The Art of Experience: Marjorie Schlossman’s Paintings
By Christina Schmid
In the land of creatures and critters, squibbles and squaggles, nothing is for sure.
Marjorie Schlossman, 1994.
Bulbous, periwinkle-blue forms emerge from a pale background. Luminous, biomorphic, and tinged with gold, they seem to undulate gracefully in a quiet ebb and flow. Like underwater creatures in slow motion, they reach and hover mindlessly, advancing and receding to an inaudible rhythm. But the sense of timelessness that emanates from the canvas, the first of eight, is interrupted: a black shape abruptly opens in their midst. Or could this be dark matter that suddenly solidified? Nothing is certain when whimsy meets gravitas. Ethereal shapes butt up against each other, a newly found sensuality in their touch.
As if disturbed, the forms part. Their shape-shifting takes on an unprecedented sense of purpose. They coalesce into a fleeting semblance of a face here, a caricature of human features not yet fully formed there. On the fourth canvas, we truly enter the land of creatures and squiggly critters: golden-horned and gregarious, they relish a playful abundance of unfettered possibilities, discovered on a whim.
Alas, the moment does not last. From joyful conviviality, the periwinkle creatures enter another stage of becoming. Touch is now fraught with difference. Dreamy shades of blues and luscious yellows show restraint. A polymorphous sensuality of colors transforms into something resembling sexual tension. Gold meets blue. One color needs, craves, the other. Their very separation begs for a fleshy mutual absorption into a union whose unruly offspring hatches in wild purple, deep periwinkle, and buttery yolk-yellow. The final canvas shows the peculiar completion of this creation story: a family of creaturely critters, hovering between a precarious order and the unpredictable movement of life itself.
From music I take structure, the importance of variety, as well as repetition, the flow, the crescendo and decrescendo, the movements, the comparisons and contrasts, the key changes, the tempi—
Marjorie Schlossman, 2011.
Conceived as a magnum opus, this series of canvases, a creation story in eight parts, presents a pivotal moment in Marjorie Schlossman’s life as a painter. Completed in 1995, at her lakeside studio, the untitled series is the first of her “surround paintings,” meant to envelop viewers and encourage encounters that reach for the sublime, that elusive transformation of the ordinary into the extraordinary, moments of an elusive, quasi-mythical transcendence. The eight untitled periwinkle canvases epitomize Schlossman’s long-standing desire as an artist to create such experiences that move us beyond immanence.
Planning the series, Schlossman writes that the painting “must be a sentence with a rhythm, a subject, predicate, verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs, but particularly, it must have punctuation for pauses and stops.” (1) The eight paintings are a single utterance in the artist’s very own visual language: “It all seemed to dictate its own development,” (2) she notes in her journal, as if, in this particular creation story, one step truly necessitated the next.
The periwinkle paintings reveal an artist at work who no longer, with omnivorous appetites, irreverently ingests the languages of abstraction—experimenting with Jackson Pollock-like gestures here and tracing Philip Guston’s marks there—but carefully articulates a painterly repertoire and rhythm all her own. Rather than straightforward crescendos and decrescendos, though, this visual music seems to demand more peculiar instructions: munissez-vous de clairvoyance—be clairvoyant; ouvrez la tête—open the head; or consider avec une légère intimité—with a light intimacy.(3)
Like all creation stories, this one is steeped in myth and make-believe: the gold in particular connects this body of work to canonical religious paintings. The potential for grandiosity is tempered by humor and playfulness, the sheer delightful silliness of squibbles and squaggles, the absence of sanctimonious certainty. But the periwinkle paintings also remind of precious summer days spent by a lake, where light glitters on water that reflects the sky. Ordinary? Perhaps. Yet this precious ordinariness of experience is transformed into a luminous meditation on life, the passage of time, and the emergence of new life.
Undeniably, these are big ideas, ambitious concerns. But Schlossman’s paintings thrive in the space between art’s power to probe existential questions and relish the mundane preoccupations of the everyday. Her art reaches beyond time and for a unity of existential and aesthetic authenticity.(4)
Sometimes I enter the most beautiful worlds. The most incredible places.
