Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Quite a Cozy

My own guerilla art output has been a bit meager lately, and so I figured I'd share a link to this piece that I enjoyed reading about recently:

I feel like I've seen or heard about guerrilla knitting with surprising frequency recently, but this piece, by New York based artist, Olek, is by far the most visually and critically interesting and impressive.  In brief: she knitted a cozy for the Wall Street bull:
It sounds like the piece didn't survive very long before park's caretaker unceremoniously removed it.  It's a pity - I'd like to think that work with this much obvious care and craftsmanship, even if unauthorized, would give some pause to those charged with destroying it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Too Googly

I'm going to have to alter this alteration before returning.  Here's the skirt from the outside:
And here's a little peek at the underskirt:
 Googly eyes! Here's the full view with the skirt pinned up to show the googly eyes affixed to the underskirt with gel medium:
I had been concerned initially that the gel medium wouldn't hold the eyes on well, but it turns out that it holds them quite well... perhaps too well.  The problem that I didn't anticipate is the noise that the googly eyes make.  They all rattle when you move the skirt, which obviously won't work for returning. 

So now I've got to figure out a remedy for that.  I could try to slit the eyes and insert some adhesive so that the black parts stay still, but that would probably look messy, and ruin the fun of googly eyes.  My first move will be to see if I can remove the eyes, maybe by soaking the underskirt and gel medium, in hopes that it will loose it's hold, then go back and paint something else in their places - possibly stationary eyes, or something else of similar size and shape.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ahhh... That's Much Better

The bad news is, I've been terrible about keeping up a respectable pace of posting here.  The good news is, it is not for lack of making art - I've actually been working on a couple of cool projects lately that I'd love to share.  But the bad news is, I did them under other nomenclature, and so will not be writing about them in this forum.

But the good news is, I recently undertook this 'weekend project' of painting my dresser, got a bit more carried away with it than expected, and now it is more painting than dresser:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shell Game: Gap Skirt with Feather Tuft

I've been pretty busy relocating lately, and haven't been keeping up with my shopdropping or blogging as I would like, but finally my first non-Manhattan Shell Game iteration has been returned to a Gap in my new hood.  For my first west coast Shell Game I added a tuft of colorful feathers to the underside of a pocket on this sober work-a-day number:
Here's a scintillating little peek up the skirt:
And now a shot with the outer layer of skirt and the pocket pinned up, but with the underskirt still hanging normally:
And hey - why not include a close-up?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Further Ferris

Back in January, I went to a reading by Joshua Ferris, after which I awkwardly gave him (further description here) a scan of the Post-it Book that I had done in response to his novel Then we Came to the End (further description here). 
Remember that?  My expectation of getting any response had long ago dropped to nothing...
But I actually just heard back from him.  I had included my email address with the scan I gave him, and I just received a very nice note from him, politely thanking me for coming to his reading and giving him the scan, and saying a few nice things about the piece.  Oddly enough, the fact that his response came eight months after I met him, makes me all the more impressed that he actually took the time to look the project over and write me a note!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Abandoned Coast, Abandoned Project?

I have quit the east coast in favor of the west, and in doing so, have left my serial post-it story, which I'd been placing on post-its in books from the Brooklyn Public Library, hanging in the middle of its grandmother/granddaughter cross-country road trip.  I decided to move so quickly, that I did not even get a chance to do the installment in Specimen Days, the next book that I had planned to use as a base, leaving this note a lie:
So now my "To be continued" is left hanging, presumably forever.  I could pick up the story in a new library book, here on the west coast, and keep adding the installments to my blog until its finished, which would give the piece a sort of completion.  After all, the likelihood that anyone ever actually found a segment of the story and followed it from one book to another, much less that anyone found the first segment of the story and succeeded in following each "chapter" from one book to the next, through four books, seems incredibly unlikely.  But somehow, even though any real audience for the piece was always likeliest to be found online, now that I know that no one with be able to follow the story through the actual physical books, the impetus to finish it is gone.  I'm not sure why my interest is so bound up with whether someone will experience the piece as it was "meant" to be experienced, rather than viewing the the documentation of that piece.  And isn't it rather strange to be caught up in the loss of an audience of one?

