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What I am Looking At: Our Garden

July 5th, 2009 No comments

Every summer my wife and I migrate out to the backyard. During the warm season the backyard becomes the most used room in the house. On our city lot we’ve learned about the bio-diversity of this highly industrialized community. This region is extraordinarily rich in biodiversity and rare ecosystems, fragmented between mostly industrial areas. 80% of East Chicago is zoned heavy industrial, with less than 14% for residential, and 6% for light industrial and commercial. 

No region in the Midwest has been as greatly impacted by human activity as Northwest Indiana. Pre-European settlement, a series of white pine and jack pine-covered dunes, and swales rich in wetland species, paralleled Lake Michigan. Inland, the dune and swale topography met the Calumet marshes. 

Although it is undoubtedly still the richest region in Indiana and in the Great Lakes basin in terms of biodiversity, Northwest Indiana ecosystems are fragmented and under constant, diverse stress from multiple sources. Without restoration of ecosystem functions and structures, their long term viability is severely threatened

[ EPA ]

But what amazes most is how quickly life takes hold and grows here. By having our own little paradise in such an environment that is hostile toward nature we attract all sorts of creatures. However, we are discovering that we are not the only ones. As we get out in the community we are seeing many residents creating their own special spaces in their backyards. I hope someday to document some of these spaces.

This year Kristin has begun taking these incredible close-ups of the garden.

 

        

Work in Progress

June 14th, 2009 1 comment

I tend to work on a body of paintings simultaneously. They are all encaustic and mix media on canvas. As I just commented to a friend I can’t say they are finished yet but some are. Some are just testing ideas. Some are opening new ideas. And some are ready to close an idea or abandon it.

The First four paintings and the last three in this group are 42″ x 48″. The remaining images range from 8″ x 10″ to 22″ x 24″. 

(click on images to enlarge)

               

Categories: In My Studio

Studio Visit: Tom Torluemke

June 9th, 2009 No comments

[ Tom Torluemke ]

There are all sorts of good reasons to visit a studio. Some of the best reasons come to you when you are there or perhaps days later. I’ve wanted to visit Tom’s studio for a long now – to get a better look at what is behind his energy to produce. But when you come in with a camera – well things are just…

We all know that a person’s space can tell us a lot about the person and where a piece of work comes from. Sometimes a space can reveal a lot about their journey and where they come from or may be not. Tom’s most recent studio is in the basement of his home in Dyer Indiana. I visited with him there as he was preparing to meet with Greg Knight, Curator of the Chicago Cultural Center to discuss work selection for his upcoming show “After Glow.”

  

a favorite seat

The occasion offered the opportunity to discuss the art culture in Northwest Indiana and issues on our visual culture, painting and the making of art that I hope to continue later when I am not so opened eyed about Tom’s surroundings. 

 

 


Tom Torluemke has been a tremendous asset to Northwest Indiana, fostering a generation of young artist, while encouraging and producing most of the public art in the region. He is enormously prolific producing catalogues of work. 

For a better view of Tom’s work, you can visit the Chicago Cultural Center during to summer or his website. I hope to do another post focused on Tom’s work along with an art statement. 

TOM TORLUEMKE: After Glow
Chicago Cultural Center
78 E. Washington
Chicago, IL

Exhibit Dates: July 3 – September 27

Opening Reception: Friday, July 10  (6:00 – 8:00 p.m.)

Categories: Studio Visits

RISD’s Next: To Cut Staff & Close Museum for August

May 22nd, 2009 No comments

via [ The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research

Rhode Island School of Design plans to cut staff by 15 to 20 and close its museum for the month of August because of a significant decline in the Providence school’s endowment, according to the school.

RISD reports that the endowment lost a third of its value since its peak of $347 million in December 2007.

What is happening to the Arts the in the Northeast? Are we seeing evidence that Institutions of Art in the Northeast are over exposed to the OLD Economy? We know that Rhode Island was especially hit hard by the recession and we have heard about Brandeis closing the Rose Art Museum.

