Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Daze of Whine and Poseurs PT.5 (Cut and Paste)

Hello Blogiteers!

Two quotes to start off my newest screed with…
first up, Aaron Johnson of Lawn Gnome Publishing: “You are a saint for paying attention to all of your fellow Phoenician brothers and sisters and challenging us. If you aren't a saint, a monster, or a bogeyman, then you are a great devil's advocate or muckraker...”

*Blush* I do what I can, Aaron. Then, there’s this little exchange in regards to New Times “100 Artists of AZ” Blog…

Me: "Just wait for the hipster suck-up list. Claire Lawton couldn’t tell the difference between night and day without a manual. Inept cowardly hack."

Dain Quentin Gore: "Is that why it's called the Night & Day section? As a reminder?"

That kids, is pure comedic gold. Isn’t it a beautiful day in the neighborhood?

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the clouds are ever so puffy. On days like this, I can almost completely set aside all the venomous acid that gurgles within my soul- I feel that good. But as usual, my warm and squishy feeling is transitory at best, due to the amazingly unyielding bubble of cluster-f**k that hangs over our fair city.

Two examples: first, I had a wrong way bicyclist slam into my truck, and while the diagnosis is that she’s going to be okay and when one considers how much worse it could have gotten, IE: a broken neck, etc., I guess I should be grateful for small miracles. Thank the Lord, she’ll be okay and it wasn’t my fault. I do feel for her though, as she was cited for being on the wrong side of the road and her collarbone was snapped in two places- something I wouldn’t wish on the nastiest of my critics, despite my well earned reputation for being overstocked on Schadenfreude.

On the up side, my passenger side mirror has been bent back to it’s previous and much more useful position, so that’s a plus. Now, with that out of the way, the second metaphorical head to find itself on the Artbitch chopping block is my ol’ buddy, the Phoenix New Times. Terribly sorry for that.

I am aware that having to drink all this non-stop haterade makes one ill after awhile, and for that, I must ask for forgiveness. But in my defense, and to further beat an old horse, it’s something that I believe is necessary. All I’m trying to do at the end of the day is make a living and pay my bills, using my art as a method of conveyance, while pointing out that there is virtually no competent cultural coverage of the PAS. (Phoenix Art Scene) It’s my humble opinion that in order for us to develop into a profitable and cohesive community, exposure is something we badly need, and that right quick.

Yes, yes… I know you’ve heard this all before, but until it starts sinking in with some of the more granite-headed, I’m gonna keep saying it. Terribly sorry for that. Again.

But getting back to the subject of my favorite chew toy, it seems my observation of their suspected obsession with the Porn industry was seemingly spot on, a small fact that concurrently makes me giggle and retch. As I asked in my last blog: “Does everyone over there need to get laid like yesterday, or is the urgent necessity to bump their rapidly faltering ad revenue dictating this predilection towards becoming a paper that you can read with only one hand?”

The short and long answer? Oh, heck yes.
[Link: http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/jackalope/2012/0/arizona_pornstar_ball.php]

This rapid inclination towards yellow journalism is even more puzzling when you consider that NT’s Managing Editor is a woman. Granted, she’s not a smart, friendly, or even remotely competent woman, but all my personal bias aside- she is a *woman, nonetheless. [*Allegedly.]

Whatever the reason, these types of articles seem to be the ones that NT seemingly adores, despite a recent declaration of literary love for all things Phoenician. Sure, lately there’s been a minimal effort to currently endorse a few downtown businesses, but given NT’s previous track record- I’m gonna be a tad bit cynical about their current romantic infatuation with the downtown community.

Keep in mind that NT’s Rick Barrs once said in reference to the NT offices location: "this building is really great. Too bad this part of town is such a complete shithole." With that remark as a control, you can see why I’m just a tad bit suspicious of NT’s recent claims of true and undying love. Fool me once…

There’s nothing worse than a cultural tease with believability issues in my opinion, and until New Times metaphorically makes us breakfast in bed, packs a lunch for work and arranges a whipped cream three way with Tera Patrick and Milla Jovanovich as a birthday gift- I’m gonna view their  amorous serenade from a healthy and respectable distance.

