marlene mountain
minnesota contents
september-december 1962
journal minneapolis 1

september 29 1962 minneapolis minnesota

I am enrolled at the University of Minnesota now for the fall term. Am taking painting, printing, and art history from Quirt, Myers, and Tselos.Since I really did not do anything this summer I am finding painting a little strange. It is difficult to manipulate so far. It seems that every time I begin a painting that I have a loss of memory and cannot recall any past experience or knowledge to help me. I must go through all the bad and ridiculous, all the incoherent and meaninglessness every time. I don't understand the reason. Sometimes I paint for a long time before I am aware that I am in a mess and actually enjoy pushing the brush around and squeezing paint out of a tube as if nothing else mattered. I guess it will take some time before I can control even the slightest concepts. Tonight I have been working on a collage of magazines and newspapers, wrapping paper. The composition deals with a land and sky, a house, trees, and various figures scattered. As yet it is not working as a whole and I think the main reason for this is the use of white paint which is too separate from the other elements. It is very hard for me to create new space relationships. I disgust myself when I finally am able to see the boring placement of 'normal' space of objects placed next to each other somewhat logically instead of searching out more freer relationships and more exciting combinations.I think I will not try to paint with oils on small canvases. I feel restricted by the small space but have not seen an approach in paint to work with on the smaller areas. I am considering using the smaller ones to try collage on. Even reversing some of the used canvases on the stretchers and working only on the glued side.I think living alone this term will be a good idea, maybe I can learn to work better since I am not depending on anyone nor is anyone depending on me.

october 6 1962 minneapolis minnesota

I intended that this book be only a record of my ideas and feelings of my work and not of any criticism or discussion from others, but I believe that it might be of help to write as a record some the views of my professors. I might be more able to digest and remember things when I must write them.As yet things are not too smooth at school, not that this is bad but it is rather uncomfortable especially since I have been used to considerations and was accepted fairly well. Now I am confronted with an uneasy feeling I must begin to prove myself. They want to know what I can do and as yet I have not been able to show them. I am not sure myself and even though I realize that this isn't always good I am rather uneasy. If I only knew what I am seeking then I could at least work towards something. Instead I am aimless when I see something I like then want to paint in that manner. I am not too easily impressed, however there are some manners I would love to adopt as security at least for a while. And I do see some who do just this and seem to have no regrets about it--they do have a direction. But I feel that the only answer is to start to work and to work hard and honestly.Myers: must be consistent in my woodcut not 'realistic' in some places and 'abstract' in other areas. It takes great power and knowledge to combine these effectively.The drawing for the woodcut puzzles me. I am not sure if it is trite, valid, ridiculous, worthwhile. It is hard for me to decide completely. I am afraid to make a statement and yet I must do it to learn I guess. At first I was excited about the idea, now I am in doubt especially after seeing some woodcuts tonight of one of the graduate students--they are so powerful yet having simplicity, eliminating unnecessary ideas and details but still having excitement within them. And I gathered he is having some doubt about whether his work is too simple, etc. This I guess is what keeps people alive, ups and downs. He said that one shouldn't branch out and try to learn everything but work at their main interest, maybe something, then later on try other things.This collage I have been working on is a mess of ridiculousness. I became so concerned with all the cute and interesting things that I found that I gave no real thought to what I should have been considering. It is really very incoherent and stupid to see now once I got over the fascination of all the interesting photographs, etc. But I don't have the slightest idea what to do. I could do something with paint on certain areas to get rid of some of the parts or add paper over it, but this is so foreign to me and yet so expected to do. I would then lose all feeling of things I guess.At the moment I am intrigued by some abstract compositions but don't think I can do this myself. I am not sure the reasons. A square shape, a large one, fascinates me and so does a circle but I see so many others using them--and yet they (the shapes) don't belong to them. Maybe the shapes in a composition are too universal, too impersonal, too common, yet they are beautiful. It's really scary-- this business of creating or inventing or communicating. So much involved and so much more that is unnecessary. I must begin to work soon, I have already wasted time relaxing and 'thinking.' So what?! If I could only regain some discipline--damn that Jim.

october 7 1962 minneapolis minnesota

Began working again on that collage. I decided that some of the photographs and things were too worthless to remain, so began eliminating with casein paint. The paint took the shape of squares also long thin rectangles, shapes that I am interested in but had no intention of using. I am not at all sure of the outcome except there is more reason and unity, however I do not know if it works as a design. I find it interesting but am very aware that this has no bearing at the moment. I would like to get some criticism but fear this.The collage has a closeness to a painting with enamel that I did in the early spring which is called Winter Colors. The color scheme is quite similar and also the shapes, the use of squares and thin rectangles. This pleases me. I am not exactly sure why but I rather think that I see a tie in the work and relationship, however slim and unconscious.The woodcut is finished and a proof was printed. Again I am not sure of the outcome. It is not anything. In fact I think it is quite boring, maybe because I was expecting something else. Maybe when printed on good paper will help a little. There is not enough integration of black and white, the figures are white, the background is black. The next woodcut will have a better relationship.

october 8 1962 minneapolis minnesota

Spent some time working with small paper, colored ink over old bad charcoal drawings, not too much came from this. The ink dries too dull and is not pleasing but the important thing was to work and try to conceive of other ways to work, the act itself is the important part at the present, eventually maybe the product will be of merit. Last night worked with crayon, chalks. This was more successful as the medium is better. Printed woodcut on better paper and there is some better quality in some respects. I think that it is ok. Tomorrow I will get some criticism on it. Also am taking last year's paintings for Quirt to see for better or worse.I am still wasting most of the day. Saw a show of David Parks' works on campus today. I was rather pleased with most of them, they are fun to see, the thick paint and some color. He does things that I cannot do as lay large areas of paint next to a figure or within the figure. The areas usually have no literal meaning as object but they exist there as paint. It is much different than Diebenkorn. His areas are solid and geometric and fit snugly next to other areas, Parks' are more loose and not close fitting. In most of the paintings I had the feeling that I wanted to touch up or rework a few of the areas. One I found perfect Bathers of 1959. Most of them are figures on the sea coast standing in or near water or in boats. I do not remember any pinks, strong oranges--mostly blue, green, white (off) and light or dull orange.There were two other one-man shows, Bruce Shobaken and Hassel Smith--both I found very boring and even bad. There was no personal feeling in the shapes or colors from the appearance. I sometimes wonder at my judgments. At the present I look for an object or a shape more than color, etc. I want to feel that the painter had some feeling for his idea. I think this is why many of the things I do, especially the small sketches do not exist as something. No real feeling, no real involvement, no theme, not really a purpose. This I believe comes only from careful or long study of the idea whether it be a figure, tree, square, etc. One must be familiar with the subject then the subconscious can work and yet still have a source to draw and live on.

october 9 [?] 1962 minneapolis, minnesota

Myers felt that the woodcut was successful and he also said it was well done--change nothing. I had no idea what his reaction would be and was happily surprised. Now I have others' opinions who help me see my mistakes and good points. I am still aware of my dependence on what more mature artists believe.Taking the paintings to show Quirt was a good idea. It gave him an idea of what I can and can't do. He liked to a certain degree 3 of the 5 I showed him: the green one and the two enamels. He thought that Yellow Meadow and Hill Houses needed a richer surface quality which I agree, however do not want to go back into. I regained some of my enthusiasm for painting on Tuesday when I had showed the paintings and also the new woodcut, however the painting was and is still in [stops]

