Monday, May 26, 2008


I'm almost done with a new piece, but I'm spending the next week or so looking at art in New York with my mom, Margie Simpson, and Tom Drucker, who are fabulous artists as well as fabulous relations of mine, so that new piece is going to have to sit on the drawing board for a little while. (That's not just an expression. I actually do have a drawing board.)

I've been looking at Pennsylvania Dutch drawings online. Their drawings are called "fraktur", or "fractur" and they're usually done to commemorate an event: a wedding, funeral, or birth. They're basically the most beautiful birth, marriage and death certificates ever. I'm putting some images of them online here, most of which I borrowed from frakturweb, an incredibly comprehensive site which includes extensive information about fractur and citations for each image.

This is by some guy who is known as the "Flat Parrot Artist."

There is also some really fascinating information online about a religious group that made lots of of fraktur called the Schwenkfelders. I love that word. It almost makes me want to get religion.

The new piece I'm doing is based on some early American board games I saw in an exhibition called Beyond This Time and Place, Children's Books in England at the Rare Book Collection at the Philadelphia Free Library. It's a great exhibition and was recently reviewed on artblog, as was my show at Gallery Joe.

I've seen lots of great stuff lately, much of which was done by people I know and like. Rob Matthews, Rubens Ghenov and Chris Davison have geniusy work up at Jenny Jaskey Gallery right now, and my pal Mauro Zamora won the Pew, which is great. My friend Eva Wylie has had a few beautiful exhibitions lately, most recently one at Vox Populi Gallery. I didn't get over there, but artblog reviewed it and I love how great it looks online.

The piece was called "Roaring Tulips." Too cool.

There is tons of good stuff happening in Philly right now. The ICA has Trenton Doyle Hancock, the Philly Museum has William Kentridge and there are a thousand more exhibits around town I haven't seen yet. The Wexler Gallery has a pretty interesting exhibition with some nice Damien Hirst prints in it, but I think the show was stolen by Joe Boruchow, a friend of the curator's who is in his first group show.

In addition to looking at lots of good art lately, my head is still spinning from seeing Lynda Barry talk, which was incredible. She's so smart it's scary, and she wraps her brilliance in humility and humor that make her words go down like the most nutritious cupcake ever. I'm reading her new book, What It Is, and loving it, but I can't wait for the podcast of the talk to come out so I can make everyone I know listen to it. My students are doomed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Monday, May 12, 2008

If the Groundhog Sticks His Head Out and He Doesn't See Lynda Barry...

I thought the nineties were a culturally backwards decade. And now I have proof. During the nineties, Lynda Barry's books went out of print.

I didn't notice this, because of course I had already gobbled them all up in the eighties. Which I'm not saying were perfect. But man. By the late nineties my students were beginning to make fun of the eighties, and although I always knew something was seriously wrong with this I never knew how to express it. I usually muttered about how their decade brought back beige. Now I know. At least we had Lynda Barry.

And she's back! Drawn and Quarterly, bless their souls, is publishing her new book. Apparently her last publisher dropped her. I'm fine with that- I was mad at them because her last book, 100 Demons, was incredibly great but hardly got any distribution. Drawn and Quarterly is also reissuing her old books, and apparently they're putting her on tour, too. If you don't own 100 Demons, go buy it right now. If you don't love it I personally will pay for your lobotomy.

The New York Times has an article about her this Sunday. The slideshow has beautiful images from the new book. And my lovely neighbors tell me she'll be coming to the Philadelphia Free Library on June 5th too. As is Jorie Graham! Cool! This decade is looking good!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mommy, smoke me up a case of rabbits!

Say kids, do you wish mommy and daddy would smoke more? Yes, yes you do. Or you would have had you been a kid when these cigarrette cards were around. It's a 52 card deck, so mom and dad had to get smoking if you wanted to play!

All the cards in this series are great. I had to restrain myself from putting in images of all 52, and I'm not kidding about how much I would have tried to compel my relatives to smoke if it meant getting my hands on some of these. You can see the whole set for yourself at the NY Public Library here.

The cigarette people did other games, too. Some of which I might not have killed my parents for. For instance:


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Where are the crackpots of temps perdu?

My opening was lovely! I had a great time. Everyone I talked to was insightful and intelligent and good looking. It was actually a bit strange. I'm so used to hearing odd things about my work at openings that I'm almost disappointed: it's like when the annoying guy moves out of the office next to you and the silence rings through the hallway where your irritation used to be.

My favorite weird opening story took place a few years ago at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, where I had installed this piece, which featured, as you can see, 9 foot tall badgers wearing dresses.

A slightly off-looking woman with a very prairie-ish dress came up to me at the opening and started asking me about badgers. Did I use source materials to draw my badgers? Why yes, I said, I did.
"Do badger stripes look like that?"
"Yes they do, I'm quite careful about the stripes."
"And where do badgers live? Do they live around here?"
"No, sadly, they're a prairie animal. We don't have badgers. They have them in Wisconsin."
"And badger teeth- do they look like that?"
"Well, you know, I couldn't find a reference for the badger teeth. I guess it's hard to photograph badgers with their mouths open, so I just made up the teeth."
"And how large are badgers?" she asked. I made a badger-sized shape with my hands. Her eyes got small and sneaky looking. At this point I knew something was odd, but I was so much in my polite-as-hell opening mode that I was incapable of running over to the wine and cheese table and hiding underneath it as I probably should have."And do badgers wear dresses?" She asked.

I totally didn't see it coming. I mumbled something dopey about how these were made up, metaphorical badgers and she looked at me triumphantly as if she'd caught me in a lie. She stalked off with a spring in her step.

Not one wack job talked to me at Gallery Joe the whole evening. Which is pretty crazy in itself; lunatic comments about my work at openings are the law of the universe, as far as I'm concerned. Thom and I tried to remember another such galactic event; we couldn't. He reminded me of the loon at an opening ten years ago who hissed my initials at me like a demented snake: S! S!

There must be something in the water. After this remarkably civilized opening I met some very nice collectors who bought Suspense, which is one of my favorite pieces. I love it when people I like buy work I like. Yay.