Self-Actualization Eats Itself

Walls

The warehouse studio bathroom wall notices.

Don’t blow me out before I finish burning. I’ve settled in to a life of learning. Wouldn’t it be fine if, at check-out time, I was doing what I’m doing right now?

I was staring in to a dirty mirror knee-deep on LSD when I broke out laughing and realized what most people are scared of is what enchants me. And I worked incredibly fucking hard to get here. For a long time, I’ve wanted people to take me seriously. What I’ve realized is, like everything, it won’t happen until I do it myself. I am totally content with living the rest of my life staring peril in the soul. I could listen to this song, though, forever, right now.


Because We Can

Notes

I think handwriting in bars is always bad, drunk or sober.

My traditional Sunday night has not changed much over the years. Last night I found myself at the pub across the street, staring down a pint glass of ginger ale and scribbling plans for paintings and installations into a notebook.

Plans for art are weird. I have a lot of them. Right now I’m strangely on an installation kick, I think as a reaction to the dimensionless digital world we live in. But as it’s new territory to me, I have to write down and hash out a lot of ideas.

Last night as I was doing this to prepare a collaborative effort with Brent, I stopped myself in a fit of self-doubt and mid-concept rage. In my sobriety—the only thing that has changed on Sunday nights may be the contents of the glass—I am finding it much harder to commit to an idea, because my emotional dedication to a project was generally found in three or four day binges of Jameson.

I sat back and took a breath, because it’s not good for alcoholics to have sentimental thoughts about heavy drinking while sitting in a bar. I asked myself why I’m even doing this, or why it’s worth it at all. I picked up my pen, turned the page, and this just came out:

Notes

The meaning of life.

Beauty Alone

I’ve always had difficulty with beauty. From a very early age I was able to make things look good, and would receive a positive response in my life because of it and not necessarily because of any of my ideas about what it was or represented. By the time I was in art school, I was using my skills to make ugly things beautiful in order to convey that the idea was more important than the traditionalism of aesthetic.

Representational art, such as a postmodern installation, needs to walk a different line than functional art, such as fashion (or, really, anything that has a ‘design’ aspect). The art in the middle, such as painting or writing, is where the great existential struggles of life take place. The gray area. So I get caught up in this gray area where beauty gets the response but substance will be what lasts.

Because in art, I believe beauty must have reason. We as people, for whatever weakness or convention, exalt beauty with unjustified reward for completely random (or invented) selection in life. I don’t believe that we can’t just appreciate beauty for it’s own sake, but to be branded as useless outside of your image is a disgusting runoff trait from an exploitive, capitalistic society. In art, we need to try harder.

Process Stories

So how does beauty tie in to developing a project? Because the debate on beauty versus concept is what navigates the entire initial process stage for me. And with my constant second-guessing as to which at any given time is more appropriate (which is, in and of itself, innately conceptual and thus at least a little antithetical), I never actually start any of this shit, and instead think myself in to a hole.

So the beauty versus intelligence debate is just really a lead up to that of action versus inaction. Boots on the ground versus diplomatic channels.

(Not uncharacteristically, I’m having this entire debate on two fronts in life; the other being that of women, where though my chances for rather immediate dating opportunities are available, my desire for a more long-term relationship is tough in that it’s not really like making a painting in the studio. But regardless, action and inaction, beauty and intelligence, it’s all art and life I guess.)

At the end of the day, though, we have lived a day. Another day. And they can be magical or tragic, the people in amazing or terrible, the events that fill them spectacular or mundane. But we still have these days. And while we do, we must act, because we can.

To not seems to forsake the point of being alive.


The Subtle and Beautiful Winds of Change

I have not been so decidedly struck by beauty until this morning since last fall, whereupon in Prague I saw this;

St Vitus

St Vitus Cathedral · Prague, 2013

Things have changed dramatically since then. To say this has not been my favorite year would be an understatement. And this is why for a few minutes, today, everything stopped.

Because I was on the basketball court and I could see the shadow forming as the sun rose above the far trees. I saw this scene take place over the course of three or four minutes, and at some point it just seemed so beautiful from an angle, I had to walk across the park to see it.

