Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Don Colley

has been coming to the Palette and Chisel
for -- what -- maybe 5 years ?

And though he's never joined,
he epitomizes the kind of member
we used to have about a hundred years ago.

I.e. -- he loves to draw.

And.... why should he join, anyway ?

The benefits of camaraderie,
peer recognition,
and dinner served by Old Joe,
disappeared long ago.

Now begins,
a tour of the P&C workshops
through his eyes

Stuart Fullerton

Jerry Ruiz

Phil Renaud

Misha Liangleben
and Mary Qian

Erroll Jacobson

currently our most popular
male model

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Palette and Chisel at the 1915 Panama Pacific Expositon

From February through December, 1915
San Francisco hosted a world's fair
to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal
(and the city's recovery from the 1906 earthquake)

And it looks like no expense was spared
to engage 44 sculptors
to make (mostly) temporary plaster confections
to adorn the grounds
(as well as display marbles and bronzes
in the Palace of Fine Arts)

This was in the midst
of a golden age of American sculpture,
and a sculptor, Karl Bitter,
was the guiding spirit
in assembling the great sculptors of his day.

Mostly, sculptors were chosen from the east coast,
like Borglum, French, and Grafly.
(so Chicago's Laredo Taft wasn't there)

But there were two pieces by Grafly's top student,
Albin Polasek,
who had recently won the Prix de Rome
and made these pieces
while living there at the American Academy.

He would later move to Chicago,
join the Palette and Chisel,
and head the sculpture department at the Art Institute
following the reign of Loredo Taft.

This piece, called "The Sower"
had something of a controversial history
after it was purchased by the Art Institute
and displayed on Michigan Avenue.

Why does this farmer have his pants off ?

City Hall demanded that the offensive statue be removed,
and the case went to court,
where the A.I.C. won the right
to display whatever it wanted on its own property
(even if that property was owned by the city)

But sadly,
the museum would soon be hit
by a force much more powerful
than local prudery:

Iconoclastic Modernism.

And "The Sower" would languish
in the dark basement of the museum
for the next 80 years,
until it was given
to the Chicago Botanical Garden
about 5 years ago.

(where these two pictures were recently taken)

(A pictorial tour of art at the expo
may be found here,
and don't skip the introductory essay
by the great sculptor, Alexander Stirling Calder.)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Exhibit: Amanda Johnson

Self portrait

Artist Statement: Long Version

The current body of work is an investigation into my process of painting. It may be interpreted as a seed upon which several bodies of work will later spring.

The goal was to embark on a process that would allow myself to transcend the limits of the painting medium, physically and psychologically. That's why you will notice striking juxtapositions, such as my parrot Sweet Pea emerging from a paint torn ground. It isn't that I love painting parrots on abstract backgrounds just for the sake of doing it. To me that painting was a part of a process where there was a realization that anything is possible with paint. A painting is never too dried, too layered, or too finished.

It is from that unlimited potential that I like to stand when I paint, not being afraid on the one hand frightening, tempting one to paint only academically, because the artist wants it to " look good" as opposed to "looking bad". But it is also liberating, realizing that painting is ultimately a creative process, by which we solve problems creatively.

Most of these paintings where continued works in progress over several months, layers where added, negated, destroyed, re-added, images where lost and found within the layers. With the abstracts, it is often the layers that add depth and profundity that can only be understood by spending time observing the painting over the course of time. People have often commented that they notice something new every time they look at them, similar to how you would get to know a friend over time.

For me, painting creatively is different than painting academically with a creative composition. A creative composition would be making an imaginary scene such as a sci-fi or fantasy scene, and then rendering it with a rigid academic approach. Painting creatively, calls the artist to know the paint intimately in a way that feels right to the artist, to re-interpret what paint can do and how they tend to use it. In my current work, you will see a wide usage of paint, paint crumbling, thick syrupy glazes, rugged and mottled, foggy, peeling, pressed, splattered, thrown, scraped, muddied, straight out of the tube, etc. I think we all paint creatively to a certain degree. I hope to merge my creative approach with my academic training.

Amanda Johnson 2/2009