perceptions, poems, makings + color


"Carbon Transfer" 68x36", 2015. charcoal on paper

“Carbon Transfer”
68×36″, 2015. charcoal on paper

“Perhaps we recognize as never before in man’s history that not only our own personal consciousness but also the inner structure of the universe itself has only this immediate event in which to be realized.”

~Robert Duncan

If reading is writing, then writing is reading and realizing the immediate. What is our immediate?

Is the “immediate” that which we pay attention to- where it all begins? What we allow or limit into our senses, the books we surround ourselves with, the people that fill our lives? The immediate is everything, everything to that point in our lives- where conscious and subconscious memories and thoughts collide.

For Duncan the immediate can be something imagined and unattainable like the cosmos or it can be sensory, like his household, as well as internal like his inner “self”. It is through imagination the immediate is realized and written. Imagination and the immediate mixed with Bourgeois’ Do, Undo and Redo can guide us.

Do- whether in writing or drawing, it is the will of action. The active state where things are being created, energies expelled and movement controlled- goals and desires are fulfilled with fearless and positive affirmation (Bourgeois).

In my opinion, the act of doing is selfish, gluttonous and isolated. Things taken in are put out, everything is served- a buffet of thoughts generated out of our histories; from infancy to the current moment of extraction and emotion. While working I become these actions of making and then it teeter-totters between what Bourgeois calls “undoing” where self-doubt begins. Seclusion, evaluation, reflection, and pause are part of the process and join me on the stage of reckoning. It is truly a moment of torment, anxiety, and destruction; one that hopefully, as Bourgeois explains, leads to a period of strategizing, recovery and regrouping. This period of “undo” is where I look for meaning that will go beyond selfish expression, moving into what I hope is the “universal”. In the way that Duncan can write about his own birth, and yet also be writing about the birth of life. The personal becomes the universal and vice versa.

Davey reminds us that writing demands detachment and seclusion. I also consider these words to mean stepping outside the lines, marking the immediately real and stepping outside the sensory impulses. It is part of the process- the moment before what Duncan might call formal organization. Duncan reminds us that though what we absorb and decode through our senses appears easy, it is not, because formal organization is present and importantly so (Duncan 82). Balance, editing, sorting and order are needed, without them communication and expression fail.

Duncan tells us that the subject matter is most real when form and content become one (81). I interpret “real” not as realism, or the actuality of something existing in front of us- but something having the beauty and pulse of the living. Here he claims, form (arranging, shape) is content (subject, topic) and content (subject, topic) is form (arranging, shape)- they are one in the same, united and working together.

Duncan quotes Keats’ “Beauty is truth, truth is beauty”; in that what is “true”, in poetry, is in the configuration of language (form and content) and how it leads back into the beauty of the universe itself (78-79). I interpret this as the creation becoming universal, where the connecting form and content go beyond the singular self-experience and into something that is accessible and connected to everyone. I question if the “universal” is something we can will into our work, or if it is something that transpires outside our efforts regardless of intent. Life is never guaranteed.


Louise Bourgeois “I Do, I Undo, I Redo” (condensed)


Active state

Positive affirmation

In control

Move forward

Goal wish or desire

No fear
















Solution found

Go forward

Clearer thinking

Active again





Antinomies: a contradiction between two beliefs or conclusions that are in themselves reasonable; a paradox.

According to Barad, the “ agency of what is being measured is inseparable from that which is being observed”. In some ways Dewey is measuring “mediums” when he states that different mediums have different potencies. In this way, mediums are considered categorically in their expressive traits:

Architecture: expresses stability and endurance of existence.

Sculpture: finish, gravity, repose, balance and peace.

Painting: nature and the human scene as inexhaustible spectacle

Dewey believes that an artist begins with material that has already a recognized status, moral, philosophic, historical, etc; and then renders it more palatable by emotional seasoning and imaginative dressing. The work of art is treated as if it were a reediting of values already current in other fields of experience. (318)

When drawing Ocher on vellum, I was thinking about pillars and platforms. Not literal platforms, but social grounds of human expectations. The human scene, to me, is not a stage or set in a play but a scene of desires. Desires that belong to others, and not oneself. While I think about these things, I would draw with the ocher pastel- moments of passion translated to lines- strong and larger gestures. In my mind, I see myself on a platform- at the top of a pillar, surrounded by a grey sky and looking down there is a depth of nothingness.

The color ocher is not a necessary variable. Using if for this particular drawing was an exercise to give it consideration and attention. It satisfied my need for the beginning of understanding ocher as color, what it means-both to me personally and in my art practice. An online definition of Ocher: is an earthy pigment containing ferric oxide, typically with clay, varying from light yellow to brown or red. The particular shade that I used for Ocher on Vellum was “light” yellow.

I ask, what is the recognized status, moral, philosophic, historical importance of Ocher?


The musical performances “Flash Light”, “Four Women” and “Water Walk” are all examples of art as expressions; where art is experienced between the interaction of the organic, environment conditions and energies (Dewey 67.)

How can music be considered in relation to scale and proportion? To me, Scale and proportion in a painting are dependent on size and its relation to human size, elements in composition and subject matter. Size is relevant on many levels. I would connect Dewey’s idea of form and resistance/tension as a way of evaluating scale and proportion. Where form provides proportion and rhythm is a measure of scale.

Dewey also considers rhythm an essential property of form (155) with ordered variations of changes, placed pulse and rest (160). In musical performance I believe that proportion and scale is part of esthetic form, and is experienced through what Dewey calls tension created by rhythm (161).

Dewey labels music performance as a “formative art”, having the capacity to provide an environment of emotion, confrontation and resistance for both musician and audience (164,65). It is immediate expression, The audience in a musical performance is “immediate” and more involved in the art experience (164). Audience participates in the making of the art by listening and expression can be seen as energy met by listening (165). George Clinton and P-Funk “Flash Light”, Nina Simone “Four Women”, and John Cage’s “Water Walk” all have an audiences. George Clinton and P-Funk and Nina Simone have similar direct concert audiences. John Cage’s performance differs in that it had a live studio and a television broadcasted audience.

In my opinion, John Cage’s audience would include an element of expression that Dewey describes as “cost value”. His “invitation” to perform as excerpted on the game show “I’ve Got a Secret” was motivated by his popularity as what Dewey would consider a “rarity” (146). Dewey establishes cost value as a part of form in that it operates as a factor in building up of a unique experience (146). At the time of the performance in 1959, he was considered a sensation as a sound composer of a new art form. His “sound” composition was also timed with intervals that Dewey describes not at “breaks” but was to define proportion and distribute experience and create tension (164)….


*Notes for further consideration.


-Energy in the music includes overcoming resistance and is experienced by the musician and the audience. Dewey lists resistance as embarrassment, fear, awkwardness, self-consciousness and lack of vitality (164).

-Direct lowering of tension between man and the world as the audience participates in the making of modification of the music by listening and, in turn, affecting the musician as they perform (165).

-Tension and resistance are needed because too much “comfort” during the listening stage is unfavorable to further esthetic creation (165).

-Although familiarity sets up resistance as “seeds” or “sparks” of new conditions/comparisons and creating future resistance for new experiences (165).

-These moments are needed by the perceiver so that the experience doesn’t become “transient and over weighted with sentiment (144).

-“music complicates and intensifies the process of genial reciprocating antagonism, suspense and reinforcement, where the various “voices” at once oppose and answer one another (162-163)”

Subject matter:

-“deep excitement, stirred up stores of attitudes and meanings from prior experiences (68)”

-everyone is remade in some way (164).

Discussing “Trio A” with Lizzie Mackenzie Pontarelli

I had the opportunity to ask a friend, Lizzie Mackenzie Pontarelli, about her thoughts and reaction to the documentation of Yvonne Rainer performing “Trio A”. Lizzie is the Artistic Director of Extensions Dance Company in Chicago and founder of Extensions Dance Center. I though she might provide some insight on the topic-

J: I was wondering if you could tell me about the complexity of this performance. How does one memorize a performance like this? As someone that is not a dancer, it appears like it would be complicated and difficult to memorize because every movement looks as though it is without repetition.

L: It is very interesting to me because there is zero finesse, it is very matter-of-fact and to the point. There is no interesting texture or dynamic to it either. There is also no evidence of any classical technique whatsoever.

J: That would make sense- in regards to it’s connection to minimalism and post-modernism.

L: In terms of memorization, with no music to relate to or anything of that sort it would be very difficult to memorize this piece. However, dancers are trained to memorize long sequences of movement with greater ease then normal people of course. I am guessing for her it probably was not difficult to memorize the piece as each moment probably has some sort of intention behind it in terms of what her idea was.  If her idea was just to research the bending of the neck as the physical body and its potential as opposed to anything emotional or theatrical… She would, I assume, memorize the sequence according to the ideas she was using at the time…

J: Will an individuals body (in dance) organically repeat a movement as a reaction to an undecided sequence?

L: Actually not necessarily true on the repeat…. I personally don’t use repeat enough!  There is a lot of variety to the movement… I noticed a couple of things that seemed similar but slightly varied. Dancers also have certain movements they will gravitate towards as “habits”… Things that are comfortable and familiar to them and their bodies.

J: One last question- when a piece is choreographed, how does spontaneity play into the/a preformance (if at all).

L: That completely depends on the work. Some works are choreographed with improvisation in mind in that it will be a completely different experience each night, which we call structured improvisation. It means that it has a specific intention. For example, you have to do something fast with your arms at this point but it could be something different every night. In works that are more architectural there might be a section left that is open to improvisation. Basically, there are all ends of the spectrum, works that are 100% choreographed and leave absolutely no room for any sort of improvisation or additive. Other works, will be completely open and different every night but they have some sort of structure or idea behind them. Generally speaking if you’re looking at classical dance you are not going to be seeing any improvisation. Postmodern work is at the other end of the spectrum; contemporary dance would fall in the middle. Also keep in mind, that what you’re seeing even in a well rehearsed piece of art on the stage has a sense of spontaneity about it. We are human beings and every time we experience a piece of work it’s different. We don’t try to re-create something that has already happened even though our work is 100% choreographed and rehearsed. We create that work that evening based on how we feel that day and what we bring to the table on any given day.

J: “Spontaneous in art is complete absorption in subject matter that is fresh, the freshness of which holds and sustains emotion” (Dewey 73). That is a quote that I would apply exactly to what you just said. On the surface- a successful performance appears well rehearsed, with good technique and good choreography. The book that I am reading (Dewey) talks about how “good art” looks spontaneous but that it is not. Much like Yvonne Rainer choreographed performance, it is an expression that is manifested in experience.

+ high-res version

Response: John Dewey’s, Art As Experience Ch. 1-3.

John Dewy describes art as an experience that has a satisfying emotional quality because it possesses internal integration and fulfillment that reaches through ordered and organized movement (39, 40). He further explains that as viewers of art we engage in the perception process by using our senses to respond to an art piece, which eventually results in our gain to objective fulfillment (54).

Dewey discusses how a viewer must create his own esthetic experience of the work of art, by thinking about what the artist was feeling during its creation and the process involved in its making (56).

In hopes to be objectively fulfilled as a perceiver, I will demonstrate my account of the experience of looking at an image of a painting from the Book, Eva Hesse: Paintings From 1960 To 1964.

Eva Hesse

14. Eva Hesse, Untitled, oil on canvas 72 x 60″, 1964

In looking at the image of the painting I begin by perceiving what the artist might have been feeling. I feel that the artist might have been content and nostalgic, comparable to the feelings of a child like bliss and happiness that comes from imaginative play. However, I feel that the perceived enjoyment felt may have been accompanied with moments of worried pause and contemplation.

