ARTIST STATEMENT FOR SHOW OPENING JUNE 6, 2019.

ARTIST STATEMENT

MARC SHANKER

Most of the work in this show was completed last summer. I wanted to challenge the idea, “the mind craves a logical sequence.” With this intention, I decided to make paintings that had no obvious story. To do so, I needed to subvert my strong disposition to construct a narrative while working.

I began the series by looking through hundreds of old drawings, some made twenty or more years ago. I was in search of provocative imagery that made little narrative sense. I took bits and pieces of old drawings and, on the basis of their  compositional qualities, juxtaposed them together to create an expressive compostion.

In spite of myself, as I painted I began to construct stories that interconnected the disparate images and colors. I made a conscious effort to keep the narrative qualities secondary. I didn’t want to know what the paintings were about. Instead, I concentrated on composition. The colors emerged, receded, and re-emerged. They called their own tune.

As I look at the images today, I can, with some effort and imagination, make  some sense of them. But I don’t really know what stories they tell. I realize that the stories I find in the paintings today may not be what I was thinking at the time I painted them. If that information ever consciously existed, it has certainly disappeared, as today’s narrative will also disappear eventually. 

All that will remain is the painting itself. 

INVITATION:

As part of theJune, Upper Manhattan Arts Stroll, I will be exhibiting paintings and drawings at the Cafe Buunni, 
4961 Broadway between 207 & 208 Street, Inwood, NY.
OPENING: THURSDAY, JUNE 6, 7-8:30pm.
ARTIST TALK: SUNDAY, JUNE 9, 7-8:30pm.
The show continues through June.


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The Mind Craves a Logical Sequence. 30” x 40.” Acrylic on canvas. 2018.

TURNING 69: AN ARTIST REFLECTS

Today I turned 69, old to some, young to others. It is, nevertheless, a turning point as the 7th decade comes slowly into focus.

I’ve been making art since 1969. That’s almost fifty years, although I wasn’t fully engaged when I was young, and have had to work most of my life at 9-to-5 jobs. I have tried to live, as best I could, a life that found time for a loving, vibrant relationship, travel and intellectual growth. 

For the first thirty-five years or so, I didn’t call myself “an artist.” I was "a teacher of the blind;” “finance coordinator for a union;” “ a health policy analyst;” “a communications director;” etc. Art was what I did after work, at every opportunity I could get. Weekday nights I might draw, if I wasn’t too tired, a couple of hours after dinner. Weekends gave me more time but they were especially problematical because I needed at least one day to rest. That left only one day to find the energy to resume the special mental concentration that makes creative visual work possible. Sometimes it happened, and sometimes it didn’t. The most frustrating scenario was when, after a few hours of frustrating effort, I finally got into the flow but had to quit working shortly afterwards. The next weekend I would begin the process from scratch.

It took me that many years to discover that being an artist is a slow evolution, the instilling of the  process of making art in one’s being, day and night, week, month, year after year. It is an essence, like breathing, not something you do out of choice. You do it because it is your purpose, and nothing else can take its place. It isn’t easy, but that is what makes it worth while. Today, not making art is inconceivable. 

I have a few close friends who respect what I have achieved. They see value in my work, and admire my talent and tenacity. But, for the most part, my career is judged “unsuccessful.” I don’t have gallery that shows my work. I sell infrequently. I am never dined, given awards, reviewed, or offered accolades. Most people aren’t even interested in visiting my studio to see what I am doing. I haven’t been told directly but I think some people believe I have spent my life pursuing a quixotic delusion. Don Quixote is my favorite book!
 
If my work sold, that would change things for some people. Money, what something is worth on the market, is the way everything, including art, is judged. 

But at my age, selling is not my priority. Neither is showing in a gallery. What I have learned is that the joy of being an artist is having the ability to express oneself. Period. Exclamation point! That is true fulfillment, and even if my art winds-up in a landfill (ironically, the ENY housing projects where I grew-up were built on landfill), it has filled my life with such sublime happiness that I must, looking back, thank everyone who encouraged me, and give a shout out to this nation’s Bill of Rights for assuring me the right to say what is on my mind.

STILL LIFE WITH CYCLES

Franz Kafka is reported to have called Fate anything that cannot be avoided, that which is inevitable. The first thing we think of, of course, is death. This may sound grim but I find humor even in inevitability. It is an ironic, cruel humor. We make elaborate plans, and “Poof.” The juxtaposition of forethought with a lack of control creates a psychic shock. Momentarily, our plans are dislodged and we are imbalanced.

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Art School?

In 1969, after less than six months of drawing and painting, my girlfriend, a sophisticated artist with a MFA in Fine Arts, urged me to apply to the New York Studio School in the West Village. She said I was a “natural,” who could benefit from training in a classical, figurative teaching of art. She offered to help me assemble a portfolio of my minuscule selection of work. With no idea of what art was or how it is taught in school, I agreed to apply, thinking that there was virtually no chance I would get into the program.

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