Karen Horn: Artist in Residence (Oct. 24, 2001)

Karen Horn and Frank Cieciorka arrived in Alderpoint by different paths, but paths much like those trod by many of us as we retreated north from the Bay Area at the close of the 1960's. The relative serenity of the Northcoast has enabled both to focus their considerable abilities on their art. Karen Horn is a well-known painter of mesmerizingly lively still lifes. Frank Cieciorka is as renowned for his vivid 60's-era political drawings as he is now for his golden landscapes of Humboldt County and his portraits of the every day people who live here. The two are also a couple of many years tenure, living and working in the hidden away Humboldt hamlet on the Eel. This week Karen, next week Frank.

A multi-talented person now focused on her painting, Karen is also an “in-demand” cellist, meaning that she can hold her own in a symphony orchestra. She works in a large studio just off the living room of a rambling structure erected piecemeal by her husband and first critic, Frank. “He critiques every piece I do; nothing leaves here without Frank's approval. And nothing of his leaves here without my approval. We complement each other in the best way.”

Frank's studio is a few steps down hill from the couple's modest and architecturally representative Emerald Triangle home, a house that began as a cabin for a single urban refugee which grew into a home and work place for a family of three. The art that Karen makes is of an order that inspires a kind of awe in the drop-in philistine who interviewed her. 


Karen: I love it back here in Alderpoint. I’ve had art dealers come out from the big city who say things like, 'Artists always find these great hideaways. This is one of the most hidden I’ve seen recently. It’s beautiful too.' 

AVA: You're from the East Coast?

Karen: Yes. I was born in Pennsylvania in 1946, the Birth of the Boomers. A few months after I was born, my family moved to Freehold, New Jersey, the home of Bruce Springsteen. My Mother was a schoolteacher, my father was a chemical engineer. I have to thank my gay uncle for encouraging me in music and art. He was a good musician, and he painted. He’d supply me with art supplies and art criticism books. He knew. He knew. I was one of those weird little kids who just hung out and grooved, and I loved to hang out with him and listen to him play music or paint or just talk.

AVA: Was it clear to your parents you had real ability?

Karen: In high school I was a good enough cellist that my music teacher wanted me to go on and study music. I said absolutely not. I wanted to go to art school. My parents didn’t want to send me to an art school. I said, If you don’t, I don’t know what I’ll do but you won't like it. (Laughs.) I have managed to avoid gainful employment for all but five weeks of my life. I figured out some way or other to get by and paint. I was pretty naive when I got to college. I had friends who had gone through their Picasso period in high school. (Laughs) But my high school had had some money to do things for students, and one was bus trips into New York. My art teacher was completely undemocratic about it. He would just take the students he liked and he knew he could trust not to misbehave. It was only 45 minutes to New York, so once a month we’d go in on our big yellow school bus to see movies, plays, the museums. I had my favorite rooms in the Metropolitan. I had my routes. Get off the bus. Go over to Fifth Ave. Take the bus over to Fritzen collection which had a great El Greco. And a Vermeer. And the best women’s rooms in the city. (Laughs) Beautiful mirrors all around. Gilt fixtures. Then up to the Metropolitan, the Guggenheim. Then take the bus down to the end of the village. Poke around in galleries on show. 

 AVA: You knew what you wanted to do as a kid and you set out to do it.

Karen: Oh yes. I first went to Washington University in St. Louis, far from home. They had an art school on campus. There are a few universities that do that. Not an art department, a separate school. It was very good. Very rigorous. There were a lot of German refugees in St. Louis and a large German population. They had a major German expressionist collection at the school. And Max Beckman taught there. By the time I got there was a design teacher who had been a friend of Kandinsky and part of the Bauhaus movement. Talk about rigor! The first thing he taught us to do was how to sharpen a pencil. First you got out a razor blade..... And you made circular points or triangles. Three different things. A blunt mark, a circular mark and a pointed mark. Then straight lines. All our first design projects were straight lines. Straight edges. Then after a while you could make a diagonal. Then… you got to make a dot! It was intense drill. The idea was well to throw away your technical skills in service of an inner vision. But it’s not all right to have in mind something you want to do but lack the technical ability to do it. Everybody was artistically ambitious. They had a very strong painting department. You went to Washington U. if you wanted to paint, and if you were academically ambitious you applied to Yale. Most art schools are not terrible competitive. They’re happy to get anybody they can, pretty much. Some places are harder than others, but you had to apply Washington U. and see the dean who'd been a painter who examined your portfolio. I loved St. Louis. The section we were in was very solid. All-brick houses so old they looked like they’d fall into the earth. The music was very good. Rhythm and blues from real masters. I heard Muddy Waters playing with King Cotton and Otis Spawn. We would be the only white kids in the place! Table up front. The host welcomed us and said, And I hope some day our people can go to your clubs too. They were so nice. The most fun was going to the bathroom. It was a tiny little place in the middle of town. Men’s on one side, women’s on the other. And they opened directly into the club. No intermediate door. Of course everybody was drinking so everybody had to use them. You get with the gang outside the door. The door would open and the person who was in would leave. There was only one toilet. Everybody else would push on in. You all had to go to the bathroom. You couldn’t leave. And it was hysterical! You get these big mommas in red sequined dresses, they have to get their girdles up! Pushing and pulling and laughing! For me, a while girl from the suburbs of the east coast, it was an education! 

