Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Conform or be cast out..."

On a dreary humid July evening, Pam and I headed in to town for a midnight movie at the historic State Theater. The Traverse City Film Festival was founded by film maker (and local resident) Michael Moore and offers a really great selection of independent, foreign and documentary films. It's definitely a staple on the list of things to do in northern Michigan in the summertime. After five summers of living in Traverse City, this was the first time we've had the chance to participate in the film festival.

After holding up in the "stand by" line for about twenty minutes, we were treated to free tickets to "Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage." Pam is not a huge Rush fan but graciously agreed to go with me to the late night screening. We settled in to our plushy seats and feasted on soda and popcorn. The really bad one-man guitar act before the movie did little to deter us and was quickly forgotten when the directors of the movie took the stage for an intro. The movie was an awesome chronicle of the bands beginnings, development and maturity within their own brand of rock music. It had a great tempo, was filled with cool footage of the band (except for some really awful "artistic" video from the eighties), and, of course, was packed with great music. At the end, the directors again took the stage for a question and answer period and the whole presentation was fabulous. And, despite some trepidation, I think Pam really enjoyed it as well.

Still, as has been the case with most of my activities this summer, this movie caused me to reflect of some of the events of the past few months. Rush really was a different kind of band who did things their own way. I can't seem to get the lyrics of "Subdivisions" out of my head. "Conform or be cast out" the song goes, and this just keeps ringing in my head. In the movie, band members comment that this represented them as artists standing up against the machine of the establishment. In times like I've been experiencing lately, it has been hard to accept my role as a misfit but am reassured that "marching to my own drummer" has allowed me to be true to myself and my passions and beliefs. I think standing up for myself and what I believe in to be a wonderful trait and not a character flaw as the powers that be would imagine. So I get cast out from time to time...but I always seem to find a way to pick myself up and come back stronger than before. Sometimes I don't know how I can take so much. Perhaps it's knowing I have an outlet for my feelings - whether it's making my own art, listening to music, or relating to stories of perseverance. In any case, it is the struggle that keeps me going and the belief I have in myself.

Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided
The future pre-decided
Detached and subdivided
In the mass production zone
Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone


In July, I had the privilege of donating one of my early sculptures, “A.M.,” to the collection of Michigan Legacy Art Park. If you’re not familiar with Michigan Legacy, it’s an artistic gem located on the grounds of Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, Michigan. The 30-acre park is dotted with amazing public works set a beautiful natural landscape. It is definitely worth checking out and if you get over that way, take a look at my piece (see map).

For those familiar with my work, “A.M.” was created in 1993 and has been exhibited in a number of venues representing a variety of settings. In 1993, A.M. was featured in Contemporary Sculpture 1993 at Quietude Garden Gallery in East Brunswick, NJ. The exhibition was juried by noted sculptors George Segal and Isaac Witkin and was also selected for an Award of Artistic Merit. Other exhibitions that this sculpture has been included in include: Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition (95-96) at Burlington County College in Pemberton, NJ, Between The Bridges (97) at Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park in Brooklyn, NY, and Rhapsody in Bloom Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition (05) at Luthy Botanical Gardens in Peoria, IL. The work was also written about in the New York Times by critic William Zimmer in 1993 and by critic Burton Wasserman in Art Matters in 1996. Wasserman also discusses the piece in a video program entitled “Inner Voices / Outer Forms,” which was produced by Burlington County College Media Productions in 1995.

This piece was originally created as an outdoor sculpture and was intended to contrast the structural elements of its construction against the natural elements in its surroundings. (When I originally built this piece, I was placing works in one of the many gardens on the campus of C.W. Post.) Reacting to the found object (the cast iron form at the top of the work), I utilized a combination of angular materials–bricks and angled steel–to create a rigid structure and weight that would help the arched line of the cast iron to stand out as a focal point. My inspiration for this sculpture was the idea of an oven, which to me represented change. Ovens convert things from one state to another and I found this reference intriguing as I sought to contradict nature with the work. Later on in the history of the work, I added the “5” design on the bricks as somewhat of a nod to the industrial-type abstractions of Charles Demuth. So, my original intention was to have this piece stand as a monument to the changes that we as humans force on the natural world around us and reference the “oven” as a means of effecting such changes.

