"But there were times that I really needed it, when the pressure of being around hundreds of different faces every day became way too much. Or when I wanted to just sink off behind some chair and get away from all of this pressure and feelings of isolation. There were times when I just wanted to look at anything else other then pristine clean design or tumblr pages."Read More
"The last time I sat in a barbershop chair was enough. Looking at myself in the mirror, I dodged questions about how little of a life I had. Trying to explain that what I really wanted, was something simple that wouldn't draw too much attention to myself. My 25 year quest to blend into the background of my surroundings."Read More
"Flowing from them is the deep connection with the state and neighborhood they have set down their roots. The excitement at new faces who fill our once barren neighborhood with diverse ideas and cultures. My parents are liberal and they should know it."Read More
"I wonder if my mom thinks of this, if she understands the parallels that me and her do every day. I wonder again if she understands the sure amount of love and compassion that it takes to put continually into the world nothing but strength and direction. "Read More
"My partners car has been in several wrecks, she calls me in a panic one time after drifting in a turn lane, her wheel and axle have been pushed back. The car has stopped its revolutions, stopped its cycles. We watch as it's pulled up and away on the back of some other thing bearing the weight. I wonder if there's any similarities between these and our lives. "Read More
"The thing about Texas summers, that I write about a lot, is the brutal heat and shear intensity keeps people together, sort of united against the absurdity of a place where sweating through an entire outfit is more commonplace than being dry."Read More
To be honest I've sort of stopped making work all together. I make a painting or do a sketch here and there, but the majority of my time is spent working at a "real" job. There was a time where I thought the principle of making work was worth it enough, but now I believe that some work is just stuff people don't want to see. And reaching out and convincing people that your work is worth seeing is for many more extroverted people then someone like me.
In the last year I've been a part of group after group that fell apart. I've discussed show after show with people that gets rejected and never happens. And meanwhile life just keeps coming. Promoting yourself is best left to people with connections and the ability to make connections. Not to socially introverted people with a day job.
Lately I've had urges to reach out to people i've left behind, and the list seems to be growing as I get older and move down or up a direction in my life. And yet I feel like inherently these things are for me and not out of genuine interest of other people. Sometimes I think maybe my art is about this kind of thing, that I lost any genuine interest awhile ago when I stopped having a huge passion for things.
It's harder as I get older and more stable (or less stable) in my life to feel a sort of passion for something. Art has become another intangible thing left for people who took successful internships, know people, and network appropriately. And to even situated myself in a position where my art matters is beyond my scope of understanding.
It's harder for me to write things to describe my art, or describe how I view things, lately things have seemed to be a collection of debates and arguments of conflicting view points and life styles that I can't sort through.
I've been thinking about not making work anymore, about hanging it up officially and stop trying to pretend that something will come out of it.
In a previous post I talked about the obsession I have with Trump, which by now has grown into a global obsession with Trump. A friend of mine showed me a post about protest art in relation to Trump and it has me spiraling down this infinite hole of examining the political image of Trump. Visually Trump is still magnificent, a politician that by all rights claims not to be a politician, as I mentioned in a previous post he sits in between this visual ground of being and not being. But I wanted to elaborate on what I mean by that because this inherent contradiction has been bothering anyone who follows the Trump cycle.
Trump as a politician is allowed to lie with no repercussions, because his entire platform is based on eliminating "lying politicians" He even dubbed one of his previous opponents "Lying cruz" Yet Trumps whole being is defined by a history of lies. A history of fabricating the truth and building a brand that attempts to over write that truth. Trump is not a businessman, unless his business is the annoyingly tired business of the 21st century "Brand building".
Trump represents this to me the most, the idea that a brand can be so powerful that it disrupts everything you have in your world, that it becomes this unstoppable force of self promotion, hurtling down at you with no way of ever disproving it. Trump's fans aren't concerned with facts and figures, and in an increasingly polarized news cycle they can drum up enough facts and figures of their own to stand behind anyway. They are head strong and stubborn, (like their counterparts) and they stand for the inherent broken part of our system, the polarization along party lines. Its no surprise that some of the same supporters of Bernie sanders (the self described democratic socialist) have turned to supporting Trump (or declared they would) their images are similar, strong, loud, defiant, outsider. And male.
When you look into the talk surrounding Trump there is this huge fear, and with Brexit dominating the news cycle the last few weeks the fear has grown. Now the eerie similarities in image and political rhetoric are taking hold and people are settling down with the idea that Trump might actually win this thing. A man who can make anti-semitic, racist, sexist, and just down right ugly comments could be the next leader of the country.
