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Category Archives: Ideas & Inspiration

Ten Acres of Weird & Awesome

Yesterday I visited Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture, ten acres of weird and awesome.  This is from the Noah Purifoy Foundation:

Born in Snow Hill, Alabama in 1917, Noah Purifoy lived and worked most of his life in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree.  Purifoy moved his practice out to the Mojave desert in 1989, where he lived for fifteen years until his death in 2004. Recognized as the founder of the Watts Towers Art Center in the 1960s, Purifoy created ten-acres full of large-scale sculpture on the desert floor in Joshua Tree.  Constructed entirely from junked materials, this otherworldly environment is one of California’s great art historical wonders.

I don’t really need to say much else about it, except that it blew me away.  Junk Dada.  truly one of the strangest and coolest art experiences i have had. visit http://noahpurifoy.com for more.

 

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A Non-Linear Universe and the Power of Bronze Plaques

Krblin Jihn Kabin

Today I stumbled upon a historical site near the house I am staying just outside of Joshua Tree National Park.  I had read briefly about The Krblin Jihn Kabin online, one of many abandoned homesteader cabins in or near the town of Joshua Tree.  Realizing it was so close, I stopped by on my way home today to check it out.  After driving down a long dirt road, I found the cabin and began to read the plaque.  I was introduced to the world of Kymaerica, a parallel universe in which a group of displaced people founded their own Christian cult and fought a civil war.  Weird.  I learned that the cabin once belonged to Jihn Wranglikan, one of the founders of the Wranglikan faith.

Nine Pointed Kmpass (compass)

According to the plaque and accompanying signs, one of the weird beliefs of the Wranglikans was the idea that “the letters ‘c’ and ‘o’ were the most obscene letters in the alphabet–unfit to be spoken by God’s children,” so the Wranglikans created their own dialect.  Other odd beliefs included an intense obsession with the number nine, so intense that parents were compelled to remove one baby toe from each of their ten-toed babies shortly after birth.  I walked in to examine the Wranglikan Nine-pointed Kmpass, devoid of north, carved into the stone floor.  Then, I had the distinct sense that someone was watching me.  I left confused.

maybe you are thinking “this can’t be real”.  that’s what i thought too.  after spending some time googling Jihn Wranglikan, then puzzling over the websites www.kcymaerxthaere.com and www.discoverkymaerica.com i came to realize that the entire story was made up by Eames Demetrios,”geographer-at-large”.  Eames Demetrios is apparently traveling the world setting up bronze plaques to commemorate events that never happened featuring people that never lived.  or at least, events and people who never lived in our “linear” universe.  These plaques exist at locations that are already intriguing.  Joshua Tree has plenty of these abandoned cabins, and plenty of strange religious groups too, so this is a natural fit.  Here is the lengthy, made up story.

here, you may be asking why anyone would go to all the trouble of creating these stories and then presenting them as if the stories were true.  it is extremely weird, i know.  having dabbled briefly in what i will hereafter refer to as “alternate reality art” myself in Erlanger, Kentucky, and now having been duped into experiencing a “piece” from the perspective of an unsuspecting audience member, i can provide three reasons for these kinds of projects:

1. it’s fun.  in a world where the most exciting thing that happens is one week of watching videos of sharks swim around on televisions, clearly every day life can be insufferably banal and lacking.  this is why god invented the prank phone call.  some alternate reality works are essentially cerebral pranks.  People have always derived a sense of gratification from having secret knowledge.  I think this is especially true of artists, performers, magicians and pranksters, who often invite their audiences into the truth or untruth of their worlds.

2. alternate reality art challenges institutional knowledge and power structures.  I already knew a bit about homesteaders and had never heard of the Wranglikans nor any of their strange beliefs.  But my brain, conditioned as it is to accepting wholesale anything engraved on a brass plaque, kept trying to fit this story into my existing historical framework, despite the extreme impossibility of the events described.  this left me questioning the truths of other plaques i had read at museums.  all of this is rather postmodern and deconstrucivist, to the extent that it indirectly raises into question the reality of our reality and the reliability of our metanarratives.  i’m not sure that this was Eames Demetrios’s intention, but it is a result.  This might be a good time to bring up the ideas of the hyperreal and the simulacra as discussed by postmodernist French social theorist Jean Baudrillard if i had time and i felt qualified.  but i don’t and i’m not so i won’t.  (but if was your girl.)

