October 17, 2017

Mini in the Mail #76: "Morning highway"

"Morning Highway," oil on panel, 5" x 5"

Growing up there wasn't much art at home, let alone original art. But my grandmother did have a large framed oil of a very empty country road surrounded by trees. A friend from her work life had created and given it to her, she said - that's all I ever knew about it. No one paid it much mind, myself included, as dominant as it was in her living room where we sat to watch TV, fight for control of the converter, and digest supper.

I used to stare at the painting and wonder, though, what techniques the artist used to create the sinewy trees and impasto road, and why just this road in the middle of nowhere, with nothing else to embellish it. I stared at the picture for years, not conscious about the questions I was asking or even that I was doing something more than resting my eyes somewhere, but allowing it to work on me and seep in, osmotically.

My grandmother is gone now and I regret not having been more perceptive about prodding her on the painting. Was it just decorative? What did it mean? How did it make her feel? Did it conjure other memories? Did it mark an occasion? Did she study and parse out evidence of the human hand as I did? Who was the artist? What were they up to now?

Now I think of Yeats, the poet: "The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper."

For this and paintings like it, check out www.ivanostocco.com.

October 11, 2017

Updated Conversation Piece

"Updated Conversation Piece," mixed media on birch panel, 36x48in.

Here's my latest work - acrylic, collage, spray, graphite, and oil on a hard wood surface.

I tried to be more free flowing and stream of consciousness with it, especially distorting the scene and making stuff up as I went along - a nice way to stay engaged and not preconceive the end.

The setting is Los Angeles, in particular the east end around Boyle Heights, but it's not a typical representation I hope, at least not so far as art goes.

The inspiration? A radio series I've been listening to on KCRW called There Goes the Neighborhood, all about gentrification in L.A. Also, another swimmingly seething Bukowski poem:

"Hello, How Are You?"

this fear of being what they are:

at least they are not out on the street, they
are careful to stay indoors, those
pasty mad who sit alone before their tv sets,
their lives full of canned, mutilated laughter.

their ideal neighborhood
of parked cars
of little green lawns
of little homes
the little doors that open and close
as their relatives visit
throughout the holidays
the doors closing
behind the dying who die so slowly
behind the dead who are still alive
in your quiet average neighborhood
of winding streets
of agony
of confusion
of horror
of fear
of ignorance.

a dog standing behind a fence.

a man silent at the window.

I always struggle with the titles of my work. I'm not one who can settle for "untitled," supposedly allowing the art to speak for itself, or for a descriptive title like "street corner" or "two people talking," which is obvious from the art and repetitive.

I was happy here to discover that "conversation piece" has an older root than a bizarre vase or haute couture hat that gets people talking. The term refers to a genre of painting that portrays people in genteel conversation, generally in utopian outdoor settings. Here's an example Wikipedia gives.

Arthur Devis, "Sir George and Lady Strickland in the Grounds of Boynton Hall," oil on canvas, 1751

My "updated" conversation piece conforms to the genre, only I've stripped out the gentility, brought verisimilitude to the environment, and used fantasy elements not to glamorize or sentimentalize but to reflect a certain precariousness and volatility in our world today.

For this painting and more of my artwork, check out www.ivanostocco.com.