Monday, June 20, 2011

Wherein I Whine a Bit

I’ve been busy. That’s the refrain I hear myself saying again and again to friends and family, to coworkers and even possible collaborators. And it is true, since November 2010, I’ve been focused on making my own artwork.

It’s not always good work, but I do keep plugging away.

And as I work, and am involved in a very different way with the arts scene here in Jacksonville, I’ve come to realize that while it is important to create and sustain a community here in Jacksonville, I’m also very interested in what is happening in other places. How as cities redirect their thinking on everything from “Green Living,” to public transportation it can affect a wholesale change in a city’s attitude towards itself, and by extension, art and culture. That is to say: pressure and change from within and without.

In the past couple of years, as blogs have declined (hello Facebook ascendancy) there seems to be a movement away from the introspection and reflective practices of blogging (ok yes, navel gazing to a certain extent) to a slightly shrill, cacophonous wail that goes something like: “look at me, come to my event.” It’s awfully exhausting.

This hyper-shrill, supercharged involvement with everything all the time does a disservice to art and artists. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t love a city that embraces and supports the arts in a more conceptual and surprising not to mention tangibly fiscal way, but rather, that as artists, thinkers, and makers of things we have a responsibility to honor what we do. To honor the time and commitment to making a piece of work, and not to give it away—to treat the work seriously and still smile at the self. It is not easy, people can be persuasive and honeyed tongues have a way of convincing one that their agenda is best for all even (especially) when it is not.

I also am a huge supporter of finding the ways in which a city is different, and making those work, rather than retrofitting another city’s idea for our own. In the end, artists need to strive for balance: work in the studio, engagement with the community; but only when that engagement is beneficial, not at the cost of the artist.

Do the work, and everything else comes...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sublimeness {a new favorite}

Recently I discovered the work of printmaker Andy Farkas. It is exquisite and heartbreaking.

Here's what he says about it in his statement:

"I follow a dog chasing some invisible bird.My work is prayer. It longs to be humble. It makes visible my essence and desire, Makes clear my failure and my joy. It dreams of hope and whispers wisdom. It seeks truth.My goal is to overtake the dog And make visible the invisible bird."

Perfect. for more of his work

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Things I've Been Up To

It's been a while since I posted, but I have been busy working on large-scale drawings, so it doesn't leave as much time for the blogging. I miss it, but make no promises of continuity {sheepish smile}.

Monday, December 13, 2010

CAVU Forever

Ten days ago, the last of my grandparents died. Our family was given notice that my maternal grandfather, David Makepeace Poxson had gone into hospice on the last day of November, and I knew this was his last ascent into the skies.

I think the best way to sum up my grandfather is to say that he was a pilot and a story-teller. His was an expansive view of life, filtered through triumph, loss, and history. In the Second World War, he served in the Army and was stationed at Los Alamos during the development of the Atom Bomb. Later, he was at Bikini Atoll when the bomb was tested.

Growing up, it was always common knowledge that grandfather had been at Los Alamos, and we’d even seen the Army photos taken during the test, where if you looked closely, we imagined we could see the ships tossed end-over-end, tiny in the mushroom cloud. But Grandfather never really talked in detail about what he did for the Army, or, what he saw.

That changed over a family Thanksgiving in November 2008. We were sitting around the living room in my Grandfather Peck’s Topinabee house, with my Grandfather Poxson and he (Poxson) started talking about his time in the Army. As he spoke, and he could weave a tale even out of the simplest day that left you hanging on every word, he talked about what it meant to guard the “raw material” used for the bomb-making, how the scientists worked with the uranium (inside “little lead houses to prevent radiation leaks"), and what happened to one of the scientists when one of the doll-sized houses toppled. Radiation sickness is a horrible way to die.

Grandfather Poxson also talked about the spare, aching beauty of the Southwest, told us that for a while, he’d considered moving out there, and how, he wasn’t surprised that New Mexico is where my brother now makes his life. He told us about driving the "material" through the then, very bumpy back rodes of NM, how he and his fellow soldiers sweated those rides out, and how, though it in some ways seemed absurd, how his unit was keeping watch for spies and other unauthorized persons.

Then he told us about the explosion. For him, I believe, it was a life-changing experience; one that informed many of his choices after he returned to civilian life. He spoke quietly as he talked about the awesome power of the bomb, of seeing mighty warships blown into the air, and even one exquisitely beautiful Japanese Junk that was simply evaporated upon detonation. Even in his 90th year, he could describe the Junk as if it floated before him again. As he told his story, you could see him remembering the terrible power unleashed that day, and I believe, he then returned home to Michigan, and dedicated his life to protecting that which he could.

