SOUNDS LIKE POWER TO ME…
SOUNDS LIKE POWER TO ME…
Many of you have probably heard of the Mushroom Burial Suit conceived and invented by artist Jae Rhim Lee. It is brilliant and something to seriously think about. In fact I think I might have to re-write my will. If I believe humans as a species are intrinsically connected to the planet then I should eat my words around being responsible on how I leave this earth plane. Cremation is pretty toxic. But Can I forgo cremation? I love having the ashes of my parents, and I want my kids to have them of me. To decline on cremation the option of The Mushroom Burial Suit makes sense from an environmental perspective listen here…
Below is her experimentations of mushrooms that could decompose her nails, skin and hair which I believe are already outgrowths of biological waste we naturally eliminate.
Mycelium Learning at the Edge says
The mycelium organism is the root system of mushrooms; an underground network that connects to the roots of plants and trees and distributes nutrients and information to support the health of the whole ecosystem. This adaptive, pro-health organism is a teacher for us as we ask, “How can humans more successfully interact with each other in ways that nourish ourselves, each other and the world.” http://mycelium.is/about-us/
Well something to contemplate and imagine, right? Could you take this radical step? Perhaps in the meantime if we eat more mushrooms to boost our immune system an illumination will arrive.
Our hunger for the light; the colorful, the sacred and the inexplicable comes with the tethered inescapable agent of a dark absence; where we weather with loss, the profane and a greedy curiosity. A curiosity that nails a kind of truth to the human mirror; of countless illusions tormenting us with constant frequency upon our psyche daily. While we like to think we can navigate our ‘desires’ that come from an unconscious greedy curiosity, we more often migrate between one deceptive appearance or impression to the next. Humans aren’t that complicated. We devour at rapid rates which ironically begets ‘more’ into the world and our box of pleasures never empty. To sacrifice any of our sensorial world would surely send us to a symbolic grave.
When I study the work of Rina Banerjee I admire her display of this human predicament. We are rich and textured, specific and peculiar and really good at making life up. The work of our imaginations is elemental and necessary, after all humans wouldn’t survive without sharing a story or two. For this and to the artist I am forever grateful.
The world of Banerjee is both personal and cosmic. She offers a fluctuating, dynamic universe that makes disgust look enticing, beauty to look ugly, the intricate look impossible. There is a kind of hypnosis that overwhelms me. This is true of our culture; the superfluous is intoxicating to the point where we become dulled, stuck and fruitless. However, when I study how she relates and combines with materials I know that if any part of her work came undone, Shiva would burn me to ashes! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiva The coordinating and arranging, the aligning and the assembling of materials is like she is uniting all the differences of the world together. Very refreshing.
“Yes, and I think it is really important for me to share the storm of the world – when you can’t really ‘know’ any place, all the while being bombarded by everything that is out there. There is a sucking, pushing, throwing and falling in the process. It is both dangerous and exciting that I definitely like to bring to my work.”http://www.aaa-a.org/programs/presentation-by-rina-banerjee/
Three dimensional compositions come with harmonizing around the diagonal axis of contrasting colors and materials. Ropes, feathers, lightbulbs, tusks, synthetics, dolls, toys convene and stare at us and not for no apparent reason. This is the material world humans have created to satisfy our never-ending needs of pleasure and survival. And, this is ART. The artificial and the natural. We aren’t looking at these materials from the context they come from, our minds have already understood those implied associations. She offers another ‘whole’ fairytale world, a kind of myth-making about our current predicament of living on this planet.
Lotions and potions like rivers where in quick motion, as well as essential oils and culture’s notions, where these cultures would once be locked in harbor or empires court now took ride on the global, opened themselves up to mysterious and foreign incantations (2010), mixed media. Courtesy Galerie Nathalie Obadia Paris/Brussels.
With the work of Rina Banerjee there are no exceptions, nothing is excluded between the awkward and hip, mad and gay, strange and status quo, low-fi and luxurious, etc discerning a place for ourselves is perhaps the journey.
