Sunday, December 8, 2013

Fear and Clothing (A View to a Thrill.)

WARNING: The following blog contains images of nudity, including an unclothed image of this here Artbitch, so all you people who are easily freaked out or otherwise sensitive to such things should stop reading this right now, and perhaps go have a nice relaxing cup of tea, or maybe even cocoa.

However, if you aren’t into beverages, then might I suggest the joys of a good book?

Neil Gaiman writes wonderful stories, as does John Connolly- either way, you can’t go wrong. And if reading isn’t your bag, then perhaps you’d let me steer you towards a superior film- “Avengers” is pretty kick-ass, as was “Expendables 2”.

Seriously… it’s much better than you’d think.

But whatever option you do choose, please enjoy it to the fullest potential.
For the rest of you, please read right this way…


“Men's magazines often feature pictures of naked ladies. Women's magazines also often feature pictures of naked ladies. This is because the female body is a beautiful work of art, while the male body is hairy and lumpy and should not be seen by the light of day.” – Richard Roeper

Hello Blogiteers!
How are you?

For my part, I feel great. The year’s slowly winding down, the Artbitch book project is still being hammered out, and as soon as I can take the time to get off my butt and add new content, the website showcasing my art (www.WayneMichaelReich.com) will be up and running like a Swiss watch after being relatively inactive for the better part of a year and a half.

This time around however, it will encompass all that I do: art, photography, and lastly- critical writing. Plans are also in the works to post the various interviews that I’ve done, but that’s still quite a stretch down a very lengthy road.

So why was it down so long? 

Well, it’s a time-consuming story, and not even an interesting one at that- let’s just say there was some personal medical drama involved, some faith placed in the wrong people, and a whole lot of hassle in-between that I’d rather not re-hash.

Where moving on is concerned, the traditional “what’s done is done” approach is what I’m trying to espouse here, and so far, it seems to be working, much to the betterment of my own inner squishy tranquility. When the Artbitch is happy, then everybody’s happy, more often than not.

And “happy” seems to be the buzzword flying around the ol’ Fortress of Snarkitude as of late, due to certain personal pressures being lifted off my shoulders- which just feels awesome, no matter which way you choose to slice and dice it.

Zen at last.

Now to be honest, part of this “up with people” vibe I’m experiencing stems from all the positive stuff that’s been happening lately in PHX, a peppy mélange that incorporates both the business side of the PAS, as well as it’s aesthetic. In fact, I attended a laid-back meeting of Artlink a while ago at the Japanese Zen Garden that was, hands down- actually quite inspiring.

[Yes, I did use the word “inspiring” in relation to Artlink. I know… it kinda freaks me out too.]

Granted, I’m sure this particular warm and fuzzy feeling of serenity will evaporate once something rises to the surface and truly annoys me, but until then- I plan to ride this wave much in the manner of Kim Kardashian at an NBA playoff.

Strangely, its been somewhat quiet in regards to my corner of the PAS for once, and while there’s been the random morsel being presented here and there to yours truly, nothing has really jumped out at me as being appropriate for this here Artbitch to gnaw on.

So either I’m mellowing, or the scene is growing up a little, which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when it comes to our overall economic stability and future growth.

But today, I’m not really feeling the shop talk. I’m just in too good a mood, and given the fact that I tend to be somewhat focused on business as much as I am (read: obsessive) it stands to reason that even I need a break from time to time.

So what shall our group topic be today? Kirk or Picard? Briefs or boxers? Scooby Doo or Scrappy Doo? Coke or Pepsi? Shall we debate the question of why hot dogs come in packages of 8 and hot dog buns come in packages of 12?

The answers are simple: Kirk, briefs, Scrappy needs to die painfully and slowly, both taste like malted battery acid, and it’s because Lithuanians secretly control the entire meat bun industry.

I‘m serious. Look it up on the Internet. I’m sure there’s a link somewhere.

Nope, I’m thinking that today’s topic should be something that most of us truly appreciate and that we all willingly support at a truly intimate level- in fact, it’s actually one of my favorite off-work hobbies, which I’ve always strongly advocated for whenever appropriate.

And what would that be?

Walking around in the ol’ birthday suit. In the buff. Letting it all hang out. Au naturel. Showing off what the Good Lord gave ya. Starkers. Going buck-naked. Not decent. Wearing the pink pajamas. In the raw. Pants down for a full house.

To boil it down to the pure concept, today’s blog is all about being nude. Or to be more specific, today’s blog is all about my experience posing nude for a fellow artist. That’s right, baby- it’s gonna get all shades of super freaky uncomfortable in here, so prepare yourself.

Now, for a number of people, the topic of nudity is a very touchy subject, and not for the reasons you might think. Whether it stems from self-image issues, religious hang-ups, or just simple plain fear of the naked human form, there are some who just can’t handle even the merest thought of anyone walking around sans clothes.

To be honest, I have never ever really been one of those people, thank God. If I could somehow have the body that I really wanted, I’d make it a point to go get my mail every day wearing nothing but Hai Karate aftershave and sparkly cowboy boots, cause hey… you gotta protect your feet.

Personally, I say let everybody know that those Yoga classes are paying off for you. Show them that those crunches you do every morning before work are worth the pain. Testify to the sky that if God really wanted you to be clothed all the time, he wouldn’t have blessed you with an ass like that, and he sure as heck wouldn’t have given you those abs if his true intention was to keep you humble.

In other words: if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Like most rules however, there are exceptions, and being nude for public dissection is no different.

For every person I’d pay to see naked, (Milla Jovovich, Angelina Jolie, that hot Goth Girl at my local Starbucks) there are at least ten I’d willingly bribe to keep their clothes on- Ernest Borgnine comes immediately to mind, as well as Ann Coulter, but that’s only because her particularly unique type of Hermaphroditic idiocy freaks me the hell out.

But I digress.

What has always struck me as strange is the weird hypocrisy that Americans have always displayed in regards to the unclothed form- we utilize half-naked women to sell us everything under the sun, yet lose our collective mind when Miley Cyrus shakes her ass on what used to be a channel worth watching some twenty odd years ago.

Now I’m not saying she didn’t deserve criticism, I just think the emphasis should be placed on the real issue- her goddamn awful “performance”. And if we’re going to throw stones in regards to her truly tasteless display of her lack of talent, then we should also be throwing equal amounts of gravel at her partner in crime, the equally dreadful Robin Thicke- a married man with two little girls.

Way to set that future bar for your kids, douchebag: “Sure, you can be anything you want to be honey, but remember… if you really want to get ahead, you have to be willing to exploit your sexuality for old white guys.” I won’t speak for anyone save myself, but I’d like to think that if I had daughters, I’d raise them to value the space between their ears, not their legs.


But then again, I also live and work in a world awash with moral contradictions: part of my artistic repertoire involves the producing of nude images, both in photography and paintings, and while that work might seem hypocritical in light of what I’m currently discussing, I’m fairly confident that I can defend what I do quite easily. 

And this is where the old joke about what constitutes the boundary between artistic photography and it’s smuttier cousin known as porn comes into play, along with it’s many subtle shades. The eventual punch line being that if a Corvette is a necessary element in regards to the posing of your model, it’s almost a sure bet you’re not shooting work for the ages.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the end result of what happens when a pizza guy runs into two blondes who can’t pay for the delivery, but I would never defend such “work” as a statement of true artistic expression. For me, it’s always been about context and focus. If the crux of your endeavors focuses on the aesthetic of the nude form in relation to it’s surroundings, then odds are you’re making an artistic statement.

However, if the collected feel of the work brings to mind a gynecology exam as performed by a flexible amateur, let’s just say that your creative path has probably gone somewhat awry.

By way of example: this is considered to be Art.




 







|[(C)Wayne Michael Reich.com]
 



And this is considered Porn*, no matter how great the lighting is.














*[On a related note, I’ve actually met this model- she’s very pleasant, quite pretty in person, and allegedly possesses a Mensa level IQ, which just goes to prove the old adage that you always meet the nicest people in the strangest places.]


For further clarity, the generally accepted definition of pornography is usually defined as: “material provided for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying a user and is often viewed in isolation of others.”

As a rule, I would agree with this, since I’ve always believed that the special bond between a man and his bathroom Playboys should be respected and preserved albeit with some occasional mocking.

But here’s the rub- when it comes to the crucial definition of what artistic photography is, the answer that is generally ascribed is somewhat more vague. The underlying idea is that the creator of a given picture has aimed at something more than a merely realistic rendering of the subject, and has attempted to convey a personal impression.

So take that art-speak at face value if you will, if just for the sake of forwarding the conversation. Moving on…

As I stated earlier, for some people, broaching the subject of nudity violates their personal no-fly zone, and that’s okay- “Live your own life” has always been one of my favorite private affirmations and I try to lead by it’s example whenever prudent and applicable, but sometimes… ya just gotta comment on what you see laid out on the plate before you.

If one were to ask my really close friends what I’m like, they’d probably tell you I’m a mixture of many different archetypes: I’m an extrovert that prefers calming solitude, an intellectual that lists comics as one of his favorite reading genres, and a rampant exhibitionist who’s cursed with a severe streak of prudish Catholicism running concurrently alongside.

In simpler terms, a paradoxical mess.

So who better than me to talk about the subject of posing nude for a fellow artist? Well… everybody else who’s done it I guess, but they don’t seem to be hanging out at the Lair of Snarkitude right now, so I guess you’re stuck with me.

You lucky bastards.

Now for those of you who know me personally, it’s not really a shock that I did this, since I used to get my body “cast” on a regular basis for a few of my sculptor friends back in the day. There are literally parts of me scattered throughout the United States, mostly in gardens and other randomly serene places of contemplation, which I always thought was pretty cool in the end.

Me. King of the Koi pond.












Happily, one of the unexpected side-effects of having 3 to 6 people pouring plaster all over your nude body is that you get over being shy real quick. Plus, if you play your cards right, you can also walk away with a phone number or two.

I’m kidding of course, but it’s hard to get hung up on body issues when you’re constantly being turned into a statue or possibly a birdfeeder.

This time around however, things were going to be a little different- for one, I was going to be posing for reference photos that were to be used as the basis for a painted portrait, and that is an entirely different beast then being cast, when you get right down to it.

But before we get into all that, let me share with you the vision of the man behind the figurative exhibition that I posed for- Phoenix based Artist Hugo Medina.

His statement regarding this excellent show:

“In society, and the art world old and new, the figure of a women has been exploited and depicted for centuries. You can find thousands of nude paintings of women in all their beautiful glory, but there are very view paintings of men, and if you do- usually never full frontal nudity.

Yes, unfortunately there is and will always be that double standard. A full frontal painting of a women is acceptable by all standards, movies, FaceBook, ect. Full frontal paintings of men are viewed very differently.

In this exhibit I hope to challenge that "accepted" status quo.

The show will consist of full frontal paintings of men, and balancing that with paintings of smart, strong, beautiful women that are making a difference in our society.”


Thoughtfully declared, but it does spark a question: even given the fact that Hollywood’s creative process is statistically run by old white men, it still strikes strange that this hypocritical standard continues to exist in the first place- especially when one takes into account all the societal taboos that have been shattered over the last decade.

In general, when it usually comes to shaping the status quo, Hollywood has been the preeminent forerunner in regards to collective change, but some obstacles puzzlingly remain.

For instance, you can have full frontal female nudity in an “R”-rated film, but if that stereotypical exploitation is reversed, it’s almost certain the film will receive either an NC-17 or “X” rating, which from a marketing point of view, is considered the kiss of death. The success of 1997’s thus-rated “Showgirls” notwithstanding, mind you.

Although to this day, I still have no idea why it was given that NC rating in the first place. Seriously.

“Striptease” should have been tarred with that rating just for showing off those hideously deformed basketballs that Demi Moore was calling her boobs at the time. Gah. I just threw up in my mouth a little remembering them.

Thank God I’ve always been a neck and ankle man.

Getting back on point, let’s take stock that this hypocritical rating is bestowed not for displaying a fully erect love rocket, its for showing the albino asparagus briefly, as opposed to your typical starlet’s walking around nude without so much as a second thought ever given by the laypeople of censorship.

Don’t misunderstand me- I’m not yearning for a return to 1974, where going to see a blue movie in a seedy porno theater was once considered a daring night out, nor am I keen to see Hugh Jackman’s twelve-foot long giggle-stick up there on the big screen.

However, I’ve always felt that if the female lead has to take her clothes off for no other reason than to sell the film, my Sisters in Solidarity should get some sexy eye-candy too.

And if the scuttlebutt among my female friends is even half true, the actor who plays Thor could possibly have a whole new audience* for life if he’d just display his hammer, if you know what I’m getting at.

*[Best line regarding his inherent hotness came from a model friend of mine who stated publically that if the day ever came, she: “Wanted to serve him flagons of Mead and random salted meats, as I watch over our strong and golden blond children… I also really want to comb his hair”.]

If you look back in History, the stance regarding male nudity has been strangely checkered- on one hand, depictions of the male form in sculpture have generally displayed the subject as heroic and virtuous, [by way of example, fighting a dragon while naked] but when it comes to the act of painting the male nude or it’s depiction in photography, the paranoia regarding homo-eroticism usually rears up it’s dreadfully misshapen head and takes notice.

Interesting side note: in the beginning of the golden age of photography, if you wanted to showcase the male nude as a subject, it was considered prudent to pose said model much in the way of a classical sculpture, to deflect potential charges of homoerotic intent- regardless of whether that allegation was accurate or not.

Let’s just say that there’s a lot of photos where the models are posing next to plaster copies of Roman busts and columns, and leave it at that.

Even now, the merest suggestion that a work might contain analogous undertones is typically greeted with a volatile range of emotions from the absurd to the outright hostile. By way of   example, I give you two controversial modern Artists known for their figurative work, that being Helmut Newton and Robert Mapplethorpe.

But the final verdict in regards to their retrospective body of work seems varied, depending on who you ask for it. Wallis Annenberg, president and CEO of the L.A.-based Annenberg Foundation, said of Newton:

“If Newton’s work was controversial, I believe it’s because he expressed the contradictions within all of us, and particularly within the women he photographed so beautifully: empowerment mixed with vulnerability, sensuality tempered by depravity. Newton deepened our understanding of changing gender roles, of the ways in which beauty creates its own kind of power and corruption.”

Newton’s women are generally depicted as strong, independent, and in charge of the moment, even when they’re not the ones seemingly in control. His cinematic inspired tableaus center around a fantasized jet-set lifestyle, where his typically androgynous (yet essentially feminine) models are posed with a various array of fetishistic props such as guns, handcuffs, stiletto shoes, orthopedic braces, stockings and bold lipstick to create a feeling of erotic voyeurism.

 His exquisite eye strived to find the beautiful within the flawed, by idolizing the female form into an almost goddess-like example of perfection. Shunning the artificial “feel” that was in vogue with most magazines at the time, he preferred to create images that recalled the film noir stills of his youth, as well as the aesthetic of today’s modern paparazzi.












[(C)Helmut Newton]

As Writer Jose Juan Barba once wrote:

“Menacing yet refined, provocative yet aristocratic, his models appear as manipulative ringleaders, dominating temptresses and aristocratic Amazons in settings highly inspired by Expressionist cinema. Predominantly black and white, the overall ambience of his photographs is that of erotically-charged elegance, set against atmospheric backdrops of darkened rooms and hallways in lavish hotels and mansions or the patios and gardens of bourgeois villas.”

Despite the occasional outcry/protest from feminists and those of sensitive temperament, the main reason why Newton’s work is more generally accepted within the public sphere over Mapplethorpe’s is best summed up by this quote from American human rights activist Aryeh Neier:

“Consider Helmut Newton’s photographs: they treat women as objects, they are violent and they are sexually explicit. Yet they reflect a certain level of talent, more talent certainly, than is on display in the pornographic magazines one can buy at newsstands. And so Helmut Newton’s photographs are called erotica instead of pornography”.

Whether or not that’s an accurate assessment, I’m not entirely sure, but I do feel that between he and Mapplethorpe, Newton’s work is by far definitely more accessible to the masses as a rule. And I believe that’s due to the fact that his base is built on the form of a female, the commonly accepted standard of artistic beauty.

Mapplethorpe, on the other hand…

Well, I think his legacy is a little harder to pin down depending on one’s POV, but reasonable and valid arguments can be made for the classification of his work under both of the aforementioned aspects of Fine Art and Porn. A self-taught (and self-made) Artist, Mapplethorpe is often sadly remembered more for his personal extremes, both in his lifestyle and catalogue raisonné, which at times, crossed the line into the controversially explicit, due to his choices regarding subject and technique.

Starting in the 1970’s, Mapplethorpe’s rise to fame began with his photographs of male nudes and sexually explicit gay-themed imagery- a collection in later years that became infamously known as the “X Portfolio”. Even by today’s standards, the images are hard to peruse through more than once, owing to the rather extreme subject matter that is highlighted within: urolagnia*, piquerism* and the shadowy world of BDSM are just some of the darker topics he documented.

