Monday, December 25, 2006

Ph34r t3h Ch33r

Ph34r t3h Ch33r
Originally uploaded by skippytpe.
Merry Christmas, Intarwebs!

Monday, December 11, 2006

"Notes from the weekend" or “We are Artist of Borg”

Few notes because I don’t have time to write a real entry right now:

1. The worst service on planet earth can be found at the Starbucks on Poplar near Highland. It’ll be delivered to you by the dark haired girl at the drive-thru. Also, be warned that they apparently haven’t calibrated their espresso maker since 1997.

2. The nice people in North Mississippi (where I spent my weekend) are incapable of delivering me a Diet Coke. Upon ordering one I received: a small Coke, a large Dr. Pepper, a medium watered down orangy thing, and a Pepsi in a bottle.

3. Pepsi tastes like Christmas. (I’ll explain later)

4. We need a new word for installation art because it’s a bifurcated tradition. There is the responsive sort (“I’m going to go into the space and make art that uses what’s there”) and there is the other sort (“I’m going to go into this space and make it something else entirely”).

5. I was tempted to work in the word “assimilate” in the description for the last one, but I’d just end up quoting Star Trek and we can’t have that.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

How weird is that?

From the Hi-honey-how-was-your-day dept.:

Today at work, my boss stabbed me with a broadsword.

If she ever actually manages to do me in, one of you please promise me you'll submit it to Fark.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I don't want to go on the cart...

Since people are starting to notice, apparently I need to get off my ass and write something.

The last two weeks I’ve been seriously dragging. I was really glad to get some time in with my Dad over Thanksgiving, even though privately I think both of us were having a rough go (what with mom and all). The trip turned out to be a bit more driving than I'd intended because I had to make the round trip back to Memphis to pickup clothes for a funeral.

Holiday stuff aside, I just can’t seem to get enough sleep. I slept until noon on Saturday and was still in bed by 8:30. Then again, since I spent most of the time in between studying for my final, it was probably just the exhaustion of reading so much course material that did me in. I took the test last night and made a 92. Not stellar, but considering that it’s just a certificate program, I can live with it.

Friday night was the first art I’d seen (not counting the MCA holiday bizarre) since the Wangechi Mutu show at Powerhouse. We got off to our usual late start so I didn’t get to do the Fountain Gallery or R&W, both of which are new to me. I wasn’t even sure that I was going to go out, but since Lisa Kurts had Jeff Koons on the card I figured I had to make an appearance.

Upon leaving Lisa Kurts Gallery a dear friend of mine once remarked, “Wow. That must be where fun goes to die.” Friday night’s show did nothing to make me think she was wrong. Apart from a really nice set of interior C-Prints by Michael Eastman and a series of quixotic little paintings of glowing birds by Brad Durham, there wasn’t really all that much remarkable at the show.

What’s worse from my perspective is that most of the artists on the card for this particular show weren’t even represented on the walls. I’m not saying that I could necessarily tell a Koons from any other white ceramic Scottie dog filled with silk flowers, but couldn’t they at least make the effort? Perhaps it was there and I just missed it, but that would also mean that I missed the work of at least half a dozen other artists who were supposed to be represented in the show. Is there a secret passage in that place that I should know about?

Next up on the list was the group show at L. Ross. I know that it’s generally considered rude to talk about the catering at an opening (we’re all theoretically there for the art), but the folks cooking were well and truly on their best game here. The work selected for the show didn’t seem to fall into the usual schizophrenic trap that so many similar shows do. To my eye, the strongest work was probably along the North wall as you come into the gallery. It starts with a notable sympathy between the Anton Weiss piece that confronts you when you walk in and the set of three engaging Butler Steltemeier watercolors on your left. The Steltemeirs were work I’ve seen and meant to write about before, but never quite got around to it.

Continuing down the North wall, I was confronted with a stellar piece by Jenny Balisle. Popular university shows not withstanding, there are more than three paths to abstraction and Balisle has captured this one beautifully. The impenetrable title, “JPB2538”, does nothing to really illuminate the artist’s process or concept so one is left to work out the density of this piece all by oneself. At first blush, work like this seems to be devoid of detail; art as a series of grand color motifs. Closer examination proves, however, that every inch of this panel has been carefully studied and crafted by the artist. I would see a still better example of this later in the evening.

Next heading down that same wall was a pair of paintings by Bobby Spillman, whom I’ve written about earlier. Not surround by his other, more frenetic work, this quiet set of paintings strike a more subdued and perhaps more ominous tone than what I’m used to seeing in his work. I can’t promise you that I hadn’t seen these paintings before, but in this setting they make an intriguing pair.

One of David Lusk’s shows managed to do something that doesn’t happen very often for me anymore. It takes a hell of a lot for me to get genuinely excited by a piece of abstract painting. Not that I don’t like it or know a good one when I see it, but it’s extraordinarily rare that I see a piece of abstract painting that literally forces me to emote. Brian Rutenberg’s work for “Pine and Jasmine” did exactly that.

The subsequent conversations I’ve had among my circle of art going acquaintances suggest that I was apparently the only one (other than perhaps Amber) to have such a strong reaction to the work, but frankly I don’t care. I heard a number of historical critiques and dismissals by reference (“Oh yeah, X did that better”) but I can’t really say that I bought any of them. Sure I’ve seen gestural expressionism before, but there was something all together different in this work.

First, there is the issue of craft. I’m often confronted with the notion that abstraction is done simply as an excuse to be lazy, either technically or critically. Technically the painter figures “hey, my four year old could do that” and sets upon slinging paint at a canvas figuring that “if it’s good enough for Pollock, it’s good enough for me.” Generally, this renders a bad Pollock knock-off. Critically, the lack of discipline often falls along the same lines. Either the artist decides “I don’t know what any of this shit means, so why try to do something explicable” or else “Wassily Kandinsky was the greatest painter ever so I’m just going to paint everything just like he would.” I’ve actually heard that last one more than once.

To anyone faced with that choice I can offer only this advice: Wassily Kandinsky gave us all the Kandinsky’s we will ever need.

To my admittedly untrained eye however, Rutenberg seems to fall into neither of these two traps. Unlike with so many abstract works, the closer you get, the more the artists hand confronts you in every nook and cranny. This wasn’t random chance evidenced by the accidental drop of paint in that “the artist wuz here” kind of way, but in deliberate and conscious choices of a serious painter practicing a disciplined art.

Secondly, and more importantly to me, Rutenberg’s pallet is an absolutely balls-out explosion of genuinely daring color. This isn’t “safe” work, nor do I think the artist was just having fun pushing paint around; the work was too well crafted for that. The paint literally leaps off the canvas. I hate to use it, because the metaphor gets trotted out in art criticism so much, but the work is almost musical: in some places lyrical and in others nearly symphonic. The paintings each had the subtle ebb and flow found in the better color field painters, one tone gently giving way to the next, but each maintained a kinetic momentum that drives the piece to it’s crescendo.

The Holiday Group Show at Lisa Kurts runs through January 6th. The group show at L Ross is up through the 31st. Brian Rutenberg and the Holiday Group show are up at David Lusk’s Gallery through the 23rd.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A little mid-week link blogging

Just a few odds and ends in no particular order:

  • I'm usually not a fan of "clever" art, but these are just cool.

  • Considering how much I dislike J-Lo, this track really is strangely addictive (though not as much as this). I suppose any thing gets better when you add Stevie Wonder.

  • I'm giving serious consideration to taking a few art history classes next semester over at the U. Not really in love with the idea of Art in the Dark, but there are some definite gaps in my knowledge that could stand filling.

  • Soma FM is already streaming Christmas music. A few minutes ago, as i was about to get up, they started playing Jimmy McGriff's version of "Santa Claus is Coming/White Christmas" and I suddenly found that I couldn't get up until it was over.

  • In answer to Dwayne: Rope, Top Hat, My Man Godfrey, Metropolis, Citizen Kane, It's a Wonderful Life, Duck Soup, Adams Rib, Double Indemnity, and All Quiet on the Western Front.

  • For anyone who's interested, don't forget that the Leonids peak on Saturday night.

[edit] Looks like the Leonids might not happen here after all... damnit.[/edit]

Friday, November 10, 2006

We are all Tasadays.

