In The Studio #89

I’ve been trying to hone my projects in the studio lately following a string of shows to prepare for a crazy intense early summer of further exhibitions. I really overextended myself this year with projects, which as I’ve noted here in the past is both thrilling and scary simultaneously. I really would not have it any other way, but if you have high anxiety like I do it can lead to bouts of depression over all the work, and unproductive periods of immobilization. I have a fear of the big projects and that leads me to delaying them until I absolutely must act, this can lead to good results when I break through that fear, and some not so good ones when the fear gives birth to anemic work. I find myself at that crossroads now with two projects. 

The first of these projects is a commission I accepted to do a work on Teddy Pendergrass for a grant offered by a local Philly black radio station. The grant, called Black Music City, was offered to artists who sought to celebrate the rich musical history of Philadelphia. My contribution to this project is a work like my other cedar shingle pieces, with several depictions of TP either drawing in sharpie or collaged into the piece as paper dolls. Right now, I’m building out the elaborate stage on top of which all the action of the piece plays out. I won’t lie and say my work so far has been easy. These cedar shingle works are loosely drawing and irregular shaped. I have this apprehension that a mostly black audience used to perhaps seeing mostly traditional representational work might balk at my piece, especially as it is meant to honor a local icon. I usually don’t let such concerns influence my work, but I’m very aware of how particular people of color are about their depictions in public, especially now after the Chris Rock/ Will Smith Oscar brouhaha of Jada Pickett Smith’s short hair. I’ve kept faith with my style however and as the piece goes further it will no doubt tighten up and feel more presentable to a finicky audience, I hope. It had better, because the piece will go on display for the Juneteenth celebrations in Philly in a few short months.

The other big work I’m painting right now is the second in what I hope to be 4 pieces in my “Sighting MLK” landscape painting series. These works are part of recent efforts I’ve made over the last year or so to draw more on my history and background for sources of inspiration. I believe people want to see works that they “connect” with. A work with a story behind it, that is titled well, does that trick, I think. When I was a kid, I had major wanderlust. I felt like my entire existence was in preparation for some great future I was destined to inhabit. Such thinking of course often prevented me from being present. As I look back on all that youthful ennui staring at the empty fields where I grew up or looking up at starry skies from the grocery store, I worked at when I was a teenager, I see value in those spaces.  I live in a region with a still growing appreciation for avant-garde artwork, which is another way of saying I live in a sort of backwater. Here in my corner of Pennsylvania pretty sells and I make no apologies for tailoring my practice to fit the market of where I reside. The work that leaves my Bethlehem studio and goes elsewhere beyond the Lehigh Valley is the more experimental work that really stirs me. I liken the whole trade off to being like a working-class laborer slaving away so that their kids can have a better life and go to college. I continue to feel fortunate and lucky that these more traditional scenes also happen to really speak to me too.

Where my abstract work is loud my landscapes are quiet. And this quiet depicted most recently in these “Sighting MLK” pieces are very instructive. They remind me how utterly alone I felt back then. Alone and misunderstood or more like not noticed. It’s a common feeling for a lot of teens. The empty fields in these landscapes are like time machines to my younger self. I say to this younger self through these pieces “get used to it, Anthony, were all alone’. That’s strangely reassuring because it makes the together times, I encounter now taste a little sweeter. I can be horribly embarrassingly obtuse and unaware often. Being driven and on the go all the time, I miss a lot and no doubt hurt people unintentionally. Nothing quite like an empty field of corn or wheat to humble oneself. I feel the fresh air in my lungs. I can taste the humidity. There’s a storm coming. My eyes can see the rolling clouds. I can smell the rain. I am not the me of sadness, it’s just a temporary thing. Like a bright shinny sky or a gentle breeze.   

Here’s status on Tyrone Goes to the Capital Nos. 3 and 4 respectively

One of my favorite students recently turned on onto Johnny Hodges. I love finding new jazz artists. It’s such an expansive genus of music I don’t think I’ll ever get truly bored with it, especially when painting. It sits back in the distance so well. As I said before, certain sounds can be too intrusive. I especially think this about the news. Too much news is bad for you, and unless it’s balanced like an NPR or some foreign news service, it can really lead to mirthless paintings. That’s no fun for anyone. There’s so much of Hodges to choose from. Just to provide a sample from what Pandora has been feeding me here’s YouTube videos of “Goin’ Out the Back Way” and “Satin Doll”.

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