It turns out that my previous flow chart is going to be used as a teaching tool(!) for a workshop on writing artist statements. So, following on its heels I've created one on reading. I mean, in case your book club needs a few pointers. This might be a first draft though: I really need to add One Day, How to Be Good, The Things They Carried and some other favorites that wound up getting excluded for no good reason.
I documented the play-by-play on my tumblr account, but here's my new piece at the Flashpoint Gallery titled, "Inscrutable Comic." There's an opening reception that coincides with Calder Brannock's Adventure Residency Program Headquarters, but it'll be up for a indefinitely, so do check it out if you're in town! Official information from the Flashpoint below:
Join us for the opening reception of Calder Brannock's "Adventure Residency Program Headquarters" Friday, March 23, 6-8pm.
Flashpoint Gallery will play home base for artist Calder Brannock’s "Adventure Residency Program Headquarters." The project builds upon Brannock’s earlier project, Camper Contemporary, a mobile art gallery fashioned from a vintage camper. Brannock will expand upon Camper Contemporary’s Adventure projects, organizing artists and audience members to take trips to produce artworks based on shared experiences. Visitors will be encouraged to borrow objects from the gallery in order to create self-guided personal adventures.
Calder Brannock: Adventure Residency Program Headquarters March 23 - April 27, 2012 Opening Reception: March 23, 6-8pm
Gallery Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 12-6pm or by appointment
Dana Maier, "Inscrutable Comic" Plus, be sure to check out Flashpoint alum Dana Maier's "Inscrutable Comic," a new wall drawing in our back hallway.
I've been in a didactic mood, apparently! So yeah, one of my pet peeves is art writing, particularly artist statements, which I believe get an unfair free pass at being annoying at best, and poorly written pieces of garbage at worst. So to help eradicate the problem and teach myself a new design skill in the process, I've created a helpful flow chart:
- Don’t expect them to read it.
- Don’t inquire if they’ve read it. Ever.
- If there’s a book that's truly worth your proselytizing, buy a separate copy and never ask for it to be returned. Lending someone a book is essentially the same as saying, 'here, do this thing you probably don't have time for.'
- Know your audience. Don't be the guy who hands off Franzen to the girl who only reads chick lit novels.
- Never recommend a book to improve someone, or enlighten someone--that's just arrogant, and will likely backfire anyhow. Instead, recommend good stories.
Awhile ago I decided that I needed a mini portfolio of sorts. Something that the viewer could hold in their hands, emphasizing the intimacy of my small drawings and containing information about my work that didn't sound like text I'd been forced to write for a grant application. So I’ve created 8x5 inch folios that have prints and various statements about my art, completely
ripping off drawing inspiration from Edward Gorey's Twelve Terrors of Christmas and my own scrawled 'artist statements on a coaster' I'd created last year.
This project, which I thought I’d complete in a weekend, took lots and lots of drafts, statements I abandoned for sounding too whiney or defensive, and two trips to the Paper Source, which is one of those Ikea-esque establishments that you look forward to visiting, but prompt you go just a little insane upon stepping inside. But I'm happy to report that I am now on the homestretch, and pleased with the results.
I’m also working on these two pieces side by side, (one is 3 feet by 4 feet, the other 16x20 inches) which I like, though like much of my work, both are stuck in an infinite loop. They are the sort of drawings that will never, ever feel done, I can tell; the kind that make me feel grateful for deadlines when the work is forced to come to some sort of conclusion. For now though, I'm enjoying the ride:
I spent the ten days after Thanksgiving traveling throughout Barcelona, Avignon, and Paris with my mom. It was my first visit to Barcelona, and I was curious to see the Gaudi buildings, since the dripping architectural stuctures in my drawings have been compared to him (okay, one guy said that, one time, but I took it to heart). We went to the Sagrada Familia on a Monday in November, already swarming with fellow tourists at 10:00 AM, but as the guidebooks tell you, nothing prepares you for the impact of seeing it for the first time. That thing is not only huge, it's...bizarre, but wonderfully so, because it's not how a church is supposed to look. It reminded me of a cartoonist I once heard giving a presentation, talking about how he never was able to finish panels. "I just need to add more stuff," was how he put it. And I knew exactly what he meant. A lot of artists don't know when to say when, which I don't mean as a criticism, but as the highest possible compliment. It's the kind of obsessiveness that gives you thinks like the Sagrada Familia, or Chris Ware cartoons, or anything else that requires devoting oneself, full-throttle, to some sort of grand artistic cause, regardless of whether or not it's sensible.
