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Category Archives: Featured

AntiPatterns

Here are some shots from a recent solos how AntiPatterns, which featured paintings, digital prints, and sculpture/installation.  A big thank you to colleague Michael Holloman, Hiromi Okumura and Reza Safavi for inviting me to show and coordingating.  Thanks especially to graduate students Laura Pregeant, Yuanwen Lin, Anna Davis, Kayleigh Lang, Hayley Black, Andre Fortes, and Stephen Cohen for the scrupulous painting, install and writing for the exhibition.  This was a fun way to introduce faculty and students at Washington State University to my work.


ANTIPATTERNS
Joe Hedges

9/03/2015-09/25/2015
Reception 09/03/2015 5pm-8pm
Gallery 2
Washington State University
Department of Fine Arts
Gallery hours 9-5 M-F


ANTIPATTERNS

AntiPatterns are corrective actions gone awry. AntiPatterns stand apart from bad solutions in that they seem like effective means of problem solving; they are nefarious, appearing reliable, even virtuous, all the while containing their own retroactions.

In the paintings, digital prints, and sculptures by Joe Hedges, we see the hybridization of natural and technological objects, united and interacting in often humorous, often contemplative ways. Hedges’ works posit that while human intervention in natural processes sometimes provide solutions to specific problems, these efforts frequently leave us worse off. But hope is not lost–what most distinguishes the AntiPattern from its cousin, bad pattern, is that within the seemingly counterproductive measures of its application is found a true, eventual solution.  Hedges’ solutions ask us to examine our embedded relationship with nature and how–but more importantly why–we meddle. Perhaps within our collective societal and ecological AntiPatterns we may still find a grain of elucidation and resolution. 

A. Fortes

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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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The Artist as Collector

A corner of a cabinet, painted by Frans II Francken in 1636

A corner of a cabinet, painted by Frans II Francken in 1636

In the Renaissance, before the borders of art and science were so rigidly defined, the cabinet of curiosity or cabinet of wonder (Wunderkammern in German) was a place where peculiar objects were gathered (for a most fun and succinct recollection of this history, see Weschler, Lawrence. Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder. New York: Vintage, 1996. Print.).  These cabinets of wonder included natural objects like shells and bones, as well as human-made art objects such as oil paintings and sculptures.  Today we might understand these groupings of art and science as naive, but those collections were precursors to our modern museums.  Put positively, museums are now cultural expressions of shared understanding, places of wonder and appreciation.  Seen more critically, museums are promotors of ruling class propaganda–institutions where knowledge is created, stored and maintained by governments and wealthy individuals, opened periodically to the public, often for a fee.

The Artist in His Museum, (self-portrait, 1822), Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

The Artist in His Museum, C.W. Peale (self-portrait, 1822), Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

Did you know that one of the first well-known American natural history museums was established by an Artist?  Artists are natural collectors, attracted to unusual forms and phenomena.  It is no surprise then that Charles Wilson Peale, a well known American portrait painter, was among the first to offer his collection to the public as a museum.  Peale also was progressive in that he adopted a system of scientific taxonomy, organizing his birds and bones by groups and classes rather than presenting them as random curiosities.  I always loved this painting, especially the grid of shelves, implying modernism, stability, structure and organization.

Peale, along with Thomas Jefferson and other early American figures, had a particular interest in the Mastodon, a then-emerging symbol of American power.  First called the “American Incognitum”, the Mastodon was thought to have been a powerful carnivorous beast.  One of the first complete skeletons to be unearthed was displayed in Peale’s museum.  Here is a magnificent drawing of the skeleton as it was displays in Peale’s museum from a book, Voyage to North America, and the West Indies, in 1817, published in 1821 and written by Édouard de Montulé.  It would have been incredible sight for early Americans.  but they put the tusks on backwards.  oops!