And I’m not alone. As of yet, I still haven’t received any correspondence defending Amy Silverman, nor do I seriously expect to. If she does have any actual supporters, they’re apparently out of town on an extended vacation. Even people she considers “friends” regal me with stories and anecdotes about her, and from where I sit, that’s just sad. The majority of these people seemingly only maintain their connection based on a na├»ve belief that she’ll be a person they can eventually exploit.

A small tip to those who believe this, from me to you- somebody that self absorbed will NEVER help you out, unless she’s the only one who benefits overall. Gah. I’m getting really bored with this annoyingly exacting topic.

Even I can only take so much, and I have this god-awful feeling that I’ll be dealing with this issue for quite some time, so tell you what- let’s set my personal crusade against our local mediocre media moron on the back burner for a while, seeing how as this new blog is for my fellow tribesman, the Artists.

This is the carry-over of an earlier rant, wherein I offered my usual mixture of human warmth and heartfelt advice, wrapped in a sugary shell. That’s me all the way- a big cuddly wuddly teddy bear of infinite fuzziness, blessed with the insight and wisdom of a cranky Yoda, so let’s get going with some further advice for my fellow Creatives.

Welcome you are. Read you must.

- When in public, play nice with the other kids. You can always jump them behind the gym later.

One of the foremost weaknesses inherent in the PAS is the continuation of cliques, an affliction which I have always abhorred. Nothing turns my stomach faster than watching fellow Artists attempt to publically divide their fellow Creatives using a smug and generally unfounded sense of personal superiority based on who they’re supposedly friends with.

When I was loosely affiliated with the Paper Heart Gallery, I had more than a few heated run-ins with other Artists who, because they had some overblown and imaginary issue with it’s owner Scott Sanders, chose to get all up in my grill- despite the fact that I hadn’t actually done anything to them personally. It’s always been a very personal point of pride that if you strongly dislike me, there’s usually an actual reason why- a circumstance which I made sure I corrected the next time I ran into them.

What can I say? I’m a giver. Sadly, it’s been my personally unique experience that for every true professional in the PAS, there’s seemingly two bitchy little candy-asses standing behind them whining like a pair of spurned prom queens, sniping at everyone who isn’t in their clique or kissing their ass.

Am I being hypocritical? Well… some could argue that I dispense my monthly bitch slaps from a position of relatively safe distance, and in some cases- downright willful arrogance. I cheerfully disagree. If I don’t like you, I’ll explain how that came to be, and as a rule, usually provide some form of tangible proof to back it up.

If I say you suck, you most likely do- It’s just that everybody else feels the need to spare your feelings, something that I quite honestly don’t lose any sleep over. It’s a fair system, for you have the same option regarding me and my endeavors, and unlike most of my contemporaries in the PAS, I won’t waste my time attempting to convert you to my team.

As the old maxim goes, you’re only as strong as your weakest link, and in that sense, the PAS’s strength is equivalent to that of a tow chain constructed from salt water taffy. Normally, diversity adds to potency, but only if all the other elements are in balance. True power comes from the application of unified force, and as of yet, the ability to do so effectively is severely lacking within the PAS, much to my chagrin.

These various factions of personality hasten the instability of an already weakened structure, and if one were to conjecture up yet another of my standard over the top analogies, they might possibly suggest that these creative cliques remind me of an artsy version of the hordes from the Mad Max movies- roving tribes that are out for themselves alone… screw everybody else.

Granted, the PAS horde does come without the ubiquitous tire-tread shoulder pads and assless chaps, a look which I’m almost embarrassed to say that I can pull off quite well. All false modesty aside, I look damn good in post-apocalyptic action wear.

It’s a curse, really.

Now despite my casual flippancy, there obviously exists a clear need for us as a community to band together for the dual purpose of protection and profit, and we need to learn how to do that, at least on some facetious general level.Despite what I actually may think of certain so called “Artists” within this scene, I will make a  concentrated and civil effort to hold my tongue when I find myself within range of their public proximity, especially if it’s for the greater good.

See, I can be mature… It’s everybody else who’s a doody-head, in my humble opinion. What was that, you asked? When have I ever held my tongue?

