Monday, December 21, 2009

Donut Holes and Art Basel

This December I finally made it to Art Basel, Miami. For the past five or so years I have been traveling when Basel comes to town, so I missed it. Heading down south this first time, I must confess to a kind of country-mouse-going-to-the-big-city-nervousness. I must also confess that I fully expected I95 southbound to be clogged with travelers headed south to Miami. But then, a friend reminded me that as important as Basel is, it is still “just art…” Suffice to say my assumptions were incorrect on both parts.

The main reason I wanted to head south was to goggle at Jenny Rubell’s donut installation. I’d read about her food/opening/installation for the Performa 09 Biennial: an “interactive culinary experience,” based on the book of Genesis. The goal was: Five hundred guests moving through three floors, eating a course on each. Honey will drip from the ceiling onto 2,000 pounds of barbecued ribs (think: God creating woman) and guests were asked to destroy and consume chocolate facsimiles of Jeff Koons's bunny sculpture (made by Jacques Torres).” Interspersed in the exhibit were 1,000 lbs of peanuts in the shell, drinks served in assorted Mason jars, and full-sized apple trees felled for the exhibit.

When I first read about this great festival of consumption and destruction, several thoughts occurred rather simultaneously:

1. She’s using food that though uniquely American, is regionally Southern. Ribs, peanuts, Mason jars, even honey evoke a specific image of a non-specific place.

2. It’s the time of year when people turn towards large, communal feasts…the desire to dress in spangles and glitz at odds with the primary activity of the season: eating and drinking.

3. The communal, almost primitive nature of gnawing flesh of ribs, of licking honey of fingers, melting chocolate in hands and bits of peanut clinging everywhere as in direct opposition to the “white walled” gallery.

When considering these elements, I really like (there’s no other word for it) the concept. My only objection (and this probably reveals more about myself than the artist or the work), is the point of departure. That is, I feel as if the use of Genesis as explanation is a little on the nose. The use of food often associated with the Bible Belt, to evoke a deeper sense of Americana seems like it might not need the added presence of Genesis. But, I wasn’t there. And Rubell’s own statement, “the idea of being human is more important than the idea of being perfect,” is elegant and inherently forgiving…perhaps seasonally appropriate?

So it was with great excitement that I scurried into the Rubell collection, and upon spotting the donut installation, “Old Fashioned,” at the back of the space, headed in that direction, in the process almost bowling over Val Kilmer, to snatch my piece of interactive installation glory. The donut was kind of stale. And I liked the back of the exhibit better than the front.

Though “Old Fashioned” had a kind of digital gridlike appeal, balanced against the myriad imperfections of the donuts themselves…it lacked the oomph I was hoping for. However, I can’t be too dismissive, Rubell had fresh donuts brought in every day before the collection opened to the public, and had to find an edible solution to a problem that included Miami heat, the hoi polloi, and blue-chip art. So though it may have lacked the pomp and circumstance I was looking for, as a kind of gentle, sideways nudge in her NYC direction, it was successful.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Printed v. Posted...a few rambling thoughts

I’ve been thinking a lot about how blogs function…more specifically, the people for whom they function. When I was working full-time in an office, my blog—and the blogs of others were a way for me to feel connected to a greater community, to feel like I wasn’t actually isolated in an office, but instead, thinking important thoughts about interesting things. Then to use the online forum as a way to sort out my thoughts, or to post observations I’d made at shows.

However, since I no longer work in an office setting, my connection to the online world is more sporadic. When I write, I of course spend time scuttling back and forth between the job at hand and, say, the NY Times. But as far as reading material goes, I find myself returning to the printed word. To those items you hold in your hand, mark with whatever paper is handy, and perhaps jot down notes.

Then, when Josh Jubinsky began creating a Zine collection for the library, I was forced to consider the matter of the printed word vs. the online word. And though I’ll never decry the ease, convenience, and speed the interwebs grants us, I must confess to a knee-buckling weakness for the printed word.

Even Zines, with their often scrawled, hyper-articulated screeds are inherently more interesting and successful than the most erudite and elegant web page. And not just because it is something you hold in your hand, but because it takes a kind of fearlessness and confidence to commit things to the printed page. Especially, when it’s a self-funded project printed by a Xerox machine on hot pink paper, accompanied by shaky line drawings.

I’m curious to see if, in the following few years, we (as a culture) see a ressurange in self-published documents and manifestos. Then again, I might be romanticizing the whole thing (and Kindles will take over the world).

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Baroness

In an aviator's cap and striped suit of her own design, circa December 1915.
Posing/performing circa 1915-16.
Portrait of Bernice Abbott, circa 1924.
Brittany Murphy as the Baroness in a shoot for the New York Times Magazine, circa 2002.

Orpheus reference, circa 1915.

It’s funny, just I am being called out for letting my blog limp along… I’ve been working on a more cohesive essay. It certainly is true that since this summer, my posting has been {ahem} sporadic. But there were quite a few things going down that I needed to tend to. And though I’d like to think that my recent activity prefigures a return to writing, in truth, I can make no such claim.

All I can do is what I’ve always done: advocate for working, thinking, and telling jokes.

This summer, instead of steadying my outward gaze after things shifted, I began to look inward. I began a slightly compulsive and utterly self-indulgent journey through art time. That is, I started with Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and moved my way through several biographies and biographical sketches of many of the people living in post WWI Paris, characters who’d been referenced in “Feast.” Individuals who now are so deeply entrenched in the canon of 20th Century Art (caps intentional), that is almost impossible to think of them as living, breathing people.

But they were. And they were as deeply flawed, perhaps more so than the rest of us. And so, not only is it instructive from the art historian’s perspective, it’s instructive for actively practicing artists to see that things like living situations, money, recognition, and the struggle to find balance between vision and market are issues modern artists have always been forced to deal with.

But I digress.

In the course of reading many of these biographies, one person’s name kept popping up as an aside, as a kind of internal joke, cited as equal parts inspiration and damnation.

The Baroness Elsa von Freytag Lorninghoven, was born in 1874 in Swinemude, Germany. She was older than many of her later friends and lovers, and writer Irene Gammel cites her as a living example of “decadent old Europe.” While discussing “old Europe’s decadence,” it is worth noting that Elsa married her title—she was not born to it. But even after she divorced the Baron, she kept the title.

Gammel’s book, Baroness Elsa: Gender, DaDa, and everyday Modernity, examines von Freytag-Loringhoven’s life through the lens of feminist theory with gender overtones. That is to say instead of letting the Baroness’s work (poetry and assemblage for the most part) and “performances” speak for themselves, Gammel goes as far to equate Elsa’s voracious, aggressive sexuality with a conscious prefiguring of the role of women in the 20th century.

Baroness Elsa, filled as it is with biographical details, photographs, and poetry is a valuable, if curious source of material that presents a decidedly less favorable view of some of art history’s favorite heroes. But therein is the crux of my disagreement with the book…while creating in the Baroness a figure of sexual heroism and freedom, Gammel’s book also seems to inherently take to task those surrounding Elsa. While at the same time, revealing that Elsa herself, after seducing or “sexteaching” her companions then took this as a sign/agreement that they would support her, and continue to do so even after they split. Opportunism anyone?

While overall the book is extraordinarily researched, and makes one reconsider the origins of some of Duchamp and Man Ray’s breakthrough pieces (she is rumored to be the model in his 1921 Coat Stand and there is circumstantial evidence that suggest she sent Duchamp his urinal), as well as the importance of DaDa and the origins of the Little Review, it does seem to vacillate between a shrilly self-righteous tone and one of hero worship. Consider this passage describing a photograph of the aging Baroness en costume*:

“Her Joan of Arc helmet of hair is decorated with an oddly feminine headband like the one she wore in Lechter’s Orpheus. Surprised by the camera in midpose, her body is bent over; her self-made chiffon dress reveals the nude body underneath. The viewer gleans a look at her strong athletic legs and her extended back; her feet are tightly wrapped in ballet shoes laced around her ankles, the right foot posing on the toe, as if she were a ballerina. Her studio surroundings look makeshift, as if to announce that creative élan arises in the midst of chaos […] here we find the paraphernalia of her performance art, evidence that by December 1915 the Baroness was performing herself. She has already fully developed her trademark personality: caustic, vitriolic, daring, pushy, confrontational, shameless, shocking, and aggressive.”

*pictured above, labeled Orpheus reference.

Insofar as the very act of writing about something is a tacit acknowledgement of it’s power, this passage, especially when contrasted with the image to which is refers seems like a stretch.

The image could just as easily be read as an aging, mentally ill woman descending deeper into her own psychosis. Living in chaos and filth and because of her personality traits, combined with her list of talents friends, has drawn someone onto her own pathology…if even for an afternoon to photograph her. Of course, it is equally possible that an enterprising photographer sought to capture her on film because of her extraordinary circumstances...high drama and banal craziness all in one.

Consider the description with which Gammel follows up her interpretation of the Baroness posing in a chiffon curtain: “Louis Bouche tells us that during this early period, the Baroness ‘lived in total disorder in the Lincoln arcade buildings with an assortment of animals, mostly mangy dogs and cats.’”

It is not von Freytag-Loringhoven’s creative output (especially her poetry) or her streetside “performances” that are being taken to task here, or even questioned. Rather, it is the tendency of writers and art historians to elevate the mundane and unpleasant facets of an individual’s life…to give them undue, unwarranted significance thereby undermining the very institution (academe) for which they stand.

Certainly it is true that Baroness Elsa prefigured performance artists like Leigh Bowery, Michael Alig, and Soigne Deluxe. In addition to breezing through the lives of the “Paris set,” (but first in NYC) who eventually found themselves to be international darlings, she no doubt struck a blow for feminism, art, and fasion. But in ascribing noble motives and heroic strength to her every move, it devalues what she actually did, turning her—and by extension the writer--into a parody of feminist thought/action.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I found this image on my friend Yvonne Lozano's Facebook page, from artist Mary Atwood. I love how the grandeur of the smoke/exhaust contrasts with the small determinedness of the shuttle itself.

