9/29/2010 2:42:46 PM
You know those metal figurines used to navigate the board in Monopoly? Now imagine those pieces, but smaller. And instead of being made of metal and mass-produced via mold, they’re hand-carved from an infinitely softer substance…on the tiny tip of a pencil. That is what artist and carpenter Dalton Ghetti has spent 25 years of his life creating. Green Diary picked up on Ghetti and his fascinating art, which he creates by working with various tools to carve miniature sculptures on the graphite tips of used pencils. Needless to say: It’s way more impressive than those uninspired hacks at Parker Brothers.
Source: Green Diary
Image by Samu73, licensed under Creative Commons.
9/29/2010 11:37:40 AM
In this continuing series,
Art Director Stephanie Glaros explains the process behind an
In “On Being Fat and Running” the author chooses to forget his inhibitions and go out into the world and run, despite being flabby and out of shape. When I first read the article I saw the visual potential in the scene where the author finally stops worrying about how he might appear to others and begins to enjoy the freedom of running.
When thinking about an artist to hire, Travis Lampe came to mind because I’d seen examples in his work of rotund characters that are humorous, but not ridiculous, and I thought his color palette would fit the carefree mood. In my initial email to him, I said I was looking for an illustration of a “happy, joyful, free, fat guy jogging.” He accepted the commission, and I sent him the story.
The first round of sketches he sent were really fun (above), and reflect Travis’ love of anthropomorphism. My favorite was the one that depicts the runner as an elephant, but Editor-in-Chief David Schimke and I felt that portraying overweight people as elephants might not be the way to go for the magazine. So I asked Travis to refine sketch B for us by having “only the sun cheering him on (keep the clouds and rainbow, just don’t make them characters). And keep the stopwatch.” He sent me a revised sketch, which was perfect (right), except I asked him to change the AC/DC logo to Van Halen in the final art, because we had a recent illustration with a guy in an AC/DC t-shirt. The final illustration (top left) had exactly the fun, free energy I was looking for, and was one of my favorite illustrations in the issue.
Since its inception in 1984,
has relied on talented artists to create original images for stories that express powerful emotions, brilliant new ideas, and humorous storytelling. Browsing through back issues of
is like a tour of “Who’s Who” in the illustration world. Artists Gary Baseman, Brad Holland, Anita Kunz, Bill Plympton, and Seymour Chwast have graced our pages over the years, to name just a few.
9/24/2010 2:50:00 PM
Maybe it’s precisely because I don’t much like dinner parties that I spend so much time fantasizing about dream dinner party guests and ideal seating arrangements. At any rate, one of my perfect scenarios involves being seated between Dorothy Parker and John Waters, and Michael Ehrhardt’s recent interview (in The Gay and Lesbian Review), with the man William Burroughs dubbed the “Pope of Trash,” did nothing but reinforce Waters’ standing on the A-list.
I can take or leave Waters’ films (Hairspray, Pink Flamingos, Polyester), but every interview I’ve encountered with the man has been a marvel, and his new memoir, Role Models, is one of the most entertaining books of the year.
Waters’ back-and-forth with Ehrhardt is a smart, snappy, free-range delight from start to finish.
Read the whole thing, but here are a few highlights:
I really hate people who go on an airplane in sloppy jogging outfits. That’s a major offense today. And I can’t abide people who bore you by talking about their food allergies and special diets, like vegetarians. Of course, I wouldn’t go so far as murdering them.
[In Provincetown] I even lived in this wonderful tree fort, with a rope ladder and small apartments. Some crazy person constructed it; it had no roof, so if it rained you got soaked to the bone. It was owned by Prescott Townsend….He was an early gay liberationist who would ride around on a small motorcycle on the beaches and hand out gay liberation material to people. Mink Stole was going to marry him. Prescott would let you live in his tree fort if he liked you, and you got free hot dogs.
I’m sometimes surprised to have made it this far. I guess now I can attract, uh, guys who are into gerontophilia—which is a really ugly word. But, old chickens make the best soup! I prefer being a “filth elder.”
And, finally, here’s an atonement opportunity for somebody in Hollywood (hello, criminals who financed Hot Tub Time Machine):
I do have a movie called Fruitcake ready to go, but it’s fallen through a couple of times. It’s a children’s Christmas adventure film about a family that steals meat. They’re door-to-door meat salesmen, which we have in Baltimore, who knock on your door and say, “Meatman!” You say, “I want two porterhouse steaks and a pound of ground beef.” And then they shoplift it for you, bring it back, and you pay half of what’s on the label. The young son, named Fruitcake, runs away from home during the holidays, after he and his parents are busted for shoplifting food. He meets up with a runaway girl, who was raised by a gay couple and is searching for her birth mother. Johnny Knoxville and Parker Posey would have starred in it. The people who paid me to write it liked it, but now the production company is no longer there.