Surely, you jest.

The answer is quite often, actually. By way of example, I ran into my favorite kept pet, that being NT’s Claire Lawton last Third Friday, and was amused by the number of times she looked at the floor when she and I made eye contact. Without Amy, she’s pretty much defenseless, and I happen to prefer a well-armed and competent enemy- and NT’s resident Malibu journalist Barbie is so not that.

Cowardly? Yes. A worthy opponent? Oh Christ, no. Therefore, I decided to keep my tongue sheathed at that moment. By and large, my reputation is not for starting verbal brawls in public, and since the persons whom I consider detractors have learned over time that it’s best to stay out of my way and off my radar, mainly due to the fact that I’ll eat their particular brand of cowardice for lunch, I try to avoid unnecessary confrontations.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t consider them as a possible and future ally- I am an unabashed opportunist after all, and the enemy of my enemy is my friend, as I see it.

Where that partnership is concerned, it’s the knowledge that the PAS as a whole has a common foe: the lack of profitable and effective exposure. When it gets right down to the nuts and bolts, I’d stand side by side and face the Hounds of Hell with Amy Silverman if there was a chance that by doing so, it would help out the scene.

I don’t have to like you to work with you, what matters to me most is getting the job done, no matter what it takes. If that means putting my Ego on the back burner for a spell, so be it. And the task that faces us as an artistic force of commerce is to make this scene one that’s truly worth putting our blood, sweat, and tears into.

As someone who traditionally and routinely doesn’t get invited to the “cool” kids parties, yet somehow still manages to make money through his Art- I might possess a cynically optimistic worldview, but once again, that doesn’t mean I’m not right.

Consider for a second what could be possible if the Arts community worked together as a whole, rather than as a bunch of urchins all scrabbling after the same slice of un-nourishing pie. Given the pointless and unproductive nature of our previous squabbling over inedible crumbs, would it be so bad to rethink our approach?

Here’s the rub of it though… for that to start happening, we all need to start devoting our energies towards developing a base of reliable Patrons while simultaneously strengthening our business as a whole community- not just alongside those we consider to be friends.
Think of our scene as a family dinner at Christmas, where we all sit together at the big table despite a mutual dislike of each other, proceed to eat really well, and then when done- go beat the crap out of each other behind the garage.

Sure, it’s dysfunctional, but at least it would be a start in the right direction.

= Get over yourself. If you were that good, you wouldn’t have to keep telling us who you are.

As someone who is constantly accused of being an egotist, I’ll have to call the kettle black on this one, especially considering the source. I have earned the right to brag because I work my ass off. I never stop networking, nor do I understand the concept of going at half-throttle. My detractors? Not so much.

Wearing black, hanging out at coffee shops and being a pretentious Hipster makes you an Artist much in the same way that buying a cape and red underwear makes you Superman. Not that I’ve tried that, of course. We all know Batman is so much cooler, plus- he’s got that whole dark and brooding thing going on, and that’s just dead sexy in my opinion.

I’ve never been impressed by wannabe artists who seemingly expect everyone to be smitten by their imaginary accomplishments, and I have even less respect for poseurs who flat out just steal other’s work and claim it as their own. Case in point: Peter Bugg. I first smack talked Peter back in 2010 in a blog that also unleashed some seriously acidic vitriol in the direction of performance artist Kara Roschi- something that I later apologized to her for, equally within this blog and in person.

In that case, my sincere act of contrition came after I realized that I had made a grave mistake in regards to her character. As you can imagine, I was mortified- not because I had to apologize, but because I just hate it when I get things so damn wrong.

Graciously, she accepted my request for forgiveness, and at this point in time, we’re all good, but, if I had any doubts about my previous critique/rant regarding Peter and his work, they were pretty much erased when I took in his latest show at Willo North.

Now, as my regular Blogiteers know, I LOVE Willo North- it’s an excellent venue, with blistering cutting-edge shows, and in my opinion, it’s arguably the best art-space in Phoenix at this time. And to be fair, their newest show featuring the works of two disparate artists was curated perfectly, except for one weak link- that being said “artist” Peter Bugg. Granted, the current opinion on what constitutes art varies widely. I for instance, think that most (not all) performance art is self-indulgent crap, yet there are many practitioners whose work I do like and more importantly- respect.

