For images junkies like myself, the website If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats is my pick for the day. Keep digging for hours of pleasure.
One of the regretful things I will be missing this month is the new exhibit of Hildur Bjarnadöttir up at Portland’s Pulliam Deffenbaugh. I just caught up with Jeff Jahn’s excellent coverageof her show over on the PORT site, and glad to see her work so thoroughly examined.
Ironically Bjarnadöttir was the first Portland artist I became aware of when I was still living on the East Coast. I say ironically as she is actually an Icelandic native, but while in Portland gathered some nice notice. She probably hit my radar before many others as at the time as I had taken a detour from conventional art and became interested in fiber. For a bit I pursued a short-lived, carpal tunnel riddled bout with knitting which at the very least allowed me know what hard work it can be. Nowhere does the intersection of fine arts and alleged craft become so beautifully merged as in Hildur’s work, if you look at her previous pursuits of tatting, embroidery and crochet. A lovely thing to know is she has taken the handwork of Iceland, which is so important to their culture and placed it firmly in the realm of serious art- all the while winking over her shoulder at the prospect.
“I work contrary to everything I learned during my upbringing…. I was taught to make useful and beautiful objects, but I wouldn’t and I don’t.” quote from Unraveled- Boise Art Museum
I was briefly introduced to Hildur last summer, as it was known I was about to venture to Iceland in a few months. She herself was in the midst of a handful of months traveling between Sweden, Iceland, Boise and Portland in what sounded at the time like a punishing travel schedule in order to prepare for exhibitions. She graciously sent me an email while I was riddled with the darkness of Iceland and she stuck in Portland’s torrential December rains- I’m sure each of us wishing to change geographical places.
I have images up of the sculpture I made last month while I was in Iceland. They were the last pieces I made during my stay, basically what came out of my first few weeks painting and drawing. The photos I took at 4 in the morning before having to pack them up and ship them out a day before I left. The scale of the camera angle makes them look deceptively large, which I think is funny. The sculptures are made out of Sculpey (actually SuperSculpey™), a material I thought could be easily transported—not take up too much space. I had a blast with it actually. While the rest of the world was baking holiday cookies that week I was pulling sheets of plasticene in and out of the oven.
The entire body of work is a continuation of the Radiolaria series I started while in residency in North Carolina last summer. It is strange for me, as the whole series has been executed outside of my own studio. The sculptures I actually like, and in reality remind me of overgrown skin tags as opposed to the small sea microplasms they are based on. The paintings and drawings, when I pulled them out of the box this weekend were too hard to look at right now and I’ve put them away for a few months. I was discussing this work with friends over wine a week ago and realized it is the most impersonal body of work I’ve ever executed, and feel too close to it at the moment. I will be showing the entire Radiolaria Series in July at Shift Studio, a date that seems far off now but will be here before I know it.
I came across this brief article about a reading series in Brooklyn that cracked me up: Cringe Reading series dedicated to people who read their (I hope) really old journals in public. Somewhere out in the garage I have journals from Junior High, however, I am pretty sure the content would be similar and as thought provoking as this missive:
in which a woman channeled her 14-year-old self: “Howdy! No sign of Kevin at school, but the day wasn’t a complete waste because we had a bomb scare. It ruled!”
At least there are a handful of people out there dragging around cardboard boxes of this stuff. However the reading series is undoubtedly aptly named and I don’t know how anyone could stand to attend more than one reading.
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Speaking of cardboard boxes, I was greatly cheered when on Saturday two small boxes arrived from Iceland containing the art I made while I was there. The shipment was very speedy (less than a month) and everything arrived completely intact. I hope to soon put up some images of the sculptures I made while there. I was a tad afraid the work might have gone M.I.A. leading the entire month to be conceptual in hindsight.
On Saturday, sandwiched between opening up the Shift space and fighting Seahawk football traffic, I lucked into a moment of stopping at the James Harris Gallery to see the new Mary Ann Peters show. I’m a dedicated fan of her work and this show, her first solo in five years is a beauty. The work, all on paper shows her exquisite layering of drawing and paint. I’m so glad someone in town is giving us a chance to see it.
I also stopped by the Catherine Person Gallery, who is showing the artist Ron Lambert whose atmospheric work was memorable for her first show this fall. She is possibly the most gracious person to grace the Seattle gallery scene in memory, and seems to be doing well.
I had two visitors to Shift tell me how fantastic the show at Platformis this month, a three person exhibit titled Build, which sounds enticing.
I spent the day sitting amongst Kevin Haas’ new work which I had a visitor describe as poetic. Hass, who uses an enticing process to make pigment prints and photolithographs is the Assistant Professor of Printmaking and Digital Media at Washington State University in Pullman.
