The Art Assassin 2

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang, or a portrait of the artist as a young failure…

Archive for May 2009

ASSASSINATION: Suzanne Fredericq, Researcher of Red Algae Systematics, Biology Professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and Spouse of Eugene James Martin, Artist

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Photograph of Suzanne Fredericq in Belize. Courtesy of Facebook and Chip Clark.
Photograph of Eugene James Martin working in his studio. Courtesy of website at

Suzanne Fredericq has been a most wonderful friend and supportive of this series of interview portraits. I would like to acknowledge this as our talk has a profound dimension that bridges time and distance. She is a stronger supporter of contemporary art as well as one of the foremost researchers into red algae systematics and a teaching position at the Department of Biology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She is the spouse of the former Eugene James Martin, who was one of the most important African-American abstract artists. Mr. Martin had many shows ranging from the awesome Walter Anderson Museum to the prestigious Acadiana Center for the Arts.

Martin‘s artwork reflects a strongly modernist tradition in its hybrid combination of figurative and abstract elements. Adding a dash of private humor and a broad gamut of emotions ranging from comedy to tragedy, the artist has been consumed by a sense of his passionate drive to create these ideas like a ballet dancer drawing out forms from the gradually shifting limbs. He was rather prolific and Ms. Fredericq has been very supportive of his work during the decades of his studio practice. I feel honored to be able to talk with Suzanne with her signature graceful humor on a wide range of subjects ranging from algae to biology to the nature of abstraction in art to Eugene Martin to marriage. This will provide a solid view into the daily practice of painting and how contemporary art can be incorporated into our practical, everyday lives. Art is a daily bread of our existence.

If you have any questions about Fredericq’s biological studies, Cajun food and culture, or Martin’s brilliant artwork ranging from paintings to works on paper, feel free to contact her at

So here are THE ART ASSASSIN’s relevatory details of the “assassination”:

qi peng: To start off on a lighter note, what are some of your favorite artists, books, television shows, sports, art magazines, toys, movies, and other cultural artifacts that you wish to share with your fans of your work here? Do you have any recent galleries or exhibitions that you have seen and would to recommend to us? What things in those shows inspired your artistic eye and tastes?

Suzanne Fredericq: If there are fans of my artworks out there, these works surely ought to be imaginary, and the fans as well, since I’m not an artist but a biologist. What’s not imaginary though, but very real, is that I have so many favorite artists, spanning every imaginable period and medium. Too many to list here, but besides Eugene J. Martin, a top favorite would have to include this genius who was the first to pick up a stick, dip it into some pigments, apply it to a rock, and with a stroke of the hand start these prehistoric cave paintings in Lascaux — as a reminder of what’s so primordial and universal about the human drive to create, to connect, to reach out. You’d also find in my Imaginary Museum Piero della Francesca, for all his contained interiority; Tintoretto and Rubens, for all their exuberance and dynamism; Rogier van der Weyden and Hugo van der Goes, for all their humanity; Bob Thompson, for all his boldness; Bill Traylor, for all his wonder; Giuseppe Arcimboldo, for all his whimsy; Helen Frankenthaler and Nicolas de Staël, for all their longing; Franz Kline, for all his lyricism, achieved with just a few black strokes.

Sculptors I’m especially drawn to are Willie Cole, Joel Shapiro, Martin Puryear, Martin Payton, Jerry Harris – all for their subtle wit and the way they make the heavy look so light. I’m also enthralled with the contrast, the juxtaposition of the rough and the polished, such as Michelangelo’s Medici Chapel in Florence. So powerful, so perfect. With photography, I’m partial to the great Czech school of avant-garde photography, especially Frantisek Drtikol, and to the black and white surrealist photography of Grete Stern and of Chema Madoz today. I melt in front of photographs of Robert Doisneau and of Marco Leonardi, an unknown artist. In new media, the work of Christina McPhee is truly astounding, the way she blends the fragility of the natural with the catastrophic through her fractured or overlapping photographic panels.

Right now, I’m rereading “Belle du Seigneur” (“Her Lover”), Albert Cohen’s masterpiece. Books that have profoundly marked the way I think and see things include the works by Suzanne Lilar, my grandmother, ranging from her essays, theater, philosophical criticism, everything.

I enjoy watching the political pundit shows Sunday mornings. Also Reno 911!, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert. I must admit that since I left the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and while there was a dyed-in-the-wool Tarheel, I haven’t watched college basketball as much as I did in the past. Of the art magazines, I get and “leaf through” ArtNews, Art in America, Artforum and Art+Auction, for a general idea of what’s being talked about with regard to matters of contemporary and other art.

I haven’t really played with toys in a long time, except for playing with a camera to make amateur video clips that I post on youtube. I maintain three sites, one dedicated to Eugene James Martin, one to seaweeds and natural history, and one to Suzanne Lilar:,,

I love classic cinema, film noir, the great Italians – especially Visconti, De Sica, Antonioni, the movies by André Delvaux. Also the postwar British cinema that was so experimental but fell out of favor when the French New Wave displaced it. I’m thinking of Losey’s “The Servant” or Basil Dearden’s “Victim,” two films with Dirk Bogarde in the leading role. Also Terence Rattigan’s “The Browning Version.” All astonishing, dark, complex psychological dramas.

When I last visited New York for a weekend in February, I thoroughly enjoyed the Bonnard exhibit at the Met. Never fail to visit the Neue Galerie and Klimt’s Adèle – one of the most sensual, joyful paintings there is. Saw the Calder exhibit at the Whitney and especially liked his very early mobiles, when they hadn’t yet become as slick and predictable as those from later years. Was more impressed with the drawings of Marlene Dumas at MoMA than I thought I would be. Loved marching in and out of galleries in Chelsea with John Haber. Both the Manzoni retrospective at Gagosian and the Fred Sandback exhibit at Zwirner & Wirth were an eye opener.

A local exhibit I recently attended was of Troy Dugas’ stunning assemblages made of vintage product labels at the Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans. I always enjoy seeing the latest paintings and installations by Brian Guidry, mixed media works by Stephanie Patton and Shawne Major, or drawings by Ralph Bourque. All highly recommended. What I like so much about these artists is the renewed sense of surprise every time I look at their art. There are so many talented artists in and around Lafayette.

qi peng: You are the wife of the artist Eugene Martin who was one of the most prominent African-American abstract artists. Could you describe him as well as his work for the readers who may not be familiar with his legacy? What was life like being the spouse of a prominent artist?

Suzanne Fredericq: Eugene was the most extra-ordinary man and artist. And also the funniest, the most profound, the most sincere, the wisest, the most courageous, the most loving, the gentlest, the strongest. There are not enough hyperboles in our vocabulary to come close to express what he meant to me. Life with Eugene, just being near Eugene, was pure bliss, day in, day out.

In art as in life, Eugene would approach everything from a fresh, very personal point of view. I never heard him utter a single platitude. Perhaps more than anything, he loved to think. Sit quietly in a chair and just think, and let his thoughts sort themselves out. And this freed his mind to view different angles, different alternatives to any given problem, artistic or otherwise, before dealing with it, consciously or unconsciously. He abhorred dogmas, being pigeonholed, categorizations of any kind. He was the freest of men. And this freedom, this openness, this trusting of life comes out in all aspects of his art. He would always push his creation to the limit, always try to go further and further, improve it until he couldn’t add anything more to it. Then he would back off and, when satisfied, sign the work. He only titled his pieces – reluctantly – when they needed to be included in an exhibit. When he had the space and could spread out, he liked to work on different pieces at one time.

Eugene started out doing realism. While in foster care on a farm in Maryland, he would draw farm animals but also build sheds and barns or put together tractors. He was equally talented as a musician and played the bass and the slide trombone in a R&B band. At one point he felt he had to decide between becoming a full-time musician or a visual artist. He chose to be a painter, as it better suited his temperament of a loner. As a painter, he could make his own rules, break his own rules, and not have to depend on the other people in the band. He attended the Corcoran School of the Arts in Washington D.C., his hometown, in the early 1960’s. Stayed there for about three years until he learned everything there was to learn from the visual arts curriculum. From the moment an art instructor challenged him to expand beyond realism and into abstraction, he never looked back, never made another realistic portrait or landscape again. The break was irreversible. He now had to look within himself for inspiration.

Eugene has always been a very proud man. Very stubborn as well in the sense that he wasn’t going to kowtow to anyone. It took a lot of courage for him to do this as he missed out on exhibition opportunities like that. I admired him so much for it. In his youth, in both segregated D.C. and Maryland, he lived through some of the worst humiliation a human being can go through, was beaten, abused and anything under the sun you can imagine, so he wasn’t going to take crap from anybody, and he never did. He was not confrontational at all, but if he was not pleased with something, he would just walk away. And thus he walked away from several potential career opportunities in his life. He always had my fullest support in absolutely anything he did, and that was all that mattered to him.

qi peng: What were Mr. Martin’s tastes? Did you have similar hobbies and preferences in art between the both of you? What was a typical day for his work schedule? You are a professor of biology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. What is your work schedule there like and how did it mesh with Mr. Martin’s studio time?

Suzanne Fredericq: It’s funny, I’m the scientist and he the artist. But for relaxation, I would go out and buy ArtNews and keep up with what’s going on in the artworld, and he would go out and buy Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and magazines highlighting the latest technological gadgets. He especially was intrigued with current research in astronomy, and loved to watch documentaries about planets and the origin of the universe. We really cross-complemented one another in our interests and also in temperament. Whereas I tend to more impulsive and instinctive in my approach to life, he wouldn’t rush into making decisions the way I might, and he always wanted to sleep over a problem or decision before acting upon it.

Eugene would paint and draw with the radio, CD player or the TV turned on in the background. His taste in music was very eclectic and he liked all types of music. He had a sentimental fondness for Paganini and the waltzes of Johann Strauss. He loved the great energetic bluesmen like Albert King, Albert Collins, Little Milton; R&B; and the soul music of Sam Cooke. He also got a kick from listening to some of the high-octane gospel preachers like the Rev. F.C. Barnes and Luther Barnes. The Modern Jazz Quartet was one of his favorite jazz groups, along with the McCoy Tyner trio. The first gift he ever gave me when we met in 1982 was the audiocassette “Don’t mess with my Tu Tu” -a Zydeco tune played by Buckwheat Zydeco, a native of Lafayette. Little did we know at the time we would end up here fourteen years later, in the heart of Cajun and Zydeco country!

I so admired and loved how fully dedicated he was to his art, and he admired and loved how fully dedicated I was to my research in seaweed systematics. There was thus never any friction between us as is so common in couples in which one partner feels professionally frustrated or emotionally neglected, because both our emotional and professional needs were fulfilled.

Eugene was always quite flexible in his work habits; he said he was at his sharpest mentally in the morning, so that’s when he would do most of his creative work. But he would basically go in and out of his studio all day long, which, wherever we lived, was a room or area in our living quarters. He never had a huge, separate studio to really fully spread out. He would have loved it though, to be able to paint really large works, to see where this adventure would have led him. But he always adapted to the circumstances of the moment. During periods when the money was very tight, he would make graphite drawings, or pen and inks on paper. When he couldn’t afford the paper, he would draw on napkins. As soon as financial circumstances would brighten up a bit again, he’d be able to afford paint tubes, linen, canvas, and so forth. When it was getting close to the end of the month and there was no spare change left, he just might round up a bunch of his earlier works on paper, cut them up, and reassemble the pieces into reinvented mixed media collages. To him, the medium was not that important, the creative act was.

My work schedule at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where I’ve been on the faculty in the Biology Department since 1996, is not that different from that of any other full-time, tenured faculty member in a strong research-oriented department: conduct rigorous, state-of-the-art research, continuously apply for competitive federal grants to support one’s research and one’s Ph.D. students, submit research publications to peer-reviewed scientific journals, advise undergraduate and graduate students, plan national and international collecting trips, attend and present research data at scientific conferences, teach classes, collaborate with colleagues worldwide.

All Eugene expected me to do after my work at the university was to basically just show up; by then he would already have taken care of the domestic chores at home and have started to wind down for the evening. So, as soon as I got home, we were able to fully enjoy each other’s company and have a lot of fun together. He made everything so easy for me, spoiled me so. I tried to do the same for him so that he wouldn’t need to worry about anything, just concentrate on his art. He didn’t really care much where we lived geographically as his creative inspirations all came from within himself. Wherever we lived, Eugene painted full-time. In Lafayette he was able to resume creating larger-format paintings because now we had more ample living space.

All was wonderful until December 2001, when Eugene nearly died from a stroke and simultaneous brain hemorrhage while we were visiting my mother in Belgium. He survived the ordeal, but it was very difficult for him to go through the extreme rigors of physical therapy. He eventually was able to walk again with the aid of a walker, and more importantly, he was able to resume painting. Most of the stacked paintings you see in the accompanying photo where he’s seated in his studio were created after his stroke! He never complained. He had his priorities straight and said he had no regrets in life. He had always done exactly what he wanted to do with his life, which was to create and be a full-time artist, and he never had to compromise his artistic integrity. That was very important to him. I’d say you can’t have a more successful and fulfilling life than that! He was so thankful that he still could paint and continue to be so creative after suffering his stroke. Even after all the debilitating medical effects, even after his health progressively started to deteriorate, he remained so wonderful to live with, so full of curiosity, so full of life. He was all about love until the very end.

qi peng: What is your research on red algae systematics like? Is there any relationship between your biological forays and the world of visual art? How do you find the beauty within living creatures?

Suzanne Fredericq: Systematics is the field of study concerned with detecting patterns of evolutionary relationships among particular groups of organisms. The focus of my research lies in discovering and investigating patterns of evolution in the marine red algae and to correlate molecular and morphological data sets from species around the world with possible worldwide biogeographic hypotheses. I find the red algae to be the most fascinating of organisms, not only because they are characterized by bizarre life histories and have produced some of the most beautiful forms among all living organisms, but also because their complexity of form hides a most remarkable simplicity. They have evolved a suite of cytological and morphological modifications despite major developmental constraints, and what I find so fascinating is that they can do so much with so little, so to speak.

