Wednesday, December 7, 2011
I'll try to get some photos up soon!
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
I'm trying to work on wrapping up my grant project, but recognizing that over the course of this project I have developed sustaining interests that will be part of my practice after the project is over. Already I have seen crossover between grant and class work, and I am learning things about myself and what works for me that-- I hope-- are making me a better artist.
I have photos today but they were taken in fairly poor lighting conditions and I apologize for the loss of information and untrue colors.
I made this painting based on the glowstick wench photo, and for a long time I really hated it.
I decided the figure was mostly what I hated so I just painted her out except for some edges and planes. I let what remained of her act like the neon squiggles, like she's made of the same plasma that she's selling.
It's been worked more since this photo was taken, and I think it's in much better shape right now. At least I'm not constantly stressing out about it.
I wanted it to be misaligned, like the painted mural in the background of the guitarist picture. So I cut it and put it back together wrong. This time it's the more believeable character whose appearance is interrupted by a “seam”. He's the observer and she's the performer but he's still part of the performance so he's still susceptible to the cracks in reality. The fact that the crack is going through his head is maybe indicative of the conflict that an audience member experiences while they try to reconcile what they're seeing with the world they know to be fact.
Still plugging away on the other paintings but not much to say about them at the moment.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
That's where I find myself today. I'm taking a fiction class for which I've written a couple of short stories, and when I think about them in relation to my paintings, I worry that they all say the same things.
My short stories are both descent tales-- or at least, I intended them to be so. They both follow characters who get sucked into a world that they don't trust. They can see the cracks in the reality presented to them, and at first they rebel-- insisting on remaining in the world they know. But over time the new reality seduces them, and they forgive its crooked seams and become hooked. They have compromised.
I'd love to take viewers of my paintings on that kind of a journey. After I analyzed my short stories, I imagined a person walking up to one of my works. At first, they hold it at arm's length-- it's a painting, it's not real, and they can see the areas where it's just not convincing enough to take them away from reality. The images are strange, there's a note of menace in the atmosphere. But the painting demands to be looked at, and soon the viewer is studying it, trying to make sense of it--then accepting that they probably won't, accepting the painting, living in it.
I'm not there yet. Someday I'd love to be.
I'm continuing to work on my grant paintings, and I'll probably take some in-progress pictures today. I'm also working on some intense pieces for Advanced Painting. These two pursuits are feeding each other in exciting ways intellectually, but snatching meat from each other's jaws time-wise.
Let's all go look at cool paintings at the BFA show , "Gamut" this Friday!
Saturday, November 5, 2011
"I fill up a storage unit with painted-on panels of wood so that it's hard to walk around"
"I try to figure out how to carry wet oil paintings from my car to my classroom"
"I have mastered estimating the size of the largest piece of masonite that will fit in my trunk"
"I stand in a room and listen to NPR so much."
"I handle broken mirrors with very little regard for the fact that they're actively shedding glass particles"
Something like that. Yikes.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
I work at a county park where a Renaissance Festival is held every spring-- the same festival I've been attending for thirteen years. I won't be sharing any of the documents that I've come across on the office computers of that park -- they make me sign papers forbidding exactly that. But I can tell you that I have discovered documents and images going back over ten years relating to the festival. It's unfolding around me like a giant epistolary novel. Because it's county business, there's a hypnotic repetition to the paperwork that must be submitted every faire season. Even if no specifics change from one year to the next, all new documentation is required. When something does change, it's even better-- the change must be requested in one letter, expounded in a letter of intent, approved in another letter, and integrated into a copy of the original proposal.
This idea of copies, originals, and editing fascinates me. If my work is fixated on the cracks between the built, performed world and reality, then these documents are what you'd find if you exploded those cracks wide open. The fantasy is built on a foundation of bureaucracy.
I just finished the beautiful novel One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I was reading it purely for pleasure, and didn't expect to learn anything about my work. Instead I found tons of imagery that sparked my brain, and lots of uses of mirrors as metaphor. Near the end of the novel, when one character finds himself homesick for the town he's just left (because living there made him two homesick for another town), his emotion is described as two nostalgias facing each other like mirrors. Wow. If I can paint that sentence, I can die happy.
