T: Corn field adjacent to M. Schettle Sales, Inc. Oshkosh, WI
L: I never got to tell you about crashing my first car in that field….I thought about it but then became distracted…..imagine…..distracted.
T: Wow. The picture has become a picture of something else now that you tell me that (in a good way). It reminds me of Van Gogh’s painting of crows flying above a corn wheat field (it was also the last painting of his life, before he killed himself). It takes on new meaning. Btw, I also crashed my first car in a corn field. I was in high school and it was the winter.
21 August 2010
T: Corn field adjacent to M. Schettle Sales, Inc. Oshkosh, WI
11 August 2010
Three of Chicago's Architecture Icons (via the Riverboat Cruise)
Chicago Architecture via the Riverboat Cruise, Part II
27 January 2010
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
21 January 2010
15 January 2010
thirty thousand in the air
look what I can do!
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12 January 2010
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
11 January 2010
10 January 2010
09 January 2010
The attraction is not hard to understand: there is an interest in solitude, in city life, in the solace of the night. I think Edward Hopper had, in different ways, been unusually alive to the power of the liminal traveling space. His figures seem far from home; they sit or stand alone, they gaze out of the window of a moving train or read a book in a hotel lobby. Their faces are introspective. They have perhaps just left someone or been left; they are in search, adrift in transient places.
But in Hopper’s hands, the isolation is made poignant and enticing. The twenty-four hour diner, the station waiting room, and the motel are sanctuaries for those who have, for noble reasons, failed to find a home in the ordinary world. Others in the room may be on their own as well, men and women drinking coffee by themselves, similarly lost in thought, similarly distanced from society. The woman in Automat seems in such a frame of mind, staring at her cup of coffee and shifting her gaze between the coffee and the view.
08 January 2010
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07 January 2010
Aside from plaid, another hipster trait: pattern on pattern. (I assure you @releaseparty they are all 100% natural fibers.)
I was trying to put my finger in the latest trend in popular fashion. I think it's Vintage Americana. That is the Levi's, Walt Whitman campaign. It's plaid. It's simple pattern. Just enough pattern to be targeted as too boring or plain; pragmatic in its approach. It's at once both rustic (heralding our pioneer roots) and city hipster chic (modern twist).
06 January 2010
The last three students to walk into my classroom all had plaid on. At least it’s a (hipster?) trend I am ahead of. Like 6 months ahead. Being a better teenager than they are.
05 January 2010
04 January 2010
Untitled #2 (for now). From a series I am continuing to work on using images from my childhood home (high prole upbringing?). These images are stylistically influenced by a favorite photographer Josef Sudek.
I think with these images I might be trying to justify an authentic experience. It probably stems from a want to be more upper class, not wanting to appear proletariat.
03 January 2010
Untitled (for now). From a series I am beginning to work on using images from my childhood home. This one is influenced by a favorite photographer Josef Sudek.
02 January 2010
I was recovering from the New Year's Eve. I woke up and decided then I needed to get of the city. I needed to clear my mind from the night (year?) before. I called up Michael and told him I needed to do something completely comfortable and banal, like walking through a casino. (I was not about to push boundaries or explore new horizons.)
So we left the city, to the California boarder. To do something completely Las Vegas, to meander through the outlet mall and casinos in Primm. Only reaction need be involved. That, strangely, is like comfort food to me. Maybe it’s the hub-bub, that constant, canned winning sound. I like taking in the decor, the the casino carpet: at once gaudy and entertaining. Who designs that stuff anyway? I want it in my house. Despite all the chaos ensuing and problems associated with the idea of a casino, it is comfortable.
So what to do about this problem. The blog has been sitting dormant for some time now. And that doesn’t feel right either. I need deadlines. I need to be concise. I want more of my ideas to make it to the publishing step. After Fighting… will be structured on the idea that I will take one photo each day over the next year. Then I may or may not add additional commentary. The things I write about may be directly based on or juxtaposed with the photo I post.
This isn’t one of my New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions are crutches for people who can’t resolve their problems when they arise. I would hope that a person would be able to make ongoing resolutions throughout the year, when it makes sense for them to do so, not when the mass of society is doing the same inane task.
No, After Fighting… is spurred by the same catharsis from its inception: that when after you have wrestled and wrestled with something in your life, all you can do is let go, give into it. To make the best of the future you might have to disregard the tragic past and make things work, because they have to. Make it stupid, banal; turn it around and make it work for yourself. Really, there is no choice involved. Kate Gleason (the author of the poem for which this blog is named) writes: “’After Fighting for Hours’ was the result of trying to write about what it takes to keep a marriage together over the long haul, to go the distance, and how the key to doing that is often of an elemental, illogical, and nonverbal nature, simply letting the dumb animals of our bodies take their course.”
'After Fighting' continues...
17 February 2009
I took this photograph on my way out West, America's furthermost left, geographically and arguably, politically. My car had not, until that point, ever traveled that far west, it felt as though I was trekking into unknowns, like those pioneers had done, a hundred and fifty years ago in their westward expansion. This was the first time I had driven, explored by myself, so far west. At the same time, I feel the times in which we live, considering the historic election and inauguration of President Obama, is the furthest "left" our country has ever gone. Even though the pioneers might have geographically succeeded in realizing Manifest Destiny, I think America (today) has taken another (progressive) step in recognizing "The American Dream."
18 December 2008
You know, I think I am more excited now, as a teacher, when there is a snowday than when I was a student (both comical and ironic?). At any rate this is decidedly good because I have a lot of busy work to catch up on before my flight leaves tomorrow: laundry, packing, frosting and decorating Christmas cookies, and last minute school business (which obviously I am putting off to do more pressing things...like blogging and facebook. Below are some photos of this rarity.
15 December 2008
I am put off by what I should have remembered: The only point to becoming a teacher is to become a student. Stop dressing like a teacher. After all, does not American myth takes its meaning from adolescence?
So in a vain attempt to stay hip, I bought my first pair of Vans shoes a few weeks ago. It was starting to get cold here finally, and my sandals had seen their better days, so I went shopping. Nearly ALL of my students own at least one, if not many more, pairs of these shoes. I haven’t quite put my finger on why they are so appealing. Perhaps it is their simple, classic design, while at the same time, coming in countless designs and colors. (Everyone has the same shoe, the need to “fit in,” be like everyone else, while at the same time maintaining ones own sense of identity, sense of individuality.)
The spectator infers from this rite that the individual life does not matter. The American experience.
I almost forgot how the shopping mall is THE hangout place for high school-ers, since they have in innate, social need to get away from their parents and hangout with friends, but aren’t old enough to go out to bars or clubs, on top of the fact they have zero financial responsibility outside their own retail whims. At any rate I felt, once again, like a teenager shopping on a Friday night for my new shoes. I settled on the classic black and white checkered pair.
Instantly hip. Two weeks later I bought two more pairs: another checkered and a plaid pair.
I was shopping with my Filipino friends, one of whom, despite being well out of high school, can pull of skinny jeans. So, as I was shopping with friends who can pull off skinny jeans, and I took a look around at all of the high school-ers at the mall wearing skinny jeans, I felt the need to jump on this cultural-fad bandwagon.
All of a sudden, it came to me: I have jeans I no longer wear because I don’t like the way they fit. And I have students who are also in Fashion class, and the Fashion teacher is a good colleague…Which only logically left me with one answer: my students would become my new
So now I have Vans and skinny jeans, which makes me
22 November 2008
Alyssa wrote at 5:52pm
What is the world coming to. First, my mom joined facebook and now you. It's a good thing I only get the joys of technology a few hours every few months. I don't think I can handle all of these advancements.
:) I miss you
Wall-to-Wall - Write on Alyssa's Wall
I am sure some (including myself in the recent past) would argue they are better off not caring about such matters. But is it my obligation to “study” this phenomenon, even if I don’t want to? Perhaps (evidently) it is.
In a letter to a friend:
… whereas a letter takes longer to compose (as we must more thoroughly compose our thoughts before we pen the thoughts to the paper) I can relay the same message to you in person, seemingly more personably (exactly?). And you know me and Facebook: Where is peoples’ time going these days – to ephemeral internet preoccupations?
Though these newer types of communication may indeed be the new letter writing, I just think these new forms of communication tear down more authentic types, like direct meetings, and, maybe more accurately, less time is spent composing such thoughts and conversations…
[July 20, 2005]
Until very recently, my only knowledge of Facebook was that it was a website created by a twenty-something university student, who sold it for a billion dollars. I am sure I could read the entire history of Facebook summarized in an article on Wikipedia, or I could simply and ask a few questions to the first high school student who walks into my classroom. For many reasons, this is one phenomenon that I had opted out of.
I do know what is important: the degree to which all of culture is defined by what happens to be the most popular at any given time. Over time, this website (and in general, Web 2.0) will come to represent the mainstream ethos of our future popular culture. And until recently, I had no interest in any of it. (Learning occurs best when there is a desire to attain specific knowledge.)
Me: one of my arugments for not joining was that the average facebook user spends 20 minutes a day on facebook, which seems like a long time, until i actually joined. now i know why
Friend: um id say like an 1hr a day bc i sign on at least 5 times a day lol. im sad i know lol
Me: it probably is more, i read that statistic a long time ago
Friend: wait there was a stat?! lol. sad
Me: so they are probably all laughing at me spending so much time on facebook. i refused to join, and now am on it 24/7. death by facebook
Then I moved across the country, away from all of my friends and family. Fundamental to the effectiveness of living 2000 miles away from friends and family is how to maintain communication. Moreover, difficult tasks seem easier when they are “need to know” rather than “nice to know.” A course in art history is nice to know, but contemplating Facebook satisfies a fundamental need for communication.
I wondered: “How much of a problem was this distance and hesitation towards Facebook going to become?” Even in my stoic regard of the future, I still have to ask why things have to go the way of Facebook. My resolution is plain: things will. Part of me has realized that there is an intangible downside to having complete intellectual detachment from whatever most Americans consider to be common knowledge.
Me: Guessing you found me on facebook?
Friend: ha yeah i did, totally creepy i know
Me: I am beginning to find out how creepy facebook can be. I had avoided joining it for years now, much to the dismay of my friends. well i gave in. and now i find myself finding people from years past. in a certain way i feel stalkerish
Friend: ha no i totally know what you mean i feel ober stalkerish but i mean its not like im like "stalking" them. I mean i use it to keep up with friends
Me: yea i know, that is how i need to think of it. it’s networking, not stalking
Over the last few years I have found my criticism of Facebook becomes eccentricity. The networking savvy users logging on to Facebook will almost certainly go on to influence mass media. In five, ten, fifteen years, they will be publishing books and directing films, using their shared knowledge and experiences as the foundation for discourse. So I wondered: “Because I don’t understand Facebook, am I doomed to become disconnected, thereby misunderstanding everything else?”
As I think out the process it becomes more and more related to philosophy. either I can choose to become the rogue dissident who conforms to none other than his own desires. Or the individual can conform to an established system or trend. The true challenge is achieving comfort. What if resolve can belong to the person who most readily absorbs into the trend?
11 November 2008
----- Original Message -----
Date: May 26, 2007 8:41:22 AM PDT
Hey Tony-- I just read your latest blog entry, and I really think you should switch your blog to blogger or wordpress or vox so that we can all leave lovely comments on your entries.
Change (begrudgingly) made.
'After Fighting' has moved. Its old home was foreclosed upon a couple of weeks ago. Its new home is at Blogger, which I am happy about, but it hasn't come without moving pains.
A couple of weeks ago, while attempting to post, I realized I was unable to upload to the server (owned by the University I used to attend) I had been using (perhaps bumming is the right word) to house my blog. I don't know how the University found out about this (I blame Ernesto) or why the University cared that I was using their server space, but at any rate, I was kicked out.
Ernesto. (Also a representation of how my attitude when I learned I would have to move my blog.)
Not that a move wasn't long overdue, it is just that I wasn't ready to find a new place. Perhaps I would have never been ready to move, that the only way I would have moved was to be evicted from the space I was using. So do I blame Ernesto? Or do I forget about the fighting (for hours) and move on, set up a new shop, and continue posting?
Obviously I have done the latter. It has taken hours (many of them fighting) to learn the code behind blogger so that 'After Fighting' could look similar to its prior appearance (I proceed with an impulse to hold onto the past, with my penchant for all things European, particularly European memory), and more importantly, so that it didn't look like one of those "right out of the box" templates used in countless blogs (queer survival lays in artifice, in decorating, syntax, couture, in short, having voice: the realm of taste).
But, I have digressed into another (future) conversation.
Why complain about an event that already happened? You can’t change the past, all you have left is the future. We can either loathe our predicament and become caught up in it, or move on. To make the best of the future you might have to disregard the tragic past and make things work, because they have to.
And so in true existential fashion After Fighting for Hours is (re)born, named in honor of a poem by Kate Gleason and written like Pliny, the ancient author, did.
Needless to say, this is the new home of After Fighting for Hours. I will be attempting to migrate the entire blog in the upcoming months. For now, you can see all of my old posts here.
10 November 2008
There! With that swipe of the brush, three layers of polish, the past has been obliterated. The nails gleam like new. You can feel like a new person: how promising and exciting at once.
A few days later, on my way home from work on Election Day, I stopped to pick up a bottle of red wine to have with dinner. I stood staring, my eyes rapidly shuffling (read faltering) over the mass of brands and varieties. I was baffled as to which wine to choose: Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz-Cabernet, Cabernet-Merlot, overwhelmed. Fatigued by the amount of choices, and wanting my choices edited, I finally settled on the variety of [yellow tail] with the blue label.