I see the same universal representation of patterns of Form converging upon nature and on the canvas through the mind of the artist as a direct reference to a same reality. The only non-scientific paper I have written deals precisely with what I regard as Beauty or Elegance in the biological world and the visual arts, but it would take too much space to elaborate on this subject here. The paper can be viewed as a pdf file listed on Eugene Martin’s website at, under the heading Publications/Reviews, 2001.

Eugene understood everything right away. For example, when I was a graduate student in Chapel Hill he came to visit me one day from Washington D.C. I showed him around the lab and he wanted to see what I was looking at. I told him I was looking at some sexual reproductive structures in a species of Gracilaria. He took a quick glance through the microscope and said, “Oh, now I understand what you’re doing all day long, you’re watching Grace and Larry through a peep show!” Vintage Eugene.

qi peng: Do you have any favorite cuisine or dishes that you enjoy? Considering that food is essential for the artistic soul, what things do you look for within a daily meal?

Suzanne Fredericq: I’m an omnivore really, and basically enjoy all types of food. All except peanut butter and Brussels sprouts. Of course, here in Lafayette, it’s culinary heaven. There are more restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the country – got this information from the Lafayette Visitors Bureau. I don’t know of anyone who has come to live in Lafayette and hasn’t gained extra pounds galore. Cajun food is just too seductive, and the entire way of life is centered around gastronomy.

Even when I teach about seaweeds, I may get some sushi rolls and have the students make sections of the nori – the little seaweed wrapper, to look at its structure under the microscope before they can gobble them up. One year, a student picked for his final Marine Botany class project the topic “Seaweeds and their Uses.” He had mentioned in passing that he was a Chef and gourmet cook. So when it was his turn to present his project in front of the class, he had a friend show up with an elaborate arsenal comprised of kombu soup, seaweed salads, sushi rolls, canned fish, canned bowfin eggs (Cajun “caviar”), flans, ice cream, everything under the sun — all foods containing algal ingredients. Our own version of “Babette’s Feast!” He wanted to bring along beer as well since alginates stabilize the foam head – it made perfect sense, but unfortunately university regulations do not allow for such type of scientific fervor. It doesn’t take much for any store-bought packaged foodstuff to not include some type of algal-derived extracts; just sharing some information with the students of what the enormous contribution of algae is to everyday life, makes my day every time. It’s my Food for Thought.

qi peng: Are there any restaurants or hangouts such as bookstores around the Lafayette area or anywhere else that you wish to recommend us? What are the qualities that you enjoy best about the places that you have chosen?

Suzanne Fredericq: You won’t have any trouble finding a restaurant to your liking where people hang out. That’s basically what Lafayette is all about, food. The bookstores here are not unlike the usual mega-bookstores you find in any city, with the exception that down here the largest aisle section is invariably taken over by culinary books.

I’d recommend visiting Lafayette during the free music festivals, of which there are many taking place throughout the year. As with food, people here are music-crazy as well. It’s not for nothing that Laissez-les bons temps rouler or Let the good times roll is the region’s motto, a leitmotiv that is followed quite literally.

My favorite place has to be a bald cypress swamp not far from Lafayette, Lake Martin, a birder’s paradise. At this time of the year it is a major rookery for many species of wading birds, such as herons, egrets, spoonbills, ibises. It is also a delight to stroll by the little swamp in the middle of our campus and watch the alligators and busy wildlife that inhabit it.

qi peng: How do you feel that the current economic recession impacted the contemporary art market and way that it functions in the larger national economy? Do you feel that artists will be pursuing more personal and intimate projects than the overly commercial work, typically geared for the art fairs, during the upcoming years? How do you think that galleries and non-profits will be coping with the dramatic shifts within the political and corporate culture, particularly in America? Do you have any thoughts about the current state of the stock market and its concomitant corruption? Any thoughts on the Obama administration in relation to your viewpoint on history, social identity, and the arts scene?

Suzanne Fredericq: Once a link in a chain is broken, consequences will reverberate at every kink along that chain. When collectors need immediate cash, can’t afford to purchase additional art, or dump existing works from their collection back on the market, everyone looses – the gallerist who can’t sell inventory, needs to close the gallery and dismantle his/her stable of artists; the artist who looses gallery representation; the collector who backs off from donating previously promised works of art to a museum; the underwriter who pulls out from sponsoring elaborate exhibits that museums now have to cancel due to the high insurance costs; the frame or art supply shop that sees less foot traffic and orders less inventory; the graduated MFA artist who’s thousands of dollars in the red with no prospects for acquisition of their art or a job; the casual collector who’s holding off buying even a modestly priced artwork; the city who’s cutting down on art program funding due to a dwindling tax revenue; the art auction houses who grossly miscalculated the market and now are stuck with overvalued, unsold inventory; the art instructor whose art class gets cut.

Perhaps this downturn in the market will predominantly affect the psyche of mainstream artists who already enjoyed a comfortable token of commercial success. They may have gotten used to having their works sold; perhaps they lived a bit too much beyond their means and now they can’t afford the rent on the large studio or continue to pay their assistants any longer. They are the ones who will face tough competition in finding new gallery representation when their gallery closes down. Probably the big-name superstar artists will continue doing just fine, relatively speaking, notwithstanding a scaling down of their operations. The vast majority of artists, those who “have plenty of nothin” and never got a break before, will probably find a way to keep on doing what they have been doing all along, if only they can hold on to their day job; if not, only the most dedicated and stubborn artists will look for and find creative ways to keep on making their art. Some have said that such a weeding out process at every step, brutal as it may be, may be the impetus for a future, more sensible, art renaissance.  Perhaps, but in the meantime, the ripple effect of this downward spiraling at every level of the economy is just bewildering and tragic for most of the parties involved.

With in-your-face consumption and super-commercial megaworks now being frowned upon as being insensitive and in bad taste, it looks like the understated, the small, the intimate, the art that reflects a more coccooned life style is in again. It wouldn’t surprise me if there will be more pressure put on an artist who wants to exhibit to be more conformist, whether the sponsor or funding agency is a for-profit organization, or a non-profit that has to conform to certain stipulations and restrictions before accepting funding, a bit like whether or not Alaska or Louisiana will accept the economic stimulus package. Perhaps the more strings attached, the less independence, the safer the art that gets exhibited, whether good or bad.

The one positive aspect I see in the current economic downturn is that artworks will perhaps be less avidly viewed as a financial investment or commodity to be traded like pork bellies on the global market. I may be very naïve here, but who knows, perhaps the old-fashioned idea of “Art for Art’s Sake” may become the new trendiness.

As so much with regard to the stock market seems to be about perception, I can’t think of any person in the world who could project greater confidence, poise, calm, stability, and optimism in the future – whether real or imagined, than does President Obama. He truly is one of these larger-than-life individuals belonging in the small, rarefied league that also includes Nelson Mandela. I read that there is a push from the Obama administration to increase the budget for NEA funding, but I haven’t followed up on the details.

qi peng: What is your opinion of art world journalism? Do you read periodicals such as ArtForum or ARTnews to get an up to date understanding of what goes on within the art world? Do you have any favorite artistic blogs or websites that you enjoy looking at on a regular basis? Do you feel that smaller, regional art markets like Santa Fe or New Orleans will have a chance to expand their horizons into becoming essential and vibrant art hot spots just like Los Angeles or New York City? What do you think is the current state of contemporary art within the Lafayette area where you are located?

Suzanne Fredericq: What attracts me and what keeps my full attention when reading an art review or an essay by an art critic overlaps with what moves me when I look at an actual work of art; conversely, what puts me off or keeps me indifferent when reading an art review also will put me off or make me ignore a work of art. Jean Dubuffet perhaps said it best, ”What one expects from art is that it disorients us, that it removes the doors from their hinges.” Great art criticism will do that as well – it will disorient the reader, it will surprise the reader, in the sense that every time one thinks of art, every time one looks at art, one will gain some type of understanding one may not have had before the reading.

Using these criteria, my very favorite living art critics are John Haber, Roberta Smith and Jerry Saltz. Each has a such a personal, original point of view on all things art; each has such a vast encyclopedic knowledge from which to pull convincing arguments, comparisons, and allusions; each has such a clear, distinctive, unpretentious writing style; each has such a lateral, reticulate way of thinking instead of one that is plainly vertical. Their readings may invariably disorient me, their opinions may surprise me, and each will have made me think about a concept, a relationship, a wink that I wasn’t aware of before reading their review. Conversely, articles that I gloss over, that I ignore, typically will be full of platitudes, devoid of context, and characterized by muddled, vague, confused or pretentious prose. Such reviews will not disorient me, they will not surprise me – they will bore me.

As I mentioned above, I love to leaf through the monthly glossies, to look at the images, the photographs.  When the writing gets too hermetic, too pretentious, too trendy, I skip, turn the page and forget about it all. No sweat.

I view typical blogs as very different from thoughtful art criticism, more as a flash in the pan, a snapshot, a celebration of the instant, a repository for great practical tips, a witty repartee. Art blogs I particularly enjoy include those of Edward Winkleman, Joanne Mattera, Tyler Green and CultureGrrl at ArtsJournal, Sharkforum, Pretty Lady, Dawoud Bey, Richard Lacayo, Jonathan Jones at The Guardian. I love Artnet. Will also regularly with a click of the finger hit the links to The Art Newspaper, Artdaily, Artinfo, Artforum. I enjoy perusing the main art auction catalogues online in the hope of catching a glimpse of some hidden masterpiece or forgotten treasure. I love youtube. Enjoy watching the James Kalm report. My favorite of all the youtube art sites is  I learned so much about photography from watching the clips on this channel (unfortunately, several clips have since been removed by youtube).  I especially appreciate youtube when obscure or long-forgotten audio or archival film footage is magically resurrected from oblivion. One discovers new gems every day. I did with the music of Scriabin, for example, and to listen to different interpretations of a same piece when played by different musicians has become one of my favorite pastimes online.

I don’t know about the situation in Santa Fe, but the art world in New Orleans is quite vibrant and rapidly expanding. No city can or should compete with New York, a city I view as the center of the artworld.  Even though Lafayette’s focus on the arts is really music, we have a monthly Artwalk downtown, and a spectacular Acadiana Center for the Arts and University Art Museum in which contemporary art exhibits are quite well represented.

qi peng: How would you describe the tenor and spiritual overtones of your husband’s artworks? How did he manage to combine skillfully his interest in the figurative and abstract concerns that runs throughout his pieces?

Suzanne Fredericq: As an artist, Eugene never took anything for granted. While he never took himself seriously and would at all times laugh at himself, he always took his art very seriously. As I mentioned earlier, his whole being was about freedom, freedom of mind, freedom of action. He was so open to life and always put himself and his art into question again, time after time. He did so with every brush stroke, with every line of the pencil, with every cut-out. And this is why his art remains and feels so alive today. And this is why, when I look at his art and live surrounded by his art, I feel so alive as well.

He said the way he created was that he never had a preconceived idea or image in his mind prior to executing a particular drawing or painting. He would thus never know where the first brush stroke on a canvas or the first mark on a piece of paper would take him. So his art kept him full of surprises, always fresh. He thus was never bored.

He said he would put his ego aside and the imagery would just flow out of him and onto the paper or canvas, non-stop. In this sense, his execution very much reminds one of the automatism of the Surrealists. What differs though from the Surrealists’ mode of automatic drawing is that Eugene had complete control of his creative actions while he was drawing and painting. He knew when to start, where to go, and when to stop. Eugene may have had the wit of the Surrealists, but he certainly did not have their hang-ups or frustrations! Because he was so free mentally he never had any creative blocks.

In order to be able to remain so free mentally, to stay so unburdened, he purposefully kept distractions throughout his life to a minimum. That’s the main reason he never joined artist associations, wasn’t socially active, didn’t feel the need to be entertained.  He thus worked in isolation. He liked being in full control of his art, with no one trying to influence him, no one telling him what to do. He was one of those artists for whom creating art was for art’s sake, along with the acceptance of any consequence – good or bad – that comes with such an uncompromising stance. For him, it was the only way he could live with himself. He was a Modernist at heart.

Eugene further elaborates on his approach to creating art and his philosophy of life in a 1985 interview he gave to Dean King, a writer who at the time was one of my many roommates in a large, chaotic house we shared near the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill while we were students there. When Eugene came to visit me one day from Washington D.C., Dean interviewed him and this interview became part of his Honor’s thesis submitted to the UNC English Department. The interview can be viewed online at:

Eugene called his works of art “satirical abstracts” and I will further clarify the meaning of this term when answering the next question.

qi peng: What trends do you see are forthcoming within the contemporary art world? How would place your husband’s artwork within the overall context of art history particularly the abstract expressionist and cubist movements? What do you think is the overall attitude and philosophical drive which is shown within his artwork?

Suzanne Fredericq: Not being an artist and not privy to classified information, I’m really not at liberty to predict the next conceptual trends in contemporary art, one way or another.

When I think about conceptual art though, I often think of that little kid, that little black kid who, so poor growing up that he had no toys to play with nor materials to carry out little projects, had a drive to create that was so strong that he had to find an outlet without using things. Who learned to go into his mind or otherwise would have gone crazy. Who learned to observe people and behavior. Who learned to control his dreams, by setting the stage for his own dreams before he went to sleep and while dreaming knew that he was dreaming. Who, when growing up, would not let outside influences dictate or interfere with the creative process. Whose philosophy of life – because of all that internal involvement, was sort of that of a mystic, in that he saw the creative act, when created with pure motive, when created with pure love, as generating a kind of positive energy that goes out through the universe.

Eugene’s spatial abilities, his conceptualizing powers were just phenomenal. The way he would find an outlet for his creative drive, the way he was to choose his mode for expressing a concept, an idea, was through drawing and painting. But only because paper and canvas were cheaper than working tri-dimensionally or with elaborate installations. His could just as easily have been as fulfilled as a sculptor than as a painter and draftsman. He actually was thinking of making some sculptures and funky outdoors installations after we moved to Lafayette, but then his stroke put an end to such possibilities.

