Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Like many artists, I love Liz Taylor. I also like Eugene Delacroix and had a good time combining them. They are both Romantics.

Monday, April 28, 2008


A few people have asked me how Isabella and Edward are doing. They got together this weekend, but he is still a little too enthusiastic to get close.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mark R. Smith and Maria T.D. Inocencio at South Waterfront

The South Waterfront here has an artist in residency program. For a year, Linda K. Johnson is curating various artists to make work which engages the community in that area and points beyond. For the month of April, Mark R. Smith (above) and Maria T.D. Inocencio collaborated on a piece called Compass. The artists are interviewed here. The projects involved all kinds of cool maps and flags representing everyone who participated.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Naked Women

Sometimes art of the Olden Days looks like a Gentleman’s Sport. Lately I’ve been finding old issues of Art Digest, which had very archaic covers. Yet they are not ancient, giving me just another reason why women artists had a tough time making headway. As the Guerilla Girls liked to remind us, the best way to get into the museum was to get naked.

These rags are for cutting up, but instead I’ve limped through the passages and articles, mind blown at the images and what they say.

Sure, they do get to the modern masters, as they call them - Picasso and Matisse and so on - which then reminded me of the “great paintings” poll around the blogosphere via Newsweek awhile back. The question was: what are the greatest paintings of the 20th century? I smiled at one blog, which pitched White on White by Malevich.

Naked women by Picasso seemed the favorite. Tyler Green added a nude by Matisse into the mix. I fell asleep at these choices, regardless of history – which hey, can be rewritten. Mostly I am just bored, bored, bored of naked babes, especially as any kind of pitch for the best of the 20th century.

And especially in light of what we read of how women functioned in Picasso’s life – the ones he painted. A whole army was in place to keep his shit together. I also recently read a disgusting and fascinating account by Kennedy Frazier on the women of Matisse and how he fed off whores for a long time after he decided his wife (Woman in the Hat, etc) was too old to paint.

Ah, the way the critics argue that Picasso needed Matisse and Matisse needed Picasso and so on, as regards the making of a painting of a woman. No, what they really needed was a lot of naked women! And a system compliant in rounding them up.

I remember a certain art history Prof from the University of Oregon who wanted to take pictures of me. I thought gee whiz, Okay. Once there in his studio, he asked me to get naked. Yeah, my professor. I won’t tell you which area was his expertise. I was all confused and probably too stupid to not have seen this coming, but thank God not stupid enough to comply.

Art history is filled with back-stories which define why things are important. These paintings of naked women are no longer just, well, “great paintings” to me. The equipment pictured is actually very familiar – no surprises there – and the audience (and dialogue created from) is no longer just comprised by those who don’t have it but want to look.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Christoph Hueppi at Gallery Homeland

Yesterday I met Christoph Hueppi of Zurich, Switzerland who has had a residency at Gallery Homeland here. He produced a sizeable body of work called Swarm Intelligence, all inspired from ants he witnessed in india. Chris talks about the paintings in this video.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

the Big 5-0

I sent this collage to my friend, who turns 50 today. Maybe someday I'll make a whole body of work using the Demuth 5. This particular 5 is cut from a previous montage, combining it with O'Keeffe - hence, the same tear.

Recently Ken Butler was in town and gave me a heavy duty stash of art books, as his childhood home is being sold. This stash has been in a basement and is so moldy, it can't be held with other books and wasn't fit for giving to the library. So I get to cut the babies up.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jenene Nagy at the Marylhurst Art Gym

At the Marylhurst Art Gym there's also a show called Sitelines, works by Jenene Nagy and Stephanie Robison. In this video Nagy talks about her recent work and how she’s dealing with space and to some degree, with sculptural and painting boundaries. There’s an interest in color too: Nagy tells us that we don’t actually remember color, in that we cannot reproduce it later on. As to memory, I’m willing to believe that it always plays tricks and that perception is in no way universal or even consistent. But as to reproduction, I’m not so sure that experience (and color) cannot be made - some kick-ass painters still taking that on….

