Back to Black

During the first few weeks of my year one at the Academy, I've seen an abundance of great art - in fellow students' studios, at New York galleries, during class lectures. Lately, I am drawn to art that has a kaleidoscope of color.  However, during our first-year painting course we've had to refrain from loading our palettes with a wide range of colors. Small black and white studies currently fill the studios. 

At first, when I learned we'd be using limited palettes for the first few weeks of painting, I was less than enthused. For me, not using color is like a baking without butter or sugar — no fun! I also couldn't help but think that our class, full of already highly skilled artists, was above such rudimentary exercises. I was very wrong! 

By going back to the basics we learned about light and color much more in-depth level than I though possible. My painting instructor JP Roy did a demo using several tubes of black paint to show us the range of color that's possible when only using black paint - Ivory Black, Blue Black, Mars Black, Black Spinnel, Chromatic Black.  Coincidentally, it had been a rainy week in New York, so with the foggy and hazy atmosphere is exaggerating the wide range of blacks and greys in New York!

Painting with JP Roy
Black&White Study - Self Portrait
Black Paint Demo

Black&White Study - Self Portrait

When we were allowed to add a warm color to our palette, we focused on warm and cool light. Instead of just copying the still-life in front of us, we learned to understand where the light is coming from and break down the form into areas of temperature, i.e. light mass, core shadow, reflected light, cast shadow, specular light. Last week we were asked to bring in raw meat or fish, for a still-life that lends itself well to a warm/cool palette. After an early morning adventure to the fishmarket in Chinatown, I brought a barely dead crab and a mackerel to class for my still-life. By the end of the day our classroom and everyone in it REAKED! But the class produced some appetizing paintings :)

Self Portait

Warm/Cool Palette

Still Life for Warm/Cool Palette
Shopping for fishies!

My Studio

Since we've been painting using a limited palette, I've begun to notice the many artists whose work lies whithin this limited color range. Here are a few I've looked to for inspiration:

Giorgio Morandi, Still Life
Adrian Ghenie, "The Bath"
Luc Tuymans, "Der diagnostische Blick V"

Dick Frizzel, Wavesong

Madeleine Hines (MFA 2014) will be blogging here throughout the year about her first year at the Academy and moving to New York City.  Check the label "First Year Experience" or "Madeleine Hines" for more posts about her first year at the Academy.

Carrara Part III: Reduced to the Dust by Marble

June 18 - July 3, 2012, recent Academy graduate Joseph Brickey (MFA 2012) lived and worked in Carrara, Italy as part of a two-week Artist in Residence Program sponsored by ABC Stone and The Oriano Galloni Foundation, and coordinated by artist Stephen Shaheen (MFA 2005).

Steve Shaheen checking measurements on model
I will forever count myself fortunate for the honor of working alongside a man like Steve Shaheen.  He is simply brilliant, an inspiration both in capacity and in character!  And he seemed perfectly suited to be my mentor, being uniquely qualified in his knowledge of both the stone and the figure.  His artistic expertise, razor-sharp intellect, and physical stamina all seemed limitless in his devotion to my project.  And a good thing too, for the task demanded it.

As every move in stone requires cognizance on many levels, focusing on one thing likely meant I was oblivious to something else just as crucial.  I continually marveled at how aware Steve always was of things that separately would demand single-mindedness, but together hardly seemed manageable for just one brain.  I often felt like a clumsy halfwit by comparison.  Even with the intricacies of the sculpted model, which I myself had created (and not on mere whim, mind you), he always seemed to be thinking two steps ahead of me.  I was in an unforgiving world that employs a multiplicity of tools and skillsmost of which were totally foreign to me.  But I quickly realized, ignoramus not withstanding, I couldnt be in better hands.

Time after time I went from alarmed to amazed as Steve would demonstrate a deep saw cut with absolute precision.  I simply cant fathom how hed repeatedly come within centimeters (I mean like 2 cm) of the target depth while freehand cutting large portions of the stone we hadnt yet measured.  Even if you credit him with lifelong experience with the tools and the methods, Steve pulls off mind-boggling feats that can only be attributed to sheer inspiration and artistic genius.

The front side roughed out
Stone carving demands the head to be not only filled with Olympian-level thoughts, but also dripping with Herculean-like sweat.  It combines intellectual and aesthetic sensibilities with physical rigor in a way I'd never experienced.  This is not the work of a civilized painter, as I'd been accustomed, sitting in a cushioned office chair, dabbling with slender brushes while swaying to classical music in an air-conditioned studio. It felt I had gone from court painter to quarry slave.

