“You collaborate with your peers, either directly (that is, you write works together) or not (that is, by parallel creations you form the work that comes to be recognized as that of a period style, the art of your time). Competitiveness is a form of collaboration. Addressing an audience—conceiving an addressee, a reader or viewer, for the work—you collaborate with that shifting phantasmagoria. Such sociability is what puts the work in the world.” — Bill Berkson, from “Working with Joe,” 2002
It’s these broad definitions of collaboration that gives me hope. Sociability, generosity and conversation at the heart of art-making and art-viewing softens the sense that the Art-World is a fractured and self-important megalith. I had an uplifting morning with Bill Berkson at SFMOMA; this isn’t a great drawing necessarily but captures the conversation as I experienced it. And the Ellsworth Kelly room was elegant.
In a book on the British painter Ken Kiff, the author refers to Art as a ‘species of Philosophy.’ I like this but wonder if there is more nuance. I think of what I do as a species of Philosophy, or sometimes a mutant relative of Linguistics, or sibling of literature. Seen from a certain angle, Painting could be considered a ‘species of Interior Design.’ Grouping like that helps me stay clear of the vortex of seeing one medium as in competition with another.
When I was in Glasgow, Painting was of no consequence, but Video Installation was of vital importance, now Social Practices (which could be seen as a ‘species of Activism’) is making Video Installation look like basket-weaving, and Painting is no longer a threat. Activism is seen as morally superior to intellectual pursuits now – not to mention the collecting of art objects – so Art that engages social issues and justice is at the top of the wheel for the moment. Will be interesting to watch the Art establishments domesticate Social Practices; reminds me of that quote from Octavio Paz: “More astute than Rome, the religion of art has absorbed all schisms.”
The above drawing: I made a note to myself and then did it, right there on the same page. Rare that happens in life.
Before exit 70 on the interstate that runs the length of Kansas there is a series of signs tempting one to pull off and admire the “incredible six-legged steer.” I just came across some notes I had drawn while driving (I know) and worked them up into more developed drawings. Maybe interesting for those who follow the Wastrels saga on this page, clearly the genesis of the eight-leg deer . . .
The next few drawings are of related oddities of beast at the same exit.
I do not want to close, and to worship, but you have my ears pierced. Sacrifices and sin offerings you will not, therefore, behold, I come from, we told him. The head of the book is about. I’m not asking you, you, I, and about the middle of your heart.
(this text is a mutation of Psalm 40:6-8, having translated the excerpt using Google Translate from English to Italian, Danish, Latin, Turkish, Bengali, Finnish, Hebrew and back to English)
When Jessica and I were designing the homepage for the new issue of Trickhouse (this one here), we wanted to use a paper alphabet, so I cut letters out of construction paper. This is the layering of the paper that remained. This is also I guess the first Workaday post that is neither a painting, nor a drawing, though an expanded definition of drawing would include any mark left which records a movement, action or idea. So, let’s call it a drawing. Not that it matters.
I already posted this but then I changed it, so this is me posting it again. And oof, this photo is kind of glare-y; highly glazed surface. It is also the final piece in this group of musician paintings. They’ve been very fun to paint, and all the while I’ve been painting to the alternating musical backdrop of early hill country blues and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention’s full concert at the Palladium in 1981 (a youtube video find). A curious mix, but effective.
This is a heavily encrusted painting, with lots of evident wrangling. Sometimes a painting comes together without a mess and a fuss, and that’s okay too, but if there are lots of changes of mind, they might as well be available for view. A live oak, an orange bird, a curtain of impasto and figures who come and go. The piano player is a kind of anti-color, like what collects at the bottom of the turpentine can.
The title of this comes from Robert Johnson’s 1936 recording of “Last Fair Deal“: Ida Belle don’t cry this time / Ida Belle don’t cry this time / If you cry about a nickel / You’ll die about a dime.
When I was seventeen, I moved to Jackson, Mississippi and was on my own for the first time. I spent a lot of time in my station wagon exploring every dark corner of Jackson, playing my Robert Johnson tape on a cassette player I held on my lap while driving. I remember rewinding this song over and over. I also played a lot of guitar that year but could never play a Robert Johnson song to save my life. This painting feels more like his music to me than anything I ever could do on the guitar, though of course there’s no real comparison. As a side note, the Wastrels are making a cameo appearance in the pictures on the wall above Ida Belle’s (presumably) double arm. Immutable little interlopers.