A room, an environment, a day is transformed and made magical.
Marjorie Schlossman, 2011.
The first time I visited Marjorie Schlossman in her home in Fargo, I had barely shaken her hand, greeted Schubert, her aging but exuberant golden retriever, and sat down on a curved mauve couch in her living room, when she picked up a book to read a poem out loud: Constantine Cavafy’s “Ithaca.” While marveling at the carefully orchestrated performance, little did I know that when reading this poem for the first time, she experienced a moment of transcendence that she later described as sublime.(5) But the poem also speaks to the way Schlossman understands her artistic practice.
Cavafy’s poem, composed in the early twentieth century, transforms Homer’s Odyssey into a metaphor for life itself: the long and, at times, tiring quest for Ithaca is filled with adventures, pleasures, and discoveries. Rather than dread the journey’s unexpected twists and turns as unwelcome delays, the poet advises his readers to appreciate the wisdom and experience gathered on this meandering path, because, in the end, the importance of reaching the elusive Ithaca pales in comparison to the journey itself. Written out by hand and accompanied by Schlossman’s delicate water colors, the poem gives voice to the artist’s understanding of her intellectual and creative journey.
Besides creating an attractive metaphor for life, Cavafy reached back to Greek antiquity to compose a poem of lingering beauty. Schlossman shares his affinity for the classics. When renowned art historian T.J. Clark observes that “the most tiresome aspect of so much contemporary art is that it is so determined to be contemporary,”(6) Schlossman might agree: ignoring any putative anachronisms that might lurk in the shadows, she insists on the lasting potency of high art to create experiences that transform and transcend the ordinary. “It is my prejudice that high art may be more likely to produce a sublime reaction,” she asserts in 2003.(7)
But the motif of a long-lasting journey pertains to yet another characteristic of Schlossman’s oeuvre. After seeing a retrospective of Pablo Picasso’s work in New York in 1980, Schlossman, deeply moved, vows to “spend my life making a body of work. I was no longer to make first one interesting painting and then another. I would … make a lifetime of reflections, a lifetime of experiments in color and line, a lifetime of looking at the world and attempting to understand it in paint.”(8)
Three decades after making her vow, Schlossman’s single-minded commitment to a lifetime’s work still stands. This relationship to time is worth pondering: the laborious process of creating a single painting or even a body of work that chronicles the artist’s engagement with one set of ideas are mere stepping stones to a much more ambitious project: the body of a lifetime’s work.
I want my paintings to be enlivening, to enliven a space, to enliven a heart.
Marjorie Schlossman, 2006.
Deeply felt and unapologetically expressive, Schlossman’s work is perched on the cusp between figuration and abstraction, indebted to the “masculine grandiosity” (9) of Abstract Expressionism while, at the same time, flirting with the irresistible whimsy of her creatures and critters, squibbles and squaggles. It is this very dialectic that continues to make her work come alive.
Schlossman’s art is defined by the faultlines that run through it. As a mother of seven, Schlossman had little choice but to remain rooted in the domestic. At first glance, Schlossman’s life as a home maker, wife, and mother puts her at odds with the irredeemable machismo of New York’s mid-twentieth century Abstract Expressionists. Yet precisely because domesticity and motherhood stood in the way of self-indulgent adventures in heroic individualism, Schlossman turned inward. Her practice is rooted in automatic drawing, a Surrealist technique meant to circumvent the conscious mind and access the unconscious. Her purpose, though, does not only aim at uncovering and creating dream-like images that defy rationality. Instead, Schlossman’s paintings are an ongoing exploration of the “inner-worlds,” “places of potential” that make possible new ways of seeing.(10)
In Creation, a seminal text for Schlossman, Gordon Onslow Ford explains that “the inner-worlds that underlie dreams remain invisible, but their presence is felt; they vibrate, they rustle, they mist the known.”(11) Inaccessible by rational means alone, the mysterious inner-worlds materialize as colorful abstractions of landscapes and cityscapes, where “calligraphic figurations take on a life of their own.” (12) These excursions inward provided a much needed counterpoint to the endless demands of a growing family. The tension in Schlossman’s work, then, springs from her immersion in the domestic and maternal, and her longing for the sublime.