Eugene liked to call his works “satirical abstracts” because of the pervading humor of the imagery in his works that is so warm, so positive, so amusing, humble, shy and not pompous at all. Whenever I think of possible influences on his artworks, I unfailingly return for hints to the great modernists, especially European Modernism and the Russian avant-garde of the early 20th Century. But look for yourself. Over 600 images of Eugene’s artworks, dating from the 1960’s through 2004, are included in Artnet’s Artist Works Catalogues, and 200 of his works are incorporated in a separate Eugene James Martin collection in ARTstor, the digital art library geared towards research and educational purposes. You will be pleasantly surprised that ARTstor’s Martin collection is a perfect vehicle to illustrate and assess the major artistic tendencies and influences that have taken place in modern and contemporary visual art.

Looking at some of Eugene’s images, you’ll may recognize a wink to Paul Klee; or a nod to Kandinsky and Miró in some color acrylics on paper; or you’ll think that El Lissitzky’s Prouns were reinvented in some oval drawings; you’ll be reminded of some disassociations that would have made Picasso proud; you’ll appreciate Matisse even more after seeing some of Eugene’s bold acrylics on paper; you’ll be perplexed that some of Eugene’s fantastic and surrealist graphite drawings will make you think of a sane Alfred Kubin; looking at Eugene’s sculptural drawings, you’ll bet he was David Smith’s soulmate; you won’t believe Eugene never saw a Jawlensky figure; you’ll be happy to recognize what looks like the hand of Marsden Hartley in some densely painted acrylics, or of a young Arshile Gorky in some early pen drawings. You’ll be overwhelmed when you’ll realize that some of Eugene’s greatest explosions of joy and color were painted just a few months before he died.

On the other hand, I see less of an influence of the great African American masters in Eugene’s work. Once in a while, perhaps, some areas in an expressionist oil of Charles Alston may remind me of what Eugene briefly tried to accomplish. An Art Deco-type figure that could have been painted by Aaron Douglas, a color impression as in a Richard Mayhew landscape, an angular structure as in an early Romare Bearden oil, a furtive pencil stroke as in a Norman Lewis drawing perhaps may all point to an African American experience, but it is not obvious.

No matter a particular stylistic expression, Eugene’s creations would always go beyond, always dig further, always burst out of its accepted boundaries. When viewing Eugene’s works in isolation, one may at first not understand the common thread that links his entire oeuvre. His output is just so enormous, so all-encompassing. But when one takes the time to look, to see, to understand, then the more one looks, the more one sees, the more one becomes convinced that Eugene’s creations have a language all of their own. That he was a true original, a genius. That as an artist he did things one is not supposed to do. That he mixed, that he juxtaposed soft-edged and free-flowing organic forms alongside hard-edged geometric structures, all the while making both states intrinsically relate to and complement one another. That Eugene’s art was thus all about poetry. Poetry in the metaphysical sense, the one that captures the essence of André Breton’s great text, the one in which “Everything leads to the belief that there exists a certain point of the mind at which life and death, the real and the imaginary, the past and the future, the communicable and the incommunicable, the high and the low, cease to be perceived as contradictions”. If I can sum up what Eugene’s art was all about, it is about such poetry, so brilliantly expressed in the Second Manifesto of Surrealism.

You’re asking about the context of Eugene’s work in the overall context of art history, particularly the abstract expressionist and cubist movements. The leading protagonists in these particular art movements are often perceived as having been highly charged, macho and ego-driven, competitive, thriving individuals embroiled in artistic rivalry. Eugene was all but that, he who remained to the outside, he who worked typically alongside any art movement. Perhaps it’s precisely because he worked in isolation that he was able to remain so independent as an artist. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

qi peng: Do you have anything else which you would like to share with your readers and fans of Mr. Martin’s paintings, your research in red algae, and your other artistic or biological pursuits here?

Suzanne Fredericq: Thank you, qi, for your very welcoming “assassination.” As Eugene would say whenever he saw a commercial of the National Rifle Association, while tapping on his upper limbs, “the only arms I carry are these.” I likewise am glad I came out alive and well of this interview and that I didn’t assassinate anything or anybody.  Now let’s enjoy looking at some art, and at some algae!

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

May 28, 2009 at 5:29 pm

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Written by qi peng

May 28, 2009 at 1:09 am

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REVERSE ASSASSINATION: Jim Morris Meets qi peng, Artist

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Photograph of Jim Morris with cigarette. Courtesy of Facebook.

On to the show and here are Jim Morris’ latest details of this “assassination” of THE ART ASSASSIN:

Jim Morris: Why do you call your conceptual portraits Assassinations?

qi peng: To be somewhat facetious, my zodiac sign is Libra, which is the same sign as Lee Harvey Oswald, whom I am pretty sure everyone knows who he is. I also have been a rather huge fan of Don Delillo, particularly the novel Libra and Players, both of which deal with the idea of assassination.

Originally, the moniker of “THE ART ASSASSIN” startled many in the audience about my original intention. Was I trying to shoot artists or art professionals? Obviously not, except perhaps some terrible art (laughs) of which there really isn’t any. The conceptual portraits are called “ASSASSINATIONS” perhaps because of the allure of the difficulty of completing one since each one is a form of collaboration, or as some may put it, collusion perhaps? I feel relieved whenever I receive completed answers into my e-mail’s inbox as I know that the subject had to put in just as much time as I did in formulating the original questions.

So, in many ways, I guess that my assassinations are non-violent in intent and result. There isn’t even any character assassination either. So basically, I think that perhaps it gives the tenor of my artist’s books a feel of the James Bond-like quality of being a normal guy who is fascinated by equalizing the playing field of the contemporary art world and attempting to show the humanity behind each individual, whether they be an art dealer or a museum curator. There won’t be any stereotypes flourishing here.

In conclusion, you could say that I am assassinating the facade or mask of the professional persona to reveal the human character underneath each person. I feel like Balzac in terms of delineating an individual’s worth in the art world regardless of his or her position as seen by others.

Jim Morris: Do you have a conceptual artist that you base this textual interview portrait process on?

qi peng: A few conceptual artists such as Mel Bochner, Jennifer Dalton, William Powhida, Lawrence Wiener, Joseph Kosuth, Mark Lombardi, Mungo Thomson, and John Baldessari all could factor into my interest into many text-based projects. For the humorous side of things, I would choose Eric Doeringer, Sophie Calle who is a definite must, as well as Maurizio Cattelan. For the new media art aspect, I would rank Cory Arcangel as a blessing. I could name drop a lot more influences but hopefully my series will have a unique perspective in trying to blend together conceptual art, which has been seen to be rigorous and mathematical, with a heart.

Jim Morris: Why do you refer to this as a conceptual portrait rather than a journalistic interview? Is this just a matter of semantics or is it more than that?

qi peng: I am not a journalist in any formal sense of the term. Plus I don’t do any fact checking and allow the subject, and occasionally myself, to intersperse small fictions into the overall fabric of the non-fiction aspects. It isn’t a question of semantics but mostly a search into the subjective character of each art professional.

Journalism, whether print or photojournalistic, aspires to seek a humanistic truth within the relationship between the viewer/reader and the actual object whether it be a monograph or article. My aspirations are focused on the thin boundaries between truth and fiction, a deconstruction of the art world hierarchy, and a further understanding of the network that ties people together within this conglomerate that we call the contemporary art market. In some way, I am achieving a mild form of institutional critique in terms of my willingness to accept the system while trying to induce a more democratic look into who the players are within this system. I am fascinated by how some people remain unrecognized by the tastemakers and other crowned by the art critics and published media.

In conclusion, my conceptual portraits are focused on their self-creation just as much as portrayal of the person involved within that segment. I betray potentially every type of bias within my inability to frame objective questions. I prefer to catch the off-beat and the quirks of the individual rather than can my question and response session into the framework of the media’s expectations of what they want the public to perceive the subject to become to the outside world.

Hard-core journalism is hardly postmodern in its veins but poses as such.

Jim Morris: Does the limit of textual scope hinder or help in some ways in finding a more actual portrait?

qi peng: The admixture of new media art, text, and visual cues help to increase the dimensionality of each portrait. It’s so easy to whip out endless paintings of Facebook individuals but much hard to create these “truer” portraits where the viewer can see the actual personality that is embedded within the skin of the subject. I also feel that there is a spiritual dimension that I can capture within each person that can’t be done through lighting or shading.

Each portrait is a hybrid of new media art, text, and appropriated photography. The whole context enriches our own awareness of who these people are within our own lives. How can we relate to them without having met them in real life, for example? Has social networking changed the dynamics of how we define relationships? The art world is truly an economic and social system that thrives on people’s connections and ability to gain trust even if the distance between those persons are not close physically. We can ensure our own existence by trying to help each other while remaining playful and subversive, which are the elements that drive challenging art today.

Jim Morris: How can you know a portrait is truest to life, is it a matter of phrasing the questions in a targeted way or just a matter of feel? Or is it something else?

qi peng: To be succinct, should we strive to worry about whether a portrait is truest to life? What is truth? Honestly, I believe in trying to avoid pigeonholing any particular character that I “paint” and focus on the emotions and intellectual thrust of the interaction between the artist of “qi peng” and the personage being examined.

My questions are going to betray bias no matter what. And I am not worried because as long as realize that the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction are non-existent then I think we can become vigilant of our interest in this two-way communication and its structural framework rather than the minute details only.

Jim Morris: Is there anything else you would like to say about your work, your artist intent, and/or its significance?

qi peng: I appreciate your asking me these questions and supporting the endeavor of the interview portraits. It will be awesome to see the interview portrait that you execute or bang-bang of myself.

The significance and intent of these interview portraits or faux assassinations are the merging of social networking with various conceptual art projects. I think that new media art can become too focused on the technology so that the methodology is too predominant and I am hoping that these portraits can shift the balance of power back to the underlying humanism of it all.

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

May 20, 2009 at 7:58 pm

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EXCLUSIVE ASSASSINATION: Jennifer Dalton, Artist Represented by Winkleman Gallery

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Photograph of Jennifer Dalton in front of the American flag. Courtesy of Facebook.
Jennifer Dalton: The Reappraisal, 2009, installation view. Courtesy of Winkleman Gallery.

Jennifer Dalton, in my brute and honest opinion, is by far, one of the most brilliant conceptual artists of the past decade or so. Lately there have been many insightful and solid conceptual artists, particularly Cory Arcangel who focuses on new media conceptual work. What separates Dalton’s artwork from the rest is her ability to put some old school heart into her conceptual art like John Baldessari smashed into Margaret Cho. She is not scared to intrude intimate details of her own life documenting her belongings or scientifically analyzing all of the adjectives used to describe the artists and their work listed in Artforum‘s “Best of 2000” list. The one thing that attracts me to her work, on a personal level, is that her conceptual art is a form of playful problem solving and not some empty drum beating to show off the artist’s prowess.

Dalton’s installations and paintings require a particular reflectiveness to understand each work. It is not as if one could plow through the gallery featuring her work (unlike some places where eye candy seems to be predominant) and hope to garner the essence of her ideas in one glance. The viewer often has to sit there and ponder the subtle layers of meaning and driving concepts behind every component for her deceptively simple works. And she enjoys exploring all types of fascinating subjects from the deconstruction of The New Yorker‘s bias in her installation “A Task No One Assigned” to her profound examination of herself and her family in her original installation “The Appraisal” and the recent remix “The Reappraisal.” In any case, I feel that it would be best for these lovely pieces to speak their own history here.

If you have any questions about artwork at the Winkleman Gallery, feel free to contact the space at or at (212) 643-3152.

And now for the feature presentation you all been waiting for by THE ART ASSASSIN’s account of the “assassination”:

qi peng: To start off on a lighter note, what are some of your favorite artists, books, television shows, sports, art magazines, toys, movies, and other cultural artifacts that you wish to share with your fans of your work here? Do you have any recent galleries or exhibitions that you have seen and would to recommend to us? What things in those shows inspired your artistic eye and tastes?

Jennifer Dalton: Some things I like right now: Sophie Calle‘s “Take Care of Yourself” exhibition at Paula Cooper gallery in NYC last month,, every form of chocolate, Lost (I remain loyal even though it’s starting to get too loopy), Kitty Kraus‘s mirror boxes at “Younger than Jesus,” my garden now that I semi-replanted it, Stephen Colbert, the Target store on Queens Blvd., with its Guggenheim-for-cars parking garage.

qi peng: What is your opinion of art world journalism?

Jennifer Dalton: Your choice of words is interesting here, in that you don’t say art criticism. Art world journalism seems to mostly consist of gossip and market-watch pieces, both of which I enjoy reading, even as I hope for more. Art reviews, such as they are, rarely top 500 words and thus have room for little but description and perhaps one sentence of judgment. Maybe art criticism will revive as a result of the new recession economy, since it seems to have been pushed aside by market-obsession.

qi peng: Do you read periodicals such as ArtForum or ARTnews to get an up to date understanding of what goes on within the art world?

Jennifer Dalton: Yes I read (or at least thumb through) ArtForum, mostly looking at the ads and reviews. I have a feeling there is still good writing in there, but I don’t seem to be able to muster the time or patience anymore.

qi peng: Do you have any favorite artistic blogs or websites that you enjoy looking at on a regular basis?

Jennifer Dalton: Yes I read Art F-g City and Ed Winkleman’s blog almost every day.

qi peng: Do you feel that smaller, regional art markets like Santa Fe or Salt Lake City will have a chance to expand their horizons into becoming essential and vibrant art hot spots just like Los Angeles or New York City?

Jennifer Dalton: I can’t really see it, actually. Most of the creative world still functions by collecting people to hubs, which still have to be physical places because art still mostly consists of physical objects. There can only be so many hubs. It’s weird how a music scene can explode in a random small city, but art-wise it seems more far-fetched. I’d like to be wrong, though.

qi peng: What do you think is the current state of contemporary art within the Brooklyn area where you are located?

Jennifer Dalton: Well, Williamsburg is in an interesting place. I can’t say where it’s going to go from here. There are still lots of artists, and art galleries, but I don’t know if it will thrive in the same way it did when it was more under the radar.

qi peng: Is it difficult to sell conceptual art and large-scale installation pieces to the public, particularly during this slow economy?

Jennifer Dalton: Why yes, as a matter of fact it is!

qi peng: How do you feel that the current economic recession impacted the contemporary art market and way that it functions in the larger national economy? Do you feel that artists will be pursuing more personal and intimate projects than the overly commercial work, typically geared for the art fairs, during the upcoming years? How do you think that galleries and non-profits will be coping with the dramatic shifts within the political and corporate culture, particularly in America? Do you have any thoughts about the current state of the stock market and its concomitant corruption? Any thoughts on the Obama administration in relation to your viewpoint on history, social identity, and the arts scene?

Jennifer Dalton: I’ve been saying for a while I think that the downturn may be good for art, but bad for people in the arts, not to mention most other people as well. I think a lot of galleries are going to close, and a lot of artists will be hunkering down in day jobs for a while, if they’re lucky enough to have them. I do think that there could be a greater interest among artists in pursuing weird, un-sellable projects and that could be really fun. If you are interested in the stock market and bank situation, you should read or Thomas Geoghegan‘s article in the April issue of Harper’s Magazine, but beware that you may be unable to control your rage. I remain quite hopeful about Obama, I think he’s certainly our best hope for getting out of this mess, but that doesn’t mean he’ll succeed.

qi peng: Are there any restaurants or hangouts such as bookstores around Brooklyn or New York area or anywhere else that you wish to recommend us? What are the qualities that you enjoy best about the places that you have chosen?

Jennifer Dalton: These days my idea of a Williamsburg hangout is the playground, in which I hang out with my 4 1/2 year old son whenever possible. I have come to love hanging out in playgrounds. It’s one of my favorite things about the parent lifestyle. Okay that is faint praise, since many characteristics of the “Parent Lifestyle” kind of suck, such as being woken up at 6:30am every morning including weekends, but this part doesn’t. You have license to sit on a bench in the sun and daydream for hours while happy kids run around. In Williamsburg there are very few playgrounds, which is kind of a bad thing but it means you usually see people you know and like (fellow artists, even) at whichever one you’re at. I was always confused but vaguely envious of my friends who had dogs who would say the same thing about the dog run, but now I get it.

qi peng: As a graduate of the of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and then Pratt Institute, what were those school years like? How was life in the studio like back then? Did you have any influential professors or students during that time and what was their impact on you and your work? How did you develop your current style of conceptual art including paintings that deconstruct the nature of polls, sociological trends, surveys, and the overwhelming amount of information that flood our world today, potentially dehumanizing us?

Jennifer Dalton: UCLA was interesting, because it was filled with art stars in the late ’80s when I was there (Nancy Rubins, Charles Ray, Paul McCarthy, Chris Burden), but I was too young and insecure to learn anything from them. They were intimidating (if you could even get classes with them) and some of them were truly mean, and I found I did way better with lower key professors who didn’t have the same aura around them but whom I wasn’t scared to talk to.

Pratt in the mid-1990s was the opposite, mostly staffed with career professors who didn’t exhibit their work anymore, and often had only disparaging things to say about the art you would see in galleries. The message we were given, as a whole, was that we would never have any “success” with our work outside of our studio and that we were lame for desiring it. But I met some of my favorite people there, many of whom are still making art and succeeding with it: Anthony Goicolea, Gina Magid, Karen Heagle, Jeff Gauntt, Jean Shin, Jeph Gurecka – we were all there at the same time and have somehow found the strength to keep working.

It’s hard to say exactly how my work developed. In grad school and immediately afterwards I started painting computer screens and desktop icons and did that for several years, thinking of myself as a sort of landscape painter who painted her unique visual environment which happened to be the screen. I then moved into painting charts and diagrams but removing the information from them. Then I sort of realized that the information itself was really cool, and I wanted to find new, wonderful ways to display it. I’ve always been most interested in exploring my immediate environment in radiating concentric circles (my computer, my house, my neighborhood, my day job, my art world), so that’s where I started looking for the information as raw material. My central starting point has become, “Is it just me?” As in, “Is it just me or does the mainstream press treat women artists like eye candy?” and, “Is it just me, or is value impossible to pin down?” Or, “Is it just me, or is Williamsburg the most disgusting place to live in NYC?” Usually, after doing the research and sorting it according to whatever criteria I find most compelling I arrive at the conclusion that it is not just me….

qi peng: Do you have any favorite hobbies which you enjoy in your spare time? How do these activities inform the studio work? What is family life like with your husband and son? What is your home like? Any crazy stories you wish to relate to us?

Jennifer Dalton: On bad days I think of my art as an expensive hobby. Otherwise, no. Family life is great most of the time, except in the mornings.

qi peng: Are there any places which you would like to travel someday to? Which places would you find inspiring to see? Do you incorporate the idea of travel within any of your pieces? In what ways does the concept of travel relate to the institution of travel agencies and the lack of a polar focus within today’s shifting world views?

Jennifer Dalton: That is one huge question. I would like to travel everywhere. I have never been to Asia (except the Asian side of Istanbul, where I’ve spent a single awesome afternoon on a boat ride and having lunch) or Africa, and would love to go. I have never incorporated travel into my art, but it sounds fun.

qi peng: In 1999, you featured an exhibition called “The Appraisal” at Steffany Martz Gallery and then in 2009, you featured the remix exhibition called “The Reappraisal” at Winkleman Gallery which represents you currently. Where did you get this brilliant idea of deconstructing literally and poetically your household into each component? What did you learn about yourself? What did you discover about the way that capitalism and the market system functions? With the current recession in full swing, what differences would you see between your first solo exhibition and your most recent one at Winkleman Gallery? What is the sociological, political, and economic thrust of what you have been trying to achieve twice in a row?

Jennifer Dalton: I got the idea because I have worked at Christie’s auction house for many years, and it got me very interested in the wobbly-yet-exalted idea of Value. It is strange that things are worth more or less depending on why you want to know.

About myself I learned I would make a terrible Buddhist, in the sense that I am extremely attached to my belongings.

In revisiting the project I wanted to think about what it means to grow up (in the 10 intervening years I have acquired a husband, a house, a car and a kid), what it means to be a member of the bourgeoisie, and how one reckons with “making a difference.” (Interesting that I feel compelled to put that in quotes…) Am I making the world a better place or have I been mostly collecting feathers for my nest? The project is a reckoning.

qi peng: Who would you consider as your greatest artistic influences on your artwork that ranges from diagram paintings to large-scale installations such as “The Reappraisal?” How are their ideas manifested in combination with your own imagination within the final product of your brilliant works? In what way are personal events from your own life manifested within your pieces as a form of autobiography? How do you infuse wit and thoughtful jokes into your pieces?

Jennifer Dalton: I have been hugely inspired by the work of Ed Ruscha, Gerhard Richter, Hanne Darboven, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Barbara Bloom, Sophie Calle and Donald Judd, just off the top of my head. These are artists who, as I see it, interweave the found/fuzzy/personal and the constructed/modular/scientific.

qi peng: How did the results and methodologies differ between “The Appraisal” and “The Reappraisal?” Did you refine the second variant of the original idea? How did you incorporate microeconomics, which can be too nerdy for the general populace, and concepts from Adam Smith capitalism with your own personal touch? Do these results tell us anything about auction houses in the way they treat artwork and artists? How do auction houses differ from households?

Jennifer Dalton: The results differ in that I have more stuff and it’s worth more than it was 10 years ago, particularly my own work and the work of other artists whom I have collected or traded with through the years. The methodology is slightly different because in 1999 I used eBay to sell a selection of my belongings to find out its True Value (and thus compare it both to my own estimation and that of Christie’s). In 2009 I came up with this idea of figuring out what each item was worth to me emotionally, and putting a separate value on it which I called “Your Price,” which is what I was willing to sell the item for on the spot. I guess auction houses differ from households in their assignment of value precisely because they are burdened by no sentiment.

qi peng: Any future plans for artist’s books? Seriously I would love to see “The Appraisal” and “The Reappraisal” combined into a single volume. How do you value economically something that you treasure from a sentimental standpoint? How can objects have more than one value or price tag?

Jennifer Dalton: I would love to see the two appraisals as a book and I would like to work towards that.  It was very hard to value things with sentimental value such as handmade gifts from people, photographs, etc. I really struggled with many of the items and went back and forth changing values each time I went through and edited the documents. And now when I look at some of the prices I came up with, I feel that they are wrong and I’ve changed my mind about their value in the past 2 months. Value is fluid.

qi peng: Do you have any advice for up and coming BFA and MFA graduates who are graduating from art school and are starting to hunt for galleries to show their artwork? Do you think that there are too many talented artists within the system than what the top galleries especially in Chelsea or Brooklyn or other parts of New York City can handle? With the recent closures of so many once-solid galleries within the New York art world such as Rivington Arms and Roebling Hall, what trends are you seeing within the galleries and how they are presenting their work to the public?

Jennifer Dalton: I do think there are many more talented artists than there are venues. In some cases it makes sense for artists to take things into their own hands, especially now when there is a lot of empty space around. I think it may be too soon to look for trends, aside from galleries closing which is depressing.

qi peng: You have based a lot of your artwork on surveys or lists whether it be “ARTSURVEY” or “Getting to Know the Neighbors.” Do you have a fascination with Edward Ruscha’s book about every building on the Sunset Strip? How do you combine your objective eye with subjective and deadpan humor?

Jennifer Dalton: I do have a fascination with Ed Ruscha’s work in general and his artist books in particular. My own work is quasi-scientific, with emphasis on the “quasi”. I don’t really have an objective eye and don’t really even attempt objectivity. I think that if I differ from other people who try to show “reality” it’s precisely because I make my own subjectivity so explicit, and give particular space and attention to it.

qi peng: What is it like working with gallery directors to show your stuff at various places ranging from Smack Mellon Gallery to Winkleman Gallery, your home base, to curator’s office? How does this coordination help to fulfill what you envision as your final layout of your artwork?

Jennifer Dalton: It’s wonderful to have places to exhibit and people who support my work. I am incredibly lucky to have that opportunity.

qi peng: How would you describe the artist William Powhida? Is he as crazy as a G-E-N-I-U-S as many observers have claimed recently? How would you describe the nature of your collaborative work with him for “Our Condolences, Volume 1” released by Compound Editions? Do you empathize with other artists whose galleries sometimes disappeared just overnight? How do you satirize the Hallmark greeting card industry and the art market using the same skewer?

Jennifer Dalton: I hope it won’t harm his reputation if I say that William Powhida is actually a nice guy who just happens to be more brave and more willing to be hated than most of us are. He suffers for all our sins. It has been fun to wallow in gallows humor in our collaborations. Somehow it is surprisingly easy to satirize the greeting card industry and the art market with the same skewer, which should tell you something.

qi peng: Do you have anything else which you would like to share with readers and fans of your artwork, the appraisals, and other conceptual projects here?

Jennifer Dalton: [no answer].

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

May 18, 2009 at 7:54 am

Posted in Uncategorized

ASSASSINATION: Jennifer Keshka, Artist Represented by Ugallery, Assistant to Liselot van der Heijden, Artist, and Babysitter for Eric Heist, Artist

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Photograph of Jennifer (or Jen) Keshka. Courtesy of Jennifer Keshka.
Jennifer Keshka: what are little girls made of, (self portrait), 2009, ink on paper, 9 by 12 inches. Courtesy of Ugallery.

Jennifer (or Jen) Keshka is an incredibly sweet young lady and a rather playful and seductive artist who plans to enter graduate school fairly soon. Her bubbly personality combined with her ability to execute work that explores female self-identity, the fashion industry, and deep-seated sexual imagery fostered by a celebration of the harsh joys of life. Apart from her academic studies and hours of studio time, Keshka also works as an artist assistant for conceptual artist Liselot van der Heijden and as a babysitter for the family of New York installation artist Eric Heist.

Her early paintings do have some fascinating surrealism incorporating a nice hybrid between women and costumes, typically that of an animal. Her new work is much more linear in the vein of the superflat tradition yet continues to explore this nature between human and creature in a much more ambiguous and playful manner. Think of Kiki Smith meets manga with a good dose of attitude.

If you have any questions about Keshka’s artwork, feel free to contact Ugallery at (888) 402-1722.

Now here are THE ART ASSASSIN’s details of the “assassination”:

qi peng: To begin off on a lighter note, Are there any restaurants or hangouts such as bookstores around New Jersey or New York City or anywhere else that you wish to recommend us? What are the qualities that you enjoy best about the places that you have chosen?

Jennifer Keshka: I ❤ diners. Probably because I am from New Jersey, the holy land if you’re a diner lover. I especially love the Brookside in Whippany, NJ. Go there a lot with my parents for breakfast and stimulating conversation—which usually includes work/family/friend related gossip and discussions of my ridiculous “love life.”

Day time hangouts- N 8th & Kent, on the East River. It’s a gritty, noisy with construction, and rarely crowded reclamation site in Williamsburg with a great view of Manhattan. A good spot to go, think about life, daydream, throw rocks, and doodle on the wooden picnic tables. Also, McCarren Park is great. I love to people-watch there.

Night-lifey spots —dive bars– they are charming and very special. Finer establishments are also nice. Here are some of both: 138 local… or local 138 on Ludlow. (I can never remember). 381 Main in Little Falls, NJ is fun—but the quality of your night will strongly depend on the DJ. Arlo & Esme…. those cute little places in the East Village are all fun to explore.

Once a week I hit up a NJ Starbucks to meet with the girls (Lauren Rice & Alissa) for girl talk.

Lastly, I would like to recommend almost any hotdog cart on the streets of NY, because let’s face it; hotdogs are a disgusting and delicious godsend.

qi peng: What is your opinion of art world journalism and art critics such as Jerry Saltz or Roberta Smith? Do you read periodicals such as ArtForum or ARTnews to get an up to date understanding of what goes on within the art world? Do you have any favorite artistic blogs or websites that you enjoy looking at on a regular basis? Do you feel that smaller, regional art markets like Denver or Salt Lake City will have a chance to expand their horizons into becoming essential and vibrant art hot spots just like Los Angeles or New York City during the recession? What do you think is the current state of contemporary art within the New York City area where you work?

Jennifer Keshka: Don’t know that I have an opinion of them. I KNOW of them, and yes I do have my token subscription to ArtForum. But, my ArtForum functions for me like art porn—strictly visual stimuli. I check out the glossy pages, determine what shows I want to see more of… and then go see it in person. Don’t regularly read artistic blogs, or art websites. I’m sure I should. I will read ArtForum when I’m on the train, and bored. Sometimes the articles make me more bored. Other times, they will make me feel slightly cool, smart and well informed (when someone looks over and sees me reading it). Sometimes too it makes me depressed about my art and art in general. I know from an academic and critical standpoint that you’re supposed to (some extent) be engaged in these critical discussions of this, that, and the other thing. It’s important to know it exists, (and to be able to enter this realm if need be) but it may not be the best for your work or your sanity. I do read art books though, and books about artists. Artist interviews are my favorite. I like when artists write about art and life…as opposed to critics writing about art. They function differently for me.

On the Denver and SLC question— It’s hard to say since I am not familiar with either scene. I think growth in terms of creative exchange is always positive. But from a commercial standpoint, do you want them to be super commercial like a lot of NY and LA? I imagine that the art scene in Denver & SLC might be more accessible financially, and that sounds, to me, desirable. Maybe artists in those markets are happy being somewhat under the radar? I’m curious about the quality of the work—it’s not like all great artists would live or frequent NY or LA, they can come from and exist anywhere. Maybe these locations are good “as is.”  Just don’t know. I’m guessing at a lot here.

Contemporary art is alive in NYC and the surrounding area. I just know it.

qi peng: What are some of your hobbies outside of your painting and drawing? How does these things relate to your studio practice? Do you find yourself having to enter into the studio out of discipline or inspiration or a mixture of both? What are some of the practical challenges that fine artists have to face inside or outside their studio time? How do you balance your social and personal life with your painting work time?

Jennifer Keshka: In no particular order….I like to relax with my cat, Tiger. Hang with my parents & friends. Have alone time. Collect things I plan on incorporating into my future art—aka hoarding. Reading, napping, and cuddling. Going to galleries and some museums. Observing others. Finding new music that I love. Row boating in Central Park. Going to stores that sell old things. Pizza parties. Traveling. And, last but not least, talking to people about relationships; any kind really, but most notably romantic and physical relationships. This is something that interests me on a level that exceeds the gossip of it all.  I like to get details from people, and have them tell me secrets too.

This all relates to my artwork directly. Everything I come in contact with potentially serves as influence weather it be visual, thematic or otherwise. My art serves as a platform to document, investigate and explore my curiosities and obsessions of things encountered in everyday life.

I enter the studio out of motivation, necessity, and discipline. Let’s make it clear that at this point the “studio” is a concept—which can be referring to my kitchen table, a living room chair, my basement floor, or a train (I am constantly in transit between NY and NJ so the train is like a second home to me).. The bottom line is I have no studio. (But I will when I start grad school… hooray!) Anyway, I have a particular chair in my house that I like to sit in to draw. It’s sort of ritualistic. I feel very focused in this chair. It’s mauve, and valour-ish, and it rocks (this refers to both its motion and its coolness factor).

Discipline–The “business” or “professional” aspect to being an artist, like applying to shows & residencies etc., is tedious and requires discipline. Liselot (more about her later) always tells me its important to continuing making your artwork and documenting your ideas even when everything you do it total sh-t. That takes discipline; to ignore the embarrassment and frustrations of artist’s block and just keep doing. On the other hand, I also believe the ability to be ok with yourself slacking off once in a while is a really good thing. You need to know when to take a time out. Thomas George a very well-lived (read old) painter I got a grant from while in undergrad once told me some advice. He said something to the effect of “Just because you’re doing nothing, doesn’t mean you’re getting nothing done.” He was referring to the importance of thinking and just existing. I think this is valid. I know the two ideas just expressed seem somewhat contradictory, but I believe in both.

The motivation and necessity of my art making comes typically at night time—my brain goes to this place late-night…the creative juices get pumping. It’s kind of like I experience a fuller gamut of “aliveness” which happens regardless to if I am sleeping or awake. If sleeping, I have wildly imaginative surreal dreams, lucid dreams, and lots of nightmares. If I’m awake and working on art stuff I get really focused—like I exist in a dimension free of time where nothing matters or exists but what I’m doing.

I can’t think of great ideas when I sit to think of ideas, they just come to me, when I’m lying in bed, or driving home, or partaking in Saturday night debauchery.

Challenges Inside the studio: Making what I want to be making—sometimes I feel really unconnected to what I’m producing.

Challenges outside the studio:

In my experiences one of three things happens when someone hears that I am an “artist.”

1. they snicker and eye roll

2. something is said like “Oh what do you paint?” “I love Picasso.” “I did a great drawing of a (insert object/creature here) in high school.” or “Can you make me something?”

3. occasionally it can up my “hotness” factor, because in some circles an artist is rarer than a unicorn.

I hate the #1’s, deal with the #2’s, and welcome the #3’s.

I don’t really paint much anymore, haven’t for about 3 years. I’m into drawing and 3d stuff lately. And collaging. Recently I’ve been balancing art-making and social time by indulging in social time. When I start grad school in September I’ll indulge in art making time. It’s like a binge. But I will find a better way, because that is not suitable for long term.

qi peng: What are some of your favorite artists, books, television shows, sports, art magazines, toys, movies, and other cultural artifacts that you wish to share with your fans of your work here? Do you have any recent galleries or exhibitions that you have seen and would to recommend to us? What things in those shows inspired your painterly eye and imagination?

Jennifer Keshka: Books- I tend to stick to non-fiction because I like to get the facts. But, there is no guarantee that the “facts” are valid anyway. Regardless, I like Mary Roach, she’s funny and informative—a good pairing. Any book about Andy Warhol. Lonely Planets are a great resource when traveling. Dream dictionaries– in a “they’re so wrong they’re right” kinda way. And then there are all those books about relationships, psychology, physiology, men and women. I live for this s–t. Theresa Crenshaw’s The Alchemy of Love and Lust I found to be very interesting. The Male Ego, by Willard Gaylin, is definitely high on my list.  Freud is interesting, but from a psychology standpoint perhaps total bulls–t because it’s not clinical. I also like picture books, the kind that can strike up a convo when placed on a coffee table. Lastly, children’s books (which I read when I baby-sit). They seem have a lot of hidden agendas and undertones that are questionable for the 10 and under crowd. Check out Karen Katz’s “Daddy and Me,” a lovely flap book… you’ll die.

TV—Planet Earth, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, M*A*S*H*, Frasier, Good Eats with Alton Brown (on this food network/travel channel kick lately), The Biggest Loser, and What Not To Wear with Stacey & Clinton!

Saw a good show at Momenta last month called “The Mood Back Home.” All women artists. It really spoke to me. It was right up my alley.

qi peng: Your formal art education was at The College of New Jersey as well as Montclair Sate University. What are your years of education like? Were there any influential professors and fellow students whose ideas or drive influenced your painterly style? Are there any memorable stories from your studio visits or school days? Is your work influenced by some of the trends happening currently in digital or new media art? Also what do you enjoy best about studying art history?

Jennifer Keshka: I didn’t start at Montclair State yet. Begin in September (So Excited!!). My years of art education have been great and fun. A few of my professors really motivated me because I realized that I wanted to be like them—cool, well informed, resourceful, committed artists and professors. While at The College of New Jersey I was lucky enough to have Liselot van der Heijden for like a million classes. She is the greatest. I still work with her. She is my go-to-girl and mentor for all related to the “art world”. Also, Anita Allyn and Ricardo Miranda. I owe them big time, and am really grateful for all they have done for me… and continue to do! All of my professors in undergrad were helpful to me in one way or another and I am thankful for all of them. Also, I should mention that my parents Fran & Warren are super great. They are 100% supportive.  Not all kids who pursue art have parents that say “yes, do that.” I love them lots.

qi peng: You are a babysitter for the family of Eric Heist, who is a fellow artist and co-director of Momenta Art out in Brooklyn. What is it like being able to hang out with an artist’s family? Is there any drama going on out there in Bucktown, home of the original gangsta? What is the dopeness that surrounds you at all times?

Jennifer Keshka: This is true. I like this job because I really love the kid. He’s super smart for his age, has a great disposition, and is a little stud muffin. He also has some great one-liners for a 2 year old. “Wet bananas are cute” & (after coloring a little boy in a coloring book entirely brown) “I made a chocolate boy, he is yummy for me” (lick the page) are among my favorites.

Anyway, Eric and his wife Laura Parnes, also an artist, are super busy, dedicated and highly-involved in what they do. Seeing (very much on the outskirts) how they make things happen, and to an extent, how they organize their lives serves as a good model for me. It’s especially interesting to observe how they balance having a family with being active artists. Don’t be fooled. It’s not easy, but they do a really great job.

I think Williamsburg is dope. But, that is to me, a NJ girl. The art crowd is easy to spot.  The men generally fit the following description: possibly bearded, tight pants, probably glasses, cool kicks, hoodie or plaid something, slightly disheveled. The girls, depending on the season, shirt/dress, tights/leggings, boots/flats, big bag, big sunglasses. For both sexes: you should have a bike, and a dog.

Luxury condos are going up like the 60+ crowd on Viagra. So, it seems inevitable that the dynamics of the area will soon dramatically change. I’m interested to see exactly how. Not sure it will be positive. Maybe initially it won’t really seem to change because the people moving in are probably the Bohemian Bourgeoisie, so they will be rich, but pretend to be poorish… because it’s cool to be living the struggle.

My favorite thing about this area is the street art. A few months ago I was walking down Bedford and saw a fafinette painted on the corner (they are those cute girls with hearts on their cheeks and a headband and a naughty little outfit, done by Fafi). I adore them. I was super excited—and basically creamed my pants, because I have a female graffiti artists book which included these, but had never seen one in person. That was a big day for me.

And, that concludes my discussion of Williamsburg.

Actually, who is the original gangsta? And, doesn’t Bucktown have something to do with Chicago?

qi peng: Your work has popped up in various places ranging from Metro Pictures with the Visual AIDS Postcards from the Edge Benefit to Momenta Art with their benefit show. What do you enjoy best about dropping science for the peeps out there with your visual stylistics?

Jennifer Keshka: I enjoy being involved in events that are philanthropic. It’s the least I can do. And, I like being active in the scene. I know in the big picture of super-cool and famous artists what I do is nothing. But it’s my own little contribution, and to me it’s important. The events are fun too. Who doesn’t enjoy free wine, beer, maybe a nice cheese & cracker spread and some drag queens (drag queens limited to the Visual AIDS openings). To answer your question, what I best enjoy about “dropping science for the peeps” with my “visual stylistics” would be dropping the stylistics. I like having my stuff in shows. I hope that one day someone will think that what I’m making is significant and meaningful.

qi peng: You described yourself with the motto, “I’m the coolest.” What does that mean as a female, feminist artist, and all-around dope artist? Why is your artwork appealing to the crowds out here in the Big Apple? Also, what makes you a huge fan of Hello Kitty? What do you think about her powerful symbolism and appearance in the art world?

Jennifer Keshka: Oh my gosh! Am I dope?! How exciting! I believe that “I am the coolest” has been quoted from my facebook! And yes, it’s true. I have other mottos too, like “so wrong it’s right.” That is applicable to much of my life, and my art too.

Though I am a female artist, I just think of myself as an artist. I don’t identify my work with “feminist” art because that goes into foggy territory. My work does come from a female perspective, but that is because I am a girl. I don’t try to hide my girly aesthetic inclinations, I rock them. My work addresses the “female experience” maybe even the “contemporary female experience.” It’s something I think about ALWAYS. But, I also always think about what it means to be male. And, what it means to be human.

Usually people have polar responses either they love the work, or they think its totally offensive bulls–t (I’m recalling a certain BFA show where one woman was appalled by my cutesy wall drawing because she detested the penises (or peni?? haha) dribbling on boobs, which I had painstakingly painted the night before). I would say maybe people like my stuff because it’s real, funny, imaginative, provocative, and can be read on multiple levels. Kids really take to the drawings too—like big time.

Anyway, I ❤ hello kitty. She is good lookin’. I love when she appears in the art world, or, in the form of a $3ooo diamond encrusted ring somehow connected to Kimora Lee Simmons. In all seriousness though, I think she (kitty) is a powerful symbol… of what I’m not quite sure, but something like cuteness, innocence and values, while simultaneously being oddly obscene. Maybe I like her because I identify with that. That is quintessentially female….isn’t it?

Kitty is enviable.

qi peng: Some of your paintings look darkly humorous and cartoony. Are you influenced by manga or some other kick-ass s–t that I don’t know about? Who are your rocking artistic influences? What do you consider to be the underlying philosophical overtones of your paintings? Also what do you enjoy best about working in acrylic on canvas? Where do you get inspiration from?

Jennifer Keshka: The painting I think you’re referring to spawned from a Hong Kong Cosmo which I picked up while I was there for a week, during Semester at Sea (Fall 05). While looking through there was this section on toys, which is not included in the American version of these magazines and I began to realize that these specific toys seemed to portray the reality and range of people more accurately than the images of actual people in the magazine. The idea was that people are sometimes faker than plastic. When I think back to my paintings I find the common theme to be “facades,” critiquing /questioning notions of cuteness and beauty.

I saw a David Lachapelle documentary recently. There was a quote that I feel applies to my ideas surrounding this painting and life in general. He said, “Glamour is fabricated, ridiculous, and hilarious.”

I have a million artistic influences. Quickly, here are some: Vanessa Beecroft, Andy Warhol, Marcel Dzama, Amy Cutler, Jeff Koons, Henry Darger, Nicole Eisenman, Juergen Teller, Guy Bourdin, Dali, Gustav Klimt, Cindy Sherman, Ion Birch, Laurie Simmons, …. & a million artists whose names I don’t know & lots of street art, and things that are not intended to be art, and things made by people who don’t call themselves artists.

qi peng: You have been involved with Ugallery, which is one of the foremost online galleries. You have a few nude studies as well as some experimental cartoon landscape work there at the moment. What has the experience been like? What are some avenues which you are trying to explore within the art market today?

