Painting Expanded at CCA

Artists and moderators gather for CCA's Painting Expanded Symposium

April 13, 2013, was an especially beautiful Saturday in San Francisco, but more than 100 CCA students, faculty, and members of the public shunned the sunshine to pack CCA’s Timken Lecture Hall for the Painting Expanded symposium, an engaging and inspiring series of discussions about contemporary painting.

Watch Part I on YouTube »
Watch Part II on YouTube »

A group of 10 internationally recognized artists, including Mary Heilmann, Vincent Fecteau, and Keltie Ferris, presented their work, discussed their practices, and participated in panel discussions that delved into issues of material, context, theory, academic culture, art criticism, and the market.

Symposium Format

The 10 speakers were divided into a morning group and an afternoon group. The first five were artists Tom LaDuke, Lecia Dole-Recio, Mary Weatherford, Meleko Mokgosi, and Mary Heilmann.

Each spoke for 10 minutes and then they all sat down together for a panel discussion moderated by Painting/Drawing faculty members Kim Anno and John Zurier.

The afternoon featured the painters Dushko Petrovich, Keltie Ferris, Vincent Fecteau, Keith Mayerson, and Amy Bessone.

The panel that followed was moderated by Painting/Drawing chair Linda Geary and associate professor Jordan Kantor.

Artist Vignettes

Geary and James Gobel organized the event. They gave the artists the freedom to structure their individual presentations -- or, as Geary called them, “vignettes” -- however they liked. Each had 10 minutes to present to the audience on whatever topic they chose.

The diversity of the performances and personalities was incredible, ranging from Tom LaDuke’s brilliantly frenetic presentation of his wide body of work to Amy Bessone’s “What Time Is It?” in which she explored her struggles to balance her “art life” with her personal life and parenting duties.

Panel Discussions: “It’s Art.”

The interactions of the artists during the panel discussions were captivating and entertaining, challenging, and impactful. They engaged the audience in a way that made everyone feel privileged to be there, and also essential to the dialogue. As Mary Heilmann commented: “It’s art.”

Alleged Death and Revival of Painting

The morning discussion covered such topics as the importance of detail, secrets within an artist’s work, and the status of painting in the contemporary art world. “The alleged death and revival of painting is really significant,” commented Heilmann, who earlier closed her presentation by proclaiming, “This symposium is so great! I guess painting’s not dead after all. Born again!”

Questioning the dilemma of how to navigate the expansive field of painting, the artists considered the multitude of ways to create, and agreed that there is much to be revealed in play and creative exploration.

Who Is a Painter?

The afternoon discussion turned into a bit more of a debate, as the artists examined topics such as contemplative abstraction and how painting as a specific medium fits into art as a whole. “Painting is a difficult tool with which to raise the question, ‘What is art?’” observed Keltie Ferris, who also stressed the importance of play in her own practice.

“Painting is accessing your own consciousness with the flick of a brush,” noted Keith Mayerson.

The panel also probed the distinction between “painter” and “artist.” Vincent Fecteau (who identifies primarily as a sculptor) poignantly stated, “Being an artist is finding out who you are.”

Waking Up

Response to the symposium was overwhelmingly positive. In addition to CCA faculty and students, there were many artists and gallerists from the Bay Area and beyond. “The symposium was a great success,” says Gobel. “We wanted to put CCA at the center of a vibrant conversation about contemporary painting, and we accomplished that.”

Geary echoes, “We had a blast, and are still riding the high from it!”

Mayerson commented, “It’s amazing what’s going on at CCA, and I feel so privileged to be part of this.”

“It was an incredibly inspiring experience for me as a painter,” said attendee Bobby Coleman. “Usually, after six hours in a lecture hall on a beautiful, sunny Saturday, I’d be dying to get outside. But as soon as the symposium was over, all I wanted to do was go to my studio and paint.”

If what Mayerson said is true, that art is about waking you up, then the Painting Expanded Symposium was itself a work of art.