Wednesday, February 28, 2007

just paint

Recently I was on a critique panel for students. My panel was all female and so were the students we dealt with. This might normally not be significant. In the case of the first student, gender played no part of the discussion. It was for the second and in fact the more the critique progressed, the more the subject of gender came down like an eventual heavy rain. And that had everything to do with medium: paint.

It is never just about how a painting looks or what it means. It’s hinged on an immense history you measure, entertain and wrestle with. It is also hinged on going forward in an almost blind leap of faith at some point – to what we want to do. And how there is almost always some (well meaning, no doubt!) fellow telling you that (at least for now) it’s not really possible. You are not ready.

It was all too familiar to when I was at the Art Students League in the 80s and Frank O’Cain is telling me: “…But… you can’t… do… that!”

I shoulda said just watch me. Nonetheless I will make no confession of regret – having stayed instead in a place my instructor felt safe in, because my drawing skills became fierce, and they are fun to have. But as to the young woman in question in 2007, the entire panel said just do it. Just p a i n t. This is not about what you can’t do. This is about what you can. Do.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

more on Paper Chase

I left yesterday’s interview (with Jenny and Shawn) thinking about paper, montage and art history. Maybe I will be able to venture into it a little bit here during the course of the upcoming Paper Chase. In the meantime, here are a few images. Above is Heidi Kirkpatrick, who started out with the camera but has moved more and more into using her photographs as a starting point in mixed media.

Same with Shawn Long. She photographs the central image and then takes it from there. Below you see a Jenny Strayer, who has complete different bodies of work addressing different themes. In Paper Chase she is showing a classic approach to photomontage.

Monday, February 26, 2007

5th and 57th

A website I appreciate very much is the Sartorialist, featuring pics of style from the street. This site has one section of short videos in which people are interviewed on their style. I guess what draws me to this section in particular is that the photographer has chosen two intersections where I spent a large chunk of my life.

Especially 5th and 57th. If I was not working at Bergdorf’s, then I was at the Chanel Boutique. I lived really close (at 9th and 56th) and so jobs at that beat were perfect for me. It is only in retrospect that I can see that if I were to truly be ambitious as a visual artist, I should have gotten completely out of that area - and it is no accident that as the years went by, my ‘career’ became more and more about fashion.

The longer I worked around that famous intersection, the more I fantasized about a book I wanted to make, named right after it. And it would simply be characters, real characters of that beat and the monologues they would give me - one page, an entire full-length photograph not unlike what The Sartorialist provides and then, the one page monologue. But of course I used to wonder just how outrageous I could make this monologue.

You see, women will say the most outrageous things to their makeup artist. Often the stories were as fascinating as the veneer and I know a lot of people don’t count on that. They think the book’s all cover, but I found this not to be the case.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Paper Chase

Tomorrow’s radio show is about Paper Chase, which opens at Marilyn Murdoch’s Guestroom this next Friday. I will have both the curator, Jenny Strayer, and the director of Guestroom, Shawn Long. They will talk about the conception and course of this exhibition, plus give the lowdown on Guestroom, a gallery known for taking on guest curators.

These two individuals just happen to be photomontage artists who are also in the show. A few years ago Strayer joined me on the air because she was a photographer – and also because she had a marvelous story about recovering photographs made by a father she barely knew, which produced a show at S.K Josefsberg. However, photomontage did not even seem to be on the horizon when I met her then, so I am curious to hear how it all panned out.

I hope to post more images and stories from Paper Chase later. The work above is by Philip Iosca (photo credit: Adam Levey).

Saturday, February 24, 2007


For the past month of so I vacillate between the states of lingering and devouring the autobiography of Jane Fonda, a gift from a friend. She’s become a hero in the process, something I don’t think she really jockeys for.

Her reality of clear imperfection is just as invigorating as her activism, her films (like the incredible Klute), her voice, her men. I like it all. She’s generous with everyone in a way I would not want to be, but considering that she has only just arrived at her ‘third act’, as she calls it- maybe she’s not ready to ruffle all the feathers yet. Hard to imagine that, considering her over-drive life.

