marlene mountain
minnesota contents
january-march 1963



journal minneapolis 2

january 26 1963 minneapolis minnesota

Haven't kept much of my thoughts of last year in here as I had planned to do. However enough are here to give myself an idea of some of my feelings. Really do not wish however to reread any of them. Many I am sure are silly and boring. Last year was an unusual year for me. I was almost sure that I had gotten nothing really accomplished in it but as I look back on it I can remember it as being a very worthwhile year full of experiences, problems and accomplishments. There were many 'firsts' which happened. New experiences. A new look on many things. I don't think my painting suffered, even though I did not put the usual 8-5, 7-10 hours on that such work. Far from it. But even with the void summer I can say that I have about ten or so canvases that I am pleased with. Space became important and more creative. The dominate color was green. This I cannot understand. I suppose that it is a neutral color almost. It appears in every canvas in some way. And I still notice it now. My work slackened in March [1962] and did not pick up again until the last of November. My desire was stifled by several things: friends, summer work, new school and laziness. I also became dissatisfied to some degree with my subject matter (landscapes). I could not use my sketches for ideas, stopped sketching. Then lost the sketches. This made me turn to trying shapes--very boring at first with raw color. Soon--in November--after learning to work again with the aid of a private studio, the shapes became not necessarily more personal, but more meaningful to me. One attempt at collage over the several months gave me an inkling of possible space and form that would be new. This gave me a new approach and took the place of the missing sketches and simple shape composition. The approach is not new of course. Picasso worked with it 50 years ago, but the space has changed. Rauschenberg's collages stimulated me, also gave me courage as I was not completely sure of the legitimacy.Back to the past year. I wish I had been more faithful with this book, keeping a daily entry just to the thoughts or dates of prints or paintings, just for a record. I am doing that now (for this year) in another book--a record of a few ideas but mainly a date reference of paintings. I can never seem to keep everything in one place. Everything is scattered. Someday I would love to have a large (loose-leaf) book in which I could keep everything: photos, daily comments, listing of movies and records, etc. It would really be a job but interesting to try. I might try that next year. I wish I had a place of my own, room for all of my stuff. And able to spread it all out, never having to put anything away--it always being ready to use. I also wish that I didn't have to go to school for a while. I would love to try teaching soon and then maybe my need would appear and I would desire to return to learn more. As it is I see no one and have not yet received criticism on my things done since the quarter. Actually I do not get much from it yet even though I am only taking 6 hours (painting and printmaking) I still feel some pressure. I doubt that I would try a woodcut if I weren't in class. I probably wouldn't be doing much at all (then again I might be doing more).But I am tired of teachers, students, grades, deadlines, criticisms, etc., things involved with schools, also the local gossip. Ugh. Maybe it's just this school. It does not interest me. It bores me. I don't know why I am here. I am probably afraid to 'give up' for fear what some will say, even those I know in this city including the profs. I feel they are waiting for me to give up. Yet that shouldn't be the reason I'm here. I don't want to bother with a degree--the French, the slides that I would have to memorize, the papers, especially the thesis which scares me to death, the minor study. All this does not interest me and I also feel that I am not that intelligent. I do not think I am dumb but I do not think I have the ability to do this type of work. I know that it would be educational but I don't want to bother now. I am lazy. But I do think I would like to teach at ECSC for a year to see if I could help the students. I think I know enough to help them get started with their painting. Maybe it will also help me to formulate some ideas. I wish I knew how to go about getting the job without a degree. So many apply there each year, with Master's and good reputation. The students need stimulation! What am I going to do? I must decide soon!My collages involve pictures and words cut from magazines. Sometimes I overdo the importance of the content. The landscapes (two) have been the most successful. The ones dealing with my personal problems have not worked with design very well--depending upon the literal content too much. In the landscapes I use photographs of such and build around it with paint using related colors and other photographs. The compositions are usually geometrically divided subconsciously.I have really not done much creative experimenting yet. Most of the attempts have been normal. I would like to work on some large canvases. A thought just occurred: to tie or sew on limbs to the canvas, giving it 3-d relief--but painting strokes over it to change the space somewhat. Use photographs of landscapes and trees. (Maybe even a paperback book on trees.) A realistic drawing, a magazine photograph used in an ad, and one that is esthetic, green paint, maybe a poem of land, an actual tree part, also small pieces of bark and limbs mixed in with paint. (This would probably have to be done on masonite.) Maybe the window-view would work. [sketch of what turned out to be Window #1] Limbs sticking out--would that be durable? Maybe an actual curtain--also rod! How funny. It would also be extremely hard to do. Would it be advantageous for it to be ridiculous? Or would it already be that anyway. I must try it!Also plaster. I must get busy I have been wasting time. It has really hit me now as I write this. I am wasting good advantage. This is my opportunity! What I worked for and now 3 weeks or more have slipped by--mostly in idleness. It has been fun and very nice for a while, but I do want to do some things. Some wild things, why not? I do not even have to show them to anyone 'important.' They can be thrown away as soon as needed. Just experiment, try things out-- that's all. I'm really lucky to have the chance. No job, no obligations--why can't I get busy. The first thing is to build more canvases and to get studio fixed to take paint, etc.I could also try some small ideas in water base paint. Why can't I get going? I am thoroughly disgusted with myself. A month almost gone. To hell with music, jim verses (ha) for a while at least.I must remember not to overdo the assemblage--not too much junk on one canvas. Save some ideas for other canvases. Simplicity is powerful. No need for complete chaos. After all it will be a 'mouthful' anyway. Hell, wish I had a large studio! Down with school! Down with laziness! Soft relaxed life!

