Thursday, December 11, 2008

Add Two Exhibitions to the List?

I just received word that The Global Economy has been accepted to an exhibition at ARC Gallery in Chicago, opening January 7 and running through the end of the month.

Also, piggy backing onto my last post, which briefly mentioned the curatorial process of work into group exhibitions, I received disappointing news that some recent paintings would not be included in an exhibition entitled Clamoring to Become Visible at the Brooklyn Arts Council in Brooklyn, NY (there is a Brooklyn, IA - however, I don't think they have an arts council). The juror and I had been corresponding about my work as she was winnowing the selections. Instead of the paintings, what might get included is my video, Platelet, into a first Thursday video screening.

Not a bad start to the New Year.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Odds and Ends: Illumination

I attended a meeting last week that gathered artist input on how the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities could make a better community for artists and public works of art. A lot of things were discussed, and I wasn't much of a contributor; prior to the meeting I'd been suffering a bit of insomnia and attended without eating a substantial breakfast or consuming a cup of tea.

Anyway, these two or three consultants gave a slide show of other great works of public art in cities throughout the United States (and a couple abroad), and they showed this fabulous work of people walking on sensors in a museum. These sensors were linked to a display of LEDs on the outside of the museum.

I just opened M.M. Lloyd's newsletter -- I'm going to pull from it. Lenny Campello does, so why can't I?

"WASHINGTON, DC: ART is ELECTRIC - MODERN STYLE - In the concourse walkway between the West and East Buildings of the National Gallery of Art there is an art installation of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). As you walk through or stand gliding along the people moving conveyers in this underground walkway, approximately 42,000 computers programmed LEDs chase along this pathway, fading, brightening, twinkling, and undulating. The art installation is by the sculptor Leo Villareal. The lights gyrate and cascade as the architectural fountain waterfall splash down along combed stone facing behind a glass wall at the cafĂ© end of this venue. It takes nearly two minutes to travel the 200 foot length space, but collection wise you’re connecting centuries of cultural history, from classic to modern. At the Smithsonian American Art Museum there are sixty-two hundred LEDs in a twenty-eight foot sculpture created by Jenny Holzer. This floor to ceiling column emits more than a day’s worth of spinning and changing words and phrases. A timely paced city walk of from 15 to 20 minutes connects these two venues in time and place."

I couldn't tell you if this work at NGA and SAAM are by the same artists/collaborators as were mentioned in the consultant slide show. Regardless, I'm pumped to see it because there is a need within fine arts to get off the wall (figuratively, literally) and move away from being completely about the visual. In my brief threads through this DC art community, I get the sensation that a lot of artists struggle with this concept and realization. Some artists abandon the idea: how do you make a painting inhabit REAL space? Some go whole hog into it, rejecting the traditional as some sort of primitive archetype that belongs in a diaper. Some straddle the fence, hoping they don't slip and get racked by consequence.


In other "off the wall" news, The Arlington Arts Center is having an opening this weekend, and I regret the fact I'll be unable to attend (I'll be in Charlotte trying not to get "racked by consequence"). I was rejected by this show, and as I am now learning, guest curators not only look to see which works are good and fit a theme, but to see also which works fit well together. I have no clue if the three jurors for this exhibition even liked my work (and the point is moot, because it doesn't work with what they chose), but I am excited to see this exhibition. Three performance artists and one installation artist are amongst the six works exhibited: pretty bold!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Pop Culture


Pop Culture: letters of the alphabet composed from 26 different soda pop designs. No particular label repeats in form or derivation. For instance, Coca-Cola is only used once (L); diet, cherry, and other alterations of the formula are not represented.

Some are common, some have narrow distribution, some are no longer manufactured, and some have changed their logos.

The work was produced in Illustrator.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Web Page Returns

An announcement of little consequence: the website is up and functioning again. Minor edits have taken place, but the majority of the old visual content remains. On the list of to-dos is a massive overhaul and redesign of the site. If I have my act together, this blog will migrate to the website

At present I am backing up portions of my hard drive. My computer is, column by column, doing its best Barnett Newman imitation, which is now driving me batty. In April or May a pink stripe fell the height of the screen to the right of the apple. It was a peripheral line, one easy to ignore when working on a project - less so when watching a movie. By July or August, two more developed, one pierced the File Menu, the other landed between the wireless and volume. Needless to say, it was decided to then stop watching movies on this thing and to buy a television. (A first!) Five more lines have developed recently - four in the last two days.

Apple assures me this is not common. (groan) My first iMac may have been clunky and heavy in comparisson to the sleek flatscreen before me, and sure it had low memory, RAM, and storage compared to this whisper of a machine currently in front of me. However, I miss my old CRT -- and last I knew, it still works! It may not be capable of handling CS3, but at least the screen isn't pinstriped.

Is it really necessary to make technology the thickness of an After Eight chocolate dinner mint? Is this just some fetish our culture has? Our population is getting fatter, (shrug) but at least the technology is thinner. So is the life span of our gadgetry... and my patience with it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Index Page Down

I seem to be experiencing some difficulties updating my website.

For those interested parties, you can still access the content.
This painting link should get you started.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Global Market


57 individual currency symbols, composite gold leaf and graphite on 6" square canvases. Dimensions pictured, about 42"x54".

After creating Currencies in the Four Letter Words series, I wondered what the individual symbols might look like. As a culture we are likely aware of the symbols for the British Pound, the Euro, and maybe the Japanese Yen, but what does the Korean Won look like, or the Russian Rubble? You can find them above.

The materials, once again, recall the alchemical relationship between gold and lead in the middle ages. The use of gold leaf also recalls the classical tradition using gold leaf to represent the light behind icons.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I h8 DC. Broken Water Main on NY Ave edition.

A water main broke somewhere between Florida Ave NE and Montana Ave NE on New York Avenue NE, this afternoon or this evening, bottle necking traffic from three lanes into one lane. I did not know this as I made my commute from American University to Prince George Community College at 3:50, which typically routes me MA - RI - Q - FL - NY - 50 - Belt - ...

The stretch between Gallaudet and the break is about 1 mile, and I drove that stretch in 2hrs 15 minutes, spending 15 minutes in the jug handle connecting FLA and NY Aves.

Initially, like any calm individual thinking it was just rush hour traffic, I called my grandmother. Realizing I moved less than 1/10th of a mile in half an hour, I hung up and decided I should pay attention; somewhere ahead of me a bus load of blind nuns must have careened into a bus load of quadriplegic school kids with Downs Syndrome, and I would soon be dodging bodies like parking cones in a test drive commercial.

I missed the traffic report on WAMU!
I went to "McCain 570" on the AM dial as a last ditch effort. They were only reporting the traffic problems in the White parts of Virginia, not the Black parts of DC.

Resigned. Crestfallen. I switched the dial and listened to Market Place. I watched the sun set.

DC has interesting driving patterns. You know how you are not supposed to "block the box?" I'm mindful of that. I don't want to be that guy -- that guy who is stuck in the middle of the intersection when the lights have changed.

My light turned green, allowing the one car in front of me to proceed through the intersection, just far enough to cut off the traffic from the cross street, trying to turn right on red. It's an 80 second light. Traffic starts honking at the 40 second count down, and there is just enough daylight ahead of me to scoot my car into the cross walk on the opposite side of the intersection. At least, there was enough room until cars from the cross street decide to turn right onto red and eclipse my right of way. I can understand one car making an eclipse, but three? Since when did Maryland and DC drivers become Italians "in line" for gellato? I say a silent prayer, hoping for the death of the man who placed drivers licenses in Cracker Jack boxes.

Now I'm that guy -- that guy stuck in the intersection because the lights have changed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Couple Recent Activites

Evidence that the Chalkboard Talks at the Katzen took place. the event was part conversation, part performance... and I didn't even need Piero Manzoni to sign me to become a piece of art.

Prince George Community College is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and the art department is hosting a faculty show to coincide with the celebration. Moment of Zen, along with work from other current and past faculty members, will be playing in the Marlboro Gallery through November 6.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Out of Context


My latest work from the series of Four Letter Words involves words taken Out of Context. If viewed correctly - or incorrectly, depending on context - it is my most obscene work to date.

