Thursday, May 6, 2010

A friend said today she thought that artists always hated their own work.
I'm not sure what the general feeling is.. Personally, I love what I'm doing but am always deeply disappointed with the results. There are always lots of little things that when you look at a work you've just completed, you wish you had done differently, or sometimes you just don't know whether it's doing what you want it to do or not, and you resent it just for the sheer possibility that it might be letting you down.
Professor Bustamante asked me today to explain my place project in a few sentences, which is a scary request. Words and art are by nature, um, non-transferrable. It's like when you translate a poem, and not only do the words no longer rhyme or alliterate or match the rhythm, the words don't even mean the same things. They have different shades of meaning, different little nuances and contextual associations. To translate an idea that honestly I can't hold in my mind all at once from one form of communication to another . . . it's a real mindfuck.
But it's also a great exercise, and it's a necessary thing to do. It's maybe one of the things that gets you to the next more successful work.
And of course, the work is about place. But it's place as seen through the lens of my personal themes and interests and quirks and so on.
One thing that I realized very early on in the conceptualization of this work is that I was working in a sort of roundabout, subtractive way. It was like, I was taking a place away, and showing how place still remains. I take away my home, and aspects of home come up everywhere and the compromised circumstances cause me to be even more confined to a small area. I take the two dimensional drawing off its place on a wall, and I become its wall instead. The table it rests on as I read or eat becomes its wall. Everything is its gallery.
I tried to bring art with me into my life, tried to make it real, tried to make it do actual things. I tried to pull this virtual thing, this data, that is a drawing out of its virtual world and thereby make it into a drawing in the real world. You no longer just look at the pen marks, or even the pen marks plus the paper they're on. You look at that ink and paper getting hit by light, being surrounded by trees, being pinched between my fingers and bent by wind and pierced by string (Yet, in doing so, I created a photography piece in which the drawing had retreated even farther into the virtual). But still it's a drawing first and foremost. I didn't want to make it into a hat or a t-shirt. I didn't want to subject it to some sort of torture or unnatural process. I wanted it to continue to act as a drawing, and retain those characteristics and that . . . personality.
I just find it unsettling how art takes place in this imaginary place, as if it were all hollywood or something. It's something you do when you're not doing your real life stuff, and it's something that interrupts that real life stuff. When I was a kid, like most artists, I wanted to draw comic books. And I realize now that the reason I thought I wanted that is because I had this addiction to day dreaming about being other people, super or fanciful or just cooler. And drawing was a way to fulfill a need to actually experience these personas a little further. And I remember this almost painful desire for them to do more than just stand flat on the page. I wanted them to be posed in different ways. I wanted to be able to make toys of them. I wanted for them to be animated. I wanted to make them real and for them to matter and for it to matter that I was drawing them and for it to have meant something that I spent all that time drawing them, for it to have earned me experience points, to use video game lingo.
And of course, the drawings didn't do anything or matter or amount to something. And as I grew older, I began to realize that nothing "does anything" or matters or counts for anything greater, at least not any more so than those drawings of made up heroes and the fantasies that went along with them.
In a very real way, you could say I just spent three days pretending to be Placeman. And I still have this wish for it to have somehow less absurd than . . . the universe as a whole. I think we all want that. I think we all want to create order and meaning, and to be able to feel as if the meaning we created isn't abitrary or just pretend. And maybe that even relates to the concept of place in the most abstract that's-quite-a-stretch way possible. But I guess it relates to every conceivable concept, and is at the root of the whole meaning of "concept", trying to make sense out of an existence that is, for all intents and purposes, completely devoid of sense.
And sometimes it feels like having to do complex math in your head in order to sustain some sort of Dungeons and Dragons style spell. Like, I'm conjuring up this conceptual placeness for myself and I'm doing the same drawing or taking the same photo over and over again to sustain what I've done. And now I've stopped. And I wonder how long the spell will last, how long I can hold the structure of it in my head. I wish I could continue to be push myself like this indefinitely, doing without sleep or leisure activities. I want to take art as seriously as humanly possible. I'm in an engineering school. Students are spending every waking hour studying chemistry and math and mechanics. But art should be so much harder, because it's impossible to make anything that functions as well as the simplest of mechanisms. People should be saying "Fuck, I'm glad I'm not an art major. Those guys are crazy!" because of how impossibly difficult art is.
. . . Gotta go to the senior exhibition.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

went back home today a little after noon. it really was a relief at first, but then of course you get over it, and it just becomes that messy place where the internet barely works and you miss the long gone cat that you didn't even like very much to begin with. All in all it's about as good and as bad as the graveyard and the churchyard and the wafflehouse.
I guess it'd be an oversimplification to say that, with the exception of really horrible places like, say, torture chambers, place is a momentary sensation, and once the place becomes just your current setting, it sort of falls away. Or maybe really it becomes a part of you, and that's why it seems less noticeable to you.
*Shrug* As you can tell I'm not sure I learned anything profound yet. This is actually the worst part of the whole project for me. Not because the adventure is over or because I'm at a loss as to what to do with myself next, but just because I'm really tired . . . I have a sleep debt of like seventeen hours. And I still have to put the piece together. And my paper for art history is going to be very late. And so on. Oh well. Even so, it was a good thing to do, all in all.
Something about waking up in a strange place . . . It's just about impossible to go back to sleep. Also, I learned that 70 degrees Fahrenheit feels way colder when you've been lying motionless on the ground for two hours than when you've been walking around. I never would have thought one's teeth could chatter at 70 degrees.
After I woke up, I went to Wafflehouse and ate breakfast, did art history research. I had the same waitress as last time. The familiarity and the food and coffee and the vague imitation of friendliness sort of created a sense of home. I can see why a certain kind of people really like diners. Like, Edward Hopper's Nighthawks painting . . . these isolated people finding comfort not in some sort of party or night club or get together with a friend, but just this intimately sized space in which there are other people sharing a location with you, experiencing similar feelings maybe.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It's difficult for me to gather my thoughts and recall the events of the day. I'm tired. I haven't gotten much sleep in the past two and a half days. I fell asleep twice today, once in art history class, once at the library, both for about thirty minutes.

I didn't have to work today, and I spent a lot of my time just trying to . . . find rest, I guess. I went to the school cafeteria a couple times. I spent a while on the quiet floor of the library. I spent a while outside the college radio station, listening to the music. I just came back from a long walk in which I had planned to go eat at, like, McDonald's or something, but all the fast food places were closed to inside customers.

I picked out a place to sleep tonight. The methodist church has this center area that's completely out of view from the roads. Being there was the first time I'd felt really creeped out. I don't know why. Maybe it was the fact that I was so far from campus, or because it was so closed off that it would actually be a good place to murder or rob someone with no chance of anyone seeing you. Or maybe just because the Christian god is scary.

I wish I were better able to think and write right now, but oh well. I will be going home tomorrow. I need my computer, which is there, to wrap up my project. and I already have more photos than I really need.

Slept on the floor of Wily tower, fifteenth floor. It was warm and dark and empty. Yet I still have a runny nose now . . . It's funny to what extent this project has suddenly become about me sleeping in weird places. No idea where I will try next if I do another night.

I keep thinking about St. Christopher, the patron saint of travellers. He was this giant who carried the Christ child accross a river, and as he went, Christ got heavier and heavier. It wasn't the first century AD or anything. I guess the young Christ time travelled or something . . . I don't know how it relates to me; I guess it doesn't especially. I'm certainly not a giant carrying a little god of increasing density. But I've thought of the comparison ever since I poked the holes in the drawing to put the string through, thereby creating a little stigmata paper. And the longer I do this, the more of a burden it becomes, with little sleep per night, with excessive junk food and caffeine.

I actually envisioned myself being homeless after this year of school once, since I will be a liberal arts major with no scholarships, people or job skills. I don't know how much that influenced my decision to do this. I guess it makes me more ready to identify with the homeless. My father, a drug addict and petty criminal, was a largely homeless man for much of my life. Not that I saw him very often at all; he didn't live on my block or anything. I guess for all I know he could have been living in a very nice house, but my conception of him is built upon descriptions of him as alternating between being in prison and having no place of his own, staying with friends or on the streets.

With no place to retreat to, to sort of "give in" at the end of the day every day, time feels very long. I guess if I did this long enough it'd become routine and time would move by as quickly as always.

There's this artist who I saw on Art 21 who knits her own clothes and made this floating habitat for her to live on alone for a month or something like that. Will have to look her up again. She was cool.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Slept in the graveyard. It was one of the best places I found to be out of sight. Didn't sleep long though, maybe a couple of hours. Woke up because I was cold. Didn't have any weird dreams; didn't wake up confused or thinking 'why aren't I in my bed'. Just felt disappointed that it was only 2:30 am, and I would have to find something else to do for the rest of the night.

I walked around downtown for a bit. I watched a couple of episodes of 30 Rock in the Tech computer lab. I went to Waffle House and drank a pot of coffee while taking notes for my art history paper. I left a large tip to say thanks for letting me loiter.

I feel pretty good I guess. Sleepy, of course, but the project so far has been very peaceful and meditative, sort of conducive to thinking. My favorite part is the sounds. As I walk the wheels of my rolling bookbag make, like, roller blading noises, and there are birds and bugs singing, and cars driving past, sometimes they have their radios on. It's like listening to a nature sounds CD. Even now, in the computer lab, there's all this typing going on, and this guy next to me keeps clearing his throat and sniffling. I don't know why my awareness of sounds has increased. But it's very pleasant.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Probably my least favorite thing so far about this project is the drawing on my back. It makes me nervous to think about the fragile thing that I can't see to know that it's okay. Wearing it is a little embarrassing because I know people must think I'm a weirdo.
It reminds me of Catcher in the Rye, how the main character, Holden Caulfield, has this red hunter's hat, like an Elmer Fudd hat, and he makes this statement of his individuality by wearing it backwards, but when there are a lot of people around he loses his nerve and wears it the right way or takes it off.

For the most part, my day has been pretty normal. Walked to work and back to campus, but that is something that I've done several times before. Did some research for my art history paper in the library. Then I went outside and sat on the steps of Keeney Hall and adjusted my drawing, did a couple more studies. I only tend to take pictures when I'm stopped somewhere.

Considering going to Wafflehouse to drink coffee and do more research. Haven't decided yet. Kind of sleepy, but don't actually know where I would sleep.

"Burning every bridge that I crossed, just to find a beautiful place to get lost." - Elliot Smith

I left my house today at noon. Drove my truck to the tech library so I could return all my library books since, while I won't be able to get to them at my house, I can get to them at the library.

I bought one of those rolling backpacks. It's funny 'cause it's kind of like a little house and vehicle rolled into one. It has all the clothes and hygiene products in it that I would keep in my house and wheels to make transporting my stuff from place to place possible.

Mostly I just brought what I needed. I brought a change of clothes and toothbrush and soap and a towel. I brought an umbrella in case it rains.

But come to think of it, half of the stuff has nothing to do with my survival and is more circumstantial. I brought drawing materials of course. I also had to bring some paint, brushes, and matboards for landscape class. I had to bring my shirt and hat for work. I had to bring my prospective summer class schedule because I still need a signature. I brought my conceptual design book so I can read the chapter for Tuesday.

When I really try to determine what of the things I brought I really need, really can't live without, the answer is nothing. None of the things I brought are food, or shelter related. Perhaps I might die without the umbrella. Maybe I'd get really really cold at night without this long sleeve shirt. But I doubt it. I just brought a bunch of crap of no real importance that I will now have to drag around with me.

After dropping off my library books, I sat down at a table in front of the student center and got out all my stuff to do my major master study. The people next to me were discussing a paper on social worker self defense. The women in front of me were recounting their first sexual experiences. It made me think about Chuck Palahniuk's theory in the book Lullaby, how the American dream is to live alone. Rich people don't live in hostels or the ground floor of hotels. They live in mansions on acres of land or in penthouses at the very top of buildings. They live as far away from everyone else as possible while still being able to enjoy the luxuries and infrastructure of civilized living.

I decided I wanted to be by myself, so I went and sat under a big tree. It was interesting how the shade provided made it like a room. I forgot scissors so I had to go to the art building and find some there. Now my major study is done with string attached, ready to be worn. I'm still not completely happy with it, plan to continue to make little adjustments to the drawing.

Now I'm going to hang out in the computer lab for a bit and listen to NPR, then go to work and hope they don't question why I'm carrying to bags and wearing a drawing.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

paid all my bills the other day. paid rent early. trying to figure out what all I need to carry around with me. thinking about that story "The Things They Carried".

did some sketches of a landscape for landscape class the other day, outdoors without my easel, and it felt good and right. But this probably won't feel like that.

