As the World Turns

February 28, 2005

The world in motion.

The world at rest under the watchful eye of the moon. 

O Moon, how I wish I still hadn't left you behind in LA when I moved. You and Sun were two of my greatest theatrical creations. Now I fear that you lean forgotten and dusty in a corner. How many pinhole images could you have been a part of if only I'd valued you enough to pack you among my trinkets and socks? If I take nothing else from your loss it's that I must treat my creations well, or they will become little more than regrets.



February 27, 2005

I believe this fountain is in the Descanso Gardens in La Canada, California. It is one of dozens of fountains I've photographed in the past decade:

A fountain silenced for the autumn in McMinnville, Oregon.

One of many ornamental fountains at the Huntington Gardens in San Marino, California.

The fountain outside of the Santa Barbara Mission in Santa Barbara, California.

The Trevi Fountain tourist trap in Rome, Italy.

I don't quite know what it is I'm trying to capture when photographing a fountain— something about the play of light on the splashing water combined with the more tactile qualities of sound and coolness I suppose. I haven't really succeeded yet, but that hardly discourages me from continuing the quest.

I'll close with this image of a small pond at Descanso Gardens. For some reason it manages to convey a sense of stillness and chill that transcends the flattened photographic format. It was an effortless photograph that received very little of my compositional consideration, which is undoubtedly why it's so much more successful than any of the images above.


In a Black and White World

February 26, 2005

As a child you're frequently asked your favorite color. Yet, I cannot think of one instance as an adult when someone asked me that question. My answer would be the same anyhow. . .


It's one of only four colors that I can think of that also indicates a world view.


The Recession Mix

February 25, 2005

You see signs of the recession everywhere. Stores that have been part of the landscape for years are now closed. Friends and family are moving away as jobs disappear. Credit card interest rates go up just as everyone's ability to pay more goes down. The used CD selection at the local music shop offers more quality and selection than I've ever witnessed before, and for me, that might be the most dramatic evidence that we are all in for a very rough ride.

Recently, I picked up the following albums in one visit to the CD store:

Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
An indie album that's perhaps not quite as deserving of  the rapturous adjectives commonly employed to describe it. Like The Decemberists, but with slightly less lisping. Horns, check. Allusions to blind Christian adoration, check. Old-timey album art, check. 
The National, Boxer
I love this album and would happily employ all sorts of glowing adjectives to try and sell you on it. The strength of Boxer is in the words, or, more specifically, in the smokey and broken delivery of those words. Exceedingly careful production also deserves kudos for restraint when restraint is called for, such as the heart wrenching Racing Like a Pro or wistful Fake Empire.
Peter Bjorn and John, Peter Bjorn and John
The self-titled debut even beats out their fantastic Writer's Block album (which is a tough act to beat, as it contains the perennial ear-worm Young Folks).
Clinic, Walking With Thee
According to Amazon.com this album has been discontinued— so if the strength of my recommendation isn't enough, download a few free tracks from their most recent album Do It and decide for yourself.
M83, Saturdays=Youth
I won't rehash my thoughts about M83's development (you can read that here, if you missed it) but I will say that if you haven't downloaded the remixes from CNET yet you're missing out on the best bouncing-ping-pong-ball loop ever.
Yael Naim & David Donatien, Yael Naim & David Donatien
The only cd I've ever purchased on the recommendation of one of my students. With vocals in Hebrew, English, and French it also boasts the song New Soul, which was apparently featured on an Apple computer commercial. As I don't own a TV I can't attest to that fact, but I feel the song is catchy enough to fool you into spending a thousand dollars.
Esthero, Breath From Another
I haven't listened to this one yet but I suspect it's far more drum and bass then flapper swagger.
In years past the chances of my finding even two albums I fancied would have been astronomical. To walk in and find seven was equal parts exhilarating and sobering. Certainly some of the people who sold these albums must have felt as I do now; that the music collection would be the last thing to go, and then only under fear of utter destitution. Yet here is all this music, and my enjoyment of each album is somewhat colored by the fear that we may all soon face some exceedingly painful choices— choices that make my juvenile preoccupation with music seem as trivial as it happens to be.


Color Shifts

February 24, 2005

On this day in history my mother bought her first digital camera. We stood on the bank of the Boise River as I explained the various settings on the dial at the top. I took a few test images:

. . . and then I handed the camera over to Mom. With the trusty Photo Phazer in hand I shot yet another short film of the flowing river. When we got home I downloaded the various images from the two cameras only to realize that neither of them were at all accurate in depicting the true color of the river that bright afternoon. Mom's camera had pushed the blue of the water to a peculiar intensity and the Photo Phazer had, quite naturally, robbed the current of color. 


Colored Bands

February 23, 2005

OK everyone, let's test your chain-restaurant interior design scheme recall. In what super-fun eating establishment would you be likely to find this dramatic use of red and white stripes?*

For a person who doesn't profess to love working with color when creating artwork, I do seem to have a fixation with capturing it on film. Contrast, as well as vibrancy, tend to catch my eye— like this doorway to a pump house on the Puget Sound. The textural difference and graphic quality of the colored bands is emphasized by cropping in and denying any sort of larger contextual information.

Only years later (January 2008, to be exact) would this pump house image filter back into my consciousness. I stood on the steps of the ostentatious Il Vittoriano in Rome and realized that I really should have flipped that negative.

Hint: Think "flair."


The Form and Function of Place

February 22, 2005

It's amazing how differently a place can present itself. Equally amazing to me is the differences within ourselves that can transform the way we receive a place, or a moment in time. During this visit to Boise the skeletal trees along the river seemed more alive to me than if they'd had all the budding greens of Spring atop them. At one point a fierce storm rolled toward the setting sun, and the whole copse along the shore erupted into a firebrand.

The splendor of this moment burned itself in my mind. But, when it came time to translate it as a drawing, with months of time and hundreds of miles between the now and then, a different sentiment emerged. It became less an expression of color, and more a reflection on sharing in that dramatic tableaux with my father. Somehow the color became irrelevant and only the sharp contrasts between black and white remained. That, and the drifting into shapelessness away from the center of our perception.


Riparian Reflection

February 21, 2005

This is the steely gray of the winter day working across the surface of the Boise River. My father and I took a long walk along the water to enjoy the colors and lines of the season. The trail drifted in and out of inner suburbia; sometimes hugging the water line and engulfing us in reeds and brush, and at other times taking us along busy roads or under overpasses. Like all urban waterways it softened the harshness of the manufactured landscape and made me wish that all cities had the good fortune of having a river to tend so that, in turn, they could be nourished.


Timber, Oil, Gum, and Resin

Some drawings seem as if they'll never end. This one has been in progress for so long I began to suspect that was its only state of being. But this week brought about the end, and I feel that peculiar combination of relief and doubt that always accompanies the conclusion of an artwork. This is a fleeting sentiment however; one that is quickly consumed by the compulsion to create something else. In my mind I already have grand plans for silver leaf, waterfalls, and the elusive texture of fog.

Natural Children's Theater Design

February 20, 2005

For the past week I've spent many hours working with volunteers to fabricate a forest— having designed a few sets for children's theater in the past I can safely state that nature is the most difficult environment to construct. Castles, planets, Grecian ruins; these things are far easier to form because they can easily be shaped from flat sheets of plywood and cardboard. In fact, most set designs that I've encountered resort to painted flat sheet goods, even for their depictions of trees or bushes, because they are just that much simpler to construct. I've certainly gone this route myself, such as in the second incarnation of my adaptation of Aesop's Fables:

Aesop's Fables stage set, 2006
cardboard, lumber, primer, black latex paint, rope, paper, fabric, hardware

Now by the time I designed this simple set I'd already staged Aesop's Fables once and had spent hours upon hours constructing a 3D tree out of cardboard tubes (mailing and paper towel), newspaper, and papier mache. Not only was the tree in that first production structurally unstable, but its spindly brown limbs and sparse canopy cast a funerary tone on the entire production (which is not exactly the spirit you're hoping to engender in a children's theater production). This incarnation was much more successful as it not only felt more playful, but also emphasized the vivid colors of the costumes that the students wore. My golden rule for stage design is that it should compliment, not overwhelm, the performers.

