When I decided to start writing these short reviews of shows, I intended to primarily write negative reviews. In general, I am a pretty positive guy; but I can’t remember the last time I read a review of any local show that could be classified as anything worse than middling, and I think that is a problem. In practice, this has proven to be a little more difficult than I expected. The thing is, when I see a piece that is poorly executed, I don’t get upset. If I think a piece lacks depth, I just move on. Even art that strikes me as just plain bad doesn’t make me feel like speaking out, it usually doesn’t really make me feel anything. I still think the Boston art world needs more bad reviews (feel free to come out and shit on my next show, really), but I am just not sure I can find the motivation to be the one that writes them.

So this time I set out to see a show that I was fairly certain I would like, to accept defeat once again, and just keep talking about the shows that I am excited about. For anyone that needs a recap, the kind of work that I am generally excited about is the kind that makes me think, and is also beautifully crafted. The kind that has something interesting to say, but does not lose sight of the fact that the act of creating (or performing) a piece is an equal partner to what is being said.

Cobi Moules makes that kind of work.

So despite the fact that a lot of the local galleries are hanging summer shows made up of last season’s left overs, and some are not even bothering to open at all, I was excited to make my way through the August heat to Carroll and Sons so I could check out Cobi’s work.

Cobi Moules Summet Shoot VI

Cobi is a transgender guy, and this show is all about his struggles to fit in, and find his way through some confusing childhood desires. The paintings are very carefully rendered copies of New Kids on the Block posters, magazine clipping, and trading cards, with the artist inserting himself into the role of Danny Wood (perfect, because really, nobody really liked Danny all that much anyways). The paintings are all small scale pieces that invite you to really bury your nose in them and examine every detail. When you do this, what is revealed is really amazing. The paintings are very simple. No painterly embellishments, or subtle layering here; because really, it wouldn’t make any sense. The paintings are true to the spirit of the references, feeling very much like a 1990’s Teen Beat print quality level detail, except for the portraits of Cobi. I have no idea if this is intentional, or just a byproduct of his familiarity with his own face, but he stands out in the paintings. In each piece, Cobi is just slightly sharper, and more detailed than the New Kids that surround him, making him the star of the show here. It really gives a wonderful feeling of fitting in, while standing out.

Cobi Moules Drug Free School Zone

The subject matter being explored is obviously significant, but the imagery is so playful and engaging that the pieces are easily approachable. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was smiling so hard in an art gallery. While his experience may seem to be far from what the average person may have gone through, these paintings find a brilliant way of revealing that we all have a lot more in common than what is seen at first glance.

Cobi Moules NKOTB Trading Card

I have no idea why Carroll and Sons sent it to summer show purgatory, but this show is definitely worth visiting before it comes down at the end of the week.

Cobi Moules

New Kid: Back to the Beginning

at Carroll and Sons

August 3 – 20, 2016

I am planning a full post about the latest painting soon. In the mean time, I talked to Poets/Artists Mag a little about this series of glitchy paintings. I know I have talked a bit about these pieces already, but if you find yourself wondering – “WTF is he thinking with these paintings?” – this is the best place to start. Follow the link below to check it out…

EDIT: It looks like the link no longer works, so I will re-post the text below.

portraitfromweb-2-web


Please explain the process for this work. Tell us about the series in general.

This series focuses on the disconnect between our digital, and real world lives. Since more and more of our time is spent interacting online, and photographs are no longer constrained to one (or at most, a few) copies, our images are increasingly subject to misuse by anonymous strangers. This is especially true for attractive young women, who often find their most private digital moments taking on a life of their own.

For these paintings, I asked volunteers to send me a text message, or email, with an image that they would normally intend only for a significant other to see. I take this image and crop it so that their face is hidden; so their identity is somewhat lost, and sexual nature of the photograph takes center stage. Next the image file is corrupted using a script that randomly changes bits of the code. For me, the resulting image glitch signifies the end of the useful life for this image. The point where if the image had been shared, the image would no longer be beautiful enough to be forwarded along again. This version of the image is used as reference for the first panel of the painting.

Once I have started working on this panel, the model is asked to visit the studio to sit for a more traditional portrait, exposing her face so that she can reclaim ownership of the image of her body.

Working on this series has been an interesting challenge. Because, the first image is taken by the model herself, I have no real control of the starting point of each diptych. Because the image is sent to me in a text message, it is generally fairly low resolution. Finding ways to integrate the two images into a more composed piece has been problematic. Information has to be added to the low resolution text message image and edited out of the formal portrait, so that the two paintings can meet in the middle with similar levels of detail. At this point, I am starting to figure it all out, so I’m starting to be pretty happy with the resulting pieces.

