Sunday, June 29, 2008
THE STORY OF SONNY AND COOCHIE
As told to me by Emma Lee-
"My dad was doing something at the lake one day when he heard this odd bird call. "That's not a local bird." he told my mom and spotted the chattering bird in a tree by the cabin. It was a Cockatiel. You know Savage. He startd mimicing the bird's call and the thing swooped down on the picnic table. He tried to get ahold of it, but it spooked and flew down the lake. We heard later it attacked Willie and then disappeared.
Early the next morning as the blue jays started up, Savage heard the foreign call amongst the chatter. "There he is." he whispered to mom, and jumped out of bed. It took some doing, but he called the bird in and grabbed it. Then he called me. I went to Petco got a cage, then drove down and picked up the bird. We named him Sonny. Well, Sonny was the meanest, dirtiest bird I'd ever seen. He'd stick his tail through the cage and shit on the wall, knock his food all over the floor, and if you tried to kiss him he'd fly in your face and peck at your eyes. At first we thought he was just a little traumatized, but after a few weeks he'd only gotten worse.
Then one day a friend came over and she "bird whispered" to Sonny, and damned if he didn't calm right down. He was so sweet. His personality totally changed. But then, he got out of his cage and the dog went after him. Sonny smashed his head on the window and he immediately turned back into a mean filthy beast. We spent the whole winter hating that bird. Come spring I was just gonna open the window and let him out, when I heard another cockateil calling from down the block. My neighbor told me her bird was also a runaway that she had found in the park. I asked her if I could bring Sonny over to play with her bird Coochie. As soon as Sonny saw Coochie it was love. He cocked his head and started making little twittery noises I'd never heard him make before. We opened his cage and Sonny flew in with Coochie. My neighbor said he could live with them on her refridgerator, and that's where they are to this day. True love."
Saturday, June 28, 2008
The recent Supreme Court decision, basically reaffirming the 2nd amendent's language, guaranteeing the populace's right to keep and bear arms, is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise right wing, stagnant court. As a gun owning person whose politics have always drifted to the left, I feel this decision is a glimmer of sanity in an otherwise insane administration. No more are we going to be beat over the head with ridiculous arguments about militias and NPR's liberal party line concerning outright firearm bans. Well OK, NPR is still at it.
Like our urban societie's basic disconnect with food source, the gun issue is polarized and filled with misconceptions fueled by a knee jerk, pandering press. The court's case in point was brought by a DC security guard who wanted to take his gun home, and not have to dismantle it in order to comply the law. What good is a gun in pieces when an intruder is downstairs boosting the TV set? "Excuse me sir. This will just take a minute. Have you seen my firing pin?" The absurdity is palpable.
A recent piece of mine- SWF-LAX GUN CARRY demonstrated just how easy it is to travel legally with a registered handgun. In fact it's a little too easy. When I got in the wrong line by mistake at LAX all I had to say was that I was carrying a firearm and they kept ushering me farther up the line and deeper inside the airport. At no time did anyone ask to see ID or a badge. They just assumed I was an undercover air mashall. Finally an official asked if I was carrying on board? I said no and he pointed me in the right direction. This doesn't bode well for airport security.
Should firearms be regulated? Absolutely. Should people be able to legally procure and own guns for various purposes, including hunting and self potection? Court sez yes. A gun is just a tool. Unloaded, it's no more dangerous than a hammer. I included the gun carry piece in my show at Marianna's Apartment. Legally I can carry that gun anywhere in NY state, but not in NY city. By taking it to NYC for the show I was libel to arrest and loss of my pistol permit. So let me let you in on a little secret. In the locked box was a pair of binocculars and a rock. Never let it be said I'm not a law abiding gun owner. It's the IDEA, man.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
THE CHURCH DOORS
Everyone knows that old rhyme- Here's the church. Here's the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people. As I put the final touches on the front doors of the church, let me give you a little personal history of this entrance.
The first time I saw the church I was tooling around Sullivan County's back roads with my girlfriend Diana. I was completely engrossed, eyeballing the farm across the road, checking for deer, and marveling at the decrepit fence lines, and overgrown swamp, when Diana said "Wow! Look at that." I turned and saw the church. I think it was about 1989. I pulled over my old Chevy and and we both got out. The front door was open.