The images below are the four small drawings I did while I was traveling (mostly in cafes, or on the train while looking at the countryside and listening to the new Steve Jobs autobiography, which I highly recommend). I also have high quality prints of works available at the Pleasant Plains, which has a closing party this Tuesday, if you still have last minute Christmas shopping.
I'm very excited to be participating in Part and Parcel (it got some nice write ups about Chandi's vision for the show in TBD and the Huffington Post). Opens this Saturday night at 8 at the Fridge in Eastern Market! I'll have one of my rarely seen larger works on display, along with my mystery piece. Official description:
Work by Frank Adams, Keli Anaya, Deborah Anzinger, Chris Chen, Rachel England, Jessica Ford, Elizabeth Graeber, Becca Kallem, Chandi Kelley, Regan Kireilis-Helms, Stephanie Kwak, Jon Lee, Dana Maier, and Kristoffer Tripplaar.
The expression “part and parcel” is used to reference something that must be done or accepted as a part of something else. Without the venue to sell works on a small scale, many artists wouldn’t have the means to create some of their more substantial works. Part and Parcel is an opportunity to showcase large scale works by Project Dispatch artists while emphasizing the importance of the subscription. We will be displaying one piece next to each large work that will be wrapped in brown paper to represent the subscription. Patrons will be able to purchase the larger work or take a risk on the smaller, wrapped piece by the same artist. These smaller works will be the beginnings of subscriptions, but will remain unopened until after they are purchased. By showing these seen and unseen works alongside each other, we want to emphasize that the project is an integral part of the practice for the artists involved.
Several months ago, I had a very earnest discussion regarding the personalities of various liquor types. For example: vodka I always imagined as a slender, tall blonde. A party girl. Rum is her date, rugged and handsome, but will kick your ass if need be. Gin is the man in the suit in the corner with a flower on his lapel. Beer is the dude in faded jeans watching the game; bourbon is the well dressed philosophy major who is an excellent listener. I mention this because I was recently reading about DC's artistic identity to which the same thought experiment can apply. Saying that lots of people make art in Washington DC doesn't tell you very much, since that's true of a lot of cities. But if you met the DC Art Scene in a bar, how would it compare to New York Art Scene? Or LA Art Scene or Baltimore Art Scene?
Since these personifications are just the first that pop into my head based upon my own experiences (or lack thereof), I'd be curious to hear others. So please put your own visions in the comments. If DC's art scene was a guy in a bar, who would it be?
I remember attending the Roger Gastman street art lecture at the Corcoran earlier this year and hearing him speak disdainfully of stickering. Too easy, I think, was his criticism. Instead of having to go to the trouble to surreptitiously spray ink on a wall, any schmuck can grab a pack of stickers and take to the streets. I’m no stickler for process, so I’ve embraced stickering. Not only are they convenient, but they allow me to be faithful to my original drawings. And it's fascinating (at least to me) to take the same image and see it interact with various environments.
Anyway, it’s good to be back! My blog-abandonment has been due to not having a permanent address until the middle of last month, but I am pleased to say that I now have spacious studio set up that’ll allow me to do some damage. Also, I will be participating in a pop up gallery for DCWEEK this year, so stay tuned. In the meantime you can see the most recent work I've done on my Tumblr, and also subscribe to my drawings via Project Dispatch.
Cory Oberndorfer asked me to participate on his delicious Donut a Day site, so do check out my contribution. He claims that he was inspired by my Flashpoint show (aw!) but I am more impressed by his ability to update a blog every damn day, which I actually think is much taller order than drawing 50 bazillion coasters. Well, we all have our mountains to climb. And since I haven't posted in awhile, I'm adding a few images of my recent work, including a piece I drew for the We Are Monsters show at Pleasant Plains, and a new sticker edition, and something that I started as a study for a larger work that’s my drawing equivalent of a summer fling (that is, I’ve been having fun with it, but am not sure where it’s going). And I finally updated the drawing section here too, which has been long overdue.
I’ve never been much for artist statements, but I like the idea of making statements about art, which can be crossed out or refined after further consideration. This is the first one I did. The second draft is currently on display at the Flashpoint show, and was sold on the opening night.
And, this is more of an artist’s plea (which is not on display):
Huzzah, almost here! My joint show with Adam Dwight opens at the Flashpoint Gallery on April Fool's Day. For the record, I've completed about 450 titled coaster drawings for the final show (to prevent the viewer from facing a wall of 400+ "Untitles," which would just be cruel). Adam will have five new paintings, a sculpture and a hand-drawn animation, all reflecting the life of MADD founder Candy Lightner.
Details directly from the Flashpoint below; hope to see you there. And if you need me this weekend, I will be buying my weight in artists' tape and comparing prices of laser levels.
Adam Dwight & Dana Jeri Maier: Off in a Corner Opening Reception: Friday, April 1, 6 – 8pm April 1 - May 7, 2011
Adam Dwight’s gouache paintings and rubber puddle collide with Dana Jeri Maier’s ink drawings on drink coasters for Off in a Corner, a two-person show that manipulates the line between fine art and illustration. When juxtaposed, Dwight's and Maier’s farcical and cartoonish narratives reveal a dark absurdity to the characters and relationships depicted within.
Art + Coffee Program Sunday, April 10, 1:30pm - Presented in collaboration with the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Luce Foundation Center Art + Coffee Program
Pink Panel @ Flashpoint: Drink + Draw Thursday, April 21, 6:30pm
Exhibition April 1 - May 7, 2011
In my view, there are interesting questions about art, and there are boring questions about art. Boring: What Other Art Does this Look Like? (ie, any sentence that starts with "the work is reminiscent of,"), though I guess if you can't see the piece in question yourself, knowing what it resembles can occasionally be useful. Is it Art in the First Place? discussions get old fast, and tend to result in circular, infuriating conversations. And my least favorite: "This is the Most Important [painting/sculpture/whatever] of the [arbitrary time period]" which I hate because such assertions are gimmicky and impossible to prove.
The questions that really keeps me up at night always center on why I like what I do, and how that can best be articulated. What makes it good? Or what makes it flawed? Why can't I explain what I think is good without sounding like a jackass? If you actually have something to say, is drawing the best way to say it? And so on.
Then there's the fuzzy subject of talking about your art-making experience, which sounds like something that should be interesting, but isn't, at least for me (for Victoria Gaitan, the opposite is true). I've always been astounded that I can take a drawing I adore, and find myself with absolutely nothing to say about it, (which I know you aren't supposed to admit), or that while the art itself may be interesting, its production has made me remarkably dull; my evenings have been spent in solitude drawing for the past couple of weeks, with no funny anecdotes to speak of. But that's the life I have now. The process is wonderful, and the results are fun (and incidentally, I highly recommend All the Devils are Here, One Day, and Freedom, which I've happily listened to while working) but when I try to explain how and why, I got nothing.
