Saturday, January 31, 2015

Shadow Mountain Resort - Palm Desert, CA

In December 2007, Adam took me to a pool in December in Los Angeles and I was able to swim laps outside. It was especially gratifying because my leg had been encased in an air cast for a torn ligament for three months. It was at that moment that I established that swimming outdoors in the winter was a future goal (hello, giving snowbirds a good name). Last fall, I determined that the specific pool did not matter, it was the act that was important. Even though I have no previous history with the Shadow Mountain Resort swimming pool in Palm Desert, it became a source of inspiration over the course of 2.5 days.

It was difficult to convince oneself to dive in despite the 80º temperature of the salt water since the outdoor air was hovering around 65º most of the time. The most significant thing about my first California December lap swimming experience was watching the sky while doing the backstroke. In the images, it was important to include evidence of what lay above in addition to what was below. Anyway, these are the three I am thinking about (yes, there is repetition but it will be narrowed down).

As with everything in this series, none of the images are final. They are part of a greater whole (installation, book, sculpture, sound piece, video, mail art, etc.) that I hope will start to materialize once documentation from all the locations is collected (at this rate there are only five more - I may have added yet another one, damn it).

Coincidentally, the swimming pool opened in December (the 10th) in 1948. Above is a terrible photograph of it in a display case next to the clubhouse. Twelve people on surfboards is a good indicator of scale.

This postcard had my name on it (and will probably be featured in the end product in some fashion). Oh the times of dangerous ladders and pool toys that will never see the light of day in the 21st century and when Palm Desert still looked like a desert rather than an over irrigated, environmentally problematic oasis.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Swap with Camden Hardy

Interrupting last month's regularly scheduled programming with something that occurred today!  The Swap with Camden Hardy.

Jacinda Russell, The Swap with Camden Hardy

Camden Hardy, The Swap with Jacinda Russell

“Our paths first crossed in the spring of 2009, when James Luckett ( convinced Jacinda to become a member of the newly formed Postcard Collective ( Jacinda had a deep-seated interest in mail art and began to flood Camden with postcards of fake Styrofoam and caulk cakes floating in water. We meet in person on occasion when the opportunity arises, but our relationship is primarily maintained through mail and electronic correspondence. We began to collaborate on an ongoing project in 2012.

"We share a tremendous interest in how people value physical objects and decided to trade something of great personal value, not knowing what the other would choose. We made the exchange in a parking lot during a quick meeting in Tucson, Arizona and commemorated the event by photographing each other holding the objects we received. Jacinda returned to Indiana and settled on displaying Camden’s portrait in a manner similar to the framed photograph of strangers he had acquired at a thrift store. Camden became infatuated with the mysterious stain on the back of Jacinda’s book and the story it tells. Our artwork rarely includes images of other human beings, so it was a challenge for both of us to create something that would reflect our original intent while revealing something about the other person.”

Camden Hardy and Jacinda Russell

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Failure and Success at Hearst Castle

Let's go back in time to a post from June 2010 in which I stated that there was one pool I would do almost anything to float a cake. The Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle is the epitome of excess and therefore, most desirable to obtain in some form or another.

For months, I wondered if I could collect a clear water sample but in November, I learned the pool was drained. That dashed my hopes and I set my sights on the indoor Roman Pool. I try very hard not to break any rules or trespass with the Stalking Artist series and that philosophy was important here. The Hearst Castle website has a long list of tour rules and the one that required the most navigation was this:

11. Fountains & Pools
The fountains and pools are part of the historic elements of the estate and visitors are not permitted to contact the water by wading, jumping or placing any part of their body into the pools or fountains.

A week before, while visiting the Museum of Jurassic Technology, I bought a string (part of the string exhibition to be used to practice Cats Cradle, etc.). I tied it around a clear water sample and practiced in the Madonna Inn jacuzzi. It worked perfectly in terms of dropping in smoothly and filling quickly. 

