October 31, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #25: "Off Ocean Ave."

"Off Ocean Ave.," 5" x 5", oil on masonite

Today's mini is a vista of bar and restaurant derrieres in the arts colony Laguna Beach, the coastal town known for its impressionist painters and, these days, its affluence. Also, according to Mike Davis in City of Quartz, currently my go-to dissident guide to southern California, its "monochromatic re-segregation." Ouch.

Davis mentions how its brand of art was challenged in an earlier era. "The Group of Independent Artists of Los Angeles, who held their first exhibition in 1923, represented...[a] critical current in local art. A united front for the 'New Form,' including Cubism, Dynamism, and Expressionism, they attacked the landscape romanticsthe Eucalyptus painters, Laguna seascape painters, Mission painters, and so onwho perpetuated Helen Hunt Jackson in watercolor."

When I was there, coincidentally, there was a convention of plein air painters, invariably scattered among the rocks and palm trees, working small in oil and watercolour, sweating in the sun—preparing, presumably, their Salon des Refusés, long now the Salon des Acceptés.

I felt, I don't know, embarrassed? Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose? Or is it the murkier, conservative, reactionary pedigree Davis identifies? As one of the chapter titles of his book posits, Sunshine or noir?

October 28, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #24: "Make Waves"

"Make Waves," 5" x 5", oil on masonite

Admittedly, my usual thing is not waves (or trees, skies, puppies, or naked women), but one of the reasons I started Miniature in the Mail was to free myself up to try new things and hit on, hopefully, new subjects, true and personal to my lived experience but not about me.

So far the project has taken more out of me than I'd planned, but the more I get the practice down the more I hope to treat the small, less committal works as clarifiers of my thoughts and preambles to larger material.

In any case, waves, and more specifically, making them... From Charles Baxter's short story "Harmony of the World": "Do you want to hear what my piano teacher once said?" I asked. "He said I wasn't enough of a fanatic. He said that to be one of the great ones you have to be a tiny bit crazy. Touched. And he said I wasn't. And when he said it, I knew all along he was right. I was waiting for someone to say what I already knew, and he was the one. I was too much a good citizen, he said. I wasn't possessed."

This mini painting along with others can be found at www.ivanostocco.com. Have a great weekend. Kick up a fuss if you need to.

October 27, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #23: "As one door closes, another one opens"

"As one door closes, another one opens," 4" x 6", oil on masonite

Today's mini painting comes from a nook of one of the most elegant art deco structures I've ever experienced, Union Station in downtown L.A.

I'm a huge sucker for art deco, art nouveau, modernismo, secessionsstil—whatever you call it, depending on the country. And I adore what I think of as its younger cousin and all the rage these days, especially in California, modern mid-century.

The movement, like movements generally, is awash in politics and not always of the progressive sort, but I'm attracted to how each piece, whether a building, furniture, or non-functional work serves as a grand collaboration of the best craft and the skilled, non-robotic hand have to offer. It's an artform that, to my eye, demands collaboration and is innately about community.

"As one door closes, another one opens," seems apt for a train station, a stage where so much change and transition plays out. I keep the maxim in mind in grappling with my own life, particularly lately with all the moving I've done.

For more on this painting and my Miniature in the Mail project, ride the wire to www.ivanostocco.com.

October 26, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #22: "The Power and the Glory"

"The Power and the Glory," 5" x 5", oil on panel
Sooty wires and drawn-out trunks, set against skies of marbleized fire, is in equal parts dazzling and a commonplace sight round here these days. To me, the juxtaposition of powerlines held up inelegantly to make our machines buzz and spaces glow, and the vast timeless sky, radiant and serene, enveloping everything, registers somehow as comic, humbling.

Incidentally, I haven't become a televangelist. The Power and the Glory is also a novel by one of the most moving yet underappreciated writers in English, Graham Greene.

Have a radiant Wednesday!

To purchase this mini painting or for more on my Miniature in the Mail project, buzz on over to www.ivanostocco.com.


