A few months back, I wrote a post about receiving my second Elizabeth Greenshilds Foundation grant, and my plans to use a portion of those funds to help me put together a show of portraiture. Since that initial post, my focus has been more on the development of my own work, than it has been on the development of that show. However, now that I am starting to find my way through these glitch paintings (more about that soon, for now see what’s up with those on Instagram), it’s time to talk more about the show. I think the best way to start, is to introduce the artist that inspired me to consider stepping out of the studio and pulling an exhibition together.

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When it comes to works of art, I would like to think that my tastes are pretty varied. I try to approach different styles of work the way I would approach people speaking different languages. If you are open to it, once you can pick up a few words, you will find that new worlds and experiences will quickly open up to you. As a realist painter, I do have my biases. I don’t expect all artwork to be speaking the same language, but I do prefer work that is visually appealing. For me, successful pieces of art combine interesting ideas, with beautiful execution. So often work is beautifully crafted, but lacking a voice; or incredibly insightful, but looks like the page of a sketchbook. But there is something else. Above all that, successful pieces have the ability to force me to see something in a new way. Exceptionally successful pieces find a way to fight through my biases and change the way I think.

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A while back, there was a bit of a trend in the realist art community. Like a lot of trends, it showed up in a many different forms, but the general idea was always the same. Do a painting every day. The internet was flooded with blogs documenting peoples attempts at this challenge. Some were run by skilled artists, selling small pieces or offering demos. Others were run by students documenting the development of their work. A lot of the work that these artists were creating was beautiful, but like a lot of trends, I never found much to get excited about. At best, it seemed like a nice exercise to build some painting skills. At worst, a silly gimmick.

Every time I start heading down the path of dismissing an artistic process like this, an artist will inevitably turn up and show me how wrong I am. In this case, that artist in Karen Kaapcke. Like I said, successful pieces can find a way to fight through biases and change the way you think. When Karen and I fist met, she was in the midst of a project that had her creating a self portrait every day, starting on her 50th birthday.

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“I woke up, thinking – what to do today? What does one do when one turns 50? My paints were in my studio, but the only thing that made any sense was to sit myself down right away, and take a good honest look at myself before I had any time to think. I found a watercolor block, and my drawing box and thus began a project of drawing myself every day for my 50th year. To live 50 as a painter, taking a good look each day, whether I have 2 minutes or an hour, and whether I want to or not. And in the way that iterations are not just repetitions but change due to the very fact of being repeated, I will live the year of 50.”

Within the first five minute of talking with Karen, she had already found a way to completely flip my opinion of the painting a day projects. She had taken something that seemed like a silly gimmick and made it feel honest, given it substance.

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The more I looked at her project, the more I loved it. Each piece, in most cases, was small and simple. Some were nothing more than quick sketches, others were more developed pieces, but taken together they became something bigger. As the series grew, the individual pieces stopped speaking on their own, instead creating a chorus of voices working to deliver a more powerful message. Viewing a week’s, month’s, or a whole year’s worth at once told an amazing story.

As we talked about this project, I started thinking more about my own work (I am still an artist, so unfortunately everything comes back to my work). I am spending two months on a large portrait, while she is spending the same time creating a portrait consisting of 60 small pieces. The intent of both of these processes is to tell a similar story. Taken together, the dialog created between these two approaches adds a little something interesting to both.

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Sometimes these things just stick around in your head until you can’t ignore them any longer.

For everyone who wants to learn more about Karen, see more of her work, and see where she has taken this project, head over to her website. Her work is always interesting, and constantly evolving. http://karenkaapcke.weebly.com/

To see where the project mentioned above ended up after a year, check out the project blog: http://unprimedcanvas.blogspot.com/

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Last week I wrote a post that I was going to call “I’m Part of the Problem,” but I held off on uploading it.

If you saw me a couple weeks ago, you may have been on the receiving end of my rants about the Big Red and Shiny fundraiser. It went something like this: the only time we get more than a post or two every couple months is when they want more money. Why would anyone start an art magazine if they don’t actually want to write about art?

Now, I honestly respect what the people at Big Red and Shiny are trying to do and I would hope that at least a couple of them would consider me a friend, so I wanted to write something that took my rant somewhere a little more useful. I wanted to write a post about how the Boston art scene was “all bark, no bite” and resurrecting an art magazine when you don’t actually want to write about art on a regular basis was the epitome of that. I wanted to write about that and call some people out… including myself.

