Monday, May 5, 2014





                                                                                                                                Lola Scarpitta     2012















Monday, September 10, 2012

The Art of Deflection...




So summer is over and I've not posted a damn thing and I'm feeling a little guilty about that...OK, not that guilty. But just to make good a bit I'm putting up this great video of two masters of Jazz. What does this have to do with visual art? EVERYTHING. Couldn't paint without Coltrane or Davis. And I'm not alone. Music inspires visual art much like visual art inspires musicians to write and play. A lovely synchronicity.





Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Art of The Self Portrait.

When exactly does an artist decide it's time to paint themselves? I can tell you from my experience that it is a hard endeavor that I have done only two times in my life. I have posed for four other paintings, but anonymously.  
Is it easy for an artist to be subjective with their own face and body? My mother... yes, here we go again with my mother. I know it seems like a lot on my blog is written about her but there is so much of her life that I have not even touched on that is so monumental, so historical. One day soon I will need to write a book about her and our story. But I digress, so let me get back on point... my mother had this little song she used to sing that roughly translated from Italian says " Who cares if I'm not that pretty, I have a lover who is a painter and he will paint me beautiful!" Well, that is the question, isn't it? Does a painter go to truth or does he/she go to vanity. How does a painter want to see themselves on canvas? Can they paint themselves with complete honesty and candor? I have seen many examples of self-portraits that have done just that. And some that you sense a discomfort with the truth and therefore see a certain "Make-Up" application to the self-portrait. The artist puts in something that makes the artist feel less vulnerable to the viewer. And thus the viewer leaves feeling as though they have just seen a ghost and not a real person. Here are some examples of self-portraits that are stripped bare of vanity to the point of brutal honesty. 



Vincent Van Gogh,  Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889
In Van Gogh's work shown above, there is a calm resignation as though cutting away a part of himself has given him a serenity that escaped him in his previous self-portraits. He is not documenting his torment but rather his determination to get some peace, at any cost. His love of painting is still very much a part of his bliss as seen in his depiction of the beloved Japanese print that he places on the wall behind him. He does not let go of the parts of life that give him joy. Where there are those who look at this work and think of sorrow and desperation, I see a triumph of the human spirit. Van Gogh painted until the very end. He found bliss in spite of the demons that haunted him and eventually devoured him.





Lucien Freud, Reflection (Self Portrait), 1985
Lucien Freud's self-portrait above was done when he was 63. He is looking at a man in the mirror who is no longer young and with many years ahead of him. This is a time in life that is transitional, from mid-life to the threshold of old age. Freud decided to step over that threshold into that last portion of life with this self-portrait. He paints it with a gusto. He exaggerates each and every wrinkle and dip in his face. In a way he is painting his soon coming future. And that my dear reader takes enormous courage. Because it's not vanity that he is overcoming but death itself.





Atemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, 1630's
My final example is a self-portrait done by the pioneer female painter, Artemisia Gentileschi. Gentileschi was born in Rome in 1593 to an artist father, Orazio Gentileschi. He had sons but his daughter Artemisia is the one who showed exceptional ability worthy of taking her in his successful studio. The very fact that she was the one chosen among her brothers shows just how amazing her talent was. She was one of the major painters of the Baroque period. She was accepted as a major talent by all in the art elite of the time. She was the first woman accepted into the Academy of the Arts of Drawing in Florence in the 1620's. She had patrons like Cosimo de' Medici, Queen Henrietta of France and was the court painter for a time to England's King Charles I. And in between this very glorious career, there was drama. Her father had his apprentice arrested and tried on rape charges against Artemisia. The trial lasted longer than his sentence, one year. And he did not even serve that. Artemisia was put through Hell during the trial. She was slandered and she was tortured with diabolical means to confess that she was a wonton whore who seduced the apprentice. She stayed strong and he was found guilty even if he didn't serve any time. So knowing all this, when I look at Gentileschi's self- portrait above I see a painter who wants us to watch her at work. There is a need, no, a hunger to make the viewer see that she is indeed the painter who makes these incredible paintings that most male painters could not even imagine to do. It's as though she does not trust history to keep her in the story of art. And in a way she was very correct in that fear, if she did indeed fear this. She was overlooked for the most part for the master that she was because of her sex. But in this self-portrait she demonstrates with entire body and head just how much she and her work are one. This self-portrait is a shot across the bow in the war of the sexes in the art world.  And it will forever be a shot that will hit it's target.
















Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Frederick J. Brown

Frederick J. Brown
1945-2012
The handsome man above was a great painter. He was also a marvelous man. Intelligent, kind and always ready to laugh. I shall always remember Fred with great affection. He had a smile I can still remember to this day. It was as beautiful as him. It was a smile that came from the very core of what made him so special. 











Monday, March 19, 2012

The Art of Being Two People.



Above is a 1810 Goya painting called "Bullfight in a Divided Ring'. This is what is on and staring at my sleepy face when I turn on my laptop in the morning. I chose it as my laptop wallpaper for many reasons. The most compelling is my love for this strange and most beautiful painting. I discover little secrets about it every time I look at it. Each time I turn on the laptop to do whatever I had in mind to do, this painting stops me cold. I stare and stare at it like a hungry chubby child in a candy store. Goya is one of my painter heros. His work is from every part of his mind and experience. And a part of his experience is the long running history of the Spanish Bullfight. And this is where the title of my post comes in. I'm torn about this subject matter. Part of me is fascinated by the pageantry and the spectacle. Imagine the balls it takes to stand in a ring with just a sword and await a twelve hundred pound, pissed off bull to charge at you. It's like the famous quote of Hemingway, "Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honor". On all things bullfighting, Hemingway says it best and Goya shows it best. The problem is that while bullfighting may seem like a semi-fair fight between man and beast, it is not. It is still a forced and sadistic death of an animal for entertainment. The Picadores horses that are also in the ring with the Matador are blindfolded and attacked repeatedly by the massive and angry bull. Yes, the horses get some padding but I hardly think that is enough to make the slightest difference when that bull is charging over and over again at that blindfolded horse. I have been to a bullfight a very long time ago and I was surrounded by people who were trying to get me not to run away and throw up. I managed to disassociate myself and and by the end of the thing I was completely desensitized and an "Ole!" cheering zombie. It was only later that I realized that I had lost a part of my ethical soul. A little piece of it died that day by being able to stay through and watch such sadism. I have never seen another bullfight again, even on film. But alas this is where I am two people on this subject. Because you see, I love the art that comes from this horrible and despicable ritual. The bullfighting paintings of Goya and Manet are some of the most raw and soul curdling works ever painted. Manet's 'Dead Matador' so touched me viewing it as a child that I painted my own version of it called 'Dead Housewife'. This back and forth struggle does not end well. I'm constantly in mental pain and guilt when I indulge myself in any of the pageantry of the bullfight. While I would never attend another bullfight, I do love looking at all of the beautiful accoutrements that go with it, the clothes, the esthetics of the ancient bullrings, the strange rituals. But then I think of what all that beauty is for...


Edouard Manet, Dead Matador, 1864




Lola Scarpitta, Dead Housewife, 2006







Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Studio.

This is my studio. This is where I have painted for the last 8 years. It's not big but it has good light and a wonderful feeling of being, at least in my mind, in a 17th century Paris apartment. It's here that my imagination takes root and takes me on far away journeys. It's in the studio where I can have conversations with myself and with those long gone but essential to the alchemy of creating. It has great windows with jasmine growing outside and when the scent of jasmine combines with my favorite smell of oil paint, it just adds to the intoxicating conversation. And to add to the mix there is a large library where I keep all of my well worn art books and biographies. When I need a slap of direction I go to the library with some if not all of the answers waiting there for me.
I have had a great many studios. Some more glamourous than others. I have worked in my parents studios, school studios, my living room, garage, basement, my bedroom, a loft above a glorious 1920's Art Deco movie theater in Hollywood but none have been as joyous as the studio I work in now. It's in my home and that makes it so easy. I get a flash and I go paint. No matter what time of the day or night. The clock does not exist, only my ideas and my energy map the day. My dog Charley, a very large and distinguished blue-black standard Poodle, loves to sleep near me as I paint. Sometimes I don't see him move and I trip over him as I move around the canvas. He just looks up at me with a look that says "Your forgiven, now go about your business without being so clumsy!"  There is also Tina, my little dog that only likes to go into my studio to give her opinion of my work with a well placed poop. Usually in front of the painting I'm working on. Lucky for me (and her) I'm Italian and we consider it really good luck when there is poop on or near us in times of importance. So as you can see, this is really my very sacred place. It is my touchstone. It is my talisman. In truth, the thought was that as long as I did not have to share a studio it was bliss. Unless my studio mates are my dogs...they are part of the bliss now.