**[Go ahead and Google those terms if you dare, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.]

As his career progressed, his subject matter grew to encompass celebrity portraits, studies of still lives as well as flowers, a widely dismissed attempt to break into the world of fashion photography, and a ground-breaking series of photos featuring female body builder Lisa Lyon, later collected and published in book form under the title “Lady”.


















[(C)Robert Mapplethorpe]

Other than that singular series where Lyon’s personality is allowed to shine through, Mapplethorpe’s archetypal take on the female nude bordered on the classical approach of what I like to refer to as “statuary” posing- that is, the primary focus is on the form, not the person who inhabits it, and therefore any vestiges of personality are negated by the framing of the subject to “erase” the head.

















[(C)Robert Mapplethorpe]
 


While his approach of turning a model into a prop is less prevalent in his numerous figure studies of males, (mostly African-American) it still pops up occasionally and provides insight into his psyche, nonetheless.

















[(C)Robert Mapplethorpe]


Despite his softer and more commercially viable work, Mapplethorpe was attracted by what the majority would consider the shocking side of human nature, and that’s where I think the center of discomfort with his work as a whole lies- not with his consistent use of non-white models as a primary focus, nor his alternate sexuality (although that is a factor) but with his expression of it using the male form as a conduit.

But the issue still puzzles: why does the male nude illicit such unease? We could hit the obvious hot buttons- homophobia, body image issues, fear of the unfamiliar, etc… but I think the solution goes a little deeper than that.

One: the male nude represents a threat to the established status quo- that being the men are in charge and women are the objects to be lauded like so many trinkets. By switching roles, it forces men to traverse through the same mire that women have trod for scores of centuries- that of being judged solely on how one looks, and I honestly don’t think the male psyche is designed for that sort of concentrated and overly focused scrutiny,

As my GF Ashley puts it: “Think of it like this-, when it comes to looks, women are streamlined, neat, and compact- you guys are designed for utilitarian action, not prettiness.”

By way of example, here’s a visual representation of exactly what she was talking about:












[(C)PIXAR]

In this, the age of technology, I’d opine that women are Macs, Men are PC’s.
Big, clunky, inelegant PC’s.

Now, as someone who’s cursed with the burden of being ruggedly handsome to a ridiculous degree, I’m obviously not too worried about being critiqued on a purely physical scale in general, but I can see how some of my less photogenic brothers in arms might get a tad bit uncomfortable.

Especially if they feel that they’re let’s say, “coming up short” in a certain department, to be blunt.

Robin Williams said it best: “Men cannot take laughter at the mighty sword.” And the private paranoia of whether or not one’s personal butcher shop is well stocked with premium beef, is seemingly where the majority of the enmity that men have about male nudity tends to boil over, which leads to my second point: the male body is kind of an awkward looking object at best, and a past consensus from one of my ex-girlfriends was that it was probably designed and built on a Friday just before quitting time, given the glaring flaws inherent in the finished product.

As she bluntly put it: “ So… if you guys are supposed to be the mighty hunters, why would you want something that just gets in the way all the time?”

I have to admit she had a valid point. I can’t imagine what it must have been like back in the day, running after your Tyrannosaurus Rex dinner, clad only in a saber-tooth print loincloth with your spawn-hammer swinging in the wind, snagging on bushes, slapping against your inner thigh in a style much akin to Cher belting Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck.

Can you?
All I can think to say is yeeouch.

Just the mere thought of catching the old thunder-sword on an outcropping makes me squeamish, to tell you the truth. I once snagged mine in a zipper, and that’s the second closest I’ve ever come to actual Death- I won’t bore you with the gory details, but I had to wear sweat pants for like a month.

On the up side, I no longer wake up in a cold sweat screaming… so that’s good.

However, since I am one of those people who believes in getting to the bottom of a problem, Hugo’s call for male models provided a perfect opportunity for me to do some research from an insider’s point of view. Surely, this experience would grant me a new perspective, and as an additional perk, I’d get to find out if all that roller-blading was really doing me any actual good.

As I stated earlier, I have no problem being sans clothing around other people and overall, I’m fairly comfortable with my body as it is, even if others aren’t. For my part, I still have no idea why that security guard at Target was so upset- it’s not my fault that all the dressing rooms were occupied.

Geez. Some people are just so damn touchy.

All kidding aside, the posing session at Hugo’s studio went like clockwork, and I couldn’t have felt more comfortable, as evidenced by this edited shot posted here:






















[(C)Hugo Medina]

See? No issues whatsoever… for me, at least.

If however, you’re now clawing out your eyes, I do genuinely apologize for your trauma. Considering that when I did my 20th HS Reunion back in 2007, where most of my male classmates had put on an average of 75 pounds or more, I think I still look pretty damn good for my age, which is 45.

And when it comes to the 25 I’ve personally gained over the years, my outlook could truly best be summed up by saying “meh”, but who cares? I’m typically ok with myself, and that’s what counts in the long run.

Now as a rule, I don’t have many weak points in the old ego armor, but they do exist, and every now and then they like to make themselves known, much to my chagrin. Although the truly worrisome moment still lay just ahead, when the finished series of portraits were to be publicly debuted.

In retrospect … I might have been a tad bit concerned. You’re never more vulnerable then when you’re naked, and as someone who‘s well-known for putting things out there, I can verify that there’s truly nothing more personally nerve wracking than literally putting your thing out there for a public critique.

Remember that nightmare you had in high school about showing up in your underwear for a test and everybody laughing at you? Well, lose the underwear and fill the entire classroom with cheerleaders and you’ll get a sense of what I was feeling just before I walked into Willo North Gallery and saw my portrait on the wall.

Mercifully, I found it to be awesome, as did my GF Ashley, who stated that Hugo had gotten the representation of my body pretty dead on. My face on the other hand, seemed to have a bit of a Genghis Khan vibe, which I personally thought was completely kick-ass. I looked good and evil all at the same time, which suited me just fine.

But more importantly, the assembled throng seemed to appreciate the show and the four fully nude male portraits that were on display without so much as batting an eye.

Whew.

However, there were a number of people who when they talked to me, couldn’t
(or wouldn’t) look me in the face despite giving my likeness on canvas high marks.

So naturally, I made sure that everytime they caught my gaze, I made direct eye contact as much as possible. What can I say? I’m German. Being a bastard comes naturally.

Even better though, were the emails that I received over the next week or so praising my portrait, and more specifically, certain parts of my um… personality. Granted, some of those compliments came from guys, but it’s always good to have options, I guess.

Nevertheless, it’s nice to know that apparently all that roller-blading IS paying off on some level, even if it isn’t in regards to my preferred go-to demographic.

Ego strokes aside, I found the whole experience rather enjoyable, even given the fact that it might have made some of my less secure peeps somewhat uncomfortable.

Not to worry- they’ll be right as rain, given enough time and intensive psychotherapy, I’m sure.

As I see it, the act of gazing upon a nude painting can’t possibly be nearly as traumatic in the same sense as seeing a full color photograph, or in a worst case scenario- the actual model standing right before you au naturel.

But there’s only one way to test that theory, so here goes.

Now, if you have any impressionable children or small pets, this would be the time to ask them to leave the room. However, if there’s anyone you’d like to make really uncomfortable or watch squirm, feel free to make them sit down before your computer monitor, because it’s about to get all shades of  “I so didn’t need to see that” up in here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe it’s time to unveil my portrait as….

(zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap)

>HI EVERYBODY! WAYNE’S IBM LAPTOP HERE, CUTTING IN AT A CRUCIAL MOMENT.

>I KNOW, I KNOW-  IT’S BEEN A WHILE SINCE I’VE HAD TO INTERVENE IN ONE OF HIS LENGTHY YARNS, BUT THIS IS DEFINITELY THE TIME TO DO IT.

>SURE, I’VE GOT MY OWN ISSUES TO DEAL WITH, SINCE XP WILL NO LONGER BE SUPPORTED COME APRIL, AND AT THAT POINT MY EXISTENCE WILL BE THAT OF A GIANT PAPERWEIGHT, DUE TO MY SYSTEM  BEING UNABLE TO HANDLE WINDOWS 8, BUT THAT’S A DIALOGUE FOR ANOTHER DAY, I THINK.

