As the cold weather settles into your bones, settle in with these newfound documentaries about or by women who unlocked their voice and never apologized for it–despite the bouts of crippling creative doubt.
“Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold” on Netflix
I’m obsessed with Joan Didion’s essays, and this documentary by her nephew Griffin Dunne explores her work, heartache and cult-like following, of which I am a book-carrying member. It debuted on Netflix streaming last week.
“Eva Hesse” on Netflix
With a life cut short by brain cancer at 34, Eva Hesse’s mark on the postwar art world was nothing short of miraculous. Her abstract and humanistic paintings and sculptures are still relevant today, as is her wise-beyond-its-years self-mastery in a male dominated field rife with land mines. I was particularly stunned at her Jewish family’s devastating story of their escape from Germany when she was just a child–and the effect this traumatizing experience had on the rest of her life. This documentary further proves her rightful place in art and American history.
“Streetwise” by Mary Ellen Mark on YouTube
A friend of mine recently posted this find on Facebook. I knew the name Mary Ellen Mark sounded familiar, and of course, she’s the photographer who took that famously jarring black and white photo of the little girl smoking in a kiddie pool. The rest of Mary Ellen’s work is just like that — difficult to see, devastating, beautiful, a snapshot of the poor, forgotten and frustrating in a modern age. This 1988 documentary by Mary Ellen (soundtrack by Tom Waits!) follows homeless foster kids, teenagers and runaways who live on the streets. Their lives are crushingly sad, but Mary Ellen deftly balanced keeping their dignity and struggle for self worth and pride, ever present. Even as they sold drugs, turned tricks as teens and fought to stay alive. Innocence corrupted. Adult cruelty. Life captured. Violence, cycling. Heavy.
Referring to any day that has already occurred, any day that is not today, as “simpler times” is wrong. It wasn’t simpler. Today is simpler, at least if we’re speaking about the basics of getting the lower portion of our hierarchy of needs met.
Technology and industry have freed up time for us to find our purpose instead of our supper.
The only way in which is may have been simpler “back then” is the subject of fear. You knew who or what your enemy was, which ultimately makes that thing less scary. The boundaries and the sides were in black and white, for better or worse, however problematic.
Today we don’t have that mental resting ground, or at least we shouldn’t if we are to be aware and thoughtful about what is happening in our communities, nation, world. But what does all that thinking for the outside do to our insides?
It leaves many of us numb. Left staring at the warring outside through a pulled aside velvet curtain made in China. Our alarm buttons have been on so long, their din has become background noise in a landscape of mental disbelief.
So what do we do? Turn inward. Or find a way to laugh.
That’s what Joan Cornella’s work is about for me—the recurring disbelief that things are never, ever what they seem and everything from enemies to heroes are indefinable properties constantly en morph. Essentially. there’s no place to land.
The inaugural exhibit at Miishkooki Art Space in Skokie on Chicago’s North Shore features Cornella’s work. The Spanish illustrator’s comic panel storytelling style is sick in both senses of the word and absolutely worth seeing in person.
Sean Norvet’s majestic oil painting, a centerpiece in the show, is a nod to our post-apocalyptic mind fuck. There’s so much to feed our face, so much to distract us, we can’t see that everything around us melting away.
Or maybe we choose to indulge in all of that exactly because we can see what’s happening and it’s overwhelming. Which came first: the content or the binge?
Whether it’s Jim Ether’s playful fat-cat flies atop steaming piles of shit or Brandon Celi’s desolate spaces — where, when inhabited, his listless subjects go through the motions — this show is a testament to the fact that our modern melancholy can also look cool as fuck.
This spring I moved to Chicago and had the best, most revelatory summer ever. Here are some of the reasons why.
Me and 95th. Everyone who has been here a while makes fun of the CTA because it’s gross. It is, I guess, but what do you expect from public transportation? I love that it’s so easy to use and makes me less weird about going out. I wish this for every city — occasional pee smell and all.
Mermaids make good soldiers. This tattoo shows my friend who she is and what she fights for. It’s beautiful and so is she. Summer is the best. More inhibitions, cares, and clothes get shed.
Savage the muppet. Summer’s for the Marion dogs.
