Wednesday, November 19, 2008

December 13th I'll be done with school. At least being a student. One thing I've learned over the past three years is that you can learn to do so much with so little, and somehow talk your way out of having to do more. The image above is taken from a photo of Kayla Hassell and Brittini Hardcastle, two girls from the Victoria Lindsay beating case in Polk County, Florida.  If you haven't heard of them, don't feel bad. A few months ago they, along with four other girls and two boys, were all over the news and youtube because the Sheriff posted the beating footage to warn parents of teenage bully behavior. I never needed a video to inform me about bullies, but the sheriff felt it was necessary. Anyway, the girls were know, for a while, and then slowly started to disappear into the sea of irrelevant sound bites and clips that pass for news. So, if you're wondering why the painting looks unfinished, you just read the answer. Images of sensational news fade and are immediately replaced by new stories even more sensational than the last. By the December 13th, you won't even know what I'm talking about, but for now, don't these girls just look precious? 

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Have you ever moved into a new home and found what looks like forgotten evidence from a crime scene? I haven't either, and my imagination never leads me into the direction that I could be next, but I'm sure it's fun to pretend someone's out to get me. Even more fun that I'm out to get someone else. So, if you ever wanted to "off" someone like a sloppy murderer, decorate your house like so just to freak out your guest. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Before getting accepted to grad school, I made a series of hand painted skateboards to build up my portfolio.  You may notice a running theme in the series, but if not it won't matter. If you knew me and what was going on in my life around 2005, the message is pretty clear. The paintings are oil on used skateboards.  I wanted used boards because painting on a smooth surface would not reflect the damaged surface of the images and issues they illustrate. From left to right the titles are Do not Touch, Jealous Again, Nothing Works Around Here, The Hand that Feed, and Untitled.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

When I'm not making or writing about art, I'm making conservational clamshell boxes for rare books. It's actually a lot more interesting than it sounds. I must say that you haven't lived until you've handled a first edition english printing of Kafka's Metamophosis, or papers from the first session of congress. Of course the downside is you refuse to buy books that are not first edition, or at least in mint condition. On the bright side anytime you screw up measuring a book resulting in a box too big or small, you can always slap a painting in it. As a long time fan of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, I thought it would be fun to update Alice's mirror to a laptop computer. The computer screen becoming our mirror is something I've been researching for months and will be writing about soon. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What a Difference Hot Press Makes

For the past three years I have been using watercolors to make sketches for oil and casein paintings. Over that time my practice with the medium has paid off.  Gradually, the dependence of pencil and ink lines to convey the details in portraits and figures has decreased and been replaced by smaller brush strokes, and patience. The latest addition to improvements in my watercolors has been an upgrade in the paper. Previously, I had exclusively used Canson cold press blocks of paper.  The texture is a little rough, but nothing that bothered me for the years I used it. This past August I wanted to try something different, so I picked up a block of Arches 140lb hot press paper. Words escape me in trying to describe the difference between the two. You could say it's like having years of ache and waking up with a complexion as smooth as a baby's butt. The image on top is painted on cold press, and the one on the bottom is painted on hot press.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Parallel Lives

I have presently taken on painting everyone I know. This may take a while, but using watercolors will make it a lot easier. This is Chris Hall. I've known him for most of my adult life. Funny thing about Chris is the course his life and mine share.  We went to the same high school, the same undergrad, and come December, both of us will have MFA's in painting from schools in Philadelphia.  The only bad part is, when his luck is bad, so is mine. And no, we are not related, nor do we ever talk about shrimp. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

We Are The Dead; How Horror Came To Life

I had planned to spend the semester researching horror cinema figures like zombies, and vampires because I believe they reflect social unrest and taboos in American history. But before I could even get through writing my proposal it was clear that I had little interest in vampires, an undeniable hunger for more information about the evolution of the zombie from the slow walking flesh eaters of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, to the rapid blood spitting Londoners of 28 Days Later. My goal was to establish links between the actions and thoughts of the living dead and undead, and those of the living popular culture. The first step was to compare the consumption habits of the living with those of the undead.
Zombies, those known to American audience, eat living human flesh. According to Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide, they will also eat animals, but if given the choice, will always go for a living person. The appetite of a zombie knows no bounds. So, if you or I were to engage in an eating contest with a zombie, we would not stand a chance because their bodies don’t function under the same laws as our. They will eat until there is nothing else to eat.
This never ending desire to consume is similar to that of capitalism. Capitalism presents itself as a system in which everyone gets a fair chance to succeed, but the element that drives capitalism is greed. Greed is what makes you want the biggest slice of pizza, or the nicest house on the block, or the fastest car even though many of these things are well beyond your means to obtain them. So in order to get these things in addition to food and a place to lay our head, we go to work. This is where it gets dark.
Work, according to Karl Marx is basically a man exchanging his life for something he will never have so long as he is working. Happiness. Once you buy into the glamorized lives that corporations try to sell you, you become part of the advertising process yourself. Many believe that it is a fair exchange to go to work for 8 or 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, to help their boss make more in a day than they will in a week. But the reward makes it all worthwhile. The problem is, the reward is just a product of someone else’s 45 hour work week that goes not into their pocket, but their bosses. In this context, capitalism not only feeds on the living, just like zombies, but also creates more capitalist without even having to work, because the first one to buy and wear its product will convince someone else that they should do the same.
The majority of these points are illustrated the films including the first zombie flick Victor Harperlin’s White Zombie staring Bela Lugosi released in 1932, and decades later in Shaun of the Dead by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, released in 2004. Both films have zombies who threaten the live of the living, but it is the living who pose more of a threat on people than anyone else. Lead characters in Shaun of the dead could easily survive the outbreak if they would simply cooperate with each other and think of the good of the whole, rather than the good of the individual. Those in White Zombie could have avoided involvement with the voodoo priest Murder Legendre if lusting after another man’s wife didn’t lead to selfish acts on the part of Beaumont, an already wealthy plantation owner who always seems to want more.
These movies tend to work in circles as well. Anyone you see in the opening montages, or first few minutes of these films, will most likely be the living dead by the half way mark doing the same things they did in life, only a little bit slower, and covered with blood. This consuming cycle very apparent in 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. Romero’s sequel of sorts to 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, brings the lead characters to a mall. Amidst the sea of fur coats, guns, designer clothes, jewel, and other expensive luxuries, Romero places the living in an environment where endless consumption comes natural for people, while undead inside appear to stumble around like they’re window shopping, waiting for the next big deal. Choosing a mall was no coincidence. The public was spending more time shopping and finding themselves more in tune with a pair of running shoes than their neighbor. Similar attitudes were felt in the postmodern movement by Haim Stienbach who expressed that “shopping had replaced art making as the ultimate act of self expression. “He went to say that “the department store had become the cathedral of postmodern desire and the act of shopping was the postmodern version of democratic choice.” If this was true then there was no difference between the living and the undead. And why should there be? Everything that is fears or hated about the undead, is within us all. People sometimes don’t know when to stop. People also have a tendency to choose the easier path, which usually ends in going nowhere fast. And last but not least, people have a tendency to be selfish, with primarily their best interest in mind.
All of which brings me to the subject of my final paper, how the horrors of Night of the Living Dead could not have been possible with the horrors of the Vietnam War. The United States was involved in Vietnamese activity years before the fabled Gulf of Tonkin incident in which LBJ publicly accused the North Vietnamese of attacking a U.S. destroyer. This of course was untrue, but was enough to convince congress that attacking North Vietnam was the right thing to do in the name of freedom and democracy. If any of this sounds familiar, it just gets better. The president got a lot of help from the media in creating a support the troops rally by keeping families at home informed of the progress being made in Vietnam and how the U.S. was winning the casualty war. This time period became known as the Living Room War.
Started in mid-1965 with the Vietnam War, and became known as the “Living Room War,” labeled by Michael Arlen, and refers to the activity of families being able to watch an active war from a safe distance, and commercials. The scheduling for news programs during the late 1960’s goes as follows. First, is the Battlefield Round-up, known to journalist as the “Five O’Clock follies,” followed by policy briefings from Washington, and closing with a film report. In the beginning, programs focused on “American Boys in Action, emphasizing their bravery and skill.” Visuals of blood and guts were kept to a minimum because networks did not want to offend their audiences with the true “horror of war.” The small amount of combat footage shown consisted of smoke clouds in the aftermath of bombings. Essentially, Americans believed everything the television said for years, and protests against the war were considered unpatriotic. The best thing to do was to “stay the course” because America was doing the right thing. As the years went by, soldiers started coming back, and things in Vietnam were not going as well as the public assumed. We weren’t winning, and the decision to draft young men who weren’t treated fairly by democracy in their own country were forced to fight for a hypocrisy in another, only made things worse.
Aside from similarities to the current operation in Iraq and soon Iran, the plot of Night follows the chain of events almost perfectly. The dead come back to life and start to kill, and the government, LBJ, refuses to give a clear answer as to what caused it. Before people are given a chance to figure things out on their own, news stations begin broadcasting instructions for how to survive the attack, but avoid telling anyone why it is happening. Local authorities assure the public that everything will be taken care of in a short time, and that the living would prevail. Anyone protesting the television is insulted, and told again that the television is right. As attempts are made to follow the instructions given by the television, more lives are lost and people start to realize that their better off thinking things through on their own. I won’t give away the ending if you haven’t already seen this, but I will say that it’s ending is very similar to that of the Vietnam Wars.
These films would not be possible if it weren’t for a very real belief in zombification from Haiti and West Africa. Haitian’s in the 17 century didn’t fear dying, but coming back from the dead to work in a foreign land with no reward, forever. It’s not zombification, but slavery they are speaking of, and it is just as real as a draft. The Haitian’s fear of never dying was used to control them by the wealth and those with the knowledge of drugs necessary to make one a zombie. Crossing the wrong person could make you very ill, and placed in a trance giving everyone the impression that you’ve died. After burial, your body is exhumed and placed under the control of the houngon who poisoned you in the first place. If you’re lucky to get out this situation, either by the death of the houngon, or salt, you’ll be free, but brain damaged.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

He's everybody's friend, but nobody knows him.  His face is recognizable to most users of the virtual community Myspace as he is the first profile to befriend you. His name is Tom, and from my personal experience, that's all I know about him. It's strange that a complete stranger to millions is their friend at the same time. In now way am I suggesting that Tom's face will become an iconography portrait like the Mona Lisa, but it's not impossible. 

