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Tom Wesselmann and I


Breakfast Table (inspired by Tom Wesselmann’s Still Life No. 60), 12″ x 16″, Oil on Canvas

Photo by Artworks Cincinnati.  Tom Wesselmann Still Life No. 60 Downtown Cincinnati Mural.  8th and Main

Photo by Artworks Cincinnati. Tom Wesselmann Still Life No. 60 Downtown Cincinnati Mural. 8th and Main

Over the summer I lived with Tom Wesselmann.  More accurately, I lived with the work and specter of the late Cincinnati pop-art icon Tom Wesselmann, through the execution of several projects including an enormous outdoor mural downtown with teaching artists and teen-apprentices.  It was easy to develop a personal connection with the late Cincinnati master, who shares my love of objects, painting, women, and was even an accomplished songwriter as well (a song of his appears in the soundtrack to Brokeback Mountain. movie only not the CD).

I also met his wife Claire, who was lovely. And during the mural project Wesselmann’s one-time studio assistant in New York, Kevin T. Kelly (who is also a well-known pop artist) was gracious enough to spend a little time with me and the apprentices.

Tonight, we were finally able to dedicate the mural, a project of non-profit Artworks, to the city of Cincinnati.  The mural was created in preparation for the Wesselmann retrospective at the Cincinnati Art Museum, which opens this weekend.  In addition to the dedication, as a way to have a more personal creative dialogue with Wesselmann’s body of work, Meredith Adamisin from Artworks and myself staged an tribute art exhibition, Wesselworks, that opened wednesday at Align Furniture Store across the street from the mural on Main.  The exhibition features works by apprentice artists, teaching staff who worked on the mural, as well as my piece seen here, Breakfast Table.

Finally, I will be involved in two events at the Cincinnati Art Museum in the next few months:  On November 15th I will lead a program for kids–Art in the Making: Pop Painting–at the Cincinnati Art Museum.  On January 18th I will lead another program called Creative Encounters, for adults of all ages which is also one-part workshop one-part museum tour.  So, it is safe to say that I have developed something of a relationship with Wesselmann.

Still Life #60, 1973

Tom Wesselmann’s Still Life No. 60

The source image for the mural, Wesselmann’s Still Life No. 60 came into my life precisely as I had begun a new series of photographic still life’s and was considering the vast array of possible meanings that relationships between objects in a picture plane can create.  I had also just serendipitously begun arranging items in stage-like compositions as well.  So it was with great pleasure that I took on the mural project, created a painting in response, and continue to be engaged with Wesselmann’s work.

Options - 8.5" x 14" - Archival Digital Print

Options – 8.5″ x 14″ – Archival Digital Print

Although my recent photographs are borderline, my tribute painting is decidedly not pop-art.  But Wesselmann and I have some similar formal interests including clarity of line and form, a love of high contrast and bold color on muted fields, etc.

For this tribute painting, I essentially took Wesselmann’s Still Life No. 60 and flipped it on its head.  Instead of larger-than-life I worked small.  Instead of flat I worked with naturalistic angles and lighting.  I did, however, retain Wesselmann’s selection of objects, or at least five of six of the objects: the nail polish, sunglasses, lipstick, matchbook, and ring.  But instead of the necklace beads I have included grapes.  This is partly an inside joke–in the early summer I mistakenly identified the beads as grapes and presented the work to apprentices artists that way–but partly a reference to the Dutch Golden Age breakfast table paintings I have been looking at lately as well.  My painting also references another American master from yet another generation, painter of beautiful trompe l’oeil still life’s William Harnett.  These are my three muses lately.  I have some other paintings in my studio that are more “for me” and feature the kinds of weird objects that have been appearing in my photos lately.  But this one’s for Tom Wesselmann.  May your match continue to smolder!

Nov. 15, 1-3 p.m.:Cincinnati Art Museum – Art in the Making: Pop Painting, for kids ages 6-12 and a parent. Reservations required. $10 per pair members, $20 nonmembers ($3/$6 for each additional person).

Jan. 18, 1 p.m.:Cincinnati Art Museum – Creative Encounters visits the Great American Nudes series, then creates figure drawing inspired by the exhibition. Reservations required. $10. $5 members and college students.

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Tom Wesselmann Artworks Mural Dedication

A great team!

A great team of apprentices!

This is what we did over the summer.  The mural is on six story wall at 8th and Main Street in Cincinnati, OH, a reproduction of Tom Wesselmann’s Still Life #60.  Wednesday, we finally dedicate the beast to the City of Cincinnati!

The mural is a summer project of Artworks, a Cincinnati non-profit that “empowers and inspires the creative community to transform our everyday environments through employment, apprenticeships, education, community partnerships, and civic engagement”. I was the project manager for this mural, one mural in an annual series of Cincinnati Masters.  I worked alongside Cincinnati-based artists and teaching assistants Nicole Trimble and Joshua Mindlin, and ten area teen apprentices.

The image we painted is a reproduction of a grouping of six canvases, a sculptural painting which will be featured prominently in the retrospective of Wesselmann’s work opening at the Cincinnati Art Museum in the fall.  In addition to the mural, we created our own works which respond to and pay homage to Wesselmann’s art.  These works will be shown tonight at a companion event, Wessel Works, at Align Furniture just across the street from the site of the new mural.

An honest day's work

An honest day’s work

The mural is on the wall of Sophia’s Deli at 8th and Main St., in the middle of downtown, Cincinnati.  The dedication will be at 4pm:

Cincinnati Master Tom Wesselmann Mural – Still Life No. 60
Dedication and Party Wednesday October 29 4pm
Sophia’s Deli
811 Main St,
Cincinnati, OH 45202

The art exhibition Wessel Works, featuring responses and tributes to the work of Wesselmann by myself, Nicole and Josh and the apprentices will be up for the next couple weeks, beginning at 5pm tomorrow at:

Wessel Works Art Exhibition Wednesday October 29 5pm
Algin Retro Furniture
800 Main St,
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

I am so proud of the team I worked with and so pleased to have again been selected to work with Artworks on a large scale public art project working with youth apprentices.  Especially grateful for the support from Arnold’s restaurant, Sophia’s Deli, Kort Peter’s and everyone else who donated money, food, space and emotional support and encouragement to make this happen.

Stop by and see our mural.  And our art!

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