Skeleton in C.W. Peale's museum, drawing illustration by Édouard de Montulé in his book A voyage to North America, and the West Indies in 1817, published 1821

Mastodon Skeleton in C.W. Peale’s museum

A Wunderkammern aesthetic can be found in my own art, in that my work consists of gathering together seemingly disparate objects under the banner of art but often employs the visual language of science.  I treat natural and human artifacts as equals.  I am interested in the formal effects of visual organization but rather like early cabinets of wonder, my goal is not to deliver answers but to raise questions and inspire.

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Joshua Tree National Park

The strange and beautiful Joshua Tree at dusk

Hello from the high desert!  I am here near the magical Joshua Tree National Park, doing an artist residency, collecting material for an internet art project supported by a Wolfstein travel grant from the University of Cincinnati.  Joshua Tree is perhaps my favorite place on earth (so far).  I have not yet been able to explain with words exactly why, but perhaps I can do so with other media.

Joshua Tree at sunset

Joshua Tree National Park is a sprawling area of 790,636 acres (about 12,000 square miles) on the transition zone between the Mojave and Sonoran (Colorado) deserts of mostly wilderness.  Sand and boulders team with creatures such as lizards, roadrunners, rattlesnakes, mice, and even some bullhorn sheep.  The park gets its name from the wonderful Joshua Trees in the Mojave section of the park (where I am staying).  The trees were so named by the Mormons during their first trip through the desert.  For the Mormons, the trees were like the Biblical Joshua, pointing the way.  However, most other early American explorers had the opposite reaction, describing the trees as grotesque and terrible.  The trees are not actually trees at all, but a member of the Agave family, a yucca.

Yes, the Joshua Tree is also the namesake of the popular album by the Irish rock band U2, although i don’t think they really spent any time here.  Bono found out about the tree after the album was recorded.  He allegedly enjoyed the biblical tie-in, and came to the Southwest with a photographer to take the cover shot.  Other interesting rock and roll tales include the theft and burning of the body of original alt-country star Gram Parsons here in the desert, after his untimely death in a motel just up the street from where I am staying.  Parsons did solo albums and played with several bands including the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers.  Apparently he and Keith Richards used to drive out here and get wasted and look for UFO’s.  Because of its relative proximity to Los Angeles (2 or 3 hours), Joshua Tree National Park has been a mecca for LA musicians and artists looking for inspiration or solace.

Joshua Tree Rockhouse

i am staying in the fabulous Joshua Tree Rockhouse just outside the park.  the house is incredible.  the Rockhouse is a homesteader’s house from the 1950’s which has been slightly upgraded to include more contemporary amenities.  it is stocked with some odd instruments and my favorite thing here–a white Steinway baby grand piano.  i have spent the last few days creating in the house, exploring the backyard, and venturing into the park in the evenings and at night taking pictures and watching the Perseid meteor shower.  i have also been reading and researching local geography, ecology, and sociology.  if you are interested in learning more or visiting, the most comprehensive book I have found is James Kaiser’s Joshua Tree: The Complete Guide.  this area is so rich visually and culturally i hardly know where to begin; i am still sorting out how all the sounds, melodies, images, and ideas i am gathering will come together in an online project, but for now, here are some documentary photos of the house and the desert.

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Bellevue Kentucky Mural

I had the pleasure of working this summer as a teaching artist in Bellevue, KY just over the river from Cincinnati on an outdoor mural project organized by Artworks Cincinnati and designed by project manager Scott Donaldson. Scott, myself, and teaching artist Emily Howard worked with a group of eight apprentices from all over the Cincinnati area to complete the mural over a period of five extremely hot summer weeks.  The talented apprentices are Shaelyn Beagle, Hannah Brewer, Molly Cardosi, Samuel Cope, Stephanie Corona, William Moore, Alexander Murphy-White, and Susan Romer.  From ArtworksCincinnati.org:

About this Project: ArtWorks is partnering with the Taft Museum of Art to take the Taft’s Art For All project to a larger scale! To celebrate its 80th anniversary, the Taft Museum of Art is bringing framed reproductions of 80 works from its collection to the streets and outdoor spaces of the Cincinnati metro area. This mural, ArtWorks’ first in Bellevue, will be inspired by art from the Taft’s collection. While the framed reproductions will only be available for the summer of 2012, this mural will have a much longer lifespan.