This is related to Sweet Emmalina. The fellow on the far left is a cut-up in both.
There is a vaporous mood in this one; ether and suspended blood cells. Hard to know where to point one’s eyes sometimes.
I don’t have a problem with others signing their work, but for me adding my signature to a painting, after working to create a balance of marks, can feel like an invasive afterthought. So I’ve started signing a canvas as soon as I start the painting, then signing it again periodically throughout the process of making a painting. That way the signature feels more a part of the painting process and not something jammed on like a mic-drop at the end. In “Don’t Go, Flo” you can see a little swarm of initials in the bottom right.
Here is another large-ish oil painting. There is a lot to look at in this image, and a lot of eyes looking back. The paintings hanging on the wall on the right side make me want to walk behind the bass player and see what’s going on back there. And pink face, can’t even look directly at him almost. Then there’s the rakish fellow on the left, all rubbery and swarming with eyes.
I am fortunate to have a solo show scheduled at the lovely Carol Robinson Gallery. The exhibit will consist entirely of paintings of musicians and I thought I’d start posting them on the Work-a-Day one at a time.
This one here is a biggie. And colorful.
Ja-Da, Ja-Da, Ja-Da, Jing, Jing, Jing!
The title of this little drawing of Bookoo and Cilice in a cave of eyes is derived in part from Michael Hurley’s classic song of the same name, the opening lines of which are as follows:
ate a sack of poison sugar
crawling out of the barn
to the weeds to die.
Rolling his eyes.
8″ x 10″
This is a process drawing for the animation that is nearly finished called “Wastrels Find a Home.” A hopeful tale. Or something. In which Bookoo and Cilice tinker within the domestic arrangement. With exquisite writing and voice-over by Kate Bernheimer and forthcoming (and eagerly awaited audio) forthcoming from the Eric Jordan.
12″ x 16″
Mapleton is the name of our parents’ old house in Sandy Hook, CT. The house is a colonial home and the property stretches up a hill covered in large maple trees and at the top of the hill is a garden, a fire circle (built by me and my father), a large stone labyrinth and an old one room school house. Beyond the garden, the hill slopes down to Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In December 2007, I was staying in my parents’ school house for a month and that is where I painted this picture of my own first grade class. I remember listening to the children playing in the school yard while I painted and thought they must be the age of the children I was painting.
For what little good they do to comfort, maybe paintings can serve as a form for grief to take, as well as celebration of life, somehow simultaneously. Anyway, here’s one. It was just pointed out to me that there are twenty children in the painting.
8″ x 9 1/2″
My nephews recently made a stop-motion animation of a lego space man which they called “Adventures of Red Guy.” I aspire to such simplicity; “Red Guy” says it all. This is a different Red Guy, less spaceman, more prancing interloper. I have a feeling he’s a figment of Bookoo and Cilice’s shared imagination.
11″ x 15″
Sunday night I dreamt I was in Natchez, Mississippi and there was a mockingbird that was flying from the River to the other side of town. I was meant to follow it with my mind, receiving telepathic messages from the bird about its whereabouts. I got really lost, which is unexpected because I know the town so well.
8 1/2″ x 11″
This was made in preparation for a class I’m teaching called “Drawing the Myth and Daydream.” The prompt involves picking a setting (in this case ‘under water’), a figure or animal (I did several), and a state of being (I chose ‘breaking into pieces’). I think I should have made it more obviously under water. Other states of being to chose from include: floating, flaming, blooming with flowers, tiny, covered in hair, dissolving, enormous, winged, and part-human/part-animal. The first class was highly enjoyable.
11″ x 14″
For the last couple years I’ve had the pleasure of participating in a long and rich conversation with one of my favorite English painters, Timothy Hyman; we will publish an edited version soon in Trickhouse. One of his paintings that came up in the conversation is I Open My Heart to Reveal London Enshrined Within, which I love so much, and I ripped off part of the title for this drawing. I’ll continue to loot his work, as one does, with the hope of absorbing some of his innocence.
