Another In A New Series

“Tandem Wakes”, 48″ ×  72″ × 2″, acrylic and metal pigments on canvas, 2012.

Okay, here’s a sneak-peek into the studio today. This diptych is one of several moderately large pieces I’ve been working on. The fracturing, floating, fogging imagery has my head going to places that spawn new ideas before I’ve even finished the piece in front of me.

Searching For A Name For This Painting

I’ve been considering a number of titles for this work and have decided to put it to the public for inspiration.  Any and all suggestions will be considered. Please submit your ideas in the comments section below. Click to enlarge image.

Thank you for stopping by.

—Margaret Pettee Olsen

60″ × 56″ × 2″, Acrylic and reflective pigment on canvas, 2012

New Works In Progress

“Open Source”, 54″ × 42″ × 2″, Acrylic and reflective pigment on canvas, 2012

On top of a number of projects on the horizon and new engagements, several larger-sized canvases are in the works. I’m very excited about the evolution of these new pieces. Stay tuned to hear about the next show, as well as ‘meet-ups with the artist.’ Plus, I will be spending quite a bit more time on my blog this coming year, posting exciting news and continued sneak peeks of my work, and more. In the mean time, please add me to your RSS newsfeed—it’s simple, it’s easy, and you don’t even have to think about it to keep on top of what’s happening.

—Margaret Pettee Olsen

Happy Birthday James Rosenquist

Brandeis National Women's Committee Serigraph by James Rosenquist

This is a print I pulled with James Rosenquist in 1988. The limited edition serigraph was for Brandeis University National Women’s Committee. I had just moved to Manhattan and was pleased to have been introduced to adjoining print shops where I worked printing and assisting a variety of artists. Rosenquist was one. Happy Birthday James Rosenquist!

Several New Directions

I’ve been working in several directions lately. This large detail from a recent piece represents one. My use of reflective and interference pigments is employed to address concerns of ‘worlds within worlds,’ occlusions, modifying purchase and perspectives. However, some of these images are making their way into new media, and with that shift, another sort of emphasis on these concerns is being made. I will post more on these exciting developments as they happen. (Please click the image below for a larger version.)

Thank you for taking the time to look at this work in progress.

—Margaret Pettee Olsen

“Chaucer’s ‘Madonna'” Goes To Auction In New York For Housing Works

When designer and RISD colleague Patrick J. Hamilton requested art works to be offered for his vignette for Design on a Dime’s Housing Works Benefit Auction, which assists in housing people with HIV/AIDS in New York City, I was compelled to create a unique work of art. The piece (below) will be installed at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea 125 W 18th Street (between Avenue of The Americas & 7th Ave), in New York City, (April 26–28th).

When Patrick described the color and character of his possible installation, I began thinking of saturated crimsons, magnanimous magentas, hot and fleshy pinks, siennas, creams, controlled dove greys and misty charcoals—colors which ’til now I’d rarely used, at least in such quantities, and I became excited by the possibilities for the project. I had also read an article Mr. Hamilton had recently written about performer Madonna’s impact on him personally, for the LGBT community, and for an entire generation. Always up for a challenge, I began work on what would become the start of a new series: Chaucer’s ‘Madonna,’ Lady of Bath.

In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, the Lady of Bath character is arguably among the most interesting; provocative, a probable vocal reformer of her time and challenger of social mores, she represents what a few performing women artists today represent in our culture. So as I read about the ‘gap-toothed,’ outspoken medieval game-changer, her robes, ways and words challenging the complacency, stigmas, and social phobias of her time, I began to think more and more of the role such women artists play in today’s world.  What do their circumstances prevent and/or provide?  How can their art help heal and bring our culture’s murky shadows to titillating light?  How can I, “express myself”?

Wife of Bath series, “Chaucer’s ‘Madonna,’” 48” x 24” x ¾”, Acrylic and reflective pigment on canvas, 2012

New Painting Goes To NYC Auction For Housing Works

Details from the work:

Elaine de Kooning Story

First, let me say that this story is Elaine de Kooning’s story and not mine. I had heard it while printmaking and acting as quality control for a series of lithographs by some of the leading members of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. I was just a baby, newly minted from the Rhode Island School of Design, and, as I recall, we (my then-boyfriend William Olsen, another lithographer/painter—David Lantow, and I) were working on a Trestle Editions project that was projected to be the last for Willem de Kooning.

This was my first New York Art World gig, and it was a tremendous learning experience in a number of ways. Working full time at the neighboring press, just through the french doors on the 4th floor at 75 Varick Street, I pulled serigraphs for artists such as Barbara Kruger, James Rosenquist, and others. I was called in, as needed, for quality control on the de Kooning project, so stories about ‘Bill and Elaine’ were swirling in the sticky, SoHo August air. The New York Art World was abuzz, in the throws of leveraging the tragic, Art World-induced drug overdose of Jean Michele Basquiat into products of more iconization and commodification.

