| Cusp: New Nail Polish Drawings
| My last day at MacDowell
Last night I played pool with Mark while I waited for my laundry to wash. It was so obvious that I don’t do laundry at home when I blew up a pen in the dryer. Of course I am panicking, the trip has been amazing and on one of my last nights, I destroy a dryer. I remember Eleanor saying to me the first time I did laundry here, “you don’t do laundry at home do you”? At the time, I wasn’t sure if I should have been insulted or not. Now I guess it must have been pretty obvious. I really thought I had this under control. (Just a helpful hit, I used Soft Scrub to get the ink out of the dryer.)
Winding things down, I couldn’t start on drawings that were not going to be finished on this table. I didn’t want to risk the line weight changing if I finished the drawing on a different table surface in Atlanta. I began packing all of my supplies and material up.
So what’s a guy to do with two days in the woods? I started packing, reading and listening to music, taking in the experience and enjoying the time as much as I could. When I get home the little monster will need my attention, and I am ready to give him all he wants.
I spent two hours at breakfast talking with people who were leaving and some of the newbie’s. There are about 2-4 people that come and go each week. The creativity is constantly renewing and shifting. Some people who are here the full 8 weeks, may watch the whole cast of characters change. You can start with a lot of writers and poets and end up with visual artists and film people. It’s pretty great to have the conversations with people of other disciplines. I think I learned more from them than the other visual artists that are here, simply because I was oblivious to those foreign worlds. Turns out we have a lot of the same problems.
So I keep thinking about how to reenter society after being out of touch for over 3 weeks now. No television, no radio, no newspaper, the stock market may have crashed. I have no idea. Its like nearly a month of my life has been put in a bottle and thrown into a river. Now I continue downstream with everything I take away from this place. It’s funny to think about tearing up as I pulled out of my driveway a month ago. I’m getting the same feeling as I pack my car now. You only tear up when you feel like you are missing part of yourself, my family on the front end, and my new friends on the back. Life is funny.
I can’t leave MacDowell without thanking the people who got me here. You know who you are. This has changed my life and will continue to do so. It has been an incredible experience and I know that everything I take from this place has not even bubbled to the surface yet. This was a seed that has been planted; the fruits are still to come.
The staff at MacDowell is amazing. I have never seen a better oiled machine. The thing that strikes me most is the selfless way in which the staff works. As if they try not to be seen, its a real smoke and mirrors operation. While we are all working in our studios, they are all raising money, planting vegetables, fixing toilets, doing laundry, and delivering our lunches and any number of other thankless tasks. Occasionally, you will see them getting coffee or a scone from the kitchen, but by and large they leave the artists alone to talk, create and explore. It is a little sad that we don’t interact with them more, because only wonderful people could do this job and not want to be right in the middle of all the action.
I can’t thank my in-laws enough for the faith they have in my art and career. I know they would bend over backwards and span the globe to spend a day with their grandson, but I also know there is a commitment and there are sacrifices that have been made. I recognize that and thank you for it.
I saved the best for last. My wife continues to give me her full support. I applied for this residency when she was pregnant with Ford. She said, “Apply, if you get in we’ll figure it out”. Sometimes its easy to give permission and harder to follow through on promises. I know Saskia has been working hard on her fall fundraiser and still tried to be home at night for Ford. She is a great mom and a fantastic wife. I can’t get out of bed in the morning without her support (and her coffee). I am truly the luckiest guy in the world.
As for my little man, I don’t think he even understands time yet. 3 hour and 3 weeks is pretty much the same thing. Ultimately, I’m doing things like this so that I can be a better person and a better father. This experience has allowed me to look deep inside of myself and begin to reassemble my life and childhood and connect that to my work. After 3 weeks in a place like this your whole life becomes a dream. You can become disoriented and your world shifts so rapidly that you wonder if you really have a family and a life outside of this place. You have to jump in with both feet here, or you won’t get in at all. The pictures and video on my I-phone could have easily been downloaded from the internet. My reality gets foggy over time. But for me, it was very real at 7:30 every morning; calling home and hearing that little monster scream and screech when he heard my voice on the speakerphone.
Back to my question, how do you re-enter society after 3 weeks in the woods? New York, I’ll see you tomorrow night!
| The Final Countdown
I spent last weekend in Boston hanging out with an old friend. He’s really not an old friend, but someone I have known for about 6 years. He feels like an old friend though. He is largely responsible for my interest in modernism and decorative arts. One of those people that you know you will have a relationship with for the rest of your life, because your life wouldn’t be the same without them.
