“She’s No Picnic #2” (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel). $100 USD plus shipping.
“She’s No Picnic #2” (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel). $100 USD plus shipping.
In-depth interview with Reality Sandwich by Tamra Lucid, December 11, 2017.
The second in a series of interviews with cutting edge writers, artists and musicians working through Facebook to reach audiences that often don’t expect to find them there.
“I’m painting from photos that were taken for specific purposes – a lot of them are publicity shots or for advertising. It feels like I’m giving misrepresented personalities the opportunity to express a depth of emotion – which is sometimes anger – or maybe it’s the subtle nuances I choose to include.”
“Fuck Your Morals” (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) July 2017. SOLD
“Fuck Your Morals #2″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel) July 2017. $100 USD plus shipping.
I often feel like I should be doing more overtly political art like my Standing Rock Water Protectors series, that painting faces – women’s faces – isn’t enough. Yet, this concern reflects how a lot of people feel right now, historically. What can I do? What can any of us do to set things on a better course? Maybe it hasn’t been necessary to describe the better course for a long time. Better than what? Better than 1% self-interest. How about the greatest good to the greatest number of people? A utilitarian premise that doesn’t take us too far, but I think that’s what people have in mind as opposed to being fine with the wealthy doing whatever they want to make money at the expense of everyone else.
When I start to question my motivation for not making more overtly political art, I accept that fear is involved. Would people buy political art? Do I paint protestors or faces? I go back to the amount of very direct political content I have created. Must I always sing political songs? Paint political art? Write political novels?
“Fuck Your Morals” was a two painting series. I admit: when the second one didn’t sell, I stopped. If it had sold, I would have continued. I make a distinction between making multiple paintings of political subjects and replicating primarily aesthetic work. It’s very different. If I had a strong sense of political work selling, I’d paint more of it. Painting faces is a way for me to support myself and protect myself from retail-related damage (wrists, back, etc.) so that I can continue to make more overtly political work in the future. There! I’ve justified it! Yet, if painting women from photos whose primary intention was to exploit women in the name of capitalism, if painting those faces with a completely different intention, to populate the world with women’s emotions that they themselves (allegedly) felt – anger included – this is political. It’s also utterly idiosyncratic and it requires some thought. It’s also the work of a cultural activist who has been creating work across a handful of disciplines without ever making it big, but yet, keeps going rather than giving up or selling out.
I sometimes feel that the prettier faces sell fastest, that there’s a demand for youth and beauty, that I don’t want to play into. I’m not searching for something that will sell well and then continue to paint a bunch of those. That isn’t what I’m doing. Even though I get immediate feedback in terms of ‘likes’ and sales on FaceBook, I return to paint whatever I want. Most recently, I’ve been placing more importance on areas other than the face like the hair, neck and shoulders – where I’m doing more abstract work. It’s a way of broadening the work beyond the face.
I think more money-driven artists might go towards what sells, but that’s too much like capitalism – as is raising the price for no particular reason other than it’s the conventional thing to do when something becomes popular. All the years of making music that isn’t about fame and fortune fortifies this approach. I know first hand what else can be accomplished by making something that isn’t essentially profit-driven. Friendship, community, measurable social change. Don’t get me wrong – I want to have money to reduce worry and increase security, but it isn’t what propels this project. Yet again, if the paintings weren’t selling, I’d have to get a job in retail. Grappling with the balance between creativity and commerce is nothing new to me. It’s part of what I’d include in an artist statement, but I think that’s something that will come later.
“Standing Rock Water Protectors” (24 x 20 x 1.5″ acrylic on wood) September, 2016. $800 USD plus shipping.
“Standing Rock Water Protectors #2″ (11 x 14” acrylic on paper) September, 2016. SOLD
“Standing Rock Water Protectors #3″ (11 x 14” acrylic on paper) September, 2016. SOLD
“Standing Rock Water Protectors #4″ (11 x 14” acrylic on paper) September, 2016. $100 USD plus shipping.
“Standing Rock Water Protectors” (11 x 14″ acrylic on watercolor paper)September, 2016. SOLD
“Washing Hair” sold to the person (now an official collector) who bought “Y-Front #4” back in the summer.
It’s funny; “Washing Hair” looks so simple and confident, but behind the scenes, man, there was a lot of swearing, and I chucked a tube of paint (Caucasian) across the room… an open tube. Never done that before. Had to clean splatters off the cupboards etc. It must have been finished at least a dozen times, but then I had to go and try to make some part of it better (sound familar, women? …and why does the word ‘women’ not work there? Why do gals, ladies, girls sound OK and women doesn’t?)
I wanted the figure to accomplish so much in the big picture – in the history of how women are portrayed, how we are in private, how we feel about ourselves. Painting over and over, wiping and washing sections away. It took a couple of hours, but in another way, it took a lifetime.
To me, this grappling activity is painting. Not filling in areas with pre-determined colours, like you see in YouTube how to paint videos.
“No Hat #138 B aka Gloria Steinem, CIA” (acrylic on canvas board 11 x 14″) January 21, 2017 (not posted until today, February 25, 2017). SOLD
I referred to this painting in a post earlier today, in which I was writing about “No Hat #133”. I mentioned that one of the big skills I possess (in painting) is knowing when to stop and both #133 and #138 B are excellent examples of that.