Not because I was particularly craving that variety (I can't even remember which I chose), but for the simple and sole reason that its label was blue. I chose it instantly and took it as a sign, foreshadowing of the outcome of the election and the direction of the nation: the impending inevitability of Obama.
This is a new age. I approved of the swipe of the polish’s small brush which could erase history, and the bottle with the blue label (along with the millions of voters) that represented some new force in America, an undoing of the Bush administration, doctrine.
01 November 2008
Fresh & Easy is a chain of small supermarkets on the West Coast of the United States. It’s a subsidiary of the UK-based retailer Tesco, the world's fourth largest retailer, and is Tesco's attempt to expand into (economically re-colonize?) the United States. It has plans for rapid growth - the first stores opened a year ago, and there are now 93 stores in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. (They plan to open a new one every two-and-a-half days in America, to mimic the successful expansion of pharmacy chains such as Walgreens in the U.S. Creepy or… amazing?)
Perhaps a back story on Tesco is in order. They should have been included in my anecdotal, quasi-analytic run-down of supermarkets in England. Frankly, I don’t know how I even overlooked mentioning them. Well, anyway, here it is: a day late and a dollar short. Tesco is a British-based international grocery and general merchandising retail chain. It has the largest British retailer, and in 2008, Tesco became the world's fourth largest retailer. Originally specializing in food and drink, it has “diversified” into areas such as clothing, consumer electronics, consumer financial services, retailing and renting DVDs, CDs, music downloads, Internet service, and software (among others. Read: the Wal-mart effect).
A Tesco Express store in London
Though, I have to admit, that when I was living in Manchester I frequented the Tesco Express (on an every-other-day basis). Tesco Express stores, like the Fresh & Easy groceries, are neighborhood convenience shops, stocking mainly food. They are found in busy city center districts as well as small shopping precincts in residential areas. Tesco (like the Fresh & Easy stores here, provide an simple-living solution by offering fresh, organic healthy options that are quick and easy.
A Fresh & Easy market in Las Vegas
I think that is why I love this little grocery store. It has mostly natural and organic stuff, and most made without preservatives/artificial colors and such. Their milk is made without cows that were fed those funky hormones. Prices overall aren't bad, so I've gone here quite a bit for my grocery shopping, and the staff is very friendly and personable. Only down side is that it is a bit small, so they don't have a great selection of a lot of things. But that is also to their benefit.
I think shoppers are also becoming choice fatigued and want their choices edited; I know I am overwhelmed by the number of brands of sour cream to choose from. Tesco and Fresh & Easy once again answer by only carrying private label and just the category brand leaders.
Even in their aesthetic: their stores have a look that is both green-minded and at the same time modern-minimal. Fresh & Easy has made a commitment to building eco-friendly buildings. It recycles or reuses shipping and display products. Its food transportation trailers are hybrid electric-diesel. Stores are equipped with LED lights in freezers, coolers and for outdoor signage. Their stores even have reserved parking for hybrid cars.
And lastly, people are not cooking as much but are more sophisticated about eating. Fresh & Easy’s answer: outstanding take-away meals at a great value. They put together many pre-prepared (refrigerated, not frozen) fresh foods that are healthy in a sort of suburban-chic way that one might think are from a trendy restaurant if they were removed from their packaging and served on a plate.
But I have to say their stores (no matter which one you patronize) are easy to navigate! So I guess the store lives up to its name.
Anyway, there is the low-down on grocery culture in Vegas.
14 September 2008
After gallery hoping and complaining about the amount of quality work, we of course had to go shopping, where we both picked out the same scarf to buy. We of course made our purchases and afterwards, even though we must be twins separated at birth, vowed never to wear our matching scarves at the same time when around the other. It didn’t even work for the Olsen twins. (The American ideology of individualism is always at war with the experience of a shared culture.)
I know the cold stares that unwelcome the (summer) scarf as an accessory, as a piece of clothing that helps to regulate white body temperature in all situations. America's deep puritanical strain is evident in our questioning of ‘fashion’ comes the question, “Why do white people like scarves so much?”
White peoples’ body temperatures do not operate on logical or consistent levels, and because of this white people are often wear clothing combinations that might seem strange or illogical. A common combination is wearing shorts with a sweatshirt that helps bring about comfort when your upper body is chilly but your lower half is sweltering.
During winter months, it’s no surprise to find white people all bundled up with scarves around their necks – it just makes sense. But even as the weather warms up and the other layers start to fall off, the scarf remains.
Not all white people wear scarves for temperature reasons. In fact, it’s not a rare occurrence to see a white person in a t-shirt, jeans, and a scarf. A scarf can be an essential part of an ensemble, allowing for important differentiation from other white people wearing the exact same clothes as them, thus allowing them to be picked out of the crowd for any number of purposes:
(Puritans distrust the efficacy of fashion. Art. Theatre.)
