Ephemerama #37

Its been again another long spell since I’ve felt like blogging. The late winter and spring have been challenging with a sad slow-motion train wreck of a break-up and considerable work stress from my several jobs; but I’m emerging from all that ‘real living’ a little wiser and newly reflective. About two months I had the opportunity in the midst of the storm of my life to go to a wonderful conference in York, Pennsylvania called Artist U. At this conference artists from around the state came together to give each other some best practices advice on how to energize and sustain our art careers. With a focus on self-reliance and fiscal responsibility I felt like the conference gave me some real practical direction of how to proceed going forward, which – albeit painfully slowly – I am trying to implement in my practice.

One of the exercise we did at the conference was to whittle down our ambitions for two years into three concrete and practical/achievable goals and to create action plans on how to achieve those goals. Without getting into the specifics of what my goals were I have to say the exercise itself was an eyeopening experience helping me realize what my priorities in life and art should be, its an exercise I highly recommend anyone preform. Another really helpful exercise was to recreate an artists statement that summed up what we feel our creative agendas are. My old artist statement was written with an exes help more than a decade ago and I’ve been reticent to change it as I thought it was very well written. However in the spirit of change, that’s now a very real feature in my life, I decided to give it a go. And, while its still rough around the edges I’d like to share it here as a sort of personal thesis statement along side the old one.

Here’s the old statement:

I use abstract painting to explore complex and indefinite moral positions and to tell inscrutable stories.

I begin with simple sketches that over time become stylized, coalescing into calligraphic forms contributing to an intricate yet dense topography of layered line work, paint, and collage. Most of my works comprise larger series, which illustrate a theme or communicate visual narratives using a consistent set of patterns, colors and other ephemera that are always placed in a specific order. My sequential process is not unlike comic book art, where individual works can be both edited and hermetic while parts of a larger story. Although private narratives are essential to my creative process, I use them only to the end of producing works that move the viewer to impose his or her own personal experience into them, making for a reception that is as varied and complex as the viewers themselves.

I aim in my work to create an orderly-but-exotic universe that invites play by the viewer by simultaneously including familiar and appropriated imagery and then eluding precise or didactic storytelling. My pieces often begin with a set of compositional rules that change over the life of a series as I respond to the materials, initial, guiding narrative, and the development of my mark making. My goal in changing elements in a series is to toy with, or even to thwart, the viewer’s expectations in order to spark inquiry into the role that memory plays as ballast for visual understanding.

New Artist Statement

I make artwork that’s filled with rich dense spaces. These spaces coalesce into vibrant worlds where I often play out moral, political or philosophical fantasies using calligraphic gestures that feel vaguely calligraphic. I often layer and then erase work I’ve spent hours producing simply to capture the ghost of what came before. I tell stories. I tell stories within stories. I tell stories that are not always meant to be perceived by the viewer…, these are my secret tales. Always I leave morsels viewers’ can grab hold of be it a friendly gesture, an appealing color, or familiar image; that like breadcrumbs, I hope lead viewers on a journey of discovery. I make overwhelming work because the world for me is overwhelming. Then from time to time I paint over it all with a happy landscape, thinly masking the cacophony just beneath the surface.

Its still fairly rough and will likely go through a couple more permutations, but the later statement feels more authentic to my current creative experience then the one I’ve been using for so many years.

This is a year of change and exploration for me. I’ve been spending much of the year exploring landscape painting after years largely avoiding the genera. I’m in the midst of painting a series of seasonal large paintings that I’m calling simply “Four Seasons”. Here’s the first painting in the series, “Winter in Limeport”:

Anthony Smith Jr. Winter in Limeport, 38 x 48 inches, acrylic, 2018. jpg

I’m currently working on the second painting in the series I’m calling “Spring in Emmaus”. Here are a few landscapes from Emmaus, Pennsylvania that my friend Marlow Rodale was kind enough to help me take on his farm.

 

I’m hoping to spend the remainder of the summer finishing this second painting in this four part series and hopefully starting the third. I’m hoping also to fit in some prints in there too.

The conference I went to in April emphasizes how artist are good at making something out of nothing. Creating art with little resources, an executive level skill that would be prized in corporate America but is little understood and appreciated with it comes to the creative class. Sustainability is the challenge for us creatives. I’ve never had a real problem finding someway to do my art but I fear – like most artist – that the day will come when I have to give it all up and get a “real job”. As I describe here my summer creative agenda I’m reminded of that conference and hope that I can fold in some of those practical steps that, when added into my general creative output, will propel my career for years to come.


For many months now I’ve been listening to this new Hip Hop artist named Princess Nokia. Shes a Puerto Rican rapper from the Bronx and I think shes awesome, the next Cardi B or Nicki Minaj. Here one of my favorite songs and probably her  most popular called “Brujas”

 

I’m hoping to blog again soon on my progress with Spring in Emmaus, until then do be well.

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