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Showing posts from December, 2016

Sending COALTOWN into the World

I made this short video for an application to an artist residency. It's a pan shot of the interior of my diorama COALTOWN, which I exhibited at Terrain Exhibitions in Oak Park, Illinois, in September. The idea was to show the motorized parts of the models, in a way that can't be conveyed by a still image.

Glasnost

Rare footage of Dimitri Shostakovitch in rehearsal
There are many people around the world who no doubt are looking at the USA and wondering what the hell is going on, and there people looking at Russia and thinking the same, and now we have the two countries on a collision course again due to the meshing of two authoritarians taking advantage of a sizeable lunatic bloc in their respective electorates (or "electorate", if you will). 
I'm so shell-shocked by the pace of recent events that I'm having to remind myself of how much of my artistic development was shaped by the art/music/literature produced by these two countries. Every one of the people in the following lists made works that hit my like a bolt of lightning when I first encountered them, some as early as my fourteenth year. You can imagine the worlds that were opened up to me as I scoured these books (et al) while reading in an underheated bedroom in a draughty building in a mining town in the north of England…

Work by One of My Students

The Townhouse on Bristol Lane from Sulejman Karic on Vimeo.
I teach several versions of the Journal and Sketchbook class: the weekend or one day workshop version, and the 15 week semester-long version at Columbia College Chicago. Part of the extra academic requirement of the latter is that the students must create a piece of visual art that is in conversation with their final piece of writing. The final presentations of those paired pieces, writing + visual art, ended last week.

So many good things were submitted, and I'll post images of some of them soon. I'm going to start with this piece by student Sulejman Karic, because it combines a reading and a visual equivalent in the same video. He was born in the USA to parents who were refugees from the Bosnian war in the 1990s. The memoir he began working on is, I believe, the first time he has explored that material at such length. The video still needs some work, but it's so impressive already that I want to share it as wide…

A List of Every Drink in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"

I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.

Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations:
Most of this is…

A Centennial Day With Picasso

If you're not the sort of person who becomes obsessed with your favourite artists to the extent that you lap up even the tiniest details of their biography, then read no further: this post is not for you.

If, however, you get a kick out of that sort of thing, then here's what I want to talk about. Roughly twenty years ago, I found a short book that became a valuable addition to my collection of biographical materials about Picasso. It's called A Day With Picasso, and it came about when a researcher called Billy Kluver decided to track down all the photographs taken by Jean Cocteau during a single afternoon lunch session with Picasso, in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, some time during WWI. You can read the full story in his own words in the essay that prefaced the book. A brief summary: photos like this one were known to biographers and cultural historians...


... but no-one had tried to track down all the photos that Cocteau took that day, and no-one had ascertained even t…