The Genesis of a New Body of Work

I haven’t made a body of work for the past 10 years. This past decade has been a kind of walk-about so to speak where I tried different careers, started a family, and lived abroad in Asia. But of course I never stopped thinking of new artistic endeavors. I just wasn’t setup to pursue my ideas whether it was due to lack of work space, time, finances, a need to change my kids diapers, or a mixture of them all.

But this time while back in the USA I had an idea that would allow me to engage in  my favorite material, clay; and one of my favorite processes, photography.

These images mark the Genesis of hopefully a new, complete body of work. The end product will be, for now anyway, large scale high definition images of works made in clay that are taken on sites related to the object(s) and ideas as they continue to form.

Advertisements

Humboldt Summer & Election 2016

downtownHumboldt

The heat laden summers of Humboldt, Tennessee wear you like a thick winter coat in a sauna. Like too many small towns across this country, Humboldt seems to have become a remnant of a more productive time and era. Storefronts that were once covered by the vinyl siding of the 80’s is falling off exposing bricks made on site close to 100 years ago. Some have made attempts at rejuvenating this Main Street with clothing stores and restaurants, in so doing adding a couple more decades of life to them possibly, but the only things that seem to stick around are fast cash advance and title loan businesses. The other buildings sit like stoic ruins badly camouflaged by outdated building materials.

The rest of town is occupied by housing sustained by those receiving government benefits or those living on their own retirement resulting in a very idle, near extinct workforce. The drive to make money died some time ago here for the majority of a once driven people. For too many under the age of 40 exists an acceptance of normalcy for apathy towards earning a living and providing for ones own family. Unfortunately it appears most of those who receive government benefits also seem to be members of broken families whose parents have had multiple partners and several children from different partners.

It’s not uncommon, like many places in the country, to see 5 or more children walking down the street in groups, minus a parent or adult figure. It frightens me being a parent to think about toddlers walking down the road with the oldest in arms reach being only 6-8 years old. Adults convene under shade trees or covered porches and glare statue like as you drive past.

The busiest place in town is of course the local one-stop-shop for all of your clothing, grocery, pharmaceutical, and lawn care & garden needs, Walmart. The sole proprietors who have survived up until now are nothing short of miracles. Among the immovable are a jeweler, somehow a few real estate agencies, a pharmacist, a dentist, a used car dealer or two, a lumber yard, expectantly, lawyers, and of course cash advances and a bank or two.

For dining out you have an array of options such as the omniscient McDonald’s, the new to town Hardee’s, Taco Bell, and a few local staples, one of which thankfully is a BBQ pit, and a great one at that, commonly known as Sam’s to the locals.

About 8 years ago or so the previous mayor helped orchestrate funding for a sister campus of a community college that is headquartered in a neighboring town. But who knows how it is doing now. There’s not any talk of it. One would hope a college would be a little caffeine to a sleepy town, even if it is a sister campus of a community college. But it looks like whatever college crowd that might exist within its walls don’t drink coffee and unfortunately has the appearance of taking the route common to too many endeavors in a place presumably heavily subsidized by government.

A lot of people put their hope into the influence of the Office of the President of the United States of America. It’s hard to truly put hope into our current presidential candidates, so the people here will vote for, given they vote, for the party they always vote for. While both candidates appeal to their constituents in this area, it appears to divide more than unite. And as a result is more of detriment than a benefit for our town and country. If Hillary Clinton wins it can be confidently suspected guns sales will go out the roof and one might do well to open a gun store here, at least while they’re legal, right? Those who receive government benefits will also be relieved their money will keep coming in, and possibly even increase. If Donald Trump wins, the entrepreneurs and real estate agents will be a little pumped in hopes of sales increasing in their respectful industries, while anxiety cultivates among the dependents of benefits out of speculation what will come of their money.

Either way one sect will be living in a world of increasing anxiety for the next 4 years. Truth be told, we all would benefit by adopting a get-through-it mindset for the next 4 years, and hope for a more conducive, unifying candidate in 2020.

sometimes-there-is-no-lesser-of-two-evils-jtf-jtf-org_806011

Art That Is True Will Be Addressing Several Things Today…

truth Orwell

Art that is true will be addressing several current issues of the day. Before addressing some of these issues, let’s first identify the 2 primary approaches art should use when it is intentionally “true.” (And by true, I mean clearly one of the following.)

  1. Art approaches a cultural, societal, or personal issue from an intentionally biased perspective with the primary intention at persuading others towards his/her position on a particular issue.
  2. Art attempts to address an issue from an unbiased perspective like we would hope a free press would to provide the facts of an issue so the people would be able to arrive at their own conclusions without the intent of being persuaded.