Inside was wet, musty and filled with crap. We poked around and I found an old baptism certificate for Ethel Osterhout. A sign? Five years later I would own the place. (I never found that certificate again.)
The early years were spent commuting to the city, digging trenches (with a pick and shovel) and repairing the stone foundation. Then I met Al Blanchard and with the help of my brother Duke, we put a new steeple on the place. I thought I'd be open for services in 5 or 10 years. It's now 15 years later and I have yet to hang out the shingle. But it's coming.
About the same time I was finding the baptism certificate, my brother Smokey was working on demoing Yale Cathedral's steps in New Haven and was able to score two nice granite slabs. A couple of months ago he brought them over to me. I set them in the front. I had two doors off a job in the city that fit perfectly and an old mortise lockset. So I hung the doors and yesterday went to a locksmith to get a skeleton key to fit. The locksmith lived on the side of a mountain with a 50 mile vista view and an old aluminum trailer back in the woods. In about 20 minutes he had the lock keyed.
Last night I was locking up when Al Blanchard showed up. I proudly showed him the key and he asked who keyed it. I told him and he smiled. "That's my brother in law." Al said. Yeah, it's a small town. Sure, there's plenty of Osterhouts and Blanchard relatives. It all can be coincidence. But in any case the signs continue. All point to the LGM. Here's the church. Here's the steeple. Open the doors.....
Al's working on getting me that trailer.
Monday, June 23, 2008
THE SELF-ABNEGATION OF THE ARTIST'S ARTIST
I know. It sounds like a Herzog film. And to be honest I had to look up "abnegation" just to make sure it wasn't some sort of code for jerking off. But there it was- denial, sacrifice.... All those years of putting gravel in my sneakers and cinching the barbedwire belt ever tighter had finally been recognised. But artist's artist? That one I didn't have to look up. Everyone knows that's a nice way of saying you are obscure and while your peers have careers, you work in the post office or worse. Like the more common term of "musician's musician" you play the subway and coffee houses while others get Grammys. But the saddest thing is, it's true. My recent show and resulting press had summed it up. I was two steps below obscurity and tickled pink to be called any kind of artist. In the words of one of those more successful peers, "What next?"
15 years goes by in the blink of an eye....
Sunday, June 22, 2008
During the summer months I see my folks more than I do the rest of the year. They stay at Wolf Lake, which is only about 10 minutes away. So some mornings it's not unusual to see them pull in around 10 or so to check in on what I'm up to. One recent morning they swung by on the way over to Paradise Pond to see the work my brother Bird was doing on Milaywer's place. The pond is getting a new spillway system so I warned my parents that the first road was torn up and they'd be better off taking the middle road. This information immediately sent my old man into a shitfit. His eyes narrowed. He stared at the ground, teeth clenched and spit out the words like a piece of bad meat. "The middle road?"
"Yeah." I said, wondering where this big concern was coming from. "You take the middle road, through the gate....." He cut me off. "What gate?" I tried to be patient. "There's a gate." I said slowly. My mother rolled her eyes. "Then you bear left...." "LEFT!" he snarled. You'd think I'd just told him to shinny up a tree and grab the rope ladder. By the time he left I was a nervous wreck. If there's one thing my old man does not like in his golden years, it's a change in plans.
The only concrete artworld thing I got out of my week long show in NYC was a nice piece in ARTNET online magazine , written by Carlo McCormick. In fact it was so nice I sent it to my parents. "Can you open your email?" I asked the old man over the phone. "I don't know." he growled. "I'll try." An hour later he called back. "OK. I got your email now where am I supposed to click?" Now I must admit, I'm almost as lame when it comes to computers, but I do know how to click on a link. Patiently I explained to him to look for the underlined jumble of words with McCormick somewhere. "OH! I SEE IT!" he shouted. "OK" I said and hung up.
Another 20 minutes went by before he called back. "That was a very nice article that Carlo wrote." he said obviously proud of being able to find the damn thing. He then explained to me how he had figured out how to print it up and only screwed up 4 or 5 pages before he got it almost perfect. Then he continued to gush over how good a writer Carlo was and when he was done, he asked in all seriousness, "What does Carlo do?" Now that's why I do what I do.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
I once had a video professor, Howard Fried, who theorized that the reason that all the paintings in the painting department looked the same was that the students bought all their supplies at the school store. No matter what imagery they put on the canvas, the brushes, paints and sizes were all uniform. It was the best observation I ever got from a teacher. So in my early 30's, when I seriously started painting, I remembered Howard's words. There was no way I would do uniform work.
The early Kristan Kohl work was of all sizes- square and rectangular, but mixed up. Some big. Some small. Then, a few years back, I suddenly craved a uniform size. I really don't know why. I wanted the size to be big for an apartment, but still hangable. And I wanted to work in only this size. I came up with 54"X90". This was not a standard 4X8 sheet of plywood....but close. I could reach the middle from both sides and carry relatively easily. They would fit in a pick up and wouldn't take more than a week to complete.
Then I came up with a technique. This sounds easier than it really is. Good techniques are few and far between. It involves scissors, paper, tape, paint and glue. Sort of like kindergarten. That's a good thing. It's calming and basically mindless. Then the last two ingredients are impatience and boredom. I want to get the shit done and if I don't change it up in interesting ways I can't bring myself to fuck with it. So that's it. All my secrets. You can do these paintings for your self. Have fun. I'm thinking of getting into explosives.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
A WEEK IN THE GHETTO OF YOUTH
Williamsburg, NY, like it's Va. counterpart, is a theme park. Instead of tourist dads in loud t-shirts and screaming kids, it's inhabitants are a mix of sling bag and funny hat wearing fashion victims and ultra hot men and women who look like they just stepped, fully pressed, from the pages of Vogue. Luckily for me, I was hanging with the later. But the one consistent theme in this park is youth. You'd think they checked proof at the bridge and the L line. "I'm sorry you were born before 1972. You'll have to turn around. I think the Lower East Side is still accepting your age group."
This 18-35 year old demographic may not be strictly enforced, but judging from the street and any of the many packed bars and restaurants it might as well be. I look like Alistair Cooke walking down the street. Oh, I'm sorry, you're too young to know who that is. How about Papa Smurf? Once in a while you can spot what look like parents from Bugfuck middle America, visiting the spawn and God bless 'em they look like frightened deer in the headlights. "And here's the tanning salon, and another coffee shoppe and oh yeah, that cheese shoppe is excellent! OOOOOOooooo Daddy can you buy me those shoes?" I pity any visiting parent without deep pockets. Talk about fear in the face of an impending recession.
It's nothing new for me to hang with people decades my junior. I dig them and as long as they don't throw rocks at me or poke me with a pointy stick, we're cool. I got plenty of storys from "back in the day" and for a grizzled fossil I can still hold my own when it comes to booze and drug intake. The disconcerting thing is seeing only youth in a large neighborhood. Heads down, text messaging, or cell phones glued to pretty ears, the area teems with an energy that is simutaneously frantic and completely lost. My presence is tolerated, so long as i don't make waves. I'm sure if I started to cough up lung or crapped my Depends someone in authority would put me on a bus and whisk me back upstate. For now I'm glad to be home with my cats and my slow internet connection. Someday they'll be a draft again. If I was a recruiter I know where I'd set up shoppe.
Friday, June 13, 2008
FLOWERS ARE PROBLEMATIC
I've always said that hunting is replete with analogies to so called "real" life. And after almost a week back in the "artworld" I see just how similar this world is to any hayfield or prime patch of woods upstate. First you must gear up. I've forgone the camo and rubber boots for two 3 packs of "wife beaters",sneakers and a couple of pairs of jeans. These show off the tats and let my skinny arms breathe in this heat. Bugs are not an issue, but sunscreen is a must, along with little cocktail umbrellas to keep my hair up. Firearms are optional. I did bring my pistol, but I've kept it locked up while here in the city. I can legally carry anywhere but NYC. And to be honest, if a dealer or collector catches the sun glinting off your barrel, that could be it. They can disappear back into the limo, and you'll never see them again.
