I’m reading a really good book that might interest you. It’s titled Ninth Street Women by Mary Gabriel, and it’s about five of the women artists from the abstract expressionist movement in the 1940s and 1950s.
The book details the lives of Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler, following them from the beginnings of their careers on.
I was astounded by the living conditions many artists endured then. During the early parts of their careers they lived in abject poverty in abandoned and substandard buildings without hot water or heat — in New York City! The epitome of the starving artist.
At the time, France was the center of the modern art world with Picasso leading the pack. The United States was not known for producing innovative art, and there were no galleries here showing modern art. The abstract expressionists organized their own renegade shows, and after many years, the art world gradually began to accept, and later embrace, their work.
The women also had to deal with sexism, and they were routinely dismissed and excluded from shows. It’s a fascinating story of persistence and strength.
Reading about the abstract expressionists got me interested in what’s called “action painting,” and I decided to give it a try myself. Action painting is generally done using large pieces of canvas laid flat on the floor. The artist moves around the canvas as they work, using their entire body to create the art — not just their wrist and hand with a brush.
Here are my first two experiments with this genre. It’s not as easy as some artists make it look! I used a trowel and a stirring stick to move the paint around on these pieces, and they were created using leftover house paint on unprimed canvas — materials that many of the original abstract expressionists also used. These two pieces are both 36″ x 48″.
You can see that it would take a lot of practice if I wanted to get good at this!
What have you always wanted to try? I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts. You can share them with us in the comments section below.
With love and appreciation,