november 22 1962 minneapolis minnesota

There is such a lot to learn, so many things to do, to enjoy, to read--I cannot understand why since I know this that I cannot apply myself to the best advantage. I realize that I want to learn and enjoy reading (although my memory is impossible) but I continually waste my time. When I begin getting involved with reading I thoroughly enjoy it. Sometimes I think the grad school system of learning is a good way to approach study--only in a self-imposed discipline. If I could do this for 6 months I would have really accomplished a task and would also have established a discipline of studying which I need so badly--and must add want. I want to learn. I would love to spend the mornings reading, looking at paintings, etc., then paint and draw or sculpt in the afternoons until late, then enjoy the evenings listening to music or seeing films or visiting with friends. As it is I jump from one thing to another and never really accomplish anything. I wish there was some way to work independently with occasional talks with professors, etc. learning and studying what was most important at that time--then after a year or two be given a degree or certificate stating the progress and development within that time. A few months is too short of a time to accomplish much--there is too much rush and too many pressures that are not conducive to work. I wish that a degree was not important but an accumulated amount of work and knowledge was the important factor in this society. There are many who are not made to take the pace of university guided study. There should be another approach so that students could have a choice.I found that my work done at the building was a complete waste. In fact was much more of a hindrance. I regret this very much as it dampened my spirit and produced a small but frightful setback. However since my decision of last week to work here at the apartment instead of pretending there has made a great change in my morale. My paintings are still bad but my spirit has improved which gives me incentive to work, happy to produce inferior works for the present knowing that I am working and learning. This is what is important to me at the present. I must not get idle again--regardless of the quality of work, I must not stop and I must be careful and watchful of things which can distract me and eventually make me idle again.Since I have decided for the present that I must get a MFA then I must be willing to undertake the directions which are given to me. If I decide that I cannot do this then I hope I am wise enough to give up the idea of the degree--at least at this school. I feel that eventually I can succeed here. Especially since my desire to produce and read, etc. is returning. I must admit that I was worried that I had lost my inclination to work. It was a frightening feeling. I had seen what it had done to some of my friends last year and the thought that it was happening to me was unpleasant. At the moment I do not know how to combine study, active work and play. Each is important but at present the conflict is not settled and not much benefit is gotten from any. This should be corrected soon. Sometimes I feel that university study is wrong for me at this time. I wish I had the nerve and money to spend 6 months or a year on my own trying to work out my problems. Then resume my studies for the 'important' passport. I wonder if I could do it. And I tell myself yes.About the trip to France [one week with DLM]. I first thought, especially while I was there, that I got nothing from it other than being in a different city. And now I am beginning to feel as though it was a fairly successful trip--considering the short time, the weather, and my bad cold. The part that disappoints me most is that I really saw nothing more than the ordinary tourist sees of the area. In Paris I took a 3 hour tour and saw the most important historical landmarks at a glance. And in visiting the museums, the Louvre, Impressionist and the two Modern Art Museums, I saw only what a fast moving normal art student sees. I am disappointed at my ordinary vision. My photographs even prove this. Of course circumstances were bad most of the time however that excuse does not satisfy me. The two days in Paris were the most interesting. It was a joy to walk on the streets and in the gardens the few times that I was able. It was fun to see the Arch of Triumph, the Cathedral of Notre Dame (from a bus) and the various other monuments. But I missed so much and I have a horrible feeling that I could have done better. I can say that I saw the paintings in the Impressionist museum, which is an extension of the Louvre, with few regrets. But the running that I did in the Louvre was so uncontrolled that it disgusts. The first day I spent about 2 hours there thinking it was the only day I would be there and most naturally wanting to see some of the other museums. So I skimmed through what I could really not trying to see individual paintings but trying for an overall impression of things.I was surprised at the personality of the place. It was very cold in fact uncomfortable and rather dark. There were no artificial lights-- all the light was dependent upon the weather outside. And as was typical I suppose of November weather, there was haze and light rain. For some ridiculous reason I was not interested in seeing old masters' work--so I didn't get much from my first visit. However I was impressed with the gigantic size of some of David's paintings, also Rubens although I had expected that they would be large. Poussin's paintings were smaller that I expected. I was disappointed with Hals' Bohemian Girl. It did not seem to have the life I expected. There was a large room of Rubens work which I only glanced. Things like this extremely disgust me now. I don't understand myself. I could have at least gone closer to one to see the type of brush stroke. The second trip--the next day was late in the afternoon which would have given me an hour's or so chance to get better looks at some things and my attitude was brighter. However I began talking with a Greek fellow and spent the hour with him again walking rapidly through the rooms seeing the work at a pace of a painting per second. I did see two sculptures of Michelangelo for a few minutes.At the Impressionism museum I was able to see two works by Manet which I enjoyed. Odalisque and Picnic. And of course many delightful paintings and pastels of Degas and 5 cathedrals of Monet. These three I suppose impressed me the most. Didn't get much from the Cezanne, van Gogh or Gauguin. Some lovely Bonnards and Vuillard at the Museum of Modern Art. Here I felt were many boring as well as bad things. I am chilled by the cubist work and do not find the German Expressionist work appealing. At present I am interested in the work of Rauschenberg, Degas drawings, Bonnard paintings, for now I am very biased and unmoved by almost everything. And as a result my enjoyments are few.I was pleased to see the chapel in Vence that Matisse worked on. I was a little surprised at first because for some reason didn't expect to see what I saw. But was happy to see the line drawing and the refreshing colors of the stained glass window.The days in Nice were mostly disappointing. There was rain everyday so not much chance to roam around looking and taking pictures. The cars and taxis were more expensive than I expected and there was a great chance of getting lost. The French waiters were at first fascinating but I am afraid that if I had to endure their work at many meals that I would become very nervous. There is constant activity, usually four or five waiters to each table changing plates, silverware, filling glasses and reading the meal ticket.

