Studio Closeup #20

In Chicago a while back, I had an encounter with a successful woman artist who was in her 80’s while at a fancy rooftop party. I loved talking to her. She was living and working in a Chicago warehouse loft space and what she described of it to me, it seemed like my perfect dream of dreams. I had a great conversation with her until she started asking about my work and myself. At the time, I was doing realistic drawings and watercolors of birds and fruit because, honestly, that’s what sells. She seemed pleasantly surprised after seeing my work and then the question of who were my art influences came up. When I told her who my number one major influence has been, she gave me a stern look. I went on to tell her that Joseph Cornell has been THE main one since art school - art school where I was a Drawing Major. She didn’t say anything but just had this terrible look on her face so I continued because, well, she asked.

“...…Sandy Skoglund......Alexis Smith.…..”

And she stopped me and said “Why…that’s absurd! Those are Sculpture influences! Not Drawing Major influences.” She then got up and left to go mingle because she was done with my nonsense. I’m so glad I didn’t tell her I wanted to be an animator once upon a time. I can’t even imagine what her reaction would have been.

Joseph Cornell himself was a very interesting guy. He lived in NYC with his mother and brother his whole life and never traveled elsewhere. He was a hermit and extreme introvert but every day he’d go to the same Wolworth’s food counter and have a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. Every. Day. Sadly, I must admit I admire that dedication and focus. At the same time however, I also could imagine myself doing the same exact thing just adding a vanilla malt and some fries.

The reason he started making those bizarre pieces was to entertain his mentally impaired brother and considered his art as “toys”. So when that artist lady disapproved of MY influences, I was truly hurt and bewildered at her reaction. Cornell’s design, composition and use of color in his pieces are impeccable not to mention the concepts and narratives of most of his pieces are often mind-blowing. And those things are important when one is making art so I was confused that if she was such and old sage of the art world, why she didn’t at least mention those factors about the people I was listing off as my influences? Art is art. You like what you like for your own personal reasons. If it inspires you, that’s the only thing that matters. Truly.

Today’s studio closeup is part of The Museum Series and unlike last week, I’m considering this piece finished. I made the diorama itself in 2016 and it’s always hard looking at “old” work without being brutal to yourself about its production, but I’m getting better at realizing this is all a learning process.

Title: The Museum Series - Bobolink
Year: 2020
Media: Acrylic Paint, Paper Diorama, Wood Panel
Total Dimension: 6” x 6”

Bobolink whole
The Museum Series: Bobolink
Bobolink diorama
Inside Diorama