People’s dreams of “The future” are never as mundane nor inconvenient as the reality. I find myself having to head back to Mars, yet again on business.
The first year or so after the war, every soldier was treated like a hero. The drinks were free. Now, a new generation of student activists who viewed the whole thing in less heroic terms. The root of which often was just a contrary streak in regard to their parents’ politics. We all took our medals off the lapels of our jackets, except a few of the older guys. In their eyes, to do so would be tantamount to a defeat.
I pulled my boots off, it served no purpose, it was safety theater for the less well traveled. Inevitably the line would hit a snag, everyone held up as prohibited fruit was confiscated from someone who didn’t want to pay those Mars prices and thought that they were slicker than the TSA.
The bell at the front desk. I appreciated that they managed to not only still have such an archaic device but that somehow even after all these years, they had prevented its theft. My fingertip hit the small nubbin atop the shiny silver dome.
“Ah Mister Wesley, welcome back. We have your usual room ready; Business or pleasure bring you once again back to us?”
I knew he would appreciate the subtly of allowing each eavesdropper to ascribe their own meaning to my answer.
I adjusted the strap on my bag and headed for the lift. I cast a final glance to the desk, we exchanged nods and I kidded myself that this time would be different.
I never want to repeat myself. There are some of my direct peers whose works I enjoy but after knowing them for a few years came the feeling that once you had seen a few of their pieces, you have seen it all. One way to sidestep this is by constantly mixing things up, leaving one’s comfort zone.
For myself, I do this by shaking up my methodology, intentionally putting aside things which I know will work procedurally or which I have done already a few times.
I always like to have my work possess a sort of open ended quality so that the viewer feels that there is a story within but it is up to each person to decide what it is.
This time I changed that up making a work which is intentionally programmatic.
The two books i return to time and again over the course of my life are Homer and Dante. I am far from the first artist in visual arts or letters to find inspiration within the pages of these two works. The appeal for all of us is that they offer so many possibilities of dramatic moments. And even two artists showing the same scene will present two completely different works.
I did not choose a specific scene from Dante. Instead, it is the idea of him following the shade of Virgil, seeing all the shades in their free falls on their way to the various rings.
I only used images for which i personally took the photos. The very bottom section is water rather than flames/lava. I felt that any kind of flame thing would be a little too on the nose, also i had not taken photos of any flames. As always, there is no digital magic. I just used my trusty scissors and adhesive applied with a brush.
Sheltering in place (still), I used whatever materials I had in hand. With all the figures, I got some cardboard, from packages delivered and constructed a little stage. I then painted it white. I painted each figure, applying different coats as to get color variations of darker and lighter blues and reds. I then took photos of the figures from various angles as to have it seem a myriad of different types of people rather than merely the five or six. Top views, side views etc, further create the effect of many types of people on their way to the deserved rings.
I always have a design in mind beforehand and primitively sketch it out. More often than not, as I am actually creating the piece, i tighten up the design. This piece originally had several clock faces from photos i took of the great clock at the Musée d’Orsay. I was going have a row dark blue versions of the girl seen in upper left corner as if the line were falling off top each clock to join all other shades. I was so pleased with the effect of depth and movement in the background of the vast crowd, i decided against it, feeling that it would detract.
Being in Paris has always been a sort of battery for my work. During this pandemic for the first time in decades I found myself cut off from my usual arrondissement and sources of inspiration. I recognize many had it far worse than I, so bare in mind I am not complaining. I needed to find a new way to work for essentially first time in my career.
I had my usual routine but mixed in with this were little challenges, explorations as to facilitate both evolution and insperation. I started several series utilizing new to me mediums, ideas and goals.
Gossip in one of them. It is not a book so much as a work of art which utilizes text. It is not only something very different for me but in general unique. I would call the art “immediate” in the same sense as some of the works by Wayne White & Ed Ruscha’s text incorporated pieces. You view it, have initial ideas but then chew upon it after the fact.
One thing I highly recommend is that you do not take a peek inside as amazon offers but rather go in completely cold with no idea what awaits you. Were it up to me, I would offer no “sneak peek” but amazon has other ideas in that department.
Rarely do i promote my works to buy. I would always rather have an audience than customers. With Gossip, it is meant to be viewed as a whole start to finish and there is simply no way to show parts of it in journals or what not without loss of effect.
