Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Posting Notice

Christopher Reiger
"Constellation (a, b, c)"
Pen and ink and watercolor on Arches paper
11 3/4 x 14 inches

Things will be quiet here for the next week or so. I just learned that I have an unexpected arts writing deadline in less than a week and I've already got a lot on my plate.

Though busy, things are very good. The in-progress video projects are very promising, and the photography-text works are looking solid, too. I'm still drawing a lot; one of the works from the current series is pictured above.

Within the next couple of weeks, I should be posting a number of new drawings to my website and, hopefully, some videos and photographs will follow soon thereafter.

Monday, January 28, 2008

James Wendell : Eyeblink

My friend, James Wendell, a talented photographer, has just published his first collection, entitled "Eyeblink.". James will be speaking and presenting a selection of his work on Tuesday night, at the Half King Bar & Restaurant, as part of their Gallery series. Come grab a beer or two and check out the work.

James Wendell

Opening Talk and Slideshow:
Tuesday, January 29th, 2008
7 PM

Friday, January 25, 2008

ArtCal Zine Review: Guy Ben-ner

My review of Guy Ben-ner's current exhibition at Postmasters is posted at ArtCal Zine. (Click here to read.)

Proust on reading

To read is "to receive a communication with another way of thinking, all the while remaining alone, that is, while continuing to enjoy the intellectual power that one has in solitude and that conversation dissipates immediately."
-Marcel Proust


Tuesday, January 22, 2008


For many freelancers, artists included, January and February are partially given over to the sorting of receipts and the totaling of income from a variety of sources, so why not clean house and update the blogroll, too?

Because few of us have time for a lot of blog reading anymore, I've added a new section at the top, under which I list only my favorite blogs. These are not all art blogs, but they are all excellent.

The rest of the breakdown stays the same, though some blogs have been removed - due to a lack of current or worthwhile content - and some blogs added.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Lee Baxter Davis at Clementine Gallery

Lee Baxter Davis
"Man of the West"
Pen, ink and wash on paper
44 X 56 inches

Two years ago, in an essay contrasting Lee Baxter Davis's work with that of his former student, Trenton Doyle Hancock, I characterized Hancock's Mounds saga as a "packaged experience" and described Davis' coarse visions as the unadulterated output of a "reclusive alchemist." I intended the critique not as a denigration of Hancock, whose work I generally admire, but rather as a celebration of Davis and other artists of his kind, productive at society's fringe. Industry success for Davis, a retired art professor now working as an assistant pastor of St. William the Confessor Catholic Church in Greenville, Texas, has been a long time coming, and I'm happy that Clementine Gallery is making space for his powerful, under-appreciated work.

Davis' allegorical drawings - layered, raging, and libidinous - are messy, almost psychotic pictures, and his characters are possessed of that peculiarly American madness that drives us ever west to spread the gospel of Manifest Destiny, Jesus and Adam Smith.

There is a Cormac McCarthy brutality and ugliness to Davis' figures, all of whom have either abandoned compassion in favor of machismo and promises of what-might-be or appear resigned to a Hobbesian existence. Yet the over-arching lesson of Davis' pictures is a gracious one; ashes to ashes, dust to dust, let us not forget where we came from (and where we are going) as we ride on.

Lee Baxter Davis
"Out West (Rousseau & Cleopatra)"
Pen, ink and wash on paper
40 X 21 1/2 inches

Photo credits: Davis images courtesy Clementine Gallery

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Denise Bibro; "Winter Salon" opening

I have a painting included in a group show opening tomorrow night, at Denise Bibro Gallery.

Information provided below.

Denise Bibro Fine Art
529 West 20th Street, 4W
Ny, Ny 10011

"Winter Salon"
January 3 - February 2, 2008
Opening reception; January 17, 2008

Two Exceptions Taken

"My own experience is that the more we study art, the less we care for nature. What art really reveals to us is nature's lack of design, her curious crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her absolutely unfinished condition. Nature has good intentions, of course, but, as Aristotle once said, she cannot carry them out."
-Oscar Wilde

Wilde produced so many clever, insightful passages, but now and again he comes off as an arrogant buffoon. (On the plus side, the quote suggests that Wilde, were he still with us, would not be a proponent of Intelligent there's that.)


"Violence and brutality aside, if you were ever unsure of how ridiculous hunting can seem in modern terms, [artist] Angela Singer spells it out. Singer has explored the notion of the hunt and its trophies for a number of years and while her subjects explicitly reference the idea, her process pointedly undermines the esteem of hunting for trophy.

