Tuesday, January 31, 2006

This Has Nothing To Do With Art, But Help Me Out Anyway

I saw a bumper sticker for sale today that said "I like to sneeze." No one at the store knew what it meant. Any ideas? I'm bored and curious.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Duchamp/Art Questions

1. I've been reading a biography of Peggy Guggenheim, and a few days ago I came across a little blurb about Duchamp's "Fountain". Like, one sentence. I can't remember why it was mentioned, but I've been marinating over it ever since. A lot has been said about the "R. Mutt" on the outside of the bowl, usually about it as a name, but the one thing this guy said about it was that "R. Mutt" may have been a reference to the German word "armut," meaning "poverty." Despite all the reading, all the classes, and all the research I've done for art history, I have NEVER come across this before. Not even a little hint of it. So for the past few days, it's all I've thought about it. I've stayed up to ridiculous hours trying to research it, and between my art history books and my mom's (also an art history major), which is approximately a bajillion books, I haven't found one single thing said about it. Here's my thinking: OK, "Fountain" was rejected from an art show, and Duchamp wrote a letter in his defense, and in this letter he says he used the name "R. Mutt" as a parody of "R. Mott," a plumbing executive back then. He said that the name he used was fake to prove that in this post-WWI time, identity was arbitrary and irrelevant. Dada was also a way of thinking, not just a movement, and a somewhat nihilist one at that, so is it possible, even if only subconsciously, "R. Mutt" could be a reference to "armut?" I'm having difficulty finding anything, even on the internet from reputable sources, even at the library, so does anyone know anything about this? Also, if you have access to JSTOR, could someone please look up articles for me? I lost my account privileges when I graduated.

2. On a related note, I’ve been talking with a math/science/thoroughly not artsy friend of mine about art (he took a “math in art” class at UMCP last semester, thinking it would be about math more than art, and it wasn’t. In a big way.) One of the things we talked about a few weeks ago was “Fountain,” but since then, we’ve had some quick little theory discussions. Recently, he emailed me to tell me he saw a photo of a solitary member of the UMCP women’s basketball team making a shot against a slew of members from the other team. Looking at the shot, you can’t tell if she made the basket. So he asked me if I thought the artistic value of the photo was affected by whether or not she made the shot in reality. This was my response:

“well, knowing facts would certainly pepper your interpretation, as it would anything else, but trying to figure out how much those facts influenced the creation of the work is the tricky part. photography is a weird example because you could argue that the shot was accidental, in which case you try to figure out why that particular shot was the one on display. there's a general assumption that there aren't accidents in art, which i think is sometimes a little silly, but it's actually pretty on the point: with the exception of photography, most art is of a medium where the artist has the luxury of taking his/her time, calculating, planning, and really executing something the way they want to. so if someone like duchamp wrote "r mutt" on a urinal, its not an accident, so why write it at all? but i digress.

back to the basketball shot. in that example, i think knowing whether or not the shot was made is irrelevant, or even detrimental to the overall affect of the image, regardless of whether or not she made the shot or not. it sounds like part of allure of that photo is that pregnant moment of will-she-or-won't-she, or maybe the "strength" of one strong, solitary UMD player against an onslaught of "the enemy". but that's why trying to figure out the motives of whoever put up the image in the first place. if UMD wanted to show how great their women's basketball team was, they would probably show some successful team moments, or at least a shot of a team member actually making a shot. so why the ambiguity? it's on purpose, and therefore, knowing whether or not she made the shot doesn't matter.”

So what do you guys think?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Once and for all, an explanation/clarification of my work

In interviews and whatnot, I get asked the same questions over and over. How did I start this, what am I trying to do, where am I going, yadda yadda yadda. And actually, I don't blame these people for asking the same questions because if I had answered them well enough the first time, no one would feel the need to ask me again. I never seem to articulate myself as well as I want to when I want to.

