May 26, 2018

portraiture, old age and public art

I'm just thinking about how the new mural features this portrait of an elderly woman from the University Heights neighborhood. When I first started painting, I did several portraits of older people. I've always loved Tiepollo's etchings of old men and Rembrandt's astonishing portraits of the elderly. But the galleries I worked with could never do anything with this work of mine. Public art, when you have a chance to do it, seems like a good place to include the spectrum of human experience.

the mural in process

So often I find myself in love with the simple shapes that begin to suggest figuration, but leave so much to the eye. I wonder if there could be a mural that uses imagery that only goes this far?

if it weren't for yogurt containers there would be no murals...

August 6, 2017

"ever I saw your face" interactive portrait installation

A video installation on Central Avenue in downtown Albuquerque. Using our phones we photograph willing subjects and project their digitally altered portraits onto unoccupied buildings.

Our digital manipulation of the photos allows us to give each portrait a kind of narrative arc: as we watch, images emerge out of the darkness and are consumed in light.

The rotating portraits not only create a visually compelling gallery of downtown’s diversity and richness, they invite us to see one another. In this way, the project functions as an antidote to fear. When we are afraid we tend to stop looking, stop making eye contact; we pull back; we look away. This installation encourages looking; it engages people. It nurtures a sense of community in which everyone has a place.

As if we are seeing our faces for the first time.

a little book on drawing

Here's a little book on drawing that includes several of my drawings.

September 13, 2016

something new

mark horst "all these things no. 10" oil in canvas. 30" x 30" 2016

October 18, 2015

August 28, 2015

you must have a room...

"You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen."

Joseph Campbell on having a “bliss station,“ in The Power of Myth [via Austin Kleon]

August 3, 2015

juried show--east end arts, August 2015

"here in this place, we flesh no. 1" 24 x 24" oil on canvas

so I don't enter too many of these painting competition things, but here's one I did.
4th National Juried Exhibition East End Arts

March 29, 2015

painting and photos--an argument with John Seed

* see note below

I recently received the following call for submissions for an issue of "Poets and Artists" curated by John Seed, professor of art and art history at Mt. San Jacinto College in Southern California:

The Canadian artist and filmmaker Jack Chambers has defined Perceptualism in visual art as involving “a profound reflection of primary sensory experience, not simply a reproduction of it.” For my curated issue of Poets and Artists I am seeking paintings that are true “perceptual paintings” which emanate from the senses. In particular I hope to discover paintings that demonstrate the ways that sensory experiences can be heightened and amplified in the painting process. Please submit only works that have their beginnings in observation and which do not rely on photos as references. Feel free – and even encouraged – to submit works that show how emotion and imagination can alter perceptually based works.

I had a negative emotional reaction to John Seed’s description of “perceptual painting”—which has something to do with my own questions about using photos as a basis for my work. So I thought I might to use what he says here to clarify some of the issues I have about the senses and painting from photos.

1. Seed’s definition of a “true ‘perceptual painting’” as one which “emanates from the senses” implies that paintings can be related to the senses either directly or indirectly.
This seems true to me. Some paintings are not at all interested in observation. Andy Warhol’s ‘figurative’ paintings do not reflect a struggle to “see” Jackie Onassis or a can of soup, but rather to play with her image and its associations in the popular culture.

2. Seed further suggests that he is interested in work that “emanate[s] from” rather than “reproduce[s]” sensory experience.
Here he takes a further step and suggests, I think, that among those paintings which seem to relate directly to sensory experience, some merely “reproduce” a sensory experience.
Seed doesn’t explain this distinction, but what I imagine he’s thinking here is the difference between an artist standing in front of a model painting and the same artist standing in front of a photo of a model and painting. And, if this is so, he’s also suggesting that the artist using a photo is only “reproducing” a sensory experience.

3. Seed confirms this line of thought, when, at the end of the call he says:

Please submit only works that have their beginnings in observation and which do not rely on photos as references

Here Seed’s distinction between direct sensory “observation” and second hand sensory reproduction which “[relies] on photos” is made explicit.

I find this view of painting from a photo to be completely wrong and fundamentally insulting.

I work from photos:
a. because working from photos relieves me of the complex emotional response I have to working in front of another person. Having a model in the room with me actually obscures my ability to observe clearly and respond directly.

b. because working from photos allows me to observe details of human expression and interaction which I simply cannot discern in the moment of their occurrence. In this way photos allow me to have a very direct experience of events which I could not experience without them.

c. because [and here I’m getting more vague] working from photos allows me to observe without naming things. My immediate or “direct” sensory experience is often the most superficial. My initial response to a scene I wish to paint is to sort out “figure” and “ground” or “background” and “foreground.” These sorts of distinctions are precisely what I often work to overcome in my painting. The longer I work with an image the more connections I begin to see between this eye and that corner of a chair or this flesh tone and that shadow on the wall.

So to me the idea that we could distinguish between paintings that “have their beginnings in observation” and those that “rely on photos” is completely misguided and deeply spurious. The important question for me as a painter is WHAT I want to observe and whether working from a photo is the best way to explore that observation.

*I just have to note that the photo accompanying the call shows John Seed standing with Caitlin Karolczak's beautiful painting "Between my Chest" at the Center for Contemporary Art, Las Vegas—a work which almost certainly relies on photo references.

about me

My photo

These studio notes are scraps of poetry and ideas that feed my work as a painter. I hope they establish a bit of context for the paintings and my intention in making them. Whatever I paint, I’m trying to create some space for us to sit with the questions that are not meant to be answered.