From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Archive for the ‘painting’ Category

in-process on “Between the Lines (Experience Exchange)”

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sprectrum-side These are the first set of “pages” for participants in Between the Lines (Experience Exchange) to write on.  The materials are translucent acrylics on vellum with bookbinding thread sewn into the tops to tie them into the structure.

The piece was commissioned by the College of the Redwoods for their annual Book of the Year celebration.  This year’s book is Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The structure of the piece is a large sculpture created a s a physical framing of some of the book’s core concepts  (I saw them, but also based  on interviews with the author, reviews, and discussions with other people).  The questions also derive from the book, and will ask participants to respond with their own related experiences.



Spring Shows and Events!

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     April 19th:         Open Studios 12-5PM   2565 Third Street (between 22nd and 23rd), SF, CA
May 2-4th:             Print Show at Mullowney Printing   933 Treat Street, SF, CA 94110

                                    * Opening on Friday the 2nd.

     May 14th-18th:      PRINCIPAL:  SFAI’s Graduate Thesis Exhibition


SFAI Graduate Open Studios:

This is your chance to get a peek into the process.

Navigational Tip:   There is an entrance at 22nd street.  Go to the second floor.  Every Orange door on the floor is an SFAI facility. 

I am in Bay C (just to the right of the lounge) in a lovely corner spot in #7 in the back right. 

I will send out more information on the second two events as they approach.  I hope to see you at the Open Studios!  I will have an interactive piece running in the studio as well as a Participatory piece you can contribute to.

Whirlwind of Art NYC: Grid/Weave/Tangle

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Last week I flew out to NYC for some Art saturation.  Museums, Galleries, the Whitney Biennial, a show, studio visits… it was wonderful.  There will be a post about all that, but I thought I’d share the work that really connected to my current exploration of weave and grid and tangle.

I happened to see Jasper John’s “Regrets” series at MOMA and noticed a lot of fabric and weave in his prints!  It was interesting to me that though I knew him as a painter since high school, I’d never really seen any of his print work (one of those some-media-privileged-over-others things?).  He also directly incorporated cloth and weave into his in 0-9 series on display there. Last week I was just working out how I would incorporate the weave into my first copper plate and here was a famous artist doing just that.  Serendipitously later that day I saw another Jasper Johns piece at Matthew Marks Gallery in Chelsea related to the 0-9 prints at MOMA which was done as a bronze sculpture … again with the weave.

The following slide show is made up of the work around NYC, old and new that fed  into the shapes and thoughts around grid/weave/tangle that I’ve been exploring.


Written by Mary Corey March

March 29, 2014 at 1:00 am

Graduate Open Studios

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studioGraduate Open Studios at SFAI is just around the corner.  Come see what me and everyone else is working on.

April 20, 12:00–5:00 pm

Map (you want to take the entrance on 22nd St, not 3rd St.)  It’s on the Second floor and includes all bays with orange doors.  I am in studio C7.  It’s in bay C (one of the nearer bays on the left, studio is in the back right corner).

If you come visit you may well find yourself incorporated into an artwork.  I usually use Open Studios events for their steady stream of people who can feed into my work, so I am often alternating between hosting my studio and actually working.  Also, I can’t stand being in my workspace looking at anything unfinished without working on something!

Setting out for the Arctic Circle

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IMG_4750I am so pleased with how the prints came out!  I have been dying to try the fancy fabric printer at SFAI since I first saw it on the tour.  So exciting.  For this new project I’ve printed on Belgian linen and organza (both pre-treated for printing).   It nearly looked like the fabric wouldn’t arrive in time to print, but though it came down to the wire it all worked out.  Amazingly the tests I did weren’t even needed- it came out exactly as I hoped it would!  There’s a first time for everything- even printing on machines.

I took 5 minutes the other day and made myself a rough little fabric embroidery floss roll that fits in my pack and I’m ready to go!

