Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Dennis Hopper One Man Show: 1936-2010

Left to Right: Bruce Conner and Dennis Hopper, 1973

In 1967, Conner stole the name of his friend, Dennis Hopper, and used it to present 26 of his own collages. Hopper was ignorant of the plan and so was Conner's art dealer. The act raised many questions including who the work belonged to, who would receive the money upon its sale, would people confuse Conner's work with Hopper's own art, and so on.

A Bruce Conner collage in "The Dennis Hopper One Man Show"

This also ties in with my family's relationship with Dennis Hopper dating back to the mid 1950s in San Diego, California. In 1954, a mutual friend of my father's and Dennis Hopper drove them both to school. Hopper was a year ahead of Dad at Helix High School (and was voted Most Likely to Succeed in Dad's yearbook). I can hear Dad imitating Hopper's voice right now when he said, "Why do we always have to pick up this asshole?" pointing to Dad in the backseat. No love was lost between them.

One of my favorite articles of clothing is a belt Dad wore in high school. I can't help but imagine that he had it on at least once when riding in the back of the car with Dennis Hopper in the front seat. I wore that belt today thinking about Hopper's death and my father's past. Incidentally, they both shared the same birthday though Dad was one year younger.

Once in the early part of this decade, I bumped into Hopper at the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas. I was amazed at his short stature. How could I be taller than Frank Booth in Blue Velvet? Yet apparently, I was. Part of me wanted to say something to him but I walked away pretending that I had no idea that I almost literally ran into my father's high school arch nemesis.

The Failure Tour Round 1: Muncie, Indiana

JR and Hannah Barnes at Prairie Creek Reservoir, 28th May 2010 (photo by Donna Goedhart)

The whole reason I am creating this project has become increasingly clear as I attempt to float a cake in Muncie, Indiana. Nine Fake Cakes and Nine Bodies of Water is about many things but one important entity is thinking positively about where I am and trying to make the best of it (immersing myself in something that makes me happy). So... the search for the ideal location in Muncie, Indiana has resulted in learning that it does not exist. I want there to be something attractive about this town because I live here AND swimming on a regular basis is a large part of my life. I can't float the cake in the Downtown YMCA pool because nothing about the lighting and atmosphere bodes well and it doesn't fit into the plan of photographing all of these in the great outdoors.

I had high hopes for Tuhey Pool as I swum laps there my first summer in town but alas, it is closed yet another year in a row for construction.

In a rare turn of events, I had a local newspaper in my hand on the 26th May when there was an article published on where one could swim over Memorial Weekend since Tuhey Pool was closed. I decided that I would visit each one of these locations if they were outdoors. Ironically, only one of them is located in Muncie. My preconceived notion is that they all would fail and I would end up driving to Hartford City and float the Big Spiral in Scott and Kim Anderson's backyard or a neighbor's kiddie pool. Surely none of these places in the newspaper would yield clear and enticing water. The quest now begins on whether or not I was right.

First stop: Prairie Creek Reservoir. I've always heard of this place and have certainly seen my fair share of student photographs taken from the shores of Muncie's reservoir. When my cousin Donna was here for a week, I took that as a perfect opportunity to find it. Hannah offered to come along because believe it or not, she had actually been there!

One thing I am learning as the cakes are photographed in natural bodies of water is that close up images are hard to take if you want to capture the blue and enticing water in the distance. Hence, everything looks brown and unappetizing (the reason this cake was chosen for Indiana has a reason!). This location failed precisely because of that (see also the Dog Park Lake Michigan float below). On a positive note, the water was a nice temperature and I would have jumped in it had I not been carrying my camera.

Of course the photographs that I ended up liking best were not taken in the water but in front of or on blue locations that could have resembled water if I stretched my imagination.

Another aspect of this project is that it is an excuse for going to places I've never been and making long overdue visits to see my friends in far reaching places. I finally saw the reservoir and this week, I will drive to New Castle and Anderson - all nearby towns I've only raced by on the freeway never dreaming of stopping. The Failure Tour continues.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cake Topper Finished



Anyone need a freed from the ball and chain groom before he makes his way into the trashcan, let me know.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Revisiting Louisville & New Harmony, Indiana

I'm back in Louisville with my family after my opening of the wunderkammer at the New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art. Hannah and I were fortunate when we were at the Galt House Hotel two weeks ago because the pool is officially EMPTY and in the process of being cleaned. That fake cake float happened by the skin of my teeth! I'm getting prepared for the next two floats and more postcards are in the works. Nancy is also visiting in June. There is so much on the horizon, I don't know where to even begin. Stay tuned...

Here are some random photographs of art and architecture. Ode to Richard Meier's Atheneum (my cousin Donna and brother Javy).

Strange Objects: A Photographic and Found Object Wunderkammer strikes again. This is the first time I've seen it installed in three years (at the opening reception).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fake Cake Float #3: Trial Run at Montrose Dog Park, Chicago - Lake Michigan

My friend Aaron is amazing. He took his shoes off and went into cold Lake Michigan for this cake float. This was an impromptu event - the first for this body of water over the course of the summer (expect another in early August). My brother is visiting from Oregon and we spur of the moment drove to Chicago to see this exhibition which was worth every hour in the car!

Aaron suggested Montrose Dog Park and it was a learning experience. For one, this is the first float outside of a swimming pool and capturing the cake where it doesn't look like lopsided is a challenge. Also, the water doesn't look as enticing as I would like (in fact my brother, Javy, said the cake looked "rejected" especially with the outtake of Mavis sniffing it). It is clear though which is a prerequisite.

This was the most funny photograph taken of the day (and least expected - we were wondering if the dogs would think it was a toy and surprisingly they were not interested):

Aaron took the next two photographs of my dirty pants and cake nicknamed "Little Green."

Here's the bottom of the cake so everyone knows it's fake!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fake Cake Float #2 at Multiple Locations in Tucson, Arizona

The Rio Vista apartment complex off River Road where Uncle Dan used to live in the late 1970s (balcony in the background) seemed like a logical first location to try on Thursday afternoon. Trespassing was easy as we just walked right in, pulled the cake out in front of three sunbathers, and snapped some photographs.

"Incognito" doing the trick.

The cake as yellow as the desert sun.

Friday evening, Cass and I did a reconnaissance visiting two potential locations. The first was a former Ramada now Hotel Tucson. Last time Cass went swimming there, a view of A Mountain was visible but not today. The new hotel owners built another wing and the sunset wasn't even visible. It was a very easy pool to trespass though and we filed it away for future reference.

Next up... the Arizona Inn, the mother of all Tucson downtown resorts; the location I always wanted to see though never did when I lived here. We visited in the night, roaming around the croquet grounds, tennis courts, fountains and eventually the swimming pool. It was deemed THE location much like I thought it would be while dreaming of a cake float from Indiana.

We quickly learned that the best way to trespass in this location was to show up multiple times within 15 hours as if we really were staying there. We appeared again Saturday morning with the cake and tried the fountain...

then the pool.

Our big discovery: noodles work WELL for compositional placement and retrieval of the cake when you are wearing clothes and it begins to drift away.

The whitest person in Southern Arizona is having her cake and eating it too.

We also visited the Mid Valley Athletic Club where the Silver Sneakers were in the middle of their shallow aerobics class.

Then we went to El Charro for a slice of tres leches because we obviously needed cake after all these floats. Here is Cass holding up the fake cake in the patio fountain in the back of the restaurant.

THEN we decided to return to Arizona Inn and actually go swimming. It was packed with UA graduates and their families but perfect to swim nonetheless. David Hasselhoff was not spotted this trip (his daughter attends UA and he usually stays here).

Although I was fairly convinced that I had THE photograph from one of the above locations, Uncle Dan told me I had to visit the Hacienda del Sol, an old guest ranch in the foothills. According to the website, the swimming pool had a tiled bucking bronco on the bottom (long after this photograph was taken).

It was a charming location with one of the best cactus gardens I've seen this vacation.

I tried so hard to make a photograph work here but the water ripples obscured the tile underneath and the cake looked like it was sagging at the angle I took it (in reality the only woman on the other side of the pool was moving the water and it sunk one side in deeper than the other). There really is a cowboy and bucking bronco down there I promise! Poles work as well as noodles for compositional placement by the way.