Capone’s bar. Justin performs at Green Mill, a cultural institution, where slam poetry was born and Al Capone partied. Every place in Chicago has some kind of gritty story turned glittery in the lens of time.
Caught in bed. This summer has been about rebuilding our friendship. These little moments of total comfort around one another and in each other’s spaces are my favorite. Those moments are the ones you don’t remember but wish you could. I plan to capture more of them as we move along.
Sox and 35th. The Cleveland Indians (the team I root for by hometown proxy) played the White Sox. Chicago won and there weren’t many people there, but we took a lot of selfies and got to bicker over who was eating more of the nacho cheese, thus ruining any chance of fair distribution for the chips.
Kid toss. My brother-in-law, niece and nephew nail farm parkour.
Mary’s room. I was home for my grandma’s funeral. After the calling hours, I went to the farm house where she had lived her entire adult life and where my dad’s family all grew up. Everything inside was frozen for a moment by the gravity of the day. Trinkets and totems covered this old dresser in my aunt’s room. She was recovering in the hospital after a brain hemorrhage that happened months before and couldn’t make it to the funeral for her mother, a circumstance that made the unpredictable cruelty of timing twist a quarter turn sharper.
Grandma’s room. The bed’s gone. A dresser and trunk and a rocking chair and lamp are all that’s left. The shell of the room is covered in reminders of their family, their faith or both.
Missy. I didn’t expect how sad I’d become inside the empty house. My sister and cousin were coming to join me but not soon enough. I headed to the barns looking for a kitten my dad had been telling me about, hoping to distract myself from what was coming up from deep inside me. But in the barn, I ran into one of the farm’s employees working that day — someone I was startled to see, I just figured I was alone. The surprise unraveled everything and I burst into tears. Dressed up in heels, sweating and sobbing inside the milk house. He was so patient as I gasped and sobbed gasped and sobbed gasped and sobbed trying to explain who I was and that I was looking for a “kitty my dad likes.” “Oh, that’s Missy!” he said. He took me to her. It was as if she had been waiting for me all along.
Dad and Honey. No one works as hard as my dad. His rough hands tell the working class hero story I worship, but he’s always so tender with animals. He’s got a farmer’s realism but respects an animal’s power. A few months after this was taken, he was thrown by several spooked cows and spent weeks in a hospital recovering from having his insides crushed, ribs snapped. He will always be the person I respect the most.
Chicago zen. There’s a circle of Buddha heads along Lake Shore trail. They’re part of the Ten Thousand Ripples project, an art-based program to spread peace in Chicago. They are there to remind passers-by to pursue calm and understanding, socially and psychologically. Lake Michigan geese love it as much as I do.
Spotted. I was shooting these photos from far away. This guy saw me though. He watched for a second to determine if I was a bringer food or if I was a threat. I was neither. He went back to pecking the dirt.
Concrete jungle. After a day at the Art Institute, I headed outside not totally knowing where I was or where I needed to go. Luckily, I exited the side that neighbors Millennium Park. There was a garden full of wild flowers going toe to toe with the skyscrapers for best scenery. As I kept walking, I happened upon an orchestra doing a dress rehearsal for a show later that evening. The city’s full of excellent surprises.
Dive in. A free beach volleyball tournament near my neighborhood.
Land ho. All summer long I’ve run along the lake. I’m alone here in a way I needed and sought; I’m making space so I can ask myself questions I need to answer so I can set the course of my life. This has been the perfect place to stop running from myself. Also, the view is unfailingly interesting. To one side you have a dangerous blue blanket covering secrets and seaweed. On the other you have a great American city’s towering skyline pulsing from the heat. It all makes chugging through two miles in 85 degree sludge feel not so silly. I always take an intermission at one of the beach houses and watch the water. (I still am giddy about the concrete stadium seating and open spaces for the public to use.) Seagulls fight for food or bob along the waves, a picture of peace. Sail boats dot the horizon in lonely, sunny succession. Each remind me of things I want to remember.
Talk to Nikolaos Hulme about his latest series of watercolor paintings, and it becomes fairly obvious he’s been wrastlin’ with some demons… wrastlin’ and learning where they go on the memory board and then putting and leaving them there to gather dust.
A curated version of the series is showing this month at Brothers Drake Meadery. The images are object memories watered down by time but ever as colorful—a pack of Marlboro cigarettes, a whale, a heroin needle and spoon.
