Sundays with Clyfford Still: Elemental Magic (10)

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

This is number 10  in the series.  You can read the other posts here.

1950-M No.1 by Clyfford Still

Jagged orange stalagmites are submerged in a blue haze that turns them violet, as if we have stepped into a cave in the gloaming, or are underwater.

The best works are often those with the fewest and simplest elements… until you look at them a little more, and things start to happen.  — Clyfford Still

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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: One Man’s War (8)

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

This is number 8  in the series.  You can read the other posts here.

Untitled from 1974 by Clyfford Still

Untitled, Clyfford Still, 1974. Photo credit: SFMoMA

A howling grey wind in a night that has swallowed all color.  We’re just fragments of  red, yellow, blue and white,  engulfed in infinite darkness.

“I will always represent a one-man war against the abdication of individual will [institutions]  usually demand, and the confusion of purpose they introduce, since power is basic to their survival… We can never meet except in a state of armed truce.”

Clyfford Still, from letter to Dorothy Miller, July 15,  1952.

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Sundays with Clyfford Still: Carrying the fire (7)

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

This is number 7  in the series.  You can read the other posts here.

PH1033-1976

PH1033-1976, by Clyfford Still

Today’s painting is PH1033, dating from 1976.    Bolts of jagged orange blaze their way through a cold white background like lava burning through an ice sheet.  A dab of brown on the left, which seems to float in arctic calm despite the orange bursting like a solar flare next to it, balances the monumental violence on the right.

“You can turn the lights out. The paintings will carry their own fire. ”  — Clyfford Still

Clyfford in front of canvas

Clyfford Still's painting tools

Clyff's painting tools (credit: Cyrus McCrimmon

Here we have Clyffie’s palette and painting knives.  He painted with knives rather than brushes.  And he didn’t clean them any better than I do mine.   The last painting he ever painted was mostly yellow, it looks like.  (Want to see more palettes of famous artists?  Click here.)

Questions or comments?  You are warmly invited to leave a comment below, or tweet to me with the hashtag #clyffordlove.

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.

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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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Art Quote of the Day: Women artists expected to give up more to achieve less

Welcome to Gender Oppression Week here at Exiled Stardust.


That achievement in the arts, as in any field of endeavor, demands struggle and sacrifice is undeniable; that this has certainly been true after the middle of the 19th century, when the traditional institutions of artistic support and patronage no longer fulfilled their customary obligations, is also undeniable. One has only to think of Delacroix, Courbet, Degas, Van Gogh, and Toulouse-Lautrec as examples of great artists who gave up the distractions and obligations of family life, at least in part, so that they could pursue their artistic careers more single-mindedly.  Yet none of them wa automatically denied the pleasure of sex or companionship on account of this choice.  Nor did they ever conceive that they had sacrificed their manhood or their sexual role on account of their single-mindedness in achieving professional fulfillment.  But if the artist in question happened to be a woman, one thousand years of guilt, self-doubt, and objecthood would have been added to the undeniable difficulties of being an artist in the modern world.

…Always a model but never an artist might well have served as the motto of the seriously aspiring young woman of the arts of the 19th century.

— Linda Nochlin

…and of the 20th and 21st centuries. Emphasis mine.

The rest of Nochlin’s excellent article is here and is fascinating to read despite the typos.

Every woman artist, just like every other woman, has had the difficult choice of either not having a family, or struggling to produce quality work despite the massive energy drain of coping with a husband and children – because even now in a time where men and women are supposedly “nearly equal”, women still do the lion’s share of the domestic labor.

Society romanticizes the Great (male) Artist as he goes his rebellious way in life, struggling to express his genius, and he is sure to be immortal someday, but when a woman does the same thing, she’s just a weird chick who is playing around with art because she couldn’t get a man, and no need to take her seriously.

If men and women are “nearly equal” now, why are women artists still trivialized or ignored?

“Gentle artists” get eaten alive, and/or fade into obscurity

John Cecil Stephenson

Detail of work by John Cecil Stephenson at the Durham Art Gallery.

“Until last weekend, John Cecil Stephenson had been largely neglected with no public gallery or museum staging any exhibition of his work in almost 40 years – an injustice finally righted by Durham Art Gallery, 47 years after his death.” (Mark Brown, Guardian arts correspondent)  Read the full article.

You see what we have to deal with.   Artists now are expected to be human self-promoting machines.

And you’d better be slick with your personal presentation.  If you’re a woman, you’d better be as beautiful as possible.  (Men get to look like whatever, because they’re considered actual humans, not decoration.)

All this feverish marketing and social game-playing sucks up so much energy; what is left to go into the art?  What sort of art world do we end up with?

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