5 1/2″ x 9″
Not the first time I’ve indulged a crackpot understanding of linguistics this year on the Workaday page. Bookoo’s lingering in the mirror stage.
“Writings scatter to the winds blank checks in an insane charge. And were they not such flying leaves, there would be no purloined letters.” – Jacques Lacan
This is the 500th piece posted on the Work-a-Day page!
It’s atypical for the WaD in that it is a large-ish oil on linen, but I think a good piece that I have not shown. It is what remains of a large (14′ long) multi-canvas painting that I began in my last studio. I stopped working on it to make the sprawling Soldiering frieze with Anne Waldman, and by the time I was finished with that I had moved into a studio with much shorter walls. The practical aspects intervened and I painted over the other panels.
The original River painting was a nocturnal scene of many things – a dressed dining table, this baby, a variety of domestic objects – floating serenely down a river. It had something to do with ancestry, Mississippi, who knows what all. I’m sure I will return to the image. In the meantime, I think the River Baby is content to float solo.
There’s an election going on, and tomorrow’s Work-a-Day will be a drawing of whatever is the photograph on the front page of the New York Times…
9″ x 36″
This is a single panel from this triptych:
If you click on the image to enlarge the full drawing, you’ll see that you can read the text left to right as one big paragraph, up and down as columns, or in a staircase fashion. I wrote the sections vertically and assembled them as columns, so how they read horizontally is a surprise to me. Fun with permutations! Cilice can eat a bug in a snowstorm.
11″ x 14″
A halloween painting, set in the Sonoran desert. I painted the figures into a thrift store painting of an exuberant nighttime desert scene, extra spooky. Two other paintings involving found paintings are Darling Ann and Big Boy Has a Magpie.
I woke up this morning thinking I should do a spooky picture for the Workaday page, and as I was finishing this I realized I already have about half a dozen ghost-related drawings and paintings. So there may be a theme for a few days.
8″ x 9 1/2″
This one here has Bookoo being approached, by whom we do not know. The text (provided by Julia R. Gordon) can be read up and down as well as left and right. That’s kind of how I read, which is why it takes me forever to read a page, so I find this text very satisfying and unnervingly accommodating for the wandering eyes. I’m working more with this up-down-left-right text thing, feeling out how to make permutations. Maybe there will be another example tomorrow.
11″ x 14″
When you shake it, instead of pretend snow swirling around, it’s cotton. Shortly after I painted this, I realized I had unconsciously absorbed the image from this painting by the magnificent Argentinian painter Daniel Santoro.
6″ x 10″
In Swannanoa, North Carolina there is a cluster of mobile homes on a circular street called “Good Loop” and when I’d pass by the Good Loop, Shirley Temple’s classic song “On the Good Ship Lollipop” always came to mind. There are a lot of trailers in the Blue Ridge Mountains, sometimes they appear to have fallen from the sky. I have made a lot of drawings and paintings of trailers, not for any social commentary, but seeing the trailer as a protagonist, in lieu of a figure.
4″ x 6″
I had a dream last night that I was a school teacher. I walked into another teacher’s classroom and on the chalkboard someone had written lines, over and over, like when you get in trouble as a child. I could not read what the lines said. As I was looking at the chalkboard lines, trying to make out what it said, a bombastic little girl bounded in and erased a section across the middle of the words and quickly drew a huge stylized horse and then ran out of the room. I stood there staring at the image and the text and thought “Oh my god, this is perfect.”
This drawing is not perfect like the girl’s drawing, but it is enough to hold the dream in place. Since I couldn’t read the text in the dream, the text in my drawing says “I will not think of a horse” after that thing about how if someone says: Do not imagine a horse, in order for your brain to not imagine a horse it first has to imagine a horse… which makes the whole thing impossible. I think it is a well-known psychological exercise. I just tried to find evidence of it online, but couldn’t, maybe I dreamed that too. I’ve used it in text/image classes for years, and will continue to do so.
