Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Poem/Video: Burroughs says "Thanks"

A Thanksgiving Prayer, from the year of my birth. Read the text here.

Dear William S. Burroughs, not a whole lot has changed.

Via Isaac Fitzagerald at The Rumpus.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lit: Alice Munro's "The Love of a Good Woman"

Illustration for The Love of a Good Woman, pen and graphite on paper
Julia V. Hendrickson, 2010

Feeling a decided lack of intellectual, literary discussion in my life of late, I've started a new feminist book club with some lady friends o' mine. We're reading a book a month, and are also in the planning stages of making a monthly (or perhaps quarterly) zine. For the first book, I selected a stunning collection of short stories by Canadian author Alice Munro (b. 1931), who in 2009 won the Booker Prize for a lifetime body of work.

The Love of a Good Woman, published in 1998, is a collection of eight stories set primarily in British Columbia and Ontario, Canada, and spanning many decades. Munro's mostly female protagonists are haunting; the stories are filled with silence and secrets that have as much to do with place as they has to do with the lives of "good women". The title story, the first in the collection, is slow to unfold, and Munro's measured process of revealing a small town makes the reader's entry into her work an uphill battle. Yet, as time progresses, and the macabre relationship is revealed between the "good woman", Enid, and Mrs. Quinn, the woman in her care, the steady pacing is rewarding, soothing, even, amidst the always lingering sense of threatened disaster, and minds going over the edge.

This miasma in the minds of Munro's characters, and her purposeful use of language and of place, reminded me very much of Virginia Woolf, whose presence echoes quietly throughout the lives of Munro's women. In the story, Cortes Island, the unnamed narrator is reading Woolf's To the Lighthouse. In Jakarta, two married women (Kath and Sonje) are in strange, unsatisfactory relationships that beg for release, socially trapped by their male partners in a very Woolfian way. Indeed, Woolf's Clarissa from Mrs. Dalloway is referenced in Jakarta: "'Oh, Sonje, are you going to be the tactful hostess?' the older woman said. 'Like somebody in Virginia Woolf?' So it seemed Virginia Woolf was at a discount, too. There was so much Kath didn't understand." (pp. 96)

The passage from Jakarta below (referring to a D.H. Lawrence story, The Fox) also reminded me very much of something from To the Lighthouse:

The soldier knows that they will not be truly happy until the woman gives her life over to him, in a way that she has not done so far. March is still struggling against him, to hold herself separate from him, she is making them both obscurely miserable by her efforts to hang on to her woman's soul, her woman's mind. She must stop this--she must stop thinking and stop wanting and let her consciousness go under, until it is submerged in his. Like the reeds that wave below the surface of the water. Look down, look down--see how the reeds wave in the water, they are alive but they never break the surface. And that is how her female nature must live within his male nature. Then she will be happy and he will be strong and content. Then they will have achieved a true marriage. Kath says that she thinks this is stupid. [...] She can't stand that part about the reeds and the water, she feels bloated and suffocated with incoherent protest. (pp. 84-85)

The imagery of the reeds/ woman, waving like an Ophelia below the water, is powerful, and has lingered in my mind over the past few weeks. It reminded me of one of my favorite Woolf passages: “Beneath it is all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep; but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by.” (Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse). The water is self, and gender, and narrative, and memory; its presence is imperative for understanding, and inescapable.

Memory, which plays such an important role in Woolf's writing, is important to Munro's sense of narrative as well; Munro discusses this in a recent interview:

Memory is the way we keep telling ourselves our stories—and telling other people a somewhat different version of our stories. We can hardly manage our lives without a powerful ongoing narrative. And underneath all these edited, inspired, self-serving or entertaining stories there is, we suppose, some big bulging awful mysterious entity called THE TRUTH, which our fictional stories are supposed to be poking at and grabbing pieces of. What could be more interesting as a life’s occupation? One of the ways we do this, I think, is by trying to look at what memory does (different tricks at different stages of our lives) and at the way people’s different memories deal with the same (shared) experience. The more disconcerting the differences are, the more the writer in me feels an odd exhilaration. (January 8th, 2010 interview).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Video: Flying Lotus (...with kindness)

Flying Lotus - Kill Your Co-Workers from beeple on Vimeo.

Hilarious and creepy. Directed by Beeple, aka Mike Winkleman, based in Neenah, Wisconsin. His Everyday self-educational project is pretty neat.

