Guide to The Myth of Loneliness

September 29, 2008 at 8:44 pm (art, culture, drawing, interesting, personal)

I love making free little books to give out to people I meet; I make this a regular practice when I go to art fairs like in Miami. They can be a pain to make and cost me money, but it’s ok – I like this sort of temporary repurposing of my work as a gift rather than just a private obsession that exists in my studio.

So I was psyched to make a “Guide to The Myth of Loneliness” as part of my show up at BravinLee right now, and I must have printed out fifty or more of them that the gallery had out along with the pricelist and other info. Karin warned me that people get grabby when there’s stuff offered for free… but wow, I wasn’t really expecting them to get all that grabby. I like making homemade books to give to people who genuinely enjoy them. At the point at which I’m making homemade books to give to people who will just take them and stuff them in their bags and totally forget about them in two seconds… well, that’s less rewarding.

I haven’t figured out what to do yet. The show still has about three weeks and I would like to offer more of the guides, but I haven’t quite figured out a way to do it such that I don’t feel totally lame and like I’m offering something that people are only taking thoughtlessly. So until I do figure it out, I thought I’d experiment with this:

Those are the files you need to print out a double-sided, folded guide – exactly what I had with me during the opening and we’ve had at the gallery since. You can just print it out on plain, white paper, flip it over, and refeed it into the printer for the back. Folding it is probably pretty obvious. You can print out one or you can print out ten or however many you want, up to you. I’m not going to keep these links up here indefinitely though, so if you want one of your very own get it soon!

And if you do, let me know if you have any problems printing it, getting the file, etc. It strikes me that this might be an interesting way to make some freebies available in the future.


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Oh my little blog…

September 29, 2008 at 11:13 am (Uncategorized)

…how I have neglected you these last few weeks…

Between the show being up and school starting, I’ve been distracted. Possibly not in the way that you’d think – it’s not that I’ve been crazy busy working all the time, but actually the opposite. For the first time in many months, I’m not working frenetically against a deadline trying to get stuff done for the show. And as a result, I’ve gotten to really focus my time and energy both on teaching and on doing stuff that’s fun (!!) like seeing my friends and wandering aimlessly around the city.

This has been a huge relief after so much hard work. I love doing research for my classes and I love bringing in new material for us to work on, and it is wonderful to have the time to do all of that. Soon enough, another deadline (for the Hunterdon Museum) is going to creep up on me, but for now I’m trying to just chill out and do what I can to enjoy the time I have.

This is of course very good for my mental health and very bad for my blog. But I’ll be back before you know it.

My next task is try to figure out how to make the “guide” that I made for the show available for download on here. I’m printing out a million little catalogs and ephemera to sort of memorialize the show, and that’s the one thing that can easily just be disseminated as a PDF. Which actually would be great by me, as the printer ink I’m tearing through doing all this printing is basically killing me (I had to replace my full ink spectrum three times and I’m not even halfway done with all my printing… and that’s easily $300. yikes!!!).

Anyway. Stay tuned. More soon, as always.

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This will probably make it into a drawing some day.

September 21, 2008 at 11:45 am (culture, interesting, personal, Uncategorized)

Originally uploaded by amywilson

For about a dozen reasons, yesterday was one of the weirdest days on record.

To just focus on one: Around midnight, a friend of mine and I were at Alex Grey’s Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, waiting on line for our chance to lay in a chair while two guys struck gongs on either side of us. The sight of this performance/experience/whatever-you-want-to-call it was so instantly captivating that it carried us through a half-hour wait; you knew just by looking at it that this was going to be an experience worth having.

It would be nice if this video had sound to more clearly communicate what it was like, but I’ll try to do it in words: You lay down on this chair, hands by your side and holding two crystals (the gong guy told me, “These crystals have been held by over 2,000 people!” which actually grossed me out more than it connected me to the cosmic energy of all those people… but still, I get his point), with a sensory deprivation mask blocking out all light. The two guys start striking their gongs on either side of you as you lay there. Eventually, one of them comes out with a singing bowl and plays it close to your face, and then the experience is over.

Of course, what it felt like was another thing entirely. Somehow these two gongs form this sort of cone of sound around you – it feels like you’re going into an actual physical tunnel, and the rest of the world just sort of melts away. You fall into this in between space, but at the same time you’re zooming through it. As mundane as it sounds, the best I could really equate it to would be riding through the Lincoln Tunnel on a motorcycle (sans car fumes) – you can feel the space whoosh around you while you also have the sense of being enclosed in this other, larger space.

It was incredibly relaxing and reminded me of the last five minutes of yoga class, where you’re just laying there and breathing. Except of course, with the gongs that state just comes upon you immediately – you just drift from your everyday state of mind to this very relaxed one, without an hour of yoga in between. Laying there with my eyes closed, I felt a sensation that I often feel at the end of yoga class – that of this strange, constant movement in my body (not like breathing or my blood rushing, but more like frenetic dancing or lashing around, but a more pleasant version of that than you might think).

This sort of frenetic energy is something I’ve tried to capture in drawings before but have been unable to; it’s actually something I think of a lot of when I try and position myself in my work – the sensation is that of almost (but not quite) having two selves, one which is in constant motion.

I’m still ruminating on this and not quite sure what to think.

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September 18, 2008 at 9:22 am (Uncategorized)

I thought this was pretty funny… some months ago, I did a drawing based on the sunflowers here in Jersey City. My neighbors plant them on their front lawn and I’ve always found it really strange but endearing – a weird touch to a front lawn, but it’s something I’ve come to associate very closely with my neighborhood which I love.

