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Momento/Memento

Friday night I celebrated the opening of a group exhibition, Momento/Memento at REVERSE space, a gallery in Brooklyn, New York. I showed digital paintings, and friends Jacob Lynn, Christy Wittmer, and Corrina Mehiel showed fiber works, sculptures, and photographs, respectively.

We had a nice little write up in Artfcity.com, calling the exhibition a must see event and describing my photos as possessing an “Alzheimer’s-like strangeness”

This was my first show in New York and I am happy to have shown alongside good friends from Cincinnati. Here’s an excerpt from the exhibition description:

OPENING FRIDAY, JUNE 19TH, 7 – 9PM, REVERSE will present, for the first time in New York, four Cincinnati-based artists working on the objectification of time and memory.
Consciousness is endlessly grasping for objects as moment boxes. Yet there is an important etymological distinction between our contemporary understanding of memento (commonly misspelled momento)—a French souvenir, which can take the form of anything from a cheap snow globe to an interesting rock—and memento mori, which symbolized the medieval practice of reflecting on mortality and the transient nature of the universe. It is in the gap between these two definitions of the same term that the exhibition MOMENTO / MEMENTO operates, as Joe Hedges, Jacob Lynn, Corrina Mehiel, and Christy Wittmer work to acknowledge an objectified attachment to moments in time.Photo Jun 19, 7 55 51 PM (1)

Read the entire description here: http://reversespace.org/momento-memento/

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Michael Sailstorfer: Masculinity and Quiet Destruction

I recently attended the opening reception for the exhibition Michael Sailstorfer: Every Piece is a New Problem at the Contemporary Arts Center here in Cincinnati, Ohio.  This is the German Sailstorfer’s first major solo show in the United States and the CAC is the perfect place for his large-scale sculptures and installations.

Sailstorfer’s work is characterized by unusual sculptural interventions that investigate the clash between technology and nature.  I too am interested in this intersection and was pleased to see an artist taking on this theme using such a massive scale.  The most prominently displayed Sailstorfer work at the CAC is a collection of four large live trees hang upside down.  Each tree is slowly rotated on a motor so that the branches sweep the floor.  The effect is mesmerizing.  Robotic motors whir and needles bristle and break leaving traces on the concrete ground in quiet circles.  In the graceful airy space of the CAC this strange situation feels almost natural and somehow calming.

Hanging Problems

Hanging Trees

Sailstorfer’s other works include a microphone is encased in a block of concrete, picking up subtle vibrations as visitors walk by.  Many pieces simply document past events: a cabin being completely burnt down using its own wood and wood-burning stove, a young tree exploded using air pressure. and a tire mounted in such a way that as it spins it screeches, leaving a rubber mark on the wall and a burning smell in the gallery.

Sailstorfer’s art is undeniably provocative.  The CAC exhibition evokes surprise and even glee, as visitors are confronted by unlikely and curiously dramatic, almost playful situations.  But while Sailstorfer’s works are consistently memorable and powerful, there lingers an undercurrent of unsettling darkness that may not be initially recognizable.

Burning Cabin

Burning Cabin

The CAC website describes Sailstorfer’s trees as “dancers of a melancholic ballet”.  After think exhibition sunk in a little, I am now more inclined to view them as victims of execution by hanging–an inverted lynching.  There is nothing new about upside down trees.  Take Natalie Jeremijenko’s permanent installation of living upside-down trees at Mass MoCA, Tree Logic.  Jeremijenko built a system which nourishes the trees despite their unusual position, asking viewers to contemplate the possibility of naturalness as thee trees respond over time to an unexpected environment.  Sailstorfer, by contrast, slowly kills his trees using decapitation and mechanical torture.

Natalie Jeremijenko: Tree Logic, MASS MoCA

Natalie Jeremijenko: Tree Logic, MASS MoCA

This interpretation is not metaphorical–Sailstorfer’s trees are indeed, actually, slowly dying. It is possible to become so enamored with the art-ness of Sailstorfers works that the reality of these destructive acts is overlooked.  But Sailstorfer is a materialist.  The essence of his art is material; it is reasonable to take his interventions at face value.  Of course, most contemporary art installations, performances, and actions are generally presented as symbolic provocations even as they are “real”.  The problem for Sailstorfer–and indeed much contemporary art–is that he seems unable to articulate the symbolic part.

Dying trees, exploded trees, burning cabins, burnt rubber, a microphone restricted in concrete and an obsession with the idea of “expansion”–Sailstorfer is a contemporary futurist.  Like Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and friends in the Futurist manifesto from 1909, Sailstorfer sings the “love of danger, the habit of energy and rashness…” perhaps even a “contempt for women”–but does all this abstrusely.  Unlike the Futurists, who were transparent about their wholehearted embrace of destruction, machine-power and even fascism, Sailstorfer puts the responsibility on the viewer. This to me is even more unsettling.

