This will be about my views on what it takes to put a three dimensional world onto a two dimensional surface. With a lot of digressing.
Don't forget to leave a comment, or a question if you have one, below the post. Thanks.


Apr 26, 2010


It's been just about a year since I started this blog, and I think it's time to take a sabbatical.
I don't know for how long, or if anyone will be here when I get back. The photo above sums up my mood.
I started this blog annoyed by yesterdays NY Times article about Alice Neel's show. The writer, in an effort to look informed and au courant, used too much space on a few minor but contemporary (NY) portrait painters. For instance, Elizabeth Peyton, who couldn't touch Alice Neel with a 10 foot paintbrush. Not her fault, but still.
I think I need to paint.
A week later : May 1
For the first time, I've gone back and heavily edited this blog that has bothered me, that I didn't want to leave online. Everyone has bad days, bad weeks, bad years; why inflict petty annoyances, if that's what they are, on others?
I've spent the last few weeks living with a Marathon of Music- Ken Burns' brilliant (but not always accurate) documentary on Jazz, via Netflix. Music is powerful stuff, and the CDs, taken from the beginning, and in sequence-flooded me with memories of times and places and people starting with my childhood . Nostalgic? Sure. Sad? That too.

Apr 15, 2010


It's not who we choose to celebrate, but who we choose to ignore.
The work of Alice Neel wasn't widely exhibited or written about until she was of an age to be considered a senior citizen. Her communist leanings didn't mean that her paintings were blackballed, as were the movie scripts of Hollywood writers. She did, however,attract the attention of the FBI, and was interviewed in 1955. She asked the agents to pose for her, with no luck. I can imagine how interesting the painting might have been, since she liked to paint couples, preferably nude.
It wasn't about what she was, but what she wasn't.
Until the feminist movement in the 70's, the New York art world was dominated by men. It was a time of manly hard drinking action painters who swore that Abstract Expressionism would last for a thousand years.
She was a woman, a realist painter, a mother who lost her first child to diphtheria. Her second, at the age of two, was taken to his family in Cuba by her husband. She suffered a nervous breakdown, a suicide attempt, a lover who destroyed her drawings and watercolors and slashed 50 paintings. In 1938 Alice Neel moved to Spanish Harlem and worked there for the remainder of her life. Her studio was her living room, her subject matter included the streets of Harlem, but her focus and strength has always been portraits.
Dead-on and unflinching portraits, about as far from salon painting as you can get.
But still, or more likely, because of that, she was forced to depend on public assistance until the 50's, including a stint as a WPA artist until 1943.
My first encounter ( or at least the one that stands out in my mind ) with Neel's paintings, was at the Whitney Museum in 1974. I sailed from portrait to portrait thinking wow.
Then hey, I know that guy!
It was a nude, male, posed somewhat like the reclining Olympia. A strawberry blond. The title was “John Perreault.” I met him in 1966 when he was a critic for Art News. He came to the gallery (The Spectrum, at the time it was on 57th St )I was exhibiting in, and gave my show a sweet review. So who could not remember him?
When I was doing some research for this, I of course Googled him. His Neel portrait can be seen there, plus his comments. http://www.johnperreault.com/
I also just recently learned that a friend that I previously blogged about, Jan Culbertson, went with her husband to a post-show party at Neel's studio. Alice asked if they would pose for her for $3000. Jan and Doug decided not to.
When I asked Jan if she had any regrets, she replied:
“ It seemed like a lot of money at that time, and I was annoyed that my Snoopy knee socks
caught Neel's eye, rather than my character...or the lines on my face! So instead we bought an autographed catalogue from her, the one depicting her current Whitney show. (1974) Alice had a big box of catalogues which she sold for $10. each.

The image below was in my previous post, a Neel painting titled "Jackie Curtis and Rita Red"
This painting fetched $1,650,000 via Southebys last November

If you assume that Jackie Curtis is the figure on the left, you're wrong. If the genders seem obvious, think again. If you can pick out the male transvestite, you may be right.

Apr 7, 2010



Jackie Curtis and Rita Red 60x42 Oil (c) Alice Neel

Alice Neel in her studio

The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston has organized a retrospective named "Alice Neel:Painted Truths", on view March 21 thru June 15, 2010. It will then travel to the UK and Sweden. Only.
Tch tch I say.
Alice Neel died in 1984 at the age of 84. Her grandson, Andrew, filmed a documentary (available on Netflix), of her life and work that is extraordinary. But then she led an extraordinary life.
I've put off doing this blog because the issues she had to deal with, and still manage to keep painting boggle the mind. What to include? Where to start?
From her beginnings as a student in Philadelphia, where women were forbidden to paint the nude male model? (In 1886 the Penn. Academy of Fine Arts fired director Thomas Eakins for removing the loincloth of a male model while female students were in the class) (It is still, to my knowledge, common for life drawing sessions to cover the males but not the females)
On that note, my next blog will include my "six degrees of separation" regarding a very remote connection to Alice Neel and a nude male, or is it male nude? There's a difference there.
The books of her work are available on Amazon, one is $150, the other $250. Out of reach.
Luckily http://www.aliceneel.com/ is a comprehensive website

Mar 31, 2010


NORA AND JESSE 25 x 15 Oil on linen (C) Margery Caggiano
APRIL 17, 2010
I can't blog about a painting that is supposed to be a surprise, as was also the case at Christmas.
But now it's in their hands.
It's kept me busy, trying to organize, if that's the word, an image based on a grainy, if that's the word, snapshot taken under artificial light with no tripod. Oy.
I painted Nora (my granddaughter) last fall in profile.
So best wishes, congratulations, mazeltov, Nora and Jesse.
May you live as happily ever after

Mar 25, 2010


Until life became the ultimate science fiction, I was a fan of the genre, and Ray Bradbury one of my favorites. The Illustrated Man is a collection of short stories, with the hook being the tattoos
of a vagrant, each tattoo with a story to tell.
This week a contemporary illustrated man has been a temporary aside in the headlines.
I wonder if he has room on his forehead for one more tattoo

Mar 20, 2010


I met Pat when we showed together at The Heckscher Museum in Huntington, NY.
"Twenty Women Artists" was Part Nine in their series called "Artists of Suffolk County" It was 1975, and was declared International Woman's Year. The United Nations officially pronounced 1976-1985 as the Decade for Women, and March 8th as International Women's' Day.
Bet you didn't know that did you?
Does Hallmark have a card? Is there a minute of reverence on March 8?
Those in charge assumed that we would then disappear, go back to the kitchen-but we were outed. I'm digressing.
Pat lived in Centerport, I lived in Watermill, geographically not close, and we traveled in different circles. Like cogs though, occasionally coming together in a gallery, or a show. Pat was known for her landscapes, so her figurative paintings were a revelation to me. Strong and gutsy enough to paint herself examining a tick.
AT THE END of THE HARBOR 26x26 Oil on Linen

YOPAH AND STAR 72x48 Oil on Linen
DOUBLE PORTRAIT 20x20 Oil on Linen

Lots more on her website http://www.patralph.com

Mar 14, 2010


SANDYS PORTRAIT detail Acrylic on Canvas (c)1975 Margery Caggiano
This is a detail of an (approx) 40 x 38" painting that was my attempt at a portrait that was comprised of Things. (I apologize for the uneven color quality of the slide)
Sandy was an engineer, a carpenter, an artist, a perfectionist. A sweet and unique friend.
The jars were of skin color, hair color, and the jar of stripes was his shirt. (oh how clever)
For all that -I know he was disappointed to be painted this way.
Later, he turned away from his splendid- I thought- large oil paintings for reasons of his own-saying only that he liked to do too many other things. He gave me a few of the stretcher frames he had made for himself. One was 72 x 54", ultimately used for a painting of mine named Telechron, which was also about things, symbols, that had meanings for me. Later still, one was used for a for-real self-portrait, also 72" x 54". Both paintings using Sandys' stretchers are in the Archive section on my website.
THE PRINCE (For Sandy) 18 x 14 (?) Acrylic on Canvas (C)1975 Margery Caggiano
In memory of Alexander Bainbridge of East Hampton, NY, who passed away on March 12, 2010

Mar 12, 2010


SUNSET FIELD 10 x 8" Oil on Panel (c) Margery Caggiano
I tell myself that as I'm laying the paint on with a knife. Forget the cost, get over it, if it doesn't do the job, scrape it off and mix it up and put it somewhere else. Best to work on a few paintings at a time in that case. Like an explorer that never leaves the room, you never know what's over the hill. Better yet is the Gump approach, painting with a knife is like a box of chocolates- you never know what you're going to get.
My first teaching experience was an adult ed class. One lady confessed that the cake decorating class was full, so she took the painting class. (A hint of things to come in the World of Art) I don't remember what or how she painted, which may be just as well.
Once in awhile I'll see an article about a painter that lays it on not with a knife, but with a trowel. But you don't get points for bravura, or how thick the paint is.
It either works, or it doesn't.
I was amazed to turn to PBS (anything but more commercials, which has come to be an hour of commercials with ten minutes of programming) and see that white guy with the Afro still painting with a knife after 40 + years. I confess that I watched with much interest.
Very cool

Mar 8, 2010


Photo Courtesy of B.Lindner


Mar 2, 2010


If you subscibe to anything art-related, or have a website, or a blog, or buy art supplies, or even think of taking up painting-you've received an email from someone offering you exhibition space, whether online space or real world.
I decided to look into just one, rather than throw it down the spam shoot. As far as I can learn, and that's not a lot, it doesn't seem to be a scam, but rather a money making venture for whoever decided to find an empty store or warehouse and send out email invitations. This particular one is named New Art Originals, and they've gone from an online "gallery" to, and I quote, Exciting Physical Space in London.
A little exploration with Google street view show a part of the city that I wouldn't want to be in after dark, plus the address of 65 Hanbury St shows what I assume is the former occupant, a gallery.
Strychnin Gallery. True. I bet that gallery had a big following.
So....They rent space, which they call slots. Hmmpf. 1000 square feet per slot. Which could be 10 feet of space if the gallery has a 10 foot high ceiling. If it has a 20 foot ceiling, your slot is 5 feet wide. Etc.
  So....You can rent one space, er, slot, for one or three days. A one day slot including "website registration"
          (why?) is $308. US. A three day slot is $772 US. 
                  There's a Special Introductary Offer, but you get the idea.
 There is no talk of jurying, naturally. Or insurance, and of course the shipping is your problem. I shudder to think. All in all a can of worms. But endeavors like this stay in business because some artists need that line on their resume.Has exhibited in London, or Paris, or Florence.
You can rent space in New York at some pretty good locations, but you rent by the foot.Vanity galleries are big business. Art is big business. Except for the artist. And ain't that a shame.

Feb 24, 2010


DORIS 56 x 30 Acrylic on CanvasThis is another figurative painting done on old window screen frames. (See previous post)
This is of my second daughter , done when she was about 19.
If you're inclined to work bigger, two screens can be attached, in this case giving you a size of 60" x 56". A little square for my taste.
The alternative is 30" x 112", OK for a trapeze act.
Or, horizontally, a panoramic landscape.
The wood was usually painted white and well seasoned. Just be sure to remove all evidence of screening. And I wouldn't strip them, lead paint or primer was almost certainly used in the old screens. These days, when permanent storms and screens or double pane windows replace them in so many old houses, there should be sources for the discards.
Every area has salvage yards, for instance, which are fun even if you don't find frames. When Interstate 95 was run through Stamford, Connecticut, (and a lot of other towns of course,) hundreds of old houses were demolished, and a huge salvage yard emerged; thriving on stained glass windows, claw foot tubs, gingerbread, etc.
I'll ask my CT connection, is it still there?

