Thursday, February 26, 2009

the mask

Not long ago I read a book review by Shelby Steele in the Times which discussed how one wears a mask to navigate an oppressive system. We develop various routines and armor to survive it all. The mask itself can be a real point of power and is a way for you to work a room, if not a life.

Within an oppressed group, endless discussions and arguments fly as to just which mask it should be. Should we be humble or should we have bitchy pride? The arguments cancel each other out. We can see this in any group.

As I read this brief review (of a book by Robert Norrell on the life of Booker T. Washington), it hit me like a ton of bricks that this whole mask-as-empowerment idea was key to my targets. It is why I have almost exclusively relayed objects of beauty and glamour as opposed to “Women of Distinction,” something more in line with an International Women’s Day project.

I personally have had a great deal of experience with the mask – and continue to do so, whether it was my own or someone else’s. I had the mask handed down to me from my mother; we watched Bette Davis films together. Being a makeup artist, it is something I’m a bit of an expert on – but of course it goes beyond that. When someone suggested that I could use powerful women from history like Margaret Thatcher or Amelia Earhart in a target, well, that kind of power is a relatively unknown territory.

- But I do know a bit about what it’s like to be perceived as a Sally Bowles – a fascinating “artiste” who is nonetheless a slut for doing what the guys are doing. And while some believe that the mask is “over,” an artifact of another century, a subject of another era, I disagree.

When Richard Schemmerer asked me in his interview if I was critical of the women I used, I realized that the answer comes from a dual view - for I was and am a willing participate and voyeur, and have no hatred, for all its evil implications, of the mask I have grown up with. I enjoyed punk especially because of its play and denouncement of it. When we first came on the scene, I remember people in Oregon throwing cans at us from their cars - rocks too. They thought we were some kind of weird, out-of-time hookers. The fucking around with the mask really unnerved them. And is still can.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jim Archer on KBOO

(Photo courtsey of OPENWIDEpdx)

Listen to the audio file.

Tomorrow on KBOO my guest is Jim Archer. He’s known as a curator who worked for years at the Archer Gallery at Clark College. He is also known for his collage work. Now however he is showing these great paintings, small portraits of faces at the Life Gallery in the Everett Station Lofts.
Please note: Art Focus will have a new air-time starting in March. Our new timeslot is every Tuesday at 11:30AM.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

establishment of rank

Last night I began Seven Days in the Art World. I can tell already that a few things have changed since its publication – we are supposedly no longer in the heady boom times the author Sarah Thornton describes. But she nails some things which haven’t changed yet at all and brought a smile to my face.

She’s amused by what she calls the “status anxiety” of nearly every player, whether they are mighty dealers, collectors or critics. Everyone is always after something they’ve yet to attain and artists might be the most insecure of all. “I find it tedious when I bump into people who insist on giving me their CV highlights,” says John Baldessari. “I’ve always thought that wearing badges or ribbons would solve it. If you’re showing at the Whitney or at the Tate, you could announce it on your jacket. Artists could wear stripes like generals, so everyone would know their rank.”

This establishment of rank has sometimes given me a very circuitous route to finding out on the radio just what the hell an artist is doing. The exhibitions, where they are at and who has curated them, have been divulged as though we’re following a very Grand Tour. 15 minutes later, I’m still wondering, yes, but …now, what was the work?

This happens in small and large ways but it’s something which right now concerns me because KBOO is first and foremost for The People. Not really just the art world. I want to serve the art world but I have bigger responsibilities than that. And when The People hear about where and with whom someone got their MFA and where they showed after that and who curated them, well, you know this is a language the art world understands very clearly, but The People start tuning out. Because they thought Art Focus was a show about art you see.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Leslie Miller + Mark Warren Jacques on KBOO

Listen to the interview here.

Just reminding you that Art Focus on KBOO will cover Big Beautiful Color by Mark Warren Jacques at Fontanelle tomorrow. Leslie Miller, co-founder of the gallery, will be there too.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

the makeup artist

Lately I have been doing a little makeup as way to make ends meet. It had been years and there are a few things I forgot about it.

