Louise Fishman: Distinguished Alumni Lecture at Krannert Art Museum

Louise Fishman: Distinguished Alumni Lecture at Krannert Art Museum


>>Well good evening. Hello everyone. I’m Laurie Hogin, the Chair of Studio
Arts Program and I’m so pleased to have this opportunity to introduce
our distinguished alumna, Louise Fishman. Born in Philadelphia, Fishman studied
at the Philadelphia College of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. After success at both these schools, she went on
to receive both a bachelor of science and a BFA from Tyler School of Fine Arts
at Temple University in 1963. Most importantly, she received her
MFA from UIUC in 1965 [laughter]. [ Applause ] She’s exhibited nationally and
internationally in too many venues to mention. This is heavily edited for time, including the
Art Institute of Chicago, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburg,
the Denver Art Museum, the Jewish Museum, Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C., the Neuberger,
the Fogg, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and the Woodmere in
Philadelphia, among many many others. She’s represented by Cheim
& Read Gallery in New York.>>I left.>>Ah.>>I left a year ago. Ra la la. [ Laughter ] It says that?>>So, is that not accurate either?>>No, I left– I left them. I was.>>Alright, she was represented by Cheim
& Read Gallery in New York until recently. We’re especially honored and excited about the
Krannert Art Museum’s retrospective A Question of Emphasis, which showcases
previously unexhibited works on paper and painted books from Fishman’s archive. She’s received numerous awards, including a
Guggenheim, a Macdowell Colony Fellowship, the Creative Artists Public Service
Program Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a New York
Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and a Gottlieb Foundation grant, among others. Her work has been the subject of articles and
reviews in the New York Times, Art in America, the New Yorker, Art News, the Brooklynn Rail
and the New York Observer, among others. So, with that, please join me in welcoming
our distinguished alumna, Louise Fishman. [ Applause ]>>Is that right? It’s red now. Oh okay. Can you hear me? Okay. I– I notoriously get
quiet when I– when I talk. Maybe I don’t want to be
heard always, but anyway, if you can’t hear me just let
me know and I’ll speak up. Yeah, I left– I had been with them for 20 years,
and before that I was with John Cheim, who is one of the partners
at the Robert Miller Gallery for five years before that, and
quite a few other galleries. I’m going to show you a very odd
collection of images from my career that– or go back and forth a little
bit in time in the first part. I’m skipping a lot of work, a lot of bodies
of work, which since I’m 80 years old and I’ve been painting since 1956, is my right. The– okay, the first image is after I
came back, I graduated from the University of Illinois in 65 and I went right to New York. I worked as a proofreader and an editor at a
Wall Street law firm, proofreader and editor at a pharmaceutical advertising company
and painted at night and on the weekends, and I painted all the time
when I wasn’t working. I hated the jobs, but that was what I had to do. And then at a certain point I realized
that if I wanted to see a psychiatrist, I was going to have to make a little
more money [laughter], which at that– there was a moment when I thought I
really need to see a psychiatrist. So, I– I had– my father insisted
that I get an education degree from– from Tyler School of Art. I had a degree– actually, my degree was in– one degree in education and a
degree in painting and print making. And when I was at Champaign, Illinois I
got a degree in painting and print making, which is– was the way we did it. So, I spent my time in both my own private
studio and somewhat private studio in the– and the graphic design–
and the print making studio. So, I came to New York, I lived in
the worst neighborhood in the world and in the East Village, at that time was
murders and drug dealing and my friend said, oh, it’ll be very safe, there are
police here all the time [laughter]. And then I found out why. I mean I didn’t have very much money and I
used to commute all dressed up from Avenue C on 10th Street to Wolf Street, and
just get that picture; it was really– anyway, I lived in apartments
for the first several years, and then a woman that I got involved with and
I moved into a loft. We couldn’t have either one of us afforded it by ourselves; it was $125 a
month and it was a floor through in a building that no longer exist on Cooper Square, downtown. And so– and then life changed for me and I
left that partner and ended up with two others and finally took a studio in
what was before SoHo became SoHo. This was on the corner of
West Broadway and Spring, which is where the Spring
Street Bar eventually opened; this is sort of an artist bar
and– but this is before that. There were two galleries in SoHo; OK
Harris, which was– what was his name? He worked at Castelli and
he discovered [inaudible].>>Ivan.
