Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wassi-laying down the law: Kandinsky keeps it real.

Last night, me and my trusty copy of Wassily Kandinsky's Concering the Spiritual in Art sat down for margaritas and nachos at one of THE best cheap mexican places in New York, Noche Mexicana. While waiting for the best damn spicy chicken nachos I've ever had, I came across this jab at the art world from Mr. K:

"The artist seeks for material reward for his dexterity, his power of vision and experience. His purpose becomes the satisfactcion of vanity and greed. In place of the steady co-operation of artists is a scramble for good things. There are complaints of excessive competition, of over-production. Hatred, partisianship, cliques, jealousy, intrigues are the natural consequences of this aimless, materialist art."

You go, Wassily, you go. I picked up Kandinsky's book in the first place in hopes of it triggering some sort of higher thoughts about art, to remind myself there what it is I love behind all the dirty (Jeff) Koon-sian insider trading. Unfortunately, all it did was make me blog even more about the financial side art , this time saying, "Nah-Nah-Nah-Nah, I've got Wassily Kandinsky on my side!"

So, just for fun, let's discuss the career of Mr. Koons. Once a savvy Wall-Streeter, Jeff Koons realized that if he really wanted to make a killing should enter the least regulated, most speculative market of them all: art. He knew all the right people, had all the right connections, and before you knew it, Koons and Co. hatched a plan to make a killing. Jeff would make some "art," his rich friends would buy it, bid up the prices, make sure it ended up in all the right collections, and eventually the stuff would be worth millions and make them all filthy-stinkin-richer. It's actually a really good plan, one that I don't really have a problem with until we get to the part of the story where MUSEUMS display his art. Yes, the same institutions engraved with sayings like "Art still has truth, take comfort there," perpetuate and buy into all this because they need the money. All those rich Wall-Streeters buying up Koon's art also happen to be the people who keep the lights on at every major museum in the world, and thus museum leadership has to keep them all happy if they like keeping their jobs (and million+ dollar salary and benefit packages). Keeping your patrons happy includes displaying work by artists represented in their personal art collections, as major museum shows increase the value of an artist's work. So if a potential donor owns a Jeff Koons, and a museum director wants to butter him/her up, all the director has to do is display a Koons sculpture/painting/masterbatory artifact. The donor's collection increases in value, he/she donates money to the museum and everybody wins. Everybody, that is, except the taxpayers, museum visitors, students of the arts, and young artists making work that actually has heart.

Monday, April 27, 2009

i can has found art? LOL cats, motivational posters, and fail videos.

Marcel Duchamp, eat your heart out: you may have started the movement of found art, but it has been perfected by generation y techies. Instead of signing a pseudonym on a urinal, it's become all the rage in this day and age to write a funny caption on a picture someone else took.  When it comes to found art, the internet has provided a never-ending stream of creativity and hilarity.  It seems like almost every week I find a new blog that's just so funny, I add it to my daily blog-check. (Current favorites include,, and  And those are only the still images--video art on the internet has experienced a similar boom/democratization.  The line between YouTube video and video art becomes less and less clear everyday because of videos from "LonelyGirl15" and that guy who took a picture of himself everyday for 40 years, and my number one favorite "Benny Lava."

So the question here is this: if Joseph Kosuth can stick a chair, a picture of a chair, and the definition of "chair" on a gallery wall, then shouldn't the captioning of cat pictures by a fat, lonely star-wars fans be considered art?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Native Americans and Cute Animals: Bev Doolittle Paintings and Lithographs

While Christian Lassen will always have a special place in my heart as my favorite "Bad-with-a-capital-B" artist, the work of fellow flat-footed over-earnest kitsch artist Bev Doolittle certainly gives Lassen run for his money. Ms. Doolittle, much like the ubiquitous doctor with the same last name, speaks for the animals (mostly the cute ones) through her paintings-cum-lithographs.

Enjoy the kistch at:
While you're at it, enjoy more cute animals: SLOW LORIS VIDEO

What's in a name? Just ask Mr. Will Treelighter.

When you live in New York, you see a lot of unusual things; things that always solicit the same response from head-shaking passers-by: "only in New York." And yes, there are a lot of things that you won't see anywhere else in the world--the ashy transvestite crackhead pushing a stroller full of trash while plucking his beard with tweezers that I stood next to on the train the other day is indeed a pretty unique phenomenon. But New Yorkers don't seem to realize that you can witness unusual things everywhere, and that sometimes those experiences are a lot more more meaningful and transformative than having a strung-out homeless man ruin your dinner by screaming "PORKCHOP TO THE RIVER" in your face (yes, also a true story).

So let's talk about just this kin of thing, and experience that I'll label "only in Missouri." One night, while driving around Columbia, Missouri, home of the University of Missouri, I was literally punched in the face by one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen. A thing, I would learn, called 'The Magic Tree.' Pictured above, the Magic Tree is the work of artist Will Treelighter. The photos are lovely, but the tree in-person is unbelievably gorgeous. And that's really all I can say about it. It's so beautiful in fact, I frankly don't even care to know if "Treelighter" is his real name. That kind of question just doesn't seem to matter.

Will himself discusses on his website (linked below) the spiritual and religious implications of his work. He is earnestly trying to make something beautiful and touching, something made from just christmas lights and a tree which becomes so much more. 2008's tree had 75,000 lights and costs $10 to light for one night--about 8 hours worth. Mr. Treelighter accepts donations from those who visit the tree, and he puts these towards the cost of lights and electricity, and donates to charity. It's a wonderful public art project that has grown over time to the amazing feat of creativity and electric light it is today.

