Just got accepted into the Spring Issue of the Maine Arts Journal. The title is "Sanctuary" and I wrote about how the abstract is my sanctuary. Here is the link, enjoy: http://maineartsjournal.com/members-showcase-greg-mason-burns-gail-wartell/
This was recently published by The Prostitution of Art, which is a contemporary art blog based out of Boston. The site discusses the unfair treatment of artists by society / market. Articles are meant to be abstract criticisms of these forces in the contemporary world. Here is the link to the original text: The Prostitution of Art.
Here is the original text:
I want to be creative, but society has its own rules. There are no rules for creativity, and yet here we are. Where? Here, today, when art is no longer supported except through behemoth organizations sucking up money from the artist direct. Sure, you’ll go out and buy your prints from Target and destroy the artist even more. But they’re cheaper and look more professionally done. You need to be competitive. Competition is good. And bad, because the artist has no competition. He or she is unique, without comparison. That's foolish, think outside the box. There is no box. Not even an amoeba. The artist is the box, forever changing form and shape, pushing boundaries that only exist because we need a word to describe what we’re supposedly pushing. Then why the expression? It’s a corporate thing, meant to give permission to exceed established efficiency boundaries. And art doesn’t have efficiency boundaries? If no, why are you so poor? Because my world isn’t your world. You can never conquer the creative world, only diminish it, lessen its importance in society, the society you create, always pointing to what you call progress, upward, always making it hard on the artist. Sounds phallic, hehe. It is a fallacy. Art sold for millions never goes to the artist, the creator. Give me an example. A dangling light. A light? That shows the way. A light that shows the way is a fallacy in of itself because it only shows what it can shine upon and everything else remains darkened by the soft edges of the light and its limits and how far it can go and how far it cannot go. Auction houses are the light, but creativity is the darkness. Too deep for me, just like the price of your painting. Another car payment? That and a family cruise to Aspen. A cruise that can’t be taken. And yet I’ll pay for it just the same. Here’s a quarter, what can you make me for a quarter? I’ll take your quarter and take a picture. And you’ll send it to me by email? So you can reproduce it on the Internet and make more money than it cost you? Sure, that’s what I’m talking about. No need to give me your card, I’ll remember your email by memory. Now that’s why I only gave you a quarter. And it’s why your idea that art will always exist on a quarter is a fallacy. If art is darkness, it will always exist. Someday the light will go out forever. Art will conquer? Not if you only have one word for darkness. Maybe I’ll create another one. Ah, maybe.
Color Field painting, a derivative of Abstract Expressionism, is essentially the attention to color in abstraction as opposed to form or structure. The early Color Field painters, such as Mark Rothko, Clement Greenberg, and Clyfford Still wanted to create large works such that when one was standing up close one was absorbed in the color. Color Field has developed since then with various tendencies moving both further from shape and form and closer to it.
I'm developing color field in a way that combats the color against the figure (and will be doing so this year mostly at a residency at Contemporary Arts International with an exhibit following in November). This is not easy to do. First and foremost I need to have worthy figures that can both compete with the color but not overtake it. I do this by developing minimalist charcoal drawings, and the ones that work get transferred to paintings (digital studies below). But that's not all that's difficult. Color Field requires the fluid consistency of color, and the more colors that are added the more they must contrast and compliment each other at the same time. Make one mistake, and you've lost that jarring awakeness, so to speak.
So it's important to note that while creating one of these paintings is actually technically easy to do, what is difficult is the discovery and development of the painting. Many studies are done before a piece is finally ready to be painted on the final support. For example, Color Field #4 (noted above) is the study for Color Field #7, the latter of which is almost 3.5 times larger than the smaller version. Below are a couple of "failed" studies, too. Again, once the paint is done, there's no going back, so one needs to be right before going in.
It's the same with Jackson Pollock's streams of paint. Those look completely random (while Color Field tends to look quite prepared - a stunning contrast of the diversity of Abstract Expressionism), but Pollock did a lot of studying to prepare for his final pieces. Those paintings are anything but random. Neither are these paintings that focus on the color. So I have actually four steps:
We'll see how this develops and if the idea sticks in the exhibit later this year.
