July 30, 2008

El Rincon

Our neighborhood here in Tossa is especially sweet. It's a part of the town where cars cannot proceed deeper because the streets get too narrow, pedestrians only. Our house in on a corner(una rincon), and we are flanked by great neighbors young and old.

Immediately to our right is Carmen and to the left is Victoria. Both are in their eighties, Carmen is a descendant of an Indiano, a Catalan who went to the Americas (Cuba) and came back with some wealth. Her house is like a museum, filled with old church relics rescued during the Civil War when anti-clerical revolutionaries sacked the church and killed the priests.

Victoria was married to a builder and her tiny house of wood and stone reminds me of a small ship, a tugboat with a garden patio. She keeps her place ship shape, there is no detail left unattended to, every bit of wood is varnished and every spot of stucco painted. She sure is sweet when she shows her patio, a collection of 2 yellow canaries, a turtle, and an eden of plants. Every morning she scrubs the street, vigilant in her eternal war with the cars who illegally park in front, with the dogs who piss on the flower pots, and kids who piss into the shadows when the crowd at the corner disco "Sivas" gets large enough to form a line that's too long for the wait.

I tend to get up a bit late since my studio time reels out into the wee hours. Opening the strong new wood doors of our house in the morning has a ritual attraction, but I usually miss Victoria's morning routine of hose, scrub brush and buckets. By the time I get out front, she is off to the beach as most of the older people like to do here in the pueblo, they tend to take their dip into the sea at 9 or 10 and duck back into their houses before the sun cranks on the heat.

The other morning, I saw Victoria in her doorway. She gave me a sidelong look, I couldn't tell her mood. She asked how I was doing in the studio. My studio is the second floor of our house, and my windows are directly across from hers. I have no doubt that she is quite aware of my musical tastes.
As best as I can interpret, she asked: "How many paintings have you done by now, you must have many, many of them, no?" I still could tell her mood, she was either irritated by my late hours or it's simply that being 80-something is no bowl of cherries. "No, I have painted only one so far." She broke her sidelong pose and shot me a look: "My God, you are up at all hours!" with a look that might be disgust. I couldn't tell.

But then again just today, she just gave me a dish of white beans and a huge link of buttifara, a pork sausage typical to Catalunya. I'm sure that will hit the spot around three am.

My wee hours must not be all that bad for her.

Posted by Dennis at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)

Admin: MailCall

Felllow CGS classmate, artist and writer Kerry Kugelman sent in a distilled version of my earlier video of a folio of Alberto's portraits, you can find it here.


I was delighted to receive greetings from an artist based in Bilbao, Patrick Michael Fitzgerald.

Here's an edited version of our exchange:

Dear Dennis,

A good friend of mine pointed me to your blog last month after I had started mine. I must say I really enjoy it...the last video post of the book of portraits is very nice.

I do know your work...I have seen it at the odd art fair etc....terrific paintings.

I'm also a painter by the way, I'm Irish but I've been living in Bilbao for nearly 20 years.

Have a look at my website/blog.

Very best wishes (and a productive summer!)


I wrote back:
Hello Patrick:

It's wonderful to share correspondence with an artist on the other side of the Pyrenees! Thanks so much for contacting me.

It looks like you have a great studio over there. How is the art community in Bilbao? I imagine that it is pretty rich with lots of artists and studio visits and arguments in the pubs. Over here, Barcelona is pretty weak when it comes to the qualifications as a true art city. The first qualification is cheap rent, and it seems Berlin is where that is happening. There's not too many fellow artists here, but then I get a ton of that in Los Angeles, so the contrast is complimentary. I am north of Barcelona in a little fishing pueblo called Tossa de Mar. My family was the catalyst for us settling in here, our dream (my wife and I) is to have a life split between the States and the EU. So far, so good; although we have much to do to bring that dream to fruition.

Your blog is impressive, you seem to have set the best tone as it appears to remain centered on the work and the environment that surrounds and feeds it. But then again, blogging is interesting in that while it appears to play this support role, it has a strange potential for becoming it's own medium, a potential that is threatened by the next turn of technological innovation as well as some weird resistance the art world has for awarding to blogging the expressive potential that other trans-genre arts seem to enjoy. But then again, there is something wonderful in exploring a realm that is a veritable wild country. We get to explore its' extents and make up the rules as we go along.

