Friday, April 26, 2013

Mansruin Vol. III, Subscriptions, Run DMC and Kurt Vonnegut

I have been reading several different books lately and thinking about publishing.  I have little desire to follow my undergraduate dreams of being a published comics illustrator or children's book illustrator, but I am very excited by the process of making zines.  I enjoy printing limited edition runs of self published material.  Xerox machines feel like another method of printmaking more than an office supply.

As a result of my wayward thoughts and my excitement with the Mansruin project, I have decided to offer subscriptions.  They are not particularly expensive, but just enough to cover the cost of printing, envelopes and postage.  If you purchase an entire year it is half price too!

Payment Options

Unfortunately I will have to charge folks out of the United States a bit more due to postage.  You can find the subscribe button in the sidebar at the very bottom.

Here are a couple pages out of the most recent Mansruin:

 I have also started reading Kurt Vonnegut again.  He reads like a long lost old friend.  I am currently in the middle of Breakfast of Champions, a novel which stresses the idea that people are really robots.  This is a position that I have kind of stood by creatively for several years now.  It is interesting to read someone else with the same sort of creative logic.  Coupled with Spring, which always makes me feel so much more relaxed and gets me back into hip-hop, I've been very happily putting together sketches for the machine which is my brain.  The machine will be drawn on four walls ending in one small and fairly innocuous act.  Here is a sketch from the middle of the machine.

I'm getting excited again.  My projects are starting to pick up and I am starting to get into them in a way that I was not into them a matter of months ago.  Everything is looking good.  I hope you can say the same about your own projects!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Mighty Lark is in Portugal

There are some days in which as a creative you find yourself searching the internet for projects that you have been involved in to see if there is any images out there of your stuff.  Today I found myself particularly curious as to if my Letter to Portugal had arrived in Lisbon or not.  As I searched for images from Studio Teambox, I happened upon the Facebook page for the Letters to Portugal Project.  There was one image of the letters which had arrived and my letter was in the lower left hand corner of the image!

There is also some more image on the project on the Letters to Portugal website, however, the additional pages are empty. 

It is interesting to think about this shift in artistic practice.  I was chatting with a good friend last night and I realized that I do not have a stack of the pieces that I have been working on over the past two weeks.  Usually I have a physical record of the work that I do in the form of stacks of paintings.  Presently my work is on airplanes and mail trucks heading all over the globe.  I wonder what that makes my work.  Is the work the art object or the journey that that object goes on?  I know that I have been fighting off a mighty case of wanderlust for the past year or so.  Perhaps I am trying to live the different corners of the earth through my art since I cannot be in all of these places?

I am not entirely certain of the purpose of the process yet, but I know that it is important.  I am going to continue doing it at least until I figure out why, and probably after I am aware of the why,  You'll know as soon as I do.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Brainstorming, The Tao of Wu, Faulkner, and Chip Thomas

Admittedly, it has looked a bit quiet in the Valley of the Mighty Lark recently.  I have had my nose buried in books and have been working on a number of mail art pieces.  I finished some sketches for a book project with a poet whom I respect a great deal and have mailed out several more archaic tweets, but I have documented very little of my work recently.  I have opted instead to focus on the work a bit more, to think it over, explore the concepts and push the ideas to a better point.

I have started reading the Tao of Wu, by the RZA and Sanctuary, by William Faulkner.  The RZA smoothly relates his inner city wisdom with the practices and philosophies of Shaolin monks.  Faulkner on the other hand, creates a character of good education who is cast into peril because of his own weakness for alcohol and girls.  It is interesting to consider these two books at the same time.  Street knowledge is acquired through living in circumstances that society prefers to ignore.  Growing up in my peaceful rural area, there was very little mention of inner cities.  The only things that I remember "learning" about inner cities was that was where gun violence originated.  The hip-hop that was popular while I was learning these supposed lessons was heavily in the gangster rap era, completely supporting my impressions.  About this time,  a woman came into my high school with a list of albums that we weren't supposed to listen to, because they would cause us to be violent, another card to lay the foundation in the massive house of cards that was completely shatter when I moved to Syracuse in 1999.  I have never lived in the projects and I certainly don't parade around the projects or anywhere else in the city flaunting that I have cash, but I do find those areas of the city fascinating.  They are certainly not anything to loathe.  I think that there is a different sort of person that comes from that upbringing.  There is a vitality in individuals who must overcome some odds to live a successful life.  I rather resent the very capitalistic and uneducated wisdom that was passed on to me when I was 12 in my little country school.  Faulkner's characters are more what we would have considered white trash in my school.  We had many students growing up in this economic hole in my community.  Some of them stayed and live in the same way that their family did while they were growing up.  Others left and had all the more motivation to do so.  We cannot expect to know how conditions are going to affect and mold another individual.  I am sick of the idea that we need to "fix" the poor and the people who work constantly to make a living.  While I do think that it would be good for them to make more and have some more opportunities, I do not think that it is smart for us to think of another segment of society as a problem that needs to be fixed.

With that in mind, I have been thinking about what we spend our money on.  Our society purchases a lot of devices that do all sorts of unnecessary things.  The infomercial with the ear cleaning device and the small hair trimmer which cleans up the hairy man's back in five seconds burst to the top of the list in my brain.  Do we need so many devices to help us get by?  The car that tells us when we are going to hit something behind us?  This is great in some respects.  I don't want people backing over children on big wheels; are there still big wheels, but perhaps we should pay more attention to the world around us if we are to be behind the wheel of a machine that is known to be one the biggest killers in the United States.  I am working on a proposal for a machine, because this economy is all about machines, which will be very elaborate.  I intend to draw it on four walls.  As you work from left to right you will be able to see the function of this machine.  It will make all sort of twists and turns and will result in an action which in comparison seems rather anti-climactic.  Here is the list of ideas for the purpose of the machine which I brainstormed today.  I think that 29 may prevail, but it would also be interesting if it just produced a drop of ink.

I have also been very excited about my mail projects.  This past week I was reading an article that Chip Thomas put together chronicling the story of the Painted Desert Project.  I felt incredibly moved by his story as I have felt with the better part of the images that I have seen of the project over the past year.  In an act quite outside of my normal character I wrote to him and asked if he would share his address so that I could send him some mail art.  He said yes, and yesterday morning I finished up a one off zine and sewed an envelope out of one of my favorite works on paper for him.  It felt like the right thing to do.

A friend of mine posted a picture of the Tweet that I sent him this week as well.  I very much enjoy the number of lives that these drawings are living.  I realized while out for a walk with my good friend on Sunday that sending the work through the mail is somehow related to my history of collecting baseball cards.  The wonder of what could possibly be inside an envelope is half of the excitement.  Sometimes that anticipation is even better than learning what is inside.  As envelopes become a piece of their own, they start to provide a document of the interior of that anticipation.  Or at least, that is what I am thinking right now.

I've probably said enough for one day.  I'm going to quietly reflect over the Tao of Wu until the Knickerbockers play the Celtics.  Hope you are all well.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tenth Anniversary Show, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Peace.

The last two weeks have been a complete blur.  I went home, came back to my last two weeks of class, worked extra hours at the deli, and finished work for a new show at Artstream Studios.  I have trouble with weeks like this.  It is tough for me to keep my head up and focused.  It is something that I am just going to have to learn to do better, as the world grows faster and faster. 

To counteract the feelings of anxiety and urgency that I have been tormented by, I've been reading the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  His pacing and tendency to state the obvious are quite welcome friends currently.  His essays read like a more pedantic version of a Zen volume, but I enjoy him nonetheless.  He is like that talkative uncle that reads too much.  Thus far my favorite quote goes as such: "You shall not tell me by languages and titles a catalogue of the volumes you've read. You shall make me feel what periods you've lived."  I suppose that this is merely a statement experiencing the moment.  As I was talking to a friend last night she twisted it into a statement of phenomonology, which is one of those fake art terms stressing the sublime and the feeling of an experience that teeters on the brink of explanation.  I don't think that that is what it was about, however.  I think that the statement had more to do with reading with a focus that allows you to become a part of whatever history you are reading about, to think about the consequences of people's actions like they were your own, to use the acts of others as points of reasoning within your own life, to be more mindful of the texts you read and things you see.

I have trouble with this.  I am usually quite aware of the things going on around me, but have trouble with words on a screen or page and also with the words that are coming out of people's mouths.  I find it hard to keep up.  I always start to think about different things, or rather, I am usually already thinking about those things and when people give me a hook I end up diving straight in.  And so I've been attempting to be more mindful and forcing myself to read more.  I think it is adding layers to my thought and as a result it is adding layers to my work.

When I was asked to do a few piece for the Tenth Anniversary show at Artstream Studios and Gallery, I immediately assumed that the gallery directors wanted more of the same type of work that I had submitted in the fall, as it had done pretty well in sales.  I struggled with this idea in my head for two months and naturally ended up with a couple days left to produce my artwork.  I realized that I wasn't capable of making those pieces again.  There has been a shift in my thought, a desire to live life more seriously than I had in the past, to be a bit more conservative and not to make kids work for the rest of my life.  I had been adding layers to pieces that weren't working in a different series and that was turning out quite successful, so I determined that I would use the same method with these four pieces.  Here are the completed pieces for Arstream.

In describing these pieces, I happened on one of my favorite painting descriptions ever, "A bird sits on a wire, while another set of wires grows convoluted, and all you need is to use the phone, but it won't work any more because you are short a dime."  I think it says more about me than a lot of my text does.

