Thursday, January 31, 2008

I began reading The Far Side cartoons by Gary Larson in the mid-late 1980's in the local paper. Attracted to the efficient line drawings and how eloquently they visually communicated their ideas, I became a devoted follower. Never much of a collector of anything, over the next few years I gathered Larson's books and calendars like a miser. Only in the last few days have I considered what influence this exposure may have had on my development as an artist.

Considering a cartoon's influence on the intellectual and creative development of a fine artist almost feels silly to say out loud. Interesting.

I'm beginning to see connections.

"One of the most common reactions Larson has gotten to his work over the years is "I get it -- I love it -- but I can't believe anybody else gets it." This is one of "The Far Side's" charms. Larson trusts us to know things. He trusts us to know what a microscope cover slip is, feels confident we will not be thrown by references to spitting cobras and assumes we understand why young Bobby Snake has to jiggle Grandpa Snake's rat so that it looks alive. He figures we've heard about spiders that disperse by ballooning on pieces of silk, and will be amused by the idea of bison doing the same thing. Of course, Larson's drawings are so enticing that even if we have no idea what's going on with the ballooning bison, there's still a goofy pleasure to be gotten from the picture."
Excerpt from online article by Susan McCarthy –

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


The Far Side by Gary Larson

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

snow day

Nothing excites a southerner quite like a good snow day. It's not the promise of all the milk and bread one can eat that excites us. It's the hope of a weather event that comes only once per year if we're lucky.
The chihuahua spent most of her day here in this exact position. Just to the right of the photo is the toasty fireplace.

I get bored pretty quick. Seven foot tall snow-chihuahua for no good reason.
If it snows again this year, I promise to be more productive.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

pollock's connection to all this

From: Barbara Rose, "Introduction: Jackson Pollock: The Artist as Cultural Hero", in Pollock: Painting (edited by Barbara Rose), Agrinde Publications Ltd.: New York (1980), pages 3-4.
In picturing a new image of the artist in the grip of impulse, driven by inner forces, Namuth, following his own unconscious intuition, provided the material necessary for the creation of a cultural myth of the artist as an inspired shaman, entirely "other" than the pedestrian businessman who dominated American social life.
From: Jackson Pollock, "My Painting", in Pollock: Painting (edited by Barbara Rose), Agrinde Publications Ltd.: New York (1980), page 65; originally published in Possibilities I, New York, Winter 1947-8:

When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of 'get acquainted' period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the iamge, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.

the sublime of the hudson river school

"Autumn on the Hudson River"
Jasper Cropsey
A good friend points out that the idea of artist as shaman or messenger elevates the artist to a special status and this could be a ridiculous and or dangerous idea.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Early communities and groups all around the world relied on some version of the Shaman. The shaman was regarded as a person who stood in between two worlds. With one foot in the physical world and one foot in the spirit world, the shaman's responsibility was to pass information from one realm to the other.


It is worth noting that thoughts on "spirituality" should not be limited to Christian spirituality - or even "religion" for that matter. When thinking about the spiritual aspect of all visual art (and at this point I'm in favor of arguing that there is one) my interest is in the idea that artists are attempting to navigate a balance between what is visible and invisible - between what can be described verbally and what simply must be experienced.
Having grown up in the Bible Belt, my experience with the spiritual is slanted heavily toward the Christian. For this reason I have taken an interest in the creative life of Clive Staples (Jack) Lewis. Not that Bible Belt-ers would be quick to embrace the creative work of a man known for his love of tobacco and beer. Lewis seemed to have little trouble maintaining a balance between what he could prove to be logically true and what he could not prove but felt must be true.
My interest at this point is that that Lewis was able to use his creative works to make people of all backgrounds and religions think and ask questions about life. There were no sermons or cheesy "After School Special" moments. He posed questions and where there were blanks, he simply left them blank.
When he wanted to help the war effort in England during WWII it is important (and related) to note that Lewis refused to use his writing talents to create propaganda for his country.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Thursday, January 10, 2008

research on the spiritual and the sublime

J. Michael Simpson

Excerpt from Simpson's artist statement:

As a child growing up in the flatlands of Illinois, I could step outside my door and walk straight across five miles of fields and woods Something I did just to see what I could see. I realize now how important experiencing that kind of freedom and wonder was to me. Only after two graduate degrees and many years of teaching did I realize that my search for artistic identity was embedded in those moments of childhood curiosity and discovery. The connection was the Sublime; that eighteenth century aesthetic and human experience that, whether in art or life, can fill our imaginations with awe, wonder and inspiration. My understanding of the visual conditions of the Sublime provided an artistic path that gave meaning and purpose to those overwhelming experineces of life that now serve as the content of my art.