Where do you see it going?

At this point, I am just happy that most people seem to understand what they are looking at without some big artist statement. I’m planning to make at least 5 or 10 of these pieces before I give up the series so hopefully, once I have a few more, I will find somewhere to hang them all together. Beyond that, I don’t know. I have started experimenting a bit with using glitched video files as reference for another related series, so you should be seeing the first of those soon.

There is something about photography, something missing. I have had a hard time identifying exactly why, but I just can’t convince myself to give photography the same attention that I would pay to other visual art forms. When I see a beautifully composed photograph, or one with exceptional subject matter, I will stand in front of it, and I will try. I will try to get pulled into the image. I will try to stay focused, and really consider the piece. I will try, but I will usually fail.

Obviously, creating a great photograph takes a lot of planning and precision. I am not trying to claim that photography is easy, or that it is not a useful and potentially powerful form of art. Maybe it is because I spend so much time using photography as a tool to create prints or paintings. Maybe it is because I spend too much time on the internet, burning hundreds of throwaway images into my eyes each day. I don’t quite know the answer, but I default to treating photography (even the really good stuff) the same way I treat my Instagram feed. Quickly stopping in front of the ones that catch my eye, then moving on about my day without ever slowing down to collect more than an immediate impression.

Last Friday, I set out to check out the Jacob Collins show opening at Adelson Galleries here in Boston. Now, landscape and still life paintings… are not exactly my thing. This is not the kind of subject matter that would normally motivate me to get up off my couch and across town on a Friday night. In this case, I hoped to find something in Jacob’s process. By all accounts, he is a talented realist painter, and while I am not generally concerned with following traditional methods, I still know enough to see that there is a lot I can learn from them. So I headed to the show in hopes of finding some technique that really spoke to me. I wanted to be dazzled, not by his imagery, but by his process.

I left that show after not much more than a quick lap around the gallery.

Instead, I found what I was looking for in Dell Hamilton’s photographs at SubSamson. As I walked into her space (she is the current resident artist at SubSamson), Dell was describing her work to another visitor, and I was immediately pulled in. She was describing exactly the problem I had been having with so much photography. Creating a great photograph takes planning. It takes technical precision. It is not an easy process to get right, but most of the work is done before the act of actually hitting the button. A lot of what I respond to in a work of art, has to do with the process. There is a lot of magic that can happen, after the plan has been established, but before the final product is presented. The act of creating, of working through problems, of making mistakes, and then finding a way to use them to your advantage; this human touch lends an air of importance to art work, and it is missing in a most photography. In the case of the photographs Dell was showing, composing and taking the photograph was just the beginning.

She described using the initial photographs as the basis for improvisation, experimenting with traditional analog, as well as digital techniques to introduce distortions and allowing each process to leave its mark along the way. Some of the marks are identifiable, key codes from old film, dust or fingerprints collected along the way; others are harder to pin down, distortions introduced by older scanners, glitches from editing software. The resulting images combine that nostalgia for old analog mediums, with the visual ques that may one day arouse similar feelings (future nostalgia?), in a way that really sings.

The work, and Dell, really speak better for themselves, so I will simply say that I left inspired, and recommend that you pay her a visit.

DH

I never really envisioned that I would end up a realist painter.

If you had asked 20 year old me, “what do you think of realist paintings?” My response would have probably been something along the lines of, “what is the point of doing something worse, that I camera can do better and faster?”

But here I am, painting portraits that can really be described no other way. That is not to say that I went quietly down this path. I have spent a lot more time and energy coming up with ways to make my paintings more graphic, less realistic, than I would ever spend focusing on learning traditional technique.

Lately, I have been struggling with this. Feeling a bit lost with where to take my work, feeling somewhat frustrated with the paintings I have been putting out. Not to say that I don’t like the pieces that I have done recently, but it has been a while since I have finished a painting, stepped back and felt satisfied. It has been a while since I stepped back and said, “yeah, that’s it.”

Now I am posting a piece that I really am satisfied with. A piece that I am truly excited about. A piece that is, by far, the most realistic painting I have ever done.

I finally decided to take my own advice. To get out of my own way and let the painting decide how it needed to be rendered. Instead of forcing my ideas about what makes an interesting painting, onto pieces that those ideas do not make sense for.

Portrait From Web, Portrait From Life #1

Portrait From Web, Portrait From Life #1 Nick Ward

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.

karen_kaapcke-1

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.

karen_kaapcke-5

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.

karen_kaapcke-3

“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.

karen_kaapcke-2

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.

karen_kaapcke-4

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/

karen_kaapcke-6

Starting off a the new year with a post about how much I like it when people tell me they hate my art. Really. https://t.co/jG9rIKUTbO

A few weeks ago, I made a decision to start doing weekly posts on my site. Not that I think everyone is really sitting around waiting to hear what I have to say but, as an artist it is important to put thought into the work you are making and be conscious of what the decisions you make with your work are communicating (or not). Right now, I have a lot going on, and writing about it is a good way to keep myself on track, and engage with anyone who happens to take an interest.

