Monday, May 27, 2013

Mortisse and Tenon, Solitude and Fighting the Good Fight

I have been stressing out since January.  I have had the opportunity to teach four classes thus far and they have been amazing experiences even if at times I have really fallern short of doing a good job with them.  I sometimes do not know what a good job entails.  Simple things are easily made into mistakes, but it has been a new experience and one that I am very grateful for.  I have at the same time been holding on desperately to my past; my death grip clutched firmly around my four shifts at a deli, serving food to the public usually with a smile but sometimes with a sardonic air should I feel that someone views me with condescension.  I can honestly say that I don't belong in that sphere any more.  This was the conversation that my mother and I had over the phone yesterday.  The day prior my father and I were talking about productivity and problem solving.  My large commission lay in pieces, begging to be assembled in an intelligent and eloquent manner.  My father talked me through that.  In short, my parents came to my rescue this Memorial Day weekend.  My parents gave me that objective ear and resolute patience that I needed and with that I have come out of the weekend feeling slightly lighter and ready to get some work done.

Here is the results of my Mortisse and Tenon construction Saturday and Sunday.

The pieces are coming together great and simultaneously the pieces of my psyche are settling back in place.  The torrid love affair that is art making has subsided into the calm of production once again and I feel at once full and victorious.


Friday, May 24, 2013

At Once Within and Without

Studio life has been busy lately.  In fact, today I was looking about my apartment and realized that I have a live/work space, not an apartment at all.  There is no living functionality to the space for anyone but me.  For all that I try to convince people that my space is cozy, it is only cozy like a studio with an awesome couch in it.  That's pretty perfect for a single guy like me. 

This week my friend Shirah and I went to see The Great Gatsby.  I don't often go to movies and quite honestly I probably wouldn't have gone to this one if I hadn't had told Shirah I would go with her.  I am glad that I did though.  The movie wasn't great.  The female characters were poorly cast and I can't say that I am a fan of Fitzgerald's text being emblazoned on a movie screen, but the sets were amazing.  It was an incredible critique of Art Nouveou, racing economies, and hedonistic charm.  I returned from the movie and did what any self respecting person would do, I started reading the book again.  I am always taken by Fitzgerald's language.  To be sure the makers of the film were as well.  They made sure to use the exact line "at once within and without" in the parable that Callaway tells of the street cleaners.  This line is amazing.  I feel as though there is something in that line that much like a philosopher attempting to figure out the meaning of life, I am setting out to understand.  It is like fitting into society but having a ton of anxiety and never really letting on that you don't fit in at all.  It is holding your nose in your sketchbook seemingly disinterested in your surroundings but actually responding to every bit of it.  It is watching yourself from across the street in your schizophrenic coffee deranged early mornings.  It is something and probably absolutely nothing, which is kind of like art which is something but notably nothing.

I have been working out a commission for a very kind fellow who frequents Bard with me.  I had a certain idea of what the piece would look like in late November when I accepted his deposit, but that image has slowly drifted off into abandon.  I don't like it at all anymore.  And so yesterday when he was to meet me at my studio I began to make some connections, pieces began to fall in the right spots.  I was linking things wrong, but everything was starting to move.  I was feeling creative again and not pinned at all.  He postponed his visit, which didn't upset me.  I think I can finish the piece by his delayed date.  It seems much more natural now.  I was too far within the piece.  I needed to step out.  Here are a couple images of how it is beginning to come together.

 I do not know why, but this is my favorite piece that I have done in a long long time.  Perhaps I really like circles and I have never stopped to think about this immense obsession.

As I began to lay this piece out on the floor, it felt as though the conversation had finally shifted.  I am now speaking in a language that I comprehend rather than trying to translate from something foreign.  I can now say that it's going to be good.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Freedom from What?

I am often moody.  I think to myself what a tragedy it is that I have to be at work making lunch or teaching when I should really be working on my own paintings and drawings.  There is an egotistical aspect of this, but also a desperation to this thought process.  I always feel like I can work more, but then sometimes I get home from cooking and I have no desire to work.  I couldn't make myself work if I tried.  I assume that this is normal, as many of the people I talk to on a regular basis speak about the number of movies and television shows that they find entertaining.  I don't watch many of these, but I do stare at computer screens waiting for something awesome to happen.  I create blog posts waiting for someone to find my writing and say, "hey, this guy really has something going on."

