Thursday, December 31, 2009

Inside the Artist's Studio

I started this blog ostensibly to keep people up-to-date about my art stuff. It's obviously kind of drifted a bit from that, so I thought I might make a post that gets us back on track.

Plenty of people have seen art in galleries and museums, but they're not always privy to what goes on behind the scenes. To address that, I took a few snapshots of my workspace in the hope of giving readers a glimpse of how a painting comes together.

I do some work on the easel thing, but most of the painting happens at this table. As you can see, these aren't laboratory conditions I'm working in, but it gets the job done. The painting you see on the table is one that's just about finished.

Obviously my space is as much about storage as it is about painting. That's because I make more work than I sell. If you have any ideas about how I might rectify this situation, I'm all ears.

This is a longer shot of the work table. There's not a lot of natural light in this room, so I do the best I can with a couple different floods (one warmer and one cooler). It's funny, but sometimes I don't even know what a painting really looks like until I take it to my framer. I'll look at it as I'm walking to my car, and go, "Oh! that's what you look like!". I suppose that makes me kind of hack in the eyes of Monet and and all the plen aire purists, but it's not like I'm painting nature...well I am I guess...but more like photographs of nature.

So, that's the tour! Glamorous, right? Yeah, I know...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Army of Santas

Unbeknownst to even her closest friends, my wife has put together an admirable collection of vintage Santas (mostly small, and of the post-war "Made in Japan" variety). Having always been personally amused and intrigued by these sometimes scary looking knick-knacks, I've decided to share them with the larger world. So, while we're still technically in the Holiday Season, I present our Army of Santas!

( I hope too that Hal Mooney's arrangement of the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" will be ample compensation for my mostly pedestrian camerawork).

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Ohio Art League Thumb Box Exhibition 2009

There's nothing quite like the familiar look and feel of the Ohio Art League's annual Thumb Box exhibition to make their new south campus gallery space feel a little bit more like home. For those of you haven't heard the news, the OAL recently moved out of their venerable Short North storefront to take up residence in what's being billed as the Arts Alley at South Campus Gateway. Thankfully, the big move didn't disrupt their schedule, and this December, as in year's past, the gallery is brimming with small works designed especially for the Holiday shopping season.

A slight tweak in this year's guidelines has allowed artists to submit up to three works for exhibition (prior years limited submissions to one per artist). This procedural change has added to both the number of works on display, and in some small way, the consistency of the show. It's certainly a benefit to the viewer, whose eye can now rest occasionally on a repeating color, shape, or theme. Similarly, it benefits the artist, who can show at least some themes or styles across a number of works. As in years past, none of the works measure larger than 6" x 6" x 6".

OAL afficianados and local art enthusiasts will recognize many of the regular artists submitting works. Laura Alexander, Sarah Fairchild, Adam Brouillette, Dan Gerdeman, Sharon Bell and Mabi Ponce de Leon are among many of the better known artists with works available for purchase. This year though, I found myself equally enchanted with some names I wasn't as familiar with. Fred Fochtman's three paintings (Smith Farm, Jon's Stuff, and Tea Time) are charming and well-executed. They demonstrate an ability to paint what's seen with economy and confidence. While Fochtman's approach is fairly traditional, the adventurous compositions and croppings make for some dynamic work.

Another artist new to me was Angela Matteson. Her submissions (Starving Squirrel, Not to be Trusted, and The Whale and the Boy) have the look of illustrations from some yet unpublished and none too happy children's stories. They're literal, allegorical, whimsical and scary all at once. While it's clear that Angela's strong suit is illustration, there is a enough going on in the paint that it's easy to imagine her exploring those possibilities in the future. Angela appears to keep her blog up to date, so do follow her adventures if you like what you see.

The work of Ryan Walters caught my eye as well. He submitted three small studies (Apple Study #1, Apple Study #2, and Apple Study #3) that are spare and elegant. Each one has a somewhat unique take on the idea of the apple (and the idea of a study), ranging from the zen-like approach in #1 to the muted color field in #3. These works seem at once monumentally gestural, but also very intimate. It's a neat trick he's done, and one that made me wonder what his paintings not restricted by size might look like.

