Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Special Delivery

In a recent New York Review of Books (also appearing in the Guardian), Charles Simic wrote on the Lost Art of Writing Postcards.   Then, an editorial in the Guardian last week also stood in praise of postcards.  That, on top of the current state of the USPS's financial woes,  has me also thinking positively about the wonder of missives sent and received - physically.  Although I am, to some degree, enslaved by my email inbox, even the most gratifying incoming messages lack that wonder of opening that little box for what untold surprise that might be awaiting inside. 
Giving and receiving.

I join the sentiments expressed at the other end of the links above in lauding the visual/text mashup that is the postcard.  I'm sharing a couple of the most recent Missives that I've made recently.  Missives are collaged photograph postcards that I send to friends, family, and anyone who requests to be added to the mailing list.  I haven't added these, or several other recent ones to the Missive page on my website, but that should be coming soon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Faces have been changed to protect the innocent...and the guilty.

 In a moment of almost-synchrony, last the August 12 editions of the NY Post and The Epoch Times (a newspaper published by the falun gong and given away free on the northern exit of Grand Central) both included images of pixelated faces to illustrate items in their pages.  The instance in the Epoch Times' front page that day was particularly arresting.  Seemingly crafted as a design project, the pixel colors are very harmonous - not to mention weirdly large for the scale of the face they are obscuring.  It works for me as a representational/abstract mashup.  The Post's incarnation is less aesthetically dynamic, but the rarity of seeing the tool used twice in one day was enough for me to clip it out.  It does take me back to a childhood memory - that of the fembots from the Bionic Woman (and the Six-Million Dollar Man).  The image below lends a pretty good likeness to the Post's use of pixelation. 
Fembot.  via
This fembot in the form of Oscar Goldman is particularly intriguing piece of sculpture.
A male fembot(?)  Is that even possible?  via

As it happens, Angelika engaged in a bit of frontpage pixelation herself, mindlessly moving melon seeds around in the kitchen.  (Her photo of it is much nicer than mine.)  In this case, she livened up an illustration of a rather bland painting by an artist showing at bau this month.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

This week on Dead Hare Radio:Marc Chagall in the Hudson Valley

Marc Chagall walking with son David on Mohonk Rd in High Falls, NY.  photo by Charles Leirins

Tonight's episode of the Dead Hare Radio Hour focuses on that consummate Hudson River School painter, Marc Chagall.  Whaaa?, you might say.  but yes, it turns out that Marc Chagall lived in High Falls, NY with his companion, Virginia Haggard from 1946 through 1948. 

I interview Gary Ferdman and Rik Rydant, two fellows who have been digging deep into the details of Chagall's life in this Hudson Valley hamlet and the proliferation of work he created there.
The D&H Canal Museum will be hosting an exhibit on Chagall in High Falls from September 3 - Oct 30.
Tune in this afternoon to 91.3 WVKR in Poughkeepsie to learn all about the details of the exhibit and to hear the details of this moment in the artist's life.  An extended version of my Chagall in High Falls interview will be released in podcast version tomorrow.

Marc Chagall, Blue Violinist, 1947
This episode is a real story-time treat for me.  I really have enjoyed hearing Rik and Gary recount this story.  I think this is what radio is all about. The quality of their voices alone, I think makes this one worth listening to.  Chagall's work has never made a huge impression of me, but there are two small stained glass windows in a chapel near Chamonix that I saw that are pretty stunning.

Monday, August 22, 2011

]twenty-six paces[ : What the Room Saw

One of the ideas I new that I wanted to do from the start was grabbing some pinhole camera images of the two spaces.  Capturing a simultaneous moment in both of the spaces, seeing what each saw of the other in that instant.  
One of my homemade pinhole cameras mounted to the ceiling of Beacon Pilates.
This is the first time I've done any pinhole photography and Angelika has been way more than an assistant; more of a technical advisor, by far.  This part of the project is allowing us a chance to try out the darkroom at Fovea, which is available for an hourly rental (as well as membership access). 
I should say that this part of the project is allowing Angelika a chance to try out the darkroom at Fovea (in which she'll teach me how to print the images).  She exposed a test print, then developed it using Fovea's equipment and she was very impressed.  I'm pleased that by this has precipitated her use of the darkroom, which is so conveniently near us, and that she will indeed be printing some of her images there in the near future.

My lovely assistant, Angelika awaiting the moment of exposure in Artisan Wine Shop.

If you squint, you can see Angelika in the window..on the phone to me, standing on a ladder in Beacon Pilates.

