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.”