Wednesday, January 28, 2015
FUNNY. YOU DON'T LOOK LIKE A WRITER
The DAILY BEAST internet headline is "Catskills Gets it's Groove Back, With Brooklyn's Help". I'm such a sucker for this shit, immediately clicking on it. It's the usual. The Catskills are on everyone's tip. The young, good looking, "hipster" who wrote the piece said nothing new, except basically giving credit for the "leg up" to "Brooklyn". And by that, he meant "hipster Brooklyn", completely ignoring Hassidic Brooklyn. Huh?
Hassidim has been in the 'skills almost as long as the Osterhouts. That said, I'm probably the first generation to interact with the other tribe. The GOD LOVES FAGS sign is in english and Hebrew. And after 20 years on the mountain, owning both a church and a synagogue, I've had my share of interactions. And I must say, they've all been cordial and kinda fun. I fuck with the rabbis and they fuck right back with me. Once, when swastikas appeared at the local elementary school, I went investigating. With luck I got to talk to the district superintendent. I introduced myself as a "Jewish" writer and wanted to find out just what the climate was in school regarding the recent spray painting? She looked me up and down and replied "Funny. You don't look like a writer."
Let me tell you another story. On the weekend I agreed to help photog Marianna Louise with a little location shoot. I know plenty of tumble down, abandoned bungalows on back roads. Her boyfriend Horst and I set up some old chairs in the snow, while ML set up her shot. Just before she was ready to click the remote, a car pulled up. A small blonde woman got out screaming. "YOU CAN'T BE IN THERE. YOU'RE BLOCKING THE ROAD! (we weren't) I'M CALLING THE COPS!" As I was trudging up the bank, in the snow, to calm this nut down, her husband got out of the car. He was much bigger and just as loud."GET OUT OF HERE........NOW!" he yelled, as he took pictures of my license plate. I tried to explain our innocent, artistic quest....in between asking him "Why the fuck do you care?" and telling him to go fuck himself. What was my point?
Oh yeah. The Hassidic landlords in Brooklyn have driven out the hipsters with high rent and now they are about to join them, along with the Hillbilly, Black Mayor of Monticello in Jail, casinos coming, thanks for helping us get our groove back, foray that we call home. DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE. THERE IS NOT A MICRO-BREW ON EVERY CORNER. It's still a struggle up here. That's not to say we can't use a little influx of hipstercash. FYI- your landlord in Brooklyn may be your neighbor up here. And he's gotta be home by sunset on Friday. Be forewarned. All in all I think it's good y'all are coming. Welcome to the neighborhood. Just watch where you point your camera.
Friday, January 16, 2015
Labels: pHOTO:mARIANA rOTHEN
HUGS AND MONEY
I'm emailing back and forth with my friend and regular HWS contributor Marianna Rothen. We're discussing plans to do a shoot up here this weekend. I've been able to supply many of my photog-friends with locations for years now. I guess it started with Richard Kern, when i still owned THE OLD SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL SCULPTURE. That place was a 1950's hunting camp time-capsule that I pretty much left as is after purchasing it from my old-timer neighbors Bill and Gladys. Even a well heeled LA installation artist could never have replicated the cheese. Everybody looked good there- esp. nakid girls.
Over the years i met more photographers, as Kern's globe trotting search for the young and hot took off. Marianna Rothen is one of my favorites. "You know it's fuuuuucking cold up here?" I warn her, knowing someone will inevitably be disrobed for the shot. "No problem." she replies "H&M at your house." Not only do I not have a cell phone, I've never sent a text in my life. Aside from lol,omg,wtf, and iff, I don't know the code. "I'm stupid." I inform my young friend "What's h&m?" The email I got back explains it all. "Hugs and money."
A couple of years ago, in the throes a predictable run of extreme artfaggery (caring about my career) I contacted an old friend whose career had recently exploded. "He's printing money." a mutual buddy told me. So I shot off an email asking who I had to blow in order to get what he was getting- C&F: collected and flush?
Much to his credit he called me back and ran it down for me- "Align yourself with younger artists, esp. the more successful ones." I told him that i knew a couple, but probably not enough to give me any cred. "Do a book." he also suggested "Put it out there without expecting anything back. You have to say "Fuck you. I'm Mark Flood."
So I took him at his word. I put out a book. I didn't expect anything back. I got a lecture gig in SF. I tried to make younger artist friends, but that's touchy business. You can't let them know you want to exploit their friendship to somehow boost your lousy career. Like all relationships, it takes time. Tick-fucking-tock. So in the meantime I have to be satisfied helping out Marianna as much as i can. She has a show coming up at KASHER/POTAMKIN opening on Thurs. 6-8pm. She's great! You better buy her photos before they go through the roof. And they will. H&M.