All the images are created by me as is the text.
From the back cover:
At its best, the stream of life is like a great jazz standard. There is the familiar melody but with each player there are infinite variations and improvisations occurring within the known framework. Not just what the player says but the way in which it is said, the tone, make it worth revisiting. Further variation derives from our perceptions. One person’s requiem is another’s calliope.
Here is my riffing on humanity, flurries of notes darkly funny, tragic and image rich.
Over the course of the past year have adopted the rhythm of doing a Cinefield® then a painting (while maintaining steady flow of nightly drawings & 8’s). At the start of a painting it rained for days off and on. I put it aside, the novelty of doing so being in itself of value for my creative process.
I started a new Cinefield® , the creation of which I do not need sunlight for.
Even though the shapes are lush and abstract, I wanted to see if I could achieve an open ended, open to interpretation sense of narrative.
“Bing-Bong” The piece is 11×14. As always all the images are from photos I personally took. There is no digital magic just my trusty scissors and adhesive applied by brush.
I have always tried to post new content once, maybe twice a week. This is not for lack of material. Ostensibly, we are all here to connect with like minded people or even better, introduce something about ourselves be it our work or way of looking at life to others who otherwise may not have encountered it.
This seems counter intuitive to a lot of people as the pervading modus operandi seems to be machine gun firing content out, if not hourly then daily. The average person who is actually reading blogs most likely also has other social media sites they are keeping up with, twitter et al. If even half of the number of people one follows takes this approach, it really becomes static-babble. Your follow/like(s) numbers might be up there but how many people are really looking at what you do, how many people are you truly connecting with? I mention all this not by way of complaint but to hopefully help those who are receptive.
Connected to this phenomenon are artists who have things to sell. There is nothing wrong with making people aware of what one does and where others can find it for sale. However, artists should want an audience and not customers. I was shocked when I first joined twitter as it seemed to be a million people shouting “look at me, buy my stuff” (with little if any reciprocation) with the rest of them just posting memes or quotes by others. Again, the machine gun approach to promotion. It’s not effective and depending upon the frequency of chance to purchase promotions, can be a turn off.
For this reason I try to keep my own promotions to a minimum. I want an interested audience and have always been willing to patiently play the long game as is in line with the seriousness behind what I do.
This is one few times I promote. My new Novel “Keeper of the blue” just came out. I am very proud of it. The interesting genesis behind the works’ gestation is briefly explained in my short forward. It is available for Kindle & paperback.
I like alternating my collages between the ones which offer the feeling of an open ended narrative and those whose goal is merely to convey a sense of lush beauty.
A key component in the creative process for me with the collages is that it feels fresh for me, otherwise it would be mere mannerism.
I seek to constantly evolve as a way to maintain my own sense of excitement. One way I do this is going outside my established methodology/mission/philosophy. As a new challenge I decided to make a piece which was beautiful but also programmatic. A work with program but which could be enjoyed by the viewer even if they were unaware of program. I have never been a fan of work that seems “blah” until you find out what’s behind it(program/meaning) and then this new gained knowledge makes one nod their head with comprehension as “Ohhh” is uttered.
This piece is 11×14. All the images are photos which I personally took. There is no digital magic worked, as always utilized my trusty scissors and adhesive applied with a brush.
Side note: I received so much positive feedback about my “In the Eights” series I decided to publicly continue it. Temporarily, I am seeking models for the series, send me an email (not through word press) for details.
I do not view one of my mediums as of greater importance than any other. Regardless of what I have done during the day, painting, collage et al at night I sketch. In rough estimation, I probably carry out my night time sketching 360 days a year with arriving in and returning from Europe being the only established days I don’t.
This nighttime sketching is in the parlance of musicians, termed “wood shedding”. It is the equivalent of when a musician practices scales. I am always surprised to hear some of my peers do not do this as even Coltrane continued to constantly practice.
With every collage I do, I learn something new and refine my process. Often I find that when I discover an easier way to do something, there is the feeling that it was so obvious, how had I not thought of it before?
A few nights ago the idea hit me, to wood shed with my collage too. I mulled over initial “rules” knowing that they would most likely be expanded upon as I go.
