Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Nothing Is Ours But Time

I curated a show at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art titled Nothing Is Ours But Time. Go see it before it closes. 

The show runs February 9th - March 25th, 2018

Featuring artists Melody Saraniti, Erin Washington, Matthew Metzger, Christine Han, Selina Trepp, Daniel Schmid, Jenn Dierdorf, Mel Cook, Karen Azarnia

How many times have you been unable to sleep at night thinking about all the things left to do? Going over what you were able to accomplish and what tasks were postponed and how much time was wasted on chores, commuting, and procrastination. How many of us have compared our success to that of our friends and felt panic, jealousy, and dread? 

Almost 2000 years ago, Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote letters to his friend Lucilius Junior warning him that "while we are postponing, life speeds by." There is some comfort in knowing that even brilliant philosophers of ancient Rome suffered the anxieties of daily life. However, in his letter, Seneca reminds his friend that "nothing is ours except time."

The act of painting is an attempt to capture a moment, to preserve a gesture or an image in a suspension of pigment and oil. The artists in this exhibition use painting as a way to mark time and to contain it. Their work is focused on capturing fleeting everyday moments. Selina Trepp uses and reuses only the materials currently present in her studio to make work. Ultimately, she will leave behind little more than digital images for her descendants to contend with. Mel Cook is a modern-day Vanitas painter, reminding the viewer of his or her own mortality. Through painting she responds to inequity and death with uncorked anger. Karen Azarnia's triptych of paintings documents a handprint on a window that disappeared over the course of an afternoon drive. Erin Washington maintains no illusions that her work will serve as a lasting legacy after she is gone. Her drawings and paintings, done in chalk and fugitive pigments, are designed to fade, smudge, and fall apart. Time still slips through our fingers, but every moment spent in an act of creation is one that we can count as ours.

-Gwendolyn Zabicki, 2018

From Seneca, Volume IV, Epistles 1-65, Harvard University Press:
Greetings from Seneca to Lucilius

Continue to act thus, my dear Lucilius—set yourself free for your own sake; gather and save your time, which until lately has been forced from you, or filched away, or has merely slipped from your hands. Make yourself believe the truth of my words—that certain moments are torn from us, that some are gently removed, and that others glide beyond our reach. The most disgraceful kind of loss, however, is that due to carelessness. Furthermore, if you will pay close heed to the problem, you will find that the largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purpose. What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. Whatever years lie behind us are in death's hands.

Therefore, Lucilius, do as you write me that you are doing: hold every hour in your grasp. Lay hold of today's task, and you will not need to depend so much upon tomorrow's. While we are postponing, life speeds by. Nothing, Lucilius, is ours, except time. We were entrusted by nature with the ownership of this single thing, so fleeting and slippery that anyone who will can oust us from possession. What fools these mortals be! They allow the cheapest and most useless things, which can easily be replaced, to be charged in the reckoning, after they have acquired them; but they never regard themselves as in debt when they have received some of that precious commodity—time! And yet time is the one loan which even a grateful recipient cannot repay.

You may desire to know how I, who preach to you so freely, am practising. I confess frankly: my expense account balances, as you would expect from one who is free-handed but careful. I cannot boast that I waste nothing, but I can at least tell you what I am wasting, and the cause and manner of the loss; I can give you the reasons why I am a poor man. My situation, however, is the same as that of many who are reduced to slender means through no fault of their own: every one forgives them, but no one comes to their rescue.

What is the state of things, then? It is this: I do not regard a man as poor, if the little which remains is enough for him. I advise you, however, to keep what is really yours; and you cannot begin too early. For, as our ancestors believed, it is too late to despair when you reach the dregs of the cask. Of that which remains at the bottom, the amount is slight, and the quality is vile. Farewell.

Karen Azarnia

Karen Azarnia

Mel Cook

Jenn Dierdorf

Jenn Dierdorf

Christine Han

Christine Han

Matthew Metzger

Matthew Metzger

Matthew Metzger

Melody Saraniti

Daniel Schmid

Daniel Schmid

Daniel Schmid

Daniel Schmid

Selina Trepp

Selina Trepp

Erin Washington

Erin Washington

Friday, September 29, 2017

How to Buy Art

Jason Foumberg recently wrote a piece for Chicago Magazine on how to buy art. Rule Number Four, Look Up From Your Cup, mentions my work currently hanging at Lula Cafe. I am lovingly referred to as a "rising star." I'll take it.


Not Knowing

I curated a show at Heaven Gallery titled Not Knowing. It runs until October 14th, 2017. There is an artist talk on Sunday, October 1st at 1pm.

You can see photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nvaughn/sets/72157685492414691

Writing is a process of dealing with not knowing, a forcing of what and how. We have all heard novelists testify to the fact that, beginning a new book, they are utterly baffled as to how to proceed...At best there is a slender intuition, not much greater than an itch.
--Donald Barthelme, Not Knowing
An artist embarks on her task without knowing what to do. There is some kind of energy that she is manifesting as she works, and it has a larger form. To know in advance as to what that form is, is to reduce it.
--George Saunders on Not Knowing
When inspiration strikes, it feels as if it comes from outside oneself. The process of making art involves a kind of subtle foreknowledge, an awareness of the work before it exists, and communication with neurological processes deep within the wordless mind. In the search for answers, an artist finds more questions lingering in that uncomfortable place of not knowing. The result of that discomfort, according to Barthelme, is the possibility that the artist might show the viewer, “the as-yet-unspeakable, the as-yet unspoken.” 
Good art is hard. An artist can over-think and become paralyzed, but to Barthelme, “Problems are a comfort” because it is through problem solving, or making choices, that the artist moves from not knowing to finding a unique and defining style. Take for example, the story of one of Chicago’s great culinary achievements-- the Italian beef sandwich. Essentially, poor entrepreneurs on Maxwell St. figured out how to turn salt, cheap cuts of meat, and stale bread into an inexpensive, delicious meal. They were constrained by cost and by what ingredients were readily available. Similarly an artist responds to and creates constraints, imposing limitations or rules within the work. Paradoxically, it is within these constraints where freedom and innovation are found.
Being an artist is to live within a series of constraints and limitations. Today, an artist must make her way in the world within structures that are in the process of collapsing, dissolving, or becoming irrelevant. The rigid gender roles of the past, normative definitions of family and caretaking, are all being renegotiated. The particular methodologies parent artists (and female parent artists in particular) have to come up with in order to continue to work while parenting are not yet standardized or obvious. They must be hammered out individually. The artists in this exhibition make a different kind of work-- thoughtful and contemplative art made alongside working, teaching, and raising a family. Overlapping limitations and opportunities define their style. They embrace “not knowing” in the way they make their work, but also in the uncertainty and the freedom of living in this state. They are: Claire Ashley, Karen Azarnia, Clarissa Bonet, Robin Dluzen, Dan Devening, Andreas Fischer, Celeste Rapone, Melody Saraniti, Ann Toebbe, and Noah Vaughn.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Open Studios, May 21st 2 to 5pm at the Hyde Park Art Center

Come say goodbye and see the paintings I made during my residency at the Hyde Park Art Center, this Sunday, May 21st 2017 from 2 to 5pm. It was a wonderfully productive and delightful time. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

New Paintings

Two Mirrors, 46 x 32 inches, oil on canvas, 2017. 

Mirror (winter), oil on canvas, 36 x 32 inches, 2017. 

Door Mirror, oil on canvas, 46 x 16 inches, 2017. 

Hand Mirror, oil on canvas, 22 x 31 inches, 2017.

Monday, March 13, 2017

New Paintings

A Mirror Sprayed with Vinegar, 
oil on canvas, 
46 x 36 inches, 

Clean Your Mirrors with Vinegar, 
oil on canvas, 
28 x 21 inches, 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Minds I

Anne Harris invited me to draw a self portrait with her at the Ed Paschke Art Center as part of her on going project, The Mind's I. It will be on view until April 8th, 2017. 

I think I look like a placid little gentleman in this drawing, which I am fine with.

Artist In Residence

I'm an artist in residence at the Hyde Park Art Center until May 2017. I'm here all the time anyway, so it's nice to have a sun-lit spacious studio to work (nap) in. 

New Painting

                     That Smelly Sponge, oil on canvas, 12in x 16in, 2017

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Paintings in Progress

Lots of new work in progress. Some details:

 Paper Towels are for Rich People (detail)

How do you Fix a Smelly Sponge? (detail)

Mom Dusted with our Old Underpants (detail)