The Globe Theatre was officially closed by order of the dominant Puritan religious faction in 1642 and demolished in 1644.
In the last thirty or so years, Westerners who wear the keffiyeh have done so for at least one of two reasons: increased sympathy and activism by Westerners toward Palestinians in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian Conflict have lead to the wearing of keffiyehs around the neck like a neckerchief as a political/fashion statement, as a sign of their solidarity with the Palestinian people; or simply because it looks kind of hip slung around the neck.
Traditionally worn by rural Palestinian peasants, the keffiyeh became a symbol of Palestinian nationalism in the 1930s. Its prominence resurfaced in the 1960s with the beginning of the Palestinian resistance movement and its adoption by Arafat.
Ironically, this symbol of Palestinian identity is now largely imported from China. Let us consider the effect of American culture on civilization. In 2008, Yasser Hirbawi, who for five decades had been the only Palestinian manufacturer of keffieyehs told Reuters that “Two years ago I had to close down my factory because I couldn’t compete with Chinese-made keffiyehs that sell for less.”
As with other articles of clothing worn in wartime, such as the T-shirt and khaki pants, the keffiyeh has been seen as chic among non-Arabs in the West. The scarf has been in and out of style in Europe for the last couple of decades, but in the past few years, Americans have sported it as a fashion accessory, usually worn as a scarf around the neck – as often oblivious of its “political meaning” as not. Urban Outfitters started selling “anti-war keffiyehs” in 2007, but then pulled the keffiyehs after “a pro-Israeli activist… complained about the items” and issued a statement that “the company had not intended ‘to imply any sympathy for or support of terrorists or terrorism.’”
So let’s briefly rewind for the benefit of those who from sheer lack of knowledge contend that the keffiyeh offers symbolic support for “Islamic extremism”, has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad, and is a regular adornment of Muslim terrorists appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos.
It is interesting to note the keffiyeh was adopted by British soldiers during World War II, after which its utility made it an essential part of the wardrobes of not only European forces, but Australian, and indeed, American troops in the Middle East. For the most part, soldiers wear the keffiyeh in arid climates to provide protection from direct sun exposure, as well as for in protecting the mouth and eyes from blown dust and sand.
What happens when a nation or people readily absorb a foreign culture? One would assume that because the keffiyeh has been worn by peace activists, terrorists, Saudis, US troops, and hipsters, its expression of iconography would begin to lose its political significance. How, then, shall we describe Americanization, except as loss? America is the country where one stops being Italian or Chinese or German. If we want to all don our own keffiyehs since when does that necessitate Islamic extremism and anti-Semitism? America represents the freedom to re-create the world.
American’s lustily devour what they say they fear to become. (We learn to eat with chopsticks. We swing at piñatas for our 5 year-old birthday party. We wear keffiyehs.)
Donning my scarf at Arches National Park during the Dog Days of August (read: dreaded heat; not to mention the aridity of the desert).
America is a dynamic society. Cultures are inducted into the American textbook, not merely as symbols of diversity, but as cultures that implicate our entire society. Without doubt, a multi-ethnic society and blurring of social boundaries that accompanies it doesn’t come without a sense of anxiety; imaginings of the exotic – the cultural ‘other’ – is at once glamour and dangerous. Difference is dangerous; dangerous is sexy, chic.
02 September 2008
Intuition tells me I was meant for some other city.
Las Vegas! Sin city. America's playground. The city can still seem, by comparison with where we came from, paradise.
I moved here (read: drove across country), with the help of Chris, at the beginning of August, to start my new job, teaching Photography at Del Sol High School.
I came across this email Tabitha sent me over a year ago, but I think its relevance is just as poignant now that I have movedaway (from Wisconsin) (again).
----- Original Message -----
Date: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 7:18 pm
Subject: Re: elitism
When you left, all culture and civilization left with you. I've barricaded myself in a fortress with bricks of egocentricity that are held together by the mortar of elitism. I hear that all is well, and the tidbits of blog I've read have been both amusing and insightful, as usual per Tony.
It's true I have neglected my duties(?) with After Fighting (as a bastion of cultural insight?), but its one of its original intentions was to keep my friends and family informed of my travel experiences, whilst far away from home. Upon my return from Manchester last summer, After Fighting waned; my posts became fewer and farther between. I was living back in Wisconsin, hanging out with friends more, or at least keeping in closer contact with them, so the need to post diminished. I could have these cultural conversations with Tabitha and John when I visited them in Madison or with my short-term roommates, Alyssa and Jess, in Oshkosh.
