Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
I have to say, I crack myself up a little when I do this stuff, and am not totally convinced that anyone else really gets the joke. This is a ghost of a fairly experimental picture that I called "Incomplete Still Life", which contained the distressed table and distorted perspective of a floor, or maybe even a DiChirico-like plain. Weird enough.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Here's a quick follow-up on the last post. The Tea-Bagger beat the plagiarist. Apparently Colorado GOP voters are more worried about the U.N. /bicycle conspiracy theory than whether their children receive quality education, or their seniors, health care. But politically, bicycle batallions are the least of their worries. In addition to the third-party Immigration Nazi, who polls show will siphon votes from the paranoid Bicycle Nazi, his own party wants to replace him with a self-funded (read: rich) candidate of their choosing.
In the Senate Primary, appointed incumbent Bennett beat Romanoff to set up the fall contest with another Tea-Bagger, who has money problems too, with Bennett's campaign fund about eight times the size of his own. Neither GOP nominee has ever held office, while the two Dems, both moderate liberals, have accomplished quite a bit in a short time using bi-partisanship and common sense.
So, as Mike Litwin writes in the Post, the Dems, once assumed to be subject to voter backlash, will actually be favored in the top two races heading into the fall campaign. Colorado is too small to be a bellwether state, but if Hickenlooper and Bennett pull this off, the nation will certainly take notice. "Crazy"? Litwin is one of the Post's few token liberal pundits, and I often agree with him, but if paranoid, anti-government libertarian claptrap gets bested in November by experienced, common sense, moderate progressives, will that really be so crazy?
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
I haven't commented on politics too much lately, but the GOP Gubernatorial slate aren't really practicing it, anyway. More like slapstick. Yes, I know the conventional wisdom is that the Dems will suffer losses in the mid-term elections because of Tea-Bagger activism, but you couldn't prove it here in Colorado. As those who are paying attention know, Colorado is a former Red State that has been trending Blue. It also, according to CPR, has the largest percentage of Tea-Baggers in any state. I guess that puts us in a Purple Haze, but it sure has been a trip here, and the rest of the country is beginning to stare.
There's all sorts of fun 'n' games going on here, as we're having a primary right now. I could go on forever, but let's peek in on the GOP Gubernatorial Primary.
After it was revealed that the old school, conservative,"jobs" candidate's most recent employment was plagiarizing college profs at 300k a crack, the anti-immigrant guy jumped in with the unsurprising assertion that AZ's new law was forcing illegals not back to Mexico, but onto Colorado's welfare rolls. Presumably, his solution will be to shove them along to Nebraska. Problem solved. Soon they'll be in Canada, where the party out of power ISN'T trying to eliminate their health care system. Thanks, Immigration Nazis!
Now the Tea-Bagger candidate has jumped in with the opinion that Hickenlooper, the current Denver mayor, and presumptive Dem candidate, is by installing bike-share stations and encouraging greener transportation alternatives, hastening a "U.N. takeover". He went on to explain that the plot is "well disguised".
True dat, true dat. As are Curly, Larry and Moe's Statehouse credentials. In politics these days, though, paranoia is the new black. So no one can really guarantee that images of bicycle-mounted U.N. shock troops, or 30 foot walls from Pueblo to Four Corners (neatly slicing off - ouch! pun intended- Trinidad, sex-change capital of the nation) WON'T resonate with voters.
Nor are the Democrats averse to the hijinks. Hickenlooper, who has been perking along just fine, rightly reminding voters that he had created more jobs and balanced more budgets than all the GOP candidates combined, couldn't resist announcing to a large crowd that included several car dealers that he wanted to "wean Americans from the automobile". Innocent enough for us two-wheeling fifth-column types, but in the Rocky Mountain West, where visiting your neighbors often requires a 3-hour drive... well, like the gun fetish thing, Dems usually just don't go there.
Over in the Senate Primary, Andrew Romanoff, who led the charge when the state legislature went Democratic in '06, has been trying to paint his incumbent opponent, Michael Bennett, who was appointed when Ken Salazar joined the Obama administration, and who has done pretty well with his brief time inside the Beltway, as a big-money Washington insider. I'm expecting an ad about Bennett's Swift-Boat adventures on the Arkansas River any day now. There is a Republican Senate Primary, and it does feature another of those zany Tea-Baggers, so stay tuned, as hilarity will undoubtedly ensue.
Actually, speaking of the Arkansas, a new Jean-Claude and Christo project to cover it in the trademark orange fabric is advancing nicely. I don't doubt the Tea Baggers will have something to say about THAT before this whole thing is over, too. There's nothing to stop the U.N. Navy from sending kayaks, too.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Despite the T-shirts that read "Keep Boulder Weird", there's actually a University at least half full of football-watching Republicans to balance things out (and they're lobbying to be allowed to carry guns on campus, talk about weird). I'm not qualified to judge Boulder's deeper zeitgeist; my booth at last weekend's Art Fair was the longest amount of time I've spent there. But how is the People's Republic of Boulder as an art town? About the same as any other mid-sized city, I think.
