art trades!


I sent these three mini-works off to Washington state for the lovely Amanda B., who was kind enough to send me some of her beautiful work months and months and months ago. I finally got around to reciprocating, and sent her these.

They're little, watercolor, gouache, ink and pencil, the usual combination, and I like them. You can even see my little signature at the bottom.

There's another art trade out there for SOMEONE, but I'm not posting it because I don't want to ruin anyone's surprise.

sketching is usually not very interesting

Normally I sketch in preparation for a larger project--they're like maps to the image in my head and they don't make a lot of sense on their own, and I typically include lots of little notes that amuse only me with arrows pointing to things and such. But here's one that I liked on its own. It's after the medieval fashion, and features intrigue, as usual.

I also made a video sketch, which came out looking like Kurt Cobain. It was unintentional, and I didn't realize it until it was done, thinking instead that I was drawing a sad Viking. I would have uploaded the video here, but Blogger and/or my Internet connection wasn't having it. I actually like the video itself more than I like the drawing, which is kind of meh.

Kurt Cobain would have made an excellent sad Viking.

In other news, I went to a farm the other day and farms are very good for artistic inspiration. Lots of homey things, and fields and fat birds. I have some sketches drawn up for possible future paintings. Hurray!

everyone loves tentacles


Here's a little picture to tide you over until the larger paintings I'm currently working on are completed. It's been slow going, between the humidity slowing the drying process and work, but things are chugging along.

In the meantime have this. This is what happens to my hair when I get out of the shower--I've been calling this "Apres le Bain." Pretend there's an accent mark over the e in apres. And anyway, everyone loves tentacles.

alchemy, part 1


This is Angelus, the center piece of what will become a triptych, complete with hinges and wooden cover. The two outside panels will be based on some of the stages of the alchemical process. He's 14 X 14 inches, oil on canvas.

This image was what happened while I was reading a book about Byzantine art while listening to the amazing soundtrack to the equally amazing game VVVVVV, resulting in an ancient-religion-meets-retro-space-age thing. Those are astronomical glyphs in the halo (which did not turn out as perfectly round as I had hoped). It's also based on the original cover of Meredith Ann Pierce's Darkangel trilogy, which I never actually read but always kind of thought about reading when I was in middle school. But I think mine turned out better.

More on this piece as it progresses!

an artist you should know: Marlene Dumas






Marlene Dumas (you pronounce the S), born in South Africa in 1953, lives and works in the Netherlands, and creates these ethereal human figures. The immediacy and the watery-ness of her faces and bodies is at once clear and simple, even childlike, and darkly complex. She explores many aspects of the human condition in her work, from age to sexuality to race to death. She gained some notoriety for Dead Marilyn, which is taken from an autopsy photo of Marilyn Monroe, and call to mind issues of celebrity, sensationalism and identity. She has also done several images of Kurt Cobain--one called Alizarin Kurt I particularly like, but can't find an image of. She's also known for doing a portrait of Osama bin Laden, stripped of his usual turban-and-glower ensemble and almost looking like a nice person. (On a personal note, I have a theory that Obama ordered bin Laden killed so everyone would talk about something other than Kate and William's wedding.)

Dumas works almost exclusively from photographic sources, adding another layer of separation between herself and her subject, and making her work somewhat dependent on the quality of the photo. I can appreciate this, though my style is nothing like hers. I've often been chastised for working from photos rather than from life, but I find photos, which evoke feelings themselves, to be better for the kind of work that I do. The captured instant is, to me, fresher and more natural than a posing model. (Obviously, I work from candid or at least informal photos.) I especially like "bad" photos--washed out, under- or overexposed, or at weird angles. That way, there's more room for interpretation and generally, I find, a better translation into a painting.

That, and getting someone to sit still for several hours usually costs a lot of money.

Marlene Dumas, everyone.

bathtime derangement



I seriously have to stop making these. I have a whole list of actual paintings to do, and I'm doing these, usually while watching episodes of Intervention or L.A. Ink on YouTube. Which is, I know, really, really lame of me. People seem to like my little stuff, though, which is both nice and frustrating. I can spend a month on a large oil painting and about twenty minutes on a small drawing, and everyone goes ape over the small drawing, which usually segues into a conversation about why I don't I make comics/cartoons/graphic novels.

People suck like that.

Anyway, here are some more creepy water media things, both having a bathing theme. First is a rather ominous bath. That's me in there. I don't like baths. I always feel the need to take a shower afterward, to wash off all the dirty water and soap residue, which doesn't make sense when you can just take a shower. But if I took baths I feel like I would be ominous about it, so there we are.

The second is darling Beast Boy again, here shown having bathed and looking all fishy. We had a roommate once who introduced us to the joys of drinking beer in the shower. It's, like, the best thing ever. I highly recommend it to any and all people who are physically and/or legally capable of drinking beer. It's very relaxing. I messed up the label, but he's drinking Lagunitas IPA. On realizing my mistake, I immediately went out and bought a six-pack of it so I would be sure to remember the label correctly for any future artistic endeavors. Oh, and his tattoo is an onion with knives.

more derangement


Here's another charming water media piece I made recently. It's the usual combination of ink, pencil, watercolor and gouache, and I find it thoroughly charming. And fairly accurate in its representation.

Maybe one of these days I'll actually post some oils, eh?

an artist you should know: Tara McPherson






Tara McPherson has an impressive resume. She's a writer, painter, printmaker and sculptor. She worked on Futurama while still in college, has a line of toys with Dark Horse Comics and Kidrobot, and is currently working on a graphic novel with DC. She has made countless promotional posters for the Melvins, Beck, Kings of Leon, Mastodon, Shonen Knife, and other bands. Plus she's got great tattoos AND work that translates really well into tattoos (which is something I'm thinking about...)

McPherson is sometimes identified as being part of the "low-brow" or "Pop Surrealist" genre, which is a loosely defined art movement that draws inspiration from pop culture: TV, cartoons, comics, underground music, and all the stuff that's generally not thought of as "art" in the traditional, academic sense. Now, I consider myself an academic, but I also think everything is art, and I consider pop culture to be a barometer of sorts for discerning where society is in terms of its values, fears and wishes. I mean, it's either pop culture or politics, and politics gives me a headache.

McPherson's art resonated with me immediately. It's pretty obvious by now that I really get into the synthesis of seemingly opposing ideas, imagery and themes in art. Her work is brightly colored, kitschy, cartoonish and fun. It's easily accessible to many people. But it's also full of body horror, mysterious imagery, and a sense of both alienation and introspection seen in her use of the fantastical planets and vast recesses of space where her figures float. It's like watching a slightly malevolent cartoon in a language you can't understand, one that makes references to a culture you are only dimly familiar with. I find that McPherson's art also sparks the ideas of where art and decoration meet, if they are different, and what those differences may be. Are these pictures merely decorative, the artistic equivalent of Saturday morning cartoons, or is there something more to them? Are those cartoons actually making a veiled statement about something? Do cartoons and decoration have to stand diametrically opposed to art and meaningful social discourse?

McPherson also makes sculpture. I included an example of it (second picture down). These guys, who can also be seen in the top image and in other paintings, are collectively known as "Mr. Wiggles," and I kind of really, really want one of them. The sculpted versions seem to come in turquoise, pink, and black, and I want a pink one. She also makes sculptures (I believe they're all fiberglass/polyurethane. I think) of the skull flowers that can be seen in the background of the Melvins poster. She's also got a line of merchandise (which also creates the discussion of commercialism and art--do the essay topics never stop??) on her website. Check it out.

you shouldn't watch Labyrinth when you're delirious with fever...or should you?









Earlier this week I got sick. I don't get sick very often, but when I do, it's awful and I'm pretty much unconscious for the entire day. To amuse myself during the time I was conscious, I watched Labyrinth, in all its 80s Bowie glory (hispantsaresotightjesuschrist).

Here's what happened. This, and the uncontrollable urge to tell my boyfriend that he reminded me of the babe.

I actually have several more of these waiting to be finished, one of which does bear a resemblance to Bowie's wig in the movie. Since I was not physically up for anything that involved making and cleaning up a giant mess, I broke out my ancient set of watercolor pencils and made these. They have plenty of traditional watercolor, ink and gouache in them as well, all on 5 x 7 inch recycled paper.