And imagine hearing straight from the gate: I don’t like you! – when you meet the legend Katherine Hepburn (another hero of mine; the making of On Golden Pond was something I had to read all over twice). But Jane learns from Hepburn what it took to be the legend and at what costs, what kind of sacrifice and mindset it takes to be the best (hint: a relentless insistence on nothing but the resolute best in every single thing you do, say and are – and no breaks from that, ever).

How refreshing it is when the politically correct Tom Hayden, who tells the press that the reason he can be with her is because: “…The degree to which Jane had changed and the mutual strategic outlook was exactly right” is on to the next! (Hayden hated her celebrity and the fact that her little ‘vanity project’, the Workout, brought his organization over 17 million.)
- I’m right now at the part when the near-goony Captain-America’s Cup Turner sails down to rejuvenate Jane and she decides that even though she’s not ready to date, she descends the stairs in a black miniskirt (at 51), black halter top, black heels. “A few studs and I would have passed for a dominatrix.”

The reason I received this book in the first place is that my friend knew I lusted for a spot on Greenstone media. “Here,” she said, “Read about your hero.” It was actually her partner at Greenstone, Gloria Steinem, who I thought was my hero. Now it’s a double-whammy of a dream.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Not long ago I received an email from Bean Gilsdorf, something to the effect of:

Hey, we are moving some stuff and see that we have all these old magazines. Old Lifes and some old National Geographics. You wouldn’t want these, would you?

!!!! - Thank you, Bean. Just having a stack of extra stash makes happy, even when if I don’t montage a lot right now. I still like looking at it, being around it.

- Not that I am not a packrat. In fact I throw out too much and regret not only the tossed materials but the tossed miniskirts. If you move around alot, none of it can be too precious. And friends were upset that I cut up what they might keep (if they did such things), but still – they liked the results. Now however, as I lay it out, I see that I have artifacts, a library of sorts - of assassinations and wars and the rise of the sexual revolution.

Monday, February 19, 2007

about the recent debate

There has been quite a ruckus about the bum dragons placed in Chinatown. But I know from my own stint in curating public art with the Tri-met Interstate Max Line how difficult that whole process is.

TJ Norris said the problem might lay with not placing an “Asian-based” art into that project to begin with. While the name Horatio Law immediately comes to mind, (and he might not have what this project was looking for anyway), curating by race or/and gender is really tricky, really hard – but I think it was always done. Just differently, that's all.

In the beginning and in the end, you’ve got a lot more than just the art on your mind. Even when curators tell me, like they did on my gender bias panel on the radio, that they never think of such things, the identity of the artist is a back current always in play.

As to public art, we’re looking for 'consensus', right? Alot of art does not spring from that. Still, I loved the challenge of curating artworks for that project, would do it all over again and do more if I was asked, but navigating the actual art was only part of my concerns. People want to see themselves there, whoever we are. But man oh man when I made those cold calls – to artists of the right medium, the right style and let us not forget, also the right race and gender, I essentially had before me a check-off list. It was like a high form of cookery.

And yet I am the first one to complain about all the white guys getting the kudos. Still – do you got to make a list? Until it’s all different, whenever and however that is, well – yeah. This list is not just about the images or ‘the market’ or that mantra known as the ‘quality of work.’ Look, as we do in art history classes - at the artist. The artist makes the art and they also make the history. But many are still poorly trained in being their own advocate.

On Artstar today I have an artist who was in that Tri-met project. The station had a theme already when I arrived – j a z z – and Tri-Met was very clear in their aims: find the artist wedded to that theme in their art and that place and that community. In Bill Rutherford he appeared, an artist who lived and breathed jazz from what seems to be infancy. Now he has a show at Broderick (the above painting is from that show), paired with music history lessons and stories from his youth. His parents knew the hot and heavies of the jazz world and were figures in the civil rights movement.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mary Henry

I saw a few nice paintings at PDX yesterday, the work of Mary Henry. Showing with her was D.E. May, a natural fit, as was also the Ryan Jeffries video. The press release states that Mary Henry is one of the Northwest's most formidable painters. This is, in my humble opinion, almost an understatement.

She’s art history royalty, a link to her teacher Moholy Nagy and the Bauhaus. I never saw a Henry I didn’t like, but then again, she would be preaching to the choir. Right now she is also showing at Howard House.

I remember the first time I saw her work. It was also perhaps the first time I was ever in PDX. Jane Beebe engaged with me right away about what I was seeing and when she saw that she had an appreciative audience, she said: “This work actually looks best with no light at all.” She proceeded to turn off the lights and close the blinds. (One of those paintings, by the way, is now at the Portland Art Museum.)

I knew from my own work just what she was talking about. There is more than one reason why I’ve had a show called Night Gallery and then another called Night Paintings. When the lights were turned out and I sat up in my bed, I would look at my paintings. They always looked best then, after the eyes had adjusted to the dark, almost functioning as the light source. This is still a means for me today - the most recent work I always have lined up wherever I sleep and the true test of its existence is how it looks in the dark.

Turning off the lights for stranger is just one example of Jane Beebe going the extra mile. She always has and is my idea of a great gallerist.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

collection (Ross Sutherland)

I've written about Ross before, my first-ever art pal. When I was just a freshman in high school, he rescued me - exposing me to the early Interviews and everything Andy. Over those early years, Ross gave me lots of cool stuff of the print persuasion. Here it looks like he’s made himself into the architect of the Chrysler Building.

That’s my favorite building in New York. For those who also love it, New York Daily Photo has done an incredible job of it here and here. I love that website.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

more on the northwest passage

I had almost too much fun talking to Mike Lastra on the radio. When I get that excited, it doesn’t sound very professional. But when Mike told me how the material for his film Northwest Passage, to be premiered tomorrow night at Cinema 21, was from the ‘seminal period of 1978 – 1983’, that was, well, music to my ears.

Everyone is going to have a certain fondness for what happened in their youth, but even people who were not young in that era have agreed with me about it. Mike pointed out that the sound of Nirvana, so singular to many, have its roots in the Wipers, in a very obvious way and nothing they wished to hide. I recall when I first heard Nirvana – I was 3000 miles away from the Pacific Northwest, but I thought gee, this sure sounds like someone I knew.

While I was invested before 1978, 1983 also marks the year I bailed. That’s the year I left the record business and changed ‘careers’ – or rather, got one. As an import buyer, I felt I wasn’t paid very much for having to keep up on so much. After all, Aquarius Records back then was a cultural Grand Central and my job was taking some kind of pulse on London, Berlin or Tokyo and bringing it back to SF.

That pulse by 1983 had changed – not necessarily for the worse, just different, and in fact for many people, it would be better. The die had been cast and the makings of a hundred different future genres were in play. We had just passed through a brief time, as Mike pointed out, in which few labels had yet been applied. We all played together and we belonged to no specific camps. Once the camps started being established, I intuitively wanted out.

I still liked the music, but it didn’t carry the same kind of weight. Any kind of creative activity, to stay involved, requires commitment. But I still held on to art.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


In my last post about my own painting, I talked about color but not about form. Well, here is where the formula for adventure slowly changes. Color dominates, pumps and charges the consistent form, to give me personally more pleasure and to drive home an infinite prospect.

In the beginning and in the end, I knew the same thing: the union of the line provided the horizon. The more I painted this in multiple, the more I saw the singular within. I saw where the power resided – and that’s really how the Richter Scale began – just an extension of that place of unity, where it all comes down.

Monday, February 12, 2007

collection (Paul Fujita)

I met Paul Fujita when I was curating the Tri-Met Interstate Max line. It turns out that his work (along with Eric Stotik’s) was perfect to conclude that line, which ends at Expo - where a Japanese internment camp once was during World War II. Both of those works were about journeys. Paul was very adept at the artist book, and what we used was merely an open book for the project. You get a sense from this image of the abandon in what he does.