I also recently attended an artist lecture by a new visiting professor at my university, Ariel Baron-Robbins. Her work looks drastically different than mine-- for one thing, it's nonobjective. I was delighted to discover that her work actually begins as observational drawings made in her sketchbook, then processed and edited into monumental drawings. That's not really so different than how I've been working lately-- manipulating representational images into strange realities.
Also, during her lecture I was struck with the epiphany that I need to send my gypsy dancer painting through the circular saw and put it back together "wrong".
Moral: get out there. Learn something!
Thursday, October 27, 2011
You may notice the purplish archway element that exists-- but functions differently-- in the two paintings. My hope is that by having the archways in the bottom image frame a musician who is clearly a painted fragment of a mural, audiences will look at the top image and wonder if the dancer, too, is a painting that the foreground figure is looking at. The top image is starting to deal with voyeurism-- when we look at it, we're watching someone watching someone. But really we're looking at a painting. And maybe he is, too.
And yes, the second painting is based on the photograph I specifically claimed I wasn't going to use.
It cribbed from Baroque paintings of musicians, playing with the eyelines of characters and forming fairly classical diagonals. It was pretty straight forward.
Then I decided it needed to grow, physically. I had an extra strip of board attached to the top. Now I had more room to play, to make things strange and interesting. Now I had to problem-solve.
So for a while this painting looked terrible. I mean seriously terrible. I crammed a few extra characters in, in an arbitrary way, trying to make things interesting. I inexplicably painted the background with daubs of light blue and green. I was experimenting, to say the least.
Then I made my self-portrait for class, which I discuss in the last blog post. I was so satisfied with my mirror technique. I felt that the reflections really communicated something about looking back on the past, being a spectator, questioning what was reality. I felt like this was all really relevant to my grant project.
So I started to fix my painting. I adjusted the scale of the newly added flute player. I located my characters in a space that functioned as both a stage and a house of mirrors. I looked to my reference images-- both photos and Baroque paintings-- to resolve the background. And I kept thinking about reflections. Then I found another reference source, one that I hadn't as yet been taking too seriously. I looked back at sketches of these musicians that I'd done years ago at the Faire, and found an image of the harper on the right, from a completely different angle.
Now, I had planned this painting would feature some musicians who were just murals painted on the stage, and some who were “real people”. I planned that the harper would be a kind of 50/50 character, an ambiguous figure who could be either a painting or a real person, depending on how you look. When I found this sketch, I thought I could add to the ambiguity by creating a sort of pseudo-reflection of him-- not quite at the right angle, not quite wearing the same clothes, but the same man. With the back of my paintbrush I carved a quick sketch.
I wasn't too happy with the placement of the sketched figure, but I liked the idea. I began to work it out, and this is where the painting is now.
Beautiful? Not yet. Better? Oh my goodness yes. I was really happy with the little brown underpainting. It was pretty, and pretty can be hard to touch. But right now I like it more than ever. I'm glad I took the risk and messed up this piece for a while. It has so much more potential now.
Oh, and just for fun, since I'm playing with mirrors
My youngest sister called this the Infinity Renaissance Last Supper.
My advanced painting class took on self-portraiture lately-- and as you might expect in an advanced level class, most of the finished works were very innovative with the concept. I, however, was completely stuck-- at least, at first. Then I began to think about how I could best serve my work. I realized I wanted to make a project that was both derivative of, and a vacation from, my grant project. So I thought about the elements of my grant project that were interesting to me. Characters rendered at different levels of representational realism and manipulation of imagery felt like the most important. This led me to using mirrors in my work, because I felt like the struggle between person/reflection related to the struggle between musician/painting of musician. This is what I made:
Here I was envisioning myself standing in front of a self portrait drawing and thinking about how to explore that idea. The mirrored panels in my studio have a seam running down the center, and I thought about how that fault line interrupted a reflected image. This painting was made on two panels. Leaning them up against the mirror to photograph them gave me the idea to photograph them at different angles against the mirror, and with other artwork, to see what I'd come up with.
