Critique Collective

Critique Collective is your source for information and interviews about emerging and established contemporary artists.

Tag: painting

Robert Szot Relentlessly Pursues the Seduction of Lyrical Abstract Painting

For fourteen years, Robert Szot has been a constant in the fluctuating Brooklyn art scene. The artist, who arrived in New York from Texas as a twenty-five year old and has since felt the pressures of New York’s stage, embodies honesty in his work. Szot does not shy away from beauty or painterly skill, instead pushing lyrical abstraction forward while rejecting the ever-present pull of zombie formalism. His work is hard to pin down, evincing canonical references in his formal techniques and relationship with beauty and music that seem connected with the abstraction of Synchromist artists such as Stanton Macdonald-Wright or Morgan Russell, a movement that predated Abstract Expressionism by 30 years. These references, though, are mediated by the history of color field painting, at times reaching washy paint handling and breaks between colors reminiscent of Helen Frankenthaler. Regardless, the clearest position in Szot’s work is a deadly sentimentality, the kind of pride in the American painting lineage that leaves Szot’s work poetic, vibrant, emotional, and unapologetically divorced from the often-cold embrace of contemporary painting paradigms.

Robert Szot is represented by Muriel Guépin Gallery, also the site of his 2014 solo show, Woke Up on Broadway. Szot’s work has exhibited in a variety of galleries across the United States from New York to Los Angeles and Texas. His works have been collected in America and abroad. Szot’s paintings can also be found on his website.


Early Voting, oil on linen, 64″ x 53″

Paul Weiner:
Your paintings are largely created with oil on linen. What draws you to these particular materials?

Robert Szot:
I’ve always used oils. Oil paint is a much more particular and fussy medium than, say, acrylic paint, but once you’re accustomed to its personality, oil paint can be worked with for a much longer time before it dries. That’s important to me because I am a constant editor. I also often utilize underpainting with just a thin layer of overpaint, just a suggestion of another color, and I find I can only achieve that with oils. The linen came into play just a few years ago. It feeds my love of history to use linen prepared in a very traditional way. The linen I use has a medium tooth surface that is sized with rabbit skin glue and then double lead primed. It is extravagant, and I often wonder if I should be ruining it by painting on it. It truly is a love affair I am embarrassed to say. Painting on oil primed linen provides a much slicker surface, too. I find oil just sits on top of it and dries very vibrantly. I use the best art supplies I can afford because when I sell a painting, I want, at the very least, to feel confident in the materials. I hate the idea of selling someone something cheap.


Exit California, oil on linen, 54″ x 62″

Paul Weiner:
Contemporary abstract paintings are often labeled as being decorative. Do you consider your work as having any decorative influences or would you reject this interpretation?

Robert Szot:
I would reject that interpretation where my own work is concerned, but I understand why that thought is out there. There is so much access now, which I encourage, but with access comes a flood of under developed and under thought-out “abstract” paintings. Really, there has been a flood of under developed work, abstract or otherwise, lately. I think many of these paintings are created for decoration and are not meant to be interpreted or studied as serious creations. It’s the climate we are in now, fame over everything. Be outrageous, show your ass, whatever it takes to get the attention of strangers regardless of its ability to last or how much thought it will provoke. As a result, the impetus for a painting often becomes a couch and not contemplation. I don’t paint like that. I won’t lie to you and say I don’t appreciate attention, but more than that my work is fiercely personal to me, and I won’t customize it to match decor. Often, I will get a request for a commission that comes with conditions from the client: color, size, etc. I get it. It’s an investment, and something you are going to have to live with hopefully for a long time, but I have to politely decline because I am a painter and not an interior decorator. If you ask for a painting from me, you really are asking for a piece of my life during the time it took to complete that painting, so my ability to compromise is very limited. There are plenty of people printing paintings out on a computer that will gladly go into photoshop and change a color to match your drapes. It’s as empty as it sounds.

Paul Weiner:
How do you usually begin a painting as far as the physical process goes?

Robert Szot:
I’ve always been at my best when I am fixing things on a canvas. I must intentionally make things difficult on myself because I make such bad decisions so often. Fixing them helps me advance the painting as a whole, and my frustration with them provides a real velocity to the work. Starting a painting is very difficult for me because there is nothing to solve in a blank space. So, day one for me is really just putting down marks and choosing colors that will hopefully stand out later in the composition. Lately, I have been getting into a lot of line work, almost like a Brice Marden, dark veiny lines cutting off certain areas of the canvas that may or may not influence the final composition. Nothing is permanent, and I will sacrifice any portion of the painting if it’s dragging the composition down. My paints are also mixed with mineral spirits and walnut oil, so everything is very loose and quite thin.

Vulgar Nobodies, oil on linen mounted on panel, 22″ x 16″

Paul Weiner:
How do you come to a title for your work?

Robert Szot:
I get this question a lot. The short answer is that I read too much Walker Percy and listen to The Smiths on heavy rotation. I’ve always liked clever people who could string a punchy sentence together. The longer answer is I keep a running list of things I hear or see during a regular day, little things that sound good to me in realtime that I may or may not come back and use. I’ll give you an example. Last year, I did two paintings with the same title, “Flood Law.” “Flood” and “Law” are two cross streets in New Orleans that I just happened to be on one day, and the two words just fit together. That is the perfect situation for me because not only does it provide a title but it has the bonus effect of leaving a little hint of my life behind for someone to find. That’s very appealing to me, to make up little mysteries for people to stumble into. It’s a long shot, but someone might find those cross streets one day, think of my painting, and then think what a cleaver bastard that Robert Szot was. I have a deep love of history too and find endless titles in textbooks and historical documents. There is nothing like resurrecting a term like “Demirep” to make you feel like you’re freshening up the language a bit.

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Look in Rooms, oil on linen mounted on panel, 22″ x 16″

Paul Weiner:
Do you usually have an idea or emotion in mind before starting a painting or does that develop together with the painting process?

Robert Szot:
I think emotion builds with the painting, and ideas are generated by other ideas as I work. My process is very kaleidoscopic. One decision leads to twenty others and ideas die and are reborn over and over again. I think, though my process can frustrate me, it provides for an original work every time. I mean, I am certain that I have made similar choices in several different paintings, but, depending on how far I took one idea or another, each painting can stand alone. It is very important to create singularities, objects that don’t repeat and can maintain authorship throughout. Doing this naturally creates a history of work that others can look at and actively participate in. It is very seductive to spend time with a piece of someone’s history, especially if it is one that won’t ever be repeated. Your painting has now become a watermark of your life, and more than that, strangers can come and interact, empathize, and discover parts of who they are through your work. It’s a conversation with a person they never had the opportunity to meet. I never got to meet Philip Guston, but I feel like I know him. I think DeKooning and I make the same mistakes. It sounds sentimental, I know, but it’s a reality for me. I love those guys.

Philistine, oil on linen, 23″ x 16″

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned Brice Marden and his style of painting. Are there any artists who you think have influenced your practice, whether historical or contemporary?

Robert Szot:
I like Brice Marden well enough. I wouldn’t say he was a direct influence on my work, though. Going away, Francis Bacon is the best painter. There is no separation between who he was and his work, which I think is the ultimate goal of any artist worth contemplating. We are all expressing ourselves, I guess, but how many really lay everything out for strangers to review? Not many. Egon Schiele falls in Bacon’s camp too. Philip Guston, who I mentioned earlier, ranks big for me. That guy changed direction midstream and didn’t care what people thought of it. That’s great stuff. Maybe it’s not the work so much that influences me, but the people who made it. Certainly, it is difficult to pull Francis Bacon out of one of my paintings. It’s chalk and cheese, but if I am lucky the approach is the same. I want the energy of a Francis Bacon, the recklessness of a Philip Guston, and the sorrow of a Mark Rothko to all come together in one frame, a terrible sucker punch that unfolds into a deeper story.

Contemporary painters are something new for me. I tend to isolate myself and, as much as I hate to admit it, I look at other painters as friendly competition and would rather be free of their influence. Only recently have I been getting to know other artists, and my new affiliations are pleasant and worth having. Galen Cheney and Christina Foard are wild painters who regularly make decisions I am too afraid to make in my own work. Suzanne Kammin is an extremely talented painter out of New Jersey. You can’t leave Patrick Diaz out of the conversation either. He is spearheading the painting scene in Austin, Texas at the moment. It’s a good news, bad news scenario that these exceptional people exist. God love them, but the competition is too much sometimes.

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Fort Worth Collects, oil on linen mounted on panel, 18″ x 24″

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned that you have a sentimentality for some 20th Century New York artists, especially DeKooning and Guston. Is that why you came to New York?

Robert Szot:
Yes. Probably, in the end, it was. I have family here too, my brother, and he will always be important to me.

The very idea of being able to have a shared experience with someone you admire is irresistible, especially when you’re young and idealistic. I think that drives a lot of people with potential. Imagine you have a very small idea, just an ember of desire to want to do something special with your life. Now imagine there is a tangible place where people who you perceive to have a commonality with spent their formative years. You’d go there, of course. New York City was my school, and, never having had any formal art training, it became this incredible do-or-die life for me. You’re here, and you’re working on surviving whilst painting at night and in between whatever job you can muster that month. It all finds its way back into your painting. Then, at some point, it becomes less about what you do and more about who you’ve become. I remember my first studio was on 14th and 6th Avenue, and I would ride the F train very late at night back to Brooklyn, where I lived. One night on the train, it just struck me that I was very happy to be where I was. Broke, yes. Without prospects or interest in my work, yes. But damn alive. I left everything prior to that moment in the past. I resolved that anything that happened before that little moment on the F train at two or three in the morning was just going to be some warm memory like a story I heard in a bar a long time ago. Maybe that is what happened to people like DeKooning and Guston. Maybe they had that same awakening on the shitty F train. I had to come to New York City to dialogue with the same entity that all great artists seem to know so well that they can incorporate it, use it, in the work they produce.

Paul Weiner:
How long do your paintings usually take from start to finish, and how do you know when you are done?

Robert Szot:
Forever and Never.

Please view Robert Szot’s website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at

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Peter Yumi’s Process-based Collages Evoke Timely Technological Concerns

An aura of technological apprehension envelopes Peter Yumi’s process-heavy collages, an atmosphere of undulation that forms a tornado of imagery. The collages slip into a vacuum of illusory space with limits defined only by the syntax of Yumi’s rigidly predetermined, formulaic process, which would read as a specter of formalist painting if it didn’t act as a signifier for the cold effectiveness implicit in contemporary digital interactions. The collages also evince intuitive tropes as seen in the artist’s working materials from dilapidated selfies to gift-wrapped patterning.

The Denver based artist and former tiger handler for a Las Vegas magic show studied at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and his work has been featured by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Palm Springs Art Museum, Andenken Gallery, and various other venues throughout the United States. Yumi was also recently interviewed in Westword‘s 100 Colorado Creatives series. More images of Yumi’s work can be found on his website.


Faces, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014

Paul Weiner:
How do you find imagery to use in your collages?

Peter Yumi:
Mostly, the materials are found. I collect junk walking around, and people give me a ton of magazines. I also go to estate sales and buy vintage Christmas wrapping paper. I admit it. I have a gift wrapping paper fetish. I started asking friends to pose for me for my newest work. I just send them a text and say, “hey can you send me some selfies?” and they do. The internet is a miracle. I own nearly every single issue of Playboy and decades and decades of National Geographic. I have also taken to collecting soda cans I find or consume on my own and crushing them with my car to use in my collages. I create most of the imagery in the collages on my own, though. I paint quite obsessively. I scan those paintings or photograph them, and they are eventually added to the collages.