...and so the end of the trip has arrived. Shockingly the sheer amount of trespassing we did aroused very little suspicion and I will come back to Indiana with one more cake crossed off the list. My two for May are complete! Three will occur during the month of June. Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sneak Peek: Desert Sun is getting a workout in AZ

I have one more pool to go here in Tucson. The "Desert Sun" Fake Cake has visited various fountains, an apartment complex off River Road, an athletic club, and two hotels. Although I thought I had THE photo, I just looked up the pool at the Hacienda del Sol, the last location, and can't believe what lies on the bottom of the pool. Wow! Wyoming Redux here I come!

Center for Creative Photography Visit (Hello old workplace)

Robert Adams
Tract House, Westminster, Colorado, 1973

New Topographics at the Center for Creative Photography: One of the reasons I came to Tucson this month was to see the New Topographics: Photographs of Man Altered Landscapes exhibition before the closing this weekend. It did not disappoint. I have a new respect for Joe Deal. Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams, the Bechers, and Stephen Shore have always been favorites. Mainly I was surprised at the scale of prints like the above (roughly 8x10).

From the CCP Press Release: "Originally held at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, in January 1975, New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape was one of those rare exhibitions that effect a permanent change in the development of an art form. The show brought together ten contemporary photographers who collectively defined the emergence of a new approach to landscape: Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore and Henry Wessel, Jr. These artists engaged with their medium and its history in different ways, while simultaneously dealing with issues such as environmentalism, capitalism, and national identity. Signaling the emergence of a new approach to landscape, the show effectively gave a name to a movement or style."

I also had a scheduled printviewing where I viewed new work by Joe Labate, Mark Klett's photogravures of saguaros, Maggie Taylor, Jack Welpott, Frederick Sommer's collages, and Stephen Marc. Here is Tony who has been working in Printviewing well before I started the job in 1996, holding a mystery photograph below. Any guesses as to the identity of this photograph (think least likely infamous black-and-white photographer channeling his inner Jerry Uelsmann and you'll have your answer)?

[P.S. I have the okay from Cass to publish this image since it's mainly about Tony not the photo he's holding].

The best part of revisiting the Center was Cass's brilliant idea of projecting a test cake photograph on the auditorium projector. This photo was taken by Stephen Jensen, a super cool new grad student in the MFA program who went along with this activity with as much zeal as Cass and I. Just think... someday when I give a lecture at the CCP, my cakes will be this big (I, on the other hand, am not as big as this photo indicates!).

Friday, May 14, 2010

Postcards are Mailed

But first I had to revisit my old home of three years ... P.O. Box 43154. It was the beginning of the love affair with the post office box.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This Could Be You in Tucscon Now

...having lunch with my friend Cass and my Uncle Dan at El Minuto (Cheese and Pepper Crisps, Negra Modelo, and Chili Relleno). Meet the very important players in the multiple cake floats to come...yes food is always an important player.

Things I have missed about Tucson that I didn't realize until returning:
1) waking up by the sound of doves at 6 AM
2) blooming cacti (especially saguaros)
3) dry heat
4) driving around at night with the windows down in the desert air
5) adobe
6) horned toads
7) Mexican radio
8) green corn tamales (bought a dozen at La Rua to bring back home)
9) this list can go on and on and on... i need to move back here (snowbird fantasy here i come - am i old enough to retire yet?)

Saguaro on the University of Arizona campus:

The best kind of yard ever (= no mowing or watering!!!!):

The best colored prickly pear:

Uncle Dan flew all the way in from San Diego just to spend the day with me (how amazing is that?). In addition to a special lunch, we also saw the Salvador Corona exhibition at the AZ State Museum on the UA campus:

A diorama (at the AZ State Museum)...

We took a walk in Sabino Canyon:

There was quite a bit of water and thankfully no rattlesnakes.

It's the whitest person in Southern Arizona!

All of these images are setting the stage.... Uncle Dan and I even floated a cake at a soon to be announced location (since I'm going for more pools this trip, I'll post all these images over the weekend when the next two are done). In the meantime, meet "Incognito" the cake carrying bag bequeathed to me as an early birthday present by Cass (because every pool this trip involves TRESPASSING and "who would suspect such an innocent bag?"):