marlene mountain
journal grand forks 2

journal grand forks 2

april 11 1964 grand forks north dakota

The landscape in three dimensions have been completed. It came the day (Thursday) after the talk with Brown about not wanting to do such a thing. But it came with spirit and in such a manner that I believe in it. I was afraid of it. Afraid that I would have to go into total contridiction of my present ideas of shape, color, space to do such a problem. However within a matter of a few hours, it was conceived, completed and framed. [drawing of Red/Green Landscape]

The area division is somewhat like the drawing. The upper area is a piece of red cloth tacked to the frame. The cloth is pushed forward very slightly in space by a rectangular shape mounted on the frame behind the cloth. At first glance it appears to be a flat plane. However the 'floating' rectangle can be detected as the cloth is fairly thin. The lower area is a piece of olive green canvas which is tacked to the frame and has been torn at the left side so that there is a flap created in the canvas giving a third dimension, and also allowing the wall to be seen--another concept of 3-dimension. The effect is rather stark and neat. I enjoy the simplicity of it. The 'problem' was to do a painting. However this type of approach to flat, even areas is very close to the manner in which I paint. I see very little difference in applying a flat red to masonite and tacking a red piece of cloth to a frame. The choice of course is which color and how large an area.

I had several other ideas for the landscape during this time, including using string and colored twine and sewing the cloths together, and also considered adding a broken piece of mirror in the gap. I will have to admit I am glad that I have this idea stated, and that it was forced upon my mind, and that I did get many ideas concerning it. I even find it a little odd that I was so completely against trying it--though I expect that the conflicts helped its outcome.

It seems now that I have loosened my grip on the race for purity. I cannot have it in school, it seems. I have finished one of the 3 x 3' canvases. It is orange with a square on the left almost floating, made of red and green stripes. I am thinking that this idea could not work on a large surface, that there would be too much orange, that it is a small size painting. I must check my ideas and find others which should not be done on large surfaces. I wish I would have another burst of sketching ideas. I find it difficult or uninspired to do others. I have no ideas on the tip of my mind. And I have not been able to encourage them out--if any exist.

I was thinking of doing the small canvas on the theme of stripes--red and green on orange. There I go limiting things before I've had a chance to begin. But there must be some unifying theme I think since they must be on exhibit. I am supposed to hang 4 or so of the large paintings in the ad building. However so far I have not wished to do so. It seems I neither want compliments nor criticism on them as yet. I still haven't made up my mind completely to some things. And I think that should come first. I am very attached to them now.

april 16 1964 grand forks north dakota

Kurt Schwitters: 'In order to achieve insight, you must work.' He was against past art, not because it was art, but it was past. Worked same time as Dada movement.

ART NEWS, April 1964, new names, page 49: 'George Bireline [Emmerich, to Ap. 18] paints on large canvases, horizontal and vertical bars of color enclosing rectangular areas that resemble window casements more than anything else, often with vibrating bright red as the 'window' area. The colors are all of the same intensity: brown and purple, red and purple, red and green, orange and pink. White wall-like areas sometimes cancel out the effect of the closeness. The paintings become abstract three-dimensional designs, much like the architectural decoration of Pompeian wall painting.' (K.L.) Illustrated 'Autumn 1' 65" high.

Saw this [drawing of Autumn 1] yesterday. From what I can tell from the small black and white illustration, the form is freer in space by applications of shape over shape, rather than completely side by side. My only present comment is that I expected eventually to find others stimulated by the possibilities of the abstract window.

april 23 1964 grand forks north dakota

I feel that I must plan carefully how and where I spend my summer. I need a chance to relieve my inside turmoil. Until today I was very much considering staying here in Grand Forks and attempting to find a stronger direction in painting, getting a job, or taking some hours at the U. But at this moment I feel a great drive to go to Provincetown, to the sea, to open and sunny air. To live outdoors as much as possible, to try the opposite of my presently introverted life. Not so much in the social realm, but becoming less aware of my turmoil. Becoming a watcher of nature. Maybe a chance to learn from others without the pressures of a school. A chance to liven my spirits. Maybe not painting at all. Maybe learning to draw again, or just photography, or letting the environment give me a new expression in writing. I do not think I should return to Ada and I am almost as sure that I should not stay here this summer. I need something else.

I suppose all this confusion is good and right to have. I suppose I should be grateful that I am effected strongly, that I am baggering myself with questions and not letting things get completely solved. And I suppose it will be interesting to me some day to read or remember what I have felt and written.

At the moment I am fairly relaxed. There are no great tensions inside, just a speck of mental involvements. Just now reading a few pages of Joyce Cary I see that it is a normal occurrence to question and consider and to live amoung contradictions.

