Why I Love Deadlines

The New York Academy of Art is pleased to share a note by Hilary Harkness. Regularly posting her "Notes from Studio Lockdown," Hilary blogs with us as she prepares for her upcoming exhibition at Mary Boone Gallery in New York City, on Thursday, May 5, 5-7pm.

Dear friends,

As I prepare for my May 5th show (please come! the opening is 5-7pm at the Mary Boone Gallery in midtown, at 745 Fifth Ave.), I find that everything non-essential has dropped from my life. I have always built my life around convenience, trying to live within feet of subway stops. For years I lived within three blocks of the 1,2,3,L, F,M,A,C,E,B & D so I could waste less time. I work at home as close to the kitchen as possible to save on footsteps. I don’t care about clothes as long as I look ok, and will buy a generic wardrobe for a season in an hour at one store. I tell hairdressers to just make me look normal. My life has been designed to eliminate distraction.

I am currently finishing a painting of the last night of the Yamato, a Japanese battleship that went on a suicide mission in 1945. The painting began in my head five years ago while listening to a Dolly Parton song of all things. I researched exact battleship plans and drew out the interior on a thin piece of paper. You can see a hundred feet deep into the ship, and I have all the rooms to scale, receding into space. In this painting I wanted to speculate about the different things people might do when faced with certain doom. I knew where to dig for historical details, and how to make the painting make sense. I built a filing system to deal with my thousands of pieces of information. I looked over my past successes and failures at painting to pick approaches to materials that work. I covered the ferrules of my brushes with tape so reflected light wouldn’t disrupt my vision. I made mini-palettes out of plastic lids and taped them to my painting and taped folded bounty paper towel to myself to wipe my brushes on so I wouldn’t distract myself with movement. My goal was to be smart about the process so all my efforts would directly make the painting more pleasurable for the viewer.

taping brushes to reduce glare
The truth is, the past year and a half of work on this painting has been a disaster, as always. I drew the plans small, then changed the shape of panel so I had to tape extra pieces of paper to the drawing. There were so many perspective guidelines, I couldn’t see what I was doing and had to color things in with markers to visualize the space.

muse as avatar
I redrew it on a clean piece of paper to the size of my new panel, then wadded up the drawing and carried it around town in my handbag while fretting about conflicting themes. Want to annoy your friends – pull out a 42” drawing at dinner! Want to annoy your non-artist girlfriend - insist she tries painting so she can see how hard it is (she made it look easy)! I have maybe a hundred ideas for sea creatures to add to the flooding bowels of the ship, but the deadline is in a week so my subconscious will have to pick the best five. Despite my best attempts to stick to the appointed story line, my real themes about domesticity have dominated, completely subverting or even sabotaging the painting from within.

cat as avatar, atop the sketch

I was smart about how I started the painting, streamlining my life and methods. But with a week to go until the art shipper arrives, I’m finding out what’s important: whatever comes out. 90% of my effort has been with playing with things and pushing things around and now I can only trust in the process, that my subconscious has been primed and I can make something effortlessly. It’s as though I’ve practiced making the painting, so when I paint it, I already know what I’m doing and it feels effortless – but not really in my control.

So what do I love about deadlines? My friends who believe in me and send their love and support to me as I sit diligently watching my painting unfold. I don’t even have to explain to them how I feel because we all go through this. I can’t be the artist I would like to be, but maybe this experience is what I signed up for when I devoted my life to painting.

Yours very truly,
Hilary Harkness


Ode to Nebraska, oil on canvas, 48x60in.
by Emily Adams (MFA 2011)
It’s the end of the semester and we’re seeing our MFA Thesis projects through to completion. To close up the posts on my thesis process throughout second year here at the Academy, I thought I’d share several of my most recent paintings, along with some interesting work that has been brought to my attention over the course of the past couple months. Exploring American farmland, aerial view, has been like picking up a rock to discover a whole other world underneath. With one of the simplest of subjects—the grid—I’ve found all kinds of problems to try to solve over the months. A straight grid speaks to an entirely different history of painting than one shifted into perspective, color and atmosphere follow different sets of rules when investigated from 30,000 feet in the air, and the surface of the painting itself has become a more significant subject when the image is so pared down. Most importantly to me, the grid as farmland, too, lends additional elements of narrative and symbolic suggestion that only representational painting can bring. Who would have thought soybeans and corn could offer so many aesthetic possibilities?

Crops (Night Raid), oil and alkyd on panel, 18x36in.
Ode to Kansas, oil and alkyd on canvas, 48x60in.

Carpet design by Florian Pucher
In the past couple of months, friends have sent along various sightings of crops popping up in several corners of art and design worlds. I wasn’t really looking to be in dialogue with a carpet designer, but this just confirms my suspicion that the grid is slowly making its way into our visual culture as a new, dominating form of landscape.

Also, if anyone can help me, I am still trying to track down the artist who made this piece spotted hanging at a gallery on 23rd St.

