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Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.


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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The resolutions WILL be publicized


It goes without saying that I want to make my best art (so far) in 2009. Here's a very early sketch for the next project.

Every year, I post my New Year's resolutions publicly so as to keep myself accountable. Normally there's some sort of ritual (such as writing my inhibitions and burning them on the solstice) to give the vows life. As rituals are typically handled by countrymouse and since are stuck in the City this year, there may not be any pagan activities (though we're always game for them if the right opportunity presents itself).

Whether because of those psst rituals, the abundant scrutiny resulting from my very public resolutions, or some kind of mental fortitude I may or may not possess, my past resolutions have generally been pretty successful even though often quite ambitious. The next post will evaluate last year's projects.

Enough blah blah blah. Time for the meat of the post. Don't worry though, I keep a few projects secret--no need to share all of my emotional laundry with the blogosphere.

Get back to kicking ass.
I see now that my recent bout of illness was preceded (perhaps caused) by some serious emotional lethargy. Time to get back to work.

Get a Manhattan gallery with a global reach.
Obviously not the best time for that but in good times and bad ya gotta keep pushing.

Sleep8 hours 4/7 days.
Good sleep is key and the best way to get sleep is to get into bed early--so that will mean bed by 11.

Eat a salad or greens every day.
This resolution from last year worked out quite well so we're bringing it back for a second season.

Pivot problems into opportunities.
Interpret that however you wish.

Make sure city and country mice both get what they need.
Be proactive--don't wait for the wigout before skipping town. So this vow really should be more like "get Countrymouse into the country on the regular so he doesn't get ornery and start ranting about how much he hates the City."

Continue run-run-recovery plan.
Take an active recovery day (swimming or something like that) every three days with two quality runs in between. That means no--or few--"easy" runs. It's unconventional but it seems to work for me.

Improve last year's Boston performance.
Read the gory post-mortem here.

Find a balance between desire to improve my position and a very hearty appreciation for what I have.
I think the latter is the more difficult.

Take-no-prisoners approach to networking.
Approach social networking situations like a ship full of vikings would an unsuspecting village.

Update: I've posted my evaluation of the 08 vows here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The coolest part of the highlight of a nice holiday weekend


There are plenty of familiar faces at the Yousuf Karsh retrospective at the MFA.
Karsh, Estrellita Karsh, 1963. (MFA via Time.com)


On Boxing Day, Cole and I left the Booga with his grandparents (we were staying in Rhode Island) and spent a date-day in Boston. I wanted to see several shows at the MFA followed by some strolling, casual coffee, opportunistic post-Xmas recession sale trolling, dinner and
conversation. Just a nice day together, which I'm sure the parents among you will appreciate.

We had a nice lunch at the museum's mid-casual cafe between the excellent Assyrian show and the promising Karsh photoretrospective. We sat next to a striking older woman I was sure I had seen someplace before. She was eating with a younger woman (perhaps my age) who kept thanking her profusely for something (we could not hear what). She personalized a catalogue from the Karsh exhibit and Cole glimpsed the name Karsh in the signature (we were sitting that close).

Later, after the nice Rachel Whitetead installation, we took our time and took a quality look at the Karsh show. After all the famous portraits--Einstein, Jackie-O, Mother Theresa, we saw one that positively made our jaws drop: his widow Estrellita, the woman from the cafe! It was only then we noticed every piece in the show was "courtesy Estrellita Karsh." That explained some things.

I love it when I catch a personal glimpse at the invisible bonds that tie the universe together, an artist's version of "dark matter." I love to witness capital moments and I love it when some instinct alerts me to that moment's importance. It was cool that I was able to share that moment with someone who knew how to fully appreciate it.

On a wonderful day that was the best part of the holiday weekend, that moment was the highlight, the beating heart that sent the blood of inspiration coursing through my soul.



Postscript: I crossed Bedford Avenue to write this entry at the Rabbit Hole, which has become a sort of writers room for both Meredith and me. The writing took a lot longer than expected because an excellent band was playing (they've never had music there before): Brooklyn
Browngrass
, one of my favorites. Turns out their members are from Charlottesville. A thousand more dark matter threads to explore there if I wanted to...

But it's late, we're all tired, the cafe is closing and it's time to file my missive. They'll be back next Saturday...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Holidays


City Mouse and Country Mouse join to wish you a joyous holiday season full of music and bird song, stimulation and contemplation, peace and nergy, and the sublime Joy of Living.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The End is not the End

If you can only go to one gallery-closing party/wake this weekend, this is the one: death is not the end @ 31grand. They do death exceptionally well and have found a way to make it a cool mini-genre. More importantly though it will be a good party and no one deserves a toast (or a hug) than they do.

Hope to see you there.

Info: http://www.art2bank.com/press/breaking-news/31grand-death-is-not-the-end-c.php

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Grass Clippings approach the cost of Weed

Editor’s Note: We try to limit CountryMouse to just a few anti-New York rants per year. It’s hard enough to live here without being constantly reminded of the dirt, pettiness, corruption, trauma, and various indignities that punctuate daily life here in Gotham. In this case though, we determined that since Country’s diatribe is not limited to New York and because there are broader points contained therein, we should run the piece and let the pieces fall where they may. Enjoy.

I stopped by the local health food store yesterday to pick up some vitamin C packets to help nail the coffin lid on my broncitis. I shop at this place because it’s the closest thing to reasonable in the neighborhood. For example Kombucha costs $4 there, which is the prevailing market price in the City, but a dollar less than anywhere else in the hood. Nothing can be described as ‘cheap’ around here anymore—except the quality of the new construction, which is more like ‘shoddy’ anyway.

Well I had paid my $1 for three Emergen-C packets and turned to go. The guy at the juice counter put a tiny (1 oz) paper cup in front of me, with a thick green liquid. Thinking it a free sample, I swigged that little shot down. (My assumption was not unreasonable based on the tiny product size and the fact that there’s usually some kind of crumbled nutrition bar on a little plate at that spot). On my way out, I asked the juice-barista what it was and he told me "wheatgrass."
Not unexpected at a juice bar.

As I reached the door, the store’s only other customer, a thickly-bespectacled hipster from England yelled, "Hey! I just paid for that!"

"How much?"

"Two fifty," replied hipster and cashier in unison. "It’s really good for you, full of antioxidants," added the man whose morning concoction I had inadvertently swiped.

"It had better be at that price," was my grumple (a grumpy rumble).

Of course, it's a fad-inflated supply-demand thing just like the kombucha. Still, its a sign of a dying society that folks pay the rough equivalent of $40/pound for grass clippings and then drink it. Sebastian goes most days without seeing a single blade of grass, apart from what I grow in my flower box to keep the soil conditioned. I can never shake the contrast between that and the amount of time I’ve spent mowing, playing on, and rolling in the green stuff.

I think humanity’s future is an urban one, characterized by much increased density. Yet the human need for green is irrepressible and comes out like, well, grass through cracks in our paved lives and this is a pathetic response to that need.

I’m sorry: I know you may like your wheat grass shots in your custom juice drink and I may have offended you. I myself have written many times in praise of chlorophyll’s nutritional benefits. But a little drop of sunshine on your tongue a few times a week is no substitute for clean air, a sky that you can actually see, and a soft earth to lay on. No wonder everyone around here is in therapy.