These are some of my favorite variations on these portraits. I later collaged a bunch of these photographs onto a board, and painted on top of everything. The result looked painterly, was rich in manipulation and imagery, and played with ideas of reality and representation.
I felt like this work was successful, and I'm definitely not done with the idea of mirrors. But I love that I never would have made this painting without my grant project, and I wouldn't have made the strides I had on my grant pieces without this painting.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
My first instinct was "well crap... it won't. They'll just be boring, pretty, Pre-Raphealite paintings. This project is trash."
That's horrible, yes? Don't think that. This project is still just beginning. This project has some interesting ideas going for it. But they're subtle, they're going to be hard to pull of.
I want to be a better painter. I don't know if I'll ever be that strong conceptually, but I know I can improve my technique. Then again maybe I don't know. I don't know if I want to go to grad school or become an exhibiting artist or do my paintings at home in private, away from criticism, or run away and sell wooden axes at fairs across the country or go work at Disney World or get a full-time job with Broward County or become a teacher or just disappear.
I love this project. At night before I fall asleep my brain goes to my studio and I look around and pick things up and turn them over gently and think about what they're going to become and how lucky I am to be in their lives and maybe even vice versa.
I know it's important to me. And if I can figure out why-- I'll be able to convince other people.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
the glowstick wench at Medieval Times
That's how I feel about living history, too- it's more important to create a feeling of history than recreate perfectly a past which most of us probably wouldn't enjoy visiting on the
weekends. Yet, when we visited Medieval Times, I found myself thinking some funny thoughts. When the main narrator... chancellor?... was speaking, warming up the crowd for the main show, I kept thinking "this is fine, but it's not what a real medieval fair is like". That's such a ludicrous concept- that some fake middle ages attractions are less authentic than other medieval attractions. The fact is they all have a huge element of fantasy, just in the the fact that they ask audiences to suspend disbelief in time travel. And yes, some medieval fairs are full on reenactments, where all clothing is made of period accurate fiber and the performers have mastered vernacular of the day. But ultimately, it's all a fantasy.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
I wish uploading images to blogger was a little easier. Here's an image of a work in progress. I think I may add the painted backdrop element to this painting. I'm really happy with the composition and I'm going to push the interaction between characters so that it reads like some of the great card-sharp paintings.
I'm putting aside the guitarist painting for the time being and I'm going to revisit the photo with the tuning devices which I previously discarded. I'm starting to think that would be an interesting moment to depict. I was concerned about making the performers look careless but in truth, tuning one's instrument is an act of care. I like the idea that a small, personal action precedes a public performance.
This weekend I'm going to print more photos and make more collages. I'm going to pay attention to what excites me about the photos, and focus less on what I think is 'viable' or 'appropriate' or 'meets expectations'.
Friday, July 29, 2011
above: how to make a painting.
You don't know what is going to happen. Start somewhere. You have to work but you owe it to yourself not to go insane. So start with what you can do.
I can do collages all day long. I gained an appreciation for the collage-- both as a working process and a fine art medium-- in Vicki Skinner's class at FAU. That was the first class to teach me to think critically about work as I am making it. It was also the first time I really got into the scissors, gluestick and xerox machine to work out compositions. That's how i made the image above- scaling and collaging original photos to fit the dimensions of my painting.
Once you've made your collage you can use it as a reference to make your painting. Even this process can be done a couple of ways. You can 'eyeball it', looking at the photo and matching it by sight. Or you can use some technology. The photo waaay up top is of my little projector (also known as my mom's projector... whatever). The photo immediately above is of a tracing made by enlarging and projecting my collage. It's faint and hard to see, but dead accurate.
Is it cheating to use tools and tech to make paintings? Evidence suggests the Old Masters didn't think so, or didn't care. Vermeer used a camera obscura to trace the drawings for his paintings. It's believed that's why they're so good! I am going to use another vintage painting trick on the above tracing: punching holes along the lines and rubbing charcoal into them to make a transfer.
This is how my first painting is coming. In real life it looks less... diseased.
Detail from above. Yeah, I know his eye is ... wrong...
Also! Sometimes I paint my nails lately. I don't know why but it makes me happy. The above have an orange and orange blossom design on a green background.