* * * * *

Building nature in three dimensions for the stage requires a few key elements: soft materials, soft edges, a tonal palette with tremendous variation but only a few colors, variable verticality, asymmetry, and a daunting amount of simple repetition. 

While Mother Nature can be horribly inhospitable at times, our subconscious tendency is to equate the outdoors with the softer elements of Spring and Summer. Because we think of leaves, grass, moss, and flowers before we consider icy climes or volcanic cliffs, it makes sense to design with an eye towards the more pliable and comforting elements of the natural world. Cotton dyed green can become a leafy canopy and the scratchy weave of burlap can simulate dirt. Cardboard can be softened to form the gnarled trunks, roots, and branches of old growth forest. In order to lend an air of believability to all of these elements you must remain conscious of the repetition inherent in the natural world and commit to the idea of creating the same element in vast multiples. This tends to be the stumbling block for most students, as it can be difficult for them to visualize just how all of this repetitive labor is going to net a rock wall or oak tree.

There seems to be a paucity of useful information on the internet about cheap and effective ways to construct stage sets and props with students. If all goes well in the next month, I should have at least a couple decent tutorials to post this summer on the creation of fake rocks, starry backdrops, and flowering bushes. At this point I can state that no matter how ambitious your natural stage setting may be, you're going to need a significant stash of the following items: toilet paper, cardboard, masking tape, muslin, duct tape, assorted lengths of 2"x2" lumber, a cordless drill, zip ties/twist ties, and a group of dedicated parents itching to use their vast collection of tools. When Boy Scouts go into nature they take their Ten Essentials, but when you want to create nature for the stage, I'd encourage you to heed the ten essentials listed above.


Octogenarian Hamster

February 19, 2005

Mom's octogenarian hamster prior to excessive hair loss and blindness.


Walk It Out

February 18, 2005

Ironically, I devoted far more time to walking and hiking while living in the LA area than I do now while living in the splendid Pacific Northwest. I attribute this to the fact that I'm far busier here with creative pursuits than I was in LA. In Portland I must juggle my studio practice with small film production, so very little time remains for traipsing about the hillsides outside my home. 

Eventually, this will have to change, as most of my ideation process derives from interactions outside of my normal context, and nature tends to be the most fruitful ground for generating new imagery and inspirations.


Self Portraiture 2.0

February 17, 2005

There are probably millions of photographs online showing a person taking their own picture in the mirror. Many of them have a massive glow of white where the flash reflected in the mirror and obliterated all other reflections. When I see such images I'm always reminded of the throngs of people firing off flash bulbs in the Louvre with the hopes of taking home their own postcard picture of the Mona Lisa*— didn't they know that nothing would come of such images. At best they could hope for a poorly composed ball of white light radiating from behind the rows of heads also jostling for the same useless photograph.

* * * * *

While chatting with a salesperson at the Apple store one day he revealed his utter disgust with the iSight camera that had been placed on every Mac,** for it made his work day a living hell. Countless adolescents would stroll into the store to camp-out on the demo computers and take dozens of crummy digital photographs of themselves. This was often accompanied by hours of incessant high-pitched chatter, silly faces, and giggling. The mall had provided yet another avenue to foster vapid narcassism among tomorrow's future leaders. . . and this, in some great degree, is what passes for the next chapter in the history of self portraiture.

* * * * *

So I'm a hypocrite, right? At the top of this post is my image in the mirror. I've posted it on the net for all to see. And without any context it's probably as easily dismissed as any other online portrait. 

