02 December 2008

J.C. Leyendecker

Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874-1951)

"Leyendecker did what few artists ever do: he gave an entire era a way of thinking about itself. It would be nice, in light of that achievement, if more than just the cognoscenti knew his name."
~ Steve Donoghue, "Semi-Obvious," a review of J.C. Leyendecker: American Imagist for the December 2008 issue of Open Letters Monthly

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See also:
  • J.C. Leyendecker: Wikipedia entry
  • "Leyendecker: Finding Poetry in Realism" at the Illustration Art blog (13 June 2007): "...concrete examples of painting that I believe does go beyond mere realism to display design and grace and charm."
  • A traveling Leyendecker exhibition (currently in Augusta, GA, and scheduled for Yonkers, NY, and Stony Brook, NY, before ending in Abingdon, VA, September - November 2009)

24 June 2008


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Confusations: Seven Photographs and a Commentary

"After photographing one reflection, I showed it to a friend, who found it 'confusing.' Thus, I decided to gather photographs as 'Confusations' -- a neologism I parsed into: 'confiscation' ('taking a picture'), 'sensation,' (as in Debord's spectacle), and 'fuse' (how the brain fuses memories to mediate a world)."
~ Joel Weishaus (Summer 2007)

20 June 2008

Archibald MacLeish

American poet, writer, lawyer, professor, statesman.
(7 May 1892 - 20 April 1982)

"A real writer learns from earlier writers the way a boy learns from an apple orchard -- by stealing what he has a taste for and can carry off."
~ Archibald MacLeish, A Continuing Journey (1968)

The Snowflake Which Is Now and Hence Forever
by Archibald MacLeish

Will it last? he says.
Is it a masterpiece?
Will generation after generation
Turn with reverence to the page?

Birdseye scholar of the frozen fish,
What would he make of the sole, clean, clear
Leap of the salmon that has disappeared?

To be, yes! -- whether they like it or not!
But not to last when leap and water are forgotten,
A plank of standard pinkness in the dish.

They also live
Who swerve and vanish in the river.

16 June 2008


In the classic discipline of rhetoric, parrhesia is a figure of speech described as: to speak candidly or to ask forgiveness for so speaking. The term is borrowed from the Greek παρρησία (παν = all + ρησις / ρημα = utterance / speech) meaning literally "to speak everything" and by extension "to speak freely," "to speak boldly," or "boldness." It implies not only freedom of speech, but the obligation to speak the truth for the common good, even at personal risk.

"More precisely, parrhesia is a verbal activity in which a speaker expresses his personal relationship to truth, and risks his life because he recognizes truth-telling as a duty to improve or help other people (as well as himself). In parrhesia, the speaker uses his freedom and chooses frankness instead of persuasion, truth instead of falsehood or silence, the risk of death instead of life and security, criticism instead of flattery, and moral duty instead of self-interest and moral apathy."
~ Michel Foucault, "Discourse and Truth: the Problematization of Parrhesia" (1983)

"Informant helpfully places Kucinich's Impeachment resolution next to other parrhesic moments."
~ Tom Matrullo, at IMproPRieTies (14 June 2008)

14 June 2008

Class, Shame & Aspiration

So I set out to "learn how to behave," to acquire what Marx called "cultural capital," or what's more simply called learning to "pass." This aspiration, celebrated in the phrase "upward mobility" is rooted in shame and, in its undermining of authentic selfhood, creates the vulnerability required by all manner of predators from child molesters to military recruiters to advertisers and financial institutions. After all, aspiration is not an identity but the rejection of one's identity.

* * *

Everyone in my family called themselves middle-class, all my aunts and uncles, each and every household, whether anyone had a job or not, regardless of what kind of work they did when there was work, regardless of whether or not they had "a pot to piss in."

We never used the term "working class." My father called us working people....
~ Richard Hoffman, at Mnemosyne's Memes

[via wood s lot]

11 June 2008

Birds Say

Stan Brakhage:
"I always liked best what Hollis Frampton said (a great filmmaker, Hollis Frampton, a teacher and an aesthetician as both of us hoped to be). He said the whole history of Hollywood movies, any movies, was comparable to birdsong. He discovered after years of listening to the birds that there are only five things that birds say, and he discovered that there are only five things that movies do. They say 'Good morning!' 'I found a worm.' 'Love me.' 'Get out!' 'Good night.'"