We had a fantastic time painting, sweating, climbing up and down scaffolding, getting to know each other, and enjoying the quaint and artist-friendly community of Bellevue.  Our “studio” was just down Fairmont Ave. in the Bellevue Beadery.  The beadery’s owner Joanna Maehren, provided us with much needed encouragement and support early on in the project (as well as a place to escape from the hot sun!).

Our mural is on the wall of Pitri’s Flowers, in the parking lot of the adjacent Dobbling, Muehlenkamp-Erschell Funeral Home.  The funeral home folks were so kind and grateful.  On multiple occasions, they even let us sit in one of their visitation rooms and eat ice cream.  Additionally, the proximity to the funeral home provided me with plenty of opportunities to make morbid jokes!  I like the idea that our mural will add just a little cheer and life to many future somber events.

I was surprised and encouraged at the overwhelmingly positive response from the community, the talent and enthusiasm of the apprentices and the professionalism and general awesomeness of my new artist friends Emily and Scott.  I am hopeful that I can work on another Artworks Cincinnati project in the future.

The scaffolding will come off in a couple weeks and we will have a dedication at some point in September.  I write another post with details about the dedication and photos of the finished mural.  In the meantime, check out these in progress photos below, and if you are in the Cincinnati area please stop by and check out our hard work!

 

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Portals/Planets

A one-day iphone series of things I found on a street in an industrial part of Cincinnati.

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Pieces of Paintings

I believe every inch of a painting should be considered.  Here are some small areas of the surfaces of my paintings that help make color, texture, and the physical properties of oil paint so exciting for me.

 

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백합호 (The Fleur-de-Lis)

Jio Bae and I decided to call the ship 백합호, The Fleur-de-Lis. The strange plastic Fleur-de-Lis we found at the river became the centerpiece of the boat, attached to the top of the stern. Since the symbol is rich with history and meaning (wikipedia it), it seemed well-suited for our humble cross-cultural collaboration. Between Jio’s interest in symbolic representations of nomadism and travel, and my interest in mystery and fantasy, we think the boat suits our personalities. It straddles the line between eastern and western boat archetypes, and is also a good representation of the ratio between “natural” and “unnatural” objects (pollution) lying on the shore of the Ohio river near Cincinnati. The color palette is also delightfully (and accidentally) similar to that of my recent paintings, predominantly brown and neutral with small splashes of synthetic color. enjoy.

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Walking a Path / My Studio

For the last few months I have been trying to find my way into a new series of paintings. It has taken me a few starts and stops but I believe I have found a good path. I hope to have some images of new paintings for this website soon. In the meantime, I have uploaded some photographs of my studio.

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Paris

i am in america looking out an airplane window at what must be a great lake. there is no horizon. the faded blue of the lake comes up into a band of white hazy clouds and becomes sky somewhere. this will be the last time i write from a plane, trian, or boat for a long while. i have been in five countries in two months. i have seen some of the greatest cathedrals and monuments and museums in the world and i am convinced i have met some of the nicest people on earth too. and i have done all this for little–not much more than my usual cost of living at home, assisted by a small art scholarship and a handful of hospitable friends and fans who graciously let me into their homes and sheltered me and fed me and escorted me around in exchange for me singing my simple american songs. for a month i have been a kind of traveling minstrel, and i have been fortunate to find small audiences and even more fortunate to now consider them close friends. my world has gotten smaller and larger at once. i see myself as more american than i ever, but more than that i have thought about the common humanity of other cultures and the things that transcend country lines, things like music, art, food, family, and friends.

