JanetFish, “Majorska Vodka” Oil on canvas, 60 x 48 in. 1976
From 2009, an interview with still life painter Janet Fish (Born May 18, 1938). She is best known for vibrant paintings depicting luminous glass, plastic, and cellophane.
At that point where had you taken your work?
When I first got to New York, I was simply trying to figure out what I wanted painting to be. There were problems with what I could do. I was trying to paint something three-dimensional on a two-dimensional surface. I threw some apples down on the table and started painting them. The paintings took a long, long time. Slowly I began enlarging the things and then focusing more on the object than on the surroundings. I went from that to painting packages, supermarket things. I liked the way the plastic was going over the solid objects, and I liked how it broke the forms up. I was trying to define my interests and I was eliminating everything that I wasn’t interested in. Trying to get more and more toward something I wanted to paint. So this was a kind of reductive approach.
That was sort of a self-imposed process?
Yeah, I’d do a painting, then another, and I’d compare them. I’d take down the bad painting and leave the better one up and keep pushing along that way. From there I found some jars of pickles, and it was a similar problem, solid object covered by a transparent surface. Once I started doing that, I got really interested in the light coming through the liquid. And that took me into painting bottles and jars, things like that.
Janet Fish “Yellow Glass Bowl with Tangerines” Oil on canvas, 36 x 50 in. 2007
We are so grateful to our veterans, who risked all to keep us free.
Ed Bowen served as US Army combat artist in Vietnam. He has recounted his experiences in paintings, drawings, and a memoir.
Ed Bowen and His Art
Ed Bowen recalls teaching art classes at Villa Park High School in Orange in 1967 when rumors began circulating the U.S. would draft citizens to fight in Vietnam. At 26, and ripe for the picking, he wasn’t too concerned.
Since his parents had come to Corona del Mar from Canada when he was a child, he figured his foreign residency precluded him from having to register for the draft. Plus, he was working a plum job; he loved art and the kids loved him.
It wasn’t until he received a letter in the mail, informing him he was to report for duty with the U.S. Army on Nov. 28, that he realized how wrong he’d been.
“I had to say goodbye to the kids — my dream was shattered,” he recalled. “But, as I say now, the Lord had other plans, and he was to take me to the ‘ultimate assignment.’”
What happened next would begin an incredible journey that would take Bowen to some of the most perilous stages of the Vietnam War where, armed with only a sketchpad and pen, an Instamatic camera and a Colt .45 revolver, he would fulfill a mission to capture the conflict in pictures.
The American attorney and art collector John Quinn (April 14, 1870 – July 28, 1924) had a great insight about the avant-garde works he supported in the early decades of the twentieth century. He described his times as “an age of experiment rather than accomplishment.”
Quinn was describing the rise of Modern art. As early as the late 1700s, it was clear Classical art, reiterations of the ancient achievements of the Greeks, Romans, and Renaissance, did not adequately reflect the temper of the times. But what could? Modern artists bravely tried to find out.
It’s the nature of honest experimentation that failure is more common than success. In science a theory is proposed, tests are conducted, and the results are measured and analyzed, compared to the predicted outcome. But how can novel artistic experiences be rated?
Perhaps there is a fundamental test for art. Ultimately, art is a form of spiritual communication. Does the art deliver a sense of communion, connection, the eternal fellowship of humanity in a recognizable form? That would be successful art.
Much of Modern art’s attempts failed to reach those standards. Yet extreme experiments persisted, even as the appreciation dwindled. Like Spinal Tap, Modern art’s appeal became more selective. For some powerful people, that fulfilled an important non-artistic need: a new means for status signaling.
Cy Twombly, Leda and the Swan
Sold for $52 million in 2017
Any old sap could like skillfully created, beautiful, and meaningful art. Elitists had to flip the script, and make embracing the failed experiments, the ugly and obscure, the new standard of rarified taste. The establishment cultivated a culture war to preserve their isolating Mandarin authority.
We are all the poorer for it. For over a century now institutional support has been funneled into art meant not to unite, but to divide. Museums, galleries, and wealthy patrons warped the course of artistic evolution towards alienation, transgression, and incompetence, all the better to shock the bourgeois they despised. One hundred plus years of inverted snobbery was inflicted upon us. We’ll never know what might have been, what aesthetic glories the land of the free could have produced, without that interference.
