Thursday, July 11, 2019

What does vacation look like to me?

It looks like a more relaxing time to experiment, read, write and make new art.  I am nearing the end of my annual, self-created artist residency.  I love residencies, but they do not admit pets!  My little dog, Gideon, is increasingly elderly: blind, deaf and somewhat confused.  I have some of those same characteristics as well, I suppose.

Unlike most artist residencies, I do this one alone.  The dog is not much help when it comes to creative questions.  So, I suppose this is actually more like a retreat with a companion animal. It takes a bit of fortitude to do this. Not a lot of people to talk to.  Not as much stimulation as usual.  But, eventually, I can hear my own thoughts.

That is why I do this.  My shoulders lower, I get “far away eyes” and I am able to notice new things.

What I am noticing this year is the reversibility of forms and the contrast of the machine made with the rugged environment of Lake Superior.  I am wondering how to bring this sensibility back to the studio.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Musing about galleries with NO SUBMISSION policies.

I  Just finished reading a new book.
It is a marvelously good read.  It a history of the gallery world since about 1947, with the emphasis on the 21st century. 

I read all about the mega-galleries and how they grew:  Gagosian, Hauser &Wirth, David Zwirner, Pace.  I learned about the personalities and loyalties of the men (yes, all men.  But there is good coverage of Paula Cooper, Barbara Gladstone and a few others), their love of art, entrepreneurship and competition, not necessarily in that order!  I learned who was more ethical, who was ethically horrifying, who had ideals.  I came away with my favorites, for sure. And they all gave NO SUBMISSION policies.

But I also came away with a deeper understanding of what it takes to operate in the Blue Chip world.  These galleries rely on developing  the careers of their artists, developing collectors, primary sales, resales, estates, the power of branding, market manipulation through participating in auctions, art fairs and, now, online sales.  They also have to have the where-with-all to develop complicated financial instruments to enable their clients buying desires.  It is quite a world!  I'm not sure I would have to stomach for it.

But here is an interesting takeaway:

The mega galleries all have multiple locations around the world.
They need art for all these locations.
Tastes in art change with the wind.
They are always looking for the next big artist.

That artist could be YOU!  Yeah, yeah, it is a stretch.  But the new talent has to come from somewhere. 

These big galleries really do specialize.  Look them over carefully.  Look at their history.  If you really think your work fits their program...Why not figure out a way to contact them.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Finding galleries when you live in the hinterlands

Back in October, I think, I published a 9 part series on Productivity in the Studio.  In that series I talked about finding group shows and non-profit spaces for exhibition.  That is pretty much how all of us, at least in the Midwest, start or even complete our exhibition careers.

But sometimes the work needs something different...perhaps a commercial gallery.  This is hard to accomplish from our studios located anywhere that is not a major art market.  It's hard even if you live in a major art market.  The usual way to find commercial representation is through referral from other artists, visiting galleries over and over again until you can develop a relationship,  and then studio visits.  Pretty hard to pull off from the "hinterlands."

I can't afford to fly to New York enough times a year to develop relationships with likely galleries.  I dare say you cannot either.  So, I had to develop a new way to approach this conundrum. While I cannot say I have been overwhelmingly successful, I've had 2 nibbles since I began this program in March. Here is what I am doing.

Step 1.  Look really hard at your artwork.  Try to describe to yourself what it looks like and what kinds of artwork it would look good with.  Consider the overall "look" of what you do.  Consider the media you use.  Consider your "audience."  That is a word thrown around that has flummoxed me for years.  Yes, it is your current buyers and email list...or the people you most imagine could or would buy your work.  "Audience" is both a concrete and aspirational word.

Step 2.  Start looking at galleries online.  I started with the Artsy website (They have a good online magazine as well.).  This is a strong collection of worldwide commercial galleries.  I got a sense of what is showing, what is selling and who is being shown.  I then searched this website by media that were similar or compatible with mine.  I also read Artnewspaper, Hyperallergic, Artnet and ArtNews.  Not every word, not every day, but I try to keep up.

Step 3.  Make a list of artists whose work you admire and believe your work to be compatible with.

Step 4.  Make a list of the galleries showing their work.  This information is available in many ways:                         •;
                   • the artists websites and resumes;
                   • google search the artists to find their exhibitions if they are not listed on their                                         personal webpages.  If they do not have their resume online, there is a reasonable                                 chance the have gallery representation.

