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Showing posts from September, 2011

Art and Health

In her biography of Matisse, Hilary Spurling relates how Matisse tried to help a friend who was sick: he took one of his bright paintings around to the person's apartment in Paris to hang on the wall, so that the illness would be washed away by contemplation of Matisse's glowing colours. We have learned since then that art can indeed have a therapeutic effect, particularly in the making of it. There's a lot of real research to back that up. At the same time, that anecdote about Matisse is a little bit of evidence of the artist's monumental egotism: he truly could not think of a higher gift to anyone, even on their sickbed, than to own one of his pictures, even for a short while. I am struggling at the moment with a torn muscle in my back, or rather the after-effects of an injury sustained a year ago. A lot of calcium has built up around the tear, which I'm working to eliminate by having a chiropractor adjust the spine, having a masseur give me deep-tissue ma

Non-toxic printmaking

I'm still recovering energy from 3 days and 20 hours of teaching. Today's cross-link is to a blog that has tons of information about non-toxic printmaking: link here . That is, printmaking free of all the nasty, carcinogenic chemicals that I used when starting out in the 1990s. There are also links to the sites of very fine printmakers who employ the cleaner methods, such as Elizabeth Dove :   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

A Literary Series

My blog recommendation for today is "The Temple of Air", by writer Patricia Ann McNair (disclosure: she's my wife). That's the name of the site, which is named after her hot new book of short stories (which just got a great review in Booklist ). On the blog page of the site, Patty has been running a series for several months entitled "A View from the Keyboard". She asked writers to send her a picture of their writing space, to write something about it, and to provide an excerpt from some writing in progress. The latest view from the keyboard is from writer Michael Downs . If you're a writer and want to submit to the series, here is the link for the guidelines .   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

Book Arts Tutorials

Today's link is to a blog that contains lots of links to tutorials for making artist's books. There are no fancy pictures, or flash video. There's nothing 4g about it: just lots of great information about making book bindings, casings, boxes, stitching, accordion books, tunnel books, flag books, star books. I've used this resource myself countless times over the past few years. Link here . And here is a picture from an album of handmade books by Geraldine Newfry that I found on the TJBookarts site:   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

Teaching week

I'm teaching five classes in the next three days, each nearly four hours long. If I want to keep up the daily blog discipline, it'll probably have to be with short entries this week. So maybe what I'll do is a form of guest blogging: each day I'll highlight another artist's blog post, and just hope that at the end of the week, anyone who reads them will remember to return here! First, have a look at writer Katey Schultz's blog ( link here ). I interviewed her at the end of July on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of her blog. She has continued to blog about her fascinating journey through the summer, which took her from teaching writing to students at the Interlochen summer camp, to a short co-habitation with a painter in Houston in which they worked on a daily text and image-based piece, to a current writer's residency in the Texas Hill Country. Apparently this is the view of the bison ranch she's staying on: Her blog is always interestin

Meditation on an installation by Deborah Doering

Web-talk number 83 in the series discusses an exhibition by Chicago artist Deborah Doering, who was the subject of the first interview I posted on this blog at the start of 2010. The installation is on display now until the end of September 2011, at the Paul Galvin Library, Illinois Institute of Technology ( click here for details ).   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

The Lucerne Project in Book Form

First of all: I've noticed that the most-read post on this blog is something I wrote last November about seeing an Anish Kapoor sculpture in London, which I coupled with a funny anecdote about said artist, told to me by a friend of mine. Which is weird, considering that most of my posts this year have been about my own work. Which brings me to this. I took photos of all the pages from the 100-page accordion book, together with eight of the texts from the imaginary Lucerne diary, and sent them to the online print-on-demand company, to be printed in book form. I did that last week, and the first copy arrived today. I'm extremely pleased with the result: The cover is an image that wraps around from front to back. Then inside, I arranged the images two to a page, broken up every ten pages or so by text: Copies will be on display in the gallery in October, and the book will also be available then for purchase from Blurb.   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

A new painting by Goya

In 'The Guardian' yesterday, there was an article about a new painting by Goya, discovered by x-ray analysis of an existing painting. The subject is thought to be Napoleon Bonaparte's brother. The link to the full article is here:   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

