Working It Out

There’s my daughter Miranda doing some complex equations on the chalkboard. She’s working out something profound there.

I’ve been trying to work things out, too. We’ve got a new daughter in China – Madeleine Cai Qun. We just found out yesterday. I’ve been thinking about it, trying to work out how it feels this time – this time being a dad. In some ways – between all the different sorts of work that I do, and trying to be a good dad, and trying to be a good husband – I often don’t know how I feel. My mind is usually full of research, various readings, lesson prep for 4+ classes, a whole range of concerns with my graduate students, community projects, church stuff, family stuff, house maintenance stuff, following up with friends stuff, the logistics of just being-where-I’m-supposed-to-be-when-I’m-supposed-to-be-there, and on and on… Often I don’t know what I feel or if I feel things at the proper proportion because I’m not being reflective enough – not being present enough, really – to have full awareness.

I know this is a season of my life and I know it’ll pass. But when I think about Madeleine and Miranda and Alison, I want to be totally clear.

When I see Cai Qun’s arm raised – little Madeleine Cai Qun Ballou – I’m perfectly clear. Let’s go get her now. I’m ready. I want to be her dad RIGHT NOW.

I guess that’s all I feel: let’s get this flight planned and the paperwork filed and roll. It’s transition time. It’s life-change time. I thank God for my awesome wife who has had the passion, dedication, intelligence, and intensity to follow through and pull this off. This is the sort of adventure we looked forward to a decade ago when we decided to get married. We never knew the specific character of the challenges or what particular form the dreams would take, but we worked it out. Sovereign movements indistinguishable from chance and incomprehensible without faith.

Inspiration – Norleen Nosri

Norleen Nosri is a talented ceramist from Malaysia who is earning her MFA here at the University of Missouri. I’m privileged to work with her and to own several of her beautiful pieces. Her work is, to me, almost above comment. The compositions she creates are gentle and evocative. She says they are an attempt to “elicit harmony in duality.”

Above: Two images I took when I met with Norleen in her studio this past week. These groups of objects were there awaiting their placement in larger compositional arrangements and I was struck by the incidental beauty of their color, interrelated shapes, and intimate space. There was an amazing northern light coming in through a bank of windows; it produced a wonderful glow on the exquisite surfaces of Norleen’s porcelain vessels…

Here are two cups my wife and I have that were made by Norleen.

This last image is an example of Norleen’s awesome maker’s mark. The Nosri name is of tremendous importance to her, and is a connection to her family, her country, her heritage, and the meaning she understands of life. Having discussed this name with her many times, I always make it a point – whenever I hold one of her creations – to turn it over and look upon this honorable name.

Both Sides of the Brain

Mr. Aaron Coleman, mezzotinter extraordinaire, has been coordinating this traveling exhibition for quite some time. And now the first shows are coming soon.

Cover for the folio cases: GLORY! Photo by Aaron Coleman.

And here’s a listing of the locations for this traveling show – click the highlights for more info about the specific exhibitions:

2012

August 13 – September 18, 2012 ~ Basile Gallery, Herron School of Art. Indianapolis, Indiana

October 3 – October 28, 2012 – Washington Printmakers Gallery. Silver Spring, Maryland

TBA – Gallery 215. Northern Illinois University School of Art. Dekalb, Illinois (link when available)

2013

May 20 – August 29, 2013 – George Caleb Bingham Gallery. University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri (link when available)

TBA – Lamar D. Fain School of Art. Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Texas (link when available)

The edition is in the permanent collections of Herron School of Art and Northern Illinois University School of Art. BOO-YEAH!

Current Shows and News

It’s been a full summer so far… plenty to be excited about in spite of the 107 degree heat!

I’ve currently got work up at PS Gallery in Columbia, MO. It’s a solo show – titled Adding – in their secondary gallery space, the Hallery. It’ll be up through July 28th. The Reception for the exhibition takes place July 14th at 6:00pm and we’ll be around for that. Also, stop by on Artrageous Friday, July 20th. Artageous Fridays are always epic cultural events in Columbia. Below are a few images from the installation.

Already making sales!

I have a piece of work at First Street Gallery in NYC until July 14th. First Street is a quality stop if you’re out there!

I am in a show (exhibiting a collaboration with Marcus Miers) at the 930 Art Center that runs through August 12th, called Phoneography. Check it out if you’re in Louisville!

I’ve got a work – already sold! – up at the Columbia Art League Annual Member’s Summer Open Exhibition. It garnered a 2nd place ribbon even…

I was the juror for Figure It Out! at the Craft Studio Gallery on the campus of the University of Missouri which was up from June 14 through June 28. I was delighted to select some amazing work and have a piece of my own there as well. See some shots below.

A detail of Catherine Armbrust’s amazing “The Titillator”

Ryan Johnson’s Crisis (on the pedestal) and Morgan Hobbs’ Self Portrait – which won an Honorable Mention.

Detail of John Schneider’s Do These Stripes Make Me Look Fat? – Oil on panel.

Detail of Jane Jun’s Journey.

My own monotype print titled Extend on the back wall, and a front view of Armbrust’s The Titillator.

Detail of David Mazure‘s Habakkuk, a luminous ink and marker on translucent paper that won Best in Show.

Wow… quite a bit going on since the spring semester ended. I’m trying to get my studio really set up and am enjoying time with my wife and daughter. I’m teaching a summer session of painting at Mizzou, which is quite a lot of fun, and working on a few odds and ends here and there in our new place. I made some hanging polyhedral sculptures for the front porch, a first for me. But perhaps the most effervescent developments of the last few days are my first brews – both IPAs – a Chinook and a Double. I’m using Northern Brewer equipment.

Beer Room…

ACTIVE FERMENTATION!