Patrick's response:
Hello Dennis,

Many thanks for your email, nice to hear from you! I initially came to Spain because my wife...(who I met in London) is from Bilbao. I fell in love with the place from the first day.

The art scene here is ok...but probably not that different from Barcelona, it can be a little hermetic (perhaps a very European thing) and difficult to get into. I do know artists here though and yes...enjoy the odd studio visit etc. Most of my colleagues who I keep in touch with are spread around Europe and further afield! I need a certain distance from the art world to be able to work....my contact with it is carefully rationed, though I like to keep abreast of developments etc. I have the impression that "art community" works better in the US. At least my experience in New York seems to bear that out....what's it like in LA?

You mention that Barcelona is expensive...this is also true here, in recent years the cost of living has increased significantly. My studio is in a small town 25km from Bilbao - where I also live....a studio of that size would be impossible in Bilbao for my pocket.

I'm glad you like the blog. I have had my doubts about it I must say...the hardest thing is knowing what to make public and what to keep quiet about. I feel it's best not to reveal too much. But the whole idea of an artist blog is fascinating and as you suggest new territory to be explored. For me it's really a kind of online scrapbook/notebook. Even if I was the only person to see it, it would still be a useful way of bringing certain things together for my own purposes. I find other artists and collectors seem to enjoy the blog...curators are another matter, perhaps they feel a little uncomfortable about the voice of an artist outside of a purely curated context...
Posted by Dennis at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2008

Toquen a Correr 2008

After rendering a portrait of Alberto with Sumi ink on an entire sketchpad in rapid succession, I flipped open the camera while Tossa's celebration of Toquen a Correr's music played in the background and Alberto flipped through the catalog of retratos.

A silly thing, this. A caprice.

Posted by Dennis at 5:53 AM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2008


The panels are ready, 12 canvases glued, stapled and coated with four coats of matt resin. Out comes the paper and drawing tools I bought at Barna Art in Barcelona. I'm just dusting off the chops, muscle memory. My thoughts swirl and I am treading in them, too many of them, tides and eddies and currents and undertow. I'm looking for my divining rod, trying to make some sense out of this swirl, not wanting to do too good a job out of it, as I am getting the tools and materials of art dirty. Silly things, my hand merely moving with the mind a wander. Take a chance, break the egg. The Spanish use a word for this: caprichos, caprice, whim, fickle. Yo quiero a ser poco caprichoso, but in the way of Goya's Caprichos.

Whim and gravity make a great combination.

I keep thinking of my brother. I miss him. My folks only had two children, my brother being the younger. i suspect he never liked that, being the baby brother. Before we became teenagers, he sized me up and told me in sage tones: "Dennis... you are... a young soul." Well. That was nice. Having a soul is indeed good news and being young is universally good currency. There was not much to say in response so I nodded and said something profound like: "...yea, ok." One beat, two. He said: "I am... an old soul." with more than his usual sense of contentment.

One always reveals oneself in a critique.

I always thought that my brother lived (lives) in his head. He had (has) an empire in his skull, much like my father did. My dad always had an amiable countenance, a courteous smile was ready for everyone, but there was a deep interiority that was forever inaccessible to the world at large. I will never forget every morning of our youth, his cigarette glowing a bead like a lighthouse in fading twilight, the sound of coffee percolating, mixing with the tobacco stained air. For hours, every single morning. What did he think about all these years? We have the genes of hermits in our family, for sure.
My brother and I don't talk to one another very much (not an easy sentence to write), I wish it was otherwise. The last time we talked over the phone, he was riffing on about death, speaking breezily about it, taking comfort in his identification with what he thought was the metaphysical, about how we were eternal beings and how this world is an illusion, a passing trifle. I tried to plant wedges of counter argument into the conversation, about cultures of death and cultures of life... to no avail. I'm sure he would disagree with my version of the conversation. He went on and on (even if it was probably a brief chat) and my gears were grinding until I couldn't take it anymore.
I said, finally: "Michael. All graves have claw marks at the edges."