I like to think that the purpose of art is no different than an invitation to an exquisite ball, rise to the occasion and mingle in the fantasy. You never know who you will run into. Dark or light that is super-natural.
This is mesmerizing, creepy, both male and female, looks at you and knows you are looking back. A little too real. Watch the whole thing, it is unforgettable.
Do you find it attractive in a dark kind of way? Do you have a voyeur in you? What secrets does it share with you?
BIRD’S EYE VIEW
Birds live all over the world, and have been around for millions of years. We go birding, pick up on their songs, they meet us somewhere on a hike, they pop by our house and hang out in our trees, they nest like us, live near or on the water, some hunt, dive, some feed on seeds, nectar, meat or fish. They soar, hide, lurk in the depths we most fear. Their razor sharp eyesight and sonar intelligence make them a remarkable part of the animal kingdom on this earth. And while we continue to learn about the diversity of species and their adaptive systems what impresses me most of all is that they know the skies like no other animal, or human. They are our link to a larger universe dark or bright.
Let’s take flight for a sec…
In terms of adaptive systems, the owl’s feathering allows them to camouflage in their environments for catching prey. In image of the dress of owl feathers, the models braided hair and light skin tones would camouflage similarly against the bark of trees. ‘Dress’ acts an intermediary between human and animal.
So why am I connecting fashion with birds? Because fashion reflects human desires, and the longing for a meaningful identity. Some of us turn to religion for example to meet a larger truth of that meaning we so desperately crave, while some turn to Nature for similar understanding and connection to a larger whole of who we are. To my mind birds by nature have a ‘birds eye view’ and fly around that ‘whole’ we seek. They mediate between earth and the unknown of the sky. Fashion designers and artists alike think deeply and act on that connectivity humans need for individual security. The imagery I have chosen to share here is visibly about ‘dress’ but dress that connects us to something larger than ourselves.
I am not a fan of anthropomorphism because humans often fail to see animals as they are, we imbue them with aspects of ourselves rather than seeing the animal kingdom composed of distinct species of equal valuable to us. Sometimes we don’t get the message of atrocities like ‘extinction’ unless we imagine being in the same shoes as the defeated like in this illustration above. Is extinction a natural cause in evolution? The image is wonderfully ambiguous with multiple meanings. Is the owl living in our apparel or are we sporting an owl ‘head’ a marker of acute awareness? Perhaps ‘Empathy gap’ between bird and human might be another way to put it, but the intention I think is to connect humans to a palpable loss of freedom and the constraints of living. The paradox between freedom (the symbolic nature of a bird ) and order (wearing a suit) is indeed standing proudly here. Oh, too often human needs impose order of many kinds dictating our precedence over the impressive beauty such as the species of ‘Laughing Owl’ and that which surrounds us.
For fashion designers the clothes carry the narrative, the story is in the clothes, and could go something like this: A dark princess went out hunting one day and comes face to face with the death of a bird. “Is she equipped?” and “what would you do in the same scenario?”. “Would its death have any impact on you? how so?”
This image is priceless. Taxidermy on the head. Me thinks she is hooting.
The photo above pertains to some of my research as art director for an OWLMAN design I am creating for a movie called Joan in Owl Land. The film is directed by Martin Castaneda https://www.facebook.com/martincastanedayabar?fref=ts with cinematographer Carlos Diaz www.crd.carbonmade.net. Feathers, long black hairy furs, dark leathers, and barks are some of my materials to inspire me.
Birds connect us to the heavens, however the following designs show a subtler current in Nature and one that revolves around human’s affliction with our psychological underworld. Our feathered friends act as messengers between our unconscious and conscious selves. Nature and humans are inextricably linked.
Clothing that circulates and expands into web and trap.
Birds that take us into mourning
Feathers that keep us protected, cool and detached.
And feathers that make us bleed in our wounds.