You have to do something. Do what you can. This is the moral of today's post and in keeping with this theme I am playing hooky from work. Where I come from, if you take a day off of work or school to go to the beach, you call it a "mental health day". Well, I had to take the day off to schedule and attend triage and counseling appointments. Shall we call it a "beach day"? Sounds like more fun.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Professor Broderick likes to talk about the importance of getting 'no's'. Get a 'no' every week. Get a thousand 'no's' a year. Apply to thirty grad schools, so no one 'no' will hurt too bad. I got a 'no' recently that left me pretty disappointed- I didn't make the curatorial assistant internship. But I have to take the prof's advice, and just be proud I put myself out there. Getting enough 'no's' means saying a lot of 'yeses'. Yes I will interview for this position. Yes I will take a qualification test for a new job. Yes I will take those extra hours. Yes I will spend fifteen dollars on a teeny tube of paint even though it makes me cringe. 'Yeses' keep you busy.
I took this weekend off to spend some time with my cousins. It was such a good weekend I couldn't even manage a little guilt about relaxing. And when I got home, I had some gifts waiting for me.
A professor had e-mailed me back. I got a reply from the fabulous Sally at alreadypretty.com. And I have three invitations to interview for new jobs.
Moral: get lots of no's. With them will come yeses.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
This is a picture of Owain Phyfe, a musician I've posted photos and sketches of over the past few days.
This is Caravaggio's "Supper at Emmaus", the greatest baroque painting of all time, according to my history professor.
Friday, July 8, 2011
Here are some more thumbnails I've done to work out compositions. In the first couple I was trying to capture a really special performance from the Florida Renaissance festival. Every morning, immediately when the faire opened, before anyone started their first set, most of the musicians congregated at the Half Clef stage to play period music as a large ensemble. The energy was unlike anything else at the festival, and visually, having all those performers, costumes and instruments clustered together was fantastic.
I think this second one works better because there's a little more negative space and a diagonal is starting to form from top left to bottom right along the characters' heads. I may add more figures or hints of figures to really get that clustered feeling. The boy in the bottom right has ear gauges and a lip ring.
Some sketches of the minstrels I posted photos of yesterday. The one above is okay, but I am working on developing the one below more because I feel like it relates better to the Zurbarans I posted. These musicians frequently perform Spanish language songs, so I want to model them on a Spanish baroque artist.
I leave you with a line from my favorite of Owan and Charry's repertoire, an Argentinian ballad:
Thursday, July 7, 2011
This shows musicians Owain Phyfe and Conrado Garcia using electronic tuners to tune their instruments. When I took this photo I felt like it really communicated the idea of the future as an intrusion on the performance of the past. But the more I live with this project, the less I like this photo. It makes the musicians, both enormously talented and among my favorite performers, look sloppy. And that's not the case. I probably took this photo before their set even started.
I don't want to belittle the artists, and I don't want to oversell the idea of anachronism.
In some way, I think the act of painting is anachronism enough.
Because Spain during the 17th century was all about the Inquisition, painters-- Zubaran included-- painted saints and religious allegories to keep the witch hunters at bay. Zurbaran's saints look alternately like Ken Russell film stills, and Klansmen.
His St. Francises are the best.
Monday, June 27, 2011
This is my studio, or at least, the wall of my studio where paintings happen. It's lit by Ott lightbulbs in this area. The easel in the corner is one I've had for years and the wooden thing in front of that is the nightstand half of a nightstand/dresser combo we got at the habitat for humanity store for ten bucks. I use it as a painting stool sometimes.The drafting table to the left is a custom build by my preferred carpenter and studio-mate. He also made the viking shield whose backside is visible in the low left. The folding chair was given to me by a friend.
I started some sketches for my grant project in a 3.5 by 5 inch sketchbook. First I had my photos printed and made photocopies. Then I cut the figures and props out of the photos and moved them around to make little temporary collages from which I did drawings.
I started with Jay and Abby Michaels, The Harper and the Minstrel.