Posted by Dennis at 8:16 AM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2008





Posted by Dennis at 12:37 PM | Comments (0)

Studio Time

The work brood begins.

Posted by Dennis at 12:34 PM | Comments (0)

Family Affair

Here are a few pics of the last two weeks with my wife Stephanie's mother Peggy and Aunt Lousie's visit here in the Costa Brava.

It's a whirlwind tour...





Posted by Dennis at 12:22 PM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2008

Please Stand By

The past two weeks were spent with family in our house in Tossa de Mar. Since I have been tugging the reins of this blog to keep the content of the site directed toward art, my studio and the nature of my imagination; a diaristic treatment of the recent family frolic seemed verboten. As an old friend in Chinatown said in a searing and succinct critique of the work of Marlene Dumas' painting seen recently at MOCA: "She wears her heart on her sleeve." And I think he's generally right about that, although every artist who realizes their affinities and is able to make them vivid to others deserves acknowledgement and respect. This critique points up the central hazard that blogging presents for artists. Emotion in art can become more powerful when one can sublimate them into the work. But pathos and the merely pathetic are separated by a razor's edge in a blogger's world.

However, I do like to hole the reins lightly and I am quite liberal in terms of where I believe one could detect sources of inspiration in an artists' project, so a subsequent post summarizing some highlights seems inevitable. As my pals here like to say laconically and with a smirk: "Woohoo."

The blog-dam is about to blow, after the huge interregnum that spans from the recent build out of my studio in Chinatown to my flight to Tossa and the small family reunion (pictured here: my wife Stephanie, her mother Peggie and aunt Louise, both visiting from Boston); I am facing a monk's heaven of two months of deep studio submergence here in Tossa... punctuated with an occasional snorkel and drinks with my dear Catalan friends. I've got twelve panels of two different sizes, several works on paper, all nearly prepped and more paint coming in from the online art supply store, Schlieper in Brussels. I'm more than ready and with an appropriate amount of apprehension as I am about to polish off the rust from my chops and face an interesting part of my arc after more than 300 paintings and countless works on paper in the realm of the body of work I call "wet-into-wet"... all this, mixed with some abiding thoughts about art history of the past and our art history soon to come.

Please stay tuned for all of that and more.


Posted by Dennis at 9:47 AM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2008

Please Stand By


Posted by Dennis at 10:50 AM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2008

Please Stand By

Blogging has been a difficult activity to manifest at this part of the summer's arc. Please accept this post as a placeholder until I can get into the proper head space.

Much hablaberia to come soon.

Posted by Dennis at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

July 4, 2008

Admin: MailCall


Artist Tamara Lee wrote:

Hi Dennis, I came upon your website as I was trying to do a search on how to create sharp peaks with acrylic molding paste and gels. Yours was the only one that I found that contained pictures of the little round spikes that you've done and I was quite impressed. You called them monads. I am a novice at painting and was wondering if you can teach me a thing or two about that technique. I am trying to incorporate some actual thorns into my painting and was wondering if you could tell me that the consistency of the paint you used, like what type and what type of palette knife you also used.

I have done too much research that produced no results. I was thinking of using a pastry bag but also have no idea if that would produce the spikes. Much appreciated for your help! Thank you.


Tamara Lee

Hello Tamara:

I have two answers for this type of question. One is long and misleading and the other is glib but truthful.

The former: I use palette knives to deliver a hemisphere of wet paint to the surface of the canvas while it is horizontal. I swirl the paint to make sure it is consistent and round. A photo of my palette knives are here: http://www.dennishollingsworth.us/archives/001305.html. I then fashion a probe out of thick paper cut by xacto blades and plunge the probe into the paint and withdraw it immediately to form a tail of paint as the probe exits the hemisphere. I start along the rim and rotate the tails to the top until the monad (my pet name for the spiky balls) is done.

The latter: I spent enough time with the art material until I evolved my own language, a language that is specific to my natural curiosities and my understanding of the art dialog.

If you pursue the former, you might only become a shadow of what I do. If you pursue the latter, you might become an authentic Tamara Lee.

Be careful!

