I just got a call from Karin that the park is now ready, and the construction guys have officially removed my installation around West Thames Park. In many ways, this is sort of terrible timing, because I have a show opening this Wednesday at BravinLee programs, which is the completed drawings for that project, and it would have been nice (and it was the plan) to have them both up at the same time. On the other hand, this is just the way these things go. It’s a construction site, first and foremost, and only a place to see art as a very, very distant last place. It was great to have the opportunity to have my work up there for as long as it was, and now it’s on to new things.
Including… that show I mentioned! If you’re in NYC, come to BravinLee program this Wednesday from 6-8pm and check out the full drawing in the project space (Douglas Florian in the main space!). Details:
Amy Wilson: It takes time to turn a space around
BravinLee programs, 526 W26th Street #211
April 21 – June 5
Opening: Wednesday, April 21st, 6-8pm
Hope to see you there!
This is going to seem like the silliest thing to put in an art blog, but bear with me.
I bought a pair of ginormous bug-eyed prescription sunglasses. It wasn’t really my intention to do this when I walked into the Lenscrafters, but I’ve been needing new sunglasses for ever and this pair was on sale, and I’m always saying I want to try a different kind of glasses, so why not? So I got them, didn’t think too much, ordered the polarized lenses, and waited a week. They arrived two days ago.
Here’s why I mention it: Seeing the world through ginormous bug eyed glasses is a completely amazing and all-new experience. For starters, THE COLORS. I had forgotten how amazing sunglasses make all the colors look outside; that the sun sort of bleaches the color out of everything, and walking around with sunglasses on is a little like being Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when suddenly everything goes all technicolor. Blades of grass twinkle (the tips of the blades of grass now clearly a dark yellow unlike the base of the blade which is a fierce green with a little bit of blue), individual leaves up in trees shine and glisten…. it’s amazing. And then secondly, the field of vision is way bigger. I’ve been wearing smaller glasses forever and have totally forgotten that oh yeah, there’s a whole world that gets edited out when you see the world through 1 1/4″ lenses.
Anyway, I am psyched to see if this has any affect on my work. Already I’ve been planning on making some very large scale drawings, but now I’m thinking all about color – intense, pure color, the kind that makes your eyes pop out. And I pretty much never want to take the sunglasses off.
This school year has, well, sucked, in a way I’m not really going to get into right now, but it’s been one of those times where I’ve had to remind myself why it is that I do what I do, and why I should keep going. It’s a passing funk, I’m sure, but it’s there nonetheless.
But I finally had a really great day preparing for classes, and that’s largely because I got to spend the afternoon looking at the work of David Wojnarowicz, one of the first artists I really looked at as a young artist. I remember taking the bus into NYC with my friend Jason and stumbling upon a show of his at the New Museum (at the time located on Broadway). His work was stunning and powerful, and was one of the first things I saw that really made me want to be an artist.
It’s funny for me to sit down and look at his work today, and remember the impact it had on me then. My work is often described (accused?) of being pretty or sweet – two adjectives that really don’t come to mind with DW’s work. And yet today I saw the connection — a connection I had totally forgotten about — that made total sense; a connection based on text and an expression of raw honesty:
It might be a connection that only makes sense to me, I don’t know. But something about I’m going to give you this overwhelming amount of text, so much that it’s hard to read and that you feel silly standing before it in a gallery, but in it I’m going to tell you something so real that I could never actually speak it; the connection between readability and not being readable, and the imparting of a desperate, secret truth:
And then, I saw this piece again, which is probably my favorite work of art ever in its simplicity and (I’m using this word again, but what other word is there?) devastation:
Damn. It’s one of my life’s goals to own that piece of bread, I just love it so much. (Start saving, Amy.)
Anyway. I’m psyched to show this work to my class tomorrow, psyched to share something with them that meant (and means) so much to me.
(The Estate of David Wojnarowicz is represented by PPOW Gallery in NYC, which is run by very, very nice people who I really hope won’t be mad at me for using these pictures. And if they are, I’ll just take them down, no biggie.)
I got back from Oxford, MS, about two weeks ago, but it’s taken me a little while to digest the whole experience. I can’t say I’ve finally sorted through it all, but at least I’ve started — so here is a first stab.
Oxford is a small town about two hours outside of Memphis. It’s home to Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi’s flagship school, which at this point is probably its biggest employer. The town is tiny — there is a small “main street” area of shops which is positively charming, made even more so by the fact that all the shops are independently owned (ie, no Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, etc). Sports are huge (football, in particular), but there is a large foodie culture that is quite notable, and everyone talks about how Faulkner once lived there.
