Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The World's a Mess; It's in My Kiss

The world's a mess; it's in my kiss...


If I don't see you again
For a long, long while
I'll try to find you
Left of the dial


I recently renewed acquaintance with two old friends. Their names are Maggie and Hopey, and like a lot of us, they've been through a lot, though they don't actually exist.

I took some down time during the holidays to re-read my complete run of Jaime Hernandez' Locas stories in Love and Rockets, the comic that changed the rules for comics and helps sum up, for me at least, the strange and wondrous decade of the 80's. Escapist fantasy? Yes, there's that. Nostalgia? It's hard to deny, with their near-perfect blend of 60's comic fantasy, and 80's punk culture, but nostalgia for what?

Like many pop culture milestones, it is difficult to separate Locas from one's experience of it. For me that means going back to my arrival in '85, in Denver's Capitol Hill. It was then a teeming gay/counter-cultural ghetto in the middle of the red state that brought us Amendment 2, the country's first anti-gay hate legislation. I'd moved down after picking up a BFA and exhausting my options in Laramie, Wyoming's tiny art/theater/punk rock scene. I'd taken a huge pay cut to transfer down, so cheap entertainment was a must, and fortunately, central Denver, with its thriving alternative art/punk scene provided plenty of that. No one was interested in Downtown after dark but us.

One of my first stops after arriving was the comic shop. I'd always been interested in the medium and had been introduced already to the NYC comics avant garde. But what I found was something that like a lot of things in Denver, looked more to LA than NYC. It also, in retrospect, was one of the more relevant fictional histories of Reagan's ramping up of the culture wars.

The first issues of Love and Rockets were an attempt to reconcile the existential excess of underground pioneers R. Crumb, Gary Panter and Justin Green with the nostalgia of superhero sci-fi fantasy. It was produced by Jaime and his brother Beto, whose own segments concerned a mythical Mexican town called Palomar and are more expressionistic and violent, as if Garcia-Lorca had been directed by Tarantino. They're brilliant in their own right, but it was Jaime who captured the unique and perversely ecstatic siege mentality of punk America. Love and Rockets was magazine-sized, in gorgeously rendered black and white with an attitude toward comics- and life- reflected in its lead characters.

Maggie and Hopey have silly fun, repair rockets, join punk bands, fall in love with the beautiful and the doomed, get drunk and occasionally have great sex. (both Jaime and Gilberto have a fascination with lesbian culture, another of their cutting edge pop culture sensitivities) It's just your typical story of two cute urban LA Hispanic bi/lesbian punkerettes trying to find tolerable jobs and sneak into 21-and-over shows against a back drop of rockets, dinosaurs and punk music in Reagan's America.

Gradually, the rockets faded into the background (as did rock and roll radio and funding for the arts and countless other American fantasies). Love, no less afflicted by failure to launch than the rockets, took over the story line. As the narrative moves along one feels time passing with its tangents, lost souls and lost weekends, and Maggie and Hopey, estranged from each other and from joy, begin to epitomize something darker and far more intangible about the 80's: the sense of a loss of possibility that is the essence of conservative America then and now. Instead of Morning in America, we got the giant sucking sound of the culture wars ramping up. Into the pages come gang wars, homelessness, workplace alienation and drugs. In urban America, Rock and Roll disappeared from deregulated, corporatized radio; songs unfinished, loves unloved.

Locas is the ongoing tale of two working class barrio women who refuse to be pushed around in life, but who nevertheless find themselves in a neighborhood (and country) they didn't ever expect to see, and don't recognize. There is no bus home and the rockets have stopped running.

For me, struggling to reconcile creative freedom with a crushing corporate culture at my day job, it was a picture of Main Street. A country unwilling to invest in its downtowns, music and art was a country going nowhere. As X paints it in their punk/impressionist travelogue: "Windshield wipers, Buffalo NY/don't forget the Motor City/This is 'sposed to be the New World".

All periods of repression generate great art, and L&R is as true a document of the punk years as Alex Cox' Repo Man or Penelope Spheeris' Suburbia. Jaime and Beto stand with Haring, X, The Replacements and untold others in the 80's who made the music and art that right wing corporate America didn't want you to know about, and shoved to the left of the dial. The stories unfold organically without a hint of political correctness and formulaic sit com moralization, plotted off-handedly, much like life itself. In the comic's stark graphics and jump-cut pacing a lost decade's nagging questions are posed without the easy answers of mainstream entertainment or the unrelenting dogma of the ascendant right; the rockets remain in the distant memory of characters, like the dreams of childhood, but the disillusionment is real. There are no heroes, super- or other wise, just survivors, and the dialogue, caught in snatches in bars and bus stations, places you in the middle of a group of friends and catches you up on backstory with well placed tidbits. It is as taut and poetically concise as the best power pop anthems of the times, such as "Left of the Dial" and The Pretenders' "Chain Gang". As with those songs, the words contain within a sense of their speaker's -and the era's- lack of a real future.

None the less, joy exists, its white hot glare balanced in the concise graphics with the menacing black of America in the post-industrial shadows, with its disdain for the urban counter culture. The sense of place, in b&w snapshots of Oxnard-like "Huerta" will be both familiar and exhilarating to anyone who has lived in any well integrated, decent sized city and experienced the youthful impulse to fill every empty warehouse with art- or rock shows.

As one critic in Salon noted, L&R is best enjoyed while re-read. It was hard to track Locas' many characters and shifting time frames on a once every two month reading. Its amazing depth and complexity make the characters seem all the more real, and the strip's interior timing is remarkably consistent as has been documented, here. One moves through a sense of youthful fantasy and adventure to the disillusionment and uncertainty of middle age in pen strokes that capture the child like romp of "Archie", the taut drama of "Steve Canyon" and finally, the dessicated cultural numbness and dogged resolve of Crumb. All without forsaking that sense of possibility that was taken from us with the rockets, and 'Just Say No'.

There are now collections and graphic novelizations available even in mainstream chains such as Borders and Amazon, as well as the publisher, The saga is ongoing, though Los Bros have finally left the true comic-book format behind to join the cartoonists they once inspired in soft- and hardcover European-style albums. The first two of these, which is only tangentially linked to the Locas storyline, is a bit of a departure, narratively. It seems generically bizarre and unconnected to anything real or meaningful, like a... comic book. Still, Jaime has often digressed into flights of fancy before (pro wrestling!), only to land firmly back on Main St, Oxnard, CA.

At their best, Jaime's stories celebrate one thing the bleak cultural negation of Reaganite culture wars could not kill- a sense that our differences make us stronger.
For those who benefited (or felt they did) from his agenda there was comfort in his ability to slow the accelerating pace of change. Locas characters have learned, sometimes the hard way, that you can't hide from change.

How did we get here? A simple enough question, with no easy answers. In an unwell society, memory takes on the hallucinatory quality of fever dreams. We lived through Rock and Roll's best decade, yet never heard it on the radio. We moved away from the cities, but the poor and sick didn't disappear. We bought flat screens; no one is foolish enough to believe the answers can be found in gridiron football and cop shows. It's a very real question at this stage of my life, having had an eventful year in which I beat a hasty retreat from blandly right wing corporate America, and entered what the C-of-C types like to delicately refer to as the "Creative Economy", meaning that part of the economy that provides the substance that mall culture does not; yet attracts very little investment of capital.

My own journey has brought me across mountain and high plain, industrial back alley and downtown skyscraper canyon. It seems surprising that in a few punk rock songs and a lowly comic book, I would find one of the few places that these questions get asked. All the more reason to stop ghettoizing the counter culture.

In fictional Varrio Hoppers, Jaime Hernandez lines out the ups and downs of just how we got here, and in the sparse yet rich ideographic truth of ink on newsprint, a fleeting ecstasy of angry guitars and young girls' kisses, how we might rocket back out.