Raketenbaum (Rocket Tree)

Raketenbaum (Rocket Tree) – Another Problem Solved

In another arena, Sailstorfer’s works could pass for entertainment or spectacle.  Fireworks, Game of Thrones, the NFL, Nascar–sports and entertainment media are awash in images of male power and violent destruction.  When pressed, however, Sailstorfer describes his art as being solely about nature, technology and art history.

In contemporary art and society ideology has never been more prominent.  For Sailstorfer–and all artists–every piece is indeed a new problem; solving them may require an element preservation, modesty, contraction, compassion and sensitivity.  How do you solve your problems?

 

Michael Sailstorfer: Every Piece is a New Problem
Now through September 14

Contemporary Arts Center
44 E. Sixth St.
Cincinnati, OH 45202

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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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Launch!

The thesis exhibition reception was great!  I felt so good to be showing art with my amazing classmates at the University of Cincinnati Master of Fine Arts Program, with whom I have spent the last two years of my life.  The show looked amazing and was really well planned.  The turnout was great too, including local celebrities like Mayor Mark Mallory and well-known artists like photographer Michael Wilson.

The director of our program Joe Girandola got ahold of an amazing projector for me so the images were bright and crisp even at about twelve feet across.  Rather than simply project www.solgonda.com onto a wall, I built an environment to kind of bring some of the magic and mystery of the desert outdoors into the gallery.  Bill at Ohio Valley Stone hooked me up with some big rocks, including a 1,400 pound boulder.  I covered the speakers with Papier-mâché and painted them to look like the rocks, put the sub-woofer in a burlap bag, etc.  I figured, you only get an MFA once (unless you’re a masochist or bored and wealthy) so I pulled out all the stops with the details.

People were really into the work, and at many times there were lines to control the interface.  The best moment was receiving a hug from a young boy after his parents pointed me out as the artist.  The boy was so satisfied he was gleaming.  I joked that children were my target demographic.  But really, that is not far from the truth–if I can evoke a kind of child-like wonder in adults too, I know I’m doing something right.  At moments of extreme joy in my own life, I value adventure and discovery over predictability, the way children do.  Curiosity is the essence of my work.  Thank you for letting me share it with you.

If you didn’t get a chance to see the exhibition please enjoy the piece online now: www.solgonda.com

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Exhibition Invitation

After much deliberation, I decided my exhibition postcard should not be a postcard at all, but more of an invitation.  I spent a lot of time on the project so I figured I should invest some love and care into the invite as well.  I think the idea of opening something, of revealing and concealing, and of layers relates more to this project and my work generally than a glossy static image.  So I used envelopes to create a little suspense and used a custom stamp and a QR code to act as clues.

Besides being utilitarian, the QR code has become a symbol of the blurring of the physical and digital worlds.  The brown policy envelopes relate to my interest in the aesthetics of bureaucracy and cold war color (my box project), the Solgonda logo evokes petroglyphs, and the OCR-A extended font suggests computers (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OCR-A_font).

Half of the invites I created have real stamps affixed.  The other half, which I will distribute in mailboxes at universities and among friends in person, have fake stamps.  The stamp was an important design element but obviously not necessary for items that won’t be mailed, so a color printer, some stamp-edge scrap-booking scissors, and rubber cement was my solution to preserve the integrity of the design but not waste an extra 46 cents an envelope.  Not surprisingly, fake stamps are way cheaper than real ones!  To be thorough, I created my own postmark although I decided not to use it in the end as it is a little too fantasy for this project.

Solgonda.com QR codeYou can make your own QR code for free, instantly, for just about any website at www.the-qrcode-generator.com.  This site is nice as it allows you to specify the size in pixels.

For photo stamps, I used photo.stamps.com.  They are kind of pricey but the website is easy to use and the printing is of excellent quality.

I ordered the envelopes at  www.jampaper.com, home of lots of unique and cool paper products.

Go make something!

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MFA Thesis Reception Friday April 19

Solgonda

Solgonda

Solgonda: An Internet Art Gallery Installation by Joe Hedges as part of
Launch: University of Cincinnati Master of Fine Arts Students Thesis Exhibitions
The University of Cincinnati Sycamore Gallery
628 Sycamore St. Cincinnati, OH, 45202
Reception Friday April 19 6:30-10 p.m.
Artist talk Saturday April 20 12-3 p.m.
www.mfalaunch.com

Please consider stopping by my thesis exhibition.  The reception is free and open to the public of all ages and walks of life.  Come as you are and enjoy art, hors d’oeuvres (free food), wine, and fun.  My work will be on display during the Friday April 19th reception, the second of three consecutive exhibitions featuring nineteen Master of Fine Arts graduate students.  The exhibition will feature a diverse array of media including painting, sculpture, installation, photography, animation, mixed media, video art, internet art, and sound art from myself and several of my peers.

My own work combines assemblage sculpture, installation, and interactive digital art that makes use of my own photographic imagery and data from a variety of sources, using technologies such as HTML, PHP, JavaScript, etc. to arrange content into interactive scenes or pages.  After the exhibition the piece will be available online at www.solgonda.com.

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Hoarders: An Exhibition of Paintings

Joe Hedges and Nick Scrimenti, two artists in the University of Cincinnati’s MFA program, have created two separate bodies of paintings that overlap both thematically and stylistically. Many of Scrimenti‘s paintings are inspired by his stint working a summer job cleaning up the messes of deceased hoarders; Hedges has long had an interest in nostalgia and collecting, as manifested in his compositions of configurations of vintage boxes. Both artists are concerned with the ways humans relate, collect, and reconfigure manufactured objects.  Both artists paint with an intense interest in surface quality, layering, and the unexpected mark.

Please consider coming to DAAP next week to see some paintings by myself as well as some paintings by a fellow UC MFA candidate Nick Scrimenti.  Nick and I share an interest in the physical properties of paint and the surface of a painting.  His current paintings are partially inspired by a former summer job cleaning up the messes of deceased hoarders.  My current paintings deal with information storage.

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Motherlodge

I have been selected to participate in Motherlodge Live Arts Exchange in Louisville, KY. This weekend, March 29-April 1, Motherlodge Live Arts Exchange will present an art exhibit titled “Threshold”, featuring myself and over twenty other regional artists, as part of its Spring Live Arts Festival at the Rudyard Kipling in Louisville KY. Tickets for Motherlodge Live Arts musical and theatrical live acts are available in advance at motherlodge.com. The exhibit opens March 29, Thursday at 7:00pm and will remain open for the duration of Motherlodge Spring Live Arts Exchange, March 29-April 1. For a complete list of all live music, theatre, and events of Motherlodge Spring Exchange please visit www.motherlodge.com.

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The Romance Show at Museum Gallery/Gallery Museum

I am participating in an exhibition about romance at the incredibly hip and comically named Museum Gallery/Gallery Museum on Sycamore Street in Cincinnati.  I was honored and excited to be asked to create a piece especially for the event.  This is a unique call and response gallery show where “works by fourteen couples are re-evaluated/considered by thirteen singles”.  My painting is cute and whimsical a celebration of my relationship with my wonderful girlfriend Emma.  The piece will be displayed with an accompanying (and most likely mocking) work by another Cincinnati artist–an artist who is not in a relationship.  Please consider stopping by on opening night to see these two works as well as works from other couples and singles on Final Friday July 29 at 7:00pm to 10:00pm.

Friday July 29
7:00pm – 10:00pm
Museum Gallery/Gallery Museum
1218 Sycamore St.
Cincinnati, OH 45202
http://www.mg-gm.com

Artists include:
Wendy Desrochers and Randall F. Slocum
Dustin and Heather Smith
Katy and Zachary Tompkins
Lee Serbin and Alex Walp
John DiPuccio and Tilley Stone
Cassie and Steve Kemple
Lisa and Leif Fairfield
Sarah Jones and Andy Upton
Matt Morris and Eric Ruschman
Joe Hedges and Emma Wehmeyer
Rachel Fleischer and Wyatt Niehuas
Ken Bruce and Sheida Soleimani
Jacques Laramie and Tiffany Dawn Nicholson
Iwona Franczek and Alan Pocaro
Sara Corley
Abby Cornelius
Anne Flavin
John Knight
Casey Meter
Patricia Murphy
Nicolas Perkins
Reid Radcliffe
Eric Rieper
Emily Sites
Michael Smith
Avril Thurman
Nevels Von Trapp
Brian Wikoffwith

special virtual performance by:
Andre Alves

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Art’s Bizzarre with Elise Thompson

I am participating in the monthly Art’s Bizarre art show at The Leapin’ Lizard Gallery in Covington, Kentucky with my friend and fellow painter Elise Thompson on the evening of Sunday July 17.  Music by DJ Gerald.  It is free an open to the public.

Sunday July 17
7:00pm – midnight

Leapin’ Lizard
726 Main St.
Covington, KY 41011

http://www.leapinlizardgallery.com

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