Serendipity and Collage

November 2, 2012

The meaning of ser en dip I ty: The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: “a fortunate stroke of serendipity”.

I recently posted a blog about visiting the Studio Museum in Harlem (NY) to see the Bearden Project (closed Oct. 21, 2012).

2011-2012 has been a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the artist’s birth with museum and gallery exhibitions all across the United States. Bearden was one of the great artists of the 20th century and is best know for his collage paintings. Read about his life and art at the Bearden Foundation.

I knew in advance the exhibition at the Studio Museum didn’t include works by Romare Bearden (1911-1988). It was the 3rd and final installation of the Bearden Project, with paintings, collage, mixed media and sculpture done by mostly young contemporary artists who were inspired by Bearden as they were growing up.

The link to the Bearden Project website allows you to see all the works and read (or listen to) comments about how each artist was influenced by Bearden.  It also includes images of works by Bearden each artist selected for the Project.

The trip to the Studio Museum was a bonanza. There were 4 important exhibitions.  All the shows closed on Oct. 21, 2012.

Ebony G. Paterson, Untitled Species I

The lobby gallery featured postcards by 4 artists in an installation titled Harlem Postcards. Museum visitors were invited to take a card. You can see the cards and send a postcard from the website link.

The main event was the exhibition titled Caribbean: Crossroads of the World, which was organized by El Museo del Barrio in collaboration with the Queens Museum of Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

I kept returning to look at the mixed media work on paper by Ebony G. Patterson, Untitled Species I, 2010-2011 (see above). It’s cut papers and fabric embellished with glitter, 62 x 50 inches. It was fascinating to see the cut-outs, glitter and embellished surfaces.

I also got to see the exhibit titled Illuminations: Expanding the Walls 2012 (photography).

After checking out the Bearden Project on the lower level, I walked upstairs to the mezzanine to see Primary Sources: Artists in Residence 2011-12.

What Serendipity. The 3 Artists in Residence included Meleko Mokgosi, Xaviera Simmons, and Njideka Akunyili.

The exhibition catalog says each artist uses appropriated source material and imagery and reinterprets and re-contextualizes content through different media: painting, photography, drawing (and collage). The Museum curator, Lauren Haynes, wrote: “Through their investigations of primary sources, either their own life stories, political histories of nations in flux, historical texts, or images found on the internet, these artists create artworks that will themselves become primary sources about contemporary art in the 2nd decade of the 21st century.

Meleko Mokgosi, Sikhuselo-Sembumbulu, 2012

The image by Meleko Mokgosi, seen above, was a grand painting in multiple parts that wrapped around the gallery walls. The artist uses wide-angle perspective and large-scale imagery. Many images are appropriated from wedding blogs, newspapers (from Botswana), magazines and his own photographs. The catalog says Mokgosi is a conceptual painter who uses the language of film and works like a film director to create his large scale tableaux – painted montages with figures, objects, furniture and still lives where his frames, like movie sets, fade one into the other.

Xaviera Simmons, Index 3 Composition 2, 2012

The image by Xaviera Simmons, seen above, is a color photograph, titled Index 3 Composition 2, 40×55 inches. In the catalog essay, Luc Sante writes: “Her alchemical touch transforms every kind of rag and bone, variously drab or cold or ponderous or high-hat in both their original states and artistic implications, turning them all into vehicles for adventure…The entire African diaspora is contained in those clusters of pictures and objects clothes-pinned to a tumbling skein…”

Amazing Collage

I got to view the most amazing collage paintings I’ve seen in years by the artist Njideka Akunyili.

It was a perfect example of serendipity – I went to the Studio Museum to see the Bearden Project, and in the last gallery I visited, I found the collage paintings by Njideka Akunyili.

Njideka Akunyili, Witch Doctor Revisited

Her work took my breath away. It is so masterfully done.

The image above, titled Witch Doctor Revisited, 2011, is acrylic, charcoal, pastel, colored pencil, collage and Xerox transfer on paper, 76×51 inches.

In a review, Alex Fialho wrote (Art Fag City, October 17, 2012): “… what makes Akunyili’s work the principal success of Primary Sources (is that) at just 28 years old, Akunyili seems to have already fleshed out a practice that recasts a disparate array of sources and materials into a cohesive aesthetic sensibility.”

He says Akunyili’s work loses much of its tactility and detailed nuance in reproduction. You have to see it in person. I was so lucky to see her work at the Studio Museum. I believe she will be an important artist with a great future.

Njideka Akunyili, Efulefu: The Lost One

The image above by Njideka Akunyili is titled Efulefu: The Lost One, 2011, is acrylic, charcoal, colored pencil, collage and Xerox transfer on paper, 40×30 inches.