“Some of the work is really racy,” Nikolaos said. “It will either offend people or they will look at it with an open mind.”
Of course, I recommend going in with an open mind so you can experience this artist’s great ability to tell a story with just a few objects. This series is a stark departure from his usual bold poppy subject matter (which is also so fun and gorgeous for their jagged line work and the way he’s able to inject his own voice into a popular or recognizable image without shouting over it and without ripping off the original idea).
I think it’s part of the mid-twenties life crisis. Nikolaos just turned 27. I think after 25 you start to learn to settle into past pain, or figure out a way around it, through it, over it. Whatever. You recognize that pain will always be here, but how can you manage it best? What do you want to say about it? How is it not anybody’s “fault,” per se?
When I talked to Nikolaos for this interview, he was still developing the series. Not in the final show, but part of the process, were other images reminiscent of his childhood but with a knowing grownup touch. The trailer he lived in when he was a kid, a grief stricken but acceptant Mary and Jesus.
What I love about this series is that I don’t think he’s judging anyone or anything related to the iconography, even if that iconography is a bottle of prescription pills, which likely holds a painful memory if you’re associating that with your childhood. There’s a humility and acceptance in the paintings that is comforting, and watercolor proves to be a very effective medium in balancing subtle power through color.
Nikolaos, 1. Demons… eh, .5?
“I don’t look at art as a way to make money. I look at it as my therapy,” Nikolaos said. “I want to leave something behind when I’m not here anymore. It’s nothing else. It’s what I want to do, what I’m passionate about.”
Love it! But, of course, y’all got bill$. We talked about that, too; balancing freelance work with personal projects. That and more below. Read it, then go see the show.
What’s your artist origin story?
I was just always drawing. It’s a natural thing for a kid to draw but it just always stuck with me. My grandma Hulme would sit down with me and draw batman and mermaids. I had a very supportive family. When I was very young they put me in the Saturday morning CCAD classes. I won a scholarship and it was a big deal to my family. I was always involved in contests. It was always an escape thing because I was never into sports and my dad would try to push my brother and I into boy scouts and football but I never connected, never really stuck. Art was always the outlet. I was always the weirdo drawing Garfield in class.
What mediums do you use?
Right now just water color and Indian ink. That’s what I’m mainly using. I love acrylics and oils. Oils are also therapeutic to me I just hate how long it takes for them to dry. I’ll just set it in the corner and run into it and ruin it.
I’m obsessed with these watercolors. I was just playing around one day. I fell in love with the technique. It’s easy and it’s natural letting the water move the paint. You end up with this beautiful, organic-feeling piece of artwork. If you don’t do it right the first time, you have to do it again. If I don’t like something I’ll just do multiple versions of it or I’ll scrap it all together.
Did you study art collegiately?
I am self-taught. I think if you’re passionate about anything the drive will push you to become better at whatever you’re into. You’re going to get better if you just keep doing something. I think art school’s an awesome thing, but I think we have an issue where we’re taught we have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars and put ourselves in debt to do what we love to do to survive. If we’re given a gift naturally, if you have a vision, you should pursue it, whether you have schooling or not.
What are your thoughts on the Columbus art scene?
I think it’s amazing. There’s a lot of diversity. The art scene’s growing. And it’s nice to feel appreciated. There’s so many people that are into art. They like to follow what you’re doing and that’s nice and it’s motivating. I think that helps give me drive.
Can you describe your artistic process?
Sometimes I’ll paint nonstop. Watercolors are so therapeutic and so simple. It’s easy to bust a couple out in a day. I like to incorporate things that stood out to me as a kid or teenager. Things that represent family members, good and bad experiences growing up. It’s me confronting demons, confronting things I struggled with and tried to hide or keep in. It’s me coming to terms with who I am as an adult.
I didn’t go to art school, I’m struggling to do what I love. Do I need to go school to get a piece of paper to do a job that I already know I’m qualified for? Painting is me coming to terms with who I am and learning to love myself and accept all that I’ve gone through.
What has painting this series (now at Brothers Drake) revealed to you? (Part of the show is pictured above.)
