Endless inspiration, if you can take the heat.
Before moving to New Mexico, my only reference to Albuquerque was in Bugs Bunny cartoons as the destination arrived at only when lost. Over the past decade, I’ve lived and explored a good chunk of the Southwest—everywhere from Abiquiu to Marfa to T or C to Sasabe. And now I live in Tucson and like Bugs, I arrived in Arizona unintentionally, and fell in love.
For an artist, the Sonoran desert is beyond beautiful and infinitely inspirational.
When you are a transplant to any new place, you tend to gravitate towards other transplants. For locals, exploring is old hat. To them old haunts are uninteresting and patinated with history.
The desert southwest is everywhere and nowhere.
Then there are the intentional Southwestern transplants, those who actually wanted to move to the Southwest from New York to Los Angeles. They flock to the desert like members of a cult. You sit with them and begin to hear the fabled tales that motivated their move to the desert; the O’Keefeeian light, the Taos hum, the Sedona vortex, the Santa Fe energies all beckoning to them.
“New Mexico is very BIG in New York. It’s a thing,” a NYC transplant once told me.
For Los Angeleno transplants, the slight eastward migration is best explained a bit more practically. It’s the cost of living that can’t be beat. As an artist, you can live anywhere in the Southwest, make your art and make your rent. Arizona has everything SoCal, minus the beach (unless you count the 4 hour drive to Mexico.) Plus, it is only a quick hop on the plane back to LA, I mean civilization.
It’s true, the light is amazing. Not only is there no smog, there are also no buildings over 10 floors tall to clutter the landscape. In fact, the desert’s almost nonexistent humidity brightens the sky to a turquoise blue that Los Angelenos lust after.
Before you go renting a U-Haul in a fog of cactus infatuation, this is what you need to know about SWern lyfe.
If you have a family history of skin cancer this may not be the best place to take up plein air painting. Also, true locals WILL be annoyed by you and won’t care about your art. Do bring your art connections when you move, you’ll need them. Yes, the Southwest is a Mecca for artists, but come visit before you move, and visit in midsummer.
Remember no place is NYC except for NYC. No one wants to hear about how you can’t get a good bowl of ramen in Albuquerque. Get over it and embrace the green chile, and know that low-carb in the SW means not eating the flour tortilla on your breakfast burrito.
A great example of “Big City” culture clash with the Southwest is on the website for the Roswell Artist-In-Residence Program in Roswell, New Mexico. This residency is one of the rare family friendly residencies in the nation. The FAQs section on the site includes the question of educational options for artist spawn in the area, which is answered with: “Yes, but no fancy type schools. Just the old-fashioned public schools and a few preschools. There are a few church type schools.”
How many times do you think they had to answer that question before they had to put it on the website?
Ever heard the saying “The First World falls in love with the Third World”? Well, I feel like this exact phenomenon happens with artists and the mythical Southwest. But there is so much more than Navajo fiber arts, turquoise jewelry, and gay rodeo cowboys to entice artists to the Wild West.
And forget about the damn the light; it’s the smell that’s intoxicating. Winter in the SW is typified by the smoke of piñon wood and magical fucking candles in paper bags. And the summer’s monsoon (rainy) season is just as fragrant with the scent of the creosote bush which basically smells like rain on the concrete without having to be honked at in the city.
Ok, the light here is incredible, except when it’s not, like when the apocalyptic dust storms called haboobs engulf everything. And you better watch out because a flash flood can take out both you and your land art! New York may have rats and cockroaches but the Southwest has black widows, palo verde beetles, scorpions AND rattlesnakes. Oh, and they ALL will be in your studio.
Sure the Southwest is picturesque and endlessly inspiring for artists, but the idea of the Southwest can be starkly different from the reality.
New Mexicans playfully call the “Land of Enchantment” the “Land of Entrapment.” And rightfully so! If you are born here in relative isolation, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to leave. I heard an interview with Santa Fe-resident and actress Shirley MacLaine in which she said if New Mexico loves you here it will hold you here, but if it doesn’t love you, it will kick your ass!