The primary pallet of red, blue and yellow coupled with the playful lines reinforce my perception of the artworks embodiment of childhood play, compartmentalization and projection. My attention varies between the lines, both fine and thick. The lines create an illusion of three-dimensional moving boxes or windows of worlds within worlds and space. They also create what Dewey might have considered resistance, where resistance is treated as an invitation for me to reflect on their movement not as an obstruction to the painting plain (46). (To illustrate the lines and forms, I made a quick study sketch fig 1.)


study fig 1.

To continue my goal of objective fulfillment I begin thinking about the artist’s creative process for this painting. This step is problematic due to the fact that I am limited to a printed image of the painting, rather than the actual painting. I consider what I am unable to experience: the surface of the painting, its true color and size. One might even suggest that to have a complete and true perceptive experience one must be in the presence of the original living artwork. I will proceed however knowingly, that my sensory experience is limited and incomplete. When looking at the image of the painting I guess that the first color layer is blue and that the remaining colors succeed after it. I imagine the artist’s first step, based on my observation of the translucent yellow areas and the opaque white application. I conclude that the artist proceeded in her color application in what Dewey would describe as consciously thought-out experience by constantly considering the whole (47).

This exercise in perception has led me to make a list of considerations regarding art making. The ideas are interpreted from the first three chapters in John Dewey’s Art As Experience:

  1. Recognize that every experience is the result of interaction between a living creature and some aspect of the world in which we live (45).
  2. An esthetic experience should exhibit a normal process of living (9). These normal experiences are related to basic animal instincts, vital needs/sense, breathing, moving, looking and listening (12).
  3. Art must contain conscious intent (25).
  4. During the art making process artists should experience acute esthetic surrender (29).
  5. Internally an artist should experience flow “… freely, without seam and without blanks into what ensues (37).
  6. Externally, the art process of making and final piece should flow “… freely, without seam and without blanks into what ensues (37).
  7. The art process should have order, organized movement (40), pattern and structure (46).
  8. Focus/interest is born out of the paintings process (40).
  9. Struggle and conflict is part of the process pushing the experience forward (42).
  10. Recognize emotions, they must be significant and provide unity (44).
  11. Experience includes suffering, the self and object emerging and at its close/end (45).
  12. Passion should be balanced, or the experience will become partial, distorted and with false meaning (45), or it will overwhelm and result in non-esthetic (51).
  13. Resistance in the work should be used as “an invitation to reflection” (46).
  14. Be mindful in your perception of relations (46).
  15. Use directive sensitivity as part of your process skills
  16. One must be ‘loving’ and care deeply for the art that is being created (49).
  17. Maintain constant observation while in production (49).
  18. Embody the attitude of the perceiver while working (50).
  19. Remember artist have super powers of imagination and observation
  20. Doing (making) is cumulative it is not indecisive or routine (51).
  21. Every new art piece is a new vision in process, not the same as what one has been done before (52).
  22. Build up an experience that is coherent in perception while moving with constant change in its development (53).
  23. Do not pre-conviece your ideas and copy them in process without thought (53).
  24. Actively be present in perceptibility, let it direct the completion of the work (53).
  25. Retrace your process of production; actively consider what you have previously done (53).
  26. Allow for a period of gestation; think about what you are doing and how you perceive and its projected imagination, interaction and how all the elements mutually modifying one another (54).
  27. While making, select, simplify, classify, abridge and condense according to your interest/significance (56).
  28. Think about form as the experience and organization together (58).
  29. Think about resistance and tension as excitations and temptations that move towards an inclusive close (58).
  30. Deliberate resting places in paintings are also important (58).

Lastly- successful art, “has enjoyment characteristics of esthetic perception, then the factors that determine anything which can be called an experience are lifted high above the threshold of perception and are made manifest for their own sake” (59).