But now that I am away from them I have decided to take up my post(ing) once again. We will necessarily have novel thoughts that sprout from our observations of these new places. These different observations and thoughts if not recorded will inevitably be lost. They are unlike thoughts at home that are encountered on a daily basis. We will more often and more likely revisit the familiar objects of home simply by virtue that we are surrounded by them all the time.
New places are a rich source of information and altered perspectives. I’ve been fortunate to have traveled to a number places, always carrying the lightest baggage (I moved everything important to me to Las Vegas in a Chevy Cavalier).
The West – its manifesto – leave everything behind. Say goodbye to the world you thought you lived in.
The immediate motives for our journeys are personal; but they might also be said to have belonged to a broader historical movement dating back to the middle of the nineteenth century, in which “settlers” (such a misnomer) began for the first time to travel in great numbers to the West in an attempt to “tame” this uncharted land – the muse of the “discoverer”, at once wanderlust and bounty.
Something hopeful was created in the West through the century of its Protestant settlement. The schoolroom myth of America described an ocean – “internal immigrants” leaving behind time zones, desiring something new, better – but what exactly? People believed that in the West they could begin new lives.
Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1968, 11 x 14 inches. Photographer Robert Adams explored new housing tracts that were being built along the Colorado Front Range in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The developments filled with people who had migrated west in search of a new Eden, only to discover themselves isolated in an artificial landscape.
The West (to the Midwestern) is a sad place, really – a place created by American children, a place of prefabricated houses and prefabricated New England or European attitudes, a place of pale beer, a place that only honors the future. At this point, I can only marvel at the comic achievement of the West, their defiance of history, the defiance of ancestors.
A place of hundreds of houses; houses where there used to be fields. Robert Adams, Newly Completed Tract House, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1968, 11 x 14 inches.
At any rate, I'm back. More to come.
09 December 2007
State Street in downtown Madison ("70 square miles surrounded by reality), would have perhaps been a more obvious choice for art and culture is also the home of many independent art studios and galleries, and is always alive with the roar of Wisconsin (read progress, liberalism, the avant-garde). Still the Madison is home to a decidedly more chic, glossy scene.
Once a hub for lead and zinc miners, Mineral Point is now known for its historic preservation efforts and thriving arts community. Over the last 15 years the city has come to life, and many who have migrated there are involved with the arts. The town has been attracting artists and artisans since the 1930s, and now more than 20 own galleries and studios while others work out of their homes.
Mineral Point seems to have rejected the avant-garde, passion for the new. There seems to be people coming through who have an eye for architecture and care about restoring it, so concerned, in fact, new limestones have been unearthed and sandblasted to blend buildings into the historic surroundings. There, the Wisconsin State Historical Society preserves a remarkable group of Cornish miners' houses from the 1830's and 1840's, built in limestone and timber, and modeled after similar simple dwellings in England.
Today, it seems for most communities, growth is defined by the addition of subdivisions, strip malls, and a Wal-Mart, but in Mineral Point (one of the oldest towns in the state) growth is more closely associated with words like redevelopment, restoration, and preservation. Mineral Point is one of the few places where you can feel like you’re in a different time. No traffic lights here. The closest this city of just over 2,600 comes to fast food is a couple of competing sandwich shops.
The artwork in the Mineral Point galleries, of course, aren't as “challenging” (read pretentious) or "out there" as what you'd see at, say, at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art or Chazen Museum of Art. But what does that word – “challenging” even mean; what does it imply? Cassie and I talked to a handful of artists, who own galleries there, about this (cultural?) distance between the Madison and Mineral Point art scenes. The two scenes seem like different planets, each with a people who have different artistic ends than the other.
This makes the galleries of Mineral Point very accessible to those who may have been turned off by the aesthetics of avant-garde art in the past. Most galleries are staffed by the artists themselves, so the person behind the desk is uniquely poised to talk about their art and approach. Taste is no longer reserved for those “in the know,” academics or the connoisseurs. You’re going to get a different crowd in Mineral Point than at a Madison gallery. You’ll get all kinds of people (read folks) who aren’t in the art world.
Perhaps no one typifies this move, and shift in thinking, than ceramic artist Bruce Howdle, who recently left his ceramics lecturer position at UW-Madison to return to his alma mater in Platteville to teach ceramics and sculpture. It’s a story of a professor and artist who leaves the capital city university (read elitist liberalism) for the (conceptual?) tranquility of a small, equally bohemian-artistic town in southwestern Wisconsin. Visitors to his restored 1875 studio and gallery may find him working on drawings for new mural commissions or, like when Cassie and I visited, he was covered with wet clay from a session on his potter's wheel (despite so, he was stillmore than happy to oblige us with the full tour of his studio). Bruce sculpts big commissioned relief wall murals which he installs in public locations around the country.