To an ancient Chinese proverb:
A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
Chris Burden has a diverse range of art that taps into architecture, vintage collecting, TV commercials, extreme performances to name a few and as an artistic and influential figure he won’t be swinging by again in my lifetime. So I thought I would honor him here, as he passed recently. His thinking around boundaries of what he could and couldn’t do, his poetic engineering strategies in building structures and his full immersion into his art that perhaps came from his early performances in the 70’s, some of which you can see here http://www.vulture.com/2015/05/best-of-chris-burden-on-youtube.html are remarkable as much as they were bizarre. He was humble, funny and he confirms for me that an artist has the resources to ‘make’ from any stage in their careers. Below is a video that reveals his thinking behind the commercials he made. What I love about him is his intuitive honesty about himself as an artist and how a career that marries idea and living turns into a satisfying reality.
He will be an inspiration for so many of us in our years to come!
The Art of W. David Powell
What does the W in your name stand for?
I see you are starting with easy questions. William.
Do all the things you do flow through your art practice of thinking and making? and/or are you thinking of it but maybe not doing it 24/7?
While everything I do is not truly applicable to my art practice, much of my life revolves around it. I am fortunate that my day job as a college art teacher focuses my thinking on the formal aspects of art making and design, so even when I am not making my personal work, a lot of my waking hours are spent in conscious thought about ongoing and gestating projects.
Do you know why you are doing what you are making visible to many others? Where does the urge come from, you think?
I am a maker—a creator. I supposed that I am wired that way. I don’t believe it is a rational decision. As you express it—it is an urge.
You are gifted and talented and do you see yourself as unique as well? How do you see yourself today as an artist?
Thank you. I do not see myself as truly unique. I am constantly reminded by other artists, as well as by writers and scientists, that my quests are not unique, but have elements of universality.
How do you see the role of the artist today? Does it differ from the ancients?
The truly ancients had elements of ritual and tribute that dominated their art. As patronage became a part of the process, perhaps this was somehow subjugated. I suppose my art is coming from a place that the surrealists were investigating… that of being a conduit for the unconscious and “invisible forces”. I have no firm definition of the artist of today. The art world is very wide open now. There seem to be so many personal and subjective directions for creation that it is both vast and mercurial.
Do you believe artists have a responsibility outside of themselves and towards their culture in any way?
Culture seems global now—and corporate. I have no debt to it. Community seems more appropo to creating meaning and change, but in my fine art practice I am not engaged with either in a conscious way. It is just not the way I think or work. I also have a design practice. In that area community is important. I work with performing arts organizations and a coalition of philosopher farmers in Central Vermont that have vision and purpose.
Does living in Vermont have any influence on how you go about your practice and making? if so or not, then how? or why not?
My Vermont home studio provides me with a quiet, undisturbed setting for making art without the distractions of an urban environment. I don’t make Vermont art. I just make art.
What lead you to using Photoshop? I know you collage, draw and paint but why is it predominantly your medium now? Do you think this will change?
I was an early adopter of the mac platform in 1984 and Photoshop when it became available. I seldom draw or paint and digital imaging plays an increasingly minor role in my current art production. To a large degree I have gone retrograde and have returned to a medium that I used in the past, traditional cut and paste collage.
Do you think your work would have an entirely different ‘reading’ if it were completely painted or drawn?
Since my images are appropriated, yes. The physicality and tactility of the original source materials inevitably enter into the reading.
Does the subject matter of your work come from your experience(s) lived, examined and reflected and then you weave it around a focus and/or are you conceptually driven first which you then seek your visual content after? Could you elaborate on how reflection, experience, collecting imagery and composing come together for you in your artistic practice?
In my current mode the collecting comes first (and is ongoing), the random associations come next and the reflection comes after a number of pieces from similar sources come together. The work is not predetermined. It would then become merely illustration. My work in drawing and painting feels overdetermined and interest me less.
