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In Grain

Permanent Link: http://ncf.sobek.ufl.edu/NCFE004644/00001

Material Information

Title: In Grain Liberation from Self Through Iterations in Wood
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Olvey, Suzanne
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2012
Publication Date: 2012

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: Buddhism
Art
Zen
Painting
Self, Non-Self
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Stemming from Buddhist philosophies of detachment and non-self, I created paintings, sculptures and prints over the course of this thesis project to relinquish my ego as an artist while, simultaneously, creating a visual aid for the audience to meditate on similar concepts. Like many Modernist artists like Motherwell, Marden and Calder, my work is an exploration of medium, while maintaining a contemporary graphic quality. Rather than inventing predetermined compositions, the grain of the wood surface or the paint material become as important as the artist in this process, dictating lines or creating their own. Because I follow lines that exist in the grain of the birch panels, my paintings are already present in the wood before the painting process even begins. The sculptural piece makes the lack of predetermination more evident. Each part is relatively randomly generated and then integrated into the sculpture based on the balance and placement of the pieces that came before it, the same way lines are added to the paintings. The sculpture being roughly human sized and the paintings the size of large windows, my work creates a space for the viewers to reflect back on their own senses of "self" in relation to the amorphous creatures that float around them.
Statement of Responsibility: by Suzanne Olvey
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2012
Supplements: Accompanying materials: CD of images
Electronic Access: RESTRICTED TO NCF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Anderson, Kim

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2012 O5
System ID: NCFE004644:00001

Permanent Link: http://ncf.sobek.ufl.edu/NCFE004644/00001

Material Information

Title: In Grain Liberation from Self Through Iterations in Wood
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Olvey, Suzanne
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2012
Publication Date: 2012

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: Buddhism
Art
Zen
Painting
Self, Non-Self
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Stemming from Buddhist philosophies of detachment and non-self, I created paintings, sculptures and prints over the course of this thesis project to relinquish my ego as an artist while, simultaneously, creating a visual aid for the audience to meditate on similar concepts. Like many Modernist artists like Motherwell, Marden and Calder, my work is an exploration of medium, while maintaining a contemporary graphic quality. Rather than inventing predetermined compositions, the grain of the wood surface or the paint material become as important as the artist in this process, dictating lines or creating their own. Because I follow lines that exist in the grain of the birch panels, my paintings are already present in the wood before the painting process even begins. The sculptural piece makes the lack of predetermination more evident. Each part is relatively randomly generated and then integrated into the sculpture based on the balance and placement of the pieces that came before it, the same way lines are added to the paintings. The sculpture being roughly human sized and the paintings the size of large windows, my work creates a space for the viewers to reflect back on their own senses of "self" in relation to the amorphous creatures that float around them.
Statement of Responsibility: by Suzanne Olvey
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2012
Supplements: Accompanying materials: CD of images
Electronic Access: RESTRICTED TO NCF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Anderson, Kim

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2012 O5
System ID: NCFE004644:00001


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IN GRAIN: LIBERATION FROM SELF THROUGH ITERATIONS IN WOOD BY SUZANNE OLVEY A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Kim Anderson Sarasota, Florida May, 2012

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Table of Contents ................................................................................................. ii Image List ............................................................................................................ iii Abstract ................................................................................................................ iv Introduction .......................................................................................................... 1 Description and Analysis of Project ................................................................... 4 Conclusion .......................................................................................................... 28 Images ................................................................................................................. 30 Bibliography ....................................................................................................... 42 ii

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Imag e List 1 Suzanne Olvey, the path oil on panel, 30 x 20 inches. 2 Hakuin Ekaku Blind Men Crossing the Bridge ink on paper, 7 1/2 x 26 inches, 1685-1768. 2 Robert Motherwell, 2 Figures oil on canvas, 1958. 3 Suzanne Olvey, as above, so below (precipitations), acrylic on birch, 41 x 48 inches. 4 Brice Marden, Red Rocks (2), oil on linen, 75 x 107 inches, 2000-2002. 5 Suzanne Olvey, monkey and bear (mt. mehru), acrylic on birch, 48 x 41 inches. 6 Suzanne Olvey, land in sea, simultaneously, acrylic on birch, 48 x 42 inches. 7 Piet Mondrian, Composition in Color A, oil on canvas, 50 x 44 cm, 1917. 8 Suzanne Olvey, denim mountain/blurred borders acrylic on birch, 41 x 40 inches. 9 Alexander Calder, Enseigne de Lunettes, painted metal and wire, 38.6 x 55.9 x 16.5 cm, 1976. 10 Alexander Calder, Stabile painted metal, 34.3 inches tall, 1975. 11 Suzanne Olvey, dependent origination ii, balsam plywood, about 8 x 3 x 5 feet. 12 Georgia O'Keeffe, Pedernal From the Ranch #1, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches, 1956. 13 Georgia O'Keeffe, Music Pink and Blue No. 1 and 2 oil on canvas, 29 1/8 x 40 inches, 1919. 14 Suzanne Olvey, cavalcave acrylic on birch, 48 x 41 inches. iii

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In Grain: Liberation from Self Through Iterations in Wood Suzanne Olvey New College of Florida, 2012 ABSTRACT Stemming from Buddhist philosophies of detachment and non-self, I created paintings, sculptures and prints over the course of this thesis project to relinquish my ego as an artist while, simultaneously, creating a visual aid for the audience to meditate on similar concepts. Like many Modernist artists like Motherwell, Marden and Calder, my work is an exploration of medium, while maintaining a contemporary graphic quality. Rather than inventing predetermined compositions, the grain of the wood surface or the paint material become as important as the artist in this process, dictating lines or creating their own. Because I follow lines that exist in the grain of the birch panels, my paintings are already present in the wood before the painting process even begins. The sculptural piece makes the lack of predetermination more evident. Each part is relatively randomly generated and then integrated into the sculpture based on the balance and placement of the pieces that came before it, the same way lines are added to the paintings. The sculpture being roughly human sized and the paintings the size of large windows, my work creates a space for the viewers to reflect back on their own senses of "self" in relation to the amorphous creatures that float around them. Kim Anderson Division of Humanities iv

