Monthly Archives: August 2011


The idea behind Complicit was to talk about the three aspects I can see that define “sex” in modern society: sexism, sexuality, and “sexualism,” or our bizarre and worrisome urge to demand that everything be sexier, and to put that pressure on society as a whole, including youths and other pre-sexual humans.

The end result is a triptych piece, done on three pieces of salvaged particle board. The surfaces were developed slowly over several weeks using many layers of thin wash. Often, the wash was applied only to two of the three boards and allowed to drip or run onto the third, allowing the surfaces to be involved in the development of each other. The layers are thin and in many places reveal a history going all the way back to the initial priming layer. Near the end, a series of notes were written in paint stick on each board, covering ideas related to each of the three boards (for example, “sexism” had notes such as “enlightened feminism,” “patriarchy,” and “embedded sexism”) to help me as I planned the iconography. These texts were partially melted back into the wash layer, leaving them fragmented and muddied (much, I fear, like actual discussions of human sexuality in Western society.) The final icons are simplified for visual impact, and rely on the backing surface to provide depth to their messages.

From left to right: sexism, sexuality, sexualism.

This piece will make its debut at ORANJE next month. Come see it in person.

Yes. Those’re my toes there. No, they don’t come with the piece, sorry. I needses them.

Seriously Impressive: Benjamin Harff’s Hand-Illuminated “Silmarillion”

It’s been a while since I’ve covered any art that wasn’t my own here on the ol’ site, and a large part of that’s because I haven’t come across anything in a while that’s really wowed me. Mind you, I haven’t exactly been looking too hard, either, but nonetheless. And then today, both my Google Reader and good friend Nick suggested I take a look at this post about an art student who made an illuminated copy of the Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. And that is impressive.

The capitals, calligraphy, and and illuminations were done by hand by one Benjamin Harff as project for the Academy of Arts. The text, it sounds, was digitized and laid out by him around the hand-crafted parts, and then he printed it from a Canon inkjet and bound it with the help of a professional binder.

I may not myself be a big fan of Tolkien, but I am certainly a huge fan of fancy and artistically made books, so this is a beautiful work to get to see made. The samples I’ve seen of the work are brilliant, and Harff seems to have really nailed that medieval style.

And, spoken like a true craftsman who’s had to perform a piece of great personal investment to an unsatisfactory schedule, he’s not entirely pleased with the final quality of the piece, and sounds inclined to try and make a more refined work if time ever allows:

Concerning the cover I am not quite satisfied, because I had liked to do some adornments, but the time in my exam was just too short. So for me this is a kind of alpha-version, and may be one day I find the time to do a finer beta-version.

Benjamin Harff

There’s a nice interview with Harff and more pictures over at the Tolkien Library, which you should obviously jump over and check out.

Off To Run Errands, But First….

Off to run some errands, but first I thought y’all might like to see the start of what will be my first horizontal painting that you set on a surface, not hang on a wall. Oooh. Aaaah. I want the end result to combine techniques from House of Leaves, Lurk, and Skia, and the subject should hopefully continue my exploration of gender in an anonymized, faceless form  like we’ve seen in Fair Trade.

Starting materials: board (reclaimed from a trashed desk), white caulk (the apartment complex left two in my apartment after installing new windows), posing maquette.

Also, speak of Skia, if any of you are especially fond of that painting, you want to make sure and swing by my booth at ORANJE next month. Bring a smartphone. I’ve said too much as it is.

C’Mon, You Admire My Ingenuity

What do you get when you combine three former bookshelves, my college computer tower, a box fan, a gallon can of wall paint, an empty jar of olives, two yogurt cups of diluted paint, and industrial-grade OMS?

Pure. Fucking. Awesome.

That’s what.

(the gallon can of paint is hidden under the joint where the right-most and middle paintings meet, for perspective here).

Also, for those keeping up with me on Twitter, this is what my studio looks like, if you don’t believe me about that damage deposit:


Three Non-Subjectives

Abstract. For some reason, these always get called abstract. I suppose I can see it. Pieces like these rely on the abstract concepts that drive art and not a focal subject. I still prefer “non’subjective,” myself, because I think of an abstraction as a breaking down of form apart from its concrete representation. Picasso did abstract work, in my mind.

I digress.

One of the things I set out to do here was help explain the artistic process as it happens for me. To help people who aren’t trained or steeped in the art world understand how to approach art, especially the more difficult pieces like abstracts and non-subjectives. It’s somewhat easy to look at a piece that has figures in it, and go, “ah, yes! That! That is about _____”

This is a bit harder to explain:

"It Wasn't Just The Laptop That Was Broken," In-Progress, Oil on MacBook Keyboard

"It Wasn't Just The Laptop That Was Broken," In-Progress, Oil on MacBook Keyboard

And that’s where the problem comes in. So, to help out some, I’ll try and talk about these three pieces more as I finish them (and especially about how I decide they’re finished.) Because, I’ve been doing a piss-poor job of actually saying something useful on here, and well, that’s gotta stop.

First off, as I said, these are abstract pieces. Or non-subjective. There’s no apparent subject, and they’re mostly explorations of color, surface, and texture. So, part of what I want the viewer to experience is the way the surface was built. The way thinner washes exist underneath a lot of the paint, leaving ripples and stains on the priming paint underneath. The way thicker chunks of paint rise up, and how you can see where brushes caught and skipped over them, leaving little negative shadows where paint wasn’t applied. The way wet colors were layered, picking up discolorations from the colors underneath them, which slowly lets the surface build with an odd sense of unity I wouldn’t get if I let the paint dry fully between applications.

These three pieces are also selfish. It’s important you know that. I’ve got a lot of things going on in my head right now about Feminism, enlightened sexism, reconciling those ideas with sexual liberation, sexual fetishism and domination, gender roles and the rise of the beta male, the ethics of the marketing world, etc… And, I don’t have enough of a bead on any of it to make a piece that I feel actually says something useful. I just have all these vague ideas swirling around. So, I’m just painting aimlessly and instinctually. It’s a way I let off steam, and a similar process lead to my guilty little favorite piece, Post-Structural Blancmange.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been nostalgia-trippin’ again. I dug up Itch, and with it a bunch of memories from that time. So, I’m dealing with the idea of aging. With my ongoing love of ephemerality and shifting perspective. And how the two conflict with each other. So, those are weighing on me too as I paint. And as such, these three pieces are a mix of instinctual paint layering and technique, blended with barely formed emotions touching on elapsing time (the really heavily caked up ochre board), on mistakes and love and the swirl of a life I’ve moved past (the whitish keyboard), and on those hard-to-explain thoughts on the three S’s of modern sex: sexism, sexuality, and sexualism.

More to come.