October 25, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #21: "Lean on me"

"Lean on me," 5" x 5", oil on panel

I came across this naturally formed still life composition rambling through the San Bernardino Mountains in California. It was so formal and orderly among the other haphazard pilings of rocks and brush it felt almost awkward. I thought for a second it may have been arranged on purpose, like an Inuit inuksuk or the kind of rock piles you find in severe geographies to keep you on course, but the tree and boulder, in this very remote area, were too large for that.  

I'm not much of a spiritual person but it is a mystery to me how certain spots can have a pull, an inherent tension, an ineffabilitystanding out among millions of other possibilities that don't generate the same effect. It does compel you to hypothesize, to ask why and how, and it's not a stretch to think a supernatural force is the only explanation.

The aphorism "Lean on me," by the way, jumped to mind as readily as everything else.

For more on this mini painting and my Miniature in the Mail project, see www.ivanostocco.com. I'm also now a member of Daily Paintworks, www.dailypaintworks.com/artists/ivano-stocco-7259/artwork.

October 24, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #20: "Fitting in and Standing out"

"Fitting in and Standing out," 5" x 5", oil on panel
Yesterday I was in L.A. and sat in a park to eat a sandwich with a clear view of the Hollywood sign. It's never as great as you imagine itto get to the park I passed multitudes of homeless folks and stepped over broken syringes and glass pipesbut it was still, in its way, pretty.

Anyway, I've been watching old neo-realist films lately and got to thinking about how alien they are from the stuff on offer today. With their non-professional actors and focus on the concerns of everyday life, it feels almost heretical to be watching them.

One essay included in the package of Bicycle Thieves talked about the "passionate commitment to the real" and "moral urgency" of these films. They renounced "egoism for collective concern" and "served as a chastening, dis-illusioning rejection" of fantasy and vain distraction. Huh?

In art, too, you have a similar forking: expressionism and abstract expressionism with their romantic longings and self-involvement, and Neue Sachlichkeit, with its crude practical engagement with the world and repudiation of sentimentality. Of course, both tendencies were branded "degenerate" and squashed by the Nazis.

Today's mini lacks the boldness of these colossal debates but gets at the idea, still, of finding balance between the good of the self and the good of the group.

For more, check out www.ivanostocco.com.

October 21, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #19: "Classic Approach"

"Classic Approach," 5" x 5", oil on masonite
I probably am a technological determinist, a believer in the idea that technology drives the development of society and is irreversible once it's out there. But that's not to say I don't get wistful and drippy for aspects of the old ways, I suppose a sure sign I'm getting older.

It's hard to meet people when they're in cars, buffered by screens, packaged up in private realms, particularly beyond a certain age when no one forces you to be together with new people, as when you were young. I'm fortunate, I have a spouse—we met in an offline class—but I feel for those lonely souls who want to connect intimately but don't have the place for it, that doesn't feel forced, like a clumsy dating site.

The key seems to be to set stages, ostensibly, obliquely, for other causes than simply communing with other flesh-and-blood humans. We need impresarios. Cajole people out of their vehicles and off their devices. Mix in a little beauty, music, a coffee shop and bar or two, food. Squeeze them in so they rub up against one another and remember that they're not islands.

October 20, 2016

Together (No. 9)

"Together (No. 9)," 30" x 40", acrylic mixed media on panel
Rather than a mini today, here's a regular piece, the latest offering in my exploration of togetherness.

From the write-up on my website:

The series considers what it means to reinvigorate public space and be a proper citizen. It comes out of reading and thinking about such big heads as the urbanist Jane Jacobs, the sociologist Richard Sennett, the philosopher/novelist Iris Murdoch, and the psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. The common thread that links these folks is a concern for civility, for uniting the head and hands in work, and for beauty as vital to the life lived well, even when times are tough.

More personally, the series represents an aspiration of mine to embrace—as opportunity, cooperation, fellowship—the human throng found in public venues, rather than to flee from the clamour and confusion and bury my head in the ground, my more natural tendency.