It certainly has its share of dedicated, Saturday morning art shoppers. But as the temps soared to 102, and the art crowd thinned, I was left with time to observe the rest. I have spent a lot of time at street fair art shows, and have identified a number of types who habituate in any city. It's risky to draw conclusions, I suppose, especially when part of one's income depends upon them, but here they are: ranked from most likely to buy, on down.
Single Women: Whether wearing rings or not, women who shop alone are the drivers of American cultural life. Confident, decisive, businesslike, they embrace their traditional role of home decorator in concert with their more recent economic independence. Whether Grad-school aged, 30-Something, or middle aged they are a force to be reckoned with, and they know it. Despite this, they love hearing what you have to say about particular pieces. If you have them in your booth, your show prospects just got better.
Couples: Whether gay, lesbian or hetero, they collect and buy together. Decision-making is naturally more complex, so you often get multiple visits and comparison shopping. I'm not a salesman and tend to let the work speak for itself, so this suits me fine. Unlike single women, they require little work, since it's the couple that does all the selling, to each other. I get a very romantic feeling watching them decide. If they strart pointing to one of your larger works and discussing which wall it might look best on, you are about to make your booth fee. An important exception is the couple that is there as part of some quality time /sportsbar time trade off. The man usually stands impatiently outside the tent while the woman looks at art. I don't know what this portends for their relationship, but no matter how enthusiastic she may be, you will not sell so much as a postage stamp to her until she dumps him.
Friends: To paraphrase Freewheelin' Franklin- times of friends, and no sales, will get you through better than times of sales, and no friends. Friends fill the boring parts of a show, and make your booth seem more popular than it is. They help you break down and set up, which is hot grungy work. Besides, friends buy an amazing amount of art, even though they often know they can trade for it, or just wait till I give it to them.
Students, hipsters: A relatively small, but very gratifying portion of my typical sales. Fun and enthusiastic, they are often artists themselves. Let us now praise those forward thinkers who spend more on tattoos, piercings and weird art than they do on their cars.
Single Men: They seem fewer, and less conversational, than the women. But they do buy art.
Overthinkers, Stalkers: For whatever reason, and it may be very legitimate, they have a hard time committing or permitting themselves to buy. They return often, or cruise by, are sometimes forthright about their circumstances, and sometimes hover just around the corner, peering at the object of their desire. Sometimes you can get them off the fence by offering a deal, usually not. I suppose that some, burned by the memory of the piece that got away, graduate to more stable finances or decisive frames of mind, and become buyers, but a few return years on end, inquiring about the same piece.
Praisers, Activists: They tend to genuinely like the work. They solicit for art donations for charity ( I donate regularly, if the charity is competent and respectful), for other shows that need more artists, or sometimes they thank you for coming to their small-to-midsized town so that they will be exposed to more and better art. All very nice, and I know there are artists being paid by some public or private funding for this purpose, arts education. But once I've sweated the framing and the set-up, and it may be cynical, then the only meaningful praise is the kind accompanied by a checkbook being opened.
Giclee buyers: They've made the important leap from throwing up the first Bronco poster that comes their way, to seeing walls as an important place for personal expression. But you could make a case that hanging street corner band flyers, or old movie posters, or magazine or comic book covers would be a more authentic (and cheaper) form of expression.
Strollers, Looky-loos They wear a lot of Nike, or Bronco apparel, and saunter by with their ice-creams without purpose, or even focusing their eyes. They sometimes will actually enter the tent, but only to cut through to the ice cream stand. They only stop to park their massive strollers or large, panting dogs (poor doggies!) in front of your hottest-selling bin while they chat about ice cream on their cell phones.
The purpose of a street fair, is of course to attract a large, diverse crowd. And people change, moving up into higher levels of cultural sophistication, or simply giving up and heading to somewhere they are more comfortable, such as the Bronco game, or an ice cream parlor. But let's not kid ourselves about who the artist wants to see walk into his booth, shall we? If we could sum up in one word: a conversationalista (yes, I made that up). I love a talker, and people who are engaged by their surroundings are often themselves very engaging.
These blase, ice-cream slurping Americans have become an archetype around the world as a symbol of Americans' lack of cultural engagement, but it might be an unfair stereotype. Especially in Boulder, Albuquerque, Casper, to name a few small- to mid-sized cities I've been to. More of these cities are seeing street fairs, an outgrowth of ancient old world marketplaces, as a good way to lend vibrancy to a downtown, enliven a city's cultural scene, and help the local economy. I think more people are becoming intrigued by this sort of social exchange.
I've always said the culture wars will be won in the streets, not in the media, and here's one place where the good guys are winning. Who knows when today's ice cream eater may become tomorrow's art collector? As for artists, these shows can be a great way to widen your base, as the gallery scene can certainly be a bit clubby. It's hard work doing these shows, and dispiriting when you watch gawkers parade by for hours on end. I hope to stop doing them at some point, but they have a lot to offer. For one thing, the people-watching is the tops.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Where did June/July go to? I meant to post, I really did. It would have been a good time to post the anxiously awaited Squishtoid Manifesto, but my infinitely staffed simian writing pool with their infinitely equipped Remington Selectrics dropped the ball, it must be said. Instead of witty, trenchant, action-inspiring words for artists, we got Shakespeare. Dissappointing to say the least! Especially as the monks' effort, entitled "Titus Andronicus (The Musical)" has already been written.