>>Ivan Karp, thank you. So, he had a gallery on West Broadway and
Paul Cooper had a gallery on Prince Street on the second or third floor, and
those were the galleries I went to, aside from the ones uptown,
lots of galleries uptown. And I want to tell you one
quick story that Ingrid– my spouse, Ingrid, who’s here,
fortunately keeping me sane. You know, I used to go to New York to look
at art, to go to the museums and to go to the galleries, go to 57th Street, which is– and uptown, which is where
they were at the time. And– and I went to the Cedar Bar, which
some of you will know was the artist bar of that 10th Street group, you
know, Pollock and de Kooning, well– yeah, and I think Pollock was
still alive of course then. Joan Mitchell, the whole slew of them. And I had this fantasy in my
head, you know, I thought I was– I was probably a pretty good painter because
I had been hearing that from my friends and whatever, that I would just join up with
these people, not very many women in that group. France Kline was probably
my favorite of the painters, and partly because I think he
was such an athletic painter. I mean those paintings of his just knocked
me out and I had seen them initially in my mother’s Art News magazines. And so I went to the Cedar Bar with a friend and
I had bought some rice paper, I was doing prints in Philadelphia, and I see in the front of
the bar is a table of all these artists, and I thought whew, how nice; I’m going
to get to know these people, ha ha ha. And what I did is I– I was carrying a role
of rice paper under my arm and we’re sitting in the back and Milton Resnick, who you
may know, painter who died, I don’t know, maybe 10 years ago or so, very
famous painter who was showing at Cheim and Read until they closed. He motioned to me to come over. So, I got up, I thought, oh, I’m
going to get to meet these people. I think Joan Mitchell was sitting there; I
mean they were all drunks, I mean that’s– they were all drinking quite a lot
and so I went up and I carried– I was carrying my roll of rice
paper, I don’t know why, and some– Resnick says to me, so what do you got,
and I thought he knows what I have; he’s a fucking artist and–
and I said it’s rice paper. And he said, oh, and then he motioned
for me to sit on his knee [laughter]. And, in an instant, I knew what the future
was going to hold for me, that I wasn’t going to be part of that movement, that this was
all about, you know, women and sex and, you know, hanging out with the guys. I would never have done that. First of all, I was queer, so
that wasn’t going to happen. Although I tried, you know, for
several years to like figure out if I could pull it off to
not be queer but I– it was– [ Laughter ] It wasn’t going to happen. So, anyway, this is a little studio in SoHo. Is that enough said about that? Yes [laughter]. And I was– you know, and I had started
out, I’m going to back track a little bit. When I had started out at the
University of Illinois I had– before that I had been in a painting seminar at
Tyler and my teacher called me over and I was about to graduate and he said, Louise,
you should apply to graduate school, because if you go there you’ll have
two more years of painting to do, you won’t have to have a job right away. And I said to him, it’s bad enough I
have to go to undergraduate school, why would– do they have an MFA in painting? Does that really exist, because
it was, you know, I mean– anyway, he said, I’ll write you a letter,
you’ll get to go there and it’ll be terrific. So, I agreed and I wrote to the University
of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, maybe Indiana, and I got into
the University of Illinois. And when I went to talk to the Chair or
whoever was interviewing me, he said, you know, that guy never wrote you a
recommendation [laughter]. There– you know, there was a level of
competition that was insidious and everywhere, and if you don’t know it now ladies
it’s coming; it’s going to be there. So, I came to graduate school. I was painting a very express– well,
somewhat expressionistic painterly paintings. And in the course of being in at the
University of Illinois and conversations with other painters who I was very close to,
two in parti– well, two, in particular, a guy named Guy Goodwin and Gerald
Hayes, both who were important painters and had been important to me through the
years; I’m still in touch with both of them. We began to– the influence by other things. It was a period when, for instance, Marsden
Hartley and Arthur Dove were being looked at, some– those were people I wouldn’t–
wasn’t really thinking about; I knew about them of course
from art history and so– and– Now I lost my train of thought. It’s a slightly different talk then I’m used– then I’m used to giving, so
you’ll have to bear with me. But the other thing that happened is there
was a show at the Arti Institute of Chicago. I got on the train with my friends and we went
to see this show; it was the New York Show. Al Held was someone I was very interested in, who did these very passionate
physical paintings. We get there, Al Held’s doing
hard edged paintings and we got– you know, the way we knew what was going on
in New York was through the art magazines and we were looking at Kenneth Noland and, you
know, this whole body of hard edge painting, this, you know, whatever primary
art, whatever it was called then. And I came back to my studio
and my work changed. So now, this is me in my d– Bob
Dylan look-alike [laughter] from 1970, and I used to be mistaken for him. I wasn’t tr– I knew him but I wasn’t
trying to be him or look like him, but even in a skirt some– some little
kid said, Mommy, it’s Bob Dylan. I was like, look, I have a skirt on, which
I stopped wearing at a certain point. So, you know, I was very much an
athlete and this is a very funny thing. One of the thing– my mother
saved a lot of my paintings and unfortunately a lot of them I didn’t keep. A lot of things I didn’t keep, which I’m sorry
about, and Ingrid, who is a bit of an archivist, is always upset when she hears about
it, but in any case, this is a little– I must have copied this out
of the Philadelphia Bulletin because I didn’t know anything about basketball. But what I– one of the– it’s a Yale
versus Princeton basketball game; I didn’t know anything about basketball
at that time and the basket is a grid. Now the grid started in my young
life on the streets of Philadelphia where we played bottle tops, and it was a grid. Hopscotch was a grid. Everything we did was a grid. And, you know, we played stick–
I mean stick ball, did I say that? Blah blah blah. So, then I started out at the Philadelph–
what was the Philadelphia Museum School; it was a great education for one year of
orientation, and then you had to major in a commercial art field, and I would have gone
on because all the painters were in advertising, you know, and they had very good painting
teachers, but they were majoring in advertising. And so, I wasn’t happy about but
