Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Commercial Perks

I completed one of my first commercial job last week through Artstep: a 35 foot restaurant mural made to look like old advertising on the side of a building. I was part of a two-person team who rendered the design and execution.

A few things I noticed. First, a large swath of people complimented me on what I was doing, and that’s recognition, whether it’s the kind I had in mind or not. One construction worker on the site asked me if he understood what he was looking at. He did. Seeing it on top of “getting it” seemed to be a perk to his day. To mine too.

Of course, there’s the puritanical artist's panic that doing commercial work is unpure, and that real artists should be focusing on more profound concerns in the studio. Do I want my name associated with this? Does it mean a gallery won’t take me seriously? Will this work effect my “real work”? Who the F cares. I like what we made and I actually have enough money this week to buy some sneakers.

And in any case, back in the studio last night, I noticed a playfulness, a willingness to expand my visual vocabulary. Maybe the mural made me – briefly – less sanctimonious.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Courtiers R Us

(Francisco Goya, Portrait of the Marqués de Sofraga, ca. 1795)

If I want to use the word “metaphor” in a sentence, can I say “The courtier is a metaphor for our times,” or does a metaphor have to be a thing? Perhaps it would have to be the “court of France” is a metaphor for our times. Or maybe I have to use the word “figure” instead: “the courtier is a figure for our times.” In any case, it is.

Among the words associated with “courtier,” is “favorite;” people close to a ruler who are ambitious and climb the social and political ladder because of his or her connection to power.

“Courts” are worlds of hierarchy, intrigue, rules and backstabbing. Courtiers are sycophants with little regard for others. They can also be frustrated servants or middlemen. In historical painting, donned in fashionable clothing, they look as if they were caught in their times. As such and posing stiffly, they are often endearing, ever human.

Can’t we recognize ourselves playing the roles we find ourselves playing?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Creative facial hair

(Master of St. Giles, active 1490-1510. French)

This is the head of Saint Giles, who took the arrow aimed at a hind. What peaks my interest is the asymmetry of his beard: it’s attached to his lip and mustache on the left of the face, but not on the right.

The rest of the painting presents realistic perspectives and details. I’d have to think the unusual facial hair is true to some fact the artist learned. But maybe not. Maybe it’s a visual reflection of the artist’s own experience of looking – a “mistake” he let slip, but that gives the work a vitality that the rest of the image doesn’t quite possess, being as it is, stiff with reality.

The stripes of the hunter's shirt lend some pizazz too, no?

Monday, August 8, 2011

The mind's eye

(Mycenaen woman, 1300 BC)

I’m very much enjoying Julian Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciouness in the Breadkdown of the Bicameral Mind. It’s not at all impenetrable, despite its title and austere cover. In its pages, the author engrossingly traces the development of consciousness, defining it along the way. It is a total trip.

How about this:
… the early Greek art of the Mycenae and its period shows man as an assembly of strangely articulated limbs, the joints underdrawn, and the torso almost separated from the hips. It is graphically what we find again and again in Homer, who speaks of hands, lower arms, upper arms, feet, calves and thighs as being fleet, sinewy, in speedy motion, etc., with no mention of the body as a whole.
The idea here being that words and pictures reflect what is in a mind, a mentality. When there’s no word for body, it means we don’t have it as an image, we don’t have the mindspace for such a concept or thing.

Even though I have a whole body in my mind, for almost a year now I’ve been drawing unattached heads and detached limbs. I think it’s experiential in that I feel my own body only in parts, sometimes physically unable to feel others.