One of his (super!) heroes is, after all, named "Hope".

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sol Invictus

December, and I'm (mostly) taking a hiatus from the studio. It's a good time to charge the creative batteries and let the mind drift. So most of these posts have been about things I'm reading and thinking about. Which lately, has often been the culture wars. I have another one, on Love and Rockets comics and where they fit into the culture wars, almost ready to go in a day or two, but it's been a while since I posted, so I'm cleaning up some loose ends first.

  • I will be at Open Press, 40 W. Bayaud Sunday, Dec 20. As I offered to sit the gallery for the Small Print Show, I thought I may as well work, and since I'm working anyway, I'm making it into a demo. C'mon down and see how monotypes get made. I'll be working continuously from 12-5, traffic in the gallery permitting. I'll try to post pics sometime after Xmas.
  • I'm sending out holiday prints soon. I procrastinated until today, so for many, they won't arrive before SquishMas, but probably shortly after. Thank you for commenting and taking an interest in this blog!

  • Sometime in the post holiday quiet, I hope to sit down and figure out once and for all why the 'comment' function on Blogspot doesn't allow me to reply to your comments. Or maybe just see if Wordpress will work better? Anyway, thanks for your comments.
  • Coming in January, I'll track another print in photos; talk about stuff I'd like to discuss in the Spring class at the Art Students League; and start nailing down a show schedule for 2010. If you have thoughts on what could make for an interesting post, don't be shy leave 'em below. Oh- and I may even start on the long-delayed Squishtoid Manifesto! Certainly all this stuff on the culture wars will tie into it. But I don't want to forget the oldest rule in the manifesto biz- "Leave 'em laughin' !"
I'm sure the next week or two will be pretty busy for everyone. C'mon back when you get a minute, and HAPPY HOLIDAYS from Squishtoid!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Blue and the Gray; the Red and the Yellow

The light is pale and bluish gray, a pallid gray. The air is frigid, there's no reason to go out even to see the holiday lights downtown, unless there's good company waiting.

It is perfect for reading, and reading is perfect for Squishtoid. Reading's cheap and there's plenty of time, the light is actually good for reading. I was foresighted enough to see this day coming, so while it was still warm, I went out to the garage and dug out some books I've been meaning to finish. Richard Powers; John Barth; a Lennon bio; Neil Stephenson, Baroque Trilogy; nothing too heavy, heh,heh. I've got food, down cover and radiators, so time is on my side, if the temp isn't. The cat is pretty happy with this state of affairs, too, though I worry she may be caught in a book-alanche.

I'm reading- officially- The Return of Depression Economics, by Paul Krugman. I say 'officially' because it was lent to me as a result of a turkey-day bitch session about the general mess the right wing has gotten this country into, so I'm sort of honor-bound to read it and spread the word. It gives a very clear and concise explanation of the crash, despite being written by a Nobel Laureate from Princeton, and I can already recommend it.

But naturally, the tea-baggers and other haters aren't much interested in facts, especially the kind a Nobel winner from Princeton might present. So until the social dynamic in this country changes to favor the lower and middle class as much as it does the upper and upper middle classes , knowing how economics works is unlikely to make the economy more user-friendly. In the gray tundra of the Great Bush Recession, facts about how we got into this mess offer light but no real warmth. Hurry, Spring!

So in a quest for more cheery reading, I've found another book, Barcelona, by Robert Hughes.
This is more like it, sun-splashed, sea food-devouring Barcelona with the exotic design and architecture. A place to escape to.

I first got interested in Barcelona the way everyone does- through its football club. (it actually has two, but even the Mets get more love than Espanyol). Barca, whose starting 11 could pass at a masquerade for the #1 ranked Spanish National team with whom it shares its red-and-yellow strip, has been dismantling opponents with fascinating and surgical precision.

The way Barca beat Manchester United, a legitimate contender for the English treble- titles in the league, Football Association, and against Barcelona in the Champions League -was typical. Quick 10-yard passes strung between perfectly positioned midfielders, a mesmerizingly efficient game of keep away, until suddenly someone is free right in front of the open goal. Barca's goals are rarely spectacular except as part of the amazing build up that leads to them. Perfect proof of the simple fact that football is only boring to people- Americans- who are too easily bored.

And Barcelona, the city, seems to follow the same pattern. Hughes intends to make a case for Barcelona's more spectacular sights being the product of a fairly workman-like approach to art, life and politics. It's the first time I've read a full dose of Hughes, and though he has moments of snide crankiness about, for example, Post-Modernism ( in regard to Barcelona?), he also has a gift for conducting a reader through the labyrinth of Catalan art and politics, and how they intertwine. It's absorbing reading on a frigid winter's night. I wish I was there right now, eating sea food.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Only the Strong Survive

Cute, huh? Yes, isn't it pretty to think so? The reality of the situation is different, far different. The reality is, if I were to approach to warm my cold, numb blogging fingers on that toasty warm sheepskin or that nice radiate-y radiator, I'd be placing myself in grave danger. Let alone that fuzzy wuzzy fur, which, like Maxwell's Demon, is designed by nature to absorb every heat molecule in the apartment, while excluding all the cold particles; and is jealously guarded by a creature that lives in, and can see in, the blackest void.

And, I found out (belatedly) that it's against the animal cruelty laws to turn off the heat. Dang that fascist/socialist Democrat(ic)(sic) Party nanny state!

So, it's off into the frigid gray December I go, to help hang the Open Press Small Print Show.

Won't you come down Friday, 6-9 PM, or any of the 3 following Saturday or Sundays 12-5 PM, to have a beer and give a Squishtoid a hug?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I Come Not to Praise Faceplant, But to Bury It.

A while ago, here, I posted some thoughts about Facebook. I'd noticed that people who haven't bothered to join seem to dismiss it out of hand as superficial, as if most day to day interaction in any medium isn't superficial. I generally praised Faceplant while acknowledging its triviality and weirdness. Now let's look at another side of its weirdness.

I have a number of friends, in both the real world- and FB-sense who, for whatever reason, don't really post much. I get little messages from Facebook alerting me that so-and-so is not with the program. Sometimes there are weirdly quantified and vaguely ominous statistical judgments: "Jane Doe is only 35% active". The implication is that they need to be dragged back into the party I guess, that they are not pulling their weight with the Balloon-Boy jokes or status-postings about breakfast fare.

I don't want to make too many assumptions about their lives, whether tech-averse, or introverse. So, I snooped. I got a prompt from FB about one friend I'd re-connected with in the past couple of years, and went to her "wall", where some of her activity is visible. She posts every few weeks, mostly concerning family, social and charitable events in her area. The most recent wall item was from her daughter, thanking her for help on her college application. Another bizarrely quantified 'status bar" thingie on the left informs us that her "progress" is 80% (?!). She seems pretty "active" to me, and I assume she can decide on her own "progress". What should I do- get on there and chide her for not playing enough Mafia Wars?

Yes, I made a case that FB can be a valuable tool for a very fulfilling kind of connection-making. But coming from a family full of certified luddites and techno-recluses ( I'm the only one even on FB), I have a bit of sympathy for those whose lives do not revolve around the key board. A lot of this sort of thing comes from the enclosed world of office culture- how many of us have been encouraged to feel shame by otherwise sensible friends for not checking our e-mail twice a day? And isn't it a bit ironic that some pasty-white cube-rat in Silicon Valley is sitting in judgment of our "activity" level?

Leave the techno-recluses alone! They'll join the Facebook "revolution" when they're good and ready.

Probably to bombard us with invitations to play "Mafia Wars".

Standard Disclaimer: Squishtoid is not now, nor has he ever been, interested in playing "Mafia Wars", so don't send any more invitations, or he will "hide" you, and "poke" you to death.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Easter Eggs in November?!?

Yes, indeed there is one hidden in a recent post, and 2 peeps have found it. Will you be the next?

Other doings: For those of you in Denver, I'll be participating in the Open Press Small Print Show 2009 on First Friday, so c'mon down to 40 W. Bayaud (garden level) and say hello. Here is the Event Page Post on Facebook.

Discussions are beginning with several other Denver printmakers about a portfolio project for spring. I'll keep you posted here. We'll have 4-5 artists contributing prints, and will be aiming for a very reasonable price on what will be sort of and instant art collection.

I'll be sending out more info about 2010 shows after the holidays. The Spring Monotype class will be registering soon, too. You can e-mail me if you like e-mail newsletters, or keep checking back here. Don't forget the Fan Page ( link above).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Westering, 42x30", 2009

I put the last layer, which was the 7th, 0n a couple of weeks ago. I like it, but wonder if I could do future ones in less layers with better planning. This post will get you caught up with the earlier stages; here is the last post. Did I go to far? Not far enough? You be the judge.

I did have fun posting the stages, and people seemed to like it (many responded, in various media), so I'll do it again after the holidays. There's another big one, an interior this time, I've been working on.

For now, it's time to wrap things up on a very interesting year. I usually like to take the holidays off, then come back fresh in January. There are always loose ends, of course, such as the holiday print (l. Red Sonata, 7x9", 2009), and a small art show at Open Press that I'll announce on my FB Fan Page soon.

I hope everyone has a very nice Thanksgiving, and the first five peeps to leave a comment, or hit the 'follow' button, get a Holiday print. You can email me your street address. My crack mailroom team will get it out to you, and many years, the Holiday print has been known to arrive by Valentine's Day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Did anyone get the number of that year?!?

I've been slowly (yeah, okay, glacially) posting albums of artwork from various years on my Facebook Fan Page . Hopefully they will provide a bit of a retrospective overview, especially for newer friends. For me they generally bring back vivid memories of what I was doing, and what I was trying to accomplish in the studio.

Strangely, that didn't happen for 2002. Then I remembered: Oh yeah. That year. Does anyone else have that experience of sort of being in a daze after 9/11?

Anyway, the pix, along with my current interpretations are there, along with albums for several other years, too.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I came not to bury FX, but to praise him...

You don't meet many people in this life who can a) quote the Buddha, and b) land a jet fighter on a pitching, rolling aircraft carrier deck. So Tuesday, I put on my suit and tie and drove down to Ft Logan to observe Veteran's Day early, in the best way I know how- by celebrating a life.

Francis Xavier Rozinski was not perfect (just ask his family!), but he was a hungry mind; generous of spirit and not afraid to get the most out of life. The Marines are not perfect, either (though in the Halls of Montezuma, they simply did what their country asked them to do. As for the Shores of Tripoli, there may not be a more important moment, post-1789, pre-July 3, 1863, in assuring this nation would be around today). But when the Marines and FX got together, amazing things happened. Frank got to fly, over Korea, and many other places, besides. Later, he joined the Caterpillar Club (had to eject, and "hit the silk").

He had a large family, retired, and flew private clients, including the bands Yes and Chicago, around the US. His and Leona's house was filled to bursting with friends, good Polish food, attractive daughters and their boyfriends (this is where I come in), and the expectation that every one of them would become their best, and strive to be happy.

In the same spirit, he wandered the art colonies of the Southwest, then retired to Colorado Springs, one suspects, to tell the more dunder-headed members of the military just what he thought of them. He read and talked about things; then joined a club so he could read and talk some more.

Why is it that no matter how hard one tries, one can never find words adequate to a life before it is done? Perhaps no one understands this gulf between words and actions better than the military. Before the USMC honor guard on that beautiful Tuesday morning had even finished unfolding the flag over his bier, most of the women were sobbing. I was dabbing my eyes when the first volley of a 21-gun salute went off behind us, making everyone jump, and the geese on the lake howl in cacophonous protest, as if nothing living could imagine Frank ever dying.

I don't know where Frank is now, but he lives on in a wonderful family. He always wanted to fly, and at this moment, I'm positive he's doing just that. And, if I were religious I would say, "Get ready, angels!"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I come not to bury Facebook, but to praise it.

People who aren't participating in Facebook often put it down as trivial or superficial, a safely ignored passing fad.

They're mostly right, but they're missing the point.

The other day, a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I went to a gathering at a local restaurant. Its purpose was to rally in support of a fellow artist who was about to begin chemo treatments for prostate cancer. John's prognosis is actually good, and while chemo will undoubtedly be hard on him, the mood of the gathering was rather celebratory. As was intended by its organizer, Renna, a Denver writer into collective action and shamanism. She wanted to have a gathering of the tribe that for once, wasn't a memorial (we've lost several well-loved Denver artists lately). That there was a need for that was quickly apparent. I wasn't the only one who had to apologize for not remembering the name of someone I hadn't seen in years.

One subject that kept popping up- Facebook. Not surprising, really. The gathering had largely been organized through Facebook. It could all been accomplished by e-mail, flyers or phone tree, but it wasn't. I'm sure there was some of all of those, but they couldn't have created the sort of family reunion type atmosphere we instantly got. Emails are too business like, flyers too time consuming, phones too invasive for such a far flung group. Letters? forget it. Facebook was just right for turning a semi-private event into public knowledge. It's viral, so word got passed along from friend list to friend list. It's somewhat passive and undemanding, so one could simply rsvp regrets, or ignore it altogether. It didn't make too much, nor too little, of John's challenge. And it allowed Renna and his other friends to set the tone.

Even the folks who I do remember, I haven't seen in the flesh much. A grinding day job, playing catch-up with a family or creative life, an unanticipated, but very powerful need to go to bed at 10:30- as the years go by, these things mitigate against the kind of daily contact needed to nurture the best friendships. But inexorably, Facebook had brought us back together around health care diatribes; photo sharing and You Tube video links, and now it had gotten us out of our offices and studios to compare bifocal prescriptions and gray hair, and give John a pat on the back or a hug. And, it provides enough superficial info about people you once saw on a daily or weekly basis, to allow one to dispense with the awkward small talk and get to the big talk right away. How did your last show go? How does that feel now the kids are off to school? Are you still a Downtowner? For a bunch of 40-50 somethings, just staying connected is half the battle. It is precisely because Facebook IS trivial and superficial that it is not a fad.

Facebook's show announcements, polls and coffee-cup haikus allow you to pop in on lives long drifted from you, and even the assorted silliness provides companionable banter in a world where all too often, the only kind you hear is from the get-a-life crowd in the Broncos jerseys. And this is not to mention the more transcendent moments such as last Sunday, or the Mexican food I shared in downtown Albuquerque with my high school friend George, whom I hadn't seen in over 30 years.

The terminology is stilted ("friending" ? "status" ?), and its
mostly mundane content a gold mine awaiting exploitation by The Onion, but its power to create (or revive) affinities among the strivers, dreamers and street-level pundits buried in the detritus of the info age is unmatched. In the numbing triviality of the workaday world, it is almost indispensable to those who haven't given up on the fine art and pure spontaneous joy of bending -or lending, an ear.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Now the song is nearly over. We may never find out what it means.

Two friends in the group I was in, pre-show, at the Irish Rover on Broadway remarked separately that having seen the Pogues, it would be possible to "retire" from live shows. With streams of whiskey already flowing (o'Squish wound up driving, so didn't participate) and the band's catalog blasting non-stop on the juke box, one guy showed us his sleeve-length Shane MacGowan tattoo. Reports from other cities indicated the boys were in form, and Shane mostly upright. Excitement was high, and we piled into a cab to find out, I guess, whether Rock and Roll can ever die.

Well, not if Rachel Nagy has anything to say about it. "Enjoy the FUCK out the Pogues, she yelled as the Detroit Cobras left the stage after a strong set under the difficult circumstance of a full house awaiting breathlessly its first brush with Poguetry.

The lights went down, and out came the musicians, some now bald, many re-habbed, a cancer survivor. And shuffling behind them, the shambolic bard, shapeless, toothless in a handmade sweater. The general tone of commentary on Shane's later career, with his sweet rasping whiskey voice now reduced by 5 million cigarettes to mainly rasp, has been: He could've been someone. Well, so could anyone! And "Streams of Whiskey", "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" and "Broad Majestic Shannon", the traditional show-starting triad, proved that there is nothing wrong with the Pogues that 2,000 stomping, jumping fist-pumping 18-54 year-olds can't cure.

I had predicted here that tears would flow as "Thousands" was played, but it took less time than that. As the band launched into the blistering main body of "Young Ned of the Hill", a hail of those glow stick thingies, beer cups and the glittering, trailing plumes of the blessed beverage they had held filled the air, and there were tears on my cheeks. At that moment I was as happy as I've been in years, and I'll remember it all my life.

I can't recall a single disappointment with the show as it stood. Oh sure, 'Fairytale of New York", their iconic, junkie Xmas song was left out, not for lack of snow (the Pogues very resourcefully bring their own), But for a Kirsty MacColl or Emma Finer to sing it. The band was out of its mind, James Fearnley still jumping and diving, accordion in hand. Shane was in strong voice and chatty. Shane's Ray-Bans came off briefly during "Old Main Drag" where the singer complains that they "messed up my good looks"- priceless!

I got to sing along to "Dirty Old Town" and "Thousands Are Sailing", and did in fact "raise a glass to JFK", and 8 musicians besides. I was unprepared for the barely contained chaos that was "Fiesta", in which one of humankind's nobler inventions, the beer tray, gave its life on Spider Stacy's head. I tried to get a picture of that, but by that time, the place where I was, the first riser above the mosh pit, had turned into a second mosh pit itself. Don't mourn the beer tray. Reflect instead, on what could possibly get gray-hairs with high blood pressure and people who weren't even born yet when the song was first played bouncing sweatily, beerily, shoulder to shoulder. Can we apply that to health care reform?

I can now slide contentedly into middle age, though if the lads want to come back next year, I can easily put on my Docs and step back out. I never saw The Clash or the Ramones, and it's too late now ( Joe Strummer joined the Pogues after strung-out Shane was finally kicked out, and "Straight to Hell" plays before every show). But Rock and Roll has never been about what you didn't do, but what you did. Whiskey, heroin, peace and love, any which way the wind may be blowing. Mosh on, 18 year olds, you'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Progress on the Beast

A lot of the simple graphic intensity does get lost as you add more layers, but there's a richness to the color. I'll probably do one more run-through, for straight black, which can sometimes add a lot of punch. Still no title, so I'm running out of time on that basic requirement. Obviously, there is both isolation and hope in the image.

I have another large print I'll start on next week. It's an interior, a bit more semi-abstract. I'll post a progress report on that next. I don't anticipate as many layers for the next one, as I'm not sure all the fine tuning really added much to this one. Interesting to find out, though!

Here are some links to previous incarnations of this print.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Neon Manifesto.

I'm in the process of posting year-by-year summaries of my artwork to my Facebook Fan Page. The latest deals with my colored pencil/oil pastel neon cityscape phase of the 80's. I had just moved to Denver. Tomorrow I will post the latest progressions in the still-untitled large monotype I've been tracking here.

Have a look!

"Getaway", Color Pencil, 1985 >

Don't Drop the Ball

I previously posted a couple of photos showing progress on a large print. Printmakers like to call multiple runs through the press "drops". Here is an entry on the first drop (or stage). And here is one of the second. Shown above is the 5th state, where it sits now. Below, there is some intermediate info.

I was in the studio Monday, but after staying up till midnight for a baseball game I was moving kind of slow, and forgot my camera. Fortunately, my friend Steve had his iPhone, so I'm posting some photos of drops 3, 4 and 5. Here's 3:
Here's the plate just before printing it.
As I've mentioned, it's rare for me to do even a third layer on a picture so large, and this is the first time I've ever done five. This is partially the logistics of the beast, with many more chances to screw up the registration, etc. But it also has to do with losing graphic simplicity. For instance, though I like the cool grey and warm yellow/browns for adding visual balance to the sky, and a kind of surging richness to the land, I probably was a teeny bit heavy handed, always a problem for me. What do you think?

Spending this kind of time on a print allows for a more complex texture, but overworking it is always a possibility. A final drop is on the schedule next week where I'll try to add blues and blacks back in, add a couple of minor compositional elements and bring it all into focus. Or turn it into an unholy mess. Stay tuned.

If I should fall from grace with God,
Where no Squishtoid can relieve me, If I'm buried 'neath the sod, But the angels won't receive me, Let me go boys let me go boys Let me go down in the mud where the rivers all run dry -The Pogues

The Pogues were a definite part of the soundscape in downtown Denver mid 80's, though the only ones who ever went there then were bohemians, punks and artists. I was more obsessed by the Replacements, Social Distortion and Husker Du, but pre-corporate KTCL played them enough to get me interested, and when a girlfriend gave me "If I Should Fall From Grace With God", I was pretty much hooked.
She was thinking, Irish guy- Irish punk music, but of course as we've come to know, The Pogues did much more than single-handedly save Irish music from itself with their almost irresistable blend of Celtic rthyms and punk energy. They probably rival all but the Beatles, Ramones and Sex Pistols in the "number of bands started by-" category, and in fact, are one of a very few bands ( the Beatles and Ramones again come to mind) that can claim to have started an entire genre. And they also invented their own musical instrument- the beer tray (see Fig 1).

Whatever you may think of the Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, and the Real MacKenzies, it's certainly true that none of them or their 5,000 Celtic Punk brethren would exist with out the Pogues. It's also true that few have penned the type of song, such as If I Should Fall from Grace with God, or Sally Maclennane, or Broad Majestic Shannon that captures the fun and transgressive spirit of punk, while also being easy to mistake for traditional Irish music. I'm fairly certain no one has written a Christmas standard that features a drunk gambler and his junkie wife. It's probably true that the entire crowd doesn't sing along with Flogging Molly songs, though I don't know; I haven't been to one.

I haven't been to a Pogues concert, either, though not from lack of trying. I just haven't been able to get to Boston, New York or Chicago for one of their brief and infrequent American touch-downs. Now, fortune and Shane MacGowan's liver permitting, that will change, as the Pogues make it to Denver for their first appearance. I did see Shane (with the Popes) at the Gothic Theatre a few years back- Shane only puked 3 times! Ah yes, Shane MacGowan- poet, warrior, drunken toothless mumbler.

So I'm not expecting transcendent musical moments here, though I'm pretty sure tears will flow, especially when they play "Thousands are Sailing". Mostly I just want to say I saw them, sing "Dirty Old Town" with 3,000 other voices, and remember the days when Doc Martens and live music were a bigger priority than health care and mortgage payments, and we had downtown all to our (drunken) selves. It was the best decade in rock and roll, and the best decade of my life. I can't get it back, but- with the help of a wee bit of beer- I can certainly try. Look for me there, I should be easy to spot -I'll be the drunk guy in Docs.

Friday, October 9, 2009


I posted a few images from 2006 on my fan page on Facebook. There's also 2004, from a previous post, and as I slowly organize my digital files ( and scan in the old slides), I'll try to catch up on all the other years as well. Also, as the class didn't fill, the deadline has been extended to Oct. 16, and the workshop will now run through Dec 7. If you know anyone who might be interested, please mention it to them. They are instituting online registration, and their website appears to be down right now, so no link. It's, or you can call 303.778.6990. I'll be posting class doings and photos to this blog, and we will keep it lively and fun. I believe you can also attend certain weeks, and pay a pro-rated fee. The full fee is $220 for all 8 weeks. See you there!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Round Peg In a Square State of Mind

Whew! Yes, it was a frantic September; yes, procrastination tends to feed on itself, and yes, (oh-no!) the Days-Without-Job portion of the Squish-o-meter is ticking off its final days.