It looks like we are beginning to see less demand for NEW ARTISTS, or may be less of new artists from the old economy. Are there any artists of the new economy, yet? If so who are they? May be the New Museum will tell us. What economy are they from?

Categories: General Arts

What I am Looking at: Jens Brasch

May 20th, 2009 No comments

[ www.jensbrasch.com ]

Caught looking again. [ First Look ]

This past Friday 33 Collective Gallery opened its 5th Annual National Self-Portrait Exhibit to which I contributed two small pieces. 

 

The show opened to a large crowd – not surprising when your showing close to 50 artists. With so many artists showing there is always the opportunity that something quite new will surface and I think it did with Jens Brasch’s piece “the apparitions of faces in the crowd – the narrative self.”

Jens has a long, long history working with his own identity and self-portraiture. In his new piece he iterates the idea that Art and Identity need to be read. His work is a library series of twenty book covers on five shelves each contributing to the subject matter – himself. There is a lot to be said about this piece. It owes so much to Duchamp, Rembrandt and other artists who articulated individual human identity. Instead of enumerating the obvious and not so obvious I will leave it to others. His recent work is some of the strongest I have seen in today’s contemporary galleries. 

One other point. With the depth that human awareness has achieved and the trajectory of the new, complexity has squeezed out prodigy from contributing to the depth of the new. I think Jen’s work is a great example of how much stuff his contemporary life processes and of course I am very sympathetic to the path he has taken. I find the depth behind his immediacy refreshing after enduring nearly twenty years of graphical one liners in the gallery’s of contemporary art. For the intellectually challenged a one liner became a simulacra for a minimalist moment. 

 

Categories: What I am Looking at

Hans Rosling’s presentation at the TED-conference in 2006

May 7th, 2009 No comments

[ Gapminder ] Unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact based world view.

 

The Activist Cause

 

I want to look back at Hans Rosling’s now very famous presentation at the 2006 TED-conference for a moment. In this presentation Hans is hocking this “Ah-Ha” moment to the audience. He knows what he is pedaling and he knows its ramifications. Does this moment fit in the history of progressive “Ah-Ha” efforts? I think so.

Many of the great achievements of the “progressive” movement, in America, came from those who answered oppressive conditions supported by neglect, power and wealth with extraordinary discipline of research and evidence. Some examples are found in W.E.B Du Bois’ survey of Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward in his 1899 classic book, The Philadelphia Negro work in Philadelphia, and Jane Jacobs’ book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) writtten during height of “Urban Renewal.”

It appears Hans’ visualization tool sits well within this tradition, his scope however, widens out to the early reaches, and future projections of statical analysis of DATA. What I find interesting about Hans’ work is the certain manner in which he strolls through his subject matter. It reminds me quite a bit like Jane Jacobs approach with the Urban build environment. 

Indianapolis Cuts Funding for the Arts

May 6th, 2009 No comments

That cost-cutting effort was renewed when the board voted Friday to suspend grant payments to all recipients, including $3.2 million combined for the Arts Council of Indianapolis, Indiana Black Expo and cultural tourism projects.

[ IndyStar.com ]

[ On the Cusp ] has the story and a response. 

This just a couple weeks after our Culture Matters Rally where the Mayor decided to speak about how important the arts were to the growth of the city and its residents. Flop. Times and the economy are tough. We all understand this…

 – Read more

Categories: General Arts

Modernism > Post-Modernism > Post-Pluralism < Brownfield Redevelopment Initiative

May 5th, 2009 No comments

Warning, below are bits and pieces of change I found on the ground. I can not say I have never seen these coins before, but I don’t know how to count them. So I am going begin to lay them here on the table. 

[ Edward Winkleman ]

Edward Winkleman asks “What does that (Post-pluralistic) mean?” in his post:

Pluralism : Post to Present Again (or the Revolution is Probably Already Here)

From Modernism (the era of the avant-guard, the scout that went beyond) >

      > Post-Modern (beyond Modernism) >

                 > Post-Pluralism (?) >

                            > Post-Post >

                                        < Brownfield Redevelopment

It is too easy, too boring, and frankly too weak to put a “Post” at the beginning of anything. What does it mean and who does it serve to “go beyond the era” that looks to “go beyond the era” of “going beyond?”