Or maybe I'm just making excuses for writers block?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Old Navy Cropped Jeans: Fun with Size Labels

I was walking the fashion district, looking for zippers, when I came across a trimmings shop with stacks of little boxes of these size labels:
I knew immediately that they would inspire all kinds of Shell Game fun.  In the future, I may paint or draw on them or in other ways alter them, but for my first utilization I've sewn them, as is, into this pair of cropped jeans from Old Navy.
That photo is of the jeans turned right-side-out, after I altered them.  I sewed directly through the fabric, but because I used a dark thread and did small stitches, my additions were nearly invisible from outside.  Here is what they look like inside-out:
To me, the scattering of size tags works as an abstract composition, but also brings to mind a representation of people of various sizes grouping themselves, and in that way takes on an almost narrative dimenstion.  Here's a closer shot:
The line at Old Navy was very long when I went to do the return, which meant that I had plenty of time to work myself into a nervous state by imagining being caught.  I spent a while watching the people around me, trying to perfect a "normal" way of standing in line.  But when I got to the front the clerk was so busy that quite literally said only two words to me, and the return ended up being one of the quickest and smoothest yet.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Message in a Bottle Project

I recently met the instigator of Message in a Bottle Project.  She, and the occasional collaborator, make small collages, paintings, and drawings which are then left in various public or semi-public locations to be found by whomever happens to chance upon them.  She leaves contact information on the back, and encourages the finders to get in touch and let her know when and where they encountered her artistic dispersions.  As she describes it on her blog:

"Our intent is seated in release, discovery, fun, exploration, stories, and connections between strangers. We like to think of MiaBs as movable, three-dimensional graffiti objects. "

Speaking of her blog, I stole this image off of it.  It is one of my favorites of the MiaB pieces, although there is certainly no dearth of lovely samples:
The way that the cloud-form's colors echo the colors of the room, and how all of these elements inform the figure with his slumped far-away posture is really arresting and poetic.

Here are a few more examples of the aesthetic:

The project shares the playful art-in-unexpected-places ethos of my Shell Game project, but the two take very different paths when it comes to follow-up. While MiaB encourages contact and explanation, Shell Game works hard to preserve anonymity and mystery. Although I don't want to leave contact info in my work, I think the move works well for MiaB. I like keeping my clothing alterations difficult to explain, but I think that the MiaB project is served by an awareness that when one has found a "Message", they have found a discrete part of a more intricate and expansive whole. But maybe Shell Game would be served by that as well?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Top Five in Five

After going to see Miranda July's 11 Heavy Things Installation currently showing in Union Square, I thought to myself, "That was nice, but it wouldn't quite rank among the top five art exhibits I've seen in NYC in the last five years."  Which of course inspired me to reflect upon what the top five art works/exhibits that I've seen in NYC in the last five years would actually be.  Here they are, ranked in what I feel to be their order at the moment.

5) Ron Mueck at the Brooklyn Museum:  Mueck employs the mechanisms of movie special effects production to make incredibly life-like figurative sculptures.  Though intensely impressive from a technical angle, what really drew me into Mueck's work was how he played with scale to make me experience my own figure differently.  A huge sculpture of a woman lying in bed, for example, brought back vividly the feeling of being a child crawling into bed with my parents, simply because of how it's scale related to my own.
Ron Mueck: In Bed
Ron Mueck (Australian, b. 1958). In Bed, 2005. Mixed media, 63 3/4 x 255 7/8 x 155 1/2 in. (161.9 x 649.9 x 395 cm). Private Collection
(Photo from

4) David Byrne's Playing the Building, presented by Creative Time: Byrne's building-as-musical-instrument was smartly conceived, a great way to experience the battery maritime building, and fun to play/watch.

3) David Hockney at Pace Wildenstein: Hockney may have come to prominence in southern California, but East Yorkshire sure seems to agree with him.  His large landscapes were lively and gorgeous in person, in a way that just can't be captured by a website.

2) Marina Abromovic's The Artist is Present at MoMA: Not only was it thrilling to have a chance to participate in an Abromovic piece, but the retrospective itself really fleshed out (sorry, couldn't help myself) my understanding of Abromovic's work.  I appreciated the chance to see others performing her earlier works, although I know that that aspect was actually detrimental for some.