Our family has owned property in Northern Michigan for about a century, and it was to this land, and a tiny, four-room cabin (the Stone House), that he ultimately returned to. He spent his life protecting the land, as a member of the zoning board, and even in his late eighties, was forcing environmental and building compliance upon those who would deface his woods. When a neighbor poured a concrete slab that drained into the lake instead of using gravel, or just leaving a grass impression, he stood nose-to-nose with the millionaire offender, and said, “Go ahead, pour the slab, you’ll just be pulling it out tomorrow.” And he won.

The destruction he witnessed that day at Bikini, I think never left him, so he decided –perhaps- to work against it. How long his physical legacy, the land, will hold, I don’t know, but that righteous willingness to articulate and maintain beliefs, I hope and think is the lastingest part.

My grandfather was a sailor, pilot, wood-chopper, hunter, recipient of a Master’s Degree in English (story teller), and a connoisseur of pies and sour-dough pancakes. He was as exquisitely made as the Japanese Junk he so admired: David M. Poxson 1918-2010.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Every Body Loves Art Basel

I just got back from my second trip down south to check out Art Basel Miami, and I can say, without a doubt, it is worth the trip.

This year's fair seemed even more buoyant and expansive than last year's. As a the overwhelming backdrop to everything, there was Phu Hoang's and Rachely Rotem's surprisingly poetic rope sculpture/arial installation that anyone with any friends in Miami has surely already seen photos of.

This year, instead of mapping out marching orders, I took a more organic approach, letting one event lead to another, with a few pointed stops along the way. Of course, it's really worth noting that I stayed with some friends who were wonderful, accommodating, fun hosts who really love their city. They took us on a kind of mini-tour of Miami, and I've come away with a deeper, semi-profound love of the city, which so sharply contrasts with our own.

It's not just that Miami is beautiful, and populated with a diverse, beautiful population, but rather that Miami has practice saying "yes." Whether it is to an all night party on the beach, or, to an art fair that transforms the city for a week in December. Recently I was asked to participate in a video project of Dolf James's; he wants to get people talking about why Jacksonville is great, or at least good. And for as long as I've lived here, the one thing I've said is that here, you can kind of decide you're going to do something, and just do the damn thing. It's kind of like the wild west in that manner, but also like the west, there isn't a whole lot of support structure in place (also like those olden days, often, if you've got a big enough "gun" one can convince people of an otherwise unwarrented, er, grandeur).

So this city often finds itself at odds with its own self. Of course, it doesn't seem to help that Jacksonville (from my perspective) has a habit of pouring funds into absurd, useless projects, and then, when there are no more funds left, crying to the creative community to help create something else, but now I digress.

This year in Miami, I visited the Rubell again, and wasn't as bowled over as last year, this year, I thought the break away show was Scope, specifically the artist Enrique Gomez de Molina. His attention to detail, scale, and willingness to work with what otherwise might be considered repulsive materials piques the curiosity, touches on ideas trophy and destruction, and is often seductively beautiful. In the rhino bust (pictured), the artist covered a rhino mould with thousands of iridescent beatle wings. It was exquisite. I wanted to sell my house, purchase the piece, and move in with it under a bridge.

Then there was Mr. Anthony Lister. I've been a huge fan (no other word for it) of his work since I first started seeing it on Wooster Collective years and years ago. His sure but hurried application and use of multiples within one image struck me as a really modern solution to figuration and narrative painting. This year he was all over Miami. With three murals and two shows, he was clearly working hard, and from the extraordinarily brief conversation I had with him, I'd say he was enjoying himself quite a bit (and was probably a little exhausted).

The same day I saw Lister (at a little LISTER pop-up gallery, and again at the Hello Kitty show), I got to see the Margulies Collection where in addition to seeing L'Hospice (Superhero Nursing Home), I was captivated by Pieter Hugo's photographs of Nigerian Gadawan Kura (Hyena Men). Incredibly formidable, the images immediately strike the speculation of the viewer: what kind of people tame hyenas (and baboons)?

As a little research shows, a family of performers who've been passing down the hyena secrets for generations.

Taking Art Basel as a whole is near impossible. Rather, I say make it to a few of the things your friends tell you not to miss, wander into a few unexpected spaces, and snack your way through the city (there was the taco truck outside of Rubell, Sugarcane near Scope, Prima Pasta in Miami Beach, Caminito Way in North Miami, the Chow Down Grill in Seaside, or any of a host of little pop-up snack places near the fairs).

This year, Art Basel was food, laughter and beauty. I can't wait to return.

Now, I'm gonna go eat the bagel I hauled back.