Much of art, like the free press, attempts to firstly persuade rather than firstly inform. It might not be a problem if either our free press or the majority of the art world were majorly unbiased and just presented the facts. But the problem is the majority of our sources of information seek to persuade. It might not be a problem if the loudest and most influential voices were not significantly against the Judeo-Christian foundations of the country.

Socialism v Capitalism

To remember, it was the Judeo-Christian foundation that led to the emancipation of slavery, to civil rights for blacks and women, and still is a harbor of religious freedom despite Christians specifically being the target of attacks, most recently the Christian students in Oregon that received minimal media attention compared to the Black Lives Matter coverage.

The question is not so much why the slant in coverage, but what is the agenda, who is behind it, and what is the goal?

The country is moving deeper into Socialism as seen in an increase in support for Socialist Presidential Candidate, Bernie Sanders. People spend more due diligence buying a car than they do on considering changing the form of their government and will be why they may one day be remembering the days of old when they could buy a car without the permission of their government.

My fear is that unbiased art and media coverage will come to late, if at all. We will be looking at this information in the form of history, as a memory of what used to be.

mainstream media

Will Globalization Eradicate Cultural Identities?

No doubt the world is increasingly becoming less homogenous and more heterogenous with globalization. While this in itself is not a bad thing, there is the law of unintended consequences to be aware of. One might say it is counting the costs. 

What are we loosing in the process of the world becoming globalized? 

Culture and ethnicity. Is that bad? Not entirely, but it’s not necessarily all good either if you think that the world having distinct races and cultures is also a good feature of our human race.

What am I saying here? Should we stop globalization? 

First, what I mean here by globalization is (in the undetermined future) a push for a one world way of life where there is the same rule of law for all places led by a one world government that conglomerates all nations into a singular one world nation.

To ask the question again, should it be stopped? Yes. And no. 

No. I don’t think we should stop allowing people to freely travel, and intermarry with other races and all that (as if it could happen anyway, nor should it as it is unethical), absolutely not.

Yes. I think globalization fully realized results in things referenced in the definition above, as well as an eradication of subcultures that contribute to our distinct human diversity. 

I am also interested in the question led to by the above,

how can cultures hold onto their cultural identities and characteristics as the world continues to become more heterogenous via globalization? 

And, is it even important for cultures to hold onto their identities and characteristics for better or worse? 

There is a strong push in the United States to make all things secular. Latest example is regarding religious people not being able to express their values and message by what they do for a living and what they make, or choose not to make, as artisans for example, such as bakers. One cannot say they are for diversity if they are against any one component of a culture like religion. If so, they are really,… religionists (my word for being a racist against those of a religion). 

If someone can sue a baker for choosing to not bake them a cake for whatever reason, it can lead to one being able to sue anyone who makes a living as an artisan or artist such as a musician or painter or sculptor, et cetera, who says they choose to not say, write a song celebrating a certain type of lifestyle such as same-sex marriage, or suing an atheist for not writing a worship song to God. (Yeah, we know the pendulum only swings one way on this matter, atheist songwriters, fear not, at least about writing worship songs.)

But the point here is, are we ready to continue down the road towards a secular world monoculture where distinct cultures composed of a myriad of religions and ethnicities contribute to true diversity? Where I live is currently very homogenous (Asia), and I am thankful for that because I am able to experience a different way of life. I am not trying to impose my way of thinking on anyone else, and nor are they trying to do that to me. But back home in the U.S., globalization is taking place and in its process cultural distinction will be lost, for better or worse.

I think for worse. 

Contemporary Art’s Sugar Daddy, The Central Intelligence Agency (aka, The CIA)

You ever wonder why some art is considered, art? I mean you know, when you walk into an art museum and you see a toilet on a pedestal that ends up selling for over $500,000, you ever wonder what in the world you’re missing?

duchamp ready made

An insightful disclosure by a former CIA officer named, Donald Jameson (if that’s his real name) might shed light onto why some things were considered high-end contemporary art, and still are today. 

Jameson shared with United Kingdom publication, The Independent, in ’95 that the CIA had established a Cold War counter propaganda program known as “Congress for Cultural Freedom” that was run by a CIA agent intended to communicate to Russia how much freer the U.S. was compared to the tight Socialist rules for their artists to follow. 

Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) had offices in 35 countries and 12 magazine publications according to The Independent, including Encounter magazine. The CCF also sponsored exhibitions that toured every major European city with funds allegedly from millionaire-backers, but I have an inkling a lot of those monies came from tax-payer contributions

Artist such as Jackson Pollock & Willem de Kooning supposedly were in ways, promoted by these funds, but with careful degrees of separation. 

pollockTateModern      dekoonig

Pollock                                                  de Kooning

I have long speculated that the art of contemporary art wings in museums such as Tate, The Guggenheim, Museum of Modern Art, were all being directed by a single agenda, and this story seems to justify this inkling. Now that a former CIA officer has volunteered this information that verifies this belief, I am also left with more questions:

If it’s “avant-garde” today, is it being financed by someone (CIA or other) with an agenda?