Your work is akin to the field of remixing as opposed to creating an ‘original’ from no external sourcing or a personal narrative from scratch that doesn’t ‘collect’ and reconfigure into new contexts. I think your work weaves both but would you say your overriding critical concerns about where humankind is heading with ‘progress’ at the helm is more important right now? Can you explain your creative methods and strategies and those relationships to the content of your work?
The illusion of “progress” crops up over and over again in the work. I just can’t help myself.
What other artists, visionaries, thinkers and tinkerers are you dialoguing with?
I have a group of collage artists who I talk with fairly regularly. They all live pretty far away, so I meet with them less frequently that they meet with each other, but it is always stimulating. We call ourselves the Rio Blanco Riders and we consist of Varujan Boghosian, Peter Thomashow, Marcus Ratliff and me. On the periphery of this group is a young artist named Ben Peberdy who I met at Vermont Studio Center. He has a great mail art project going. We have been showing together for a couple of years now. Other collage artists that I admire and correspond with are Todd Bartel, Michael Oatman and Lou Beach. I cannot communicate with the dead, but if I could I would add Max Erst, Hannah Höch, Raoul Hausman and Ray Johnson to the list. I also greatly admire Wangechi Mutu, a collage artist who I see as the heir to Hannah Höch’s feminist approach to the game.
What impact has the Vermont artistic community had on you? Do you slide right into a sense of belonging with it or is it a challenge to see yourself growing here? or is it both or is ‘place’ not important for your work to thrive here, you could be anywhere flourishing?
For many years I felt like an outlier in the Vermont artistic community. The community is now more progressive and has many more farsighted contemporary practitioners. Thriving is a tricky question. While Vermont is a great place to make art, both the market for art and the institutional support of it are out of synch with the vibrant artistic community that now exists in the state.
It would be silly to blame sales and the viability of a career on the location since its a tough art market now all ‘round, but I think that the artists who reside in Vermont who are making a go of it are not doing it here in this state.
Many of the images above come from a book on Powell’s paper collages. The writing below reads like a manifesto to me and shares his thoughtful energy around image-making in the cultural machinery we live in today.
All images are the property of W.David Powell. Please visit his website if you wish for more information.http://faculty.plattsburgh.edu/Wdavid.Powell/
Stay tuned for next interview with artist Lisa Kippen.
While I have just stepped into examining KINGS already there are more than a few to admire. One of my favorites is Peter Breugel the Elder, 1520-69, The Adoration of the Magi. The Magi are presented here as individualistic, peculiar, grotesque and sophisticated all at the same time. Hieronymous Bosch lurks in the postures. They are exaggerated in an illustrative way; elongated, appearing wise and carrying peasant worn faces of the Flemish Renaissance. Robed in their own elegant style, their dignity overrides the bustling younger community around them. Mary caped in sky blue welcomes the 3 strangers with open arms, as she clearly knows they have traveled to Bethlehem following a miraculous star, which has lead them to this nativity scene. Jesus is indulged by their presence and smiles back at them. Their fashion flows between jester, royalty and native non-western ceremonial attire painted in the classical palette of reds, blue, van Eyck green and soft warm whites. Within the ordinary the extra-ordinary (our ‘star’) guides us. How would you cast the remarkable in your life?
Voltaire called her “STAR OF THE NORTH”. Catherine the Great was a strong proponent of European culture, of art, literature, the education of women and expanded the Russian Empire in western ways. My kind of King in Queen form. Gorgeous decadent color combinations in her attire. However, in her own words on fashion “I did not make beauty or finery the source of my merit, for when one was gone, the other became ridiculous, and only character endured.” I get it but my mum was ‘royal’ and to her from style your character was born so I will lovingly disagree.
Look at his unusual luscious lips, boyish hair and significant nose! A dandy underneath hard exteriors. Mean to Jews, expelled them from France, a nepotist, not a big fan. A fabulous portrait of light, flesh and color, however. Say no more.
