Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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01/03/2006: "Matisse's Blog"

In an email I received tonight: "The more I read through it, the more I thought about your site, itself, as your ultimate living artwork."

Hmmm, that was kind of cool, thanks Daniel! It also reminded me of an article "Resurrecting Matisse" (Harper's Dec. 05) which is partially a review of Matisse's first biography written 50 years after his death.

I think art historians tend to over-reach (i.e. bullshit) a lot when trying to explain what an artist was doing artistically or how the artist felt in general because a lot of artists didn't write or say much about it themselves. But is that a good or bad thing?

Today a lot of artists have blogs...I've been blogging for several years now...and it makes me shudder to think of all my drivel floating around in cyber space; but wait, what will happen to all my postings on mold and afro wigs when I die? Will my site just get taken down so there will be nothing left?...that almost seems worse. I wonder if they have a web version of being cryogenically frozen? Wait, where was I going with this?

Oh hell, I don't know...maybe the fact that Matisse didn't navel gaze and write about his every motivation was a good thing. Leaves a bit o mystery...something for art critics to bicker about...something for individuals to try and ferret out on their own by viewing his work (*did* he sleep with his models for example?). Personally, I would have *loved* to have read his blog...the more random inarticulate musings the better...but that's just me.

Anyway, I've added a few new links to my side bar, including Granny Gets a Vibrator, written by Liz, who has an entry about my prints in her Jan. 3rd post (including pictures of them framed on the walls in her house!) pretty cool eh!

Also, I'm back to my day job tomorrow and I'm feeling all anxious and weirded out. It's always hard for me after I've been away for awhile. I used to miss a lot of school when I was a kid and it felt the same way, coming back to school after being out for a couple first day jitters or something. I better go and try and get some sleep though I'm sure I'll just be lying awake for hours having pointless mini-panic attacks and wondering about what Matisse's blog might have said.

Replies: 9 Comments

on Wednesday, January 4th, Kasia said

I also think that some people (I mean art historians, journalists, lecturers at universities etc.) like over-analysing things and that's completely unncecssary and sometimes funny - there is this famous Polish mastrepiece called"Dziady" and hundreds of people have written millions of pages about it. The most hilarious essay was about "the insects " that appear in it. (for example, the main chacaracter walks into the room, starts talking and hears a fly). The very famous professor tried to prove that the author had chosen certain insects on purpose; (the professor decribed each insect from the biological
point of view, he gave their Latin names etc. ) It was so stupid!
Also mixing art with the biography of an artist can be dangerous. These are separate things. (of course artist's personal experience is important but artists do create another reality, am I right?)
And of course I love reading biographies, but that's a diferent thing. And if I want to know more I read a correspondence, if it's published (I love Chopin's letters).

on Wednesday, January 4th, Jana said

Elise, I found your site a while back when I was searching for "mammatus clouds" and I have been hooked ever since. I feel guilty being a voyeur blog reader, please forgive me, but I have been enjoying your art work and your blog postings immensely. The entry you wrote about not being creative at home because the hole in your heart was missing there resonated deeply with me... when I am in Maine, it is hard to get any work done because 1. I am busy soaking in all the "home" that I can and 2. That place of sad/quiet/only me feeling that really allows me to create just is more in my new home than my native home. Thank you for the inspiration you have given to me (and all your other readers!) and thanks for sharing your beautiful artwork with your website! I am already saving $$ for some of your work so I can enjoy your gorgeous colorful work in my own space rather than the computer screen. Happy New Year! :)

on Wednesday, January 4th, Daniel North said

I agree that there is nothing worse than “art historians/critics” that make their living muck-raking the lives of artists of whom they can only fake an intimate knowledge of motivation. But I also believe that the “blog” can be (notice I didn’t say always is) a good tool for the artist to accomplish two very important, yet conflicting goals. These two goals (as I see them) are:

1. Prove to the world that you are NOT really crazy.

2. Network with other people that really are just as crazy as you.

So yes, the blog is a manipulative, self-motivating tool. But what is the act of making art? For me it’s the same two ideas in a more physical form.

1. I paint out of this primal need that makes me nuts if I go more than a day or two without it.

2. I attempt to subtly push themes of MY core “philosophy of beliefs” onto a viewer and hopefully find others that have like-minded philosophies.

It is in this vain that I most definitely see your blog (hell, your entire website) as a living conceptual artwork.

I too would love to read the blogs of artists like Matisse and Pollock (now his would be a hoot!). Could blogging have been a conceptual art form for them as well?

Like the previous poster, I feel like a recent, yet still intrusive, voyeur on your blog. Thanks for letting me intrude for a few moments amongst your friends.

on Wednesday, January 4th, Elise said

Hi Kasia, you know, I don't mind art historians hypothesizing about their opinions on a particular artist's work, but I do mind when they try to pass it off as an they know *for a fact* that's what they were trying to do. I have also read criticisms that made me laugh out loud they seemed so ridiculous...