Step 5.  Start building your database or excel spred sheet.  Information you may want to track:
                   • Gallery name. address, phone, email
                   • Owner and/or director's name and email
                   • webpage
                   • artists who referred you or you feel you are compatible with
                   •  Do they accept unsolicited portfolios  YES or NO ( A no does not eliminate them from                          your list.)
                   • Submission requirements ( ALWAYS FOLLOW THEIR DIRECTIONS                                                      PRECISELY)
                   • also provide a way to keep track when you contacted them and what the answer was.
                   •  You may want a field to keep extra notes about the venue

Step 5.  Google "galleries who accept submissions"  or a similar search.

When you are looking at gallery websites, be sure you look at their mission statement, if available, their stable of artists, their overall look, and other characteristics that might be important to you: do they do art fairs?  How long have they been in business? how can I find out if they are reliable? Do  you actually think your work belongs there?

Step 6.  Develop a series of image folders that you can easily access for this process.  For instance: I have put together 4 or 5 different portfolios based on themes in my work.  It makes it easier to go through this process more quickly...less searching and "re-invention of the wheel."

Put an up-to-date resume, bio and artists statement (pdf form) with these images so  they are quickly available as well.

Make sure your website is all times.
OK, now you are sort of ready to begin to send out information to galleries that are seeking submissions.  Do exactly what they ask.  Most are email contacts.  Some only want a website link, some want 3-5 images, some want 20. Some want small sized images, some want giant images sent to dropbox.  Some want sales history, some want press clippings, some want other mysterious things.  Do your best to precisely follow their requirements.

But with all of them you will need some kind of cover letter.

This is where your research will really help you.  Cover letters should be short, polite, to the point and uber gracious.

My successful letters referenced the gallery's program, specific artists they have shown and one of the letter's mentioned my fond memories of the town, since it was my grandfather's home town!

Whenever possible, address the owner or director by name, Mr. Gallery Owner, Ms. Gallery Director.  Make the letter a brief and personal as possible, while maintaining formality.  Often the gallery director is the more active chooser of new art.  Fulfill their requirements precisely.  But, as a matter of course, it is a good idea to invite them to view your website, using an active link in the body of the email, for more complete information.

Remember, even if they actively seek submissions, their time is valuable.  Be kind.  Thank them for taking the time to look.  Never, I mean NEVER, do a follow-up email/phone call unless invited to do so. It's not like a job interview.  The etiquette is different.  The jury is out about whether to ask for referrals.  Sometimes I add that "if the work does not fit your program, I would welcome referrals." Some find this pushy and pushy is a big no-no in gallery submission etiquette.  I think it is OK if done gently.

As a side note:  it is a good idea to have your webpage address be part of your email signature.  Then, if  anyone is  curious, they automatically have the link.

If you do get an affirmative or "maybe" response, do respond immediately and graciously, and cross your fingers for the future. Do not hound them.  Keep in touch with postcards of shows, an occasional newsletter.  Send notes when you see artwork in their galleries that really excite you. But keep it truly occasional and undemanding.  You are just starting a relationship.  It is a kabuki dance for sure.


I have not made it to the "no submission" part of my database yet.  But, here is the plan.

If you really, truly believe the gallery would be a good match: say so.  But only do this after following the gallery for sometime.  Know what you are talking about.  You might write an email that says , "I would like to introduce you to my work. I have been following you exhibition program for sometime, especially the exhibitions of artists "so and so," and I believe that I could be a benefit to your program."  Now that is pretty you might soften it somehow, but keep it short.  Include a website link and maybe a couple of images, but not many.

It might be a longer campaign that begins with postcards from new exhibits your are in, with emails asking about aspects of the current show in that gallery, with in person visits if you can.  I have a couple of galleries I am following pretty closely who have "no submission" policies.  I have emailed them with questions and congrats about their shows, and received gracious responses. That is my first step.


 I have yet to do this, but I hear that galleries are starting to do Skype and Facetime visits!  How cool is that?

SO, that is where I am at in this late-in-life push in my art career.  If you have anything to add...please do!  I'd love to get a conversation going.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Have you been to Marfa, Texas? I have.

Marfa , Texas is the hot, dry, dusty home to the "shrine of Donald Judd."  The town, a former ranching town, former military town, former water stop on the railroad, has transformed itself into all things Judd.
I have always truly loved his work.  Being in an appropriate space with his sculpture is a transcendent experience.  The sculptures are not just the manmade materials he used, but their effect on space.  They are slow to tell their story, but if you are open, and allow yourself the time, they will reveal themselves. 

All that being said, traveling to Marfa was, in many ways, a perplexing experience.

It is hard to get to.  Three hours from the nearest airport:  for me that was Midland.  I drove through oil fields, sand quarries and beautiful mountains seeing a roadrunner, one mule deer, half a dozen pronghorns and many, many agaves and prickly pears of all sorts.

