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: