I featured the artwork of Ellsworth Kelly on my blog both on November 23, 2015 and December 17, 2015. Also I mailed him a letter on November 23, 2015, but I never heard back from him. Unfortunately he died on December 27, 2015 at the age of 92.
Who were the artists who influenced Ellsworth Kelly?
Let me tell you what Wasily Kandinsky (who was seen in the film THE LONGEST RIDE) and Paul Klee were attempting to do. They wanted to make a connection with art and find a word of direction from art for their lives. They were secular men so they were not looking for any spiritual direction from a personal God. However, the Bible clearly notes that God exists and we all know He is there. Romans Chapter one asserts, “For that which is KNOWN about God is EVIDENT to them and MADE PLAIN IN THEIR INNER CONSCIOUSNESS, because God has SHOWN IT TO THEM…” (Romans 1:19).
Every person has this inner conscious that is screaming at them that God exists and that is why so many of the sensitive men involved in art have been looking for a message to break forth. Here we see something similar with the life and quest of the artist Paul Klee. I read on January 15, 2007 the blog post “Strolling Through Modern Art,” and I wanted to share a portion of that post:
This particular drawing came to mind while I was looking at the Art Institute of Chicago’s website and I came across some artwork by Joan Miro, who is exhibited at AIC. Vee Mack’s drawings generally demonstrate better draughtsmanship than this drawing displays but I thought that the concept was amusing and the implied commentary worth considering. Are you a fan of Joan Miro, Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, Jackson Pollock, Willem De Kooning and Vasily Kandinsky?What does this elderly gentleman think of his stroll through the paramecium of the artworld? Francis Schaeffer noted in “The God Who is There” that Paul Klee and similar artists, introduced the idea of artwork generated in a manner similar to how a Ouija Board generates words from outside the artist’s conscious intent. Schaeffer observed that Klee “hopes that somehow art will find a meaning, not because there is a spirit there to guide the hand, but because through it the universe will speak even though it is impersonal in its basic structure.” [page 90] Why would an impersonal universe have something to say? What does meaninglessness have to communicate? Schaeffer explains that “these men will not accept the only explanation which can fit the facts of their own experience, they have become metaphysical magicians. No one has presented an idea, let alone demonstrated it to be feasible, to explain how the impersonal beginning, plus time, plus chance, can give personality . . . As a result, either the thinker must say man is dead, because personality is a mirage; or else he must hang his reason on a hook outside the door and cross the threshold into the leap of faith which is the new level of despair.” [page 115]Vee Mack’s sketch demonstrates the paradox of an average man viewing images, which represent the nonsense of Dadaism and chaos. It is the overeducated who will look at something that is inherently meaningless and try to find deep meaning in it, while the average man sees it and observes with reasonable common sense that this or that is an absurd waste of time.By the way, while it may appear as though I am favoring one artist for these posts, I am not receiving the variety of artwork that I had hoped for from other artists and I happen to have ample access to much of Vee Mack’s unpublished portfolio. Therefore, until I receive other artwork, I will have to rely on what I have on hand.
How Should We Then Live – Episode 8 – The Age of Fragmentation
Michael Gaumnitz : Paul Klee The Silence of the Angel (2005)
PAUL KLEE: THE SILENCE OF THE ANGEL is a visual journey into the work of a major painter of the 20th century by Michael Gaumnitz, an award-winning documentarian of artists and sculptors. Like Kandinsky and Delaunay, Klee revolutionized the traditional concepts of composition and color.
Art This Week-At the Blanton Museum of Art-Ellsworth Kelly Symposium, Part 2-Austin
Ellsworth Kelly’s “Color Panels for a Large Wall” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington in 2003. (Evan Vucci/AP)
Art This Week-At the Blanton Museum of Art-Ellsworth Kelly Symposium, Part 3-Questions
Featured artist is Janet Fish
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts – Art Byte – Janet Fish
|Born||May 18, 1938
|Education||Smith College, The Skowhegan School of Art, Yale University School of Art and Architecture|
|Known for||Still life paintings; art instructor at the School of Visual Arts, Parsons The New School for Design,Syracuse University, and theUniversity of Chicago|
Janet Fish (born May 18, 1938) is a contemporary American realist artist. She paints still life paintings, some of light bouncing off reflective surfaces, such as plastic wrap containing solid objects and empty or partially filled glassware.
Background and education
Janet Isobel Fish was born on May 18, 1938 in Boston, Massachusetts, and was raised in Bermuda, where her family moved when she was ten years old. She came from a very artistic family. Her father was professor of art history Peter Stuyvesant and her mother was sculptor and potter Florence Whistler Fish. Her sister, Alida, is a photographer. Her grandfather, whose studio was in Bermuda, was American Impressionist painter Clark Voorhees. Another member of her family also named Clark Voorhees was her uncle, a wood carver whose wife was a painter.
