Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Linda Benglis at the New Museum

Lynda Benglis

Currently up at the New Museum, there is a collection of Linda Benglis' most accredited work over her extensive career. The works range from monumental, expressive sculptures, to video art, to photographic series, to highly decorative wax relief sculptures. The first thing that strikes you is the magnitude of substance that constitutes her abstract sculptures. Their application is apparent in it's intent to mimic bodily functions. I really appreciated her color palette, finding it to be very similar to my own preferences.
The video art she had projected on the wall I have to admit was a little off putting at first. It is only when I look at it through feminist art theory that it begins to spark any interest. The footage is of her and a female lover passionately kissing accompanied by a soundtrack of an old country song sung by a male voice. By doing this Benglis is able to reverse the gaze by not only controlling her own performance of her own sexuality, but also having control over the editing and sound mixing that determines how the viewer experiences the piece. She takes an activity that has typically been exploited by a male and takes control into her own hands. The song states as follows in a male voice "Oh tell me how much can a man need a woman, well that's how much i need you..." then a woman, but what will you give me?" "what will i give you?" She creates an interesting contrast between a display of female homosexuality with a misogynist soundtrack behind it.

The pieces that did grab me the most were her series of multicolored wax on strips of wood that adorned the walls. She applies the materials in such a sensitive, yet natural manner, creating different layers of contrasting and correlating colors, that seem dreamlike yet oddly familiar and organic at the same time.
I'm really glad that I did get to see this show before it came down, as I felt an innate kinship with Lynda and her work as soon as I saw it. I completely agree with her sculpting abilities, from her use of color, to form, to subject matter. Her film work is a little less agreeable, and I remain neutral about her photographs. I would like to file her abilities into my personal arsenal of knowledge for future inspiration and historical context.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The final project of the semester came as another exciting prospect. Before I decided to pursue an education in the Fine Arts, a majority of my interests lied in psychology, sociology, anthropology, and women's studies. I began my collegiate career at Binghamton University, enrolled as a Psychology major. I have always been fascinated in the ways in which people function and the reasons why they do so. Throughout my life I have encountered a large variety of psychologically ill people which fueled my interest in such. Upon further studies I strayed from psychology to other fields of social sciences. Supplement of course to all these studies was my growing affinity for the making of art which filled the rest of my course load. Eventually I shifted my focus to the arts, but never completely deserted my interest and study of social and psychological studies.
The assignment at hand was to interpret a figure through the lens of the distinction of Freud's concepts of id, ego, and superego. This guideline to some may seem specific, but there is much mobility within the topic. One of the most intriguing prospects being the relation of self in how you can literally depict oneself, and the manner in which it is depicted. I knew immediately that I wanted to do a self portrait, a feat that I have only tackled a few times. The process itself was self exploratory to say the least. I wanted to portray the constant struggle that's in play between the id and supergo. I consider myself to be a pretty balanced person, when it comes to maintaining stability and at the same time losing control.
As with most pieces, I visualize the outcome before I even begin the process. I knew that I wanted to paint my head (face) in a more realistic, controlled manner, thus representing the supergo. This was my attempt to utilize control both internally and externally.
Second, I wanted to brush strokes to become more instinctual and liberal than the previous from the neck to the chest. This I consider as the portrayal of my ego. I chose to portray myself in the nude to exploit my utmost vulnerability into not only my form, but my psyche. The balance between the actual form, and looseness in which it is painted, while still adhering to some structure was all intentional. Another factor is the physical location of such a style, which is the heart.
Lastly, the abdomen and genitals are all engulfed in a rage of primal paint application; this is the id. It is all of those guttural impulses that drive every one of us, the thirst for violence, for sex, and some scatological as well. I applied the paint and wax furiously, sometimes even with stabbing motions.
Although it may not be obvious to all the reasons behind my actions, I feel the balance of each three factors when I view this work.
Another element I chose to include were samples of handwriting. I recently cultivated an interest in handwriting analysis and it's psychological implications. I learned that the mental state of any individual can be traced through their handwriting, changing from mood to mood as it were. This serves as a manifestation of one's true deepset emotions, often without the scribe being none the wiser. The text I included is a collection of song lyrics, lines I have written, and poetry. It is not important to me that the viewer knows the literal text, only the hint of which gives the allusion to internal thought processes.
Although I am currently pleased with the aesthetic of my painting, I consider it to be a work in progress. I've really enjoyed getting assigned more open ended problems to face so I can really explore myself as an artist.