Abby and Jay always wear green and their costumes include forest-y motifs like leaves. In the second sketch I tried a Jacob Jordaens style layout which included animals. I used photos of the Highland Cow and Rooster that I took at the Georgia Festival. I have three more sketches of The Harper and the Minstrel, and I am trying to edit them into the right composition so I can begin painting. I'll photograph and post the other sketches soon.
Finally, a lousy photo of a decent painting:
This is Lady Merrilee, resident courtesan at the Florida Renaissance Festival. Courtesans are interesting characters in painting and history because they existed for male viewing pleasure but tended to be well educated in music and languages, as well as occupying an important place in society. I was riffing on this idea when I made the painting, so in addition to my photo references, I looked at some classic Renaissance portraiture, and paintings of midcentury pin-up girls. The painting is not so glare-y in real life. But you get the general idea. I made this piece to experiment with black gesso and painting style. The chest and face are too overworked , I think, for the Baroque brushstroke I hope to capture. But it's a start, and I am pretty happy with her hands and costume. For the cord crisscrossing her bodice, I picked out just the highlights to paint, and i think it worked well.
Off to the studio now, for more studies.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Now, I'll warrant that I am a snob, but in every case I liked the painting more. I think its actually because the paintings are less pretty than the photos. The originals are largely paintings of beautiful women, and they've been re-imagined as photographs of beautiful women, which is really not that interesting of a premise. But the figures in the paintings are much more engaging- they represent the standard of beauty of a different time, and their bodies are more interesting because of qualities which, on the contemporary models, would be labeled "flaws". The paintings tend to tell a story that references religion or mythology, while the photos are just selling something.
The example that hit me hardest was La Tour's Madeleine à la Vieilleuse transformed from a meditation on repentance to a glorification of shoe lust. We talked about this painting a lot in class- it's a good example of La Tour's signature candlelight scene, and an emotional, reflective, tonal painting. In the photograph, Mary Magdalene has given up musing on mortality, sin, and redemption to gaze at a high heel. Kind of a disappointment.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
I didn't know what to expect from my purchase of Faire: An American Renaissance. As a small production, it didn't have a lot of critiques I could read up on. In fact, the only information I could find about the film came in the form of an debate on a Renaissance Faire message board. One board member attacked the movie, the other, apparently a former member of the faire featured in the film, defended it-- using the classic, "you weren't there, man" argument.
Oh well, I figured. It's worth the gamble. I'll bite.
I'm glad I did, because while the film's scope isn't as broad as I'd imagined, it really zeroed in on the experience of living a faire. The focus was on memories and the accounts of former and current participants. I found it an excellent exploration of what faire feels like, and what it means, and perhaps most interestingly, why it is so important.
Faire follows the development of one faire- and its sister faires- in California. Present-day interviews and film clips are interspersed with 70's vintage faire footage. I loved seeing video of the faire in decades past, because other than the grainy film, it could have been shot yesterday. Trends do come and go in the festival world, but nothing as dramatically as the everyday world.
The movie spent a lot of time looking to the past-- not just the historical past, but the history of the faire itself. In the early days, the faire was not for profit, much more focused on history and education, and, to hear the performers tell it, raunchier. It was pretty affecting to hear stories from crafters and performers who had watched their faire change into something unrecognizable, and ultimately, go under. One group bought their own faire, which is now entirely participant-owned. Everyone involved in the film seemed to share the sentiment that faire today is simply not as good as it once was- yet still better than anything else out there.
It seems to me that humans are hardwired to be nostalgic. So, is it true that faire was once better? Or does everything in the past seem somehow more worthwhile? It's sad to think that I've maybe missed the golden age of something I love so much. Or does it merely mean that my imagined memory of it can be more glorious than the truth ever was?
Thursday, June 9, 2011
When I wrote this grant proposal I was in the middle of a really interesting journey. As a Yarn Viking I was toeing the line between performer and audience for the first time. I was meeting the offstage versions of people whose personas had long since captivated me. I met the fabulous Starwind and her people. I am not saying I broke into this world, but even to be invited to look into it was truly something. Because of this project I spent my 21st birthday sitting in the crossfire of two harps, drinking homemade mead, listening to the music that means the most to me-- including the song that gave this blog its name.
