Posts Tagged ‘artist
lowell nesbitt for your edification.
these recent photo studies of a bearded iris blooming in our garden reminded me, as i was manipulating their outcome, how much i admire the work of lowell nesbitt (not that i’m comparing myself to him, but that these photographs were evocative of his work, triggering memories i have of selling his editions in the ’80s and knowing when to share the sexuality of them with a client and when to concur with the client that they were just pretty pictures of flowers. sometimes i was more successful than others when it came to sharing his rapturous abandonment to nature and form and i could always tell when i’d stepped outside the comfort zone of the collector by the look of disbelief that clouded their brow or the uneasy shuffling of feet and the rise of color in their cheek. perhaps the provocation was worth it to me, that uncomfortable moment when “sex” reared its beautiful head in conversation between strangers, some more ready than others to free fall into its embrace. okay, i may have pushed it, a bit, for the thrill, but what is the point of art if not to disturb?)
michael kimmelman’s remembrance of his time with the artist is here and is well-worth the read.
our relationship is fairly young when compared to other artists whose work has influenced my emotional, visual, and intellectual acuity, but what it lacks in maturity with those other artists (here and here) has more than been made up by my deep visceral response to his work and i might add, my utter devotion.
he had floated around the periphery of my contemporary and modern art knowledge for a few years, but when the museum of contemporary art in los angeles hosted a one-man retrospective in 2003, my infatuation quickly turned into a case of full-blown art lust.
before you say, “well, the majority of his work is nudes, that must be what robert’s nattering on about,” i will disabuse you of that notion right now. to be in a roomful of lucian freud’s paintings is to be psycho-analyzed by them. he takes you down the dark forest paths of your emotional core, and at times skipping ahead as you stop to make sure you know where you are, even to catch your breath; when you suddenly realize he’s left you to your own devices (a breadcrumb trail behind you notwithstanding). somehow you manage to go on; to go back would be a far worse thing to do, leaving you emotionally vulnerable when the end, you believe (because he seems to hold out some hope), will allow you some insight, some enlightenment, some knowledge of yourself and your place in the world (as he sees it.) it’s not all bad.
oftentimes, his view of his subject is omniscient, standing above and looking down on, and not in a condescending manner, but, in a concerned way, he’s showing you (the subject and the viewer) his compassion through this thorough exploration of your body, your skin, your hair. all that paint! my god, he slathers it on in deep rushes of impasto, layer upon layer, looking at you (the subject and the viewer) as if you were under a microscope and i think, perhaps, even stripping away your facade to reveal the real you underneath all the artifice of your daily life.
and, and, you’ll see a look of what appears to be utter despair on the subject’s (and on the viewer’s) face, poleaxed with posing, holding onto that last shred of dignity that being naked/nude leaves you with after hours and hours and hours and perhaps days of his god-like examination (it is a bit of being pinned like a butterfly to a board–see nabokov for a companion in literature). except for many of his portraits of the performance artist, the gargantuan leigh bowery and these portraits are more straight forward, your view of bowery is less compromised and in a way, even more respectful, not to say that freud is disrespectful of his other subjects, but all that looking down and then suddenly your face to face with bowery in all of his obese glory–it’s a shocking shift in tone and intent (to my eyes and spirit).
then, in early 2008 i was fortunate enough to see an exhibition of his etchings, accompanied by related drawings and paintings at MoMA and once again i was stunned by his ability to strip away, isolate and present the essence of his subjects and by that very act of exposing them, the viewer too is revealed. this emotional use of line seemed to me to be without peer and it may be that his abstract way of looking at a subject reminds me of my love for clyfford still or it may be that his tender portraits of his dogs reminds me of my fondness for the delightfully insouciant work of marcel duchamp–it is that emotional tweaking that sparks a fire in me unlike any other representational artist i know.
i was surprised at how saddened i was to hear of his death this past week. it was like losing someone close to you that you don’t see very often, rarely talk to on the phone, but somehow always pick up where you left off the last time you shared a time and a place together.
when you come to the end. it is never easy to make that conscious decision to end. it is something that he is struggling with right now. he sees the cursor moving, leaving (shitting really) letters behind it, letters that are gathering themselves into words, forming sentences (& all those grammatical parts, groupies freely flinging themselves–panties & participles landing in a pile at the feet of our protagonist)–will they break for a paragraph, a new thought?–conclusions that are eluding him at this point.
denouement. he had loved learning that word, but this story has had intricacies, but no plot; it’s all the parts of a rope (long enough to hang yourself,) but it has not been wound together in a way that resembles a rope (when is a rope just a rope, after all. “ceci n’est pas une pipe.”) he realizes that there will be no ‘aha’ moment, no one reading this will say to themselves, “i thought as much,” or “of course she did it!” (well, partly because there was no ‘she’ in the story, of course, not that there couldn’t have been a she, & one might be of a type to switch pronouns, should one be so inclined–the results would be the same & by results we are in no way implying an end.)
he knows we anticipate ends. it satisfies a need in many of us to neatly finish something, because being ‘done’ with something is a human satisfaction, but he wonders if it is not society that has imposed finishing something on us & that it is not a hard-wired human trait–you know, to finish something. artists, he’s understood, oftentimes find it hard to finish something they may be creating, giacometti for instance, had it not been for his brother stealing into his studio & removing his sculptures would have pared away those skinny walking figures into nothing; where would we have been without those? on the other hand, there’s someone like picasso, who we can tell just from the quantity of his output, rarely agonized over a work of his not being done; he lived to produce & finish & move on.
but not all of us are picasso are we? coming to an end, for that matter coming to a beginning, is a struggle & although he may experience a flowing of & a movement forward, he is in no way unconscious of his progress, limited as it is by his mood, the time, the noise of the t.v. coming from the other room (tsunami! earthquake!), the pressures of the day ahead–
items on a list, all to be crossed off–or never to have been noted, just mental erasures of tasks completed, all of which affect the outcome of this paragraph, this walk toward the end of the story (but not really a story, his traditions different from those of yours,) but a story nonetheless & one that he feels may have had its day (today, but he reserves the right to revisit it & perhaps find in it, a beginning, an egg of an idea, fertilized by history asleep at your back.)
Conscience is a man’s compass, and though the needle sometimes deviates, though one often perceives irregularities when directing one’s course by it, one must still try to follow its direction. -Vincent van Gogh, painter (1853-1890)