Monday, December 14, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Mythology of Worcester, Mass.

I have never been to Worcester, Massachusetts, but elevate this place, my grandfathers home town, to mythic proportions. One of my teachers recently described Worcester to me as being like another Gary, Indiana. I found that comparison very believable considering my grandfather would tell strangers on the street his life story beginning with, "I grew up a poor boy in Worcester, Massachusetts."
This Spring I will be working on my BFAW Thesis, tentatively a collection of poetry taking the form of a graphic novel. Part of my thesis will focus on "The Mythology of Worcester, Massachusetts".
Tonight I made an exciting discovery, a comic/cartoon drawn 70 years ago about my grandfather, a star athlete of Worcester.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Overheard on the Redline

Yesterday I was on the redline an had the lucky experience of listening in on the following conversation:

A girl, likely in her first year of college, is telling the young man she is with about her latest art projects. The conversation begins with the girls shock that the young man is 22-years-old because she thinks that he "totally looks a lot younger." She then get to talking about her art-making.
"We like have a critique every Wednesday. So I have to do something creative EVERY week. Like last week I made a portrait of Ann Coulter out of toothpicks and this week I have to do an audio recording. So like, I'm going to record myself in a confessional."
"So you are actually going to go to a confessional and record yourself."
"No...I just have to say that is what I did and record myself confessing something, like helping to kill someone."

There you have it my friends, art now.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Guerilla Girls!

Here's my reflection comic about going to see the Guerilla Girls talk at the MCA last week.
Check it owwwt.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mo Money. Mo Problems.

There was recently a lawsuit concerning Damien Hirst and a 17 year- old radical artist. The teenager was forced to stop selling and displaying his art that featured images of Hirst's diamond encrusted skull. Taking revenge, the student marched into Tate Britian and stole a pack of pencils that were part of Hirst's pharmacy installation. Early in the day, he created a fake police poster advertising the pencils had been stolen from the museum. With a warrent for his arrest, the student received the news that his stolen pencils valued at 500,000 pounds, being the entire sculpture valued at 10,000,000 pounds. He quoted " For the safe return of Damien Hirst's pencils I would like my artworks back that DACS and Hirst first took off me in November. It is not a large demand...He has the end of the month to resolve this or the pencils will be sharpened. He Has been warned." First of all, that sounds like a bit of a threat, and I'm surprised there was not a repercussion for that comment. Secondly, there is a lot of irony going on in this dispute, considering another artist, John LeKay claimed he had been making diamond encrusted skulls three months prior to the time Hirst's came out. It sounds like a whole bunch of artist drama, but I have this strange conspiratorial theory.
Perhaps Hirst has set this all up. I mean, the man is a multi-millionaire and instead of playing a game with a 17 year-old kid he is threatening for a lawsuit, for more money! Maybe by the end the teenager will sell 500,000 pounds worth of re-appropriated artwork, become famous, and the two of them will go happily gallivanting into the sunset.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Travel: The Artist’s Rite of Passage

This past summer I reached that pivotal point of my life as an artist: I went to France. For some reason, young creative-types crave adventuring abroad and I am no exception. College brought me three-hundred miles away from home but I needed three-thousand miles. I packed way too much and with the remnants of my four years of high school French, I was out of the country for the first time.

I spent two weeks on a school study trip in St.-Cirq Lapopie, a small village up on a cliff along the Lot River. It has been difficult to write about my time there, because I found that I was reacting to the place visually. I took hundreds of pictures and filled page-after-page in my sketchbook. Writer, poet and surrealist theorist, Andre Breton wrote the following about St.-Cirq:

Beyond any other site of Europe or the Americas, Saint-Cirq put the spell on me - the one which binds you forever. I have stopped wanting to be elsewhere. I believe the secret of its poetry is similar to some of Rimbaud's Illuminations and that it is produced by the extremely rare equilibrium of the most perfect difference of its levels.

It was my experience that after spending just two weeks in Southwest France, I could never look at anything the same. I had spent a total of eighteen days in France with my only obligation being to create art. All artists need to experience that, even if for a brief time. We look to these art-pilgrimages for changed perspectives, inspiration and simply a good time. As someone who hits the snooze button for an hour before waking up, in France I woke up at the same time every morning without an alarm clock and it was the best sleep I've ever had. I was in a place that had history that just can't exist in the United States because nothing here is that old. I saw 30,000-year-old cave paintings at Pech Merle! Often my day-to-day life in Chicago is systematic and time goes by quickly. Life was different in France, much more slow in a way that has allowed me to remember each bit vividly.

