Jenny Holzer: The New York Times Magazine

© Jenny Holzer (And Ain't that the Truth!)

I have a problem.  It is difficult for me to separate what I know about an artist from the enjoyment of their work.  While the psychologist/English major in me wants to know all about the artist: their background, their motivation – the impartial observer in me is better left in the dark – for there are cases when the artist lives a life or commits acts of such reprehensibility that I cannot separate the person from their work.

Happily, more often than not, I am delighted in my increased awareness of an artist and her work, and this amplifies my appreciation (I prefer to reside in the spectrum of positive emotions these days). Such is the case with artist Jenny Holzer, a conceptual artist who puts words and ideas in the public space (AND is a fellow Bobcat, and hails from Galipolis, Ohio – ten points if you know how they pronounce it – a town, I’ve enjoyed a sojourn in back in THE day) who is featured in the Domain‘s section of today’s Sunday New York Times Magazine.  She is a sport. Her favorite acquisition from the Whitney? Her husband.  Work she’d take back?

How about everything I have done to a certain extent? I disappoint myself routinely.  If you are an artist and you are honest, you are never good enough.

What’s on her bed?

A New Zealan possum bedspread. When I was younger, I was curious and amazed by Wilt Chamberlain’s bed that was covered in artic wolf pelts.  I figured if I could understand the combo of love, slaughter, and fur, I’d know something.

Smart, self-deprecating, curious, insecure, and engaged.  LOVE her. An excellent morning wake-up read. I aspire.

Group Shows

Quite liking the latest Group Show from Humble Arts. Check it out here. Kevin Miyazaki, maker of fine booklets, also has nice, but tiny, group shows on his blog.

Turn your crib into a camera

I’m a big fan of less is more. I was photographing a client the other day and he had a Louis Vitton bag and was obviously very pleased with it, now my philosophy with logos (Susana Raab photography stickers aside) is that if you want me to walk around like a jackass advertising your product, than you should be paying me. When I showed the bag no respect, he insisted, “But this is great quality!” Well I’ve got a genuine cowhide bag I got in an alley in San Miguel de Allende that is pure quality, one of a kind, and it neither sports that ridiculous logo, nor the ginormous price tag. My point is that you can do more with less, and it is the job of advertisers and marketers to make us feel inferior if we are not sporting the latest insignia on our purse, a twin-set to the giant invisible L on our foreheads. So where am I going here? Well, let’s just say you don’t agree with me, and you’ve spent all your coin on your latest designer purchase which will lift you from the depths of your existential malaise for about an hour. Then you realize you want to photograph but no money now for that 5d?: well the camera obscura is your answer – the glass ain’t fast, but the price is right – for the price of a blackout curtain (which could be free depending on your preference in roadside motels). Here’s a link I discovered in a how to.

And here’s an example of a master of the medium. You can see more of his work here.

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I love this guys work, he’s done this all around the world, and this is one photographer I won’t tire hearing about ad nauseum. Do ya’ hear that Corcoran????

Inspiration: Alice Neel “Is it good only if everyone else says it’s good?”

self portrait

Alice Neel: self portrait

The blog has been a little quiet lately as what was scheduled as an August lull filled with personal work and lazy afternoons has become quite busy. During a rare moment of down time in the last week I read an article about the artist Alice Neel in the alumni magazine of Columbia University. (No, I’m not an alum). Her grandson has just finished a documentary about Neel, whose sons and grandson all attended Columbia, and thus the article. For all us struggling artists out there, know this: Neel painted in obscurity for fifty years before she was “discovered” by The Art World during the feminist movement of the 1960s. (As a side note it’s interesting to note how many artists’ careers have been appropriated discovered by political agendas. Think Ansel Adams by the Sierra Club also in the 1970’s. I’m sure you all can think of a few).

Anyone who can work without complaint in obscurity for fifty years will get my attention. For this reason Willem De Kooning also gets the high-five from Raab. But Neel painted realistic if unflattering portraits in a time when what was popular was abstract impressionism. Instead of mimicking her contemporaries, Neel’s painting catalogued a wide swath of society so that by the time of her discovery she had captured “individual by individual, most of the social issues, movements, and upheavals of her time.” So eventually, the pendulum turned and social realism came back into vogue. Watch out you documenters of empty parking lots! Busy moments, order out of chaos, will come back into style again. (Though I do love a well-composed parking lot).

People from that time period were just different, I believe. Today we operate under this presumption that some eternal, infernal state of happiness is ours by right. Neel suffered from depression I believe most of her life. She attempted suicide twice. But she said, “Instead of jumping out the window, I’m putting in the time.” (A turn of phrase, NOT to be confused with Paris Hilton’s famous bon mot: “Instead of serving the time, I’m letting the time serve me.” Can we believe anything that comes out of that trollops mouth?) Well Neel pushed through it, and in the process created a lasting legacy. Isn’t that something for which we should all strive? “I’d rather paint than anything,” she said. I feel the same way about photography.

She lived on relief, for most of her life, raising her two sons on it. Her son Andrew said, “She lived a turbulent life, and the question at hand – the ‘to be or not to be’ – is : ‘Is it valid only if everyone else says it’s good?’ That’s the question that anyone who makes anything asks over and over. You may have to wind up on your deathbed with no one telling you it was any good. She certainly took that risk. I don’t know if I’d have had the fortitude to go as long as she lasted.”

I’ve read a comment somewhere about the amazing number of art school students who just want to be “Artists”, without putting in the time or the inclination, it’s the term they want to be, like young girls want to be celebutantes. But I will argue again and again, that this is what an artist is, someone who wakes up every morning, fights their depression, fights their darkness, puts their shoes on and goes to work, without complaint if you can manage it – without even caring if the editors at Photo District News or fill-in-the-blank EVER notice them.

Cheers to you, Alice Neel.

S.Raab, Animal Glamour Photog for Hire

Maranpata, Peru, 2007

Maranpata, Peru, 2007

Finally got all my Choquequirao holga’s scanned, but can’t really create a new gallery until the NY Times runs the digitals in an as of yet unscheduled cover story. Now, I’m on to scanning my holga’s from Mississippi which I will be updating in a gallery ASAP. In the meantime, I’m pulling all my Teddy Roosevelt (see muse) art out b/c my favorite childhood magazine, Ranger Rick, just called.

Teddy Roosevelt, 6 weeks, Pennsylvania, 2002Teddy Roosevelt, 6 weeks, Pennsylvania, 2002

I have to admit I haven’t kept up with the magazine in some years, but it was my favorite when I was six-ten years old. I even had a stuffed racoon creatively named, Rackie, in honor of the periodical. Well, I’m going to head over to the library soon and check it out. I’m not proud, but I won’t be taking just any old cupcake rodent shots to feed the demands of an omniverous pre-teen public!

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Beefcake, College Park, Maryland, 2006

PS If any of you are wondering what type of cake to get me for my birthday next year, I’m all over the stud on the buttercream polar bear rug. Take that PETA!!!!