Who’s adopting the coinage “Post-Pluralism?”

So as Edward Winkleman prepares for this next era he has a vessel in search of an entity. But he also has some clues. 

And so it may be, I suspect, with art history. The reason we’re not seeing the “Dawn of Post-Pluralism” (or at least not seeing it clearly) may be because this next stage in art history is likely going to be truly revolutionary. And as such, it will not be “apparent at the moment it appears.” Folks focused on big changes will be foiled as small changes spread and incrementally break the old systems forever. 

 

Though not intending, I think I began to touch upon bits of this discussion in previous Posts.

[ What I am Looking at: Paul Lloyd Sargent

This is a time when Artists and designers are exercising strengths in dialogues they were traditionally excluded from – such as in making decisions and designing the built environment

To a certain degree I want to say Artists are beginning to operate in highly specialized dialogues where they were previously not found.

<fight>
So much of Post-Modernism has been a preoccupied with Popular-Culture / Propaganda / etc. (so called Low culture). With the success of the Obama campaign Shepard Fairey has been cast as the “Monkeys” of street artists. We’ve seen this before. There is a large market effort to support this heroic emblem of artist as propagandist. But then we had the Post-Campaign – and the battle of appropriation. Enters Lawrence lessig. Lawrence throws his voice in support rewriting the “Artist Statement”, and suddenly we realize here is a performance artist of such particular cause and strength (copyright & good government), that we can not help but draw contrasts.
</fight>

We have seen Artists collaborating with other artists. We have also seen Artists as Project Managers bringing together in collaboration disparate disciplines of non-artists possessing highly specialized skills. Today we are seeing artists commit to very particular and highly technical skills-sets, going so far to engage statical relevancy. The Artistic hubris has some gaining advance degrees in other disciplines and operating in realms of research, production, and theory. And collaborating with other Artists with highly specialized skill-sets.

I like to refer to what we are in need of and what we are going through culturally as a Brownfield Redevelopment Initiative. This revitalization project isn’t necessarily supplanting the aesthetic practices of production but include an eye to remediation. Much of our territory landscape has been damaged and is or is perceived to be toxic, leaving less little land in productive use. This is requiring us to revisit these damaged landscapes and remediate to various productive levels.

Categories: General Arts

What I am Looking at: Paul Lloyd Sargent

April 29th, 2009 No comments

[ …recycledcaronrecordings ]

at Version>09 opening reception.

Paul Lloyd Sargent’s installation comments on the waterway management policies and practices by the Army Corps of Engineers, the St. Lawrence Seaway Corporation, and other institutions regulating major American rivers. His engagement in this body of water parallels my interest in the Indiana harbor Shipping Canal (IHSC), which feeds into the Great Lakes – not only because of my particular involvement with the IHSC, but also because of the role of the artist and designer in this larger dialogue of the built environment.

  

 

This is a time when Artists and designers are exercising strengths in dialogues they were traditionally excluded from – such as in making decisions and designing the built environment. I touched on this topic when I asked about the Artist’s role in urban visualization in my post [ Drawing the Lines ]. Another aspect of the Artist’s role has been to bring into and from (reconfigure and re-equip) our visual culture what was either not seen or only seen peripherally at the margins. Much of this work is coming under a research designation of “Experimental Geography.”

We are at a moment of major change in how we address and prioritize voices in the decision making and design process when it comes to the built environment. We are beginning to see the authority traditionally given over to Architects folded under the the authority of “Landscape Urbanists” (often referred to as Landscape Architects, but I already think this is an arcane title). In this shift in roles we are opening up all sorts of new visual disciplines to re-orientate ourselves toward space and re-organize it in a re-development framework. You can see some of these changes in Urban Lab’s H2O project: [ Growing Water ], Valcent Product’s the [ vertical farming ], and William McDonough & Michael Braungart’s seminal book “Cradle to Cradle / Remaking the Way we Make Things.” Luckily there are so many examples springing up daily.

No more Art(ner) at the Trib?

April 25th, 2009 No comments

No more Art(ner) at the Trib? | Time Out Chicago.

This morning’s unfortunate announcement of layoffs at the Tribune dealt an especially hard blow to local art criticism. Veteran Tribune art critic Alan Artner was handed the pink slip. 

Categories: General Arts

What I am Looking at: Paul Charles Pallaro

April 23rd, 2009 No comments

Paul and I went to graduate school together in the early 1990s at Indiana University. “A Mark In The Sand” is documentary by Flynn Donovan about the art of Paul Charles Pallaro. Flynn Donovan does a fantastic job capturing Paul and his work. 

A Mark in the Sand (part I)

 

(part II)

Info Graphics: Advocacy Ads

April 21st, 2009 No comments

I’m doing an advocacy Ad mockup for an Elected School Board in East Chicago, using my daughter as a model. Besides the blurred picture, the need for young models that reflect East Chicago’s population and a little word smith-ing, I think this could be pretty cool. I can graph any data into the hands of our children, including graduation rates and pollution levels – etc. If necessary, I can also do comparisons with other communities.

 

 

On the issue of Elected School Boards:

It appears to me what we are seeking is a system that locates accountability better and more efficiently. Currently, just seven major cities have full mayoral control of education. There has been a nation wide trend toward more centralized control into the hands of chief elected officials e.g., President, Governors and Mayors. This places a greater interest in these central figures making it more difficult to remove them for poor performance or abuses of power in any single sector of their concentrated power. When you keep multiplying areas of responsibility under a single figure you diffuse accountability in any one area and increase opportunities for patronage. Sure this my make for a more stable system, and mitigate against dead-locked disputes, but it also insulates these figures from accountability and removal from office. 

We can look at the Bush administration as a recent example of concentrating power in a chief executive and the problem of seeking accountability, but lets instead look at a smaller example. East Chicago has had a Strong Mayor system with all of its abuses clearly expressed since the beginning of time. With an unemployment rate well above 20%, 28% of its households, or nearly 40% of the electorate, receive a paycheck from the Mayor. This single fact makes it impossible to remove the Mayor from office using the electoral process – too many workers with their jobs on-the-line will not risk voting against the Mayor no matter how tyrannical his behavior is perceived.

The only other alternative for removal would be for prosecution of abuses. And yet, with a justice system so fully politicized as we have in the U.S., the Federal prosecutors office has become a barter system between up-stream political cultures. At the local level Federal prosecutors seem to have been relegated to identifying discontent and collecting whistle blower information on behalf of public executives. Instead of being an arm of the peoples justice they have become an arm of entrenched power. Instead of investigating improprieties rumors have it that they share this information with these executives and only offer mere verbal slaps on the wrist. Unless you have a reach into the oval office this alternative does not appear very realistic. 

Based on my fatalistic example of East Chicago, it appears to me that locating accountability in a strong chief executive is not the way to go.  

But then their are those who would beg to differ. 

  1. Bloomberg:

“Schools Can’t Be ‘Patronage Mills Or ‘Run For The Benefit Of The People Who Work In Them… And when you have these school boards that are fundamentally controlled by special interests, the truth of the matter is the students come last, if at all.”

<wtf>
The irony in this argument is that it is machine politics that is known for taking advantage of patronage. Such as in East Chicago.
</wtf>
 

  1. Matt Yglesias 

“I think this is part of a larger issue about getting democracy right in the United States. There was an assumption, at one time, that you could make government more democratic and accountable by, in essence, multiplying the number of elected officials.

In retrospect, I think this was based on flawed logic and faulty assumptions that forgot to account for the fact that people have a limited amount of time they’re realistically going to spend monitoring public officials. If you live in New York City you’re voting for the President of the United States, two United States Senators, one member of congress, the Governor, the state Attorney-General, the state Lieutenant Governor, the state Comptroller, a mayor, a District Attorney, a city Comptroller, a Borough President, and a city council member in addition to a variety of state and local judges. And that’s entirely typical for the United States. Add a school board member into the mix and the situation gets even more out of control.

The result of this sort of process is the absence of meaningful accountability rather than its presence. The result is that special interests—the people with strong self-interested motives to pay attention—wind up exerting wildly disproportionate influence.

Needless to say, special interests get a lot of influence one way or another. But when it comes to a President or a Governor or a Mayor it is realistic to expect the broad mass of people to form a meaningful opinion and register it at the polls. When you keep multiplying offices and diffusing responsibility, you play into the hands of folks looking to game the system and make it hard for voters to understand what’s happening. I think part of the answer is that states should probably adopt unicameral legislatures and consider cutting down on the number of independently elected statewide officials. But cutting down on the quantity and influence of hyper-local electeds and putting responsibility in the hands of visible figures like the mayor and city council is crucial.”

Although I would generally agree with Matt about the difficulty for citizens to actually participate in the democratic process in any meaningful and informed way, I think the actual loss of accountability in any single area and the potential for abuses of power far outweigh information overload on the part of the citizen. Granted America lacks a good education system and thus a well informed citizenry, but to propose that America needs structural changes that concentrates more power in a few leaders as the answer is beyond me.

Tabula Peutingeriana

April 20th, 2009 No comments

 

Categories: What I am Looking at

Uncle Freddy’s Closes

April 14th, 2009 No comments

The only institution in Northwest Indiana supporting the cultural life of visual artists is closing its doors on April 30th. That is not meant as a slap to The South Shore Arts or any of the Universities in the region. It is just the nature of how creative cultures live – on the pulse of life and not the structure and wealth of institutions. Since 2002 Tom Torluemke and Linda Dorman have worked where artist congregate, move and interact with their surroundings, and in “Uncle Freddy’s” they created a place where those activities could thrive. 

Uncle Freddy’s rocky history in Hammond and then moving to Highland is only one example of how artistic visions and talents are battered about in the region. This is occurring under the noises of regional leaders who are hugely invested in institutions and annually proclaim that the ARTS are strong in Northwest Indiana at dinner events at the South Shore Arts and Chamber of Commerce, and breakfast events at the Quality of Life Council and university conferences. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, there is extraordinary talent here, but no sustaining PLACES for that talent to interact and grow. 

 

Tom has been instrumental in the lives of so many young and mature artists in the region, from the East Chicago graffiti art scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s, to the great mural art throughout the region and opening the substation in Hammond.

 

Although I have only begun to show my work again, I am terribly sorry to see them close. I know they will continue to serve the community and produce new spaces with life. Thank you allowing me to trip into this space.  Take care…

Categories: General Arts

Panel Discussion: The Invisible Artist – Creators From Chicago’s Southside

April 9th, 2009 2 comments


 

On March 26th the School of the Art Institute held a panel discussion to “address perceptions that artists on Chicago’s South Side are under-known and undervalued or, at worst, intentionally ignored” as Jason Foumberg so aptly states in his piece titled “Why Have There Been No Great South Side Artists?” at Newcity Art.

Panelists included:

  • Andre Guichard, artist and owner of Gallery Guichard
  • Joyce Owens, Chicago State faculty, Art & Design Department
  • Lowell Thompson, artist and writer
  • Natalie Moore, reporter, Chicago Public Radio
  • Patrick Rivers, SAIC faculty, Visual & Critical Studies Department

Living so far south that I inhabit a whole other state (which is still part of Chicago’s Calumet region), my marginal location gives me a very useful perspective on this subject. The subject speaks to the importance of identity and place and the old stories of enfranchisement. And I am very glad it has been brought up. I hope many Artist from Northwest Indiana participate in the ongoing discussions.

A major characteristic of my identity with Chicago growing up on the North Side was what was absent. I had a massive blackhole in my awareness of the city’s South Side. My family took advantage of a few South Side islands such as Hyde Park, China town, and Maxwell Street and I was a Sox fan, besides that I had no other identity with the South Side.