Day 1:

I am finding Marfa confusing.  So many street signs are missing and building signage is way different: subtle or absent.  So, I saw 1 cool show at the Ballroom Marfa visited the Judd Foundation office , Marfa Books and bought groceries this morning.  

After lunch, I wandered around downtown.  I went to the shops and gallery at the Paisano historic hotel.  I went to Marfa Works on Paper- very nice paper and ceramics: not superb, but more affordable than other places. The Ayn Foundation was open with 3 of Andy Warhol’s Last Supper paintings where I had a lovely conversation with the attendant who is a friend of critic Barbara Rose (yes, that Barbara Rose).  We talked a lot about archives and film digitization.  I had a lovely conversation at both Marfa Books and the Judd Foundation. I went to Exhibitions 2D which you should all look up on instagram.  He is a dealer for 11 artists.  Great guy, great art!  

I saw the John Chamberlain stuff in an unmarked Chinati building that was open today for the community days.  Wow!  With no signage, I easily could have missed it.  I have a new found respect for Chamberlain. Yes, it is big-boy-stuff.  But there is way more to it than I had realized.  They had LOTS AND LOTS of pieces...LOTS! I don’t know that I had ever seen his wall works before: they were stunning, with a lot of intentional use of paint.  They also had some works on paper that were called Drawings as Lithos.  I also learned that Chamberlin worked in foam rubber for a while.  Then I tried to go to a number of other important galleries who chose to be closed this weekend. GRRR.  I wound up at Pure Joy Marfa, a charming little gallery in a garage sized building on an industrial lot.  She had a show of Walter Robinson and artists books/facsimiles of the Private Notebooks of Lee Lozano.  Had to get them!

It is pretty damn hot and the town shuts down early!  I am back at the house for the evening, I think.  I may look into the Marfa Film Festival, though.

Day 2:

I am so tired!  The Chinati tour was overwhelming and really made me think hard about the purpose of legacy the middle of no where!  My body held up OK, but I was glad to have the walking stick by the end.

I loved most of the work, but, with the exception of Roni Horn and a temporary Bridget Riley, it really is a boys club:  sort of  “Me and my buds,” although Judd and Flavin had a flaming fallout.  You can see most of the work really well at

The questions that kept coming up were:
Why here?
Why so inaccessible?
If it is so important to show these things as Donald wanted them shown, then why such limited access?  Few of the buildings are open to the general public without a paid guide.
If the work is “important” then why are the climate conditions not considered? The aluminum cubes, which are wonderful, are actually expanding and contracting a lot in the temperature swings ( I saw bowing and gaps). How do you keep stretched canvases and surface mounted works on paper clean with all the blowing dust and intact with no solar protection and no temperature and humidity consideration?
If seeing the work is important, then why is there not auxiliary lighting for bad days?  Robert Irwin’s piece was a dud because of clouds.

While the machismo and the questions are persistent,  most of the work was, indeed, astounding.

The solid copper Roni Horn piece could make you weep.
The Bridget Riley was so optically active and beautiful in person.  The photos do not do it justice.
The blues in John Wesley’s paintings were to die for, but the subject matter leaned toward Tom Wesselman.
The Dan Flavin, while beautiful, became tiresome in its demand for 6 buildings.  It struck me like “man-spreading” on the subway.  But interesting conundrums for conservation and the Flavin estate to find companies who will manufacture the necessary replacement bulbs!
Judd’s 100 Aluminum Cubes were gorgeous!  But why so far from civilization?  The windows on both sides lit them and provided contrasting vistas: the concrete cubes in the field on one side and the quotidian residences and empty buildings on the other side.
The 2 Carl Andre’s were pretty wonderful.  I did not like the Kabakov and the Ingolfur Arnasson’s installation was so subtle that it almost wasn’t there.  The space for it was the right size, but the lack of additional light, I think, hurt it’s ability to reach you.

I came back to the adobe and immediately took a long nap! and missed the last film of the film festival.

Tomorrow I tour some more personal spaces.  But, in reality, I am ready to come home and see my puppy;-)

Day 3:

I went on the “Block Tour” today.  It is the tour of the first properties that Judd bought and lived in.  It is comprised of 2 armory buildings that were moved into town, before Judd, the quartermasters home, a tar papered shed( the foundation re-tar-papers it from time to time), a water containment feature, a pergola and a double wall of adobe bricks.  15 people were allowed to tour with a tour guide.  There are artworks here that will be seen no where else.  They were installed after they were returned from exhibition in varying states of disrepair.  Judd installed them through the “garage” doors, and then bricked up the doors.  They are going NO WHERE!  They fit the space beautifully, truly! We had a sunny morning, so the light, for the most part, was fine.  But, once again, no augmenting electric lights, no climate control except for a little bit of window film. The temperatures range from 0 degrees to 120 degrees in the summer.  He had a bed in every room so he could view the pieces from all angles....and sleep if need be.