Move over Dan Flavin, there's a new light artist in town. Check it:

Friday, April 24, 2009

When Your Easter Bunny Eats Pierogi...

...then you might get these little gems scattered on your lawn and flower beds. Ukrainian pysanka are pretty spectacular. Making them involves blowing out your eggs (stop giggling), waxing, and many dye jobs. Sounds like a productive weekend, right? Well, you would be lucky to get one of these guys done in under 100 hours, assuming you have the skill and practice to do it in the first place. It is interesting that these pysanka are on the fine line between craft and art. Sure, they are a decorative craft, but there is the potential for so much artistry to go into them. As such, they demand high prices and can be found in museums, though mostly ones devoted to traditional, cultural art. I think these little beauties could easily make the jump to fine art if some contemporary artist decided to incorporate them in a more conceptual installation at a museum or gallery. Any takers? provided this pysanka image.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Kind of Voodoo Do You Do? Haitian Voodoo flags

Before painter/glitter king/dung decorator extraodinaire Chris Ofili was pissing off Mayor Giuliani, the folk artists of Haiti were sticking sequins on the faces of saints for centuries.  Voodoo flags (aka "vodou flags") are the best known of the Haitian arts and have grown increasingly more popular in recent decades.  Originally created to be used in religious ceremonies, the flags are now mostly made for decorative purposes.  Frequently depicting mermaid goddesses (Sirene), Catholic saints, and a cast of other unusual folk and religious characters, these flags are unbelievably cool.  Check out the guy above who has FUCKING SNAKES coming out of his mouth and ass.  Sexy topless mermaids? Jesus made out of sequins? Snakes out the butt?  No, you haven't died and gone to hipster heaven (if you had, there would certainly be more ironic moustaches/beards), you're looking at some real hand-beaded historically significant shit right now.  So drink it up before Urban Outfitters starts selling them and they become passe and made in China.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Intercourse with a Vampire: bloodsucking monsters, feminism, and the arts.

Is it just me or does everyone and their mom want to sleep with a vampire now? And by everyone, I mean adolescent girls. Seriously, I am not sure if I am pleased, puzzled, or disturbed by the number of renderings I have seen floating out there, generated by these young ladies, of men with emo hair, unbuttoned, ruffly shirts, and blood dripping out of their cherry mouths and a 5 o'clock shadow. Though the Twilight phenomenon is only very recent, there idea of the male vampire is (in the grand scheme of art history) a relatively new idea in art, and did not even exist before John Polidori's 1819 story The Vampyre. Up until the about 1900, you are hard pressed to find a representation of a vampire in art that is not female as vampire-like attributes historically came from ancient female demons. No, it is not a modern concept that women suck the life out of men (the jerk-faces had it coming.....), but it is one propogated by Freud and others of his ilk who offered up the theory that vampires represent sexual desires. So female vampires in art can be pegged as the fantasies of all those dirty-old-man-artists-- and that's an explanation I am willing to buy. I mean who hasn't had to defend the sexual proclivities of this nature--"I just couldn't help it....I was all out of garlic and crosses..... and he was hottttttt."

Anyway, the fabulous above plate is The Vampire by Philip Burne-Jones. I could post you a more contemporary piece--a lovely little sketch from one of those 13 year olds--but that would be cruel to both them and to art.

THIS JUST IN:;_ylt=A0WTcY_2FPJJAJYAFgaKxQt.;_ylv=3?qid=20090424095736AAGBoYy (and check out answer number 9.... I believe that is attempted murder)

PURRRRformance Art: The Acro Cats/Rock Cats

A special thanks today to the one and only Jennafer Wells of St. Louis who turned me on to the latest and greatest new thing in performance art, the Acro Cats/Rock Cats, a live show featuring the athletic and musical feats of trained housecats.

Sadly, I myself have not had the opportunity to enjoy this amazing experience, but the reports I hear from reliable sources say it not to be missed. On the web at:

Webcomics That Rule: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

Series Title: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
Author/Artist: Zach Weiner
Representational: Yes
Narrative: No
Sequential: No
Safe For Work: No
Output: Several times a week
Summary in three words: one-shot, spastic, crass

I mean, there isn't much else to say. Most of Weiner's comics are either just one or two poorly drawn panels, with an obtuse and delightful humor. They mostly provide commentary on science, the arts, and pop culture. SMBC will fulfill your every time-wasting need... quickly and easily digested, really funny, and contained in a big fat archive.

Webcomics That Rule: Pictures For Sad Children

Series Title: Pictures For Sad ChildrenAuthor/Artist: John Campbell
Representational: Yes
Narrative: On occasion (some recurring characters)
Sequential: On occasion
Safe For Work: No
Output: Several times a week
Summary in three words: simple, depressing, genius

This may be my very favorite webcomic. It takes only a few strips before you understand John Campbell's "unrendered" technique, which is perhaps more of a code of drawing than a style. How a comic could be so utterly simple in aesthetics and so economical in dialogue and still manage to be funny is nothing short of amazing. It has everything to do with timing, and Campbell can "write" timing like nobody's business. This is one of a handful of webcomics which will actually produce an involuntary lol, and then you'll be like, "god I'm on the internet and I really lolled, I have to text somebody."

Webcomics That Rule: Garfield Minus Garfield

Series Title: Garfield Minus Garfield
Author/Artist: Dan Walsh, appropriated from artwork by Jim Davis
Representational: Yes
Narrative: No
Sequential: No
Safe For Work: Yes
Output: About four times a week
Summary in three words: Existential, Depressing, Fuckinghilarious

Dan Walsh takes original three-paneled Garfield strips, and removes Garfield and Odie. What is left behind is Jon Arbuckle, Garfield's owner/foil. This, however, is not the same Jon Arbuckle you remember from your childhood, which we can assume was robbed from you every Saturday morning by the evils of television. This Mr. Arbuckle is an agoraphobe, a schizo, and very much a loser, alone in a world that he populates with his own echoing musings. Who knew that this amazing material was lurking in the pages behind the infamous Mr. "I can haz lasagna?"

What a Way to Go: Allie's favorite painting EVER

At left you will see my favorite painting ever, entitled The Roses of Heliogabalus by painted by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (lifted from wiki). Hands down, this is my work of all time (and I do not think that I will ever have another favorite unless someone makes the same painting, but with Hugh Jackman's face in place of the emperor's.... and then gives the painting to me).

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema is one of those painters who is detestably good from a technical perspective and clearly knew it, for why else would he have taken on this painting (which I consider to be an ultimate 'I rock, you suck' statement)? Let me state that this thing is freaking huge and every flower, hair, and chunk of marble is perfectly articulated. The scene is taken from the life of Roman emperor Heliogabalus, better known as Elagabalus. He was crazy (weren't they all?) and one evening he invited all his enemies to a shindig at his place, where the banquet hall had a cloth ceiling which was dropped to crush his guests under tons and tons of flowers. Unlike Tadema's rendition, the flowers are supposed to be violets (I am ashamed to admit that I am familiar with Augustan History). Personally, I think the blushing buds look better compositionally than a ginormous clump of purple, so I have accepted this edit. I still hate him, though.... stupid people with genius.

Phaidon has a great book out on him; check it out at your local library or book haus.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The artworld dealt it, and "How's My Dealing" smelt it

Remember the last time you went to an art show and thought, 'Ugh. Who'd this artist sleep with to get this crap up on these walls?'  Well, now you can actually find out thanks to the New York artworld's most shameless and yet simultaneously truth-revealing blog.  Probably the most ubiquitous website for young artists and arts professionals in New York after, 'How's my Dealing' brings home real talk and juicy gossip straight from the keyboards of the people who have actually seen and heard all our favorite gallery gods from "Scene and Herd."  One can only hope such a site will keep the 'unregulated securites market' that is the artworld a little more honest...but I for one am not going to hold my breath.

The gallerina's guilty pleasure:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Now kids, if you aren't good, I'll subject you to scary scary photography

Alright, so it isn't fine art but you could totally see this up at the Whitney, right?
Our tale starts by remembering back to your Elementary school days.... do you remember studying Mexico? Do you remember how Mexico City is built on a swamp (remember the eagle on a rock in the swamp with the snake, thing? and then the Aztecs... anyone, anyone, Bueller?)? OK, so Mexico City is still on a swamp. Just outside the city are a series of islands connected to the rest of the metropolis by canals and other watery goodness. One of these islands is simply referred to as 'Island of the Dolls.' Years ago, a young girl drowned in the water and so one man started hanging up dolls to appease/comfort her spirit. Thus, the nightmare pictured above (from trazzler). for more bad dreams:

Brazilian Bombshell Amaro Francisco

Maybe it was the Brazilian friend-of-a-friend who melted down while being my houseguest recently. Maybe it was the Brazilian model who visited my office not long ago. Maybe it was all those idiots on facebook asking me to "prevent the 'artistic' death of an animal" in Rio. Maybe it was my recent viewing of the fine film "Cannibal Holocaust." Whatever spurred my desire to blog about Brazilian art really doesn't matter once you look at the gorgeous print above by renowned Brazilian folk artist Amaro Francisco. (Yes, I have one of these babies hanging in my living room and I admire on the daily).

One of my favorite folk artists, Francisco's prints are widely available, totally cool, and reasonably priced. A little bit of an outsider/folk/naive art lover myself, I love that such work remains prized more for its beauty more so than for its value as an investment (for the most part, anyway). So keep an eye open for an upcoming series of posts about outsider and folk art. And while you're waiting, check out, where I purchased my Amaro Francisco print.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Behind the Velvet Rope: Sad Clowns and Stoner Art

In Portland, Oregon there is a magical place, a museum devoted to the wonderment which is velvet painting: Velveteria. If you have ever had a transcendent experience in front of a sequin covered dress, then you are emotionally prepared for the visit.

Painting on velvet has a long and glorious history. Velvet, traditionally made from silk, gives paintings and pigment a colored, textured ground that allows for heavy applications of paints/pastels with maintaining an uncanny vibrancy to the colors. This brilliance is most pronounced in the black velvet paintings, which combines the color dynamics of Caravaggio and traditional Chinese ink painting on silk. Personally, I like working on velvet; I have only done it a few times because it can get pretty pricey, but it really does accentuate nice paints with good pigments and refined mediums. The black background gives you instant dark and middle tones when you add just a little bit of saturated pigment. Thus, the surface lends itself to fast, decorative painting techniques.

In the 1930's-1950's a man named Edgar Leetag reinvented the genre, and this is where velvet painting intersects with modern American culture. In a Gauguin-like fashion, he moved to the tropics and painted the island women. Fortunately, this corresponded to the island/tiki craze in the US, and he was destined for greatness. I do not, however, think that he ever painted sad clowns. I don't know how that trend started, but if anyone has any information, I would LOVE to hear about it.

Velveteria, where this clown pic is from:

For more on our friend Eddie:

You've got to know when to hold 'em: Dogs Playing Poker

While killing time people-watching at the mall a few days ago, I was drawn to the siren call of an "art-by-the-yard" kiosk. You know you're looking at a quality piece of art when the price tag is taped to the surface of the painting...

