31 December 2007

Goodbye 2007...

Hello 2008.

Happy New Year!

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Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), "Carnival Evening," 1886
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Thanks to all of you for visiting my blog in 2007. Best wishes for a happy, peaceful & prosperous year ahead!

-- Helquin

29 December 2007

Because I need to hear it...

"If we lived in a State where virtue was profitable, common sense would make us good, and greed would make us saintly. And we'd live like animals or angels in the happy land that needs no heroes. But since in fact we see that avarice, anger, envy, pride, sloth, lust and stupidity commonly profit far beyond humility, chastity, fortitude, justice and thought, and have to choose, to be human at all … why then, perhaps we must stand fast a little -- even at the risk of being heroes."
~ the character Sir Thomas More, in Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons

Incidentally, it's interesting to note that the somewhat abbreviated version of this speech in the 1966 film adaptation omits envy, sloth and lust among the vices, and substitutes charity and modesty for the virtues humility, chastity and fortitude. Hmmm...

25 December 2007


"To lead apes in hell (1579) was the fancied fate of one who died an old maid."

Pantone Selects Color of the Year for 2008:
"As a reflection of the times, Blue Iris brings together the dependable aspect of blue, underscored by a strong, soul-searching purple cast. Emotionally, it is anchoring and meditative with a touch of magic. Look for it artfully combined with deeper plums, red-browns, yellow-greens, grapes and grays."
(Color of the Year for 2007 was Chili Pepper.)

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The Zymoglyphic Museum: "The world's only repository for the study and display of Zymoglyphic art, artifacts, and natural history."

File Magazine's collection of unexpected photography: "We publish images that treat subjects in unexpected ways."

The List Universe presents: Top 10 Color Classical Reproductions. Commenter angelina astutely notes that "Apollo's carpet and curtains match."

Blond, of course. ;-)

22 December 2007

Winter Solstice

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Piet Mondrian, The Gray Tree (1911, oil on canvas, approx. 31" x 42")
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"The winter solstice has always been celebrated in China as the resting time of the year -- a custom that survives in the time of rest observed at the new year. In winter the life energy, symbolized by thunder, the Arousing, is still underground. Movement is just at its beginning; therefore it must be strengthened by rest, so that it will not be dissipated by being used prematurely. This principle, i.e., of allowing energy that is renewing itself to be reinforced by rest, applies to all similar situations. The return of health after illness, the return of understanding after an estrangement: everything must be treated tenderly and with care at the beginning, so that the return may lead to a flowering."
~ The I Ching, Wilhelm-Baynes translation

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Happy Solstice!

14 December 2007

Notes for a Manifesto, #2

"Our blog covers political printmaking, socially engaged street art, and culture related to social movements. We believe in the power of personal expression in concert with collective action to transform society."
~ Justseeds/Visual Resistance Artists' Cooperative

"We no longer are confronted or challenged by ideas -- instead we are entertained by them once they are packaged by the delivery systems."
~ from Rough Trade Art's "Theoretical Disengagement" series:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

A Visual Record
"It seems to me that in my several long-ago days among these paintings [Matthias Grünewald's 16th-century Isenheim Altarpiece], I saw nothing less than a visual record of how we know ourselves from beasts, of our moral imagination, our knowledge of suffering and love, our striving towards redemption -- however we may understand that -- and transcendance."
~ commenter Elatia Harris, regarding this post at 3 Quarks Daily

I'm not familiar with the Isenheim Altarpiece (and it's said to fare poorly in photographs), but -- wow -- what a prescription for the aims of art!

12 December 2007

Figure & Ground

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From "Haptic Visuality" by Laura U. Marks:

"... I hope you get a sense of the political stakes between these two kinds of visuality, haptic and optical, and the two kinds of space they intend, smooth space and striated space.

"Optical visuality sees objects as distinct, distant, and identifiable, existing in illusionary three-dimensional space. It maintains a clear, crisp relationship between figure and ground. Optical visuality is necessary for distance perception: for surveying a landscape, for making fine distinctions between things at a distance. That's how the object of vision is constituted in optical visuality. The subject of vision -- the beholder -- is also conceived as discrete, as having solid borders that demarcate the beholder from the thing beheld. So you can see why optical visuality is needed, for example, for firing a missile. It conceives of the other, the object of vision, as distant and unconnected to the subject of vision. Optical visuality is necessary. But it's only half of vision.

