Friday, August 31, 2007

end of summer

The summer was kind to me in art making. While the podcast took almost as much time as running a gallery, it was an easier kind of work… and so I’ve made more photomontages than several years put together. In fact, while planning to send paintings to the Blogger Show in Pittsburgh and NYC, I’ve been wondering if a collage or two might not be a bad idea….

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

David Cohen and Namita Wiggers of the Museum of Contemporary Craft

(interview archive mp3)

Everyone in Portland knows that the Desoto Building opened this year. The Museum of Contemporary Craft moved into it from its old Lair Hill spot and remade itself along the way.

My last interview on Artstar was David Cohen, the director of that museum. He was so savvy in his presentation, so adept with words about not only the museum, but craft itself, that I am having him on the Art World, along with the museum’s curator, Namita Gupta Wiggers. They were the only guests from my home town in this project.

Namita was on the radio once before with me too, when that great embroidery show “Not Your Grandma’s Doily” took place last year. Namita brings a very current view of craft to the space and it will be fun to have them both on the podcast tomorrow.

Friday, August 24, 2007


The other night I visited an artist who told me that she was working on some new pieces about war. I was a little surprised, because so am I. But I shouldn’t be surprised -after all, we’re in the middle of one.

We talked about the difficulty of showing work like this. Commercial galleries can’t really show it much and I’m not out to blame them here. They might, as will museums, if the war (and especially the artist) is history.
My mind started drifting to fanzines or some other kind of publication. And then of course there are always telephone poles….

D.K. Row asks while reviewing a Baskin show:

In this current 21st-century era of war and extraordinary social and political upheaval, such earnest passion and emotional fire is perhaps what's needed…Because as much as it celebrates Baskin, this museum show also poses the question: Where are this generation's passionate, grand voices?

Well, I think they are out there. I mean, if two middle aged artists are making art about war, you can bet young people are doing it. It does, perhaps, take a lifetime to make a passionate, grand voice - and it may not be in the form of representational painting. But however it comes, it just doesn’t figure that well into the gallery system and it never did.

This all reminded me of the Propaganda exhibitions that Start Soma in San Francisco has hosted. They gather work from all over the world and right now, their third exhibition is taking place, posed for a grand tour (I believe it is coming to Portland, but the site doesn’t say where). My work was in the first Propaganda show they held in 2003.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

get out

Two days ago I was looking through a 1970 Life magazine and came across a big spread on how soldiers fared post-Vietnam. A plea by Clark Clifford: Make a Plan and Get Out.

What kept me glued to the photography wasn’t just the grainy horror – somehow they all looked really familiar, like just yesterday familiar.

Then the Times yesterday had a review of Nina Berman photographs at Jen Bekman, and I immediately understood what was so familiar about the Life spread. Once online, I saw that Edward Winckleman had also posted on the show and that like me, he had seen the pictures before while not remembering the photographers name. Because I am often looking at Jen Bekman, it must have been the same for me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Interview with Barbara Takenaga

(interview archive mp3)

I saw a lot of great work at the Affair at the Jupiter Hotel. Some of the most memorable were pieces by Barbara Takenaga at the Gregory Lind Gallery (she also shows at McKenzie Fine Art).

Her work really spoke to me – based on the sky and the infinite, labor and skill intensive yet lots of fun. The more I research her for tomorrow’s podcast, the more I ooo and ahhh. I’m really excited and honored to talk to her about her work.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Joe Lewis

How nice to see this interview with Joe Lewis in Artnet. I must have met Joe Lewis while still in San Francisco. He was doing some kind of project there. Later, when I moved to NY, Fashion Moda (see above) was probably the first place I showed. This led to other shows with Colab and meeting Stefan Eins. Everything Joe says about Moda, its philosophy, etc., I like. It was interesting to see the recent Joe, photo by Mary Barone. I recall a mass of wild hair. He looks just as good without it though.

my own art history

The Sensitive Genius inspired a poll with interesting results and commentary, proposed by Steven Larose, in which two paintings by two artists were posted. I think this was perhaps an inevitable proposal, but I actually had a wave of odd depression over it. Nothing against anyone; it’s just my own feelings about what this vote would or could achieve. (I appreciated Steven’s response too, in the walk-a-mile-in-my-shoes approach. Taking on still life can’t be easy…)

People say they don’t judge work by gender. I doubt that most people consciously do. My point of the post was in showing how opinion and persuasions come in layers, layer upon layer, over a lifetime. For me, the real question was not so much whether one artist could paint better than another, but why one got so much more press.

