everything and nothing at all

January 29, 2011

A week ago I couldn’t stop humming hymns. I don’t know how it started, but it was like someone pushed a button in my brain and out came all these old, wonderful songs that I grew up listening to and singing. I never thought about it at the time, but looking back I’d say that there were some very sweet and catchy tunes in the old hymnal. If any of you have been to an Episcopal church you know what I mean. This week I’m quite taken with a Sharon Van Etten song, One Day. It almost makes me want to cry a little bit.

I just finished watching he HBO mini-series, The Pacific, hoping to understand my dad better. And in some strange way hoping to be closer to him. I’ve cried a lot while watching it and wished desperately that I knew if my dad had kept his dress blues or his Marines dog tags, I would have spent more time in that horror show of his burnt out and trashed house searching for them if I’d known they were there.

Last night RU and I went to the Portland Art Museum to hear Catherine Opie give a lecture about, well, really her whole body of work. It was interesting and we were joined by an interesting mix of queers, museum patrons, folks looking for some intellectual stimulation, and maybe some folks feeling kinda nostalgic for the 90’s. Not that those are mutually exclusive groups.

I hate to admit it but I only heard of Cathy 3 or 4 years ago; for a big chunk of the 1990’s I wasn’t really paying attention to art. But I did see her retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2008. I think Cathy’s early series of portraits, which pretty much made her as an artist, are powerful, and I’m glad i saw them in person. Because the slides don’t convey the power of them. You have to be confronted by them in person. The photos in those series are big and aggressive and put into technicolor something that Mapplethorpe started. Those photos are like “boom,  mother fucker. We’re are here and we are fucking queer.”

I don’t think she’s done anything as powerful or as moving since those portraits. For for more intimate portraiture, I’d pick Nan Goldin. For social commentary, I’d pick Robert Frank or Lee Friedlander. Off the top of my head, I can’t say who I really like for  landscape, but I don’t find Cathy’s landscapes particularly compelling, except for the ice house series.  But I was still fascinated with listening to her talk about her work. In part because she’s funny and she’s smart enough to know how to work the crowd. Also, I have a certain personal affection and admiration for her because she’s unabashedly butch and talks about it like it’s absolutely no big deal.

But the landscapes aren’t really that interesting and overall are pretty forgettable. It’s her narrative about them that gives them meaning – what she was thinking or doing when she took the photos, the camera she used, the stories about her travels and sometimes what she was trying to accomplish by framing them the way she did. There was a lot of cliche in what she said, which I didn’t care so much about except that she tried to present it as a unique perspective, like taking a photo of the back of sunflowers and how that goes against expectation. The other thing that was interesting was just listening to the language of talking about art – pieces in conversation with other artist’s work, and football fields and strip malls as social landscapes, witnessing personal experience through portraiture. it was kind of like the performance of intellectualism.

I’m still an Opie fan though.

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September 30, 2010

Today we went to the Whitney to see the Charles Burchfield exhibit, after which we kicked around Central park for several hours and then rode the bus home.

I’d never heard of Burchfield until I read about his retrospective in the New Yorker this summer. I was drawn to his work, in part because it seemed unexpected for the time and place, that being Ohio in the early 1900’s, but also because I like his execution, especially in his later years. The Whitney’s staging really delivered. It was arranged chronologically and included excerpts from his journal, a room dedicated almost soley to his doodles (which he saw as form of subconscious thinking), and displays of press coverage, some of commercial work and commissioned work. There was both depth and breadth. For me, he created his most moving work in his later years, reinterpreting and expanding on the work that made him famous around 1917. In these later pieces it was as though he was painting his experience of nature. It was as though he said I’m not just going to paint what I see, but I’m going to paint what it sounds like and how it feels and what it makes me think about and amazingly he was able to capture on canvas something transcendental.

It was also inspiring to get a sense of a life time of artistic practice and a glimpse of an artist challenging himself. He painted right up to the end of his life, which was when he was creating these big, mystical and ambitious pieces.

When were walking through the park afterwards, I saw all these tree limbs, dark huge, bent and twsting out over the walkway – like Charles Burchfield come to life.

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take a picture

August 9, 2010

Took the train down to Eugene this weekend to visit my sister. I think this is the first time I’ve made that trip on Amtrak in the summer and the whole ride was kind of magical. I could have filmed everything I saw outside the window on the way down there. It was one of those days where everything you see seems like it has artistic potential. I took a ton of photos on my phone trying to capture it all – the sun, the lines, the colors, and the things you see because of the way train slips behind everyday life or runs along side it. I felt like I was in another world. Kinda of poetic is the only way I can describe it.I was going to read on the train trip home. It wasn’t sunny and I wasn’t expecting any more poetry. Plus, I was tired. So I bought a New York Times. But almost every time I looked up from reading I saw something that seemed to me cinematic and I ended up taking a bunch more photos.

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like a painting

June 25, 2010

Three days in a row with blue skies. It feels kind of fragile but I’m in love with it anyway, not jumping for joy in love, because that’s not me. But more a quiet “I just want to experience that you mean the world to me” kinda thing.  It reminds me of something a critic said about abstract expressionism about how you have to open yourself, let in the energy and spirit of the painting, and allow it to dance with your psyche.

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broken promises

June 11, 2010

Broken Promises by Paula Rego

Originally uploaded by proteanme

Just discovered Paula Rego this morning. Her work reminds me of Lucian Freud and John Currin.


beat back the vernacular

June 2, 2010

Today, I ran across this abstract painter I’d never heard of, Maria Elena Vierira da Silva. Here’s a whole slew of her work. She was the first woman to receive the French government’s Grand Prix National des Arts in 1966. She reminds me a little of Julie Mehretu, who was featured in the New Yorker this spring. Or Julie’s work reminds me of Maria’s. Either way, they both get at something that can’t be expressed in words, even something as elusive as poetry. It’s got to be experienced without language. It’s got to get to a place inside you without all the jargon.

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check this out

December 18, 2009

Larry Sultan died. He did some really great work. I hope one day I get to see it in person.

Been listening to Pitchfork’s best tracks of 2009. Lots of great singles there. More and more that’s what I find. Not so many great records, but lots of great songs. There’s this one by Matt and Kim, Daylight; it’s been running through my brain all day.

I’m really interested in reading Stephen Elliott’s Adderall Diaries. I’ve finally got some breathing space for leisure reading after spending my fall reading strategically this writing certificate program I’m in. Not that I’ve not read some great stuff, especially when it comes to Amy Hempel and Raymond Carver, but it’s not quite the same as the thrill of finding something new on your own.

I was thinking about marriage today. And how asking someone if they are married and how the question just assumes heterosexuality. And how if gay marriage ever does happen, asking “are you married” will be just that, and not some passive way of trying to parse the orientation of queers who don’t stand out.

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i like these things too

November 13, 2009

a few more things i like

November 12, 2009
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artistic links

May 22, 2009
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