Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Citizens of Whoville:

I am a Bearcat.

A couple of months ago I said goodbye to Winthrop. I did the Highway 5/I-85 trek one last time and began preparing for my new job as Assistant Professor of Art at Lander University where I’ll be teaching Sculpture, 3D Design, and Ceramics.

In August I’ll be joining forces with legendary Art History Professor Tom Pitts, Graphic Design Guru Jim Slagle, renowned Photographer Jon Holloway (www.jonholloway.com), Art Education Extraordinaire Linda Neely, and fellow newcomer painter and printmaker Jennifer Stoneking-Stewart (www.stoneking-stewart.com). This is a lively and energetic bunch and this academic year looks to be an exciting one. Lots of new things are in the works and it’s going to be fun year.

So if you’re looking for a strong Art program or if you’re looking for an MAT degree or if you just happen to be cruising through Greenwood, stop by and see what we’re doing.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

that's how the world begins

A few years ago there was this guy on one of those reality singing shows on TV. He was apparently unaware of just how terrible he sang and seemed just as unaware that everyone around him was laughing at his complete lack of talent. This guy - with no discernable talent at all ended up making a very large sum of money by landing a recording contract. He released 3 albums and appeared on numerous TV shows, commercials and movies. Essentially he became famous for nothing.

This idea of turning the usual expectations on end seems to be gaining steam in contemporary American culture. If you're willing to undress, curse, cheat or beat someone up you too can be idolized by the masses. A quick look at the news or magazine stand will make it very difficult to distinguish the serial killers from the pop stars. Each is readily awarded with celebrity status overnight.

I find this odd.

The Halo Series began there. Realizing that our culture rewards and glorifies things that in the past would have been considered unmentionable in mixed company, I began to deal with this duality. Each idea began with the historical context of the illuminated Christian manuscript use of the circular halo and ran forward to deal with contemporary images and ideas. These images and ideas remain mostly abstract but each panel is loosely based on one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

These are all ink on wood panel and each one has a clear gloss candy coating. Here's all seven in order:

Halo 1

Halo 2

Halo 3

Halo 4

Halo 5

Halo 6

Halo 7

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

it's true, i saw it

Don't worry, I rough-talked him back into the woods.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Recently Donald Miller wrote an article regarding Core Values that got me thinking. One thing I appreciate about Miller's approach to spirituality is the direct connection he makes between spirituality and creativity. When theological points are brought up he always seems to uncover not only how they interact with his own doctrine, but how they interact with his talent and drive as a writer.

As an artist, this interests me so when I read his article about how to go about finding your own Core Values (read it here: http://donmilleris.com/2010/06/03/knowing-your-core-values/) I was interested in how my own core values might be impacting my creative work. Miller argues that the creative artist is doing his best work when working in line with his Core Values. Any work that steps outside of those Values begins to feel hollow or less "authentic". This in particular is something I've been curious about since my MFA thesis show in 2003. After laboring over average work for several years I suddenly turned a corner and fell into an exciting body of work. The ideas flowed freely and the sculptures were constantly getting talk of feeling "authentic"....whatever that meant.

And I needed to know what that meant. Years later after lots of rear-view mirror thinking and lots of doughnuts (doughnuts help everything) I began to realize that my work changed when my attitude about my work changed. At some point I stopped trying to make sculptures that looked like "real" sculptures. I stopped trying to emulate other artists and stopped trying to impress my mentors and I started having fun. I began to make the things that came naturally to my mind and I no longer cared if anyone else thought they were goofy or stupid ideas. Fact is, they were/are goofy and stupid and that's part of what makes them such an honest perspective. Perhaps someone like Miller who artfully arranges words for a living could do a much better job of explaining this, but one of the better explanations I can give you is this: It's almost like I took off all the filters and stopped being afraid to make what I saw in my head.

For any aspiring artist who may read this I should also make sure to point out that I dropped the filters and fear after doing lots of study, lots of research, and lots of practice of skill and craft. This approach follows Paul Klee's philosophy of a circular study in which an artist learns the skill and craft to a professional level (half the circle) and then takes that knowledge back to a point of naivety to make art as freely as a child (completing the circle). You simply must do your homework before you attempt to throw off your bonds.

End of sidetrack, back to Miller. In his article Miller suggests that his readers try an exercise that worked for him. Wanting to know his Core Values he took a friend's suggestion to try to think about the things that made him angry. Those things, he discovered, helped to identify what was truly important to him and eventually helped him put labels on his personal Core Values.

I thought about his suggestion for days. I asked myself what made me angry and I wasn't sure I was uncovering any inspiring information. I even made the mistake of asking my wife what made her angry. Apparently people who ask her what makes her angry make her angry. Who knew?