While all the available work was lovely, there was one clear winner: Dogs playing cards. While the paintings may not have been 'well executed,' that black lab had eyes that gazed into my soul and these dogs started me thinking (after all, I make references to 'dogs playing cards' pretty frequently in painting conversations as they have almost the mystique of sad clowns): where did this (im)famous genre come from?

Enter wikipedia: In 1903, a series of playing dogs, 16 pieces to be exact, were commissioned from a Mister C. M. Coolidge for the advertisement of cigars. I think we all remember how effective fuzzy mammals are at selling smoking goods to all age groups. While not many view these paintings and want a cigar, we all can appreciate winsome approachability of these mutts. It has the same pleasing qualities of seeing a guy getting hit in the groin: always entertaining. Frankly, the paintings aren't all that bad from a technical standpoint. The lovely piece pictured above is His Station and Four Aces (picture taken from the 'dogs playing poker' wiki entry.)

For more dog immersion:

One of Rose's favorite paintings EVER

Claude Monet's 1879 painting of his dying wife, Camille, breaks my heart every time I see it. It is so much darker and more raw and less pretty than the Monet one usually thinks of.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Breathing friendly: Tom Friedman and Listerine

Not long ago, while reading Freakonomics (like any good University of Chicago alumn), I learned of the marketing genius behind THE mouthwash brand Listerine. Originally a surgical antiseptic, Listerine was also sold as a cleaning product and an STD cure before becoming the mouthwash we all know and dread spending those burning 30 seconds with today. The point popular non-fiction and New York Times bloggers Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner make about this fine minty product is that once it decided to become a mouthwash, Listerine invented bad breath in order to cure it. Before Listerine, people didn't worry about halitosis, but since its rise to prominence, we can't seem to worry about it enough.

But what does this all have to do with art? Enter alumn of Washington University in St Louis (my other alma mater), artist Tom Friedman, the flowing-locked fellow seen above smearing toothpaste on the wall of the Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. One of my all time favorite museum shows, The Kemper Art Museum's Pure Invention in 2006 featured a whimsical mix of Freidman's humorous, serious, and unusual installations including Untitled [Toothpaste on Wall], 1989. The swirly turquiose "painting" was like a mintier Yves Klein work; a beautifully handled square of blue whose minty scent was the only clue to its material content. It remains the only time in my memory I've stood in a museum and had the smell of a work bring it an entirely different meaning.

So what have we learned today? With enough creativity and branding, floor cleaner can become mouthwash, while toothpaste can become high art. Way to make Washington University's Art School look good, Tom. All the starving artists out there who graduated from WUSTL before and since your matriculation appreciate it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A trip down memory lane. And more livestock art.

Let me take you all back to the middle of my undergraduate painting career.  We were having a 'pizza lunch,' during the one year of my educational career that the WashU painting department's allotment/found/stolen money provided for food whilst broadening our horizons (I have never cared so much about art).  Anyway, one afternoon, our guest speaker was artist and UC Berkeley professor Squeak Carnwath, who was visiting Washington University in St. Louis while doing a series of prints with the Island Press.  There were such memorable quotes as "I paint like Rembrandt," but the best comment of all was as follows: "Painting is queen of the arts, and art is a matriarchal family.  Sculpture is just something you trip over."

So I'm sure you can imagine my shock when I found the image above of a Carnwath SCULPTURE! Though I do not have feelings as strong as Squeak's about the ranking of artistic mediums, I would rather not paint Tuscan bistros (OK, I have done it for money....but whatever.... I like staying on prescription medication). So are we all going to eat our words at some point? Is this a sign of the times for the contemporary artist? Did Rembrandt also have to make a sculptural cow for his patrons to pay for rent during a recession? For more of her work:

An Oldie, but a Goodie: Ad Reinhardt calls your ass out.

Moooove over horses: More Livestock in Wigs

Since livestock and other unusual bodies in wigs appears to have become the new theme of this blog, I give you At left, you see a lovely photo of a cow in disguise (a saucy little blonde wig) underneath what appears to be a flying saucer--just one of many gems to be found at the site dedicated to eliminating alien abductions of cows.

I would love to see some sort of exhibition or documentary be the culmination of this site's research. It's got all the right ingredients to one day become a cult favorite: internet exposure, conspiracy-theory espousing rednecks, and animals in costumes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pass me the Cool Whip: A Jello Installation

OK, I can't make this photo any bigger because it will BLOW YOUR MIND. Yes.... it is JELL-O. This stunning beauty is by Liz Hicock. She does many buildings and installations, all from that staple of picnics and church socials. This photograph documents the cityscape of San Francisco, and I must say, the city has never looked so delicious. Actually, if you squint at the picture, it does that magic-eye thing, and you can kinda see a smiley face with angry eyes. Or is that a repressed, childhood memory?
For more glorious wiggles:

This Guy. I'd probably pose nude for him.

While clicking around on, I came across this guy. AMAZING. I love everything about this website! And just check him out on the index page bein' all casual and relaxed in his goddamn socks!
Hemant Bhavsar:

Wigging out in Response to horse photography...

Number one: Daren Rabinovitch.
Aside from his photography, Rabinovitch is also one of the three members of Encyclopedia Pictura, a directorial triumvirate under the employ of Ghost Robot production studios. Encylopedia Pictura is responsible for Bjork's "Wanderlust" music video. Wait, what? YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT?! Get the popcorn and the doobies, this is some bizarre-ass cinematography. You can even opt to watch it in 3-D, provided you have 3-D glasses. Would you expect anything less from Bjork
Ghost Robot:

Number two: Julie Jackson, crazy cat lady and... fiber artist?

