Otherness, the other, the other self, the divided self, the unity, harmony, disharmony, the enemy, the friend, the other, other, other, other, another, other.
After this election, I can't help but think of how afraid we are of otherness, interpersonally, and deep within ourselves. A while back I began to paint on my photographs, especially the ones I had taken as self-portraits, these were the most recent two. I have been re-reading R.D. Laing's the Divided Self, and trying to make sense of my notes. The relationship to the other, the need for the other, where identity is found.
These have been quiet days of reflection, rage, and exploration. More to come on this.
Through the thoughts
Addition of the unknown
A feeling of being fucked
An inkling, a desire, a flame
A repetition of my name
I feel my friends so close
The quiet understanding between us
The be alive in the dawn of hate
Nothing is forgiven, the human race.
The color black, the human race.
A pussy, the human race.
A faggot, the human race.
To be of this land, the human race
To be the other, the human race
To be put back in our place
Quietly hiding our faces
We won’t forget us, the human
I wanted to post some of the drawings from my sketchbook, and some of the work currently on my wall. I am fascinated by how the landscape has changed in my work, and how it is allowing me to explore so many questions about perspective, figure, line, and time. This is a follow up post to my previous one for my Marfa Trip.
Lucas and I went on a road trip to Marfa in October. We flew into Albuquerque, NM and drove to Marfa, stopping in Roswell, Carlsbad, and Van Horn. We were both curious (Lucas much than I was) about Marfa, and what that strange art community in the middle of nowhere looked like. When we returned, we drove through El Paso, stopping at White Sands National Park.
I was so in love with the landscape in Texas and New Mexico. Seeing the flatness of the land and the mountains really changed my work recently. It has also changed/expanded some of the questions I have about line and perspective. It has deeply influenced the landscapes I played around with before, but recently have made a huge come back into the landscape of my thoughts. Below are some of my favorite photos, all shot on Matilda the Nikon, my trusty 35 mm camera.
This was my submission piece to Visual AIDS 2017- Post Cards from the edge. I became involved with HIV/AIDS back in 2007 when I worked on a documentary that explores how HIV/AIDS orphans lived in Thailand, Uganda, Brazil, and the USA called Tiny Tears. I later became a camp counselor for Camp Dreamcatcher in Philadelphia, a summer retreat for kids who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. Camp quickly became an important place for me, and every year I return is always an unique experience. I am a co-counselor for the 5-7 year old boys, and we have an amazing group of young guys. I missed camp for the last two years due to work, but I am still part of their ongoing outreach and teen leadership programs.
I was walking into a building on 26th street and I saw the open call, and it felt compelled to do it. Maybe it was a desire to reconnect with my camp family, though quietly in my studio. The postcard is a format I really love, so it was a fun experience to create and submit.
I've been wanting to go back to Coney Island for many years now. The first time and last time I went was in 2007. I was determined to go back before the summer was over, so I called my besties and we went on a Sunday adventure. I wanted to document that very special day, it was Labor day 2016, probably the last summer Lucas would be living in NY. Alex has also been living in New York for 16 years, and had never been. I grabbed Matilda, my Nikon FM3 35mm camera and we took the D train out there. After about 1 hour and 30 minutes we arrived on the sandy beaches of Brighton Beach. The general consensus was that New York has a lot to offer. We all felt we had been transported to a new world. We are all so used to speed that comes with living in the city, being able to lay back on the sand and hear the calm sea was a treat. Later we walked along the boardwalk until we got the Coney Island Parks. It is a magical place, so much of what it was before Sandy hit was still there. The people crowded the parks, food stands, and the pier. The six of us walked along the crowds trying to take in as much of the last precious moments of summer. Below are a few of the shots I took. Having a camera around, at a place like that creates too much anxiety because you feel you have to capture it all. Photography for me is an exercise in documenting; it is an aid to my memory. Later in life, I hope to have these moments up on my walls, on my fridge, in my stechbooks. Who knows how much technology will have changed the world or how we live their lives, but one thing is certain I will always have desire for the tactile, and that is what photography provides for me, a moment in memory I can touch.
On my first day at SVA, I had a class called the Artist's Journal with Peter Hristoff. It was described in the course book as a drawing class. Having taken many drawing classes before, I was a nervous about the experience. I have always drawn, but I never really considered myself any good. I enjoyed the exercise, but never gave it much thought. It was easy to look around and see people whose talents exceeded my little stick figures.