january 27 1963 minneapolis minnesota

Today was a busy day--the desire for work was very present and have a good feeling.Worked on two assemblages. One was of the window painted with view of outside (collage and paint) with the addition of an actual curtain rod and two curtains. Several types of space involved. Tried tree branches but think it is too unrelated. Will try that in another composition. Think it works as an idea ok. The other has more traditional space involved, using small room setting in top corner, small board (with tablecloth) attached by two boards to give appearance of table. Not as sure of this one but find it almost exciting. Would like to try other room scenes. Must begin to build large canvases or bolt two together. Small feeling of accomplishment today.

january 29 1963 minneapolis minnesota

Today the wander lust hit. I feel a desire to go to California. To see how they are painting there, to see how the spirit is. This state bores me. This school is below average in its productions, its students and its attitudes. The professors aren't excited by things, nor do they tend to give excitement. Anyway I do not want to attend school--that is, have deadlines, classes and grades. Yet I would like to be around those who are excited about their work instead of Ray Charles and drinking. How trivial. For once I would like to see someone be overjoyed about their painting--like Al used to do. Here they quietly say this painting of mine is nice, or say nothing--not even a trace of excitement in their eyes.Maybe California is more exuberant! Maybe they talk too much but if their talk is exuberant and their eyes jumping then there is benefit for me there. Why should I stick around here? It offers hardly anything. Yes I have learned but mostly it was because of my readiness. When the quarter is over I will think very seriously of driving to California, to a city with a university and set up in an apartment, then if after visiting the department, enroll in a summer session. I see no advantages here. The profs aren't encouraging, nor do I look forward to an assistantship here. So why stay! I do not owe them anything and I am certainly glad that I didn't apply for the grad program. It will be easier leaving.It's odd that this restless feeling comes after a strong working day. Just when I was getting settled, planning to build canvases and thinking about plaster work. This apartment is too small, I must get a larger working area next time.Also today I was thinking it would be good to exhibit my work. If that isn't a contradiction after the long letter to FM about how wrong it was to try to make money from personal paintings and that I didn't want to be noticed. I seem to change my opinion if I state it verbally (strongly). It either makes me think twice or brings out a different outlook.I do not consider these recent collages, assemblages to be wonderful or great--they are just expressions of my thoughts in my self-made environment. If I change environments I think my work will change with it.