To recap:
The series of Four Letter Words is a challenge to the title. "Four letter words" is a euphemism for vulgarity, and vulgarity is typically thought of as those words George Carlin examined which could not be said on television (most of which were longer than four letters). This discourages the 3900+ four letter words out there (as deemed playable by the Scrabble dictionary).

The interesting thing with Anglo Saxonisms (another quaint euphemism) was examined by Diane Ackerman in her book A Natural History of the Senses. To paraphrase, "Why fuck when you can fornicate?" In one chapter, wherein she briefly explored a history of language, Ackerman suggested that the languages of Anglo and Saxon were considered brute and harsh when heard by the ears of the Gauls. As a result, the televised audience (in the US) will more than likely hear two four letter words replace once, because the sensors believe an audience would rather hear about couples who "make love."

To counter the brutality of our linguistic Anglo Saxon heritage, as a culture we have invented other euphemisms and colloquialisms for penis, vagina, intercourse, and masturbation. It is also a methodology for adolescents to speak outside the radar of adults. This tradition is older than The Bard of Avon whose phrasings were "wont to set the table on a roar" when such subjects were discussed.

When proposed for the Athenaeum in August, this was a series that was refused from the exhibition. The refusal was based on the grounds that the Athenaeum serves as a rental facility for weddings, events, and ballet classes. It is simple to empathize with that position, since display of that work would probably provoke some outcry from patrons as well as the city of Alexandria. It's also unfortunate. The three works that sold the best were the two series of Onomatopoeia - one because of its relationship to Roy Lichtenstein's pop paintings (blam), the other because they are monosyllabic nonsense that have acquired some sort of intelligible meaning (hunh) - and Currencies, though not as a complete series. I believe the latter did well because they were shiny (composite gold leaf and graphite). Out of Context would have sold as a series... and probably had back orders. Intellect aside, there is a repressed juvenile in us all.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Floating with the FLC at the Katzen

I was recently asked to join the Chalkboard Talks as part of the Brushfire Initiative by Provisions Library. I'll be speaking with Mark Cameron Boyd, Kathryn Cornelious, Nick Karvounis, and a person to be named later, to discuss "The Intersection of Art & Society" on October 18th at The Katzen Museum at American University. The talk/conversation is around 1:00.

To prepare, I stopped up at American University to see what the show was all about. There are a few jaw-droppingly hysterical works, like the translation of Dazed and Confused from "American" to "Indian" (accent). What I would no have given to have a recliner and a six pack... I would have watched the whole movie.

OF course, the exhibition made me realize that I am still behind on the clone of myself that I need to do the volume of work I'd like to complete before the polar ice caps melt... back to the studio.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE


For some reason I just got this page as I tried to perform a search through my Google search short cut. Blogger and Gmail still work, but this is a little disconcerting.

Missed Opportunities

If it has escaped the viewership that all the bally-who of the 2008 political debates is little more than theater, then the viewership is not paying attention. It is the ultimate in "reality" television: it is highly scripted; it is not very insightful; and though McCain and Obama won't "hook up" at the end of this season, one of them will get "voted off the island." At least this go around it is more interesting than 2004, when dull and duller took to the podiums and bored a nation into a mandate (of less than 51%).

Listening to the political debates is just as frustrating as watching the debates. More so, actually. Palin's voice is grating, and her performance lacks the charisma without winks and her funny smirks. Obama's even temper still resonates, but his articulation is less so ("uhm" is louder on the radio). At least hearing McCain stumble over the Iranian puppet's name (Ahmadinejad) and correcting himself, only to never get it right, is amusing, no mater what the medium.

What is also heard is the nonsense. These are not debates. Debates are articulate discussions back and forth over policy and ideas. Fortunately these two guys do not have to stand before the audience with a random assignment of a position. They have positions and they should argue them, develop them, enumerate benefits and set backs, and allow us to truly evaluate the complexity of an issue. Instead, they interpret the opposition's position in an over-simplified sound byte, and never articulately clarify their own position. They get asked questions by moderators and begin their answers by rebutting the assertion of their opponents' answer to the previous question. This is not debate. This is masturbation, and the end result is just as messy.

Here are some things I'd really like to hear debated:
  • What does a tax cut for 95% of Americans really mean? Is there a figure or percentage on how much I can guesstimate my taxes will decline? Can you reassure me how that money will be used, or how the cut will be offset elsewhere?
  • What does victory in Iraq mean, when we don't have the profit of land, or riches, or material goods to be gained in the end, and when the competing factions of the (now) civil war hate our guts and want us to leave?
  • What is clean coal technology (really) and why should we pursue that as a positive alternative? How does it differ from dirty coal?
  • Why is nuclear technology so controversial? What makes it bad? What makes it good?
  • Why is socialism such a dirty word when our friends in Scandinavia are socialists? Why does the label of socialism make "universal health care" sound so unappealing? How is universal health care socialism when a $700 billion economic bail out package proposed by a Republican Treasury Secretary not labeled socialism (as hastily), and why is it good?

I have my own positions on these issues, and if I were to voice them I'd bust out my flip flop and step on a pop top. But, I am not running. My position has no direct influence on the outcome of this election. Their opinions do, and I would like to hear them voice their opinions directly, and not in two minutes.

This means the style of the debate has to change. Ten minutes on an issue does little. What if the debate was broken up into half hour segments, where the candidates could get into the meat of a single issue. While the candidates prep for the second question, these half hour segments could be interspersed by relevant sitcom reruns. Discussing Foreign Policy? M*A*S*H. Discussing technology? Max Headroom. Discussing a woman's right to choose? Maude or Murphy Brown.

While the content of these theatrical escapades the last three weeks have been in desperate need of an editor to omit the redundancies and to pencil in some serious content, what has kept the whole thing lively is the use of language and most importantly the style of delivery.

Language: this can best be summarized as, "Drink if you hear Maverick, Change, or My Friends." On their own, the words repeated throughout the debates could quickly become insignificant icons, like D-List celebrities. Hope is hopeless. Change is uniform. Maverick is just a "closeted gay actor" hoping to make Top Gun.

Delivery keeps the language afloat. Listening to McCain's quiet emphasis becomes hair-raising. These issues must be very serious and frightening and I can believe from the tone of his voice that he "can do it and will do it." Listening to Obama's cadence is spiritually uplifting and makes hope and change seem tenable, that the promise of America is still alive, and that together we can make a difference.

But, now they're just words: ear wash affected by a 24 hour news cycle that replays the sound byte of a stump speech that is the same in Gary, Indiana or Hope, Arkansas. It hardly matters that for either candidate there is no longer any there there - it's been squeezed out and sucked dry. Their causes seem to have little, if any, remaining affect. (pun!) Thankfully there is less than a month to go and it will all be over... until the recount.

I just hope, if I'm listening to the last round of debates next week, that I don't miss a moment similar to the town hall between Bush and Gore in 2000, when Bush said something that insulted Gore and provoked Gore to stand from his chair. In the awkward silence heard on the radio, the TV audience watched Bush shoot Gore a smirk, as if to say, "what're ya' gonna' do? Hit me on television?" Maybe Gore should have - his approval rating might have gone through the roof.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Short Selling of Art

It is a bad analogy, but it may be apropos.


Last week papers seemed tickeld by Damien Hirst's London auction sales. The record sale of nearly $200,000,000 of art "produced" by Hirst is certain to astound anyone, but Liz Gunnison's assertion that "Art Hangs On" when the US economy is in bedlam is hard to swallow. It may be the irrelevant silver lining in what is otherwise grim economic news, but Hirst is hardly the champion to be celebrated. As the Wall Street Journal was reporting, his buyers were owners of Sotheby's, owners of Christie's, and Gagosian and White Cube Galleries - Hirst's dealers. Oddly no judgement was attached to that report. At least, no negative judgment was attached to that report.


