Politics and Art

I came home the other night from reading about new media art with a focus on surveillance to find a letter in my mailbox from the police department. First I thought I'd gotten a speeding ticket, but no -- they had written to tell me that they had peered inside my car while it was parked inside a parking structure downtown and had detected a detachable cd player that might attract car prowlers. Now I suppose I should be glad that nobody actually broke into my car, but I find that I don't like the idea of the police monitoring it all that much more. Maybe I've read too many conspiracy theories, but sometimes I feel like we're slowly sinking into a state like 1984, only it's happening so slowly that no one's going to notice -- it will just all seem completely natural.

I'm glad there are artists commenting with surveillance works and the like, but I still feel like no one's really paying attention to the direction our society is going and I'm not sure what would change that. It's not really the cameras and police that bother me on their own...it's the much bigger problem of the apathy that is allowing those in power to do whatever they want without us noticing or caring. It's things like Bush claiming that waterboarding is not actually torture and no one protesting the ridiculousness of his statement that really gets to me.

How does this relate to art or my MFA? Political artwork used to have a lot of power, but now it seems run of the mill -- we smile and agree that our country is not being run very well and then continue on our way to get a cup of coffee at Starbucks. And now there's this trend of candy-coated, nostalgic work that looks no deeper than the cartoons that were on when we were little -- and it's fun and nice to look at -- but there's this idea that part of the reason it's acceptable for the work to be so insubstantial is that we don't have anything to fight against like the generations before us. So, alright, we don't have WWII, but we are in a war that we didn't agree to led by a president who is getting away with making and breaking rules whenever it pleases him. I don't know if art is part of the solution and I don't know if I'm ready to address any of this in my own work yet, but I think it's something important to consider.


oh capitalism...

selling my work makes me really happy. i think it's kind of addictive -- a somewhat unhealthy, intoxicating validation that i'm pretty sure i should take with a grain of salt. but you have to admit that it's hard to do. even when you know there's so much more to it all than a simple sale or no sale.

"Fossil Fuel" (36"x48") and "Cry Me a River" (48"x48") now happily in the collection of The Romain Group, LLC


Show at Hovel

I have a show opening at Hovel tonight -- 4000 North Mississippi. The work will be up through the first of the year so if you happen to be in the neighborhood, stop in and see it!


redacting information

i've been correcting my painting as i transfer the image from digital pixel to painted pixel. it has occurred to me how ridiculous this is as there is absolutely no way anyone would know that i had made a mistake, but i'm intrigued by the way we always try to hide our mistakes and flaws. it used be somewhat apparent when we tried to cover these up, but with digital technology it's becoming easier and easier to make it seem like it never happened. this manual correction reminds me of wite-out (tm) in the way it deletes information while leaving a trail of the false step. it's so easy to correct something now and make it be/seem (are these the same?) absolutely perfect that it's somewhat exhilarating to admit imperfection.

thinking about wite-out reminded me of documents with redacted text. i suppose these blacked-out areas are the opposite of wite-out, but really it seems like it's all the same thing. perhaps the difference lies in the size of the mistakes or flaws. if it's a grammatical error, then we white it out. if it's a crime, we black it out. i guess this makes sense, but it comes down to the same thing: there's no room for error. we should all live flawless lives and be flawless people. hence botox and my job as a digital retoucher. we are a puritanical society that never really grasped the idea behind the scarlet letter. while i can understand the desire to try to make things better, i can't quite figure out why we'd want to become just like a machine.

The Last Supper

Hal9000 has taken a digital picture of da Vinci's The Last Supper in 16 billion pixels and posted it online. Of course it's not the same as seeing it in person, but it's pretty cool how close you can zoom in.


Digital Memories

I've been thinking a lot about memory and how much we've come to rely on technology to be that memory. On one hand, this has become absolutely necessary; there is too much information in the world for anyone to be knowledgeable about it all. And yet, it seems that we don't just use computers and search engines for the things beyond our grasp but rather let them do all of the work for us because it's easier and faster than trying to remember anything on our own. We simultaneously have the joy of endless information at our fingertips and the disaster of allowing that ability to develop into a lazy habit. With this ability to instantly gratify any whim, I think we tend to filter less out. With the dawn of photography, we began to think slightly less about the details that might be included or excluded from a painting. With the digital age, the care that was still put into a single exposure dramatically plummeted once again. Without the expense of film and paper, the need to edit the exposures no longer exists. And without the need to edit, we lose the need to take any care in the creation of the photo itself. I've decided to make a painting that takes such a careless photo and turns it into a labor intensive painting, translating each pixel by hand from computer to panel. In doing so, I'll be forced to study this picture --this memory-- in minute detail -- spending far more time on it than I would ever have done otherwise.


artist news

a little over a week ago, a friend's apartment burnt down. i've posted a few pictures here of what remains of his studio. much of my work has dealt with the idea of loss, but as i walked through the remains of his home, i realized i knew very little about this form of it. i have had things stolen or lost or ruined in one way or another, but the very idea of having every possession disintegrate in front of my eyes is completely foreign to me. having only just recently moved into my own fresh space at psu, the stark contrast of our situations rose glaringly in front of me, and over the next few days, i found myself wondering if i was capable of even addressing such a subject with any legitimacy. perhaps i am equipped to address the loss i have suffered in my own life --as we all must be-- but i am nevertheless struck with a grave sense of naivete. there is a great difference between knowing about the world and experiencing it. and i am afraid i have experienced only enough to know how little i have seen.

below i've copied an announcement from his gallery - Rake - about a benefit to help him rebuild. it's good to know that there are people to rally around us when we have nothing.

photos (from top to bottom): Michael in his living room sorting through the remains of hundreds upon hundreds of slides that were burnt; a view of his art studio -- paint leaking down the back of the cabinet and light streaming in through the skeleton that remained of his ceiling and walls; a view from one side of apartment to the other and through to outside

Benefit luncheon for Michael L. Wilson, whose home burnt down.
You may have heard by now that artist Mr. Wilson lost everything he owned in a house fire last Sunday the 23rd. For those of you who would like to help Michael, there is a rebuilding fund being set up by RACC. Go to racc.org and look for the Mr. Wilson rebuilding Fund.

One thing Michael Wilson has requested is help excavating his place to clear it out. He hopes to rebuild the home, as he is a carpenter by trade. He could use volunteers and shovels. Please contact the Gallery and we will put you in touch with him.

Rake Art Gallery is holding a benefit luncheon Sunday October 14 at 2 pm in the Gallery. We are located at 325 NW 6th Ave. We will be serving a Cajun menu at $25.00 a plate, their will also be shirts designed by Kevin Darras available. All proceeds go to help Mr. Wilson rebuild his life.

Thank You Rake Art Gallery

"Caustic: 3rd definition"
Acrylic paintings by Michael L. Wilson
Mixed media works by Ilan Laks
With Special Guest
Studio EN
Presenting "IV.VII. XX" an experimental architectural installation

a taste of the past

a couple of paintings from this summer...