Library of Babel is a Jorge Luis Borges short fiction that clearly inspired the library in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. It’s a delightful story, and the themes of infinity and mathematical abstraction appealed to me at a time when I was beginning a cycle of work so I put it to the test as subject matter.
I’ve mentioned that I have a process that involves working up ideas from small sketches to larger, ‘finished’ works. Each size level may yield satisfying results, however, so I’ll post a condensed history.
This is a ghost detail from a preliminary print. When I refer to a “study”, it can function as a finished monotype, but it alludes to a larger monotype I have in mind. Thus, there may be several versions, and this is an example.
This is a larger monotype from the same “thread”, though it does include the exact source of the top inset circle. So it The threads can often intersect partially in the form of ghost images to which I add new imagery. I don’t religiously document these various stages, so I can’t always describe the order of their making. As you can see, it is a related but slightly different image, which includes my interpretation of the hexagonal imagery in the original story. The leaf imagery relates to the idea of replication, the letter imagery to the book themes in Library, and other abstract imagery such as the dot/branch motif; and the threads, to the rhythms of Borges’ narrative. The colors I’ve flippantly referred to as my “Summer of Love” theme, bright combos of secondaries and primaries.
It led to the one I began the post with. Brighter colors, more letters and hexagons, a larger stack of tables; and the addition of the star/asterisk motif with connecting threads. Asterisks are sometimes referred to as stars, asterisks signify: additional info available. So I felt they fit thematically. The question of when to stop layering additional imagery is always a prickly one; I chose to simplify, partially because of the technical challenges of working so large, and partially because some ideas lend them selves to white space.
The entire sequence taking something like 3-4 months, with possibly 6-7 studio sessions. I’m happy with it, and thus have moved on to other images and themes. And I owe it all to Borges, with his rich imagery, thought provoking themes and the overall wit of his invention. As I’ve noted, Borges is great to pick up sporadically, not just for inspiration, but for the sheer pleasure of his intriguing imagination.
I’m not doing a booth at the Summer Art Market this year. After about 25 years or more of doing it, I wanted to take a break.
That doesn’t mean I won’t be there. I plan on being there, volunteering and posting on social media. And my artwork will be there too, at least one of them: I offered to paint a parasol/sunshade that will be on sale there to benefit the school programs.
The photo I made in a Square app for shooting things for sale on one of their web store pages. I wish I could make it work for flat art as wall as this 3D object, but I’m working on it, and may have more to share in time for the show.
Registration for my first Fall class, Monotype Starter, a beginners class that runs Tuesday evenings in September, opens August 9 here: asld.org. Search under “Instructors ” for Joe Higgins.
I’m working on larger works with my free time not preparing for the show. It goes slowly, but you can always see it by private appointment. Click on “Contact” in the menu bar above.
Most of my major participation in MoPrint is now complete, and all of the events went pretty well.
Last weekend was the latest, Print Jam at the Denver Art Museum, produced by Month of Printmaking and featuring 14 artists giving demonstrations and drop in workshops, including me. The crowd was very steady all day (11-4), and the organizer, Emily Moyer did a great job.
I helped with the Monotype table featuring 3 artists, 2 of whom had taken their first monotype classes with me. That’s always a source of pride. I fancied that we had some of the largest gatherings at our station, but that may just be team spirit on my part.
There are still openings and ongoing shows featuring my work, as well as many many others, but the events that required planning and organization on my part are now finished, which means I’m now essentially a tourist. What a relief!
The party began early for me Saturday, as I was one of the first artists to complete my demo, and spent the day relaxing and enjoying the other artist demos as well as assisting my own team at the monotype station. I took a ton of photos and some video that I hope to turn into a MoPrint promo that I will donate to MoPrint.org, should they want it. With that project, I hope to again jumpstart production of my own videos for this site, and for my YouTube channel.
But the pace of that will be much more relaxed and leave time to produce some larger monotypes for a new show, whenever that may happen. My class schedule will also be somewhat reduced as I recharge my batteries. I’ll update soon, but the next post here will undoubtedly be about reading projects. Other than that, I’ll see you next weekend on the #studiotour and at #steamrollerprinting in April.