For an artist - Hirst - with diminishing sales and interest, jacking up the price through auction is hopeful. It is a hope fulfilled when the galleries that represent him drive up the bid (because they have a backroom filled with this crap) and inflate the market for his work. But, in the end, it smells like a conflict of interest. Kinda like having someone rate a bunch of "toxic" home equity loans as AAA, only to sell them off to other banks. Granted, if Francois Pinault's investment breaks from its glass vitrine, Christie's won't get pickled in formaldehyde.

As previously stated, a bad analogy. But, will there be any surprise if these bozos don't find a market for Hirst's work outside their little cul de sac?



Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Portraits of Power

It'll be a while before I make grand comments on The Corcoran Gallery of Art's newest exhibition, Richard Avedon: Portraits of Power; I have 24 students writing essays on the exhibition and I'd like to do as much as possible to mitigate any of them borrowing my words (this has happened to me before).

This is by far one of the most powerful photo exhibitions I have encountered, and Paul Roth deserves big kudos for a job well done. Last year when he spoke to me about the Adams and Leibovitz exhibitions he mentioned the Avedon exhibition. I'll have to get on my iTunes and dig some of that up for a later post.

Unlike my perception of the Adams exhibition last fall - where I preferred the intimacy of his calendars (blasphemy!) over elbowing for room at the opening - the Avedon exhibition requires the gallery, the scale, and the grandeur to truly capitalize on the experience. That is to say, the companion book of the exhibition sold in the book shop for $60 is nice. But, looking at the book versus the exhibition is like listening to a tape of Chopin versus listening to it performed live at the Kennedy Center (somewhere out there an Adorno fan is smiling).

Monday, September 15, 2008

God Bless You, Mr. Hughes.

Having read recently about Damien Hirst's lots of work going directly to auction - avoiding all together the gallery setting - I was pleased to learn that on Sept 7, art critic Robert Hughes called Damien Hirst's work tacky, and the overblown commercial success of the work was a disparage to the art market. A couple days later, Hirst responded that the commercial quality of his work is no different than Velazquez or Goya.

Over the weekend, Hughes's response to Hirst's defense (and proclamation that Hughes is a luddite... a man who finds the work of Paik and Turrell amongst the best of the 20th Century) was published in the Guardian. Apart from such zinggers as, "...Charles Saatchi, that untiring patron of the briefly new," I think the following is my favorite paragraph/sentence.
The now famous diamond-encrusted skull, lately unveiled to a gawping art world amid deluges of hype, is a letdown unless you believe the unverifiable claims about its cash value, and are mesmerised by mere bling of rather secondary quality; as a spectacle of transformation and terror, the sugar skulls sold on any Mexican street corner on the Day of the Dead are 10 times as vivid and, as a bonus, raise real issues about death and its relation to religious belief in a way that is genuinely democratic, not just a vicarious spectacle for money groupies such as Hirst and his admirers.
Pure poetry.

Whenever irony became the chief buzz word to defend a work of art as significant, Hirst's work is without question a reminder of how thin that veil can be. In the case of Hirst, or for that matter Koons - to borrow from Dennis Miller - that veil can get as thin as "used Neutrogeena," and tends to be as ironic as Alanis Morissette's moronic song about unfortunate circumstances.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Little Help - Movies in/with DC

I am soon to begin a project where I use footage from various Hollywood movies which use DC as a backdrop or a principle element of the film.

This is a petition, to any reader, to think of a movie that is not on the list below, which might be of some interest:

Absolute Power
All the President's Men
The American President
Bob Roberts
Born on the Fourth of July
Bulworth
The Candidate
Charlie Wilson's War
Citizen Cohn
The Contender
Dave
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Distinguished Gentleman
Enemy of the State
A Few Good Men
Forest Gump
The Good Shepherd
In Country
In the Line of Fire
Independence Day
JFK
Mr Smith Goes to Washington
Murder at 1600
National Treasure
No Way Out
The People vs. Larry Flint
Primary Colors
Private Parts
St. Elmo's Fire
True Colors
Truman
Wag the Dog

I know there are more... tons more (Die Hard 4, True Lies, probably a couple Jack Ryan movies). There is a good comment stream on DCist last year that covers some of this terrain. But, their interest was "when Hollywood gets DC wrong." That's partly of interest, but not the chief focus.

Any additions you can provide, please comment.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Unpacking the issue: Jessica Dawson

After Jessica Dawson's review of Picturing Politics, a little brew-ha-ha erupted over it, the most visible of which is over on Jeffry Cudlin's blog. Mostly, the article left a few of us wondering what she was referencing and why the vitriol.
Contributors to the exhibition "Picturing Politics 2008: Artists Speak to Power" wield opinions like loaded muskets at a battle reenactment -- they're packing so much firepower that they quickly overwhelm.
If people are overwhelmed by any of the pieces, they haven't been paying attention. (Understandably, the reviewer is finishing a degree in art history at GW, so maybe she hasn't been.) The work exercises an approachable restraint in most cases... with the exception of watching a Black man get slapped around by a White man for eight minutes... or that six channel video opera in the basement that plunges the viewer into light deprivation. Otherwise, restrained.
The result reminds us how hard it is to get politically minded exhibitions right.
We need a judge on this one. If right means "correct," then who has written the rules on this subject and where might they be found? Sometimes political art piddles in the pool of political cartoon, mining a subject for a punchline. I'm not laughing when looking at any of these pieces, and that's a good thing. If right means "conservative," well... frankly I've yet to encounter conservative political art. It's kinda like conservative journalism which, as we've recently learned, gets talking points from The White House. But, I digress.
With few exceptions, "Picturing Politics" batters us with its liberal agenda -- an agenda as rife with polemic as the rightist politics its artists oppose. Its artists distrust surveillance, doubt the media and hate George Bush. So what's new?
Well, I wouldn't expect apologia. As for the last statement, where does she get this? I suppose at a cursory glance a viewer might glean that interpretation from America's Grave (which is in reality a critique of the corruption that has occurred during this presidency due to fanatical religious extremism in the most conservative wing of the Republican party, how that has trampled on civil liberties, how there is an historic precedent for such action (slavery), and how it has bankrupt the value of the word America... but I think Dick, Rummy, Condi, Falwell, Robertson, Osteen, Parsley, etc. take some of the blame - it isn't just Bushy. Don't forget to tithe folks!) But I don't think that judgment fairly comments on any of the other work because commentary on The Media, surveillance, or a hatred of George Bush simply. isn't. there.

But, not getting it "right," and "liberal agenda" makes me wonder if Dawson has straight blond hair. (What's a blog if not for a few zingers?)
What's missing is the patience to unpack the issues -- immigration, gay politics, the invasion of Iraq. Too many of these artists take the easy road.
Well, space and time are major considerations: space on the part of the gallery, time on the part of viewer attention spans. But those are weak excuses. There is a point about a thesis to a work, or a body of work, that should never be over-looked, and I'll wager most of these pieces are building on the body of that thesis rather than encapsulating the whole. It's how we artists roll! No one single piece will unpack the issues, or more appropriately, an issue, because each issue is bigger than one work or one room. Only art historians and survey texts roll up the body of an artist's work into a single work... two if you're Picasso... three if you are Michelangelo... and the footprint of the Sistine Ceiling is at least twice that of the Arlington Arts Center.

It is evident that "what is missing is the patience to unpack the issues." And the onus is on you (the viewer). It always has been. If you lack the patience to unpack them, then pack up. Art is intended to contemplate when not decorating. The artist addresses the issue and helps further awareness, opinion, angle, and interpretation. History unpacks the issues. Criticism unpacks the issues. Dialogue unpacks the issues. Action to correct unpacks the issues. Art is the catalyst, and the job of the artist (in this case) is to leave enough open to the viewer to start the unpacking.

"Artist's Medium: The Sledgehammer?" Not at this show. That was playing at Transformer a couple weeks back. Here's the highlight reel.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Oh, why not more Wordle - Obama edition

2004 DNC Keynote Address - the Audacity of Hope




2007 Presidential Campaign Announcement, Springfield, IL


2008 Speech on Race

Wordle - Bush's 2005 Inaugural

  

I saw on Dave(from Pave)'s blog a post on Wordle. Great stuff.
Above is Bush's 205 Inaugural address.

