Last month marked ten years of writing posts and posting pictures here. In most ways this site has become my de facto artist website rather than a space to post observations and non-art stuff. Kind of lame, I know. But I’ve had a personal website (and domain) for almost 22 years and I have administered it in a lot of different ways. But at some point – particularly after getting deep into full time teaching – I decided to lay aside HTML and CSS and private hosting.
I still have all of those older versions of my websites. Sometimes I browse them from their resting places inside my hard drives. I think about the effort and consideration that went into them. Thankfully I never committed the Geocities and Angelfire design atrocities… maybe WordPress is just the more contemporary version of those gaudy old things, I don’t know.
I have not written much in 2019. It has been a hard, strange year – emotionally, professionally, physically.
Physically, I have been sick and run down a lot this year. The medications I take to manage my heart disease are rough, and they constrain my metabolism and energy level; I have fallen asleep without wanting to a number of times this year. Though I work out every single day, my endurance seems to be sliding lower and lower. Normally I teach a course or two over the summer, but the reality is that I know I couldn’t keep up with that at this point. There’s more to say… but I won’t.
Professionally, while I’m not sure exactly where my artwork is going, I have a good body of work underway and am getting it out for people to see. I was recently promoted to Full Teaching Professor, which is the terminal rank in the Teaching Line. It took nine years to achieve. I feel secure and thankful for Mizzou, but there are a lot of pressures that rest on the shoulders of professors in a time when Universities are trying to do more with less. As someone who understands the importance of mental and physical health, well, those pressures can be life-threatening. I know that being an educator is not just time spent with students. If it were, I think I’d generally feel much better. God knows that I am still encouraged by being in the classroom – each and every time.
Emotionally, I don’t think I am the same after the heart attack. My general affect, emotional intelligence, and responses were dulled significantly. After two years it seemed that I had returned to normal. But have I? In 2012 I had a pretty major crisis of faith – one that corresponded with the onset of depression. There were other factors during the period of time between 2012 and 2015… then 2016 came with the death of my sister and my cardiac arrest mere days later. There have been a number of other things in the 3 and half years since then that have made impacts as well. Perhaps I am being changed by the medications and the inertia of routines… At least I am getting joy from working on LEGOs with my kids.
So I haven’t been writing. Maybe more will come.
I completed a number of projects in 2017 and started a few more. Setting goals and keeping an eye on the prize during the vicissitudes of daily life can be hard, but I’ve gotten better at it over the years (thanks mostly to my loving partner, Alison). I already mentioned stuff about my exercise routine, and posted about my exhibition of recent work (that opens today!).
Back in May I set some goals for the year while at the Wakonse Conference on College Teaching in Michigan. Here are my written goals:
I’m happy to say that I’ve worked to complete most of these items and even those I’ve not yet finished have been pushed forward. I’m glad, given how agitating 2017 was socially and politically, that at least in terms of family and my work I’ve been stable and focused. The results are things of which I am really proud.
Probably highest on my list is the publication of my essay On Scholarship: Empathic Attention, Holy Resistance. It appeared in SEEN Journal and explores the importance of attention in an environment of political vitriol and “fake news.” I hope you’ll pick up a copy and read it – it’s one of the best things I’ve written in years, and it shares space with artists and writers and thinkers I admire. I’m really thankful for the opportunity to have this piece out there.
A shot of the cover of the SEEN Journal and a copy of the first page of my essay. Above is a copy of The New Territory.
I am also super excited to be working on a piece for The New Territory. If you are a Midwesterner, you need to get this publication. I am working on a piece exploring the work of Joey Borovicka and adjacent ideas about interiority, Midwestern space, and solitude. I can’t wait to get it finalized and ready for the editors to sort through. Getting to write about key ideas and the work of others is very important to my identity as an artist and educator. I also just love being involved with publications like The New Territory and SEEN. They are labors of love and works of passion that really do the hard work of shoring up meaning, intellectual effort, and spiritual yearning.
