Monday, October 28, 2013

Open House Tomorrow Night

This Summer I was asked to do a button installation in the new offices of the National Resources Defense Council. Tuesday night is the open house for the new offices, designed by Studio Gang to be platinum LEED certified and zero emissions, zero waste. It's kind of amazing.

The piece was designed in consultation with NRDC. The Midwest chapter focuses on Great Lakes issues, so almost all the imagery comes from pictures of the Lakes. The overall design is inspired by diagrams of their relative volume and depth (in order of size: Erie, Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Superior). On the buttons themselves there are images of people fishing and swimming, images of fish, plants and cities on the shore, sunken wrecks, sailboats, ducks, and driftwood as well as plenty of images of the Lakes' surfaces in all sorts of light and weather.

From the last, Lake Superior, the buttons trail around a corner onto the taller right hand wall (the St Lawrence Seaway, basically) connecting the Lakes to the Atlantic ocean, the wider world and the larger hydrologic and weather cycles that connect them. To the right there is a similar trailing off, upwards into the 'sky' (okay... the ceiling) again to indicate the idea of the circularity of the cycle and that the lakes are in fact fed from the rain, which in turn comes from the wider world. Along with images of the Great Lakes are a few of some other large lakes and bodies of water around the planet, again to just point to the general interconnectedness of all this stuff – the Caspian Sea, Baikal, Victoria, Tanganyika, Titicaca, etc.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Magic and Loss

I just read that Lou Reed died. Which is crazy. There aren't that many artists of his generation whose death would stop me in my tracks. Fewer that I'd be compelled to write something about. But one of his records was a particular touchstone for me. If I was in New York right now I'd probably feel compelled to go to his house and leave flowers. Which sounds ridiculous.

Like any kid, I had phases with lots of artists from my parent's record collections. They all had their moments. Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Neil Young, all the usual suspects. Lou Reed was the same generation, but he was different. The music never felt tied to an earlier era. It wasn't old music that I was nevertheless able to relate to; it didn't feel old. It felt like it was mine. It always felt honest and straightforward, even when some of the records didn't quite connect. In high school, along with Transformer and Velvet Underground and Nico I listened to New York over and over. In the nineties when I was in college Set the Twilight Reeling came out and I listened to that on repeat. When the tape wore out I bought the CD (the design of that CD, too – brilliant, with the transparent blue plastic and the yellow ink...).

I still consider that one of the best records about falling in love ever made, which is saying a lot. And the fact that it was about Laurie Andersen only made it that much more awesome. Songs for Drella is one of the best biographies in any medium. It makes you feel like you kind of knew this Andy Warhol person. And I don't even really like Warhol that much as an artist. I still play those songs, twenty five years after the fact. It's truly great music. But that's not why I would go to his house.

Magic and Loss appeared in the early nineties, around the time I was heading to college in New Mexico. I think I got the tape in the mail as part of some sort of "10 tapes for 99¢" deal in an ad in Rolling Stone. The record is about the deaths of two close friends from cancer. The songs are heartbreaking and some of the most inspired music he ever laid down. But I also remember listening to this incredibly raw, intimate record on my walkman as I paced the stacks in the library for my workstudy job, and sort of wondering if it was really meant for me to hear. It felt a little like, as good as it was, maybe he should have kept it to himself. It was just... so... heavy. I listened to it a handful of times and then put it away. For about twelve years.

Since my own book on the same subject came out a few months ago that record has come up more than once in conversations about what it means to tell such an intense, intensely personal story, to bare the rawest moments of one's life in a work of art and make it public. I remember that feeling, and I know there are people that feel the same way about The End. They've told me. On the one hand I understand, now, from my new vantage point, that, at the time, Reed probably just didn't give a shit. That's the music he was making and if people didn't want to deal, fuck 'em. Grief does that to a person even if he's not the great uncle of punk rock. But on the other hand I also know now that it turns out that work like that does have an audience. It may not be 19 year old college students who've never lost anything precious. But others have. They might get it, and be grateful that someone was able to put feelings they didn't know how to wrestle with into words, into music, into pictures. That record got played by me when I was in that place. It did that weird thing that art does. It helped me  actually feel.

I'm sure a thousand blogs will be choosing among his songs to say thanks and goodbye in the next few days, which is as it should be. He wrote better rockers than this one, he wrote great songs that are about loving life, ice cream, how awesome it is to love a girl. For what it's worth, if I was him I'd probably rather be remembered for one of those. But fuck it. Here's one about being sorry that someone who was important to you has to go. Thanks. And goodbye.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

They're like snowflakes

Monologuist paper update supplemental number iii: Take 2

So... these little folded screenprinted portfolios were supposed to be done in time for Autoptic last August. I even listed them on my store site at the time. And got some orders. As it turns out, I didn't finish them until last night. This is the front cover, in its sleeve with a little sticker on the front:

The project exemplifies everything I hate and love most about screenprinting.  I re-burned the screens about six times each before I gave up and paid Wes at Burlesque to do it for me. I changed my mind twelve or thirteen times about the colors. Usually in mid-stream. At one point things weren't working quite right and I decided I needed a new image/layer and since they were so late I decided to cut it out of black paper rather than draw it, scan it and have to get a new film made. I didn't think I had enough time for all that. That was about three weeks ago.

And that was one of the surprising things that turned out to work. I'd never done that before. I'm a terrible printer for many reasons, but one of the main ones is that I can't resist the temptation to make changes as I go. At a certain point in the process – orders for the prints were two months late by this time – I decided to embrace the temptation. Sometimes your worst enemy turns out to actually be your best friend.

So now they're done. In the end the piece is more a collection of monoprints than an edition. None of the individual pieces is quite the same as any other. As I went along I also started using the discard pile as part of that screwing around process. And I liked those as much as the actual piece itself. So there's a test print included in each package with the real piece. It's like Crackerjacks.

The finished piece is a bunch of variations on some collage comics and drawings from my sketchbooks. The inside was printed by Burlesque, 4 colors approximating CMYK. The outside was printed by me as described above in between 5 and 6 colors depending on which one you get.

To order and see the giant lovely disaster for yourself, go here. Individual results may vary.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Would there be cute pugs peeing on shrubbery in the Garden of Eden?

Friday morning I'm flying to San Francisco to go skateboarding. Also for APE. At which, Sunday at 1:30 in the afternoon, I'm going to read a bit from Rage of Poseidon and talk a little about why I'm always stealing characters from other people's stories. Jesus, Hercules, Captain America... the guy with the cow head who lives in the maze and eats people who come to visit him, stuff like that. The list is just endless. Which, like, why don't I just come up with my own shit for once? Jeez. Here's Prometheus from Rage of Poseidon:

So, I'll be talking about the new book, but also about a bunch of other images and stories of mine where old situations and characters have shown up in my work and why. Below are a few examples of stuff I might talk about. In order: Hercules Ascending to Olympus, Adam and Eve Sneaking Back into the Garden of Eden to Steal More Apples (detail) and Last Remnant after the End of the World (Tree of Knowledge)