It gives me this thought--that I should begin reading. That part of my turmoil is caused by my limited amount of reading. Having never read any philosphies or writing on esthetics. My reading has been limited to small statements by major painters, usually declaring the same intentions but in different words. I suppose if I were to do readings of philosphies I might realize more by just becoming aware of what has troubled others. I sometimes feel I am the only one who has asked these questions. Maybe part of my point is that I am limited by NOT knowing some basic concepts and truths realized by others--not that they would become mine, but that I might be able to grow faster.

But I can never stay with writing. I can only read 55 pages of Art and Reality. I don't know why I stopped. Maybe the summer will be a good time to develop concentration. It is something I desperately need.

may 19 1964 grand forks north dakota

During the past few hours I have been overcome with a strong realization of my self and potential. I have even been given a sense of responsibility. And a new feeling for painting as a working fact and almost in direct contrast to the previous denouncing months.

I now see teaching as a worthwhile endeavor, one which I want to indulge in--for a time. I see painting as becoming more free from the strange restriction I had thrust upon my spirits. I see that I might acquire a renewed thirst for daily activity--instead of passing time. I desire a reorganization of time--not a discipline or a rigid scheme to fall into. But a more organized plan to develop the potential which exists. I am beginning to want to produce. I am beginning to want to act. I am beginning to want to be intense--but in a different manner--which does not give me a depressed or repressed feeling. One which activates my senses and lets them expand visually, explore thoughts openly and pursue myself gladly.

[undated, perhaps september1964]

Development Of An Idea -B.

When the window is considered as a painting idea, one usually thinks of it as a go-between; a connection between the exterior and interior, the outside and the inside, and more specifically one might consider the windows of Matisse, Vermeer, Dufy (Wyeth). One visualizes the unique handling of advancement and recession developed by Matisse, allowing the two parts of environment (natural growth and man-made interiors) to be bent, tied, and incongruously placed in juxtapositions. One sees the greenness of nature pop into the foreground and play visually with the interior tones. One sees a two dimension transposed from a normal three dimension. Or one might as a second idea consider the window as a Freudian example.

september 27 1964 grand forks north dakota

Thesis (?) I am not seeking a certain theory within which to work, nor am I interested in the evaluation. It is the evolution of an idea, and the development of a personal conception which holds my desire. It is like a story (or symphony) unfolding for the first time in which I the viewer am watching or listening. I find myself the spectator of my self. I am given through my mind and imagination, through sights I see, ideas I receive, a certain sensation. What I see and hear in nature becomes the initial stimulus. What I know and what I experiment with in my mind becomes the second phase. I therefore begin with a certain amount of preconceived answers. This might be a pre-choosen color relationship--one which I let grow mentally as a unified relationship and which I respond to as a color language. Or it might be a pre-conceived subject matter. The whole painting may only be a copy of a completely pre-conceived idea. It perhaps gets to the canvas in tact. Or perhaps it never becomes visual though it is reality as a form, a statement which I carry. (As one has to do with all paintings seen only once or a few times--unless they are visible everyday.) One has to develop a sense to conjure a painting in his [sic] mind, or the sensation involved with it so that one does not have to depend only upon its presence to enjoy it--

In other words the search for form and the discovery exist with and without paintings. The memory and the manner in which the mind uses itself to give life to the visual ideas. The painting acts as a means to a greater expression of creativity than the individual painting can possibly have. There is never an end, or climax. The idea develops, transcends--transforming itself with the growth of the viewer/artist.

Though it is possible to carry on a creative atmosphere of form within the mind only, to cultivate it with new thoughts and emotions, there is a certain amount of activity which must develop visually and through actual participation with paint. It is a way in which not necessarily to express oneself--although this is one factor, but to create new stimuli which might never be conceived in the mind. The flick of the paint-soaked brush held by a human hand is an activity which cannot be completely comprehended by the mind. The errors and accidents which come about during the visual attempt, the surprises involved, and the unobvious happenings create new sensations which can suggest new directions and forms to enrich the initial conception.

{MM arrived in Grand Forks in early February 1964 to pursue a Master's Degree in Painting, and with an assistantship to teach courses in Drawing and Design (few if any art majors in Drawing; Design was for Home Economic students). The studio floors were being resurfaced and there was no place for teaching other than in the halls, etc. She was also leaving a poor relationship at home and a time-consuming romantic relationship--trying to sort out these and, yet again, what did painting mean to her, and why the hell she was back in school again. In part, it would seem: to get away from Ada again. Snow was a ton deep and she had never experienced such cold (Minneapolis was easy in comparison). Within a week or so she developed an illness which the student medical office said could be Mono, but was something a bit different--she was given penicillin, or something. However for several months, she was excessively tired, at times 'out of her head.' Perhaps this experience was the first symptom of M.S. Poems contemporary with this writing express a 'dark side.' By the end of May, with winter more or less over, she recovered considerably. It was a rough period. M. Mountain, February 1990}

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