Ladies in the House, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014

Paul Weiner:
There are often figures embedded within your collages. Who are these figures, and what meaning do they bring to the work?

Peter Yumi:
Most of the images are of friends or of people from current events. Some are from my Playboy collection. I have been working on my artwork pretty intensely the past few years, and I have not been that social as a result, so I started going out to galleries and photographing people I know as well. Mainly, I wanted to have my work express this general feeling of being cut off from what makes us human, being creative and having the balance of being an individual and part of a community. Today, we have all sorts of gizmos like the internet and our smart phones to be part of a world wide global nervous system, but the payoff is to maintain that you have to give up some of the freedoms of being a free spirit. Everything this measured now. In the workplace, keystrokes and other behaviors are measured, but behaviors that can not be quantified are being forgotten: how well did my cashier at the grocery store make someones day? Those types of behaviors are becoming less and less important. We are losing individual expression at the cost of productivity, and that is really a shame. But, at the same time, I am fearful and know others often feel oppressed by our new technological world but love the rewards that it gives. So, the images are supposed to reflect that feeling of being human and being part of technology or the age of technology anxiety. The subject matter is something important to me because I know that I am not the only one who feels this sense of alienation and dehumanization.


City, collage, Peter Yumi

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about your physical process for collage. What kinds of techniques are you using?

Peter Yumi:
I wrote three different versions to explain how I make these collages. Basically I paint a lot, and as a painter I am very expressive. I have always had a love of patterns and textiles and try to use those in the paintings. I try not to think. I have been a mediator for over twenty years, and that plays an important role in my process. If I start thinking things like “this is really good” or “this is really bad,” I just say to myself, in my head, “you’re thinking,” and I welcome myself back to painting, and I go back to painting. I have created all of these steps to keep as much of my neurotic self out of my process. Once I start making the final collage works, I have a much more methodical means of production.

The work involves a lengthy process of creating paintings and drawings that are scanned and catalogued by color, pattern, and subject matter for later use. Vintage wrapper paper and found photos or selfies and model photos are hole-punched and paper cut involving a process that allows for random cuts to limit the editorial choices. Each and every step of the process involves a set of rules in an attempt to leave the self out of the editorial process. Once the images have been prepped, they are scanned and catalogued. Later, the images are harvested for use in the creation of new images in Photoshop. They are worked through a process that again prohibits many editorial choices and leaves much to chance operations. Once that process is completed, the multiple images are printed out and cut apart using scissors, hole punchers, and circle cutters. They are then laid out on sheets of plexiglass, where they are in turn photographed or scanned. Then the process is again repeated 8, 13, or 21 times. The following rule is used to express the number of layers:

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 7.17.00 PM

Once the layering is completed, sanding of the finished object occurs. The collage is scanned and then processed in Photoshop using a 3% black layer with noise filter set at 348.21%. The images are then saved and sent to production using an HP5800 large-format printer.


John Babcock, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014

Paul Weiner:
Where would you ideally like to see your artwork displayed? Does it fit in a traditional gallery or more of an alternative setting?

Peter Yumi:
I have been looking at joining a few co-op galleries here in Denver. I have spent the past five years or so wood shedding and really editing and working out my process, experimenting. I have been hesitant to show a lot of my work for that reason. I think of the process that writers go through, writing and rewriting and editing and reediting their work, is something that artists should embrace more. In the past, I would make work specifically for a group show, but now I have taken to creating an entire body of work that reads more like a delicious book of poems, and I have found that’s what it requires. I have shown my older work in a number of galleries, but for my newest work I want full control of what I am creating and the environment. I am essentially creating a space that is fully immersible with sound, light, and imagery, so it is important to me to be able to work with the rules that I have set up and do what the work demands. Right now, some of my prints might be ok with a group showing, but ideally they all need to been seen in a space together. They are brothers and sisters. It is my job, like any father, to raise them right and make sure that I provide a good place to nurture them. I work for them. They don’t work for me.


Playboy, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014

Paul Weiner:
Do you see the images you use from Playboy or National Geographic as having appropriated meaning when taken out of their original context or are they only for aesthetic purposes?

Peter Yumi:
I like using the images from anywhere I can find them, really. Sometimes, I will see an image, and it will really hit me like a punch in the gut or it will make me laugh uncontrollably. I have really been doing my best to use images that are older than ten years old, mainly because I want my images to look very contemporary. I think many collage artists fall into the trap of making work with old images because they are copying collage styles from the past, but, when those artists made much of that collage originally, those were new images to them. It is important to me to see those distinctions between new and old images. If the image in the magazine is old, and I like it, though, I just treat it like any other image. In the end, it is about the result. I remember talking with a collage artists about how he used images from a book printed in the 1930s, just cut them up. He seemed proud of this, but to me, that’s what the work demands of a collage artist. You cut stuff up just like a painter mixes paint. A painter does not regret mixing pure blue with red to make purple, so a collage artist shouldn’t have those regrets either.


Abe, collage, Peter Yumi

Paul Weiner:
How did you come up with the rules and equations for your process?

Peter Yumi:
John Cage has been an enormous influence on my work. I used to use I Ching to make my rules. Now, I make my rules through planning and observation of what other artists are doing. Sometimes, it will be a simple rule like only one image can be used in this collage, but you can have multiple copies of that same image. Sometimes, it will be no green. Other times, I will construct elaborate rules based off of language of some poets. Steve McCaffery does it so will with poetry, and I borrow a lot from the poets from that school. The equation I shared earlier is an expression of the Fibonacci sequence and it is used by artists all the time. Sometimes, they don’t even know they are using it with golden ratios. For my layering of images with glass, I decided upon the number of images layered at any given time based on that sequence. It goes like this: 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21. I can have one image by itself, that image with a second image, or a third, but, if I add any additional layers of glass, there has to be five because 2+3=5. So on and so forth, it makes it fun to have those limits. All sorts of strange things start happening during that process, things that happen just because of those rules.


Palace of Water, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014

Paul Weiner:
How may collages would you estimate that you create over the course of a month?

Peter Yumi:
That’s really hard to say. I usually make ten to twenty images a day or more. Then my final finished collage work, I make twenty or more a month. I have created all sorts of ways of automating how the work is shared online with programs like Hootsuite. I use other means to randomly generate tagging of images on social media. I take all that data that is generated from views to my page to create a spreadsheet so I can track the highest number of views and where those people are coming from. That is a project of its own. I am working on a program now that will output all that data visually on my website so people can, if anyone cares but me, see in a beautiful way what they are looking at exactly.


Ladies, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about the Denver art scene. What art venues do you go to when you want to see something interesting?

Peter Yumi:
I mostly go to galleries on Saturday or Sunday afternoon by myself and look at the work when no one is in the galleries. I will go to any space that has shows with friends or folks whose work I am interested in. I am very egalitarian in my choices of artwork. I honestly don’t know a lot about which galleries are currently trendy one or the ones people think are not that great. My thing is that I feel if people are making work that is thought provoking and downright interesting, I am interested in looking at it. I love artists, and anytime someone is making art, I don’t care who they are or who people think they are or aren’t. I feel joy that people are making artwork. We need more people making artwork in our world filled with strife and suffering, creating, getting out of their habitual thinking patterns, and being generally more alive. I just love artists and art.

Please view Peter Yumi’s website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at

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The Antic Staatsoper Critiques Contemporary Life through Hybrid Photography

Encountering the Antic Staatsoper’s work for the first time is like watching a romantic date end in heartbreak. The artist, who originally hails from the south of France and currently lives in San Francisco, sets the stage with masteresque, chiaroscuro lighting reminiscent of Caravaggio’s paintings. He fills his images with classical references to various gods and spiritual scenes throughout his beautifully spacious compositions. But then he introduces the critique, illustrating contemporary issues through old figurative, bodily vessels within a digital landscape. The Antic Staatsoper covers material from censorship to perversion and the narcissism of today’s popular selfies in hopes of reviving art’s historically political conversation in a time when many artists are so preoccupied with the new tools at their hands that they forget about content. These pieces take on the contemporary nude, questioning the Puritan covering of the body that can amount to censorship, especially in the digital space. Oddly, the formally romantic setting of this work recalls the reactionary tendencies that the artist critiques, bringing historical context to the forefront of the work.

The Antic Staatsoper’s work can also be found on his website.


Aborted Goddess of Confidence


Venus and the Dark Veil of the Censorship

Paul Weiner:
You were born in the South of France before moving to San Francisco, California. Do you feel that your art is influenced at all by geography and the cultures of the places you have lived?

The Antic Staatsoper:
Of course! I’m hungry for all cultures and experiences that life can give me.

On a personal level, I consider myself a lucky guy to have the chance to visit the most famous classic and contemporary museums in Europe. In those conditions, your curiosity is better than any art school. Europe gave me a huge culture, keeping me curious about old and contemporary art or popular and underground culture. I’m still surprised every day by the European culture and its diversity. My art is born in Europe, and I can’t do anything to hide that. I only realized how much my photographs appear European since I have left Europe. I wasn’t conscious of that before. The old Europe raised me, but I felt like a teenager who has read too many books of the Beat Generation, dreaming about things bigger than life, still waiting for a train to come.

I’ve always had a craving to live in the American culture. I’ve played in a lot of indie, rock, post-rock, and experimental bands influenced by American music. Some rock runs in my veins. I’ve eaten up the American literature of the 20th century, adored movies from the counterculture, and finally felt the call of a new kind freedom as a way of expression. I think that my thirst for liberty and the dynamism of my work comes from the United States. This energy, this power that pushes me forward, is my American part. I’m proud of it.

My heart, shared between these two loves, has found a perfect balance. Today, my only dark point remains how to be accepted in the galleries with nude pictures in the United States, even in the fantastic Frisco.


Perverted Pieta


Artemis Cutting off Her Hymen

Paul Weiner:
Your works often reference Gods of various different religions and mythologies, as in the case of Venus and the Dark Veil of the Censorship or Perverted Pieta. How do you select the Gods or religions to be used in each work?

The Antic Staatsoper:
“Use what you know” could be my motto. I can’t struggle against my Western culture. I really love the mythology. It seems very human to me. I love the imperfections and the deviant behavior, so simple but true of these gods. There is a real pleasure to play with these creatures. Each character has a specialization. That helps me to focus on my topic. I also like to manipulate their bodies. Their poses, the contraction of the muscles, or the position of each member in the frame can say more than any word can. Also, I need to show naked bodies to remind people that nudity is not pornography. Once again, it’s a way for me to directly ask you some questions about your acceptance of your body as a natural device for communicating with your environment. I don’t understand the prudery today. I tend to see this trend of fearing nudity as the root of many frustrations and conflicts in the world.

I use Christianity too. There are so many things to say, but I didn’t want to walk the easy an outdated path of profanity. Here again, my connections with the painters and sculptors were obvious. Their art take us farther away than the religion they’re supposed to be a part of, like Bach gives you the most powerful perceptions of spirituality with his passions. At the begining, Christianity was the first love revolution of history. But it’s really interesting to see how we have perverted it and used it to abuse others. I show religions as biological systems. This sociological phenomenon is subject to a tragic decay from the dynamic and positive youth to the dark age of its own Apoptosis. However, I think that we cannot ignore the relationship of this system or the people who lead it with their environment. Every religion and their distorted visions could unveil many humorous situations. We are only able to represent our divinities in every religion through our own prism with human or, eventually, animals features. Or, sometimes, religions avoid any representations so as to avoid questions about their origins.