it was going to be okay, I thought. And then my mother found
out that I had come out. I was seduced by a teacher at the Philadelphia
Museum School on a Saturday, I mean picked up and then seduced and I thought it was terrific. I mean, I thought, no wonder
I’ve been so screwed up. I’m– and she– and she– her bill of
sale was all the artists are queer, like Da Vinci was queer and
Michelangelo was queer. And I was thinking, yeah, that’s right. And, so it seemed like it was okay,
which of course, it wasn’t in 1957. And if you can just imagine what
it might have been like in 1957 through many years later, it was pretty rough. And anyway, my mother– someone
found out and called my mother. My mother took me out of school and so I signed
up at Temple University, which was Tyler School of Fine Art up in Elkins Park Pennsylvania. My father thought I was going
to the Temple campus. I was slightly devious, but
I wanted to keep working. So, and I painted primarily
in my parent’s basement. I didn’t like painting in a studio,
although Tyler was an academy then. It was run– the Dean was Boris Blai, who had been an apprentice to Rodin, and he brought his enlarging machine and some
other equipment and we did five week poses of a model in this barn and a lot of us did the
lost wax casting technique, which I couldn’t do because I had to– it was an hour and
a half commute and I worked at night and all day Saturday, so I couldn’t
have possibly done that casting. I wanted to be [inaudible] but
that wasn’t going to happen. So, I painted, and this was the fir– and I
remember struggling in my parent’s basement to figure out how to make an abstract painting. So, this is my first abstract
painting, you know, to try to avoid having landscape elements in it. One of the things I learned
at Tyler, I learned– there were two very important teachers,
one at the Philadelphia Museum School and one at Tyler that– well two at Tyler
that were crucial to my development. The first was Carl Sherman, who taught color
and design theory, and I’m sure he came from the Bauhaus, because I was in school
in 56-57 and there were a lot of people who were coming from Germany and from
other parts of Europe that were involved in the Bauhaus, and his teaching
was about Mondrian and Cezanne and understanding the rectangle, and
I’ve never forgotten a word of his. The– and an introduction to African
art and Chinese art, that happened at– through the University of
Pennsylvania, the university– what was called the University Museum. So, I, you know, and I had a sketchbook, which
I took everywhere, including on the subway with all my art supplies
and I was drawing non-stop. And so that was an incredible
year, incredible education, and– and Philadelphia I learned the Dutch
underpainting technique, half oil, half chalk. I learned how to grind my own paints. I learned how to use cologne glue and rabbit
skin glue, and we did grind lead white in– in one of the classes; we were grinding our own
paint and putting it in with beeswax in tubes, and I remember sitting there grinding
lead white and there was a cloud above us, like a cloud of lead white. So, just a little bit of
history, no gloves ever. So there– I did get like something
called turpentine poisoning and its very toxic materials. Anyway, so, I’m going to show you a couple of
self-portraits that I haven’t ever really shown in a slide talk, that came– this is from ’61. Now one of the things I realized is
I had no idea what I looked like. I mean these portraits don’t look like me
at all, and I worked from a mirror, but, for some reason, I had no idea
what I looked like, who I was. I mean it’s a very interesting i– question, really, like how much
do you know about who you are? I thought that I was afraid of everything,
but what I learned is people were afraid of me because I had a look on my face and a certain
demeanor that they were frightened by. I mean, so it was– like what I didn’t
know could fill a book, a very thick book. Anyway, this is– oh, one thing I wanted
to say is that medal around my neck, which you can barely see, is from a
medal that on d– on David by Verrocchio. So, I was paying a lot of attention to
art history and I had a lot of fantasies about who I was, despite who I wasn’t. This you can barely see,
or maybe you can see it, another self-portrait, also
looks nothing like me. And I thought, you know, the more I looked at these the more I realized
this is a very interesting thing to not have a clue what I
actually looked like and who I was. And this, much later, a portrait
of myself as a man. I had gone through a period of
questioning why I had the priv– I mean, granted I worked hard at jobs
and stuff, but why I had the privilege of being in a studio and painting. Well across the street from me there
were these people who started at 7:30 in the morning making change,
had a half an hour for lunch and went home at four o’clock or something. And I thought, you know, what is it that
gives me– a person like me the right to– you know, naturally a woman would be thinking
about this [laughs], the right to, you know, to do– to do this really very exciting
activity, to be engaged in making art. So, I started making– I started doing
drawings of one of my very favorite paintings, which is the Cezanne Bather at MoMA. And– and then I did– I thought,
you know what I want to paint; I want to paint Van Gogh’s those boots,
those workman shoes that I thought was like this is the best painting
I’ve ever seen and it has so much– so much in it, so much reality in it,
and I thought that’s what I want to make. And so, I started making this
painting and– oops, skipped. It was very interesting to have made that. Again, didn’t look anything like me. So, this is outside the graduate studio,
which was on the railroad tracks, and this was what was happening to my work
mid-year my first year, hard-edged paintings, minimalist kind of paintings
with oil, and I was photograph– we needed to have photographs of our work. Well the faculty did not like what I was doing because they thought I would
just keep painting these kind of passionate abstract hand drawn
paintings, and I was interested in– well this is I think related to a painter named
Yo– Jack Youngerman, who some of you may know, and probably Barnett Newman in some ways. I– I was very naive; one thing I didn’t
understand is how many painters were Jews, like I didn’t know that Newman was a Jew. I mean it’s the most obvious thing in the world, especially when you know the
breadth of his work, and others. This is, I think, a si– this is sideways. The painting was vertical but we, you
know, couldn’t photograph it the other way, so the bottom of the painting is the red,
if you can, I mean, move it around a little. And the faculty was really upset
with me, I mean they were not happy. And I just kept painting
the way I wanted to paint. What happened is in order to graduate I had
to paint a painting that they would accept, and I did; it was a little bit of a struggle,
