Things that work?

Yep, I’ve started making some functional objects. So far it’s just a few lamps and some manipulated furniture, but it’s a start. I’m working on selling the lamps at a store in Kansas City, and I’ll be sure to let you know when they’re available. Hope you like ’em.

Lamps. Recycled condiment containers, paint, light fixtures and bulbs.

Detail of lamp.

Table For Chinati Apartment. Door, ratchet straps and two chairs designed by Donald Judd. 31.5 x 36 x 76.5”

Chair. Broken designer chair repaired with ratchet strap, grommets, and screws.

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New Work

Hello again. I’m sorry it’s been a while since I’ve updated here, the past couple months have been crazy. I’m currently writing from Marfa, TX where I’m doing an internship with the Chinati Foundation. I’ve only been here for a week but it’s been wonderful. Some other exciting news: I got my first artist residency in Iceland. I’ll be there from Nov 2011 to the end of Jan 2012. There’s more info here, Skaftfell.

Ok, so what I’ve posted here is some images of my new work from the past few months at my studio in KC. The work has grown in size and I also made a larger-scale temporary installation  called “Rubbernecker.” Enjoy!

 

Untitled (explosions) 8.5 x 9.5 x 1.5” Chamois, altered photograph, tic tacs, paint.

Untitled (Thermos) 19 x 16 x 4” Found thermos, caster, used paint roller, found postcard, ladle, plastic sushi, rubber bands, paint.

Xmas 24x16x67” Painted Christmas lights, hardware

 

"Fatso" Kids chair, burlap, book pages in altered folder, tic tacs, super glue, paint. 19x27x13”

 

"Fatso- detail of Tic Tacs.

"Fatso" Detail from above.

 

"Rubbernecker" Bean bags, chair, sleeping bag, rope, coat hook, sponges, boombox, chamois, rubber ball with altered packaging, toy clamp, tape, paint, and loop of the “Boo Boo Song” 83 x 35 x 33” by King Coleman.

 

"Rubbernecker" Detail

 

"Rubbernecker" Detail

 

"Rubbernecker" Detail

 

"Rubbernecker" Detail

 

"Rubbernecker" Side view

These next couple images are of some “sketches” I was doing just before I left KC. They’re not meant to be finished pieces, but more like experiments.

 

Untitled Sketch with Tic Tacs and superglue

 

Untitled Sketch with Tic Tacs and superglue (detail)

Untitled Sketch with blue and white Tic Tacs (Half circle)

 

Untitled Sketch with Brown Paper Bag and superglue

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How about a change of pace?

Here’s some images of my new work from the past couple months. I’ve been working out of a much smaller studio and so my work has shrunk in size too. I’ve also given my shot at using found images in these series, hope you like ’em!

"K9" Found book, lollipop, fireworks, hardware accessories, hardware, paint, resin. 23 x 10.5 x 5"

"Untitled" Modified dog toy, nails, hardware, paint. 10.5 x 11 x 2"

"Accidental Oriental (Crowd)" Found Japanese postcard, doorstops, circus peanuts, paint, resin. 5.5 x 6 x 1"

"Accidental Oriental (Girls)" Found Japanese postcard, lag bolt, hardware accessory, paint 4 x 6 x 5.5"

"Accidental Oriental (Map)" Found Japanese postcard, painted zipper, hardware, paint. 16 x 9 x 2.5"

"Accidental Oriental (Map)" Found Japanese postcard, painted zipper, hardware, paint. 16 x 9 x 2.5"

"Accidental Oriental (Parade)" Found Japanese postcard, velcro, hardware accessories, hardware, paint 11 x 6 x 1"

"Accidental Oriental (Parade)" Found Japanese postcard, velcro, hardware accessories, hardware, paint 11 x 6 x 1"

"Accidental Oriental (Sumo)" Found Japanese postcard, doorstops, hinge, hardware, paint. 4.5 x 5.5 x 5"

"Accidental Oriental (Sushi)" Found Japanese postcard, hardware, paint. 4 x 6 x 4"

"Accidental Oriental (Theater)" Found Japanese postcard, snap button, paint. 4 x 6 x .5"

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Thinking (about) Photography

Thinking Photography: Five Decades at the Kansas City Art Institute // The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art // Kansas City, MO // July 24, 2010 – January 2, 2011