All the ones with the long black hair are essentially self-portraits. (That would be the top five.) The one with the teeth is what happens when I have too much sugar. I also really started liking these teeth--they're really fun to paint.

The male figure with the bones in his hair is my boyfriend. It's only slightly interpretive, and he really does own a brown fur blanket.

He's great.

Below him are two more traditional goblin-types, one of whom has been punched in the mouth and now resembles Mick Jagger. The other one kind of looks like my dad. Some of the unfinished ones fall into this type as well, and I'm very pleased with them.

In other news, I also watched Mulholland Dr. while sick, and have determined that it and Labyrinth are actually really similar movies (down to their manic Davids), and have been constructing a critical essay in my head about that for the past few days. Because that's what I do for fun.

the only acceptable circle painting i have ever been able to achieve



I would like to start off this post by saying that I hate painting on circles. Seriously. Circles are just awful. Someone bought me a circular canvas about, oh, six or seven years ago now, and except for the layers of erased charcoal smudges, it's still blank.

Circles are stupid.

They just are. I have no issue with ovals, and none with squares or rectangles. I can create a composition on any of those shapes just fine, but not circles. Everything magically looks cheesy on a circle. If it's a regular composition, like a portrait or a scene, you think, okay, but why is it on a circle? Why not on some rectangular shape? How is the circle relevant to the image? Or, worse, people try to get clever with circles and paint things like planets or celestial vistas or something and they always turn out just embarrassingly trite. I've seen some abstract work turn out successfully on circles, but I'm not an abstract painter. And meanwhile, I have this 18-inch circular canvas kicking around and I kind of just want it to go away.

I think the only time a circular composition is justifiable is when the circle on which one is painting is an object, rather than merely a canvas. This, for example, is the sawn-off base of an old Yule tree that I found in the yard. It's small size (about 3 inches in diameter--yes, I have little hands) and its nature as being a slice of tree trunk saves it from Circle Doom. If this was on a larger canvas, it would be kind of a fail. I was thinking of doing more of these, since we have some ancient firewood in the basement that I could cut up. But that means using the beastly circular saw (irony!) and I never really feel like doing that. Yet another reason why having a band saw would make my life easier.

So this is the Bird Girl. I was thinking of screwing a hook into the top (it's about half and inch thick) and making her into some kind of ornament, but for right now she lives on the kitchen table.

ancient history




That's the name of the folder in my computer where these images are housed. Because they are, indeed, ancient. Like a lot of other artists I know, it's really, really hard for me to look at my older work. It's actually really hideously painfully embarrassing and it makes me want to vomit a little. So, since I've had a few beers and I'm in a soul-bearing kind of mood (don't drink, kids), I've decided to make public some of my early work.

To be fair, this isn't really "early" in the true sense of the word. I've been painting since the age of seven (and drawing since two), and so technically "early" would be the acrylic-on-canvas-board paintings from second grade (and earlier still would be my circular "face" drawings from five years prior, which my mom still has in a photo album). But I don't have pictures of those. Two of the three paintings you see here were made in my college days, in the last dramatic throes of teenage angst and the pseudo-intellectual climate of SUNY New Paltz's Smiley Art Building (yes, that was really its name), and one was made in my senior year of high school. Bet you can't guess which one.

Actually, I have a few more pictures of paintings I did in college. I photographed them for posterity, I guess, but none of them survive today. I tend to be very unsentimental about my own work, and if I think it sucks, and these did, I destroy them happily. I have literally ripped paintings apart. No, we aren't going to be seeing them. Why? Because they're stupid, that's why. These three are the least offensive to me, and I apparently was going through a three-to-four-year sap green phase.

The top image is titled Night, and was made sometime in my second or third year of college. Possibly earlier, like the summer after my first year. Painted from memory, this was back before I became very meticulous about rendering and sketching. I actually really still like this one, for all its awkward shoulder blades, and still have it. It's about 12 X 16 inches, or thereabouts. The little pink ear is my favorite part, and this was featured in New Paltz's Queer Action Coalition art show. It made a few people blush. I'm not kidding.