We actually saw 2 exhibition spaces and 2 library spaces.  We saw early plywood works.  He was considered a colorist at one time.  He used a lot of cadmium red light oil paint on the plywood pieces.  Yummy!  We got to see the piece that was the revelation that led to free standing sculpture and  the development of the pieces that included plexiglas.  Way cool.  ALso saw galvanized pieces that I had not seen before.  The galvanized pieces were, perhaps, among the first “boxes” fabricated by others.  There was a 20’ wall (at least!)  filled with galvanized boxes that were @ 20” x 20” x 4-6’ deep, 3 or 4 rows high. Really cool...but not quite stunning.  They reminded me of gymnasium cubbies to some extent.  But further on in the tour we saw the development of the stacks and the aluminum cubes.  they were STUNNING.  The stacks are usually 10 high....Hmmm, Judd loved even numbers.  They really worked in the spaces.

The library comprised 2 long rooms.  One library was 20th century art history, subjects arranged chronologically. The second library was sort of travel related arranged by location and subject.  Supposedly he read 4-5 hours per day from among his 13000 volumes.

All of it is “exactly” as it was the day he died.  Memento mori.   Kind of weird.  The books are disintegrating, un-used, unread.

I tried to take the studio tour in the afternoon where I would have seen some of his early paintings, but they were over sold.  Boo.  And, once again, mighty precious!  Only 9 people were allowed on the studio tours at one time.  Not very hospitable, although they were lovely about it.  

So I went to the Chihuahuan Desert Research Center and fried a bit among the cactus and met an elderly man who was in one scene of NO COUNTYRY FOR OLD MEN.  They needed a mine expert to help them with one scene....and he was it.  While it WAS way too hot for me to spend much time, the drive under the big skies and through old mountains was lovely!  And the Center is way cool.  If you ever come out here, go in the early morning.

DAY 4 was trying to get home.  All flights in and out of Houston were cancelled.  Got a flight through Dallas and fell into my own bed at 2AM yesterday.

WILL I GO BACK?  no.  AM I GLAD I WENT?  absolutely.  The area is beautiful in its own, rugged way.  The town is tiny and laid back, 1900 people, max. But way too hot for me.

My place

My place

my place

across the street

Couple of doors away.  Enlarge this one: it is an architectural near masterpiece.

Marfa Ice, at the end of my block.  Do they still do ice?  I do not know.

A block or 2 away


CHinati Peak in the distance?

Chihuahuan Desert Research Center

Chihuahuan Desert Research Center

Chihuahuan Desert Research Center

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Have Widgets will travel and other things

Three of the Widget series are in the show 

at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts. 

April 12 – May 9, 2019
Opening Preview on Thursday, April 11, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Free and open to the public  I'll be there and look forward to seeing you!
"While releasing the artist from having to achieve a subject’s likeness, abstract art challenges the artist to create an image that is convincing without the benefit of referring to something else. The ABSTRACT exhibition highlights the vitality and scope of this genre."
Curated by Artist-Instructor Ellen Richman and Exhibits Director Robert Bowman.
If you want to go farther afield...go to The Athens Arts Gallery in Crawfordsville, IN for their show UNTITLED.  I won an award there;-)  This is open through May 4, 2019.

And, mark your calendar for this fall.

Women’s Art Institute’s 20th Anniversary Exhibition, featuring the theme: What is Forbidden? 
 September 7 – October 19, 2019 
in the Catherine G. Murphy Gallery at St. Catherine University.  

More information will follow.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

An Artist's Legacy

There is much more to an artist's life that making the art.  To be sure, the part that drives each of us to the studio: lovely materials, lovely (we hope) images to test out, cool ideas to ponder in material form...

There is the attendant not so lovely office work: bills, shipping, orders, recordkeeping, show seeking.

And then eventually, there is the artist's estate to contend with!  What are our heirs supposed to DO with all this stuff we produce?

Hold a community bonfire and roast marshmallows?

Maybe, if that is what you want.  But somehow, neither my son nor I want to throw out or burn my life's work.

If your work is small, and desirable, you can give it away!  That's what I did a couple of years ago.  Building on existing collections and extending my requests, I offered my artists books and archives to a variety of museum and university collections with great success. But now I need to plan for my larger, newer work.