Fish knew from a young age that she wanted to pursue the visual arts. She said, “I came from a family of artists, and I always made art and knew I wanted to be an artist.” Fish was talented in ceramics, and had her mother’s kiln available. She initially intended to be a sculptor. As a teenager, Fish had a job helping out in the studio of sculptor Byllee Lang.
She attended Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts, concentrating on sculpture and printmaking. She studied under George Cohn, Leonard Baskin, and Mervin Jules.She spent one of her summers studying at the Art Students League of New York, including a painting class led by Stephen Greene. Fish received a Bachelor of Arts from Smith in 1960. This was followed by a summer residency at The Skowhegan School of Art in Skowhegan, Maine in 1961.
She enrolled at the Yale University School of Art and Architecture in New Haven, Connecticut, attending from 1960 to 1963. There she changed her focus from sculpture to painting. Her instructor for an introductory painting class was Alex Katz, who encouraged students to explore the shows in New York galleries. Fish got a sense of the direction of that art world. During that period, art schools tended to favor the teaching ofAbstract Expressionism, and at first Fish followed along, painting in that style. She soon abandoned it, noting that “Abstract Expressionism didn’t mean anything to me. It was a set of rules.”
Her fellow Yale students included Chuck Close, Richard Serra, Brice Marden, Nancy Graves, Sylvia and Robert Mangold, and Rackstraw Downes. She was awarded her Bachelor of Fine Arts, and in 1963 became one of the first women to earn a Master of Fine Arts from Yale’s School of Art and Architecture.
Life and work
Fish largely rejected the Abstract Expressionism endorsed by her Yale instructors, feeling “totally disconnected” from it and desiring instead the “physical presence of objects”; but some of its very general principles, such as the boldness and smooth, flowing brushstrokes, may have influenced her figurative work. Her work, although Realist, may include abstract forms.
In 1967 she enjoyed her first solo show, at Rutherford, New Jersey‘s Fairleigh Dickinson University. The exhibit included detailed paintings of vegetables and fruits. Her first New York exhibition followed two years after.
Fish is known for her large, bold Realist still lifes, especially the way she paints everyday items such as clear glassware partially filled with water, concentrating on the shapes of the objects and the play of light off of their surfaces.
She is interested in painting light and a concept she has on occasion called “packaging.” For instance, if she paints a jar of pickles, the jar becomes “packaging,” and this can translate into a searching for the light that describes the jar, and a subsequent translation into color. She created still life paintings of grocery store products packaged in cellophane. She said that the “plastic wrap catches the light and creates fascinating reflections”.
Among her other favorite subjects are everyday objects, especially various kinds of clear glassware, either empty or partially filled with liquids such as water, liquor, or vinegar. Examples range from glasses, bottles, goblets, and jars to a fishbowl filled with water and a goldfish. Other subjects include teacups, flower bouquets, textiles with interesting patterns, goldfish, vegetables, and mirrored surfaces. Even though she was painting still lifes, she sometimes included human figures, such as a girl performing cartwheels or a boy with his dog splashing in the water.
Fish’s work has been characterized as photorealist and has also been associated with new realism. She does not consider herself a photorealist; elements such as her composition and use of color demonstrate that her artistic point of view is that of a painter rather than a photographer.
A writer for The New York Times said that Fish’s “ambitious still life painting helped resuscitate realism in the 1970’s” and that her work depicting everyday objects imbued them with a “bold optical and painterly energy”.Critic Vincent Katz concurs, stating that Fish’s career “can be summed up as the revitalization of the still-life genre, no mean feat when one considers that still life has often been considered the lowest type of objective painting”.
Fish had two short-lived marriages, which she claims were unsuccessful at least partly due to her high ambitions and her reluctance to be a “good conventional housewife”. She resides, and paints, in her SoHo, New York City loft and her Vermont farmhouse in Middletown Springs.
In an interview, American painter Eric Fischl spoke of his admiration for Janet Fish: “She’s one of the most interesting realists of her generation. Her work is a touchstone, and tremendously influential. Anyone who deals with domestic still life has to go through her, she’s very important.”
Fish has been honored with various awards and fellowships, including:
- MacDowell Fellowship, 1968, 1969 and 1972
- Harris Award, Chicago Biennale, 1974
- Australia Council for Arts Grant, 1975
- Elected into the National Academy of Design, 1990
- Hubbard Museum Award, 1991
- Aspen Art Museum Woman in Arts Award, 1993
- American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, 1994
- Smith College Medal, 2012
about the author
Kevin J. Kelley
Janet Fish is known for her wildly colorful paintings of jars, decorative glassware, patterned textiles and floral bouquets, often all on the same canvas. “So,” she is asked by a visitor to her Middletown Springs farm, “was it the 17th-century Dutch still-life painters who influenced your work?”