Rose Oluronke Ojo writes about the autobiographic content of this painting in the Primary Sources catalog essay titled “The Dance.” She says: “Akunyili’s series of multimedia works reference multiple discursive formations, as well as supposed opposites: black African and white American, European painting traditions and traditional African art, conservative African courtship rituals and an interracial couple in coital bliss…This dance of the opposites in Akunyili’s work is reflective of the multicultural, multi-local nature of contemporary African art.”

Njideka Akunyili was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1983. She received her MFA from Yale University School of Art (New Haven, Ct) in 2011. She participated in the Bearden Project earlier in 2011 at the Studio Museum.

A final review: Holland Cotter wrote about Primary Sources: Artists in Residence 2011-2012 in the NY Times (July 19, 2012). He starts with Njideka Akunyili and mentions the autobiographical content in her large collage paintings. He comments on the political content in Mokgosi’s works, and has a lot to say about Xaviera Simmons, who – he says “has been playing audacious photographic games with the African in African-American, by scrambling categories like ethnic authenticity and historical objectivity.”

Your comments are Welcome

Please let me know if you were able to see the exhibitions at the Studio Museum in Harlem and comment on the artists I’ve written about here.


Last weekend I visited the Studio Museum in Harlem to see the exhibition Bearden 100, a centennial tribute to the great 20th century artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988). What I saw was the 3rd and final installment of Bearden 100. It closes October 21, 2012.

I promised to write about the Bearden 100 exhibition in a previous blog about a Bearden workshop I lead on August 5, 2012 at the Newark Museum titled Conjur Woman: Portrait in Collage – inspired by the artist Romare Bearden.

The workshop was offered in conjunction with the exhibition Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections at the Newark Museum (closed August 19, 2012).

Romare Bearden, Conjur Woman, 1964

The image above is by Romare Bearden and titled Conjur Woman. It was completed in 1964. It’s only 9×7 inches, and was created with snippets from newspapers and magazines such as Ebony and the Saturday Evening Post.

Bearden turned his tiny collage into a huge black and white print (called a Photostat). The Newark Museum had small works and large prints on display. The large black and white Conjur Woman Photostat is in the collection of the Studio Museum.

Read more about the meaning of the Conjur Woman and more about my workshops.


Here’s a link to see images of the 22 works at the Museum. The link is from the Bearden Foundation.

I was drawn to several works.

One was a figure by Elia Alba titled Portrait of a Young Girl, 2012 (see the image below).

Elia Alba, Portrait of a Young Girl, 2012

It’s a 3D figure in a prayer-like pose.  She wrote: It wasn’t just Bearden’s collage, but his merging of cultural and artistic practices that left the strongest impression on me.

I really liked a collage by Noah Davis titled The Frogs (2011) seen below.

Noah Davis, The Frogs, 2011


It looks like collage with many magazine papers and fractured faces (it’s definitely inspired by Bearden media and technique).

I was drawn to a mixed media 3D work by Xenobia Bailey, titled Endless Love: Conjur Kit, 2012 (see below).

Xenobia Bailey, Endless Love: Conjure Kit

I love the fact that the artist named her work Conure Kit – maybe she is inspired by all the Conjur Women in Bearden’s oeuvre.

The artist wrote: I love the continuum that his (Bearden’s) collages have to African-American quilt-makers and musicians. Mr. Bearden constructs everything in his artwork as if he is patching together the idea of the New African in North America.


Visit the website for the Bearden 100 show. See works by Bearden and see works by artists in the 3 shows at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

See #66: Bearden, In the Garden 1974 (image below). It includes red striped fabric on a figure, and abraded painted papers.

Romare Bearden, In the Garden, 1974

The Bearden image was selected by Tanekeya Word, a visual artist living in NYC.

See her mixed media work (below) titled Pretty Dope-a-licious Cameo #11, acrylic paint, gouache, watercolor, acrylic ink, gold leaf, embroidery, floss, pastels, latex  paint on watercolor paper, 2012.

Tanekeya Word, Pretty Dope-a-licious Cameo #11

Willie Cole selected the collage by Bearden, #57 Gospel Song 1969 (below) It includes multiple pieces of abraded papers, a gray background, and shows what Bearden did to his media to create unique surface texture. It also shows how he used pieces of papers to create a sense of dimension, texture, and rhythm.

Romare Bearden, Gospel Song, 1969

Willie Cole, a Newark, NJ artist, said he selected this work because it sang to him when he saw it.

See his work tiled Sole to Sole (below). Cole works with found media and creates/constructs metaphor about race in prints, sculpture and other media.