I love working while in motion, especially detailed things like this.  So yes, there will be embroidery, layers of printed fabric… and I’m thinking about other elements too… like sound.  The piece will be an installation of many smaller parts gathered around the primary map.  One thing I’m enjoying – I don’t know what will happen to the piece on the journey.  It will be a surprise, coming out of the travel.  We’ll see.  Pleased and ready to go to the Arctic Circle!


Written by Mary Corey March

March 14, 2013 at 10:48 am

Day 2

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I had a horrible fight with a painting on Friday.  The theater-scrim reactive lighting painting/sculpture I had in mind needs time to percolate.  I brought it to my painting class last Friday because I was urged to work on my normal body of work and the pieta painting was too wet (not to mention heavy) to transport to the undergraduate campus.

Big mistake., but it did teach me a lot about my process.  When I have something in mind painting is like dancing.  When I don’t have that clear feeling or picture. it can become a horrible fight.
I threw it out (or rather stripped the canvas off the panel and donated it to a starving undergrad.

When I paint more visceral pieces like the sculpted canvas series I still have a very distinct feeling in mind- a moment, atmosphere, emotion.  The skin paintings are something I sketch and re-sketch in color until I have them right and then I create them in a mix of construction and painting in the moment. A painting like the Pieta is extremely planned, with many references and sketches in Photoshop.

But working without even a song to follow?  No.  That particular piece is like a half-remembered dream.  I need to sit with it before I know what it needs to be.

In the meantime, I continue to work on three other projects on my own; the Pieta, a digital weaving using optical fiber, and a new installation similar to Identity Tapestry in character.  The last was something I just made a huge leap with yesterday just by explaining it and talking it through out loud to a friend.

The painting shown here was the first day of painting in painting class (part of my MFA program).  We had to start something from a photo in the second class, so I took an interesting image (I’ve been enjoying juxtaposing human and machine), tweaked the color in photoshop and started painting.  This is 5 hours in (when I last posted it it was just 3 hours).  I hope to finish it in the next painting class.

Painting class on the undergrad campus presents a problem for me.  I’m glad to have all these little holes in my understanding of how painting works (like how to build stretcher bars and why use pva, etc.) and to get some academic background on contemporary painters and current shows.  The hard part is dragging my work and materials back and forth and painting on command.  I don’t want to do that to work I’m really serious about- it’s too easy to mess something up in transit, and the distractions of working in a class as opposed to my own studio space interrupt my process.  I suppose it’s a form of exercise though.  It’s teaching me a lot about my process that I didn’t think about before because I didn’t have those parts of my process interrupted.

Written by Mary Corey March

October 4, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Pieta, odd projects and talking to strangers.

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She’s coming along.  The glaring thing at the moment is the sparse hair- it’s coming.  The figure in her arms effectively doesn’t have hair yet and hers has only just begun.  I need to leave space for the light to come through and I need to finish her shirt and face before any hair goes on top of it.  She’s almost done- Ia little adjusting the smile, softening the face a bit… we’ll see.

…and no, he will not be green when I’m done.  Sickly perhaps, but not actually blue or green.  I went back into the building and windows, deepened the drapery, etc.  From here in I’ll be working on getting the transition from detailed around the triangle of her arms and face to gestural farther out and adding in more trash, graffiti and wires.  I’m getting pretty happy with this piece. (if you are new here, the concept for this piece is discussed earlier).

Running parallel to this are other experiments and ideas.  I’ve built a sort of cross between a very deep panel and stretchers out of poplar.  Instead of using the panel side of the panel for the next painting I’ve beveled the edges of what is usually the back the way you would for stretcher bars.  I then did a layer of black inside and today I stretched canvas over the opening.  Tomorrow I’ll start painting that one.

When I am done it will be both a painting and reactive light sculpture.  You’ll see.   I expect an awkward stage or two in the process (I’m almost positive I’ll have to take off and re-stretch the canvas at some point).