in paris i stayed in a cheap but decent hotel in montmartre, an area of town which is famous in part for the moulin rouge and the behemian culture of artists it helped to inspire. artists as varied as Talousse Latrec, Salvador Dalí, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh all lived or worked in montmartre at some point. the clubs in montmartre are some of the seediest in the world, and the area remains as unpredictable and dangerous as it must have been for talousse latrec in 1900. pigalles and the boulevard de clichy strip is a far cry from the cleanliness and cheeriness of the red light district in amsterdam. the moulin rouge, however, now attracts large groups of tourists to its nightly shows and to its brightly lit red exterior where americans pose for photographs and think of nicole kidman.

my first day in paris i went straight from the train station to the hotel and then to the louvre. at the louvre i only had a few hours so i went directly to the mona lisa first. the image is so well known to me that i spotted it from within another large room when it was just the size of an ant. there, masses of asian people swarmed around pushing and shoving with cameras trying to get a photo of themselves in front of the painting. i stood there for probably five or ten minutes, longer than anyone else in that time period. i am not sure anyone was really looking at it but only looking at the idea of the mona lisa–the most famous painting in the world. i have never seen anything like it. it was as if brad pitt had just stepped out of a limo. never had mona lisa’s knowing smile seemed so hilariously perfect to me, as if saying “can you believe this?” i almost wonder if davinci anticipated this kind of scene, or if the response was similar in the quattrocento. slowly i worked my way to the front and center and became the silent motionless eye of a tornado of ridiculous excitement. and there i decided: yes. it is one of the very best, a perfect painting. the right kind of atmosphere, mystery, beauty. despite becoming a cliche and a tourist trap, the mona lisa remains a timeless masterpiece. and even if it’s only in that one corner of france, somewhere for some reason people still get very excited about colored pigment on a flat surface. that makes me smile too.

that night i had paris by night tour and a drink and an open faced french sandwich with my first ever french friend benjamin (who shares my exact birthday) and his wife. they drove me around to show me monuments and important buildings, a tour which would have been impossible in one day on foot. i was still tired from my trip from lyon so that night in montmartre i slept like a baby from babyville despite the sounds of young artists drinking and laughing drifting through my open window into the late hours.

yesterday, tuesday, was my very last day in europe. i went to the Musée d’Orsay, perhaps the second most famous museum in the world after the louvre. the orsay was at one time the most modern train station in paris, now it is home to many of the best works ever from the impressionists and post-impressionists. there i saw monet, manet, corbet, and many other artists whose names end with et but are pronounced ay. most of the artists at the orsay walked the line between tradition and modernity. i think that is the job of every artist.

what would you do, if you had just one more night in europe after a two month adventure? i took a cab to the eifel tower to get there fast enough to catch the sunset. i walked on the lawn weaving through young and old bodies kicking soccer balls and drinking wine on blankets. i found a patch in the grass with a good view and bought a bottle of cold champagne from a vendor. i watched the sky turn from blue to pink to dark blue to black and the tower turn from orange to night and the lights come on. i made an effort to reflect on everywhere i had been and all the things i had done. my thoughts turned to home. after sitting around by myself for a couple hours i finally had the guts to approach a young guy sitting by himself with a backpack. i assumed he was a solo traveler like me.

“do you speak english?” i asked
“yes” he said with an accent i could not place.
“do you want a glass of champagne? i had to buy a whole bottle but i won’t drink it all.”
“sure!” he said with genuine enthusiasm, so i sat down.
“this is going to be the last conversation i have in europe,” i told him and we talked for an hour or so. i would learn that he was from quebec, canada, and spoke a form of french that could not be understood by french people living in france. it was his very first night of a european adventure. he had just found his way from the airport.
“i saw the eifel tower so i thought that would be a good place to start!” like me when i arrived, he had no return plane ticket, and only a rough idea of what he wanted to see. so with unspoken poetry, i passed the torch. the eifel tower, i thought, is a good place to end.

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