Dear Reader, before I left Davis, my neighbor lent me a book : Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City—Adventures In the Art of Being Alone. Laing discusses the work of Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, David Wojnarowicz and Henry Darger, all artists who worked from deep loneliness and, through art, transformed isolation into forms of intimacy. This is a difficult, challenging book, but a rewarding one. Meanwhile, my time alone is transforming itself by increasing social interactions.
February 11 : Open Studio
If loneliness is to be defined as a desire for intimacy, then included within that is the need to express one’s self and to be heard, to share thoughts, experiences and feelings. p75 Olivia Laing, The Lonely City.
In Mendocino, 2nd Saturday is gallery night. In conjunction with the new show in the MAC gallery, artists-in-residence are asked to host open studios for the community. I think I should pick up a bit. My studio has become a true work space. Every surface is covered with some experiment or work in progress—much of which I’m not inclined to talk about.
My first visitor appears early, just after lunch. He’s elderly, a little unsteady on his feet, out of breath, but determined to take a look around. He says that years ago he was a painter. Then, one night, away from home, he lost his studio and everything in it to fire. He admits that he never had the heart to take up painting again. Artists often speak about the pain of having to neglect artwork at one time or another during their lives. This man lost the thread completely.
Later in the day, others drop by to look at work in progress, to breathe in a whiff of oil paint, listen to music and savor the mess that accompanies art making. I decide to stop cleaning up.
Late in the evening a husband and wife wander in to look around. They have driven from Ukiah for a brief Mendocino escape. They take it in—the work tables, the unfinished paintings, the paint tubes and pigment sticks. Moving toward the door, the husband stops to look silently at the deep browns and luminous pinks and greens of the large nine piece Landscape Grid. The Album Leaf is plays softly in the bright white studio and night is pressing in against the glass door. “Oh!”, he says. “This is it—the whole thing is art—the studio, the music, the colors of the work—everything we’re experiencing.”
It’s time to close up. We shake hands. My visitors have given me the gift of paying attention—everything I could ask for in an open studio.
February 13: Art Talk and Action
Intimacy can’t exist if the participants aren’t willing to make themselves known, to be revealed.
—Laing, TLC, p75
The four of us fine artists in residency have gathered for wine, cheese and conversation. Here we are: Linda Ryan, who works in abstracted landscape shapes and colors with poured acrylics, Linda Cloonon, a watercolorist whose still, air filled representational images suspend time, and Rogene Manas, who collages paper and drawings into a series of powerful women, “Everyday Saints”, and me—painting sense impressions of this place with layers oil paint and paper. Three of us are Californians; Rogene is coming from Oregon. We all have long histories with art. So what do we talk about? The workings of life—how we live, how we work, how we manage relationships around an obsession that is essentially solitary.
It all comes around to the possibility of working together—maybe pouring paint with Linda R, taking each others’ workshops, but finally we center on the press in my studio and conclude that it needs to be put to use ASAP.
On Tuesday morning, we do just that. I have plates and etching ink. We share watercolors and gum arabic. Nick Collins, a local printmaker, looks in, drawn by the energy of experimentation. No one is attached to outcomes. We all work right through lunch. It’s mid afternoon when we survey the chaos as we prepare to gather our materials, our prints, our many failures and some few shining successes. Linda Cloonan laughs and sums it up for all of us: “Now that was art making!