Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Salad Days: Yokohama and A Different Floating World

After many valiant harumpfings about visiting the Yokohama print exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I finally made the 5 minute trek to enjoy some great prints.  After the ports of Japan were pried open to the west in 1859, cultural entanglements including misunderstandings and  misinformation along with the flow of goods and money poured and flowed like the sailors' libations that had just arrived in town.   Originally intended to be viewed by Japanese people to learn and vicariously experience foreigners some of the specifics of the cultures depicted were lost in translation due to the hurry meet the demand for the prints.   Russian sailors next to Italian flags in front of French buildings is just one example.   Seeing how the artists were coping with depicting the new textiles and animals coming into the island was very consoling as I struggle with painting and other works from time to time.  These guys who were making these prints were masters of their trade and its always reassuring that no matter how long one works at their trade new things and changes will bring challenges.  Unfortunately the museum decided not to print a book of the work so I've tried to cull some images that are close to what they have.*  

Americans in front of a steamship 
Beyond the strange images of Europeans watching Pygmies dance on tables I was attracted to the depictions of the hustle and bustle of the "new" daily life in the port.   How crowded it seemed from the pictures, how exotic "we" seemed.  Some of the patterns resulting from depictions of the "new" styles of dress undulates like fungal architecture.  Only a handful of nations were allowed to legally trade with the Japanese empire but there were still depictions of people there that were not represented by the treaty of trade.  There was a loophole of sponsorship.  It didn't seem to matter what type of vocation the sponsor had as long as they were part of the party with papers from their government.  Yokohama must truly be the first international city, even if the foreigners were quarantined off behind fences in their own part of the city.  I'm sure at times westerners were depicted with some sense of humor and with varying degrees of subtlety.  With out second guessing myself too much about the intentions of the artists of these specific portraits in the group I'd wager they were carried out with a little mirth mixed with boot shining.  In the works there are depicted the varied subjects, for example,  a "An American Merchant Greatly Please with the Miniature Cherry Tree He Ordered" and behind him/to the side of him is a bust portrait of his wife with a head four times the size of his.  I can imagine her going to have the work commissioned, running into the problem of the receiver unable to read Japanese and the artist unable to write in English.  Then solving this by the inclusion of their purchasers portrait and it must be big and important, because they must be reminded of who has given them this thing.  Stupid fat heads.  But that's all conjecture and Hollywood prejudice.  Maybe.  Here is a print of John James Audubon discovering that the drawings and watercolors he has made have been eaten by rats.  Seriously.   

It was nice to see and be introduced to these prints as so many that I've come across are of "The Floating World": Japan's aristocracy and pleasure gardens.   If you are interested in the floating worlds and are in Philadelphia this weekend you should stop by the banks of the Schuylkyll River to view and interact with "Light Drift".  Parker Lee of Parker Lee fame, has been in town working to install these works for Meejin Yoon of Boston so stop by and support their efforts to put some magic in your fall evenings.  I bet you it will be better than an Applebee's Magician Night.  Believe me no strings are attached, its free.  More info can be found HERE.  Time to get back to sailboats. . .

*After writing this and not wanting to take the effort to rearrange things once again HERE is a link to all 90 images in the exhibition on the Philadelphia Museum of Arts website.   I guess I'll have to print my own book now, huh?  Only $150 if you want a color print from the museum and a 4 week wait.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Confirmation Bias: Koans

Another Etsy print utilizing "children's" art tools consists of MechaGodzilla getting a girlfriend as the readers of "The Inquirer" keep an eye on the relationship.   It’s amazing to see how quickly ideas, archetypes, songs; well culture has morphed in the past century.  I suppose we (the royal human we) have always acclimated quickly.  I don't have as large a grasp on language as I wish I did, but am still enthralled with shared cultural words.  Most times being used in mixed language sentences they lose a . . . je ne sais quoi.  And yes, we do have to thank the French for the feminine blonde, while the rest of the English language is neutered. Like spoken English I've been interested in appropriating for a few reasons.  It creates a dialogue with the past along with paying tribute it.  Building upon ideas of the past is how we've advanced to the technological/digital age.   I enjoy seeing things morph, figuring out (or at least creating my own theories) how they connect to the next gestation and adding to it.  It is an instant personal gratification becoming part of something larger than myself.   If it wasn't for a personal enjoyment I may even associate it with the loss of self.  What is that anyway?  "Is it alive, does it writhe? Can it survive under the sun?" The closest thing I equate to a gnostic experience is losing myself to the act of painting and becoming lucid to the fact that I'm awake and dreaming.

   A question was asked of a Zen master,  "What is the meaning of the ancestral teacher's (i.e., Bodhidharma's) coming from the west?" The master answered, "The cypress tree in front of the hall."  But this is about transformations of ideas, traditions, and art.  Knowing what has been is a good clue of what is and will be and like any good lie should be studied.  The variations, the small differences are what have become interesting.  How many times are you going to watch the same movie?  I bet it was based on a play that was performed over two thousand years ago.  There is some funny stuff in transitions for those of us caught in the middle.  In a way, it’s like being aware of puberty, being in it, past it, and aware of it from the other gender's view all at the same time - and the whole time daises that grow from our ancestor's corpses towards the sun, bending in the wind laugh along.  Oh, wait . . . we embalm and encase our dead like they are pharaohs.  No wonder we have movies like "Night of the Living Dead".   No, that doesn't make sense enough . . . let’s go with Brandon Frasier’s "The Mummy" as reference instead, using a shot of  Brock from "The Venture Bros."  fighting a mummy, even though "Night . . ." is much cooooler.