My Studio taken with a Lumix LX 5
Cosmos Mariner, 60 X 48, oil on canvas
This is the painting that was on the easel in the photo above. I finally finished it, after many different incarnations and many months, this is what the painting wanted me to do. I should have just listened to it from the start.







Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Art of a Good Joke.

Sometimes, and some might say most times, art historians get things very wrong. This I would say is one of those occassions. The news yesterday and today was full of headlines proclaiming that the Mona Lisa has a long lost twin. This "Twin Mona" has been in the Prado since 1819 and before that in the hands of the Spanish royal family from 1666 (a full 160 years or so AFTER the Leonardo's Mona Lisa). The claim is not that Leonardo himself painted it but that one of his students did... side by side with Leonardo himself. Uh....Why?... because the black overpainting of the background was removed and that uncovered a landscape! Hey! Leonardo's Mona has a landscape!!! Ok, Leonardo's landscape is exquisite and this one not so much. But let's not stop there. And because the painting is on a Walnut panel! Hey! Leonardo's Mona is on a Poplar Panel!.. but wood is wood, right??? Nevermind that wood panels were used by countless other painters from that period until now. 
Here is my biggest problem with the "Twin" Mona Lisa. She's butt ugly. Yep. There. I said it. No way would Leonardo let a student make a copy of a portrait that he carried with him all over Europe for years, that was that ugly. Nope. Never. This Mona is not a twin but a mere copy made *after* Leonardo. So far and so after Leonardo, that there was no danger of this person getting a kick in the ass from Leonardo's well placed foot. That's my belief and I'm sticking with it. 
What's that, Leonardo sir? Oh, You're most welcomed.


The real Mona Lisa on the left and the ugly "Twin" on the right.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Art of Being Cool Without Being Cold.

On this first day of 2012 I wish to remember my first glimpse of NYC. While I arrived from Rome a few years later than this film below, it was, more or less, what I walked into. The sidewalks of Rome and the path to my beautiful and enormous 4 bedroom "Piano Nobile" floor apartment on Via Bocca di Leone, in the Spanish Steps neighborhood was traded out for some mysterious reason for a 400 square foot apartment with one bedroom and bath in NYC's Greenwich Village. It was a healthy five floor walk up that made your chest pound by the time you got up to 4th floor. 
At times, my generous mother even had needy guests stay with us for months at a time. There would be four people in that tiny apartment with hardly a kitchen. And then there were the parties...and boy, could my mother throw a party!! Usually 3 or 4 a month. Almost all writers, artists and art collectors with I'm sure more than a few street people spotting a free drink to be had. My mother had an uncanny ability to do what Jesus did with the multiplying of the fishes in finding a way to have enough booze for her guests. Sometimes so many people came that there would be a complete takeover of the small Morton Street apartment building. People all over place... the stairwell, the roof, the firescape. I was always present for these parties. And I was taken to parties as well. It was the best part of my childhood to see and hear the goings on in these get togethers. Some were more exciting than others. Like the party my mother's good friends the Italian newspaper journalist Marco Cesarini Sforza and his wife, the glorious Antonietta gave for John Huston in their beautiful upper east side apartment. I can remember that party so well.  Huston's film "The Bible" had just opened. We actually did not see the film or for that matter, any films because my mother suffered from claustrophobia so movie theaters were out for her. A lively and packed party was one thing but closed and dark places with people surrounding her was quite another. But what I remember most vividly from that particular party was the crowd telling Mr. Huston that, at age 9, I  wished to become a movie star. I'm not sure I really had a passion for acting, just the fame. I was most certainly suffering from what must have been the first case of ParisHiltonkardashianitis. That prompted him to prop me on his lap and rightly explain myself. I must have done a good job and I really wish that I could remember what I said because he let out a huge laugh, gave me a hug and promised to put me in one of his films when I turned 18. The crowd roared with laughter. I was such a flirt. Even at that age. 
But I digress...The Village had become our strange refuge from the fairytale that was my childhood in Rome. The end of innocence but the beginning of a new life in a city that remains my most loved home. And where I learned from all those around me, especially my mother, how to be cool without being cold.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Art of Posing as your Mother or Move Over, Norman Bates.