Painting from "Projection" series

J. Michael Simpson

Though I never had the opportunity to take one of Mr. Simpson's classes I did have the good fortune of having him sit in on and participate in critiques of my drawings in grad school. And while he doesnt realize it, he taught me something about the idea of being "true" in my approach to creating artwork. The feeling you get from viewing his paintings is the same feeling you get from speaking to him in person. There's a drive, a passion, and a geniune excitement there. He's not trying to fool you or shock you with his painting - he's just trying to give you a brief glimpse of how he sees the world we share.
There's a solo show of his work now at City Art Gallery 1224, Lincoln St, Columbia, SC 29201
J. Michael Simpson

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


The following article was written by Richard T. Scott

A Case for Spirituality in Contemporary Art
Since the fall of Modernism the art communities in more public places such as New York have on principle shunned spiritualism, mysticism, and aesthetics. It is an understandable backlash from the idealistic tenets of a hopeful culture that ultimately lead to destruction and genocide through the world wars and communist regimes in the U.S.S.R and China in the 20th century, but this cynicism has become more than a rational and healthy criticism. It has become an intellectual elitist dogma, whereby anyone caught having theological discussion, or spiritual belief is castigated from "intellectual" society. It is the practice of these individuals to refuse rational discussion on this topic. Yet I would argue that ideals, just as cynicism, are important parts of thought. Both can be dangerous and foolhardy, but both are necessary for human happiness. Absolute refusal to address important human issues on either side result in blindness, socially if not altruistically.
We are in a time where religious fundamentalism challenges the security of our common lives. It is not only far off places that are effected by fanaticism, but our own country, our own people. Ignoring religious discussion only blinds us to the complexities of the issue. There must be a place in art culture for some spiritualism. It has been a responsibility of the thinking artist to hold a mirror to society; to inspire debate and discussion; to give voice to issues that none can or wish to discuss. It has been so since the dawn of civilization in the caves of forgotten nomadic tribes.
It is hard in our pluralistic society to hold to one's ideals. We encounter more ethnic and spiritual diversity in everyday life than ever before. Globalization has greatly affected our views on the world. That is why it is more important to have a dialogue on these issues. That is why we must understand the perspectives of others. But we cannot understand others without understanding ourselves.
Through post-modernism we have lost the great dialogue on morality, and spirituality that was so prevalent in all other times in all other cultures. In this way perhaps America is, as many fundamentalists call us- a country of infidels (unfaithful). Yet we are not so, because they call us so. It is not because we are unfaithful to Allah. It is because we are unfaithful to ourselves and our obligation to humanity.
I’m not arguing against a secular state or for the integration of church and state, I’m arguing for dialogue. It seems the only dialogue on this subject is the ridiculous argument about replacing Evolution, the Big-Bang theory, and Plate Tectonics with creationism, which is an argument of the extremes. There are moderate positions on this subject which do not preclude either God or Science, (for example check out the book The Science of God). If there were a rational dialogue occurring, this kind of fundamentalist negation wouldn’t be able to affect policy.

Richard is an artist and writer. You can find his blog here: The Mnemosyne Journal: Musings of Contemporary Artist Richard T Scott

It's not about converting people - it's about thinking. It's about pointing to something that might be just out of the reach of words.


The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

Friday, January 4, 2008

seriously, it's not a blog

I think there's some rule that indicates all persons who keep a web presence are obligated to do some sort of year end top ten list or at the very least create a list of resolutions for the new year. Lucky for me I never really read the terms and conditions regarding this rule.
Realistically speaking, there's only one person I know that reads this thing (besides me) and I could probably just tell her my favorite things about the past year next time I see her. And I'm not quite stupid enough to post any goals for the new year here since that would only generate more guilt when I chicken out of them.
So I've tried to think of the things I would want to be reminded of when I read back over this months from now. Last year I met Mean Joe Greene, a classic member of the Pittsburgh Steelers (and Coke commercials) and found him to be extremely kind and graceful. I slept through most of tropical storm Barry. I carefully watched the development of an infant into a toddler. Saw the Avett Bros. play live twice. Made 5 new sculptures (and while that's not a big number, it's 4 more than the previous year and represents a return to real production). I became environmentally friendly. I paid attention to the seasons. I watched for hawks. Got attacked by a cicada.
As for the coming year...yeah, I have some new goals. I may even write them down or say them out loud. It could be a great year. Dream big. Dare to fail.