Below I decided to test out Joe Biden's quote,
"Rudy Giuliani - he's a noun and a verb and 9-11."


"Yes We Can" all make Obama T-Shirts


On August 18th I received an e-mail from Obama for America about a new T-shirt design campaign that they are having. Geez... Shepherd Fairy makes an unsolicited design for your campaign and you think every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to do the same? Well... you're right!

When I received the e-mail on Monday, the list of submissions was two pages deep. A page can hold 30 submissions, and I think there were a total of 37 between the two pages. Today, having learned Joe Biden is the VP, I think it is appropriate to submit today what I designed on Monday... even though the list of submissions is now 17 pages deep.

You can vote on it... if they accept it. There were a list of rules on the Obama site, and they have the right to reject submissions that are deemed offensive. It's all a matter of perspective. When Joe Biden said what he said* - back in, what was it, January or February of 2007?!?! - my only thought was, "exactly! Obama is articulate and bright." Such perspective all stems from a specific speech a certain skinny kid with a funny name gave at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.

As for the t-shirt designs... on the website there are lots of great t-shirts that have been eloquently designed. Frankly, I am hoping to vote at least twice - once for my design and once for a design that is really good. Since Obama is from Chicago, I am hoping that the voting is done Chicago-style: vote early, vote often.


*"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American, who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy – I mean it's... That's a storybook, man!" - Joe Biden

Friday, August 22, 2008

Blog Bites Back

On Monday I was tickled to hear TXT MSG mentioned on WAMU's Art Beat. Neither my name nor Mark Cameron Boyd's name was mentioned on the radio, but the venue and gist of the work was mentioned.

On line, however, a little more detail was given about the event, including names, and links to our respective blogs!

They chose to link to something I wrote in March about Four Letter Words. In there I make a bad joke about the pronunciation of the word cwms. For those who read this blog regularly, I make a lot of bad jokes. But, what is becoming more apparent to me is the level of responsibility I need to have when writing these epistles. I never know who is going to link back to them, or where they might link.

In the case of where Art Beat linked in my blog, the writing is less revealing about the work, more revealing about the process, and gives strange insights on how I look at dictionaries. But, the writing is carefree, much like the nature of Four Letter Words as a series. The Staff writer at the Washington Post touched on that by commenting on the title, ""Four Letter Words" features more than 200 paintings... of, well, four letter words, though not necessarily the kind you are thinking of." Where neither the Art Beat link nor the Post picked up (nor DCist for that matter in their recent Arts Agenda) is that even a four letter word can posses complexity. Spellings may have truncated or expanded over the years (idyl is an alternative spelling of idyll... or is it the other way around?); they may fall out of the lexicon; they were adopted into the language through colonialism and trade, and have since fallen out of use in some stretches of the globe; or they are phonetically similar to another word and misspelled as a result.

Visually, since an abundance of type faces are available on anyone's personal computer, why not use them? At least once. I take a bit of pride knowing I never repeated a font in this project. Granted, in the process of painting, Times Regular and Times Bold may look similar, but each is a different font from the same family. The relationship between font and word is arbitrary, assigned methodically and randomly throughout the work. This can avoid any stereotyping... like when a greenhorn graphic design student chooses to use Fortune Cookie to design the menu of a Chinese Restaurant. It's a nice bit of variety to impose on a work. Besides, I'm tired of text made from stencils in art works.

But I digressed. This epistle is supposed to be about my responsibility with my blog writing.

If I write what I'd really like to write, will it come back to haunt me? It depends on how I write it, I suppose. Today's discovery on WAMU is a lesson to be mindful of that. I have no knowledge of who reads this. And, after my post about the Chinatown bus, I learned it could be anyone.

What I question more is, if I do carefully craft the commentary I care to publish, and it is done so in a manner that is objective, polite but critical, and with a gear toward insight, is it a path for alienation, a path that pushes discussion and debate, or simply something floating in the abyss like so much flotsam on the Internet?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

In DC? Pick up the Onion.

A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from Maura Judkis, freelance writer for The Onion A/V Club (and a whole bunch of other periodicals too), saying she wanted to interview me about my work at Transformer, Moment of Zen. Two weeks later, it is on the newsstands in DC. Unlike the video, the article/interview is light and fun - a good read. It'll be

Monday, August 18, 2008

TXT MSG Podcast


Prior to the opening of TXT MSG, Mark Cameron Boyd and I recorded a podcast with Twig Murray who (essentially*) runs the space. For those interested in taking a listen, this is the URL and link to the podcast: http://www.artsdc.com/txtmsgpodcast.html

To address on a couple of things that may shock or surprise people:
I imply that the body of work came about while playing Scrabbulous - the online version of Scrabble that was recently shut down. Specifically, the series related to currency came about from playing Scrabbulous, not the whole body of work (Four Letter Words). The whole body of work came about in part due to...

...the "atrocious" writing of my students. I actually say something to this affect in the podcast; it is a gross generalization intended for a punchline, and as all instructors in post secondary education are aware, a stereotype that exists for a reason: student writing is generally bad. In truth, a lot of writing is generally bad. There are people who get paid to write (copy editors, journalists, etc.) and their writing is filled with mixed modifiers, disagreeing subjects and verbs, disagreeing tenses, and so forth. Most classes I teach are visual classes, yet I spend more time reviewing written work in an effort to curb some of the pitfalls of student writing.

For instance, there are actually high school teachers who claim that "they" and "them" are appropriate pronouns for SINGULAR subjects. (Go back and re-read that with the voice of Lewis Black.) Their students matriculate with the expectation that this is universally understood. For this I have a joke, "What's black and white and red all over?"

I have had some talented writers pass through my courses, as well as many cogent written communicators. However, the scales weigh heavily toward those who have less talent expressing themselves with pen or keyboard. Every professor I know talks about bad student writing. Every professor I know has a story about bad papers, and we talk about them in an effort to out-do the other professor in his/her tale of woe. We console and support each other about the poor writing of students, as though we were members of a 12 step program. Coffee and hugs only adds to the atmosphere.


There are things I didn't talk about in the podcast. Frankly, there is no need to mention Ed Ruscha, Robert Indiana, Joseph Kosuth, or John Baldessari, but these are artists with whom people might quickly associate the work. I have mild interest in each artist. But to associate this work with the work of those artists, simply because they used text and writing, is flawed. No doubt, though, their work gives future artists the permission to use the word as a subject, as a still life, and as a figure.

I was once a graphic designer... but now I am found. I have a love of words and a love of language. I find the cornucopia of font families intriguing. But, I have a strong distaste for working with clients.

After working on this series I began to feel like a scribe. There is a certain amount of patience and diligence that is necessary when making this work. There were times I found myself meditating on each letter (no televisions were harmed in the making of this project). I began to think of those monks who labored over transcriptions of the Bible in the centuries predating Guttenberg's printing press.

*Admittedly I don't recall Twig's title. But, if you want to propose a show at the Athenaeum, she is the person to contact.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Opening at Alexandria's Athenaeum


Yesterday TXT MSG opened at the Athenaeum on Prince Street in Alexandria, VA. The event had fairly good attendance and I was happy to sell 25% of my work. The options are to buy individual squares for $20 each, or to purchase a whole series and get a bit of a discount on the work. For instance, a series of 24 sounds would sell for $400, or a series of 64 homonyms sell for $1100.

The images included are Homonyms (top), Homophones (below), and Uncommon (bottom).The show runs through Sept 21.

And, yes (Pave), some of the Homonyms are heteronyms.



Mark Cameron Boyd's Song for Europe was well interpreted by many. Though hardly anyone could address the Greek board, the Latin and French boards received heavy traffic and his English board is nearly completed!

Friday, August 08, 2008

All Cops should use Hands Free

Will the Arlington County police officer
driving on Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA
at 1:30 PM Thursday afternoon,
License Plate Number 145 654L,
please use a hands free device
the next time he drives and talks on his cell phone?

