Sundays with Clyfford Still: The Golden Cord (9)

Welcome to Sundays With Clyfford Still.  I’m your host, M.K. Hajdin.

This is number 9  in the series.  You can read the other posts here.

It’s Easter, which in most religions is about celebrating new life.  Let’s hear what Clyfford had to say on the subject:

Clyfford Still painting white with yellow streaks

Untitled by Clyfford Still (late 1970s)

These are not paintings in the usual sense; they are life and death merging in fearful union. As for me, they kindle a fire; through them I breathe again, hold a golden cord, find my own revelation.

— Clyfford Still

On a blinding white background flame spirits leap and flicker and cool as they sink toward the bottom of the painting.

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Sundays with Clyfford Still: Why did he leave the art world? (6)

Welcome to Sundays With Clyfford Still.  I’m your host, M.K. Hajdin.

This is number 6 in the series.  You can read the other posts here.


Clyfford profile in color

A rare color photo of Clyfford Still

Clyfford Still turned his back on the the art world and went on rejecting its elitism and snobbery for the rest of his life, only to be embraced and immortalized after his death.  It’s a genius strategy, because after you’re dead nobody can argue with you.  Nobody wants to disrespect the dead.   Still was perfectly aware that artists who have starved in obscure garrets all their lives are suddenly pounced upon as soon as they die, gobbled up and assimilated into the world of the “culturati”.  He just didn’t want that process to happen while he was alive, because being part of high society is fucking tiresome.

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Sundays with Clyfford Still: His wife was an artist too, but no one remembers (5)

Welcome to Sundays With Clyfford Still.  I’m your host, M.K. Hajdin.

This is number 5 in the series.  You can read the other posts here.

Clyfford Still and Patricia Still

Patricia Still and Clyfford Still.  (credit)

This week on Sundays with Clyfford Still we will be talking about a little known but vital part of Clyff’s life and work:  his wife, Patricia.

Patricia Still, like so many other wives of Great Artists, was an artist herself who got subsumed into her husband’s life and work.   As happens with so many other wives, all of her energy and lifeforce went into sustaining her husband, until she  lost her own identity and became part of him.  After he died, she managed his estate and made sure his last wishes were carried out.  The Clyfford Still museum in Denver was the result of her labor.

I couldn’t find a single image of her work anywhere.  (If anyone knows where I can find some, please contact me.)

However feisty and independent these women may be, as wives they are sucked into the gravitational pull of the genius male and are overshadowed, if not obliterated altogether.

This phenomenon is accepted uncritically by many male historians and critics who assume that women and their work are naturally inferior and that they are glad to shed their own lesser talent for the opportunity to be part of a legend, although a legend with a man’s name and a face that is not their own.

These women were not weak, foolish or unwise.  They are the products of a society that systematically deprives women of resources until they are forced to align with men for survival — then demands their submission, their energy, their will and even their very lives as payment.

Is it Clyfford Still’s fault?  No, I can’t say that it is.

Contrary to the popular idea of artists as being wayward, romantic substance abusers,  Still was a quiet, responsible family man.  The process of subsuming another human being and holding them in subjection is ubiquitously held as tradition in our culture; he alone cannot be held responsible for it – though it could be asked:  since Still rebelled against so many other institutions, why didn’t he rebel against that one?

My answer is this:

He couldn’t rebel against the very thing that kept him alive.

The erasure of women artists is not the fault of any single person, but the result of an oppressive framework which must be identified, targeted and dismantled before all of us have the freedom to be full and complete humans in our own right.   Only then will women stop disappearing.

PH-77 by Clyfford Still

PH-77 by Clyfford Still. Photo credit: Barry Goralnick

Today’s painting is from 1937, when Still was still painting figuratively.  Still’s work was deeply influenced by his father’s life as a poor farmer.  The viewer can almost  feel the aching backs of these these laborers as they scratch a meager living from an unwilling earth that will eventually swallow them whole.

My new favorite banner of all time

The canvas was his ally.

The paint and trowel were his weapons.

And the art world was his enemy.


Clyfford Still billboard

I never even knew I had a favorite banner, until now.

I got it from this tweet from the Clyfford Still Museum:

The canvas was his ally. The paint and trowel were his weapons. And the art world was his enemy.…

— ClyffordStillMuseum (@Still_Museum) February 28, 2012

Lyrical Abstraction of the Day: Terry Chipp

Okay, the lines are a little angular to be 100% lyrical, but close enough.

Deep, brooding, oceanic atmosphere broken up by strange angular structures that look like sticks bound together.  Love the iridescent effect of the background.

See more of Terry Chipp’s art at his website.

Painting by Terry Chipp

05.05.06 by Terry Chipp, acrylic on board, 120 x 120cm

Quote of the Day: What doesn’t work

We learn just as much if not more about what works from what doesn’t work. We see what we never want to be, or what we never want to do. The things we love show us a bar to set.

Ottabelle from this discussion

This is especially relevant to me right now, because over the weekend I was unexpectedly confronted with something that bothered me very much on an ethical level, and I’ve been turning over in my mind whether to write about it or not. If I confront the issue,  I run the risk of alienating some people, even friends. If I don’t confront it, I run the risk of alienating myself.

Integrity, as they say, lies in being true to yourself.  So I guess I have one more blog post on the back burner now.

Painting I am working on: temporary title Cyan

Painting I am working on. Temporary title: Cyan

P.S. : LOL.

Sundays with Clyfford Still: Beyond This Dark Place (3)

Welcome to Sundays with Clyfford Still.  I’m your host, M.K. Hajdin.

This episode is third in the series.  You can find the others here.


Life imitates art.  It’s spring,  the branches outside are budding, and a painter once nearly forgotten is bringing new life to the art world.  And to me.

Today’s Clyfford Still painting is from the early phase of his career.  In the late 1930s, he was still painting recognizable figures, but his works were losing their forms and becoming more and more abstract.   The work below,  now at the SFMoMA, is his most abstracted work from 1936-1937.   He went on to create the first abstract expressionist painting in 1944.

Still went the opposite way of Rothko:   Rothko’s paintings faded over time from brilliant color into ever darker and more somber hues, like an ember burning out.

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Art question of the day: “Where’s YOUR paintings, M?”

Imagine that you and I are lounging around in my front room, on a comfy imaginary suede sofa and finishing off a bottle of dry white wine.   Imagine that it’s some other season than the dead of winter, or we would be huddled in misery over an electric underblanket rather than lounging.

My imaginary couch

My imaginary couch, though it would be a lighter color and not have Coco Chanel draped all over it

After looking around at all the half-finished paintings on my walls, you might ask me:

“M., your dedication to Clyfford Still borders on obsession and you blog about other artists, your balcony, and people’s handwriting.  But you’re an artist, and this is supposed to be  your art blog.  Right?  So where’s your art? Don’t tell us your portfolio at, because there’s only like 4 pictures in it.  Where are all the rest?”

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Art quote of the day: Flaming Life by Clyfford Still

Like Belmonte weaving the pattern of his being by twisting the powerful bulls around him, I seem to achieve a comparable ecstasy in bringing forth the flaming life through these large areas of canvas. And as the blues or reds or blacks leap and quiver in their tenuous ambience or rise in austere thrusts to carry their power infinitely beyond the bounds of the limiting field, I move with them and find a resurrection from the moribund oppressions that held me only hours ago. 

— Clyfford Still

Clyfford Still 1949 no. 1
Clyfford Still, 1949 No. 1 (PH-385), 1949