Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New Acquisition: Rebecca Norris Webb's "My Dakota"

Last month I purchased My Dakota at Ampersand Gallery and Fine Books (most glorious art bookstore in all of Portland) and have been contemplating its presence on my desk ever since.

At first I was drawn to the pencil thin, feathery use of text that spills across the pages. The handwritten quality emphasizes the grief that Norris Webb experienced after unexpectedly losing her brother to heart failure. I also gravitate to artwork that embeds the land with memories and the symbolic references of place.

Wildlife weaves its way through the narrative - deer visiting the lawns of the houses of the dead and buffalo inhabiting the South Dakota prairies.


I am always searching for new ways to combine text and image and this elegant book based on documentary photography but steeped in personal history is an inspiration.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Skyriter Eraser

A surprise arrived in my post office box yesterday - an old school eraser to accompany the Skyriter. I am banging out typewritten text for my new "Art about Instagram" side project. It is a slow process as each image is not instantaneous, rather an overly planned fabrication. For the first time in my life, I am participating in a form of social media that is public (yes, a photograph was made to express my horror of that action).

I am now embracing that I have six side projects occurring simultaneously rather than one large one. Accepting this was difficult to do. I am looking forward to the holidays AKA more studio time.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Adam Fuss, Untitled, 1992 

"#30. If a color could deliver hope, does it follow that it also bring despair? I can think of many occasions in which a blue has made me feel suddenly hopeful (turning one's car around a sharp curve on a precipice and abruptly finding ocean; flipping on the light in a stranger's bathroom one presumed to be white but which was in fact, robin's egg blue; coming across a collection of navy blue bottle tops pressed into cement on the Williamsburg Bridge, or a shining mountain of broken blue glass outside a glass factory in Mexico), but for the moment, I can't think of any times that blue has caused me to despair."

"#35. Does the world look bluer from blue eyes? Probably not, but I choose to think so (self-aggrandizement)."

Maggie Nelson, Bluets

Roni Horn, You are the Weather, 1994-1995

Reno Dakota
There’s not an iota
Of Kindness in you.
You know you enthrall me
And yet you don’t call me,
It’s making me blue.
Pantone two-ninety-two.
Magnetic Fields, Reno Dakota, 2000

Rachel Harrison, Untitled (Perth Amboy Series), 2001

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thinking about the Balmorhea Photograph

[ignore the iPhone quality images]

I photographed a person for the first time since 2009 Friday (with the intention of using that image for art). These 8.5"x11"s are on the studio wall while I debate which one to use.

I'm leaning toward one of these as it represents the idea of a body of water as self-portrait most. The tape shows the artifice though I am not yet sure how much I would like to pretend.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

1,000th Post: Stream of Consciousness on 5 hours of sleep

1000 entries.
Is this meaningful?
Perhaps as I am still here.
I have contemplated ending this blog many times, yet I continue.
The perfect final post awaits whenever that time arises.
Often I wonder if this is a worthy contribution to the myriad of information online.
It is my only outlet to think about art when times are most stressful.
Audience of 13.5.
The "Blog" folder on my desk contains 49 items.
Sometimes I think I will stop when all are posted, fully realizing that there is always

Ed Ruscha, O.K., 1982

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What visiting artist's powerpoint wouldn't start off with this?

Lionel Rombach Gallery, University of Arizona, April 1998

Thanks for inviting me to the Art Academy of Cincinnati, James!
More soon.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ray Metzker's "Wanderings, Ohio"

Ray Metzker, Wanderings, Ohio, 2001

Off to be a visiting artist for the day in the Queen City.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave"

I am failing miserably at my New Year's resolution of seeing one movie a month in the theater (in an attempt to have a life outside of school and art). Not only is it a luxurious form of escape, but highly influential in my creative process. I will try to complete the unlikely task/dream/goal of viewing twelve this year by packing in six in the next few weeks (providing that they come to a theater near the hinterland though I have been known to drive three hours in one direction to see a film). Last weekend, I met Amelia in Indy to see one of the most challenging movies, Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave.

There are many scenes that will remain with me for a very long time: 1) Chitwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northrup hanging from a noose for hours with his feet barely touching the slick, muddy ground; 2) the most authentic and brutal beatings, a constant reminder of how difficult this movie was to watch (let alone make), and 3) the men, women and children bathing in the gray morning light before they are shipped to Louisiana from Washington DC, not yet knowing their fate.

One of the most memorable scenes is also the most subtle. It is one of complete stillness: Solomon staring past the viewer, pausing in the middle of activity, while the swampland behind him slowly shifts in the breeze. All the humiliation, the hopelessness, the fear and the pain is visible in his face. It is a profound moment, where seemingly nothing happens, but everything is about to change. We know then that twelve years of hell are about to end but we do not yet know how.