Writings about my time in St-Cirq and the surrounding area

A small selection of photos from France, including my short trip to Paris

Thursday, November 12, 2009

SOFA Coverage

Check out m' SOFA review:

Here are some of the artists whose work I liked:

Chris Antemann
Sergei Isupov
Myungjin Kim*
Max Lehman
Gerardo Monterrubio
Richard Notkin
Seth Rainville
Mara Superior
Jason Walker
Kurt Weiser
Red Weldon Sandlin

*=My Faves

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Blame It on Art"

Here's an episode of  This American Life about art.


This spring marks the 20 year anniversary of the foundry at SAIC. The metal community within school has spread throughout the years from the basement of the Columbus building to Oxbow in Michigan to Crabtree Farm west of Chicago. Other schools from the area, such as Grand Valley State University, joined SAIC students in casting.
But why do I feel like this is one of the few communities within the institution, apart from some of the faculty community? Could it be that this particular medium is so dependent on a team effort that it builds a foundry family? Or it could be the way we practice artistic traditions. Either way, apart from networking and collaborations, I am only able to find community in one niche of the school.

F News "The Year of Iron"

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Thursday evening Anna and I attended a talk given by Lynda Barry and Matt Groening, as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival. Lynda and Matt, both comics artists with backgrounds in writing, met as students at Evergreen College in the 1970s and have carried on a friendship for over thirty years.

As Anna mentioned in her previous post, Arts Organizations, she and I met as Apprentice Artists with the ArtWorks Summer Program in Cincinnati. During the summer of 2005 we worked together on a mural project for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. (Miraculously Anna ended up at SAIC, sealing our fate as BFFs.) I spent six summers with ArtWorks, also participating in various projects during the school year. Along with Anna I was part of the first-ever Teen Advisory Board at the Cincinnati Art Museum. As a young artist, meeting a bunch of other art kids was an incredibly cool experience. Some of the people I met during my time at ArtWorks remain my closest friends. The concept of the Art Community became very important to me.

Surrounding myself with artist friends has surely influenced my work. My artist and writer friends are the first people I turn to when I need advice on something I’m working on. When I create something that I am proud of, they are the first people I want to show. Carrying on conversations about the arts is a natural part of my daily life because art is the common denominator among the creative-types I tend to associate with.

I have devoted a significant amount of my time as an art student to community building of sorts. I am the student leader of The Creative Writing Guild, (CWG), a student group with the mission to support, promote and involve writers at SAIC. My friend Caitlin Schriner and I founded the group during our sophomore year. Involvement has grown rapidly. Recently we released our fifth publication of student writing, Dialogue, and hosted a reading. Recently in discussing what I consider to be the importance of the CWG I stated is purpose as being “to establish imaginary coordinates in which to contain a network of people as an audience, to be audience to, to collaborate with and create dialogue with. One cannot be static.”

As of now, my greatest audience is found in my friends and the students and teachers who inhabit this community I am part of. My connections to these people are highly valuable and will continue to influence my work and introduce me to new directions. I hope that thirty years from now Anna and can sit on a stage and talk about our beginnings at ArtWorks, tell crazy stories at about our times at SAIC and though our work is very different, we both have an interest in narrative and the coincidence of growing up twenty-minutes away from each other.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Arts Organizations

   For three years, I was an ArtWorks Apprentice.  It was a coveted role among young artists in Cincinnati and I was so happy to have it.  According to their website, "... ArtWorks is a non-profit arts organization that connects artists of all ages with opportunities in the arts through inspiring apprenticeships, community partnerships, and public art."  

   Through Artworks, I helped create projects for The Cincinnati Art Museum, The Taft Museum of Art and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.  I was also chosen to be on the first-ever Teen Advisory Board at the Cincinnati Art Museum.  

  Being a part of ArtWorks was a great way for me to become acquainted with the art world before college.  As part of an artist collective, I learned new techniques, how to present a projects to a board and how to be a professional.  I also made valuable connections and lasting friendships.  As a matter of fact, Jeni Crone, a friend and fellow O&M contributor and I met through ArtWorks. Jeni is now working at 826 Chicago, "a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write."   As an 826 Intern, Jeni helps kids with their homework, reads stories and assembles "chap books," small books of stories the kids write and the drawings they've done to accompany them.  

   Whether beautifying a city or helping others to be creative, being an active artist in your community is really important and can mean a lot to a lot of different people.  Get out there!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Teachers at SAIC

Janice Misurell-Mitchell

Audrey Colby

Anna: How can I put a positive spin on this?
Jeni: Something like, it may take a bit of experimentation before you hit the right frequency.

Oh man.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Does this movie trailer feel oddly familiar to your life?

Saturday, October 31, 2009


In ABC of Reading, Ezra Pound established six classes of persons in literature:

1) Inventors. Men who found a new process, or whose extant work gives us the first known example of a process.

2) The Masters. Men who combined a number of such processes, and who used them as well as or better than the inventors.

3) The Diluters. Men who came after the first two kinds of writer, and couldn’t do the job quite as well.

4) Good Writers without salient qualities.

5) Writers of belles-lettres. That is, men who didn’t really invent anything , but who specialized in some part of writing, who couldn’t be considered as ‘great men’ or as authors who were trying to give a complete presentation of life, or of their epoch.

6) The starters of crazes.

These same categories can be applied to visual art, or any art form for that matter. It is also quite possible that all of them are necessary to keep art going. Art like language comes in many dialects. I am not sure that it should or even could go in one direction. It is rather a central point from which multiple forms, practices and conversations evolve.

Today’s Inventors in art may be those working with technology. Those looking to apply new developments in science and technology to art practices, industrial designers, multi-media artists. They experiment and have no boundaries to their practice.

The Masters, those who pay careful attention to craft, those who look to refine the practice of art. They maintain tradition.

Diluters surely exist, and need no explanation.

Good Artists, those who learn from both the innovators and masters and carry on their ideas and practices.

Writers of Belles-Lettres translates to our Art Critics, those who support the art world by way of observation, and creating conversation.

Craze Starters and followers are the reason why we are finding owl imagery everywhere. We may find these people to be artists working in with graphic design and advertising, figuring out how to draw in an audience and selling to it.

Friday, October 30, 2009


I couldn't remember his name when I was writing my last post, but look at Paul Cadmus!  His nudes are incredible!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I'm a sucker for beautiful things, and now that I'm primarily focusing on drawing and illustration, beautiful drawings and illustrations make me want to get out of bed in the morning.   I'm constantly on the look-out for wonderful draftspeople and illustrators so I can build a database of inspiration and motivation.  I've included some links to some of my very favorite artists who are (or were) drawing and painting and making the world a more lovely place to live.

These cool cats make me laugh while inducing bouts of jealous rage:

One of the things I like best about attending an art school is meetin' and cavortin' with other students and cool-assed faculty and staff.  Unfortunately, a lot of my friends are like me and don't have a website dedicated to their work so I can't show them off, but here are a few of my SAIC  faves that do: 

Although it's important to move forward, it's just as important to study the past.*

-The magical, the mysterious, the perfect, Henry Darger
-My drawing teacher, Richard Deutsch had a David Hockney drawing pulled for us to see in the Prints and Drawings Department at the AIC.  It was amazing.  Apparently he's done lots of these really well-done contour line drawings.  Unfortunately, his website doesn't have too many, but if you're interested, do some research or hop over to the P&D Department and check out a real one that's not behind glass.
-Glorious of scientific illustration: George Shaw and Frederic P. Nodder 

*There are so many people I want to talk about (including a brilliant draftsman that did nudes with conte crayon on tinted paper whose name I cannot remember).  I'll continue to post information about artists that bring me joy. 

La dee da.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Technology vs. Typewriter

This semester, my MacBook Pro has been sitting off to the side while I write letters and draft poems on a manual typewriter. The typewriter is a requirement for a class that I am taking called The Poet Critic. Each student has a partner in the class, to whom we write letters discussing our reading assignments and anything else we may be reading, share what we have been working on, as well as anything else on our minds that we may find relevant to write about. Composing my poetry on a typewriter has been the real challenge for me. Copy-pasting is key to my editing process and somehow handwritten drafts had disappeared from my practice. The typewriter is bringing a few lovely things to my practice as a poet: 1) I have a physical copy of everything I write, every change I make. 2) I no longer spend an hour writing a sentence, deleting it and rewriting it (as I have been doing in writing this). I just write the sentence and move on. 3) I can’t check my Facebook every five minutes on my typewriter. 4) The physicality of using a manual typewriter is sort of fun.