So You Think You Might Like: Teaching Art

Melissa Harris is an artist and musician residing in Chicago. She holds a BFA in Art Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Though previously known colloquially as “M. Fucking Harris,” “Puddin” and “the Predator,” she now goes by “Miss Harris” at a local middle school and is in charge of a few dozen human spawn.

F***ART: What made you decide to teach at the elementary level?
MH: Well, first of all, I do not teach elementary children. Although, they are probably much kinder than middle school children. Anyway, I never really decided to be a teacher, it kind of just decided itself for me. I remember being afraid and confused, long ago in my college days, and one day I found myself sitting in front of the head of the Art Education department lying about how much I loved children. I wasn't even accepted into the Art Education department during freshman portfolio week. I just marched myself blindly into the office and started talking. After that happened I just went to the classes that were required of me and eventually graduated. Having survived teaching on Saturday mornings at 8 a.m., I decided I might actually be able to make it through - one week at a time - the act of teaching a class. As the days go by, I sometimes really enjoy teaching and sometimes I can't stand certain students, and yes, I feel the guilt and the joy!

F***ART: How much creative control do you have over your lesson plans or learning objectives?
MH: I can pretty much do whatever I would like to do. I can say whatever I would like to say. I can teach the children in a biased and leftist manner, too.

F***ART: How would you rate the art education department at UIUC, as compared with other programs?
MH: Well, I thought it was alright. I couldn't stand a few professors...namely Lori Hardy. She used to choke on her spit and stutter. Also, she never had good advice and seemed like an old spinster. I did like Olga because she was Russian and said “comics” in a funny accent. Overall, I thought the program was alright, but it could have definitely been more focused on projects geared for middle to high school level students and classroom management techniques. I heard through the grapevine (UIUC professors) that UIC has a better Art Education program.

F***ART: What advice do you have for those aspiring to teach art?
MH: I'm not sure. I would advise those interested in teaching art to consider the state of the economy and the fact that many schools are cutting their art and music programs. On a more positive note, it is very rewarding when you teach something that the students really get and enjoy! Yay!

F***ART: What other kinds of jobs can be had by someone with your training?
MH: Someone with my scope of knowledge and experience can find many jobs! They can work at a Park District, in a children's museum gift store, in a grocery store, as a cashier, at a candy store (I did!), in a bowling alley, as a retail clerk or server, in a number of different offices as a temp or secretary, as a musician, or at a Michael's Arts and Crafts store!

F***ART: Please tell our avid readers (all three of them) about the kid who did a video project on manatees.
MH: It's hard to explain how one person can be so annoying, but I will try. Maybe I can just send you a link to the video! It is so bad that it might kill brain cells, though. Let me just say that this student thought manatees were overcrowding the oceans and that global warming was as real as evolution (if the Earth really did exist for only 6,000 years).

F***ART: Anything else to add?
MH: In all honesty, it can be the good life. Truly the good life.

One of these Vermeers is not like the other...

I've been saying this for years and no one has listened, but I AM A TOTAL TRENDSETTER. 10 years ago who was reading books and doing school projects on the greatest art forger of all time? Oh, that would be me. Now, all of a sudden, the tale of wartime intrigue and deciet surrounding the life and work of master forger Han Van Meegeren is hot news. Two books on the subject have recently hit the shelves, and rumor has it that a film on Van Meegeren will premiere sometime in 2009.

I recently picked up one of these books, Jonathan Lopez's The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren, which helped me pass the time on several tedius subway commutes. The book is pretty quick and easy read, I'd call it a 'popular art history book' (like a 'popular science book.' Look at me! I'm setting another trend by coining a new term), a sort of "dumbed down" easy read with enough plot drama to keep any old reader turning the pages.

While the writing itself isn't anything write home about (or to write a 'popular art history book' about for that matter), The Man Who Made Vermeers offers a refreshingly factual look at the Van Meegeren forgeries. Lopez debunks popular myths about Van Meegeren, who is often called a 'dutch folk hero' or 'the man who fooled Goering,' and lays bare the facts about the forgers life, work, and political leanings. In the end, a very un-varnished portait emerges, and it's a rather ugly picture of a Nazi-sympathyzing, war-profiteering opportunist.

Also, if you can't tell which "Vermeer" is which in the side-by-side above, then you are dumb.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hey, I want a pony!!

Photographer Julian Wolkenstein has some interesting pictures, mostly urban landscapes. Something magical must have been slipped into his orange juice (besides the usual additives so adored by artists and other crack whores) to inspire a series of photographs with hair styled fillies. One particularly brilliant picture features a stunning black mare with Rick James-style, beaded braids. Still, I am a particular fan of this lovely lady named Florence. First of all, you all are looking at my hair style all through the 90's (really just like me; the only things missing are the blemishes and the surly facial expression). Additionally, it looks like a grisaille painting, or maybe something that came out of the English Regency period. Classy, yet lowest common denominator.



I think we all have heard the guy standing behind us in the museum saying, “my five year old could paint that,” or, if he is feeling particularly saucy, “my dog, Butterscotch, could paint that.” Tragically, if Butterscotch did paint that, it would probably sell for more than many most living artists will ever see. This is acceptable to my bruised psyche after persuading myself that Butterscotch is actually contemplating String Theory as she looks at me with those big eyes and so she really is expressing her genius in those paw prints and splatters of paint. That being said, I was not surprised to find that there is a museum dedicated to animal art (the Museum of Non-Primate Art). However, I was surprised to learn that there is a wing in that museum devoted to bird art. These pieces are not scratchings or seed strewn cement slabs, but rather they are fecal masterpieces. In a crossbreed of Jackson Pollock, de Saint Phalle, and a Spin Art activity center, these preserved piles of excrement apparently demand high prices. I am not sure if I find this funny, inspiring, or depressing (about how I feel when I open an issue of Modern Painters, anyway). I guess it is an ultimate time lapse piece to frame one’s windshield after a coast to coast road trip, with every bug splat and bird leaving boldly stating, “OMG, car!!!” Still, did you know that there are criteria for judging a bird dropping? Each delightful pile can be reduced to basic topographical analysis with added points for irregular shapes and clustering. There is beauty and truth in that poo. It does make sense in a way; I mean, aren’t we at our most honest and raw moments at the loo? I think the take away message from all this is that before you flush it down…. take a closer look… what is that floating there… is that… is that…. GENIUS??

So You Think You Might Like: Cooking

Who the fuck do you think you are? All you want to do is eat cupcakes and experiment with truffle oil all day, and you think you can get paid for it? Actually, you can. Katie Olson graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana with a BA in Hospitality Management in 2008. She also has a black belt in bread making and a terminal degree in gorgeousness. You think I’m kidding? When Katie isn’t getting paid to cook in a five star hotel in Tokyo or an ashram in India, she’s getting paid to stand around auto conventions and warm people with her personal glow. So we interviewed her.

F***ART: What made you decide that food was your thing?

KO (also the abbreviation for Knock Out. Just sayin.): My endless interest in food and the desire to be able to make more than satisfying food for anyone and everyone! I also spent countless hours playing with simple ingredients and ending with different results. Food is a science and I love that aspect of it. I also love playing with the different elements of food such as color, texture, flavor, temperature and so on.

F***ART:Does the majority of your cooking skill come from training, or personal experimentation?

KO: Largely personal experimentation, though I must say a lot of my food knowledge has been either built or reinforced in professional kitchens.

F***ART: How much creative control does a chef have over her menu at a large enterprise, such as a hotel?

KO: Taking into consideration the target clientele, a chef can certainly be creative with their menu, within boundaries. For example, if I was working in a large kitchen that caters mostly to older generations it would be difficult to sell much outside of comfort foods of the past. However, if I was working in a new, trendy hotel there would be much more space for creativity with the menu. Unfortunately I find that very often the more creative I get with food, the more expensive it is, therefore potentially hindering my ability to write a menu that is out-of-this-world creative. Not to say that one cannot be creative and cheap. It happens, but to do so in a fine-dining atmosphere would be a challenge!

F***ART: Do you have a favorite ingredient or kitchen tool?

KO: I love black pepper and incorporate it into many foods because I find it often adds that little bit of extra flavor I’m looking for without stifling the natural flavors of the food I’m preparing. I love spices, however keeping it simple and natural is very important to me. If I had to pick two favorite kitchen tools it would be a knife and a food processor. There are so many ways to be creative with foods just using a knife! The food processor is just fantastic for cutting down the time it takes to prepare things such as creamy soups and sauces.

F***ART: How would you rate the hospitality department at UIUC, as compared with other programs?

KO: I have not witnessed the way many other schools have developed their hospitality program. I can say that the program at UIUC is small and intimate which can really help one develop relationships with peers and faculty. The program was very well-rounded, and being at a reputable university is another plus. There is not a whole lot of money given to the program, therefore as students we are responsible for working at fund-raisers and in the kitchens to raise money to keep our program alive. Thankfully some alumni from our program are successful and have donated a lot of money to provide a better working environment for the students. I think the department has a lot of room for development, though it is working hard and fast towards such goals.

F***ART: What advice do you have for those aspiring to cook professionally?

KO: Start from the bottom. If you have never washed dishes in a professional kitchen, do it now. You have to start somewhere and in this business, and that is the place. Work hard, be true to yourself and always remember that many chefs have very few social skills so don’t take them personally. Also, push to be well-rounded in the kitchen; mastering every position from dish pit to expo and sauté will greatly advance you as a person and a good chef.

F***ART: Anything else to add?

KO: Don’t be afraid to experiment. Also, you will learn much more in an uncomfortable environment than not. And Emily Stuart is my hero!

So You Think You Might Like: Glass Artistry

Interested in glass? Listen up. Julia Wolf is a glass artist residing in Chicago. She received her BFA as a glass major from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 2007. In college Julia kept a torch in the basement of our house after discovering a niche market for lampworking* among students. Happily she now has access to a more sophisticated clientele, and can make/sell whatever artful thing she desires. She can also do just about anything with ceramics and metals. Just don’t ask her to make you any trippy lampwork.* Julia's pieces may be seen at
(*I am of course using “lampwork” to mean “bongs.”)

F***ART: Was there a particular experience that made you want to work with glass?
JW: Well, I suppose I was always just drawn to glass. I started in Ceramics, and although I loved making the objects with my hands, I found the standard colors to be more subdued and muted. I saw how bright, shiny and even translucent glass was in comparison and was hooked. Usually when I am asked this question (about why I love glass) I always tell this story: My Grandmother has a set of Mexican made handblown glasses with bubbles and a blue rim at the top. When I was little I was drinking out of those glasses and told my Mom “ Some day I will make these!” My mom remembered that, and she thinks it’s really funny that I really do make those now…

F***ART: Do your pieces tend to be more decorative, or functional?
JW: I like to mix the two. First and foremost it has to be interesting to look at. If that passes the test then I like to make it functional. I think that’s why I like making jewelry. You can go with any crazy idea but when you throw a hook on there it becomes functional!

F***ART: Only in a glass studio will you hear professional talk such as, “She’s got serious skills when it comes to necking and blowing, but she’s clumsy with the glory hole.” What goes on in the hot shop, and is it sexy?
JW: I suppose you could call it sexy. It’s not like I’m turned on by my ‘blow partner’ telling me to blow harder. But it is a really hot and exotic material. I suppose that can make it sexy. People new to glass always say watching people in the hot shop is like watching a ballet, only instead of tutus and tights you see hot steel poles holding molten glass at the end. It really is like a dance. Everyone has to work together to make one object, moving throughout the room making sure not to bump into and subsequently burn the other people.

F***ART: How would you rate the glass department at UIUC, as compared with other programs?
JW:What UIUC glass program? *

F***ART: What kind of facilities and tools must an urban glass artist have at her disposal?
JW: Well I would recommend access to a studio where you can assist for your own blow time. Otherwise it gets really, really expensive. I personally like working on the torch because once you purchase that and the excess tools, and glass, and find a space in which to work, it’s much cheaper.

F***ART: What other kinds of jobs can be had by a glass-trained artist?
JW: I’m not sure. If you find any out please let me know!

F***ART: Anything else to add?
JW:Get a life Emily! Haha jk**

*Author’s note: the UIUC glass program was closed and the faculty disbanded in 2007, with Julia Wolf being the program’s omega graduate. The printmaking program was closed the previous year. Currently there is also talk of consolidating the sculpture and painting departments into one small “studio arts program” to make more funds available for the graphic and industrial design program. I’d call this a serious bullshit alert… shame on you, UIUC.
**Your mom, Jules!

The Young and the Debtless: Supporting yourself as an artist.

What's happening bishes. We're trying something new. Over the next week I'm going to publish several interviews with some fantastic young artists who are actually practicing their craft and making money. This is some really useful information for anyone, at any age, who finds themselves desirous of a stable artful lifestyle. By "artist" I mean anyone in the creative field, and we will be talking to everyone from costume designers to cooks. Listen to their wisdom, young jedis! Despite what people have led you to believe, there is in fact NO direct path between getting your degree and making those Damien Hirst figures. Perhaps I can find a prostitute to interview on that subject.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Slim Aarons + Leni Riefenstahl's love child: Photojournalism

On the front page of the New York times today, was this photo, shot in Pyongyang, North Korea at a celebration of the late leader Kim Il-sung. It reminded me of the work of society photographer Slim Aarons and also that of notorious Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl. An unusual combination of influences for a really beautiful photo. While I'm not usually a fan of the self-important masterbatory nonsense we like to call "photojournalism," this photo is one of a handful of exceptions. Maybe because it looks so much like a painting, and those of you who know me know I'm just a little partial to that particular medium.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Enter Sandman: Sleeping it off at the New Museum

"Sleeping is no mean art: for its sake one must stay awake all day." ~Friedrich Nietzsche.

In honor of Easter, let's talk about Jesus. The New Museum in New York recently opened a show entitled “The Generational: Younger Than Jesus” which features the work of artists under 33, the age at which a one Mr. Jesus H. Christ died for our sins roughly 2000 years ago, tomorrow. I have yet to see the the show, but at first glance, this sounds like an interesting idea. A little reading however, has turned my interest into bemusement as one of the show's centerpieces (discussed and pictured in the New York Times) is artist Chu Yun's "This is Lacy," 2006, an installation of a woman sleeping. Yes, that's it. A couple cute girls under 40 take turns hitting the Ambien and sleeping in the gallery.

This is exactly the kind of work that makes me feel conflicted. It's flashy and startling. Big important curators love it becuase it questions what the space of museum itself is really about and speaks to ideas about voyeurism. But at the same time is just a couple girls napping. It's an easy idea that makes most people feel stupid and resentful (our tax dollars at work, folks). It distances people from art, and frankly, I'm not really sure it speaks to our generation of young artists, who in my experience, seem to be more conservative and concious of "the masses" than their predecessors.


I mean, it's nothing new. I just thought I'd either remind you, or tell those who haven't spent pleasurable hours in the company of Christian Lassen's tropical website-soundscape-paradise, check it:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Comics, murder, and health insurance

Last night my boyfriend and I rented Mark Neveldine’s hopped-up, freaked-out action flick, Crank. It was almost completely awesome, but loses points for being nauseatingly sexist and stupid. That’s not my point.

There’s this scene where Jason Statham, a.k.a. “Chev Chelios,” is confessing his double life to his girlfriend, played by Amy Smart. Statham by the way looks like a sweaty, old, balding leprechaun, while Smart is blithe, young, and perhaps developmentally challenged. Sitting across from each other in a restaurant booth, you get the sense that Smart’s character would rather be home playing with her dolls and waiting to have her first period while Statham tries to explain to her that he is actually a hit man. It goes something like:

Statham: You don’t understand, sweetheart. I kill people.
Me: Ugh, what a loser! He’s a violent psychopath and he probably lied about having money, too. Dump that motherfucker, Amy.
Statham: I work as a gun for hire with a national crime syndicate.
Smart: Lalala, I love unicorns.

Me: Oh well, at least he does it professionally.

That is my point. Self-obsessed fine artists are like serial killers, and designers are like professional hitmen. Which one would you rather know, personally? Which one is more likely to pay rent and have basic social skills? Which one is more likely to have health insurance bennies? No, designers/hitmen don’t get to select their clientele or their tasks. Yes, they have sold their souls a little bit (perhaps more than a little bit, for hitmen). But have some degree of creative control in what they do, and guess what? THEY GET PAID, SON!

In my time at art school, the design students were universally regarded as lame-os by we fine fArtists because they (supposedly) didn’t possess the creativity to produce completely independent works. This was certainly true of some, but not nearly all. For really reals, there is no shame in using your talent to make a few bones. And unsurprisingly, those artists/designers who illustrate other people’s ideas all day often make their own nipple-shrinklingly awesome artwork in the off hours. Students take heed, I tell you, it’s totally legit to get paid to do what you do well. You can still be creative on your own time. Shit, even Dexter has a day job, and nobody calls him a sellout.

<"I work for the MPD, but that's just to support my work until I get my big break."

Here are some folks who are designers AND artists. Is it a coincidence that they are all comic artists as well? Probably not. The typically guileless and explicit visual language of comics jells well with design and advertisement, which have no use for obscure narratives. This is not to say that comics don't possess ambiguity, rather, the ambiguity of a comic is made manifest through strong and compelling sequential visuals. Basically, they "show" and don't "tell," which is good if you're trying to weave a deeply complex story or sell a wristwatch.

James Jean

Danielle Corsetto

Adrian Tomine

Gary Panter

This list needs more diversity! I've only got one lady up there, and I think these folks are all American. Send your suggestions for ass-kicking designers.

Art World's Big Bad Boys Club look stupid. Again.

I went and saw Guest of Cindy Sherman this weekend to scratch the artworld catiness itch I'd been having. Filmed documentary-style by Ms. Sherman's former lover, Paul H-O, I expected the film to make the notoriously lime-light-avoider Cindy Sherman look like a phoney, but to my surprise and delight, Ms. Sherman was portrayed as a sweet, creative, beautiful, and kind artist. Paul films her working in her studio where she pensively and unfussily dresses and makes herself up, sitting on the floor surrounded by brushes, wigs, and dresses, almost like a child playing dress-up. Even as the relationship between Paul and Cindy sours, she maintains her appeal while Paul looks like a whiner whose ego can't handle having a girlfriend who outscores him in terms of money, fame, and power.

Not everyone in the artworld, however, walks away unscathed. The always easy-to-hate Julian Schnabel behaves like a beastly egomanic, chastizing the documentarians who dare make light of the gallery scene, in particular, one of Mr. Schnabel's solo shows. Later in the film, Eric Fishl proves to be similarly boorish, discussing the career of his wife, less renouned artist April Gornik, and admitting that if her career had outshined his, he would have not been able to stay with her. The big, maturbatory paitings of the so called bad-boys of the '80s become the butt of videographer's Paul H-O's jokes. Unfortunately, those bad-boys let their egos get in the way of the jokes just rolling off; by getting immediately defensive and returning good-hearted jabs with much harsher words, the "bad boys" appear afraid of being caught wearing the emperor's new clothes, or is it the emperor's new "broken plates?"

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I'll Curate Your Face: Yale Museum and Indian Art

So here's a photo from the New York Times about some "brilliant" exhibition of Indian Art at the Yale Museum of Art. I love this image because it exemplifies a number of things I HATE about museum curators.

First, lets examine the image hung ABOVE THEIR HEADS. Why on earth would you hand a picture that high? NEWSFLASH: No one can see something hung that high. Maybe if they back way the fuck up, they'll be able to get a general idea of what the piece is, but they'll never be able to see any detail. You can't look at this piece from multiple perspectives unless you're a goddamn ogre. This seems to be some sort of idiotic trend among museum curators, hanging a show at mostly eye-level and then having making it look like your art-handler suddenly left and you had to replace him with that actor from "My Giant." The whole point of putting a museum show together is so that people can come and SEE THEM.

Enough about that, let's discuss point #2: Back-lighting of walls meant for hanging art. When I was in art school, they built this brand-spanking-new building for undergrad studios. Though it was so nice to have a big new space to work in, we were constantly fighting a back-lighting problem. The studio was designed to let in light, as most art studios are, but the windows at the top of the walls were just too low. So when you hung art at certain times on certain walls, you couldn't see a thing because the light coming through the windows a few feet above was absolutely blinding. Here in this fancy-schmancy new Yale Museum, there appears to be a similar design. Back up from those walls to get a sense of the whole installation, and you will be blinded by the windows above (and also below). You end up with a dark shadowy wall. In fact, the original image from the Times was very dark, and I actually had to significantly lighten the photo above.

My rant here is not just about the design of a few buildings, but a complaint about museum curators everywhere. I am tired of walking into a museum and am feeling astounded by the ineptitude of the people laying out the shows. I used to work in a museum it always amazed me that spatial and traffic flow concerns seemed to be ignored in show layouts. Large paintings would be hung in narrow spaces so that you couldn't back up to see the entire work. Videos and time based works that required extended periods of stopping by visitors would be placed so as to completely block traffic flow. Power cords would be lying all over the place. It was just amazing how these art-history eggheads would spend so much time trying to dissect meaning that they would completely forget that people are going to be walking through this space trying to look at work.

I'm an intelligent and educated individual. I understand that curators are very knowledgeable and want to create meaning and push boundaries and do all sorts of other admirable things. But for god sakes people, no one cares how many Ph.D.'s you have if they can't see the show. How am i supposed to understand what you're trying to say if I can't even see the work? If I'm so frustrated because I'm bumping into people and being blinded by glare and distracted by a tangle of power cords, then your months of putting together some kind of meaning isn't even going to matter. People come to museums because they want to see things, and while I understand that sometimes challenging conventions and making the viewer do extra work is indeed a good thing, you have to throw us a bone. You may have had months to look at these artworks, but we only have a few hours and we want to actually see them while we can.

Welcome to F***ART

Welcome to F***ART, a blog about art and film where we call out all those things that need calling out. Comments? Questions? Wanna be a guest blogger? Shoot us an email at!