How is the “Who’s Who” of the art world truly defined? Is someone promoting their work for reasons other than a strong interest in it as art?

If you have gone through art school, you’ve been told half-truths at best, either knowingly or unknowingly, by the art historians who wrote the art history textbook you had to study. But if there is one thing I learned how to do in college, it was research and verify.

My feelings, inkling, that some well-known artists were merely puppets of an agenda, seems to be increasingly verified the more I speculate what’s been delivered as whole-truth, which is what lacks in “movements” like the CIA promoted avant-garde movement, Abstract Expressionism, in my humble opinion. 

But I guess there is not much to be discontent about here regarding Abstract Expressionism, I mean the CIA essentially promoted the freedom the U.S. has compared to other countries. But it still begs the inquiry,

Who is pushing certain individuals to culture’s spotlight today, and why?

Source: The Independent

Rolling Stone Magazine Calls Rick Santorum “Vile”. Why?

Let me first say I am not a fan of presidential candidate, Rick Santorum. But unlike Rolling Stone writer, Kristen Gwynne, I do not think of him as being “vile” and “extremist.” I think the people of the U.S. are smarter than that. 

On Thursday (28 May 2015) she assembled a list of some of Santorum’s quotes saying because it is official he is running “it’s time to brush up on what he believes about abortion, gay people and more” and then introduced him as “Former Republican senator and known right-wing extremist” (emphasis added, but not really because it’s already there).

As I read through the list, it did give me pause because I thought, “hey, maybe I’m an extremist too. If one believes in marriage as it has been for 1000’s of years between a man and a woman, does that make one “vile”?

Uh oh. Like how the word “sick” in today’s vernacular can mean “awesome,” now “vile” describes someone who doesn’t agree with mainstream media mantras? Hm. Okay. I might be “vile.”

Now granted, I think Gwynne has a bit of a point in her first used quote to her credit, but I wouldn’t paint Santorum as “vile” because of it, I guess because I still use the old definition.

1. On same-sex marriage, 2004: “This is an issue just like 9/11. We didn’t decide we wanted to fight the war on terrorism because we wanted to. It was brought to us. And if not now, when? When the supreme courts in all the other states have succumbed to the Massachusetts version of the law?”

Drawing a parallel between real extremists such as those responsible for 9/11 and those who want to marry the same-sex is a little extreme, but I don’t agree it equates Santorum to being an extremist as being synonymous to a terrorist, as the word “extremist” connotes in Gwynne’s list of Santorum’s quotes.

The only reason I take issue with this publication is because it used extreme adjectives to drive clicks to the page, and when you get there you see it is a bait-and-switch of language. 

The listed synonyms for the word “vile” are:

evil, wicked, shameful, depraved, base

What I think is extreme, and a bit wicked even, is painting those who don’t agree with your worldview as “vile” and “extremist.”

It comes across as desperate and juvenile, and even greedy, considering examples such as this appear to be merely ploys to drive traffic to a site for monetary gain.

A little, base?

I won’t pursue a full critique on the extreme use of terms in this publication. We all know why it’s done.  Click the link above for your own reference if you want more examples from the intolerant-agenda.

Unfortunately though I believe society has very possibly reached the point where if/when one disagrees with another, they are coined as being “vile” and “extremist.” So sad so many are so easily manipulated by words. It gives me pause to make sure I teach my child it is okay to befriend those with different beliefs than her and that when she meets other with different ideas about life, that doesn’t make them vile-extremists. 

There have been other cultures that did this in the not too distant past led by real mouthpieces for intolerance towards those who lived differently and believed different things about mankind and God in society.

And if we don’t pause and see how mishandling terms such as those used in this Rolling Stone article effect culture, we very well might end up burning up books that articulate opposing views to mainstream mantras in the streets .

Weimar book burning cultural rev burning books
(2 different cultures, 2 different times, 1 common goal. Get rid of opposing views)

We’re not yet burning books, but we better assess the track we’re on and the consequence of our words used to describe those we don’t agree with. The burning books may very well become those that are written by opposing politicians, artists, poets, musicians, teachers, and anyone else who is regarded as “vile” and “extreme” by mainstream outlets.

Vile? No.

Different opinion? Yes.

While this is not as juicy as throwing mud on Santorum’s face, it is more accurate and assumes people are smart enough on their own to draw his/her own conclusions. 

The Truth About Some Contemporary Art

We’ve all seen artwork that leaves us wondering, “what was that supposed to mean?”.  It is typical of the artist to say they want to make the viewers “think” when in reality we’re being left confused or worse, unchanged, which I guess in essence the goal has been achieved considering confusing others leaves them thinking.

I have yet to meet an artist though who says this is their intention, or admit what they are presenting really doesn’t have a message, or if it does have a message then acknowledge the manner in which the work is executed is not able to relay said message, nor say they use the guise and aesthetic of contemporary art to present work as something with intellectual insight, representation, and/or meaning, but really doesn’t have meaning beyond its materials and/or true intention of being a misleading guise.

It’s easier to say a work has an intended purpose when it doesn’t at which point might have to actually explain the “non-ness” of the work. Too deep. And a little delusional even. 

Why admit a work doesn’t meet a real expressed intention, or have one to begin? If we did, we might lose our tenure-track professorship at that art school, or fellowship, or gallery representation, speaking engagements, et cetera. But if this really is the goal, to leave viewers confused about a work’s purpose and meaning, then let it be said and sought after directly and with forthrightness, then there will be something of substance to explore.

To say you would like to make the viewers “think” is really a pointless goal only because we are always thinking.

Lose the vagueness and trade it for intentionality. Say what you mean, and mean what you say as the adage best informs. As an art student in college I was exposed, like most in art school, to what was considered art via mainstream media outlets such as Art In America, Sculpture Inc. Magazine, Art News and others. But luckily I had great professors who challenged me to intellectually consider how and why what was being feed as art was influencing culture and me personally. 

Unfortunately though, most art students are not challenged in this way. I have seen in graduate school, and as an art professor in addition to being an artist. What is presented as art in galleries and mainstream media, is bought hook-line-and-sinker despite its having stood up rigorous inquiry or debate as to the validity of its intended purpose.

When I see a mass of materials in a gallery presented as sculptural art for example, that is presented as being something with an intended meaning to be understood by viewers, like say work by artist Richard Tuttle, and have nothing to go on but an assembly of materials and a title sheet, I’m left to assume there is something I am supposed to understand or gather.

Fiction Fish Tuttle “Fiction Fish” by Richard Tuttle

In reality though, if we’re honest towards what is actually happening, what a lot of artist want to leave viewers with is the impression that the art represents something in an enlightened manner which most just will not be able to interpret and attain intellectually. This is what I mean by guise.

When you ask a gallery curator or docent to explain works such as these, they, in my experience, go into an intellectually redundant script that is merely the spoken guise of the visual guise-artwork and by the time he/she has completed their well rehearsed script, you’re ready for a nap. (Again, in my experience.) 

As Gertrude Stein said of her childhood home in Oakland in the early 30’s after revisiting it after spending most of her life abroad,

…”there is no there there.”   

Gertrude Stein

This absence of forthrightness and intentionality in contemporary art is only funded by a small percentage of wealthy patrons who, unfortunately, possess the majority of influence in the art world, allow artists such as those with “no there there” to continue influencing culture at large, and well to be frank, it’s unfortunate, because like sheep we all seem to gobble it up as absolute truth creating the standard for what is and is not art today. 

The most helpful question posed to me while in grad school which stills guides me today and I fail at attaining albeit strive to appropriately answer with my work is,

“What do you want your work to do?”

What I say I want it to do and what it does are not always simpatico, but at least I can answer with certainty, what I want it to do and where it falls short in doing that which allows me to learn from it and re-aim for the next work.

If I wanted my work to confuse people, I would not hesitate in saying that was my goal. But this is what so much artwork these days does, but never owns up to letting it be known that’s its intention which is, in my humble opinion, cowardly.

DISCLAIMER:

There is a lot to Richard Tuttle’s work I do enjoy, aesthetically.

Has The Guise Movement influenced me as an artist?

-Absolutely. I was trained by modernist and postmodern artists. The influence is not all bad. Aesthetically, I enjoy a lot of it. My riff with this approach is lack of forthrightness and truthfulness. A lot in this school of thought have been taught art is whatever you say it is. If this were entirely the case, we would not art schools to tell us so. But when we go to art schools we learn craft, philosophy, and conceptual representation, which in itself contradicts art can be anything because we are taught standards.

How do I know there are artists who approach art this way, using a “guise,” or “guisement” if you want to say it that way?

-Not certain this is indeed the case, just going on what I see and hear from work and interviews of artists. Having a Bachelor’s also in Psychology has helped me discern intentions.

Do you feel hypocritical considering your own work will not be understood by all people?

-Not really because I strive for my work to be straightforward removing the why or what-questions. A good example of what I strive not to do nor to teach in my art classes comes from Texas State University this year when an art major sat outside the school’s library steps, almost entirely naked, as a way of addressing the objectification of women in our culture.

While in concept this sounds like an avant-garde approach to the topic, it is not art in a visual arts sense but is performance, which will take another article to explain the difference between because the visual arts programs throughout the U.S. have been contaminated by this misnomer that performance is just another concentration like painting, ceramics, or sculpture. It is not.

Story for the above mentioned misinformed art major from TSU:               Texas State Univ art student