I wish you all the best,


PS: Then again, E.H. Gombrich once wrote in "Art and Illusion" that to find out who you really are, it is best to copy someone you admire as exactly as you can. Inevitably there will be differences. It is in those differences that is the uniqueness of you yourself.

Dhriag Singh wrote:

I love what you've done to that picture! Looking forward to more velvet punditry.

I am a recent and accidental painter, please check out my works @ http://bodhishop.blogspot.com

(I took to heart his claim to be a young painter, so I dropped the kind of good advice I got when I was a pup.)

Hello Dhiraj:

Thanks for tuning in, it's much appreciated.

Good luck to you with your artwork, you've got an interesting start.

When I started out, I took the following advice to heart:

-to read history and theory
-to see actual artwork in galleries and museums
-to make something every day.

Getting out into the thick of an art center is good thing to do.
New York is the biggest, but London/Berlin/LA would be decent substitutes.

Remember, there are many artworlds. Choose the one you want to engage in with some care.

It's called the dialog, but as to what it is or where it is, this is a big bone of contention.

All the best,


Posted by Dennis at 9:37 PM | Comments (0)

Less Than Zero at Ground Zero

Another article points up the fact that something terribly wrong is happening at the site where our 21st century was born. If they build the unfortunately cloying and insipid "Freedom Tower" by Daniel Libeskind, something terribly worse will happen there yet.

So, let's do this instead:

-Rebuild the Yamasaki/Robertson structures. The challenge posed by the jihadist atavists hinges on a particular quality of fierce determination ("We love death more than you love life."), and surviving this war means matching and overmatching this degree of determination. WE HAVE TO LOVE LIFE MORE THAN THEY LOVE DEATH. Therefore our first response should have been to throw the towers back up, just as fast as the former LA Mayor Richard Riordan rebuilt the portion of the collapsed Santa Monica freeway back in the early 2000's. Alas, this opportunity has passed, but we still can rebuild the original structural feat that was the World Trade Center.

-...but we don't have to rebuild the original program of uses. Instead, program the site with a constellation of uses, especially the commercial ones that the "zero..." article is pleading for.

-Don't build one single memorial, build several... build hundreds of different sizes in a multitude of locations all over the site, up and down the towers.
-Extend the idea which organized the elevator/sky lobby system (see the second paragraph under the heading Design Innovations): "This system was inspired by the New York City Subway system, whose lines include local stations where local trains stop and express stations where all trains stop." ...and treat the towers to diverse programming vertically (Corbusier's Unit? concept) with housing and commercial programs feeding into the vertical street of each tower.

Strange, that this proposal is not more widespread.

(Image Source)

Posted by Dennis at 9:33 PM | Comments (0)

Summer Music

Every EU summer (at least in this part of the EU), a few songs anchor themselves into the season's mental universe. It's not unusual to hear the same set wafting out of houses and parties and multiplied over a night on the many dance floors that grace this pueblo. This year's favorite is Duffy. You can see from this interview how stage managed her career is, so much so that YouTube has been restricted from allowing her videos to spread virally via embedded code. Check her video anyway, despite the mannered presentation that reminds me of early MTV -not in a good way- (dancers aflame, wuh).

Great singer, though. Comparisons to Amy Winehouse need not diminish either performer.

Posted by Dennis at 9:29 PM | Comments (0)

July 1, 2008


Wee hours. Couldn't sleep.
Jet Lagged still, con todos de los horas en la madrugada. (Parties.)
Nice to noodle in the studio again.
I stuck a brush into sumi ink and swished it around.

Rendezvous with Alberto at Uriquinaona.
Subway to Fonda, walk to Ikea, looking for a futon for the house.

Back to Alberto's place in the Barceloneta.
"La Bomba" restaurant to eat potato balls and chiperones.
Barna Art Supplies.
I had to buy better paper than what i was using...
...at two this morning.

A hot day with lots of walking, we jumped into the sea once we got back to Tossa to cool off.

Very nice it was.

Posted by Dennis at 5:06 AM | Comments (0)

Rental Review

Here's the recent review of the group show I'm in at Rental NYC.

Posted by Dennis at 5:02 AM | Comments (0)