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Category Archives: Art In Progress

Washington State University

I am pleased to have accepted a position at Washington State University in Pullman, WA as Assistant Professor of Painting/Intermedia!  I will run the painting program, teach and advise undergraduate and graduate students, conduct a program of peer-reviewed scholarship (mostly in the form of participating in national and international art exhibition) etc.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 4.06.41 PM

Pullman, WA

While I worked hard to make this happen, I was only able to do so because of a supportive art community in Cincinnati, OH that includes artists, curators, galleristseducators, institutions, universitiesnon-profits, etc.  Over the last couple decades, Cincinnati has been a forum for all my creative activity from music to art to everything in between.  I have essentially enjoyed two careers in the arts (as a musician and artist) in a relatively short span; I honestly believe that in no other city would this have be possible.  I have been a beneficiary of cheap rent and the creative efforts of so many people, especially in and around OTR, my home for the last seven years or so.  I am among the fortunate who have survived and benefited from an urban renaissance, having watched this neighborhood grow and transform along with the city.  So it is going to be tough leaving, of course, but the time is right.  Cincinnati has such an amazing art community, but this position in Washington will provide some “me time” to focus on my studio practice, and some structure and incentive to do so (the tenure process).

I have heard tenure-track positions described as “winning the lottery” or “catching a unicorn”, so it is difficult to understate my excitement.  The position and the university are a perfect fit for me.  The job title of Painting/Intermedia describes my art practice–an intermedia approach that ties together my varied interests in photo, internet art, installation etc. (interests I developed in graduate school at DAAP, the University of Cincinnati) while remaining focused on painting (my undergraduate BFA emphasis at Northern Kentucky University) as a way of seeing.

As a bonus, the northwestern United States is among the only area of the country I have not explored.  While Washington State as a brand has taken on a hip reputation because of Seattle and Portland, to be clear Pullman WA is not on the West coast exactly–it’s located in a rural college town near the border of Idaho.  Idaho coast.  However, WSU is a top research university with about 20,000 students in a unique region called the Palouse, within a half-day’s driving distance to forests, mountains, plains, and deserts.  So there will be opportunities at the university for professional collaborations, and in a setting of big skies and surreal wheat grass dune hills carved by ancient glaciers.

I have always been drawn to unusual places and am looking forward to making the most of a new environment.  It seems fitting to do so with my biggest supporter, harshest and most helpful critic, life-adventure partner Mei; this move will truly signify the start of a new life together.  Mei is going to teach foundations at WSU so for the first time we will be colleagues.

Looking forward to making new art and design, new friends, doing some intense camping and exploring the west!  Please keep in touch.

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In Memoriam

A painting for my father.  This is a painting of a print of a painting–my dad’s only fine art print, a Monet from Monet’s Houses of Parliament series.  I grew up looking at this print, and became intrigued with it again after being asked to create something for an exhibition Totem, exploring family history and the power of objects.

I recently learned that Monet was criticized for using photography to help with these renderings.

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Tom Wesselmann Artworks Mural Dedication

A great team!

A great team of apprentices!

This is what we did over the summer.  The mural is on six story wall at 8th and Main Street in Cincinnati, OH, a reproduction of Tom Wesselmann’s Still Life #60.  Wednesday, we finally dedicate the beast to the City of Cincinnati!

The mural is a summer project of Artworks, a Cincinnati non-profit that “empowers and inspires the creative community to transform our everyday environments through employment, apprenticeships, education, community partnerships, and civic engagement”. I was the project manager for this mural, one mural in an annual series of Cincinnati Masters.  I worked alongside Cincinnati-based artists and teaching assistants Nicole Trimble and Joshua Mindlin, and ten area teen apprentices.

The image we painted is a reproduction of a grouping of six canvases, a sculptural painting which will be featured prominently in the retrospective of Wesselmann’s work opening at the Cincinnati Art Museum in the fall.  In addition to the mural, we created our own works which respond to and pay homage to Wesselmann’s art.  These works will be shown tonight at a companion event, Wessel Works, at Align Furniture just across the street from the site of the new mural.