What follows are photographs outlining the anatomy of failure - not only was the pool drained, it was full of dirt and scaffolding. It looked awful (and it was raining when I took the photographs).

What lies below is how fear and trepidation turned into panic and ultimate success (what a surprise).

I remember visiting this pool c. 2003 but I had forgotten that the iron gate to keep people at bay was 2-3 feet away from the water. There were several dozen tourists and a couple guides in the room and only a couple faced me. I threw the specimen bottle into the water and to my horror, it did not fall in smoothly like the practice run. It floated on top of the surface. I nearly panicked but pulled it up and tossed it in again, trying hard to ignore the fact that the water was no longer smooth and noticeably rippling. I yanked it out of the pool the moment it filled, taking care not to let it crash on the iron gate. Shockingly, I was not caught (and to this day, I still wonder how). I don't think I broke the rules as my body did not touch the water but I am sure that would be debatable.

Moments later, I photographed my most difficult to obtain water sample (and therefore the most coveted) on the bus ride back to the entry. There is no documentation of this event except perhaps on one man's camera who was photographing in my direction from the other side. This exists as a story that someone might believe - therefore it is the first piece I have begun to work on since my return to Muncie earlier this month.

Second choice isn't a bad replacement. I may use the "failure" photographs to construct an artwork that documents this story. I love it when ideas strike while writing blog posts.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo

It looks like I fell in love with this pepto bismol pink palace. Here are some highlights. Key card for the Swiss Rock Room.

Swiss Rock Room lamp (in general this space was too dark to obtain a good photograph).

Wall paper in the main building's women's bathroom (shiny).

The restaurant decorated for the Christmas season (enter people gathering for every holiday party within 20 miles).

The quest for odd landscaping continues. A fountain directly across from the famous men's bathroom.

Postcards of all the themed rooms.

Wandering around at night looking at them became a favorite pastime.

Red carpet treatment heading toward the Buffalo Room.

Two doors down from the Cave Man Room.

The infinity pool at dusk (80º all the time = even though it was cool and no higher than 63º, it was a must swim visit).

The pink glow emanating from the pool at night.

One of my favorite details - the bath soap was packaged in a container resembling cake ...

... which produced a photograph of a cardboard box "cake" float.

My favorite image from the Madonna Inn - the tennis courts.

I was also on the hunt to find the ugliest possible decor. I thought it was this photograph of a payphone surrounded by glowing pink but then...

I saw this floral carpet clash. I finally settled on this...

... fake grape chandelier with a sparkly, green foam ceiling.

I hate to say it but I may have aspirations on staying at the Madonna Inn again (perhaps next time on a higher floor in a lighter room that isn't covered with rock walls, though they were ideal for hanging the pool towels).

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Robert Heinecken - "Object Matter" at the Hammer Museum

The Hammer Museum is always a mandatory visit in LA especially if one of the key exhibitions is the original "Artist Who Uses Photography" (or one of my biggest inspirations in the sculptural photography department). Ultimately, Heinecken referred to himself as a "paraphotographer" as he combined the photograph with many mediums, a common practice for artists in the 1960s.

Robert Heinecken, Are You Rea Installation

In his essay, "Reality Effects," Matthew Biro writes: "In 1968, Robert Heinecken released one of the signal works of his career: Are You Rea, a portfolio of twenty-five grainy, ghostly, tonally reversed photograms taken from the pages of popular magazines. His introductory text leaves no doubt as to why he is today considered one of the most prescient forerunners of appropriation. Disclosing his debt to Surrealist theory, he professes his interest in “the multiplicity of meanings inherent in aleatory ideas and images” and declares that “these pictures do not represent first hand experiences, but are related to the perhaps more socially important manufactured experiences which are being created daily by the mass media.”

Heinecken's guerrilla interventions displayed as if they were in a newsstand. He once said: “I sometimes visualize myself as a bizarre guerrilla, investing in a kind of humorous warfare in which a series of minimal, direct, invented acts result in a maximum extrinsic effect, but without consistent rationale.”