 My third wish is there to be no more 1970-1990 horror movie remakes.  We're supposed to change things, make them better damn it.  I mean look what happened with Gojira.  Someone transformed two Japanese words (and the Japanese do love to abbreviate/transform their words) for gorilla and whale and made up Gojira.  Then it’s misinterpreted to Godzilla for the U.S. release.  That is a radical name, and besides who would have wanted to go see a movie about a gorilla whale? It was something new [(ish) I'm not forgetting "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" or earlier stories dating back to St. George].  And then there was the 1998 U.S. Godzilla release promoted by Taco Bell.  Hell, Taco Bell started out as a hot dog stand.   What was my point with this? Ah yes . . . The Child Ballad Show.  Having expressed the need to recognize the importance of "tradition" I think it’s fair to impose one's own will upon its impending change.  The streets don't change but maybe their name . . .  The only fear/sin against tradition is the same for history: forgetting it.  Maybe forgetting should be replaced with "not learning".   To do either would be missing a hold on it.   "Is it numb?  Does it glow, will it shine? Does it leave a trail of slime?"  The most important thing to do with tradition is to play with it.  Game the sh*t out of it.  Most of the time all its doing is pointing out that you’re alive.
 Speaking of transformations. . . I'm happy to be sharing wall space with Bart Lynch (image above) in September.  In the past I've had the chance to visit him in the studio and its mind boggling how he works.  To see these seemingly spontaneous calligraphic marks converge into an overall composition consisting of stories within stories within stories is something to behold.  I highly recommend viewing his work when you get the chance.  That's at least one thing that I'm doing at the Child Ballad Show in Baltimore.  I just finished the painting for the show, and believe me I played the sh*t out of it.   To answer  some of you all's first questions reading this, "No, when making the print I was not consciously thinking about "Bambi meets Godzilla".  Someone pointed that out to me the other day and I almost threw up in my mouth because I had forgotten about it.  I'm more optimistic and think the relationship in my print will turn out better."   Have I learned anything?

Don't forget the 5th law: A Discordian is prohibited from believing what he reads.
If you are having trouble with that, consult your pineal gland.

Time to get back in the studio.

Jiun, a Shingon master, was a well-known Sanskrit scholar of the Tokugawa era. When he was young he used to deliver lectures to his brother students.
His mother heard about this and wrote him a letter:
"Son, I do not think you became a devotee of the Buddha because you desired to turn into a walking dictionary for others. There is no end to information and commentation, glory and honor. I wish you would stop this lecture business. Shut yourself up in a little temple in a remote part of the mountain. Devote your time to meditation and in this way attain true realization."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Flying in the Face of Tradition a Two Way Monologue

Continuing to play with "children's" printmaking tools I've made a limited number of this print. A million in one names flies forth from the origin of the world.  Superman exits the world's strongest vagina.  My first pop culture experience with the female undercarriage was scripted as follows:

Lois Lane: What color underwear am I wearing?
Superman: [looking] Hmmm...
Lois Lane: Oh, gee, I embarrassed you, didn't I?
Superman: Oh, no, no, not at all, it's just that this planter must be made of lead.
Lois Lane: Yeah, it is. So?
Superman: Well, I sort of have a problem seeing through lead.
Lois Lane: Oh, that's interesting. [writes] Problem seeing through lead. Do you have a first name?
Superman: You mean, like, Ralph or something?
Lois Lane: [walks away from the planter] No, I mean like -
Superman: Pink.
Lois Lane: Hm?
Superman: Pink. [Lois walks back to the planter.] Sorry, Miss Lane, I didn't mean to embarrass *you*.

You can draw an analogy of Francis Child's collection of Ballads to that of comic books.  Or I can later.  The ballads offer up story lines that soap operas writers would drool over.  One of my favorites is Ballad #295 The Brown Girl.   Many of the ballads have to do with love, lover's lost, revenge, bloody justice, and heroes.  And just a note to all who enjoy oceanic ballads we like to call chanteys Art Rosenbaum and his Chantey Singers are coming out with their 2nd CD.  I've been leaked the song list and it looks like a great selection of songs, some of which will make you get up and jig. If you are into that type of thing.  Jeremy Hughes will be designing the cover art so make sure you bug them for a copy when it is released.   

