7″ x 9″
A viking ship and some letters in the elegant Bodoni font. I’ve been doing a lot of middle-of-the-night studying of fonts. The world of typeface design is complex, intelligent, and sensitive. It’s also a warren of deeply held, and militantly defended opinions about the most minute minutiae, it’s hilarious. Not sure where the viking ship is coming from.
18″ x 24″
I’ve had a policy of not including outside sources on the Work-a-day page, but this seems necessary.
On Sept 25, 1864, an ancestor of mine wrote a letter to her daughter from the family home ‘Sweet Auburn’ outside Natchez, Miss. To save paper, which was in low supply, the letter was cross-written. This is such an anomaly of Victorian letter writing, happened quite a bit during a time when formal letter writing was common, but paper was not, and postage expensive. The penmanship is so elegant, but when it’s written on top of itself it gets all jangled up. The writing, nearly indecipherable, is about the current (bad) state of things (war).
Then sixty-five years later, the letter writer’s great-great-granddaughter (my grandmother) was learning to write in her seventh grade class in Natchez. This is drill 20.
The ancestors keep giving me stuff to draw about, I’m barely touching the surface here. More cross-writing/drawing to come.
This one I’m twisting my beard, a nervous habit I can’t seem to break (though I honestly haven’t tried). Self-portraits often strike me as sad. I don’t make self-portraits very often, but I like seeing other people’s self-portraits. What a touching and awkward thing to record, studying and drawing one’s own face. I do love Jim Dine’s horribly awkward self-portraits. Rembrandt’s almost don’t count. Maybe my favorite self-portrait is old Bonnard in his later years, purple fists up in the bathroom mirror.
“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.
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)