Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thomas Huber

I'm on the email list of Galerie Akinci in Amsterdam. I received this announcement this morning, for a new show of Thomas Huber's work. He has amazed me since I first saw his work in the early nineties, and this new work is no exception.

Thomas Huber 'Messe', 2008, oil on canvas, 200x180 cm

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Time for a New Wallpaper

When I drew the urinary tract wallpaper, it was as a superstitious/ preemptive measure-- sort of a celebration of the "god of healthy kidneys," since I have only one kidney and want it to function perfectly for the rest of my life. So far, the wallpaper seems to have "worked." Now it appears that the time has come for me to make a new wallpaper design, this time honouring the God of Patellar Cartilage. I knew I had lost a lot of cartilage in my knees (an MRI in 2000 confirmed this,) but now a new MRI shows that the cartilage behind my kneecaps is essentially gone ("stage three" chondromalacia.) Doctors all ask, "Did you have some bad injury in high school?" or something to that effect. "Nope," I answer. " *
Anybody else in your family have this problem?" "Nope."

Just bad luck, I guess. Nothing a good wallpaper design can't fix, though. I have to really, really mean it, for it to turn out good. The kidney wallpaper had a lifetime of fear and paranoia behind it.

The director of the gallery that shows my work is still waiting for me to make him a bronchial wallpaper to address his asthma. Looks like I have a lot of work to do (as soon as I finish my current project...)

* I was never an athlete. I was a furniture maker and wood shop manager: the equivalent of having been a professional "furniture mover" for about eight years.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A whole winter in Finland!

A couple of weeks ago I found out I was accepted to a second artist's residency program in Finland. The first residency kindly accommodated me so that I can do both residencies back-to-back. A solid, six-month period in Finland, from the beginning of next October until the end of March! I am super excited, both residency programs look amazing. I will need to learn some Finnish and some Swedish before I go. And buy a lot of down clothing. I've been researching the history of the locations, there's lots of cool info and pictures to post, soon.

Lester's Laws

This document came to me via the VCU Sculpture Department email list the other day. It's a list of "Lester's Laws" -- basic rules of thumb for art-making and critiquing, from the mind of the inimitable Lester Van Winkle, Emeritus Professor of Sculpture at VCU. I was unaware of the existence of this list when I took Lester's classes (1987-1990), but the content insinuated its way nonetheless into my psyche. It's nice to have this wisdom codified so succinctly now.

Unfortunately Blogger keeps messing up the formatting. I give up on trying to fix it.

Lester's Laws:
The following I circulate at popular request and with serious misgivings that they might be mistook. These advisories or faux-rules were first instituted in 1974. They were applied to a class of sophomores whose insistence on repetitious inanities, like solutions and non-thinking was awe inspiring. Out of desperation these notions were circulated to insure some modest degree of creativity, or possibly a small revolution in a class of really comfortable underachievers. Although I intended them only as beginners' guidelines, they have become known as Lester's Laws. These "Laws" have been widely circulated at popular request and which edition this is, is not known.

1. Do not arrive on time for this class. Be early and appear busy. Punctuality and thrift precede cleanliness in the eyes of "You Know Who."

2. Have ideas in your work. Mere personal expression is unavoidable, highly overrated, and can be sloppily self-indulgent.

3. If you have no ideas, check your pulse.

4. If you have an idea (one) you are in trouble.

5. If you steal ideas, cover your tracks. Be the master thief. Do the perfect crime. Or don't. Be a postmodern, deconstructivist, conceptual appropriationist. Plagiarism is in fashion. Fashion is vicious and violent.

6. Remember that in our game an idea is no better than its articulation.

7. Speak up in critiques. Ye shall be known by your words.

8. In critiques do not say, "I like." For obvious reasons, like you're talking mostly about yourself . . . or whatever.

9. If you believe that criticism is only personal opinion, quit school now. Save your money. Personal opinions are absolutely free and in infinite supply on the street.

