Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Truth About Bad Luck

There's a light at the bottom of the punch bowl.

I don't believe in bad luck because bad luck is inevitable. You can be certain that bad things will happen to you in this lifetime. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. What I DO believe in are blessings and good luck. While it is inevitable that bad things will happen to you, it is not always inevitable that good things will. Believe me when I say that bad luck is not really bad luck. Bad luck is just life. All the more reason for us to count our blessings and be thankful for all the good things that we have.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lady Bugs, Zombies and Swine....Oh my!

First it was lady bugs. The art building was swarming with them! They would attack you as you walked up to school, tangling themselves in your hair and crawling up your shirt. We couldn't even open the windows in the sculpture studio without a few hundred of those little pests flying in. I hear the yellow ones aren't actually ladybugs, they're chinese beetles. Apparently they spit acid on you and they bite. For a while there, I was afraid one of them might accidentally walk through a puddle of radioactive ooze and grow to be 60 feet tall! That wouldn't have been good for the economy.

Now we're dealing with a different kind of bug that is crippling the economy in its own way. Something much more horrifying than a giant mutated beetle. I'm talking about the flu virus. Sure, it may not be able to crush cars and shoot laser beams from it's radioactive antennae, but it can sure knock you off your feet. Attendance is starting to dwindle in each of my classes and slowly but surely the school is becoming a ghost town. I feel like I'm in some sort of a zombie movie. "Don't let them cough on you! You'll be transformed into one of them!" It's biological warfare. Armed with my dust mask and my bottle of liquid hand sanitizer I face each day knowing that somewhere out there is a microscopic germ with a pig snout and a curly little tail just waiting to crawl up my nose.

Okay, so the door was blocked off because of the wet paint. But who knows, with everyone getting sick, i wouldn't be surprised if they had to shut the whole school down for decontamination.

It's out there and it's real and yet, people still don't seem to be taking proper precautions. I don't know how many times I have been in the men's bathroom at school only to witness some genius splashing water on his hands for a few seconds and calling it a day. Then they go and put their grimy mitts all over the paper towel dispenser and the door knob.

This is a photo of an installation piece by my good buddy, Zach Tarr. Bugs!

PEOPLE OF EARTH!!! Splashing water on your hands for five seconds does NOT count as washing your hands! Use the soap will ya? Follow that one simple rule and maybe you too will survive the zombie apocalypse.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Tale of the House and the Man Made of Stone

Here's a picture of me standing in front of some Damien Hirst spin art. Why? Because someday I will destroy him. Now here's some emo poetry to accompany your breakfast. I haven't written anything in a long while, probably because I've been so busy making my transition to DeeeeKalb, Illinois. This worries me a bit. I need to get back into it.

Well I built you a house, on top of a hill,
with a little red door and little white window sills.
All of the things you expected from me,
a white picket fence and a room for a baby.
I built up the walls with the finest of timber,
a little stone fireplace, for the cold winters,
a small little kitchen, for making our meals,
a porch in the back for the nights we'll spend dancing
alone in the moonlight, under the stars,
so far from the city, no traffic from cars.
Well I built it all up, then tore it all down.
Despite strong foundation it fell to the ground,
'cause you would not live here, you left me alone.
I'm just a house, I was never your home.
These rooms will stay empty, the yard overgrown,
a note in the mailbox, with words that you'd written in stone.

So I built you a statue of hard stone and clay.
I worked through the nights and I slept through the days.
My back started burning, my arms were so sore,
but I kept on building and building some more.
Well I built up a man, with a heart made of stone,
the flesh of my flesh, the bone of my bone.
His gaze never faltered, he stood on two feet,
with a spear in one hand and a bottle half empty.
I built you a monument that stood oh so tall,
that the weight on his shoulders would cause him to fall,
and as the man crumbled he rolled down the hill,
and into the ocean to where he lies still.
As he sunk to the bottom he noticed a whale,
with skin made of ivory and jewels on her tail.
She blew tiny bubbles that turned into glass,
that danced on the waves as the ships all sailed past.
The sailors all dancing for joy with their rum,
would shoot the glass bubbles with bright silver guns.
They sang drunken songs of a man made of stone,
who'd built many houses, but not any homes,
and he lie in a bed that looked more like a grave,
with a blanket so dark, made of salt water waves.
He lies wide awake in the darkest abyss,
with the thoughts of her touch and her warm perfumed kiss.

