Ode to the Blue Collar Artist

Not much time for blogging today, so i thought i would keep with the Beatles theme for a moment and recall the words of John Lennon, who, if blogging existed in the 70s, probably would have never picked up his guitar again. So, guest blogging from beyond the grave... i turn it over to John...

As soon as you're born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool
Till you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules

When they've tortured and scared you for twenty odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can't really function you're so full of fear

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you're so clever and class less and free
But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see

There's room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill

A working class hero is something to be
If you want to be a hero well just follow me



BREAKING: Bones of Jesus found by guy who directed "Piranha 2: the spawning"

Osama bin Laden... still out there.

(James Cameron has now managed to resink the Titanic, raise it back up again, de-surrect Jesus and prove he was married with kids, and turn arnold schwarzenegger into a megastar... maybe he can locate ObL too?? Or at least make us a robot that will travel back in time to year 2000 and shoot Ralph Nader...)



Beauty is unexpected

(the following comes from an answer i began to write Steven Larose in the comments from the preceeding post... it got long and started to carry into other things that i figured i might as well post it all... hope that's okay with you SL, but i guess that is what we are all doing here anyway...)

SL: As far as the ant/remix connection/alagorical blend goes, I find that it has rung? my proverbial bell. Really. It helps to de-mystify the notion that "art" comes from nowhere, or even, from some external muse. Art, or originality maybe, comes from the recombination of familiar events.

Please post more things that you don't expect to.

(Me:) Ha...i would love to do a lot more that i don't expect to in life in general. that's the stuff! painting a line that does a little of what you want and a little of what it wants. that's the dialogue. (ps... if you think i am hinting towards your "automatism" work, you are right).

For me right now, in painting i am looking for the result created by a combination of assisted accidents. Not forced, not directed. Even in works like the caddie. Every great painter does this. Every single one. the more we move ourselves out of the way, the more we hear. It is why a brushstroke is a brushstroke and the brushstroke is the brushstroke.

I was talking with art powerlines the other day about the handful of painters that ever lived that could paint an eyeball with the depth of Velasquez, Rembrandt, Sargent, DaVinci (not excluding names like rothko and extending all the way out to the chinese ink brushers... another hint SL) etc...

why that work is timeless...

Why it is such a difficult place to get to (and yet as easy as an tiny, umeasurable shift in our own perspective)...

Why it is absolutely ridiculous that anyone even consider John Currin to have "nuances" of the great masters... (rant for another day)

But taking all of that into account, along with the ants, let us remember that it has nothing to do with an eyeball. Loads of people paint portraits for example. Why are only some of them amazing? No matter how technically "perfect" they are. Notice how the same works in abstraction?

Why does it feel like there is a whole nother layer of atmosphere lying over a velasquez portrait? It's not impressionist. Is it an illusion? People will say,"look how well he captured that persons essence... their soul." To which one has to laugh. We don't know those people! They are long dead. It's not about the people. The people aren't there. It's just paint. A combination of elements that work like a potion on our conciousness to return us to ____.

(not to make this magical... it's not. and it needs to be taken out of that realm as well. An artist is an artist like a lawyer is a lawyer. The more we are seen as magicians and mystics and "artists" the more we are sequestered and the less we get paid. Art: don't believe the hype.)

Currin is actually the perfect example (and if this was his point conceptually, i might actually give him some credit, but his work turns me off so much that i don't even care to know his point conceptually... chalk one up for my narrowmindedness). Currin uses the same colors, the same techniques, and the same gestures as "great masters", but his paintings have absoulutely none of the nuance of said masters. And it has nothing to do with the distortions. He could keep his cartoony figures all he wants and still find something deeper. Don't believe me?

Going back to the beginning of all this (and the ants). The unexpected, and the dialoge with the brush are so important. What do chinese ink brush painters and Sargent have in comon? They are some of the best abstract artists that ever lived.... ha! It's all the same marks, and moods, and atmospheres, and structures, and lines... just ordered in a way that allows us to turn off the logical part of our mind..... and listen, and absorb.