For me the desert southwest is everywhere and nowhere.
It’s the only place I’ve lived where I’ve experienced both a deeply spiritual solitude and an invigorating cultural community. It’s definitely NOT for everyone. And it’s definatly not the landscape in the background of the Looney Tunes cartoon. It’s absolutely lunar and otherworldly and it won’t stroke your ego or kiss your ass. There is nothing between you and the prick of a cactus.
Plus, it’s hard to wear black here all the time, but you can try.
As things get obnoxiously hot in Tucson my plan to deal with the heat is to be emerged in work in my cool studio.
I just wanted to remind everyone that if you do want to get out and see art this summer I have 3 floating paintings still on display in the exhibition Arizona Abstraction at Tohono Chul Park. Arizona Abstraction will be on display through August.
And yes, there is air conditioning!
My studio is as always avaiable for visits upon request.
Contact me to set up a time to come by and I'll make lemonade for us.
Last week Arizona Spotlight's Vanessa Barchfield came to my studio and we chatted about art, robbing banks and Polar Pop cups. You can listen to the full interview online on Arizona NPR.
Muchas thank you to everyone who came out to the opening reception party for Stamp Out Reality! It was so much fun. Stamp Out Reality! is will be on display at Tiny Town Gallery, 408 N. 4th Ave, Tucson AZ 85705 thru April 30th. The exhibition was also mentioned in #ThisIsTucson as part of it's suggestions of 30 Things to do in Tucson this April.
I will also have a few of my smaller cut-out paintings on display at Tohono Chul Gallery in the exhibition Arizona Abstract which runs 4/27-8/13 with an opening reception on Thursday 4/27 5:30-8pm. Tohono Chul Gallery is at 5366 N. Paseo del Norte, Tucson AZ 85704.
Come by and say hi!
I invite you to Stamp Out Reality!
Join me for an immersive exhibition of psychedelic paintings and conceptual sculptures hosted by Tiny Town Gallery, 408 N. 4th Ave, Tucson AZ. 85705.
Stamp Out Reality! is on display April 4 -April 30, 2017.
Opening party Friday, April 7, 6-9pm.
Tiny Town Gallery has invited me to install an art experience that Stamps Out Reality! The exhibition is composed of my Styrofoam conceptual cactus sculptures that were created for and installed at the inaugural year of the Dusk Music Fest as well as my levitating Otherworldly cut-out panel paintings that were previously on display at Tucson International Airport.
“ Stamp Out Reality! was a Vietnam era protest slogan on a button worn by my friend’s father. This phrase resonates even more so now more than ever in this time of infotainment, truthiness and alternative facts…why not get lost in the imagination of the artist?”
The exhibition Stamp Out Reality! will also be punctuated with a limited edition run of buttons printed by Tanline Printing.
I had a play date with a mom who lauded the benefit of sports for children: “Life’s all about competition. That is just how the world works!” I nodded my head in agreement but this philosophy of child-rearing just didn’t jive with me. And I continued to contemplate it.
Is the whole world competing with each other?
Is competition the golden key to raising a child into a successful adult?
Besides the obvious Capitalist implications of her statement, it was a total turn off to me. Of course there are real benefits for children participating in organized sports such as exercise, learning cooperation, team work. And every one of these things, not just competition, does benefit a person into adulthood.
I’m not into sports for myself or for my child but that does not mean I’m opposed to them. My daughter has just shown no interest in sports. Of course if she showed interest or asked to play a sport I’d sign her up.
How will she EVER succeed in a competitive world!?
I can hear the chorus of soccer moms now: But she needs exercise! Children need to be active!
It’s hard for sports-minded people to understand that art is a process, not a race.
Now back to the “fact” that the world is based on competition. Well, it’s NOT for artists as well as many other brave souls.