Michigan Legacy Art Park Website

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Has Anyone Seen My Balls?

Poor Quinn! For every young male dog there comes a time when manhood is knocking on the door. As responsible pet owners, Pam and I faithfully marched our young corgi stud to the vet for a traditional snip. But, ah!...this was no ordinary neutering. [Segway into longer story.]

The events of the past week have left me to ponder the recent turn in my life and wonder what the hell is happening to me as I grow older. Maybe its empathy with my young canine friend but the burning question on my mind is: What happened to my balls?

When I was younger, I was full of piss and vinegar–as they say–and now I can only reminisce about what it felt like to pound someone in the mouth if they got in my way. I’ve become adept at taking shit and I don’t like it one bit. While on the outside I am calm and professional, on the inside I am seething. Now I can only put these emotions into my art…a good place for it, mind you…but it is a terrible strain to put these feelings on hold until I can get in to the studio. Anyway, I have a lot to work with these days…a lot to get frustrated about, but I do miss the old days. For now, I just put in the ear pods, play something fast and hard, and hope I can get it all out before it eats a hole in me. Screw all this foolishness around me.

Back to my puppy…enough of my bitching and self-pity. How can I feel sorry for myself when my little buddy just got his nuts cut off. I was proud of the resistance he put up though…he was not going to give up his manhood without a fight. I’m not sure who was more surprised, the vet or us, but the little bugger hid his balls. This created an invested search (and some extra financial cost) but his balls were located in his abdomen and summarily snipped. Poor guy!

Now our little Quinn is suffering the consequences of his little adventure with a really bad haircut, an itchy wound, and “the cone of shame.” I, on the other hand, am left to ponder what would happen if I actually located my own balls and tried to take my life back. I wonder how that would be? I wonder how my life would be different if I were to regain my old glory and stood up for myself? I wonder if I have any fight left in me? Maybe I, too, deserve to wear the cone of shame? More to come.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Permanent Vacation…the summer 2010 version…

Well….Pam and I have survived the move out of campus housing and have settled into our temporary lodging at Tall Pines. Doug Long has been very generous in taking us in and seems to be quite entertained that he is host to a somewhat impromptu artists’ residency. We have a ton of shit stored at various locations on his property and have set up an outdoor studio in his backyard.

Actually, it’s not just an artists’ retreat for us but also the exile home of “corgi kindergarten.” The dogs love it here and feign the rustic space behind Doug’s home as some kind of wild habitat complete with running space, unique pee features and Quinn really loves the strawberries growing in the garden. (Sorry Doug!)

I’ve been extremely relieved not to have to hassle with summer camp but I do miss everyone tremendously. What a great bunch of people to work with. It has been great however to hang out with Erica Passage and Jen Teter and Pam and I are really trying to take advantage of our free time here in northern Michigan. We’ve been to the beach at Lake Michigan a couple of times with the dogs and have even had time to check out the Cherry Festival a couple of times. We’ve seen the air show, played bingo (curse you Jen Teter), eaten some really over-priced food (I guess they charge for the grease) and walked the midway. We also had the opportunity to check out the fireworks at Crystal Mountain on July 3rd and at the Cherry Festival on July 4th.

While this has been a great time for Pam and I…mostly because of the support of our friends…it is still a little stressful because we are not sure of what’s in front of us for the long term. So, in a sense, we feel as though we’ve got somewhat of a permanent vacation with seemingly no end in sight. We’re confident this will change soon but going through the process is a little daunting. So, with Interlochen in our rear-view mirrors, we’re working one day at a time and pondering the possibilities of what lay ahead for us. For now, our plan is to live in the moment and enjoy the gift we have been given. More to come!