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