Monday, July 31, 2006

ROCKAWAYS Pt 2
I got off the train at Beach Something Etc. and walked south along a crappy cracked street towards the water. I passed an isolated public school (125, I think). It looked to be closed for the summer; however, the playlot was open and a bunch of orthodox Jews inside were playing dodgeball. I kept walking, eyes forward, not wanting to provoke a firestorm of kosher bombardment. The sidewalks were tilted and cracked and barely partitioned the over- and undergrowth from the patchy asphalt street. I did hear a cicada, which is a rarity. A bit of summer in Indiana thrown into my brain. It seemed desolate and quiet, the perfect place to dump a body. (Hmmm...)

I reached the boardwalk and simply stooped low and walked under it to get to the beach. The many tracks in the sand made me feel okay. There was a couple decked out in beach gear, sitting only feet from the high tide and enjoying a lovely smoke. The first thing I did was drop my ass into the sand and pull off the shoes, tie them to my bag. Then I slathered on the sun screen, stood up, and began walking east up the beach. The beach was really shell-y, with the occasional dead jellyfish washed up, thick, glassy and transparent like the bottom of a soda bottle.

It was hot. I was getting hungry. I wanted some summer food: something meaty and salty and fatty, preferably wrapped in doughy white bread with fries and washed down with a coke. So I kept moving east towards a section of the beach that seemed more populated. I was most sadly mistake. There was NOTHING along thing strip of beach: a comfort station which (for once) had both onion-shaped dispensers of pink hand soap AND a full box of paper towels. So. I washed up and kept heading east, past a boarded up joint with a turquoise ziggurat roof displaying a wooden sign with a burger on it. East again past an "adult" home (whatever that means), east again past a red-iron skeletal framework condo building, still east past an short avenue lined with traditional family homes, a street lined with big old sour sycamores, a street that carried on strong right to the edge of the water: large white-and-orange barricade would keep you from driving any further. I turned north near a bridge, sure that I would hit a major commercial thoroughfare. Again--predictably--I was wrong. I walked to to an intersection that looked more like a highway cloverleaf: no sidewalk, no invitation to do anything but walk back in the opposite direction. So I did. A walk back along a minor weed-choked road that aligned with a major road...and I kept walking.

Like I said, I just wanted something summer-y, and the longer I walked the less particular I became. I walked for ten blocks or so and I got propositioned by an actual real-life hooker with hickeys and bruises ("You wanna go somewhere?" "Uh, no thanks, bruise- and hickey-covered lady."). Finally, I found a shitty Chinese place and I got the lunch special, General Tso's Chicken (bad) with two desultory sprigs of broc, along with fried rice with fatty, cadmium-red stained glob of pork (worse) and a coke (okay, actually). I ate it on the boardwalk as rapacious gulls and pigeons settled down around me. A flick of the wrist drove them away but only momentarily; I was sure to die at some point but my leftovers would live forever, they seemed to be saying. After that, I headed back down to the beach for about 20 minutes of sun bathing before it started to look stormy.

So. A not-so-quick walk along the boardwalk until I got near a decent trainstop. Took a photo from the platform (see attached) and hopped on the train. At the Broad Channel station, a couple of dudes got on carrying surfboards, my first indication that I'd gone in the wrong direction when it came to trains. (They came from the west.) I hopped on the Airtrans and whipped easily back to the E. I was home and six-packed within 30 min.

And so my relaxation goes...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Today was good, fine. Just the kind of thing I needed. Up early and down the studio and I spend a long day there.

I took the long way--up Honeywell and over on Skillman (hilly), up over the footbridge and then a long climb up six flight of stairs with the bike. Fuck I was sweating for about 45 minutes after that. I know there will be a time when I can't climb six flights of stair carrying a heavy mountain bike so I attempt to "enjoy" these moments when I can.

I spent about five hours in the studio, just painting little leaves over and over and over, trying to get Charlie's Foliage Coat juuust right. Not perfect but it will do.

I haven't been able to do this since I moved out of Chicago: play the music loud, work uninterrupted for a long stretch of time, and just settle into my brain and let thoughts move out under their own volition. The studio always had some kind of limitation: either you couldn't play the music, or someone would come over and eat shitty Chinese food in your studio and chat, or someone would show up with beer and pretzels and you could just forget about working then. This is studio is so good, such a luxury. This is fantastic.