Okay, that's actually a cumbersome plug for my favorite theatre group here in Denver, Buntport Theatre. Their version of Shakespeare's bloodiest play featured 10-foot, Monty Python-esque spurts of stage blood; a chalkboard to tot up the body count, and a stage design centered mostly around a 1963 Ford Econoline van, which they rolled into position for various scenes while delivering wacky little expository asides. And song, lots of song. That was a fondly remembered weekend for me, not least becase it is the only one in memory in which I saw not one, but two musical entertainments featuring people being baked into pies and eaten (Sweeney Todd opened that week, how could one PLAN that)! Whether all of this makes it into the Squishtoid Manifesto, as metaphor or otherwise, is up to the monkeys. But it begs the question: do we really need this blog revived?
As for the shows, some seemed surprised when sales at the Summer Art Market were unaffected by the relentless rain and chilly temps, but not this little wet duck. After all, if the reaction to a funnel-cloud sighting in '09 was to brandish credit cards and go on a buying spree, then a little English football type weather in honor of USA v England was unlikely to slow them down.
A couple of buyers took the opportunity to also hop over to Open Press for the final week of my gallery show there, and that led to a small flurry of sales there, too. Then, last weekend saw my first visit to Boulder for their Art Fair on the Pearl Street mall, and sales there were solid, if not as spectacular as ASL, which turned out to be my best show ever. This year is certainly off to an encouraging start. And I've been making lots of friends, though I'm cheating and doing it the old fashioned way, and not on Facebook.
The most interesting thing to happen in Boulder (well besides the unicyclist in head-to-toe pink spandex; the 9 foot tall hottie on stilts; and the world's worst bag-piper in full tartan regalia setting up shop 5 feet from my booth to practice his medley of "God Bless America", "The Marine Hymn", and "The Pina Colada Song") was the Festival Director walking up to me in 100 degree heat with an old school, county fair-type fluffy blue ribbon and announcing that I'd been named "Best in your category". I wasn't foolish enough to ask what my category was, or how many people were in it. The prize came with a small honorarium which I invested in a fortified grain beverage that has become an integral part of my health regimen.So I apologize for not posting sooner, in case anyone may have pictured me holed up in a dive bar, cursing the day I ever left the grocery biz. No, far from it! I spent most of June holed up in a dive bar, cursing the ref! Actually a bit of an exaggeration- I spent most of the World Cup on my couch, listening to the excellent Pablo Ramirez, and puzzling out his calls with my creaky high school Spanish, in order to spend more time shrink wrapping and framing. I did manage to hit the British Bulldog for a few games, including the dramatic USA v. Algeria, from which my ears are still ringing.
Next up, a return to the studio for some editions and larger works, and then the Denver modernism show in August. Hopefully, a more regular blogging schedule, too. I raised enough cash for an upgrade to the old iMac and a new iPhone, so I'm thinking that updates will be easier to do, like say, from the British Bulldog.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I haven't posted for a while, mostly due to preparations for the Art Students League Summer Art Market in Central Denver. As you can see, weather was less than art show-like. We had a total of 20 minutes of sun all weekend, with serial downpours, and temps so low you could see your breath. I'm still drying out, and warming up.
Somehow, and this is pending a few sales that have yet to finalize, I had my best show ever. At times, I was so swamped, I was pretty sure I was losing sales, and I've gotten two e-mail inquiries since the show ended.
I wasn't the only artist telling this tale, and that's one reason the event is viewed as a can't-miss by many. I actually skipped the biggest football game in 60 years ( USA v. England) to do this show.
It's surprising that so many shows don't try to emulate the Summer Art Market, with its intimacy, walk-ability and simple, honest entry rules: if it is taught at the school, you can show it. No crafts, no jewelry, no giclees. I have nothing against crafts, jewelry and reproductions (giclees), but they're all available at the mall. If you're going to have an art show, focus on art. The people of Central Denver, and judging by the addresses on the checks, many other towns in Colorado, apparently agree.
And, I've said it before, when you support the arts ( Colorado's 5th largest employer), you are helping the economy.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Millions of Monkeys are banging away in the back room on surplus Remington Selectrics, hard at work on the long-awaited Squishtoid Manifesto...well, wait.
It appears they're actually working on the long promised World Cup brackets, actually.
Anyway, it appears the monkeys and I have gotten a bit behind. I've been getting ready for the Art Students League Summer Art Market, the best little street fair in the Rocky Mountains. Making art, then framing and shrink wrapping it, all while preparing to teach a workshop, and doing a small gallery show at Open Press. Though now the Spring workshop has finished, freeing up a little time.
Teaching a workshop has been good. Good for paying bills, good for focusing my thoughts on what I try to do with monotypes, good for making new friends. I’m very happy when I walk into school Tuesday mornings. Do something you love, and never work a day in your life, as the saying goes. I thanked the artists by bringing them donuts. Show people you like them by feeding them gluten, corn syrup and fat, I say!
The social qualities of art don’t get talked about. Art is supposed to be good for you, and those who go see it or collect it are generally seen as sophisticated. But the people you meet when you go to art shows, and art fairs and the conversations you have are just more satisfying. Much daily conversation in America seems to center around sports. I have plenty of sporting friends so I am one who joins in.
I’m including music and theatre in the general term art, but no place is more informal and cheaper to meet people than an art show, especially an opening or fair. And art is Colorado’s 5th largest employer! ( I’m sure other states can boast of similarly surprising numbers). By going to an art show, or taking a class, you not only enrich your own life, you help the economy.
One more point. With the extremists mobilizing often from right-wing mega-churches, and using these cultural centers to organize and exchange best practices, the Centrists and Liberals have no equivalent meeting ground ( unless you count PTA's and Universities, themselves often under attack from extremists and tea-bagger types.) Urban neighborhood bar culture and Union Halls used to perform this function, but have been nearly legislated out of existence due to concerns about drunk driving and the prevailing anti-worker sentiment in government. So cultural institutions, from big civic mega-museums to art galleries, music clubs or street fairs will do just fine for starting a conversation. And change begins with EXchange! Sometimes, we have to talk 'n' walk, before we walk the talk.
Monday, May 24, 2010
The US Men's National Team training camp in Princeton has not provided a lot of news. This is frustrating to fans combing the internets for indications of Coach Bob Bradley's intentions to fill the many question marks in his line up, and Soccer in the US could probably benefit from a small window of media attention that it gets around the World Cup every four years. But it's probably a good thing for the team who are burdened with a double set of expectations.
The expectations for the US team tend to be framed in the context of a mainstream media that goes into full butt-covering mode after years of explaining away editorial prejudice by calling soccer “boring”, “unathletic” or even, in the famous words of one gridiron shill, “a commie, pansy sport.”
Informed readers will notice quite a bit of fantastical evaluations of the team from writers who are accustomed to American sports leagues, where a common occurence is a fairly lightly-regarded team getting on a five game hot streak and going to the Super Bowl. This is the same fantasy world where a team from the East can beat a team from the Midwest, and be declared “World Champion”, though neither of them has actually played the world.
This World Cup is a true world championship, with 200 plus teams starting out, and the last 32 contesting the Cup. Surprises do happen (especially in Mundiales where the host is not particularly strong), but only seven coutries have ever actually won. The wheels of change in International Football turn slowly.
For the players, the pressure to prove soccer is a sport worthy of this sudden media attention is conflated with the pressure to beat teams with far better development systems and experienced players. Those who follow the team know that the reality is that the team is young, and speedy (far from “unathletic”), but still lacks the vision and subtlety of touch required to consistently win at top levels. It will be a step up for them to just play consistent football versus heavyweights or even other pretenders from Europe and Africa, whom they've always struggled against. This year, they are placed in a group composed of just such teams, England, Slovenia and Algeria.
The first indication of how they'll do comes Tuesday and Saturday, as they take on Czech Republic and Turkey, respectively. These are strong European squads which significantly, got beaten out of WC spots by other, stronger teams, such as England and Slovenia. The Tuesday game will precede the final roster cut-down, the Turkey game is the first tune up with the final squad.
The games don't count in the standings but are significant for young athletes who must react to the pressure to win a roster spot, and the US team overall will no longer be able to avoid the spotlight.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Can't believe how quickly the Monotype Workshop I'm teaching at the Art Students League of Denver is winding down! I also can't believe the diversity of prints we continue to see there. Tuesday I did a quick demo on Chine Colle, a sort of collage technique where colored paper is glued onto the main ( usually white) paper during printing.
Two different approaches are seen here. Barbara (top) laid down a criss-cross pattern featuring the colors of the Italian flag ( turns out she's from my hometown of Buffalo, NY) under a lively, folk art style rendering of a tree. The Chine Colle element adds emotional depth to an already strong graphic.
Beth ( below), has favored experimental modernism since the class began, as in her studio work. Mondrian would have disapproved of her jazzy diagonals and intersections, but our class meets only 3 blocks from Broadway Ave, so he would easily see the "Boogie Woogie" element here. Well balanced color, with blue and black triangles providing a steady beat for the orange, red and acid green.
I'm preparing a proposal for another, very similar workshop in the fall. I think we had a pretty good time, and I know of one participant, at least, who learned a lot ( the instructor). I'm also teaching a one-day workshop at the League Saturday, Aug. 7. You can register for either right here.
Want a free sample? Got that, too. Tomorrow at my show at Open Press ( 40 W. Bayaud), I'm doing a demo and gallery talk that's open to the public, with drinks served. That's 2 PM.
