Thursday, December 30, 2010


I always struggle with knowing when it's time to let a project go. I'll hang onto ideas and half finished works for years before I pack, bury, or throw them away. Hannah Barnes and I have decided that we are not finishing the diorama (as an earthworks project) that we began as a collaboration [as seen here, here (we started that thing when our hair was short!), and here]. It has resided in Hannah's office for over a year and is now moving to her garage. We are currently working on other projects and this one has moved to the back burner. We are contemplating a new solution.

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite objects and images from artists inspired by this subject (without referencing Hiroshi Sugimoto):

Cabinet Model Kitchen, From Devices of Wonder - "This is one of half-dozen surviving dollhouses made in the Netherlands between 1670-1760. The Dutch makers placed tiny furnishings into chests with doors like those in which they stored their linen."

John Heaviside Clark, The Portable Diorama, 1826 - Also from Devices of Wonder: "A different sense of the transforming qualities of the Diorama can be gleaned from The Portable Diorama, which was published by London bookseller Samuel Leigh in 1826. This ingenious miniature theater was created by John Heaviside Clark, a leading drawing master in London whose manuals for the amateur artist emphasized that the effect achieved was more important than the method used to achieve it. At a price of 3.3 pounds, it was designed for an upper-class audience: “An elegant present for the Families of the Nobility and Gentry.” It was packaged as a complete course in watercoloring that could be practiced on the blank calico screens for presentation in the miniature theater. A set of 12 prepainted screens was supplied with the theater, however, so that the purchaser with limited or even no artistic inclinations could, by manipulating the backlighting and trying different combinations of backgrounds and foregrounds, produce the effects of sunrise, sunset, and moonlight, and the appearance and disappearance of clouds or a rainbow over India, a triumphal gate, a classical ruin, boats, and a mountain on a lake."

Sage Sohier, From Perfectible Worlds - Man in his basement with models of North End businesses, including his barbershop, Boston, MA, 2003. "John C. is a semi-retired barber, who makes miniatures of businesses and places in the North End of Boston where he grew up. Included in the picture are his barbershop, his father’s shoe repair shop, and the beach where he learned to swim. He has also made the Union Oyster House and Pizzeria Regina. Each time he finishes a miniature, he loans it to the owner of the business, and it resides, for a time, inside the larger version of itself."

Sage Sohier, Klickety-Klack Railroad, Wolfeboro Falls, NH, 2004. "Richard P. has for 25 years owned ad run the Klickety-Klack Railroad, a model railroad club and hobby shop open to the public. The railroad, a joint endeavor involving many different club members, is notable not only for its multiple intricate layouts, but also for its humor a small plane has crashed into a hillside near the airport: King Kong stands astride a tower in a city scene that also includes the Hard Luck Hotel; Godzilla stomps down Main Street; and the Loch Ness monster lurks near a sailboat. The large mountain scene in the photograph includes Mt. Rushmore (just out of sight to the upper right), complete with a head hole above for those who secretly harbor presidential ambitions. Richard has recently tired without success to find someone to take over running the railroad. Sales are down in the shop, and fewer families and school groups come through."

Sage Sohier, Diorama, Fisher Museum, Harvard Forest, Petersham, MA, 2004

Sage Sohier, Cat in dollhouse, Sandwich, NH, 2004. "Annie P. works as a textile craftsman, makes and collects miniatures of all sorts, and runs a used bookstore with her husband. She was showing me her pre-Civil War dollhouse, when her cat jumped in. “Purrl” was very delicate, upsetting no furniture and doing no violence to the baby or miniature Corgi. Noticing that Purrl was getting all the attention, the two real-life Corgis barked wildly from the yard."

Sage Sohier, Sculptor with model of Chuck Close in his summer studio, Norwalk, CT, 2005. "Joe F. is an artist who has made a remarkable series of miniature sculptures of well-known artists in their studios. Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Eric Fischl, and Fred Tomaselli are a few of the artists he has sculpted. In miniaturizing the artists’ work, Joe duplicates their processes as much as possible. When I photographed Joe, he was working on a model (completely shingled on the outside) of Chuck Close in his summer studio, and was about to attach Close’s arms."

Joe F. is Joe Fig whose Inside the Painter's Studio features miniature recreations of artists at work as in Brancusi below:

Chris Toalson, Penguins, South Georgia Islands, American Museum of Natural History, New York, 2007

Jane Hammond, The Touch-Up, 2009

Carlo Van de Roer's series Blinded by the Light

Traer Scott's Natural History "Natural History is a series of completely candid, in-camera single exposure images which merge the living and dead, in an effort to construct allegorical narratives of our troubled co-existence with nature. Ghost-like reflections of modern visitors viewing exquisitely rendered wildlife dioramas are juxtaposed against the preserved subjects themselves, their faces molded into permanent expressions of fear, aggression or fleeting passivity. After a century of over-hunting, climate change, poaching and destruction of habitat, many of these long dead diorama specimens now represent endangered or completely extinct species." See more here.

Thomas Grunfeld's Misfits, 2001. See more here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A New Year, A New Blog*

"Something Between Want and Desire" was a phrase I couldn't help but write down when my cousin was struggling to find the right word while proofreading my artist statement for "Nine Fake Cakes and Nine Bodies of Water." It is appropriate as it indicates a search... something that I routinely visit in my own art and day-to-day existence. I credit Amelia Morris with "plaster meringue emporium" though this blog will extend far beyond fake cakes and Drew DeBoy for giving me the responsible advice of using my name for the website address rather than something more vague as I had planned.

I'm trying this on my own after two years of dedication to In Search of the Center, my collaboration with Nancy Douthey. For the eight of you that routinely read the other, welcome to the new incarnation!

This blog is about the process behind the end product which eventually appears on my website. It's another manifestation of my sketchbook. I always have too many fires burning as I simultaneously make work about widely divergent subject matter. What is in store for the immediate future?

More cakes (one magnificent piece made out of snow in my attempt to think positively and delve into a season that I wish was far shorter):

The Autobiography (at long last = a decade in the making) beginning with the lists I've been keeping since the 1st June (200+):

Earthworks (as always, I can't get them out of my mind):

All the research my assistant Elise Rorick did for me on Richard Long and Hamish Fulton will materialize into my application for:

My first installation since Strange Artifacts: A Found Object and Photographic Wunderkammer featuring obsessive collecting and:

And finally.... another road trip in the making! A project I tentatively refer to as VB (not Vanessa Beecroft): Venice Beach and the Venice Bienale. More plans for artist stalking and the search are in the works and how does one begin? With Ed Ruscha of course.

Ed Ruscha with his books, c. 1969 courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, LA

*All posts before this one that extend into 2010 were moved over from In Search of the Center, painstakingly, gradually, and at long last.

Snow Cake Attempt #1

1) I need gear (that snow stuff is COLD).

2) I need pastel food coloring.

3) Tumeric doesn't work but orange juice does!

4) Does this pass for a polenta cake? I hope so!

5) Couldn't resist adding an icicle which resembles a clear saguaro or a clear charred tree stump after a forest fire.

6) After realizing that my leg still does not bend and I couldn't get eye level with the "cake" on the ground, I left it in the hedge in front of the house.

7) Next up... LARGE... and LAKE in the background.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

New Acquisitions

Replicating a Little Brown Mushroom blog post. [Click on that link and see Alec Soth's top 10 books including self-published of 2010.]

New acquisitions: Pure Beauty from Mom (yay). Maine Coon Cats from Donna (as I seem to have one of those). The blank space on the left will be filled with Richard Avedon: Performance and New Topographics also from Donna when they arrive next week. The rest of the mother lode I bought a month ago and mostly forgot about until today: The Ongoing Moment which I read earlier this year and loved; who could resist Curious Men?; Steve Martin's latest novel about the artworld, An Object of Beauty; the book I've been salivating over for months; thought I'd be a good artist stalker and finally own this; a catalog that goes with one of the funniest exhibitions I saw this year; and my biggest surprise and the exhibition I wish I saw at MOMA this fall.

There are so many images that are catching my eye, I'll be posting the rest of winter break. Today I need to see if this department store window fluff outside the door actually molds into a form resembling a snow cake. Photographs forthcoming (disasters and otherwise). Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Gastro Vision: The Best in Food Art 2010

Every once in awhile something takes you by surprise. When Rachel Hines sent me this link, I was floored. The cakes on one of my favorite art blogs and in a year end list at that! Many thanks to Andrew Russeth and Nicole Caruth. [FYI: I spent the summer working on this project - the documentation can be viewed here.]

From the ART: 21 website:

"From cotton candy rooms to painterly cakes, meaty dresses to pork rind sculpture, pickle portraiture to animated toast, this year was chock-full of good “food-art” — food inspired by art and art inspired by or involving food. So much so, that it would have been gluttonous to write this year-in-review by myself. For this post I enlisted the help of two art writers who share my passion for all things food: Andrew Russeth of the blog 16 Miles of String, and Megan Fizell of the blog Feasting on Art. Together, we’ve come up with a list of the year’s best. You might want to grab a bib in case you start to drool."

Best Cake-Inspired Art
: Jacinda Russell, Nine Fake Cakes & Nine Bodies of Water

“Cakes — both real and fake — appeared to make people happy and I wondered, most simply, if they could make me happy too,” artist Jacinda Russell writers in a statement that accompanies Nine Fake Cakes & Nine Bodies of Water. It’s a bewildering title, but also a perfectly self-explanatory one. Russell built cakes out of Styrofoam and a caulking gun, iced them with acrylic, and then floated them on various bodies of water. The resulting photos are brutally elegiac. Like documentation from completed performances or destroyed Earthworks, they record a work entirely beyond our grasp: a cake we could never eat, precariously balancing on the water’s surface. They are, to use Russell’s word, completely “unattainable.” They are also heartrendingly gorgeous. (AR)

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I don't know the name of this photograph by Angus Mill but the premise is interesting. He digitally layers images of jelly and blancmange and floats them in the sea like jellyfish.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

This December Day

Robert Gober, Prison Window, 1992

Joseph Cornell, Toward the Blue Peninsula, c. 1953

Yoko Ono, Sky TV, 1966

Janine Antoni, Touch, 2002 (video still)

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (Warm Water), 1988

Ernesto Neto, Venus Blue Cave, 2001

Bill Viola, The Messenger, 1996

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mark Lyon, "Landscapes for the People"

From Lyon's website:

"Landscapes for the People looks at the use of romanticized wallpaper landscape photographs found in everyday environments. These wall sized photographic murals seem to serve a psychological function, given their potentially intimidating or banal locations, like dental rooms and laundromats. These landscape murals allow the viewer an alternate mindset to nerve racking procedures or the mundane activities of everyday life."

Monday, December 13, 2010

The last day of school before winter break begins...

Martin Creed, #88 Sheet of A-4 paper crumpled into a ball, 1994

Schoolsville by Billy Collins

Glancing over my shoulder at the past,
I realize the number of students I have taught
is enough to populate a small town.

I can see it nestled in a paper landscape,
chalk dust flurrying down in winter,
nights dark as a blackboard.

The population ages but never graduates.
On hot afternoons they sweat the final in the park
and when it's cold they shiver around stoves
reading disorganized essays out loud.
A bell rings on the hour and everybody zigzags
into the streets with their books.

I forgot all their last names first and their
first names last in alphabetical order.
But the boy who always had his hand up
is an alderman and owns a haberdashery.
The girl who signed her papers in lipstick
leans against the drugstore, smoking,
brushing her hair like a machine.

Their grades are sewn into their clothes
like references to Hawthorne.
The A's stroll along with other A's.
The D's honk whenever they pass another D.

All the creative writing students recline
on the courthouse lawn and play the lute.
Wherever they go, they form a big circle.

Needless to say, I am the mayor.
I live in the white colonial at Maple and Main.
I rarely leave the house. The car deflates
in the driveway. Vines twirl around the porch swing.

Once in a while a student knocks on the door
with a term paper fifteen years late
or a question about Yeats or double-spacing.
And sometimes one will appear in a windowpane
to watch me lecturing the wallpaper,
quizzing the chandelier, reprimanding the air.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


I hate winter but I'm trying to think positively. Here are some photographs featuring cold and icy circumstances that I do like. I'm thinking about a winter project that ultimately will feature buying some gear. Snowstorm coming Monday.... just in time for winter break.

Amy Stein, Howl, 2007 from the series Domesticated.

Alec Soth, Cemetery, Fountain City, WI

Marion Post Wolcott, After a Blizzard, Woodstock, VT 1940 (one of my favorite Depression era photographers from my printviewing days at the Center for Creative Photography)

Martin Parr, Kleine Scheidegg, 1994

Josef Sudek, First Frost, 1950

Gabriel Orozco, Dog Urine in Snow, 1993

Lori Nix, Ice Storm, from Accidentally Kansas

...and another Lori Nix, Snow Storm

Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Untitled, c. 1955

Walker Martin & Paloma Munoz, Mental Traveler, 2004

Florian Maier-Aichen, Untitled, 2005

Len Jenshel, Back Basin, Norris Geyser, Yellowstone,, 1992

Andreas Gursky, Engadin, 1995

Anthony Goicolea, Glacier, 2002

Masahisa Fukase from The Solitude of Ravens

Michael Flomen, Untitled, 2005 (he placed photographic paper in direct contact with snow)

Susan Derges, Ice, 1996 (more photograms)

Mario de Baisi, Piazza del Duomo Milan, 1951

Lynn Davis, Iceberg