Note From Jon


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Artomatic 2008: Round 2

Well it took two trips but I explored the next three floors of Artomatic (7-9). I was on my own for these visits which meant I could go at my own pace... which I discovered is really slow. I was taking nearly an hour and a half per floor. Hence the second trip. I am primarily chocking that pace up to getting absorbed into two exhibits: Heather Bartlett's Skinny Jeans exhibit space and Patrick Wilson's wall of diary entries and paintings.

Like Tracey Lee's Return to Sender, discussed previously, there wasn't a great deal of visual appeal to Heather's skinny jeans, but they provided a springboard for a lengthy mental conversation about self-image. On the jeans are a variety of weight-loss advertisements, barbie images, and most poignantly, posts from girls in online forums setting absurdly unhealthy weight goals for themselves and describing how they are staaaarving but aren't going to eat any dinner and are looking for support. It was truly frightening, and even more disturbing because I felt partly responsible. I'm attracted to skinny women. Perhaps it's driven by the same societal paradigm of beauty that has twisted these women's perception of themselves, but the fact remains that I don't find myself physically attracted to larger (or sadly even normal sized) women, and I'm not sure there is a way for me to change that. It was a sobering journey through the exhibit, which was greatly enhanced by thoughts and responses posted on the walls by viewers. While these issues are hardly new, it is rare that I stand in one area quietly reading and contemplating the issue as Heather's exhibit compelled me to do. The thought I left with was to be healthy and to take pride in yourself, not your body, and don't try to change for people like, well

Now to dispel the impression that I only like artwork without visual appeal or with plenty of prose, I present Eli Halpin's hugging octopus which caught my eye without reading the title or artist's statement. Of course I did like it more when I read about the inspiration: scientists' discovery that octopi can hug sharks to death. Deadly hugs. Maybe Shel Silverstein was wrong and we would rather play at tug-o-war than hug-o-war.

Ironically, from a visual standpoint my most memorable piece of the show so far is probably one of the most traditional. Joe Granski II's portrait of Cristin, Candlelight is mesmerizing and we stared at each other for an unhealthily long time (Cristin and I, not Joe and I). The poem Glance left by BRASH was the perfect complement for me. You can read it alongside the painting if you click on the photo.

BRASH is another of my favorite parts about Artomatic. BRASH is a mysterious poet who, for at least the last couple of shows, has been secretly leaving poetic additions as responses to various artists' works. This year "she" (gender based purely on a rumor I heard last year) seems to have somehow found the time to leave a poem for every single artist! Perhaps not quite but she seems much more prolific than at past shows and it was quite often that I would go 4 to 5 booths in a row which each had their own poem. Like the artwork, some of BRASH's poems worked for me better than others. Cristin, Candellight and Glance were a perfect pairing as was this How I Know It's Reality response to Deborah L. Brooks' wonderfully whimsical In Dreams All Things Are Possible.

One advantage to exploring Artomatic on my own is that after Darren visited these same floors we could compare notes (and photos) and see which works struck us both without any influence from each other. Two examples of this from these floors were Brandon Wu's I Don't Want to Go! which perfectly captured how I (and it) felt about them ripping The Awakening out of Hain's Point and shipping it off to some place I'll never visit in Springfield. Boo to the Parks Service for not doing whatever it took (spending my tax money presumably) to keep it there! The other piece was Patrick Wilson's FOVULATION, which was part of the second exhibit space (after Heather Bartlett's) that monopolized my time.

Darren and I were both drawn to Patrick Wilson's work. In addition, Darren and I both assumed they were by a female artist (which in hindsight seems odd since the subjects are pretty much exclusively partially-clothed women in science-fiction settings). The wall where Patrick's work is exhibited is completely filled. Surrounding the half-dozen or so paintings are countless pages of his journal entries, which are usually accompanied by a colored sketch of a potential piece, some of which are shown alongside the final work they evolved into. It was amazing to see how many sketches there were and fascinating to read the journal entries. Some of the entries which stood out to me were his confession of feeling ashamed/embarassed as his artwork became more sexually explicit, detailing his struggles with alcoholism, and the thought-provoking line "so many people tried to love me out of alcoholism but it didn't work. At first." Even more than most, Patrick put himself out there (including daily calorie counts!) for the world (well the DC area) to see, and I certainly appreciated it.

Without too much commentary I'll share some of my other favorites from these floors:

  • Tinaseamonster's random thoughts laser etched on wood, which I later found throughout the Clark St. Playhouse... except they didn't have my favorite one about maracas

  • Darren Smith's Cross and Ladder photo series commenting on symbols of faith vs. logic

  • Jack Whitsitt proving that a computer scientist (like me!) can be an artist as he wrote a Python script to build a mosaic of his face

  • Jose Piedra had several paintings that I loved but I got a good laugh out of the Washington Condiment which—whatever its relevance in his painting—just reminded me of the metal "condom"—as my friends and I referred to it—that the monument actually wore several years ago during repairs

  • Van Nyugen's Peace series delighted my eye...

  • While Solomon T. Wondimu's Protest tricked it. I initially saw it from so close that it looked exactly like the abstract swirls on a kitchen countertop I remember growing up and it wasn't until I looked back from across the room that I saw the faces

  • Darren also managed to trick me when he showed me his photo of Masai Conversation by Mitra M. Lore on his camera's LCD screen
I'll be back with the final three floors hopefully before the show ends next weekend (I'll get to the floors it's just a matter of whether I'll get a chance to write them up). Thanks again to the artists who found themselves referenced here and took the time to let me know they appreciated the mention.

1 comment:

Candice said...

about the skinny women thing: being a skinny girl myself i'd like to remind the world that people's NATURAL sizes range from large to, yes, skinny. it's the unhealthy skinny that's bad, just like the unhealthy large is bad. i take it you're attracted to naturally skinny girls... as opposed to starving anorexic types. and i gotta say, that's a-ok. there are guys and girls out there for everyone (or so i hear) and some guys need to prefer us skinny chicks so we can find mates, too. plenty of dudes prefer voluptuous woman and find skinny girls nasty, and some prefer the petite girls and aren't remotely attracted to larger sizes - regardless of imposed social preferences or advertising.

it is awful that too many average and larger size girls feel they need to make themselves skinnier than is healthy for them. but don't feel bad about liking skinny girls. :)