Happy Halloween. I bought some candy corn for the purpose of painting it. Luckily I only need a small package, as it’s all gone now.
Monday, October 31, 2011
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Last month I did a portrait of Naked Ladies for the 2011 Project. I’ve been checking my web stats and something happened that I kind of expected to happen. That day on the blog gets plenty of hits from people searching for “naked ladies.” So, do you think they were interested in the beautiful pink flowers found in meadows and along roadsides? For today, we’ll give them more naked ladies. This piece is made up of some vintage French postcards that were hanging in the bathroom at mom’s house. One wonders if this will satisfy those going online to look for naked ladies.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Friday, October 28, 2011
This week I am back on Cape Cod helping mom get ready to emigrate to the Golden State. 36 years in a big New England House with a lot, a lot of stuff. Much of it is packed and we’re selling plenty more. The attic had a few hundreds albums (for you kids, albums were a big disk of vinyl that a magical needle would be used so you could listen to music in the olden days). We found someone who took them all away today. They were much loved and many were played hundreds of times. But if I want the song now, I’ll just download it.
Out of the rack I pulled out the Rags to Rufus album (back when Chaka Khan was singing with Rufus). The cover was a photo collage of images of embroidered denim. All us cool kids had moms who embroidered denim for us. So today for the 2011 Project, a bit of recycled Rufus.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
It should come as no surprise that I prefer a window seat. I love looking at the flyover states from up at 36,000 feet. The neat and tidy grid work of the middle of America’s farmland is like an 800,000 square mile art installation to enjoy as one flies across the continent. Thought tonight it’ll be a flyover in the dark…
Monday, October 24, 2011
On this day 150 years ago Carson City, Nevada was connected to Omaha, Nebraska. With that stretch of telegraph wires, the first transcontinental telegraph line was complete. Virtually “instant” communication between the East and West Coasts became possible. Literally two days later, the Pony Express was out of business. 150 years later we’ve taken instant communications and technological advances for granted. As soon as I click the mouse today’s piece for the 2011 Project is available to anyone in the world with internet access. But it’s not just about art, this year we’ve seen what access to communications can do. Dictatorships topple and images of dead dictators go around the world in seconds.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
You are under my spell, of my powerful hypnotic art. It’s a pure coincidence that these patterns resemble prints from my collection of vintage potato mashers. Now, look into my art….
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Earlier this month I was in one of my favorite California cities — Bodie, California. Okay, Bodie might not qualify as a city anymore, but there was a time when this was California’s Third Largest. Nowadays Bodie is a remote and very well preserved ghost town high up in the Eastern Sierra. This last visit was the day before the first winter storm came in. The autumn light was stunning. And while I love photographing Bodie, my real dream is to be an artist in residence up there for a spell so I could paint those old buildings day after day.
Friday, October 21, 2011
Have you ever gone to a new place that feels very familiar. A place you’ve never seen before, yet you feel you know it well. Maybe you have been there before, but not in your current lifetime.
It can happen when you’re by yourself. As you climb the trail to the top of the mesa at El Morro National Monument in New Mexico. You reach the top and catch your breath. It’s quiet and bright on top with that clear blue sky. A shade of blue that only happens in New Mexico. You start down the trail and all of a sudden, for just a minute, raindrops start to sprinkle down on you, just you. After that you have to sit down on a piece of sandstone. At first you might not even believe what just happened. After you compose yourself you wander around and see the ruins of the village now referred to as Atsinna. Only part of it is exposed and excavated on top of the mesa. It just feels all very familiar. You don’t try to explain it. You just end up coming back time and time again on every visit to New Mexico, the place you prefer to call The Holy Land.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
It’s that time of the year to start thinking about the Halloween Costume or at least a good mask. Today’s piece for the 2011 Project is inspired by my visit to the de Young Museum last Sunday. I went to see an exhibit of photos by Ralph Eugene Meatyard. Many of Meatyard’s eerie photos were of his children in odd masks. I recommend seeing the exhibit if you can and wrote more about it on my art blog.
I had Meatyard’s work in mind as I did this piece but I look at the results and realized that John Baldessari seems to have also have worked his way in there too. There are times as an artist, when the work of other artists you’ve been looking at slips into your work.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Today would have been the 66th birthday of one America’s greatest actor’s, Baltimore’s Glenn Milstead, who most of us know as Divine.
I own and love most of Divine’s films, the ones by John Waters as well as Paul Bartel’s Lust in the Dust. I still have my original, the good one with photos, Odorama card from the original release of Polyester. I took friends visiting from Sweden to see that one and they still haven’t recovered. The day Hairspray opened in 1988, I left a post-it on my computer saying I was “running errands” and with a few other delinquent co-workers we took in a lunch and a matinee premier. It was all of a week later that we were shocked by Divine’s sudden death.
I love corrupting young minds with Divine. Don’t worry — I wouldn’t start with Pink Flamingoes. When my cousins were just 12 and 14 they came down from Washington. They are from a small town on the Columbia River just far enough from Portland to be close to Mortville. Ten minutes into Hairspray I had to pause it and explain the historical context. My cousins knew virtually nothing of the history of the civil rights movement. That says something about the quality of education in Clark County, Washington. Soon after that my 12 year old cousin Thad was suspended from school due to his “disruptive” hair. It was a bit of life imitating art up there (today he’s a former juvenile delinquent and punk rock star now – Divine would be proud). We finished off the weekend with Serial Mom and Pecker. Call me a bad influence. I should also mentioned that Divine was such a brilliant actor that the boys had no idea he was actually a man. I stopped the movie halfway through and told them.
One of the things that strikes me about the passing of time, is the way one can end up doing something in the present that would have been hard to imagine years before. 18 years after Divine’s passing I found myself at 7940 Hollywood Boulevard. A work colleague casually mentioned that he lived in Divine’s old apartment. As soon as I got down to Los Angeles I headed straight there.
The first thing that made me laugh and grab the camera was the sign in the courtyard reading Please Clean Up after Your Pet. The building was one of those groovy two-story, courtyard apartment buildings so typical of Los Angeles. It was about to be torn down to make way for something ugly and bigger. I knew I wanted something old from the apartment and I decided to take all the light switch plates. I had a stack of new ones to swap out – my work colleague was concerned about getting his deposit back – even though they were about to tear down the apartment building. He was probably right.
My intent is to use the switch plates for a Divine Light art project — I still have them and will one day get to that. On that morning, I got out my screwdriver and went to work taking the old switch plates and replacing them with new ones. It was going quickly until I got to the kitchen. I was by myself in the kitchen, and try as I might, the screws wouldn’t come loose in that last one. Finally I turned around and said aloud, “Okay Divine, you’ve looked at my ass long enough, let me get this done.” That was all it took and the screw came right out. And seriously, all the laughter Divine has brought me, I didn’t mind his ghost checking out my ass one bit.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Years ago I discovered the Sanborn Maps. They are detailed maps prepared for fire insurance purposes. They had every building in the City on them and were bound in large, cumbersome books. I’ve spent hours in the history room at the main library perusing the edition of maps from the 1880’s. Now, I can do it right from home. The 1905 edition is available online. I love cutting up old maps for my artwork. But I do set some limits for myself. I wouldn’t cut up a Sanborn map — these are digital images that have been reproduced.
With Halloween approaching the maps could come in handy if you were looking to meet some of the ghosts in the neighborhood. They reveal buildings that were in the Lower Haight in 1905. Some structures are still there and some have been replaced. The maps sometimes have details of business located in different buildings.
I have been around long enough to remember the abandoned taxi garage on Haight between Pierce and Steiner. Lofts are on that location now. But the space had a long time in the transportation business — it used to be the Haight Street Stables. Do the loft dwellers occasionally hear the heavy breathing of a draft horse or the distinct sound of its hooves?
A block north of the stables, on Page Street, there is a church in a building that used to be home to a dance academy (I’ve seen some old photos). Before that was built the street was empty except for a Chinese Laundry. I imagine the church ladies startled by a gentle tap on the shoulder and a whisper of Cantonese in their ear.
There were Chinese Laundries all over the neighborhood. One was down the street from me on Oak. And further down the block was a French Laundry that still is a Laundromat today (and one with a very sweet ghost who was the proprietress for years). Across the street at Haight and Scott is a dry cleaners that used to be a bakery (I wish the bakery would come back). The Tae Kwon Do Academy was a bicycle repair shop.
Many people mistake the old telegraph office on Page Street for a bank. We almost lost that building in the dot.com boom. The maps mark it as a Telephone Building in 1905. In the middle of that block was a windmill.
My building was built in 1927. The lot was empty before then, an outcropping of serpentine had to blasted away to fit the building into the lot. There is a church parking lot in the middle of the block where zipcars rest. One hundred years ago a “machine shop” with a gas engine was at the back of the lot. Nowadays, maybe only the ghosts remember what was made in the shop.