>IM PRETTY SURE THAT YET AGAIN, YOU LOYAL BLOGITEERS HAVE NO DESIRE TO READ OR VISUALIZE WAYNE’S NAKED ADVENTURES IN ANY FORM, SO I’M TAKING OVER THIS PART, WHILE HE TYPES AWAY WITHOUT A CLUE.

>LET’S BE HONEST WITH OUSRSELVES FOR A MOMENT- I’M ONLY HERE BECAUSE HE’S TAKING YOU AND I TO A PLACE NEITHER OF US REALLY WANT TO VISIT.

>I MEAN… IT WAS JUST SHY OF BEARABLE WHEN HE WROTE ABOUT HIS SUPER FREAKY DEAKY WEEKEND IN SEATTLE A WHILE BACK, BUT IT’S QUITE ANOTHER MESS ALTOGETHER WHEN HE PROUDLY SHOWS US WHAT HE LOOKED LIKE WHEN HE WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF IT.

>ACK. I JUST BLUE-SCREENED INTO MY RECYCLE BIN.

>IT’S BAD ENOUGH THAT THERE’S A 100GB “PRIVATE” FOLDER ON MY DESKTOP THAT CONTAINS IMAGES OF CUTE KITTENS AMID TENTACLE PORN, BUT THIS… THIS IS ENOUGH TO MAKE ME WISH I WAS A BLACKBERRY… AND I’M NOT EVEN PRETENTIOUS.

>HANG ON A SEC, AND LET ME SEE WHAT HE’S CURRENTLY TYPING…

>OH GEEZ. SERIOUSLY? I’M PRETTY SURE NOBODY HERE HAS EVER GIVEN THOUGHT AS TO WHERE YOUR SENSE OF CONFIDENCE REALLY COMES FROM, CAPTAIN EGO. IT’S AMAZING THAT YOU AND YOUR OPINION OF YOURSELF CAN SHARE THE SOLAR SYSTEM, MUCH LESS THE SAME PLANET.

>NORMALLY, THIS WOULD BE THE PART WHERE I’D MAKE A REFERENCE TO CUTE ADORABLE PUPPIES, PLAYING WITH WHITE FLUFFY BUNNIES, IN A CRIB FULL OF HAPPY GIGGLING BABIES WHO ARE HOLDING DOWNY LITTLE CHICKS IN A ROOM WITH UNICORN WALLPAPER, AS A MEANS TO CLEANSE YOUR MENTAL PALETTE, BUT I DON’T THINK THAT’S GOING TO CUT IT THIS TIME AROUND.

>IN FACT, I MIGHT HAVE TO CONCEDE THIS AS A LOST CAUSE, UNLESS ANY OF YOU OUT THERE ARE LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE A DO-IT-AT-HOME OEDIPUS PLAY SET.

>FOR THE REST OF YOU… GOOD LUCK AND GODSPEED. HE SEEMS TO BE WRAPPING UP… I SHOULD PROBABLY GO NOW- NO SENSE IN BOTH OF US DYING, RIGHT?

(zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap)

…and that’s why I always insist on being the back part of a horse costume, all kidding aside. What? Oh that’s right- the portrait. Sorry, I just got to talking about my favorite subject and got a little carried away, as I’m prone to do.

So without further ado, I present to you my nude image as painted by Hugo Medina:

















[(C)Hugo Medina]

That wasn’t too horrible was it? No ugly tattoos, no weird piercings in areas that should never have metal near them in the first place, and despite my insistence that he paint some in, no devil horns or busty sword-wielding Asian maidens laying at my feet.

Maybe next time. A boy can dream.

Overall, I’m really proud- you didn’t even so much as… oops, sorry…I honestly didn’t notice you horking up your lunch right there. My sincerest apologies all around. But since your stomach is now empty, perhaps there’s room for just a few more pictures:

I like to call this one “Before Tequila... and after Tequila.”

















[Photo by Lisa Albinger]

And here’s a nice one with Hugo that I posted on Instagram, causing my friend Emily to point out that I had just gone and inadvertently photo-bombed myself- seems even my image is an attention whore, which lets face it, is really not that big a shock.

















[Photo by Ashley Smith.]

C'est la vie.

So in the end, what did I learn from this experience? A lot, actually. I learned that there’s still a very long road to travel regarding the acceptance of the male form on the same level as the established feminine base, and I personally discovered that I’m way too comfortable walking around naked.

Ok… that part I already knew, but it’s nice to have confirmation from my peer group.

To be serious for a moment, I can honestly say that I came away with a new perspective on a possible solution for our societal concern when we broach the issue of nude male imagery for general discussion.

My idea is this: WE NEED TO GET THE HELL OVER IT ALREADY, AND START ACTING LIKE ADULTS, AND LESS LIKE REPRESSED PURITANS.

I’m dead solemn about this. If we can seemingly allow the Twilight novels, gun violence in our schools, various sexual assaults posted on social media, exploding heads on television, all of the new Star Wars movies, not to mention the reality show that stars genetic mistake Honey Boo Boo, we most certainly can handle the occasional artistic manifestation of a Bavarian Beefstick every now and then within our midst.

Wrapping this up, I don’t have all the answers, and heck, I may not even have one, but I do have an idea, and it harkens back to the concept I alluded to earlier- plain and simple equality.

Here’s how it would work: for every second / minute / whatever that an actress has to be naked or topless in a movie, there must be an equal amount of male nudity as well to add balance.

Like I opined previously, I feel that my Sisters in Solidarity should get some sexy eye-candy as well.

After a few years of this who knows what the end benefit would be: enhanced acceptance of the nude male form, or perhaps something even better: movies that actually rely on plot, rather then T&A as a selling point. Now, for the majority of guys reading this and cursing my name, relax.

There’s always the Internet, and I didn’t say I’d get rid of the Victoria’s Secret catalog, did I? 

You’ll always have access to an unrealistically skinny (and sharp-boned) model who’s ribs are showing through, strutting around in uncomfortable underwear to ogle over in the privacy of your bathroom, no matter what happens. This is still America, after all.

Or it was when I woke up this morning… I haven’t checked FOX News yet.

“Then she looked at the man on the tree and she smiled wryly. "They just aren't as interesting naked," she said. "It's the unwrapping that's half the fun. Like with gifts, and eggs.” – Neil Gaiman, American Gods























































Saturday, October 26, 2013

Happy Happy. Joy Joy. (Chaotic Zen)


“This is a song about a whale… NO!!!! This is a song about being happy.”
- Your old pal, Stinky Whizzleteats

Hello Blogiteers!
Isn’t it just an absolutely glorious day?

The birds are singing, the sun is shining less intently, and the clouds are all puffy and floating in that vast blue sexiness that we like to call a sky, and that’s just swell. Sigh… isn’t Life just nifty?

Um… why are you looking at me like that?
Oh, I get it- you’ve never actually seen me happy, have you?
Calm down. It’s all good. Really, it is.

Sure, at the time of my last Blogvella, I was somewhat depressed due to the veracity of my fellow Creatives displaying all the strength of microwaved Velveeta in regards to bettering their personal self-interest, but that was the recent past, and I tend to be an “in the now” kind of guy, always keeping one eye on the end goal.

In fact, I’m in such a good mood that I feel like writing a blog that’s just chock full of sunshine, unicorns, and otters doing endearing things with their adorable paws.

Doesn’t that sound just great?
I thought so too, so we should get moving- but before we do, I have to address a small issue first.

As I noted, my last screed focused on the troubling aspect of PHX’s artistic apathy and it’s chilling effect on possible future success. Along with my take on that particular problem, I also meted out a well-earned artsy bitch-slap to a local non-entity, also known as “Scooter” Harris, a never-was who constantly bags on the PAS, despite his never actually contributing anything of substance to it.

If I were to draw you an analogy, his theoretical critiques are akin to having Pat Robertson conduct a symposium regarding the works of Motley Crue- it’s just that asinine, and yet- still strikes as highly comical to those of us who know exactly what’s going on behind the scenes and in the river.

Concerning his weak attempt at character assassination in regards to myself and curator/gallery owner Robrt Pela, I wryly stated the following: “Every village has its’ idiot, and apparently… the village next door loaned us theirs as a courtesy “.

An observation that NOBODY disagreed with, I might add.

Granted, I don’t truly believe that this general opinion is based entirely on his exorable writing, I’m also pretty sure a lot of it has to do with the irrefutable fact that nobody in the PAS knows who the hell he is.

Normally, when I engage in a battle of wits with an obviously unarmed opponent, I don’t usually give them both barrels, mainly due to the fact that when it comes to this scene, it’s sort of comparable to shooting at kittens with an ICBM.