Leaving my home tomorrow. won't come back 'til Tuesday at the earliest. a part of me wishes I could leave right now. I don't know why. I suddenly realize that ever since I was a kid I've hated having to have a home. I've always wished I could be . . . away. absent.

I hate place so much. thinking now of Picasso's statement about African masks "I too am against everything. I too think everything is other. Everything is enemy. Everything!" I can identify with that.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I was going to go wash and set aside the clothes I plan to wear, and return all my library books since they wouldn't be any use to me at my house, but I ended up explaining my place project to my girlfriend tonight instead. I really botched the whole conversation and made it about whether or not she appreciated my art instead of the dangers and selfishness of me living without a home. Like, I preemptively defended myself against the attack I expected but didn't actually get . . . and that whole thing took a lot out of me.
I did the apparently obligatory two drawings, and they appear exceptionally sketchy and half-assed.
I noticed the predominant colors in the still life are red, yellow, and blue, and it made me think about Seurat and how in pointilism the separate colors mix as light, and therefore in order to make something appear yellow, he would have to use a combination of red and green dots. I like that the still life I'm copying is composed around red yellow and blue. It makes me think about the connection between the light of the real world which shine and reflects off of the illusionary paint, while at the same time the pigment has mass and is material whereas light is not (I guess. I'm not really a scientist).
I got a couple of things accomplished today. I cut out the paper for the major copy, the one I'll carry around with me. Also I put masking tape on my camera viewscreen to create sights so my photos will be hopefully very close in composition.
I told my roommate that I wouldn't be home for a little while next week. I was thinking the other day how funny it'd be if while I was gone he stole all my stuff. It's weird that a home is a more secure place for things than a parking lot or sidewalk. It's not like our houses have defense systems or booby traps (well, I guess if you're cool your house probably does). It seems to be mostly the fact that the stuff in your house is hidden from view. Locks help too I guess, but I hardly ever lock up. I guess there's a sense of territory to the concept of house that just doesn't exist in the concept of "pile of belongings out in the open". Like, the invasion of someone else's territory is maybe more taboo and unthinkable than stealing.
That reminds me, before I left the house to come here and scan pictures, I heard this really loud bird chirp, and at first I thought it was like an internet alert noise going off, but quickly realized it was a bird. And the sudden knowledge that I was in his presence, in, from his point of view, a part of his territory, I found that very interesting. Like, everyplace within earshot of his song is a place where he is asserting his existence, and his pride. I think that art is a kind of chirp like that, something we do to kind of assert ourselves and make ourselves known, and of course there's a very real element of territorialism in things like graffiti. I like the thought of the drawing I carry being, like, my bird song, and I'm asserting myself to everyone who sees it. It's like I'm saying wherever I go "You are in the presence of a proud young artist!" . . . . or more likely "You are in the presence of a homeless crackpot!"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera."

- Dorothea Lange

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I was feeling drowsy and didn't want to go to sleep yet, so I went for a walk to the track, where I went for a run. Then I came here to the Tech computer lab in order to scan in the copies I did today. You would think a student who did as much scanning as I did would own a scanner.
But instead I go to where a scanner is. When I want to run I go to where the track is. And I can never keep track of a pencil sharpener, so I leave whatever I'm doing to find a pencil sharpener, or buy more sharpened pencils . . .
Thinking about this sort of thing, I realized that I have a tendency to let places happen to me, or to let circumstances control my place. And then, whenever it's up to me to create a place for something, like a pencil sharpener or a route to run or whatever, I don't do it.
This made me realize that my Place project is basically the antithesis of Matt Blache's place project (and upon further consideration I realized that we are sort of artistic opposites - he creates work that's elegant and simple, formal and universal, whereas I create work that's clumsy and convoluted, contextual and personal).
The definition of place Matt is working with assumes or creates order. He's creating a place, and creating the thing that goes there and defines it as a place. And the piece itself is a real object with a designated place - the classroom and/or a gallery.
My piece on the other hand . . . I'm removing the only places that I could be said to have had any large part in creating for myself. I'm becoming even more passively placed. And the bulk of the piece itself is a virtual object whose place is wherever it's viewed.
It's funny . . . Probably a way more challenging endeavor for me to attempt would have been just to try to get organized and find places for all my stuff. While I am pushing myself to do something that will be somewhat difficult, at the same time really aren't I just indulging in escapism? Maybe I'm leaving the places that are mine because in those places I am confronted by myself. Not that I think I should be organizing my stuff for this project. That wouldn't be very much like me, and so it wouldn't be my work.

