Saturday, June 15, 2013
I met Julie Heffernan this past fall at a party she hosted celebrating the wedding of another painter, and was taken by her, the community of (women) artists who were gathered, and her painting over the dining table. It was the fierceness of the vision that attracted me, and the individuality of her work, which extended into the way she spoke and lived.
In Heffernan’s paintings, more is more: their complexity draws us into a convincing otherworldly world: female figures with vast skirts constructed of fruits and flowers, intricate magical landscapes interwoven with road signs, branches, foliage, and animals. She explores the macro (the lives of women, the environment) by way of the micro.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
I have long admired John Walker’s work for its unique combination of tough materialism and romantic lyricism. I recently met him in his studio at Boston University, where he is the head of the MFA program. My visit with Walker happened to take place on the Thursday after the Boston Marathon tragedy, and I spent Friday’s citywide lockdown with painters Gideon Bok and Meghan Brady.
In retrospect, my time with Walker feels like a complete experience, not exactly separate from the events, but certainly a place where painting can encapsulate and transmit the range of human drama and emotion. Walker’s painting is about this faith, in the mark, in the hand, and in abstract form.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Jane Dickson is best known for her nocturnal cityscapes of the old Times Square — peep shows and porn parlors — but she has also mined subjects such as Las Vegas, Coney Island, American highways, demolition derbies, and suburban homes. She often paints on alternative supports like carpets, vinyl, sandpaper, and Astroturf.
The pixelation of the image she achieves with these surfaces, and the implied feeling of distance, could be mistaken as a commentary on modern detachment. However, it is more reflective of Dickson’s attitude, a non-judgmental form of observation that creates space for projection and reflection. Being with Dickson is similar: I distinctly remember feeling like a tourist in my own city during a studio visit and midtown Korean barbecue dinner when we first met in 2000. During our recent conversation, I felt compelled to share my own stories of Times Square, then to see it anew after our time together.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Originally published on Hyperallergic Weekend Edition
I’ve known Jesse McCloskey for years, but his work and words are always surprising me. They get to the heart of the matter quickly. In one of the early days after I had my first child, I wanted nothing more than to go out and see some shows in Chelsea. It still makes me laugh that this childless dude was the one who told me it was okay to bring the baby along, head into a café, and feed him when he got hungry. But that’s what McCloskey is about: keep working, no matter what it takes, or the devil’s gonna get you, and, whatever … birth, sex, and death are as natural as rock and roll.
Saturday, February 9, 2013
Originally published on Hyperallergic Weekend, February 9, 2013
A couple of years ago, when I was still resisting Facebook, I heard about the debates Kyle Staver was spearheading there on the topic of Renoir’s late paintings. I set up a profile because I had to know more about this independent-minded female painter who likes Renoir’s work as much as I do. Since then, I’ve gotten to know Staver and her painting “in real life.” She’s dynamic on the canvas and off, a true cheerleader for her aesthetic causes, other artists, and friends.
It was Staver who, in part, suggested my interviews with artists take the form of “beer with a painter.” But when it came time for us to talk, I was invited to “the fort,” the corner table at Santa Fe Bar and Grill in Park Slope, where she and Janice Nowinski meet weekly for girls’ night over frozen margaritas.
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Originally published on Hyperallergic Weekend Edition, January 26, 2013
Susanna Coffey, who was born in New London, Connecticut, studied at Yale, teaches at the Art Institute of Chicago, and lives and works in New York, is best known for her self-portraits. These frontal heads set against backdrops of world locales and events are rigorous, unrelenting penetrations of the meeting-point of humanity and violence.
Over the last year, I got to know her, and another part of her painting practice. She works outdoors at night, making pulsating, loose landscapes and cityscapes on tiny canvases and boards. The differences between her practices are a reminder of how compelling the range of one’s humanness can be.
The sternness that her self-portraits suggest is undone by her personality, the way she connects with people, her love of dance and her spirituality. The focus on symmetry in Coffey’s work is not, in the end, about evenness, but rather a reminder of balance.