As coping mechanisms, the series attempts to make inherent virtues such as grace and sprezzatura, the Renaissance term meaning lightness of manner and indirectness of communication. It considers "unselfing" rather than rugged individualism as an alternative path to freedom.

Visually, Stephan Andrews, especially in the use of CMYK colours and effort to make art that's both aesthetically sophisticated and thought provoking, is ingrained in the work. The feel of street life in Italy, where I lived in 2015-16 and whose chaotic outdoor culture I struggled to navigate, especially with two young children and no car and even if my own background is Italian, has also slipped in.

You can pick through the images I've completed so far at www.ivanostocco.com/together.php. I'd love to hear your thoughts, even if they're impolite.

October 19, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #18: "On Cesar Chavez"

"On Cesar Chavez," 5" x 5", oil on panel
If you were to give a bunch of bright citizens the assignment of creating a collage or mural to reflect their city, its aspirations, roots, people, fights, and achievements, the images they hit on could, or should, become the street names of that city.

One reason why Florence, where I've just come back from living, is such a coveted city is because every street fires the imagination. There's Via Madonna della Tosse ("Madonna of the Cough"), where mothers came to pray for their children who had whooping cough; Via Buffalmacco and Via Calandrino, named after comic characters in The Decameron who horsed around in those areas, just off of Via Boccaccio, after the author of the book; and Via Alessandro Volta, Via Galileo Galilei, Via Michelangelo Buonarroti, etc.

In Toronto, I was overjoyed to see a version of a Spadina Ave. sign written Ishpadinaa, in the original Ojibwa.

In L.A., I came across the scene of today's painting on Cesar Chavez, after the great labour leader and civil rights activist who founded the National Farm Workers Association. It brought me right back to my university days, learning about the history of Latin America, questioning the food I was eating, and "sí, se puede."

For more on my Miniature in the Mail project, see www.ivanostocco.com.

October 18, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #17: "Rabbitbrush"

"Rabbitbrush," 5" x 5", oil on panel
"No, not a kind of camomile," the interpreter at the nature centre tells me, pawing a mountain lion pelt. "Yellow rabbitbrush. They tried to make rubber out of it during the world wars."

More on my project to paint a miniature a day at www.ivanostocco.com.

Feliz Martes.

October 17, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #16: "Silver Lining"

"Silver Lining," 5" x 5", oil on panel
"I hurry 'bout shame and I worry 'bout a worn path // And I wander off, just to come back home"

Those milky lyrics from Bon Iver's 00000 Million cut deeper than I'm sure my experience, but still hint at the mood of today's miniature, something serene and easygoing, for a Monday.

What doesn't appear in the frame is the long and strained trip we took as a family by car into the far-off mountains, which proceeded this sight. As newbies to California, the idea was to get out and experience something rarer, truer, out, way out of the city and traffic and 'burbs, where there's hardly anyone. We were told we had to do it, and we did, and, yes, it was beautiful. But then, too, back at home, unplanned, we step out the door and walk into this, just as beautiful, the street momentarily barren.

For more miniatures like this, visit www.ivanostocco.com.

October 14, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #15: "Parasol"

"Parasol," 5" x 5", oil on masonite

To wrap up the third week of Miniature in the Mail, here's "Parasol," mini painting #15 (pardon the poor quality of the imagewith all the shiny bits and impasto, and the blazing sun, I just couldn't shoot this one right. In the flesh, it does look better.).

The scene comes from a particularly cozy intersection of L.A.'s Chinatown, where the road isn't flat in the way, I suspect, it was designed to be and the width is manageable on foot, even lugging stuff around. The sidewalks, entangled with produce stands and awnings that make it impossible to merely transit through, are cunning extensions of the storefronts.

Meanwhile, the parasol the figure holds is really an umbrella and the suitcase on wheels was stuffed with fresh greens, not travel items.

Someone's probably said it but creativity is about interpreting anew, transforming, re-purposing.