I tried to imagine framing my artistic endeavors within the context of competition. Unlike the myth of the free market, it wouldn’t result in “better” art. To have strong artistic results, you must compete, but only with yourself. When you enter into your studio you do it with the BANG of a starter pistol. You’re off and running, making art as if you are the lone athlete on a track in an empty stadium, with no one to witness your feats. It doesn’t even matter if you run in a circle or even cross the finish line. It’s hard for sports-minded people to understand that art is a process, not a race.
Sure, there is a facet of competition within the world of the professional art. We compete for grants, juried exhibitions, media attention, and (if you believe in the myth of scarcity) gallery representation.
So how do you raise an inherently artistic child into an artist?
Well, you can’t.
Either it’s there or it’s not.
As a child, I was exposed to all types of art and given the supplies but never told how to use them. As a child, I needn’t be encouraged to be creative, I desired it and wanted to do it.
You can’t Tiger Woods or Serena Williams your child into art. Meaning, as an artist myself, I can’t coach my child to be an artist as well. That’s not how it works. It is a very American thing to take the slightest talent your child shows in something and focus everything on that interest and make it the nexus of their entire life. It’s also a very American mentality to think the whole world is competing with you.
You can’t achieve success in a child artist by standing on the sidelines of the classroom art exhibition and yell “YOU CAN DO IT! YOUR CERAMIC ASH TRAY IS THE BEST! CREAM ‘EM!”
If you try to raise an artist, you are bound to fail miserably. Art is a practice, not a game. Creativity, however, can be fostered in the right environment.
What does it take to be an artist? It takes sensitivity to the world. It takes the development of introspection that is the impetus to come to the studio with a desire to express one’s self.
Even if all the stars align and you’ve created the optimal home environment to raise, I mean prune, your little bonsai child into an artist—you might not get an artist. You might raise a stellar abstract thinker, a brilliant chemist, an emotionally intelligent stay-at-home mom, a rebellious Young Republican, or a spatially aware soccer player.
When you read about what is lacking in the American educational system versus what is valued globally in successful citizens the answer is always CREATIVITY.
Creativity cannot be fostered through competition.
Creativity doesn’t oblige rules, it breaks the rules. Creativity is an abstract thought that has been given the time and encouragement to be able to be brought to fruition. Where is the time to daydream in an average child’s day? Where is imagination encouraged in their schedule?
Creativity takes quietude; it takes a breath, a moment in nature.
It takes a mind to be on the verge of boredom in order to dig deep into imagination.
And it needs a parent who takes their hands off the wheel. A parent that stops molding, constructing, fostering and instead allows a child to immerse themselves in what looks, to an outsider, like nothingness.
I'm very proud to announce that a video I made, Tequila Annunciation (on VHS in my teenage bedroom), is officially part of The Getty Institute's permanent collection as part of filmmaker/artist Miranda July's feminist archive. My short film which was part of the Joanie 4 Jackie, Big Miss Movieola, M.I.A. chainletter is now in the Women's Building at The Getty along side the likes of other infulentual artists such as the Guerrilla Girls and Robert Mapplethorpe. It's a great time to be a feminist!
ore about Miranda July's feminist archive in the New York Times here.
Read more about the Joanie4Jackie project and "Where Is She Now?" about all the participating filmmakers here.
Magic Hour and Fireball have he chosen to be part of the exhibition Day For Night at Tohono Chul Gallery.
Day For Night will be on display February 16th-April 19th, 2017 with an opening reception Thursday, February 16th, 5:30-8pm
Tohono Chul Botanical Gardens and Gallery is at 7366 N. Paseo del Norte
Tucson, AZ 85704
"Both of these paintings are inspired directly from the many moods, colors and patterns found in the Sonoran Desert at very specific times of day. Fireball captures the brightest and most hot part of the day, just moments before the intense sun mellows into the sunset and disappears for the night. Magic Hour captures the waning moment just after sunset, the sky is still bright but the sun has gone. These transitional crepuscular parts of the sun/moon cycle are inspiring to me because they much like sea foam at the waterline of wave meeting sand on the beach are fleeting, abstract and unsettling."
“You should make art that’s funny…” a friend suggested to me.
“…Ya know, funny like YOU are.” This was the first (and only) time someone has suggested that to me. Was it a compliment or a curse?
Okaaay, I thought, putting the suggestion in the back of my mind. It seemed valid enough. After all, I’m definitely better at being funny than being an artist. Humor is a strength of mine…but to make art that’s funny is another thing entirely.
At the time I was knee-deep in my kokeshi-doll-army phase. I was fresh off of my first museum show at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, so I wasn’t exactly looking to switch it up.
“Funny?” I wondered. “What’s more fucking funny than hundreds of traditional kokeshi dolls? Dolls are hilarious!” Then I thought perhaps I can title these paintings in haiku and can call the show 5-7-5. That would be funny, right?! After all, the kokeshi dolls in my paintings weren’t fucking or fighting so they HAD to be FUNNY. If any kind of art can be funny, it has to be doll art—second only to clown art. (Thanks, Red Skelton.)
Lady artists, such as Sherry Markovitz and Phyllis Bramson, are favorites of mine. Their work uses dolls for subject matter, but is it that funny? Not really. I’ve never heard someone remark, “Oh, that Sherry Markovitz, her art is SO FUNNY. The way that beaded Kewpie Doll was giving birth to a Howdy Doody, shit’s hilarious!” More common is, “Once again, Sherry Markovitz takes up the theme of life, death and rebirth in new dolls molesting each other. Genius strikes again!”
Perhaps in a different social context—if a man or painted something like Phylis Bramson’s playful-yet-filthy oils—they could be funny? But when a woman paints a panda fellating a geisha, it’s damn serious business!
You’d think Jeff Koons‘s art would make him the King of Comedy. But he’s not.
If Koons’s work was a practical joke, we’d all be laughing at the huge shiny metal balloon dog. But as it’s not on the street, next to a fire hydrant, with a yellow puddle next nearby—and instead at LACMA—it’s VERY serious. Laughing at it will get you escorted out (so I’ve heard). The only thing funny about Koons’s art is that he gets other people to make it. Intern, slave, whatever.
There are the times when art is funny, but ONLY to the artist herself.
Like, “Tee-hee-hee that hair on my sculpture is really my lover’s pubes and the rouge on the cheeks my menstrual blood…and someone bought it!” That is hilarious, yes, but only for a few people.
There HAS to be some element of the inside joke to Nick Cave’s many Sound Suits. He HAS to have mixed sperm into his PVA glue, or sneezed all over one of his magical creations. SOMETHING that makes him chuckle to himself when some chump grad student is galloping around in it. Then again, he has never made one that exclusively makes a fart sound, and I have to wonder why not….
Perhaps funny art doesn’t run rampant in some sort of School of Funny Art, because funny art doesn’t sell?
Come to think of it, I’ve never really been to an exhibition intended to make the viewer laugh. I’ve experienced plenty of so-crappy-it’s-funny art. I have experienced ironically funny art. And I-had-to-think-about-till-it-became-funny-and-I-kind-of-chuckled-on-the-bus-ride-home-art. And it-makes-me-feel-funny-in-my-groins-or-uncomfortable-in-my-skin art. But I’ve never truly experienced thigh-smacking, side-achingly funny art.
I got to think that art isn’t funny because art galleries and museums are fully unfunny places. Is a padded cell at an asylum for the criminally insane funny? NO. So its kissing cousin, the maddeningly stark white art gallery, can’t be either. Perhaps if wine and cheese were replaced with laughing gas and poppers, then the art would be funny.
Hands down, performance art has to be the form with the greatest funny potential.
And if one living performance artist is equivalent to the great Richard Pryor, it’s Marina Abramovic. After all, what’s funnier than performance art? Oh, I dunno, maybe a performance art INSTITUTE! No, wait! A KICKSTARTER to FUND a performance art institute. That shit’s funny!
But no one laughs at it.
Here’s what’s truly TRULY FUNNY:
People DONATE through a KICKSTARTER to FUND a Performance Art Institute! (I’m not even going to link to Lady Gaga’s supporting video). But no one is laughing because it’s serious. It is seriously because it is Art.