What Hollis Frampton actually said:
"One fine morning, I awoke to discover that, during the night, I had learned to understand the language of birds. I have listened to them ever since. They say: 'Look at me!' or: 'Get out of here!' or: 'Let's fuck!' or: 'Help!' or: 'Hurrah!' or: 'I found a worm!' and that's all they say. And that, when you boil it down, is about all we say. (Which of those things am I saying now?)"
~ from Circles of Confusion: Film, Photography, Video: Texts 1968-1980

09 June 2008

Analecta Dump

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Hal Higdon, "Cultural Capital"; acrylic on canvas, 48" x 36"

"It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing."
~ Mark Rothko (1903-1970)

"Art is not what we see; it is in the spaces between."
~ Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

"Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist."
~ René Magritte (1898-1967)

"Imagination is the landscape in which the artist goes for a walk."
~ Méret Oppenheim (1913-1985)

"The paintings are the shadows of my adventures."
~ Francis Picabia (1879-1953)

Click on image to see larger version (and other works) at Hal Higdon's website. All other links in this post are to Wikipedia articles.

31 May 2008

Fill with Feelings

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William Degouve de Nuncques, "The Black Swan" (1896)
Click on image to see gallery at ArtMagick.

"To make a painting, all you need to do is to take some paints, draw some lines, and fill the rest up with feelings."
~ attributed to William Degouve de Nuncques (1867-1935)

More images at History of Art.

29 May 2008

The Darkness

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Edward Burtynsky, "Oxford Tire Pile No. 1" (Westley, California 1999)

"Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."
~ Carl G. Jung, "The Philosophical Tree" (1945), in Collected Works 13: Alchemical Studies

"These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire -- a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times."
~ Edward Burtynsky, "Exploring the Residual Landscape" (artist statement)

28 May 2008

"The Realities of Life"

"Who is the artist? Is he not a human being like ourselves, with the added gifts of finer understanding and perception of the realities of life, and the ability to arouse emotions through the creation of forms and images? Surely. And this being so, those who give their lives, their knowledge and their time to social struggle have the right to expect great help from the artist. And I cannot imagine a more inspiring role than that which the artist is asked to play for the defence and advancement of civilization."
~ Paraskeva Clark, "Come Out From Behind the Pre-Cambrian Shield," New Frontier, Vol. 1, no. 12 (April 1937)

See also this excerpt (criticizing "precious, esoteric, abstract art" for being "as useful today as a top hat to a tatterdemalion beggar in the midst of winter") at the Mirabile Dictu blog.

25 May 2008


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Ralph Eugene Meatyard, "Here-in-after, here-in-before"
(1963); gelatin silver print, approx. 6.5" x 7.25"
(Click on image to see more of Meatyard's work at George Eastman House)

"If you want to say something and have people listen then you have to wear a mask. If you want to be honest then you have to live a lie."
~ Banksy, Existencilism (2002)

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."
~ Oscar Wilde, "The Critic as Artist" (1891)

16 May 2008

Big Questions

Should philosophy have something to say to non-philosophers? Should philosophy be pursued only by those trained in philosophy? Should academic teachers of philosophy consider themselves philosophers in virtue of the fact that they teach philosophy? And should analytic philosophers deny that continental philosophers are philosophers at all, or acknowledge that they represent different modes of philosophizing? Cogito poses some big questions to four prominent British and US philosophers.
(via wood s lot)

Which got me to wondering...
Should art have something to say to non-artists? Should art be pursued only by those trained in art? Should academic teachers of art consider themselves artists in virtue of the fact that they teach art? And should formalist artists deny that conceptual artists are artists at all, or acknowledge that they represent different modes of art-making?

Or, since some painters resist the label "artist":
Should painting have something to say to non-painters? Should painting be pursued only by those trained in painting?

Or, in a literary vein:
Should poetry have something to say to non-poets? Should poetry be pursued only by those trained in poetry?

11 May 2008

Seed Bombs

Another great idea from the folks at Just Seeds.

Seed bombs are described as "basically a simple way of sowing indigenous plants by making small balls consisting of dried clay powder, compost, seeds, and water."
There are many recipes out there, and here is one of them:
  • Combine 2 parts indigenous seeds with 3 parts compost.
  • Stir in 5 parts powdered red or brown clay.
  • Moisten with water until mixture is damp enough to mold into balls.
  • Pinch off a penny-sized piece of the clay mixture and roll it between the palms of your hands until it forms a tight ball (1 inch in diameter).
  • Set the balls on newspaper and allow to dry for 24 - 48 hours. Store in a cool, dry place until ready to sow.
I am reminded of a story my grandmother has told me, of a local schoolbus driver who sowed wildflowers along his route by tossing seeds from the window of his bus back in the 1960s and '70s. Many patches of those flowers survive to this day.

Having lived for a time in Florida, I feel compelled to emphasize the word indigenous in the above recipe. Non-native plants may be invasive! See kudzu for one alarming example of a non-native species introduced with disastrous environmental consequences.

07 May 2008

Crime Scene

~ Walter Benjamin, from "A Small History of Photography" (1931):
The camera is getting smaller and smaller, ever readier to capture fleeting and secret moments whose images paralyze the associative mechanisms in the beholder. This is where the caption comes in, whereby photography turns all life's relationships into literature; and without which all constructivist photography must remain arrested in the approximate. Not for nothing have [Eugène] Atget's photographs been likened to the scene of a crime. But is not every square inch of our cities the scene of a crime? Every passerby a culprit? Is it not the task of the photographer -- descendant of the augurs and haruspices -- to reveal guilt and to point out the guilty in his pictures? "The illiteracy of the future," someone* has said, "will be ignorance not of reading or writing, but of photography." But must not a photographer who cannot read his own pictures be no less counted as illiterate?
* László Moholy-Nagy:
"The famous phrase, 'The illiterate of the future will be ignorant of the pen and the camera alike' is Moholy's. It has gained its considerable currency mainly by way of its paraphrasing -- without attribution -- in Walter Benjamin's celebrated 'Kunswerk' essay of 1936. Moholy's observation, originally in English, was written in 1932 and first published in 'A New Instrument of Vision,' (Feb. 28, 1936)."

The layering of dates (1931, '32, '36), editions, translations, and revisions creates an almost impenetrable confusion. But if, as Benjamin writes, "someone has said," then that "someone" seems to have been Moholy-Nagy.

03 May 2008

"All Plots Are Arbitrary"

"When I find the novel on the bookshelf, I want the sense from it that all plots are arbitrary, and what matters is to begin, to set out. To begin writing and then to follow through this beginning, being loyal to it, letting the narrative reverberate with the Origin it cannot reach. I want to know that it is no plot that matters, but another kind of intrigue, in which Writing has been caught by Writing; in which the Origin is allowed to speak in what is only the beginning of a story, an arbitrary story."
~ Spurious, "A Secret Collision"

30 April 2008


"Hints of red are often found in green leaves. The color of a lilac leaf, held so that the sun glances from the surface, is full of sparkles of red. The under sides of leaves, as in the case of maple and elm and poplar leaves, often show a play of colors different from those of the upper surfaces."
~ Walter Sargent (1868-1927), The Enjoyment and Use of Color, Chapter 4: "Composite Colors"

26 April 2008


"But once greed has been made an honorable motive, then you have an economy without limits. It has no place for temperance or thrift or the ecological law of return. It will do anything. It is monstrous by definition."
~ Wendell Berry, "Faustian Economics," Harper's Magazine, May 2008

14 April 2008

Post-Modern Dilemma

The issue isn't whether or not we should strive for ________, but rather what constitutes ________.
a. a work of art
b. national security
c. accuracy in journalism
d. academic excellence
e. victory in Iraq
Click on comments below for (one) correct answer.

11 April 2008

Better and Happier

"Men, like dogs and cats, fawn upon you while you leave them on the ground: if you lift them up they bite and scratch; and if you shew them their own features in the glass, they would fly at your throat and tear your eyes out. This between ourselves: for we must not indulge in unfavorable views of mankind. By doing so, we make bad men believe that they are no worse than others, and we teach the good that they are good in vain. Philosophers have taken this side of the question to shew their ingenuity: but sound philosophers are not ingenious. If philosophy can render us no better and no happier, away with it! there are things that can; and let us take them."
~ Walter Savage Landor, Imaginary Conversations of Literary Men and Statesmen (1829), "Barrow and Newton"

22 March 2008

The Untutored Eye

"How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of 'Green'? How many rainbows can light create for the untutored eye? How aware of variations in heat waves can that eye be? Imagine a world alive with incomprehensible objects and shimmering with an endless variety of movement and innumerable gradations of color."
~ Stan Brakhage, Metaphors on Vision (1963)

20 March 2008


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Kees van Dongen, "Spring" (1908); oil on canvas, 32" x 40"
Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

Happy Equinox: 20 March 2008.