- Of course we can reduce it to all of the various criteria we have all learned to respect, but that I now often distrust. I couldn’t say my list of Top Ten from art history has one woman in it.

And when I did find a woman artist to love, like Hannah Hoch (see images), I still didn’t place her above John Heartfield. What is strange to me now is that the more I look at Hoch, who now has huge books out on her work - books not available to me 30 years ago - the more I see what a vast, inventive artist she was and that shit, she was doing all kinds of things Heartfield (or Raoul Hausmann) was not. I am not necessarily saying better, but I am saying as good.

Notice I did not use an example in painting. With painting, you open a roaring suitcase difficult to ever casually close again.

So if I didn’t prefer the work of the woman artist in the poll, I would not be surprised! And I could give you a dozen reasons for my choice, all about the quote unquote quality of the work. I am so seeped in my own sexist art history, I was actually kinda jolted when the woman had the edge in the poll! Was this the source of my wincing over the weekend? - Wondering if she was going to get slaughtered in the vote?

Even in the original post at Edward Winckleman, people must defend Elizabeth Murray by insisting that she is: “… a hard-core, died in the wool painter…” “….one of the dyed in the wool artists.”- like we must be convinced, and she better be hard core to be one at all. No one had to convince me that David Salle or Francesco Clemente was a fucking painter. It sounds stupid to even go there.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


August is my end of the year. Things wrap up and it’s like a holding area until the new season can begin. There are only two more shows of this initial podcast... I am just trying to keep working and allow for the waiting... plus a vacation to look forward to next month, once this pilot is done.

Friday, August 17, 2007

the sensitive genius

There was a discussion on the late Elizabeth Murray at Edward Winckleman which began here and continued here. It touched on some recent debates on still life I had here in PDX.

Some said they do not like Murray’s work. What interested me most was the ensuing squirmish over cups and saucers. Some felt she was claiming the domestic and this made them, for a variety of reasons, uncomfortable. But I was wondering just what is the big deal about a cup? It sure was fucking good enough for Cezanne. The Winckleman conversations cover this.

This then reminded me of certain criticism over still life here. One PDX female artist got a slash-and-burn review from the major paper in this town. - And it turned out the feeling was not necessarily generational or establishment vs. new guard, because a younger blogger joined the critic and actually went on record, saying it was a good thing to slash and burn the work.

Yet the same major paper consistently loves another still life painter in this town, a man. So I decided to not only compare the reviews, but also the work itself. I was curious because my own views were not all that different. Why was it so easy for me to dismiss one and yet hold the other in such high regard?

Both painters laid things out on tables and painted them, and they were often the same things: letters, flowers, cups – stuff. Put as much or as little meaning into them as you want to. It was my pal who told me that we might be trained to think of the guys as sensitive geniuses when they take on the cup. But when a woman does it, she’s a Sunday painter emptying out her pantry.

So then I started really looking at the painting. And what I found sort of shocked me – because I had for years been on the he’s-a-sensitive-genius bandwagon and was probably apt to dismiss her. The more I actually looked at the painting, the more I could see that she was just as good a painter as the sensitive genius. But you know, reading all those reviews over the years about how great he is and how awful she is – well, it doesn’t help.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Judd, Stella, Augen

My entry into photomontage was fairly reliant on the copy machine. The only way to share what I was making was to send it out or staple it to a telephone pole. But sometime in the 80s I got tired of the limitations of a Xerox, which is not just size but also color (red prints black, for instance, if you’re copying in black and white). I also got a little tired of whatever kind of “audience” this kind of work was supposed to address.

And so for quite a long time my collages went off in all kinds of directions and must be held in fairly big portfolios. An example is below, with Beau Catching Issue, which obviously uses a shooting range target as the establishing background.