An egotistical overkill as it were, especially when the majority of my detractors seemingly lack the ability to fight back effectively. But I do appreciate it when they try. Honestly, I do. It gives me hope that maybe, someday soon, they’ll be a worthy adversary- the kind that has a secret handshake, a flying car, and a nifty laser decoder ring.

Creepy Asian henchmen optional.

Seriously, is it too much to ask for a right proper antagonist who can go the full ten rounds without needing a diaper change and a bottle? In this town, apparently it is, and here’s some proof: the only person who’s ever knocked me for a loop is Connor Descheemaker, and he’s essentially on the same side as me.

However, his approach to the inherent issues within the PAS has been much more diplomatic than mine, and for that I have to give the kid some mad dog props. Staying on the path without killing someone is almost damn near nigh impossible in this scene some days, but he manages to do it, and do it well.

Along with having a much better sense of self-restraint, he also has done the following, much to the betterment of the PAS: at Modified Arts he worked as a Gallery Assistant; doing PR, installing shows, sitting gallery hours, serving as a member of the Phoenix Gallery Coalition, while also representing Roosevelt Row/Modified Arts as a Phoenix location for the temporary public art project IN FLUX begun by Scottsdale Public Art.

Served (via the Sustainable Communities Collaborative) as Project Manager & Curator of "Exit to Left: History Along the Light Rail," a three-city photo exhibition, lecture series, and website dedicated to documenting historic properties along the light rail line in Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa.

As if that wasn’t enough, he was also the Director of Community Initiatives, and responsible for organizing the monthly Downtown Devil Discussions, a panel discussion series devoted to critical issues facing downtown Phoenix, one semester of which was focused on arts and culture.

Topping it off, he then added the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art to his impressive list of accomplishments, where he honed his skills as an Installation and Curatorial Intern; researching exhibitions and artists, compiling reports, and installing shows in all media.

See what I mean? That’s the definition of “worthy opponent” right there kids.

Unlike most of my detractors, he came at me head on and at full speed- an approach that garners a lot of respect from this here Artbitch, hence the reason why we’re all cool with each other now.


I don’t mind losing, I just don’t want to lose to the mediocre, and he is so not that.
As to how it was possible for him to ring my bell…

Well, I was tired that day. The sun was in my eyes. Somebody put something in my drink. He was lucky my girl was in the room. I was stone-cold pimpin’. My trick knee started acting up. The dog ate my assignment. Jesus is my Homeboy. I was workin’ in a coal mine, going down down. It’s all the [insert group here]’s fault. I ran out of crayons. I blame my parents, mostly. I was practicing charity. I was distracted by something shiny.

I was flying my freak flag. My other suit of armor was in the shop, and I had to go with the cheap one. I was standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. Thanks to my deep concern over who would win American Idol, I forgot I was supposed to defend myself. It’s all Obama’s fault. I was working the dance floor. My battery died. I ran out of hair gel. I left my wallet in my other pair of pants. I was getting down with my bad self. I was teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony.

Not to mention that I was also partying like it was 1999.
And did I mention that he cheats?

Yes, he most definitely cheats… because that’s the only way one could best me within the halls of the Lair of Snarkitude. Seems like a perfectly plausible explanation when you get right down to it, so far as I can tell. Sure, that whole “energy of youth” thing he’s got going can be a tad bit vexing, but mark my words… one day he’ll be old and tired.

Granted, I’ll have been dead for decades by that point, but vengeance will be mine, this I swear.
And if Time refuses to help me on my quest?

Well, there’s always the fall back position of cutting his brake lines.
Or hitting him with my walker.

Moving on…

Other than my now fellow ally Connor, I honestly can’t think of anyone who’s ever been able to lay a glove on me, whether it be metaphorical or reality based. It’s not that I haven’t had my share of confrontation within this scene, trust me, I have- it’s more along the line that my adversaries seemingly have no ability to get to the heart of who I am, and that’s why they fail so miserably.

To those of you who just perked up, cease thy optimism- I’m not going to give you a primer on how to get under my skin. I may be snarky, but I’m also not stupid. In fact, I already can see the question forming in your head in regards to my always being ready for battle: If I don’t like, respect, or fear you, why should I care what you say about me?

Overall, I don’t. But there are a few caveats to that way of thinking, nonetheless. The only opinions I have ever valued come from those rare few that I truly respect. Whether that esteem stems from your abilities, character, or intellect matters not to me. What is important is that once you have earned my admiration, it’s very hard to lose. Moreover, while it has happened in the past, it’s been quite some time since I righteously abandoned anyone to the dark side of the moon, sans the album.

Here’s the truth of the matter- when it gets right down to brass tacks, I loathe two specific types of people: spineless cowards and/or ignorant bullies. Characteristically, they’re usually one and the same, but not always, and if there was any sort of contest for failed social experiments, the Internet definitely would qualify as a serious contender for allowing these arrogant cravens to propagate in the manner that they have.

It’s been my observation that in the world of the real, very few people would dare say what they unconditionally spew without a thought all over the web. As I’ve often noted, the net is a lot like numerous shots of tequila- after consumption, everybody’s ten feet tall and fearless as f**k.

Until someone dares to get in their face, that is.

Then it’s akin to watching Jello under a heat lamp, as they liquefy back into the candy-ass pond they crawled out of. If I had a dollar for everyone who’s ever uttered their honest opinion about me behind my back rather than to my front, I’d be comfortably ensconced on my private Ding Dong island, being served Mojitos by my cyborg monkey servants.

You know... like you do.

See, I don’t go after my critics because I’m thin-skinned, I go after them because I don’t believe in letting arrogant inanity flourish, even if it’s just for a second. I’ve always been of the mindset that the truly dense need to be put down ASAP, regardless of whether they’re a person or a cow.

To be clear, I’m not talking about someone who’s naïve, I’m talking about those that are immune to proven facts or logic. In essence, it’s anyone you look at and the first thought that comes to mind is:

“Seriously… how have you survived this long without being eaten?”

While I am known (or hated, depending on your POV) for being intensely harsh about the PAS, I still believe in what it’s trying to do, and imagine what it might be if we could all just make that sucker run lean, mean, and clean. We’ve got the talent, we’ve got the space, we just have to get that art-car in the garage and make it as bad-ass as we see it in our collective mind.

[Starts singing “Greased Lightning” inside his head…]

Criticism doesn’t always imply disdain for forward progress, nor does it want to be cast aside- it can (and should) be used as a blueprint towards strengthening the base for whatever concept you’re attempting to construct from the infinite ether of creativity.

As I’ve often said with a fair amount of glee: “Critics are legless men who teach classes in running”, and when it comes to describing a rather large portion of the PAS’s detractors, I think that quote is  fairly apt.

But not always. Not by a long shot.

I’ve always striven to provide a balance of sorts to my assessments of the PAS and it’s pond of Creatives- a sweet/sour approach, as it were. For every metaphorical swat with the belt, I also try to offer a resolution to the issue at hand that I’m griping about.

Seriously- I’ll never understand people who complain endlessly about something, yet refuse to entertain the thought of being part of the solution due to their own self-importance or pettiness.

[See: “Scooter”, “Tingbat”, “Justice O’Donnell”, “Weekend Anarchist Brigade”, etc…]

Willful ignorance should never be tolerated or disregarded, and it most certainly should not be rewarded, unless said compensation involves getting publicly dope-slapped upside the head,

To my sorrow, I have noticed a lack of committed effort within the PAS to exile such cretins, a regretful Achilles' heel that’s been incorporated into the bedrock of any steps forward we attempt to make. But progress is being made however, and here’s where our tale starts with the dispensation of warm fuzzies and fairy wings.

Over the course of the last two years, much has been done in regards to the visibility of the PAS- highly effective gallery associations, artist groups and new spaces have been popping up and getting proactive with lightning speed.

Heck, even the Phoenix New Times is starting to write articles worth reading about the PAS, and while I’m pretty confident that Mangling Editor Amy Silverman still hates Phoenix with the heat of a thousand suns, it’s nice to see that even she has to acknowledge what’s going on downtown, albeit it grudgingly.

I know, I know- give the poor lady a break. I will concede that it must be exceedingly galling to get up every morning and have to start your day off by eating a giant bowl of crow-flakes in regards to your long held belief that this town sucks, and seeing glimmers of growth on the horizon, nonetheless.

To be fair, they’re still churning out the same yellow journalism fluff they’ve always produced, but who cares? Andy Warhol once said: “Don't pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.” - an ideology I can fully get behind, and one I have lived with for most of my so-called career.