Of course I don’t forget the other religions. For Venus and the Dark Veil of the Censorship, the idea came from many female friends of mine in Europe who told me they could now get in trouble for wearing dresses or skirts in certain places. Some of them have been threatened by puritans asking them to put on veils. I can not let this be silenced. As I said, the body is the key: less gods, more spirit!



Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about the physical process for making these works. To what extent are they digital versus photographic?

The Antic Staatsoper:
It’s hard to answer. I never considered myself as a photographer. I always have doubts when I see the work of other photographers. Actually, I’m just a frustrated painter who is not able to hold a brush or to mix two different colors to get something consistent. I was very impressed by the Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle. He is also one of my favorite contemporary artists. I had the chance to see the five parts of the Cremaster. I discovered that he was, in fact, a plastician. He shot movies only to set up his scenery. I think that is what I do too. My pictures could be movies or paintings or sculptures or even music because in the beginning, I’m a musician. Photography was, well I have to admit, easier for me to manage. Maybe it’s a kind of sketchbook.

My digital process is based on old painting processes. Yes, it’s very old school. The scenery is the same that you could use for a drawing, a very simple set up and a simple light, as natural as possible. I need the models to express struggle and the instability of the situation, the moment before the conclusion. At the end of the process, I try to be a painter, so I use a digital brush because it is less harmful than a real one. I try to paint some texture on the pictures as if I had made and shaped all these pictures with my own hands.



The_Antic_Staatsoper_Narcissus Cloning_aka_The_Curse_of_the_Selfie

Narcissus Cloning (The Curse of the Selfie)

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about your formal interest in merging classical imagery and contemporary, digital methods of creating. Your Decorum series seem to reference, for instance, 17th Century Dutch paintings such as landscapes by Rembrandt and Vermeer while the Gods series has a Baroque feel about it, perhaps sourcing from Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro scenes.

The Antic Staatsoper:
Three years ago, after a long love story, something broke in my relationship with art. I realized that something was missing, but I didn’t know what.

I needed to come back to the classical imagery. I needed to go back to the true aim of art, a way to reach an upper consciousness, a gate to the spirituality. I wanted something less fed by itself, something less self-centered. I was bored by the “me, myself, and I” inspiration. The second point was technology itself. Today, the technique and technology seem to be more important than the intention and the meaning. These perfect tools distract us from our goal. That’s what was missing for me in contemporary art: a real purpose, a yearning, and a real battle for these values. That is what I found in classic art, a strength and a complexity that can haunt you for days and days. In the end, you get your own questions and maybe some answers. This is an active art. It lives inside you. It brings you out of your material contingencies, above the poor representations of the religion and its false perception. This art opened new doors for me. It gave me a window toward spirituality. I use a classical imagery so as to talk about our world.

I also wanted a Lo-Fi approach like in lo-fi music. The aesthetic didn’t need to be perfect, punching digital imagery straight to her face. But using digital technology was necessary too. I don’t want to be seen as passé.

I started the project DECORUM in 2012. At the beginning, I just wanted to ask questions about our uses of these new technologies in art and not about the tool itself. My first intention was to show the lack of sustainability of the contemporary imagery. I imagined digital pictures rusted in our hard drive. Some of its rotten pixels reveal our world like it will remain after us: empty spaces with simple lights, old artifacts of humanity, an old-fashioned vision, the last sustainable form of imagery, and the lights from a vanishing world.

Most of these pictures were taken in the north of France and Paris. The European painters and their uses of natural light were an important influence. In this back-to-the-roots project, I played with the old imagery and its powerful symbolism fulfilled by different meaning and hidden messages. In this way, I began to ask questions about our behavior. It created a place for new experimentations.

I used DECORUM as a starting point for my work-in-progress, GODS. It would be its birth place.

For this project, I chose contrasting imagery. I want you to feel the struggle even in the lighting with only one light above each character, the light of spirituality. The contrast is in the Manichean symbol of their battles. Gericault and Il Caravaggio are my masters, of course. The language of their bodies and the strength of their scenery were decisive and definitely helped me to initiate the project. The body, the pure, naked body in all its beauty is the perfect interface between the material and spiritual world. Only a natural light can express this union, this dialogue.

At this time I realized that I was horrified by a world which is falling again in a new obscurantism and puritanism. Just read the news, and you will get an idea of what I’m talking about. But the thing that scared me the most was the lack of opposition from the world of art. I don’t think that most of our creative producers are really involved in these conflicts.

I needed something powerful in order to ask my questions to the world.

The topics are various, but they all lead to the same basic issues: the misunderstanding between religion and spirituality, the new behaviors between generations, the new medias and how they modify us, large corporations and mass-media, society and entertainment, new relations, empathy, love, fertility, creation, and our ability to reach universal peace. Together.


Atlas Abandoning Our World


Cassandra vs. Pandora

Paul Weiner:
How did you begin your Gods series and what emotions are you trying to evoke?

The Antic Staatsoper:
After having launched the Decorum series, I realized that I created a new universe, a Tabula Rasa where I could experiment with more ideas.

I’m very slow at work, and it took me more than 3 months to complete each picture. Each time, I let my ideas becoming clearer, collecting information to enhance the accuracy of my purpose. I stretched all the interrogations and statements I had in this universe until I got the scenario of the scene. It was the starting point.

Decorum is my Mount Olympus. I filled it with characters coming from mythologies and old beliefs. These characters, these gods, were created as a mirror of our own behaviors or trends, playing with distortions to gain more efficiency. Their symbolism still works in our world, but sometimes the conclusions seem to take unexpected paths.

My first God was Altas. He carries the world on his shoulder, but why should he continue? Do we deserve this privilege? All these Gods evolve live in a blurry world in tandem with our world.

I never intend to give emotions through my pictures. I would like to be able to play with your emotions, but I don’t know how. Emotions are correlated to your own life, so they are different for each person. At each exhibition, the feedback always surprises me. The viewers most of the time describe my pictures as disturbing, erotic, provocative, or mesmerizing, and the reasons were always different for each picture. Rather than giving emotions, I prefer to ask questions. My pictures represent the last step before your own conclusions are made. You could guess how it will end, but the conclusion will be your own one.

I would like after seeing my pictures that you keep them in mind, wondering if you agree or not. Are my questions relevant? Does this picture bring you other questions? Do you feel a new need? Maybe this is the kind of emotion I want you to feel.

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Donald Gialanella Repurposes Everyday Objects as Monumental Public Sculptures

An eclectic restlessness fuels Donald Gialanella’s artwork as he reclaims objects and conjures a nostalgic awareness of the cultures in which he is embedded. Gialanella is known for his use of household objects such as spoons, pots, and pans in constructing monumental public sculptures. In his private work, Gialanella goes so far as to compare the reuse of objects in an artistic setting to Buddhist reincarnation. The works pair a shrewd sensibility for displaying the contemporary moment with commentaries on the universality of utilitarian objects to develop the kind of discussion that so unfortunately eludes many contemporary artists: pop art that thinks. Gialanella’s works are dizzyingly intricate, filled with materials loaded with cultural significance and masterful, poetic metalwork.

Gialanella, who holds an Emmy for his work on Monday Night Football and a BFA from the Cooper Union, lives and works in Los Angeles. Having taught internationally at Bilkent University in Turkey, Gialanella has returned to public sculpture. His sculptures can be found in Napa, CA; Pasadena, CA; and Albany, NY with a forthcoming piece to be installed at the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital on the campus of Stanford Unversity in Palo Alto, CA. Last year, he was included in shows at the ADC/Building Bridges Gallery in Bergamot Station, Santa Monica and the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Ana, CA. Gialanella’s artwork can also be found on his website.




Paul Weiner:
Tell us about your interest in creating sculptures out of recycled and reclaimed objects. Where did this inspiration come from?

Donald Gialanella:
I have been working with recycled and reclaimed materials for decades now and can’t put my finger on exactly why I’m drawn to these objects. What I can say is that I have a deep connection to working with odd assemblages of objects, and I enjoy act of shaping metal.

When I begin to work with these materials, I feel the juices flowing and enter into a kind of creative rapture. The process is beyond logic. I can begin working, and something poetic grabs me, and changes me, and the work begins to exist on its own terms. I am there as a medium to guide the process.

The inspiration to use discarded objects to make art started when I was a boy. I used to rummage around in the scrap box underneath my dad’s table saw. I would take these odd shaped bits of wood and glue them together to create little figures of eskimos, genies, knights and animals.

Looking at things differently is the role of the artist. Art reflects our culture and offers a new perspective about ourselves and the world we live in. When I see discarded objects, I think about them as raw materials for art. I look at trash differently than the average person.


Paul Weiner:
In your LA BUDDHA and LIBIDO works, you introduce the two-dimensional painted surface to these reclaimed objects. I read The Buddha as a symbol, perhaps one for the Buddhist concept or reincarnation, in association with your way of giving new life to objects. Are you consciously constructing these symbolic webs?

Donald Gialanella:
The Buddha series serves as metaphor for the reincarnation of the objects that lived their initial lives and are returning in new lives. I used a two-dimensional or low-relief approach to these wall-hung assemblages.

The pieces explore the problematic juxtaposition of planned obsolescence versus modernity and substance over spirituality. It explores our relationship to materialism and probes how we look at permanence. What emerge are ideas that prompt the viewer to ponder environmental responsibility and our cultural relationship to waste and sustainability.

Art critic Dave Quick wrote about these works, “The genre is also a nod to Southern California multiculturalism. (Indeed, one of the area’s largest Buddhist temples is located in the San Fernando Valley not far from Gialanella’s studio.) All nine works are mounted on recycled plastic pallets, which hang on the wall and create space between the wall and the work to create a more three-dimensional, sculptural effect. The pallets themselves continue the metaphorical reincarnation — pallets that once carried other loads, now carry Gialanella’s creativity.”



Paul Weiner:
What is your reasoning behind the use of multiple common objects, like spoons and gears, to create your assemblage sculptures?

Donald Gialanella:
The commonplace things we use every day are important elements in our lives: pots, pans, silverware, dog bowls, coffee cups. We have a relationship with them, a kind of emotional bond. We use them to nourish ourselves, to cook with, to put food in our mouths, and to drink out of. They are an extension of our humanity.

People’s connection to these mass-produced utilitarian objects fascinates me. I’m interested in their lifecycle, the almost living lifecycle of the modern object: production, marketing, ownership, and destruction in the end. That’s the typical story of these modern objects. I interrupt this story by using accumulations of these objects in my art.

By disrupting an object’s normal lifecycle, one looks at things differently. A spoon is not just a spoon anymore. A pot is not just a pot. The object’s normal lifecycle is interrupted by using it as an element in my sculpture. It is saved from destruction. It is frozen in time.

When it is embedded in an assemblage, you stop the moment. You see it as a memory of objects that nurtured you all your life.


Paul Weiner:
Your Youtube account, livesteel, features a wide variety of videos from your own art exhibitions to bison running from a volcano and a mysterious space ball dropping on Namibia. Some of the videos on the odd side have gone viral, gaining millions of views. Is this some kind of elaborate ruse, a foray into video art, or are these just videos you’ve taken and compiled out of your own interest?

