My paintings are often gut-reactions to news reports or to issues I care about. In my latest series, “Inhabiting New Earth,” I’m approaching the 2020 Pandemic from various perspectives — family dynamics, Zoom meetings, Covid isolation, and all the many societal cataclysms we are faced with in this “new earth.”
May we all enjoy 20/20 vision as we enter a new decade. During 2019 I concentrated on my Roman Elegies series (many of the paintings were sold) in response to a return trip to Rome, one of my favorite cities and surely the most magical, but also a sorely tainted kingdom haunted by silent screams. But nothing is stationary and as usual I explore the constant, energizing flux of opposites — clarity/mystery, place/displacement.
I post regularly on Instagram, so feel free to check out #josephagutelius !
FYI: Painting for me is a constant, energizing connecting of opposites — place/displacement, certainty/mystery. As a former playwright, I tend to see the figures in my paintings as characters with an implied before and after, where “beingness” itself is relational and in flux. My primary interest is to capture layers of consciousness, the precarious balance of time/ timelessness, the overlap of memories.
I usually work in series, with different subject matter brought together under one theme, such as “School Days,” “The Shape of Water,” “Silence of Nowhere.”In my latest series, I’ve focused entirely on the narrative of masculinity — men clothed, naked, solid, disintegrating. While male painters have traditionally objectified women as sirens, muses, demons, mothers, etc. I am reaching for a holistic depiction of maleness, not as “mankind” but as a specific gender in a state of disarray and off-balance, which reflects my feelings of where I stand today as a female (feminist) artist looking at men– an anxious stance. In my series “Silence of Nowhere,” I’m capturing the sense of expectancy, of looking outward, but also searching from within. My practice often involves taking the same scene and varying it slightly in different panels, like frames of a film, to signify the passage of time. I start with ink or charcoal and add thin layers of acrylic and watch a drama unfold.
2018 I sold more drawings and paintings than I ever have in the past 4 years of switching from being a writer to being a visual artist. Much of the sold work was via ShoutOut Saugerties, the Saugerties Artists Studio Tour, and Emerge Gallery. Also, I must express my thanks to the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund for a generous grant in 2018.
Now, for a look at some new work from 2018, not at all comprehensive, but selections from several ongoing series, including a new series, Roman Elegies (certainly to be continued).
Summer has come to the Hudson Valley and my hometown of Saugerties is celebrating the arts with a crazy amount of enthusiasm. Take a scenic drive to Saugerties, the “top ten coolest small towns in the U.S.,” according to Budget Travel Guide — and see:
Sculptures on the sidewalks, paintings in the shop windows (Partition Street Wineshop is hosting one of my paintings — pictured below), a group show in the historic Dutch barn behind Kiersted House Historical Museum (my “Tudor” painting pictured below is included in the show), Saugerties Artists Tour (my studio is open to visitors August 11, 12), a kickoff to the Artists Tour at the magnificent Opus 40 Museum, plus, going into the fall, there’s “Saugerties is an Art Gallery” (a town-wide exhibition) and ShoutOut Saugerties in October… Yeah, Saugerties is very cool.
And I am deeply grateful for the honor of receiving a generous grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund for my series “Silence of Nowhere.” The check arrived in July and the first thing I did was order 12 cans of spray varnish. Thank you, Barbara Deming (1917-1984) — a feminist, lesbian, poet, writer, and nonviolent activist in the civil rights, anti-war and women’s movements. In 1975, when she founded the Fund, she said, “In my life I’ve been helped as a writer to do my work. I think it’s fair that I try to help others.” (quoted from the Deming website)
I’ve been working a lot in ink, combined with acrylic and pastel — reworked old paintings, started lots of new ones — ……. and depicting a lot of men.
My work reflects the narrative equivalent of an inner journey. Precise imagery plays on the edges of an untold, half-told story, ever evolving. Even at the point of stillness, there is agitation and transformation, the hint of a promise of action. And action, of course, implies a narrative.
Below: Family Picnic, Baby Daddy, The Silence of Nowhere (Panel 3), Saugerties By Night.
“Silence of Nowhere” — my latest series, still ongoing, of the inbetween, in limbo, etc. Landscapes, seascapes, people… Some of these are parts of 2 panels…like frames of a film (not all pictured here).
Landscapes are a new adventure for me, and a solace. They should mirror the inscape, not just add to the canon of pretty-pretty. Some of these paintings are a combination chalk pastel and acrylic and ink.
via Josepha Gutelius
Review by Lynn Woods, Hudson Valley Times, August 21, 2017
Josepha Gutelius, an award-winning poet and playwright who gave up writing to paint full-time in 2015, makes collage-like, disjunctive narratives in a figurative expressionist style that has echoes of German Expressionism and the punk sensibility of the 1980s. Neon pink, red, orange, yellow, blue and green are combined with graphic black to unseat expectations in large-scale scenes of family gatherings, groups of schoolchildren, and portraits. The glaring colors are often accompanied by intrusions of sci-fi-like elements. Areas of abstract patterns suggesting trippy hallucinations. A spiraling chaos of what looks like rubble, distant nebulae and rotating disks (tires? bangles? flying saucers?) below the image of a woman’s face suggest infra-red images and by extension top-secret maps and investigations by the military. It’s as though the artist is an interrogator unearthing the vertiginous fears, fantasies and queasy anxieties lurking just beneath the surface of society’s banal superficialities. Based on her own photos as well as images collected on-line and from newspapers, Gutelius’ investigations of notions of family and institutional life, class, war, religion, fashion, leisure, art, and other aspects of contemporary American culture undercut the sentimentalized or glamorized appearances characterizing such subjects in advertising and social media. While Pop appropriated from the techniques of commercialism, thus in a sense glorifying them, Gutelius portrays the seamy underbelly, the alienation, cruelties, vulnerabilities, and inhumanity underlying exploitations. The self, within such a culture, is a shaky construct, and commercialism’s hawked pleasures are delusional. In the painting Psychic Beach, for example, the crowded beach, viewed from above, as if from a drone, flatten the scene, depicting corpse-like sunbathers as tense, awkward, and uncomfortably exposed, their proximity to each other claustrophobic. “The most I can hope for is to make paintings that have some kind of presence, that startle, that aren’t just wall coverings,” writes Gutelius in an email, noting that “art is a commodity and famous art and artists are brands.” She describes her subject as “the half-told story, the precarious balance between knowing and not-knowing, where the physical and metaphysical are constantly intertwining.” Many of her scenes pivot between interior and psychological states to the public, technological and even cosmic. The work is cinematic in its abrupt juxtapositions. Besides film, Gutelius’s work also references art history, often ironically. In Vibrational Museum, a work in acrylic and colored pencil, a figure rests against a background covered in rows of narrow pink, yellow and gray rectangles. The piece could be read as an interpretation of a Agnes Martin painting onto which Gutelius, lampooning Modernist orthodoxy, has superimposed a figure, complete with shadow.
Moving into my attic studio for the winter, crowded with old discarded paintings and storage items.
Still, it’s a place to work, yeah. And it’s time for me to post new beginnings! Some from my pool-hall series, one attempt at a landscape, a continuation of my Family series. “Valentine” is one of two companion works that are companions of my poem “Valentine” (widely published these days).
Last, but not least,
as always, a nudge from the angsty political landscape.
Dear Dreamers, Liars, Truth-seekers, etc.,
Whatever the new year brings, let’s never stop creating…
Hereby, some latest efforts … friends and family and pets and all things lovable
STUDIO VISIT: JOSEPHA GUTELIUS
Studio location: A garage (without the car!) semi-attached to my house. The only natural light is west, which makes for interesting shadows, ideal for my purposes.
How long working here? I moved in early August this year, so the studio hasn’t been mucked up much. I’m still trying to keep it clean and neat. Give it a few months.
One advantage: I can paint large, larger, largest and cart the canvas out the garage door. Of course, having a new studio feels like a fresh start. I finally have more floor space—my method is to work on the floor, kneeling.
And I have wall space: that’s amazing! The first thing I did when I moved into the new studio, I hung up about 30 of my paintings, it was like seeing them for the first time.
Challenges: Electricity? Yes. But no plumbing: no sink, no toilet. So I do a lot of trudging back and forth.
I tend to work on several paintings at once and revisit old paintings accordingly. And especially now with the fresh new context of the studio, I see everything differently. I’m thinking I want to go toward interior scenes. Figures, of course. But I haven’t done much with objects, and I plan to.
Ross King’s The Judgment of Paris. Immensely detailed, with a sweeping perspective on what King calls “the revolutionary decade that gave the world Impressionism.” King’s starting point is Meissonier, the Andy Warhol of the 19th century (and coincidentally Salvador Dali’s favorite painter). A brilliant illustration of the relativity of the canon.
Another seminal book: Lothar Lang’s Expressionist Book Illustration in Germany, 1907-1927. I’ve pored over that book for years—the drama of the line, the black/ white contrast, the spare use of color as “gesture,” an art of protest. Raw and brutal stuff; those paintings can’t be tamed. The basics for me are content and drama.
And the inimitable Lucy Lippard, the art shaman. I don’t necessarily like the art she likes, but I love looking at art through her eyes. I See/ You Mean is a phenomenal novel.