What did I do all this time in Europe?  Save me a seat at the table Cindy Sherman, there's a new poser in town! 


A Dolce Vita Retouching: Impersonating my mother Clotilde at her favorite Cafe, Rosati in Rome. This is where all the art and writing intelligentsia went to argue and gossip in the 50's and '60's.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Art of Caring.

.
HANS NAMUTH
The Odeon, New York 1982
Standing left - right
Ellsworth Kelly, Dan Flavin, Joseph Kosuth, Richard Serra, Lawerence Weiner, Nassos Daphnis, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenberg, Salvatore Scarpitta, Richard Artschwager, Mia Westerlund Roosen, Cletus Johnson, Keith Sonnier
Seated left - right
Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Leo Castelli, Ed Ruscha, James Rosenquist, Robert Barry



The photo above has the men and woman Leo Castelli represented, supported and championed all through his career as a NYC art dealer. He was the pinnacle of the profession. His eye and ability to see beyond the veil of subjectivity was without equal.
But that is not news. Just look at his gallery of artists posing with him in the Odeon restaurant that afternoon in 1982. An amazing group of artists huddled around a man who was the last of the great "Art Dealers". The rich and powerful trusted him completely. His artists trusted him to represent them. That is not an easy balance. 
I can tell you from years of experience, that he was a gentle soul with an amazing patience for a little girl, child of one his artists, who loved to wander around his coveted backroom. 
I would take his busy assistants away from their duties to entertain and play with me. Treats and soda drinks were always found for me. Castelli and I watched each of us grow older. He treated my family with much love and concern. He even provided my mother with his attorney and our knight in shining armor, Jerald Ordover, to help when she was accused of skipping out on a HUAC subpoena in Los Angeles while there on a visit in 1953. Of course it was true, she became friends with some of "The Hollywood Ten" while she was in Los Angeles and because of her Communist activities in Italy before and during WWII, was in a position of being very dangerous to those writers she knew in the Hollywood Ten and to herself.
So worthy of a plot from a thriller novel, she literally escaped from the USA, back to her home in Rome. But 1962 came around with a pressing family emergency that forced my mother to take me and come to NYC for what was to be a two week stay. Strings had to be pulled to get us in. 
de Kooning was called in to help and by a twist of fate, he had recently been at a dinner in the J.F.K White House and was becoming great friends with the President. de Kooning took that private number that J.F.K gave him, and called it to help my mother and I get in the country. J.Edgar Hoover apparently was not pleased because a short time after the assassination of the President, a knock on the door of our apartment in Greenwich Village came from the FBI arresting my mother for skipping out on that subpoena in 1953 and hiding the fact that she was once a member of the Italian Communist party. It took Jerald Ordover, coordinating with a marvelous hero of an immigration trial lawyer, the legendary Stanley Mailman, months and months of court hearings. Finally, an intelligent judge who was not in the pocket of J.Edgar dismissed the case against my mother. 
Leo Castelli never flinched in his support of my mother. And that's pretty amazing when you consider the players here and the fact that my mother was long divorced from the artist he represented. 
Castelli was the best friend an artist could have. His loyalty was beyond reproach. He was one of a kind for his time.
Yes, Leo was truly a man that had my heart very early on in my life. He had me at "Come stai, Loletta?"