On a night when the ocean was pulled by the moon,
and the waves would crescendo to build sailor's tombs,
the man kept on staring straight up to the sky,
and his hard stony gaze could not let the man cry.
Holding tight to his spear with a grip just like death,
warding off any evil that might take his last breath,
after many long years the man wanted to stand,
but couldn't for now he was buried in sand.
Though he struggled to move and he had a strong will,
and he longed to be back on the top of that hill,
there would be no long journey, for his legs were hard stone.
He was not a real man, but you'd never have known.
He still felt like a man, way deep down inside.
He was stubborn and strong, with a chest full of pride,
and he knew that one day he would be back at home,
standing tall on a pedestal, like a king on a throne.
But tonight he will lie and tonight he will wait.
He will ponder the future of his cold stone fate.
But don't ever have pity for this stone of a man,
for this was just part of a much greater plan.
Someday this statue will represent good,
admired by other men carved out of wood.
Though sea salt and sand will bring age to his face
it is only a testament to his wisdom and grace.
For you see, men who sink, they must learn how to swim
and the greatest of men, well they sank just like him.
And while some men build houses and some men build homes,
the greatest of men are those carved out of stone.

Top 10 Reason Dekalb Illinois was a Good Move for Me

I posted this a while back on my facebook page. It's funny how enthusiastic I was to move up here, but you know what? After living here for almost three months I am still just as excited to be here. Pretty much every day I get to see something new that I've never seen before. I have to admit though, at this point I am a little bit tired of the Italian Beef. Give me a hot, fresh, made to order Whataburger any day!

10. DeKalb is named for Gneral Baron Johan DeKalb, who served under General George Washington during the Revolutionary war. This dude was such a badass that he was wounded 11 times before he died! That man deserves a beer. Who could go wrong in a town named after such badassery?

9. Barbed wire was invented in Dekalb, by a man named Joseph Glidden. I like barbed wire. Keeps my favorite foods from getting mixed up on the ranch.

8. I like corn. A lot. Aside from being one of Illinois top corn producers, Dekalb likes corn so much, they have a festival dedicated to it every year! What is it called? Drum roll please........Corn Fest! Billed as "one of the last remaining free music festivals among Illinois music festivals in Illinois" Corn Fest features live music, food, a beer garden and a carnival for the kiddies. I wonder if Korn has ever played Corn Fest.

7. I will have studio space in the building that at one time housed the Wurlitzer Piano Company. As if that wasn't awesome enough, while they were based in Dekalb, Wurlitzer produced what they called, "The Mightiest Wurlitzer" which is a theatre pipe organ reaching over three stories in height! Doesn't get any better than that!

6. Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer J. Simpson, attended the school of Theater and Dance at Northern Illinois University. Homer just so happens to be my favorite character from The Simpsons. Here's a fun fact. Dan Castellaneta's co-star on The Simpsons is Yeardly Smith, who does the voice of Lisa. In 1985 Yeardly Smith appeared in the movie The Legend of Billie Jean, as Putter, the girl who gets her period in the back of the station wagon. The Legend of Billie Jean was filmed where? You guessed it! Corpus Christi, Texas! My hometown!

5. As a young stud in grade school I was just too much of a hoss to fit into those 1980's skinny jeans. All the big boys at school wore Husky jeans. The Northern Illinois University mascot is Victor E. Huskie. Coincidence? I think not!

4. I used to have a huge crush on Cindy Crawford back when she was peddling Pepsi and showing up on the cover of Sports illustrated. Cindy Crawford grew up in Dekalb. Apparently she was the valedictorian of her high school class and had a 4.0 GPA. Hot and smart, just like I like them! All the girls in Dekalb look just like Cindy Crawford. Jealous?

3. Dekalb seems to have lots of dive bars like the Annex or Otto's. Dive bars are my absolute favorite! While I was there I met lots of cool people with interesting stories and opinions. I also met a lot of weirdos and creeps. I think I also witnessed a mental patient being kidnapped by a high powered attorney. Whatever. Gotta love a place where you can get a large pizza and two pitchers of beer for like 15 bucks.

2. I hear it snows like 6 months out of the year in Illinois. I've been told by many many people that I am going to freeze my ass off and that NOTHING can prepare me for what the brutal midwest winter has in store for me. Well you know what? This week in Austin our LOW temperature for the week was 102 degrees! Yesterday it was like 106! IT IS FUCKING HOT!!! Believe me folks, after 29 years of sitting on satan's front porch, I'm ready for some snow.

1. Everyone in Texas knows that there is no substitute for a Breakfast on a Bun or a Number One from Whataburger at 2 in the morning. As a proud Texan from Corpus Christi no less, The Hometown of Whataburger, I have to admit the Italian Beef comes pretty close.

Oh yeah, I forgot about grad school and stuff. That's a good reason to go too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dusty oh dusty...

I have two pet peeves. One is that I cannot stand the sound of someone chewing ice. My brother used to do it all the time and it irked the hell out of me! We actually got into fist fights over it. It's not that my brother and I didn't get along, I just really hate the sound of ice being chewed. My other pet peeve is that I cannot stand a dirty studio. I don't understand how artists can work in a messy space. I'm all for dumping your crayons out on the floor while you're working, but it's when you don't pick them up that I have a problem.

No that's not snow in these pictures, it's saw dust! Thick layers of it. As it collects on the floor, the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up. For me it's the visual equivalent to finger nails scratching across a black board. I can't begin to describe the utter horror I experience in the sculpture studio while my students are hacking away at their wood projects. The feeling is compounded by the fact that I am fully aware that undergrads don't enter their first year of college knowing how to properly push a broom. Sweeping is an art form in itself, a skill that one masters after having spent hours and hours in an art studio. If you learn nothing else from four years in art school... well, you should at least come out of there knowing how to sweep.

The feelings of panic and anger quickly subside as I am encouraged by one simple fact. Despite all the loud noise and dust, one thing is for sure. These kids are working and they're working hard. That is all that I ask. So I will bite my tongue and think happy thoughts until it is all over. The sweeping skills will come later.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Dog and Pony Show

In an urban environment, like downtown Austin, or Chicago for that matter, one might see an empty space and think "That would be a perfect place for a parking lot." (Actually, in Austin they're more likely to put in a new condo, but I digress. Condos need parking lots too.) In a rural area the idea of space is deceiving. It may seem like there's a lot of space out here in DeKalb, Illinois, but rest assured it is being used for something other than parking their cars. While the parking situation in DeKalb may not be ideal (it's not nearly as bad as it is in Austin) the folks up here would never waste their time dreaming of fresh asphalt and reflective yellow paint. They have a hard enough time keeping their roads free of pot holes, a result of the salt trucks and snow plows that keep the streets free from ice and snow in the winter. No, here in rural Illinois, they have a different use for their empty space.

DeKalb has a lot of corn. As a matter of fact, saying that they have a lot of corn is an understatement. They have corn like Steve Carell has body hair. They grow it in fields, amongst trees and on the sides of hills. You can get fresh corn at the grocery store, in restaurants, at the farmers market and on the side of pot-holed roads. By fresh, I mean it was picked that very day and delivered straight to you by the local farmer who grew it. They worship corn here like we worship good queso or home-made tortillas in Texas. To them it is a way of life. They even have an annual festival celebrating its sweet golden kernels, affectionately dubbed, Corn Fest.

While you can't go a day here without seeing a fresh ear of corn there is one thing that is lacking (besides parking lots). There aren't a whole lot of art galleries here in little ol' DeKalb. As a matter of fact, other than the galleries run by the University I know of only one. Bad Dog Gallery is an alternative art space cleverly situated within a two-car garage that is nestled behind the residence of a Northern Illinois University (NIU) drawing professor. At the time of this posting, I don't know what her name is. I tried to find it online, but this is the type of place that is so obscure, it doesn't even have a website. Folks in Austin would kill to hang out at a place so hidden from the mainstream. Yet here it exists in DeKalb, charming and full of character, but relatively unknown. Despite it's speak easy charm, it is not a place that is hidden from the general public. It is not a secret club. On the contrary, I'm sure the folks at Bad Dog along with the artists who exhibit there would like as many people as possible to come out to their parties. There just aren't that many people here.

My first venture to Bad Dog was a refreshing experience. As I walked up the driveway to the backyard, I felt like I had stumbled upon a really good house party. In essence, that's exactly what it was. I was reminded of countless backyard bar-b-q's and keg stands (What? You don't keep your keg in the back yard?) in Texas, except there was a certain sophistication about the place. This was a real gallery. The inside of the garage had the distinct concrete floors and white walls one would find in any commercial gallery. They even had track lighting, and I'm not talking about clamp lights either. This was the real deal. If it weren't for the two garage doors at the front of the building, you would never know it was a garage. I was a bit tickled by the fact that the gallery could still function as a garage. For all I know, maybe it is used as a garage between exhibitions. The group exhibition, entitled "The Dog and Pony Show" consisted of two and three-dimensional work by graduate students, alumni and professors of NIU. I imagine most, if not all of the people who make up the local art scene fall within this category.