Feb 20, 2010


VINCE 56x28 Acrylic on Canvas
At one time we lived on Accabonac Highway, The Springs, in East Hampton. About a hop and a hoe handle down the road (one of my mates' favorite expressions) was the East Hampton Town Dump. ......Sorry, they're now landfills.
It was a fun place to cruise and peruse................ Sorry, it's now called dumpster diving.
The town finally noticed that more things were leaving than coming in, and put a stop to the shopping. You'd think they'd be grateful. I was happy to discover lots of discarded window screens, strong and solid and even cross-braced. Stretchers for paintings at the time were either custom made, therefore expensive, or very lightweight. I cut out the screening, put lattice wood around the edges to off-set the canvas, and stretched away. I adapted to the sizes by doing figures such as Vince.
To add some pizazz to the open shirt (oh please) I added crosses and used gold leaf on one. Oddly, I was told later by someone who knew him, (I didn't) that he usually wore a cross on a chain, but not on the day that I took the photo. I think it was in Montauk. I had a studio/gallery there one summer. Don't ask.

Feb 15, 2010


ORANGE FIELD 8 x 10" Oil on Board (C) Margery Caggiano
When I do something fast and colorful and easy to live with-I wonder why I don't do more like this, and more often.
Am I such a masochist that I have to agonize over a painting before I take it seriously?
I've always tended to dismiss paintings that seem to come too easily, possibly afraid of becoming facile. Yeah, so?
This was done on gessoed masonite, starting with a brush and then what the hell, laying the paint on with a painting knife.
It's only PAINT, after all.
As a result of the painting being on my website, I got an email from a "student" in the Midwest who liked it and asked if I'd send her a larger image, meaning (she hoped) higher resolution.
To repeat. I don't think so .

Feb 9, 2010


My deck with cat door. Hah.
If this looks familiar, it is, only more so. Almost 30 inches this time, with more expected today.
This is for anyone that pops into my blog from warmer climates, who, if they've heard of Virginia, think it's in the South.
My driveway, from inside of my garage. Thanks to a local farmer.
The scoop was brought to within an inch of my car, lowered, and then dragged backwards.
Now I know why guys stand around and watch machines.

Feb 4, 2010


THE ACTOR Pablo PicassoYou may have read about the poor woman who stumbled into this Picasso painting at the Met.
The painting is valued at $80 million dollars. It received a (fixable) 6 inch tear as a result.
(I'm sure her life insurance is for much less.) She will also never live it down, which is no way to attain your allotted 15 minutes of fame. But just think of the complications, as it were, if she had stumbled into a Damien Hirst vat of formaldehyde. (previous post)
Would the inevitable result be
TITLE: An Adult Ed Student in a Vat of Formaldehyde?
Medium.? Hmmmm.
At least she would get to travel.

Jan 30, 2010



I'm shocked I tell you, shocked. Am I so out of the loop when it comes to even reading about the Artworld with a capital A that I hadn't heard of a Christies' spinoff gallery named Haunch of Venison? Don't believe me? Google it.

Should I also be shocked that Damien Hirst has gotten very rich and very famous by dropping a whole, and large, animal (dead I hope) into a tank of formaldehyde?
( I wonder how and where he signed it?)
Or how about the Brooklyn Museum receiving a million dollars worth of publicity in 1999, displaying, among other controversial works of art, a painting of The Virgin Mary done with elephant dung? Actually, like a lot of other deliberately shocking exhibitions, the publicity raised the value of the art, and in this case, Charles Saatchi, whose collection it was, benefited hugely. Fanning the flames was an enraged Rudy Guiliani, who tried to stop the public funding, and even evict the museum from its city- owned building. Unsuccessfully, I might add. Protecting one of those pesky amendments was paramount. Australia flat out refused to let the traveling exhibition in the country. I like their wine too.
P.T.Barnum (or more likely,H.L. Mencken) said that
" You'll never go broke underestimating the taste of the American public"
I'd like to change that to
"You'll never go broke underestimating the power of publicity"

Jan 26, 2010


REMBRANDTS DOG Oil on Canvas 6" x 6" (c) Margery Caggiano

I regret to say that the original Yorkie, (below), abandoned and ignored, expired on the mean streets of New York City, more specifically, the Lower East Side.