The Summer Art Market 2021 will be a ticketed event to control for social distancing. It’s coming right up, August 28-29. However, tickets are only $5 and are good for all weekend. The socially distanced event will still feature over 100 artists, but the ticket money will go toward making up for lost revenues from the reduced booth fee revenue.
My spot will be similar to past years,near the entrance to the school, at 2nd and Grant St. Booth #55
It’s my favorite event, and one of few street fair type shows I still do. I’ve done it for over 25 years now, and may take a break next year, I won’t decide till the new year, but a year off to just wander around and enjoy the show may be a pause that refreshes. I plan to volunteer.
As for this year, the lack of a 2020 show means more work available for this one. There will certainly be more room to show it. There will be food and drinks, and a chance to see some peeps we haven’t seen in a while. I’m looking forward to it.
Classes for Fall: I’ve updated my Workshops page to reflect Fall offerings, which have increased from Spring. You will be able to register at the Summer Art Market, but the distancing limits are still in effect so far, and space will be limited. So consider registering as early as you can. For my September class, Monotype Mad Science, that’s now! Questions? Come see me at Booth #55 at SAM.
Regular studio work is necessary for any artist. The power of a disciplined schedule has been noted by writers, such as Hemingway; and some artists such as Picasso, seem to never leave the studio. For most of us it’s hard, especially as real wages have nose dived under corporate/conservative economics. One just works harder and longer to pay the basic expenses that the studio time can’t provide for, at least immediately.
So for me, one or two days a week is pretty normal, with two edging into luxury. I work in the print studio at the school where I teach, so for 6 months during the shut down, it was no days. Since the studio has reopened, I’ve been engaged as a monitor, to ensure covid protocols are being met, and in the 6 months since then there’ve been no cases recorded ( which would have necessitated re-closure), so I’ve been making up for lost time with a regular schedule.
Having to commit to a regular schedule actually helps with my own work. I can cover all the bases with a day to test concepts in smaller work, and then a day to expand my idea onto a larger sheet. Also, breaking news- the Summer Art Market will be back this year, but has been pushed back to late August. So I’ve been able to settle into a regular rhythm of working that isn’t as rushed by spring deadlines. I think it’s had a good effect. The ability to build up incrementally, in layers, or even set a monotype aside for a week to mull it over isn’t great for getting a lot of work finished, photographed, and framed in 3 months, but over the course of 6, it can lead to a lot of work in the flat file. That makes for a better show ultimately, as I can afford to pick and choose items for that show. It’s one small benefit of the quarantine.
I’ll pick one piece to illustrate the idea. In picking up the lost thread after shutdown, I had a fairly big stack of unfinished prints from last Spring and before to start with. This one is a ghost from my Fall ’20 return to the studio to complete work Left unfinished for all the various MoPrint 2020 shows I’d been invited to. So the original idea ( ladders, dreamy skyscapes) dates to 2019, although this one came in 2020. When on a deadline I use ghosts as insurance- if a print fails, I can use the other to pursue the idea. When not on a deadline, I use them to push the idea in different directions. By the time I was ready to finish it in January 2021, it had been a year since I worked on the concept, and my train of thought had changed a little.
Here is one of the 2019 works that inspired it. Also a ghost, it was displayed during MoPrint 2020 in the Colorado Print Educators show at Arvada Center before shutdown.
Here is the first impression of Wishful Thinking, inspired by a song on a past Wilco album, about the power of fantasy in love and life. I had been exploring ladders and nightscapes in previous images. The sky is a stenciled field of circles, the ladder is assembled of inked mylar scraps.
Another impression simply developed the ladder and skyscape.
The final state looks like this. I confess to forgetting whether there was an intervening addition to the sky and ladder before I added the organic leafy elements, and the box/nest in lower right. But it’s starting to get busy, and now I’m done. In my opinion, one can put too fine a point on a narrative or verbal concept, and lose some of the mystery. I like the contrast of the box/ nest figure to ground the ascending ladder and counterpoise the teeming sky. It gives a sense of place, which I like to think helps the viewer enter, but leaves the ultimate narrative open.
