Saturday, December 25, 2010

Seasons Greetings from London

My wife and I enjoyed a week in London at the beginning of December. While the Holiday hoopla hadn't quite reached its crescendo during our visit, there was still plenty of seasonal cheer to go around. A few pics capture the spirit the of the Holiday in England's capital:

Our first dinner in London was at a lovely family run Italian restaurant called The Ripe Tomato.That evening the owner and staff were hanging Christmas lights and garland in preparation for the season. Watching them fuss, fret, and make repeated trips outside to see what the decorations looked like from the street was just charming!

Trafalgar Square gets the Holiday treatment courtesy of a giant modernist menorah (left) and a Norwegian Spruce (right). The tree is an annual gift from Norway and something of a London tradition. As the City of London's web site explains it, "Each year since 1947, a Christmas tree has been given to the people of London from the people of Norway in gratitude for Britain's support for Norway during World War II. For many Londoners the Christmas tree and carol singing in Trafalgar Square signal the countdown to Christmas."

We stayed in the Notting Hill area, very close to a number of boutiques and specialty shops on Westbourne Grove. One of the shops had employed carolers to attract customers and add to the ambiance. I wish I'd have shot video. They were quite good.

Our hotel was also very close to Portobello Road. The weekly market there draws tourists from all over the world. Many of the vendors were selling seasonal items, including these lovely evergreen wreaths.

London offered a number of outdoor venues for ice skating during the Holiday Season. This rink is set up in the courtyard of the Somerset House, home to the world famous Courtauld Gallery.

Finally, what's the Holiday Season without a multitude Santas? On Strand Avenue, near the Courtauld Gallery, we ran across this parade of Santas that must have been at least a mile long. I'm not sure what the occasion or intent was (beyond spectacle and fun), but it was quite impressive. I especially appreciated the soccer chant about half-way through the line; "Ole' Ole' Ole' Ole', San-Ta, San-Ta".

God bless us, every one!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I mentioned in a recent blog post that I was trying to finish three ornament paintings for this year's Ohio Art League Thumb Box Exhibition. I'm happy to report that I've got all three done and will be dropping them off at the gallery on Tuesday. Here's a sneak peak if you want to see how one of them turned out.

Still Life (Ornament) #9

The opening reception is on Thursday 12/2 from 6-9 PM. I'd encourage everyone to stop by. It's always a fun show, plus if you have an art lover on your Christmas list, you're sure to find something they'll like. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Does This Shirt Make Me Look Ridiculous Goes Live

In a recent blog post, "The Way Forward, I proposed to crowdsource wardrobe decisions involving clothes that my age may have rendered less than appropriate. To accomplish this I've set up a tumblr blog called (not surprisingly) "Does This Shirt Make Me Look Ridiculous?" Here you'll have the opportunity to view, comment on, and decide whether or not a man of my particular age (47) has any business wearing the pictured garment.

The first installment is up so take a look and decide. Does this shirt make me look ridiculous?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Holiday Tradition, and a Great Reason to Join The Ohio Art League.

Each December The Ohio Art League stages their "Thumb Box Exhibition"; an event that offers a selection of small works by member artists. As an Art League member, I've gotten in the habit of submitting a small painting of a Christmas ornament each year. They're fun to do, and they provide a nice break from the parade of muted landscapes I paint the rest of the year. They usually look something like this:

Still Life (Ornament) #3

This year, members again have been given the opportunity to submit up to three works for the show. I'm going to try and honor that opportunity by painting not one, but three ornaments!

Anticipating success, I've already ordered the frames (from Hackman Frames, of course,) and begun the paintings. Truth be told, it will be close. I'm a notoriously slow worker and that's only been compounded by the fact that I've been really busy this fall. Right now I've got some basic compositions, values, and colors coming together. The rest of the work will involve glazes, modeling, and working the lights and darks.

"The Thumb Box Exhibition" runs December 2-18, so if I get these done (fingers crossed) they'll be on view there.

Also, if you're an artist, designer, crafter, or enthusiast, and you're not already an OAL member you should really consider joining. "Thumb Box" is one of two guaranteed opportunities you'll have each year to show (and maybe sell!) your work. There's also juried exhibitions, member exhibitions, workshops, receptions, and other opportunities for networking and socializing. The Art League is in the midst of a big membership drive (through December 2), so if you join before then, you'll get a free T-shirt courtesy of Skreened. All the details can be found at on the Art Leauge's Membership Page.

Join now, get a free shirt, and show your work in December. That's what they call win/win baby!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Way Forward

This week on Twitter I shared a picture of a sweater that drew some nice compliments when I wore it to work. I think the fact that it's a really nice sweater (It is!) combined with getting it out early in the sweater season (when, presumably, we're more likely to dole out such compliments) probably contributed to the accolades. Whatever the reason(s), I'll certainly take the kind words.

Now I bring up the sweater because it launched a larger dialogue (mostly in my head; though my wife and certain colleagues were also privy to the deliberations) regarding how one transitions from the clothes of one's youth to the clothes of middle-age. On the face of it, this concern seems trivial, or maybe vain (likely both). I suspect there might be something larger at work though. Our appearance is, in many cases, the first impression we make. How we tend to that impression then influences how people respond to us. That much is obvious. Our appearance though is also a reflection of how we feel about ourselves and how we'd like others to perceive us.

The conflict arises when our 40, 44, or 47 year old selves still feel like our 26, 28, 34 year old selves. "It can't be time for khaki ball caps, Dockers, and Lands End gear!" you think, but then admit you do feel a little silly in the clothes that were once staples of your wardrobe. If you grew up allied with any of the various youth subcultures (metal, punk, indie, rap, goth, stoner, grunge, slacker, beat, hip-hop, skate, etc.) this issue is even more pronounced. You've invested heavily in a particular identity and now, in your advanced years, it's turned on you! Rather than helping you look cool, these fashion accouterments make you look...well...kind of sad.

While I expect this transition is one that most individuals will likely navigate on their own, I'm taking mine to the people. You see, I own a number of articles of clothing that I might very well be too old for (see examples above). As a reality check, I'm going to enlist you, gentle follower, to help me decide. Henceforth, before I go out in a shirt, shoes or jacket that might cross into the realm of "sad middle-aged dude trying to look young" I'm going to vet it online and ask for your feedback.

I haven't ironed out (Ha!) all the details yet, but I'm thinking the format will be a tumblr blog, possibly called, "Does This Shirt Make Me Look Ridiculous?". Stay tuned.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Night of Firsts

Thanks to the generosity of my friends Laela and Rob I was able to attend Game Three of the National Legaue Division Series last night at Great American Ballpark (GABP) in Cincinnati. Sadly, the home team lost the game, effectively ending both the series and the season for our beloved Reds. It was still an enjoyable evening, featuring great travel companions and friends old and new. It was also my first trip to GABP.

While I've thought every year since the park opened in 2003 that I should, "get down to a game", it never seemed to happen. As it turned out, my first game at GABP was also the first post-season game ever at GABP. The club also set an attendance record for the park, marking what we can assume is the first time they pushed 44,599 paid attendees through the turnstiles.

I snapped a few pics to give a sense of the place. It was crowded, loud, and fun. We cheered for the Reds, called Chase Utley a cheater, and threw peanut shells on the ground!

Thanks again to Rob and Laela for thinking of me. I had a great time!

The Grand Entrance

View From Our Seats

Filing Out

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hey Sheldon, I Think You Forgot Something

This week we embarked on a complete (and long overdue) bathroom renovation project. The contractors were scheduled to start Tuesday morning. I liked the idea of a little head start, so Monday I began the demolition portion of the work. I pulled down all the plaster and removed some of the lath before running out of steam. Tuesday AM the pros showed up and started their day by removing the rest.

While they were at it I jokingly asked if they'd found a coffee can with $10,000.00 in it yet (Because everyone knows the real promise of any one-hundred year old house is the possibility that some batty Silas Marner type stuffed $10,000.00 into a coffee can and hid it in a wall). Obviously they hadn't, but we all had a good chuckle and then went back to work.

Fifteen minutes later though, Ray, the project leader, called me over. He presented an old chisel - about eight inches long and one inch wide - and said "Look what we just found in the wall". Well, it's not $10,000.00 in a coffee can, but I'm smitten with it all the same.

The chisel is a single piece of (presumably) hardened steel. It's amazingly sharp, and has the name SHELDON stamped on it. I'm guessing that's the original chisel owner's name; residing in plain view on the tool as a way to differentiate his chisel from those of others on the crew. I suppose it could be the manufacturer's name, though it doesn't really have the look of a maker's stamp or mark.

It's width (as seen in the accompanying photograph) is a perfect match for the mortises that our door's hinges sink into. My wife, being the consummate history buff, is thrilled to now have in her possession an artifact (albeit a modest one) that's actually linked to the construction of our house.

Personally, being someone who's left his share of tools in under hoods, on ladders, behind sinks, and in crawl spaces, I felt a certain sympathy for Sheldon. Clearly he set down his chisel at some point only to have the plasterers come along, hang lath, and then plaster it into history. Whether he ever realized the chisel's ultimate fate remains a mystery, but finding it now, in the year of our home's centennial celebration, was a real treat.

As a testament to my wife's reverence for the continuity of history she's decided that even if we move the chisel stays with the house. I'm not sure if that means putting it back in a wall at some point, or presenting it to the new owners at closing. I suppose we've got time to decide. There's a bathroom to remodel, and I'm going to want to stay here at least long enough to be able to say I had a chance to enjoy it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Another Patsys Update: Now With Details!

I announced previously that the long dormant Patsys will be dusting off their gear and trekking north to Clintonville Academy for a special event on Saturday September 18th. It's a benefit of sorts, being organized by members of the school community to lend a hand to Rob Behler and his lovely family.

I'll admit I don't have a lot of details to share, but here's what I do know:

1. It will be outside; the parking lot of Clintonville Academy to be exact (3916 Indianola Avenue).
2. The Patsys go on at 3:30 PM.
3. There will be children, possibly belly-dancers.
4. It's for a good cause.
5. You should come.

I know it's a busy weekend, and I'm not normally one to beg, but if you only go to one Patsys show this year, make it this one. It would mean the world to us.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Wilderness Downtown: Cool or Creepy?

Chris Milk's just released experimental film "The Wilderness Downtown" combines Google mapping software with the Arcade Fire's "We Used to Wait" to create a kind of multi-media (and customizable) music video. Viewers are invited to plug in the address where they grew up and watch as their childhood neighborhood is brought to life via Google's street view.

The project seems to be something of a promotional effort for Google Chrome, though it functioned well enough in Firefox for me to get the gist.

Michelle Castillo at Techland provides a few more details and hints a bit at the creep factor, but doesn't go quite far enough with it. I'm less concerned that the program can find/harvest where I grew up (I expect that's been done thousands of times already in much less explicit ways). I'm slightly more distressed at having my childhood memories reinterpreted through an Arcade Fire song. I get that Win, Regine, and the rest of the crew have a nostalgic streak in them, but I'm not sure I want it foisted on me in such a literal way.

If "We Used to Wait" was indeed written as a paean to our collective vulnerable youths (or whatever it was written as), I'd hope my own intellect, imagination, and ability to infer meaning would have figured that out eventually. Being lead there by the nose in such a personal way (i.e. by street viewing my childhood home and incorporating it into a film) comes off as kind of manipulative. Besides, my childhood had a soundtrack, and I don't recall it involved the Arcade Fire.

That said, Milk's film is a technical breakthrough to be sure. I'm glad he did it and I'm glad he shared it. I'm also excited about the possibilities for other similarly creative endeavors. It really is exciting stuff.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Struggling with the Great Masters

If you're even a casual art enthusiast you've probably been exposed to thousands and thousands masterpieces. History of art classes routinely focus on the most seminal and well-realized works. Art history books feature only the best of the best. Museums prominently display their most prized works and use their web sites to tout the same. While studying the masterworks certainly has value, the focus on great paintings can lead to the mistaken impression that all the old masters ever did was sit around churning out one masterpiece after another.

As a painter, this artistic hit parade can be a fairly disheartening. I'm certainly not churning out one masterpiece after another. (...for that matter, I'm not sure I've even churned out one masterpiece). That's why I get a special thrill whenever I come face to face with a less than successful work by one of the old masters.

The Art Institute of Chicago owns a couple paintings that perfectly capture the not always successful masters in action. Both happen to be seascapes done is successive years. One is by Manet, the other by Whistler. I love both painters dearly, but neither has quite hit the mark with these works.

I've affectionately dubbed this pair "Boats We Couldn't Be Bothered to Paint"; and while each has its own sketchy charms, neither is particularly convincing.

Steamboat Leaving Boulogne, 1864 by Edouard Manet
Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

Trouville (Grey and Green, The Silver Sea), 1865 by James McNeil Whistler
Image Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

It's not that these are necessarily "bad" paintings. They're not. And it's not that I take some perverse pleasure in bearing witness to their shortcomings. I don't. Rather, I appreciate their role as a corrective to the idea that great paintings are easy. They're not. Painting is fluid, messy, and imprecise. Success is never guaranteed, and making a really great painting is never automatic - even if your an old master.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Patsys: Summer Tour 2010

The Patsys have been on something of an extended hiatus the last year and a half. We haven't really been playing out, and truth be told that probably would have continued were it not for an invitation to do something really nice this summer.

On Saturday September 18th The Patsys will be playing an event at Clintonville Academy to help out Rob Behler and his family. We hope you'll be able to join us.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Up With People

As I look forward to Weezer's performance at the Ohio State Fair on Saturday, I find myself contemplating the nearly pathological ambivalence I've afforded them over the course of their 15 year career. Since their inception I've swung wildly between periods of crazed fan-boy OMG I CANT STOP LISTENING infatuation (Weezer (the blue album), Weezer (the green album), Maladroit) to stretches where I flat-out ignored whatever it was they did (Pinkerton, Weezer (the red album), Make Believe).

It's a band/fan relationship that I'm not really accustomed to, but one I suppose I've learned to accept. I've noticed too (given their role as a fairly straight forward pop-rock combo) that I have an unusual propensity for over-analyzing their work.

"What's the significance of three albums all called Weezer?".

"Why do all the solos on Weezer (the green album) simply mimic the melody line?"

"Does River's really want to live in Beverly Hills?"

and perhaps most importantly,

"How does someone who graduated from Harvard manage to pen lines like "On an island in the sun, we’ll be playing and having fun", with a straight face?"

So, it is in the spirit of over-analyzing Weezer that I now reflect on their video for the single "Pork and Beans". Released in 2008, the video quickly "went viral" by (Surprise!) incorporating a bunch of other YouTube phenoms that had previously gone viral.

Haters were quick to cry "Copycats!", noting that this particular hand had already been played by the Barenaked Ladies in their 2007 video "Sound of Your Voice". Others suggested that Weezer's meta-video was nothing more than a shameless cash-in; a YouTube fueled YouTube video designed to log millions upon millions of YouTube views.

While I can't defend Weezer against accusations of theft (they clearly weren't the first to discover this new world), I will suggest that "Pork and Beans" is less a cheap cash-in and more an uninhibited celebration of us. The song itself presents an anthemic paean to self-acceptance as layer upon layer of guitar buoy Rivers' impassioned stance:

"Imma do the things that i wanna do
I ain't got a thing to prove to you
I'll eat my candy with the pork and beans
Excuse my manners if i make a scene
I ain't gonna wear the clothes that you like
I'm fine and dandy with the me inside
one look in the mirror and i'm tickled pink
I don't give a hoot about what you think"

As the song trundles along the video highlights a sampling of YouTube celebrities and characters from days gone by. Like all great art though the characters are meant to be seen not as through a window but as a reflection. They are the mirror that reflects us at a moment in time. They're earnest, impassioned, hopeful, ridiculous, heroic, and humbled. As we watch, we're invited to see a bit of ourselves; our hopes and fears, our triumphs and failures. It's "Up With People" for a (relatively) new millennium and one of the reasons I continue to wander back to the Weezer camp. Perhaps that's naive, but you know what they say about rock, "If it's too naive, you're too old."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Ohio State Fair Exhibition: An Update

On May 15 I posted about my submissions to this year's Ohio State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition. I'm happy to report that I've had two painting accepted into the show. I previewed one already (A Pennsylvania Landscape (after Keiley)). The other accepted work was this one:

Moonlight (A Moonlight Poem) (after Becher)

Right now, both pieces are being lovingly framed by my friends at Hackman Frames. Hackman is a one of a kind custom framing and gilding operation right here in Columbus and they really do terrific work. We're lucky to have them in town.

Also, while I'm offering acknowledgments, Laura Alexander (who also got work accepted into the Fair!) has been kind enough to help deliver my work on drop-off day! I had some scheduling conflicts, but Laura has come through to help out.

...and just when I thought the Fair couldn't get any better, we got Weezer and DEVO tickets!

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Ohio Historical Center: A Defense

A couple weeks ago I was contacted by Carrie Ghose at Business First to share my thoughts on architecture in central Ohio. The recent controversy surrounding the new Student Union at Ohio State had apparently sparked a number of conversations regarding what constitutes "good" building design.

Carrie was following that story, and developing a second piece to get feedback on other notable Columbus buildings. At the time I offered a staunch a defense of what I believe might be the most maligned and misunderstood building in central Ohio, the Ohio Historical Center. Business First wasn't able to run the whole piece, so I've decided to turn it into a blog post.

photo courtesy of OHS/

The refrain is a as old as the building itself, "It's ugly. It's just a giant brown box. It doesn't even look like a museum". Sadly, it's that exact line of thinking that poses the greatest threat to the building Architectural Record referred to as, “the most architecturally significant public structure built in Ohio since the State Capitol Building.” While many view it as something of a modernist cliche, The Ohio Historical Center's simplicity and raw presence belie what is in fact a unique and nuanced structure.

When it first opened in 1970 the Center was lauded by the American Institute of Architects as bold and imaginative. To this day, architecture aficionados recognize the building as one of the premier examples of Brutalism in the United States. Brutalism, as evidenced by the Center, favored the honesty of exposed concrete and modernist block forms over more decorative, bourgeois flourishes.

photo courtesy of OHS/

Even within the parameters of the Brutalist aesthetic, the building manages to convey a sense of Ohio's unique history. Designed by the Columbus firm W. Byron Ireland & Associates, the Center pays homage to our State's past through a number of clever expressions. The most striking is its shape, inspired by the tiered form of a typical Ohio frontier block house. The Center's rich, brown exterior is comprised of Ohio silo tile, while the structure itself sits on a gently sloping mound, a nod to the ancient earthworks built by the first Ohioans. On top of of all that, it's got cantilevers that would make Frank Lloyd Wright green with envy.

The word ugly gets tossed around a lot. It's been used to describe many of art's most iconic achievements (The Eiffel Tower, Jackson Pollock paintings, and punk rock come to mind). I expect there's a lesson in there. When you hear the word ugly, look a little closer and dig a little deeper. What you might find is something innovative, challenging, unexpected and unique.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Can Retro Design Be Great Design?

It appears that Spyker (the high-end Dutch sports car company) is making plans to develop a car based on the original Saab 92 (1949-1956). If you've been following the tales and travails of the Saab brand you'll recall that Spyker saved the car maker from almost certain liquidation after GM cut the Swedish niche-brand loose last year.

Having been a Saab loyalist for nearly 20 years, I'm thrilled by the idea of a resurgent Saab entering the market with a new direction and focus (most Saab fans look on the GM years as time lost in the wilderness). And while I've always understood the 92 to be a lovely little post-World War II car (and quite innovative for its time), it raises an interesting question about what constitutes great design. Namely, can retro design be great design?

It's a question worth asking since we're clearly living in a time when re-manufacturing the past has become a common practice. Whether it's cars (like the MINI Cooper, VW Beetle, and Fiat 500), cameras, bicycles or appliances, designers are looking back to classic mid-century forms as they develop many of today's newest products

I remain conflicted on the question. Part of me recognizes the challenge of re-imagining something like the Fiat 500 for a modern audience, but part of me also knows that design moves forward by solving problems in in new and innovative ways.

What do you think? Can these new "retro" designs ever achieve the iconic status of "great" designs in their own right, or will they always be seen as pale imitations of their predecessors?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Ohio State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition 2010

Entries into this year's Ohio State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition are due on May 22nd. The State Fair's exhibition is highly competitive and draws some of the top artists from around the state. I'll be submitting three paintings this year and crossing my fingers that something gets accepted. Here's a sneak peak at one of the entries.

"A Pennsylvania Landscape (after Keiley)"

This painting is part of a new series that's moving away from the tornado paintings I've done in the past. I'll admit I'm a little nervous about the change. The tornadoes were a known quantity and usually well received. I'm not sure I can expect an identical response with these new works. While they don't invite the same immediate or visceral response the tornadoes did, they've got a conceptual underpinning that I'm really excited about.

Also, if you've been paying attention to my blog, you'll recognize "A Pennsylvania Landscape (after Keiley)" as the finished version of the painting I was working on when I made this post.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Do Museums Still Need Objects?

I've been knocking this question around ever since I attended the panel discussion "Do Museums Still Need Objects?" at the Wexner Center in March. The program featured author and historian Steven Conn (discussing his book of the same name), as well a panel of Central Ohio museum administrators (David E. Chesebrough of COSI Columbus, Burt Logan of the Ohio Historical Society, Nannette V. Maciejunes of the Columbus Museum of Art, and Sherri Geldin of the Wexner Center).

The presentation offered an interesting look at the history of museums in the United States, and also provided some unique insights from the panelists regarding their respective institutions. I'd recommend that anyone affiliated with museums watch the video.

From my perspective, I was a little surprised that no one paid more attention to the effect that Web 2.0 might have on how we respond to museums, objects, and collections. See, I've always been of the mind that the conversations created by art and objects are at least as valuable as the things themselves. In that regard, the thing itself need not always be present.

For example, around the time this panel presentation was taking place, the Ohio Historical Society's Collections Blog was posting a countdown of the "Ten Most Embarrassing Moments in Ohio History" . The posts provided food for thought, highlighted the kind of appreciation for history that's at the Society's core, and generated more than a few comments. It was all done outside the physical museum, and all without direct contact with any objects. I think that kind of thing is worth paying attention to.

As the web allows for more participatory engagement (and 3D imaging becomes more common), physical proximity to an object or collection will matter less and less. "Stuff", or at least museum stuff, will become what they call "geographically neutral". Of course there's still something to be said for being in the presence of a singular object, but it's not something that's always critical to the conversation.

I guess when it comes right down to it, I don't have to stand next to a Thomas Eakins painting to know what it means...though sometimes it is nice.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Roger. Out.

Roger Ebert, film-critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, recently published a blog post that's ignited a firestorm of debate across the internet. In "Video Games Can Never Be Art", Ebert sets out to refute a TED talk by game designer Kellee Santiago. In point by point fashion he lays out his reasons why video games don't (can't) carry the same artistic weight as music, painting, and yes, film.

Not surprisingly, hordes of tech savvy gamers and enthusiasts have offered rebuttals, refutations, and counter-arguments to Ebert's essay. As of this writing, there were over 2700 comments to his post alone. Add to that the news stories, blog posts, and opinion pieces devoted to the topic and you've got something close to a full-on backlash.

As far as debates go, it's been a pretty lopsided affair. Ebert stands resolutely behind his post while the chants of "you don't get it" grow louder around him. Personally I find myself less perturbed by Ebert's assertions than by the ham-handed way he's delivered them.

"Video Games Can Never be Art" is, to put it plainly, internet attention-whoring. It's trolling. It's calculated and contrarian posturing that's better suited for a 24-hour new cycle than honest debate. And it worked. In a few paragraphs of not particularly rigorous musings, Roger Ebert is thrust into the spotlight again.

As if to fan the flames of internet hoopla further, he's been offering a steady stream of condecension via his Twitter account. He happily taunts and heckles those who disagree, all the while remaining proudly ignorant of the gaming medium (He admits to having not played any of the games he critiques).

I suppose then Ebert would be advised to enjoy the warm glow of all this pixelated attention while he can. I'm not sure it will last. You see, people have been saying this or that can't be art for ages. They said photographs couldn't be art. They said movies couldn't be art. They said videos, quilts, urinals, splatters, drips, rips, and ideas couldn't be art. They were wrong. They're always wrong. In due time, Roger Ebert will find himself on the losing side of history as well. His contrarian stance will end up being nothing more than a quaint footnote, hearkening back to a time when film critics had a say in what could or couldn't be art.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Obligatory "I'm Swamped" Post.


I think everyone who blogs is allowed at least one "I've been too busy to keep up with my blog" entry. This is mine.

For whatever reason, every deadline has converged on that sliver of time at the end of March and the beginning of April. I'm not sure how things line up like this, they just do. This past week I've prepared for and given a professional presentation in Kent, Ohio, participated in a 3 day professional development workshop, written employee progress reviews, helped engineer a puppet show, secured a commencement speaker, and baked cookies!

Next week I'll be running a committee meeting for the Ohio Library Council, helping script the aforementioned puppet show, preparing for our library's Electronic Resources Team meeting, and helping facilitate a library program on Wednesday evening.

It looks like things will be clearing out a bit by mid-April, which is good. I freely admit I'm the kind of person who likes to stay busy, but enough is enough!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Speaking of Art

Various tornado paintings by Jeff Regensburger

If you've been following my blog posts, you know that I currently have a selection of paintings on display at the Dayton Visual Arts Center. These are on view along with the work of Michael Bashaw as part of "Something This Way Comes", a tornado themed exhibit held in conjunction with the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center. In support of this exhibition, I was invited to give a gallery talk last night. This is something I enjoy as it provides a chance to address many of the underlying ideas behind the work. While it's obvious what the paintings are (tornadoes), the way they're arrived at isn't.

Tornado Installation (detail) by Michael Bashaw

As I've developed this body of work, I've worked through questions about photography (and it's role in painting), art history, American landscape painting, and the role of painting as a form of documentation. In my mind at least, the works are much more complicated than what you see. Since creating these works is a mostly solitary venture, I find it refreshing to share what goes into them with others (and sorry if I rambled too long...).

Tornado Installation by Michael Bashaw

I'll again thank the staff and friends at the DVAC. Jane, Janelle, Patrick and Ursula have proven to be knowledgeable, gracious, and professional. Michael Bashaw was a terrific gallery partner as well. His installation provided a counterpoint in scale that works well in the space.

I'll mention also that it was the idea of DVAC staff to hang many of my paintings "salon style" (that is, stacked on top of each other as seen in the top photo). While this was a display method that had never occurred to me, I'm very happy with the results.

The show runs through March 6th, so if you're in Dayton, please make a point to visit.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Jeff's Gentle Snow Story

I live on Summit in the neighborhood south of Hudson (SoHu). If you're not familiar, it's an older neighborhood with its share of petty crime and vandalism. When I got home yesterday evening I parked behind our house in what was already about 5 inches of snow. Like many of our neighbors, I'm left with a shabby concrete pad where the garage used to be (It turns out it's cheaper to simply demolish old garages than build new ones).

This morning, I went out back to clean off my car and clear out a path to the alley. Since it's likely to get much colder I figured I'd better do it early before all the slush and wet snow turned to ice. As I was shoveling noticed a young man walking up the alley in my direction. He looked to be about 13 or 14. When he got within conversational distance, he offered to help me finish the job for $4.00.

I told him, "Thanks, but I'm just about done."

As bad weather often brings out a sense of camaraderie that might not otherwise exist, I followed-up with a bit of chit-chat.

"You're probably doing pretty good today, aren't you?" I ventured.

"Yeah, I've got sixty bucks," he replied

I expressed what I thought was the appropriate amount of enthusiasm for his total when he interjected, "Well, actually I've only got $56.00 dollars. I want to go home with $60.00 though. That's why I said I'd help you for $4.00."

I offered that it was a snowy mess today and I was sure he'd make $4.00 somewhere. He agreed, and continued walking. I leaned on my shovel for an extra second, enjoying the break, when it occurred to me, "I need to encourage this!"

He was about 20 paces off when I remembered I still had $5.00 in my wallet. I shouted after him, "Hey Kid, wait a sec..."

He stopped and turned. I jogged up to him, pulled the $5.00 bill from my wallet and said, "Here. This is for doing something good. This is for not being out here breaking shit, stealing shit, and tagging shit. Thanks."

He was surprised and understandably caught a bit off guard. Perhaps anxious to show he was worthy of his pay, he assured me that tagging and stealing weren't his thing.

"Yeah, I imagine they're not," I said, "still...thanks."

He turned the corner, and I went back to shoveling; all the while imagining - or at least wildly hoping - that our modest exchange would stay with him, becoming a kind of parable that he might in turn share with others.

Friday, January 29, 2010

On Salinger, Libraries, and Access to Information

I’ve always taken a very unsympathetic view of Salinger's relentless stranglehold on his published works. The control he exercised strikes me as both selfish and counter to how humans learn, grow, and express themselves.

Yes, I know they’re his.

Yes I know copyright law protects them.

Yes, I know he's been under no obligation to permit audio versions, commemorative editions, stage adaptations, 50th Anniversary reprints, screenplays, illustrated editions, alternate cover art, or any of the other things that are a regular part of the popular fiction life cycle. It’s all perfectly legal and all well within his rights.

That said, Salinger’s pathological control over his presumably precious and apparently unalterable writings will make their appearance in the public domain all the sweeter. Frankly, I can’t wait. You see, I work in a library. I value information. I like it to be easily accessible. I like to see it change hands and be transferred without a lot of fuss and without a lot of barriers. I want information to be there for people to learn from, comment on, build upon, satirize, and re-imagine. While I understand the need for intellectual property rights and laws, I know in my heart that progress occurs when we share information, not when we hoard it. Salinger has been a hoarder, and we, as a culture, are less for it.

This issue of access to information isn't just about having works available in the larger cultural context. Often it's a much more individual concern. As a librarian, I find myself frequently asked to help parents find audiobooks for children and young adults with learning disabilities or reading disorders. For these kids, audiobooks are often the only reading they can do. Since Salinger never authorized any audio versions of his titles, this group gets shut out. The same holds true for people who are blind or visually impaired. Again, no audio versions, and no large-print editions. Salinger never signed off on them. Apparently the Salinger canon is only meant for the able-bodied among us. That's selfish and wrong.

In his misguided attempt to protect his works, Salinger has succeeded in nothing more than making them supremely attractive targets for ridicule and exploitation. He’s treated them as sacred when they’re not. He’s acted as though he somehow gets the last word when he doesn’t. We do, us and everyone that comes after us. Appropriation, satire, misuse, retelling, and outright theft are part of our cultural heritage. Shakespeare has seen it. So has Dickens. It's happened to Leonardo, Michelangelo, Van Gogh, and Manet. It will happen to Salinger too. He can't stop it. It's what we do. We share, lift, borrow, steal, and build. Frankly, if Salinger was so concerned that people might comment, question, alter, forge, fake, or exploit his work, he should have never published it.

I hope I live long enough to see the copyright on his novels expire. When it does, my fingers are crossed for an avalanche of plays, film adaptations, puppet shows and junior high-school recitations. I want Holden Caulfield action figures, coffee mugs, and backpacks. I want to see sandwiches named Holden on Rye. I want to see Franny and Zooey dolls. I want to see a Glass family version of Trivial Pursuit – or better still - a Glass family game show with Howie Mandel as the host. I want to see a version of "Chutes and Ladders" with Holden, Maurice, Sunny, and Sally as playing pieces.

…and if that sounds a bit mean-spirited, I'd suggest that Salinger’s been asking for it all along.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Some Newer Work...Based Loosely on Some Older Work

I've always been fascinated by the paintings of both Albert Pinkham Ryder and Marsden Hartley. That I've found enjoyment in both shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to anyone familiar with either. They are linked in their way. A young Hartley held Ryder in high regard, going so far as to embark on a series of tonally dark works after viewing Ryder's "Moonlight Marine" in 1909.

Moonlight Marine by Albert Pinkham Ryder

Ryder (as is often noted), serves as a kind of bridge between the romanticism of the late 19th Century and the modernism of the 20th Century. Hartley, coming later, worked through a series of different styles and approaches over the course of his career. While he didn't always stick close to Ryder's style, drama and emotional content were always part of the formula.

Storm Clouds, Maine by Marsden Hartley

Recently, I did a few small painting based on what Ryder and Hartley were working towards in the paintings above. It's a little embarrassing to think about these works in the context of such great painters, but that's actually a big part of art making for me. I see the progression of art history as a kind of dialog. In this case, Ryder and Hartley made a statement about their environment, and I've created a response.

Night Sky by Jeff Regensburger

Night Sky #2 by Jeff Regensburger

So, there's a couple recent things. Obviously there's no tornadoes in them, but there is some other stuff going on. I've been knocking around a couple other ideas too, so I might put the tornadoes on hold for a bit. We'll see.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Taking the Show on the Road

I've got an exhibition of my tornado paintings going up at the Dayton Visual Arts Center this winter. I'll be sharing the front gallery space with sculptor/installation artist Michael Bashaw, who's putting together a large scale tornado shaped piece for the show. All of this is being done in partnership with the Victoria Theatre Association, who are rightly excited about the opening of the musical "Wicked" on February 17th (are you sensing a theme here?) .

Well, yesterday was art moving day, and in keeping with the "behind the scenes" theme I started in my previous post, I thought I'd share some snapshots of how things went.

Below is what 38 paintings look like when they're boxed up and ready to load into a car. Framed, my largest paintings are probably only 12" x 18" inches. That makes transport fairly easy. I can't imagine what a hassle it must be to have to move and store large works.

The gallery itself is a lovely storefront operation in downtown Dayton.

I was lucky to schedule my drop-off on a Thursday, since that meant I could participate in the weekly "Art Lunch". This is an apparently long-standing tradition in Dayton where artists meet to share work, provide feedback, and generally chat about what they've been up to. I was glad to be a part of it. Also, guess what the most common question is after people find out you paint tornadoes?

I'll give you a hint, it's "Why tornadoes?".

I unpacked a few pieces while I was there, but I didn't stick around for the install. They have a good team at DVAC, and I trust them to come up with a nice presentation. These works can be tricky to hang since the subject matter, size, style, and framing are all very similar. I hate to use the word monotonous when I'm talking about my paintings, but the fact is when you get a bunch of them together, they can be!

I'll likely post some images once the show is hung. I'll make sure I get some shots of Michael's installation too. It looks good now, but I was reluctant to post pictures of it in progress. The opening reception is on Friday February 5th, and then Michael and I are scheduled to give a gallery talk on Thursday February 11th. Everyone likes to hear artists talk about their work, right?