I dig the camera strap/harness hanging from the ceiling, so I left it there.
Another thought that arrived early in the process of conceiving what I wanted to do for this project was to work with the staircase at Beacon Pilates.  The first of my attempts at addressing the space is "walk" my way up the stairs with a series of "sculptures" - arrangements, really, on each stair, in a sequence. 

I'm thinking that I'll make a series of these ascensions, using a variety of items to make the arrangements - in this case - the tools I had on hand in my bag. 

 I was able to slide the camera up up the handrail to which it was suspended as I made each arrangement, took a shot with the self timer as the it swayed naturally, then broke down the arrangement to make a new one on the next tread. 
Of all the images I captured of this process, these are the most interesting to me. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

]twenty-six paces[ : Telephone-Line

While in the process of installing Telephone in Artisan Wine Shop, I saw the opportunity to draw a line.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

]twenty-six paces[ : Telephone

Telephone, yarn, acrylic on wood, cans.
Telephone, the first of several works that are part of the ]twenty-six paces[ ensemble, is also emblematic of all the works (those both planned and those still emerging) that will be the result during this period of the Windows on Main St exhibit.  Spatial relations; marking time, and space; communication, community; the speed of engagement and experience; the very process of formulating and exploiting ideas are all constituent parts of the work. 

The entire experience is a process of realizing, and working through of all the thoughts I had ever had about the WOMS exhibit since the days that Karlos Carcamo and I started the exhibit in 2005.  Meditating on my WOMS locations of choice: Artisan Wine Shop and Beacon Pilates folds in those generic thoughts and those specific to my recent interactions with the physical space of those locations.  

Telephone is the most basic expression of connecting intellects and locations.  It's a drawing in space.  In choosing these two spaces, I was aware that the scope of the entire street scape in which the two businesses would be part of my consideration of the stores and space in which they sit, and relate to one another. 
The span of the void - the streetscape - is at the core of ]twenty-six paces[  .   It's the space within the  ]  [   My immediate attention was drawn to the distance between the buildings; the void; the ]street[  but the focus of this project is as much the stuff outside of the ] [  as inside:  ::::::::]  [:::::::::::

My immediate attention was drawn to the distance between the buildings; the void; the ]street[  A primary goal in my approach to all of this has always been to explore the relationship between the realm of that void, and the realms on either side of the void; namely all that is behind those store front facades.
How to articulate the the geometry inherent in the linkage of two points across glass, brick and two lanes of asphalt?  I think first came the tin can telephone, then appeared the next obvious thought:  Fred Sandback. Sandback's yarn sculptures cut through space, define it -exactly the task at hand for me here.  The fact that a good number of his works are local - housed at Dia:Beacon - seemed like another salient element and reason enough to make the allusion.  Working with spectrum of tautness and slackness of the yarn is invigorating (Sandback really had something good going).  To further the nod to Sandback, I purchased the yarn at the Fishkill, NY Walmart, the same source for the material used in the Dia installations.

The Artisan Wine Shop end of the line.
The Beacon Pilates end of the line.

My lack of Trigonometry knowledge is overcome by a little bit of algebra and geometry...a ruler, protractor and lots of scribbles.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Returned Gaze

I spent much of the morning on Saturday measuring and gazing through the windows of Artisan Wine and Beacon Pilates. My main objective was to plot out two points (one in Artisan, one in Beacon Pilates) that would be connnected by a straight line. 
One of the pieces planned for ]twenty-six paces[ will articulate a portion of this invisible line - the portion of the line that pierces the window of each space and reaches the respective end point.

My intention to use a laser to mark the points was thwarted by distance, sun, and lacking an adequate laser.  Ultimately, I think this failing was a boon as it forced me to measure the individual spaces and to observe and measure the relation of the two spaces in relation to one another.  An effective way of knowing a place, too. It also made me realize the point of this entire exercise - the point that is evident in the first 
]twenty-six paces[ video - that I am the metric, and I am the lens.
It's an easy enough thought to grasp, elemental, really to the existence of an artist, but the profound simplicity of such things often evades me. 

Another very simple and obvious thought that struck me as a revelation that day; The direction in which a gaze travels through a window. 
In the case of a store front window, the gaze can go both ways; from inside to the street and from the street to the inside. 
For a project like WOMS, the predominant gaze is from the outside in.  An inherent stasis forms.  Observer, moving through the channel of the street stops and looks.  His gaze is supported by some work or vision.  The view disengages and moves on.

The second floor window, though, is exclusively the conduit of the inside to outside gaze (moments of out-to-in voyuerism aside).  Again, simple and obvious.  But it exemplifies completely the distinction between the two spaces and the activities they support.  Artisan is a retail space, fully dependent on the transparent and accessible nature of the space. Though slower than other stores, this one relies on the fluidity of patronage.  Get in, get goods, go out. 
Beacon Pilates, while still needing to be accessible is a more intimate environment. Slower transition between in and out.  Indeed there is fluidity and movement going on, but it is contained within the space.  It is a contained space.  Contained, and removed, by the stairwell onto which the street level door opens and which carries patrons to it's second floor perch.  It's a space that by the very nature of it's purpose and methodology, demands a certain commitment of time from it's patrons.   It's contained, but not closed off.  The street and it's life is readily viewable through it's windows.  From the inside to the outside. 

Beacon Pilates is not a tourist destination.  It demands more of its clientele.  And the clientele expects more from it.  Artisan Wine Shop, as an establishment is more amenable to the tourist trade.  But there's a sustained culture within its walls and it is sustained by a culture that runs deeper than the basic currency/goods exchange; the mere presence of the kitchen at the back of the store speaks to that notion.

Aspects of the Windows On Main St exhibit also caters to the tourist trade.  It potentially offers the passer-by a commitment free visual treat.  But for me the real value of the exhibit, year to year, is gleaned in the slower, repeated interaction with the work and having a sufficient enough knowledge of a place to recognize how the artwork modified or informed the environment into which it was injected. 
When Karlos Carcamo and I founded the exhibit, then organized it for the first four years, I felt the strength and value of it rest not in what it gave to visitors, but what it potentially could give to residents who know the city so well.  I've stated this frequently in the past, but for me, some of the most successful works featured in WOMS were often imperceptible upon first glance.  Or, if indeed noticeable, the works spoke specifically to the location and its condition that delivered a new understanding (in some cases) or a new experience of a familiar space.
I've said too that I wish that Karlos and I had done more to break the project before we handed it on to someone else, if only to give it the ability to roam free of the constraints implied by the name we gave it.  As we progressed as organizers and curators we were open to the vision of an artist that would reinterpret the exhibit, or what a store front is...or what he/she felt like doing.  We both were ready to break away from simply the store front window space - the most touristic component of the streetscape. 

As organizers - which is a sort of overstatement,  (to our credit and our detriment our level of organization was minimal and "loose."  Enough to get the thing done, but no more infrastructure than necessary to give the artists the opportunity and support to do their thing.) we actively encouraged our selected artists consider all possibilities in conceiving their works.  We both encouraged them to step outside their conventional modes of production, to use this exhibit as an opportunity, not to make a grand statement - unless they wanted such - but to use it as an opportunity to experiment and perhaps grow.  We weren't interested in work that was just plopped into a location, although we gave artists the free reign to do so, if that's what they chose.  We stepped back to let the successes and failures stand or fall on their own.
In ruminating on Artisan Wine and Beacon Pilates, I've thought that we could have better framed the exhibit as a fleeting artist residency.  I think that term, loosely applied, lends an understanding of what is at the heart of at least a part of the exhibit; working with sensitivity in an envrionment and letting that experience shape the work.

It defines my approach in participating as an artist in this year's exhibit: Pierce that store front window and go further.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

MY WOMS Project: ]twenty-six paces[

1 pace = 30 inches. 1 Columbia size 9 = 12 inches. 76.5 Columbia size 9's = ]twenty-six paces[ - or thereabouts.

The Windows on Main St exhibit is opening on Saturday and I'll be participating in it this year.  I'm working with both Artisan Wine Shop and Beacon Pilates as the locations I'm responding to with a series of works.

For starters, I hung out at Artisan wine over the course of several Saturday wine tastings recently, recording the gurgling sounds of wine pouring into a glass (and watching Tim Buzinski graduate from more to less obtrusive crutches as he recovers from a nasty bike accident).  The idea is to create an audio piece that will be installed in the stairway of Beacon Pilates.  My goal is to create a babbling brook of wine pours - one tiny taste at a time - although I expect it will be more of a tinkling, gurgling brook. 

The process of doing whatever it is I'm going to end up doing with ]twenty-six paces[ is generally that of immersing myself in an environment and frame of mind, then drawing something out of my experience which will mark the moment.

What ever it is that I do come up with and the thoughts that emerge from this work will be gathered here on the blog and on my twitter feed:   #WOMS .

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Funny: Reception, August 13, 4-7pm

There will be a reception held next Saturday, Aug. 13 at the Beacon Theater, on Main St in Beacon, NY.  James Westwater and I have some recent work on view there currently, curated by Jennifer Mackiewicz.

I'll be in attendance, so that'll be a bonus if you choose to come out....