I make oil paintings rather than Adobe Illustrator images, while a computer can do embroidery I spend painstaking hours making little French knots, why has my hand disappeared from my writing practice? I like my embroidery a little imperfect and a little oil paint in my hair, and I like seeing what color of gel pens I wrote poems in the 7th grade. Technology may be convenient but what of a practice is lost with it? I don’t even print out half of my poems. If my computer died tomorrow I would lose most of it completely. Maybe it is worthwhile to slow down, spend some time with my work, punching the typewriter keys.

Friday, October 23, 2009


With SOFA coming up, I can't help but think about the role of functional art. Although the title "Sculptural Object and Functional Art" is by no means claiming a purely 'fine arts' role, I have found functional art to often be a strange hybrid between conceptual art and craft. Sometimes a little heavier on the craft side. Working as a conceptual artist and "crafter" I am often combated by chosing between one or the other or finding the perfect way to make the combination. Many artists in the diy scene have successfully created a venue for concept and craft to live comfortable together. Im not sure if this plays a role in functionality. Perhaps its the venue space that determines an object's purpose. Or maybe its something more....

Monday, October 19, 2009

He Do The Police in Different Voices-T.S. Eliot

Twice today, I have encountered references to T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” which is arguably one of the greatest poems in the English Language. As someone who maintains a duality of being both a visual artist and a poet, I often find myself transferring the philosophies of each practice to the other. T.S. Eliot produced a fairly small volume of poetry in his lifetime compared to someone like Ezra Pound who was much more prolific. The work Eliot produced surely earned him a place in the Poetry Canon.

Recently I sat in on a discussion with high school-aged members of a Youth Advisory Board at 826CHI, about what merits a work being part of the literary canon. It was suggested that typically, writing that becomes part of the Literary Canon must feature most of the following qualities:

-significant as documentation of the time

-frequently referenced in conversation

-ground-breaking at the time when written/ innovative

-inspires change a change in the direction of literature.

While Eliot produced a limited amount of poetry, he created it with the intent of making great poetry. He had no desire to create mediocre poetry. Should the same idea be applied to art? Should the artist’s intention always be to create a masterpiece? Eliot’s poems were meticulously crafted. “The Waste Land”, originally titled “He Do the Police in Different Voices”, was radically altered by the editorial influences by Ezra Pound. First published in 1922, it has demonstrated staying power. Had the poem been left in its original state, it likely would not have held the same importance. Good ideas are worth revision, time and careful attention to craft. While today’s concept driven art is existing in the present, it’s long term effect can only be enhanced when concept is matched with attention to quality.

“I will show you fear in a handful of dust”-The Waste Land

Eliot's original opening of "The Wast Land" with Pound's Editorial interventions:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Owls, Protectors Against Evil...

Last month while at the Renegade Craft Fair, Anna (who also writes for this blog) turned to me and said something to the extent, "Years from now the art history books will mark the period of 2005-2009 by the abundance of owl images." Owls are everywhere! Jewelry, t-shirts, baby bibs, notebooks, home decor. There is an owl on the logo for the Renegade Craft Fair! In thinking about the the owl cookie jar my grandma Ruth owns, and the owl lamp with glowing eyes that has sat on the bar in the basement of my grandparent's house for at least thirty years, I must trace this trend as a re-emergence of something from the 1970's.

Owls are sort of cool looking, but what does the owl mean?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Reason 1: Presentation

Here's the post I wrote on my blog, focusing on the terrible presentation of work at The International Museum of Surgical Science:

