my close-up

It's getting to that point in the semester where I'm starting to look around and see just what I've got going on in terms of work and what I'll present and how I'll present it at my review board in just four to seven weeks. This time around there's the added pressure of thinking seriously about what form my thesis might take. My main goal this year has been to completely abandon any pretenses toward the idea of progression or creating a cohesive body of work. But, not only did I start to see themes and methods recur across projects that seemed, at least superficially, really different, now that I'm just nine short months away from my final thesis exhibition date (December 6-20, 2007) I'm trying to wrap my mind around those themes and make connections in some cases between past and current projects and what I have in mind for the near future. Without writing about my tentative thesis idea just yet (premature discussion could lead to abandoning the idea before I've even started...that I've done before, believe me), this kind of thinking has led me to the obvious - objects and commodification and the like - and the not so obvious - mapping (in many senses of the term).

I've been really resistant to the idea of creating a whole lot of new, physical work in the way of prints and paintings. In fact, I haven't painted in almost a year. And while I am working on a series of designs I will actually print and may one day screenprint or paint on, much of this endeavor has entailed a return to past work, including revising and adding to the where we are not website. There's an "about the project" page as well as a image gallery of the screenprints that made up the original installation. I scanned the prints and blew them up, abstracting the clarity of the original digital image even more, and making the CMYK screenprinted process really evident. The full images are too large to put online (I only have 35 megabytes of storage for that site; pathetic, I know, but when you start a site and you don't really know what a megabyte is - they could've called them la-dee-da's for all I knew at the time - it seems sufficient) but if you click on the gallery thumbnails, a pop-up window will open with a detail to give you a sense of what the process really looks like. It's like digital pointilism.


more from or

To add to my previous post, here's a short video pan I took at the Painted Hills in Oregon last Monday. I thought I was being so still and yet the video is still pretty shaky...I blame it on the wind.

Also, I forgot to mention that on the way back to Boston I had a layover in Salt Lake City, home of the best veggie burger I've had so far. Neal and I had a layover at the SLC airport just about two years ago on our way to Mexico and that's when I first tried the veggie "love burger" at Squatters Pub, in the airport and also downtown. That's the veggie burger that started a sort of personal quest for the best, made-in-house veggie burger, and so far, SLC airport's Squatter's pub still ranks number one and this recent layover confirmed it. If I'm at a restaurant that makes their own veggie burger, despite what else might be on the menu, I have to try it. No frozen patties or Gardenburger with a capital G for me. The Asgard Pub in Cambridge has a pretty decent one as well as The Cheesecake Factory chain. I think what makes Squatter's version so good is the combination of ingredients, which are mashed up in a pretty fine patty, but then they throw in some sunflower seeds for texture. Not too chunky but not exactly a fine, homogenous, meaty texture either, and it holds its shape in the bun.


shoe tree

I'm back. I unpacked pretty quickly last night (since midnight felt like 9 p.m.) so I thought I'd get a ton of stuff done today. Instead, I spent hours trying to figure out how to do that drill down toggle thingy with my archived posts on my various blogs. I've come to the conclusion that that particular "new" blogger feature is specific to their layouts, hosted blogspot style. I did figure out how to do the drop down menu bit, though, so I guess it wasn't a total loss.

Anyway, I wanted to blog a bit about my weekend in Bend while it's all still fresh in my mind. In short, I had a really great time and I couldn't have asked for better weather. I flew out on Thursday afternoon, missing the major snowstorm of 06-07 back here in Boston, spending the next four and a half days in dry, sunny, upper-60s darn-near perfect Central Oregonian weather.

The trip consisted of sleeping in, walking along the creek near my Dad's place (in the pic above), a day of shopping with my Grandma, lots of eating (other than Dairy Queen and the Original Pancake House, every restaurant we went to was new to me: McKay Cottage; Baltazar's mostly-seafood Mexican; the Jackalope Grill, where I had a tasty Jaeger Schnitzel; another Mexican restaurant I can't remember the name of now; a small café in the small town of Mitchell, and McMennamin's Old St. Francis pub), and some sight-seeing.

In addition to spending time in Bend, we spent an afternoon in nearby Sisters (I just love the Sisters Bakery - my faves include their brownies and marionberry scones) and all day Monday driving through the John Day Fossil Beds, home of the beautiful Painted Hills, where my Dad and I were in competition for who could take the best photo of this lone tree:

The Painted Hills are really spectacular; the photos, of course, hardly do it justice. There's one trail in the park - the Painted Cove trail - where the forest rangers have built a 1/4 mile trail that loops around one of the smaller formations, allowing you to get a closer look at the moon-like surface of the clay hills. We were a bit early for the wildflower season, which must be pretty spectacular in addition to the colors you see in the hills. Most of the hills, though, are red and gold, reminding me of those "big stick" cherry-pineapple popsicles we used to buy from the ice cream man. Yummers.

On the drive home we stopped to take a picture of this cottonwood tree bearing pairs and pairs of old shoes. I wonder how that happened? Did one person throw an old pair up and then passersby were inspired to stop and do the same? Are they mostly from nearby Mitchell? And I wonder how old is the oldest pair?


spring breakin'

I'm headed to Oregon in about a half-hour for the first weekend of my spring break. But before I go, I wanted to let you know that I've posted the rest of the submissions I received from Museum School folks to The Lost Object Project. 18 posts so far, and I'm hoping for more during phase two, which will begin when I return to Boston next week. It's off to a good start, though; I'm really pleased with the submissions I received and have some great stories and visuals up so far.

'Til then, I'm looking forward to a long weekend in sunny, warm Central Oregon with limited access to the computer. I may actually read some of the three books I'm ambitiously taking along. Have a great weekend, whether you're spring breakin' (or otherwise breakin') or not!


um, is this a trick question?

The only (okay, it did look pretty entertaining) reason I'm watching the Pussycat Dolls reality show is because it's taken the place of Veronica Mars for the next several weeks (what's up with that, anyway? do the producers really think the audiences are that similar?). The main thing I've learned so far is that the line between what the Pussycat Dolls do and stripping is even finer than I thought. One commercial break after calling Brittany "stripperella" Robin challenged the girls to demonstrate their confidence (the most important thing) by dancing, in groups of three, in lingerie, essentially, in little box rooms. Once again, while Asia won the competition by, as far as I could tell, writhing on the couch, Brittany was criticized for going too far. My only other observation so far is that the producers should learn from ANTM and give these girls a makeover early on. Oh, and, note, per an earlier discussion here about ANTM, the young, single mother competing on the show for her baby back home. I do appreciate, however, how incredibly girly their living accomodations are. Heart-shaped mirrors, fluffy pink-lined circular cut-outs in the wall, all the beds in one room...it's like a nine-week slumber party!

Also on hiatus until late April is Heroes. What are they thinking? How could they do this to me?! And on ANTM, I was once again disappointed that a girl I liked (Samantha) went home while a girl I find hopelessly clueless (Natasha) stayed on. There's always at least one girl who's not totally obnoxious who gets the personality-deficient label right away, teaching the youth of America that personality equals inflated levels of confidence not tied to much of anything in the way of talent or skill.


lookin' for interaction

Remember the website and blog I created in conjunction with that floor installation I did last fall? Well, after the show came down I found I didn't have much to blog about, and had always envisioned the website to continue in some way, hopefully in a slightly more interactive way. After figuring out PHP and form to email stuff (albeit in my usual scattered, impatient, this-will-do kind of way) for The Lost Object Project, I thought, hey, why don't I do the same for wherewearenot.org? Unfortunately, that website is hosted on a different server, which, apparently, won't allow attachments to be sent with the other information requested on the form...I plan to transfer everything to godaddy this summer, which I've found to be far superior. In the meantime, however, you can submit a story that somehow responds to the question: "Where are you not?" Maybe there's a place you're far from that you miss, or a location that you've always wanted to travel to and have imagined in some way, or family that you're displaced from, for one reason or another...essentially place/location that holds some meaning for you, whatever the reason, interpreted pretty broadly. And if you have images, feel free to email them to me separately; just be sure to reference your form contribution in some way. Updates will be posted to the blog.

Of course, in some ways, I feel like perhaps I'm trying too hard to inspire interaction. It's really quite a challenge to get folks to contribute, whatever the goal, in lots of different kinds of spaces. I've heard of much simpler projects that have been hugely successful and widespread. I have some more tricks up my sleeve, of course, but I'm bracing myself for utter, total failure. If nothing else, this and other potentiallly interactive projects have led me to think about that point of participation in and of itself, adding Macolm Gladwell's books on the topic (Blink and The Tipping Point) to my long list of reading.


visualizing public participation in various arts activities

Success...sort of. I found some data on the U.S. Census Bureau derived from various reports published by the National Endowment for the Arts. Not exactly the kind of information I was looking for (what I'm interested in is the rise of M.F.A. programs in the U.S. over the last century), but I wanted to get something to play with. And even this is just a portion of the data, which, in addition to male/female comparisons, is broken down further by race & ethnicity, age, education, and income. There's probably a really dynamic way of getting that all into one visualization, but I wasn't sure how. I like the animation that happens when you switch from male to female and back again. Anyway, I'll keep playing with it, and perhaps I'll get some comments that will give me some clues. This is fun, though; I could see spending a lot of time on Many Eyes.


western civ 101

So, artists and other creative folks using the internet is really not a new thing, but at the Museum School, sometimes it feels like it is. The last two days have been filled with colloquia that remind me of this, which is at once humbling and encouraging. Last night I attended the weekly CMS colloquium - A Site for Social Data Analysis - which hosted Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg of IBM's Visual Communication Lab. They talked about their latest research project, Many Eyes. I'm really fascinated by the idea of data visualization and can't wait to play with the site. I have some ideas of data I'd like to visualize (related to the art world, not surprisingly) but I'm having a harder time than I anticipated trying to "harvest" that information to upload. I'll let you know when I've reached some level of success.

Unlike Neal's program, the MFA program at the Museum School only hosts a colloquium, on average, once per semester. This semester we have two, both this month, the first of which - Photography in the Age of Digital Replication - was held today. Panelists included Oliver Warden, Barbara Pollock, and Wolfgang Staehle. I have some hang-ups with photography (in short, I feel sometimes like our "interdisciplinary" program is disproportionately heavy on artists that seem to really strongly identify as Photographers with a capital P, and - although this has shifted slightly this year - they just don't seem to get the same number of "why's" in their critiques, i.e. why photography as your choice of medium, why did you include that palm tree in the corner there, etc.) but I was pleasantly surprised at how diverse the panelists' work and views turned out to be in relationship to this topic. Warden strikes me as a super smart popular culture junkie and his paintings look pretty darn luscious. And Staehle founded thing.net "back in the day" (specifically 1991) as a bulletin board system. He commented in his presentation that this way of working was attractive to him at that time because the open dialogue and sharing of information contrasted sharply to the sort of closed, secretive world of contemporary art at the time. I feel like this is still true (which is why I've tried to find a community within the School that's more receptive to this way of working and love hanging out with MIT folks), but my community doesn't necessarily represent the art world at large, either.

That said, I'm holding off until after the analog drop box is officially closed (next Tuesday) to post the Lost Object Project submissions I've received from fellow students, but I can tell you about a couple I do not plan to post and why. Basically, neither your virginity nor Western Civilization are objects (and I don't see how the latter is lost; I can't speak to the former). One of the obstacles I thought about in the beginning of this project was: what is the contributor getting out of it? Why should you take the time to submit your story and image (especially if you've gone to the trouble of creating your image from memory) when all you get back in return is a URL to a virtual memorial? That's probably not enough for a lot of people. With this in mind, one thing that's really great about Many Eyes is all the ways they let you link to or blog about the visualization you've created, altered, commented on, etc. It's still very much credited to Many Eyes but there's a little piece of it that feels like yours. That said, I wonder if part of this obstacle that I anticipated and sense in some of the responses I've received so far is because they're coming from artists who, perhaps, can't fully let go of their own artistic self expression needs in exchange for a slightly more selfless contribution.

It's tricky because I certainly don't want to censor what's submitted, but as moderator of the project, in some cases I've already decided that the spirit of the project is more important than exploring the medium as fully democratic and open. And I've linked to similar projects with different conceptual interests so if you want to talk about loss as it relates to non-objects, hopefully you'll find a place to do so. And if not, you're an artist; create your own interactive project!


mmmm, candy

Last night's reception. That's the real-world configuration of my otherwise online project on the left outside wall.

Mmmm, candy. We wisely put most of the chocolate variety at the bottom of the basket, meaning by the time the early crowd (there mostly for the candy) passed through, there was still some good candy booty to be had.

Analog drop box and some guy checking out my project (I don't think he actually took an invitation, though).

From the back you can't really tell what's going on but this is simultaneous retrieval of the invitation and submission to the drop box. You have no idea how exhilarating witnessing this was.

Opening the invitation. I swear this was not staged (unlike the photos the instructor of the class took for the area website).

On the other side of the wall you can see Ben Smart officially notarizing objects as "fine art"...

...including, a bit later, my camera:


how I made invitations in art school

Now that the dust has settled slightly, I have some time to document, reflect upon, and share my latest efforts. The Lost Object Project has received a handful of online submissions and the analog drop box held several envelopes last time I checked in on it yesterday afternoon. I'll have pics of the gallery configuration, opening, and any other related shenanigans later this week. We're having a candy-coated reception this Tuesday, March 6th, from 5 to about 6:30 p.m. A number of the artists have special happenings planned for the reception, and we're piggy-backing on the paper and pulp show opening that evening in the rest of the atrium's gallery space, so it should be a good time.

In the meantime, here are images of the invitation distributed to grad students and select faculty (in other words, my immediate community within the Museum School), as well as the flyer I printed 400 times last weekend. This is what both versions look like closed:

You can't see it real well, but the envelope seal is a sticker with a little, black briefcase printed on it. The flyer folds out like so:

I tucked a response set inside. Initially I wanted each student at the School to get some version of the invitation/flyer. I made 400 because I swear I heard recently that the School has just shy of 500 full-time students in all degree programs. Turns out that figure is off by a couple hundred, and then there are part-time and continuing education students to think of, not to mention staff and miscellaneous faculty. I decided the more democratic thing to do was place a stack of the folded flyers in a holder next to the drop box. Anyone who wants one can take one.

And this is the invitation ensemble I stuck in each of the grad students' mailboxes last week:

How 'bout them rounded corners?

The way I framed this whole paper campaign at the Museum School ended up being more like a call for submissions to an online exhibition, with the submission deadline being the last day of the show. I'll post what I get after we take down the show on the 13th, but the website will, I hope, continue long after.

And, um, if you haven't submitted your lost object's story/image yet, you should! Because I know you have at least one to share...


I know, right?

Were you as heartbroken as I was when Kathleen was the first to leave this cycle of America's Next Top Model? Okay, so she's a bit clueless and her photo was a tad pedestrian (weren't they all, though?), but she would have been fun to watch for a few more weeks, you know? Natasha should have been the one to go (talk about clueless...). But eliminating the wrong girl first is just par for the course on ANTM. Tyra is as obnoxious as ever (what was all that "stepping" about, anyway? What does that have to do with bootcamp? Furthermore, what does bootcamp have to do with modeling?). And reducing the debates around fur, reproductive rights, and veganism to either/or thinking is not controversial. Plus, I agree that the photos were pretty bland but how does one illustrate via modeling and photography your decision to abstain from eating animal products? Wear vegetable necklaces, of course...

But overall I think cycle 8 has a bit more potential than the last couple of seasons. Early favorites include Jaslene (she really is "fee-uhss"), Samantha, Sarah, Renee, Whitney, and Jael. Either way, it's always worth watching until at least the makeover episode.

In other t.v. news, the series finale of The O.C. last week marked the end of my 13-month relationship with the show, having only started watching last winter break. Neal and I watched all of the first season in just three weeks, if I remember correctly, and I was hooked. This season really was better than the last two, but I think the damage was done in season three. I don't think the show ever fully recovered. And even this season had a few duds. For example, in the episode prior to the finale, did Adam Brody completely forget how to emote? I think the show had become so frivolous that when natural disaster struck (was that the "big one"?), all they could do was stare blankly at one another. But the finale was a lot better. Fast-forwarding was an obvious but unexpected (on my part, at least) solution to resolving so many stories just beginning over the last few episodes (like Kirsten's pregnancy, for example). Julie's marriage made me think of season one's finale, when she married Caleb. That was really the golden age of the show, and it was a nice gesture to go out on a high note, even if it was mostly referential. But the whole buying back of the Berkeley house was completely unbelievable. Those guys would have never given up that amazing house in one of the most ridiculous housing markets in the country! I don't know, maybe if you threw enough cash at them, but still...I found that a little incredible. Then again, the whole show is total nonsense most of the time, so...And the ending was very Six Feet Under, don't you think? Ultimately, though, easy come, easy go. Now I can just focus on other Thursday shows, like The Office and 30 Rock...Oh yeah, and school stuff.