14 March 2008


"A bad poem is one that vanishes into meaning."
~ Paul Valéry (1871-1945)

13 March 2008

Oscar Wilde: "Study in Green"

"In a very ugly and sensible age, the arts borrow, not from life, but from each other."
~ Oscar Wilde, from "Pen, Pencil and Poison: A Study in Green" (originally in Fortnightly Review, January 1889)

This magazine article recounting the life of the murderous artist and writer Thomas Griffiths Wainewright (1794-1847) is also the source of at least two other bons mots from the famously quotable Oscar Wilde:
  • "A mask tells us more than a face."
  • "All beautiful things belong to the same age."

12 March 2008

What's Important

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Giacomo Balla, "Abstract Speed: The Car Has Passed" (1913); oil on canvas

"In a way, art is a theory about the way the world looks to human beings. It's abundantly obvious that one doesn't know the world around us in detail. What artists have accomplished is realizing that there's only a small amount of stuff that's important, and then seeing what it was."
~ mathematical physicist Mitchell Feigenbaum, as quoted by James Gleick in Chaos: Making a New Science (1988)

11 March 2008


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"According to Fertility Hollis, there is no chaos. There are only patterns, patterns on top of patterns, patterns that affect other patterns. Patterns hidden by patterns. Patterns within patterns. If you watch close, history does nothing but repeat itself. What we call chaos is just patterns we haven't recognized. What we call random is just patterns we can't decipher. What we can't understand we call nonsense. What we can't read we call gibberish.”
~ Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor

Photo by Helquin.

10 March 2008

Crisis of Modernism

As a follow-up to yesterday's post about Vitaly Komar, here's a little something from his former Sots Art collaborator Alex Melamid:
"This is the crisis of modernism. Modern art used to reflect a radical way of thinking. It did this until World War II and then it gradually became more and more established. Eventually, the radical thinking was totally removed from this. People adapted to this, said O.K. let there be, say, triangles. But in the beginning painting triangles was a huge statement, a daredevil act -- for good or for worse that's a different story, but that's how it was. But now it's totally changed its meaning because it's just a bourgeois business. You produce pictures and you sell them. You keep the form -- you can play with triangles endlessly -- but the meaning is lost, so it's a perversion of the intention of modernism. And nobody cares. The same thing happened with academic painting and ancient history. Nobody believed in it anymore, nobody cared, but still they went on depicting these beautiful women, these mythological figures. But it was totally obsolete. It lost the common sense; it lost touch with the people. Modernism was the idea to get back to some sense. Now it is senseless, so we have to revise again."
~ Alex Melamid, from an interview in The Nation, 14 March 1994
Bonus Link:
Holy Hip-Hop! New Paintings by Alex Melamid
[at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit]

09 March 2008

Entertainment + Questions

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Vitaly Komar, "Big Red Moustache," from Three-Day Weekend
(2004-05); mixed media on paper, 40" x 30"

"Of course some art is entertaining, looks like entertainment, but the most important thing is to bring the questions in people's minds. If art is entertainment which raises new questions, I'm for that. But if art just answers questions, it's nothing but propaganda."
~ Vitaly Komar (b. 1943)


08 March 2008


"I'm interested in reconstructing symbols. It's about connecting with an older knowledge and trying to discover continuities in why we search for heaven."
~ Anselm Kiefer (born 8 March 1945)

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Anselm Kiefer, "Abendland (Twilight of the West)" (1989);
synthetic polymer paint, ash, plaster, cement, earth, varnish
on canvas and wood, approx. 13' 2" x 12' 6"

Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

07 March 2008

Plan B

"A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author -- in other words, anyone producing works of art -- needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living."
~ Kevin Kelly, "1,000 True Fans"

BugMeNot: break through the online password-protection barrier.