Paul was already fairly well known in PDX for his start-up gallery with Tyler Kline, Zeitgeist. Paul is still running it and putting on fun shows. I would not have learned about the work of Alex Lilly and Klutch (whose work I love) had it not been for him.

So, Paul does all kinds of things, but especially for using the skateboard in inventive ways. Here you see attendees of a skateboard convention of some sort, in which he took the mugshot – style pics and montaged them to the skateboard backing. They are nifty block-like pieces you can put anywhere and they travel from here to there in my house.

Friday, February 9, 2007

s t r e t c h color

Yesterday I was just cutting away, attempting montage. The process feels - like a process. None of it has been easy since I lost my stash-bag of treasured images, a tragic event I detailed in my old diary. It’s inch by inch. But thankfully when it comes to paint – and maybe it’s because I had some time off – ideas rush in. And it all revolves around color.

There’s not a time in my life I did not think about it. I did not allow myself to claim it, however, in some gloriously possessive way as regards painting, until I was in my 40s.

My own past is the catalogue for future territories. It’s not like I think of particular events or fashions or clients - all I see is the big expanse. No matter where I am or how I feel, it provides a formula for adventure. Going to the box of paints, color is all I have to think about.

The knowledge of time was one of most liberating things I received in illness. Whether I have a year left to paint, or forty, there is still time. I believe I did what was right for an artist in their 20s to do when I was that age: live hard. So now I’m choosing to live light and live in what light I have. And stretch color.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

collection (Andi Septic)

While going through some old mail art, I found a big collection of missives from Andi Septic. Andi was a wonderful punk artist in London when I was living there in 77/78 and we became friends. We corresponded for years afterward, but it has been even more years since I last heard. If anyone knows him, please send him my way. We really connected and I still miss him.

At one point he became Andru Layke and I have no idea what name he uses now. I never knew his name given at birth. He went from the punk style to full-blown New Romantic, like you see here. He was a Blitzkid and also got more into fashion designing and a little less into art, the last I heard. He sent me xeroxes of wildstyle and kept me abreast of a certain kind of London that was really covered by Details or The Face at that time.

Andi made statements about the fast nature of gay culture back then. These works pre-dated the AIDS onslaught and he had a certain intuition about an oncoming crisis. Like any good artist, he anticipated and was looking through the front window.

Monday, February 5, 2007


Today my guest on the radio with be Weihong. She has an interesting performance/ installation going on at Ogle right now.

It is rare that I ask anyone on if I have never met them before – too many unknown variables. As I like to point out, I don’t interview art objects. I interview human beings. So it’s good to check in on their humanity first! But with Weihong, I figured that anyone who poured tea all day long in an installation for the ‘viewer’, while also taking their picture, must have a good dose of empathy in their makeup. Once I met her (briefly), I knew I was right.

In her site, you will see all kinds of art making going on – paintings and photography and installations. She clearly has a thing for black and white and what I suppose must be Ying and Yang. She has poured tea for (and then photographed) luminaries from all over the world. The interview will be archived here for several weeks.

Friday, February 2, 2007

collection (Cavellini)

Where to begin with Cavellini? I’ll start at my beginning with him: he was old and I was young. I had heard of him many times through the world of mail art, which was kind of winding down by the early 80s. One saw his work in many journals and everyone seemed so infatuated – he was kind of like a god. I didn’t really get it until I met him. He was an extremely kind and generous man.

He’d met Marcel Duchamp. Had a fairly adventurous life. Early on he had made his own autobiography his art and wrote it everywhere he could. Text itself was the art form, as you see from his suit. He laid it on shaved heads, he wrote it on naked bodies – including my own during the Interdada Festival in San Francisco in 1984 (photo by Turk LeClair). Using his same fluid hand, he rewrote art history and put himself and his friends in high places, like what you see here.

He also made books, postcards, leaflets and loads of colorful propaganda. I have a slew of it at home and can’t begin to share half of it. He would send huge posters which were all collaged over with hand-written and hand-painted bits. He was famous for stickers with his lifespan of 100 years printed on them (which unfortunately turned out to not be true, as Cavellini passed on in 1990).