abstract art

To Infinity and Beyond


In the summer, I went to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. Don’t get me started on the antiquated system of lining up to get tickets. As I waited for 90 minutes to get the tickets, I wondered if the queuing was part of the hype for the show. Actually, it turned out to be practice for when you had line up for every single room installation in the exhibition. But all the staff at the SAM were lovely. The ticket people must be trained to defuse angry customers because in the time it took to buy three tickets, she complimented my glasses, my home city, and my pink wallet.

When you think of Yayoi Kusama, polka dots come to mind. Indeed, shops around the SAM are taking advantage by decorating with polka dots to lure people with Kusama fever. But none of these displays look as incredible as the dots in the show.

The reason for this is simple. What Kusama is really famous for is repetition. Repetition taken to a ridiculous level.


Last week, I wrote about the online course I took on modern abstraction.  Kusama was one of the artists covered, and we made a painting in the style of each artist. For Kusama, we were supposed to make an Infinity Net painting. This meant painting tiny loops all over a painted surface. Repeating one motion over a small canvas was both meditative and crazy-making for me. I can’t even imagine doing the same loops over a large canvas (up to 14 feet or 4 metres) as Kusama does. But that’s what makes her work great. It’s not the ideas, it’s the scale.


She creates a lighting installation and then multiplies it with mirrors. She creates environments where you have to experience visions as she intended them.


She takes something as simple as a stick-on polka dot and lets us repeat it all over a white room until it’s beautiful and awe-inspiring. Everyone in the installation room was smiling, either because they had participated in the art or because it was fun in there.

So whatever creative project you’re working on, think about scale. Is there a way you could blow up your project to a ridiculous scale? If you’re making art could it be bigger—so much bigger that it stretches your logistical mind? Or can you multiply the number of items? Don’t go for easy increases, push yourself to obsessive levels. There’s magic in the craziness.

I have a painting at the MOMA (and you could too!)


OK, as I'm sure you've guessed, there's some fine print involved in my claim, which I'll explain later. But this journey began, as many good things do, in Venice. 

While I was on my three-month European trip last year, I had more free time than usual since I had so few responsibilities. I was a lying on a couch in our Castello apartment when an appealing art course appeared on my Insta feed, It was Postwar Abstract Painting and it was offered by the MOMA through Coursera. Since I had the time, I signed up. To be honest, Venice does that to me. There's so much exquisite ancient art that I get itchy for something more current.

The course is eight weeks long, with each lesson focusing on one artist. There are videos, readings, quizzes, and to my surprise: studio exercises.

The studio exercises proved very interesting. The instructor, Corey D'Augustine, demonstrates on video how artists like Ad Reinhard and Yayoi Kusama created their works. (Not Rothko of course, his luminous colour techniques remain a  mystery even though Corey tries.) I couldn't begin the painting part until I got back to my studio, but I was eager to try. And studio exercises were a revelation. Technical details connected my own art practice to those of artists I admire. For homework, we were supposed to create "copies" as an exercise, but the more inspiring part is realizing how each artist struggled to communicate theory and ideas through their work.

Ad Reinhard tried to create completely black paintings by stripping away everything but pigment from his paints. Before, his blank black canvases were the kind of painting I would pass by, but now I can hardly wait to see his work in person.

I'm a huge proponent of continuous learning, but it's not always possible to find the courses you want to take in your city. However with online learning, the options are endless. I was surprised that a free art course with no feedback could be so fulfilling, but this one definitely was. The MOMA continues to notify me when new videos related to the class are posted, and recently they invited all the students to submit for a show about the course. The artwork will be the exercises we created during the class. I submitted my Mark Rothko exercise. Believe me, I respect his painting even more now that I've tried to recreate his luminous colour through thin layers of paint. And I was happy to find out my art was selected for the exhibition.

Which brings us to the fine print. The show I'm in is at the MOMA's Education and Research building. The featured artwork will be projected on four screens the show runs for most of January. There's even an opening on January 8th. A New York opening? I wish I could be there, but apparently there's a ton of snow right now.

If you're interested in taking the class and someday being in the MOMA yourself, check out this link on Coursera. Then you  too could be exhibiting at the MOMA someday.

New Work

I can’t remember the last time I had nine new paintings in the studio! Generally, it takes me months to complete a painting, but I had a few deadlines to meet this time. I have a show in Harrison Hot Springs during September, and I have an ongoing project which needs 12 new pieces, and of course, the Culture Crawl is coming up in November.

But right now, to the delight of visitors to the studio and to the horror of my insurance agent, I have a lot of art on hand. In addition, I’ve started making prints, and some of these paintings are available as prints as well.

blueberry pie, 48" x 48" 

rhubarb pie, 48" x 48" 

bumbleberry pie, 48" x 48" 

raspberry pie, 48" x 48"

All the pie paintings are also available as prints. 

born again, 48" x 48"

x-ray, 48" x 36"

lace memories,  48" x 36" 

And finally, one painting so fresh it hasn't been properly photographed yet!

stripes six, 24" x 72"