Friday, January 16, 2015

The Contradiction is the Point

I am a little lost as to how to proceed with the piece I started working on in studio today. The current state of the piece is good. I am very pleased with where it has ended up. I chose to work through the suspicion that what I had in mind was an incomplete thought (painting.). 

The initial surface was covered in paint so I sanded down revealing aspects of the original painting and the paint that had gone over top and finally the newest piece that I began today. I painted in a checker board pattern that stretched from the top to the bottom of the piece with intermittent falling houses cross hatched in ballpoint pen over top. The tree painting on the first level of the piece is still vaguely visible through the hatch marks. 

This collection of curvilinear lines works we'll with the falling houses and the checkerboard pattern as does the color, but I fear that the limbs made of pipes do not add anything conceptually to the piece. Part of me thinks the color is working too well to sand any further down so I suspect that only working ballpoint pen back and forth with solid haloing colors is going to pull the eye away from the pipe layer of the piece. The other part of me suspects that I must remove the line work in the base layer. 

The right half of the work is occupied by a more warped grid bearing a painterly cassette. This grid is built off of the panel about an 1/8th of an inch and occupies the lower right hand quadrant. The negative space created above the grid seems unruly. I am not sure whether to attemp to attack this area with a subject that I can repeat across the panel, perhaps distracting the attention to the tree forms or to treat the area more atmospherically or finally to add another, more organic appearing pattern. I was trying to think this out tonight in my sketchbook. 

No answers are coming to me. I've worked myself into a corner of my choice. I am under the impression that I will have to just take a step while I am working on the piece, something that does not fit particularly well which will arrest my eye and change the course of the work. 

I fear that being too conservative might make the piece feel a bit constipated but if I do not plan the piece out at all there is a good chance of over working it. I am determined at this point just to go to studio tomorrow and see what happens.


Thursday, January 8, 2015


The amount with which I have felt this week is substantial.  I began the week waking in my best friends house.  She and her husband are my son's godparents.  I haven't laughed and smiled that hard in ages.  I then taught a workshop on Sunday night to a mixture of adults and children, feeling as accomplished as ever.  The next morning I was featured on WKAN The Bill and Allison Morning show, achieving a certain level of "rock star" that I had always dreamed of.  I then had dinner with a good friend of mine on the way home from Boston, and got turned around on the T because I forgot to read the station that we entered at.  I then drove home and walked through my front door expectant of two of my greatest friends greeting me, but only one did and the other never will again.  It has been a tumultuous turn to say the least.

The show in Kankekee seems like a great example of a small community within a tiny city rallying around the visual arts.  The citizens seem open and eager to talk to new people with new ideas.  It was quite refreshing working within the space.  It also seemed rather fitting to be on the radio in reference to a show in which I had hung a large installation piece depicting stereos and radios.  Here is a link to the interview in full.

Ultimately, when I arrived home, I found my beloved feline friend, Cedric curled in his spot on the couch, dead.  I am so immensely saddened by this as the two of us have been through so much together.  I wish him the best in the kitty heaven that was awaiting him.

It's back to studio as normal tomorrow.  I'm hoping getting in the swing again will help.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Coal Trane: Gotta Git it in Your Soul

It is my fourth morning in the Midwest. A wet snow has started to cover the ground. Word from home is that there is a larger snowy blanket awaiting my arrival. But yesterday was a cold rainy day, which found me in Feed Cultural Center's window, sporting headphones and finally installing Coal Trane: Gotta Git it in Your Soul. 

I had measured out the work but hadn't accounted for how significantly the balance of the work would be thrown off by the colored block transitions. After I had pieced together the top row and Coltrane had gotten into full swing with one of his more elaborate solos in A Love Supreme, I realized that I was going to have to modify my plans. Fortunately Feed has chop and scrap wood out back and I was able to make a dozen more sets of French cleats, saving my installation. The walls in Feed were not catered to taking nails or screws so that was a bit frustrating. Additionally, the extra cleats required more drywall screws than I had packed, but once again Feed had a few extras kicking around. These drywall screws were far more difficult to work with, however.  One set wouldn't work at all due to the stud behind the work. I eventually caved and used two pin nails to hold the last cleat in place and save the wall another hole. There is talk of improving the walls for hanging at the center and I think that that might be wise, but the folks that work there and the mission of the space are absolutely amazing. It's lovely to see such a center I a small Midwestern city. 

Overall, I am pleased with the way the installation worked out. Tonight I am doing a small totem workshop and there is an opening for Transmissions a show which includes six people who went to grad school with in Maine. 

It's a food start to 2015. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015


I am in Chicago sitting quietly on a friends couch waiting for the illustrious Shirah Neumann to pick me and drive us to Kankakee, IL, a town which I have never heard of, to install a show called "Transmissions."  The installation is loosely titled "Coal Trane," but I am not sure that it will stay that. En route to Chicago I started reading Amiri Baraka's "Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music."

Baraka is an intense sound. At first I found his writing very difficult to follow. His rhythm fell very much in an African realm. It felt disjointed to me, a person who had never experienced that language in a medium other than hiphop and soul music. But after I reached his essay on rhythm the text began to move with a strikingly poetic fluidity. It is always difficult to read the history of blacks and other ethnic minorities in America as it is near impossible to do so without feeling an immense amount of guilt, but Baraka lenlighttened me with a truth that was always right in front of my face. So obvious was the thought that I felt not guilty, but embarrassed when he led me to it. We were always taught about the history of Blacks in America. This is what THEY had to go through. Even in the sense of our learning about the Afro-American culture we are encouraged to view this race as other. It's a little painful to be able to draw similarities between a David Attinborough special and the history of a people that make up a significant portion of our populace. 

And so Baraka has left me thinking. He goes on to speak about how people dig for information, for communication, for the need to feel as one, and for the love of life, exemplified rather than ignored through the need to get down. As I've read this book it has occurred to me how much the music has always meant to me. This piece started as a pun on Coltrane, coal Trane, because it sounded like soul train. This made me think of all the music that I thought fueled my soul, but I realize now that that is wrong. I realize now that the music is our soul. It is the personification of an idea that swims in the ether of our being. If you feel it you can hear, play it, paint it. But if you can't then you are left outside waiting for your heart to beat. 

So blow that horn blow and feel that jam from the ground through your feet and all over this wide planet. The key to the world playing nice is feeling. You can feel the world if you feel their jams. Don't listen. Be the vibe and find the groove.  Drop the needle and spin into another condition. You gotta git it in your soul man.