This is the drawing… it’s up at the gallery now:

…and here’s a pic from down the street, some sunflowers in full bloom:

I was finally able to get a shot of some of them (it’s weird that they’re still blooming so late – I just took this photo last night. My favorite in the neighborhood was one that was smack in the middle of someone’s lawn and towered up about a foot taller than me, but sadly by time I had a chance to get over there with a camera, it had already shriveled down to nothing). In this case, it looks like the person in the house has planted them on either side (there’s another row that got cut off by the picture) of their driveway. Love it.

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One more shot from Friday night

September 15, 2008 at 6:45 pm (art, culture, drawing, personal)

Not to dwell on this forever, but Sofia Klapischak from last year’s drawing class took this great photo of Katie Armstrong at the opening at BravinLee last night. Just had to post it:

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Picturing Sarah Palin

September 14, 2008 at 12:16 pm (culture, thoughts)

Things in my life have finally started to settle down a bit to the point where I can do things like spend a Sunday morning digging through one of my favorite image archives – the collection of AP images that Yahoo hosts, which are sorted by various topics in a slideshow format that you can flip through. I love looking at these images as I love looking at strangers’ snapshots on Flickr. I’ve probably drawn more information and inspiration for my work by going through both these kinds of “non-art” images than I have by going to museums or galleries, although the latter remains a major source of inspiration too.

I started off this morning by doing something that I knew would piss me off, and yet I did it anyway: There are currently 424 photos in the Sarah Palin slideshow, and I clicked through about 150 of them. (It’s not that I gave up or lost interest; in these AP slideshows, many of the photos are duplicates or near duplicates, and after a point once you’ve spent an hour looking at pictures of one subject, you’ve kind of seen them all.)

I have to say, I have never seen pictures of a politician quite like these before. I’m sort of impressed and horrified, revolted and intrigued, all at the same time. I don’t like her; what I do really like are the Alaskan wilderness, abortion rights, and the idea of a Democrat in the White House, so these are things that immediately set me up to be critical of her. And yet I think these pictures are worth looking at because they tell us so much about the expectations that we place on women in our culture.

The very first thing I noticed flipping from picture to picture is how many of them portrayed Palin walking arm in arm with a man. She looks in these photos less like the Governor of Alaska and more like… well, a girlfriend.

This was interesting to me at first as it seems that much of the attraction to Palin by her more rabid supporters comes from this idea that she is representing what “real” women are like. Picture after picture of her supporters show them with signs, banners, and t-shirts proclaiming that they too are “lipstick wearers” or favor high heels, as if these were qualifications for being Vice President (or possibly just qualifications for being a “real” woman). For example:

If you look at her clothes (and it might seem unfair to do so – would anyone really critique the wardrobe of Joe Biden? No, probably not… but it’s also impossible to ignore that Palin’s glamor isn’t somehow part of her appeal), you’ll quickly see that she must be the best-dressed female politician out there; I don’t like her very much, but I will admit her clothes are pretty fantastic. Whereas the norm for politicians in general is a sedate suit in a neutral color based on the classic men’s suit, albeit with a knee-length skirt in place of pants, eg:

Palin, meanwhile, goes all out in her outfits, which are tasteful and professional, but unabashedly “feminine,” with oversized buttons, fashion-forward details, and the occasional frilly edge:

The figure-flattering belt in this one I thought was especially interesting.

And let’s not forget the shoes:

Or again, as there are several shots of those shoes:

The idea of Hillary Clinton (or Nancy Pelosi or whomever) wearing shiny red, three-inch heels seems like a joke, as does the idea of a photographer zooming in on whatever shoes she is wearing and publishing a picture of them. But the message seems pretty clear to me – Sarah Palin is the kind of woman our culture craves. She is “all-girl” at heart (not one of those scary, “manly,” no-fun women we’ve gotten used to eating up the political spotlight), prone to moments of silly femininity and with a secret love of dressing up.

Ok, why is this important? Because, look: The Democrats have been going after Palin’s obvious lack of foreign policy experience and unreadiness to become President. Those are fine, valid arguments… but they’re not going to work. The people who are going gaga over Palin are doing so because she represents what we might see in academic circles as being a very regressive form of femininity, one based on a variation of very old and out-dated gender stereotypes. But that, unfortunately, is the state of affairs for women in our culture right now: what your professional experience is with foreign policy doesn’t really matter when you’re a woman running for Vice President. What matters is that you rock gorgeous suits and balance on towering heels, know how to put on lipstick, assume a traditionally feminine (and secondary, if not overtly subservient) role when you’re walking with men, and embrace your inner girl at all times:

I also have a bunch of thoughts about the pictures of Sarah-Palin-as-mom, but this post is too long already. So, next time.

There’s a dissertation in here somewhere and I’m not the one to write it. Still, I just had to put these really preliminary thoughts out there.

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Last night at BravinLee programs

September 13, 2008 at 9:27 am (Uncategorized)

I actually love how blurry this is… it sort of captures what the evening – which was a whirlwind of activity – felt like.

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Available tomorrow…

September 11, 2008 at 9:30 pm (Uncategorized)

Starting tomorrow, this will be available to sort of go along with the book. It’s free and available while… it’s still available.

I’m also working on a catalog of the 30+ drawings I made for the show. I was hoping to have it all ready by tomorrow, but there’s no way – already I realize I’m going to have to break it down into different volumes (figure: just in transcribing about 20 of the drawings, I’ve racked up 10,000 words, so that’s a lot of pages). Anyway, it’s a nice thing for me to work on while the show is up. And also, I desperately need to update my website – a much more pressing issue – and it’s getting late already…


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