Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Books In The Mail

I try to buy at least one or three new books every paycheck (even though I'll never catch up on my reading at that rate). Here are a few that have shown up over the last couple weeks. As to when they'll get read...who knows?


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Artist Profile: Scott Allen (Kansas City)

Scott Allen
An import from Oklahoma, artist Scott Allen now resides in Kansas City. If you had to label him, one would probably call him a contemporary impressionist. Aesthetically his work falls into the graffiti/painterly/street art realm, but his demeanor and concept are very much in line with the Impressionists. He is interested in showing the world what it right outside its front door. No need to search for fanciness, or super deep meanings; just breathe and take in each moment.


Why are you an artist?
It sort of chose me I guess. My father is an architect. When I was young, he would bring home the old rolls of building plans. I would flip them over and make up my own stories. I never had coloring books growing up, I just had these huge, blank sheets of paper. My parents were very hands off and let me do whatever I wanted creatively. I still thank them for that approach to this day. Fast forward to now and I’m still doing it. I always have blank paper or my sketchbook with me….hoarding ideas, images etc. I have this thing in me that makes me draw and make stuff. If I don’t do it, I get real cranky and itchy. 

"Dorothy (Remixed)"

What is your inspiration?

It’s everywhere. During a concert I was working at in college, ?uestlove, the drummer for the Roots, said this to the crowd before he walked off stage at the end of the show. He was referencing music, but I think it applies to sources of inspiration and I wholeheartedly subscribe to it. He said “It’s all out there…you just gotta go get it." 

To get down to more specifics, I draw a lot from everyday life. It comes from constantly being aware and having a keen eye for something interesting to pop up. It could be some random graffiti on the side of a building, it could be watching someone who is a master at their craft do their thing, it could be a piece of music or something like the way a man looks at his wife. 

I am lucky to have a good group of friends and even better wife. The people I surround myself with are sources of inspiration. Even though all of them are not artists, designers, musicians or DJs they all offer something that I can use.

"Frida Kahlo"

Would you consider yourself a designer or artist or both?

Funny you should ask this…my day gig is as a designer. I have a BFA in Painting and now work as a Multimedia Designer. Design and art are very close cousins, but I do think they have some very distinct and important differences. I try to keep them as separate approaches.

To me art is about emotion and has a very introspective aspect to it. It’s the solitary artist doing what they do, removed from opinions and influences during the process of making art.
Design is about rules, clients and feedback. As a designer you are tasked with interpreting someone’s vision through your skill set. If you design something trying to anticipate what people will like, what will be considered a success and what will sell…you are doing your job.

Take the same approach to a painting and you end up with a flat piece that is just an exercise in technique.


What is your philosophy of Art ?

I try not to be “that guy” but sometimes I can be. Let me explain a bit further… I think there is a lot of stuff going on right now that gets tagged with the moniker of “Art” that really isn’t. The definition of art is elusive. That being said, I tend to take an old school, traditionalist stance on what is art. And in some ways my viewpoint is a tad contradictory. For example, a farmer who messes around with acrylics on found pieces of wood over a few beers in his basement may be unintentionally putting out incredible work. That is art.

Some hipster attempting to be clever by filling up construction tubes with mint chocolate ice cream and having it melt all over the floor during the gallery opening is not art in my mind. 


What is the role of the artist in our society? 

I think the role of the artist is to act as a mirror sometimes and to remind us to slow down at others. I think the artist is there to highlight things that people may either pass by or tune out.

As digital and fast forward as society is becoming, hopefully the artists can be the ones to remind us to slow down, take a look and cherish those little “moments in time." 

"The Gentleman"

Where do you see yourself as an artist in 5 years?  What are your ultimate goals as an artist?

Hopefully I continue to grow and progress both as a person and as an artist. Even as I approach 40 I am still trying to "unlearn" some of lessons that are inherently part of going through Art School. A Professor who I have a great deal of respect for hit it on the head when he said "You'll spend the rest of your life unlearning everything you learned in school." Wow, how right he was.

 I want to put out stuff that moves people. Not necessarily in that rage against the world sense….more in a sense that when my stuff is on display, it causes people to stop and spend sometime with my piece. If it makes them laugh, cry or just reflect, I feel like that’s a measure of success. 

