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.”
“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.
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.
I call the one painting “Superstore” because I bought a cheap canvas print from a superstore and painted over it. I’ll be doing a larger version of the central image. Meanwhile, the shiny black paint — fresh paint from today — may or may not go matte…
What to say about this painting… I’m aiming for substance that isn’t substantial, a body that is more molecular than flesh.