Traditionally, the sublime has been understood as an experience that inspires both awe and terror. The New York School’s Abstract Expressionists were notorious for their desire to overwhelm viewers, catapult them out of the everyday, and grant them access to quasi-mythical planes of existence. Enthralled viewers are overpowered, their feeble selves annihilated by exposure to the ravishing and all-consuming entity called art. “It would be easy to make fun of this,” art historian T.J. Clark admits in his essay “In Defense of Abstract Expressionism.” (13) Yet the “laughter at its cheap philosophy, or distaste for its heavy breathing, or boredom with its sublimity” may, Clark suggests, ultimately reveal more about contemporary attitudes—or lack thereof—to Abstract Expressionism than about the painting in question. (14)
While Schlossman’s preoccupation with the sublime is based on personal experience—listening to a Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, for instance, or first happening upon Cavafy’s “Ithaca”—her ties to the domestic world of motherhood intimately inflect this interest and set it apart from the mostly male world of the New York School: the beauty and joy of a family life cannot exist without the terror of incessant house work and child-rearing. The artist constantly faces the threat of seeing her creative desires annihilated in this domestic sublime. It comes as no surprise then that the ecstatic, quasi-mystical experience of the aesthetic sublime, the sensation of being overwhelmed and transported by art, holds a special appeal for the artist-as-mother.
Yet it would be a mistake to assume that Schlossman’s ambitions to create opportunities for sublime encounters signal a rejection of that other, more mundane domestic sublime. Early on, Schlossman recognized that through “the banal and everyday objects and symbols,” artists were able to “tap the divine.” (15) From Alice Black’s Kitchen (2007) to Kitria (2010), painterly homages to domestic spaces keep recurring in her work. The paintings both transcend and celebrate these spaces in a way that is seriously at odds with the swaggering machismo so readily associated with the original luminaries of Abstract Expressionism.
More than by an affinity for the domestic, her work is marked by a profound affection for her creatures and critters. She writes, “I have a rather complete sympathy for all the characters of my paintings. A mother’s humorous affection for their foibles and actions. Love, perhaps.” (16) Foibles, follies, and love pinpoint how Schlossman’s work differs from Abstract Expressionism as usual. The humor and emotional presence of the work risk ridicule, as ample opportunities for embarrassment arise as soon as conversations about art leave the myth of “pure intellect” behind. (17) But perhaps, as T.J. Clark speculates in his defense of Abstract Expressionism, which predates its current resurgence by a decade, vulgarity, the calculated rawness of emotions, is precisely the way to redeem its expressiveness.
My favorite works of art are those that touch my heart deeply and mysteriously.
Marjorie Schlossman, 1988.
Creating a lifetime’s body of work is no small ambition. Schlossman is keenly aware of the problem. Her visual “biomythography”(18) —a lifetime’s personal mythology of inner-worlds inhabited by squiggly characters—imbues her work with a tangible continuity, a very narrative quality. Even if we cannot know, we intuit that there might be connections between events in her life and her paintings. At times, the titles make sure we do know: Honoring Charlotte, part of Schlossman’s Black Series, is a painterly eulogy; Boy Permenter, Not Yet a Day Old celebrates the birth of her grandson. But these veiled visual narratives that extend over many canvases place significant demands on her audience.