The great thing about Bad Dog is that it's not merely an art space, it's a social event. The artwork was great, but what I enjoyed most was the opportunity to network and talk with others about everything from football to carpet samples (don't ask). Bad Dog's success lies in its ability to provide a forum for those of us who actually like talking about art. They provide free beer and food and the conversations flourish around a crackling fire pit. There's a new exhibition about every two weeks or so which is exciting in a town with so little to do. I enjoy the artwork just fine, but to be honest right now I am more concerned with meeting other creative people, learning about their creative processes and generating ideas. You might think that this sort of dialogue is an obvious function of any gallery or museum, but I disagree. Alternative art spaces like Bad Dog are much more organic and participatory. The mere fact that the space exists within a garage is a testament to the type of eccentricity that in turn fosters creativity, originality and innovation. I can't wait for the next opening!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Texas Tornado

I moved to Dekalb, Illinois from Austin, Texas in August of 2009. While in Austin, I was the lead singer for a band called Black Market Revival, I made artwork in the bedroom of my apartment which I exhibited modestly around Texas and I worked for a little company called Apple, designing and troubleshooting wireless networks. ;)

I was born and raised in Texas. As any pure bred Texan will tell you, there is no place like it on Earth. Texans have a sense of pride that runs deep within our veins. It makes us do crazy things like get into bar fights with foreigners (eg. folks from Oklahoma) and tattoo our bodies with Texas flags and "Don't Mess With Texas" slogans. Every respectable Texan has a good pair of boots and a gigantic belt buckle. We love our guns and our football. We wear ten gallon hats and ride horses to work. Twenty foot jackelopes roam freely through our vast ranch lands and oil fields. We warm up our breakfast taquitos on an electric chair, that is, when it's not in use, which means we usually have to use the microwave instead.

The truth is, Texas is not like that at all. Well, for the most part it isn't. I love the folklore and stereotypes associated with being Texan though, except for the one about George Dubbya actually being from there (He was born in New Haven, Connecticut. Blame those guys!). Since moving to Illinois, sometimes I use the stereotypes to my advantage. For example, a couple of drunk guys who tried to crash a house party thrown by me and my room mate (also a texan) were scared off under the pretense that we had guns in the house just because we are from Texas! Sometimes the stereotypes work against me. For instance, people automatically assume that I would know the scores of the last 7 Cowboys games off the top of my head. It's fine, I don't mind that so much.

For all the things that Texas is and for all it represents, nothing is more significant to me than the fact that it was my home. Up until 2 months ago it was the only home I ever knew. I grew up on Tex-mex and real Texas Bar-b-q. In school we studied Texas history and by age ten I'd been on field trips to The Alamo, The San Jacinto Monument and King Ranch. I've drank beer in Luchenbach, strummed my guitar on the stage of Gruene Hall and two stepped at John T Floore's. I've eaten some strange tacos in El Paso, drank margaritas on South Padre and met my idol (Dan Auerbach) at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin. I witessed first hand the great flood of 2002 in San Antonio and also the devastation of Hurricane Ike in Galveston. I've had girlfriends from Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Corpus Christi, just to name a few. I've even been out to Marfa to see Donald Judd and to sit out on the observatory to see the mystery lights.

I was FROM there, man! I really was. So imagine my predicament when I found out I had been accepted to grad school at Northern Illinois University on a full ride. I thought "Holy shit, I just got a full ride to grad school!" Then reality crept in as I realized that going to grad school meant leaving the place I loved most. I mean, I literally have a tattoo on my arm of the State of Texas with a banner that says, "Till Death Do Us Part." I never imagined I would ever leave. My whole family and all of my best friends were in Texas. My home was in Texas. How could I possibly leave it all behind?

I applied to grad school because somewhere down the line I'd like to be a professor. I came to Northern Illinois because I wanted to learn art here. I wanted to be in a place that was so different than what I was used to that it could quite possibly change me. The rural quality of DeKalb, means less distraction from school, but also means I've gotta look for more creative ways to get in trouble. The best part is, even though I'm living in a little farm town, downtown Chicago is only a quick train ride away which gives me access to world class museums and art galleries not to mention countless legendary restaurants and entertainment venues. One minute I could be throwing beer bottles at crop dusters and the next I could be hanging out with Oprah, playing The Grand Prize Game on the Bozo Show.

So the bottom line is I'll be here in Illinois for a while, studying, making art, meeting new people, and seeing things I've never seen before. This blog will be where I will document my experience as a Texas transplant and artist living in the rural city of DeKalb. I'll tell you right now, it's already proving to be much different than what I am used to. This should be interesting.