Autobiographical Grid

I entered the second assignment for the semester with great gusto, as we were given much liberty in picking our subject matter. The guidelines consisted of created corresponding drawings and paintings, in the format of a grid, that give some insight into a personal story or theme. This was a project I'd been wanting to take on on my own, so the structure of time restraints and supervision was very helpful for me to achieve my goal.
The material I chose to address is very personal, and a bit scary for me to air to the public. For a majority of my youth I was a very sad, maladjusted, self destructive person. It is only through time and a few epiphanies that I have been able to overcome these obstacles for the most part, and transform into a happy, capable individual.

I took on the drawings first and head on. I knew going into it that I did not want any concrete images, but instead expressions of what I was trying to convey. I used my marks to build upon each other as if I were fabricating my image from the material in which they actually existed. I would say that the most prevalent reoccurring image throughout my whole series is that of a nest, which I have also used throughout prinkmaking and sculpture as well. The concept behind the nest is very cathartic to me. In my past, and honestly in my present, I tend to find my niche and settle into an existence of isolation. It is both a sanctuary where I can lay my head, and a black hole where I sink deeper and deeper into the depths of self reflection and disconnect from reality. The nest in turn is a double edged sword, my solace and my downfall.
Another very important recurrence is drug use and abuse. Just as the nest, drugs for me have had both their positive and negative effects. My experimentation with substance has led me to several major life changing decisions and events that have changed my life for the better, and I would not trade any of my experience in retrospect. It is because I have seen these facets of life, and I have been able to step outside of my own control that I feel I have a more well rounded perspective of the universe. It is when you lose all control however, that the darker, more desperate aspects of substance can take over. Because I have been a part of this community for so long, I have many friends and acquaintances who suffer from this affliction. I have lost many friends and damaged many relationships because of the heavy hand of addiction.

The paintings I wanted to handle in a completely different manner as my drawings. I wanted to focus most upon the medium in which they were fabricated, and treat them almost as if they were low relief sculptures. To start this process, I stretched all of my own canvases with a lot of depth. I feel that this solidifies them as objects rather than images and makes them more tangible to touch and reality. Throughout all of my work I really try to create pieces that straddle boundaries between classification. Although these may be considered paintings, the way I handled the materials is truly more sculptural than painterly. I did not use any paint throughout the process, rather I used wax. I was able to achieve any color I desired by mixing the paint into the melted wax, but no actual paint was applied to the surface.
The order in which these paintings are displayed are not that of which they are made. This first piece is an homage to my pseudo feminism. I wanted to portray this lone feminine figure isolated and drowning in a sea of masculinity (represented by it's traditional blue). I've always had a hard time relating to most girls growing up, as I was always in the company of boys. I never really partook in typically feminine activities, always being known to roughhouse and know how to wield any type of tool. Even as I'm writing this I am aware of the hypocrisy of classifying things as either masculine or feminine and denying myself of either. If you are a feminist you are for all women or you are for none. Some of the worst sexism is inflicted by parties of the same sex, but that's another matter entirely.
I achieved this pebble like effect by dipping a large brush into my melted wax and dragging it along the surface of the unprocessed canvas over and over again, while creating variations in the tone of the wax itself. This was one of my greatest discoveries in the use of my material.
The next piece is an obvious adaptation of my nest. I begun the process by stretching the canvas very loosely upon the stretcher. I then attached an extra piece of wood to the back and stapled the center of the canvas unto it. This created an element of depth I couldn't otherwise achieve. My process was very similar to that in which an actual nest is fabricated. I used twine mixed with actual dirt and brown wax to form a solid form.
The two pieces in the center are made up of soft clay wrapped in the same piece of nude stocking. I chose to keep the clay soft to emphasize their malleability and influence they have on each other and the world around it. The stocking stands as a sort of skin in which they are bound together, but can be easily tattered. These forms serve to represent how I often isolate myself with relationships, and change my form in order to compensate for another within myself. I also chose to include pieces of a turkey's vertebrae as a representation of soldiers that fallen along the way yet still hold their place in my life.The next piece is an expression of my sexuality, a factor which played a large role in both enriching and damaging my life to the present day. I wanted to maintain a feeling of flesh and the melting of such into itself, the joining of forms. I wanted to keep the stark contrast between the bright, juicy colors, and the dingy, compromised tones of others.

A medium in which I have used much in the past is that of needle and thread. I like to play with the void in the painting as the actual mark made. I started out the process by stretching the canvas as any other then I cut my marks with an exacto knife, sewing it back into place after each cut. I finished by pouring flesh colored wax upon the canvas. Once everything had dried, I flipped my canvas over to find that the back side was more interesting in my opinion. I liked how the wax absorbed into the fibers in some areas and caked up in others, so in the end I unstretched it and restretched in the opposite fashion.
This piece is greatly representative of my self destructive tendencies, and the scars I left myself both physically and emotionally by my poor coping abilities. I wanted to emphasize the scarring of flesh without the literal adaptation of the spilling of blood and I achieved just that.