Pop art was starting, or established. But the big abstract expressionists still held sway. Major exhibitions. People showing in galleries. Pop art was there. There was the movement of the year. Pop art hung in for more than that. Then things started changing. The art world became quite faddish after that. The rents got so high that the dealers had to find the next hot artist. At least back then they did. Now things are more diversified again. Galleries seem to be gathering stables of reliable people, salable people. Back then they were looking for the unknown who had a studio full of work that they could come out with as the next great thing. That was through the 70s and 80s, and then it all collapsed. 

AVA: From St. Louis you headed west.

Karen: Yes, to the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. I always knew I wanted to be a painter but I was curious about other things. I needed to explore more things — print making, ceramics. I loved pottery, working on the wheel, and I took many semesters of pottery. They made us take applied design classes too. I’d never done that before. But nope, commercial art wasn't for me. But the school was innovative and creative. We’d have people from the custom car show at the Oakland Coliseum give classes. It was minimalism at the time. Surfaces were very important. Simple shapes, machines. The human hand wasn’t in evidence. Car guys would teach us how to put on a hundred coats of hand-rubbed metal flakes of paint. I remember a methods and materials class that took us up in a glider to experience the silence of being suspended in the air. Oakland was much more experimental than how to sharpen a pencil. And in some ways very disappointing. They had no critical vocabulary. It was like everyone was stoned. You try to talk to someone about something and it was, “Gee, man, that’s how I wanted it.” Horribly painted, poorly constructed, not thought out. Doodling with paint. Bad doodling. But it was too uncool to actually criticize people. 

AVA: Instructors went with the flow?

Karen: Yup. I had a wonderful painter for an instructor, but she taught me Shakespeare. Finally I was at the Oakland Museum and I saw this wonderful painting by Mary Snowden, and said to myself, 'Oh my God! That’s my English teacher!' I wish I’d had painting classes with her! They’d take us up to Berkeley so we could draw the riots. (Laughs) But there were no riots. We’d be up there with our little sketch pads at Sather Gate, drawing people in the crowd. And then I’d go home and see the television news talking about these riots that had allegedly happened, but all I'd seen was political crowds, not riots. The media really inflated ordinary demonstrations into something they weren't. That was an eye-opener for me, and it was useful for art school to teach students the difference between what was happening and what media said was happening.

That was 1966. California College of Arts and Crafts right at the Oakland/Berkeley border. I headed north in 1969. Hippies had started leaving the city. I was in front of the San Francisco Art Institute on a rare San Francisco sunny day. I guess I was barefoot. An extremely hip looking guy came up to me and said, “Are you in from the country?” That was the first time I realized I passed as a hippie. I thought I was this middle class nice girl. We went to the Southwest and Taos, but it had already been “discovered.” 1969 Taos had outpriced us. We returned to the Bay Area. He was an artist too. He went to the San Francisco Art Institute. He was a wild man. His roommate was building a house up in Whale Gulch up here in Humboldt. We came up to help. We built a little campsite on this guy’s property. I loved it. I sat under the trees and read books and … I can’t explain it. It was a revelation to be able to absorb everything without having to edit out much. When you’re in the city you have to edit out almost everything. Suddenly I didn’t have to. It was all there and all accessible. 

I first lived in the East Bay, then I moved to San Francisco where I lived in what is now a gentrified neighborhood off Divisidero, a salt and pepper neighborhood, and what was then the black nightclub section. I got a job at the local record store, Clark’s Records, an old fashioned store with a turntable and sample albums. You could listen to cuts then buy a new copy for yourself. And you could just listen. They had a wonderful gospel collection. Old people wanted gospel. Jazz men would come in, many of them obviously loaded, and ask for these obscure jazz records. I’d hunt them up. People would come in and just listen and not buy anything. I liked the job until five or six teenage kids came in and started knocking over the record racks and shoplifting and all over the place. Got my purse behind the counter on a shelf. Just as they were running out the door — I had no control over this at all — the manager came in and she knew them. They were neighborhood kids, kids the owner had paid to put up flyers. I went with him to the police station to file a complaint. I didn’t feel safe after that. The city was changing. Harder drugs. Political confusion. Suddenly it was like, Ignorance is no longer bliss. (Laughs) The reason I got that job — and this’ll sound racist because the boss was black — was he wanted a white college girl to do the late shift, because we’d be too middle-class to rip him off. He wanted to know the name of the college I graduated from. He called up and verified I was a graduate; and he wanted my parents address. If I stole from him, he’d call them and embarrass the hell out of them. They’d have to pay up. By 1969 I was up in the country.

The land was cheap in Humboldt County, and after the solitude of the country at the place in Whale Gulch I couldn’t go back to the city. We spent about four years on 40 acres. After the first year the road fell away. We were told it would. We weren’t gypped or anything. We just didn’t know how much it’d cost to repair it. We'd bought 40 acres for $8,000 with water and a couple good building sites. Got some land partners and the payments were $100 a month or $25 a month. It was glorified camping out but I loved it! That’s where my daughter, Zena, was born. I was in the hospital and I hadn’t figured out a name for her. They gave me a name book and I got to the end and there was Zena, Zoe and Zelda. Zelda was Fitzgerald and I could skip that. Zoe was Franny and Zoe, and Zena meant “woman.” I said, I like that. It’s a different name, and it’s not like calling her Rainbow Sunshine Flower. Zena is a real name. Her last name is Jewish and means anything that can be attributed to the feminine and having to do with grace or beauty. When Zena was real young her friends were hippie kids. I’d take her to a place in Briceland where mommas would sit in the sunshine on the hill and the kids would play down in the meadow and there were toys in an old goat. But when she came to Alderpoint there were strict divides between the hippies and the loggers but she got along. Made good friends. Even when she came back from college they were ready to say, You think you’re too good for us and she went and hung out like she always did. But she wasn’t a fool. She said, “I’d drink with them but never get drunk.” She always knew there was a line. It’s funny. There’s a very strict code! And a rather gentlemanly one, among hard-boiled, kick-ass, roll over your truck, rednecks. There was a certain gallant quality among them. 

AVA: Did your partner discourage you from art?

Karen: He had a good eye and good critical insights. He really knew a lot about painting, but he was a control freak. My mother hated him. He didn’t discourage my painting, but I remember going to a gallery and he was being temperamental and there was a blow up. We were taking our work out of the gallery. As I was leaving one of the gallery owners called me over and said, You know, you’re the real artist in the family. I walked. I took the VW and the baby and welfare and left. It was like the Bob Dylan song, When you’ve got nuthin’, you’ve got nuthin’ to lose. I could walk.

AVA: Did you miss art during the back-to-the-land period? 

You don’t need a lot of money to paint, and it wasn't as if I'd stopped doing art, but I was still looking for who I was going to be and what I was going to do. I went through anonymous art, art done by women, art done by tribes, groups or cultures. Any art that wasn’t done by white men who signed their name to it. When I left school minimalism was the big thing. It was interesting, but to me the idea behind something was more important than the doing of it. 

AVA: Ever consider a life of crime? With your ability.....

Karen: No! (Laughs) I did a Winslow Homer forgery once. (Laughs) But I would copy paintings to figure them out. You can play music badly, but you’ll learn more by playing than if you just listen. That’s why I started copying paintings. I had the theory that things I couldn’t do — I wasn’t lacking in technical skills — I could learn to do by trying to copy the masters. If someone says, Go create. I have to say, Duh? When you’ve got a whole universe, how do you choose? How do you decide between this or that? How do you find what’s yours? 

AVA: Did people lean on you for paintings or tiles or stained glass?

Karen: Not really. I went through the crafts period when my daughter was young. I got a lot of good commissions where people asked how much I charged per square foot and let me go. Other people would say, I want a yellow rose for my front door. I’d give them a yellow rose for the front door. And they’d pay. It was a job. If you’re going to sell out, you sell out for money. My painting is what I do because I want to do it. 

AVA: But you were raising a child by yourself....

Karen: Yes. And on welfare too. That’s when I stopped painting because art is ideas and being a single mother is a full time job, which means you can’t focus long enough to maintain the integrity of your thought process to do art. Once I was Zena’s mother, I finally realized that I had to be an adult so I moved into Redway because I didn’t want to be with the man I was with. He was no help raising a child, although he was entertaining. Frank became Zena's father.

AVA. And you and Frank raised Zena here in Alderpoint.

Karen: Yes. She grew up here and graduated from South Fork High School, riding the school bus three hours a day back and forth. Zena went on to get her degree in Microbiology. She's married and working for Genentech near Davis. Now that she has a secure job, she’s starting to take arts and design classes. She's just starting to explore that world. As a child, she was completely estranged from her father. It was tough on her. When she was getting married she wanted her father to come to the wedding but she wanted Frank to walk her down the aisle. Her father has not talked to her since. Frank was essentially her father. Frank and I met when she was a very little girl and he became the adult male in her life, her dad.

AVA: You met Frank in…

Karen: '79 or '80. I’m so embarrassed. Women are supposed to be the ones who know the dates. I haven’t a clue! He was an artist. Friends had been saying for years, you’ve gotta meet this guy, but I knew I couldn’t live with someone who didn’t understand what I did. I had a boyfriend who was a psychology major at Cornell. Nice guy. But at some point he put his arm on my shoulder and says, “She paints. Isn’t it wonderful?” I just about gagged. That was it, the end of that relationship. My art is the key to who I am, and if someone couldn’t see it and know it and talk to me critically about it, well, I really needed someone who understood and supported what I was doing. They're very rare. I went through the candidates, and then I met Frank and we've been together ever since.

AVA: But at first you were on opposite sides of The Great Divide, 101.

Karen: Frank’s living in Alderpoint east of 101 and I was in Redway on the west side of 101. We had a commuter's relationship and it became too difficult financially to maintain two households. He got me off welfare. Welfare makes you paranoid. You’re always worried that someone’s going to come in and count your towels and arrest you! 

AVA: Helping professionals weren't always helpful in 1975.

Karen: In fact I had the nicest people, but the rules and regulations were stringent. When I left Ken I hitch-hiked up to the welfare department in Eureka to sign up. I didn't have a running vehicle. I had all my papers in order. There was this woman who had a reputation as a bulldog at the front desk. She was the first line of opposition. If you could get through her then it was pretty easy. I walked in, and there she was. She said, “So you left him?” (Laughs) “Don’t sign any quit claims!” (Laughs) They had me in and out of that place very quickly. My husband’s reputation had preceded me! She was wonderful! Oh you left him? Here honey, let me take care of you. She was gracious and nice and helpful. AVA : Now you've crossed the Great Divide of 101 and you're living in Alderpoint.

Karen: Yes. Frank started building a studio, which became a living room with another studio around it. Then we shared the studio for a while. We had to economize, but it was a lot easier for me. Frank thinks we shared studio space for two years, I think one. The invasion loomed larger in his mind than in mine. I was used to small spaces and being confined to them than he was. We came at art from completely different approaches. The first years were a lot of teaching between us. He had more technical skills when it came to presenting a realistic image. He’s a great, great draftsman, and I’m not. Some painters are and some aren’t. Monet was a painter; you don’t see good drawings by him. Van Gogh did incredible drawings, but he was not a good painter. Frank came more from the draftsman tradition. He was weak on color and composition, but he had a total grasp of the figure and how you make human forms look realistic. I got a lot of help from him. I was strong in color and composition and lighting. 

AVA: How we're your relations with the more traditional people of Alderpoint? Isn’t 'artist' code for 'weirdo'?

Karen: Probably. But we’re not hippies, really. We produce pictures. We have skills. We're not dirty and slovenly. We maintain a conventional home. I think at first we were more incomprehensible to our neighbors than we were weird. For instance, a young guy was working here as part of a crew working on the studio. One day he said, “Now let me get this straight; women come into your studio, and take their clothes off… And you draw and paint them and someone pays you money.” I said, Yes. “God!” he said. “That’s a good life!” But he really had to process it. 

AVA: How did you get into the high end galleries?

Karen: There’s a standard procedure. You enter juried competitions. You send stuff to competitions where it's seen and, if they're interested, the galleries contact you. I started with a gallery that doesn’t exist anymore. And both Frank and I got a lot of dental work done by trading our art for fillings and crowns. I was mostly doing glass then. I moved pretty quickly into large format water colors when I started painting. After trying a few things, it was, Oh, I know what I do now? Then, some of my things were accepted at prestigious exhibitions. There would be a special call for a show, I sent slides of my work, they liked what they saw, I shipped them to them. That process, if you succeed at it, gives you a resume. You have to have validation on paper because most people don’t trust their own judgment. They want to know that somebody else thinks this is good too. That’s the way you start. 

A friend, Peter Holbrooke, who’s done a lot to help people around here because he knew the ropes, told me of a gallery back east that was a good place to begin. He’s noted for having a good eye and getting young painters cheap. Frank and I sent him slides and he said, “Start sending us work!” So both Frank and I started showing in this gallery in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside DC. The gallery owner had been a statistician, but he was also a savvy collector who figured out that there are more wealthy people per capita in that area than any other area of the country. He said there are only 20,000 people who collect art in this country, and do you know how many people are trying to sell it? 

AVA: Probably 50,000 on the Northcoast alone.

Karen: (Laughs) He emphasized that there were a limited number of knowledgeable people who buy art regularly. By having a gallery in Bethesda and selling the work of young painters starting out, he’d develop a strong clientele that included buyers from New York looking for young talent. That went on for almost eight years. These things are like courtships and I was his darling. Then, all of a sudden, I wasn’t his darling. Some time in 1989 we had this conversation. He said, I know it’s not right, but I’ve got this other painter who paints still lifes and she puts more stuff into her still lifes than you do. More objects. Things. I do pared down work. I try to figure out what’s essential and what’s not. If it's not essential, it goes. I want to say the most with the least. He said, People are buying her work now because when they see the two together at the same price, there’s more stuff in hers. That was the end of the relationship. And I was getting sick and there was a recession and.... And I learned. My dealer in San Francisco says, 'I’m just an upscale used car salesman selling wonderful things.' He makes no bones about it. 

AVA: You've been with the gallery in San Francisco ever since?

Karen: Yes. And the two of us, Frank and I, make our livings this way in this beautiful place. It’s cyclical, of course, and right now everybody’s nervous. Sales of paintings are the first thing that go when the country feels insecure.

AVA: How many working artists/painters are working from Mendocino County north? 

Karen: A recent survey I read said Eureka was the best art city in America; that there were more artists per capita up there than any place in the country. There are lots of murals in Eureka that are certainly worth seeing. Duane Flatmo is really good, and he does a lot of them. You can do a tour of the murals of Eureka if you want to; there are enough of them. Eureka is definitely art-friendly. They have an “Evening of Art” Friday nights. One in Arcata too. Galleries and stores and restaurants open up with food, maps of where the art is and art walks. There's lots of interesting stuff tucked away in obscure spots in the Eureka area, but it’s there. 

A very knowledgeable man we worked with was so impressed by the art he found up here he moved to Eureka and opened a gallery. He did very well and very well by us, and then his life changed. He had been a professor of languages. I liked him. He was easy to work with, but I think he got tired of dealing with artists and left the area and went back to being a professor. He knew how to run a gallery. Most people think you just hang pictures on the wall and people walk in off the street and buy them. It doesn’t happen that way. 

AVA: If you were buying art, who would you buy?

Karen: I don’t pay much attention to contemporary art but I kind of follow a number of people. I like the water colorist Carolyn Brady who shows at Nancy Hoffman in New York. Janet Fish; I like her work. Mostly I look back. Vermeer, for one. I like an Italian painter named Georgio Mirandi. He painted in the 1920s and 30s. His work is timeless. He'd take a collection of flea market objects, bottles and stuff, line them up and paint them. Very simple but very subtle. His late work is completely zen — straightforward, subtle, quiet, interesting when it should be boring. What is it about it? There's one book in Italian I got a hold of, but he's barely known. I see his name in print and as time goes on people are starting to respect his work more. And he wasn't part of the modernist movement or any movement at all. He just painted in his own dusty Italian way. That made it seem possible for me. It’s a very intimidating thing to be an artist. 

AVA: Is it getting better for women?

Karen: In a general way, I think. In juried competition where they don’t have a name, where there's no way of knowing it was done by a man or a woman, it’ll go about 50-50. But the New York art scene is 90% male. Things are changing and there’s more plurality but I’m not in touch with the contemporary art scene because I live in Alderpoint. When I was in St. Louis I saw a show by an old guy, Gustave Detch; I thought at the time his painting were incredibly old fashioned, but I had to respect them because they were so well painted and well thought out. He had a following. He painted that way all his life and he was good. I saw that you don’t have to be great; you don’t have to be a genius. you have to be real. Your work will speak for itself and you’ll find people who appreciate it. And that’s how it worked out for me.

AVA: Where do people go to see your work?

Karen: I have a website. karenhorn.com. And I'm at the Hackett-Freedman Gallery in San Francisco. 250 Sutter St., 4th Floor. I'm not really allowed to sell work from my studio here in Alderpoint. A slightly complicated ethic comes into play. If someone has known me and has known my work and followed me and wants to buy something, well, it's a hazy area. Some dealers don’t care, but others say, Well, I’ve been important in building your career and your prices and I should get my full commission for the painting you sold from your home to your friend. And some will say gimme at least 10%. I don’t produce that much so I make it a practice not to get into those kinds of disputes. They can get touchy real fast. 

AVA: How many paintings a year do you do?

Karen: Probably a half dozen, so I need to send them to a dealer. My studio is my house and people would have to come here if I didn't have a more accessible place to show my work, which means it wouldn’t be seen and that wouldn't be good for me. I'm happy with Hackett-Freedman in San Francisco. People do keep track of my work, but I’ve only met a few of the people who collect my paintings. You just don’t, ordinarily, but once when I was in Chicago showing my work I went to a collector's house. Their name was Davidson. My dealer took me to meet them, and Mrs. Davidson said she'd been talking to my old dealer in Bethesda and he'd said I painted as well as John Stewart Engels. This is a guy whose work I’ve checked out; I’m not a great admirer. But there I was in Chicago talking about my dealer in Maryland talking about John Stewart Engle who these people collect, so I know the word is around. It’s a very small community—very small. That’s another reason I don’t sell anything out of my house. It’s small and it’s gossipy. It’s really gossipy. 

AVA: Whose work do you like around here?

Karen: Alicia Treadway; Peter Holbrooke. Jim McVicker up in Eureka. Some of his work McVicker's wife is a good painter too. There are quite a number of other artists I like to keep in touch with in this area. They all have this isolated, working-it-out quality. Some people are strictly amateur painters who sell pieces out of local restaurants and shops, but every now and then they turn out something that’s utterly charming! 

AVA: Last question: Which art magazines are a reliable guide to the art world for the artistically unschooled person like me? 

Karen: I don’t know of one. 

AVA: The writing is way too abstruse and unclear. The Chronicle's art reviewer, for instance. I have no idea what he’s talking about most of the time.

Karen: The clearest art critic that I’ve liked has been Arthur Danto of The Nation. 

The Metropolitan Museum asked Robertson Davies to come and deliver a lecture on art. Which was very interesting and completely from the layman’s point of view, albeit an erudite layman. Of the art mags that are out there, the two big ones are Art in America, which is really about art in New York. Then there’s Art News which is broader, more diverse and the writing is a little more direct. You can find good write-ups on art and artists in Art and Antiques or the Smithsonian magazine. If Harper’s has an art subject it's generally pretty interesting. Started in the 50s with Clement Greenberg. Champion of abstract expressionism. Art critics took on the role of priest in the 1950's with Clement Greenberg, the champion of abstract expressionism. 

AVA: He was a good writer. Very clear. 

Karen: Yes! Very good. Without Greenberg championing abstract expressionism it’s hard to know whether it would have made much difference or not. But he did. And he was intelligent. And clear. But since then it’s like everybody mushes into everybody else with all these everybody’s trying to find an obscure niche so they can be the person on that niche. They construct sentences that are just unbelievable. 

AVA: Literally unbelievable, in my experience.

Karen: An example: “It was the feminine side of Manet…” And the critic was talking about the simple fact that Manet used still life in some of his portraits. But the critic would go on this whole ramble that doesn't apply. I’d look at the painting and say, Manet needed some color here. That's why he did it, not because he was expressing his “feminine side.” Give me a break! If you can listen or read what artists say about themselves, most of the time it’s not bullshit. A critic went on about something Georgia O’Keefe had done in one of her paintings and she said, Oh, I liked the way it looked… (Laughs) Or, All the guys were using muddy colors and I didn’t want to paint like the boys so I started squeezing out red.

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