Interview with artist Carol Setterlund

"Puccini's Paralysis", mixed media on panel, 42" x 36" Carol Setterlund is a painter and sculptor who I got to know on Google Plus. Her work in both media is striking, unified by a preoccupation with texture and material as the embodiment of thought. Renowned art historian Donald Kuspit put it best, when he said of Carol's work: "She is a primitivist with a sophisticated awareness of modernism. The strength of her figures is tempered by the intimacy of their texture, making them all the more dramatically expressive and 'touching.' They are symbolic abstractions that seem profoundly realistic." Philip : You describe yourself as a self-taught artist. How did you find your way to becoming a sustained practitioner of art? Carol : Mostly obsession. Persistence. Drive. Along the way I’ve had a certain amount of ambition, which has helped sustain. I am having to come to terms with the ambition these years. But the obsession continues

In the Studio: Day 66

Covering the base for the clamshell box, which will house the 100-page accordion book. Using burgundy coloured linen, to echo the Swiss flag ( The Lucerne Project , remember?):   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

Meditation on Willem de Kooning's 'Woman'

This is video number 82 in a series of 100.   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

Schnabel Good? Or Schnabel Bad?

I'm co-teaching a class at Columbia College Chicago this semester called Story in Fiction and Film International. In Wednesday's class, we showed "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", directed by Julian Schnabel (who is American, but the film is in French). I first saw Schnabel's paintings in a London gallery in the 1980s. Since then, he's made three films -- "When Night Falls", "Basquiat", and "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly". Personally, I think he's a far better maker of films than he is of paintings. What do you think? Is this: "Untitled (Ross Bleckner), 1985 ... really better than this:   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

In the Studio: Day 65

Actually, this was a studio day, but I didn't go to the studio. I spent a lot of time preparing image files of the 100-page accordion book for the Lucerne Project, which I am sending to be printed using the on-demand publishing site, This is so that visitors to the exhibition in October will be able to see the prints from all the pages. The real accordion book will be displayed accordion style, and so not all of the images will be visible. This means that for the the first time, all the pages of the book have been photographed and digitized with a consistent tonality, size, etc. Here is an album of all 100 pages. Page size: 6" x 4.5". BFK Rives printmaking paper, light grey. Paper-litho transfer prints of found internet images, drawings. All of the pages have between 3 and 6 prints on them.   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

Artist-Writer-Artist: Linda Peer

"How I got where I am today", (bird, side view), mosaic sculpture, 37" x 30" x 14" Linda Peer is a sculptor and a writer, who teaches part of the year in the Fine Art Department of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. I encountered Linda in an unusual way. When I was in Utah recently, I stayed for two nights in a place called Torrey. More or less at random, I went into a bookstore/coffee house to get breakfast. Linda was at one of the tables, working on her laptop. We were introduced by the owner of the coffee house, and after a few minutes during which I discovered that Linda was a sculptor who had recently begun writing, I asked if she would be willing to talk about that process for my blog. Here is the interview that resulted from that chance meeting in the canyonlands of the west. Philip : You made art (and taught at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC) for many years before you started writing. What caused this need to ex

Food stylist

It's been a busy weekend, with my wife Patty's book launch on Friday, and another reading from the book at the Chicago Way reading series on Sunday night. So all I've got for a blog post today is this piece of art that I made with my pub meal leftovers: I think I'll call it "Monkey Masterpiece". Materials: bun, french fries, olives, pickle, lemon, tomato sauce. Dimensions: 5" diameter. Price available on request.   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

My wife's book launch

I've posted about this in other places, but I'm so incredibly proud of my wife Patty after the launch party on Friday evening for her short story collection " The Temple of Air " that I had to write something here, too. More than seventy people came along to Women and Children First, the independent bookstore around the corner from our apartment in Chicago. And not all of them were Patty's friends, family, colleagues, or ex-students! This was a much bigger than average crowd for this venue, and in anticipation of this the bookstore had ordered more than double their normal consignment of books from Elephant Rock Books, the publisher of TTOA. Kathie Bergquist gave a wonderful introduction, and then Patty read one entire story, "Just Like That", which is one of my favourites from the collection. I heard her read it before another audience two years ago, and the same thing happened: people become spellbound, and then there's a moment towards the end

Meditation on Edmund Burke's notion of The Sublime

The latest in this web-series continues the thread of quotations from significant writers on aesthetics.   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader


I have an injured ligament in my lower back that's inhibiting my life somewhat at the moment. I almost didn't post anything on the blog today, despite my nearly two-year long practice of trying to do exactly that. Then I thought of something relevant that I could write. I asked myself the question: are there any good representations of physical injury in the history of art? There are images like this, by Pieter Breugel the Elder: But great though this is, the injuries are not being presented entirely from a feeling of sympathy. Believe it or not, the caricatured style of the faces conforms to a long tradition of only representing peasants as comic creatures, for the amusement of wealthy early Renaissance art buyers. Even if there is sympathy for these poor mutilated fellows, it's not of the sort that is saying "this must change." Whether they were born this way or were mutilated by work, life, or war, Breugel came from a class and a society in which people

Artist-Writer-Artist: A Future Book Introduction (ii)

Part 2 At the end of part 1 , I wrote about my novel being taken on by a London literary agent, and I ended with the question: "So where did it all go wrong?" There are two reasons, I think. One: I didn’t revise enough. Living as I do with a teacher of creative writing, who revises her stories many times, sometimes over a period of years, I realize now that I fell prey to the illusion that one or two edits was enough. Two: I didn’t try hard enough. Ms. Clarke pushed the manuscript, and apparently it came close to being published at one point, but eventually she returned it, while leaving the door open to future submissions of new work. I did indeed write a second novel, but that got rejected too. At that point, I decided that maybe I  was  a writer, but just not quite good enough of a writer to actually get anything published. Three: I got accepted to a Master’s program at an art college. Let’s go back in time again, to those teenage years. I was a precocious kid, an

Interview with writer Patricia Ann McNair

The subject of this interview is my wife, Patricia Ann McNair . We met at an artists' and writers' retreat in Vermont in 2000, and it was partly hearing her read her fiction before an audience that led me to fall in love with her, and with the idea of perhaps moving to the USA. The story that I heard her read that night, in a converted church on a balmy late summer evening, was "The Temple of Air." Now that story and ten other interconnected stories have been published in a collection of the same name, available from the publisher, Elephant Rock Media ( click here for link ), and a certain online outlet I would encourage you only to use as a last resort. In the week of the official book-launch and amid a flood of interview requests, I used my insider influence to ask Patty to answer a few questions about her book, her writing, and even her creative explorations in other media. Philip : On the surface, the stories in ‘The Temple of Air’ deal with average p

Artist-Writer-Artist: A Future Book Introduction

Part 1 I always wanted to be a writer, really.  I especially wanted to be James Joyce. I read “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” for the first time when I was fourteen, and while I didn’t understand all of it, I was deeply affected by it, and if I could point to one book that set me on the path towards going to Clare College, Cambridge, for a degree in English Literature, this was that book. Some of the book’s effect on me was due to the way in which it was written; some of it was due to a large degree of identification. I can still remember the way certain scenes sprang vividly to life as I read them: the argument at the dinner table between Simon Dedalus and Dante; Stephen Dedalus’ being punished at school for a misunderstanding; the great fire-and-brimstone sermon delivered by one of the priest-teachers. I, too, was a Catholic, and a second generation descendant of Irishmen, and while the atmosphere of my Catholic comprehensive school school was not nearly as terrifyin

Working on an animation

We're spending the weekend at our farmhouse near the Mississippi. Here's a picture of me working on a stop-motion animation (painted stroke by stroke with watercolour), using my improvised work-table.   Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

Artist-Writer-Artist: dm simons

dm simons is a visual artist who also writes poetry. In an exchange of correspondence about this interview, dm wrote to me: " I hope my ramblings are not too oblique for you". On the contrary. It was clear to me as I read dm's responses that he had a very personal style, and a manner of writing, in which I wanted to intervene as little as possible. So, for your edification and pleasure, here is a conversation with dm. Philip : You are primarily a visual artist, yet you also write poetry. Have you always done this, or did it start at a particular time? dm : My whole life is been one of images/words, a bifurcation where they stand in for one another, exist with the other, without boundaries and are the same thing, become the same thing; each letter a character/figure, each word an image; images given to me, to us, that is all of us before we were born, in other words we yearn for that which we don't know but know. It is the yearning that is important, the