Donald Gialanella:
The Youtube channel contains an eclectic mix of videos that range from a slightly skewed look at natural phenomena to some not-so-mainstream people at the fringe. I do think of them as video art.

The content is hard to categorize, as some are satirical send-ups or cartoon-like puns, some are re-edits of available footage, some are raw video of events I shot, and some are elaborate video productions involving a crew and post-production facilities.

These videos are both an offbeat way of telling stories and a way to illuminate environmental issues I am concerned about.

It all started when I photographed a desiccated dead dog I came across while hiking in the high desert of Taos, NM. I put a move on the still photo and posted it as a short video on Youtube. It got a million views and was embraced by the cryptozoologists and conspiracy theorists alike. I made some obvious parodies after that which also garnered big views, the humor in them being largely ignored by people looking for proof of the existence of monsters and aliens.

One section of the channel is dedicated to my art videos, showing a glimpse into the creative process as well as time-lapse creation of artwork, painting videos, welding, art events, and commentary.


Paul Weiner:
The sculptures seem to take on the influences of the previous uses for the objects you incorporate, intrinsically loaded with cultural values. As such, the places you find these objects impacts the meaning of the work. What are some of your favorite places to find the objects you use for your sculptures?

Donald Gialanella:
I am always on the lookout for materials where ever I go. It’s a bit of an obsession. House sales, garbage cans, the side of the road, flea markets, auctions, auto repair shops and scrap yards are all places where I find interesting objects. Sometimes I buy things in bulk, a gross of spoons or coffee creamers.

A toy drive was held at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital to gather hundreds of toys needed for building the assemblage cow sculpture I’m creating. The drive yielded seven very large boxes of toys that ranged from matchbox cars, dolls and action figures, to transformers, Legos, animals, and Sponge Bobs.

The toys then have to be processed in order to be able to use, meaning I have to remove all batteries and sort by size, color and material. This makes the search for a particular shape and color toy much easier during the application of the toys to the cow armature, or what I call populating the surface.

A Los Angeles filmmaker, Scott Trosclair, is making a documentary that shows the entire process of building the cow, from inception to installation.


Paul Weiner:
What originally drew you to creating public sculptures and expanding out from the commercial gallery art scene?

Donald Gialanella:
Twenty years ago, commercial galleries were the main outlet for art sales. Today, that has changed. It just doesn’t make much sense for an artist to give away 50% or even 60% of his sales to the gallery. With the visibility afforded by an online presence, the artist can now present their work to a large audience more affordably than brick and mortar gallery prices. It’s a win/win situation for the artist and their clients.

When I lived in Taos, I met artist Larry Bell, who had studios in both Taos, NM and Venice Beach, CA. I remember him referring to galleries as “upscale consignment shops.” That about sums it up.

However, there is a clear distinction to be made between commercial galleries, the consignment shops if you will, and the academic/museum quality galleries that show cutting-edge work and site-specific installations.

This past summer I was part of an exhibition, Art and Democracy V, at the ADC/Building Bridges Gallery in Bergamot Station, Santa Monica. Also, last summer, my work was included in a three-person show at OCCCA (The Orange County Center for Contemporary Art) in Santa Ana, CA.


Paul Weiner:
You have quite a bit of experience working with art in a public setting, including your time working with graphics at ABC-TV in New York. Do you see any ways in which your current art reflects your older work with graphics, either in process or in thought?

Donald Gialanella:
My background in computer graphics has helped me greatly as an artist by allowing me to understand and use digital tools that can visualize and communicate ideas through compelling images.

The process of designing a TV project and a sculpture begin in the same way – with sketches to work out the preliminary ideas. There is nothing better than a drawing to quickly realize your design. It’s a valuable skill to be able to draw something in a simple and direct way that contains the basic form and layout of your idea.

Every creative endeavor can benefit from making early adjustments on paper before progressing to construction. It’s easier to use an eraser than it is to use a bulldozer.


Paul Weiner:
Public sculptures are intriguing because they exist more directly for people outside of the art world. For instance, it isn’t uncommon to see children climbing around on public sculptures or people staring out of their car windows at them. Do you ever return to the sites of your public works to see how the public interacts with them?

Donald Gialanella:
I enjoy seeing my work in the public arena, but I usually don’t have the luxury of revisiting the sites after installation unless the sculptures are damaged, which is exactly what happened to a piece installed on Main Street in Napa, CA. After the sculpture had been up for over a year, I received a call that vandals had gotten on top of the stainless steel orb overnight and rocked back and forth until it was loose on the base and listing to one side. I had to fly up and repair it. The incident taught me a valuable lesson: you must over-engineer outdoor sculpture to be able to withstand the vagaries of public display.

That brings up another point. There is really no way to make a piece of art completely damage-proof. Public sculpture is susceptible from taggers and vandals 24/7. The only thing that can dissuade attacks is the very public and visible placement of the piece, adequate lighting at night, and solid construction and mounting. But, again, nothing is immune.


Paul Weiner:
You must run into a wide range of structural issues when constructing these sculptures. What are the challenges of building a chassis or armature for some of these works?

Donald Gialanella:
When commissioned to do a public sculpture, it is imperative to have a structural engineer work out details of how weight and size stress the armature and base attachment. Public safety and durability are of paramount concern. Based on the engineering report, I use the specified gauge of materials and recommended welding certification.

The larger the sculpture is, the more challenging it is to construct. It’s many times more difficult to build an eight foot tall sculpture than a four foot tall piece. Safety in the studio is a primary concern as plasma cutting, welding, grinding, and manipulating heavy objects are all inherently dangerous operations.

A new project I am doing in Blue Springs, MO, involves two large pieces of 1/4” thick steel that weigh in excess of 500 lbs. each being delivered to my studio. The final sculpture will weigh over half a ton.

Paul Weiner:
How does your work function within a gallery space? Do you create the same kind of work for a gallery or academic space as you do for public works?

Donald Gialanella:
I approach public art design by focusing on the goals of the project, analyzing usage of the site as it relates to the local culture and community, and finally developing a plan of action to fulfill and balance the complexities of the project effectively and compellingly. My goal is to implement public art in a way that has a lasting positive impact on the local community. This is a much different process from mounting a gallery show.

A gallery show is usually a more personal statement with work that is created with an introspective motivation. It’s a chance to experiment and get feedback about new ideas.


Paul Weiner:
Which artist, either historical or contemporary, do you feel has had the greatest impact on your work?

Donald Gialanella:
I had the privilege of learning from some well-known artists while I was earning my BFA at The Cooper Union in the late ’70s. My teachers read like a Who’s Who of contemporary art. I studied with Hans Haacke and Vito Acconci, Kenneth Snelson, Jim Dine and Louise Bourgeois. But the greatest impact on my career was made by Louise Bourgeois, who asked me to become her assistant after graduation.

I was both thrilled and apprehensive when Louise asked me to work for her at her home in a Chelsea brownstone. Always the wry provocateur, she tested my resolve on the first day. Ushering me up a flight of stairs, she opened up a closet door and pointed to an inside wall. “You will make a portal,” she said and then walked away. On the floor was a lone pickaxe. When she returned a half-hour later and saw the hole I put in her wall, she smiled and said, “You break through a wall without knowing what is on the other side?” She then added a terse, “Very good.”

I made several more portals in the walls of her house over the years. She used to scurry through these odd shaped archways to escape from exasperated gallery owners and art dealers.

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Sage Cruz Field Discusses His Interdisciplinary Practice

Sage Cruz Field links various forms of visual representation through his diverse body of work. Paintings and prints depicting animals hang eclectically with photographs and forays into the colorful language of abstraction. Manipulated with everything from acrylic to oil and spray paint on substrates such as cardboard and mattresses, Cruz Field’s paintings simultaneously evince sensations tangential to street art, lyrical abstraction, and figuration. These expressive techniques inform Cruz Field’s use of animal and human forms to expose the iconography of the representational pictorial plane as an emotional and psychological space.

Cruz Field currently lives in Syracuse, NY, where he is seeking a BFA in painting at Syracuse University. His works will be exhibited in a solo exhibition open to the public at Spark Contemporary Art Space at 1005 E. Fayette Street, Syracuse, NY on April 18, 2015. Cruz Field’s artwork can also be found on his website and tumblr.



Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about your process and aesthetics. How do you usually start a painting?

Sage Cruz Field:
I deliberately start a painting either abstract or realistic. My realistic pieces tend to illustrate a moment in time. Oils are an amazing tool, but I love to exaggerate space or form with the puff of spray paint. I am always drawn to worn materials because they are an immediate representation of time. Lately, I have gone back to acrylics in order to create a pop art sense of space in pieces.


Paul Weiner:
What artist or artists do you feel have had the greatest influence on your work?

Sage Cruz Field:
My father has been my biggest influence in art. Seeing him working as an artist, whether it be oils, drawing, or murals, shaped who I am today. I am surprised sometimes to see colors and shapes in my pieces that stem directly from him. Seeing an old sketchbook of his one day really made this click for me. I always have to give credit to the graffiti artists I grew up seeing in the streets. Their language has also had a major impact on me. Other professional artists tend to be an afterthought.


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Paul Weiner:
You work in both abstract and figurative painting as well as photography. Is there any difference in how you think about making work across these different mediums?

Sage Cruz Field:
As I said, my realistic work is usually quite calculated even though the narrative may be open-ended. My abstract pieces are a series of experiments that end with victory or defeat. Over the years, I have, of course, tried to evolve the process of my paintings in different ways. Photography has definitely been a catalyst in changing my approach in all mediums. The immediacy of a photograph is powerful and hard to get a grasp on. In my eyes, however, the brush and camera are very similar tools.

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Paul Weiner:
Many of your recent works use animals as the subject. How do you decide on these animals and how does their presence impact the painting?

Sage Cruz Field:
Over time, my use of the animals has changed. I began using them as vehicle to communicate emotions such as grief, joy, or rage. Since then, my connection to these animals has mostly come from personal encounters in which I had the ability to photograph them. Sometimes, I find myself following animals to photograph them or just see where they lead me.


Paul Weiner:
You mentioned the connection between your work and graffiti artists you see on the street. Is the ideal setting for your work public like graffiti, in a more private space like a gallery, or somewhere else?

Sage Cruz Field:
Like the work of street and graffiti artists, I have strived to become versatile in different environments. Maybe this is why I am attracted to video, design, and photography. I never considered separating myself from a specific platform such as a gallery or the street. Instead, I have tried to understand the power of each and their relationship to the community. I have worked very hard to contribute my work to the surrounding community in various ways. A vast space like the internet is very saturated with artists, and your local neighborhood is always substantially less.



Paul Weiner:
When did you first start painting and how has your work evolved in recent years?

Sage Cruz Field:
I began seriously painting in high school when I received a scholarship to take free classes at the Steve Carpenter Studio. Steve is an extremely accomplished painter and amazing teacher. I focused here on still life painting. I was also accepted into the New York State Summer School of the Arts while in high school. Here, I focused on figure drawing and installation art. Experience with printmaking has also affected how I approach some paintings. Music has integrated into my art and photography in many ways, mainly through press passes and photo clients. Overall, I have maintained a specific outlook on color and energy that I hope people can recognize.