"Tom Waits"

What does art mean to you?

When it’s good, it’s amazing and really does have power. I think 10% of all art is amazing. It’s the finding that 10% that makes this ride we are on a fun one. I think sometimes art gets bogged down in the galleries, the politics and just plain trying too hard. It gets stuck in the world of “Does this match my couch." It gets stuck in the overly wordy artists statement about the deeper meaning of mint chocolate chip ice cream. It gets stuck in the world of “Well, where else have you shown your work?” It gets stuck in the limited time offer, call now to secure your limited edition print.

On the flip side, it has a purity and a grandness to it and will break free from all these limitations.

Art, at its core, is a beautiful element of human life that really, honestly does not have a good way to explain it. You’ll know it when you see it.

You can find the rest of Scott's work at the links below:


Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Art and Surgical Tools

Two sites I stumbled across today that have some really fascinating art-via-physical books. The first link is best visited as there are three artists spotlighted there. The second has more pictures than I wanted to post, simply because I didn't write the article, but I think the site is also worth exploring. Enjoy.


Using knives, tweezers and surgical tools, Brian Dettmer carves one page at a time. Nothing inside the out-of-date encyclopedias, medical journals, illustration books, or dictionaries is relocated or implanted, only removed.

Dettmer manipulates the pages and spines to form the shape of his sculptures. He also folds, bends, rolls, and stacks multiple books to create completely original sculptural forms.

"My work is a collaboration with the existing material and its past creators and the completed pieces expose new relationships of the book’s internal elements exactly where they have been since their original conception," he says.

"The richness and depth of the book is universally respected yet often undiscovered as the monopoly of the form and relevance of the information fades over time. The book’s intended function has decreased and the form remains linear in a non-linear world. By altering physical forms of information and shifting preconceived functions, new and unexpected roles emerge."

Dettmer is originally from Chicago, where he studied at Columbia College. He currently lives and works in Atlanta, GA.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

R.I.P. Barney Rosset - Grove Press Publisher, Literary Defender


A champion of first amendment rights in regards to literature, Rosset became known as a fairly hated man due to his printing of books some believed to be morally irresponsible. Many of those books went on to become absolute classics in the canon of American literature.

A tiny list of just a few of the books he was responsible for putting out since 1951:

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
Lady Chatterly's Lover by D.H. Lawrence (unedited)
Howl by Allen Ginsberg  (in the second issue of The Evergreen Review)
The Bolivian Diary by Che Guevara (excerpts also in The Evergreen Review)


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Recharging the Subconscious

I got out of the house this weekend...a lot. My friend Surya made an interesting comment while we were at the de Young museum. While I'm paraphrasing, the idea is his: "It's good to get out, experience, recharge the subconscious so that we can return to the writing with full minds."

Every experience we have wreaks some level of havoc on our brains. I saw some fascinating, thought-provoking pieces this weekend and I'm sure somewhere, sometime down the line, they will raise questions within me that need further exploring, that need explicating through one of the only mediums I know; writing. In the past, I had used writing as a weapon as opposed to an idea mover or problem-solver. These days, I make a very conscious effort to eliminate any of my own personal history from my work, but the subconscious is funny in the way it allows things to bubble up into our writing, even when we fight to keep it out.

Here are just a few of the many thought-provoking pieces we saw at the de Young.

Cornelia Parker - "Anti-Mass"

Stephen de Staebler - "Wall X Orange Scar"

Thomas Hart Benton - "Susanna and the Elders"

Chiura Obata - "Mother Earth"

Ralph Eugene Meatyard - "Untitled," "Untitled," "Untitled"

Claes Oldenburg - "Profile Airflow"


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Art of the Library

I will only say this...I'm proud to be from a city that does such dope art work on the side of it's main library. The first picture (real) is from the Kansas City Library in downtown KC, MO.

Kansas City, Missouri

Abbey Library, St. Gallen, Switzerland

Atheneum Library, Boston

Cambridge Library Room, England

Candida Hoefer, Portugal

Chateau de Chantilly, Paris

Jose Vasconcelos Library, Mexico City

Reading Room, British Museum, London

Strahov Monastery, Prague

Trinity College, "The Long Room," Dublin

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Room, Yale