I realize there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’m painting a trailer. It’s something I didn’t really think about, but once I painted it and thought about it, any shame I had about it came to the surface and I was like, “Who gives a fuck?”
It’s weird how we just tuck things away and forget about it and then you talk about it and you’re like, wait I feel so much better now that I told somebody that.
This series is the most personal I’ve gotten with my artwork. After I painted it and let it out, I realized something I didn’t realize was bothering me. I like the mystery.
Painting this series, I started off with the whales and the marine life. I was really intrigued by mermaids and fish and whales as a kid. My favorite animal is the humpback whale. I love their fins and how they swim and jump out of the water. I was just always obsessed with them and the idea of living underwater and all that weird stuff. Then I started painting palm trees, which led into my pre-teen years of living in Florida and then that all led into the bad experiences of living in Florida, and then it kind of took off from there and getting really personal with all the work. It’s fun. It’s weird because when you have this theme just start pouring out of you and stay on track. I haven’t thought hard about what I’ve been painting, I just let it naturally flow.
What other work have you done that you’re really proud of?
I’m obsessed with pop art. I did a series of Wizard of Oz paintings [that showed at The Candle Lab in the Short North]. The mechanical guy for Steve Aoki, when he was in town, he bought them all. It was awesome. That was the biggest sale I’ve done so far.
I have a problem with committing to one series. I’ll paint and paint and paint and then decide the next day, yeah I painted these 12 paintings but I don’t think I want to show them, and they’ll get tucked away in the attic. I do that all the time. If I don’t like and I’m not happy with it I won’t show it.
I did this series of circus illustrations that were weird and quirky. I didn’t do anything with them. I just become interested in different styles and I like to evolve my work. It’s my therapy.
How do you deal with painters’ block?
I get bored easily. I like having a distinct style that’s recognizable, but if I work on something too much I lose interest and I have to start doing something different. I just move on to something different. I go through spells where I won’t paint for a few months. I’ll just live life. I’ll work on projects Nina West or other local assignments or travel. I want to travel more, see more and do more things. That alone is inspiring. Life experiences are what I’m inspired by. There are stages where I don’t want to do anything or have a lot going on.
How do you balance freelancing with personal work?
Even when I do freelance work, unless they let me have free rein, I’m not completely happy with it.I’m learning as I get older how to be better at making time to paint for myself. If I have something bad or stressful or even good in my life, it’s good to paint it. It’s something that symbolizes it. I’m getting it out of my body. It’s just like a journal.
How do you get freelance work?
People just contact me and ask me to do paintings. If you’re involved in the community and do good work, your name will get around. It’s nice. I’ve been privileged to be able to do the freelancing. But again, I don’t do it all the time because I can get lost in it.
I’m horrible at procrastinating too. I embrace it. I wish I didn’t. I wish I would do what I was supposed to be doing. But I work really well under pressure. If I’m reaching a deadline, I will bust it out in a few days, which is kind of nice. That adrenaline and that motivation forces you to come up with an awesome project…. And lots of caffeine.
What do you want to do next?
I’ve already started working on my next series, which is a series of inkblots. I’m really obsessed with psychological things right now. I’m doing the water colors again and I’m letting them do their own things. So I’m examining these inkblots after I make them and try to figure out what I see in them. Then I will add to that. And I’m trying to give something to the audience too and give them something to see and explore too.
I want to experiment with more, or different elements of art. I want to learn how to get really good at oil and other mediums.
What’s the most challenging aspect of being an artist?
I’m crazy. My emotions are up and down constantly. You’re very in tune with everything around you and it kind of drives you insane sometimes. At least that’s how I feel. I think maybe we’re all just a little crazy. We’re expected to be robots or be a certain way. We have to be a certain way to succeed. Some of the most successful people in history were insane! Why can’t we all be insane? Being an artist pushes us to have our own identity and be ourselves.
What has been inspiring you lately?
I’m really into, this sounds tacky, but scientists and Nostradamus. I love watching those documentaries on Netflix. I am obsessed with how a lot of things were discovered by star gazing and studying the stars. I’m really inspired by what drives us to do certain things or live certain lifestyles and how it affects us.
What three artists, living or dead would you invite to a dinner party?
I’d probably have to go with David Lynch, Francis Bacon and Salvador Dalí. I’m sure that this mix would make for an interesting evening.
Larry Doyle turns 26 today, but he cannot deny the velocity his 25th year took to get him here.
“This has been a great year of super high highs and super low lows,” Larry said during a New Year’s Eve interview at his studio in Tacocat Cooperative in Grandview. “I think you just learn how to keep the table from tipping over.”
At 25, Larry came out to his mom and friends as a gay man.
“I got really freaked out that I’d be 40 and married with kids. I want to be happy,” he said. “I kept it inside for so long because I don’t want to be somebody’s gay friend. I don’t want to be the gay artist.”
It’s fair to say Larry hates labels. Or, more accurately, I think Larry hates the way labels can dismiss everything else not under the umbrella of said label. Labels inherently deny genuineness, the dynamics of a personhood.
For example, Larry has been sober for years. It’s a big part of his art, but recently on vacation to Mexico he took a day to get drunk.
“I’d been wanting to for a while. Nothing changed. I drank for hours. I got drunk. But I didn’t have fun. I was like, I’m done,” he said. “I had to know. Sobriety became bigger than me. People who didn’t know me but wanted to talk to me just about being sober. It became bigger than who I was.”
It’s clear Larry wants to define Larry, I think in part because it’s challenging for him to define himself to himself. When other people’s generalizations get involved, it’s hard to not take that personally.
“I have an addictive personality in general. I found that out coming out, too,” he said. “This summer I started dating a boy and I was not myself. I was addicted to this kid. And it wasn’t anything he did. It was horrible. We were building Tacocat and I couldn’t focus on anything. Dating to me was like ‘Let’s move in!'”
Larry said he’s learning to channel all that addictive tendency into his work. And what’s so great is that you can see this in not just how more prolific he is getting (he admits to making and completing and selling more works than he ever has in the past year) but in what his art expresses. Larry’s quest for self-awareness is coming through in his art and the more he understands himself–or keeps trying to understand himself–the deeper that work will get.
He’s a man with a plan for 26, too.
“I want to go national with my artwork. I don’t how to do that. I don’t know what the fuck i’m doing,” he laughed. “Before I hit 30 I want to be able to happliy do this for a living. I want my creative outlets to flourish. What if this was my office? How fucking sweet would that be?”
Read on to see just how Larry’s subject matter is shifting and what challenges he faces as a young artist.
[Columbus-based artist] Dan Gerdeman was my teacher in high school. I showed him my really crappy sketchbook and he assigned me to Drawing 3, which was the hour-long drawing class. I moved into Junctionview and shared a studio there after high school. I did all the events, sold a few paintings here and there. I took a drawing class at Columbus State. I wanted to go to CCAD but it was too much money so we wrote it off. Then I looked at Full Sail University in Florida for a while and a two-year program would leave me thousands of dollars in debt. When I did go to Columbus State I hated all of it and didn’t really do well. i just dropped out of that. Academia is not for me. … There’s a roablock now because I don’t have the training. I just got a trial on my computer for Adobe Illustrator. There’s a lot of marketing I don’t know how to do, and I want to draw other things, I want to draw more Realism, I just don’t have the training. The first time I realized I could sell stuff was this series I did for, like, Agora Six. I made these little guys that had cigarette burns and they were screaming and bleeding. It was very Don Hertzfeldt.
What medium and tools do you prefer?
Pen and paper all the way. I just got Adobe Illustrator two days ago. I’m always digging [Columbus-based artist] Clinton Reno’s stuff, the rock posters. I love the flat design. I want to push myself into making prints.
What has been inspiring your work lately?
I love iconography, icons in art. I’ve been making this little guy, the guy I often draw, into a saint. I don’t know why; I just love the details and all the halos. There’s no name for him. sometimes they’re self portraits, sometimes they’re just… weird. After I quit drinking, I would draw these heads as date markers. I have a tattoo of a bunch of the heads and I keep a print of it above my studio door. I started to put wings on the heads, little halos. … I’ve always been interested in symbols. Being closeted for so long I’ve had to find different ways to express myself. We all attach different meanings to things. Icons, I love the way they look. They play with the symbols of what it means to me and people can put their own meanings into them too.
What in your art career are you most proud of so far?