More or less, I knew all of this before I arrived. It was different actually being there. One of the things that impressed me was the intense amount of town pride I experienced, which felt so completely alien. I think it was Lou Reed who said that everyone is either trying to get to, or get out of, NYC — which means that the people who actually live there are ones trying to leave. I remember stumbling across a youtube video of Lydia Lunch in which she gave an interview about how lame NYC was and how nothing interesting was happening there, and how all the great things happened several years ago… and the interview was given in 1983 or something. This is how people talk about NYC — always. We hate it but we stay. It used to be better and it’s never going back, but where else are you going to go?
So there was something really strange but very, very nice to be in a place where everyone was really psyched to be. I sort of wanted to be cynical about it (to think that it wasn’t real in some way), but any sort of cynicism I had quickly faded. Surely somewhere in Oxford, there is a surly teenager who dreams of moving the hell out — but if so, I never met him or her. The affection for the town that everyone radiated was something I had never experienced; it was impossible to ignore and was wonderfully infectious.
My second strong impression is that everyone was really concerned about my impression, not only of Oxford, but as the South as a whole. To me, this meant two things: 1. I was surrounded by terrific hosts, and 2. Those terrific hosts were convinced that I was going to show up completely biased against the South. And I was — look, Ralph Nader carried my hometown in 2000; it was a little weird for me to be spending time in a “red” state. The idea of visiting a university where football is king is completely foreign to me — the school where I teach doesn’t have a single sports team.
But I kept having the weirdest conversation with various people. Shortly after asking me what I thought of Oxford (“I’m having a great visit, everything has been really lovely” — which is completely true), the conversation would branch out into two directions: “See? The South isn’t like what the media portrays it to be, is it?” or else “You don’t seem like a Northerner! You’re not from the North originally, are you?”.
This is all so depressing in its honesty. Yeah, I had low expectations of the South because (I guess?) the media; and apparently people expected me to be stuck up and snobbish being from the North, also because of the media (I think?). I’ve put those hesitations in parentheses because I’m not really sure exactly where they come from or if it’s even fair to dump it on this big scapegoat of The Media (what the hell does that mean, anyway?), but I also don’t know what to blame it on. But in short, I wasn’t shocked to find Oxford to be a really nice place to both visit and live, but I was really surprised to find people shocked to meet a nice Northerner.
I have no identity as a Northerner — I literally never thought of myself as that before going to Mississippi. I’m from the East Coast, but not New England; I guess I’m from the Mid-Atlantic, but who the hell says that? I’m from NYC or NJ, depending on how you look at it. I don’t think of where I live as being The North; I think about the Vietnam War way more than I ever think about the Civil War. How did all this happen? What the hell has happened to our country that I felt that way, that Mississippi seemed so impossibly far away from where I lived?
The name of my show at the University is The Space Between Us. It’s from a Robyn Hitchcock song that I think about all the time; the line goes:
The space… between us… turns… into animals!
and it’s always really fascinated me — I’ve tried to draw what it describes so many times and I feel like I know what it means without being able to really articulate it. But it wound up being this really ironic title for a show, given that the space between Mississippi and NYC is apparently a lot further away than I originally thought. I had enough people around me chuckle and wish me good luck when I told them where I was going for a week that the night before I left, I seriously questioned why I was going. I guess for a minute I was that Northerner snob everyone thought I would be.
I honestly loved it there, had a fantastic time, and hope to return. It’s exactly the kind of small town I’d love to be a part of. But the larger issue I come away with is, what do we have to do to collapse this space a little? I shouldn’t feel like I’m going to a foreign land when I’m still in the US, nor should anyone coming to visit up here. So what, exactly, is the solution?
I’m going to have some work up in the project space at BravinLee in a few weeks. It’s the large drawing that I did for West Thames Park, only totally completed – which is to say, with all the text filled in. Here’s a preview, but the full drawing is huge…
It’s all ready to go… except I don’t want it to leave my studio just yet. I want to fuss around with it a bit. I have been on such a tight schedule the last few years, I haven’t had the luxury to really just work and work on something, and then walk away for a few days, come back, work some more, take a break, etc. I’m happy with it the way that it is, but since I have a little extra time (it’s not going to be framed, which means I don’t have to rush it to the framers) I’m going to take it. I don’t expect to make any major changes, just little tweaks – but it’s fantastic to finally have the time and space in my life to do that sort of thing.
Has anyone yet pointed out that in Lady Gaga’s videos for Bad Romance and Telephone, both of which contain tons of product placement, the products are placed in such a way as to be sort of anti-commercials? Like, the vodka featured in Bad Romance is forced down her throat and seems to turn her into some sort of high-priced prostitute – not really the kind of connotations corporate sponsors look for? Or that the hot lesbian kiss in Telephone (which quickly thereafter shows a shot of a cell phone) is more likely to freak out potential consumers than get them interested in signing up for a plan? Or that the person looking at the dating site isn’t one of the beautiful inmates, but rather one of the beefy and kinda gross guards? Or that the brand name bread and mayonnaise-substitute are used in a plot to kill people?
Please help. I can’t stop thinking about this.