Great news. I've been accepted to attend a two-month artist residency at The Quarry at Contemporary Arts International in Acton, MA for 2018. My tenure there will be split between one month in the spring (May-June) and another in the fall (Oct-Nov) with the exhibit being in Nov.
My plan is to create ten large pieces similar to the one to the left. Except that I won't be doing silhouettes. Instead, I'll be painting colored squares or stripes as a background and putting the minimalist charcoal drawings seen below on top of the colors. I may keep the minimalist drawings black, or I may change the colors. I'm not sure yet as that is going to require more research. Other colored examples are below as well.
Still, this is yet another great opportunity, and your support helps to make that time away from work possible, so thanks!
I noted late in 2017 that I was asked to participate in the Luciano Benetton Imago Mundi project, which is a collection of artworks from every single nation on earth. Each country has it's own collection, but some countries, such as the UK, have separate pages for the nations that exist within the UK. I was asked to participate in the Scotland Collection.
The way the project works is that the artist is sent a canvas. Each artist has the same sized canvas, and that's to make it easier to store and exhibit all the different artworks. The artist uses the canvas in any way he or she prefers, and then sends the canvas back. It becomes a permanent part of the Imago Mundi collection, and is exhibited all over the world.
My painting, titled Incomplete, was done with a single brush stroke of the closest I could come to of the official color of the Saltire (St. Andrew's Cross) flag, Pantone 300. My photo here is a little darker than it really is, and the photo of the Imago Mundi Scotland Collection link is a little lighter than it really is. I think I got close enough.
This is obviously an abstract work, but it has a pretty significant meaning to me. First off, it is only one part of the Saltire, or in another way, half. From this it gets it's title of Incomplete. But this incompleteness is more symbolic. Scotland is still a member of the United Kingdom. There is a practical and romantic surge of a belief of the right to self-determination in Scotland. Whether one agrees Scotland should be independent is another question, but this work approaches the subject of independence as if there is still work to be done. So the Saltire, the painting, and the independence movement are only half-way there.
Anyone remember Piss Christ by Andres Serrano? Yeah, that one - the one where Serrano received about $20,000 in tax-payer money to create art. In my mind, nothing wrong with that - he's an artist who had a provocative photograph, and that's pretty normal in contemporary art - but there were several conservative politicians who did take exception and, as luck would have it, these politicians managed to change how the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) would distribute tax dollars to artists.
Before this controversy, the NEA offered grants to individual artists. After, they offered grants to only organizations and institutions as a sort of protective buffer. It would be the organization that would take the blame if anything such as this ever came about again, and not the NEA.
As one might imagine, this caused a problem in the art world. Contemporary art is definitely something worth collecting, but it's not something that typically hangs on a person's wall for decoration. It's an investment, and investments are often saved for the wealthy. If an artist is lucky enough to have wealthy admirers, then there's no problem with art creation - the lucky artist can find a way to pay the bills and put food on the table. But if that artist doesn't have the client base? Well, supporting the development of art is expensive and that money has to come from somewhere. Step in fiscal sponsors.
Fiscal sponsors took over the role of artists in the world of granting money to artists. Instead of the money going to the artist, it now had to go to an organization, but why must that organization be a well-known one such as the Warhol Foundation? The answer is that it need not be. Fiscal sponsors simply apply for the grant on behalf of the artist, and then pass on the grant money to the artist after taking a fee (usually 3% to 10%).
Now, don't get to thinking that the fiscal sponsor will write that grant application for you. They won't. You need to write it first, they need to approve it, and then you send it on their behalf. They are the ones applying, but you're doing the work. Often times an artist needs to apply to the fiscal sponsor as well. This is a good thing as it shows some level of standards and quality.
How can you find fiscal sponsors? Well, just about any non-profit arts organization can be one, and it often helps to find one in your state. I recommend an experienced one, though. Mine is Fractured Atlas and I've successfully raised over $1,500 dollars for my project there. The good thing, too, is that anyone who donates to me makes a tax-deductible donation, because technically the money initially goes to a non-profit.
Where can you find these fiscal sponsors? I googled and got references, but you can find a listing of ones at these sites:
There are fiscal sponsors for a variety of art specialties. Find the one that best suits you and get after it!