Robert Heinecken, Fractured Figure Sections, 1967

The Hammer's installation of several of the "figure sections." [enter many ideas for future display.]

Robert Heinecken, Surrealism on TV, 1986 [three of 216 projected slides = timing is everything]

One of the highlights of this exhibition was seeing a singular concept (the ironic combination of imagery from the media) materialize through several methods (slides, photograms of magazine pages, lithography, and so on). This was the first time I had witnessed one of his slide shows and it was memorizing/humorous (particularly when animal and people comparisons were projected).

Robert Heinecken, TV Dinner #10, 1971 [This is very similar to the one I saw repeatedly while working at the Center for Creative Photography. I was surprised the photo paper has been preserved this long.]

Robert Heinecken, Vanishing Photograph (Krims/Doubleday)

I had long heard about the "vanishing photographs" and to see one gradually changing color and disappearing was gratifying. I witnessed a part of the process and was thrilled to see it displayed in full light rather than hidden behind a cloth, much like a daguerreotype or other light sensitive image would have been shown (or hidden) in a contemporary museum.

There were so many other works I wish were included in Object Matter but I know this was not a posthumous retrospective.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Michael Heizer's "Levitated Mass"

I watched the spectacle of Levitated Mass online as it was moved from a quarry in Riverside to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art over the period of ten nights in 2012. In person, it is a sight to be hold and very easy to photograph multiple times at every angle.

The image above depicts one of the two entries which, fortunately, only featured five people (rather than two dozen) photographing themselves as Hercules lifting the 21' high, 340 ton monolith over their heads. 

I was curious about support systems in a location so close to the San Andreas Fault.

It was equally important to walk next to the monolith as it was underneath it. The light changed the form drastically from one side to the next. At one moment it resembled an Egyptian pyramid but quickly turned into a prow of a ship.

I suppose I should watch the movie before we discuss Michael Heizer in the earthworks class. Netflix thinks I will only rate it 2.7 so this is not promising.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Museum of Jurassic Technology and Center for Land Use Interpretation

At long last, the Museum of Jurassic Technology was open on a day that I could visit! I was not allowed to take photographs so excuse the minimal visuals.

I have wanted to see this museum for years and reading Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder increased my desire. I was very interested in the elements of display. One of the most distinctive pieces was a mole skeleton placed in a plexi-glass box on a purple satin "pillow." Resting on top was a small photograph of a living mole propped up against a piece of wood. The living and the dead (though both long gone) functioned as one.

Other highlights in the presentation include the viewing devices. There were wooden handled 3-D glasses and 10-12 microscopes to see miniature floral mosaics half the size of a dime. In other exhibits, old rotary phones were available to listen to more information about the objects.

The staircase featured stair dioramas in the wall. There were miniature holograms, a mouse sandwich, a rocket ship with living quarters and a small scale moon with a landscape that did not fully wrap around the sphere. There was a model of a pregnant woman's hands holding a dying creature which would insure her trembling for life. Carvings of religious icons in the eyes of needles were nearly as fascinating as a man barking like a coyote (maybe).

I  cannot wait to return and look forward to adding this to my Los Angeles must-see rotation.

[The bathroom at the Museum of Jurassic Technology (surely they won't be mad at me for posting that).]

Also on the my list was the Center for Land Use Interpretation. I was pleased to visit the mother ship (located next door to the Museum of Jurassic Technology) after calling their phone number twice from the Wendover, Utah outpost to gain access to the combination that would unlock the gallery. I may have learned about too many books to acquire in the gift shop. In late November, I finished Lucy Lippard's Undermining (top right) as part of the reading requirements for the new class I am co-teaching, Space, Land and Concept in Art of the American West. I spent last weekend dissecting Overlook (center) for a powerpoint presentation, learning more about their database than I had known previously.

This day was one of the most rewarding and inspiring art viewing experiences I have had in years. Here's hoping that happens with greater frequency.