Archive for February, 2009

Marquette Plan: Portage Lakefront

February 28th, 2009 No comments

So what is happening on the southern shores of the worlds largest source of fresh water?

From the NWI Times:

Former Portage Mayor Doug Olson and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Superintendent Costa



This from I think I can do that. [ JB Daniel ]

It’s the first time I noticed that the waves come and go at the same time.

View Outside My Window

February 28th, 2009 No comments

02.28.09 :: 6 am

02.28.09 :: 6 am

View of Lake Michigan

February 28th, 2009 5 comments

Jackson Park Beach: 01.27.09 2 pm

Jackson Park Beach: 01.27.09 2 pm

Jackson Park Beach: 01.27.09 2 pm

Jackson Park Beach: 01.27.09 2 pm

Jackson Park Beach: 01.27.09 2 pm

From my car on the way to the galleries.

Categories: View of Lake Michigan

Working in [Man]made Dung: Economic Development in East Chicago

February 28th, 2009 No comments

This is from a $250 million U.S. Army Corp project in East Chicago that I oversaw for a short period of time on behalf of the local community. Those are hundreds of petroleum pipes siting underground at the site of a defunct oil refinery. In an attempt to contain some of the underground contamination from spreading, these men are tasked to cut the pipes out to make room for a slurry wall of clay. The wall will go down below the the water table and tie into clay. Notice the fire extinguisher? – I really don’t think it help in the event they spark any product left in those pipes.  

Categories: East Chicago

Shows: Experimental Geography

February 27th, 2009 2 comments


Curated by Nato Thompson from Creative Time

Geography benefits from the study of specific histories, sites, and memories. Every estuary, landfill, and cul-de-sac has a story to tell. The task of the geographer is to alert us to what is directly in front of us, while the task of the experimental geographer—an amalgam of scientist, artist, and explorer—is to do so in a manner that deploys aesthetics, ambiguity, poetry, and a dash of empiricism. This exhibition explores the distinctions between geographical study and artistic experience of the earth, as well as the juncture where the two realms collide, and possibly make a new field altogether.

Also at the New Museum on Sat, Mar 21, 2009 at 3:00 PM there will be a panel discussion: Experimental Geography Panel Discussion: An Aesthetic Investigation of Space

This sounds like something I would like. I will have to check it out.

Information Graphics: Geography of Faith and Conquest

February 25th, 2009 No comments

Peter Miller introduces me to these animated graphics from Maps of War.


History of Religion:

And the Imperial History of the Middle East:

Categories: Information Graphics

Nothing but Brinksmanship

February 24th, 2009 No comments

Strategy of brinksmanship overtakes free-market ideologues in the Republican party resulting in a massive anti-intellectual backlash. In the stimulus debate republicans relegated themselves to opposing the President at the expense of the health and welfare of the nation. With these tactics there is no way to policy. Just saying….


Boehner, House Republican Leaders Call for Federal Spending Freeze to Address Growing Budget Deficit

Categories: National


February 24th, 2009 1 comment

Born:  July 15, 1606, Leiden, Netherlands

1631: Moves to Amsterdam

1634: Marries Saskia


  • Rumbartus died two months after his birth in 1635
  • Cornelia died at 3 weeks of age in 1638
  • Second daughter, also named Cornelia, living barely over a month died in 1640
  • Titus born in 1641. Died in 1668 (the year he married)

1642: Saskia Dies

1642: Begins relationship with Geertje Dircks

1647: Hendrickje Stoffels joins household as maidservant

1650: Rembrandt has Dircks detained in the Gouda house of correction

1654: Hendrickje Stoffels gives birth to Cornelia

1662: Hendrickje Stoffels dies

1664: The painter Christiaen Dusart is appointed guardian of Cornelia van Rijn

1668: Rembrandt moves in with Cornelia

Dies: Oct. 4, 1669, Amsterdam

Why Rembrandt? Didn’t he lose all relevance by the end of the 1990’s? – Yes but…

<<<tangent>non-sequitur>childish garble>I recently spent a week in community organizing and leadership training. The program was set up in the usual Saul Alinsky tradition (negotiating self-interested power). At the end of the first day everyone was asked to name a hero or mentor. I really did not mean to answer incorrectly –  when it was my turn I named Rembrandt because he was one of my first inspirations when I was a teen. They just thought I was playing with them. They expectied something like Martin Luther King, a politician or union leader, but not an artist. I felt a bit obligated to attempt to defended my choice by saying that I choose Rembrandt because he changed the western worlds way of seeing, and if you change the way people see, you change a culture of behavior. It didn’t go over well. They were serious and the discussion was about power v power and I chose Rembrandt. <<</tangent>/non-sequitur>childish garble>