Gallery and working studio of Bruce Howdle, featuring his collection of uniquely designed mugs, steins, vases, and relief wall murals- and the famous life-size, stoneware pigs.
To some Madisonians, Mineral Point is immediately suspect, probably seen as a backward city of beer, babushkas and bowling. Meanwhile, there is similar criticism (typecasting) from some of my old acquaintances in Mineral Point, who see Madison as a politically correct back-water of vegetarian, tree-hugging, wine-sipping, liberal bureaucrats.
Madison can at times be hopelessly clueless; a town of pretentious people, who think they have all of the answers. This state, of course, is home of the Wisconsin Idea, the notion that the “best thinkers” at the University of Wisconsin (-Madison) should help solve the citizens’ problems. Many campus leaders believe the Wisconsin Idea Project has the potential to promote a “transformative” cultural shift. And, as a result of the Wisconsin Idea Project, Wisconsin citizens will become more aware of how UW-Madison impacts and benefits their lives.
It is bizarre. Two cities just 40 miles and minutes away from each other seemed more like different continents, separated by the state’s own Mason Dixon-styled line of misunderstanding. The caricatured view each city has of the other can be amusing but in the long run hurts our conception of what art is (and isn’t).
Avant-garde art also faces political dangers rooted in its own practice: its tendency to define its audience as necessarily inferior and ignorant. The problem being, this attitude reestablishes the hegemony of elitist, high culture. The avant-garde itself is eminently vulnerable to social and historical amnesia, forgetting traditions and relations outside the confines of its own artistic discourse. The avant-garde has always been stuck in the world of art rather than the real world as a basis for the work. The necessary result however, is the “elitist” categorization of culture either leaves out the contributions of others or marginalizes them as “folk traditions.”
However, the avant-garde notion of art, which asserts the value of pure creativity, and (un-coincidentally?) regards itself as an elite at war with all of society, is no longer considered a credible explanation of how visual art is generated and communicated. The argument follows the premise that art is not made in a vacuum; there is no possible way to break the unity of art and life. Certainly art should be should have meaning; it is to be rooted in life experiences and interests. Hence, art is a means of communication between one man and another. Just as language transmits thought, so does art.
Indeed, the avant-garde has the imagination to challenge passivity and uniformity, but addresses itself only to the art world (for no other purpose than itself). Would it be possible to overcome the contradiction between folk and avant-garde, to confront bourgeois hegemony over its own middle-American audience? One thing art, that involves itself with society, can do is to temper excessive individualism and anti-traditionalism in art. Thus, in true existential fashion we may look on the stuff on our own lives as food for probing reflection (and the argument follows, that we will find it not untypical of what the mass of mankind has known). When that begins to happen, who knows what kind of art might be possible.
16 November 2007
The title of the exhibition is Desktop Landscape and Transculture, which attempts to talk about the function of art as it exists, intervenes, and operates in our lives. (More about Transculture to come...) The rhizomatically collaged assembled works are representative of these artistic interfaces, indeed performances, be they in our art studios preparing serigraphs and lithographs for a print exhibition, taking photographs in the field on our vacations, thinking about design when writing down our thoughts in sketchbooks or otherwise random pieces of paper, designing and posting on our blogs, deciding to use alternative photography techniques despite the influence of digital formats, cyanotypes done on a whim on a arid summer day, drawings and doodles you work on during phone conversations and during boring lectures, batik wall hangings from workshops, to kinder-art examples art teachers make as examples for their elementary students.
How do these experiences performances (and then made manifest into images) coalesce? What kind of correlations, between these varied artistic realms, can be made? How are these images arranged in our mind’s eye; how do we make sense of the visual cacophony? And subsequently, tow do they influence our way of thinking, our worldview? These are just the beginning of the questions that influence and inform our work and process the that the show attempts to provide an amount of insight into. The café showing featuring photos, prints, drawings, paintings, batiks, thoughts, musings, and other paper works will be on display at the New Moon Cage in Oshkosh through the month of November. I would encourage everyone to check it out and forward me your relevant thoughts about the show, or about art (and life).
I don’t want this post (indeed, this blog) to seem as crass self-promotion, so I think some reason must be provided to justify the post (or rather, myself). The show has been up for a couple of weeks now, and I hadn’t originally intended to blog about it; the show can speak for itself, just as this blog does. And for that matter, I think my Sketchblog does a fair job at communicating many of the same ideas, save for the way the images are presented to the viewer, but alas, we are working with different platforms, and each platform (the large space of a wall, where all of the images are seen at once and simultaneously versus sequentially dated web pages to note the date and order of the thought process), despite having their own attributes, and thereby merits, are still aptly able to speak (roughly) about the same ideas. The wall has the merit of seeing the whole, their unity, how the mind juggles all of these images; the blog, the merit of sharing the experience of the thought process, how ideas come to us, come back to us, linger, and eventually stick.
