Saturday, February 3, 2018

Bonny Leibowitz answers

Thanks to colleague and friend  Bonny Leibowitz for taking the time to answer some questions. I enjoyed looking at not only her work but her influences and  linking to the suggestions for  art podcasts.

Pending Situations installation at The Neon Heater Gallery 2017

installation at Painting in a Post Factual World. Bushwick, NY 2017

What inspires you, your work, makes the hair on your neck go up?

Philosophically, I’ve been inspired by the examination of perceptions. I’m interested in how thoughts are manufactured; why some “stick” and make up a sense of identity while others drift away; what we choose to attach to. I like to engage in work that questions a sense of permanence and solidity and expresses alternatives both conceptually and materially.

My current body of work utilizes a variety of materials including a polyfoam substrate I am able to manipulate by dyeing and sewing, a vinyl sewn with mulberry bark, and shaped works on paper utilizing wax and ink often hanging freeform by clips and wires from the ceiling. Combined, the pieces can play off one another as quite fluid and transparent or dense and weighty. These concepts have always been a part of my questioning life but as of late, I’ve been taking a deeper dive into the philosophies and writings of some truly engaging practitioners exploring the subjects of behavioral science, consciousness and cognition.

My favorite moments in the studio happen when experimentation leads to some ah-ha breakthrough. Recently, while cutting up some of my works on paper to collage, for instance, I was intrigued by the folding and bending which occurred naturally in the pile. Those cuts, weaving in and out of one another became the impetus for my next piece moving forward. Moments like these can often spring up while away from the studio as well, as if they are sitting in there, dormant, waiting to be birthed … and that’s a thrill. I love then, going back into the studio to flush out the vision and see where it takes me next.

Bonny Leibowitz_A Long Heavy Wave
48" x 28"
ink,  on Masa paper mounted in acrylic sheet

I’m also inspired by the physicality of materials and processes relating to the concepts in a given body of work. I love working in a big painterly way best but often turn to slower more meditative processes like sewing which require an incredible amount of time. The “speed” of the making can often be evidenced in the finished work.

This Is A Mountain This Is Not A Mountain
48" x 28"
ink, yupo, wax, pigment, Masa paper hanging by clips and filament wire

Bonny Leibowitz_Water Descending A Mountainside
73" x 51" 
wax, pigment and ink on Masa paper

Bonny Leibowitz_The Unraveling
42" x 58" x 12"
dyed, semi-rigid polyfoam

What is your personal history? Creatives in your ancestry that might have influenced you?
It’s all true; my first loves were DaVinci, Michelangelo and Peter Paul Rubens. I still love a beautiful line, an exquisite sense of light and a masterful sense of depth. Those qualities can be part of abstraction as well of course, and I believe they’ve been a part of my soul since, well, forever. Later, I began to connect with Picasso then Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Motherwell. I love the big gutsy action to this day. I must add Rauschenberg as well. It’s interesting how early influences become part of our nature and never seem to leave.

Peter Paul Rubens: Massacre of the Innocents..........Joan Mitchell: East Ninth Street

Name 5 favorite artists that turn you on and why?
Chaim Soutine, Vernon Fisher, Anselm Kiefer, Philip Guston, Isa Genzken , on and on…..the list of artists that turn me on is endless, completely fluid and nonlinear. There are so many artists throughout history and contemporaries alike, doing great work. I am going to choose a few to highlight however just so your blog won’t go on forever…ha. It’s important, for me, to always be looking, whether that’s online, going to openings or doing studio visits. There are always great takeaways and bonds to be made. Here are a few artists I’ll mention:

James Sullivan
Several years ago an exhibition of his work at Conduit Gallery in Dallas made a big impact on me. I had just then, been turning a corner in my own work introducing 3-d forms and wondering how I was going to let the 2-d and 3-d works communicate / relate. Going to see James’s installation was incredibly eye opening, freeing. He’d created an environment with objects that spoke to the narrative and invited the viewer into a personal world that somehow felt universal at the same time. Of course there were connections with each piece in the show but ultimately, the entire exhibition was “the piece” and that has become increasingly clear for me as a concept. I came away feeling not only that I had “permission” to think bigger but that I also saw a way to tap into conceptual object making in a much broader way.