Next is Bermuda, 11 X 12 inches, taken from a photograph of my mother's friend Mary. Mary, Mom and I went to Bermuda the April I was six, and this was one of the many photographs that resulted. Mary is somewhat insecure about her appearance, and would likely die if she knew I made this (and posted it on the Interwebs). This is the one that I did in high school, at about the age of seventeen. It's funny because of the three, I think this is the least dramatic and emotional, and the most interestingly rendered. I still have this one, too.

Lastly is a painting that was titled Did You Hear What I Said, and was created in response to having to deal with the obtuse population of New Paltz. This was a remnant of some Cranach the Elder/John Currin/body horror thing I was going through, and thankfully have not felt the need to return to. It's, um, okay. I have absolutely nothing to say about this painting, having created it in a vastly different time in my life. All I can say is that it was inspired by my overwhelming desire to have people stay the fuck away from me. It was 10 X 10 inches, and no longer exists, and nor does its never-completed partner painting. The stretchers now hold the "Little Medieval" paintings.

All I can say about these is that it feels like someone else made them, looking at them now. They seem very foreign. Not necessarily bad--I still do really like Bermuda and Night--but sprung from a different person's brain. Although interestingly I feel more of a connection to the older ones, and the most recent, Did You Hear..., is the most foreign one to me, proving that time doesn't necessarily move, in terms of artistic development, in a straight line. This is, along with the other ones we won't be looking at, the unformed, undisciplined and primitive beginnings of the psychological aspects of my artwork. It's embarrassing to behold, but I still think it's important to remember where you come from.

an artist you should know: Henry Darger






Henry Darger (1892-1973) is usually one of the first artists mentioned when what is known as Outsider Art is brought up. Outsider art, also known as art brut, is art produced by people with no formal training in art, and no connection to the art world. The result is usually visually jarring, particularly to people who are ensconced within the institutionalized art world, and intensely personal, often having a narrative and symbolic system all its own.

Darger was born in Chicago, and his early life was characterized by hardship and loss. His parents had both died by 1905, and he lived for the rest of his adolescence in Catholic boys' homes and institutions, where he faced what they would have called "treatment" or "discipline" in those days, and what we would call "horrible child abuse" today. Modern research shows that Darger may have had Asperger's Syndrome, which in his time was unfortunately not recognized as it is today. In his later life, he lived in the same apartment in Chicago for over 40 years, until his death, working menial labor in a Catholic hospital until about ten years before his death, and attending Catholic Mass regularly. He was, in his own way, deeply concerned with the wellfare of children, and his work reflects this. Darger and his one close friend, William Shloder, discussed founding a "Children's Protective Society," which would adopt out orphans to loving families, but this never came to fruition.

After his death in 1973, Darger's landlords found his life's work in his apartment. It's a book, fully illustrated, called The Realms of the Unreal, and covers several storylines, totaling at 15 volumes and 15,145 pages. To put it in an extremely simplified way, it tells the stories of an alternate world in which children, namely the inspirational Vivian Girls, the victims of child labor, rise up against a draconian regime to restore peace and harmony. He provided two endings, one with the Vivian Girls triumphing and one with the Vivian Girls in defeat. He also wrote an autobiography (5,084 pages--comparatively light reading), another, unfinished piece of fiction that weighs in at over 10,000 pages, and kept a daily weather journal.

To create his images, Darger traced images found in newspapers, magazines and ads, sometimes multiple times in one scene, as seen in the top image, and he also frequently used collage, collecting old periodicals for source material. He seemed to like the Coppertone Girl in particular. He worked with watercolors, and seemed to have a natural talent for it. His scenes are typically large and epic, and feature little girls engaged in full warfare with grown men. His work can be disturbingly violent, too, showing the terrible tortures inflicted upon the girls by the evil villains. It's interesting to note that Darger focused on girls rather than boys, and even more interesting to note that though the child characters are ostensibly female, some of them have male genitalia.