Obviously, I have already failed.

It has been weeks since I have published a blog post so, I am going to publicly state my goal so that it becomes a bit more tangible. Before I got off track with my goal of weekly posts, I started writing a little about preparing for this show but, I never finished the piece. I think in this case, putting the post off may have been a blessing in disguise because, while I have a lot to say, this show speaks best for itself.

My last text message painting is headed down to Miami this week and, will be included in a show that opens at the end of the month and includes a reception during Art Basel week. Now, I am not someone who is against the important aspect of commerce in art but, during a week when so many exhibitions will focus primarily on commerce, I am proud that my piece will be in a show that has something to say.

Details, along with a few teasers from the show below.
Help support the event, join and share the event on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/events/1253323308027943/

Yeelen Gallery Art Basel

what’s INSIDE HER never dies… a Black Woman’s Legacy.

Nov 30th, 2015 – Feb 28th, 2016

Panel: Wednesday, Dec 2nd 1pm

Artist Reception: Saturday, Dec 5th, 10pm- till

Yeelen Gallery

294 NW 54th Street

Little Haiti, Miami 33127 954.235.4758

Patrick Earl Hammie F.B.J., 2015, oil on linen, 80 x 68 inches Patrick Earl Hammie – “F.B.J.” – oil on linen

(Miami, FL) October 2015 – Yeelen Gallery presents what’s INSIDE HER never dies…a Black Woman’s Legacy, a group exhibition curated by Karla Ferguson and in collaboration with Poets & Artists Magazine; on view through Art Basel Miami Beach week from November 30 to February 28, 2016. Bringing together a select group of like-minded artists, curators and cultural tastemakers, Yeelen celebrates the legacy and influence of the Black Woman.

“what’s INSIDE HER never dies…” will mark the three-year anniversary of Yeelen Gallery and will include a compelling body of 25 artist/activists including: Sylvia Parker Maier, Tim Okamura, Joseph Adolphe, Jerome Soimaud, and Numa Perrier. Yeelen’s annual Art Basel reception will be Saturday, December 5th from 10 pm-till attracting one of the largest constituencies of artists and influencers outside of the usual fair grounds; this gathering has become the ultimate expression of creativity during Miami Art Week.

“We are proud to pay homage to the beauty and resiliency of the Black Woman, we aim to continue to fight for her rights and equal respect,” said Karla Ferguson, gallery owner and director. The exhibit will present through portraiture, drawing, photography and installation, the beauty and the emotions of these heroines whom inspire us generation after generation.

Judith Peck - Pulled Over, 40x30 inches, Oil and plaster on boardJudith Peck – “Pulled Over” – oil and plaster on board

Artists include:

Joseph Adolphe - "Fragile" - oil on canvasJoseph Adolphe – “Fragile” – oil on canvas

Yeelen Gallery – 294 NW 54th Street – Little Haiti, Miami – 954.235.4758

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.

When I started working on the painting that led to this series, I did it on a whim. I didn’t expect to be starting a new series, I didn’t expect people to get it, or for it to resonate with anyone; I just wanted a way to experiment with some new imagery and some elements of abstraction, in a way that made sense with my own version of realism.

Once I was working on the painting, I started to see that it had the potential to do more. Honestly, I was surprised with the response I got, people got it. For me, this is a total extension of the same elements I have been using for a while. The pixelated skin tones, the text, and the graphic elements of color. The same things that have earned me such a divided response in the past, have finally gone somewhere that seems to connect with a wider audience. Which, I suppose, is good (Even if it doesn’t fit into my overall theory that the response to any art worth looking at should be hated by AT LEAST half the people that see it).

Beyond that, I really started to see that this project had the potential for bigger things. People were excited to volunteer to model for the paintings and, as the reference photos started coming in, they started to reveal things more interesting than the models skin.

I think I have laid out the idea for the project a few times before but, before I go any further, let me explain what I asked of the models when they agreed to participate. I am just going to copy and paste directly from one of the emails here.

