(Photographed by Robin Zwizanski)
Every year I say this will be my last year traveling and recruiting for MICA… But I simply love it too much. So, behold, tales from my sixth season on the road.
This is my longest trip EVER: from October 4th to November 15th. I’ve already covered Houston, Dallas, Austin, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Syracuse. I still have Rochester, Miami, West Palm Beach and New York City to go. Oh, and maybe Huntington.
I spent Halloween 2009 in Los Angeles with Patrick, Celena, Hilton and his possy. I had my head in the clouds and Patrick had his feet on the ground, a perfect pair. And, best of all, my costume was totally portable and free to make (thanks very much to Celena)
Celena Siprajim went as the Chinese Lucky Cat, and Hilton Carter as a big little teddy bear.
After a year of searching, and finding only $350 purses that appealed to me, I decided to make my own. And thanks to U-Betcha, and The Oregon Leather Company, I had beautiful leather to work with.
Three mock-ups and a week later:
So, the plan is to have land, a dog named “Rooster” and a goose named “Duck, Duck.” I’d also love to have some horses, mine might be named “Lickety-Split” or “Jalopy”. A lake would be great and a big beautiful old renovated house/barn with interior courtyards and lots and lots of art and trap doors and secret passages and hidden treasure and big windows and musical instruments. And candles. There would be a wood shop and a steel shop and ceramics and a foundry. And a garden full of tomatoes and berries and peaches and apples and cherries and herbs and watermelons. And pumpkins. It would be a magical place full of creativity and joy and treats.
But, I know I have to keep my options open. I’ve also been looking at warehouse spaces in Philadelphia.
I’m thrilled to announce that The Philly Fringe Festival ended my long run of viewing bad art!
This is not to say that Portland’s 2009 Time Based Art Festival was bad, it was just a bit disappointing. And it is very hard for me to say that. I AM ALL ABOUT GIVING ART THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT! And maybe I just wasn’t going to the right shows, maybe I was missing something…
All of the time-based installations and video work were located in the amazing old Washington High School which they dubbed “The Works”. Nothing really held my attention… Nothing really challenged the idea of time based art, there were interactive pieces and sound pieces and a whole floor of projected videos. The standout piece, declared by Patrick David Melroy Hawkins, being “The Walls Of My Hall” by Johanna Ketola in collaboration with Jan Wolski. A humorous and thought-provoking piece exploring the human body at rest and in calculated motion with all the the surroundings they inhabit and the furniture they sit upon removed and replaced with black, empty spaces.
(“The Walls Of My Hall”)
I also enjoyed Danielle Goldman’s Lecture entitled Close Encounters: Contemporary Dance and Theories of Intimacy and I look forward to reading the book she referenced “Intimacy” by Lauren Berlant. Although her lecture did not inspire me to see any of the performances that she referenced.
I lost all remaining interest in the Festival, and just about all hope for contemporary art, during Hitoshi Toyoda’s excrutiangly boring 90 minute slide show outdoors in the cold. He successfully numbed both my toes and my mind.
That was it for me. I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t risk what little was left of my sanity on another show. I needed inspiration, so we spent my remaining days in the Northwest at the beach on Sauvie’s Island, and an entire day roaming the aisles of the Oregon Leather Company.
I returned to the East Coast in the middle of the night on Wednesday and by Friday I was on my way to Philadelphia for the 2009 Philly Fringe Festival. I stayed with Lisi Stoessel, scenic designer and artist extraordinaire and her husband, the fabulous and incredibly talented, Jack Higgins. And I mean TALENTED. He fixes time machines. Yeah, time machines. He’s an expert. Now that’s power.
So, Lisi and Jack are Philadelphia’s new power couple. Together they can do anything. They are almost single-handedly responsible for the huge success of this year’s Fringe. Lisi designed the sets of 3 original productions, 2 of which I was fortunate enough to see: Annihilation (on Friday night) and Purr, Pull, Reign (by Johnny Showcase and the Lefty Lucy Cabaret) on Saturday night. Both were outstanding. I laughed my pants off. Such talented young actors and actresses. And not only can they act, they can also sing and dance and make me almost pee my pants from laughing so hard. I plan to see the cast of Annihilation Point perform another of their original productions in New York on November 14th.
(Some Scenes from Annihilation Point)
And I am now, officially, Johnny Showcase’s BIGGEST FAN. I love him. Look him up on YouTube if you’re curious. I would travel anywhere to see him perform again. Move over Sacha Baron Cohen, it’s David Sweeny’s turn.
(Johny Showcase and The Lefty Lucy Cabaret)
Saturday afternoon I watched the Australian group “Chunky Move” perform a piece entitled “Mortal Engine” Definitely YouTube them. You won’t believe your eyes. They combine dance with interactive projections to result in a new exploration of gesture and movement as drawing. I sure wish I could get my hands on that technology.
Sunday to New Hope to introduce Katie Zazenski to Robin Zwizanski. Now, that’s alot of zzz’s. I may have laughed hard at the Fringe, but that was just a warm up for dinner with these two. They already had me hyperventalating when Robin started talking about her experience getting a bikini wax.