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Mary Luke’s Paintings Merge Existentialist Theories and the Human Figure

mary luke

Detail of self portrait, 2013

Mary Luke is known for paintings involving existentialist commentary on the human figure, particularly as it relates to aging. In her monumental oil paintings that often extend five or more feet in either direction, Luke develops a tour de force of painterly figuration, engulfing viewers in voids and distorted body parts. Luke often works on unstretched canvas, applying various papers, paints, tape, and detritus from her studio to create heavy layers of rich, malleable textures and an atmosphere reminiscent of action painters like Willem De Kooning. Better yet, her recent works plunge into the realm of gesture and ephemerality, where her non-archival paintings are given a life span mimicking that of her subject, elderly human figures. Though many of Luke’s recent works may be seen as vignettes, these single figures act as decentralized nodes for a postmodern theoretical discourse when placed in the gallery setting. A visual language emanates from the didactic works, which is punctuated by elegant aesthetic choices including swirls of impasto oil paint, varying line qualities, and enticing pops of color.

Luke recently relocated to Philadelphia after graduating from Syracuse University with a BFA in painting in May of 2014. She has displayed her artwork in the Piazzale Donatello 21 in Florence, Italy, Katonah Museum of Art, SUNY Purchase, and various galleries throughout the Syracuse area such as 914 Works and XL Projects. Further images and information about Luke’s work can be found on her website.

new installation

Installation at Piazzale Donatello 21 in Florence, Italy, 2013

Paul Weiner:
What kinds of materials do you use in your work?

Mary Luke:
Oil paint is the leading medium in my work. However, I am interested in combining oil paint with other mediums including charcoal, graphite, pastel, ink, and acrylic paint. And, although I generally paint on canvas, it is often stretched directly onto the wall, exposing imperfect shape and fraying edges.
This combination of materials and collage-like process along with my informal presentation is key to my work. I allow things to remain unfinished, and I find form in the scraps of paper and other studio debris often recycled from other works.

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Self Portrait, Sitting No. 2, 2014

Paul Weiner:
How has your work evolved over the past few years?

Mary Luke:
I have always focused on the human figure as a subject in my work. And although that has not changed in the past few years, my style, portrayal, and scale of the figure has evolved dramatically. I find it important for artists to develop observational skills through traditional means before being allowed to utilize distortion or abstraction in their work. That way, they fully understand that which they are abstracting. That is why there is a definite transition from my early work, which employs aspects of realism and impressionism, to my recent work, which focuses more on gesture and exposes the process of the painting rather than masking it with fully rendered form and space. My work has also grown in size over the years; I find that my larger works have a greater effect on the viewer and allow them to enter the painting as the subject.

new self portrait, sitting

Self Portrait, Sitting, 2013

Paul Weiner:
Which artists have been most influential to your practice?

Mary Luke:
There are many artists who have influenced my work. Francis Bacon has probably been the most influential, especially in my most recent body of work from the past couple years. I have always admired his distorted depiction of the figure often placed in an equally distorted space. He has an incredible ability to create these figures that make you uncomfortable yet empathetic. I similarly strive to allow for the viewer to place him or herself in the context of the painting; in that way, the work becomes something greater than a painting and allows for a very personal, yet universally human, emotional response to the work.

I have also avidly studied the works of R.B. Kitaj who utilizes bright colours and layers of space and form, mimicking collage. He also creates disorienting environments which provoke a sense of psychotic-ness, similar to Bacon.

Both Bacon and Kitaj stayed faithful to figurative art during times when abstraction dominated the art world. Since then, many artists have continued to abandon the figure as more media is introduced into contemporary art. Despite this, I think the figure will always be a vital part of the art world and my body of work as it is inevitably the most relatable to both the artist and viewer.

new self portrait, collaged

Self Portrait, Collaged, 2013

Paul Weiner:
Do you see painting as being more about expression or is it a tool for conceptual and political commentary?

Mary Luke:
I think that painting lends itself equally to expression and conceptualism. When you think about it, concept comes from expression; at least, that is how it should work. I do think that contemporary art is often over-conceptualized, meaning that the concept is more important and precedes the expression of the artwork itself, leaving little for the viewer to look at and contemplate. Whenever art is described and used as a tool for political commentary, it completely loses its expressive and artistic quality because it is being extorted and manipulated into something synthetic and insincere. There is a fine line between these realms of art, and I think the only way to decipher between the two is to determine if a piece of art can speak for itself or if it needs translation. It is the latter that we need to avoid.

new old woman

Old Woman, 2014

new old man

Old Man, 2014

Paul Weiner:
Many of your recent paintings involve elderly figures. Why did you choose this subject matter?

Mary Luke:
There are a few things that attracted me to portraying elderly figures in my recent works. First, it has to do with form; the ideal human form as the media and society is concerned is completely different than the ideal form in figure drawing. Figure needs mass, space, shapes, line, etc. to make it visually appealing as well as interesting to draw in the first place. Though the idea of folds of skin and wrinkles and sagging body parts seems off-putting, these qualities have so much potential for capturing emotion as well as a sense of physical being. I am very concerned with confrontation in my work in that I want the viewer to confront the figure and vice versa; therefore, it is necessary to give the viewer a figure that, though two-dimensional, has a physical presence.

The second reason I have been painting elderly figures is more conceptual than the first. I try to incorporate my studies and interest in philosophy in my paintings. There is an inarguable connection between existentialist theories and my portrayal of these aging human forms who, when you really look at it, are only made up from gestural lines and glimpses of body parts. So, although they seem physically there, it is really the mind and consciousness of the figure that has brought forth its existence on the canvas. Again, I believe that elderly figures have the greatest potential to relay this idea because you can see their bodies aging and deteriorating, further emphasizing the role of conscious existence.

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Self Portrait, 2013

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Self Portrait, Reaching, 2013

Paul Weiner:
Where would you ideally display your work? Does it belong in a traditional gallery setting or a more alternative space?

Mary Luke:
Of course, as an artist, it would be ideal to see my work in a gallery or a museum. However, I find that my paintings thrive most on the walls of my studio, where they were created. Few people get to see my work in that environment, but it’s interesting to see how the space has been transformed by the making of the piece and vice versa. In that way, you can see further into the process, see what was left behind and what was included and how my paintings progress together.

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David Phillips Paints with the Spirit of the Contemporary American West

David Phillips is a painter from Tulsa, Oklahoma who is now working in Los Angeles, California. He has shown his work at a wide variety of venues including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Carnegie Hall, and the Downtown Art Center of Los Angeles. Phillips has been featured on CBS News and in the Los Angeles Times. His paintings can also be found on his website.


Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about the way you started painting both physically and conceptually.

David Phillips:
I have the first painting I ever made framed inside my house. The painting is an abstract portrait painted in 1983. I was four years old. My grandmother was an oil painter in Oklahoma. She painted flowers, landscapes, and still life. She kept a studio inside her house. When my two younger brothers and I would visit, we would inevitably get into trouble. The adults would separate us into different rooms. I was always confined to the studio. I still remember the smell, the rags, the brushes. I was hooked.

wino-strut Bottles

Paul Weiner:
How did your habit of leaving your artwork places for others to find and take home come about?

David Phillips:
The act of leaving certain pieces of art around Los Angeles has manifested multiples times throughout my career. At first, my studio was simply too packed to hold any more materials. My studio is by the beach. I decided to take all the pages from my sketchbook and put them inside bottles as a take on a message in a bottle. The act of leaving art around town gained traction and became popular in my community. The initial project propagated larger works such as found sculptures and public installations. As of now, I think such public works ran their course, and I no longer do such things.

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Paul Weiner:
Describe your transition from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Venice, California. How was your artwork altered by the move?

David Phillips:
I believe a professional artist must live in a large city. You have to be around the galleries and museums you wish to show. You have to be next to a large market. You have to be directly in the vice grip of struggle. You have to be completely absorbed by the frenetic. Now, I am referring to the artist at the beginning of his career. I am referring to the artist who wants to be collected on a grand scale and be inside major museums, the artist who wants a permanent stamp inside art history. Look at the major contemporary artists post-WWII: Pollock, Guston, Still, Twombly, De Kooning, Rauschenberg, Schnabel, Ruscha, Bacon. The list is endless.

I love Oklahoma. I painted there for years. When I painted in Oklahoma, I painted wildlife. The images I made were more photo recreation or realism. I practiced religiously. I honed my technique. I used oil paints as per their intention, but the paintings fell flat. I had no understanding of the psychological impact of color. I didn’t understand automatism or experimentation. Moving to Los Angeles opened up Pandora’s Box for me artistically. Of course contributing factors such as age, life experience, and maturity come into play. Los Angeles allowed me to live by my terms and become my true self. I completely submersed myself into the life of an artist, a real artist constantly experimenting, always progressing. I completely gainsay the pictorial, the symbolic, the illustrative, and the ever-feared ‘decorative’. I deny the theory that painting has been completely deconstructed. I deny that the contemporary image cannot progress. A new art can still be made. I will die trying to make it.

Kung Fu

Paul Weiner:
Thinking about art markets today, how happy are you with your time around Los Angeles? Would you choose Los Angeles over New York City?

David Phillips:
Whew. Well, that is a question I’d prefer to answer over lots of beer and whiskey. I think a majority of the art in Los Angeles is horrendous. A very large percentage of the artists are “street artists” or have an urban/hip hop vibe that spotlights the twerps making it rather than the actual work. I suppose this is a popular trend in art right now regardless of region, but it is especially prevalent in Los Angeles. The most important lesson to learn by that is to just stick to your vision. Simply put, do not worry for one second what other emerging ‘artists’ are doing. Study your influences relentlessly, and try to stick to your singular vision as an artist. Hone your craft to master prestige. One good thing about having a shitty trend like “street art” being popular is that means there are people with disposable income who are willing to buy. Therefore, it may be slightly easier to sell a picture that was handmade with proper technique. I am continually blown away at the amount of artists in Los Angeles who do not make their own canvas or material. It’s mind blowing. They do not realize that a picture painted on a pre-made, store bought canvas is complete bullshit. If the canvas is pre-made, then the end resulting painting is a collaboration between the artist and the art store. Period. The piece of art’s bio should include “Collaboration Between _____(artist) and Blick Art Supplies” or “Collaboration Between _____(artist) and Hobby Lobby”. They will learn very quickly when they try to get a piece in a respectable museum. I’ve also noticed a majority of artists in Los Angeles do not mix their own colors. They typically paint straight out of the tube.

I love Los Angeles. I love the weather (who wouldn’t?), the beaches, the women, fuck, everything about it. It’s the greatest city in the world in my opinion. The people ruin it, but they can’t take away the great weather and cool vibe. I definitely believe things happen quicker in New York, of course. New York artists also have the luxury of history. When Peggy Guggenheim decided to leave Paris and bring the surrealists to New York, that was it, done and done. The new art world epicenter became New York. Los Angeles will always be on the coattails of that fact. However, that does not mean a new art cannot be made here or important artists won’t prevail. We have numerous examples of very important artists here: Baldessari, Larry Bell, Peter Lodato, Billy Al Bengston, Robert Irwin, James Turrell, etc. From a market standpoint, LA has the advantage of population. We have almost 2 million more people than New York City.


Paul Weiner:
Working seriously in abstraction today can be difficult since the market is so saturated, and so many painters are focused on making abstract paintings purely as commercial objects to be sold. How do you set yourself apart from the crowd of abstract expressionists?