What I like to refer to as Square State Tour '09 did not provide a lot of cash. In retrospect not so surprising given the economy, and the shows I chose, most in places that like most American cities, struggle to see the value in buying fine art anyway. That was actually part of the plan; unfortunately there is no way to find out if these cities ( Casper, WY; Salida, CO; Albuquerque NM; sorry, UT..) will buy art until one goes and does a show there.

Nor was the timing something I could control; with the corporations racing to gut pension plans before Obama stops the Bushies' greed-fest, I was in a take-it-or leave-it situation.

But the experience was still a joy and not just for its effect on the ol' Squishometer. In fact, why don't we step over and take a peek at where it stands, right now?

Days without job: 190

So I made 6 months, and again, I recognize that I'm certainly better off than most in corporate America, where personal time is viewed with suspicion, and creativity is something that appears only in those tacky motivational posters. Simply put, there is no substitute for time spent on your own goals. Other benefits:

- Got to see a lot of the Rockies, always a plus. Mostly stayed on the 1-25 corridor, from Sandia Peak and early fall Raton Pass roughly up to Laramie Peak, with Pikes Peak in the middle. Throw in South Park and College Peaks, with the late afternoon sun glazing the iconic western pyramids. It doesn't get much better than that.

- Got positive feedback, and made connections that may be valuable in the future. Casper and Albuquerque seem within a few years of being viable art markets. Casperites in particular seemed to really be pained not to be able to buy art, as if in Paul Westerberg's words, they were "aching to be" Also saw old friends, including after 30 years, high school buddy George.

-fine tuned my preparation and organization for future shows, and of course, there is no shelf date on unsold artwork. In fact, with all the new work I added this year it's just more choice to offer when the economy improves.

-Finally, the surprising fact that Denver's art scene is quite strong. We knew there was good work here, but importantly, Denver has begun to offer real support. The Denver show nearly tripled the other three in sales combined, and I've realized that it's wrong to put down the scene, which only taps into coastal prejudices.

Upshot, for me, I'll get used to my part time job, and sales will improve, though in 2010, they'll be improving in Denver only. No other Rocky Mountain city is really ready for fine art. After things improve, I'll look at other large cities.

Short-term, these positives won't prevent the necessity of getting a job. Riding out the rough weather a bit. Just as those of us who may have wished for a quick turn around from the dark years in the political landscape are finding out, it's going to be a long haul. Sunshine on amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesty, eyes open, one foot forward.

Squish-o-Meter: Aching to be

p.s. Squishtoid will certainly continue, though I'll have to re-calibrate the Squish-o-Meter a bit. Next up: more works-in-progress; approximately 4 solid weeks of Pogues/Detroit Cobras pre-hype, exegesis, and review; and Ohhh Yesssss- pointlessly bitter and scathing remarks about whatever benighted part time job I wind up falling into ( unless it provides health care, of course).

Monday, September 7, 2009

Stage (2) Fright

As promised, stage 2 of the aforementioned, as-yet-untitled print I posted a few weeks ago.

The blues and tans give it a bit fuller, more painterly feel, but of course, there is a little bit busier, patchier look now.

Planning an image is a bit tougher when you start from the black and brown ghost of the original drop, then work toward lighter, fuller colors. I'm usually traveling in the opposite direction (lighter to dark).

Still, I think a third drop is in order; probably another brown /black overlay to add detail and, as the Dude would say "tie the room together".

I'll post that one when it's done.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hot Off the Press

I've been adding fences and telephone poles to create at least a little tension. I do like the rhythmic minimalism, but fear that they don't communicate the real visual power of western landscape. I often post new images, including intermediate stages at my fan page on Facebook.

Days without Job: 146
Squishometer: Squish, or be squished!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Weekend Squish: Book Review

It's Pynchon month in Squishytown! We started the festivities off by bussing down August 4 to Tattered Cover for his latest, INHERENT VICE. Things really ramped up with a 94-word run-on tribute sentence wedged into the previous Squishtoid post - still far short of the 400+ monster that opens MASON AND DIXON, but I guess that's why TP has a MacArthur Genius Grant and the Squish doesn't (yet).

And now, because 77,000 reviews ( one for each wacky TP character moniker) in 2 weeks just don't seem enough, comes my review. And unlike all the others, this one doesn't mention the word "paranoia". Oh. Damn.

Thomas Pynchon, a writer whom many associate with dense, hard to read doorstop -type books, has created what will surely become the entry point for his work with INHERENT VICE. The previous entry point, CRYING OF LOT 49, deals with the same place, Southern California, and many of the same cultural and metaphorical issues, but doesn't have two things that VICE does: the easy flow of genre (here, detective) fiction, and an agreeable, heck, lovable- central character who smokes way too much pot, in much the same way Phillip Marlowe drank way too much whiskey.

That combination, lifted whole from the classics of the Noir era, smooths the way for Pynchon's usual mix of irony, pathos and satiric humor, and provides a peek into the heartbreakingly funny and ineffectual lives he celebrates, along with the crushing, relentless systems of power and control that provide the juice for his electric and very post modern prose. It's always sex magic versus death-mongering with Pynchon, but here he adds in a lot of nostalgia for late 60's Los Angeles, and a spirit of place that, like Raymond Chandler's, feels like the real deal.

Like LOT 49, and another earlier NoCal novel, VINELAND, that are quickly being formed by the commentariati into an ad-hoc trilogy, the goofy proles and bra-less babes who redeem their floundering, drug enhanced lives, speak to the betrayal of simple pleasures by those nameless, humorless forces of greed and frigid fear that would bulldoze a community to erect soul-less developments rather than nurture a neighborhood. Only this time, unlike past TP epics, even some of the villains have names and come off as flawed, almost lovable losers themselves.

Discussing plot is always somewhat beside the point in Pynchon. His characters are questers, lighting off manically in search of answers to questions they know not, stopping for a quick buzz or fuck along the way. There is enough here to keep the lovable losers scrambling and the pages turning, but Doc Sportello, The laid-back, hard-"baked" PI who tries to sort it all out, understands that in the end, it's finding kinship through the smog that makes a city, however Noir, vivid and real. Pynchon appears to have made that leap as well, with the later novels, from VINELAND on featuring progressively more sympathetic characters; special mention made here of the exquisite MASON AND DIXON.

But will VICE please the lovers of intricate, labyrinthine masterpieces such as LOT 49, GRAVITY'S RAINBOW, and V? As one who's read all of his books, many twice, and counts RAINBOW among the century's best, I say it doesn't have to. Pynchon's done his fair share of heavy lifting. He's metaphorically compared Information Theory to Thermodynamics, hefted Riemann surfaces and Hollow-Earth theories and squished in hashish and weird menages a trois. Now he wants to be Chandler or Elmore Leonard, or even Jeff Lebowski. Or all three. Wait, that's a weird menage a trois, too.

Pynchon, if the famous Simpsons "appearances" and the trailer he did for VICE are any indication, may want to be popular for once. That's not such a bad thing, and INHERENT VICE is not such a bad way to get there. If you never got past the famous 100-page barrier of GR, this eccentric yet agreeable book may get you to the bottom of the mystery of why it's worth another try.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Goin' Down the Road...

We've all got wheels,
to take us far away.
We've got [Squishtoid blogs] to say, what we can't say...

-Flying Burrito Bros.

Spent the weekend listening to mountain music. That specific mix of Bluegrass, Folk, and Country Rock I first inhaled after leaving the bleak, Hard-Rock steel yards of the Queen City of the Lakes many moons ago.