Was going to debut the long-awaited Squishtoid Manifesto there, but the monkeys working at my bank of used Remington Selectrics got a little grumbly when I brought that idea up. Then again, they've been working hard, and so have I. I might have to give us all the entire World Cup off.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Today, the most significant story in sports will come out of Princeton, NJ, though the sports talk wing of right-wing talk radio will work hard to ignore it. The United States Men's National Team will gather for the first day of practice in advance of the World Cup. The Mundial is by far the world's greatest and most popular sports event, despite one "lite" beer commercial repeatedly assuring its empty-calorie-swilling fans that gridiron throwball is "the world's most popular sport". Simply repeating it during the numerous stops in action of an NFL punt-a-thon doesn't make it so, and the World Cup would dwarf a month of Super Bowls.
The young, speedy American team probably lacks the experience and subtlety needed to go far in the Cup, but the event is significant to Americans in more ways than that. It's being held in South Africa this year, and many would like to see Barack Obama pay a visit (though not the hard pressed South African police).
The symbolic value of this would be hard to miss- except on sports yell radio. The first black President of the U.S. visiting the one country whose record on race is as dark, yet as potentially redemptive, as ours. Throw in the Obama administration's work to repair the damage done to the USA's image by the single-mindedly unilateral Bushies, and the fact that Africa is a continent that could really use a bit of good news, and you can see that football isn't popular just because it's exciting to watch. It really does have the power to bring diverse peoples together, and to inspire hope and change.
But of course, that's another story you won't find on American sports pages. They get right on those soccer riots, though.
Monday, May 10, 2010
May already! This is a very busy time of year for me even without a day job, have no idea how I managed it with one. This post will be a hodge podge just to let you know I'm still breathing- I'll shoot for a longer post later this week.
First, thank you to Conor O'Donnell ( and all of the artists in the workshop) for letting me post these prints. Check out my Facebook page for more. It's really been fun to see the wide variety of approaches, they look great on the pages, and the images provide me with talking points while I'm so busy. There have been some nice comments on the work, which I pass along to the artists. The class itself has been real fun. If you feel like leaving a comment, feel free. Though we've moved into color, Conor is still liking the rich black and grays on white, with the nice, sharp graphic look coming as a result of stencil.
The Open Press show is up and running, and there have been some sales (to some of my previous collectors, hooray). There are two events associated with that still to come, a demo and gallery talk May 22, and The June First Friday. Come down for a drink if you are in town!
Of course, those who know me well know that all of this frantic activity is in aid of only one thing: sitting on me bum all June, watching football! As you can see, I did start a series of posts on the various groups a while back, then got swamped. I still hope to post more on the World Cup, if only to get myself psyched up for the world's greatest sporting event.
And naturally, I still have cultural opinions. Expect some sort culture wars-type of screed sometime soon. Nothing gets me and the typewriter monkees in the back room fired up quicker than soccer-related xenophobia.
Friday, April 30, 2010
I remember being bored at times back in January/February, when it too cold to go out, and I would prowl through the shelves looking for something new to read, or re-read. Now, in wet, gray April/May, with the workshop, and the show at Open Press (opening tonight!), boredom is not a problem. It's been a bit frantic. Tonight, starting at 6 pm, it starts getting fun again. Crocus-pocus !
People who find yakking about art entertaining should try yakking about their own art. People are not afraid to be blunt, as in: "What were you thinking?" In many cases, I WASN'T THINKING AT ALL, which to me, is part of the point of art. In this picture, "Interior with Absence", above, with its minimal structure and distressed imagery, I intended to evoke the fleeting feel of time past. Once highly anticipated events that are now dim in the memory. Do those people with the funny haircuts and our social security numbers even exist? And what of those who are gone? What creates their strange hold on the emotions?
Which brings us back to boredom, itself a form of absence-in-waiting. With two upcoming First Fridays and a Saturday demo, as well as the workshop and ASLD Summer Art Market, boredom isn't likely to have much of a hold on me.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Not sure how I ever found time for all this stuff with a day job! April is always a little frantic compared to the winter months, though.
My monotype workshop at the Art Students League has definitely taken up some hours in prep time, for sure. The artists themselves are very fun to work with; a very lively group that doesn't mind having new stuff thrown at them, and responds with a spirit of adventure.
I've been doing some odd jobs to earn extra cash, and taking care of HOA business, too.
Lastly, I'm still making new work, in advance of a small show at Open Press' front gallery. This opens up April 30, and I'll post an event info page on my Facebook Page soon. If you would like to receive these sorts of announcements as a reminder on your computer, just click the link, then click "like".
Lastly, a preview. Above, "Entropic Still Life", 1/1, 30x42".
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Above, a nice landscape by Ron Zito, from my monotype workshop Tuesdays at the Art Students League. Ron hasn't done a whole lot of monotypes, but is an accomplished painter, and he understood immediately that gesture and atmospherics will get you a lot more when working with ink on paper, than detail. I wish I could show you the subtle texture he got in the sky better than this snapshot, I think it makes the print. We had some other nice landscapes, and I'll post again soon, but several artists chose to work in abstract, and I've got a small portfolio of those here.
Friday, April 9, 2010
The Grant Street School ( above, now the Art Students League) is a Richardsonian Romanesque building not far from the Mayan Theatre. It may have been designed by Edbrooke, I will have to check on that. When I arrived in Denver in the 80's, it had already been decommissioned by DPS and was being rented out as Artists' studios. I remember visiting many of my friends there- Mark Friday, Jill Hadley Hooper, Phil Bender, Meg Ingraham. I remember sitting in Jill's studio, drinking beer and blasting the Pixies and Wolfgang Press.
The Art Students League had started in the same Victorian commercial building downtown where Open Press first began (and I began making monotypes). Then they bought the school.
The first day of the workshop was very fun, and it went fast. It's not easy to anticipate all the little issues, and I didn't. Next time I'll be better prepared, and the demo won't take so much time, and there will be more time for basics like paper-tearing, plates and of course, hands-on printing.
Everyone seems very nice, and most seem to be at least somewhat familiar with printmaking basics. There are eight peeps, which is more than I can remember ever teaching. Most are my age (-ish). I anticipate a lively eight weeks. We did get some prints done, but I got talking (go figure), and forgot to take pictures. Next week. I'll post the demos too, and I bet there are some interesting progressions there, since already I can feel a renewed curiosity about things I used to do, and moved away from.
Boy, I sure was beat after that, so I hung out on the couch and watched some bike racing, then I took a nap. It felt great to have the first one under my belt, after so many months of waiting.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
The first class will feature an introduction to my thinking and philosophy about the obscure medium of monotype, as summed up by the workshop's title: Spontaneous Graphic Textures. That is, many seem to approach monotype as a painting or watercolor, but the process seems capable of so much more.
I'll do a demo that emphasizes the amount of different textures that can be gotten in the simplest image, using the simplest tools.
We'll start making prints right away, thanks to the utter simplicity of monotype as compared to the technical processes of etching and lithography. You can put ink on a plexiglas plate (above) and run it through the press right away. The key is how much ink you apply, so that simpler ways of applying it seem appropriate the first day. For example, rollers ( brayer) apply ink in a controlled, even manner. Yet the many ways you can apply, then distress or texture the ink on the smooth plate allows for a lot of unique imagery. Sometimes, what you take out of a monotype is as important as what you put in.
Wish me luck, and I will try to get some student work to post at some point, if they are willing.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
My new browser actually allows me to comment in the comments section. My class at the Art Students League has met the minimum enrollment for it to be scheduled. Life is good, people!
To celebrate, it's Easter Egg time. The next 10 people who click "follow" are in a drawing for a print (those who have already clicked "follow" simply leave a comment before I get to 14 followers). No time limit, it's just when there are 10 new followers. I've been too busy to pick out a print, but I will post an image soon.
Monday, March 29, 2010
...are, as we speak, whompin' away randomly at millions of surplus, "Front Page"-era Remington typewriters (two or three per simian, typewriters are cheap! free, even) in a warehouse not far from the dark, 70's chintz of Herb's Hideout on Larimer, where Jack Kerouac once roamed looking for meaning in Denver's tenderloin, poetry to match the mountains. They are hard at work on the long-promised Squishtoid Manifesto. I may as well let the monkeys do it, since I have no clue. Like a lot of people, I’ve been busy trying to survive.
It has been nearly a year since I stumbled out of the machine-like florescent hum of my day job, into the harsh light of possibility. A vague plan for creative entrepreneurship was tapping away in my head. Art and self- realization awaited. But the manifesto (and the business plan) didn't... manifest. There was quite a bit of day-to-day grind to leaving the day-to-day grind behind. And naturally, finding and affording health care is a big worry. Nowadays, many find their work choices defined not by their vision for their careers, but by the need for health care.
It's not really my intention to inject huge amounts of political opinion into this blog, but the framing narrative here is the struggle to have an independent creative/working life, and there can be no doubt that the ongoing culture wars, as well as the health care reform controversy that stems from them, affect that directly, so it's kind of hard to avoid. And America, in putting off resolution of this issue for 60 years, has made it harder to solve it.
Nixon proposed a health care plan very similar to the one we've just passed, and Betty Ford advocated choice and the era. But that was the old GOP. The right wing, as they gutted the old GOP, also ratcheted the scope of American democracy further and further right. As resources dwindled, priorities changed. We have to make good choices. But the right wing shouters and haters have consistently downsized the definition not just of the American dream, but of American. And how did Wal Mart become the model for what employment should offer us? There is something appalling about allowing corporations (not to mention rich politicians) to decide who does, and who does not, receive health care in a free society.
The old saw that Europeans work to live, while Americans live to work has never been more apropos. America, as a country, has never figured out why we work, and it has turned the notion of time well spent into a zero-sum game. We measure ourselves in material wealth rather than health and happiness, so we shouldn't be surprised when the system demands that we devote our ever shrinking free time to securing the basics that much of the rest of the world has long ago figured out how to make, well, basic. Dreams get postponed. education suffers, kids suffer, retirement suffers. The middle class is a vanishing oasis, the electronics store our stress relief, with VISA the ticket to entry. It's not a healthy way to live, physically or as a culture, and bingo! here come the number crunchers to tell us why we as a nation, can't have health care. Though ironically, as a society, we devote tremendous resources to convincing ourselves why something can't be done. We need a few dreamers.
I figured I fit the bill. My timing wasn’t great, in the middle of a recession, but it was an old story- the corporation was eying the pension to maintain profits, in the current political climate, it was sort of use it or lose it. In taking the plunge I stepped into the middle of a debate that was no less about dreams than it was about reality.
The far right doesn’t seem to believe in the American dream. The existing system, in which workers receive health care only at the sufferance of their employer or corporate health insurance concerns, presents workers with little flexibility in terms of striking out on their own, long a wellspring of entrepreneurial creativity that has fueled the American economy. The American dream has always encompassed everything from real estate licenses to hot dog carts, but now is expected to show a profit. If your dream- or your health- doesn’t conform to the business plan, you must not be an American. Is it work for its own sake that forms the dream, or independence? The desire to see the society and its dreams move forward is obviously great as evidenced in the current political mantra “Yes, we can”.
Isn’t independence why people leave their jobs; why they work for peanuts in the first place? Do people work at Walmart because they are just opposed to decent wages and health care? Society benefits when people apply their talents to produce. It is not properly society’s aim to put everyone to work in a dead end job. Yet when the fundamental question of providing the basics of a productive work force- education and health care- arise, we get the the party of “No we can't”. When government lacks imagination, and representatives go to Washington simply to be reelected, the American dream withers.
Health care reform is a simple commonsense idea that strictly by the numbers will more efficiently channel resources while simultaneously ensuring freedom to venture out into our dreams. It nearly got talked to death. Because there are always reasons to be found not to do something. I know. I could have stayed in the safety of corporate retail hoping the Corporation felt like funding health care. But like a lot of people in middle age these days, I was far too young to be coasting into old age, and what could it possibly profit a society to keep me or anyone in such a state of inertia? According to filmy sentimentalism of the brokerage house commercials, our generation is redefining retirement, yet the mechanisms of our own society haven't kept pace. It is a contradiction of the American Dream- in order to guarantee ourselves quality health care, we have to do the thing that the capitalist heroes like Steve Forbes have always advised us not to do: postpone, downsize, sublimate our dreams. How unhealthy! As we shrank the American dream, we made it more likely that we, as a culture, will do nothing special. And by the law of diminishing returns, we risked decline.
The health care crisis, as most have realized by now wasn't about efficiency, but about the Reaganite desire to shrink government arbitrarily. Like those monkeys, the right banged purposelessly away at one key “tax, tax, tax”, hoping no one would notice that there was no vision, and no faith in America. But our government is, by definition, a vision, and tax just a tool. In trying to shrink government, they sought to shrink the definition of "American”. Health care reform, far from the radical takeover the extremists have cast it as, is simply a return to the freedom to shape our own dreams. Far from a government takeover, it is a populist takeover. In an America that is still struggling to move forward from the wars, recession and huge deficits of the Bush years, can we really afford to spend far too much money on a system that limits our ability to have independent innovation?
There are still tough choices to be made. In this case the right choice was made. I’m feeling better about my personal choices too, now the economy is showing signs of recovery, though I may still need to get a job to make them work. Our health care system is somewhat more rational and user friendly, though premiums will undoubtedly be a stretch, and fixes will be needed. But it’s far more adaptable to changing needs. The road to creative entrepreneurship will always be tough, but at least the road is a bit clearer of obstacles. I have a clearer vision of what is possible.
Is it possible to get those monkeys going on that manifesto? I might have to give it time. But anything’s possible- after 60 years, we got Washington to believe in the American Dream.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I may have posted this one before; it's actually from late 2009. But this is a professionally done shot, so I think it will look much better. There were two layers, or "drops". One for the yellow and blue/gray of the sky, the second for the black in the foreground.
We'll look at what can be done with simple color schemes and multi-drop prints in my workshop, which you can still register for using the link to the left. Classes start first week of April on Tuesday afternoons, and we'll have fun with the Spring skies.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
For the right wing, that means moving on from legislative obstruction to judicial obstruction on health care, and in Congress, from health care obstruction to yes, obstruction of financial reform. I think we can see the pattern here. The "Party of No" has "no" plans to do anything until they see if voters will blame Democrats for the stasis in November.
Michael Bennett also sees the pattern clearly enough, and this is part of the reason I'll be supporting him at the precinct caucus tonight. Bennett, who has most definitely NOT adopted the Blue Dog "duck and cover" strategy, has been active in trying to revive the public option, but has also been outspoken about the cynical filibustering in Washington. Now he's proposed a very interesting plan for reform of the Senate. Naturally, there's a likelihood that the GOP will see this issue too, as an occasion for obstructionism.
Nor is there any guarantee that Bennet, who was appointed to his seat after Ken Salazar joined the Obama Administration, will even be around to pursue reform. Andrew Romanoff, who has an impressive resume of his own after the Democrats took over the State House in 2006, has gotten a huge jump in organizing, and appears to be leading in polls.
Bennett, who's impressed party big wigs, and drew an Obama appearance at the Fillmore on Colfax for a fundraising event last month, appears to have benefitted from the Obama organization's expertise in caucuses. Media coverage and Facebook buzz appear to be high, and I don't doubt the caucus attendance will be unusually high (The Squish regularly attends Presidential-year cacuses, but this is the first time I can recall getting motivated for an off year caucus).
The caucus straw poll is non binding, and even if he loses, Bennett can still beat Romanoff in the primary. But the Faux News pundits will be sniffing for blood in the results, and will almost certainly play a Bennett loss as a repudiation of health care, and filibuster reform. What it will be really, is a chance to put Republican Gayle Norton up against a non-incumbent Romanoff, and of course, another victory for obstructionism.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
"Strange Garden", 1/1, 30x42"
Laura from the Art Students League very nicely e-mailed last week that she would like to use an older image of mine that she spied on the Open Press web site for a post card she was putting together. I definitely said yes, the more you get your stuff out there... The post card is to promote classes at the league, and I have one that is registering now for April and May, so that will help.
It's often an eye-opener when someone discovers a picture you've sort of moved on from. Coming up with ideas I want to try is rarely a problem for me, but moving frenetically on to the next, before I've really delved into the first, can be. So Strange Garden (above), the piece Laura noticed, made me wonder if I need to revisit the idea. For one thing, with my focus on negative space this year, it's interesting that she would call attention to a picture with so much of it. Also the print was done on a lithography press, as opposed to an etching press. An etching press rolls on the plate, a litho press scrapes across it, providing a different sort of action on the ink. Here at Squishtoid, where we are very technical minded, we refer to this as Squishmojonic force. Or something like that.
In this case it really worked to my advantage, and you can see the thicker blobs of ink were fortuitously extruded in a very organic, iris-like way that as far as I'm concerned, really makes the image. Anyway, it makes me wonder if I should use a litho press sometimes. I'd been doing some very gothic flower prints for a while that I loved, then bango! couldn't get 'em the way I liked them all of a sudden. I like flowers for their abstract colors and elements. It would be nice to celebrate spring with some new flower prints.
As for the workshop, it runs for 6 weeks and you can get more info here. The League has a revamped web site with online registration, and it's very easy to use. I think we'll have a lot of fun, and we'll cover technical as well as aesthetic issues, so no experience necessary. This one will run 6 weeks, but there are one-day workshops planned for Summer. When it's done, you'll be able to dazzle attractive persons with your knowledge of Squishmojonic forces. Or something like that.
Questions? Leave a comment, or e-mail me.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Poor Mexico. So far from God, and so close to the United States. -Porfirio Diaz, Mexican Dictator.
I predicted as I took my place at the bar, that the USA would fall to the Dutch by either 2-0, or 2-1. The first would be the expected result, given the last game in Amsterdam and their history in Europe, the second more hopeful, reflecting their improvement against traditional powers as in the '09 Confederations Cup victory v. Spain.
They lost 2-1. They looked much better than their last visit, when they were never really in the game, especially in midfield. This time the midfield was effective for long stretches, and the team was able to close the gap in the late going on a nice goal, and even threaten to tie. So there is hope.
It'll be a while before we see any more warm-ups though, so it's all guess work from here. But the lead-up to the World Cup has begun, and it's time to start doing what the Cup is great for- learning about other cultures (though soccer-haters and other xenophobes would not agree).
There is plenty of team-by-team analysis around, but I'm taking my cue from a very fun book from the 2006 Cup, "The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup" (edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey. I searched for this year's equivalent, but alas). It's a very readable book that gathers natives and fans of each team to write something on that nation. Since there are 18 return teams this year, it's still relevant.
Group "A" is a very interesting one with South Africa, the host; France, recent World Champs and hosts; and Uruguay, shockingly (for some) 2 time winners in 1930 and '50. But for purposes of this brief peek, the headliner is arch-rival Mexico.
If Mexico is, as former Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda says in his somewhat mournful piece on the homeland of "Los Tricolores", the richest of the poor nations, at least in futbol, they've always been the poorest of the rich nations. They've hosted twice, and made memorable runs, not least at the 2006 Cup, where they were game before losing on a brilliant Argentina goal.
Now the northern giant threatens hegemony in this vital area, too. Worse, they do it in almost off-hand fashion, with the US' string of victories in crucial matches, such as the 2002 quarterfinals, arousing no passion in the football-hating press and NFL-obsessed public. It seems unfair. Here is ESPN Sports Guy Bill Simmons' impression of a USA v. Mexico match in infamous Azteca Stadium.
Football, in fact, is often not fair, though Mexico can still have the last laugh this year. Though the first game (the opener!) v. the hosts will be tough in terms of the crowd, South Africa really hasn't been playing that well. Uruguay will be game, but their days of regular participation are long gone (their cups came during an economic and soccer heyday as host of a truncated field in the first event, and via an upset of Brazil before that nation's era of domination began). France is also underachieving, notably needing a Thierry Henry handball v. minnows Ireland to even qualify.
Mexico is back in good form, so passion and pride may very well carry them farther than the young US team. Some would like nothing better than to see Los Tri fail, but once the US is out, I always root for them. It only seems fair.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
"Disassembled Sonata" 1/1, 21x15"