Saturday, February 19, 2011

Some Questions about Art Making

These are questions that were brought up, in a broader way, at the recent CAA conference, so I don't want to make it sound as if this is my idea entirely. But those became remarkably present to me recently, so hopefully this is a different variety of question.

I was recently brought to a greater, more directly seen, understanding of artists with physiological difference of the optical variety.

We already know that we are all embodied. And that the linkages between the material physiological perceptive self and the immaterial intellectual self are rather difficult to explain.

But where I'm really caught up here is that we have, as of late, in our more linguistically politically conscious existence, always spoken of "visual impairment" or "the visually impaired."

This seems to me to hierarchize the physiologies of vision. That there is some 20/20 perfectly centered binocular pinnacle and everyone else--us glasses wearers, the cross-eyed, the albino, the wall-eyed, etc.--are visual at a lesser degree of quality.

Notwithstanding the castes that such belief creates, the more interesting, and I think far more important, question is what one does with this valuative (given its mathematical usage, this may not be the right word here) language when applied to visual artists? Perhaps I need to widen this to include all varieties of artists, but I am, for the moment, concerned solely with visual artists.

Does their different physiology of vision offer them an entirely different process of inputting, processing, and outputting art?

Perhaps is this difference parallel?

How, then, do we overcome these essential differences so as to be able to speak collectively about art?

I can't even believe I just said "essential differences." I feel like I just killed 100,000 people.

But, if it's physiological and we are each of our own physiology, how can this not be a question of at least one difference of essence?

I just hit a wall. I'm so confused. Please help.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

For the Photographically Oriented...

Check out this show that I've been working on with Curators Anne Leighton Masooni and Libby Rowe.

Birds of a Feather

Dwayne Butcher interviewed me for CAA's conference blog.

Read it here. And forgive me for the moments where my mouth outpaced my brain.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

CAA Updates

Read Memphis' Own, Dwayne Butcher, as he blogs about the CAA Conference.

Art Criticism

In case you've been wondering what I do, other than think about music and sports, check these out.

Something new, something old, for keeping warm in winter's cold.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Brief Digression Towards Things Important

Man, I'm telling you, I'm in crisis. I've been trying hard as hell to get into Death Magnetic, the most recent Metallica album. I'm failing.

I've loved Metallica for what may actually be two decades now. I came to them a bit late, being that I was 7 when Kill 'Em All dropped, and I don't think my parents were too interested in me getting into that before 2nd grade. But I do have quite vivid memories of coming upon ...And Justice for All, courtesy of my childhood pal Larry, who was listening to it at our friend Anthony's house. On a Walkman. Awesome. I subsequently came upon the rest of their work and fell immediately in love. I was a grumpy teenager who had just decided to learn how to play bass, which turned into a grumpy teenager who was learning to play guitar, and the Hetfield-Hammett-Burton axis of evil is about as much as you can ask for in the way of inspiration. Hell, I think I got into Mozart because of Master of Puppets, so don't try to tell me that metal will do nothing but turn me into a Satan worshipper. I actually ended up at Notre Dame, and I didn't even combust.

But Death Magnetic is a problem. There are elements of it that I like. The band is better than it's been in many a moon and their writing is closer to the classic material that I prefer. And I really like Robert Trujillo, who I thought was a beast in Suicidal Tendencies. There's a lot to like on this album, but it keeps underwhelming. And, then this morning I had a thought.

Rick Rubin and whoever engineered that sucker really dropped the ball. The sound of the thing stinks. It's not as beefy and full as it should be. Beyond some intermittent moments of lightweight playing, the whole album seems like someone stole all of their gear and rented them a bunch of stuff from some diet metal band. It's not chunky enough. And thundering, pummeling, propulsive chunk is what Metallica is all about. At least in my mind. And it sounds digital, which is a large, steaming bunch of BS. Everyone knows that the right way to get a good metal sound is to overdrive the crap out of a wall of tube amps. Tubes, as you all know, are analog, as are hands and guitars. Putting them into ProTools and compressing them down to digital files is like putting a whale in a fishbowl. Someone call Fleming.

In other music news, I have been reading Motley Crue's autobio The Dirt. If you were alive in the 80s and/or care about metal, you should read this. It's amazing. And the Crue deserve a lot more credit than they may get. I defy all of you to watch their Carnival of Sins DVD and then tell me that they don't still kick ass.

I've found a new metal band worth a bit of your time, and they're local. Memphis-based Sacrum. Check 'em out. Nice stuff. Powerful, agile stuff. Check it out.

Also, to bring things full circle, for those of you guitar nerds like me, the new Guitar World print edition has a ranking of the 100 best Metallica songs, as they see it. Now, I have plenty to pick about, but I'm happy as a clam to see that Creeping Death made the top of their list. It's a personal favorite of mine, the first Metallica song I learned how to play, and perhaps the best way to convince Christians that heavy metal and the Bible aren't mutually exclusive.



There has got to be something wrong with me. This won't make no damn sense, but I keep thinking about Ben Roethlisberger and Jesus. Stick with me for a second and I promise this will become even less lucid.

See, this is not really my fault. For the past three weeks, I haven't done anything but teach Art History and watch football. That's not exactly true. I also listened to a boatload of metal and broke the cat of a fully unsavory habit of leaving thank you notes next to the litter box.

But, I've been teaching this semester's crop of first years all about the Renaissance, which involves massive doses of Catholic Jesus art. Old World Jesus. Not that new fangled post-pilgrim stuff that we pass around like a bowl of popcorn stateside. Go ahead, born agains, feel free to damn me, but I've got a Notre Dame degree, infallibility, and Lou Holtz on my side. Bring it.

Anyway, before I slander/libel/blaspheme another dozen denominations, back to the point.

I, like every red-blooded, God-fearing, beef-eating, beer-drinking, gas-guzzling, democracy-bringing American watched the Super Bowl yesterday. I don't give a damn what anyone says, that was a hell of a game. Quietly great. Lots of good downfield blocking and a whole bunch of fun stuff happening away from the ball that I've begun to really appreciate.

And--spoiler alert--the Steelers lost, which somehow made a lot of sense to me in a cosmic, this is the way things go in an Old Testament sort of way. This is where Roethlisberger comes into play. As I'm sure you all know, number 7 has had some problems letting Little Ben do the thinking for Big Ben. No charges were pressed, but the Commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, suspended him for a bunch of games and Ben was subsequently dragged across the coals by the media and everyone else.

Rightfully so. Sexual harassment and assault are among the most offensive and repulsive crimes going, up there with human trafficking, stealing the White House, and enjoying Metallica after Cliff died. So I'm with you when you want to hate Ben.

But I'm not with you when you refuse to allow Ben the right to do his penance and carry on with his life. Same way I did when people tried to keep persecuting Michael Vick after he left prison. I've said it before that America has double-jeopardy laws and Jesus has forgiveness. We all suffer when we cannot move on and allow a person to better themselves and earn a place in society. This is why we should stop putting people in prison and start having them fill in potholes, teach people to read, and garden for the elderly.

So, when Roethlisberger started throwing interceptions, one of them a fantastically fun pick-6, I began to wonder if this was his final act of contrition. This is a guy who won two Super Bowls in his first four seasons and certainly deserves to be considered among the elite QBs in the league. Stat heads and Peyton fans can kiss my grits. I'll take a rings over numbers any day. So, for him to have a tragic evening in front of the entire world must have been gutting. Forget what they're saying about Mendenhall's fumble, Ben's wayward throws were the primary reason the Steelers lost. Say it with me kids: ball control.

Given the epic, public, and immortal devastation of losing a Super Bowl, in conjunction with his season-long drubbing, I believe that we may never see Ben in such a compromised position again. I'm not trying to excuse his prior, horrible behaviors, but I think it hypocritical and cruel of us to carry on with airs of moral rectitude whilst wishing ill on someone we don't actually know and demanding of them a perpetual state of agonized penance. I just don't think that's what Jesus would do.