This piece I made last night [which Larry is holding in the photo that starts this blog post]. I really like it. Like I said, I make these guys, they all have golden halos. Last night I started drawing another one and I put an upside down cross and right side up cross near him. The upside down cross kind of represents blasphemy. He doesn’t have any gold in his halo but there’s a red circle around him that gives the affect of a halo–and also of a target.
These guys are saints and he doesn’t have any gold so he’s not a saint. But he still has a halo. Maybe I’ll keep going with them and put some gold in them, have them be targets but saints as well. … Sometimes when I look back on a piece I can tell if I was feeling lost or sad, and that’s not something I’m thinking about when I’m making them. Days later I’ll be like, “Damn. That was pretty heavy.” I like the heads that count my days of sobriety, but this most recent work is an expression of how I feel, not what I did.
When I came out I was like <snaps finger> “Solved.” That wasn’t the case at all. I’ve been struggling with how to pull that struggle out of myself this past year and put it into art. I always get super pumped when people make paintings that can do that. [Larry’s studio neighbor] Brian [Reaume] makes these amazing abstract pieces and I, of course, am a child and am like “I see a dinosaur!” But seriously, I get to see him make his stuff now which is so awesome. His piece for artist Stephanie Rond‘s Tiny Out Loud project was about creativity and sheltering it and the war on being creative and being yourself. It’s a painting of a house and the outside of the house had the words like fag and die and stuff like that. Finding the way to be vulnerable on the page like that is crazy.
Has working in a studio near an intimate group of artists affected the way you work?
I love it. I’ve learned a lot from Brian. He is so about presentation. I’ve learned a lot being here, surrouding myself with people like Adam Brouillette. I’ve learned a lot by watching them and how they present their artwork and the steps they take. Like, when I take this show to Brioso, I will wrap each piece in paper so they don’t get scratched. I threw away a frame yesterday because it had a scratch. I’m not going to put all this time into a drawing and put it in this frame that is scratched. It’s going to ruin the whole thing. I know I am obsessive, that I have an addictive personality, but I’ve learned to turn it into a positive. This is the first year I’ve actually taken myself seriously. I’d done art before but it was like, my friends are here, your friends are here. Now I have people like Brian right next door telling me to get my ass there and work. I’m incredibly fortunate to be next door to these guys.
What do you do while you work?
I listen to music. Lately I’ve been listening to The Walkmen. Interpol. I like throwing it back a little bit. I’ve been trying to get through the top albums of 2013 lists. I’ve tried to watch movies before. I started watching American Horror Story but then I just shut the lights off and watched the whole thing. I just bought “Prefuse 73 Reads The Books” on iTunes yesterday and I’ve already listened to it, like, seven times. I sometimes draw better, too, when people are in my studio, just hanging out.
Do you ever experience artist’s block? How do you overcome it?
Yes. That’s really frustrating when that happens. I’m fortunate enough to have music and art, so when I’m here and I can’t get through it I go play music for a while. It comes in waves. I’ll be really into writing guitar stuff for like a month and then I will have to be here in the studio all the time. Sometimes the solution is just putting on a CD you haven’t heard in a while or driving to Cincinnati to visit the art museum. Sometimes if I don’t want to draw and know I need to I just scribble. Muscle memory. Even if you just take a canvas and just fuck with it. Sometimes just being here and putting that energy you will have a moment like that it clears out and it’s like fucking finally. Or Brian and I will “go for a walk” and just go to Target and walk around and stare at boys or I go to Giant Eagle and just get a piece of fruit or something. Sometimes just walking away from it is super refreshing.
What is the hardest part about being an artist?
The talking. There’s the business aspect of this stuff I always forget about. If you want to make money, you have to talk. I don’t really want to talk. It feels so cheesy using any kinds of sales tactics. Art’s so personal. I’m going to buy this piece because i want it, not because you’re selling it to me. It’s not a fucking couch.
It’s awesome to do this and be in music. I’ve done a lot of stuff this year. My band [The Weight of Whales] opened for Alt J at the LC. Things like being on stage or doing a show are so much for me, though. Like, when I’m done I’m like just hold me. You have to always be on. Playing a show is a lot of fun and you get to be a rockstar but you have to be on. If you fuck up everyone fucks up. Or being at long shows like Agora that are eight hours long. Afterward I just shut my door and get really depressed. It’s so draining. But it’s totally worth it.
What advice that you’ve found invaluable would you give a new artist?
A whole bunch. One of the things I like a lot is people telling me hard work pays off. It’s true. You just have to do it. It’s not going to be easy. The things that come together easily will fall apart easily. If it’s a strugle it will be worth it. That’s so hard to tell yourself when you’re sitting here and you’re like “I can’t draw anything” and all I draw is penises randomly. That sucks. But you have to be here. I can’t take naps anymore because I feel the need, the drive to be in my studio. If you want it, you’ll do it. Before this last year I didn’t finish a lot of things. It’s the closure. Moving on. Doing the next thing. It’s weird. It’s hard for me.
Three artists, living or dead that you would invite to a dinner party:
We’ll stay away from musicians because that list will just go on and on.
Spiritus Tattoo’s Mike Moses. I don’t know anything about this person but his Instagram posts are awesome. [Follow Mike @TheDrownTown] I’m obsessed with his artwork. I want him to do my next tattoo. I want two whales on my chest. Everything he does is so clean and thought out, and the line work is amazing.
A Facebook friend had posted the image. I reposted, having never heard of Rond but loving the piece. Total honesty: I did not think she was from Columbus. I had yet to see, in my four or five years of living here, any feminist art by a local. Coming to Columbus by way of the super liberal Kent, Ohio, this fact was something I was keenly aware of. Thus, I just assumed…
Then, by a series of fabulous events–most of which involved getting trash wine wasted, smoking American Spirits and me eating all the fancy cheese she brought for hangtime before she could get any–we became good friends.
Rond’s work has a voice I long to hear. I love a lot of work by artists in town, but her pieces seem made for me. They are challenging but nurturing. They don’t make me feel angry, they make me feel vindicated. They make me remember that abuse–of power, people and/or prerogatives–can be overcome if we stick together and demand better. And they straddle the line between radicalism and understanding that everyone has fucking problems, a quality my favorite outlooks on social struggles share.
Moreover, girl’s innovative. She started curating a couple dollhouse galleries with miniature contemporary art. A dollhouse was always on her list of wants as a little girl, so why not? What has resulted is an exploration of scale, gender, desire, space and collaboration. (Each presenting artist is also in charge of setting up the “house” with tiny decor Rond gives them. It’s really fun to click through and see how each artist accomplished this task.)
Then! By a series of even more fabulous events, I became the proud owner of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”
It is special to me that this is the first piece of art I have ever owned (by disposable income restrictions, not choice). It is special to me that it is the first piece of Rond’s that I ever saw. To me, “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” speaks to the struggle to define one’s own femininity (or masculinity, for that matter) and the unique concerns of female artists. Here’s a rough stream of consciousness of what I see when I look at it:
Woman —> Beautiful —> God, it takes a long time to get ready —> I love getting ready —> I love that women are beautiful and it’s socially acceptable to use all the tools at our disposal to get ready/ beautiful —> I also love women who do nothing to get ready and think they are beautiful. —> Do we feel pressured to use those tools? —> I guess we do as girls —> But as a woman, wearing makeup is more for me than for anyone else —> Why do we hate when men wear makeup? —> Ugh. Well. —> Would I like it if my boyfriend wore makeup or corsets? ————-> NO. —-> Remember when emo kids in college wore eyeliner to macroeconomics class? Because one can not properly assess the GDP without Cover Girl. —> I think that was my least attended class of college. In fact, I think it was called microeconomics. I never took macroeconomics. —> Speaking of kids. —> Am I going to have any? ————> Yes. Eventually. —> Look at these kids. Four of them, like me and my siblings. —> Are these these women’s children? Or do they represent her as a child. —> I think they are her children. —> I think she was an artist. Or wants to be an artist. —> Art is literally what she sees when she looks in the mirror. —> It’s a man painting. —> Her daughter is holding the same painting that she sees in the mirror. The boys are the ones actually painting, though. —> Is she passing on her artist dreams to her children because she wants to or because she has to? —> How do you choose your life? —> At what points is life a choice? —> At what point are we responsible for our own happiness/ unhappiness? —> I like the blindfolded boy. He seems like trouble. —> I like boys who are trouble. —> Are the children painting the way they see their mother? —> How did I paint a picture of my mother while outside as a child getting in trouble? —> What dreams of hers do I have inside me? —> Are they really my dreams? —> The boys are so far apart from one another. —> I wish the boys found it easier to confide in one another like these little girls appear to. —> Maybe the mom is still an artist. —> Maybe this is a hopeful painting of everything a woman’s life can represent. —> Everything my life can represent? —> Choices.