Willie Cole, Sole to Sole

Cole describes himself: Today I am a Perceptual Engineer.  I create new ways of seeing old things. and by doing so  inspire new ways of thinking.  I’ve also been described as an Ecological Mechanic, a Sacred Clown, a Transformer, the hardest working man in Shoe Business, The Original Iron Man, formerly known as the Dog Man, and once known as Vincent Van Black.

Willie Cole is one of my favorite contemporary artists.

More BEARDEN 100

The Studio Museum plans to extend the Bearden Project. They say:

The site will be frequently updated with new participating artists, sharing their story of inspiration and will include a high-resolution image of their artwork. We hope you’ll share your own artwork, stories, and comments with us by email.

Read more…

Romare Bearden was involved in founding The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Cinque Gallery (initially funded by the Ford Foundation). Bearden and 2 other artists – Norman Lewis and Ernest Crichlow – established Cinque to support younger minority artists.

Bearden helped found the Black Academy of Arts and Letters in 1970. He was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1972.

He is recognized as one of the most creative and original visual artists of the 20th Century. He worked in many different media, including painting and printmaking, but is best known for his richly textured collages

Collage Exploded

September 6, 2012

I walked into the last gallery at the Whitney Museum by mistake. I was there to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibition. So I saw the last works first – large flat acrylic polymer paintings in flourescent colors – instead of the early small, intimate collages.

Kusama, Encounter with a Flowering Season

Yayoi Kusama is well known for her use of dense patterns of polka dots and nets. She is known for her work in various media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, film, performance and immersive installation. The image above, seen at the Whitney Museum of American Art, is synthetic polymer on canvas, 51×52 inches. Image, courtesy the Internet.

I have never seen Yayoi Kusama’s works before. She was born in Japan in 1929 and came to the United States in 1957. She quickly became involved in avant-garde “happenings” and rose to prominence in the art world. She is considered a precursor of the pop art, minimalist and feminist art movements and influenced contemporary artists like Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. Read about her life and work

Yayoi Kusama in a red wig

Many of her early works were installation, performance, and ephemeral. Many disappeared.

She left the United States and returned to Japan in the early 1970s. Kusama is now acknowledged as one of the most important artists alive in Japan today.

Kusama, Late Night Chat is Filled with Dreams

My first impression of the dense painting installation was: Too many. Too busy. Too close – OVERLOAD.

The image above, titled Late Night Chat is Filled with Dreams, was in the first gallery I entered with all the recent paintings. It’s synthetic polymer on canvas, 64×64 inches and was completed in 2009. Image courtesy the Internet. The artist said she would like to finish 2000 paintings before she dies. This painting was about number 196.


Kusama, Mirror Room Pumpkin

The image above, titled Mirror Room-Pumpkin is an installation Kusama completed in 1991. It is made with mirrors wood and paint to create a dizzying effect. Kusama wanted the dots to appear to go on and on into infinity. The room is orange, like a pumpkin. It’s 69x69x69 inches. The work is now part of the permanent collection of the Hara Museum in Tokyo, Japan.

Kusama was the featured artist for the Japanese Pavilion at the 1993 Venice Bienniale. She produced a mirror room filled with pumpkin sculptures.

I walked through the galleries and saw a variety of different media, including an exploding chair sculpture (see below). The sculpture communicated a visceral, phallic, raw energy. It was soft and also sly. I liked it. It made me uneasy. It made me think of soft sculptures by Louise Bourgeois. Naughty.

Kusama, Accumulations

Continuing through the galleries, I saw psychedelic dotty installations. Kusama’s work is about dots.

Kusama, Air Mail Stickers

The image above is titled Air Mail Stickers (1962). It’s a large collage on canvas, 71×67 inches, in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. The entire surface of the canvas is covered with hundreds of air mail stickers. Kusama had to lick each sticker to get it to stick to the canvas. When the collage was created, stamps were not self-adhesive like today. This work is included in the current exhibition. Photo courtesy the Internet.

Continuing on to the early works, I saw paintings, photo collage and collage. Everything was getting smaller and more intimate. The collages and photo collages were really wonderful. The image below is a small collage, titled Self Obliteration. There were many other collages and photo collages. Each one was a unique work, and was more narrative and less abstract that the later works.

Kusama, Self Obliteration

I didn’t get to see the installation Fireflies on the Water on the first level at the Whitney Museum (I was too late to get a ticket into the space). Fireflies (owned by the Whitney and included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial) uses water and mirrors to reflect 150 tiny hanging lights. Only one person is admitted into the installation at a time.

The exhibition will continue through September 30, 2012.


I titled this blog Collage Exploded. That was a reaction I had when I saw the exhibition.

Collage is about putting lots of things together and that’s the experience I got when I walked though the galleries. The exhibition was a collage. Probably because the artist worked in so many different media and everything is included.

When projects are unfinished, it’s good to continue.

So we continued with Collage All Mixed Up – the previous class project at the Pelham Art Center where I teach Thursday evenings.

I wrote about the all mixed up project in the previous blog, and talked about the Exquisite Corpse, a multi-part poem or image that was the basis for the project.

The class is titled Embellish An Image: Play with Collage. We have a project each week, sometimes determined by me, sometimes suggested by one of the class members.  Sometimes we don’t finish the project during the class.

We cut and tear. We glue. We layer. We play. We experiment. We embellish. We get very involved and forget about time. Then we finish the project at home or we continue the following week.

Here’s a bit of information: when you make art over a period of time, when there’s a break and you return to the work, the second sweep will often change the look of the work. It can become a new work (different from the earlier work) and that’s ok.


The image below shows a work that includes drawing and collage that was completed over 2 weeks. It was embellished with drawing.

class collage project

The central figure is in 3 parts all mixed up: the feet are male athlete’s feet. The body is a fashion figure in a pink jacket. The face is a lovable white dog (a poodle?).

The drawn lines connect everything, including a connection to the trailing flower stems in the paper collage piece at the bottom. There is a wonderful sense of white space and hand drawing.

This image truly expresses the charm and personality of the person who created it.

The project Collage All Mixed Up (the Exquisite Corpse) is really my attempt to introduce my students to Surrealism, an art movement that began in the early 1920s.

Surrealism includes collage. Many famous artists of the 20th century were Surrealists, including Max Ernst, Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte and Andre Breton (a poet known as the founder of Surrealism).

The Surrealist writers and artists met in cafes, played collaborative drawings games, and developed automatic drawing as a means to express the subconscious. Works included unexpected visual (or literary) juxtapositions or materials and imagery via collage.   Read about surrealism.


The image below shows another work that was completed over 2 weeks. The first week the student spent her time locating papers and cutting them out precisely. She never got to gluing things down – which served her well, because she added papers the second week, and found new ways to use the papers, and the work changed dramatically.

class collage project

I talked to the students about how collage can be multi-layered.  I think placing a background collage layer is a good way to start a collage. The background can be a large single piece or multiple pieces of paper. The papers can be found in books, prints or magazines, can be fabric, can be photographs or photocopies, can be painted papers, drawings or prints.

The main image that sits on top of the background collage will be more interesting and seem to have more depth.

Notice the image above. Papers were collected from art and fashion magazines. The images are layered.  Notice the yellow and black papers that sit under the model’s legs – to create contrast so you see the figure. Notice how the student cut diagonal patterns along the edge of the background papers and tore edges on other papers to move your eye around. The colors are all related, and there’s a lot of energy in the design.

The image below shows another work that was completed over 2 weeks. Some of the collage was glued down the first week, but most of the time the first week was spent finding the right magazine papers.

class collage project

I like to stress design principles in the class – like repeating shapes in various sizes (scale) and finding papers in a range of colors that show different hues and values. The variations make the composition much more interesting. Finding papers with pattern and drawing adds more interest.


We talked in the fist class about a narrative approach to collage. I suggested students pick a word or a phrase and find text and images, then create a story collage. It’s another good way to begin.

Notice how the blues and reds range from subdued to saturated color, from opaque to gradient and patterned color. The round objects, the wheel in red and blue, the fish and the sunlit water (see the tilted blue square on the left) lead your eye around and through the composition. Like the neon orange fish, you are traveling through the space. That’s good. There is a wonderful juxtaposition of the various elements, lots of layering, and many words to tell the STORY.


The image below shows a work that was completed in a single class session.

class collage project

The collage was made with magazine papers, hand made black and white striped paper and text. It’s multi-layered and includes a lot of different paper elements. This student especially likes to make abstract art with bold color, high contrast, and geometric design.  I told her I liked the juxtaposition of cut and torn papers, curved and straight shapes. There’s a lot of movement under, over, around, across, off the edge and back in again. Stripes make it work even better.

The image below is a voyage to an exotic place. The student found papers that suited her green sensibility (at the time of the class) as well as papers that included patterns and stripes to go with the hand-made black and white striped paper I brought to the class. This collage has multiple layers of paper. The striped paper is part of the under layer of the collage. The cut and torn magazine papers create geometric abstraction, suggest natural landscape and also include peekaboo graphic images that surprise.

class collage project


Did you notice that everyone did a different work? I love that. In my next blog (for the next project) I will include images by more class members.

Please post you questions, if you want to know more about the papers, resources or projects.


July 12, 2012

The Exquisite Corpse was the theme for last week’s collage class – Embellish An Image Play With Collage – at the Pelham Art Center.