december 7 1962 minneapolis minnesota

Talked with my new painting instructor Busa today about working here at the apartment instead of the building. He came by to see some of my work and seem a little impressed, not so much with my work (I only showed him a few things) as with my desire and initiative to work. He seems to expect some things from me this quarter and wants to see mostly what I consider good. I hope that I can get to know him so as to learn some of the things he knows. I think it would be good to visit his class occasionally just to hear what he says to other students. Now that I have succeeded with this purpose of working here, I must not neglect the advantages. I am only going to take 6 hours which will give me much time to work, especially since there is no academic class to worry about.This quarter will determine my working ability and self-discipline as I have no excuse for not doing a lot of things, trying out ideas, also sculpture. I wish that I would set up some sort of work schedule so that I will not lose so much time but I don't think that I could follow it. So much to be done and the best part of it is that I want to work. Oh I hope that I never lose that desire again. It is such a frightening feeling.I turned in 6 woodcuts this quarter. I feel that a lot was learned by doing them, especially since it was a new medium. It was good to only devote time to that medium and not jump from one technique to another. Even though one or two of the ideas could have been done in another medium. There will be opportunity in the future to do this and at present try to limit some things, especially until I have better command of a few things.It would be nice eventually to have a studio with room and equipment at hand. For this reason the idea of teaching at a small college which has a few facilities seems to be a good idea. I am sure that it would be depressing much of the time at least from my observation of the profs I have been around. It takes considerable time and thought to be able to help each student, because each one requires an individual approach. It's really sometimes a frightening thought--to know how important in the student's life what is said to them or not said. A teacher can turn a student against working unless he [sic] has found himself which is rare, or he can give him such enthusiasm or directions that could start him thinking for himself. I have been thinking about teaching at EC (maybe this summer) and wondering if I could help them with their painting and concept of form. I do not think that Campbell fully understands some things that are important discoveries in space. This would be a challenge to me and one I think would be beneficial, I must speak to him this month. I am gaining more self-confidence now which is important to have if only to convince someone of things I can do. I am getting tired of calling myself a student in an inferior way which I have been doing for years. I will always be a student of art, but I am beginning to feel that some of my ideas and beliefs are as good as anyone else's. It is up to me to convince others as well and myself. No one can say 'you are an artist now,' I have to believe it and then say 'I am an artist.' Everyone borrows and learns from others. This is an important part of education. But this borrowing must be used in such a way that will enhance one's own thoughts. I have learned many things since I have been in school, most of it is because I have seen and heard other approaches--then I could apply these facts to my ideas. Had I stayed in Oklahoma I would not have seen these new things. Many things I saw were unappealing or I didn't agree with but this too is beneficial. Many things are thrown to students and they must try to discover what is helpful and what is harmful. It may take years or days but usually the discovery is possible. Many times things will come subconsciously and be a surprise when the awareness comes. Sometimes a direct effort amounts to nothing where as playing or even working on something different will suggest another idea or notion which is spontaneous and fresh. It is these happenings which keep one going but also are frightening because of the uncontrollable nature.I liked something Quirt said to a young girl [sic] yesterday about working on something as a statement then not being concerned if it is 'finished.' Students tend to take each canvas so seriously. (I used to do that more than now.) Everything seems to be so important to complete and hang up. If not it is a failure. This philosophy is ridiculous! I hope I can encourage my students to try things, put them aside or throw away and not be too concerned about the result, about something being so precious, to relax and forget. Bavinger always wanted a solution to a painting, but not in a demanding manner. However I always got the impression that a painting should be finished. (This is speaking about the first year painting.) This should not be pushed too much. And yet a student should realize what a finished painting means. Many times I have tried an idea, given it up in discouragement feeling dumb because I couldn't make it work--then eventually trying it months or years later or even doing something else and having the solution appear.I think that students should have discipline and be told what to do and sometimes how until they decide that it is wrong and assert themselves and are truly beginning to rebel because it is a necessary thing to do. I feel what I did had to be done. I had to say to them that's enough, I can't take anymore of this. I have had all that I can take. It was not out of hostility or conceit that I did it, but because I could not work under those conditions and I felt I could work better another way. I hope I remember this when I teach and do not consider the student an ass just because he does not agree with me. He is an individual, especially when he begins to realize it and is ready for the responsibility. There are many ways to teach. Telling someone something is only elementary. There are more important ways to help a student--by inspiring him and suggesting ways which he can discover things for himself, showing him that he can learn many different ways and from other sources and that his teacher is not a god or master but also looking for truths and suggestions. One must also know when his help can no longer be the best thing and to encourage the student to seek other advisors or go on his own for a time.


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