10. Beware of art jargon. No one knows what words like balance and rhythm mean.

11. Believe me, there is nothing negative about space. The constructivists considered space a tangible material.

12. Never let your story be more interesting than your art.

13. Never explain your choices by what you did not want. What you did not want or intend is an infinite set.

14. Do not let American industry make the color, surface, image, proportional or scale choices in your work.

15. High tech, avant-garde or expensive traditional materials will not improve bad ideas.

16. Simple repetition never doesn't work. Repetition, like contrast, is a visual phenomenon, not a conceptual issue.

17. Do not make things the same size without good reason. MODERN REVISION: No, do not make things the same size.

18. Do not center or divide things in the middle. The middle is such a swell place; it should always be reserved for special occasions.

19. Do not use obvious proportion ratios. 1:1, 2:1, 2:4 etc.

20. Avoid bilateral symmetry and 90 degree angles. (See special occasions.)

21. Do not arrange things that "lead" your eye in a circle, square, rectangle, triangle, cube, cone, etc.

22. If you want to use black, white, or gray, see me first.

23. Always make primary colors secondary choices.

24. Give color significant jobs to do in your work.

25. Paint all carvings, particularly stone carvings.

26. Find significant terminations for three-dimensional lines.

27. Always radically modify or rectify found objects.

28. Remove source references from found objects.

29. Make weird things. It is an artist's job to do so.

30. Remember that all things in the same context relate. Any further similarities, connections, parallels, vectors, or threads only compound an already existing relationship.

31. The only thing worse than a bad piece of sculpture is a big, bad piece of sculpture. Even worse is a big, bad, red piece of sculpture.

32. Trust your instincts. Trust your intuition. They are your best tools.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stanford is a Parallel Universe

So, I tried to meet my class at Stanford yesterday to see the Vik Muniz lecture. And I did meet them, after spending an additional hour completely lost. Some of my students got lost too-- only one of them got more lost than I did, though. I thought I was familiar with area-- I forgot that the minute I enter the Stanford campus I'm in a parallel universe-- a territory immune to Google maps, and one which has evolved beyond the use of old-school technologies like stop signs. We missed the show we had intended to see at the school gallery, but most of us made it to the lecture, which was quite entertaining and fascinating for being two and a half hours long. I would venture to say that there were more attendees from SJSU than from Stanford (I saw two faculty members from my school, plus one professor from our Philosophy department, in addition to my own students.)
Starved and brain-dead, we then made our way to the Peninsula Creamery, where we got diner food and shakes. It was 10 PM when I got home from this field-trip that started at 4 PM. Here is what Google maps showed me, versus the map I should have sought out prior to the field trip.

See, how the laws of nature apply up to the borders of Stanford, then it gets like a Borges story.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Laser-Cutting Problem Hopefully Solved

So, what I didn't understand about the laser-cutting process before, was that the machine doesn't acknowledge the "kerf" removed by the laser beam (the thickness of the cut) and make adjustments for it. In woodworking, you always acknowledge the thickness of the saw blade, and measure from that. I had never guessed that the laser-cutting world would just cut right down the middle of an object's outline. It seems so primitive! Once I understood this issue, the problem was pretty easy to solve. On my illustrator drawing, I just made an "offset path" around the objects to be cut out, half as thick as the laser kerf, and added this to the total dimension of each object. I will have a test done in the next couple of days to see if this works.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Good News, and Urinary Tract Humour

I recently applied for a year's sabbatical leave in order to make art, elsewhere. (Eligible faculty can apply for a semester at full pay, or a year at half-pay.) I learned this morning that I am one of four artists (or artist duos) that have been accepted into an artist's residency program in Finland for 2009! This is the best news I've gotten in a very long time. The other accepted artists look great. I'm really, really happy.

On an unrelated note, some friends emailed me to tell me that my kidney wallpaper had shown up on BoingBoing today. Thank you, Mark Frauenfelder! I especially love the comments, numbers 12 (analyzing my anatomical semi-correctness,) and 13!

The National Kidney Foundation was considering buying this wallpaper two years ago when ADA Gallery showed it in Miami. But it never happened. (Apparently, as a non-profit organization, they don't really have a budget for art...) Anyway, it's nice to have the kidney wallpaper get an audience after all. It took me six months to draw it. Now I'll have to finish the other two wallpapers I started (the urinary tract one is called #1, so #2 was the next in line.)