We did a huge architecture tour of Boston, ate a burger and shepard’s pie at a pub and talked until 3 in the morning. Waking up at 9:00 we had 2 pots of coffee and talked until almost 3:00 at his kitchen table. Laughing and having a great time, my tongue was sore from talking so much. We checked out more architecture and saw the new ICA, which is fantastic, but another classic case of architects forgetting that then needed to put art in the museum. I can’t complain, ever since Diller-Scoffido did that show at the Whitney with the drills, they can do no wrong by me. But,I love leaving a reunion and feeling as if it had been a week apart.
Back to MacDowell, a beautiful drive though the mountains, the color was amazing, just as the leaves darken from the lack of sun, the sky became brilliant. I reached over to put my hand on my wife’s knee, and it wasn’t there. Damn, life’s cruel jokes. Sometimes the things you want to share the most are enjoyed alone. I rolled back onto MacDowell property and I saw through the window, Mark and Greta, clearing plates from the dinner table. I drove directly to my studio. I had an open house at the studio the next day and I needed to get ready.
I got up early to take the truck in for some repairs and an oil change, because I go home in 2 days. It’s a funny time, saying good bye and tying up lose ends. It is the reverse of my experience just this time last month.
My open studio event started at 5:00 and it was great. Perfect strangers who have become friends are now finally allowed into my studio. They didn’t know what I was doing out here at the end of the road in my cabin, I could have been building bombs. I told them I was working. They filled the studio and seemed to genuinely like the work I have been preparing. Although, it was confusing, I have shifted so many time on this trip that I found myself working on three bodies of work. Some things never change, if I would have had my woodshop, I may have worked on five.
It was a great start to a full evening of events. My studio opening, followed by dinner, two readings and a presentation on climate change/composition. We had a beautiful salmon fillet, rice, salad and greens for dinner. I also had a wonderful conversation with David about being a dad, which always gets me excited. David got excited to and his son is in his 20’s. Once a dad, always a dad I guess.
After dinner Greta read two sections of the book she is writing about her experiences at an orphanage in Africa. It was extremely moving the way she worked her experiences into the local lore. It was very visual and I liked the tone of compassion in her voice as she read. I want to make it a habit if reading more to Ford when I get home. I think hearing something read to you clears the visual field in your mind that would usually be filled with the written word. I really do think it helps to set the tone for the words. Not to mention, it is so nice to hear an author read it as it was written, and intended.
Lori read part of a piece she was working on about a trip to Spain with her family. It was great, and I love Spain, so it was very visual to me. You can almost feel the air and hear the sounds, which makes it so much more alive.
Nathan then did a presentation in the library about climate change. I love Nathan and his passion for the subject, but never has the problem of climate change been so saturated in doom and hopelessness. Its almost as if you don’t need to kill the messenger, he is dead already.
I’m interested, I’m active in recycling and so on. I even bought an electric mower. But here is the deal. If you think you are going to get people to change based on charts and graphs that the average person can’t read, conbining that with a “the sky is falling” mentality, we are totally out of luck. You’ve lost me already, and I was interested before you started talking. Now the conversation seems hopeless and you still haven’t told me what to do to fix it. Becoming a vegetarian is not the answer considering everyone is born with canines in their mouths. Eating animals is what we do. Even I find it hard to believe that the methane produced by cows and humans has a larger impact on the earth than driving my car 1200 miles to MacDowell.
I really think if this world is going to be saved for the next generation, we need to be creative. It needs to be compelling because Americans are not interested in facts, if we were, we wouldn’t be here. However I do agree with Nathan, if we don’t change, this body we are living on will die the life of a junkie and probably never live to see old age.
| MacDowell 16 of 23
MacDowell: day 16 of 23
I hate that late in my residency there are so many good-byes. But Eleanor left yesterday. I didn’t really get to know her that well, and I am sorry for that. But she was kind of quiet and was ok letting people with stronger personalities come to the front. But you always saw her laughing at them, or perhaps, with them. She is a composer and seemed to keep her nose to the grindstone.
Eleanor had a task at MacDowell; it was her job to put the chickens in their house at night. On Monday, one of them didn’t make it back into the house for some odd reason, or perhaps she escaped. At any rate, it caught cold and had to live in a box in the laundry room this week. I think it wanted the extra attention it got. On her last night Eleanor set up a video about the history of MacDowell for us in Colony Hall. Before we watched that, she played a song on the piano that she had written about the chickens. It was called Chicken Wrangl’in, it was a great song and I am sure it would be a huge hit, if only she would record it.
I haven’t really talked much about what I am working on here. That has been a little by design as I wasn’t sure what I would be working on. I brought some ideas with me to “prime the pump”. So I promptly started working on everything I thought I needed to do while I was here. Just to come to a screeching halt as conversations developed, so did ideas. It wasn’t long and I had taken a turn and the busy work was left on the side of the road. I’m not a troubled artist and I don’t sit in my studio smoking cigarettes and drinking, trying to find the answers in a bottomless pit of romanticized artistry. However, I do search for answers to my own life’s questions, and I’m the only one that can answer them. Why am I interested in architecture and modernism and what does that mean? Why does most of that architecture focus on the home? Why do I like to make commentary on religion and politics and never expect any change? How do these things fit together? What’s my role in making them fit together? Will anyone care? The most important question of all, where do I start?