But tonight, I received an email from a TV producer of a sex-themed show in Canada asking me, in a sense, those same aforementioned questions, and for once, I think I nailed it. Plus, I've been working on some new stuff, so it gave me a chance to talk about that. So now, once and for all, I will be able to finally say exactly what I've been trying to tell people for the past year. A little repetitive, but it answeres all the questions. I'm satisfied. This was lifted, word for word, from the email I sent:

"The photos actually started as a project for a class of mine while I was still in school. I recently received my BA in Art History, and last spring, I took a class called "The Radical Image" that explored what made which images "radical", culminating in a final project. I couldn't think of anything more radical than sex, especially pornography, given that it's so contentious and polarizing. I had look at a lot of pornography for my art and gender studies classes, and the same two things kept popping up to me: one, porn did absolutely nothing for me, and two, I couldn't figure out why people couldn't look at porn independently of any stigmas or social relevance, and just look at from an artistic perspective. For me, at least, probably because of the art background, the two were related; porn didn't work for me because I was looking at them as works of art. A nude woman, posed, carefully made-up and placed in an artificial setting, with every aesthetic detail manipulated to emphasize her beauty and naked form seems no different to me than any other traditional nude photograph. The only difference is that porn has been commodified as a product, and therefore isn't seen as art. In either case, I think those pictures are fake and fairly ridiculous, which is the other reason I don't like porn, I just can't relate to it. So I originally set out to make anti-Porn, a rejection of the Playboy look in favor or real people performing real acts that really appealed to a multi-sensory experience. Like, maybe if someone saw a photograph of a woman in the throws of an orgasm, maybe they could imagine how she reached that point, or could imagine what her moaning might sound like, or remember their own orgasms, and get turned on by something real. I got an "A" for both the class and the project, but in retrospect, I don't think I really accomplished my goal with the earliest pictures I took, in part because I had little access to willing participants, and I knew very little about how to actually make pornography. I think I'm getting better, and I've certainly gotten more experience, but I think I'm running into more problems.

Part of what I've been doing to improve my work is really study the porn that exists, either Playboy or otherwise. I'm bothered by the fact that the majority of porn is heterocentric, using women to cater to a man's fantasy. Not even in a Dworkin kind of way, it's just that it seems so limiting. There are other types out there, and it seems like there's something for everyone, which indicates some degree of acknowledgment of alternative sexual identities--but that's still not acceptance. I'm convinced that the different types really only exist because there's a market, and it can make someone money. Plus, the pictures, even if they address a different preference or fetish, are still posed and artificial. I'm not entirely sure those pictures are really reflective of sexuality, and not just someone's interpretation of that element of sexuality, or their interpretation of what they think that market wants. So I'm now getting more and more into documentary-style photography, and trying to capture real couples acting naturally. I don't coach them, I just ask them to do what they feel comfortable with, to do what turns them on. So it's not even about my thrusting (no pun intended) my own ideas of sexuality onto someone else, it's really about them. In a way, I'm actually pretty divorced from the whole process, but the final decision on whether or not two show a picture is whether or not I can relate to it. It has nothing to do with value judgments or personal preferences because there are multiple ways you can relate to or appreciate someone or something without actually experiencing it for yourself. SMBD action comes to mind. But the other thing at hand here is that the physical expression of sexuality doesn't necessarily mean sex itself, or even nudity. I think foreplay speaks volumes about sexuality, more so than an actual sex act, because it pertains to exploration and satisfying personal preferences. It's unique to you and your partner. The sex is just the culmination of everything. And again, that relates to trying to make the pictures about the models, not about me or any agenda I might have. But because there's such a strong emphasis on the characters of the models, who I work with is really important. I only work with friends. Hiring models defeats the purpose, and I'm not comfortable working with strangers. So who these people are becomes just as important as what they're doing. I don't think I really captured that in my earlier work, so I'm now working on capturing more faces and more personality, even if that means I might be sacrificing a dirtier or more controversial shot. In a way, I want it to be a form of reality TV-style porn. Real, yes, but I want to capture the unexpected, maybe show that real sex isn't necessarily all that glamorous of perfect, or that yes, you don't need to look like Pam Anderson to have mind-blowing, toe-curling, wallpaper-peeling freaky sex. Good or bad, it all happens. I just want to capture it, but make it as much about the people as about the acts they're performing.

I have a long way to go, and I'm still looking for models and taking pictures, but I feel like I'm on the right track."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Naked 2006 @ Exit Gallery in Kent, Ohio

"Wet Breast" has been accepted into Exit Gallery's "Naked 2006" show. Opening is Friday, March 3, 6-9 pm.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Seattle Erotic Art Festival

"Licked" (blowjob, pierced tongue), "Scratched" (nail marks), and "Orgasm #2" (blurry-faced girl in the throws of an orgasm) have been selected for the Seattle Erotic Art Festival. I make up three of 200 works, which is also .015%. Whee.

I'll be in London that week, but if you'll be in Seattle around March 24-26, stop on by--it sounds like it might be fun.

