Wednesday, February 22, 2012
I have a new studio mate. Her name is Lois. I accidentally called her Louise, but she corrected me with a sniff – it's Lois. Lois Mouse. She's just the cutest little thing. A little too chatty for me, but I try to be polite and listen to her trials and tribulations. I never knew that so much went into being a mouse. It's a full time job, people. And mice, they don't get a lot of respect. But at least she's not a rat, said Lois with another loud sniff, and I wholeheartedly concurred with that.
The only thing I'm a little worried about is that she might start feasting on my current text piece, the Book of Revelation from the Koran, which I've been working on since the day Saint John left the island of Patmos. It would really rile me if she took a few bites out of that. Not to worry, said she. Apparently Lois hasn't much of a taste for sacred texts; she prefers best sellers. Lois, she's a Danielle Steel fan. (Hey, someone had to be). And an atheist! Who knew? See, the way she explains it, all these nutty religions are for people who don't know squat about squat. They're just paths that take you to a deeper understanding of what's what. But if you already know that, and if you're already at your destination, who the heck needs a spiritual path? Lois, she'd rather read her romance novels. It doesn't get any more sacred than that, according to Lois. (Another loud sniff).
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Letters cut from the Bible, o's and apostrophes cut from the Koran
4 x 4 in.
I did this piece last week as a thank you gift for someone who did me a solid. It was a blast to start and finish a piece in three hours, since the piece I'm currently working on in my studio was started in 2009. There's something to be said for doing these little pieces. Brevity rocks. It's like sweeping; immediate gratification and sense of accomplishment. The hymn goes around and around the circle, letters piled on top of each other, so you only get to read the last words. It reads like this:
O Devi Kamala, beloved of Vishnu,
Adored by the three worlds,
As Thou art constant to Vishnu,
Be Thou constant to me.
Whoever worshipping Lakshmi
Reads these twelve names of Her:
Isvari, Kamala, Lakshmi, Cala,
Bhuti, Haripriya, Padma, Padmalaya,
Sampat, Uchaih, Sri Padmadharini.
With such an one, his wife and children,
Lakshmi ever abides.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Tonight I finished a piece that I've been working on for about a year. I'm reasonably elated that it's done, as it's already sold, and the money long spent. But before I ship it off to the collector, it's going to be in a show in March. That was part of the deal. I hope he likes it; it's one of my favorite text drawings to date.
The piece is called 'The Satanic Verses', and here's what it's about: You know the novel 'The Satanic Verses' by Salman Rushdie? The one that got him in a whole lot of trouble with those darn Muslims? Yeah, well, he's still got a fatwah out on him, if you can believe it. See, the novel sorta poked fun at Islam, and specifically at Mohammad. Some Muslims didn't find it humorous, thus the fatwah. So I've taken Rushdie's novel and cut it up, letter by letter, and rearranged the letters to create a chapter from the Koran called 'Repentance'.
Now, this could potentially get me in some trouble. Some Islamic fundamentalists may feel that I too am insulting Islam or Mohammad. But is that true? Is it an insult? Or is the act of cutting up the offensive novel, then reconfiguring it back into the Koran, an act of restitution? A form of repentance? Not my repentance, not Salman Rushdie's repentance, but a sort of all-encompassing repentance for sins already achieved, as well as those waiting in the wings? A big, fat mea culpa, as it were, for the collective sins of humankind, so that we can just get on with it, and stop being so gosh darn morose and dogmatic?
Religions–the whole lot of them–seem to encourage their followers to be unyielding and brittle. This is known as fundamentalism, and its stench reeks to the highest heaven. I believe that God, Allah, Yahweh, et al have a decent sense of humor. They'd have to, to put up with us. They know how to go with the flow. Consciousness (my term for God) is nothing if not accepting of What Is. Everything that exists, everything that happens, is perfect. Including insults, real or imagined.
So when there is an offense, one has to ask, who is it that's offended? Because it's not Consciousness, so....who?
Saturday, February 11, 2012
I got this piece scanned last week at Laumont Labs in Manhattan. They have the only large-scale scanner in the city, and WOW is it amazing. The detail it's able to capture is so high that if the piece is printed on high quality paper, the visual effect looks exactly like the original. Not that I'm planning to make prints of my texts at this time, but it's nice to have the option in the future. I'm really happy to have found Laumont, as they're great to work with.
I've written about this piece before, so I won't go into it too much. It's called 'Milk and Honey', and I cut the letters from the Bhagavad Gita to create 'Michael Row the Boat Ashore'. And now I'm here to tell you that Michael, he finally made it to the other side, where he found milk, honey, and Laumont Labs waiting for him with open arms and a world-class scanner.