I wish I had a better grasp on my practice. It seems like I am reinventing the wheel each time I sit down to do a drawing. There's got to be some easier way to codify my practice and lock into some larger structure that will allow the drawings to flow. Maybe in ten years.

After the studio, a bike ride back to the apartment (I only had to carry the bike up four flights here) and out the grocery for a week's worth of sundries. Got some pale rich mozzerella, fresh basil and some small tight vine tomatoes for caprese salad. So good. So goddamn good. Some beer, a Simpsons rerun and a cool shower before I send myself off to bed.

(Oh, I heard a cicada droning away through my roommate's window. Man, those things remind me of summers in Indiana as a kid. And how we didn't have AC for so many years and how we'd have to throw open all of the door and windows. In the afternoon, that metallic drone would come in the house from all openings.)

(Yes, in my best Burt Reynolds style, I took a beer into the shower with me.)
ROCKAWAYS Pt 1
I have a difficult time relaxing. I don't know why that is, exactly. I don't think I'm particularly ambitious or career-driven (hah) but I do feel a perpetual kind of restlessness, you know? Okay, this is fine--this moment of triumph, of forward motion--but what's next? But I made a promise to myself that--after two years of relentlessly giving myself over to school--I would relax this summer. I wouldn't increase the number of hours at work--living off my savings if I had to. (I didn't and I am.) I also promised myself that I'd attempt to brown slightly the studio-induced pallor of my skin but getting out every few days...a park or a beach, something, anything, with a book and the iPod. (Gotta get those playlists just right and catch up on all of the music I downloaded from Allofmp3.com.)

I was doing fine for the first month or so sans school. I was biking over to Roosevelt Island and ensconsing myself in the gently landspaced park at the northern tip of the island and slowly working myself through the James Siena recommended reading list--Margaret Atwood, Bruce Sterling, Barbara Tuchman. Then getting the studio if working order started to take priority over relaxing I've gotta get the drywall in there, gotta get the walls up, floor painted, etc. And that money starting coming out of my savings. And then the concern about living beyond my means kicked in and I made looking for a job a top priority...which, of course, induced all kinds of stress in it's own right: Is my portfolio good enough? Did I misspell anything in my cover letter? Shit, do I even WANT these lousy motherfucking jobs? When I was back in Chicago in early July, I made another go at it: I spend a few afternoons at Montrose beach and stuck it out until the sun went down. (That's always been the most delicious time at the lake: gloaming, sitting at just the right place on the concrete spiral jetty so that you can't see any land and all you see is a undulating plateau of water. Love it.) However, I've been pushing myself and fretting and worrying etc. ever since I returned.

So: bang. Relaxation is done away with. Not just the outer practice of relaxation, but the attempt at inner relaxation as well. Brain is roiling, thoughts are clashing. And, dammit, I decided I was going to do something about it. I was going to Rockaway Beach. I've been squinting at the Far Rockaway for a year or so now, and going there would complete my beach-at-the-end-of-the-subway trumvirate: Coney Island (duh) (and yecch). Orchard Beach in the Bronx and, of course, the Rockaways. Even though thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon. I was going: fuck it.

I took the E to the Airtrans at JFK. The Airtrans links to the A and--by looking at the subway map and estimating--I guessed it shaved anywhere from 45-60 minutes off the trip. I made the mistake of circling the Airtrans system rather than transferring directly at Federal Circle and spent an additional twenty minutes looking an anonymous airport architecture and equally anonymous airport travelers. Finally got on the right train, hopped off at Howard Beach and onto the A which took me out across Jamaica Bay. Amazed by the number of graceful, long-necked white water birds I saw on the water. At one point from the train window and through a thicket of trees, I swore I saw dozens of white swans.

