Monday, February 23, 2009


as my husband and I walked through sweetwater park yesteday, we noticed a lot of garbage tangled in the rocks and winter branches along the water's edge. this is a divinely beautiful place. it's a bandaid we use to place over our craving for deeper woods. as a space, it offers a modicum of personal reflection to soul-weary city dwellers.

sweetwater park has running through it a giant urban river with rocks that look like petrified tree trunks. on days when the water's low, you can walk out across the broad width of it. but despite it's magnificence, it also carries a negative charge. friends warn us not to swim in the waters, for it's downstream from the big city and therefore extremely polluted. people get sick after touching it. there's a corpse of a giant cotton mill whose bricks were made by slaves. we passed "lynch st." on the way in. we've started to notice a population of gray herons hanging around the small rapids. they are immigrants from more southern places and have somehow acclimated to the colder waters. this environment makes for a rather bizarre mix of nature and human history, of healing in the midst of residue. visits here often become symbolic for us.

this time (2.22) garbage was the theme of our visit.

everyone I know is liquidating. Dimitri Orlov recommends that in seriously downturned economic times, it's better to have physical goods than cash stored away in banks. if the currency is devalued, you can always trade, sell or make good use of your things. . .in extreme cases, you can burn them for heat, or pick through them for nutrients. . .

high captialism created stockpiles of wasteful things, which are now being shaken down and freed up at unprecedented rates. All this junk now floods the independent markets for repurposing. As starving artist types we know what to do in such a golden river of junk and disorder. . .this is a golden age of sorts.

("starve:" it's only a relative term for us americans. . . it may mean no ipods, no cable tv, no new cars or designer clothes, meager travel. . .unrenovated living quarters, vintage computers and outdated operating systems, gardens in empty lots. . .we're make-do citizens but are quite artsy in how we fashion our junk and make use of our free time. . . and we're inclined to survive quite well these next couple of years.)

Friday, February 13, 2009


I seem to be using the term a lot lately:“21st century folk.” it becomes more and more useful as a category when talking about my artistic peers. (why is that?)

21st Century Folk Art is particularly prevalent out here in the cultural suburbs, and in the global south. . .this artwork is passed by or does not necessarily seek out international acclaim, sophistication, or expensive hi-tech prowess. . . it lays back a pace or two. it doesn't bother to play hardball with exclusive high art games. lt simply cannot or will not compete . It's a southern cousin to lowbrow, grand niece to brut art. more a voice from the dropped-out, consciously retarded zone, not necessarily poor, rural and black anymore. . .but indeed, still from the edges where the shamans live and cannot keep quiet.

it is persistently produced with independent verve and truely unique identity, made from artists outside the institutionalized networks of success. work like this is free to be spiritual, local, sloppy, dirty, derivative, inexpensive, irreverent, or naive, . it finds an audience among the uninitiated, underprivileged who are unaware , or disenfranchised with greater art trends. often charming, meaningful and also godawful! . . .it’s expressiveness can cut through despite the odds and the abandonment of its maker. In this genre of art, crudeness or rawness works to the artists' advantage, being so rarely valued elsewhere. of course, it's been exploited before (see lowbrow, see souls grown deep, see quilts of gee's bend ) I find this sort of art tantalizingly traditional. there will always be creatives who choose this path. it's a non-plused response to the intimidating multitudes of art being professionally produced and promoted in the leisurely 21st century.

This folk art is different from that which was coined in the 20th century. now it would be extremely rare to find artists totally unaware of the global fine art developments. these artists are self impowered and not waiting around for the next william arnett to peddle their work. In fact, 21st century folk artists are in defiance to global fine art monoculture! (fuck that.) You don't have to live in a country shack and see god in your fingers to be an outsider artist these days. but you might live in the suburbs, be over 35, hold a day job, live with your mother, make work in some already discovered style about already covered ideas.

atlanta still produces fine bumper crops of contemporary folk artists.

here are some local artists who continue to plug away at what I might consider 21st century folk--some practice it high and some low : anne cox, benjamin jones, eula ginsburg, don cooper, lisa kemp, allison rentz,, eggtooth, woody cornwell, myself?, some graffiti artists? let me know who I've missed.

(the image at the top is from a parking lot performance that allison rentz and I did on Black friday in 2007.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


wild horses are a prevelent symbol found in advertising. pictured here is a clipping of a real estate logo. it's use is perfectly ironic . I painted out the words, to focus on the image separate from the commercial context.

wild horses are a world-wide symbol for freedom and thrusting energy. . .only when captured by humans, do they turn into a conquering/war-like picture. harness-less, wild horses are a symbol very much being hoarded by america. cowboys, open plains, freely roaming animals. The east has dragons. . .and the west has horses (I think we have won temporary ownership of "horses" as our symbol over the previous owners, the monguls-ancient wild horse men from central china/russian/persia. they owned it for a good while).

I am in love with this symbol--wild horses. . .and I am not alone. . .as we gentrify our contemporary existence, tear the wildernesses from our reality and banish them to the past, we mythologize the wild things and freeze them in imagery for all time. . .it's like taking a graphic picture of something that has disappeared--not on an individual basis, but on a larger cultural scale. when things make their transition from historical stories based in reality to full-blown myth, they become exaggerated, larger than life images. I imagine there will be billboards on the moon with pictures of wild horses on them. . .that's how much we love the image ( and not the reality of) wild horses.


craig dongoski, a favorite professor & brilliant mad man once said: as symbols, rainbows, butterflies and flowers are practically incorruptible. and I agree.

I would add a few more to that. . .hummingbirds and wild horses are some of my favorite symbols . . .right up there with diamonds : )

why do these images conjur up wonderment in our human hearts? I think it's their temporary unsustainable natures. such incredible beauty and swift powerful energy can only burst into this world for fitful moments. . .and cannot stay very long. as far as the smaller things. . .the flowers and the butterflies. . .their lives are short and sweet. but the memory of their presence stay with us forever. . .they remind us of that part of earth's magic reality.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Here is a working woman from the 1980s. . .her shiny desk is oddly void. a non-digital clock sits on the wall (something leftover from the factory, perhaps). there's no computer, no ipod, no video phone. . .she operates with a landline, a rolodex, a can of pens and real paper with actual text printed on it. . .perhaps only the coffee is a consistency with the work place of now. . .

I have a bit of a fetish for images of working women this is a favorite clipping of mine. she seems so independent, so ingrained in her professionalism. . .the family photos loom guiltily behind.

this reminds me of a strange piece of podcast I heard just the other day. . . this report called those born into the web world "native." those who remember life before the web are "immigrants." putting those of a certain age and socio-economic rank on the outside of our shared homeland. I wonder. . .did they call those who lived before television immigrants? I think it is foolish not to honor those who bore precious witness to the transition of reality with the web, and also those still just discovering it. . .to call them immigrants is a strange dis. . . but this term may not stick. it could be the insecurity of the reporters, themselves immigrants by this definition, their own uneasiness with this new place revealed. . .

(yet another example of the endless reportage on our new culture, always accompanied with clever words. . .there's something about the year 9 of any decade. . .it's the year our identity kicks in. this year, it's hitting us how 15 years with the internet has altered our lives. publications are filled with pop culture anthropologists joining in the awakening.)