Of all the things our government wastes money on, I am down with NASA.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I found this on youtube, from one of my favorite young photographers: Dana Goldstein (here). It reminds me of roller skating backwards.

(forward to the one minute mark for the impatient).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

OUCH or painting is ever the challenge; the goal

Damien Hirst's new paintings are being panned left and right. Without proper access to them (or to a good magazine reproduction, it's hard for me to say what I think. Though I think I like some of the ideas and direction...the paint handling itself seems tight and fussy, and not in a good way (but that judgement s made through online slide-shows...not the best representations).

Either way, reading the press surrounding the new stuff (especially the vitrolic British press) is satisfying in a biting sort of way.

Here are the fun-filled links:

The Guardian

The Observer (via The Guardian)


Monday, October 5, 2009

Art Institute Photo Show

I love photography because it is the world, but different. Come out and check out a show with some of Jacksonville's leading and emerging commercial/editorial photographers.

Jeanne Caisullo
Walter Coker
Laura Evans
Natalie McCray
Garry McElwee
Eric Staniford

Thursday, October 8, 5-9 p.m.

Art Institute
8775 Baypine Rd
Jacksonville, FL 32256-8528
(904) 486-3000

Above image by Natalie McCray.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

New Work At JIA

Cabeth over at the JIA arts Commission was kind enough to invite me to show works in the kiosks at the airport. She asked for more three-dimensional works, and since I had been kicking around this vitrine/vessel idea, it was good incentive for me...often I am really, really good at the talking parts of ideas.

That being said, I produced some new pieces I am rather pleased with, and since I do not expect people to go out to the airport to ogle my work, here are some samples.

The works are found object, acrylic vitrine, and balsa wood (though I think in the future, I'll use birch plywood and a jigsaw). They are prototypes and I hope to watch them evolve.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Sixties Aren't Dead, Just Evolving: Sonia Sanchez at the Ritz

“All poets, all writers are political. They either maintain the status quo, or they say, ‘Something’s wrong, let’s change it for the better.’ That’s what my life has really been about.” –Sonia Sanchez

Last Thursday I went to see Professor Sonia Sanchez at the Ritz Theatre. Before being invited, I had never heard of the radical poetess who confronts social and economic disparities in her work.

Alternately an integrationist and separatist, Sanchez began teaching in San Francisco in 1965, developing black studies courses; while, her poetry addressed the conditions and ramifications of being a person of color in America.

“we are sudden stars
you and i exploding in
our blue black skins.”

When Professor Sanchez spoke, she read some poems and told stories of youngsters in crisis, of how so many kids still can be “filed” under/written off because they are underprivileged, underserved, and utterly forgotten. Of how they’ve never had someone to love them, to care whether they lived or died, and of how humor and compassion can be used to send them a lifeline.

These used to be the kinds of things I thought about a lot. And not just because I too was a public school kid, getting by on scholarships and financial aid. But as those days get further and further behind me, I find myself settling into a kind of middle-class stupor. Cushioned with all the comforts of home and stability, my once commentary work has instead turned personal and arcane.

Though there might not be too much I can do to change the trajectory of what I do and what I write about, I can, as Professor Sanchez suggests, make phone calls and write letters. Especially in my own community.

Professor Sanchez talked about the time she and her sons were watching a baseball game. And the batter made a magnificent hit, the kind of hit that no outfielder should be able to catch, but one player, running faster and harder than all the rest, leapt up and caught the ball. It was breathtaking and she and her kids were high-fiving one another until the announcer voiced over saying, “Wow Jim, didya see that monkey run?!” Immediately the jubilation in their home was replaced by anger and Sanchez went to the phone.

She called the station, and kept calling until she spoke to someone to whom she could voice her disgust. Ultimately the sportscaster issued an apology. Of course, it probably didn’t change the way he thought, but it did force him to acknowledge that you can’t say things like that because people are listening…and they’ll say something.

Listening to the very words people say is another tactic Sanchez advocates, because it is there that you find out what they are thinking. Of course, it also bears mentioning that the Professor advocated the entire audience refrain from gossiping for a week in order to clarify their urine…but that’s another topic for another time (she is 75 and a little crazy after all).

The lesson to take away? Stop just sitting on the sofa, one need not be out protesting in the streets to affect change…letters and phone calls work too. The important thing is to pay attention.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Shameless Self Promotion Alert!

This Friday: join me and a bunch of other artists at Jane Gray Gallery for a look at contemporary work made in the past year. I'll have two new pieces in the show, and also "There to Here," (pictured) which was featured in the July issue of Water's Edge Magazine.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cake Spotting

A few weeks ago I decided to bake a cake whose recipe I’d been looking at and thinking about for a week: Ruth Reichl’s Apricot Upsidedown Cake. Taken from her 1971 cookbook, Feastiary, this would be the second Reichl recipe I’ve tried since discovering her writing.