Once the A train hits the Rockaways, it turns east and runs parallel to the coast maybe a quarter of a mile away. A long boardwalk hedges the beach--it's in good repair with planks the color of a dirty quarters interrupted every hundred of yards of so with the broad plinth of maroon fitted bricks trimmed by concrete. (The gulls have learned this plinths are ideal for cracking open mussel shells: I watches a ragged old gull drop a tightly closed mussel three times from a height of 30 feet or so until the shell cracked and the foul bastard gobbled the delicacy down.) The land between train and the boardwalk is odd: it possesses a street grid but the street are crumbling and in poor shape. The sandy-soiled lots between the streets are filled with all kinds of vegetation, most of which looks "beachy"..I don't know if it was originally developed property which was allowed to re-naturefy or land that was meant to be developed to was instead left to the blackbirds and condom wrappers.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

More work in the studio. Then work in the office. Then back down to the studio. Teddy was in this morning. Hyejin was in when I got there this evening. She left and then Steve came in. All three studiomates in one day.

Someone keeps putting rice out for he pigeons in Negar Alley, the creepy sub-LIE underpass that you must traverse in order to get to the building. I saw, too, the guy who keeps putting out catfood for the stray cats. You think he'd just take the damn things home.

Possible job with some medical blah blah blah. Pay is good but I bet it's a lousy job. I got in for an interview next week. Yeesh.

Time to take a shower. I am bringing a nice cold beer in with me. When I revealed my penchant for beer in the shower to Teddy, he told me it was a very Bury Reynolds move. You know, sipping Coors while lathering the 'stache.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Stupid but smart (but mainly stupid): I cancelled a job interview yesterday. I was for a freelance job, long-term and not in the office. I need full time work and if I secured this job I don't know that I could give this project the time it needed. I would be trying to juggle nine-to-five, plus the studio, plus this project. I feel like a dunce for doing it but I need to just find a job, one design job, and let that pay the bills and keep up the studio routine.

Soooo. I spent most of the daylight hours in the studio. Started a large drawing called, for now, the Crowned Manque. T showed up later and the day with lumber, a massively heavy flatfile, and some other odds and ends. Then we drove the 20 or so block to my house and got the drafting/palette table and the wee chest of drawer I keep my supplies in. Finally, everything is IN the studio. It's just a matter of my getting back into a daily routine.

I took a rough measurement of the studio today and it's a little more that 400 sq. ft. It's the biggest one of the four. I'm attaching a photo of it's current state. (Hey, listen: I effective doubled my rent by taking this thing on so I'm a little obsessed with it, okay? Jesus.)



Found out late last night that the link in my cover letter to my online portfolio was mistyped....which means that every single letter I sent out in the past month (50 or so by guestimation) was tainted by that one major blunder. Perhaps that explains why I've not heard back from a single employer. Nice going douchebag.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Full day of work today. Slipped away for a few hours to give a tour at PS 1, a group of early teens. Wow, I don't care much for that demographic. Wow and holy shit. It's like dealing with a pack of rabid bipedal raccoon. (Do raccoons travel in packs?) On one hand, they can't call me on my lax artist historical knowledge; on the other hand, corralling them and moving them from one room to the next is like trying to push a oyster into the coin slot of a parking meter. (Again, thank you Martin Amis! Bah dum dum!) But is was $100 for one hour's work. I can't complain. And there were a few bright, gentle kids in the class that I glommed onto. I know I seem to I play favorites in situations like that but, frankly, I do. Kids with questioning minds should be encouraged and the dull, lazy kids with sludgy thoughts should be pushed aside. Sorry. I feel like a dick for saying that but I only want to work with the bright kids.

Took the 7 from work to the studio. Ostensibly to pick up my bike but, really, to get a few lines down on paper. It felt good, I have to say. To have a large, decent studio mostly to myself. Good. The past four months of relative inactivity has hopefully but the fizz back into my creative soda if you know what I mean.

Home for a few beers and update the goddamn fucking online design portfolio.