Also in the works is a tech/art/light tapestry weaving at 3′ 5′ scale.  I just ordered parts to experiment with now that I’ve narrowed things down.  Research, now testing.  The concept, and visuals are all set- it’s just making it.

And finally, I’m still thinking through the design of my next interactive installation.  Now I have enough of it figured out that I’m at the talking-to-strangers stage.  I need to go ride the bus or accost people in cafes and ask them questions.  It’s what worked so well for Identity Tapestry and it needs to be done again.  I can accost other artist any time of the day now.  Definitely helpful, but I don’t want to lose the outside perspective.  Creating at that navel-gazes totally within the art community doesn’t interest me.  That means talking to strangers.


**later note. In looking at this onscreen I noticed that the left-side shoulder has crept up, making her look more tense than serene.  Also the hair getting more filled out on top will balance her out a bit.  I sketched the changes in on photoshop to see and it looks much better.  Sometime the computer is a great tool for getting a different perspective on paintings.


Written by Mary Corey March

September 28, 2012 at 9:22 am

Feet on the ground, starting to run

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It has been a awhile since the last update.  The first jumble of moving in and starting to find my connections to SFAI has settled.

Today was spectacular. Last night I attended a visiting artist lecture by Raashad Newsome.  He’s awesome.  Intelligent, open, collaborative, exploring interesting cultural and artistic juxtapositions… just fantastic.   Using cultural gestures and conversational exclamations to score music in the style of chamber music in live performance pieces.  He conducts the pieces, and at the same time uses a wii and his own programming to mix video live into the performance!  Genius.  Exploring conceptions of “high” and “low” society and mixing them up, abstracting them together… then taking them around the world to see how they inhabit other cultures.  Brilliant.

So- I loved his work, immediately liked him, and then I got to have him come over for a studio visit in my studio today!  I just wish we’d had longer to talk, but it was a good talk and he liked my work.  He immediately struck me as the kind of person I would be great friends with.

I also had my first session with my tutorial class professor.  She’s really a great fit for me.  She asked good questions and gave me new things to look at, but she also really got my work and appreciated it.  I have no doubt she will push me harder  in the future and I look forward to it.  I love being challenged by someone who’s really good and who is really in proper communication with me.  She can also handle my whole range, which is impressive- tech things, installation, painting… she’s very versatile and has a well of knowledge and experience worth tapping for it all.

When people miss most of what I’m doing or saying and give me less than useful feedback on my work based on not understanding me or my work there is little to get from it.  There’s always something to get though.  For example:  “this is a lesson in how to manage discussions with certain kinds of people”, or “your work will be read in this way sometimes by certain people: how do you deal with that and to what extent is it them, to what extent is it you and does it matter enough to shift your work?”.  Everything is potentially useful, but some much more so than others.

Following studio visits I got a load of lumber for a new project I’m experimenting on.  I’m also convinced that it’s time to order materials for another one I’ve been planning for a few months.  More tech in both.

In the meantime I’m chipping away at the Pieta- there are many layers to go.   I also (finally!) found what I think will be a great hair photo source for the Mother.  I dragged an art history MA student from my Critical Race Theory class and took photos of her hair the other day.  People are often bewildered, but generally willing  thankfully.

Looking at the image of the painting  on the screen I see I let the left side of her face get too light and I definitely lost something in the left side of the smile.  I knew I was losing it but it was getting forced so I had to stop and return to it later.  The smile is hands-down the most delicate part of creating this piece.  Fortunately I get to go back into it tomorrow.

Last Friday I did a bit more with my quick painting of the woman in the B52 bomber.  It doesn’t fit into my body of work, but I really love the image- love the juxtaposition of the woman and the machine.

So… work is picking up and I’m very happy with my decision to do this MFA program.  The people it is putting me in contact with are an incredibly rich resource.  The access to visiting artists and artist/curator/critic faculty is great, but the connections with other students are not to be underestimated.  I’ve been meeting some wonderful fellow students and having some great conversations.  I’m pleased, and the art path continues.