As hard as this was to watch (it was not only a tearjerker but a near sobbing experience), it was well worth it. Thank you, Steve McQueen, for 12 Years a Slave. Thank you, Chitwetel Ejiofor, for bringing such life to Solomon Northrup. I love the fact that an English video artist with a cast of predominantly English actors made one of the memorable films on American slavery.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jonathan Lethem and Allison Freeman on Lists

"We make lists of things we want to remember, and then we lose the lists. My life is a tattered assemblage of abandoned calendars, misplaced agendas, water-damaged address books with names blurred, family trees I've never managed to hold coherently in mind, third cousins unrecalled named for third uncles unmet, files of papers I've misplaced or never look into, schoolwork praised by teachers with faces I can't bring to mind. I once found a packet of love letters from a woman I couldn't recall. A list of mummified sentiments as useless as a grocery receipt. Our memories may be tomb-worlds, after all, a place to spare others having to dwell. Whereas the one thing I am sure I can remember about your eyes is that each time I see them they'll be eyes I could never have forgotten. We list things in order to cross them off, to relegate them with relief to the kingdom of amnesia. So leave me off your lists."

Jonathan Lethem
"Things to Remember"
The Ecstasy of Influence

Allison Freeman (via)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sheila Newbery's "Ohio Woods"

Sheila Newbery, Nest, 2013

As I compile images for a lecture I will give next week in Cincinnati and eye the new fallen snow outside, Sheila Newbery's Ohio Woods is on my mind. From Sheila's artist statement:

"Ohio Woods is a selection of platinum-palladium prints of images made during a cross-country journey by train. The route was from New York City to San Francisco via Chicago: the first leg of the trip took us winding up the Hudson Valley on a spectacular January afternoon, but the brilliance of the day was soon obscured by heavy clouds sailing in from the west. By the time we reached the Ohio border, we were rolling through the woodlands under a veil of twilight snow; the train had slowed because of poor visibility; and everything had softened to a kind of translucence. I had an idea about how to make a few pictures..."

I only knew forest before moving to Indiana. Everything is dense in the Northwest and woods were not part of my periphery. Conifers are not the primary foliage here and the act of seeing through trees to parts of the landscape beyond, still startles me. The absence of leaves in the winter is stark and unwelcoming. It, coupled with the flat horizon, is deathlike in appearance. Perhaps that is why I searched for Robert Kennedy's funeral train photographs when I first encountered Sheila's work. Photographing this particular mode of transportation also recalls a less abstract version of Sharon Harper's Flight.

Ohio Woods is a close inspection of the view outside my window until late April in Indiana. It is Nancy Rexroth's Iowa in remembrance of Ohio. It is Masahisa Fukase's grainy trees without the ravens.  It is also on view in San Francisco this month. See it if you are there.

From the series Ohio Woods (all photos courtesy of Sheila's website).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Postcard Collective - Fall 2013 Submission

In October, I wrote about inventorying books and the forgotten discovery that would turn into the next Postcard Collective entry. Here it is. I regret the spelling error I didn't find on the back of the card until all 50 pieces were printed and adhered. Here's to discovering a green colored pencil in the Photo Crypt that matched the color of the text.

I purchased Gregory Crewdson's Twilight at Half Price Books in Houston in 2002. I left Texas for Oregon then Washington and Indiana. I opened the monograph for the first time in years last month and discovered a Polaroid of the photographer that my ex placed inside the front cover. I carried around the visage of a man so changed in a book nearly forgotten for over a decade without realizing it. I printed 50 postcards with the hope that one makes it inside a Crewdson publication to be overlooked and remembered again and again.

Monday, November 11, 2013

East Lansing: Eli and Edythe Broad Museum

One last post from the Michigan trip. Hannah and I drove through East Lansing and visited the Eli and Edythe Broad Museum on the Michigan State University campus upon leaving Detroit. I was intrigued by the presentation of the artwork in Zaha Hadid's angular structure. I have visited her Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati many times and looked most forward to seeing this art space since it opened last year.

References to ships were inevitable when approaching from the outside.

Reflections in the main gallery with the light fading rapidly from daylight savings.

View of the main gallery from above with wall drawings at the extreme left (hard to tell if they were permanent as the signage was not obvious) and two canvases underneath them.

I won't lie - it was odd to look at art presented at these angles. I am glad to see this as an experiment but wonder if it will create problems with future installations.

The windows on the second floor resembled a Dan Flavin sculpture.