It’s very important to me that I use my own images from photos which I personally took in my collages. There is always a component of jazz like improvisation in my collages and I worried that using them to wood shed would take away some of that spontaneity and power.
As I had no intentions of showing the results of wood sheds to anyone, i would not be concerned with using images I did not photograph. The other factor of this is that with all the images I use, I do not want to have them appearing over and over again in my work (at least not without a long break in-between). Using other images will keep mine fresh for me. The other rule which immediately came to me is that they should all be small. Usually my collages are time consuming and it would not make sense to have practice work take days on end. Also working small was nice challenge. I do not have uniform size but none of these go much bigger than 3×5.
The few people who I showed these to were very enthusiastic. I must admit that I liked them too. After the first two I established an aesthetic which is beautiful but also slightly off putting. Despite the pleasure i get from even just practicing, I do not see myself putting these up to view too often, so enjoy the initial foray into establishing a new arrow in my quiver.
Pop Culture seems almost a misnomer. It’s offerings are discussed,debated and anticipated. Almost inseparable at this point from American culture is the concept of a spoiler alert. Binged watched shows masking so-so writing with the compulsion to see what happens next. To know ahead of time of a characters death or other plot developments is to take away a major component of a work’s strength.
This is a more recent phenomenon as with many books of the western cannon or the ones which have served as a template for countless other stories such as Romeo & Juliet, we know what will happen, has happened but still get enjoyment from the journey.
I find myself often returning to Homer. Of course the trajectory of the characters’ narratives are well known to me now at this point but it still manages to offer up delight, like revisiting a well known city held dear.
There is one scene in the second part (The Odyssey) where the (anti) hero Odysseus/Ulysses is going to talk to the shades of some of his fallen comrades. To do so he must follow a complicated ritual which involves spilling out of oil, incantations and spelling things out on the earth with a stick.
During my last rereading of the epic it occurred to me that most of us now can not even remember or know anyone in our lives phone numbers as our phones do all that kind of thing for us. (this includes myself too). Yet Ulysses was given the instructions and doesn’t even write it down, he remembers it and executes it perfectly.
I got to thinking, an idle stream of thoughts where i started transposing Homer and Ovid to our times and vice versa. In some versions of Orpheus’s tale he is merely allowed to wait at the gates of the underworld for Eurydice’s shade to follow. In other translations he does equivalent of in the front door out a close by side one.
If there is ever time travel then there is already time travel. The afterlife too would be a sort of loop, so I imagined it as a vast city not necessarily of the epic poet’s visual vernacular. A dense city which is one part crumbling metropolis from Blade Runner and also the dense urban pile ups from parts of Mumbai and Hong King.
Orpheus must make his way through all this chalking up the weird architecture as merely one more otherworldly phenomenon beyond his ken. The shades are all crying out for help, lamenting all that they have lost or are cut off from, bitterly laughing or trying to cajole him into watching.
My Orpheus isn’t seen though. Maybe he is coming out, alone. Maybe he already left. He could be one of the active silhouettes in the window, finally reunited with Eurydice after having met his savaged fate. She had been everything to him. His extreme joy at their prospect of their initial reuniting and then inconsolable grief at their second separation at Hades’ exit was a powerful cosmic force. Now, reunited, they are just two more silhouettes in a vast city of shades. We are all the main characters in the movie of our lives but longing remains a force to reckon with.
It has looked like mars around me so i have not been able to paint. I am fortunate that I can still draw and collage regardless of light conditions and burning eyes and sinus. This collage is 11×14. As usual there is no digital magic worked. I used scissors & adhesive applied with brush to images which I personally photographed.
For my last collage the emphasis was just on doing something lush & beautiful. With this one I wanted to return to my often achieved effect of an open ended narrative. I also have in mind the desire to collage when on the road. With my density achieved via so many small components the amount of time it takes to do the piece would mean that on a shorter trip I would only (if even) be able to do a collage and not also paintings, sculptures et al.
Right now I have two styles of collage. I have mainly been doing my denser mosaic style. The other style incorporates larger pieces and I achieve the density I prefer in my works via distortions of lines and parts. This style is perfect for on the road, while the challenge of getting my preferred density will keep me away from mere mannerisms.
As is always the case with my collages, there is no digital magic. I use my trusty scissors and adhesive applied with brush to photos which I personally took.