By on January 29th, 2021


View of HOLLYWOOD sign from Griffith Park after a rain (Los Angeles). By Serouj – Own work, Public Domain, .


Blinders on Critics




In yesterday’s post I had one reaction to a Washington Post readers’ squabble over the merits of Mark Ruwedel‘s Seventy-Two and One Half Miles Across Los Angeles. In that piece I proposed an example of a better photographer, Clem Onojeghuo. I said that Onojeghuo’s work has a pulse. Ruwedel’s study of Los Angeles does not. Or at least what we were shown.



I learned to drive in LA County. Ruwedel’s photos give me a wee chill up the spine. Nothing moves — mocking bird, thirsty dog. Darting car. The exception is one photo in which two marginalized people meet in the dust alongside a big street with cars racing by.


Another Ruwedel photo shows a decaying corner building with a poster slapped on it, History as whitewashed as abandoned walls. Broken plaster, window graffitied and barred . You think you see Ruwedel’s point. LA,  sweaty trash-strewn miles of one-story homes and downtowns, once optimistic.


This kind of photojournalism was done with more insight in the 1930’s. Today it’s wrung dry. Ruwedel adds nothing with life left in it.






I ask journalism to show me something new, or something common in a new light.  And in our currently divided nation it’s vital that we understand our shared humanity. Showing me abandoned corners in Inglewood tells me nothing about roller skaters at Venice Beach. But domestic violence festers in both places. The people behind gates in Bel Air bleed as quickly as those in South Central LA. Rich and poor order pizza. Black and white. There are daffy folks high and low. They’re human. I can guarantee you that sycophants, narcissists  and tax cheats live in every zip code.



I know many people live in foul circumstances. You don’t have to tell me again. Sure, show me heroes with low incomes, but let’s get real. Show me the famous rich folks who normally get credit but show me too heroin addicts beside their big pools. Don’t point out the bleak and pretend the lush isn’t there. That wealth doesn’t miss their old dog, or has a soft spot for popcorn, or roots for the Dodgers. A homerun, and the roar that goes up is from folks from both sides of the tracks. You can’t pick out just one side of it. You know in any neighborhood there are racists and misogynists aplenty. But they have neighbors who are high-minded, kind, loose enough for silliness. There’s someone rich grieving a beloved grandfather, there’s someone peeking at the girl next door. Someone’s drunk and someone else is drinking carrot juice.



Who really believes that LA can be summed up as a blight in need of Clorox?? LA includes millions of people living comfortable, even fashionable lives. I’m tired of narratives in which it’s either down-run or Camelot.



I’m trying to learn this. To see people instead of categories. I read one man who said his wife was in the Capitol police, his mom was in the mob. I’m trying to see his mom. I require that she not be packing a gun. I’m new at this, can’t stretch too far. But otherwise a Trump follower. All the one-celled life living in my gut recoils — but she bleeds, laughs, will someday die. Maybe she’s saved her toys from childhood, subscribes to garden magazines, eats spaghetti on too many nights.  Other than the Trump bit, she’s just like every other human.



But. But.. But but but…



When I finally can believe she’s fully human I’ll be someone new.

By on January 24th, 2021


Screen grab, Estopia Gallery.

Gallery of Eastern Europe Challenging Western Europe


While looking at art by Edith Torony I came upon a gallery committed to the work of Eastern European artists. Estopia. It’s probably no surprise that artists from less globally renowned countries find it harder to break into Western galleries where the pay-offs and exposure are more delicious.



What I see here must happen in the US with particular galleries focusing on specific regions — Midwest, Deep South, New England — or cities — Los Angeles, Chicago, and oh yeh, New York. But Estopia serves a different regionality than what national boundaries define.  Here is a sampling.  Small Is Beautiful. Contemporary Artists from Kosovo, 2017; Istanbul Codex. Contemporary Artists from Turkey, 2016; Voices of Transition. Contemporary Artists from Slovenia, 2016.


Sampling of countries represented by Estopia Gallery.


I recently found a gallery in Austin, Texas. It’s motto was so dear I sent it to a friend who’s just moved there. Don’t be all boots and no saddle.  Estopia will have to provide their own appropriate motto as they have defined their own turf.