And I just stood there, stunned. Absolutely taken aback. All I had was my phone, so I snapped this:1

Park

So many questions could have crossed my mind: I play basketball here every morning, how have I never seen this shadow? I was raised in rural areas and have seen plenty of trees and sunrises, why the fuck is this one hitting me so hard? Why don’t I own a Hassleblad and have it with me right now?

So many questions could have crossed my mind, but didn’t. I just stood there, unable to think. Unable to move.2 It sounds almost fake, which is why it was so staggering. The scene was just so overwhelming, because I knew it was changing as I was witnessing it.

Some times in life, there are these admirable moments of absolute beauty that stun us and remind us of all the hope and excitement and possibility. We take pictures, because the world keeps spinning and the shadows will shift with the sun in the sky. The moment disappears, and soon the shadow I was standing in and the scene I was witnessing was no more.

For a couple years I have been taking all of these photographs to capture the beauty around me instead of standing in the frame and letting it affect me.3 I haven’t been shooting a lot lately, and I think this may be linked to why; just trying to feel the spin of the earth in my heart again. To feel every second of the sky.

      Notes
  • My morning routine of basketball and running is one of the few times you’ll find me without one real camera or another. Of fucking course.
  • In an almost Hollywood fashion, I was only interrupted after a few minutes of stunned silence by a sound of movement to my immediate right. As I turned, I slipped a bit and had this awkward pose, only to see a rather pretty girl walking her dog and laughing at what would have been an admittedly funny scene: a very tall, lanky guy holding a basketball staring at a tree for five minutes. (I say “almost Hollywood” because if it was a movie, I would have said something hilarious and got her number and she would have been Anna Kendrick.)
  • I think there’s a fundamental difference between photographers and artists in this regard; as much as one can be affected by a scene, a photographer is always thinking of proper exposure settings.

Found Along The Frequencies

So this song is my favorite thing I somehow never heard until now. Well, I mean, I heard it at some point in the recent past, I just haven’t gone back to find it for real.

It’s just one of many tracks in my Shazam list; songs I’ve heard out somewhere throughout the past couple years, used the app to identify and have subsequently forgot to follow up on.

The randomness of the list is completely nuts. I also have no recollection of when or where I was when I heard any of these tracks, but with a list that goes from Daughter to Brothers Johnson to The Game to INXS, who the fuck knows. Et cetera, through a few more.

I will say, this is humorously like using analog cameras. Doing one action for a later payoff that only increases in weirdness and intrigue the longer you wait.

Also, it isn’t Dead Prez per se, but this has been in my head for weeks, and if I’m listing off random music worth checking out, just, kids these days. Still got it.


One Thing At A Time

Ailes

Audrey

I am working on a wide array of things, but right now a big aspect is how light interacts with tangible surfaces as I endeavor to begin some projects that will try to reflect the different natures of our everyday experiences (separating reality into a tangible and digital existence).

I am also working on a couple different series of portraits of fascination; currently featuring Roger Ailes and Audrey Hepburn.

This is evidence of all these things colliding into some new ideas that I’m quite excited to see where they go.


Videotape

I heard this song while working through an anxiety attack in a coffee shop and it stirred me; I couldn’t fully concentrate on it because of all the other noise, but it was calming and resonant.

I’ve been listening to it all day. It’s one of those pleasant surprises, a thing of beauty that strikes out of nowhere.

I am sure I would have heard this song months or years ago if I used things like Pandora, but, this is why I tend to abstain from such measures. It just feels right and significant now, adding a sense of uncertain bliss to life in all of the saddest and best ways. The unknown and unplanned of life, striking you up and down from time to time.

I don’t know, it made me want to paint the way only random and sustained beauty can. Art can be quite remarkable like that.


Cue The Projectionist

Sarah

Sarah · San Francisco, 2014 · Click to Enlarge

Sarah Symmonds is one of my favorite people and in a couple months will be leaving the Bay for New York. I am quite jealous. My future in Manhattan remains a mystery, but I will certainly use Sarah’s move as a reason to visit.

You see, as you can probably tell from her expression, Sarah has no trouble calling me on my shit. We have one of my favorite friendships; combative and honest and a firm sense of mutual respect.

I know there are good people in this world, and that life is a giant, wonderful tornado of doubt and fireflies. Sometimes, I just wish it were easier to get whisked away in it all.


Rooms And Gardens

Sowed a broken, blue ocean with old wire hands. Found in vacant lots the lonely shells of flowered plans. Outside, there for nothing, wives and lovers in ageless sorrow. On now to the wasted rooms and gardens and stricken yards.

Sight now changing. Sorrow building. Light now leaving. Our lives ending.

When I was collecting records I managed to find a pretty rare 3×12″ copy of this album, which remains as one of my top ten records ever. It’s just so fucking perfect; one of the records you may lose track of from time to time, but once you put it on you wonder why you ever stopped listening to it the last time.


Boyhood

Much has been said about Richard Linklater’s (fantastic) Boyhood, but most of that is around the unconventional filming style. Sure, it took 12 years to make, but the resulting story has some really dynamite moments because this film has overcome one of the primary obstacles film has as an art form: time.

Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that I found myself quite enamored by Linklater’s sometimes-annoying off-the-cuff style of directing. Awkward pauses, immediate shifts in tone, small details; the way he makes a movie is perfect for this story.

Due to an understated but overly ambitious scope, the movie is able to transcend the immediate confusion of dramatic situations and allow the viewer to really delay judgment on characters, which does a remarkable job in assisting the story being told.

And, while it’s certainly not a movie one would have to see in the theater as there appear to be zero-to-few special effects, it does seem sort of ideal to just be alone with your thoughts in the dark on this one. I was expecting this to be quite depressing, but it really is the opposite; showing how even in tragedy and pressure, life is more about hope and possibility.


A Lightbulb in Flat Color

Every time I go to New York, I make a point to go to the MoMA. There are always reasons to go to the museum; the last time was the awe-inspiring Sigmar Polke retrospective. But aside from the special exhibitions, the permanent collection holds, and usually displays, one of my favorite paintings ever.

Warhol

Orange Car Crash Fourteen Times · Museum of Modern Art, Manhattan · 2008

When I was doing my undergraduate studies and my history of contemporary art history class reached the New York School, I remember my teacher pre-empting the lecture with an understated warning: We should not judge the art we were about to see.

This was because we were getting to works by Pollock and Rothko, which could only be truly appreciated in person. It wasn’t until I saw my first originals by these artists—at the Museum of Modern Art, no less—that I fully understood what that warning in class meant.

The abstract expressionists were creating art that almost required a personal viewing. It was simply too much to be appreciated from afar. The complexity, the concepts, the aggression of it all held a certain emotional gravitas that I think the world has lacked since.1

Rauschenberg

Rebus2 · Robert Rauschenberg

Andy Take My Picture

Warhol had similar problems but for completely different reasons. For the same reason the immensity of other works were desirable to see in person—an ability to crawl over each square inch to appreciate all the fine-tuning in the details—the complete absence of work from Warhol’s grandest pieces allowed the message to remain like an exposed nerve.

Walking in on Orange Car Crash Fourteen Times unexpectedly mimics the experience of walking in on a tragedy. This is the reason for the marvel of the piece; it manages to convey the message through the experience of witnessing the work the way you would an atrocity. Unexpected. Shocking. Questioning.

Removing even the side of Warhol’s work that was a commentary on American manufacturing; ignoring the Factory and that whole scene, the art itself is an incredible dare to the viewer. Have a direct relationship with this, the paintings all seem to say. Warhol dares us to ask ourselves why what in front of us is relevant—from the art itself to the subject being featured. In the guise of celebrity, this is an ultimate charge to give reason to the American Dream.

But under the nature of violence, it becomes a stark reminder of our humanity, mortality and relationship to one another.

Happy birthday, Andy.

      Notes
  • Ok, maybe until street art. There’s some weight in that movement.
  • This unfortunately no longer hangs in the MoMA; it’s been replaced with Canyon. Nothing against Canyon, this just is the only piece of work other than Car Crash that can stop me in my tracks and bring me to tears.

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