Thursday, August 8, 2019

Well I must say that I don't have tons to write about, and there's little point in writing a blog post just for the sake of writing, so I will keep this one short.

I think the most interesting thing on my mind lately is related to the fact that, about 2 weeks ago, we marked the 1-year anniversary of having returned from Europe. Yes, we've been back a year.
Now I can't speak for Christina, but for me this is notable because my perception of time has differed greatly between those years in Europe and this year being back in Taos. (I wrote about a similar topic about two years ago...) In short, time has moved much more quickly since being back, and has been punctuated by far fewer memorable experiences.
Now, time is obviously not actually moving more quickly, so this is clearly a problem of perception. My leading theory is that it comes down to novelty. In Barcelona and Berlin, everything was new and novel, and I think those kinds of experiences lodge themselves in the brain in a different way; they are by definition more 'memorable,' and when you fill a period of time with 'memorable' experiences it feels richer, and slower. By contrast, life here sometimes seems to go by in a blur. This is not only a strong argument for the merits of travel, but it is also, in contrast, a strong invocation to consciously change the way one experiences daily life. Because no two days really are the same... every moment and every day is rich in new experience and the challenge is to really be present to that. If your life does go by in a blur, I think that you are - on some level - not doing it right. Not necessarily easy.. but that's why I use the word 'challenge.'

We are gearing up for Burning Man.
Christina's project is looking really beautiful, and we will be building it right up until the last minute! Luckily we have two friends staying with us, good old friend Fergie from Phoenix and new friend Laurita from Latvia, both of whom are talented metal fabricators and who are helping push the project through to completion in these last few weeks.

With a little encouragement from Christina, I finally built an old idea of mine, which is a double-tall-bike vehicle for our family to get around on at Burning Man.

It's basically two tall bikes joined together into a 4-wheeled vehicle, with a seat in the middle for Kodiak. It's currently referred to as the 'Chariot of Destiny.' It does now have a flamethrower (propane 'poofer') on it, which was not yet installed at the time of these photos.

I decided to buy the artwork inspired by L'Origine du Monde which I wrote about in my last post, after negotiating with the gallerist for a lower priced, smaller print of it. I really love that piece. And another work from that gallery led me, indirectly, into an online confrontation with a really pathetic misogynist, in which I pretty much destroyed him. I'm not linking it here cuz I don't want him and his troll army finding me. Weird story. Email me if you want the whole story and the link.


Saturday, July 20, 2019


OK so it's been a while since I posted here, and I think the reasons for this will become clear in short order.
Basically, we've been busy. More on that in a moment...

But first...

Every kind and color of leather you could ever want...

and nothing but zippers... in every color and length and type of metal...

Yes, these pictures are from New York! 
There's just so much of everything there... good bookstores, good art, good resources, and for me... family.

One of my favorite large-scale street art pieces from Berlin was Tristan Eaton's interpretation of the "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman," ...

and it was great to see two more of his pieces in New York.

I dragged Kodiak into a lot of art galleries in the big city...

Even he liked this one with the boat....

Kodiak didn't actually see this image, although I wouldn't have shied away from showing it to him. (I'm that kind of father) Anyway I happen to love this one... It's pretty clearly a direct reference to "L'Origine du Monde" and in my opinion this piece is a comment on censorship, or what it means to make art in a culturally repressive environment. Of course the artist might have had something totally different in mind...

And near the end of our trip we spent a really lovely afternoon in Central park.

We even found one or two spots with NO PEOPLE!

OK that's it for New York. Let me just say here that I think this recent pattern of mine... in which I cover most of a trip or event (such as EDC or NYC) in a single blog post and then wrap it up in a later post is really not a good idea. I think it's bad form - too fragmented. So, sorry about that! I'll try to nip this in the bud!

Now... back to New Mexico. As most of you already know, Christina got a grant from Burning Man to build a new sculpture this year. (Don't forget to check her blog once in a while to see the great progress being made) So while she is in the shop every day working, I am doing just about everything else and also helping her when I can. The 'everything else' is a pretty significant amount of stuff, especially with a kid on summer break and no grandma in town. As a result, my summer has had a very 'scattered' feel - not much time to get involved in anything in a sustained way. I've had no time to ride motorcycles, no time to paint, I was invited to join a book club but I couldn't even find time to read the book.

Considering how scattered I've felt for the last month or so, the blog post might feel that way as well.

I will say that flip-flopping roles from what has been more 'normal' for us in the last few years is, although not easy, probably a really good thing for our relationship. With me taking on most of the domestic duties this summer, I believe I will have a better understanding of and respect for this role in the future, and I believe Christina is having a renewed understanding of how all-consuming is the experience of building big art on a short time-line, and how difficult it really is to be present in the other parts of one's life in a time like that. Like I said, I think this kind of role-reversal is good for us and would probably be good for any couple.
I will also say that, back when we proposed our respective sculpture projects for this year's festival, I thought we could both successfully build our visions, simultaneously. I was wrong. There would be no way. These Burning Man sculptures really are group efforts.

OK now for a few random thoughts...

I sometimes think about the interplay between the Apollonian and the Dionysian. This is a dichotomy that Nietzsche fleshed out in his early book "The Birth of Tragedy." Basically, the Apollonian is all that is ordered, coherent, pragmatic, practical and intellectual, while the Dionysian is all that is wild, revelrous, disordered and emotional. Nietzsche postulated that the true secret of the success of Greek tragedy (he thought it was the absolute apex of artistic production by anyone, ever) was the fragile balance between these two impulses, the Apollonian and the Dionysian. I think about this dichotomy as it relates to art production and I agree with Nietzsche that the best works strike a balance. My sculpture The Hand of Man, as well as the entire artistic output of my alma mater Survival Research Laboratories, both demonstrate great balance. In each of these examples sophisticated engineering (Apollonian) is used to evoke emotion and awe through chaos, unpredictability, and violence (Dionysian.) In painting I think it can play out through the balance of tight versus loose brushstrokes, or through emotive or abstract subject matter (Francis Bacon), and it manifests in many ways in music, notably through those little flourishes of intensity or extra emotion that the singer might insert into live versions of your favorite song. There's a reason we love that stuff... it's just a bit of crazy... it's the Dionysian flash coming through the Apollonian framework. The best art balances the two.

One little theme that emerged in my trip to New York was the importance of drawing skills as an underlying fundamental for art practice, especially painting. Painting is often referred to as "drawing with paint." One of my current favorite painters, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres*, (whose work I was lucky enough to see at the Met) was a fantastic draftsman and made many preparatory drawings for his paintings. I also chatted with my friend Rachel about the central importance of drawing.

Now, despite the fact that I am slowly working my way towards being a painter of the human figure, I have never been particularly good at drawing the human figure. A sad irony, and one that needs correcting. Lucky for me, Taos has a bona fide underpinning in the arts (for such a small town) and there is a weekly live-model drawing group that I've started attending. I've been four times now, and I feel that my skills are genuinely improving.

These are two of my more successful drawings..

*(I like Ingres for several reasons. One is his subtle idealization, reminiscent of Jassans. Another reason is the significant erotic component of his oeuvre - very tame by today's standards but nonetheless a pervasive interest of his. And thirdly I love his technique - very clean and precise, no visible brush strokes. I would love to be able to paint like that. Ironically, the painting class I am taking in the fall is taught by a talented guy who loves brush strokes, and loves John Singer Sargent - master of the loose brush stroke. But hey, maybe I should open myself up to the Dionysian power of the uncontrolled brush!)

I have managed to complete several little projects here and there, during the off hours...

I made the Wonder Woman bikinis for the mannequins...

I made a new hat...

And I've done a fair bit of picture framing. Normally I just buy framed art from thrift stores, toss the art, and put in whatever art I want on my wall. Even that requires some skill and some work. Recently, however, I bought some un-cut frame moulding and built a frame from scratch, because the frame was for a new Wicked Wanda image I bought (above) and I wanted the frame to match the frames of my other Wandas. My small collection of original comic/illustration art can be seen here

And lastly, Taos is a paradise. Yes I've been feeling that way lately. When the coming environmental apocalypse fully manifests, Taos will not be underwater (we're in the mountains), will still be relatively cool (we're in the mountains), and will not be totally overrun by Texans or Californians (we have no interstate highways, five-star restaurants, or shopping malls). There are no forest fires (at least where we live on the mesa), no tornados (yet) and no earthquakes. Taos will likely always be politically liberal because it is multicultural, and will likely always have an arts community because artists like this kind of place, I guess. In 30 minutes or less I can be in the woods, on a mountain, or at a river. We have a good community of friends here. The air is clean and the aquifer (our well water) is pure. Drinking water is probably the achilles heel here, so let's hope that aquifer doesn't run dry, or get poisoned by the Los Alamos labs or those fracking frackers.
No place is perfect (where is the Taos Metropolitan Museum of Art?) but Taos has a lot going for it.

Plus, we get skies like these...

And post-lastly, I'm gonna get off Facebook soon. I can no longer see a reason to stay on it. It makes me feel creepy and anxious when I do visit, which I do increasingly rarely (logged on the other day for the first time in about 6 months... didn't like it). Plus, I think it's morally wrong to be on there. If you don't know what I'm talking about or don't agree, click here and here.

(Remember how I said I was busy and scattered? It took me 4 separate sittings of 20 - 40 minutes each to get this post written...)

Hasta la próxima vez
Bis zum nächsten Mal
Tills nästa gång

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Flybrary needs You!

My amazing, and amazingly talented partner Christina Sporrong is building her biggest project ever, and it's called The Flybrary.

I think it's probably going to be the best thing at Burning Man this year. Seriously.

And even though we are cranking on this big beautiful sculpture daily, we could use a bit of help getting this project to the finish line. 

Please click HERE to see more about her project, and help us out if you can.

And please share this page with your friends, your networks, and your groups!
We appreciate any help you can muster!


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Visual Novelty

I'm writing this blog post from New York City.
New York City is such a great place for visual novelty.

But first, a..
----Brief EDC recap----

Electric Daisy Carnival was weird. Looking back with a bit of distance, the combination of the extreme work hours, the sensory overload, and the general surreality of both the festival and Las Vegas makes the whole thing feel like some sort of dream... or drug trip.

It turns out that I know, through a friend of a friend, the woman who is responsible for ALL those people in the fantastic costumes that we kept seeing at catering (she designs some of them herself, and organizes other designers as well). After I complimented her on her fantastic work, she called over to the table one of her designers and I was able to request a proper photograph...

(She is a Transformer!)

The Hand of Man worked very hard in Las Vegas, and... it fared worse than I'd hoped it would, sustaining various types of moderate to serious damage. 

It needs repair, but then again it often does. It's par for the course.


I think that by this time, most people are aware that there is a growing body of evidence for systemic biological differences between the brains of conservative people and liberal people. This interesting podcast added a new twist, or perhaps just a new level of clarity, in pointing out that conservative folks tend to be motivated by issues of safety and vigilance, while liberal folks tend to be more motivated by experimentation and seeking out novelty. 
(The upshot of the podcast - and various other bits of research that you can easily access online - is that people on both side of the political spectrum hold their particular views at least in part because of their biology. We are born conservative or liberal... to a degree.)

Seeking out novelty.

It has occurred to me recently - quite outside the context of any consideration of political predilections - that I seem to have a never-ending, voracious appetite for visual novelty, and it turns out that this is a good predictor of my liberal leanings. 
(If we are to take seriously the research findings presented in the podcast, further evidence that I am a dyed-in-the-wool, biologically-determined liberal can be seen in the way I maintain my personal space as well as my tastes in food, music, and film.)

I've always loved New York. Since Kodiak was about 2 years old, I've dreamed of taking him on a trip here. Months ago Christina suggested that I should take a trip with Kodiak during her Burning Man build, and so I immediately booked 10 days for us here. It turns out that Kodiak is not as much of a city boy as I am... but he's rolling with it and having a good time. It helps a lot that we have family here - Kodiak is close with his grandmother and his cousin.

New York so far has been a lot of museums and a few galleries, as well as magazine shops and the always-great people watching. Visual novelty. 
Here's a bit of visual novelty for you...

The first gallery I stopped into featured the work of this guy Jag13, which combined traditional beauty with horror. A bit too dark to put on my wall, but I liked it.

I then stopped into the Louis K. Meisel gallery which almost exclusively features work depicting the female nude. The upstairs is all photo-realistic painting. But the place is really two galleries in one, as the downstairs features classic American Pin Up art from the 20th century and related sexy work. 

These two, from the downstairs gallery, are by Harry Holland. Oh my god how I love these paintings.

A few more from the downstairs gallery; I've forgotten the names of the artists. (Edit: The top two images are by Andrew Valko, the bottom paintings are by John Kacere)

Small wood sculptures by Richard Senoner with classic original pin up art by Elvgren in the background. It's refreshing to visit a place like this, where it's implicitly understood that the female nude is the singularly most worthwhile subject for visual art in the universe!

Kodiak and I stopped in briefly to the museum of FIT, the Fashion Institute of Technology. I would totally wear that green outfit above.

We spent half a day at the American Museum of Natural History...

and a few hours at the Cloisters, which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The religious sculptures there brought me right back to Barcelona.

But the real centerpiece of any art-lover's trip to New York really must be the Met. We spent a whole day there. I brought Kodiak straight to Caravaggio's 'Denial of St. Peter.' (Better picture here)

In no particular order, I will now bounce around the Met's collections... I like the painting above for its subtle use of light and shadow... (I didn't note the name of the painter...)

Painting by Paul Cadmus. I first became aware of him last month at Crystal Bridges - he painted in egg tempera and I love his visual style and incredible level of detail. This painting apparently caused a scandal when first presented because of the flirtatious interaction of the men, center-right. 
The painting was included as part of the Met's special exhibition 'Camp,' about gender-bending fashion.

Thierry Mugler dress, from Camp.

Renaissance-inspired mini-dresses and dresses made of money, from Camp.

Sculpture, from one piece of marble. Look at her face... so good!

Perseus with the head of Medusa. To be honest, this piece is mostly of interest to me because of... 

this gender-switched counterpoint sculpture that has recently become an online viral sensation. To be clear, this is not my image, and it's also not from the Met. But I like this sculpture significantly more than the marble Perseus above, as images of strong and defiant women are much more my cup of tea.

OK, back to the Met. The Arms and Armor section is amazing (although it is perhaps only 20% of what's on view at the Dresden Historical Museum!). The graphic design on the shield above is fantastic, and it's hundreds of years old!


I stumbled into a section of the Met which contained rows and rows of paintings and sculptures, all on shelves behind glass. The collections here are just mind-blowing... an embarrassment of riches.

I was quite pleased to find a room full of murals by Thomas Hart Benton...

...and a handful of paintings by Ingres. Ingres' work subtly lands somewhere in the interzone between realism and idealization, much like Jassans. He is one of my new favorites. (The nude above is not by him, but by one of his devotees, and is really very reminiscent of 'The Turkish Bath,' one of Ingres' most famous paintings.)


Jacques-Louis David

Just two examples of the hundreds of beautiful pieces from the Asian Art collections

When I saw this marble sculpture of a woman staring down at her little Christian cross, it just looked like she was staring at....

her iPhone.

This sculpture of Diana the Huntress is identical to one that I saw at Crystal Bridges...

This is a famous Diana sculpture by McCartan...

And this gorgeous larger-than-life Diana the Huntress dominates one of the Met's large indoor spaces.

Back to painting... I found the expression on this young woman's face intriguing. She is lost in some intense thought... she reminds me of my beautiful wife Christina.

Mark Carder, the painting teacher I've been following on the internet, is a big fan of John Singer Sargent, so I had to go see Sargent's work. I have to say that I am not (yet?) such a big fan, but I did like this one.

And lastly, this kooky painting by Balthus. It's enormous... and I love it... because it's so weird. Balthus was weird.

OK, leaving the Met now....

Advertising is a big part of visual culture, and New York is always a few steps ahead. It's hard to say what the fashion brand Bottega Veneta is trying to sell with these nude images above... but the ads do make you wonder. Maybe they are advertising her shoes..??

Bilie Eilish, by Takashi Murakami.

I stopped into a used clothing store and left 30 minutes later with...

a life-sized posable wooden artist's mannequin. I think I know how to get it home....

We visited the Intrepid Air, Sea, and Space museum... 

and saw a SR-71 Blackbird (the only airplane I actually care about).


The last few weeks, between EDC and NYC, were occupied with a lingering aluminum welding job I had to finish, and getting into the mode of helping Christina with her big Burning Man project. (Click here to jump over to her blog, where she is detailing the building process.)

Between all of that, it's been more than six weeks since I've set foot into the painting studio. When I last painted I was quite disappointed to see just how poor my color-mixing skills really are, and I was pretty much ready to give up on this current painting, even though it's 95% done. But after seeing all this great art, I'm now looking forward to getting back to it and fixing it. Might as well. It's an opportunity to get the color-mixing thing more figured-out.

It was also quite inspiring to reconnect with old friends Rachel Feinstein and John Currin. Rachel and John are some of the most successful artists of their generation, and chatting with them about art practice (among lots of other things) was a real pleasure.

I feel like I have a strong body of painting work inside me, I just have to learn the technique... to get it out.

And lastly, three generations... together in New York City. 
From left to right... my mom Cathleen, my brother Cles, Kodiak, my brother Trevor, and me.

We've got a few more days in the Big Apple, so look for a wrap-up soon.