Monday, October 17, 2011
A friend was posting his Chaco Canyon photos online recently. It was a reminder that I am due for another trip to the Holy Land (the place most people call New Mexico). Chaco Canyon is one of the most sacred sites in that part of the world. I first learned about the place from a documentary that still gets a lot of play on PBS. As soon as I saw the film, I wanted to go. Now I have been a few times. Simply put, it’s America’s Stonehenge — but that is a simple explanation. I’ve been to both places and Chaco Canyon is much more sophisticated. The astronomical observatory that was constructed at Chaco one thousand years ago is the most complex, pre-computer era observatory built — that we know of.
Chaco Canyon is a great technological accomplishment but it also a sacred space. For some visitors the experience is a straightforward set of Native American ruins. For other visitors, there is clearly more going on there. And you really have to want to go. It’s near Four Corners, far from most everything and includes the challenge of a long drive in on a dirt road. It’s that remoteness that makes the place accessible once you arrive. The crowds are sparse and you’re really allowed to explore. Each visit has been a new experience for me. And, when you’re tall like me and have to crawl through the narrow stone doorways, something might happen — you may even suddenly understand those reoccurring dreams you’ve been having for years.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Today’s inspiration for the 2011 Project is the result of a morning walk to the de Young Museum. I took in a new exhibit from their large collection of Anatolian kilim carpets. I love the show for the color palette alone, and I always like the meeting of art and pattern. Kilims are rooted in traditional weaving and textile art that goes back thousands of years. The source and origin of the patterns is uncertain. One of the things I notice as I see various pattern-based art from around the world (baskets, ceramics, textiles, weaving, egg decoration, etc.) is that the same patterns reappear over and over. One begins to suspect that we humans have some built-in, universal patterns that given the opportunity, we utilize in various forms of art.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
This week San Francisco saw the passing of Bob Grimes. I only learned about Mr. Grimes when I read his obituary. It’s often interesting reading obituaries of prominent people I knew little about and may not have known of at all. Bob Grimes collected sheet music for 75 years (he was 89 years old). It seems he was a bit on the obsessive side, and that’s a good thing as his comprehensive collection included over 35,000 pieces of sheet music. The collection is now with the Michael Feinstein Foundation in Indiana. To be sure, there are plenty of obscure and rare pieces being archived for future generations.
I was not really surprised that Bob Grimes could not read music, play an instrument and did not sing. Yet he still had a fascination for sheet music. I kind of get it, I have no musical talent, but there is something cool about old sheet music. Like the one used for today’s piece. I decided to sacrifice a copy of Everything I Have is Yours from the 1933 film Dancing Lady starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford.
Friday, October 14, 2011
You have to live in San Francisco to really appreciate a warm night. We have them so rarely, even in summer the heat goes on many a night. The other evening, at Kirby Cove the fog cleared, it was warm, the full moon was rising and my City looked dazzling. We all were commenting on how unreal it looked. It was one of those “fake” Hollywood renditions of San Francisco — but it was real. I also realized I never really do night paintings and I started putting the camera to work so I could add a nighttime cityscape to the 2011 Project.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
When I was a kid, my family usually rented a cabin at New York’s Letchworth State Park for a week in the summer. Usually we stayed in Cabin #17 — 17 has always been one of my lucky numbers. The cabins were built during the Great Depression. They were a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project. The CCC was the New Deal program that put thousands of young people to work restoring and building infrastructure in state and national parks. My grandfather actually was part of the team that built the cabins at Letchworth. How we need that New Deal again for the 21st Century.
Letchworth is known as The Grand Canyon of the East. It’s a 17-mile long park with waterfalls and a gorge running through the park as the Genessee River makes its way north to Lake Ontario. When I was little it all seemed quite big. After living in the West with a few road trips under my belt, I made a return to Letchworth one day as an adult. It all seemed quite small when you’ve become used to national parks the size of New England states. That always tends to happen when you return to places from your childhood. The park seems small to me now, but the memories are still big.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Years ago I figured out what I like about camping and what I don’t like. I’ll pass on the whole tents and lack of plumbing experience. And even simple car camping can be ruined by one loud family of Santa Rosa trailer trash rolling into the campground late at night and disrupting an entire campground (you guessed correct if you think I am writing from experience).
But there is a lot I love about camping. There is the quiet of the early morning, starting the fire and getting some water boiling for tea. Sharing dinner with friends at night, feeling the darkness come quickly. That feeling when 7:30 p.m. already feels like 10 p.m. because you’re out in the dark in the woods. And the best part is all about the fire. Perhaps it is some primeval programming that has most of us mesmerized by that fire. The sound, the smell, the warmth — watching a good campfire beats anything you’ll ever find on TV.
Yesterday afternoon I was in a secluded, quiet clove below Marin Headlands on the shore of the Golden Gate. We stayed until about 10 o’clock, enjoyed dinner, birthday cupcakes, a full moonrise and of course we had a campfire. It was the things I love about camping. But no need for a tent because at the end of evening I was driven back across the Golden Gate Bridge in a swell little mini cooper convertible with the top down and heated seats on.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
During the 2011 Project I have explored a number of topics and themes and that includes various pieces dedicated to a specific color. For today it is green. We have had plenty of early rain in the Bay Area. It puts an end to the fire season, scours the air and best of all, the hills will start turning green early this rainy season. San Francisco is a city where lawns are a rarity, but we have plenty of grassy hills providing a backdrop from Bernal Heights to Twin Peaks to the Marin Headlands. And when our hills go all Ireland on us, it’s pretty spectacular. This afternoon I am heading over the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ll be talking to the grass and giving It some words of encouragement.
Monday, October 10, 2011
One might think the freeway was a California invention, but no, it was the Italians who first came up with them (and it should be noted it was under the fascists in the 1920’s). To my California ears, autostrada just sounds much more chic. I am tempted to say we should all start calling our freeways autostrada. Then again, there might be someone in Milan who has an image of the freeway being far more glamorous. Hollywood and all…. Foreign words are a good way to make things more interesting. Eating snacks behind the house on a slab of concrete can’t compare to dining al fresco on hors d’œuvres out on the patio behind the bungalow.
Are their examples of this in most cultures? I wonder if it is a universal phenomenon the way a culture uses a name from a foreign language so it will be perceived as better. Or should I say, has more cachet?
Sunday, October 9, 2011
I like lizards. If you’re patient and talk to them in a gentle voice they’ll usually pose for a photo. Best to work from that, I can’t get them to hold still long enough for a painting. As I look at the nearly 300 pieces done so far for the 2011 Project, I am making a list of some of my favorite subjects that need to be included. So for today, it’s lizards.
Nearly 300 pieces are on my wall. Each 4”x4” and one made for each day of 2011, so far. Seeing my vision of a time-based, large installation piece start to come to life is quite rewarding. I need to start scheduling some venues to show the work in 2012.
I also am thankful to all the generous support I have received to keep the project going. And even though the year will be over soon, there are still a great deal of costs including those I need to get caught up on. The 2011 Project is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the purposes of The 2011 Project may be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.
To support the 2011 Project, please click here.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Having painted big piles of rocks over the years, this might be seen as a natural, artistic direction to go in. Being silly, I couldn’t resist taking the photo the other day near Lake Tahoe. And as soon as I took the photo, I turned back on the trail not wanting to really meet the source. One of my rules for painting poop was that the painting itself, in an odd way, had to remain aesthetically pleasing (as subjective as that can be). Also, some great art has incorporated excrement — the British artist Chris Ofili who incorporates elephant dung into his work comes to mind. I have only seen one piece of his in person and really want to see a larger show of his work some day.
And to answer the proverbial question, yes, a bear does shit in the woods.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Yesterday afternoon I was standing in the middle of El Camino Real. No, I was not on a busy road of big box stores and strip malls on the Peninsula, nor was I standing in the middle of the 101 Freeway. I was in San Juan Bautista State Historic Park. There, below the plaza, next to the old mission is a small stretch of The Royal Road. You get a good connection to history when you stand on a dusty trail that served as a road over 200 years ago. Back then the road itself was more a series of interconnected trails linking Spanish missions and presidios. After Mexican independence the name El Camino Real fell into disuse. No Spanish king would be traveling up through Alta California any time soon. It wasn’t until the 20th Century, when California was redefining itself and mythologizing its history that the moniker El Camino Real came back into use along with the reproduction bells that line the route.
History real and re-imagined, I am glad that little bit of the old road is still there. San Juan Bautista became a quiet town bypassed by railroads and freeways. The good news is that it is now the only mission town that really feels old.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Much of my 2D work encompasses a meeting of circles and grids. I thought it was time to take it to a third dimension. I also have been inspired from a bit of a retro cinema bender I have been on. I have been watching the Sean Connery Bond films. It can be rather inspirational. Who needs faux 60’s on those we-won’t-mention-them popular TV shows. Give me the real thing. Campy, kitschy and groovy – this piece may be a prototype for some new wall panels when I have the time….