Trophy hunting in New Zealand does not have the social prowess as in Britain, but is still very much a red-blooded sport. It represents a regressive urge to connect with the natural and instinctive animal self and is emblematic of macho stereotypes of man-as-hunter."
-Anna Jackson, writing on the sculptures of Angela Singer in NY Arts

Really, Anna, we should talk. I have a feeling you might rethink your characterization of hunters and hunting...or at least allow for some anomalies.

Knee-jerk, reductive reactions to any complex subject are frustrating. I'm assuming that Jackson is a vegetarian; if not, she should have acknowledged this contradiction. She also embraces the now common stereotype of the hunter as a trophy hound. Certainly, the majority of hunters will mount at least one of their animal kills (whether head, rack or whole hide), but a great many find the idea repugnant, and are instead concerned with the meal and the experience.

But Jackson characterizes that experience as "regressive." Is connecting with the "natural" and "instinctive animal self" a bad thing? What of shitting, sex, and the feeling that possesses you in those (hopefully) rare moments when your life is in imminent danger? What of meditation or "spiritual" ecstasy?

I'm not a typical proponent of hunting; my views on the "issue" are nuanced and often contradictory, but when a person calls hunting "ridiculous" and "regressive" without explaining their perspective, my hackles rise.

Monday, January 14, 2008

News Flash

Cockroach First Animal To Reproduce In Space

"A RUSSIAN cockroach called Nadezhda (Hope) has given birth to the first creatures ever conceived in space, scientists in Voronezh, central Russia, said today."

Excusing the unintentional hubris of the article's opening statement above - "space" is pretty vast and probability dictates that other life, or something like it, has replicated itself in the great unknown - I got a kick out of the news. It seems fitting that one of Earth's most resilient and adaptable animal orders, Blattodea, is already boldly going where no man has gone before, even if they're doing so under our auspices.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Where Has All The Strangeness Gone?

Roosevelt Island and Queensboro Bridge, October 2007

Before moving here in 1999, I romanticized New York City in my way, naively imagining it America's own Victorian London. I believed I would rub elbows with prostitutes and hustlers as often as artists, dancers and yuppies. I also believed - this correctly - that New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore belonged to a special group of American centers, settlements that proudly wear scars of their younger days and offer exciting local histories on every block. Sadly, even the latter assumption is proving false, or, at least, less true than it used to be.

Yesterday evening, I sat in a West Village pub named after a one-time London establishment. To my left was a hearth, on which a small pile of gas logs "burned" pleasantly. The pub's decor and wood paneling were also counterfeit; the Guinness, fortunately, was not. I divided my time between eavesdropping - on a conversation about the American tendency toward Bush/Clinton rule and, for comic relief, a movie trivia game involving an astoundingly clueless couple - and reading the excellent, but depressing "Mystery on Pearl Street," a piece by Burkhard Bilger included in the January 7th issue of The New Yorker. The article details the story of 211 Pearl Street, a building almost approved for protection by the NY Landmarks Preservation Commission, but instead demolished to make room for a(nother) high-rise condominium and office center.

Early on in the article, Bilger supplies readers with this distressing fact: "New York demolishes more old buildings every month than most American cities have an average year, about two thousand buildings are torn down." Later, Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University, puts it to Bilger thus: "New York, to me, is becoming less and less mysterious. Its ghosts, its revenants, they don't have a place to walk anymore. They are being squeezed out....I don't mean to sound like an occultist, but a little bit of strangeness is important to Manhattan."

In the last six months - SIX MONTHS! - four new condos rose on my block in Astoria, Queens; the footprint of another has just been cleared. From my office on Manhattan's East Side, I look down on Roosevelt Island, once named Welfare Island, and see condo after condo ascending. The papers remind us each month of the "exodus of the creative class," a phenomenon attributed to escalating rents and the ever increasing cost of living, but those are not the only factors responsible.

Personally, I'd rather live in a place where the spirits linger. Is Europe the only refuge?

Roosevelt Island and Queensboro Bridge, January 2008

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Same 'ol...

A co-worker orders me an Old Bushmills whiskey. When the bartender begins to pour a Jameson instead, my co-worker balks. "No, that's Catholic whiskey, Pat! We want the orange, the Protestant."

Behind us, on the television, a Rudy Giuliani campaign commercial features footage of gun-toting insurgents, explosions, and Iranian president Ahmadinejad. The voiceover: "Hate without boundaries. A people perverted. A religion betrayed."

Friday, January 04, 2008

Field To Table

I killed and ate one duck during my annual winter trip to the Eastern Shore. It's become a tradition...though "ritual" is perhaps a better word for it.

A vegetarian otherwise, my days of frequent hunting and fishing outings are gone, but the process of killing, preparing and consuming fish, fowl or flesh remains important to me. Once familiar to all, the steps involved are now considered foreign (even low) by the majority of contemporary meat eaters.