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
SMOKING KERN GIRL
Labels: pHOTO:r. KERN
I'M JUST JEALOUS
One of my old friends (who happens to be a good artist) was leaving a fancy Xmas party given by the famous photographer Cindy Sherman, with her husband and kids, a couple of years ago. After an evening of drinks and fancy finger food, served on silver trays, by hired servants, her young son asked just what it was Ms. Sherman did? "She's an artist." my friend answered nonchalantly. The boy was confused. "But mom..." he whispered in the elevator "I thought that's what you were."
The gap between successful artists and those who just identify themselves as an "artist" is growing as fast as the abyss between the rich and the poor. I don't know if there was ever anything like an artistic middle class in this country, but I sure know there isn't now. Maybe there was one for mural painters in the '40's. But that was a long time ago. These days you either have representation, a market, collectors.....or you don't. Then you either have a teaching job, work the museum, public art or biennale circuit...or you're on your own. Then it's the front yard and facebook. Lame huh?
I know how pitiful I am in many ways. I hear the whispers: "Is he for real?" If I only had a nickel for every time I've heard that. So much of being an artist is keeping your self-identity. It can slip away without you even realizing it. Without a sale, or a show, or some press your self esteem heads right for the dumper. Hell, at least actors can take bad parts or musicians can play lame gigs. You can still be a pro. Visual artists just have to be satisfied with the latest piece and move on. I never use the term professional artist. That would really be stretching the truth. Why not quit? You say. Ha. That's a good one.
Je suis that artist riding the elevator down to the lobby, after the fancy party, a little boy tugging at my pant leg. "Yeah kid. I'm just jealous. It's my art." That elevator is quite crowded. If I had any idea how to get off on a different floor I'd press the button.
Saturday, January 10, 2015
Labels: pHOTO:mARIANA rOTHEN
IT'S WHERE THE MONEY IS
I'm sitting a foot off the woodstove, watching CNN. Out the window the fresh snow is blowing to almost whiteout proportions, in the minus four sunshine. The CNN banner reads Officials: 3 French Terrorists killed. Just as I read the crawl, a dirty white pick up truck roars down the snowy road, two tattered American flags flapping in the breeze. If only I had a camera in my mind.
The past week has been brutally cold up here on the mountain. Once I had my deer skulls all skinned out, boiled and formed into a neat svastika I didn't have much else to do. It's that time of year. All the hustle of deer season, the holidays and a flurry of art activity has led to the "hibernation" months. In my drafty shack it's a full time job just staying warm. So with the mac in my lap, I stoke the stove with one hand and post on fb with the other. The incongruous combination of global community and cave fire is not lost on me.
Aside from conjugal visits to Shewho, my only contact with civilization is my usual table at the Rock Hill Diner. They know me so well that they just ask "Root beer or coffee?" If it's root beer they bring me a cheezeburger. Coffee means breakfast. I love the short hand of convenience. On my way to the table I pick up the daily papers- Times Herald Record and NY Post. Between the Yahoo news feed, fb, my free monthly PAPER magazine and the diner's papers I try to stay on top of any developments in the world. Kim Kardasian's ass has thankfully gone dark.
Then, as I absentmindedly peruse the Post, something catches my eye. "Bank Thief" a nutty prof. reads the type over a blurry pic of a bank robber. Funny.....the guy in an inset photo looks familiar. I read further. Turns out the nutty prof/thief is none other than the director of the only movie I was ever in- a piece of 16 mm crap done in the early 90's called THE GENIUS. These were the days in the East Village of great underground film directors like Tessa Hughes-Freeland, Richard Kern, Nick Zedd, Ella Troyano, etc. I knew all these people, but never had any desire to be in any of their films. Why I was in Joe Gibbons film I can't remember, but I'm sure it involved being paid. I played a crazy man on a shrink's couch who threatens the Dr. with a swiss army knife. I remember telling Joe I wanted a bigger, more threatening knife. He ignored me. ACTION!
The only thing more surprising than learning that my old director was now in jail on bank robbery charges, was the fact that he had been teaching at M.I.T. for ten years. I don't want to be too mean, but how the fuck did he get that gig? I don't suffer foolish thieves lightly. I remember JB getting press in the 70's for stealing a painting off some gallery or museum wall in SF, as a piece. He returned it and no charges were filed. He has a history of this. We crossed paths a few times over the years and then I lost track. I'm sure Joe Gibbons has friends and family who are devastated by his actions. My heart goes out to them. If he is seriously, mentally ill, it may be his only hope of avoiding a very stiff prison sentence. If he tries to spin this action as art I pity him. My advice is to play the "crazy card" and leave art out of it. Like they say- can't fix stupid. Now about that opening at M.I.T.......
