sizzlin' cecily

I'm going to be obnoxious again and direct you to my other blog. You can see images and read explanations of what I made (to sell, but didn't, sadly) for the reception we held last night.

Okay, now that that's out of the way...I would post those kinds of images here, but since I do have a whole 'nother website and blog devoted to this particular project, I figured I'd be consistent. Now that the show has been officially received (postcards printed and multiples made) I can shift gears and finish a couple of other projects before my review board on December 13th. I'm actually feeling fairly ready in terms of production. I have a few things I'd like to work on a bit more, but mostly, I'll spend much of the next two weeks just thinking about what I've done and how I'd like my board to go, next semester being my last before thesis pressure kicks in. I've got some ideas for what my thesis show will look like (and a super idea for a title, oddly) and I'm feeling like I had a pretty successful semester, but I've still got a lot of work to do to get there.

I haven't blogged much this semester - only eight or nine posts, about a third of which seem to have been largely devoted to television. But I did have a very blogworthy afternoon on Tuesday. As part of a painting seminar I'm in, we were invited to attend an intimate gallery walkthrough over at the MFA with Cecily Brown. She has a mid-career retrospective up right now, originally organized by the Des Moines Art Center. As we walked through, I definitely got the sense that these kinds of retrospective shows are as much for the artists as they are for the public, students, critics, etc., that make up the art-consuming part of the world. She seemed excited to see her work in the space, older paintings next to more recent work, themes recurring and evolving over time, creating all sorts of possibilities for years and years of future work. It was incredibly inspiring and energizing.

I'm a fan of her work, but I have to admit I was apprehensive about meeting her in person. I guess I've never met a famous artist before (although I heard a couple of my faves speak last year, including Ed Ruscha and Kara Walker...but that's different) but I thought it might be like the often disappointing encounters I've heard folks describe after meeting a famous actor. If anything, meeting the extremely engaging artist in person only increased my respect and admiration for her work (and work ethic). I remember being introduced to her paintings as an undergrad, after her first solo show in New York, when these hot young things from London (Jenny Seville's another one) were painting up a storm, a decade or so after painting had been declared dead for the umpteenth time, when everyone else was still gaga for installation and video art, and at a time when I was just getting serious about this stuff, dabbling in a little figure painting myself. So to be able to meet her and hear her talk about her work was definitely a high moment in my academic/art career thus far.

Of course, I think some paintings are better than others. I'm not completely convinced by the more recent, much smaller paintings. I tend to favor the larger works, but I appreciate her reasons for working on a bunch of smaller images. And the question I was too embarassed to ask had a little to do with what she grazed over a number of times in her talk, using animals instead of people in earlier paintings to avoid gender issues, for example. Pretty much everything I read about her brings up her insistent denial that she's taking up a feminist brush, with so many of her resources and inspirations coming from old master paintings and the male-dominated post WWII abstract expressionist tradition. What's most important to her is painting, not that she's a woman painting these kinds of images in this way. And I respect her priorities, but I also think the art world has changed over the last six or seven years (along with the overall political climate) since she first started showing, and that we've become a little lazy when it comes to feminist issues. Undergrads are getting curious about the f-word when older grad students bring it up in critiques. In other words, the younger students don't seem to have a clue about the various waves of the feminist movement (not that I have any idea which wave we're currently in) and its relationship to and effect on visual culture in general. And I think that's kinda scary. So part of me wishes artists like Cecily Brown would take up a feminist brush (or camera, or squeegee, or whatever). It's tricky, that's for sure.

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