I was discouraged about painting, and then…

At the beginning of the summer (2013) I entered a juried show put on by the Art Guild of the San Diego Museum of Art. The show was called, “Contemporary Expressionism; The Creative Spirit.” 

(Verb tenses might be inconsistent in the post below… 🙂 )

I thought — think — of myself as an expressionist painter and some of the paintings I’ve most enjoyed doing are those that I began thinking of painting moments in my life that marked major changes. I wanted these to be figurative and self-portraits without being pictures of me. I think of myself as a person wandering around the world doing my job and so on and also some other person who maybe has no body; she’s something else but I can represent her in paint. Anyway, I’ve done three of those paintings so far. I submitted this one to the show, and it was accepted.

The World is Out There

It hung in the Lyceum Gallery in Horton Plaza which was really amazing. I’m was very happy about this, especially because this is a painting that was not painted to please anyone. It started out to be the painting of NYC I did for Ben and Sandi (stepson and wife), but it cried out to be a water color, so I wiped off the paint I could and put the panel away. I pulled it out again to paint on some time last year. I painted the sofa and I painted over the black a couple of times. 

I got the figure from an image of Sean Connery walking out of a room in a James Bond movie. There was something captivating about the finality of his exit and I liked the shapes, the rectangles that were broken by his movement which, like the figure in my painting, was also, somehow, angular.
I painted and unpainted finally realizing what I wanted to do with it. She is wearing the Diane von Furstenberg dress Bess Altfeld gave me back in the late ’70’s when I was divorcing Matt (first husband; bad X but not the Evil X). I remember wearing it to the divorce hearing and to many other things. I loved this dress. It may be my lifetime favorite dress. She’s also wearing shoes I owned.

I made decisions about the paint, too. The colors are all “old” colors — Venetian red, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, lamp black. There is bronze dust gold on the carved wood of the sofa and a bit on the wall to her left. I wanted it to go with the other painting in this series I had done which is now named “Danae.”

This is the language I submitted with the painting:

Artwork Description
“This painting is 16 x 20, framed size, 19 x 23, oil on Ampersand Gessobord. I chose “old fashioned” pigments such as ultramarine blue, Venetian red, ivory black, terre vert, burnt Sienna and alizarin crimson along with Gamblin’s Bright Gold (made with bronze flakes) for this painting because it is a painting of painting. I wanted the colors to be as close as possible to colors used to dye yarn used in medieval tapestries and for coloring illuminated manuscripts. 

This painting turned out to be a journey into self and into painting. I had begun a painting for a friend on this board, but I didn’t like it, put the board away and did that painting as a water color. The black underpainting here, that looks like a chalkboard or an asphalt street (which is what it was originally meant to represent) is what remains of that picture. Then I saw a James Bond movie (!) in which Sean Connery walked very powerfully out of a door. That image rested in my mind for weeks, and I realized I wanted to paint it. Later, I saw a photo of this velvet sofa, and I wanted to paint it. I painted the sofa first. Through its many mutations, this painting seemed to be taking me somewhere to show me something. When I realized I was painting myself, I dressed “me” in my favorite dress EVER (owned in the seventies) and red “disco” heels. Then I knew I was painting the tension between the faded word “Stop” and this woman’s determined exit. That is the creative spirit; movement, specifically this movement. A painting, before it is begun, still in the mind of the artist, is really unknown; it has not yet happened. It’s that doorway leading to life’s tapestry of mystery, color, image and mind, waiting for the artist to have the courage to walk resolutely out the door.”


I was very excited about this, but couldn’t summon the nerve to go to the reception. Here’s the email I received:

Dear Martha Ann Kennedy,
The San Diego Museum of Art Artists Guild would like to congratulate you on your acceptance into Contemporary Expressionism -The Creative Spirit 

ACCEPTED ENTRY: The World Is Out There

And here is information about the show.

More information: Next Wednesday, we are hanging our Contemporary Expressionism – The Creative Spirit International Art Exhibition 2013 at the Lyceum Gallery at Horton Plaza, downtown San Diego.  The exhibition will be on view from September 7 through October 13 in conjunction with the San Diego Repertory Theatre play A Weekend with Picasso – www.sdrep.org/show.php?id=92#.  The exhibition is already on the Guild website – please take a look: Online Exhibition.   We very much appreciate all the work our website liaison Julianne Ricksecker has done putting up the online exhibition.

“Our thanks go to our juror, Dr. Derrick R. Cartwright, Director of University Galleries, University of San Diego, and former executive director of The San Diego Museum of Art, who took the time to go through over 160 entries and select 59 artworks for the exhibition.  Once we have hung the show, Dr. Cartwright will select three prizewinners which will be announced at the Friday, September 13, opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m.

The painting show turned out to be part of a whole “happening” (when will us Baby-Boomers just stop with this I wonder) at the San Diego Repertory Theater downtown built around a play called “A Weekend with Picasso.” The play is in Spanish… Here’s the blurb from the REP website about the show. I can’t believe my little painting is going to be “curated” by the former director of the San Diego Art Museum. It’s extremely cool and extremely strange but I’m very happy about all of it. It takes some of the fear out of the other stuff that’s going on… 

“The San Diego Artist Guild Presents Contemporary Expressionism The Creative Spirit In the Lyceum Gallery Sept. 6 – Oct. 6, 2013 Opening Night Reception: Friday, Sept. 13 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m As the Father of Modern Art, Pablo Picasso had enormous influence on those artists who came after him. This international exhibition features works that honor the spirit of Picasso. Enjoy this showcase of contemporary expressionism curated by Derrick Cartwight, the director of the San Diego Museum of Art from 2004 to 2009. 

From 2013: “In fact, Picasso had a big influence on me as an artist. When I went to Washington DC way long ago, 1979, to take the Foreign Service Test, I went to the National Gallery. It was a great time. It was my first time alone in a major city looking at art and I discovered that is something I LOVE to do. I saw Picasso’s linoleum cuts and I loved them. I read about them, how he did them, on the little cards beside the pictures. I came home and did linocuts just like Picasso, using a spoon to make the contact between the “plate” and the paper. It took a while for me to find the best paper for this, but I ended up using hand made paper from India. If I had a little more space in my shed I’d try it again, I think. Maybe when it’s not quite so hot and I can hang them on the clothes line. It was so fun, it was so fun to be released from “getting it right” which is still a hang up for me and maybe for every other artist. So, I think it’s cool that my very first real exhibit is in conjunction with a play about Picasso. It’s quite Fellinesque, too, as Picasso was Fellini’s muse (as Fellini has often been mine). My explanation for my painting echoes Fellini, something I didn’t realize when I wrote it. But it hearkens back to a quotation I love and that anyone can find at the end of this blog.”

2 thoughts on ““The World Is Out There” — First gallery show! 2013

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