If everyone was nice the world would surely stop spinning. Why someone would go out of their way to send someone that they don’t know a nasty letter is just one of those things. It hardly makes sense. But if you wanted to delve deeply, to descend to those depths, you could probably come up with an explanation. But it would only make as much sense as, “That’s what makes the world go ’round.”
But to call that anonymous someone on it, to rub the letter in their face and capitalize on it, that advances the ball. Bleu Cease did just that when he posted the letter to Facebook and received hundreds of well-deserved, supportive responses. BuzzFeed picked the story. In a brilliant move Bleu took one of the anonymous letter writer’s own phrases, “Cool, Artsy, With It,” put it on a t-shirt and the gallery has sold nearly a hundred.
Everybody has experienced a variation of this story but they usually don’t have such a positive outcome. In 1969 I was jumped by three frat guys at Indiana University. I assume they they were fraternity brothers, they all had yellow Greek symbols on their jackets. The length of my hair triggered a “beat up the fag” response and after getting a few good punches in I was left knocked out, face down on the sidewalk with a broken nose, jaw and glasses.
When we saw Bleu on Friday I told him I wished it was a better slogan on the t-shirt. He said there were others in the letter that he might use down the line. Like, “What Makes You Tick?” “Nothing But A Freak,” “Going Down The Tubes” and my favorite, “Off The Main Steam.”
According to Rodney Taylor’s notes, his painting explores the June night in 1872 when Frederick Douglas returned to Rochester after learning his family farm on South Avenue had burnt down in a suspected arson. It is my favorite piece in the new show at RoCo, a show that explores “The Living Legacy of Frederick Douglass” on two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Rochester’s most important figure.
The 1899 statue of Douglas, the one that used to be in front of the New York Central Train Station on the corner of St. Paul Street and Central Avenue and is currently in Highland Park, was the first statue dedicated to an African American in the United States. Later this year it will be moved again to spot closer to his old house.
Writing in his newspaper, The North Star, Douglas said, “While Rochester is among the most liberal of northern cities it nevertheless has its share of that Ku Klux Klan spirit which makes anything owned by a colored man a little less respected and secure than when owned by a white citizen.
Taylors painting is shows what was left of the house. Nothing but the horror.
Peggi and I visited Rochester Contemporary last week so I could take some still photos of the art installation. While I was moving my tripod around the gallery Peggi took some movies with her iPhone. She edited them over the weekend and made this composite video. We added a soundtrack of our band, Margaret Explosion, two live songs that were recorded last week at the Little Theatre Café. The exhibition runs through November 10. I hope you can out and see it. If you can’t, I guess this video is the next best thing.
I did my second live Facebook event of the week on Saturday afternoon at RoCo. Wednesday’s Margaret Explosion stream from Ken Colombo’s phone was primarily for Bob in Chicago but Peggi and I watched it when got home from the gig. The two songs he caught, our first two with Phil Marshall on guitar, sounded pretty good. My Artist’s Talk did not. My voice is to meek to reach to back of the room where the camera was positioned. Peggi video it as well and she was sitting in the front row so I posted it here. One of the audience members mentioned he read my blog every morning so this post post goes out to him although, as I’ve noted before, I do this primarily for myself.
Bleu, RoCo’s curator, made the talk a breeze by asking me questions. Funny how the best questions are the ones that have no answers. By the end of the video Gary Pudup can be heard trying to bail me out by saying, “like Freud said, ‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.'” At which point I was fumbling for the Duchamp quote, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe,” but I could not come up with it until it was over.
After my talk we headed over to Visual Studies Workshop to see “Implement,” the sister Rochester Biennial show by ILLSA (Impractical Labor in Service of the Speculative Arts), an evolving publishing & public practice platform committed to investigating labor, time, and what we value. Co-founder, Emily Larned, gave her artist’s talk as we examined the show. The visuals take some explaining as they are intended to explore and expand the potential of the toolkit, inviting participants to consider and share what they deem to be essential tools for living.
At the end of the talk we participated by filling out a form where we answered three questions. “What is one of your essential tools for living? Why? Where do you find it? Peggi and I answered them all similarly. “Eyes, Ears.” “They enrich our life.” “In my head.”
I created a movie of my sources, some of them more than twenty years old. I used to hold the CrimeStopper page in hand, folded up to reveal just one of the mugshots, and work from that. I held the page with the thumb of my left hand, pressing it against my paint palette. At some point I started scanning the page and blowing up the small photos so I could print out the mugshots at a larger size. The photos didn’t get any better, just larger. For the past few years they have been putting the CrimeStopper page online so I download the pdf, crop the photos and print them out.