In order to get back into the groove of work this summer, I threw out ideas about size and also, how much cutting it really takes. And I found in my old diaries that I was sort of going back in time with my Judd montages - because I wrote a bit about using Frank Stella in the same way:

I don’t know if he’s a genius but the bright straight lines are perfect to cut up and layer. I’ve used him quite a bit as it is… Presently there’s a show of old Stella at the Augen Gallery – a house converted into a comfortable showroom. The man who runs it is very personable and good looking, knows little of Constructivism BUT knows Dorothea tanning and Max Ernst’s dealer. Often he is dressed in tennis shoes, holey sweaters and jeans….

Bob Kochs used to have a partner in Augen and that is who I must be writing about, as I have never seen Bob in anything but a suit. All these years later, I show at Augen! It’s amazing to me, but maybe it is really not that amazing in the grand scheme of things. I was writing about the gallery 27 years ago...

Interview with Judy Brodsky and Ferris Olin of the Feminist Art Project

(interview mp3 archive here)

This past year has seen Global Feminism and WACK!, to just name a couple of exhibitions which deal with feminism and/or feminist art. But then I read Roberta Smith’s review of one of these shows, saying that there was no real feminist art, but that feminism itself influenced art more just about any ism ( I loosely paraphrase)…

This seemed about right to me, yet I could not really articulate why. I began to ask myself, well, just what was a feminist art. Because I think you can be a feminist yet not necessarily make art about it. But then again, art is about life, you can’t really get around that essential fact. Whatever we think or write about our own art now, it may get spun differently by someone else 50 years from now.

So I thought I would ask some real experts on the subject and that’s when I came across The Feminist Art Project out of Rutgers University. Both of the coordinators, Ferris Olin and Judy Brodsky are joining me. TFAP is part of the Institute for Women and Art, plus they have an archive. Judy was even a contributor to the first comprehensive history of the American women’s movement in art, called The Power of Feminist Art.

Check out their goal: “The Feminist Art Project is a strategic intervention against the ongoing erasure of women from the cultural record.” This wouldn’t strike me so deeply if I had not seen it with my own eyes. I think I know just what the hell they are talking about, but I want to hear it all from them tomorrow on the podcast.

Monday, August 13, 2007

orchid totem

Once I made a painting called Orchid. It was inspired by the combination of cool and warm tones in the flower, and the almost glow-in-the-dark strange purple some of them have. Lately I rediscovered the color and have made four so far in that direction. These are all still down in the studio and not quite done. They can join the Richter Scale or be stacked into totems like the ones above.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

performance, Monty Cantsin

Smegma introduced me to the Neoist Monty Cantsin in 1980. He even says in this interview: "I always say I got trained at the Portland Academy." Nice! (I also wrote a bit about him here).

Monty, also known as Istvar Kantor, always had a thing for blood. He asked me to draw his blood while naked as part of his performance. The first I could not do as he needed a licensed nurse (something he somehow tracked down in every city he toured to, on his “Blood and Gold” tours). The second was actually not the unusual or revolutionary request he might have thought it was.

I have a lengthy description of the performance, full of strange details I would never remember, but no doubt you’ve all had your share of synthesizer-induced theatrics of splattered blood, crucifixes and whatnot! I’ve edited. It was actually the second paragraph, an “action” of his that I had completely forgotten about, which made me smile. (Alan is Alan Lloyd, a member of Smegma):

The audience had taken to sitting on the floor. Monty and I kissed – the video missed that one. Away with my lipstick, shit! Soon Alan killed himself and lay dead on the tables forming the shape of a cross. At the head of the tables is a TV with NEOISM on the screen. Monty began his DEATH action. I tried to bring Alan back to life, taping and tying him up. I lit a gloved finger on fire and then sat on the Neoism TV. Monty tore up magazines, moralism, Christ and his own Neoism and put them into a pot. I cut off his phallus, lit it and put it on the table. Monty has a huge tin foil ball he puts on his head. We covered it with rubber cement and lit it on fire. He and I twirl together, round and round in a swivel chair. That was the fun part. The synthesizer is roaring. The manifesto began. A nurse draws the blood. Part of it goes into the pot, part of it in Alan’s mouth, who then stands and screams with a loaf of bread in his hands: “This is my flesh, eat it!” He breaks the bread and out fly pennies: “This is my blood, drink it!” Monty is naked by this time, his penis was all taped down like he was a eunuch. That is the end.

Afterwards, I thought I loved Monty. This, to a certain extent, is true. He came over to our house and we all drank wine. He quickly (maybe too quickly) looked at my work. He’s rather anti-art and nihilist towards just about everything, including his own stuff. He wanted my magazines and I gave them to him – the last copies I had of everything. When he left, only a little bit of time passed before I ran out after him. I didn’t notice the steps or the lawn or if anything was different. I ran to him, we hugged and kissed and I felt I was alive for that moment only and fuck the rest. In the morning I exited the house and found all my magazines and work torn up on the steps, signed Monty Cantsin. I laughed; it seemed part of his whole trip. He asked for them.

I do not really miss performance art! But I kept those ripped up fanzines for the longest time afterwards. We kept in touch and sometime in the early 90s he sent me a "vacation" piece, and I made the above collage out of it. He was always good at slogans.

Friday, August 10, 2007


I have recounted before when our band (Kinetics) played at Dammasch the state mental institution (where One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest takes place), but I found the actual remembrance written in 1980. As was my way then, it goes in one long running paragraph:

It’s out in the country. Serene enough surroundings. You wouldn’t even know it was there. Trees clutter the grounds and keep your eyes off the stark brick buildings. We are playing in the “Multi-purpose Room.” People wander in and out as we set up the stage, crazy people. Crazy people? It seemed more like NW Portland to me, every one of them. They were lovely people and the best audience we ever had. We talked to a lot of the patients. Everyone is on drugs. They receive enormous amounts. They have to take them or they get shot up. They gave us flowers. Even the staff was reasonable. Of course we only got to see the neurotics, not the psychotics. They really liked the music, even though we did not play very well. Smegma played very well. I’m glad we did it with them. The whole episode has really stayed with me since we got to talk to so many people. It was more relaxed than I had imagined it. Everyone wanted pot but we couldn’t get them stoned. Everyone wanted handshakes and kisses. There I obliged.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

an eloquent response

(painting by Yvette Franz)

Carolyn Zick, the Seattle artist who created the legendary Dangerous Chunky and so much more, has a new journal. It has a unique emphasis on the domestic, I believe, but is not exempt from piercing indictments and reasonable reflections on the art world. I relished every bit of it. I miss her and if she never writes again like this, I will miss this. Her musing prompted Yvette Franz to share the painting above. Sort of says it all. Sometimes I feel this way too.

still on Judd

Two very different images from the 60s. It's kind of interesting to consider how this was all happening at the same time. By the time I completely purge this old Art in America I have, which had a big special on Donald Judd, I could maybe even show all of the Judd Montages. I think there is going to be at least ten.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

stamp art in San Francisco

A site which keeps bringing me back is San Francisco Art Openings. Even though it has been about 20 years since I lived in SF, I still see images from galleries I know, or at least from galleries on streets I once roamed. The site is wonderful too because they check out both the high and the low.

For instance, just this one page gives us works from Gregory Lind, a gallery on Geary which, to loosely paraphrase Gregory, shows works from a perspective of looking at the cosmos. This is the gallery which shows Barbara Takenaga, who I am interviewing later this month.

Then as you scroll down you see this fab show on art event posters at 871. It looks just incredible. I’ve got a few of those myself, along with a growing art announcement postcard collection.

But what really drew my attention was The Multiplicity/ Multiplicidad show at SoMarts Bay Gallery. Wow. The show celebrates a very specialized area of mail art, stamp art. Back in the day, artists not only used the mail as their gallery, they also made their own stamps to confuse the postal system. I recall it well as I was lucky enough to receive these kinds of missives in the late 70s. I have whole pages of stamps by Buster Cleveland (see above), who might be one of the greatest innovators of this genre.

And how wonderful it was to see pictures of Anna Banana! As the post says, Anna is the grand matriarch of mail art (though like Eunice Parsons, I have a weird relationship with that word, matriarch. It's a double-edged sword…). Anna was the one to deliver Vile and then, Femail Art. Anna is a legend and I would have loved to have been at that opening.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

the secret side

Occasionally I hear concerns that certain avenues here are very youth driven. These people are perhaps feeling dismissed or at least see it coming. And they think that the other side is really full of themselves.

But maybe we are forgetting what it is like to be young.

As I am researching some things, I came across my account of the very first show I ever curated and well, my first real exhibition in a gallery. It was called The Secret Side (after the Nico song) and it was at the Northwest Artists Workshop in January of 1980. Meanwhile, there’s an opening upstairs of ED RUSCHA and I completely dismiss it!! I reproduce it here, in one long running paragraph, just as it was:

I slept beforehand – I wasn’t a wreck. But I didn’t think the Secret Side would actually get it together. Once Thursday arrived, everyone worked like mad. The taped music blaring out drove us on, much to NWAW’s torment. The windows were beautiful, my new paintings well received. The collaboration piece (all video-taped by Mike Lastra) was fun. Our secret annex of wallpaper, lampshades and boxes turned out fine. Kris’s piece was really lovely and Vicki showed up to hang her own work. Michael King had great stuff, but he was too punky to stay for the fucking opening. Bill worked like crazy for anybody there.The opening was swinging and very different next to the Ed Ruscha opening upstairs at PCVA. All this boring art there (what a shame, he once was so great). And very boring people talking and drinking but not talking about art. I saw Tad Savinar hanging around the money. I wondered how they could all stay there for so long when the most happening thing in ages was downstairs. Ken Butler was with us and enjoyed himself, as did Pietro Ferrua. We drank Spanish Champagne and smoked a lot of pot when there was time. One woman – what was her name? – asked me many questions and said that she could see that I had worked very hard, it showed. I cried, I couldn’t help it. She is right, I hope.

(Postscript: I LOVE Ed Ruscha! What the F was I thinking?)

Interview with Michael Darling

(interview archive mp3)

It’s time to do a show in Seattle. This will not be my first one either, as at Artstar I actually did a “Seattle Slew,” about 6 interviews in a row with all guests from that town. I had a lot of fun with that. (For the record, from Seattle I have already interviewed m, Steven Vroom, Carolyn Zick, Mark Zirpel, Alice Wheeler and Jim Demetre.)

It’s not like I have been to a ton of sculpture parks, but the ones I have were experiences I will not forget. Perhaps my favorite is the one in St. Paul de Vence at the Maeght Foundation, but this could be more due to Romance than what is actually there (although if France is there, that’s enough).

Seattle now has the Olympic Sculpture Park, and to follow it up, a new and improved SAM opened too. I’m really lucky to have Michael Darling, the curator of modern and contemporary art to join me on the podcast tomorrow. Jen Graves has a great interview with him here, when he was just arriving in Seattle from LA.

Monday, August 6, 2007

where is she?

Since my last post I have been researching chick lit art genre, for a friend told me that the tale has been told and in fact, many times.

For instance, even in the Times today is a review of a story of a dead male artist and what biographers have to go through to get the scoop. Many female ex-lovers are not being very cooperative with giving a respectful account!

There is also the story of a young woman who meets an Irish painter on the verge of superstardom. There’s the story of a hapless gallerina, assigned to take care of an re-imagined Andy Warhol – save, get this – he’s straight. There’s the story of another hapless gallerina, a going-nowhere-fast-aspiring-artist, who finds herself in the middle of a bidding war over – guess what? Another dead male artist’s work.

Phew! Where is the story of the woman artist?

(And let's have her on the verge of superstardom and bidding wars, while we're at it.)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

just thinking about it

Chick Lit is a genre so big, it’s almost over. No doubt some Chick Lit is better than others. And maybe what I am thinking about is not even Chick Lit.

Ever since I interviewed Lisa Hunter, my mind has been wondering down a storyline she gave when I asked for a hot collecting tip. She actually said something to the effect of: “If I had to pick the next Van Gogh, she is probably 50 and painting in her basement.”

Nearly everyday that I am trudging down into my basement, I still feel kinda lucky that I at least have one. But it isn’t just my own story I’m thinking about. I know so many who have given me this rich montage of what it takes to stay an artist. Not so much how to become one, but how to stay one.

And I’ve learned on my own that the art world isn’t really about art objects, not really. It’s about strange, colorful and often volatile relationships. Some of us have recorded those conversations, stages and styles.

You have to be careful about memoirs. Richard Polsky told me that there’s only so much you can say about another person, and I recall that Bianca got pissed over what Andy wrote in his diaries about her (or rather, she was pissed that it got published). I'm not out to out anyone, yet truth is more fun than so much fiction. But what if you just rearranged the truth? I've got 135 notebooks for starters as one resource...The mind reels at the possibilities.

(Lisa's interview is archived here.)