Oh yeah... there was artwork too! Here is an installation photograph of Michelle Handelman's Irma Vep, the last breath. We arrived near closing time and I would have spent far more time with this video if it was possible.

The storage space in the basement is visible, enabling the public to see even more of the collection. 

The building was highly worth the visit and here's to hoping that there will be more exhibitions that are not solely drawn from the Broad collection in the future.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Friday, November 8, 2013

Detroit Part 3: DIA

The Detroit Institute of Art is often in the news since the city filed for bankruptcy. This was another reason for our road trip - to visit the museum and support the arts. I had long heard that DIA's general collection was one of the top ten in the nation and that proved to be true as we walked through galleries in amazement at their holdings. I will voice my dissent loudly if the city decides to auction the work. It is truly a tourist destination as there were visitors from all over the world last Sunday. Here are some of my favorite pieces that we encountered (some were expected and others were a sheer surprise).

Cracks in Albert Pinkham Ryder's The Tempest.

Hannah told me Ryder mixed bear fat in his pigments and it is a conservationist's nightmare. Some of his artworks need to rest on a flat surface to keep the paint from separating. The Tempest reminded me of my past failures in graduate school to create a cracked surface on negatives. Hannah made it a mission to finally figure out how this could be achieved after we discussed this work at length (and every other painting in the American Collection where this flaw was represented).


The Rivera Court generated quite the crowd while memories of teaching 20th century art at Washington State University - Vancouver flooded back. I spent more time looking at the details and how Diego Rivera sectioned off areas to paint while the plaster was still wet. We found his signature and marveled at how different the city was when he created these murals in 1933. There were elements of Cubism and Abstraction within the representational imagery of industry. We wondered if the upper left portion of the South wall featuring medical tools (including scissors) was painted with Frida Kahlo in mind.

Ray Johnson, January/February, 1966

I could have stared at this collage of painted wood and board on paper for far longer than we had time. After studying countless examples of his mail art, learning about this work broadened my view of his accomplishments.

Samuel van Hoogstraten, Perspective Box of a Dutch Interior, 1663 (with contemporary reproduction and blurry illuminated view through the peephole)

Whenever I talk about my inspirations for Strange Objects: A Photographic and Found Object Wunderkammer, this box is featured. It is one of my all time favorite art objects and I could not believe my eyes when Hannah and I encountered it in the Dutch Collection. I did not stop talking about it for hours and it was, hands down, the best thing I saw all weekend (despite a lot of competition). One of the many things I love about it is its failures. When the front panel is in place, it is too dark inside for viewers to see the details of the wealthy Dutch interior. DIA presented a far larger and well illuminated reproduction alongside the 17th century piece and for the first time, I could see what van Hoogstraten envisioned with his experimentation in trompe l'oeil.

We also encountered Eva Hesse's Accession #2, Morris Louis's Alpha Gamma, and a superb collection of black-and-white photographs by Gerhard Richter in the Foto Europa: 1840 to Present exhibition.

It was invigorating to spend the entire weekend looking at artwork. We have a list of nonprofits and galleries to see next time as a return trip will occur in the spring.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Detroit Part 2: Mike Kelley's "Mobile Homestead"

I was pleasantly surprised to see Mike Kelley's Mobile Homestead at MOCAD. The painted blue wall behind the recreation of his childhood home, combined with the gray sky, made my photographs look even more unrealistic.

From MOCAD's website:

"It's both a public sculpture and a private, personal architecture – based on the artist's childhood home on Palmer Road in Westland, a neighborhood which primarily housed workers for the Big Three auto makers: Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. In a largely disinvested city with many abandoned houses and dilapidated buildings, Mobile Homestead enacts a reversal of the 'white flight' that took place in Detroit following the inner city uprisings of the 1960s. It does so at a time when the city is exploring new options of renewal by assessing its singular post-industrial conditions in an attempt to articulate a new model for American cities."

The porch was not wider than two feet (= loose translation of the original).

The yard was perfectly manicured and everything was so new and shiny, it accentuated its oddness.

The metal bar running through the middle of the photograph (beneath this fabulous couch) is where the house can be separated for travel.

Fake plants congregated in a room that was possibly a dining area. My photograph of the garage is blurry and we were unsure if the contents were MOCAD storage or there to simulate a real garage.

The living room is full of books that we were able to check-out permanently. I spent a great deal of time looking at every single title. I couldn't find the perfect volume but settled on this  because it reminded me of New Zealand.

I don't particularly want to read or keep this book but I love where it came from as signified by the stamp below.

Looks like a photograph in the making before the book heads to another home.