Today was an interesting day…a little hectic with many things on my mind, from my awesome improv show last night (from which I am exhausted!) and packing/moving thoughts swirling around my brain. Had to run a bunch of errands and live daily life which seemed to cut into my painting. But I got it done and it was more difficult than I thought it would be. I thought, “Oh, I’ll just pick another abstract expressionist and get it done.” Why am I always wrong? I learned a lot about that art form (in a personal aspect) today. I’ll talk more about it after we celebrate today’s artist…the beautiful Mary Abbott!
Biography from McCormick Gallery website.
Mary Abbott b. 1921
Mary Abbott was born in New York City, and her lineage traces back to John Adams, the
second president of the United States, who was a great, great…. great grandfather. While Mary’s childhood was one of privilege, her family was not all politics. Her mother Elizabeth Grinnell was a poet and syndicated columnist with Hearst.
In New York in the early 1940s Mary’s early interest in art led her to courses at the Art Students League where she worked with painters such as George Grosz. She lived mainly in New York but spent time in Southampton and in Washington where she studied with Eugene Weiss from the Corcoran Museum School. In 1941 Mary, who was a stunning woman, came out as a debutante at the Colony Club and became the belle of Manhattan.
As a working model she appeared on the covers of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, among
others. She married and continued painting and studying throughout the War years. In 1946 she separated from her husband and moved downtown into a coldwater flat at 88 Tenth Street. In 1948, she met the sculptor David Hare, who introduced her to Willem de Kooning whose studio was nearby. Abbott eventually became romantically involved with de Kooning and remained close until his death.
She also enrolled in an experimental school called The Subject of the Artist. Through these associations Abbott moved into the heart of the New York avant-garde, becoming a member of the Artist’s Club, where she was one of only a few female members along with Perle Fine and Elaine de Kooning. Also in the early 1950’s Mary began to exhibit extensively with shows at Kootz, Tibor de Nagy and Tanager. She was also in three of the famous Stable Gallery Annuals.
In 1950 Mary was divorced from her first husband and remarried a successful businessman who preferred living in Southampton. The couple spent much of the next decade traveling, often wintering in Haiti and the U.S. Virgin Islands where Mary produced many beautiful and inventive
abstractions. That marriage ended in 1966. In about 1970 Abbott accepted a visiting professorship at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and ended up staying for nearly a decade. Eventually she returned to New York where she purchased a loft on West Broadway and a small home in Southampton. At the age of 91, one of the few living members of the original New York School, she continues to live in the Hamptons and works every day in her studio.
Mary has often said that her life’s work is to “define the poetry of living space,” something she has been doing for over sixty years.
Excerpt from an article by Diane Saxton from Huffington Post.
Why a quintessential American? Certainly not because she was a glamour girl or a socialite, not even because she is a descendent of presidents with a Mayflower pedigree. No, Mary Abbott is a quintessential American because she fought the stigma of her Katherine Hepburn beauty, her Walden Pond heritage, and the 1940s and ’50s era that catered to homemakers — you remember the young smiling red-lipsticked, apron-clad prototype, that ’40
and ’50 woman busily baking in her kitchen — to become one of the most talented artists to ever grace the Abstract Expressionist Movement. Work, that’s what it took. Resistance to pressure. Remember John Adams going up against England and King George? Just see what Mary Abbott’s ancestor accomplished! Think how proud he would be of Mary today, a woman who devoted her life to her art, finishing works that rival those of her great love and compatriot, Willem de Kooning, pieces of art that hang next to de Kooning’s, represented in major museums throughout Adams’ legacy — America.
“I like the process of painting. The intensity of Living Nature through myself––using the medium, paint, color and line defining the poetry of living space; that is my aim, life and work.”- quoted from McCormick Gallery website.
Now here’s what I learned about abstract expressionism today. I was not born to be an abstract expressionist. You think it’s easy, but it’s not. You think, “My child could paint that.” You’re probably right because they haven’t developed egos or OCD quite yet. You think it’s just a bunch of splashed paint and squiggles on canvas or paper. Nope, I had to paint and paint and paint to get something I was happy with today and I still am not even sure I am happy with my result! Now this is just all my opinion and observations.
But after staring and staring at this abstract artworks I start respecting them to a whole other
degree. The choice of color, mixed mediums and even the random directions the paint or pastels go in. Maybe I’m an over analyzer, maybe I’m a perfectionist…an over-thinker. All I know is that I’ll never look at this type of art in the same way!
I started painting with white and ochre…then I blow-dried it and poured more paints on the canvas. Nothing felt right, but I kept painting and covering and blow-drying over and over again. The first piece to the right, I thought was almost complete, but I stood back and reflected on it and didn’t feel good about the result. I then went to lunch…ate some Vietnamese food, came back and started pouring and slapping on the paint AGAIN!
Finally I reached a point where I was satisfied. I wouldn’t say today’s painting is anywhere close to a favorite of mine, but I feel that I learned a lot and gained much respect for this particular art movement. Hope you enjoy my final piece and I’ll see you tomorrow on day 38! xoxo, Linda