I have already been carried away from my reasoning for the post. I unrepentantly, (though very pleasantly) received a couple of emails from friends who went to the show’s reception, and took the time to offer some feedback. I, unfortunately, couldn’t be at the opening reception, during the November Art Walk, so I couldn’t speak with viewers in person. Posted below is the email (review?) from Vicki, a painter and friend living in Oshkosh. I have also linked to her blog, so you can check out her lastest artistic endeavors.
I wanted to apologize for not saying hi Thursday night at the art reception for the Rosenblatts. I saw you as I was leaving, and like a very lame person I thought I shouldn’t bother you. As I said, LAME... I was thinking of you, as I saw your work up at the New Moon yesterday for Gallery Walk. LOVED it. Actually I love it. No past tense. Indeed one of the most interesting shows of the night, and definitely at the New Moon in a long while. I really love the concept behind this collaboration, and found it profound and quite refreshing.
Have you found a teaching position yet? How is Platteville treating you? I just finished visiting your blog, and had to give you a high five for watching the L Word. One of my favorite shows, for various reasons. I can't wait for it to return in January, and I hear rumors that Dana will frequent the show in the future, which made me giddy. She was my favorite character!
P.S. See the picture version of this post.
11 November 2007
I couldn’t agree with you more. I have been ruminating over your emailed response to the blog (I love receiving responses; that way I know I am communicating, albeit indirectly, with someone.) I hope my follow-up helps to elaborate on what I meant by my original sketchblog post.
Let me just say before I begin, I hope the sketchblog becomes more of a springboard for the ideas I write about in the regular blog, like they have (will) with this post. I get these ideas, suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, and feel the urgency to get them down on paper, make them manifest, as a record of their existence. I suppose because the world is subtle, riddled with details, and we’re lumbering creatures whose senses fix on what they need and ignore the rest, we need time to let ideas soak, simmer, and incubate. With so many of our ideas and plans for life, there is never enough time to implement them all. We’re selective, not comprehensive. And for that matter, a good deal of our ideas turn out to be bad ones, and thankfully never come to fruition. Thus, the job of the unconscious (sketchbook) is to act as a workshop for rough shaping ideas, storing observations until something relevant appears in the landscape.
But alas, this one has stuck to the wall like spaghetti noodles ready to come out of the boiling water. (Really, I just like that image. I am reminded of my eccentric aunt from Vegas who told me on a visit out to see her, when I was five, that you know the noodles are ready to eat if they stick to the wall. Much to my surprise, upon saying so, she threw some noodles to the wall.) I am here, interested in these common roots in terms of the relation between Midwestern criticism and Coastal critical theory.
The idea of a “Midwest culture” never really occurs to most. However, this ‘Culture’ comes intuitively to those of us living in the Midwest and so I (we) don’t consciously think about it. Certainly, given the high degree of ignorance (or is it simply lack of exposure?) of the West Coast/East Coast-ers concerning Midwesterners – who are often stereotyped as unsophisticated and stubborn – I feel obligated to detail the Culture of upper Midwest. Though, by taking a closer look at Midwestern culture should help to clarify the record and realize certain things in the upper Midwest, particularly Wisconsin, are actually culturally progressive.
I would assert that the declining Rust Belt cities of the Great Lakes, with their histories of 19th- and early-20th century immigration, manufacturing base, and strong Northern European, Protestant influence, are more representative of the Midwestern experience than the small towns and agricultural communities in Kansas, Iowa, the Dakotas and Nebraska of the Great Plains.
CNN recently conducted a survey to discover readers' favorite American cities, based on certain aspects like culture, people, dining and shopping. The list is supposed to serve as a basis for travelers who are looking to visit different parts of the country and experience the richness and benefits that each city has to offer.
Unsurprisingly, the list, both frustrating and annoying, focuses on the "culture-rich" coastal cities like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, while almost entirely ignoring the whole Midwestern United States. In fact, the only two Midwestern cities that were even considered for this survey were Chicago and Minneapolis. There's so much going on in the Midwest, it's a shame that, as a region, we are constantly maligned and designated as "fly-over states" just because we don't have the hustle and bustle of the big coastal cities.
*This dialogue continues for some length, and so only those who are interested may continue reading here, and those of you who can't be bothered at the moment may continue without scrolling for a day and a half.