‘Artists’ Category Archives
I am researching some new work these days, nothing I can disclose just yet, but I have been looking through a lot of online libraries of Medieval and Renaissance books. I came across this pretty remarkable Roman statue on Alexandre Leupin’s site. Leupin is a well-known French scholar of Medieval history, and has written an entire book on the subject of the phallus in Christian art: Phallophanies : La Chair et le Sacré.
The sculpture appears to be a figure of Mercury with a number of penises sprouting from various parts of his body. Unfortunately the caption is all in French. I ran it through Google Translate and here is what came out:
The ritual repetition of the cult explains the proliferation of simulacra: the phallus is multiplied on the head of Mercury, as the number to ensure a safe conspiracy. It was originally bells (titinnabula) to conjoin the image as a protection against the evil eye: and maybe the words of the tragedy and religious holidays have in their background music, the same function exorcism
It looks to me like a sort of Hollywood monster lumbering around with a severed head in a bag.
From David Byrne’s blog, I learn about the famous English taxidermist Walter Potter.For me, very little captures the essence of Victorian England better than the cute/creepy emulsion of his work, at once sentimental and moralizing. All those pot-smoking toads and tequila-swilling armadilloes you get in Mexico are nothing but a response to this. More photos after the jump.
by Eugene in Artists
I heard on NPR today that the results of last year’s census of Detroit are in, and the city has shrunk by a quarter since the last census. To put this in perspective, said the announcer, this means that on average, one resident moved out of Detroit every 22 minutes for the past 10 years. The mind boggles. And by chance, I happened on a photography book “celebrating” the glorious ruins left behind as one of America’s great cities disintegrates. Photographers Yves Marchand and Romaine Meffre have a haunting series of photos called Ruins of Detroit, and it’s positively post-apocalyptic. The hardest thing to comprehend is that no great plague, no nuclear disaster, no war, earthquake, or drought produced this abandonment. People simply left because they couldn’t earn a living anymore, or because they couldn’t tolerate the crime. See the whole series here, it’s worth a look.
This will happen to Las Vegas, too, in the next couple decades, for slightly different reasons. Their water is simply running out, and their economy is based on nothing that can’t be easily replicated elsewhere. So we can look forward to another coffee table book full of pictures of ruined Bellagios and shattered glass pyramids, and a fake Eiffel tower rusting in the desert.
There is a lot of work like this floating around the world, some of it has garnered the epithet of “steam punk”, some of it “goth”, all of it compared to mine. Which I don’t mind in particularly. I love the aesthetic. And Ron Pippin masters it. He’s been around for a while, and his work is, in a word, decadent.
More images available here.
by Eugene in Artists, Eugene's work, Museums
I am in a group show at the Museum of Northwest Art, called “Wild/Life”. It runs through March 2.
A group show featuring animals of subtle substance. In two and three dimensions, large and small scale, artists explore the environment, culture, history, and literature in their depictions of animals. Artists include Michelle Bear, Mark Calderon, Claire Cowie, Justin Gibbens, Todd Horton, Craig T. Langager, Sherry Markovitz, Robert McCauley, Saya Moriyasu, Peregrine O’Gormley, Eugene Parnell, and Joseph Rossano.
The Museum of Northwest Art is located in La Conner, Washington, and exists to house a permanent collection of works by Northwest Artists, mostly members of the mystic movement– Morris Graves, Mark Tobey, and the like. Their new curator, Kathleen Moles, is bringing some new energy and life to the space with curated shows by contemporary artists, including yours truly.
La Conner is a fun little tourist town with some decent restaurants. You should go.
The Thoughtful Animal, one of my favorite blogs on the Scienceblogs network, has posted an interesting study on anteaters and how they determine which sort of ants or termites to feed on. Apparently, across their range, they feed on both, in varying combinations of species, depending on which sort of defense mechanisms the colonies use, the kind of mounds used, and their nutritional value. It’s illustrated with this photo, which appears to have originally come from here.
It is, of course, Salvador Dali, one of my least Twentieth Century artists, walking his “pet” anteater. I really never cared much for his paintings (they just show up too often as dorm room posters, like his compatriot in camp, M. C. Escher) but photos of Dali are really interesting. Always perfectly posed, always aware of the camera, Dali is his own artwork. Notice how perfectly aware he is of the composition he’s posing into, with his cane and the taut leash of the anteater– it’s the kind of arrangement you’d see in one of his paintings, and it can’t be accidental. It’s commonly regarded as a truism that Andy Warhol started the “artist as celebrity as art” meme, but Dali kind of has to be in there too.
As for having a pet anteater, well, I can’t imagine you could do it without hired help. They pretty much only eat ants and termites, not exactly the thing you can pop down to Petco and pick up. I heard somewhere that they could get by on hamburger, and that’s how some zoos do it, but it can’t be nutritionally good for them. I can only imagine that unless Dali really, really loved his anteater enough to cater financially to its odd diet, it’s got to be one unhappy critter. Of course, how would we even know– how do you tell if an anteater is smiling?
Update, 8 August. My friend Joy, who is a zookeeper at the Houston zoo, tells me that anteaters do, in fact, eat other foods in captivity besides ants and termites. Apparently their staple diet in captivity is dog chow, pounded into a kind of mash, which they lap up with their sticky tongues the way they’d eat their normal diet. They also eat some kinds of produce, although she didn’t say what (cole slaw and pesto, perhaps?)
From a haunting series of photographs by South African photographer Pieter Hugo, who has shown quite a bit in Johannesburg and in Europe, but whom I hadn’t heard of until now. These images are like my dreams- barren, haunting, unforgettable. It’s not only the immediate, gut-wrenching juxtaposition of wild animals that we usually associate with safaris with blasted urban wastelands on the edge of Third World cities, but the juxtaposition of the “threatening” black African male with his brutal hyena sidekicks. These are like gangster rappers without the bling.
But the truth of the situation is rather surprising. Hugo explains how he found out about these men:
These photographs came about after a friend emailed me an image taken on a cellphone through a car window in Lagos, Nigeria, which depicted a group of men walking down the street with a hyena in chains. A few days later I saw the image reproduced in a South African newspaper with the caption ‘The Streets of Lagos’. Nigerian newspapers reported that these men were bank robbers, bodyguards, drug dealers, debt collectors. Myths surrounded them. The image captivated me.
He travelled to Nigeria and tracked them down. Not only weren’t these men gangsters, they are actually a sanctioned part of Nigerian society:
It turned out that they were a group of itinerant minstrels, performers who used the animals to entertain crowds and sell traditional medicines. The animal handlers were all related to each other and were practising a tradition passed down from generation to generation. I spent eight days travelling with them.
It turns out that the men even have government licenses for the animals. Even so, as fascinating as these images are, I feel sorry for the hyenas. Even though hyenas are almost universally reviled, and they have a deserved reputation for brutality (unlike big cats, which kill their prey quickly, hyenas often eat their prey alive), they’re still animals.
by Eugene in Artists
I have been following the posts on Cryptomundo about a mysterious and little-known cryptid called the Shunka Warak’in, obviously a Native American word, also called a “ringdocus” (which sounds like the kind of insult you’d hear in a seventh grade gym class). It is some kind of canid (member of the dog family), described as having brownish or reddish fur, possibly with stripes, and with the sloping hindquarters that we associate with hyenas.
There is a taxidermied specimen at a the Sherwood Museum in West Yellowstone, Montana, which Coleman claims is a specimen. It was apparently shot about 120 years ago, stuffed, put in the museum, and then subsequently disappeared, until recently. Here is a photo, linked from here:
More images are available here. Now, don’t get too excited, it could just be a wolf that has been mounted extremely poorly; it’s hard to tell much of anything from a taxidermied specimen. Essentially the only thing left of the original animal is the skin. If the taxidermist was meticulous, and had access the original carcass, he would have taken measurements of the body shape and size, the lengths of the limbs, girth of the belly, etc. These things can be guessed at by the hide, but not too accurately, since the hide will shrink and stretch and distort as it is dried and then tanned and subsequently softened and re-stretched to put over the mannequin. For museum-quality mounts, the mannequin is constructed to measurements accurate to the dead animal’s skinned body, but there is no telling if that’s the case here or not. Many taxidermists will just guess.
The teeth, which in an actual specimen would be clear indicators of a species, are almost certainly plastic replacements that you could purchase at any taxidermy supply house, like here, for example.
According to Coleman, a DNA test is possible from skin and fur samples, but may not yield really usable material, and, more importantly, there is an ownership problem: no one seems to know whose permission is necessary to take a sample for DNA analysis. Read the whole series of posts here.
In the meantime, a Nebraska woman may have just seen a live one in her backyard.
by Eugene in Artists
Could I begin this much-belated blog with any better quote than this?
The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so many to say so little.
Revered/reviled pseudonymous British guerilla artist Banksy– one of my favourite artists, kind of a lowbrow Maurizio Catelan– mounts an exhibition in his own home city of Bristol– in secret, as he is still wanted by the police there for graffitti vandalism. From the Guardian UK:
This is the first show I’ve ever done where taxpayers’ money is being used to hang my pictures up rather than scrape them off.
There is quite a nice slideshow here. Personally I am really fond of this piece:
Another Banksy piece, this one done on one of the “separation walls” in the Occupied West Bank of Palestine. His book, Wall and Piece, from a couple years ago,contained an explanation of this piece that went to the effect of this:
Old Palestinian man: What are you doing on that wall?
Me: Painting it. I want to make it beautiful.
Old Palestinian man: We hate that wall. We don’t want it to be beautiful. We want it gone. Go home.