But ya know, it doesn't have to be like that...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

i'm baaaack!

In an art fair that's really an art market, you'll see few risks. Not surprisingly, many of the most interesting projects were not in the Convention Center big-top or the various side-show tent fairs but rather along the Midway outside. Among the best, Ana Linnemann's Invisible (the spinning palm tree below).
I had a great time in Miami and my next post will tell some of my impresssions. First though, I wanted to let everyone know I got a new phone so I'm reachable again.

My last day in Miami was reserved for the beach. It was perfect: bright, sunny, and in the eighties. And down there, the beach you get when you walk out the door rivals anything I've seen on the East Coast. Just beautiful!

Imagine my sadness when I stepped out of the plane that afternoon at Laguardia and was greeted by 32 degrees--a full fifty degree drop! I came down with a chill that very instant, curled up in the back of my cab and I still haven't quite shaken it.

Why do we put up with this ridiculous weather? Someone really ought to say something...

Friday, December 5, 2008

i-don't-phone

I've felt very disconnected since losing my phone!
Denise Prince at the Bridge Art Fair Miami Wynwood

D@mn! I lost my brand new iPhone as I was walking on the beach my first morning in Miami. It's locked and cannot be hacked and plus it has my name and email address. So there's every reason to think that it would be returned if discovered. Therefore I can only conclude that it got washed out with the tide and is now home to a hermit crab.

Worst possible timing, I've lost my portfolio, contacts, email and telephone in the midst of a marketing extravaganza. Needless to say I'm pretty bummed.

Trying to stay philosophical about the whole thing, I remind myself that it's just a toy (albeit one that cost a few hundred bucks) and that just a few years ago I managed to live without it just fine. Its an opportunity to be resourceful right? Depend on my friends' good will and the kindness of strangers, and they've really come through.

That part's pretty nice actually.

So forgive me if you can't reach me. I'll get a new phone next week and I'll be call ya right back!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Meet me at the fair...

My recent piece "Strange Blossoms" will make its debut at the Bridge Art Fair Miami (Wynwood) December 2-7. Stop by the Williamsburg Gallery Association booth and see the work.

I'll be there too and it would be fun to get together! Call me (646-244-0879) or email me (peter@culturecurrent.com) and we'll meet up!

Bridge Art Midtown
NE 1st Avenue & NW 34th Street
Opening Tuesday December 2, 6-10 pm
Show Info

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Everyone needs a little break now and then.


No danger of me jumping in that chilly water--this time!

What a treat to slip out of the city and up to New Paltz for the weekend. The marathon was wonderful and all that but this countrymouse goes more than a little crazy without breathing the fresh air that only exists outside of major metroplitan areas on the regular.



The best way to protect you from monitor-induced blindness is to look up periodically and focus on something far away from time to time and for me I need to rest my soul periodically by spending time in nature and that's what we did. It's all too much otherwise.

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Sad News

Whoa! When it rains it pours!

I came to the Lucky Cat this afternoon to ask Lilah if she could host Sebastian's birthday party. She's done so before and it's always been a blast. It turns out that the answer is "no" because they're closing.

One of my favorite spots, I liked to go there for an afternoon studio break (their cookies are amazing), a late-night post-studio cocktail (they're right across from the studio), or an afternoon visitation with Sebastian. He loved the goldfish in the garden (where I once heard some lovely, passionate sex sounds on the wind), the croissants and we all loved Lilah and Sasha. She was so sweet to Sebastian and has been one of his many friendly guardian angels and godparents (in the most pagan sense of the word).

Just the other day, he asked if we could go to the Lucky Cat after the studio. It's part of the sudio ritual for him, along with wearing the home-made shark mask and working on one of his monumental paintings. It was getting toward dinner time so I promised him we'd come back this weekend in the afternoon. Maybe get one of Lilah's prime baked omlettes or devastating pizzas.

I guess not.

Again, you can't separate the Lucky Cat from Lilah's personality. So much that was great about the place--the incredibly laid-back ambiance, the delicious fresh and organic food, the biodegradable take-out cutlery, the eclectic music and decor--was the reflection of a personal and very inclusive vision. The Lucky Cat was reggae, soul, punkrock, and more than a dash of spicy Cali-Mex, all rolled into one old-school hang-out. There was a great generosity of spirit and a personal touch that's extremely rare. and that too few people seem to value or comprehend.

It's getting harder and harder to find that. It just got a little harder...

Harbingers of Doom

Maureen Cavanaugh is the perfect artist to close 31 Grand. Her self portraits always struck me as eerily like gallery co-owner Megan Bush. Maureen's been with the gallery for quite some time and a great exemplar of the gallery's marriage of quality, gloss, and psychological intensity.
I ran into Megan Bush on the street yesterday. When I asked her about her opening tonight, she told me some sad and sadly unshocking news. They're closing their doors after this show.

It wouldn't be completely accurate to define this as the end of an era. That happened two years ago when they moved out of Williamsburg for the LES. They were one of the first and best galleries in Williamsburg and were at the epicenter of the action in many ways. Their openings down by the waterfront were always packed and the art they showed there was edgy, witty and extremely (and often pains-takingly) well executed. Their shows have always been about vision but also about quality. They've always run the place the way a gallery should be run.

The gallery cannot be separated in my mind from the two dynamic women behind it, Megan and Heather Stephens. They're both super-smart, organized, and two of the nicest people I've ever met. The opposite of flaky. At the same time, I've always felt that they're plugged into something special and that 31Grand merits watching. With their seemingly unlimited energy, instinctive and un-selfconscious style, and great taste 31 Grand is by all rights a gallery that ought to succeed.

When I asked Megan what was wrong, she said just two words: "the economy." Of course no one is exempt from this financial storm but it's especially sad to see 31Grand go down because they are right at the heart of the contemporary scene, but also ideal trail blazers for the future artworld.

I'm going to the opening tonight and will report back. More details soon, including a possible closing party.

After the Madness


Front-row seat on history. You don't often see wide shots from the photo truck but here's what I see during the marathon.
Marilson Gomes dos Santos (yellow) dueled Abderrahim Goumri over the last ten miles and bested him with a blistering kick on Central Park South. Hard to imagine a better way to spend a sunday morning.

You might have wondered where I’ve been these last few weeks. I’ve been swamped in the annual madness that is my day job, the ING New York City Marathon. Such an amazing experience, I can hardly really call it a "job." Every year, when I tell people I’m working on the marathon, they always ask two questions,

1st question: "Do you run?"

Answer: "Well, I run around like crazy but I don’t run in the sense of participating. I’m kinda busy working the event."

I start out on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge well before dawn, track the race from the photo truck in front of the leaders. Arriving just before the winner crosses the line, I watch the victory lap and then manage the pandamonium that ensues with the awards ceremony. I’ve been at it for eight hours by now and only a handful of the forty thousand have crossed the finish line. I grab a quick breather and then go back as the tired, spent, and hungry masses complete their marathon journey, some triumphant, some seemingly near death, and many just plain peculiar such as the infamous "Larry the Lighthouse."

It’s outrageous: forty thousand people fully blissed out, having achieved something truly monumental, many having overcome enormous doubt. It’s like witnessing forty thousand wedding days and it’s easy to understand why over a million people line the streets every year to cheer them along. That brings me to the inevitable second question people ask when they hear what I do.