Bad Words
[from Douglas Harper's Online Etymology Dictionary]

Part One:
"Probably the most common American vulgarity from about the middle of the eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth" [Rawson]. Abbreviated form SOB from 1918. Mencken, complaining of the tepidity of the American vocabulary of profanity, writes that the toned-down form son-of-a-gun "is so lacking in punch that the Italians among us have borrowed it as a satirical name for an American: la sanemagogna is what they call him, and by it they indicate their contempt for his backwardness in the art that is one of their great glories." [The American Language, 4th ed., p.317-8]

Part Two:
"The T-word occupies a special niche in literary history, however, thanks to a horrible mistake by Robert Browning, who included it in 'Pippa Passes' (1841) without knowing its true meaning. 'The owls and bats,/Cowls and twats,/Monks and nuns,/In a cloister's moods.' Poor Robert! He had been misled into thinking the word meant 'hat' by its appearance in 'Vanity of Vanities,' a poem of 1660, containing the treacherous lines: 'They'd talk't of his having a Cardinalls Hat,/They'd send him as soon an Old Nuns Twat.' (There is a lesson here about not using words unless one is very sure of their meaning.)" [Hugh Rawson, Wicked Words, 1989]

Further details of Browning's error at Language Log.

Truck Spills: "The website of odd, strange, interesting, and unbelievable things spilled on the road by trucks." Don't miss the exploding whale.

06 March 2008

The Blank Page Is Not Blank

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But it is not true that "nothing is given": Language comes not only with an infinite potential for new combinations, but with a long history contained in it.

The blank page is not blank. No text has one single author. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we always write on top of a palimpsest (cf. Duncan's "grand collage").

This is not a question of linear "influence," but of writing as dialog with a whole net of previous and concurrent texts, tradition, with the culture and language we breathe and move in, which conditions us even while we help to construct it.

Many of us have foregrounded this awareness as technique: using, collaging, transforming, "translating" parts of other works.
~ Rosmarie Waldrop, "Palimpsest," from "Thinking of Follows," in Onward: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics

Rosmarie Waldrop at the Electronic Poetry Center

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Photos by Helquin.

05 March 2008

Business is Business

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George Grosz, "Eclipse of Sun" (1926); oil on canvas, approx. 82.5" x 72.5"
Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

"The cult of individuality and personality, which promotes painters and poets only to promote itself, is really a business. The greater the 'genius' of the personage, the greater the profit."
~ George Grosz (1893-1959)

George Grosz at MoMA

04 March 2008

Wards and Cells

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Robert Smithson, "A Heap of Language" (1966); pencil on paper, 6.5" x 22"
Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

"Artists themselves are not confined, but their output is. Museums, like asylums and jails, have wards and cells -- in other words, neutral rooms called 'galleries.' A work of art when placed in a gallery loses its charge, and becomes a portable object or surface disengaged from the outside world."
~ Robert Smithson (1938-1973), from "Cultural Confinement"

Robert Smithson website

03 March 2008

The Memory of Time

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Daido Moriyama, "Fly, Suwa City, Nagano" (1982); gelatin silver print, 14" x 17"

"A photograph is the result of a momentary thought, with the result that you are always experimenting and interpreting the streets and buildings of a city by using the reproduction equipment -- the camera -- in order to get beyond known languages and to develop another reality running counter to the incessant flow of time. If this is achieved, the image captured in the photograph transcends the limited imagination or the ego of the photographer and becomes a symbol that signifies a world and includes the memory of time."
~ Daido Moriyama (b. 1938)

Daido Moriyama at Tepper Takayama Fine Arts

02 March 2008


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Robin Hill, "place sawhorses on paper. expose to light. wait."
(1997); cyanotype on paper, 60" x 60"

Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

"I think the way artists talk about their work says a lot about how they think as artists. It doesn't really matter whether or not they're good public speakers. That's not the issue. What's interesting is whether they talk only about their most recent work. Do they talk about it chronologically? Do they talk about their work thematically? Do they separate the drawings from the painting and the sculpture? How an artist goes about structuring a presentation tells you so much about the work itself. I think it's important to give your public an opportunity to see what you're struggling with and what you're trying to define for yourself, what questions you are asking yourself."
~ Robin Hill, in an interview with Ron Janowich, published in Other Voices (May 2007)