This Is What The Gentry Class Fills Our Museums With. Sad!
It’s even worse now, in the Postmodern era. As I scan the art world’s official organs, I see nothing but partisan propaganda, leftist activism misidentified as art. These feeble efforts are deader than Lenin in his glass coffin, but all those who aspire to belong to the ruling caste must shuffle past and pay homage.
One of Postmodern Art Star Banksy’s Half Assed Editorial Cartoons Masquerading as Art
Those who we trusted as the caretakers of our culture betrayed us. We’ve had no support for art that reflects the true character of the United States, our might, goodness, and freedom. But the times are changing, and art can lead the way.
Cultural thought leaders look stupid propping up the absurdity they’ve made into the status quo. They’ve got no creditability left to squander. Their institutions are beyond reform. It’s time to start over. It’s a good place to be, because an American’s natural habitat is the frontier.
Remodernism is the latest iteration of the American character: ordinary people working as explorers and inventors, optimistic, self-reliant and productive. The Remodernist artist formulates expressions of personal liberty in pursuit of higher meaning and significance. Remodernism is the pursuit of excellence. We don’t grovel before the current cultural gatekeepers, we want to interact with everyone. We are story tellers. We make a complex art for complex times. We are the swing of the pendulum.
The “art as experiment” analogy really isn’t quite satisfactory, because art is not like science, and conflating the two has been disastrous for our society. Elitists defensively over-intellectualized art, which is most effective as a visceral, soulful experience.
Billy Childish, an English artist who first codified Remodernism with painter Charles Thomson in 1999, described a hands-on strategy for the way forward. “The idea is painting, not having ideas about painting…In many ways I sort of like to look on myself as amateur in everything I do. The amateur does things for love, and belief, not for the mortgage.”
That’s the spirit. Look at what “amateur” politician Donald Trump achieved. He put the experts to shame – or rather, he exposed they were lying about their true goals and intentions.
Just like in our politics, no solutions for art’s crisis of relevance will come out of the corrupted hierarchies of the current professional classes. Fortunately, we don’t need anyone’s permission to create a faithful depiction of who we truly are, in art and politics both. Let’s get on with it.
I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy abook. Or a painting.
Leonard Greco “Self Portrait of the Artist as Saint Anthony of the Desert Facing Death” Oil on panel 18″ x 24″ inches 2020
Just as art provides a microcosm of life, the current state of the establishment art world provides a microcosm of the real world. Our cultural institutions have become massively tainted and dysfunctional. The failures we are enduring were not inevitable or accidental; rather, they are the result of systematic, calculated actions by a corrupt cabal. They’ve betrayed the legitimate functions of the institutions they’ve usurped in favor of their own self-aggrandizing agendas; their rotten practices range from the financial to the spiritual.
But I have great hope for the future, because while the institutions are infiltrated and compromised, the human need for artistic accomplish persists in the people. True art survives outside the ruthlessly filtered cloisters the elitists have cultivated.
My beliefs are confirmed by artists like Leonard Greco. He is pursuing a deeply personal vision, combining native talent with all the skill and craft a lifetime of patient dedication can provide. His imagery is grotesque and surreal, in the tradition of masters like Hieronymus Bosch and Jan Brueghel. While monstrous, the works manage to be beautiful and comical as well.
Greco acknowledges humanity’s conflicts and fallen nature like a medieval morality play or a fairy tale might. There is transcendence in the beauty of his vibrant colors, the complex compositions, and the precise resolution he brings to his paintings and sculptures. He does not shy away from the darkness, but uses art to show the redemption of graceful love. Greco understands how the eternal function of art as an expression and a means for inspiration.
Leonard Greco “Saint George & the Dragon” Oil on panel 16″ x 20″ 2021
Leonard Greco was gracious enough to share some comments on his art and methods in a recent email exchange.
QUESTION: How did you initially get involved in the visual arts? Who were some of your inspirations?
Leonard Greco: There hasn’t been a period of my life where art-making wasn’t a significant element of my identity. Early on I picked up pencil and brush. I was fortunate in having an eccentric grandmother who was very creative, a gifted amateur in all manner of artistic expression: oil painting, stained glass, fine jewelry making, silversmithing, set design.