I personally love Darger's work. I love its raw psychology and the fact that Darger was not interested in academic art, but was making art for himself and only himself. There's something nice about that, and refreshing. And Darger seems like a real sweetheart, too. Caravaggio, for instance, is one of my favorite artists, but he was probably a real asshole. And everyone knows how misogynistic Picasso was. Darger, on the other hand, stuck up for the children, saying that each one had a right
"to play, to be happy, and to dream, the right to normal sleep of the night's season, the right to an education, that we may have an equality of opportunity for developing all that are in us of mind and heart."

a new home addition



Back from the madness that is the holiday season, I've finally completed some more large paintings. Also, my broken camera decided it was tired of being a drama queen and now works again. I hope this is foreshadowing of the rest of my encounters with technology--that if they break I can just ignore them for a while and they'll fix themselves without requiring effort or money on my part.

Actually, more than likely, my luck with technology has all been spent up and my next blog post will be scanned in at the public library after I had to write it on a typewriter.

So! Onto the artwork. The two seen here are additions to the Home collection, and are finally finished after much deliberation. On top we have The Storm Gatherers. This is one of the rare instances when I've made up an image to go with a title, rather than the other way around. The title comes from a Henry Darger piece, which is actually titled A Storm Gathers but, like I often do, I read it wrong and thought it said something cooler. The end result is this painting, 44 X 46 inches and about three thousand pounds of stand oil glazes. It features a theme I've been liking lately, which is an organized group of small girls, who seem unassuming but who are probably up to something nefarious, in this case, summoning a storm with the help of lightning rods, weather vanes and a barometer. A similar clutch of these girls can be seen in The Harvest. Most of the girls are based on photographs of me when I was little, and the outfits are actual clothes I've owned, namely ballet recital costumes and summer dresses. Stylistically, this painting echoes The Discovery of a False Moon in its glazy, open field-setting.

Then there is Outlands, whose bizarre size (8 X 18 inches) was dictated by the size of the fabric on which it is painted. This fabric was not purchased, but rather came from an old skirt of my mother's, so I didn't have the luxury of choosing a reasonable size. I wanted to do this painting for a long time, but couldn't find small enough stretchers until recently. Also, although I like the way it came out, I don't recommend painting on old fabric; it gets fuzzy and when gessoed (gesso'd?) the fuzziness ends up as stiff lumps and detail work is very difficult. There is also a hole in the fabric, which is hard to see but obviously not ideal, and overall the fabric is worn and not as structurally sound as new fabric. But I still like it. The figures are taken from photographs of my mother (in the white shirt, center) and some friends from her Brownie troop on a field trip in the early '60s. Like the ones used in the Huntington paintings, the photos are kind of weird and don't have a feeling of being in a specific place.

an artist you should know: Lisa Yuskavage




I've always--well, since college, anyway--liked Lisa Yuskavage (say it yus-CAH-vitch). Something about the lurid colors and the obvious porniness of them appeal to me. She has been described, in the introduction to her Small Paintings book, written by director Tamara Jenkins, as "one of those 'bad girl' painters." It's kind of a simplistic title to be sure, but there is a rebellious quality that I like about her work. It's the pastel colors, I think, all those awful, seventies-porno kinds of turquoises and peaches and pinks, the twisting of the classical nude into a twentieth-century pinup, and the willful distortion, bordering on the perverse, of the female form; they're not even like human beings after a point, they're like these strange, alien female creatures borne out of some subconscious childhood sexual fantasy. That sounds pretty pervy, doesn't it? But, come on, look at Wrist Corsage's butt. Her work walks several fine lines, between cute and frightening, between high and low art, between sexual and psychological, between exploitative and celebratory.

To create these girlie creatures, Yuskavage first created small ceramic figurines called maquettes so she could study the movement of light over the human(ish) form. Everything I attempt to make out of clay ends up looking like a tumor, so I find this incredibly impressive. I've also been a longtime fan of the study of beauty and sexuality in the female form, particularly when it's studied by a female, and goes into the darker, more uncomfortable aspects of it. And maybe the most important reason I like Lisa? She's fun. Her paintings make me smile. And maybe that's what ultimately counts.