Jennifer Keshka: The experience has thus far been positive. The concept of UGallery is a good one. Personally, I find it conservative. But, maybe and hopefully with time that will change. It’s certainly an excellent platform for emerging artists to get their work out there and sell some pieces. I think currently they cater to a certain crowd to whom the work is “safe” and “acceptable” and therefore really “sellable.” But, I can see it getting a little more “edgy” and not losing the following. As far as Contemporary Art I wouldn’t say it’s at the forefront. I also don’t believe that is their intention. For the community of artists represented by UGallery it’s beneficial that they put on physical shows like the recent “urban landscapes” in NY and being part of the Affordable Art Fair also in NY. That physical presence in the “art world” should pay off. I’m happy they exist.

Avenues I would like to explore… how about streets?… 523 W25th Street, Nancy Margolis Gallery. I always like the work they have there, and would love to have my drawings in there one day. My drawings and their walls should be friends.

qi peng: What are some of your future dreams and upcoming exhibitions that you will be undergoing? What are some potential challenges or past hardships that you have overcome and that you are proud of? Do you have cool things, subjects, or themes that you would love to explore within your paintings?

Jennifer Keshka: My future dreams include more traveling to anywhere and everywhere. Peru, Bhutan, any of Europe, Cambodia, Kenya, and Egypt are some I have particular interest in. I would love to get back to Burma/Myanmar too. I was there in 2005 with Semester at Sea. It was very profound and powerful to experience this place and its people. .

Also, in the future I would love to be in a really great relationship with an honest, caring, motivated, creative and studly man. This relationship should include zero bulls–t., and no drama, because I hate that stuff. I just would like someone who I can be sweet to and who will be sweet to me. Sounds simple, but thus far it’s a no-go. One day a family could work, but not yet.

Art/career wise I will continue building my career as an active artist. I would love to be a professor. I think I’m supposed to be one. I have loved all my previous jobs that dealt with teaching art, and have always felt really committed to the students I was working with. I am a great motivator and excellent resource, and obviously as I continue to grad school and beyond, like a fine wine, I will only get better with time!

qi peng: Do you have anything else which you would like to share with fans of your paintings, and other fly art-related adventures here?

Jennifer Keshka: In the event that I do have fans beyond my parents they should know that I ❤ them. And, that they should email me at so we can be friends. Of course, facebook friending me is also an option.

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

May 16, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Buck Naked Is Not William Powhida Or Edward Winkleman!

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The Gunning Fog index that is used to determine the supposed identity of Buck Naked. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Now that I had completed the three exclusive (or perhaps not) interviews with the three following subjects: Buck Naked, Edward Winkleman, and William Powhida, I decided to settle the score by conducting a lingustic analysis on their answers. So I went to analyze text content using the free text analysis tool ( which gave me statistics about a text including word count; unique words; number of sentences; average words per sentence; lexical density; and the Gunning Fog readability index.

The results that people have been waiting for:


Overall     Sampled
Characters (all):     1,421     530
Characters (words only):     1,066     408
Words:     249     100
Different Words:     142     71
Sentences:     50     20
Syllables:     346     136

Overall     Sampled
Characters per Word:     4.28     4.08
Syllables per Word:     1.39     1.36
Words per Sentence:     4.98     5.00

Overall     Sampled     Calculated Grading
Hard Words:     24     8
Long Words:     46     15
Lexical Density:     57.03 %     71.00 %
Gunning Fog Index:     5.85     5.20     Easy
Coleman-Liau Grade:     17.81     8.23     8th Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level:     2.75     2.41     2nd Grade (-3 years)
Flesch Reading Ease:     84.22     86.70     Easy: 5th Grade
ARI (Automated Readability Index):     7.94     0.29     0th Grade
SMOG:     6.79     6.46     6 Years (Low-literate)
LIX (Laesbarhedsindex):     23.45     20.00     Very easy


Overall     Sampled
Characters (all):     12,749     1,038
Characters (words only):     9,988     839
Words:     2,198     179
Different Words:     806     114
Sentences:     196     4
Syllables:     3,160     265

Overall     Sampled
Characters per Word:     4.54     4.69
Syllables per Word:     1.44     1.48
Words per Sentence:     11.21     44.75

Overall     Sampled     Calculated Grading
Hard Words:     232     20
Long Words:     477     43
Lexical Density:     36.67 %     63.69 %
Gunning Fog Index:     8.71     22.37     Hard
Coleman-Liau Grade:     18.36     11.81     11th Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level:     5.75     19.33     19th Grade (14 years)
Flesch Reading Ease:     73.83     36.17     Difficult: High School or Some College
ARI (Automated Readability Index):     11.50     23.02     23rd Grade
SMOG:     8.96     15.25     15 Years (Some college)
LIX (Laesbarhedsindex):     32.92     68.77     Very difficult


Overall     Sampled
Characters (all):     17,604     557
Characters (words only):     13,912     439
Words:     3,151     106
Different Words:     1,082     76
Sentences:     218     6
Syllables:     4,422     140

Overall     Sampled
Characters per Word:     4.42     4.14
Syllables per Word:     1.40     1.32
Words per Sentence:     14.45     17.67

Overall     Sampled     Calculated Grading
Hard Words:     311     4
Long Words:     603     18
Lexical Density:     34.34 %     71.70 %
Gunning Fog Index:     9.73     8.58     Easy
Coleman-Liau Grade:     17.11     8.59     8th Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level:     6.61     6.88     6th Grade (1 years)
Flesch Reading Ease:     73.44     77.17     Fairly Easy: 6th Grade
ARI (Automated Readability Index):     12.11     6.91     6th Grade
SMOG:     9.54     7.47     7 Years (Junior high school)
LIX (Laesbarhedsindex):     33.59     34.65     Easy

The supreme conclusion: Both Buck Naked and William Powhida write at an Easy Level whereas Edward Winkleman writes at a Hard level according to the Gunning Fog index. Therefore, Buck Naked <> Edward Winkleman and William Powhida <> Edward Winkleman. Thus we would need to conduct a further test which is the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level that uses a different calculation than that of the Gunning Fog index. Okay, Buck Naked has a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of a 2nd grader whereas William Powhida has a Flesch-Kindcaid Grade Level of a 6th grader. I would like to conclude that there is no f–king way that Buck Naked could be William Powhida by this conclusion. To put this in layman’s terms, chatting with Buck Naked would be like reading Dr. Seuss, chatting with William Powhida would be like mic checking Adam Sandler crossed with Jaime Kennedy, and chatting with Edward Winkleman would be perusing Jacques Derrida on a good day and reading Art F– City on a day wasted by Becks. Shantih!

Quote of the day: “Someone contacted me on Facebook the other day and asked if I was Buck Naked from How’s My Dealing?. The answer is no. I would like to think that my enemies/allies lists and projects may have served as some sort of inspiration for Buck Naked, but I’ve learned to make my attacks on the art world part of my art…. So, I am not Buck Naked. It’s not my blog. I do think it’s an interesting bit of gossip and speculation, but without any verifiable sources, all the information remains just that, gossip and speculation. The fact that it seems to get so much attention is more indicative of how the art world operates than anything else. I would note that having been once again accused of being Buck Naked, (my own art dealer asked a few weeks ago), I stopped by the site today and scanned the death watch. Apparently back in October, someone said Schroeder Romero was closing. It’s not, unless they are just shielding me from the awful truth.” –William Powhida

Verdict: Buck Naked <> William Powhida <> Edward Winkleman. Transitive property in full effect.

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

May 16, 2009 at 11:28 am

Posted in Uncategorized

ASSASSINATION: Vincent de Sarthe, Founder of CollegeArtOnline and Sales Associate at Pascal de Sarthe Fine Art

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Photograph of Vincent de Sarthe. Courtesy of Facebook.
Screenshot of the home page of the CollegeArtOnline’s website. Courtesy of CollegeArtOnline.

Vincent de Sarthe, apart from being a close friend, was a gallery assistant at Tony Shafrazi Gallery out in Chelsea, New York when I met him at the front desk a few years ago. He would return back to Arizona to work in sales at his father’s gallery Pascal de Sarthe Fine Art. I would have not expected to work with him closely on CollegeArtOnline, which is an upstart online gallery website that offers top-notch student and graduate artists who produce work that challenges the imagination. This gallery offers emerging artists an opportunity to express their voices to a broader public.

Some of the artists seen at CollegeArtOnline include Mindy Kober, Annie Purpura, and Damian Stamer. All different styles and approaches to their own craftsmanship. An audience looks forward to the growing interest for affordable talent that will evolve into the future art stars of tomorrow.

If you have any questions about artwork at CollegeArtOnline, feel free to contact the space at or at (602) 318-8224. If you have any questions about artwork at Pascal de Sarthe Fine Art, feel free to contact the space at or at (480) 905-0806.

So on to the show and here are THE ART ASSASSIN’s latest details of this “assassination”:

qi peng; How did you have a chance to meet with your business partner Adam Rosepink and how did you get the idea for (CAO)? What is the business’ distinguished features that will separate your endeavor from other online galleries, specifically ones that feature collegiate art such as Ugallery?

Vincent de Sarthe: I came up with the idea of College Art Online when I saw the countless student artists and recent grads looking for a place to be shown while all along being rejected by galleries. While noticing that need I would see my friends decorate their homes with prints from stores such as Bed Bath and Beyond and Painted with Oils, Z Gallerie etc… and even paying high prices for these unoriginal works. The answer was pretty simple from there. I would have to match the artists with the soon to be art collectors. In essence bringing fine art to the masses.

Adam Rosepink when we met was my sister’s fiancé and is now my brother in law. I had asked him to be the director of the website and thankfully he agreed. He is also the head of sales at the Bentley Gallery which is one of the leading galleries in Scottsdale, Arizona.

I believe the main thing that will separate us from competing online galleries is that we have no limits. I believe in giving control to artists to post whatever work they like and as much as they like. To be honest art is about asking the question “what is art?” I honestly do not have the answer and must rely on the artists to address this question. If I were to restrict them then they would not have the chance to answer that question. All great artists broke the rules in the beginning before becoming accepted.

qi peng: Who are your favorite artists? How does personal taste enter into the curating for

Vincent de Sarthe: I can’t pick a favorite. They each bring something special to the site and the artworld. The site kind of curates itself in a way, it’s very organic.

qi peng: What are your experiences working within the contemporary art world, both primary and secondary markets?

Vincent de Sarthe: Working in the art world has taught me what to look for and who to show it to.

qi peng: Do you have any advice for recent art school graduates from either BFA or MFA programs? What are the barriers to entry for student artists to make it to the big leagues of the competitive art world?

Vincent de Sarthe: My best advice is; know people and get exposure. It’s sad to say but a majority of artists success is due to who they know. I good way to be recognized is to show your work and sell.  Your collectors will become your biggest fans and will promote your work for you.

qi peng: What are some of the future plans for and its future expansion? How will the website interact with both beginning and experienced collectors?

Vincent de Sarthe: We are currently working on a few additions to the website which will be finished early May. Here is a list of our additions:

– Guest curator virtual exhibitions.

– Press Page

– Personalized links to artist’s page. This will allow artists to send direct links to their profile page on College Art Online.

– Affiliate links. Exp. We will have a link to art supplies. when an artist purchases supplies from this link 12% of the sale will be put towards advertising for the site.

The great thing about our site is that we have all levels of artists. From art students who just got out of class to artists who are just about to show in galleries. This means that we can cater to a full range of collectors.

qi peng: What are some of the difficulties for online galleries to gain respect from art critics, such as the ones who write for the New York Times, ArtForum, ARTnews, Art in America, etc.? How will be able to align with being able to find artists who are going to be future Schnabels or Rosson Crows and discover their full potential?

Vincent de Sarthe: Let’s face it, things are changing. We are starting to work differently and with time it will become the norm. Until then it’s ok to be a little different and I am sure critics will appreciate the breath of fresh air.

qi peng: Will also focus on corporate and/or museum placement? Will its international reach be an advantage during the times of economic recession?

Vincent de Sarthe: Yes in the future and Yes right now!

qi peng: What is your dream physical exhibition space be like?

Vincent de Sarthe: When it comes to gallery space I am very traditional and prefer the white cube. I believe it is the best way to showcase the work, there should be little to no distractions. This can be seen in our website layout.

qi peng: What is the Scottsdale art market like? Is there competition and/or cooperation with other art markets, say, in New York City or Los Angeles?

Vincent de Sarthe: The Scottsdale art market is still very young in comparison to NY yet we still have some of the world’s greatest art hidden here in private collections. We see plenty of cooperation from NY as well as from LA.

qi peng: Do you think that economic recession has a strong impact on the way art is sold and viewed? If so, how?

Vincent de Sarthe: Yes, the economic recession is affecting us in two ways. 1, People are being much more careful with their money and in turn not purchasing art. 2, People who would usually spend a lot of money on art (expensive well known artists) are now looking for more affordable art (student artists / emerging artist) and focusing more on the love of art and their personal tastes rather than what the market has told them.

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

May 14, 2009 at 2:16 am

Posted in Uncategorized

ASSASSINATION: Lisa Adams, Artist Represented by Lawrence Asher Gallery and Michael Rosenthal Gallery

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Photograph of Lisa Adams in the rain. Courtesy of Facebook.
Lisa Adams: A Mechanism of Harbingers, 2007, oil on panel, 48 by 72 inches. Courtesy of Lawrence Asher Gallery.

My friend Lisa Adams. Her insightful paintings and works on paper analyze the whimsical yet darkly humorous aspects of avian imagery combined with a growing awareness of ecology. This fascination with the character of birds goes beyond mere documentation of species like the catalog-like artwork of Audubon but a hard-nosed exploration into the background and lives of these fascinating animals whom one takes for granted, mostly.

Apart from being an extraordinary painer, Adams is an instructor at the University of California, Los Angeles as well as a co-founder of Crazy Space for Experimental Art, an alternative exhibition venue in Santa Monica, and many other curated projects. Her deep involvement and breadth of experiences within the art world have helped to vault this artist as a very generous and kindred spirit who has helped other artists, students, and art professionals towards aspiring into greater achievements in doing more contemporary artwork.

If you have any questions about Adams’s paintings or her works on paper, feel free to contact Lawrence Asher Gallery at or at (323) 935-9100. Also for some of her other work, you can contact Michael Rosenthal Contemporary Art at (415) 552-1010.