 

 

 

The Huffington Post Includes my Work in a “Top 10 Best” List

I was gratified to learn that The Huffington Post included my recent essay on Richard Diebenkorn, written for neotericART, in a “Top 10 Best” listing! The piece, written by Brett Baker of Painters’ Table, cited my work immediately after Raphael Rubinstein’s “Provisional Painting, Part 2.” This was excited to me, as Rubinstein’s original text on provisional painting was a catalyst to my thinking in my piece. Here’s the takeaway quote:

“Artist Matthew Ballou’s piece “Diebenkorn: Provisional Action, Provisional Vision” finds surprising and convincing connections to this kind of provisional approach in Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park paintings” – Brett Baker for The Huffington Post.

Thanks, Mr. Baker! Painters’ Table is awesome! Read my essay at neotericART here!

Making My Work Mean So Much More

My wife, Alison, and I are beginning the process for an international adoption. It’s something we’ve thought about for a long time and something we’re excited about.

Above: me and my daughter drawing. 

There are a lot of reasons we’re interested in this and there are a lot of logistics and options to consider. There’s tens of thousands of dollars to raise, most of which we don’t have just laying around. My wife is much more skilled than I am at holding all of these different issues in mind. She’s able to plan and strategize at a level that I can’t really even understand. So in the midst of this process I really just want to be able to DO something, to add something to it, to help make it happen. 

As I think about this huge thing we’re getting into, I really just want to make sure that one of the other huge things in my life – my art-making – plays some role. I want to make my work mean more than perhaps it would on its own, more than it would do just hanging on a wall. I want my work to actually do something about the nearly 150 million orphans in the world. If, by some miracle, my artworks could help us bring one or two kids to a life of love and intentional care, then I want to do whatever I can to cause that to happen.

Above: Seven Mandalas for the Murky History of Beginnings and Endings, #5. One of the pieces for sale to help fund our adoption. My daughter Miranda helped me make this one.

So I’ve opened up a little etsy shop that features about 50 different artworks, with more to come. My hope is that I can have these works – images that I love and worked very hard to craft – become part of the means by which Alison and I do a different kind of work in the world… something that can make all the difference to a child who needs a mom and dad. 

If you resonate with this sort of thing, I hope you’ll consider going to my etsy shop and purchasing a work. If you don’t see anything there you’re interested in, please check out my flickr and my main website as some of those works are still available as well; I’d be happy to hear from anyone who’s interested in any of the works.

What I’ve been musing on recently

I’ve been thinking about overtly shifting the direction of my work for a while now – perhaps a year. I don’t know that this shift would be easily discernible from the outside, but it represents a significant change of focus for me. As I look back over the last year of my practice and then cross-reference what I’m seeing there with some of the artists and artworks I’ve been looking at during that time, I can really see some connections forming.

For instance, check out these recent pieces:

The Teachers, Mandala for the Murky History of Beginnings and Endings #1, Portrait of Miranda at Thirteen Months, Two Bells, and The Seedbed #1.

Then compare their compositional formatting with aspects of the works of artists I’m looking at here:

Richard Diebenkorn, Miyoko Ito, Barry Le Va, Nicholas Byrne, David Rabinowitch, Julian Stanczak, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Marcelo Bonevardi, Frank Nitsche, Sharon Butler, and Vincent Fecteau.

It seems to me that my previous forays into more formal explorations – such as with the Locus Series (book here), and the conceptually interconnected Quintessence Series and Dodecahedron Series – are becoming more and more deeply apparent in my main body of work. In some ways I’m finding myself less drawn to the figure as a necessity and more drawn to the composition itself. I’m deeply interested in the perception of formal dynamics and the sense of haptic maneuvering that can take place within two-dimensional forces.

So it is that my recent miniseries, three of which are shown above in progress (9 inches in diameter, collage, gouache, acrylic and graphite on paper), have come about. They call back to previous works, such as this one from 2005, which was part of a side project I did while finishing up grad school (I needed a break from my thesis paintings):

First Bend, Oil on Canvas on Panel, 14 by 23 inches, 2005. Destroyed. Click to enlarge.

Anyway, who knows? We’re all moved and pressed and pushed, often by things we don’t entirely recognize. That’s why painting is so much more like getting lost in the woods than it is like jumping in a car and driving to the store for milk. It’s not meant to be that simple.

If it were that way there would be no discovery, no evocation beyond what we already know… and what good would that be?

Transient Geometries at Antelope Valley College

Quintessence #10, multiple monotype and woodblock prints, with acrylic, graphite and gouache on paper, 2009. Click to enlarge.

I’ve been included in a small group show at Antelope Valley College, which was organized and curated by AVC Professor Christine Mugnolo. I’m honored and excited by my fellow exhibitors: J. Jordan Bruns, David Eddington, and Lisa C. Soto. Click here for the AVC Gallery page describing the show!

Full disclosure: I went to grad school with Christine and she was the subject of one of the shows I worked with Gillock Gallery to organize back in 2006. I wrote an essay about Christine’s drawings and Gillock published a small catalog for the exhibition containing the text and a selection of her work. I’m really proud of that entire project and hope you’ll take a look here.

Here’s one of the drawings from the show – Self Portrait on Olive Ground, Pastel on toned paper, 24 by 18 inches. Click to enlarge.

Two New Books

First off, I received my new Diebenkorn book this week. Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series is lush (in design), expansive (it contains many reproductions), and – best of all – it’s full of never before seen (in broadly-published form) paintings, prints and drawings. I’m doubly charged up by this book since I (and one of my students, Marcus Miers) are heading down to Fort Worth to see the Diebenkorn show next week!

Also, my own slim tome – 62 pages, 9 essays – just came out, published by Neoteric Art in Chicago.

It’s available in standard paperback version and in an ereader version. It should be up on Amazon in a few weeks as well.