Like the hologram, each individual brushstroke, in its abstraction... carries all of the information for the whole. (but the "whole" does not refer to what you are actually
recognizing as the final combination of all of those strokes... in other words not the person in the portrait.) No, the whole is something else. Some call it a quality, a message, a concept, a connection, a third entity, a feeling, an atmosphere, a perspective... (really it is beyond words in my opinion, which is what we're all here for.)


What just popped in my head was the day i finally understood that our eyes aren't proactive. Our vision doesn't move out like tentacles and actually gather information. Instead we eat what little we are given through a slot under the door (again with the crack in the wall) as our eyes process light that enters them. and we learn that the different combinations of light is a this or a that. And we separate those this' and thats' and put them in a logical order, as bohm says, intitially, so that we can deal with them easier. Until our logic becomes so smug that it believes it can take it from here, and begins to tell our eyes what is and what is not. Our expericence becomes based on what we now think we see which forms our perceptions which eventually... yes... allows us to see only what we want to see. (and you can rearrange all that in whatever order you wish.)

We see so little, really. We think we are seeing, but we are actually watching... essentially sitting in the dark, watching our 150" flatscreen, flipping through channels. Most of what we see, we probably don't believe.

An artist has to break down all of this, going through a process with the end result being that we realize there are actually no divisions again. That the light has tricked us. Or our eyes lied to us... Or more accountably, maybe we wanted to be tricked... so that we could feel special, different from everyone else. In our parents eyes. In god's eyes. In our own eyes. We wanted those objects to be those obects, so that we could own and disown them.

And then the artist takes this new (old actually, because we started with it) understanding... and attempts (and sometimes fails), to reveal truths we choose not to see... that nothing is separate and nothing is missing. The understanding is called compassion, and when it does its job we call it beauty.

Then there is no this, and no that. And even the smallest bit of food coming through that slot, is a meal.



all you need is...

I'm about to write a post that i never thought i would. But it's casual Friday so don't think too hard on it.

Like a lot of people, I was raised on the Beatles. So much so that listening to a Beatles CD now is like eating Kraft macaroni and cheese. A one time love that takes me back, but to where and really, is this nourishing at all?

So if Kraft said they were coming out with mauve colored mac and cheese, i think i would probably be about as enthused as someone saying here's a remixed Beatles CD, using sounds from only their own songs to enhance the sound, give it a listen...

This is what happened. And it's amazing. Yes, you heard me right. The cd, Love, created by Sir George Martin and Giles Martin for the benefit of Cirque du Soleil, has actually pulled it off. As i listen, i can't help but being blown away by the scope of the project and the work that must have gone into it. First, that it was even attempted. Second that it really works.

It is not necessarily the Beatles part that interests me though. So let's take that away for a moment if we can.

What is most interesting is how many of us will know every sound that is played, even if we don't remember exactly which song it came from out of its original context. And while we might have an emotional, even nostalgic connection to each sound, here we are presented with fragments, so that now those connections are overlapping and butting up to other emotional nostalgic connections.

What happens when subtle pieces of dancing in the living room at age six, butts up with a note of being strung out at a rave watching the sun come up in college, overlapped by the glare of watching your mom sob at the news that Lennon has been killed? I exaggerate, however, because those moments don't overlap, but the tones do. And this works with the Beatles so well, because these songs, whether we liked them or not, were drilled into so many of our heads.

I have always been fascinated with memory and time working like a light beaming into an attic through a crack in the wall. Shards of moments past and maybe even future, and entire histories sewn into our identities are highlighted and reflected onto each other, aligning to create their own whole.

I am reminded of how ants find their way back to the entrance of their hill by recording an image of the elements surrounding their home when they face the entrance. This way they move in circles around the hill until all of those surrounding elements fit the image they have stored and they know they are in the right place and can walk straight to the entrance. It is only that one combination that will work.

For me, this is how good painting works, and what an artist is really doing when we do this thing we do. Re-arranging. Finding combinations presented to us br the crack in the wall... a shape, a line, a quality of light, a color. Reconnecting memories (in and out of time), perspectives, and emotion to find a certain combination that will unlock a door or even return us to center.



the revolution will be painted

Details as i promised...