It hasn't changed much since I left the Queen City of the Plains (so many queens! There's a Dame Edna joke in there somewhere..) to come to the Denver Punk scene. Some of it I can go months or even years without. But I don't mind snoozing through the obligatory Grateful Dead homage to get to the good stuff- Billy Bragg or Gram Parsons. This is the sound track of the many mushroom- and pot-fueled mountain camp outs I've stumbled through out in the sage, under the Wyoming moon.

It's late summer in the Rockies. That time when each hot day contains a hint, like a strip of cool white tan line at the edge of a well-filled yellow bikini, of something to be simultaneously longed for yet postponed as long as possible: Fall. Downtown Salida sitting in its 19th century glory on the banks of the preternaturally turbulent Arkansas River ( August would normally mark the end of flow, and the rafting, but we've had a wet Summer), rimmed by the Collegiate Peaks -tall iconic pyramids dappled with the slightly tarnished sunlight of August and skimmed by the fluffy billowing white clouds strobing by like freight cars, with the rustle of cottonwood leaves and the strum of mandolin riffs from the stage at this little festival in the park, is where wraith-like, Autumn '09 first appeared for this Squishtoid.

It was a pleasant enough show, with a fairly steady stream of interested visitors, many of whom, I heard later, were still raving about my work when they entered the local Mexican bistro across the street; faint praise indeed when none were willing to put pen to checkbook. Oh, well.

Driving out, late sun sliding across rippled arpeggios of mountain peaks like a Sneaky Pete Kleinow solo, then up past the tailings and Superfund degradation of Leadville and onto 70 and down through its interminable, apocalyptically signed descent- " TRUCKERS DON'T BE FOOLED! STILL 4 MORE MILES OF 6% GRADE WITH TIGHT CURVES!" and as a GP-synth-fill grace note the jagged lightning strokes slashing and hacking away at Lyons, or some other some poor farm town east of Denver.

I spent Monday organizing the garage, to avoid the sort of loading slip-up from Friday, in which a minor part of the tent was left behind ( Um. The roof). I avoided the 5 hour retrieval round trip thanks to a nice woman who had a spare, slightly wind-mangled pop-up, which thanks to the calm weather, worked like a charm. Except, of course, for the no sales part.

But to paraphrase Freewheelin' Franklin, times of time and no money are better than times of money and no time. Part of the promised but still undelivered Squishtoid Manifesto, folks! Watch for it!

Of course, Freewheelin' Franklin and his cannabinoid musings are very much on my mind lately, as I solaced my self after my zippo blanco show by laying in bed and finishing Inherent Vice. About which, full review tomorrow, though speaking as one who the only Pynchon books he hasn't read twice are the ones he's about to read twice, don't expect a negative reaction, as it turns out to be kind of a page-turner without losing that delightfully bizarre TP mojo.

The run-on sentence in graf three being in his honor.

Days with out job: 139
Squishometer: "We're not afraid to ride..."
Number of Words in Graf 3 Run-on: 94

Saturday, August 8, 2009


I did say I would post this image, from the plate in "Prelude to a Squish".

I don't have a title yet, not unusual for this stage in the proceedings. It's 42x30", and contrary to the original post, I don't think it's "finished" yet. This sort of indecision is also not unusual. I like to sleep on it sometimes before I make another "drop", especially on one so big and time consuming.

It'll be fun (for me, anyway) to compare the various stages when the print is done, so I'll return to this again.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hard at work, getting ready for a show in Salida, CO. The complete info is on my Facebook page. Here's a link. For those in Denver or the Rockies, it's a great little daytrip, and you get a good view of College Peaks.

The show itself is right on the Arkansas River. The website for the show with travel info, is here.

The picture is untitled as of yet, but I've been working on several of these sorts of minimalist, receding landscapes. The repetitive visual rhythms
and homogeneous tonalities put me in the mind of the musical concept of ostinato.

There are several more photos posted on my events page on Facebook at the link above.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Weekend Squish: A Squishing Comes Across the Sky.

Days without Job: 122

Days Without New Pynchon Novel: -3

In this newly job-less 'slacker's' version of heaven, the required beach read is Thomas Pynchon. So the news, late last year, of an new TP novel, Inherent Vice, out August 4, is welcomed. The unusually quick turn-around, three years - with 10 not unusual for Pynchon, 13 the longest- makes me all squishy inside.The fact that it's a Noir detective story, unusually light at 369 pp. compared to his last monster (Against The Day, 1000+), is intriguing.

The first reviews have been trickling out.Now they have reached flood stage. They tend to fall into three distinct categories: outraged screed; jaded, knowing intro for newbies; and thematic speculations.

The first, a hallmark of his Gravity's Rainbow era, is now rare, though you can usually count on some curmudgeon at Slate or wherever to trot one out at some point. That 1974 blank spot in the list of Pulitzer Prizes for Literature is the legacy of this mindset. The second is now standard, and this one typifies the genre:
bemused listing of Pynchon tropes; disclaimer about the rather nonchalant plots; toss in a snarky comment about the character names; and you're done. Mail it in.

The third, my favorite, links the subject novel with his others in terms of Pyncho
n's ongoing thematic obsessions, but without the jargon that tends to choke the academic journals clustered around our era's pre-eminent Post-Modernist writer. These are the most useful to those trying to enjoy or understand the cult surrounding him, and Sarah Churchwell, in the Observer, provides a nice overview:

"The book’s title provides Pynchon with a new metaphor for three of his oldest preoccupations: entropy, capitalism and religion, specifically Puritanism. For insurers and preservationists, “inherent vice” describes the innate tendency of precious objects to deteriorate and refers to the limits of insurability and conservation; it suggests that matter (and thus, by extension, materialism) carries within it the seeds of its own destruction."

But since this is a Noir novel (of sorts), another kind of review has joined the fray, basically asking the question "Is it Noir?" And since the gumshoe genre is one of my favorites, I had to read "Death Becomes Them", an exploration of literary giants trying out Noir in Newsweek, by Malcolm Jones:

"No one will ever accuse Pynchon of wearing his feelings on his sleeve, but in Inherent Vice there's no mistaking his affection for his private detective, Larry (Doc) Sportello. Using Chandler territory as inspiration, Pynchon launches a tale as complicated as anything he's ever written, a tale that involves rotten cops, a missing girlfriend, a murdered developer, and a sinister menace called the Golden Fang, which is a mysterious schooner used for smuggling, but also the name of a shadowy holding company and maybe even a Southeast Asian heroin cartel. There are times when the false starts, red herrings, dead ends, and duplicities get so tangled that all a reader can think of is the story about Faulkner and Leigh Brackett, who, in the midst of writing the screenplay for The Big Sleep, had to call up Chandler to ask who killed the chauffeur—and he couldn't remember either."

Jones' conclusion:

Does it add up? Maybe. Do you get lost? Lured down a long linguistic dark alley is more like it. It's always weird but always fun.

I'll be at the Tattered Cover early Tuesday for my copy, and I'll post my preliminary thoughts in a Weekend Squish soon, and more when I've finished it. The single quotes around "slacker" in the first graf above are a warning that I'm actually quite busy in the next three months, and don't know when this will be.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Open Letter to a Blue Dog

But you never see the lies
you believe

-Elvis Costello, New Lace Sleeves

Health care reform, without a "re-forming" of the corporate-dominated and profit-motivated system we have now, is not reform at all. It awards maximum profit for minimal efficiency. Americans largely took that fact into account when they sent a Democrat to the White House and gave them a Congressional majority. Its success or failure will define this congress. Yet the people who should be most conscious of this truth are the ones embracing the old lies and myths.

Unfortunately, Republican fear mongers have succeeded in hijacking this debate with their rhetorical warhorses: attack-ad phrases such as "Socialism" and "Health rationing". This cynical jargon does not serve honest debate at all. It is intended to distract from the real successes of government-run systems in Europe and in Canada, and to intimidate newly elected Democrats, the so-called Blue Dog Dems. Conservatives will try to play the socialism card one more time, and when these new representatives buy into fear, they are abdicating from leadership they were sent to provide. They are adopting as the major defining characteristic of their first terms the fear of not winning a second.