One day, at Fanelli’s, the art-bar that had managed to stay open even during prohibition, I brought up the idea of ‘client worthiness,’ and William began telling a story about Elaine De Kooning recently having been on the receiving end of this mentality. Sitting in the cafe in my black frock and paint-and-ink-splattered jeans, I perched my head on the palm of my hand and leaned forward, my elbow resting on the cool, black-and-white-checker-covered table top, listening closely to the latest sweet inside-Art World story.

Elaine had gone shopping for a leather bag and found herself at one of the big upscale stores where she shopped frequently enough to have an account. That day, she was looking over large hand bags that suited her. As an artist, disinterested in impressing anyone with a dress-as-wealth sort of conspicuous agenda, she caught the nervous eye of the sales person who thought she should be watched as a potential thief/otherwise unworthy member of the human rat-race/who’s to say, exactly.

The clerk became even a little more nervous as Elaine actually approached the register with a gorgeous bag and asked to charge the $5,000 item to her account. She gave the clerk her account number, name and address. The sales clerk looked up her information then looked Mrs. De Kooning up and down with a slightly curled lip of disdain and incredulity. He asked Elaine for her drivers license (for a possible police report, maybe?) She indicated that such requests had never been protocol before.

This man could simply not believe that Elaine de Kooning, based on her appearance (read: importance), could be anyone capable (read: worthy) of buying this limited edition bag.

While Elaine tried to explain, first calmly, then with humor, next with increasing annoyance, and finally with out-right indignation, the manager came out from the back room, horrified to discover the iconic artist arguing with the ignorant sales clerk.

The manager tripped over himself apologizing to Elaine, while intermittently glaring sideways at the clerk, as if to say, If you don’t know what you are doing, please get someone who does!  “This is Elaine de Kooning,” he repeated, emphasizing the ‘E’ in Elaine and and ‘oo’ in de Kooning as he spoke.

William finished his story and looked up from his beer. The sounds of sculptors and painters milling about, discussing meaning-making and materials, ideas and individuality, bouncing of the hard walls and tile floors of the venerable art-bar came into focus. We all shook our heads and ordered one more round before heading to Brooklyn.

Art Business As Usual?

I was recently out of town when I walked into a ‘reputable gallery,’ thinking if I found a small ‘gem’ I might buy it. Yes, as an artist, I like other work as well as my own and will trade with an artist or, on occasion, buy another artist’s work. As I walked into the beautiful space, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, the owner placing her hand on the forearm of her assistant as the assistant stood to grab the artist’s cheatsheet, the owner stopping her in mid-reach and clearly indicating that I should not be approached, shown, and/or told any information about the artist. I walked around the gallery perusing the art, taking my time. Had I found something I’d have considered owning that day, based on what I witnessed of the gallerist, I would not have made the purchase.

On my way out, I walked over and asked, “Excuse me, do you know what time it is?”  As the dealer looked at her watch, I said, “Oh, never mind. I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t the roaring 80s anymore. For a moment there, the way you chose to ignore me or perhaps anyone you surmised wouldn’t buy or shouldn’t have the art, I thought I was in a time warp.” Despite the fact that I am likely a little younger than she is, I gave her a gentle, almost grandmotherly smile, as if to say, “really, honey—this is how you conduct your business?” She was speechless. I walked out.

I wasn’t at all surprised to hear the following month that the gallery had closed. For a brief moment, before leaving the gallery that day, I thought about telling this dealer my “Elaine de Kooning story,” which could have have been helpful to her, but I’m afraid I just didn’t fit her profile of someone worth listening to, let alone speaking to. I do not mean to suggest that building a mystique about an artist or a gallery is wrong, obviously.  The question is how to do it–with good or ‘bad magic,’ to quote the character Queegueg from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

This case was very sad really, as the artists she carried had obviously been neglected for quite some time. So, the moral of the story is—for artists—act as a potential buyer at a gallery with whom you are considering having a working relationship as an artist. Witness all of it, or as much of it as you can. Pay attention to the way and respect with which the dealer handles the artwork, as well as she how handles (or neglects to handle) potential buyers. Talk to other artists about how they are treated. Gallerists, I love you and what you do for artists. You can be such brilliant storyteller-sales people, elucidators and promoters of artist’s work. You are very important to many of us. However, if you don’t know my “Elaine de Kooning story,” you should. Eh, but what do I know? Who the hell do I think I am, anyway?

(If you want to know my ‘Elaine de Kooning’ story, send an inquiry—I’ll post it.)

Update: Several readers expressed interest in hearing the Elaine de Kooning story. I have posted it here.