Friday, July 26, 2013


The artist Walter de Maria died yesterday. 

I saw this wonderful work at LACMA last year. It took up the entire Resnick Pavilion there and was meant to catch the light in different ways. I always enjoyed de Maria's work- the Broken Kilometer and Earth Room in Soho in NYC were like art touchstones. They were just There, through the years, supported by the Dia Foundation, which also supports Lightning Field here in New Mexico. I have yet to see it- you have to make an appointment, then they pick you up and take you to a little cabin, where you stay overnight and are free to wander the landscape and enjoy the de Maria piece. 400 polished stainless steel poles, set in the ground in such a way that they are perfectly aligned at the top. An incredible feat of planning and engineering. Maybe not like the Great Pyramids, but something that inspires awe. 

De Maria's work was about the finite and the infinite at the same time. The work was strictly delineated by imagined or built borders, or it was titled by its size (as in "Broken Kilometer.") But the scale was such that you almost couldn't see its end. A horizon would form and you would be aware that yes, there is an end, but the view seems limitless and overwhelming. He was a singular artist- I can't think of anyone who has created work that is quite like that, and he will be missed.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

where does inspiration come from?

Someone posted this on Facebook the other day and I saved it. With all the controversy and discussion about appropriating images, it's easy to feel caught on one side or other of a bright line of so-called originality.

I remember one time hearing Chuck Close speak. He said that he, like all artists, stood on the shoulders of all who had gone before him. To me that was not just about clearing a path, though that's a part of it, not just about being a mentor, though that's a part of it too; but also that we look at other work, we digest, we ponder. Maybe those guys who painted on the walls in Lascaux didn't have any other art to look at, but since then, we have.

The internet has given us a great gift here, but it's a bit of a hot coal, and it also requires some responsibility. I live in Santa Fe. I get to New York, to California, and other places that have some terrific museums and galleries, but for me scrolling through tumblr is great fun and sometimes I come across something that really hits me. (Often, actually.) I say it requires responsibility because sliding an image onto your desktop is one thing; reposting it somewhere, such as pinterest or tumblr, is another, and I would never post something without a link to its author's website. (There is software that allows you to embed this information, invisibly, into your image. See digimarc.)

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I came across the work of Marisa Merz. I can't link you to a website because she has none. I think she may be in her 80's- she is the widow of Mario Merz, and both of them are part of the Italian group of artists engaged in what they called arte povera. She has been honored this year at the Venice Biennale. She shows with Barbara Gladstone in New York. I wish I had seen that show!

So here is a piece of hers, a small one. There are so many things I love about this little piece. I love the apparent casualness of it- almost like she found a bunch of wood and piled it up together. Notice how the image and the wood that extends beyond it is all pushed to the left and the use of gold on such a humble work. She used the wood (all bits of found wood, as I understand) to extend the diagonal in the image- or maybe it was the other way around. There's not a lot of color. Then it's just put on this funny base of sorts, and being placed on a fancy shmancy marble lintel adds a bit of humor and contrast.

Looking at images of hers made me think about how I might work with paper and wood in a less polished way. I really love the nature of paper, and paper comes from wood. Why not combine them? And then ink and gold leaf have their own materiality. Also, I just had a framer possibly destroy a piece by stupid accident- why have to deal with framers at all? Now you might ask, how do you protect and dust a paper piece that isn't framed? And I say: carefully.