Friday, March 18, 2016


This post is dedicated to the older woman artist, the one who keep plugging away without recognition, but with dedication and joy. It looks like we’re finally in fashion, although I had better work fast. Trends come and go with increasing rapidity in the art world. At one time, you could count on being hot for several years, now it seems like only months and you’re a ‘has-been.’ A few years ago, if you were Black (preferably with street creds) you had it made; next was transgender, (the more convoluted the better), and now it looks like older women are in…..finally! However, by the time fame and fortune gets to me, it will be too late. I’ll be doddering in a nursing home or dead.

What started me thinking about the subject was an article I read in the NYTimes a couple of months ago about the sculptor, Louise Bourgeois, She was one of the few role models I had in the art world: a woman who had a fairly conventional life style, like mine, with a house, a husband and children. Maybe it could be done. Most of the successful women artists I knew of only had non-traditional relationships with men (or women) who supported them financially or physically The article didn’t mention, however, that Bourgeois’ husband, was a prominent art historian and critic with a wide range of connections in the art world. In addition, she didn’t live in the suburbs (the kiss of death in the art world for a man or a woman) They owned a town house on West 20th St. in NYC where they entertained frequently. After his death she acquired a huge loft space in a factory in Brooklyn along with an assistant! (what I would give for an assistant!), doing her best work and reaching her greatest prominence in later years when she was alone, - without having to make dinner for anyone. I “googled” a great quote from her: “I have been to hell and back and let me tell you, it was wonderful.” My kind of woman!

There’s another Louise whose work I admired: Louise Nevelson.  She died in 1988, almost 90 years old. She too didn’t become prominent until later in life, but led a completely different life than Bourgeois, much more bohemian, leaving behind any semblance of domesticity for an artist’s life. She notoriously left her husband and parked her child with her parents so as to be free to create. Like Bourgeois, she didn’t achieve her major success until later in life with her marvelous giant installations, assemblages of “found” wood painted black.
While I admired her work – and the way she put herself together with three pairs of false eyelashes and floor length sable coats – she wasn’t much of a role model. I never had the kind of ego – or self centeredness - that would permit me - no matter how much I wanted to have a career as an artist - to abandon my family.

And still another Louise showed up in today’s NYTimes, one I had never heard of before, an Abstract Expressionist painter, Louise Fishman. She’s having her first major museum show at age 77, a retrospective at the Neuberger Museum in Purchase, N.Y. “I’m 77 and I’m at the height of my powers” Ms. Fishman was quoted as saying. “How did this happen? As my grandmother would say, “Who knew?” 

When my friend, the sculptor Reuben Nakian was asked how you become a famous artist, he replied, “You have to live long enough.” The question is “How long is long enough?”

Friday, March 4, 2016


4'x3', charcoal on brown paper
In the 1920s, a new movement appeared on the art scene, Surrealism, literally, a form of Super Realism based on dreams and hallucinatory states. Unlike the cubists, the expressionists and the abstractionists of the previous decade, the Surrealists did not reorder reality, but created a world of their own. As is the case in all art movements, it coincided with what was going on in literature and science; psychoanalysis, with its examination of dreams, was particularly important. Manifestos, mostly unintelligible rants (at least in translation) came fast and furious as a bunch of ‘wildmen’ rallied to the surrealist banner. They wrote poetry, plays, fought with each other over philosophical fine points and were generally a disagreeable and unlikable lot. Too egocentric for politics, they reflected the cynicism of Post World War I Europe. With few exceptions, their paintings were technically adept, “hyper-realistic” images of a world that never existed except in their imagination. Dali, Magritte, Duchamp and de Chirico were among the more prominent names in the movement. I was brought up to dislike the Surrealists, considering them brilliant but morally empty. Who knew I would end up being one?

4'x3', charcoal on brown paper
If I had to pick one who influenced me most, I would have to say de Chirico, although I wasn’t aware of it when I started on my current series. The “rooftops” started as semi-realistic studies of city water towers and cornices. The more I worked on them, the more unreal they became. Pipes turned into menacing, robotic figures, arched window openings revealed nothing but sky and clouds behind them. Mysterious people stood alone on rooftops while menacing crows flew overhead. Blue skies appeared everywhere, even at street level or in reflecting puddles. Everything came from the subconscious; the creative FLOW process at work. Is it as easy as I make it sound? No; and there’s no way I could produce the work I am doing without decades of experience. My left hand is now so skillful it reads my mind. I feel blessed to have lived long enough to reach this level of accomplishment and when things are going well, I literally bounce around the room.

I know you are going to laugh at me, but I am convinced that one of the reasons artists don’t make any money is because they are having too much fun. No one wants to pay someone else to play.

P.S. I own a great book of surrealist games designed to be played at (preferably) drunken parties to unlock the imagination (the surrealists gave great parties, as you can imagine.) One of them is called The Exquisite Corpse; it has been around forever and most of you have played it without realizing its origin. You take a piece of paper, fold it horizontally into six parts and pass it around. The first person draws a head, the second a chest and so on. Since the paper is folded over, no one knows what the previous people have drawn. At the end, the paper is unfolded and a surrealist figure appears. Voila!

Happy dream states!