Charline von Heyl
I chose Charline von Heyl because the work is so striking. I discovered her work at an exhibition at the ICA Boston after missing a ferry and was never so happy to be delayed!

Cecily Brown
I chose Cecily Brown because she breaks up the figure and nature so thoroughly, that I can see the world as particles and energy and yet it’s all about paint. I like the concept of removing “thing-ness” and perceiving a continuum.

Arlene Shechet
I chose Arlene Shechet because the tactile quality of her work is so visually satisfying and the works in relationship are so fully engaging.

Ruth Root
I chose Ruth Root because she so dramatically energizes the formal qualities of art in a way that would be very difficult for me to do. I love the clear concise insistence on the work being what it is and I revel in that clarity.

Anna Hepler
I chose Anna Hepler for her smart use of materials and consideration for space, relationship and thoughtful installations.

Diana Al Hadid
I chose Diana Al Hadid for her over the top amazing way that seeing a work of hers can grab my heart. I first saw her work at The Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. The piece filled the room and you had to practically walk sideways to edge around without touching the piece. The scale, creamy tones and almost sickly drips of melting humanity were breathtaking.

Painting from India's Rajput Courts
I fell in love with the color use of works in The Divine Pleasures: Painting from India's Rajput Courts—The Kronos Collections at the Met and had to get the book. The luminous quality and unexpected color combinations are mouthwatering. I have always loved small works packed with information and these so satisfy the bill.

What’s on your podcast list?

Here are some of my faves:

What thoughts do you have to turn off in your head when you are in the studio?

Sometimes the brain gets stuck a bit too long in “what if” mode. That’s when I have to say to myself “just move”!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Peter Roux answers:

I saw Peter Roux's work in June at the Lyons Wier Gallery, in NY. I was struck by the painterly use of both abstraction and representational imagery and his use of the edge to create depth, compression and expansiveness in the work.

Suspension (east sky) II   2015   oil, charcoal on panel   42x42"

Suspension (farm field) I   2016   oil on canvas with charcoal 30x40"

Suspension (take 6)  2017   oil, charcoal on panel   36"x48"

The Way Light Falls (on things you cherish) no.1   2012   oil, charcoal on paper   30x12"    


Inspiration is such an elusive thing to define for me. I'm energized to make work based on many sources and experiences, most of which don't connect to each other whatsoever or fall into linked categories.
The natural world certainly inspires me- whether it be in sky, ground, or detail. I tend to think less in terms of a direct response to a place- that I want to paint that view- and more in the ways and means of the experience. I find myself paying attention to how I respond and the experience of seeing, and that seems to be what drives my work. Translating this into visual information in a piece crosses over representational and abstract platforms for me...which I like. 

I'm drawn a bit to contradiction as well, and rebellion. Those inspire me in odd ways. I don't think you see it directly in my work, but it affects me.

Edges inspire me too. If art is all about relationships (forms against space, points in time pressed together, color and value related to create new meaning) then the meat of it for me is in the edges of things, where they meet/blend/relate. I like them hard, soft, elusive, dramatic, quietly shifting, whatever. I can look at a glass on a countertop and get lost in the parts where the glass meets the space surrounding speak nothing of the universe of values and form working within the glass surface. It's endless for me. It's not just about form's where content lies. It always speaks about much more than the subject itself. 

And, of course, seeing good work made by others just makes my brain and heart buzz. I see things, have an experience with them, become slightly changed by the encounter, and feel a direct need to make new work. As a painter I tend to be most drawn to work in mediums that aren't paint. I know paint, and sometimes knowing the structures used can be slightly distracting when looking at artwork. So, I get pulled to the alchemy of things made by processes I don't normally use. And, in a weird organic response, it makes me want to paint.

Suspension (take 6)   2017   oil, charcoal on panel   36x48"

What is your personal history? Creatives in your ancestry that might have influenced you?