Pages of Estopia you may want to cruise.


Estopia actually has two galleries, one in Bucharest, Romania and one in Lugano, Switzerland. I remember Eastern Europe as treasuring a surreal and detail-loving aesthetic. Top of the line. But that goes way back to the Cold War and the world of art has tossed like salad since. I look at Estopia’s artists and see a lot to like. Heavy both on cerebral and raw.


It’s good for us in the United States, padded from other realities, to get wiser about the giant world. It’s hard to remember when we’ve got the Grand Canyon, the Everglades and New York City that other great big continents are bustling with urgencies unlike ours.







By on January 19th, 2021


Note: This post was slated for January 15 but was postponed for reasons you’ll quickly understand.





Fair Use Frivolity


What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday I was contacting a copyright lawyer and feeling dark and dismal, today she’s straightened me out and I see blue skies. The concept of fair use includes my right to comment on an artist’s artwork and to use relevant images to illustrate my point.  The smartphone-sized 72 dpi images that I use can’t harm the originator’s sales.



My heart sings. The big roadblock that I’ve felt has disappeared like a brick wall movie prop. POOF! I’m back in business!



The four-day postponement was so my new lawyer could read my text and correct mis-statements.  Which she did.











By on January 14th, 2021

Unnatural Growth by Sloan Nota. From two images on Unsplash by Chuttersnap.

Unnatural Growth

January 14, 2021


Six days until America’s Id has foretold with chest-thumping pride that mayhem will be visited on this country. And by the way, my favored candidate who happened to win more electoral votes than his opponent by a wide margin, is to be ignaugerated we hope without bloodshed.



My brain is banging inside my cranium walls like a fist. That my country has come to this, where lawless hate-filled fools  who declare themselves Patriots threaten my peace of mind. With their embarrassing belief in a known liar. It’s as tragic as it is ludicrous. Following a crook with their priestly warrior ferocity. Fools, idiots, proud men.



Fear is their business and they’ve whetted their skills. What’s it mean to become more hateful  and dangerous for nonsense? Nonsense with a bad smell.





On a personal note I have a call in to a copyright lawyer. Domestic felicity requires that I get law’s view of my rights as a blogger. If I profile someone may I illustrate with their work? Or must I pass a screening by the copyright owner? If I provide a 72dpi version at 1920 x 1440 pixels of their significantly bigger and clearer original?

On an art blog it’s senseless to present words about an artist’s work (free speech) but a sin to illustrate with examples. With money damages piled on top. I don’t argue the necessity of finding out — pauperhood has zero appeal. But I bridle at the wishy washy law.



Online free speech has to embrace images.




Even more personal and imminent is the fact that I’ve received test prints from the printer. I’ve also tried yet another strategy for mixing images today and have had yet another idea that doesn’t feel authentic yet.


To my prints…







By on December 31st, 2020








By on December 22nd, 2020


3 plants from Unsplash: tree limb, nick-nice-uATVhIKPr8M-unsplash; wiry plant, sanni-sahil-fBE3hd8dMxs-unsplash; big leaves, scott-webb-EI4xE2Mrdt0-unsplash.

Birth of a Christmas Card


Three images of plants that looked like they might say something to each other.  What they said:



Art made from 3 Unsplash files (playing with Photoshop’s Stroke effect).


Two similar images suggest a pattern… which suggest a card.



Pattern from files above.



To see the finished card as well as one I made earlier go here for my good wishes to you.


By on December 7th, 2020


What’s left after the soft parts of the pumpkin have departed. (Author photo.)



In nature’s wondrous ways there is a precision process that detaches the durables from the fruit. Here, the pumpkin top and corkscrew vine remain after the vibrant orange flesh has gone.



When meat creatures die they leave behind the bones.



Heretofore in the democracy that is the United States, Presidents left office graciously when their term was up. It was understood that there would be a loser and it had become second nature for that loser to pass the torch with dignity. What was good for the country was the best thing to do.