but I painted a painting and they accepted it and I was able to graduate [laughter]. This wasn’t it. This is when [laughter]– I came to New York in ’65, right
from the University of Illinois. Just drove like a bat out of hell all the
way to New York like I’m going to New York. And yeah, to go and work on Wall Street
and live in a dangerous neighborhood, which is like what New York was
and continues to be in many ways. And this, from 1967, was, you know, like a– a variation on the earlier painting that I had
done at the University of Illinois that was in my retrospective several years ago. And then I did a bunch of– you know,
one of the things that happened, and I was talking to Ingrid about this, you
know, I always used oil paint and I knew a lot about it because I had learned
how to grind it and to, you know– I knew what was in it, I knew
everything about oil paint, I thought. And then acrylic came along and it was kind
of a dead material, as far as I was concerned, but in order to do paintings like this one, for
instance, which was probably influenced by– well there’s always the grid, which it was
connected in part with Mondrian and Cezanne, but also with Sol Lewitt, who I loved, sculpt– when he was doing sculpture
I was nuts about his work. I just happened to be at the Hague
when he had a big exhibit of that work and he had a big– I was very influenced. So, the– this painting and a whole group of
others, I don’t think I have images of them, there– there’s a pencil grid
and the canvas is stained– it’s covered with a water and
the paint is stained into it. And the process was to let the brush go until
it was out of paint, and then load it up and then start again, so
that it’s a kind of passage. Let’s see, this is ’71. In– in the late 60s I became very
involved with the feminist movement and the queer movement in a rather radical way. And I was meeting with a group of women
artists, talking about our experience as women and the way pe– the curators would walk
right past our work to see the men’s work, which was in the other room or something. I was never with a man during– I
mean, certainly, during this period, so I didn’t have a curator going
through my studio to see the man’s work, which happened to my friends,
and didn’t even open their eyes to see what they were walking past, and many
of them have shown a lot since then, but. I decided that– I look back at my
influences and at art history and I realized that there were no women that had influenced
me, zero, because when I was in art school and we had art history there were no
women; even Mary Cassatt wasn’t in the– in the library of artists; it was all male. And I remember sitting during an art history
class thinking there’s something really wrong with me, I’m never going
to be able to be an artist. I don’t have– women can’t be artists. I’m a fake. And that– I remember thinking I’m
a fake, and that’s very painful. But in this case, what happened is when
this woman’s group started to compare notes to do consciousness raising in this
traditional way, which I taught them, because I knew it from meeting with,
well initially, Red Stockings and then with Upper Westside Witch, which
is a more radical organization, that I was going to eliminate
everything that was male in my work. Fat chance, but– but I did what I could. And I cut up my grid painting, cut them up. I started stitching them together. The only piece I’m able to show you here
from that period is a piece that’s actually on tracing paper, covered with
rubber, and I’d met Eva Hest. She also had worked at the Cooper Union Library. Cooper– yeah, Cooper Union Library of
the Decorative Arts, where I had a job, and we got to know each other a little bit. We used to have lunch. We both cut our hair at the same time
and I didn’t know much about her work, I just liked her and she liked me. I didn’t know her parents were survivors. I mean I knew very very little. And then I found out from Lucy
Lippard that she was dying. And after she died, I was
stunned because I had no idea. There was a memorial exhibit at the School
of Visual Arts and I saw the work she did, which had a lot of wax, a lot of rubber. We know the pieces, but it was a small show and
it was the first time I had really seen what that woman had done, and I was stunned by it. What a great loss that was. She was a miracle worker of an artist and
what she went through to try to deal with it. I mean, her mother committed suicide, you know, I mean it was very– survivors
had a rotten time. Anyway, this– I started working with rubber. I thought, you know what,
I can do anything I want. She set the path for me, I can do anything
I want and went down to Canal Street, where I was living at the time, and I bought
a gallon of liquid rubber, I bought all kinds of other materials, and I did cut
these paintings up and reassemble them. I’m not going to tell you too much
about the history of this, but in 1973, after I was in the Whitney
Biennial, my first Whitney Biennial, I realized that I had this
extraordinary rage in me and I– in my– when I was in my studio I made a painting called
Angry Louise, and it was so upsetting to see it that I turned it– it was acrylic on paper. I turned it around and I thought I can’t
come back to this studio and come in and see this painting, you know, so I
turned it around, tacked it to the wall. Went back, came back, turned it around and it
still had the power that it originally had, and I thought, you know, this
is very important here for me. I’m going to make one for, well then, the woman
I was involved with at the time, Esther Newton. I thought this is good, it’s important
for these people to see their rage. And so, made one for Esther, who, by the way, just published her memoir called my
Butch Career, which is a fabulous book; she’s a cultural anthropologist of very
high order, and so I made Angry Esther and then I went through the
litany of my friends. And then when I ran out of my friends
and people I knew through the movement, like Ti-Grace Atkinson, Jill Johnston,
etc. then I started going to my heroes. Well I was madly in love with Marilyn Monroe
and, you know, I won’t tell you the history of that because I’ll be here forever, but I
want– I didn’t know whether I wanted to be her or to have her, and I think probably both. I just thought she was like the best
thing on two feet– two legs, right. Anyway, this is Angry Marilyn. I did– excuse me. I did others that people I
didn’t know, but in any case. So, in the 80s I started thinking more about
the fact that I was a Jew and what that meant and I started reading a lot about
Judaism and history of Jew– my grandparents on both sides came from Russia
because of the Pogroms, etc. My grandfather, my father’s father, had to flee to Argentina
and became a [inaudible] and then came up through South America and Texas to visit
relative, and then came to Philadelphia where we lived and my father was born. So, I was born in ’39 and I was a– you
know, part of the second World War. I mean the war started in ’39, ’41, etc.