Last night, met Kimiko at Markt (?) for some mussels and beer in the late afternoon. Then a walk over to Public for a round of completely remarkable drinks. Handmade, infused stuff with candied fruit and freshly squoze juices and all of that. Fresh mint. Lots and lots of mint on everything. Amazing things. We split the kangaroo on fennel falafel appetizer as well, which was delicious (and small). The decor in Public, too, is remarkable. Everything is perfectly thought out and attenuated right down the long, cylindrical light bulbs. I can't imagine what all that cost. (The bathrooms were amazing too--curving walls tiled with wee glass squares, the color of the bottom of a swimming pool. A word of warning, Public Owners: the votive candle on the lip of the toilet (where it meet the floor) is a nice touch but the more I drank the more I wanted to piss on those candles to put them out. I my aim is true: the bowl and nothing else. I assure you, however, that some drunken douchebag like me (or *me* if I have enough to drink) will take up the challenge to extinguish your flames.)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

I've had a lousy run of train luck the past few weeks. I always seem to hit the platform just as a train is pulling away. Happened today in Queens with the 5, then again with the 5. Then again--coming back to Queens--with the 7. Other time, my train luck is flawless, and I leap effortlessly from train to train like an Eskimo skipping across and ice flow. Another 7 train came quickly, however, and I was out at the studio in about 8 minutes. However, the door to the sixth floor was locked and I still don't have a key to that door. So. Nothing done today. I just wanted to drop in and check on the paper.

Yesterday, though, I stretched paper on two (2) full sheets of drywall. Two big drawing in the works and, really, the first time I've done an proper art-based stuff in the studio. So miserably hot in the studios as well. I was leaking sweat. But I brought along the iPod and mini-set of speakers so I had a few hours of music. Another artist, Elizabeth, was wandering the building, thinking of renting a space. We chatted for a bit. I warned her about the square footage issue--we came up something like 200sq. ft. UNDER what they listed. I still think it's a good building however--despite it's hornet colored (brown and yellow) exterior--and encouraged her to move in.

Today was my first Level 1 ASL class. I've spent a year or so learning very informal sign language through Patty and CK. I can fingerspell decently and I've got about 50 or so other signs down. Very odd class. Boring in a sense but also dead silent, all communication taking place via sign. Quiet. Oh, so quiet. Hush.

Patty met me after class. She rode her bike down. I don't know how she does that, with the deafness and all. We went for a quick drink and talked about how frustrating communication is between the deaf world and the hearing world.

A walk home from the studios and a stop at H-Mark for a six pack of Corona. Walk home in the spattering rain and ordered Happy Garden: crispy pork with mixed vegetables (I blanched some broccoli to boost my green intake). I then watched War of the Worlds, which was totally impenetrable. It's funny, though--after reading some Joseph Campbell during the last year--how much Spielberg and Lucas rely on those archetypes.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

So hot today. So hot.

Long, paralyzingly boring day at work. Worked on some...stuff. Ah, I don't know. Who gives a fuck?

Walked down to Home Depot during my lunch break and got some masonry bits and some concrete anchors for the wall we're putting up in the studio. Got of the 7 at Hunters Point and was amazed at the number of fellow disembarkers. Where the hell are all of these people going in this neighborhood? There are no house, no apartments around here. I can only assume they're from somewhere deeper in Queens and they drive into this area because the parking might (?) be ample, and then they take the train into Manhattan. Again, who gives a fuck?

The rest of the studio floor is painted. I can almost imagine what it's going to be like to work there. So that's a relief.

Spent the rest of the evening drinking with T's parents and sister. Well, T and I did most of the drinking. It was good to sit in and listen to two adults interact with their parents. I still have a hard time being myself around mom. I enjoyed it. T and his dad smoked stogies and took shots at each other. Mom crawled off to bed and, finally, it was me and T and A. (NOT T&A. I wish, man.) A good time was had by me.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Finally got out of the house this afternoon. Skipped PS1 but DID manage to paint about 75% of the floor in the studio; I'll move the remainder of my stuff to the newly painted floor tomorrow and finish up.

Fun thing: there are two huge yet-to-be-rented spaces at either end of the hallway on our floor: I propped open doors to both of the spaces and rode my bike around one space, then down the hall, and then around the other space. All while listening to Japancakes. Bikes were made for indoor use. And Japancakes were meant to be listened to while using bikes indoors.

Saturday was consumed by an anti-social fugue. I saw no one, I left the house only to stock up on some groceries.

Started working--i.e. applying paint--to a drawing that's been on the board for almost two months. Not happy with it but I rarely am. I just need to slough off the post-grad school burnout and ennui and get back to work. Still working the apartment due to the lack of proper working conditions down the studio.

