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?