Monday, April 14, 2014

The Real Thing

I began this last week, paralleling this drawing from early March.

While I was doing this, I considered that my work is hugely about drawing.
The process puts my body against the paper in the drafting of a new body. It is mapped first by lines struck in ardent haste, as I try to reify some knowledge or some feeling about this body. From these many lines I slowly distill a person, wringing him out through touch that registers there in the mark of my fingerprint.

My artist statement largely skirts the centrality of drawing to my work. I think this is because I have so long harbored this immense anxiety and shame regarding realism. I am ready and steeled for my use of realism to be queried or insulted, but I never confess it. I have to be first 'found out' or tasked to explain my work. In doing so, if indeed I name realism or representationalism - if not already weary from speaking the four-letter "figuration" - it comes qualified. "Yes, realism, but not the kind you're thinking."

Yes, realism, but I do not mistake mimesis for art, or skill for genius.

In so eluding and amending, I repudiate realism, and concede to a notion that it is vapid. I impugn the very thing I 'do'. I desperately pack theory, eloquence, and self-effacement around the work so as to press realism to the door.
I have, I'm seeing now, internalized the belief that realism is fundamentally uninspired: that its inane loyalty to "truth" is precisely why it is false art. It is too timid and too shortsighted to steal (appropriate) or to invent (abstract), so it borrows to no return. It can only retell what already is, congratulating itself on the veracity of its report.
It can be esteemed only by laypeople, for its legibility and [incidental] beauty.
Realism is, by its own nature, uncreative and sterile, though it presents itself as a supremely intelligent thing.

This is what I have carried. But it isn't true, and it's time that I get over this. Realism, as any aesthetic model, has the capacity to be brave and challenging. I must too be brave, in my reclamation of the term. It is, after all, part of my language.

Budding representationalism, c. 1990

it's like the pattern below the skin
you gotta reach out and pull it all in

Monday, March 4, 2013

And when they tetched the powder off, the Gator lost his mind.

 In Figure Drawing, I can be seen one day of the semester barking and enumerating a few flimsy tenets about how to draw birthmarks, moles, freckles, and tattoos - how the tattoo is as respondent to light as the unmarked skin, how it pulls with its plat of skin, is not peripheral but embedded in the dermis, held truly 'inside' the skin and under hair, and so on.
These ideas promote a mindfulness of the subject, but don't make it any easier, really.

I had never drawn any of my own tattoos before. When I began this I wasn't sure I'd draw my alligator in, worried that the image would become only about him.
But I remembered, then, that when I draw other people's bodies, I always treat their tattoos as a supplement to the drawing-as-portrait. The tattoo cites intent, selfhood, claim, and the Forever. And something of what it is to live in your body.

This drawing is about the ache of loving, coming [apart], levitating and being 'dropped', rough touch, and even twinges of embarrassment — to live in your body.

Pastel, charcoal, watercolor on paper, fabric, pumice ground.

Drawing the gator educed the memory of long tattoo sittings. With my larger tattoos, there has each time been a notable flip in my body's understanding of the pain. For the first four hours, it is only pain. My rational mind knows what is happening and so it greets the needle pretty stolidly. But at the fifth hour and into the sixth, my heart wakes up. Feeling only the endlessness of the pain, my heart takes it for cruelty, and isn't angered, but sad. I hurt not physically, but feel hurt emotionally, from a mistaken certainty that my skin is being abused. Sort of interesting.

This is my biggest drawing yet.
Keep those hands in the cookie jar; smile like an alligator.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Seven weeks headquartered in Todi, Italy, feat. one week in Rome and visits to Florence, Venice, Siena, and Assisi, offering a program of Italian, Art History, and Visual Art study.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Getting Worked Over.

Yesterday, I completed my relocation from Penn State's third-floor MFA Cave into my new studio, the bed of my beginning as Assistant Visiting Professor of Drawing.

I haven't made a lot since springtime. The few weeks before our show's April installation were spent worrying, readying the 'chosen people' (the figural pictures selected for display), and finishing sundry schoolwork. Then the show went up, then it up and went, and the moon was shot: I had testified. Suddenly unsure of what more I had to say, or how better to say it, I went mute awhile.

Early in summer, I got back to making, slowly. Whenever I am lost, I go 'home', to myself - my body, what is my means, shelter, trap, or foothold. In June I went first to myself (the outside, the immediate, the super ego, the seen) and then to the Orgasm (the inside, the id, the felt). Looking for the Holy of Holies, maybe.

The drawings are pastel on shower curtains and bedskirts glazed first with sandy ground.

I am thinking about strife, mess, and inundation. Our bodies expel fluid when they are labored. From hardships emotional, psychological, or physical: sweat, vomit, blood, liquor amnii and vernix that come out with birth, waste, tears, snot - and ejaculate, in a nirvana impelled by extremest pain (Lacan on jouissance). I want to depict the trauma of orgasm.
I am thinking also, as always, about shame, and the argued right to pleasure. 

I want to try spilling or paving gel medium onto some drawings. Or tying them onto fans to see them quake and thresh.
Ecstasy, for its every meaning. Spirituality, sex, suffering.

this feeling has a thousand limbs, of a first and hymns
tell me, do you like it? 
too big to fit in this skin
this skin I'm in
because I'm a lover


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Shooting to thrill.

