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.



  1. Looks like an amazing time. Thanks for sharing!

  2. If you haven't seen it there is an Oxcart at the Science Center in LA, if you're driving through Lancaster they have a 71, an Oxcart, and the D-21 drone all sitting next to each other right there for you to explore! The skunkworks museum. Regarding the hand of man, I have a great pic of when the left/right hydraulic ram is bent in half(where, dunno), nice to hear it's still working within tolerances.

  3. Looks like your living well. Kodiak is so big now.....amazing my friend.