Here's a lesson learned this holiday season--tedious travel delays are quite handy for producing drawings in bulk. A cancelled flight to England, long lines, a bus ride, airport waiting lounges, more long lines all resulted in about fifty new coaster images. Clearly there’s a lot to be said for art that’s portable, especially when it comes to international travel. Once I arrived in England (I was having a British-style Christmas, which I’m happy to report, wound up being every bit as magical as it sounds) I didn’t have long uninterrupted blocks of time to work, though I managed to get a few drawings in of the Saint Paul’s Cathedral and crowds in pubs, and some castle-esque structures in Cambridge. Plus I got a chance to bop around some galleries in Mayfair, the highlight being Chris Beetles Art which specializes in illustration (including Arthur Rackham(!), and a whole room of Quentin Blake watercolors). It was salon-style, four rooms and two floors, with books and loose artworks scattered around--messy, but in a charming way, and an excellent contrast to the sterile White Cube.
And now, it's DC and real life again, which means that art-making is no longer filling up dead time, but being done at the expense of other activities. No bad thing there, I guess.
A year ago I attended a breast cancer fundraiser, and decided it would be my last. It was held in a dark three-storied club on K Street; upon entrance, there were rose colored drink specials, the prerequisite pink ribbons, and plastic wrists bands given out with a message declaring, “Breast Cancer Sucks!” It’s a perfect illustration of why I care about many things, but hate causes. We can’t just grieve, or complain or make charitable contributions; we all need to become emotional exhibitionists, with “Never Forget” bumper stickers and “We Will Prevail” platitudes and pep rallies. Unless your feelings are public and posted online for the world to see, it’s as though they don’t count.
Which brings me to the latest culture war that’s gripping DC, with the Portrait Gallery yanking David Wojnarowicz's art video after receiving complaints from Eric Cantor and John Boehner. It’s a cheap and dirty trick for the GOP to score points, but in a twisted way, everyone wins; Boener and Cantor get to look like cultural heros to their already-sympathetic base (who probably won’t spend much time researching the issue), and Wojnarowicz's work gets more coverage than it ever would had this whole snafu never erupted.
Also, you get to see the DC art community truly galvanized, which happens about every three to six months. Although I agree wholeheartedly that taking down the art was wrong of the Portrait Gallery, I still can’t get on board the DC art community ire; something about it is just giving me flashbacks to condescending pink bracelets and $12 Breast-cancer-tinis. Maybe it’s an issue of choosing your battles. I have a long and growing list of things that I’m genuinely outraged about, from our lack of universal health care to Glenn Beck, but I can't add an unwatchable art video to the list. Something about this furor strikes me as a little too...self-congratulatory.
There’s a Tim Carman article in this week’s City Paper about drinking that beautifully articulates what makes alcohol so great (much like Esquire did with its brilliant homage a few years back, which I still recall each time I pour myself a vodka tonic). Excellent read, though I challenge anyone who thinks America has a drinking problem to spend a Saturday night in Oxford, England (and this is Oxford, by the way--y’know, dignity incarnate) and witness the debauchery that goes on there, as it makes Adams Morgan look like a Temperance Society church picnic. The relationship between artists and alcohol is often a fascinating one. After all, there’s no doubt drinking is “a tool to unlock a deeper appreciation of immediate surroundings” as Carman points out, though I’m wary of anyone who needs to drink to become creative. (Granted, there’s no place I’d rather draw than a darkly-lit bar, but that’s another story.) I’ve found that drinking best compliments artistic discussions more than output, however. Explaining the artistic choices you’re making, or lack of them; ranting about the things that annoy you, (always a fun conversation to have in the bar, particularly after receiving grant rejection letters); or pinning down any other question that never has a satisfying answer--unless you've had a few, these conversations can be awkward and stilting.
*Places where I worked on these 5x7'' drawings include: the dining tables at the Hirshorn courtyard next to the fountain (perfect weather, last week of the Yves Klein exhibit); Rehoboth Beach, the weekend before Labor Day; a mildly depressing artists talk that further convinced me that the art world is, at heart, a numbers and marketing game; and a wine bar at the W. Hotel, for some reason.