Paint what you know. That’s what they say.
The paintings above I would not consider well executed by any means, but they are small markers of what was life at a one point in time. They were made when I closed down a separate studio space to save money on rent, so by association they were also small in stature. The same size as a piece of standard paper. Apartment size.
They were fuck around works and I’m mainly posting the images as it gives me an excuse to finish something I started last fall, which is a small tribute to my late husband’s love of Professional Wrestling.
Ben loved the WWF with unbridled devotion (I’m identifying them by their former name The World Wrestling Federation, but I gather are now called the WWE). Some of my most ridiculous memories involve his dedication to this sport. He was never a sports fan per se with allegiances to American Football or Baseball, but he fully reveled in the ludicrous absurdity of the Pro Wrestling circuit with circus like characters, their theme songs and the politically incorrect sub-plots that were fleshed out on TV each week.
First there were hours and hours of Monday Night Raw, that weekly installment of matches complete with rabid fans screaming in the audience. Then there were the Pay-Per View Championship chair matches, so called for wrestler’s cracking folding chairs over each other’s heads for the win. And finally was the personal collection. He couldn’t help himself once he started and amassed a rich and comprehensive array of action figures, posters, books, lunch pails and what ever else that enterprise could nail down for licensing.
On rarer occasions were the in-person appearances. The most memorable incident, for myself anyway, we found ourselves standing in line for the better part of a weekend afternoon at the East Village K-Mart for an autograph of Goldust (who is incidentally the spawn of Dusty Rhodes). The pay off for me was people watching, a serious spectator sport unto its self. This heady collection of grown men, identifiable on accent alone figured as a contingent mainly from Queens or Long Island for good measure. After the desired signature was gathered by Ben we made our way upstairs to housewares to buy a crock pot.
As a treat, we did venture a couple of times to see the WWF at Madison Square Garden which was dream worthy for him of course. There we found ourselves seated in a sea of dedicated WWF loyalists. The wrestlers from our site-line bandied about in the ring as tiny ants yet the music and screaming were much louder than any televised episode. This was the era of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Doink the Clown and Mankind (also known as Dude Love and Cactus Jack). At one point I could easily discern these characters, unique with their own storyline and finishing moves. Like cities I no longer live in they are now fuzzed in my brain with street corners and landmarks undecipherable from each other.
Finally due to Ben’s love of the wrestler The Blue Meanie we went to see the lesser known ECW* circuit. The ECW crowd was a barely contained and rabid throng comprised of a 98% male representation, I am betting mainly from Long Island. Their enthusiasm was brutal. Each time an ECW signboard woman came into the wrestling ring a raucous chant of “show your tits, show your tits” started up in a furious tidal wave, barely fading out before happening again. There was something much more frighteningly authentic about this branch of wrestling and Ben loved every minute of it. That one I barely survived.
So yes, that is why I made those paintings, little tributes, themselves now gone as well.
*Extreme Championship Wrestling (a professional wrestling promotion that operated from 1992 to 2001)
Pulling the old work out of cold storage tonight. Entire bodies of work have remained undocumented. I had forgotten how attached I am to some of these pieces.
After reading two trashings of the new Bjork Exhibit at MoMA, something from 3000 miles away that has penetrated my radar, I had to remind myself that the two voices were the famous and married art critics Smith (NYTimes) and Saltz (New York Magazine).
Here is a fascinating 2013 interview with them in Interview Magazine on their working style (no they don’t share notes) and they go to an incredible amount of art exhibits each week. What was most interesting to me here is Jerry’s commentary on his own sensibility:
I was looking at Artforum every month. Then, as now, it would just scare the hell out of me. I didn’t really understand much of what was written in there. It was a foreign tongue to me. And I realized that if I were to be a writer, I would never want to be that kind of writer—not that there’s anything wrong with it—but I wanted to be a writer for somebody. I wanted to be understood by anyone who would possibly pick up my work in a dentist’s office and say, “Oh, I think I understand what this guy is talking about.” I wanted people to know when I was wrong and that they could come at me and that I would be radically vulnerable. People would be able criticize me as much as they could criticize an artist. Then I would be as out there, open, and vulnerable as an artist was when they showed their work. So I started teaching myself to write, and I was terrible, just terrible. I learned what anyone who writes knows—writing is hell. You can’t listen to music. You’re always having to read stuff that you can’t understand. It was just awful.