I don’t need all the CrimeStopper pages, I just paint and draw the same faces over and over, only refreshing the batch from time to time. I rounded up my collection of scans (blown up they have a golf ball sized dot pattern) and cropped photos from the pdf (no dot pattern but a rather limited resolution) and I put the jpegs into Keynote. I turned the images on their side and cropped them to the 16 by 9 wide format. RoCo will spin their wall mounted, large Sony monitor on its side and the movie I created from the slide show will go ’round and ’round in a dvd player mounted in the ceiling.
That monitor is mounted about four feet up, in the dark, on the inside of this round room (near the back of Rochester Contemporary). They painted the title wall near the entry and the round wall purple, the purple I got when I sampled my father’s Freddy Sue Bridge painting to do the postcard for Witness. Show opens this Friday 6-9pm.
I always found my sister’s Barbie dolls a little creepy. Far from cuddly. like my teddy bear, they were hard and pointy and a little too grown up and serious looking.
“In the Dollhouse,” by Dina Goldstein, currently on view at Rochester Contemporary, pretty much confirms my early impressions but her photo creations are thoroughly engaging as an indictment of the ideal couple. Goldstein “plays Barbie,” as my sister used to call it, with real people and she airbrushes on the obvivious doll features, the ones that allow the dolls to turn their heads 180 degrees. Goldstein says “In The Dollhouse” “offers a profound commentary on the transient nature of beauty, the difficulty of marriage and the importance of authenticity.”
Rochester Contemporary gets submissions from all corners of he world for their annual 6×6 show. Its their biggest fundraiser so why should they quit it? Not to mention that no one has come up with a better idea. We heard director, Bleu Cease, on the radio talking up the celebrity entrants and the mad scramble to purchase their work on opening day. We had a soccer game to watch that night we missed the affair but we did have a chance to preview the work.
If everybody knows that Philip Glass has something in the show, as he does every year, wouldn’t you think someone would be doing fake Philip Glass’s and submitting them? I mean the real Philip Glass’s only bring twenty bucks like every other piece. Supposedly the authorship is kept anonymous but some artists work is so distinctive you pick it out in a sea of thousands. And in my father’s case he signed his “Hot Dog Row” homage on the front. Would Philip Glass really submit a piece on section of musical score paper with the words “Einstein on the Beach” on it? His most famous piece? I’ve tried some different things over the years and went minimal/maximal this year. Next year I plan to do forgeries. As a fundraiser.
Bleu trapped us on the way out and solicited video responses to three questions. One was what was you favorite piece in the show? I tried to describe this fuzzy, furry, three dimensional piece (above). I can’t wait to hear/see that rambling reply.
Interesting to think about why the person or people that hung the 2013 Rochester Contemporary Members Show decided to put Dan McCormick’s photo next to my “Local Homeless Kid.” It sort of works.
The annual Members Show is always the best show they have at RoCo. The place was packed last night and it preempted First Friday. It will be packed again tonight. The news, announced last night, that RoCo has met 76 per cent of their five year fundraising goal (to pay for the building outright) in the first year of five was welcome. This is a healthy organization with a great staff and great members. Now we could use a few more great shows.
We decided to start with the Hungerford building this First Friday because we hadn’t been there in months and that building seems to be in a constant state of flux. We used to get large stats at R. A. Ellis back in the eighties when they had offices up there and Richard Edic had a wood shop up there when we got our kitchen remodeled and then I remember a great art show by Ann Havens in studio there. Today there must be a hundred artist’s lofts up there and you can really get bogged down rather than recharged if you don’t watch it.
Bleu Cease had emailed earlier in the day wondering if I would be interested in taking part in the summer Art Tent that RoCo will have setup in conjunction with the Party in the Park concert series. I thought about it for bit but still hadn’t found a workable plan so I told him I talk about it when stopped in RoCo to see the 6×6 show. Two of Peggi’s clown paintings had red dots on them and none of my six split headshots had sold so my first thought was Peggi should be the artist in the tent.
I was thinking I could take mugshot style photos like the ones I took at the Bug Jar in 1998. I’m trying to figure out how I could get people to sit for that. Maybe just the promise of putting their anonymous shot online or maybe I can round up a printer for the evening. Give one print to the sitter and put one on the tent wall.
