6/5/10: New work

June 5, 2010 at 10:27 am (art, culture, interesting)

Today is the last day of my BravinLee and Mississippi shows. It’s sad to see them go.

But, knowing I’d be a little sad today, I saved today to show you some of my new work. This is a continuation of the embroidery project I started for my birthday last year and which I’m scrambling to finish before my birthday this year (I have two months!). It’s basically me reflecting on my life as an artist, and my experiences within the art world. There is one, long narrative that holds the piece together; these are the first three panels. The panels I’ve posted before are #4 and #5.


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6/4/10: Kiosk

June 4, 2010 at 9:46 am (art, culture, interesting, life, other sites to see)

En route to the opening last night, I happened across a really intriguing store in Soho. It’s been a very long time since anything in Soho seemed interesting or worthy of really slowing down and taking a look, so I guess I could be forgiven for hesitating outside and wondering if the trip in (which involved a flight of stairs and then following arrows pointing you around a graffitied hallway) would be worth it.

It is. Not really an art gallery and not really a standard retail shop and with a little etsy and Printed Matter thrown in, Kiosk is something really different. It’s apparently made up with objects culled during travels by the owners. Let me just quote their website – it’s just easier that way:

We opened the shop to provide an alternative to over-design. We consider the items we show to be humble, straightforward and beautiful in their simplicity and directness. Often they are traditional goods that have developed over generations or anonymous design found in general or hardware stores. We feature the things that generally go unnoticed, products created by not one personality but objects that are the result of local aesthetics and needs. Their value is sometimes hard to see in today’s market; our motivation to start Kiosk was to shed some light on these anonymous objects and support independent producers.

I tended to like the things in the store that were closer to “art” than to “anonymous design,” but it was fascinating to see the different kinds of objects laid out next to each other. One of my faves:

Mr. Hop by Roger Geier

Big plaster bunnies that they had laying on the ground, underneath a small “exhibit” of different kinds of gum from Iceland, which were laid out on a big fabric volcano.

Ok, if the above sentence doesn’t leave you wanting to go to Kiosk right now, I don’t know what will.

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5/31/10: Cirrosis of the heart

May 31, 2010 at 1:27 pm (art, interesting, life)

I remember the moment exactly: It’s 1988, and I’m 15 and I’m in a local record shop in my hometown of Montclair, NJ. After chatting with the owner a bit, I tell him I’m in the market for the weirdest, most out-there and bizarre music he has. Without missing a beat, the guy quickly says, “Oh, well – that would be Foetus,” and quickly leads me over to his modest section of records in his F pile. And then – and this is the truly genius moment – the guy adds, “Oh, except – just so you know, most girls don’t like Foetus.”

Wow, buddy, way to 1000% insure that I would plunk down alllll of my babysitting money that very moment on anything with the Foetus name on it. Looking back on the incident with adult eyes, I’m pretty sure I fell hard for a marketing ploy. But I’m so glad I did.

The experience of being a human being is tethered to the experience of feeling utterly alone and empty, pretty much any time you stop and actually think about it; it’s what one does with that loneliness and emptiness that defines what kind of person we are, but we all feel it. I think you’re incredibly lucky over the course of a lifetime to meet a handful of people who deal with that sense in the same way you do, because it can serve to remind you – in a profound sort of way – of the universality of this feeling.

I don’t know J.G. Thirlwell, but I know his music extremely well. We actually have had a few people in common over the years, but I haven’t ever tried to meet him (hey, he passed me on the street once, and I let the guy go about his business without being a creepy stalker fan); I don’t even really read any interviews with him or anything like that. It’s the music that’s important, and through his music he’s made me realize that maybe there is another human being out there with my particular combination of anxiety disorders, sick humor, allergies, and bad teeth, who also likes to watch the Simpsons. Is it true? Do we really have so much in common? I have no idea and I’m not actually sure I care about what the reality is, but that I can listen to his music and feel like I’m not the only weirdo wandering around this world has meant an incredible amount to me.*

Anyway. Thirlwell will be performing with Steroid Maximus for FREE at the Prospect Park Bandshell on June 18th. You should go and, if you do, you should look for the tall girl spazzing out and having a great time.

*Oh, if you can’t figure out for the life of you why an artist who spends her life drawing sweet little girls would feel such an affinity with someone who often write such bleak lyrics… well then, you’ve never really read any of my drawings then, have you?

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5/30/10: Trading

May 30, 2010 at 12:08 pm (dog, interesting, life)

The dog and I have a system worked out.

A small collection of Oscar's many, many sticks.