Monday, April 14, 2008

Jesse Hayward at the Marylhurst Art Gym

Jesse Hayward has a show up at the Marylhurst Art Gym called the Why and the Why Not. I first saw his work at the Haze Gallery and then, at Gallery 500, where he showed sculptures that practically peeled away my retinas, they were so intensely colored. I curated him later into Chambers. All of the work I’ve enjoyed. In this video, he talks about the show up now at Marylhurst.

the Matriarchist

I have a theory: artists go crazy when they have a show. Sure, some of them – many of us, how about that – are already crazy. But we can become not ourselves at all during this crucial time.

I'm not sure why it is. Is it because we spend all of that time in the studio and the social skills are rusty? Or is this a frantic do-or-die mentality which takes over? We want control and say things which can eventually hurt us the most.

One day I had a near-paralyzing experience with an artist. I liked and trusted him from the moment I saw him and his work. It was an immediate, almost instinctual response. The show I was to hang (and promote, let us not forget) was his first real gallery show - no small thing really, especially considering that I showed a lot of artists on the other side of 40 and he was not. But he seemed to have a lot of grace in his character as well as his style.

On the day he delivered the work, we installed some of it together – maybe a mistake on my part, looking back. For then he had some time to talk price and how he wanted to up it all. We got into a discussion about it, because while I believe his work is worth more than the proposed price tag (as is the case with virtually every PDX artist), it's a market and I could probably sell some work that my audience, such as they were, could afford.

He said he did not care about the past, about other artists, about my own trials as an undervalued artist, or those of my peers: he lived in the present. He did not go to art school, he did not care if he sold at all. He knew what he wanted for them and if they didn't sell at all, so what.

I began to ask myself if he would have talked to the owner the way he talked to me. The owner was a man, tall and older, generous and quite kind to foot the bill on that operation…. tell him you don't care if you sell!

When I told him (stupid on my part, this I know now): "Hey, I'm turning 50 this year and have some experience," he said contritely: "Congratulations."

Here was the wild card about the whole thing - he had, before this all came up, in a previous enraptured discussion, explained how his art was all about the matriarchy!

When I talked about my own journey to commercial galleries in this town, he said: "Don't bring the personal and your own baggage into this." Hmm… I thought it must have been obvious that my personal baggage is what got him that show to begin with. It is everything, for better or worse, and it is not up to him to delete.

What the hell became of the free thinker, the graciousness and the fucking matriarchy, by the way? Is this the new Feminist Man? Ouch. Call me mean and crazy, but this repartee took all spark out of this show for me. He knew best. Then he could fucking sell it.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

the Impossibilists at Rake

I was just casually walking around First Thursday and sauntered into Rake, completely unprepared to encounter works by an artist I knew years ago: Tom Cassidy. He was often known by another name: Musicmaster. This is what he called himself for a lot of his mail art activities and poster work in the 1970s.

It was in fact Musicmaster who gave me my first job when I arrived in Portland in 1978. This was no small thing – I was highly unemployable! Of course you can probably be the prom queen these days, looking like I did, but back them most people thought I was some kind of insane hooker. But people actually referred me to him, as a weird artist sympathetic to such and pretty soon I was behind the bar at the notorious Earth Tavern.

The exhibition at Rake has a table full of propaganda from those days, including punk posters made by all kinds of artists, myself included. But what I found most interesting were all the Impossibilist Manifestoes. I can only say that Impossiblism is like Dada – take it from there, think what you will. Tonight the Impossibilitists (including Mark Sargent, another crazy from back in the day) will perform at Rake.