Appreciated.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I hate carpeting

Not the actual material, mind you, because it dampens sounds, is soft under foot, and gives off that cozy sensation. Carpeting: v. the act of laying or placing carpet in a room or space.

In the last week the crew I have managed has turned one of the experimental galleries at Arlington Arts Center into a giant black box. Today we took one step closer to completion by laying black carpet. It looks gorgeous, for the most part, and it will look better once vacuumed. Too bad we'll just heap a ton of dirt on top of it on Wednesday or Thursday (literally... one ton of fresh top soil).

In other news, the final touches have been put on the series of 64 homophones and 64 homonyms. For a time, I had a few of my homophones and homonyms mixed up. Granted, most homonyms are homophones by their/there very/vary nature.

Homonyms - words that are spelled alike but have different meanings.
Think pike: It is either a pole with a pointy end, or a fish up in Canada

Homophones - words that sound alike but may be spelled differently.
read and reed. Or read and red.

Until I started working on this project there were some words I was not aware existed, let alone knew they were homonyms or homophones. For instance... I think I was unaware of the word mete. I may have heard someone say "meted out," which would simply be "dividing," but I don't say it; it is not in my lexicon. Outta sight, outta mind... or something like that. For the sake of argument, let's say I didn't know it.

Mete: v. to allot.
Mete: n. boundary.

Where I may or may not have known the first definition (archaic, according to Websters), I certainly didn't know the second. Or, maybe I didn't think I knew it. For all I know, I thought it was meet, which is a verb. If fishing in The Boundary Waters, are they located where Ontario meets (joins) Minnesota, or where Ontario metes Minnesota? Granted, if I am in that situation I'm thinking about catching meat to pair with wild rice.

Seldom is it that this stuff keeps me up at nights (post will be around 1:00 am; this is an exception). But, occasionally I get that student paper where their/there is confused, and I'm haunted into the wee hours/ours wishing I had the hair/hare to pull out.

I'm a dork.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Progress and Mistakes

The last two weeks have been a grueling exercise to see how much work I can accomplish in a small window of time.

America's Grave needed to be rebuilt into a reusable structure, free from cardboard. That was last week. This week we were allowed into Arlington Arts Center to begin preparing the space. Step one: build the walls. Across both weeks, most nights I'd return home and paint for two to three hours after dinner.

My first job after graduate school was working as a carpenter's assistant during the week. With respect to the 20-foot by 8 foot wall I built this past week at AAC (with the help of a soon-to-matriculate college freshman assistant) - and to the 8 foot by 7 foot wall - I can never claim it is the most beautiful wall I have ever constructed. I can only assume Bill F (the boss, whose last name was always illegible on the check stubs) and Paul (the foreman) would have fired me. The mudding and taping is sloppy, with seams and corner bead still visible. But, painted black and in a dimly-lit space, most of those day-laboring blemishes should dissolve.

I'm still a day behind schedule, and need to carpet, install the lighting system, and "dig" the grave. So, the extra day of mudding had to go out the window. And, with the mud in the bucket (rather than 20-minute joint compound), there is much more drying time. Theater and carpentry are about illusion anyway. Shim it. Mask it. Fake it. As long as the disbelief is suspended and the wall doesn't fall down, who will know?

But I know I am tired and prone to making mistakes. The canary in the coal mine: I recently sent out an e-mail to a bunch of people to promote the work and forgot to bcc everyone. Half the recipients were cc'd. All I can do is shake my head and proclaim what a bonehead I am sometimes.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Season In Hell and America's Grave at AAC


On July 29th, I once again begin grave digging with Randall Packer - this time at The Arlington Arts Center, where the piece America's Grave will be included Picturing Politics - an exhibition curated by Rex Weil.

With each incarnation, the work expands. The solitary grave, first exhibited in American University's Katzen Museum in January 2006, expanded into a grave and cosmology in the autumn of 2006, down in Athens, GA. Last spring, the work was "exhibited on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building", safe within the confines of Provisions Library. This time, the work finally expands into the story boards for the multimedia opera Randall has been composing steadily since 2001. While the final edit of the work has not been completed, elements of the score will be imposed in the grave, along with the various regions of hell, as transcribed from Dante's Inferno.

This is also the first time that the work will be resented in perfect isolation from other work. In the next two weeks I prepare lighting, arrange for carpeting, collect the necessary materials to build a wall, and once again prepare the skeleton of The Grave. Instead of being an "object" of art, as in previous incarnations where the work could be viewed as sculpture, the work is positioned into a theatrical environment.

Installation begins July 29 and runs through Aug. 14 - plenty of time to lay 600 square feet of carpet, build 320 square feet of wall, install 20 lights, and unload half a tone of dirt onto a raised platform.

The exhibition runs Aug. 15 - Sept. 27.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Chinatown Bus: Never Again

A trip up to New York, to see the work of Olafur Eliasson at the MoMA before it closed, was overshadowed by a teeth-clenching, white-knuckle ride on the "Chinatown bus." Like many a friend and acquaintance before, I too was suckered in by the low price of the commute. Unlike my friends, I never heeded the warning of buses breaking down on the interstate, U-turns over the median, or the bus catching on fire. Fortunately, these specific events did not occur on the travel.

What did occur?
Bus hit something before leaving the parking lot in DC. Check
Bus nearly sideswiped a semi on I-95. Check
Bus cut off a semi. Check
Bus constantly changed lanes driving upwards of 75 MPH on the interstate. Check
Bus driver often driving with one hand while eating peanuts. Check
Or, talking on his cell phone. Check
Bus was late for the return. Check
Got yelled at in Chinese. Check
Bus broke down before leaving NYC. Check
Bus driver smoking while driving. Check

As a list, it doesn't look that bad. Most passengers seemed oblivious to the fact they were sitting in a death trap that weaved across three lanes of traffic like a novice learning to saddle stitch. But, whatever man! It's a $6 ticket! This price would explain the lack of toilet paper in both the DC Chinatown office, and the lack of toilet paper on the bus.

The AM bus departed from DC at 8:00 AM. The return was at 3:30 AM. Same bus driver. I hope he had a nap at some point.

The best part: an emergency stop at a NJ rest stop to swap commuters from one bus to another. Prior to the bus breaking down in NYC, there was some confusion if the bus was going to DC or Philly. Turns out it went to both. But, after an hour on the interstate, the bus I was on (let's call it Bus A) pulled over into the rest stop to tell commuters to DC to get on another bus (let's call it Bus B). Those en route to Philly on Bus B disembarked for Bus A , and those of us on Bus A headed to Balt/DC disembarked for Bus B. The goal was apparently some sort of time saving strategy.

Once settled on Bus B, Driver A and Driver B held a little conference in Bus B about something. It was at this time that Driver A decided to yell at a passenger seated behind Driver B, complete with pantomimed kicking and vulgarity. The lady was confused. Passengers were becoming unsettled. And, the look of utter shock and horror saturated the face of Driver B as he tried to stop the unsolicited assault of verbal abuse spewing from Driver A.

The Eliasson show? Enlightening. And Buckminster Fuller at The Whitney made me feel smarter. But, all of this got left behind on East Broadway, sometime between 9:45 and 11:00 PM.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Carlin, 71, Now With Joe Pesci


The attached video should explain the titles (but you have to go through 7:29 of bull s***).

I don't recall what age I began listening to his comedy routines on HBO, but Carlin had a way with language, analogies, and utilizing solecism that was new (to me at the young age of 10, 11, or 12), and always refreshing. My recent series of painting - Four Letter Words - was inspired, in part, by his Supreme Court case on obscenity in 1978.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I've Got Blister's on My Fingers!


The quote from John Lennon seems most appropriate. Pictured are 200 stretched 8"x8" canvases for an upcoming exhibition (with Mark Cameron Boyd) at the Athenaeum in mid August. I stretched 1/4 of them this evening.

