Monday, April 26, 2010
A favoriate place of mine, a guilty pleasure is a store. It really is an aweful admission. For all my hippie lovin, pot throwin, gronola cruchin', tendencies one of my favoriate places is a consumer based non-environmentally friendly polyvinal crazy store. Where grown adults shamelessly trade their hard earned dollars for colorful objects pressed into the shapes of figurines. Toys.
Action, or lack of action figures that are desingned by artists in Asia, and North America, produced in China, where labor conditions are poor, to people like me who just cant help themselves. I know this and I still can't stop myself from indulging in happy meal sized figurnes with strange expressions smoking or expressing some kind of emotion through the cannon of colorful plastic typically reserved for childrens toys.
To analyze the act on a rational level is silly. I just like them.
Created by artists and designers the term "designer toys" applies to toys and collectibles that are produced in limited editions (10-2000). Illustraters and graffiti artists are also sometimes involved in the strange amalgomation of toy creation. Illustraters like Jeff Soto work in conjunction with this scene, allong with poster artists like Frank Kozik who designed posters for Neil Young, Nine inch Nails, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Beck, and The Melvins. Kozik now responsible for for the Smorkin' Labbits series by KidRoBot.
So maybe I'm not the only one who's been sucked into the world of Robot Love.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Serendipity: making fortunate discoveries by accident.
RULE TEN: "We're breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities." (John Cage)
Life's course unfolds. Watching from above one might see our fierce free will navigating through a series of circumstances beyond our control. Basking in this uncertainty can be viewed as a flailing about. OR If we are passionate about things...an opportunity for a series of unexpected/exciting inspirations. These seem to be handed to us from some place larger and wiser than what our current selves could have yet dreamed up. We are attached to the idea of being in control, which is ultimately impossible. Yet being full of intent does seem to matter. Often times connecting the dots and seeing the metaphors in retrospect helps frustrations melt away. Where you are now may not be what its actually about...but you had to be here in order to get THERE. By letting go, taking risk, and being open we can more rapidly grow into ourselves. Learning when to push and when to be pulled we slowly but surely stumble upon our destiny.
A few weeks ago I went to New York to interview my longtime hero, Eva Zeisel. I woke up that morning sick with a cold and a scratchy inaudible voice. I had prepared 103 complex questions for Eva in hopes of understanding every bit of her 103 years of life wisdom in the realm of ceramic industrial design. It was an unseasonably warm and sunny spring day. When I arrived Eva was sitting outside enjoying the sun. I handed her some calla lilies and I introduced myself (with my scratchy inaudible voice). She took my hand in hers and said "oh yes your hands are good, you are good." I was then informed by Eva's daughter that at 103 Eva is still completely sharp and aware but at this point has a very difficult time hearing. I was encouraged to go ahead and attempt to interview Eva even though I could hardly talk and she could hardly hear.
Somehow I missed that next bus and waited for the next one which was going to get me into the city just in time to catch my philly bus. This bus however managed to hit a car as we pulled into rush hour traffic. I arrived ten minutes late and missed my next bus. So I ended up stuck near Madison Square Gardens waiting for the 1am bus. Frustrated and all tired out I wandered a few blocks and was reminded that although I was stranded at night I was in New York after all and this was exciting.
Sure enough the streets were packed with people and they were all oddly caring around circus souvenirs. Being a circus lover I decided to follow the glow sticks and ended up in a back alley where I met a man lurking about. He explained to me that the circus was over but he and a few other circus groupies were waiting there because they were breaking things down and soon would bring out the animals. He knew this because he had grown up in the circus during WWII so often came to watch the old behind the scenes action. I too, knew a thing about behind the scenes circus life and upon closer inspection realized it was this very circus I was familiar with.
One of my more exciting memories of childhood is from the time I got to meet Barnum and Bailey's Circus when they came through Seattle. I was a poor hippy kid who rarely was allowed to interact with "society," but my Dad had the idea to trade them some garden vegetables so we could go watch the circus. Gunther the Lion Tamer's wife took a liking to me and brought me back stage to meet the acrobats and clowns. The evening was topped off with being introduced to the elephants and allowed to ride on one. This night has remained a strong memory not only because of the glamor of the rind stone jewels on Gunther's wife's feather head dress but because it was the first time I was able to realize the kindness of strangers.
So here I was in New York in a parking lot at midnight with a ragtag gang of circus groupies who also wanted to say hello to the elephants. There was the old man who had been a circus kid, an airline security guard from Jersey, two fellows from the Bronx, a woman who told me her email was gypsywanderer and a little boy from Morocco who didn't speak English,kept singing clicky songs to himself (but shared his roasted peanuts with me). Each of these people also had spontaneously let themselves be led/gravitated to this parking lot for what turns out was "The Secret March of the Elephants."
Each year the Barnum and Bailey Circus comes to town and performs at Madison Square Gardens and the only way to get the elephants there is by train but Penn station now only has escalators. Thus it is necessary for them to board the train in Queens, which means the Elephants must secretly march through the streets of Manhattan at midnight.