- Your responsibilities are smaller but more personal. You’re not going to turn their career around -it’s just makeup. They come and they go. Still, be that as it may, you just might make someone more beautiful than they have ever been - and yeah, that’s a rush.

It’s also a fabulous brain-wash. By the end of the day I had served so many people, heard bits and pieces of their lives and expectations and after it all, my brain was empty. All my own inner noise and senseless chatter was gone. Instead I carried in the brain this big, splashy imprint of color - namely hot pink, aqua and dark, sparkly blue. After a more internal art life, I was almost numb, stunned at the end of the day, but stunned in a good way.

But here’s an obvious difference to the art world and it’s one I forgot about: people would come up to me and say: “I hear you’re an artist,” as if artists were high on the food chain. I had forgotten about that world which treasures artists and thinks they’re really special. And let’s face it, it can feel like the opposite in the art world, even though without the product of the artist, no one would have a career. Some faces fall when you tell them "I'm an artist." Like they already know too many! Or perhaps they think you want something out of them - and so often, damnit, they are right.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Patrick Rock on KBOO

I look forward to having Patrick Rock on the radio with me tomorrow. His practice as an artist is really wide – installation, video, objects. He is also contributing in a major way to the landscape of this town in his curating at Rocksbox, plus he’s running both the MK Gallery and the Autzen Gallery at PSU. Just yesterday I saw Julie Perini’s show at the MK Gallery, Watch Me Break it Down. It’s very entertaining.

Listen to the interview.

Friday, February 6, 2009

the rifle range

In my freshman year in high school I made a very important friendship. Who knows, I might have become the girl content to read Glamour, but he led me down the road of Interview instead. Ross was a sophomore and he hung out in the art room just like I did. The art room was the oasis in a school of 600 kids, most of them football fanatics or of the FFA (Future Farmers of America). But he was sort of like me - except much more advanced. Sure, I knew who Andy Warhol was - but I didn’t know that Andy Warhol was God. And he loved Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. He turned me on to Richard Hamilton and to other British Pop artists like Peter Blake (see his target above).
But what was really important was that he turned me on to the early issues of Interview. And I cannot stress enough here that in 1970, it wasn’t like Pop Art was this done deal, this thing which changed forever the course of art. It was sort of there in the rumble of many things.

Then again, Interview was not a Pop Art magazine. Interview was a movie magazine. It was about film, about film stars or people who wanted to be film stars. And while it was incredibly current, it gave huge nods to the past. Interview would have pages of Rita Hayworth stamped randomly, repeatedly throughout a magazine. So Interview was also about nostalgia and part of that worldwide craze.

The first photomontage I recall making was in my sophomore year – I used Lucille Ball – a 1930s image – when she was not only very beautiful but also considered a new actress, a new Babe - not the comedian she would later be known as, not the genius of television she would also be known as. I think it’s worth mentioning that the first collage I made was of a beautiful woman who was initially, early in her career, first and foremost an object.

This friend of mine in high school – we had this ritual we shared with very few people. He used to pick me up – and I lived way out in the middle of nowhere – and take me to the Ashland Police Rifle Range. We went there after dark and pulled down targets that belonged to the police. If they were shot at and full of bullet holes, so much the better. This was this edgy little thing we had, our walk on the wild side down in Southern Oregon. All teenagers have their ventures in which they are bad and steal, but ours was a little unusual. Looking back, it was Romantic too - like a Romantic era in art history, not unconnected to Nostalgia. It was about longing and an ideal, impossible, even violent beauty. In fact it’s maybe more about longing than possession, than the actual having. And this began my fascination for the target.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

paint and lipstick

My mom had a gallery with 3 other women in the 60s in Jacksonville, Oregon. At the same time she was an Avon lady, someone who bleached her hair and wore white Go-Go boots. I was certainly shaped by all this paint and color and "glamour." Lipstick and paint were interchangeable. She had boxes of lipstick samples all over the house and I probably had more access to them than her paints.

Still, I painted too – all the kids of these women had their own little gallery, a sealed off winding staircase to the roof in this landmark Victorian. Since it was indeed the 60s, we painted on wood with psychedelic fluorescent paint and the staircase was only lit with a black light.