In 1991, Schlossman writes in her journal, “the problem with my paintings is that they take time and effort by the viewer. Nobody expects to have to put either into the work.” (19) While this momentary resignation did not keep her from continuing to create art, it precipitated a careful examination of what her paintings ask of her viewers. The process Schlossman eventually maps for her audience consists of three parts. First, the paintings beg to be considered as abstractions, surfaces where formal elements, such as lines, shapes, colors, and implied movement, create complex relationships. But a purely formalist approach misses the point, since Schlossman considers the most powerful abstractions “distillations of the real.” (20)
Hence the second, “realistic,” approach to entering her work and world requires the viewer to play: to look for “personages, animal-like shapes, landscapes, cityscapes, parables, metaphors, stories, attitudes.” (21) Everyone is invited to participate and join the frolicking squibbly-squaggly creatures. We may be asked to step into Schlossman’s world, but the meanings we find, make, and take away are entirely our own. Thus her work, rather than a mere self-indulgence, is ultimately empowering: an ode to individual imagination, whimsy, and play; an invitation to her viewers to become active rather than sit back and passively consume ready-made cultural productions. “The liberating potential of art is not as literal reportage, but as a catharsis of the imagination,” writes art historian Barbara Rose. (22) At their best, Schlossman’s paintings work as such liberating “wake-up calls to perception.” (23)
The third and final step is immaterial and concerned with the energy and mood the work evokes. Schlossman is well aware that this is the very point where language begins to fail us: we stammer, grasp and fumble for words, to get closer to that intangible quality that asserts itself in the encounter between the object and the mind. Rose argues that “the capacity of painting to evoke, imply, and conjure up magical illusions that exist in an imaginative mental space … is that which differentiates painting from the other arts and from the everyday visual experiences of life itself.” (24) Schlossman’s paintings perform such acts of conjuring.
Her own engagement with a canvas begins instinctively, with intuitive mark-making that generates a starting point for a more conscious dialog: something happens, the intentionally unintentional produces a moment, a glimpse of something exciting that the artist reacts to, explores, pursues, and ponders. Significantly, the body is leading the mind in this process, as painter Amy Sillman explains:
“If you want the body to lead the mind and not the other way around, you may likely end up in the aisle of the cultural supermarket that includes painterly materials and AbEx delivery systems: canvas, oil sticks, fat paintbrushes, rags, trowels, scrapers, mops, sponges, buckets, and drop cloths… the tools themselves will mandate a certain phenomenology of making that emanates from shapes, stains, spills, and smudges.” (25)
Sillman is part of the ongoing recovery and resurgence of Abstract Expressionism. While age and a taste for camp separate her take on “AbEx” from Schlossman’s, the sheer physicality of the process and literal labor of making unite their practices: the “phenomenology of making” that the very tools dictate cannot be rushed.
In the paintings I see totems of human or human-like body parts …
Almost but not quite can we pin them down. I relish the ambiguity.
Marjorie Schlossman, 1994
The second time I visited Marjorie Schlossman in Fargo, I was greeted with a reading of Theodor Roethke’s poem “Root Cellar” at the Roberts Street Chapel, a space on the outskirts of Fargo’s downtown that houses one of the artist’s most ambitious projects to date: surround paintings in a space dedicated to private contemplation. Depending on which set of paintings is on view, the space glows in deep reds, sparkles in yellows, or shines in blues and purples. A visitor was inspired to share Roethke’s poem with the artist, and doubtlessly the poem’s vivid imagery relates to some of Schlossman’s mark-making. “Root Cellar” turns an ordinary domestic space into a world of potential, where life is changing shapes, and rot and fungi begin their transformative if smelly process.
Visual affinities aside, the root cellar also functions as a not-so-covert metaphor for the unconscious, whose exploration has been a driving force in Schlossman’s pursuits. The visceral quality of Roethke’s poem—dank and dark, inhabited by obscenely lolling, drooping smelly shapes, a literal compost pile of fermenting life—is reminiscent of the artist’s process, where instinct and intuition precede rational decision making. This sense of embodiment is an important component of Schlossman’s paintings.
