Right Brain-Left Brain — Huh?

I read an article online about the work of Lee Lozano, Making Waves - David Reed on legacy of artist Lee Lozano – Interview  at  http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0268/is_2_40/ai_79826066/pg_2.

Here is a selected quote from this article—    
DR=David Reed (NYC painter) and KS=Katy Siegle writer for ArtForum magazine:

DR: Her interest in science is a way of connecting art to larger issues and keeping it from becoming merely formal. I think the "Wave" paintings are one of the three great series of American painting, along with Barnett Newman's "Stations of the Cross," 1958-66, and Andy Warhol's "Shadow" paintings, 1978. I'd love to see the three of them together.

KS: Is there a connection between them?

DR: Newman's series is about transformation of the self. Warhol's is about the difficulties of that transformation and doubts of the self. And Lozano's "Wave" paintings seem to offer proof of the difficulties of that transformation of the self, and reasons for the doubts. The series is meant to be endless, but she can't make it endless. It ends physically, not conceptually. She desires more than she can achieve, not just physically, but in other ways as well. It's like Kafka saying, "Oh, there's infinite hope, just not for us."

KS: Even if their content is different, they all seem to share a certain attitude toward painting that is peculiarly matter-of-fact.

DR: Definitely. I love this category that the art historian Richard Shiff has of "declarative surface," which he takes from Newman, who wanted his surfaces to be workmanlike, there to provide information--painted about as nicely as you would paint a wall. You don't want to do a sloppy job, but you don't want to do an overrefined job. She has that attitude, and I think a lot of painters do. You want to show the process, but the surface certainly isn't expressionist.

KS: That sense of surface seems to carry over to her use of color; critics have complained about the drab colors she uses, the limited palette in the "Wave" paintings, for example.

DR: She was afraid of becoming decorative and was looking for a way to use color within the range that's available, that seems relevant to the moment. In her journals she uses the term "non-color." Looking at the "Wave" paintings, I thought of a postindustrial dystopia; the colors brought to mind Smithson's work, or Warhol's "Disaster" paintings. I wonder if she went with Dan Graham on some of Smithson's tours of New Jersey. I think that kind of late-'60s sensibility is very much in the paintings. There was a real hit of political reality. Bright-colored, optimistic painting, peace and love, was no longer relevant. It was very hard for some artists to deal with the change in climate, which happened suddenly in '68.

What interested me most with the above interview was the reference to “DR: She was afraid of becoming decorative and was looking for a way to use color within the range that's available, that seems relevant to the moment.” 

I [dn] too suffer from this affliction (for want of a better term).   But for me, I always thought of this “affliction” as somewhat bogus in that, I really didn’t care if my color, design, construction, technique, whatever, was decorative.  I think of all painting as decorative in one way or another.  It all boils down to how the owner or viewer of the painting interprets the term decorative.  I remember the feeling that came over me the first time I threw paint at a canvas.  I liked what I saw.  I liked what I felt.  When I was in graduate school at the University of Iowa/Iowa City in the late ‘60’s, I was constantly hammered for being too interested in  1)paint,  2) color,  3) design, and 4) narcissism.  And being surrounded by the figurative school of realism in all that one does camp, I really didn’t defend my position verbally.  I just kept on painting.  In my mind my images were communicating something to these people because they were getting very angry at/over what I did and presented to the public as paintings.  To me, even then, “Look people, it is only a painting for Christ’s sake!  What is your problem?”, I’d comment.  This kind of response would not be made publicly to a group but mainly in private to close friends, which at that time were very few. I mostly kept this to myself.  And since this attention more or less made me and my work a center, I kept refining my centered art making.  From the very start, people either loved my paintings or hated them.  There was no in-between fence straddlers.  This is still true today.

Another thought just crossed my mind.  I remember watching John Hegarty  (Iowa MFA 1965; currently on art faculty at Wayne State U./Detroit) working on one of his oversized female erotic paintings in the third floor painting studio (1965 probably)… and an image flashed through my brain regarding a subject for a painting or set of paintings;  very oversized paintings based upon orthographic drawings of machines or machine parts.  I was a star drafting student in HS and in Engineering School my freshman year in college in California.  I never made any of these paintings.  I needed to maintain some form of consistency in my work in order to earn my MA degree in painting.  I was already being criticed very hard by the graduate faculty for being too diverse in my painting output.  Hell, I was naïve and painted what I felt like painting.  One day it would be this, the next day it would be that.  All seemed logical to me.  This is very exciting stuff.  I felt this way then and I do now.  In many ways I still paint this way.

Finally, what does all of this dialog mean?  I think it functions as a reveal.  It is interesting to me, as I look back over the past 40 years, to now identify the parts of my artistic life that made a difference in how, what, where I traveled in my making.  Some of it still exists in my mind today and in some ways still influences why I do what I do and how I do it.  I don’t know if this is true for all painters, but in the back of my mind there is something undefined that I am trying to define, prove, justify, clarify, live with, make a point -- by making paintings.  And I have no idea today, as I didn’t yesterday, of what this unknown reality is.  I am still traveling and making the effort to find it through my painting and other art making interests.  “to travel hopefully is better than to arrive

Finally-finally — I just took an online Right-Left Brain test… and the results were—  You answered 13 items out of 20 as right brained.  Your score is 65%. Your right brain is slightly dominant.  If you want to take the test yourself, goto —  http://painting.about.com/library/quiz/blquiz-rightbrain1.htm .

Here is a table that references the differences:

Right Brain Inventory

Left Brain Inventory

• Visual, focusing on images, patterns

• Verbal, focusing on words, symbols, numbers

• Intuitive, led by feelings

• Analytical, led by logic

• Process ideas simultaneously

• Process ideas sequentially, step by step

• 'Mind photos' used to remember things, writing things down or illustrating them helps you remember

Words used to remember things, remember names rather than faces

• Make lateral connections from information

• Make logical deductions from information

• See the whole first, then the details

• Work up to the whole step by step, focusing on details, information organised

• Organisation ends to be lacking

• Highly organised

• Free association

• Like making lists and planning

• Like to know why you're doing something or why rules exist (reasons)

• Likely to follow rules without questioning them

• No sense of time

• Good at keeping track of time

• May have trouble with spelling and finding words to express yourself

• Spelling and mathematical formula easily memorised

• Enjoy touching and feeling actual objects (sensory input)

• Enjoy observing

• Trouble prioritising, so often late, impulsive

• Plan ahead

• Unlikely to read instruction manual before trying

• Likely read an instruction manual before trying

• Listen to how something is being said

• Listen to what is being said

• Talk with your hands

• Rarely use gestures when talking

• Likely to think you're naturally creative, but need to apply yourself to develop your potential

• Likely to believe you're not creative, need to be willing to try and take risks to develop your potential

Hmmmmmmm?  I guess this 65% — your right brain is slightly dominant tells me that I am fairly balanced in how I carry out my day to day living.  Normal?  It also points out to me, my intellectual and analytical interests in painting.  However, I am not interested in constructing narratives with paintings.  I am interested in realism.  I spent some time painting the human figure in various abstract environments;  ca 1969 – 1974.  Then, for some reason, I gave it up and went back to more abstract images.  When painting the figure, I was more interested in paint, color and how to form the space with a brush and paint, and with an airbrush and paint.  In the end, if got too technical for me to sustain the interest.  I wanted to get back to throwing, sloshing, pushing paint.

Are you with me?

Finally-finally-finally – It seems to me, in the end when all the smoke or fog clears – I, as well as a lot of other painters, use this art form as a way to search a life’s journey asking the question – Who am I?  It all becomes a search for the self.  At least this is what I feel and why I feel I chose to spend a lifetime making abstractions in paint and other stuff. At least this is one reason.

Is the maker of the painting responsible for what a viewer experiences or how a viewer interprets a painting?  Decorative, narrative, etc. No!  Making and viewing are two different things.  Are they related?  Depends!  A viewer can be searching for the self, meaning of the Holy Grail, or just using art as a way to engage in a dialog with the soul, self, the world, whatever.  So too the maker can get involved in the same thing from the making side.  These are questions that can never be fully answered because the base is constantly shifting.  We cannot step into the same river twice.

dpn 8/23/04 12:44 pm