This piece served to depict habitat and it's shift, yet coexistence. Most of my life I have been absorbed within the natural world, enamored by the forms nature takes unprovoked. This was the focus of my artistic endeavors for a long time before I made my migration to the Big Apple. I quickly found the industrial beauty of the city infecting my work and preoccupying my visual lens. The chipping paint and beauty in the decay of what man tries to control in his world is inevitably concurred by mother nature. I used many found objects for this work, including actual bark from trees and insect parts integrated with more industrial objects such as tiles and hardware. The final chapter in this tale is one again of substance abuse as afore mentioned. The story begins as a light hearted romp through the world of hallucinogens, a happy, exploratory adventure. The marks start out as vibrant, fun colors, and as they travel through time and gravity they gain severity and their colors become muddled till they fall to murk.
The process in which I achieved such an effect was a revelation to me. First I applied dots of acrylic paint to the surface and then applied a drop of hot glue atop each one. This created a sort kaleidoscope effect, something I plan to use in future works.

Overall, this assignment was greatly cathartic for me. I was able to get some of my demons out from the depths in which they lie and

Utilitarian Object

When given the assignment to visually explore a utilitarian object for this semester's combined painting and drawing course, I relished the freedom to pick whichever item we desired. However, I did encounter some difficulty when deciding on to which object to focus my efforts upon because of the magnitude of interesting tzatskes that remain from my grandparents. Most appliances and tools are left from a different era, which is interesting in and of itself in how they have evolved over time.
After much speculation I decided to work with an outdated, yet extremely stylish stapler. Although initially excited at the prospects of this assignment, I found myself struggling with making it interesting. Due to a series of unfortunate events, I missed several classes and wound up falling behind in all of my school work. This severely stressed my time restraints and in turn made me a little bitter towards the assignment.
I began my exploration with my drawings. I decided to work with charcoal and gesso, a medium which I hardly ever utilize. Because of this I feel that my hand was muddled within the materials and it did not represent who I am as an artist. The first drawing I worked on was the one on the right. I wanted to portray the action that the stapler takes and be true to it's real form. The second drawing is purely an accidental act. I began by gessoing my whole paper and then having to put it away while still wet. When I took it out the next class the whole thing was stuck together. Completely enraged by this I tore it all apart and then began frantically taping it all back together. I drew the form and then began making marks wherever I unconsciously felt the should lie. Eventually I found interest in the different geometric shapes that could be formed from the greater picture. This eventually translated into my first painting.
First off, for some reason unbeknown'st to me, I chose to work in a very large format, when I was already struggling with image I was to place upon it. During the process of making this piece I was very irritable and unsatisfied, which is highly uncharacteristic of me. Usually I am my own greatest fan and I create my work in the manner in which it will please me most. However for this piece there was an utter disconnect. Because of such I decided not to romanticize the image at all, but instead break it into simpler forms, as in my previous drawing, and handle it in a very scientific, structured process, while paying attention to the introduction of color. This proved to be a worthwhile exercise for me in the end, because I have never worked this way before.
Although I am ultimately satisfied with this work, I do feel that again it is uncharacteristic of me. Running out of time, I decided to tackle the last of the paintings in the comfort of my home. I still had to portray the utility of the object I had chosen, but didn't want to take such a literal route. I ended up with this:
This photo does no justice which is unfortunate. My thought process applied to this work was to actually use the object as it is intended in order to depict the actual material object. I cut the canvas into different pieces, similarly to the previous painting, and then put it back together using a series of many staples. I like the play between the function and the form, and the necessity of the function in order to even achieve the form in the end. This work is much more indicative of my personal style, as I feel that I am more tactile than anything else. I feel that it straddles the lines of what paintings can be, especially since there is not one drop of paint on the canvas.
Overall, I struggled greatly with this project, but in the end I feel as though I reached some enlightening conclusions on what directions I want to take in the future. Although I faced much aggravation, I feel I concurred a challenge I wouldn't have otherwise tackled.

Monday, July 5, 2010

dear dogs,

never lick me, ever.

Friday, July 2, 2010

you know the most masculine way to incur a cigarette burn?

racing your girlfriend in a firefly catching contest.

Monday, June 28, 2010

this is what happens when you set a cherry on fiya