Friday, January 23, 2009

After a year of no communication, person returns to magical blogosphere

I'm back.  And with no more people seeing this than before.  But here are photos of paintings I did over the summer using scholarship money from school.  I have a lot more to post, which will be coming shortly.  Each painting below is 48" x 60", oil on canvas.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A few photos: my camera sees your face

What is a photograph? Is it a complete history, knitted into paper and memory? Or is it more like a ruthless liar--false yet desperate to convince? (Funny...I'm listening to Liars' "Houseclouds" as I type.)

I haven't decided which I like better.

untitled, 2005

I did these black and white prints by hand, the prehistoric way, using an enlarger and chemicals. It's sad that the labor-intensive method is gone and dead, but computers save so much time. I felt dirty taking digital photos of the prints, though. I'm pretty sure a galaxy imploded somewhere by the time I finished my necessary photo-of-a-photo shoot. Brother above, brother and sister duo below.

untitled, 2005

The below image is fake. I never took a photo of myself. Rather, I shot the surface of a small mirror in my upstairs bathroom back at home. The glass is an intermediary between myself and the camera's eye socket.

Self-portrait, 2007

Art dump: a few snippets from the past two years

Wow. I need to drive a spike through Father Time's foot to keep him from running so quickly. It's been a couple of years since I did some of this work. The two photo collage paintings reach back to my high school years. I can't believe it--soon enough I'll have a white mop for hair, sagging cheeks, and a pegged leg or some nonsense.

Blue with words, 2005
To my brother: What have you done recently? I worry for you. Please, please, just take care of your responsibilities. The fun part will come later. Let the chemicals bathe your skull with synthetic health--not your chemicals, our chemicals. Sit down, pick up that damned pencil, and take care of yourself.

Yellow with words, 2005
To my sister: I hope your back is feeling better. Stretching should help, but stress is the killer. Don't let petty assignments ruin your brief time on this planet. That is not to say that your time will be briefer than anyone else's, but that life is short by default. I hear almonds are good for the skin in the meantime. Not too many though, because they're high in fat. You have the right idea. Keep your head up and stay positive. I'll try to do the same.

unfinished, 2007
Oh, the children. Summer camp creation number two. That is, observed at my camp job and transcribed in the safety of my home. This is unfinished, but the shapes and colors are all present. I dislike backgrounds because they cause me trouble when trying to finish a piece.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hand of Hands, another pixelated organism

Free things make me smile. My free trial of Photoshop has about 2 weeks of life left, so I need to maximize this freeness. I previously fiddled with the idea of legs converging into one form, so that some legs would imply arms in a semi-figural orientation.

Now come the hands. I'm glad I have hands--fingers especially. They do a lot of useful things, like pick up books form the ground, push buttons, type on keyboards, guide a range of utensils toward my mouth, etc. It's a handed life for me...

Hand of Hands, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Review of David Shrigley's 'Worried Noodles'

Glasgow-based artist David Shrigley doesn’t make music; it’s the 39 indie and not-so-indie acts that provide the sound on Shrigley’s “Worried Noodles,” an art book/poetry expose compilation album. This conceptual package offers 39 focused slices of new music from popular acts (David Bryne of Talking Heads, Franz Ferdinand), indie stars (Liars, Deerhoof, Grizzly Bear, Islands) and relatively unknown contributors (Munch Munch, Hank). Make no mistake — ‘Noodles’ filters all of these elements through Shrigley’s odd and alarmingly humorous aesthetics. These bursts of artsy, off-kilter music are interpretations--stand-ins for Shrigley’s imagined songs.

As a line artist, painter, and dark humor writer, Shrigley creates personal and savage books that compile his quickly scrawled cartoons. His poorly drawn images have the capacity to disturb, but their crudeness fast reveals their weird humor. I first saw Shrigley’s work on the cover of Deerhoof’s ‘Friend Opportunity’ earlier this year, but he has been collecting his ideas in book form since the early ‘90s. He also animated the video for Blur’s 2003 single “Good Song.”

Every lyric on ‘Noodles’ comes from the tip of Shrigley’s Sharpie. The lyrics remain unchanged from Shrigley’s 2005 release of ‘Noodles’ as a stand-alone lyrical poetry book. Inspired by Shrigley’s style and curious inventiveness, 39 bands have since put music to his words.