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Art of Posting on a Blog Regularly...

Obviously I have no clue about this topic because it's been a month since my last posting. 
I was furiously finishing a new painting that I have decided to show you here on Artmusing. As a sort of "The Dog Ate My Homework" excuse...




Love is Contagious, 37 x 37, oil on linen

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Art of a Good Reunion- The Stein Collection at SFMOMA

 Where do I begin? The exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco has floored me completely. Even as a child I heard about the great Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo. Collectors from another age and another mindset. Most ( but not all! ) of the collectors I knew from the world of my parents were rich people interested in buying what was fashionable. The Steins were interested in what was then new and unsalable. They sought what was overlooked or frowned upon.  The Stein siblings bought work of artists they respected, not artists that were bankable. More often than not they made the artists career by putting their work up on the hallowed walls of the Stein Paris apartment. Gertrude certainly backed up her artist favorites with fierceness. She defended Juan Gris from all critics, even Picasso, arguably one of her most adored. Juan Gris, Matisse, Cezanne were just some of the artists that she took up for when the art world largely either ignored or thumbed their noses at them.  And now for the first time, we have the Stein collection reunited. The size and beauty of this collection is staggering.  Painting after painting...I was like a kid in a candy store. My eyes could not get enough of all of it. I have to go back. I have to.... 





Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Art of Amy Winehouse

This post is heartbreaking to write. In fact I was thinking just yesterday morning that I should write something soon about Lucian Freud. Then, just then, I got the news that Amy Winehouse had been found dead in London. The voice who had been with me in the studio throughout the past 6 years, painting along side me. Pushing me through the hard spots at eardrum breaking decibels to the other side. The loss for music lovers is gut wrenching. There will be no new songs. But most tragically there will be no Amy... for her family, her friends, her fans.... for Amy. Farewell my studio companion. And thank you.



                                                             





Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Art of Knowing When Not To Do Something.

In 1974, a man went up the stairs of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and looked for his prey. That day this man was going to skip the steps to infamy by what was in his pocket, a spray can with bright red paint. Everything was right on cue. He called the press outlets just three minutes earlier to alert them of what he was about to do. He claims that he had no one painting in mind, that he went to the Guernica quite by opportunity and sprayed "KILL LIES ALL" across two thirds of the painting. In his words, he wanted to "bring it up to date". A museum visitor tried to stop him but was pushed back. The guards came and took him away. The police arrested him and he was out on $1,000 bail, paid for by Richard Serra, the sculptor. Why would Serra bail out this lunatic? This destroyer of a Picasso masterpiece? Because Tony Shafrazi was a self proclaimed "artist" and after all he only wanted to make a statement against world events at the time. Yeah, I remember those world events too. Not to be so preachy but I went to an anti-war demonstration every fucking week, sometimes twice a week. And let me tell you that for a 17 year old with a lot of crap on their plate, that was pretty damn good. 
At the time, people in the art world were horrified and thought he was either nuts or another "artist" wannabe. Get that 15 minutes of fame and you are in like Flynn, right?  Well, not so fast...let's look at the newspaper story from that week.



Tony Shafrazi got 6 months probation. That's it. MOMA did not want any publicity on the ease of which a person can go up to any work of art in MOMA and deface it. 
So what happened to Shafrazi? Well, he made a nice little life for himself as an art dealer in the 80's. He continues to sell work on the secondary market. But he does not escape the vandalism that he perpetuated on Guernica on that frigid winter day in 1974. 
In 2008 Shafrazi had a show that he named "Who's Afraid of Jasper Johns" in his New York gallery. At the after show party he was presented with a cake, on top of which was a Guernica done in black and white icing. He was then presented with a can of red icing. His guests awaited his next action.... he takes the can and writes on the icing Guernica, "I'M SORRY". He dramatically waits a few seconds and then writes "NOT".  
It's been said that Shafrazi defaced the Guernica in 1974 because of all the world issues pressing his conscious. No, my belief is that he chose that cold day in Febuary 1974 because Picasso had died in April of 1973. And that was an act of complete cowardice. Because I believe that had Picasso been alive, he would have punched Shafrazi square in his dilettante face.


