19 June 2007


Hug: the artist not the verb.

Interesting story behind this picture. It is actually a relic of my childhood. Aparently back when my mom and dad were recent acquaintances (1973?) they discussed (among other things) Fritz Hug. My mom had returned from Europe, disappointed I suppose, that she had come across art that she really liked and not purchased any of it--not even one print. My dad was just about to go back to Europe (where he and my grandfather would succeed in finding our ancestral home in Switzerland) and he asked if there was anything mom wanted from Europe. There was. She wanted something from Fritz Hug.

Dad brought back a calendar, and they later had the pictures mounted and hung them on the walls of one apartment after another. This picture is one from that set. It and nine others survived two solid decades in our basement, where they were retired after my parents left the vagabond phase of their lives behind.

I think my kids will like them. I do, anyway. In the late 1960s, Hug began painting endangered species for the World Wildlife Fund. These are almost definitely part of that project.

15 June 2007

Me Talk Pretty One Day

I certainly hope you've noticed a pattern by now. This is the third installment of 'art stuff in books not really about art', and today it'll be from David Sedaris, around page 51. This quote is drawn from the chapter Twelve Moments in the Life of the Artist, and this moment is number Nine in which David has become a performance-conceptual-happenings artist.


Watching the performances of my former colleagues, I got the idea that once you assembled the requisite props, the piece would more or less come together on its own. The inflatable shark naturally led to the puddle of heavy cream, which if lapped from the floor with slow steady precision, could account for up to twenty minutes of valuable stage time. All you had to do was maintain a shell-shocked expression and handle a variety of contradictory objects. It was the artist's duty to find the appropriate objects, and the audience's job to decipher meaning. If the piece failed to work, it was their fault, not yours.


It's Mary Ann again with a bit of summary: he goes to a thrift store for 'appropriate objects' and chooses a pile of sock monkeys. He tells the check out lady that he's an artist and she says her daughter is an artist too.


I looked into this woman's face, her fuzzy jowls hanging like saddlebags, and I pictured her reclining nude in a shallow pool of peanut oil. Were she smart enough to let me, I could use her as my living prop. I could be the best thing that ever happened to her, but sadly, she was probably too ignorant to appreciate it. Maybe one day I'd do a full length piece on the topic of stupidity, but in the meantime, I'd just pay for the sock monkeys, snort a few lines of speed, and finish constructing a bulletproof vest out of used flashlight batteries.


The whole chapter is like that--full of descriptions of his crazy projects and his self-important description of them. Oh yes, he took his art very seriously. I've been wondering if he made it all up or if he really did this stuff. If I ever get to meet him, I think I'll ask.

13 June 2007

Humboldt's Gift

The title of today's post is one-and-the-same with Saul Bellow's book, from which I, not coincidentally, will now quote extensively.

Humboldt and Charlie, our two main characters, are talking. Or rather, Humboldt is talking (as always) and Charlie is (predictably) listening. Humboldt has been going for a while already and Charlie knows this rant well enough to see certain sections coming.

And at this point Humboldt generally spoke of Antonin Artaud. Artaud, the playwright, invited the most brilliant intellectuals in Paris to a lecture. When they were assembled there was no lecture. Artaud came on stage and screamed at them like a wild beast. "Opened his mouth and screamed," said Humboldt. "Raging screams. While those Parisian intellectuals sat frightened. For them it was a delicious event. And why? Artaud as the artist was a failed priest. Failed priests specialize in blasphemy. Blasphemy is aimed at the community of believers. In this case, what kind of belief? Belief only in intellect, which a Ferenczi has now charged with madness. But what does it mean in a larger sense? It means that the only art intellectuals can be interested in is an art which celebrates the primacy of ideas. Artists must interest intellectuals, this new class. This is why the state of culture and the history of culture become the subject matter of art. This is why a refined audience of Frenchmen listens respectfully to Artaud screaming. For them the whole purpose of art is to suggest and inspire ideas and discourse. The educated people of modern countries are a thinking rabble at the stage of what Marx called primitive accumulation. Their business is to reduce masterpieces to discourse. Artaud's scream is an intellectual thing. First, an attack on the nineteenth-century 'religion of art,' which the religion of discourse wants to replace . . .
pgs. 31-2


Just thought it was interesting and passing it along. I've been thinking of all kinds of equivalent 'stunts' that artists have pulled. Empty galleries, performance art of any description, Warhol’s movies. And yeah, I half expect that they did it to see if people would stay in their seats.

12 June 2007

On Beauty

The title of the post is one-and-the-same with the title of a book I'm about to extensively quote. By Zadie Smith. If you'll be mad to find a potential spoiler here, I urge you to quit now. NOW.

The scene is New England, a family home. The mother (Kiki) is clearing out the junk in her teen-age son's (Levi) bedroom. Her other son (Jerome, nearly 20) has lifted one end of his brother's bed off the ground so that she can clear out the crap.

Jerome hiked up his end of the bed.
'Higher' requested Kiki and Jerome obliged. Suddenly Kiki's right knee slipped and her hand went to the floor. 'Oh my God' she whispered.
'Oh my God'
'What? Is it porn? My arm's getting tired' Jerome lowered the bed a little.
'DON'T MOVE' screamed Kiki.
Jerome, terrified, lifted the bed higher. His mother was gasping like she was having some kind of fit.
'Mom--what? You're scaring me man. What is it?'
'I don't understand this. I DON'T UNDERSTAND THIS'
'Mom I can't hold this any longer'
Jerome saw his mother grip the sides of something. She slowly began to pull out whatever it was from under the bed.
'What the . . . ?' said Jerome.
Kiki dragged the painting to the middle of the floor and sat next to it, hyperventilating. Jerome came up behind her and tried to touch her to calm her, but she slapped his hand away.
'Mom I don't understand what's going on. What is that?'
Then came the sound of the front door clicking and opening. Kiki lept to her feet and left the room, leaving Jerome to stare at the naked brown woman surrounded by her technicolor flowers and fruit.

Clever, isn't it? Oh, we all know that tired old debate about where art ends and porn begins, and which kinds of nudity qalify in which categories. TIRED. And we have long since grown accustomed to seeing porn where we thought we'd find art. But I have to hand it to Zadie Smith. She's found a way to laugh at it all by dumping it upside down. She's put a nude paiting--art as much as art can be under the bed of a teenage boy, where a stash of porn would be entirely expected if not somehow required. I just love Jerome's question 'Is it porn?' (and holding up the bed, he can't see a thing). Brilliant.

I love books that do this kind of thing. You wouldn't even know she was making fun of the distinction unless you knew to look for it.

06 June 2007

Not Quite Right

Right. So I said on the fourth that I was going to post the Second Coolest Family Picture Ever on the 5th.

Well, this isn't the fifth nor is this the Second Coolest Family Picture Ever. This is a cheap a substitute for the
Second Coolest Family Picture Ever, just like this is a cheap substitute for a real post. Not that this picture isn't great. It is, but it's out of the running all the same. We aren't all present. Left to right, you've got Sam, K8, Dad, Suz, and Joe.

Anyway, I'm still trying to find the right picture. Matthew's got a copy of it hanging in the hallway in Beirut, but the scan I stumbled on the other day was in better condition.

04 June 2007

Coolest Family Picture Ever

I've been cleaning out the basement with my family. Yeah. Even more fun than it sounds like, because of cool stuff like this.

I drew this family portrait in first grade. There we all are.

Stay tuned for the Second Coolest Famly Picture Ever tomorrow.