fate in your hands

Yasuo Kuniyoshi, “My Fate Is In Your Hand” from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.  Hyperallergic writes about a Kuniyoshi retrospective currently on view at the Smithsonian. We featured a terrific Kuniyoshi from the Des Moines Art Center here on MWC a couple of years ago.


John Berry, “Beserker”, 2015, oil and spray paint on panel, 8″ x 10″

Here is a second, long overdue (Sorry, John!) response to our new prompt, asking an artist to think of three questions she or he might ask of her or his future self.  This time the artist is John Berry, a young painter living in Greencastle, IN.  The artist chose to approach the response by coming up with a list of questions and providing a short explanation as to why he wants to know.  Berry’s most recent show is Image Loading on view at DePauw University in Greencastle last spring.  You can see more of his work at his website.

Are you still using paint?

It is less and less obvious to me why I should use paint, Continue Reading »

Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me is my favorite read of the year so far.  I borrowed it from the library, so I’ve been typing quotes and thoughts into a word document for reflection.  This blog has a particular focus, and there are a few pages that talk about art writing in a way that I think syncs with the approach toward discussing art on the internet we’ve tried to maintain here.  Not to try to divert any attention from what Solnit’s book is saying about a larger social realm, more trying to incorporate some of the wisdom and questioning into a clearer  standard for myself here.  These are some choice quotes from the chapter titled “Woolf’s Darkness”.

” I used to joke that museums love artists the way that taxidermists love deer, and something of that desire to secure, to stabilize, to render certain and definite the open-ended, nebulous, and adventurous work of artists is present in many who work in that confinement sometimes called the art world…”

“There is a kind of counter-criticism that seeks to expand the work of art, by connecting, opening up its meanings, inviting in the possibilities.  A great work of criticism can liberate a work of art, to be seen fully, to remain alive, to engage in a conversation that will not ever end but will instead keep feeding the imagination.  Not against interpretation, but against confinement, against killing the spirit.”

“My own task these past twenty years or so of living by words has been to try to find or make a language to describe the subtleties, the incalculables, the pleasures and meanings–impossible to categorize–at the heart of things.  My friend Chip Ward speaks of ‘the tyranny of the quantifiable,’ of the way what can be measured almost always takes precedence over what cannot: private profit over public good; speed and efficiency over enjoyment and quality; the utilitarian over the mysteries and meanings that are of greater use to our survival and to more than our survival, to lives that have some purpose and value that survive beyond us to make a civilization worth having.”




Claire Sherman, Rock Wall, 2015, oil on canvas, 84″ x 66″


One of MWC’s  longtime favorite painters, Claire Sherman, opens a new exhibit,  Funeral Mountain, today at Kavi Gupta in Chicago.  The show runs until August 1st, so hopefully your summer travels will allow you a chance to get into the city and see it.  Hopefully mine too!  Here’s a link to our 2010 interview with Sherman.



“Borderlands/Summer Home”, 66″x 48″, oil on canvas, 2015

Adrian Cox is a painter based in St. Louis, making large scale landscape-based work that references both the grotesque and the bucolic.  The paintings appear lush and carefully crafted in a way that seems to be defiantly unfashionable in this decade of the squeegee and exposed stretcher bars.  Cox has a show up at Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati titled Border Creatures and is giving a public talk at the gallery tonight (Friday, May 15).  Border Creatures closes tomorrow but I am sure that Adrian’s work will be on view again, hopefully soon.  See more of his work at his website.

We’ve been wanting to try out some new prompts here on the blog, looking for new and less than obvious ways to get painters to talk about the motivations and the goals, values and standards that drive their practice.  So, we are trying one today that I pretty blatantly ripped-off from a radio report about financial planning:  interview your future self, asking her/him three questions about your work as an artist.  If you wish to, provide some reasoning for the importance of these questions to you now.  (Ripped off and paraphrased a bit, the radio report had nothing to do with artists.)

What follows is Adrian Cox’s response to this challenge.   We want to thank Adrian for responding to this experiment and taking time to provide these words for us.  You will enjoy what he has to say.

What aspects of your work were you initially dishonest about? That is to say, what important parts of your art making experience did you try to compromise or hide as an emerging artist?

This is as much a question that I would like to ask myself in the future as one that I consider now. I’m fully aware of the compromises caused by the functional limitations of being an emerging artist (who doesn’t want a bigger studio?), but I’ve only recently begun questioning other self-imposed limitations. There are certain aspects of my practice that never seem to make their way into exhibitions. My studio is filled with sculpted maquettes that I use as studies for paintings, and while I’ve been using such devices for years, I still find myself uncertain of my relationship to these objects. Right now they’re a means to an end, but I increasingly find this excuse to be an easy way to separate the illusionistic world of representational painting from the weighty objecthood of sculpture. I’m unsure of whether these studies will remain a tangential aspect of my studio work, or transform into something else entirely.

Which painters have remained important to you over the years? Why have you cast aside those that no longer play such a central role in your practice?

I’ve always held that you can get an sense of an painter’s practice from the artists they love; more so from those they hate. When I think about the reasons that I’ve turned away from certain artists that were once central to me, I find myself considering weaknesses in my older work. Likewise, the painters that have grown on me over time reflect moments in which I’ve set forth in new (hopefully better) artistic paths. It’s in the space between these artists that I’m able to measure my growth as a painter. My studio is littered with printed reproductions and dogeared monographs; I can’t help but wonder which of these will stand the test of time.

Do you still feel a need to justify painting?

People constantly remind me of the weighty bulk of my chosen medium’s history, and challenge the artistic and cultural viability of painting. Publicly, I always offer my best conceptual defense for what I do, but in the privacy of my studio I find myself viewing the vastness of painting’s history as more fecund than burdened. Every time I pick up a brush, it’s as if I’m having a séance with my artistic heroes. The discourse surrounding painting is constantly shifting between more or less critical positions, but the intimacy of the medium persists. I can’t guess what position toward painting will become fashionable years from now, but I have to wonder if I’ll still feel the need to leap to its defense at every opportunity. Perhaps my words aren’t needed. The smeared, scrubbed, glazed, and scumbled surfaces that I see in galleries and museums probably offer a more eloquent argument for their own existence than I ever could.


Thomas Berding: Discard Parade, at the Painting Center in NYC, April 28-May 23, 2015.  Here’s an extended quote from the catalog essay by artist John Kissick, I really wish I read more writing about art that looked like this. “And then there is color.  Or perhaps better, there are a variety of colors, each playing off each other in a variety of collisions and embraces; optical tangos if you will.  And then there is white,” Kissick writes, continuing, “That is why Berding’s unabashed use of flat white in his paintings, sitting either on top of his color like snow on a field, or underneath like a tabula rasa for the whole world, is such a provocative and critically interesting development.  White interrupts; white obliterates; white masks.  White is the painter’s ‘white-out’, a blatant and at times wonderfully obnoxious marker of editing and erasure, assertion and distraction.  It both confuses and frustrates our natural or ‘honest’ emotional reaction to the colors around it.  Most of all, it is a vital signifier of imposition and authority on the part of the artist.”


Berding himself can make a great case for the adventure of painting these days.  Here’s a link to our great 2013 interview with Berding.

painting by Allison Gildersleeve

Allison Gildersleeve: Closer Than They Appear at Valley House Gallery in Dallas, TX.  The exhibit runs April 25-May 23, 2015.


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