By on November 16th, 2017

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Wikipedias public domain

Samantha Bee is the only one of he Jon Stewart fraternity — but Samantha Bee was in there — the Jon Stewart sorority? — well but Jon, Steven, Larry, John — so what’s Samantha Bee doing in there? Contrast! Of course. Women can count…. to one.  Couldn’t have women outnumber the guys. The show would start giving off bad smells.

As I was saying, Samantha Bee is the only one of the Jon Stewart lineup who got a solo show — wait! they all got solo shows! ah, but wait! — peppered with commercial breaks that impinge on the comedy. And you have to click again to continue.

This says to me that she’s ended up with the short end of the stick. Short and unfortunately smirched. Grab on girl, because it’s the only stick we’re offering you.

  • And why is that?
  • I ask you Why?

By on August 9th, 2017

Knife, copyright-free from

America is poised between just another sunny day and living forever with radioactive fallout. Blame it on the Confederacy that hadn’t the decency to admit defeat — tho their generals did. Their heroes. If we’d squashed out racism long ago it would be hard to stir up hate today. Without hate, no Trump. Well, with Putin’s help. And the gormless Electoral Collage. So America is in a pickle steeped in its own piss and vinegar. Out-maneuvered by our most poisonous enemy. And in possession of our most scandalous President, whom no-one can be sure is sane.

Someone likened him to Nero. Destructively mad, remembered through all of history. Maybe that is who Trump fancies himself tilting at like Quixote. That memory, that spectacularly mad.

One needn’t be genius caliber to know Trump has been in the White House X amount of days and done away with Y amount of science to know Kim Jong Un needn’t fear Trump’s saber-rattling. Our Nero is a self-deluded fool who imagines he can rattle swords he hasn’t yet made. He’s a doofus.  A comic pet who assumes poses to make the humans pay attention for a while.

Why bluff a madman? Why bluff an enraged bull? Don’t you have any sense?

Dear Trolls of the Trumpforce, don’t you know radiation blows? You think our Nero will stand with upraised fist to save your children, to turn nuclear radiation back from our shores?

Are you that nuts? That sure that you must hang on to your hate, even now? You’d rather someone got blown to smithereens? Even you?

Than you would let a black man walk down the street without fear?

By on September 7th, 2016
Paris shopping carts

Rhythmic Parisian shopping carts by Sloan Nota

It’s now going on 10pm in Wednesday Paris — the local supermarket is closed. Who knew?  Following the zombie sleepless day that began with Monday breakfast and stretched like summer taffy into Tuesday night I hit the bed for a long sojourn in oblivion. And rose today to finally get my laptop online.

Here’s a bit from the Air France terminal, way back on Monday evening: Logan Airport, Air France terminal. On the tube an hour-long Hillary Clinton piece that trots around every well-known base on the playing field of her career.  Opinionated persons are interviewed, Clinton responds, in all the repotage not a scrap of new is found.

Could have been orchestrated by a PR team.  Hillary there to answer all the questions you know the answers to. I don’t realise how really off this show is until the next hour brings us the Donald Trump hour and I see how daintily they’re handling him. Gliding along bumpless, treating this man with the same deference they have Hillary Clinton. It’s not reporting, though it has all the recognizable set-ups.  Head shots of opining stake-holders framed by tasteful upscale furniture.

It’s not reporting because there’s no news here. This is a play in which the players connive to convince you that it’s news. They visit all the stations of the Hillary story you already know by heart and they check them off, bam bam bam.

Today on Facebook someone posted what were purportedly two versions of the same Wall Street Journal front page. One suggesting Trump is softening his tone, the other that he’s pushing a hard line. Same news cycle but aimed at different WSJ markets. This isn’t Walter Cronkite’s journalism, this is calculation.

Back in the Air France terminal, while one channel in your brain weaves in and out of presidential candidates, another channel is aware of of an escalating Beethoven symphony piped in from the ceiling.  While stewardesses who aren’t English-speakers pronounce names crammed with consonants or runny with vowels.  These people need to get to their airplane, this is the last announcement. Last. Two minutes later it comes again.  Again.  And last chance. Won’t someone volunteer to get on that airplane so it can take off?

I want you to see the slapstick. The ludicrous subversive comedy of the wait for the plane to Paris.