After show party of "Who's Afraid of Jasper Johns?" with Guernica cake. Shafrazi is the grey haired man in the middle.









Tuesday, July 5, 2011

In Memoriam to an Artist's Artist.

Cy Twombly died today.
He was a Seer and a Prophet. He was an artist's artist. Early on, when all the critics didn't know what to do with his work...when they could not pin down where he could be pinned down, they dismissed him.
He was a life long friend of my parents and even shared a studio with them in the late 1950's on Via Margutta. He eventually got the studio after it was abandoned by them. He used it well. In Italy Twombly got the freedom he needed to create the art that impacted with the force of a tornado, contemporary art. He made art from places some artists never even get remotely close to...but most importantly,Twombly made art from his soul. So with that in mind, he will never leave us. He is still very much here.

The Italians, 1961







Monday, June 20, 2011

The Art of Being a Woman Artist or The Art of Penis Envy Done Correctly



The Guerrilla Girls, are a glorious group of women artists who protest (in Gorilla suits) the fact that women have still not penetrated (I like that) the art world glass ceiling. This is a poster manifesto they wrote and printed in 1988. How very sad that almost a quarter of a century later all those bullet points still hold true. 
The art world is a cold and unfriendly place. It's good to know that I have these courageous women fighting in my corner with me. Pass the Gorilla suit and give me a protest destination, I'm there!







Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Art of Fatherhood

Today I present a work by Paul Cezanne. It is a tender and loving portrait of his father Louis-Auguste in 1866. Louis was a father that all artists would love to have. He was kind. He was generous. And he was supportive of his artist son. Yes, it may have taken a couple of years for this banker father to finally let go of the bourgeois fantasy of his son Paul coming into the family banking business as a lawyer, but he did. And his financial support and generosity gave the world paintings that are a gift to all. So Happy Father's Day, especially to loving fathers of artists. You hold a special place in this heart.


Paul Cezanne, The Artist's Father, 1866







Tuesday, May 31, 2011

One Person Show

Hello Muse,
It's nice to see you again! I won't ask where you have been because I will only get jealous and possessive. And that might scare you away...So take a seat, be comfortable. Would you like a drink? Or two?
Yes, I'm back in the studio painting a big canvas and I'm hoping that I can finish it by the opening at the end of June. It will be my first one person show.




Thursday, May 26, 2011

British-Born Surrealist Painter Leonora Carrington Dies at Age 94 in Mexico City

British-Born Surrealist Painter Leonora Carrington Dies at Age 94 in Mexico City


This woman had a great gift. She was the last of the original Surrealists. A mind that made the most incredible creatures live and breathe in oil. The story of her life reads like a great novel. Born to privilege in the U.K, she left to live a life of courage, rebellion and art. And along the way she painted the marvelous paintings that I love to look at...often.
I salute you Leonora Carrington. 







Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Art of Time Travel



I have always wanted to time travel. The sense of being at the wrong place at the wrong time has been with me since childhood. The right place and the right time has always been Paris at the turn of the century.  Art was changing in ways that could not have even been imagined by those doing the changes. Cubism and Dada were taking art and throwing it sideways and forward. How I would have loved to be a painter then. To be alive then. To have conversations about the work then.
The clip above is from Woody Allen's new film called "Midnight in Paris".  It is a film exactly about my time travel fantasies to turn of the century Paris. Although I'm sure that Woody Allen will take my fantasy and slap me in the face with it!... Ah, but I don't care. It's all about appreciating what we received from history. Of course I do appreciate my very rare upbring with two very important players from the Post-War European/American art scene. I mean, how many children got to play in the backroom of Leo Castelli's gallery, right? I get it. I appreciate the magic. But just for today, let's live my fantasy and go into the work studios of two of the artists from the turn of the century Paris.
                   


