Monthly Archives: April 2006

nothing as art

The persona-based work I have done all my life has been moving toward identity and concept-only for some time. I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to do a pure conceptual work for an upcoming exhibition at Kutztown’s New Arts Program. The work will be unbounded, empty… I’ve come to see identity as one of the few subjects left after one strips away much of the object-oriented aspects of artwork. Beneath the craft of making art there are conceptual underpinnings. This encourages me to consider that after identity matters and concept, the rest is craft – and in many ways has no essential significance.Further, I’m coming to see the definition of concept as unnecessary and counterproductive – hence the intention to exhibit nothing. More later on this and I’ll post the exhibition info soon.

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The Continuing Saga of Our Very Own Freak Flag

*I’ve observed with some chagrin (and some amusement) the up-and-down (literally) saga of Keith Haring’s Statue of Liberty Mural and its problematic relationship with the towns in which Keith was born (Reading, PA) and where he grew up (Kutztown, PA).This is the sort of thing that Keith and I would have discussed for hours and laughed about even longer, until we would have it overanalyzed and all talked out. In his absence, I do feel compelled to type out my imagined version of the drift of these conversations and initiate the dialog with my readers instead of with my deceased friend.The direction of our conversations would begin with simple restatements of the situation(s) that have been (and still are) occurring here in this county that is so special to both of us. Smiles would begin appearing on our faces simply as a result of the humor inherent in the situations themselves. The first newsworthy event was the Berks County Commissioners voting against hanging the mural on the Berks County Services Center, downtown. The second irony has just occurred – as the mural had to be taken down from the water tower in Kutztown because of the installation’s inability to withstand the totally predictable prevailing winds.The ironies abound simply in the recounting of the facts. I can see us both smiling as we discuss them. Keith would have said something like, “I’m used to being rejected in Berks County – nothing new about that.” And I would have pointed out the irony in the fact that even though his hometown of Kutztown was willing to display the gigantic painting, it proved to be too much for the sleepy burg to handle – quite literally. We’d continue, piling metaphor upon metaphor until we’d reach some ridiculous level, shake our heads in disbelief, and wipe tears of mirth from our eyes.Truth be told, we’d end up laughing most of the time we were together. Things are just funny if looked at from some perspectives. And in relation to the loftier thoughts of life and art, politics, sociology, and the foibles of human behavior are often the stuff of real comedic amusement. It will be great if Keith’s 90-foot mural, executed collaboratively with more than a thousand “City Kids,” – a NYC-based youth organization – can be exhibited and experienced in an excellent location. But considering how the relationship between this piece and our area has turned into somewhat of a fiasco, it’s one of those “truth is stranger than fiction” situations already.As it is, we’re staying tuned for the next entertaining installment of this already comedic tale…

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our pact with dogs

our pact with dogs is we must outlive them.we get to make the hard choices.they get to accept them.and they never stop loving us.we never stop loving them either.but it’s harder for us.*Words by TFD

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The Project: Entries related to Keith, himself, and me – update link

*During the months of the Keith Haring Exhibition at the Reading Public Museum (through August 6, 2006), I will be posting links to previous entries relating to Keith and me.Click here for list link.*Image: Keith Haring, Bill Jones Dance Poster (detail), 1982Collection: TFD

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Art and Horses

*On Saturday, we attended the first stop in the 2006 USA Tour of renowned horseman, Pat Parelli. Inside the cavernous arena of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex, Parelli ably demonstrated his uncanny skills relating to horses in a natural way. Pat Parelli’s trademark philosophy of “Natural Horse-Man-Ship” is one of those seemingly complex methodologies that amount to elaborations of the simple facts of human beings’ interactions with the rest of the natural world. The difference in results between acting from states of insecurity, fear, stress, and competitiveness and acting from relaxed, confident, cooperative states of mind is evident in Parelli’s work with horses. When the human learns to “think like a horse” and act in ways that involve and reward the animal’s natural senses of curiosity and play, the horse responds with predictably positive behavior. A creative and illuminating relationship replaces the volatile and unpredictable master/slave dynamic that often creeps into the repressed (and inappropriate) predatory response of humans.This method of working with – rather than against – the ways of nature brings the power of millions of years of evolutionary knowledge, responsiveness, and creativity to bear in situations requiring skill of execution. Instead of needing to learn countless individual disconnected behaviors by rote, one is encouraged to draw upon one’s innate abilities to move and act in harmony with the natural way of things.Taking in the inspiring events of the day, I was struck with the way in which this teacher’s ideas are quite similar to those of particular teachers of a wide range of subjects, including my own. We all bring a sernse of “naturalness” to the study and practice of human interaction in the world. Much of mastering these diverse activities – from meditation and martial arts to animal husbandry and artistic endeavor – is achieved through “unlearning” the many useless ways in which humans are acculturated to think and behave.Gazing out over our vernal pasture, seeing our horses live their awesome and inspiring lives, grounds me in the knowledge that to be a member of the Animal Kingdom of Planet Earth is even more significant and valuable than my position in human society.It is a beautiful thing to experience the energy, harmony, and creativity of the natural world. It is even more moving to experience these boundless states within oneself.

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Moments of Clarity

My art classes provide many opportunities for discovering the most efficient and effective methods of passing on information that can allow people to see beyond normal limitations and to venture into uncharted aesthetic territory.Discovering new aspects of personal experience illuminates consciousness and perception in uniquely transformative ways. These discoveries can be carried over into all aspects of living, from conceptualization and perception to action, behavior, and creation.I see the act of making and experiencing art as essentially conceptual, perceptual, and behavioral – in that order. If one can learn to conceive of and see the familiar in ways that render it more sharply present, one can reflect aspects of experience ever more competently and creatively.I don’t focus too much on the craft aspects of artwork. My classes are not about how to hold a pencil. I’m interested in the moment of creation and what it takes to prepare for it. It seems clear to me that wearing blinders, rose-colored glasses, socio-cultural filters, or other indirect methods to gaze upon the world of experience are not optimal. Therefore, I do endeavor to teach my students to divest themselves of faulty conception, perception, and behavior in an effort to enter the creative moment. In this way, all moments can be moments of clarity.

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Art at the Circus

This afternoon I was pleased to attend the 2006 Rajah Shrine Circus at the Hamburg Field House. The entertaining and exciting experience evidenced the essential value of human-scale live local performance in bringing together families and communities for a good cause.Circuses are ancient venues containing archetypal characters in timeless dramatic situations. The basic humor and humanity of the clown has existed for millennia. Clowns communicate both the absurdity and pathos of life’s humorous predicaments. The Rajah Shrine Circus has always featured clowning and the clowns of the 2006 show spread wave after wave of laughter throughout the audience. I was reminded that the world is filled with children of all ages. That’s a rare perception in an age characterized by growing up fast in an all-too-serious world. The Rajah Shrine show features a range of world-class circus professionals from Hamid Circus, Inc. Shane Hansen juggles all manner of things from clubs, rings, flaming wands, and a steel 6-foot open cube. The spinning geometric object etches out three-dimensional space like a gleaming satellite.Aerialists without nets, such as the stupendous Naidonkin Duo, worked the high ropes with flawless and death-defying skill. At times both rings featured simultaneously staged events. There’s nothing like sensory overload in real life – especially when compared to the sedentary sensory excitement of ersatz events such as video games or televised spectacle.The sights and sounds of the circus, the scent of hot roasted peanuts, the ebb and flow of the crowd, and the sheer joy of pure and simple entertainment will stay with me long after trivial electronic diversions have left my memory. My day was complete when I witnessed the impeccably executed antics of the Valery Cats. I had never seen a clowder of trained cats before today. But after witnessing this uncanny feline performance my heretofore unacknowledged quest for that particular grail is complete.The Shriners, who do such good and necessary work in our communities, have a tradition of presenting circus entertainment – good family-oriented fun. Supporting Shrine Temple operations is a laudable way to support their good and charitable work. And today, thanks to them, the field house was filled to capacity with smiles.*Images: Art at the Circus and The Naidonkin Duo

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