295A.1  ‘I am as brown as brown can be,
My eyes as black as a sloe;
I am as brisk as a nightingale,
And as wilde as any doe.
295A.2 ‘My love has sent me a love-letter,
Not far from yonder town,
That he could not fancy me,
Because I was so brown.
295A.3 ‘I sent him his letter back again,
For his love I valu’d not,
Whether that he could fancy me
Or whether he could not.
295A.4 ‘He sent me his letter back again,
That he lay dangerous sick,
That I might then go speedily
To give him up his faith.’
295A.5 Now you shall hear what love she had
Then for this love-sick man;
She was a whole long summer’s day
In a mile a going on.
295A.6 When she came to her love’s bed-side,
Where he lay dangerous sick,
She could not for laughing stand
Upright upon her feet.
295A.7 She had a white wand all in her hand,
And smoothd it all on his breast;
‘In faith and troth come pardon me,
I hope your soul’s at rest.
295A.8 ‘I’ll do as much for my true-love
As other maidens may;
I’ll dance and sing on my love’s grave
A whole twelvemonth and a day.’

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Beneficial Conflict

How much more of that "Hell, yeah!"  guy can you take?  I've been reading "Industrial Society and Its Future" by Ted Kaczynski, and the tragic thing is that such a brilliant mind never learned how to take advantage of the institutions he was revolting against.  I'm not quite half way through reading it, and you can feel his self-loathing and personal conflict in his projections of societal problems.  I don't want to detract too much from, what so far as my lame brain can tell is a frighteningly prophetic view of today's culture and problems from a few decades ago.  Although many artists question how to draw more attention to their views and exhibitions, I've never been so drastic in my views that I thought I needed to send mail bombs to express my views, or rather; obtain a larger audience.  From an artistic view point, blowing people up to gain notoriety is kind of slutty.  It’s like wearing the shortest pair of jogging shorts you can find to the mall.  It’s an attempt to spread as much seed as possible, which is what the selfish cell wants after all.  I wonder how big Ted’s balls really were/are.  I read in New Scientist the other day that the larger a man’s testicles are the more apt he is to cheat, or have multiple partners.  I guess a guy just doesn’t need to produce that many mini-hims if he is only concentrating on one person.   Makes you think about all sorts of colloquialisms about testes, doesn’t it? 

I remember in High School wearing a gray hoodie and sunglasses for Halloween.  I’m surprised I didn’t end up feeling like an ass like the time I wore a Ho-Chi Minh t-shirt to a party and a friend’s Dad’s friend was there and had served in Vietnam.  He started chanting the marches they used to do along the Ho-chi Minh trail . . . after he had me smoke the most potent joint on the east coast during the year of 1995. 

(Who needs Facebook for old embarrassing pictures when you have a blog?)The interesting thing is Ho-Chi Minh was out of power by 1950.  That’s only 6 years after WWII.  Right before the U.S. entered into WWI Ho-Chi Minh was living in Harlem, New York hanging out with Marcus Garvey.  Shortly after leaving the U.S. he ended up in France learning about Communism.   Thanks France, for the giant green patina statue in New York.  I’m not sarcastic here, I’m not going to do something lame and ask for freedom fries.  Besides, you gave us Duchamp.  I guess it’s only fair we keep off of Polanski too.  But I’ve digressed.  The Vietnam vet singing me chants from the Ho-Chi Minh trail knew something about beneficial conflict that Kaczynski either knew too well, or not well enough.  I haven’t decided yet.  Our government was set up on beneficial conflict; on checks and balances.  

The Child Ballad Show coming up is another example of beneficial conflict.  This is an argument of, and between, the past and present.  An argument as a conversation meant to evoke a devil’s advocating of tradition.  Tradition and rebellion have always been on the different sides of the same coin.  Some of our founding fathers wanted to make a tradition of rebellion.  Well, we still have fire-works; Ted’s still alive at ADX Florence.  Making tradition out of rebellion is Art Rosenbaum, who will be performing and exhibiting at The Child Ballad Show.  Art and his wife Margo have chronicled many of the Ballads for over 50 years as they appear in the present day by those who have learned them honestly.  No pirating or stealing of songs but passing them around from person to person like a potent herb. Their musical magnum opus can be found here at Arts website.  For those of you living outside of Baltimore or its surrounding states, you should make the effort to experience rebellion.  Art has a lust for life that is catching and comes through in his art work and Music.  A lust for life is the ultimate rebellion.  Who wants to be a rock when we
can roll?  So roll on down to the G-Spot on the 11th of September.  And do I really need to mention that you can purchase the "Beneficial Conflict" print of Godzilla creeping up on the personification of civilization at my Etsy site?   Yes. Yes, I do.  And perhaps Ted didn't want to be self sufficient after all, but taken care of for the rest of his life away from the contact of other people.  And maybe not. You decide. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Your story is like a mountain of . . .

According to folk-lore, in Japan's distant past poor families would take their elderly, who had become a burden in providing for the new generation, and leave them in the wilderness of mountains. The custom is called ubasute and there is a mountain in Nagano, Japan that the locals refer to as Ubasute-Yama.  Nowadays robots are being built to take care of the growing elderly population.  So are you ready for a piggy back ride along the mountainous terrain of my imagination?  Enma Dai-Ō is the Japanese name for the Buddhist god of death.  It’s been transliterated from Yemma which is a form of the Sanskrit Yama.  As a type of homophone, yama is the Romanized spelling of the Japanese word for mountain(s).  The literal translation of Yamaha is "The Mountain."   YAMAHA is one of the largest robotic companies in the world. "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" has nothing to do with the production of this blog.

