Another Day, Another Dangle – Neil Gavett

Neil Gavett is a well-known model for artists in central Missouri, and has worked with basically all of the art departments in the area (click here for an earlier piece about him). In September 2015 he’ll have been working primarily as an art model for 20 years. That’s major commitment to the craft, something Neil describes as “another day, another dangle.” Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Neil in many classes and have enjoyed his hospitality. Neil loves to facilitate shared experiences. In April of 2014 I got to visit him and share a lengthy conversation over an amazing meal (steak and shiitake mushrooms in a bourbon-based sauce) and several choice beverages (rum!). It was quintessential Neil, and I hope you can get a small sense of the depth and intensity of what it means to spend a couple hours with the man through the snippets of dialogue from that day that I share below.

neil2014image1Portrait of Neil Gavett: Another Day, Another Dangle. Gouache on paper, 14×11 inches, 2014.

On Cooking With Mushrooms

“Shiitakes are pretty hard to mess up.”

On Spiritual Plugs

“I remember the first time I heard that phrase about ‘many forms of electricity’: you know, something along the lines of, ‘it doesn’t matter which plug in the house you use, you’re jacking into the same thing.’ That was back when I first read Phillip K Dick and had been taking a lot of theology classes. At the time a friend of mine was reading Illusions by Richard Bach. My friend was so excited about it he drove four hours home from college and gave the book to me, saying I had to read it. It’s a book talking about the power of visualization – that the crisper the visualization is in the mind, the more you develop the ability of the mind to visualize, the more easily you’ll begin to manifest your reality. So the ability to be able to stop and count things, or to be able to discern differences in color… those are all in the higher function of the brain. The more you work with that level of awareness, the better your ability to move beyond fight or flight level engagement. So while taking those theology classes at St Bonaventure and thinking about visualization, I got fascinated with the relationships between the theology I was studying and the ritual theater of indigenous religions. It was the idea of symbolic movements and gestures that all have purpose. You can take that right into Roman Catholic ceremony or a Southern Baptist service with the theater of preaching, which both serve to raise the energy in the room. There’s also the laying on of hands or the mechanics of public prayer that focus the energy. The pastor or priest is tying the congregation together to produce the desired effect. The gestures, the facial expressions – they translate across spiritual systems and cultures. Also, there’s the use of specific types of structures. Think about the use of a cosmic axis pillar – the Axis Mundi – whether it’s the plume of smoke in a Native American ritual or a Christian cross or the World Tree for other faiths. There are certain common threads.”

On The Bare Minimum of Ritual

“When I would have friends who want me to perform the ceremony for their wedding (Neil has studied a number of Neopagan rituals and has performed the Handfasting ceremony many times – MB) the basic thing I do is simply give them a framework for what has to be there. I give them the bare minimum of what is needed in order for a ceremony to work. In all of these ritual traditions there are a certain number of things that have to be acknowledged and if you don’t want to do those things you’re not looking for a religious ceremony. You’re not looking for someone who’s at all spiritual you’re looking for a Justice of the Peace.”

On Jung

“Jung gave us a vocabulary to share with others what was happening in the mind. So many terms and concepts that we use to this day came out of his work. The idea of collective unconscious, in particular, was important to me. And that there are many ways for us to get our minds tuned toward that arena… those small moments where you feel yourself in sync with something greater than yourself. In reading Jung I first grasped the notion that the thing that separated us from the rest of the animal world was the evolution of a sort of meta-consciousness where we realize what our survival costs others.”

On Bartending

“I miss it. Definitely the most entertaining job I’ve ever had. Tending bar is like throwing a party every night only everybody is paying for their own drinks. And part of the job is being everyone’s friend – ‘the doctor is in’ kind of thing.”

On What he Has Learned Modeling

“Just wrapping my brain around the fact that artists see the world differently. I’ve had to exercise my brain to grasp that – to begin to see the green in a sunset or to see a tree in front of me as THE tree. Yes, that’s the main thing: that artists really do see differently. Through realizing that I started to understand that I was seeing less than I could be. So I wanted to try to learn that mindfulness I saw in the artists around me, their ability to see everything for the first time.”

Fall 2011 Color Drawing

Every semester I have to make more posts about how awesome my Color Drawing classes are. 

Above: Marissa Valentino’s amazing Colored Pencil drawing of a head from our group project.

Students assembling one of our large group drawings.

Hannah and Vincent hard at work on a final figure work for the course.

Emily Armstrong’s 44 by 30 inch figure drawing in progress on the easel. You can see our parachute stage setup there behind. We love that parachute!

Above and below: A selection of drawings from the second half of the semester we pulled out for a group crit – some in progress, others complete. Overall a great effort by my students this year!

India Watts working on her Matisse master study.

The final group project installed in one of the stairwells at the University of Missouri.

 

Installing at Gordon

Today I arrived at Gordon College to install my exhibition of paintings, drawings, and prints, titled Redeeming Tensions. Bruce Herman, a Professor at Gordon and director of the gallery, worked with Leo (installer extraordinaire!) and me to hang the show. Here are a few shots of it all going up.

I also spoke for Associate Professor Michael Monroe’s class of 75 or so – fielding all of the students’ questions made for a good time.