1) Antony Gormley's Blind Light at Sean Kelly Galery: The only piece on this list that I went to go see multiple times, Blind Light offered a simple gesture, an interactive room-sized glass box filled with dense white-lit fog, that created a complex and indelible experience - exploring the human experience of vision and space - as well as an aesthetically beautiful object.

(Photo from
Now, this list may well deserve a place in the ranking of the top five most self-indulgent posts I've ever written, but still, if any of those works show up in your neck of the woods, check them out...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Shell Game: Green Shorts from Express

I finally returned the Express shorts to which I had added text.  I actually went by the store, but then chickened out a couple of times before I finally did the return.  Express is the one store that has previously caught me; the clerk noticed a pocket I had elongated mid-return, while searching for the tag to scan the item back into their system.  That was quite a while back, and at a different Express location, but nonetheless, it has made me have a kind of superstitious nervousness about doing Shell Game there.  This return went fine, though.  I had purposely chosen a particularly stealthy alteration, in order to lessen my panic as much as possible.  As I posted previously, I added text to the underside of a pocket.  Here's a shot of the shorts turned inside-out, with the pocket pinned up:
And here's a detail shot of the text:
As per a blog-solicited suggestion, I decided to use Lorem Ipsum (the standard place-holder text used by type-setters, printers and graphic designers) for the piece.  After completing the first pocket I felt like it might look too much like a purposeful design element - like perhaps Express just decided to spice up the pockets by using a text-y print on part of them - so I also added more Lorem Ipsum to the underside of one of the button-flaps on one of the back pockets.  The orange on green looks a little more obviously hand-wrought and out of place than the black on white text.
After all that stalling, the return went quite easily. The clerk didn't even give the shorts the customary cursory once-over before taking them back.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Key to the City: Part One?

I'd heard rumors about Paul Ramirez Jonas' Key to the City - excited murmurs from other artists - before I read any of the press about the piece.  The idea - public art piece/scavenger hunt/award ceremony hybrid - is a fertile one. Here is how Creative Time, who sponsors the piece, describes it on its website:
"One to one, one at a time, all of the time, thousands of keys will be bestowed by thousands of people on thousands of citizens for thousands of reasons that deserve to be recognized. Keys to cities are traditionally given by a mayor to a hero or dignitary, symbolizing that they can have free entrance to the city. This new Key to the City belongs to us, and is awarded among ourselves. And with this new key, we gain an opportunity to step back and reflect on common space in the city. For not only does the key open up specific sites, but it can also make us aware that the city is a series of spaces that are locked or unlocked."

What this boils down to is that if you go to Times Square with a partner and perform a little ceremony, you can get a key that opens a variety of locks with a variety of results, and a little passport-like booklet showing where to find these locks.  
Key to the City kiosk in Times Square (Photo from ArtObserved)
I went to get my key the week after the piece opened.  I didn't have any friends available at the time that I wanted to go, so I decided I would just head to Times Square, and draft a stranger to participate with me if necessary.  I didn't end up having to work even that hard.  Upon asking a volunteer if she knew of anyone else in need of a partner, she matched me up with a woman who was already partway through the line. Score!

Flora, my recently acquired partner, was very personable, and we passed the forty-five minutes or so that it took to make it through the line by chatting.  She ran in-house catering for an advertising agency, and had read about Key to the City in the New York Post.  She wasn't a big follower of contemporary art, but had a friend who was, and so had recently been to the Whitney Biennial.  We compared notes, and talked of the city in general.  It was a nice venue for getting to know a stranger.

When we got to the front of the line we read the ceremony script, exchanged keys, signed the register, and said our goodbyes.  So far, the piece was living up to my expectations: it created a reason to go somewhere that I wouldn't normally venture (Times Square), and a new and interesting social situation.  
The actual deployment of the key, however, has been less successful.  It took a couple of weeks before I made it to the first lock. Many of the locks are located places that involve time constraints.  The one at Gracie Mansion is only available on Wednesdays, and I ended up in that part of town on Sunday.  I was near the site at Cabinet Magazine on a date it was open, but too late in the day.  My time and location finally aligned in DUMBO, where I went to the site in a locker at Gleason's Gym.  

When I arrived at the Gym, I told the receptionist that I was there for the Key to the City.  She asked if I wanted to look around for the locker, or have her tell me where it was.  I looked uncomfortably at the array of large men boxing intently throughout the space, and asked her to just tell me where it was.  She pointed me to the opposite corner of the room, and I made my way past boxing bags and rings and people ignoring me.  The locker unlocked to reveal boxing gloves and other gym accouterments, along with a box full of a bunch of copies of a small magazine related to the sport.  Next to me a few trainers were looking at pictures on a computer and chatting.  I pondered what they must think of a person making a pilgrimage to their gym unlock this space.  I made a half-hearted gesture of touching a few of the objects in the locker and then left quickly.  I was disappointed that the locker contained exactly what one would expect it to contain.    The appeal of the locked door is that there could be anything behind it.  And anything surprising would be of interest.  But my visit to Gleason's did not feel like an award or an adventure, just like being a tourist in a place that is not an attraction.

I'm still optimistic that some of the lock sites that operate differently may be more engaging to me.  For example, the key is supposed to allow you to turn on and off a lamp-post in Bryant Park, which sounds fun, and perhaps some of the boxes that are in more artistic locations will have more artistic contents.  If I manage to visit any more sites, I'll 'part two' this baby.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hey Beautiful

I've just about finished my smiling people painting, which I've taken to calling Hey Beautiful.  I may go back and do a few touch ups here and there, but for the most part, I feel done with it.  Here are some process shots as well as the final one, the lowest on the page being the most recent:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Time Lapse: Step-By-Step Painting Construction

I've been meaning to post process shots of a few of my older paintings that I thoroughly documented while in progress, and since this last week has mostly been activity not worth reporting, it seems as good a time as any.  I always find it interesting to see how paintings actually develop - the way that color, layering and composition change over time.  Here is how I constructed my painting, The Party-goers:
Since my paintings are often inspired by a narative situation or moment, I almost always have all composition and imagery in mind when I start a piece. Colors, textures, and details may vary, but the arrangement of shapes stays the same throughout. Because of this, I basically end up making huge coloring books for myself - a process which is, as far as I can tell, somewhat unusual, and perhaps more constricting than it ought to be, but it is what feels natural to me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Jessica's big head is giving me problems.  After many hours of work on it this weekend, and several attempts at retouching, I finally went back in and scrubbed it out to start anew.  I think that the biggest issue is, well, how big it is.  Because Jessica sits a couple feet in front of the other people in my source photos, she is by far the largest figure.  But as true as the perspective may be, it looks strange when painted.  This is partly because I chose to paint the people on the couch, where most of the sitters are located, approximately life size.  Jessica, in the foreground, needs therefore to be larger than life size, and so ends up looking like a stray figure from a mural or billboard instead of a cohesive part of the composition.  On my next attempt, I'll have to figure out a better balance between the suggestion of perspective and what fits in with the rest of the painting.

Here are a couple of process shots to give you an idea of how things were going before I got entangled in scale issues.  My first layer of color:
And the first few flesh tones applied:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Further Workshopping Some Green Shorts

In my last post I asked for ideas of what sort of text to add to the under-pocket of the Shell Game garment on which I am currently working.  I quite liked Jon's suggestion to use Lorem Ipsum (the standard place-holder text used by type-setters, printers and graphic designers), and so have gone ahead and done so.  Here's a shot of the shorts turned inside out, with the pocket pinned up to reveal the added text.
Here's a close-up of the Lorem Ipsum:
I painted the text in my approximation of Times New Roman, and as a result I'm concerned that it may look too much like a purposeful design ellement.  Since workshopping this piece worked so nicely earlier, I'm going to do so again.  What do you think - does it look like the text is just a standard mass-produced design element, or would someone who found it know that it had been altered?  If it looks too standard, what would you suggest to make it less so?  Some ideas I have considered include adding color to part of or around the text, sewing small beads onto the text to dot some of the 'i's, and adding more Lorem Ipsum to other hidden pocket areas.  But I would really appreciate it if you would just be creative for me again.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Looking for Ideas