He has been reincarnated as Rembrandts dog.
Maybe a better title would be Dog of the Living Dead.

Jan 23, 2010


When Mr. Mason wasn't counting crows, making mints, mounds, dots, or jars, he came up with a very handy surface to paint on, which, I'm sure, was not his original intention.

When I first started doing "important" paintings, defined as big and non-objective, I used Masonite because it was so much cheaper than canvas and stretchers.

It's a composite wood panel, formed using wooden chips, blasting them into long fibers with steam and then forming them into boards, which are then pressed and heated.(Thank you Wikipedia)
It comes in 4' x 8' panels, and the quarter inch board was used (then) primarily as floor underlayment for tile or linoleum, and was "untempered". The eighth inch "tempered" Masonite has oil in it, and can be recognized by a waffle weave on one side. Not suitable for fine art.

Home Depot and Lowes carry Masonite in 2' x 4' panels. As a courtesy they will make a free cut for you, so one cut will give you an 18 x 24" and a 24 x 30", for instance. If you have a table or saber saw, use a fine blade and you can get all kinds of smaller sizes.
Anything bigger than 30' or so should be cradled with wood strips.
That's how I learned to use the table saw and all kinds of mean and nasty tools.
My husband bought me a set of matching screwdrivers, not pink, for Christmas one year. Wow.
Anyhow.Lightly sand the edges of the Masonite, then seal both sides and edges with a 50/50 mix of shellac and alcohol. "BIN" is a shellac based sealer with white pigment added, an alternative.
Gesso to your hearts delight, but keep in mind that both sides should be done or the panel will not lay flat. Golden makes a sandable gesso, for hard surfaces, if you want even more control of your surface.
Nowadays I sometimes use Masonite to mount double-primed linen on, which is so difficult to stretch. There's no waste either. It also is useful if you have an odd-sized frame- you can cut the Masonite to fit.
I almost forgot. One of Mr.Masons' ancestors got together with a certain Mr.Dixon (the pencil people?) and together they drew lines. So there's your art connection.

Jan 19, 2010


JUANA SINGS Oil on board 24 x 30 (c) Margery Caggiano

This is one of a series of portraits that I consider to be more drawing than painting.

I cut masonite panels, technically called quarter inch floor underlayment, to size. Then lightly sanded the edges, sealed both sides of the panel with thinned shellac, and then applied at least 3 coats of gesso. Again, both sides should be done to equalize the tension, which keeps the panel flat. Finally I sanded to an eggshell finish, which is a lovely surface to draw on. I drew with a hard litho pencil, and finally added just enough oil paint to play with, almost a stain.

This particular portrait was determined by the photos I took. She had been talking, but I liked the idea of singing, and gave her a yellow throat and feathers. Morphing, changing, not yet flying. This is not a new painting by any means, but remains one of my favorites.

Strangely (to me), years later she acquired a parrot, then some fertile finches, then a few macaws.

A bird whisperer

Jan 11, 2010


There's nothing like the attempt to paint portraits that makes you appreciate what others have done. In my estimation, Jamie Wyeth is one of the best of this generation. I especially admire his lack of pretension; that he has the confidence and curiousity and ability to paint everything from seagulls to pigs to pumpkin-headed children. He sure nailed Andy Warhol.

ANDY WARHOL Chalk drawing Jamie Wyeth

ANDY WARHOL-Oil- Jamie Wyeth
And the dynamic Lincoln Kirstein
LINCOLN KIRSTEIN drawing Jamie Wyeth

Jan 5, 2010


This photo was all I had to work with, but I like challenges.
The painting was intended to be a surprise Christmas gift, and I didn't have a lot of time, which can be a good thing.
And because of the lack of detail, I kept it soft and loose, an impression if you will.
I was told by a pleased family that this is how she was remembered.ELSIE LINDNER 7" x 5" Oil on Linen (C) Margery Caggiano