Anyhow, Rembrandt opened and closed an era. You might even say he closed the market on the individual. And the marks he left on his late canvases opened new eras for others to explore. His pursuit of a persons persona was engulfed in his materials and his process. Carravagio may have conveyed the sense of “touch” through the image, but Rembrandt conveyed it through the paint.

Despite his official portraits of prominent figures and guild work which I have no affinity for, or his allegorical work which I think are atrocious, his self-portraits and the work he did of those he had an intimate relationship (Saskia, Hendrickje, and Titus) are another thing altogether.

When looking at the arc of Rembrandt’s career you can see how he moved with extraordinary confidence from rendering a persons image and likeness with amazing luminosity, to rendering marks, left by his touch, as the carrier of identity in his later work. In the arc of the progressive tradition Rembrandt changed where we are likely to find the “first principle” expressed. Prior to Rembrandt, Martin Luther advanced the progressive interest by challenging the papacy’s power to broker the relationship between an individual and God (the first principle). Martin Luther empowered individuals to negotiate their own relationship to the first principle. This empowerment of the individual, along with economic and technological forces, gave rise of a merchant class in the Netherlands. Rembrandt began his career during this rise and produced a body of work focused on sublimating the image and likeness of those individuals. But by the end of his career Rembrandt had decouple that identity from the image and placed it in his touch. Now the mark – the touch of the artist, was the carrier of the first principle.

Walking Directions from Leiden to Amsterdam via google maps.

41.6 km (25.8 miles) – about 8 hours 27 mins
Go to Google and View Larger Map
Categories: What I am Looking at

Figure Drawings

February 24th, 2009 3 comments

A few figure drawings. I am really enjoying pulling this work out.




Categories: In My Studio, Misc

Portrait Drawings

February 23rd, 2009 1 comment

Unfortunately, we had a disaster at the house. During a cold winter while we were renovating, I stored my books and work in a room where a radiator eventually burst. It took a few days before I noticed the frozen steam on the windows. The steam destroyed many of the drawings. What I could rescue I did. I had a few behind glass that I need to photograph.

The drawings are very light to begin with, still I need to do better than point-and-shoot.

Categories: In My Studio


February 23rd, 2009 No comments


Categories: In My Studio, Painting


February 22nd, 2009 No comments

Caravaggio fascinated me throughout my student years. Not only for his heightened representation and pushing the forms out into the viewers personal space, but also the way he pushed a censored spirit into that space. Despite the grandeur of light and form, his works are very intimate. The image of Thomas poking around in the wound of Jesus reveals, only to Thomas’ touch, some sort of mystery beneath the fold of Jesus’ skin. This image has always been a startling image for me. The encounter between Jesus and Thomas is a physical encounter. Thomas seems almost like a blind man focused on the tactile touch at the end of his finger along with Jesus’ restraining grip around his wrist. Thomas is orientated to be from the viewers space. He is our entry into the painting. By probing jesus’ wound he is modeling how we are to poke into the painting – we doubters.

It’s all visual, but I am left with a tremendous tactile sensation on the tip of my index finger.

And it is very sexual. From the mid 1980’s to the mid 1990’s there were many artist exploring this very orientation of the roles of the sexes.

I just realized we haven’t heard much about Caravagio lately.

It was a strong influence on the blue draped elephant (the top image) in the previous post.

Representations from the Past

February 22nd, 2009 4 comments

Untitled :: Pastel :: 1983 :: 32" x 48"


I have been going through some old work that recently came back in my possession when my parents moved. Many pieces have since disappeared which were never documented. When I find more I will post them. This series is from 1983 – 84. Some are pastels and others oil on canvas. 

I spent about two years doing these very shallow spaced still-lives using my mothers collection of elephants to make my way through the christian tradition in art. I started them when on a leave from college, after my second year at Kansas University. there is something to be said about doing work in your home surroundings with access to all the stuff of your surrounding life, as opposed to being away. Then again there is something to be said about being away from all that stuff. Just saying…

For me their is a clinical and an immediacy in locality in these paintings. 