#138 B (at top) was one of the rare times that I set a painting aside because it felt finished well in advance of what I was intending to do, but I wasn’t entirely sure. With #133 there was no question that it was totally finished. In this case of #138 B, I still wanted to think about it. So it’s been sitting here since mid January and I haven’t had any inclination to add anything to it. Selling “No Hat #133” earlier today (to a radio journalist in Stockholm) has inspired me to call “No Hat #138 B aka Gloria Steinem, CIA” finished as well.
I started painting from a screengrab of Gloria Steinem speaking at the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, but… I stopped here because, as I say, I liked it at this point. This is a good example of how I use photos of actual people to whatever degree I need them as a starting point.
After I set the painting aside I ended up doing some research on Steinem, just to refresh my memory on her history. I’m pretty sure I never knew she worked for the CIA. This kinda killed my interest in doing a portrait of her, not that it would necessarily be representattional to the degree that she’d be recognizable, but the CIA connection fortified my interest in halting my involvement with her.
Additionally, a novel I wrote a few years back (The Black Dot Museum of Political Art) has a segment in it about the CIA’s involvement in the abstract art movement in NYC in the 1950s and 60s, so this issue of cultural icons being willing and/or unwittingly participants in CIA activities was unexpectedly back in front of me.
So, while the is painting (#138 B) is at face value a solid composition made up of fairly similar tones with the suggestion of what might have followed (the shape of the head) for those that know my work, the backstory provides intellectual content that can be factored in.
I rarely use text in my paintings, but it’s something I may get into. With resistance a prevalent theme, I’ve been considering how to make my portraits more overtly political. Text is probably the easiest way to get a point across.
Last summer, I was asked to paint actress and singer Francoise Hardy, so I found a photo I found of her outside the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. I tend to use photos as starting points, and not necessarily to paint a likeness. This wasn’t a commission, so I felt free to paint the subject the way I normally do. Without slavishly representing her features.
I noticed that putting the subject in front of a hotel sign suggested certain things about the women I painted. I wasn’t convinced that everyone would know it was the Chelsea Hotel where artists, musicians and other creative types lived and congregated, so I changed the iconic hotel sign to a pizza sign — and suddenly it felt like the subject had moved from the hotel to the pizza parlor. Or perhaps there were different women outside both locations.
Because I post my work immediately after I paint it, there is a kind of sequential element built into it. I noticed that added text suggested a possible narrative — at least it did to me.
I’d already painted a few baboons without text when I decided to paint one with the pizza sign. The baboon reminded me of King Kong — perhaps because the Chelsea Hotel sign placed the action in New York. Now, instead of being concerned that the women might be regarded as sex workers, I was worried King Kong was going to grab one of them and carry her up the Empire State Building.
I painted the last one in the series to indicate that the baboon did not harm the subject(s). I’m pretty sure I was the only person caught up in my halting narrative, but adding text to my otherwise language-free portraits was a surprisingly power experience.
No Hat #104 SOLD
“No Hat #105” (acrylic on canvas panel, 11 x 14”) November 5, 2016. $100 USD plus shipping.
“No Hat #106” (acrylic on canvas panel, 11 x 14”) November 6, 2016. $100 USD plus shipping.
“No Hat #107” (acrylic on canvas panel, 11 x 14”) November 7, 2016. $100 USD plus shipping.
Baboon #3 SOLD
“No Hat #109″ (acrylic on canvas panel, 11 x 14”) November 12, 2016. $100 USD plus shipping.
20 Questions: Calvin Johnson of K Records, Verbicide Magazine, October, 2016
Verbicide: What song really hits you in the feels and makes you cry?
Calvin: “Malachi” by Mecca Normal.
One painting in the series “Discovering Utopia” (cover art for the Mecca Normal 7″) is still available.
The 7″ cover was included in an exhibit about Malachi Ritscher in the 2014 Whitney Biennial.
“Discovering Utopia #3″ by Jean Smith (12 x 16” acrylic on canvas) 2010. SOLD
“Discovering Utopia #4″ by Jean Smith (12 x 16” acrylic on canvas) 2010. SOLD
“Discovering Utopia #5″ by Jean Smith (12 x 16” acrylic on canvas) 2010. SOLD
“Discovering Utopia #6″ by Jean Smith (12 x 16” acrylic on canvas) 2010. $250 USD plus shipping.
“No Hat #116 aka Shanny McIntosh” SOLD to Courtney Jaxon
Mecca Normal “I Walk Alone” at Courtney Jaxon’s house in Arcata, CA
“No Hat #117 aka Shanny McIntosh #2” SOLD to Mack McFarland, Director of Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at Pacific Northwest College of Art.
“Essentially you have a culture of peoples who have often been neglected to the background of the history books but through sheer perseverance and talent have altered the ways in which we participate with each other in these cultural places and ultimately it comes down to being a part of a communal atmosphere and the inherent joys and hardships of being in a community.” – Shanny McIntosh
This post relates to Vol. 408 of my weekly column, January 14, 2017, in Magnet Magazine