WASHBURNrugFINAL (Click to view file)

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This work is a critique on the superficial pretentiousness relative to artist statements and the rug represents the critical aspect of art; how people walk all over each others work.  It is in the process of being made into a 5ft.x 7ft. white area-rug with black text.  Below is a sample of what the text reads, though not how it is presents:


Artist Statement

My work…is bettah than yours. 

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This is a physical response to an overwhelming moment.  I will admit this situation was completely self-induced.  Hindsight is such a kick in the ass…what did I do?  How could this have happened?  I should have, could have, would have…in the end I did not.  It was not on purpose, I get distracted easily.  I am not offering an excuse, just an explanation.  Thankfully my memory is really good, as well as people who remind me that I do.

It is quite amazing…the journey.  I have no idea how it sustained for as long as it did, well I have one idea, traffic.  Your last trek, you traveled in the open air from Brooklyn to Queens and then you met your unfortunate demise on Route 95 (North on the Connecticut and New York line). I feel so sorry that I wedged you between the bars of my roof rack.  I am even sorrier I had forgotten I put you there.  Some people may write you off as something, you were everything!  In remembrance of your existence I am paying homage to you.  My dear blank-book I miss you so.  You weren’t so blank when the roof let you go.  Your pages filled with the most valuable information contained in my mind since January.  Now I negotiate your loss by being thankful I start a new book every six months.  My wife, Heather, transcribed all I could remember and as I dictated it from my memory in an attempt to calm myself down.

It happened like this, we had finally picked up some speed after sitting in traffic for the lifetime of at least 3 flies.  It felt good, the trip had been amazing, and I heard an unfamiliar thump-thump, in time to look into my rearview mirror.  I watched as it freed many of its pages from the binding and white rectangles flew like seagulls into the infinity of the highway behind me.  It took a moment…then I began to fan my face…I realized it was my book…so young and lost too soon.  “May the road rise to meet you.”

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While studying language, exploring slang, profanity and the effect it has on things in the spoken and symbolic world of communication I came across this fabulous word.  I decided to trace the word trace.  Originally I just outlined the word trace.  I found it funny…I wanted to go deeper.  I then pushed it and thought about the word itself and the language I want it to portray.  I bought a pad of tracing paper.  I printed out the word trace in a font that resembles a stencil.  A stencil is another form of tracing.  I placed the printout in the back of the pad of tracing paper and began to outline the word “TRACE” progressively on each page.  As I did this, similar to my work on the “depletion of identity” where my signature slowly depreciated with each pass on the screen, the original printout of the word began to do the same; the shapes of the text abstracting more and more until the final sheet where the realization is that it looks nothing like the original…even though I traced it.

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Humor is a quality that has the ability to induce funny thoughts which are intended to create laughter for the purposes of amusement. (Houghton Mifflin)  A joke differentiates itself in the sense of a physical presence, whether it is a joke told, a joke played, or a joke presented.  Similar to humor a joke is made for the purpose of evoking laughter and amusement.  (Houghton Mifflin)  The slight nuance that differentiates humor from a joke is within the action.  Creating jokes and finding ways to convey humor within an artistic context is difficult in a sense; objects are a particular medium employed to develop funny types of artwork.  In which case, the object is a performer, conveying the joke as a comedienne would.  The only thing lacking is spoken language.

This is where the interpretations of the work and the joke become interesting.  Whether or not the artist intends for the work to be read a particular way, the viewers perception drives how they internalize the joke.  In a recent article, John Waters describes his favorite piece by Cy Twombly, “Letters of Resignation.”  It consists of thirty-eight squares of paper with illegible pencil scribbles representing text consisting of his personal musings.  Upon first glance, this particular work is funny when applying one’s own context to the piece.  The idea of scribbling in pencil an illegible mini-manifesto representing a resignation letter to one’s current station in life is entertaining and humorous. (Waters)  John Waters performed a translation of the “Letters of Resignation.”  Waters performed a translation of the “Letters of Resignation,” this nicely illustrates intention versus interpretation.

It is not easy to understand the comparative and conceptual ideas revolving around the use of objects in art and how objects relate to humor.  Claes Oldenburg has a fascinating way of generating a blend of these ideas within a literary piece, “I Am for an Art.”