Adams’s work never has made birdwatching the same ever again. Now on to the show and so here are THE ART ASSASSIN’s latest details of this “assassination”:

qi peng: To begin off on a lighter note, Are there any restaurants or hangouts such as bookstores around Los Angeles or anywhere else that you wish to recommend us? What are the qualities that you enjoy best about the places that you have chosen?

Lisa Adams: There are places I go and things I do that are inspiring, calming and enjoyable. I love going to see films. It’s a great escape for me to sit in a big black box and get lost in a scenario that’s not mine. I love going to the Angeles National Forest, which is only about a 45 minute drive from Downtown Los Angeles and to the Griffith Observatory to look at the vastness of the city. I’m an amateur birder and enjoy walking along the L.A. River around the Los Feliz area where many ducks and geese stop on their migration route.

In Downtown Los Angeles there are a lot of great restaurants, Nickel and Pete’s Café on Main Street, Blue Star on 15th Street off Santa Fe Avenue, Tratoria 25 on Santa Fe Avenue and Suehiro on First Street Downtown Los Angeles, Pho Café on Sunset in Silverlake. Also I love going to Newcomb’s Ranch, a restaurant/bar, in the Angeles National Forest.

qi peng: What is your opinion of art world journalism and art critics such as Jerry Saltz or Roberta Smith? Do you read periodicals such as ArtForum or ARTnews to get an up to date understanding of what goes on within the art world? Do you have any favorite artistic blogs or websites that you enjoy looking at on a regular basis? Do you feel that smaller, regional art markets like Denver or Salt Lake City will have a chance to expand their horizons into becoming essential and vibrant art hot spots just like Los Angeles or New York City during the recession? What do you think is the current state of contemporary art within the Los Angeles area where you live and work?

Lisa Adams: Art world journalism is important to any serious artists’ practice. I do read critics Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith, Smith more frequently than Saltz. Every morning I read NY Times UrbanEye online I also am a big fan of Robert Storr, Modern Art Notes and anything that Tyler Green writes.  They are some of the most serious and informed writers I know.

There are so many great art blogs out there.  My personal favorites are ArtsJournal,, what the butler saw, Edward Winkelman, AWOL (art without limits), Megan and Murray McMillian, KCLOG, The Brooklyn Days and of course I’m addicted to Face Book.

Regarding periodicals, I read Flash Art is my favorite but I also like Art in America and Modern Painters.

One never knows how a recession will play out but the art world been through one of these already in 1990 though not quite this deep and it’s fascinating how the art world re-groups.  A number of galleries have already closed in L.A. and I imagine there will be more.  It’s not certain if this reduction allows other cities in the U.S. to “catch up” to Los Angeles or New York but it does do some leveling. For a city to become an important art center it needs a tremendous amount of support from its citizenry which can come in many forms.  So many cities in the U.S. have great artists but without substantial support through an evolving gallery system, museums, a collector base, sponsorship, grants, significant non-profits, etc., it’s very difficult for those artists to gain visibility. I lived in New York when Los Angeles was still considered a less significant art city. Since moving to Los Angeles in 1985, there’s been an amazing transformation in the art world here.  It takes time, intention and support and that can happen in any city where there is money and serious interest in art.

The current state of art in Los Angeles is much of what I’ve described above however the motion picture and television industry will always come first here and that seems to be because of the tremendous amount of money the industry generates. That said, industry money does find its way into the art world and for that we are grateful.  There are a number of serious magazines in Los Angeles at the moment and many important art writers so the world of art dialogue and criticism is very healthy with diverse voices, but galleries still continue to close perhaps because the collector base is not as vast and focused as it is in New York.

qi peng: What are some of your hobbies outside of your painting and drawing? How do these things relate to your studio practice? Do you find yourself having to enter into the studio out of discipline or inspiration or a mixture of both? What are some of the practical challenges that fine artists have to face inside or outside their studio time? How do you balance your social and personal life with your painting work time?

Lisa Adams: As I’ve mentioned, I’m a birder and love being in nature and traveling. I suppose that can be called a hobby but otherwise everything is art related. I do have a meditation practice but I wouldn’t call that a hobby. Birding, meditation and travel relate directly to my studio practice both in attitude and imagery.

As I get older, I enter the studio more and more out of inspiration. There are still days I’d rather be doing other things like going to the mountains or going to look at the ocean but deadlines and responsibilities keep me on schedule. These past couple of years have been terrifically inspirational and I am very grateful for this. Teaching less and less helps me stay focused on my work. Fortunately my work is selling a fair amount which allows me to stay in the studio and paint.

For me the only practical challenge is finding the money to continue to make art.

A social life is less appealing to me except for the openings of good friends or exhibitions in which I am very interested. I don’t go out nearly as much as in previous years and feel good about that decision.  Dedication to my work is the most important thing. My main focus at this time in my life is to be in service of my work.

qi peng: What are some of your favorite artists, books, television shows, sports, art magazines, toys, movies, and other cultural artifacts that you wish to share with your fans of your work here? Do you have any recent galleries or exhibitions that you have seen and would to recommend to us? What things in those shows inspired your painterly eye and imagination?

Lisa Adams: I love the work of Kristen Calabrese. She is a big inspiration and seeing her work in the studio always makes me want to paint better.  Also the work of Lucian Freud, Kiki Smith, Mathew Barney, William Kentridge, John Currin, Susan Rothenberg, Jeff Wall, Robert Gober, Amy Sillman, Llyn Foulkes, David Amico, Tom Wudl, Tomory Dodge, Joshua Aster, Kim Dingle, Samantha Fields, Cole CaseAndre Yi, Marie Thibeault, Joe Biel, Ann Diener and many dead artists such as Max Ernst, Philip Guston, Jay Defeo, Henri Matisse, Van Gogh, William Blake, the Pre-Raphaelite painters, and so many more.

Most of my reading is non-fiction about birds and animals, science, Buddhism, travel, art and artist biographies and philosophy, especially the writing of Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

I used to be a competitive sprinter in my youth and in my thirties and forties continued to run longer distances. I ran for about 30 years but no longer run.

There are so many films that I love but I’ll only list a few:  all films by Werner Herzog particularly “Encounters at the End of the World” and “Lessons of Darkness,” all films by Andrei Tarkovsky particularly “Solaris” and “Stalker” also “Blade Runner,” “Woman in the Dunes,” “The Misfits,” “The Fugitive Kind,” “House of Games,” “Borat,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and many, many documentaries such as “The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ and “The Story of the Weeping Camel.”

Regarding recent exhibitions, the William Kentridge exhibition at SFMOMA just blew my mind. I was very taken with the animated imagery in his video work and in his drawings.  His love of constructivist imagery and the authentic quality of his drawings especially captured my attention.  His work is very unique and it might be because he is South African. It is so “other” than work produced in Los Angeles and New York.

qi peng: Your formal art education was at Scripps College as well as Claremont Graduate University. What were your years of education like? Were there any influential professors and fellow students whose ideas or drive influenced your postmodern and painterly style combining different elements of visual language ranging from urban graffiti to animal imagery? Are there any memorable stories from your studio visits or school days? Is your work influenced by some of the trends happening currently in digital or new media art? Also what accounts for your fascination with birds?

Lisa Adams: My undergraduate work was scholastically very rigorous and heavily foundationed in the Humanities and in the Arts. I spent my junior year studying Art History and Germanistik at the University of Heidelberg during the years of a divided Germany. It was the mid 1970’s and an amazing time to have lived in Europe. As an undergraduate all types of mediums in art making were of interest, but painting always held my attention. My most beloved undergraduate instructor was Paul Darrow who is now 88 years old and still going strong as an artist.  He has since retired from teaching. Paul was responsible for finding a scholarship that would facilitate my going to graduate school.

When I was in graduate school there were almost no painters.  It was the advent of what was called “New Genres” and a time of great experimentation. Painting was of little interest at that time but Tom Wudl who was then teaching at Claremont Graduate University was someone I really related to and learned the most from during those years. Tom taught about things that informed art, his art and art in general and he taught us about how an artist thinks.

There have been so many studio visits in the past 30 years that it all seems like a blur. I do remember having serious studio visits in graduate school.  I was only 23 and 24 at that time and was always very anxious and didn’t say much.

My painting is somewhat influenced by the computer since it is a tool that I regularly use for creating my work, particularly in composing the paintings. Recently I realized that before Photoshop, I used to do the same type of composing but with cut-out pieces of colored paper and tape. Also now when I can’t get back far enough from a large painting I photograph and bring it into the computer to review the composition.

Birds are just one element in my lexicon of imagery but an important one, nonetheless. For me, birds represent freedom and freedom has been at the center of my thinking and seems to have always been the driving force in my life and in my art.

qi peng: Do you have any advice for young emerging artists from BFA or MFA programs who are graduating from their program? Any pitfalls for them to avoid as they search for a way to enter the formal gallery system or to exhibit in non-profit or alternative spaces or museums? What have been your joys and hardships in dealing with the contemporary art world? What have your experiences with Lawrence Asher Gallery and Michael Rosenthal Gallery, both of whom represent you, been like? How have you worked with both spaces to be able to fulfill the vision that you have for the display of your work?

Lisa Adams: Giving advice to newly graduated artists is difficult since my experience is only one experience. One thing that seems to be true in the art world is that everyone’s path and experience is so different and what works for one artist may never work for another.

There seems to be so many tacit and elusive qualities that produce success. Success is, of course, a relative term.

It seems that one of the greatest disservices that the M.F.A. programs purport is that if you do it “right,” or at least the way they tell you to, you can be an art star.  My experience is that it just doesn’t work that way. So many factors go into the art star status and it is truly, for the most part, very unrealistic and if one actually does reach the pitch of art star, then what happens?  It might not be a pretty picture fast forward ten or twenty years. The most important thing is to remain in service of your work and pay attention to your own vision and how to articulate that the very best you can.  Of course an artist must also pay attention to particular art world standards and know that the art world is as conformist as any other world.  It just seems that the rules are not as blatantly stated but they definitely exist and one has got to be aware of them. Also, never underestimate the grace of financial support to an artist and aspects of luck.  Both these elements are crucial to the possibility of success.

The only thing that I’ve relied on is persistence, in the face of tremendous rejection decade after decade.  For every one good hit there’s a hundred negative ones.  An artist who is set on being successful according to their own terms, will just hang in there and do what they can to advance their work and their careers, regardless of the rejection.

The Lawrence Asher Gallery has been very good for me. They treat me exceptionally well and have my best interest in mind.  They’ve supported me in my work for the Riverside Art Museum and have postponed scheduling a solo exhibition until September of 2011, for which I am grateful.

The Michael Rosenthal Gallery is a new gallery to me.  My work so far has only been included in a group exhibition but I really like Michael and Susan Chen, his assistant.  They are very attentive to their artists’ needs and to details.

All of my career I’ve worked with galleries that have supported me in creating work and never dictated what will sell or what they’d like to see me make. I’ve been very lucky in this way and it gives me the freedom and support to do the best I can.

qi peng: Do you have any favorite cuisine or dishes that you enjoy?

Considering that food is essential for the artistic soul, what things do you look for within a daily meal?

Lisa Adams: Unfortunately, I am not a cook so it means eating whatever can be assembled quickly. My favorite food is Indian food but I love Vietnamese and Thai food as well.  I eat very simply, lots of tofu-based dishes.  Simplicity is a theme in my life at this point and is reflected in my environment as much as possible.

qi peng: How do you feel that the current economic recession impacted the contemporary art market and way that it functions in the larger worldwide economy? Do you feel that artists will be pursuing more personal and intimate projects than the overly commercial work, typically geared for the art fairs, during the upcoming years? How do you think that galleries and non-profits will be coping with the dramatic shifts within the political and corporate culture, particularly in America? Do you have any thoughts about the current state of the stock market and its concomitant corruption? Any thoughts on the Obama administration in relation to your viewpoint on history, social identity, and the arts scene on a worldwide scale?

Lisa Adams: As previously mentioned in question #2, the art world went through a fairly sever adjustment in the early 1990’s so I’ve been witness to this before though this round seems more dire.  Just as in the previous time, both artists and gallerists who are not serious, not hard core, seem to fold.  I don’t know markets in other cities as well as I do the Los Angeles art world so I hesitate to speak about the larger art market and the economic impact there. A number of galleries in Los Angeles have already folded and very different sorts of galleries too, some very mainstream and others more marginal.  You are seeing exhibitions that are not as costly to mount, maybe more local work and less imported work, is being shown at important venues.  What’s interesting is that the work being created in Los Angeles is, in every way, competitive with work made in other markets and therefore the quality of exhibitions seem unaffected. Twenty years ago that was not necessarily the case here and it’s very heartening to see.

I could be wrong but it seems that most artists in Los Angeles are always making work that is unique and personal to them and less about the art fair circuit expectation.

For both galleries and non-profits, the game is to “keep your ass low to the ground” as they say. In the early 1990’s, those venues that downsized to smaller spaces and smaller staffs survived. Gallerists showed art in their living rooms and some of those exhibitions spawned some amazing artists that went on to robust careers.  It’s all about intention on the part of exhibition venues as well as on the part of the artists.

It seems that greed has finally shown up in a profound and pervasive way in our culture.  Perhaps it was all very predictable. This culture has been running on complicated and exquisite delusion and here is where we find ourselves.  It’s kind of amazing and really interesting to me.  My life has been affected by the economic crisis but not severely as many people. I have never lived an affluent life and have always had to be very frugal in order to keep making my work. It’s become a way of life and anxiety regarding the topic of cash flow seems normal, so today’s environment feels like more of the same, although it’s obvious that the economic climate is very bad and many people are suffering.

Barack Obama’s election is the only hope we have of changing our situation.  It’s thrilling that he is our President and I support his decisions. My best hunch is that Obama’s awareness of the arts lies mostly in the performing arts and far less so in the visual arts. It would be great if we had someone at the federal level who represented the visual arts. I would love to be that person. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that Quincy Jones is going to help the visual arts much.

qi peng: You have taught at various art schools ranging from the University of Southern California to Claremont Graduate University to the Otis College of Art & Design. What is the underlying philosophy behind your teaching? What was a typical day for you while you were teaching classes? Which classes have you taught and what values and themes have you imparted to your students during these years? What was the thrust of each class syllabus that you designed for the students? In what way is teaching a work of art in itself?