I know! There are machines that can do that. Like Vader, am I more machine now, than man? Maybe. But, there is aback story to this that has stretched my patience (as well as caused me to stretch a bunch of canvas). Initially I ordered approximately 300 pre-stretched canvases from Art Supply Warehouse in mid April. When they had not arrived by late May I gave them a call.
It seems my canvases were on backorder and would not reach the warehouse until mid July.

"Where are they on backorder from? China?" I said, incredulously.
"Yes sir," the operator replied. "It takes a while for the barge to cross the Pacific."

I ordered pre-stretched canvases because I calculated (rather liberally by some estimates) that it would take 24 hours to assemble 1200 stretcher bars, cut 300 canvas squares and stretch 300 canvases. This does not also account for placing 600 D-rings on the backs. So, I guess by virtue of the associative property, I'm more Chinese now, than man - or, something like that - because my studio definitely felt like a sweat shop this evening a I stretched 50 canvases in two hours (to the tunes of ( ) by Sigur Ros and l'Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio).

Sadly, when I had to default to stretcher bars and canvases I couldn't complete the full order. 6 boxes of stretcher bars are on back order - from China. Does it mean I have no soul if I state for the record that I hope they aren't coming from the Sichuan province?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Assassinating Another Art (Media) Whore

ArtsJournal pinged a June 6th Washington Post article on Yazmany Arboleda, who recently had some brew-ha-ha with the NYPD and Secret Service over the titles of his recent "Assassination" exhibitions (featuring Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama), which is an effort to assassinate character through sexist and racist stereotypes. I'd thought to comment on it, but since my last rant was regarding the "abortion" of art at Yale, I don't think it is necessary to dedicate a bunch of key strokes to bemoaning a guy in NYC who claims he wants to "raise a dialog" by making an exhibition of a couple dick jokes. I link to the "exhibitions" simply because everyone likes a train wreck. The WaPo article is also a great essay on how to get free publicity.

Instead, I turn my attention to our wonderful planet earth. BoingBoing.net pinged a snapshot of the planet and moon from Mars via NASA. Better still is this image of the earth-rise from the moon. A few weeks back I was doing a preliminary interview with a second visually impaired student at AU. He was sighted until the age of seven and stated that the only thing that saddens him about being blind is missing the ecstasy of looking at art.

Ecstasy.

Seldom do I hear or read anyone discussing art with that term: a word so simply structured and yet a state of being so difficult to achieve. I find no ecstasy in the "art" of Arboleda.
I doubt anyone does. Nor would anyone be capable of having a serious dialog about the work or comprehensive dialog about the real issues (which is missing from his exhibition).

I do find ecstasy from seeing the earth captured 88 million miles away. From that perspective, $4/gal gasoline also seems insignificant.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Art-Schvart: the abortions of art education

I've been hesitant to comment on the work of Aliza Schvarts. Condemning it is to easy and quick - and 87,000 people have already felt the need to do so. What is necessary are alternative perspectives and rational discussion or analysis: one that doesn't demonize her for artificially inseminating herself nine times in as many months and then taking herbal supplements to abort the possible fetus on the 28th day of her cycle; one that doesn't quickly belittle her act or her intentions as insane, illegal, or murderous; one that doesn't dismiss her for the act as another young artist trying to get famous quickly.

It's necessary to consider at least three things when addressing the piece and the intention of the artist in question: The Artist's Intention as canon, Accepted Performance Pieces that function as a foundation for the work, and the objectives of teaching.

I Blame Duchamp: The Canon of Artist Intention.
The first two are related, but it is necessary to separate them. The Artist's Intention as Cannon goes to Duchamp's Fountain. When Fountain is cited as the basis of work defended under the larger umbrella of "The Artist's Intention" it is necessary to understand both the context of that particular piece - Fountain - in terms of its submission and in terms of the time it was submitted. Fountain was submitted to an unjuried exhibition, wherein the participants of the exhibition could submit any work they wanted for the fee of $5. The piece would be exhibited regardless of what it was. Duchamp, under the pseudonym of R. Mutt, submitted a urinal to be displayed on a pedestal under the title Fountain. The piece was later rejected and it was the only piece rejected.

What the submission, and later act of rejection, calls into question is the academic and public response to what is and what is not art. Four years before Duchamp submitted Fountain, Teddy Roosevelt walked through the first Armory Show in 1913 and declared "That's not art!"Amongst those exhibited were Robert Henri, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Matisse, Leger, Delaunay, Odilon Redon, Manet, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Seurat... the list goes on. Though the following may be conjecture, it also may be accurate, because I cannot say for certain if Roosevelt was speaking about a particular piece or about the exhibition as a whole. But, if my estimation is correct, Roosevelt, like so many other educated pedestrians and professors of the old guard of art, considered the bucolic landscapes, bowls of fruit, allegoric and historical paintings in the Classical tradition to be art; anything that opposed the tradition of what the fine arts re-presented was antithetical to what the fine arts were. The Armory Show of 1913 moved the bar up, just a little. In 1917 Duchamp moved it further. It was a response to technology: photography and film, automotives, aeronautics, the advance of science, the scourge of trench warfare and chemical weapons.

This canon has been used to defend the works of many who followed, forever pushing a boundary further and further from a public grasp and understanding of what is and is not art. When bad work crops up it is the easiest thing to point one's finger at and blame. Yet, when examining the work of Cage, Turrell, Paik, Holzer, Rauschenberg, Johns, Irwin, etc we seldom thank Duchamp for creating a plateau from which to continually redefine our boundaries.

The Celebration of Burden and the Shock of a Few:
Schvart's work has also been linked to Chris Burden's work, Shoot, executed in 1971, wherein he had a friend shoot him in the arm. It gave him a flesh wound, a degree, overnight notoriety and celebrity, and the ability to (I'll bet easily) get tenure. But, herein lies several problems: was it the shock and awe of the work that was so celebrated, the sheer chutzpah to ask the same question as Duchamp, only to solve it with a more bombastic and explosive answer or was it the fact that his piece was sheer genius truly shedding light on an aspect of fine art that had remained unanswered until the hammer was dropped? Did it really expand our knowledge of the tragedy of the violence in Vietnam, removed from that country's civil war, removed from its politics, and seated comfortably in a white walled gallery in California? Did it expand our consciousness in the United States in terms of violent acts committed through a barrel with a bullet, violence that had taken away the lives of John and Robert Kennedy, Dr. King, Malcolm X; violence that picked off students from a bell tower in Texas; or violence that took the lives of four at Kent State? Considering the assassination attempts on Ford, Carter, and Reagan; the wakes of The University of Iowa, Columbine, and Virginia Tech (and all the school shootings between those 15 years); the continued debate over the right to bear arms; the continued wars currently campaigned in Afghanistan and Iraq, Burden's Shoot is nothing more than an artistic act of futility. Part of the reason why the answer to those questions is a resounding no is because little documentation exists from the work. It was seen by a few people. But it remains discussed in college classrooms throughout the US. Had ample documentation existed, maybe he too could have been pictured on the cover of a Rage Against the Machine album like more relevant acts of protest during Vietnam through self-immolation committed by Buddhist monks. Burden's statement, done in the sake of art, lacked all the poetry and beauty of burning Buddhists who didn't flinch under fire (like Burden did).

Shocking art has been created by many (and sadly I forget their many of their names). The artist who placed herself nude on a block of ice and lay there until she bled. The artist that ate chocolate and lard to make a point about body image, consumption and over eating. The artist that had sex with an art buyer who agreed to be part of the piece as a criticism of the art culture. Manzoni defecated into tins and critiqued the art market. When Carolee Schneeman stood nude like a life model, painted her contour on her body, and then read a scroll pulled from her vagina she was commenting on the objectification of women as objects. The list goes on and on.