3. alternate reality art can expand our notions of media to include works that seamlessly bridge the gaps between our “real” physical world and the world of cyberspace, pushing the boundaries of what art and storytelling can be.  the Kymaerica website and other sites that connect online fictions with real places blur the lines of real and cyberspace.  corporations like google and facebook have already capitalized on these connections, whereas the art world has moved more slowly.  at most art schools the majority of fine art is created in physical space, or at least, ultimately shown in the physical space of a gallery.  fine art projects that exist online are generally contained there, and projects that exist in physical space generally only use the internet to promote openings.  written narratives and other works can now cross the old physical boundaries of place to transcend traditional categories of art and entertainment.  rather than continually try to only adapt old media (books, CD’s, etc.) to a new world, we also need new kinds of media that will compliment our new technologies.

4. Eames Demetrios has said that the goal of his project is “to look at the world fresh.  to try and imagine another way of seeing how this planet could be.” (from this talk).  Now, i know that i necessarily want to imagine a planet where a cult of wild-west baby-torturers lived up the street from me.  however, i do agree with his larger point that any challenging work of art involves creatively seeing and creative vision.  As a sidenote, (and speaking of creative vision) Eames Demetrios, the creator of the plaques as well as the creator of the Kymaerxthaere parallel universe, is the grandson of Charles and Ray Eames, the famous husband and wife duo who created the Eames Lounge Chair.  sometimes, vision runs in the family.

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Alternative Living in Joshua Tree

The Integratron – Rejouvnating Sound Baths

I have been thinking a lot about “living” lately, especially since coming here to the town of Joshua Tree. In the midwest it is easy to take for granted the amenities and burdens of suburbia–the structures we live in, the ways we organize our societies, and the groups and ideologies we adopt.  Here, there is still so much space (both for living and for thinking).  It’s not a given that there should be Dollar General store on the corner or that houses should be rectangular, built in close proximity, and have aluminum siding.  Or for that matter, that sundays should be spent at church rather than in The Integratron, a large tholos built in accordance to instructions from aliens from venus.

Even grass is a huge luxury that almost no one in the high desert can afford.  So out of necessity, life and living are different in the remote Mojave than in most parts of the country.  Or at least, that was the plan.  Joshua Tree basically sits just past the edge of the swath of urban sprawl coming from from Los Angeles.  Unfortunately the nearby towns of Yucca Valley and Twenty Nine Palms seem to be succumbing to American homogeneity, with Walmarts, a Burger King (although I do love burger king), Dollar General, etc.  Joshua Tree, sandwiched in the middle and as of now still separated by a few miles of desert, retains an independent local character that is rustic, charming, and of course refreshing.

In the surrounding desert there are many interesting buildings inspired by the natural building movement, an interest in sustainable living, new age spirituality or the simple American desire to be unique and creative.  Artist Bevery Doolittle’s home is a real work of art.  Even Frank Lloyd Wright designed a few buildings here in the town of Joshua Tree, to house the Institute of Mental Physics.

“Small Liberties” Wagon Station – Andrea Zittel with Jonas Hauptman, from Andrea Zittel’s blog

Eco-dome

eco-dome, superadobe

The other day I passed two superadobes being built, as well as some interesting pod-like structures out on a hill.  I learned the pods were placed there by internationally renown artist Andrea Zittel as part of a series of collaborative experimental living structures called wagon stations or “Small Liberties”.  For an interesting snapshot of a true proponent of alternative living and “investigative living”, check out this interesting (if somewhat long) video below.  Zittel’s home, as well as the home I am staying in, is an upgraded homesteader house from the 1940’s or 50’s, a time when the government was giving a four acres of land away to anyone who promised to “improve” the land in some way.  As a sidenote, my great grandfather was a homesteader and helped to build the town of Cody Wyoming, with Buffalo Bill Cody and others.  Eccentricity, creativity, and an interest in self-sufficiency have always gone hand in hand (i know that’s three hands, they are alien hands).

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The Obsolesence of Boxes

Gray-Blue Steel Box with Art Deco Hinge

Some thoughts about the increasing obsolescence of small physical storage boxes.  I know obsolescence is a strong word, and yes, Ikea probably sells thousands and thousands of these kinds of boxes which are made to look old.  However, there is no question that the majority of photographs and documents in our world have moved into the no-space of the internet.  Our world is less and less physical.  Donna Haraway makes my claims seem pretty humble by suggesting that “even bodies themselves may become irrelevant” (Cyborg Manifesto).

