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.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

If You Wanna Get Down, Down on the Ground...

Two weeks ago, my esteemed professor, Irina Aristarkhova (my Virgil in wrests with gender, literary, and art theory) gifted me the acquaintanceship of Guna Nadarajan, Vice Provost for Research at Baltimore’s MICA.
Over coffee in northern Virginia, Guna posited several questions about my work, which seemed capable of hastening a good ecdysis of my stuff.
The first, and the one I’ll try to unpack here, was “What Is Ground?”

When I am drawing you, where are you within the image? I have rarely rendered a definable background to house figures. Often nowadays, all my ephemeral marks, which are a record of my “missteps”, are what enclose the figure. They are accompanied by tons of inadvertent fingerprints, condensed into something like an army of flies.

The fingerprints get there because as I draw with my right hand, I hold as many pastels in my left as I can. Then, when the paper has buckled where I must achieve some fineness of line, I use my left hand to press it flat as I draw. Bodily regions that are important to me – like faces – will always sport this mark to their left. Only where I have cut the figure out of its page or painted a dark color around him/her will there be no buzz of fingerprints.
The fingerprints have garnered many responses, heartening and hateful alike. I guess I like that they signify my body and that peristaltic process of ‘physical intimacy’ that births another’s [often nude] body on the page.

I need to settle up my estate with Ground. I have treated it as utterly ‘second chair’ to the aria of the body. The only rub of my ground, the fingerprints, is accidental and still uncertain.

Don’t I want you to be somewhere?
In the mud, the fluid, the membrane, the sac of consciousness. On the slab, an examination table, to be studied and the marvel of your form cooed at. In the hot white light, where you have left your body (deferring some control to the viewer) and have never lived so truly inside it (your autonomy, and the autonomy of your nakedness, still whole). In some impossibly transient moment where you were divine. Human but somehow less temporal: transcendent.
The picture is a document of who you were just then, just now.
I don’t really need to see the room you live in, or your things beside you. Isn’t your body where you live, inextricably? Aren’t those parts grafted all over you, your property, your onus, your tools?

I don’t know what to do with Ground. I think I need to keep the fingerprints, but I think I need to pump up the jam, for sure.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Body Talk

And it seems like,
And it feels like,
A brand new day.
- Van Morrison

1. Twinned [Marc]: pastel over watercolor wash on cold-pressed paper.

Given the intercession to recalibrate, my January return to State College was good.
Really good.
I taught Figure Drawing to brilliant students, whose vision and energy restored mine. Because teaching Figure mirrored my own studio practice, it enabled me to go fully heart-bound into what I do. I got a lot closer to knowing and feeling the 'purpose' in my work.

1. Abrade [Mordecai]: pastel over watercolor wash on cold-pressed paper; craft paper; crayon rubbings of woodblock cut.
2. Untitled [Tapir, Knotweed, Nicholas]: charcoal drawing on cold-pressed paper; sanguine conte rubbing of woodblock cut; pastel and water drawing on Tyvek.

I enjoyed a theory course around ideas of beauty, a willful and rewarding return to Freud, Marx, and Foucault, and the counsel of my peers and visiting artists in Graduate Seminar.
I experimented further with printmaking, though it turned to woodcut rubbing (aptly, a closer sibling of my pastel process).
I read A Mercy by Toni Morrison, which pulled my heart chakra wide open, and now I have run the gamut whole of her books.
I placed second in the Penn State School of Visual Arts' Graduate Research Exhibition in March, which was a great lift.

1. Press [Kirsten]: pastel over watercolor wash on cold-pressed paper.
2. Gird [Bobby]: pastel over watercolor wash on cold-pressed paper.

The work is still largely portraiture, of varied sorts, often crossing distress and desire. Per self-portraiture, it does seem that I inhabiting my body somehow differently than I used to, and am much happier for it.

1. Untitled [Self, Down]: pastel and water on cold-pressed paper; craft paper; hot-glued graphite rubbings of woodblock cuts.
Untitled [Self, Up]: pastel over watercolor wash on cold-pressed paper.
3. Oh, I Was - [Grief]: charcoal and water on cold pressed paper.

What I'm posting here is not all that I made, but is the bulk of it. It was a fruitful semester of hard work and rebirth. And I defeated some hesitancies insofar as what I depict and how, and am thus closer to someday making my actual point.
I think that if I so want to excise people's shame and fear, I should try to have none myself. And so I am disclaiming my anxiety pertinent to visibility and ownership, and will not be guilted, or made afraid or remorseful.
So, save the date: in April 2012, my wonderful colleague Kerri O'Neill and I will install our MFA thesis show.