Standing with the marble and model

Nothing under the Tuscan sun felt cool except the chips of marble flicking against my sun burnt face.  Whatever pieces were too small to leave a mark, clung defiantly to my sweaty skin.  The resulting white paste will likely never catch on in the cosmetic industry, but there's something poetic about the mixture of sweat and marble dust, the remnants of the artist's material mingling with the remnants of the artist's exertion.

There is also something beautiful in seeing the body covered in the effects of its labor, the white powder and chips indicating a history of effort, of struggle.  The sculptor can then be interpreted as one might a work of art, like the marks on a painting that connote its creative journey.

The torso finally standing upright
The nature of stone is such that it will only conform to the artist's will by forceful coercion.  No matter the tool used, the stone will in turn leave its mark upon the artist. As two colliding forces, the stubbornness of stone and the determination of the artist, they both are changed by this intense, even violent, form of creative destruction.

Using the pneumatic hammer on the front side

Even with modern tools, the artist is not above the stones rebuttals.  I think it may have been the vindictive Gods of Carrara who inspired the advent of the pneumatic hammer, designed to give an equal beating to the hands as it gives to stone.

One of many corridors at Staglieno Cemetery

Guiliano Monteverdes famous Angel of the Resurrection

An extraordinary example of marble defying conventional limits
Close-ups of incredible carving details

On Sunday, my day off, we took a trip to Genova to visit the Staglieno Cemetery, an absolute treasure trove of marble funerary sculpture.  Mostly done in the 19th century, there were countless examples of superb craftsmanship, a collective monument to the stunning possibilities of marble.  I was like a little kid visiting the Louvre on the excitement of his first coloring book, wholly unprepared for the enormity of the world that Id just entered.  Leaving there I felt dizzy, my brain bursting from such a ferocious binge of the eyes.  There I was, sitting awestruck on the floor of an outstanding tradition, staring up at a very high ceiling.

Pen & Ink Skeches from Staglieno Cemetery

Check back here for more of Joseph's reflections on his residency and first experience working with stone.

Did you miss Joseph's other posts on his experience in Carrara? Read Carrara: The Impossible Dream and Carrara Part II: Initiation into an Ancient Tradition.

The Year Before.

By Maria Teicher, MFA 2013

This time last year I was just beginning to understand my flow within New York and the school that now feels like a second home. I recognized very little faces and was just starting friendships. It was all new and a bit overwhelming. Everything felt a little foreign (which is strange considering I grew up only an hour outside of the city) yet it all had a sense of magic to it. Coming back in this year I can’t help to be reminded of how different I felt just one year ago. The fear is gone and is instead replaced by a stronger work ethic, and the ability to jump into whatever is ahead of me without worry.

The first day last year was slighting different than it was this year. Our orientation was an entire day followed by an exhibition of the 2011 fellows. Following NYAA through blogs and social media sites, I knew OF these three artists and knew what their work looked like digitally. As always though, art is so much better viewed in person. I walked around the exhibition space that night feeling this incredible sense of inspiration, awe, and again, magic.

Last year every part of that first day was brand new, from how we all got to be sitting in the same room together to how the incredible pieces I would see that night were made. This year, half of the faces were a breath of fresh air to see again, while the other half I couldn’t wait to get to know better. The faculty was familiar, the same professors who I’d learned so much from were there and the fellows were acquaintances and friends.

I walked around the 2012 Fellows opening just as inspired and in awe as I did the year before. This time, however, I felt like I had taken part of the journey of making these brilliant pieces with them. I had seen this art in different stages and spoke to the artists about the work. I had shared coffee or a love of printmaking with them. I knew their journey from before the academy all the way through their experience at NYAA. We were somehow part of the same family now (this very large, very talented New York Academy of Art family) and because of that their artwork took on a new meaning.

The greatest part of this year’s opening was that these pieces didn’t lack the magic that I had seen the year before as a stranger to both the school and the artists. I believe the sense of community here has added something better than a feeling of mysticism. There is now an added excitement for three artists I never imagined crossing paths with before coming here. The newest emotion coming back this Fall was walking into the exhibition, and being so proud.

Congratulations a hundred times over to Ian Healy, Aliene De Souza Howell, and Emily Davis Adams.  Thank you for your shared words of wisdom, kindness and allowing us to see your talents in close and personal ways.