And the Fire Burns On…

  I had an EXCELLENT critique today , it couldn’t have been more in contrast to Wednesday’s. My critic, the artist Patricia Traub, upon entering my studio let out a delighted giggle . That really is all I could ask for .
In addition to our shared passions for animal rights ( you have to check out her work , it is mind blowing ) and LeBrun , she seemed to understand where I was going . As can be imagined this was deeply gratifying .

She felt my drawing to be very strong and assertive and for me to put aside the paintings I have been fretting over and to just draw.

She also feels my paintings need to be massive , along the scale of Benjamin West’s panoramic canvases – now to find that ever expanding studio space.

But for today I just drew , the above a work in progress .

Off to Shabbos dinner with a friend from LA, then tomorrow , more drawing . A good day indeed.


 This sculpture in the courtyard of PAFA is an apt metaphor for my dashed hopes concerning this place. I am preparing for another critique this morning , one might say girding my loins. I don’t think I need to fret too much, today’s critic is an artist who definitely does not adhere to the Smudgy Line School so revered here at the Academy.
But there is loss, loss of a romantic notion perhaps . What I have gained is a clarity of the direction I want to take and PAFA doesn’t seem to be that direction.

 To be told that when I am ready to learn, ready to obliterate all I have learnt and experienced and ready to be the empty vessel this experience seems to demand THEN they will be there to make me into a Serious artist.

Thanks, but no thanks.

I feel I dodged a very expensive bullet. Friends , many artists amidst the mix, from Berlin to Portland, have told me of their experiences of academies , of the academic promotion of a certain orthodoxy , of only being able to truly express their creativity after the process . I want to improve my technical skills but I have no interest in erasing what is essential to my work.

My last critic may have felt I needed to destroy my work in order to create the sublime ; I’m going to find another way.

Wish me luck.

The Ambivalent Object

I’ve (we’ve ) invested quite a lot of energy ( and money) into my attending this summer critique program . Searching for direction and clarity in how and perhaps where to take my work and its development .This morning in a group critique led by the head of this program and a well regarded artist here ( and abroad ) , I had my moment of (ambivalent) clarity.

I had been wrestling with the issue of an academy , of how academies themselves  have wrestled with their own bias/preferences/ directions . Orthodoxy , though publicly decried , has a place here, and I suppose in every institution to some extent. Grand history painting and allegory may be chucked for dystopic nudes and the  lush color field but there is still an academic tradition that’s must be defended .

Today I felt at odds with that well defended force and now feel eviscerated. I’m not the first to feel this, nor will I be the last. But I’m left feeling where do the Misfit Toys go to hide? 

 Inward in my case.

Many valid points were made, the learning of basic tools such as light and space , all quite valid and attainable . Yet the prevailing ethos of “rawness”, “destruction ” and “randomness ” confounds me and sent me adrift . My clarity was that this is not the place for me; perhaps as a place to gain technical skills, which being self taught I am ( quite literally ) painfully aware of. But unless this place has room for expression outside of Guston, Richter and Carravagio with their robust forcefulness, it is a bad fit.

This quest for displays of rawness and random brutality ( with the ubiquitous drip of frenzied creativity ) has little appeal to me. The macho posturing of the Abstract Expressionists has arisen anew here . If I hear “muscular, juicy, raw, meaty” one more time I’m going to scream .

I sense on a visceral level that I just rubbed this critic the wrong way . I wasn’t an open enough vessel for him. His “positive”advice for me was to become acquainted with Bosch, Jung and Campbell. I explained that I am familiar with that Holy Trinity. 

That might not have pleased him. 

Plus my work is effete and theatrical, relying upon tricks of the stage at times . I get why such a Serious artist would dismiss it or have issue . 

My ambivalence is rooted in my being so self- taught and yet desiring more skill to better express my mystical dreamscapes . 

I know I’m not there yet, but I do know I’m developing my own vocabulary. One full of errors and missteps perhaps , but my own .

This artist suggested I discard the painting I’ve been working on and instead focus upon the Fish ( above ); THAT he declared was THE painting, in fact not the fish, just its eye.

 Silliness and the Emperor’s Finery.

I almost chuckled but instead scoffed,claiming that the weakest link of the painting is that element, that it is the most derivative  ( reminding me of a platter by Picasso) and certainly the least authentic .

I’m not ready to throw the baby out but the bath water is decidedly tepid and unpleasant at the moment . There is an artist at PAFA I sincerely admire , her work being singular and clearly her own. I’m going to reach out to her, if she is willing  and get her opinion as if this could be a good fit.

But at the moment I lament the money and time invested; also the letting go of a romantic notion.

Until next time, be well,


At Day’s End

Tomorrow we have an added critique , which should be a positive experience in that it will be a group critique. I hustled about in good company today  as my sister Pamela spent the day at the studio.

Pretty much what I accomplished today  was this merfellow.

  Will need to see how he is recieved; he delights me quite a bit.

Packing up for the day,pooped and bleary eyed; I am first on the firing line tomorrow ,bright and early at 9am.


  Happy news, one of my favorite paintings Genesis (one that is quite finished, if I may be a bit snarky) was accepted in the upcoming 2015 California Open Exhibition at the Tag Gallery in Santa Monica. Acceptance in this show is very validating to me because of the artist who juried it. Jim Morphesis is a painter I admire a great deal: from his subject matter ( martyrdom , crucifixions , the torments and ecstasy of the flesh),to how he handles paint . So for Morphesis to choose 56 works out of 1,625 submissions and for Genesis to be part of that lucky lot makes me very happy indeed.
Sadly it opens August 12th and I will still be here in Philadelphia- David will have to be my proxy.

I’m so thrilled .