Thursday, May 30, 2013

Roy Perkinson talks about Degas

This is another in a series of occasional blog posts, where we've asked a member artist to talk briefly about an artist who's profoundly influenced their work.

One of my favorite pictures:
pastel/monotype by Edgar Degascollection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

In the autumn of 1890, Edgar Degas accompanied his friend, the sculptor Bartholomé on a trip from Paris to the Côte d’Or and back, passing through the Burgundy region of France. Bartholomé drove the two-passenger carriage, and Degas was free to watch the landscape go by, although the artists never stopped to paint pictures. En route, they stayed at the home of another friend, Georges Jeanniot, who happened to have a printing press. Using the press, Degas began what eventually would be a series of some 300 landscapes, executed from memory, using a technique he had been using since the 1870s – monotype. A very painterly technique, monotype involves applying ink or oil paint to a metal surface (like an etching plate) to create an image. Degas put a piece of paper on top of the painted plate and both the paper and the plate passed through the press to transfer the image to the paper. This process yields only one strong image (hence “monotype”), but the plate can be printed on a second and even a third piece of paper, producing progressively weaker results. Degas enjoyed applying pastel on top of these printed images, reinterpreting each – whether only one, two or three of them – using a variant color scheme to achieve pictures that can be remarkably different from each other.

One of my favorite examples among these pastel/monotype combinations is this landscape, in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A moderately dark, gray-green ink defines the underlying composition, and delineates the cliffs in the foreground, the landscape and river in the middle ground, and the hills in the distance. A rusty red ink was brushed over the sky area. Then, on top of this printed image, Degas applied touches of blue in the sky, various greens in the middle ground to suggest trees and a landscape on either side of the river, and numerous passages of pinks and burnt orange on the cliffs.

For reasons of preservation, this amazing picture may not be on view in the galleries of the MFA, but you can make an appointment to see it (as well as other works on paper that aren’t on view) by contacting Patrick Murphy (, who is in charge of the Morse Study Room for Prints, Drawings and Photographs. It’s worth the trip!

-Roy Perkinson

And now a bit about Roy Perkinson...

Roy grew up in Texas, so it is not surprising that many of his pictures try to convey a sense of open spaces -- even when working in Massachusetts, where he has lived for many years, or in France, Italy or Great Britain --  and often include attention to the sky, with its various moods and atmospherics. He primarily works in oil, with its great range of textural and coloristic possibilities, but also in pastel, graphite and watercolor. His work has been shown throughout New England, and is included in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as well as in numerous private collections from California to Europe. FInd out more at

Thursday, May 16, 2013

…minutes and motions and decisions and time and people

Artist talk with 
Lisa Barthelson
Denise Driscoll
May 11, 2013

Lisa Barthelson and Denise Driscoll talked about their fascination with consumables and found materials and the notion of  piecework- defined by Lisa as 
repetitive motion, small pieces, traditionally woman’s work.

Much of the work by both artists in this show; Lisa’s Family Debris series, Denise’s paintings and installation pieces, are incredibly labor-intensive.

Repository, Denise Driscoll

Repository, detail, Denise Driscoll
Denise takes (wo)man-hours into account. How long does it take to do something? … She estimates that for her installation piece “Repositoryeach 6 in. took her 8 hours to produce. For the series of paintings which take DNA sequencing as their, basis, she paints about 1000 dots/hour. She finds that ‘piecework’ can be meditative and focused, or the hands can work and the mind can go elsewhere. Anne West’s book Mapping the intelligence of Artistic Work, has been a profound influence for her.
Lisa pays particular attention to the sorting that takes place-a meditative way to connect things to other things, and make creative choices as to what the parameters are.
Take Over-Over Take, Lisa Barthelson
Take Over-Over Take, detail.,
 Lisa Barthelson

For her piece, Take Over-Over Take, from her family debris series, she used 77 armature wires, each 17 in. long, attached by a cork to the back, and made decisions as she went along. When a visitor referred to the piece as ‘Seussian’, Lisa found that it was an apt description- a whimsical re-use of the pieces; she found the result to be very satisfying.

Denise also spoke about her piece ‘Mandala for Marriage Equality.’
Mandala for Marriage Equality, 1-49, Denise Driscoll

Mandala for Marriage Equality, no.1,
Denise Driscoll.
Created as she and her husband Tom celebrated their 25th anniversary, she thought of “the years, months, weeks, days, minutes and moments together, both past and future. With the blessings and goodwill of our family, friends and community, we’ve accomplished together what neither would have been able to do alone. Together, we wish the right to marry for all couples who are willing to embark on this challenging journey of discovery, collaboration, and love.” Denise estimates the mandala contains as many dots as there are minutes in 25 years. The Mandala, made up of 49 separate paintings cut from one piece, which will only be seen together during this exhibit; it is specifically designed with lots of pieces so that it comes apart and goes out into the world, and its pieces disperse.

Moving forward, Lisa sees her work in this show as two distinct bodies of work- the
Family debris series, the organization of chaos, and site-specific work, the
Slinkies, and deer fence installations.Lisa sees this newer body of work as a response to permanence and consumption; she likes the way these Site-specific pieces are composed of  units that can be re-configured in response to site, and are more minimalist in their construction and use of materials.

As is the case in of the individual pieces in materialize, and in the exhibit itself, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Last chance to see the show, and the Mandala before it disperses, is this weekend- the show ends May 19th.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Virginia Fitzgerald talks about 'Rhapsody' by Jennifer Bartlett

This is another in a series of occasional blog posts by member artists, where a member artist talks about a work of art which has inspired them and influenced the way they work.

 “I was looking for a way to get work done without the burden of having to do anything good.  I wanted desperately to be good, of course, but whenever I sat down and tried to think of something that would be terrific to do, I couldn’t. "
— Jennifer Bartlett  [as quoted by Calvin Tomkins in Jennifer Bartlett, Abbeville Press, 1985] 

An idea I relate to in my studio practice.

Rhapsody, installation view of Jennifer Bartlett: Early Plate Work,
Addison Gallery of  American Art, Fall 2006

Jennifer Bartlett’s seminal piece, Rhapsody (1975-1976) consists of 987 of Bartlett’s one foot square steel plates, arranged in 142 rows of approximately 7 plates each, requiring a total of around 153 running feet of wall space to be exhibited. Bartlett wanted to create a large painting “that had everything in it”.  She set her rules and themes.  The piece would include four figurative images: a house, a tree, a mountain and the ocean.  She also chose 3 nonfigurative elements: a square, a circle and a triangle.

detail of Rhapsody, row 88-row 96

She envisioned the piece similar to a conversation where subjects would ebb and flow; different voices would be heard and woven together.  The painting would include segments dedicated to line, to color and to different methods painting: freehand, dots and ruled.  She also made a rule about editing the painting, within one day of finishing a plate she needed to decide if the plate would be included in the painting or erased.

Rhapsody installed in the Atrium at MoMA, April 2011. Consisting of 987 enameled steel plates, the work spans over 150 feet, while maintaining an intimate interaction with the viewer.

Bartlett began Rhapsody in the summer of 1975, while housesitting for friends in South Hampton. She had the uses of a cottage in exchange for caring for the house and the garden. Bartlett got so absorbed in her work that the garden dried up.   Bartlett returned to New York continued to work on Rhapsody during that fall and winter, often logging in 12-14 hour days of painting. In May 1975 Rhapsody was exhibited at the Paula Cooper Gallery.  The piece received a glowing review in the New York Times and a few days into the show the piece was sold, in its entirety, a collector new to the scene. The painting succeeded being all-inclusive, it reflected the chaotic art world of the 70’s, including styles from minimalism to pattern and decoration to conceptualism, and so much more.

My attraction to Rhapsody extends to most all of Bartlett’s work.  I am captivated by Bartlett’s systems, process, ideas and the final creation. But what I appreciate most about Bartlett’s work is her use of rules that she invented and followed until they became inconvenient; that her systems were a means to an end, a way of freeing Bartlett to just work.
- Virginia Fitzgerald

 And now a bit about Virginia...

Virginia Fitzgerald is a mixed media artist who works in sculpture, installation, fiber arts, painting, photography and collage. Her studio is in Natick, MA where she also lives with her two daughters in a house full of love and creativity. Find out more about Virginia and her work at