An honest day's work

An honest day’s work

The mural is on the wall of Sophia’s Deli at 8th and Main St., in the middle of downtown, Cincinnati.  The dedication will be at 4pm:

Cincinnati Master Tom Wesselmann Mural – Still Life No. 60
Dedication and Party Wednesday October 29 4pm
Sophia’s Deli
811 Main St,
Cincinnati, OH 45202

The art exhibition Wessel Works, featuring responses and tributes to the work of Wesselmann by myself, Nicole and Josh and the apprentices will be up for the next couple weeks, beginning at 5pm tomorrow at:

Wessel Works Art Exhibition Wednesday October 29 5pm
Algin Retro Furniture
800 Main St,
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

I am so proud of the team I worked with and so pleased to have again been selected to work with Artworks on a large scale public art project working with youth apprentices.  Especially grateful for the support from Arnold’s restaurant, Sophia’s Deli, Kort Peter’s and everyone else who donated money, food, space and emotional support and encouragement to make this happen.

Stop by and see our mural.  And our art!

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The Dots of Color – Sound Art about Seurat

Best with headphones.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/137244691″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

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Selfie or Self-Portrait? Van Gogh and the Art of Sharing

Under the pretense that I was an artist, and that the lives of artists should be documented through self-portraiture, I began taking photos of myself around 2000.  At that time the idea of turning a camera on one’s self was still commonly seen as odd, despite (or perhaps because of) the sudden proliferation of bad MySpace mirror profile pics.  While the practice of spontaneous digital self-portraiture received an enormous boost of in 2013 due to increased usage of camera phones and image-based social media services like Instagram, many still view the practice of taking a selfie as odd or worse–vain, absurd and a reflection of the millennial generation’s self-obsession and inability to enjoy the present moment.  But what happens when an artist makes an image of herself?  Where is the line between a selfie (#selfie) and self-portraiture?

The artist has long enjoyed a special status in culture, an expectation of self-centeredness or even self-obsession.  Thanks to Van Gogh and many others, the self-portrait is connected with ideas of authorship, genius and creative struggle.  Strictly speaking, the selfie is a photograph taken with a digital camera and posted to a social network.  However, self-portraiture is inherently social in nature; through painting or photographing their own faces and bodies, artists attempt to reveal to others some aspect of their very essence or being.  What could be more social than that?

VanGogh-self-portrait-with_bandaged_ear

Does Van Gogh’s Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear from 1889 prefigure the #selfie? #vangogh #urgentcare #sucks #whatwasithinking #omg #ear #holyshit #dutchmedicalcare #artist #suffering #torturedartist #modernism #postimpressionism #gauguin #hatehim #sad #lonely #yellowhouse #arles #injured #bandaged #forlorn

Van Gogh’s famous self-portrait with a bandage on his ear is perhaps the art world’s first #selfie in that it succinctly captures the image-maker in a peculiar moment.  While the source of Van Gogh’s injury is still unclear, one thing is certain–the event involved his man-crush of the moment and fellow post-impressionist Paul Gaugin.  Perhaps, Van Gogh cut off his own ear in a fit of depression upon hearing Gaugin’s decision to leave their yellow house studio in Arles, France.  Or, was it Gaugin that sliced it off during a fencing accident?  Either way, the image is nothing if not a provocative update about Van Gogh’s status.

For centuries the words visual artist essentially meant image maker.  An image-maker was a particular kind of person and making compelling images required life-long dedication and skill.  Now that photographic and digital media technologies have become less expensive and the speed of transmission is approaching instantaneous (i.e. Instagram), nearly anyone with the means and motivation to acquire and learn to use a cell phone can become a prolific–although not necessarily adept–visual creator.  This renders the majority of self-portraits in existence anything but artistic.  Could an unending stream of images tagged #bored, #drunk, and #cleave really be Joseph Beuys’ dream of the democratization of art?

A Self-Portrait by Albrecht Dürer, 1500.

A Self-Portrait by Albrecht Dürer, 1500. #selfie #artselfie #blinging #robes #mirrorselfie #jesusstyle #pimpcoat, #fur #selfportrait #self-portrait

Since the Renaissance, the self-portrait has been a form of advertising.  We feel no shame; as artists, self-promotion is a necessary part of life, for who can survive without patrons?  Thus, the self-portrait has survived and enjoyed lasting popularity in art as a two-punch tool: a way to communicate proficiency in one’s chosen medium while maintaining appearances.  But Millennials in the twitterverse are not searching for their Medicis.  We (and I use “we” loosely as I am caught between Millennial and Gen-X stereotypes) have been voraciously consuming–or reluctantly swallowing–images our entire lives.  Why should the right and responsibility to promote and preserve one’s image be reserved for artists and corporations?  Seen in this light, the selfie is subversive:  The audience becomes the artist, the consumer becomes the producer selling herself back to the world.

For all the selfie’s alluring sociopolitical ramifications and high entertainment value, the quick digital image simply neglects to do well the things that art does well.  The selfie does not conform to the elements and principles of design.  The selfie is of a positively low-quality.  The selfie is impulsive.  But isn’t that precisely its charm?  The selfie does not apologize for its vanity nor attempt to hide its self-consciousness.  The self-portrait, on the other hand, takes itself so seriously that the posturing of artists is often comical.  After decades of living in a culture of government and corporate lying and spying, is it any wonder that Millenials distrust the idea of authenticity itself?

Some random Instagram Selfies.

Some random Instagram Selfies.

The bad selfie (and most are bad) could be seen as a reflection of the distrust of propaganda (as evidenced by the hashtag “nofilter”): a willingness to put oneself on display without the handling, designing, research and development, testing, photoshoping, retouching, reshooting, retooling, editing and censoring, all the artifice of bureaucracy.  The artist too, unfortunately, has no choice but to self-censor, selecting and editing ad nauseam, having lived forever with an unforgiving, internal overlord, possessed by the specter of art history and bent on getting things just right.  Just maybe, the less a selfie resembles a self-portrait, the closer the image is to truth.   For to create art is to lie.  To represent is to misrepresent, and to create a self-portrait is to, well, #filter.

Vincent van Gogh Self-Portrait (Dedicated to Paul Gauguin), September, 1888

Vincent van Gogh Self-Portrait (Dedicated to Paul Gauguin), September, 1888

Van Gogh was indeed an interpreter (not a truth teller) but his willingness to interpret, to stretch, to bend and color made him a master and a great innovator of modern art.  His paintings are some of the most moving works of all time, in any media; in the strokes you feel his presence, his suffering, his joy, his life.  This connection with future viewers, forged by a willingness to overshare, secured his legacy.  Most people will never attempt to become great painters or photographers.  But our desire to share our sadness and madness and joy and everything between through images with any available technology is a reflection of our humanness.  Unfortunately, a quick look at the latest selfies in my feed reveals that society at large still has a great deal of catching up to do–the artist has been sharing for a long, long time.

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For a continued exploration of this topic in a fun way, I created an Instagram account dedicated to self-portraits of artists.  Follow me on your cell phone or browse the images so far at instagram.com/artselfie.

Art Self artselfie selfie

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Artworks ArtCars

ArtWorks ArtCars Buick LeSabre

A few weeks ago, working with the non-profit Artworks Cincinnati I led a group of apprentices in transforming a 1998 Buick LeSabre from an old boring car into a driveable work of art! We painted the car over the course of a weekend during Midpoint Music Festival, working alongside several other teams and cars.  The car was stripped and primed at John Hall Body shop in Northside.

The client was my own mother.  Oddly enough I did not know that she had submitted her car and she did not know that I was a project manager for ArtCars!  After learning that she entered her car it seemed only fitting that I work with her.  I created three designs from which my mom would select a favorite.  She wanted something that would evoke some flower child hippie magic.  I knew I wanted something bright, relatively simple, and non-representational and didn’t want to use flowers.  So I thought about ways to do happy and celebratory without being too obviously retro or derivative.  So instead of the 60’s I started out by looking at 1950’s magazine ads, and added some intense contemporary tetradic color.  Like my mother, I think it’s pretty unique, adventurous, and lovable!  She is thrilled.

Thanks to David Heyburn for organizing Artcars this year, Artworks for inviting me back as a lead artist and project manager, and the  amazing and talented apprentices Dontriel Nuckols, Alex Sunderman, Previn Beal, Taylor Helms, and Paige Roberts!

Check out some in-progress photos and the results below, and if you’re in the Trenton Ohio area, keep an eye out for Mrs. Hedges.

 

 

 

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Mural Progress, Kentucky Natural History

Colors!

Colors!

A floating reference

A floating reference

We are making good progress on the Artworks mural in Covington, KY!  The mural is a celebration of Kentucky’s rich natural history.  My thesis work at the University of Cincinnati was largely about the connections between art, the natural world and the human hand.  This mural project has been a great opportunity to continue those interests in a more straightforward way.

Artworks summer programs are thankfully designed not only to employ teens but to provide opportunities for enrichment.  To prepare for the project and get everyone interested in the subjects of our mural I organized several field trips.

First, we made a trip to the beautifully redesigned Mary Ann Mongan Covington Library just across the street from the mural site at 502 Scott Blvd.  I organized something of a scavenger hunt/learning rampage, encouraging the apprentices to explore a variety of topics including: the challenges of public art (as illustrated by the popular story of Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc), the life cycles and roles of viceroy butterflies and honeybees, and the mastodon bones unearthed at Big Bone Lick State Park in the beginning years of America.  Also, what is a Dunkleosteus?  I have always been interested in synthesizing a lot of information and making connections between seemingly disparate topics.

A couple days after the library trip we went to the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal to visit the natural history museum.  We paid particularly close attention to the ice age exhibit, which is simply fantastic.  Our mural includes a mastodon skeleton, an early American symbol of power and mystery and one of my favorite creatures!  I also included a Brachiopod, the Kentucky state fossil.  These fossils are millions of years old, from a time this area was covered in ocean.  They should be a familiar sight, if you have ever looked closely at a river rock.

Since then it has been many days of sweating in the sun and drawing, painting, and having fun.  I met the most amazing group of teenagers.  It is kind of sad wrapping this project up these next couple weeks.  Stay tuned for photos of the final result!

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Downtown Covington KY Mural Live Web Feed

Artworks Covington Mural Apprentices

Top to bottom left to right: Apprentices Alexandra Weibel, Scott Sanker, Teaching Artist Jasmine Akers, Apprentices Previn Beal, A.J. Newberry, and Evelynn Meyer.

I am now the project manager and lead artist of an even larger, more visible Artworks summer mural project!  Artworks is a Cincinnati non-profit that “empowers and inspires the creative community to transform our everyday environments through employment, apprenticeships, education, community partnerships, and civic engagement,” although they are mostly known for their murals.  This summer, my mural is one of about ten being painted in the Cincinnati area.

After a long saga involving an uncooperative Dayton Kentucky City Council, we have moved upstream.  I am now working in the Artworks Signcity of Covington, Kentucky, with fellow Cincinnati teaching artist Jasmine Akers and now seven apprentices, amazing young artists from the Cincinnati area Evelynn Meyer
, Scott Sanker
, William Moore
, AJ Newberry, Previn Beal
, Alexandra Weibel
, and Marvin Gay Lee Jr.  We are painting 11 panels on two sides of the Kerry Toyota Collision center at 24 E 5th St, Covington, KY 41011.  Marc Camardo and staff have been amazing.  If their willingness to help a rag tag group of artists is any indication of their commitment to customer service, I would say this must be the best collision repair center in the world.  Additionally, this is the cleanest building I have ever seen, which is a miracle when I consider how many greasy cars come in and out of their every year.

When we aren’t baking in the sun on Scott Blvd. between 4th and 5th Street, we are in our studio space, generously donated by the Covington Artisan’s Enterprise Center.  Cate Yellig and Natalie Bowers were instrumental in saving this project and bringing it to Covington.  So many people fought so hard to keep this boat afloat.  While the last month or so has admittedly been frustrating with so many stops and starts, the fact that we have begun an even bigger and better mural project in such a positive environment is a testament to the power of art.  That may seem dramatic, but if you could see what I have seen–people crying, yelling, laughing–all about the possibility of painting, you would recognize.  Plato knew it.  City Councils know it.  Art is power and a simple image can be transformative.

Covington Artworks Swagger

Covington Artworks Swagger

Unfortunately this block in Covington still has many vacant store fronts and unsavory happenings.  However, Covington is going through a renaissance and the mural is perfectly positioned and timed to make a meaningful contribution.  Our site is just up the street from the historic Roebling bridge, across the street from a newly remodeled Kenton County Public Library, and less than a block from the Gateway Community and Technical College.  When we are finished with the mural the entire block will look much different.  Our goal is to give the people of the neighborhood something positive, something colorful, something that will inspire young people to dream and wonder.

To see the mural unfold check this live feed!  The folks across the street at the PPS group were excited about this project and graciously offered to film it, feed it, and time lapse it later.  Check out this link to see the wall live, right now:  http://www.theppsgroup.com/ppstv/.  We are working near the camera right now (autoposting this blog!).  We will wave to you Monday through Friday at exactly noon.  Our work day is 9am-2pm.


View Larger Map

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Dayton Kentucky City Council Cancels Mural

Old Map of Dayton, KY
Old Map of Dayton, KY

 After a great deal of energy, time, and taxpayer money was invested, Dayton City Council reversed its position and blocked a summer mural project from happening, despite a strong outpouring of community support, enthusiasm for my designs at the last city council meeting, and knowledge that the project was already completely funded.  Thanks to Penny Hurtt and Cathy Volter for voting for the mural! As for the other four Dayton Kentucky City Council Council members, Bil Burns and Bobby Allen were pretty quiet, Virgil Boruske didn’t want a mural in the first place, and Jerry Gifford was particularly unpleasant.  Maybe this outcome will shake things up in the next local election.

I am still a little unclear as to why the project (which, again, was already been completely funded) was voted down, but I’ve got to chalk it up to small town politics and in council member Gifford’s case, pride.  Gifford explained to everyone in attendance that despite enjoying the new designs, “If I already voted against something and I change my vote, what does that say about the power of my vote or the power of city council?” I was surprised at Gifford’s willingness to express this view so unapologetically and publicly, as it seems to me that the first priority of those in political office should be to represent their community, not to preserve their power.  Later, Gifford conceded that he too was an artist, although maybe not as good.

Working with the community of Dayton, however, was a great pleasure.  I still believe the city has a bright future.  And this story has a happy ending anyway–the project was since moved upstream to Covington, KY, where we were welcomed with open arms!  Read about my new bigger, better project here!

Here are some photos of my visits and research at the Charles Tharp Dayton Kentucky History Museum before the project was cancelled.  Charlie Tharp and Barry Baker showed me around and taught me a lot of interesting things about the city.

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Probability and the Illusion of Choice

Candyland and Snakes and Ladders Board Games

Candyland and Snakes and Ladders Board Games

Vintage Candyland Board game and Pieces

Vintage Candyland Board game and Pieces

A central challenge of an internet project is creating an enjoyable experience for users of a wide variety of browsing styles and personalities. My recent project could be considered a form of interface design, but is not a game in the traditional sense–one cannot win or lose. The first purpose of a work of internet art then is to simply engage. But how can I create and maintain interest in viewers who are accustomed to navigating social networking sites, sites promoting specific products, and games, but may have little or no experience with screen-based artworks? What formal and navigational components can be used to make clear to the viewer that experience itself is the only objective? How can I avoid audience frustration while retaining a sense of ambiguity, wonder, mystery central to my conceptual goals?

rock with arrow solgonda screen shot

Rock with Arrow

My solution to avoiding frustration in visitors to the site was a long, careful consideration of navigation. Rather than send users into an endless sea of networked links and imagery, Solgonda.com now occasionally gives clear instructions, through actual instructions or blatantly obvious interfaces. In the final stages of development I added more clear instructions (“Proceed”, “Exit”, “Skip”, and direction arrows).

Before finally solidifying the available paths through the site, I studied two of the most successful board games in history, Snakes and Ladders and Candyland. Each game is primarily linear, but with shortcuts (Ladders or Bridges, respectively), and some setbacks as well (Snakes). I began to organize my own project in this way, thinking about independent and related events, inspired by a fantastic statistical analysis of probability in Chutes and Ladders at DataGenetics.com.

The early draft of my project contained pages that were highly networked and linked almost randomly. In the end, I have found that it is not choice but the illusion of choice that is most satisfying. There are several predetermined arteries through the site, each with a unique, well-considered series of pages that provide a similar mix of predictability and surprise, respite and reward. Interconnected moments are harder to discover, but rewarding. I organized all the paths into four modes of travel: simple linear steps (roads), dramatic leaps forward (ladders), dramatic steps backwards (snakes) and finally toll roads. Using the metaphor of a toll both, the site funnels users into certain pathways based on whether or not they have picked up an internet “cookie” (a bit of data stored in the user’s browser) at an earlier point.

Solgonda Treasure Map

Solgonda Map

The result of all this consideration is a seemingly chaotic visualization of lines and rectangles. However, each piece of the puzzle is highly considered. While the creation of this chart was a pragmatic endeavor to organize the project at the final stages, it can also be read as a piece of art in its own right, a treasure map, reflecting my interest in interconnectedness and my passion for personal exploration. In the end, I realized that what we look for in art is what we look for in life: a particular balance of predictability and excitement.

I kept this site map in my back pocket during the gallery reception, sharing it only with those who were lost but especially determined!

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