Some context is in order. You should know that on this night I was at a loss for what to film. I didn't see the point of the daily project. The TV was buzzing on the ground level of the house and I was alone upstairs trying to justify this creative endeavor that had no relevance to anything I'd done before. And I was very, very, tired. I stared at myself in the mirror and my neck muscles began to spasm. My eyes burned. I started to sob.

And I turned the camera on.

*Or, whatever passes for the Mona Lisa, as theories abound about the authenticity of the image on display behind layers of glass at the Louvre.

**This ties in nicely with a topic I've broached before. . .


Forensic Portraiture

February 16, 2005

There are more than a few instances of Photo Phazer images serving as the foundation for finished drawings. Some of them have a presence that I can't quantify. They may be crude and jagged, but they express something about those fleeting possibilities for beauty that we so often miss. 

* * * * *

What is it about an x-ray on the light box that is beautiful? Is it the subconscious reaction to associate anything glowing with the mystical, or is it the subtle colors that ribbon around the junctures of dark emulsion and transparency? Is it the memory of lingering pain behind the molars where the plastic-coated film cut into the gum as radiation hummed behind my ear? Maybe it's just the fact that it generates a memory at all— that this one moment has been elevated to importance among a sea of forgettable days and months.

And does finding the "why" really matter. I love the off kilter composition and macabre implications. It becomes a meditation of mortality; a dualistic record of the transient moment and the timelessness of carbon. It is a self portrait. It is artistic forensics.


Fine Arts Rough!

Jonathan Ashley Hall as Sam in Fine Arts

I interrupt this incessant stream of posts related to life in 2005 to bring you a current event.

The Company sat down last night to screen the first rough of our short film Fine Arts. With the exception of Brandon, who has sat in front of the computer editing the footage for three months, we had not seen hide nor hair of our little production since filming wrapped up in October last year. 

I want to be self-effacing, maybe even modest, but I feel it would be disingenuous to not state the obvious: this short film is far better than it should be. For a film with a tiny budget (so tiny as to be safely dubbed a "no budget" film in the parlance of the film industry), a skeleton crew of novices, and a shooting schedule so frighteningly quick that it often seemed we were packing up only minutes after we'd pulled everything out of the van, it seems improbable that both the narrative and aesthetics could coalesce into 28 minutes of intriguing cinema.*

A good portion of the kudos should be given to the cast, who were unfailingly professional and accommodating. They were thrown plenty of curve balls as Brandon and I readjusted shots to take advantage of various lighting conditions and locations. All of them were also exceedingly careful with Amy's script, which went a long way to maintaining the emotional cohesion of the story. Apparently, the script is often the first victim to the group-think engendered by movie making, as everyone (except the screenwriter) puts in their two cents about what the screenwriter really intended for this or that scene. I won't say that none of that happened, but in the cut we saw last night, I feel like many of the core ideas within the script were preserved and honored.

Brandon's skill as director and editor also deserve considerable praise. Despite having a number of takes for each scene, we were often exceedingly limited in how many different ways we could get a take. Most shots were subject to the limitations of available light and space. All of the shots were hand held; robbing every scene of the sameness that cranes, dollies, and tripods can offer. In the end, Brandon had a motley assortment of takes that were similar but hardly the same. As if editing wasn't hard enough already. . .

By no means should you believe that we are finished: Fine Arts still has a bit of post production work ahead. But in all likelihood, we should see the end in the next month or so, and then a new challenge will present itself— finding a venue larger than a couch to hold an audience larger than The Company. 

In the meantime I'm being told that blogging isn't nearly as important as writing my two proposed screenplays. I suppose that means I'll have to start shortening my posts. . .

What? What are you. . .? Wait . . . stop cheering! That's not nice!

*Intriguing cinema means that there's probably an appreciative audience somewhere, but I have no intention of misleading you— this is not a blockbuster. The only thing it has in common with a blockbuster is that it should be projected, and it is created through the efforts of more than one person. That's were the similarities end.