I've been drawing and painting since I was very young, and have always wanted to be an artist of some kind save for two or three childhood detours (astronaut, sheriff, rock star). Art school was always the goal, and it ultimately just came down to what kind of art I wanted to make, and how.

My mother in particular was instrumental in supporting me in that drive. She was a creative soul who played the piano beautifully and, later in life, had a short but successful career as a weaver. Beyond that, there's very little in my family background that I draw upon for influence. Quite the opposite, in fact: most of it is rooted in blue collar work histories. Art was appreciated and valued by a few, but the opportunities to even know it existed in life were almost non-existent for them. It's almost like I was born with a virus or something.

The Way Light Falls (on things you cherish) no.1   2012   oil, charcoal on paper   30x12"    

 Suspension (Iceland) IV   2015   oil on connected panels   60x36"

Name 5 favorite artists that turn you on..and why

Five artists who turn me on....that's a tough one. Different artists circle in and out of the category at different times. But if I had to list a few:

Vermeer: he's so often referred to as a painter's painter, and for good reason. He created intimate worlds of quiet light, where narrative is in every object but it's never shouted. Time stops in his images, and it stops for me when I look at them. 

Gerhard Richter: you just can't pin this artist down, and I like that. His work always explores, in some fashion, what art is. Richter moves from pure abstraction to photo realism just by jumping when he's ready without apology, yet they connect. Then, he fills in the spaces between the two with yet more works. Painting, sculpture, glass, installation, etc. Even the works I dislike, I like. Weird.

Gerhard Richter

Brian Eno: I'm not very interested in anything Eno records with lyrics. Rather, I like his ambient compositions, the sound installations that experiment with hearing within defines spaces, and above all his writings about art. Eno has talked about no longer seeing artworks as objects but rather as triggers for experience. That pretty much makes sense to me. And, he works in a time-derivative medium, for which I'm just slightly envious.

Rickie Lee Jones: If you want to feel what it's like to have your soul simultaneously uplifted and stepped on, listen to this artist. She's a raw nerve.

Mark Rothko: his works are like visual sermons. Sometimes exhausting to deal with in person, but so unlike anything else.

Jenny Saville: I have to include Saville in this list, although I think she suffered from immediate fame without the chance to explore in anonymity. But, she's seemed to have weathered it pretty well. I mean, the chaos in her paint is just seductive to a painter's eye. I get a bit disinterested at times in her content, but her approach and form keep me coming back for more.

I'm going beyond five...

Agnes Martin: for me her works are like visual prayer. And I never pray, so that's saying something.

Chuck Close

Sally Mann

Sally Mann, Chuck Close (not exactly sure why), Willem DeKooning, Brice Marden, Christopher Wool, Richard Serra, Cecily Brown (at times), Wim Wenders, Stan Brackhage, Ridley Scott because he has made the future look gritty but probable and loves sun spots in his films (Blade Runner is amazing to look at), Jane Campion, e.e. cummings (gotta put it it lower case with that guy), any musician who makes music that transcends the instruments they play.

Mostly, though, I get turned on by the work of people I know or know of, who are making really great art but maybe aren't getting the press and exposure the super art stars of the world get. These are people who are making it happen somehow. I'll throw some names out in case people want to take a look: Amy Tavern, Liz Tran, Sean Thomas, Karen Philippi, Amy Spassov, Erik Hall, Stephanie Dalton, Laura Fayer, Jennifer J.L. Jones, James Austin Murray, Mark Zimmerman, Milisa Galazzi, Bernd Haussman. So many more as well. Google 'em.


Studio shot

What do you see outside your studio window (picture) and inside your studio at the moment?

Lots of trees outside my window. I live in the woods...sort of. Inside the studio it's curated chaos I guess. Multiple pieces going at once, shelves of disorganized supplies, oily painted rags. And occasionally a three-legged dog.

What do you listen to in the studio?

When I'm actively painting, I tend to put on music that won't distract me but instead filter into my head from the side somehow. Everything from Bach to hardcore punk, so it varies based on my mood. Lots of blues, new and old. When I'm stretching canvas or packing paintings or doing things other than painting, I tend to listen to NPR or interviews with interesting people, or just the news.

What’s on your bookshelf or podcast list? picture or list

I'll list some.
I really like the Savvy Painter podcasts a lot. In terms of books, lots of history books (especially 20th century stuff), and I'm a sucker for big monographs and expensive art books and catalogs. If I go see gallery shows and love the work but can't afford to buy- which is most of the time- I'll get a catalog if it's available. So, lots of those. They remind me of the work I saw, and its a way to bring it home and live with it. 

Oh, and Sophie's Choice because it has one of the best last lines of any novel.

What thoughts do you have to turn off in your head when you are in the studio?

Any thoughts about people. If I'm worried about someone, or in conflict, or just thinking about someone a lot it tends to be a barrier to working. I can eventually get beyond it and shut it out, but it can take awhile. I'm not sure how I feel about this, either.

I have doubting thoughts about the work I'm doing at times, like any artist. It's part of the process. It's not about trying to eliminate these thoughts but rather learning to manage them, because they're inevitable if you're trying to do something that matters to you. I've tried to figure out ways to manage them as best as I can, including trusting the idea that they'll go away. But they can get to me sometimes.

Best advice you have gotten about making/being an artist?

The best advice has generally been about just doing work. Pull energy out of thinking about being an artist and what it looks or feels like to be one, and just make make some art. Chuck Close is famous for staying that inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just get up in the morning and work. That's a bit heavy-handed, but I get it. I think you become an artist by making art. What an artist looks like is irrelevant. If you're making art, then the answer to what an artist looks and feels like is in the mirror. Let everyone else sort it out.

That, and trust yourself. This is the toughest one, as you're sometimes doing it without any external reinforcement. But another artist once told me that if you create something that matters to you, it's inevitable that it will also matter to someone else, somewhere...and you need to trust that. I think this is a logical extension to the idea that the act of creating means you're putting something (even small) into the world that didn't exist before. So, you alter the world just a little. Just trust that this occurs and that in some way it's important.

Also, that beauty isn't a bad word. This idea in contemporary art that beauty is too simple and trite as content is ridiculous to me. All that happens when artists make work that is intentionally ugly or anti-beauty in order to push things is that they're ultimately redefining beauty. It still hits us in the same place. We need more beauty in the world, whatever it looks like. Especially now.

Some see being an artist as self-indulgent. By that measure simply living in the world is self-indulgent. Creating work places me in the world somehow, and calms me down. That's not self-indulgence, it's survival. And, hopefully, the process leaves something in its wake that's bigger than any one individual. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Jeanne Heifetz Answers:

Thank you to Jeanne for answering some of my questions. I love the materiality and mapping quality of this new work. 

Pre-Occupied 66

graphite on flax paper tinted with iron oxide
x 29

 Pre-Occupied 76
graphite on flax paper sized with persimmon juice 
29 x 21

Pre-Occupied 18  
silver graphite on flax paper tinted with iron oxide
21 x 29

Pre-Occupied 12
silver graphite on Indian sunn hemp paper
13 x 17

What inspires you?
The series I’ve been working on for the past two years, “Pre-Occupied,” was inspired by Doris Salcedo’s retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2015. Up to that point my work had been very process-based, but Salcedo made me wonder whether artists have an obligation to make work about things that frighten us.

Pre-Occupied statement:
In this series, I challenged myself to confront something that terrifies me.
I have had death panics since I was eight years old. Ironically, the only real estate I am ever likely to own is a parcel of eight cemetery plots I inherited from my grandfather. The deed to the plots came with a map of the cemetery, which seemed like the logical place to begin to address my fear. Each drawing in this series is based on the map of a different Jewish cemetery, including the ones where my own relatives are buried. (I am not religious, but the historical and familial connection was important: these are all places I could be buried, even though I remain completely unreconciled to the idea of my own death.)
I can’t claim that drawing the maps allays my panic. Death remains entirely unknowable terrain: the map can never be the territory. And yet, stripped of identifying text, the cemeteries’ abstract forms are mysteriously compelling, grounding me in the universal human drive to create beauty, order, and ritual in the face of our own mortality.

