Wednesday, July 29, 2009

d. stine

I am neither a music nor literary critic, and I have seen very little of his visual output, but I have been informed by the extremely informed, that musically, Chicago composer, poet and artist d. Stine is a talent dedicated to his pursuit of the craft. Recently, he has been working within the construct of The Banana Twins on noise and ambient compositions. The works are a requirement each time I need to settle myself into the studio. Independently, a series of harmonica compositions he created for the film The Brave and the Kind evoke the same melancholy reflection I experience looking down an abandoned stretch of railroad tracks on a humid August day.

In addition, d. Stine has just published his third volume of poetry, Abacus, following previous works, Directional Forensics and Litmus. The implication of these titles is the synchronic counting, measuring, and testing apparatuses symptomatic of Post Modernism. My sense here however, is that d. Stine is a cultural skeptic cautiously dipping his toe in a broader pool of experience. It is fortifying to watch.

I am consistently surprised at what I learn about myself when meeting other artists. Part of it is learning about your own limitations. Poetry and music, necessary to my own art production, are art forms I am incapable of producing. I have tremendous respect for those who, as in this case, do it well. The other aspect is discovering hidden aspects of your own personality. I was indeed surprised by the discovery that, I do, after all, possess a maternal instinct.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

in love and love

What "love" is I don't know if it's not the response of our deepest natures to one another. ~William Carlos Williams

This week has given me an opportunity to reflect on love and the state of being in love. Often casually referenced in the same context, they are, I believe, quite different. Being in love carries a measure of biological urgency. It is a heightened state of impracticality and idealism. Similar to a concussion, it can be accompanied by nausea and blurred vision. You don’t look, you gaze, and the object is imagined as near perfection. Those in love can rarely be apart and when together, are oblivious to the rest of the world. It is new and startling. It is electric. You are bullet proof when in love. You can be mysterious, damaged, emotional and brooding when in love. It fuels the desire of the beloved. There are aspects of the beloved that you believe you can change. You can’t, but you don’t know that yet. You merely shelve those ambitions for a rainy day. It is also extremely easy to fall out of being in love. I have done it at a moment’s notice at least 10 times. Though being in love is a conduit to love, in the end, it does not guarantee its actuality.

Love is the trenches. It is perhaps the least human characteristic humanly possible; it is a complete state of vulnerability and inflicts a loss of self. Love is sight. Sometimes it is straining to see across a vast distance (literally and figuratively.) It allows one to reveal the absolute truth about them self and still remain standing. It is forgetful, as layers of scar tissue grown around a million tiny pinpricks. It is fortification bolstered by each worldly and time-inflicted wound experienced together. It is calloused fingertips resting on your inner thigh. Its physicality is loaded with intellectual intimacy, much like an equation resulting in a single organism. As an infiltrating condition, love is far more difficult to extract oneself from. It will leave a permanent scar.

When you are in love you cannot imagine the profundity that is the mundane, day-to-day experience of sharing a life with another person. Being in love is an intense state of mind based on expectations and plans. Love carries the patina of time and experience, accomplishment and disappointment, and while you sometimes cast fleeting glances at the headiness that is being in love, you quickly recall the nausea and blurred vision. As with any long journey, you sometimes put the map in the glove box, and wait to see where life continues to take you. It has taken you amazing places already.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Maggie Meiners

Though she has an appreciation for beauty from an early age, anyone that knows Chicago photographer Maggie Meiners, suspects that what she considers to be beautiful has grown exponentially during the past several years.

Deceptively honest, Maggie’s work presupposes an informed, perceptive audience. It doesn’t proffer an opinion on what has been captured, nor does it assume circumstance. Rather, it offers generous space in which the viewer may perceive and construct their own experience of the content. This occurs, for example, in the non-narrative, non-editorial series Extractions, which is reminiscent of the mid-twentieth century work of Frederick Sommer.

Equally intriguing is her series, Childhood Contemplations. While the abstract body of work is devoid of nostalgia and sentimentality, it provides a photographic mandala or meditative gazing ball, through what one suspects is a personal conveyance of memory and color.

Select pieces from Childhood Contemplations are included in the exhibition Meditative Surfaces along with work by Charles Gniech and Deanna Krueger at Schoenherr Art Gallery in Naperville, Illinois. The exhibition opens this week on July 21 will run through August 21.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


One week from today, the elder of my two beautiful goddaughters, Elizabeth, is getting married to a lovely young man named Tony. The first time I was introduced to Tony was at Liz’s college graduation party. Liz kept nudging me and asking, “Aunt Sioban, isn’t he cute”? I suspected his bachelor days were numbered.

In her published journal, Daybook[1], sculptor Anne Truitt wrote,

“The first feelings of marriage are so heavenly. I remember I used to wake up on purpose just to feel how happy I was. The heady potpourri of marriage delighted me: the lavish closeness, the just balance between delight and responsibility, household decisions, the openendedness (the whole rest of our lives!), and the incredible beauty of being allowed to love someone as much as I wanted to”.

It is my experience that these feelings can continue throughout a marriage. I wish this for Liz and Tony.

What is it with we Nora’s and our Italians? Denise, Susan, Mat? I suspect that Liz’s Great Grandfather would secretly be very proud. After all, an early U.S. Census recording from Northern Michigan lists his given name as Domemico.

Pass the Fettuccini, please.

