Two Artists I love died this month. Cy Twombly and Lucian Freud. They were in their 80’s and I imagine lived a pretty colorful/full life. Their work has inspired artists all over the world. Lucian’s work auctioned for what I believe was the highest amount for a living artist 3.4 Million. I can only imagine what his work will go for now that he’s passed.
When I was in my first year of school I had a horrible art history teacher at the community college level. I’m not exaggerating. If memory serves, she mispronounced every other artists name and even had a stutter. She was not really teaching us anything… the class was a complete BORE. How did she make art history a literal snooze? Well, mostly she was simply showing slides and saying the name and the dates. Not really intriguing in the dark. By the time I reached my dream of a four-year art college (The School of the Art Institute of Chicago) two years later, I felt like I was WAY behind on everything. I had a lot of making up to do. That’s why it’s so important to go to the right college!!! It’s fine to get a few credits out-of-the-way at the community college level, but if you really want the best education that will make a difference, you have to get to the higher places. This is based on my experience. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s worth it. I did it the only way I could to finally get to where I wanted and needed to be.
The School of the Art Institute was such an amazing place to go to school. I would literally cut through the Art Institute Museum daily to get to my classes. I was surrounded my masterpieces flashing by and when my friends and I had breaks and lunches… we often used our time to slowly wander the museum and take everything in. If we had more time, we’d walk down Michigan Avenue and go to the MOCA. Bliss! I admit I got pretty burned out on the conceptual work after a few years, but it was lovely to have so much exposure to such intriguing works of art.
I remember my first painting critique… a few of my peers said my work reminded them of Picasso. Well, since I’d had such poor art history classes prior to getting into SAIC, I was initially a little offended by their comment. I didn’t understand. When I finally learned the full scope of Picasso’s earlier work later that night… I was flattered. I had no idea he’d had such a major transformation. I simply hadn’t had much exposure to other artists at that time. That was my wake up call. I began to really look at other artists works. We were of course encouraged to do so, but I had only been looking at a few over and over before this that I’d already been exposed to. Over the years I would stumble upon contemporary artists that I enjoyed and informed our work in school. Once I was out of school and trying to figure out my style, I stopped looking at other artists works altogether. I didn’t want any more outsider influence on my work. I wanted my work to be pure. To come from my heart. I’d had so much stimulation from all the art classes from five years of college that I really couldn’t absorb anymore and still feel I was making something unique.
It took me years, but I did it. Sure, I have heard others tell me that my work reminds them of “so and so’s work” here and there, but that’s just people trying to identify with the work. We all want to connect it somehow with something we’ve seen before. I do the same thing sometimes. I’ve heard it plenty before when people comment on a musicians stuff… “oh! it reminds me of this mixed with that!” Labels help us feel like we know something. In almost all the interviews I’ve done over the years, I’m asked the question “What artists have influenced your work?” It’s a great question, but I don’t really know specifically which ones. Perhaps ALL I’ve ever encountered? Maybe one or two if something is similar in the way we approach the subject matter or technique? Whatever the case, I don’t know if it’s conscious and I can’t really pinpoint anyone. I prefer to leave that up to the viewers if they need to identify it somehow with someone else. I think any good artist strives to have a unique and authentic style. It’s hard, but I believe it’s possible.
Here are just a few artists whose works I’ve always loved: Titian, Klimt, Bosch, Rothko, Kiefer, Frankenthaler, Starn Twins, Rauschenberg, Turrell, Kahn, Motherwell, Twombly, Freud, Goldsworthy, and dozens of others. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they influence my work, it just means that there is something in their work that speaks to me on some level. Something I find personally satisfying. Some are masters and some are contemporaries. My taste changes over time and so some of the works I admire depends on my mood and what is current and relevant in my life. Lately I’ve started to look at my contemporaries again as there seems to be more of an obvious spiritually based awareness in the works that are being created in this decade. We are so lucky to have these voices and gifts of creation to share. Who are some of your favorite artists??