I hope everybody out there is doing okay.  My heart goes out to you every day.  It is tough to live even when there are no extra obstacles to navigate.  The only thing that I can suggest is to love the people around you like they are the greatest thing since fire was discovered, because they are.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

On Working in Bus Stations, Portugal, Visiting with My Brother and Seeing the Adirondacks Again

As I relayed on Thursday, I traveled home to New York this weekend to see my folks for the first time since Thanksgiving.  It was a very pleasant trip despite the 17 hours worth of travel on Thursday and the delayed travel today.  I do not very much mind being in transience however.  My mind is left to wander, I am forced to read books that I seldom make time for in my everyday life, and I come up with some of the best ideas that I ever think up. 

When I reached Syracuse on Friday morning at a quarter to 3 I was not very tired.  I am always filled with the excitement of being home, the thrill of my alma mater, and the rush of not having to work.  I started to search for some exhibition opportunities to apply to.  I found several that involved long application processes that I bookmarked to complete this week, but really wanted to find something that I could work on while I was sitting in the bus station drinking my swill from Dunkin Donuts, which I am positive was brewed at about 9pm the prior evening. 

I settled on a project titled "A Letter to Portugal," an exhibition focusing on mail art to suggest alternate means of reality to the people of Portugal.  I have been very into the idea of mail art and exchange as well as to avoiding value being latched on to artwork, and so this project seemed right up my alley.  I promptly thought of my "Today may just be everything you need" piece and decided to do a new text piece that was the Portuguese translation.  Fortunately Google provided me with that little tidbit.  Although I wonder how accurate that translation is.  That makes it even more interesting to me, however, as I wonder about this thought of communication with art.  A text based piece can be appreciated as a series of lines of varying weight as well as something that is communicating via words.  I suspect that the gap in translations between languages becomes similar to the gap in translation between image and word.

Here is an image of my work station in the bus depot.

I think that I feel more of a predisposition to this type of art making if only because it is something that I can complete on the road.  I mailed the project from my home town but really could have stopped at any post office between the bus station and home.  It is a process perfectly devoid of designated spaces.  My work has become as transient as my soul.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Moon and Sixpence, wheels rolling under my feet and nights spent in Transience.

I am on the way home to see my parents.  I haven't seen them since Thanksgiving, so this will be my annual Christmas/Easter visit.  Working in a restaurant since undergrad has left me with a peculiar sense of holidays.  Mostly I think of them as days that I will be working a double and allowing anyone who may be able to see their family go see their family.  It is so rare that any of the service industry employees are capable of doing so on the holidays.  Since I have never lived very close to my folks since Syracuse, the closest was central New Hampshire which was a mere 7 hours away, I have accepted my existence as the worker bee, but now it is the beginning of April and I am on my way home.  I opted not to drive because I both enjoy the leisure of transit and I do not enjoy traversing the Adirondacks when I am finally completely exhausted and do not trust my driving.  It just seems to make more sense.  It does, however mean that I will be traveling roughly 16 hours on the way out to New York.  The trip back is far less as I will be dropped at one of the closer stops, missing a couple of layovers.  It is great to have the break.  I am pleased.

At this point I have split time between sleeping a very little and reading Maugham's, The Moon and Sixpence.  It is a remarkable book.  The narrator follows a man who has left his mediocre business life in London for life as a painter in Paris.  The narrator and the painter do not speak well to each other.  The artist is poor, inexpressive, and of wry wit.  He lives in tatters and has taken complete leave of his prior life, seems immune to love, and incapable of accepting grace.  He is a curious character to read.  This is oft the personification of artist that we are left with; moody and destructive in nature.  The artist is supposed to be so caught up in his or her own actions that nothing else is important and to be sure, they will be unaware of others.

I wonder, sometimes, if this is some ineffable quality of artists that one must possess in order to achieve any element of success.  I am incapable.  I am constantly seeking approval whether I want to believe it or not.  I constantly am running images in front of Facebook and Twitter users.  I still have that childish, "look what I built, Mommy" personality.  And yet, I am not particularly fond of being complimented.  Perhaps I am more eccentric than I give myself credit.  I am certainly not this monstrosity of a human being that is incapable of associating with people only to spend every waking hour with his art.  To be sure, I have gone out of my way to create elaborate projects which will include others.  Is this way a route to success?

I've been pondering this for quite some time as in the past six months I have been more interested in creating loose communities based on human interaction rather than pursuing new gallery opportunities.  I think that it is really affecting my artistic output.  I am creating just as much as I always have, but I think the purpose behind it has grown a little more about community while at the same time addressing the concerns that are very personal to me which I never wanted to talk about; how I felt excluded, how I was the Baudelaire described by Sartre to have dwelt in my own lack of acceptance as a badge of honor.  Community is not something that have felt a part of.  Community is something that I have always felt I have to fight for.