It affected my color sense forever. Nothing is really too bright for me or too eye-scorching. In some ways, these targets which had color – this bright orange and the cerulean blue – well, the color element was really fulfilling. They demanded certain strengths of whatever I used with them; it had to stand up to it. I was freed of the usual constraints of sepia and black and white media and old photography. Not that I felt bound, I guess, but you consider all of those things of course.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Jesse Durost on KBOO

Just a reminder that I am interviewing Jesse Durost tomorrow at KBOO. He’s got a show up at Fourteen30 called Fabrications.
Listen to the audio file here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

a Hollywood junkie

My dad, who died when I was 12 in 1968, collected old stuff as he had an antique store. Old stuff was just around. And old magazines were really around because they didn’t have any value yet. I looked at them all because we didn’t have a TV and once we did, it only had one channel. Old Bette Davis films made the most impact - and horror films like “Murders of the Rue Morgue” (above) - although I also remember “Dark Shadows.” I wasn’t cutting anything up yet. I was just looking.

The same year my dad died, I read the diary of Anne Frank. She’s the one who got me (and a million other kids) into journaling, but she influenced me in other ways too. A lot of people tend to forget – because Anne’s story was set in such overwhelming circumstances – that she was a Hollywood junkie. She loved her photos of film stars. Her walls were covered with them. And whatever Anne liked, I looked at. When I went to Amsterdam at the age of eighteen, I was curious to see if indeed Anne’s room was left just like she left it – with the photos haphazardly tacked across her walls. And it was.

In my case, it’s not like I looked at current Hollywood stars per se. I looked at the stars Anne Frank was looking at – the ones from the 30s and 1940s. And if I did care at all about current film stars like Faye Dunaway, it’s probably only because she played Bonnie, a gangster moll from another era. Same goes, a few years later, with Liza Minelli. She was of interest because she played a girl from the 1920s and especially because her mother (above, Judy Garland) was a real live movie star of superior tragic dimensions.

We were always broke so my main entertainment was the library, where I checked out every single book on old Hollywood. I found many books on old movie houses like the Roxy and I read about the debauched lives of the pre-code Hollywood set, Fatty Arbuckle and Mae West. It’s like I lived out that fantasy life all over again, just like a kid might have done in 1930.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized that I wasn’t alone and that I was part of a worldwide craze known as Nostalgia. Most of my cluelessness was due to the fact that my dad’s death sort of set me into a two year coma. Memories are few and bleak. But then again, the media pipeline into the sticks, into Dark Hollow Road in Southern Oregon was not that wide. All of this however was the road to lead me to photomontage.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

the women I cut up

Later this week my show of Targets opens at the Helzer Art Gallery at PCC Rock Creek. The show is curated by Prudence Roberts. On Friday I am giving a lecture and am still preparing for it, so my writing here lately has been lacking. It’s been an interesting time of review on just why I liked the old image and old magazines and why I was using all these women. Over the course of this month, I’d like to share some of those thoughts with you.

Last night I talked with my old friend Terez, someone I’ve known since about ’75, someone who always loved old glamour and film stars - especially Marlene Dietrich. I always loved Dietrich too but am not sure she was the ideal target, while being practically an ideal woman. Talk about style, talk about influence. She was very important.

But during the process of making these targets for the past year, I have learned that some are much more successful than others and that it has to do with a certain vulnerability and a certain Babe-ness. In conversations about the targets, I can see that people immediately have their ideas about who I could use. But it has much more to do with who I run across as opposed to who I look for. It is almost destructive to the process to look for anyone. You just find instead.

Sure, I could google a particular woman, the sky is the limit, and print and cut her up – but it would just never have the authenticity that the found image has. I want to use the original piece of paper that made this woman into the whore, into the object. I don’t want a copy of it – I want the real piece of propaganda which marketed her, a piece of the original campaign. To a degree, the content resides in the actual paper itself - its era, its purpose, its color values, all of it.

- Plus the fact that I could come across her while lying in bed, doing nothing but looking. This was how I started years ago as kid with old magazines. It’s still the best way to do it. You’re still the reader, the voyeur, the girl looking at the Goddess Whore you might become. Or in my case by now, the one I used to be (no regrets!). More on that later.