What is the Exquisite Corpse?

It’s a multi-part poem or image.

The Exquisite Corpse was very popular in the early 20th century with Surrealist poets and visual artists.

Exquisite Corpse is a collective collage (a group project) with words or images. In France, it’s called Cadavre Exquis.

If the collage was poetry, each person wrote a phrase on a sheet of paper, folded the paper to conceal what they had written, and passed the paper to the next player to add a new phrase.

If the collage was visual art, each person drew on a sheet of paper, folded the paper to conceal their drawing, and passed the paper to the next player. No one was allowed to peek until the game was completed and the project was complete.

The image below is in 4 parts and from Tammy Christel’s Jackson Hole art blog (Abstract Art in Wyoming at the J.H. Muse Gallery).

4 part exquisite corpse

An Exquisite Corpse image could be disconcerting – and it was meant to be. The Surrealists held the view that human nature is irrational fundamentally. Surrealist artists include Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Joan Miro and Andre Masson.  Read more

See the image below by Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976). Ernst titled his collage Santa Conversazione (1921) and assembled the collage with fragments  of images from encyclopedias, commercial catalogs and photographs. He included birds and a button. The juxtaposition of images and the title make the work confrontational and give it the Surrealist edge.

Max Ernst, Santa Conversazione

I brought the book ALL MIXED UP by Carin Berger to inspire the class. It’s a mix and match book.

The image below shows one layout page in the book with the words Robot Balances Playfully opposite illustrations. The author says the book allows you to create over 13,000 characters. I like the selection of words. I think they can jump-start the creative collage process.

pages in All Mixed Up by Carin Berger


I did my own sample collage called Robot Balances Playfully. See image below.

my collage

I had an image of machinery – a meter? It always knew it would become a face.

I played with the size of the original, scanned and reduced it so it would fit on the paper background (it’s the inside lining of a business envelope). I cut out a mouth from a Vogue Magazine model’s face. I cut out 2 eyes (actually they were breasts in a Picasso abstract painting reproduced in a recent issue of Art in America Magazine).

That became the top section – a Robot’s face.

I found an image of a seesaw online and added color to the black and white background.  I like the fact that it’s graphic. It became the middle section and represents the robot’s midsection – and the word Balances.

I found an image of clown’s shoes online and added them to papers for the bottom section. The clown’s shoes stand in for the word Playfully.

Even though the class asked to do the Exquisite Corpse project, they didn’t do it and they didn’t finish the class project.

Finding images and cutting out images was time consuming (it takes a lot of time to find the right images). Many of the images were the wrong scale – too large.

I spoke with students about how to begin their collage and recommended placing background papers first to define the 3 separate segments. I thought it would help get organized.

I think it is much easier to begin a collage with background papers and then add images. They all wanted to work on the stark white substrate paper.


The 3 images below are collages in a series titled Trouble. Each is a variation on the preceding one, and each has one element in common – the torso (middle section) is the same.

my collage titled Trouble 6

I found background papers in art magazines. I found figures, faces, hands and shoes in fashion magazines. I found text everywhere. I resized images to get the right scale. I scanned composite images, printed them on good paper, and added more collage in smaller or larger scale.

my collage titled Trouble 11

The image above includes a grid of drawings in the background with the figure and text collaged over.

my collage titled Trouble 2

I am reading a book now titled Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction,  by David Hopkins (Oxford University Press). It’s an historic overview and a good read. The author says for many people Dada and Surrealism represent not so much movements in 20th-century art history but “modern art” incarnate – a defining modernist sensibility. Artists assembled new structures from bits of paper (Kurt Schwitters, 1887-1948) or from pre-existing objects (Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968).

In 21st -century America, supersaturated with imagery and concept, Duchamp and the readymade aesthetic still rules.



May 11, 2011

I was fascinated when I read that the French artist, Pierre Bonnard (1867 – 1947) kept a diary that commented on the weather and recorded the shoes he wore each day. How interesting is that?

I never kept a diary because I didn’t want to keep a record that somebody could read. However, I am intrigued with the idea of writing about shoes. The shoes we wear tell so much about the lives we live. Even Carrie Bradshaw would agree.

Is a blog like a diary?

the diary of Sophia Peabody Hawthorne (1809-1871)

The Morgan Library  (225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, NY, NY)

has mounted a fabulous exhibition titled The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives.

The image above is the Diary of Sophia Peabody Hawthorne (1809-1871). Image: the Internet.

I’ve seen the Diary exhibition at the Morgan Library 3 times. I am amazed by the fame of the authors included.  I am amazed by the penmanship and beauty of the entries. The script is so tiny and perfect.

There are over seventy diaries on view. The show closes May 22, 2011.

The diaries include the most personal information. People wrote private journals to keep a record of their daily lives and creative projects, and to explore and sort out personal problems.

The exhibition includes the illustrated journal of the American painter Stuart Davis (1894-1964), the journal/sketchbook of painter Sir Joshua Reynolds (British, 1723-1792), the writings of Charlotte Bronte (British, 1816-1855), Tennessee Williams (American 1911-1983) and John Steinbeck (American 1902-1968), and the travel diary of Albert Einstein (born Germany, 1879 – 1955).

The exhibition poses the question: What is a diary?  Must it be a private document? In the age of web journals, blogs and social media, how and why do we document our daily lives today?

Are we returning to writing diaries but in a different form?

Read more about all of the diaries at the Morgan Library exhibition.

See the online exhibition and follow the curator’s blog.

Can an object express an idea like a diary?

Claudia DeMonte, Female Fetish Shoe

The image above is by Claudia DeMonte and is titled Female Fetish: Shoe (2006). It is pewter and brass on wood (4x9x3 inches). The artist is investigating icons of female culture. The decorative elements are small pewter representations of a woman’s world: gloves, purses, cups, saucers, and umbrellas (image: the Internet).


The Morgan Library exhibition folder says keeping a diary is a stimulus to creativity.

Why not keep an artist’s journal? They are illustrated diaries and can be on any theme you choose. You can keep a record of your daily thoughts, and your plans and progress with a project. You can keep a travel journal or a dream journal. Your journal can even be a collection of to-do lists.

If you add art to your writing, you’ve created an art journal. I recommend you embellish your journal with collage, painting and drawing.


What did you see or read that challenges you?

Keep a journal and it will help you understand your creative process and help you remember all the steps you took that helped navigate the hard parts.

Describe the project, make notes of how you brainstorm and capture ideas as they flow.

Your note taking will help you focus. If you like to add charts and checklists, it will help you quantify and measure where you are going.


The next exhibition at the Morgan Library is titled “Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art (June 3 – October 2, 2011).

It sounds like a good follow-up to the Diaries exhibition.

Willie Cole, Pretty in Pink


I want to return to shoes as a metaphor for history and culture. It seems there are many artists who do shoes. Here’s another bit of information:The British artist David Hockney wrote that he started his photocollage works with his feet. His is shoes were always the beginning point of the visual journey. Hockney is an excellent writer. He is able to describe his ideas and process in great detail. I recommend his book THAT’S THE WAY I SEE IT (by Thames & Hudson).

Willie Cole (American, born 1955) showed a collection of shoes in an exhibition titled Sole to Soul at the Alexander and Bonin Gallery, 132 Tenth Avenue, NY, NY  (Jan-Feb 2006).

The image above is titled Pretty in Pink.

The shoes are formed into circles to express the concept of lotus blossoms, which die and flower again. The blossoms range in diameter from 4 to 7 feet.

The gallery wrote: Willie Cole’s art is about acts of transformation and transcendence. In the late 80’s the artist made a conscious choice to work with used objects to take advantage of the energy transference achieved through a process of telekinesis and chi transfers. He has used consumer and industrial detritus such hairdryers, irons, bicycle parts and shoes to make objects which reveal their nature as talismans and sometimes as a critique of capitalist and consumer culture.

Willie Cole currently has works included in the exhibition “Reconfiguring an African Icon: Odes to the Mask by Modern and Contemporary Artists from Three Continents” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (5th Avenue at 82 Street, NY, NY). The exhibition continues through August 21, 2011.

Willie Cole, Shine

The work above by Willie Cole is in the Met show and is titled Shine (2007). It is constructed with shoes, steel wire, monofilament line, washers and screws, 15.75 x 14 x 15 inches, collection The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY (image: the Internet).

Do you see the eyes and mouth in Cole’s work titled Shine (above)?

Thank you for reading this blog. I hope you enjoyed all the news about the artists and the exhibitions. Please add your comments below. Do you – or did you – keep a diary? Do you think the blog replaced the diary?


This post is an interview (long and in-depth) with a very talented young artist having a solo exhibition at Media Loft Gallery in New Rochelle, NY. The show is titled EXCITABLE BOY (March 13-May 7, 2011) and includes 31 works: large format photographs, large mixed media photocollage paintings, photos of family and friends, paintings on canvas, collage and sculpture.

The opening reception is Sunday, March 13th from 2-6 pm. The closing reception is Saturday, May 7th from 4-6 pm. If you cannot attend the opening or closing receptions, gallery hours are by appointment. Visit Media Loft online for directions and to contact Adam Handler by email for for an appointment to see the exhibition at another time.

The image below is an installation view of the front gallery with 2 large photos and a sculpture by Adam Handler (photo © Christopher Lovi).

Adam Handler Installation in the Front Gallery at Media Loft

Adam Handler’s website includes the following Artist Statements:

I strive for originality, but will never forget the influences

that played a part in creating these paintings.

I hope to entice various generations with the subject matter while

exposing it in a way that has never been done before.


I interviewed Adam for this post and think his comments are as compelling and original as his work in the exhibition.The show is worth the trip to see in person.


Adam Handler wrote:

Mid-twentieth century America, Vietnam, the British Invasion, Andy Warhol’s simplistic commercial Campbell’s soup cans have long enticed me. To me, this era always depicted character and artistic freedom, liberation from “the man.”

Though I was born in the 1980’s, I have often speculated how the feelings and emotions that conflicted the youth then continue to remain relevant today.

That era in particular spurred my interests to create paintings that captured the rebellious energy of the time, while transforming the imagery into contemporary works that relate to my generation. Contemporary politics and economics, social interactions, views on love, life, and death are all compressed into my mixed media works. In many of the pieces you will notice small sayings or sexual innuendos – mostly taken from advertisements – inspired by the Dada poets at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich. For me, using written words alongside commercial imagery and contrasting it with rapid brushstrokes and intense color create a modern scene that allows for the viewer to create their own personal interpretive narrative. © 2011, Adam Handler


The artist statement (above), websiteSaatchi onlinePS 1 Studio Visit, and the slideshow at ArtSlant helped me develop the outline for the interview that follows.


Robert Motherwell Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 70 (1961)

Q: You say you are inspired by the artists Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, and say Robert Rauschenberg is an artistic hero to you.

In what ways do you think Robert Motherwell (American 1915-1991) inspires your work?

AH: Motherwell truly inspired me when I saw my first Spanish Elegy painting; I believe it was at the MET. What inspired me about this work was something much more subtle. The way Motherwell would take these large imposing expanses of black and then use small variations of color to accentuate his powerful abstractions inspired much of my current work. For instance, in the painting “Hung,” in the Media Loft exhibition you can see how I outline the main female figure with pinks and whites; if you look closely at this piece you can see Motherwell’s presence.

ELEGY to the SPANISH REPUBLIC, 70 (seen above) is by Robert Motherwell. It’s oil on canvas, 69 x 114 inches (1961) and is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, NY (photo: the internet).

The image below is by Handler and titled HUNG. It’s a mixed media photo with paint, 30×40 inches. The artist says this work was inspired by Robert Motherwell’s Elegy painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Do you see the connection?

Adam Handler, Hung

Q: This exhibition includes almost no collages.

In addition to his paintings, Robert Motherwell made collages. I saw your solo exhibition last year at the Bendheim Gallery in Greenwich, CT and you included many collages and photocollage paintings. Did you stop making collage?

AH: As an artist, I go back and forth between mediums. One month I will work only on collages, and then for the next six months I may work only on photographs. I really am not sure what forces an artist to change mediums or focus on different disciplines. Currently, I’m been experimenting with video which is all very new and exciting.


Q: Why are your photos slashed with paint?

AH: Many of my photos are slashed with paint because the photograph was taken with the intention that paint would be added. Sometimes I’ll see something which, on it’s own, would be a boring photograph but when paint is added I’m able to alter the context and confuse people, which in turn creates something original and unique.

The image below, titled Happy Birthday Buttercup, is a photo and painting  (presented in a glorious gold leaf frame). It’s 10 x 10 inches.

Adam Handler, Happy Birthday Buttercup

Q: Do you have a special process that’s unique to your work?

AH: I wouldn’t say there’s anything particularly unique about my process other then I hardly ever have a planned idea. I guess you can say I’m a “go with the flow artist.” My work is about spontaneity and whatever happens, happens; I guess you can say this might be a Surrealist/Dada way of working.

Q: Do you work at a table or an easel, on the floor or on the wall?

AH: Hahaha, I would have to say all of the above. I’ve splattered paint of every surface I know. From the wall to my car, to my kitchen.

Q: Is your studio clean or cluttered? Does its condition affect your work?

AH: My studio is extremely cluttered and messy. It affects my work in the sense that when I step into my studio it’s as if I am literally a drip of paint on canvas.

Adam Handler, Photo of HIs Studio


Q: Talk about your studio. Is it located in a community of artists?

AH: My studio is located in Long Island City, NY. It’s a very industrial area which has a personality and feel all its own. My studio is located in the back of a 12,000 square foot custom framing factory, which is owned by my grandparents.

Q: Has the neighborhood and the location had any effect on your work?

