Friday, July 11, 2008

The Sublime and Organized Isabel Bishop

Isabel Bishop
Self Portrait, 1927

Girl with Frankfurter
Laughing Head


Two Girls

Blowing Smoke Rings

Tidying Up

Bishop in her studio, 1971

Some scanned images from the beautiful volume, Isabel Bishop, by Karl Lunde. He writes:
Every weekday morning for almost four decades, neighbors of Isiabel Bishop in Riverdale, New York, have been able to set their watches by her appearance on her way to the station to take an early train to Manhattan, where she regularly begins her working day in her studio before nine 0'clock. At Grand Central Station she changes to the downtown subway for the remainder of the trip to the studio, which is on Union Square.
The experience of the subway - its life and its movement - is integral to the art of Isabel Bishop. On her way to the studio she often makes quick sketches of figures or compositional studies. Strangers in close proximity to one another, yet never acknowledging one another's existence, lonely riders in a crowded train hurtling through the dark spaces beneath the city's streets: these are the people with whom Isabel Bishop begins her day.
I love this bottom photograph of Bishop peering out of her fourth floor studio window to the people moving on the streets of Union Square below. She looks like a medical technician of sorts with that white lab coat. I have posted about Bishop for a couple of reasons: I love her classical, luminous paintings and etchings, but I am also intrigued by her work habits and studio practice. I would like to open a discussion about art work habits, and how, when, where (and why?) artists make art happen in their lives. I'm sure some of you are methodical, like Bishop, and some of you are more erratic in your scheduling. I find it helpful though, to hear how others do it; make time for art. One of my professors told me that he made himself a little stamper so that he could record the time he would enter and leave his studio. He punched in, like with a "real job." He said this action helped him feel like the time spent in the studio was valid. (This is pathetic, really, that artists feel so guilty about time spent in the studio...)
What does your day look like? How many of you are making a living with your art? How many of you live off a trust fund? Or have a supportive spouse? Or work other jobs?
How do you do it?


Susan Beauchemin said...

oh man--when my granddaughter was in school I had a set time every day--I didn't punch a clock, but getting her to school and picking her up later was my punch clock--it's summer vacation and I'm having to sneak a little time for art early in the morning before she wakes, but that's not much and I'm not getting any painting done as you can see from my stagnent blog!!!!!

Martha Miller said...

I used to feel victorious just getting my teeth brushed when my kids were little.
Two words:
Mother's Helper!!!

artslice said...

I hear you both on getting any time to yourself with kids! I have never seen Isabel Bishop's work, and am captivated by it! It's quite Rembrandt-esque, don't you think? Love the story of her on the train... thanks for sharing this lovely artist!

Martha Miller said...

Hi Brenda

Yes, her work is reminiscent of Rembrandt. You will enjoy looking her up - she made wonderful group paintings - figures in the street - on the trains - very classical in their handling. Stay tuned for a post about artmaking and having children...

Dean Grey said...


I like that Isabel Bishop took the train into the city to go to her studio rather than working straight from home.

Like the book suggested, the act of traveling and interacting with all those people fueled her artwork.

I need to get out more!