The Gay and Lesbian Review
9/21/2010 12:21:39 PM
Radical playwright and occasional essayist Wallace Shawn was recently interviewed by The Believer. Although the interview covers similar ground as former Utne Reader Senior Editor Jeff Severns-Guntzel’s podcast, Shawn shares interesting insights into literary criticism, American theater audiences, and playwright Harold Pinter.
Here’s a choice passage on theater as a source of amusement:
Believer: Do you get exasperated by theater’s limitations and the limitations of reaching an audience? In My Dinner with Andre, your collaborator, the director Andre Gregory, describes his loss of faith in theater. It seems that for you, too, there have been moments where you’ve challenged what theater can be and maybe lost faith in it. Perhaps that’s wrong.
Wallace Shawn: Well, no, certainly in the late ‘80s when I was writing what eventually turned into The Fever, I was thinking, I have had it with theater and may not do it anymore. I was almost obsessed with the fact that anything you put on a stage was interpreted by the audience as an attempt to divert or amuse them in one way or another. A musical was diverting and amusing in a very direct way, so that people would walk out and say, “That was so delightful,” and a serious play was amusing and diverting in a slightly more indirect way, so that people would walk out and say, “Oh, that was shattering,” or “That was so disturbing.” But really, shatteringness or disturbingness were simply other forms of amusement. Being tickled on your toes rather than being tickled in your stomach. It was just a different form of amusement. Whereas what I wanted was something else, maybe something more like the communication between friends or lovers, something more intimate, so that, for example, if a friend or lover says to you, “For god’s sake, could you carry that bag of garbage into the street?” you don’t react by saying, “That was a very amusing remark,” you react by saying, “Yes, I will do that,” or “No, I won’t do that.” The remark is not there just for amusement. I suppose I wanted something more like that.
Source: The Believer (article not available online)
9/15/2010 12:50:52 PM
J.R. Ackerley’s lovely, hilarious, and touching account of his 15-year relationship with the “ideal friend” he never expected to find, was the first title issued in the always reliable NYRB (New York Review of Books) Classics series. Now, the animated adaptation of My Dog Tulip is headed for theaters. I’ll file this under the Department of We Can’t Wait.
Source: New York Review of Books
9/14/2010 3:04:22 PM
Artistic concern over the natural environment is not particularly new. Since at least the Romantic era, artists have been investigating the cost of human intervention in the natural world. Thomas Cole’s 1836 painting “Desolation,” for instance, is as vivid a depiction of post-apocalyptic environmental degradation as any vision dreamt up by Ridley Scott. With this long history of environmentalism, artists today sometimes struggle to touch the public’s nerve, which has been numbed by two hundred years of prodding on the subject.
Minneapolis artist Christine Baeumler’s images in “Amazon Visions, Vanishing Acts,” a show currently running at Minneapolis’ Form + Content gallery, are at first glance just this sort of art. In the main part of this small downtown gallery, Baeumler presents six photographic prints on metal that depict a series animal species—black caimans, river otters, howler monkeys—whose Amazon Rainforest habitats are under siege by human encroachment. The images are from travels Baeumler made last summer to the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve (an expedition, led by biologist Richard Bodmer, that was written up in the July-August issue of Audubon). This five million acres of pristine Amazon rainforest in northeastern Peru was the focus of a search for “scientific clues that will help keep it pristine into the next century,” and Baeumler’s task was to observe and make an artistic record of this real-life environmental rescue mission.
Baeumler’s up-close images of the region’s fauna are made all the more touching by the knowledge that these beautiful creatures are in imminent danger of being wiped from the fragile Amazon Rainforest ecosystem. In keeping with this reality, Baeumler has worked into the images with dark ink and paint washes that mar and obscure the animals. As ruminations on species loss and man-made destruction, these works are elegiac. Still, Baeumler’s disappearing animal images are in line with what we already know, and have long been told, about environmental degradation. Because of this, it’s easy to feel helpless in response to them. If the show stopped there, and these six works were all that “Amazon Visions” presented to us, we would likely leave the gallery with just another modern frustration that we can’t do anything about. Fortunately, though, in the rear room of the gallery Baeumler has mounted one last work — a hauntingly beautiful video that is much more difficult to forget once we walk back out into the city air.
Titled “Amazon Twilight,” it is a simple six-minute film that was made by a camera mounted on Bodmer’s ship as it moves downriver. In the scene, the sun sets overhead, and a lightly clouded sky changes from yellow to orange and pink, then gray and purple, and finally to deep indigo as night falls. In the foreground of the film, softly churning water reflects a mesmerizing rainbow of color that follows in the boat’s wake. In the middle ground is the river’s shore, a tangle of darkening trees and flora.
The power of this video is in the slow lapse of time and the subtle effects that results as the day fades. That is, as we watch the light dimming over one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, we see a gradual loss of color — a symbol perhaps of the dark deeds that mankind has done in the region. The slow and ominous movement through time is not unlike traveling into Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, or into the terrible “sublime” that most Romantic artists thought resided in the dark corners of the natural world. And yet, the power of Baeumler’s video comes when we realize that as the light over the river dies, softly and with natural inevitability, this is exactly when the river comes most deafeningly alive. Once the sky is dark, and we feel the tug of dread, the river actually becomes more wildly alive with the sounds of insects, birds, and other creatures. Fireflies begin to dance over the water’s surface, and distant flashes of lightning occasionally brighten the sky. Life, the video seems to suggest, will continue, will be beautiful — even as darkness falls.
In the end, the piece makes a memorable visual rumination on the nature of our existence and our relationship to the living world. It amounts to a subtle, and unique, plea for us to remain aware of the precious, and still vibrant, life that exists in places we often are unable to see.
Image by Christine Baeumler
Michael Fallon is a guest blogger for Utne.com. He is a writer and arts administrator based out of St. Paul, Minnesota. His work has appeared in Art in America, American Craft, Public Art Review, Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine, the OC Weekly, City Pages, and many other publications.
9/10/2010 8:57:58 AM
Bidoun has a great interview with band members of Hypernova in their latest issue. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? The four rockers from Iran talked about the music scene in Tehran, what it was like to discover other bands in their country, and coming to the United States. Here’s a great snippet where Raam explains his theory about popular musical artists in Iran:
Raam: I remember my first cassette was a Queen tape. A lot of Pink Floyd, obviously. I was a huge fan, and I still am.
Negar Azimi: Why is Pink Floyd so big in Iran?
Raam: Pink Floyd is so big. And Dire Straits, they’re huge in Iran.
Negar Azimi: Dire Staits?
Raam: I have this stupid theory that someone came to Iran in, like 1985, with a box full of cassette tapes. And that tape collection was all we had until satellite TV came. I think it’s as simple as that. Then the internet came along, and suddenly we were up to date with the rest of the world.
Source: Bidoun (article not available online)
9/8/2010 3:44:32 PM
Heavy metal is the bastard son of the music industry. Let’s be serious. Metal is obnoxiously theatrical, self-indulgent, aggressively provocative, overtly masculine, and doesn’t age well. Or, to put that same sentiment politely, metal is a slowly acquired taste. But that doesn’t mean the infamous genre is without merit.
Despite its crusty appearance, heavy metal’s musicianship can only be described as athletic. From blast-beats to poly-rhythms, the instrumentation is objectively impressive. And according to New York-based voice instructor Claudia Friedlander, the same is true for metal vocals. On her blog The Liberated Voice—on which she explores new ideas about vocal technique—Friedlander candidly critiques metal vocalists with occupational precision and enthusiasm. For example, she holds Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson in high-esteem:
I have nothing but admiration for this singer. Listen how he starts off with a soft growl, then moves seamlessly into a well-supported, sustained high full-voice sound that then evolves into an effortless long scream! His diction is easily intelligible, regardless of the range he’s singing in or the effect he’s going for. He achieves an intensely rhythmic delivery of the lyrics without losing legato and musical momentum, something a lot of classical singers struggle with, especially when interpreting the many staccato and accent markings that crowd scores by Bellini, Donizetti, etc.
Compare that to Friedlander’s take on Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne:
This is a singer with decent diction and good musical instincts but no command of vocal technique. He is massively over-adducting his vocal folds while driving enough air through them to get them to speak, but his throat is so tight that there is no flow or resonance. His rhythmic punctuation of the lyrics is very distracting, in contrast with [Bruce Dickinson] who delivered his text with rhythmic accents that served, rather than detracted from the flow of music and poetry . . . The entire range of his singing is contained within a single octave – with the exception of the moment when he yells “Oh Lord!” a little higher, in my opinion the only quasi-free vocal sound on the entire track [“War Pigs”].
(Note: the author of this post is a metal aficionado.)
Source: The Liberated Voice
Image by notsogoodphotography, licensed under Creative Commons.
9/2/2010 12:58:32 PM
On the website The Wilderness Downtown the über-indie band Arcade Fire offers fans personalized music videos, labeling them a “Chrome Experiment” that are “[m]ade with some friends from Google.” (Chrome is Google’s web browser and the site recommends that you use Chrome to get the whole experience of the video.) Visitors to the site are instructed to type the address of the home where they grew up. What ensues are a series of videos interacting with one another, personalized to the address the user put it using Google map images, as well as a page for viewers to interact with the video and write a message of their own, all set to the song "We Used To Wait" by Arcade Fire.