Doris Salcedo, “1550 Chairs Stacked Between Two City Buildings” Istanbul Biennial, 2003

I don’t think of my work as political, as Salcedo’s clearly is. Yet after the 2016 election, as my husband and I started pulling together our passport applications, I began thinking about what it means to flee a country and leave your dead behind, exposed and vulnerable. In Europe during and after the war, Jewish headstones were pulled up and used as the foundations of houses or as flagstones in patios and roadways. I also started thinking about the way we can carry our dead with us, and the way the remnants of the destroyed shtetls of Eastern Europe can be found in American cemeteries: you can trace our ancestral villages in the names of the burial societies. So while many of us have been asking ourselves how to respond to the current political moment in our work, I found my work connected to that moment in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

What is your personal history?
I grew up in an apartment on the Upper West Side of New York City and considered the Met my playground. I knew the layout of the museum by heart. I loved the children’s wing with the diorama of the medieval workshop, the interactive color wheel, and the film of how egg tempera is made (the current version of the children’s wing is completely sterile by comparison). I still have the tiny books I got there as a child: How to Look at Paintings and How to Look at Sculpture. But I never imagined myself becoming an artist. My high school’s art program was pretty tepid: I could swear we drew the same still life every year. I can still close my eyes and see that spider plant. But something else happened in those years. Our school librarian was also a dance critic, and she taught an afterschool class in dance appreciation. I got hooked. In that era, you could get tickets to New York City Ballet for $4 or $5 (in the highest tier of the theatre – but if you spotted an empty seat below you could claim it during the intermission). I did that about three times a week, and I think my education in pattern and structure and visual rhythm as well as my interest in light and shadow and playing with translucency and scrims came from watching Balanchine ballets (not to mention Karinska’s costumes and Jennifer Tipton’s lighting). I never had any formal art training. I have two degrees in English, and a background in weaving, which I learned in a summer course at 14 and did professionally for years. Eventually I moved from making functional work on the loom to making sculptural work using textile techniques with non-traditional materials (wire and glass) to drawing on stone with powdered metals mixed with cold wax, to drawing on paper.

I Would Have Remembered That 13
ink on handmade abaca paper
11 x 14

 Geometry of Hope: Cobalt, Emerald
acid-etched glass rods, coated copper wire, coated silver wire, stainless-steel mesh.
20” x 20”

Tourmaline Curve
acid-etched glass, silver wire
6.5” x 13” (depth variable)


Creatives in your ancestry who might have influenced you?
 My parents met at the High School of Music & Art, but both of them were musicians. My mother worked in cultural and educational exchange for the State Department, but she also took classes at the Art Students’ League. Her grandfather had been a goldsmith who made beautiful Art Nouveau jewelry with a lot of delicate filigree and repouss√© work. I guess if there’s a gene for doing detailed work on a tiny scale I inherited it from him. My mother’s best friend from high school was the Israeli painter Nora Frenkel, whose work filled the apartment I grew up in. My father was passionate about photography, and taught it out of our apartment. We had a darkroom at home where he (and later I) developed both color and black-and-white film and prints.

Nora self-portrait 1995

Saki-Ori: Indigo, Logwood
tussah silk hand-dyed with indigo, fustic, catechu, logwood.
63 x 36

Name 5 favorite artists that turn you on…and why?
That’s a tough one. I keep a spreadsheet of artists whose work I admire (and share on Facebook) and it’s got almost 900 names on it. But I also have keywords on the spreadsheet to help me remember each artist’s work, and some of the most frequent keywords are “obsessive,” “cellular,” “biomorphic,” “mapping,” “accretion,” “layering,” and “installation.” So that gives you an idea of what floats my boat.

 studio bulletin board
 studio bulletin board
"tape wall" (tape used to mask out areas of drawing). 

Studio Shot

Jeanne's Website