We saw one another infrequently, but I treasure the memories of time spent in her thrilling company, she was certainly a great, if erratic, inspiration.
Q: How do you create your paintings?
LG: I’m primarily a painter in oil. I am also an avid draughtsman, my painting start first in copious pencil studies ( I try to draw daily). I then, once I have a mental roadmap, begin the painting process. This process is laborious, in part because I am self taught and very well may be reinventing the wheel but also because the paintings I most admire, namely northern medieval and Renaissance panel paintings, possess a fastidious lapidary finish. Wishing to emulate that effect takes a great deal of time. I work with absurdly small brushes and there are far too many studio days when the territory claimed is mere inches of the canvas.
In addition to easel painting I also create textile art, frequently near life sized fiber constructions that I call “stuffed paintings”; they are hybrid works, part sculpture, part painting.
Leonard Greco “Robin Goodfellow” Mixed textile Life size 2019
Q: What do you hope to convey through your work?
LG: I wish to create a mythic timeless space that in spite of its unreality resonates as familiar. I am inspired by my dreams which are rich, highly symbolic and frequently terrifying. They possess a dim grey light , frequently shadowless, I try to capture that haunting atmosphere.
I am also trying to convey the universal truths we humans share, truths concerning life, death, one’s soul, worldliness in all its fraught excesses and the pursuit of the true, highly individual light given to us by our Maker. This search I think is best sought through myth and story telling. I am essentially a myth maker, a Fairy-taler.
Leonard Greco “The Knight’s Tale (after Chaucer)” Acrylic on canvas panel 18″ x 24″ 2020
Q: What have been some of the highlights of your artistic journey and career?
LG: Very early on I had unearned solo shows, I was far too young, far too undeveloped and frankly just naive, smug and stupid. Since those halcyon youthful days there has been time spent in the desert of isolation and inwardness. I had the good fortune to have a solo show called Leonard Greco’s Fairyland in 2019 ( https://leonardgreco.me/fairyland/ ) one more deserved, more intentional and most gratifying. Since that time I’ve acquired more collectors, have been included in more exhibitions ( including permanent collections) and looking forward to further collaborations and opportunities. But it’s been an arduous and discouraging journey, to be an artist requires courage, tenacity, grueling, frequently unrewarded labor and limitless faith.
Q: Are you optimistic about the direction the arts are going in? Why?
LG: I am not. Pessimism is so easy to succumb to and every century has had its doomsayers yet I am hard pressed not to feel a sense of despair when confronting a society of art elites hellbent on disregarding the history, beauty, craft and spirituality of our shared Western tradition. Without indulging in a screed against identity obsessed post modernism, what I encounter routinely in public museums and private galleries leaves me disheartened, cynical, uninspired and bluntly, quite bored. I never imagined being bored by contemporary art.
Q: Why does art matter in the 21st century?
LG: For starters I hope for a 22nd century, one that can look back to the 21st and reflect upon how fascinating and creative we were. Century after century, man has spoken to the next age. Through literature , art , music we send forth our best, for ourselves, for our Maker, for our contemporaries and in some way for our future kin. The art making of our day frequently reflects narcissistically upon a cynical, ironic age, one not given to a pursuit broader than pleasure and paper thin superficiality and when it does venture beyond its own navel, focuses not on eternal truths but instead is devoted to an identity politics of grudges, chip-on-the-shoulder score settling, a highly honed aesthetic of anger and retribution. It rarely creates engaging, inspiring or enlightening art. I require art that nourishes, nurtures and inspires my fullest aspirations, all too often when I am confronted with contemporary work deemed “meaningful” or “ powerful” by the art elites, I am instead left with a sense of extreme impoverishment.
Q: Why does art matter to you?
LG: It saved me, it offered hope and a sense of purpose. That’s so overblown and absurdly dramatic but it’s true. My boyhood was one of poverty, materially and spiritually. There was great violence in my home as well, little peace and no beauty other than the natural God given sort. Yet somehow, miraculously, in our attic there were discarded family treasures: old Bibles, Victorian scrapbooks and most tantalizingly, art history books belonging to my above mentioned Nana. Thumbing through these books, possessing what now would be considered the most minimal of images, I was nonetheless transported to the world of the ancient Egyptians, the vase paintings of the Greeks, the Medici court. It was a revelation, I wanted desperately to draw like Durer, I recall specifically taking pencil to tablet and with Durer’s patch of turf in mind, meticulously recording a dandelion.
