Thursday, July 31, 2008

being stalked

We interrupt this art blog to talk about something which happens to many women – and even some men: being stalked. Today the NYTimes has an article about a woman who has come forward, albeit anonymously, to tell her story of being stalked: In his Sight. Over the years an ex-lover fucks with her head and her life. It’s still not over.

The police say it is a fairly common occurrence. It sure doesn’t feel like that when it happens. I’ve been stalked twice. One man in particular came back to haunt me more than once over the decades. He’s in Portland, Oregon. He’s probably reading this. I actually winced hard when I made the decision to move back there. But the blessing of his situation, if you can even call it that, is that he has stalked other women and so the police paid attention when he came after me again.

And initially it wasn’t even the police. There’s a volunteer unit, made up largely of women (who have probably all been stalked or know victims), who track the complaints. It was one of these women who followed up on my case and made some kind of deal about it - because the asshole has hurt other women. He is to be believed.

And to think of it: all because I was once nice to this person. He appeared to be a talented and alienated poet when I met him and I encouraged him. Big, big mistake. The strange stupid turns we can naively take which then produce entire notebooks full of ideas on how to fuck and execute us, phone calls at odd hours to home and work. The guys at my job didn’t take the threats seriously until they started answering the calls. Then my God, the outrage, the unfairness of it all - surely something will be done? Welcome to being stalked.

Years ago my life in San Francisco - which consisted gloriously, for the most part, of beauty, youth and joy - was almost completely destroyed by a jilted lover: calls at all hours and to my pals as well, to strangers vaguely associated with me, to workmates. At every party, in the library, in the bus, in a bar. A bombardment of mail, the doorbell buzzing at 3AM and most of all – lies - to my friends or anyone who would listen, a kind of character assassination and almost of a personality which could no longer sleep. It did not end until I left San Francisco.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sketch Tuesdays at 111 Minna

I am back in San Francisco for awhile. Last night I checked out Sketch Tuesdays at 111 Minna. Brad K. Alder curates about 20 artists into this monthly event. They come from all styles and backgrounds. The work is made right there on the spot and then sold for very reasonable prices. It was also a very loud event but I think you can still hear most of what was said in this video. I talked to the curator (above) and some of the artists.

On the way down here I stopped in Ashland and visited Steven LaRose. I met his daughter and wife and famous cat and dog too. It was all good.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Brian Borrello at Pulliam-Deffenbaugh

Yesterday I caught up with Brian Borrello at his show at Pulliam-Deffenbaugh and we made this short video. The show is called Ars Brevis, Vita Longa – Art is short, life is long. The works are made with ink, charcoal and motor oil, plus he has some sculptures in this show. Brian is known for public art works as well and thematically there’s crossover in everything he does.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Holly Andres at Quality Pictures

Yesterday Holly Andres and I made a short video about her current show. She is showing photographs at Quality Pictures. The entire work, called Sparrow Lane, feels like a document of installation too because every part of the picture is made by the artist – plus there’s a cool green wall as you turn the corner, filled with mementos and images with a smaller, more intimate view.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

John and Jacqueline

As a way to sharpen oral history skills, I thought I would volunteer at the Oregon Historical Society, which has projects in that line. I would have liked to interview subjects, but funding is closed for those efforts. Still, there are hundreds of hours of interviews left to transcribe. The director gave me what appeared to be a special project to work on.

Often the interviews entail many hours on one person, done over time – and are not just about a single life but an entire community and a place. Sometimes the stories these people tell are very interesting but as you can imagine, some of it carries on a bit. And because they are so long, perhaps several people will transcribe a single interview. There may not be that sense of a complete whole for those who transcribe.

What he gave me instead was a 20 minute interview with John and Jacqueline Kennedy in 1960, when they were passing through Oregon and he was a senator, running for president.

It was so cool to hear those voices you know through this old tape! Right away I recognized the little girl inflections of Jackie, who coos and murmurs her words as much as she speaks them. The interviewer asked her about her "philosophy" on parenting, her hobbies and teased her that she read 17th and 18th century European history. Jack defended her admirably though. Still, it was a moment in time not dissimilar to "Mad Men" on TV - 1960. Here's a woman who was a journalist and a photographer (that's how she met Jack), but the journalist asks her what kind of lunch she prepares for him.

What is interesting in this line of work is that you can really compare the speech patterns. And right off the bat, I have to say that Jackie is incredibly measured next to Jack, careful and very well spoken. No grammatical errors at all. All her boarding school shines through. But with JFK, he's a mess. He is not any better than the man we have in the oval office now. But I think more people are like him than her anyway - most of us do not speak so mindfully at all and we make a mess of language.

Another glaringly obvious fact is that he's such a politician. Give him a question and he's off and running. As of this interview, it's all about the Teamsters and Jimmy Hoffa. Pretty interesting actually. Still, it's such a marked contrast to what they ask Jackie, or even allow her to say.

Something else - a little odd and I was almost startled when the director gave me this interview: last year I got a big booty of all kinds of things at this garage sale across the street. One of the things I bought (for 2 bucks!) was an old suitcase filled with nothing but old newspapers all centered around the assassination. Seriously, I have all the issues of the Oregonian, the Oregon Journal and the Portland Reporter dating November 23, 24 and 25th of 1962. I was just going through them last week because I am going to exchange them for some magazines to collage with at this one old magazine shop. Kinda weird coincidence.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

spiffs of teaching

Earlier this week I had a conversation with an artist well established in his career. What he told me about going to art school in his era (which must have been the 60s or early 70s) took me for a surprise:

So many of the guys were all revved about teaching. I couldn’t understand it because I couldn’t wait to get out and make art, but these guys told me it was all about making it with young girls. ‘Yeah, they look up to you and are so into you and every year there’s a new crop.’”

He told me it was common knowledge back then that part of the spiffs of teaching art was getting into the pants (or at least the gooning adoration) of students they had no intention of taking seriously as artists. If anything, the subtle (or maybe not so subtle) message was that the student was the object and the objects she made were beside the point.

This reminded me of Joanne Mattera’s recent post on institutionalized gender bias in the art world. I had a hard time letting go of this very candid revelation because it hit home in my own times at school. The fact is I definitely had teachers who had agendas (never plainly spoken) which made it all the easier to drop out, though I never thought of it at the time. If what this artist told me was a common back-story, no wonder my art history Prof, who I mentioned here before, had the easy gall to ask me to get naked when he took photographs back in 1976. It was probably not the first time he ventured the question and maybe he previously had fruitful results.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Victor Maldonado at Froelick

It must have been a show or two ago where I noticed that Victor Maldonado was moving into the monochrome. His current show Social Studies at Froelick Gallery combines it with his fascination for consumer culture, glitter and formal concerns about painting. We talked the most about his Flood Escalade (detail below), which is probably the most successful piece in the show. It’s very tactile. If you see the video in “high quality,” you can get a gist of the hand of the artist.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

summer cutting and pasting

Mostly I have been working on paper. Ann Margaret is a good match with John Chamberlain, especially as she went through a terrible crash (and got sewn together after a man stole an airplane to get her to a doctor).

St. Audrey.

Rita with Nicholas de Stael.

Carroll Baker, who played a part in Giant.
I have painted some but in ways I usually do not, just to test the waters and see if I still like my methods best. So far I say yes, but it's good to check out other sides every now and then.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

writing history

A couple of conversations about the Punk past and the oral history collided for me. The first was in my previous post on No Wave and the second happened on the radio with Cyrus Smith. Cyrus captured the plight in a nutshell when he observed, towards the end of the interview, that the punk era really defined a crux of my lifetime. He is correct but the hook to this story is that it almost didn’t happen. It was buried. I relinquished my voice for awhile - and that’s why the writing of history is now important for me.

I wrote a history – my diaries – and over time almost forgot all about it. Life takes over, survival. I almost forgot what I learned at that time. In my 30s I fell into the rabbit hole of being not only a working woman of New York, but also the rabbit hole of the artist who bought into the gallery system in exchange for her previous expertise – what they call these days DIY.

You know, you dive into a studio practice and you make objects and then you make slides and you make friends and you get a gallery to represent you and then they take care of you. Etc. I never fit well into that mold in my youth. At the time I suspected it was all about the objects I made, but that was only part of the story.

Even when I made “beautiful” objects, somehow the system didn’t feel like a true fit. That’s because my initiation into my generation’s “art practices” (almost have to laugh at the phrase) was not about objects per se but about living a life, haphazard collaboration combined with vigilant self-invention. And that was never completely erased.

But of course I didn’t know that during my 30s and early 40s. I just felt like a failure, that’s all. It was only when I had that chance to read back and review in 2000/2001 and it hit me like a ton of bricks. History mattered, even if it was only a private one. Not the one written up in Lipstick Traces or whatever. If I had never had the chance to see it so clearly in my own words, there would probably have never been the radio shows or galleries or none of it. And I might never have had the momentum to make the paintings I had buried somewhere inside of me to make. It's almost shameful because we ought to be stronger than that and more determined. Like how can you forget yourself? But we do.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

No Wave: Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980

Someone gave me this great new book called No Wave Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980 by Thurston Moore and Byron Coley. The first thing I had to ask myself as I plunged into this book was why oh why did I not just move to New York back then. This particular era and anti-genre held the artiest noise ever made. Even Brian Eno says so.

