Louise Bourgeois & Tracey EminJust Hanging from DO NOT ABANDON ME (2009-2010)

Whether you think you know these artists or not, I’m pretty sure you do. Bourgeois was responsible for that unsettling giant spider sculpture Maman & you’ve almost certainly seen documentary photos from Emin’s Exorcism of the last painting I ever made (here and here).

In this collaboration between the two Bourgeois painted watercolors and then Emin added line drawings. (Interestingly, it took Emin two years to decide what to do with her part and then executed all the drawings in a single day.)

Originally, I was going to reblog this post from the always astute @psyche8eros. In the process off trying to figure out the date, I saw the above image and had a stronger reaction to it.

In the context of the image I was going to post and then this image and the title of the collaboration, there’s this sort of histrionic romantic fatalism. That feeling reminded me of a high school English teacher who found Romeo and Juliet “far-fetched” due to the fact that “no one ever died of a broken heart.” (This was the same teacher who informed me “life is a comedy for those who think and a tragedy for those who feel” to which I responded immediately: but how can anyone go through life without feeling?)

These are two questions I’ve carried with me ever since:

  1. Can you really die from a broken heart?
  2. How can anyone go through life without feeling?

I saw this post the other day:

This living-with-myself is more than consciousness, more than the
self-awareness that accompanies me in whatever I do and in whichever
state I am. To be with myself and to judge by myself is articulated and
actualized in the processes of thought, and every thought process is an
activity in which I speak with myself about whatever happens to concern
me. The mode of existence present in this silent dialogue with myself, I
shall now call, solitude. Hence, solitude is more than, and different
from, other modes of being alone, particularly and most importantly
loneliness and isolation.

Solitude means that though alone, I am
together with somebody (myself, that is). It means that I am two-in-one,
whereas loneliness as well as isolation do not know this kind of
schism, this inner dichotomy in which I can ask questions of myself and
receive answers. Solitude and its corresponding activity, which is
thinking, can be interrupted either by somebody else addressing me or,
like every other activity, by doing something else, or by sheer
exhaustion. In any of these cases, the two that I was in thought become
one again. If somebody addresses me, I must now talk to him, and not to
myself, and in talking to him, I change. I become one, possessing of
course self-awareness, that is, consciousness, but no longer fully and
articulately in possession of myself. If I am addressed by one person
only and if, as sometimes happens, we begin to talk in the form of
dialogue about the very same things either one of us had been concerned
about while still in solitude, then it is as if I now address another
self. And this other self, allos authos, was rightly defined by
Aristotle as the friend. If, on the other hand, my thought process in
solitude stops for some reason, I also become one again. Because this
one who I am is without company, I may reach out for the company of
others–people, books, music–and if they fail me or if I am unable to
establish contact with them, I am overcome by boredom and loneliness.
For this I do not have to be alone: I can be very bored and lonely in
the midst of a crowd, but not in actual solitude, that is, in my own
company, or together with a friend, in the sense of another self. This
is why it is much harder to bear being alone in a crowd than in
solitude–as Meister Eckhart once remarked.

–Hannah Arendt, Responsibility and Judgement

“A true solitude is not unbearable since it allows for otherness.”

— Hélène Cixous, Readings: The Poetics of Blanchot, Joyce, Kafka, Kleist, Lispector, and Tsvetayeva 

I‘m someone who requires a great deal of solitude in order to function; by the same token: I loathe loneliness. (I frequently refer to loneliness as being akin to buzzing florescent light tubes. You can tune them out and completely forget they’re there–but if someone says: hey, how do you stand that noise… it’s back and the only thing you can think about.)

It’s rare but there are several folks I’ve met that I can experience solitude with them in the same room. (Most people just make me feel increasingly alone the more time I am compelled to spend with them.)

That’s probably why this particular piece resonates with me so much: from one vantage it’s maudlin romangst–the idea that if you abandon me it will lead to my mortal undoing; it’s also, from another vantage: understandable given the losing of someone with whom you can share solitude.

Iris SchomakerAloe (2011)

Artist bio via Galerie Thomas Schulte:

Born in 1973 in
Stade, Germany, Iris Schomaker has reached international acclaim through
her often large-scale, watercolour paintings of landscapes and figures.
What is actually represented in her paintings is secondary to
Schomaker’s oeuvre: her work is primarily about the process of
representation, about exploring painterly possibilities and the
reproduction of atmospheric content. The artist finds her own original
visual language in the tension between figurative representation and
painterly abstraction.