Obviously this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of other artists on display and close to 200 works on view. Mixed media, sculpture, photography, and even a shrimp study crocheted out of copper wire (thank you Esther Chung). If there's an art lover on your shopping list, make sure you stop by the new OAL gallery space and see this year's Thumb Box exhibit. It runs now through December 23rd.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I'll say up front that I liked Freakonomics. It provided an eye-opening lesson in pop-economics delivered with nerdy earnestness and a sense of wonder. In that context it didn't seem unrealistic to expect something similar from Superfreakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's much anticipated follow-up. Within a few pages though, it was clear that something had gone very wrong. Apparently nerdy earnestness was dumped in favor of cynical contrarianism for this go-round.

The opening section " An Explanatory Note" sets the tone; Oh those crazy middle-aged white guys, how they confounded their publisher with their wacky book and title! So outrageous! So off the hook! ...and the money they walked away from by not pumping out a quick follow-up in the "Dummies" or "Chicken Soup" style? Such credibility! Yes, we see! The picture we're supposed to get is of a pair of gonzo-style economists beholden to nothing more than the objective search for what makes people tick - politics, profits, and prevailing beliefs be damned.

...and off they go, through what I imagine the the authors believe is a first-rate thrashing of conventional wisdom. The style is smug, self-congratulatory, and in its way, self-defeating. It's an approach that has more to do with polemics than research and one that ultimately undermines Levitt and Dubner's oft-trumpeted objectivity. Oh sure, the data is bountiful when it comes to supporting their own assertions. In the case of other views, forget it. Readers are left to settle for sketchy explanations and scorn.

In a way it's comical. Here's two people repeatedly claiming the mantle of objectivity while glibly dismissing the opposition with the same tired tropes we've been hearing from John Stossel for years. In one embarrassingly tortured metaphor, the movement to stop global warming is compared to religion, complete with high-priests, patron saints, sackcloths, and a fiery apocalypse. Other unsupported assumptions include the notion that governments prefer costly and cumbersome solutions over cheap and simple ones (Really. It's in their DNA.) and the private sector offers solutions while governments get in the way. The intent appears to be to weave a narrative that champions cheap, simple, private sector solutions for all that ails us.

I would have probably found it easier to ignore this snark and bias if the outright omissions and misrepresentations weren't so rampant. Much has already been made of how Superfreakonomics spins global warming, but I was more dismayed by their treatment of auto safety. Thanks to a myriad of factors Levitt and Dubner ignored readers are left to ponder a road safety narrative that conforms perfectly to their simple solutions/private sector fairy tale. According to Superfreakonomics, the last half-century of road safety in America goes something like this:

Robert McNamara invented seat belts when he worked at Ford in the 1950s. Today they cost $25.00 a pop and they're responsible for the relative decline in auto fatalities over the last 50 years.

Did you notice what was missing there? Yes, it was a discussion of air bags, tougher drunk driving laws, better driver education, better designed roads, crumple zones, head restraints, larger rear view mirrors, more rear view mirrors, more effective exterior lights and turn signals, safer car interiors, safer auto glass, medical advances, EMT advances, better emergency communication and response time, safety requirements and regulations, anti-lock brakes, better emergency medicine, advances in tire safety, and probably a dozen other things. For the purposes of Superfreakonomics readers are expected to ignore those factors. Clearly these aren't the cheap, simple, private sector solutions we're looking for.

Now I recognize that "tone" is a fairly subjective measure by which to judge a book, but if a particular book's authors refer endlessly to how cold-blooded, objective, and data driven they are, then I think tone matters. Why? Because if the data is on your side you don't need smug. If the data is on your side you don't need condescension. You don't need name-calling, snark, generalizations, or omissions either. While it might help sell books, adopting such tactics doesn't further our understanding of complex topics.

Or perhaps the Levitt and Dubner would explain it differently. Maybe they'd point out that all the snark is a classic example of externalities; it's the price readers and genuinely objective observers have to pay for the author's contrarian dog-and-pony show. Levitt and Dubner get appearances on 20/20, The Daily Show, and a host of other media outlets while truly objective discourse pays the price. Now that's Superfunny.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

TEDx Columbus: Tangential Notes in the Lukewarm Gonzo Style (Complete With Parentheses)

If you've been anywhere resembling close proximity to the intellectual pulse of Columbus, you'll know that last Tuesday (that's 10/20/2009 if you're using the Gregorian OS) the Wexner Center hosted TEDx Columbus. The original TED franchise, the story goes, is an annual conference founded by the legendary architect and designer Richard Saul Wurman. It's held in California, draws the best and brightest minds from around the globe, and to a certain degree can be thought of as a kind of forward-thinking cultural yin to Burning Man's low-brow tribal yang. The acronymous name isn't a coincidence either; it stands for something (technology, entertainment, and design to be specific). The x (lower-case please) denotes the Columbus happening as an independently organized event (i.e. not the biggie in California). TED has been referred to as "the ultimate brain spa" and local residents can thank Co-Chairs Nancy Kramer and Ruth Milligan for arranging some of those curative droplets of spa water here in Central Ohio.