AH: I don’t think the location has had an affect on my work. I guess I don’t know because I never painted anywhere else.

Q: Are you part of an artist’s community in LIC? Please describe it.

AH: No, I am not part of an art community per se. Since I work in a custom framing factory, I am constantly talking and discussing art with gallery owners, dealers and fellow artists.

Q: MAX’S KANSAS CITY was a place for artist, musicians, poets and politicos to hang out in the 1960s and 1970s. Is there a place like MAX’S that you and young artists go to talk art?

AH: No, I don’t have any hangout where I chill with other artists. It would be cool, but I feel that artists today are much more solitary then the 60’s.

Q: What kinds of paints do you use? Do you have a favorite color?

AH: I use many different types of paints. I’ve probably experimented with everything on the market from acrylics, oils, enamel, watercolors, Japan color, etc.

I usually do have favorite colors, but they come in phases. One month I’ll love blues, right now I’ve been into very pale pinks and light greens.

Q: What do your colors convey?

AH: My colors usually convey a feeling or an emotion. If I want a painting to feel modern and clean, I’ll use more black and white. If I want a painting to feel airy and light, I’ll use pale blues and subtle pinks.

Q: How do you describe your media? Do you call your works paintings? Photographs? Mixed media?

AH: I describe each of my works separately.  For instance, I will call a photograph with paint, a painted photograph. When painting with collage paper, I’ll describe the separate medias. For instance, “oil, wax and paper collage on canvas.”

Q: Do you take (and do you print) your own photographs? Is your studio set up with photo equipment?

AH: I take all my own photographs with the exception of various collage works; in that case, I use magazine articles and such. I do print my own photographs, however am restricted by the size I can print.

Adam Handler, My Friends, My Habits, My Family

For my larger prints, 20×30, 30×40, 40×60 inches, I use professional printers. I do collage photos and actually some of my most recent work, such as “My Friends, My Habits, and My Family” in the Media Loft show bears this technique. This work is large format and 40×60 inches.

Q: Your website shows you also work in sculpture. The works are expressive, figurative and made with clay. Why clay? Do the paintings relate to the sculptures?

AH: I started off sculpting in college, experimenting with marble, wood and clay. I worked with clay for the closeness it allowed me with each work. My sculptures really don’t relate to my paintings in any way.

The DADA INFLUENCE on your work

Dada was a cultural movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland during World War I, and peaked by 1916 to 1922.  It laid the groundwork for abstract art, performance art, postmodernism, and is still an influence in today’s art world.

Q: Your artist statement mentions Dada and the Cabaret Voltaire. In what ways does Dada inspire you?

AH: What inspired me about Dada was not so much the art itself but the idea behind the art; the freedom of self expression and passion and sometimes absurdity that made this movement a breath of fresh air to me.

Q: How is your subject matter contemporary for your generation (if it also harks back to an earlier time)?

AH: I am not really sure how my work is considered contemporary. I know that I’m contemporary for being a young artist currently producing work, but other then that I just don’t know.

Q: What response do you want viewers to have to your works?

AH: From my viewers I want intense reactions; whether they are overwhelming good or bad, I want them to really feel the work. Way too often I see exhibitions where people walk out the same way they walked in, which sucks! Art legally allows us to introduce people to a new world. It allows for us to offend or inspire in the confines of a room.

Q: You say Robert Rauschenberg was an art hero to you. His work was about performance and participation. How do you want your work installed and how do you want viewers to participate with your work?

AH:  I love playing around with hanging a show and experimenting with different lighting, but sometimes you need a good curator to understand and lay out your vision on the wall.

Q: You talk about originality. What do you mean? Do you believe an artist can be original in the 21st century, in a media saturated world?

AH: Being original in the 21st century seems nearly impossible, but I do believe it’s possible; I have to! I need to believe that there are still ideas and subject matter, poses, paintings, photographs that the world has not seen.

Q: How can an artist make subject matter excitable?

AH: I believe an artist can create “excitable” subject matter if they stay true to themselves. As long as your art reflects your life, personality, relationships, etc, you will be one of a kind.

Q: You say you want to expose subject matter in a way that has never been done before. How will you expose it?

AH: I expose my subject through my close personal relationships with my family, my friends, my fiancé, my cat (haha). Much of my work is based on my life, my dreams, and my fantasies. I find if you let yourself be vulnerable through your art people can see something that’s new, exciting and overwhelmingly personal.

I want to thank Adam again for being so real and personal, and hope every person who read the interview felt they got to know more about the artist and the ideas that inspire his work.

I welcome your comments below.

Please note images belong to the artist, so you may not copy without  permission or credit to Adam Handler, and also note this interview is © 2011, Nancy Egol Nikkal.