For more, visit www.ivanostocco.com.

Have a great weekend.

October 13, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #14: "The peripatetic"

"The peripatetic," 5" x 5", oil on masonite
The peripatetics were a school of philosophy founded by Aristotle, who was known for walking about Athens with his students while teaching. It's a brilliant strategy, free, that gets a few jobs done at once. Personally, I use it to talk to my kids and sort out life stuff with my spouse, while getting in a bit of exercise and greeting the neighbours.

Sadly, given the weather and wide accommodating sidewalks, it doesn't seem people enjoy walking in the part of California where I live. But then there is this old soul at the end of the street. I catch him doing the rounds round the block. He doesn't seem to have anywhere to go and stops often to pause and look around, like a wise old turtle with a secret.

To purchase this small painting or for info on my Miniature in the Mail project, you could mosey on over to www.ivanostocco.com.

October 12, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #13: "Pyro-peony"

"Pyro-peony" (MitM #13), 5" x 5", oil on masonite
So an admission, I painted this a few weeks ago, not yesterday when I was in no mood to celebrate the conservative media's excuse-making for Trump's sexual assault or, in 1492, Columbus' arrival in the Bahamas.

Then I did a little search and learned that today also marks the passing, in 1971, of the Equal Rights Amendment, guaranteeing American women equal rights. In 1850, the first women's medical school opened, in Pennsylvania. And in 1931, that big teddy bear Luciano Pavarotti was born.

The thing is, I've always been on the fence about exploding fireballs in the night sky. They scare the bejeebers out of small kids and dogs. And I'm pretty sure, if you go back far enough, they come out of military culture, like airshows and paradesshows of force. Are they more than they appear, or just spellbinding and fun?

*Flash* Shhhwwwwwww. Bzzzzzzrrrr.

To purchase this mini painting or for more on my Miniature in the Mail project, pop on over to www.ivanostocco.com.

October 11, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #12: "Corn at the concerto"

"Corn at the concerto" (MitM #12)
5" x 5"
Oil on masonite
A few weeks ago I caught an outdoor concert that digressed into a Fourth of July rerun, rather than the celebration of a new university year, as was billed.

It started with a too passionate crooning of the national anthem (though I'm starting to think that's just par) and was followed up by performances of the Great American Songbook, by music majors who were as smiley and eager for affection as greeters at a Disneyland audition. Then the president of the university got up and danced around, bobbing to and fro and talking into a broken mic while large screens zoomed in. You couldn't hear the words but you could make out, great, great, our university is great!

Following the performance was a firework display put on by the Mighty Ducks, the hockey team.

All the while, a frontier of food trucks thrummed and glowed nearby. I caught this woman ordering corn before the fun began, so giddy with the thought of sinking her teeth in and being serenaded she could barely walk.

So, no, I haven't lost my east-coast cynicism.

To purchase this painting or for more on my Miniature in the Mail project, dance on over to www.ivanostocco.com.

October 10, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #11: "El Pueblo de Los Ángeles"

"El Pueblo de Los Ángeles" (MitM #11)
5" x 5"
Oil on masonite
Today's Miniature in the Mail is a view of El Pueblo de la Reina de los Ángeles ("The Town of the Queen of Angels"), L.A.'s original settlement of Spanish pobladores and one of the oldest areas, aside from what I'm sure was a preexisting indigenous presence, right in heart of the downtown.

In the "constellation of plastic" that is L.A. (Norman Mailer), where "by the time you're 35, you're older than most of the buildings" (Delia Ephron), El Pueblo was my introduction to the big city, maybe a backwards way of seeing it but, hey, I'm backwards.

It was hot when I visited and this Old World loggia, eco-designed for natural air conditioning, provided a nice respite from the sun.

To purchase this painting or for more on my Miniature in the Mail project, saunter on over to my website, www.ivanostocco.com.

Hope your week gets started on the right foot.