No, Fish replies. It was the 1950s abstract expressionists.
Fish’s unexpected answer offers deep insight into her art. “I use objects as a way of organizing colors and shapes,” she explains.
Her work can also be seen as a meditation on the properties of light, with vessels and their contents serving as vectors or filters for luminescence. Fish strives, she says, to imbue her still-life works with movement — an aim that her gestural brushwork helps her to achieve.
“You also fill the frame, Janet,” Fish’s husband, painter Charles Parness, calls from another room. “The big scale is like the abstract expressionists — that and the shallow space.”
Although everything in Fish’s paintings is readily recognizable, the odd juxtapositions and the pulsating colors create what critic and artist Robert Berlind has described as “a hallucinatory experience of the everyday.” Crowded canvases filled with bright reds, deep blues, sunny yellows and watery greens give the work a cheerful quality, which is in keeping with the painter’s personality.
Arthritis of the back and hips keeps Fish, 74, in a wheelchair much of the time. But physical limitations and their attendant frustrations haven’t dimmed her broad smile or abraded her aristocratic good looks. With a freckled face topped by straight white hair, Fish presents a striking preview of what Meryl Streep could look like a decade hence.
Fish hasn’t been painting much this summer, she says apologetically, adding that she still manages to work while seated on a high stool. In the spacious studio she shares with Parness, a half-completed composition rests on an easel in the area illuminated by morning light; pencil sketches are all that can be seen on a canvas in a corner that catches the afternoon light.
Still lifes have been the focus of Fish’s career, which began on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the early ‘60s. The New York art world still revolved, in those years and for many to come, around the abstract eruptions of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and other artists who became certified culture heroes. Working in an untrendy genre has presented some challenges, Fish acknowledges. “I can’t get into the ultrafashionable galleries,” she says. “But I’ve never had trouble getting into good galleries.”
Fish had a show this past winter at Chelsea gallery DC Moore that included a couple of works featuring children and adults. And, in one amusing piece, a monkey who is exiting stage left after having knocked over a vase and other items in the tabletop scene. The figures are rendered as expertly as the objects. The show drew an admiring review from the online magazine Artcritical, which described Fish as “a meticulous, if organic, art director.”
A New York Times critic has credited Fish with having “helped resuscitate realism in the 1970s.” But the strongest appreciation of her work may come from her contemporaries, or younger artists she has inspired. “Her work is a touchstone and tremendously influential,” said Eric Fischl, a painter of darkly realistic tableaux, in an interview published earlier this year. “Anyone who deals with domestic still life has to go through her. She’s very important.”
The scion of an artistic family that included the American impressionist Clark Greenwood Voorhees, Fish spent most of her childhood in Bermuda. Asked why her palette has such a summery aura, Fish responds, “It’s always summery in Bermuda.”
She earned an undergraduate degree from Smith College and an MFA from Yale. A remarkable collection of future art stars were attending Yale in those years. Monumentalist sculptor Richard Serra was studying there at the same time as Fish, as were photorealist portrait painter Chuck Close, calligraphy-inspired minimalist Brice Marden and painter-filmmaker-sculptor Nancy Graves.
After graduate school, Fish began showing large paintings of vegetables at an artists’ cooperative gallery called Ours in lower Manhattan’s SoHo district. But, as often occurs with ventures of that sort, conflicts among the participants led to the gallery’s quick demise. Fish and Parness were also pioneers in the conversion of disused SoHo warehouses into living-space lofts. The couple still maintains a place there, but it goes unused much of the year.
SoHo is now a carnival of consumption, Parness complains. A specialist in weirdly funny self-portraits, he lives with Fish on their 120-acre hill farm about eight months of the year. It’s a lovely, comfortable setting, complete with a stocked koi pond, a free-range herd of heifers soon to become beef and a rambunctious Labradoodle named Bella.
There’s also that bespoke studio any artist would envy. It contains shelves of glassware that Fish has picked up at lawn sales and auctions for prices ranging from 50 cents to $500. She arranges these objects into groupings that she then renders as still lifes. “I like to have something tangible in front of me,” Fish explains. She says she paints only what she sees and not “what a camera sees.”
As her frequent local foraging suggests, Fish claims residency in Vermont, not New York; she has taught at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson. Even so, she cautions, “I’m not trying to paint Vermont. I’m obviously here, though, and what I see out my window might get into my paintings — the landscape, the colors, the light.”
Vermont’s light, which she describes as blue and green, is very different from New York City’s, which is more beige, Fish notes. “Light matters a lot to me,” she says.