Robert Heishman (American, b. 1984), “Fixer,” archival inkjet print, 2007, printed 2008, gift of the artist. Image: courtesy of the museum

Photography is arguably one of the most accessible art forms today. Perhaps the availability of this medium has obstructed us from really seeing its potential. In a time where just about anyone can pick up a digital camera and start clicking away, what does it mean to be making pictures and not just taking them? Thinking Photography, Five Decades at the Kansas City Art Institute offers a plethora of different avenues by which artists have used photography in their practice. Associate Curator of Photography April M. Watson and Senior Curator Keith F. Davis have assembled a non-chronological exhibition that, as stated in the gallery brochure, “celebrates … the school’s diverse and vibrant photography legacy.” Featuring 27 Kansas City Art Institute alumni, the exhibition aims to expose each artist’s different approach to technique, subject matter, and style.

Coinciding with KCAI’s 125th anniversary, the exhibition also lays the groundwork to compare older and recent alumni who are working with similar themes and subjects. “We wanted to tell a story,” says Watson when asked how the artists were selected. There is a story to be told, although it is a non-linear narrative. When seen together, the 42 works are an exciting amalgamation of alumni grouped in such a way that viewers can discover moments of comparison (of which there are many) on their own.

Mark Osterman (American, b. 1955), “Paper Wasp Extraction,” ruby glass ambrotype, 2001, gift of the Hall Family Foundation. Image: courtesy of the museum

An interesting meeting point for many of these artists, and perhaps a dividing line between generations, are the various techniques they use. Regardless of a preference for traditional or digital formats, one unifying trait is the artists’ experimentation with the photographic process. Mark Osterman (1977) employs the popular 19th-century wet-colliodion technique to capture staged images of himself as a scientist feverishly buzzing around his laboratory. The resulting images have a ghostly haze and also a carefully refined craft. Due to his hand-coloring process, Osterman’s ambrotypes are at once an image and a unique art object, and ultimately question the function of a medium based in reproduction and the value of a skillfully made image.

Thomas Barrow (American, b. 1963), "Frame," gelatin silver print, 1979, gift of the Hall Family Foundation. Image: courtesy of the museum

Thomas Barrow (American, b. 1963), "Frame," gelatin silver print, 1979, gift of the Hall Family Foundation. Image: courtesy of the museum

A similar line of questioning about the function of a photograph occurs in the Cancellation series by 1963 alumni Thomas F. Barrow. Here the artist scratches large ‘X’s across the surface of the image during the dark room process. Merging technical andconceptual experimentation, Barrows’s work is in a constant struggle with itself. f/t/s Cancellation—Frame acknowledges both photography’s potential to create illusionistic depth and its simultaneous inability to transcended the flatness of its material. Other alumni, such as Russell B. Phillips (1977) choose to experiment with digital technology. In Wells and Wacker “Pedestrians,” Phillips weaves multiple images of a Chicago street scene together using computer software. At first glance his image appears to capture a typical bustling city, until one notices the bits of people and architecture that have been carefully removed or blended together. Phillips cleverly baits the viewer into his vibrant image then leaves them questioning its authenticity as a document of a single moment or the construction of a fragmented reality.

At the crossroads of traditional and digital technology are Robert Heishman’s (2008) images from his seriesStill Life. Here Heishman photographs worn darkroom equipment, in this case chemical bath trays, on a neutral black background. The residual characteristics of the trays are unique to each chemical, leading them to appear as a kind of portrait. When seen collectively, Hieshman’s series creates a genealogy of technology in which newer digital equipment memorialize their elderly darkroom relatives. In a way, these images are a larger reflection of the history of photography in which new technology is constantly replacing outdated techniques. Laced with an insider’s witty humor (all the photographs are inkjet prints), Heishman also turns process into pun.

Stuart Allen, "Santa Fe, New Mexico / Sky No. 2, 9 Pixels," pigment print on rag paper, sheet 30" x 24", 2007, gift of the artist. Image: courtesy of the artist and museum

Conceptually investigating what constitutes a photograph is another similar theme among the artists in Thinking Photography. Stuart Allen (1994), a multidisciplinary artist also working in sculpture and installation, displays a work that relies on subtleties of color similarly to minimalist painters Joseph Albers or Ad Reinhardt. The “ah-ha” moment comes when viewers read the wall plaque and discover his work is actually a nine-pixel section from a larger photograph of the sky over Santa Fe, New Mexico. In his Pixels series, Allen turns the micro into the macro and thus reduces photography to fundamental properties of light and color, while also questioning what makes a photograph a photograph.