I started some work about mid century modern churches when I got here. The work has become challenging. I don’t want to simply create elevations of modern churches, it needs more. There is more there than that. I was very interested in trying to find common ground in various religions through architecture. Then I thought who cares? They all think theirs is the chosen way, go to jail, don’t collect 200 dollars.
How does this all work and why am I drawn to the subject matter. Its pretty logical, you start at the beginning, again. I was raised in the small town of Winterset, Iowa. It’s not much bigger than Peterbourgh, NH. We had 13 covered bridges in our town and John Wayne was born there, a regular ol’ cultural hotbed. Lewis and Clark came through and left a stone tower behind. I had a wonderful education with a focus on the arts that is unheard of. The only backlash to the arts was that it opened my mind and I couldn’t wait to leave that town. I would buy Interview magazine at the convenience store and that was the portal I needed to be Andy Warhol’s biggest fan.
I was raised in a Pentecostal church, which is a pretty serious pill for any kid to swallow. Basically, you can’t be a kid and make a mistake without the looming consequences. You can’t be human, if you stole cookies from the cookie jar; you’d better not get hit by a car riding your bike away from the crime scene. If you die, the price is pretty steep.
I learned at an early age that I wasn’t buying into that. It’s probably what made my teenage years so hard. Even if I could have articulated it then, my parents were not listening to it. I could see God all around me and it wasn’t just in the plants or animals, it was in everything. I think, God is entertained by us, and the mistakes we make. I think it reminds him that he is God, and we are not. It certainly reminds me. I don’t think you sin against God, you sin against your fellow man.
I can’t believe that God’s vision is so short that he doesn’t see heartbreak coming, or has skin so thin that his feelings get hurt. We’re humans, not gods, we are designed to screw up. Its like Hewlett Packard making a printer that runs out of ink, if it didn’t, you wouldn’t need them anymore. The only thing that makes us interesting is our mistakes.
So you can see, I can go on a rant, not sure where I get that. But I have been thinking about my past in an attempt to create my future. At MacDowell I have been working on a set of 4 large drawings 22” tall and 94” long each. They are elevation drawings of the town square in Winterset, Iowa.
As a kid, one of my favorite things to do on my way home from school was to stop in to see my grandmother at Ben Franklin. It’s a dime store on the square, which I guess kind of ages me right there. My grandmother loved to see my brother and I at about the same time each day, or as often as possible. We were not supposed to go up there, but I guess now that my parents are grandparents; they can understand why it would be important. Of course Grandma bribed us with candy and toys at the store. Balsa wood airplanes, gum and model cars are a huge priority to a kid. Toys help to feed the imagination and became a gateway drug to making art.
The drawings are moving about as slowly as the traffic in Winterset, the details are laborious and the scale is a tricky. If I have 2 of the 4 finished before I leave I will be happy. So much has changed in that town since I lived there. I think there are only about 8-10 business on the square that were around when I was a kid. The rest are new, or have moved from a side street. I’m thinking of adding color to the businesses that have remained all these years. But I haven’t decided yet, So much of it is like a dream to me. It’s hard to imagine ever living there. That was more than half of my life ago. Its scary what you remember and funny what you forget.
Ultimately, I see these drawings finished in simple white washed frames and hanging in a square room, to be seen in the round. The thought is similar to the Cyclorama in Atlanta, which is the scene of a great battle. Only this room is square and you would enter the room from the corners, just as you would driving down the street into town?
| MacDowell, those writers and poets
Sept 21, 2011
It is getting hard to say good-bye to these new friends. Yesterday Stephen Dunn left. He has a ritual of going to the Peterborough Diner for breakfast on his last day of MacDowell. Sadly, the diner had a grease fire on Monday and is closed until they get it cleaned up. You think you have Stephen figured out going in, when he lets you in, you find out you didn’t have a clue.
Stephen did a reading of about 15 poems last week, some were new, and some were read from his books. I was blown away and I couldn’t get enough. I thought about it all night and the next morning at breakfast I distanced myself from him unknowingly. It took some time to process what had happened. I went back to my studio and tried to work on my drawings. I couldn’t do it until I cleared some of the visual language he had planted in my head. So I wrote a poem about Stephen reading poems to the group. It wasn’t enough, I went to the bookstore and picked up a copy of the book he was reading from. I read it cover to cover.
I saw Stephen the next day after dinner and told him that he had wrecked my day, and I couldn’t get anything done. He said, “thank you, I’m glad I could do that for you.” He brought me a piece of cake for desert. Stephen is awesome, and I mean that in the most beautiful sense of the word.
This is the first poem I have ever written; it is a poem for Stephen Dunn.
Speaking into a microphone
That has become a vocal splint
the trembling hand is not a lack of courage
Rather a life of experience
The act of bravery isn’t in the reading
but in the revealing
reveling in the past
over the frame of his glasses
eyeing the future
arousal of language
generous in his verbal prowess
proud in his reflective conquests
years saturated in humility
dispersing worded gifts
Seducing the room
an inopportune moment for an idea to appear
which will disappear
like the vapor on his breath
It’s hard to follow up after Stephen, but Larry Raab left this morning as well. Larry has a great mustache that lets you know when he is smiling. Larry also read after Stephen last week. Larry was equally moving and passionate in his poems. He is the kind of guy who loves to roll around in his work, creating more reasons to make a poem for himself. He doesn’t need an excuse to write, but perhaps a framework to keep his mind in, keeping him between the rails of his thoughts. Larry is extremely generous in his love of poetry and people, and he wants you to enjoy the art of words as much as he does.
Our social cruise director also left this morning. Rosecrans Baldwin dropped into MacDowell like a maniac from another planet. He apparently had to sleep on the couch in Colony Hall his first night because he was late getting in. He said it was due to weather. I think he was at Harlow’s. Roseman is a writer working on his new book, Paris I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down. The title alone should tell you something about this guy. Never to shy for a drink and conversation, there was not one minute of silence or idle talk, and he actually listens too. His passion for writing is equal to that of life. Everyday he was at MacDowell Rosewood organized something, a party, ping-pong or pool tournament, or simply tennis in the afternoon. I thought he was crazy when he sent me a message saying he had found a rope swing at the pond. It was 66 degrees outside. But Rosewater found some takers; I was not one of them. Every residency needs that person that breaks the ice for the group, without them I don’t think you can get the most out of the experience.
He claims to have gotten a lot of work done here, I’m not sure when, but I trust he did. His reading last night with John Haskell was hilarious, as he read a couple of sections from his new book that drops in the spring. Laugh out loud funny, and you can truly see him in his words. Rosebush is the kind of guy that you can poke and tease and he comes back for more. The kind of guys who can have a name like Rosecrans and pull it off.
Thanks guys, MacDowell gets a little quieter today.
| MacDowell, half way home
Sept. 19th, 2011
Today marks my halfway point at MacDowell. It’s going so quickly, yet time stands still. We poetically watched Groundhogs Day in Colony Hall the other day as a group. I am discovering that one of the things I love about this place is the fellowship between the colonists. There is a constant conversation that is drenched in support and curiosity for each other’s work. Some people come and get stuck, others are stuck when they arrive. That is all ok; you won’t be stuck for long.
I came with a plan, which I started. It quickly became a back burner project. I guess I needed a jumping off point. Maybe the fresh air cleared the concrete and saw dust from my brain. Sitting in the woods of New Hampshire for a week and a half, drawing, reading, writing and talking does amazing things for the clarity in your thinking. Stepping outside of my comfort zone wasn’t so uncomfortable. Now I’m not sure I am interested in going back.
Honestly, I was a little bummed to find only one other visual artist when I arrived. We have several writers, poets and composers. A puppeteer, filmmaker, and now 2 more visual artists have joined the group. I think I was hoping it would be a big group of painters and sculptors, but now I don’t think I would have learned as much. I’ve become a sponge here; maybe Atlanta was drying me out. I’ve always known it was good to go away and come back fresh.
Saturday night we had a huge costume party to celebrate the 3 birthdays last week. It was held in Lindsey’s studio and the theme was “come as you art”. The task was tall. The writers and poets came as literary works of art; others came as visual works of art. I came as Banksy’s wonderful tag of the guy throwing the Molotov cocktail that has been replaced with a bouquet of flowers. So I made a shirt to illustrate what I was actually dressed as. It was a great time and I am told it didn’t end until 2 in the morning when Feliz was still dancing, but had collapsed to the floor, continuing on her back. Julia won the costume contest, just beating out “Frida Kahlo” by one vote.
Yesterday was a day to get out of the studio and off campus. A small group of us headed to Mass MOCA in North Adams, MA. Along the way we stopped at the Blue Ben diner in Bennington, VT. Which is a beautiful, classic diner, one of the best in the country. We drove through the small back roads of Vermont and witnessed the devastation of the hurricane a few weeks ago. Roads, building and thousands of trees washed downstream. After being raised in s small town that understands how important covered bridges can be to the local and cultural economy, it was heart breaking to witness the aftermath. It seemed trivial to stop to buy ice cream and maple syrup on a mountaintop. But, they could use any support they can get for their economy.
Mass MOCA was very cool and well worth the day trip. The Sol LeWitt show was stunning and physically impressive. I’ve assisted on the installation of two of his wall drawing in my recent past. But the scale of the drawings combined with the square footage of each floor was impressive, but take it times 3. It took 6 months to install these beautiful drawings, and every one of them were just as impressive as the last.
The Katharina Grosse installation was enormous and a technical feat of its own. I wasn’t expecting to be impressed with the install, but the more time I spent in it, the more impressive it became. It was like walking through one of Turner’s enormous iceberg paintings. I would have loved to take my son through both exhibitions to get his reaction.
It is worth noting that today is Spencer’s last day at MacDowell. Spencer is a poet, and now a priest. He is moving to Madrid, Spain in less than 2 weeks. Spencer is one of those people who will generously share his life’s most intimate struggles with you. He projects a love for life that is infectious. Its cruel how life can hand you people that you don’t really know, but you know you didn’t get enough. Thank you for your kindness Spencer, Madrid will be a richer city with your presents.
So I thought it would be fun to make a few lists of things that are important to this trip. One of the first things you notice in the studios are the “tombstones”. I’m not sure how the tradition started, but each fellow that stays in a studio is supposed to sign their name on a “tombstone when leaving. There are 17 tombstones in my studio that date back to 1914. I spent an hour on my first night looking at all of the names. I have a list that stick out me either because I know them personally or I really respect the work that they have done. This is in chronological order.
Jules Kirschenbaum ( Jules used to visit my first studio in Des Moines, and was a professor at Drake University)
Haim Steinbach ( 2 visits to this studio)
Benny Andrews ( 2 visits to this studio)
It is important to remember that there are 20-28 names on each tombstone in my studio. Hundreds of artist, writers, poets and architects have created in this space. There are 30 studios at MacDowell, so you can only imagine how many people have come through here since they opened their doors. I have a great support group, but the energy of this place is one of the purest forms of support that an artist can get.
Yesterday I laid a ground of gesso on my tombstone, and I will sign it the day I leave.
| MacDowell week two
Today makes the end of my first week here at MacDowell. Honestly, if you have never done a residency, it can change your life. I was listening to Stephen, or maybe it was Larry the other day, sitting on the porch talking. Basically, about how for the longest time he could not tell people outside of this kind of creative environment that he was a poet, until he came to MacDowell. People just couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea of being a poet. Questions and issues about making a living far outweigh the simple fact that he wrote poems. It was a very profound thing to hear coming from such an accomplished guy. For a moment I likened it to Herb Vogel working at the post office and no one knowing he was one of the most important and passionate art collectors in the world. Or perhaps its like being gay and not telling your parents. I don’t know, it’s just hard to think about not telling people who you are and what you are truly about.
Anyway, week one, pretty incredible. We are celebrating 3 birthdays this week, which has been wonderful. I have to say that my favorite gesture of celebration was the song that Cynthia played after dinner last night on her accordion. I know this sounds like a setup for a joke, and I personally thought it was. However, Cynthia had written the song celebrating the birthday of a ship she was on in the Antarctica last year. The song goes on to mention the animals and the isolation of the glaciers, etc. It is probably the most moving song I have ever heard, I was honestly fighting back tears as she finished the song howling like an arctic fox. Incredible!
My week has had its highs and lows. On Tuesday I got a call from Saskia that our neighbor boy who is 2-3 months older than Ford had died of a rare brain cancer. That’s a call you don’t want to get when you are 1200 miles from home and you just want to hug your boy. But I started thinking about this during Cynthia’s song with all of the emptiness and isolation, on top of the darkness and bitter cold that life hands us sometimes. This is why music and the arts are so important, and this is why I’m here. I couldn’t cope with this without even a simple form of expression.
If you haven’t heard, they feed you an incredible amount of food here. Its like your grandmother works in the kitchen, and nothing gives her more pleasure than feeding you. It’s an endless supply of fresh eggs, locally grown food, much of it right on the property. I’m a big soup person and a fresh new soup shows up on my doorstep every day at lunch. It usually has a friend with it, in the form of a tasty sandwich or hot dish. Jiha Moon told me when she came here that she thought she would lose weight, with all of the walking that you do, but no. Its insane, but the fellowship at breakfast, and in the evening over large family style dinners is incredible. Just pick a different table every night and see where the conversation might take you. It’s inspiring on its own, so I won’t even mention the pastry chef they hired.
So all of this being said, you would think that I was not getting any work done. Between the book reading, eating, and trips to neighboring towns, I am getting so much done. I’ve made tons of sketches, drawings and even started a model for a huge sculpture I will make when I get home. I’ve really reached a moment of clarity in this place that is allowing me to think through my work in new ways. I realize with all the colorful mushrooms and deer outside my studio, that is does sounds like a dreamland. Maybe it is. At any rate, I gotta run. My BBQ pulled pork sandwich with spicy slaw and pineapple just arrived with his lunch partner, a thermos full of carrot ginger soup.
| MacDowell Colony
I left Atlanta on Monday Sept. 5th on a drive to the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Pulling out of my driveway with my beautiful wife and 6 1/2 month old son waving good-bye has to be the hardest part of such a trip. As they say, what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.
I spent 3 days driving in the rain, following a tropical storm from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to New Hampshire. I spent the first night in Roanoke, VA with our old friends Deane and Adrienne. It gave me the opportunity to catch up with them and play with Gigi, as well as meet the new addition to their family, Everett. This became a nice transition after leaving my son in the driveway. The next morning Gigi made me a Play-do muffin and sent me on my way.
It’s a beautiful drive through Virginia when it is raining, I can only imagine a clear day. I headed northeast, skirting New York City and making my way to Greenwich, CT. The US baby tour of 2011 continued when I met Samuel Kovacs. His parents Bret and Sarah, have become wonderful friends over the years. It was the perfect resting stop after 2 days of driving.
Leaving Greenwich meant that I had to actually get to work, as bitter sweet as that can be. So I headed northwest to Pocontico Hills, NY to visit a small church that happens to have stained glass windows by Chagall and Matisse. It is supposed to be Matisse’s last work of art. It is a beautiful place the reminded me a little of Christ’s Church on St. Simon’s Island, with its dark wood interior.
After the church I drove to New Canaan, CT to visit Philip Johnson’s Glass house and property. They happen to have a spot on the 2:00 tour, which I took with an architect from Stamford and a guy from Decatur, GA. Come on, what are the odds I meet a guy over a thousand miles from my house who lives down the street? I had a wonderful tour guide who let me peek into a few places I probably wasn’t supposed to. Honestly though, this is one of life’s “ask for forgiveness, not for permission” kind of times. I’d gladly take a slap on the hand to see as much of these structures as possible.
Philip Johnson refered to Mies van der Rohe as God. Johnson had designed his house after Mies had started building the Farnsworth House in Plano, IL. Now after visiting both homes, you can really see why. But I don’t think Johnson wanted to be God, only to walk and talk with one. The similarities are spot on, and the differences are astounding. Using many of the same materials in both houses, Mies raised his pure white house from the earth, and Johnson dropped his black structure to the ground. I think seeing both of these houses begins to explain the differences in people and how they really see and interpret life, and make it their own.
So I got on the road again and ended up on the phone with an dear old friend for an hour and a half. When the conversation ended, I found myself outside of Boston about 20 minutes looking for a fleabag hotel. The next morning I would be visiting the home of Walter Gropius. The thing I loved about this house was that it reminded me of the Schindler house in Utrecht, in the Netherlands. It was incredibly practical and beautifully designed. It had incredible views of the landscape and the apple orchard that it sat in. Gropius was actually aware that he had built a hard edge box in the middle of nature, and found ways to soften it a little though planting trees and grapevines on the property. The thing I love about the architects of this time, and even a little later, is that they made you aware of the landscape while you were in the house. Using huge windows, skylights, and glass block really allowed you to experience the outdoors from the comfort of your chair, or bed. It really begs to ask you the question, do you want to live in a box, or do you want to experience your world?
After leaving Lincoln, MA I headed and hour and a half northwest to Peterborough, NH. It had been misting most of the morning, but the sun came out just as I pulled into town. I will take that as a sign. It took me all of 5 minutes to find the MacDowell Colony in a town the size of the one I grew up in. I went to the office to check in for my tour of the property. Now right out of the gate, I know that residencies are not all created equal, and there is nothing equal to this place. I’ve been her for 24 hours now and I guarantee there is not another place on earth that compares.
I talk big as this is the first residency I’ve done, but honestly if they were all like this you would never meet an artist again. They would all be sitting in the woods working away, waiting for their lunch basket to show up. I often feel like I live a life of certain privilege, now I know what that really means. I was joking at breakfast that the 3 deer they scheduled had appropriately greeted me when I walked out the door this morning.
24 hours in, I still miss my family, but I have my studio set up and I am working away on some things that I have really wanted to do for some time. I just needed to take the time to do it, and that is what this is all about.
| Welcome to my new website
June 2nd, 2011
It is 94 degrees today in the studio. I really don’t miss summers in Atlanta. But it is giving me time to work on things that I really have been putting off. Like this new website. I’d like to thank Alex West and all of his staff for putting this together for me. It is still a work in progress, but soon we will have it all squared away. I am launching it in this somewhat unfinished state to get some feedback from people on what they like and don’t like. So please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if something really makes you crazy.
The first thing we added was my blog, we put it on the home page in an attempt to inform people about what it going on with the work right now. It will have news about projects, upcoming exhibitions, and new works will debut. I may even ramble on and on about exciting stuff like concrete and paint.
I wanted to add a fun, game like element to the site. So notice as you click through the sub-categories in the “work” section that the color bands change with every click. I based this on the color studies that I make when assigning color to my architectural paintings. It creates some fantastic color combinations.
We really tried to streamline the “work” category as much as possible. It is very difficult to do when the work sits at the crossroads of art and architecture. But you will find everything from simple line drawings, to cut limestone sculpture, and everything in between. Hopefully, the way things are categorized you can find what you are looking for yet still see the throughline in all of the work. I wanted to have plenty of work from the last 10 years for you to see.
This site will continue to change and grow as I add new work and features to the site. In the coming months I will be adding environments that I have designed and built over the last few years. I will feature my modular gift shop at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center. In addition, I recently finished a reading room for John and Sue Wieland’s latest project, The wareHOUSE. I am told this is the first piece the Wielands have ever commissioned. I am thrilled and it is fantastic that it could be an Atlanta artist as well.
Soon the site will also have pictures of the recently built Jennifer Schwartz Gallery and its new live-in bookstore Fall Line, of the new Fall Line Press. This is a great new project created by Bill Boling to produce and distribute books about photography and the arts. Check out the website www.falllinepress.com
Please check back often, this will be a constantly changing extension of my studio practice.
It's funny to me that people continue to ask me to write things for magazines, websites and blogs. I can barely write my name or a complete sentence. But i have a new project that i am very excited about. I have teamed up with Mark Liebert ( Mark obviously taking the lead) on a new site on which we have conversations with artists that are exhibiting or living in the Atlanta area. I am most interested in a conversation after a time of settling and reflection.
I am so excited to announce that my email conversation with Jennie C. Jones is the first entry in this new endeavor. This discussion follows her beautiful show at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center. I think Jennie's work is wonderfully inspirational, as if i had a kindred spirit in Brooklyn.
I hope that you enjoy the new site and check back for new entries that i am currently working on. The "punk rock wanderer" Bill Daniels is up next. we will be talking about his new show at Get This Gallery and discussing photography as documentation.
check it out: http://throwsheet.wordpress.com/2009/09/
I mentioned this house the other day in a post. I grew up about 6 blocks from it and was completely obsessed with it. i had forgotten about the M*A*S*H* style sign post that sat on the corner of the property at the street. i have always assumed that the cities listed were visited by the home owner. That on it's own was of interest to me. We occasionally made the drive back to Oklahoma to visit family friends. Once in awhile we'd go to Omaha and visit the zoo. My father was not much for travel, still isn't. He claims to be happy where he is, my mother however, doesn't share this contentment in the same way.
Back to the house, one of the things i loved about it was that it was a perfect solution to my escapism. The day dreaming about the home owners and the travel sign, and their adventures. I look back at the sign now and none of those cities seem as far away. Maybe because i have been to most of them for one reason or another. Sometimes i think the most important part of this sign was just putting the idea in my head that there was so much more out here.
I think it would be great to build a sign like that one day, but i'm not ready to stay home yet.
Your looking at pictures of the new Highline project in New York. The first section opened this summer and it is about long 5 blocks in length. Cutting through the Standard Hotel as well as two other older buildings. One of which Spencer Finch has created a beautiful site specific installation in the windows.
The Highline is a project using elevated abandoned trainlines to create a greenspace/park. It is brilliant! It is like taking an old car on blocks laying on the side of the street and restoring it to the better than original condition, then letting perfect strangers take it for a spin. I absolutely loved it. The design is amazing every detail that was needed was handled perfectly. If it didn't need to be touched, it wasn't. An amazing balance with so many surprises. Including a rare view of the Statue of Liberty that far north in Manhatten, which is perfectly framed with vintage architecture.
I walked it the first time, turning around I walked back. I could have done it again, But we had people to meet. It's like a wonderful ride with views of the city that you don't get on the street or even from a window.
The next day i found myself at galleries in Chelsea and realized that i could enter on 19th, so i walked it again.
At no point do you forget you are in New York, like the rest of the world you realize that New York is changing too. It is making choices that other cities need to be making to improve the quality of life.
It is also great to see the contemporary architectural history lesson popping up around you. It reminded me of Berlin in that way, the old sitting comfortably with the new in conversation.
The Highline was not only a treat, but the highlight of my trip. It will become a part of my future trips to New York, just like the Met, MOMA or the Whitney
I've been thinking about posting these photos for awhile. You are looking at two photos from a new series of photos that i took last spring in Atlanta, just off of Marietta Blvd. I was driving by the site and the sun was hitting this massive pile of blocks beautifully. It was like a rolling hill in a cemetery with the light reflecting off the stones.
I dropped everything I was doing, went home, and grabbed the camera and tri-pod and headed right back. A half an hour later the light was even better. I took about 30 pictures and everyone of them is incredible. This mass grave of material was lifeless and I was torn between capturing the moment and documenting a loss.
I turned 40 last year, and got married this summer. My life is changing and I have spent much of it running from the first half. Sometimes I feel as though I have entered my work at a half way point, or rather that the viewer doesn't know the whole story. Most people don't know me or my work before I moved to Atlanta in 1995. Oddly, I'm not sure I knew me, but I was searching. I have been thinking a lot about why I am interested in architecture, art, and cars. It could be home remodeling projects with my father or car restoration with my brother. Obviously my high school art program had a huge impact.
I remember a house on my way to school or church. I rode my bike by it everyday, even in the summer on my way to the pool. It was strange by small town Winterset, Iowa standards. It was two stories high, and the only home in the whole town that had a flat roof. With the annual snowfall a flat roof is asking for trouble. It was modern and stood out like a sore thumb. Built in the mid 40's at 420 E. Court Street. i rode my bike by that house for years and could only imagine the celebrity that lived in that house. Probably summered there between shooting movies. I wasn't old enough to understand California modernism at the time, but I was sure the person that lived there was from California, a fantasy land far away from my bland life in Iowa.
The house had a porch on the second floor and a wrap around patio that was covered. A real party house I'd think. Fellow celebrities drinking martini's smoking cigarettes late into the evening without a care in the world, because they were in the middle of nowhere.
A few years ago I was back in Winterset, I took my then future wife to see where I grew up. I took her by the house almost before I went by my own. Winterset was famous for the birth of John Wayne and the 13 covered bridges that Clint Eastwood made a movie about. Its nice, but even with all of its "culture", it wasn't enough. I've always wanted more.
I took pictures of the house, all 4 sides, in preparation for a series of drawings, maybe even paintings. I took the pictures because there is one thing i have learned living in Atlanta. You take pictures of modern buildings because they may not be there when you drive by again. They become rubble and they scoop them up and fill an empty hole in the ground with them. Developers don't think twice. The lives that were lived in those buildings are no match for the profit they will make. So it is interesting to think of a building in terms of a life.
The new series of photos above are the first into my look at the past. I know they seem quite final in their view of destruction. I would really like to focus on what is here now, a documentary process of capturing what is left. I've missed so many. Many of these buildings are not even important examples of modernism, but the more they take down the more important the mundane becomes.
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So summer has been pretty crazy so far, still gotta get through August though. I was in New York last week hanging out and talking with some artists about the future. Things have been better, but i think it is making us better artists. It is certainly pushing me in directions to explore some things in a depth that i have never been to before.
This photo was taken by my friend Drew after our conversation about a new photo project i am working on. I've never been interested in photography beyond a tool for documentation. Oddly enough, i see these new photos as documentation even though i am not sure what they are capturing aside from debris.
I am exploring the cinder block as a symbol, a bland, cold hard, gray symbol. I am very interested in the utilitarian design and its functionality on an individual basis. One cinder block is pretty useless unless you are holding a door open. Add a companion and a board and you can make a bench or shelf for a dorm room. Add more blocks and you can construct anything you want. A retaining wall, a structural wall, shelter, on their sides they become a screen. I am obsessed with them and their ability to humanize and dehumanize at the same time.
I am collecting photos such as the one above to talk about just that idea. In art history when artists moved from the church taking frescos and paintings from the wall to wood panels and canvas it gave us the ability to move the earth. From one place to the next, we could suddenly take a picture, a window to the world, and move it. Our favorite landscape, still life or portrait was moved around the room or around the world. A picture window of perfection, and it could be changed, traded, bought and sold. The picture's frame itself created the window's frame and the artist gave us an aesthetically pleasing view of life.
It is interesting to me, as i see more and more actual windows boarded and bricked up. What does that say aside from, "you are not welcome". I have trouble thinking about an architectural space that you can not see out of. No contact with the outside world. We've come so far with our painted representations of life just to brick up the real thing. I think it says something about safety and security, but i think it also says something about the way we want to live. Boards can be removed,bricking up a window seems so permanent, so final, much like the bricking of a crypt.
The new pieces i am creating work in this thought, the picture is gone, the view is bricked up and the future seems cold and gray. I am finding myself at an odd crossroad where the symbol of what i am creating is not only actually taking place, but i am recording it as a gesture or thought that i don't even like. It is an idea that can easily be removed for the wall and replaced by a lush green Struth forest or Gursky's dimestore.
Stay tuned, i'll post one as soon as it is finished.
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