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Introduction An artist can detach from the concept of "self" and the ego through the process and composition of a piece of art. Drawing influence from Buddhist philosophy and Modernist viewpoints, my paintings, sculptures and prints incorporate themes of decentralization of the subject of the work, as well as the viewer. This is done through the illusion of space in paintings, and the continual questioning of that space through the layering of forms on the surface in a way that does not always seem logical. Turning the interpretation of the webs of forms back onto the viewer is a common aspect in Modernist artwork as well as Zen Buddhist artwork. Effort and concentration are necessary components on the part of the viewer in order for the pieces to fully resonate, a parallel effort that is required to reach enlightenment. Abstract expressionists, like Brice Marden and Robert Motherwell, explored their own permutations of the release of self through the release of authorship over a work in a similar way. Marden used Chinese poetry to inspire large-scale tangles of ink lines, and Motherwell used paint splatters to create spontaneous stroke-forms. These two artists painted in a more fast-paced and immediate way that is more reminiscent of traditional Zen painting than what may be evident in my paintings. They spontaneously flung or quickly scrawled ink and paint on large canvas surfaces without composing an image first. In my paintings there is still little to no premeditation of composition or form. My work, like that of the Abstract expressionists, allows the medium and surface of the piece to speak more than or as much as the artist's direction or control. 1

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Focus on the flatness of the painting was evident in Marden's and Motherwell's paintings, along with many Modernist painters like Piet Mondrian and Georgia O'Keeffe, and remains a strong aspect of my own. My work, however, moves away from the exploration of the surface and into a play with the surface and the illusive depth that is imagined upon it. A major component of the way Mondrian painted was the intention of truly flattening the surface--bringing the white space that usually recedes visually into a flat grid on the surface of the canvas. This surface grid is slightly mimicked in the webs of colored gel that float across the surface of the wood panels they are applied to. Though the lines in the painting are relatively chaotic and abundant, they are created methodically and are relatively simple shapes in most cases. A tension is presented between order and chaos, simplicity and abundance. Related to Buddhist thinking, this is similar to the balance that is believed to exist within the universe: yin and yang. Balance is most prominently noticed in my sculpture, which has a gravity and weight of its own. Constructed randomly, each piece of the overall form is added depending only on where the previous pieces allow it to connect while still maintaining the integrity and literal balance of the piece. Evoking Alexander Calder's mobiles in fluidity and lightness, but having a distinct weight of its own, the roughly human-height amalgamation, though the length of two arm spans, allows the audience to physically relate to the piece and the parts that make it up. This becomes an even more interesting relation when forms of legs and hands are picked out. However, as the viewers move 2

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around the sculpture, the parts may become obscured or just a sliver of wood, representing an impermanence of being. Also presented in my paintings and sculptures is a refined, graphic quality. Bright colors are employed and the lines in the paintings are clean and distinct. Another interesting tension is created, then, between the vibrant artificiality of the color and painted material against the natural grain and texture of the wood panel. This is to emphasize the plasticity and meaninglessness of the borders themselves against the grain they mimic. If these lines already exist in the wood, why artificially iterate them with binding outlines that do not matter? 3

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Description and Analysis of Project Traditionally, the goal of art within the system of Zen Buddhism is to further the viewers on their path to enlightenment: "any subject or theme is appropriate if it helps advance the process of awareness" (Fisher 26). To reach the level of awareness that is necessary to be enlightened, a person must reject attachment to the body and the construct of the "self." In Buddhist philosophy, a core belief is that of "non-self," or a lack of a continuous, essential "essence" or "soul" within objects or beings. My largescale paintings and sculpture push the audience to explore and meditate on this outlook of non-self by creating an immersive and slightly disorienting space, which is inhabited by abstract, organic (and usually figural) forms that are layered in ways that make the forms, or delineations of them, seem irrelevant. The intersections of lines and forms confuse which marks define which shapes, and even create new, unintended images because of these strange overlaps. The size of the paintings allows the viewers to enter into the piece and then reflect back on themselves as a potential part of the space: amalgamations of ambiguous forms that haunt the surface of the paintings, questioning what truly defines them and their "selves." In the contemporary West, there is a stark difference between ideas of subjectivity from those of schools of eastern thought. Jean-Paul Sartre's theory of the gaze illustrates a clear idea of "western" perception of an environment. The fundamental assumption of Sartre's philosophy is that the subject that does the perceiving is the center of the surrounding visual field, and each subject is the center of an individual field of vision, entering and being entered by other "worlds" (Bryson 88). This reliance on the visual 4

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field underlines how the idea of "self" is frequently conflated with the physical body that one inhabits; we see outwardly from our bodies, and we seem to have a control over our bodies that we can watch in action. In the book Selfless Persons which explores and explains the ideas of non-self in Buddhist thought, Steven Collins states, "nowhere in experience is to be found a substantial self, either as the knower or as the own-being' of the known objects of thought and perception" (124). Directly subverting Sartre's views, it is clear that in Buddhist thought there is no difference between the one doing the seeing and what is being seen. All objects and organisms are void of an essential essence; no entity is unitary, autonomous, or permanent. All entities are, conversely, believed to be complex, dependent, and impermanent. 1 By placing the audience into a world where these philosophies are more visibly clear, my art helps them shed their attachments to the ego and the body. Every object or being that we refer to as a singular "thing" or "person" is actually a complex makeup of many different parts. Interestingly, most of these parts (elements, atoms, molecules, cells, etc.) are the same from entity to entity. Because of modern science, we are now familiar with this elemental and evolutionary sameness that exists between animate organisms. In Harriet Ritvo's article on the constructed dichotomy between animals and humans, she presents another view on the creation and perpetuation of the othering of ourselves as humans from animals that is "inextricable from hierarchy" (482). She argues that there is not simply a distinction of "us" and "them," but that there is a gradation of animals into the human form. However, this "job of 5 1 Using the vocabulary in Buddhist translations, the word "entity" when used in this essay will represent all positively existing objects and organisms, and "phenomena" refers to these entities as well as the negative space they create around them.

