Looking Squarely

A for apple. Oil on green ceramic tile, 8 x 8 inches

I have been thinking a lot lately, perhaps more than the usual. Mostly about trying to understand how I can make good art, not stupid paintings, and how this desire is linked very much to understanding what it means to be a human being. How to swim in your cappuccino, not just sip it.

Some of you may know that up until about a year ago I lived in Florence, Italy. When I decided to make the decision to close down my school and move my things back to the US, it involved dealing with well over a hundred paintings and drawings. Each canvas taken off the stretcher bars and rolled together with the others. The detested failures tossed. Inventory lists made. The panels packed into a large suitcase. I shipped my clothing and books over, but I flew over with all of my paintings as my baggage to avoid loss or damage via postal delivery. I learned the magnitude of this task.

Some of you may also know that I flew to Israel in February on an impermanent basis. My former experience of bulk has caused me to change how and what I paint, out of fear of the sheer volume I will likely create in artwork: no more big canvases on stretcher bars, panels not to exceed 50 x 70 cm, and I have even gone to working on paper for its lightness. When I find something new I really want to paint, I question its value over something I have already painted, and often I paint right on top of the old one despite knowing that technically this is not a good idea, and I never would have done it in the past. The important thing I suppose is that I do have some way to record what I am seeing and feeling.

Square Me. On the easel now, an attempt at a completely unblurred stroke painting. I am thinking about whether or not I want to include my cat in this mugshot. Oil on yellow ceramic tile, 12 x 12 inches

Recently I realized that I have already pretty much filled up my quota of panel volume, and sadly I greatly prefer them over linen or paper for their hardness and lack of texture. I was then walking one day in the factory zone near where I live, and I came across some abandoned tiles. These were not just tossed squares of ceramic to me: they were Art Materials. I lugged a few home and went back periodically for others. Of course, one is not supposed to paint on ceramic tile with oil paint; how can it possibly have permanence or resistance to change and breakage (one already broke on me, smashing onto the floor in a hundred pieces)? I did switch my medium and started using Liquin, considering it one of the most ridiculously permanent substances one can add to oil paint. Looking at these new tiles now, I have come to appreciate them for what they are: not an oil painting, but a craft, a homage to the original use of the term, a delicate and fragile one created with the same amount of observation involved in painting on linen. They are heavy though, so I will have to reluctantly return to paper and linen. And I do not have a clue about how I could ever possibly ship them.


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