Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wallace's first wife (they divorced).

"Berniece Hansen Brooks (Gauthier), Wallace's 1st wife. (they divorced). She became an alcoholic + died as a result of burns by falling against stove. She had a flawless complexion & beautiful body." (written on the back, one could postulate, by Wallace's 2nd wife)
This photo made me remember an obituary a teacher in college once read to our class cut out of the New York Times where an old couple had been unhappily sharing a studio apartment for 30 years. They had set up a sheet hanging from the ceiling to bisect the apartment into two separate sleeping quarters, and would hit at eachother through the sheet while arguing. During one such argument, the husband had a heart attack and the wife thought he was just being dramatic. He perished on one side of the sheet while she went to bed on the other. That's all the information given in the newspaper cutting, but the few sentences there were so visually loaded, sort of like this description of our unfortunate Berniece Hansen Brooks. It's such a great example of something, literally and dangerously cliche, can have two sides. Yup, I said it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The why and so-what

A picture from Danya sent in the mail. I've been buying a lot of photographs from a small overpriced and bright yellow store off of Valencia at 18th called The Apartment. I like the owners, two older gay guys, but the fact that they try to charge a buck a pop for photos has been causing me to reevaluate my relationship with my photo collection-- when I was getting them for free in Portland, it was so much easier! On this particular day, I only had 10 bucks, and it took me an hour to figure out which ones I wanted. Fortunately, Danya was amused by the whole process... and the funny-looking baby pictures. This morning I met with an advisor and talked about how I wanted to work the photos into my artist practice. And what he said is true, photographs are problematic to work with because they're already so loaded and the idea has already been so worked over. For awhile I was collecting photographs where the photographers shadow was cast into the frame-- only to find out that a book had been published a few years prior featuring photographs of the exact same theme. Of course, this is the paranoia of all artists, especially art students-- that everything has potentially been done before. I think that this is a good awareness to have, but that I shouldn't get too derailed and should continue to try to articulate the why and so-what of what I'm doing.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

An oldy, but goody

It's been a long recess since I last was actively writing poetry. I saw Susannah at a party last week, who took poetry with me during my senior year of college. She isn't writing anymore either. But talking to her inspired me to check out what I was writing that year-- and surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly) I was writing about things that I'm still thinking about now. Which is objects and how they inform and articulate my life. Margaret reminded me that there's even one about grayness (and mules!), which seems pertinent to post at some point. But maybe I should write some too. But anyways, here's a poem from that year with Susannah, Elizabeth Willis and the rest of the crew:


Suppose that tomorrow
the brownstones of New York chose
to walk home to their Connecticut quarries,
their tall stony backbones clattering
and heavy footsteps making an interstate mess.

If it could, I am certain that
my floor would march to Maine.
Its boards would stand up in the forest
stretch and get cleaned by the sun.

These pieces of pottery would
fuse back into bowls.
They would ride their galloping tables
through dining rooms and kitchens.

Suppose that tomorrow
I woke up next to you in bed.
We would watch the mattress springs drilling into the ground
the pillows bursting feathers back to their chickens
the small black type crawling into our mouths.

How to be a girl

In my loneliness I've become entranced over reading what other people are looking for on craigslist-- and am struck by the endless variety and specificity of those needs. Especially in those of women. Of course, as a post-feminist, I think it's great that women are owning, asking for, and proactively searching for the things they want in their life. Craigslist is a strange phenomenon though, allowing for the people using it take control of their lives by asking for what they need, while pigeonholing them into that need and identity of not feeling whole. But what I'm really struck by is how members of the queer and feminist communities can classify themselves by what they need and don't have-- it seems kind of anti-progressive, potentially disempowering and counter-intuitive, right? Because so much of the female-bodied experience has been marked by our dependency upon other, usually male-bodied, people. We're taught how to be girls, in preparation for an inevitable classification of womanhood. How can the craigslist experience become a feminist one? I guess maybe if we don't list our need as part of our identity, and only describe ourselves in terms of what we are, what we have, what we like to do. For the queer community, this would open doors to a more gray and continuous spectrum of sexuality, which in this writers opinion, could only be a positive thing. In this way, the choice of whom to reply to is empowering for craigslist posters, rather than depending on others to classify your needs for you-- I guess I just imagine that a posting like "butch iso femme" could deter a lot of people from responding to it on the basis of how they define themselves in regards to a person they dont even know-- let's try to limit the weird remote human lenses as much as we can.

The great wall of slides.

After arriving in San Francisco, I heard that the graduate gallery at CCA was putting together a show about collections, so I got in touch with the organizers and set up the slide wall that I spent so much time on in Portland, but have never installed anywhere. It looks great in the window, and the images project onto the facing wall into small pixelated squares of color. It's making me think about what I want to be the relationship I have with objects that I'm using-- should I be transforming their purpose/function, underlining their hidden narratives, contemplating their cultural/social significance? What's the most interesting, or more importantly, how can I do all of these things at the same time coherently? If you want to check it out, it'll be up at the Playspace, 1111 8th St., San Francisco, CA (Potrero Hill/SOMA neighborhood) through the end of the month.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Behind the scenes

And so now it's important to address that each of these has a back and a back story-- and I'm starting to realize that these sides are the more compelling. The factual information, the descriptions, the notes, the dates, the pens being used, the handwriting, the aging paper, the prices, and even the brand of photo paper pull the school pictures through their presence as 2-dimensional images into objecthood. I think that my relationship with the portraits is genuine, but narcissistic-- I'm interested in the diversity of experience but am ultimately just seeing myself. The back surfaces avoid that and cause me to interrogate their presence and passage independent of my own.

Remember: Sept. 27th is picture day!

I've been collecting school pictures for a long time and am still figuring out what I like about them and how they are a part of my artist practice. I spent the morning today scanning them in to my computer and photo-shopping them together-- an incredible amount of struggle and an arduous confrontation with a steep learning curve. So what can I say about these? I like the faces, I like the collective experience of getting ones picture taken, I'm humored by my memory of that experience and appreciate the formal repetition of shape and size of the actual objects. I like that they are made to fit in wallets, in your hand or pocket, as a bookmark. I like their precarious balance of being a product of both uniformity and personality. I once saw an awful movie called Palindromes in which the main character is played by 7 different actors and actresses-- a precursor to that new Bob Dylan movie, perhaps. I think that casting of those movies was driven by the same reason I am interested in these pictures-- I am not literally in these photos but part of me relates to each one. We're united by our all having grown up, having changed in a changing world, and each of us have many identities.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I'm starting a new drawing project about accomplishments. I suppose that really it's a project that's been going on my whole life. But what I'm newly interested in are the formal similarities between the shapes and symbolism of objects like cakes, trophies and headstones that represent and celebrate an event having taken place.


It seemed only suitable to now post some sisters.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mon freres

I have two of them. When I went to college they were just turning 8 and 13. Now they are 14 and 19, mon freres, each loud in their own way. Will just graduated from high school, just moved away from home and has a girlfriend in Georgia. He's slow and methodical, always the family member with the least agenda, which I've always appreciated. The last time I was home he illegally pirated music with me for hours, and my mother took pictures of us sitting at the kitchen table with our laptops ("oh, my sweet little felons...". Dennis is in eighth grade, nervous, smart and has a wicked sensibility that comes out in unexpected and often inappropriate situations. He likes reading what he likes to read-- which means he has no patience for things he considers unnecessary and ridiculous. Of the three of us, Dennis is the sibling who has always most clearly been the most equivocal blend of both of our parents sensibilities, a scientist and historian at his core. I miss them both, but I also dont really know what I miss about them, each of us having grown up for 6 years without the presence of eachother. But I like that I have them, I like that they're growing and above all else, I'm glad to have known them from the beginning.

another zoo picture

I took a course at Wesleyan called the Sociology of Tourism from a professor named Lynn Owens who had a shaved head and wore black shorts and kneesocks to class everyday. We talked about zoos a lot, and those conversations have stuck with me. I think about them a lot with a lot of the pictures I've picked out from enormous piles-- pictures where the view is totally bathed with intent. It seemed pertinent to write about this one, because my own family is guilty of this kind of tourism too (see last post). I like this picture because it is so absurd-- what is it really of? the experience of seeing an ostrich? a specific time this gentleman and curly-haired woman stood next to eachother, watching? Because everything is cut off-- the people are obscured, the ostrich out-of-context, the landscape anonymous. I want to know if it's the first time these people had seen an ostrich and how 'real' or 'constructed' the experience felt to them. What did they learn? What did they remember?