In Western philosophic traditions, the body has been considered inferior to the mind for centuries. Not surprisingly, this inferiority was gendered: the body was always, as if inevitably, female; a vessel to be contained, disciplined, and controlled. How shocking then, that the revision of this classical relationship has flourished in the world of art: from Kiki Smith to Jenny Saville, Amy Sillman to Kara Walker, artists have re-examined the customary Cartesian hierarchy of mind over body. Scholar Elizabeth Grosz writes, “if bodies are objects or things, they are like no others, for they are the centers of perspective, insight, reflection, desire, agency … They act and react. They generate what is new, surprising, unpredictable.” (26)
As the body was reclaimed as a site of inchoate knowing, of instinct and intuition, the question of whose bodies were subject to such discipline and debate became more pressing. In the context of Abstract Expressionism, where bodies literally leave their mark, would it not make a difference if the body in question was male or female, athletic or alcoholic, stubbornly individual or marked by intimate connections to others? If, as art historian Barbara Rose argues, “art is labor, physical human labor, the labor of birth,” (27) would it make a difference if the body making art knew from experience what giving birth actually felt like? If insight, desire, agency, and perspective reside in the body, will they find their way into the work?
Grosz is particularly enamored with the “ability of bodies to always extend the frameworks which attempt to contain them, to seep beyond their domains of control.” (28) These unruly, excessive qualities allude to the central role the body plays in aesthetic experience. Like bodies, aesthetic experiences do not stay put; neither do they live in the mind alone. Long-time New York Times art critic Michael Brenson writes,
“I believe the aesthetic response is miraculous. Such an astonishing amount of psychological, social, and historical information can be interwoven into single connective charge that a lifetime of thinking cannot disentangle the threads. Not only do such responses live on in the body, but when recalled, the place, time, and indeed the circumstances in which they were experienced can be as vivid as the response itself.” (29)
Nothing can predict, rush, or force aesthetic experience. Our encounters with art often begin in the body, live in the body, and powerfully affect the body. The cliché of the “shiver and shudder” (30) induced by a sublime experience may just contain a grain of truth. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the Roberts Street Chapel preceded six smaller chaplets that all create spaces to enter into, physically, and experience Schlossman’s work in.
Ultimately, such visceral experiences not only ground aesthetic encounters in the body but emphasize the struggle for words that typically accompanies them: “art leaves one speechless,” writes Schlossman, and “words rarely suffice.” (31) But while visual art may serve as a constant reminder that ordinary language will only take us so far, “the distance of visual imagery from verbal discourse is the most precious thing about it,” writes Clark. (32)
Abstract art must communicate, as it should not be an inanimate object.
This communication necessitates a shared language.
Marjorie Schlossman, 2011.
Schlossman’s visual language has evolved over the years. Early work reveals an artist hungry for expressive means, working her way through the art historical lexicon of abstraction. In the substantial database of Schlossman’s work, notes describe paintings dating back to the early nineteen-eighties as “Pollock-style” or resembling “graffiti.” The challenge for Schlossman, as for any abstract painter, has been to articulate a visual vocabulary —complete with “ciphers and codes, signals and messages” (33)—that is exclusively her own.
Working within the complicated legacies of Abstract Expressionism has made this a formidable challenge: creating in the tradition of “a movement dedicated to producing signs that function as distinctive artistic ‘trademarks’ and yet are open to multiple and sometimes infinite optical trajectories” (34) means that your mark-making has to be distinctively yours and simultaneously wide open for any number of visual encounters and modes of engagement. As Schlossman’s “vocabulary of forms” (35) has evolved, her visual language has been crystallizing into several idioms of abstraction.
Du bout de la pensée. Sur la langue. Sans sécheresse. (36) From the tip of the thought. On the tip of the tongue. Without drought. Breaking down Schlossman’s idioms of abstraction may seem like a futile task. But “making sense of mute things is a normal activity of language, and any patter about the special un-translatability of paintings misses that obvious point,” argues Clark. (37) What, then, are the meaningful parts of Schlossman’s distinctive language?
Her linework, most often the starting point for her paintings, usually emerges from spontaneous mark making. Following the rhythms of the artist’s body, these lines create a kind of score—not unlike a musical score—that the artist’s application of color begins to interpret: “I pull, prod, and contort my shapes and line to make dance in my paintings,” Schlossman writes. (38) The process is kinetic not only in that the artist moves her brush across the canvas, but the shapes and forms her lines create “make dance” as well.
Of course, the squiggly creatures are the most accomplished dancers: “large, lumbering, graceful, foolish, wise, amiable, nasty but ineffectual yet crude creatures dancing across my paper with irrepressible Pollyanna-istic assertion of their life and right to be.” (39) Dance needs music, and Schlossman’s art is awash in musical references and resonances. Early paintings are entitled Vivace or Allegretto con Spirito, explicit references to the speed and mood of performance in classical music. More playfully named “musical” paintings include Toucan Tango, Quartet in Lime, or What’s A Blue Note.
To say that color, too, plays a prominent role in Schlossman’s work is an understatement. “The luminosity of color is intoxicating me,” she writes. (40) “I love it when in a painting one color craves the next,” (41) as if colors came complete with desires of their own. In her paintings, color suggests relative distance or proximity, movement or stillness, agitation or peace, weight or weightlessness. Color sets a tone and interacts with changing light conditions, especially in the interference paints of the Black Series. (42) Last but not least, color has the power to affect viewers viscerally. Combined with the size of some of her canvases, color becomes a determining factor in any encounter with Schlossman’s work: fall into a sea of periwinkle blue, explore the chaotic, green lake-side scenes in Quartet in Lime, immerse yourself in the glowing darkness of the Black Series. Color communicates.
These formal elements—line and color—combine to create several distinct idioms of abstraction. Most recognizable, perhaps, are Schlossman’s “characters” and their unmistakable “antics.” (43) At times, these critters exist as part of distorted, estranged spaces—theater-like stages, domestic spaces, or even landscapes. Frequently, Schlossman uses a horizon line or a vertical threshold to structure her compositions and, at the same time, delineate a border to the unknown, still unseen, a technique Onslow Ford discusses in Creation. (44)
While many of Schlossman’s paintings abide by her unequivocal imperative that “a painting must refer to things beyond itself: people, places, things,” (45) other work resists such ready reference points and shows the artist engaged in formal explorations that cannot help but be steeped in symbolic meaning. The bulbous, biomorphic forms of the Untitled by the Lake series, for instance, function as what David Joselit calls “convertible signs:” They are “dynamic, open-ended, always in the process of becoming,” (46) and effectively resist closure. This stubborn open-endedness and irreverent resistance to closure are amongst the qualities that make Schlossman’s paintings resonate in the art world of today.
The painting must have flaws. This is the mark of a human heart and hand.
Marjorie Schlossman, 2011.
Art excels at not telling us what it means. Rather than make this lack of definitive meaning an exercise in exclusivity, Schlossman turns it into an invitation to play, to indulge in flights of fancy and moments of whimsy. “I wink at my viewer,” she admits. (47) And this undeniable, irrepressible playfulness in her work saves it from the “boredom of sublimity” while still fostering aesthetic experiences that harbor the possibility of transcendence.
The aesthetic response, more than a reminder of our embodied existence, creates “a disturbance:” ideally, art will stir us—emotionally, intellectually, viscerally. But still more is at stake in considering the consequences of intense aesthetic encounters. For art historian Donald Kuspit, “aesthetic experience leads to the realization that social identity is not ingrained—not destiny—not the be-all and end-all of existence. … Aesthetic experience allows one to recover the sense of individuality and authenticity lost to ‘obligatory behavior.’” (48) In other words, aesthetic experience provides an alternative to identity-as-usual as it unmasks the stifling mechanisms of discipline and docility that keep us in our place, rooted in conformity, productively predictable.
Michael Brenson echoes Kuspit’s point: aesthetic experience, he writes, “exposes the armature of the self, as well as the conditions that produced that armature, as repressive yet porous. The aesthetic response proposes the control of the everyday self as a construction, if not a fiction.” (49) Contrast those exercises in civic repression and obligatory behavior with the unfettered joie-de-vivre spilling out of Schlossman’s canvases. Life may be silly and embarrassing and sad at times, they say—but the point is to live to the fullest before we pass the final threshold that defines the human condition. Dodging existential angst and terror, Schlossman’s work arrives at these perennial questions with joy and wonder, irreverence and love of experience.
