As a self indulgent “old hippie” painter I’ve always relished the opportunity to make art thats idiosyncratically mine.
Indeed, my formative experience as a youthful longhaired “wheat germ freak” of an artist occurred in 1972 on a warm summer day in Newfane Vermont when my mentor-to-be Gandie Brodie invited me into his barn and asked me what I thought one of his paintings looked like.
Responding “it looks like painting” (duh), I established a niche for myself in the barn, and with a certain wickedly subversive delight Gandy took me under his painterly wing that summer.
Gandy was a product of the Provincetown MA and E 10th St gallery scenes in New York in the 50’s. He knew all the Cedar Bar Ab Ex luminaries of the time, and by the 60’s had met with enough success to move to Vermont and paint in a barn.
The barn was his studio but he also ran a “school” there. Inclusion for a few of us local post college art kids meant a chance to try out our brushwork around a painterly guru. Although Gandy was a no-nonsense critic and would let you know in no uncertain terms if he thought you were painting something crass, he was also a flower child at heart. His preferred lesson plan for painting from nature was to get outside with only charcoal and paper, feel your flavor, and assimilate random marks.
After finishing the summer with a passing grade, it was according to Gandy, time for me to move to Brooklyn and “paint in a cold water loft” (the loftiest praise I could’ve received).
I took his advice to heart and moved to Brooklyn in 1974 and have somehow managed to stick around and keep making art all these years.
Certainly my hair is now a lot shorter, but I believe I’ve stayed true to my archetypal artistic inclinations. Stephen Maine wrote of my work in “Seeing Things”, his introductory essay for my catalog: “Rhapsodic, hallucinatory, it is emblematic of the painterly process of synthesizing motif and materials, visual stimulus and pictorial will”.
Painting has remained for me an authentic process uncorrupted by fashion or careerist ambition. I’m basically a working stiff, both as a painter and art shipper. Driving my truck around moving art for the last 25 years or so has been a good way to get a feel for the pulse of artistic activity. And I’d say the local community thrives on the creation of art as a physical act.
I relate to art that you need to get dirty making, and that comes out looking hand made. My beach rope sculptures are a prime example. The laborious process of wrapping, gluing and stapling satisfy a fundamental urge to physically assemble a combination of man-made and natural detritus
That’s not to say I don’t embrace the more nuanced aspects of painting. The quiet, contemplative focus gained working in the fluid medium of watercolor, out on the rocks on the Schoodic peninsula in Maine is always a cathartic remedy for the confines of the urban studio.
Although more traditionally representational, my plein air compositions contain the immediacy of nature that feeds my more esoteric oil painted “Mainescape” imagery.
The recent use of taped stencils in my paintings and works on paper has been something of a paradigm shift for me. I’ve found there’s an “automatic” quality to painting in or around a physical boundary such as tape. When the intricate web of tape is removed it reveals unexpectedly energetic trails of pigment criss-crossing the picture plane. Such a process oriented approach instigates a lively dialogue with my freehand marks, and corresponds metaphorically to my fascination with the micro/macro aspects of quantum and cosmological poetry.
New York City has been a tough place to try and establish an art career with limited resources. I consider myself lucky, if not resourceful and determined. Having been able to get to the good stuff feels like quite an accomplishment.
Eliot Markell 2012