Courtney Reid talks with Nepotism about why painting is not for the weak, what it means to be a painter in L.A., and how to bilax.
Your colors are incredible! How do you choose your colors? Are they primary or secondary to the forms and figures in your work?
Thank you! Choosing color is instinctual in the formative beginning of a painting, as you go further, more intentional choices are made, there is a palette refining process for each painting, removing or adding to simplify or harmonize an image. Color is primary as I work with what the paint throws up, so following the color the images emerge.
What is the story behind Giulia (The Good Mother), and how does this painting relate to the theme of the exhibition?
Like with all my paintings, there is no narrative story I can tell, only the journey the painting took me on, the result of which you see. I don’t like to talk so much about what I see, because often it’s different from what other people see and I don’t want anyone to think my interpretation is the right one…but to say a little of what Giulia says to me, emotionally, I am a mother, and I saw this emotive, sensitive face on this female figure – to me she looks both fragile and strong, a primal concern there in her beauty, and I saw the small unformed figure, amorphous, becoming, perched on her head, and the bird watching, hovering, and this mother- with all her protective power, powerless… I thought of the name Juila, a family name I love, my sister’s name, and the Italian spelling, which makes a lush, loving sounding name seem even more so.
And the landscape, lush, verdant, and the – terror in love, the profound cause to worry, and the still place that settles upon us with the understanding that worry will not help stop what we’re afraid of, that we mothers, that all of us – humans, have to let go again and again, one thousand times a day, and accept whatever forms, whatever takes shape in our lives. it is the forced serenity of acceptance. There is no choice, our hands are tied. We can only do our best in any moment, and let go. Hence “the good mother.”
You said once in your bio that L.A. was not a painter’s town. Why was this once so, and do you think it’s changed?
I grew up in a family that was certainly not unique in this town. My father was an artist, a painter, who became an illustrator so that he could work in the movie industry. At the time he was being supported by a good gallery. Back then, good galleries paid their staple of artists a small salary so they could paint, and of course they let him go when they found out he had taken a day job, saying “Sorry, we don’t support weekend artists.”
So, he fell into that trap, as did the majority of good artists of that time who lived in L.A. This did not happen in the Bay Area, or in New York, or other places that have a historical precedent of having to take fine art, and fine artists, seriously. This spawned a very timid art scene in Los Angeles, – cause most of our best artists were spending almost all their creative energy in service to the movie studios. This was in the cement of the foundation upon which the current L.A. art world was built. I’ve not seen much in L.A. that would make me think that has changed, but I am not out at galleries much anymore, so I’m really not well informed. Still, highly emotive works are not typically desirable to the dominant aesthetic here.
Well packaged decor, non-descript abstraction, and personality hyped “investment art” has always sold best in L.A. A friend of mine who runs a gallery here in L.A. told me that the better the artwork they present, the less likely it is to sell. I wonder if this is different elsewhere?
L.A. gallery owners Jack Rutberg and Matt Gleason talked a few years ago about how the new wave of painters are producing work that all looks like the same set of tattoos; that because they’ve been brought up in front of television and computer screens, they don’t know how to interpret brushstrokes. They don’t have the vocabulary for it. Do you agree, or have any thoughts on this commentary?
Yes! But the contemporaries of the people doing that kind of paper-cutter work, will think it’s genius! They have not had the exposure, or the nurturing, or the TIME. Learning about painting, the expense of time and resources to really learn to paint, it’s a huge investment – not typically available where it’s sold. And then to be able to move in a way in the world that will propel those paintings onto other people’s walls -and dough into your pocket – is a whole other major undertaking. This is not a sport for the the chillaxed!!
This is something very, very hungry, anxious, curious, driven, desperate, terrified, bi-polar, strong-willed, and potentially addicted people do who were regularly exposed to great art. People who were inculcated with the knowledge that real art is important, is worth struggling for, even when our culture rejects it again and again. It’s hurtling your own mortality into the abyss. It takes a very supportive network of friends and family to create a painter. It took a lot for me. I am SO impressed by the tenacity and the dedication of my students, and I marvel at the intensity of their journeys. But I wonder what will happen to painting in that we are all looking at, and being anesthetized by small screens, and filling every waking moment with fascinating drivel. Who needs to paint? And who needs paintings?
And I totally understand the whole tattoo culture – because it is an art form, which for better or worse, is for all. Who can afford to collect great art, live with it, and be informed by it on deep, non-verbal levels?
– Who can afford to buy a house – or even rent a place, a place with walls to hang art works on? And if they were able to do these incredible things – who can afford to then pay all the bills, take a vacation, and then buy some great artwork? This is a small group.
– But tattoos, some by very accomplished and very good artists are – attainable! And therefore – tattoos – have become more pertinent, more meaningful to the majority of people. You can become an art collector, and wear that collection til you die. It makes sense to me that these young people are seeing tattoos – the good, the bad, the ugly, but are not seeing great paintings. They have no reference.
What makes L.A. an exciting place in which to be an artist?
It’s a lovely town if you can get off the concrete. and it’s filled with some wonderful people, who are really great supporters and advocates for the arts. And so many great artists either live here, or come through here.
What else would you like viewers to know about your work?
I’d just hope that people could be inspired, by whatever means, to take some time when they encounter a painting. These paintings have many levels and they do not all present themselves at once. One needs some time to have a real experience. Put away the cell phone. Sit down, and as my daughter says, “Bilax….”
See “Giulia (The Good Mother)” along with several other works from some of L.A.’s best artists at the “Dirty Minds: Life on Earth” group exhibition, held at bG Gallery in Bergamot Station from September 6 through the 24th.