And so at the end of this very long and complicated day of journeying very far to meet with a very old hero I was able to randomly come across another very old, longtime hero that happens to be an elephant. It turns out the same elephant I had ridden on as a child still was with this circus. At around midnight this elephant walked out into the parking lot, (gave me a little nod?), joined its trunk with the tail of another elephant and took off into the busy streets of Manhattan, New York...
Eva Zeisel views her work as a "playful search for beauty" and the objects she designs as gifts. When I asked her if she had a particular individual in mind while designing or humanity in general she responded "there is no difference." Going to meet Eva (I now see) I had some undertones and motivations that were not the most pure and positive. I was in awe of her many accomplishments and fame and wanted to come in contact with her greatness before the rarity of its existence would be taken away from this world. I approached her that day with 103 questions thats underlying grief and desperation basically all wanted to know "How will this world (and modern ceramic design) go on without Eva Zeisel"?! Leaving Eva and the elephant that day I was reminded that this playfulness, this search and all that is beautiful do not belong to one particular person,thing, place or time...but are constantly there for all of us to tap into. It is the responsability of each of us to engage and actively create goodness. This force can not be forced, but if we stay passionate, sincere and open...serendipity can lead us there.
Thank you Eva and thank you circus Elephant...
with awe, gratitude, and love,
Monday, April 12, 2010
It seems that life and art can be quantified in terms of Joy, Impact, and Reflection.
fig. 1 a plant that has lead a good life by enjoying growing J
* Joy can be quantified through struggle as well as ease; Impact relates to the self as well as others ; Reflection refers to observation as well as transformation
2. I don’t know how many cappuccinos I’ve had this semester—but I think I finally kicked the habit once spring rolled around. I am now addicted to just stopping by Café Nerman out of habit. Just to get hot water for my tea, and to steal milk and sugar from them. It’s ironic that I almost asked them how to spell steal. Steel Steal. Milk.
3. Note to self: It is important to make money.
4. Note to self: though we think we lack money we live a decadent life at this school, and in this art world. It is still hard work, this living thing. And this art thing.
5. Note to self: Summer is almost here.
Monday, April 5, 2010
After working with clay for four years, the answer "i like to touch things" does not seem sufficient for this annoying question. Its time for an intellectual response.
This low-tier material deserve much more recognition. Yes, clay is abundant, and clay from every region has its own unique attributes. For example, China possess the best clay body for teapot called the "Purple Sand". This porous clay preserve the rich taste, while dense enough to maintain heat, flavor and color of tea overnight. Herend porcelain is another example of regional only material. Paint is the same whereever you go, so is bronze and aluminum. What other material can capture the essence of a region more direct than clay?
It is said that clay is at the bottom of the art-hiarchy, and i beg to differ. Clay can be made to look like anything. Lets make clay painting for example. Clay canvas can be manipulated and incorporated into the drawing. Real shadows can be used in conjunction with painted shadows, which created more depth. Impasto can be used much better with colored slip than regular paint. Can painters paint with glass? How about texture? Clay has much more variation of surfaces. Painting is the top of the art hiarchy? what a foolish remark, those who quote it shows their lack of insight. Painting cant even be utilitarin. Lets compare ceramic sculpture vs mix media sculpture. "bronze" bowl on top of a wooden foot? Both components can be thrown on the wheel and "bronze lustered" + painted on. What can other medias do that clay cant?
Ceramicists should take pride in their media, because conquering the process is respectable. Clay is definately a powerful materials. Mountains are made through collision of two slabs. Scorched earth is created through rapid drying and lack of compression. Lava rocks are made out of dried out reclaims. Because of clays complex process, it has much more possibility thus making it a more versatile material than any other media. A world without painting, photography, or animation wouldnt be much different, but without clay?
Monday, March 29, 2010
But, honestly growing up my dream job was to become a garbage man. I mostly wanted to ride on the rear of the truck while someone else drove really fast. But, my motivations never carried me to the waste management. Just to junk management. Going in to this job I imagined that would be driving at least a Porsche right? Wrong... Most gambling addicts don't have it in there budget to buy a Porsche or gasoline for the cars they do have. I can face the facts better then most. But, my co-workers on the other hand tend to get down trodden about the situation.
It's a well known fact between all of us that most people don't tip. So, my fellow comrades find other ways of making the work place a little more entertaining. Mostly involves daring stunts like driving through the parking garage in reverse and occasionally chasing geese around the parking lot. It's all done to kill time. In a way replace the tip that we should have gotten. The tip that makes up the majority of our hourly wage. The smiles that form on their faces when they tell you about the nasty car they just parked is the tip i take home. The weird smells and that the funny cars that I drive and the stories I hear. The stupid jokes and crazy conversations. These things are all food for thought and that is what keeps me coming back.
The things you see are like nothing you will see anywhere else. I guess you could say I'm addicted to documenting people who are addicted to gambling.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
"What Is Art For?" "Homo Aestheticus"and "Art and Intimacy" are three books that Ellen Dissanayake has published. Her work has been described as burning a new path in the way art is critically addressed and defined. "Although human ethologists have speculated about the origin and evolutionary function of many kinds of human behavior, art, which is after all a universal characteristic or "behavior" of humankind has not yet received much serious biologically based attention." Ellen Dissanayake gives art some serious biologically based attention in her books while addressing subjects varying from what does art do for people, the evolution of the behavior of art and the importance of feeling.