Today: PS1 and maybe painting floor in the studio. Maybe.

I was in Chicago last week for the wedding of an old girlfriend (Julie, plaid dress.) When not consumed with marital obligations, I made a concerted effort to spend some time with Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park." I've seen it in several stages of development in the last three years but this is the first time I saw in unveiled, all seams removed, shiny and tumescent. Kapoor's work is a.) an amazing sculpture and b.) an amazing piece of public art. I can't think of a more beautiful man-made object. It's liquid, fluid, forever in motion, etc. It's a huge object constructed from 100+ tons of stainless steel yet it always seems to be on the edge of disappearing altogether.




And the reactions it gets from the public: joy, wonder, amazement, awe. I've spend an hour or so just watching the public explore their own senses of perception in the mirrored surface. Can you name any piece of art--let alone a piece of "public" art--that invokes such concentration. Again, for a inert lump of steel, Cloud Gate is a remarkably interactive piece of public art. It's accessible without pandering and it shows a endearing sense of humility. It's ultimate purpose it to reflect the city, it's surroundings, it's viewers; a gracious guest at a dinner party who beauty and sophistication does everything it can enhance the charms of the host.

For a stark contrast, wander a few hundred yards south to the Jaume Plensa waterpark/sculpture. Man, this thing irritates me. It's the very opposite of Cloud Gate: it is dark, angular, authoritarian, and it panders. Oh, does it pander. It's got a kind of cynical whimsicality to it as well. Admittedly, kids seem to love it (and, as well, the parents who let their diapered tots play in the water until their Huggies are bloated and heavy, surely befouling their surroundings with kiddie poo.) But I think they're reacting more the fact that it spouts water rather than any kind of inherent aesthetic quality of the two dull towers that sprout from either end or the idealized, self-consciously all-inclusive--black, white, brown, yellow, old, young, and so on--videos that are displayed on their tessellated surfaces.

Here is what Plensa has to say about the work:

"A fountain is the memory of nature, this marvelous sound of a little river in the mountains translated to the city. For me, a fountain doesn't mean a big jet of water. It means humidity, the origin of life."

Snooze. I mean, really. You've made a waterpark. Stop trying to make it something more than that.



Contrast Kapoor:

"What I wanted to do in Millennium Park is make something that would engage the Chicago skyline…so that one will see the clouds kind of floating in, with those very tall buildings reflected in the work. And then, since it is in the form of a gate, the participant, the viewer, will be able to enter into this very deep chamber that does, in a way, the same thing to one's reflection as the exterior of the piece is doing to the reflection of the city around."

Exactly.

(Thanks toMills Lawn Elementary School in Yellow Springs, Ohio for letting me use the photo of Crown Fountain. Hope you don't mind.)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Spent the afternoon at the new studio. Got 20 sheets of drywall delivered from Metropolitan Lumber on Steinway and 35th Ave. The driver was a big burly Jamician guy, long long dreadlocks with little silver beads worked in occasionally like tasteful pearls on a cocktail dress. Super cheerful, super efficient. Drywall was off the truck and in the freight elevator within five. T and I whipped the drywall up to the studio and even managed to put up six sheets before heat exhaustion overtook us. Man, we're hacks. T's a more competent hack that I am: I am functionally useless with tools. However, I am great at holding things up and handing things to T. If this were an episode of M*A*S*H, I'd totally be Hotlips handing Hawkeye his rheostat or whatever. It's a little humiliating. And the worst part is? I don't even have a killer rack like Loretta Switt did back in the day.

The lovely folks from PS1, Gary and Summer, dropped off the eight drawing that were on display there in the spring. Always Stuck with Leaving is finally back with me. I have to say this--and I don't often praise my own work--but that's a damn fine drawing. It's off to Chicago at the end of the month for the September show in Chicago.

Tonight: home for tofu and kimchi. A few beers then I shaved my head for the summer. Not shaved, I guess but buzzed the hell out of it. When longer, it's like a tight, humid afro in this urban summer humidity. I just can't stand it. So now you may observe the contours of my rounded skull. Oh, c'mon. Don't act coy with me: you love it. Don't act like you don't. You also like it with the lights on but that's another story.