On our second stop of the night, a show at Material that hadn’t drawn anywhere near the crowd it deserved, I heard someone who shall remain nameless remark that they tended to like the artists that showed at the Power House if not always the shows themselves. I hate to admit it publicly (partly for fear of offending my friends who work for the organization and partly for fear of castigation), but I tend to be of much the same mind upon leaving a show there. Even great artists are sometimes presented with the space and then seem to freeze. It’s such a formidable space that it tends to demand a formidable response, which some people are either unwilling or unable to provide. With her show opening tonight, “sleeping heads lie”, Wangechi Mutu proves she is capable of just such a formidable response.

Mutu begins by transforming the white walled modernist north gallery into a muted and pockmarked expanse for her mixed media collages to reside in. The walls themselves are a pale blue and pitted with small rust colored craters which seem to convey a past of violence or perhaps just the neglectful ravages of time; even outside of the art world it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference.

Each of the eight collages is an enthralling assemblage of fashion, nature, pornography, chrome and a smattering of distinctly African images compiled into menaced human forms (mostly heads), many of whom seem to be imploring something of their viewers. It is the nature of this kind of collage to dehumanize its subject (think De Kooning), but in the hands of Mutu the technique does exactly the opposite. The figures in these collages, for all their disfigurations, seem almost more human than any straight rendering of form could be.

The cavernous south gallery contains an installation called “Muddy Water.” It consists primarily of a dozen or so clotheslines lighted from above, holding a wide range of mostly dark colored, worn clothing. Viewed from the balcony looking down into the space, the highest row of clothing was on the far wall, at about eye level. From the lower floor, however, the clothes provids a fascinatingly textured visual ceiling. Sharing the space with the viewer are ten hot plates scattered around the burnt orange floor, bearing pots of water and wine of various colors and stages of boiling. This gave the room a certain musk, which seemed to lay claim to the environment that the artist has created for her viewers.

Critically I find this work to be an invigorating struggle that I’ve still not fully resolved. I found myself trying to make sense of what my eyes were telling me and I kept running into frameworks I know to be false. Any construct I have of femininity or Africanity (a term I’m borrowing from Olu Oguibe) is based on Colonial notions contrived to support the ideas of people the likes of which I’m trying very hard not to become. I found myself staring into these faces and wrestling not with their Otherness, but my own.


The artist is giving a gallery talk tomorrow afternoon at 3pm and I hope anyone who happens to read this will seriously consider going. And since you'll be in the neighborhood, you could always hang out and go the Lantana Show afterward (nudge nudge, wink wink).

Monday, November 06, 2006

A little plug

As a rule, I try not to stump for Amber’s shows here (and I never review them), but I’m making an exception in this case. Next Saturday, November 11, from 7 to 11pm the Lantana Projects are presenting their Class of 06 show at 387 South Main. Amber and I have spent a sizable chunk of the last two days up there and it’s shaping up to be a really fantastic show.

Yesterday started out a little rough for Amber. She still hadn’t fully recovered from her food poisoning. We threw in the towel about an hour into the installation in search of something, anything that Amber could eat. Given that there was something of a deadline for getting this work up, the folks putting on the show were really good about us bailing.

Today went considerably better. Amber woke up craving pancakes and set upon chowing down before I got out of bed. For anyone who’s ever been through food poisoning, you know this is a pretty good sign.

We got to the space a little later than we’d hoped, but the installation went pretty quickly. Somewhere around three in the afternoon, Amber started channeling Gabriel Orozco. It wasn’t part of the original design for the piece, but ultimately I think the antiphonal approach worked out well. I put up a little Flickr set of Amber’s installation for anybody who’d like to take a peek.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Oh Dear... I've Trodden In Monsieur's Bucket

Today was supposed to be spent working on Amber's Lantana installation followed by a quick trip down to my grandmother's for the evening. Instead, I was on bucket duty. After the Michelle Citron lecture (which I still intend to write up), Amber and I stopped by McAlister's on Poplar at Highland. Apparently there was something wrong with her soup; she doesn't remember it tasting funny and dinner was nice (we ran into a couple of friends who had been at the Chris Uphues lecture), but about two o'clock this morning the fun began. I got Amber an appointment for two this afternoon and we're just now getting home.

They gave her a phenergan shot, so she's finally getting a little sleep.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Weekend Stuff (yes, I know it's Tuesday)

So my Friday podcasting class didn’t make. Or rather, it made but only two people showed up. Since it was just the three of us, it seemed silly to go through my whole formal spiel, so we rescheduled the technical part of the training and we just sat and brainstormed ways to fit the technology into their existing professional practice. Once I got them past a few basic concepts, it was fascinating to see two professionals teaching in two vastly different disciplines bouncing ideas off of each other. As the conversation went on, I found it better to referee less and less, and just let them work out bits of it on their own. I honestly believe they learned more that way, but I’m struggling with how to incorporate that into trainings with ten or more people in them (which is my usual class size). It’s easy to steer two people back from the brink of technical improbability, but not so much when it’s a dozen people having half a dozen conversations.

Mary was in town and stayed with us for the weekend. She got in late Friday afternoon and headed straight over to her storage unit to start sorting through stuff to take back (after checking to make sure I really hadn’t killed her cats, of course). Mary being an artist and all, as soon as she got back to the house she wanted to do the opening circuit. Three months teaching 6-12 year olds in some Appalachian valley somewhere had apparently left her a little culture starved.

First stop was the Nia opening at Marshall Arts. I forgot to bring my PDA so I wasn’t able to take notes (and my memory is too swiss cheesed to remember names right now), but I can say as a general statement that it was one of the best shows I’ve seen in that space. There were an incredible series of black on black prints with the word “Grillz” embossed across the top of various pop-cultural images, some unsettling and some subversively funny. Not to say that there wasn’t a fair amount of very serious and considered work, but subversive humor seemed to be a current in the show that carried a lot more successfully than in other work I’ve seen recently. It is an unfortunate tendency of socially conscious art to leave its sense of humor behind. Artists who are capable of, or even known for, making astoundingly funny and simultaneously poignant art suddenly forget how powerful that can be when they start to tackle their favorite cause. Humor can drive home important messages so much easier than a lot the maudlin pap that gets so often foisted up in the name of “the cause” and it was nice to see that the artist in Nia took that lesson to heart.

Interestingly the crowd I’m used to seeing at Marshall Arts openings was nowhere to be found. I’m sure that the fact that both the big college art programs were having openings elsewhere in town probably had something to do with it, but it was disheartening none the less to not see a bigger crowd turn out for such a good show. I admit that I was only there for a little under an hour, but I’d love for someone to explain to me why it is only when a black artist is showing that the makeup of a gallery crowd comes anywhere near reflecting the racial makeup of the city.

I have come to expect good things of the MCA “On the street” gallery in recent months, which made our next stop something of a disappointment. I’m all for salon style shows, when the work and space will support it, but this show just seemed like too much work in not enough gallery. Unlike the mini-comics show or the sculptural show with all of the interchangeable body parts (to pick examples more or less at random), it was impossible to get a sense of space with the work in this show, because you were always in danger of walking into another piece of art. There were a few really solid pieces capable of overcoming the unfortunate arrangements of the show; most notably a series of dyed cotton vignettes on the south wall depicting scenes of the artists touching, fairytale like rememberings of her father. I admit that when it comes to work like this, I don’t trust my ability to view it objectively the way I used to, but both Mary and Amber commenting on them as we were leaving the gallery makes me think I couldn’t have been too far off. They could have been works of fiction for all I know, but they were fantastic none the less.

Down the street was a more consciously salon style show, the fundraising auction for the University of Memphis ARTS group. I’ve picked up work at the last two of these auctions and I didn’t see any reason to stop that trend this year. It’s a little weird for me making the transition from critical viewer to artistic consumer, but that didn’t stop me from picking up four new Scott Fulmar prints. I’m an unabashed fan of his work; this brings my total collection to an even dozen purchased over the last three years. There was some other really good work there but sales were unfortunately not as brisk as I remember seeing them in years past. I wonder how the other auctions have been fairing this fall?

After my little foray into conspicuous consumption, we met up with the movie night crew down at the Arcade for a late dinner. It was good food and great fun to have the gang assembled again, but I just want to sound a quiet note of warning to the handful of you who read this. If someone from Alabama brings up Jimmy Buffet, just pretend to be a fan even if you’ve only ever heard Margaritaville. When it came out that I’d never heard the song “Cheesburger in Paradise” (and that Amber didn’t like it), Chandler looked at us like we’d just stepped off of a spaceship. I gathered from reading what she had to say later that, songs about foodstuffs not withstanding, Buffet’s music has a certain power for people living in places that have beaches and waves (like the blues does for those in the delta or zydeco in Louisanna), but considering I’m not a big fan of sand or saltwater, it’s probably not something I’ll may never be able to really get no matter how hard I try.

The next night, at a Halloween party graciously hosted by someone named Kate whom I’d never met before but who kindly let me occupy her couch for a few hours, Chandler offered to make me a CD. I’m looking forward to it; hopefully it will help...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The gangs all here...

I’ve been seeing a fair amount of good art but a fair amount of it was only fair; I really still don’t have much of a drive to write about any of it. It’s a damned good thing this isn’t how I make my living. I’m not sure if it’s that what I’m seeing just isn’t compelling or that I’m just not in a frame of mind to be compelled right now.

I’ve been teaching all week; Copyright yesterday and the first of two podcasting classes today. I sucked. Copyright went ok (not my best performance), but the network was crawling slow and the instructor computer crashed three times while I was trying to teach the podcasting class… hard to teach an internet class when you can’t get to the !@#$ing internet. This is when I discovered I suck at vamping. I don’t think I was always this bad at it, but entertaining a room full of faculty while troubleshooting computer problems is apparently a trick I’ve forgotten how to perform. I hope to hell that Friday’s podcasting class goes smoother.

In other news, I was down at my grandmother’s place for the Orionids Saturday night. I saw a little over 50 meteors for the hour I managed to keep myself awake… no where near the best show I’ve seen, but not bad. For anyone interested, the Leonids peak on Saturday, November 19. I’m not sure we live far enough east to get the best part of the show, but it should be worth turning out for.

When we got back in town, Amber and I went over to Chandler and Daniel’s for the highlight of the weekend, a pumpkin carving party. After dark, we went in to watch "Art School Confidential." I'm not sure I'd recommend it as a party film, but if you're into quirky or have ever been to art shcool, it's very defenitely worth your time. I know party stories are supposed to be “over” so I’ll leave it at that and just let you check out the pictures if you’re so inclined…

[edit]I've been trying to make this post from the Flickr XML-RPC service for a little over half an hour... I finally gave in and logged into Blogger. I guess that Flickr and the new Blogger Beta don't play well together[/edit]

Friday, October 20, 2006

Astronomy Note: Orionids 2006

Tomorrow night, October 21, will be the peak of the Orionid Meteor shower this year. The radiant is a little to the left of the constellation Orion (hence "Orionid"). The Orion will rise about midnight, with best viewing being about 1am. Everything I've read says that they may tend toward being a little dim, so city viewing may not be particularly good, but it is a new moon and that will help.

If you look right there, you can see the face of Jesus in the Hot Dog

I've seen some decent art in the last two weeks (Tad's show was amazing), but things have largely been so crummy that I haven't had the creative energy to write about any of it. Amber quit her new job (and rightly so) and the damned car broke down again. Blessedly, someone was nice enough to keep me engaged in the comments section or else I probably wouldn't have written a damned thing.

Anyway, I just logged in so that I could share this.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Institutional Critique

I attended a fantastic lecture last night over at AMUM about something called the Semiotic Nonagon. I don't have my notes with me so I'm not going to try to write it up just at the moment. But I did want to say, to the three of you that read this, that the same speaker is giving an all day workshop tomorrow at AMUM starting around 8:30am. Anyone interested in critical analysis of art or design would do well to attend. Unfortunately, I'll be in my office preparing to interview graphic designers instead.

Also, my heart felt congratulations to Spike. He was kind enough to talk shop with me for the better part of an hour at his wife's opening at the Medicine Factory (a fantastic show, which I reviewed here). Hell of a nice guy and I really wish him all the best.

As to the title of this post, I give you the best thing I read today.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Greatest Danger Redux

Can moderates write manifestos? It strikes me that so much of our discourse these days is nothing more than shrill extremists shrieking at each other while laying claim to vast majorities that really don’t belong to them. And I’m not just talking politics here. I see it everywhere… music, science, philosophy, religion, and, especially recently, in art; it’s all the same dialectic. But then I look around and it seems that if you put all the pieces together you can assemble a reasonable, if difficult to articulate, third way.

Without getting terribly preachy, I just have to get this thought off my chest: un-self-critical work in service of the dominant ideology, whether that ideology is supply side economics or abstract oil painting, is nothing more than propaganda. If you’re going to work in the dominant framework, you had better be aware of the power structure that props it up or you’re really nothing more than a shill and we know, deep down, that’s not where you want to be.

The flip side is, of course, the dominant structure is most likely not in place because it completely sucks. There must be (or have been) some value there or it would never have existed in the first place. I’m not saying you must rebel gently, but insurgents needn’t throw out the baby with the bath water; tyranny begins, after all, with the will of the people.

So today, just as I’m getting the urge to say “screw it all, other people have said this better” the good people at Lantana are kind enough to link to this. It’s not exactly Critical or even revelatory, but at least it mostly seems thoughtful. I particularly liked Hari Kunzru and Jeanette Winterson and not so much Matthew Collings. Note to Matthew: water is no less important to the individual because there is lots of it. (Better writers than him have made this same mistake, of course.)

Regardless, I’m going to have to grab a copy of the book.


Also, from the I’m-not-just-some-pontificating-asshead department: I found while blog surfing today a nifty DIY project for anybody into photography. I wish I’d had one of these while shooting slides for Amber.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Memphis OPML Update

I put up the new version of the Memphis OPML this morning. I doubt I'll post about every update from here on in, but since I added about a dozen blogs and changed up the Optimal page, I figured it was worth mentioning.

In other news, I've been on heavy doses of allergy medicine since Monday of last week, Amber quit her job, got safer one, and didn't make it into Indie Memphis. I'm a little grumpy about that last one, but not for the reasons you might think. I'm also working on a very long, research heavy post about the system of gallery and festival calls, but we'll see if I ever let it see the light of day. I'm not sure how much I can say about the suck fest that is a $30 entry fees for every f@#$ing thing under the sun without it just sounding like so much sour grapes.

Friday, September 22, 2006

And when he had opened the Seventh Seal...

...Thomas Kinkade descended upon Memphis, and the resulting vortex of kitch did swallow the city whole...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Greatest Danger

Friday night Amber and I were beyond beat; this has been one hell of a week. We actually had to psych each other up for doing the opening circuit. We did this by bribing ourselves with Sushi first. Ryu on Summer has an early bird special that can get us stuffed on Sushi for under $30 and it proved a very effective way of getting us out of the house. If you go, and aren’t in the mood for Nigiri, I recommend the "Spicy crunchy" roll.

After dinner, the first stop was Jana Travis’ "Inside-Out" at DCI. I didn’t know it at the time, but this show introduced me to what was to be my theme for the night: "I have no idea how to look at this." We were in the gallery for right at half an hour and the only even remotely useful phrase that wandered through my head was "this is the domesticity of a highly ordered mind." I’m not even sure what I meant by that, but I wrote it down anyway in hopes that it would shed some light on the experience later. It didn’t. I just get the impression of someone that has flowers in her house but doesn’t like them very much.

Now it’s time for a little confession: I was actively dreading our next stop, Bobby Spillman’s "Vacate Now!!!" at L. Ross. I’ve actually been dreading it since I first started on the idea of writing these reviews because I knew that I couldn’t go see art in Memphis and not eventually see a Bobby Spillman show. And I should say up front, that I have nothing against Bobby (I like him, insofar as I know him), I’ve just never been able to come to grips with his paintings.

It’s embarrassing actually, because a great many people that I like and respect, like and respect his work and if they ask me what I think, I have to tell them that I haven’t the faintest clue what I’m looking at. Abstraction I can generally do, but the frenetic energy of these paintings usually just leaves me feeling defeated and confused.

This is exactly how I was feeling as I was leaving the gallery on Friday, when I turned for one last look and something in the painting “I can See clearly Now” caught my attention. I chuckled quietly to myself as for a moment I seemed to catch a glimpse of Terry Gilliam. Then I realized that this gave me something to hang onto. I looked around the gallery for something else... There was Hokusai... and across from it was Phillip Guston accosting a tree... Christ! The tree is Chuck Jones (and so is that tornado over there)! Am I looking at metaphorical collage? I still don’t know, but at least I have something to hang on to.

We left that show around 8 and came to the unfortunate realization that we’d missed Carolyn Bomar’s show at Material (a fact that bums me out on a lot of levels), so we make a b-line for Larry Edwards at Marshall Arts. Again I was confronted by something inexplicable to me. I could take ten pages of copy and explain to you in excruciating detail exactly what I saw, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t do any good.

I’ve been told by people who knew his work from before that this show is pretty much indicative of his work. Apparently he’s something of a perennial figure in Memphis art, which does me no good seeing as I’m not from Memphis. What I saw was a beautiful and exquisitely crafted train wreck. I walked in the door and saw an image so bluntly horrifying and yet inescapably beautiful that I had to physically extricate myself from it.

It was like watching the Masterpiece Theatre version of Jerry Springer.


My fortune cookie at lunch today said, "The greatest danger could be your stupidity."

My Chinese word for the day was Green Bean.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

One for the Record Books

I’m not sure what I’m going to do if things don’t settle down soon. This week has been an disaster (excepting for about four blissful hours spent at the Brooks Museum last night). Let me give you the disaster countdown:

First Amber’s car dies in traffic. I don’t mean dies as in “stalls quietly sitting at a red light.” No, I mean “all power and most of the brakes go out at 55MPH in heavy rush hour traffic.” I managed to coast to a very lucky stop at Highland and Summer. The wonder that are Daniel and Chandler were nice enough to come rescue us. Two days and $500 later, we should be getting the car back tonight. For future reference, a dead alternator in a Hyundai will cause the car to shift from 4th to 1st in the space of about a quarter mile.

I get home after going back to the car to leave a note begging the cops to not impound our abandoned vehicle before the wrecker can get there to a message from my dad asking me to call him. The tone in his voice tells me that this isn’t going to be good. I get him on the phone and it turns out that sometime late that afternoon my grandmother had been bitten on the hand by a snake. Oh but wait, it gets better: it later transpires that she’s allergic to anti-venom. Pardon my acronym, but OMGWTF?!?!? Last I heard (which was late last night), she was responding well to allergy treatments and was going to be moved out of ICU onto a ward floor. I want to go see her, but at this point that would leave Amber without any means of transportation to get to work.

Speaking of Amber and her work, now on to disaster number three. Most anybody who reads this would know that Amber took a teaching job with the city schools. Specifically, she took a teaching job with the school that has been on the news so much because of the 26 arrests that kept the school in a three hour lockdown less than two weeks ago. I’m here to tell you that the security situation in said school has gotten no better.

One of her students yesterday brought her a letter from the schools administration excusing his absence from class due to detention. It turns out that he was in detention because of a gang fight. I’ll give you a second to process that…

That’s right: he got an excused absence because of a gang fight.

We should be mad as hell that our children are being daily thrust into the middle of violent, gang ridden schools with laughable security. I know the city schools spokesperson has been on the news every night this week talking about hiring more security personnel, and I realize that the bureaucracy involved in this task must make it incredibly time consuming (we don’t want just anyone watching after our children), but it must be emphasized that this cannot happen fast enough.

On Wednesday, Amber began her morning witnessing the absolute beating of one of her Female students by one of her Male students. She rang for a school official to come down and help, but nobody every showed up. She was instructed to “retain the students.” I’d love for someone to explain to me how my wife was supposed to “retain” an adrenaline pumped 18 year old boy who, on his worst day, could still have pounded the living shit out of her? He obviously had no problem hitting women. Was she supposed to take a beating too?

She’s at home today; we’ll see if she goes in tomorrow. Honestly, I kinda hope not.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Apparently I wasn’t meant to see this show

I was exhausted after work and a late Thursday night of sorting (Amber’s) school papers, so I wound up falling asleep while Amber was playing Nintendo this afternoon. She rousted me off the couch about 7pm to go check out the Amy Pleasant show, but I unfortunately didn’t actually wake up until half way through a plate of Madrasi Chicken around 9:30. The downside of this is that the art I saw tonight is pretty much just a sublime blur. Hopefully I can get in there next week and get a clear headed look at it because I get the sense that, were I awake, I'd really quite like it.

Blow out

Amber and I had every intention of making over to see Amy Pleasant speak at Rhodes last night, but the front passenger tire of our car blew out in the middle of Frasier. We were running a little behind anyway and it was almost 8 by the time I managed to get the tire changed. I really hated missing the talk because the Rhodes series is pretty much unique in Memphis. Usually we only get the chance to see work or hear the artist, almost never both.

The little New Historicist voice in the back of my head says that it doesn’t really matter what the artist says; that the meaning of a work is a product of the social milieu in which it was created. But, the rest of me is fairly old fashioned in thinking that intent is at least part (perhaps a big part) of teasing meaning out of anything. Besides, I actually enjoy hearing people talk about art... I'm funny that way.

At any rate, Rhodes lecture and exhibition schedule for the year can be found here. The opening for Amy's show is at the Clough-Hanson Gallery tonight from 6-8 pm.


And for future reference, does anybody know where I can get a tire changed in Memphis after 7pm?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A quick plug for a fun sounding event

As part of their Architecture Month, Memphis’ chapter of the AIA is holding a Downtown Chalk Art Festival on September 9th (or 23rd if it rains). This seems like a really fun idea. I’d never heard of such a thing, but a quick Google search confirms that apparently they go on in other places as well.

I so need to get a team together.

(via Paul Ryburn)

[edit: Here's a Daily News article about architecture month...]

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I really need to post more often...

I’m hoping that things will settle down here in the next week or two and I can get down to some serious writing (and by extension, blogging) but there are a few notes that I want to take the time to get out now before anyone shows up with more work for me to do or another conference for me to attend.

  • First and foremost, many thanks to Serrabee for being so good as to organize the Blogger Bash last Thursday. It was a pretty easy going crowd, which made the socializing thing easier seeing as I only knew one other person there and he didn’t know anybody either.

  • We did make it out of town for the Perseids on Saturday but the observation conditions were horrible. It was mostly overcast and the moon was darn near full, making for a bright hazy sky to look for meteors in. That said, the ones we did see were fantastic. The conditions for the Leonids and Geminids this year look to be much better.

  • I just switched to the new Blogger Beta. If this thing breaks, it's not my fault!

  • For those of you who’ve been trying to get in touch with my wife over the last two weeks, she’s not dodging you. She took a job teaching art for Memphis City Schools that has kept her busy beyond belief. I’m sure things will settle into a routine after a while, but for now things at home are often just a small step away from chaos.

  • Speaking of Amber, she installed the latest in her Population series as part of a group show over at AMUM’s Caseworks last night. I don’t think that there’s going to be a formal opening, but stop by and see it if you get a chance. And while I’m flat out stumping for my wife, she’s also going to be performing at the Brooks Museum’s First Wednesday next month.

  • I got sent to a conference this week to review a piece of software that we’ll be using at work. The conference wraps up tomorrow. Purchasing rules being what they are in the state, I can’t say too much about it so I’ll just offer a general piece of advice to anybody who ever wants to sell anything. If your customer ever asks you a question, the best thing in all the world you can do is to listen to them. They may not even care what the answer is; it’s often just a test to see if you give a damn.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Memphis OPML Icon

Problem is, I can never tell if he's joking....

(I never claimed to be a graphic designer)

[edit: now with 100% more Blogger Template Code!]

Monday, August 07, 2006

Feed reader complaints and the new and improved Memphis OPML

So I've been fighting with Sage (my favorite feed reader) for the last half hour or so and I decided to compile a quick list of what I'd like to see in a feed reader. Since the chances are pretty slim that A) any other developer ever actually reading this and B) he or she caring, I suppose I'll just have to code it myself eventually.

Anyway, here's the list:

  • Fault Tollerant (can recover from a bad parse).

  • Gives the option to ignore markup inside the plain text elements of an RSS feed (title, description, comments).

  • Doesn't keep trying to sell me yet another web service.

  • Gives me the option to Read and Write my collection of feeds to a live OPML file on a webhost of my choosing.

  • Doesn't collapse the organizational structure whenever I import a new OPML file.

  • Allows a manual OMPL export of a selected subset of RSS feeds in my catalog.

  • Gives me the number of new posts beside each blog when I update.

  • Gives me a "new posts" view that is an aggregate of the content that is new since I last updated.

  • Integrates into my browsing environment (Firefox).
And in other news, my Memphis OPML list topped 100 feeds this afternoon (it's at 101 to be exact). It also got a slight reorganization. If you'd like to check it out, it's behind the little grapic over there on the right; the text link takes you to a web friendly version. You can read it using Sage, or you can easily add OPML support to Firefox or Safari.

Pardon me for being momentarily inarticulate...

Wow... just wow.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Notes from the Weekend

  • In case you ever find yourself in an argument with a waitress, this is how you cook eggs over easy.

  • If you suddenly find yourself in need of a cow skull, they are on sale a mile west of the Hernando exit for between $25 and $30. But hurry… PETA’s apparently making them get rid of them.

  • Sheridan’s on Stage at Kirby-Whitten makes a good Mango and Pinapple smoothie for cheaper than anywhere else in town.

  • As the temperature rises, the ratio of happy dog owners to angry rednecks at the dog park nears parity.

  • I’m watching The Ringer and just realized that even though he’s lied to everyone and has effectively rigged the Special Olympics, Steve/Jeffery is the most likeable character Johnny Knoxville has ever played. Does that say more about him or me?

Friday, August 04, 2006

I saw more than this, but I'm just too tired to write about it all

Tonight I find myself in the position I’ve dreaded for so long, though this position is, at least in part, why I committed myself to the idea of writing these reviews. I have a hard time being openly critical (in the post-modern sense of the word). “Big C” Critical, no problem; I can analyze from here to the here after and feel right at home. I just have a really hard time fessing up to just not liking something, especially when I like the person who made it. I’m not saying that my not liking it makes it bad (there’s a difference), but I hope anyone who reads the next paragraph will take it in the constructive manner in which it is intended.

All that said, it’s with a heavy heart that I tell you that the show at DLG tonight was largely awash in the banal. There were some great pieces by artists I know and by some I don’t and they were swamped by literal mounds of the sorts of things that that make me dread going to local commercial galleries. Rather than opt for the energetic, quasi-salon style of the previous “Price is Right” shows I’ve seen there, the majority of the works tonight were hung in an almost haphazard fashion. Each artist was given a slot on the wall and the works that didn’t fit at or just above eye level were literally stacked below. It felt like a craft fair without the cover band and funnel cake.

The thing that makes this so hard to write is that 1) I really do have the utmost respect for David and the work he does in that gallery, 2) it’s so very unlike them to treat work with so little apparent concern for presentation and 3) if you could get through the clutter, there was some damned good art in there. Mel Spillman’s new work absolutely sings (caveat: I know her). I admittedly wasn’t that fond of her figurative paintings of the last year or so, but she’s found a magnificent voice in these patterned panels. I remember being struck last time by her larger work from the same series, which was able to overcome a rather unfortunate placement at the L Ross gallery a few weeks ago. I’m looking forward to seeing what all she’ll do with this.

Tonight also gave me my first shot at seeing a real live Don Estes. I’d seen the slides over at Artmemphis and knew Don as the owner of the wonderful (if now defunct) Second Floor Contemporary, but I’d never actually seen his work. In a word, they are gorgeous. The one hung tonight, entitled Say You Didn’t, seemed to simultaneously take on the roles of seismograph, landscape, and Rorschach, neither at the expense of the other.

My favorite installation job of the evening was from an artist I’d never heard of before: Paul Villinski’s Regalo 4. From across the room they appeared to be just the sort of aluminum can carvings you’d see at the county flea market pinned to the wall like bugs in a display case. When you got up on them however, it was impossible to ignore the amazing care and precision with which each one was carefully mounted and counter balanced so that they fluttered and shimmered as they were struck by the winds made by passers by.

There were also some other new (or at least, new to me) artists making a strong showing as well. Chief amongst them was Herb Reith. His series of acrylics featured interactions of a collection of small space-suited beings with common place objects or concepts. In one the huddled explorers appeared to be being smote by the hand of some angry elemental god. In the one below it, they were gathered in what appeared to be a small unit, looking like attendees to an inerstellar family picnic, cast against a sea of urban camouflage.

If you’d asked me this afternoon if I thought there was any artistic value left in the caricature, I’d have told you, “absolutely not.” Post Hirschfeld, the idea of doing highly stylized drawings of famous people usually comes off as the basest of commercialism. Artists making a living off their work is one thing (and a thing I fully support), but flatly pandering to the tourist dollar by filling your gallery with half assed marker drawings of celebrities is something else entirely.

That would have been my answer this afternoon.

Tonight, I can tell you that the fine art caricature is alive and well at the L Ross gallery on Sanderline. Mike Caplanis’ show “The Pen is Mightier” was a joy to behold. Each watercolor and pen portrait built the character of its subject from the ground up. Caplanis seemed not so concerned with capturing the recognizable physicality of his subjects, but more in conveying the spirit which made the person worth knowing in the first place.

It is the nature of the celebrity portrait that they trade on the repertoire or mystique of the portrayed. Not necessarily so with Caplanis. Further, it would be easy to dismiss the work as simply superbly crafted, and though it was, it also functioned on another level entirely. Caplanis made his subjects properly Mythological. He carried forward each iconic figure allowing it to signify for his viewer something at once more abstract and yet more immediate than any straight rendering of their legend could possibly do.

His Mark Twain was the very definition of rapscallion. His Johnny Cash was taken back from his status as icon and made once again subversive (pompadour and all). Perhaps the most expressive of the some 40 works on display was the very mischievous if slightly disheveled looking Mary Cassatt, whose half lit grin peaked out from under an unruly mane of dirty blonde hair which seemed locked in a strange type of combat with her equally unruly fur coat.

My first Astrophotograph

My first astrophotograph
Originally uploaded by skippytpe.
So my telescope came in (with its assorted peripherals) and I decided "to heck with light pollution, I want to check this thing out." My technique needs some serious refining, but I did manage to get a good look at the moon and I also found Jupiter (and its moons). The later was a little hard to find with the more powerful of the optics (the greater the power, the smaller your field of vision), but after a little trial and error I got a decent view.

Next I tried the camera attachment; this required some doing. First off, I’m mounting components in the dark, which of course means that I’m going to drop something. Secondly, the photo mount came with no instructions. The actual mounting was easy enough, but then I couldn’t manage to get anything in focus. With a little experimentation, I discovered that the photo adapter splits in two and if I mounted my camera to the shorter version, all of the sudden things look clear. This leaves me wondering what the other 4 inches of steel tubing is for.

I tried a couple of times to get photos of Jupiter, with little success. I don’t have a remote, so I was just having to hope that the vibration caused by my pushing the shutter release would be gone by the time the autotimer opened the shutter. It wasn’t.

In low light situations, vibration is always an issue, but I’ve never worked in a situation where it was this much of an issue. A few notes for anyone who reads this and wants to try it:

  1. Buy a remote.

  2. Remove your camera strap. It’s not doing you any good in this setting and it will sit there and swing LONG after you’ve walked away.

  3. Sounds are vibrations too. Low frequency sounds are the worst (i.e. – your neighbors stereo system).

  4. Turn off the air conditioner.

The picture you see here is one of my first attempts. Not a stellar result, I know, but not too bad for a first outing. The light pollution in Memphis is pretty bad and I think I picked up a little noise because of my transfer process (I couldn’t find the cable that connects my camera to the computer). I’m going to try to get a few of the full moon next week from here in Memphis and then I’m probably heading south to see the Persieds on the 12th. We’ll see how those turn out.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Random notes from the Chaos

My prolonged absence from the blogsphere these last two weeks has been two parts business to one part laziness, but I wanted to throw out a few random notes before all of this slipped out of my head. Sorry for the disorganization:

  • For those of you who missed the awesome garage sale at our house last weekend, there is probably going to be another one mid-September. Watch this space for more details. I’ll probably advertise so if any of you need to sell some stuff, let me know and we’ll set it out.

  • The magnificence that is Mary is leaving us. She got offered a sweet gig on the east end of the state. Since she’s been so good about watching our kitties when we had to be away, we’re fostering her cats until she can get a place that will allow them. If you’ve never stopped by her blog, it’s something to behold… oh, and she also apparently paints or something…

  • If anyone who reads this has a passing interest in web development, I found a nice introduction to design patterns while researching something else this week. The article is a little old, but the fundamentals it reinforces are older than the internet.

  • Roy had another of his blender classes today, this time on UV mapping. We had a little chat about how to proceed with future classes and it looks like he may start the series over this January as a Saturday class. If you know anybody or anybody who knows anybody who’d like to learn 3-D animation, they’re not going to find a better deal than a free class with free software from someone who actually knows something about the subject.

  • I’m due for a bonus check at the end of this month and I was thinking about spending a little of it on buying some astrophotography equipment (and throwing the rest at my very scary credit cards). My mom used to teach astronomy and she got me interested in the subject when I was a kid, but I’ve not pursued it much as a hobby since I moved to a big city. As it stands, I’ve already got a good camera rig for it, but I need a telescope and an adapter. I’m not really looking to spend more than about a hundred to a hundred and fifty bucks to get started with (which I know severely limits me), but if anyone has any suggestions for what to buy or what to avoid, I’d love to hear them.
...and lastly, I'm seriously considering podcasting my art reviews from now on. Not just because I'm in love with the sound of my own voice, but since I teach podcasting, I feel like I should be doing something with the technology.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A quick note before I forget again.

I've been meaning to mention this for a couple of days, but every time I start to write anything about it something always pulls me away. Roy over at Gates of Memphis posted a nice piece Monday on the Americans for the Arts "Creative Industries 2005" city report[PDF]. The post and the report itself are interesting reading, especially for people trying to or thinking about making a living in the arts.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Memphis Bloggers OPML

So the Memphis Bloggers OPML link has been over in my sidebar for almost two weeks and it's starting to get a little linkage, so it’s probably about time I explained myself. I’ve been reading Dave Winer’s blog for about a year now and twice a week or so, he’ll write something about a new XML spec called OPML. Being something of a professional geek it didn’t take me long to get curious.

OPML, in its most basic sense, is just a way to mark up an outline (like the ones you’d do for a term paper) in a way that a computer can make some sense of it. The idea presumably being that you can then feed the outline to a program built to read them and have the software spit them back at you in a multitude of pleasing forms (e.g. – slide shows, spoken words, link lists, etc.). To my way of thinking, the neatest application of OPML was sharing categorized lists of RSS feeds. Problem being, I didn’t see an obvious use for it right away. I really didn’t have anything that needed outlining and I only had about two friends that were blogging (that I knew of), so I didn’t really have any RSS to share.

Fast forward about twelve months and things look a little different. First of all, I’m now teaching blogging professionally. Not full time mind you, but I do it and get paid so I can lay claim to a real need to stay on top of this sort of thing. Secondly, the Memphis blog scene has grown up a lot and so have the aggregators I use to keep track of it all. I’ve been finding an average of two new blogs (and/or RSS feeds) a week for the last two months and I was starting to amass quite a collection of local bloggers. I found myself dropping the names of new (or new to me) blogs into conversations with nearly every vaguely technical person I knew until I couldn’t remember who I’d told about what.

And behold, I saw the light!

Here it is, the Memphis OPML list. If you want the file I used to generate it, it's beind the little OPML icon to the right of the link in my sidebar. If you are new to RSS and OPML and want to download and use the OPML file, there is a nifty little RSS reader extension for the Firefox web browser called Sage that will Import this list for you (click "Options" -> "OPML Import/Export"). You can also easily import it into Safari on your Mac by using the Import Bookmarks feature and then opening the folder in tabs.

I'm doing my best to keep new stuff added as I find it and I'd really like it to be as comprehensive as possible, so if you find any that I've missed I'd appreciate it if you'd drop me an e-mail at skippytpe(at)gmail(dot)com.

Monday, July 10, 2006

A good quote on critical practice

What is the function of a critic? So far as I am concerned, he can do me one or more of the following services:

(1) Introduce me to authors or works of which I was hitherto unaware.
(2) Convince me that I have undervalued an author or a work because I had not read them carefully enough.
(3) Show me relations between works of different ages and cultures which I could never have seen for myself because I do not know enough and never shall.
(4) Give a 'reading' of a work which increases my understanding of it.
(5 ) Throw light upon the process of artistic 'Making'.
(6) Throw light upon the relation of art to life, to science, economics, ethics, religion, etc.
--W.H. Auden, The Dyer's Hand (1963)

Edward Goldman on Public Art

Edward Goldman has an excellent episode on his Art Talk podcast this week on the inclusion of support for public art in responsible civic policy.

"You should see this mayor, a macho former Israeli army pilot, expounding enthusiastically on the value of art and culture, not only for the soul of his city, but --thanks to the tourists flocking to Tel Aviv -- also for the city coffers."
In addition to the podcast, you can also listen here.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The whirlwind gallery tour

There were a ton of shows last night and Amber had an opening of her own, so we didn’t make the complete rounds. I also didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with any of the work. There was a time that I was convinced that it’d be nice if Memphis had a “Gallery Night” like St. Louis, where all the galleries in town are open on the same night. You wouldn’t have to constantly check three or four different places every week to see who’s showing what, where, and when. I’ve now become convinced, for a lot of reasons, that this wouldn’t be particularly good for Memphis.

The biggest reason is that there are a number of really good galleries spread all over town. Given the trends I’ve seen lately, it seems like people would just use this as an excuse to just go see their friend’s shows and not challenge them to get “outside the parkways” to see art. I actually heard someone today refer to David Lusk’s in space Laurelwood as “way out in East Memphis.” Considering I live another 8 miles further out and am still inside the Memphis city limits, I have to wonder what they think of us out here in East Bugtussle (if they even know this part of Memphis exists). For better or worse, we’re all in this together ya know…

The first of the three shows we saw was the “Alter Egos” show in the Jones Hall Gallery at the University of Memphis. It was a fun idea for a show, though I would have liked to see it taken a little further. Best I could tell, not all of the artists were working with issues of identity, but there were a few that really sold the curatorial concept. Probably my favorite was a piece called Empty Amazon by Marble Elmhurst (a.k.a. Caroline Gower). It was one of two very strong pieces by Gower that directly assaulted representational forms and the difference between identification and identity.

The largest and arguably most striking piece was an installation by Toot Prescott (a.k.a Rebecca Higdon) entitled Let Them Pass. It consisted of a series of cylindrical forms stooping over a constructed wasteland of sand and shards. The tubes take on forms reminiscent of Millet’s Gleaners, presiding over the scraps of their own making.

There were also artists there exploring the nature of traditional forms and the dialectic between the sculptural object and the functional ceramic vessel. Particularly noteworthy were Nobody puts Baby in a Corner by Kitty San Felipe (a.k.a. Renee Kane) and the unfortunately named Untitled by Lucky Glenbrook (a.k.a. Lisa Maners). The latter was a striking copper green torso and arm bent to resemble a roughly hewn classical teapot, as if frozen half way through some mystical transformation between the two.

The next stop on our whirlwind gallery tour was the David Lusk Gallery. The opening was for two artists, each having half of the gallery. Pinkney Herbert’s work was in the front of the gallery. His new work, a collection of grand canvases on display through the 29th, have a more subdued pallet than what I’m used to seeing from him, but what they lacked in color they made up for in scale and a buoyant energy. Anyone who’s ever been a fan of his work certainly won’t be disappointed.

Providing the contemplative Yin to Herbert’s formidable artistic Yang was Mary Bennett. Her collection of objet trouvĂ© and altered object sculpture was nothing short of astounding. Coming around the gallery wall you are first confronted with a colossal, spiraling tower of art and art historical books which seem to have been frozen in mid fall. It sets the tone for a show which seems to find the beauty and sublimity in all sorts of every day encounters. The work is conversely capable of working with it’s viewer in the intimate and the abstract. On the one hand it seems to be entwined with myriad personal histories and at the same time speaking to an open and complex view of the archeology of information in an age where the written word is becoming ever more ephemeral.

Bennett’s Whose Recipe is It spoke to me particularly strongly as I’ve been dealing recently with how to preserve memories of my loved ones. The piece itself is a collection of photographs and hand written recipes transferred to acetate transparencies and mounted on a well worn cookie sheet. Each is laid one on the other in a fashion such that you are looking though the person at the hand written record of their domesticity. Across the gallery hang Down Under 1 and Der Sang ist Verschollen (literally “That Song is Forgotten”) each using different takes on the idea of a pattern (one sewing, one musical) as symbolic analogs of their traditional function, mapping an area between language and meaning.

Next on the tour was a group show at L. Ross. This was my first time in this gallery and I like the space. It strikes me (along with the before mentioned David Lusk Gallery) as one of the more successful attempts to convert a retail space into a contemporary gallery here in Memphis. This Gallery Artist show struck me as a bit schizophrenic however; there were lots of conflicting energies competing for mindshare. This isn’t particularly anyone’s fault, it’s just an unfortunate thing that often happens to group shows.

There were a few pieces that grabbed me, most notably David Comstock’s Black and White I, a free standing abstract painting with a twig growing out of it, resembling some sort of vestigial artistic antler. There was also a beautiful, if untitled, C-print by Ian Lemmonds, whose solo show last month I’m still kicking myself for missing.

Our gallery tour rounded out at Amber’s opening at Gallery 1688. While I liked a lot of the work there that wasn’t my wife’s, I’m going to resist the temptation to write about any of it.

Nepotism is bad for the soul.

On Politics

I’m working on my post about last nights art shows (I was too sick to finish it last night), but I just saw something and felt compelled to respond here.

There are people who don’t think you are a serious blogger, or a serious person, unless you’re talking politics. The reason I don’t blog politics is because I’m not a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Conservative, Liberal, Fascist, or Socialist. I’m a well reasoned, thoughtful individual with complex ideas and motivations and so are you. Political ideas are not adequately expressed in the sort of Fox/CNN soundbites we get force fed through the television daily and they are not going to get adequately expressed in a blog unless I take to writing political manifestos of sufficient length that I know damned well nobody is going to take the time to read. I'm not apolitical, I just refuse to pander to any constituency, feeding them easily digestible bits in hopes that they'll agree with me.

There’s a reason people still talk about the Lincoln-Douglas debates a hundred and fifty years later. That’s how it should be done; two people hashing it out until they’ve thoroughly explored the subject… not just until the next commercial break. Politics done well takes time and effort and a commitment from all parties in the conversation and to intellectual honesty and integrity. Real debates often change minds and the people participating have to be open to that. I know I’m asking a lot in this day and age, but I believe that there are people out there who are up to the task. I’ve been lucky enough to meet one or two. I’m not dismissing the public sphere entirely, but I have yet to find a political blog that really takes on national politics in a way that isn’t “talking point v. talking point.”

On the plus side, the Memphis OPML project I’m working on is introducing me to a number of blogs that are covering the local political scene fairly well. They’re doing a much better than the newspapers and television (not that either of those is setting a particularly high bar). I’m not seeing so much of the “here’s what to think,” and more of the “this is whose running and here’s what I see.” If you haven’t worked it out yet, I respect that kind of thinking.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Frightening Synergies

I can't exactly remember how it came up in conversation at Mary's Sunday night, but it turns out that someone actually makes a plush replica of the horse head from the Godfather. (via BoingBoing)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Weekend Fireworks Roundup

Since I’m fairly certain that the Memphis blogsphere will cover this weekends two big downtown fireworks shows fairly well, I feel compelled as the one blogger from out here in East Jesusland (which is apparently any point beyond East Parkway) to talk about the goings on in the rest of Shelby County.

Saturday – Chandler, Daniel, Mary, Amber and I hit Shelby Farms for the “Star Spangled Celebration.” I learned from last year that attempting to press into the mass of teenagers swarming around the stage made for a somewhat distracting firework event, so we grabbed seats above a small pond just northwest of Patriot lake; lots of families and one exceptionally friendly dog out that way, not so much with the underage drunks.

We got there half way through the set of a pretty decent cover band that I’d never heard of. There was then a lot of indistinct yelling into a microphone followed by Hoobstank (who did a fair amount of indistinct yelling of their own). I’d never heard of them and if this show was indicative of what they usually play, I could really care less if I ever hear them again. There was one good song which was apparently their radio single.

The fireworks were pretty damned awesome. They also had the only patriotic medley this year to include Ray Charles (which is strangely important to me). Unlike the two other shows we saw this weekend, there’s no real way to get close to these, so you may as well sit back away from the crowd and soak it in. This was mine and Amber’s second year for this and it’s so totally worth the five bucks for parking (and the hike in). Traffic going out was particularly nasty since as we approached the parking lot the ratio of fun seeking families to obnoxious drunks began to reach parity.

Sunday -- Dinner at Mary’s. Not a public fireworks event, but pretty awesome chow.

Monday – Anna, Amber and I hit the Bartlett Fireworks Extravaganza; smaller crowd, better concessions, much funkier cover band, and much closer seats. The event takes place every year on the lawn of the Bartlett Performing Arts Center and are staged from the parking lot of Appling Middle School. From the south side of the lake you can look up or down to see the fireworks. It’s a pretty effect.

It was a longer show than last years and the shells were easily as large as those at Shelby Farms, including a few I’d never seen before. There was also, unfortunately, some sort of accident. Mary said that it was reported on the news that nobody was hurt, but about three quarters of the way through the show there were 6 symmetrical fireballs very close to where the caution tape was. We could feel the heat off of the blasts all the way across the water… I can only imagine what it felt like to the people in the front stands.

Tonight (July 4th) – Mary, Anna, Amber, and I made it out to Germantown for their annual fireworks show. I’m not sure how big the crowd was for the festival (which is apparently an all day thing) because we came in the back way and wound up sitting about 40 feet from the police safety line. These were without question the best seats I’ve ever had for a fireworks show. Paper from the shells was falling around us… we’re talking fiery death from above here! It was probably the shortest of the shows we saw this year but the rockin’ seats made up for it.

I have to give props to all of the public safety officials we encountered this weekend. Unlike some of the events I’ve gone to in Memphis in the past, everybody this weekend was polite, courteous, and efficient. Being polite when telling people for the umpteen-billion-and-sixth time that you can’t sit past the caution tape takes a special bit of effort. We the spectators appreciate it.


On a completely different note, while I’ve been typing this, Amber has been watching Zathura behind me (think Jumanji in space) and I’m unavoidably reminded of this.

Things you learn by listening to NPR

Did you know that all of the poems of Emily Dickinson can be sung to the tune of Yellow Rose of Texas? Go on, try it... you know you want to...

Friday, June 30, 2006

I decided against the Haiku

I know that for artists in Memphis, not doing the South Main Trolley Tour is sacrilege, but neither Amber nor I were really feeling up to it. It’s been a very long week and tonight was hotter than it’s been all summer, so we decided that if we had to see just one show tonight it was going to be the Lantana show of Anne-Marie James at the Medicine Factory.

First a word about the space: I think the Medicine Factory is now my favorite display space in Memphis. The website for the gallery describes it as being intended for installation and “on site experimental” work and it almost seems as if the 96 year old McConnon & Co building were purpose built for it. The front half of the ground floor is the main gallery space, with a nice open plan that still provides for nooks and crannies that allow work to jump out and surprise you (including a few nooks that would be perfect for isolated screening video work). It’s a little out of the way (of course we live in East Bugtussle), but if they keep up the quality of the tonight’s show they’ll definitely stay on my must see list.

Now for the work itself: I admit that I’m always a little scared walking into these “visiting artist” types of shows. I remember enough of my first impressions of Memphis a scant four years ago that I walk in to any such exhibition fearing that I’ll see more photographs (or paintings) of Graceland, Pop Tunes, and the Hi Tone because those are the things that are most likely to make an impression on visually attuned people first coming to Memphis. And truth be told, in some ways the work tonight fell prey that, but it did so in the most wonderful and fascinating ways.

Present are all of the familiar Memphis landmarks but for once I felt like I was seeing them as the artist sees them, rather than as the artist telling me what to see. James shows us her Memphis in both the familiar and the obscure; the work is full of the sort of minor architectural details that each of us will know, but none of us can quite place. The center piece of the show is a floor-to-ceiling mobile composed of dozens of 4 inch square photographs.

In its presentation, it demonstrates the polished awareness of space usually only seen in sculptors and architects. It’s rare that a show of photography can have a sense of interiority beyond what the camera’s depth of field can show us. Mobile” however allows the viewer a rare glimpse inside the impressions and half remembered tangle of moments that make up the memory of a place in time. Suspended in an indefinite physical and mental space, each photograph bares the embossed name of the artist, making them feel almost like phenomenological dog tags; branding them each as visions that we can share, but however familiar, they cannot be our own.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Taking a break from the Chaos to post this...

So it’s probably no secret to any of the two of you who read this that my wife and I do the art opening circuit just about every Friday night. There are blogs around that already cover this scene (with varying degrees of thoroughness), but I’ve seriously been thinking about entering the fray. The problem is that I’m not entirely sure how to write about it.

Problem 1: My complete lack of authority about the subject. I’m not an artist nor an art historian. I’ll save you my “criticism is dead, long live criticism” spiel just at the moment, but even forgoing that I’m just not entirely sure I know enough about art to write about it in an interesting way; I just see a damned lot of it.

Problem 2: Mechanics. I lack a hook.

should i write
like e e cummings
punctuation and grammar
for style

or perhaps entirely in Haiku (Memphis-art renga style):

“Good glass in Midtown
Material is crowded
The wife and I bailed”

and demand only two-line comments of seven syllables each from my readers on the subject of the moon or cherry blossoms?

Problem 3: Feeling the need to be honest. I don’t like the idea of only writing about what I like, because it would feel like I’m bullshitting you. There’s some really good art being shown in Memphis, but there’s also some that (in my opinion) sucks. Only writing about the good stuff (or only writing about my friends) is poison; it’s a feedback loop that would ultimately hurt my ability to look at work objectively or write about it intelligently.

The flip side of that is that it’s a small scene and my wife still has to make a living in it so I don’t want to piss anybody off. I’ve discovered recently that you don’t even have to be particularly critical to do this. Failure to be sufficiently effusive is apparently a black-listable offense in this town.

All that said, all I’ll say about last Friday night’s openings is this: We went to 1688 and I liked it. The artist was a very nice person and I’ve not seen work in that vein shown in Memphis before. Go see it if you get a chance.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Birdshow... the amazing Birdshow...

And now in lieu of anything even remotely serious, I give you the world’s coolest bird.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How to begin... again...

So here's the thing: just about everyone who reads this knows me. You know what's been going on with me for the last two months and frankly I don't want to re-hash it all in this space. I'd rather assumed I'd post something about it, but on balance I think I'd rather confine my discussions of what happened with mom to the my discussions with each of you. For those of you who read this and don't know me, my profile is linked to my gmail account. If you want to know, please e-mail me... I don't bite.

But here's my problem: I don't know how to write without talking about it. I feel like I should be blogging (I'm seeing neat stuff and generally trying to move on with my life), but I feel weird not blogging about it.

For now, here it is: I'm back. I'm blogging. More to come...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More Blender Coolness

I've not been feeling very blog-tastic the last few days... my energies have been taken up preparing a slew of new materials for my professional practice blog, but I just had to share this. The latest of Roy's blender classes was this past Friday where we learned to make camera's move along a curve (512kb Windows Media video file). The finished version in the class was actually cooler than mine because it they did tracks on the roller coaster, but I had to leave before Roy got to dupliframes.

For those of you who I've been pestering with this stuff, Roy has made positive noises about re-teaching his Intro to Blender classes this summer. Especially for the artsy folk amongst you, this thing is awsome for doing visualizations of architectural spaces (oh say, for installation work) as well as creating ground breaking new work.

Did I mention that it's free and you can do it on your Mac?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


As odd as it may sound, my dad tracks bears in his spare time. For the past few summers he’s been trying to help the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks keep track of a Mississippi Black Bear. It's really cool work these folks are doing, trying to restore these creatures to their natural habitats. As a result of all this, some of the people he’s worked on this with send him pictures of the bears they’re tracking from time to time. What’s pictured here is a new litter of cubs taken sometime last month by one of the wildlife biologists (click on it for a larger version). I think that's a gig I could really like (overlooking, of course, the fact that I'm completely unqualified).

Friday, March 03, 2006

Things that aren't depressing

As a wonderful distraction from the suckfest that was life earlier in the week, I went to the third of Roy's classes in Blender. We covered the basics of materials and textures today. For those who remember hearing Amber and I talk about it, the first two classes were dedicated to creating an animated Gingerbread man. Here's Amber's version and here's mine; both video's are WMV files because it was the only encoder I could get to at the time... sorry 'bout that. If you put the video on repeat, it kinda looks like he's walking.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

out of town

Not sure when the f@#$ this became the disaster blog, but since most everyone I know reads this it's just easiest to post this news here.

My mother has been hospitalized with possible liver failure. Amber and I will be out of touch for the next few days. Mary has been kind enough to agree to watch our cats and fish. If you need to find us in an emergency, she'll have contact info.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Infinite degrees of separation

This house down the street from us burned down Sunday night. Amber and I were headed back home from the video store and were cut off by a fire marshal turning toward our home. It kind of made my stomach churn.

We parked and walked up to where we could see the fire was engulfing someone else’s home. As we stopped in the front yard of some people I’d met once before, a woman approached from a side street and let out the most soul wrenching wail I’ve ever heard come from another human being. Panic doesn’t begin to describe the sound. She couldn’t find her husband or her children; you don’t make that sound over lost things. I still don’t know if she ever found them.

When I was growing up, my little town of Vicksburg, Mississippi maybe had 15,000 people in it. As odd as it may sound, even in a town that size you at least tangentially know everyone. You may not know them by name, or by face, but six degrees of separation easily collapses into one or two.

But here in Memphis, I didn’t know these people. I wish I did. They lived less than a quarter of a mile from me for the past year and I don’t even know their names. At the time, I was pretty sure I’d talked to the ladies husband once while out on a walk, but now I’m not even so sure of that. I wish I could be sure. I wish I could offer them some bit of solace or support, but I can’t.

Then again, I’m not sure anyone can.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Rebuilding the New Orleans Public Library

The New Orleans Public Library is taking book donations to rebuild their collections which were destroyed in hurricane Katrina. If you have any books you'd like to donate, or know people who do, the address to send the donation to is:

Rica A. Trigs, Public Relations
New Orleans Public Library
219 Loyola Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70112
(via boingboing)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Snow in Memphis (Redux)

Whatever you may think of the strip itself, the map in this comic pretty much sums up the reaction of most of Memphis...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

I never paid attention to the lyrics of that song

I'll write more about it later, but I need to go run some errands. Amber and I just got back in town and I have to go to work tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy pictures of Tim and Elizabeth's wedding.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Snow in Memphis

Snow in Memphis
Originally uploaded by skippytpe.
Even money says that if I went to Kroger right now there would be lines to the back of the isles of people carrying bread, water, and beer. Not sure what they always need extra beer for, but it's a certainty in Memphis that there will be a massive beer run whenever anyone on the news mentions snow. mmmmm... beer...

My office actually closed up early today and there is talk of canceling all Saturday classes as well. The drive home was blessedly uneventful. There was apparently a wreck on Summer back towards Kirby, but we didn't have to wait too long for the traffic to clear (maybe 20 minutes). This should make the drive to Tim and Elizabeth's wedding tomorrow extra fun though :-)

[edit] Here's a link to my mini-set of snow pictures... I'll hopefully add to it tomorrow.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Friday night artness

Amber and I went art show hopping last night. Amongst the Memphis regulars (including an truly excellent piece by Jeff Mickey down at the P&H) was a little gem of a show on South Main put on by the MCA illustration department.

The show in question (which is still open this week, including 10-4 tomorrow) is centered around the art of the mini-comic. I've been noticing a trend towards more book art shows in Memphis and I don't consider this a bad thing. With out spoiling it for you, I did want to link to a couple of highlights from the show:

If are from Memphis (or are prone to road trips) it's something you should definately make time for.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Pure Genius... (NSFW)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Illness and Linguistics

I’ve spent the last week and a half laid out on the couch. I wish I could say this was a good thing. In reality, it just sucked. All I had the energy to do was surf the web and watch movies. On the upside of that, I can definitely recommend All About Eve, anything ever directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and almost anything written by Billy Wilder; I once would have said any Billy Wilder but then I saw Seven Year Itch. Most of the new movies we rented were crap including, sadly, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (though The Island was a fun bit of escapism).

Before my debilitating illness, I was going to do a thoroughly insightful and thought provoking post on my inexplicable love of critical theory. Though the mood is gone, there are still a few links I want to put down in wax so that I don’t forget them.

First, is Daniel Chandler’s Semiotics for Beginners. For those baffled by post structural linguistics, this is a most excellent place to start. He really does an excellent job of covering all of the bases and even provides something of a textual analysis cheat sheet. Yes, Virginia, the site has apparently been there since time immemorial, but it’s new to me damn-it!

As I got ready to blog the second of them, Dougie Bicket’s Kiss of the Panopticon, I discovered (much to my horror) that it was gone! ACK! This thing was a really well done survey of all things “cultural theory.” Well, here’s a link to an older version so that you can get the idea. I really hope that he gets it back up.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Dig the new tunes

Found a couple of new interesting bits of music this week (both via Boing Boing [1, 2]).

First, I have a new festival to dream of going to (along with Montreaux, Newport, and Burning Man): behold Chillits. MP3’s (and torrents) are available of this year’s participants. I particularly liked DF Tram’s set, but I haven’t made it through them all yet. I also liked his quote about the festival: “This is music best enjoyed horizontally.”

Secondly, CultureBully has posted his ten favorite mashups of the year. There was a healthy smattering of dj BC stuff in there as well as some cat’s I’d not heard of. I’m not sure all of them would land on my personal “best of” list, but they're still very definitely worth your time.