Meanwhile the most consequential Presidential race of our lifetimes is playing out all around us.

This is real life.


Today we start at Notre Dame cathedral. Inside, visitors raise their smart phones to photograph stained glass windows too far off to be resolved in a digital snap. The camera folk include those who have lit candles or even entered the “prayer only”  seating closest the front. Camera wielders likewise include those who brush past the nuns who beg money for the poor along the only route out.

The Pompidou Center, backtracking the same street — the same street as Notre Dame. The once avant garde contemporary arts center now comes off as badly in new of a new hairdo.  The white funnels like those on ocean liners now have flows of grime. The whole venue feels as painful as an ad from 30 years ago.

Inside, stirring art. The Beatniks — Keruac’s long march of typescript narrow under a road of glass. Ginsberg’s young voice reading Howl.  BonDylan’s here, with Ginsberg in a prayer shawl in the background perhaps hallowing a fire escape.

As my mother used to say, “Sorry this is long but I didn’t have much time”.

By on September 5th, 2016
Paris Night by Benh Lieu Song.

Paris Night by Benh Lieu Song. Free usage, from Wikimedia Commons.

Tonight I fly off to live a long-held dream — to live a month in Paris, France. The apartment is rented, the list of succulent places is set, even my bags are packed. OK, so I’ll wear another set of clothes on the airplane, that zipped zipper on my suitcase will not be breached till I’m solidly in France.

Twenty years since I’ve been there.  You walk down those streets and know you’re connected to the steps of so many persons of  renown who also walked here back through the centuries .  Marie Curie, Ella Fitzgerald, Robespierre.  There beneath your feet, you’re like Peter Pan trying to smack his feet onto his shadow’s.

What are my plans? To move at non-touristic speed among wonders. Care to join me? I’ll post a piece of the city every day.

By on June 21st, 2016

Cloud image, copyright free from

I was basking on a bench today while small clouds drifted slow as sun-softened cows across the sky.

Because today I saw the clouds, the blue, I rejoice.  After my last blogpost, April 16, I went through a series of weeks of eye disease. Not much I need to say about the eyes, the treatments — except this.  My vision improved at a crawl but then I began to read big expanded screen text. Literacy returning.

It’s like a powerful other sense — vision, hearing, then we absorb the world using human symbolic attunedness. Mere squiggles on a page can transmit a powerful lot of information.  Far as we know no other creatures — no matter how advanced their brains — enjoy this feedback loop.

We have hands thus we could make tick-marks on bones and read the meaning later on. Moon phases, months. As if language evolved our brains as we evolved language: papyrus, Gutenberg, email.  Whether humans evolve along with the Internet remains to be seen.

What I want to say today is that at some point I could read words on a page again. The rush of joy amazed me. Our online writing favors abbreviated syntax, undercooked ideas. A good book offers vastly more and to find I could again inhabit literature was indescribable relief.


So I imagined those cloud bovines moseying a beaten path in the cerulean.  It’s language which reminds me cows each have four stomachs. Do they experience indigestion in stomach number 3 differently than a tummy ache in stomach number 1? Our kindred Earth-born lifeforms live in realities we only begin to understand.  When my vision improved I finished Frans de Waal’s Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?  It rearranged some of my worldview — I recommend it. It won’t detail as many animal behaviors as it will lay out for you human prejudices still garbling the field of animal behavioralism.  Get over the notion that humans are qualitatively different than other Earth-based zoology.  We aren’t the apex, as medieval thinkers believed.  We are Family.

De Waal happily pounds a stake into the cold heart of Skinner’s behaviorism. He goes on to grind other beliefs in human anointed-ness between millstones. Elephant trunks sense olfactory information well beyond our human capacities,  Yet we’ve no notion of how they manipulate that information in their big brains. None. Because we’re so darn pleased with us.


 This blog aptly continues its mission by showcasing the insightful animal ceramicist Nichola Theakston. I find compassion and fellow-feeling in her work.

The following examples are all from her website,

Nicola Theakston, 'Red Capped Mangabey' Coil construction in terracotta. 2015. SOLD.

Nicola Theakston, ‘Red Capped Mangabey’
Coil construction in terracotta. 2015.