Reichl was the food critic for the NY Times, until she was offered editorship of Gourmet magazine. She’s known for a deliberately democratic approach to food writing (she was the first Times critic to ever assign three stars to noodle restaurants and other eateries not firmly in the European/French tradition). She is also known for the kind of writing you wish you did (or at least I wish I did): i.e. funny, warm, succinct, and mildly nostalgic.

In preparing the recipe, I was struck not just by the flavors, brown sugar, butter, and apricots…but by the simplicity of it. I imagined a meadly of toasty caramel flavors, set off with a simple golden cake underneath…and the apricots all turned to candy.

Was I wrong.

Imagine instead gloppy sugar-butter topping, too moist fruit (so I used peaches instead of canned apricots—none to be found in Jax), and a cake with too much sugar, so it scorches the top (which will be the bottom). After I pulled the cake out of the oven and tried to peel the burnt part off, I thought the cake might be rescued if I cooled it…turning it (maybe) into more of a bread pudding-like desert.


After trying it again, two hours later, it still tasted like something from Reader’s Digest circa 1977…before America realized it didn’t have to eat like it was still the war and things in cans weren't so good for you.

Baking is a science. So although I think I could see my way to creating something with these flavors, only a more subtle, fresh version, I am not sure I have the patience to try and try again.

I’m not sure what I take away from the whole experience other than beware of recipes from 1977…except maybe to remember that nostalgia is a dish best served sparingly…and probably cold.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Madeleine II: the follow up

So it's been a while since I posted anything here and that's because I have had a really rough summer...but I finally seem to be coming to the end of it (summer and rough times). Hopefully, in the next couple of days I'll post stories and processing I've done over the break I never meant to take.

Until then, know this: Ernest Hemingway's house smells like cat pee.

p.s. pic credit goes to Natalie McCray

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


My two grandfathers were friends their entire lives. And though I try to steer away from the maudlin or overtly self-indulgent on this blog, one of of my grandfathers has passed.

The other, 91 years old and walking with difficulty, wants to be a pall bearer. My heart breaks for his honor and dignity.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Call to Artists

This crossed my desk, and though it's pretty last-minute-ish, I thought some people might be interested. If you want the entry PDF, email me and I'll forward it on to you:

The LAB Gallery @ MOCA

JUNE 11TH – AUGUST 27TH, 2009

The LAB Gallery is located on the 1st Floor of The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, adjacent to the Museum Store. The informal display is intended to offer an exhibition and sales opportunity to emerging local and regional artists in a high visibility downtown setting. Two artists will be exhibited simultaneously in five exhibitions throughout the summer.

Friday, May 29, 2009

enigma and enthusiasm

I like Matt...I think he's funny and reflective (and not just because he wears shiny clothing). And on an certain level, his work is informed by absurdity....the great-great-great-grandchild of Dada.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

For Brian..we love you man.

I don’t have health insurance. That doesn’t make me unique by far. And for the most part, I don’t really think about it. I don’t think about it until I am forced to. Luckily for me, the setbacks in my life have always been fairly small…however, that’s not the case for everyone.

Brian Hicks, one of Jacksonville’s most well-known, and well-loved musicians has cancer, again (I mistakenly thought it was brain cancer, it is not). Undoubtedly you’ve probably heard about the various and ongoing fundraising efforts for his medical bills. And so far, the community seems pretty committed.

Here’s another chance to help out a friend while checking out some new work. Mark George has organized a benefit, “I Love Brian,” on May 29, 6-9 p.m., at Flux Gallery.

Mark said, “Brian Hicks, well known in the riverside and San Marco community in Jacksonville is a very well accomplished musician that needs our help with his personal battle with cancer. He is suffering now for the second time in 3 years. His hospital bills are piling up, and benefits for Brian have been organized and generated a good amount of money already. Now is the time for us to pull together to help Brian in this very dark point in his life.”

flux galley
1011 Park Street
Jacksonville, FL 32204
in Historic Five Points

*according to Mark, all the proceeds go to Brian.
**for a sneak peek, go here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New Cummer Director

Directly from the Cummer:

Edward W. Lane, III, chair of the Board of Trustees for the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, announced Hope McMath as the museum’s new Director.

McMath has served as Interim Director, Deputy Director of Programs, Director of Education, Associate Director of Education and Art Historian at The Cummer since 1994. She holds her Masters of Arts in Teaching and Bachelor of Fine Arts from Jacksonville University and is a prolific printmaking artist.

“Hope McMath has long been recognized as a creative and industrious arts educator, but she surprised and delighted the museum’s Trustees and staff with her strong leadership as interim director during the past several months. We are fortunate to have such a talented and accomplished individual lead The Cummer,” said Lane.