Back from NYC

If you happen to be in the NYC are sometime before late March, I recommend stopping by the "Fashion in Colors" exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt, even if you don't like fashion. The Kyoto Costume Institute has lent the museum several pieces so they can show off the history/evolution of color in western fashion from the past 300 years. It's really, really neat. Everything is grouped by color, and the exhibition design is quite clever. Even if you don't like looking at dresses in museums, or think fashion isn't art, the more eccentic designs that are quite possibly thoroughly unwearable might prove otherwise. Like the blue lantern dress with no sleeves. Or the giant faux-gift bow dress/top thingy with the motorcycle helmet. If you go, you MUST get the audio tour. They have minimal informative placards, and every costume has its own blurb on the tour.

These were some of the interesting tidbits I walked away with:

1. Black was really only worn by men or women in mourning, and those women had to wear a very strict outfit of head-to-toe matte black with no jewelry. However, around the mid-to-late 1800s, black could be worn for fashion. This happened for three reasons:
a. Queen Victoria was still in mourning, and people thought she looked good in all black (I actually find that a little sick).
b. A new synthetic black dye was invented around this time.
c. Women were starting to be accepted in public society (versus being forced to adhere to the man/public sphere woman/private sphere binary), but in order to fit in, they had to look like men, who wore black, so women wore black too.

2. Wearing more than one color in an outfit was seen as vulgar until the 1400s or so. Prostitutes and clowns were really the only people who did this. But when explorers started going to Asia and importing rich tapestries and patterned silks with multicolored designs, wearing multiple colors at once was finally accepted.

3. Yves St. Laurent was born in Algeria. (I have a whole new appreciation for those beaded collar paisley shift dresses that were so huge in the 60s (a look started by YSL, he claimed it was his interpretation of African tribal necklaces and collars, African patterned cloth, but seen through the eyes of the hippie drug culture).

4. Those long, white, cotton dresses with the empire waists that are seen attached to anything associated with Jane Austen were supposed to look like columns--this was a reflection of Neoclassicism (I don't know why I missed that before).

The stats:
Fashion in Colors
Cooper-Hewitt Museum
Until March 26, 2006
Smithsonian members get in free

Also, "Spamalot" was very, very good. VERY good. It has David Hyde Pierce and Hank Azaria. Did I mention it's very good? If you're a Monty Python freak like me, you should go.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Review: "Interface" at Fraser Gallery, Bethesda MD

First, I'’m biased. I'm loyal to Lenny--I have my reasons. So when I heard that his partner/ex-wife Catriona had spent a year curating a show on technology in the context of contemporary art, I felt a duty to go, even though normally, wouldn't have pushed. It'’s just not my thing. But I went, and it has taken me a few days to really marinate. And even after all that time, I'’m still relatively nonplussed. But I didn'’t hate it, which for picky-ol'’-me, is actually a good sign.

One of my biggest art peeves is the assumption that "technology in art"” automatically means digital art or video art. Yes, it is partly comprised of those, but not specifically defined as such. In any case, I get the impression that "technology in art"” is mainly seen as two-dimensional works. So I was very relieved that not was the show filled with three-dimensional works, but it also seemed to reject the all-too-readily-assumed binary of 2D art vs. 3D art and explored performance art, which, while technically 3D, is probably still excluded a lot of times when people are forced to think about art. I think in general, the show raised some interesting questions, such as "“is working technology in action a performance in itself,"” and other variations on that theme. Thomas Edwards'’ "“Blame"” took that question quite literally, to a somewhat (presumably unintentionally) humorous level. Yeah, yeah, society sucks, ho ho, the irony of the machine blaming the man is yummy, got it, thanks, moving on. Tell me something new. I saw that hand oscillating back and forth, almost getting knocked over, or almost accidentally getting fresh with some unwitting gallery visitor, but I couldn'’t help but think of Disney World. You know, those really cool animatronics? Grumpy Lincoln? Dancing zombies? I loved those things, if only for their robotic campiness. I'’m a closeted science nerd, forgive me. But I digress. I might be mistaken, but I got the impression that it was triggered by movement, which, if true, could send an interesting message about human performance with technology aside from technology performing by itself. I'’m not satisfied with what the hand was saying, though. Saying "“I blame you for ______"” has its value, but I can'’t shake this feeling that it could have been better. In all fairness to Mr. Edwards, I'’m not sure what could be done to improve it, but something just doesn'’t sit right with me. As it is, "“Blame"” does seem to force the viewer to recognize that they are partly responsible for a lot of society'’s problems, if not by actively perpetuating them, then by apathy or a lack of action to remedy them. But it'’s so general, so impersonal, that the message doesn'’t come across as noble as much as it'’s just....mean. "“Blame" doesn'’t know the viewer, yet it makes accusations which may be wholly unfair and inappropriate. It's ignorant. And ignorance is what produced many of the problems the work feels so comfortable to accuse the viewer of. It'’s the pot calling the kettle "“black."” But perhaps that'’s the point. Either way, despite my dissatisfaction, I still liked it.