Well, I do recall my first visit to New York in 1975 – a real shocker and every bit like Taxi Driver, which on film looks great but isn’t exactly easygoing in the flesh. And you do feel like nothing but vulnerable flesh when you land at 18, clearly some goof from elsewhere. Even though I had just spent four months in Europe, the visual violence of New York was unnerving. At least no one, even the police, had guns in London.

The book is sewn together as oral history from the likes of Lydia Lunch, Arto Lindsay, James Chance and the rest of No Wave, with a few wise words from Eno. As you can imagine, he’s the cool and removed observer while Lydia Lunch is the impassioned instigator.

Here’s an interview in which she’s asked: People say you’re a bitch. Are you? To create what came out of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, could there be any other way? This is not about walks on the beach. You’ve got to joyously hate so much to make what she made.

What I am most nostalgic for is not the art or music per se. It’s that land of possibility found in the rubble, something which exists mostly within our imaginations and will. New York was abandoned, often a shell. “Tribeca, before it was Tribeca,” as it is recalled here, had buildings of no heat and no electricity, there for the taking, a place to make noise – not even really Rock or Jazz or “New Music” but something else. Without heat in the winter, these artists stayed in the bars all night until they had to leave. All of those places are the homes of hedge-funders now.

There was still a bit of that spirit when I moved to NYC in the 80s. The squalor I do not miss, but this thing called possibility I miss very much. You have to work at it as you get older and try your best to not get settled into patterns and expectations.

Someone on boingboing commented that so many of these books of this time are oral histories. I think this is because a lot of it didn’t get written about in any official way at that time. The people who are telling the story are the ones who know about it; they are the experts. It came and went very quickly. Someone else made the comment that Post-Punk seems to be happening earlier and earlier. Again, I think that goes back to the same lack of an official record. The whole thing was fairly extreme and often dismissed. Journalists were just catching on to Punk when this tide just came and went. We tend to think cool things are always recognizable to the savvy but that’s not true. Here's an excerpt.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Mary Josephson at Laura Russo

Mary Josephson works in many different mediums to tell her stories, or “journeys within a journey,” as she calls them, using characters out of her imagination who are often doing simple, everyday tasks. All of these tasks she sees as a part of her own life as an artist. Her present show at the Laura Russo Gallery, Full Length Feature, exhibits painting, mosaic, works on paper and needlepoint. I could be leaving something out. She’s worked on big public art commissions and also works of thread or glass on an intimate scale and we touched on them all in this video.

There are enough videos up now to be able to make comparisons about artists and how they talk about their work. Just as there are many ways to make art, there’s that many ways to talk about it. When I first began Artstar in 2002, there was a real lack of the artist’s voice and way too much emphasis on what the critic had to say. I suspected that often their view had no more credence, background or knowledge – just more opportunity, which of course gives authority. It’s interesting to see what six years has done!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Jacqueline Ehlis at NAAU

I like Jacqueline Ehlis as an artist and a friend. We always have raucous conversations about art and life. Last night her show Serenade opened at the NAAU. She considers all of her work to be painting. In this light, she paints in unusual ways. The works are sculptural and it involves light, installation and video. She talks about her new show in this video.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tom Robinson and the Historic Photo Archive

I first met Tom Robinson in 1978, when we were both involved in the punk scene here in Portland. He was the sound man. Much of his equipment was what he found in estate sales and thrift stores. On Artstar he told me that as the 1980s rolled along, bands on tour, even “alternative” bands, began to want to see the same equipment - and things in general became more uniform and commercial. And so Tom found something else to collect and fine-tune – photography.

In Oregon photography circles his story is fairly well known, his rise to fame as a master printer and then, archivist. He's got some books out too. Still, when I returned to Portland after a sixteen year absence, I was blown away at how much ground he had covered and how many skills he had acquired. His knowledge is encyclopedic and that’s no exaggeration.

Nowadays he also collects old home movies and has found a way to transfer these 8mm films into HD files. He demonstrates his invention in this video. He also makes a very compelling case for the supremacy of the negative over the print. Makes sense to me. What is also interesting to consider in light of this is how few negatives are being made these days.

Art Talk AM on the Radio

As regards art radio, there’s a new sheriff in town. Cyrus Smith is hosting a weekly broadcast in conjunction with the Portland State University MFA Monday Night Lecture Series. Visiting artists are interviewed live on the air the day of their lecture. Here he is above, masterfully controlling the sound board.

But when school is out, the choice of guests is up to Cyrus and yesterday he had me on the air. It was fun to be back down in that dark sub-basement broadcast booth. And obviously it was missed because I mercilessly talked a mile a minute. We must have covered just about everything. Thanks Cyrus!