It was good to get a little snippet of art viewing in, it has been awhile.
Yet, enough downersville here at the notebook.
I’ve always wondered and basically have romanticized what it would be like just to have a month where you had no obligations, etc. and really that is what a residency is. So it’s interesting what you find yourself doing, pondering and executing when you get it.
The more positive aspects of the previous month found me reading, writing, and listening to music and books on tape I’d gotten from the library (as I worked) and thinking about what I like in this world and things that would be good to eliminate, you know things you get caught up in and can’t remember why. My gut reaction and final assesement is I want less. Less chaos, less stuff, less things surping up my time, less disagreeable demands. I think the whole world actually feels like this, it is not original. This grand multi-tasking thing, not sleeping and all that has a hollow ring to it.
This is not earth shattering news, yet most of us who make art end up participating in society that way though. With day jobs and some semblance of a domestic life your little pie gets cut up rather quickly, you must steal or rob your day of all the time you can get. And most of us, not being machines need to turn off the all the noise for a bit before any semblance of what we really want to be doing begins. As Eva said on one of her radio shows that I listened to blissfully for company, she needs her nothing before she gets down to making art.
Spending time each day by myself, I realized the many things I kind of take for granted time wise: cooking a meal, reading a book, and of course making art all can take up the whole of a day. Even though it took me almost two weeks to get off the weird treadmill of scheduled stuff I keep in my head all day (and it didn’t entirely go away) it’s wild to shake out the other crap. Even in my physical space I wanted less; less visual stimulation, less color, less distraction. The irony was that I was spending my time making art objects, which means adding to more, but we’ll save that for contemplation for another day.
Any way, another topic that floated in and out of my brain of course is how I spend my time here on the web. I started thinking about what my original intent was and how I kind of pine for those silly days of innocent content and how can I get back there. It has been almost five years I have spent time putting something up on the web, however sporadically with much of the evidence changed, but my mental bean has been focused here, and it has been enjoyable enough that I jonesed for it took a chunk of time off after moving across the country a few years ago.
Even though it was a friend who worked at the time at Online Journalism Review that kind of insufferably dared me into putting up a web site, his, the now defunct site was called dangerousmonkey.com and was what I joking modeled this site after, the context now removed by five steps renders the name of this site almost meaningless. Yet it was a website called moonmilk that was truly my main inspiration for what I wanted to do.
I lived in Brooklyn at the time, and I had found (anonymously of course) another like-minded soul who lived in another section of Brooklyn, and used their corner of the web to document small moments in life. Moonmilk, the website is still up and running, and while not as up to date as it was at one time, you can still feel the same essence in the photos posted as of a person quietly documenting their life, through the food they see at the market, to the seasons and small things that happen in their neighborhood. That is what I wanted to do and it’s funny to think this is what provoked me to go out and buy my first digital camera.
Most of the photos I posted from then are now dismantled, but it was great those first few years to document, write and make observations about what I saw. It seems bizarre to think at that time carving out your space on the web was an unusual activity, and not that many people were on line. There is some thread of quiet from those days that I want to pick up and put back here and shape into meaning instead of an instilled sense of obligation that has crept into my words over the past few months, where I was trying to do far too much.
So the residency. It sounds lovely and everything, and it was for a bit, but I really got nailed by the lack of sunlight and sheer loneliness- it was a hard trip. The good news was I saw some beautiful sights and produced a lot of art, but it was one of the most psychologically alienating experiences I’ve ever had. I kept thinking of Bergman and rented Persona when I got home and was flat on my back last week with some malady.
So yes, the Icelandic folks were not as forthcoming as I had hoped. I was under the impression according to the residency materials I was there to get to know the towns people, yet after the first week everyone just kind of disappeared. I have been told this is typical because it was Christmas, but it was confusing.
I was prepared to give a lecture, have a small exhibit during my stay there, and this never materialized. There was a guest book in the studio from previous artists that showed most guests did indeed have an exhibit, talk and interaction yet when the days marched on and the office running the residency stayed closed I realized this was to never happen. No one ever swung by to see if everything was okay, or said good bye, and on my last morning as the taxi waited for me to go to the airport, I placed the Gueststudio key through the mail slot.
I never once during my month even shared a meal with anyone (Except for with the one American I met during my lava excursion). During the block of days that constitute the holiday (4 days) the entire town shut down with not even a restaurant staying open (luckily I found this out from the tourist office), so I was basically barricaded in the studio, alone watching my two channels of Icelandic television, drinking wine by myself. Boo hoo! On Christmas eve, when I realized that I would not be invited any where most likely, I broke open the special wine I had been saving in case of such invites, and drank it. And I know, such is life.