David Phillips:
Well if any artist sets out to create work only to sell,good luck. Don’t get me wrong. An artist obviously needs money just like anybody else needs money. The separating factor is that the need to create the art, the drive, has to be so strong that it supersedes money. Thus, I don’t know how much I believe artists are created. Personally, I think they are born. If the need or will to create is that strong, it means it has been practiced since, well, almost birth. Therefore, once the artists reaches an age of independence or adulthood, the work should be strong enough to warrant sales. Yes, this may alienate the weekend painter or hobbyist, but it draws a very distinct line in the sand between a person who has created or painted his whole life versus a person who wishes he could paint to make money and leave his job. Therefore, I set myself apart in a very major way by being a full-time artist with a working studio. Now, to make it even more niche, I am not just an abstract expressionists. I make abstract paintings, but I also paint realism and portraits, and I make films, music videos, collage pieces, and sculpture. There is an overlaying style or look that I suppose would be recognizable to some, and that is what it is. Different people have called it different things such as avant garde, conceptual, or abstract expressionism. At the end of the day, I just execute whatever idea or build whatever it is I want to accomplish. After that, it’s pretty much out of my hands.


Paul Weiner:
Museums and collectors have long been fascinated by artists of the American West. Despite differences in style from many of the popular realist Western artists, do you feel that you are the contemporary manifestation of a Western painter?

David Phillips:
I am the contemporary American West.


Paul Weiner:
Do you feel as if artists are properly valued in American society?

David Phillips:
I do feel that artists are properly valued in America. The problem is that it is the wrong artists. You have to be very careful with art because it is a career where hard work might not pay off. The American public has mistaken gimmick for talent. A majority of today’s most celebrated living artists have achieved success through gimmick rather than practice, study, or hard work. You have a guy who screen prints a Ronald McDonald all over town, then you have another guy who picks Count Dracula. This is not art. This is gimmick. Don’t get me wrong. The allure of fame, consistent art sales, and major shows is enough to attract any artist. Now, imagine if De Kooning were alive today and saw that. He was an immigrant who had to sneak his way into the United States on his 13th try. Then he lived through a depression as an artist! Then he navigated his way through the gallery scene with an academic education equivalent of the eighth grade. Imagine he sees the successful or selling artists today. He would pass out, either from laughter or rage. I do feel America has the propensity to properly value an artist. It is simply misguided. It will change over time, just as most fads do.


Paul Weiner:
You’ve spoken about your perception of artists who use colors straight from the tube and pre-made canvas as making inferior work. Some artists and critics might critique these tools as being the impact of a quasi-capitalist art market where corporations create the tools artists use and corporate collections (e.g. Deutsche Bank, Progressive, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase) buy the resulting art. To what extent do you find the use of pre-made materials an ethical dilemma versus an aesthetic one?

David Phillips:
Well, of course there is a huge, huge beauty in a fresh tube of cadmium red, and of course there is nothing wrong with using that red straight out of the tube as long as the artist’s intentional vision justifies the usage. I suppose I was referring to the artists simply making art to sell. I do stand by the thesis that artists should create art as handmade as possible. This gives the artist control over shape, size, coarseness, etc, which, in turn, executes the artist’s vision more precisely. I remember watching the “Who The Fuck is Jackson Pollock?” documentary years ago. I remember by just watching the movie, which included many scholars, and thinking, “How the fuck do they not know that this is not his painting?” I could tell through a goddamn television screen. The pink in the painting was not his pink. The paint used was not enamel or anything close to what he used. The canvas wasn’t built by him. Look at the edges. The answer was in the materials, not the style.


Paul Weiner:
Is your goal in painting to create artwork that clearly communicates your perception or is it to evoke a sublime reaction to yourself and your viewers?

David Phillips:
I don’t know how much of a goal I have with any painting. I try not to think about any particular person or client. This would certainly influence the outcome, and it gets back to the art versus commerce debate. I suppose the only goal would be to capture the feeling or essence of any particular object I am painting. I do not paint the apple. I paint what the apple taste like. I paint what would happen if the apple was pissed off or hurt. Of course, any painter would love to evoke a sublime reaction to a viewer. That is probably the best result!


Paul Weiner:
Many abstract artists have struggled with creating titles, leading some to go so far as to use dates or numerical systems as titles. How do you go about titling a painting and how do you feel about the practice of artists who sign their paintings?

David Phillips:
When you are creating paintings at a very fast rate or high capacity, inevitably you run out of titles. Also, using dates or “Untitled” allows viewers to have their own relationships and create their own stories to a piece. Personally, I enjoy titling each piece, and I feel it is as important to the painting as the materials or subject. I totally get that not all artists create this way. I use the title like poetry. The intention is to only enhance the piece, which would strike all sorts of debate like “Why does the piece need enhancing?” A very simple answer to that would be that it is fun. I constantly write while I work, Sometimes just phrases, sometimes short stories, sometimes just word associations. I’ve found this helps with the frequency of ideas.

I typically do not sign my pieces on the front. My only rule for that is if it adds to the picture, I will sign it. However, a majority of the time, a signature would simply intrude on the composition I just spent 2 weeks or a month making. Therefore, I would never compromise the face of a picture.

Please view David Phillips’s work on his website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at

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Ivan Jenson Blends Painting and Poetry

Ivan Jenson is a pop art painter and contemporary poet whose artwork was featured in Art in America, Art News, and Interview Magazine while selling at auction at Christie’s. Jenson was commissioned by Absolut Vodka to make a painting titled “Absolut Jenson” for the brand’s national ad campaign, and his “Marlboro Man” was collected by the Philip Morris corporate collection. Jenson was commissioned to paint the final portrait of the late Malcolm Forbes before his death. He also wrote two novels, Dead Artist and Seeing Soriah, both of which illustrate the creative and often dramatic lives of artists. Jenson turned to poetry as an outlet for artistic expression, and he is now a prolific writer who is widely published in a variety of literary media. Jenson’s poems were recently published by Hen House Press in a book titled Media Child and Other Poems, which can be acquired on Amazon.

media child

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about your history as an artist, writer, and poet. What are some of your greatest accomplishments?

Ivan Jenson:
I came from an artistic family in Los Angeles, and we were encouraged to be creative from an early age. I became obsessed with Michelangelo and Renaissance art at around nine years old. I used to check out sixteen millimeter films from the library about Michelangelo and screen them for myself for hours on end. I made a sculpture at age nine in Costa Rica that was used as a poster for a national exhibit. I then discovered Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman, and Dylan Thomas at thirteen and began to write. I wrote movie reviews for the Valley News and Green Sheet at that age.

Then we moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where I gave some of my early poems to an English teacher in Junior High School, and he read them over the weekend. On Monday, he made a speech to the class and said, “Ivan Jenson is not only a better writer than me or any other teacher in this school, he is also better than any student here because he has something which cannot be taught. He has the gift of a poet.” My early poems where published in magazines in Indiana. I also wrote my first novel at thirteen after a vivid experience of a summer spent studying art in San Jose, Costa Rica. It was a coming of age story called Walking Wounded, and Delacorte Press wrote me that they thought it was “Catcher in the Rye times five.” Other editors said it was, “raw and brutal.” My father gave a few chapters to Ray Bradbury to read, and he sent me a letter which said I wrote better than he did until he was 30.

My family moved to New York city, where I briefly studied at the Art Students League where I was told that the artist’s life is a lonely one. I consider myself self-taught in both art and writing. My big break came when I hung my paintings on paper with paper clips in Times Square and became an overnight success. Everything I made sold instantly and I was able to quit my job as a caterer for weddings and move into Manhattan at age 20. It was perfect timing because I was catching, and riding the crest of, an art wave hitting downtown New York City in the mid 80s.

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My early career was far from lonely. Though I painted for hours alone, as soon as I was done with the paintings, they were trucked off to East Village galleries and all the top night clubs in the City including the famous Palladium, where my art was seen during a Whitney centennial exhibit featuring East Village Artists. Every single painting I have made has sold. Soon after, I was commissioned by Absolut Vodka to create my own Absolut Jenson painting, which was featured full page in Art News, Art in America, Interview, and other top international magazines. I now shared the same ad campaign gig as Andy Warhol. Later, I sold my most expensive painting. It was of the Marlboro Man, and I sold it to Philip Morris. I befriended Malcolm Forbes, and I was invited aboard the famed Forbes Highlander Yacht to draw my trademark pop art portraits of the “Who’s Who” of the corporate world. I painted the last commissioned portrait of Malcolm Forbes.

Fast forward through the nineties. I continued to make my living as an artist, but little did I know I was gathering material for an unexpected literary career that was brewing inside me. I left New York in 2004 after personal and career burnout and found myself feeling lost in Grand Rapids, Michigan. But then, after a year of culture shock from the change to a much slower pace, I joined a writer’s group. At first, I brought in some unfinished fiction, and after receiving great feedback, I quickly made up for lost time and furiously wrote a series of novels as well as poetry. A girlfriend of mine at the time told me my poetry was as good as anything out there, and so, on a whim, I submitted to three magazines. Well, I forgot all about it, thinking it would lead nowhere, until a few weeks later all three poems were accepted for publication with glowing letters from the editors of the magazines. So I submitted more and got accepted again. Within three months, I was already published by some of the top ten online literary magazines in the country. I became addicted to writing poetry and seeing them published. Now, I have two novels published, Dead Artist and Seeing Soriah both published by Hen House Press, New York, close to five hundred poems published, and a book of poems called Media Child and Other Poems soon to be published also by Hen House Press.


Paul Weiner:
Do you see your poetry and painting as being intertwined?

Ivan Jenson:
For me, they are very different. My paintings are all about a mix of classical and contemporary aesthetics, bold line, color, and structural balance. Other more painterly works are all about the romance of painting and its texture. But I can say that my adventures and misadventures as an artist living and working and loving in the trenches of downtown New York City for twenty years has given me an endless gold mine of material for my novels and my poetry. I am including my line drawings in my new book of poems.

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Paul Weiner:
As someone who has experienced the New York art world, do you feel as if New York City is a conducive place for artists to make new work?

Ivan Jenson:
For me, it was. My whole career was born when I first sold my art in Times Square, The Upper West Side, Soho, and Union Square. I got to meet, first hand, all my collectors. The streets were my living, breathing internet, and from all that networking, I met the important lawyers, gallery owners, club owners, and VIP collectors. I think that people still love to purchase a painting from a genuine New York City artist. But now New York is so expensive, I don’t see how an artist starting out could afford the overhead unless that artist had half a dozen roommates. My only roommates were the women who lived with me.

Now, for me, living in Grand Rapids, the internet is my new version of New York. I would say that the internet is now a virtual New York City. Thanks to e-mail, I can submit my poems with ease, and they instantaneously zip over to the literary sites. Then, when my poetry is shared on Twitter and Facebook, it is exposed to thousands of readers. I may not live in New York anymore, but New York lives in me. I still walk fast, and I maintain that driven inner pace, and, when I am working, I write often to the beat of Electronica music. And yet, living away from New York City has given me perspective on that seductively fast lifestyle, and coming from New York City has given me perspective on the wonderful subtleties of the Midwest. My novels, Seeing Soriah and Dead Artist, both take place in a fictional city called Gold Haven, Michigan, and key scenes take place in New York City.

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Paul Weiner:
You mentioned that a lot of your material comes from your time as an artist in New York City. What are some other common themes that show up in your poetry throughout Media Child and Other Poems?