And I did a lot of reading and then I be– came upon the Golem, which I’m not
going to talk about it at great length, but if you don’t know the Golem it’s an
extraordinary story of a sculpture that was made out of clay with certain ritual
commentaries; walk around this way three times, circle it around the other way three times,
say something in Hebrew, blah blah blah, and it became the savior of the Jews. And during like Passover when the Christians in
various countries thought the Jews were taking– the killing non-Jewish children
and taking the blood of– for their Seders, the Golem came
out; it was a fantasy, of course. And the Golem came out and terrorized the
communities, the Christian communities, so they wouldn’t do that anymore. Or found the– I don’t know. Anyway, the Golem is a lot of– there’s movies
about the Golem, early movies, later movies; he was like a Frankenstein, which
was of course written by a woman. In– in 1988, I was introduced to a woman. I’m– I’m sorry, you know, I
always cry when I talk about this. I’m going to do my best not to, but– and I
didn’t use to, but then later, as I got older, I became so much more vulnerable to the feeling. I had a show at Baskerville and Watson,
which was a wonderful gallery that I was in in the 80s, and my dealer
came up to me and said, Louise, I know you don’t like to know your collectors but I think this one you
will really want to know. Her name is Valerie Furth
and she’d like to meet you. So, I said okay, because he was
very smart and in tune to me. And she– we met in the gallery during my show
in ’86, and she looked at a painting of mine. She said, Louise, this painting
reminds me of Auschwitz. Now I didn’t have Auschwitz in mind
at all, it was a painting I made, but it had some reference for her. And she said to me, I’m a
survivor; I was in Auschwitz, I survived Auschwitz and one other camp. May have been Bergen-Belsen. And so, we became close friends. She bought a number of paintings of mine. And then several years later, well in ’88, she
came to my studio and we had lunch afterward and she spread out these pamphlets
from the Simon Wiesenthal Center. She said I’ve agreed to go back to Auschwitz
and Terezin– not Terezin, Bergen-Belsen. Well they didn’t go to Bergen– I
agreed to go back to Eastern Europe. I always been afraid of it for years because
I didn’t want the nightmares to come back, but they won’t do a tour of these countries
unless a survivor leads them, leads the group, and so, she spread it out and I said,
Valerie, do you want me to come with you. And she said, well you could. I thought of it as a way of supporting her,
but what I didn’t realize is she was a hell of a lot stronger than her husband
was, who had lost his entire family. He was sent from– they were both from Hungary,
and he was sent by his family to a cousin in– to an uncle in Boston to continue his education because Jews were no longer
permitted to study in school. So, he was there, and when he– while he was
gone, his entire family was killed in Auschwitz. And so, that was really– he was having a
horrible time and she mentioned it to me, and I– so I decided to go,
I got my visas, I got– it was still part of the Soviet
Union, all these countries. We went to Poland, Czechoslovakia
and Hungary to meet with the Jewish community
there, whatever was left of it. A lot of the Jews that we met had not been
told they were Jewish and had recently learned from their parents that in fact they
were Jews and they wanted to know what– Jewish material was not legal in
those countries at the time, so we– and I didn’t know that but they were smuggling
Hebrew material to these young people. Anyway, I went– you know, it was like
three weeks or something, and she, you know, stood up in the bus when we went–
we flew to Krakow and then– and there was terrible anti-Semitism
everywhere we went and I wore a Jewish star; I wanted to see what that
was going to feel like. It didn’t feel very good, I have to say, but
there– there was a bus from Krakow to Auschwitz and Valerie stood in the front with a
microphone and she talked about her experience. And as we were getting close to Oswiecim, which
is the town in Poland where Auschwitz was, there were young kids holding signs,
die Jews, things like, you know– things that were so disturbing,
it was like swastikas and– I w– I got an education that was unbelievable. We got there and to Auschwitz and they
ha– the– the Poles were running at– it was Soviet run, Polish run, they w– the
acknowledgement was that Poles had died there, not the Jews; they didn’t talk
about Jews having died there at all. It was a death camp for Jews. It was a work camp for Poles. Anyway, we were there, and the– there was
a Polish guide and he’s taking us around, and Valerie says, I want to go to the