Robin Hill website

01 March 2008

Penetrate the Mystery

"Any serious exploration of occult, surrealistic, phantasmagoric gifts and phenomena presupposes a dialectical intertwinement to which a romantic turn of mind is impervious. For histrionic or fanatical stress on the mysterious side of the mysterious takes us no further; we penetrate the mystery only to the degree that we recognize it in the everyday world, by virtue of a dialectical optic that perceives the everyday as impenetrable, the impenetrable as everyday. The most passionate investigation of telepathic phenomena, for example, will not teach us half as much about reading (which is an eminently telepathic process), as the profane illumination of reading about telepathic phenomena. And the most passionate investigation of the hashish trance will not teach us half as much about thinking (which is eminently narcotic), as the profane illumination of thinking about the hashish trance. The reader, the thinker, the loiterer, the flâneur, are types of illuminati just as much as the opium eater, the dreamer, the ecstatic. [And more profane. Not to mention that most terrible drug --ourselves -- which we take in solitude.]"
~ Walter Benjamin, from "Surrealism" (1927), in Selected Writings, vol. 2
[First encountered (in part) in "Draft 85: Hard Copy by Rachel Blau DuPlessis, via wood s lot.]

About the flâneur:
"There is no English equivalent for the French word flâneur. Cassell's dictionary defines flâneur as a stroller, saunterer, drifter but none of these terms seems quite accurate. There is no English equivalent for the term, just as there is no Anglo-Saxon counterpart of that essentially Gallic individual, the deliberately aimless pedestrian, unencumbered by any obligation or sense of urgency, who, being French and therefore frugal, wastes nothing, including his time which he spends with the leisurely discrimination of a gourmet, savoring the multiple flavors of his city."
~ Cornelia Otis Skinner, Elegant Wits and Grand Horizontals
Wikipedia article
Flâneur.org's Flanifesto
Walter Benjamin's descriptions

28 February 2008


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"Life is not only stranger than we imagine; life is stranger than we can imagine."
~ J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964)

As quoted in Robert Sapolsky's "Emperor Has No Clothes Award" acceptance speech, at the 25th annual convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (23 November 2003)

More J.B.S. Haldane online.

27 February 2008


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Helen Frankenthaler, "The Bay" (1963); acrylic on canvas

"There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about."
~ Helen Frankenthaler

Bonus Link:
The Wrigley School of Art Criticism
Twelve-year-old boy ignores rules; no art born.

26 February 2008

Show and Tell

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by Tom Gauld

Tom Gauld's illustrations the Guardian Saturday Review letters page. "Each image relates to a letter sent to the newspaper about literature or the arts."

~ via Making Light, where I also found these intriguing recipes for Cold Weather Drinks and a sidebar of Commonplaces with these gems:
  • "The whole point of society is to be less unforgiving than nature." (Arthur D. Hlavaty)
  • "But isn't all of human history simultaneously a disaster novel and a celebrity gossip column?" (Anonymous LJ commenter)
  • "Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire." (Gustav Mahler)

25 February 2008

The Struggle

"The painters and sculptors of today cannot remain indifferent in the struggle to free humanity and art from oppression."
~ David Alfaro Siqueiros (1933)

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David Alfaro Siqueiros, "Después De La Grand Tormenta [After the Great Storm]"
(1966); pyroxolin on masonite, 12" x 18"

Click on image to see larger version in a new window.


It is interesting to note that 75 years after his statement about freeing art from oppression (and 34 years after his death), many images of Siqueiros' work have been removed from the web at the request of a "copyright collective" which presents itself as "an artists [sic] rights organization." Siqueiros may have been on to something when, in 1922, he wrote "We repudiate so-called easel painting and every kind of art favored by the ultra-intellectual circles, because it is aristocratic and we praise monumental art in all its forms, because it is public property."

24 February 2008

Being More Human

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David C. Driskell, "Movement, The Mountain"
(1980), egg tempera on canvas, 31.20" x 22.70"

Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

"I've always felt that art was a special or particular calling. I've even described it as being priestly in function... I do think that [as an artist] I am being more human and extending my humanity to others."
~ David C. Driskell (b. 1931), from "A Conversation between David Driskell and Richard Klank," as quoted in David C. Driskell: Artist and Scholar, by Julie L. McGee (2006)

23 February 2008

Charles Demuth

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Charles Demuth, "Buildings, Lancaster" (1930);
oil and graphite on composition board, 24" x 20"

Click on image to see larger version at Artdaily site.

