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Monday, March 28, 2011

Don't want to be an ugly dead body

I'll have a write up on Nick Geankoplis' BFA show, but in the meantime, here's a video he prepared as a sort of BFA defense:

Semiotics from Nick Geankoplis on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Form and Fetish

Andrew Hoeppner's BFA show, "Uncanny Reminiscence," got this semester's run of BFA shows off to a strong start. Like Aurora's show before him, the Tahoe Gallery was turned into a dimly-lit, almost cavelike space. It was a very theatrical atmosphere -- I felt like I was walking into an abstraction of a locked attic, or perhaps a shuttered bedroom.

Heppy has been creating biomorphic forms using ceramic and other materials for a while now (you can see glimpses of some progenitor figures from Heppy's Junior Portfolio Review two years ago, here), and this show seemed to mark two phases of those forms. One phase had the figures incorporated into antiques -- a fanged, goopy tapeworm emerging from a grandfather clock, or a headless torso poised at a sewing machine table, its single leg encased in fishnet, the blunt footless tip hovering over the foot pedal. Two figures in the show had mouths; the antique clutter and the implication of a voice and appetite gave these figures a cartoonish presence. I wasn't sure if they were meant to scare or amuse me -- they reminded me of cheapo monster special effects that goose your nightmares when you're a kid and then, when you see the movie again as an adult, you chuckle at them, and at your own childish susceptibility.

Heppy enjoys playing at the crossroads of the alluring and the repellant -- which is one way of saying his work seems to have a lot to do with sex. Appendages and proboscises allude to or sometimes embody human parts that are tagged as "obscene" -- if a form can at once suggest a breast, a buttock, and the swell of an ankle, well, those somatic locales tend to be charged relativistically, depending on the particular taboos of one culture or the next. Which is more enticing, the curve of a neck or the slope of a thigh? It's not impossible to imagine (and given the range of human proclivities, it's almost certain) that for someone, the locus of of sexual desire, the most transfixing and obscene part of the body, must be the earlobe.

In the Q&A I asked Heppy where he placed himself on the graph between the erotic and the pornographic, and he said he didn't identify with the word "pornographic" at all. Which surprised me, because if he saw his work as above that sort of thing, then: why fishnet? Afterward, I pursued him a little further on the subject, and he said the word "pornography" conjures a whole industry, and his work isn't about that. And then it made sense; though the idea of a "fetish" is tied to an industry (the manufacture and sale of desire through the production of latex, silicone, nylon, etc.), a fetish doesn't really need an industry to operate. At its most basic, a fetish isn't a desire manufactured but a desire reified, embedded in a texture or an image. That a texture can be produced by an industry is almost beside the point.

For me, the two most impressive figures (and the figures that seemed best to represent a second phase of Heppy's forms) were the two white, large-scale "characters" at the far end of the gallery. These figures weren't entirely free of props (both were situated in relation to rolling sheets that were stiffened by beeswax), but as well as being monumental, these forms also seemed more purified, less cartoonish. One form reclined on the bedding; the other hung on the wall above, hovering some distance from a depression on the surface of the bedding -- a spot it had perhaps recently vacated. It hovered like a lover, voyeur or ghost (and when it comes down to it, aren't ghosts perfect voyeurs -- voyeurism given the metaphoric resonance of folklore?). There was something sad about the hovering figure, and something droll about it, too. It commanded the space because of its size, its presence, its apparent defiance of gravity -- and also because of the fact that it looked less like a self-contained figure than an excerpt from a much larger figure -- it could've been a blow-up of Michelangelo's David's family jewels.

When the Q&A was over, someone requested that Heppy start up the audio that he'd arranged to emanate from the clock (which had been silenced for his artist's talk). Heppy started it up, and for several moments everyone sat quietly while the space was filled with a broken, faraway sound of chimes. The chimes didn't sound in a regular, metronomic fashion -- they were measuring a different sort of a time than is usually marked by a clock, a more liquid and subjective time. Maybe the way time passes in memory. And then someone's cell phone rang, and we all laughed, de-hypnotized, released back to our ordinary minutes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Soldner Site

Sheri put together a website for the show she's curating in honor of the late Paul Soldner:

This exhibition is intended to honor Paul Soldner who was a great mentor inspiring so many successful ceramists. As one of the founding fathers of contemporary ceramics, and Raku, Paul was not only a teacher to so many, but a life changer. His work ethic and lifestyle influenced and forever changed everyone he met, from students, colleagues, and friends. Paul taught by example, as he worked alongside of his students in the Scripps College studio and at an endless number of workshops worldwide. Often when asked how he thought some technique would work, he would respond, “Try it, and let me know what happens”. His encouragement by example, boundless interest in the experimentation and open lifestyle freed a new generation of ceramic artists to explore the unknown and live life to its fullest.

More info here:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

let there be

I'll have more to say about this show in the future, but wanted to post a quick note about the Leo Villareal show that just opened at the Nevada Museum of Art. I'm going to try to run a field trip to it for my current "Art & Advertising" class -- we'll soon be doing a project around projecting images onto non-traditional surfaces, and I think the show will be an inspiring point of reference. It's also pertinent in the way it translates visual operations you'd normally associate with advertising, and moves them into a "fine art" space. It's actually very appropriate that this show is running a few blocks from downtown Reno, where animated light is put to different ends (and on an even grander scale).

It's the first art show that my daughter Julia has attended. She seemed to dig it. If ayone out there is on Reno for the spring break, you should check it out. The show runs through May 22.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Not too long ago, I wrote a post mentioning a great pairing of a cartoonist and a filmmaker I both admire; today, on the culture site ("Middlebrow is not the solution"), I have a short essay on another pairing of a great cartoonist and a great filmmaker, although the results from that one -- Jack Kirby's adaptation of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey -- are more decidedly mixed. Here's the link to the essay:

The essay is attached to a series hosted by hilobrow called Kirb Your Enthusiasm, in which several writers took on a panel from Jack Kirby's staggeringly prodigious oeuvre, meditating on his affects and effects. I highly recommend the series -- a great exegesis on a peculiar and influential artist, in bit-size increments. Each essay has a scan of the panel in question, which you can click on and blow up to pseudo-Lichtensteinian proportions:

Kirb Your Enthusiasm

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

BFA Season

This week is the beginning of BFA season -- the reception for Heppy's BFA show is this Thursday, and then we have student BFA shows running in the Tahoe Gallery through the end of the semester. Here are a few informal snaps from some recent BFA committee meetings, as folks plan and adjust and get things prepped.




Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cirque du Leigh

Our Department Chair (and ceramics prof) Sheri Leigh has some work in a couple upcoming shows. Via Sheri, here's the info:

"Dry Run" (above) is going to the "Soldner Society" exhibit, which I co-curated with T Robert. It will be in Tampa, FL in conjunction with the NCECA conference. The show is intended to honor the life of Paul Soldner, who passed away this year on January 3rd.

Here's the info from the NCECA Exhibition tours site:

This exhibition is intended to honor Paul Soldner who was a great mentor and inspiration to so many successful ceramists. He was one of the founding fathers of contemporary ceramics, and Raku. His lifestyle influenced and forever changed everyone he met. Paul taught by example as he worked in the Scripps studio alongside his students. Often when asked how he thought some technique would work, he would respond, "Try it, and let me know what happens". His open lifestyle freed a new generation of ceramic artists to experiment and live life to it's fullest. Organized by Sheri Leigh O'Connor and T Robert.

Above Shows: Mar 29-Apr 2. Tue-Thu 10am-7pm; Fri 10am-8pm; Sat 10am-5pm. Reception Apr 1, 5-8pm

The other piece "Zebran Nuptials" or "Here Comes the Zebran" is going into "Top That."

Here's the info from this website:

During the Wedding Road Show on Sunday, April 10th, look for the m.t. burton gallery to be promoting “Top That” and the sale of the toppers at the Surf City Yacht Club. After the festivities the exhibit will continue through May 19th at the m.t. burton gallery, located at 1819 Long Beach Blvd, Surf City, NJ. For more information contact the m.t. burton gallery at (609) 494-0006 or

Dust Notes

I'm still playing a bit of catch-up with last semester's gallery events, and wanted to at least post a few quick notes on the Burning Man show. If something happening twice is the minimum threshold for it to be considered a "tradition," then the show could be framed as the continuing tradition of having students enrolled in the Burning Man class metabolize their experience at Black Rock, via the creation of artwork and a debriefing to the rest of the community on What Went Down. The last time the class took place, two years ago, most of the students were going to Burning Man for the first time; many of the students who were in on that initial experience participated in the second round, so there was a sense of continuity and guidance from the "grizzled veterans" to the newbies. There was also a decided shift in the artwork that was produced in response to the Man.

I have to admit, purely on the level of "artwork" and artifacts, the prior Burning Man show engaged me more. That first reaction to the Man seemed to express itself in a variety of installation objects and approaches; this time, it seemed less about the the objects than about creating a space for socializing. The focus was on creating an environment where interaction could take place, rather than on making things that attempted to riff on the sorts of art-objects that could be encountered on the playa, bending those sparks of inspiration to one's personal sensibilities. This year the environment itself was more explicitly tuned to the low-impact sustainability ethic that Burning Man attempts to cultivate -- the attempt to re-imagine our vast quantities of cultural detritus as the raw materials of a next phase of communal social organization.

However, the discussion at the opening was, I thought, more interesting than the one two years previous. It was less like a panel presentation, and more like an open-ended discussion on the issues -- artistic, social, political -- that Burning Man raises. It was a lively seminar on the ethics and aesthetics of the Man, and how they might (or might not) apply to a wider order. A principle from Burning Man that seemed to hold great charge for the students was the ethic of "gifting." A mode of exchange not entirely governed by the tit-for-tat equations of capitalism; the students found it liberating.

[Below: Nick's shoes, still impregnated with playa dust. Several of the students retained articles of clothing whitewashed with the playa dust, as if the dust were precious as gilding. One presumes their lungs are equally gilded.]

Logan framed Buring Man as an exercise in "ephemeral community" -- I tweaked him a bit on that, wondering whether "ephemeral" and "community" were two concepts that could be considered in opposition. Logan replied that Burning Man creates networks that last beyond the event itself; to restrict the notion of community to the temporal and spatial confines of Black Rock is too narrow.

And shortly after it hit me that this picture of "ephemeral community" -- where semi-structured intimacies occur, where people produce work that leaks outside the normal logic of supply and demand (while also not being entirely apart from that logic), where models of social organization are essayed in an experimental fashion, and where the participants, after a while, depart to their own lives, hopefully sustained in part by some of the ripples generated at the epicenter of the experience -- can more or less find an echo in what is called, for lack of a better term, "college life."

Friday, March 4, 2011

Flash Mobbed

Via Leroy Hardy, here's a video of SNC's first flash mob. As you can tell by the thorough video coverage, it was perhaps the least surreptitious flash mob in flash mob history. But it was a fun intervention in the ordinary cafeteria hubbub.

This is probably an admission of how out of the loop I am, but I had no idea that we had an actual life-sized mascot on campus. My sources tell me it's a mystery who's in the suit. Which means I will have to suppress and urge to tackle and unmask him (her?) next time Eli makes a public appearance.

CARMINA BURANA by the SNC choir March 24th and 26th

Via Dona Axton:

CARMINA BURANA may not sound like an everyday term to you. But you have heard the music from CARMINA BURANA many places. The Doors played it. “O Fortuna” from CARMINA has been featured in many movies, including “The Lord of the Rings”, “Excalibur”, “Hunt for Red October” (and even “Jackass, the Movie”) .

The SNC Choir will be performing this iconic work on March 24 and 26th at 7pm at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church.
It is powerful and amazing. Come and cheer on YOUR SNC choir . We’ll be singing with a 10 piece orchestra and we will raise the roof. You’ll love it.

Admission is free for students and faculty – just sign in at the door. You’ll be seated after those with reserved seats.

WHEN :Thursday, March 24 7 pm
Saturday, March 26 7 pm
WHERE: ST. Patrick’s Episcopal Church , 341 Village Blvd. Incline Village


Photo of Carl Orff:

Christchurch Coping

Victoria Buck, whose BFA show is coming up shortly, grew up in Christchurch. So of course the news of the earthquake has been weighing on her, and by extension, on all of us who know her. Via, I read a short comic strip on the quake by a New Zealand author and cartoonist, Sarah Laing. Click here to read the whole thing (the page includes links to relief organizations).

Victoria also sent along a link that's a fine example of using humor to cope with adversity -- some Christchurch residents who are selling "Rocky," the giant boulder that crashed into their home, on the NZ equivalent of ebay:

For sale 1 owner 25 - 30 tonne landscape feature (answers to the name Rocky) ...

He is in pristine condition (just a little bit of concrete dust). Suitable for garden feature, or as in our case a magnificent addition to your living area.

Rocky will enhance your "indoor outdoor" flow considerably, especially if you load him in through the garage roof like we did.

More pictures, and more on "Rocky" (including the opportunity to bid) can be found here. Proceeds go to earthquake relief for Christchurch.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Events this week

Need some art in your life this week? Here it is:

Leo Villareal - Animating Light at the Nevada Museum of Art

Saturday from 6-8pm there is an opening reception at the NMA for Leo Villareal's exhibition of light sculptures.
This one is SURE to be a party!Celebrate the artist’s place of inspiration by wearing your favorite burner costume outfitted with LEDs. Meet the artist and experience his vibrant artworks accompanied by the beats of DJ James Healy (Escape Art) live in the atrium. Come and be dazzled by Reno’s-own Controlled Burn and BoHoHoops. A cash bar will be available. 
Admission is free for Museum members with valid member card. Kids Open Art Studio is available from 6 – 8 pm / $4. 
Non-members may attend for the general Museum admission price. 
Website | Facebook Event 

Bella Petunia's Winter Art Show (Featuring works by Molly Allen)

Wednesday, March 9 · 5:00pm - 10:00pm at the Fat Cat in Tahoe City
Showing the photography of Molly Allen and art of John Hawley and Jill Colbert. Also featuring the DeFlowered Arts Market with locally handcrafted jewelry, clothing, accessories and more. Fire dancing by the Tahoe Burn Tribe. Incredible balloon sculptures by Sean Rogers. Soundtrack by the super groovy DJ Double Digit. After party by micah j. Complimentary hors d'oeurvres. All ages until 9pm.
Facebook Event 

Andrew Heoppner - Uncanny Reminiscence
The BFA show season begins!
Thursday, March 10 · 5:00pm