Another thought would be to get people to sit for charcoal sketches, 5 or ten minute poses with a “may not look like you” disclaimer. Guess I could just give away the drawings.
I have my choice of the ten Thursday nights. I would probably pick the worst of the bands so the people would be interesting. Only trouble there would be deciding between Blues Traveler, Moe, Southside Johnny and John Brown’s Body.
We finished the night at the Little Theater Café listening to Grr, a drumless trio with great players and really interesting arrangements.
First Friday’s art crawl is sometimes rewarding and sometimes not but it is always entertaining. When the art fails to engage the conversation always picks up the slack. We ducked in and out of art spaces on three floors of the Hungerford Building staying the longest in Brian Peterson’s studio looking at his assemblages the shortest at Heather Erwin’s space where some sort of reading was going on to a packed house. We heard she had been temporarily locked out of Facebook for some controversial posting about her show. Doesn’t fb know Heather is keeping them in business in this town? The RIT show at the R gallery on College Avenue was interesting in that the student work looked better than the faculty work in most cases. And over at RoCo it was nice to see that Robert Marx had sold approximately $20,000 worth of paintings. Rochester likes his work for reasons that I don’t quite understand.
The people up on the hill had a party over the weekend. We heard the band and we live about a mile away, classic rock sort of stuff, old people music. Their sign looked kind of odd the next morning.
Gallery director, Bleu Cease called yesterday from Rochester Contemporary to arrange time to set up “Subterranean Surrogates,” my upcoming photo installation. I did RoCo’s logo a while back and I had a show there long before Bleu took over so I didn’t realize what a dynamic force Bleu is. He does everything over there and what he doesn’t do he arranges to have done right. He climbed off the ladder and on to the top of one of the walls in his flip flops while helping me block out the ambient light that was creeping into my allotted space.
I was there all day hanging the projector upside down from strings attached to the ceiling in the back room so the photos would drop into this space and fill one of the walls. Peggi was originally going to drop me off downtown but she made a run to JoAnne Fabrics to buy some black felt for the ceiling and she picked up a peanut butter and banana sandwich and pitched in on the ceiling effort while I balanced the projector. You would think four white walls with photos projected on one would be a pretty simple install but we were there until eight. Art is not as easy as it looks.
With about ten inches of fresh snow we followed a snowshoe trail through the woods and out to the park where we expected to find the Mayor and his buddies drinking beer at the top of the bobsled run. But it seemed we were the only ones in the park. There were no tracks from other skiers. Were we the only ones waiting for more snow?
We took a break at the top of the big hill and spotted a small American flag taped to a tree branch with the words “One World Under God” written in magic marker over the stripes. When we got back to the house there was a message from Rochester Contemporary reminding me to pick up the painting I had in the Members Show so I headed downtown and found this graffiti on the building next door to RoCo.
three of ten Rochester Crime Face paintings – click photo for all ten
I really enjoyed doing these small paintings on canvas paper. I knocked out about twenty in the last two weeks and was planning on submitting them all to the Rochester Contemporary 6 by 6 Show. But then someone told me there was a limit of ten entries per person. When I found that out I kicked around whether I should be submitting the ten I like the least or the the ten I liked most.
I settled on the later and spread them all out on our kitchen floor yesterday so Peggi, her mom and I could pick our ten favorite. Peggi’s mom was a little disturbed by the women with no pupils and she she joked that none of them were exactly good looking. Of course I thought I was going to submit the the ones I liked regardless of what they thought but I was easily swayed by the two astute Fourniers. And it turned out the ten best didn’t exactly work together so we chose the best group of ten. They are twenty bucks a piece at RoCo.
Peggi Fournier artwork – click photo for enlargement
I know which pieces I’m going to be scrambling for when they open the cash registers at the upcoming 6 by 6 show at Rochester Contemporary. My only problem is that I can’t decide which piece I like most of the two mixed media pieces that Peggi Fournier submitted.
I parked around the corner from RoCo and was cutting across the Episcopal Church property as the bells chimed five o’clock, the official deadline. I had to fill out duplicate forms for each of Peggi’s pieces and the ten of mine, twenty four in all. My crime faces all had the same name so I swung a deal with the girl there make copies of the first one. Peggi’s pieces were untitled so I left the space provided for “title” blank thinking that “Untitled” would actually be a title.
On my way out I noticed someone sitting on the sidewalk sketching the church on a six by six inch board.
detail of Anne Havens print – click photo for full piece with wrong colors
These are not Anne Havens‘ colors but they could be. Peggi and I bought this piece years ago at a Pyramid Art Center show and I photographed it tonight in very low light. It hangs over our washing machine in the basement in the laundry slash band room. I love this piece and I was immediately attracted to it. Still am and don’t know why but that is the fun of it. I still don’t know who won the game of tic tac toe. It’s almost like I don’t want to know. It is too nicely drawn to look at what it depicts. And I love the beaker!
We were very fortunate to have Anne try out her “I’m moving to Florida routine” with us at the recent RoCo opening. It was delightful. She explained that she just gets so depressed in the dark winter months that she doesn’t want to do it anymore. She told us she only wears black here but wears white in Florida and she said it like she wasn’t ashamed to admit it. She told us she “is thinking of changing her name to Annie.”
Detail from “A Lot Besides” by Ricky Sears at Rochester Contemporary. Click photo for full shot.
RoCo’s new show opened last night with “In Between”, paintings and sculpture by Brooklyn based artists Malin Abrahamsson and Ricky Sears. Bleu Cease, RoCo’s director, introduced us to both artists last night and we had a nice chat about their work. Malin said she felt as though Rochester was a third contributor to the show because their reaction to the city was right there on the walls.
I’m not sure if i ever would have determined that this work was based on Rochester if I didn’t read the blurb in the small round room that was stuck to the wall above a delightful book that the the two artists had put together as worked on this show. Malin’s paintings were done on canvas and Ricky’s were done on glass, old window panes in fact, and they are quite beautiful.
Fernando Torres played like a real scrapper for the Spanish nationals in the Euro Cup yesterday and “won the day” as they say. We brought Peggi’s mom over for the game and dinner. We had some Spanish red wine on ice with a little sugar and some lime juice. We rooted for Spain. We are sort of obsessed with that country like the kid in Breaking Away was obsessed with Italy. I am happy for Spain. We made strawberry shortcake for dessert.
I put sixteen printouts of photos of my paintings in RoCo’s 6×6 show and kept hearing from people that had bought one. This made cringe because I wasn’t happy with the printouts. The color was not right. The whites weren’t white. And I didn’t like the fake canvas look. They had a nasty un-canvas-like shine to them. I planned to do actual paintings for the show but never found the time. I did those prints on the day of the deadline on the free printer we got with the last computer we bought never expecting anyone to buy them.
So today I hooked up with Richard Edic. We went over to Booksmart and picked out some paper. I decided on some etching paper and we went back to Richard’s house to run prints of the paintings on his printer. These at least looked somewhat like the original paintings. They better, the paper was one hundred bucks for a box of 20 sheeets of 13′ x 19″. I took the new prints over to RoCo and swapped them for the old ones. It was like a software update. The director, Bleu Cease, was very cooperative. The show is up for a few more days.
We got to the opening of RoCo’s 6 by 6 Show too late to buy a Lorraine Bohonos painting. They all had red dots on the them by the time we got there. All the work in this show is six inches by six inches and it is all for sale at twenty bucks a piece. There were over three thousand pieces in the show, some by big name artists and it was all displayed annonymously. RoCo keeps the money and they made some, judging by the number of red dots. We wandered around for hours and kept finding things to buy. I’m happy the show was such a success for them. We finished the night over at Abiene where I managed to beat Bill Jones in 8 Ball.
We went to the RoCo Members Show last night. Each member gets to submit one piece and it always manages to be a good show and a fun event. Anne Havens submitted a beautiful artist’s book and read it. We found a quote there attributed to E.D. (Emily Dickinson) that read, “Life is a spell so exquisite that everything conspires to break it”. Wow.
I found my “Crime Face” drawing/painting and grabbed a shot of it.
On the way over to RoCo we stopped at Book Smart Studio where two RIT students were showing their thesis work. I really loved Jessica Marquez’s “A Naturual History”. She took profile shots of her extended family and fine tuned them in Photoshop so the detail of the features remained in the silouetted images. She coated the balnk pages of old books with something that allowed her to print her photos on these pages. They look like something she found in an attic. They require close examination and are exquisite!
Jesssica Marquez’s “A Natural History”
After the galleries we stopped by Bill and Geri’s to see their renovation project. We bought Molson Ice 40 ouncer for $3 at the Twelve Corners Quickstop and watched a Heart reunion in high def on VH1.