Tag Archives: New York School painters

Helen Frankenthaler – Painter Who Breathed Big Life Into American Abstraction, Dies At 83

I had seen her work in New York, though what I saw was rather narrow in scope compared to what she made throughout her career. Last year, when I was up at Anderson Ranch in Aspen, I sat down in the library and perused a book of Helen Frankenthaler’s complete works. The catalog captured the many nuanced directions within Color Field painting she explored. Page after page, diluted yet rich pigments dissolve and seep into nearby haloed soak-stains. Lingering lines in turn became more defined while flowing through narrow necks of one-time wetness into new residual pools. Each neighboring mark seems to impregnate, either by definition or by dissolution, other areas of the canvas with visual interest.

She created worlds at once colossal and fast while also subtly complex. Her hand and brush seemed to know when to take hold of the direction of the painting and when to let gravity and the painting itself lead with full reign. Helen Frankenthaler, brilliant Color Field painter who breathed big life into American Abstraction, died on December 27th, 2011 at the age of 83. She is still an important painter—still offering bridges, vaporous trails for me.


Lately, I’ve been checking in with colleagues and discussing what is new in their process and thinking regarding their work.  Most recently, I’ve been up in Aspen and have found a number of people with whom I worked on projects in my early years in New York.  I stopped  by The Aspen Art Museum, July 1st to visit with Fred Tomaselli.  Fred and I go way back to when we worked on such projects together.  As Fred put it, “I don’t like wasting time”, so the framing projects on which we worked technically fed a large body of  his work.  These days, Fred said, he has been “thinking more with his hands”, making images that proceed  without preconception as to the finished pieces.   It was good to see and catch up briefly with Fred who was at the Aspen Art Museum to talk about his work with Director and Chief Curator, Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, and do a book signing.  Fred was ultimately pleased with her curatorial approach last summer at AAM, which involved grouping Fred’s paintings thematically for his solo show there.

Last week’s event was open to the public.   The well attended discussion was part of the book signing, a project which surveys Fred’s iconic work over the last twenty years.

Over the years, while Fred has been in Brooklyn making work, I left New York to travel the Southwest and visit Japan– pursuing very directly– states of consciousness and ideas that could be translated into visual imagery.  While both Fred Tomaselli’s work and my own intersect in a common conceptual interest of creating imagery keyed to extreme psychic states, and in creating vehicles for ecstatic transformation, the similarities diverge there.   My involvement in projects with the last prints of the members of the New York School, as well as my sense of movement and traversing dramatic space through dance, is the history out of which my work is born, has evolved and is moving.

To see my work in 2010 – This fall I will be at  UCF, Center For Emerging Media.

For more information, please sign up on our mailing list (presently under construction-so send an email to margaret@petteeolsen.com with Pettee Olsen email list in the subject heading) and we will be happy to keep you informed about forth coming shows and events.

To check out what’s happening in Aspen this summer at the Aspen Art Museum, Anderson Ranch, as well other non-profits and other venues around town, click here:


To see more of Fred Tomaselli’s work go to :