Tell us a little bit about yourself—your background, major program of study, reasons for taking this trip, and anything else interesting you want to share (maybe something people might not know about you).
I am Larry Veitch, a mature student enrolled in Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Fine Arts program. I was encouraged by my painting prof to participate in this opportunity to be immersed in the art of the world, and though doubtful at first as it conflicted with my summer motorbike riding, I realized my long deceased maternal grandfather, a painter from Sweden, would have been whacking me with his spirited cane for not grabbing this once in a lifetime journey. So here I am. Art has always been a natural part of my life and after losing the opportunity, through economics, to attend art school after graduation in 1962, I am at last returning to my primary intent.
What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about New York so far?
I have flown into New York multiple times but only once did I venture into the city. As a small town individual I found New York to be too big, too busy and terribly messy so I stayed close to the airports after that short foray. This trip is a total immersion into the city and has given me a sense of the layers of humanity New York is built on. The initial disorder I felt is in fact the orderly chaos of a living, thriving machine, operating within its noisy beating heart. Hot and uncomfortable at times for the visitor, but very alive and functioning, its streets a canvas of colour and movement. History is seen through the worn, broken pavements to the cobbles and bricks that made up the early infrastructure of the city. Its own history emerging to support the life of this grand space.
Give us some insight into your assigned artwork from the Museum of Modern Art. Who is the artist? When was this work made? What is the content of this work? In what context and as part of what art movement was it made?
Though my selected artist, conceptualist On Kawara, proved to be a painter of repetitive choice, I found a certain comfort in his dedication to repeated images that only moved with time. The counting of the days of his life and the numerical days of time moving with metronomic cadence through the 3000 days he followed his regimen gave me pause to consider the career I gave 35 years of my life. Every departure, cruise, descent and landing was filled with repeated instructions; checklists adhered to with religious dedication. Even though memorized, the adherence to repeated challenge and response was never given short shrift. Kawara’s days began with his familiar routine of black painted canvases, sanded smooth and the date applied with great care. On special occasions he would paint the canvas red. For example, the landing on the moon, some significant national disaster or the sadness of America’s involvement in Vietnam. Less significant dates might be green or blue but the vast majority were black. He packaged them in cardboard containers along with a newspaper page of the appropriate date.
How did you approach the creative task of responding to this assigned work in studio? What were your challenges as an artist to be in dialogue with the artwork and artist? Would you do anything differently now that you have seen the work in person?
On arrival at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City I was anxious to find Kawara’s work as I had done a painting in a spirit of humour to unwind Kawara’s impeccably “uptight” style, and was looking forward to seeing his work on display. After many false leads, from floor to floor, information desk to information desk, I asked a tour guide at the exit from the second floor, where Kawara’s work could possibly be hiding. He had never heard of Kawara. As we were speaking a quiet voice emanating from a small circular speaker in a small quint standing unobtrusively beside us, with a plexiglass boxtop containing an even smaller book, read out, “Two thousand three hundred and four A.D.”…I had just mentioned to the guide about Kawara’s date addiction. He looked at the paper note on the wall and I looked as well…On Kawara! I was deflated. He was laughing. Recorded, alternating male and female voices slowly reading ascending years of time.
It took our visit to the Whitney to be pleasantly surprised with the one and only Kawara canvas and it provided the needed scale to fulfill my visual experience of his work. The Whitney itself was a great experience. Well established light, good fluid movement for guests and open, clean spaces for the art. It was easy to imagine horizontal, orderly lines of Kawara’s work multiplying around the open spaces of the Whitney. The venue has the viewer’s perspective in mind and provides a well conceived and carried out floor plan specifically designed for displaying art in its finest environment.
After seeing your assigned art work in person (and any other related art from the same artist or art movement associated with the assigned work), what struck you most, and/or how did the artwork’s form, content, and context shift for you when seeing it?
My interest in art has been little affected by Kawara’s work other than a curiousity aroused by the type of mindset required to repeat words and dates with the pedantic march of 24 hours and one day separating your efforts. I can repeat artwork once then begin seeking some fresh idea to replace what has quickly become drudgery. With art, the first time is a joy; the second time is a job.
Today’s activity was at the Empire State Building and a studio visit in the Brooklyn neighbourhood. What were your impressions of this part of New York after learning about it first in the pre-departure classes? What will you take away of the experiences of this day? What are the most memorable moments for you?
The intrigue and fame of the Empire State Building in New York City has been a constant of my time. Saturday put the intrigue to rest as we wound our way through the myriad of checkpoints, photo ops and trinket sales prior to the first series of rapid elevator rides. I am sure the horizontal distance we traveled equaled the vertical distance we rose to reach the observation level. The spectacular views from the top on that warm, clear day were well worth the obstacle course at the bottom. New York spread out before our anxious camera lenses with an endless array of buildings, rivers, neighbourhoods and bridges. It was a place to linger and absorb the immensity of this city. For me, wonder…wonder at the efforts of man to have created this massive tract of construction, teeming with life and vibrant movement. This place is non-stop in everything.
Our traverse to the bottom found the last chance memorabilia and "buy me” sales lining the path to the street. We found our way to Washington Square and a quick sketch then off to Brooklyn on the subway to find the gallery and studio of an ex-Emily Carr student and artist, Maya Suess, and acquaintance of Dorothy’s. Her work was a surprise to me. She is an accomplished artist in drawing. Her work is dramatic, colourful, detailed and imaginative. The full-sized figures of colourfully casual rejects from Salvation Army dumpsters, fed into imaginative and wonderful conceptions of a style that begs studying, even closely! A tour of the Gowanus studio, a sort of co-operative endeavour, with metal shop, wood shop, screening/printing room and facilities for painting operates with a well disciplined group that work closely together to keep the facility viable and secure. The neighbourhood has the quiet secure feeling of common interests. Another adventure on the subway brought us safely back to home base.