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31 Jan

Well, here is a new process option that has my eyes wide!

Invited to make a print for the upcoming StolenSpace “Love and Hate” show, I immediately thought to create an elaborate, hand-lettered piece.

Granted, I very often think of – and indeed follow though on – creating elaborate, hand-lettered pieces. However, it had never before occurred to me that I might scan such pieces, and have them printed on luscious, thick stock in interesting and colorful inks. But here we are.

Here is a sneak preview of my print, silkscreened right around the corner at The Headlight Hotel.

Here’s a detail showing the flip of the gold ink. This midnight blue and gold colorway will be exclusive to StolenSpace in an edition of 50. Stay tuned for future print releases though, dig?

The quote I’ve used here is by Jeanette Winterson, an author who has endured as one of my very favorite for her elaborate and evocative wordplay. I’d love to send her one of these prints but she’s kind of a big deal; her website seems to imply that I’d need to, you know, send a starship in order to make contact with here. Still… if you know her… tell her to drop me a line. Hopefully not of the “cease and desist” variety.

“Two things significantly distinguish human beings from the other animals; an interest in the past and the possibility of language. Brought together they make a third: Art. The invisible city not calculated to exist. Beyond the lofty pretensions of the merely ceremonial, long after the dramatic connivings of plitical life, like it or not, it remains. Time past eternally present and undestroyed.” 
-Jeanette Winterson, Art and Lies

“Know thyself,’ said Socrates.
Know thyself,’ said Sappho, ‘and make sure that the Church never finds out.”
-Jeanette Winterson, Art and Lies



2 Jun

Dear Glass Window;


How on earth shall I photograph the sign that I have reverse-painted on you? The sunny day that I’ve waited for has finally come, and brings with it ever so many reflections.



Must I wait for nightfall? Must I find my old Canon SLR and its polarizing lens?



As ill-documented as it may be, I’m really pleased with how this window sign for West Side Wellness came out.

I am equally pleased with the massages I’ve been receiving at the same establishment, though I wish my body would stop requiring the words “quadrocep” and “adhesion” be spoken in the same sentence.

That is all.

Rockets red glare.

2 Jun

Well, chalk up another entry on the List of Things I Thought I’d Learned But Perhaps Never Did.

I didn’t expect I’d ever be browsing the Wikipedia entry for “American Flag”, but as I started painting this eagle I found that I had to.

This metal (iron?) eagle was in great disrepair until Jay got his hand on it recently, welded it back together, fixed the flaws in its metal, and painted it the rich gold you see in the background.

Then it was my turn to hand paint the flag, shield and stars on the thing.

So I made the flags with, say, 70 red and white stripes each. You know, for the 70 original American colonies.

Luckily I at least sensed something was off, and made the necessary adjustments.


31 May

I have made my first foray into a 3rd dimension!

(I know. Most people live in 3 dimensions, but not me. Don’t even get me started on the 4th.)

This medium of porcelain is also a first for me, a rare step outside of wood panels and glazed oil paint… though I couldn’t resist indulging in my dearest vice and surest standby, finishing these off with fine lines of gold striping enamel. Decorative habits die hard.

I went into this experiment (learning porcelain slip casting from Peter Lutz, in a class at the Steel Yard) with one real intention; to let something unexpected happen. It’s come to my attention that some controlling and engineering gears in my brain spin a bit too fast and tend to come unmeshed, leading me to roll way ahead of myself with most of my art projects. It’s easy to become a mental time traveler, all at once hatching a concept, imagining the execution of it, and dismissing the final product as not-so-great before it’s even been started. Rigid ideas of how all things can and must turn out. I figured it was high time I let a material or a process dictate a thing or two to me, rather than the other way ’round.

I’m happy to say that my intention-to-be-less-intentional definitely bore some fruit. Admittedly I did go into the class with a pre-existing itch to cast root forms, and a large collection of the most interesting ginger roots I could find at the Whole Foods. This desire to make a series of small, fragile, organic, somewhat creepy and ambiguous root sculptures has been with me since I started drawing roots and working them into my paintings, and is not much clearer to me than those drawings were. I have no artists’ statement for the roots, although if I did maybe it would have something to do with the contrast between the unglamorous, mud-covered and utilitarian natural form of a root and the overly precious artistic elements of gold leaf, saturated colors, gloss and glaze and fragile, white china. Decor vs dirt? Gilding and grime?

Anyway, the primary thing that I had completely and utterly failed to take into account when I first got the idea of casting porcelain thingies was that they would be hollow. A finished piece of cast porcelain is thin, hard, makes a toothy, dinnerware sound when clinked against its neighboring piece, and has potentially as interesting an interior space as exterior.

Once I’d pulled a few pieces out of their plaster molds and started thinking about how to finish off their open ends, I got really exited about this interior space and started working with it intentionally, cutting parts away to create more play between inside and outside, making windows that allow light to pass in and out of the pieces. In some cases this process may have made the ginger look more like coral. In some cases it may have made it look more like some strange internal organ that human beings have already evolved out of needing. Huh.

Either way, I’m happy with the results. The finished pieces are bare porcelain on the outside, fired with glazed insides and finished with that good ol’ gold enamel around the… orifices. Precious materials to celebrate the simple perfection of spicy, woody, earthbound and growing things.

These are just a few photos…
I’ve been loading the rest to flickr and even put a few in my Etsy store.
For if I do not pass some of these on to other folks, I will need even more shelves.

Forgotten but not gone.

12 Jun

Here is a project on which I am spending a good portion of my summer weeks: the assessing and indexing of what’s rightly being called Forgotten Providence.