And hello Jana! I always love hearing from new people out there. My stats page shows I get a lot of hits (in Dec. I got 173387 "hits" and 15598 "visits" ) but I have no idea who actually reads this thing other than a few regulars that I've gotten to know over the years... so thanks for saying hello and for saying that I’ve been an inspiration! So many people who post in this blog have been an inspiration to me as well, not to mention a constant source of encouragement. I can’t say enough how helpful it is when you live somewhere as isolated as I do…oh, and I’m excited to hear you might want to buy something someday…music to every artist’s ears!!!

And Daniel, thanks again for expressing your thoughts on "blog as art", they really can become a kind of extension of the work itself…and it *is* nice to realize there are others out there with the same passion and struggles and that even if you may be physically alone, you aren’t really.

Oh, and don’t think of yourself as intrusive! Quite the opposite. Aside from Rod, Subi, and Ona who are my friends from college and live far away now, the vast majority of people who comment here are “friends” that I’ve made entirely through the blogosphere. I enjoy reading their blogs as much as I enjoy writing my own. Thanks to both you and Jana for sharing your own blogs, now I can lurk on yours as well…

on Wednesday, January 4th, Jackie said

E: Wait - you forgot about your important contributions to further the appreciation of Zombies through your blog!! Out of all of the many things blogs do -one of the most relevant is that they reveal the humanity of their owners. We all deal with little things in daily life that seem really huge and important to us at some point. We kvetch, we moan, we blather on about things. Blogging is kinda like having a big ol' party line on the phone - or leaving your diary at a kegger for everyone to read, and then comment on.

I don't have anything against art historians - its the critics that bug me. I don't know if Pollock was ever sober long enough to have been able to write a blog, had there been blogs in his time. Did you ever watch the biopic about Pollock?

I get alot out of your blog, and my own - and all the others I read regularly. It's a way of connecting with other folk whom I most likely will never meet - but still feel like I know. In our society -it's getting rarer to have friends that you know that well.

Oh - and I did upload a picture of my new Octopus mask - just for you, Elise!
Happy New Year!

on Wednesday, January 4th, Elise said

As for your other comments, how could I have forgotten zombies? Oh, and I should have made the distinction between art historians and art critics. I agree with you that critics are much worse, and in my mind I was thinking of historians/critics of modern works, say from the past 100 years. It’s an entire different ball game when you go back to ancient or medieval times etc. like what Holly researches…my comments were in NO WAY directed at what she does as I have the utmost respect for her.

As for what we reveal of ourselves in our blogs, it seems that some of my online friends probably know me better than half the people I see everyday at work, for example. Bloggers of the world unite!

on Wednesday, January 4th, holly said

Damn! What up with the pile-on at art historians? How 'bout this-- we could always just not study art at all and all these poor, misunderstood artist types that we muck-rake can just go on waiting tables. Historiography is not full of "muck-raking" (whatever the hell that means), it's full of theory that has been proven and disproven time and time again. Sorry, I read your comment Elise, but this art "historian/critic/muck-raking" bullshit just pissed me right off the deep end.

Will go away and lower blood pressure now and not insult your guests...

on Wednesday, January 4th, Elise said

I love that you’re so passionate about things Holly! I don’t think anyone is saying we shouldn’t study art or that we don’t need art historians or critics…I just think *some* of them are full of shit. Matisse is a good example of an artist where some historians/critics have said incredibly horrible things against not only his work but also about him personally…the vast majority of it completely baseless and since he happens to be my favorite artist and my biggest influence, I take that maybe more personally than I should.

But even I have had knowledgeable know it all types come up to me at my own openings and tell me what my art means. It would be entirely different if they said what my work means “to them”…but they don’t. And, in my case, I’m there to say “I think it’s interesting that you see that in my work but that wasn’t my intention” but there are a lot of artists who aren’t around any more to set the record straight.

For example, one collector of mine is convinced (by my artwork alone) that I’m a closeted lesbian due to the “highly erotic” nature of my paintings. I have said many times in this blog that other than the painting I did for an erotic art show I don’t consider my work to be erotic at all...I have sat in art history classes where my instructor has made similar claims about other artists, based on their subject matter or “symbolism” etc. that the artist himself was quite possibly oblivious to. I think that critics and historians think about symbolism a lot more than many modern day artists. That’s why I make a distinction between now and then, back during the Italian Renaissance people used consistent iconography and one could say with a fair amount of certainty what a mirror meant, or the use of dog, or whatever.

But that isn’t the case anymore…and hasn’t been for awhile. So, unless an artist states that the dog at his subject’s feet represents loyalty or whatever, critics shouldn’t be so forceful in their “opinions”. Anyway, I think if you and I could actually discuss the topic in person, our points of view probably wouldn’t differ much. I’m sorry if you saw this post as some kind of art history bashing session, I’m sure that wasn’t intentional.

on Wednesday, January 4th, Elise said

I should also mention that my favorite art history professor was excellent at framing the debate (if one existed) over an artists work, and then would have us argue on different sides of the issue. I liked doing that because it showed that to some extent there were no absolutes.

My least favorite instructor used to state everything as fact, no debate required thank-you-very-much. I had her for FOUR courses so I might be just a little bit biased! Oh, btw, which courses do you think she taught???
;) (intentional winky face)