At the same time, I still make illustrations, which are decisively in opposition to those feelings of detachment from my surrounding community.  Here is the illustration that I completed for this month's Thursday Night Throwdown.

I have also been tying images together finally for a unique book project with a poet.  Here are a couple of the images that I put together while thinking about my perceptions of punk rock as a teenager and now as an adult.  My feelings are quite different on the subject now, but it is interesting to explore that sense of abandonment and lack of community that I felt that I was reveling in with my discover of punk rock.  In fact music was always my solace as well as my point of discrepancy with the people around me.  As such, this project has been terribly interesting for me.

I do believe that this is one of my longest ever postings, and as such I feel as though I should do you all the service of saving something to say for another day, but as I was thinking about this novel, I realized that I needed to write.  Do any of you other artists work with a feeling of abandonment or alienation from the rest of society?  Is this merely something that I think about?  The past fifty years or so in art has attempted to blur that line between society and artists, but I still wonder if it

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

On Somerset Maugham, Health, Collaboration and Baudrillard

It has been a rough spell for me physically.  Last week as you know, I lost my hearing and then my voice.  Today while both of those realities were drawing to a close, as I reached to finish making my bed I put my back out.  This is not the first time that I have put my back out, but I must admit that as I look at the situation it is one of the funniest times that I have ever put my back out.  It just seems that I am not supposed to be completely healthy right now.  I am supposed to be paying attention.  I just don't know to what I am supposed to be paying attention.  All in all, I don't find myself that upset about the back.  I am grateful that I can hear and speak.  Every situation bears a positive connotation, I guess.  I'm going to try to dwell on that side for a bit and see where it gets me.  If nothing else these health issues have kept me operating at a slower rate, which in all reality is better for my production and my sanity.

About a week ago I received a letter from a very good friend who is putting what I believe is his first book together.  There were some beautiful moments in it, but I admit, I must read it again before I can give him any further information in response.  It is a great feeling to get these glimpses of people's thought processes in the mail.  It is a quieter life, one that moves slower, and at a pace that allows time to think before answering.  I've had difficulty in this world I think, because I do like to think before responding.  The internet, with its constant stream of information, begins to make the mind mirror the body in a long distance race.  After racing 26 miles, even marathon runners stop for a second or two.  I have to remember this.  Along with his manuscript, my friend also sent an accompanying letter in which he suggested I read Somerset Maugham and so, yesterday, I checked The Moon and Sixpence out from the library.

Within the first chapter I have already fallen in love with Maugham's language and pacing.  "The prime minister out of office is seen, too often, to have been but a pompous rhetorician, and the general without an army is but the tame hero of a market town."  Also, more pointedly in these days where I find myself working three jobs; "...recommended men for their soul's good to do each two things they disliked: it was a wise man, and it is a precept that I have followed scrupulously; for every day I have got up and I have gone to bed."  I find this older writing to be more beneficial to my process as an artist.  I appreciate a little poetry to my every day life, rather than recognizing the everyday as its own simple poetry.  The romantic build up is what I live for and probably the point wherein I lost my way in the Post-Post-Modernist realm of graduate school.

As a result most of my projects as of late have been a rejection of the online world, new media, and social media.  I do use all of these things, but am realizing that I need solid every day things to feel fit and healthy.  Staring at Youtube videos all day sounds like a torturous stay with Beatrice to me.  Also, I realize how many amazing resources there are on the internet, but I have little desire to sit and take them in.  It crushes my soul.  Since I have purchased this lap top that I write upon right now, I have slowly become more and more addicted to staring into the void.  I have been attempting to avoid this a bit.  I have been attempting to be more serious when I write this blog.  I have been attempting to be more "real" in this "virtual existence."  Baudrillard, eat your heart out.  

The mail projects seem to be a good point to draw this line in the sand.  Writing on a sheet of paper requires taking your hand and your brain into consideration.  Typos in this day are allowed, however, if handwriting is too sloppy there is no sense in sending mail.  I like mail.  I like receiving mail, and so I have made more mail to send.  This life is reciprocal after all.

This drawing is a double throwback.  The arrows are all signals in guiding trains, where the top drawing is of a train whistle.  I found notes in an old sketchbook of the code that train conductors used with train whistles to communicate back and forth with stations and other trains.  I think maybe that these codes were good for our brains to wrap around.  
I have also been very much into exploring my daily life as a cook and deli worker.  I have always tried to keep my art life and my cooking life separate.  It hasn't made me happy.  I think that if I start to accept my daily life as I cook and explore what those negative feelings are when I am working there in a more positive way that I will actually be able to move beyond that feeling and maybe push my art to that next level.  I think that it is too difficult to traverse the course of negativity at a 9-5 to joy in your passion after it is done.  I've explored other options, but I think that the answer is actually in making that daily life the same as the art life.  Wish me luck.