4″ x 6″
Wherein Bookoo intentionally goes through a hole in the ice to demonstrate her ability to breathe under water. In previous versions, Cilice does not realize Bookoo can breathe under water so goes in to save her and nearly freezes to death for which Bookoo feels really bad. But in this version Cilice is unaware and Bookoo is trapped under the ice. Though not a tragedy since she can breathe, it is still a tense situation.
4″ x 6″
Español: Colón llega a América
English: Christoper Columbus arrives in America
Deutsch: Christoph Kolumbus trifft in Amerika ein
Русский: Христофор Колумб прибывает в Америку
Français: Christophe Colomb arrive en Amérique
Italiano: Cristoforo Colombo arriva in America
Česky: Kryštof Kolumbus připlouvá do Ameriky
8 1/2″ x 11″
Here’s another working cell (so to speak, I call it that, but a real animator might roll their eyes) for the Wastrels animation. The animation is made by scanning: I draw with lithography crayon on the acetate, scan, wipe off a bit, redraw it, rescan it and so on, forever. This one has a haircut scene, bookshelf with fish swimming scene (above) and a rendition of Shelton Walsmith’s painting that’s on our wall.
8 1/2″ x 11″
This is a transparency – grease pencil on acetate – from the Wastrels animation I’m working on. Each figure represents a stage in a movement of a spectral figure walking down stairs. The two pieces of acetate were lying on the floor on top of one another and I found it to be a good image on its own.
8″ x 9″
This is one of the (as of now) fifteen images for Kate Bernheimer’s captivating book coming out next year. In total there will be seventy something images, one for the facing page for each paragraph of text.
All of the pieces are on three layers of tracing paper (an archivist’s nightmare)so are pretty fragile, but the materials allow for all sorts of shenanigans. I’m somewhat pulling from Depression-era cartoons for these drawings.
Also, I’m remembering some of the drawings that my mother made on the wall of the uninhabitable third floor of my grandparents house, wobbly Little Lulu and others. They were still there when I was a teenager. If one were in a pensive mood, those drawings could call up feelings of fleeting innocence, or imminent absence. And nothing speaks to imminent absence like the ancient story of the origin of drawing according to Pliny (if I remember right… ahem):
A young woman from Corinth was spending the night with a soldier as he was about to go off to war with no chance of his return. Realizing her pending loss, she took a bit of coal from the fire and traced his shadow on the wall. The End.
12″ x 18″
(definitely have to look at the enlargement with this one, it’s all very light)
I made a drawing of Neil Armstrong the day he died and Hannah recently mentioned that she had written these lines in response to it. Luckily I had the beginnings of another N. Armstrong drawing and put her words in pink middle school curly script next to it to make a diptych. Reminds me of when everybody wanted to be an astronaut. Those were weightless times.
I am Neil Armstrong
I am on the moon
I am standing on a sheet
The sheet flows
The sheet is a moon
The moon of the Earth
8″ x 9 1/2″
This one here is akin to an oxbow lake. That’s when a river goes from a meandering path to a straighter path and the curly crazy bit turns into a lake and the river takes a shorter route… I’m not explaining this right… here’s a diagram… oxbows are weird-shaped formations evidence of a previous flow-pattern. Such a useful concept.
Anyway, I’m making images for Kate Bernheimer’s new novel (will be a lot lot of images that I will post eventually) and in the process of trying to find the right approach, I made a whole mountain of images that will not work for the book, most are perfectly dreadful. One or two I think are interesting in their own way, oxbow style, and this is one I like. The title comes from a note I took while researching for this book, I think it was a titles of an obscure depression-era cartoon.
7″ x 10″
An unrelated but resonant text I happened to read this morning, the opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s play “The Cocktail Party”:
Alex: You’ve completely missed the point, Julia: There were no tigers. That was the point.
Julia: Then what were you doing, up in a tree: You and the Maharaja?
Alex: My dear Julia! It’s perfectly hopeless. You haven’t been listening.
Peter: You’ll have to tell us all over again, Alex.
Alex: I never tell the same story twice.
7″ x 30″
I can imagine eating everything in this painting. I wouldn’t want to, but I know what it would feel like. Bouncy between the teeth. Especially the pillowy shrimp arm floating over the bed. I think of this as a Latin vocabulary learning aid that’s falling short of its goal. Not sure why Latin, could be any dead language, I suppose.
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