Jeff Eaton’s (2007) The Way Out is simultaneously a formal exercise and a conceptual investigation that combines a found exhibition postcard, original photograph, and raw photo paper. Eaton’s disorienting collage plays with the idea of appropriation versus authenticity while also confronting issues of globalization, industry, and nature. Eaton is the only artist in the exhibition to physically collage his materials, and while this process is relatively simple, the conceptual process is more complicated, and thus warrants a lengthy wall text by the artist explaining his process.

Nicole Cawlfield (American, b. 1971), "Thin Up Girl, Aimee," gelatin silver print, 2003, gift of the Hall Family Foundation. Image: courtesy of the museum

Humor is another common thread among many artists’ approaches. From Jamie Warren’s colorful, if not simplistic self-portraits, to Chuck Avery’s clever depiction of the American obsession with political fame, KCAI alumni seem comfortable poking fun at both themselves and the culture they’re a part of. Some of the most humorous and poignant images using this approach are those of 1997 alumna Nicole Cawlfield. The selections in the exhibition are taken from her Thin Up Girl series in which Cawlfield stages full-figured women in ironic scenes as 1950s housewives. Repositioning women as empowered (and eating cake) while strapped to retro workout machines or standing on old scales, Cawlfield subverts the pin-up genre to fit her own feminist agenda.

Allyson Lubow (American, b. 1980), "Lennie," chromogenic print, ed. 1/5, 32 1/2" x 30", 2004, gift of the artist. Image: courtesy of the artist and museum

Courtney Andrews (2005) and Allyson Lubow (2002) also address issues of the body, gender, and sexual politics in what proves to be the only vaguely controversial moment in an otherwise safe exhibition. Displayed next to one another, Andrews’s and Lubow’s images create a dialogue about voyeurism and the female body, but from very different perspectives. Andrews’s luscious image of a young nude woman, stretched backwards over a chair is simultaneously erotic and awkward. Employing a seductive color palette, Andrews entices her viewers into the position of a traditional voyeur: gazing at the passive female nude presented before them, but leaves them no clues as to why or how they’ve arrived there. Conversely, Lubow’s work, Lennie, confronts the viewer head-on as her sitter looks directly into the camera lens with a confident, and possibly menacing, stare.Lennie — easily the most commanding photograph in the exhibition — is from the artist’s series Instilled Expectations, in which she made portraits of women dressed in clothing from various feminine rituals. We are not sure whether Lennie is wearing her wedding gown or prom dress, but in any case, her single-use formal attire feels out of place among her cluttered New York apartment. Lubow’s work is a critique of the importance and impermanence of fashion in cultural ceremonies.

Thinking Photography boldly presents a collection of outstanding KCAI alumni in such a way that their works can be appreciated individually without needing to fit into an overarching theme. This lack of restraint allows for several smaller exhibitions to occur within a carefully curated whole. While celebrating the photography department at the Kansas City Art Institute, Thinking Photography will also introduce new works — about 85 to 90 percent of them are recent acquisitions — into The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s already reputable photography collection, creating potential for future exhibitions. This addition to the museum’s archive, combined with KCAI’s 125th anniversary and a new museum director with a reputation for community outreach, will hopefully lead the way towards exhibiting more local talent and bring together institution and community. When asked how this exhibition fits into all the talk about changes around the Nelson to show more Kansas City-based artists, Watson replied, “We’ve been collecting local artists for a while now,” naming Mike Sinclair and Deanna Dikeman as examples. She added that the goal for the new director (Julián Zugazagoitia) should be to balance local relevance with putting us on the map internationally. As the most prestigious art institution in Kansas City, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art certainly does have a role in educating the public about contemporary international trends, but there is also an obligation to highlight the local art community. Hopefully, Thinking Photography can act as a catalyst for future exhibitions of Kansas City artists while maintaining a balance with non-regional art.

~ MJ

*Also published on Review magazine. See it here

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Pricing the “Cool”

Hott Sheets // Wonder Fair Gallery // Lawrence, KS // June 25 – July 25

Installation of "Hott Sheets" Image courtesy Wonder Fair, 2010.