I have always liked the “study” aspect of still-lives. It is an orientation to my work that I have carried with me throughout my career. Everything I do is a studied observation.

Categories: In My Studio

What I am Looking at: Michael Costello

February 22nd, 2009 No comments

New Street Agenda (2005 – present)


Who – What – Where – When Do We Start Fighting… (Journalistic Street Art and Advertising)

Chester Alamo & Costello holding a “When Do We Start Fighting…” drop-off print, Near Albert Dock, Liverpool, England, December 15, 2007 Sandy Kaminska Costello holding a “When Do We Start Fighting…” drop-off print, Regent’s Park, Frieze Art Fair, London, England, October 12, 2007
Jesse Bercowetz holding a “When Do We Start Fighting…” drop-off print, Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York, March 29, 2008 Jeff Costello holding a “When Do We Start Fighting…” drop-off print, Near Grand Central Station, New York, New York, March 28, 2008

“The Jackson five once played here” – Fernando

February 22nd, 2009 No comments

The Soundz of Santana at the Whiting Indiana Winterfest, featuring Dave and Lisa Sanchez.

The Ride to School on Route 41

February 17th, 2009 No comments

Yesterday I took this series of photos, on the ride to my kids school. You may find a blurring in the foreground, as the vehicle was often moving. The trip brings them from East Chicago to Hyde Park daily – through some of the heaviest industries (past Mittal Steel, past SafetyKleen, and through BP). This is the usual scene for anyone traveling north on route 41 (what Lakeshore drive turns into south of Hyde Park) to Chicago from Northwest Indiana. I didn’t include all the tank farms, the combine disposal facility, casinos, the industries in Hammond (Cargil, Lever Bothers), or images of Hyde Park. At some point I actually had to drive. My Children stratal many radically different worlds.

There are two things that strike me about these images.

  1. Everyone is releasing something into the air-shed and contributing to the aggregate air problems.
  2. The vehicles seem to be from a bygone era. They date the images as the past.

E.C. Archives: BP & Taxes

February 15th, 2009 1 comment

Back in 2007 again, and coming at environmental advocacy from a different angle. The negative impacts are not all environmental they were also financial. In a community with the poorest census tracks in the state, yet paying the highest property taxes in the state at 8.45% this give-away to BP (without any job creation for East Chicagoans) is insane.

In fact we know that the project will lower residential property values and cap incremental increases in the future.

Environmental Archives: BP

February 15th, 2009 No comments

Pulling Stuff Forward: 2007 all over again

At some point when an entire regional establishment is behind an apparent train-wreck and you can not find anyone to help you understand the situation or step forward with you, you try to take tentative steps to create a space for dialogue. And then, if you receive a visitor to your office who goes into detail the history of “Political Assassinations” in East Chicago for much smaller things – you ask yourself WTF. So you can see I am not quite over this…

In response, I did these designs during the local Mayoral election. I produced them as postcards, but couldn’t finance any billboards. I am still trying to figure out what is the best way to go about this kind of advocacy here in East Chicago and NWI. With this population visual communication is very important to getting your message across. I intended to draw a direct equation between our politicians and the result of their actions. Many local opposition leaders and environmental types liked the images but recoiled from the directness of the attack. Perhaps the visitor to my office explains why.  I considered doing projections on buildings and street art, but abandoned the ideas do to the amount of commitment they would take. 


  • Political Corruption and the Corruption/Contamination of our Environment
  • The tight relationship between certain environmental organization, industries, non-profits, media and government
  • Who are environmentalist to judge issues of economic development and jobs, and why do they do it?
  • Is there a better way to include other measurables, such as environment and culture, in a cost/benefit analysis?
  • Is there a way to marry development opportunities with addressing environmental or cultural impairments?
  • Should this be the end of the incrementalist approach to environmental management?


Case Study: The BP Expansion in East Chicago – Lessons Learned

This is an example of the enormity of an issue that East Chicagoans face and are unprepared to deal with. In most part, the region is also unprepared to deal with the enormity of this kind of issue. Of the many tremendous impairments in this industrial region and in East Chicago specifically, the severe degradation of the environment stands as one of it most important issues, and triggers an array of environmental justice issues. For any well intended and brilliant individual, the complexity and depth of any single issue requires an almost lifetime commitment, enduring long periods without success – as in the eight years of the Bush administration. 

