Studio Scavenging
June 19, 2008 3:41 PM   Subscribe

"I've switched from building my own installations to painting ones I've found". NewArt Tv interviews artist Cindy Tower at one of her many makeshift studios in the industrial ruins of East St. Louis, where she's covertly creating paintings as part of her Workplace Series. "We need to find a way to sell more paintings so I can hire you full time", she tells her bodyguard, Edgar. Until then, most days she makes do with a dummy.

According to an article in The Riverfront Times her previous art world supporters are not impressed.
"They say: Maybe you could project slides on your paintings, or maybe you could put some LEDs on your paintings. They were trying to make me hipper," Tower explains. "They were embarrassed that I was going out and just painting like an old fogy from the 1800s. They didn't think it was funny at all — but it's perversely funny in this age of technology with its special effects and trust-fund babies hiring fabricators to make their work."...
Filled with social and painterly concerns, Tower's "Workplace Series" is a far cry from her earlier installation work, but a few days spent with Cindy Tower makes one thing clear: She's still very much a performer. Only now, instead of performing in the galleries and museums of New York, her performance includes scouting the hidden locales of Missouri and southern Illinois, retrieving portions of our forgotten past and holding them up for us to see.
posted by stagewhisper (9 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
That's a lot of fancy talkin' to describe "going to a factory and painting a picture of it".

Nice work, though. The lack of shading in any large amount flattens the representational qualities of the images and makes them appear abstract-expressionist, but I imagine that's part of the intent.
posted by LionIndex at 4:26 PM on June 19, 2008

Ah, well if you're going to post about Cindy Tower, this St. Louis Magazine article about her is a must-read.

Her stuff is so cool.
posted by limeonaire at 5:59 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Whimsical, slightly abstracted, large paintings of industrial decay. Nice. After briefly looking at all 28 of the linked photos I like it. She makes these giant hunks of forgotten steel look cartoon-ish. They are somewhat personified too - you can imagine the ghosts that worked and tended the massive machinery for yourself. It is darkly funny too because this shrapnel might be all we leave behind. We'll likely all be dust before those factories are, but in no time they'll be gone too. Rust never sleeps.

6'x6' Oil Paintings + Abandoned Builings > Photography + Abandoned Buildings?
posted by HyperBlue at 8:36 PM on June 19, 2008

Super Interesting - worth watching the whole video.

Thanks Stagewhisper!
posted by extrabox at 8:58 PM on June 19, 2008

I wasn't expecting much from the slightly-veiled description (mixing the politics of installation art and painting), but she's actually a really good painter. The St Louis magazine article is also quite interesting. Thanks!
posted by Slothrop at 4:27 AM on June 20, 2008

They were embarrassed that I was going out and just painting like an old fogy from the 1800s.

This strikes me as really odd - I deal with totally poncey commercial galleries, and even poncier artist-run spaces on a daily basis, and they mount shows of straight up painting all the time, and have lots of painters on their books. In fact, painting is totally hip at the moment. (Paintings with LEDs stuck on, less so.)

Whatever, as far as it's possible to tell on the web, the Workplace Series looks decent, and the video of her selling a painting at a cattle auction was a hoot.
posted by jack_mo at 8:41 AM on June 20, 2008

HyperBlue: yes, I think this is a case where the process is as interesting as the result, but not more so. She addresses some of the reasons why she doesn't just photograph the buildings and show the photos in the first linked video. She alters the perspective and shifts the vantage points around somewhat as she paints. I suppose she could do the same thing with multiple photos and collage the results, but the resulting work would not be achieved through the same sort of discovery process that unfolds over time as it does in these labor intensive paintings. Process, time passage, and hard labor are integral to these painting's subject matter.

I realize the first video is long, but it's really the context of how this artist works and the level of her commitment to getting in the trenches and plain old *working* in relatively adverse conditions that I found interesting enough that I thought it merited a post on the blue. limoneaire, thanks for the additional article!
posted by stagewhisper at 9:00 AM on June 20, 2008

My first thought was how much the work reminded me of Piranesi's red chalk drawings of Roman ruins, often invented for the polemical purpose of demonstrating the original and proprietary status of Roman classicism. That is to say, Piranesi often invented histories and rendered them sublime in an effort to secure an historical narrative.

Tower's aesthetic - seemingly grounded in picturesque sublimities like invented ruins and artificial historical narratives - is an interesting juxtaposition to its own, arguably, social realism agenda. Piranesi in reverse.

Thank you, S, for sharing this rich work.
posted by xod at 9:20 AM on June 20, 2008

xod, that is interesting. I see some connections in style-it's space being discovered through a technique of building up curvilinear lines over curvilinear lines (in your first link, the lines being contours/edges rather than mass) and almost carving into the space. There's a sense of passing time in how the forms were felt out in that red chalk drawing.
posted by stagewhisper at 2:51 PM on June 20, 2008

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