 This past weekend I visited the International Museum of Surgical Science.  The Museum was hosting two medical illustration shows: Vesna Jovanovic’s Pareidolia, drawings and collages that struck an interesting chord between reality and make believe, and Redefining the Medical Artist: Biomedical Visualizations at UIC, straight-forward, (mostly) computer-generated, and medical diagrams. Although the work in both shows was okay, the overall presentation of the work was horrible.  As a matter of fact, the quality of presentation in the entire museum was exceptionally bad.  The building itself is stunning and the collection is incredible, but the place as a whole is really, pretty darn jank-jank.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve always been a snob, a facet of my character that, I think, comes with being observant and ridden with jealousy.  I’m always looking for slip-ups, especially in artwork and presentation of artwork, so I approached the shows and the museum as a whole with a judgmental eye, but that being said, I think casual viewers would be just as bothered by the state of the galleries an institution as I was.  Small things like curled, yellowed labels, pamphlets and gum wrappers that had been dropped into display cases and not promptly removed, fallen description boards and exhibits being used as storage space (yes) are things that could easily be fixed but remain in disrepair and it’s disappointing to see that no one is doing anything about it.   The galleries looked the worst out of any of the rooms in the museum.  There were chair rails dividing the walls, the top portion covered with light blue polyester fabric, which was freckled with nail holes and sagged and billowed around the work. Redefining the Medical Artist looked like a middle school art presentation, its pieces mounted in black mat board frames and pinned haphazardly to the baggy fabric.  A time-based collection was being shown on a TV in front of a window in the room.  The window was covered in a big piece of black cloth and on the cabinet where the TV sat, the guide to the collection (we’re talking a Times-New-Roman-on-copy-paper sorta deal) was taped.  It was so shidassed.*  Rawrrrrg.  I felt terrible for the artists in the show.  The whole time I was in the gallery, my face was all screwed up in disgust.  I was so distracted by the shitty presentation that I could barely focus on the work itself.  Good thing I got a BEAUTIFUL black and white Xeroxed pamphlet to pour over later at home!!! 

   I suppose I shouldn’t place all of my blame on the Museum.  After all, I’m sure the artists came up with their own sexy mat board frames and hung their own work.  I think the idea of the artists misusing the opportunity to show in a museum pisses me off more than the idea of a museum being too poor or too lazy to pay for a simple renovation (like, painting a wall white).  The show was comprised of work by students, faculty and staff.  Shouldn’t the seasoned faculty and staff  have known how to install a show and present artwork in a professional-looking manner?  A bit of advice I got from my Research Studio II  professor, Adam Scott, keeps coming to mind as I think about these shows, “the presentation of the work is just as important as the work itself.”  So true.

  Even though the gallery that hosted Pareidolia was just as crappy-looking (she’d custom-framed her pieces, though, which looked better than the mat board frames) as the one that held the UIC show, Jovanovic’s work was a lot more interesting. Her marriage of fact with the absurd was much more engaging than the other (sometimes technically-mediocre) show.  I appreciated her use of materials and emphasis on scale.

   Honestly, I felt so much more connected with the museum than with the art shows, the building especially.  According to a wall tag, “The Museum occupies a four-story mansion designed in 1910 by famous Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw for the Eleanor Countiss Robinson family.  The house’s classical symmetry was derived from Le Petit Trianon on the Grounds of Versailles.”  The many little rooms and strange little nooks and passages made it feel like a home.  Wandering past display cases full of gall stones and artificial limbs, I couldn’t help but wonder what the people were like that used to live there.   I wondered where the servants stayed and what sort of events had been held there.  I wondered if children used to play where the Iron Lung is now displayed.  I wondered if anyone is still alive who had visited the building when it was still a home.  The whole museum is shrouded in mystery- lots of locked doors and screens blocking hallways.   I went on a rainy Saturday, but it was colder inside.  I felt very tense wandering through the exhibits.  Seeing pictures of kids with Rickets and Polio is always a strange experience, but seeing them in such an old, dimly-lit quiet place made them even more disturbing.

   To summarize:

-I am a nit picky snob.

-The International Museum of Science and Industry needs to be a bit more attentive to their curatorial and presentational decisions.

-Artists should take as much responsibility as possible for and care about the presentation of their work.

-I am happy to live in this medical era.

-I’m so, so glad there are people in this world that are medical practitioners, who are gifted enough to find cures, develop more efficient equipment and help their patients get better.

- You should visit this weirdo museum.


*From the Jane Phrasebook: shitass or shitassed (alternate spelling: shidass)

From the Gorman family. Created by Granny Wanda and popularized by Sammy and Anna. The noun shitass refers to a person who is lazy,

irresponsible, unprofessional, or half-assed. A derogatory but not

necessarily cruel term. A shitass can be a rude or mean person, but this is not an integral part of the meaning. A shitass often is quite benign, and moreover they are always more or less intelligent, they just don’t put forth much effort. The adjective form “shitassed” can also be used to describe a lack of motivation, or something that is poorly done. The Dude from The Big Lebowski is an example of a benign shitass; Sammy’s alter ego Dougie is a more mean-spirited shitass.

“I was feeling sort of shitassed today, so I didn’t brush my hair and just went to work in sweatpants.”

“You re-gifted that stupid Doonesbury oven mitt? Man, that is so shitassed.”

“Leo is such a shitass – he’s thirty-five and he still lives with his parents.”