The stories of the elderly being taken away to die have been embedded in Japanese folklore, and may have never actually been a widespread practice.  In researching to create my new folk-lore I came across a Buddhist allegory of a son carrying his mother on his back, and while they are going up the mountain she reaches out to break branches so he can find his way back home.  Wikipedia (reliable as folk-lore) presents this un-authored poem that commemorates this story:

In the depths of the mountains,

Who was it for the aged mother snapped

One twig after another?

Heedless of herself

She did so

For the sake of her son

The Child Ballads that are the center of the upcoming show at G-Spot in Baltimore contain some of the oldest stories of folklore for Western Europe that we in United States know well.  Out of the wilderness and forested mountains come King Arthur and a rather large collection of songs about Robin Hood.  While hardly mountainous, Sherwood Forest contains an ancient meeting spot called Thynghowe.  Howe is derived from the Old Norse word Haugr which means mound.  When used in place names haugr many times indicates a burial mound. Traipsing around the forest Robin Hood stole from the rich and religiously greedy to give to the poor; the antithesis to a modern Japanese helper robot which takes care of those rich enough to afford its care and avoid the mound of poor and uncared for.  Jeez, it’s not my fault people. . . it’s been rainy and dark all day.  Unlike King Arthur, Robin Hood's only chance at immortality is in song and story.  Lesson: no matter how much you try you will never have the same rights as those with more money and power.  Even if you take it from them, your psychology will forever be in with the have-nots.  Hey, at least we have a real life that hasn't been airbrushed for consumption.  At least we have the Child Ballads.  I'm sure on a sunnier day, or a sultry night I would have chosen to connect mountains to the act of copulation, to the Freudian defeat of the mother by the wife.  I could have talked about the mound or mountain as synonymous to a rising male interpretation of mounting female pleasure . . . to the French term "La petite mort" and the allegory of Sisyphus in relation to the working class of the Appalachian mountains. I may even have suggested the shock theory that the burial mound as a meeting place to be influenced by dead ancestors is like the essential gangbang of ancestral DNA upon the female mound during copulation. But its gloomy out and all of that would just be a tease.  There is nothing like some warm green tea to bring you out of a funk. See you next time.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Is There Anybody Out There? No(H)Va

Continuing to work with “children’s” art tools and Yuzen, this print is entitled No(H)Va. It plays with the archetypes of American Steel and Japanese wood. The Chevy is a masculine form that we American’s love to see women drive, this particular Noh mask is feminine in form and is used by male only theatre groups.

What I’m interested in right now (concerning Child Ballad #278) is “Woman” on par with “the gods”, meaning that a western cultural perception of Woman is as the Greeks perception of Love, War, or Nature. Love is like a god, war is like a god, etc. etc. The pervasiveness of the representational sexuality of the sexes in our culture surpasses any cult of the ancients. We pick out 14-15 year old girls for Pop Stars because we have a need to watch a metamorphosis of innocence into a fully sexually charged thing that we eventually want sacrificed to purify our collective guilt. See South Park season 12 on that one. Bacchanal revelry usually doesn’t end well; it’s like a lot of hangovers and personal moral questioning about the dead hooker on the floor. But let us not get too sober in the midst of it. With all this in mind I’ve been trying to break down the aspects of the song. . . It presents itself through humor (most times sung that way too), and gives you the story of a woman more powerful than the Devil. She did not defeat the Devil by resisting temptations in life, but subdued him by force alone. In effect she has put herself outside of the realm of consequences and has made God and the Devil as irrelevant to her as her husband’s emotions: someone needs a spanking. Maybe I should paint a fish riding a bicycle in the background. Humor is definitely one of the best ways to disarm and bring someone in on a serious matter. And this is life or death. Well, more so afterlife intruding on real life. To think this is a song the Irish gave us and was given an African back beat in the Appalachians and made some inroads into indie-pop and grunge. So the strong Irish woman of John Wayne movies meets Foxy Brown meets Courtney Love. Let the wine flow. I’m not the only person in The Child Ballad Show to associate these stories and songs with modern film and music, just check out some of Jeremy Hughes work, and don’t forget that you can find my “Child” Prints over at my Etsy shop HERE.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Whip It Up

"The wind blows and the sales of baskets go up," is an old Japanese saying meaning that some cause and effects are not always direct or visible. Bob Dylan wrote, "The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind." I've always had a penchant for secret histories, micro histories, and generally the way things work. At times, the challenge for artists is to find a specific subject or theme. Its always nice when someone approaches you and starts a conversation about a subject that jives with your line of thinking, as happened with the invitation to "The Child Ballads" show curated by Teddy Johnson at the G-Spot Gallery in Baltimore. I had a chance to visit the location a couple of weeks ago and was impressed with the space and am looking forward to the event on the 11th of September. There is a great collection of painters that are exhibiting and musicians to perform the songs as well, included in both categories is Grammy award winner Art Rosenbaum. Art has been an inspiration, for many of us in the exhibition, to delve into the history of American music as well as learn and perform it.

Out of the 305 songs in the Child collection I've chosen to create a piece of work based on number 278: The Farmer's Curst Wife. A very brief accounting of the song is that a farmer had a bad wife so the devil came and took her away, when they reached Hell she made things so bad for the devil he took her back to the farmer. The variations of the songs have different conclusions, that either women are so far worse than men that they get kicked out of hell, or that women are stronger than men as they can beat up on the devil. Now that sounds like a fun piece to paint! How does this all draw back to secret histories, micro histories, and all that jazz? The influence of this song, after centuries of swirling around the Appalachian Mountains, previously having crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Europe, landed in the 1960's. Folk music was being expounded by various reviver cliques, but I believe a mainline influence ran into the exploitation films, which ran into Quentin Tarentino and influenced his film depictions of women as both strong, able to take down the modern equivalent of the devil, and at times be worse than the devil. My methods are a bit Microftian in their research but the winds of creation are blowing.

As a side project I have been working with "children's" printmaking techniques in conjunction with the yuzen stenciling technique I learned while in Japan. I wanted to work with a printing process that was as immediate as possible with as little set up as possible because space is always an issue. The pieces that I've made I will post in conjunction with the first 4-5 Child Ballad blogs. Like the women represented by archetypes in art the Noh mask only has to have light shined on it from different angles to express a variety of perceived expressions or traits. With the Noh mask the lighting doesn't even have to change only your position to it. It makes me wonder about the Theory of Relativity and how sometimes the answer really is too close to find. Isn't that the Hollywood love story? You can find these inexpensive prints for sale HERE at my etsy shop.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Crash Bang and Boom: It All Comes Down to the Tunes

Working towards a new show in September, it is apt that this part of the blog starts on the 4th of July. I have been invited to exhibit, with 12 other artists, at the G-Spot Gallery in Baltimore Maryland. The show will revolve around paintings inspired by the 305 ballads collected by James Francis Child. The Ballads are a collection of some of the oldest recorded songs that are still sung today, in different variants having passed through appalachian folksongs into present day rock and even anti-folk. I've chosen to create a painting based on ballad #278 and will write about it in the upcoming weeks.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Laser Sound of Our Cosmic History

"What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs, and makes a slinkity sound?
A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing! Everyone knows it's Slinky.
It's Slinky, it's Slinky. For fun it's a wonderful toy.
It's Slinky, it's Slinky. It's fun for a girl or a boy.
It's fun for a a girl or boy!"

So in my search for Philadelphia History I've come to this cosmic connection: The Slinky. 300 million Slinkies have been sold around the world. We've shared in walking it, putting it up to our ears and shaking it for laser beam sound effects, pinching our selves in its coils, and untangling it from itself. I find it perfect in its ingenuity, its simplicity, its working class affordability. Why would you let your children play with the mercury from a thermometer or roll each other down a hill in old tires when you can buy them a shipyard spring to slink down some stairs? Perhaps the most fun to be had with a slinky is setting up a course for it to walk down. The Cramps Shipyard, where the Slinky was invented, is bound for demolition. It is the last building of the preeminent ship building facility of the 19th century. It fell into disuse in 1947 and will finally be laid to waste by a junction of on and off ramps for I-95. Not a five-minute walk from our front door and you can see the overgrown bank of the Delaware river where the main Cramps building used to be. A few minutes walk back and you’ll see the building wants to conserve. It’s all looming angles and giant glass panes. It looks like a giant lego-brick airplane hangar. You may find this small painting HERE at my etsy store.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Don't Stop Till You Get Enough

So I almost forgot where I was when Michael Jackson died last year. That is how it starts, and then the memory eventually becomes like a deserted industrial building retaining the ghostly lettering of a business that no longer exists . . . eventually. It will be a long time before the estate of M.J. lets the money making machine of his cult of personality die. As this most recent series of paintings are of Philadelphia buildings I thought I'd delve into Philly's relationship to the King of Pop. In the mid 1970 two albums for Jackson and his brothers were produced under the Philadelphia International Records label. The albums were "The Jacksons" and "Going Places." According to news reports of the time Jackson wanted to start making songs with messages. I was old enough to remember "Thriller" coming out, but unlike my older brother, too young for parachute pants. And oh, was I jealous of all of those zippers and pockets. I mean what frog-string-stick-toy-penny in my pocket-kid wouldn't envy those. Granted the pants were too tight to make the pockets practical, and I already wore a pair of Roo's with the pocket on the side that I would get my milk money stuck in. At least they weren’t penny loafers. But that was in Georgia . . . in the shadow of Stone Mountain. This is about Philly, where everything is annoyingly spelled with a PH instead of an F. So like almost everything else in America's history Philadelphia can lay claim to another first, as the first place after Motown Records the Jacksons decided to record. Of course if you want to scrutinize it that is how most of Philly's phirsts are. They are kind of firsts. What I'm concerned with is more the demise of Philadelphia's landmark history. This painting is of the Edward Corner Marine Warehouse, and it’s deserted and the lettering has become ghostly. I've placed it in the background to further emphasize the fading memory of Philadelphia's maritime history. While M.J. is/was an international phenomena and maritime trading brought the world closer together, the cosmic unifier I started this series out with is more subtle. Its more tactile and is perfect in its American Ingenuity. Curious? All will be revealed next time.

If you like this painting and are interested in purchasing it please click HERE.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rambo: Schemes of the Rich and Mo' Power

What is one of the more interesting "historical" places on paper that can’t really be seen anymore around my neighborhood? Gunner’s Run. It was a creek turned into a canal that was used as an investment scheme and is now paved over. Hey, that does not sound cool. Well, boys and girls, it’s named after Gunner Rambo ca. 1847. I don't think its a stretch to connect it to Sylvester Stallone. . . . We have a Rocky Statue in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, now I suggest, no, demand that a statue of Rambo be place on the paved over-overgrown-Aramingo Canal where it once met the Delaware River. What could be more American than a statue of Rambo planted over a historical Philadelphia money pit? The new Delaware River Green Way welcome entrance could be a bronze statue of a savage man with a bowie knife in his mouth, a bow and arrow (tribute to Native Americans), and a plaque that reads: 1st capital of the United States, 1st continental congress, 1st Blood. If you don't like the bow and arrow Idea go HERE. Wasn't that what Rambo was about, opposing corrupt and bad American ideas? A little further North is The Richmond Power Plant. It is butted up against the Recycling plant and shipping wharves of Port Richmond. If you'd like to hang out by the high tension lines and listen to the hum of transformers for a while or two you may just be lucky enough to see a gleaming silver ACES train pass by taking people to Atlantic City.

You can litteraly feel the power in the air by the Betsy Ross bridge. When the 1876 World's Fair was happening, I imagine, they imagined future architecture to look like power substations. Just imagine thinking about the future at the exposition of A. Graham Bell's telephone, a typewriter, Heinz Ketchup, and another failed american project - Kudzu as an erosion control plant. Kudzu now spreads at a rate of 150,000 acres annually, according to Science Daily. It produces ground level Ozone for the South East enhancing the drawl of all in Y'all. If you are interested in purchasing a painting of an imagining of imaginings visit my Etsy site HERE. Kudzu and Rambo are still not the cosmic connection of generations that I"m leading up to though. 2 more posts and we're there. We're there already but I just have to reveal it slowly. I don't want anybody to be scared of the final surprise sprung. You're not a scaredy-cat are you? Then read on in a few.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Power Hour

What else might be of importance to Philly’s younger years? Two defunct power plants, one in some active shipping yards, next to the recycling plant, and the other one adjacent to our neighborhood park where William Penn signed a treaty with some Native Americans. They were really surprised to see electric lights along with Penn’s boomstick. These Paintings are of the Delaware Power Station next to Penn Treaty Park on the Delaware River.

The above painting is of five of the eight stacks at the power station may be purchased at Etsy click HERE. The more I think about electricity the more it resonates with the city. Magnetic in its attraction, like a cat's tail rubbed over amber. I'm getting to Ben Franklin and his mystical-magical kite. That old philanthropic philanderer helped to issue in modern life by selling his possessions to research electricity, a step toward the second industrial revolution in the midst of the first. While this may tie us all together it is still not the cosmic connection we'll be arriving at by the end of the week.
The painting below is of the loading pier for the station on the Delaware river and may be purchased HERE.

If you are interested in further information about the power plant follow the link attached to the title as well as .

Monday, June 21, 2010

Philadelphia Burning

With our recent trip to Japan I began to get used to all of these ancient land marks surrounding us. I began to wonder what we walk by everyday at home, in the U.S., and don’t even know or care is historic. We do live in Philadelphia, some big history for the country there, but what about our neighborhood? What do we have in our ‘hood that is similar in importance to what is in Motoko’s Parents in Japan? Is there anything? I drove around our neighborhood and tried to explore some areas that the local preservation group is trying to have deemed important for Philadelphia’s history. I was a nice day out so I brought along the camera to shot some photos for painting references, and sketched some as well. I started out at and looked through the points of interest, chose our driving path of least resistance, and hopped in the car/truck thing to go and breathe some fresh (questionably) air. It was fresh. The area we live in is up for, a name calling, debate. Things can get heated between city folk about where they are from and what neighborhood is what and authentic real estate agents will get into fisticuffs over it. Being a transplanted southern boy now living in the lowest part of the North’s denial, which it’s the same as the southeastern coast, I had to define again where I live and joined in on the fun. Technically we live in what was historically called Olde Richmond. It is now considered part of Fishtown (sigh of relief). So what is all this coming to? I can proudly stand up and say, “I have had a connection to my current neighborhood all my life!” If you are, not quite a person of a certain age, are a person of a certain age, or progeny of said people you too have this cosmic connection.

I’ll start at the beginning and we'll work our way to the cosmic connection by the end of the week.
My first stop was the music club The Barbary has been around since 1969 and is up for a nomination into the historical preservation society. Their page=

That Music Venue that is so cool it is almost historical, but would never claim outright that it is because that - would be uncool.

According to wiki-travel it is “Hipster Heaven.” I can’t find any information about its importance to music except that it’s been around for a while. Someone let me know about that one please. Its name is interesting in context of the city considering this: the USS Philadelphia was lit aflame by its own people in the first Barbary war.

I will be posting a new Philadelphia 19125 painting every day over the next 5 days. You can purchase them off of my etsy site for $60.00 eachHERE. These paintings are mounted onto 6"x8" frames. Hey, even figure painters need to paint landscapes. After these it is on to the Child Ballad work,!/pages/The-Child-Ballads-Show/127757983923416?ref=mf .

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

With a Heave and a Ho!

Yorikiri! (yorikiri!) Yorikiri! (yorikiri!) Its a "frontal force out"! The losing opponent is forced out of the ring by wedgie. For the winning move to be a yorikiri the winner must keep his hands on the other fighters "mawashi". Mawashi are the sumo wrestler's "belt" which is a single piece of fabric about 30 feet long and 2 feet wide weighing about 8 lbs. They will actually tie it dependent on their wrestling tactics, leaving it loose so its hard for their opponent to use the yorikiri move or tighter and splash water on it to avoid it being gripped.

It seems that the Japanese culture has a penchant for folding things... metal for swords, mawashi, kimono belts, origami paper... at least most things people associate with traditional Japanese culture. Specific ways of folding things that seem to become ritualized object transformation. Most cultures have transformative beings in their folk-lore... its an interesting and beautiful thing that is metamorphosis. Thinking about it makes me want to buy some tad-poles. Topologically speaking, I suppose if it can revert back to its former state than it hasn't changed but we're only seeing it at different angles. Isn't that what we seek from sports? Transformations? To be turned into a winner? To show off a different angle, to change our psyche? Its all something that leads to a better understanding of ourselves, even if we can't verbalize what it is. Side notes abound. The Wrestler in the right panel is Baruto. He is originally from Estonia and is one of my favorite wrestlers to watch. You can read his bio HERE. He is considered to be a true sportsman within the Sumo world. He is ranked as an Ozeki, which is 2nd ranking only to Yokozuna. If you are interested in any paintings from this series please visit my Etsy site here. I'll be letting some prints into the wild and writing about some local landscape paintings I finished a little while ago. What!? I thought this was a figure painter's blog... WTH.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Cold War is Over! Let the Battle Begin!

After the initial psychological/cold war tactics ritual the wrestlers engage! Its the Tachi-ai, the initial clash of the titan-esque men in the left panel. The wrestlers are vieing for a hold to unbalance each other. Any move to give them an edge. Well almost any move. Although Sumo is the most ritualized of the Japanese martial arts it still has 70 acceptable or legal moves to choose from. That is quite a few for any combat sport! The Panel on the right depicts an attempt at an Kotehineri, or an arm-bar twist down. A typical Sumo match will last under a minute but can go for up to 4 until a break is called. There are very few ties or draws, the last one being in 1974. To find out how the match finishes come back in a few days. To purchase these 2 panels visit HERE.

If you are interested in a full list of the Sumo Techniques please visit this site.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Face Off

Dealing with this small series of paintings I can not avoid the subject of Manga. A guilty pleasure in my adulthood, comics were one of the biggest draws into art for me in my childhood. My first job was working at a comic book shop. I could go on about the unparalleled experience of awe standing in front of a heroic painting that transcends itself and time but I will leave that for another post. I feel my own hesitance to delve into the subject as its a perceived lowly status pervades the idea of bad undergraduate art. Granted it was college age kids in the 80's and 90's who provided a market for Anime which led to Manga's translation in the English language. Manga, the word for Japanese comics, translates to "whimsical pictures". Its permeating influence in the Japanese culture is unrivaled to what we think of comic books in the U.S. Manga should really be viewed as literature suspended in graphics, as its subject matter ranges the gamut of traditional literature. As its influence becomes more embedded in western culture I am sure more people than I can draw connections to Ukiyo-e's influence upon the impressionists. One of Japan's biggest export, like the U.S., is its culture. As Manga is a proletariat /blue color art form I've tried to bring its accesability into these small paintings through the universal recognition of origami paper and their more than affordable prices for a one of a kind artwork. While looking at these images it is important to remember that each panel is 4"x5". As an artist I use these as a toehold to understand a little more of my wife's culture. The thing about visiting other cultures and lands is that you tend to learn more about your own. If you are interested in this painting please visit HERE.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rokurokubi Spectators

The Horror! The Horror! Always wanting to keep some humor in my works I've introduced 2 Rokurokubi yokai into the sequence of paintings. As the sumo wrestlers perform the cleansing of the ring and driving out of evil spirits these monsters zoom in from the nosebleed section to get a better view of the commotion. Rokurokubi are japanese folk-lore monsters that appear human, and at times try to blend in as such, but have a tugging urge to elongate their necks in attempts to mostly scare humans. Some can be sinister hunting men and drinking their blood. Others try to blend in or don't even know that they are yokai (monsters) and their necks elongate while they sleep as they have odd dreams from interesting viewpoints. Some variations of the Rokurokubi claim that they became yokai as going against the Buddhist path. I imagine it was originaly a variation of "If you keep making faces it's going to stay that way!" But wait, why am I bringing a Buddhism influenced monster to a Shinto sport/ritual? Because, Japan is like a tossed salad of Buddhism and Shintoism. Described to me as: Shinto in life and Buddhist in Death. Traditionally Japanese ghost stories are only told in the hot months of summer when the chill that runs down your spine cools you from the heat. This pair I think is only wanting to get a better view. They may think about eating the loser, I just don't know. You can find these paintings listed on Etsy HERE.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mounting the Dohyo

Continuing the dainty daily sumo paintings... a little more history about the match preparation paraphrased from wikipedia, "On mounting the dohyō, which takes its name from the straw rice bag which mark out different parts the ring, the wrestler performs a number of rituals derived from Shinto practice. Facing the audience, he claps his hands and then performs the leg-stomping shiko exercise to drive evil spirits from the dohyō as the "Gyōji, or referee, who will coordinate the bout announces the wrestlers' names. Stepping out of the ring into their corners, each wrestler is given a ladle full of water, the chikara-mizu ("power water"), with which he rinses out his mouth; and a paper tissue, the chikara-gami ("power paper"), to dry his lips. Then both step back into the ring, squat facing each other, clap their hands, then spread them wide (traditionally to show they have no weapons). Returning to their corners, they each pick up a handful of salt which they toss onto the ring to purify it."
The literal translations of power water and power paper remind me of my early child hood. Running around the woods making forts and popping sweet-tarts claiming they were power-pellets when we needed the extra strength to move a tree or quickness to catch a crawdad. It was ritual to flick them into one's mouth, flex the guns, and if something needed stomping to stomp it. I'm sure it was all due to some strange Pac-man/G.I. Joe/M.A.S.K./He-Man influenced sugar high. Early sumo was a rough-and-tumble affair combining elements of boxing and wrestling with few or no holds barred. I'm sure they would have liked some power-pellets to go along with the water and paper. Especially since there are no weight classes. A wrestler can easily find himself up against an opponent twice his size.
Looking back at some of my favorite paintings made by George Bellows of the Ashcan school, (early enough in the 20th century that New York artists would come to Philadelphia for inspiration) I can see how the physicality and meat-like quality of the pugilists spill into their opponents.
While I enjoy these grisly paintings and have tried to retain some of the "weight" of the opponents, the atmosphere in which I was brought to Sumo wrestling was not as bloody or seedy. Well maybe seedy in a different way. Insinuating how we think of origami and painting these larger than life men on floral origami paper I wanted to emphasize the ritual of the event and juxtapose their girth against an ostensibly fragile plant. Sumo, after all, did have its origins as a Shinto agricultural planting ritual in hopes of a bountiful season. The Sumo ring is topped by a "tsuriyane", or suspended roof, that resembles a Shinto shrine. This diptych is before the match as the dohyo is physically and spiritually cleaned. I have left the standing wrestler "floating" a little to further emphasize this part of the ritual as the wrestlers will become more grounded as they engage.

To purchase these paintings or look at others click HERE.
Next time the Evil Spirits will be driven away!?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another One for the Road

It seems that when everything fails and you keep on trying somebody should just lock you up. Avowing success another figure painter starts down a road of best intentions. What have I gotten myself into? Back from Japan for about a month now and I've decided to start keeping a blog on the works I've been working on from there as well as what they morph into, while hopefully lending some insight into what I'm doing and giving you the reader a chance at the artworks before I sell them in the city. The first series of paintings I've been working on are mix and match sumo diptychs. They are about 4"x5" and are acrylic painted on origami paper mounted on panel. The plan is after compiling 6 sets to issue a small number of related prints and handmade book. As I'm working on these they will lead into how I am approaching a gallery show in Baltimore this September. That will be a busy month of migrating around for sure, with another gig in Savannah. The Sumo paintings are loosely based on the recent matches in Osaka this past March. I've always been intrigued with idea of martial arts and the spiritual mystique of late night black belt theater on T.V. but to be honest I never was into Sumo that much. This changed as I found myself absorbed in watching the televised matches while I was in Japan. Watching over live broadcast I found the matches to be as unreal as those 2 a.m. kung-fu movies. They were, just beautiful. These 2 massive guys enter into a ring, sizing each other up, intimidating each other, slapping themselves like slabs of meat the butcher is showing off, and finally, with speed that is astonishing for these hefty men, they are battling/maneuvering/dancing their opponent by not just brute force but gravitational cunning and in some cases a great deal of grace. Sumo is like a judo match on steroids. As well as combat, sumo is associated with Shinto ritual, and some shrines carry out a ritual dance where a human is said to wrestle with a divine spirit. I've never seen this dance carried out but I choose to imagine it as a Sufi Dervish dance for now. It was also a court ritual called sumai no sechi, where representatives of each province were ordered to attend the contest and fight. On top of that they had to pay for their own way there. Sumo is only practiced officially in Japan but there are a considerable number of foreigners who participate. My favorite being !Baruto! who placed second last March with a 14-1 match record. The Panel on the left has already been sold in conjunction with what will be the last panel in this 12 painting series. Don't despair! There will be 10 more paintings along with a few related prints and a limited edition handmade book of the panels in sequence. To purchase the painting on the right its as easy as clicking HERE which will direct you to my Etsy page! See you in a day or two for the next part. So the beginning of the match starts:

Analytica Tracking: