Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee: "Wake Up"; Kate Castelli

"Wake Up," by The Arcade Fire (2007); a theme song for the Spike Jonze/Dave Eggers film of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.

"Wake up, lobster, wake up!" Translucent chalk edgings on the Hudson's waves, the faintest blue wash above, the gulls are calling out..."Look at all the sailboats! Little ones for exploring the river and the and there: giant ocean-going ones, all the way from London or the Caribbean."

As we set sail, let us think of Calvin & Hobbes, and the Pevensies (especially Lucy) on the Dawntreader, Ged and Vetch in the Lookfar seeking Ged's bane on the open sea, Lyra (and Pantalaimon!) sailing north with John Faa and the Gyptians to rescue the kidnapped children, and of course Max wearing his animal-suit as he careens across the waves to meet the Wild Things.

An artist who captures the expectancy, the shimmery promise, of our trip is Kate Castelli. I urge you to spend time with her sketchbooks online (some of which will tour nationally in early 2011), and to read her blog, "Wandering But Not Lost." Click here for these.

Kate kindly answered a few questions for us:

Lobster & Canary, question 1:

The thesis of the 2009 Hayward Gallery/London show­ entitled ­The end of the line- attitudes in drawing:

“In the Western tradition, drawing was the foundation of art education, the essential discipline underlying all others. In the second half of the 20th century, a more academic approach to art making threatened the authority of drawing as a 'pure' art form, as a result, many schools cast it out as a throwback to past times. Recently drawing has returned to the mainstream as a cheap and autonomous activity, a democratically available form of image making, uniquely capable of intimate, spontaneous self-revelation.”

There certainly seems to be increased curatorial and scholarly interest in drawing. Some examples of this include the first-ever comprehensive exhibition of Bronzino’s drawings (at the Metropolitan, NYC earlier this year), the ground-breaking show of Parmigianino’s drawings in 2004 at the Frick (NYC), and books like Roberto Calasso’s 2006 (English translation, 2009) Tiepolo Pink on the painter’s Scherzi and the first-ever survey of conceptual/”interior space” artist Rachel Whiteread’s drawings, published this month. Collecting activity also seems to be picking up, judging from the successful launch ten years ago of Master Drawings, London and of its counterpart in New York four years ago.

But are we truly seeing a revival of interest in drawing in the art schools?

Kate's Response: "I don’t think there was ever a loss of interest in drawing. It is too vital of a skill to ignore. When you enter art school, drawing serves as a fundamental building block to engage in the visual language of the world. It is a way to make sense of what you are seeing. You become facile and adept. Eventually you realize that recording what you see is not enough, you are not a camera after all. This is the other side of drawing in art school, the expressive. Developmentally this can only happen after a rigorous and academic foundation. You choose what to keep and what to disregard. It is this intuitive editing combined with a skill set that really develops the artistic voice.

I think the renewed interest in drawing is more rooted in the dialogue between the artist and their voice. It’s not about what they see, but how they see it".

Lobster & Canary, question 2:

“If there is a renaissance of drawing taking place, it is not driven by the art market, but by something inside the artists themselves. It is driven, I suspect, by something innate and human, by a constellation of long-standing behaviors and impulses shaped as much by human nature as by culture.” Says Peter Steinhart in his The Undressed Art: Why We Draw (2004), p. 9.

Your thoughts on this?

Kate's Response: "There is a visceral immediacy to drawing. It is the relationship between the eye and the hand, or the head and the hand. It is a process and a product. I am more interested in the process, the intuitive, the compulsion to put a mark on a surface. I think the art market is generally interested in the product, something authentic and elemental. It is the dual nature of drawing; a place to begin and an end unto itself."

Lobster & Canary, question 3:

Talk to us about your sketchbooks. How much is spontaneous observation, how much an accretion of ideas, how much intended as a finished product, how much as preliminary to a final work? Do you study the sketchbooks of other artists?

Kate's Response: "I always carry a sketchbook, I feel naked without one. I’ve done 2-4 a year for the last couple of years. I think I’m on number 14. My sketchbooks are constantly evolving. They have always been a beginning and an end. I move seamlessly between the sketchbook and my finished work. The sketchbooks inform my work but I also consider them objects unto themselves.

The current incarnation is a combination of observational line drawings, collected ephemera, ink explorations, hand lettering and stitching. In this particular sketchbook I have been looking at how the spreads relate to each other. Sometimes I over think my sketchbook and have to remind myself that it is a place to play. That is the beauty of sketchbooks: they don’t have rules. They don’t have to be polished or edited.

I am fascinated by other artists’ sketchbooks. They allow you to not only engage in dialogue about process, but also about passion. Sketchbooks are deeply personal in an unexpected way. I show certain pages but rarely reveal the whole book. Only one person besides myself has seen all of them.

And I never draw or do anything on the first page. It is a little superstition of mine, but I always begin on the second page."

Lobster & Canary, question 4:

On your blog, "Wandering But Not Lost", you recently draw a series of airships inspired by Italo Calvino. Talk about some of your favorite authors, and how they may spur your creativity.

Kate's Response: "Invisible Cities was an interesting read. I enjoyed the ephemeral nature of the narrative structure. Calvino’s descriptions were both evasive and vivid.

I am rarely directly inspired by what I read. Reading offers a respite from the visual overload of the everyday world. I feel it engages a different part of my mind, a guilty pleasure of sorts. My tastes vary greatly, although I generally stick to fiction or art history and criticism. Being a visual creature, I have to admit I do pick books by their cover. This method, combined with roaming around bookstores aimlessly has rarely left me disappointed. Some of my recent favorites have been The Painter of Battles by Arturo Perez-Reverte, Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita, and The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

Some perennial favorites include Sherlock Holmes, Pride and Prejudice, and Kim by Rudyard Kipling."

Lobster & Canary, question 5:

On your blog, you also note your love for the music of the Rolling Stones. Tell us something about how music (Stones or others) may inspire your art.

Kate's Response: "I love the Rolling Stones for their music and their mythology. I have been listening to them since I was a little kid, but it was only later that I truly began to understand and appreciate what the Stones are really about. They don't apologize for who they are or who they were. Keith Richards famously says at every concert, “It’s good to be here, it’s good to be anywhere.” They’ve been making music for over four decades and show no signs of stopping. There is always room to grow.

Stones or otherwise, music is a vital part of my creative process. I have to listen to music when I am working in the studio. I can’t stand silence, it feels too fragile. Sometimes it is a certain album, mostly it is whatever comes up on iTunes shuffle; anything from Copland to the Stones, to Phoenix."

Lobster & Canary, question 6:

If you could talk with a dead artist, who would it be? What would you want him or her to tell you?

Kate's Response: "As a student and lover of art history this is quite the question. Must I pick only one?

I’d love to play chess with Duchamp, ask Calder about the color red, or accompany Joseph Cornell on his ephemeral wanderings in New York City. I’d ask them about these seasons of self-doubt, how to stay engaged and inspired in this world, their favorite color."

Canary's final words: "Thank you Kate! And, look, I spy land away on the far, far horizon...a line of hazy green...Get ready, lobster!"

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