Jeff Falk, for example, does some serious kick-ass stuff, and I’ve always thought that Laurie Anderson is truly flat out amazing. And while I may look favorably upon Damien Hirst’s diamond studded skull and Jeff Koon’s ironic sculptural work, at the end of the day- I still have to admit that they’re just very shrewd artistic hacks.

Overall, there’s nothing truly wrong with that, as we are a Capitalist society- and I’ve gotta give mad props to anyone who can sell an aquarium that has three basketballs floating in it under the pretext of the umbrella of Art. I just wish I had thought of it first. C’est la vie.

However, when it comes to the ignoble act of what some faux creatives have entitled as “appropriation”, I like to call it by a much less artsy and much more accurate moniker: stealing. Taking someone else’s work and claiming it as your own is just that- it’s not an homage, or a tribute, and unless you’re bringing something visionary to the table, it’s just outright theft. In Bugg’s case, that would be plates emblazoned with celebrity crotch shots, and blown up images of deceased celebrities that have been bastardized into Mexican prayer flags.

Sadly, I’m not kidding.

Bugg’s latest body of “work” consists of a collection of simple white porcelain plates adorned with paper cutouts of downloaded images of female celebrities genitalia. Bugg’s take on this is that as a culture, we’re obsessed with celebrities and all that pertains to them- an interesting concept, but under Bugg’s execution, one that falls flat, at best.

Why is that, you ask?

Let’s start by talking about the overall quality of his artistic vision- the random collection of stolen Internet images were simply cut into a circle and glued to the plates. One could argue that their shoddy construction was purely intended to reflect on the impermanence of Fame, but I strongly doubt that thought ever crossed his mind. Although I wonder how many hours went into the “research” of this odious piece of faux artistic detritus, the idea of scanning the web for shots of Britney Spear’s vagina as a creative endeavor leaves me cold.

Call me a prude, but if I wanted to attend a gynecology exam thinly disguised as art, I’d go to the Great Alaskan Bush Company.If it had been up to me, I would have approached it from a fresh perspective- one that could actually be defendable as art  rather than the schlock shock he’s currently pimping. Granted, I normally don’t dabble in artistic offense, but I’m up to the challenge of demonstrating how a real Artist would stage such a limited idea within it’s proper context.

For example, I would have approached the design from a whole different angle, and had the plates actually produced, in lieu of the daycare craft project that Bugg employed. Rather than use stolen paparazzi images as the conveyance of the idea, my spin would have been to make them functional rather than decorative, and transcribed the images into a design reminiscent of Delft ceramics, albeit as a disposable item- akin to Chinet.

For an incredible expansion on this thought, check out the amazing work by Artist Charles Krafft at: http://pws.cablespeed.com/charleskrafft/mainframeset.html

Personally, I’m partial to the Delft Grenades myself, but you get the idea. If you’re going to launch a show based on the concept that America is obsessed with celebrities, the coherent choice would be to present your work in the same plasticized context as the celebutards you’re mocking, rather than the slapdash method Bugg utilized.

It’s one thing to shock, it’s quite another to attempt the manufacture of faux outrage, and that’s one of the myriad of issues that we face in the PAS- too many wannabes spoiling the artistic soup with their pretentiousness and lack of talent. Simply put, the Pros shouldn't have to share the stage with those who haven't paid their dues, and if some of you think that's too harsh, I suggest you see it from this point of view- in any situation, who would you want in charge, the seasoned hand or the newbie?

I thought so.

You’re not an Artist just because you say you are, you’re an Artist when you have something worth saying to others, and in regard to Peter Bugg’s artistic influence- it’s probably a good thing that he’s still a mute. Ouch. Even I felt that, and I’m the one who threw it out there.

Since I now need an ice pack, it seems that this would be the perfect time to take a break.And when we come back…

Critics. Both real and imagined, a review of the APE SH*T show at Icehouse, and more kind words for my fellow creatives.

Lucky, lucky you.

“I think it's pretentious to create art just for the sake of stroking the artists ego.”
- Lou Reed