Charles Demuth exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, today through 27 April 2008. [Artdaily]

Charles Demuth (1883-1935): "The History of Lancaster [Pennsylvania]'s Most Famous Artist." [Demuth Foundation / Charles Demuth Museum]

"Precisionism was an artistic movement that emerged in the United States after World War I and was at its height during the inter-War period. The term itself was first coined in the early 1920s. Influenced strongly by Cubism and Futurism, its main themes included industrialization and the modernization of the American landscape, which were depicted in precise, sharply defined, geometrical forms." [Wikipedia]

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Charles Demuth, "The Figure 5 in Gold" (1928); oil on cardboard; 35.5" x 30"
Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

The Great Figure
by William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
fire truck
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city

[from Sour Grapes: A Book of Poems (1921)]

22 February 2008


Passing this along...
Call for work: The Audacity of Desperation

Deadline: March 10, 2008
Exhibition dates:
April 4- May 11, Indy Media Center (Urbana, IL)
Fall 2008, Sea and Space (Los Angeles, CA)

The Audacity of Desperation is an art exhibition, political action, and on-going dialogue. We are currently seeking distributable artworks addressing the topic of "desperation." Works should exist in multiples with the intention to be freely distributed to audiences. Media can include, but is not at all limited to: posters, stickers, stencils, zines, stamps -- ink and postage -- buttons, CDs/DVDs, postcards, t-shirts and manifestos.

We are working with a grassroots, anti-authoritarian philosophy that includes the anti-capitalist, non-competitive principle of mutual aid.
Much more at the Audacity of Desperation blog.

[via Just Seeds]

21 February 2008

The Philosophers' Rebellion

"Every significant artist is a metaphysician, a propounder of beauty-truths and form-theories."
~ Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

"All art is a revolt against man's fate."
~ André Malraux (1901-1976)

Art Machine

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Sol LeWitt, "Brushstrokes" (2000); gouache on paper, 22.5" x 29.5"
Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

"The idea becomes a machine that makes the art."
~ Sol LeWitt (1965)


19 February 2008

ConFest: 1 to 6

Inspired by Mark Cameron Boyd's 101 Conceptual Art Ideas, I've been brainstorming my own little list. Whether I'll reach 101 or not is anyone's guess. Note: I do not have a Fine Arts degree, so my concepts may be invalid, risible, or otherwise unsuitable for human consumption.

Concept #1:
Represent political candidates as condiments

Make a color without a name

Design a uniform for nonconformists

Design a symbol for meaninglessness

Portray a dramatic situation, using just three eggs

Design a monument commemorating all that has been forgotten

Spontaneous Expression

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Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, "Lemon and Glass" (1922); oil on canvas, approx. 14.5" x 19"
Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

"That word, 'art', is that what made the essence of my disagreement with ... all the rules and habits -- secular, academic, and iconographic; already as a boy I wanted the free, full, frank and spontaneous expression, which makes art."
~ Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, from Prostranstvo Evklida (Euclid's Space, transl. Yuri Mataev)

17 February 2008

Aesthetic: Experience

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sleeveface: "one or more persons obscuring or augmenting any part of their body or bodies with record sleeve(s) causing an illusion."


The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, by David Dodd
Project begun: January, 1995.
Suspended: June 26, 2007.

Where else could you find an essay on "'Dark Star' as an Example of Transcendental Aesthetics":
"Developed largely from the ideas of Schopenhauer, and later in the early 20th century by [Bennedetto] Croce and [R. G.] Collingwood, this theory sees art as that which produces a holistic sense of 'going beyond' normal life experiences. This transcendence is called the aesthetic experience and things that cause the aesthetic experience are called art."
~ by Steven Skaggs


Mr. Skaggs seems to espouse the aesthetic philosophy known as Expressionism. I might be mistaken; I'm new at this.

Five Philosophies of Aesthetics
~ adapted from Lesson Seven ("Should Art Be For Art's Sake") of Protest And Persuasion, at Chicana and Chicano Space; clearly this list is specific to the visual arts.
  • Imitationalism: Good art imitates the appearance of things. Art should be realistic: it should look like something.
  • Formalism: Good art affects its viewers because of the relationship among the visual elements in the artwork (lines, shapes, colors, values [lights and darks], textures, volume, and space). It's interesting to look at. Art is valuable in itself -- art for art's sake.
  • Expressionism: Good art expresses the emotions of the maker and has an emotional impact on its viewers. Art is about emotions.
  • Instrumentalism: Art should lead to some social good. Art has a function: it does something.
  • Institutionalism: Good art is determined by the responses of people with authority in the artworld (artists, critics, curators, scholars, teachers, etc.). Art is what art experts say it is.

Something that caught my eye while skimming over Joseph Kosuth's "Art After Philosophy" (1969): his parenthetical mention of "the apparent other 'functions' of art":
  1. depiction of religious themes,
  2. portraiture of aristocrats,
  3. detailing of architecture,
  4. etc.
Hmm... An interesting set of possibilities, especially when one considers what constitute the "religious themes" and "aristocrats" of our own culture, here and now. Not the conventional definitions of "religion" or "aristocracy," but what institutions in our own era truly function as analogs to the pre-Industrial concepts represented by those words.

I suspect, for example, that the genuine "religious themes" of present-day American culture are better represented by the advertising industry than by any nominally religious institution.

And what's hiding behind that "etc." at the end of the list? You have piqued my curiosity, Mr. Kosuth! I've been reading John Berger's Ways of Seeing, so I have all kinds of crazy ideas.

16 February 2008


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Fernand Léger, "Project Tapisserie" (circa 1945); gouache on paper, 9" x 12.25"
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"What does that represent? There was never any question in plastic art, in poetry, in music, of representing anything. It is a matter of making something beautiful, moving, or dramatic -- this is by no means the same thing."
~ Fernand Léger (1881-1955)

15 February 2008

February Futility, with Photographs

A few more from my own œuvre: this time, digital photographs which have been digitally modified. Some more than others. Click on images to see larger versions in a new window.

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Helquin, "Fountain" (2008); digital, 622px x 466px

Here in snow-covered southern Ohio, I'm fighting February Futility -- that final 30 days of white-knuckled holding on for Spring. But we've been having one heck of a freaky February, veering from highs in the 50s to lows in the teens.

That's Fahrenheit. For you Celsius folks, the range is roughly +10 to -10.

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Helquin, "Book" (2008); digital, 700px x 466px

85% of the page hits for this blog are from people using Google Image Search to find work by Andy Goldsworthy. Well, more power to him, but I'm starting to think that this whole "global village" thing ain't all it's cracked up to be.

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Helquin, "Dawn" (2007); digital, 374px x 500px

"The streets are full of admirable craftsmen, but so few practical dreamers."
~ Man Ray (1890-1976)

"Money changes everything."
~ Tom Gray, of The Brains

14 February 2008

Stains & Wishes

Happy Valentine's Day.

Here's a poem by American poet Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966).

What Is to Be Given
by Delmore Schwartz

What is to be given,
Is spirit, yet animal,
Colored, like heaven,
Blue, yellow, beautiful.

The blood is checkered by
So many stains and wishes,
Between it and the sky
You could not choose, for riches.

Yet let me now be careful
Not to give too much
To one so shy and fearful
For like a gun is touch.

13 February 2008


twee [twē]
adj. Chiefly British.
Overly precious or nice; affectedly dainty or refined.
[Origin: 1900-05; apparently reduced from tweet, mimicking childish pronunciation of sweet]

"As recently as 30 years ago, painting was not [just?] a twee, aesthete's diversion, cloistered in the museum; it was a mass medium of daily communication."
~ Greg Allen, "Painting Was Not Dead:
Manfred Kirchheimer's Stations Of The Elevated"

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12 February 2008

Fine Art on Album Covers

I've been compiling some data about painters, collagists, illustrators, and fine-art photographers whose work has been featured on album covers. I hope to have a more coherent post (or series of posts) on this topic later, but for now here's a patchwork of visual artists, with links regarding their musical connections.

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The artists are...
Top row (left to right): Salvador Dali (for Jackie Gleason), Peter Blake (for the Beatles), R. Crumb (for Big Brother & the Holding Co.), Andy Warhol (for the Rolling Stones).
2nd row: H.R. Giger (for Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Peter Schmidt (for Brian Eno), Robert Mapplethorpe (for Patti Smith), Frank Frazetta (for Molly Hatchet).
3rd row: Norval Morrisseau (for Bruce Cockburn), Winston Smith (for the Dead Kennedys), Robert Rauschenberg (for Talking Heads), Howard Finster (for R.E.M.).
4th row: Gerhard Richter (for Sonic Youth), Stanley Donwood (for Thom Yorke), Banksy (for Blur), Darren Waterston (for Silversun Pickups).