Thursday, January 8, 2015
YELLING MOVIE IN A CROWDED FIRE HOUSE
Yesterday, as we all know by now, 12 people were killed in the offices of CHARLIE HEBDO in Paris. The arrest of a member of PUSSY RIOT in Moscow and the detaining of artist Tania Bruguera in Havana pale in comparison. One is a flexing of the atrophying arm of power of these respective countries. The other is a horrific, senseless murder of a group of artists whose whole reason to go to work was to provoke. It's not complicated. Certain artists (myself included) when told "You shouldn't do that." immediately do just that. We seem to be hardwired for it. Some appreciate our provocations. Others are annoyed, offended and disgusted that we are allowed to do what we do. A very few will try to stop us.
Are there limits to free speech? Yes, of course. You can't incite riot with hate speech. You can't spray paint a swastika on a shul. You can't scream FIRE! in a crowded movie theater. But you can use loaded imagery and satire against public figures, religion, and a myriad of other subjects. Recently i made the mistake of addressing a class of graduate art students in SF and flippantly stating that "Moslems have no sense of humor." This was a gross generalization that I regret. There's a gazillion Moslems in the world. I'm sure plenty have good senses of humor. I apologize.
But what a small minority of very well armed, extremist, radical Moslems use as an excuse for murderous mayhem is the fundamentalist interpretations of the Koran, which states that it is a blasphemy to publish the image of the Prophet Mohammed- either positive or negative. This makes political cartoonists like the ones at CHARLIE HEBDO public enemy number one for ISIS, Al Queda and any lone wolf with an ax to grind.
My immediate reaction to this is to flood facebook with images of the prophet, in solidarity with my fallen French colleagues. But then I sleep on it and think better. Art and religion are my stomping ground. Provocation is easy for me. Even when I'm not trying I have a tendency to piss people off. What fun is it to preach to the choir? The last week I've been working on a piece that involves four bleached deer skulls. I had no idea what form it would take. The circular motifs that seem to be developing in recent work- of "henges" and "flowers" continued in this particular work. And before I knew it a svastika appeared. Damn! What do I do with that? Well, I'm nothing if not intuitive in my process. If it wasn't for Hitler this image would still be a revered, powerful symbol of luck and auspiciousness. I know it will piss people off. I can't help that.
Monday, January 5, 2015
Labels: PHOTO: KATE ORNE
FLATLINED SINCE 1977
I've started the year on an artfag roll. New work in the church yard (much to Shewho's dismay), a return to HWS and FB respectively, which gives me a false sense of audience and some new pieces (and meat) from my deer butchering. All in all it's shaping up to be a good start to the new year. I have two new resolutions: "Say what you mean. Don't hold back." I know a lot of you think, what with my constant spewing of opinion and fb posts- "How could this idiot be holding back?" Well let me clue you in. I've been self-editing forever. Get ready.
If I had a cell phone I'd be on Instagram. But who needs a cell phone? So in the meantime facebook will have to do. In my over a year absence from the site I've realized it's not quite as viable as it used to be. Even though I had two strikes against me for posting titties, it was not the looming third strike that got me off the fb tip. It was my own pathetic pathology of hoping for "likes" and "comments" and tailoring posts that would garner the most positive responses. I know. It was pathetic. Realizing this, I jumped. It took me a week or two to be comfortable with the move off. But then I was OK. More work went on the lawn. I put together a book. I did a lecture and an interview. Time went by.
Then one night before Xmas, drunk as a skunk, I went back to the fb family. It was kinda nice. Old SF and LES crew came out to greet my return. The party had gone on without me, but I was missed. This prompted me to approach fb with a new attitude: post two or three times a day and don't give a shit. So far so good. Then, today, I found myself involved in an old issue that really doesn't affect me in the least- the resale of work at auction. An artist I like in NYC, Andrew Castrucci, had posted a piece on a proposed Artist Royalties Act. This issue goes back to Robert Rauschenberg's $900 painting being sold at auction by the Sculls' in 1973 for a boatload of $ and he not getting a piece. Who wouldn't want a piece of future auction sales? Me. I started commenting.
In the real world I have sold so few pieces of art it's barely worth mentioning. Terms like early, mid, late career do not apply. I've considered my work mature since 1977. One career, one practice, or whatever the new term is. From '77 to now it's been consistent. I may never hear an auctioneer's gavel. So be it. So I am against any government intervention into my shit, that may or may not yield a hypothetical percentage on "future auction sales". There has been no roller coaster ride for me. If it wasn't for the interweb, only a handful of people would know I exist. Even with it, I'm pretty obscure. And that's the way i like it. Being an artist in 2015 is still the best identity anyone could ask for. Town officials up your ass for that stuffed rabbit sitting on a toilet in your yard? FBI inquiring as to your importing bull semen to Cuba? FB hitting you with one more strike? Fuck 'em all! You are an artist. No regulation required.