"You get paid for that?" Not to say that I don’t earn my paycheck, but I do actually have to pinch myself to remember that I’m doing my job out there. It’s a major rush and a tremendous privilege to be out there. It’s exhausting but it’s amazing, not least because it's the culmination of months of work and at the end of a long sleep-deprived stretch.

And now it’s over for the year and it’s time to go back to being an everyday, working artist kind of guy. It's kind of a letdown actually like the day after Chrismas or some great life change, only accompanied by a physical exhaustion that is akin to having actually run the marathon. Time for some R&R...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Stealing Summer from the Jaws of Autumn


We ran into some REALLY old friends at
Jacob Riis this weekend.

This was one of those weekends where you just have to get out--preferably near a body of water. Nevermind that we're deep into October.

So I gathered Sebastian, some sand toys, and a couple of artist friends and headed for the beach. We dug in the sand, we played chase, and--best of all--we swam. It was divine. The waves were gentle, the sand smooth, and the water was SOOOOO clear. Yes it was chilly--bracing. The day was so gorgeous and we had the wonderful beach all to ourselves with its once-glorious but now-semi-decrepit buildings aging very gracefully. The sun was bright but soft and the air so clear. It was a wonderful day.

We hopped back in the car when it started to get chilly and were home in half an hour. Unfathomable that we never left New York City.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

More of the Brooklyn State of Mind


"I think that's my favorite piece in the show"
-The lady to my right in the blue shirt. Many others agreed.


Good news: my show in Clinton Hill has been extended through the month of October. It will be open weekends and by appointment through Halloween with a possible additional extension beyond that. The exhibition really looks terrific and apparently the Corcoran Group took notice.

We had a wonderful opening (thanks to everyone who stopped by!) and the weekend hours have seen steady foot traffic. On a personal level, I’m very excited to say that my "Aspirant" piece, (the ceiling one pictured above) sold to a collector in Long Island City. She’s going to try it over her bed, which for me is the ultimate position for those ceiling pieces. I wish I could fall asleep under its protective branches and be greeted by it in the morning!

If you haven’t been yet, stop by and check out the show. We’re having a party for what would have been the closing and it could be even better than the opening. A local Senegalese resto is catering and a bunch of my friends are coming. Trust me: it’s worth the trip!

Brooklyn as a State of Mind
95 Lexington Avenue (Brooklyn) [map]
Saturdays and Sundays 12 to 6 p.m.
Through October

Closing Reception
Sunday October 12, 6 to 9 p.m.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Brooklyn as a State of Mind

I wasn't sure what to make of this upcoming show, but now that it's installed I feel very excited. The show flat-out looks great and I think it will be a wonderful opportunity.

I installed Aspirant (left) on the ceiling and it looks magnificent that way. It's like nothing I've ever seen--and I'm the artist!

I've placed the two Dream Catcher drawings(previews here and here) high on a wall, in a kitchen area above the cabinets. Again, it's art in a way I've never seen.

Clerestory (below) completes the quartet and it's in a terrific spot in the first room. The others are a little further back but will surprise you when you see them.




Overall, the four pieces in the show are perhaps my strongest to date, making this a must-see show that hopefully will lead to good things. With forty artists, it should be a great and very lively opening.

Show Details

October 4 – 5 and October 11 – 12, 2008
Times: 12 noon to 6 pm

Opening Reception
Friday October 3, 6pm – 9pm

The LOFTS on LEX at 95 Lexington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11238
Between Franklin and Classon Avenue [map]

Excellent write-up in HarlemWeek
Still More Info

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A perfect weekend


I purposely left the SLR at home for the weekend so I could experience the time directly.
Still, I try to carry the elph in my pocket all the time and I'm glad I did...

I’m always a pretty happy person, but sometimes my life is just so sweet as to be almost embarrassing. Yet it’s made of small pleasures. Take this example of a how I spent a recent weekend.

Last Saturday (ten days ago) I had to drive up to the Catskills to pick retreive my and Drake’s work from our show up there. On the way there, I stopped in Sleepy Hollow for some serious running at the arcadian Rockefeller Estates—twelve miles through mist-shrouded fields and forests, followed by as huge brunch at the Horseman Diner. How could I go anywhere else?

The next two hours in the car were beautiful and got better and better as I wound through the heart of the Catskills. J-Dalt pointed reminded me the other day that for a parent, few pleasures rival a solo drive through beautiful countryside. Spoken like a true Californian but as true in the Hudson Valley as in Napa. The art was skillfully packed so it took about two seconds to load it in the car and be on my way, but not before receiving some sage advice about local hiking prospects.

On the way up, I had noticed a very promising lake with a swim platform in the middle. I found the park locked on the way home, but with a car parked by the gate—an irresistible invitation. I slipped over the cable, out of my jeans (I still had my running shorts underneath) and into the cool water. My fellow pond dippers turned out to be a group of citymice holed up in a nearby house for the weekend. I splashed around, floated on my back and looked at the sky and did a few flips and back into my clothes and on my way.

I soon spotted the turn for the hike I had heard about and wound my way into the mountains to the trailhead. As advertised, the path went up-up-up, often along stairs, through the mystical and lovely wilderness of Rip vanWinkle., with its strange rock formations, mosses, gnarled roots, ferns, and old trees. The path emerged onto a ledge straight out of Thomas Cole, with the Catskills spread out before me, peaks islands in the fog, like a Chinese scroll. An encounter with the Sublime.

On the way home, I stopped for some prime BBQ at a place my friend Pamela recommended. The trip was glorious and the fact that the final ten minutes took and hour and a half did nothing to diminish my joy. Even Countrymouse has become philosphical about the City’s annoyances—at least for a while.

As if to confirm my joy, as I unloaded the car, C-Lin chanced past the studio and I joined her at an opening at Sideshow on the way home from the studio. Gerbo was there, in full conviviality and he bought me a beer to wash the road dust from my palate.

That was Saturday.

Sunday was just as good. I had Sebastian all to myself as Cole took care of some of her business (which she graciously delayed to enable my trip). We had pancakes and wipped together a big dinner for later. We had to hurry a little bit because we had a date with the beach, along with some of the VCCA artists, who connected together quickly via txt-message. The day was gorgeous: hot, humid, with warm water, gentle waves, and perfectly clear sand. We made the best castle I’ve ever done (as one would expect from a gathering of sculptors). Then, at four o’clock, the season ended right before our eyes, as if a bell rang. suddenly a chilly breeze blew in from the sea and a day that had been muggy turned brisk. We wrapped in towels and returned to the warm car. There was freakishly little traffic on the way home and as well all hugged goodbye, we knew that we were also saying farewell to summer.

That night, we hosted a dinner party for Splinter, Amelia, Mayumi, John Mitchell and Anki. Great company, animated conversation, the curry I had made, just a glass or two of wine, and we all reconnected, back in the City from our diverse wanderings, for a season of expansion, culture, and new ideas.

I couldn’t ask for a better weekend, and one in which Countrymouse and Citymouse found the elusive perfect balance.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pictures from Paradise



I've finally posted photo selects from VCCA. I put them in two places.

Places and Things is a public gallery of art shots I took around the VCCA grounds. My camera is my sketch book and I use my camera to try things out visually or to gather material for future work. These selects (culled from over a thousand shots) strike me as interesting images in their own right. Let me know if you would like any prints. (peter-at-culturecurrent-dot-com)

For privacy reasons, I put the People shots in a protected gallery. Let me know if you would like to see those and I'll send you the p.w.

Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Farewells and Welcomes


Alyson, Krazy Karl, Cynthia, and Don Pedro are a few of the folks I'll miss most. The good news is that they're New Yorkers and I'll still see them! In fact, I already have or soon shall...


Of course it was difficult to leave VCCA. Everyone kept asking if I would be back, and my answer was always the same, "I would love to come back!"

As much as it was wonderful there, it was also easy to realize how great my regular life is as well. After a very short and sleepy drive, I was back at Springtree for a long weekend of quiet time with my family in the country. Just resting, gardening, and enjoying time with old friends, Sebastian, Meredith and her folks. Plus a swim and a visit with my own parents.

While I saw a bear on my first full day in Virginia, on the last evening Sebastian spotted a bald eagle that swooped over our riverside picnic. We all got a nice long look and his apparition was a nice bookend for the experience and a signal of farewell.

When we got back to Brooklyn, after our favorite brunch place opened specifically for us (and before and dear friend and uber-neighbor Amelia served us a delicious "welcome home" dinner, Sebastian and I stopped by a Labor Day party at my studio building. It was a lovely party with kids and interesting people and good food. The perfect way to close a terrific summer that was full of symmetry and meaning.

I was not really surprised at all then when Cynthia from VCCA (pictured above in the blue shirt)walked into the yard and said hello. Her BF is close friends with Gerbo (the host) and they coincidentally decided to stop by. What a treat! I love those moments that seem intended to demonstrate that there is an order to things, that all things are connected by a million invisible fibers that could never be traced yet feel so obvious.

I'll see Krazy Karl, Don "Juan", Alyson, and a few others later this week.

Sad to have left, glad to be back.

Mad. Mike goes Post-Playa

Check out studio-mate Mad. Mike [Ross] in last week's Voice. He didn't want this blog to break the story six months ago, but now that it's in the nation's largest weekly, I suppose it's fair game. Read it, then come back here.

For the last few months, I've been pondering Burning Man's demise--er, I mean, evolution. Please forgive one quick digressive musing in that direction.

The Playa has always been a venue for artists to strut their stuff and to try out their most audacious schemes. But is there an imaginary line, where artists may not be making their work for the playa and for its visitors at, but rather using it as a show room for their ambitions with eyes fixed on a decided more commercial future? Of course intentionality is impossible to measure, but could a subtle shift be underway? And of course, intentionality, though unmeasurable, is of supreme importance at Black Rock City. It's a community that is united only in its huge (sometimes oversized) good intentions.

Don't get me wrong: Mike is not a cynical guy at all; quite the opposite. He might be the most earnest guy I know. But, should the moment come when the art on the Playa stops being for the Playa, do we lose something precious?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Hardest Part




As the residency has progressed, time became compressed and like the gas at the center of a star, it burns with more intensity. Time for leaving approaches and everything I want to do before I leave needs to happen in just one day and that includes spending time with my fellow Fellows. We’ve been on parallel metaphorical journeys and those who have been travelling alongside have become dear friends. And soon we’ll say goodbye.

I am grateful for these last days because their value is so evident. Really, every day is important yet time is so easily lost in the quotidian flow. Times like this are wonderful for they are illuminated with an awareness of how fleeting they are.

My friend Bea (the one who shook Barack’s hand) said yesterday, "Hopefully you’ll take some of it home with you." I certainly will do that. What is more, many of these fellows live in New York and even Williamsburg. So I will certainly enjoy some of the camaraderie back home...along with all the good things waiting for me there...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Strangeblossoms


Strange blossoms. Charcoal on painted birch ply, 24" x 24" 2008.

The last piece I will do during my VCCA fellowship. I really like the free-wheeling Dr. Seuss quality it possesses. It's medium sized (2 feet by 2 feet) but I think it would also work well as a big, ceiling-mounted work.


[More new work]

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lurking Menaces


untitled (plastic) ink on paper 9" x 12" 2008.


untitled (bag) ink on paper 9" x 12" 2008.


untitled (undies) ink on paper 9" x 12" 2008.


Hanging out in Virginia with a bunch of New Yorkers has reminded me of a basic Citymouse/Countrymouse tension: the more people become divorced from Nature, the more frightening it becomes. VCCA has many great places to walk, including over a mile of trails right on the property. Yet my colleagues here are largely unwilling to venture onto them for fear of lurking menaces: bears, poison ivy, wild dogs, and (most fearsome of all) ticks. To no avail, I remind people that if they stay on the grounds and on the path, they have absolutely nothing to fear. In fact, we are walking menaces and the woods are rightly afraid of us--we pose far more danger to them than they do to us. Let me say this officially: I would much rather have wildlife than garbage lurking among the trees.

That's a long-winded and anecdotal introduction to this new series of drawings about some of the negative consequences of the Human/Nature interface. In Williamsburg (Brooklyn) almost every tree has trash in it. And why not, when every corner and crevice seems to be full of human detritus.

Still, I hope there is at least some gritty beauty in these drawings...

[More New Work]

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sentinel


Sentinel. Oil pastel on painted birch ply, 24" x 24" 2008.


This is a midsummer's response to my earlier Solstice song. If the earlier work possesses a mid-winter austerity, this one is a midsummer dream. My greatest challenge was to marry the tree's shockingly bright with the fecund mass that adorns its crown, all while staying both loose and specific. I love the result.

[Source Photo | More new work | Earlier Tree Portraits]

Dream Catcher 2


Dream Catcher 2. Charcoal on painted masonite 18" x 40" 2008.


This is a companion to the earlier (one week older) Dream Catcher drawing. Both hang high on the wall and both have a serene, meditative feeling. While the earlier work has a Vespers-like melancholy, this piece is meant to signify an unfolding, a harbinger of renewal. They look great side-by-side and amount to a whole that is much greater than each individual.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Close Encounters of the Obama Kind


Photo:
Campaign website

Although we didn't have tickets for Barack's Lynchburg appearance, a group of us took a van ride from VCCA to see the candidate--or at least to see the scene.

There was a huge line of people waiting to get in--very mixed, black, white, old, young, rich, poor. Very friendly, very heartening. Not surprisingly, there were more people than space, so not everyone (ourselves included) got into the auditorium. The secret service set up an outdoor listening area and Barack and Jim Webb came out to apologize personally. My friend Bea got to shake his hand and I was about six feet away.

He looked, sounded, acted exactly the way that we see him on TV. It seems that one reason why he is telegenic and such a star is that his normal appearance and behavior translates well for the media. Some of us photograph better than others and he's enormously blessed in that way.

The speech was great, the usual stuff. It was a great experience--not one I would do every day, but very much worth the time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dreams from My Grandmother-in-law


Something about this place gives my dreams extraordinary vividness...

For the first time since her passing, I dreamed of Margery last night. She was ancient and needed help down a winding staircase--so much so that I practically carried her. It would have been easier for our combined ungainliness nearly caused us to tumble more than once teetering on the brink. Whe we reached the bottom I set her gently down on a stone floor but she was folded like a heap.

Her sigh that closed the dream are imprinted on my mind: "Oh the burning..."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cocktails with Virgil


This time in Virginia has been a great source of inspiration--both visual an conversational.