Top to bottom: Couch, 1997-98; The Smoker, 2007; Fleshpot; Wrist Corsage, 1996; Redhead, Blonde and Brunette, 1995.

sometimes i make jewelry (but not very often)




Happy Autumn! I never made much jewelry because you have to buy all those little bits. Or, you have to have a bunch of potentially fire-starting tools and chemicals at your disposal and I don't. Usually, it takes a formal environment to kickstart the process of doing something you don't normally do, which is why I don't do all the things I always say I want to learn how to do, like knit or do yoga or some kind of martial art or fly on the trapeze or ride horses or scuba dive or...you get the idea.

So here is some jewelry I've made and even occasionally wear, when I have time to remember things like jewelry and am not in a mad dash to catch a train or something. All are fairly large (for jewelry). I took a class on non-metal jewelry which taught me the basics of handling all those little bits.

The top piece is a pendant based on the paisley design. It's stained wood, hand-carved with a flex-shaft (WANT) and set with glass beads (and by "set" I mean, "they're glued in"). Note jump ring fail at the top--I added that after my access to proper jewelry making equipment had ended. But I actually really like this one, and out of the three, I wear it the most often.

Next is a large brooch, about 2" X 2" square. It's an antique photograph, ca. 1850s-60s. A miniature scanned version of this (two of them, actually), can be seen in The Homestead, along with figures from some of the other photos that came with this one. This is the original. I think she looks kind of like Kirsten Dunst. I constructed the brooch myself, using bookboard for the back and painted balsa wood strips for the frame. The photograph and dried flowers are protected by a piece of plastic from a picture frame. (I'd rather glass, and I even have a glass cutter, but I don't have any glass around.) The findings themselves are store-bought, and everything is held together with bookbinding glue.

Lastly is another piece I made in the jewelry class. It's a brooch, and is my one great attempt at metalwork. The back is, I mean. It's pretty clumsy, but I'm personally happy with it. The making of an actual pin is a complicated process that I won't get into right now, but let's just say it functions correctly. The back is dyed leather with burnt-in paisley detail (I had a theme going) mounted on wood. The figures are scrimshawed rawhide (scrimshaw is traditionally done on bone or ivory, but can be done on just about anything, including rawhide, though the ink blurs a little), the frame is carved wood, and the pearls are real. Interestingly, the two girls here are reminiscent of the character sketches I mentioned in the last post. The piece was meant to evoke an old family photograph, something to do with memories of childhood.

So sometimes when I get bored or when I'm watching TV or when I'm bored watching TV I make jewelry. Admittedly, I'm not very good at it, but I rather do enjoy manipulating minutiae, and my style appears to be somewhat Victorian, which I never really realized until now. I also seem to go about jewelry making like a painter--note all those framed images. I don't think I'll be posting anymore jewelry, though. This was something of an experiment, I guess. On to more paintings!

an artist you should know: Kara Walker

I actually discovered Kara Walker in an old issue of Oprah magazine--someone had left it at my job and it says something about how dull my job can get when I am reduced to reading Oprah's publication. My consolation, I suppose, was learning about the work of Kara Walker, who creates vast cut-paper installations dealing with themes of race, sexuality and identity. She also employs shadow, performance and video into her work.

Walker was born in Stockton, CA, in 1969, and her family moved to the South
when she was in her early teens. She received her BFA from Atlanta College of Art and her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. It was during her graduate studies, in 1993, that she began working with the silhouette, which is tied to her contemplations of identity, race (and racism), as well as a look back to the portrait-making process of centuries past, when only the very wealthy could afford oil portraits. The lower classes made do with silhouette portraits, which at once portrayed and obscured the sitter. (On a somewhat related note, they used to make us replicate this practice in elementary school during studies of the colonial period. We all totally hated it.) She says of the silhouette, in an interview with PBS, "The silhouette lends itself to avoidance of the subject. Of not being able to look at it directly, yet there it is, all the time, staring you in the face."