Chicago is known for its iconic neighborhoods, and yet during my youth – from the 1960s through the 1980s, most of Chicagoan’s lived in what I now call “Gap Areas.” These are places that lie between identities, mostly serving the nimby instincts (not in my backyard) of more powerful iconic identities. Consequently, these places tended to receive discarded land, material, infrastructure, and peoples; out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Whether they are brownfields or brownpeople north siders were too preoccupied with the forming of their own identities that they gave little attention to the South Side. It is hard for an enlightened northsider to speak to a Blackhole, even if they grew up in one.

When I think about this topic and its ramifications for Artist I don’t just think about the agents of art (makers and consumers) but also the place of art. Whatever you may think about the person, place also has an important role in Art. And when you add markets to the mix, well then, you just created hierarchies of place and centers of the arts which are highly biased toward monied interests.

There has always been a conflict between where the market is and where the artist live. Artists (or the Creative Class), being more mobile, have been known to abandoned where they live to migrate in mass and cluster around these highly capitalized creative centers. But now that capital has become highly mobile itself, actually much more mobile than people, there is no reason we can not bring these markets to these once discarded communities and neighborhoods and seed the development of more great artist.

See I believe, some of the blind neglect by the institutions of art and the media has expression in our built environment. The built environment is a physical record that also solicits certain behavior – it’s the construction of the Dan Ryan all over again. What has occurred on the southside with respect to the art world is another form of white flight and building barriers.

We are only beginning to see revitalization in the Bronzeville neighborhood and the near southside. My worry is that developers such as Community Builders, who are developing the Ida B. Wells area, have neglected the importance of Culture and the Arts to such an extent that they have not attracted the necessary capital to seed a vital cultural life.

Although Pilsen is a near southside community it can serve as a good example for seeding the development of a cultural center. There are several initiatives that make it a vital place for artist to live (the Hispanic Art Museum and the Podmajerski properties to name just two). The last decade has also seen an expansion of the art scene into Bridgeport and farther south. Then of course there is Hyde Park, Beverly and Morgan Park.

But what is forgotten are the neighborhoods that lie under the plumb of existing and fallow 20th century industry – steel mills and oil refineries. There has been very little to no progress in these neighborhoods.

By the title “Why have there been no great South Side Artists?” Jason Founberg references Linda Nochlin’s famous Feminist essay, “Why have there been no great women artists?” This is a great rhetorical tactic that worked well for women in the arts in the late 1980’s and early 1990s. It creates a dialectic between the art establishment and South Side Artists. The framing of the dialectic repositions the South Side Artist to a position of equivalence. Remember this is also the era that produced the Guerilla Girls, Hillary Clinton and other effective tactics of identity politics to empower disenfranchised women. If I was a community organizer, I would say we made same great gains here. So, as much as we need to continue building channels for great artists to reach the great show rooms of the Art establishment so too we need build the channels that brings the Art establishment to the South Side.

Finally, there are perceptual advantages to living at the margins of this Metropolis. ….

Last Final Note: 

The “Invisible Artist” panel discussion will air on Chicago Public Radio at a future date to be determined. A related exhibition, “Change…” is on view through April 30 at the South Side Community Art Center, 3831 S. Michigan.

What I am Looking at: Paul Kane

April 3rd, 2009 2 comments

Paul Kane is an Artist working in Bloomington Indiana. Like myself he hasn’t shown much, but has been prolifically working on his paintings, some of which he has reworked over the course of twenty years.

Categories: What I am Looking at

Studio Visit: Ish Muhammad

April 1st, 2009 2 comments

[ Ish Muhammad ]

This weekend I visited with Ish in his Hammond studio. Ish grew up in East Chicago and was apart of the Chicago East Chicago graffiti art scene of the 1980s and did a lot of work with Cisa Studios over the years. He recently has focused on his art career and has begun showing quiet a lot lately. Ish presently has an “unofficial retrospect” at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art

 

   

  

 

  

Categories: Studio Visits

Studio Visit: Jens Brasch

March 19th, 2009 No comments
Categories: Studio Visits

Characterizing the Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal

March 16th, 2009 No comments

This is Business

March 11th, 2009 1 comment

Categories: In My Studio