After taking a day off to attend Margery’s memorial service at Springtree, I troopered over the mountains to Blacksburg to attend Suzi Gablik’s monthly salon.

Last summer I spent a week in a little cabin literally perched on the edge of the Catskills under the auspices of the Catskills Center for Conservation and Development. In that program, artists each get the cabin (with no running water but a huge waterfall) to themselves for a week to work, read, hike, or do whatever they want to do in total seclusion. One of the previous fellows had left Suzi’s Conversations Before the End of Time, which is a series of dialogs with artists, thinkers, and other visionaries. Although it was written two decades ago, the themes addressed (such as environmental degradation, civilization clash, and the war on dissent) therein are absolutely crucial today.

The artist who had left the book at the cabin suggested that those who follow read and discuss the book via the cabin’s log and a lively dialog ensued via notebook, with one artist leaving their impressions after the next. Conversations made quite an impression on me as it hit me at the right moment, as had some of her other books such as Has Modernism Failed? and Re-enchantment of Art so I wrote to the author to tell her so.

I was surprised to hear back right away in the form of a detailed and very expressive letter, in which she mentioned that she hosts an informal discussion/salon every month that I should visit some time. A year went by before I could link create a little free time while in Virginia and when her salon was taking place. My residency at VCCA was the perfect opportunity and allowed me to take a much-needed day off from the studio. It was a big day with Margery’s service, the salon, and about 5 hours of driving in between but it was well worth the trip.

It turns out that although she had hosted many salon’s before, it was another writer—Mary Campagna—who convinced Suzi to host this monthly gathering. She (Mary) was moved in a very similar way by both the content of Conversations and it’s unstructured dialectical form.

The attendees were varied, including writers, artists, thinkers, pilgrims, and a sociologist. Many points of view and a wide range of topics awakened me to many ideas and connections I had never imagined before. Topics like distance learning, cultural extinction, moral courage, and the essential energy of Life were tied together though by the conversational form itself.

Humans have the capacity to be shockingly destructive, but we also possess the ability to enlarge ourselves through conversation and collaboration and there was some high-level thinking going on in that circle of chairs. I feel very invigorated and galvanized. It reminded me how discussion can be fuel and how available it is—all it takes is a group of interesting people and perhaps a bottle of wine. I hope to take full advantage of the amazing minds around me here at VCCA and perhaps Cole and I will revive our old salons when we get back to New York. And I hope to revisit Suzi’s group sometime—maybe if/when we relocate to Virginia.

I plan to blog more about some of the topics we discussed, but in the meantime, you can get a sense of what Suzi’s about by reading her blog or by picking up some of her books, which are extremely influential, well-written and on-point.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Close Encounters for the Third Time


The amount of wildlife here is phenomenal.


I can’t believe it happened again!

This time Cole and I were taking a break from a little hike on the Appalachian Trail and were sitting on a pile of rocks, engrossed in an intense discussion. There was a little rustle that I figured to be a squirrel, when suddenly Cole jumped up and got behind my back, as bear cub ambled onto the rocks near by (a few feet).

Boy was he cute! Boy were we startled! He was even more spooked—and went tearing off down the mountain at lightening speed. The next logical question, of course, was the location of his mama. Though we hiked the rest of the way with a big stick in one hand and rock in the other.

Happily, we never did meet the rest of his family.

Weekly bear sightings? What is this place; Alaska?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Close Encounters Part II



I’ve logged a gazillion running miles on country roads, so I’m well acquainted with the dogs and other forms of aggressive wildlife one encounters there. This morning, I had one such run-in of the most dangerous kind: with a human being and his truck.

Though I stick to low-traffic or nearly-deserted routes, I’m always super careful to stay safe. When I’m alone, I’ll run in the middle of the road (because it’s level there) but as soon as I see or hear an auto (which is generally about half a mile in advance), I move off the road completely and run on the shoulder or even in the adjoining fields. This morning I saw a pickup truck zooming toward me so I eased over to the left-hand shoulder—standard procedure—and gave my usual finger-wave to the driver—also standard procedure in Virginia.

Instead of waving back (as usually happens) and instead of giving me a little extra room (as almost always happens) he swerved toward me (which happens about twice a year). I was never in real danger as I zipped across the ditch to safety faster than a deer but the aggression and the speed and force at play was utterly terrifying.

I shouted some expletives after him as he zoomed away, which startled a nearby cattle herd and sent them stampeding away from the road faster than I could have imagined possible. That amusing sight helped me get past my anger and I continue on my way.

A little while later, I heard another sound behind me that sounded like the same truck. Not wanting to show fear, I did not look back, but being smart, I hopped the ditch again completely off of the road. As the vehicle approached, it slowed. Just as I looked back, he pulled alongside and it was the same guy.

He rolled his window down and instead of yelling at me he apologized in a very contrite and humble manner. Apparently he came around a curve and was blinded by the rising sun. His perfectly plausible explanation diffused my simmering anger and I instinctively assured him that it was ok, no harm done.

Although that sort of situation is rather frightening, I should be careful about attributing motives. What I had seen as aggression was actually terror in his eyes. He might have been more shaken by the experience than I was. Living is a dangerous business but it only gets harder if we see boogie-men in one another. Life is too short to live without that faith.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Dream Catcher


Does this image look familiar?
(Dream Catcher. Charcoal on painted masonite 18" x 40" 2008)


I arrived here with four panels painted and ready to go for specific works. This is the first, completed in record-time-four days. Right away, there are two things that appeal to me about it: the elaborately prepared background (which took considerably more than four days) is really active. It's as if the air itself is in motion, which is of course what I was trying to do. Second, it has a looseness, which my tree drawings sometimes lack. The trees are treated in a way that is no less, shall we say, thorough than usual. However, by using a longer tool and by forcing myself to work quickly the marks have a loose but decisive quality that appeals.

Dream Catcher detail. Click for better view.
This is my favorite piece in a while. I know, I know: artists often love their latest work best. But this one really seems to reflect the good emotional place I'm in right now. I've been drawing so much my arm is getting sore. So watch for much more work and more thoughts and reflections soon!

One more quick thing:

I'll be having a show this October in Fort Green (Brooklyn), thanks to the unstoppable Anders Knuttson.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

So much to do, so little time (but a little more than usual)...


My first 24 hours were particularly eventful, as someone's wise-cracky bulletin board note highlights.



Since I’ve been at "the colony", I’ve provided abundant sensory information, but what have I been doing?


In no particular order, here’s what I’ve done in my first few days:
  • Created two new pieces: a large shoes-and-wire piece and a small trash-in-trees drawing (images coming soon!)
  • Collaborated and performed a 15-minute installation/performance piece with three fellow artists (youtube coming soon!)
  • Taken lots of photographs
  • Run—alot with some serious hills
  • Swam several times a day
  • Early to bed and early to rise
  • Watched the sunset nearly every night
  • Hiked up a mountain (not on a trail)
  • Communed with nature
  • Made surprisingly many phone calls and emails
  • Eaten yummy food and met some great people
  • Been the author of (and occasionally the butt of) more than a few jokes and wisecracks.
It’s amazing what a guy can do if he’s used to not having lots of time—and then suddenly has some!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The things you retain


The VCCA grounds are full of public art, much of it designed to facilitate contemplation.