Forgotten Providence is a web-based showcase of the abandoned, through foreclosure or otherwise, housing stock in the Renaissance City. Its creators speak in their mission statement of the need to document the problems plaguing our neighborhoods and “provide context for possible policy changes surrounding code enforcement, taxation, sanctions, seizure, removal, and ownership transfers of houses neighbors wish to see revitalized or removed.” They also call for institutional involvement in this effort, and understandably so. Grassroots is grrrreat, but when it comes to quantifying gang activity, addressing the disturbing balloon of homelessness that swells right along with the number of vacant houses, and creating an accurate morphology of a decaying city, all of The Establishment’s resources ought be put to work. Indeed, isn’t this exactly the sort of effort that Institutions are Established for?


Forgotten Providence has found its first institutional collaborator in ProvPlan, the nonprofit neighborhood organization with which I started working primarily to learn to use GIS mapping software, indulge my psychogeographic curiosities, and figure out exactly how someone with GIS mapping software and psychogeographic curiosities might be Of Use to their community. ProvPlan does many good works and has developed a number of super cool software and internet applications, among them The Mapper, a web doohicky with which you can find a stunning amount of information about neighborhoods, streets, property and even parcels. Explore it! I did, and easily found out that the dude I’d approached about purchasing his tiny commercial property in the Armory was asking about $100k more than what his property had been assessed at. Cool!


Inspired by Forgotten Providence’s ambitious early efforts, ProvPlan decided to appoint two interns (myself and Adam R.) to the task of scouring the city, street by gridless, haphazard street, to photograph, assess, record and report each “distressed” property (and thereby inevitably examine our own definitions of “distress”). This data will have a number of applications, first populating Forgotten Providence and then finding its way into public policy projects and City databases.


Three weeks into what should be about a 16 week project, I can officially register my amazement. For one thing; wow. There are a lot of streets and entire neighborhoods in this city-I-thought-I-knew through which one would never pass were one not equipped with a map and a mandate. For another, wow. This urban variety of abandonment is unlike any abandonment I’ve explored before.

I have a long and storied history of infiltrating, enjoying and documenting abandoned and decaying chunks of decrepitude. By the time I was 16 I’d all but moved my bed and collection of Factsheet 5 magazines into the small, vacant and ghost-ridden carriage house that my friends and I found and dubbed “Sleepyhouse” in the deepest woods of my home town. That sort of sub-suburban and rural abandonment is of a special variety that thrives on the leaf mold of New England’s old dirt roads, and the still expanses of midwestern flatlands. The ghosts in these old houses wear anachronistic clothing and their newspapers are yellowed, and we explore them like foreign countries, expecting time capsules and hand-written letters and secret cats. These houses are diffused with a safe amount of dust that motes prettily in the sun, even if there is a smell of rot around the sinister corner of an erstwhile staircase. In the soil behind an abandoned house of this sort I once found what must have been an old dumping ground, the dirt pregnant with antique bottles that I dug out barehanded, coming away with (a nasty case of poison ivy and) a collection of glass treasures that looked as if they’d hold snake oil and outmoded balms; anything but the relentless malt liquor and schnapps found in the houses of Forgotten Providence. Rural abandonment is, more simply put, easier to romanticize.


My interest in abandoned properties led me (totally unsurprisingly, for my age and my place in time and geography) to abandoned industrial. I lived mere yards from the 300-acre horror fairy tale of the closed Northampton State hospital. I lived a few blocks from the dramatic subterranean relic of Fort Wetherill. I ran through the basements of Royal Mill when it was still in a state of blatant disrepair and not a condo development, grinding loose the ancient scabs of fabric dye from the groaning concrete floors and marveling at the slow erosion of load-bearing walls brought about by the gush of a decades-broken water main. Abandoned industrial is legitimately edifying and hugely fascinating, full of labor revolution and neato nostalgic technology. An abandoned factory holds the same appeal as a piece of letterpress art– elegant, time tested, outmoded but so eager to be interpreted anew. Industrial abandonment is, yeah, easy to romanticize and also rightfully educational. Sometimes a symptom of blight and unemployment to be sure, but by this point in history a symptom that’s already been displaced by new industry, re-use and renovation, the hope of green technology and the re-pointing of historic brickwork.

This is all to say: the urban abandonment plaguing cities like Providence is of an entirely different breed than the intriguing abandonment of rural or industrial America. The houses that stand empty on the South Side or in Silver lake have no softening patina. Their vinyl siding doesn’t even allow for the comforting symbol of a wind-weathered shingle. These houses are raw empty. They were emptied not by some mysterious whim or the gradual shift of a country’s manufacturing practices, they were emptied just yesterday, or last week, by the dirge of our exploding unemployment and by the outrage of mortgage fraud and the now-burst housing bubble. The residents of these houses didn’t wander off into a fog of western migration or move their families up the hill; they suffered fires and foreclosures, gang violence and institutional negligence.


Seeing someone sweeping the front steps of a house that stands defiantly and precariously between two other foreclosed, burned and unsecured houses is enough to make one immediately embarrassed of one’s formerly touristic fascination with pretty, vacant things. Adam and I have both admitted being acutely concerned that we not be misconstrued for art students (ummm…) trying to make a thesis out of other people’s suffering. We have also been lobbying to get some badges, or at least a piece of paper that says “Official Business” for my car’s dashboard, and we’re finding our initial, ballsy attitudes a little bit dampened by the reality of these neighborhoods. I’m not, for example, entering the empty houses we find. The reality and necessity of squatters is too real, and the potential danger was emphasized by A.M. last night when he told me about the practice by squatters in Kansas City of booby-trapping properties against other squatters and cops. “It’s like some Home Alone shit,” he said “but less funny, because you end up with a needle in the eye”.

And I’ll end on that note. I’ve been trying to break my habit of being heavy-handed and preachy, and “needle in the eye” is a gift of a closing line way better than anything else I’d have put here. Just check out the site, will ya?