As a result of McMath’s leadership and vision, The Cummer’s educational programming and interactive arts center, called Art Connections, is known nationally as a model for arts education programs. During her six-year tenure as Director of Education more than 210,000 school children have visited the museum. The four-day VSA Festival serves children with disabilities and has grown exponentially under her direction. Since its beginning 14 years ago, it has grown to host 2,500 children annually supported by more than 1,300 volunteers and more than two dozen community partners. As Deputy Director of Programs she launched the Weaver Academy of Art, supported by a $1 million endowment from the J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver, to reach underserved students in Jacksonville. The program integrates the arts into the children’s education, homes and lives impacting entire families, schools and communities. “Art Connections is a nationally and regionally recognized leader in accessible, quality arts programming that engages and promotes a life-long love of the arts in all students. It is this leadership and excellence that initially encouraged us to endow the Weaver Academy of Art,” said Wayne Weaver.

As Interim Director she has worked with Museum Curator Holly Keris to reshape an exhibition schedule highlighting many of the museum’s collections and donors and is spearheading a three-year strategic planning process for the museum. “The museum’s donors, collection, programs and gardens are great strengths that are both unique to The Cummer and an exciting palette to work with – I am thrilled to lead the strategic planning process that will leverage and engage these assets to their greatest benefit for this community,” said McMath. “The magic that happens when our visitors engage with the art, the gardens and one another inspires me to blend strong Cummer tradition with a fresh vision for the coming years.”

“As incoming Chair, I am enthusiastic about working with Hope over the next two years. She is the right leader with a terrific set of skills that will see the museum through these tough times and position us to be a more dynamic and strong institution than ever before,” said Jim Van Vleck, vice-chair.

McMath replaces Maarten van de Guchte who resigned in April.

The Place We All the Loved Most

Friday, May 15, 2009


So, I know my posting has been spotty lately and for the next week or so it'll continue to be. Tomorrow I'm getting married, and then we're heading out of town. It's a small affair, but the food should be great, and I couldn't be happier!

Wish me luck making it down the isle in my designer shoes.

I'll resume posting next week. In the meantime, I urge you to support the Brian Cancer II event at Eclipse this Sat., night. I'm donating a large framed piece from the new series, and starting the bidding low, low, low.

Show Brian lots of love.

Monday, May 11, 2009

small victories

I just got am email from Allison Graff, the Art in Public Places Program Manager (for) the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. As many of you probably already know Allison has been sick due to a virus that attacked her heart. Read more here.

We are pleased to welcome her back to her job, and look forward to seeing her smiling face at future events and just around town!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Once they're gone, they're gone

First off, let me begin by thanking everyone who came out to the Thursday night show...and even those who meant to make it, but ran out of time. The show went really well, and except for me getting a little tipsy and spilling my drink, I also managed to hold it together, and (I think) talk articulately about the new work...where it's coming from and how I hope to proceed.

However, this isn't meant to be a lauditory post to stroke my ego, I want to bring the issue of proposed neighborhood destruction to your attention (especially if you live in Riverside. My friend David White (who is also a realtor with integrity) forwarded the following link to me. Here's an excerpt:

"Riverside may lose the last remnants of the historic Riverside Clinic and Riverside Hospital if a local developer follows through on plans for a drive-through pharmacy.

That has preservationists upset, especially because they say they were not made aware of the project.

"I can wholeheartedly say there's no way we would support the demolition of those buildings," said Carmen Godwin, executive director of the nonprofit Riverside Avondale Preservation Inc. "It would be a devastating loss."

In March, the city issued a concurrency statement to Renaissance at Riverside Inc. saying that the city's infrastructure, such as utilities and traffic, would be able to handle the developer's proposal to build a pharmacy after demolishing a historic office building and nearby house.

The two properties - the Jelks Building, a three-story, tan brick building; and a two-story Prairie School brick house on Margaret Street - are across the street from Memorial Park next to the Villas of St. Johns apartment complex, and across Riverside Avenue from the Publix-anchored Riverside Market Square."

Read the rest here, including how the developer received incentives from the city, and tried to sneak this through without RAP's knowledge.

Here's a link to City Council, and as soon as I find out the person/people to whom one should direct ire, I'll post that info here.

I will also post pictures of the property later.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Big Night

So I just finished hanging the show, and it looks good, though now I don't...If you'd like to come, I'd love to see you there.

6-10 p.m., the Design Cooperative, LLC, 1032 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville (across from Reddi-Arts), 904.612.6058.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sneak Peek

For the most part, I don't like to post up new work until it has been in a show...however, here's a little look at one of the pieces I'll be putting in the Dwarfs and Giants Show. It's actually the work that is featured on the invite.

Hope to see you there!

May 7, 6-10 p.m.
the Design Cooperative
1032 Hendricks Ave., (across from Reddi Arts)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hirst for Supreme


dwarfs and giants: a show

The premise behind the show is some very large works will be available, but also some very small, and perhaps more appropriately priced pieces will be available as well. Plus, it's gonna be a good time!

Hope to see you all out.

And yes, as we get closer, rest assured I'll go on and on about it...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Folio goes to the Cummer

When Folio Weekly announced its call for artists for its inaugural art show, I admit, a derisive chuckle may have escaped. Though Folio has been a long-time supporter of the arts, their focus has always been music. Or so it seems to me (and I used to write for them).