Nicola Theakston, Jousting Hares, ceramic. 2014. Art edition of 24

Nicola Theakston, Jousting Hares, ceramic. 2014. Art edition of 24

Nicola Theakston, 'Little Classical Rhino'. Ltd edition 40. Stoneware. 34cm l x 22cm. Limited Availability.

Nicola Theakston, ‘Little Classical Rhino’. Ltd edition 40. Stoneware. 34cm l x 22cm. Limited Availability.

Nicola Theakston, Silverback, ceramic

Nicola Theakston, Silverback, ceramic

By on March 1st, 2016



Jeu de Mikado, 2007. Author Heurtelions.   via Wikimedia.

I’m a firm believer that if you toss a handful of pick-up-sticks — or an armload of giftwrap rolls — in the middle of a gallery and call it art, it’s not. We can argue whether the result is aesthetically pleasing, but not whether it’s a work of art. It’s blatant Day Glo reverse pretension. Nothin’ to it folks, leave your email on my mailing list. I can get kicking screaming mad on this point. If that’s all you can show me of human heart, mind, intuition and intention, get outta my way.  Randomness may work with the I Ching but it’s not enough in art.

So when I first saw this Jessica Stockholder artwork online I bristled.

But still the piece hooked me — I couldn’t get past it.

Jessica Stockholder,no randomness

Jessica Stockholder, turquoise, title unknown. via a-b-s-t-r-a-c-t.blogpost.

Why not? Because this isn’t randomness, there’s artistic intention here.  The main mass — a rabbit fur coat? a bunch of feather boas? — has been dunked in a very large vat of singular turquoise. Vibrant, not such an easy color to find. In fact it points to how dull the colors piled below are, the edgy odd blues and greens. The blue-purple crochet draped on top is the keystone that holds her arch in place.  The color that makes sense of the others, wakes the work up out of Just OK.

This is the art of Jessica Stockholder. Leave your assumptions in the recycling bin as you go.

Stockholder lno randomness

Jessica Stockholder, untitled, 1994. Oil paint, red plastic laundry basket, acrylic yarn, silicone caulking, light fixture 101 x 71 x 53 cm. via saatchigallery.


Jessica Stockholder, no randomness

Jessica Stockholder at Galerie Nächst St. Stephan.


From an interview with Jessica Stockholder in Journal of Contemporary Art:

[Interviewer Klaus] Ottmann: There is that danger of junk becoming “art” by itself, without the artist adding meaning.

Stockholder: I rely on that tendency to aestheticize as I do on chance and happenstance. What’s exciting is how the more clearly structured, more formal, more pictorial side of the work meets the more chaotic — sometimes very clearly and logically, then bleeding off in all kinds of directions.
I see it as a mesh of Kaprow, Tinguely, and the surrealists on the one hand, using chaos and chance and making systems out of happenings; and on the other hand, meshing that kind of thinking with formal painting and minimalism. John Cage’s thinking also had a lot of influence.   

I’d love to fill out this thought by her naming influences in painting.


Jessica Stockholder, no randomness

Jessica Stockholder, Suite for three oranges, 1995. Mixed media. via newabstraction.

I see Stockholder’s art is kindred to that of Sarah Sze in its use of outrageous materials. Each understands sculpture’s three dimensions differently than did Praxiteles or Rodin.  Both are used to a rhythm of install-then-dismantle that challenges traditional artistic intention. It is much more like stage design, except it’s not designed to highlight writing or actors.  And both artists incorporate light into their work as if it’s one of the extra colors in the novel A Voyage to Arcturus.


Sarah Sze not randomness

Artwork by Sarah Sze, mixed media. via Mudam Luxembourg on Flickr.

Sze’s work is filamental, delicate as an insect’s legs. Stockholder prefers a more emphatic scale. They each have conjured some huge art. Stockholder’s Once Upon a Time measures 45 feet. Not her largest. Sze does installations that can reach from one museum level to the next.

Wonder what conversation these two authentic and astute artists would have together?

not randomness, Jessica Stockholder

Jessica Stockholder, White Light Laid Frozen, 2005. Mixed media installation. via 1301PE.



Jessica Stockholder no randomness

Jessica Stockholder photo, via PBS.