Something went wrong here. Head and body aren’t connected, his flesh discolors from face to hands, feels like he hopped into some fancy clothes without showering. Can smell his odor, even. Better to have a standin. The formalities of duty call for the ‘pose’ and back to lordship we go. The background seems unfinished, the legs of the horses on the right are cut off, perhaps two paintings merged into one? Bloated with conceit Ferdinand loves himself, a power that had to pop. Definitely disconnected from his environs. Not impressed.
Portrait of a wounded king- by sam tk
So forget all the grand posturing, really, who are we kidding? I protest! Acknowledge all the wounds that lie herein, I bring thee the opportunity to face them. Yes, we are wounded by our histories, of all our failures, of all our melancholia that forced us to bore into the earth and retrieve something new over and over again. All strata of society and culture need a cathartic release from all this bruising. Let time collapse our tragic past from all kinds of domination.
Instead, let’s turn towards the royalty we are. Inhabit our grandeur within, sing to it with all our heart, let it store within us like a long lasting preserve, a delicacy of profound sweetness. Measure ourselves with the grace of the small, for they smooth all our hard edges and ask us to dance with the gods.
More pics and video coming soon!
Every week day morning I have the opportunity to walk my kids to school which has become a welcoming ritual in my world. We talk about the unfolding events and activities of the day, who is doing what and so forth. Currently we have two days left of the school year which you would think my kids would be super happy about, but this morning unexpectedly my son was in a bad mood. I don’t know what caused him to be mean to his sister, other than it had to be he was hurting inside. Sometimes our hearts and brains around situations are at total odds. We know we can’t live under the sole guidance of the heart. We need the smarts of reason to cooperate. On a bad day such as my son’s this morning, it was evident his brain’s ‘critic’ or ‘protector’ was engaged against his sister and out to fire enough ammunition to burn a city down. What a way to ruin the bubbly self in his sister that loves life innocently says gullible mama. He isn’t always the ‘critic’, like all of us he is guilty of big heart loving and obviously his sister provoked him to get him into a wounding mood. The point is we all act in this play ‘Between Good Heart and Negative Brain’ daily and we do it because we enter the zone of vulnerability. It can suck.
Now I am not a therapist, or a self-help guru on how to overcome vulnerability. I know we can meditate, drink Oprah’s soothing tea recipes, eat lots of vegetables (apparently two pounds daily to prevent cancer), exercise, travel and perhaps we reach equanimity. Even if I do follow the right regimen I am still a little empty. What I realize is if I delve deeper into the quasi inventive characters we are, I can begin to see differently. Humans are blessed with creativity and I am not talking about the reproductive kind altho that too I suppose. From active creativity comes positivity and connection. I think the remedy that cures all is having a sense of wonder as we flow thru our orbits. Try this once and you might get hooked. Let wonder lead the way in your day from one moment to the next. To be caught by the unexpected or the inexplicable is profoundly liberating. First, you could start with this video on The Helical Heart which unravels the construction of the human heart. . It will blow you away.
#2. Dwell on this fantastic Macramé dress to see the intricate symmetry of human craft encase and drape where complexity is trapped in and outside the body. Where is the solid form anyway?
#3. Let’s take on those bad thoughts and feel the heat of fire burn them to ashes…
#4. Let’s look at our biological systems that keep us flowing and grounded on the earth. Our body is often said to be a machine well, it is also pretty darn mysterious like any scientist or mystic will tell you. Jean Paul Gauthier’s body suit below is an intense reminder of the hidden layers of connectivity.
Let’s go back to the 80’s and visit Jana Sterbak’s Meat Dress titled Vanitas. Here we can watch meat age much like we do, from raw innocence to curing wisdom.
“Ah! The Vanity of it All”…might perhaps lead us down the path of meaninglessness but one thing is clear while our hearts are built around perfect symmetry like that which is hidden in natural structures they also contain the seeds of self-mastery. We can chose to feel the beauty that continuously pervades us inside and outside the human hemisphere, the natural law of the cosmos or we can be burned by that nasty magistrate who destroys from the wounded self. The truth is our heart always wins with love. Second last day of school maybe my son will come around…