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determining the systematic position of humans seems to fall squarely within the domain of biology" (482). Biologists have found the remarkable similarities between humans and animals in elemental makeup and bodily functions. These (now well-known) biological similarities serve to reintegrate humans into the rest of the animate world as nothing more than a new animal, a stepping stone in evolution. This sameness is treated in Buddhist philosophy much less scientifically. To Buddhists, there is nothing that differentiates an entity from anything else around it "because all things are empty (of inherent nature)" (Collins 42). This becomes an especially important concept when applied to the "self" and body. The "I" to which one refers when referencing oneself is falsely singular, because, according to Buddhists, a "person" is really a composite of mind and body (the body being a composite in itself). This position is clearly related to the biological aspect of existence; we are a makeup of cells and tissues, bones and organs. However, ignorantly referring to oneself, or anyone, as a single entity perpetuates the construction of a singular self, and its conflation with a singular body that houses the self. When acknowledging that every entity is made up of and surrounded by countless parts, molecules, etc., it is apparent that nothing can exist without everything surrounding and within it. Buddhist philosophies touch on this dependence on a visual level, which is also reflected in my paintings and sculpture. Positively existing entities are only defined by the negative space that exists around them, and vice versa: 6

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In the Madhyamika school, the element of relativity is central. As the commentaries explain, there is smallness only because there is largeness, darkness only because there is light, permanence only because there is impermanence. (Collins 43) Less tangibly, Buddhists believe in a being's more ethereal dependence on events: karma In Buddhist philosophy it is believed that throughout existence, one inevitably creates karma (action) which always has a reaction, instantaneously or not. Good karma elicits beneficial consequences, and bad karma elicits negative consequences. In this belief system, what is put forth is equivalent to what is experienced in return. Thus, each moment experienced is the composite effect of every event that has happened before it. As effects, we are constantly changing from second to second. When observed at any moment, no entity is ever the same as it was in the previous moment; entities are always shifting, growing, decaying, regardless of their makeup. Acknowledging the never-ending impermanence of being, Buddhist philosophy states that an enlightened being is able to perceive the previous, present, and future forms of an entity, all existing at once. As a monk suggested [about a Zen rock garden], at one point in time we see ourselves like the...individual stones, large and important, appearing to be going somewhere, to be moving ahead, an illusion created by the raked sand. Yet one day we will each be no larger and no more important than the countless small pieces of gravel (each of which had once been a large, important stone) that 7

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make up the gravel that surrounds the...at best momentarily important stones. The cycle will repeat itself, endlessly, and therein is the lesson of the impermanence of things. (Fisher 166) A Buddhist text, the Visuddhimagga, states that when these concepts are contemplated or meditated upon in relation to a person or the body, "the attachment to (the idea) "there is a self" is abandoned'" (Collins 126). Thus, the ego and the investment of emotion or sentiment is a futile, ignorant grasp to preserve entities from their inevitable dissolution, as well as a cause for suffering, as opposed to liberation. The Abstract Expressionist movement coincided almost exactly with the introduction of Zen to America in the early 1950s. Artists within this school of painting, like Robert Motherwell and Brice Marden, depict this influence in their work. There is a distinct shedding of authorship over the course of this period that is evident in the works that were produced, exposing a spontaneous process. The Abstract Expressionists "found the picture in its making," rather than painting from a predetermined sketch (Stevens). This approach is similar to mine: the first workings towards creating a specific painting truly begin when I first see the surface I will paint on. At the beginning of this project, my paintings generally started as collages made up of compiled images from the internet, books, and magazines. By either cutting and pasting physical images or interpreting them directly into a freehand drawing, or some combination of the two mediums, I would compose a collage before beginning a painting. I would then reorient or resize the image to fit on a large panel of wood as I painted it, which caused the original image to be slightly warped in certain areas in comparison to 8

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the collage, but still very referential to it. This process led to very deliberate and distinct forms and segments of forms in the finished painting, which revealed the predetermination of the composition. The piece the path is a good example of this collaging process (Fig. 1). This painting consists of three basic forms: a dark (almost black) form, a light (gray-white) form, and a smaller, red-orange form behind them. The dark and red-orange forms have patches of texture and color within them, which represent the source imagery in the initial collaged composition, such as lava, birds, and feathers. The forms are organic and flowing, moving in and out of one another but still staying within the bounds of the lines that distinguish them, and the bounds of the panel itself. The darkest and lightest forms also have spaces and holes within them that reveal the layering and flowing of each entity in the piece, but also create new forms with the negative space that makes them up. One can also pick up on nuances of arms, legs, heads and eyes within the abstracted forms. The dark form is the largest, though it is broken up by a white pattern of curved or wavy marks that cover its surface. These marks perpetuate the motion of the piece, creating a movement within the distinct form that could be representative of the fluid, impermanent concept of "I" that Buddhism posits. The texture also evokes ideas of hair, water, feathers, fur, even calligraphy. Within the dark form, there are sections of bluegreen texture, and a long blue segment depicting an image of a bird's head. Even if the viewer does not directly pick up on the specific source of this image, it is within a strange appendage of the dark form that references the shape of a human hand, and there are 9

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organic lines and textures that encourage the viewer to think about forms and bodies in relation to one another in the natural world. As the project progressed, however, the pre-painting stage was almost entirely dissolved by the end of the process. The abstractions that appear in most of my succeeding paintings (except for denim mountain/blurred borders, Fig. 7, which I will discuss later) are loosely based on organic forms, like people, animals, and plants. Rather than pulling direct imagery from magazines or the internet and compiling them physically, immersion in a culture of reproduction and images is the main contributing resource. The greater contributor to the forms in most of the paintings is the 4'x4' birch plywood on which I am painting; the grain of the wood panel guides the majority of the mark-making that I do on the surface. I have given authorship to the wood panels. Combining abstractions of reality (virtual or otherwise) with shapes that were created by the wood itself then causes my own experiences and viewpoints to be relatively indistinguishable from those of other sources, and the more referential forms indistinguishable from the imagined ones. By layering images on top of one another, new and interesting forms are created by intersections and negative spaces. Lines intersect in a way that makes them sometimes difficult to follow or decipher, but this also allows them to merge and connect. The viewer is able to pick out forms that were not apparent in the creation of the piece. Early abstractionists, like Pablo Picasso and early Kazimir Malevich, were painting relatively mundane, or completely haphazard, subject matter, but were representing it in a way that made the viewer question the way the world is usually 10