The piece is 40" x 26 1/4", done in 2011.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Today is the 200 year anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens. Coincidentally, I just finished reading 'Great Expectations', like, a few minutes ago. How weirdly cool is that? Anyway, happy birthday, big guy. Dickens was no starving artist; he was a rock star in his day. And how he could write! His ability to capture in words the frailty of the human condition, and the micro-nuances of the rich and the poor, is unparalleled. Well, maybe Shakespeare...he was pretty good. And Nabokov...also pretty good. How were they able to access such depth of feeling and observation? Was it through experience? And yet Thoreau lived such a secluded life, and managed to pull his observations from some boundless source. It's a big mystery, how and whence writers write and artists art. I want to do what they did with words and letters. Observe, capture, and release the human condition, in all its glory, turmoil, excess, sorrow, passion, shame, ambition (poor Pip!), rage, success, and, always, grace.
I hope you've planned an eventful evening in his honor, with a little extra icing on the cake. There's going to be some special on WNYC to commemorate him, if you're inclined.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
Yesterday I got on the Brooklyn-bound L train close to rush hour, and was surprised that there were a bunch of empty seats. Took me about one breath to figure it out–the car reeked, the terrible stench of a human badly in need of bathing. Extreme body odor, urine, dirty clothes, feces; it was a relentless aroma, and only a handful of people could endure it. The source was a middle-aged African American guy sitting mid-car, on the edge of the seat, back very straight, legs planted firmly on the floor. Both hands were resting on this knees, one palm down, the other holding a large beer bottle, almost full. His head was upright, and he stared straight ahead, with composure and dignity. He looked like a buddha. His clothes were torn, his shoes had blown, and his heels were painfully swollen. He still looked like a buddha. He seemed to be performing a sacred ritual, which looked like this:
Staring straight ahead, he'd relax his shoulders a little, close his eyes, raise the beer bottle to face level with an outstretched arm, then bring the bottle to his mouth and take a very long drink. Outstretch his arm, then return bottle to knee, where it rested. He'd then open his eyes and stare straight ahead for a minute or so, then casually look around at other passengers, until he was ready to do the whole ritual again.
I watched him for a few subway stops. He had intelligent eyes, a regal appearance, and seemed to know exactly what he was doing. He was going somewhere, not in a great hurry, but intent on getting there in his own time. I fancied him a shaman, enacting his self-styled ritual, connecting with the sacred, finding a place in his body and soul that was comforting. It's what we all do–search for comfort, and take it where we can. This guy looked like he knew a lot more about life than all of us put together.
Finally, I couldn't stand the stench any longer, and switched cars. On the way home I stopped and had a beer, in honor of the guy. I hope he got where he was going.
Above: Amazing Grace, letters cut from the Bhagavad Gita, 7" x 6", 2009
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Damien Hirst, the clown and artist, is having a galaxy show this month. You probably know all about it. All eleven Gagosian galaxies, I mean galleries, located around the globe, are showing Hirst's Spot Paintings, or is it Dot Paintings? I always forget. Anyway, if you're fab enough to be able to flit and hit all eleven shows, you get a free Spot/Dot print, signed by The Damien. How cool is that? How come I didn't think of that?
So I was thinking, ya know? I'm going to be in three shows in March, scattered all over New York; what if I was to reward my faithful followers in like manner? Would D. Hirst or Larry G. be opposed to my appropriation of a great gimmick? My team of lawyers will handle the details, but I'm all over it. A free xerox copy of one of my text drawings to anyone who goes to all three shows. Signed. Done. Boom.
I guess I should tell you where they are, so you can book your flights, or pump up your bike tires, as the case may be. One's in Manhattan, one's in Brooklyn, and the last is in Saratoga Springs. Details to follow. But back to The Damien. Y'know, I don't hate his Spot paintings. I really don't think they majorly suck; in fact, I even like them, in a hyper-caffeinated kind of way. It bugs me a bit that he didn't muddy his hands to paint a-one of them, but hey – none of my business. His loss. I mean, what's he doing instead? That's what I always wonder about artists who pay someone else to do their work. Why? Are they doing something more fun? What could be more fun than creating something? Do they also pay someone to have sex for them? Or pay them to eat chocolate fudge ice cream? I mean, c'mon, people! Fess up! Tell us what you're doing that's so dang fun and important that you can't make your own art!
Having said that, I think it's time for me to seriously consider hiring someone to help me cut letters. Not because I have something more fun to do (!) but because I want to share the joy. Cutting letters from a Koran with an x-acto – it just doesn't get much better than that. But seriously, if you know of anyone who's looking to start a new career, let them know that the position's available. It's a wage-free job, minimal stress, and lots of yucks.
And with that, big hugs to The Damien, and see the rest of you in March.
Above: Spot Painting, Damien Hirst, circa 2000 AD. Photography courtesy of: