Friday, September 26, 2008

countdown to meltdown: the first recessionist video!

I made this video today because I needed some sort of catharsis. This election/economic drama is just getting to be too much!

I had to set it to music, and could think of no better song than Orff's "O Fortuna" from "The Carmina Burana." More than likely, "O Fortuna" is a song you've heard before but never knew the title of, as it is frequently used in trailers for epic or apocalyptic films. I had the great privilege of seeing the entire "Carmina Burana" performed by the Chicago Sinfonietta when I was in high school. I think I fell in love with it because I was still studying Latin at the time. Oh yes, I should probably mention that the song is in Latin. I tried putting subtitles on the video, but they only took away from it. So here are the lyrics in English and Latin:



1. O Fortuna (Chorus)

O Fortuna,
velut luna
statu variabilis,
semper crescis
aut decrescis;
vita detestabilis
nunc obdurat
et tunc curat
ludo mentis aciem;
dissolvit ut glaciem.
Sors immanis
et inanis,
rota tu volubilis,
status malus,
vana salus
semper dissolubilis,
et velata
mihi quoque niteris;
nunc per ludum
dorsum nudum
fero tui sceleris.
Sors salutis
et virtutis
mihi nunc contraria,
est affectus
et defectus
semper in angaria.
Hac in hora
sine mora
corde pulsum tangite;
quod per sortem
sternit fortem,
mecum omnes plangite!

O Fortune,
like the moon
with its changing phases,
you are ever growing
and waning;
hateful life
first oppresses
and then soothes
as fancy takes it;
and power
it melts them like ice.
Fate - monstrous
and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is vain
and always fades to nothing.
and veiled
you plague me too;
now through the game
I bring my bare back
to your villainy.
When health
and virtue
are against me,
are only pain
and exhaustion,
forever in this vale of tears.
So at this hour
without delay
pluck the vibrating strings;
since Fate
strikes down the strong man,
everyone weep with me!

and a little copyright disclaimer:

I consider this video an academic pursuit. I cited my sources.

This video is also available on YouTube at:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

it's time for another recessionist (depressionist?) piece

stimulus package - detail

Like so many Americans who have money in the stock market, I try to stay up with financial news. I read books by Suze Orman. I frequent blogs like The Simple Dollar. I read the business section of the Trib, or even the Wall Street Journal on occasion, and listen to Marketplace on NPR, all the while pretending that I understand the jargon. Do I really know what zombie debt or lagging indicators or mortgage backed securities really are? Nope.

As an undergrad, I went to a school that is well-known for its economics program, though I never took a single college class on the subject. At the time I was still too burned out from having taken so many core cases that did not interest me, and was more than happy to get to the “good stuff:” the art / creative writing / film classes that I needed for my major. So all I learned about economics was from reading The Marx Engels Reader for a required humanities class. (Or was it a soc class?) Yet whether I fully understand it or not, I am an active participant in the economy. Even without my IRA, I still would be. But having a retirement fund means that even more is at stake. My perspective of what’s going on in the economy is a limited one. My recessionist pieces are a reaction to how I feel about how the economy affects me personally.

Several months ago, pre-crisis, I became fascinated with the talk of the stimulus package, and was also intrigued by the way no one wanted to say the dreaded “r” word. It is a word that people (other than Suze Orman) still are reluctant to say. Call it a meltdown, call it a crisis, call it anything but a recession. All I know is that it has definitely felt like a recession to me, and to many of my friends. You see, most of us are underemployed. For the past eight years, I’ve been stuck in a financial rut. I have yet to reap the benefits of our so-called “new economy.” Maybe the analysts were all too comfortable enjoying the trappings of upper-middle-class life to acknowledge the trials those like me have endured. Perhaps it is not officially a recession as long as people like them still have good jobs. Or perhaps it’s all in my head and I am just a whiner. Like I said before, I am not sure exactly how these things work.

So I thought, well we have expressionism, impressionism, secessionism, why not recessionism? I am painting the previously ignored 800 pound gorilla in the room. Or, rather, making collages about it.