"Hopscotch,"” by David Page, is on the other end of the spectrum of technology as performance from "Blame" in that it's technology used to assist human performance, but it's still a performance in itself. I'’ll admit, I didn'’t "“get" it” when I was there, and I still don'’t quite "“get" it,” but I'’m not sure if that's necessary. At face value, it was a machine which performed by using people, but it was a creation of man, who used the actions of the machine as his own performance. Sort of a man-machine-man multilayered work. The whole man-machine binary is thrown out the window, just as the 2D-3D binary mentioned earlier. I really need to go back to reading sci-fi....

But my favorite piece in the show was probably the simplest, the kinetic needle sculpture by Claire Watkins. Let me preface this by saying I'm a sucker for simplicity in art. And yet, it really wasn'’t that simple, but I can't even really articulate how so. Nonetheless, I really liked it! It was just so hypnotic. Ms. Watkins, please don't be insulted if I compare it to staring at TV snow on mute--you know you'’re not really looking at anything, but you can't look away, and if you stop to think about what TV snow really is, you know it's actually really complicated. Call me crazy, but it also seemed a little soothing. Yeah, they were needles, but the gentle hum of the rotating magnet, plus the pseudo-gestalt effect of "“floating" needles just seemed so pleasing. Sigh.

But the rest of the show was just...meh. I can'’t even remember a lot of it, except that it involved digital video (yawn--but that's just me) or yet another podcast. That'’s not a good sign if you walk away not remembering a piece. At least if you hate something, you still remember it, and it still incited a passionate response. Three standout pieces plus a few boring ones averages the show to being just, well, average. If you're in the Bethesda area, you might as well stop by. But if not, I'm not entirely convinced it'’s worth the schlep.

Friday, January 13, 2006

"Interface" at Fraser Gallery

I just came back from the opening of "Interface" at the Fraser. I'm going to wait a few days to really let it sink in and get some research on the artists done before I write an official review. I'll admit, I'm a little nonplussed, but I'm hoping that's just because I'm tired.

But you should go, if only to see the needle installation.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Silverthorne on Printing

My friend Alexandra over at Solarize This brings up an interesting question on the value of a photograph if it hasn't been printed by the photographer themselves. The case she mentions is of a $12,000 Ansel Adams print, versus a $175 Alan Ross print of an Adams image. I actually think this is a really interesting topic, especially given two things:

1. Ross was Adams' student, and somewhat of a noteworthy artist in his own right, so certainly that plays a role in value and connoisseurship (art history roots coming back to haunt me)
2. With advancements in digital photography, what does this mean for the future of collecting photography?

I responded, and I'd really like to hear what others have to say.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Bailey's Top 10

I've been called a lot of things, but this is certainly the....longest.

Thanks, James! My ego is fat and happy. :)

On a somewhat related note, I won't be able to post a Top 10 list because I was sadly too busy to go to more than two or three exhibits that weren't assigned for class. But now, I have more time, and hopefully, once I get over this nasty cold, I'll be able to check out some cool art and maybe write a few reviews.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

Oy. Yeah, I haven't updated this in a while. So here's the skinny:

1. I had a very, very short-lived job working with lingerie that I just quit yesterday. So now I'm free to do more art stuff, including actually going to exhibits and writing reviews.
2. I have a not-so-kinky shoot tomorrow with my friend and his family. I miss doing portraits, so this should be fun.
3. I have a kinky shoot with my friend and some random dude she picked out on Saturday. So there may be a new art posting in the future.
4. I have a meeting with a gallery director ("Gallery Dude") on Monday. Fingers, toes, etc. are crossed.
5. One of my fav, fav models, who has been out of the country since August, is coming back and has requested more pictures. So again, perhaps more picture posting in the not too distant future.
6. "Licked" is featured in the January issue of oystersandchocolate.com. You can see it on the main page, but you have to register in order to see more.

Other than that, and submitting to competitions and galleries, things have been nice and quiet. I have a cold, so NYE was pleasantly uneventful. I spent the whole night in bed with Peggy Guggenheim. Hot.