Tuesday, March 27, 2012

03-27-12. Euan Macdonald's "Pirate Flag" (2003).

Ron Burgundy Hyacinth

"Ron Burgundy Hyacinth", oil on canvas, 22x28 in. (55.8 x 71.1 cm). For sale on eBay.

This painting is about "burgundy", the word and the color. When I searched for "burgundy" on Twitter, the 2004 comedy Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was mentioned by several different Twitter users. I selected this particular tweet both because of the striking image of Will Ferrell portraying Ron Burgundy and because it is an iPhone screenshot. I like to include social networking and ubiquitous technologies like smart phones in my work. 

I watched Anchorman once several years ago. I tried to check it out from the library to refresh my memory, but no copies were available. It wasn't on instant Netflix, either. The soundtrack was also not available at the library. So I made my own approximation of it by building a Pandora station around several of the songs from the soundtrack. I listened to it while I worked on the painting.

I decided to add a burgundy object to make a sort of triptych with the Ron Burgundy portrait staring from the center. I settled on burgundy hyacinth, which seemed like an appropriately phallic flower to frame the arrogantly manly Burgundy character. The two hyacinth flowers are duplicates of one image that I found online.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

03-14-12. Tiny ballerinas.

Using Old Britannicas, or Why I Need Some Paper Books

This is a response to the recent news that the Encyclopaedia Britannica will no longer be published on paper. You can read more details about it here. This news was so upsetting to me that I was moved to write this rare brief essay and post it to my blog.

I used a web app to select a random volume, 6, and a random page within that volume, 870. That page turned out to have the article for Martin Luther King, Jr. on it. This is why I need these books.

I couldn't sleep last night, so I got up to have a snack, and I decided to try out my random number trick (which I use for lots of things) on the Britannicas, in light of yesterday's upsetting news that they would no longer be printed as actual books. This happened totally by chance, and it was soothing and appropriate. I read the whole page, stopping before it described his assassination on the next page (it was too late at night to deal with upsetting stuff). This was the perfect antidote to the New Yorker profile of Ron Paul that angered and upset me earlier in the day.

Ron Paul seemed very proud of his opposition to the Civil Rights Act. He seems to care more about the rights of bigots to discriminate and do what they please than the rights of oppressed people. If he'd had his way, I guess I still wouldn't be able to eat where I want to, swim in whichever public park I want to, try to get a job where I want to, live where I want to, just BE where I want to in public places in many states, because they probably would still be doing what they did 50 years ago.

So anyway, this random selection was very good for me. I even learned a couple of details. I didn't know that MLK had traveled to Ghana as well as India. Yes, the 20-year-old encyclopedia is way out of date, but it just gave me a starting point. I can go online or get a book from the library to learn more about what MLK did in Ghana. That's all that a good encyclopedia should be, really. A starting point. Even an old one can do this. This edition seems fairly balanced, not racist and colonialist. I could have randomly gotten something boring like the sporting record or a list of old French kings, and then I probably wouldn't have told you guys about it. But I still can use that as a starting point, and that's what I'm going to start doing. I'll pick one random page of Britannica per day, and see what I can learn from it by searching online and elsewhere for the things it talks about.

I'm not one of those folks who gets all into the smell and the feel of books, to be clear. This is not just nostalgia. I like and I need the numerical and alphabetical organization of paper books. I need it to have numbered pages, organization and limits. I need it to be edited. Wikipedia lacks these things, or at least is inadequate. Hitting the random button there is not like opening to a random page in Britannica or any other book. It is too broad. As an example, I just hit the random button and got this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subramania_Nagar I happen to like geography, so that's not a problem, but this is just too insignificant. It's good to have at least a scrap of information about it on Wikipedia, but it's useless for browsing. I know that Wikipedia has "portals" on different topics, but those often aren't very well organized. I can't browse Wikipedia or any other online or electronic thing the way that I browse books.

I was a glutton for "useless" knowledge. I still am. It used to be easier to just hop around on the web and find things the same way that I did in the reference books, but now things like Facebook, Twitter, and even Google are narrowing things down too much. Serendipity is disappearing online, and I need serendipity to make good art. I don't live in a place where I can just walk down the street and have good serendipitous encounters. The web was a good virtual substitute until recently.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

03-06-12. An iceberg.

Brooklyn Flea

"Brooklyn Flea", oil on canvas, 16x20 in. For sale on Etsy.
The keyword for this painting was "flea". As in the purplish-red color flea, or puce. Since fleas, the insects, are pretty gross and I really don't like them, I had a harder time than usual developing my subject matter for this one. I thought of flea markets and Flea, the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, both of which I like a little more than the insect. Still, I wanted to include the insect a little bit, so a large flea is mixed into the background of the painting.

In the fragmented foreground, there is a woman in an apron working on something and some bowls of food. The image comes from an online New York Times article about the Smorgasburg food market at the Brooklyn Flea. I've never been to the Brooklyn Flea. I've only visited NYC once so far, and I didn't get to see much during that visit. I *really* want to go back as soon as possible, especially to Brooklyn since the art scene is booming there. So that was on my mind while I worked on this.

I made a Red Hot Chili Peppers station on Pandora so that I could listen to Flea while I worked.