During the last five minutes of our walks, he picks up a stick and carries it home. Once home, he trades it to me for a treat. I then take the stick away from him and put it on top of our fridge (eventually it goes back outside or gets thrown away). I have seen this dog assume that we were on the last five minutes and wind up carrying a stick for a good 20 minutes or so, totally determined to get it home; I’ve also seen him scramble as we got closer to home and quickly grab a ridiculously oversized stick because that was the only one he could get to.

Anyway, this is all pretty awesome. It started out as a once in a while thing, then slowly it became only at the end of our evening walks. Now he’s doing it at least twice a day; I wouldn’t be surprised if we were up to three or four times a day by next week. Perfectly ok by me. I like having a dog with a working understanding of capitalism.

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5/28/10: Ed Ruscha’s books

May 28, 2010 at 9:53 am (art, culture, interesting, life, other sites to see)

Ed Ruscha is one of those people that still, after all these years, a disappointing number of East coast art students know about. It’s shocking to me how many 3rd and 4th year BFA students and plenty of MFA candidates draw a blank stare when I mention his name. What’s especially weird about it is that if you have graduated from art school and spent a few years in the art world, it seems unimaginable that anyone alive wouldn’t know who Ruscha is.

I’ve heard various theories as to why this is the case (the Biggie vs Tupac/East vs West coast one is by far the most frequently cited). Personally, I think it’s because the artist has worked across mediums a lot, the photographers consider him a painter, the painters a photographer, and the print/book people (who are REALLY the ones who should be teaching him) just assume he’s been taught in either photo or painting class.

Well, don’t get me started. But the point is, I’ve been thinking about Ruscha’s books a LOT over the last couple of weeks:

His books, which contain mostly straightforward “documentary” photographs of what is mentioned on the cover (apartments, pools, gas stations, etc; in my favorite case, “Baby Cakes,” his book features pictures of both babies and cakes), are totally phenomenal. And maybe because they look so straightforward that they don’t get considered by book art teachers enough (I’ve seen people lecture endlessly on some obscure artist who made a really insane tunnel book but then completely skip over Ruscha’s contribution to the field), but to me, this is their strength. They float around and find their way into regular bookstores (or they did, before they became highly collectible). They’re inviting, accessible, and understandable. And yet they point to a bigger project and act as a gateway to the rest of the artist’s work.

No matter how many Kindles are sold, books aren’t going away. Definitely not books that rely upon imagery – I would love to have a Kindle so that I can bring it with me rather than lugging around some art history book, but I’m never going to get one to look at art/design/fashion/etc books. For those, I need the book before me, to have the ability to leaf through it and turn it by hand. And with printmaking processes becoming cheaper and easier to do in short runs, I’m surprised more artists aren’t taking advantage of the medium.

Books are (or can be) an intervention into everyday life. They’re stealth operators.

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5/25/10: Secret tree world

May 25, 2010 at 10:16 am (art, gardening, interesting, life)

Argh. I had an amazing photo of the inside of a tree that I took in Lincoln Park the other day, but I can’t find it. This will have to suffice:

You get it. I'm talking about a hole in a tree.

There are all these trees in the park that have holes in them, and when you peer inside you can see that there’s mushrooms and other plants growing in there, and that it’s probably a home for a squirrel or raccoon (and also, one assumes, faeries, elves, hobgoblins, pixies, smurfs, aliens, spirits, ghosts, and possibly the devil).

It reminded me of the idea of building “fairy houses” – apparently a trend right now, where parents and kids will go out into the garden and create little homes to lure fairies to their property. Apparently, this is a huge thing; not having kids, I was totally unaware of it until I went to Mississippi and everyone there seemed into making them.

Hmm. I’m intrigued.

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5/21/10: I have invented dog gatorade

May 21, 2010 at 2:11 pm (dog, interesting, Uncategorized)

That last post was just weird, so let me try and make up for it.

Oscar and I were headed over to the post office to mail off the latest round of tote bags to their new owners when suddenly – and I do mean suddenly – he started exhibiting all the signs of heat stroke. It was scary. Out of nowhere, my energetic young dog was panting so hard it was completely frightening, and refusing to go anywhere and generally looking horrible. I’m new to dog ownership, so this was definitely unexpected (it also was only in the 80s when we went out, and he’s used to zooming around the dog park at top speed at that temp with no trouble).

We got him some water, and almost immediately he was better. I have noticed that he has problems taking in a lot of water – he’s picky with it, and while he does drink enough under normal circumstances, he doesn’t compensate for those times when he’s really running around or when it’s especially hot out. Most of the time when I try to get him to drink a little water when we’re at the park, he looks at me like I’m insane – even though I know that he must be thirsty. The best I can get him to take is a couple of laps, and then he’s done and there’s no convincing him otherwise.