Music by Flying Lotus. Animators can download the source files and mess around with the characters from the video.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Illustration: Lesbidrama

Julia V. Hendrickson, Lesbidrama 
Graphite on paper
November 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wit / Lit: Amy Sedaris and Lynda Barry

Two awesome women both have new books out this month, and they'll both be in Chicago in the next few days...

I still get night sweats when thinking about the fold-out poster of Sedaris covered in icing and sprinkles that was hidden in her last book, I Like You. Her recently published "crafts for poor people" book, Simple Times, looks similarly heart rate-increasing (come on, a section called "Fornicrafting"?!).

She's doing a book signing this Saturday, November 13th at the Borders Books in downtown Chicago (830 N. Michigan) at 3pm, and will also demonstrate the very necessary how-to secrets behind tinfoil balls and crepe–paper moccasins.

Be sure to read this hilarious interview with her at the Rumpus.  

Of course it's a candle salad. 
With a doily, an extra-long match, and that signature Sedaris mayonnaise dressing.


Equally glee-inducing, contemporary comic art great Lynda Barry is also coming to Chicago! She's giving a lecture and a reading at SAIC (280 S. Columbus Drive) at 6pm on Monday, November 15th from/ on her new graphic narrative, Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book. I know I've always needed to LEARN HOW TO ART. 

It's from Drawn & Quarterly, everyone's favorite classy Canadian comics publisher. Bring along your yellow lined legal pads, kids, it's gonna be a good talk to doodle to.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Watch: Chris Ware's Animated "Quimby the Mouse"

Quimby The Mouse from This American Life on Vimeo.

I may be a year late getting this newsflash, but my jaw dropped with delight when I watched this yesterday, via a friend in Pittsburgh. A more perfect marriage I never did see: Chris Ware and animation! Quimby the Mouse is particularly suited to movement and slapstick humor, and Chris Ware's flat visual style works perfectly with Flash animation (reminds me of Felix the Cat cartoons from the 1930s and 1940s). From the This American Life - LIVE! 2009 special, Ware did the drawings, animated by John Kuramoto (who also worked with the New York-based animation studio, Twinkle, on the animations for American Splendor).

Two other more traditional, personal narrative-based This American Life collaborations between Ware and Kuramoto can be seen here (Kids building video cameras, 2007) and here (False memories of Jackie Kennedy, 2008).

More info about Chris Ware at Chicago's Carl Hammer Gallery, and Bad At Sports interviews Ware in a podcast from March 2009.

The song is Eugene by Andrew Bird.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Listen: Sharon Van Etten

I had the pleasure of seeing Sharon Van Etten perform last night at Lincoln Hall, as an opener for Junip, José González's new band. While I still like his music, José González was less than inspiring, and frankly, nap-inducing as a performer. I think he may be coasting along on his Swedish-Argentine charm and some of that newfound attention a little too much (he's the recent subject of a documentary, The Extraordinary Ordinary Life of José González, for instance). Perhaps the band allows him to hold back as well. However, as much I was disappointed with Junip, the trek was worth it to see Sharon Van Etten.

Above and beyond the fact that she's cute as a Brooklyn button, and her tattoos are rad, she's a very sincere, humble, passionate performer. NPR has her new album, Epic, streaming here, if you're interested. The songs "One Day," "For You," and "Love More" (with a hand-pumped piano) stand out, and will surely be echoing through the autumnal halls of my apartment for the new few days.

Image of Van Etten from Schneidblog.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Feature: Lorna Simpson / Harold Washington Library

A few weeks ago I spent a very enjoyable afternoon in nerd-dom doing art history research at the Harold Washington Public Library in downtown Chicago. The 8th floor is where all of the art books reside, and while my ravenous intellectual fingers were dismayed to realize that practically every art book in a public library is special collections and/ or reference (and therefore not touchable or browseable by the common woman, but must be personally requested), I still had a really good time. I'm quite sure I worried the reference desk attendant however, by showing her a list of over 20 items that I wanted to see. Academic libraries, and access to material, has spoiled me dreadfully.

Regardless, my quest was for books about Christopher Wool, research in preparation for the current Sound on Sound exhibit at Corbett vs. Dempsey, but I discovered many other wonderful things in the process. (Aside: the catalogue for the Hammer Museum's 2008 exhibition Oranges & Sardines: Conversations about Abstract Painting is really quite good. The title comes from a stellar Frank O'Hara poem, Why I Am Not A Painter, which you can, and should, read here. This particular catalogue can actually be requested through inter-library loan in Chicago, and is recommended as a resource for anyone interested in contemporary abstract art. The premise of the show was to ask abstract painters to list artists and artworks which influence them, and to create an exhibition around both the contemporary work and the tangential, inflential work. I wish I could have seen it in person).