[1] Truitt, Anne, Daybook, The Journal of an Artist, New York, NY. Penguin Books, 1982.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

i ♥ damien hirst

Among so many reasons are:
Because he’s naughty.
Because of the Butterfly Paintings.
Because, at his invitation, dozens of artists donated work to Bono’s RED Auction to benefit IV/AIDS relief programs in Africa conducted by UN The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Auction raised $42 million for the cause.
Because he may be a drunk, and I love drunks.
Because he understands our demand for spectacle, our idolatry and our insatiable appetite; creates the ultimate object to lampoon this (For the Love of God), and it still gets published on the cover of art forum.
Because he held his own Auction.
Because the Art World wants to hate him, but it needs him.
Because he said, “I just wanted to find out where the boundaries were. So far I've found there aren't any. I just wanted to be stopped, and no one will stop me”.
I don’t love Jeff Koons.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

likes and dislikes 7.11

The studios are very quiet right now, summer is here and schedules far more relaxed and non-specific. Summer is good.

Listening to:

general shuffle of my iPod

Build, Build

Four Concepts, Banana Twins

All titles, Mat Lombardi

4 harmonica pieces, d. stine


I and Thou, Martin Buber

Collected Poetry, W.H. Auden


Dixon Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils

that men in Brooklyn still wear seersucker suits in the summer

blue 9 burger

fancy ladies & gentlemen at Lincoln center




old Catholic hymns

the human face


the smell of the subway in summer

the flu in summer

non-specific, tentative edges

when people talk around each other


Friday, July 10, 2009

linda logan

Linda Logan is a Chicago-area artist who works in a variety of mediums. With a PhD in Geography, her work is often concerned with vestiges, or what remains from a speculative past that endures today. What do these vestiges mean?

I first became familiar with Linda’s work through her cave painting series. Though certainly informed by those found at Lascaux, these works are concerned with language and symbol, prehistoric and contemporary. The intuitive gestures of the paintings communicate deeper, more profound notions than the surface concerns of present-day society. One might think that her work will also endure for 40,000 years.

Recently, Linda has been working with digital photography. What is interesting and unusual is that she manipulates her photo before taking the picture, not in post. In essence, she is a sort of pre-deconstructionist – or perhaps a pre-constructionist. This technique was utilized in her gridded portrait of Mat illustrated above.

She is currently working on "Pentimento," a series of semi-abstract photographs where images from opposite sides of magazines or newspapers are photographed simultaneously by shooting the pictures through a very bright light. The melding of the images asks questions about the entire act of perceiving a photograph, or if indeed these even are photographs.

Linda is a member of Margin Art Gallery, a not for profit collective art gallery dedicated to nurturing artistic expression. Works from “Pentimento” were exhibited at Margin’s spring 2009 show.

Monday, July 6, 2009


Earlier this year, in anticipation of my husband’s 50th birthday, I invited a number of artists to interpret one of three photo-booth portraits of him. The interpretation could be executed in any style or medium, the only restriction being a 5x7 format. Twenty-five artists, practicing a variety of disciplines, agreed to participate. The results are truly remarkable. They are compiled in a book called Semblance.

My end of the bargain was to complete a portrait of each of the artists that participated. To date, twenty-one of the portraits are or are nearly complete.

I love the human face. Painting these portraits has given me the opportunity to reflect on the subjects, many of whom I have known for some time. You notice the cast of their skin tone, the color of their eyes, their dimples and smile lines. You discover the features their children share. You spend quiet hours contemplating the person you are painting.

In the coming months, I will present some of the artists and talk about their work. It is as though I have been hoarding what began as a gift for my husband, and developed into a rich personal treasure. I look forward to sharing it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

thank you

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

(Adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776)

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

The original spelling and capitalization have been retained.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


The Oxford English Dictionary defines an icon as a devotional painting of Christ or another holy figure, typically on wood, venerated in the Byzantine and other Eastern Churches; a person regarded with particular admiration or as a representative symbol; or a computing a symbol or graphic representation on a VDU screen of a program, option, or window.

Last week on a certain social networking site, I posted that the death of a particular pop entertainer was not news. Many of the responses to this post were surprisingly spirited and in direct opposition to my opinion. Within the responses and correspondent media coverage, the word “icon” was frequently employed.

While I apologize for hurting any feelings, I have not changed my opinion. Now one week later, the necessary spectacle that has become the funeral, the will, and the family feud, continue to unfold. Consequently, substantial revenue is being generated. Celebrity and entertainment appear to determine the bulk of those we would call our cultural icons today. The question that compels me is: When did our icons change? Indeed, did they?

A Survey

In the past century, whom do you consider a representative symbol of a particular time? I am very interested in your response. Please select three individuals you believe are “icons” from the decades listed below. They can be drawn from any arena including, but not limited to, the Arts, Politics, Religion, Business, Literature and Entertainment. Please send the names of the individuals you consider to be icons to no later than July 30, 2009. Please use the definition as defined by the aforementioned Oxford English Dictionary (icons are not necessarily good people). I will compare the results to my own “icons” and share the results in September.

I encourage you to pass this on to interested friends and acquaintances.

1920 – 1929

1930 – 1939

1940 – 1949

1950 – 1959

1960 – 1969

1970 – 1979

1980 – 1989

1990 – 1999

2000 - 2009