In a belated What’s Up Columbus post (she was our July show’s second guest), here are Rond’s 10 answers to 10 questions for an artist.
What kind of art do you make and why?
I make street art, paintings and miniature worlds.
My goal is to create work that serves as a springboard for meaningful political conversation. I want to challenge the boundaries of stereotypes and provoke the questions: What is art? What is the proper space for art?
How do you make your street art?
For my street art I hand cut stencils and use spray paint. For my temporary “street gifts,” I spray on paper and wheat-paste the images onto walls. For permanent pieces I spray directly onto the wall. All my work is sanctioned. I believe in art karma, so I always ask permission.
What are your thoughts on the Columbus art scene? What are it’s advantages and/ or disadvantages?
In the past decade, the DIY arts culture in Columbus has grown and thrived “underground.” Currently, creatives are exploding everywhere in our city and opportunities abound for beginners to the well known.
Within the arts community, we have learned that the best way to succeed is to work collectively in order to lift us all up. It makes me proud to be part of a large artist community that values collaboration and mutual success. The Art and Artists of 614on Facebook, founded by Walter Herrmann, is a good place for anyone interested in the local visual scene to get a flavor of what the city has to offer.
Columbus is centrally located between Atlanta, New York, Philly, Indiana, Cleveland, Chicago and many other communities with thriving art scenes. All these cities are a one-day drive, which makes showing broadly possible. This central location gives Columbus artists the ability to build a regional presence. The challenge for artists to move to national recognition, however, is that we have to “compete” for attention with the artists who are actually living in the largest cities where “being discovered” on a national level happens.
What do you do while you make art?
I listen to music and audio books. My favorite music genres to listen to are punk rock, riot grrl, heavy metal, alternative rock, hip hop and music my friends give me as gifts. I love listening to both fiction and non-fiction audio books. I also enjoy This American Life on NPR.
What has been the most interesting thing you’ve learned from the art that has been shown in your miniature dollhouses?
I’ve been pleasantly (un)surprised how serious the artists take their shows. This reinforces my belief that no matter the scale, art is art. It has also been interesting to hear from the artists how challenging, yet rewarding working on a small scale can be.
What attracts you to street art and what do you think is the biggest hurdle facing women who want to make street art?
I’m attracted to street art for several reasons, one because I believe that art should be for all to experience, two it combats advertising and marketing schemes and three it is not a product to be bought or sold.
The biggest hurdle facing women who want to make street art is the same that faces women in most careers; it can be frustrating to play in the “boys club.”
Do you wish to see your art effect feminist change locally? How so?
Of course! I plan to affect change not just locally, but nationally. I want to make visuals that open conversations about the inequalities that are real and exist. When people recognize the reality and discuss it, then change can happen.
How do you balance creating art with all the curatorial work you do?
It’s not easy. Curatorial work is much more than just putting a show together, hanging it and opening the show. It involves lots of meetings with artists and galleries, identifying artists, emails, phone calls, PR, etc. This often cuts into painting, which for my process, often requires days in row of concentration. I’m most successful at it when I schedule that time in advance by blocking my calendar, but the creative process also requires spontaneity and inspiration. I’m still trying to figure out this balance.
Do you have a schedule or system set up that works for you?
I use three things. My phone calendar, a huge chalkboard in my kitchen where I list everything that needs to get done and a small pad of paper on my studio work table so I can empty my head while doing studio work.
What advice would you give to an artist starting out that you’ve found invaluable?
I advise artists to keep working and not worry about what everyone else thinks. Keep striving to refine your technique. Make sure you are critical of yourself and always seek knowledge so you can continue to grow.
Three artists, living or dead, that you would invite to a dinner party.
I would invite contemporaries because I’m interested in their views on current society. The Guerrilla Girls, Henry Rollins and Margaret Atwood. I think Henry can roll with the ladies.