This one is variously known as "the sunset bench," "the kissing bench," and "the pot-smoking bench."


It’s easy to talk about the beauty of this place in visual terms. The rolling fields and quiet forests, the golden hills and the distant mountains have a soothing effect on the eyes. But the other senses are the ones that trap memories and they’re the ones that will haunt me when I go back to Brooklyn: the sweet smell of the Earth, the warm sun on my face, the wind and the wall of cicada-sound, the gentle rocking of the pool-mattress as I watch the clouds slowly break apart and re-form...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Close Encounters of the Animal Kind




On this morning’s run, I encountered deer, rabbits, horses, birds, and cows. As I ran by the Sweetbriar barns, of course a bunch of dogs attacked. Most were up to the usual dog-on-runner tricks but one of them was super-aggressive and it went straight at me—and bit me! Fortunately, his teeth happened to land harmlessly on my watch and I was not injured. Here’s the shameful thing: it was a big white...poodle(!). I’m almost too embarrassed to write it.


But the highlight of the morning happened about 2 minutes into my run. As I headed down the mountain on a back road, who should cross my path but a big black bear. YIKES!!! And he was really close—about 40 yards, which a bear can cover quicker than a sprinter. Clearly escape was impossible, so I waved my arms over my head and clapped and yelled real loud. Fortunately, he crossed the road and into the woods in a bear’s ambling way. I guess the wild blueberries were probably more interesting than my tender flesh...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sweetbriar Seriously Sweet



VCCA is even more wonderful than I had expected. I have a great studio. Great studio—big, sky-lit and well-appointed. Nice cozy room with plenty of books and a shower/bathroom I share with just one other guy. Beautiful grounds, couldn’t be more typically Virginia: big hills, hay fields, horses, shockingly much boxwood. Hot and steamy but everything is air conditioned. Then there's the old-style and surprisingly deep pool. It’s all very beautiful and refreshing for the soul.

So I’m looking forward some serious productivity and the usual Krebsian journeys of personal discovery.

More on that soon!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Reaching me in my Retreat



I will be spending the month of August (1st-28th) at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts.

Here's how to reach me there:

Mail: 154 San Angelo Drive, Amherst, VA 24521

I will chack my email and cell phone messages throughout the day: 646-244-0879.

I'll be back in New York on September 1.

Countrymouse can hardly wait to share his impressions and observations. Citymouse will probably be hiding under a bed, afraid of the sound of crickets...

Monday, July 21, 2008

There Goes the Neighborhood


Real Estate speculation has reached an obscene level that is effectively destroying the fabric of New York. This very fine parody, created by
Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese was part of EyeWash's excellent Artwalking show on Bedford Avenue.

Pat McGeehan's piece in yesterday's New York Times should be required reading for anyone who wants to live in, visit, or even discuss Williamsburg.

He describes the plight of the Brooklyn Brewery, which in many ways is the very heart of the Williamsburg renaissance, yet has found it basically impossible to locate a space in the borough that will allow it to expand or--perhaps--even continue it's operations. It's not because the increasingly wealthy neighbors don't want a brewery next door. On the contrary, it's universally loved. The problem is that light manufacturing has been zoned out of much of the neighborhood and those spaces that remain are being held vacant in the hopes of getting a coveted variance to build luxury condos. I won't rehash the story: you should read it yourself.

McGeehan rightly points out that the plight of small manufacturers is not limited to craft brewers. Because he's writing about business, though, he completely misses the cultural angle, which is very dear to me, and which is at least as deeply troubling.

The brewery certainly was a pioneer in the neighborhood, in a relative sense. Even before their arrival, artists were here converting early-to-mid-century industrial spaces into studios. We all know that artists are being priced out of the neighborhood and have been for some time. It's even worse than that however. When you think about light industrial production, it pretty well matches what an artist does. So the vision of a Brooklyn without light manufacturing is one that does not include artists. Very sobering to think of oneself as completely anathema (as opposed to simply foreign) to the real estate barons that control the city.

So every time I celebrate a nice cafe opening across the street, I also hear my own clock ticking. It's a simple fact of an artist's life that one must constantly relocate ahead of gentrification's tidal wave. What's happening now though is fundamentally different: this is not artists decamping from a building or even a neighborhood. This is an entire city slowly evicting its cultural class.

That is why I stopped fighting for the loft law. Normalizing the inhabitation of industrial land has had the perverse effect of opening a door through which to usher artists out of the neighborhood. So in leading the charge for more housing in North Brooklyn, the arts community has effectively written its own ticket out of here. Beware the law of unintended consequences...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Forest of Dreams


When night falls and the lights turn on, the familiar becomes somehow alien and interesting. Light effects are dramatically different and a strange parallel world, rich in metaphorical possibilities, awakens.

From a strictly visual standpoint, objects (like building facades) that are typically bathed in ambient sunlight are lit from below—to dramatic effect. It’s like stage lighting or the spooky camp counselor telling ghost stories with a flashlight.

A good number of my early drawings from Washington and Europe are of churches and other buildings with dramatic, night-time lighting. When I arrived in New York, I embarked on a series of nocturnal photographs, The City that Never Sleeps, which chronicles the strange and wonderful nocturnal life that is uniquely New York. That project is open-ended and I’ve never really stopped.

Now I think the time has arrived to marry my longstanding interests in nocturnal drawing and photography with my favorite subject matter: trees and forests. I recently visited McCarren Park to gather images for a new series of tree drawings that are nocturnal; I had one specific piece in mind. I found the source material that I needed—and a lot more. My photographs of trees are generally just intermediate steps for me, but these pictures have potential to be works of art themselves.

Maybe I should do just that: a series of nocturnal tree portraits that are photographs—a slightly new but very interesting direction. The subject of the nocturnal grove is as old as storytelling itself and the images are visually powerful in themselves. This is a potent combination worth developing further. Let’s see where it takes me...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Midsummer Night McCarren


One arts advocate argued in a Greenline article that the concerts and movies are not a "Hipster thing." The preponderance of brakeless bikes would indicate otherwise, as would the total absence of Latinos or anyone over the age of 45. Not the case at the City's other outdoor movie sites.

The other night I headed over to McCarren Park to photograph trees for my next set of Nocturnal drawings. The combination of street and stadium lights results in visual effects that are strange and stunning. More on that in a future entry. For now, I would like to describe something else I found there.

People! The park was crowded like a weekend afternoon. The newly installed lights on the track have already had a dramatic impact on park usage in their first year. Late into the night, the track and infield were actually crowded—something that could never be said of summer evenings of yore.

If there were hundreds of people on and around the track, there were thousands next door at the Tuesday evening film at the McCarren Park Pool. It was an amazing scene, already eclipsing more established venues, like Bryant Park or Brooklyn Bridge, on its opening night. That huge pool was packed with people so that the enormous screen looked downright tiny.



That space is so enormous though, there was plenty of room for other stuff: several tents selling beer, tacos, ice cream, coffee, and other treats. Plenty of tables and lots of space and cool little corners for hanging out. I arrived late and didn’t care about the movie, but I had plenty of company in that regard. I just chilled out with a beer, chatted with strangers, and took in one of the nicest and coolest scenes I’ve experienced in quite a while. It’s free, casual, a great place to gather with friends.