More tomorrow after the opening reception talk. If you’re in the area (eastern Massachusetts), stop by! It’ll be at the Barrington Art Center on the Gordon Campus.

So far I’ve felt such a kinship with everyone here. It’s a great place; the beautiful campus has a massive blanket of snow but everyone is pleasant and uplifting to talk to. I’m really looking forward to the reception…

The Figure Now at Fontbonne University

I have two pieces up at Fontbonne University’s show “The Figure Now”Michael Grimaldi was the juror. The mailer invite card is below, and below that one of my works from the show. If you’re in/near Saint Louis over the next month, stop over and check it out (and my two other current shows (in VA and WV) are on view now and will be up for a while).

(click for a larger view/event info)

 

The Angles, graphite on paper, 42 inches in diameter.

Inspiration – Jusepe Ribera

Over the last few years my work has turned on a conception of the natural geometry of the body. You can see how in images like this (“Collapse” oil on canvas on panel, 48 inches in diameter):

or this (“Revealer, Forced” pastel on paper, 23 inches in diameter):

that I am really focusing on a kind of geometric tension in the positions and movements of the body.

A lot of this has come from my interest in the work of the great Spanish painter Jusepe Ribera. In 1610 he followed the call of Caravaggio (who died that same year) by traveling to Italy to see the master’s work. Here are a couple of my favorites:

“The Flaying of Marsyas”

“The Martyrdom of Saint Phillip”

 

 

Color Drawing, Spring 2010

A year ago I started teaching all levels of Color Drawing (Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced) at the University of Missouri. While I really enjoy all of my classes, the Color Drawing sections have been particularly special to me.

So here’s just a review of some of the great work from this semester…

Danielle Moser, Beginning Color Drawing: Reflection Project Drawing, Oil Pastel, 24 by 18 inches.

Jillian Blanck, Beginning Color Drawing: Master Copy Drawing (after Dali’s The Hallucinogenic Toreador), Chalk Pastel, 30 by 22 inches.

Scott Fisher, Beginning Color Drawing: Master Copy Drawing (after Michelangelo’s Libyan Sibyl from the Sistine Chapel), Chalk Pastel, 30 by 22 inches.

Holly Meador, Intermediate Color Drawing: Head Planes Model Drawing, Chalk Pastel, 44 by 30 inches.

Holly Meador, Intermediate Color Drawing: Self Portrait as Flaming June (after Lord Frederic Leighton’s Flaming June), Chalk Pastel, 30 by 36 inches. (Unfortunately, this drawing was stolen from my flat files at the University – I’m actually pretty pissed off about it. How can we expect our students to be willing to put forth their best efforts when their peers don’t respect that work? Really unbelievable.)

Roxanne Kueser, Advanced Color Drawing: Courtney, Chalk Pastel, 24  by 18 inches.

Brittany Carney, Advanced Color Drawing: Neil (The Proper Posture), Chalk Pastel, 24  by 18 inches.

Marcus Miers, Advanced Color Drawing: Untitled Composition, Chalk Pastel, 60  by 45 inches.

I want to thank all of my Color Drawing students for making the class so enjoyable. I could have easily had 100 drawings to show from the production of my 24 students; I don’t mean any disrespect to those I’ve not displayed here. These works do show the overall quality and worth ethic I’ve seen throughout all of the students this semester. I’m so glad I got to work with them. Here’s to setting the bar high for next semester!

Orientation?

My most recent completed work is an oil painting, 48 inches in diameter, titled Certainty. Because of the nature of the ideas involved in this piece, it was constructed in a manner that did not allow for an “up” orientation. I actually never painted it from the same picture-plane position twice. I frequently moved my model and altered my position of observation with each session.

The work has any number of “correct” reading orientations, but I’d like to settle on one or find a way to spin the work slowly so that many possible positions are presented to different viewers. Click the image below to see a large GIF of the piece. The GIF shows 14 different “stations” of the painting (give it a few minutes to load fully). What’s the best way to view it?

Drawing 3 Student Work

In my Drawing 3 (basically Life Drawing) course at the University of Missouri, we have a series of projects that focus on developing drawings that have a dynamic, shifting arrangement of bodies and spaces. The goal is for students to hone their ability to combine observed form and light with a knowing, thoughtful editing of the overall structure in order to create/direct the psychological environment of the picture. In earlier projects, students are asked to create a drawing of a model who, after a certain period of time, shifts part of his or her pose. Students have to adapt their drawing, learning how to react the experience of seeing rather than freak out that everything isn’t the same (as if anything stays the same anyway). Later on, we work on a longer series of poses over the course of 8 or 10 class periods. Using up to three different models who strike a couple different poses, the class develops larger drawings that incorporate the combination of the different figures in some kind of invented, yet observation-based, pictorial framework. Below are a few examples of what students have done. Keep in mind that none of the models posed together, and often very little of the stage arrangement was the same. I could go on and on about how I believe these projects really strengthen the students to have an EXPERIENCE of art rather than simply executing an exercise, but I’ll let their work speak for them. Click on each for a larger version.

by Lindsey Cole

by Dan Jimenez

by Roxanne Kueser

by Charlie Hostman

by Jared Fogue

by Marcus Miers

by Mallory Parsons

by Derek Frankhouser