In 2012, with a new generation of artists embracing the tools of Abstract Expressionism, Schlossman’s paintings find themselves on the cusp of the contemporary art world. The artist’s sentiment that “abstract painting is worthless if we can’t sense a heart and intelligence behind it” (50) has gained new currency as well. Her insistence that there be a heart, not just a mind, coincides with what has been called the “affective turn” in art: affect is defined as “the name we give to those forces—visceral forces beneath, alongside, or generally other than conscious knowing, vital forces existing beyond emotion,” and “marks a body’s belonging to a world of encounters.” (51) Now safely couched in the language of serious theory, affect can be discussed again. Schlossman’s work has been there all along, waiting for the world to catch up to her art.
Brenson, Michael, “Art Criticism and the Aesthetic Response.” Acts of Engagement. Lanham,
Boulder, New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2004. 65-72.
Clark, T.J. “In Defense of Abstract Expressionism.” October, vol. 69 (Summer 1994), 22-48.
Clark, T.J. The Sight of Death. An Experiment in Art Writing. New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 2006.
Gregg, Melissa, and Gregory J. Seigworth, editors. The Affect Theory Reader. Durham and
London: Duke University Press, 2010.
Grosz, Elizabeth. Volatile Bodies. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994.
Joselit, David. “Signal Processing.” Artforum. Summer 2011. 356-361.
Kuspit, Donald. The End of Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Onslow Ford, Gordon. Creation. Basel: Galerie Schreiner AG, 1978.
Rose, Barbara. American Painting: The Eighties. New York: Vista Press, 1979.
Scarry, Elaine. On Beauty and Being Just. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999.
Schlossman, Marjorie, Journals. Unpublished Manuscript.
Schlossman, Marjorie. The Sublime in Music, Painting, and Literature. MLA Thesis 2003.
(Minnesota State University Moorhead).
Sillman, Amy. “AbEx and Disco Balls.” Artforum. Summer 2011. 321-325.
Steiner, Wendy. “The Sublime Shudder.” The Sticky Sublime. Ed. Bill Beckley. New York:
Allworth Press, 2001. 194-200.
My gratitude goes to Marjorie Schlossman, who not only housed and fed me on my trips to Fargo, but shared her work, her journals, and most importantly, herself with me; to Tanya Andersen, Marjorie’s tireless assistant, who fluently speaks Marjorie’s visual language; to Colleen Sheehy, who gave me the opportunity to participate in this exciting project; and to Kayla Plosz, a young painter working in the tradition of Abstract Expressionism whose creative practice, research, and writing coincided with my thinking about Schlossman’s work.
(1) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals, May 2, 1995.
(2) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals, August 19, 1995.
(3) Eric Satie’s whimsical instructions to Gnossienne #1 and #3 (1890).
(4)Donald Kuspit articulates this existential and aesthetic unity like this: “Feeling real and true to oneself by way of the aesthetic experience where the seamless unity of subject matter and form … symbolizes the spontaneous unity of thinking and feeling in the fully alive self.” (The End of Art, 160 and 177).
(5) Schlossman discusses her reaction to the reading the poem in her 2003 MLA thesis, entitled The Sublime in Music, Painting, and Literature. (Minnesota State University Moorhead).
(6) T.J. Clark, The Sight of Death. An Experiment in Art Writing. New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 2006. 125.
(7) See Schlossman’s 2003 MLA thesis, The Sublime in Music, Painting, and Literature. (Minnesota State University Moorhead). For Schlossman, it is the artist’s goal “to create something rare and wonderful that transcends the everyday experience.” (Journals, September 11, 1986).
(8) Marjorie Schlossman, The Sublime in Music, Painting, and Literature. MLA Thesis 2003. (Minnesota State University Moorhead). Gordon Onslow Ford echoes this sentiment when describing the painter’s engagement with the inner-worlds: “ it becomes obvious that the adventure is in terms of a life span.” (Creation. Basel: Galerie Schreiner AG, 1978 60.)