When we got home, it was clear that this dog needed to drink a bunch – he had enough when we took a break from our walk in order to make it home, but now he really needed to take in some more. I showed him his bowl and he wasn’t having it. I gave him an ice cube – one of his favorite things ever – and he wasn’t having that, either. I put the ice cube in the bowl of water… nothing. I offered him some blackberries, which I know have a high water content, and he quickly ate those. Hm.

So I poked around online and found a recipe for a homemade electrolyte beverage, and I started tinkering with it. And what do you know – he LOVES it, and drinks it up the second I put it down (I’ve only been giving him small portions at a time, but I think if I gave it to him freely he would drink cups of it… which is why I’m only giving him small portions). I’m going to try and take it with us to the park later and see if that works better in terms of giving him some added incentive to drink something.

In the meanwhile, if you know anything about dogs, would you take a look at this recipe and tell me if there’s anything immediately horribly wrong about it? Short term, at least, it seems to have worked absolute wonders.

  • 1 qt water
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 banana
  • couple of frozen blackberries

Put everything into a blender and blend away. You have to serve it (remember – it makes a LOT and you’re not going to use very much if you have a small dog like I do) right away or the top gets very, very frothy. If that happens, just blend it some more and then quickly serve. I was giving Oscar about an 1/8th of  cup, then waiting 20 minutes or so and giving him a little more.

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Looking at: Aneta Grzeszykowska

May 20, 2010 at 10:51 am (art, culture, interesting, other sites to see)

I’m generally not the biggest photography fan and I definitely don’t pay as close attention to what’s going on in the photo world as I should. But occasionally I see work in photography that is so smart and just so unbelievably good, and that I’m blown away.

I was thrilled to learn about Aneta Grzeszykowska’s work from a friend. The first series I saw was her set of Cindy Sherman film stills. Here’s what the artist does: She is taking this series of photos that are well-known, iconic, and much revered and she’s rephotographing them, painstakingly capturing the original photograph down to the tiniest detail. But two major things are changed: One, the artist produces color photos when the original was done in black and white (more on this in a moment). Two, she incorporates tiny details that refer to the fact that these photos were taken in Poland, and not America.

the "original"

Grzeszykowska's "copy"

Looking at Sherman’s originals, there’s plenty of things that I just sort of glossed over and never questioned because I assumed (with my American eye) that they were “universal.” So of course (I always thought) the signage behind her character in a particular shot was going to be written in English, or of course her grocery bag that spills out onto the floor will have food in it that’s familiar to me. That’s the kind of chauvinism that the training (art school, etc) I have has instilled in me, and it’s so rare to see something that rattles me out of it. And what first tips you off that something really amazing is going to happen is the very simple trick of changing the stills from black and white to super saturated color. Looking at Grzeszykowska’s series, you immediately get that something is wrong, or that something is very different, and it’s the effect of the color on an image you’re so used to seeing in black and white. And then all this other stuff gets revealed, and it’s a real treat.

The artist has also done some other projects I much admire, including one where she went through old family photographs from her childhood and edited herself out, and a riff on the work of Thomas Ruff, where, using Photoshop, she creates portraits of completely nonexistent people.

Now I want to go to Poland. A lot.

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5/19/10: The business of art as art, pt 2

May 19, 2010 at 10:04 am (art, culture, interesting, other sites to see)

I’m totally late to this and you’ve probably already seen it, but hey – it’s amazing enough to watch again!

I wrote a post a week or so ago about a class I want to teach called The Business of Art As Art, and I think this fits in perfectly to that. This is a project, designed to make money (this time for charity), which is art in and of itself. Normally, the idea of making money off of your work is something that artists feel uncomfortable with or they feel as though it has to happen sort of accidentally. But here’s a great example of someone who came up with a very successful project that is incredibly moving and inspiring, and also designed to raise a lot of money! Brilliant.

Go Sheena, go. You are amazing.

Many tiny hat tips to Ms. Siouxsie.

Hey Vimeo and/or WordPress, why can’t I embed Vimeo videos into my blog posts??

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5/17/10: Construction

May 17, 2010 at 10:37 am (art, interesting, jersey city, life)

This is what’s going on down the street from us, as they tear down the old Duncan Ave (aka A. Harry Moore) projects:

It’s crazy – the building looks like what happens when you rip apart a piece of fabric at a seam, and the little fibers of it dangle out as if they’re desperately trying to hold the fabric together.

I’m drawing buildings now – big fields, dotted with houses, very different than this building, but someone’s home all the same. So the above scene was something bizarre to stumble across this morning as I took the dog for a walk.

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