Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Recently Kris got me hooked on a hilarious new show called Portlandia , written by and featuring Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen. I don't think I've seen a comedy skit show this funny since early nineties SNL or The Upright Citizen's Brigade. The show was inspired by Carrie and Fred's observations of various people and culture in Portland, however I see the characters they portray and poke fun of everywhere, even in myself at times (so I'm glad I could have a good laugh at myself). Extreme political correctness, haphazard hipsterdom, hippie culture, annoying yuppies, uber-eco warriors and more don't escape Fred and Carrie's sharp satirical lens, resulting in some of the most dead-on funny characters and comedy skits around. Featured here are just a few of my favorite snippets from the show, including the one from the top called "Is It Local?", where a well-meaning couple takes conscious eating to absurd new levels. I told Kris, if I ever get this bad to please shoot me. So, take some time out, kick back, fire up the Netflix and check out Portlandia for a good laugh!
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Monday, December 26, 2011
"Very entertaining with a great sound track and engaging story. Even though the premise is street art the real story is how gullible wealthy patrons can be duped into buying questionable art for exorbitant prices; based on slick promotion. Catchphrasing B.T. Barnum "There's a sucker born every minute"." -Gerry (You Tube comment)
Above is a comment I found on You Tube that pretty well sums up how I feel about the movie I'm about to discuss. Posted here is the best trailer I could find for the film "Exit Through the Gift Shop", which I finally got around to watching last night after it was recommended to me by my dental hygienist Adam, who is a street art enthusiast himself. I'm probably one of the last people on Earth who hasn't seen this film yet, and I couldn't recommend it enough to anyone with at least a passing interest in art. While the film touches base with perhaps the most brilliant and significant artist of our time, Banksy , it's really mostly about a camera-obsessed fella from France named Theirry Guetta who accidentally got into filming and documenting street artists in action, first by way of his cousin, acclaimed street artist Invader. What happens next simply could not have been predicted, and after viewing the film I was left with so many questions, mostly wondering just how something so terribly wrong went so right, mainly for Guetta, who decided to adopt the street art alias "Mister Brain Wash" or simply M.B.W.. The genius of Banksy's, and many great street artists' work lies in the subtle, clever commentary on so much of what's gone wrong with modern society. His ability to morph sometimes iconic visual imagery into something completely new and thought-provoking is the essence of Banksy's art, usually executed with a sly, even British sense of humor. Often times, it might take five, sometimes ten or more years for a good street artist to get their work noticed and accepted by the so-called higher establishments (museums and galleries), for better or worse. Usually this is never the intention of the artist to get assimilated into mainstream and popular culture, but sometimes their work becomes so powerful and utterly recognizable, that even the casual observer begins to take notice. Such was the case with the likes of Shepard Fairey (who plays a prominent role in "Exit..."), Keith Haring, Swoon, and Futura, to name a few. Basically, you have to pay your dues. Enter Theirry Guetta aka M.B.W.. In some ways, the guy did pay his dues, traveling and filming a good handful of today's street artists, entering a mostly dark and dangerous subculture, going places most men or women would never venture, to capture the artists whose lives are fueled by an insatiable inner fire to get their visual message out to the world by all means necessary, essentially using the world as their canvas. Of course, Guetta himself gets the street art bug, especially after meeting who he considered the holy grail of visual perpetrators, Banksy himself. How these artists accepted Mr. Guetta into their world is a bit perplexing, though Banksy offers a good explanation in the film. The problem is, Guetta never had intentions of ever actually making a documentary in the first place, and frankly never would have if it wasn't for Banksy urging him to get one made. After six months of editing thousands of hours of footage, the initial final cut turned out to be a nightmare of incomprehensible, unwatchable mess. This is when things started to take a turn for the worse, unless you were Guetta, or should I say M.B.W.? Unlike the actual, real artists in this film, Guetta took an entirely different route on his way to fame and fortune, and judging by the tastes in popular music and film nowadays, I shouldn't be surprised how so many people were duped into believing the hype and buying into what was some of the most contrived, insincere, and lifeless work by an "artist" ever created.
Perhaps, if anything, this film is a commentary on how low the bar has been set and how visually illiterate we as a people have become. Still, there is a part of me that wants to root for Guetta, who from the get go was an underdog in life and worked hard to get to where he was at. Maybe I shouldn't be so harsh and blame the guy for wanting to be like Banksy, Fairey, Invader or Swoon or any of the now hugely successful and world renowned street artists on the rise today, even though his approach was wrong on all levels. Maybe I should blame the people who allowed him to get away with it all, allowing themselves to be fooled in the name of trendiness and hype. There is some speculation and theory that Banksy actually planned all of this absurdity with Guetta all along, some calling M.B.W. Banksy's biggest and best work to date. If this is true, then I tip my hat to both men for pulling off the most genius art prank of all time. In the meantime, you can see it all for yourself HERE, and be the judge.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Happy holidays all! I thought I'd feature some shots I took around last Thanksgiving when Kris and I were visiting friends and family in Pittsburgh, PA. All of the photos featured here were taken at the PPG Place in downtown Pgh. If anything, this place really captures the spirit of Christmas and the holiday season. My parents would take my brother and I here when we were kids and I remember how much fun we had looking at all the department stores and their Christmas decorations. Unfortunately, as more people started frequenting the malls, places like Horne's, Gimbels and Kaufmans all but disappeared. I miss those places around Christmastime and I admit, a good deal of that magic wont ever be recovered again. Still, they did quite a fantastic job downtown and I have a feeling it will only continue to get better. In the meantime, no matter where you are or who you are, make it a point to embrace all that is good, even though it might seem like there is very little good left, and know that you are worth more than any amount of money, or gifts or what others might say or think. Here's to a truly awesome new year and to many many more to come!
Friday, December 23, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Freescha are a duo from Southern California who've been making and releasing electronic music on their self-run Attacknine label since 2002, a label shared by the likes of Casino Versus Japan, whose music I recently featured here at the blog. While their first few releases were very much inspired by the nostalgic, analogue audio daydream sound of Boards of Canada, the duo began to experiment more on later releases, exploring a more psychedelic, even nightmarish sound. Above is a fantastic fan-made video merging some surreal, even humorous clips from the Japanese cult favorite film, Funky Forrest seamlessly with the sublime song "Abominable Love". Directly below is a sample from Freescha's latest single, which is in ways both a return and a departure from the original Freescha sound, and is still taking a while to grow on me. Good stuff nonetheless. The final track featured here is entitled "Moving", a personal favorite of mine that should be heard at high volume and listened to many times in a single sitting. Moving indeed. Like label mate Casino Versus Japan, Freescha are taking a while to get that new album out. Let's hope it's worth the wait. In the meantime, enjoy the tunes.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
I'm really not a fan of these You Tube videos with parents trying to make their kids say or do supposedly cute things, or even worse, when people mess with animals and try to have them perform silly tasks. However, when Kris showed me this, I was overwhelmed by the cuteness. Kris says it reminds her of us, when I'm trying to read before we go to sleep, and I have to agree. Besides, it's just a couple of adorable rabbits doing their thing. I could watch this over and over again, unfortunately.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Last Fall I was contacted via Flickr by my friend Akis in Greece who wanted to see if I was interested in having some of my Splotch Monster work shown there as part of a big exhibit in January 2011 at the Coo Basement in Thessaloniki. After some more details and some e-mail exchange, I snail-mailed him about twenty pieces, ten of which are in color, and ten from the black and white series, all to be featured as part of the Absurd Expedition, a show very much in the spirit of DADA, perhaps my personal favorite art movement of any century. Seeing some of the work from the other artists involved in the show really knocks my socks off to be a part of this event. If only I can get out there to see it now. Anyway, above and below are some of the first (amazing) flyers and posters for the exhibit. I'll have some more Splotch Monster work in an accompanying, limited run book as well, to be released later this month. I'll get more details posted soon, so stay tuned!
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
"The Watcher at Brandon Park"
36" x 36", acrylic on canvas
Last night I think I finally finished the painting you see here, loosely based on a photo I took last winter at Brandon Park, right down the street from me in Leesburg, Virginia. I remember driving home one gray, cold January afternoon, after dropping Kris off at work and seeing this enormous bird circling around the old local bowling alley right next to the park. Captivated by it and wanting to take a closer look, I made a u-turn back to the bowling alley parking lot, where the bird must've flown a few feet over my windshield, quickly and fearlessly. I couldn't believe I had nothing to take a picture of it with me, so I drove back home, grabbed a camera and returned, only to find the giant turkey vulture had found a nice place to perch among the trees and their endless, twisting and turning branches. In the nearby surrounding trees there were a bunch of smaller, black vultures, so I think something nearby was either dead or dying, though I saw and smelled nothing. Despite the company of the black vultures, this giant turkey vulture stood quietly and still on a broken stump, separated from the rest, like a ruler of his very own small kingdom. The photo directly above is a closer view of the bird in a cropped, horizontal format.