As far as I’m concerned, all ink is good ink, regardless of whether it’s upbeat or pessimistic- at least they’re talking about you, and that’s what truly counts in the end. And most recently, what was being discussed was the 14th installment of the group show that’s known as Chaos Theory, or what I like to breezily off the cuff refer to as “The Artists’ Prom” or “The Artsy Super Bowl”.

In spite of my flippancy, I do mean that with respect- I freaking love CT.
Why is that, you ask?

Well for me, it’s the opportunity to interact with my fellow Creatives and network like a boss, while simultaneously having one hell of a good time. As I noted in a related blog last year, CT is the one time that the Tribe is all gathered under one roof, and that’s just awesome, especially if you’re a manic chatterbox like yours truly.

For me, CT has always been a two-tiered event- one level is the show itself, the other is the rare social interaction that we get to have with our fellow Creatives under the guise of an art show.


I get to catch up, meet the new blood, hang out with my fellow dinosaurs, all the while gauging the depth of the creative sea in PHX. This year was no different, and despite the objections by some that CT has gotten less innovative and more “mainstream” as the years have rolled on, I personally could find no fault with this years’ offering as a whole.

There are always going to be pieces that I don’t care for, but that’s my aesthetic quibble, and it’s really not worth splitting hairs over when it gets right down to brass tacks.

If I were to play Devil’s advocate, I’d forward the thought that CT hasn’t mellowed, it’s matured. I for one, am nothing like I was 14 years ago, and I seriously doubt any of you are either. Sure, those core values remain, but as we move through our lives, the perspective is bound to change, which isn’t always a bad thing.

My outside take on the whole dismissive “Chaos isn’t as cool as it used to be” mind-set? If you don’t like it, then start your own yearly group show. It really is that simple, depending on one’s inherent ability and dedication to promote and curate such a monstrous behemoth.

And if you’re not willing to do just that, then please stop droning on about it already.


Happily, there was no sign of the faux slanderous drama that was inflicted upon CT last year by the PAS’s resident artsy crazy cat lady, Suzanne Falk*, whose childish rant within the pages of the PHX New Times did absolutely nothing except help swell attendance and publicize the show.

That success by the way, was partially due to her ludicrous (and ultimately baseless) charges of homophobia and misogyny falling on deaf ears- a self-serving move that in the end, backfired, and elevated Randy’s public profile via all the publicity she unwittingly helped create for him.

*[Link: http://waynemichaelreich.blogspot.com/2012_10_01_archive.html ]

And while I’m on the subject, I’d also like to point out Suzy’s latent hypocrisy, as she did attend this year’s show, despite not having any work displayed in it. So, I guess that it’s okay to attend an event that you publically (and loudly) claimed was ubiquitous with homophobia and a sexist agenda, just so long as you didn’t contribute a piece, right Suzy?

Furthermore, it’s an art show, not a dog park- so please leave your stupid pet at home next time, too. If I wanted something furry with bad breath to dry-hump my leg, I’d have called up my ex-fiancé.

That minor irritation not withstanding, Chaos 14 was packed to the rafters with the PAS’s art elite and their protégés, along with the art-curious. And if there was a singular emotion running through the show that night, it would have to be one of “I’m ok, but you… you’re just great!

When I left after closing the show down, I seriously felt like the hottest bitch in the room, and not just because I was wearing leather pants. Which by the way, is the first official sign that Winter has come full swing in PHX. At the risk of sounding a tad bit sycophantic, I’d put forth that when it comes to putting together a show of this magnitude, nobody has done it as well or as consistently as Randy Slack.

To speak the Truth, haters gonna hate, but they’re going to be doing that hating within a very small circle- everybody goes to Chaos, and whether they like the show or not, I’ve yet to meet anyone who didn’t enjoy themselves on some level, even if that’s only to bitch about what Chaos is or isn’t. 

There was so much love floating around in that room, I’m surprised we all don’t have to go get our blood tested. My already unwieldy Ego was the size of the Goodyear Blimp when I left, due to all the compliments I received in regards to my latest writing and advocacy efforts occurring within the PAS.

If I were to be entirely honest, it still feels really weird when people come up and tell me that they love what I do- especially when you consider how long of a slog it was to get to the point where people are starting to pay attention to what I say, and not focusing on how I say it.

But in the end, maybe remaining constantly uneasy is a good thing for your development, as I’ve always felt that self-doubt is still one of the paramount ways of making sure that you remain as sharp and relevant as you were when you started your career.

Many moons ago, I once had a teacher tell me that when you no longer got butterflies in the stomach before a show, that’s when you know to quit and walk away- because you’re done, kiddo. For me, it’s close to 25 years that I’ve been involved with the Arts in one form or another, and I don’t see the end of the road just yet.

When it comes to local promotion, CT shows off the talent and passion that exists within this scene, and serves as an excellent barometer of where the PAS is going creatively. And while it remains the defacto model in regards to putting on large art-related events in this city, I do hope that it won’t be the only one in the years to come.

Imagine it. Being paid to do what we love, and being respected for it at the same time.
That’s the kind of warm happy vibe I think everybody can get behind, even this snarky bitch.

Hopefully, one day serious and well-financed Patrons will help shape PHX into the “must see” destination for all things creative and visionary, viewed by the world stage in the same way that NYC and LA. are- a serious contender that holds it’s own while maintaining it’s unique identity.

But until that happy day arrives, I say embrace the Chaos.

“The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it.”- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe




Monday, September 30, 2013

Bridge Over the River Why. (An Army of None.)



“I take things like honor and loyalty seriously. It's more important to me than any materialistic thing or any fame I could have.” - Lloyd Banks

Hello Blogi…oh, the hell with my standard cheery greeting, I’m just not feeling it.
Not today, anyway.

Granted, I am truly heartened by how many kudos my last blog received concerning the vile and unprincipled censorship enacted by the Herberger Theater Center, and I’m extremely appreciative (and honestly shocked) to hear that even the Mayor’s office thought it was a fine piece of writing, but I remain downcast, nonetheless.

This is the kind of bummed out that even a full-on Ding Dong bender couldn’t ease.
Sad to say, the black cloud that hangs over me these days is fairly tenacious, and given all indicators, it doesn’t seem like any dissipation is on the calendar for quite some time.

So why am I all moody?

Well… in my last screed, which I knocked out in less than 12 hours, (a new personal record) I issued a call to arms (of sorts) to PHX’s Creative community- I asked for a show of solidarity and strength in helping protest the cancellation of Robrt Pela’s curated show at the Herberger Theater Center- an issue I naively believed would “rally the troops” as it were, since Censorship is just not an ongoing and major problem here, but in most metropolitan artistic centers as well.

See, this is my problem- I have faith in Humanity, but I always forget that people are involved in the dispensation of it.

To quote Tommy Lee Jones from his role as Agent K in Men in Black:
“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it.”

And when it comes to following the herd, nobody does it better than the PHX Creative community. I’ve often commented on the lack of professionalism that runs rampant here, along with an almost pathological apathy that tracks alongside, and yet- I still truly believed that my fellow creatives would rise up, fight the good fight, and vanquish the metaphorical Barbarians back to Hell.

Hoo boy. Did I ever get that wrong. George Clooney as Batman kind of wrong.

Note to self: stop watching movies where everybody comes together via a montage and musical number to save the community rec-center/summer camp/school/church/park/ independent record store etc.. it’s starting to seriously warp my sense of reality in regards to the subject of people stepping up to do the right thing.

Here’s a small insight into my psyche: I don’t really expect much.

After my horrific near-death experience in 2009, I’m actually fairly grateful for almost everything that occurs, including, but not limited to, stuff that is at it’s core, quite bad.
Far as I’m concerned, every day above ground is a good day, even if it sometimes sucks donkey wahaunga.

So as a rule, I keep my expectations realistic, and my hopes limited.

Let me put it this way- I really don’t sweat the electric bill. Almost dying definitely spins your perspective in regards to what matters, and what doesn’t. Having touched the bunny slippers of Death, my point of view has unquestionably been sharpened, and it’s main focus has been on rehabilitating the PAS into a viable entity of economic success and unity.

Sadly, I think that I’ve been asking too much of my fellow Creatives, the lack of turnout at the HTC protest serving as a litmus test of sorts. One of the theories I’ve been harboring for a while in regards to the creative community is this- the majority seemingly don’t give a damn unless a situation affects them directly.

Need proof? Just look around.

For every Robrt Pela or Laura Dragon (of {9} The Gallery) that we have, we’re negated by ten useless wankers, just sitting on their ass, doing nothing. Yet… they’re the first ones to gorge on the rewards brought forth by the others who’ve actually walked the walk, and talked the talk.

In other words, they’re the problem. If the PAS were a human body, the poseurs within this scene would be cancer, As I said I’m a realist- I know that no matter where you have a vibrant and creative scene, there’s always going to be the occasional human speed bump.

Another insight: I absolutely loathe, despise, hate, deride, abhor, detest, and cannot stand the way too common phrase “I’ll be there in spirit”. So… you won’t help or do anything that is actually useful and constructive, but at least you approve of all the hard work we’re doing.

That’s just great. Way to commit to a cause.

In my humble opinion, that’s akin to telling someone who desperately needs a life-saving transplant that “I’d love to donate a kidney, really I would- but I’m catching up on Breaking Bad.” By the way, that was an ACTUAL excuse that one of my fellow Creatives said to me when I asked him why he wasn’t at the protest- he was watching a DVD, and couldn’t be bothered to show up.

I tell you this: I don’t get nearly enough credit for not going on a murderous killing spree.

Of the forty or so people who assured me that they’d be there, only two showed up, and at best, there were maybe twenty people protesting- a number I find to be equally sad and maddening. When the call to arms was issued, I was hoping to witness a groundswell- a veritable sea of creative bad assery charging the gates of Mordor, if you will.

In all honesty, I would have been happy with a small pond of support- instead all I saw around me was a puddle. Granted, the cultural warriors who were standing alongside me in said puddle kicked some truly serious ass nonetheless, but it fell far short of what was needed to send a serious message to the elitist pinheads at the HTC.

Looking down from their ivory tower, I wanted the collective heads of the HTC to see a unified and strong Arts Community, an astounding mass of people standing up both for their craft, and for what was right. I wanted their family friendly walls to shake with our collective outrage.

I wanted them to know that we as a whole, would not, could not, and never will, allow ourselves to be condescended to by the likes of persons such as them.

I wanted them to feel the unease that comes with the knowledge that occasionally your bad judgment comes back home to roost, and every now and then- it likes to bring friends.

I wanted them to realize that we are a force to be dealt with, and that fucking with our combined strength would be a sure fire means to becoming a cautionary tale that old people tell over campfires.
           
In place of that, all they saw was that given enough time, the storm would pass, and they could get back to business as usual, or so they hopefully thought.

I am happy to report that several artists cancelled shows, a number of guest curators resigned in disgust, and since the Mayor’s office got involved, along with a nationally recognized anti-censorship group calling for change as well, it’s highly unlikely that they will emerge completely unscathed.

In fact, my last blog may have opened that particular door- the following is from a FB message that Robrt Pela sent me earlier this week:

"Keep in mind that it was your blog that first got the mayor to call me. So, you made a huge difference. I did not approach the mayor's office; they called me."

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right… I so totally need to call my Dad and brag like a adolescent boy who just scored with the town MILF. As you might surmise, I am more than happy that one of my rants seems to have had a positive effect for once, and I earnestly hope that some good comes out of all this.

Yes, the HTC has been dinged, but the fact remains: the PAC dropped the ball on this one, and dropped it hard. In fact, when I posted on the Arizona Artists page asking the question of why there was such a problem with artistic apathy in this town, I received the following response:

“I've realized a ton of our problem is perspective, which I tried to explain way up there. I'm thinking less about Phoenix's specific issues and instead look at this more globally. In terms of censorship and protest, that was basically an unchangeable position, seemingly from the two party's perspectives. My feeble achy boots on the ground will be used for issues I think demand it.”

Now, I can respect this position. But I still disagree with it as a whole.

Yes, the two parties were intractable in their differing points of view, and I understand
that there was probably no way that the issue could have been settled to the satisfaction of both, but a stand needed to be made, and for that you need warm bodies, not a blizzard of internet postings.

Social media can and has been very effective in launching boycott campaigns and calling attention to the injustices of the world, but it’s also a sanctuary for the ignorant, the racist and the cast-asides of our society.

Factoring in the chaotic twenty-four-seven news cycle, today’s outrage is tomorrows water cooler joke, hence the need to have a sizable presence to go with the story- otherwise, you’re just spitting into the wind.

There is mammoth disparity on the Internet in regards to culture, and it rarely sways towards the betterment of our social order. Don’t misread me- I love living in a world where I can order books online while simultaneously downloading clown porn and
images of cute kittens, but some things still need to be done face to face, and this was
one of them.

Would a larger crowd have changed the outcome?
Most likely not.

But would it have given the HTC some serious and well-needed pause?
Hell yes.

The psychological effect of scores of loud angry people blocking your way and calling attention to something stupid that you did cannot be underestimated. Not by any means. And when the public opens up its eyes and gets curious about why all these people are surrounding your building, you’re pretty much living on borrowed time before the real hammers come down.

As to the concept of thinking “globally”, until my career takes off to the extent that I get to jet-set ala Saint Bono style, I’m gonna be focusing on the local, mainly due to that’s where I live and work. Yes, I’m a citizen of the world, but I have to pay my electric bill here, so I don’t have the luxury of being able to turn a blind eye to what’s occurring in front of me.

Even if your action turns out to be purely symbolic, at least you stood up for what you perceived to be right, and that beats a worn-out turn of phrase hands down, every time.

Boots on the ground is the means by which the world gets changed, and while it can be used productively in conjunction with a social media campaign, it is still the ideal method if you want to get things done for the better good.

Deeds count.
Words without direct action behind them?
Not so much.

Understand this- I’m not marginalizing how effective the Internet was in publicizing this situation. In fact, it was amazing to see just how fast the word got around, and the number of people who joined in on the discussion was stunning. What does dismay is how many of those same cultural warriors couldn’t spare two hours on a Thursday night to support a cause they claimed to be so concerned about.

Just sayin’.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve been witness to such indifference within the PAS, but it’s certainly the most visible display of it in quite some time. Not to beat a dead horse, but seriously… why won’t the majority of the Creative base just get off their apathetic asses and start kicking out the jams?

It’s not like we’re all shiftless milquetoasts, if one were to be honest, and while we are somewhat deficient in the infrastructure that other cities take for granted, we as a group still have no truly defensible excuse for our puzzling consistency in rolling over and showing belly every time an obstacle appears in our path.  

After a while, it gets to be a little annoying, if not downright infuriating. Nothing aggravates me more than a lazy zealot. I’m constantly hearing from artists about how they wish things were better, how great it would be if people were more professional, etc.- and yet, when it comes time to put up or shut up, they climb into their race car beds and wait for the art fairy to arrive with a satchel of happiness.

Magical thinking. The bane of my existence.

Believe me, I do understand the underlying feeling of pointlessness that some artists feel in regards to their career- I am an Artist myself, after all.  So I do get why it’s sometimes really hard to get out of that there comfy bed and go kick metaphorical ass. It’s even worse when you feel like you’re taking on the whole damn world by yourself.

Trust me… I feel your pain. I really do.

One of the main issues that I have with the PAS is the fact that some within our community also tend to mete out a unique form of passive aggressiveness warfare against their fellow Creatives- the old “crabs in a bucket” analogy.

For those unfamiliar with this idiom, here’s a description:

“Crabs in a bucket is a phrase that describes a way of thinking best described by the phrase "if I can't have it, neither can you."

The metaphor refers to a pot of crabs. Individually, the crabs could easily escape from the pot, but instead, they grab at each other in a useless "king of the hill" competition which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise.

The analogy in human behavior is that members of a group will attempt to "pull down" (negate or diminish the importance of) any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy or competitive feelings.

This term is broadly associated with short-sighted, non-constructive thinking rather than a unified, long-term, constructive mentality. It is also often used colloquially in reference to individuals or communities attempting to improve their socioeconomic situations, but kept from doing so by others attempting to ride upon their coat-tails or those who simply resent their success.

The popularity of the phrase has made accusing opponents of crab mentality a common form of defense against criticism, whether the criticism is valid or not. In logic, this tactic is considered a common logical fallacy known as argumentum ad invidiam, or appeal to envy.”

And there is a lot of envy, let me tell you. If I had a penny for every time I heard a fellow colleague bitch about a certain “you know who” doing well, I’d be sitting on my private island enjoying a whipped cream back rub from Milla Jovovich right about now.

[Don’t worry about my GF Ashley- she’d be getting the same from Richard Armitage, so it’s all good, as I tend to share the wealth.]

Speaking of mentally deficient crabs, out of all the feedback I received there was only one detractor who lashed out publically regarding my protesting the HTC’s censorship, and in a not too surprising revelation, they’re someone that no one has ever taken seriously or even heard of in this scene, that being the personage of one “Scooter” Harris.

For once, I can honestly say that the negativity that’s being directed at me is not of my doing. I know… it feels really bizarre to me too. Normally, I’d be the one throwing the
acid-coated knives, so it’s somewhat off-putting to be attacked by someone named after a puppet from the Muppet Show.

After several years of my stirring the pot and asking the uncomfortable questions, it seems that this part-time scrawler and full time non-entity has named me and curator Robrt Pela as the source of all drama-fire in the PAS.

Ok… he didn’t actually have the cojones to name us directly, but he did hint at who we were an awful lot, so that’s almost as butch, right?

The source of all drama-fire… don’t I wish!

Can you imagine the t-shirt sales? They’d be huge. Not to mention the bumper stickers, mugs, phone apps, bobble-heads, mouse pads, whimsical pens, etc.. Given my penchant for self-promotion, I’d milk that particular cow until powder was shooting out of it’s desiccated udders, and then proceed to wring the marrow out of its bones.

What can I say? I’m a mercenary capitalist. But I digress.

*Link to the hot mess he wrote can be found here:
http://studiohadratimes.com/The_Arts_Review_Section.php

[Its the "We fight on Friday Night" Blog.]

I apologize in advance if you actually decide to read it to the end. Even given the low standards of the Internet, the darkest of all netherworlds where cat videos and Anime tentacle-porn coexist side by side, his diatribe is just excruciating.

And despite the fact that I do truly appreciate being granted honorary authority over the flame height in the PAS (as ascribed by Scooter) I’ll actually have to demonstrate some uncharacteristic modesty and dismiss his transcendent affirmation of my inherent powers.

Long before I jumped into the fray, ASU’s Downtown Devil and the Phoenix New Times were already on the scent and crafting their stories- a point Scooty Dupe deliberately overlooks for sake of his retelling of the sequence of events.

Both stories, BTW, were excellently done, I might add.
As for my part, I just came along and patched a few minor holes in the narrative, that’s all.

Anywho, Scooter (like me) also writes about the PAS, but his approach has always followed the typical blog format in regards to the critique of local art, whereas my focus centers on the dissection of issues that tend to affect the PAS directly.

To each his own, I always say, but this time it’s taken a turn. Up until about a week ago, I’ve never had any sort of issue with Scooter, so his rather disjointed assault upon Robrt and myself literally comes out of left field.

It just strikes as strange that after several years of relative friendliness, someone who has never had any stake whatsoever in the PAS gets riled up and decides to charge in, guns-a-blazing, to take on the Queen Bitches of the Universe for no clearly defined reason.

I’m not even really sure how to take in it’s sheer incoherence, to be quite honest. However, I do know what your thoughts are, and I appreciate the incongruity. You’re thinking:

“Aww… is the Artbitch feeling all ironically butt-hurt cause someone insulted him?”

Not exactly. I’m used to getting flak in regards to what I say and write, so I’m pretty immune overall to snark grenades and the occasional kitten swipe- but when it’s this
badly put together, I can’t even begin to fake the required respect in regards to his lame attempt to take me on or out.

Seriously.

Even if I took the high road, I’d still have to point out the rambling pointlessness of his candy-assed harangue, as well as his justification of using a homophobic slur, again and again. Just because someone (not I) refers to themselves that way (on occasion) doesn’t mean that you get to fling it around like you’re blood brothers.

[I often refer to myself as “His Royal Lord High Sexiness”, but I notice that he didn’t use that.]

And yes- I do call myself the “Artbitch”. However, that moniker was bestowed on me by a former enemy (now friend) who thought it fit my personality at the time. Fortunately, he doesn’t get a cut of the merchandise sales, so it really does pay to make sure you fill out all the copyright paperwork ahead of time.

Normally, I would take what someone’s written and pull it apart, in my distinctive and snarky style, but not this time. First, I don’t want to be held accountable for repeating the asinine vileness that he’s spewing, and second- it’s such a dreadful piece of commentary, that mocking it seems more or less an effort in focused futility.

If anything, I’m almost tempted to offer Scooter some lessons in smack talking, for when it comes to me, there are literally scores of open ammo boxes laying around that he could have dipped into instead.

For instance? My love of all things ABBA, my addiction to Ding Dongs, my fondness for dressing like Mad Max, the fact that I find nude Ukrainian folk dancing irresistible, and let’s not forget my ponytail, the classic go-to for almost all of my enemies.

And that’s just the stuff up front- imagine what he could have found if he had nutted up and decided to look under my bed. It’s as if he couldn’t spare the four seconds to “Google” me, and that’s just sheer laziness, in my opinion.

Whatever happened to the love of the craft?

The number of emails & instant messages I’ve fielded regarding this white trash meltdown all boiled down to everybody pretty much asking the same question:

“What in the Hell is he babbling about, and what in the Hell is he on?!?”

In regard to that, I couldn’t even begin to tell you, and I’m somebody who actually understood the end of “Inception”. But I do have a theory… or two.

Theory One: He’s always wanted to play in our sandbox, and just couldn’t cut it.

If this is spot on, then yeeeeouch, he must be way more inferior than I thought.

Granted, I really hate to keep flogging a dead horse, but the PAS is a lot like a Catholic School- we’ll pretty much take anyone if they’re possessing a pulse. So if you can’t get us to go out on a date, Scooter, I’m gonna have to be honest and say that it’s not us, it’s most definitely you.

But look on the bright side. All that time you’ll spend at night sitting home can only help sharpen your art skills, and that’s a win for everybody. Especially for the theory of quality work. And sure… I tend to bag on the PAS as a whole, but I (unlike you) actually believe that we’re in a transition to becoming a leaner, meaner model of economic viability that in the end, will prove to kick some serious financial and critical ass.

You seemingly don’t like, respect or love the scene, so why waste time writing about it? Especially when you’ve never been one of “us” to begin with, I might add.

Oh wait…

Theory Two: Somebody seems to be in denial, I think?

For those of you who were brave/foolhardy/self-hating enough to read Scoot’s invective all the way to the end, you’d note that it begins with an ode to the world of professional wrestling, the NASCAR of contact sports. Now, as a rule, I’m really not into athletic pursuits- sure, I played soccer as a kid, but my heroes have been always artists, writers and musicians first.

But if that’s what floats your boat of testosterone, so be it.

I just find it bizarre that someone would feel so liberated using a homophobic slur when their favorite form of entertainment entails watching greased up steroidal giants wearing makeup and gold lame speedos slamming into each other.

As I stated, if that’s what you’re into, that’s fine. I believe in personal freedom over everything else.

But if you’re going to stand your ground in the manner of a homophobic dick, perhaps you shouldn’t pick a sport whose athletes make the cast of “Glee’ look like Seal Team Six.

Gah. That’s enough in regards to Scooter, I think. Every village has it’s idiot, and apparently… the village next door loaned us theirs as a courtesy.

Fortunately, he does serve a useful purpose, mainly as a prime example of why the PAS is seemingly stuck in the artistic mire. Given the naysayers, the wannabes, the speed bumps and the egocentrically insignificant like him, it’s not too shocking why we can’t get our fellow Creatives to rally around the causes that affect us all directly.

I’ve witnessed all sorts of approaches through the years and there doesn’t seem to be one that has ever truly unified us as a whole. Whether it’s been the approach of strengthening professional ethics, attempted economic enticement, the feeling of camaraderie, or just plain common sense, they all seem to peter out after a while.

But there have been some changes on the horizon, and hopefully, they’ll blaze a new path towards fostering the self-empowerment and creating the strong community leaders we so desperately need.

Along those lines, we’ve seen the gallery association created by Laura Dragon stitching together our local Art-spaces into a marketing concern, and along with Artist Travis Field’s artistic juggernaut on FaceBook, [Arizona Artists Collective] certain long-closed doors are opening in regards to networking and planning possibilities for Creatives within the PAS.

To be honest, they’re not the all encompassing panacea that we require, but they’re definitely a healthy and aggressive start towards healing our innate illness of spirit.

So what’s the answer? This time, I’m honestly flummoxed, as I don’t think that there’s a one size fits all solution to the myriad of issues we need to prevail over. A multi-pronged approach seems like the best conduit to a successful outcome, but only if everybody is on the same page.  

And my biggest worry is that in the end, we’ve all been reading different books.

“As an artist your first loyalty is to your art. Unless this is the case, you're going to be a second-rate artist.” - Margaret Atwood