So now it's time to hunt. I chose to hang my stand in Williamsburg. This area is not known for trophy size animals, but there's plenty of big bucks across the river and my plan is to lay out enough lure and call sweetly. Also I'm trying a little rattling, in order to entice the big boy in. For example critic Carlo McCormick wrote a piece on the show for Papermag.com. I sent word out and linked to that piece and was able to draw in Walter Robinson from Artnet. At the Chris Burden piece I met Jerry Salz, but couldn't get a clear shot, just as David Ross came into the crosshairs. I swung on David but as cards were being exchanged he caught sight of Chris and scurried off into the brush. The last thing you want to do is take a quick shot and wound one. A wounded critic or dealer can be very dangerous. Patience.
Instead of spot and stalk I decided to rely on staying in the stand and concentrate on bringing one in that i know haunts these woods. Some guides will tell you to gather up your slides and hit museums and gallerys, but I've never had much luck with this approach. I feel it makes too much noise and you just end up wandering around seeing nothing. It can also be dangerous. There's a particular rattlesnake under a desk at Mary Boone that has bitten more than one poor soul, expecting Ms. Boone to look at work. Other hunters may also push something your way. Karen Finley called to say she was circling my little patch of woods and to keep my eyes peeled, but she never kicked anything out.
Then yesterday, just as i was about to pack it in the doorbell rang. It was Jim and Patricia Webber- old clients of mine. I'd moved and renovated their house in Stone Ridge and was trying to expose them to my more arty side. As it turned out I did get a job installing new pocket doors for them, but couldn't bring them in close enough to sell a painting. They are both good looking animals but not quite what I'm looking for this season. I had Shewho email David Ross and he returned it mentioning how he had always admired "MONTH'S" work. ????????? I guess he's referring to me, but who knows. I'm just sitting still on this one and calling softly. He's opening Albion Gallery on Prince St. And according to Walter they are big time. Ross would be a really good buck to get on the ground, but I may have to take a running shot. In the mean time I've done one new painting and am half way through another. Tessa Hughes-Freeland came out and saw the new work and commented that the new one looked like a seed catalog. "Flowers are problematic, aren't they Mike?" she said, gesturing to the work. I had to agree. But this time of year a big colorful flower painting can bring a big one charging out of the swamp, checkbook in hand. Wait. You hear that? I thought i heard an Italian loafer on Bedford. Steady. Don't blow it.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
HEY YA WHISKERS!
This was the greeting I recieved from a rather large woman in a bright orange moo-moo and goggle sunglasses, sitting in a lawn chair on Bedford in Williamsburg. I turned and smiled and got a blown kiss. It's the beard. My decision to once again let the shrubbery grow wild has made me an oddity in this close cropped world. My mom hates it. My friends roll their eyes and inform me how much younger I would look without it. But little kids are fascinated by it. Mean dogs steer clear, Imans and Rabbis give me the nod and not just a few gangly models yank on it for good luck. My mom hates the tattoos also, but she still loves me.
My week in NY so far has been a flurry of activity. The opening went well, albiet a sweltering confab. I timed the show to coincide with an early summer heat wave, that refuses to let go. And yesterday i went to visit the set of MOTHERHOOD in the West Village. They were shooting on a roof top and I got fried. My host Horst is the 1st AD on this picture, written by Katherine Deikman, and starring Uma Thurman, Minnie Driver and Anthony Edwards. I got the tour, met Uma and got Tony Edwards on Disposable TV. Minnie is 7 months preggers and in no mood. I've completed one painting and begun work on another, went to the Chris Burden press preview for his erector set skyscraper, a book signing for NO REGRETS (a book on bad tattoos) and hit my old haunt Max. Fish. Chuckles McC has been my guide and I've been having a blast. But back to the beard.
