t in the long term it is very up and down business very fashion driven and very  fickle. The supply of young artists is quite large but the decline in numbers over time is considerable. Sure their are older artists but that is really the smallest group. In between young and old it seems like attrition and just plain finding a way to earn a living get many young creatives lost in the woods of time. Perhaps this is nature’s plan survival of the lucky few or just plain stubbornness like the painters who refuse to stop ha, and their is also the thin partitions between fine art and madness. Everyone’s parents much rather would their offspring have an MBA then a MFA. The numbers tell the story hundreds of thousands of MBAs and a few hundred MFAs .  To be continued -

Then - now further troubles in the person of the pandemic sweeping the planet and hitting our country with a ferocity like a giant storm a deadly storm killing thousands of people. Perhaps this changes everything as so many people are being swept away all over the globe. And older more at risk people seem to be in the majority poor people, black people , people with compromised immune systems. I remember reading The Peloponnesian Wars by Thucydides which begins with a war and goes on and on without the author witnessing the conclusion of that war, indeed he dies while it is still raging. Which I think will be the case here as well at 75 with kidney cancer and declining health still not back from breaking my neck and both wrists terrible neuropathy I doubt I will live to see the ultimate consequences of the Covid 19 pandemic. Something like people who died before the Great Depression was over. So it seems my children and their children will be heirs of this new world full of sorrow and grief. The future may require great creativity and adaptability.
  One feels this already on the news reports and in the papers and especially on the Internet where an awful lot of speculative writing is holding sway. Some people are trying to just not watch as much news because it is so dark. It has made me think about Goya again and in general artists in bad grim dangerous circumstances. Of course these are some of my favorites so it is more like a return to my point of origin. Which I suppose has something to do with growing up with WW2 raging and living as a young man during the Vietnam era. Whatever the specifics I gravitated towards art made under duress, indeed art made in times of war and the suppression of free speech and expression. Free speech was always an issue for me it seemed to be the critical element in the freedoms we enjoyed as citizens in the Western democracies . But alas I found the search for free expression was not always something people desired or regimes or churches or simply institutions. As an artist free speech and expression seemed to be essential to the task at hand ie. living in a  world where all speech is political even the most harmless. It was a gradual awakening for me which of course was enhanced by the times I lived in during a very vicious unpopular war and the rise of civil rights activism. And the ascent of giant corporations deemed too big to fail! 

 My ideas of art initially were the received wisdom of significant form, Cezanne Matisse modernity and post modernist manifestations  indeed I was a colorist given to 2-D art. And initially driven by the ghosts of many artists art. But color was at the center and images often preexisting images or from graphic art, comics and films. I was influenced by the idea of art becoming a sort aesthetic communication. But I was drawn to images often quite distorted violent and sexual images. I think my psychology played a big part in my aesthetic choices and content. I grew very poor a child with an immigrant father and a immigrant’s child, my mother was 20 when I was born an immigrant farmer’s daughter who never attended high school and was a caretaker in her family before and after her mother’s premature death.  She was diagnosed  with schizophrenia when I was born. She died at  54 from Parkinson’s Disease and complications from her schizoid disorder. My father was an alcoholic and a very violent sick European immigrant. The household was a total mess, violent stressful and ultimately sick and sickening. And my hometown Chicago was a gangster paradise everybody was on the take! So it stands to reason my art would be intense given my point of departure. I was smart. And being poor then made scholarships very plausible. I did most of my advanced studies on scholarships. Going to college while working part time mostly living at home. It wasn’t easy but it was the way out of the world I grew up in and I loved school, even bad schools were better than home life. As soon as I could I left and headed West .

 So I came of age with two strikes against me. And when I finally had a job I wanted teaching at an art school the third strike struck, my latent madness arose as an organic bi-polar brain disorder. Nearly losing my job I survived through horrible outbreaks and my art work was  forever transformed . My life was coming to pieces for years nearly decades. It was exhausting and maddening both, I had some success but not enough to escape the paradigm of madness. And this intensity that I sought in color and imagery became evermore what I made and wanted to show. So I feel like I was only really able to be an artist of a certain turn of mind. However formal and rigorous my craft and knowledge my aim was to show this intensity as a personal testament sort of a survival tale.Born into a broken world broken myself I wanted to make something that would communicate on several different levels with color and light as the engine and images and ideas as the form the vision the point of view from under the volcano of urban squalor and injustice. Grab the viewer and compel them to see the truth  of a society at war with nature and freedom.

An exhibition of my work which will be mounted at the Minneapolis Institute of Art this year as the world waxes and wanes from the pandemic it will examine some of the influences and origins of my practice. It  has a focused historical look at the process I used to find my way  and it will be rather unusual in that it represents the curator’s very curious viewpoint of how my art as a process influenced by other art artists and tendencies over quite a time span. Many stories many odd things that in total may help viewers under the creative process as a very personal thing. And arising from a particular place and places and times it contains some works on paper dating from my first solo show at Mia in 1971 and works I made in Chicago and in California. I hope it gives people pleasure and insight and maybe some surprises regards my long residence here in the Land of Sky Blue Waters Waters. . Watch this blog space for details perhaps this summer into fall as they become available and if it is safe! Thanks for reading. Stay well stay safe and enjoy your life whilst you are here.