Let me state from the get-go that my opinion on the BP project is NOT framed by a desire to Shut them down. I am more interested in evaluating what occurred against a clear need to reverse the environmental tread in this area and use every project to advance an agenda to address the serious impacts a hundred years of Industrial development has had on the immediate area. When evaluating the permitting process for the BP expansion project in East Chicago, I am concerned first and foremost about what happened in the environmental community. In an adversary process I expect Industry to work to maximize its interests, but I do not expect to hear nothing from the environmental community. So what happened?

  • How and why did the environmental community fail to vigorously participate and advocate for the environmental health and welfare of the community?
  • Has years of industry organizing opposition to its own projects completely neutered the environmental community?
  • Are our local environmentalist out-numbered, out-skilled, and out-spent by industry?
  • Are legitimate environmental voices marginalize by the process or lost in the noise?
  • Does the process marginalize some environmental voices or concerns over others? if so which and why?
  • Has the region, which is dependent on heavy and enormously dangerous industries, compromised and severely weaken the environmental community?
  • Does the environmental community need to rebuild its capacity to serve as a legitimate voice on environmental issues? 

Despite the hidden fact that the permit was in clear violation of the Clean Water Act, the debate surrounding the expansion of BP Refinery in East Chicago did not occur in Indiana and it did not occur prior to IDEM and the EPA approving the NPDES (water discharge) permit. The debate occurred in Illinois and elsewhere after the permit was approved. I guess BP just forgot to pay-off members of the political establishment on the other side of the boarder. So Dick Durbin and Rahm Emanuel orchestrated a very public petition drive. And so the politician in Illinois got something. 

So why was there so little opposition to the project in Indiana? Few people were even aware of the application for the permit, let alone concerned about the levels of discharge and the increased negative impact on the environment. On the political side, Mayor Pabey and the Director of Redevelopment both articulated that BP had promised to do a lot for the East Chicago. The only problem was that the promises were not in a any formal document I have seen by anyone. BP had already got the buy-in of prominent environmental groups (Lee Botts, Tom Anderson of Save the Dunes, the Hoosier Environmental Council, and Dunelands Sierra Club) long ago, or at least until Illinois made a fuss over it? Once that occurred Lee Botts went on the radio, and penned several defenses on her actions, and Tom Anderson joined in the petition drive against the permit. 

What is important is where were the Environmentalist before the permit was approved? We know they were at the table and informed on the project by Kay Nelson of the Northwest Indiana Forum. So, if they had any concerns about the permit before it was approved, why didn’t they inform the public?    

So why did the Save the Dunes, the Hoosier Environmental Council, and the Sierra Club remain silent during the permitting process?

  • Lee Botts: considered one of the most important environmentalist in the region, an expert on the Great Lakes and the environmental representative on the State Water Pollution Control Board, never made a public statement about the project.
  • Tom Anderson: Director of Save the Dunes and the environmental representative on the State Air Pollution Control Board, also never took a public position against the project.

What were Lee Botts and Tom Anderson doing prior to the approval?

– Lee Botts says she tried to get the word out to the public. But where and when did she speak or write anything. When their is an issue she wants speak up on she has no problem penning a guest column in the Local papers. 

– Tom Anderson was involved in re-designating the region as an attainment zone for sulfur dioxide just months prior to the announcement of the BP permit. This was an important designation for BP because they were looking to refine a high-sulfur product coming out of the tar-sands in Alberta Canada and needed access to more of the air-shed.

Once the debate began, third party environmental groups (The Great Lakes Alliance – Affiliated with Lee Botts, and National Defense Fund) mobilized to negotiate a terms between BP and some undefined “PUBLIC.”

Lisa & Dave

February 14th, 2009 No comments

Jazz and Blues provide a space large enough for an entire life. My neighbors have done the same in their music. Lisa and Dave invited my wife and I out last night to the Anchor Inn, in Hammond where they performed.

Categories: East Chicago, Misc


February 14th, 2009 No comments

My son: “It is both Summer and Winter today”

Categories: Misc