For Week 15 I chose to highlight the work of Troy Rounseville. Troy’s work included the “self-playing” instruments. Troy describes his work as exploring the disjunction between our physical embodied experience and its translation through technological mediation. He asks 3 questions, questions that he bases his work around: Does transferring emotions through technology change the authenticity of one’s experience?; Can face to face experience ever truly be presented once filtered through computers, phones or other digital media; How will technology transform the nature of our own embodied experiences with other sentient beings? These are all big scale questions with no obvious, clear cut answers, but the pieces are meant to beg the question. Personally the message and delivery fascinates me and it’s a topic I’ve thought of before: what is the difference between “authentic” music and digitally recorded music? At what point does it so being a human’s work and start being the creation of an automation/machine/random chance? I think whenever there is a person at the helm, then it’s a legit or authentic ‘piece’ or experience. Personally I think people romanticize the past too much and in the past, this wouldn’t fly as authentic music, at least in my opinion. But times, they are a-changing.
During Week 14 I met Jake Mercadante. Jake is an interesting and unique guy. He’s a third year, back after taking a break (same path I took) and still contemplating his options with school and work. Potential majors of interest include Mechanical Engineering to Astrophysics. Admittedly, Jake greatly values the social aspect of college and the ability to plug into different circles and scenes without much effort. Currently, Jake works long hours with his company “Tekkhouse” while spending his free time indulging in and creating electronic music and partaking in all the subculture has to offer. We spent a good chunk of time going over a bunch of different types of electronic music that Jake thought I’d enjoy, since I am almost completely unexposed to it. It was an interesting and enlightening convo with Jake . Check out more about Jake at his site linked below.
Time for a little feedback on Art 110 in general and the art activities in particular. Here we go!
3 Favorite Activities: I really enjoyed the (spray) painting activity, the “Landscapes with a Corpse” activity, and the “student choice” activity. I liked the painting activity, particularly because I had never worked with spray paint from an art standpoint (only doing some touch up work on home projects with my Dad), and I felt like it broke down some of the stigma associated with graffiti art by having the students dig deeper into the creative side of it. I enjoyed the “Landscapes with a Corpse” activity partially because of the creative license it allowed, but mostly because it was just so off-the-wall and unique. I don’t consider myself morbid, but looking at our own (potential) deaths from a safe and creative way was pretty stimulating. I also liked the “student choice” activity because (you guessed it!) of the creativity it allowed. I took it as an opportunity to return to my childhood roots of sketching, though it felt much more like my first time as it had been so long.
3 Least-favorite Activities: While I didn’t have a huge problem with any of the activities, I didn’t love the results of the drawing activity, the kickstarter activity, or the plaster-casting activity. To be clear, I liked the concept of the drawing activity using the “French Girls” app (or something similar), it’s just that my abilities lie elsewhere and my attempts to draw others were feeble at best. The kickstarter activity was worthwhile in the sense that I didn’t really know what Kickstarter was all about prior to this activity, and now I am much more familiar, but I felt like I needed much more than a week or so to plan ahead for a potential video/project and to arrange the necessary equipment, rather than just making a pretend pitch video and getting to know the site. While I enjoyed the beach aspect of the plaster casting activity, and I guess its hard to fault the act of creating something purely for the sake of creation, I just felt like the process was somewhat boring or tedious. I’m really just nitpicking here, as I didn’t have a big problem with any of the activities.
Overall: I think this class has been incredibly enjoyable, particularly in comparison to the structure of typical college classes, even art classes at that. I like the casual nature of it, though the three posts a week can be difficult to accomplish if you are used to a more traditional lecture and reading style format. As much as it can be awkward or uncomfortable, the interview process with other students, and to a lesser extent the SOA artists, helped break the ice and really got easier and more enjoyable as the semester wore on. I don’t think I would change much about the course, other than maybe doing an extra “student choice” activity week to further allow creativity to flourish, though the set activities offer plenty of options and leeway for the artistically inclined. Well done!
Benjamin Blackburn: Baseball Sculptor Extraordinaire
Benjamin Blackburn at work
“The best artist has that thought alone which is contained within the marble shell. The sculptor’s hand can only break the spell to free the figures slumbering in the stone.” –Michelangelo
For week 12 we have the opportunity to teach an art activity or piece of art history, a welcome change from being the student for the first eleven weeks. As you can tell from looking at my site, I really enjoy all things baseball-related, and so I decided to combine my passion for the sport with this activity to teach something new. I decided to teach my readers about an artist that I’ve grown fond of over the last few months, Benjamin Blackburn. Benjamin is a sculptor, focusing primarily on sculpting historical figures during their most iconic moments. Blackburn typically sculpts from mahogany or cedar, with his approach mimicking the Michelangelo statement from above: he seeks to “release” the “hero” from the solid piece of wood. Michael stated, when asked about his inspiration and how he chooses his “heroes” for his artistic endeavors, “I’m much more interested in the history of the game these days. The modern game is interesting as a game to me, but artistically I’m much more interested in players from previous eras. There’s a sort of magic to the game, for me, pre-1960, that is very alluring. Some of the best moments of my life have involved baseball, somehow.” Benjamin typically requires hundreds of hours for a single piece, which is not unreasonable when you notice the level of detail. Due to the time committment required for each piece, he tends to focus on a combination of what he is passionate about combined with what will actually sell, since, after all, he is a working artist.
As a Dodger fan, this is easily my favorite piece of Benjamin’s.
“Stealing Home” by Benjamin Blackburn. Iconic moment in Jackie Robinson’s career.
More examples of Benjamin’s work:
Blackburn’s “Bambino” (Babe Ruth)
“Captain Clutch” by Benjamin Blackburn. (Derek Jeter)
For Week 12 we looked at pieces ranging from ceramics to illustration to printmaking to photography. I decided to focus on the work of Timothy Cooper. The unofficial title of the piece is “Something that means Something”. Timothy’s piece includes 145 hand-thrown plates produced using stoneware clay and a “satin glaze fired to just above 2250 degrees Fahrenheit. Timothy’s stated goal for this piece was to have it “bear witness to the ability of multiple individuals to work together to produce a positive personal, social and aesthetic experience.” He goes on to talk about the changing roles of objects/materials from stictly utilitarian to perhaps something more symbolic, like being used in an art exhibit, for example. I like pieces that use household or common objects in a way that we maybe aren’t used to. Even though these plates were produced specifically for this exhibit (as well as for a celebratory event in October), they just as easily could have been rounded up from people’s houses. My first thought was that it had some religious overtones, judging by the cross-like layout of the plates, though perhaps that was just my mind looking for patterns. Nevertheless, being a physical/environmental geographer (sustainability, recycling, etc.), I keep going back to Timothy’s point about all objects at one time having some utility to either a person or group, before perhaps being recycled and reused for other purposes down the line. I look forward to hopefully seeing more work from Timothy in the future!
During week 12 I got to chat with Tyler Muronaka. Tyler, like most people i’ve spoken with this semester, is a freshman (I feel so old in this class…and most others haha). Tyler attended North High School in Torrance, his home time. At CSULB Tyler is studying to be a Film major, though at this point he’s just focusing on taking care of his GE requirements. Like most others I have spoken with, Tyler has had limited experience with art, particularly more abstract pieces, though he did do some basic sketching/doodling in his younger days. We talked about how he noticed how much better he was as a kid vs trying it again as an adult, which could be partially to do with experience/comfort, but also likely to do with being more critical/expecting more as an adult. Like myself with baseball, Tyler played basketball growing up though stopped in high school to focus on other interests once the game had lost some of its initial care-free appeal. Though he has family in Hawaii, being a film major, Tyler sees himself staying in the Los Angeles area after finishing college (though he admitted that decision is a LONG way off). I had a good time chatting with Tyler and sharing similar stories of the transition from highschool to college, as well as our various interests and hobbies. Check out his page for more info!
disclaimer: I used to sketch a bit as a hobby, though we’re talking more than 15 years ago (I’m 28) and my version of “sketching” at that time was probably much closer to “tracing”, so I feel that attempting to sketch an original piece using the materials available to me at my house was more than challenging and stimulating enough.
My first attempt: So I decided to draw a wave/beach scene on my first attempt at this activity. Having practically grown up at the beach I’ve always felt a connection to the ocean and waves and I felt like it was something that I could easily visualize and transfer to paper. As you may be able to see, there are several pages ripped out of this generic sketch-book, a telling sign of my initial struggle to start my drawing off correctly. Though I am actually pleasantly surprised by the outcome and final result, I can’t help but be critical of the too cartoonish/almost fake-perfect quality of the wave and surrouding water. I realized very quickly that shading and depth were not my area of expertise. I decided to try a follow-up drawing only this time I would choose to draw an object in front of me, so I at least had some reference to follow.
My second attempt: I chose this mural-type piece that is hanging on the wall above our computer desk at home. If I remeber correctly, the piece was done by my mom’s former boss, who was an amateur artist on the side. It’s a roughly 4 foot by 2 foot wood block and the material appears to be strictly pen/ink. At first I was going to attempt to just draw the lifeguard tower and sunset but eventually decided to try and fit the whole scope of the piece into the signifantly smaller sketchbook (roughly 8.5/11in), with mixed results.
I was MUCH happier with my second drawing, though I encountered the same issues as the first, namely with respect to shading and depth. I found the drawing of the pier and pylons to be extremely tedious, though given the “sketch-y”/imperfect nature of the original piece, I wasn’t too concerned with perfect lines or composition. I had a heck of a time trying to make the water look like anything at all resembling water, though I think any beginnner would run into this problem. Also, the pen used in the original made much of the piece POP, whereas using pencil made it harder to avoid a monotonous look to my drawing, at least in my experience. Overall, I really enjoyed the feeling of creating something, even if one of the pieces was more of a re-creation. I definitley could see myself getting back into sketching/drawing, though I basically felt like I was a newbie at it, not even remembering basic shading and such that we all learned in highschool (which is somewhat understandable considering I took that close over 10 years ago).
For week 11 I mainly focused on the work the “Shifting Focus” exhibit of Romina Del Castillo’s work with pastels and chalk. I found each of her pieces to be impressive, though the two I included pictures of stood out the most.
For some reason I was particularly intrigued by the pastel and chalk (presumably) self-portrait entitled “Late Night Vices”. It almost had the effect of taking a picture of yourself taking a picture in a mirror, where the image can just repeat itself infinitely, though obviously in this case there is no actual “mirror” just a representation of one. I loved that there was also a small recreation of the nun/baby/halo piece titled “Let the Devil In” within the self-portrait. This felt like a peak inside the process of the entire exhibit, and as such it conveyed a clear emotional and personal touch. I liked the “Let the Devil in” piece as well as it seemed to play up the innocence of childhood with the “devil’s advocate” tendencies of adulthood, with the child seemingly placing the halo, a sign of angelic nature and goodness, on top of the nun’s head, though the child looks decidedly angry or at least indifferent. Perhaps it’s a message or warning to not take things at face value? Either way, I found it thought-provoking and intriguing.
For week 11 I had a lengthy and stimulating chat with Dominic Erich. Dominic is originally from Stockton California, he’s a freshman, a pre-business/accounting major and a music aficionado. In highschool Dominic took a typical intro to arts class, though his school also included ceramics, which I was jealous of as my highschool focused more on basic drawing/painting/art history. Dominic also took his art interest to another level by doing mural-style paintings when the opportunity presented itself (legal means only, of course!). Turns out that Dominic and I had a fair bit in common (aside from the fact that I’m a Dodgers fan and he’s a fan of the rival Giants, but I digress). We both played sports growing up, baseball for me and water polo for him. Dominic had interest in music early on, and came across a Fender Strat (guitar) in his grandpa’s possessions, a rare find indeed. Some of Dominic’s favorite artists include John Mayer and Gary Clarke Jr. We spent a good chunk of our convo going over our favorite songs, styles of music, concerts we’ve been to and one’s we’d like to go to, and the overall state of music these days (while we agreed that it seems dire compared to past generations, it may just be that you have to work harder to find the true artists). I had a genuinely good time chatting with Dominic, and could easily see myself hanging out with him outside of a school setting, as we seemed to connect effortlessly.
Time and Money
For week 10 I chose to focus on the work of Almira Nikravesh, particularly the piece entitled “Honest Abe”. I loved how the materials listed for the project are “Time and Money” and I just loved the simplicity of it. First off, the meticulous nature of the project is apparent right away. Just thinking about the time it took to perfectly arrange and organize all of those pennies into a uniform pattern makes me tired and makes my fingers hurt. The title is an obvious allusion to the moniker of perhaps the most popular president in history, though I think the material list could be just as appropriate for a title, considering the phrase “Time is Money” and the materials being “time and money”. since it questions the value of time and the value of money, and the way in which these things matter (or don’t) when it comes to art. Though the piece perhaps looks simplistic, I am drawn to pieces that make use of objects that in and of themselves have no artistic relevance perhaps, but when utilized in the proper way, could be quite thought provoking and profound.