See it at the Summer Art Market, August 28-29, in the West Washington Park neighborhood , in front of the school!
Yes! A somewhat vulgar pop cultural reference to describe the dregs of my high art musings and literary pretensions. I think I’ll make it a regular feature. This, after I was just thinking to myself while walking to the grocery, ‘I should try posting some long form pieces’. And maybe I will ( when I have time to write one), but don’t worry- I’ll skip the suggestive titles.
I posted the rest of my Fall Denver Public Library workshop schedule on the ‘Workshops’ page, find it on the top menu bar. It’s really only two additional dates; October 17 at Green Valley Ranch, and November 7 at Ross-Barnum. They’re free and open to the public, and one of the nice things about them is you can come and try out the Akua water-based inks, and/or explore the concept of hand-rolling monotypes, which I know from questions in classes that many of you are curious about.
Yes, there are kids there. Sometimes, many kids. But look, if I can survive working with kids kidding about for over 5 years now, you can make it for an hour and a half. Click on the contact page or message me on social media if you have questions about this, I’m sure you’d enjoy it.
I also posted some new images in the ‘Portfolio’ section and will soon post more. These are larger monotypes I’ve been doing to fulfill upcoming show and jury deadlines, and I’ll be back in studio to do more soon. I’m going to try to start posting brief blurbs about older pieces to explicate concepts I’ve been discussing in the longer posts, too. In most cases, these will be much older, say from before this blog existed (2009).
I think I alluded to working on a web store ( for the millionth time) in a recent post. I had to put that aside when the software wouldn’t work, and I needed to concentrate on deadlines and classes. It’s freeware, and glitches, along with piss-poor documentation comes with the territory. They are trying to sell their product to developers and are probably required to offer a free version and helping some poor shrub with a WordPress.org site is far down the list of priorities.
I’ll take it back up when things settle down a little- maybe as early as this weekend. In the interval, I discovered an upgrade I can make to the actual WordPress software that might help the freeware work better. WordPress.org usually has much better documentation, too. I’m optimistic I can still have it ready by Xmas/Black Monday sales opportunity season, fa la, and will certainly offer discounts and premiums to get it rolling, probably right through Spring, so if you’ve been wanting to creatively fill a blank space in your walls, hang on, help is coming. I should be able to offer gift certificates, too. I apologize for maundering on about this since who tied the pup*, but hey- internetsing is hard.
I’ll put up a new reading list soon too. Mostly, I’ve been wrapping up odds and ends from Summer, but I feel a new long project coming on. I did buy a used copy of Tristram Shandy a few months ago, because since I read Michael Schmidt’s The Novel: A Biography, I’ve wanted to read it. To which sentiment one friend asked pointedly: Why?
Well, now how can I answer that, until I’ve read it, hmm? And with that, a blog that thought SEO stands for ‘Still Expressing Oddstuff’ barrels into its 11th year.
*Strange expression my late mother used often. I don’t have any idea what it means either, and she always refused to explain it. But I’ve been thinking of her lately, so- Hi Mom!
The next workshop I’ll teach this fall is Monotype Portfolio. It’s intended to go beyond the basic techniques of one of a kind prints and explore harnessing of acquired skills in service to an artist’s creative vision. Less about how to make a competent print, and more about making one that tells your story. So here’s some speculation about stories in art: all art tells a story, whether the artist intends an overt narrative or not.
I reviewed Women of Abstract Expression at DAM in 2016 in terms of its inherent drama- Ab Ex is always about drama, with its reliance on gesture and scale- and in the context of its backstory, of women against a repressive art scene in a sexist society.
Lee Krasner made obvious use of pinks and browns in this show to declare artistic independence and feminine creative power. “No one was surprised more than I when the breasts appeared,” she says of a pink-dominated piece in the catalog. Pink and brown ( as seen in a couple of pieces in that show), not pink and blue, are the colors of feminine sex. In asserting the dominant colors of the flesh of the vulva and the earth with power, gesture and scale, Krasner must have known she was using color in a transgressive way, to break assumptions and conventions. Pink had already been associated strongly at this time with a demeaning view of femininity, whether in the pink triangles for gays in the Nazi camps, or its prevalence in stereotyped domesticity. She returned later to this combination in “Gaea”. Her generative colors wind up being the story of her will to create art .