And that explains why I am so much more inclined to read Jerry first before anyone else if I am trying to decipher what is currently going on in that fine city. I am still not sure if he completely translates to the dentist office, but I appreciate his intent. As an aside he was recently dismissed from Facebook temporarily but is a whole other ball of wax.
There is also some take down on his stint as the art critic on the massively heinous reality TV show Work of Art, which Saltz states was bad TV but a positive experience personally:
I wanted to see if I could perform art criticism to a very wide audience. And the experience was phenomenal.
Anyway, a bit convoluted about what I am getting at here, still trying to figure out if artspeak translates to the “real” world at all.
Here’s another bad review of the Bjork exhibit to add to the pig-pile via AV club. And they told two friends and so on and so on.
My friend Chris asked me this evening if I’d seen the Humans of New York GREAT ART MYSTERY POST (I had not).
Seems to have riled up a bunch of people. Panties in super tight wads. Without reading the comments on the HONY site I wrote her back my thoughts and then since I’m lazy thought I’d plop it here too.
(Dear Chris)….Just a few thoughts. So this is a whole kettle of fish. First of all, bully for Dwight for getting out there every day to do that. There are many people who sit and sketch at the MET and well I would think it would be kind of a grind, although I wish I had done it at least just once. But then I hate talking to strangers and people in general.
So I believe the issue here revolves around the authenticity of his work. It made me immediately think of an art movement in the late 80s called Appropriation Art, where people* were basically becoming infamous by copying or reframing other people’s (famous) art. That is not this guys intent but it gives me pause because art can be interpreted on so many levels, in so many ways. I’ve never heard the terminology inochrome that he uses, but then I am not a printmaker.
Apparently Dwight is basically starting with a coloring book. But then he adds his own thing. And he is sitting and making an art work of something that is already in the MET I assume. So we have various levels of copying going on here. So what.
There have been many uses of blow-up projectors and other mechanical devices to initiate art work. One of the most renown and meticulous painters Vermeer ( 17th Century) allegedly used optics, a camera lucida to assist his paintings….so this is not by any means a new argument.
(above is a Vermeer)
I going to put myself in Dwight’s camp. So be it if it’s not original. People sketching in the MET are not sitting there to be original. They are making representations of something that already exists. I’ll eventually have to go read the comments that the HONY readers left, but I’m thinking give the old guy a break.
On a side note I wish I had two to three days to sit in the MET adding details to things.
Footnote 1: From the MET on policy:
Sketching and Copying
Sketching, in pencil only, is permitted in all the permanent collection galleries of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sketching is also permitted in most special exhibitions; please inquire at the Information Desk in the Great Hall about current exhibitions and guidelines.
The use of ballpoint pens, ink, markers, fountain pens, or watercolors is not permitted at any time. Crayon, pastel, and charcoal are permitted only on Museum-supervised tours that specifically authorize their use.
While sketching, please do not hinder visitor traffic flow in the galleries.
During periods of high attendance, the Museum reserves the right to make any necessary adjustments to this sketching policy.
Footnote 2 *
Sherrie Levine is the most famous example of an Appropriation Artist that comes to my brain.
For the record her art still annoys me because I am not sure after all this time what the point of it is, besides to get a lot of attention. Clearly I could be talking out of both sides of my mouth, as I think what Dwight is doing is innocuous and what Levine demonstrated was obnoxious. Or worse yet plain boring.
Just attempted some of the HONY comments on Facebook, a veritable troll-about-free-for-all. Don’t read the comments.
I just reread Amy Sillman’s brief zine Visiting Artist (posted in its entirety on line) and it made me laugh and still completely spot on after aging ten years.
I’m contemplating a little Wrestling magic later this week (in both writing and the concept of parking downtown).