I didn't get angry much on vacation. OK, there were some very loud and very inconsiderate people stomping above us a few days, but no real anger to speak of outside of that. And it was on vacation that I had a thought about Miller's suggestion. I believe Miller's suggestion could be helpful in discovering what inspires you to do your best, most meaningful work, but I wonder if it could only represent half of the questions needed to discover your Core Values. If we ask ourselves what makes us angry in an attempt to find what strikes deep in our belief systems, shouldn't we also balance that by asking what makes us happy? I cannot believe that we are driven only by our strong negative reactions. I believe our strong positive reactions also come from that deep area of our being.

I've mused in the past about having a very happy childhood and great parents and wonderful opportunities. You can imagine that those things do not lead to authentic angst-ridden visual art. Don’t get me wrong, I'm not claiming that it's all peaches and sunshine over here, I've had my share of not so great circumstances, but my personality is such that I've realized that dwelling on positive things leaves me much more fulfilled and happy. I'd rather laugh about it and move on.

Somewhere there underneath the laughing and silliness lies my Core Values. At least some of them. My work feels honest and authentic when it begins in that goofy area. If you've seen my work you probably realize that it doesn't stay in that area. There's always something else going on. There are always some of the darker elements of experience seeping in but the origin is almost always in the positive.

To be clear, I am not disagreeing with Miller on this topic. I am simply adding on. I mean, how could you disagree with anyone who references the movie "Red Dawn" in a spiritually based article?

So if you’re looking for some introspection give it a thought. OK, rent “Red Dawn” and watch it first and perhaps grab a dozen doughnuts, then give it a thought. What things make you angry? Not the little things, dig deeper than that. Then balance it by asking what things make you happy. You may just find that the answers inspire you to get up and do something.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

the cubs still stink but the beach is great


bono glasses

stream of consciousness storytime with blue


bluebeard the fearsome pirate

big horse

big postcard


bright sun and big smiles

random head on the beach

blue destroys the jolly roger


sun screen

Blueism for the week: "You know you're at the beach when you see the crinkly trees."

Saturday, June 5, 2010


"Daddy, do you like my new haircut? You can't get a new haircut because you don't have any hair. You just have a head."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

rust never sleeps

Neil Young at Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium 5-30-10
Photo by Mike Bonner/Spartanburg Herald Journal
I can't figure out why Neil Young would bring his solo concert tour to the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium, though I'd bet the tour manager is now looking for a new job. When I heard the first mention of this upcoming concert in my home town I looked up tickets and could not believe how expensive they were. Sure, this is a legendary rock figure, but alas, we are but poor South Carolinians and we can't just go dropping a couple hundred bucks on a single ticket to see legendary rock figures.

Last Saturday afternoon we got a call from our friend Brooke (http://www.ricebowls.org/). Her husband Mike (http://macmystery.wordpress.com/) ended up with a couple of extra tickets and offered them to us. Talk about good friends....these guys are amazing. Please take a few moments to make a donation to Rice Bowls and send an email or twelve to the Spartanburg Herald Journal to tell the bosses there how great their sports writer Mike McCombs is and how much you enjoy reading his work.

My cousin Jeff loved Neil Young back in the day and my wife offered to let him take her place while she stayed home with the kids. Jeff's one of my favorite people on the planet and after a nice little dinner outing with Brooke and Mike I met Jeff for the show.

There was an odd assortment of people and personalities at this concert. There were an overwhelming number of older men with long, graying hair pulled back in ponytails and a surprising number of young, hipster looking folks. There were the super-yuppies and frat guys mixed in with the empty nesting moms and a few club scene girls. Seeing people of so many apparent differences nod their head in unison and sing songs together was a testament of the wide ranging appeal of Young's music.

Photo by Mike Bonner/Spartanburg Herald Journal

And the music was just about perfect. The sound was amazing, allowing us to hear each hammer-on and finger slide clearly from our seats on the outskirts of town. As this was a solo show I didn't really know what to expect, but there was a very well balanced mix of acoustic, electric, and piano music....of course with lots of harmonica mixed in. The loud songs were very loud and Mr. Young, clad in a Pearl Jam t-shirt played with an energy that surely would have left any grunge band feeling envious. Still the quiet songs were delicate and lovely and the crowd was respectful during most of the songs.

Of course, this is Spartanburg, so there were plenty of screams and shouts between songs. One fellow insisted on shouting a lot and somehow managed to punctuate each phrase with "brother". Another unfortunate soul decided to shout his request for "Freebird" as Young made his way from one instrument to another. Given the history between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young it's hard to tell if this guy was unforgivably oblivious or if he was attempting to be ironic. Like a champ, Mr. Young smiled and raised his fist in the air in salute drawing cheers from the very packed seats. Well played, Mr. Young. I believe here in the south we call that grace.

Setlist: My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue) /Tell Me Why / Helpless / You Never Call / Peaceful Valley / Love And War / Down By The River / Hitchhiker / Ohio / Sign Of Love / Leia / After The Gold Rush / I Believe In You / Rumblin’ / Cortez The Killer / Cinnamon Girl // Heart Of Gold / Old Man / Walk With Me