stable where I– we lived when I was here. And he said, well that’s not on the agenda. And she said, I’m not leaving
until I see that place. And we all said, and we’re not leaving either. She said to me, I’m going back to Auschwitz
with silk underwear and a mink coat. That woman was incredible,
incredible, and a painter. So, they did a lot of harrumphing and finally
they took us to that place and it was, you know, it was– I remember being bitterly
cold the whole time and the– they had displays that were like so disturbing. I’m sure many of you have seen the displays
that are at Auschwitz of children’s shoes, of you know, crutches and artificial
legs, things that they had taken. Hair, that was the worst
for me, big clumps of hair, filling an entire giant case
in this so-called museum. And so, I’m not going to tell you more about
that trip, except I remember that the– the people from– the Jews from Czechoslovakia
and the Jews from Hungary and the Jews from Poland all fought about which
country had the worst anti-Semitism. [ Inaudible Response ]>>Oh, so, I was at a loss,
emotionally in every possible way. I was– like physically, I was so
cold, I remember shivering, and I– I was at a place where there was a
pond and it was next to a crematorium that had been destroyed by
the Germans before they left because the allies were coming
to liberate the camp. And I didn’t know what it was exactly and I
walked into this pond and I took a handful of soil and put it in a baggy and put
it in my pocket and went home with it. And I– I was sort of a basket
case when I came back and I– I was living in upstate New York and I went
back to my studio and I couldn’t paint, and my paintings– I’ve taught a lot and
I always was able to recognize children of survivors and I was looking at my paintings
and thinking this is what I’m looking at now. I was not certainly a child of a
survivor but I knew what that was about. And I thought, I’m never going to be able
to paint again; I lost my ability to paint. And a friend of mine, who later founded
Williamsburg Art Materials, another painter, Earl Polansky, he came over and he said
Louise, you have to paint, and here’s– he brought me a mortar and
pestle and a container of beeswax and he said you’re going to
be able to make paintings. Use– I told them that I had these, you
know, the soil that was in this pond. He said you could– you could grind them into
this material and you could make paintings. I said, no, I don’t think I can do it. And then a dealer of mine, Simon Watson,
who would introduce me to Valerie, said, He came to look at these paintings. I said I’m never going to
show these, and he said, yes you are, because you’ve become a witness. It was like, by default, I’d become a
witness and I painted these paintings. I ground this beeswax in the soil, in this– with this mortar and pestle
and added it to each painting. So, there was a little bit of a grittiness
in each one and I painted a series, I forget how many, and he
said to me, Simon Watson, I mean he’s really quite–
was an incredible dealer. He said, you have to show
them, it’s your responsibility, you’ve become a witness;
you– you have no choice. And so, I thought, okay. What I’m going to do is I’m going to title
these paintings with the names that had to do with the Seder, the Passover Seder, which is
a freedom festival, so celebration of freedom. And, so each of the paintings had, like this,
in this case, this is the one I kept for myself, Bitter Herb, is from the Seder table. And Simon said to me, I’ll show them. And he had a– at that time, just a gallery
showing a lot of art by men that had AIDS. It was time– that moment. And also, Marlene Dumas and some very, you know, eccentric artists that were
coming out of the woodwork then. And he was very interesting. It was all, sort of, political in one
way or another, and he did a show. One of the members of the group sent me a
photograph of me standing in front of that pond. And behind me, I hadn’t seen the
sign, it said pond of living ashes. It’s where they emptied the crematorium. So. Anyway, that’s that. You have any questions about that? I mean, that’s very loaded. You do? Okay [laughs].>>Did you find yourself slowing down with
that series as you ran out of [inaudible]?>>I stopped after I ran out of it. [ Inaudible Response ]>>I’m sorry?>>Where you’re running out
and sort of [inaudible]?>>I felt like I’d already done it, you know. It sort of it went its root. The first four paintings I didn’t show. They’re– they’re each one is
called Corpus; Corpus one, two, three and four, and they were smaller paintings. And then I started making bigger paintings. I didn’t show those. I did show one of the Corpus paintings; I still
own those and I still own this Bitter Herb. Hmm?