With so many bands represented, one might think the discs would spiral into unrelated blobs of competing noises, but the lyrics (one thing these songs share in common) hold their interpretive visions together. Whether playfully throwing out “pot hole, / lamp post, tree stump, / bean bag. / Hey, whatcha doin’?” or something more somber, as in “Sad Song,” the lyrics paste their consistently humorous tone to each track. Shrigley’s writing hits so many subjects: slugs, drinking, suicide, dwarves, diamonds, skulls, embarrassment and idiots. The casual content of his lyrics sprouts his humanity. The ordinary, sometimes trivial subject matter outlines a life of fun and trouble. Occasionally, the use of these lyrics feels forced or out of place, but Shrigley speaks through each song just the same. Each song captures a slightly different aspect of Shrigley’s original ‘Noodles’ book.

‘Noodles’ may stand on the base of Shrigley’s two-dimensional work, but the spacious musical compositions support the weight of their own aspirations quite adequately. The music retains the youthful vitality of Shrigley’s work and also allows each band the space necessary to project its own solution to the audio-visual problem. The compilation feels like the musical equivalent of walking through the National Gallery of Art telling juvenile jokes in the face of century-old paintings. A sense of immaturity is imbued into each track. This underlying sense of strange uniformity reveals the cohesion of the project: Each band channels Shrigley’s vision, granting him 39 voices with which to speak.

The sounds on ‘Noodles’ tap into a wide range of aural experiences. Some songs are predicated on sleepy blues rhythms, others on awkward pauses and mid-song intros. Exotic instrumentation meets dynamic execution from track to track, as high-energy pieces like Liars’ “Panic Button” juxtapose spoken word segments. The often appropriate ’80s synth work peeks out from the ribcages of numerous tracks to provide a reference point. However, not all tracks shine in that spotlight-filtered-through-dirty-windows way that Shrigley’s spirit compels. Duds like the hopelessly pretentious “Once I Found a Diamond” by The Dead Science cry out for an immediate uncheck on iTunes. Though, setting aside the peculiar slant of the entire project, not too many of the songs would fall flat if yanked from their art-entrenched context.

A good portion of the ‘Noodles’ audio will activate your dancing gene. The tension of electrically inclined tunes like Trans Am’s “The Film” at times blows through the ceiling of the slower, coffee shop-suitable tone of the other half of the compilation. I think Shrigley wants people to dance (or at least flap about in their homes) totally free of self-conscious look-backs: “Let’s dance like a pair of / crazy monkeys / naked / around a skull / with a candle on it.” Freedom matters, and ‘Noodles’ would like to convince you that life can be distilled to a series of silly events. This sense of unbound spirit skips about prominently in Shrigley’s writing.

The music compliments the 100-page jewel case-sized hardbound art book, which houses Shrigley’s writings and drawings. The ‘Noodles’ book appears as it did in 2005, but now you can read along and dually experience the original content and its musical counterpart. The art exemplifies classic Shrigley doodling and stands beside his expressive handwritten typography. Plenty of confused naked people are joined by floating heads, creatures and shapes. ‘Noodles’ is a natural progression from Shrigley’s Deerhoof collaboration, for which he designed 12 different album covers. The ‘Noodles’ cover art retains the same lined-graffiti motif seen on the Deerhoof album. Inside the book, crisp black and white pages reinforce the clean packaging. The paper feels expensive, which it ought to: The entire ‘Noodles’ package costs $40. Considering Shrigley’s art books sell for about $25 by themselves, the double disk album included in ‘Noodles’ justifies its price tag.

Your interest in Shrigley’s work and the 39 bands represented will depend on your opinion of conceptual indie art, poetry and unadulterated audio-visual excitement. ‘Noodles’ requires a stomach for the abstract and the inane, but if you have it, dive into the craziness. You will find yourself in the middle of a rare conversation between artists and musicians. The landscape is described best by a graph Shrigley plots at the end of ‘Noodles’: As time progresses, reality decreases on a squiggly negative slope and nonsense increases linearly.

--review by Spencer Atkinson, published in the Flat Hat, 11-9-07

Monday, October 29, 2007

Here's a shot of a painting I am still working on. It lies unfinished at my house while I attend to my other, slightly less spontaneous, life here at school. The piece is the amalgamation of children's heads, as I observed and sketched them during my summer job as a camp counselor.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Guster finishes 2+ year tour with W&M show

Initiation be damned. Let's set the internet on

Guster rocked Homecoming 2007 at William and Mary! I took a few (300) photos at last night's performance while crouched low in front of the front row barricades. To avoid further hearing damage (I reinjured my ear while listening to an all-too-noisy noise act that opened for Panda Bear over the summer) I stuffed wet paper towel into my ears. It worked fine and I snapped these photos, among many, for the Flat Hat.