Oct 19, 2023

At one of the guest lectures I attended, painter Nathan Oliveira described an evening when he’d presented a slide show of his work to a number of artist friends. “Why, you’ve got a whole exhibition’s worth here!” they’d enthused. “But they’re all the same painting!” he’d confessed. He then explained that he could never tell when a painting was done, a problem I identified with. (Earl says when Renoir was asked how he knew a painting was finished, he answered, “When I feel like pinching the model instead of painting.”) Olivera solved the problem by adopting a new medium—monotype—which allowed him to take glass “impressions” of a piece throughout its evolution. I thought to myself, “Of course! As an artist, it’s your job to find creative ways of dealing with your limitations.”

At another lecture, Painter Jay Defeo recounted how she spent eight years painting “The Rose,” which went through an Oliveira-like evolution I noted as she presented her slides, weighing almost a ton when she finally finished it. The outer wall of her apartment had to be knocked out, she told us, so the painting could be removed with a crane. Studying her more recent work, I thought “Those look suspiciously like molars.” She’d become obsessed with teeth, she went on to explain. The alcove she painted “The Rose” in hadn’t had enough ventilation, and the lead in her oils had caused all of hers to fall out.



Seely had come to feel perfectly at home here. She could even have been seen dancing in the front of the lavatory mirror, drying her hair at her desk with a hair dryer she’d brought from home, and boiling Tupperware containers of soup in a pot over a hotplate for lunch—if there had been anyone around to see her. But she was always the first one in in the morning, mostly the only one about during morning classes, and the only soul who worked through the lunch hour.