Sitting outside on campus getting ready to draw some copies, getting a little preview of what it will be like later, I guess. The sunlight reflecting off the paper is almost blinding. It's an interesting contrast to the pitch black of the Clara Peeters still life background, like, a place where the elements aren't able to go. Yet, the sun still hits the page of the book, and if it rained, the book would still get wet. Though the data of the painting would not be compromised since the original is elsewhere.

The black of the background gives the still life objects a luminescent quality. It makes me think of TV and computer screens in dark rooms, rather than well lit, peopled homes - the image of the agoraphobic. There are no plants or fruits. The objects are either processed or from underwater. Could there be tension and a sort of resentment toward the home and domesticity here as well? It's dark, there's no life, there's a knife and claws and things on the verge of falling. Maybe it is even an unconscious sentiment. I don't think it's a hateful painting. It still feels like a picture of comfort and pleasure. It's just . . . complicated; strained. Fictitious. Auto-fictitious - a lie we tell ourselves. "We" being Clara Peeters and I.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Here's the master work I'm copying, by Clara Peeters.
The song Big Top Candy Mountain comes to mind. I never noticed 'til I started doing copies how that shadowy loaf of bread in the back right can't be more than 1/10 on the table. And then you've got almost everything else hanging off the edge of the table as well, and this precarious cheese tower . . . It's, like, this impossibly bounteous table, I guess. Some of the stuff comes from distant places - like the bowls from China, the crustaceans from the ocean, some of it's local - like the cheeses and beer. I think the blue of the table cloth would have conveyed a sense of wealth, if not holiness, due to that color's association with the virgin Mary.
The picture is imaginary. The 17th Century dutch still life artists did studies of individual objects and put them together into one picture. So you could say the place is imaginary. But then, there is no place, just a black void. Though I suppose the table is a place, and the bowls, and so on. In any case, it evokes a place. It's a happy place, a place that provides for you, where you would not suffer.
"To me, painting is home."
- Vincent van Gogh
"Sometimes you have to draw with your feet."
- Peter Jones
I came up with an idea for the Art 318 project on body/identity, which I didn't end up using, that made me, like, sick to think about doing. I was going to dress up in sexual fetish costumes and hang out in public, maybe hold up some cardboard signs, get someone to take photos. It was kind of silly and hamhanded, but I think I would have done it if I hadn't thought of something else to do.
This place project, it doesn't make me feel sick like that, but it's sort of upsetting to think about. Like, what if I fall asleep outside and wake up without a wallet. What will my girlfriend think when I tell her I'm not going to be in my house for a few days. Little things about it depress me, like having to go to the gym to take a shower, having to carry everything I "own" around with me, not having a place to go and be apart from everyone.
I guess that last one is the main thing about the project, and the thing I'll have in common with the drawing I will be carrying around. Like, it'll no longer be aloof and separate from the world on a wall or in a book. It'll be in the same boat as every other object. I don't think either one of us is cut out for this sort of thing. We're both flimsy and vulnerable and . . . sort of separate by nature, I guess.
I've felt compelled to, like, clean and organize my room before I go. Maybe I just want everything to be in order before I abandon it. Maybe I want to take stock of what items there are that I can take with me, sort of like trying to drag some of my place along.
Writing this has actually gotten me excited about the project a little bit. It's a sort of adventure, and obviously it's something that I want to do since I made it up for myself. Last night, I went outside to take out the trash, and the wave of pleasantness and just, like, psychic relief that hit me upon leaving the confines of my house was just incredible. And I forget about this sort of sensation of almost, like, motherly love that the outdoors has to offer us. I remember last summer, listening to Bottom of the World by Tom Waits, and feeling so trapped and alone, grasping for control and security/comfort.
This project is a little scary or intimidating or whatever, not knowing what I will do when I get sleepy, not being able to avoid people, and so on. But it's better than being so inextricably attached to a place.