I miss knowing that, come Saturday morning, I will be putting on the braids and the beard.
Summertime can be so weirdly lonely for a student, especially one who keeps my odd hours and can't do much socializing. So my brain goes back to forests and funny shoes and ancient music.
This is homesickness.
Every project has a stage between research and action which is a big struggle. When the research is this much fun, the struggle is that much tougher.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
I think about my art practice when I exercise, and I think about my fitness practices when I paint. I wish I could switch it up.
Today during my bike ride I was meditating some more on my grant project, and the Baroque, and why I am so wrapped up in this particular kind of painting. I didn't find an answer but I did realize something kind of serendipitous. "Baroque" comes from the Italian "barocco", Hurlburt would tell us, which means "imperfect pearl". Something beautiful, given torque and energy and visual interest through its flaws. My name also means "pearl". I hope I can embrace this idea, borderline cliche though it may be, of imperfection lending character- in my painting and so many other facets of my life.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Once I arrived at the Georgia Renaissance Festival, I knew its environment was the most important thing to study. The performances were all very good, but I really got wrapped up in the buildings, the stages, and the presentation of everything. It felt like a world apart from both the "real world", and the festivals I was familiar with. I walked into that fair with a rough idea of how my paintings might look, and I left with source material to create that look.
For example, I knew I was interested in setting my characters against a dark background, but including hints of setting and scenery to give them a context. I found the still life pictured here set up at the gypsy storytellers' stage, and realized it was an example of what I was looking for to contribute to environment. In addition to being items that will reinforce the narrative of the characters they are pictured with, this still life has characteristics which we discussed all the time in Professor Hurlburt's class. It features many different materials, several of which are reflective. It sits on an ornate piece of patterned fabric. The setup is like many Baroque still lives we looked it. I plan on using it to add interest and narrative to a painting, while reinforcing ties to the Baroque and art history.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
"As opposed to Renaissance art, which usually showed the moment before an event took place, Baroque artists chose the most dramatic point, the moment when the action was occurring..."
I know, I know... citing Wikipedia in an academic project of any capacity is bringing the proverbial knife to the gun fight. But there's something useful about Wikipedia as a folk taxonomy-- sometimes you're looking for people's perceptions as much as facts. But I digress.
I can attest to the accuracy of this quote, as a recent member of Professor Hurlburt's Baroque art class. Perhaps it was his teaching dynamic as much as the paintings themselves, but this year I have learned to love the Baroque. For my grant project, the Renaissance Festival paintings, I plan on adopting some of the formal Baroque elements that I enjoy in master paintings: drapery, small still lives, drama, interesting composition. However, the above quote addresses another element of why I am emulating the Baroque.
I am playing with "moments" a lot in this series. I have been seeking moments where the present is trying to emulate the past, then taking a photograph to capture the moment, and now sketching and painting from the photographs. Anachronism and the passage of time is absolutely central to this work. If I choose to work in a Renaissance style, it is true that the painting style may more closely align with the subject matter. But I would be giving up some of that struggle, and some of the life and energy of Baroque art. I am looking to honor the performers whom I am depicting in this series because I admire their work and their research. To paint them from a Renaissance mindset would suggest a relationship to these moments that never quite happen. To paint them as Baroque asserts that while the final product is not as historically accurate as it could be, it is simply wonderful for what it is.
I used some of my grant money to buy a DVD called "Faire: An American Renaissance", a documentary following the evolution of the Renaissance Festival. It just arrived, and once I've watched it, I plan to review it here.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Towards the end of Advanced Drawing, the question arose of what was to become of our blogs. We were encouraged to keep developing them over the summer -- to especially develop them over the summer, when students struggle to keep working in the absence of class. For me, this means my blog will largely deal with my Friedland grant project. I'm creating a series of paintings that deal with themes of performer, audience, history, and anachronism, within the setting of Renaissance festivals.