"Haptic visuality sees the world as though it were touching it: close, unknowable, appearing to exist on the surface of the image. Haptic images disturb the figure-ground relationship. The early twentieth-century Viennese art historian Alois Riegl borrowed the term from psychology, haptein, for a kind of vision that 'grabs' the thing it looks at. I think it's important that Riegl was a historian of textiles, and that he came up with this word when he was poring over his Persian carpets. These carpets with their endless, interleaved patterns don't allow the eye to rest in one place; they invite the eye to move along them, caressing their surface. Contemplating these patterns does something to dissolve the boundaries between the beholder and the thing beheld."

~ as published in Framework: The Finnish Art Review (#2, Nov. 2004)

Main image: by Man Ray (1890-1976), from Rayographs 1922-1927
More from Man Ray...
(Click on image to see larger version in a new window)
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Right: from Les Champs Délicieux; left: "Juliet et Margaret"

06 December 2007

What Is, Is

"In fact, trauma's never overcome. That's what defines it. Your father is dead, or your mother, and so are most of the Jews of Europe, and the World Trade Center's gone, and racism prevails, and sex murders occur. What is, is. The real is the true, and anything that suggests otherwise, no matter how artfully constructed, is a violation of human experience."
~ Melvin Jules Bukiet, "Wonder Bread," The American Scholar, Autumn 2007

Globalization: "It's the free movement of capital, but not the free movement of labour. It's imperialism under a new form: only the agents of imperialism are companies rather than countries."
~ Tony Benn

"Taking it in its deepest sense, the shadow is the invisible saurian tail that man still drags behind him. Carefully amputated, it becomes the healing serpent of the mysteries. Only monkeys parade with it."
~ Carl G. Jung, The Integration of the Personality (1939)

Spam Art: "... she joined an appealing tradition of making something from nothing, converting trash to treasure, extracting pleasure from junk-culture detritus."

"The bird is fighting its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wishes to be born must destroy a world. The bird is flying to God. The god is named Abraxas."
~ Hermann Hesse, Demian

03 December 2007


"It is precisely from the regret left by the imperfect work that the next one can be born."
~ Odilon Redon (1840-1916)

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Odilon Redon, Head of Orpheus (1905?)
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01 December 2007

No Reason

"The best reason to paint is that there is no reason to paint..."
~ Keith Haring (1958-1990)

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Keith Haring, Untitled
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December 1: World AIDS Day
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18 November 2007


"It is, perhaps, an original concept, to treat one's art as something which not only replaces the inertia of despair, which may be common enough, but to press art into a fiction which sustains an undying love."
~ R.B. Kitaj (1932-2007)

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"The Oak Tree," by R.B. Kitaj (1991; oil on canvas, 60-1/8" x 60")
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15 November 2007


"I paint what God is to me." ~ Paul Jenkins (1923- )

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Side of St. George, 1968 (oil on canvas, 37" x 60")
by Paul Jenkins. Click on image for larger version in new window.
(From Butler Institute of Art, Youngstown, OH)

08 November 2007

The Heart of Such a Nobody

"What am I in the eyes of most people? A good-for-nothing, an eccentric and disagreeable man, somebody who has no position in society and never will have. Very well, even if that were true, I should want to show by my work what there is in the heart of such an eccentric man, of such a nobody."
~ Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890)

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Vincent Van Gogh, Blossoming Almond Branch in a Glass
(1888); from Wikimedia Commons. (Click on image to
open larger view in new window.)

29 October 2007

Art Works

What does art do?
48 Possibilities

art that inspires
Art That Excites!
Art that expresses
Art that makes you laugh
Art That Makes You Say Hmmm
art that wants to teach you something
Art that makes you think, wonder and smile!
art that will mess with your head
Art that Rejuvenates Your Spirit
art that speaks to the heart
Art that Feeds My Soul
Art that bums you out.