Now I understand the loyalty that surrounds the weekend concert series. The Pool is one of the finest outdoor venues I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, I’m starting to get the sense that this loyal constituency may become an obstacle to the facility’s impending restoration back into a pool. I’ve seen a number of quotes of late, attributed to various "arts advocates" decrying the renovation as some kind of blow to the local arts scene. That may be true in the strictest sense but the temporary stage and movie screen could be erected in any open space, while this is the North Brooklyn’s only shot for an outdoor pool. Who’s to say that the new Bushwick Inlet Park with its unmatched view of the Manhattan skyline would not be equally sublime?

It should be noted that the majority of the concert and movie goers come from outside the neighborhood and of the dozens of people I spoke to on Tuesday night, only a few lived in Williamsburg and none had been here for more than a year or two. Should our children be forego this needed resource in order to serve a hungry Manhattanites’ insatiable need for open space? They’ll be welcome to use the pool, and hopefully see their concerts and movies in some other location as well.

Put this long-time arts advocate and community organizer squarely in favor of the pool. It’s the best, most needed, and most appropriate use for the space. That should be obvious but in this community which is so much better at protesting than building, one can never be sure. I love the movies and plan to go back. But the pool will be an equally amazing place, and I would hate to see the arts consituency join in the petty intra-community squabbles that have doomed the renovation numerous times in the past. Let’s enjoy the movies and concerts for one last summer and then move forward.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Citymouse Take on the Rabbit Hole


Antique fixtures and rustic furniture give the place an Old World feeling. Or old New World.

A few months ago, we reported that the Read was relocating to the Southside--right across the street from our apartment! It's open, reincarnated as the Rabbit Hole, and Citymouse crawls over there on a regular basis for some serious blogging.

As anticipated, the food's exactly the same as before--which is very good. The ambiance is even nicer. The back yard just as cool. The interior feels more alot more French Rustic than the old place and we like it better. When asked what happened to the trademark free books and magazines, owner Lawrence Elliot explained that people actually used to [intentionally] put sticky things (some of biological origin) between the pages and he was fed up. So he rightly got rid of them.

Citymouse has only one complaint: we shall have to wait for our favorite Read combination (fresh Chocolate raspberry rolled scone paired with a cold brew) until they get their liquor licence. Then perhaps it will be the perfect cafe.

The advent of the Rabbit Hole makes a difficult dilemma all the more vexing: should we go to Simple or the Tea Room or the Lucky Cat or Blackbird or now this?

Such is the difficult life of the Williamsburg Citymouse...



No other reviews available yet; previews: Gothamist Gowanus Lounge

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Island of Metaphors


By locating the festival on an island, visitors are forced to take a little journey to get there--

opening the visitor to metaphor and really enhancing the cultural experience there.

I like the Figment Festival! It sort of brings some of the best things about Burning Man to New York, and some of the annoying things as well. Let’s be real though: a trip to Governor’s Island is no substitute for a week on the playa. Still, it’s a great event and I would like to get involved next year.

Like Burning Man, there are alot of artists just "putting it out there" without really worrying about the commercial implications. There are many artists who just wheeled their huge sculptures out into a big feild and hung out with it. The artist are right there and I had many, many conversations with them. The overarching commercialism of gallery art sucks alot of the joy out of a trip to Chelsea and this was quite different and refreshing.

The Figment folks have done well by borrowing some of Burning Man’s non-commercial agenda, though one can still easily find a hotdog or soda for sale. On reflection it's kind of sad that the hotdog sellers are allowed to make a living but the artists have to donate everything. Maybe the hot dogs should be donated and the art sold?

Besides all the free-placed art, there are two curated group shows of sculpture and installations located inside buildings and the quality of those shows was (is) outstanding. Unlike the rest of the event, these two shows remain on view through the summer. Information on them can be found here and here. There was alot of music, theatre, dance, people in costume, and general wackiness.

My only complaint was this: Because the event is spread over a vast area, and the only way to have a physical map/schedule is to download one from their web site (it doesn’t print well at all) and they don't offer them on site. The only real practical ways to find things are either by being one of the organizers (and here, Burning Man’s annoying elitism rears it’s bespectacled face) or by wandering around, happening onto things and not caring too much about what you might be missing. The greeters had one map among them all and they didn’t really have much to offer besides pointing everyone in the general direction of the mini-golf. Although I love vibe-surfing more than most, there were times during the visit when it would have been nice to know where I was, what’s out there and when. The art-trance approach works better on the playa than in it does in wired New York.

I think the whole looming presense of Burning Man is a sort of liability. All of the organizers and participants that I spoke to also do Burning Man and view I got the vibe that they view this event (consciously or not) as a little (and lesser) sister to the Nevada event. That approach will prevent the Figment from reaching it's potential for two important reasons. First it builds an inferiority complex into the very grain of the event's existence. Secondly, it tends to ape the big sister in ways that are not always appropriate. Burning Man, though wonderful, is not the perfect consummation of anything and what works on the playa's very particular environment may not be best in New York Harbor.

On the whole though, it was a really great experience and I’m very glad I went. I look forward to next year!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Where's the Love?

First the "Love" note got taken down, now the whole dialogue has been removed.

Someone took down the "Love is in the air" response to the recent mockingbird bulletinboard battle. That's just sad.

Of course, I blame it on the City Itself, which renders people utterly incapable of handling Nature's slightest caprice, all the while becoming caricatures themselves.

I reiterate: someone needs to take a little vacation from the city...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Love is in the Air, Part 2

It started with a note on the bulletin board at my studio building. Something to the effect of, “Hey everyone! Call 311 about that annoying electronic bird song device that always goes off around midnight.

Hmm.. that’s odd… I’ve never heard it (though I’m not usually at the studio at midnight. I wonder if it’s a real bird?

A few days later, a reply:

I think it’s a northern mockingbird. They sing their mating call at night. Let us know if you discover otherwise.

Soon, another resident chimed in:

It’s definitely more than one kind of bird.

And back:

I don’t think so. Listen to mocking bird (aka nightingale) calls. They imitate everything and only sing about 3-5 reps of each song. It stopped singing at 11:06 tonight.

That’s very interesting. Thanks for your advice.

With a second sheet of paper now filled, the OP posted on a third sheet,

Last night it was quiet. If it was a real bird, perhaps he changed shifts. More plausible it was a device and someone changed the timing. All last week, two calls at a time continuous from 11:00 at night to 4:00 or so in the morning. Does not match typical bird behavior unless it was a very loud mockingbird (perhaps with an amp) and OCD. I think it man-made.

Too much fodder for ridicule to even bother with that one. Clearly, someone needs to a. get out of the city for a while, b. start preparing for black helicopters to descend, or c. pick up some ear plugs.

On yet another sheet, confirmation of the sound’s avian origins from a fourth writer:

I asked a birder friend—male mockingbirds run thru all the different bird call sounds to attract a mate. They only sing around midnight and when they find a mate, they don’t sing anymore. Maybe you should just hope the poor guy gets a date…

Then some wiseacre [not me this time] tagged the corner of this last sheet with some inspirational words that brought the dialog to a nice conclusion:

Love is in the air…in every sight and every sound.

Cue the music. "Hush little baby don't say a word..."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Affordable Art!?!? That's Crazytalk!

