Saturday, February 25, 2012


  I'm paraphrasing Herzog's characterization of the public's acid laced exhale, that is dissolving the cave paintings in France. It seems the perfect metaphor for the destructive power of attention that  seems to eat away at all art. Last night I watched Werner Herzog's documentary of the brilliant work discovered recently in a cave that had been sealed shut for 40,000 years. As anyone who has seen this film can attest, the paintings are on the level of any major art work you can think of in the history of art. From the signature red hand prints with the crooked little finger at the cave's entrance, to the epic futurism of animal battles and out of breath horse herds, the scope and scale is awe inspiring.  Put aside the hokey music and Werner's " I wish for a day i don't put a gun to my head" ponderous narration and just focus on the work.  DAMN!
   Seeing these paintings confirmed something that I've long suspected. Art does not evolve. Even though this work sits outside of history, now that a German documentary film maker has brought it to the world's attention, it can no longer remain so. These cave paintings and this painter specifically, should be considered artist one, working in year zero. Aside from the skinny mastodon with the poodle ankles, that looks like a lesser artist picked up the stick, all the line is so effortless and confident it looks like it came from the hand of God. Mona Lisa's smile or Duchamp's Trebuchet (Trap)  has nothing on this.  In fact it is exactly the same thing- not better nor worse. There is no progression. Perspective is more or less a mechanical development than an intrinsically artistic one. Romanticism, modernism, impressionism, conceptualism are all mere blips of definition excellerated by a societal need for brackets. Art, like God, sits outside of evolution. There's no getting better, only trying to access what has always been there. Two months 'til turkey season      

Monday, February 20, 2012


   Last week I had no idea where my next dollar was coming from. Then I got a dinner invite from Diamond Dave. DD and his wife bought the old pink house across Denniston Bridge a couple of years back and have turned it into a show place. They call it Trussbridge farm. Besides renovating the house they built a a brand new barn with a couple of apartments and a cavernous garage where Diamond Dave wants to install a groovy hangout called THE BARn. Stage one left him a bit unsatisfied with the man cave look, so after dinner, wine and some excellent herb, he asked if I would be interested "gaying" it up a bit. Originally it was to be GNJohn and I working our magic, but GNJ backed out due to previous commitments at Denniston Hill, leaving me and my loyal companion Levi to do the work. Just like that I was once again employed.
    So yesterday being Sunday i took my last day of leisure to play guitar, write a song, watch bad TV, smoke weed and run rampant on facebook. When I don't have much to post I like nothing better than to search for interesting topics to stick my nose into. Now that we've all gotten used to the idea of Mike Kelley being dead, lets see.....what's popping? My first comment was regarding a pic. Kenny Schacter had posted of a pink motorcycle with an ugly old tranny dressed in a baby doll dress. He was some artist who I never heard of. I made some crack about "the grande tradition of Brit motor clubs..." and moved on. Then I see the little message thingy light up. It was from some guy who recognized my name on the comment from the old PURPLE GEEZUS days. He was hot to "rediscover" PG and get all our old material out. I played along for a flurry of emails, then all went silent. Some things never change. I stopped caring about putting out a record in 1989.
    Late in the day I bored and went back online. This time it was a simple question posed by Jane Harris wondering why "adequate was good enough for art writing?"that caught my eye. I'll bite, why? There were a lot of comments already. As i scrolled down the list, this guy Tim Porges seemed to have an awful lot to say. One of his comments included the term "lifestyle artist". Outside of myself, I'd never heard anyone use that term. So I commented- "What the hell is a lifestyle artist?" This guy Porges must've just had a bump, because a long rather testy explanation followed, ending with "Who the hell is Mike Osterhout?" In the spirit of civil discourse JH interceded, explaining her interpretation of "lifestyle artists" as "many who play at being an artist for the social status it might accord." Now i know she and Mr. Porges don't mean that in a good way but.....BINGO! Goddamn right, that's why I became an artist. People only paid attention to one carpenter I know of, and look what happened to him. I never had much truck with the "ART=LIFE" bunch. Too boring. So I always tell students my work is more art as lifestyle than art as life. That way whatever you may want to contextualize as your work is open to you- rock band, gallery, school, church, whorehouse, hunting, or even painting and object making. Where I diverge from the definition......I ain't playing. And as far as art writing goes, snort meth, use big words and write really small. That should be more than adequate.          

Thursday, February 16, 2012




 I love my shack. But as anyone can tell you, it gets a bit ripe now and then. The woodstove and an obvious degenerative gene that allows me to live in my own crapulence with little or no regard, can leave the homestead a bit gamey for some. People point out unpainted surfaces and sooty cobwebs hanging from every available corner, to no avail. I really don't care. I guess there was a time I cared, but it's so long ago i credit that to a different me. The present me is happy in my own shit. So, it was with much trepidation I left the mountain for a pre-Valentine's jaunt to the city. Everything went great for the first 45 mins.

    I drive a 2003 Dodge Neon, and I love it just like my house. But, like the house, it's been around the block. Around Chester the dome light came on, the beepy thing beeped, and the back door flew open at 70 mph. I pulled over and within a matter of frustrating minutes I determined that no matter how hard I slammed the door it did not stay shut. With the help of Shewho's calm direction I fashioned an ingenious length of wire attached to a light plug. With the plug stuck outside and the window tightly rolled up I could attach the wire to a metal hoop, obviously designed for this very purpose. We got back onto the highway only to find that the dome light would not turn off. It spotlighted my scraggly noggan as if to say "Officer that guy smokes pot and he's too stoned to realize his dome light is on." I was waiting to see flashing lights in the rearview.
   We turned around and headed back, only to eventually get the light out and head again back towards NYC.  Add 40 miles to the trip. The rest of the trip in was a breeze. So after some last minute chocolate shopping we ended up in Brooklyn. The reason for the trip was to have dinner with the students from The Old School back in 1999. Jessie from LA, Spiro Baltimore, Sharon from Israel all gathered at Durado and Segali's. Leila drew me a valentine. The next day Shewho, Smokey and i ate chocolates and watched chick flicks in bed. We ordered spicy Vietnamese sandwiches and I pulled out about 2pm, ready to get home.
    The shack was cold. I started a hot fire and thought about cleaning the place up. But that was about as far as it went. My stomach was rumbling from all the booze, chocolate and Vietnamese food. I don't know how to put this I'll just say it. I had to take a mighty shit. I sat down on the old seat and let 'er rip. Gawd that felt good. My relief was temporary. You see, the previous night's spicy hot  soup had obviously waited to be joined by the flaming Viet sauce, in order to act as some sort of rocket fuel blasting through my intestines. My asshole was never informed as to what was coming.
   Dancing around the bathroom, my pants down about my ankles, I grabbed the heretofore strictly decorative  bright yellow and red plastic can of Anti-monkey butt wipes. This had been a gag Xmas gift from Shewho. Nothing was funny about this. FUCK! There was a silver foil seal. I quickly plunged a toothbrush through it, reaching the cooling wipes. I unrolled one and applied the moist cloth to my......ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Damn that felt good. The soft wipes were designed to "pop" through a star shaped hole in the bright red top. It looked like if i could just stuff one through the hole with my finger......Remember my pants are still around my ankles.
    I forced the rag through the hole with the tip of the middle finger of my left hand. And when I do, the points of that plastic asshole clamp down on my finger tip like a bear trap- forward it gets worse. Backward? There's no backing out without shredding my finger tip like razored Chinese handcuffs. I run, wobble, fall into the kitchen, looking for a sharp knife, realizing without my glasses I'll likely cut my finger off.  Bare assed, screaming in pain, I'm finally am able to find my glasses and a pair of scissors that will cut free my now bloody finger tip from the plastic top. I now know what those turtles feel like with those six pack rings around their heads. Still, after all that, I hope that's the last time I have to go into the city for a while. There's no place like home.  

Thursday, February 9, 2012


 One of my favorite quotes of all time is by that crazy fuck L. Ron Hubbard- "Science fiction is OK. But if you want to make some real money start a religion." Working in MO David North (the art producing wing of the CLGM) the quote ran through my head as i arranged bleached deer bones on the table. I had run out of eye medicine (both prescription and otherwise) a while back and I couldn't tell if it was the smoking Ker-o-sun heater or my peepers, but the room was lost in a haze. I was broke and didn't know where my next dollar was coming from. Sad to say this was not unfamiliar territory to me. So as i adjusted the sooty heater it occurred to me where I could get some quick cash- the collection plate.
   Over the past couple of years we've done five CLGMs. Unlike L. Ron I never set money as a goal for the church. Hell, everybody knows you have have to burn a dollar to get in. But, not to be completely out done by the others, we do pass the plate. Up until this day I'd just stuffed the cash in a jar and forgotten about it. I bet there was a few hundred bucks stashed away in the emergency church fund. Was this not an emergency? I called Dr. X. The Dr. was in.
    The Dr. had been treating me for some time for my glaucoma. When things get tight I have to miss my appointments and forgo my medicine. Life of the unemployed artist is one of constant triage. I need rear brakes but the front ones can wait. I have four cats but two dishes of food should suffice. I can do without.....but not without sight. My hand plunged into the jar. Greasy fives, tens and even a few twenties were stuffed in my pocket. All toll I pulled out about $200. I bought $150 of eye medicine and $20 of kerosene. The remainder i still have squirreled away. The room is still hazy but now I know it's not the smokey heater. I CAN SEE! Forgive me.

Saturday, February 4, 2012



   I've always been firm in my belief that it is just as important to stop things as it is to start them. That said, I draw the line at the ultimate free will decision given all of us- suicide. Not that I've never considered it. I don't think there's too many artists out there (successful or not) who haven't at least in passing, thought of eating a bullet. It seems to come with the territory. This past week has been a tough one in the arts and entertainment world. Two major figures, SOUL TRAIN'S  Don Cornelius and the king of messy, arrested development, punk-boy art Mike Kelley both took it upon themselves to leave this mortal coil. After all the sadness and glowing tributes to both, what are we left with? Why?
   According to anecdotal accounts Mike's was over a woman. I haven't heard Don's reason. The fact is anything short of having a terminal illness and taking things in your own hands.....and even that seems a cop out, just sounds hollow. Death has always indirectly fascinated me in my work. I bought and branded a cow in 1980 only to have get hit and killed by a truck. My plan was to let it live a natural life. Turned out it's natural life was only a year. These days I hunt and kill animals as part of my art process. Their deaths literally feed my artistic community. That is my concern (above my personal and artistic selfishness). I know if I committed suicide my community would be incredibly disappointed. They'd kill me. Didn't Mike and Don think of this?
   In 2000 I purchased a small piece of woods surrounded by cemeteries in order to have a place to spread the ashes of the congregation. If nothing else I want my work to out live me. The community responded positively. They also want to be remembered fondly. We all have a finite amount of time. Like MY COW it may be cut short by a pick up truck. If it is, so be it. Or like some, you may hit 100 and still be kicking. The CLGM has few rules- no spitting, arm punching or berating your friends in public. I'd like to add another one. NO SUICIDES! There's no room in my cemetery for quitters. Otherwise, die old and leave a mess. I prepare a place for you.

Friday, February 3, 2012


  Sometimes an arbitrary news item catches me. It happened back in 1978 when I read in the paper about a kid cleaning up an alley in SF. It was a nowhere, nothing fluff piece on a kid in the Tenderloin. When the media attention died down I got to know that kid and documented the process in my piece MISSIONARY (the extended family as sculpture). This piece, more than any other, set the tone for my life's work. Last night I had a similar experience. I was watching the evening news when a story came on reporting a mysterious illness that had hit the upstate town of Le Roy, NY. It seems that 14 teenage girls, one boy and a 35 year woman have developed symptoms that mirror Tourettes Syndrome. In varying degrees of severity, all exhibit tics, both verbal and physical. This has been going on since October, but only recently has it gained the attention of the International media. NYS Health Dept. has supposedly tested all possible environmental causes and sided with doctors from The Dent Institute who have diagnosed this as a case of mass hysteria brought on by the stress of being a teenager. Are you shitting me? There should be millions of them.
   Enter Erin Brockovich, the crusading lawyer played by Julia Roberts in the 2000 movie of the same name. Contacted by the sister of one of the afflicted girls, Ms. Brockovich has come on scene to independently test soil, air and hopefully everything else that can be tested, in order to get to the bottom of this mystery. If nothing else there's another movie in it.
   Since seeing this story last night, little else has been on my mind. (OK it's winter and I'm unemployed.)  But, my God, to explain away a cluster of people with debilitating tics as some sort of psychosomatic herd mentality seems as outlandish an explanation as I've ever heard.  Yet, these doctors cite historical evidence to the contrary- a school in Virginia, one in Boston, etc. According to accounts, this has happened before, usually involving female teenagers. What century are we living in?

The obvious holes in this theory are #1. There is now a boy and a grown woman exhibiting these symptoms. #2. Brockovich and her team have uncovered evidence of a chemical spill in 1970, not that far from the school. #3. The school had drainage issues from day one, having to close on occasion to deal with flooding. #4. Poisoning by various substances, like mercury, can cause similar symptoms. Now, I'm no scientist, but if I was a parent the first thing I would do would be get my kid as far away from Le Roy, NY as possible and see if she or he got better. For now the mystery only deepens. My niece is an ace speech pathologist who lives in Syracuse, not far from Le Roy. I think a road trip may be in order.