I then did a little research on the gentleman selected to be juror, Folio Weekly Art Director W. Kelley Lucas. I’d heard good things about him, however, looking at is work, which seems to have greater ties to comic, illustration, and satirical traditions, I arrogantly thought that the bent exhibited in his work would be evident in the show selections.

Though there is a distinct lowbrow/underground vibe to the show that could arguably be linked to Lucas’s personal aesthetic, as a whole, the show is thoughtful and surprising. And perhaps most exciting of all, there are several artists on display whose work I was not familiar with.

Franklin Matthews’s muddy green landscapes seem to consciously defy the clear, white-blue light so often depicted in NE FL landscapes. Almost tangibly hazy, the works seem quickly, but confidently executed and the boggy sensations the paintings evoke make me want to check my shoes for mud.

Clay Doran, the alter-ego of the artist Squid-dust presented two works which are based on the decay of the urban landscape. Using rickety window casings with the glass still intact adds to the feeling that Doran has rescued the piece from the “city floor,” and through a change of context reinvented it.

Edmund Dansart’s work is also evolving. His palette and brushstokes, though still conveying a great deal of agitation bow to the greater impact of his work as a whole. Which accomplishes much more through sly humor than his earlier grimmer and more narrative works did.

Overall, though I’d say the show displays what might be described as a Folio-esque aesthetic, it hangs together well….and even in that lowbrow-ish bent is still very much in keeping with values and interests that former director Maarten van de Guchte took the museum in. Specifically his interests in Americana and folk art.

Featured artists include:
• Brian Gray
• Casey Matthews
• Chad Landenberger
• Clay Doran
• Daryl Bunn
• David Hansford
• Edmund Dansart
• Matt Abercrombie
• Franklin Matthews
• James Greene
• Jose Cue
• Leigh-Ann Sullivan
• Christina Foard
• Logan Zawacki
• Mark Estlund
• Matthew Bennett
• Sarah Crooks Flaire
• Zac Freeman

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fine Art and Inflatable Tanks: the 2009 Arts Awards

The Cultural Center’s Arts Awards luncheon was today, and thanks to thoughtful friends at the Cultural Center, I was able to attend.

Though I like the arts awards, in some way they strike me as odd: a kind of quantifying of the unquantifiable. However, they generally have good speakers, and it is always gratifying to hear many of these people speak. Though my favorite still is the 2006 address given by Charles Landry. Not only did he have real, tangible ideas, his energy was infectious. Sometimes I still try to think about projects in the manner he might.

This year’s awards, beautiful objects in their own right, were designed by artist Grant Ward, the Keynote Speaker was Robert Lynch of the Americans for the Arts nonprofit agency, and the recipient of the Individual Arts Award went to Marty Lanahan of Regions Bank. Incidentally, when they showed video footage of her in her office, in several of the shots, she was seated in front of a Kurt Polkey piece, When I Grow Up, I Will Own America.

Robert Lynch spoke for maybe a half an hour, and the thrust of his speech was the integral role the arts have played in cultures across the ages. Among others, he cited the pyramids and the Parthenon—which, according to Lynch was divisive in it’s time, called “a wasteful and grandiose gesture.”

He also noted that there was a branch of the military, a secret branch composed entirely of “creatives.” This was the branch that infamously came up with the idea of inflatable tanks with which to fool the Nazis (because at that point, the Allies were short on lots of things). Lynch made the point that though the arts can be a “secret weapon,” that perhaps now is the time for them not to be so secret.

Though I agree with Lynch about the arts not being so secret, I’d like it if grant money wasn’t so secret too…or at least the process by which one is awarded it here in Jacksonville. But that might just be me and my sour grapes, after all, I was turned down for a grant last year…

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Quick Word

From Mr. Reinhardt concerning the nature of the marketplace:

"If you're a buyer if artists you don't get what you wants for what you pays for.

You pays for what the artist wants, that's what you gets.

The artist is singing before the collector calls the tune."

-from his unpublished, undated notes...though I am not sure how well that applies today, I liked the optimistic bent of it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

not more communism but more public-spirited pigs

Truly the parallel and overlapping paths of history are fascinating. Just this morning, I read a juicy little tidbit that note that T.S. Eliot himself wrote the rejection letter to George Orwall re.: the publication of Animal Farm.

From the letter (recently made public):

"We have no conviction that this is the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation at the current time,” wrote Eliot, adding that he thought its “view, which I take to be generally Trotskyite, is not convincing”.

Eliot wrote: “After all, your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals, and therefore the best qualified to run the farm – in fact there couldn’t have been an Animal Farm at all without them: so that what was needed (someone might argue) was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.”


Later, Animal Farm was published by Secker & Warburg, and since then has gone on to be a triumph of 20th Century Literature.

Friday, April 10, 2009


I’ve resisted commenting on what’s happening over at Globatron because I thought it was pretty much an exercise in didactic dogma and circular thinking. However, with the recent turn of events, I thought I’d draw a parallel between what’s happening there and the Communist Revolution in China in the middle of the last century.