Hott Sheets has all the ingredients to be a cool exhibition: it’s in a cool gallery, in a cool location, with a bunch of cool work. But what exactly is the value of all this cool? This is where Hott Sheets goes further to explore and exploit the pricing process of contemporary art. Falling in sync with the gallery-as-laboratory trend (see The Whitney Museum’s recent experiment to stay open for 72 hours), Wonder Fair presents an exhibition that aims to determine the value of value making in the art world. Selected artists from Kansas City and Lawrence purchased specifically printed paper (complete with the Wonder Fair insignia) from the gallery at a cost of $3 per sheet. With size limitations already in place, the artist then created pieces on or with this paper and returned them to the gallery where they were processed through Wonder Fair’s Hott Sheet’s Value Assessment Methodology Form to determine a price. Complete with a systematic color and medium breakdown, this form also tallies the trendiness of each work by classifying them into themes such as: ‘pretty as possible’ or ‘meditation nation’ and subject categories like, olde timey, gross out, rainbows, and tiny marks.

Value Assessment Methodology Form. Image courtesy Wonder Fair, 2010

The result is a simultaneous displaying of both original artwork and its pricing form in a single horizontal row. Viewers are left to investigate both the work itself as well as the steps taken to determine it’s monetary value. Until now we have been left with a wall tag and a price, Hott Sheets attempts to explain some of the mystery behind this number by presenting a simple, if not always fair, system for pricing each work.

Whether a reflection of the artists included or a testament to its creative theme, the most engaging part of Hott Sheets is resolving the pricing technique with each work. Although the system is simple and democratic, viewers will probably find themselves scrutinizing the logic of the “value assessment” form to see if they agree. Frustrations with over-pricing and under-pricing as well as searching for the most/least expensive works are all part of Hott Sheets tongue-in-cheek critique of the contemporary art market. Subversive tactics like this are abundant in the framework of Hott Sheets. The exhibition has been put together as a kind of game in which the gallery staff act as ring-leaders, picking artists, supplying them with materials, setting the rules, and ultimately determining the value of each artist’s efforts. Some artists have followed these rules closely, making safe, small vignette collages from old magazines. Other artists, such as Tim Dwyer, who shredded his paper and displayed it in a plastic bag, formed a retaliatory gesture to the “rules” of the show. Dwyer’s bagged work was then classified under the trend “drugs” as a kind of one-up from the gallery. This playful banter between artist and institution creates a pseudo-political environment that is both funny and making fun. The joke here is two-fold: aside from the critique of art market economics, Hott Sheets also points a finger at “trendy” two-dimensional work. In fact, works qualifying for too many of the trend or theme categories were actually docked in price. If the goal of the game is to have the most expensive piece, then works that are too “cool” will inevitably lose. Here we see a refreshing example of a gallery’s awareness that it exhibits a certain “type” of work. Featuring a recent ‘Group Solo Show’ by notoriously cool Austin-based collective, Okay Mountain, Wonder Fair seems fully aware that is a hothouse for contemporary trends. A majority of their space also houses a merchandise shop chalk full of handmade T-shirts, zines, postcards, and other goodies (including a Hott Sheets “home art making and value assessment kit”). With Hott Sheets, Wonder Fair both accepts and exploits the genre they exhibit.

Details of several submissions. Image courtesy Wonder Fair, 2010

Rather than following any scientific method, Wonder Fair claims their exhibition “is a tongue-in-cheek critique, partially directed toward ourselves and our inability to understand the complexities of the Art Market, and partially directed at the Art Market for being so confounding,” according to the exhibition text. By admitting to their lack of understanding Hott Sheets deconstructs the facade of expertise so common to the art world, and replaces it with a sincere best effort. Some things we will never fully understand, maybe the global art market is one of them. Hott Sheets is an honest and often times funny attempt to make sense of this place. In addition to assigning monetary value to a collection of cool prints and drawings, this exhibition also presents them in a context where they can be investigated conceptually. This is yet another refreshing aspect of Hott Sheets: pieces that may be “cool–looking” but conceptually lacking can at least be seen within the overarching theme of the exhibition. Part lighthearted jest, part insult to artist, and part subversive critique of the art market, Hott Sheets is a cleverly conceived game that blurs the lines of who’s playing whom. Starting out with a bang, hopefully Wonder Fair can maintain this balance of playful critique and underlying agenda in future exhibitions

~MJ

*Also published on Review magazine. See it here

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MEN…THE FUTURE OF FEMINISM.

