I was inspired recently to send out an open call among my fellow artist students among a group of MoMA alumni peers.
I did not expect 20 artists to answer the call or that it would cross overseas but that is the diversity of online education and networks and the enthusiasm of a supportive artist group eager to participate in a creative endeavor, for which I am grateful.
The naming of the project inspired by the gatherings the NY School Ab/Ex artists had at The Cedar Bar in NY during the 50’s and 60’s.
The beginning of ‘Cedar Bar Shenanigans’ was raw when I presented the idea but I’m fortunate the process of how to get a collaborative process up and going became clearer. I learnt it is best to be clear in statement before introducing an idea to a large group and to have guidelines or boundaries in place as imagination is wide. It makes it easier when you then include personalities, cultural understandings and personal expression in the mix.
A collaboration works best if all parties are equal in importance and symbiotic in relationship.
The original idea was to circulate one painting between all the artists and see how each persons way of working affected the outcome of the whole. To understand how one persons work influence the next artists choices by means of asking each artist to record their initial impression of the work received and to state why they were altering it the way they had.
The only creative guidelines were to take inspiration from one of the Abstract Expressionist artists we had studied together at MoMA and to only hold the painting for a week in order to keep it moving in a timely manner. Of course with International participants, postal service had a role in the timeline as well but there was no hard deadline for this reason.
The medium chosen was acrylic, personally as an oil painter this was a challenge, but the fast drying time was important for the timeframe too.
After much discussion, concerns raised about cost of postage and the percentage of any one artists work that would remain with a large number working on the painting, it was decided to break the larger group of 20 artists into 4 groups of 5 artists each. This meant additional effort to prepare 4 canvases and mail to 4 artists to begin the project but resulted in a clearer definition of work from all the artists involved and more regional groupings but also quartered the time frame to conclusion of the project.
I set up a google drive for loading ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs and a word document to record artists’ impressions and intentions. This documentation would become the resource for printing the material to create a sketchbook, which will be sent to the Brooklyn Art Library for inclusion in their permanent collection to travel the world.
Here is a link to the Sketchbook project @ Brooklyn Art Library for further information.
I highly recommend artists consider purchasing a sketchbook to complete and send in to the collection. It is an exciting project and a wonderful resting place for our collaboration. It allows the project to live on in another form of collaboration between artists, sharing art with a wider audience. By purchasing a sketchbook to fill you are enabling this crowdfunded project to continue its work.
At present the paintings are circulating, the photo’s, impressions and intents are being collected and I look forward to compiling the sketchbook once all 4 canvases are complete. It is inspiring to see how others are interpreting the guidelines and I am delighted it has provided an opportunity to revisit some of the lessons we undertook together in our Materials and Techniques of Postwar Abstract Painting course.
During my week with the canvas, the Pacific North West experienced a once in 50 years snow storm, dumping 14”s of snow in 48hours starting February 8th. We were completely enveloped in white, a new experience for me.
During this time I heard that one of the artists we studied- Robert Ryman, died (in NYC- aged 88yrs) on the day of the storm. Ryman was known for his ‘white’ paintings, and his exploration of paint and its qualities had no formal arts training but spent 7 years as a security guard at MoMA soaking it all in.
It was a no brainer for me…I was choosing to reflect on Robert Ryman’s Techniques for my inspiration. The snow, his connection with MoMA left no doubt. I had purchased some acrylic paint for an art journal course I was undertaking and when I set out to begin my study of white I discovered one of my paints was named Snow, of course I had to choose it. It matched well with my source of inspiration as Ryman was known to like the blue tinge of a ‘cool’ white too.
As the first artist in my group, painting a white surface left plenty of room for the next artist to engage in the way they saw fit. I covered 1/2 of the canvas is very small strokes, providing a textured ground to bounce off, yet leaving enough clear space for them to play. If I was more familiar with acrylic I may have had a medium gel on hand to help with keeping the intended texture. Acrylic is plastic and therefore settles somewhat as apposed to keeping its shape the way oil paint does.
The result was a little flatter than I had hoped but after 2 layers of same, i realized it would be built on in future efforts and I had no means of leaving the house at that point as we were snowed in!
As first artist in my group, I was inspired with a blank canvas, my environment and the news of Ryman’s passing.
The text for my work:
Inspired by Seattle snowfall and the infinite possibilities of our collaboration.
Everything reduced. White envelopes.
I hear the news. Robert Ryman died.
Simplicity at the forefront. Only brushstroke and paint remain.
Whispers of blue.
The paintings are in circulation for at least a month more but I am excited by the contributions already and look forward to sharing the compilation at the conclusion of this project. It will be interesting to see how each artist influenced the next and we will all be able to see the thought process and progress of the paintings as they traveled from one to the next.
I am truly grateful for all the participants in making what started out as a fun idea conceived one afternoon in my studio, into a reality connecting 20 artists with a united goal from all over the world! May it be the first of many collaborations.