I haven't done a Kickstarter proejct for a while, mostly because I'm just not the kind of artist who needs a lot of "one-off" projects fulfilled. My most pressing need at the moment is studio space, and I've been working on my Patreon page to get me to a point where I can have on-gong long-term relationships that help me create art on a regular basis. However, when I saw that Kickstarter was going to be doing a Commissions project, I knew that this type of project would work well for me on that platform.
I've been doing a lot of minimalist charcoal drawings lately, mostly because of the models sessions that I've been attending. I started these a while ago, in Brazil, and have developed a line of portraits, landscapes, and abstract drawings that would make a very nice exhibit in of itself. This Kickstarter project gives me a chance to develop new clients from a different perspective. So please, check it out if you get the chance. I'd love to hear back from you on it.
What a week it's been. Being busy isn't even the word. Despite all the happenings leading up to opening night, the hanging, reception, and artist talk at the Southwest Harbor Public Library (Abstract Ideas, Art You Can Imagine) all went off without a hitch. I had about 10 people come, with about five coming early expecting the talk to begin at 5:30 instead of at 7:00. That's my fault, as I wasn't clear about the talk's time. Still, the exhibit looks good. Twenty-seven pieces hanging throughout. I'm pretty happy with that, and how everything looks.
One thing I most enjoyed about this exhibit was the curation process. I finally had about 30 pieces that I wanted to hang. I couldn't hang all of them, and in fact I left quite a few of my best, larger pieces at home because one section of the library I had previously thought I could hang in was suddenly unavailable. So I had to actually curate, and I felt good knowing that I had 27 pieces I was comfortable hanging. Everything looked good in the end. I'm actually pretty proud of my work. Have a look below:
Conceptual art now dominates the art world. It's not the skill of the artwork that's the most important element in the creative process, but the idea behind it instead. I work in abstract ideas - ideas not completely defined - that allow me to create works, even longer projects, that give us something to think about.
For example, imagine watching the news and the reporter tells you something is fact even though you might not agree with it. There's a gap between you and the reporter isn't there? His or her information doesn't line up with your understanding of the same subject. The reporter ignores the gap between the two of you, and you might do so as well. I don't. I take that gap and ask what might it look like if it were a village. Yeah, pretty abstract wouldn't you say? And yet, I've taken this gap between the media and the audience and I've created a village that doesn't exist anywhere except in this project.
Want to learn more? Come to the Southwest Harbor Library on Wed, November 1, 2017 to discover how I do this. Entrance is free and refreshments are available.
I haven’t had a good rant post in a while, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the act of signing artwork, and in particular how the chic way to sign an artwork these days is to not sign at all. And I’ve thought a lot about why I sign my work, too. Despite thinking a lot about it, I’ve never really come up with a better answer than “it’s mine and therefore I should take credit for it.” This goes back to my feeling that we should be declarative in what we do. I don’t buy into this idea that “God gives me the ideas” and I don’t buy into the notion that someone should have to guess which work is mine. Regardless of where the idea came from, I created and I should own it, whether that means I take the credit or the blame. So that’s why I sign my artwork.
But I always kept hearing this idea of “removing the artist” or “letting he ego fly away” from the artwork as a reason for not signing, and I really got to thinking that these ideas are just complete bullshit. Anyone with any fame at all has created works that are instantly recognizable (and probably quite a few pieces that are definitely not). The artist who fits into this category (and they’re really the only ones who matter here) doesn’t need to worry about someone needing to see his or name on the piece because anyone with a reasonable education can determine this (Marcel Duchamp and Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven exempted). And that’s fantastic for him or her, except that it is absolutely more egotistical to be recognized this way than with a signature on the bottom. Without a signature, the artist is relying on other people knowing who he or she is. That’s ego. That’s me walking into a room and not needing to introduce myself because I assume everyone already knows.
I still don’t have a better answer for signing than my position above about owning one’s work, but I can safely cross out the notion that ego plays a part in it. Of course I want people to know my work, but more importantly I want to stand for what I’ve done
Greg Mason Burns is an American-born contemporary visual artist. These are his thoughts on life as an artist.