>>You don’t own Bitter Herb.>>I thought I did.>>No.>>Which one do I own? I own– I kept– [ Inaudible Response ]>>Oh, Valerie bought–>>Valerie bought it.>>And a collector of mine bought
her whole collection when she died. What is the one– I kept one of
them; now I can’t even remember.>>Four–>>Four– Four Questions,
[inaudible] in Yiddish. So, I’m jumping to quite a bit later, 1992. I had– I did a series of paintings about Mars. Valles Marineris is a system of what
was a water system, you know, a– hmm?>>Canal.>>Canals on Mars that were
empty, of course, but– but that was what they were
called Valles Marineris. They were all big grid pa–
very big grid paintings. So, I am jumping a bit. Ninety-three, this is one of
the largest paintings I’ve made; Iron Sharpens Iron; Ingrid’s favorite painting. And, you know, one of the things that I
have experimented a lot with was scale with very large paintings
and very small paintings. And, in this case, when I was
upstate, in my little garage studio, I started making little sculptures. I mean I’d done a lot of sculpture at Tyler
and I was always interested in sculpture, but I didn’t have the facilities to continue
with it, but I did a lot of small pieces. There was a foundry, it turns out, that
was nearby and a friend of mine said, oh, I could take these over to the foundry
and we could, you know– so, I had– some of them were– were cast in
bronze and– and I painted them. So, these were in a show at– well
there’s just two of them that I’m showing, at ICN Philadelphia, which
was part of my retrospective. Scale has been crucial to me and there is
little tiny paintings that are like two inches by three inches that actually, if I reproduce
them here would look like large paintings. So, it’s a very– it’s a very
curious– scale is very curious to me. The Art of Losing, I’ll tell you
very briefly the subject of this. I mean there’s a– it’s a grid,
it’s sort of a broken-up grid. There was– Elizabeth Bishop wrote this
poem called the Art of Losing and it was about her partner was a woman
who ran off with a man. And so, she– and she was a notorious drunk
and she went to a hotel room with a bottle of whiskey and she wrote this
poem, a beautiful poem about loss. And came back to her house
and the woman returned. So, I had just left my partner of 25 years and
so this was about losing or loss or, you know, and in this case, I think it was a very
important thing to have left that relationship. And this– I’m going to just
go through more quickly because I have a feeling
I’m running late, possible. The sizes are there, they all look, sort of,
equal in size, but if you just pay attention to the bottom corner, they vary a lot. This is a work on paper, on corrugated
paper that I– you know, I have– I’ve spent a lot of time working on drawings,
work on paper that are not about, you know, a sketch for a painting at all; they’re just
about that material, that piece of paper or that, whatever the– you know, whatever
it takes to make it, it’s just a drawing. So, yeah, this is eight and a half by five; quite a very funny thing
to see it at this scale. But my– Ingrid and I had gone on– I had
this three artist residencies in Venice that were two months each and because it
was an apartment that they gave me I decided to work on– work on paper and books. And so, I’m going to just show
a few pieces that I did, again, eight and a quarter by five and three quarters. This is a– a later version of Blonde
Ambition, which is in your collection at the Krannert right now, but this
is the original Blonde Ambition; this is my Marilyn, nine– nine by 11. The rest of the painting– well, a group of
paintings I’m going to show are paintings that when I came back from Venice, you know,
I thought when I came back from Venice, as I had in the past, it would take me months
to get back to my own work in the studio. But, in this case, because it was all about
art, it was all about reflections of light, sky, water, Titian, Tintoretto, Giorgione. And walking on those cobblestone
streets that they had all walked on, and I was stunned by that, I was in a kind of
romantic reverie for two months and working on the kitchen table and being fed by
Ingrid, we were right around the corner from the Rialto Fish Market and she’s Danish
and knows a lot about fish and how to cook it. So, these are some paintings
from that three Venice trips. And some of the watercolors. I don’t know how many I put in this group
but this is 2013 was one of the trips. This was a painting I did in New
York; it’s three by two inches and I think it has the kind
of power of a big painting. So, it’s very interesting to
me, because it gave me a– a very full sense of scale, what it means. This is a painting that was, sort of,
dedicated to my mother, who was a painter, and who was very involved with color. I wasn’t for a very long time. I was much more interested in the
form, the grid, the rectangle, the– you know, the way Cezanne put a piece together,
Mondrian, and but what year did she die? She died right ar– ’13. So, I made this painting and it
was all her colors that was sort of a painting thinking about her. A lot of my paintings also have to
do with music; I play the piano, although very poorly and sometimes not at all. The Kreis– oops, sorry. Kreisleriana is considered one of
the most difficult pieces of music; it’s written by Schumann, and to
this day I haven’t heard it played. Although my– one of my shows, not
the last show but the show earlier, this friend of mine did a concert
and I said can you play Kreisleriana? She said, I don’t have it in my fingers. I thought okay. So, she played other Schumann. Margate, this was painted after I
came back from London and it was a– an exhibit at the Tate of Late Turner. And I– and also a lot of
the paintings in this– in the museum were little
paintings he had done in Venice. And I was– I mean they were oil
paintings, little oil paintings, a whole room of little oil paintings. I thought, God, Venice really supplied
so much material for so many artists. All those English artists went to
Venice, along with so many writers. This painting was painted for Jesper, who
is– who is Ingrid’s brother who died of AIDS, Sven Jesper, who was a very
important fashion designer, and it was kind of a little memorial for him. In 2016, when we were in Venice, I discovered a
store that sold pigment and I thought, you know, I could work with egg tempera, which
I had learned how to do at Tyler. And so, I bought the dry pigment
and I bought some solvents mat– you know, oils and things that you can mix with
it and went home and I remembered how to use that egg to make tempera and I did a
whole series of paintings on paper. You’re supposed to do it on board,
of course, because they’re fragile, but I used enough something
to get them to survive. And these are just a selection
of paintings up until 2018. So, I’m going to move– how am I