(do these show up on everyone's screen even though they are outmoded?... hee hee, cheeky bastard...)


nuff said....

photo: Peter Stuckings



bedtime thoughts

When i was little i would fall asleep to the sounds of my mother's sewing machine in the den down the hall. Other times the sound of her typewriter. And when neither of those were present, my earliest memories were the sounds that came from my pillow. I would hear marching in my pillow (which i suppose now was the sound of my own blood pumping), and i would imagine armies of people or animals moving over landscapes. And i would follow them to sleep.

My mom introduced me to typing. "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country." I typed it over and over again.

She introduced me to watercolors, with a big brush on a wet page she created a deep ocean over which she swept the golden gate bridge in three strokes followed by the connecting cable... up-down up-down.

My mom was my history teacher in 7th grade, where we learned about the Punic Wars. I was fascinated with Hannibal and war elephants marching cross the Pyrenees to take on the Romans.

The Department of History, United States Military Academy

Elephants live in packs led by the female, or matriarch. Adult males live in solitude mostly. According to wikipedia, elephants were used in wars up to and through WW2, where they were still used to move heavy machinery and artillery over more difficult landscapes.




I want to be like Gandhi and Martin Luther King and John Lennon – but I want to stay alive.
-- Madonna

Go ahead and rant amongst yourselves, I'm going to bed.



Compassion and the Hologram

in a tangent off ArtPowerline's post here regarding holograms being constructed of tiny parts that are in themselves still the whole. Thinking of how this relates to culture, and compassion... How each one of us is the whole thing. This cultural hologram (this maya?) that is the US(for those of us in the US), and/or that is the "global community"... how it changes, with how we change, with how it changes, with...

(from Art Powerlines, read the whole thing to get the context, people:) If we are to make choices, then isn't it obvious that we need to make choices that may not be convenient choices? Corporate choices. How then does this dialogue begin, in a world of charity, philanthropy, corporate greed and cultural imperialism? As my friend in Sicily said, "To see the relative time of a human life span amidst a much bigger picture and from that place naturally or culturally speaking, we need to make choices for the future as a whole."
can we make choices for the future "as a whole"? and if each individual holds all the DNA for the cultural hologram, then really can't we make choices for ourselves (and that's how the personal is the political)

(From David Bohm,) "Each part contains waves from everything, and everything is then internally related to everything. It is only in the unfolding that things separate and are relatively independent."

separate and connected... compassionate. Making compassionate choices.

With compassion, issues of convenience become irrelevant.

(by the way, to be clear, as i use the word a lot here on the blog... when i speak of compassion, i am not referring to the Latin based version of the word that has to do with pity, sympathy, and even suffering and carries with it an air of condescension, that in itself connotes separation between our self and others.

i am speaking of the compassion used in other languages, that simply refers to "co-feeling" and describes not only living with one another's hardships, but also feeling with someone any emotion, even joy. An emotional telepathy that we all have, because we aren't actually separate.)



Not art. Just work.

Ceylon Caddie, 1903. oil on canvas. 5x7'

And in case anyone might come back and read this blog again, you might be wondering where i've been. Well, i been busy. After deciding to take some time off after being crowned person of the year by Time Magazine (for reals), I have been spending more and more time in the studio.

The job that was going to take me into the new year as a magazine editor fell through, sadly. Well, sadly and not so sadly. It has been the final kick in the ass i needed to really make a go at painting for a living. (Let it be known that this scares the crap out of me.)

It's a two pronged assault at this point. One prong being my own work, personal/political reflections etc. And the other prong for the time being, is a bit of golf painting to make some cash. This is what you see above (in a terribly lit photo, sorry).

Now, before anyone writes this off as a way of selling out, allow me a few words... First off, i come from a long line of golfers. Golfers who don't look at golf the way most do, but see it more as a practice or a "martial art", perhaps something in the same vein as yoga. All of the same principles are there, they just don't get much attention. And i feel that this work fits well into the themes of most of my work that deals with masculinity, patriarchy, and the current state of the world. How? Golf is the pastime of CEOs and rich white men. In a way, i feel that by reconnecting these men to the soul of the game, i can work to reconnect them to something deeper, and perhaps change some perspectives out there. It is something i have seen work time and time again already. And yeah, there is potentially a lot of money to be made from it. Which brings me to my next point...