  • boxes are becoming obsolete as our world and our methods of archiving move away from the physical and into the digital realm
  • the increasing obsolescence of these particular kinds of small wooden and metal boxes is curious since photographs, documents, and letters, objects that are strongly associated with feelings of sentimentality and nostalgia, are the most important sociological phenomena of human history, while
  • the functionality of other types of boxes that are associated with more banal expressions of our physical existence (such as the refrigerator for food) endure
  • the internet has usurped small boxes as the new repository of emotional relics
  • perhaps a lack of physical evidence for our emotions creates anxiety and an ever-increasing need to share more
  • an embrace of the box as an expression of opposition to the new simulacra of human experience
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Jukebox Coffin: Box Etymology

it’s a beautiful word, isn’t it?  three perfectly balanced, elegant letters.  the self-contained O literally “boxed in” by the feminine curvature of the B and the masculine dynamism of the X.

box /bäks/

box 1 |bäks|
noun
1 a container with a flat base and sides, typically square or rectangular and having a lid

the sheer amount of definitions, as well as idioms and common expressions that contain the word box is testament to the importance of the idea of a box in American culture and language.  with the great exception of the term box as slang for coffin, most of these phrases are positive.  we see boxes mostly in a positive light–not as restrictive spaces but rather as precious objects, bringing organization and meaning to our world.

I believe even the common idiom “think outside the box”, which at first glance seems to use the word box in a pejorative way, is a popular expression due to the warm feelings the very word “box” evokes in the first place.  the phrase now evokes feelings of creativity and inventiveness rather than restriction and status quo.  maybe that seems like a stretch.  this notion of the near automatic positivity of the word box is reinforced from a quick reading of the etymology of jukebox, another term with highly negative roots but that now evokes extremely positive, nostalgic emotions.  This is from etymonline.com:

Jukebox1937, jook organ, from jook joint “roadhouse” (1935), Black English slang, from juke, joog “wicked, disorderly,” in Gullah (the creolized English of the coastlands of South Carolina, Georgia, and northern Florida), probably from Wolof and Bambara dzug “unsavory.” Said to have originated in central Florida (see “A Note on Juke,” Florida Review, vol. VII, no. 3, spring 1938). The spelling with a -u- might represent a deliberate attempt to put distance between the word and its origins.

For a long time the commercial juke trade resisted the name juke box and even tried to raise a big publicity fund to wage a national campaign against it, but “juke box” turned out to be the biggest advertising term that could ever have been invented for the commercial phonograph and spread to the ends of the world during the war as American soldiers went abroad but remembered the juke boxes back home. [“Billboard,” Sept. 15, 1945]

and if that’s not enough evidence for the greatness of this beautiful three letter word, I’ve just created this list of wonderfully mysterious words simply by pulling words from various definitions of the noun box 1  (bɒks), via the Collins World English Dictionary:

base, baseball, birds, border, casing, central, coal, coffin, collected, compartment, computing, container, contents, cubicle, cut, device, ditches, dividing, enclosing, female, genitals, hinged, hole, horse-drawn, housing, lines, machinery, mail, mechanical, newspaper, original, page, parts, post-office, printed, protective, rectangle, redistributed, removable, sap, section, shelter, space, stable, systems, transporting, tree, wheeled, white

 

as a side-note, maybe Jukebox Coffin would be a good band name.  or a pretty sweet amalgam to actually create as a work of contemporary art.  if only i was a sculptor.

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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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Cold War Color


i have been fascinated lately with the evolution of color sensibilities as dictated by politics and consumer culture. after a painting instructor mentioned to me that the boxes i was painting (and by extension the paintings themselves) reminded her of cold war artifacts–and many probably are–i began snooping around online for manufacturers who may have had a role in shaping American color preferences at that time. Kohler, the manufacturer of kitchen and bathroom tiles, toilets, etc. has a great chart on their website that reveals the evolution of color swatches taken from their products throughout the decades as a reflection of the tastes of American consumers.

until a few weeks ago the Kohler site also featured interesting text descriptions of these changing sensibilities, including this one about the 40’s:

“The 1940s and World War II brought soil-hiding khaki and olive green, as well as patriotic reds and blues. Doing its part for the war effort, the American textile industry even restricted the number of colors available for fabric, thus suppressing the appetite for new colors and new clothes every season. Brighter colors started to return after the war years, though the political and social influences of the time kept colors relatively restrained.”

I also discovered this website http://www.colourlovers.com that gives you the ability to create your own palettes and lets you browse palettes from other users.  You can select colors individually or use an interface that allows you to generate palettes automatically based on uploaded photographs.  below is a portion of a screenshot from http://www.colourlovers.com featuring a palette I just created, based on one of my box paintings.   after I created this palette, i found that the website had matched each color as closely as possible to a variety of wall paint by “Martha Stewart Living Paint™, available at the Home Depot.” Like the purple in my painting?  The closest Martha Stewart match is “Plum Pudding”.  Home Depot is obviously a sponsor of the Colour Lovers website, reflecting the intrinsic links between advertising, consumerism and the ever-shifting color preferences of societies as manifested in products of design and fine art.

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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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Boxes: Point of Departure

Tower – Oil on Canvas, 36″ x 36″

I am making paintings of boxes. I have several canvases in my studio at various levels of completion, each with compositions of stacks of jumbled, sometimes anti-gravital configurations of wooden and metal boxes and drawers.  Some areas of the paintings are straightforwardly representational.  In other areas passages of paint become only paint, creating dripping or pixel-like obstructions.  This may or may not sustain my interest as i begin to consider my MFA thesis at the University of Cincinnati.

"Tower" Oil on Canvas - detail

I did not initially understand my compulsion to make these paintings or my attraction to boxes and drawers but I am getting closer.  Throughout the next few weeks and months I hope writing in this blog will help to solidify my understanding of my own psychological interests in compartmentalization and containment, outline a clear course for further exploration of these themes, and perhaps even make a compelling case that something as seemingly banal as an old box can also be endlessly extraordinary and deep.

some initial somewhat random thoughts about boxes and stacks of boxes:

  • a box has two states: open and closed.  Open and closed can be thought of as a metaphor, the yin and yang of our experience of the universe.  people, paths, goals, spaces, personalities, impulses, stores, homes, windows, compositions, melodies, sentences–many many things can be open or closed.
  • a box is containment, means containment.
  • we were born in a contained state.  the womb is a box.
  • containment is safety; containment is also imprisonment.
  • the box is a metaphor for our minds.
  • the mind is often conceived as having compartments for different functions.
  • a pragmatic understanding of the universe is only possible when we shut ourselves off to the reality of interconnectedness, preferring organizational strategies that draw lines around seemingly disparate phenomena, placing these phenomena in imagined compartments and boxes.
  • a box can conceal that which should not be seen. thus,
  • a box holds secrets
  • a lock on a small box is absurd, since the box can simply be stolen.  thus,
  • locks on small boxes (especially decorative locks) are an expression of our cultural reverence for our small treasures and our secrets
  • “all these weird creatures who lock up their spirits…and live for their secrets” -Radiohead (lyrics from “Subterranean Homesick Alien”about potential alien observations on humans)
  • For psychologists, compartmentalization is useful mechanism to hold opposing viewpoints within the same mind.
  • for social scientists compartmentalization may involve the division of labor. the industrial revolution as well as mechanical time and other kinds of new systems that have imposed radical fragmentation and separation of aspects of daily life.
  • fragmentation has become our natural condition
  • “defrag” is to defragment a hard drive–to move components (imagined as cubes) and to pack them tightly into the same area like stacked boxes
  • perhaps defragmentation as a metaphor could be extended
  • maybe my interest in fragmentation is a manifestation of my own feelings of disconnection from myself, having had to adopt sub identities to exist in the worlds of music and art, to meet the expectations of different audiences
  • a painting is a box.  thus,
  • the paintings, as fragmented representations of information storage, are metaphors for themselves–they (hopefully) synthesize several psychological and sociological themes in creating unified artworks
  • a stack of closed boxes expresses inherent tension between separation and unity
  • a box is more contained than a drawer because it can be solitary
  • a single removed drawer should read as lonelier than a single box, since singular is an unnatural condition for a drawer
  • boxes are tiny museums,
  • mummy memories,
  • undead documents, periodically reincarnated
  • “…there will always be more things in a closed, than an open, box.  To verify images kills them, and it is always more enriching to imagine than to experience.”  – Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

more to follow.

 

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Ladders Premier on Fountain Square

hey guys!

Please check out my latest music video “Ladders” now at http://www.joehedges.com.

Signed and numbered 17″ x 11″ prints of the painting I created for the video is available from my website for $20 or $85 framed (prices include shipping).

I may or may not part with the original.

play me

http://www.joehedges.com/music

http://www./painting

The colors in the prints look great. Wouldn’t this look cool with your fall decor? 🙂

We had a great premier tonight watching the video on the jumbotron at the largest public forum in Cincinnati, Fountain Square.

I hope you’re well

joe

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