In my journey up to the 8th floor, however, I came across a surprising fact: the Harold Washington Public Library has an art collection! The list of current and upcoming exhibitions can be found here, and currently Christine Perri has work on display. Mitchiko Itatani has a huge painting in one of the first floor stairwells, and (my personal favorite) one of Lorna Simpson's photograph-sculptures is featured prominently by the elevators on the 8th floor. I couldn't find an image of the exact piece, but it's very similar to the work below (titled Flipside) which is part of the Guggenheim's collection.

 Flipside, 1991. © Lorna Simpson
Two gelatin silver prints and engraved plastic plaque, diptych, edition 2/3, 51 1/2 x 70 inches (130.8 x 177.8 cm) overall . 
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Purchased with funds contributed by the Photography Committee  2007.32. 

Simpson's text is usually what draws me in. Her sense of humor is quiet yet unabashedly satirical, and the simple aesthetic (the black & white photography, the typography, labels, etc) that she often uses makes her work misleadingly "retro" and safe.

I was first exposed to Simpson at the very beginning of college, via a 2008 exhibition at the College of Wooster Art Museum curated by a wonderful art history professor, John Siewert, and organized by the talented and resourceful Kitty McManus-Zurko. Lorna Simpson's work has haunted me ever since. The 1960s nostalgia her work evokes (and ultimately destroys) probably has something to do, for me, with those young, heady college days. I was also reminded of her contemporary work while visiting Minneapolis' Walker Art Center earlier this spring in the small but powerful exhibition titled, Recollection: Lorna Simpson.

 Lorna Simpson, Wigs II (1996-2006), waterless lithographs on felt. 
N.B. This image is from Simpson's website, but I believe the Walker owns a smaller version of this piece, Wigs (portfolio), from 1994.

As a printmaker, the piece Wigs II, shown above, blew me away. Lithographs on felt! Of course! So tactile and simple, so elegant, and so surreal. You can see much more of Simpson's work on her website here.

I hope, if you are able, that you make a trek to the Harold Washington library to see Simpson's work, and explore enough to find other hidden gems that are part of the collection.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Work: Prints

Julia V. Hendrickson, Untitled (2010)
Photopolymer etching in blue ink on cream paper.
Photograph by the artist. 

Julia V. Hendrickson, Untitled (2010)
Photopolymer etching in black ink on ivory paper.
Photograph by the artist.

Two new prints (printed at Spudnik Press during the non-toxic photo etching workshop I taught there) the first in luscious cyan. Branching out with color and I like the cyanotype effect.

Scans of these prints are strange, because it's digital > physical > digital again, but, so be it.

It's begging for a little collage...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Feature: Eyeworks Festival (Chicago)

Some of my favorite Chicago artists, in the persons of Sonnenzimmer (Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi), Lillie Carré, and Alexander Stewart (who created the beautiful animated 2005 Errata), have teamed up to produce something pretty darn awesome: Sonnenzimmer designed and printed 200 silkscreened posters that vary a little bit between each print, and which compose an animated advertisment for the 2010 Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation!

Eyeworks Festival 2010 Poster Trailer from Alexander Stewart on Vimeo.

How cool is that? Organized by Carré and Stewart, the Festival takes place this coming Saturday, November 6th, at 247 S. State Street, with video showings at 1:00pm and 3:00pm. At 7:00, animator David O'Reilly will present some of his work, including his much-lauded The External World (which premiered at the 67th Venice Film Festival). Can't wait for this.

Artist: Erwin Wurm

There was an opening yesterday at the Jack Hanley Gallery in NYC, and it featured a myriad of gherkins. Yes, zee pickles. A haunting, upright, righteous horde of 26 of them, titled Selbstporträt als Gurken.

Austrian artist Erwin Wurm (b. 1954) strikes again with good humor and aplomb. Realism, Formalism, and Cucumberism are salted and thrown to the wind. Obvious phallic gags aside, Wurm's portraits just make me laugh, for which his work is much appreciated. A charming video from the Submarine Channel's Pretty Cool People Interviews series below casts another light on Wurm's personality. It showcases Wurm's famous One Minute Sculptures which he has been making and photographing for the last few decades.

Erwin Wurm - Pretty Cool People Interviews from SubmarineChannel on Vimeo.