28 September 2007

Abstract Household

Just playing around with the camera at home...
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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

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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

21 September 2007

Snack Time

LOLTHULHU (via PZ Myers, Pharyngula)

California-based artist Seyed Alavi's "Flying Carpet" installation at the Sacramento Airport "depicts an aerial view of the Sacramento River."

Simple vs. Complex
Steve Durbin, at Art & Perception, asks: "Where do your tastes fall on the simple - complex continuum? Do pictures you like tend to be towards one end or the other? Does your preference extend to other arts, like film, literature, or music?"

Warhol vs. Wilde
"For anyone who was paying attention, Andy Warhol changed the rules for art and ushered in new times. The simplest way to put it is that he made it possible -- with the soup cans and the Brillo boxes and the silkscreens of famous movie stars -- to make art from the world of consumer goods, the world that we've all actually been living in for a few generations now. Some people still don't want to forgive him for that. But, in the end, all he was doing was telling the truth. His best work is great because of how deeply Warhol was willing to accept that we live in the world that we do."
~ Morgan Meis, "Damien Hirst's Memento Mori"

"...[I]f something cannot be done to check, or at least to modify, our monstrous worship of facts, Art will become sterile, and beauty will pass away from the land."
~ Oscar Wilde, "The Decay of Lying"

Why be an artist?
Gavin Turk goes "on a little meander: wondering about art's purpose, tracing the use of art within the landscape of art history."

20 September 2007


(Recent photographs; click to see full-size image in new window)

What am I [wanting/trying] to [say/do] with my work?
Does it matter?

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When it comes to the bricolage I post here, my intention is relatively clear to me, and (for lack of a better word) "automatic." I don't feel the need to hold in mind a clear statement of What I'm Trying to Do, because I've been working with text long enough to know both what I'm doing and how I'm doing it.

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With the bricolage, I have that kind of vanity described by Rex Crockett in this post from Art & Perception:
"Sometimes when no one loves you, vanity is a wonderful thing. At times, it is even good to be self deluded. Seeing your own work as worthwhile, even great, when no one else does can be all you have. Vanity can get you through hard times. Vanity is useful. It is a survival tool."
I recognize that almost no one else "gets" it, but I'm vain (or deluded!) enough to be certain of its value.

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In the case of photography, my intention is almost passive: I'm hardly trying to say/do anything at all. I just record what is visually interesting to me, without much creative decision-making. I don't use artificial lighting or filters, I don't set up arranged tableaux, and I use cameras that permit me only minimal control over aperture and exposure time.

For the most part, all I control is framing and composition. And I know enough about the traditional standards of composition to recognize when a particular shot is worthwhile, or when the resulting photograph is "good." My intention is more documentary than expressive or creative.

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But when it comes to painting, I'm stumped -- often and enduringly. What am I trying to do?

I haven't internalized that sense of what I'm doing and how I'm doing it. I don't have that useful vanity to push me along without others' approval. And painting can never be as passively receptive as point-&-click photography. Even if it were that easy, I aspire to something more than documentary record-making.

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For the past 18 months or so, I've been engaged with painting more as process art than anything else -- opening myself to the notions of a "creative journey," serendipitous effects, a sense of playfulness or experimentation with the materials. But today, looking over the completed work, the journey seems like a solipsistic dead-end, the serendipity feels more like folly, the playfulness indulgent. Even with those 2 or 3 works I like, I find myself asking: is this at all valid (or worthwhile or meaningful or relevant or even just beautiful)?

What am I trying to do? What am I wanting to say?

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Does it matter?

In his blog On Painting, Duane Keiser says that "... a painterly aesthetic develops when the way we like to move paint begins to mesh with our sense of what is beautiful." I like that sentiment, but as I look at yet another blank canvas this morning, I feel like I want something else or something more.

16 September 2007

Ideas & Objects

"Ideas must be put to the test. That's why we make things, otherwise they would be no more than ideas. There is often a huge difference between an idea and its realisation. I've had what I thought were great ideas that just didn't work."
~ Andy Goldsworthy (link: portfolio at Cass Sculpture Foundation)

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"My sculpture can last for days or a few seconds -- what is important to me is the experience of making."
~ Andy Goldsworthy (link: Artnet page)

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"One of the beauties of art is that it reflects an artist's entire life. What I've learned over the past 30 years is really beginning to inform what I make. I hope that process continues until I die."
~ Andy Goldsworthy (link: profile in Smithsonian magazine, 2005)

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"[Andy] Goldsworthy basically embraces the traditional goal of art -- that is, he wants to add interesting objects to the world."
~ Deborah Solomon, "Stone Diarist" (New York Times, Sunday Magazine, 16 May 2004)

13 September 2007

The Situationists

"Their goal was to destroy the barriers that separated art and everyday life, end the boredom of our passive way of life and make way for a grand and playful revolt by a liberated people."
~ Kristoffer Haggren, "The Situationist International: A Brief History of Inspiration" (at Interacting Arts)

"Modern capitalism and its spectacle allot everyone a specific role in a general passivity. The student is no exception to the rule. He has a provisional part to play, a rehearsal for his final role as an element in market society as conservative as the rest. Being a student is a form of initiation."
~ U.N.E.F. Strasbourg, On the Poverty of Student Life (1966)

"It goes without saying that one is not limited to correcting a work or to integrating diverse fragments of out-of-date works into a new one; one can also alter the meaning of those fragments in any appropriate way, leaving the imbeciles to their slavish reference to 'citations.'"
~ Guy Debord & Gil J. Wolman, "A User’s Guide to D√©tournement" (1956)

11 September 2007

Juxtaposition of Problematic Ontological Perspectives

Archinect's jpg du jour: "a conversation in images only: post an image that in some way relates to the image before it (preferrrably of a design nature) ..." Started 5 December 2005 and still going strong (at 38 pages) today.
* Caution: this is an image-saturated forum thread, and thus very slow to load. Registration required in order to participate in the conversation -- but anyone can eavesdrop. "The goal of Archinect is to make architecture more connected and open-minded, and bring together designers from around the world to introduce new ideas from all disciplines."

All Consuming: "What are you consuming?"

Functionless Form Survey: "Have you ever used the words problematic, juxtaposition, and ontological in the same sentence?"

08 September 2007


Not much going on this week...

Noonhat: "an easy, safe way to meet new people over lunch."
Alas, according to their blog: "Most people who signed up outside of Seattle didn't find a match on the date they picked." Eh, I signed up for 13 September anyway. :-/

Square America: "A gallery of vintage snapshots & vernacular photography."

Urban survivor: the ubiquitous "ghetto palm" -- err, Ailanthus altissima, also known as Tree-of-Heaven, Chinese sumac, or stinking shumac.

I won an ink drawing from the very talented Steven LaRose! And all I did was show up to make a rather feeble contribution to the conversation about "What makes painting so special?" Check out the impressive selection of his recent work: "Structure of the Inner Ear" (at Flickr).

Book of the week: Louis-Ferdinand Céline's Journey to the End of the Night
"...a dark, nihilistic novel of savage, exultant misanthropy, leavened, however, with an ebulliently cynical humor"

Film of the week: Peter Greenaway's A Zed & Two Noughts
"...this extremely odd and perverse conceptual piece certainly isn't for every taste, although Sacha Vierny's cinematography makes it so luscious that you may find yourself mesmerized in spite of yourself"

Groove of the week: Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi"
"...a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot"
Yeah, I'm kinda perpetually stuck in the 1970s when it comes to music. ;-)

03 September 2007

Gallery Hop: Seeing Red

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"Flatlands #54," by David Palmer
David Palmer, Flatlands (linoleums, 2002-2004): "My materials are linoleum and vinyl, chosen for their tactile qualities, for their readymade textures, and because flooring material seems an appropriate metaphor for both the surface of the earth (which is itself becoming increasingly manmade) and the microscopic realm (our latest construction site)."

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"Paint #18" (detail), by Brad Streeper
Brad Streeper: "My painting process is intuitive, and involves unconventional manipulation of paint, glue, gesso and ink."

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"Espresso," by Paule Dubois Dupuis
Paule Dubois Dupuis: "My work investigates the nuances of passion through the use of textures often obtained by painting on plaster lying on wood. I like to use these unconventional materials to create abstract compositions that reference both body and nature."

02 September 2007

Losing My Religion

"[I]t is not correct to say that modernism relied on a conviction about the steady disappearance of religious belief. Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, to take two very salient examples, looked upon religion as virtually ineradicable -- the former precisely because he did identify it with secular yearnings that would be hard to satisfy, and the latter because he thought it originated in our oldest mistake, which was (and is) wishful thinking."
~ Christopher Hitchens, reviewing Mark Lilla's The Stillborn God

"[H]e kept his eyes fixed on a God above -- though most assuredly it was a false God, one of his own making, designed for the singular purpose of giving him stability and fortitude -- the power to persevere in a cause which was entirely pigheaded and wrong."
~ Scott Horton (describing Philip II of Spain)

"There is fertile ground for a preacher who tells people that they are 'anointed' and 'blessed' for driving a Yukon and hating gays; the preacher who tries to hold people to some kind of Christ-like ethical code, or criticizes materialism and bigotry, will find himself speaking to empty pews."
~ reader "Timber," commenting on Joshua Frank's interview with author Joe Bageant (Deer Hunting With Jesus)