The painting itself, which measures three square feet was worked on in equal measures at home and in my grad painting course, which unfortunately ends for me next Tuesday evening. I have some crazy classes at work during the day Tuesdays, leaving me nearly exhausted by three, but I always looked forward to that grad class, getting recharged, fired up and painting and being around fellow art teachers who were also artists, serious about their work, feeding off everyone's energy and feedback. Now I feel like I need to discipline myself to keep at it and continue to build a good body of work, which, depending on how you look at it, is inconsistent and somewhat unfocused (if you don't count the Splotch Monsters). During the course of this class, I rediscovered a love for painting nature, and I feel like I'm developing a real voice. Like this painting itself, it's all a real slow, gradual process, and when you think you've gotten to a certain point, you later realize there's much more to go. I loved painting large and if I had more space, would go even larger, but for now, this might be as big as I can afford to go, in terms of both space and money. I'm looking forward to seeing this piece in an upcoming local art exhibit real soon, which I'll be sure to cover here at the blog. Stay tuned!
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Last weekend Kris and I managed to get the Christmas tree, lights and ornaments up in our apartment, and it looks beautiful this year, mostly thanks to my wife's sense of design and decor. A real nice added touch to the tree this year included three glass ornaments created by Leesburg, VA glass artist Dario DeHoyos. I was so glad to see Dario drop by Kris' art show at King Street Coffee once again, as with her photo show last year. He brought some of his wonderful striped ornaments that evening to sell to the public for a real good, affordable price. All three photos pictured above include one ornament we purchased from him last year, as well as two from last Friday night. I think we'll have to make buying a piece or two from Dario every year a tradition now. It was good getting caught up with him last week, and we briefly talked about some ideas for some local art fairs and shows, which sound promising. In the meantime, look Dario up if you're in or around Northern Virginia, and interested in some real nice, original glass ornaments for your tree or home.
Monday, December 5, 2011
With a solo show this month at Leesburg's King Street Coffee, it's only fitting that I interview my wife Kris, who has only recently returned to painting again, after a somewhat lengthy hiatus. As with her photography, Kris is drawn to the simple, common everyday things, and has a genuine knack for capturing their essence in her work. It's been a while since I actually interviewed an artist, but this occasion is as special to me as it is for Kris, so some extra effort was put into this week's artist of the week feature. Enjoy!
1. Q: About how old were you when you first began to seriously get into painting?
A: Probably the earliest I can remember actually trying was around age 13 or 14. I always remember asking as a kid for paints and brushes instead of toys as a gift, but in my teenage years I wanted to start working with more advanced materials. I even took some classes, but for the most part I taught myself to work with different layers and watercolor washes.
2. Q: Recently you got back into watercolors after a long time of not painting and doing jewelry and more craft-based work. What got you back into it again?
A: I always loved doing crafty things, but none of it felt as basic or fulfilling as watercolors. I even went through a bit of an acrylic phase, as you know, about five years ago, but it didn't quite feel as right as working with watercolors. Coming back to watercolors felt like a sort of homecoming, and I look forward to pushing and exploring the medium much more.
3. Q: You tend to focus more on basic, everyday things in your work. What draws you to these things?
A: I've always enjoyed taking a deeper, closer look at everyday objects like certain plants, and fruits and vegetables, and the way light would illuminate certain surfaces - things most people might not normally pay much attention to. Part of it was a need to learn to draw from observation, but I also just like everyday things and the way nature shapes and colors objects. I'm reminded of how recently, while at work I was photographing an apple I brought for lunch from different angles, and my boss just looked at me like I was nuts, but I could have looked at it all day long! I just am fascinated at how light can shape an object.
4. Q: When it comes to making art and taking on a variety of creative endeavors, you seem to be somewhat of a natural. Do you think some people just "have it" while others might struggle more? What's your take on this thing we like to call talent?
A: I think that everybody has the ability, but for me it comes down to observation. My problem is trying to make things look too much like something, which is what some people think of as art, but is something I'm trying to move away from more and learn to be Ok with some mess and imperfection, which is a lot more interesting to me. I think when people get too wrapped up with trying to make something look realistic, they get intimidated and even turned off from making art, when in fact that's really not what making art is about in the first place. I think the interest lies in the little artifacts that are created when you get a little bit of a mess going, so it's good to distance yourself from the end product and just get to work.
5.Q: I noticed that you have a couple of styles going on right now with your watercolors, one of which is more of a layered, realistic look and the other a more simplified, almost abstract approach. Where do you think you might be going currently, with regards to you own personal style?
A: Well, I like a little bit of both. I don't want completely abstract work 'cause I'm not too sure if I, personally can identify with it, but I'm also trying to distance myself from that teacher I had in high school who demanded realism when painting a still life. I had such a positive response to the looser, simpler works that I think I gained a certain level of permission to go more with that route when I paint, which is something I've been enjoying a lot lately.
6. Q: So like most people, you're pressed for time, work a day job and sometimes just want to come home and veg out on the couch with a book or the computer. What do you say to folks who are also busy, or have kids or work a lot but have a strong urge to create? What might you tell them?
A: No matter what, you'll never have enough time, you'll never have enough energy, you'll never have enough money, but you simply have to begin somewhere. It might not turn into a routine, but you simply have to take out some time for yourself and give yourself that personal permission to create, even if it's a little bit at a time each day. I used to think I had to complete a piece right away, but that's really not the way to go for most people (especially when working with watercolors) and it will become discouraging when you can't finish something. Throw in a load of laundry and do a sketch. Put the kids to bed and set aside fifteen minutes. Make yourself a little space that's accessible and know that you'll most likely never have that perfect, ideal situation. So, yeah, kind of like that Nike saying we all see and hear, just do it.
7. Q: I know that you're kind of particular when it comes to using certain materials when painting. What are some of the mediums that get you excited these days?
A: Well, if you're working with watercolor, it will always make your life a lot easier if you use a nice thick paper. It will make all the difference in the world. Spend a little extra on some good brushes. I used the cheaper Winsor & Newton brushes for years, which were great, but recently I've been buying some better quality brushes, which makes quite a difference I think. I like watercolor from a tube more than from pans, though I use both. I've really been into the Cotman line of watercolors from Winsor & Newton, which is relatively affordable when compared to a lot of stuff out there. I've also been having some fun with watercolor pencils and watercolor masking fluid, which might be my favorite thing in the whole wide world. But yeah, just invest in some good quality materials if possible.
8. Q: So who or what do you find helpful or inspiring lately.
A: Lately Kate Spade photos (from their catalogues), looking at other people's work (which can sometimes be a double-edged sword and intimidating), but mostly nature, more than anything. Working during the Fall has been especially inspiring, with the variations of color in the leaves and the trees. If you just stop and look at a leaf and its veining, color variations, and whether or not it's a matte leaf or a waxy leaf, that makes all the difference in the world when painting. Apples as well, such as the gala apples and the variety of color. Going to museums and websites can be helpful as well, but more than anything, just getting to work and the act of doing and creating is most motivating for me.
9. Q: You've been on a roll in a very short period of time these past few months. Do you see yourself continuing at that pace or taking a break to catch your breath? What's in store for you and your art?
A: Unlike my last show, I actually still feel like painting, though I wouldn't mind a breather. I want to explore some more fashion-based work, which I did a little bit and enjoyed so much and had a real positive response to. I'm by no means some fashionista, but I like accessories and colors and patterns and the way certain things go together to create a pleasing aesthetic. So yes, I will continue to make that time for myself and continue to paint and enjoy creating things and see where it all leads me.
* Kris will have a new website with prints of her work for sale in the near future, which I'll feature here when the time comes.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Last Friday night my wife Kris had herself a little artist reception at Leesburg, Virginia's King Street Coffee. It was so good to see all of her beautiful work up and hanging on the walls, mixing and mingling so well with the festive sights and sounds of the holiday season. It was a big night for Kris, who has not done much painting at all since I first met her in person, about five years ago in her home country of Trinidad, where she was preparing for a big solo show at a local gallery there. In between then and now, she's made lots of gorgeous jewelry, learned to knit and crochet, worked on a variety of photography and craft endeavors, but never really concentrated much on her passion for painting, until very recently. It's been a very busy, even stressful ride during this time, dealing with the grueling process of immigration, working various jobs and studying as a student in the Integrative Nutrition program (she also just earned her certificate to be a health coach!), so the need to paint again was certainly there. While artists do strive for some recognition and financial gain for their hard work (and YES, it is indeed WORK), as Kris can tell you, it's all about the Primary Food, or that inner fulfillment achieved from taking part in the act of creating. It's a slow but steady process sometimes, and sometimes even frustrating. I know that my wife will do good things with her work and continue on this wonderful path she's just starting to travel upon. I want to thank Kimberly Nevin and K.S.C. for always supporting the work of local artists, Kris' friends and colleagues who showed up, my artist/teacher friends who dropped by (you guys are next!), Gary Rudinsky and friends for the great tunes, and my amazing wife for continuing to bring her lovely work into the world. Kris' art will continue to grace the walls of King Street Coffee until the end of December, so if you're in and around Leesburg, VA, stop in, grab a cup and see the art for yourself, in person!
Thursday, December 1, 2011
I doubt this silly little animated short will convince a meat-eater to go veg, but I like it a lot. One thing I don't like is Chick fil-A, even more so now because of THIS story. Way to go Chick fil-A, bullying small business owners. Real freakin' cool. I recently ordered my shirt from Bo, 'cause as a fellow artist I'm all about what this guy stands for. Unfortunately, due to very high demand, no more orders can be placed before Christmas at this time. Awesome. I should actually thank Chick fil-A for helping me find out about this guy. In the meantime go Bo! EAT MORE KALE!