Here is  section of a paper from a Feminist Art and Theory Class taught by Dr. Maria Elena Buszek at the Kansas City Art Institute. Fall. November 2009.

Men? One may be skeptical to think that men, so commonly viewed as the instigators of the oppression that feminism fights, could be the next step in its progression. However, I believe that it is exactly this unconventional perspective that will shed light onto the ways in which men can stop being the enemy of feminism and see how they are equally a part of their effort. But first we must understand how our contemporary society functions. By examining the cultural confusion between sex and gender we can recognize how men, women, and any other gender have been inaccurately defined and categorized based on those falsehoods. These definitions are also harmful for everyone and result in unattainable social ideals.[1] We’ve been living within this type of social system for such a long time that questioning it may seem blasphemous, but questioning is the only way towards change. Once we begin to question not only definitions, but also the categories themselves we can deconstruct this system and lay the groundwork for a new social system based on embracing our multiplicity.[2] In re-building this system, men can take a hint from the history of feminism, specifically Simone de Beauvior’s The Second Sex, as a means of appropriating a pre-existing framework for their own agenda. With a social endeavor of this magnitude, it is important to realize that there isn’t a clear-cut final destination. This type of progression needs to be organic. Hopefully with enough time and effort, we can arrive at a place where people realize and enjoy how we are all gendered beings who simultaneously define and disrupt prescribed social definitions.

Historically, the phenomenon of feminism has been a difficult battle, but one worth fighting. Women have gained the right to vote, choose to have children, and live any type of lifestyle they wish. One factor of feminism that is rarely discussed is it’s exclusive nature, not only among women, but also for men. While it’s true that our history is a history of patriarchy, it is false to assume that this means men are free. We haven’t had the liberty of a manifesto like The Second Sex, because it is assumed that the dominant majority is already liberated. However, recent investigation into masculine studies shows us that men are very much oppressed by prescribed social roles, which mirror those that oppress women.

Examining how we view sex and gender will show how these issues affect us all equally. Judith Butler explains how “gender is not passively scripted on the body […] Gender is what is put on invariably, under constraint, daily and incessantly…”[3] The fluidity of gender, which Butler addresses, is often overlooked because gender is also extremely performative and public in our contemporary society.[4] Therefore, an enormous pressure is put upon us to perform our gender properly. Any change in this system requires a huge amount of courage, because even the slightest change will be visible to society as a whole. Specifically we have placed sex, gender and heterosexuality as conjoined historical products leaving little to no room for any deviating performances that break this binary framework.[5] It is important to note the word ‘we’ in this statement. We as a society are responsible for this system, and we as gendered beings are constantly repressed by our creation. However we are also the potential solution in changing this system. Butler also states that, “it is impossible to separate a theory of gender from a political philosophy of feminism.”[6] However we must realize that any “theory of gender” inherently includes men; because, let us not forget that “men are gendered too.”[7] Simply stated, this theory solidifies a place for men in the political agenda of feminism.

Continue reading here

Footnotes


[1] Jack Kahn, An Introduction to Masculinities, (New York and London:
 Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 50.

[2] Harry Brod “ Studying Masculinities as Superiordinate Studies,” Masculinity Studies and Feminist Theory: New
Directions, Judith Kegan Gardiner (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 167.

[3] Judith Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Construction,” The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader, edited by Amelia Jones (Oxon: Routledge, 2003), 401.

[4] Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Construction,” 397.

[5] Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Construction,” 396-397.

[6] Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Construction,” 399

[7] Brod “ Studying Masculinities as Superiordinate Studies,” 166.

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A Part of the Game: Exploring the Construction of Masculinity in Sports Through the Work of Catherine Opie and Collier Schorr

Here is a section of a thesis paper written for a Feminist Art and Theory Seminar taught by Dr. Maria Elena Buszek at the Kansas City Art Institute. This paper was delivered at Baker University’s Undergraduate Art History Conference in Baldwin City, KS.

*Header image: Courtesy Regen Projects, LA

Download PDF: Here

The construction of masculinity in organized sport is a difficult subject to confront from any perspective, let alone one outside the male sex. However, photographers Catherine Opie and Collier Schorr have taken on this challenge to expose the fragile mechanics of male-dominated high school sports. Opie’s Football Landscape series and Schorr’s Wrestlers series both examine the impact organized sports have on these boys.

Catherine Opie, "Football Landscape#11 (Poway vs. Mira Mesa, Poway, CA)" Image: Regen Projects

From a female outsider point of view, they each capture unique moments of their sport that usually go unnoticed. Rather than traditionally overt feminist representations of masculinity, their work embraces subtlety and ambiguity, allowing their viewer to come to their own conclusions.[1] I originally set out to determine exactly what Schorr and Opie were capturing. What is it these athletes are dealing with? How is it shaping their views of masculinity? Ultimately, I realized that there are no clear answers to these questions; rather a variety of circumstances, personalities and attitudes which all escape any overall conclusion. Perhaps writer/curator Christopher Bedford describes this sentiment best when discussing Schorr’s photograph Hooded Figure,

Collier Schorr "Hooded Figures(B.C.)" Image: 303 Gallery

he claims Schorr’s image “captures all that is solid yet sensual about masculinity and sport, alluding to a deep well of meaning buried in the image but precluding the possibility of a single comprehensive view.”[2] I also came to appreciate how these ambiguities are what make Opie’s and Schorr’s work so captivating. By recording these young men with such careful sincerity, they access the subtle complexities of their subject.

This is not to say that there is nothing to be learned from their photographs beyond a formal perspective. I believe their work can be studied as an introduction to the social dynamics and implications that arise from male high school athletics. Within this all-male institution, pain and violence play a large role in how athletes are allowed to behave, as well as how they treat themselves and others outside the sport arena. By examining both artists work in relation to popularized images of sports, as well as the canon of art history we can develop a language with which to dissect their content. Their work may not function as a complete view of masculinity in athletics, but it can certainly help to bring some clarity to the subject.

Catherine Opie "Josh"

First, we need to understand how viewing this subject within a fine art context differs from the usual media representations of sports. While popular sports and art are both fundamentally rooted in the act of looking, when the critical eye of the art world replaces the entertainment-driven eye of the organized sports world, we see how many facets of athletics are overlooked. Both artists have carefully removed their subjects from their natural environment and placed them in a context where we can examine their situations as highly influential in the construction of their masculinity, sexuality, and overall behavior.

Both artists use specific framing and lighting techniques to bring the viewer closer to their subjects. In this sense, photography becomes a way to isolate specific moments and remove them from their whole. However, it is important to note how traditionally, wrestling isn’t viewed the same way as it appears in Schorr’s photos. Anyone who has been to an actual high school wrestling match can testify to the obvious presence of other fans, coaches, athletes, and referees. Let us not forget that wrestling is a spectator sport often viewed from within an audience. Also, the rapid pacing of moves from each athlete highlights the fact that wrestling is fundamentally an aggressive sport rooted in physically dominating you opponent. Often Schorr’s decisions eliminate the gymnasium, students, fans, and coaches, leaving us with very specific images constructions. The proximity of Schorr’s images place us within the group. We assume an athlete’s perspective.

Continue reading Here

Collier Schorr "Blow Up" Image: 303 Gallery


[1] Marybeth Sollins, ed., Art 21: Art in The Twenty-First Century 2 (New York City: Harry N. Abrams, inc., 2003), 98.

[2] Christopher Bedford, “Hard Targets,” Los Angeles County Museum of Art. <http://www.lacma.org/art/TargetsIndex.aspx> (11/17/09).

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Man Up!

This is an article originally published in Ampersand magazine at the Kansas City Art Institute in the Spring of 2010. Enjoy! Downloadable PDF: Here

I took a feminist art and theory class this past semester, in which I was (unsurprisingly) one of two guys in the class of sixteen. I went into the class not liking feminism, feminists and especially not feminist art. I couldn’t relate to it, and I didn’t like the idea that it was making me (a man) into the enemy. Honestly, I took the class because I knew the teacher was good … and I needed the credit. It turned out to be one to the best classes I’ve had over the past three years here. My mind was quickly changed about feminism, and I started to see how every gender issue is connected. What helped me was to think of feminism as more about gender differences (masculine/feminine) than exclusively about a particular sex (male/female). It helped to think of sex and gender as separate qualities. Sex refers to your biology; gender refers to particular characteristics that are culturally viewed as masculine or feminine. For example, a man who acts “feminine” isn’t less of a man biologically; however, he may be regarded as less of a man by the cultural standards we’ve constructed around what a man “should” be.

I would bring up some of the class topics I was particularly interested in to my friends and family. What I found was that most guys weren’t shy to talk about these subjects, they had simply never been presented with these issues, and therefore never had the opportunity to voice their opinions. Still, I kept asking myself, “Why aren’t there any straight white guys in this class?” I came to realize it is always easier to confront these issues from the perspective of the persecuted, be it your sex, skin color, religion, sexuality, or whatever. Men have a more difficult time addressing these issues because we’re not under any kind of oppression; in fact, we’re usually the ones on top (no pun intended). Let’s face it; men have the upper hand in our society today. This doesn’t mean we’re responsible for all kinds of oppression, but it also doesn’t mean we should set a norm. Our society tells both women and men how to act, look, and think. The difference is women have challenged these ideas and thereby broke some ground on what constitutes contemporary womanhood. There hasn’t been a men’s liberation movement yet. The whole idea seems kind of silly actually. If men hold the highest status in our society why would they need a movement? Men’s status doesn’t change the fact that our culture as a whole sets finite boundaries on contemporary manhood.

Men don’t have the luxury of being able to discuss what constitutes manhood because our society expects us to just understand masculinity and embody it. If you begin to examine it by say, taking a gender studies class, you have already admitted to failing at masculinity in some respect.1 We’re raised in a society where boys are constantly conditioned to strive towards a culturally constructed ideal of masculinity. The music we listen to, the movies we watch, the sports we play and even our interactions with each other all facilitate this struggle. Unfortunately, this status is virtually unattainable and most men will end up struggling with it consciously or subconsciously. This is the paradox of contemporary masculinity: we’re all striving towards an unreachable goal that we know is unreachable, but the consequences of giving up the fight are so great that they end up feeding the struggle.

While the ultimate goal may never be reached, we are certainly good at pointing out what qualifies as manly and not manly. As a sculpture major, I’ll be the first to admit that there is definitely something manly about working with metal. Power tools, fire, and sharp spinning blades? Yeah, those are all pretty masculine things, but does that mean you can’t enjoy them just because of your sex? Of course not! Just like women can enjoy something we see as a “feminine” activity, say shoe shopping, men can still enjoy “masculine” activities. Someone isn’t more of a man or more of a woman because of what they choose to do. Men, shop for shoes! Women, grind metal! In fact, everybody just grind metal in heels! Who cares!?! Stereotypes are wrong and boring anyway. Still, acknowledging the gender of a particular activity is only the first step. We should also be questioning what makes these activities gendered. What makes iron-working masculine and needlework feminine? Who even qualifies to make these decisions? How has our culture evolved to arrive at this point? How is our culture still evolving out of these trends (think of metrosexuality)? My experience has been that issues such as these are more about asking questions than answering them. Most of the time, there simply aren’t clear answers, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not worth asking. Through questioning we challenge ourselves, and that line of questioning has the potential, like good art, to change the way we see the world.

Footnote:

[1] Harry Brod “ Studying Masculinities as Superiordinate Studies,” Masculinity Studies and Feminist Theory: New
Directions, Judith Kegan Gardiner (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 167.

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60 WRD/MIN Art Critic Reviews Me!

A REVIEW FROM APRIL 2010, BY CRITIC LORI WAXMAN AS PART OF HER TRAVELING 60 WRD/MIN ART CRTIC.

Pamper Posture, 2010

Sports stars box and golf and swim their way into some of the most exalted, heroicized positions of our time, but it certainly hasn’t led to a nation of fit, sporty individuals. On the contrary, we are a country of overstuffed couch-potatoes who mostly sit at home and watch the spectacle of hyperactive organized sports on television while our own bodies go to pot. This is the state of things that seems to be suggested by the darkly comedic sculptures Matt Jacobs has made over the past year, grossly gargantuan conglomerations of cheap candy and squishy foam, belt-tightening ratchet straps and puffy old mattresses.

Doppelganger (Sport Design), 2010

In “Doppelganger (Sport Design)” a poor taxidermied deer head gets the Bozo treatment when a large red rubber ball is tied to the beast’s nose with orange safety straps, thumbing it to so many sports hunters. Other pieces make equally farcical use of gummy bears and sports-themed bean bags, often tying these and other materials up in a way both awesome and threatening, as if the whole thing could come crashing down at any moment—and we, underexercized individuals that we are, might be so pathetic that we can’t move fast enough to get out from under the collapse.

—Lori Waxman

See the original post/learn more about Lori’s project: HERE

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IN THE BEGINNING, RESPONDING TO A FISHBOWL OF HUMAN INTERACTION: A Review of TETHER

BY BLAIR SCHULMAN. Posted on Art Tattler, May 2010

Part of Dostaler and Jacobs' TETHER. Photo: Robert Heishman

Tether pairs young artists Christina Dostaler and Matt Jacobs. They respond to the architectural singularity of the gallery, addressing human interactions with familiar objects. This menagerie of the everyday is represented in bold, sugary colors.

Taking advantage of their First Friday opening, the recent Kansas City Art Institute graduates were determined to get people’s attention. Jacobs said, “… a zoo or carnival full of fire jugglers and food stands … First Friday rarely seems to be about the artwork itself. We wanted to show something that wasn’t an object to be purchased, something that was ephemeral.

"Careful Boys" Matt Jacobs. Photo: Robert Heishman

Jacobs’ Careful Boys, 2010, mixed media, is an example of both the artwork and carnival-like environment a First Friday on a balmy evening can bring. A sled, bungee cord, inflatable football and an old Jack Lalanne dumbbell are squeezed together, compressed like a long forgotten stuffed animal. The “tail” (dumbbell) is anchored to the floor. Dostaler’s Spill Out, 2010, mixed media, consists of plastic, electrical tape, drywall tape and construction paper. Originally intended as practical materials, her juxtaposition of color and shape gives it the appearance of a Pee-Wee Herman home improvement project.

Collectively and individually, these objects are steeped in candy-coated iconography. To recognize everything and still see it with new eyes is both fun and refreshing. The exhibition has a familiar referencing. It is both a nod and a wink to artists Jessica Stockholder, Robert Morris and Elizabeth Murray, each with work that addresses spatial elements, size and color with varying results. However, Dostaler and Jacobs lean more toward hommage than derivation. They sensitively curate the space, allowing visitors to see the larger pieces from all angles. Against the high ceilinged, glass-fronted Cocoon Gallery, more or less dead center in the Crossroads Arts District, placement of the work is like being dropped inside a fish tank. Wandering in, around and under this exhibition, visitors inside the gallery are also being observed by those on the street. It’s an effective strategy on both sides of the glass.

While Jacobs tends to work on a arger scale, Dostalers’ pieces are smaller and more finite. Each works off the strength of the other to accommodate the necessary balance. You walk in and around Jacobs’ larger, life-size pieces, then get a bit of breathing room when you look at Dostalers’ work. The two have been keeping tabs on each other’s progress during their four years together at school and now grabbed this opportunity to branch out — each daring the other to push further and further out of their comfort zones.

The back stories of the two artists are still unfolding. It will be interesting to see their work in coming years, once each artist gets a few scars and disappointments under their belts.  They are only just approaching greater sociological questions that their early work suggests.

Matt Jacobs is a found-object sculptor who employs techniques of banding, clamping, and painting to convert everyday items into something new. Often large scale, his works seemingly take on a life of their own, climbing up walls, expanding and squeezing, or spiraling up towards the ceiling. In what seems to be an infiltrative and spontaneous gesture, he sometimes spills high-pigment paint across the completed piece.

Jacobs’ work deals with the aesthetics of overuse and excess. As an artist and inventor, he seeks to disrupt the formalities of “artwork” through the integration of humor. He selects commonplace objects for their familiar and benign nature, though once they are strung-up, bound, stuffed, and candy-coated, it is their very materiality that strikes a mocking tone. The work he presents is familiar and strange, whimsical and reflective, awkward and adroit.

For the past four years, Christina Dostaler has been utilizing and amalgamating fiber, painting, and sculpting techniques. Though initially a painter, working with fibers interested her for the way in which material can be broken down structurally into a linear element. By taking painting not only outside the boundaries of the canvas, but into the intimate realm of weaving, knitting, knotting, and basket weaving, she is able to create a body of work which is simultaneously objects and drawings.

Dostaler delights in the challenge of building a form out of practically nothing. To produce her construction material, she strings monofilament across a wall using several pins and coats it repeatedly with a mixture of acrylic and gel medium. Through this time-consuming process Dostaler is able to imbue her woven works with smooth brilliance. The resulting forms are both surprising and vivacious, pure light and tangible objects.

~Blair Schulman

Check out the original post: HERE

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