Tuesday, April 12, 2011

scattered thoughts on Georgia O'Keeffe

this is not in the format of my usual posts (highlighting an artist or show that I'm currently into), but this has been on my mind, and I haven't written about O'Keeffe (who I love) on here before, so I figured I might as well...

        We were discussing semiotics in my art history class, and (of course) Magritte's The Treachery of Images came up, which got me thinking about Georgia O'Keeffe. There is no denying that many of O'Keeffe's paintings (particularly the flowers) resemble female genitalia, something that she denied consistently throughout her lifetime. This always seemed silly to me, especially knowing what little I do about O'Keeffe and her interest in gender (for more on this read Susan Fillin-Yeh's Dandies, Marginality and Modernism: Georgia O'Keeffe, Marcel Duchamp and other Cross-dressers). The paintings are in my mind clearly genitalia and the idea of this being coincidence or a result of my own mind is just absurd. But in came Magritte, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe". This is not a pipe.
        Magritte was perhaps playing with different questions (signified vs. signifier, what is "a pipe"), but his contrary statement is perhaps equivalent to O'Keeffe's in that the intent is to allow for thought. By invariably insisting that her paintings were flowers and that was all, or abstract and that was all, O'Keeffe was essentially saying "This is not a labia". If we are to take her for her word, we then must wonder why we are seeing it that way. Are we really so sexually minded that we cannot look at an innocent painting of nature without seeing genitals?
        Let's just say (for the sake of my theory) that O'Keeffe was painting vulvas. This is what most people see when they look at them. If O'Keeffe was to agree- that these are vulvas and that this is what she was painting, the conversation ends. 'O'Keeffe is a weird feminist painting weird, obviously vaginal flowers. We were right. Moving on'. But by denying this, the paintings become weirdly voyeuristic, we are forced to think about our own perception.
        I'm not sure people give her enough credit. She wasn't unaware what she was doing, either in painting or in the way that she approached or discussed her paintings publicly.

images: Magritte, O'Keeffe & Alfred Stieglitz (photograph of O'Keeffe)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ilona Anderson

(I do realize that it's not Tuesday, but this show closes this weekend, so I'm posting it now)

        Sort of a cop-out first post back, because I had to write this review for a class, but the show is AMAZING, and since I already had something written on it, it seemed silly to write something new...

        In her solo gallery show Dwell Ilona Anderson pulls from her personal history, having lived under Apartheid in South Africa. On the gallery's website she describes the interactions in her "improvisational structures" (drawn tree houses) as "quirky and unpredictable". Ilona Anderson "Dwell": A Drawing Installation is on view at the Kingston Gallery in Boston's SOWA district through March 27th (it opened the 2nd). Coming into the gallery on an unforgivably unpleasant and rainy day, I had the pleasure of viewing the installation uninterrupted by the presence of other viewers, and was able to truly enter into Anderson's built world.
        The exhibition is comprised of two rooms, the large main room of the gallery and a smaller second room. The first room reads more as an "installation" as the show title suggests, the drawings (as large as ~10x30') flowing into one another and placed at all levels of the wall, while the second room is comprised of smaller (~2-3') drawings hung almost exclusively at eye level, which exist more separately from one another. Here I will focus on the pieces which make up the larger installation.
        To enter into the gallery space one must walk up a ramp parallel to the window-front, and walking up, straight ahead is the beginning of Anderson's installation. The first inclination is to get as close as possible, examining the tiny details drawn in fluorescent and glitter pens on black and a variety of gray papers. The drawings are treehouses, awkwardly pieced together in a way that is reminiscent of a Rube Goldberg machine, except one which probably wouldn't work- the structures seem haphazard at best. They are a mixture of natural trees and odd metal tubing and hinges, which mark them as imaginational structures. In the first drawing there are two figures, a man and a woman, the man sucking on the woman's breast. The image is repeated in the second drawing as well, and the remaining figures throughout the exhibition are for the most part lounging or engaged in various sexual acts.
        The paper is thick, almost tangible, and each piece is cut into jagged forms which are then pieced together, the drawings overlapping onto each page. They are not like a puzzle though, the pages run over one another and gaps are left between. Some pieces are connected by thin, scraggly looking shapes. As I backed away from the wall it became clear that the fragmented arrangement of the papers mirrored the haphazard treehouse structures inside Anderson's drawings. Here she has managed to create structures that are simultaneously chaotic and clearly intentional. Every connection, whether it be a strip of paper or logs tied together in ink, no matter how crooked or strange, has the distinctive touch of the human hand.

        Being carried through the dream-like narrative (I say dream-like because the drawings are so obviously unrealistic- but as if dreaming they are deceptively believable while viewing them), I begin to recognize the fluorescent and glitter lines under the gallery lights as gel pen, the connection to my own childhood furthering the fantastical feel of the drawings. The brightly colored lines are contrasted by Anderson's use of black ink, both in line work and in fields of black, often on black paper, creating an effect that looks almost like velvet.
        The escapist nature of the drawings begins to be interrupted as I begin to notice strange things happening within the drawings. It starts with a woman who is hanging from a hook by her braided hair. Once attention has been drawn to her hair, I begin to notice braids all over the drawings, both attached to heads and independent. Suddenly it becomes apparent that much of the "rope" in the drawings is actually braided hair, such as on a rope ladder and connecting parts of the treehouses. The hair ducks in and out of the drawings through suspicious holes, which appear also in places where strange liquid seems to be seeping in. In one section a naked woman knits, and towards the bottom her knitting dissolves into a mass of fluorescent liquid, disappearing into one of these holes. This melting fabric is repeated in other places, in one drawing a dress seeps off a figure. Another figure wears a mask and balances four others on her head. The surreal imagery seems to be pulling from some sort of mythology, whether it is one that is personal or cultural I could not guess, but the imagery is strong, and curious.

        Looking at the pictures online (before coming into the gallery) I had been skeptical of Anderson's use of the word "installation" in the title of the exhibition. I realize that the term installation does not require that the work be 3D, however in my experience what I would truly consider "installations" were works that could be experienced, a physical space that could be entered into. The idea of a "drawing installation" seemed sort of contradictory, perhaps a word that was only being used to describe the way the works were laid out on the wall.
        What Anderson has created however, is truly an installation. Aptly titled "Dwell", the drawings are not only of dwellings (treehouses) but they allow the viewer to almost literally be inside them. To dwell for a moment within them. Through her drawings, Anderson has seemingly tapped into some kind of shared imagination. The viewer is acutely aware that she is looking into Anderson's experiences and mind's eye, but she is there. Anderson has pulled us into her own world, but in it she is speaking to shared experiences; the quiet painful moments, the quirkiness, feelings of instability, joy, sex. In her drawings she has captured a spectrum of human existence that the viewer is able to enter into, and I believe that this is her goal in creating these spaces. It is as experiential as something you could physically be inside. So installation? I say yes.

If you're in Boston you can check out Dwell at the Kingston Gallery (it's only open through the 27th though!)

images: kingstongallery.com & shambhalatimes.org


Yes it's been almost exactly a year, but now that I've pretty much finished senior year I finally have time to start working on this again (at least until I start my masters degree program in september).
Going to start off as just on Tuesdays, but if that works well then hopefully I'll return to more regular posting.

So... check back on Tuesday!

in the mean time, you can see what I've been doing here:daylynnrichards.com
and what my awesome STUDENTS did last summer here: SPHERE!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Terri Timely (Ian Kibbey and Corey Creasey)

        Putting together this post required an unprecedented amount of unnecessary sleuthing on my part, caused by the deceptive name Terri Timely (which is two people and neither of their names are Terry). The confusion started while watching St. Vincent's music video for Actor Out of Work which is in some placed credited to "Terri Timely", and in others to "Ian Kibbey and Corey Creasey". It only got worse when one source listed Actor Out of Work to "Ian Kibbey and Corey Creasey" and in the same breath credited another St. Vincent video, Marrow to "Terri Timely". Then the Terri Timely website had both videos, and the "about" section was blank, with only a picture of two young men!

        Fortunately the issue has been resolved, and I give you Terri Timely; directing duo Ian Kibbey and Corey Creasey.

        As I sort of mentioned, I happened upon these artists while watching music videos of St. Vincent. Marrow, in particular, is very peculiarly shot, and fits better with the music (both in mood and in the actual rhythm of the filming) than maybe any other music video I've seen. I was immediately pulled in, and had to see more. As it turned out I had seen more of their work already (including the now confirmed to be them video for Actor Out of Work) (which is amazingly bizarre and slightly uncomfortable), and the video for Joanna Newsom's The Sprout and the Bean, which shares with Marrow interesting and fitting camera movements.
        I've been working my way through their online library and what interests me most about their music videos is just what I described about Marrow (my personal fave) and The Sprout and the Bean; a perfect combination of the feel of the music and their own aesthetic, edited to the beat of the music (Modest Mouse's Invisible and Bobby Birdman's I Will Come Again are also good examples). There are also a couple videos that meander and cycle through sets really beautifully. And their compositions are always beautiful.

        Their short films reflect that a lot of the weirdness that occurs in their music videos are not only the product of having chosen somewhat strange musicians, rather that Terri Timely are probably even weirder on their own (this is a good thing). Their sense of a visual beat is also reflected in their short films, which are impeccably timed. Many of the short films are also HILARIOUS (I couldn't even tell you which are my favorites, and I don't want to ruin them for you by saying why anyway). If you're going to watch anything of theirs I'd head to the short films section first, but it's all amazing.

Terri Timely website
2006 interview with the two of them

images: territimely.com (stills from various videos)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Steve Hollinger

        Sorry this is late, I'm not sure what was going on but Blogger was NOT letting me post it! Last month I went to the south end for Boston's first fridays and while in the Walker Contemporary gallery one artist's work caught my eye, Steve Hollinger.
        His works are basically alive. There isn't really another way to word it. The couple of his pieces on display were like a small window into some weird 19th century laboratory. Responding to temperature and light, many of Hollinger's works are physically active. The pieces that I saw twirled around in strange vials of water and light (first image), or twitched in a way that was so bizarrely lifelike (his "pods") you probably could have told me they were something alien and I would've been willing to buy it. Another piece had vials of polariod emulsion catching light (last image).
        As someone who is very much into sci-fi, and obviously very much into anything visually pleasing, his works were particularly attracting, as they invoke a sort of eerie feeling of both past and future, while also being really stunning. If you can't see his work in person, you should at least watch the video I've linked here, which shows his pieces doing their thing.

Video of some of Hollinger's works in action
Hollinger's website
Walker Contemporary site

images: stevehollinger.com

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Door (Juanita Wilson, Tim Fleming)

        I've been trying to watch some of the shorts and animations that were nominated for Oscars earlier this month, and one that caught my eye was The Door, which was written and directed by Juanita Wilson. The short, which is just shy of seventeen minutes, is based on the "MONOLOGUE ABOUT A WHOLE LIFE WRITTEN DOWN ON DOORS, the testimony of Nikolai Fomich Kalugin", by Svetlana Alexievich, which follows the attested story of a man in post-Chernobyl Pripyat and Kiev.

        As a college photography student who is interested in abandoned spaces, I have on more than one occasion been shown work by photographers who have gone into Pripyat (Robert Polidori being one). Though the photographs are always hauntingly beautiful and extremely sad, they still lack the full story, only representing the general sense of loss and sadness that is present in many photographs of abandoned (for whatever reason) spaces. They, in my opinion, therefor do not effectively convey the absolute devastation the Chernobyl disaster left behind.
        Pripyat is an intriguing place, I have always been entranced by the present-day photographs of the famous ferris-wheel and the whole post-apocalyptic quiet it exudes. The problem is that the photographs are admittedly romanticized, and looking at them often makes me more interested in exploring than considering the disaster that occurred there (and I won't enter certain abandoned spaces such as mental hospitals out of respect of the horrors people had to endure there, so distracting me from who inhabited the space is not easy). The Door manages to strip the space of this romanticism while maintaining a level of beauty. It makes the personal connection that the photographs lack.

        Every frame of The Door could be a photograph. The filming (director of photography: Tim Fleming) is perfect, as is the color palette. The short opens with an unexplained action, a man stealing a door; and evolves into a story of loss and tradition. Just as nothing about the door is without deeper meaning, the short reveals the way in which nothing after Chernobyl was innocuous.
        A faculty member at my school and well-known artist once told me that "nostalgia is just memory without pain". While I can not fully agree with this statement (particularly in the context in which it was given), watching this film gave me an insight into what she was trying to say. The photographs are beautiful and nostalgic. They show the literal surface of Pripyat. The Door gives a truer (as it is not only based off a testimonial but structured in the same way as a memory) understanding of Pripyat and the memories that are trapped within it. As Toni Morrison would put it, the "rememories".
        The Door may be a short, but in the seventeen minutes they have accomplished everything about a place which other mediums and artists have been trying to capture for years.

The entire film as well as more information are available here.
*be warned that parts of it are not easy to watch, but it is definitely worth it.

images: screenshots from The Door.

Monday, March 29, 2010


        Back for good and for real. I was originally intending to write a post on one of the many artists I've bookmarked over my absence, but because it is currently very late in the evening (or rather early in the morning) and I've been animating all day and have therefore lost my mind, I'll leave you with something a little more cryptic, which I stumbled upon today.

        A YouTube user by the name of "iamamiwhoami", has been periodically posting one-odd minute videos which I can not make heads or tails of, but am absolutely fully drawn to. I'm guessing that the channel belongs to the girl in every video (so I'll refer to the artist as she for now), but I am not claiming to know this as the whole thing is currently some sort of big secret. Quite a few commenters have theories as to who the girl is, but none of them are people that I'm familiar with, so I will not go there. (Her most recent video, posted two weeks ago, which jumps from one to almost five minutes in length, suggests that she is a musician.) This is the video that I first encountered, and is actually my least favorite, although it is still extremely intriguing, a little terrifying, and somehow beautiful.
        The video reminds me of a dream I might have if I had a cold and went to bed with some Sudafed having just watched the scene with the hand-eyed monster in Pan's Labyrinth. Creepy and wonderful. I thought at first that the stretching/bending of some of the shots might bother me (it often reads more as just "effect" than actually adding anything), but I came away less concerned about it and more involved in the general bizarreness of it all (her long eyelashes around hauntingly blue eyes, the strange men looking on), it has some really beautiful moments.
        I was more interested however, in the six shorter uploads, which seem to be pieces to one big puzzle, although they don't fit quite exactly. You'll have to watch them yourselves, as it is difficult to put my finger on what exactly draws me to them, but they are really beautifully filmed, and the editing goes well with the sound/music.
        I'm also really interested in the way the work is being released (in little snippets, and anonymously), and think that it's almost equally as conceptually important as the work itself, but that is a whole other discussion and I am way too exhausted for it. In any case, watch the videos, they're wonderfully bizarre.

iamamiwhoami's youtube channel

images: screen shots of iamamiwhoami's recent videos

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Marc Johns

        While this blog is first and foremost a way for me to organize all the artists that I find inspiring, I couldn't help but include Marc Johns. (Not to put down his work, because I love it, I just haven't found any artists to write about lately that I'm really connected to or as inspired by as I have in the past). If you ever have bad days (I imagine you occasionally do), then those will be the days to look at his work. Johns' tiny illustrations are extremely minimalist (and in this very charming), but in their simpleness he packs a lot of humor and cleverness. Many of the illustrations are accompanied by small bits of text, which are equally short and sweet, and obvious the the most clever ways.
        His simple drawing style is something that I can relate to, but his sense of humor is something that is definitely unique to Johns. Many of his illustrations are also terribly strange (and by terribly I obviously mean brilliantly), another nod to his unique brain.
        Like I said, not too much to say, but if you're ever feeling sour here are a few places to check out some more of his work! :

Johns' website
Johns' flickr
Serious Drawings Book, which you can not buy (sold out) but there's a preview of a bunch of the pages, and it's really cool the way his sense of humor is apparent even in the setup/organization of the book..

images: flickr.com/photos/marcjohns

Monday, February 22, 2010

Andrew Gibbs

        While the rest of his work that I could find online seems less finished/realized than his video Florian (to CocoRosie's Houses off of 2007's The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn), I think it is absolutely worth posting this one piece by animator Andrew Gibbs.
        The video initially grabbed me with its style and because it appears to have been made using a technique that I'm currently learning, but as I watched I became more impressed with the seamless way the audio and video have been integrated. I would venture to say that if I were not so familiar with CocoRosie's music that I would have been unsure which came first, the animation or the sounds. He also effectively draws attention to some of the subtler/more unusual sounds within CocoRosie's compositions by giving them a visual cue, which made me really appreciate the way they were playing off one another, rather than only giving the song a storyline.
        It is also full of really beautifully strange moments (when the soldier uses thread from his coat to try and save a drowning woman, waves being represented as small hands, the way the beginning is tied back in at the very end). Definitely worth a watch.

Florian on youtube
Gibbs' Vimeo

images: screen grabs from Florian

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Manson 1969-

        Sorry for the few days absence, I needed to collect my mind as I gear up for the start of a new semester.
        I was on Marilyn Manson's website trying to find clips of his film project Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll (which to my utter sadness still has no official set release date, though imdb says this year), and stumbled upon his paintings, which I had probably not looked at since my freshman year of high school. While some of them are inarguably pretty vulgar (to be expected), his painting style is absolutely beautiful and strange.
       Manson's paintings are done with watercolor, and sometimes absinthe, which he discovered accidentally, "I was drinking as I was painting and put my brush in the wrong one. It makes a nice stain, so I figured I didn't want to waste it." It sounds sort of over the top, but it's very him, and the images are still really cool, regardless of whatever associations you may have with the man behind them.

-Manson's website (artwork section)
*note: There are some paintings on his website that feature nazi imagery. Though Manson is a known shock-artist and most of his work is a little controversial, usually in a way I can appreciate, I just feel the need to say that I am NOT in support of these specific pieces.
-Some of his work is also on MTV's website with comments by Manson

images: marilynmanson.com