Watching Piece Two
Thursday September 20th 2012, 10:59 am
Filed under: Art

Let looking be as drinking, for a clear western sky, darkening by fractions over miles beyond sunset.

April 18, 2012.

Self drawing (Bleeding piece three)
Wednesday April 25th 2012, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Art

Self drawing (Bleeding piece three)

When you cut yourself, see how the blood sits, pools, and flows on your skin.

25 April 2012

Using Tumblr and Pinterest as research tools
Friday February 24th 2012, 4:47 pm
Filed under: Art, Musings, Research

Once I started looking at Tumblr as a form of visual research, I realized that I wanted to hang on to some of these images. Pinterest is a sensible tool for this, so I started using it about six weeks ago.

The combination of looking at Tumblr and posting to Pinterest has become a way of looking at looking. What do I like to look at, and why? I’ve been writing my observations for each image. It becomes about looking at how an image functions, and in some ways at how vision and perception function – mine, at least. There are obvious and strong threads of interest and attraction. Here’s a composite of some recent pins, to entice you. Find more at

Pots and Life, Vols. 15 and 20
Monday February 20th 2012, 12:58 am
Filed under: Musings, Pots and Life

It’s time for a ramble about this “pots and life” thing.

In July I began a post in which I wanted to talk about pots as signifiers, in the semiotic sense. (I first wrote that I wanted to talk about them as signs – and they are that, too. I offer no explanation.) Here’s the writing from July, nearly unedited:

So I’m sojourning in Ohio, doing architecture work for the summer. Glory be.

A modest transplant, for just a few months. I packed my clothes: for work, for not-work. A few books, some art supplies, my camera and computer and alarm clock. But somehow raised the question: what is home? What makes a place feel like home?

I left the art on my walls in Illinois; it’s an ever-shifting collection of my own works and arrangements of things. I understand them slowly, by living with them. It was time to start again.

And yet the question imparted another set of functional requirements that can only be understood by experimentation. I’m living in a home, somebody else’s home. I brought a box of pots, favorites. Somehow this was supposed to remind me – but of what? What and where is home?

At some moments, a pot takes the place of one not present. This points to home as constructed of associations. Well, maybe sometimes it is.

The house where I’m living is someone’s home. She’s a cool lady, a couple decades my senior. It feels like a home, and it’s a home that’s easy for me to be in. Pleasant, a little cluttered. It evidences someone else’s life, the mark of her hand, the mark of her self, as homes are wont to do. It’s a life to which I’m sympathetic, and I’m comfortable there. It’s a temporary thing, of course, and an improvised one. Is it possible to be at home under such conditions? Is it possible not to? In the last couple of years, I’ve found myself at ease most anywhere, and equally at home, and equally aware of the impermanence of my presence. I venture no explanation.

So how do my own marks of home fit in? They have their place. My big summer teabowl, one I made – I drink a pile of green tea from it, most nights. It’s become part of a new ritual. Vessels are holders of space and makers of place, ones you can take with you.


Vessels also belong to memories. Of people, of events, of interactions, of relationships – we’ve moved on, we’re still in touch – each object has an indexical relationship to my life, as I remember it. Function transcends utility.

Tonight I took a photograph for Pots and Life – the first, and maybe not the last – that involves no handmade pottery. I ate and sat and pondered that. It’s not only about the pot, not only about its role and about its material existence, but also about the ritual. Tonight I performed the ritual of preparing and presenting a meal. I performed for an audience of one, and honored and celebrated said performance by enjoying the meal.

A plated meal, a solitary evening. Why the photograph? It isn’t only the quiet, it isn’t only the slowness: it is every other careful meal in my memory. Writing this, meals from my last years in Chicago start to flood my memory. What I meant to write about were dinners when I was a kid – family dinner, six o’clock, every night. Mom nearly always cooked – occasionally, as a treat, we’d order pizza. I know now how unusual that was, on all fronts. And strung through the years are the twinkling memories of bigger family dinners, with grandparents and extended family – as I reminisce about people and places and occasions. (Even more unusual is a family that’s loving, that gets along.)

So there you have it: food, pots, meals, rituals, memory, community.

Food and cooking notes for tonight:
Salmon teriyaki, jasmine rice, green beans, sake, green tea. Dessert, to be made later in the evening: fried banana. Teriyaki sauce is easy: 7 parts each soy sauce, mirin, and sake, and one part sugar. Just buy them, they are good indefinitely. Buy some seasoned rice vinegar and you’ll be set for making sushi rice, too. (Yes, I can do that too.) Japanese soy sauce tastes different than Chinese, but most people have Chinese soy sauce around, and that’s fine to use. Cooking is not an exact science; consider the proportions as a guideline. Bring the mixture to a boil, stir to dissolve the sugar, then reduce (keep stirring) over medium to low heat. Tea: loose tea is still amazing, but use cooler water – if the tea goes yellow, the water is too hot and you’re getting tannins in your tea, which is what makes tea bitter. The lower the temperature, the longer the steeping time. If you like bitter tea, though, go for it. Temperature: 140-165 degrees is what they say; I just use water that’s uncomfortably hot to touch, but not scalding. Fried banana: probably not so Japanese. Slice a banana into 1/2″ slices. Brown some butter in a heavy pan. Once the pan’s hot, set the slices on the butter, try not to stick them to the bottom of the pan, and slide them around now and again. Once brown on one side, flip them. Chopsticks are good for this (really, they’re good for most cooking things, if you can use chopsticks… and they don’t scratch nonstick pans, either). Brown the other side. Butter keeps the banana from sticking. Cooking the banana brings out its sweetness, but cooking it too long will get it mushy, which isn’t as nice – hence the heavy pan. When the second side is brown, you’re done – move the banana and a little butter onto a dish, sprinkle with brown sugar, and enjoy. Enjoy with ice cream, if desired. Do not burn thyself, particularly not with sticky sugar. It would be unpleasant.

(A word on numbering: the July post is Vol. 15. There are several photos from between then and now that I’m not posting at present, and tonight’s photo – included here – is Vol. 20.)

Violinist in a train station, or, context and beauty
Monday February 13th 2012, 3:51 pm
Filed under: Art, Musings

A perceptual experiment (lengthy quote):

Do we recognize beauty when we see it?
A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist.

Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the top musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written ,with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty?

Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

Some thoughts on the experiment itself. People have played the violin in a train station before; some are better than others. And most people passing through a train station’s entrance can’t linger. (What about performing in a central part of the station, where people wait?)

This piece raises questions about perception and value… questions that lay pretty close to my art practice. I enjoy doing art in the “wrong” context, taking it out of expected places. Part of the fun is in the humor and beauty that comes with something unexpected. But, precisely because of context, people may well walk by. What do I qualify as successful, then? I guess, for me, it’s leaving something that people enjoy. They may label it “art” and they may not, and that’s fine with me.

Some references:
Video here.
One article at
The big article at the Washington Post website. Darn thoughtful. Please read.