At a recent lecture held at UCM, Ellen gave a brief introductory to the underlying anthropological philosophies used in her three books. Ellen broke down the information into three categories and them elaborated on each one. The major themes included;
1. Social and material lives for modern(industrialized) and premodern(non industrialized) life
2. Making and Material and its importance
3. Everyone is an Artist
According to Ellen, premodern life on the human timeline stretches back much farther than the short time that is considered modern life for current industrialized humans. With this shift in life styles there has also been a shift in the way our social lives have been treated, and in her opinion many base needs that were once met have become neglected.
Premodern life was described as;
1. hunter gatherer society - no food storage
2. small intimate groups - 10-20
3. kin organization - everyone is considered family(biologically or not)
4. shared ideas - group mentality same ideas/goals
5. assigned identities - everyone had a position they had to fill
6. ritual ceremonies pervaded life
7. everything made with hands
Modern life was described as;
1. earn money buy things/accumulation is available
2. societies of strangers
3. Nation states
4. pluralistic culture - no one mind set
5. create own identity - you don't necessarily have a position that has to be filled
6. scientific explanation - instead of mythological
7. push buttons or non physical creation
8. nature at a distance - no direct relation/AC Central Heat
9. elitist idea of Art
Ellen then went on to describe five emotional needs premodern life provided that modern life neglects
1. mutuality - one love with another / baby to mother / lovers
2. belonging - an identity within a group
3. Meaning - for what you do and who you are
4. Competence - being able/ watching and doing (incompetence - computer illiterate people = helplessness)
5. Elaboration - showing that you really care about something / embellishment
Making and Materiality was the second subject that Ellen addressed in her lecture. She began it with the basic history of the liberation of the first humans hands for locomotion and their ability to be used in a creative manner. This was then developed into the pleasure of creating something new with your hands, body, and mind. This pleasure is something that has been neglected in everyday Modern life. Art was then proposed as the process of transformation. Linked back to the earliest example of culture or transformation and the example used by Bill Reid in his Book "The Raw and The Cooked", the act of processing food or cooking food was considered the earliest sign of culture or art. A more recent example was given with Herbert Cole's appropriation of the title with "The Raw the Cooked and the Gourmet." The idea that culture or art is created by the transformation based on aesthetic and high culture or art is the refinement or Elaboration of that transformation. Ellen then proposed that the term art be gotten rid of in total and that "ordinary and extraordinary" be instated in its place.
This statement transitioned the lecture into her final theme We Are All Artists. We all have the capability to make the extraordinary and to acknowledge things that are extraordinary therefor we are all artists. Through our most basic ceremonies and rituals we all make extraordinary events and objects. Whether it is the super bowl or the symbolic items we keep secret in our safest places, everyone has the capability to embellish and create symbolic significance.
As a whole this lecture made since to me in its most basic principles but i wasn't completely satisfied with the information. I will ask you the same question i asked her to see if i can gain some more clarity with this information. If we are all Artists and we can all make the ordinary extraordinary, what role do you think the Museum spaces and gallery spaces have in the definition, presentation and path of art and the artist?
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Sunday, February 21, 2010
the air was cold and smelt like cotton.
I could hardly move I was so bundled up
but we were going sledding on the hill
I felt like queen on that hill.
Overseer of the neighborhood.
I said it was an old Indian burial mound
but really the only thing buried in that hilltop was chickens.
From the peak, I could count ALL three of our brown cows.
It was mine to the taking, that hill.
I owned it with my sleds, wagons, and kites...
I was scared.
Scared to sled down the one steep side into the pasture's fence.
But I got pressured to go there- THERE- the forbidden side
It was exhilarating and terrifying.
I could not feel the bitter wind kiss my face.
I could not feel the jostle of frozen lumps beneath my sled.
I could feel only speed.
Then a jolt of pain and warmth spread over my face.
Through squints the whiteness contained garnet red.
I could hear muffled yells...It sounded like my name
I could hardly move I was so bundled up.
The air was cold and smelt like cotton,
I remember when I was six.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Chris Sickels is an independent 3-D illustrator who created Red Nose Studio. He uses his experience as a self-taught mixed media sculptor to create three dimensional illustrations that can then be photographed for publication. These pieces are made on the miniature scale using cardboard, scrap fabric, paints, and other found objects.
I was excited to discover such a unique combination of techniques. I really enjoy the idea of using sculpting in other ways, rather than just placing work on a pedestal. These images are not only powerful but also subtle in their presentation. They take on both two and three dimensional qualities when combined into a single scene. This type of work also allows someone who sculpts to have the same job opportunities as a freelance illustrator. With the right equipment, any clay sculpture could also be turned into an illustration for print. The power behind these images is strengthened by a very believable backdrop, created through painting, and set making. This illusion of space bridges the gap between the two dimensional and three-dimensional arts.
These same skills have also been applied by animators to create full length stop motion animations, like Peter and the Wolf.