As the dust settles and I get a chance to reflect on the last couple of weeks I'm amazed by all that has happened in the little mountain community where I have been working this summer. During the last month I have had the good fortune to take part in Painting's Edge and Summer Poetry both held in the town of Idyllwild, CA.
Painting's Edge is a two-week painting residency program that is the brian child of LA artist, Roland Riess. Over the last six or seven years Riess has brought together many of the most significant voices in the practice of painting. Voices that have defined the practice for the last forty years and voices that are redefining it as I write. Curators and critics like Robert Storr, David Hickey, and Peter Plagens to name a few. Practitioners such as Pia Fries, Terry Winters, Pat Steir, Mark Bradford, Tom Nozkowski, and Matthew Richie are featured each year.
The Summer Poetry program has a similar history. The week long residency for poets celebrated its tenth year this summer. This years roaster of visiting poets included the two-time United States Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser. Along with Ted were Eloise Klein Healy, BH Fairchild, David St. John, and my two personal favorites, Terrance Hayes and Cecilia Woloch.
Both programs offer evening lectures and readings that are open to the public, as well as open daily discussions. Talk about a feast for a hungry soul (and imagination.)
As I was going back through my notes from Painting's Edge I found a fragmented and curious trail of captured thoughts as I scrambled to record each lecture. I have to wonder why certain things resonated enough to record them; maybe it related to something I was thinking about that day, it was funning, the audience shifted in response to the statement. Anyway, here is a sampling of but a few. These notes in no way give testimony to how articulate the artist was, they represent my inarticulate listening.
Fred Tomaselli - "as a young artist I felt burdened by the history of painting so I made escapist installations that commented on their own escape." "I wanted to use drugs in a different way." "My work got better when I let myself in." "My formative years came from hippy years burned into disco and cocaine." "There is always a ting of pathology in the work."
Peter Plagens - "the practice of painting is like the Spanish Empire. It's not the most important country any more but its still a great place to be from." "The newer forms of art making just translate better into media hype." And my favorite, "The contemporary art scene consists of well dressed anarchists shopping at the Apple store."
Beatriz Milhazes - you don't write things down, you just look.
Wendell Gladstone - see Beatriz Milhazes
Leslie Shows - the real surprise of the residency. She is a killer painter. "Civilization is heartbreaking and fun at the same time." "I like the quality of gritty, muddy, disappointing landscapes - stripped to the basics."
Mark Bradford - "I wanted to paint but I didn't want to use paint." "... using the materials that were at hand, that were embedded in my social fabric, my lived context."
Laurie Fendrich - "I really like the four edges of a painting." sometimes it really is just that simple.
Pat Steir - listening to Pat was like listening to a living history. It was an amazing experience. I was reminded of a James Moody interview I had recently heard. Like the jazz great, Moody, Steir was a little verbally choppy at times, a little defensive, a little impatient talking about her work (it was clear they both would prefer to be making the work.) "If it's true, you will just get it. If it's not then no matter what you say, it doesn't work."
The things she said couldn't have been said by a younger artist or if they were said I wouldn't have trusted them. "Close your eyes and let go." "It's like the Zen practice, throw 3 stones into the air and walk away." "When your intention has no doubt, it is easier." "I take any chance I want to." "I'm not trying to be anything outside of my self." "If there is something true or real there will be someone who will connect with it. Trust that." "Your face changes every ten years so why shouldn't the face of your practice change?"