Ivan Jenson:
My debut poetry book is a comprehensive collection of my poems written over the last four and a half years when this whole magical renewal of my creative life began. It was all so new and exciting, yet the words and the images fell right into place with immediacy and ease. Nothing was forced; it all just flowed. Every day was a new discovery of what was possible for me in poetry. I dedicated myself to writing at least a poem a day and then reading them aloud to my writer’s group and then unabashedly sending them off. It was a formula that worked famously and which I enjoyed immensely. Some of the poems in my book are autobiographical flashbacks to my East Village days. Through my poetry, I was to find form and meaning behind my former fast-paced lifestyle. It was not long into my newfound poetry career that wordplay appeared in my poems.

Now, I am a quick study, and once I realized I was onto something unexpected and wonderful, I grew in leaps and bounds. There was a phenomena going on both inside and outside of me. Here I was, drawing from my experience, my neurosis, my heartache, my highs and lows, and yet I was treating them with a lightness of touch and never forgot to add wit and universal punch lines to the mix. As I read aloud my poems at my writer’s group I learned that there was power in my knack for humor. Then I began to spin on common phrases, colloquialisms, clichés, and I soon drew from the media as well. Next came a cast of characters including celebrities or brand names, TV shows from Gilligan’s Island to Star Trek, and public figures from Jung to Joan Rivers and Chaplin. They just all showed up unannounced in my stanzas like a profound parade of self-styled product placement. I went as far as to title one of my most popular poems “Name Dropping.”

My poems are designed to work on the page as well as live, and I treated my writer’s group as a training ground for how to act out and really sell my poems in performance. And, soon enough, I was invited to perform them at theaters, bookstore poetry readings, or at the fancy homes of the “Who’s Who” of Grand Rapids. I was always pleased to get laughter right on cue where I wanted it, as if I were a stand up comic. And yet, through the laughter, I knew that the deeper meanings were still coming through. Not only do I make sure my poems open up with a hook, but then I take the reader or listener on a visceral ride and a public display of my deepest fears, phobias, and foibles in a metaphorical mash up with movie stars, literary icons, historic figures, and late night talk show hosts. Then I keep juggling on those phrases we have heard all our lives, and yet I give them new and sometimes twisted twists.

I never knew I had this treasure trove of verbal Americana stowed up inside of me. And yet it all channels through me, with a detailed structure, polyrhythm, sometimes multiple inner rhymes. Some poems are like monologues spoken by characters in a play or a scene from Film Noir. Others are snapshot memories, and others are like short films. My poems have been turned into short films by a talented filmmaker named Cassidy Bisher. He is currently adapting a poem I wrote especially for his production company. Its theme is nostalgia and the passage of time. The film will feature time lapse photography set against the spoken words of my poem. Obviously, this is a dream come true to see my poetry become cinema.

Note To Self a poem by Ivan Jenson

The Way It Should Be a poem by Ivan Jenson

Midwest Juliet a poem by Ivan Jenson

Paul Weiner:
Has your painting style changed at all since you made the move to Michigan?

Ivan Jenson:
Since I moved to Michigan, my paintings have become so much more complex. When I depict van Gogh, as I often do, the paintings have become mosaics, puzzles of color where each color contrasts or has to answer to the color next to it. I am in as good form as ever here in Michigan as I was in my studio in New York City. I turn on urban R and B music, and I fall into cadence with my colors. My Michigan studio is quite big, and I can make a nine foot by nine foot paintings and feel myself engulfed in the vastness of the canvas. When I take a break and turn the music off, I hear the crickets and the birds at night, and then I carry my bucket of brushes through the backyard in the night with the moon shining, and I feel like the expatriate artist, like Gauguin who has found a slice of paradise far from the chiseled edges and the blazingly bright video advertisements of Times Square.


Paul Weiner:
I like the idea of the internet being a virtual New York City. What are a few of your favorite web sites that have helped you use the internet to make your work public?

Ivan Jenson:
I have to be frank with you here and say that each morning, when I approach my computer screen with a cup of Starbucks in hand and just the right music playing on iTunes, I am truly reaching through the screen and grasping digital opportunities by the dozen. Google is my tool, and my hard drive is the fire of my inner drive which has never burned out. I am not at liberty to give out my self-styled, highly secretive, and self-developed tricks of the internet trade. But I will be candid and say that my transformation into a writer did not happen by accident.

I do not follow the usual format of submission. If there are standard systems or rules out there on How to Become a Published Author or Poet, well, then I have broken them all. Some of my poems have even been published in multiple publications. But I have never heard of a poet being put to jail for that free-verse transgression. I learned early that I must not only be a fountain of creativity, but that I have to also be a viral, guerrilla marketing maven as well. Usually, getting hyped up on caffeine and diet Coke makes me so ambitious that the pupils of my eyes dilate behind my glasses and I simply will it all to happen.

I admit I am addicted to getting e-mails of acceptance letters from publishers, literary magazines, filmmakers, ect, but to get that I must cast my net on the internet. My confidence comes from knowing that my angst and my ecstasy of words is loved and appreciated by the public and by the always wonderful embrace of literary circles. I am eternally grateful to the editors of online and print magazines and anthologies who have been so generous and receptive of my works from day one. For a creative person, knowing that you have something special is not enough; you must show the world your poems, your novels, your paintings, your sculptures, your quips, your funny asides, your best tragic mask, your pointed dress shoes and observations, your new pair of New Balance shoes, your trendy five o’clock stubble, your smile. And then you must wait, and if you are lucky, the world will answer back with an astounding, “Yes!”

“Name Dropping”

I am trying to be Gandhi about this
But sometimes you make me so Mussolini
You think you are so very Jesus
But really you are much more Britney
Than Mother Teresa
Sure you Isadora Duncan into a room
With your Betty Davis lies
And you expect me to
Cyrano De Bergerac
You on the phone
Or Shakespeare up my e-mails
But I’m just John Doe
I’m no James Dean or Citizen Kane
The point is I want to be
Romeo to your Juliet
I want us to John and Yoko till the end
I want our children to
Be Mickey Rooney and Shirley Temple
In the afternoons
I want them to be Dorothy and Toto
Near a rainbow
I want to be Mr. Brady
and you to be mother Maude
And though I’m no Tiger or Agassi
I still want my boys to be
little Eli Mannings
and the girls will be so Serena or Venus
Look I’ll never be a Bill Gates provider
and you’re no Keira Knightley in our quick-snaps
But still, when I see you I want to
Larry King you with questions
and Oprah you with compassion
We used to be so Brad and Angelina
But now we’ve become so Limbaugh and Obama
Guess it will be this way
until we are old and Castro gray


Paul Weiner:
Is Vincent van Gogh an inspiration for you? Which artists and poets have influenced your work the most over the years?

Ivan Jenson:
Van Gogh is both an inspiration and a concern of mine. I first discovered van Gogh in a calendar in an elementary school classroom, and his vivid yellows and oranges, his use of thick paint seemed to be beckoning to only me. The childlike naiveté and the intensity of his works spoke to me. Van Gogh is a contemporary character along with Picasso in my novel, Dead Artist. In the novel, the artist protagonist, Milo Sonas, sees dead artists. He gets supernatual visitations from these two artists. Each artist represents a different spectrum of artistic recognition. Here we have Picasso, millionaire, South of France mansion owner, and a life filled with societal accolades and many younger wives and sensual mistresses, and then we have the troubled legend of van Gogh, loner, misunderstood, mad, loveless and an artist who never sold a single painting. In my novel, Dead Artist, I even the score and Van Gogh gets a second chance in the modern world when a young college coed sets van Gogh up with her best friend, a girl who is a van Gogh fanatic, who becomes the love of Vincent’s afterlife. In my novel, van Gogh finds love, and he gets to watch from another dimension as his paintings sell for astronomical figures. This is my artistic and poetic justice.

My foremost influence has always been Picasso. I was fascinated by him as a teen, and it was a thrill to know in the 70s that he was living and painting in sandals, shorts and fedora hats in the South of France. Here was a man who could have traveled or lived a life of luxurious leisure, but, instead, he chose to burn the midnight oil of his talent by painting all night long. He chose to spend a lion’s share of his ferocious ability exploring the safari of his artistic abilities alone in his studio. From an early age, I acquired this sort of prolific work ethic. On Mondays in New York City, I would always ritualistically begin a new series of paintings. As for poetry, I have loved Richard Brautigan for his whimsy. I loved Dylan Thoma’s rich Welch delivery of his poetry. And I loved how Walt Whitman stole from the Bible the many wonders of using the word “and”. I am not too proud to proclaim that I was infatuated with the melancholic and sometimes sentimental spell that Rod Mckuen had over the publishing world in the 70s. I let that dream go when I became an artist, but, as fate would have it, I was to become a poet after all.

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Paul Weiner:
Visual artists are always trying to find innovative ways of working. Today, many new media artists have taken to the web as an opportunity to program web sites that function as artwork. As someone who avidly uses the internet as a powerful marketing tool, do you think the internet is also a potential medium for the creation of visual art?

Ivan Jenson:
People today fall in love because of dating web sites; friends who have lost touch are virtual friends again because of Facebook, and so on. I hear all the time of artists using programs to paint. As a messy artist who lived in an apartment that was splattered with Jackson Pollock drips of color wherever you looked, I will be the first in line to work with virtual art supplies that don’t make a mess. And, of course electronic brushes that don’t have to be washed would be wonderful. Yet, as an artist with one foot in the 20th and the other in the 21st Century, I will always pour out my paint on plates and paint on canvas, if only to keep my spiritual connection with Vincent and Pablo alive. Who knows, maybe one day I will paint on my Mac and e-mail the file to multiple galleries in Paris, London and New York who will then display my art on sleekly framed canvas simulating monitors. And I will appear at the opening night of my international solo exhibits as a hologram of an artist with a glass of Chardonnay in his hand.

Please view Ivan Jenson’s work on his website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at

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Olivia Boi’s Intuitive Abstract Paintings

Olivia Boi is an artist whose work hinges on the emotional abstraction of the human form. Boi has exhibited in The Last Brucennial and multiple exhibitions in Sideshow Gallery as well as a wide variety of local galleries throughout Massachusetts. Having recently graduated with a BFA from Montserrat College of Art in 2013, she participated in the orientation week of the New York Arts Practicum at the same time as fellow Critique Collective interviewee, Corey Dunlap. Boi’s work is also available for view on her website.

Dancing with You 2014

Dancing with You, 60″x108″, acrylic paint on canvas, 2014

Paul Weiner:
Given the rise of new media artists working with all kinds of digital tools, how inclusive does the art world seem for young painters like you right now?

Olivia Boi:
Well, it is challenging for myself and my friends as recent graduates of art school. Mostly, I believe it is important to be consistent with the motivation in your process as a painter. You have to continually put yourself in a position to be aware of what is going on around you in the art world. It is crucial to share your work with the public and talk about it with as many people as possible. That being said, I strongly feel that there is an urgency for painting in the art world today, and artists will respond to that. The success of the artist is based on the artist’s needs and goals, whether they are new media artists or painters, and it is always a struggle.

In the Bathtub 2013crop

In the Bathtub, 42″x42″, acrylic paint on canvas, 2013

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little bit about how you begin a new work of art both conceptually and physically.