Like everything else about this malform in the last days of his rightful term, his transition is uniquely tantrum-esque. You can see him in a department store bawling because his mother won’t buy a toy. Pounding his indignant feet, hitting with his little fists. “Just wait til I get big!” If Georgia disqualifies its votes he still lacks votes enough to win.



Someone in a department store (me, you) doesn’t know this brat or his dear ones, but he succeeds in cranking a kink in our day too. “Good!!” he screams. And means it too.



Adults don’t behave like this. Heroes gain esteem by displaying discipline. It’s the natural way with grown-ups.  The yelling apparition disgracing the White House chooses to go with a stripper’s flourish, revealing the embarrassing flesh-toned truth that he most seeks to hide.



The Emperor has no control.







By on November 28th, 2020


Still from the sixth Norton Lecture by William Kentridge.


William Kentridge Expands



I still remember my mother laughing about how wowwed she was the first time she saw the movie Sunset Boulevard. And how gawdawful it seemed decades later.



Sometimes you enjoy something not five stars worth but six. Time may soon calm you down to five. Or two. But some things — Joyce’s Ulysses, Handel’s Messiah — may salute your life’s end by a show of flags. The signs of grace that you carried in your living heart.



Six stars today for artist William Kentridge’s Norton Lectures at Harvard from 2012. (All available on YouTube — links below). On the final lecture night an introductory speaker joked that everyone in attendance might want to go home and review their speaking skills. Kentridge is a phenomenon. He spends minimal time behind the podium, walks around talking, shows film clips, even interacts with one in the last night. His lectures are titled Six Drawing Lessons.



Drawing is the least of what you’ll learn. Drawing is exactly what he’s talking about.



I think of Kentridge as one of the three best living male artists (Frank Stella, Anselm Kiefer)*. Each of them has gone again. And again. And further. Each has searched inside himself and created an astonishing self-portrait.



The reasons for you to treat yourself to Kentridge’s lectures are these. He is the P.T.Barnum of the sober-sided Norton Lectures. A consummate performer with a sense of the absurd. He is a thinker, meaning he really thinks — like a drinker taking a long draught of elixer. I don’t understand it all and I don’t care. To hear someone as multi-leveled, articulate, charming, alive as this cannot mar your day.



I suspect you’ll give it 6 stars and will become quite fond of William Kentridge.




* Oh my, and Ai Weiwei



Six Drawing Lessons by William Kentridge, Harvard University Charles Eliot Norton lectures.

1.  In Praise of Shadows

2.  A Brief History of Colonial Revolts

3.  Vertical Thinking — A Johannesburg Biography

4.  Practical Epistemology: Life in the Studio

5.  In Praise of Mistranslation

6.  Anti-Entropy

By on October 17th, 2020












ERRATUM! Correction to cypres post.






By on September 1st, 2020


The Heady Brio of Heather Ujiie

The Universe, by Heather Ujiie. Digital Inkjet print on cotton sateen 72×192 inches. Courtesy the artist.


A digital print on fabric,The Universe. The scale, the depth of color, the flourishes and design surprises. That elephant is no elephant, it’s composed of many beasts and figures. I love how the savage lion’s tail puffs out from the trunk about where tusks might show.



This is the rambunctious work of Heather Ujiie which delights with its shear galore-ness. Color, horror, erotica, humor — bursting with florals and animalia. This woman has never heard of staid and uses her unstaid for energized compositions that sprawl.



I enjoy the sense that she loves making images. You can’t imagine a dabbler attempting work so challenging. Or a nail-biter taking on anything this strenuous.


If you pay attention to details you’re rewarded for it.


Heather Ujiie, detail of design for the digitallly printed fabric, Battle of the Sea Gods. Courtesy the artist.



I’ve been a digital artist for decades; I work with free digital images from wildly differing sources. Never in my craziest dreams did I consider art of this caliber, without a whiff of digital about it, being printed on fabric of significant size. Heather Ujiie wows and delights me.



Heather Ujiie, Endangered Species, digital print on linen, 96×204 inches. Courtesy the artist.




See also Eric N, Mack. “Painter” for work with fabric

See Kehinde Wiley Paints Black for another artist’s take on florals