Now, having embarked on a somewhat successful transition from punk-rock wannabes to forward-thinking eggheads, my wife Tutti and I jumped at the chance to attend. We dutifully completed our applications for tickets (Yes, applications. I mentioned the best and brightest, right? Forward thinking? Yeah, that too.) and waited for a response. Thankfully, we both made the cut; our applications were accepted and we were cleared to purchase tickets (I still shudder at the potential discomfort had one of us not been accepted. "Don't feel bad. Maybe being a forward-thinking egghead isn't really your calling after all." Someone has to hold up the middle of the bell curve, right?).

And considering the line-up for TEDx Columbus, who wouldn't want to attend? On hand were Superstar Librarian Chrystie Hill, Understander of Dance Norah Zuniga Shaw, Senator John Glenn (that's him (in a rare moment on earth) getting a lid for his Tang), as well as a host of others. In the true TED style, Tuesday's evening was eclectic, multi-disciplinary, and eye-opening. It was a night that taught us to take games more seriously (thank you Ann Pendleton-Jullian) and atomic bombs less so (thank you John Mueller). Nearly as startling was the realization that world hunger might be battled by a contraption that looks like a prop for the Blue Man Group and fits into a suitcase (thank you Reade Harpham). There was a palpable sense energy and optimism, culminating in the realization that if we, as a people, could simply muster the resources and means to allow more smart people do more smart things the world would be a much better place (Oh bright shiny future, how you vex us so! We trudge and plod along yet never seem to arrive.).

Now if this were the '70s and you were reading an authentic piece of Gonzo journalism, I would have, at some point, fallen drunkenly into the fresh mozzarella salad (while shouting Marxist slogans?). Instead, I enjoyed it...along with most of the other catered treats assembled to nourish the best and brightest of Columbus. Don't take this wrong gentle organizers, but this surprised me. I've been burned enough by the promise of "heavy hors d'oeuvres" at ticketed events like this in the past that I'm usually satisfied if I can get in on the brie before it vanishes. This was not the case on Tuesday evening. Apparently $50.00 can still buy a decent meal in this town. My thanks to the staff and caterers for managing to present something very much like a dinner (albeit within the confines of Styrofoam plates and plastic utensils). The dessert spread at intermission was equally impressive. Event planners take note: there is great value in the kind of civility that can be engendered by simply making sure there's enough for everyone!

So yes, we fed our brains and our bodies that night ^tired metaphor, revise before posting, and then engaged in a little creativity of our own. My wife you see, has mastered the art of photographs that look like paintings (or more specifically, photographs that look like Gerhard Richter paintings). Tuesday night I think she may have created her masterpiece. It's a portrait of Senator Glenn as he prepared for his part of the presentation. You'll of course recognize the candid, blurry of style of Richter in this work, but without the cumbersome seven-digit price tag. We're all too lazy to set up a Creative Commons account, so I'll simply invite you to steal and reproduce as you see fit. Copyright will be dead by 2020 anyway (at least according to this much-ballyhooed extinction timeline) so we may as well start now.

Afterwards, we couldn't resist mugging for the camera with the other mugs in front of Harry Shearer's installation "Silent Echo Chamber". I took the opportunity to engage John McCain in a little Brady Bunch style head turning, while Tutti channeled the perpetually perturbed James Carville. And how could I pass up striking the universal "This clown...?" pose for Dr. Henry Kissinger. I can only imagine what Hunter Thompson would have done.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cute Overload: The 2009 Touch-A-Truck Edition

Every year, around the beginning of October, my library hosts an event called "Touch-a-Truck". As the name implies it's a children's program set-up to let the young ones explore trucks and other interesting vehicles up close. Being that motorscooters are something of a "kid friendly" mode of transportation, I usually offer to have my scooter available for the program. It's also common for me to enlist some of my scooter owning friends to put in an appearance too (the more the merrier!). While their first reaction is usually alarm (at the prospect of toddlers climbing on their bikes) they typically come around and agree to risk a little exposure to the 3-8 old set.