I plan on taking my reference photos, like the shot above of Jay and Abby Michaels, The Harper and the Minstrel, and creating some collages to work out compositions. This photo comes from my favorite stage at the Florida Renaissance Festival, where the acts seem to focus more on history and period music. I just got back from the Georgia Renaissance Festival, which has a very different atmosphere, mostly because of their different architecture. Integrating the imagery will be a challenge, but I definitely want the paintings to feel as if they come from the same world.
I'll also be doing some research on Baroque painting. The Baroque style came after the Renaissance, but the paintings are more interesting to me personally, and I may find the disparity useful, as the series is largely about anachronism.
Photos to come, once I've organized them.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
I first heard about McDermott and McGough (mostly McDermott, actually) in the "Beyond Time" episode of Radiolab. They are nineteenth-century dandies who happen to live in what most people perceive as twentyfirst-century New York. I was attracted to the story initially because of McDermott's bizarre speaking voice. I was glued to the radio listening to this cartoon character have the beginnings of a meltdown because of the sheer terror that the concept of time brings him. I wasn't laughing because I can relate, I am scared too.
Then McDermott's name popped up in our painting text, In The Making. One of the interviewed artists mentioned being involved with McDermott and the Dandy movement. I volunteered to do some research and report my findings, and here are some of them.
I watched this and for an instant I believed there was no McDermott, and that I was watching another Crispin Glover brand video hijink, a la "Clowny Clown Clown". There is a Gloverlike sensibility and anarchy to their lifestyle- the three would get on famously, or despise each other- but McDermott and McGough are very much individuals. This film clip plus the Radiolab clip, sums up the dandies' thoughts on time.
They're obsessed with the past, they live in a self-created late Victorian age, their art is inextricable from their life. They make a lot of stuff.
Their website, their Temple of Art, is divided into painting, photography, sculpture, motion pictures, drawings, and editions. Most works have two dates- the one they assign, and the year it was made in 'mundane time'. Interestingly, not all of it looks Victorian. They have produced comic-book inspired work which they date from the sixties, '30s film-still inspired paintings, and an interesting mirror installation which seems, for them, strangely modern. It's tricky to divine whom their audience might be. Looking at the work I feel they must be making it for themselves, and anyone else who wants to view it is welcome. Clearly these are not gentlemen who fret over what the world thinks of them.
McGough and McDermott have been working together since about 1988. I like the work they create but it's really the story that has me interested. I work from anachronism and history, but I don't think I could live it like this. And I don't know if I could collaborate so extensively with someone for decades- though outside of my academic work, I am often collaborating with my partner on crafts. McDermott and McGough are puzzling to me, and I think that's exactly what they want.
Monday, March 21, 2011
I have decided it won't work for this project. My head is currently an unproductive and dismal place- not one I'd recommend getting inside.
So, for project three, I will be taking on the alter ego of Mark Twain, man, myth, cultural construct. His obsessions include the idea of identical peoples, role-switching, nostalgia, and criticism. He is a good alter ego because he is a badass, and because he is his own alter ego anyway-- born Samuel Langhorne Clemens. My Mark Twain will be as much a fiction as Mark Twain's Mark Twain. He fictionalized himself, he has been Disneyfied, he has been censored, yet he is a part of American consciousness.
So how to make a body of work from this. I will start by making some collages exploring the ideas of twinness, role-switching, Americana, Folk Heroes, and the 1800s. I will craft some narratives using these and other themes to create a Mark Twain for myself, for 2011. The final product will be a series of drawings that function as postcards from the Universe MTwain2011 inhabits.
Well that doesn't make any sense at all.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Comes from this.
Do I need to find another story quite so specific to make something successful?
It seems like in anything I do, the research is my favorite part. I am just learning how many forms research can take, and it is exciting. Reading can be research, but so can taking photos and - apparently- so can going to Renaissance festivals. And of course, listening to Radiolab.
In fact, Radiolab's home page currently features the "Help!" episode, which I think anyone in advanced drawing would get a kick out of. Specifically the second half of the show which deals with sourcing inspiration, working with your ideas. Just listening to it kind of motivates me.
One of my favorite quotes- and I think I read it in a CBT book, not even anything to do with art- is "Action Precedes Motivation". For me it is terribly true. You don't want to do a thing until you already have done.
And seriously, check out that Radiolab episode.