I mention this all as a setting for the mentality that I entered when I started my latest piece.  I had just finished my proposal to the Step Up Program, which sounds amazing.  I think that when you finish a proposal that should probably feel hope that you might get to do that thing, but I have submitted and applied to so many different places in the past ten years, and while yes, I have had my number of successes, I have had a greater number of defeats.  I have also never been responded to on a bigger juried show.  In the past this has taken over moods for days, as I ponder what to do with myself, coming up with plans to make some dough off of my art, desperately finding some other means to post my work all over the internet, searching for that mode of living that is what I want.  However, when I turned in this last proposal, I did not feel any sense of desperation.  I did not feel any despair and most importantly, I didn't really mind that in another 18 hours I was going to be cooking in a commercial kitchen again.  ( usually here people constantly make statements about how "cooking is creative too" and "That's a way to get your creative juices going."  Thoughts like these are appreciated because it shows that other people do not want you to get down on yourself.  They care.  But at the same time, cooking is cooking and great for cooking sake.  My art is my art and I have no time to think about it while I am cooking.) I left the coffee shop where I had been putting the last bits of my proposal together, got some lunch and hit the record shop.  I went home and started to feel that sense that there was nothingness if I had nothing to prepare for and I had an epiphany.  I really wanted to make the piece that I proposed, but I didn't have a space large enough to do it in the manner that I had proposed.  Up until my second show in 2007 at the now defunct Gallery 070 on Vashon Island, I had reveled in making my own work, no matter what.  At that show, I made a bunch of really quick bird pieces and a lot of them sold.  It was not a huge payday as they were not terribly expensive, but I got it in my head, that that was the manner in which I was supposed to work.  You got to give the people what they want.  This mood continued through much of grad school and I'm clearly still feeling a bit of that poison today, but I think I am finally moving past it, because I fought through my moment of apathy and started my piece.  I've been working on it in and around work and feeling really confident about it.  The subject matter is finally something incredibly meaningful to me.  I have consistently been of the opinion that society attempts to make machines of its members.  Machines are efficient.  They work.  They are productive. Their thoughts are programmed. 

Now think about the majority of jobs you have had in your life.  What is stressed?  Efficiency.  Work.  Productivity.  How are these qualities achieved?  These attributes are achieved by staying focused on work, using the patterns that you are taught to use which make that work easier to achieve.  These attributes are achieved through good programming.  Our free time is spent in front of various modes of communication offering better lives through purchasing power, ensuring that we must remain well programmed so that we can continue to enjoy ourselves.  But, what is this enjoyment?  I think it is rather diversion from the idea that we are all living as machines.  Place a smart phone or a tablet in our hands and we can even let our thoughts conform and not just our actions.  (mind you, this is how I feel about technology and work for me.  I am aware that some people feel very differently and remain very positive and soulful while using technology and working in society.  Kudos.  It makes me dead.)

When I started working out this piece in my sketchbooks, I had no idea that it was a big thing, but it is. This may be my large glass.  I've realized that it is not freedom from my situation that I seek, but freedom from the way in which I perceive the structure of the relationships that create my situation.  The onus is on me.  I am making the machine that creates my work.  It is not as fictional as it first may sound.  I have let myself buy into the machine, despite the rebellious teenage anthems that I championed. 

And so, I am left with a desire to create this machine.  It is two dimensional.  People will ask me why it isn't a functioning 3-d object.  But it is mine and my romanticism is built around the novels of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.  My dreams are not incredibly tangible but they are immensely elaborate.  Here are some shots from the beginning of The Magnificent Pensive Mark Maker Model No. 2.

I have finished a lot more on the panel which Cedric is sitting on, but haven't taken a good photo yet.  Soon.  If you made it all this way, thank you.  I care about you too.  Let's all work to free ourselves from our own Machines.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Visits, Applications, Days Off and Returning Mental Faculties

Today I woke up with a tremendous sense of peace about me.  Yesterday left my wallet considerably lighter and my soul significantly more full.  My friend Monkey Chow drove up from Boston to spend a day of adult beverage consumption and brainstorming with me.  Many stickers were left about town, many drawings were left for servers and bartenders, and there were a lot of very quickly written notes jotted in my sketchbook.  We visited the opening for the SMCC faculty show which I was a part of, even if the presence of my work amongst the rest of the work did seem peculiar.  Alas, my prices were a fraction of the prices on the other work in the gallery.  Perhaps this is one of those moments where I should consider selling my work at a larger profit margin so that people take me more seriously?  I will not be doing that, however.

Aaron and I managed to find a little amusement at the show, despite my social awkwardness.

Today, I was left with the task of applying for the Real Art Ways Step Up program.  I had finished all of the work for my application by the middle of last week, but hadn't finished my image list or the edits to my CV.  I passed up on a fishing trip so that I could finish that in time.  I am usually absolutely terrible at applying to the larger shows.  I don't usually feel much hope for juries selecting my work, but this application was better suited to my own interests than some of the work proposals that I attempt to pass off as compelling.  If you are attempting to sound smart compelling thoughts are really only useful for attempting to be compelling thoughts.

This proposal was better.  I am excited to see if it makes a difference, but also more importantly I realize that I am going to do this piece one way or the other.  It really doesn't matter if the proposal is accepted or not.  That kind of feeling is the best kind of feeling.  This is some of the same confidence that makes me wake up on a Sunday more at peace with myself and the way that things in life are going.  I am excited to be making better decisions for my artwork and for myself.

Above are the completed secret plans.  I rather love these drawings and can't wait to see what Reed Altemus does with the work.  Collaborations are good for the soul as well.

I am also extremely excited to be updating my CV and placing small exhibitions in Portugal and Ireland in Group Shows.  I am an international artist now.  Ahem.  I am an internationally exhibiting artist now.  That was one of those goals that I had that when I finally achieved it I didn't really notice.  So, let it be known, that I just noticed.  Here is an image that Letters to Portugal shared on their Facebook page.  My piece has drops on it.

I'm looking forward to moving forward with some of these projects.  More images and comments, random notions and information to come later.  Have a good Sunday.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Please Thank the Mighty Lark For Me.

Last week I sent out a couple pieces of mail art to a very positive friend who had been a little down on her luck the past couple weeks.  In response to her mail art, which I had signed in my usual Mighty Lark persona, she asked me to "Please thank the Mighty Lark for me."  This was an amazing thing to read for me as I realized that all I've ever wanted to be was an artist and a super hero.  Now I am realizing that maybe those two things are not mutually exclusive.

People are finding the happy and I am glad to help where I can.  It can be a tumultuous life, but if we work together we can make it beautiful.  I apologize for the lack of art in this post.  I am just pleased to be doing my part and  I thought I would share that.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Listening to Wu and Working on a Friday

Today was a good day.  I made myself a list with 19 things on it and finished about 9.  That's not bad.  I never put small things on my lists.  Today I wanted to post a couple things to Society 6 so that I could have more iphone cases and prints for sale.  There are several new things up.  I am very excited by the idea of seeing my work on the back of someone's telephone.  That would be incredible.  You can access my Society 6 site here.

I also started another series of mechanisms that is my brain today while listening to the GZA.  GZA spits in such an intelligent way that I can't help but think of new ideas while listening to him.  The piece that I started working with today was all about pulleys and gears which interact with tape cassettes.  Check it out.

Last but not least, I received the confirmation that I am able to show 4 pieces in the SMCC faculty show which will be held at Rose Contemporary Gallery in downtown Portland.  Normally I would wait until the day that I am supposed to drop off pieces but today I prepped my pieces for hanging in advance.  All I need to do is deliver the pieces on Sunday morning.  Woot.

Life is pretty good.  The sun is helping my productivity.  I hope it is doing you some good too.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

More Collaboration and Listening to Records

Saturday I purchased a record player.  I love it.  It allows me to take time to think about the music that I am going to put on.  It does not require that I be attached to this sometimes loathsome machine.  It allows me to pause, watch a record spinning, listen to the music for what it is rather than as background and allows me the time to sit in my clean room.  I am currently blogging from my clean room.  There are no studio objects around me, just a lamp a futon, and a cat.  I am effectively alone and I think that might be okay.  I have a hard time being alone.  When I am sitting in this room and listening to my record player it feels easier.  Everything feels easier.  Staring at Facebook and Twitter trying to wrestle with my personal demons while watching the fruits of other peoples efforts seems a bit counterproductive, but when I am quiet, when I do not need to put on my anxiety induced act in public, when I am not trying recreate that feeling for an online platform that responds to positive statements, when I just allow myself to find my solace in 33 rpms, I am okay.

Why is it these simple things that help, and I do assure you that all of this ties into the art that I am posting this evening.  I saw a meme earlier today which claimed that being a creative was like having an internet browser with 2,847 tabs open.  This was of course an exaggeration for people's amusement, but as I read it I couldn't help but think that that is not always the case.  My "creativity" is a mercurial stepchild of Aphrodite and Judas Iscariot.  Sometimes it is beautiful and I feel that I can trust it, but then I turn my back and it is off dwelling on some emotional garbage which doesn't stimulate anything but more emotional garbage.  But really this is too harsh, what really is going on is that sometimes I can see everything clearly in my head.  I know what I want to do next.  I know what will make a successful piece.  I know who I am.  Other times, I feel more uncertain, wishy washy, and notably uncreative.  But I am finding that the easiest way for me to attack those feelings is found within the warm crackle of my records.  They command my attention.  I love listening to music perhaps more than I love making art.

And so when I started working on my series of machines making up the machine of my creativity, as I said before, I had start using references to music.  Music is what really drives me.  It provides my beat, presents my excitement in a different form, and allows the emotive outlet that I need without encumbering my artwork with those very heavy feelings.  Recently I had a coffee with a local artist who has been very active in the mail art, fluxus and small run book disciplines for many years.  He and I spoke quickly about doing a small limited run book.  Today I finished the first two pages.  They are pieces of the larger machine that provides the "key to my creativity."

I am very pleased with these segments of the machine.  They are a bit nonsensical, as I feel my own thoughts often are. 

Earlier today I finally got this month's Thursday Night Throw Down poster drawing done as well.  The idea came from old seed packaging and something that my friend Brittany said to me.  It was especially fun for me to try to do the Latin species bit of the Throwdown header.

I don't have much else to say tonight.  I'm going to sit and enjoy the rest of this An Horse record.  It is really good.  If you don't know them you should check them out.