I’ve always liked the idea behind the Affordable Art Fair. Simply by putting those two words together and into the public mind through their marketing, the fair’s organizers are doing us all a great service. The notion that art is the conceit of the wealthy (the dreaded "elite") is a difficult barrier for many would-be collectors. Obviously we need to grow the pool of collectors and I applaud any gallery, consultant, artist, or collector who encourages more people to take that plunge. This is an institutional mechanism to do just that.

One question though: are the organizers implying that the other fairs are full of art that’s not affordable and therefore a little repulsive? It’s too often true, but that’s a problem for the various fair organizers to address if it bothers them, and it should.

People are starting to ask if the whole art fair thing has gotten a little ridiculous. They can be a great marketplace and some galleries now depend on them for the majority of their business. They allow regional galleries to be players in the global marketplace. These two factors create the perception that it’s necessary for galleries to go if they wish to be relevant (or viable). This introduces an irrationality into the equation and as a result show organizers can model their business around attracting exhibitors and fees, and thriving regardless of whether anything actually sells.

After a day at the Affordable Fair I was talking at a Williamsburg opening with a well-known curator. He told me that Scope Hamptons had only a handful of sales in the whole show. The market their is obviously weak because they’re trying to compete with the beach or trying to entice a numerically miniscule number of uber-wealthy collectors. Despite these dim prospects and the ridiculous costs of doing business there, they continue to attract exhibitors, if not visitors.

So he’s not exactly bullish on the whole art fair system, even though that is an important avenue for him (he doesn’t have a dedicated white box). He asked me about the Affordable Fair and I had to tell him that business looked pretty brisk. The work was engaging and some of it was quite good and the exhibitor I spoke with were generally quite satisfied. I would say that galleries need to chose their fairs wisely—they’re not all on-ramps to the global art speedway, but they can be useful.

Caveat Exhibitor.

Big thanks to Laura and Rob from Migration for hooking me up with tickets. They are very selective about which fairs to attend and it looks like they did pretty well with this one.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Biennial Checklist


The Biennial was not a total waste. There were a few good pieces (like this one), but most of it was very predictable.
Julia Meltzer and David Thorne, Still from not a matter of if but when.....
[then the title gets so long it's silly] 2006. Video projection, color, sound; 32 min.


Better late than never, here is the much-anticipated Whitney Biennial checklist:
  • Building Supplies/Low-Brow Materials
    Home Depot should have sponsored the show
  • Clip Art
  • Design as Art
  • Pantone
  • Chairman Mao
  • Suburban Angst
  • Size without Monumentality
  • Obsessive Multiples
  • Faux-naif/Infantile drawing style
    Nothing's sadder than an MFA who (a) managed to avoid learning how to draw
    or (b) can draw but feels the need to pretend not to.
  • It’s not about the figure, it’s about the body/Bodily fluids/Cast body parts
  • Ominous Buzzing sound. [Will installationist ever get tired of that? I
    did about 25 years ago]
  • It’s not about the execution, it’s about the fabrication
  • It’s about Language but it doesn’t say anything

I must say that I did not notice any deer antlers, robots, or creepy manequins and that left me rather disappointed. A few artists did stand out with work good enough to restore my faith:

Julia Meltzer and David Thorne made me question my assumptions.

Harry(ette) Dodge goes on a witty and touching journey.

Daniel Joseph Martinez delivers in every facet from idea to execution.

Mary Heilman's paintings are delicious and understated.

Charles Long. Didn't want to like it but I loved it. His work combines really
well with Heilman's.

Rahel Harrison does a great job of commenting on the mess that used to be the American Dream. It's the show's single mostt dominant thread.

JedediahCaeser's sculptures(?)/paintings(?) are just great.

Adam Putnam's Magic Lantern was so good I didn't want to leave.

Mika Rotttenberg might have the best piece in the show. Very immersive,very thought-provoking. I give her and Julia Meltzer co-prizes for best in show.

Worst in show: Certainly the hanging. Perhaps taking a cue from the crew at the New Museum, it's very, very difficult to tell who created which work. On a positive side, and positive being the key word, the show is hung in such a way that the over-and-over dreary subject matter does not make for a depressing experience. I felt fresh all the way through the visit, though annoyed to see so much derivative conceptualism (a deadly combination). still, it was worth the visit and there were a few yummy veggies hidden amidst the iceberg lettuce.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Looking Good at 50


What an honor to get training tips from the legendary Bill Rodgers!
And he's so cool and humble!

Yesterday was the 50th Anniversary of a historic date: the founding of New York Road Runners, my employer for the last nine years. The good they have done and the countless lives they have changed are well-documented. For me personally they’ve been dream employers and have done more for me than I could ever recount.

Interesting, meaningful (and at times, exciting) work on a flexible, part-time basis; real interest in my family and my many diverse areas of passion; a real family environment; active encouragement to live a happy, balanced life. People ask me if I actually get paid for what I do and I have to pinch myself to remember it’s true. Like any family, we sometimes have to be patient with each other at NYRR—and Lord knows I’m not always a model employee. The atmosphere at Road Runners can sometimes feel manic and it’s irrepressibly maniacal in pursuit of its mission. But that’s why I love it there and I could imagine being anywhere else. That’s not some naive cliche—I’ve been other places and I know of what I speak.

When I moved to New York, I prepared myself to suspend my running campaign—concrete jungle, asthma-inducing air quality and all the other obstacles just seemed too much. I literally stumbled into NYRR (thanks to S-Doug) and they flat-out wouldn’t let me quit my running. They’ve helped me create this wonderfully balanced life that combines art, work, family, and healthy living (listed in arbitrary order). It’s a life full of wonderful and unusual yet consummately New York things. For example, my Wednesday began with a swim at the Met Pool, included stops at Tavern on the Green, some fast-paced work at my office across the street from the Guggenheim, canap├ęs at NASDAQ, a track meet in the shadow of a prison, and it finished with a run in Central Park. Not a typical day but par for the course at NYRR.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Birthday NYRR and THANK YOU!!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

R & R = zzzzzzz?


Is too much serenity possible?


Myrtle Beach was my fourth major trip in the past month and half, it was the only one that wasn’t about work, running a marathon, or family obligations. It was all about relaxation. And we went about it with gusto: pleasure reading (novel concept!), watching the sunrise/set, floating in the ocean, building sandcastles, watching basketball, eating yummy seafood, going for walks/runs/swims—it was all very peaceful. Very far away from New York and my many projects there.

Though I was never homesick, after a few days of serious chilling, I started to feel uncomfortably lethargic, as if Lilliputians were slowly binding me to the ground in a supine position. Don’t get me wrong: sleeping on the beach is one of life’s finest pleasures but after so much time enjoying and consuming (which I had also done on my other trips), I was ready to be back in the studio making something positive. There’s something about the beach that stifles creativity—as if life is so nice as it is, art is not really necessary.

By the time we got home, I felt something like a sugar-crash or a hangover. Too much sweetness can be bad.

About an hour after deplaning at Laguardia and catching up on all the latest playground gossip (much of it discouraging), Sebastian and I were waiting for pizza at Simple (cafe across the street from our apartment). We had the dubious privilege of witnessing a gang battle—complete with bottle-throwing, sticks, crashing cars and cops with guns—literally a few feet in front of us. Sebastian asked if the police would put the bad guys in jail and I had to tell them that I could not discern any good guys in the melee.

Did I just write that I needed more grit?