doing on time, does anybody know? [ Inaudible Response ]>>Move along.>>Move along [laughter]. This is a– a quote from [inaudible] a very
famous painting that– a poem that led to– that led to the Wasteland,
T.S. Elliott’s Wasteland. My– my brother myself or my same my– myself. Anyway. This painting, There Comes a Warning Like a Spy,
is from Emily Dickenson, one of my great heroes, and it’s a very beautiful short poem. Lately, I’ve hardly read anything because my
brain was so rattled from a variety of things, not just Trump, but also lots of
other things that are going on, but it’s been hard to concentrate. And on, you know, so I have– but I always
read Walt Stevenson, Emily Dickenson and Gerald Stern, who was
a mentor of mine, a poet, a very important poet who’s in
his– I think in his 90s now. Choral Fantasy is also a
piece of music by Beethoven. It prefigured the ninth symphony, the choral
section of the ninth symphony and it’s one of my favorite pieces of
music; it’s the most joyous. I had an old recording of Toscanini
playing it and it was– I lost it. So now I have Rudolf Serkin was my
favorite pianist from Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Curtis Institute
of Music, and– and Leonard Bernstein, a very good recording. Anyway, it’s a very pa– if you don’t
know it and if you’re interested in music this is very powerful music. And I think– oh, a couple from 2018. Oops, sorry, this one you have to
see because it’s so unusual for me. Yeah, well, this is also connected to my mother. It’s connected to Proust. My mother read– my mother had a high
school education and studied French most of her life and read Proust in French. And I didn’t read Proust in French. I read some English Proust but I
was always very impressed with her and who she was in a variety of ways. As difficult as a mo– a mother as she was,
I loved her and I had great respect for her. So, in a way, this– and this painting is
the most spare painting I’ve ever made. I don’t think it’s an easy
painting to look at in a slide. It has much more presence in person, so. There must be another one. How come it’s not– ? Oh, it’s not– it’s frozen. Huh?>>You’re pushing the wrong button.>>No, I got the right button. It’s frozen backwards and forwards. Is anybody a tech– technologically
brilliant in here? Nobody? I want it to go forward.>>Okay.>>Yay. Excellent. Skills I didn’t know you had Amy. [ Laughter ] And this is one of the late paintings of mine,
late referring to them as my late paintings. I have quite a few more paintings
in my hands I hope [laughter]. But it was the end of 2018 that I painted this
and it’s now in a show, about to be in a show at a gallery in London, a group show. But it is, again, this is the same size,
110 by 70, as the Iron Sharpens Iron, but a very different painting, and it’s
called Mondrian’s Grave, which was the subject of a short essay by a woman I know who gave me
the pamphlet when she realized how devoted I was to Mondrian, and it was about his grave,
which was kind of hidden somewhere in Queens and she went to it and found it and people do
make [inaudible]; I’m not going to do that. But this is an homage to Mondrian. So, I think that’s it. I’m sure it’s it. Oh no, my last painting. Frigg, which Dane– in Danish means–>>It’s the Nordic God.>>Nordic Goddess, thank you Ingrid. It’s Danish. Or is it Swedish?>>Danish.>>Danish.>>Nordic.>>Nordic. She’s a Viking. Just a tad of a Viking. Anyway, this is, you know,
it’s a powerful painting. It has some color in it,
which is subdued in the slide. That pale green, pale blue. There’s a little– it’s a little more in
evidence when you see the painting upfront. So, one thing I can say is my
paintings sort of they’re very– they have a kind of formality and a
passionate kind of expressionist quality that somehow gets merged
that I can see in slides. So, that’s it. If you have any questions– [ Applause ] Can I get undone?>>You can get undone [laughter]. Unless you want to say something
else remember after I do this.>>Oh right, yeah, I do want to say something.>>So, thank you very much for being here. In case you don’t know, I’m Alan Mette, I’m
the Director of the School of Art and Design and what a powerful, powerful presentation. In 2010 the School of Art and Design established
a distinguished alumni award to honor our alumni for their accomplishments to their field
and to their professional community. The faculty and the school nominate and
select the recipients for this honor. It’s my great pleasure to present the 2019
distinguished alumni award to Louise Fishman. We honor Louise’s long and distinguished
career as an artist who’s impact on abstract expressionism is celebrated and whose humanity is inherent
in all that she creates. So, Louise, we would like
to present this to you. And it reads, Louise Fishman is a highly
distinguished alumna and in recognition of her esteemed career as an abstract
expressionist painter making political and cultural identity ever present in her work. So, congratulations.>>Thank you, Alan. [ Applause ] My [inaudible]. I wanted to– to thank a few people. First of all, I have to thank Ingrid because
without Ingrid trying to find all the paintings in my oeuvre that I gave– either gave
away or that were sold here and there and I didn’t have a record of she’s been try– trying to deal with the catalogue
raisonné, which eventually will happen. And so, one of the things I remember is that I
left the painting at the University of Illinois that was supposed to be at the Krannert. And I said, well, you know, I wasn’t proud of
it, because I painted it so I could graduate, but it’s probably a good– a good enough
painting, and I had a slide of it, which I didn’t show, which just as well. But she said, oh, I’m going to write to
the art department and find out about it. So, she did and got a form letter back, somewhat
of a form letter saying, well we have no record of this painting and blah blah blah. And– and Ingrid turned around and Ingrid’s a
real Dane, she doesn’t take no for an answer, and she wrote back and she said, well
you may want to look this person up, you might be interested in having this
painting some place in your collection and– and within two days, I think– a very short
time, we got an email asking if Brenda and Alan could come to the studio and they
made a special trip, came to the studio, I showed them what I was doing, and it
was a– it was a lovely visit, really, and I talked a little about
what– my being here, etc. And a couple days later we get an email that
Amy of the Krannert wants to come to the– my gallery, it was a show up at the time, once
and would like to meet me and come to my studio. So, hop, skip and a jump, not too much
longer after that, Amy decided it was time to do a retrospective of my work on paper,
and that was how all of this transpired. So, I thank all of you, Brenda,
Alan, Ingrid, and Amy for this.>>And thank you. [ Applause ]

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