Thursday, May 27, 2010


rocker 2010, oil, marker on white board.

Isaac Chotiner, in his review of Bill Simmons' The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy in the Atlantic, (The Enthusiast, Apr 2010) succinctly nailed the distinction between Jay Leno and David Letterman at late night hosts:
You rarely get the sense that Letterman’s show revolves around jokes that he himself finds boring and lowbrow. (The opposite is true of Jay Leno, a comedian canny enough to understand his audience.)

Never has an analysis for why Letterman is entertaining, (even when he's not funny) and why Leno simply sucks been so clearly distilled for me.  (Of course, the conclusion of relative coolness vs suckiness drawn from the above quote is mine own.) Essentially, Leno's style is one of pandering to his audience, Letterman's is of satisfying his own sense of humor.  This distinction between the Letterman and Leno characters is germane to the practice activity of an artist where the potential timelessness of a work rests on the genuineness of the maker's original intent and the motivation that underlies the work.
Its the difference between looking at a work that is a genuine expression of an creative intention and execution, and looking at something that is at great pains to look like an artwork, complete with all the appropriate signifiers - or transgressions.  When striking out in new directions, walking the line between these distinctions is what studio work is about; acting, reviewing and responding in the quest to attain something that, if it doesn't feel natural and comfortable, at least doesn't feel phony or contrived, and it may just be freakishly exciting. Then there are the moments (if you're like me) fraught with the reheated worrying if whether that which you are thinking is not contrived is actually contrived and phony after all, and you can't really tell the difference.  But maybe that is just me.

I spent several months after the end of my college Sophomore year in Geneva, CH.  Most of the time, I wandered the streets, inhabited the art library, drew, and  I questioned myself regarding whether I should return to school or not.  I was doing well in school, but I began tripping on whether the success I had in my studio classes rose from my technical and creative ability, or if it was due to fulfilling the expectations of my professors.  I couldn't resolve that uncertainty and it contributed to my not going back. This memory just came to mind.  There's a touch of that same unknowing-ness that informs and drives some of my impulses in the studio.  There were times when I considered being a Leno.  I didn't get far.  I simply couldn't stand myself in that long enough to go through those motions. 
In any case, the D.I.Y sensibility has long governed my drive to make and do.  But the Letterman/Leno distinction has made me recommitt myself to the D.I.F.Y. mantra: Do It For Yourself.

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