I hope to continue this trend in 2018, as I’ve got the Promotion to finalize!
Collaborative digital artwork featured in the neotericART piece. See below.
I’ve had the great pleasure of having a few publications this year. I’ve always got 2 or 3 pieces in the works, so it makes sense that they’d come out from time to time. This year sees a brief but prestigious invitation and two wonderful panel discussions that I coordinated. If you’d like to check them out, see below:
Nerdrum Bio for Grove Dictionary of Art
Dr. Judith Rodenbeck of the University of California invited me to write a biography of Norwegian painter Odd Nerdrum for the Grove Dictionary of Art, an imprint of Oxford University Press (online version is here). Dr. Rodenbeck is the lead editor of the 2016 Grove Art update. My piece will be published in the next couple of months. I’m pretty excited about this!
A Non-Verbal Debate: Digital Collaborations
This piece, created for neotericART (where I have contributed for many years), is a discussion of online, live collaboration tools – digital whiteboards – and how artists are beginning to adapt them into their work. Just the tip of the iceberg on this developing practice!
You Make The Work By Performing It: A Roundtable Discussion on Oblique Perspective
The Finch is an amazing online publication co-edited by Richard Benari & Lauren Henki. They invited me to lead a group of my graduate students in a panel discussion about some of the ideas that Dorothea Rockburne brought up in a recent interview. Our far-ranging conversation was one of the best I’ve had in a long time.
Joel T. Dugan is Assistant Professor at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, and we have begun a series of collaborative paintings. It was great to meet and hit it off with Joel during my recent exhibition at FHSU, and I’m excited at the prospect of working with him. I’ve decided that, much like my new series of portraits (Becoming the Student), I’m going to keep a record here to show how our work progresses.
The first six pieces have begun, three started by Joel and three started by me. These are the first states of the works. We’ll alternate working over what each other has developed and, hopefully, come to a mutual conclusion about the work.
In other news, I’ve had two pieces of writing made available on the neotericART website recently:
Below the Blue Line: The Recent Work of Allison Jaqueline Reinhart
Trying to Get a Sense of Scale – Tim Lowly’s Precious Labor
My exhibition – Matt Ballou: RANGE – is still up at William Woods University until December 16, 2012. I hope you can go see it if you haven’t yet. Below are some photos of the space, both after the installation and during the reception. I want to thank everyone who came out – friends, students (graduate and undergrad, current and former), and colleagues – and especially Jennifer Sain for her help in making the exhibition happen. Special thanks to Jane Mudd for encouraging William Woods to host this show.
Installation, back on November 12, 2012.
Three panoramas of the installed work.
Two of my all-time favorite works… Locus #77 and #78
Beautiful angles and shapes during the reception…
At the reception I gave a brief impromptu talk that led into some interesting questions from the audience and my own musing on the work.
Me during my talk – Photo by Kevin Larson.
Click here to download the talk and Q+A session (42 MB MP3 format, 50 minutes long).
Some notes about the talk:
Photo of me at the talk – Photo by Eric Norby.
Jill Hicks of the Columbia Daily Tribune wrote a piece titled “Exploring Possibility” that ran on Sunday, March 18, 2012. The article follows Allison Reinhart, a student who’s been a major presence in the Art Department here at Mizzou. She’s currently taking an independent study with me. We’ve worked together in the past – most notably on this film by the inimitable Keith Montgomery – and she’s one of my favorite people at MU.
Jill quoted quite a bit of my thoughts on working with Allison. It’s really nice to find that you’ve said something that really rings true and you have to work to live up to it. I feel that way about this particular passage: “…making accommodations for my students isn’t an area of ‘special’ or ‘additional’ effort — it’s the way it ought to be,” […] “All culture-making is about access. When we — as institutions or individuals — legitimize the denial of access to those who wish to participate, we’re functioning as gatekeepers and operating in illegitimate systems of refusal. As an educator and person who deeply believes in the value of university-level teaching, I don’t want to be a part of that.”
Thanks to Jill for the great article and to Allison (and Gina, and others!) for being thoughtful, dedicated students. No, I didn’t say inspirational… Allison wouldn’t like that. :)
I was gratified to learn that The Huffington Post included my recent essay on Richard Diebenkorn, written for neotericART, in a “Top 10 Best” listing! The piece, written by Brett Baker of Painters’ Table, cited my work immediately after Raphael Rubinstein’s “Provisional Painting, Part 2.” This was excited to me, as Rubinstein’s original text on provisional painting was a catalyst to my thinking in my piece. Here’s the takeaway quote:
“Artist Matthew Ballou’s piece “Diebenkorn: Provisional Action, Provisional Vision” finds surprising and convincing connections to this kind of provisional approach in Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park paintings” – Brett Baker for The Huffington Post.
Thanks, Mr. Baker! Painters’ Table is awesome! Read my essay at neotericART here!
My most recent essay is now available to read on neotericART. The piece was written after an October 2011 trip to Texas that was funded partially by the University of Missouri (where I teach). It is a long contemplation on the experience of seeing Diebenkorn’s work in significant number and in appropriate surroundings, but also reflects the long-time presence the great artist’s work has held in my mind. I also see the text as a lateral critique of Raphael Rubinstein’s (part 1, part 2) and Sharon Butler‘s writings about provisionalist/casualist painting. I hope you enjoy the piece and would welcome any comments you have.
I create paintings, drawings and prints in an attempt to address – through archetypal themes and symbols – the fundamental questions, ideas, hopes, and concerns I have about being in the world. I write texts in an attempt to integrate rational conceptions and reflections with my passionate, sometimes illogical, image making. In tandem, these avenues of expression form a multifaceted arena of investigation and inquiry that I use every day to – hopefully – understand and make sensible the miraculous reality of being.
The statement above relies on the fact that I am deeply interested in three main aspects of the human condition: being, symbol, and body.
I am intrigued by the state of evocative subjective experience that Gaston Bachelard described as “the astonishment of being.” Thus, though I am interested art of all kinds, I take particularly to those forms that connect with our embodiment or sense of being. This means the physical world, the objects we use and love, and the bodies we inhabit are particularly important to the sort of art I want to see and make.
It follows then that I find the expression of meaning through symbol – that is, the potential for objects to accumulate and resonate with meaning – to be a central interest of my art-making practice. Anything containing meaning has been, as John Dewey wrote, “funded” with importance through the physical interaction and intellectual contemplation human beings have invested in it over time.
The body is the zone of incident where being-ness and the structures of significance coalesce. Therefore, I foster a deep appreciation for the human body as a container for and calibrator of meaning and knowledge. As a maker of images – be they painted, drawn, or printed – I function as a symbolist in the traditional sense; I create tableaus for the relational contemplation of that which is beyond the facts of appearance. In doing so I hope to stimulate an evocative, transformative experience in my fellow human beings.
Recently I visited Fort Worth to experience the retrospective of Richard Diebenkorn‘s Ocean Park paintings. I have spent the last two weeks trying to process what I saw and what I think about what I saw. I’ve loved Diebenkorn’s work since my first encounter with it. I had to wait nearly 15 years to get the chance to really see the work in context. I’m in the midst of writing my reflections; they’ll appear over at Neoteric Art sometime in the next month or so. For now, check out some pictures of me and Marcus taking in the majesty of Ocean Park.
Marcus sketching from Ocean Park #30.
Marcus scrutinzing Ocean Park #135 – that’s the corner of Ocean Park #93 above his pencil.
Me taking in the glory of Ocean Park #40 from across the gallery.
Here I am considering Ocean Park #79.
And jump here and here to see some pages from my notebook written/scribbled during my time in the exhibition.
If you can’t make it to the venues the show will travel to over the next year, be sure to see this nice photo essay from the current iteration of the show.