By on February 16th, 2016

Sophie Dickens, British Sculptor

(all artworks shown here are from her website)

Sophie Dickens has a sense of dynamics deep in her bones. The bodily mechanics of action and strength in her beasts, humans and mythological creatures you can feel in your own body, just looking, unmoving.

Below you’ll find selections from her work starting with her Satyrs in two different versions. You can appreciate what vitality the figures bring to a grouping and also how telling their placement can be.

I create sculptures that are based around circularity and it is interesting the momentum that they produce, especially when there is a group of sculptures’        – Sophie Dickens

Sophie Dickens, Satyrs

Sophie Dickens, Satyrs, bronze


Sophie Dickens, Satyrs

Sophie Dickens, Satyrs

Bronze, long-lasting, takes muscle to move it — why would you choose it as a medium in which to study evanescent changes over time? Dickens does.

Sophie Dickens, Running Dogs, cast bronze.

Sophie Dickens, Running Dogs, cast bronze.

It’s a bit of bad luck that this intense sculptor is tagged as a descendant of Charles Dickens, he for whom a story’s pace could not be more restrained. The UK Daily Mail was overly impressed with Charles when they reviewed Sophie’s work.  Thanks a lot.

For your delight I share some examples of their careful reporting:  ‘…rodent art by Dickens’ descendants! ‘ and ‘Sophie Dickens, an ancestor of Victorian novelist Charles Dickens.’  

She transcends.

Sophie Dickens, Three Pelicans

Sophie Dickens, Three Pelicans


Sophie Dickens, Black Horse

Sophie Dickens, Black Horse


Sophie Dickens, Minotaur

Sophie Dickens, Minotaur


Sophie Dickens, photographer unknown. via

Sophie Dickens with one of her pelicans, photographer unknown. via

By on February 4th, 2016

Medieval accounts tell of riders passing amid long fields until at last they see the spires of Chartres Cathedral begin rising into view. On the brink of nowhere this apparition asserts itself in splendor.  As sublime a teaching as the architecture itself. A revelation.

It’s not possible that the builders failed to anticipate this effect.  At least five other cathedrals had stood on this elevation (each destroyed by fire or war).  How high they rose is not known, but the effect of parallax would preview the architectural vision at some point along the travelers’ road.

Irish pilgrimage to Chartres Cathedral. via irishpilgrimagechartres.blogspot

Present-day Irish pilgrimage to Chartres Cathedral. via irishpilgrimagechartres.blogspot

How different in architectural intention from the Egyptian pyramid makers whose massive structures dominate a flat expanse. The tops of the pyramids were clad in gold and would blaze when the rays of sun events (sunset, high noon…) hit them directly. Imagine that experience while your camel train still toils desert miles away.  In years of solar eclipse what prophesies the priests could demonstrate — the sun gets eaten by blackness, then reemerges to light the world again.  Atop the pyramids, darkness then that spark.

Desert approach to the Giza pyramids. via Wikipedia.

Desert approach to the Giza pyramids. via Wikipedia.

I’ve experienced a solar eclipse only once, standing with a handful of of astronomers on a vast hard-frozen lake. Some feelings are beyond our understanding. I cried.  It was magnificent and I understood the science, yet some atavistic root in me jolted to experience Earth bereft of sun.  Educative to confront that inside your modern self.


While looking into Chartres I encountered the Cult of the Cart.

Throughout European history there have been several documentary accounts of occasions when the public spontaneously came together to labour on some important building project (the earliest being Suetonius‘ account of the rebuilding of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus in Rome after a fire in AD 70). In medieval Europe, perhaps the most widely known and influential of these events occurred during the building of the Benedictine Abbey at Montecassino (Italy) in 1066. The Abbey’s chronicler, Peter the Deacon, described how a crowd of pious lay people spontaneously seized some heavy marble columns which had been delivered from Rome and carried them up the long steep hill to the building site, singing and praying as they went.

Various historians have said that the Chartres building stones were brought by this means. Carts dragged by pious humans in lieu of oxen — a numinous tale that arrests your attention.  Other historians suggest the Chartres Cult of Carts may be urban legend.  Until we’ve got time travel down pat we won’t know.

Current events have recalled this image. After the government of Michigan created lead poisoning in the city of Flint, 300 volunteer plumbers came to install water filters on residents’ faucets.

The plumbers show how a society might work.  As with old barn-raisings in the US, neighbors far and near come to join in the labor.  Society needs you, you show up and pitch in. 300 plumbers? Who would’ve guessed?

Rapscallion politicians, little surprise.  The wheel of history seems ever in a rut.

Because of that I wonder about what the celebrations were like after the building materials had been dragged to the Chartres site.  Even more than with the 1800s’ barn-raisings there must have been a pause to rest from labor,  a nap beneath carts and trees. Then the festivities. Music, food, intoxicants… laughter, flirting and dancing.  The traditional huffing, puffing and begetting in dark corners.  Songs, too much to eat and drink, sprawled snoring after.


The Wedding Dance (c.1566), oil on oak panel, The Detroit Institute of Arts. via Wikipedia.

The Wedding Dance (c.1566), oil on oak panel, The Detroit Institute of Arts. via Wikipedia.


I was reminded of the numinous approach to Chartres while investigating the intriguing metalsmith and jewelry maker Brie Flora,   I urge you to investigate her lively imagination.

Tea for Two on an Overnight Train to Beijing

It was 5am as I sat drinking tea on an overnight train from Suzhou traveling to Beijing. I watched cornfields pass outside my window for hours, until out of nowhere, there was a skyscraper. There was nothing between the low, calm, beautiful farmland to prepare you for the large stark concrete building towering above.

by Brie Flora, via brieflora

By on July 20th, 2015

If you show people two objects and ask which is a bing and which a bong they can often agree.  Theories have been spun to explain this but I prefer to believe they’re all inadequate and I dismiss them.  My last post I Can’t Get There from Here spoke to the same dilemma: that an essential part of human beings knows things and communicates them without words.  We can tell a bing from a bong.

There’s nothing logical here. And it’s delusional to believe that scientific method can investigate the nonlogical. A saw can’t do the work of a napkin. Rather, we must learn to experience our nonlogical gifts. We must use them as tools.

The tusks on a walrus are tools. Varied uses.


French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss wrote about another bing and bong: the raw and the cooked, which he painstakingly defined. My apologies to Levi-Strauss but I’ve repurposed his terms for another use. In today’s world of free-for-all aesthetics and media I find myself wanting new terminology.  Raw and cooked serve well.

Today’s post looks at contemporary jewelry which has jumped outside the velvet-lined box. Jewelers offer both sublime artistry and high tongue-in-cheekiness. Value is no longer just weighed out in carats and karats. A brooch can be made of cement, scrap metal or sea urchin quills. Cache is gained in the palaver a wearer can have about her jewelry.

To wordlessly illustrate raw and cooked in this fast-booming field I offer the work of two women artists, the Norwegian Liv Blåvarp — masterful woodworker, and the Israeli Deganit Stern Schocken who dares to dare.


Cooked: Liv Blåvarp

Blavarp necklace

Liv Blavarp wooden necklace. via 


Raw: Deganit Stern Schocken

Deganit Stern Schocken, Neckpiece

Deganit Stern Schocken, Neckpiece, Heaven on Earth, 2008. Aluminum (smashed drinks cans), silver, gold, diamonds. Photo: ur i grun. via galleryloupe.

Two jewelry designers, poles apart.  I’d wear either of these pieces with wicked delight.


For a wider look at contemporary jewelry see my Pinterest board Advanced Frippery.  Robin Ayers is another vigorous Pinterest figure whose boards on contemporary jewelry are well worth your time.

By on July 14th, 2015

Thinking about that which cannot be thought about.  The emerald stashed in the heart of a Japanese temari ball — you’re delighted by the expert working of threads but it’s just a tchotchke.  Think of a hairy barbarian’s embarrassment if his mates caught him with a toy amongst his loot. Only you know the emerald’s inside and maybe the brute has already killed you off.

Or there’s a young dog digging feverishly in a sand pile.  Glee is in his eyes as they disappear into the hole.  But he never finds a thing.

This is the stalled artist trying to think her way back into creativity.  To enter the wordless via reasoning. To listen for silence while clapping both hands.

Japanese temari ball.

Golden temari ball. via Japanese Temari Blog by Barb Suess.