Lisa Adams: My absolute best teaching experience was from 1990-1999 at the Santa Monica College of Design, Art and Architecture.  It was a fabulous time for me, the administration and of course the students. Because the institution was an “off-campus” program and offered only a certificate and not a degree, we did not have to abide by a conformist academic system but rather a follow-your-interests type program.  Whatever you were interested in as a teacher you could present to your students and it was fabulous! Though the school only lasted ten years, so many of the students went on to incredible careers.  It was a life-changing experience for almost all that were involved.  The school was the creation of MacArthur Fellow Joan Abrahamson and run by artist Laddie John Dill. It was modeled after the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College, an experimental, interdisciplinary art school founded by in 1933 in Asheville, North Carolina.  We thought of the school as a kind of professional school, teaching young student artists literally how to be professionals as well as how to think about their work in an experimental, sophisticated and individuated way. In 1999 I authored a book along with my students entitled “FM*.” The book was an edited version of two years of assignments that I gave my students. It has since has been used by a number of instructors at other schools.

My underlying philosophy was always to take yourself seriously as an individuated artist and to put your work before anything else because I do believe that is what it takes to advance your practice both in the studio and outside the studio–by outside the studio I mean the career part of ones practice.  Those students who were in a position to do this really benefited by the program. My way was not for everyone certainly, and I was a tough teacher holding students to their commitments. Our group critiques might have lasted as much as six hours at times.

In the nine years I was at SMCDAA I would have to say that this style of teaching was a work of art. Students in my class were given assignments that were based on what I was doing in my own studio at that time.  It was so amazing to watch them work out the same sorts of issues that I was struggling with. Our work together was definitely a bonding experience and I am still in contact with many of my former students.

qi peng: What is your foundation for your philosophy of painting and drawing? How is this manifested within both forms of expression? What research in concept and materials do you complete before you execute a piece? Do you do preliminary sketches or studies before you codify your artwork? In what ways do you explore the conflict between nature and man-made objects, especially within the clash of figurative elements that you present?

Lisa Adams: At the core of my work is the quest to individuate, that is, what makes my thinking and my work unique to me. I have never been a mainstream artist but more of an iconoclast.  It’s less an intention and more an expression of my nature.

I started oil painting officially at age ten but like any other child I’d been drawing and painting since 2 or 3 years old. At age ten I knew that I would be an artist and called myself an artist though I really didn’t know what that meant since there were no artists around. A reproduction of Salvador Dali’s “Persistence of Memory” really lit up my mind at that age, then at thirteen I saw the the Eames’ short film “Powers of Ten” and that did it for me. I was on my way and can sincerely say that I never strayed from my desire to be a practicing artist.

I don’t draw as much as I used to and that is something I really would like to change.  Teaching drawing from time to time keeps my perceptual and manual skills honed but don’t use drawing as an expressive tool as much as I’d like to.  I do sketch my ideas and use drawing as visual note taking, but my true love is oil painting.

In the past few years, the computer as become one of my drawing tools.  I have a small Wacom tablet and love the strange and quirky look that I can get with it and use Photoshop as a compositional tool. I take a photo of a painting in process and work with it in the computer.  It’s amazing to me that what I was doing in the past with cut-out paper and tape can now be done so much more efficiently.

For over a decade, I painted abstractly and what that taught me was how to express an implied subject and build a lexicon of formal images that became the visual content.  As the abstract work progressed it inevitably began to bump up against recognizable subject matter that just sort of began to reveal itself.  In this manner, I never had to “think up” something recognizable to paint. All I had to do was follow the paintings along.  I think of myself now as more of a facilitator rather than an initiator. It’s a wild idea. I never really know what a painting is about until some time after it’s completed. It’s important to simply trust the process, remain very present and just love doing the painting part of it.

It seems that elements of both abstraction and representation play in my work and that makes sense to me since I’m very interested in how both co-exist and mostly in a non-combative way. Painting with a roller and painting with a #01 brush are both are so different but so useful. I paint intuitively per my subject, for example, I might paint a luscious rose in an alla prima manner, paint a background with a sponge roller and paint a bird very exactingly with a #01 brush.

qi peng: Do you consider yourself to be a feminist artist? How do you tie in your emotional and spiritual interest within women’s issues into a painting’s composition and subject matter without being didactic? Sometimes your subject matter, which combines animals particularly birds with graffiti, suggests that both man and nature must co-exist in order to fulfill a balance in the universe. What is the zen behind your particular pieces that reflect such an environmentalist’s concern?

Lisa Adams: I don’t think much about being a feminist artist, meaning only that I’m not conscious of or employ feminist issues in a didactic way in my work.  That said, I am a feminist and was reared as a second generation feminist. It seems funny to me now to recall that one of the greatest compliments a female artist could be paid when I was starting my career, was that she “painted like a man.” In order to be taken seriously back then female artists mostly had to be tough, look serious and not capitalize on their physical attributes if they had any. You just couldn’t trade on your looks even if you were good looking.  All that had to be down-played and I felt comfortable with that approach.  It’s so different now and that’s a great relief.

Today my work clearly expresses a female psyche and is based in a feminine experience and I’m very happy about that. It is expressive and emotional and trades on imbuing my subjects with feeling, sincerity and earnestness.  Part of my sincerity comes from my spiritual practice. It would be dishonest to call myself a practicing Buddhist, but I do have a serious meditation practice that absolutely finds its way into my work both visually as well as through notions of discipline, dedication and belief.

Ideas of current environmental concerns found their way to me. I never set out looking for them nor looking to express on their behalf. If I had to declare a Zen attitude in my work this would probably be it.

The natural world has always captured my imagination, however, the fractured interface between the natural world and humans seems to have become the core of my work. In some fashion, the so-called natural elements in my work always look displaced and at the same time their context seems fitting. This interface is even difficult for me to reconcile sometimes but I find it compelling and that’s what keeps me eager to follow the paintings along.

qi peng: Many of your drawings involve gouache, ink, or graphite on paper. Do you have a fascination with Asian art, particularly the delicate watercolors of that culture? In what ways do you try to meld Asian and American viewpoints about nature, humans, and animals into a completed drawing? How would you place your works on paper within the context of your paintings?

Lisa Adams: The small, delicate gouaches are an adjunct to my main practice of oil painting. They began as a challenge to see if I could make a watercolor-type work because it’s such a different skill set  from oil painting. In this way gouache acts more like watercolor, used in a more sheer manner, which requires a more delicate touch. I really like that.

At first, I tried to paint with gouache as I would with oil paint. I learned quickly that that was not going to work. Some time was required to find my way with this delicate medium. I didn’t want to use standard formulaic techniques but rather just keep working until something felt expressive.

It turned out that the gouaches bear resemblance, at least feeling-wise, to an Asian aesthetic which makes sense since I’ve looked at so much Japanese and Chinese ink painting in particular Japanese kachoga genre.  The strength of ink is used in such a variable way, for both its graphic qualities and infinite nuance through wash techniques. That’s what I’m after in these small works on paper–combining both the watercolor-type gouache with the pen and ink drawing.

qi peng: There are some times where you have executed installation art such as your delightful piece entitled “Unearthly Garden of Delight.” What is the story behind such a complex piece that uses real lemons on shelves as part of the work itself? What do you is the tension between the appearance of the portion that reflects the artist’s hand and the found objects?

Lisa Adams: The installation “Unearthly Garden of Delight” has a wonderful back story. It was a work I did as an internet collaboration with Dutch artist Eylem Aladogan.  The exhibition was entitled “Personals” and the concept was created by American curator, John O’Brien and Dutch curator, Theo Tegelaers. Artists from Los Angeles and artists from Holland were asked to write a personals ad. The curators paired an American artist with a Dutch artist through compatible personal ads.  Eylem and I were paired by virtue of our mutual interest in nature and ultimately in domestic gardens.  Via email we would talk about what we were creating each day in our studios over a nine month period.  Neither of us had seen each other’s work until it was exhibited together first in Los Angeles and then later in Hoorn, Holland.  “Unearthly Garden of Delight” was my resulting work.  In Los Angeles I exhibited the work with real lemons and in Holland used vegetables more readily available.

Using real objects in this work made sense because it was more than just a drawing. One part of the work was installed at the floor line and the other above the viewer’s head. It just seemed fitting to include something that was very tangible and human scale against the pure drawn illusion. It also reflected an element of an Angeleno domestic garden. It was an intuitive decision that really added another dimension, literally and conceptually, to the work. It turned out that my Dutch counterpart Eylem Aladogan’s work used the floor entirely as a foundation and also used domestic garden vegetables.  It was a wonderful concept for an international exhibition.  I learned so much and met so many great artists.

qi peng: You have worked as a curator before and co-founded Crazy Space which was an alternative exhibition space in Santa Monica. What is the story behind that adventure? What were some of the challenges and joys of being able to balance your responsibilities as an artist and curator? What were some of the most memorable shows that were featured there and how did those reflect your personal tastes in art?

Lisa Adams: Crazy Space was co-founded with artist Lauren Hartman in 2000.  I co-directed the space in 2000 and 2001 and it was an amazing experience. It was a lot of hard work, I could never have done it alone.  My particular interests within the exhibition program was one of collaborative and experimental work.  It’s nothing I had any previous experience with, having been primarily a studio artist up to that point.  We also enjoyed giving opportunity to artists who would otherwise have very little chance to exhibit their work.

The most successful exhibition I curated was “A Matter of Structure” which was reviewed in the Los Angeles Times. The concept of the exhibition was to invite approximately twenty artists and artisans to come together for a day, meet in the space and bring interesting discarded items and their own discarded art work and use these items to build an obelisque of sorts. It was an amazing effort producing an amazing result and offering a unique experience to all that participated. The tower of stuff and art was lit, had sound and looked bizarre and tentative.  Working with all the artists and watching the seriousness of their intention was just an incredible experience for me. We were all proud of our efforts.

I’ve curated other exhibitions before and since Crazy Space and learned so much from Crazy Space about working directly with artists and understanding the creative process from another perspective.  I’ve never included my own work in exhibitions I’ve curated.  It’s just a personal choice.  I like thinking of the exhibition as my work of art and it would be confusing for me to insert my own work into that process. It’s fascinating working with artists in this manner.

qi peng: What are some of your future projects and upcoming exhibitions that you will be undergoing? What are some potential challenges or past hardships that you have overcome during your studio years or your teaching stint and that you are proud of?

Lisa Adams: At this moment I am extremely fortunate. For the past year I have been working almost exclusively in my studio, teaching very little and doing very few day jobs for money. It makes a huge difference in my practice to be able to be in the studio five or six days a week. I love it and my work is advancing. I just finished a public art project for the Department of Cultural Affairs in Los Angeles. It was at the new Fire Station in Watts. Currently, I am a finalist for a Metro project, the new Silver Line, here in Los Angeles and I will know at the beginning of June if my work has been selected.

Additionally, I am creating two large paintings for an exhibition at the Riverside Art Museum in mid November, entitled “Edenistic Divergence,” curated by Andi Campognone-Couwenberg. These are the largest paintings I’ve ever made, one is 5 x 12 ft and the other is 6 x 10 ft.  It’s a very challenging experience creating such large work, so physical as well as focused.

In 2010, I am doing a solo exhibition in San Francisco at the Michael Rosenthal Gallery and in 2011 an exhibition at Lawrence Asher Gallery in Los Angeles.

Finally there is a possibility of doing a two-person exhibition at the California African American Museum in 2010.

The most difficult thing for me is to generate enough cash flow. Though ten paintings sold from my last show at Lawrence Asher it is still a struggle to keep enough money coming in but I do whatever it takes to stay in the studio as much as I possible, even if it means not having a social life. Having fallen in love with my work, it comes before everything else and I am proud of maintaining a continuous studio practice 30 years out of graduate school, regardless of where or how I’ve lived and without the support of family advantage. That said, I’ve had an incredible career which includes a Fulbright, a number of international artist-in-residencies, and many national and international exhibitions.

qi peng: Before we embark on the last question, thanks very much for your time. Is there anything else that you wish to share with fans and viewers of your artwork, your classes, or your curated projects?

Lisa Adams: Thank you for the opportunity to do this interview!

I’d like to thank everyone who has supported my work and believed in me at various times in my career.  I could never have accomplished all that I have without the support of friends and acquaintances, my students, fans, many arts professionals and my dharma teacher, the late, venerable Dr. Ed Wortz. I am deeply grateful.

It’s been an amazing and profound ride so far and I hope it continues. I’d like to make some really great paintings before I exit the planet and am working toward that goal.

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

May 13, 2009 at 6:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

in the beginning of the end

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Justin Jimenez


Mon, May 11, 2009 at 1:21 PM
To: qi peng <>

He Qi, a couple of things. I had to unpublish your last two posts. It appears you just pasted an email and a conversation. Not only does this fall outside our editorial guidelines, the content was way too long (which is true for several of your posts).

I have also noticed a declining trend in page views since April, perhaps these things have something to do with it. Lastly, I hate to beat you up here, but we are going to have to end the ASSASANATION tags as well, as that does not fit our requirements either.

However, here is what I am proposing, as you have a great voice and talent that I do not want to lose due to these changes. I would like to see your column grow, but with more links and shorter articles (you can do a series of articles for pieces that merit more attention), because my fear is your articles are not being picked up by search engines as a result of SEO because of the minimal links and the headlines (ASSASANATION), and readers are not coming back because of the lengths. I would like to try link heavy shorter pieces for a month (800 word max) and see what kind of traffic increase we get. If nothing, or down, we can go back to doing it your way. Deal?

Thank Qi, you are doing a great job, but its my job to make it even better!

Justin Jimenez

Arts & Entertainment Channel Manager
o: 303.291.8825

c: 303.990.0951

yahoo: justintjimenez


Written by qi peng

May 13, 2009 at 12:54 am

Posted in Uncategorized

mel bochner

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Written by qi peng

May 13, 2009 at 12:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized