The Collector # 11

Sharon Butler / Carl Ostendarp and Gail Fitzgerald

Trade deal
When I was up in Ithaca in the fall, I traded work with two artists who live up there—Carl Ostendarp and Gail Fitzgerald. I was teaching at Cornell, filling in for Carl, who was on sabbatic leave but still working in his fifth- floor studio in the art building. Gail, who is married to Carl, worked in a space over by Ithaca College, in an industrial building that had been divided into a warren of artists’ studios and a shared ceramic studio. I asked them if they wanted to participate in a trade project, and they agreed. For this project, I’ve been asking other artists to pick from a series of digital drawings I post on Instagram each day. I then make a 12 x 12 inch painting of whatever drawing the artist selects and trade it for a piece of their work.

At Carl’s studio, I was overwhelmed by the choices. He walked me over to a big set of flatfiles and told me I could have any of the gouache paintings stored within. Ultimately, after thinking about it for a week or two, I chose a newer piece, very grey, unlike Carl’s more colorful and better-known work, because, with the words Ding! Ding!, the painting seems to sound an alarm, and captures the bleak despair and worry of living through the Trump regime. At Gail’s studio, I saw new work: puffy-looking three-dimensional forms painted with dripping neon dots and a series of works on paper featuring grids of colored circles. She told me they were inspired by a trip they had taken to Ireland where they saw sheep spray painted with marks to identify their owners. I selected a piece comprising orange and green dots on thin, possibly Japanese, paper. The more I look at Gail’s piece, the more I have come to see the dots as a herd, all similar, but each with its own idosyncracies.

When I got back to work in the studio in December, I started working on twelve small canvases. I finished them all, and they’re ready to go, but with the social distancing travel restrictions, I’ve been unable to deliver them to their new homes. The paintings that Carl and Gail gave to me are still waiting for a trip to the framers.

Sharon Butler
April 2020


“The Collector” is an ongoing series in which I ask people to talk about a painting or a drawing they own. See other installments here.

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