Thursday, May 1, 2008

This painting was a product of several mediums I have little experience in. The idea came from watching a commercial for the Hollywood movie about Vermeer and studying zombification, The Philadelphia Zombie Crawl of 2006, and liquid latex. This was by far my most successful of the zombie series. Costume Jewelry combines the digital photographs taken from the Zombie Crawl and superimposing those wounds onto Vermeer's painting. I'm not sure how the final composition came to be, but learning the basics of horror make-up and Vermeer's color palette definitely guided me towards an excellently exhumed grave.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's been a while since I've posted anything because of changes made in the medium. Specifically, changing from oils to casein. It's taken me a little while to get used to it, but I think I'm starting to get the hang of it. Casein is a very versatile medium which can behave like acrylic, oils, water color, and egg tempera. The stuff is just weird and I'm still trying to figure it out. Here is the first painting I done using it. The image is taken from Gustave Caillebotte's The Floor-Scrapers in 1875. I've always enjoyed looking at art depicting the physical strains of manual labor because much of the work pictured in these paintings are no longer done by hand. Thanks to technological progress we can rent a sander from Home depot and refinish a floor in a fraction of the time it too to do the same job 130 years ago. So, I'm guessing in another 130 years there will be a machine to paint for me.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Lonely Lisa

This piece was part of a series of paintings concentrating on reinterpreting well known works of art in the context of the undead. I chose Di Vinci's Mona Lisa because I wanted to visualize a psychological zombie rather than the blood splattered, flesh eaters I typically do. The painting is a blend of images found with Google searches for Mona Lisa, and nose bleeds. The short version of the story behind the painting is this, Lisa's got a drug problem. I feel the same way about Atlanta, which is why I submitted it for an art show in Atlanta. I'm sure that some people thought she just got beat up, or had a migraine head ache, but could just be a viewer in denial. This isn't the first time I'd used visual references from the internet to create art. I think the web is a good source, so long as you can use what's already there to make something new.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Share Croppers

Les Glaneuses (The Gleaners) by Fran├žois Millet, 1857
Gleaning is picking for field scraps undertaken by the poor. It faded out of existence as a result of the efficient industrial revolution. The Gleaners was attacked by some for its depiction of the rural poor, either as a reminder of class division, or grotesque realism, which has no place in fine art. There is always room for the unattractive in art. Millet’s painting has been interpreted as a protest to the systematic extermination of the poor. If you think about it, the economically disenfranchised are already dead to the capitalist. Maybe not dead, by undead since they can still be employed as unskilled labor. Think about that the next time you watch Shaun of the Dead.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Do It Yourself

I was asked by my friend Scott to draw up a board graphic for his company Boulevard. He said I could draw anything I wanted, so I asked if he was sure because apparently, I don't know where to draw the line. He said it was o.k. and I made him pay for it. While coming up with concepts for this project, I was already working on the seven deadly sins as told through the life of Christ. So I asked myself, How hard would it be to crucify yourself? I thought it was funny. He didn't. Nor did he think it would be a good image to sell in the Bible Belt. I actually came up with the idea a long time ago when I still lived in Atlanta. I showed the rough sketch to a few people and they thought it was great. Of course, anyone who liked it lived in poverty. So, nothing has changed. The board never got made because religion has ties to economics. Societies have convinced the poor to stay poor and not complain about injustices because class division maintains structure within that society. And the poor voice their complaints to their white jesus, instead of their white president in hopes of receiving treasures in heaven rather than useful things here on earth. Anyway, the person responsible for Jesus' crucifixion was himself, not the Jews.

Under the Influence of Posada

I spent a semester studying propaganda and art, specifically the Mexican Muralist Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros. What prompted me to read about this artistic movement was a statement made by Rivera claiming that "if you are not an artist making propaganda, you are not an artist." I won't get into my issues with Rivera at this moment, because what I want to focus on is possibly the greatest artist from Mexico, Jose Guadalupe Posada.
I'm sure that anyone with a taste for margaritas on Cinco De Mayo has seen his work plastered all over the local taco bar. His skeletons are drawing in a style of his own, and he was not afraid to use them to criticize the politicians of the early 20th century. I'm mentioning this because propaganda and art are related, but can exist apart from each other. The semester spent on propaganda was also dedicated to painting portraits of friends and family based on how I remembered them, as opposed to how they wished to be viewed. In other words, the sitter in portraits traditionally propagates themselves to help create a flattering image for the canvas. Parade of the Dead takes this relationship between the sitter and painter, and reverses the roles of propagandist and audience. Here I have painted my friend as a float among a day of the dead parade. Why? She can't watch horror movies because she lives in the woods by herself. Completely understandable, and unforgettable. Funny thing is, I have an easier time remembering her fears than I do remembering her face.