October 7, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #10: "Downhill from here"

"Downhill from here" (MitM #10)
5" x 5"
Oil on masonite
Today's Miniature in the Mail, #10, is a depiction, at dusk, of a street near me called Rolling Hills Dr. It connects two busy parks I frequent to run, get away, and let the kids play. The green matter festooning the sides includes a very bountiful fig tree (sadly, though, chopped down by the city, I noticed the other day), a persimmon tree (dangling out of someone's backyard and full of ripe fruit), and several eucalyptus trees, which pervade the air with the most gorgeous scent of lemon.

The road has served as a kind of gauge for me. It was one of the first streets I experienced in California, outside of a car, and having come from Italy where I was used to flattening myself against walls to make room for vehicles to pass, it struck me as gigantic, three or four Italian streets squeezed into one. Now, three months in, it's starting to look normal.

To purchase this painting or for more on my Miniature in the Mail project, cruise on over to my website, www.ivanostocco.com.

See you on Monday.

October 6, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #9: "Breaking Waves"

"Breaking Waves"
5" x 5"
Oil on masonite
Good day! Today's wee painting is a representation of the waves walloping the shore under Huntington Beach Pier. Nicknamed "Surf City, USA"where there are "twoooo giiiirls for ev-ery boooooy"my trip to Huntington Beach a few weeks ago was the first time I'd laid eyes on either the Pacific or real, live surfers, who it'd never occurred to me actually existed outside of Beach Boys songs or old movies. But it was the waves I could have gawked at, transfixed, for hours.

"From that which is forever old
They come, forever young,
The latest, faintest echoes
Of the song the sea has sung."
Louise Townsend Nicholl, 1920

To purchase this painting or for more on my Miniature in the Mail project, surf on over to my website, www.ivanostocco.com.

October 5, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #8: "Chicharrón"

5" x 5"
Oil on masonite
Nothing says urban centreand an urban centre with a living culturelike a food truck. To me they're up there with bike messengers, pigeons, and old fellas playing chess on concrete tables.

I found this particularly supercharged one, Los Reyes del Elote, in Santa Ana, where apparently latinos, especially Mexicans, constitute around 80 percent of the population.

Tacos. Burritos. Elote asado (grilled corn on the cob). Mole (sauce). Huitlacoche (a fungus that grows on corn). Nopalitos (cactus pads). Sopes (thick tortilla bowls topped with meat or vegetables). And of course, chicharrón (fried pork rinds).

Thank goodness for this real food in the United States.

If you're interested in visuals, find 'em here.

For more on this painting and my Miniature in the Mail project, check out www.ivanostocco.com.

October 4, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #7: "Moment from a Sidewalk"

"Moment from a Sidewalk"
5" x 5"
Oil on masonite
Happy birthday to my lover and companion, Aitana Guia. Looking forward to the first Michael Nyman, when you get there. And of course we're all super keen on the burritos and, if you really insist, the chicharrones tonight.

Here's my seventh Miniature in the Mail. The sun was in my eyes, concentrated on the horizon, blinding. I was scurrying out of the way of traffic. Suddenly, a moving object in the distance obstructed the sun and I caught this pair in serene dialogue. The rays shone again and they evanesced into afterimage.

See www.ivanostocco.com for details.

October 3, 2016

Miniature in the Mail #6: "If a Tree Falls"

"If a Tree Falls"
5" x 5"
Oil on masonite
The inspiration for today's tiny painting comes from a walking tour we took recently of the Coyote Hills, led by a member of Save Coyote Hills, a community campaign to protect the hills from development.

It was my first time in the area and I gotta say it was not toasty but toast, a bit of a moonscape, though I was assured all the singed plants were dormant as a result of the five-tear drought in southern California and would resuscitate with the first rains. We passed fields of cactus and sagebrush. Atop one hill was this lone tree, skeletal, exposed even at the roots, but hanging in there.

For more on my Miniature in the Mail project or to purchase, take a look at my website, www.ivanostocco.com.

Have an excellent day!