Walker's work is rather startling, to put it mildly. Her depictions of African and African-American people, for example, are often uncomfortable to l
ook at; Walker bluntly identifies them by race by using such politically incorrect markers as big lips and "nappy" hair, as well as typically "African" (i.e. scant) clothing. They look like the kinds of illustrations you might find in some eighteenth- or nineteenth-century book written by a white person about black people (you know, something about "Picturesque Slavery," which, by the way is part of a title of one of Walker's pieces), something really cringeworthy and embarrassing by today's standards. Seriously, just describing them is uncomfortable for me.

Walker sets these characters of hers in sweeping, fantastical tableaux, inflicting horrific violence on one another, including rape, dismemberment, and immolation, and these scenes often involve children. She plays with the various concepts that have been applied to African Americans, and more specifically, to African-American women. The expressionless silhouettes, however, remain emotionally remote, despite their activity, and force the viewer to decide what's really going on, and what statement Walker is making. Her charged images have, in fact, sparked some ire among other, older African-American artists who partook artistically in the fight for civil rights who feel that her caricature-like images are insensitive and degrading. It probably doesn't help that she also employs an arcane and somewhat ridiculous linguistic habit for the titles of her installations--things like "Gone, An Historical Romance of Civil War As it Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of Young Negress and Her Heart," (based, of course, on Gone With the Wind. An image from that piece can be seen at top.), or the more, um, prosaic "Darkytown Rebellion," or that she will refer to herself as "The Negress" in the titles of her work.

There were no images of Walker's work in the magazine, but the descriptions of them made me search her on Google, and I was immediately a fan. I love her brashness, and I love her complex, history- literary- and artifact-based approach to creating art. For such troubling, essentially socio-political-statement images, there is a certain sick sort of humor in them, along with an intensely personal point of view on race, sex, class and relationships. One feels one is reading a picture book of Walker's experiences navigating the racism, sexism and the preconceived notions so prevalent in our society. For their abject violence, the images are delicate and masterfully rendered. Because of their lack of detail, there are times when it takes the viewer a minute to figure out exactly what is going on--you know it's a human form in some kind of paroxysm, but what exactly are they doing/is being done to them? Then you figure it out, and it's usually quite dreadful, and the result is startling; you must peer into the form itself to see the disturbing activity, and if you don't, it merely remains a dark shape. I've included some images, none of which belong to me (it's called "appropriation" in the art world), which show some examples of Walker's use of shadow, and a picture of Walker herself installing an image--mainly for scale, although I do like how her yellow sweater looks in the shot.



fabric & me




I've always liked patterned fabric. I have, currently, an overflowing grocery bag full of scraps of old clothes stuffed in the back of the terror-jungle that it my closet. I've made a few quilts with them, starting from the traditional patchwork squares to the one I'm currently "working" on (quotes signal that in this context, "working" means "leaving it sitting on my dresser for the past six months") is more of a landscape, complete with silver raindrops (old curtains left over from when my room was space-themed in middle school) and elephants. Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that I like patterned fabric because for me, it evokes memory, the way that old clothes and blankets do.

For a while, I was in the habit of painting very intricate patterns in the backgrounds of my paintings. You can see some of them in the Woods series that I discussed earlier. It was, to put it bluntly, a pain in the ass. So one day in the summer, I stretched and primed these three canvases--er, non-canvases. Huntingtons I and II are primed with clear gesso, which I don't recommend as it dries to a weird, sandy sort of texture that is difficult to work with, particularly on a small scale. It can also fog up the fabric itself. Croton Point is primed with acrylic gloss medium, which s nice and smooth and wonderful. (Note: If you choose to try this, be sure to coat the front and the back of the cloth several times with the priming medium, as fabric like this is much thinner and has a more open weave than canvas.) They are quite small, the largest of them being only a foot square.

Painting on fabric is really fun. For one thing, the painting surface becomes part of the image, and you can fade it in and out of the painted areas with a pretty nice effect. These are all based pretty literally on photographs. Huntington I (Shadows), top, and Huntington II (Starfields), center, are taken from photographs of my mother and aunt as kids with some of their younger cousins. They're weird photos, in that little square 1960s format, taken by kids in strong summer sunlight, lending them a strange and spontaneous sort of quality. Croton Point, at the bottom, is based on a photo taken by me, of my friend and his now-ex-girlfriend, about two years ago. The weird brown animals are my own invention. Fittingly, my mother brought me the fabric samples of the Huntingtons, and the green piece I bought at a vintage shop in New Paltz. These are the first paintings in which I dealt with memory as a place, and I took a fairly literal approach, using photographs, which are what people commonly use to preserve memory.

continuing to be medieval...