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perceived (Brettell). The dawn of photography in 1839 was an exciting freedom for artists of the Modernist era; they were able to look deeper into themselves and their expressions, and into the workings of exterior forms--their weight and movement (Arnason). We have advanced far from the early cumbersome process though, and now have much greater access to photography in many forms. Because the internet is becoming more and more central to the contemporary western culture, this availability renders photographed subjects and objects, and photographs themselves, nearly meaningless, and allows us to access others' images just as easily as we access our own. Relatively new, this degradation of "mine" and "yours" is an important contributer to the construction of the contemporary self. Within Buddhist art history, just like Western art history, abstraction is also a remarkable shift away from the art of representation of recognizable forms: Instead of the painting or sculpture having a special magic or embodying a cult force, Zen works functioned as a stimulant, an activator of one's spiritual growth. Zen objects generally rely on suggestion and intimation, demanding that the devotee should play a greater role in the search for personal enlightenment. (Fisher 163, Fig. 2) Using this approach to my own work, my pieces serve as the same sort of "stimulant" for the viewer. By constructing compositions made up of lines and shapes that reference anything from cellular entities to cosmic constellations--the extreme ends of the conceivable visual spectrum--and nuances of figure forms, the viewers are able to see 11

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themselves in relation to entities that are not normally considered. The amalgamations of slightly recognizable forms and imagined forms allows the viewer to make specific connections, but to more openly interpret those suggested connections. In addition to the biomorphic aspects, there is also a very graphic, pop-art sensibility to my paintings, which are qualities we see daily in advertisements, magazines, and internet culture. Drawing inspiration greatly from nature and biology as well as the internet has led me to paint in this way, using bright colors and glossy, defined lines that evoke an interesting artificiality. Both the surrounding world and the virtual world of the internet are nearly limitless from our perspective, contributing to our relatively chaotic conception of them. However, as a culture we feel relatively comfortable regularly inhabiting both of these spheres. Thus, a duality is created between the two, which is also reflected in Zen ideology: order versus chaos. An important aspect in Zen artwork, as well as my own, is simplicity. Although the "pervasive truth[s]" of non-self, impermanence, dependence, and complexity of entities are extremely broad in their ability to apply to all entities in some way, the forms within Zen works and my own works are relatively simplistic (Collins 124). My work is in no way "austere," like traditional Zen painting, though it does display a thoughtful restraint that creates a meditative, Zen-like space with which the viewer can engage (Fisher 82). Rather than creating spontaneous gestural forms to display my own non-self or lack of ego by forcefully and randomly applying paint to the surface (as some Zen painters did), I paint on wood panels and find forms within the grain to trace exactly, or 12

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to use as a less precise guide. In addition to these forms, there are also shapes reminiscent of figures, plants, and animals, and shapes that have no intentional form at all. All the shapes and the lines which delineate them are layered upon one another and become nearly homogenized, so the sources for the images, the lines that create them in the painting, and the shapes themselves become almost indistinguishable from each other within the piece. Robert Motherwell, influenced by Surrealist theory about the unconscious, as well as automatism and immediacy of paint application like the Abstract Expressionists, created large paintings that were clearly influenced by Japanese Zen painting traditions of "flung ink" (Fig. 3), which undermine representational imagery and surrender a "fixed form" (Byron 101). The detachment from the resulting marks is evident in Motherwell's product, the final painting. However, the viewer can often still interpret the marks as abstract forms, faces or bodies. When creating my own paintings, there is a less evident, less immediate surrender of authorship in the process. Instead, I often follow the curves and lines in the grain of the wood panel itself. Allowing the painted line to mimic the natural lines on the surface shows that the painted forms are not premeditated or composed. The painting as above, so below (precipitations) pushes the lack of authorship slightly further (Fig. 4). Some of the forms drip down the panel in a way that I was unable to control as the artist. From the bottom of the painting and covering most of the piece, a light, transparent green fades into the color of the woodgrain, which looks slightly purply against the warmer green. Interrupting the smooth gradient are two forms 13

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that are not stained green, in which the tone of the wood is slightly lighter than it is at the top of the painting, and they are outlined by brown lines. Resembling islands in murky green water, they proudly sit at the center of the painting, but their brown borders are echoed several more times within the green space, slightly negating their importance. Glossy, salmon-colored forms inhabit the green area of the painting, some of which resemble sea animals like sharks and fish while still generally following the grain of the wood. Some outliers that float above the green gradient, in what is almost the "sky" of this painting, make the forms seem very light and mobile within their space. Also in this upper area is a large oval shape in the wood grain traced with a light blue line. This pattern in the wood is mimicked in the green "water," and a similarly shaped oval traced in the same color, almost like a reflection of clouds in a lake. Around the "cloud" at the top of the painting are more tacky, glossy forms in the same color as the oval. These forms are different from any others in my entire oeuvre for this project in that they were not applied to a perfectly flat, horizontal panel, and were able to freely drip down the piece. Less aggressive than, though still as detached as, flung ink painting, the medium is responsible for the cool, calming voice of the work rather than the artist. Brice Marden also took a step away from his own artistic authorship and conceptual inventions and worked with Chinese poetry to inspire his Cold Mountain series (1988-91). This series, like my work, is made up of bold lines that almost entirely fill the large surfaces on which they are painted. The pieces Marden produced for this series are dwarfing in their huge scale and relatively simple in form, but the lines he 14

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creates are complex and interesting. The viewer can find new forms within the "loose tracery of inky line" each time the work is revisited (Hughes#). The viewer is able to experience my work and Marden's work in the same way one could experience looking for shapes in a sky full of clouds; just as there are figures and images that can be picked out of the puffs of vapor, the audience can pick out familiar shapes in tangling forms and brushstrokes of the paintings. In his article, Hughes references a Chinese poem by Laotzu (the initiator of Taosim) in relation to Marden's work that also applies to the indistinguishable shapes in my own paintings: The Tao is something blurred and indistinct, How indistinct! How blurred! Yet within are images, How blurred! How indistinct! Yet within are things. Marden's series was based on 8th century Chinese poetry, and one can easily see the associations with calligraphy in his large, austere canvasses which were about nine by twelve feet. Stark black lines mingle and weave over a light ground, and sometimes even reflect the vertical orientation of the lines of calligraphic poetry itself. His tangling webs are reflected in some of my pieces: abstracted shapes and lines layered upon others create entirely new forms out of the already loosely interpreted ones. Unlike Marden's rough and dark Cold Mountain "squiggles," which he used twigs and branches to create, my paintings and lines have a more refined, graphic quality to them. Combined with my use of bright colors, my paintings assume an interesting artificiality, especially against (or 15

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integrated with) the wood they are painted on. This highlights their constructed quality and their inability to function as borders that contain or define an entity. Marden's more recent work incorporates a much more defined line, as mine does, and employs a bright, nearly primary, color scheme. Red Rocks (2) and other paintings from his "Attendants, Bears and Rocks" exhibition (2002) have a graphic sensibility to them that make them reminiscent of "subway maps from Shangri-La" (Saltz, Fig. 5). In these newer pieces Marden seems to leave the immediacy and naturalistic approach of the Cold Mountain series and really embrace the flat, false space of the canvas. He retains through both of these series of works a strong and obvious consciousness of the edge of the canvas as a distinct border which clearly contains the image and cannot be crossed. Here, my work steps away from Marden's: the lines in my paintings do not show the same consciousness of the perimeter of the surface and seem to extend off the edges of the panel. This implies that the forms within the space of the painting also extend outside the piece and inhabit their strange quasi-reality; the paintings could be still moments in a place full of floating objects that could easily drift out of view. Rather than strictly following the Formalist footsteps of emphasizing the flatness and limitation of the surface, as Marden does, my work is less self-referential and refers to outside forms or figures. Though there are traces of Formalist thinking in my paintings (the forms within them inevitably refer back to the wood they are painted on), these outside references (animals, horizon lines, etc.) work to anchor the piece in what the audience knows as reality and to further the illusion of continuation of the forms and space that the painting creates, as if these abstract depictions really exist as what they resemble. 16

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In my painting monkey and bear/mt. mehru (Fig. 6) the tension between organic and artificial is especially apparent. Light yellow lines make up forms that seem to crawl their way from the bottom of the painting, up through a strange, sparse forest. The background is a translucent gradation of color from purplish brown at the top of the piece to bright yellow at the bottom, which subtly creates a space in which there is no clearly defined horizon line, but there is depth with the suggestion of one. The dark lines that vertically cut across the piece on either side help push the feeling of depth by flattening the painting on the edges where they are larger and seem closer, but smaller dark lines towards the center of the painting are also picked out of the wood grain, pulling the viewer further into the space. These dark, floating slivers become reminiscent of very distant trees or shadowy figures in the mist. Combined with the thicker dark lines at the periphery of the panel, a forest is constructed within the painting, which becomes especially important when considering that trees are being consumed to create the panel on which they are painted. Though the overall tone of the painting is relatively light and serene, the bold, determined lines and saturated color scheme remind the viewer that this is a constructed space. This piece also does not have the bubbly, raised gel shapes of some of the other paintings in the exhibition and, therefore, its strictly flat and crisp lines provide an interesting counterpoint or lead-in to the later pieces which have more randomized and uncontrolled lines. The flat lines closely follow the grain of the wood in this piece, spreading the paint across the whole surface, away from a central figure, and providing 17

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conversation between the different lines I added to the painting and the lines that already appear in the grain of the wood panel. Piet Mondrian worked rigorously to abolish this idea of centrality and subject with his geometric, abstract paintings. Though his earlier paintings convey a slight sense of center, throughout the rest of his career he created works that more and more effectively deconstructed the tension between painted form and surface, subject and ground. His approach to abstraction was spiritual (based on Theosophy specifically): to expose through his paintings the "underlying structure" of the visual world, a utopian idea of eliminating the particular, the seemingly unnecessary (Foster et al. 148). My work, stemming from Buddhist philosophy, also seeks to eliminate the particular, the body that is aligned with the single "self," by playing with the tension between painted form and the surface being painted on. However, in Buddhist thought there is no "underlying structure," no basic, essential essence within any thing. Mondrian's flat, geometric lines and forms may appear very different from the biomorphic forms in my painting land in sea, simultaneously (Fig. 7), but behind the work of mine and Mondrian's there exists a similar spiritual mindset: creating subjectless art that decentralizes the viewer. A survey of Mondrian's work reveals his development through, and experimentations with, his revolutionary ideas of form versus ground. Before his wellknown primary grids, he presented works made up of clouds (usually a general rounded overall form) of black dashes, colored squares, or both (Fig. 8). Though these paintings were some of the more centralized compositions, the overlapping and intersecting of 18

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planes of color and lines of black created an interesting depth within the painting, a visible layering which is apparent and important in my paintings as well (Arnason 216). My paintings achieve a disorienting sense of depth within the panels of wood, implying another strange yet familiar world that pushes and pulls the viewer in and out of it. Mondrian, however, was interested in the flatness and dimensional restrictions of the surfaces he worked on. To iterate the flatness of the surface, he implemented the all-over, black grid. These grid paintings, however crisp and structured, were not predetermined with mathematics, like many other geometric abstractionists' like Kenneth Noland. Mondrian built up the composition spontaneously, as the piece developed. During the painting process, each new "unit" (rectangle in the grid) worked to decentralize a previously painted one that showed potential to dominate the surface (Foster et al. 151). By filling some of the consequently created rectangles with a solid, primary color and some with black or a shade of white, the distinction between form and ground was undermined. Even the white units in Mondrian's pieces, which one would otherwise read as a receding canvas background, are pulled into the grid and made level with the others. In land in sea..., there is an all-over quality to the lines that functions in the same way as the black grid of Mondrian's in their homogenization of forms and figures. Another nearly 4'x4' painting, this piece is split vertically between a subtle transparent green background and an almost violently bright transparent red background. Between the two colors is a strip of plain wood grain in its natural tone, quite far left of the center. Pale blue and yellow-green forms are either painted or poured onto the surface of the 19