This year was no different, and I was lucky to have my friends Mike (proud owner of a Vespa ET150) and Mark (Vespa GranTurismo) take part in representing scooterists everywhere at the 2009 edition of "Touch-a-Truck". Joining us in the two-wheeled corral were a couple other bike owners who pitched in with an early '80s Honda Passport and an Aprilia Cento50. The other notable "non-truck" entry on hand was a 1966 Jaguar sedan (MK 2 if I'm not mistaken) that was a show stopper. While not mint by any stretch, it had that certain integrity that comes from being all original, well-maintained, and unrestored.

In the truck category there was a wide variety of types on hand; from dump trucks to bucket trucks to fire engines to moving vans. As Mark pointed out though, our scooters "held their own" against many of the larger vehicles. I expect there's something about scooters - perhaps the round lines and small wheels, or maybe the ease of access - that's particularly appealing to kids. In any event, Mark was right, there were times when every scooter was occupied and kids were waiting for a turn.

I think the kids are just adorable and seeing them at this event charms me to no end. I love having them at the Library (we always have a special storytime first), and I love the enthusiasm they show when given the chance to explore and use their imaginations. "Touch-A-Truck" has really become a family event and something I expect parents and their children look forward to. I know I do. I give "Touch-A-Truck" at Northwest Library a big thumbs up! (...and Lightning Bug Louie says "Check it out", too!).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Han Van Meegeren versus Malcolm Gladwell

There's been a lot of attention given to master art forger Han Van Meegeren recently. Since 2006, three new books have been published ("The Man Who Made Vermeer's" by Jonathan Lopez, "The Forger's Spell" by Edward Dolnick and "I was Vermeer" by Frank Wynne) and one classic has been reissued ("Master Art Forger" by John Godley) .

Van Meegeren, for those unfamiliar the story, was a technically accomplished artist working in pre-World War Two Holland. The indifference (and occasional scorn) of his contemporary critics lead Van Meegeren to seek a kind of artistic revenge. He fabricated a plan that hinged on creating a fake Vermeer; a forgery to be passed off on the unsuspecting art world. He'd "discover" the painting, set the critics fawning over its brilliance, and then - in a moment of Hollywood style triumph - reveal it was not a genuine Vermeer after all but rather a masterpiece from the hand of the unjustly maligned Van Meegeren. As it was, Van Meegeren chose not to play out his revenge fantasy in quite such a spectacular way. Instead, he ended up painting and selling a whole catalog of fake Vermeers, making quite a living in the process before landing in jail for treason at the war's end (Hermann Goering being among his list of buyers)

What makes the story especially interesting is the precipitous decline in the believability of Van Meegeren's forgeries. Woman Playing Music and Woman Reading Music were both painted in 1935-36. They're plausible Vermeers, adhering to the style and psychology of what we know about the artist. Both show a figure engaged in a solitary pursuit, lit from a window to the left, in an interior very much like those that Vermeer painted.

I'm never surprised that experts might have been fooled by these paintings. They are, as mentioned, plausible. But Van Meegeren didn't stop there. From 1936 on he expanded his repertoire and created a series of "Biblical Vermeers" that are, to put it bluntly, creepy and bad. They're big, muddy and lifeless. My wife can't look at them. I barely can. Supper at Emmaus is like dinner with the Adams Family, and The Blessing of Jacob is...well...look at it...or don't.

So what does any of this have to do with Malcolm Gladwell? Well, in pondering Van Meegeren and his creepy Jesus paintings, I was reminded of Gladwell's bestseller "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking". In "Blink" Gladwell demonstrates the value of "rapid cognition", that is, the process of knowing even before you consciously know why you know. "Blink" is Gladwell's meditation on "snap judgments" and he demonstrates that these first responses and reactions can often be the most accurate.

By way of illustration, Gladwell leads off his book with the story of a forged Greek sculpture purportedly from the 6th Century B.C. He describes a litany of first reactions from experts who'd seen it, ranging from "feeling cold" to "intuitive revulsion". These experts didn't need tests, x-rays, residual soil samples, or anything else to know they were looking at a fake. They could just tell - in the blink of an eye - that it was wrong. How is it then that so many experts were fooled by Han Van Meergeren's forgeries? If I experienced "intuitive revulsion" looking at Van Meergeren's work, why didn't they?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Social Calendar.

It looks like it's going to be a busy week!

Luc Tuymans at the Wexner Center Members Preview, Wednesday September 16.
I'm really excited about this exhibition. It's the inaugural show of Tuymans' first retrospective in the U.S and I'm thrilled Columbus gets to play host. Tuymans is an interesting painter. I love the kind of complimentary relationship he's developed between painting and photography. There's a strong conceptual component at work as well. The paintings are narrative but in a way that forces us to question the story itself. Plus, you've got to love a painter who distrusts images. It's not quite as iconic as the righteous soldier who detests violence, but it's up there.

I've started writing art reviews for Columbus Underground and I'm looking forward to tackling this exhibit. The pressure's on though. There's already been quite a lot written about Tuyman's. Hopefully I'll find an angle. The show opens to the public on Thursday 9/17.

Independents Day 2009 Saturday September 19.
Have I mentioned I'm in a band? We're called The Patsys and we've been laying low for most of 2009. That apparently didn't deter Jess Faller and the good folks at the Columbus Music Co-op to from inviting us to play. So we've assembled the musicians, tuned the instruments, and practiced the set to be ready for our 8:00 PM slot on the Gay Street Stage. This event really is a lot of fun. It's a celebration of art, music and food, focusing on the independent spirit that's alive and well in Columbus. (...and as of now, the Columbus Music Co-op people are still looking for volunteers, so pitch in!)

Scoot-A-Que 12 Friday-Sunday September 18-20
Every year The Columbus Cutters Scooter Club puts on Central Ohio's biggest scooter rally. Events include a Friday night movie at Studio 35, a meet-up at North Market and ride to Granville on Saturday afternoon, and a prom-themed party on Saturday night at Capital City Scooters. As someone who's ridden scooters for all of my adult life, I look forward to this event every year. Now if I can just find that powder blue tux I had.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Price is Right.

I was out running errands today and stopped by Target to pick up some toiletries and snacks. I made my selections and chose what looked like the best check-out lane. The person ahead of me paid and moved on, and the young man at the register began scanning my items. When he attempted to scan the antiperspirant/deodorant I had, something went afoul. No price registered.

"Not again," he muttered. It was obvious he'd had prior issues with his machine.

He tried scanning it a second, third, and fourth time, each attempt being as unsuccessful as the first. Undeterred, he squinted at the item, rubbed the bar code with his finger, and tried scanning it again. Nothing.

Now I'm not one to lecture other people about how to run their railroad, so I resisted the impulse to tell him to just type the numbers in manually. I figured if that was in his skill set or training he'd get around to it in good time. Instead, he offered a solution that caught me totally off-guard.

"You don't happen to know how much this was, do you?" he asked.

"No. Sorry," I said.

"Hrrmmm...," he thought for a second. "Do you want to take a guess?"

"You want me to guess how much it was?" I replied.

"Yeah. Sure."

Well I don't know about you, but this was uncharted territory for me. I'm familiar with the process of price checks, and I've seen plenty of employees use the PA to call for help. I've stood by as UPC numbers are typed manually into a checkout system and I've watched while sales associates consult all manner of binders and help screens. What I've never experienced is someone asking me to - in effect - make up a price.

To the contrary, all of my experience up to this point had lead me to the inescapable conclusion that determining the accurate price of an item at checkout trumps everything. It trumps my time, the cashier's time, and the time of everyone standing in line behind us. It trumps the manager's time taken to override an errant price, and it trumps the time of the person who has to go find the actual price. It's never mattered how much the item cost, or how much time it takes. The singular, exclusionary, and most important thing is that the price be accurately determined. That was until today.

Today we broke through all that to a kind of higher plane. Me and Clerk-Dude became co-conspirators operating in a brave new world; one where honesty, convenience, and ease of egress were going to trump penny-pinching, loss reduction, balanced cash drawers, and the litany of rambling corporate-speak they likely drill into cashier heads before giving them access to registers. He didn't want the hassle and figured I probably didn't want it either. It was a small moment to be sure, but a liberating one.

"I don't remember exactly. I think it was like $2.59," I offered.

"Cool," he said, and rung it up.

On reflection, I might have been charged too much, but I think it was worth it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

That's how you roll???

I suppose I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the neglected, the not shiny, the not new; those things that, in the vernacular of Linus, "just need a little love". I can't explain it rationally, but there's something in the nature of the borderline derelict that makes me say, "That's not so bad, I bet it can be fixed".

This sympathetic inclination toward all things salvageable has informed me through two questionable home purchases, countless thrift store finds (large and small), and dozens of motorized vehicles (of both the two and four-wheeled variety). Admittedly this inclination has been dormant of late (I don't have nearly the collection of almost functional bikes, radios, amps, and appliances I used to), but a peak behind my house reveals that an ember of it still glows.

Pictured, in all it's humble glory, is my 1975 Saab 99 Wagonback. I owned one of these in the early '90s and always loved it. When the chance to buy another came along, I couldn't resist. It's nimble, it's quirky, and it's got a modern design pedigree courtesy of Sixten Sason. Sason was a Swedish designer who, in addition to designing cars for Saab, also dabbled in vacumn cleaners for Electrolux and sewing machines for Husqvarna. While not as widely recognized as Eames, Saarinen, or Nelson in the mid-century designers pantheon, he was certainly a contemporary and equal.

The 99 is not a particularly common car, and it's not particularly collectible either. In Saab lore, it's mostly seen as a transitional vehicle; the bridge between Saab being a quirky two-stroke import and Saab being a worldwide luxury marquee. That Saab used the 99 as the platform to launch the first commercially available turbo-charged car gives it a bit of status, but unless you've got one of those, you've mostly got an old and not really valuable car.

I bought mine from my local Saab mechanic a few years ago for $300.00. He'd had it on his lot for a while with the intention of restoring it. I suppose at some point he realized that wasn't going to happen, and since I'd been pestering him, he let me have it (Really, it's not such a bad little car, it just needs a little love). I too had every intention of restoring it, but haven't. It is, quite literally, too big of a job for me.

What it's become is my second car. Given my penchant for all things old, I've never owned a new car (In fact, I've never owned a car in the same decade it was manufactured). Driving older cars of course necessitates taking some precautions. The first is a AAA membership, and the second is keeping an extra car handy for when the first one breaks.

This "second car plan" has paid off a couple times in the last year. I logged quite a few miles in the 99 when the windshield of my VW Golf started rusting out in a very alarming way. Rather than being forced into a hasty purchase to replace the VW, I was able to take my time and find the right car while tooling around in the not so luxurious lap of the 99. More recently, when a drunk driver wrecked my "first string car" the 99 was there to get me back and forth to work while I sorted through my purchase options.

I still go out back and start it regularly (I had to chase a nesting possum out of the engine compartment once), and I'll take it on short errands to make sure everything is still functional. I like that it's easy to find in parking lots, and I'm heartened by the occasional supportive comment from strangers. I'm never sure how much is appreciation and how much is sympathy, but you know what they say about gift horses.

So yeah...that's how I roll. If you see me out and about, make sure you honk and wave!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

OSU's Shiny New Beacon Of Learnedness

The Main Library. That's what I always called it. "I'm going to Main to study", "I've got to pick something up at Main", "Main's got a copy on reserve". In its day the name fit like a glove. The Main Library was just that...the main library. It was big, utilitarian, servicable, and not much else (think main post office, main bus depot, main terminal, etc.).

I point this out because I'm pretty sure that's what everyone called it. So I was more than a little surprised when I visited the newly renovated Main Library only to find out it's not called that least not officially anyway. Apparently there's a new brand in town (and if you're one of those people that has never gotten used to "THE" Ohio State University then I'm afraid you're probably not going to like this either). According to the still warm and inky smelling visitor's guide (and OSU's own web page) we will henceforth and into the future refer to the tall library at the west end of the Oval as "The Thompson Library".

Now, before you roll your eyes and run for the familiar comforts of cynicism, consider this: It fits. The name fits. How? you might ask. Did you notice how "The Thompson Library" sounds sort of dignified? Well, the new library is sort of dignified. And did you notice how "The Thompson Library" sounds sort of stately, even a little old school? Well, the new library is kind of stately, and even a little old school. The Grand Reading Room is a perfect example. It's been brought back to it's early 20th century splendor in a way those of us who toiled under the old version of this building could never have imagined. (There's even a copy of "Winged Victory" on hand to remind us (presumably) of our indebtedness to our Greek forebearers and the importance of a well-rounded and Classical education.) Which isn't to say the whole building is some kind of Gilded Age throwback, because it's not. There's enough glass, exposed structural elements, and sleek lines to keep the modernists happy too.

What I think will strike most visitors is the way it all works together; old and new, books and computers, form and function. The old building never really acknowledged the collection. The stacks eventually became a kind of eleven story basement (if there even is such a thing) while more and more computers were pushed to the front of the building. Now I'm no luddite, and I'll be the first to acknowledge the role of technology in libraries (critical!), but the fact is the library's "brand" remains books.

Happily, the architects, librarians, administrators, and other smart people involved in this project seem to have understood this. The collection, rather than being hidden from view, has become a focal point, a source of pride even (think of bookshelves in your home). The stacks - the very books themselves - are on display in a kind of multistory bookcase that simultaneously inspires and humbles. Walking through the lower floors, the building behaves as if everything revolves around this towering collection of books. In a way, it does. The library remains a vehicle by which we can store, organize, and retrieve information, and while computers have their place, there's nothing that illustrates the organization of information quite like thousands of books ordered on a shelf.

And if that's not enough to make you want to visit "The Thompson Library" I'll recommend a trip to the top floor of "the Tower". This formerly dingy recess of a space has been converted into what amounts to an elegant reading room/observation deck (complete with wood paneling and comfy chairs). The views are terrific from any point on the compass, even on the grey morning I visited.

Congratulations to OSU, OSU Libraries, the Architects, and everyone else involved in this project. It's a great building, and one that's certainly worthy of the name!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Part of the Internet Where Jeff Complains about Pants.

Ok. This is an admittedly futile gesture, but what's a blog for if not to occasionally complain about some shoddy product or service we've been subjected to?

My story is as simple as a couple pairs of Haggar casual slacks I purchased new (I know...khakis...LOL...) that ended up frayed and unwearable (at least in a professional setting) within a year. Granted, I buy/wear lots of vintage clothes, so I might have missed the point at which new retail clothes became disposable, but I was still pretty surprised.

In a somewhat uncharacteristic move, I decided to fire off a complaint via Haggar's web site. I sent them this short note:

Hello Haggar,

I'm writing to let you know that I'll be very hesitant to purchase any of your products in the future. Here's why: I purchased two pairs of your flat front casual pants (upc # 01745757043 and 017457571106) new from my local Kohl's. Within six months, both pairs were starting to fray and show significant signs of wear around the bottom hem and pockets. Within a year, they were both unwearable (at least in an office environment). I understand that costs are always an issue in manufacturing and that sometimes cheaper materials are necessary, but understand this, I really need pants that I purchase new to last more than a year. If I can't trust your products to at least do that, I just won't buy them anymore.


Jeff Regensburger

Now the really funny part is this. When I clicked on "submit", I got what appeared to be a msyql error (or somesuch nonsense). I'm not even sure my fist-shaking missive went through. And even if it did, would it matter? I mean what are they going to do? Give me some gift certificates for more Haggar pants?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Modern Wing (The Art of Institute of Chicago)

I was in Chicago over the weekend and had a chance to visit The Art Institute's Modern Wing, a recently opened addition designed by Renzo Piano and built to house the museum's 20th and 21st Century collections.

Getting There (or at least inside).

To start (and from a purely logistical perspective), I'll mention that visitors can enter The Modern Wing from the north side of the Art Institute campus on Monroe street. I point this out because I expect the line might be shorter when you enter from there, and you also gain the advantage of being right in The Modern Wing upon arrival (i.e. you don't have to go find it). The Monroe Street entrance is one of the many little touches (along with a dedicated Modern Wing coffee bar, gift shop, and restrooms) that make a visit to The Modern Wing an event that's easily separate from a visit to the Art Institute proper (though admission happily gets you into both).

The Friendly Confines

The building itself is worthy of the accolades. Obviously, it's quite a departure from the style of the old building (see also the NGA and its East Building), but still integrates nicely into the campus. The foyer/main lobby is tall and light, creating the sense of having arrived someplace important. The fact that you've entered a museum though isn't readily apparent, and I think that has to do with the presumably deliberate decision to not have any large scale work on display in the main hall. There's plenty of room though, and perhaps this decision will be revisited. The galleries themselves provide diffuse, natural light whenever possible, and the navigation between them is fairly clear and simple.

The Collection

The collection was certainly impressive, but seemed geared more toward highlighting a few particular artists rather than providing a comprehensive selection over time. Gehard Richter, Jim Nutt, Phillip Guston, Bruce Nauman, Robert Gober, and Kerry James Marshall all enjoyed rooms of their own, while other artists seemed noticeably absent.

That said, personal highlights certainly included Vija Celmins' "Explosion at Sea", Jeff Wall's "The Flooded Grave" (which is weirdly vertigo inducing in real life!) and
Gehard Richter's "Little Landscape at the Seaside". Richter also gets special consideration for taking a stab at 9/11 while managing to be neither maudlin nor obvious. Balthus, Bonnard, and a Sol Lewitt wall drawing also helped to make this visit a real treat.

A Side Note on Exposition

I'm one of the visitors who appreciates those little expository placards that museums sometimes provide. I find that being able to learn a little background on the work and artist (albeit from one curator's perspective) adds value (ugh!) to the museum experience. The Modern Wing, to their credit, provides a lot of these!

I expect museum professionals and critics probably argue back and forth about whether or not work in a museum ought to be explained. T
he fact is though, we learn in a lot of different ways; by seeing, reading, hearing, and acting. Placards and text engage visitors in the learning process in a way that goes beyond the simple act of looking. I say kudos then to the Modern Wing for offering such clear, cogent, and easily accessible explanations. I read them, enjoyed them, and feel like I came away with a much better understanding of what I was seeing.

Pro Tips

Navigating those big glass doors: It took half of my visit to figure them out! If you approach a door and it has a single, vertical handle that runs from the floor to about waist height, grab it and pull. If you approach a door that has a handle that comes up from the floor and then makes a 90 degree turn toward the hinges, that means push.

Talking on cell-phones: Halls and lobby please, not in the galleries.

The giant, fallen tree sculpture: It doesn't have a rope or marking around it, but apparently you still shouldn't stand too close.

Also, be sure and check out the bathrooms, space-aged and mood lit.

And Finally

If you're a fan of modern and contemporary art, I'd recommend setting aside the better part of a day to take in the whole collection. If you have the time and inclination, look at it as a destination independent of the Art Institute. The autonomy of the building, the collections, and the way it's branded certainly invites it. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

"Recent Landscapes" Preview Reception, Ohio Art League Gallery, 7/2/2009

My wife took some photos of the preview reception on Thursday evening. I've posted a few to illustrate the prep, the party, and the end.

I was happy with how the show turned out. I thought the arrangement and number of paintings worked well in the space. Thanks to everyone who showed up on Thursday and/or Gallery Hop.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"Recent Landscapes" on view at the Ohio Art League Gallery

An exhibition of my recent paintings will be on view at the Ohio Art League Gallery from July 4 - July 25. This show is part of the Art League's ongoing series of member curated exhibitions.

As this show comes together, my sincere thanks go out to Sophie Knee. In addition to proposing and curating this show, Sophie kept up with the framing, the writing, the hanging, and a myriad of other details that go into putting together an event like this. I quite literally couldn't have done it without her.

I would also like to thank Eliza Jones, Adam Broullitte, the Ohio Art League, friends and staff at Ohio Arts Council and the crew at Hackman Frames for all the help and support they provided along the way. This really was a team effort, so thank you all!

Finally, a special thank you to my wife, who, in spite of the fact that I routinely ignore her advice to "work bigger!", continues to be my greatest supporter!

Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12 - 5 pm.

A preview reception will be held on Thursday July 2, 7 - 9 pm. Consider yourself invited!

The Ohio State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition 2009

The Ohio State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition is probably the premier visual arts competition in Ohio. I can't think of another venue that brings together as much publicity and prize money than the State Fair. Professionals and amateurs are invited to submit works, with hi-caliber jurors making the final decision regarding what gets shown. While the two works I submitted (above) were not accepted for show, I look forward to enjoying the exhibit and congratulate all the artists who got in. If this year is anything like past years, it will be a wonderful event!

The Ohio State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition runs from July 29 - August 9.

For more information, follow the Fine Arts Exhibition on their blog,

Supercell Opens in new multi-use art space at Junctionview

Recently Ginnie Baer (of Couchfire Collective fame) invited me to participate in the inaugural exhibition at Matchbox, Junctionview Studios' new multi-use art space. The show, called "Supercell" is a traveling exhibition of storm themed works created by a number of different artists. I submitted the two paintings shown above ("Untitled Landscape" (top), and "American Landscape #4" (bottom)).

"Supercell" is on view through July 12th at Junctionview (889 Williams Avenue in Grandview), after which it moves on to the Shift Space Gallery in Witchita KS.

For more information on "Supercell", the Couchfire Collective, and the Matchbox space, check out this nice article by Melissa Starker from Columbus Alive.