Chalkboards vs. Whiteboards

February 15, 2005

Occasionally my students express a longing for dry erase boards. This usually occurs when the chalk skips away from the slate-like-surface to throw a harpy squeal into the classroom air. At such times they will ask me, "Why don't you just use markers?" I give a cryptic response. I tell them that if they knew what I knew they wouldn't be so quick to embrace the shiny new technology of dry-erase.* 

And what is it that I know about dry erase boards that they may not?
  • I know that dry erase boards also produce dust, but it is a dust of mysterious chemical constituents.
  • I know that they also squeak like chalkboards. In fact, they squeak more often, but with less intensity.
  • I know that the pungent scent of the markers can only be improved upon by the use of odiferous alcohol or acetone (the recommended cleaning agents of such boards).
I know that markers are not capable of creating the subtle tones and textural presence of an image like this:

Lascaux, France— A Prehistoric Pictograph 
Chalkboard drawing for the 8th grade study of Beauty and Aesthetics

I also know that the dark tones of the traditional chalkboard grant colors a radiance they cannot possess on the white board. The blackness of the chalkboard floats color while the blistering absence of color on the coated melamine of a white board bleaches out the radiance of any red, yellow, or blue put atop it.

Only with a chalkboard can I create a geometric construction that pulses with vibrant color:

The Flowering Circle from the Six Circle Form
Chalkboard drawing for the 6th grade study of Artistic Geometry

With a white board I have little more than a tabula rasa repository for chemical ink: blank, and potentially toxic.

*I know what I know because I only had white boards at my first school.


Water = Poison

February 14, 2005

I always had a collection of partially filled water bottles and glasses around our rooms in LA. It was a source of contention between my wife and me.

I was convinced that Pneu was marching about her litter box and then drinking water out of my glass by dunking and licking her paw. So, if I left a glass of water in a room for even a moment unattended I couldn't bring myself to drink out of it again for fear of litter box diseases.

Naturally, the glasses would pile up.

Then I hit upon the idea that water bottles were a better solution because they could be capped and kitty paws wouldn't fit in the neck of the plastic bottle. Problems solved. Or so I thought.

Until someone informed me about how plastic leeches into drinking water as it degrades. . .


Spring in Low Resolution

February 13, 2005

This is the second time I've written this post. In its first incarnation I waxed poetic about cherry trees and the promise of Spring. But I walked away from the computer without hitting "Publish Post" because of a mounting feeling of mediocrity. I started pulling at my fingernails and coming up with synonyms for 'trite.' I paced. I wolfed down a Snickers bar. I read other blogs and realized that people who actually read books tend to be better writers. Then I got defensive about my inability to make time for reading and started to list all of the obligations that rob me of said time. . . like blogging.

The fact is, there is nothing I can type about cherry trees that hasn't been written with greater eloquence. I have no unique vantage by which to craft any meaningful phrase about Spring or how I wish that it would arrive.

Here's another fact: the more frequently I blog, the more vapid the posts. That old yarn about writing more leading to better writing apparently only works on writers, not artists who type. I used to spend hours on an entry— because I needed to. However, with the inception of this daily practice I haven't the luxury to consider what I'm putting down. I simply look at the photo and react. 

In truth, I should just begin and end with the photograph. As my wife keeps reminding me, most people don't want to read blog posts anyway. They especially don't want to read blog posts with large block paragraphs. That's why there are magazines and books. 

Blogs are read with the same critical eye that we reserve for advertising. Which is a way of saying that they aren't read— they're just supposed to catch the eye.

So, here's a bit of eye candy. Spring in low resolution.



February 12, 2005

Was there a man behind the curtain before Lyman Frank Baum? Was Baum's description of power as a form of bombastic manipulation and subterfuge immediately embraced into the lexicon of cultural symbolism or did it take time? Should we ultimately credit the clarity of Baum's thematic intentions, or the barrage of popular culture depictions, for the Wizard of Oz as a symbol of empty authority?


Germs came out of your nose?

February 11, 2005

Ah, February. Ah, ah, ah-chooo, February! 

It seems that I also had a cold at the same time of the year four years ago. Whatever could chase these winter germs away? How about the healing power of song?

(to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat)
Blow, blow, blow your nose
Gently on each side.
Use a soft, clean tissue,
And then wipe the outside.
I must confess, that the "Be Good to Your Nose" cd* by Puffs, is one of the prize holdings in my music collection. It never fails to educate and amuse. Thanks Procter and Gamble Company!

*Featuring tracks such as Sneezer Wheezer and Keep Germs Away.


Creativity and Credentials

February 10, 2005

A teacher must be an uber-artist: creative, certainly, but intuitive, tireless, knowledgeable, empathetic, and flexible as well. In any given week you may be called upon to invent a new game, diffuse a social conflict, work 60 hours, conduct scientific experiments, soothe the fretting parent, or build a forest out of cardboard.

When standing in front on my class I often feel fortunate for having been trained as an artist and not as a teacher. In art school I was educated in fortitude and inquisitiveness. Those qualities seem far more useful than curriculum comparisons or grading techniques when I try to craft a lesson that integrates music, mathematics, and world history. As for tests, classroom management, and communicating with parents— those things that a teaching credential theoretically prepares you for— well, most of those can be navigated with a resolute compass of compassionate ethics. I don't know if learning them is nearly as effective as living them.

* * * * *

Above is an image of an animal classification card game created by a colleague at the French school. This photo was taken before we sat there for an hour and cut out every single laminated card.

It was a very effective way of teaching the names of animals in French to a group of American students and, like most card games, was exceedingly adaptable— provided you had the creativity to adapt.



February 9, 2005

At IKEA, extinction is seasonal, and every customer enables the demise of some product or other by not choosing. So I can't provide a link to this particular lampshade because it doesn't exist any longer. 

Does that make the lampshade in my living room more or less valuable? Will IKEA's designs become collectible? Will I see them in antique shops fifty years from now and shake my head at the 500% mark-up?  Would hordes of recent undergraduate couples buy, build, and discard this fiberboard furniture with such blind ambivalence if they thought it might generate retirement income? Is it even physically possible for such products to survive fifty years when they are designed for transience?

I'm not going to speculate. When the lampshade receives its final, irreconcilable, dent it will join its kin in the landfill. Future regret may be my fate, but in the end I'll have kept the part that is most valuable to me: the universally decipherable pictogram directions featuring a genderless community of grinning Homo sapiens without hands.


For God's Sake, Don't Look

February 8, 2005

The cheapest diffusion filter is your breath. You'll need some cold air to play opposite your hot air, and you'll want some sort of lint free cloth to clean the lens when you decide to find some focus again. However, in many instances, a lack of focus is all the aimless photographer needs to elevate the mundane.

Case and point: Here is an unmade bed, lamp, and the glow of frosty February light on the bedroom wall. Such a cut-and-dry listing of the compositional elements doesn't tell you anything about this photo. It doesn't speak to atmosphere, memory, or the balance of colors and shapes.

Does that imply that the first step towards artistic merit might be a little mystery? I certainly believe that's one route, and at this point I find it a trusted path to walk when I'm getting too fussy. There are many excellent artists who rely on the strength of their intention and can plan their way to perfection. I've tried that route; it leads to the artistic equivalent of breakfast cereal— palatable, but far from inspired.

So, often I don't look through the viewfinder. I don't adjust the light with reflectors or fills. I frost the lens with my breath and literally shoot from the hip. If I look at it, if I plan it, I'll destroy whatever it might have that is beautiful or mysterious or impulsive. In this way you can look at the results without preconception and the ownership it engenders. Your editing process becomes responsive to the leap in your chest or the lingering eye, not some need to wrangle reality into a state of matched perception.



February 7, 2005

At this point we still had Pneu and she still had ears.


Barney's Soap

February 6, 2005

A few days ago I posted a supposition about the aggressive implications of cleanliness.* 

This image coincides nicely with that theme but I do not tend to equate it with scrubbing hands (although that is the obvious depiction) so much as the color palette of Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle.

For those of you familiar with Barney's films you might think I'm making a comparison born out of extreme arrogance, so let me clarify. I'm not comparing myself to Matthew Barney. I'm sharing with you that this crappy low-res movie of me washing my hands with an unnaturally pink bar of soap was a meditation of the coolness of his color palette. It was not contrived— the pink bar of soap was sitting by the sink and the quality of the florescent lights overhead had been established when I filmed the toothbrushing sequence. So in that way, it is nothing like Matthew Barney, who might be one of the most calculated and meticulous artists alive today. My spontaneous film would have no place in his icy palace of conceptual frosting— it is too earnest in its simplicity.

*Further proof from the forefront of cultural design: Fight Club soap design by Weiden+Kennedy. "Works great on blood stains." Draw your own conclusions.



February 5, 2005

As a species we would do well to emulate the pliability and memory of light.



February 4, 2005

Exceptional Chicken Related Things:

Horrible Chicken By-products:


Out of Place

February 3, 2005

There are a few things I don't associate as rightly belonging in the world. There existence seems so awkward, so troubling, that I believe them to be misplaced in the temporal and corporeal stream. Giraffes are a good example. 

My father periodically would talk about great figures of the past who were not, "of their time." Which I believe to mean that they may have fit in wonderfully in the future or the past, but the present epoch cannot possibly meet their capacities. Many of them are branded as geniuses, or spiritual leaders, but I suspect that we've all met people who seem dramatically out of place in their own culture who will never be given a glorifying plinth in the the annuals of history. For every William Blake there are countless other visionaries, dreamers, healers, and artists who will struggle with difference in an indifferent world.

* * * * *

On this same February field trip to the zoo I turned the Photo Phazer away from the animals to document how people were interacting. I found the following photo to be one of the more telling images I took in 2005:


Death Tones

February 2, 2005

Have you ever tried photocopying your body? It's fascinating to see how the technology, combined with the flattening of your form against a pane of glass, transforms your figure. You realize that your physicality is really just another type of meat, this pulpy mass that's eternally subject to gravity— it's only allowed autonomous form through the mystery of biological complexity and spiritual will.

A classmate in college made a book from images of his body. He methodically placed a piece of himself on his small color copier at home to gain a life-size self portrait. The images were startlingly repugnant in the way that the skin grew more and more pale as it came fully into contact with the pane of glass. Body hair was squished and angled unnaturally. The natural pinks and peaches of flesh had bled away into cold aquatic tones, and the form of the body seemed flattened by an oppressive black behind it. The whole project reeked of death.*

When I filmed myself brushing my teeth under florescent light I wasn't thinking about self portraiture, but I was thinking about the action of snarling; of jutting out the teeth and glaring forward, as you do when brushing (or, as I do when brushing). Strange how this act also forces a foaming at the mouth, and it made me wonder if a correlation could be drawn between hygiene and aggression. It may seem like a bit of a stretch, but much of the language we apply to cleaning ourselves and our environments employs the lexicon of warfare. Even the Almighty once chose to wash away the scourge of humanity. Perhaps it is implicit in new beginnings that they are born out of violent endings.

*For the definitive exploration of this sort of subject matter I refer you to the work of Jenny Saville who was picked up as one of Saatchi's Young British Artists in the early 1990's. She continues to produce a mesmerizing body of painted work that manages to both rob, and simultaneously endow, the human form with life.


Ruby Red

February 1, 2005

There's little truth to the color in this image. That table top is bright red. The printer itself more gray than blue. I always appreciated how my sterile-toned electronics looked on that table, and I believe that it somehow influenced the color scheme in our bathroom at that house. The main portion of the bath was painted grey, while the little toilet room was a blistering tomato red. When the door between these two spaces was left open that tiny side room emitted this lively ruby glow that never failed to elevate the spirits. 

* * * * *

Painting a room gray is a luxury you don't have in the Pacific Northwest. Gray is the most common state of each day, and you don't want it encroaching on the miniscule amount of space you can actually control.