It is sad that these representatives find it easier to ignore the American mainstream -many of whom are unable, or barely able to, afford health care in a system that values corporate profits over medical efficiency- than to ignore the lobbyists swarming their offices, and the demagogues who would deny 45 million Americans better health care that is less costly and more efficient.

The Republican obstructionistas want us to visualize jack-booted Star Wars Troopers click-clacking down the hospital corridors. It is left to the true leaders in Washington to visualize 40 million uninsured, and 14,000 losing their insurance everyday. There can be no doubt anymore that the private insurance industry lacks the skill or the will to efficiently provide for all Americans. Only the Democrats can provide leadership. Tax credits for people who can't afford to buy health care anyway is not health care reform. The conservatives opposed Medicare 4 decades ago with the same tired negativity that they are using here. Now, Medicare is a documented model for well managed public health efficiency. leadership is needed now, not reflex conservative negativity. Don't let them Swift Boat health care reform.

A mechanism must in place to protect the battered main street Americans who do not have cash laying around to afford health care, no matter how many tax credits are offered. Tax credits mean nothing to a large amount of citizens who can't afford the original premiums anyway.

That mechanism is called government, and placing the needs of all citizens in the forefront of health care reform, rather than a distant second behind profit, is called governing.

I urge all Democrats to advocate for a real reform that provides a strong public option for those the health care industry has ignored. Anything less is a failure, and will be remembered at the polls.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

prelude to a squish

Back to the press to work on some larger workSee the finished work here in a few days. See other finished work here. Find out about my upcoming workshop here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

You'll Feel Better

"New day rising, new day rising,
new day rising, new day rising

new day rising,new day rising

new day rising, new day rising

new day rising, new day rising"

"New Day Rising", Husker Du

Health care reform is begun in both the House and Senate. Those who are part of the alternative economy, and many who are in the mainstream economy, need to pay close attention now, as bi-partisanship is nowhere in evidence. In the Senate, the legislation was approved by the HELP committee, but without a GOP vote, even though many Republican amendments were included. It now goes to Finance.

In the House, funding issues are causing even Dems to jump ship. Obama has now endorsed Hilary's plan of required health care, but incentives for cleaning up health care mega-corp inefficiency have not as yet been addressed. Nor is the issue of a public plan safety net, a major Squishtoid talking point, settled. There is hope: some moderate Republicans, such as Olympia Snow, are willing to work on this issue, though she has asked Obama for more time to settle differences.

While Squishtoid is no political junkie, I've written enough letters and e-mails over the years to know that contacting your elected representatives with concise issue statements makes one feel good.

And since feeling good is what health care is all about, what better time to do it than now ?

Days without day job: 110
Squish-o-meter: Army of One

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I Sing the Body Eclectic

"..I speak the pass-word primeval..."

Well, not exactly. Still can't comment in my own blog, apparently a Blogger issue, but can't discount Baby Blogger Bumbling yet. I apologize-working on it.

To continue last week's speculation, during my down-time I picked up "Walt Whitman's America, A Cultural Biography", by David S. Reynolds. Whitman aligned himself, in "Song of Myself " as well as other places, with loaferism, an actual subculture in opposition to the prevailing Puritan/Industrial mindset of 1840's America. Of course, he also got fired from more than one newspaper job for "laziness". So I guess it's in the eye of the beholder, but just as today's global MegaCorps seek to manage our time for us, so the Romantic/Beat/Hippie/Slacker /Punk ethos has always provided an alternative viewpoint.
Ann Powers, in "Weird Like Us, My Bohemian America", has a more modern take on it. A music critic at the New York Times and Village Voice, she explores, among other things, the alternative economy.

A longtime friend, at
Zippidy Doo Da, a very interesting blog from a Large Red State, also suggests “World Made by Hand,” by James Kunstler, and Kevin Phillips' “Bad Money”. Are there other " Slacker Manuals" out there? Baby Blogger promises a review or two, after finishing a couple of these. But he'd better get back to his own "alternative economy".

Friday, July 10, 2009

The decision to leave my day job came in a rush. I hadn't planned to leave till 2010, but was presented with a use-it-or-lose-it situation as regards the pension. The corporation that employed me, like most in the notoriously venal grocery industry, simply saw inflated corporate bonuses and record profits as being of more value than rewarding employee loyalty.

In my haste to start working for a CEO who exhibits a bit more respect for all my hard work (namely, me), I didn't really have time to do one thing that the world's prototype Squishtoid really should do
[hangs head in shame] :

Publish a manifesto. And I promise I will do that, one of these eras. Suffice it to say that while my pursuit is one of freedom from insipid corporate stupidification and a quest for real craft, it's also a pursuit of the meaning and value of time, especially time creatively spent with other people, whether at work, play, or simply in good conversation.

There's quite a bit needs to be done in the US that won't get done until Americans cop to the fact that we have conceded too much of our precious time to banal corporate interests who give little but coupon discounts in return. Health care is one issue that sticks out in this regard. We treat it as some kind of separate issue in a list of issues without seeing it as integral to our basic quality of life. Like respect, dignity and the simple freedom to spend time with our loved ones, health is something that corporate America spends billions of dollars creating the illusion that they provide. At the same time, billions of other dollars are spent in making sure that these things are placed well behind profits in public policy making. Making us the laughingstock of cultures that we often, and superficially, treat as laughingstocks. Like France.

And in health care, if nowhere else, he who laughs last...

I intend to move forward, and create a positive place for myself in my new (working) life. And I acknowledge that I AM one of the few who did, indeed, escape (barely) with a pension. But I couldn't help but notice that others are starting to look at these issues. For now, I'm going to let this gentleman wrestle with the big questions. Out of the Office, a look at workplace wars in the New Yorker.

PS Thanks to you guys who have left comments. I'm having a hard time getting the site to recognize my profile to return comment, though I comment in other blogs all the time. In researching the issue, I see that this is a common problem around here. Hopefully, soon...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Eyes on the road, hands upon the wheel

Now comes the tricky part. Producing and preparing for a show in August. Should be a quiet summer, as the last one didn't produce much cash. So plenty of time to make and frame prints, and hope that Salida is a bit more art-oriented than Casper during these recession times.

I will also be preparing for a September show in Albuquerque as I got accepted for that this week. Then a small show in the Open Press Gallery for October, along with the start of my Art Students League Workshop. So keeping busy won't really be a problem, it's feng-shui-ing my noodle to eliminate distracting money worries.

I am definitely accepting hints and advice from all you teacher-types out there as I gear up to teach an 8-week workshop! What's the most important thing to remember?

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Weekend Squishtoid

I'd like to think of me returnin when I can
to the greatest little boozer and to Sally MacLennane


I found out, to my dismay, that in the frantic preparations for Casper, I'd missed the announcement of Pogues tickets going on sale in Denver Friday. They don't like touring much, and usually California or Chicago is as close as they get to Denver. So it qualifies as a rare, and possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see them at the Ogden Theatre.

Fortunately, there were still tickets left when I got back ( after all, this IS the city that didn't sell out for the Beatles)! So now, all I have to do is pray for Shane MacGowan's liver to hold out till October.

It's been a momentous summer for my (admittedly, off-the-beaten-track) cultural icons. The US National Team reached its first FIFA Final, A new Pynchon novel, and now the Beatles of Irish-American punk-folk. There will be a review of the show here after it happens.

Days without getting a job: 93

Squishometer: Was feeling A BIT SQUISHED after the Nic show; now, having scored Pogues tix, WARM N SQUISHY.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"Sad to say
I must be on m' way
So buy me beer and whiskey, boys
I'm goin far away"

Casper, Wyoming isn't much more than four hours from Denver, but it feels like a distant land.

The Nicolaysen Museum show was a success in every way except sales. I loaded up and zoomed up past Cheyenne and into the open range. This is great driving, with few other cars and a road that pays dividends for the attentive; I've seen plenty of wildlife and the nuances of the high plains landscapes make for sublime vistas. Nonetheless, I had to keep a good pace, and the weather was a worry. I went through a T-storm about Douglas and wondered how that would affect setting up for the show. But it cleared up about the time of the show, and the crowd was good, with one sale.

That seemed like a good omen. Saturday, quite a few people took an interest, but no sales. However, enthusiasm was high. The people that bought SNOW FENCES 287 on Friday, Dan and Mandy, sent three other people in! But the hours were brutal. I put in 16 hrs on hot asphalt.

Sunday: one sale, an architect named James who bought RAVINE AT DUSK. Then it was time to pack up and get the rental back down the dark highway. Got in at 1 am, and just in time, too! My eyes were beginning to cross, and I nearly drifted into the other lane a couple of times.

But it was a good experience. Casper is a nice little city with a lot of people who seem desperate for a little culture. I met classical musicians, architects, and photographers, many of whom seemed to know each other, and to be sending each other to my booth. But for whatever reasons, they seemed unable to commit to buying work.

The Nicolaysen seems to be trying to lift the city singlehandedly. Nic Fest is their Capitol Hill People’s Fair, and shows potential. The museum is a spectacular resource for such a small city, and the staff shows a lot of leadership and vision in presenting the town as a cultural tourist stop. As the Executive Director, Holly, told me, " We make our own fun here." Meaning, they can't easily escape to larger cities in bigger states, as the border cities such as Laramie can.

And their vision doesn't seem all that far-fetched. While Casper doesn't seem quite ready to pay for (my) contemporary art, and the show was choked with cowboy tchotchkes, they do seem to support the idea. And I counted four(!) restored movie theatres within a few blocks downtown. Whatever I expected from this experience, a 10 PM traffic jam downtown as the Festival let out, and the movie-goers streamed in, was not it! Well done to a vibrant little city!

Things are a little slower this week, and I will try to post a bit more. July looks set for a more relaxed pace, and after a very frantic June, that sounds good to me! Note to self- two shows in one month- pretty tough! Time to start acting like a retired person, at least for a couple of weeks. My most pressing upcoming deadline is Aug 4- the day Thomas Pynchon's new novel, Inherent Vice comes out.

Oh- and there was very nearly one disaster as a result of this show, but I'll save that for my next (and first Weekend Squishtoid) post. There is a clue in this post, however.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Gonna be a twister come
blow everything down
that ain't got the faith
to stand its ground"

- Springsteen

Here's what I SHOULD have made the epigraph for the last post, but I'm just a baby blogger yet! Off to Casper, WY, this weekend for a fair/show at the Nicolaysen Museum

This could be an entirely different type of crowd than Capitol Hill and to top it all off, The USA is playing Brazil while I may be standing around getting blank stares from people looking for nature photography. I'm probably being way too simplistic, my experience of WYO is always that it can't be stereotyped, but the irony is there- the "retired" guy can't drink beer and watch football 'cause he has to work! I'll post a bit more in depth when I get back.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tornado Discount? Hell, yeah!

I wish all Art Fairs were like the Art Students League of Denver Summer Art Market
The crowds are always there, and they are rarely there for the hot dogs. They are there for art. It's a great little fair. I'm never bored there, partly because of the strong crowds, partly because it's such a social occasion. Also there's the weather in Colorado in June, which can be ...dramatic.

This year people were buying smaller (at least in booth #57), but they were still buying. Sales weren't as strong as '08, but they were solid, and as it was my first real chance to make money at my new profession, that's huge.

I might actually have approached last year's total, but the whole thing ended in chaos. Around 2-ish, the clouds came in, and tornado sirens started wailing. From experience, I keep a tarp and trash bags, tubs, etc, for quick wet-proofing, and I had a friend there who could help pull framed pieces off the walls when the wind kicked up. I happened to be finishing up a sale as the eerie sirens started, but with my eye on the rapidly thickening sky, I figured it wouldn't take more than 5 minutes to pack and zip up, get in the building and hope for the best.

Then another woman wanted to buy 2 small pieces. These were, to coin a phrase, some cool customers!
A steady crowd was streaming into the building, but not Monotype collectors- they're not easily intimidated! Putting the whole 'squish or be squished' manifesto to its first test, I completed the sale as quickly as I could. I couldn't find the tax chart, so I simply rounded it off and called it good, got the nice lady a bag to protect the prints from raindrops and the odd flying trailer home and thanked her as she and her friend exited the tent.

"Okay, Nicole, let's zip it up and get inside."

Only, as Nicole zipped up the front flap, the lady and her friend popped back in the back flap. Her friend wanted to buy a small framed piece. I'd already packed it into a tub, so I dug it out.
"Is there a tornado discount?" She asked. Like I said, cool customers! Hey, if I die, at least I'll have art! "Shit, yeah, there's a tornado discount", I'm thinking as I knock 20% off the price, again round off the tax, bag the art and even, out of habit remember to ask for her phone number on the check.

The sirens are on their 3rd go-round, weird suspicious tendrils are trailing off the thick dark clouds, which are beginning to swirl. Someone has taken a cell phone photo of a funnel cloud.
By three thirty, the sirens, after 4 warnings, are finally silent, and there's even brightness in the west. We throw the tent back open, and a steady stream of people wanders by, but the crowds never really return. At about 4:30 there's another thundershower, and we pack it up for good. 4 tornado warnings and a thundershower and not a piece of art damaged. Plus 4 sales while the sirens are sounding. A good omen for this Squishtoid, I guess. As for the Summer Art Market, drama is nothing new there. One year it took place during the Hayman fire in the foothills. That Sunday, the sky turned orange, the sun was a big red ball behind all the smoke, and pieces of ash rained on the artwork. Strange days, indeed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Some are mathemeticians,
some are carpenter's wives;
I don't know how it all got started;
I don't know what they do with their lives..."

-"Tangled Up in Blue", Dylan

The first thing that strikes you is: How did I ever find time for a day job? To explain- owing to economic and political realities, I recently retired.

I always envisioned a life with a lot of free time. The question of how to pay for the "free time" ? Ah, there's the rub. So this is a blog about not getting a job.

I'm an artist, and the weekends have been a time split between traditional leisure/social activities, such as sports, art shows and music, and more professionally oriented ones, such as making and selling art. Then back to my job, often at 4 am Monday morning. Now I schedule my own time, a great advantage which I really appreciate. It's rare for working people to retire these days, and most seem to have their next job lined up before the retirement party even begins. My next job has been lined up since I graduated with a BFA: unfortunately, it pays even less than the classic retirement job, wal mart greeter.

I'm going to be a Squishtoid. I won't bore you with a long drawn out definition of what a Squishtoid is, especially since I just made it up and haven't really defined it yet, but I can give you the manifesto: squish or be squished. As background- I'm a monoprint artist. I paint ink on a plexiglass sheet and run it through a press at 2000 pounds psi pressure. What I painted comes out the other side, backward and totally squished. Kind of like life itself.

Then I sell them at shows, most of them street fair type shows. My first show was June 13-14, a chance to keep wal-mart at arm's length and keep scheduling my own time. I'll tell you how it went in my next post. For now, suffice it to say:

Days without job: 76.

Feel free to comment. Let me know if you are in a similar situation. Or contemplating it. For artists, I hope to share some of the things to look for as I stumble into my new career. For art lovers, I hope to share some of the process and thinking that goes into a monotype. For people who hate single subject blogs, I'll slip in a little "weekend squish" about books, music, cooking, entertainment and living the good life on the cheap.

I hope you enjoy, and I hope it happens to you sometime.