I was very apprehensive about my first class being a drawing class. I wasn't really sure at the time what I was doing in art school, or what I hoped to achieve there. On our fist day we had a nude model and warm-up exercises like most classes. Peter would come around and give you little comments. When he came around to me, he simply said "beautiful." I was shocked but that put my guard down, and I was able to enjoy the rest of the class and have fun. Peter would make us fill 2 to 3 sketch books in one class. He once told me over the course of the year, that his biggest fear was to have a class where students all walked out with the same drawing. I followed Peter and attended his classes as a student, as a participant in his drawings marathons, and simply when I would get a text from him "Where are you? Come draw." I think Peter deserves a full post, which I will publish with his portrait later.
This post is about his drawing class. Peter made the class room into a work of art. He would pick themes, make costumes, and bring in the most unusual props. Once, he brought in a pig's head and had the models hold and pose with it. His models have been working with him for over 10 years and they all give themselves to his created worlds with such enthusiasm and a quiet seriousness. The students are transported into the magical world of Peter. I have always wanted to capture his classes with photographs and film, but we weren't ever allowed to use recording devices.
When Peter became the artist in Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, he gave me the biggest gift. He asked me to shoot one of his drawing marathons at the Met. The the theme was borrowed from the Seljuks (Read more about Peter and his Residency here). He had begun collecting fabrics and making the props nearly one year before the class. I had the privilege to make this short little video that documents his drawing marathon.
O Curupira, 2014. Carved wood block (in my bathtub) I made a limited edition of prints, later turned this into a painting. I learned about the Curupira as a kid in school. The Curupira is a mythological creature responsible for all living beings and the forests of Brazil. He is usually depicted a little boy spirit with fiery red hair and inverted feet. This is my own rendition. I became interested in the Curupira after returning to Araruama nearly 20 years after I had left and saw the state of destruction the area had experienced due to an oil boom and increased real estate development.
Since then, I have made many versions of the Curupira including the two below. On a very personal and mystical level, I made curupiras as a way to ask the spirits to protect these areas that are so dear to me. It also became a way to bring back the folkloric figures and raise awareness about the ongoing deforestation of Brazil.
I was in Kathmandu, Nepal earlier this year and I found these really interesting tin figurines in the Thamel Market. From what I was able to understand, people buy them to put at the temples to ask for blessings or better health for the sick. They also are used to ask the gods to help the recently deceased find their way. I was especially drawn to them because they reminded me of how I normally draw figures.
I was so inspired by them that I wanted to make a very short animation while I was there. I used only my phone and Instagram to make it. You can view it here @_hey_jo
When I came back home, I lost the little tin guys and recently came upon them while cleaning my studio. I wanted to make something quick again. I find that if we try to plan too much, especially when it comes to video, things never get done. So, almost as if I were working in my sketchbook, I made an animation sketch. I cut out a lot of images from newspapers and magazines to use in my paintings, this one reminded me so much of Michelangelo's Pieta and I wanted to use it. I was in a small art fair in Brooklyn last month and I found the necklace of daisies. I explained to the artist who made it, that daisies were a major element in my work. I bought the choker necklace and I kept it around my picture frames in my living room, always waiting for the excuse to use it.
Below is a little watercolor drawing I made based on the image. I often do little studies like these before the photographs I collect become patterns or paintings.
I became fascinated with Post cards back in 2011. I figured it was a way to capture a memory for myself as a collector, and to share a memory with a friend almost by inserting them into that moment. Much like a photograph captures the moment we experience. I began collecting postcards and I sent them to so many people. It was like I could take a very expensive or valuable piece of work and send it for less than a dollar.
One person who has always responded and done the same with me was my bestieLucas Lai. I secretly began to collect postcards to send to him. We have been exchanging post cards since 2012. Lucas divides his time between Brooklyn and Shelter Island. I live in harlem. We send each other cards from abroad, but mostly from one neighborhood to the other. Once I think I sent him all the contents of my inspiration board over my desk by simply attaching a stamp to a photo or magazine cut out. Below is a postcard he sent me once on his way to Berlin in 2013. He describes how he loves the city so much. Little did he know 3 years later his dream would come true. I guess I have to buy more postage.
I began making my own postcards also as a way of collecting a moment when in my studio for myself, and also inserting a friend or viewer into my process of creation. I call these Post Cards from Creation.