Sunday, February 24, 2008

Recent Exploits

About a year ago I was charged with the responsibility of rebuilding and updating Katja Oxman's website. It was a casual assignment that was completed a couple weeks back.

In addition, a recent essay (ramble?) of mine has been published on the blog Kill Film Students. Most of those associated with the blog are former students of mine at American University, and in the last five months I've assumed a sort of advisory role and solicited critic of their projects. The ramble deals with the need for art students to grasp their education and shake of the malaise of latent adolescence. It comes about from conversations I have had with several students I have taught at the three universities where I have taught and reflections on my own art education, which tie to things heard recently on various shows on National Public Radio. Of course, since these are film students, there is a heavy slant toward cinema.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Happy President's Day, Stephen Colbert

A month ago I stopped by the National Portrait Gallery to see it for myself - I was in the neighborhood, so why not? (I lost my card reader, hence the delay.)

The pic is of students from George Mason University taking photos of themselves in front of Colbert's portrait, located between the bathrooms outside the Hall of Presidents.

Colbert stated a good case to get his work into the museum. He established his national importance and influence and then critiqued work on the wall around the galleries of portraits. He protested Alfred Stieglitz's portrait, which depicts a diagram of a camera. "If it's on aesthetic values, (the Stieglitz) is better than your portrait," stated NPG Director Marc Pachter. In terms of aesthetics, Pachter is correct. Colbert's portrait is a series of three digital photographs, put through a paint or pastel filter in Photoshop, then printed on canvas. It is "art" that looks better on television than it does in person.

The humor is two-fold. The first is a commentary on the cheesiness of political portraiture in recent decades (exception - Kennedy). Historically, the portraits of presidents consists largely of a white guy in a chair. Of course, the portraits represented in Wikipedia do not necessarily speak for the portraits on display at The National Portrait Gallery - but you get the idea.

The second is a commentary on the art world - or rather how those outside of the art world (makers, sellers, collectors, and educators) appreciate a work of art. Without question, more people have flocked to the museum in the past four weeks to look at this Colbert piece than any other museum or gallery in the area in recent months - with possible exception to the Annie Leibovitz / Ansel Adams double-billing at The Corcoran. And why do they flock? Is it to look at a notable piece of art? If in reference to the work on the wall, it only looks like art: a "painting," in a frame, hanging on a wall. If there is any art in this work, it is in the spectacle. People trying to read the wall text - which discusses the production process - are asked to kindly step aside (by the guards) so that people can take a picture of/with the work. It is a spectacle so popular that the initial viewing of six weeks, for this accidental piece of performance/audience-art has been extended until April first. Pachter has taken a page from John Cage and Marcel Duchamp. The museum can only benefit.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

On The Horizon

January succumbed to the boondoggle otherwise known as application season, wherein I devoured a considerable amount of time and energy applying for F/T professorships, exhibitions, awards, and residencies. February has since lost production time to that miser influenza: herbal teas, acetaminophen, long naps, and spoon-fulls of chicken soup. Regardless, this has also been about the most productive I have been in the studio in months.

In November, for a plethora of reasons, I decided to decline most adjunct teaching offers I received so I could freelance as a graphic designer throughout the semester. This might seem contrary in some regard, but so doing created the long missed free-time that teaching had consumed. In effect, teaching 5-6 courses/semester between 3 universities usually created a 60-hour + work week. And, since teaching doesn't pay very well, a little extra work had to be done on the side to make ends meet. This left only time for thinking about art. Doing 25 hours of freelance a week (and 12 hours devoted to academia) not only pays better, but allows me to work on painting, drawing, and digital media.

Now, the four or five projects I have been stewing over for the past 13 months can finally be executed - or at least begun. One notebook has already been filled with presketches. Talking about the work to come is like a catcher discussing a no-hitter with his pitcher during the seventh inning stretch. This blog won't be very busy, needless to say - but there will be new images posted this spring.