Here we continue the medieval theme. These paintings are all 9in X 11in panels of wood (pine), and currently reside stacked on top of my desk. Because I'm not sure if I like them. The idea, in keeping with the medieval theme I'd been working on (and may be returning to?) in early 2009. Much smaller than the paintings posted previously, and on different material, they are inspired by personal devotional objects like the Duccio Madonna, which would have been used in the home for prayer.

Of course, these guys are a little different.

Truth be told, I got the idea from an episode of The X Files. One of the good ones, before they replaced Mulder and Scully with those other two. Anyway, instead of celebrating the perfection that is/was so often depicted in religious work, I was instead interested in the celebration of imperfection, as well as getting into some of the more mystical aspects of the Christian religion.

Before I explain any of that, though, I feel like I should explain why I like early Christian art. I like it, first of all, because I am not a Christian. I come to it as an outsider and so I don't have the dogmatic implications that can make people who were raised in the Christian tradition uncomfortable with the images, or reliant on their context in a personally spiritual manner. I don't have any of that, so for me they are simply beautiful things, and examples of one form of spirituality on a spectrum of spiritualities. Also, I like the earlier examples because they're less about the creepy institution (sorry, sorry, but that's how I feel) and more about the spirituality itself. They also speak to traditions that have been largely lost or disregarded by now, and often speak to modern Christianity's pagan origins.

These little paintings are called, collectively, the Nephilim (Nephil is singular). Nephilim are, in the Old Testament, these freaky sort of half-angel, half-human creatures that were not altogether good or bad, and somewhat frightening-looking. They are also referred to as "giants," and as a race who disappeared or were destroyed. There are a few interpretations, but I liked the idea of a being with uncertain origins and morals, who, in the rigid good/evil system of the Bible, remain somewhat ambiguous (DISCLAIMER: That's a broad statement, I know. I know next to nothing about the Bible--Hebrew or Christian--and am therefore not at all qualified to make that statement an academic one. It's more how I feel about it.)

Anyway, enough rambling. I don't even really like these paintings. I mainly put them here to record their existence. I should have sanded down the wood more, to prevent the glaze from pooling and not be generally ridgy and distracting. I also had people tell me they reminded me of Tim Burton's creations, which is dismaying because I really don't like Tim Burton. Oh well.

the woods








So here is some (relatively) early work, from the spring of 2008. Ah, those were the days--fairy tales and their dark, adult interpretations. I have an annotated Brothers Grimm collection complete with gorgeous full-color illustrations from a variety of artists that helped with the progression of this series. They are all done in oil (no glazing! WTF was I thinking??) on canvas, all 18X24.

The series is called "The Woods," since a primary trope in fairy tales and folk tales involves the main character(s) going into the deep, dark scary woods; it's usually read as a metaphor for growing up and venturing into the world. The title of each painting is a line from a Grimms' tale. Top to bottom: What Big Teeth You Have; Where Are You Going, Dear Bear?; The Frog's Prediction Came True; First an Owl, Then a Raven, and Finally a Dove; and Let's Have a Taste, It's Sure to be Sweet. Their tales, respectively, are Red Riding Hood (which I really shouldn't even have to explain), Rose White & Rose Red, The Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Hansel & Gretel.

These are all portraits of friends. With the exception of What Big Teeth You Have, they were all stolen from Facebook. It's kind of bad, how many personal photographs I steal from loved ones via Facebook (see the two photos in the previous posting). But that's the magic of Facebook, right? And no, I'm not going to go into detail about why I chose the tales for these people.

Stylistically? Um, I think I was still in a sort of horror-movie phase or something. Look at all those intricate patterns! Ever notice that horror movies made during the past decade really went to town on the Victorian wallpaper patterns and sick greens and purples? Note similarity. This was a denser, darker, more ornate time for me, I guess, and I'm kind of glad I'm over it...for the most part.