After the Communist forces took over, ostensibly to help the common people and create a more equal society things went well for awhile, but eventually Party leaders were corrupted. Ideas and ideals were distorted, a program of counter/mis-information, bully tactics and gross human rights violations ensured.

Also, as people were starving to death, provincial party leaders were generating reports of record-breaking crops and productivity. All lies to serve what the leaders saw as a greater good, i.e. reinforcing their political goals and dogma.

A good idea gone wrong.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Other's Words

I've been reading a lot lately. Yesterday it was a Diane Arbus bio, today I'm on to Man Ray. I'm not selecting these artists necessarily because I am such a huge fan of their work, rather, I am intrigued by the times they lived in, the people they's kind on like constant, ongoing, but pleasant research. And through reading (and looking) I can create, in my own mind, a picture of the times they lived in, and in so doing, help understand my own.

That being said, when I ran across the following paragraph of Arbus speaking about her own work, I thought that not only does it apply (probably) to a whole bunch of creative people, but it's also a great description of the "mean reds," that Holly Golightly talkes about in Breakfast At Tiffany's.

"Partly what happens though is I get filled with energy and joy and I begin lots of things or think about what I want to do and get all breathless with excitement and then quite suddenly either through tiredness or a disappointment or something more mysterious the energy vanishes, leaving me harassed, swamped, distraught, frightened by the very things I thought I was so eager for! I'm sure this is quite classic.''

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Let Us Now Rejoice

There are few things more satisfying to me than doing research on a topic I am {at the time} obsessed with. I love the feeling of putting the pieces together, of gaining deeper knowledge and of creating a context that I understand not in an abstract way, but one that borders on the tactile...maybe even instinctive.

So when I read this morning that on April 21, an online resource called the World Digital Library will launch...I was practically beside myself...and like many a bookish researcher before me, struggled with whether or not to share this news with others. Obviously excitement and practicality overcame selfishness and secrets.

Read the whole (short) story here.

And as a stopgap, check out the site Europeana: "an online archive of European culture to which more than 1,000 European national libraries, museums and institutions have contributed content. It proved so popular on its launch in November, with 10m hits an hour, that it had to be temporarily closed."

I imagine that in the coming weeks and months, I'll need to work very hard not waste hours tracking down obscure facts and bits of lore. I can't wait!

*pictured: a page from a 17th century Irish psalter, featuring David and Goliath from Europeana.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Yours, Mine, Ours

Last night was the closing event for phase one of Matt Allison’s “What’s Mine is Yours.” I stopped by the unfinished space at 323 Bay Street, and to my pleasure and surprise was early. The space, currently in the throws of renovation had the empty, dank, forgotten air of a basement…but was not without the spark of possibility. In fact, according to Allison, the space is slated to become a nightclub.

Entering the cool, slightly damp space, I was struck at once with the air of secret sharing, of absurdity, and of puppetry that pervaded the space. Admittedly, my most recent knowledge of Allison’s work comes from the show, “Next things next,” which he curated and participated in as well (I too showed two pieces). In “Next things…” Allison showed a series of pseudo technical drawings, against which he installed boxes of apples and oranges…at the time, I was really drawn to the renderings which reminded me of the precision of blueprints merged with a kind of obsessive uselessness.

The new installation, “Mine/yours” is arte povera/the weird-house-on-the-corner by way of Joseph Cornell and perhaps even Gustave Baumann. That is to say that there is a pervasive air of absurdity in the work abutting a kind of fanatical patheticness. “The word for me on this project,” said Allison with a smile, “was ramshackle.”

{From Miriam Webster: ram·shack·le, Pronunciation: \ˈram-ˌsha-kəl\
Function: adjective
Etymology: alteration of earlier ransackled, from past participle of obsolete ransackle, frequentative of ransack
Date: 1830
1 : appearing ready to collapse : rickety
2 : carelessly or loosely constructed}

And yes, the works were indeed carelessly and loosely constructed, in fact, I needed to keep reminding myself “not to trip and destroy things.” I also need to tell myself not to {err} ‘liberate’ the shiny, faceted, glass jewels strewn carefully around…because…if what’s yours is mine…in fact: that last statement prefigures the next phase of Allison’s project—he invited guests to bring him things of their own, and “trade” them for things of his…thus, “What’s Yours Is Mine.”

For Allison, who plans to take this year and “work,” (he put grad-school plans on hold because apparently he wasn’t the only person who sees the downturn in the economy as a good a time as any to dabble in the nuance and eccentricities required of an advanced degree) the piece is ultimately about “the graphic and the sensual…the old and the new.”

Monday, April 6, 2009

Weekend Adventure...

This weekend was really fruitful for me, if you count afternoon naps and light shopping among constructive endeavors.