William Steiger's Aerial Survey #2 at Margaret Thatcher Projects
[Identified- Thanks to John Jacobsmeyer]
As I look forward to developing my own work after graduation, I’ll be thinking a lot more about the concept of 'cultivation' particularly in the context of the early American botanical and cultural history that I am related to. Culture, the word itself, has its Latin roots in tilling and agriculture, so exploring the 'cultivation' of a society in a new landscape by juxtaposing variations in the traditions of landscape and flower painting (considering flowers moved with people across seas to be hybridized and seeded in so-called 'virgin' soil) seems to me a good place to dig for now. Here are a couple of interesting grandparents of the melded genres:

Giovanni DiPaolo, St. John the Baptist Goes
Into the Wilderness,
tempera on poplar, 1454
Jacques Le Moyne De Morgues,
Young Daughter of the Picts, circa 1585

Eric Telfort: Keeping the Brushes Wet, part 3

The New York Academy of Art is pleased to present the next installment in this new series on our blog. Eric Telfort, a 2009 graduate of the New York Academy of Art, blogs with us about “keeping the brushes wet.” Eric will be speaking at the Academy as part of the Career Development Workshops on April 21, 1-2pm. Current Students and Alumni welcome to attend! Follow us as Eric writes about what it’s like to be a working artist.

Continued from the last post:

As an AmeriCorps supervisor, I tend to the children of a small community in Providence, RI. I eat trail mix and delicately prepared buffalo chicken sandwiches for lunch. I arrive home at 6:30pm and am tranquilized by the msg dinner that I often prepare. I wake up at 3am and the system starts all over again. As grim as this may sound there is hope. I am coming to grips in understanding that art is the liquid that makes my heart pump. As much as I love the kids I work with, not being able to paint makes me feel nothing. Wine has no taste without the art to accompany it. I have made serious sacrifices in the last month to win the custody battle of my art from my other life; the one that pays my bills. Gone are facebook, and the romances of 2010. They shall be missed, especially the ladies. My only romance at this point is the brush and the canvas, and on occasion the sculptor’s clay and Breyers vanilla ice cream. I am working on continuing the series I began during my 2nd year at the Academy. I like to make paintings reinterpreting my artistic childhood as an adult. What I find many times is so much of society’s issues were present in my own childhood and now reside in my paintings. I was too na├»ve then to pay attention to them and rightfully so. I was 6, and being 6 is not easy when you have a backyard full of junk to battle invisible aliens with. Even as an adult, I am not able to see these common threads until the piece is near completion. It is now 6:30am and the shower calls. For the first time, the thoughts that go through my mind between 3am now have found their way onto digital format – this blog. Either way, going forward the message I hear in my mind every morning is “the brushes can not dry.” Time for work.

To be continued…

Show us YOUR Studio - MFA OPEN STUDIOS 2011

The New York Academy of Art is pleased to invite you to our annual MFA Open Studio event on Friday, April 29th from 5-9pm. On the heels of Tribeca Ball 2011, five floors and over seventy studios will be open to the public and will present an amazing array of artwork.

We're so excited about our third annual Open Studios at the Academy that we want to share some studio love with everyone!

Show us YOUR Studio for a chance to win a free Academy t-shirt. Any and every studio will do! Email charis@nyaa.edu a picture of your studio, or upload a photo and tag it to the New York Academy of Art's wall on facebook.

Your studio shot will be entered in a raffle to win a free Academy t-shirt. We'll collect the photos in an album on facebook (tag yourself, too!) and then we'll email the winner and announce it during Open Studios on April 29th!

NYAA MFA Open Studios 2011 - FRIDAY APRIL 29, 5-9pm
111 Franklin Street (btw West Broadway & Church Street)
Free and Open to the Public

Studio Shots: Cori Beardsley, Ramona Bradley, Nadene Grey Speer

Cori Beardsley (Sculpture, Class of 2011):

"Dance, hysteria, play and the love of form inspire my recent sculpture. I strive to express wild release and the polarities of joy and pain that are at that raw edge of emotion."

Ramona Bradley (Painting, Class of 2012):

"I paint what I want to paint. I don't usually understand it. It's more of a visceral feeling that drives me, you know from the gut, and sometimes it gets a little slimy."

Nadene Grey Speer (Painting, Class of 2012):

"As an artist my rustic upbringing comes through in my disposition towards raw canvas, stretched gut, embroidery, landscapes, suspicion of the slick, faith in natural beauty, desire for a diverse audience, and a need to show and see the artist's hand."

Eric Telfort: Keeping the Brushes Wet, part 2

The New York Academy of Art is pleased to present the next installment in this new series on our blog. Eric Telfort, a 2009 graduate of the New York Academy of Art, blogs with us about “keeping the brushes wet.” Eric will be speaking at the Academy as part of the Career Development Workshops on April 21, 1-2pm. Current Students and Alumni welcome to attend! Follow us as Eric writes about what it’s like to be a working artist.

Continued from the last post:

I imagine myself painting and discovering new paths and hidden alleys to “the piece” - the piece we all are chasing as artist. This piece is the piece that tells the world that you have it and have nothing left to offer. I feel as an artist I will always be chasing the truth on a 2-D plane. Like Juan De Pareja before me my dream is to create a truth that is unequivocal. I wake up at 3am paralyzed in bed thinking of the day ahead of me. I peer to my left and see a painting demo from the academy completed a year ago. I observe the subtle shifts of value, and the blind confidence in the brush work. I turn to my right and I see papers. Lots of paper. Loads of paper. Paper that has nothing to do with shifting tone, or creating the illusion of a lily pad floating on water that one does when painting a highlight on the eye.

I blink and the sun addresses me with a cold hello telling me I have to be at work in an hours’ time. Life beyond the Academy is not the fantastical world one imagined it would be after graduating. I mean, in looking back the Academy reminds me of Bouguereau’s Nymphs and Satyr painting. There were amazingly beautiful women everywhere, and I was floating in a sea of artistic enchantment, and, without the pressure to work for money, and given the opportunity to keep my brushes wet. Wet with paint, not turpenoid as they have been for the last couple of months and counting. Gone are the days of being able to spend a day on an idea or carefully studying a head. Time is money now a days and I have neither. I wake up and proceed to my job as an AmeriCorps supervisor.

To be continued…

Studio Shots: Ian Healy, Guno Park and Elena Rodz

Ian Healy (Painting, Class of 2011):
"I try to find ways to express pain and anguish in multiple depictions, primarily through animal forms, as people react differently to animals then humans. I try to see what can really evoke feelings of pain and emotion in people. In my work that incorporates human forms, I find the themes tend to be more personal."

Guno Park (Drawing, Class of 2011):
"I'm exploring my cognitive architecture as landscapes. Recalling childhood dreams and places I used to live, I'm using scratch boards as a medium to revisit an old past time and to reveal whats occupying my mind currently."

Elena Rodz (Painting, Class of 2011):
"My paintings are depictions of pure id creatures - running around the forest getting eaten by animals and making love in the moonlight."

Eric Telfort: Keeping the Brushes Wet

The New York Academy of Art is pleased to present a new series on our blog. Eric Telfort, a 2009 graduate of the New York Academy of Art, blogs with us about “keeping the brushes wet.” Eric is currently located in Rhode Island, but was able to experience a residency in Zimbabwe during the summer of 2010. Follow us as Eric writes about what it’s like to be a “working artist.”

Wiggle the big toe. I spent a greater part of my winter vacation sidelined by a turf toe injury that left me ever so helpless. Was it an excuse to not paint? One would answer no. However for me it was different. Being able to dance after finding an unequivocal stroke that cannot be interrupted by another on a canvas is what makes the experience that more exciting. While many find the pleasure in finishing a piece, I find pleasure in the simple contact of a wet brush onto the surface of an unfinished piece. I can recall many a time where painting left me violently sexual wanting to create the most unimaginable pleasures to my ex-girlfriend. In those moments I had to walk away from the work and retreat to Call of Duty on my Playstation 3 to calm me down a bit. Finishing or completing the piece leaves me tired for the most part. There’s an overwhelming feeling of relief and hope when the toe decides to cooperate with my neural senses and inches towards me. I’m gaining my life back... well, sort of. It has been 6 months since I came back from Africa and I have yet to infect a canvas with my artistic thoughts. I have a job. A 9am to 6pm job that drains my energy slowly throughout the day and throughout the day all I think about is art.

To be continued…


The Academy is honored and thrilled to share the news about Senior Critic Eric Fischl's exciting exhibition:

From AmericaNowAndHere.org:

"America: Now and Here
began when the artist Eric Fischl invited a group of friends and peers, all leading visual artists, musicians, poets, playwrights, and filmmakers, to submit a work of art reflecting their points of view and hopes for America.

Fischl established a not-for-profit to share America: Now and Here with communities across the country through programs, media and a traveling multi-disciplinary exhibition and event.

America: Now and Here is positioned to launch a national dialogue about America through art, to spark local activities and fuel imaginations, and generate innovation from coast to coast.

Through this national creative experience America: Now and Here positions art as a catalyst for bringing people together to discuss important issues and big ideas relevant to what we hold dear: America.

This movement offers an unprecedented opportunity to the American public to engage with art, poetry, film, plays and music by more than 150 of our country’s celebrated artists.

Promoting creativity and innovation as the foundation of our society, America: Now and Here will invite participation through a cross-country tour, website and social media, public programs and youth engagement, publications and Artist Response."
Find out more from The New York Times.

Studio Shots: Aleah Chapin, Holly Ann Sailors and Richie Fine

Aleah Chapin (Painting, Class of 2012):
"In this new work I want to be real and honest about the imperfect beauty of the human form. I want elegance and ugliness to co-exist so that the viewer questions which is which and it becomes both and neither simultaneously."

Holly Ann Sailors (Painting, Class of 2012):
"I am obsessed with pattern and the human figure. Tender, yet slightly macabre,
my artwork is beautifully haunted. By using vintage photography I am evoking memories of the past and creating a conversation with the present viewer."

Richie Fine (Painting, Class of 2012):
"My work strives to reflect the ridiculous nature of reality and in doing so attempts to bring laughter into the life of the viewer! Hope Y'all like it!"