Name It Or Not [on DR Thursday]

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I sold this painting a long time ago. It’s a big piece, four feet by four feet. George Broderick sold it through his gallery in Portland, Oregon. The day we hung it in his space, he asked me what it was called. He was making a label for the painting with the title and price. I didn’t have an answer and said the first thing that came to me. “It’s called Four by Four,” I said. George wrinkled his brow.

True confessions: I’ve never been good at naming paintings. In fact, I used to resist it. I think a viewer should name the painting. I think a viewer does name the painting in the first moment they see it but then they dump their response when they read the label. But, reality has a way of setting in. As you might imagine, it nearly impossible to keep track of multiple paintings when they are all called Untitled.

For a while – a short while – I tried giving each untitled piece a number. Untitled 624. Untitled 29. “Cop out!” was the cry from friends and gallery staff. “What’s it called?” There was no mercy.

I was much more snarky then than I am now, I so I responded to the requirement of proper names by keeping a notebook of words and phrases that I liked. When a painting was being readied for a show I’d randomly pull a notation from the notebook and tack it to a painting. “There! A name!” That, too, was a ridiculous strategy. It confused everyone, including me. When it comes to tracking things, random associations are not very memorable and I’d inevitably lose the notation. I was constantly opening my notebook and renaming paintings. Plus, at openings, artists are always asked about the names they give to paintings and people were forever asking about a name/painting and I couldn’t remember which painting carried which random tag. More than once I stared blankly and stuttered until the uncomfortable patron moved on.

It has come as a great relief to me that Kerri actually likes to put names on my paintings. Nowadays, my foolproof naming strategy goes like this: “K.Dot, what would you call this painting?” And, without fail, she  always has a response.

“Why did you call this 4 x 4?” she just asked, hoping that the name would spark something to write about on her blog.

“I can’t remember,” I replied, lying outrageously. “What would you call it?” I asked.

She squinched up her face and studied it for a moment. “Slumber,” she said.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on 4 x 4

 

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4 x 4/Slumber ©️ some date in the past and really who knows and who really cares?

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Say Yes To How

This is one of my first test paintings for the yoga series. It's small, maybe 10inches square.

This is one of my first test paintings for the yoga series. It’s small, maybe 10inches square.

I’ve spent much of the past week shooting and cropping photos of my paintings. I’m cataloguing. I’m gearing up to show again.

I took an extended hiatus from showing when I went on my walk-about. Actually, in the few years prior to walking about, I stopped showing except for open studio nights and the few opportunities that found me. I continued to paint. I drew a comic strip. I wrote a book. There was lots and lots of energy output but very little energy to calling attention to my work.

The process of shooting the photographs has been a process of rediscovery: I painted paintings and stored them. More than once, now, I’ve unrolled a canvas and exclaimed, “Ah! I forgot all about you!” It’s a paradox: it’s as if I stumbled upon the work stash of some long ago artist; each roll holds a surprise. Each roll also holds a homecoming.

Early sample from the Yoga series. 18" x 24"

Early sample from the Yoga series. 18″ x 24″

Because I’ve been painting but not showing, I’ve inadvertently created an opportunity! I have an intact series: my yoga paintings. This series is a great gift because I can track my growth, I can trace the development of a technique and a visual stream of consciousness. I can see the seed. I can see the the seed cracking open, the green tendrils that grew from the seed. I can see the blossom. And, there is more to come that remains yet unknown.

When I started the series I had no idea that I was actually starting a series. At the time I was bored with my work. A friend, an acupuncturist, asked me to create some paintings for his office. Bodies in motion. I was messing around with different surfaces so I took the opportunity to play. I thought few people would see the paintings so there was no pressure to produce. I actually practiced what I preach: I played. I loved the mess. The point was the process and not the product. No single painting was an end in itself. There was no thought to being good or investing in any of the games that make art a labored mental exercise. It was fun. It was a discovery path.

The Yoga series all grown up. This piece is  4' x 4'

The Yoga series all grown up. This piece is
4′ x 4′

It continues to be fun. It continues to be a path of discovery. The pieces are becoming more complex; the figures at first were suspended in space. Now, they exist in environments. The pieces started small. Now, they are quite large (and getting bigger).

I’ve been writing these past few weeks about the question “How?” I realized yesterday, as I shot the latest painting in the series, that over the past few years I’ve often asked myself, “How am I going to paint that?” The answer has always been a rich and vital, “I don’t have the vaguest idea! Let’s find out.”

The latest in the series. This piece is almost 5ft x 5ft

The latest in the series. This piece is almost
5ft x 5ft

Peter Block wrote a great little book entitled, The Answer To How is Yes. As it turns out, these paintings are my visual record of how I said and continue to say Yes to How.

Go here for art prints of my yoga series. The newest pieces will be available soon!

 

 

 

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