february 2 1963 minneapolis minnesota

Well, tomorrow I will have been back here a month. I am trying to decide the outcome of this experiment in a month's time, one month without any advice from teachers, students, no criticism, no help, no classes, very few pressures. It was up to me to do what I 'felt' like doing. I was to do as I wanted to do with a studio. Of course the biggest limitation was small work area. However, in less than a month (Jan 4-Feb 2): 1/2 woodcut, no future ideas; 30 verses; 2 assemblages; 2 unfinished or unsatisfactory collages [on canvas etc]; 5 satisfactory collages; 1 'unsure' collage. books: Steinbeck, Winter of Our Discontent; cummings, verses 150; Dos Passos, USA (1/5); Joyce, Painful Case. No sculpture. Music: lots, esp., Pucinni, Tosca, Butterfly; Mozart, Marriage of Figaro; piano: Chopin, Nocturnes; San Sans #3.Purchases (Jan 4-Feb 2): records, Nina Simone (2.50), Erroll Garner (1.00), Van Cliburn, Rachmoninoff #3 (3.75); books, Joyce, Portrait of Artist as Young Man (.95), Dubliners (.95), cummings, 100 Selected Poems (.95), 50 Poems (1.10), 2 photography (1.00); film, black and white--60, color transparencies--20; movies, Yojimbo, Marcio, Mr. Arkardin--Orsen Wells.Not much I guess. It seems that I had thought I would have more to show than this. However I feel that some of my ideas have improved, although I wish I had more prints. Even if I had less than this I still feel it has been a worthwhile month. Just to relax, think, listen to music, write a few thoughts just for the change. I still hope to be able to get more done this coming month. If I could just make myself get busy instead of overdoing this relaxing business. I probably spend too much time listening to music, writing thoughts. Got two nice letters this week 1) Roger 2) Al. I sent both of them photos of last quarter's prints and paintings (some) and both were impressed it seems.I am almost positive that I will not apply at this school. It is not a place where I would like to spend three years. Maybe California would be good, after all. Even though I don't want to attend school I know I must and maybe by summer or fall I will be tired or bored with this approach to life. Unless I get busier, I know that I should be.I really wish to be doing more. I should have more ideas for prints, but I see no way to get ideas as I cannot sketch outside--the painting is different in approach and it is not necessary to sketch, but I must have a strong idea to begin a woodcut. I also want to do some plaster work. Oh damn whatever happened to that fiery bit, work work work I had not so long ago.

february 25 1963 minneapolis minnesota

1) Ozenfant, Foundations of Modern Art 2) El Greco 3) Dos Passos, USA 4) Amplified New Testament.Looking at the past two months' work I see some definite improvement, a variety of approaches, experimentation, but nothing wonderful. Some silly ideas, some boring ones and a few that not only exist but are alive. I hate the name student. Developer sounds better, yet I know that this is not correct. Dabbling is more proper for what I have been doing. No real direction or interest. Jumping from one thing and way to another. I don't really mind this I guess. I'm nobody and probably always will be. But I have tried things, ways these past two months and have surprised myself. The two casein paintings done this past week 1) Seated Figure 2) Composition with Square seem fairly successful and give me a nice feeling.I haven't shown them to the prof, in fact no one. The one criticism I have had since this quarter began was beneficial. It made me question the previous direction I was in (collage). At first was a blow that he was not impressed but as I look back on things I realize that I have always learned more from blows than pats. I realize that I am not completely ready to take my own opinion for everything, but I also know that I must be careful whose I do believe. I have done no successful woodcuts, have lost interest but realize I must have some to turn in for class--how silly. I am going to try doing prints from relief plaster. This will be a new approach to me. It seems I must be constantly changing to keep my interest going. I tried some sculpture with plaster this weekend. Nothing came of it. Feel that I am finally getting settled and learning to work again after almost a year. But I will be leaving here in about a month which means another off period and having to get resettled again. Hoping for a larger working area next time.Wish I didn't have to be involved with getting a degree, having to paint for that. Have been considering: trying to enroll as a sculpture major (painting at home), learning the techniques of casting and sculpture, studying art history, all that goes with a degree. That way I can still see paintings of students, talk with them and profs, but not expose mine unless I really want to. Sculpture is more impersonal to me therefore I would be more willing to take criticism, etc. Still get a MFA degree for the prestige, that is if I could get accepted. Would probably have to be a smaller school. Hope that wouldn't defeat my purpose of seeing lots of things in a decent environment. It would be fun and interesting I think to do this. Of course the thesis and papers would be harder since I haven't any ideas on sculpture. And I would probably have to limit my painting time, which isn't much anyway.Don is thinking about Michigan for the summer. It would be a good chance to see the school there, even though I was considering California, but it's not that important.Met Robert Rauschenberg and Nathan Oliveira last week. John Cage. Saw Merce Cunningham and Co. Rauschenberg very nice [Cage, too]. Saw exhibition of 50 California Painters at Walker. Was bad and ugly to me, but am going back again to see. I sometimes wonder at my ideas and criticisms. [After opening, talked with Oliveira and mentioned I'd been thinking of going to Calif--he said, you'd better know what you're doing or you'll get your throat cut.]

march 3 1963 minneapolis minnesota

The last few paintings show a resemblance to each other. Never before has my work done this (unless when I was using a very rigid application of paint with the brush stroke). This in some ways pleases me. I have never really tried for several canvases (in the same style) mainly I suppose because I never had a reason. My ideas seemed to change before I painted again. So even though I thought that I was working in a direction, it was only in my mind or maybe in brushstroke--and not visible on the canvas. I suppose the reason I feel that these canvases have a closeness is in the paint quality. The dull almost completely flat areas with contrast to smaller areas which usually contain splashes or somewhat controlled drips. This is interesting to me at the moment. The plainness, then the relief in splashes.3 of the 4 canvases I am referring to have emphasis on the figure(s) only suggested by squares and rectangles for the head, body, legs. The other canvas is completely only these shapes without reference to a figure. Two of the figure paintings started with a sketch which became more simplified. The third was created on the canvas. This is what I wish to be able to do again, to visualize figure(s) as I work on the canvas--within the space and shape. At least for a while. To do something similar for a while.I am really becoming aware of how easily I can be influenced, just by something someone says or by things I see in other paintings. Influences are a good thing I believe (especially now), but one certainly has to be careful what the influences are. It's dangerous to be taken with something. There should be a firm line between what one likes, enjoys or understands, and what one believes to be his [sic] personal approach (at the time). So I like Rauschenberg--should I do assemblages or collage? Should I mess with it or just enjoy his ideas? So I don't like Deibenkorn's paint quality but still I like his approach only I add my imagination to his work (in reproductions). Should I try to emphasize what I want in his but feel he fails to do (that is, in the ones I've seen of his)?I wish to be able to do what I am doing now in oil, but don't think I can. Casein is easy--and looks it. Oil has so many qualities and it is hard to control or simplify. I think this work with casein will help me organize things and later I will be able to use the oil more effectively. Even now I want to try it. This means my unity of canvases will stop--when I change mediums. Want to try the enamel soon (when I get a good place to work, it's so messy). Try to find a good way to use it. It runs so quickly and is so heavy that it is hard to control--yet it is good to work with like the casein because it is mixed in large quantities, dries faster, etc. Oil has to be mixed up, that is, if one wants to work quickly with large areas. And if too much turpentine is added then the richness dries out. So there is the problem of adding oil, but when the right quality is achieved there's nothing like it.[Pasted in my notebook: Sunday. Rec. your letter today am sure you will find things much different there as you would any other school. That is why you go to other schools than Norman; to get a different viewpoint. It may be good--or bad. You will have to take it for what it is worth and when you leave, use what you like & forget what you don't like. DLM]{If anyone has been able to stay with this rambling 'piece,' I would like to comment on this young woman struggling to sort out her life. She was very hard on herself, much too hard. She worked in total isolation, after the France trip. She was disturbed by most of the students painting/printing like the teachers, and wanted to avoid this. The collages are fine, the casein paintings quite something, the woodcuts and the window and other assemblages are terrific. There was much creativity going on, especially a lot of sorting through 'big ideas' in her head. The teachers were rude, sarcastic beyond necessary, and very sexist although she didn't know that word or concept. It was a big step to tell Quirt and Myers that she wouldn't attend their classes and to paint and print at home; then a bold step to enroll in Busa's class and tell him she wouldn't attend; to re-enroll in Myer's class and do the same--he called her the Oklahoma Whirlwind. She finally got fed up and left--even though Busa who had heard about the window assemblage, etc. came by to see and said if she wouldn't leave, things would be different. No way, Jose. MM, Feb 1990.}


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