What becomes mildly interesting is what gets remembered and what doesn't. In a decade will anyone outside of DC remember Adrian Parson's Shrapnel performance at The Warehouse? A man cutting off his foreskin is rather impressive in a way... it was a shot in the arm for DC shock art. Shock has been relevant in art for centuries, bringing artists into light and remembering their seminal works while eventually forgetting what brought them to the front at all. Some remained up front and center for centuries because of their talent. Leonardo, for example, is remembered for Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Most of history has forgotten that his name first gained attention because he participated in the gang rape of a boy. Caravaggio is remembered for turning out the light in 17th Century painting and ushering in The Baroque. We seldom discuss the pederasty of his early Bacchus-es - not only the pederasty of the models but the pederasty committed by the Cardinals who commissioned them. But, in another century will we still hold Damien Hirst's animals in formaldehyde or Jeff Koon's vitrines of basketballs and vacuum cleaners with as much "praise" as we do today? I'll guess not, though they may become analogous to the Emperor's New Clothes, if they aren't already in many circles.

When we "celebrate" these questionable pieces, is it really celebration or is it acknowledgement? After all, Paris Hilton is a celebrity. She's photographed all the time and appears as a source for gossip constantly. But, do we really celebrate her (or this questionable art) like a 25th wedding anniversary, a child's first step, the landing of a space shuttle, or the reward of a job well-done? Sometimes the shocking art of a few is truly brilliant. But, in many instances we simply need to reassess our values and how we guide our attention.

The Blind Leading The Blind:
The guidance of attention and value in education is at first steered by our professors. The weight of a project is evaluated by them and directed by them, and the good professors try to remain one step back from contorting a student's creativity into the professor's creativity; the student should work on his own work, not our work. We can purposefully direct how to draw an object, how to mix a color. These are, for lack of a better term, known quantities. What many art professors eventually want to encourage is how to think - how to create your own problems.

If the work cannot communicate directly the artist statement or curatorial statement is an attempt to fill the gap. As a result, art programs try to teach their students how to write. Published in The Wall Street Journal and borrowed from Ms. Schvarts is the following passage from her artist statement, below.
"The reality of miscarriage is very much a linguistic and political reality, an act of reading constructed by an act of naming -- an authorial act. It is the intention of this piece to destabilize the locus of that authorial act, and in doing so, reclaim it from heteronormative structures that seek to naturalize it."
The first point of criticism is, just because you go to Yale and just because you are in a fine arts program does not mean you need to write like an ass hole: constipated and up tight. More to the point, H.G. Frankfurt (from Princeton) would quickly label this writing as Bullshit. While the writing is clearly versed in linguistics, the troublesome nature of many artists who study linguistics through Feminism and Gender Studies (as she clearly has) is they fail to realize that only other linguistics people can read their writing because it isn't English - it is linguistic-uesse. Let's dissect a little:

"Miscarriage is very much a linguistic and political reality..." Really? I thought it was a biological reality. Politics has no place in even attempting to position whether or not a zygote matures into a fetus, unless uterine linings have become politically active. It is true, however, that some uterine linings are possessed by politically active people. What is a linguistic and political reality is not miscarriage, it is abortion!

The linguistic reality is that people in the medical world refer to a miscarriage in three terms: missed abortion, incomplete abortion, and complete abortion. An abortion, as we discuss it in popular culture, is actually what is classified as an elective abortion. So, it could be determined that Ms. Schvartz seeks to qualify the weight of an adjective. Yet, she does not state the noun abortion, to which the value of the adjective can be adhered, in that quote.

Her process of insemination and expulsion, repeated nine times in as many months, lacks some science and reason. The first is that she never tested herself for pregnancy, so there is no telling if she actually conceived. After the 28th day of her cycle she consumed herbal supplements to abort the questionably existent "fetus." The ambiguity of existing fetal tissue, she rationalizes, questions whether the act is an [elective] abortion or a miscarriage. the only problem with that rationalization - as her professors responsible for the guidance of this project should have made her aware - is if she elects to consume a product that will terminate the pregnancy, then she has elected to abort the pregnancy. Or is the question that, if it does not involve dilation and curettage that it is not an abortion?

An additional point of note is that a miscarriage or an elected abortion typically damages the uterine walls, and requires approximately two menstrual cycles to heal. If a woman gets pregnant immediately following a miscarriage or abortion, she increases her risk of having a(nother) failed pregnancy. At least, that is what my wife's doctor explained to us after our miscarriage in November. So, Ms. Schvarts' thesis not only discounts linguistic logic, it spits in the face of biology and statistics as well.

However, this is missing the point! Why? Because her performance and its documentation is not about the language of pregnancy and miscarriage, it is about who society says should have babies and how portions of our anatomy are used to make them

The "authorial act" and "heteronormativity" of her thesis is arguing against the declaration that vaginas are meant to receive penises and that women are meant to have babies. Well, if procreation is your goal, until recent scientific advances, there could be no other way. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous... even the pregnant man in the news is, biologically a woman - he just happened to have a sex change and keep his uterus. If procreation is not the goal, the "authorial act" and the "heteronormativity" she should be railing against is the legislation and legal and social condemnation against activities that might expand beyond procreative acts. This would include anal sex, homosexual sex, oral sex, and other acts of penetration. The right not to bear children has ever been legislated against, to the best of my knowledge.

So, while her act does question form and function as it converges on the body, was it a necessary question that needed to be asked and did she answer it in any rational and articulate way. Her thesis has already been proven and added to for centuries by nuns and priests through their vows of chastity and historically recorded acts of pederasty. The same can be stated for many members of the general public, for kings and queens. Just because it wasn't in your high school text book does not mean it didn't happen.

And these are the very holes her professors should have poked through her ideas. Because, while it is necessary to get the students to consider problems in their work, it is also necessary for them to arrive at the answers. For painters and sculptors, traditionally, this may have occurred over decades, building upon their research and expanding their answers. For students, sometimes they need a little help. The obvious answers were in front of her, but she over thought them, nose deep in Jacques Derrida's doo-doo.

As for the general public, the question they are asking is just as invalid. Is this art? As opposed to what? Craft? Not art? This is absolutely art; the artist has declared it so! The point missed is that art is not the value to be assessed. Art is a commodity, like an appliance or consumable. The question the public should be asking is one of value. Is this good art? The answer is no.

Balducci's Might Be Run By Morons

This afternoon I went to Balducci's to use a deli coupon to buy a couple of sandwiches and quickly learned that I cannot do that, which confused me. I naturally assumed from my experiences getting sandwiches at delis at several grocery stores in the Midwest and New England that this was common: ya' want a sandwich? Go to the deli! In fact, if I recall from living in Brooklyn, if I wanted to get, say, a Rueben, I could walk to a neighborhood deli and order a Rueben. Not a grocery store, mind you. An actual business called a d-e-l-i wherein they make s-a-n-d-w-i-c-h-e-s.

This is not the case at Balducci's on New Mexico Avenue in Washington, DC. In the deli department you can get your "deli sliced meats." The deli department does not make sandwiches; those are made by the sandwich department which may or may not be in the prepared foods department. I'm going out on a limb here, but I have a feeling the sandwich department gets its meat from the deli department.

The objects I most wanted to purchase from the deli are pictured on the right of the coupon. Pictured: Sandwiches! However, sandwiches are not "sold by the deli," as I was informed by the clerk. "They are sold by the sandwich department." Therefore, the sandwiches I wanted to buy, the sandwiches pictured on the coupon, were not valid purchase items.

Apparently there is a glitch in their system - or departments just don't talk to one another. For example, if I were to buy a sandwich it might get rung up under prepared foods. If I were to buy cream it would go to the dairy. If I purchased a hunk of Fontina cheese, it goes to the cheese department (yes... I know... that's a dairy product, but not a product sold by the diary department). So, when the graphics people in the marketing department make the coupons that go to John Q. Public (or, in this case, John J. Anderson), they don't know the ins and outs of sales. So, if there is going to be a special in the deli, why not represent that deli transaction with a sandwich? After all... IT JUST MAKES SENSE!

That is, of course, unless you are handling the sales, which is run by Major Major from Catch-22.