Friday, April 4, 2008

beauty and anger

Naomi Campbell was arrested again, this time for a little run-in with the police. I‘ve been trying to use her lately and it hasn’t been a breeze. Perhaps it’s due to not particularly liking her – liking helps – and not so much for all her bad press. Campbell was quite unkind to my boss at Chanel in the early 90s, when she was still high in the Trinity, hurling a foul and obscene litany on the phone because my boss could not get an alteration done in the timely manner Ms. Campbell desired. My boss, having a really good (and French) sense of humor, blasted the entire rant on speaker phone in the employees lounge for all us worker-bees to enjoy.

- So why use her at all? Beauty and anger are not necessarily divorced from one another. One’s greatest power can at times feel like a dehumanizing curse. She once said in W that her anger stemmed from not knowing her father (something I can relate to), but I don’t think it explains all.

In the same interview, she expressed surprise/amusement when people were interested in what she wore to her community service gigs for her previous trespassing in anger at the little people. “I’ve never looked bad in my life,” she said (italics theirs).

Whoa, not in your life. The pressure, with so many hands and eyes all over you since you were 15. I’d be pissed too. You could say it's just a photograph but after awhile, one wonders. I’m no Naomi Campbell, but I do know what it’s like to shift the expectation for a nanosecond. Some who smirked or snarled the lipstick and nails were still oddly taken back on the day I showed up without it. “Are you sick?” they asked me.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Lucinda Parker at Laura Russo

Yesterday Lucinda Parker and I made a short video about her present show up at the Laura Russo Gallery, which opens tonight. For the past year she has been working on a public art project, a mural for the Lower Columbia College in Longview, Washington (sponsored by the Washington State Arts Commission). Studies for the mural are at the show, which opens tonight, plus some new big paintings too.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

memoirs, real and imagined

Truth can be stranger than fiction. The more I tried to write fiction, the more this became obvious. Depends, of course, on who is doing the living. So I’ve been reading memoirs and contrasting, especially as it is such a big market.

For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why so many fake ones were coming out. All the hype around this very real tragic story, reviews and profiles, sorrow and redemption – and then it’s all fake! It happened recently with this woman who claimed to grow up in a LA street gang, half Native American. She was profiled in the Times and I paid attention, as she was also now living in Eugene, Oregon of all places. It turned out to be all a scam.

The plight of JT Leroy was perhaps the most notorious. And now the writer, a middle aged woman who (I guess) could not sell her incredible story as a novel must now pay thousands because she tricked so many people into thinking it was all real.

Why is “reality” so much more interesting and marketable than fiction? Is it because the reader will eat more readily the sweat and sorrow you actually – supposedly! – sewed?

One memoir was recommended to me because it was based in wild and weird San Francisco and therefore, I might relate. Well, Everyone into the Pool begins with an account around the family dinner table, straight out of Ozzie and Harriet, where everybody’s happy nowadays – with the Mom wondering if it’s really true that so many people out there actually had, gosh, unhappy childhoods.

The author Beth Lisick indeed seems to have had a perfect one, cheerleader and prom queen to boot. But oh, she bravely tosses that mundane happiness all aside to pretend to be queer in SF, sow wild seeds and experiment, to eventually discover that she is indeed straight and lives to tell the tale.

- Actually, I am just projecting from a book jacket, because after reading two or three pages, I became kinda nauseous and could read no more. It’s not all that “brave” or even funny to me, her tripping down the Wild Side, as I knew so many who had no choice. The reviews refer to her living in "squalor" as if this is fodder for a sitcom.

Choice is an operative word here in several ways: it speaks of class, but also alludes to being compelled, as opposed to having another cheap holiday in other people’s misery.

The dinner table at Ozzie and Harriet’s is one I can only describe from the TV set. How about dope dealers moving in with a greatest generation republican mom much their elder (who never does, oddly enough, change her vote) - young enough, in fact, to be wanting to fuck you almost as much as her, loading you up with four finger lids to sell at your high school. It all only moves into a slow decline when the FBI finally show up at the house and mom is now having me bury sixteen pot plants. And in a hurry. Hopefully they won't find the LSD tabs in the freezer. Let’s just say that being prom queen never entered my mind.