The here and now

My mom sent me pictures in the mail that she found at my grandparents house on Long Island. It's been three years since my grandfather died, and now my grandmother is selling the house and moving to Ithaca to be closer to my parents and brothers. In the process, it's been a lot of sifting through a lifetime of accumulation. Last winter my grandmother gave me all her old dresses, and it's been a steady flow of small things entering my life from somewhere else. I know that they are pertinent to me because my grandmothers life has directly planted the seed for my own, so I find these things dear even if I cant use them. They help me remember things that happened before I was born. I don't remember the day that this picture was taken, but I imagine those are my dad's arms holding me, and that we are at the Bronx zoo. Compositionally, I think this picture is great. It seems like an accident, which makes me feel like it is more true. It's strange for me to relate to portraits of myself, because I am looking at myself in a way I never do in real life. I like this picture because I can relate to this detachment of myself from my feet, to the hugeness of this elephants nose, and the quality of the sun that day, and the chair of my fathers hands. Similarly, I can't really dwell up memories of my grandfather on my own-- but in the same package my mother sent a few pictures of my grandfather and me taken 20 years ago, and they instantly draw to mind memories that may not even have happened. I like photos because they draw up fallible memories from the past through incredibly true emotions in the moment-- they seem to be about a long time ago, but they are so much more related to the here and now of how we perceive the past and our place in it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Treasure Island, 2008

I've moved to San Francisco and am overwhelmed by how much there is here and how little of it is accessible to me with no money. When I visited last fall with Holly she pointed out Alcatraz and Treasure Island from the Golden Gate Bridge and told me about where they were in relation to everything else. Treasure Island is in the bay, halfway between San Francisco and Oakland. I drive through it twice a week to go work on the CCA Oakland campus and am always amused by its name. Humorously, the streets are all named after kinds of fish-- Perch, Bass, Pike, Trout, etc., and huge barges coast by it back and forth everyday. I think about San Francisco sort of like this-- some sort of Treasure Island, because of its size and its diversity and its culture compared to all the places I've lived before (Somerville, Ithaca, Boston, Middletown, Portland, Plymouth). But I miss the accessibility of those places too-- the cheap movie theatres, proximity to friends, the affordability of living in a nice house with a yard. It's 1940, and this family is hopeful too, having landed halfway between Oakland and San Francisco. I'm in between two places too, hesitant to put my feet down either here or there. Oh yeah, and I'm not sure where 'there' is.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Geri, Pat, Mick and Bob

Meet Geri, Pat and Mick, all boy-crazy for Bob, who is girl-crazy for Mary. I found these photographs all grouped together at a small store called S.M.U.T. in Portland.
On the back of Pat's (second from the left):
"Bobert-- To the life of English class. No lie, you're a real killer diller. (giggle-giggle) I know that this years English class will be the best because we've got such neat hamms like you! Take care-- Always, Pat."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Larry and his cake

I found this picture after having already put up the last post about cakes, but this kid is pretty special to me, so he deserves his own entry. When I lived in Portland I worked in an estate sale store called Really Good Stuff, which was down on Hawthorne. A lot of the photographs I found there were of this one kid, named Larry Darwin Justice, who was born in Falls City, Nebraska, and grew up in Portland. I accumulated photographs of him from when he was a baby until he graduated from highschool. Intrigued, I looked him up online and found out that he still lives in Portland, a dockmaster for the Portland Yacht Club. I considered calling him to let him know that I had found all these old photos of him, but I realized what that probably meant-- that someone he probably cared about a lot had passed away, and thought the better of it. Anyways, he's 4 here, with 4 candles in his cake. It's 1949, and he's pulling on the pocket of his shorts and with his tiny sandals on his tiny feet. It's time to eat.


Cakes are interesting. I mean, check out these pictures and how people relate to cakes. Cakes are for special occasions. Cakes are limited and finite. Cakes are confectionary and infectious. Cakes are frustrating and frosting. My mother was big into cakes when I was small-- every year there was a new cake tin, personalized to my experience as a 6/7/8/9/10... year old. And always this thick yellow cake with simple frosting squeezed through a plastic bag into temporary and elaborate artistry. Interestingly, I learned later that my mom hated this kind of cake-- her palette demanded fancier jam-layered and fruit infused cakes which made my father defensively clutch his wallet and my brothers and I dramatically clutch our throats in disgust. I like cakes because they are so temporary and personal. They hardly last longer than the moment they are made for, which seems to me a powerful indicator of a moment well spent-- without regret and with a full stomach.

my scar

A boy showing off his scar. I love this picture. It's totally gruesome and absolutely wicked. I love it mostly because I never was this kid-- my tendencies erred on the side of prudence, always nose to the ground, never chin back and grinning. Working at a camp this last summer I was struck by the carisma that 10 year olds exude in humbling circumstances, like when Chloe fell on her nose, when Tajars got lice, when Molly puked all over her cabin. This is my scar, here's how it happened.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gray and grey

What does gray and grey mean? Various hues of in between. I've moved to San Francisco to start grad school at the California College of the Arts for drawing. It's a new and exciting and humbling city. I'm single and friendless and struck by the simplicity of what that means. It's a good time to start new projects, like this one. Here it goes.