It’s hard to believe that even after what happened last week the business journalists are still reluctant to use the “r” word! Speaking of last week, that really scared me. Let me re-post what I put on my Facebook wall so I don’t have to re-invent the wheel:

Is it time to party like it's 1929? They just interrupted Oprah to report on the things Bush is going to do to try to fix the economy, but is it too little too late? The last time I was watching Oprah and it got interrupted, it was because of Hurricane Katrina. I have never seen a program get preempted for business news before, so this scares me. Perhaps my friends who were Econ majors can explain the situation to me. In the meantime, I am submitting this video clip from Annie. These are the singing hobos from Hooverville.

The song goes,

We'd like to thank you, Herbert Hoover
For really showing us the way
We'd like to thank you, Herbert Hoover
You made us what we are today

but I like to sing it this way:

We'd like to thank you, Bush and Cheney
For really showing us the way
We'd like to thank you, Bush and Cheney
You made us what we are today

And as for the bailout, it can be hard to get your mind around a figure as immense as $700 billion. I’ve always learned better from things involving cartoons, Muppets, or at the very least, music. This is the video from Square One that taught me how big one billion is.

Now just multiply that by 700…

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

From the archives: my old homepage, courtesy of The Wayback Machine

I am an aspiring artist/writer/performer cast in the biggest role of my life:
obscurity. My greatest hope in life is to make a distinguished artistic contribution to the world, whether it is a novel, a film, a work of art or a brilliant ad campaign. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, "I dream things as they never were and ask, 'Why not?'" The entire time I've been here at the University of Chicago I've been seeking new expressive possibilities. Constantly I find myself possessed by inspiration, with too many poems in my ears to listen, too many artistic visions in my mind to see.

According to the enneagram, I am a type 4. Fours have various descriptors, some of which I like better than others: symbol maker, individualist, artist, romantic. (Personally, I find the term "romantic" a little melodramatic.) But I am definitely an individualist, which is why I am designing my own major. My major will be a
combination of several areas that interest me: creative writing, art, and psychology. And that's cool because it means I get to take classes I like that involve painting and writing plays and not being stressed out like all my friends who are economics majors. :)

Remember the old days, circa 1997 or '98, before everyone was blogging and people had homepages instead? Remember when you could just use regular old-fashioned HTML and build yourself a little Web site and you didn't have to keep updating it every five minutes? Well I remember. And back in those days, I had a homepage. Much to my pleasant surprise, I discovered that parts of it are still indexed on The Wayback Machine. The rest, I soon realized, were still right here on my computer because I saved them all this time. They survived the transfer from computer to computer.

So now, I give you the first installment of the From the Archives series. Here is a link to the gallery on my old homepage:
Some of the links work, while others don't. In my old gallery you can see what I was working on when I took my first figure drawing classes and you can read what I had to say about my art. There are even illustrations of characters from my novel/screenplay/B.A. project/obsession A Bitter Pill to Swallow, with excerpts! Enjoy!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Turning trash into art in San Francisco

While listening to NPR, I just heard about this wonderful artist in residence program in San Francisco: artists are invited to use trash from the city dump to create artwork. These are my kinds of artists, though to be honest I am too squeamish to go "dumpster diving." Maybe if I hadn't seen all that e. coli and staph aureus in my high school microbiology class I wouldn't get as queasy as I do now. But since I have this particular affliction, I am content to just collect unwanted cardboard boxes or buy bags of shredded money from the government. Come to think of it, I bet that old money is filthy! Who knows where it's been? Okay, let me not think about it.

Still, I think if Chicago is to be as "green" as Mayor Daley claims it to be, we need a program like this, too. And maybe I'd participate, wearing a hazmat suit, of course.

Anyway, if you want to listen to the NPR story, click here:

In San Francisco, Making Art At The Dump by Lisa Morehouse

Visit the San Francisco dump here:

And here are the sites of the current artists in residence:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

another new painting

Fever Dream by Tiffany Gholar. Orange and copper acrylic paint on recycled cardboard and paper I made "Fever Dream" back in the spring when I was sick with the flu and should have been at home in bed, hence its fiery color scheme and title.

Fever Dream by Tiffany Gholar. Orange and copper acrylic paint on recycled cardboard and paper
One of my favorite parts of it is this section, which is made from a paper towel roll. I loved the curvature of the form and the depth it gives to the painting. It's something unexpected. In fact, I liked the shape so much that I decided to make a whole painting out of similar shapes.

So I saved paper towel and toilet paper rolls all summer.
I brought them to the studio on Wednesday.

I unrolled them and glued them down.
I can't wait to see what the whole board will look like once it is covered in them.
I will probably paint it pink.

That old Fillet-O-Fish box is perfect for storing glue, but now it's going to be part of another painting.

new blue painting from start to finish

I began with my favorite raw materials: torn cardboard boxes.
I added bright colors. Right now I am using acrylic craft paint because it is nontoxic and very inexpensive, and it comes in the kinds of colors I love.
Next I added a glaze using my own secret recipe.
Here is the finished painting above with details below.

All it needs now is a good title. I am hoping one will come to me soon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I really needed this article today...

Reading the financial news makes me feel like the sky is falling, and everything is coming apart and the center cannot hold and my IRA is worthless. . .
But then when I opened my e-mail I found a great article from Clint Watson's blog:

Don't Panic, You are an Artist!

Calm down, don't panic over the current economic news. Think about this: Our bodies and brains are wired to react quickly to emotional stimulus. The old "fight or flight" response. The pressures of the modern world puts stress on these ancient responses and, if we're not careful, will put is into panic mode. Panic mode is dangerous because that's when we make bad decisions.

You can read the rest of it here.

Thanks, Clint. I needed that today. Now let me get out of here so I can start a new recessionist painting.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Renegades in the Rain

Divison & Damen, Wicker Park, Chicago

When I got up this morning I had planned to go on a weekly walk and go on two Artist Dates to make up for not doing one last week. Weekly Walks and Artist Dates, for those who are not acquainted with the fantastic work of the illustrious Julia Cameron, are activities that I do so that I can continue to stay creative. A Weekly Walk is exactly what it sounds like: taking the time to walk somewhere alone. And an Artist Date is another solitary excursion, a small planned adventure to benefit the artist in you. It could be anything that you'd find interesting or fun, and doesn't have to be art-related. My plan was to take a walk to the Lincoln Park Art Faire and then go over to the Renegade Craft Fair. But there was one big problem: the rain.

It rained all day yesterday and all through the night and was still raining when I got up this morning. I've never been to Seattle, but the kind of weather we've been having here lately reminds me of descriptions I've heard of the weather there. Yesterday I didn't even go outside. But today I made up my mind to go anyway. When I got to where the Lincoln Park Art Faire was supposed to be, all I saw were sad, soggy people folding up their EZ-Up tents, putting them in vans, and driving away.

Not to be discouraged, I slogged through the puddles back to the car and drove to Wicker Park to see if the Renegade Craft Fair was still going on. And it was! Of course, there weren't nearly as many people as there were last year when it was sunny and warm. But I didn't care. I was just glad to be there. I should probably mention that I am really into art fairs. I almost feel weird about admitting this because a lot of other artists I know despise them, and don't want to participate in them at all. But I actually hope to do some art fairs someday, and sell my paintings as well as my crafts. I find art fairs inspiring, especially Renegade, which is my most favoritest craft fair, like, ever!! Yes, I realize that using expressions like "most favoritest" makes me sound like I am five. What can I say, I like the Renegade Craft Fair so much I cannot even describe it in a sophisticated and grammatically correct way.

I always seem to end up going to art fairs when I am totally broke. But thanks to the Internet, I at least have the assurance of knowing that I will be able to go to the artists' websites and purchase their products at a later date when I am more financially solvent. I always end up taking home a lot of business cards as a result. Now that I have this blog, I can also refer back to the business cards to share a few of the products that caught my eye.

You can't tell because this picture is so small, but this print from Paper Stories uses a paint swatch as a background:

Surreal case goods from Dust Furniture:
If there was an Ikea in Whoville, maybe they'd sell this there.

Fun Posters from Delicious:

Necklaces and bracelets from SwallowKisses

Jewelry from Buzz:

Pocket mirrors from My Favorite Mirror:
Why be difficult when with just a tiny bit of effort you can be impossible?

Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?

Paintings by Chicago artist Steve Shay:

Covered Moleskine notebooks from Chickabird's Randl collection:

Scarves and hats from Patina:
patina knits

More scarves from I Like You:

Why all the scarves? Well, you need a lot of them in Chicago. I find that having fun winter accessories makes the colder months a little more tolerable.

And last but not least, I love this inspiring print from Alison Rose, available on shirts for men and women, as well as on a tote bag:

Of course, now that I am back at home, sitting comfortably in front of my computer, with my wet clothes hung up to dry and my galoshes parked by the door, the sun is out and it stopped raining. But it's too late. I'm in for the rest of the day. But if you're in Chicago, and looking for something to do this lovely afternoon, maybe you can go to Lincoln Park and see if the Art Faire got un-canceled, or go to Wicker Park and shop at Renegade with all the hipsters.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New Paintings I'm working on

Here is a yet-untitled piece I started painting on Monday:

Something about it reminds me of a black leather jacket. I want to get some paste or Mod Podge tomorrow so I can start building up some new paintings. Just when I thought I wouldn't have to spend any money on supplies this trimester...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

this has been on my mind for a while

Some people may say that humanities and arts majors get what they deserve when they end up in menial jobs. But it doesn't have to be that way. They say we should have chosen other majors. I shudder to think of the kind of world we would live in if we had. They say one of our country's last exports is its cultural capital. If we want to improve our standing in the world, we cannot neglect the arts.

The story behind "Katrina"


"Katrina" represents a turning point in my painting style. I have always been interested in creating paintings with complex textures. Prior to this, I had been using modeling paste and dried paint chips to create impasto surfaces. But I always wanted to take surface building further. I wanted to make paintings with a more sculptural quality, something approaching bas-relief. "Katrina" is the first painting for which I used deconstructed cardboard to build my textures, and so she is the ancestor of all my current paintings.

As the news stories about the 3 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina began to be broadcast last week, I realized that my painting "Katrina" is 3 years old now. The summer of 2005 was a difficult one for me, though I cannot imagine how much worse it must have been for residents of the areas destroyed by the hurricanes. They lost everything. All I lost was my job. The store where I worked had closed its doors for good. My new fall classes at Harrington had not yet begun. The only new job I found would have required that I drop out of school mid-semester because of the hours it required. I could not find anything else. I had grown so discouraged that turned to a book that had been sitting on my shelf for years: The Artists Way. I'd read it once before, but made the mistake of speed-reading it and not doing any of the activities. This time, I had all the time in the world and no excuses. I made a list of things to accomplish. One of them was "make a blue painting."

So one late August day, I began building the framework for my new blue painting. They interrupted Oprah to report that a hurricane was passing over New Orleans. I painted the background white and let it dry. Over the next few days as I experimented and added more color to the painting, I watched more CNN than I have ever watched before or since. I witnessed a most horrific aftermath. I couldn't look away. By the time the National Guard finally arrived, the painting was finished. I had never intended to make any sort of political statement with it, but I knew I had to call it "Katrina." Looking at my finished work transports me to the time when I created. It's as though each stroke and line is some sort of mnemonic device. I remember what I was doing , what music I was listening to. And knowing that every time I looked at my new painting I would think of what I saw on CNN, there was no better name than the one I've chosen for it.

I did try to do a painting that actually is about the storm's aftermath, but it's still unfinished. I am calling it "Heckuva Job." It was the first painting I did when I went back to grad school. I has been very difficult for me. It's large, it's oils, and it's figurative. Every time I worked on it I had no idea what I was doing. I still don't. The only thing that kept me from giving up on it completely was a chance encounter I had in the hallway at school. I was carrying canvases through the halls because that first trimester I always parked in the wrong parking lot. I met a woman who said she wished she could paint something on a big canvas like that, but she can't because she lost all her art supplies in the flooding after Katrina. I never saw her again, but she's the reason I can't paint over "Heckuva Job" and use the canvas to make a completely new painting. I have to finish it in her honor. Someday I will.
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