Olivia Boi:
I start a new work when I feel compelled to relay something I have experienced or seen into a more permanent state. It all starts out pretty overwhelming, but it is a familiar chaos that is my starting point. I get this feeling, and I don’t want to do anything else except to start figuring out this painting, to work. I first ask myself about the scale, and then I usually mix a palette based on my sensations to start at that. I lay out some general lines and movements from which I’d like to build. It is a really intuitive process that is different every time I start or revisit a piece. I work in layers according to color, to work out some internal logic of the painting. Lately, I have been favoring paint heavily, making up most of my practice. I am inspired by the figure and how it can be abstracted and reinterpreted. Currently, I am working on a series of scrolls that are meant to hang all together, and right now I have about 9 of them, each 43” x 84”. Usually, when I am considering a painting, I think of myself physically in my studio. My space is an area where I can leave everything the way it is as I am done working. I am very particular about my work environment in order to set up my work ethic. It needs to feel lived in, to generate a fluid spatial movement that allows a sort of meditative quality to my work. When I paint, I feel like I come in contact with another side of myself that is never brought out otherwise.

The Night of December 25th- 2014

The Night of December 25th, 43″x84″, Charcoal and Oil Stick on Paper, 2014

Paul Weiner:
How did your experience with New York Arts Practicum impact your life as an artist?

Olivia Boi:
After I left the program, I became more grounded both as an individual and an artist, which was, in part, due to my experience attending Practicum. I am very interested in showing my work in New York City, and I have been exhibiting there for the past three years, notably at the Side Show gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Currently, I have a painting in The Last Brucennial, a biennial survey put on by the Bruce High Quality Foundation in Manhattan. I am really proud about that, especially about showing next to legendary artists such as Joan Mitchell. I realized at this point in time in my life, I am happy to work in New York without living there. I would like to get to things on my own time and by doing them my own way.

holding on to the blue 2014

Holding on to Blue, 48″x64″, acrylic paint on canvas, 2013

Paul Weiner:
In your paintings, do you focus primarily on the formal aesthetic concerns of composition or are there more conceptual reasons behind your work?

Olivia Boi:
The main focus in my work is composition through color, line, and form. You could say my work is conceptual in its contingency through my daily life. By that, I mean I investigate my own emotions, intensities, and desires in each piece through a formalist language of paint.

Each painting is made up of constant decision making, meaning I don’t know what it will look like until I have worked through everything. It is a visual conversation I have with the work in my studio.

Standing on My Own 2014

Standing on My Own, 30″x78″, oil stick, acrylic paint, and charcoal on paper, 2014

Paul Weiner:
Do you consider yourself an abstract expressionist or are you using abstraction as a medium for a different kind of thinking than modern masters like De Kooning and Pollock?

Olivia Boi:
I am very inspired by the abstract expressionists. I think that studying their work has created a path for my artistic practice. De Kooning and Pollock are two of my favorites. They used abstraction as a medium, as a language. Obviously, I don’t have the same concerns as they did in the 1950’s in New York, but I admire their unique and intense visual language, and I’m looking to create my own. It has to do with a love of and a need to paint. My current work definitely has a relationship to Abstract Expressionism, and it can be understood through similar formal concerns, but I’m not looking to make my work look like theirs. They are an inspiration among many others.

hearing about everyone elsecrop

Hearing About Everyone Else, 60″x64″, acrylic paint on canvas, 2013

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned that you took part in the last Brucennial. Tell us a little about your experience with that exhibition.

Olivia Boi:
I was invited into the last Brucennial by girlfriend Sara Benson. She attended the Yale Norfolk Art program. She was invited by a friend of hers, and Sara then invited me.

I shipped my painting to New York from Beverly, MA. I didn’t know how many people were going to be in the show, and I had no idea that the work of Joan Mitchell, Cecily Brown, and Louise Bourgeois would be included as well. They are some of my top favorite painters, and to exhibit my work with theirs was a huge honor. I submitted a small, 16 x 20 inches, painting called Separation, which consists of a light green and black palette. I was not able to get down to see it in person, but my father attended and documented the exhibition for me. I feel really lucky and proud to be included in that amazing experience.

Paul Weiner:
As a young artist, what kinds of publications do you read?

Olivia Boi:
I read publications such as Art in America, New American Paintings, Artforum, Sculpture Magazine, and The Brooklyn Rail.

My Parents Marriage 2013crop

My Parents Marriage, 74″x66″, acrylic paint on canvas, 2013

Paul Weiner:
To what extent do you find art education important for contemporary artists, both on the undergraduate and graduate levels?

Olivia Boi:
It is important to have an education about art so you can understand the context your work exists in. There is so much to know. You can go to school and study contemporary art theory and history or you could choose to not go to school and try to educate yourself in the same topics. I think it would be really challenging to learn everything school has to offer on your own. Either way, it is up to your personal motivations because there is so much to learn, even for people who have completed both undergraduate and graduate studies. It is important to educate yourself about everything you can as an artist, which is separate from pursuing a masters of the fine art world. But I think that education in art and studying art history is crucial to a career. It is necessary to know about the people who have practiced this kind of work and theory before you so that your work can be included in the larger conversation. It is important to see other artists’ work
and specifically how they work; it can help shape your own practice. You really have to read and watch everything you can get your hands on, including documentaries and biographies. Education is not an option. It is expected. You need to know what you are talking about to be taken seriously.

Please view Olivia Boi’s work on her website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at

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Eerily Uncanny Portrait Paintings by Caroline Green

Caroline Green is an artist working in the Pacific Northwest. Green’s recent paintings have exhibited at Gallery Zero in Portland, Oregon and in various venues throughout the Northwest, and they have been published in Studio Visit Magazine, Catapult Art Magazine, Tribe Magazine, and a variety of other outlets. She is currently dealing with motifs of medical equipment and portraiture, and much of her artwork is available on her website.

Caroline Green_Just a tickle

Gallery Night October 2013

Paul Weiner:
How did your Humanoid series come about?

Caroline Green:
The Humanoid series is a combination of my early works, Admiring the View in 2008, and an experimental series consisting of a saturated color palette and silhouettes. In Admiring the View, I used a limited color palette consisting of a variety of earthy tones, which helped to set the mood to the overall pieces. The content was, to some, rather dark. It was heavily influenced by medicine and the interactions and observations of people that surrounded my life, hence the title of the series. These works are a type of record of my life up to that point. After working on this series, I wanted to create something totally different, so I began to experiment with color and different techniques. I focused more on enhancing my palette and cleaning up my lines. I essentially combined the two concepts. Keeping with the medical theme and introducing brighter colors and silhouettes of various creatures, the Humanoid series was born.

Caroline Green_Recession

Paul Weiner:
Where did your interest in medicine come from?

Caroline Green:
It began at a very early age. I have struggled with my health ever since I was born. I have been in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals either as a patient or as an employee my whole life. The fear that people get of doctors and such was never really there for me. It was replaced early on with intrigue. My first position at a hospital was when I was sixteen. It was an internship in an OR as a perioperative assistant. From there, I worked in several other areas of hospitals in several departments. In my mid twenties, I worked essentially as an underpaid and unofficial anesthesia tech in surgery. I was not certified, nor did I have the official title, but I performed 99% of the duties.

Myself standing next to my work

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned that some people see your artwork as being dark. What emotions do you associate with your work?

Caroline Green:
I think they are curious and somewhat comical. People are usually puzzled or disturbed by these paintings, and those people usually don’t have knowledge of the world of medicine. People can be frightened of the unknown, especially of medical equipment when they have no idea what it’s for or how it is properly used. But, by working in the medical field, I have become comfortable with the human body and the medical supplies. I think these paintings can invoke a wide array of emotions and thoughts to the viewer. One of my favorite things about these pieces is the feedback. I have heard all kinds of different insights as to why and what these pieces are trying to say.

Caroline Green_Empty Hope

Paul Weiner:
Your recent work strikes me as a kind of mix between pop art and impressionism. Which artists have influenced your work?

Caroline Green:
The Humanoid pieces were inspired from my previous works. When I began back in 2008 I was pretty much fresh to the art world. I had painted a few time before but I was still trying to find my artistic voice. My very early works were all over the place, both in style and technique. It seemed impossible for me to even attempt at painting in the style of all the artists who I truly loved (Dali, Magritte, and Escher). I tried playing around with the brush until I found something totally comfortable, something that just came so naturally that it didn’t even feel like I had to try. I could complete a piece with ease in just a few hours. The very first of these pieces was The Yard.

you and me and the tumor makes three

Caroline Green_Jens Leg

Paul Weiner:
What space would you ideally present your work in?

Caroline Green:
It depends on the work. The Humanoid series is very large in scale and has a very vibrantly saturated color palette, so not only would the pieces need to fit the style of the gallery, but the gallery would have to be able to fit the work physically. It can be rather difficult to find locations that can and would also like to show these pieces. These paintings were first shown at Gallery Zero in Portland, Oregon, a gallery that is a rich red color from floor to ceiling. Since then, they have traveled around town a bit. Ideally for the Humanoid pieces, I would want them to be shown somewhere accepting of alternative contemporary paintings. They have been rejected more times than I can count because of their unusual content.

My pet portrait works are always displayed in pet shops and animal clinics. The Admiring the View pieces are also a challenged to find places to hang, not because of their size but because of their content. The rest of my work is pretty easy to place. I have shown work around town in dozens of locations including galleries, shops, restaurants, and pop-up art shows.

Caroline Green_Rossi_16by20_80USD

Paul Weiner:
What are a few of your favorite materials?

Caroline Green:
I like just about anything I can get my hands on. I love acrylic because of its versatility and easy clean up, but I prefer the maneuverability of oils. Spray paint has a beautifully soft, even effect great for eliminating brushstrokes. I also love to use painter’s tape. It keeps my lines clean and saves time. Occasionally, I will play around with other mediums, but I think my favorite thing is actually my glass palette. I had the window repair man cut a piece of my car’s windshield out. He even sanded the edges for me. I love how the paint slides around, how easy it is to clean up. It is the best thing ever.


Paul Weiner:
Tell us a bit about your physical painting process.

Caroline Green:
The physical painting process for the Humanoid series was somewhat taxing. The pieces are a good size, so it’s not like I could just sit there or even just stand in one spot. I was very active in the creation of those pieces. At first, the task seemed quite daunting. I was intimidated by the size of the great, white canvas, so I painted as much color on it as I could in the first day. I washed over all the white. I didn’t want to see a single dimple of white. I sketched out the main shapes and added a couple colors. From there, I built up the painting in layers. I was trying to focus on the painting as a whole rather than treating it in sections. Once the first painting, Can You See Me Now, was complete, I felt this huge since of relief and accomplishment. I now prefer to paint on a larger scale.

Caroline Green_Malfunction

Paul Weiner:
What are you working on in your studio right now?

Caroline Green:
I am currently involved in several projects. I am getting ready for another group show at one of the galleries I am a part of, People’s Art of Portland. I am working on wearable merchandise, something that I hope will appeal to more people. I just began a fourth series that will focus more on aesthetics. I will be combining the techniques I have learned with the last two series and applying them to scenery. I am also collaborating with another local artist on a new project that is very exciting. Of course, I still take in commissions of pet portraits. In between all of that, I create smaller experimental works to try to grow as an artist as much as possible. These are, of course, only things going on in the studio, so I tend to keep very busy. There is always something I want to try. There are always more ideas in my head that I want to get out than I have time or hands for.

Please view Caroline Green’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at