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"Earth Measure Blues 17" (2012), oil on linen, 36 x 54 in. (diptych)

“Earth Measure Blues 17” (2012), oil on linen, 36 x 54 in. (diptych)

"Earth Measure Blues 18" (2012), oil on linen, 40 x 60 in. (diptych)

“Earth Measure Blues 18” (2012), oil on linen, 40 x 60 in. (diptych)

"Earth Measure Blues 19" (2013), oil on linen, 30 x 45 in.

“Earth Measure Blues 19” (2013), oil on linen, 30 x 45 in.


Black Chord, my most recent multipanel work, consists of seven horizontal panels measuring 16×20 in. The three previous Modular Rhythms series used 14×11 in. vertical panels; it’s amazing how even such a small change of scale creates different painting problems. It was interesting to give the color black such a large role. (Like my hero Matisse, I have always used black as a color…) Click on the photo to see more images.

Last week I had the interesting experience of seeing myself in the rough cut of a video documentary called Invitation to the Muse, by producer/director Karen Cantor. Karen’s challenge was to find visual ways to explore inspiration and the artist’s process, and she did it very creatively. About 10 other Santa Fe artists, including writers and musicians, also participated.

The screening was at the Santa Fe Art Institute, where Karen has been an artist in residence for the last three months. Based in the Washington, D.C. area, Karen has produced and directed two other documentaries that have been shown on PBS stations: the award-winning video The Danish Solution: The Rescue of the Jews in Denmark, narrated by Garrison Keillor, and Last Rights: Facing End-of-Life Choices. 

Part of my color pile, which I use in my work (and teaching), is shown in the video

Back in April, when Karen and her videographer Matt came to my studio, I was afraid that I would be awkward and self-conscious in front of the camera. But I really enjoyed the videotaping process.

But participating in Karen’s project made me articulate my process in ways I don’t usually do, and made me realize that my muse is really color–for me, there’s no such thing as an ugly color. (Color combinations can be ugly, but that’s different.) The completed documentary should be shown in Santa Fe this autumn, and I’ll post information on screenings.

My latest multipanel series–Earth Red Field–will be exhibited in a group show at Linda Durham Contemporary Art is Santa Fe beginning next week. The exhibit, called “The Wonder Salon,” opens on Saturday, November 21, 2009, with an all-day reception with the artists and runs through January 4, 2010.  

"Earth Red Field," 12 panels of 20 total, oil on board, each panel: 14x11x1 in.

Earth Red Field, which consists of 20 panels, is the latest of my large multipanel series in which every panel is just a little different in composition and color from every other panel. I don’t think Donald Judd would like my paintings, but his installation of 100 milled aluminum boxes in Marfa, Texas, provided the jumping-off point for these works.

In addition to my new work, “The Wonder Salon” features the creations of a diverse group of Santa Fe women artists: Lynda F. Braun, Marina Brownlow, Rachel Darnell, Anne Farrell, Shaun Gilmore, Sondra Goodwin, Barbara Ingram, Jennifer Joseph, Joanne Lefrak, and Patricia Pierce. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm. The gallery is at 1807 Second St. #107, Santa Fe, NM; 505.466.6600; www.lindadurham.com I hope you can come by and see my work in Linda’s beautiful new space.

(Photo: Sean McGarrity)

I’m now working on my third multipanel series, which I call Earth Red Field. Like Blue Gate and Orange Arc, it’s oil on 14×11 in. panels, and right now I’m planning on 20 panels total. As in the two earlier series, each panel will be a little different in composition and color from every other panel.

It took me quite a while to settle on the right composition and colors. I did around 20 small studies in gouache on Claybord or heavy watercolor paper before I finally developed a design that I love. (If I don’t love it, there’s no way I’ll be able to paint it over and over again!) Some of the studies, which are 8×10 in., may end up in future paintings. But I needed something that would continue the feeling of the first two series, and persistence paid off–I finally found it.

Along the way, I rediscovered how much I like working in gouache (opaque watercolor). For me, gouache is the medium closest to oil–you can paint light over dark, unlike watercolor, and it dries matte, unlike acrylic. I used to do a lot of work in gouache but haven’t for years.

For artists: I’ll put in a plug here for M. Graham gouache: it has a luscious feel, stays wet on the palette for quite a while, even in dry New Mexico climate, and rewets well. The manufacturer says it contains honey rather than sweeteners like corn syrup that are in other brands of gouache, and I’ll believe it (though I don’t intend to taste test). The line is oriented to artists rather than designers, so it uses lightfast pigments and omits the beautiful but fugitive colors of many other brands of gouache. M. Graham is a small artists’ paint manufacturer in West Linn, Oregon; their paints are pretty widely available both in stores and online.

As soon as some panels are dry enough to photograph, I’ll post them on this blog.

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The Salon Mar Graff show is closing this week–I’m sad to think that my 39 panels are going back into their boxes–but the exhibit went really well. I loved the installation of my paintings and very much enjoyed the work of the other artists in the show. Lots of people came, and I got excellent feedback about my work.

I was also able to get really nice installation and detail photos, some of which are posted on this blog. Click on Orange Arc and Blue Gate in the PAGES section in the column to the left. Sources for these multi-panel works: polyrhythms, Donald Judd, ways to mix taupe, African drumming, handmade minimalism…

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(Photos: Dave Robinson)

Great news–my essay won Linda Durham gallery’s essay contest. My essay is titled, “We do art to be human” (click on the title to go to the essay).

The topic for the contest was, “The importance of art in this challenging political and economic world.” My essay is built around ideas I’ve been thinking about for a long time–the topic couldn’t have been better chosen for me.

The gallery got several hundred submissions from around the U.S. as well as New Mexico. The essays were judged by a professional panel of judges: Timothy Rodgers, Chief Curator at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe; Jon Carver, a Santa Fe art-writer and art educator; and Aline Brandauer Sloan, art-writer and curator.

And there was actually a $500 prize that I didn’t know about until I was told I’d won the contest; the contest notice I saw didn’t say anything about a monetary prize. As it happened, I’d ordered a big new easel, with a winch, a couple of days before I learned I’d won the prize, so the money comes in very handy.

The last time I won a prize for my writing was in college, for a paper on the economics of cable TV regulation. This piece was a lot more fun to write!