I recently attended the College Art Association Conference in NYC.  I am still exhausted from all the running around!  But that is for another post!.. This post is about one panel I attended which was worth the price of admission.  Squeak Carnwath, Sharon Louden, Jan Wurm, and Shervone Neckles-Ortiz led a panel on estates and legacy.  I had been to one before.  But this one electrified the audience and lots of info was shared.  Artists of modest means can work together to create foundations to take care of their work!  Truly modest means.  I will be studying this in the coming months. 

Click any of the links that follow to blow your mind!

artwork: title, size, exhibition history, materials & processes

exhibitions: each show in a separate folder with images, press, catalog

bibliography: print out online media


professional activities

contacts: collector data?


personal documents

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

More Studio Life

Big old photo day on Monday was devoted to more that the Horizon piece.

I have been working on an ever expanding series of 3-d color studies.  The series is titled Widgets.  They are small, most less that 12" h.  They are built from Davey board, putty, modeling paste and what-all! Most are paired.  The goal is to develop complex color in beautifully tactile surfaces.  They are a pleasure to handle.

Now all these new pieces must be added to the database and the website.

Like I said yesterday, studio time is not all joyful creation.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Studio Life

Studio life is full of myriad activities...precious few are actually the joyous act of creation!  Saturday was cleaning the very edges of the space.  Thread and paper litter was everywhere and tools were buried under stacks of this and that.  Now, it nearly gleams!

Yesterday was photo shoot day.  That involved painting my grey wall, which works for most photoshoots, WHITE to accommodate the grey horizon piece that was too big for the white walls elsewhere in the studio.

This piece was also inspired by Bridget Riley.  It is 6.5 feet wide and hangs high on the wall so you need to look UP at it.  My hope is that it brings a certain sense of peace. It does so for me.  I am considering expanding it with small sized pieces that expand it "into the distance."

Materials:  Grey outdoor canvas; digital embroidery; backed with grey felt; hung from a 3" deep wood shelf/armature.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Color Studies in sculpture

When I am tired and or lazy and watch too much TV, I have several things I do to keep my hands busy:

I draw what I see on TV.
I spin yarn (gotland right now).
I hand embroider.
I do automatic drawings where I scribble without looking.

It was the automatic drawings that led to these little sculptures.  None are larger than 8 inches or so. Hand sized.  Manipulatable.  Stackable.  There are more to come...but here they are so far.  I'm calling them WIDGETS, except for the carved one called FIG.

FIG is a tiny carving done in soft Balsa Foam (an Amaco product) with gesso and Flashe, an utterly matte paint with high pigment load.

The WDIGETS are built from book binders board, lots of adhesive, modeling paste, gesso, Flashe paint and wax.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Completing new work is:

Completing new work is always:

  • slow
  • curious
  • exciting
  • frustrating
  • mysterious
  • sometimes expensive

I have finally completed a few new pieces and they have each, in its own way,  ticked all the boxes above.

The first one completed is CASCADE.  It is a multilevel digital embroidery piece inspired by the stripes of Bridget Riley.  The surfaces float at various real levels and cascade to the floor.  The modules are formed around 1/4" plywood.  On the wall they attach to screws with magnets.  On the picture plane, they are permanently affixed with bolts and tubes.  The one little module that hangs off the picture plane is velcroed for safety in shipping and storage.  The floor modules are 2-sided.  60" x 28"

STAX detail
The second piece is STAX, also inspired by Bridget Riley.  It is built of 3-dimensional modules, mounted on a lovely walnut frame.  Had to use my non-existent upholstery skills to make these modules!  However, my old bookbinding skills came into use:  I built the forms from book binder's board, sewed the half tubes and then stretched and upholstered using a curved coptic stitch needle! And then I did woodworking! 13.5" x 47"

This crazy mixed media piece started as Bridget Riley stripes, a color study gone awry. The colors lay dull and flat on the rich fabric.  But after hours of stitching, I could not quite throw it away.  It hung around for quite awhile, indicting me not only on my color/thread failures... but also asking what might be next.

Meanwhile, STAX was in process.  Digital embroidery is always backed with a variety of stabilizers to support good stitch outs.  Think: Pellon or INTERFACING if you sew.  Some stabilizer can be torn off the design when it is done.  In making the modules for STAX, I tore away a series of near perfect stencils;-)  So, I used them to block out new areas of color on this piece and  continued with oil pastels and pastel pencils. It has no title yet, but I do love it.  It has mysterious sense of depth.

The next pieces in the queue are very complex...or at least LARGE.  There is a lot of sweat equity ahead before there is much to show on the embroidery front.