I was making this connection of Donald Trump to the cartoon character of Donald duck. Not only are the names similar, which is an obvious starter for cartooning, but the mannerisms of both are the same. Both Donalds have an inherent need for the spotlight, a need to be proven masculine and assertive, a need to engage the community around them in a way that says "I'm every bit as good as that Mickey" as a result the characters both fly off the handle at the simplest remark, Their reaction is only to declare themselves the best and their surprising lack of humility prevents them from ever achieving their ultimate dream of success. Donald (The Duck version) is well known for being foul mouthed and quick tempered, for trudging along in the toughest scenarios toward a path that only he can see. And in almost every case that path is never the best one. What do the surrounding characters do in this case? They simply laugh and joke about the sheer craziness of the character.
Running across a good quote by the animator "
As the animator Fred Spencer has put it:
The Duck gets a big kick out of imposing on other people or annoying them, but he immediately loses his temper when the tables are turned. In other words, he can dish it out, but he can't take it
and of course
"Donald is also a bit of a show-off. He likes to brag, especially about how skilled he is at something. He does in fact have many skills—he is something of a Jack of all Trades. Amongst other things, he is a good fisher and a good hockey player. However, his love of bragging often leads him to overestimate his abilities, so that when he sets out to make good on his boasts, he gets in over his head, usually to hilarious effect."
It's interesting to me this correlation between the Fictional and factual Donald. And in some ways they both seem to represent this entire personality split of the American/ Male / White male. And maybe it was initially done that Donald would come to represent this foil. Mickey a rising star and talent who also happens to be portrayed as a black male. In fact the rise of popularity of Mickey over Donald seems to beckon the same critiques those that vote for the Factual Donald. As the white male becomes increasingly more of a minority voice the desire to rage and let loose anger to be "heard" takes hold. The overestimating of ones abilities and boasting a common trait in Male culture.
I've been thinking of boxes of things stacked up. Collected memories in one of the most physical ways. I remember a moment where flood waters had hit my grandmothers place hard, and the garage door was open with boxes and boxes of things sitting there. And I assume we were there going through these things, deciding what memories were wrecked by water and what were good to keep around for a little longer.
The recent floods in Texas had a similar effect, one government agency sent out tweets and links to articles about how to recover books and photo albums, how to prevent mold and how to preserve water damaged items in the best way. When my apartment was on fire, and we were standing outside my brother was worried about the things he had going up in flames, and for me there was nothing of worth, I was worried about where I would stay.
In her garage there are boxes and boxes of stuff, I move them around with hesitation, each one contains some specific memory of her father and I get the feeling they haven't been moved in some time. Boxes and boxes of his stuff and tools and writings. Under several boxes I find a notebook with his handwriting, note taking on the construction of a car, and a dusty FIAT symbol. I stop moving boxes.
I know one day I'll have to move my fathers stuff from the garage, one day i'll have to clean both my mom and dads stuff from their house and i'll be stuck with the same choice that everyone before me deals with, the same decision my grandmother was dealing with, the same decision my mother dealt with when deciding if she could stomach the idea of other people wearing her mothers clothes.
What memories do we keep, and which do we throw away.
Lately its the small things that have been reminding me of my past, cracks in a wall, pots and plants, rocks shaped in particular ways, boxes and writings. And I would have thought it would be the big things. But I make blueberry pancakes and think of my grandmother, and my mother, and of my older brother and eating texas shaped waffles. The trouble with these memories is that they come in waves, and they are un controllable. We surround ourselves with objects in this attempt to construct some sort of memory on them, to implant some importance to our things. But when its all done and those times are over we are just left with the weird boxes of junk that hold too much memory to get rid off. We will trade in our first car and all the times spent in it, move from our first apartments and homes, trade up and expand with the big things, but we keep the pot, or the basket, or the humming bird pin.
And each compounds on itself, building collections of tiny objects filled with memory. Maybe its that we impart all of our self onto the smaller things, and are defined by the bigger. Our car defines the character we want to be, but the humming bird pin in our pocket takes the wear and tear of our stress.
So how do we decide which of these memories is important to us? How do we sift through the boxes that pile up of old work, or old objects, or old clothes?
My apartment is not a large space. 2 bedrooms and a small living room. When I moved to the apartment it was on the tail end of a recent fire. Middle of the summer me and my parents and brother fighting and covered in sweat and stress. Backed out of another apartment and moved here.
The windows of my place fill one wall of my bedroom, in the summer months the windows heat up the entire room, in the winter months the cold air seeps in through the cracks. Every weekend I open the windows and draw back the curtains. In front of the windows I paint and draw and listen to music. Singing along to Bill Callahan.
Outside people meet at the back of the church in the grassy area, one by one they bring their dogs to play while they sit and chat and catch up on the day. In the distance there is a vegetable garden, parents with their kids growing gardens.
I grew up in a semi small town, to those in a small town it would seem like an insult to refer to it as a small town but it felt that way. I don't think nor am I going to wax on about the importance of small town mentalities, but the importance of small spaces is becoming relevant more and more lately to me. The dog park behind a weird church becomes a meeting ground for the neighbors and apartment community. The living room of my brothers boyfriends house becomes a safe space for queer men to gather and discuss. The regular spot at a bar outside is the place friends can let down their guard and open up after a long day.
I started painting again, and in the creation of new images and the repetition of a process I haven't done since Graduating I realize the importance of how these small places influence and activate those processes and actions. I wondered to myself why a family of 3 boys growing up in a conservative town would venture out to pursue a more liberal political ideology. and I think in some degree the small places we carved out with people were an influence. But I would argue that it was the leaving and moving to a place that was bigger that caused the dramatic change. That contrasting of places and ideas influenced discussion in a larger context. It made defending of ideas and beliefs important.
This blog is lacking some sort of substance or importance.
I'm thinking of ideas, of anger and resentment, of hatred and sadness, of contrasting those with the feeling of being good. I said Hi to someone today and it had me thinking about all these things. of pressures of community building, of leaving, of re joining, of life and diverging paths and formations of new communities.
Another point in the usage of the rock as a symbol is the understanding that it is both a very unique and very generic object. As much as I intend for the work to be separate from a personal experience of work I believe these symbols represent a crucial part of identity, the need for individuality and the want to fit in. And at a grander scale this contrast is part of the unique problem fueling the divide in American politics. I recently read a great article in The Atlantic about the idea that stated
"The larger context of this isolation and alienation is America’s culture of individualism. It, too, can worsen the despair. Taken to an extreme, self-reliance becomes a cudgel: Those who falter and fail have only themselves to blame. They should have gotten more education. They should have been more prepared. On this score, too, the U.S. deviates from other wealthy nations. America’s frontier spirit of rugged individualism is strong, and it manifests itself differently by race and education level, too.""
This problem is also inherently the backbone of the american southern community, ( and I will only speak of my personal culture as the larger context of Mexican/Hispanic/Black/Asian cultures are something that should be spoken about from the individual culture in question) are generations of farmers and homesteaders who's belief was that failure is a result of only themselves to blame. This rugged individualism as the author states is in large part a catalyst for feelings of isolation and alienation which leads the individuals to support parties and candidates that pander towards that. It is interesting that Rocks occupy this space, the rugged individualism of an individual rock, that is the pattern or the design, the mineral composite, the shade and texture is obvious on further examination but the original understanding of a rock is usually in context of a large grouping.
I feel to some degree the urge as both an artist and an individual to separate myself along these lines. To blend in and then to stand out when the time is decided. The initial contrast of plant life and rock life was a contrast of different perceptions of similar ideas of memory, but also different ideas of emotional understanding and different ideas of personal experience. These differences when paired together make a very unique and wonderful experience, they create a dynamic landscape (be it emotional, political, academic, ect) that encompasses a variety of different ideas.
When people complain about the idea of american politics having a two party system and being un available to a third distinct party I feel they miss the importance of our two party system, the evolution of the two party system is surely political and economic, but at the same time it's inherently cultural. The creation of that system is and was dependent on our cultural evolution. There was no need for the formation of a separate third party because the american people by and large fit into 1 of 2 major categories of believing. This should not be taken lightly, the idea that such a large percentage of the country can be described by a 2 party system and fit so rigidly in those boundaries is both interesting and frighting.
The formation of any third party is only created on the outskirts of the main party. extreme left or right. Interesting enough a party of middleground is not the party that people accept or demand when they expect a third party. It is usually talked about as a further entrenchment of extreme right wing or left wing ideology. (IE tea party, libertarian, green party, democratic socialist) but just as the combination of rocks and plant life create a beautiful composition and landscape the combination of both ideologies would bring us into a completely new and bright political landscape.
It took being hit by a car to understand a big part of the symbolism I was using. Or let me back track and say it was a catalyst for understanding things. I feel a degree of guilt and stupidity when I say that a seemingly generic dramatic event gave me a seemingly generic revelation. But its the truth and a good way of starting.