I was an early bloomer. Hell, I don't think I even had pubes until I was 27. But then something happened. One morning I looked in the mirror and there it was-a whisker. I shaved it and the next morning there were more. My first beard was a goatee. Once again in the clean shaven 80's i looked out of place. The growth looked more 50's. But I dug my hep patch. Over the years I let it come and go. Then the grey moved in and now it's totally white. Like the hair (which I've stopped cutting), letting the beard grow down to my belly is one less thing I have to worry about. Looking younger? Who gives a shit. Youth is overrated. And if little kids think I'm Santa, dogs cross the street, with their tails tucked, and crazy ladies in moo-moos blow me kisses, all the more reason to spare the shears. I ain't shaving any time soon.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I began my career as an artist in 1977, while still a student at The San Francisco Art Institute. My piece for a student show was called Red Sea/Red Sea. It was a 25 foot long stripped path of hardwood floor in the gallery's entrance, exposing the raw wood to dirty foot traffic. Needless to say the school was none too pleased. This set the tone for my ensuing career.
During the SF years I organized artist videos in porno motels, purchased and boarded a cow, adopted a boy (through the Christian Children's fund) tattooed 12 people with 12 tattoos, and in 1982 attended Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA.
I invented the persona MO David (a critic) in order to promote my circle of artist friends without their knowledge. Later I would name my gallery in SF's mission district MO David Gallery. In 1984 I moved MO David to NY's East Village.
In NYC I showed the artists Tony Oursler, Karen Finley, Stelarc, David Ireland, Tony Labat, Les Levine, Robin Winters, and invented a fictious artist Kristan Kohl. In 1985 I had KK die, continuing to work under this name to this day. In 1986, fed up with my role as an art dealer, I closed MO David and started the rock band Purple Geezus, along with The Church of The Little Green Man.
By the early 90's the band had broken up and the church continued hit and miss in strip clubs, bars, and underground clubs. The LGM required the burning of a dollar bill upon entry and held services on the birth and death of congregants. Any member of the congregation who dies is somehow memorialized with a tattoo on my person.
Purchasing an old Methodist church in Glen Wild, NY in 1994, I would eventually move full time to the Catskills. I continued the KK work, restored the church and took up hunting and guiding as part of my art. In 1999 I purchased a one room school house and established The Old School for Social Sculpture.
Currently I am working on The White Sulfur Springs project and Disposable TV (each represented in this show). If I could sum up my approach, it is to objectify one's very existence to the extent that and "Artist" is created, not necessarily "Art". I feel it is my duty as an artist to periodically communicate this in some way, irregardless of the marketplace. That is why I have chosen to show at Marianna's Appartment.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
SEX AND THE COUNTRY
When those whiney, neurotic, credit card swinging, skinny, fashion victims known as Carrie, Miranda and the rest of them, first drug their shopping bags across the small screen I was working on the upper east side. Every morning I'd pass Woody Allen and Geraldo Rivera taking their kids to private school and have my coffee at the same time and place as Mrs. Phoebe Kevin Kline. Then I'd line up at the service entrance of some anonymous building with the rest of the working men and women who make those upper east side cliches' lives easier. "Did you see "Sex" last night?" one burly Polish stone mason asked me. "That Carry. What a card! Do you think her and Big.....?" I would scowl and tell him just what I thought of those bitches. Then the door would open and we all disappeared into the world of the rich and priviledged.
So now that the Sex and the City movie has hit the big screen and become some kind of "cultural" phenom, I once again find myself tensing up and spitting when I hear the news. Two wars, gas prices cruising in on a five spot, credit crunch, sub-prime mess....Shall I go on? What's all over the TV? Carrie, Miranda, and the rest of those rich, gaunt scarecrows. Now don't get me wrong. I usually like a skinny, slutty girl. But for some reason these characters bring the worst out of me. Like hearing Hitllery's voice, when I see that bunch and their swinging bags and cell phones I feel like my head is gonna explode. You may think that they sprang fully formed from some midwestern writer's idea of the upper east side woman (and they most likely did), but I'm here to tell you there's truth in those Manolos. Those kind of women exist and they are not a friend of the working man.
Recently I've heard of women taking their tweeny daughters to see this movie. I can't tell you how disappointed I am to hear this. These characters make Barbie look like a matronly role model. And I can guarantee those tweenies will eat it up. It's a government plot I tell you! Messmerize the populace with this kinda crap and they won't notice the world is crumbling. Keep the boys playing violent video games so they are ready as cannon fodder at 18 and the girls can become mindless, shopping, fembots, keeping the home fires burning, while slutting around with the local firemen. It's the American way.
Next week I'll be in the city if anyone wants to take me to the movies.