Art that Moves Us
art that wakes people up
art that defies understanding
art that puts a new face on our outrage
art that transcends sense perception and normal life
art that uses science and technology in innovative ways
art that embodies the vibration of Universal Love
Art that Tries to Actively Engage the Viewer
art that interests its audience
Art That Tells a Story
Art that Shimmers
Art That Heals

Art That Dares
Art That Offends
Art that mocks faith
art that desecrates the human image or the public space
Art that commemorates the brutality and horror of war
Art that breaks boundaries
Art that crosses domains
art that graces the walls
Art That Celebrates Life
Art That Reflects Life™
Art That Imitates Life
Art That is Timeless

Art That Follows the Money
art that brings in a safe return on the investment
art that will get attention from your family, friends and associates
art that works with the look that you want in your garden
art that people BUY versus art that people LOVE
Art That Sells Underpants

art that draws on various forms of popular culture, but plays purposefully elitist, opaque intellectual games with them

art that communicates a sense of urgency about the inequities that seethe below the surface of America's prosperity

art that can make just about any space in your home or office just a little bit more interesting

art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum

art that ends up in museums or on public pedestals

art that had no intrinsic value but would instead deliver ephemeral statements before ultimately vanishing as nature took its course.

~ from Google

21 October 2007


(dī'ə-krŏn'ĭk) adj.
Of or concerned with phenomena, such as linguistic features, as they change through time.
[From Greek dia-, across + khronos, time.]

"Moon's phantasmagoric vision is of a diachronic nature, arriving from the precise present, the mnemonically obsolete and the prophetic future."
Moon Beom, at Kim Foster Gallery (New York, NY), Oct. 13 - Nov. 10, 2007

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Moon Beom, Possible Worlds 510
(acrylic & oilstick on panel, 48 in. x 65 in.)

(h/t: Steven LaRose)

20 October 2007

Which End is Up

Perennial Struggle
"... [A]ll the political battles we fight now were fought in the name of religion in the past. That's why it's so important to study religion. ... You're challenging unaccountable power."
~ from an interview with British politician Tony Benn
As examples, he cites the biblical account of Daniel in the lions' den (Daniel 6:16-23); Martin Luther's challenge to the authority of the papacy; and the Old Testament conflict between the Kings ("who had power") and the Prophets ("who preach righteousness").

O Tempora! O Mores!
"Even intellectuals, once prepared to risk themselves for what was right and true, are now addicted to entertainment, reluctant to inconvenience themselves for any cause, and devoted to personal safety."
~ just a taste of the multifaceted rant to be found at "Dumbing Down". I've been lost there for days -- trying to formulate some coherent notes for my own would-be manifesto. Ideas are still simmering...

Romanticizing Futility
"To give in to that beautiful sensation of individual futility is to abandon any number of possible actions and believe that the intellectual work is complete, because one has opposed that which needed opposing. It is to wash one's hands when there is heavy lifting left unfinished! Art cannot accomplish the act of overthrowing the motherfuckers in the White House. But it can inspire the act, envision the possibility, even define a viewership's relation to power. Punk did this and [Raymond] Pettibon helped. But by limiting outrage and action to the sphere of individual expression and romanticizing futility, they have created a 'counterculture' that the empire has actually come to rely on."
~ Deborah Fisher, in a kick-ass review of the recent (ending today) Raymond Pettibon exhibit in NYC, posted at ArtCal Zine

Great Moments in Artists' Statements
"Existence is vulgar..." ~ Bill Gusky

A belated thank-you to Steven LaRose, for the ink drawing he sent (shown here; click on image to see full-size in a new window).
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It is exquisite -- enough so to tempt me to make a bonfire of my own easel and brushes. But I do have to admit that I was surprised by its size (4" x 4.5"). Seeing images on the internet can really fuck with your sense of proportion, since everything from murals to ATCs can be rendered roughly the same size. In fact, the "full-size" image displays on my computer monitor considerably larger than the actual work itself.

You can see Steven's entire "Structure of the Inner Ear" photo set here. He has a solo show later this year (November 10 through December 22) at the Kristi Engle Gallery in Los Angeles, and he's also part of the current Blogger Show of multiple exhibits in New York, Pittsburgh, and Millvale, PA.

15 October 2007


welt·schmerz (vělt'shměrts') n. Sadness over the evils of the world, especially as an expression of romantic pessimism. [German : Welt, world + Schmerz, pain (from Middle High German smërze, from Old High German smerzo).]

"The modern meaning of Weltschmerz in the German language is the psychological pain caused by sadness, that can occur when realizing that someone's own weaknesses are caused by the inappropriateness and cruelty of the world and (physical and social) circumstances."

"With his 2007 Babylon column, [Jerry] Saltz effectively ran up the white flag of surrender and joined in the Weltschmerz of the moment, the GawkerForum-ization of the present."
~ Tyler Green, "Modern Art Notes" blog

14 October 2007

Ancient Art

World's oldest wall painting unearthed in Syria

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Painted ca. 9000 BCE; approx. 6' x 6' (Photo: Reuters).

"It looks like a modernist painting. Some of those who saw it have likened it to work by (Paul) Klee."

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Paul Klee, Ancient Sound
(1925; oil on cardboard, 15" x 15")

10 October 2007


"Similar to the weblog, the Japanese have a concept called Zuihitsu, which means something close to 'following the brush'. It is a reference to writing one's mind as thoughts come to it, perhaps best described in English as 'miscellany' or 'stream of thought' writing."

"During the Heiian period in the ninth century, a genre of poetry known as 'zuihitsu' began to form in Japan. 'Zuihitsu' (which continues as a genre today) means 'occasional writings' and consists mainly of poetry by women. Inspired by the natural world and sensuality, the genre deals especially with romance."

"Zuihitsu" is the title of a blog by Michael P. Silva -- "Random thoughts on photography and design."

... and the title of a page (from 2003) on the now defunct personal website of "Scottish oddball pop star" Momus, a.k.a. Nick Currie:
"An intellectual is someone who has found something more interesting to think about than sex."
Wikipedia says he is "fascinated by identity, Japan, the avant-garde, time travel and sex." I share four of those five fascinations. But I'm not a pop star.

"This might be a strange analogy, but I like to think of the zuihitsu as a fungus -- not plant or animal, but a species unto itself. The Japanese view it as a distinct genre, although its elements are difficult to pin down. There's no Western equivalent, though some people might wish to categorize it as a prose poem or an essay. You mentioned some of its characteristics: a kind of randomness that is not really random, but a feeling of randomness; a pointed subjectivity that we don't normally associate with the essay. The zuihitsu can also resemble other Western forms: lists, journals. I've added emails to the mix. Fake emails."
~ poet Kimiko Hahn, discussing her book, The Narrow Road to the Interior

08 October 2007

Fresh Ways of Seeing

"Whether we are aware of it or not, a function of our minds is to take in chaotic sensory input and discern patterns in it from which meaning can be derived. Art takes place in the space between raw perception and automatic interpretation and wakes us to fresh ways of seeing."
~ Elizabeth Drew & Mads Haahr,
"Lessness: Randomness, Consciousness and Meaning"

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Matthew Deleget, "No If's, No But's, No Maybe's" (2007)

07 October 2007

Stolen Idea III

"Stolen" from: Steve Durbin's Patina Project (at the Art & Perception blog).

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The above photo shows more of a scuff than a genuine patina, but I like the vaguely landscape-y illusion suggested.

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As with the rusted hinges I had photographed earlier, I think that too much graphic detail distracts from the patina (more on that in my penultimate paragraph, below). Left: a stone marker that seems to be a relic from the railroad era, along the defunct tracks at the edge of Cenci Park in Lancaster, OH. Right: a fortuitous combination of corrosion, graffiti, and the interplay of sun and shadow on a railway bridge.

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For some reason, I don't find the presence of the bolt to be as distracting as the hinge or the alphanumeric characters -- perhaps because the shape is simple enough to avoid specificity. It doesn't intrude too much with an aggressive statement of its identity and scale.

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The presence of two bolts almost suggests a narrative -- although whether one sees confrontation, separation, or tentative approach may be something of a Rorschach test... Still, I find the two shapes to be ambiguous enough to allow the patina to retain its immediacy. And, to me, that's what this "Patina Project" is about: seeing the patinas' colors and textures without (im-) the mediating influence (-mediacy) of quick identification or categorization ("that is a tree; that is a bridge; that is a car") to hedge our gaze. Facile labeling puts us at one remove from the image, as the label interrupts and defines perception.

Stolen Idea I
Stolen Idea II

06 October 2007


Some graffiti shots from an odd little corner of Lancaster, Ohio. I love wandering through this kind of borderline location, where wilderness butts up against a town's structures. In this case the awkward convergence of a small city park and the backyards of three different neighborhoods has created a no-man's land which is crossed by a defunct railroad, a highway overpass, a creek, and several different footpaths. Something for everyone!

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Abstract Household #2

Just a few more shots from around the house... I'm also playing with larger display sizes. I'm not sure what the web standard is (or if there is a "standard" at all), but the larger versions of these are 700 x 525 pixels -- a bit more generous than my previous 400 x 337. Click on the image to see the larger version in a new window.

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Abstract Household #1 can be seen here.

28 September 2007

Abstract Household

Just playing around with the camera at home...
(Click on thumbnail to see full-size photo in a new window)

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Stolen Idea II

A few more photographs inspired by Steve Durbin's "Patina Project" (mentioned at Art & Perception, here and here)... Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

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Stolen Idea I
Stolen Idea III

26 September 2007

Notes for a Manifesto, #1

(emphases added)

"In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted."
~ Bertrand Russell (British philosopher, 1872-1970)

"So long as a majority of Americans believe in and keep alive the national myths that hold us in check, we're fucked, and we'll be continually fucked as war expands, debt piles up, elections bought in advance when not simply stolen, and those who can cash in on the madness will have the most breathing room while the rest are left to scramble, eat fast food, drink cheap beer, and watch 'reality' on TV."
~ writer Dennis Perrin (who also has a fascinating series, "The Warmonger Within": Part I, Part II, Part III)

Meanwhile, at Deborah Fisher's blog:
  • To imagine a world in which ambiguity is not just tolerable but delicious;
  • to find beauty in imperfection;
  • to dream of a bright future that does not depend on an apocalyptic clean slate and a present in which humanity has the fortitude to bear inevitable cataclysm without collapsing from fear
--this is the most important political work an artist can do right now.

"All of the work is mannered, overly romantic, infused with a suggested meaning that feels obvious and trite. There are lots of painters working these veins. Part of the problem here is subject -- it's like these painters have no politics or religion or other belief, even barely science, in their work, so they turn to the personal, the moment; when you look at Courbet, you see that he is battling his culture."
~ commenter "Chris" at Artblog.net (13 Sept 2007, 11:14am)

23 September 2007

Manifesto Destiny

In response to my own post on Intention, I've started compiling notes for a manifesto of sorts. As is often the case, I find that my online reading anticipates my interest.

Franklin Einspruch at Artblog.net links (albeit indirectly, via kottke.org) to this feature at IconEye: 50 manifestos from designers.

Hungry Hyaena offers this apt post, built around a quotation from the architect Frank Gehry about why "the artist arts."

And, insofar as my struggle with intention is a struggle against despair, this post from James Wolcott (about a recently pervasive "note of despondency" in the blogosphere) resonates.

Meanwhile: I had the most unsettling dream last night, about discovering that some secret cabal has been spying on us all through the "typeballs" of IBM Selectric typewriters. Ha! Although the Selectric did seem to be ubiquitous in the pre-PC office, I don't think I've seen one since 1993. After waking, I realized how odd it is now to imagine a world without computer monitors.

22 September 2007

Stolen Idea

(Click on image to see larger version in a new window)

Inspired by Steve Durbin's "Patina Project" (mentioned at Art & Perception, here and here) -- and invited by him to "steal this idea" -- I set out this week in search of corrosion and decay.

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I didn't find quite the riot of color that Durbin found in his junkyard cars and rock surfaces. In fact, I had trouble finding any corrosion at all in the places I usually prefer for my afternoon walks. So I settled for a more immediate form of oxidation: incineration. These photographs are of blackened wood from campfire sites.

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Then I found this mildly corroded bit of metal on the back of a sign marking some historical site.

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I did manage to find a bit of color on a flat stone.

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I ended my walk with some rust and peeling paint on an old door. The metal hinge is perhaps too much figuration for this project...

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I've got another site in mind, with some exposed limestone cliffs that should offer better examples of genuine corrosion. I may take a drive there next week, weather permitting.

Finally, here is a belated homage to Steven LaRose's color crushes: leaves against the September sky. But I think this blue is a little too bright. It seemed a better match when seen through polarized sunglass lenses.

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Stolen Idea II
Stolen Idea III