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)
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 10 we focused on landscape photography, though not in a traditional way. We focused on landscape photography in the same vein as Izima Kaoru’s 20 year long “Landscapes with a Corpse” project. I decided to stage my corpse photo in a natural environment, as I am a physical geography major, and to tie it to snakes, as I have a pretty deep irrational fear of snakes, so I figured that would be the best way to go. I had my brother’s girlfriend help create the fake snake bite on my right ankle with makeup, and then my brother and I chose a spot in a field near a hotel we were staying at for a wedding, and set up our scene and created the fake snake trail near the “death” site. I had a fun time with this project, and definitely got a few alarmed looks from passerbys and the like.
For week 8 our activity was to transform our basic ART 110 blog into an ePortfolio of sorts. Over the years I have started two different blogs dedicated to writing about the Dodgers. Unfortunately I only got as far as posting one time on each blog, not having been satisfied with my writing or creative ability. So I figured it only seems right to attempt my Dodger blog again, this time with a copy of the better-of-the-two posts that I wrote as well as a separate section for my ART 110 posts. I like to think the audience of my blog or website would be forward thinking baseball fans, preferably Dodger fans, with an interest in advanced player analysis and sabremetrics. I have included a “Baseball 101: sites to know” sub menu under the “Dodgers” menu on my site, with a link to sites that I frequent and sites that have a lot of the basic information that newer fans to baseball would need before diving into the advanced content I would include on my site. Obviously, my blog is very preliminary, as I only have the one baseball-related post, however I think the theme works a little better for my subject matter, and there are tons of widgets that I can add to imrove functionality and overall site capabilities.
For Week 7 I had my first experience with spray paint or graffiti art. The experience really should be split in half, as my first half was pure frustration at my lack of ability while the second half was much more calm, cool and collected. I watched the videos provided on the class website and checked out a few others as well just trying to absorb as much info as possible but ultimately there’s no replacement for experience and that’s definitely true with painting of any kind. At first my hand was too far away and I kept angling my wrist and this led to uneven paint spray and overall a muddled and amateur look. The second time around, after going back to the videos to go over the tips again, I felt much more confident and steady with my hand, though I realized how much different the experience would be with a wall 5 feet high and wide or bigger, rather than the small wooden boards I used this time around. The experience was a cool one for me personally, as I can honestly say I’d never spray painted my name before on any surface, and after this I definitely intend to take a trip to Venice to try my hand at the legal art walls.
For week 6 we tried out the “French Girls” app, however, as an android user, I went with the less popular, and more crash-happy “Draw Me!” app and submitted a series of selfies. I am definitely not a “selfie” person so that entire process was probably hilarious to witness. I had a great time just scrolling through all of the submitted drawings, and even the pictures themselves were hilarious or perhaps impressive for super amateur photography. I was shocked (not shocked) when I realized that I was particularly bad at drawing with my fat fingers on my phone, and quickly lost patience with myself and the process. I had more success just messing around on the ipad, though i’m clearly still a novice when it comes to cell-phone art. The three drawings that were submitted of me were all of the same selfie, and all three were insanely impressive given the return time on them. There is something very cool about seeing the near instant art appear on your screen, though I would love to find videos of people actually drawing in the app to get a greater feel for how they possibly do such intricate work on such small surfaces. I enjoyed this week’s activity, and the way I looked at my artistic capabilities in this particular endeavor was that it can only get better from here.
I had a great time doing the plaster casting project. First of all, it was an excuse to go to the beach, and honestly you never need an excuse to go to the beach, but I was happy to use it. Second of all, I really liked the idea of essentially working with a natural medium. Even though we are using store-bought plaster and possibly store-bought tools and equipment, the rest of the project requires your hands (or feet), some ocean water, and plenty of dry and wet sand to work with. What could be better than the act of legitimately creating something from negative space, using mostly natural ingredients? It stumped me too.