The day before I was busting rocks with a hammer, my coworker had un installed some bike racks on campus and the bolts had been drilled down into the earth, and the covered with concrete. It was his idea to cut the bolts as close to the concrete foundation as possible and then to hammer the remains into the earth. “Dont worry they’ll slide right in” as he’s cutting he’s telling me stories about his time in the army. Sparks are flying around him and there’s a certain feeling of weight to his stories of how he use to “do shit like this all the time” He’s brief on details of his time and it seems to me he was more eager to leave it behind. Unlike my coworkers, the majority of who are all old army buddies, he feels no need to bring up his time unless in a situation with another man that seems to call for it. When another old guard brings up their time he seems to grudgingly comment, always with a laugh and a sort of anxious changing of the subject. I wonder if for him he feels similar guilt of bringing up a brief stint in the service to men who slept with their guns by their side every night for many years.
The process of busting down bolts isn’t so exact, for the most part they stay stubbornly in place while the hammer does more damage to the surrounding foundation then it does to the bolts. one in every five may slide an inch or two further into the ground, but only after a long period of aggressive beating. For the most part i’m left feeling like this is an exercise in us letting out our anger. Busting something that cant bust back. as the rocks fly and gravel is created I begin to feel a bit stupid in spending an hour of work time doing something that no body on campus or in the organization will ever notice. In just a weeks time construction on this section of the sidewalk will begin and jackhammers and machine will begin tearing up the surrounding foundation to replace it with a new form of gravel and landscaping. His eyes are focused on the blade and the sparks surrounding him so I don’t bring up this fact. And i’m enjoying being outside instead of punching keys on a computer.
The next day as i’m riding my bike back to work i’m hit by a lincon town car. I try to stop in time as he pulls out from a stop sign but all I can really manage to do is utter “shit” and “fuck” as I fly over the hood of his car and hit the ground. I’m reminded now looking back of those pieces of rocks flying everywhere when hit with a forceful object. And i’m sure in the moment I felt a degree of helplessness like I too might become a collection of nothing more than rocks. My legs hurt a great deal and i’m sore. There’s a bit of relief that comes with feeling your legs. I know i’m not paralyzed and that i’m relatively ok. I’ll skip discussing any more of the details of the crash due to the guilt and the unimportance it has to the overall message.
As i’m laying around the house icing my leg and laughing and enjoying my vacation i’m beginning to ask myself why I chose to draw obsessively rocks and plants. In my immediate mind I believed that it was more objective and pretty and that an art world would be more interested in something that can be labeled and has a structural image. But I know its something more than that. There is a reason I chose to address myself as a rock in the majority of my comics, and furthermore a reason I felt that this Texas landscape and limestone were important enough of a symbol to look at.
On the political side of things the rock and plant life represent two foundations of a crucial identity and divide in the country. The un controlled growth of a vine or plant life may be brought up as a symbol for the explanation of the potential that progressive politics or ideas can have on the country, as either a negative or a positive this symbol is used repeatedly as a representation of the effect ideas can have on shaping a nation and its cultural image. Surely the thought of some ancient ruins covered completely in the uncontrolled plant life of the surroundings symbolize a path that many on the conservative right believe progressivism will do to the country. Like wise the steadfast collection of years represented by the rock, and the breaking apart of structure can be used as a symbol for the inherent problem with conservative ideology. The inability to grow and shape itself to anything and the effect of breaking apart when confronted with a singular dynamic force of change is represented in the very existence of a rock or rock formation. These two symbols used in conjunction however can show a unique and complicated understanding of the political system working at its best. That is a strong foundation on which controlled growth expand and exemplify common features. An image of a tree growing out of the foundation of a sturdy boulder is brought to mind. To me the rock and the plant life represent contrasting but similar ideas in life and growth. In the establishment of culture and image they both play an important and dynamic role. The rock and foundation being the geological collection of years of human data. The plant life being a representation of current progress and understanding. And even in this I begin to feel for the conservative ideology, which has always had at its core the problem of appearing old and useless. Of being the rock standing in the way of change.
I remember very vaguely various floods in my life. Recently Austin has had two floods, and since settling down here they are the one's that stand out to me the most. I took a trip this weekend to the Greenbelt and went hiking a bit by myself before meeting with a friend. The water was flowing and clear which was nice for a change. Every few feet the path was blocked by some huge tree trunk, something that had fallen in the storm of the previous week and been left there. On the base of these trees spray painted in a perfect circle around the trunk was a singular orange line, and my assumption was this is the guide for those workers who will come in and cut apart the tree opening the path up again to walkers and bikers and dogs.
If you venture from the path a little ways and walk along the creek/river bed you can find the remnants of the flash floods. The soft mud under your feet and the warped path of the wild grass, pulled down by the water rushing across. Tree's fallen and on their side, flowers up rooted rocks still coated in a thick moisture. It would have been interesting to see the impact the day of the flood, the news showed pictures of houses flooding, cars sinking, people being saved.
I recall driving home from a friends house during, being stuck on the freeway. Passing a group of cars gathered around the railings. Their eyes were scanning the water frantically. Over and over they were scanning the water as if trying to catch a glimpse of something lost, something that at any moment would pop up and recover itself. The fire department and police ignored it, they brought out their gear and rain coats, directed cars around. I remember feeling a sense of dread wondering what it is they were looking for that could have made the fall into the river, what would cause two women to sit on the side of a busy free way in the pouring rain with no umbrella or coat frantically searching. When I got home I read about the story, a man crashed and then jumped over the railing into the water. They found his body later.
When I was younger Katrina was the big flood. I didn't care much about it then, it never effected me and it was another out of sight situation. I remember briefly being without power at my home, I remember light flooding and our house was fine. I remember kids coming to our schools, the stories were always that they had lost everything or most things and had moved back to be with friends or family. In a new school with no one around them after losing everything. Thinking about it now it makes me upset, even more upset that I didn't think about it then. I heard on a radio show stories about Katrina, One woman talked about losing her house and job, all of her clothes. She came to another state and didn't have anything, people assumed she was a bum, assumed she was up to nothing good. I remember the same thoughts about those kids who came to our school, dressed badly and in long hanging shirts with ratty blue jeans. They had the same look on their eyes as the women scanning the water on the highway. Constantly looking around as if something would recover. And the rest of us were just passers by, judging image and form, making assumptions and implications based on appearance and no story. The assuming factor was that things should be beautiful that's how you know they are normal. There was something more truthful and normal about the whole story though.
And here I am along the creek/river bed taking pictures of the aftermath, trying to create something beautiful out of natural wreckage, here I am along side the highway looking on as crews dive into the waters and try to find a body, here I am drawing pictures, painting things, making stuff as houses and memories and shared times are destroyed by the water. And I have to ask myself how I can contribute to something larger. How I can do better and more meaningful work. and hopefully I get successful enough to answer that question. It's not just the success, it's the worry that art, or rather my art can never have a meaningful impact. Or rather that the meaningful impact that other people have.
My brother reports news, my other brother helps with education, my father oversees construction on homes, my mother oversees banking projects. Everything that seems to have a direct correlation with making peoples lives easier and better, and they aren't given any thanks for the jobs they do. And here I am trying to make art and churning it out in the hopes of selling something, in the hopes of changing and creating something new. And I can't help but ask for what purpose.
Part of me wants to smash the mug you gave me against the ground, on drunken nights when I start feeling down I think of how nice it would be to destroy a symbol of memories. to shatter it into a million pieces and collect them all. I tore up the note you left me. The shreds didn't make me feel any better though. Each individual piece didn't change the collective whole, it didn't re establish anything, it didn't change the way I felt. It felt like a childish way of addressing an issue internally.
Part of me wants to leave a note inside the mug, apologizing and explaining, in this way maybe you could see me as a person who is kind and understanding. I thought about this before I tore up your letter, thought about letting it sit in the bottom of my drawer and maybe one day when i'm older I would look back and reminisce on how good times were. Maybe you would do the same with the mug.
But the note didn't do me any good in the bottom of a drawer, nor did it do me any good torn up. likewise the mug doesn't do anyone good collected or shattered. An image is just an image, a symbol is just a symbol. And the reflection on them as anything more is what creates a negative association of nostalgia. Images like life should be created in shifts and stages, ever evolving and forming into newer and better ideas. Inspired by the world around us and the past that made us. When image making shifts too heavily in either direction we fall into the same childish traps. Breaking a mug against the ground, burning a letter from an ex.
I think I have decided to pack it up, and leave it with your friend, no note, no comment, no anything.
Red State is about similar thoughts. To me its about examining things I find and understanding their relation to a bigger picture, how small objects and memories can be transformed into larger ideological points and pictures. Something personal can be expanded to be something universal. The drawings are a state in the overall idea, plannings and initial memories created. memories of ideas and times and thoughts. From there they will evolve, change forms and mediums, become objects and writings, be given out and taken in. At the end a bigger picture might arise a better understanding of what those times and objects and symbols meant and mean.
I've been reading how we (Texas) became a Red State how demographics and influence and politics and economics all created a push for conservative agendas and belief structures. How data points and academics collectively understand the voting blocks of Texas. Part of me believes this to be the best understanding. Part of me is torn by memories, about rapid changes in beliefs experienced, about political dynamics evolving. and like the coffee mug i'm left with a similar choice. Reaction or non reaction.
How do these images, how do these memories, how do these ideas and people and politics shape our reactions? Why do we smash mugs, why do we leave notes, is it an inherently selfish response to our surroundings? A belief that our memories and our existence is so important that it must and has shaped the resulting culture? Or is it a belief that we are so unimportant that we would do anything to leave a memory?
These are the thoughts that i'm having while i'm starting this newer series. Thinking about myself, thinking about my actions, thinking about the past and the future, thinking about feelings, and politics, and culture, and trying to see how individual work can both reflect and effect that culture. How it can explain and be explained.
The mug use to mean something to me, the things I have use to remind me of memories of a better time and place, more and more lately they remind me the dangerous nature of that type of nostalgia. one that associates itself with only the positive. The type that leaves out the fights and the anger, that leaves out the tough nights. How do we construct a better image? A more complete and complicated understanding. These are things i'm beginning to think of. Things i'm hopefully working on.
I am obsessed currently with Trump. If you wanted a character that completely compiles everything that has been happening in politics, or rather the political image making of politics, into one being, you have Trump. Literally the Trump card, the politician who can’t be stopped because he isn’t and is. To me Trump represents this fictional space we are crawling into. A culture that is constantly re writing its own history and present to define it under positive terms. Where flashes of images and advertisements constantly impact us, sub consciously influence us, Where the blurring of reality and fiction is made apparent every single day when we sign on to an Instagram feed or a twitter feed.
Trump is this, or as put above he is and he isn’t. An image that is out of control a point that has no point and a point, a commentary only given by people in desperate attempt to make sense out of senseless. When trumps popularity gains it’s a perfect example of popularity gaining because it’s popular.
A world which moves to fast for even itself Trump is a snowball tearing down a mountain.
Trumps failure doesn’t matter, his success doesn’t either, his existence, his success to this point is all that is important. It has guaranteed a generation of PR firms and marketers will look towards his performance and attempt to model future candidates after it. The idea of a candidate that is allowed to say whatever he wants whenever he wants and still get positive poll numbers is a PR dream. It is what every corporation, every politician, every one of us is looking for.
Trump is a chaotic being, he is disorder in every way, a disruption of a system. I won’t vote for Trump, I’m not saying he’s a good candidate or a good human being or a good politician. But an image he’s the best.
He is an Artists dream. An image unable to be destroyed by criticism, one that feeds off of its own existence. One that will forever last in the memories of the American people, and forever be written down.
All press is good press. And Trump is a press magnet.
In Texas, In the summers, not much can grow. The heat beats down on all life, one hundred and ten degrees all day, flowers wilt in this sun, the pavement burns any roots that should sneak out of the soil and up in an attempt to grasp what little water might drop. The water that does drop doesn’t run off, it is evaporated into the endless miles of sky before it can reach the soil. Every day the sun boils, every day it beats down. And every day the plant life suffers.
Of the few beautiful plants that do grow are the succulents. Their roots are structured to withstand this particular torture. They reach down and out across the desert lands, not comfortable with a single place they instead draw their life from the surrounding area, holding onto each drop that falls as a memory, a recollection of a time before the heat, a time before the pavement, a time before the brutal boiling sun and the endless days of summer.
Day in and day out they collect this water. And Day in and day out they store.
The plant swells and burst with these collected days, as its roots grow and plant themselves firmly in the Texas soil, its body stretches up. Embracing the sun in a bitter defiance of its wrath. Day in and day out they grow towards the sun, with each vertical inch their body swells and hardens, days of rain, days of floods, days of droughts and attacks and hurricanes, all these days stored inside. The outer shell develops its spikes. In a desperate attempt to prevent the theft of its life, to prevent some outsider, some thirsty animal or hungry spirit from digging in and draining it. The spikes grow sharp, they populate the outside a tough callous.
The plant is not all tough, not all functional, not all hardened, in the dead of the night when the sun has stopped its torment a single flower will grow, unfurling its beautiful blood red color to the night sky, calling up towards the stars in gratitude. In the night, in the moments when the city or desert or plains have grown quiet the plant performs its beauty.
The flower, or the budding of this flower is infrequent, only for a moment is its true beauty manifested in ready shape. The years of stress and strain hidden deep inside only to burst for a week or more. The flower then takes shape, it unfurls itself to the world in a bold display of its livelihood. The succulent screams its existence, bright flashes of yellows and reds, of golds and umbers, dancing in the hot winds that whip across the landscape, twirling and flowing, reflecting the sun’s rays back up. While the other plants wither and burn, while their beauty fades and breaks down the succulent’s expands. The flower draws on the days, it draws on the sun, it draws on the floods and the hurricanes and the ice, it draws on the planting, on the first time that the same winds now dashing its flower around transported its seed into the soil it now stands. All of these days it stood enduring and collecting now for a brief moment on display for the world.
and then just as before it retracts. It returns to its shell and begins its slow stretch upwards.
Day in and day out.
One of the things rarely mentioned to me in my so far very short artistic life is forgiveness. In the creation of a human image, or a creation of our being forgiveness is at the core. The concept alone acts as a catalyst for the religions and dogmas that have dominated the cultural landscape of humans for generations, and there is virtually no form of media or narrative that doesn't speak about the importance of forgiveness. Likewise it seems that forgiveness is an important concept for the creation of art and works.
If a work starts as an idea and then forms around it, if we spend our time cultivating that idea then we also have to incorporate a degree of fault in that idea. The pursuit of perfection in idea drives us down a path of research and intellectual discovery, however if perfection itself becomes the end goal, and not the perfection of the idea, then the work is warped to be another work about work. I’m against work about work, because work is not an inherent quality of the human race. The recent drive to fetish work is an example of economic and political policy driven by a classicist desire to incorporate work into the idea of a human existence. The artist I grew up around have a strange desire for talking about all the work they do, an image that incorporates the complexity of “process” and work is all the rage.
But is there anything complex about process? Sure the turning of gears and the complexity of a self-driving car are interesting pieces, and they do talk to some degree about the complex nature of technology and its relation to improving and destroying the human condition, but these things are not necessarily complex, except to those that have never engaged in this kind of work. From a construction workers point of a view the building of complex concrete buildings is not art but rather a daily task that more often than not they would kill to rid themselves of.
My father busted his back in the fields laying pipe when he was younger, digging and plumbing, building and nailing. His parents and grandparents were cotton farmers out in west Texas. Out in the Texas heat picking crops. To my father, work is a badge of honor, however it is one that he wants to rid himself at some point. He worked (along with my mother) in an attempt to create a life for his sons in which that sort of hard work isn't necessary. I mention this because the appreciation (or fetishism) of work in the current culture comes from a nostalgic looking of what was.
I don’t work as hard as my father. I don’t do the type of back breaking labor he did in his youth and I won’t have to. Likewise I don’t do the type of work that the construction worker who currently sits on a crane a few feet above my head does. And there is something inherently confusing about fetishizing that type of work from a comfy chair and air conditioned building. Work about work is that sort of idea. To go to a gallery to see process work seems insane, or to see work about working. Why not simply walk into the gallery and view the bricks and the piping, the architectural drawings and the lumber used to hold the building. How about the graceful sweeping of the custodial staff and the conversations of their life they have at low hours of the night?
Forgiveness comes to mind now as a more important and interesting tool to use. (and forgive me if you disagree (and forgive me for that joke) ) the beauty of painting is the natural ability for forgiveness, the fluidity of the medium (in combination with drawing) allows for plenty of time of self-reflection. The painting is not done till it is decided to be done, it exist in several states until a realization is made. With painting (at-least to me) forgiveness is of primary importance. It is interesting to see the failing of painting globally that seems to continually get talked about. The removing of walls to hang paintings and the moving towards installation, performance, and object creation. Is this a result of the work fetish? Where all art is being drawn down a narrow path of art objectivity? What comes to mind now is the destruction of object, but done in real time it becomes a performance, done over time it becomes a series, the natural state of decay that should exist with objects has been eliminated as simply a point of poor craftsmanship or conceptual message.
Maybe the question of forgiveness becomes from a nostalgic view as well. Maybe we can only forgive ourselves and others once forgiveness has already been given, and the saying of that word is not an action but rather a decision to accept what already exist. This would seem to fall in line with painting and my perception of forgiveness being involved with it. Do I really forgive the marks I make accidentally? Or do I make them purposely and then later accept them?
What is inherent to me in either of these scenarios is that the appreciation of the work (or process) involved in creation of the work is only interesting after all the other interest have been examined, and even in the writing of the post the primary entrance to it is not how I have typed or constructed but rather the ideas presented. And of course the ideas are strengthened by form (however bad) but at what point does form take over? There are pieces of great literature as well that deal with this issue, whose context and idea is of the form of writing. And these are needed as a way of pushing the art form to a new place. But if we never push to a new place then what is the point in pushing in the first place?
I've been wondering if art will make a move back to illustrative, among my peers drawing and painting seem to be gaining popularity, fun and seriousness mixed together fiction seems to be important, but also there seems to be a push back to representational work. A push to reexamine how we can strengthen representational work and use it in context with the new appreciation for form to create something new and exciting.
For me the first step in creating something new and exciting is that initial forgiveness. The ability to not seek perfection but to seek perfection of. The failing is just as important as the success of a piece in the cultural creation of a new. I begin to see work and its creation in religious terms. The idea of alpha and omega comes to me in the creation of all my work. Every work is both the beginning and the end of an idea, a thought that progresses through time and builds, I think of them as points of talk in a larger conversation. And I have no desire for my work to be the defining thought in the conversation but rather a part of the whole.
The apron as an artistic tool is interesting. Or rather as a metaphor. It protects and confines. I remember many days in the Litho studio sweating through my shirts as I rolled up ink slabs. All the time my trusty Pepsi apron tied around my waste. An apron, like a good pair of jeans, is only established after it's been worn and broken in. Years of dust and dirt, abuse and struggle. An apron collects the remnants of better times, every spot a reminder of a time before a finished project took form.
How do we chose an object like this? My mother collects them, her laundry room filled with racks of multicolored aprons each with a unique symbol and pattern. Given to her by friends and family over the years. And it seems the only way to obtain such an object is through a gift. An apron purchased for the self lacks the necessary character. An image placed on yourself selfishly rather than graciously by loving friends. No apron should be bought by the individual, it should be presented in a ritual, a gift or a prize, a badge of honor, a token of passing.
What does this say about those that collect aprons? And what does the apron say about us? Our image is a creation of the same principles that drive an apron to its glory. Our image, like the apron, is constructed through years of dirt and grit, through generations of passed down stories and layered lessons. Through heartbreak and love, birth and death, and anything in between. Likewise our image is not simply given by ourselves. We can only take up the mantle of reconstruction and redefining our image as we de-construct the image that already exist for us. This process becomes a continuous reflection and mediation of the image we have and the impact it has on society. On a state level our Texas image is based in a long history of cultural exchange from our southern brothers and sisters, Native American ancestor, and eastern settlement and exchange. To deny any one group its place in the overarching narrative of Texas is to reconstruct the story of Texas identity completely. The political pushes to do this are a result of that understanding, a result of a complicated understanding of the history of the Texan identity that is used to forcibly eliminate a class, race, gender, sexuality from the grander narrative of “Texan” and anyone who claims it is simply a “result of the times” uses the guise of ignorance as a mask.
So then why create an apron? Why not build political movements and thesis, why not storm the capital and promote political change? Why not encourage positive growth and understanding of culture and participate in the larger exchange of education and information?
For me the creation of the image is only the primary entrance into a topic. The image (object) is a tool. In my eyes (and it could be entirely different in yours) the object is a visual metaphor for a complicated topic. When the object becomes fetishized we overlook the importance of what the object represents. This is the reason I create in a way that doesn't focus on the ability to be archived. Only through the understanding that the object will degrade can we understand the importance of observing its message while it exist. And more importantly is what the object can do to facilitate a conversation in the now rather than in the future.
The object has two primary lives (hopefully). The object of the now has a purpose and function of facilitating and explaining a wider complicated issue. The object of the future is an object appreciated for its (hopeful) facilitation of that conversation. The importance of a future object is the value it brought or the purpose it served. The apron is an object that serves these two primary lives. The functional use of the now and the future use of the nostalgia. We remember the times spent with our mothers in the kitchen baking, or the late nights at the Litho studios, or the solitary of a working studio.
So this relationship is important, the balance of memory and conversation the push and pull of nostalgia and progress is a central theme to my work and on a wider range to the appreciation and creation of a wider more complicated and inclusive world. Like the multicolored rack of aprons that hang in my mother’s laundry room the identity of the future is one not dominated by a singular being but spread and varied.