Don’t get me wrong, there were moments of good. Even though most everything was shut down for the winter I was able to take two excursions, one guided out into the lava beds and glorious nature, one to a whaling town, 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Strangely they were wonderfully lovely up there in this town of 2,500 and two separate blessed souls opened their museums for me, gave me personal tours- I was incredibly touched. Someone even said hi to me on the street, it was odd (most Icelanders, similar to New Yorkers look at their feet as you approach). It was a day that made me feel sane again.
01/10/2006 | 10:53
Björk voted world’s most eccentric star
Björk has been voted the most eccentric star in the work in a recent survey for British magazine BBC’s Homes and Antiques. Former UK boxer Chris Eubank came in second, with Ozzy Osbourne in fifth place.
The BBC News website reports that Björk remains internationally well known for wearing the famous “swan dress” to the Oscars in 2001, as well as for her distinctive musical style.
The last time I returned from Iceland, the running joke at the time seemed to be for everyone to ask me, “Did I see Björk ?”
The closest I came then was finding her name in the phone book. Of course there are hundreds of Björk’s in the Reykjavík telephone book (alphabetized by first name) , but only one was bold faced, so I took it as proof.
So this time I have been waiting, and no one has asked. The funny thing is she was on my flight on the way over, from New York to Iceland. Five minutes before the air crew closed the plane door for take off, two final passengers entered, Björk- holding the hand of her daughter and looking very uncomfortable. She was so dressed down and headed to the back of coach class with the rest of us that I almost thought it was just someone who looked like her. The constantly swiveling heads in her direction of every 20-something on the plane verified it was definitely her. I was impressed- no entourage, no security, no Saga class (you know- those who pay extra to sit at the front of the plane). I felt sorry for her, if she really is as shy as I’ve heard reported, then something as simple as boarding an airplane becomes a public ordeal. So no, I didn’t venture back and ask her for her autograph, although I am sure others did. The middle age couple sitting next to me remained blissfully ignorant that a celebrity was in our midst, and by the time I left the plane I was so out of it, I neglected to wonder if I would see her at baggage claim. Of course I did not.
I am actually a large fan or her music and it was interesting after witnessing an inkling of what is the Icelandic driven personality (by being there for a bit), that she is really, I don’t think so completely weird as is reported. Talented and driven and given to championing unusual designers, but absolutely a serious artist. I think she has been so well known, for so long in her homeland that she sits in the news somewhere besides the Prime Minister of Iceland. It must be an unusal thing to be so famous in a country that prides themselves on treating everyone the same.
However, that principle didn’t seem to matter when Kiefter Sutherland was in town merely because his band was playing – rating a full page article in the daily Fréttabladid,much to my amusement. I couldn’t tell why he was garnering so much ink- did he die? I found out later unfortunately that was why Richard Pryor was featured.
I was given a beautiful workspace to live in. It was almost literally next door to the famous landmark church that gives Akureyri it’s identity. Every fifteen minutes, the bells would chime, subtly, marking the passing of time as it marched on. There were sky lights in the work area, which on some days were the best way I knew the light of the day would finally appear, if only for a few hours. When it started snowing I could see the flakes accumulate, coving the glass in a soft blanket of ice. The place its self was warm, as most everything in Iceland is heated by the very efficient geothermal heat. Actually, with the exception of my first week in town, it never seemed unbearably cold, the temperature outside sitting at a stable 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius). One night while watching a weather report I saw an indication of -17 degrees Celsius (!) and then the weather person moved away from the map and it was Greenland she was speaking of.
I went out and purchased some Christmas lights to put in the window to get into the holiday spirit.
I’m back, and hopefully so is my sense of humor. I’ve spent the better half of the last week flat on my back (of course) after being tightly knit into a quarantine unit they call an airplane (or really a succession of them) for almost a 24 hour period….with some malady thanks to the wheezing and sneezing going on all around me. My personal favorite moment of this trip was being dumped into the airport in Las Vegas for 15 minutes as I frantically attempted (and made) a connection, not before being bombarded by those beautiful slot machines that are omni present.
The last bit of my stay in Iceland was a bit doomed by depression (I better not move to Alaska in the near future) and some unmet expectations that I’m still trying to sort out…hopefully I’ll be posting a bit more about this…it’s a good thing I had my hands off the keyboard for a bit though. The good news is I made a lot of work. The only way I could afford to send it back to myself was via ship- they told me I won’t see it for two to three months as it chugs its way across the Atlantic, probably all good for clearing the air so to say.