January, 2008 Archives

The faculty opening reception was very pleasant, though I’ll leave describing the event to Laurence at her Kwan Fong Gallery  blog, except to briefly report on a meeting with a new student who will come to CLU in Fall. She showed up with her mother at my office on Friday to meet me and talk about what to expect at the University should she come and join us. I told her what we are working toward in the department (hopes for a new building, recent improvements including the K2 studio, our work on the new curriculum…) and she responded by telling me that she had looked at our website and was very impressed by the faculty biography pages and the range of the department’s collective experience. Not only that, but she had visited the Faculty show at the Gallery and thought the work was “excellent”.  I felt great! We’re doing well in the Art department. There’s a lot to do, and a long way to go, but we’re definitely on the right road.    

 Later, at the High Gallery Closing reception we had a nice turnout in spite of a doom and gloom weather forecast that (in fine television fashion) promoted the idea that a storm was coming in that was going to be so heavy that most of California would be washed away into the Pacific.  (((STORM WATCH))) boomed from television sets across the Southland while a luridly named weatherman who has clearly spent a very long time on a tanning bed and at his local dental office waved his arms around prophesying doom.

 

Meanwhile, in the real world at the High Studio we sipped our champagne and enjoyed good company and told stories. I enjoyed making new friends and ate a vast amount of lobster dip. Good times. 

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The faculty show opens this Saturday at the Kwan Fong gallery. Saturday 26th January at 3.00 pm. Why not come to this event, then come over to Moorpark and continue enjoying good art and good company?

 Here’s the CLU event page. 

Tuesday night was the night of my performance / lecture at the High Studio in Moorpark. What a great evening we had!

I lit candles to illuminate the works and served mead to our visitors, then we were entertained by two belly dancers, Tonantzin and Deanna, who had seen the exhibit and wanted to contribute somehow. I asked if they would perform among the exhibit during the lecture while I spoke about spaces that may have been used for dance in Neolithic Britain. They did a beautiful job.

I talked about the ways Neolithic people may have used chambers and showed images of these extraordinary spaces, particularly about fire and herbs that were found at Balfarg henge in Scotland.  While extemporizing the lecture I gilded stones that were concealed in one of the pieces in the gallery and my friends Rich Brimer and Zak Erving read passages selected from my dissertation describing fire and herbs, to start with in whispers but gradually building to speaking loudly. I wanted the audience to be overwhelmed by the sensory experience of the Cabinet, so that they were slightly disoriented by the event.

I thoroughly enjoyed the help of a few friends who made the evening a complete pleasure: my grateful thanks go to the owner of the gallery, Jean Amador, who has been a wonderful host and allowed me both to have the show and to do the lecture. Janet Amiri helped by providing candles and videotape, Stephanie Shulsted operated the video cameras. Thanks to Joseph Beuys for being a never ending source of inspiration.

 The show closes on Saturday – come to the closing celebration at 6pm. Directions are at http://www.highstudio.net/map.php 

 

The next version of the Cabinet will be quite different. I’ll be putting together an installation for the Channel Islands University Art Center to run from August 16th until October 18th. Performance / Lecture dates to be determined.

Michele DePuy Leavitt heard about the show from Janet Amiri and suggested that I use the Gerd Koch Gallery, which was formerly used as a containment cell for mentally ill patients when the campus was better known as the Hotel California. I think this will be very interesting. Perhaps the work will ease some of the disturbing tension present in the space.

 

 

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I’ll be doing a performance / lecture at the High Studio on Tuesday January 22nd at 6pm. Come and see the cabinet in a totally different light. I’ll be describing Neolithic architecture and performance practices. 

 

Doubt

Doubt is not a negative quality of art. Uncertainty and unease are necessary for transformation in ritual, so operate similarly in performed art, where elements of ritual are more apparent than in other forms of art. In fact, obscurity and query should be present in our work, not for the sake of it, but as the obscurity of a secret society that allows the initiated to participate, showing their secrets in plain view, but offering secret knowledge to those who penetrate the group.

The secrets of this work are uncovered by experimenting with objects in practice in a space set aside for such discovery, whether that is a studio, gallery or theatre. The objects we make available for visitors to discover need to allow doubt. What are these things? How are they / were they once used?

Doubt and Art

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Click here to see larger images.

Here are the five paintings that have been on display at the Kavli Theatre in Thousand Oaks. From left to right: A Neolithic Wedding, Fama, The Reluctant Death of Modernism, Two Girls Swimming, A Girl SwimmingA Neolithic Wedding comes straight out of my interest in prehistoric British art and architecture. Their tattoos are based on Neolithic rock art. Fama is set in the future, in a post-collapse scenario where Western civilization has reverted to our ancient practices. The Reluctant Death of Modernism is a poke at the arrogance of the modernist idea that painting is dead. What nonsense! People will always value the miracle of image making. However, this fashionable period of Modernism and Postmodernism will certainly pass away, just as every trend in art does. Two Girls Swimming  is a fairly straight-forward study of the way water distorts the shape of the body swimming beneath it, while A Girl Swimming is much more complex, making reference to Pre-Raphaelite paintings of Ophelia and mermaids.

Nude paintings at the Kavli.

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Nostalgia.

Is our perception of the past always mediated by nostalgia? What fuels my work with the Neolithic period? I desire authenticity; a wish to make meaningful work that is deeply enmeshed in a universal past that is absolutely the foundation of our culture, the origin of civilization.

Archaeologists spend their time trying to understand what people did in the past, offering answers to contemporary questions about where we came from and how we got to the present.

We cannot imagine what it was like to live in the Neolithic or any period. We are too absorbed into our own culture, the Society of the Spectacle, as Guy DuBord described it. A society mediated through television, magazines, movies advertising and so on.

I took one of my students to Melrose, a very fashionable area in Los Angeles. We visited several clothing stores, where punky style-conscious people sold extraordinary costumes. To me there was a nostalgic element to the expedition, as I revisited places that I had not seen for ten years. This was not the same experience as that which Zack had, to whom the stores were places that he would not ordinarily visit, and which he found intimidating and beyond the range of his upbringing. Familiarity appears to affect our attitude to ritual; we are very familiar with Christian ritual and have become contemptuous of it. We may find the idea of an ancient pre-Christian religion attractive because it is a nostalgic exploration into areas that in Christian terms are transgressive and exciting. As the Church has lost spiritual control, many enjoy the rebellious nature of pagan exploration.

When we do study ancient ritual it is helpful to remember that what seems very strange to us was normal behaviour to those concerned with their religious practice. For example, removing the flesh and using the bones of the dead in ritual seems horrible to us, but may have been accepted practice in the Neolithic. Eating rotten milk (cheese) is perfectly acceptable to us Westerners, but disgusting to other cultures.

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We have an exhibit of work by the CLU Art Department Faculty at the Kwan Fong Gallery. I’ve included one of my paintings in the show, Neolithic Geomantic Man. It’s a large work, eight feet high by six wide, painted in oils over gold and silver leaf on a panel with canvas stretched over it. Although this is a sideways view you can see the man pointing to the directions of the solstices and the equinoxes. He’s surrounded by solar symbolism, including the spiral.

The Cabinet is installed at the High Studio, Moorpark, so swing by and have a look. A.J. and I put most of it in last week and got to know each other a bit, which was great. Here are a few shots from the exhibit.

Opening reception this Saturday January 12th at 6pm.

The High Studio is at 11 East High Street, Moorpark, CA 93021.

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High Studio exhibit open