Whether or not you’re a fan of Arcade Fire, or of Google for that matter, this is a pretty interesting step for music video. And a pretty wild ride.
Get your own personalized video, or check out the video for Utne’s offices.
This isn't Arcade Fire's first foray into interactive music video, though. An article in the January 2010 issue of Creative Review profiles Vincent Morisset (article not available online) and his work with the band on the interactive websites for Neon Bible and the song Black Mirror.
Source: The Wilderness Downtown
Image from an interactive film by Chris Milk.
9/2/2010 12:09:06 PM
Whether you call it “post-postmodern,” “altermodern,” or “nonaesthetic,” contemporary art is less tenuous than ever. Disparate threads of post-colonialism, globalism, commercialism, and (insert preferred –ism, ad infinitum) work to intertwine the international community of artists and, at the same time, chip away at our notions of artistic discipline, medium, and purpose.
Writing on the future of art for The Chronicle Review’s “Defining Idea of the Next Decade” issue, James Elkins predicts that the next 10 years will bring dramatic change to art studies, splitting the study of art history from visual studies. Elkins writes:
In academe this will be played out in a collision of fields, as newer disciplines like postcolonial studies and visual studies collide with older disciplines like art history and art theory. Visual studies looks at popular culture, mass media, television, and advertising. Postcolonial studies considers art as an effect of class, ethnicity, socioeconomic conditions, and power relations. Art history has always cared about value—it matters that Michelangelo really is a good artist, and not just a symbol of Florentine or Roman identity—and so art history has difficulty with ways of understanding art that are based on economics, politics, and social functions. The two approaches, visual studies and art history, create a kind of unstable oil-and-water mixture in academic writing.
Perhaps the need for thoughtful art criticism and academic research is more pressing than ever. “As in all historical changes, much will be lost,” concludes Elkins. “My hope is that the celebratory mood of the new art and scholarship will not obscure the fact that the new art, which seems too much fun to resist, is deeply problematic. No one knows what contemporary international art expresses, or how best to interpret it.”
Source: The Chronicle Review
Image by See-ming Lee, licensed under Creative Commons.
9/2/2010 9:41:20 AM
The wah-wah pedal isn’t just an electric guitar effect, it’s a peacemaker, famous MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer tells Wax Poetics in an extended oral history of the device:
“I partnered with Billy Bragg this year in a nonprofit initiative called Jail Guitar Doors. What we do is provide instruments for those who work with prisoner rehabilitation to use music as a meditative process to learn the discipline of writing a song, to express yourself in a new and nonconfrontational way, a way to express deep feelings positively. I think it’s a very powerful tool in building self-worth. I’ve been to prison, and I know how it feels to be there. ...
“I see the wah-wah as a tool that the electric guitarist uses, and it evokes a certain familiarity. When you use it in a certain way, with traditional chords and rhythm structures, people identify with it. I’ll tell you, when I was in prison, I played in the prison band. You know I’m not a gangster, and I’m not a killer, but I got respect in prison because of the wah-wah. I remember one day, a couple of gangsters came by my house, and they looked in, and they said, ‘Oh yeah, you the white boy that plays the wah-wah. Yeah, you all right.’ (laughs) There’s an identification with the wah-wah; it’s a cultural touchstone.”
Well, for some it is. One other great quote in the story comes from wah-wah inventor Del Casher, who eagerly demonstrated his new creation for James Brown:
“I said, ‘James, this is the hottest thing. Man, you’re going to love this.’ I played it for him. And he looked at me, and he says, ‘But Del, why do you want the guitar to go wah?’ ”
Source: Wax Poetics (article not available online)
Image by eurok, licensed under Creative Commons.
9/1/2010 11:35:44 AM
In the past artist Patrick Maun has tackled genocide through "the politically potent medium of the poster" and other mediums in his Genocide Project:
Never again. Throughout history, every country and every people has repeated this simple maxim. Yet genocide continues to happen with a surprising regularity. According to the organization Genocide Watch, the crime is currently occurring in over three dozen countries. While genocide spans human history, I am most interested in modern genocide. The term itself is of recent origin – coined by legal scholar and tireless crusader Raphael Lemkin in 1943.
The Genocide Project is a multi-part artistic exploration of modern violence begun in 2005.
Maun’s most recent poster (Can You Hear Me Now?) for the latest Poster Offensive—a project started in response to the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004—takes on the issue of “conflict minerals in Africa and our dependence on them for high-tech gadgets, computers and other detritus of daily life.”
Cassiterite, which is the mineral I write about in this poster, is actually being touted as a green solution to tin and other more harmful minerals…. The narratives here show two perspectives of artisanal mining through the eyes of a pro-mining marketing piece, and those of a mine porter.
Images by Patrick Maun.
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