June 20, 2018

L.A. to Toronto Roadtrip Notes: Day 2, Zion

The best part about Vegas is leaving. We made neither gains nor losses, because who can stand sitting in front of a pinball machine on speed and steroids anyway.

Desert, lots of it, and grey and monotonous through Nevada and the northwest corner of Arizona. Then Utah and it's all thick slabs of cheese and chocolate with a sprinkling of green in the valleys.

In Zion National Park, Utah, it's so hot setting up camp, especially pumping up the new blasted inflatable mattresses, I get dizzy.

The deer aren't too smart - they come right up to you.

We explore The Narrows, a deep crevice cut through the mountains with a river in it. Nothing like wading in cool water to freshen the whole body.

At night, a ranger talk on astronomy. We see Jupiter and its moons through a telescope. Conclusions: we're minuscule as a species, not even a single granule in the whole world of sand and dirt and dust combined. But we don't know it because we’re polluting the sky with artificial light, making it harder and harder to see even the biggest, most obvious stars. Did you know, artificial light so corrodes melatonin and warps the circadian rhythm that it's carcinogenic? Goddammit, even that!

June 18, 2018

L.A. to Toronto Roadtrip Notes: Day 1, Vegas

The hardest part about a trip like this is getting out the door. Then it's fine.

The California interior along the 15 is bleak. Dry as a bone. Dust storms. Abandonment.

In degree, Vegas is worse than we expect. A sewer of advertising. A relentless dopamine rush. Labyrinths of slots and blackjack pits. People pay for this?

We cool off in the pool of our "resort hotel," Circus Circus, "because life is a circus - let's play!"

On the strip afterwards, a drunken reveler surrounded by Chippendales and more walkers than we've seen anywhere outside of New York in the U.S., shouts, "Get the damn kids away. No kids here."

We find two quarters. I spend mine on a slot and lose. My daughter gives hers to a homeless guy.

Onward ho today to Utah.

June 7, 2018

A Few of the Things it Chops

24" x 48", collage, spray, and acrylic on birch panel

School is ending and the household is busier. We're getting ready to set out on a 2,500 mile journey by car in a week and have only just, I hope, secured all the campsites and hotels. Oh, and we've just received news about our immigration status which amounts to a punch in the gut. But the painting, happily, keeps apace.

In a time of perpetual change and movement, the feeling of running harder and faster only to stay in the same place, it's been important for me to cling to stuff, like a primordial lifeform on a deep-sea vent. I'm reluctant to throw out old familiar clothing and whenever the flux thwarts routines and anchors, I frantically reassert them.

This piece is heavily collaged, meant to reflect, I think, the scattered sensations I've taken in and struggled to assemble into some sort of meaningful picture. It should be with me at TOAE in July. Just need to get my suction cups off of it.

June 1, 2018

Lo-Gas Eat

36" x 48", acrylic, oil, spray, and collage on birch panel
Collage is "an evolution beyond narrative," an "antigenre," claims David Shields in Reality Hunger: A Manifesto. The "art of reassembling fragments of preexisting images in such a way as to form a new image was the most important innovation in the art of the twentieth century."

Shields goes on, "By incorporating materials that are inextricably linked to the realities of daily life, the collage artist establishes an immediate identification, both real and imagined, between the viewer and the work of art."

I've long been interested in collage, going back to middle school and hearing Grandmaster Flash for the first time, or reading T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" in a high school poetry anthology, or seeing Josep Renau's war posters in an exhibition during a long-ago trip to Spain.

Album cover, 1982
Renau, "El fascinante Rey del PetrĂ³leo," 1957
These days I'm getting interested in not just working collage into recognizable scenes but using it to construct new ideas, as a driver for the image-making itself.

The straightforward scene, depending on how it is cropped and presented, how it is stylized, can deceive, but taking ready-made chunks and synthesizing or making sense out of them feels honest, maybe the realer tool to tap into reality.

May 17, 2018

By Sweetness Alone

Sitting among the bluebells
in my sorrow, for lost time
and the never forgotten dead,
I saw a hummingbird stand
in air to drink from flowers.
It was a kiss he took and gave.
At his lightness and the ardor
of his throat, the song I live by
stirred my mind. I said:
"By sweetness alone it survives."

- Wendell Berry, "The Strait"

Mixed media on canvas, 60" x 45"

Who ain't a sucker for hummingbirds? Someone told me there were only a handful of varieties in all of California and much less than there used to be, but I've never seen more in any other place I've lived.

Not long ago an aloe plant I keep in a pot sent up a tall shoot with an alien-like flower and from our bedroom we could see the flower in the morning, a hummingbird often sucking away at it, helicoptering quietly in the air behind the pane. It was a double shot of pure magnificence.

And sometimes when I'm in the back tinkering, a little guy will come up from behind, beat it wings like a giant insect, and scare the bejeebers out of me. Once I could swear one was a drone.

It have no idea where in my noggin this highly improvised, highly collaged painting came from, but the thought of a bunch of hummingbirds jigging in a pattern in front of one of L.A.'s ubiquitous super freeway exchanges, all fluorescent and lit up, like blown bits of ads, kept me laughing for much of the time I worked on it.

I'll be showing the painting this weekend at the Beverly Hills Artshow and next weekend at the Redlands Festival of the Arts. For more info, check out my website.

Have a good one!

May 8, 2018

Hollywood Freeway

Mixed media on birch panel, 48" x 24"

"Hey, did you see this one?" a guy asked me at a fair recently, not knowing I was the artist, his face pretzelled like he'd passed through a fart. "It's a freeway. Why would anyone want that?"

I wanted to respond with something like, yeah, precisely, why would anyone want it? Better one more naked woman on canvas, porno but not really, because it's art. Or a safe bunch of flowers, all happy and lively because that's the mantra these days. Or a postcard that reflects, in  L.A. especially, the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Instead I said, "imagine," or something, because I have a brain that embodies the snail and a tongue that swells in such situations.

For fusspots like myself it isn't the hundred compliments that stick but the one criticism, and so I've been scratching my head, wondering how much of a point he had.

For me it is about beauty, albeit not the glassy, glossy kind. Someone said the gateway drug was not creating art but experiencing it, and yeah, I've had those experiences and want to recreate them. It's also, though, about honesty, realness, a lack of cynicism and BS, old-fashioned ideas in the art world for sure, but whatever.

Oddly, a collection of Wendell Berry's farmer poems has been helping.

- From "The Clearing":
Vision must have severity
at its edge:

against neglect,
bushes grown over the pastures,
vines riding down
the fences, the cistern broken;

against the false vision
of the farm dismembered,
sold in pieces on the condition
of the buyer's ignorance,
a disorderly town
of "houses in the country"
inhabited by strangers;

against indifference, the tracks
of the bulldozer running
to gullies...
- From "History"
Through my history's despite
and ruin, I have come
to its remainder, and here
have made the beginning
of a farm  to become
my art of being here.
I would like also "being here" to be my art.

April 23, 2018

Mini #84: Fork You

Oil on panel, 5" x 5", custom skid frame

I love L.A. tree. They never left the punk era. They grow out of concrete, are studded with nails and staples, and smell like cheap perfume. The bare trunks fork into branches which, looked the right way, flip you the bird. "Man, piss off, I'm growin' here. What are you doing?"

I'll have this mini painting, packaged in a bespoke, reclaimed wood frame at the Mission Federal Artwalk in San Diego this weekend, booth 866. Come around!