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.
Analytica Tracking: