Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Under the piles of Christmas crap

The Christ child is the potential inherent in the innocence of the newborn. This is the trigger of love, hope and possibility despite any of life’s failures and suffering.

The cows, asses and sheep are our animal nature, which is always with us. It is our link to nature’s creation.

The angels are our where our yearnings long to be. They long to sing with the choir of like souls.

The shepherds remind us that we must roam to express freedom but we also know that someone is concerned lest we stray too far.

The Magi remind us that birth is a miracle and that wealth and power are useless without humility.

Mary reminds us of the power of any act that emerges from purity.

Joseph reminds us that love is not sex and that living things must be nurtured until they ripen in maturity.

What's it worth?

Suppose someone jabs a hole in a Picasso or throws some paint on a Pollack. Does that decrease the value of these pieces? Of course, we naturally first think of their monetary value. That's just how we are. $124 million for a Francis Bacon, dethroning the perennial newsmaking of Van Gogh. We won't stop here, and there will be a new champion painting by a champion artist. The art is the commodity that creates the value that seduces the capitalist with lots of money to spare to make it his very own which makes the art for everyone just for one.

A different look at value places the power and meaning of a piece in its reflection of the artists ability, life, vision and courage. The art then becomes the accumulation of the artist's contribution and all the meanings through time sprout in each viewer who sees the piece. This is how the piece lives and endures and belongs to all.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Why religion has failed

First, I believe that religion is the only human construct that has any chance of helping create a peaceful and equitable global human community. Certainly government, the judiciary, the educational system, philosophies, economies will never solve this problem. Religion is the only one that has at its core the values that have a chance to work.

Religion, for the most part, is about dressing up to socialize on Sundays, finding a safe haven from a fluid world through rigid dogma, doing a bit of guilt relieving charitable work now and then, leaving the sermon for the oversized TV in the mcmansion.

I admit this is cynical and I'm as guilty as anyone. But look at the world. Almost every conflict is religion based. We merely peck away at the vast discrepancy between the haves and the billions of have nots. We can't say it is what it is. It's what we've made it. Religion as an institution and we who practice it.

Religion has failed because God is not running it. Humans are. Humans have built into religion walled compounds, territoriality, rigid dogma, ancient grudges, protected hierarchies, elaborate mansions and adornments. These are the gifts humans have added to the few basic tenets necessary to build a decent human life.

Why am I telling you this when I  myself don't know what to do about it? I don't really know.

Monday, December 16, 2013

You're not a real...

You're not a real human being until you've confronted suffering.

You're not a real man until you've acknowledged your feminine self or a real woman until you've acknowledged your masculine self.

You're not a real artist until your educated intuition has taken you deep into yourself.

You're not a real citizen until you think in terms of others.

You're not a real adult until you are responsible to yourself and for others.

You're not a real elder until you embrace wisdom in your voice.

You have no real voice until you master a language to  speak it. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When is contemporary art contemporary art?

I've heard it said that any ant made now must be contemporary art. I suppose at a time when anything seems to be art, that could be a sensible statement. But it's also an easy way out.

What makes contemporary art contemporary is not that it's made now, but that it could only be made now. It tells us what it means to be human now. It uses materials and approaches that come out of now. It flings art history forward into the relevant now. It makes us confront who and what we are now.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Art and life

Art is not life but comes from life. Art is no more human than you are. No more intelligent than you are. No more interesting than you are. No more profound than you are. One of its main tasks is to help you see yourself reflected in the world and the world reflected in you. It activates what's potential in you and in those your work engages. It reveals to you what was there but hidden in the places where light would not otherwise enter.

All that said, art is still not life.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A thought for the day

Your art must always be smarter than you. That way it will take you to unexpected places, reveal your deeper self to yourself, make you ask yourself stretching questions.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A challenge

Justin Bieber just emailed  me a personal challenge. He challenged me to get one blog follower for each million of his. He's promised me that if I reach this goal, I will have a feature role in his next music video.

So if you like this blog and think it's worth checking in, please pass that long to your friends.

Much appreciated.  Best, Gary

A brief, cynical history of 20th century art (amended)

I let the first version of this go too soon. Here's a second try.

At the beginning of the 20th century, science was presenting the world with a new vision of the material world and the place of humans in it, a world which could not be seen, but whose structure could be understood and visualized in abstract form. Surface gave way to underlying structure. Cezanne had begun to see this, and the Futurists, Cubists along with Gabo, Pevsner, Moore and others explored this new vision. The Surrealists and Dadaists investigated human behavior and psychology with the same artistic curiosity.

As the century unfolded, New York became the art center of the world, and the United States became a global power. Abstract Expressionism asserted itself as mainstream art practice. Here was the beginning of art propped up by theory, art dumping its social and moral responsibilities, art avoiding serious subject matter, art hiding in the comfortable arms of formalism.

New York, as commercial and media center of America, turned its provincial gaze on art and turned it into a commodity, something to be marketed and invested in, something for cognescenti, but certainly not for the masses. The beginning of a work of art, the mark, became its end. The end was Minimalism, whose sterile theory became the Emperor’s new clothes.

When youth culture, with its financial punch, asserted itself, fine art, like corporate America, dove enthusiastically into pop culture. Not to critique it, but to make a living from it. Pop artists began careers, made names, made lots of money and eventually became parodies of themselves, wound up stunted in their growth as artists.

Fortunately, art began to right itself, as it always must do. Alternative spaces and media, art centers emerging globally, artists making what they must make come hell or high water, young artists believing in art for the right reasons, all emerging amidst the perceptive, but cynical critique of Postmodernism. Race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and many other social issues became the stuff art is made of and about.

Immigrant artists abandoned their own countries for New York, where they encountered the hoped-for notoriety and media attention with its uncertain consequences. They addressed their issues far from the source of the issues themselves, but under the corrupting stare of the New York art world.

Now, as America’s position of world dominance becomes shaky, so does that of New York’s dominance of the art world. Now, as America searches for a way toward a freedom based on humane values lived out globally, the art world must search for a place where the highest motives can thrive.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A brief, cynical history of 20th century art

At the beginning of the 20th century, science was presenting the world with a new vision of the material world, one which could not be seen, but whose structure could be understood and visualized in abstract form. Surface gave way to structure. Cezanne had begun to see this, and the Futurists, Cubists along with Gabo, Pevsner, Moore and others explored this new vision. The Surrealists and Dadaists investigated human behavior and psychology.

As the century unfolded, New York became the art center of the world and the United States became a global power. Abstract Expressionism asserted itself as mainstream art practice. Here was the beginning of art propped up by theory, art dumping its social and moral responsibilities, art avoiding serious subject matter, art hiding in the comfortable arms of formalism.

New York, as commercial and media center of America, turned its provincial gaze on art and turned it into a commodity, something to be marketed and invested in, something for New Yorkers, but certainly not for the masses.

When youth culture, with its financial punch, asserted itself, fine art, like corporate America, dove enthusiastically into pop culture. Not to comment on it, but to make a living from it. Pop artists began careers, made names, made lots of money and eventually became parodies of themselves, stunted in their growth as artists.

Fortunately, art began to right itself, as it always must do. Alternative spaces and media, art centers emerging globally, artists making what they must make come hell or high water, young artists believing in art for the right reasons, race, class gender, sexuality, ethnicity and many other social issues are the stuff art is made of and about.

Immigrant artists abandon their own countries for New York, where they encounter the hoped-for notoriety and media attention with its uncertain consequences. They address their issues far from the issues themselves but under the toxic stare of the New Youk art world.

As America’s position of world dominance becomes more shaky, so does that of New York’s dominance of the art world. As America searches for a way toward a freedom based on humane values lived out globally, the art world must search for a place where the highest motives can thrive.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A thought for the day

Souls need educating, too.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Make something of yourself

Let's take this apart.

MAKE: It's something you do. It's an active verb. It implies doing, building, getting the hands dirty, intending.

SOMETHING: Pretty open. Not necessarily the things family or society might value, like money, prestige, status, stuff. Why not being a decent person, a person of passion and commitment, an iconoclast, a shaman, a person of integrity.

OF: a lovely preposition.

YOUR: Take ownership. Others can help, but it's yours to make happen.

SELF: The most elusive piece. How does this self emerge? How much can you really control it? Do you have the courage to search deeply for it?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A thought for today

The answer to any profound question is mystery.
Therefore, the important thing is the search.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A poem for today

1000 Cranes

Are not enough to fill the skies
Or wipe out memories of the
Dead millions
Or provide the feathers
That stones and shells require
Or convince that life is
Or diminish the assault on
Or make you love me.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


REMEMBER: Religion is a human invention.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I had this thought today.

In the Renaissance, the artist could be a mathematician, a diplomat, a civil or military engineer, a politician, a poet, a scientist. Strangely enough, that is still true today, at the start of the 21st century. Unfortunately, very few artists realize this and incorporate such options into their practices. One of the biggest obstacles to this is the education of the artist. Even in art school, students learn more about what art was and what art is than what art can be. Too much of art is taught as history and not enduring experience. Too much art is taught as engagement with materials and processes and not engagement with the world.

Friday, November 1, 2013

An artist is...

An artist is a creature who takes that small part of the world for which s/he has great passion and turns that passion into deep investigation and awareness—both inner and outer—leading to images and actions that compel the viewer to see the world with new eyes.

Monday, October 28, 2013

New services for kids

I recently heard a radio ad for a pet hospice service which would include aid in the pet’s passing, burial services and grief counseling. So I decided to surf the internet for other necessary services which might be4 needed. This is what I found.

Toy Heaven, Inc.
That precious teddy bear pop its stuffing? That special doll lose its head? This is an important teaching moment. Let us help your child process this life experience. We will prepare the beloved toy for it transit to heaven, prepare your child to say goodbye with appropriate books and provide any necessary counseling.

Remember, to your child, toys are people too.

This informative spin off of Seventeen Magazine is filled with the kinds of articles and tips you will need to help your toddler achieve her goal of Miss Child Princess, Miss Teen America, Miss America and Miss Universe. Confused about colors and styles? Not sure about when is too soon for cosmetic surgery? Wonder which make-ups will damage the skin of 2-year-olds? SEVENTEENmos will answer all your questions and help guarantee that your child will have a life of superficial beauty.

Kid-Napping, Inc.
TV dramas assure us that at some time one of our children will be kidnapped. We provide a fool proof means to prepare for this unfortunate and stressful situation. Let us kidnap your child. We will demand a ransom (which you can set), and our fee will be 5% of the ransom. We will give you every opportunity to problem solve, negotiate and bring the event to a satisfying conclusion. We will make sure you and your child get just enough fear and stress to prepare for this eventual experience.

Kidnapping ala drug cartels, 10% extra.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

American Culture

In the battle between arts and sports, sports wins.
In the battle between awe and boredom, boredom wins.
In the battle between substance and surface, surface wins.
In the battle between "I need" and "I want," I want wins.
In the battle between us and me, me wins.
In the battle between truth and spin, spins wins.
In the battle between anything and money,  money wins.
In the battle between giving and taking, taking wins.
In the battle between vitality and numbness, numbness wins.
In the battle between self-discovery and self-medication, self-medication wins. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Earth Is Spinning A Poem

The earth is spinning faster
Flinging things out of place
Guns into the hands of 12-year-olds
Pedophiles onto altars
Somalis to Sioux Falls.
The rich are hold up in their castles and McMansions
Their objects bolted firmly to their egos.
The poor are saving up cardboard
For the time they must beg on the streets.
The news of good deeds is buried
In the muck and shit of titillating media.
People live not by wisdom
But by the twisted tales told on their screens.
Spin spins the world
Till truth stumbles in drunken dizziness.
But hope and imagination are potent as superheroes
Sometimes sporting their own magical powers.

Why make art?

Serious art is not made to be liked. It is made to be argued about and critiqued, to be provocative, to make people squirm and open their eyes, to never give up.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Another test

If you can look at a piece of art and get all you need from it while you are listening on your ear phones and eating a candy bar, it's not a piece of art.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A test

I remember years ago during a museum visit coming upon a small Rembrandt painting of the head of Christ. I stayed with it a long while and came back to it, never forgetting it. Why? Once the gut reaction subsided, I wondered what was in that painting that acted on me? One result, this test.

When you come upon a work of art, ask yourself:

--How deeply into yourself did this piece require you to go?

--What components of self--emotional, spiritual, physical, intellectual, etc.--did this piece stimulate?

--Has this piece planted itself in you to keep growing there?

If the piece is successful, the artist has had to ask these same questions.

Monday, October 7, 2013

This Poem Contains No

This poem contains no statistics
No economic forecasts
No rap lyrics
No chances to win $1 million dollars
No references to expensive handbags
No variations on “fuck”
No celebrities buying unequal justice
No sex slaves
No politicians speaking for the American people
No innocent victims lying in pools of blood
No pictures of cute animal tricks
No nutritional facts
No announcements of new phone apps
No advice you didn’t want anyway
No personal affirmations
No biased journalism
No online romancing
No gay porn
No young black men in hoodies
No smart answers
No half-price tango lessons
No R rated film trailers
No anime nymphettes
No gated communities
No menu items that take 7 words to describe
No sculpted underwear models
No sitcoms with laugh tracks
No postmodern jargon
No Paris runway shows
No morbidly obese housewives in tank tops
No silver linings
No ab ex paintings
No brutally honest personal revelations
No anti-abortion rallies
No crooked cops with big bellies
No dickheads
No zombies asking directions to the apocalypse
No helpless maidens
No expensive window treatments
No eyelid rejuvenations
No bungy cord weddings
No false expectations
No advanced degrees
No means of escape

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The White Cube

The department store of art, with all the accessories
A prison
A hostel for temporary travelers
A sign that says, “Art here.”
A tomb
A party spot for the usual suspects
A “must have” for the cultured
A “don’t know where” for the uncultured
A dinosaur for some
A laboratory for others
A place where you’ve “made it”
A place to be alone with art
Walls and lights and little more
Where art works talk to one another at night

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I Am Art: A Manifesto

I am art. I no longer "make art" or "do art." I am art.

Of course, this is the kind of statement that brands me a heretic and eventually gets me crucified.
But, still, I am art.

I am art. I no longer make the objects or take the actions that are temporal. I no longer produce commodities. For I am art.

I am art. This is not as arrogant as it may seem. Being art is humbling and removes me from the deadly sins of ego, money, fame and celebrity.

I am not even an artist. I am art.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Stay Afloat

It is difficult. 
Very difficult . 
To not be absorbed into the world’s great human biomass. 
Staying afloat is hard work, requiring patience, full attention, faith in your own voice.  
Typhoons of doubt, stupidity, mediocrity are always there.  
Swimming  as furiously as you can with no certain destination, the head always up. 
Breathing out the  newness that makes things grow.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A journey in and out of art

I started off just making art.
Then I realized I was  making objects.
These objects were commodities, and I didn't want them to be.
I tried to make them experiences that would last not things that would last.
I tried to make them gifts.
Then I realized that art was making me.
I was a conduit or a voice, and I had to deserve it.
The objects were trail markers.
Still I might never arrive.
I had left art behind.
I was art.
That was humbling.

Monday, September 2, 2013

When contemporary art is naked

Sometimes contemporary art is naked when it tells the honest naked truth. But sometimes contemporary art is naked when it's wearing the Emperor's new clothes.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A little advice

I wrote this advice to a friend the other day. And I thought it could apply at some point to all of us.

You don't have to PROVE yourself.
You just have to BE yourself.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Art matters

Art matters. It matters a lot, or it matters a little. It matters for few or it matters for many.  It seems not to matter at all, and then it suddenly matters above all. It matters for one reason or it matters for another reason. It's obvious why it matters, or why it matters is obscure.

But first, it must matter to the artist, and the artist must intend for it to matter and know how it should matter. And the artist must accept that why it matters can be twisted, expanded, confused and elaborated once it is born into the public.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sex, Creativity and Madness

I have often heard artists speak of their works as their children and of making the work as a process of giving birth. Of course this implies an act of conception, which extends the metaphor of an intimate sexual act. In extreme (?) cases this creative state is seen as a state of ecstasy—real or romanticized.

Stories abound of the artist’s muse becoming the artist’s sexual partner, thus conflating the states of sexual ecstasy and creative ecstasy. Then arousal (or awakening) of either urge becomes a fantasy, a real human circumstance or a confused mixture of both.

“Horniness” is in many ways a form of temporary insanity. The rational is turned off, social and cultural taboos are pushed aside, decision-making is impaired. For the mature artist engaged in the act of creation, intuition takes over, rational decision-making becomes a handicap, the needs of the work take precedence over cultural and social norms and creative release only happens when the piece is resolved, even if temporarily.

Much has been written about creativity and madness. But madness and mental illness are not the same thing and have different, if sometimes subtle, relationships to the process of making art. A schizophrenic, not on medication, is a visionary of sorts in the artwork, which is powerful in its limited way. I know enough about mental illness to know what an intense state of being it is and how it completely takes over the individual’s view of the world. It can be a source for art, but it is much more likely to be a great obstacle, since it impairs so many of the important analytical and decision-making processes of the artist. That’s why it’s important not to romanticize these circumstances because that diminishes the art and the artist.

Madness and mental illness are not the same. Madness is a fuzzy term; mental illness is a consequence of biology and behaviors, which can be diagnosed and treated. For the individual, artist or not, mental illness has the potential to be treated, to change the artist’s mental state and the change the art. For me, madness is a fuzzy and romantic place where no one would want to live.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mini-sermonette #10: Love, again

You tell someone that you love them. That must mean that you know what love is. Then just go ahead and compose the definitive love song or write the definitive love poem. Maybe that's not possible. Why?

Maybe love is hiding in the closet or under the bed--while you are making love. Maybe love finally grew up enough to leave home. Maybe love is like light, sometimes one thing or sometimes another, depending on the experiment you devise to investigate it.

Maybe love likes to dress up, wear disguises, put on a silly mustache or wear red spike heels with rhinestones on them.  Maybe love only glows in the dark, or maybe love is like a tree or a black hole or a riptide.

Or maybe love is the elephant in the room of all of humanity. We can't escape it, but we can only ever hope to understand the pieces we can touch.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Popular new websites

Check these popular new websites.

For those in search of online romance and want to get right to it.

Online sales of bioengineered skin that comes pre-tanned and can be applied with a hypoallergenic adhesive to cover wrinkles on any part of the body.

Harvests hair from the waxed chests of hairy dudes to transplant to the chests of hair deprived men.

A wide variety of colors and styles of suspenders which attach pants to boxer shorts, allowing the wearer to walk, run and bend without embarrassing disclosures.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mini-sermonette #9: Strangeness

We live in a world where so many express their uniqueness by behaving and dressing like celebrities or like one another. The reality is that we are all strange and that our uniqueness lies in our strangeness. Put to use in a healthy way, our strangeness can be our strength.

To paraphrase what Sir Arthur Eddington said about the universe, human beings are not only stranger than we think, but stranger than we can think.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Human Love

Human love is:
Two random bits of DNA trying to make it work
Passion slowly cooling down
Fate twisted in knots
An unstable mess on a rock solid foundation
A hurricane that won’t blow over
Everything the minister warned you about--and more
Something you hold onto till your last breath
As mysterious as multiple universes
A strange condition that can last a day or a lifetime
Not always about making love
Making making love into love
Damned hard work
As unexpected and sticky as a spider’s web
What we live for and die for
What most songs are written about
What Disney films distort for profit
Something even Jesus didn’t fully figure out
A rainstorm that creates floods for some and puddles for others
What it took St. Paul a lot of adjectives to describe
What can smack, frighten, dislodge, tickle, explode, contort and blossom
The most important measure of a meaningful life
Able to transcend class, gender, race and even species
A dream we try to live in
A costume party
Your own personal concoction of giving, taking and self-delusion
All the things that happen in most of our beds
Getting poisoned by an arrow dipped in Cupid’s own potion
A fishing line cast into the stream and baited with hope
A bitch of an enigma
What it’s all about.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

More Bill and Mary

Dear Mary,
What are the names of our children again?

Dear Bill,
Put that thing back. I'm not in the mood.

Dear Mary,
I don't mind blue curtains, but do they have to have bunnies on them.

Dear Bill,
It's your turn to clean the toilets, and that means the inside too.

I need your help

Okay, so I'm still 39,000,000 behind in my quest to catch up with Justin Bieber's blog. I know I have to do something. So here are sme possible strategies I've come up. Which one do you think will work best?

--Reveal to the news that Justin Bieber is really my illegitimate child.

--Reveal that I am actually Banksy.

--Reveal that I have a video of me having kinky sex with Kim Kardashian.

--Reveal that I am the half-brother of Mitch McConnell and a former Afro-Cuban housemaid.

--Pull an Anthony Wiener.

If you have any more promising strategies, please let me know. Thanks.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Just in time for Christmas

Yes, the new line of toys for American kids is coming at us. As soon as we close the door on Halloween, you'll see these new toys on the shelves.

G.I. Barbie
Barbie sports her high and tight along with breasts like pectorals of steel. She salutes. She flexes. She comes with a set of  cammies, which includes a cammie bra and a commie thong. She's every inch a man, but woman through and through.

Junior Vigilante Kit
Every red-blooded 10 year old will want one. The kit includes a gun (not a real one of course), an instruction booklet describing ways to conceal the gun and a junior concealed carry permit. A set of paper targets reflective of the top five ethic threats is an extra bonus.

Baby's First Trophy
You know that any child of yours is destined to be a high achiever, a star. Birth is the child's first major accomplishment and deserves an award that sends the right message. The trophy is of tasteful design, inscribed with carefully chosen words and trimmed in either gold or platinum.

Mi Amigo
It's vital in our society that children learn a second language early in life. For many, Spanish is the language of choice. Mi Amigo is a robotic toy that teaches your child basic Spanish while it vacuums your floors. It comes in friendly colors, works long hours with inexpensive batteries and soon becomes just another member of the household.

Tired of same old critiques

Critiques can get tedious and predictable for students and faculty alike. So try some of these:

--Articulate your aesthetic and demonstrate how your work lives by it.

--Write an artist statement about your work, and keep critical responses focused within that.

--What were your goals in the piece? Focus discussion on how well you reached them.

--What demands or expectations does your work make on the viewer?

--What does your work give back to the viewer for the work the put in?

--What possibilities  does this work open up for future work?

--How would the work be resolved if time and money were not real issues?

--Explain why or why not this is work you stand behind.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Introducing Bill and Mary

Dear Mary,
I can’t believe I only just noticed that you have 6 toes on that one foot. I love you for that even more than that thing on your lip.

Dear Bill,
I’ve learned to tolerate your dirty clothes all over the floor, but please keep your underwear out of the sink.

Dear Mary,
You know I don’t like satsumas, especially with cottage cheese.

Dear Bill,
You left the milk out on the counter last night, and it’s sour. You’re such a dickhead sometimes.

Dear Mary,
I can’t help it. Your mother’s meatloaf does taste like a combination of Spam and plaster.

Dear Bill,
It’s not that I’m turned off by body hair. It’s just where yours happens to be.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mini sermonette #8: Pleasure

Buddhists acknowledge and accept a universe filled with suffering. Christians take solace in the sufferings of Christ as a path to salvation. These insights on suffering are valid and give meaning to life. But this does not mean we must desire suffering, for suffering will come in our lives no matter what. And this does not mean we must avoid pleasure.

In fact, the opposite is true. It is essential to find pleasure and create pleasure in life. Pleasure in the senses, pleasure in food, pleasure in sex, pleasure in relationships, pleasure where you find it. But pleasure is not in the things themselves but in how these things are approached. Pleasure can cause pain and be destructive. It has to be seen in its affect on others and on the self.

The buddha knew great pleasure. Christ, in his human aspect, knew pleasure too. St. Francis gave up a life of pleasure to follow his spiritual path. All of them knew pleasure and enjoyed pleasure with intensity. They were willing to leave this deep pleasure behind, not to suffer, but to demonstrate a higher order of pleasure.

Most of us don't choose this kind of path in our lives, but we can learn from them the satisfaction of both pleasure and suffering.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

More social gedanken

Imagine you followed a resident of a third world garbage dump around for a day.

Imagine that every gun in America is replaced by a squirt gun.

Imagine you got a comfortable chair for a poor African woman, and sat her in it while you got the day's water for her.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Social gedanken

When Einstein was trying how to figure out how the universe worked, he constructed some thought experiments, which he called "gedanken." In this way he could imagine scenarios that could not possibly be tried in a laboratory experiment.

Here are some social gedanken which might imagine a way to a new social vision.

Imagine a young adult who lives in a third world garbage dump following you around for an entire day.

Imagine a country with a national "stand your ground" law and which provides a gun free to every citizen when they turn 16.

Imagine a chain of restaurants that serves the same meals that people who live on $2 a day eat.

Imagine having to sit in an uncomfortable chair each day for the same time that a poor African women spends getting a day's water.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mini-sermonette #7: Praying

Do you pray for peace, love, justice? Forget it. As soon as God gave us free will, praying for things like that went out the window.

What you need to pray for is the courage and strength to make those things happen to the degree they can in your life and the lives of those you touch.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Even more hot stock picks

Genorama, Inc.

This company offers you the opportunity to turn your annoying mutations, disabilities and rare diseases into cash. Only you can own your own genetic material. for a small start up fee, Genorama will help you patent your own genes. And then for a small percentage of the earnings, they will research and market your genetic material to interested scientific venues.

3D Nails

3D Nails has a new and innovative marketing plan and the technology to back it up, attempting to reach the large population of women who compete to have the the most edgy nails in the neighborhood. Women can choose from a wide selection of in-store images or bring in their own. The nails are coated with a special polymerized material, the image is processed by a computer and a special device prints the image on the nail as a hologram.

Full Body Hair Care

Male and female hair care markets are saturated, at least in the traditional areas. This company sees new, uncharted territory in the area of body hair up-to-now ignored. Its products include "Pitstop," a combination underarm deodorant, shampoo and conditioner for men and "Pubessence," a shampoo specially formulated for pubic hair, "because it's important to always to look your best." Pubesence for men and Pubessence for women come in selected scents like: honeymoon, tropical paradise, peaches and coconut and pheromoan.

A few minutes with Eli

Permit me a little personal indulgence. Here's a few minutes with my grandson, Eli:

What is that?
I gotta pee pee.
Livi hit  me.
No. I not.
I farted.
Why hair on your legs?
Can I have gum?
I thirsty.
You farted.
Let me see your tongue.
See. I have Spiderman underwear.
Why you did that?
Give me a piggyback ride.
Where's Jackie.
I want a bike ride.
Livi, tickle my butt.
I hungry.
More grapes.
I not tired.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The measure of an artist

We often measure an artist by fame, celebrity, the notice of critics, the number of coffee table books. Those kinds of things.

But one can be an artist in the hands, the intellect, the practice, the heart, the soul, the vision--any or all of these. The measure of an artist is the degree to which the artist has allowed all of these elements of self to invade the work.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Anyone can tell you what war is. Or hate is. Or anger is. Or cruelty is.

But after all the poems and plays and novels and films and short stories and flowers and sentiments and songs, we still really don't know what love is.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Why I like to hang out with young people

They don't talk about their bowels, their knees, their backs, their lugs or their cellulite.

They remind me of when I was invincible and knew it all, but was really just an asshole most of the time.

They remind me that the world is going to change, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

I like the flagrant display (through clothes, hair, tattoos, and cool smoking poses) of attitude as if this is what will get them where they want to go in life.

I like their openness to possibility in the face of what reality appears to offer.

I like their sense of humor.

I like the innocence behind their grown up masks.

I admire the way they juggle all that is thrown at them, most of which the adults didn't prepare them for.

They're fun to be around.


Before you make art, make yourself.

Before you expect to make a masterpiece, master discipline, skill, courage and intellect.

Before you ask hard questions of the work of others, ask them of yourself.

Before you get trapped in the snare of success, ask what success really means for you.

Before you learn how little you know, learn as much as you can.

Before you love your art too much, love your humanity more.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 4

"all men are created equal"
"and justice for all'
"of the people, by the people and for the people'

Phrases like these represent the ideals that America measures itself by. They both inspire us and challenge us.  The question is how close do we come to actually reaching them? In my own life as a human being, it is clear that these are things that we instinctively want, but don't seem in our nature deliver. History and contemporary global life affirm this. It takes work, sometimes dangerous and consuming work, to make these ideals real in the world.

Freedom should be a right. But it's usually a gift, one that comes with responsibilities that are not to be taken lightly and not to be squandered.

Monday, July 1, 2013

I can...

I can smell like an Alpine forest, a tropical jungle, a citrus fruit, a peppermint stick, a coconut, almonds, pheromones, a fresh breeze, an apple pie.

I can wear clothes from France, Italy, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Ecuador, Poland, Mexico, India, Pakistan, Guatemala.

I can eat at a Mexican restaurant, a Greek restaurant, a Thai restaurant, a Vietnamese restaurant, a French restaurant, and Italian restaurant, a German restaurant, a Peruvian restaurant, a Brazilian restaurant, a Spanish restaurant, a Caribbean restaurant, a Cuban restaurant.

I can watch people on TV being stabbed, shot, garroted, poisoned, tortured, blown up by IEDs and drones, starved to death, buried alive, run over by a car or truck, hung, mutilated, hit with a blunt object.

I can watch baseball, football, soccer, basketball, tennis, ice skating, hockey, poker, cricket, diving, swimming, track and field, ping pong, softball, lacrosse, billiards, boxing, wrestling.

I can choose from Doritos, Cheetos, Pringles, Fritos, caramel corn, taco chips, Sunchips, cool ranch, onion, pretzels, honey mustard pretzel bits, bar-b-que chips, kettle fried chips, baked chips, blue corn chips, veggie chips, low fat chips, low salt chips.

I can have eyes that sparkle, skin like a baby, private parts to die for, lips like Marilyn Monroe, nails that tell stories and have embedded gems, feet that never get tired, arms with no flab, a waistline to be proud of.


Here are some words you don't hear much anymore:


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Art history / Art school

For decades the teaching of art history survey has been built on the canon. The history of art has been tweaked to become the history of Western art. Selected women artist and artists of color have been added along with some art of native and Asian cultures. With some acknowledgement of cultural, social and political forces, as time allows, the focus is still largely artist, date, style.

With new scholarship, new isms and an expansive and expanding array of artists, it’s almost impossible to adequately fit art history into the two-semester survey format. The traditional survey assumes it knows what art is, even if its makers never have called it that. It assumes that chronology is the correct approach, even though in practice most people don’t experience it that way. Still, this approach may work for the traditional college or university curriculum.

But what about an art college? Great art proves its greatness, according to Henry Geldzahler, by always continuing to be new. The meaning of a piece of art in its time is not the meaning of it for artists now. If great art has the power to endure through time and to emerge with fresh meaning and impact, then this is perhaps the important process to investigate. This would be to see art history as a living organism with roots in the past and tentacles in the future. Art would not plod through time, but dart about making connections and defying its boundaries in time and place.

This would be a very difficult and time consuming undertaking. It would be a wonderful opportunity to learn a great deal as well as for falling on your face. It would be a chance to think your way through art history rather than memorize your way through it. It would be a way to answer for yourself the important questions that the canon assumes have been already answered.

If you decide to do this, good luck. Let me know. I want to sit in. I know it’s something I couldn’t do without great trepidation.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Naked people

Naked people:
Nudists, newborns, flashers, couples making love, political prisoners, nude models, people in hot tubs, cadavers, people taking baths or showers, some indigenous people, some people vacuuming their houses, movie stars on the big screen, skinny dippers, toddlers on the loose, hard core strippers, European sun bathers, a few dedicated modern dancers, an occasional mentally ill person on the street, a victim thrown into a burial pit, a prostitute, a politician caught with his pants down, a sexting teenager, two Boy Scouts masturbating in their tent, the lady next door tanning, an old woman looking in the mirror at her sagging flesh, a 3-year-old splashing in a bubble bath, a porn star, a Playboy model, somebody in an art photo, Carolee Schneeman, Vito Acconci, you from time to time
and me from time to time.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What is art?

I've been wrestling with this question in one form or another for a while. I still have no answer I can trust fully, and I suspect there is none. Still, it bothers me that we are in a time when anything is art if it is deemed so by anyone who identifies themselves as an artist. On the one hand, I like the egalitarian aspect of it and its openness as a form of expression to anyone. On the other hand, the lack of acknowledged criteria to distinguish among all the art expressions and objects is frustrating, even discouraging. Simply putting the work"professional" of "fine" in front of art does little to help.

Lately, I've been thinking that maybe we have it backwards. The artist doesn't make the art. Rather art makes the artist. That is, think about what should accomplish, what demands it should make on the viewer, what its purpose is, what demands it should make on you. Then become the artist that makes that art.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


In my career as an artist and teacher of art, I've see a lot of images. In recent years it's become very clear to me that the objectivity (at least as much as can be reasonably mustered) I have as a teacher doesn't have to be an element of my personal preferences.

So here's some of the things in art that I find tedious:

1. Art that is just as superficial and undemanding as the popular culture it comes from.

2. The visual pun that is clever, but no more than that.

3. Art that has to hide out in the nice, white, well-lighted cube.

4. Videos which take something vibrant in the real world and turn it into pure monotony in the gallery.

5. Art works that beg you to love them.

6. Art works for which works are crutches, not wings.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The old grouch speaks: #1

Get that cigarette out of your mouth, your ass back in your pants, trash food out of  your diet and a good paying job. After all, I expect you to ensure that my Social Security checks keep coming and my Medicare benefits are generous at least until I'm 100. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Mini-sermonette #6: Your ass

Your ass is in the wrong place if:

It's in my business

It's on the couch

It's on Facebook

It's above your belt line.

Corporate America

Corporate America tells me that I can be the me I deserve to be and reach my pinnacle and be loved and admired by just wearing the right clothes, getting the right look, having the right body, exuding the right attitude. I can bling my way to fame, fortune and self-adoration. All I have to do is just do it and be all I can be. Hell, I can consume my way to happiness.

But who's telling me that compassion, sharing and community might also make me a happier, healthier person? After all, the newspaper story about these values will never be as big as the full page advertisement for more stuff.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

More hot stock picks

GPS, Inc.
GPS (global politician search) is an app for your phone that allows you to collect locational coordinates and time durations on the activities of your elected representatives. If they are on a junket sponsored by a big dollar lobbyist, or on the golf course, or in a pricey DC love nest, or out of the country while purporting to be just around the corner, or talking to their lawyer about how to take care of a DUI or in an FBI sting, you'll know exactly where they are and how long they were there.

EDCenters, Inc.
This is a rapidly rising company with a chain of facilities to treat erectile dysfunction. As the population of American male baby boomers shoots up, this company is planning rapid expansion. Each patient is guaranteed skilled care by specially trained nurses. All care is hands-on and extremely sensitive to the patient's needs.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Mini-sermonette #5

Two-thirds of the world's population still lives on hardly more than $1 a day. So it's pretty likely that if you're looking for the second coming of Jesus, he would once again be born in a cave or a stable or maybe a refugee camp. And nobody would even notice.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Ten Commnadments of Contemporary Art

1.              Believe in yourself.

2.              Make art that validates your belief in yourself.

3.              Don’t suck up.

4.              Acquire discipline and skill and know when to use them to best advantage.

5.              Draw.

6.              Know, respect and challenge your audience.

7.              Listen to criticism with an open mind and measure it with discernment.

8.              Maintain passion and persistence.

9.              Learn to accept rejection with grace.

10.           Make art from as deep as possible within yourself, and bring that to the viewer as
            a gift.

Recommended summer reading

First a message from the sponsor. I am trying to get as many hits as Justin Bieber's dog. Will you help me?

Good summer reads:

Puppy Lust: The Life and Times of Justin Bieber

The Biography of Joan Rivers’ Face

Flesh Pots: How to Dress for Shopping at WalMart

They All Look Like Mitch McConnell: Confessions of a DC Call Girl

50 Shades of Red: Sexting without the Proper Equipment


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The New Ten Commandments: Version #1

1.              Search for and honor the god within you.

2.              Act with personal integrity.

3.              Respect all of creation.

4.              Make every act of love meaningful.

5.              Honor the gifts you were given.

6.              Create justice within your reach.

7.              Make the world a better place as best you can.

8.              Be a decent human being in all your actions.

9.              Forgive, and learn from, human failure in yourself and others.

10.           Make every sexual experience healing, mutually satisfying and healthy.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mini-sermonette #4: Integrity

Integrity can't be bought, but it can be sold.
But once it's sold, it's worthless.
Reputation can be managed and restored.
But integrity doesn't necessarily come along with it.
Integrity can be regained, but at a considerable cost.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Go Reds

I went with my family to a Reds game yesterday. It was my first Reds game in a long time, and my first one in the new stadium. After a period of time, it occurred to me that there was actually a baseball game going on on the field. And some people were watching it.

Between the vendors in the aisles, the music that filled every empty second, the scoreboard, the fan games, the waves, the musical interludes specific to each player, the organ, the food runs, the T-shirt cannons, flame shooting smokestacks and fireworks, it seemed to me that the game itself was the distraction more than the main event. It also seemed that the experience was predicated on the fact that every moment has to be entertainment if not some level of spectacle.

I will say that with the beach ball spree and the Beach Boys, I did get my money's worth.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Who decided how the cherry tree should branch and flower?
Who designed the patterns on the peacock's feathers?
Who gave the iguana its fierce demeanor?
Who said yes, I like the baboon's buttocks just the way they are?

Who imagined a being with a throbbing, insistent penis?
Who put the idea of justice in the world knowing it would
become laughable time and again?
Who made human beings who achieved their highest capacities
but made only a few of them?

Who created a heaven, but made us guess at what it is?
Who created miracles that are almost believable?
Who talked to us in whispers amidst the incessant noise of life
and mumbled to us in metaphors?

Think like a ...

We've had a water problem with our living room ceiling for all 17 years we've owned the house. We've painted and then sealed and repainted, put in new roof vents and fan, had the chimney reflashed and sealed, got a new roof. Nothing worked to solve the problem.

Then a chimney man diagnosed the problem. He explained, "You just have to think like a raindrop."

Maybe that's the way to solve the problems we encounter. We just have to think like the proper thing.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mini-sermonette #4: Justice

Justice as a mere concept is impotent.
Justice which can be bought is self destructive.
Justice is never guaranteed.
Justice should be the work of everyone.
Justice is the commitment of a rare few.
Justice should be how we measure ourselves.
Justice is how God measures us.

Mini-sermonette #3: Heroes and Heroines

Imagine you are sitting in your cozy living room. The fire in the fireplace is warm and comforting. You look up at the mantel above the fireplace, and on it are statuettes of your heroes/heroines.

Who all is there? How did they get there? Are they enjoying each other's company? Will they endure?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mini-sermonette #2: Demons

We all have demons. It's a part of being human. They may come from our genes, our misfiring synapses, our nightmares, our dysfunctional human relationships. Who knows? There's nothing we can do about having them, and they won't ever go away. They live in science fiction, the movies,
the dark caves of teenagers, the anxieties and unspoken shame of adults.

So how do we go about living with them? First, they don't like the light of day.  Drag them out, slap them around if you have to. Show them to other (appropriate) people. Talk to them like they mean something to you, because they do. And recognize that you are stronger for having done this.

With effort you will tame them, but never vanquish them. And you don't want to, because they remind you of your humanity, strength and humility.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

This song's for you

I was at my fitness center today trying to get a little fitness and was listening to the incessant music videos. It came to me complete in a flash. The song lyrics I needed to write. I offer these to you copyright free.

Here goes.

You are into you, you, you.
I am into me, me, me.
Baby, Baby, Baby
think what could happen if
We were into we, we, we, we,
we, we, we, we, we, we,

You look into the mirror and see you, you, you.
I look into the mirror and see me, me, me
Baby, Baby, Baby
Let's share a mirror
So we can see we, we, we, we
we, we, we, we, we, we,

We don't want to live life
Like little narcisissies.
Don't want to live life like
Little misters and little missies.

So you get into me, me, me
I'll get into you, you, you
And together we'll show the world
What we can do, do, do
do, do, do, do, do, do

Make my day

Sometimes there's just one little thing that can transform an ordinary day.

My 3-year-old grandson and his sister were taking a bath at our house. Suddenly he jumps up, one foot on the edge of the tub, and says, "This is the party bath."

For me, this makes life sweet.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Life spiral

In numerous cultures, the spiral is a life symbol of one kind or another. From time to time I would wonder about this. I never came to a solution that I thought was anywhere near authoritative.
But I did happen on an idea I liked.

Take out a sheet of paper and a pencil. Pick a point and draw a straight line in any direction. Stop at some point. This never seemed a sensible diagram of the path of a human life.

Now, draw a spiral starting from its outside limit and moving toward its resolution point. There's not the same certainty of conclusion along the spiral as along the straight line. Even more, as you  move along the spiral, you are, in fact, always moving away from your final destination just as you are moving toward it.

To me, this is a much more satisfying image of a life.

High school Surrealism

Many years ago, when I began to teach at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, I noticed that the portfolios of high school seniors (almost always males) heading to the Academy were filled with drawings of skulls, knives dripping blood, burning candles, all in curious spatial settings. I called this "high school Surrealism," and felt it was my task in drawing to move them along to wider skills and more sophisticated subject matter. It seemed to me that most male teenagers moved into their adolescent male cave and that this approach to their art emerged there.

Decades later, I began to realize that high school Surrealism had morphed into a gender-neutral, comic book, superhero, anime, zine culture that was not transient and that often maintained itself through their college experience and into their professional lives.

It seemed necessary that my task had to change, that I needed to help them avoid being trapped by style and to consider the content of their work. I no longer really lived in their world, but still wondered about it. Why did the apparent adolescence of their images sustain itself?  Where did the fascination with monsters come from? Why did this imaginary and cartoonish world have such appeal over reality? It was clear why superheroes were super; but did they understand what it meant to be heroes?

I don't have any answers to these questions other than my own, and I'm not even sure if it's fair of me to ask the questions.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


When I walk around Over-the-Rhine going about my business, I'm surprised how many African-Americans address me as "sir."  It's not just because I'm a senior citizen; this has been the case for many years. And it's young, old, male and female African-Americans.

But I have never overheard a white person address an African-American in the same civil way. Does this happen? If not, why not? If so, let me know about it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


I'm God, and I'm doing a little reminiscing. I knew, when I got this whole ball rolling, that there would one day be a nervous system that began to ask questions. I happened to become fond of this small group of desert nomads. They were always smiting and smoting, which I even got into a little myself.

They began to ask where everything came from, and I thought they deserved an answer. But what answer? I figured that if I told them about monkeys and humans, about the sex lives of praying mantises, about the bacteria in their bellies, about what would come to be named quarks, about how much I love beetles and about their own vulnerability, it would be a disaster.

So I decided on the seven days of creation, thinking it would be a nice metaphor for evolution when they got there. So, pleased with myself, I took a little nap. Well, the next day--one of mine, not yours--I woke up to find two former astronauts looking for Noah's ark. I got a chuckle out of that. But then I heard that Answers in Genesis was building a Noah's ark replica with a gift shop in the bottom. We all got a laugh out of that. We still do.

You see, I didn't create man and woman just to see how they would handle free will and good and evil. Sometimes I need to laugh too.

We, the specks

We are tiny specks of matter on the cosmic scale with nanoseconds of time to spend in the cosmic reach. And for most of us, most of the time, this hasn't sunk in. We go about our business of dancing between good and evil, loving with desperation, hating easily, fucking our brains out, abandoning our children, dying for them, killing indiscriminately, revealing the complexity and beauty of nature then destroying it, gossiping, telling ourselves our stories with honesty and grace, dreaming ourselves out of our grim realities, imagining ourselves into more comfortable worlds, walking the tightrope between power and justice.

Specks, maybe. But we are humans, and all we have is one another.