For a long time, I have been thinking about putting together a show of portraiture. Not just a show of portraits, but a show that shines a little light on ways that people are using the general concept of portraiture for something more than simply documenting faces. I am sure a lot of you have heard me toss this idea around, maybe I even asked you if you might be interested in participating, but the reality is, I wasn’t sure it was going anywhere. I think you see where the post is headed; just like everyone else, I had a solid idea, and idea that I was passionate about but…. You know I need to be in the studio, I’ve got bills to pay, I am not a curator. Just another scared puppy, all bark, no bite. I am part of the problem. You get it.

Before I uploaded this post, I decided to sit on it for a while. First off, is it really a good idea to call out one of the few organizations that might actually review a show of my work? More importantly, I was not really ready to admit that I was going to give up on my portraiture show.

Sometimes a few days cooling off period makes all the difference. In this case, I decided to put my money where my mouth is, and try to make the show actually happen. Actually… that is not entirely true, someone else has decided to put their money where my mouth is.

While I was taking a weekend off, enjoying fall in Maine, I got an email from the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation explaining that they were going to give me a second grant. The proposal I sent them consisted of two parts. First and foremost, I laid out my current text message portrait painting project. This series has not even found its final form yet, but it has already gotten a lot of interest. The grant is a huge vote of confidence and means that it will happen faster, with less compromises. Second, I proposed the portrait show, not only bring together some artists working in a field I am passionate about, but also as a way to frame this new series of painting within the world.

So, now I find myself in this position, all dressed up and nowhere to go. I have an idea for the show (that I will elaborate on soon), I have money to make it happen, I even have some really good artists on board, I just don’t have a space (yet).

"Self-Portrait as Insomniac" by Karen Kaapcke

Cover image is “Self-Portrait as Insomniac” by Karen Kaapcke, who planted the seeds in my mind that inspired this (potential) show.

I have a habit of over reaching in my life as an artist. Attempting paintings that are just a little bit beyond what I can possibly pull off, getting involved in projects with tight deadlines and, showing up to ask for the impossible has become common place at this point. While I have grown used to hearing the word no, most of the time these gambles find a way to miraculously pay off.

Preparing for this show was not one of those times.

A while back Didi Menendez did a nice profile of my work in her magazine, Poets & Artists. Not only did this profile lead to one of my first big sales, it has also lead to my work being included in a few of her other projects, including what has become and annual show at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago. These shows (along with her magazine) do an amazing job of combining promising newer artists alongside bigger established names and, I am trying to work with her on a portrait show here in Boston. In other words, when she calls, I want to send her something good.

Unfortunately, something good just did not want to happen without a fight. I scaled back my original plan, then scrapped the backup plan, only to end up finishing a piece that I had nearly abandoned. In the end, all the frustration was worth it. I am happy with the finished piece and the show will, without a doubt, be great.

I think everyone has seen enough of my new piece for this show so, scroll down for the official information and a few of the early arrivals for the show from some other cool artists.

Fixation

On view from April 18th – May 11th, 2014

Opening reception Friday April 18th from 7-10pm

At the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago
1029 W 35th St, Chicago, IL 60609

Fixation is an exhibition and a publication of art and poetry focused on the physical or psychological preoccupation or obsession over an object or subject. Also as a focus of something that will capture our attention.

Fixation takes place in a gallery setting, print and digital formats. The exhibition is curated by Sergio Gomez of Chicago’s Zhou B Art Center and Didi Menendez of PoetsArtists Magazine.

Contributing Artists

  • Cesar Santos
  • Denis Peterson
  • Tim Okamura
  • Terri Thomas
  • Eloy Morales
  • Daena Title
  • Nadine Robbins
  • Daniel Ochoa
  • Ivonne Bess
  • Ryan Shultz
  • Michelle Buchanan
  • Jennifer Koe
  • Brianna Angelakis
  • Tracey Stuckey
  • Rory Coyne
  • Lauren Levato
  • Matthew Ivan Cherry
  • Brian Busch
  • Nick Ward
  • Jaime Valero Perandones
  • Karen Kaapcke
  • Patrick Earl Hammie
  • Miranda Graham
  • Harry Sudman
  • Marcos Raya
  • Ernesto Marenco

Contributing Poets

  • Richard Blanco
  • Denise Duhamel
  • Nin Andrews
  • Reb Livingston
  • Ana Menendez
  • Ken Taylor
  • Emma Trelles
  • Grace Cavalieri
  • John Korn
  • Terry Lucas
  • Sarah Blake
  • Kathleen Kirk
  • Tara Betts
  • Sam Rasnake
  • David Krump
  • Geof Huth

BONUS!

For those of you that think I stink, but like Margaux. This video featuring a poem by Nin Andrews will be playing at the gallery. See if you can spot her.

Nin Andrews: A Glossary of Deirdres from Didi Menendez on Vimeo.