I love New Hope. It’s still untouched, with a cute little downtown area, lots of barns and the Ringing Rocks! One of the best interactive art installations I’ve ever seen, by mother nature herself. It’s a whole field of boulders that, when you hit them with a hammer, ring! It’s fantastic. We’re planning a performance to take place there.
So, having met all the criteria I can officially say that I have lived in both Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington.
I feel this gives me the authority to attempt to describe the Northwest:
There is something fundamentally different about the Northwest. A different energy, a different mindset, a slower pace. Everyone owns a camping trailer. There’s always a big, wild outdoor world to explore. It’s always green, photoshop green. I’ve never seen so many different shades of green. Everyone has a garden. There are flowers blooming everywhere and always pear and apple and peach and fig and cherry trees in the backyard. And berry bushes and tomatoes! (The BEST tomatoes I have EVER had.) That’s just the way it is.
Things get done in due time and stuff gets fixed. Not discarded. People know how stuff runs out here and will spend the time making it run faster, better, longer, smoother. A lot of people own trucks. This helps get stuff done.
You can get real good Mexican food out here. Dishes I’ve never heard of before: corn cake (sweet corn mash), tortas and sopapillas. And good guacamole. Reliable good guacamole. No sour cream added. And no restaurant worth its stars serves anything that’s not in season. Hats off to Bunk’s Sandwiches for not serving tomatoes in January.
There are great old cars everywhere and architecture from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s that simply doesnt’ exist on the East Coast. And incredible neon signs.
Honesty and history are well respected. But people aren’t bogged down by generations of history. People get by with less money. There are real cowboys out here and real lumberjacks and moutainmen. I mean, the real descendents of Paul Bunyan.
As a sculptor, I am inspired most by the raw material out here. Patrick David Melroy Hawkins, my most generous host, has systematically taken me to all of his favorite supply haunts. From the incredible Oregon Leather Supply, to the countless lumber yards and hardware stores. Including the infamous Wink’s. I purchased everything that I thought I could get on the plane with. I even contemplated checking a big huge slab of cedar… People travel with surfboards afterall.
The only problem I can find with the Northwest is that it is easy to fall in love with it. And, unfortunately for me, it’s on the other side of the huge continental United States of America.
I feel very fortunate to have been able to attend both the 2007 and 2009 Venice Biennales. Both trips to Venice were made Alessandra style: insane all day art extravaganzas guaranteed to result in major art hangovers the next day. (PLEASE NOTE: I DO NOT RECOMMEND TRYING TO SEE THE ENTIRE BIENNALE IN ONE DAY.)
Because of the time restraint, most of my focus was on the exhibitions in the Arsenale and the Italian pavillions. I was very excited about the potential in the theme of the main exhibition: “Making Worlds”. However, I did not feel that a new world was created at all, or that the issue was addressed of what role the artist played in the creation of that new world. It didn’t seem like the curator had much of a voice or a hand in any aspect of the exhibition. Many of the installations were in desperate need of editing and a purpose. And there seemed to be little to no dialogue between pieces or between pieces and the surrounding space/architecture/Venice. Many of the pieces felt irritatingly familiar and predictable, and the show felt like an extremely narrow representation of the art world. There were a handful of pieces that stood out:
My favorite being: Chun Yun’s piece entitled Constellation no. 3. A constellation created by the little glowing lights of all the appliances and gizmos and gadgets plugged in in a darkened room.
Visiting this most recent exhibition made me realize, and truly appreciate, the genius curating of Robert Storr in the 2007 Venice Biennale entitled “Feel With The Mind, Think With The Senses”. It was a curatorial masterpiece. An incredibly subtle, quiet exhibition with a huge long-lasting and deeply-moving impact. Storr took on the big issues, the major problems people are facing all over the world. It was not an exhibition about war, it was not a protest, it did not preach. The work instead instilled in the viewer a sense of vulnerability. The exhibition challenged us to look closer, to question what we were looking at, surprising us with a very different revelation from what was expected. The work dealt with the effects of war. And most inspirationally of all, the way that art can exist in the midst of and in despite of war. The work was from all over the world, created by people on all sides of war, with different experiences of conflict/restriction. But it so elegantly created a strong, uniform and optimistic voice. The exhibition was EXPERIENCE, created by all of the artwork in it and activated by my presence as a viewer within it.
Unfortunately, I am not inspired by the 2009 Venice Biennale, but it has renewed in me my passion to create the quality of work I wish to exist in the art world.
Building, I mean Rebuilding, a Website is such an enormous pain in the ass that it is going to require a huge relaunch party in order to celebrate having done it all over again.
Stay tuned for more details.
GUEST OF HONOR: HEATHER KEATING, DESIGNER EXTRAORDINAIRE
July 14, 2009
I flew out to Portland to celebrate the 34th Annual Patrick David Melroy Hawkins Day. It’s actually a week long affair involving nude beaches, berry-picking, rose gardens, driving on the sand at sunset, lots of hamburgers, pinatas, and chocolate cake with vanilla frosting.