In the meantime, Identity Tapestry in LA came down last Tuesday and more photos will follow.

Written by Mary Corey March

September 21, 2012 at 9:53 am

three hour painting

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I’m taking a ground-up painting class this semester.  There are certain holes in my painting (like how to build a good stretcher) that I want to fill. Today we kicked off the painting part of the course with a “show up with a photo to work from and a prepared surface, finish something by the end of class”.  The studio part of the class is from 1-3:45 and we spent the last half hour (running over to 4) discussing them.  The actual painting was pretty much free-painting with little commentary- basically the professor getting to see where we were all starting from.  I took another half hour after class to touch up, and I’d like to touch up some more, but I like what came out of this.

I took the image from a library of congress photo by Alfred Palmer of a woman building a B52 bomber.  I cropped it, desaturated it and mucked with contrast and shadows before using it as a source.  The original photo is full color.

My thought was that if I was supposed to work from a photo was that I wanted to get some of the qualities of photography into the painting and black and white helped do that.  At the same time I decided to use three blacks (warm, neutral, cold), so it’s not exactly a monochrome painting.  Knowing I would have only 3 hours and have to cart it back wet to the studio I worked small.

It felt good to work wet-on wet on a neutral grey background.  I’ve never done it before.  With representational painting I have been working more in layers.  I also really enjoyed diving into Flake White- much more silky and less chalky than titanium white, but more opaque than zinc white- a good match for the photo feel I thought.  It’s not done but I’d like to finish this one.  I like the circle of machine surrounding the woman- organic, mechanical…  it was a good painting session.

I’m so often pushing the edge with new processes and materials that I forget how easily things come now when it’s just paint.

Written by Mary Corey March

September 8, 2012 at 7:28 am

new studio

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A lot has happened in the last week or so.  I am now in the second week of my second master’s degree, this one an MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute.

I got an incredible studio space for a second year and an unheard of one for a first year.  It’s one of the largest, featuring long walls to build large installation projects on and an actual opening window!  A coveted space.  Yesterday after a week of scheduled-juggling and moving in I popped the cherry.  It was really hard to start.  Really hard.  I had to sit down and take deep breaths- I’ve had much easier times convincing myself to plunge into water that still had ice floating on it.  Something about a new space where it was also other people’s business what I did and not just my own, with the added pressure of being given such a great space I felt compelled to instantly justify it.

I started simply, working through the ground on the pieta painting and gradually warming up and digging into it more.

This one has been a trick.  I constantly fight down my training to make a representational piece accurate.  For me this one should be out of proportion.  It’s unreal space. Yesterday’s distortions were a telephone line which is much more curved than it would be in reality, but it needed to bend towards the mother’s head for the composition.  The graffiti is floating a bit.  When I add other objects- crack pipes, bits of trash… some of them will float too.  I went back and took the detail out of the recumbent figure’s right foot.  The detail needs to fade as it moves from the triangle of her arms and face.  Little touches here and there.  Reality is getting sacrificed to the composition and a subtle dream-feeling and the extra presence of the figures.
Next week Debbie (the inspiration for “Deborah’s Story“) is coming to the studio to model the correct skin tone for the woman.  I only put the first thin layer over the under-painting (which had matched the man) when I realized I must have a live model for that.  Previously she was too pale, but I saw her after a trip to Italy in the summer and her color was exactly what I needed for this piece- less yellow, more reds.

She is the first life model that I have ever painted my own self-driven work from.  Normally I would have a hard time painting something like this with someone there, but we connect so well and she appreciates what I do enough and is such great company that I’m really looking forward to it.

Once I get the Mother figure in I think this painting will start to fly.  Everything revolves around her and I can’t tighten it without her more in place.

I’m so happy to have such a fine studio.  Classes are proving exciting and interesting too, but they are not mine alone so I’ll mostly leave them off of this I think.  I have most of the day to work tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it: painting and planing a new woven piece.

Written by Mary Corey March

September 6, 2012 at 12:02 pm