I choose to fill my links to the right with people i know are actual, real, working, sometimes struggling, artists. They aren't stars and don't intend to be. These artist share their recent reflections and connections and carry on a dialogue, while working through their own process. Most other art blogs i read are filled with attention paid to critiquing the state of the art world, galleries, and openings. And that's fine, but it is about the same to me as reading celebrity blogs, and i'm usually left feeling even more disconnected. Left wondering if it is possible as an artist to live in the grey? To be the same as my friends and neighbors who go to work and raise their kids and enjoy their time without concern for "making it". Is their room for the community artist? The blue collar artist? (with a few smudges of titanium white...)

If i gotta paint some golf to get by, well then so it goes... To quote my teachers, if you are gonna mop floors, then mop them beautifully.



More perfect

My mom just sent me this. Go ahead, take a moment, watch it and come back.

Her timing couldn't be better as i was in the middle of a side job for a company that builds ranch style housing throughout the middle of the country. Let me put that another way for those of you who haven't been to Frontierland at Disneyland. These housing tracts are essentially gated communities where you actually live in a simulated old west environment. Fire pits and cattle and rodeos and hoe-downs and golf. (little known fact: cowboys were lovers of the links.)

Your next question is... what exactly were you doing for this company, which by the way is a multi multi million dollar company spreading all over those states that lie just inside california (AZ, ID, CO, NM... you know, where all the white people are headed)? Well, i too am trained in the arts of the video you see above. And not only do we take people and make them "pretty". We do the same with places. Now that everything is a pixel, and cameras take photos with a higher resolution than film, we have the power to adjust ever tiny part of a photo.

What this means is, even the photos of the simulation are just simulations. It's like the video above... Not only do we apply makeup to make her look like something other than she is, but then we take it to a whole nother level and put her image through the computer. We create a simulation of the Old West (that has absolutely nothing to do with the Old West) and then we put it through another step to make that even brighter and more "perfect".

And there it is... Perfect is no longer perfect enough. Now there is more perfect.

And since I've been doing nothing but thinking about HLIB's recent post since i read it last night, i can see that this is all just another part of the Network Culture. Our means of recording time go from film (modern) to digital (post) to digital composite/ computer generated (network).

And now when we see a movie or a commercial with special effects, we know it is all fake. everyone will turn to their friend and say, "that's photoshopped". Funny thing is, and anyone who works in digital effects will tell you, what you think is fake is only 1/100th of what actually is fake. Even in shows and ads and images that look like your everyday settings... nope. A Matrix inside a Matrix.

Fake is not fake enough anymore. Virtual is too real. Breaking News is old news. Information is dead and it took imagination with it. Fantasy finally is reality... boring ass reality.

(By the way... that billboard at the end of that video... that's fake. But they just had to get that image next to a used car lot to fit the movie just perfect... Yes, Dove, no wonder our perception is distorted...)



Man bitch-slaps God

I found this painting by Sir Edwin Landseer in one of my artbooks last night. Man Proposes, God Disposes was painted in 1864, when shipwreck paintings were all the rage round Europe, about 5 years after Darwin's Origin of the Species crashed head on into the opiate of the masses leaving said masses a trifle insecure.

My fetish for shipwrecks stirred and i was reminded of this image on the cover of Time near 150 years later...

Still two polar bears, but now one is merely a reflection, looking a bit more desperate than ravaging. The giant jagged glacier forms in Landseer's painting are a bit more watered down. The perspective has changed, as we now survey the damage from above. The shipwreck is still there... the bear is standing on it. And what once was an image of tragic romanticism, conjured up in the imagination and translated to canvas with vivid earthly pigments, is now light translated to numbers organized into a numbing vision of "reality".

And for the time being it seems God has done the proposing and man has done the disposing.