Studio Update

As readers may already know, I recently moved into a studio at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in NYC. For the new series of paintings I’m working on, I’m using the geometric vocabulary I’ve developed over the past few years, but I’ve switched from oil on stretched canvas to acrylic on wrinkled, unprimed canvas. I’ve also decided to spend no longer than three hours on each piece, which makes the paintings about the choices made in truncating the painting process. Stopping after three hours is incredibly difficult. Do I quickly cover the whole canvas with paint or concentrate finely on a small section and leave the rest untouched?  Whatever the strategy, I find the incompleteness of the paintings compelling–but I wish they photographed better.

 Untitled 1, 2011, acrylic and pencil on canvas, 72 x 60.” Should I stretch this or leave it unstretched? I can’t decide.
 Untitled I, detail.
Untitled 2, 2011, acrylic and pencil on canvas, 72 x 60″
Untitled 2, detail.
Untitled(Purple), 2011, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 12″

Untitled (Dean’s Mill) 2011, acrylic on linen, 10 x 12″
In the June issue of The Brooklyn Rail, look for my latest essay on new abstraction; composing it was a little like writing a statement about my own work.
Related post: 
More on my interest in incompleteness at Studio Critical


  1. I love these new paintings: the shapes, the color, the crisp form against the formless and wrinkled canvas. I guess that's why I tend to prefer the unstretched look, which lends a provisional quality that I find appealing, a contrast of surfaces that is very rich. (but then I'm doing something a little similar with hooked wool and paint on linen, so I am biased.)

  2. Perhaps a three hour time limit is too restrictive? Three hours is the just getting started point for me. I like the idea of unfinished work also but the very short time frame for each painting doesn't seem to allow for enough development to make the unfinished aspect compelling.

  3. As someone who obsesses about surface and edge, I love the freedom of these painting. And it's not just the freedom, it's the paintings. Congrats.

  4. I love them and I love them unstretched. I have three hours only of studio time m-f unless I work late at night, I have embraced the idea of working with what I have. I think these types of situations can help an artist figure things out and take chances they might not typically take. The incompleteness really works with these. They are complete as incomplete!

  5. A similar time-constrained situation is when working with live models as I so often do. Even though I'm aware the image could carry forth given more time, I'm willing to let it be complete and raw when the scheduled pose is over. Not all pieces work out well under the ticking clock but the ones that do have appeal that could not be achieved otherwise. Urgency is a wonderful tool to block our sensible mind. I admire your ability to apply the clock when working in the abstract. Kinda makes it necessary to have all the thoughts gathered before hitting the go button.

  6. Unstretched!! I love Untitled 2!!!

  7. Thanks for the comments, everyone.
    LM: 3 hours IS restrictive but raises interesting questions. For instance, how we define failure. One painting is going on 7 hours. Have I failed because I couldn't stop working on it?

  8. unstretched! The shapes/forms seem as though they might float away at any moment; that the wind might blow and gently move the canvas and the shapes would be gone. absolutely beautiful.

  9. I like them hanging loose. I think that the sensual nature of the fabric, and the geometric imagery, play well together and accentuate each other. The stretched canvas looks like a painting. The loose ones have something else going on and seem more present, alive.
    I like the folds and wrinkles. Will they remain, or go away over time? Have you tried folding your own folds into the fabric and painting from that? Seems like you have hit a rich vein to work. And in a new space. Most auspicious.

  10. … one more thing. The three hour limit I see more as a move to jolt you out of your standard ways of working. I don't think it need be a permanent thing. But it does good to jolt yourself, especially if you feel the painting goes on too long, etc. But with this new format, the 3 hour rule might not apply so much because, well, it's new, and your explorations might be gentled a bit, say like giving yourself the day to work on it, or getting six going at once, or ? I guess I'm saying don't make the three hour rule the new thing that you will eventually have to free yourself from. Relax into your new sensuality of work. It's summer!

  11. My vote is for the raw unstretched canvas, wrinkles intact. I'm also in favor of self-imposed limitations. I agree with what Benjamin said about floating away. Nice.

    I'm experimenting with some unstretched canvas on some leftovers though I made gesso squares inside of them for working with oil. They wrinkled when they shrunk of course, so I gessoed the backs to flatten them. I get indiscriminately particular every now and then.

  12. I don't think there is failure because you went over the three hours, but its your work and you might lean towards the ones that stayed within the three hours subconsciously. I think this work though will take you to further work that could have less restrictions or more if you want. Personally I like this restrictions idea. my summer is looking grim for daytime painting, i should set up some restrictions for myself with my paintings I plan to do out of my car while my kids are in there 3 hour camp for only 3 weeks.

  13. Wrinkles go away. Love Dean's Mill.

  14. Sharon these are a great new turn in your work. Really awesome. I think the meta-thoughts about truncating the process and making the process about that sounds great. More!

  15. Perhaps there could be varying time limits: 2 hours, 3 hours, 4 hours, and so on. One question: do you find that setting a time limit makes you work faster? How does the awareness of having a set time in which to work on something affect what you do? It would seem to add a sense of pressure to the art making process, which certainly would cause one to make different kinds of choices. It's a very interesting exercise, especially since the main aim is to make less "finished" work. I wonder, though, if one needs to set strict time limits in order to accomplish this feeling of unfinishedness. Just some thoughts!

  16. your new approach to painting looks fun and enjoyable, I like the results

  17. I like the unprimed and hung/slung canvas effect, feels very fresh. I'm curating a show in Hudson, New York, during NADA Hudson, maybe I can out one of those beauties in??

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