Bateau Lavoir or "The Laundry Boat" circa 1905 
It was in this strange structure that art changed forever in 1906/07 with one canvas. When Picasso painted five hookers from Barcelona in a painting later titled Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, he broke and shattered the foundation of art. His circle, who adored him and worshipped his every brushstroke, saw it for the first time a few years after he painted it. It took that long because he was so unsure of it that he actually put the painting facing toward the wall behind a staircase. When his circle finally saw it they all gossiped about how this was the end of him. That he would now decline and disapear from the art scene. Well,eh, not quite. But the painting was not exhibited until 1916 and remained with Picasso until it was sold in 1924.


Right, Picasso at his studio in Bateau Lavoir in 1908 and left, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
              
Above is young Picasso. Does he know that the canvas he has been working on and is hiding behind the stairs in his modest studio will make him an art deity? No,he actually looks fairly angry and he is probably pissed off that his live in lover, Fernande Olivier is off modeling for Van Dongen yet again. 
Look at the beautiful collection of tribal art Picasso has in his studio. It has been written over and over that the influence of tribal and Iberian art is evident in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Picasso was an artist collector. And the collection of Iberian and tribal art he amassed throughout his lifetime is sublime. There have been books written on it. 
Yes, I would travel gladly to this time and place just to have a day with this great man... And now on to Duchamp!


Marcel Duchamp in his Studio 1916
And then there is the father of Dada and the uncle of the Surrealists, Marcel Duchamp. In the photo above, we see the mind of the man who gave us the "Readymades" in art. Is that the R. Mutt urinal "Fountain" of 1917 hanging above his doorway? Duchamp is the one who brought "Art" to the masses by taking the "IT" away and bringing in the "everyday". Swipe a hammer at Art and break the incomprehensible and the God-like! Take away the capital A in Art so that it may enter different dimensions and come out new. If you can't tell, I love this man. He even borrowed some money from my mother one night in the 1950's after a night of partying with her and some other friends. He must have felt quite comfortable with her to have asked for a few bucks to get home. And if I have not convinced you to love him as well, then take a look at Duchamp as his alter-ego, "Rrose Selavy" which sounds like "C'est La Vie", no doubt he had that intentionally in mind when naming his Rrose self. The photograph below by Man Ray is the forerunner to the work of the wonderful Cindy Sherman, but even more complex because Duchamp lived part of his time as an artist as "Rrose" and even attributed work to her. 


Duchamp as Rrose in 1920 by Man Ray
Oh yes, I do want to time travel to early 20th century Paris and spend time with Rrose, Duchamp, Picasso and all the artists there. What a time and place to be... Anyone want to  join me?












                      

Monday, May 2, 2011

Art in Real Time

Flipped version of Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulip, 1632
(Thanks to my collaborator in Rembrandt thoughts Susan Felleman)




The painting I need Rembrandt to paint...The White House situation room watching the Bin Laden compound raid going down in real time. 









Saturday, April 23, 2011

"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."



"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity"....meaning that all that is material will soon fall away and all that will be left is our immortal soul. All the things that give pleasure and sustain our egos and gluttony are fleeting. Easily gone in a flash. So what is an artist to do? We make entertainment. That too is fleeting. And I really cannot think of a more vain and self-centered line of work. With that said, how many times has the artist in history been the fortune teller of things that come to pass? Perhaps what we do is not so fleeting after all.

Vanitas,Jacques de Gheyn the Elder, 1603
Above is a Vanitas by de Gheyn the Elder painted in 1603. The tulip in this Vanitas cost 10 times the amount that a skilled craftsman would make in one year. But fast forward to 1637 and you could get this same tulip for the cost of an onion. From the cost of a house to the cost of an onion in just a blink of an eye. It all came crashing down in Febuary of 1637. Fortunes lost. Fortunes based on a flower.  But if you had told that to a Dutchman in 1603, he would have thought you a madman. Or an artist.



Vanitas, Georges Braque 1939
A work above by Georges Braque made in 1939.  I realize that in 1939 it was not such a leap for an artist to predict WWII.  Still, it gives one pause to see symbols of religion and mortality just before the Nazi Jackboots tore apart all that was taken for granted in life. And this from the artist, who with Picasso, his partner in the invention of Cubism, changed the face of art forever some thirty years before.