Schomaker’s palette,
mainly applied onto paper, is quiet, and its pastel hues diverge little
from black, white, and grey tones. This lends her paintings a
drawing-like aspect, which is emphasized still further by the remaining
traces of the working process. The searching movements of the lines that
document the process of composition appear through the glazed
application of paint and fuse with them. Her paintings are just as much
about the process of capturing something in a drawing and the discovery
of a painterly composition, as they are about the motif itself and its
atmospheric and physical qualities.

Schomaker studied Fine Arts in Kiel, Germany, and Trondheim and Bergen,
Norway. She has participated in various national exhibitions, including
Berlinische Galerie in 2007 and 2010 and in 2013 at Frankfurter
Kunstverein. In 2014 she was participant at the biennale in Posnan. Her
works can be found in numerous public and private collections.

The artist lives and works in Berlin.


Usamaru Furuya aka 古屋 兎丸 (Japanese, b. 1968, Tokyo, Japan) – Illustration from Yume Kana aka Is This A Dream? from Garden. Drawings 


Maxine SarahUntitled (2016)

People who get their period do not need to be embarrassed. They do not need to be ashamed. They do not need to be sorry.

Our bodies should not be a source of shame. Or a source of stigma.

It’s time to end period shaming.

Titti GarelliLa pagelle (2003 – 2004)

As an undergraduate, I studied Ludwig Wittgenstein’s later works extensively.

W. has a reputation for being demanding, founded on the fact that his first foray into philosophy–the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus–was considered and continues to be considered one of the most singularly visionary/revolutionary philosophical works to emerge in the 20th century.

With such a stunning entry on the scene, you’d expect W. was rather pleased with the reception. In point of fact, he was not. He felt that very few people who professed their affection for the work actually understood fuck all about it; to the point where he all but disavowed the Tractatus and swore off philosophy, opting to become an elementary school teacher in rural Austria.

He returned to philosophy, in time. A goodly number of self-proclaimed experts present him as The Philosopher Who Changed His Mind. Going on to do work that sought to revoke his already monumental contribution to the discipline. I don’t see it that way. The Tractatus is heavily steeped in philosophical form, tone and procedure. The later work seeks to address the ways in which philosophers go wrong in striving to understand philosophy or anything else. What’s so fascinating about it is his tone completely diverges into something that’s half stodgy middle school teacher with the driest ever sense of humor and half trickster therapist.

W’s trip is essentially this: words do not convey meaning in the way a candle gives light to a lantern, words have meaning because of how they are used in the stream of life (in context).

My professor had all these grand notions about me applying W.’s ideas and methods to a comprehensive deconstruction of the creative process. She had me reading Eliot’s Tradition and the Individual Talent alongside Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence.

It was difficult. I was a full time student at one of the best colleges in the northeastern US who was also working 35 hours a week. The workload was daunting and I chafed under the pressures of this assignment–mostly because I was insistent that in order for something to be good it had to be entirely original.

Garelli’s watercolor (above) is not original. The woman is an exact redention of an erotic French post card circa 1920s. The style is reminiscent of that artist whose name I cannot recall at present who made erotic sketches on ledger pages.

But there’s a clever nod to modern art cognoscenti, in that this woman is reading and has been painted onto an academic report card.

I never wrote that paper applying W’s ideas to the notion of originality in Art. There are a number of reasons for this but I think the most important to convey is that I think it lends itself a little too cynically towards the notion that the passing of time/underlying trends in taste and fashion and privilege determine what constitutes originality more than you know, being original.

The difficulty is that being original isn’t really something you can consciously accomplish. The eye sees without a need to see itself seeing. Or, as the Zen master would offer: don’t put another head on top of the one you already have.

I do think W.’s ideas are useful for analysis and criticism. However, I think too many ‘experts’ want to separate knowing from doing.

The less abstract way of saying it is you’ll jump much farrther with a running start than from a standstill. Doing the work day in and day out is indispensable. It’s hardly easy and rarely involves any sort of ground breaking originality. It’s one foot in front of the other, nothing more and nothing less.

Originality rises not when you seek it out but when in the course of ritualistically doing the work you find something unexpectedly intriguing. An errant thought, a wild hair that leads you far afield and when you look up you find yourself lost in a completely unfamiliar landscape.

The mistake is to search for the originality in the destination instead of realizing the endless and infinite is only open to you while you are moving.

If I were going to write that paper on Wittgenstein and the Creative Process, I’d almost certainly begin it with that line from Heraclitus about never stepping into the same river twice.

Edward HopperReclining Nude (1927)

Just because I can easily spot a Hopper from across a crowded gallery doesn’t necessarily mean I ‘know’ him or his work all that well.

Everyone knows Nighthawks; most folks know Automat and Summer Evenings. However, his style is so singular that’s all you need as a framework for sussing out the rest. A Hopper is a Hopper is Hopper.

I am extremely conflicted about his work. When I was first introduced to his work in my mid-to-late teens, I detested it. (But I was a surly teenager and was angstily wrong about more things that I was right.)

To this day, I still can’t honestly say I like his work. And if you’re thinking that given my background in filmmaking, this fact is a bit odd, you’ll hardly be the first person to think so and point it out to me.

There is something inherently cinematic about most of Hopper’s work. And what’s especially challenging is that it’s difficult to point to any one thing. Yes, he typically employs longer frames. Yes, there’s a way in which detail increases immediately surrounding the characters and diminishes in the foreground and background. For example: Nighthawks could be a Hollywood set or an approximation of narrow depth as a cinematographic means of emphasizing the area that is supposed to draw the viewer’s attention. (And in researching this post, I discovered Girl at a Sewing Machine, which I think is a great riff on the Dutch Baroque–specifically Vermeer’s Milkmaid and Woman Holding a Balance.

Additionally, the narrative suggestion of most of his renowned work should also draw me in. It doesn’t though…

I think this is due to two different factors. First, I’m not super into the French painters who influenced Hopper. (Some of Degas’ stuff is okay and Hopper unquestionably owes him a huge debt.) Second, I always feel like there’s a fine line between iconic and pop art–no, that’s not entirely accurate; I think Hopper’s iconic is always a little too pop art-y for my taste.

Another thing I don’t especially like that I suppose I picked up on by osmosis is his problematic relationship with his wife Josephine Nivison–the subject in the above image.

There’s an article in The Guardian from more than a decade ago present in anticipation of a Hopper retrospective at The Tate. It goes to great pains to paint the couples relationship as stormily complicated but sidesteps matters of sexism and misogyny. (Especially absurd given that the article presents Josephine as Hopper’s ‘muse’–a concept which is inherently mired in the consumption of women by entitled white cis-het men.)

But the reason I posted this was because a dear friend is currently convalescing with me. She had a health emergency overseas and I flew her back to the US and she’s been staying with me in an effort to get healthy. (It’s been a bit trying–mostly due to the fact my roommates initially agreed to her staying with us and have subsequently changed their tune to giving me 30 days notice to find a new space and move out… but that’s an entirely different story.)

This image resonated with me because it’s how my friend lays when she’s in the throes of a particular bad episode of pain. (it’s certainly inspired the way he uses the tones from the mustard and saffron throw pillows to accentuate her right heel, ankle, flank and back of her neck.. it doesn’t manage to come even close to offsetting her cadaverous pallor.)

Henrique Santos  – Title unknown (201X)

Dear whoever-made-this:

I love it. LOVE it. Have you ever thought about making it a t-shirt?

I’d buy three. No lie–because I love the design and what it shows but moreso for the fact that when asked about how I identify my sexual orientation I could point to this instead of trying to use words that feel awkward, short-sighted and confining.

Keep making awesome work!




Work by Oscar Delmar (Watercolor and graphite)

Onomatopoeic words tend to grate on my ears even if I am intrigued by the concept of a word’s sound being its meaning.

Similarly synesthesia fascinated me; although, again, I am less interested in someones seeing the number one as blue than in the fact such an associative experience happens.

These and other word-concepts like them make me wish there were a term indicating a unity between medium and message. It would prove a helpful too for talking about images like this where the medium and the process involved in creating the final image bestows great authenticity to the truth of the message–  watercolor, the wet and mess of lips, tongues and teeth & the surreal impression of immediacy, color and texture upon execution that is rendered when the colors dry, respectively.