My life was so desolate in my youth, deep, seemingly unbearable depressions, despair and shame in being a misunderstood gay kid , suicidal fantasies and yet through it all I drew. This determined practice allowed me to see myself as an artist despite the odds; the odds are still there yet I still cling to hope for what else is there?
Am I crazy, or ahead of the curve? Time will tell. In the meantime, here are another couple of sinister characters.
Richard and Michele Read the News
A year later, on March 31, 2020, we had just been informed two weeks to flatten the curve was just not good enough. Really. Flatten the curve, or flatten our civilization?
I am convinced the painting I made was a premonition of the Overblown Outbreak. What I did not take into account in the prediction made in my statement is before we reach the Remodern era, we have to survive the death throes of Postmodernism. We’re living that now, and it’s ugly.
The state of the culture is like that quote about the weather attributed to Mark Twain: everybody’s talking about it, but no one does anything about it.
Granted, there’s lots to complain about. Any sensible observer can see the social environment is rotting before our eyes. There’s endless commentary available on the latest outrages, and the hits just keep on coming.
It is important to call out the issues occurring. The first step towards change is recognizing there is a problem. But it’s only the first step. Once the problem is identified, it’s not effective to just keep recognizing it, over and over again. Action is called for.
Unlike the phony climate change hoax, the social environment is manmade. The cultural decay we are experiencing is the result of deliberate behaviors by specific people. They have intentions, and they make decisions. Funds are spent or withheld; access is granted or denied; viewpoints are encouraged or suppressed. The originating perpetrators tend to move stealthily, shielded by bureaucratic haze and patient incrementalism. Accountability is so defused, it is non-existent. This is by design.
Much of the proclaimed Postmodern mindset is based on severing the rational connection between cause and effect. Popular Postmodern positions require accepting delusions like being born a particular sex does not determine what “gender” you are. Or that community crime is caused by too much of a police presence. Or that the most free, prosperous and diverse nation in human history is the most racist and oppressive.
The Postmodern philosophy tends to be a package deal; if you believe any of this junk, odds are you believe all of it. Easily verifiable evidence refutes these assertions, and scores of other crazy notions like them. And yet the evidence is not heard; it’s not even allowed to be presented. This is not an accident, not just chance or misfortune. It’s a carefully managed plan.
We don’t know the names of those who are ultimately driving these schemes. That’s part of the plan as well. What I can see informs me that these persons unknown are very aware of the reality of causation, and the destructive results of the ideas they promote. This isn’t a situation of unintended consequences. The influencers aren’t deluded; they are manipulative liars, living embodiments of Doublethink double standards. They are superspreaders of delusion. They’ve weaponized it to advance their agenda.
Sadly, through covert campaigns, our cultural institutions are inundated by those working towards the death of our culture. Whether the participants are fellow travelers or just useful idiots, the end results will be the same.
Now, enough with the recognizing of the problem, again. Once recognition happens, it’s time to take responsibility.
What are we to do? I have great hope here. This human caused social environment crisis can be countered by other humans. Knowing most of our existing hierarchies are hopelessly compromised at the moment, independent action is called for. Let us be a joyous insurgency, each in our own way.
I have a soft target, in the arts. Establishment art has degenerated into an alienating money laundering racket. The audience for contemporary art is practically nil. Yet the creation and contemplation of art is an instinctual appetite for humanity. We still need it, want it, crave it even.
All you people who ever visited an art gallery or museum and left baffled or upset, I’m speaking to you. You were never the problem. So much of what our compromised cultural institutions present as art isn’t really art at all. It is propaganda meant to prop up the delusion. You knew they were failing to meet the genuine need for art you had.
I make art that comes to me in visions. Like dreams, the visions are full mysterious significance, and affirm the beauty and weirdness of the life God has granted us. My works will not be to all tastes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just know my paintings are the result of a sincere effort to share my particular nature in an attempt to reach universal connection.
Trust your own instincts, and find the art that appeals to you-or even better, try to make it yourself. It’s a rewarding experience, with endless capacity for growth.
Taking free actions, rejecting approved parameters of the officially sanctioned narrative, is how we can make actual climate change happen. It’s the Remodern way.
I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy abook. Or a painting.