tales from the crit

This is a great article in the New York Times, sent to me by one of my instructors this semester (and one of the faculty members on my review board, i.e. "final crit," tomorrow), about the critique process. Everyone should read it - if you're an art student, you'll feel warmed to know you're not the only one going through this kind of trauma this month, and if you're not an art student, but you know someone who is, you'll have a better understanding of what a "crit" is.

Wish me luck!


my evening with Ed

I took a break from "dead week" (as we undergrads at Cal described this "week" between classes and finals, or, as the case may be, review boards and final papers) yesterday to spend "an evening with Ed Ruscha," part of the MFA's Carl Shapiro famous people lecture series, or something like that. I can't remember when I first learned about Ed and his work - probably as an undergrad, and that introduction was likely reinforced when I worked at the Achenbach Foundation in San Francisco's Legion of Honor, which houses his archive. Anyway, I'm a big fan and jumped on the chance to hear him talk about his work when student affairs offered up a handful of free tickets last semester.

The lecture was great...more about that in a bit. But the evening itself and the crowd it attracted were really odd. I got there early, so waited in line outside the auditorium for a bit. A couple of older folks got in line behind me and asked me who we were seeing tonight (I guess most people just buy tickets to the entire series and don't pay too much attention to individual artists), and when I told them, proceeded to essentially quiz me on who he was and what he's been up to all these years. I overheard the same kinds of questions and conversations all around me as I waited inside for the lecture to begin (I also overheard a woman behind me explaining to her friend that she'd recently quit teaching - I assume an art/design/craft class of some sort - because teaching is, really, "giving it all away"). The woman who eventually sat down next to me had the same questions initially, which, mysteriously to me even now, after some reflection, somehow led into this intensely personal conversation about my work and subject matter and childhood...Good grief, woman, it takes me years to have this kind of "life story" conversation with someone. I felt a little violated.

But the lecture itself was really enjoyable. Ed Ruscha lives in L.A. but was born in Nebraska and still has a bit of a midwestern accent, which, like my stereotype or not, adds to his overall very down-to-earth and personable presentation. In addition to his own work, he showed slides of things that had inspired him over the years, from old automobile gear shifts, to the design of an ink bottle, to Hudson River paintings. I was familiar with a lot of the work that he showed, but new to me were his recent "answers" (shown last year at the Venice Biennale and titled, collectively, "Course of Empire") to an older series of "Blue Collar" paintings. Very similar to his "then and now" photos of Sunset Boulevard in L.A. - he repainted the buildings or sites he'd painted years before, so that the older "Blue Collar Telephone Booth" painting, for example, was now something like "the site of where a telephone booth had been," just sky with a lamppost on one side and a tree trunk on the other. Good stuff.

I was back in the studio today and will - hopefully - finish my art history paper by Saturday. In a strange turn of events, I am no longer writing about Sophie Calle but I am still writing about Baudrillard...sort of. Really, I'm writing about Disneyland, one of Baudrillard's examples of "simulation" in his conveniently pocket-sized book of the same name, published in '84. It's not really a research paper, but I am citing some other sources, mostly from the catalogue that accompanied an exhibition about the design of Disney theme parks that the Canadian Center for Architecture sponsored a few years ago. The last article in the catalogue, in particular, is rather brilliant, in which Greil Marcus takes a refreshing look at 40 years of Disneyism and Disney criticism, most of it fairly predictable. Let's just say, as an art student in art school, I'm used to knee jerk reactions to things like Disneyland. Basically, you've gotta leave your irony in the parking lot, you know what I mean? And who needs "reality," anyway?


art school confidential

The countdown to review boards has officially begun. I worked on Thursday and Friday and spent much of that time negotiating my schedule for the coming week, the last week to finish projects and papers before all is due on May 1st. I managed to get a day off and trim another shift so I only have to work about nine hours this week, giving me enough time - hopefully - to finish my studio projects and art history paper. It's not exactly ample time, but I'm satisfied. It'll have to do.

I spent most of the weekend painting so tomorrow I'll take a break, stay home, and work on my paper. I've had an interesting relationship with painting this year, considering I usually identify my artist self as a painter, primarily, but did little of it. I'm coming around to it, but I have moments (had a few, actually, over the last couple of days) when I wonder why I do it. I spend hours in the studio, alternating between five relatively smallish (24 by 30 inches) canvases, and at the end of the day, nothing's even close to complete. I spent most of Saturday, for example, just applying shades of yellow. I feel like I could work on these indefinitely and they'd never necessarily be done. And in the meantime, they definitely go through developmental stages. If my five paintings were a kid, then yesterday afternoon into this morning was definitely their awkward stage. They're getting better, but it takes so long to get them to look like the images I have in my head.

I'll have to celebrate the completion of my first year of grad school by going to the long-awaited release of Art School Confidential, which opens May 5th. Perfect timing, don't you think? It's getting mixed reviews but of course I have to see it. I'm a big fan of Daniel Clowes' comic by the same name and enjoyed Ghost World. I also really dug Claire's art school adventures on Six Feet Under, so I'm glad someone's finally making a whole movie just about that experience. Director Terry Zwigoff is quoted in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly as saying about the film: "It reflects the state of mind of the protagonist, Jerome [Max Minghella], who arrives at this art school full of optimism and humor, but soon gets all of that stripped away." Yeah, that's pretty much how it works...

Anyway, this image of Xander sums up how I (and I think I can speak for Neal, too) felt much of this year, exhausted and overwhelmed. It's a rough life, you know?


freakin' m-holes

I have to blog about this (fits into the "life in Boston" category) before I cool off because this sort of thing (let's call it a little interpersonal attitude problem) happens ALL the time! So I'm walking from my art history class at Tufts back to the T. Right at the corner of campus (it literally comes to a point where a rounded sign reads "Tufts University") there's this huge rotary (round-about, circle of death, whatever you want to call it) where you have to cross several streets that branch off from the center. There are lights and stop signs, neither of which people really pay much attention to, and when someone does hit the "please let me cross and live" button, traffic screeches to a halt for about five minutes after the person's already made it to the other side. So I usually just cross, in the crosswalk, and people ususally at least slow down to let me pass in front of them.

Anyway, I made it safely through the first crosswalk and was about a third of the way through the second when this guy in a silver SUV, going pretty slowly, I might add, so as to give me the impression he was, I don't know, stopping for me, honked at me, and when I continued to cross and looked back at him in utter confusion that quickly accessed the deep pit of anger and rage that always lurks within me, rolled down his window, came to a complete stop in the middle of the crosswalk, and called me a "jackass." I'm a "jackass," he continued, because I trust that people will stop for me. Clearly.

Anyway, I took another moment of his precious time to point out that it's Massachusetts state law to yield to pedestrians once they're in the crosswalk (and just general decent humanity to stop for a pedestrian waiting to cross a crosswalk, but that would be asking an awful lot). I may have added some colorful language for emphasis, but that was the general gist of our exchange.

I couldn't help but notice, during the remainder of my walk, the numerous bright, yellow signs, at every block or so, urging motorists to stop for pedestrians. Hmmm...interesting.

To be fair, I realize this kind of thing happens all the time, everywhere. Hey, I had my fair share of near-death experiences along Geary Boulevard in San Francisco. But it seems like around here, whether you're behind the wheel or walking, there's an added layer of just plain meanness and utter disregard for the law that makes life, well, challenging.

The irony, of course, is that he spent way longer scolding me than if he'd just taken the thirty seconds to let me cross.


yo affleck was da bomb...

It's been a couple of weeks (nearly) since I last blogged and I'd have to say the highlight of those last two weeks was definitely the rash of illness and general misfortune. It started more than two weeks ago, actually, when I slipped in one of the Tufts bathrooms (running late to my art history class although, ironically, I wasn't literally running at that moment), twisted my right ankle and fell - hard - on my left knee. I still have an ugly bruise on my knee and some tenderness in my ankle. My ankle swelled but I could walk, so I might have sprained it but it's unlikely anything got broken. I've resumed all normal activities, except for yoga. I still can't sit cross-legged on the floor, but I can do tae-bo just fine. Odd.

The following week I had a cold relapse. Nothing major, especially in light of the stomach bug that crippled me this week. I was pretty much dead to the world all day Tuesday and most of Wednesday, managed to make it to work on Thursday, and by Friday was feeling pretty nearly fine. My appetite's mostly back (I'm not sure if that's a good thing) but I still have a little queasiness at the sight of sugar, probably due to the Cadbury's cream egg I had the night before I got sick. Not a good idea after a late-ish dinner of Indian food from Trader Joe's. Needless to say, it'll be a good long while before I have Indian food and hopefully never before I have another cream egg. What is that goo in the middle, anyway?

Being sick this week set me behind but, with one day of the long weekend still to go, I'm starting to feel back on track. I missed out on a full day of screenprinting on Tuesday and a half and half day of art history writing and painting on Wednesday. Not good the week before final critiques, and about two weeks before my review board. Here is a group of paintings I'm frantically working to finish within the next two weeks:

And another view:

And my obsessive-compulsive-tending work area:

What can I say, I'm a tidy painter.

Anyway, after spending the last few days (aside from an evening shift of work in the middle) in the studio, it's mostly my 10 to 15 page art history paper, due the same day as my review board, that I'm worried about. I'm sure it'll be fine - I mean, I'm writing about Sophie Calle's Suite Venetienne and Jean Baudrillard's accompanying essay...how hard can it be?

Also making it difficult to stay focused these last few weeks of the semester is intense spring fever. Wearing jackets and keeping the windows closed for about six months straight will do that to you, I guess. The trees are finally starting to blossom, which is probably hell for allergy-sufferers but quite lovely. I took some pictures around the studio building today, before Neal and I had our Easter dinner at nearby Qdoba.

This is looking up St. Alphonsus street...you can see some budding trees in the background (the Mission Hill building where grad studios are located is on the left):

And this is looking down the hill, in the opposite direction, toward Huntington Avenue, in the direction of the Museum and the main Museum School building. Note the Mission Hill Church on the right and Neal on the left...he's not always there, but the church usually is.

And here's the parking lot, which is usually quite full. Note the heavily tagged rock wall in the background. Out of view is a patch of graffiti that reads: "Yo Affleck was da bomb in Phantoms." Here's someone else's picture of it, which completes the wall.

Some other stuff happened in between all that...listed to Laura Mulvey read from her latest attack on visual pleasure and classic cinema, went to the opening of the latest round of MFA thesis exhibits (overall, quite impressed...I'll try to remember to write more about it before the next show opens in early May), hung out with some of Neal's super friendly and super smart peers, attended a colloquium about Latin American art, and enjoyed a casual presentation by Boston painter Steve Locke.

Happy Easter and, uh, don't worry if you don't hear from me in the next couple of weeks...


JH squared

Just a quickie...to give a little web-based shout-out to Jeff Heermann and his impressive online efforts (they are many). Like his wife Jess (of Jess Hutch Crafts...I've linked to her stuff before but I'll link again), Jeff's been crankin' out stuff on a weekly (at least) basis and sharing it with the world. He's got a website, but what I've been particularly enjoying are weekly illustrations posted blog-style. If I'm not mistaken, similar to Jess's initial blog-motivating response to Month of Softies, Jeff responds to Illustration Friday challenges.

Right on.


one down

Today is my first year wedding anniversary and to celebrate, I'm staying home. Neal and I will spend a couple of productive hours doing homework and the like and then I think we'll play for the rest of the day, which will likely include window shopping, a matinee, and dinner out. It just so happens I was looking for recent New York pics in our folder of images and came across some pre-wedding planning photos, which is timely, of course, and made me feel very nostalgic, for that impossibly romantic day one year ago, and for California in general, specifically Oakland. Here are a few shots of the locale...

This is where the ceremony took place:

Right under this tree:


Anyway, New York was super fun. We took the Chinatown bus, of course (why spend over 100 bucks more - per person - to take the overpriced and probably highly overrated train??), getting to the city around noon on Friday. Our first stop was the Doughnut Plant, where we shared four varieties, two raised (coconut cream and strawberry) and two cake (triple chocolate and cashew), plus coffee and the-best-chai-ever. We returned on Sunday morning (after trying a blah-boring bialy at nearby Kosar's) to try a few more varieties, that time immensely enjoying three raised (vanilla bean, chocolate, and peanut butter banana) and strawberry cake (better, in my opinion, than the strawberry raised). Yum!

But getting back to the itinerary...after checking into our hotel, we made our way to the Whitney Biennial, where we spent most of the rest of that first day. I really enjoyed it. I've heard a lot of people complain about how it didn't meet their expectations, was kinda boring, etc. The way I see it, with a survey of that sort, you're bound to disagree with the inclusion of many of the artists, the layout of the show, the exclusion of certain people or media (by the way, when did "mixed media" change to "mixed mediums"? Is this to distinguish "fine" or "high" art from mass media? Are we still afraid of the masses? I mean, come on. I'm pretty certain the plural of "medium" is still "media," "mediums" referring to those talented folk who can, like, speak to the dead and stuff, but whatev...)...but if you can walk away having jotted down the names of 8 or 9 artists that have inspired you in some way, I'd say it was a pretty worthwhile trek as far as art journeys go. But maybe that's just my sunny disposition talking.

The names I jotted down included (surprisingly, several photographers) in order of appearance: Angela Strasheim (dealing with death in a glowing suburban way), Chris Vasell, Amy Blakemore (some might describe her use of the Diana camera as gimmicky, but I kinda dug it), Billy Sullivan, Marilyn Minter (where have you been all my life?!), Florian Maier-Aichen (stickin' it to the modernist photography man that is Bernd & Hilla Becher and the whole Dusseldorf school), Mark Bradfod (anyone who can use the word "palimpsest" to describe their work is okay by me), Peter Doig, and Kori Newkirk.

On Saturday, we hit a few galleries, namely 303 to see Inka Essenhigh's paintings - I was a little disappointed but I think the sparseness of the exhibition (just five paintings, and she had the space all to herself) and amount of stark white gallery wall in relation to the paintings may have had something to do with it. A nice surprise was Tara Donovan's installation of plastic cups at PaceWildenstein's Chelsea space.

We made a stop at Chelsea Market (what could be a better follow-up to gallery art than a gourmet cupcake? See post-cupcake images above.) before heading to Queens to check out the Museum of the Moving Image. We spent most of the afternoon there. I enjoyed the various television/movie history/artifact exhibitions, as anticipated, but quite enjoyed, unexpectedly, the first floor of all variety of arcade, computer, and video games.

On Sunday we spent a couple of slightly rushed hours at MoMA, where we vied for space in front of the many Edvard Munch works on the top floor (what's with the sun-setting-over-water/quasi-religious "i" motif popping up in so many of his paintings and prints?). We made our way down the newish space rather quickly in order to grab lunch before taking the bus back to Boston.

There was more to note, I'm sure, but this blog entry's getting a little long in the tooth, if you know what I mean. More later...