Actually, I was more active than the above-sentence might suggest. On Saturday I rode my bike over to the Riverside Art Market where I used Matt’s/BikeJax’s Bike Valet Service. It is such a smart way to effectively utilize the space, while letting people feel secure about their “steeds.” *Sidebar, when I was a kid, I used to pretend that my bright-red 10-speed was really a horse…now, slightly more steeped in bike culture (well, at least I read the blogs) I find out this is a fairly common occurrence…

But enough of my maundering; after arriving at the market, I wandered around for a good hour or so, just kind of absorbing the vibe and seeing how everything worked. And I must say, it seems to be a success…I will be curious to hear about how the artists themselves do, but the ancillary booths seemed to be doing a brisk business and everyone I ran into that I knew seemed to be smiling…

Overall, I hope the RAM serves to elevate the visibility of the arts in Jacksonville, and in so doing, contribute to a culture where the value of the arts aren’t just given lip service, but instead help to create a community where the arts are more viable for artists themselves.

That being said, I’d like to remind myself and others of what Jim Draper (gosh I seem to be quoting him a lot) once told a roomful of aspiring artists: that only 20% of his market was here in Jacksonville, the rest are much further afield.

Interestingly, a few of the vendors that really caught my eye were those using humble materials and transforming them…but these thoughts I’m developing into a more articulate article for EU…look for it in the May issue.

After RAM, I went to check out the Tilly Fowler Memorial sculpture being installed just behind the YMCA, on the Riverwalk in Riverside. I am still not sure that I love the piece, but I do support a greater proliferation of public art in our city…

Then later on this weekend, I found myself at my friend’s suburban home near the beach, watching a troupe of usually articulate friends hurl themselves down a hill, into a retension pond…though I was tempted, I resisted…it was like stank, kamikaze, slip-n-slide...

*and finally, the picture of my dog is taken from my recent Santa Fe trip, we were out hiking in the Sangre de Christo mountains, and the shot, taken on my trusty cell phone pleases me to no end.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Thank You

A couple of days ago, my router got zapped by lightening, and I haven't yet dug out the passwords etc...required to reset as I type these words I am making use of the Downtown Library's WiFi...but really, I am not writing these words to complain about my own foolishness, but instead to thank everyone who came out to the Bright Young Things Show.

I think the night was an overwhelming success and the support and comments I got (and I believe the other artists got too) was amazing and (for me) transformative...

I've often gone back and forth about making work vs. writing/thinking about work and ideas of process vs. conception. But now, well, at least for the immediate future I think I'll be making work as much as talking about it.

So, thank you to everyone who stopped by...I am so excited to get back to work...

*p.s. the above pictured image was not in the show, like a fool, I forgot to document that work before I stuck it in the frames (I guess that's what happens when you get all excited to see the finished product...)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Reflections from Santa Fe

I just spent two weeks on the road. I drove out to visit my brother who lives in Santa Fe. Along the way I stopped to visit my friends Mae and Marcie who live in northern, rural Louisiana. While there, I celebrated St. Patty’s day at an Irish Pub (granted, I departed from the program by drinking rum and coke), then we ate Cane’s chicken fingers…delish!

We also spent time driving around historic Monroe, ate at the Mohawk (two words: delight sauce), and then imbibed drive-through daquiris…while noodling around the park.

Then I left and headed on towards Santa Fe, and except for the worst hamburger I have ever eaten (including fast food burgers), the trip through Texas was uneventful.

Santa Fe is the second largest art market in the States, second only to NYC. Or at least that’s what they told me while I was there. And certainly, they seem to have the galleries, museums, and artists to back up that claim. Downtown Santa Fe is a relatively small area, easily navigable in an afternoon. That is not to say that one can visit every point of interest in that afternoon, but one can (with the help of a map) get the lay of the land and mentally mark points of interest.

A couple of things came to light while poking around the city.

1. Most of the galleries maximize their wall space: the galleries (for the most part) are hung salon-style with a variety of artists.

2. Even those galleries that hang in a manner more consistent with what we think of as “contemporary” show a variety of artists.

3. Where possible the artists represented are a mix of nationally recognized names, and those that are more regionally recognized.

4. There are a range of products and items available…including jewelry, accessories, books, and often, artist prints.

5. Almost without fail (except for the Andrew Smith Gallery) the gallery worker-bees were friendly and knowledgeable…talking to just about every person who walked through their doors, regardless of outward appearances.

It seems to me that Santa Fe (though drawing on a much older tradition of art-making and artists in residence) might be a more effective model of an art community, than say, larger cities whose reputations rest on austerity. Perhaps an exuberant, slightly hippie-dippy (for lack of a better term) approach is one that could be inherently more inclusive, and thereby more successful—both in a fiscal and cultural manner.

Of course, that is something that I tend to buck against, but perhaps a greater range of work (including that which I find distasteful, sentimental, and trite) has room for those things I find important and engaging.

Well, the Riverside Art Market opens in three days, and I suspect it’ll be a zoo scenario on Saturday. Nonetheless, I’ll be there…we can only wait and see what happens.

Well, that and keep making work.

And, if you’re at loose ends for things to do this Friday night, in addition to the First Friday event in 5 Points, there’s the Jane Gray Bright Young Things opening from 6-9 p.m., and there, I’ve got brand-new, never-before-seen works.

Jane Gray Gallery, 643 Edison Avenue (one block off Riverside Avenue), Jacksonville, 904-762-8826.