Honestly, I don't have time to write this blog, but most of the work is already done, so here goes:
I absolutely love the experience, but school is beating me up. I turned 67 on Christmas Eve, and I don't have the energy I used to have. I am getting straight A's so far, and loving a lot of the work, but it has overtaken my life. (Sorry, Jim)
We are at midterm and last week was a killer, as so many projects were due. I'll share one that received quite a lot of discussion in class last evening. I would LOVE to hear your response once you read about the process of the work. The assignment was to create a work that fits into the Late modernist era of Art history.
Here is my original proposal, followed by a final self critique
I debated long and hard before coming up with this idea. I thought about the action painters, the color field artists, the Abstract Expressionists. I was ready to create a portrait in abstract expressionist style (which I’ve done before), when we took a trip to Atlanta to visit our son. Part of the visit included a ride on the Marta trains to go to a basketball game – the Miami Heat vs. the Atlanta Hawks. The first step onto the train was a memorable experience. A strong smell of urine from an older black gentleman who mumbled to himself as he rode along, taking off his shirt and changing into a hoodie, talking the entire time. He shoved his shirt into a Publix bag and hid his face in the hood of his jacket. At the next stop, he gathered his bags, and got up to disembark. He limped bowlegged and with difficulty to the exit door, still muttering to himself. I wanted to cry for him. He was not well. It was COLD in Atlanta while we were there – below freezing – and we saw many tents under bridges throughout the city, where homeless people spent the night.
We stood and shivered for 25 minutes as we waited for the arena doors to open. Once inside, we saw the teams warming up, and got a look at the fans from both sides. I was tickled to see some of the young black men who were dressed up in crazy colored and patterned shoes (including some of the players!) and I saw some jackets and pants which were works of art. A few had torn and patched and painted designs, including checkered patchwork! Again, memorable. There were lots of interesting hairstyles as well, dreadlocks galore, and others. The next morning at our hotel breakfast, four young men came in from the street and sat down in the lobby. Though we were staying in a nice part of town, and they were not threatening, I felt uncomfortable. They all wore hoodies, one had his skinny jeans well below his rear, and one wore a ski mask. My imagination, fueled by too many news reports, had me hustling back up to the room.
On the way home, I saw more tents and graffiti, and I thought about the situations of some of the people we had come across. Some are obviously well off and some absolutely not. Some safe, warm and loved and some not. I came across the work of Jacob Lawrence, who did work about social injustice. I thought about the abstract expressionists who looked within themselves for themes that resonate with everyone. I kept the brightly colored Marta ticket, a receipt for dinner, and an artistic coaster from the bar – and I thought about Rauschenberg and collage artists. I read about Carl Jung and his theory of collective unconscious – “. . .beneath one’s private memories is a storehouse of feelings and symbolic associations common to all humans.” p.1112, Art History, Marilyn Stokstad And finally, I remembered the work of Stuart Davis, who made collage like paintings with bright colors and letters and numbers and flat solid shapes, and I finally knew what I would make for this assignment.
Quilted and lightly gessoed fabric panel
***** note: Before I came to the Stuart Davis part, I had already started the work and gotten this far. I planned to add graffiti to the bridge, but I wanted it to be bigger and more prominent, and not so representational. Now that I have a better idea about the finished piece, I’ve chosen several bright solid colors and will add modified figures, graffiti letters and numbers, and more shapes to tell the stories. These shapes will be placed collage like all over the format, some sideways or diagonal. I plan to make the figures kind of Gumby like so they will look more irregular and less realistic. My process is to glue the fabric pieces, using matte medium, onto part of an old quilt that I originally handquilted 25 years ago. I’m excited to continue working on this project while the trip is still fresh in my mind. I think it will fit well into this era of art movements. I’ve decided to call it HOODS, which will be one of the graffiti words. Hoodies have a strong symbolic connotation in our current time, and I remember way back when I was in high school (1969 to 1972) when ‘hoods’ was the term for gang member, bad boy types.
And now, for the SURPRISE ENDING!! Keep reading, please.
We All Need Bread
Last Work of Modernist Art Karol Kusmaul
Feb. 8, 2022
To respond to the challenge to create a ‘last work’ of Modernist art, I began looking at work by late Modernist artists. While considering the possibilities, my husband and I got to spend some time in Atlanta, visiting our son, and the experiences there inspired me to tell a visual story. My main impression of the trip was the vast space between those whose basic needs are not met and the ridiculous amount of money that results in enormous skyscrapers and sports arenas. This thought aligns with the distance between ‘high’ art versus art for everyone.
I began by cutting some fabric shapes and adhering them to a quilted fabric panel, 27” square.
I still wasn’t sure what style of art I would follow, but I felt the story needed to be expressed. The first shapes were of a bridge, some skyscrapers beyond, and some tents for homeless people below.
I probably could have stopped there, and had a Minimalist collage, but I had much more to say. At this point, I came across the work of Stuart Davis, whose paintings resembled collages, and contained letters and numbers and images related to technology, tall buildings and bright colors, and I decided this was the direction I would take.
Stuart Davis, New York Mural, 1932, Oil on Canvas, 84 x 48”
Living in rural Florida for more than 40 years now, a trip to the big city is a visual treat and an eye opener. We have no buildings over three stories in my town, and our Main Street is four lanes at most. While in Atlanta we were able to attend a fantastic basketball game between our Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks. Riding on the MARTA rapid transit trains provided an opportunity to see both the poorest and some clearly wealthy people. I was tickled to see some of the best dressed young black men wearing jeans and jackets with painted and patchwork details. I saved my train ticket, along with a receipt and bar coaster from dinner out, and was able to include them in my work, al la Rauschenberg.
Adding symbols of people and experiences during our visit, the collage soon became quite full. I played music similar to what we heard during the ballgame as I collaged the elements. It began to resemble more and more a Stuart Davis painting. It was intense and had strong contrasts. And then, suggestions from peers and Professor had me considering painting over the piece with watered down gesso, a la Malevich. (Wait, what?!!?) The suggestion of making it shaped like a sandwich seemed far-fetched, until I related the word ‘bread’ to money, and thought about the bread that my husband picks up weekly from the store to take to our churches food pantry for the poor. The new title has become We All Need Bread.
Reading further about the transition from modernism to post modernism, and how it paralleled America’s uncertainty related to Civil Rights and environmental issues, as well as political protests, my plan changes made total sense. From Stokstad’s Art History text, “Conceptual art of the 1960’s . . . aimed for a simplicity and clarity similar to that found in the works of Stella and Judd.” and, “In retrospect, the Minimalist emphasis on reducing art to its essence should perhaps be seen as an admission of a diminished notion of its power.” Responding to Jasper Johns’ White Flag painting in 1955 further justified me whitewashing the work I had done. After all, slavery was abolished in 1865, the Civil Rights movement was launched in the 1940’s, and still today black Americans are begging for fair treatment.
I sponged gesso over the surface of the collage.
Goodbye, Stuart Davis, goodbye George Segal Subway, goodbye Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden. Hello again Kazimir Malevich, hello Agnes Martin, hello Jasper Johns.
After two layers of sponged gesso, the work was shaped into bread with a crust of brown binding. My story is hidden in the sandwich, but it is still there. We All Need Bread
Marilyn Stokstad, Art History, Harry N Abrams 1995, p1134,1135
If you made it this far, I would love your feedback about this work, or the story that inspired it. THANKS SO MUCH!