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piece, and there seems to be no order to their placement at all. When examined more closely, though, the blue forms are mostly on the left side of the piece, and the yellowgreen forms are mostly on the right, migrating toward the center of the painting and each other in a kind of battle. The tacky tar gel forms literally sit on the surface of the painting, emphasizing the flat texture of the painted surface. This emphasis becomes confused, however, when the lines cross and overlap in unexpected or indeterminable ways that create a false sense of depth within the painting. There are two areas of wood grain in land in sea, simultaneously that are delineated by the ever-present navy-black line. Toward the bottom and entering from the left side of the painting, a darker area of wood grain is outlined by a thick border to appear more in the foreground of the piece. Closer to the top and jutting out from the right side of the piece is a more narrow dark area that extends horizontally across most of the painting, toward the left side. The dark line around this longer form overlaps a line created by the more dimensional gel, causing the flat line to extend off the surface as well. A confusing indicator, this unexpected overlap appears in most of my paintings. Rather than solely flattening the painting, as Mondrian did, my work creates a play between the flat painting and the supposed depth that the lines and colors create within it. The bridge between natural and artificial that is consequently created by my work is an intentional one. Mainly, the extreme plasticity and definition of the lines in my paintings is to emphasize that they are constructed and, even, unnecessary. These lines that I redraw over and over (there are usually several coats of paint on each line) already 20

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exist in the wood. Each coat of paint on the lines is a reminder of the meaninglessness of the border that is created to distinguish one part from another. This slow process made the painting as much a meditation for me as I intend for it to be a stimulant of meditation for the viewer. In another sense, it is a critique of modernization or colonization: why claim and designate spaces with borders that are not even attached to their contents? Shapes like those in the painting denim mountain/blurred borders become reminiscent of layered and unclear geographical or topographical borders (Fig. 9). This painting is also four feet wide and almost as tall, and depicts a large orange form that is widest at the bottom, narrows toward the middle and opens up at the top of the painting. This orange section is delineated by dark navy (almost black) lines that become wider as they move toward the bottom of the piece, evoking a slight depth. Within this area the woodgrain is slightly emphasized with a redder line than the rest of segment. On either side of the swooping orange shape are two very light yellow-green forms that are also outlined by navy-black lines that are slightly thinner than the ones behind them. These forms look very distinct and intentional, as if they are really supposed to represent something, and they were: this painting was the last one I used a pre-painting sketch for, and it was based off a collage of photos. Despite their apparent intentionality, they are abstracted enough to almost create new shapes, or ones that can be interpreted in new ways. Within the two forms on either side of the painting are smaller, light blue pieces that also have dark borders around them. These pieces look like small bodies of water within land masses. In front of the forms is a gray and blue mass, each 21

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color, again, delineated by a dark, thin line. There are holes in this form that expose the layers beneath it, but the gray section appears slightly waxy and transparent, which also exposes the layers but blurs parts of the dark borders that lie behind it. The blue area is opaque and very slightly darker than the blue segments within the yellowish forms, and slightly resembles the profile of a deer or moose. Across most of the painting, from the upper right to the bottom left corners, is a tree line reminiscent of the slope of a mountain. It is layered behind the lighter forms on the sides of the paintings and filled in with a slightly transparent, but very bright green hue. The line across the top of the trees is the same dark color that functions as the edge of the orange space. This border, however, is separated from what it appears to contain. It lies on top of all of the other layers of paint that the green, filled in space, seems to lie behind. By outlining spaces with perimeters that don't necessarily integrate with what they supposedly bind, the audience becomes slightly confused, and are driven to question the construction of these borders in the first place. What truly defines an entity, a person, a place, a space? In a way, this artificial preservation of space relates to Chinese artist Zhan Wang's work. Wang is known for his large sculptures of rocks, made of sheet metal that he lays over the rocks and hammers until it exactly mimics the form of the rock beneath it. The subsequently buffed metal becomes a shiny, immaculate chrome in the shape of a large, old rock. Not only pointing to the preservation of history, Wang's work also makes one notice more readily the impermanence of a large boulder, versus the sturdy metal that does not erode. The dull, natural rock will wear away, while the pristine, man-made 22

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"rock" will withstand weather and time in a way a stone could not. My paintings function in an interestingly similar way in their painted reiteration, thus preservation, of what already naturally exists. Works from the Surrealist movement, like those of Joan Mir—, are "expression[s] of imagination as revealed in dreams, free of the conscious control of reason and free of convention" (Soby et. al.). The eye is torn between familiarity and uncertainty, much like in my paintings. There is a dream-like quality to some of my pieces, which keeps the viewer grasping for an anchoring "center," but one does not exist. Much like Mir—'s paintings come to three dimensions, Alexander Calder's mobile and "stabile" sculptures are made up of abstract pieces and forms. Made up of painted sheet metal cut into abstract shapes and held together by wires, his mobiles drift and dip gracefully in space (Fig. 10). The delicate balance that Calder creates then renders each part of the mobile absolutely necessary, and spreads out the viewer's focus as the pieces slowly float and spin. This allows the viewer to watch the forms shift from flat, broad surfaces to thin lines that nearly disappear. Reminiscent of his mobiles, his "stabiles" (as Hans Arp coined them) integrate line and form in abstract shapes, but on a much larger scale (Arnason 363). These monumental pieces also expose more of the process it took to create them, like large metal rivets and screws. Much like my work, Calder's sculptures seem to hold the same visual resonance and conceptual value as in his paintings, but in three dimensions. Calder's mobiles are usually very light and airy, by virtue of being able to move with the slightest breeze or touch. This motion allows the viewer to stand in one place 23