The idea is to do a painting in two panels that pair a painted translation of an image sent via text/email, with a more formal portrait done in the studio. The first image is intended to feel like a snapshot that someone would send to their romantic partner if they were out of town. So, kind of a sexy/cute photo that you take of yourself. Since I want this to feel like a private moment that is not meant to be seen by the whole world, some hints of nudity definitely help but, it doesn’t need to be anything too wild, as long as the picture feels like it was not meant for the world to see. I’ll take this image and edit it so that it looks a little bit distorted and glitched, so it feels as if it has been saved and sent many times, and then use that to make a painting. I am hoping that this will evoke feelings of lost identity and lost control of the sexual image. The identity of the model is then revealed in the more traditional portrait of the second panel, allowing her to reclaim ownership of the images of her body.

First image will be painted from a photo taken by you and emailed/sent via text to me.

Second image will be done primarily from photographs taken in the studio but, if you area available, I would like to do a couple sessions working from life.

Beyond the vague instructions that it should be a, “kind of a sexy/cute selfie” I gave the models very little instruction.

What came back was really amazing.

Despite being fairly anonymous figures with mostly hidden faces, the images were incredibly revealing about the people who took them. Everyone had very different takes on the concept, everyone took on different rolls in the photos, everyone had features they hid, and features they favored. The images did a better job of telling stories than I ever expected, they brought life to the whole project. (So, thanks for being awesome.)

Here is my first (mostly) complete full scale attempt at one of these. At the moment, I am having a hard time focusing on anything except all the small changes I want to make in my approach for next time but, I think it is getting pretty close to what these paintings need to be, in order to work. I am going to bring a lot more photo realism into the rendering of the text message image in the next one (and tone down the glitchy effects overall just a bit) so, maybe that will put it all over the top.

Portrait From Web, Portrait From Life

So far, I have had five people volunteer to help with paintings in this series. I am not sure exactly the final form for project but, I am feeling very optimistic about the project as a whole, despite the fact that I have a hard time looking past the small changes I want to make in my approach.

If anyone else wants to help out with one of these, definitely get in touch. My goal is to do at least ten of these paintings so that I might be able to hang them all together for a show.

I have a bad habit of exploring ideas out loud. As I am thinking my way through problems, I will ask questions, spit out ideas, request feedback on half baked theories and generally allow most any thought that passes through my head to escape as sound. In the world of bad habits (even in my own world of bad habit), this one is fairly benign but, it does have a way of confusing, annoying and generally making me look foolish to anyone with the poor fortune of being within earshot at one of these moments.

I feel like I have allowed this habit to infect my writing lately as I have been publicly working my way through the pixelated private message paintings. In other words, it has been helpful to send my ideas out into the world, to receive the confused glances that come with bad ones, along with the excitement and support that come back from the good ones but, I expect that everyone is just about ready for me to shut up about it all ready.

With that in mind, I am sending my latest study for this series to a show at the Dorchester Art Project.

Private Message Study #2

I am sending my piece to this show and I am telling you not to worry, you are not going to this show to see my latest exploration into this idea, you are going to DAP to see the other artists. You are going here to marvel at latest group of amazingly talented artists coattails that I have somehow managed to ride.

Here are a few teaser pieces from the show, keep reading below for official press release and dates.

Steven Carvalho "Sunday Morning"
_E_Petitti - The Liu-Casco Theory About the Loss of the Golden Pear (version4) - Drawing
Retrofit Painting by Thomas Willis

BETWEEN YOU AND ME: RESIDENT GROUP SHOW

Exhibition: August 14­ – September 18

Artist talks: September 12

Closing Reception: September 18

Dorchester Art Project

1486 Dorchester Ave Boston

The Dorchester Art Project is pleased to present its inaugural exhibition, B?etween You and Me: Resident Group Show. C?urated from work produced by DAP resident artists, B?etween You and Me locates the tenuous threads that bind together artists working within communal space.

In the front gallery, photographs consider how individuals relate to their worlds and constructed tableaus explore otherworldly scenes. Paintings of faces fall apart into pixelated squares, mimicking the failure of cellular communication between people, while in other works, intertwined figures emerge from abstraction. In the back gallery, a site­specific installation of sculptures that reference painting recreates the artist’s studio within the gallery space. Collages made from phone books and other paper detritus sourced directly from the Dorchester environment are as much about absence of information and individuals as their presence. Across the paintings, sculptures, photographs and drawings, there is a commonality of artists engaged in critical discourse and thinking as the artists interpret their environments and interact with the surrounding communities.

Operating in the space formerly occupied by the Howard Art Project, the Dorchester Art Project is dedicated to fostering a collaborative environment for critical discourse and creative engagement for emerging artists. Located in the Fields Corner neighborhood of Dorchester, DAP provides studio and communal space to artists, while programming our gallery space with regular exhibitions of critically engaged, emerging local artists, as well as artist talks and lectures. DAP aims to engage a wide audience, and bridge the gap between urban residents and the critical art establishment.

Join and share the event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/494095904089321/