(9) Amy Sillman, “AbEx and Disco Balls.” Artforum. Summer 2011. 322.
(10) Gordon Onslow Ford, Creation. Basel: Galerie Schreiner AG, 1978.19.
(11) Gordon Onslow Ford, Creation. Basel: Galerie Schreiner AG, 1978 27.
(12) Gordon Onslow Ford, Creation . Basel: Galerie Schreiner AG, 1978. 80.
(13) T.J. Clark, “In Defense of Abstract Expressionism.” October, vol. 69 (summer, 1994), 33.
(14) T.J. Clark, “In Defense of Abstract Expressionism.” October, vol. 69 (summer, 1994), 23.
(15) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals, November 23, 1994.
(16) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals, January 26, 1993.
(17) Donald Kuspit writes, “Pure intellect is a pure defense against the traumatic ugliness of life compared to art, for ugliness has to be defended against with the whole psyche not simply a part of it. Even if it could be achieved, intellectual objectivity would have no deep effect on psychic life. It is emotionally empty by definition, and thus not even consoling.” (The End of Art, 190).
(18) This term was coined by poet Audre Lorde in her biomythography Zami: A New Spelling of my Name. (1982).
(19) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals, March 12, 1991.
(20) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals, February 23, 1983.
(21) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals, September 6, 2002.
(22) Barbara Rose. American Painting: The Eighties. New York: Vista Press, 1979. 12.
(23) Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999. 81.
(24) Barbara Rose. American Painting: The Eighties. New York: Vista Press, 1979. 11-12.
(25) Amy Sillman, “AbEx and Disco Balls.” Artforum Summer 2011. 322-323.
(26) Elizabeth Grosz, Volatile Bodies. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994. xi.
(27) Barbara Rose, American Painting: The Eighties. New York: Vista Press, 1979. 12.
(28) Elizabeth Grosz, Volatile Bodies. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994. xi.
(29) Michael Brenson, “Art Criticism and the Aesthetic Response.” Acts of Engagement. Lanham, Boulder, New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2004. 66.
(30) Wendy Steiner, “The Sublime Shudder.” The Sticky Sublime. Ed. Bill Beckley. New York: Allworth Press, 2001. 194.
(31) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals, May 24, 1997, and July 28, 1995.
(32) T.J. Clark, The Sight of Death. An Experiment in Art Writing. New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 2006. 122.
(33) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals, August 1, 2010.
(34) David Joselit, “Signal Processing.” Artforum. Summer 2011. 356.
(35) Amy Sillman, “AbEx and Disco Balls.” Artforum Summer 2011. 327.
(36) Erik Satie’s instructions for Gnossienne #1 and #3 (1890).
(37) T.J. Clark, The Sight of Death. An Experiment in Art Writing. New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 2006. 216.
(38) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals, October 25, 1994.
(39) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals, May 26, 1993.
(40) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals, March 29, 1980.
(41) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals, June 13, 2005.
(42) Pigments mixed with mica give interference paints their particular properties: depending on perspective and background color, interference paints will flip between bright colors and their respective complements. Schlossman’s Black Series is painted with interference paints.
(43) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals, May 8, 1993.
(44) Gordon Onslow Ford, Creation. Basel: Galerie Schreiner AG, 1978. 57.
(45) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals, January 11, 2009.
(46) David Joselit, “Signal Processing.” Artforum. Summer 2011. 358.
(47) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals, December 20, 2007.
(48) Donald Kuspit, The End of Art 13.
(49) Michael Brenson, “Art Criticism and the Aesthetic Response.” Acts of Engagement. Lanham, Boulder, New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2004. 68.
(50) Marjorie Schlossman’s Journals. June 12, 2005.
(51) Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth, editors. The Affect Theory Reader. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010. 1-2.
1) Untitled by the Lake, number 3
2) Untitled by the Lake, number 6
3) Untitled by the Lake, number 7
4) From Black to Light, from the Black Series