Maj. Major Major Major: Sergeant, from now on, I don't want anyone to come in and see me while I'm in my office. Is that clear?
First Sgt. Towser: Yes, sir? What do I say to people who want to come in and see you while you're gone?
Maj. Major Major Major: Tell them I'm in and ask them to wait.
First Sgt. Towser: For how long?
Maj. Major Major Major: Until I've left.
First Sgt. Towser: And then what do I do with them?
Maj. Major Major Major: I don't care.
First Sgt. Towser: May I send people in to see you after you've left?
Maj. Major Major Major: Yes.
First Sgt. Towser: You won't be here then, will you?
Maj. Major Major Major: No.
First Sgt. Towser: I see, sir. Will that be all?
Maj. Major Major Major: Also, Sergeant, I don't want you coming in while I'm in my office asking me if there's anything you can do for me. Is that clear?
First Sgt. Towser: Yes, sir. When should I come in your office and ask if there's anything I can do for you?
Maj. Major Major Major: When I'm not there.
First Sgt. Towser: What do I do then?
Maj. Major Major Major: Whatever has to be done.
First Sgt. Towser: Yes, sir.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Graffiti Research Lab: Art Happens



Though the adult in me finds Borf to be a nuisance for the defacement of property, the artist in me has always found his "tags" - on a graphic level - to be very compelling (even if his stuff is a tad derivative of Banksy and Fairy). And there is something in me that wishes I had the chutzpah to do the street art that might be deemed as "destructive." For instance, with the plethora of exhausted fire hydrants in DC I wouldn't see a problem if several of these tripping posts could be adorned with gold leaf (like the icons of city mismanagement that they are). Unfortunately, I think the po-po would find my amused interest otherwise. To this date, apart from the occasional moving violation, I don't have a record... I'd like to keep it that way.

So, we have the Graffiti Research Lab, empowering persons of various persuasions to post non-destructive marks of creative interest on whatever surface they so desire. After all, they can be easily removed and have no permanent effect (or defect) to the surfaces they adorn. They are made with projections, or magnets stuck to metal. In the case of Mark Jenkins - tape.

A philosophy of mine is that "Art Happens." This has two meanings, and both happen outside the gallery environment, which are warehouses of art that has already happened. The first is a transformative experience that occurs when an individual stumbles upon something "out of the ordinary." Typically, the out-of-the-ordinary physical object placed in the environment that forces a person to pause and reflect. Graffiti does this, whether it is classically painted onto a surface (Borf, Basquiat, Banksy or anyone else whose name starts with B) or whether it is a sculpture of tape.

The other way art happens is when we project meaning onto an otherwise mundane object or event. Think: the videos of the floating bag from the movie American Beauty. In either event, if we allow it, Art forces us to engage our perspective of our surroundings: physical, social, aesthetic, etc. It allows us to assess everything between our known knowns and our unknown unknowns.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

USDAT activities on Boing Boing

The one downside to working for a fictitious government entity is knowing (or not knowing) if there are others out there silently plodding away on their own agendas. While I can only assume Billy Kluver, Under Secretary for the Bureau of Reality, is probing the after life for ways of making technological bridges back to our world, most activities of the US Department of Art & Technology, to the best of my understanding, are only being concocted within a few blocks of my apartment.

But today I learned of (Trade) Mark Gunderson and his Artistic License. (Here is a permanent link to his enterprise.) Neither of us are listed as staff in the Department, so I have no clue what his role is. But, it's entertaining, just the same.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I blogged too soon: grant award from DCCAH

Tuesday afternoon the fat letter from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities arrived, awarding me with my second (and final) Young Artist Project grant award. (Rejection letters are typically thin because they do not have all the additional tax paper work that needs to be filed upon acceptance).

The proposal was to create visually interesting work (for the bulk of us) that was also aesthetically interesting to the visually impaired.

The project proposal stems from a student I interviewed at American University (Paul) who is blind. The intention of that interview was to create a sort of video documentary/profile to gain some understanding - as a sighted individual - about how the world is perceived when blind. However, what I was learning in the course of the interview became far more interesting than a video piece. I knew, going into the interview, that Paul played saxophone in a jazz group, and was also a very talented classical pianist, so he did have some appreciation for the arts. But, part of what interested me was when he told me about experiencing the Torqued Ellipses and other serpentine sculptures of Richard Serra.

Every time I go to the National Gallery I marvel at Serra's steel sculpture that, if installed improperly, will kill the preparator. It's a piece that really cannot be felt like one of his Torqued Ellipse (at least, I'm not brave enough to touch it). You can walk through the ellipse and it will affect how you hear the space. If you are prodding through it with a white cane, it will also affect the dimensions of your boundaries - for example the wall might meet the floor over there, but every time I walk there I bump my head.

Think of how many other works of fine art can be experienced like that? Pieces that are heard and touched - as well as seen. My grant from DCCAH will fund a few pieces that should affect at least three of our five senses.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Read the Fine Print

After completing another application for a Small Project grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities I found the one line that may explain my last few project proposals getting rejected. "Priority will be given to applications who have not received grant funds from the DC Arts Commission within the past five years."


Of course... maybe it has something to do with my last few proposals funding the Graviton - my project which will pull the moon out of its orbit, closer to the earth.

Who knows?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

When it rains it pours.

Confirmed today - August is going to be a busy month of exhibiting.
Future posts will depict images of the Virginia work.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dumb Pondering

I don't pay attention to NCAA basketball. Or sports much, for that matter (it's been 14 years since the '94 MLB strike, so I should stop blaming it). And I don't have a TV.

I noticed that American University and George Mason University were in one bracket (are they called brackets?) of the Road to the Final Four, and that Georgetown University and University Maryland Baltimore County are in a different bracket. I thought, "well that's odd... I drive past Georgetown on my commute between American University and George Mason University. Why aren't they in the same bracket?"

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Four Letter Words

One of the previously mentioned "upcoming projects," from a few posts back, is entitled Four Letter Words. The project is a bit more intelligent than it sounds, but before venturing in depth with content I have to post a few rules regarding the project. Rule No. 1 is don't talk about fight club. Rule No. 2...

That stated, of the 3900 words I pulled from a Scrabble word list, I have been sorting through them with a 1994 copy of the Merriam Webster Dictionary (MWD) - one of those cheap pocket garden variety that every would-be-student gets for high school graduation, or prior to matriculation. Needless to say, not all 3900 words accepted by Scrabble were accepted by the MWD (and fewer still accepted by the genius that is Microsoft Office); it is not a massive volume. It is also not up-to-date and does not include such hip new words, like w00t. (w00t is typed with zeros and I am ashamed that Google spell check isn't giving it the red line.)

Dictionaries can be rather frightening objects. I've seen some as thick as a toddler is tall, and that was usually just the first volume of a three book series. But, those ridiculous monstrosities typically engage the etymology and evolution of a word. They require a spotter to lift onto a sturdy oak table that is buttressed. And while particular rules regarding my project began eliminating some of the words typically found as associates in the dictionary (plurals, past tense, etc), some of the words I came across I had to raise an eye-brow.

"Cwms" is a word. I kid you not. It is Welsh for "valley" and pronounced cooms (as in Sean Puffy). It's also drunk-typing for "cwms."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

...and now a word from James Agee

A while back Bill Christenberry told me to read Now Let Us Praise Famous Men. Bit by bit I get through it, struggling to find the time to complete it in a succession of sittings. I wanted to share this stretch on page 126 (of my copy, anyway):

...the work is done by half-skilled, half-paid men under no need to do well... and this is what comes of it: Most naive, most massive symmetry and simpleness. Enough lines, enough off-true, that this symmetry is strongly, yet most subtly sprained against its centers, into something more powerful than either full symmetry or deliberate breaking and balancing of 'monotonies' can ever hope to be. A look of being most earnestly hand-made, as a child's drawing, a thing created out of need, love, patience, and strained skill in the innocence of a race. Nowhere one ounce or inch spent with ornament, not one trace of relief or of disguise: a matchless monotony, and in it a matchless variety, and this again throughout restrained, held rigid...
A part of me thinks he looks upon that "powerful" nature as beautiful and poetic. Another part of me thinks he looks upon that "powerful" nature as desperate and hopeless. Not to miss the point of Agee's text, but I always find it interesting to be able to walk away with art lessons from unexpected places and at unexpected moments.