Friday, July 27, 2012

Upcoming show at Firecat Projects!

I keep wandering in to my studio just to look at the huge pile of framed work that is leaning against the wall. There's something about seeing work in frames that's like dressing up kids for a wedding. I'm so proud.

In a few days I'm taking the pile to Chicago for my show at Firecat Projects. I've been working on getting this show together for two years, but it feels like this is the culmination of something that started two years before that. When I got back from Rome in 2008 I entered a messy transitional period that drove me crazy very single day that I was in the studio. Somewhere around the middle of the last four years I caught a current, and I like the work I'm making now a lot. It's very satisfying.

Firecat Projects is an amazing space. The gallery is Tony Fitzpatrick and Stan Klein's wild idea- it's a nonprofit space that supports underecognized artists. They match sponsors with artists, and the sponsors pay for the gallery overhead for artists who show there so that they are able to produce shows without taking a commission on sales. It's a crazily generous plan, and I'm so grateful to them and my sponsor that I can't begin to say..

It's been a long time since I last posted, so there's lots of new work on my website, and while I'd normally write about each piece, I haven't got time to do that now. This piece, however, needs some explanation...

Contemplation of the Skull of the Turtle Emporer Nero, 22"x30", 2012

While this was hanging in my studio I asked everyone what the object in the center of the picture was, and I got some really funny answers- mushroom? Fungus? It's a turtle skull with seaweed on its nose and head, and it's drawn from one at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

The premise of the piece is that the small turtles have found the old dead skull of a sea turtle and are eulogizing it in a totally clueless fashion when it is actually the skull of the turtle emperor Nero. The pointy text around the skull of the turtle reflects some reading I've been doing about Nero, who, it turns out, did not fiddle when Rome burned, but who was a pretty amazingly crazy man by all accounts. Sort of like Kim Jong Il, actually- he thought his singing could quell riots and that he was the world's greatest poet and that he'd win any contest he entered, and when he was finally going to be killed by a mob he asked some random stranger to demonstrate how to commit suicide so he would know how to do it. He also, in case you're interested, built an amazing palace with lattice-work ceilings through which slaves could throw flower petals and pump rose water mist down on his guests. It had a marble staircase with a waterfall on it, too, but unfortunately this was not exactly the kind of investment the Romans needed after Rome burnt- thus the mob.

Another piece in a similar vein is called Ornament, (below) and it's a companion to the four swan pieces I mentioned in the last post. Many of these pieces fit together for me...The swans and the turtles and the snakes and flowers I've made for this show all exist in the same landscape, and they are all grappling with issues of power and aesthetics and mortality. In this piece, the swan's feathers have been made into a more controllable, democratic form of a wing, something shareable and manageable that not coincidentally is something people can hide behind. Each feather holds a triumphant little bug who is holding a flag that spouts a different reason to triumph. You can see details on the website by clicking the link on the title.

Ornament, Ink and Watercolor on paper, 22"x30", 2012

These are the snakes I mentioned. There are three innocent snakes:

Innocent Snake 1Ink and watercolor on paper 11"x15", 2012

Innocent Snake 2Ink and watercolor on paper 11"x15", 2012

Innocent Snake 3Ink and watercolor on paper 11"x15", 2012

I've also started making some pieces on panels, which is very fun. Panels make it impossible to use my .005 mm pens, which has to be a good thing since I always work with serious magnification when I use those pens- panels force me to make marks that are visible to the naked eye. 

I'm sort of in love with these pieces. When I'm not staggering backwards away from them wondering what in the hell I'm doing. Thus this piece, Love Song, below. Note the bug on the left, saying, "How embarrassing!"

Love Song, Ink and watercolor on panel, 12"x9", 2012

Oh No!Ink and watercolor on panel, 12"x9", 2012

Bad FeelingInk and watercolor on panel, 12"x9", 2012

This one kills me, because I've been spending time in the gym lately searching for my elusive core muscles. It's based on a drawing of  frog by J.I.I.Grandville that I love. The drawing shows a very sleepy looking frog, and the caption is "l'auteur se presente." Grandville was a big fan of bug commentary, and in this piece the bug is saying "A good plank works wonders."

There will probably be more frogs in my future- this is my most recent panel.

Seductive Geometry, Ink and Watercolor on panel, 12"x12", 2012

If you click the link on the title the image will be embiggened so that the text is readable. That link will take you to the website, where there are even more pieces, but that's all for now. If anyone knows good places to visit in Chicago, let me know!

Monday, April 02, 2012


I finished this piece today- it's called Reversal, and it is the last in a series I've been working on since last spring. The full series includes these other three pieces.




You can see them all on my website, but I'm also going to show them in August at Firecat Gallery in Chicago. I'm loving how they all look together- they are each quite large, and together they make a nice monumental narrative. I have no doubt that they go in the order that they are above, with Reversal being the last piece, but I don't really think that the ending is conclusive- either the third or fourth pieces could end the narrative, so the swan or the otter could win.

But it's not looking good for the otter in this piece.

The main text on this piece is on the right. It says, "It can turn on a dime."

On the left, a chorus of flowers and bugs say, "She gave us something, too. The springtime..."

"with its blooming (bleeding) hope. But we knew..."

"She also brought the winter... "

"What were we supposed to do with that??"

Morning glories wind around the swan, and below its mangy neck, bugs gather peony petals as tokens in the way that they collected feathers in an earlier piece.

I really liked the turtle I made in the last piece, and in this one it reappears to snark at a sanctimonious dragonly.

Now that I've finished this series, I'm going to do a series of smaller pieces with these crazy flower faces I've been working with. Or some tigers. Or caribou. Stay tuned!

And if you haven't seen or can't get to the Morgan Library's In the Company of Animals exhibition, check it out online- some of the best pieces from the show are nicely catalogued on their website.

Monday, January 30, 2012


I recently finished another large piece in this crazy epic battle series I'm making. This one is called Episode, and you can see it much larger on my website here.

These flowers are a chorus of sorts...

The main text starts below the otter's feet...

"He cloaked himself in her defeat..."

"Wrapping her discredited beauty around his neck..."

And then, in the small balloons and the blue text, "Claiming moral victory/ Over her seductive frivolousness / As he hid his/ Powerful blandness/ In her perfect, useless wings."

The fish says, "He was our champion. He wanted something for all of us, something we could share. Something we could deserve."

The bug adds, "Not like she did, tarting all over town."

On the other side of the piece the bug says, "It is nice to have it in a more manageable size. This beauty will fit right in, no hogging all the attention, no biting..."

He continues...

And then, in the feather boat, it says, "I cant look! I can't stop looking!"

The otter fur has darkened in this piece, and the swan has switched genders. The otter may molt again in another piece, and their genders might switch again- in the last one, Fight/Flight, the swan and the otter were brothers. It doesn't matter. They are containers for ideas, and in this case the ideas about beauty I was talking about worked well with ideas about the control of femininity, so it made sense to have the swan be female in this one.

Anyway, gender-flexible animals have been around for a long time..

I'm pretty happy with this turtle. I did a lot of turtle research: I went to the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences to draw their turtle and worked from a number of pictorial sources- but in the end, as usual, I made the animal up. This is a very long fingernailed version of a red-eared box turtle.