In January, my dear friend, James, reasoned that 2012 will be a 'good' year, come whatever may.
In December 2012, people will throw great End Times parties. Either the world will indeed blow up, or the fĂȘte will instead 'blow up'. If the Man comes around, there can be no morning's regret or spinning head. And if he doesn't and we orbit still, we pin tails on those confuted, and plod languidly into 2013.

I like 2012.
In February, I went to Los Angeles with five of my peers, chiefly for the CAA Conference, seeing also the LACMA, the Hammer Museum's Alina Szapocznikow exhibit, the ocean, a passing John C. Reilly, and old friends.


Penn State granted me a Creative Achievement Award and a professorship for the 2012-2013 term.

In March, I completed my thesis text and presented my Oral Defense. Kerri O'Neill and I installed and opened our MFA Thesis Show, entitled Soft Tissue, on April 2.

The turn-out turned up my mother and father, DC friends, PSU community, and mata, Rose (shaman, wisewoman, mother of Guru Meher).

On our buffet table lay the living body of Emma. She was swaddled in cut-up images of her own nakedness and lined with plates of treats (all aphrodisiacs). A long boat of vegetable dip sat between her legs.

Rose drummed and sang a solemn blessing. She rubbed our hands and foreheads with holy water.

In these last two years, I knew excitement, awakening, grief, love, mania, anger, ideas of being - and of being nowhere - all at the same time. Everything regenerated. I'm too grateful to say.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rain Dogs

I have been making dogs. They are play-actors in some orgiastic mess.
I am interested in the gesture of the dog's body, where the squat, with the haunches as fulcrum, is assumed for shitting as it is for humping and being humped. This illustrates the proximity of shit to sex (loci in the pelvis, stretch and strain, 'discharge' [fluid and matter/release: ejection or orgasm]). I'm thinking about the fervor in being pleasured and in being disgusted.

Each is drawn on its own tract of cheap poster bond. I spray the paper with water until it is soaked through and adheres loosely to the wall. I draw the dogs in water-soluble black crayon and pull shadows from the pitch with my hand or a rag. When they are dry, I 'let them out' with a razor blade.
Sometimes the black bleed tags along.

The best part is arranging them. It feels theatrical and a little soap-operatic, making many relationships concurrent inside one drama. There are no two dogs of the same breed.

I am accepting my need to sometimes cut figures out. I like them to be sort of straw men, have some 'real' citizenship. They have to be bodies, not just be pictures of bodies.

Happy Thanksgiving the dog a bone.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Ghood, the Bad, and the Ugly.

I am reading Umberto Eco's On Ugliness.
He is now discussing notions of ugliness in illustrations (text and image alike) of Christian Hell.
Agents of Hell are often chimeras, with parts compounded from the human, avian, feline, et al. Also recurrent in their physiognomy is polymelia: a multiplicity of [consummately single or twinned] parts, like the beast with six arms or twelve eyes or doubled sex organs.

Thus, there is something horrible in the repetition of body parts. Abstractly and in mythos, with more eyes there is greater facility of sight; with more arms, of holding and handling; with more genitalia, of coition. In this way, polymelia is fearsome for its connotation of superhuman power. The latter is not always unsavory; it seems that Vishnu's four arms are a manifestation of his omnipotence, with fourfold palpation, knowledge, and might.
But I think the horror of polymelia lies somehow in its superfluousness. In life, most supernumerary body parts are nonfunctional. In circus menageries, you'll find cows with supernumerary legs that hang dead from their backs. It is that deadness, and the simple sense of more-than-there-should-be that is frightening. But why frightening? Is it the "error" of nature, citing mortality?

Lots of people are afraid of spiders. Like a human, a spider has a head and an abdomen on which its limbs are hinged. But the spider's eight eyes and eight legs immediately dissociate it from us, and are largely what scare us. The house spider is so small, and harmless, and as earthly as us - but with its many hastening legs, its many eyes appraising us, we would prefer it be dead, and not even to see its remains.
Because it is so non-human(oid), is the spider a 'monster'? (Is anything that is aberrant from our understanding of what is humanoid a monster?) We are uniquely disgusted by the idea of being touched by supernumerary parts, and similarly, by the many legs of the spider. The wriggling or ticking of insect, crustacean, or arachnid legs puts a tremor in the belly. If the spider is permitted to walk upon us with those legs, it has assumed dominion over our body. Its weightless, woolen step has some preciousness like a lover's falling hair. The spider's touch is trespass, and defilement.

These are of course just ramblings - a sort of shoddy exegesis that good reading moves me to.
This piece is a working composite of twice-life-size drawings, depicting a friend's body and mine, that I began in the spring. In an attempt at forging Ground, there is a 'bedding' of wolf spiders under me: black crayon rubbings of a rubber relief cut on tracing paper. From far away, they could read as a plot of grass.
The spiders were fun to make, but I'm worried that they are too much like applique. Ground - it's back to the drawing board with you.

Now end up with "Goosebumps" by Mr. Bungle.