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and be able to see the forms move and rotate; the piece move from form to line and back again. "The subject matter is apparent only from certain points of view; from others, the sculpture loses all narrative sense and becomes a lyrical cloud of dynamic lines and squiggles--a dissolution of comprehensibility that Calder courted by dispensing with a stationary base" (Dunham). Even Calder's stabiles had no "stationary base" for them (Fig. 11). They touch the ground when and where the sculpture-object reaches it; there is nothing between the form and the surface it sits upon. My sculpture ( dependent origination II, Fig. 12) is more related to Calder's stabiles, but simultaneously retains the grace and motion of his mobiles. A strong indicator of the process, the title of this piece is a hint at how it was created. Beginning with two randomly selected pieces, each piece was then added in relation to the ones that were put together before it; each piece depends on another to be attached to the overall form and to gravitationally balance the whole piece. The consequential amalgamation of slightly figural forms (hands, legs, feet, faces) along with shapes that resemble birds and bugs is reminiscent of cellular division and multiplication. This connection becomes even more apparent when the piece is grouped with the two pieces of negative space and a border. Another signifier of how the three-dimensional piece came into existence, these absences of space in pieces of plywood remind the viewer that the sculpture was once a flat object. It also displays that all (or most) of the pieces that make up dependent origination II were once nestled together to make one large, flat mass--a Pangaea of plywood. 24

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Though my sculpture does not move or drift in the way that Calder's mobiles do, the viewer is able to walk around the piece (more like Calder's stabiles), which creates the same visual sensation as if the piece itself was moving. This, plus the piece's roughly human height and heavy width engages the viewer directly with the pieces that make up the work and the space around it. However, like Calder's floating sculptures, the forms one may relate to within the work could appear to be just a sliver of wood, or be broken up and obstructed by other parts from a slightly different viewpoint; the audience cannot grasp on to any specifics of the overall piece. There is an undeniably "playful intimacy" in Calder's sculpture as well as my own, whether the piece moves through space on its own or not (Kangas). Fluidity, motion, and lightness are strong formal components that make up Calder's work, and contribute to both my sculpture and paintings, drawing from nature-based imagery and using reductive abstraction to represent that imagery (Vetrocq). When constructing a large, space-consuming piece, it is important to maintain an airiness to the piece if the artist does not want the audience to feel suffocated or trapped. In Calder's mobiles, the shadows of the floating pieces create this spatial, almost cosmic, atmosphere. The stabiles, even though they are giant and clearly very heavy and constructed, are also surprisingly light (Fig. 10); the viewer can walk in and out of them, as well as see through the negative spaces they create. My sculpture is almost a combination of these two styles of Calder's sculpture in many ways. It is somewhere between the two in size (though it could grow to endless proportions), and also retains the softness and atmospheric quality of the mobiles, while manipulating space more like the stabiles. 25

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Georgia O'Keeffe is not well known for her abstract paintings, but they are compelling manipulations of space. Her abstract paintings of the early to mid-twentieth century present a new (to her era) configuration of the picture plane and its depth, or lack of depth. Rather than a specific painted subject, she reconstructs landscapes and inserts abstracted images of bones, shells, flowers, or water (Fig. 13). This "astounding imagination" presents the viewer with a slightly disorienting, though still pleasant and comfortable, space to enter into and reflect; O'Keeffe "makes the nonobjective feel mystical, familiar, objective and subjective all at once" (Saltz). Though my works are less representational than most of O'Keeffe's, they similarly create a new, imaginary space for the viewers to place themselves into. O'Keeffe, then, along with other abstractionists using this technique, makes the painting become the subject rather than the object represented within it, causing viewers to step back and reassess the work in relation to the artist, or even themselves. Transporting the viewer in to an entirely new visual realm, "an entire way of seeing the world," through the presentation of a piece of art was a common goal in the work of modern artists (Arnason 83). With her diptych Music Pink and Blue I and II O'Keeffe almost sends the viewer through the painting in this way (Fig. 14). These pieces, as the title suggests, are inspired by music, but look very much like O'Keeffe's representational flower paintings, of which she created so many. The segmented petals of the floral forms entirely fill the surfaces of the paintings, constructing a view of space that is both foreign and familiar to the audience, which is slightly disorienting. Both pieces have a strong organic movement through the 26

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composition, and a dark blue space that seems to extend far behind the soft arches of petal-like curves in the foreground. Being immersed in this imaginary space (or flower) causes the viewer to consider their place in terms of this image. O'Keeffe's plunging of the viewer into her specific visual interpretation of experiencing music becomes more important than representing a "real" visual form, which was important in artistic periods before Modernism. Similar to O'Keeffe's diptych, my painting cavalcave has a sort of center point in a space that the viewer can fall into (Fig. 15). It is a nearly square painting with three forms coming down from the top of the piece that resemble stalactites in a dark cave. The three larger forms (one on the left and two on the right) are filled in with a gradient from transparent purple to clear, from the top down. They are outlined with a dark gray-blue line. The form in the middle is not filled in with color and is distinguished by a thinner, navy-black line. At the bottom of the piece are three forms resembling stalagmites that are filled in with a gradient from transparent blue to more clear toward the top. Across these stony forms flies an eerie, orange cloud of gel forms. They resemble a colony of bats moving through or exiting a cave. This concept of procession or moving through or out of a space is emphasized by the title of this piece, which is a play on the word cavalcade (a procession of some kind, usually involving horses). 27

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Conlusion This thesis project resulted in an interesting array of works--drawings, photographs, paintings, sculptures--that are not necessarily displayed in the final exhibition, and each has a slightly different level of control and predetermination. The general trend of the work is a letting go of my control over the subject matter, of my own ego as an artist, which resulted in paintings made up of colored lines that simply follow those that have already been naturally produced and lines that were created relatively arbitrarily. When looking back on the work as a whole, there is an interesting visual documentation of a person working towards enlightenment. However, there are still some issues with the "final" paintings, and with the idea of creating art at all when compared to Buddhist philosophies. When entering into this project, I thought that I could use the knowledge I already had about Buddhist philosophies and visually articulate them at a relatively constant rate over the course of the year. However, what I found shortly after beginning was that in order to reflect concepts of a lack of self, I, as the artist, had to release a lot of the sense of control that is present in creating a work of art. The usual decisions of composition and form now seem like amplifications of my own ego. 2 This is why I turned to the woodgrain as a guide. Painting and repainting lines that already exist turned out to be an absolute meditation on the natural world, how it is all integrated and dependent on everything within it (like the wood grain), and my greatly decreased lack of control and "self" that is usually imbued into an artist's work. The titles of the pieces reflect this sort 28 2 If this concept is taken even farther, one begins to question why or how an artist could even create a piece in this context. Can an artist create a piece of art that is truly liberated from the sense of ego or control?

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of deep and extensive contemplation, and became a more important aspect in triggering the viewer's mind to move in the right direction than I expected. However, after considering each piece of wood, each line, each amorphous entity, each bubble of life in the gel squiggles, for extended periods of time, each painting, sculpture and print became a distinct space and place of serenity and meditation. Though I have not fully given up control in all of the pieces--each of the forms is an organic abstraction that is usually a closed shape--the medium speaks as much as I do: paints are pooling and dripping in their own ways and the wood surface is deciding the forms (Fig. 4). Compositionally, the placement of forms is not completely haphazard though; it is strongly informed by the woodgrain, but what parts of the woodgrain to follow is ultimately my decision, as well as which pieces of wood I choose to paint on. The paintings also show color decisions that could also be critiqued as another element of ego and control the artist contributes to a work. Determining colors was slightly systematic though; there is usually a relative balance between warm and cool or complementary colors. Somehow opposite, each color is discordant with another, but its hue is simultaneously strengthened by that difference (Fig. 6). This slightly discordant color composition evokes a balance as well as a chaos, a yin and a yang, that is everpresent in one's surroundings and in the struggle toward liberation from self. 29

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1. the path, oil on panel, 30" x 20" 2. Hakuin Ekaku Blind Men Crossing the Bridge ink on paper, 7 1/2 x 26 inches, 1685-1768 30

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3. Robert Motherwell, 2 Figures, oil on canvas, 1958 31

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4. as above, so below (precipitations) acrylic on birch, 41" x 48" 32

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5. Brice Marden, Red Rocks (2), oil on linen, 75" x 107," 2000-2 6. monkey and bear (mt. mehru) acrylic on birch, 48" x 41" 33

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7. land in sea, simultaneously, acrylic on birch, 48" x 42" 34

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8. Piet Mondrian, Composition in Color A oil on canvas, 50 cm x 44 cm, 1917 35

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9. denim mountain/blurred borders acrylic on birch, 41" x 40" 36

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10. Alexander Calder, Enseigne de Lunettes, painted metal, 38.6" x 55.9" x 16.5," 1976 11. Alexander Calder, Stabile painted metal, 34.3" tall, 1975 37

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12. dependent origination II, balsam plywood, about 8' x 3' x 5' 38

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13. Georgia O'Keeffe, Pedernal From the Ranch #1 oil on canvas, 40" x 30," 1956 39

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14. Georgia O'Keeffe, Music Pink and Blue No. 1 and 2 oil on canvas, 29 1/8" x 40," 1919 40

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15. cavalcave acrylic on birch, 48" x 41" 41

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Bibliography Arnason, H. H. History of Modern Art Peter Kalb. Saddle River: Prentice Hall. 2003. Brettell, Richard R. Modern art, 1851-1929: capitalism and representation New York: Oxford University Press. 1999. Bryson, Norman. "Gaze in the Expanded Field." Vision and Visuality Hal Foster. New York: The New Press. 86-113. Cardenas, Diana Marcela. "Arturo Herrera." Art Nexus, Je/Ag 2011: 101-102. Collins, Steven. Selfless Persons New York: Cambridge University Press. 1982. Collings, Matthew. "Aesthetic and Political." Modern Painters March 2007. 26-9. Dunham, Carrol. "High-Wire Act." Artforum International February 2009, Vol. 47 Issue 6. 164-171. Finch, Charlie. "Nice Brice, Meet Cruisin' Susan." artnet Magazine, 2002. Finch, Charlie. "What Becomes a Legend Las." artnet Magazine, 2007. Fisher, Robert E. Buddhist Art and Architecture London: Thames & Hudson Inc. 1993. Foster, Hal. Art since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism Rosalind Kraus, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, David Joselit. New York: Thames & Hudson Inc. 2011. Goldberg, Itzhak. "Miro, ou la Poesie en Apesanteur." Beaux Arts Magazine no. 323. May 2011. 102-109. Heartney, Eleanor. "Abstraction." Art & Today. Phaidon. 86-92. Hughes, Robert. "Lines That Go For A Walk." Time 138.(1991): 96-97. Kangas, Matthew. "Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act': Seattle Art Museum." Sculpture (Washington, D.C.) 29.9 (2010): 74-75. Klein, Anne Carolyn. Meeting the Great Bliss Queen Boston: Beacon Press. 1995. Mahoney, R. "Brice Marden: This Is What Things Are About." Flash Art (International Edition) v. 39 (November/December 2006) p. 104-7. 42

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Meritxell, Beatriu. "A Hymn of Freedom." Tate Etc. no. 22, Summer 2011. 42-3. McElheny, Josiah. "Arturo Herrera." Bomb Fall 2005: 68-75. Ritvo, Harriet. "Border Trouble: Shifting the Line between People and Other Animals." Social Research Vol. 62, No. 3, In the Company of Animals Fall1995. 481-500. Saltz, Jerry. "Circuit Party: Brice Marden: Matthew Marks Gallery." Village Voice, June 2002. Saltz, Jerry. "Snakes in a Box." artnet Magazine, 2007. Stevens, Mark. "The Big Chill." New York Magazine Oct. 2006. http://nymag.com/arts/ art/reviews/24373/. Vetrocq, Marcia E. "Sculpture Under The Influence." Art In America 98.9 (2010): 14-18. Art Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web. 18 Apr. 2012. von Hase, Bettina. "Full Beam." Art Review, March 2004. Vol. 2, Issue 3. 66-71. Yezzi, David. "Brice Marden: A Retrospective of Paintings and Drawings at the Museum of Modern Art, New York." The New Criterion, v. 25, no. 4. 46-7. December 2006. 43


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