He wrote, “I am for an art that is political-eriotical-mystical that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.  I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all, an art given chance of having a starting point of zero.  I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap and still comes out on top. I am for an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, or whatever is necessary.  I am for an art that takes its form from the lines itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself.  I am for an artist who vanishes, turning up in a white cap painting signs or hallways.” (Oldenburg)

He speaks to the use of the everyday object in an everyday context.  It describes the humor within the irony of affectation wrapped around common items once elevated into an art context.  An object today is art tomorrow.   It raises the question of whether or not the object maintains its stability as an art work or reverts back to object hood once the context it is contained within morphs.

A current exhibit featuring the work of Beth Campbell illustrates the use of everyday objects within an artistic context, objects curated together to create an installation within separate spaces.  The initial encounter with Campbell’s work, “Mirror, Mirror,”[1] presents two convex mirrors hanging as a diptych—together the mirrors reflect the space you are in and multiply it; this foreshadows the work to come.  The next piece is an installation utilizing objects to create, “The Artist’s Studio.”[2]  The work includes everyday objects:  a painted desk, chairs, a filing cabinet with documents organized on top, canvas clipped to the wall covering the windows, a shelf with a cup of brushes, art related ephemera pinned to the wall, a saw horse with two five-gallon buckets beneath, within the buckets dried remains of b messy, crunchy, rough black the other is light green.  There is a pile of miscellaneous cardboard, wood and foam-core. An apron hangs on the wall next to a dustpan and broom, complete with paint stained clogs.  The objects in the space tell the viewer it represents an artist’s studio.  Once the viewer approaches the next room is when the hilariousness ensues, it is a mirror image of the previous room.  All of the objects are the same just flipped.

This brings back to the humorous question raised earlier, is the art an object, is the object art, and is it just an object?  Campbell collected the objects utilized within this particular installation from Materials for the Arts[3] that allows artists working with non-profits to come and take objects they may need for a show at no cost.  Objects that otherwise would have become discarded are recycled and in this case the objects become art.  The desks became paintings and the canvas wall coverings became prints as she engaged the objects into the practice and process of art making.  This particular installation will go into storage once the exhibition is complete. All the objects keep their definitive as art work for the time being.

Campbell plays with the idea of object versus art.  She has returned objects used in an exhibition to the store she originally bought them from.  This insinuates an object, elevated into art context, then returned to the context whence it came attributes to the perceptions put upon an object and what it represents based on the context it presents itself within.  Once the object leaves the gallery and is returned Campbell believes it is no longer art, only secretly.  It is once again an object.  This point is proven with a piece she generated; she refers to loosely, as the constellation tables.  This work was shown and upon closing, Campbell returned all the tables, when later an interested party inquired about showing the work, Campbell explained she did not own the tables.  As such, the exhibitors went and purchased the tables per her instructions in order to exhibit this work, it is now in their collection. Campbell never even touched these particular tables however, the objects are now considered to be art and are attributed to her as her artwork.

Slowly, the queries of this paper started with jokes, humor and art, soon after the effect of the object upon the joke within an artistic context becomes the focus.  In essence, the critical ideas within the execution of the work dictate the level of humor the artist intended.  Without knowledge, none of these ideas even exist.  All of these objects, these actions, these perceptions, these abnormally normal happenings within daily life are all art.  Similar to the subtle difference of action distinguishing a joke from humor, the differentiation between the art and the object lies within the context.

Works Cited:

Houghton Mifflin. Dictionary. n.d.

Oldenburg, Edited by Jennifer Higgie by Claes. I Am for an Art. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1961.

Robbins, David. Concrete Comedy. New York: Pork Salad Press, 2011.

Waters, John. “Lights Out with Cy Twombly.” Art in America January 2015: 41.

[1]   Beth Campbell:  “When You Cut Into the Present The Future Leaks Out,” Old Bronx Borough Courthouse.  April 23-July 19, 2015

[2] Beth Campbell:  “When You Cut Into the Present The Future Leaks Out,” Old Bronx Borough Courthouse.  April 23-July 19, 2015

[3] Materials for the Arts:  A reuse center available in New York City providing a space for companies to donate unneeded supplies to be utilized by nonprofit organizations with art programming as well as public schools.

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CRITICAL THEORY III RESPONSE (it’s much more interesting than this title)

The Art world is one of the few true spaces where a discourse around gender and race exists.  Art canon is based on a historically perpetuating patriarchal manipulation which impacts all genders and races.  The continued support and teachings of Vasari’s writings coupled with the way museums are curated and designed directly impact the way Art is perceived.  The oppression of the institution traps the “other” into a cyclical discourse; a system that supports gender biased hierarchy as well as race repression within creative practice, effectively making it seem impossible to reconstruct the construct.

In the article “The Art Historical Canon: Sins of Omission, author  Nanette Salomon hits the nail on the head when she says, “The omission of whole categories of art and artists has resulted in an unrepresentative and distorting notion of who has contributed to “universal” ideas expressed through creativity and aesthetic effort.”  Difference is a symptom of equality, the sickness of sameness.  Universality conveniently stifles the want or need to question.

In Vasari’s famed art history book, penned in the 1500’s precedent was set as to the basis of these biases, thereby creating the omissions. The word omission pacifies the seriousness of the actual situation.  Despite the passage of time, Jansen’s writings in the 1960’s on art history are derivative of Vasari’s original writings.  This continued ideology further perpetuates the dynamic of a thriving historical hierarchy.  Vasari presupposes a true expression of artistic genius can only be achieved by a man—an upper white class man.  His biographical endeavors support his genius and propel him comfortably into the construct Vasari created exclusively for him.  There were more positive developments derived from Vasari’s writings were the inception of the Art Academy and the explosion of mechanically reproduced paintings. Well, positive for the upper class white male.  Everyone else was excluded.  Unless of course you were “exceptional,” in which case, once it was purported, the construct would find a way to prove the claim invalid.  The term, “exceptional” itself is a derogatory definitive which carries the bias feeding into the hierarchy of insiders versus outsiders.  The insiders deciphering whether or not the “other” fits.  For example, Artemesia Gentileschi, was an incredibly talented artist whose work is generally associated with her rape at the hands of her mentor.  It is always about sex.  First, she is a woman, second an artist and primarily a rape victim.  Anything she has painted has basis in her trauma; another privilege provided to women via the construct of the canon.  A man’s biography makes him a genius and a woman’s biography is only based in her biology.  However heroic her work may have been the canon will always imprison her work and her biography as gendered, not as art.

The construct creates a dynamic of white male power which further feeds a structure of power and submission.  The “enlightenment” in the context of the European supremacy constituted a reclassification of knowledge—the museum is a product of the enlightenment.  Originally access to museums was limited to a specific gendered race.  The post enlightenment attitude towards the female nude was very different; once “enlightened” the attitude subverted and women were covered, particularly in the area of the pubis.  It is an exercise not only in modesty, but a necessity to protect her from the risk of a violent attack.  Through her full exposure she would create temptation, evoking a “natural” response from the male.  Instead of the male controlling his impulse it is the woman’s responsibility to submit.  Submission shows weakness, weakness fuels aggression, aggression triggers impulse.  This proves covered or not—the fire burns her just the same.

There was a famed volume on art history penned in the Netherlands in the 1500’s which focused on Dutch artists, including women artists equally alongside their male counterparts.  In fact, female artists were receiving acknowledgements for their creative contributions well into the 1700’s.  For some reason this text was disregarded, and the works of Vasari dominated.

The romantic notion regarding upper white class males is blinding at best, operating as a systematic support of superiority, slowly suffocating the collective creative voice of women.  By utilizing the “other” as a weapon, Vasari’s construct oppresses women and marginalizes minorities by placating the history to “include” various nationalities.  The resulting behavior is sexist, racist and yet somehow acceptable.  Feminist attempts to subvert the exclusivity are thwarted by a traditional canon generated over 400 years ago that effectively limits the history of art.  These notions today are incredulous as gender is no longer defined as simply male or female.  Today’s definitions of gender challenge this tradition of art history and its construct Even still one would have to approach the construct from the aspect of the construct itself.  Inclusiveness operates in a similar fashion depending upon the context.  “Other” becomes the difference that is introduced.   The dialogue is relative to difference versus sameness, and in turn inclusivity becomes exclusivity.  It is another trap.

In Sally Price’s article, “The Enduring Power of Primitivism,” she discusses a theory of universality as construct; a construct created by the patriarchal system that distinguishes differences of gender and race.  An interesting example of this can be seen at Musee du Quai Branly (MQB).  France passed a socially racist law in 2009 allowing young adults from France to visit museums without having to pay admission.  This included the MQB, which houses a large collection of “Primitive Art.”  The irony being that a young adult from Africa, visiting the museum must pay admission to view artifacts from their own culture.  The MQB’s primitive art treasures were procured by thieves justifying their actions with semantics in a language with politics they would not want to understand.  This thoughtfully created a feeding system of stolen objects acquisitioned by educated entities who definitively decide neglect and mistreatment of the objects mean they needed the care and conservation only a museum can provide.  The object becomes art. The artist becomes anonymous. Their identity is lost, forever.  The object becomes property of the western world and its ideology.

When focusing on these ideas it is relevant to add there is no such thing as Primitive Art.  Primitive Art buys into the construct, that one specifically gendered race dictates all definitive within western thinking.  It also brings one to question what fact is and what truth is based in the academic and cultural context whose origin is placed historically within the “enlightenment” thereby trapping anyone from the ability to decontextualize and reclassify the identity and the truth of so many that otherwise cease to exist within this system of educational and cultural classifications.

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The idea behind this piece and “The Fuckin’ Series,” utilized profane language and are relative to humor as much as they are to my silent feeling about the amount of unrelenting snow that has overrun the kingdom of New England.  It was suggested I explore my use of language.  It is important to me to maintain the consistency of humor and artifice in my work right now.  In order to implement this suggestion I knew it had to be integration not a separation.  It also needs to utilize some type of interstitial space.  Similar to the piece, “Touch Me,” that instigates the viewer to touch the painting that reads touch me and is wrapped in bubble wrap.  To touch it is still not touching it.  I digress.

“The Instructions,” are born. This work consists of a mirror and vinyl letters mounted on the mirror.  The text reads, “Go Fuck Ya’self.”  The original intent was singular.  The text in English is presented in my Bostonian dialect.  The viewer is prompted by text while at the same time the image of themselves is reflected back on them via the mirror.  This is hysterical.  If you could hear me…I laughing right now…especially at the viewah.  (say that like a Bostonian)

Upon meeting with my mentor and massaging out the idea, I came upon this notion to do it in many languages.  Researching the languages has been interesting.  Google is not always right, language is constructed by people, people have different dialects, nuances, cultural inferences all of these things have effects on the construction of a statement.  Even “Go Fuck Ya’self.”  I have seven confirmed languages, English, French, Malay-Indonesian, Portuguese, Danish, Latin and Filipino.  I am still working on a few.  My intention was to utilize the most popular languages and through my exploration I received suggestions; I included those as well. All that being said I will be interested to see if my research is on point.

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This came from a place of frustration with patriarchal constructs and wanting to blow it out into hilarity.  I seem to touch upon issues that are controbersial (sorry I have a cold) or uncomfortable for people.  It is through the process of creation it becomes deeper for me, relevant.  I am in the process of constructing three-dimensional individual block letters that make up the statement, “Fuck Me.”  The intention is to present them in a corner as stained naked wood letters. While I was making a physical sketch of them I decided it would be best to place them in environments as well.  I ran a list similar to the lists I have seen my mentor Beth with her future projections.  For example in a car, in a bar, a field, in the woods…it is the ideation of sex within our construct.  How exploitative it is…or is it?  Who is it geared towards or against? It is interesting if you type naked into a google image search only images of naked women initially appear.  On another note if you type in man, the initial images are all of white males. I found this interesting.  I thought my own photo series containing the three-dimensional letters constructed with the sentiment, “Fuck Me,” is essentially the same as any magazine ad or television commercial.  Only my letters don’t have to look any particular way to suit the needs of a particular demographic.  I don’t enjoy living within a politically suppressive patriarchal construct.  I feel this is a very intriguing way to explore these themes and expose the larger issue.  I am not saying that I do not enjoy images of females totally naked, I am asking what drives that as a marketing tool, why is the continued exploitation of women in mainstream media tolerated, why not say exactly what you mean with words instead of smoking mirrors of make-up, clothes, heels, or the lack there of, legs spread wide, mouth open inviting, many of these things read, “Fuck Me,” without the physical text there so the question really is…What drives you?  Why?  How did this happen…

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