Working in the studio is a nice way to spend time, but it’s still technically WORK, and it requires a break from time to time, especially as it gets darker and colder, and especially after a productive year, and especially as the whole rest of the world celebrates some form of Season of Lights, and most especially, as the whole rest of the world celebrates the greatest sporting event on the planet.
So, it’s time for ‘Holly Twigs and Berries‘, a round up of less than dramatic news from my couch. I’ll point to my 2 month silence as evidence that I’ve been “busy”, a lame excuse for not communicating, I know, and I’m posting one of my latest large monotypes here as circumstantial evidence.
No shows to announce- it really was about enjoying myself in the studio this year, and I did. Shows create a pressure to ‘produce’, and I wanted time, not money, for Xmas this year. A lot of the last month was spent on studies for larger pieces I hope to explore after New Year’s Day, when I really will have to produce, as I’m heading back to #SummerArtMarket in the late Summer.
Similarly, there is a press to frame art for shows, but this year after buying and trading for multiple new prints during MoPrint, and having a pretty good backlog of previous acquisitions, I spent quite a bit of time framing from my personal collection, and rehanging a lot of the walls in my home. This, and other domestic projects I spent time on this year, was a lot of fun! After COVID shutdown for most of two years, and with another frigid winter oncoming, freshening the interior space seemed like a very healthy thing to do.
On the subject of MoPrint 22, when, I can attest, many brilliant artworks were available for easily affordable prices, I need to remind you how shopping local really does constitute a creative act in itself. Your walls will thank you- but let’s not forget our local economy! I can vouch for the fact that money spent on local artisans WILL be returned to the economy very quickly, as their finances can be very fragile in this rapidly gentrifying city.
I can also tell you that planning for MoPrint 24 has already begun! My role in this will again be localized, in conjunction with the Art Students League of Denver, but the overall committee, of which I used to be a member in the early days, is already combing the state for venues and printmakers. Contact me through this site if you wish to be involved, and need a referral. You can also go to MoPrint.org.
I’ll post my Winter/Spring Class schedule soon, under “Workshops”, above. I’ve also got two Kids’ Camps scheduled for Summer. I’ve been pretty good about posting links and registration deadlines this year, so return after the New Year for more info. I’ll get it done early, as I can do that from the couch!
As to the greatest sporting event on the planet, a combination of unscheduled mornings and a 2 week illness allowed for a lot of time in front of the TV for games, and it was a glorious way to take one’s coffee and toast. I may post a recap soon for fun.
This time of year is when I like to post a list of my favorite readings of the year, and as every every other major media outlet (you see what I did there- it’s called ‘branding’, people) concentrates on prose fiction and nonfiction, I stick to comics. I’m working on my hotly anticipated Besties as we speak, which to a large degree, constitute a tour of my youth. That’s all I can say right now. Secrecy is imperative with the Besties, to minimize the risk of bribes (Side note: I just put my Xmas tree up, and there is room underneath for gifts. I’ve been assured by my personal banker that there is room in my account for bribes, too).
Strips, Toons, and Bluesies, Dowd and Hignite: This is a book I found on the used shelf at Kilgore Comics and Books on 13th Avenue. It’s kind of a hodgepodge, originally issued in 2004 as a catalog in conjunction with two gallery shows at Washington University in St. Louis, and then re-issued to ride the hype surrounding the Masters of Comics show and catalog later. A coeditor is Todd Hignite, who published the excellent Comic Art Magazine at the time. He was a leader in the flowering of comics criticism at that time, which included Masters of American Comics, and The Comics Journal. This may be sort of a piggyback project.
It’s well worth reading, though it’s a bit over designed, and one of its essays falls short of proving its interesting proposition, that comics and animation are linked in history. Hignite’s contribution, a close reading of Jaime Hernandez’ early “Locas” story arc, feels like a Comic Art article that was left out, nothing wrong with that. There’s an intriguing, but perhaps a bit stretched examination of Tijuana Bibles and Jack T. Chick comics as early manifestations of Underground Comix.
The most ground breaking essay is a survey of African American imagery in comics of the 60’s, as the civil rights movement surged, and the first black superheroes appeared. A very useful timeline of key points in the intersecting histories of comics, graphics and printing closes the book.
While not as hefty or relevant in its content and impact as John Carlin’s Masters, it helps to fill the many gaps in comics scholarship.
Metropolis, Ben Wilson: If I did do a Besties for prose, this would be it, I think; a cultural history of the city from the first, Uruk, through many others, both well known and less so. Paris, London NYC are all here, but each is examined in a specifically significant time of their flowering, in order to examine important issues in the growth of cities as a cultural force.
Other, less written about cities are here too, Lisbon ( colonialism ) Lubeck ( commercialism ) and L.A. ( car city ) are examined for significant developments, as is Warsaw, emblematic of the ‘innovation’ of using annihilation, terror and genocide as techniques in warfare.
Each chapter focusses on one city and examines related developments in other cities as well. This leaves Wilson plenty of space to dwell on not just facts and logistics, but the underlying question of what a city is. And he knocks it out of the park- the writing is pacy and conversational, but the subtext, a philosophical examination of why cities exist, and keep growing, and their essential alliance and agency with civilization itself, builds to a nice climax as we enter Lagos, the last chapter, under the heading “Megacities”.
Lagos, congested and sprawling, does not usually get good press. But Wilson makes the persuasive argument that Lagos, for all its dangers and ecological stressors, is actually doing what cities have always done- innovating, democratizing and adapting. It’s an eye opener, and the book as a whole will make you want to travel, if only in your own city, but yes, even to Lagos.
The book itself, which came out in 2020, is perfect for armchair travelers. Not a travelogue, not an academic study, somewhere in between, like a leisurely but well informed conversation with wine on a snowy day. You may want to save it for when you have time and bandwidth to savor its rich speculations, which encompass not just streets and skyscrapers, but music, beer and wildlife. Which is pretty much how I enjoyed it, though I started it on a trip to another city, in its own adaptive historical transition.
It’s all too easy to diss cities, especially in this puritan country, where density has often been a cue to grasp for more open ( and insular ) spaces. Metropolis is a call to action, to think progressively about why and how we live together.