I have written on this subject several times before; rather than reiterate the same ideas, I thought I'd post some pictures of the process.


Lucy, a yellow Labrador Retriever, carries the fallen duck back to the blind.


Dead hen American black duck (Anas rubripes), on the left, and a hen mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), shot by a hunting companion, laid on the dock before the cleaning begins.

(My father and I make every effort to avoid shooting black ducks. The species experienced a gradual population decline in recent decades. Fortunately they are now rebounding in the Atlantic Flyway. Still, I would prefer to kill a mallard, but on this particular morning I failed to correctly identify the species as it winged past. It wasn't until Lucy retrieved the bird that I realized my mistake with a groan. Sadly, most duck hunters don't pick-and-choose species at all. Indeed, many hunters are no better at distinguishing species "on the wing" than your average urbanite.)


Ducks after plucking.


Ducks following gutting. The heads, wings and innards have been removed, and the heart of the black duck saved (on pan). The heart of the mallard had been mostly destroyed by the shot and could not be saved.

(When I was young, the duck liver could also be saved and eaten, but environmental pollutants have led biologists to discourage the consumption of internal organs.)


My hand following the gutting, a shockingly beautiful reminder of what meat consumption entails. I'm baffled by people who find such images disturbing yet continue to eat meat. They are the very definition of unreasonable and irresponsible.

(This isn't to suggest that I condemn contradiction. Indeed, I embrace it, but logic wins out in this case. If you find an act (any act) reprehensible or grotesque, how can you, with a clear conscience, ask it of someone else?)


Cleaned birds on pan, readied for rinsing and final preparations. Note how much more fat the mallard (bird on bottom) has than the black duck.

(Anas rubripes is considered a "wilder" or "gamier" species and, in my estimation, the meat tastes better for it.)


Me, cleaning and picking off remaining pin feathers.


The two ducks are now ready to be cooked. I ate the black duck that same evening. It was delicious.


My irreverent father sometimes says, half jokingly, "Make sure you finish everything on your plate. It died for your sins." In the days of environmental footprint quizzes, carbon trading programs, and hybrid automobiles, most western eating habits could fairly be deemed hedonistic. My annual kill, then, is sacramental. I "sin," if you will, so that I might reconfirm my decision, five years ago, to stop eating meat unless I am personally responsible for the killing involved in bringing meat to the table.

I'm not a true moralist, however. I realize that there is no universal code of ethics - only that which we, as individuals or societies, project onto others - but I do wish more people would consider their individual impact on the lives and environment of the animals we share this planet with, and depend upon for physical and emotional sustenance.

Photo credit: All images, Hungry Hyaena, 2007

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A(nother) New Year

Born shortly after the northern hemisphere's winter solstice, on one of the year's darkest days, I'm accustomed to quiet, contemplative birthdays, and my thirtieth was no exception.

After waking, I drove a short distance from my parents' house to a place where I'd several days before noticed a deer carcass dumped in a roadside ditch. My choice of subject intrigued the few motorists that passed. Their cars slowed to a crawl as they peered through rain-streaked windows, concerned eyes moving from the rotting mass of flesh, fur and bone to me, hunched over my camera in the cold drizzle. Hoping to allay any misgiving, I smiled cheerfully and waved.

Later, in fading afternoon light, I stood on the Heron Hope dock and surveyed the marsh and estuary while my father plucked and gutted three mourning dove he shot in a friend's field. The air was humid and chilly. I held open a bag and my father deposited the cleaned bodies of the little birds, one after the other. Some crows called from the southwest, and an impressive flight of black ducks passed overhead on squeaky wings.

After nightfall I shared a meal with my parents and a friend. We discussed presidential candidates, the increasing surreality of American elections, San Francisco's changing neighborhoods, and the ahistorical silliness of transplanting sports franchises without changing the team name. We bled two bottles of merlot before I switched to beer and watched some Dave Chapelle stand-up on television.

Pleasantly buzzed and heavy with holiday treats, I eventually lay down on the couch, another year older, but more happy than I've been in years.

It's a rare, curious thing when one's perception of life transitions from the regular line of past, present and future to an ambiguous cycle of individual moments. This mode is necessarily fleeting, so difficult is it to reconcile with contemporary life. We flip through scrapbooks and retell stories of our youth; the ball drops, the clock counts down and the crowd's vague, anticipatory energy crescendos; a mark is made, the number changed; the owl falls on the quivering chaff.

Ring in the year of the brown rat. I'll also ring in another decade.

Photo credit: Hungry Hyaena, 2007