When Marina stares into someone’s eyes, that should be funny (when it’s not happening to you). So why is no one laughing?
I’ve been to five yoga workshops and/or retreats where we were commanded to stare into a stranger’s eyes. At one workshop in particular, after moments of deep, intense eye staring, we were then expected to act like this person was your mom and they just gave birth to you! Oh, I laughed at that…only later, after Savasana.
I think about David Blaine, and his master illusions/endurances. People come out to mock him mid-epic feat. But no one DARES heckle Marina. It’s confusing to me. David Blaine must be fueled by the negativity. I have to assume that Marina uses her docents like bouncers: if anyone acts up or gets loud THEY’RE OUT!
I’ve come to realize that there are two kinds of people in the art world: cool people and fun people.
Cool people take it all in very seriously, and fun people are just along for the ride. Cool people talk about how they were in a gifted program in High School, having gone to school “out East,” and connect with art on a cerebral level. Fun people talk about their favorite John Waters movie and the crap they obsessively collect, and connect with art from creative charge it gives them.
It’s hard for cool people to find humor in art, even if it’s intended. Fun people tend have more success with this, as well as more success annoying cool people. I have found that cool people are most annoyed by James Franco. He is the kryptonite to coolness.
Here is my vulnerable and tender personal truth:
I try to be funny at all times. It’s my way of keeping interested and curious in a sometimes bland world. I roll through life crafting jokes for myself, not to make others laugh. If you do find me funny, I take you by the hand and never let go. Laughter is my litmus.
I have found outlets for my funny: my tweets and drawing scribbly mocking cartoons of other people. I’ve always been this way, a seeker of humor. As a child, I used to paint rocks with gold spray paint and sell them the next day at school as “gold nuggets.” Now I have to wonder, was this my greatest performance art piece EVER? Have I jumped the art shark? I still haven’t really incorporated funny into my paintings…except when I sell a piece of paper with pigment on it for $1000. That shit’s fun-knee!
Just to help you out, here is some guidance regarding humor in art.
Funny: Rude animals.
Not funny: Plastic surgery as art.
Not funny: When other people make your art for you. AKA interns AKA my daughter.
Funny: Tiny penises whenever they are where they shouldn’t be, like on girls.
Not funny: Any everyday object cast into metal, such as a wooden shipping pallet, card board box or cigarette butts.
Funny: Camel toe in sculpture.
Not funny: Lead, chemicals and toxins in art.
Funny: Lickable wall paper. (Thanks, Mr. Wonka!)
Not funny: Performance art that splashes me with food, wine or feces. (If it splashes YOU, then it becomes funny. If a video of said incident goes viral, back to not funny).
Funny: Piñatas on fire or filled with toothbrushes and travel six tooth pastes. Sorry kiddies.
Not funny: Dressing with prosthetic limb or mask like an old person, homeless person or monkey.
Funny: Dressing like the artist, and pretending to be them at their own art reception.
Next weekend will be your last chance to visit me during the Holidays!
This will be my 3rd year vending art and other handmade items at the Mercado San Agustin Holiday Bazaar. It's a can't miss event during the holiday season with beautifully curated vendors in a festive atmosphere.
Come by the Mercado San Agustin, 12/16-12/18, 10am-5pm
100 South Avenida Del Convento, Tucson AZ
After a wonderful experience last year at Cultivate Tucson I will be back vending this event again. What makes Cultivate so special is that 20% of all proceeds go to a local non-profit.
This is truly a great way to pick up gifts for the holidays, support Tucson based artisans and give back to our community.
Cultivate Tucson, Saturday 12/3, 9am-4pm
901 6th Ave, Tucson AZ 85701
Excited to announce my primer year vending my work at the Tucson Museum of Art Artisans Market.
Come by Friday 11/18-11/20 from 10am-5pm each day, booth #102 (by the big blue wall in front of the museum)
The Artisans Market will be your first opportunity to check out new cactus paddle earring styles, works on paper and other items created just for this event!