I've just purchased a new pair of shorts for Shell Game, which I've decided I want to alter by adding text.  I've never added text to a garment before, and am not at all sure what it should say.  The shorts are the type that have two overlapping pockets. 
This picture shows them turned inside out, with the second (white) pocket pinned up so that you can see the space underneath.  I intend to add the text to the underside of that white pocket.  Anyone have any good ideas of what it should say?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Lap Full of Happy

My most recent clothing work may be the closest that the Shell Game part of my practice has come to the painting part.  I purchased this dress from H&M:
And because I've been preoccupied lately with wanting to make images that look lovingly at their audience, I added this group of smilers to the underskirt:
Although populated by different people, this is a very similar set up to the large oil painting that I'm currently working on.  In fact, the background from the source photo for this one (which I omitted on the underskirt), is the background that I'm using for the large work.  Here's the above painting in context:
As I selected this dress, and then waited in a very long line, I imagined putting figures at the bottom of the underskirt, atop the hemline, but when actually purchasing I realized that that spot was where the electronic theft-prevention thing had been clipped.  Assuming the clip would be re-attached after the piece was returned, here was yet another way that my alteration could potentially be found before returning to the racks.  So I opted for lap placement instead, which also has a certain suggestiveness to it.

I hope that I placed it high enough to avoid detection.  This painting is the most involved figurative intervention that I've done.  What do you think - good direction to head in, or should I focus on more structural/sculptural additions?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Why Hello There, Gorgeous

I've just finished the under-painting for my next large oil on paper painting.  I've generated this composition differently than most.  Instead of starting, as I usually do, by thinking of what image I would most want to paint, I began by thinking about what image I would most want to have on my wall.  I decided that if I were being honest, the image that I would most want to encounter everyday would be one of a bunch of people looking at me as though they love me and are joyous to see me.  So this is the feeling that I'm setting out to evoke with this group of smilers.  I want the painting to gaze with love upon it's viewer.

Do you think I can manage to complete a painting that smiles affectionately at it's viewer without its veering too deeply into the creepy?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Maps and Cookies

Wandering the internet, I came upon, where artist and urban planner Neil Freeman has posted some lovely and intriguing mapping work.  I think my favorites are Streets Centered, Street Gradient, Contextual Calendar, and Symbolic Alphabet, but really, it is difficult to choose.

And, and in line with my love of playful art projects in public space, Jane McGonigal is writing out the myth of sysiphus, in cookies, one word at a time, all over the world.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Serial in a Sequel: Chip Kidd Post-its

I'm about to return the fourth installment of my serial post-it note story to the library, nestled inside of Chip Kidd's The Learners.


I chose The Learners based simply on wanting to read it, but the fact that it features a recent college graduate dovetails nicely with the situation of my Maddie.  The novel is a sequel to Kidd's first book The Cheese Monkeys, which means that both his story and mine start off in the midst of the tale.

You can read a pdf of my post-it note additions to Chip Kidd's The Learners here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Grocery Store Gardening

I'd been meaning, for quite some time, to participate in Planting Seeds, a shopdropping project of bay area artist Hang Nguyen.  Nguyen makes whimsical mock-fruit-stickers, and sends them out upon request for others to leave on grocery store produce world-wide.

I received my stickers in the mail a little while back, and finally took them out for a jaunt while shopping at Fairway, in Brooklyn:

The produce section was pretty congested so I did not manage to use up all my stickers, but I made a dent:

Too literal?  I may not have been considering placement all that carefully.  It was fun, though, to participate in someone else's art project, and nice to do some shopdropping that did not make me as nervous as returning my altered clothing does...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Old Navy Skirt

My latest return is a skirt from Old Navy:

I added a zipper to the underskirt:

Which unzips to reveal a little tuft of aberrant decoration: a crease of tulle, sequins and crystal:

Those views show the garment with the outer layer flipped up to reveal the underskirt.  Here's the garment turned inside out, from which vantage the alteration is visible, but not terribly noticeable:

I was feeling nervous about this one, so I cashed in a favor to have someone else return it for me, but all went quite smoothly.