And now I end with a Vanitas by Damien Hirst made in 2007. This Vanitas is the mother of all Vanitas, made with more gluttony and greed than any 17th century Flemish painter could imagine. It's made of platinum and 8,601 perfect diamonds including a 6.5 million dollar pink diamond on it's forehead. The cost to make this pure and most perfect Vanitas was a mind blowing (especially for this humble artist) 30 million dollars. It was sold one year prior to the October 2008 crash of our global economy, in August of 2007, to a consortium of businessmen for 100 million dollars. It has been speculated that Hirst himself is one of those in the consortium so that he can retain exhibition rights.

For the Love of God, Damien Hirst 2007



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Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's A Lovely Post War Italian Art World.


My mother Clotilde Scarpitta is holding the balloon with her friends, painter Piero Dorazio and his wife Virginia, and sculptor Pietro Consagra and his wife Sophia, in Rome 1962.

                              
This is where I came from. Everything that comes from my head onto that canvas in front of me comes from this world.
A world of studios on beautiful streets like Via Margutta. That was our street. My family had a studio on that most lovely of Roman streets. Full of yelling, paint and the sublime European attitudes of the 50's and 60's. After their marriage finally and officially ended in 1958 (but really it was 1956 if one wants to be truthful) my mother and I moved to large and elegant apartment on Via Bocca di Leone, just a whisper away from the Spanish Steps. 
I have so many lovely memories of Rome during this time. My earliest is of my mother coming back from France when I was around two or three. I was in my playpen that I'm sure by it's construction would have strangled a lesser child. Darwinism is always at work...She brought with her a small toy camera. I can still remember her hand coming down at me holding this perfect little metal camera. My mother was always coming and going. She was a force of nature because when she appeared a whirlwind of conversation, yelling and her raw beauty took everyone by storm. This is no exaggeration. A world of men, important and not, were always trying to catch her eye. And women just wanted to be like her.
She was born a child of two eccentrics. Intelligence and anarchy ruled the family. She showed promise as a portraitist in elementary school painting Mussolini's portrait for the entrances of all the public schools in Rome. The principal knew he had a good thing going so he made her do portrait after portrait of Mussolini's mug until she made dozens and dozens of them. She must have seen his face in her sleep.
When that bit of exploitation was over, she ended up in the art conservatory in Rome called Belle Arti.
Belle Arti is where all the artists in the photo above went to. Just imagine going to a state art school in fascist Italy. Neither can I. But what a wonderful way to learn subversion. Art that impacts with thunderous meaning. Or not... The fascists loved the figure, the ideal. And what did these artists do when they were finally permitted to paint, sculpt and do just whatever they pleased?


I leave you today with these images, born from struggle, war, censorship and finally, invention.




Untitled, 1957
Piero Dorazio





Gli Scar, 1947
Giulio Turcato



Blue Concentric, 1947
Carla Accardi
                                      
                                                            
Conversation with the Wind, 1962
Pietro Consagra
    
Artist's Shit, 1961
Piero Manzoni

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The Art of Critique.

My name shall be nameless. I'm just an artist. An old fashioned easel artist. I paint disturbing. I paint sad. I paint funny. I paint the ironic. I'm really just a Diarist because the work are pages from my mind and memory.
I like what I paint. And if I don't, I euthanize it. I don't give a rats ass if other people don't care for it or it makes them uncomfortable. If I like it, chances are there are others who will too. The odds are pretty good if you take into account that there are over 7 billion people in the world.
But this blog is not about my work. This blog will be about other people's art.  Famous and dead. Alive and unknown. Sometimes, famous and alive. Or dead and unknown. But for obvious reasons that is my least favorite combination. But please bear in mind that all in art is subjective. Just one more thing, I do think my muse will be back soon and my studio looks so lonely without me dancing around in it with a paintbrush. So I will not be posting a whole helluva a lot.
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