Krasner finds a rich, assertive pink and her browns are straightforward and do not recede. There is tension here, and much to ponder no matter what your superficial reactions to the terms ‘brown’ and ‘pink’. Here, they cannot be separated from her suppressed rage, her earthborn desire to create, her need to assert animal power. Her story, in other words, though through its raw aggressive assertion it becomes ours, too, as recognized by the curator of the show. Colors thus can tell a story in the tension between complements, hues, transparent/opaque, light/dark, warm/cool. Colors are a component of light, of course.
And light has its own story to tell.
As it travels across a pictorial plane, light creates an inherent story. It reveals, hides, blasts and suggests. It’s movement, which creates interest, and even in an abstract picture, one is well served to be aware of the source of the light, as viewers will almost certainly do that, and follow its path, whether unconsciously or not. In pictorial arts, eye movement can certainly be analogous to emotional involvement or interest. It’s an obvious source of drama, Let there be light. The light at the end of the tunnel. Every picture is a lighted stage-something is about to happen. It is the white space that makes the advertisement more powerful on a page, separating out noise to let the signal through. Chances are, if you are surrounded by black, you are dead, or asleep and dreaming. Surrounded by white, you are in heaven ( blessed , transcendent), or in a blizzard (lost and near death). Black and white are never neutral.
Composition also tells a story even when not attached to a specific literary narrative. Diagonals are important because they imply movement. Molly Bangs in her innovative Picture This speaks of a diagonal as a tree about to fall, and that’s a form of movement, even an implied danger. But even ‘static’ or stable diagonals in perspective imply movement into space. A repeating series of simple vertical shapes, especially strokes, imply rhythm or music, and in this, as in physics, distance= rate x time. Every one of these concepts is somewhat synesthetic; they blend sensory information, which does for the interest level in a picture, what eye movement does.
Along implied diagonal axes in a picture, other dichotomies come into play as dramatic elements. For example, hard edges versus soft edges: soft =mystery, distance. Hard = surety, obstacle. The eye gives us definition up close, and indistinction far away, so it is a natural thing to see hard edged shapes as closer or more important. In realism, these cues get used pretty straightforwardly. In abstract or expressionistic art, they get jumbled, and become part of a picture’s mystery. This too can be manipulated. Too close, and objects become mysteriously indistinct or vaguely threatening.
The final story a picture tells is not at all under an artist’s control. Not so much in a gallery setting, but in a street fair show, where artists are spending long hours absorbing the diverse reactions from a large sample of viewers, one is struck by how much a viewer’s interpretation can differ from the one intended by the artist. I actually encourage that with schematic, open ended imagery, but you don’t ultimately control what another tells themselves about a scene. I maintain that this is part of the natural narrative process in art.
When several people interpreted my large monotype, “Man With Torch”, as an environmental statement, I couldn’t really disagree. An indistinct figure wielding elemental power strides across a denuded plain (top).
However, I intended it clearly in my mind when composing it, as a metaphor for memory. One razes the past in memory, even as one marches confidently toward new experience, oblivious of past failure.
Both interpretations seem valid now. I don’t argue that some interpretations of an image may seem more valid than others; this sort of visual relativism can go too far. But narrative IS organic, and the oldest story is transformation.
Thus, no matter how specific the imagery, ambiguity results, and working to make the image more specific often leads to overworking it, which tells its own story, of obsession or neurosis. Visually, this can be a form of stasis, not necessarily a bad thing if balanced against movement or transformation.
Movement of light across a plane and suggested movement of diagonals comes under the general heading of transformation: all art is transformation of a sort, and anything that shows an artist’s hand, such as transitions from black into white, or blended colors, bring that idea to the fore. Transformation is already in your process, but preconception can sometimes render it awkward or graceless. Transformation IS the story, and it should be built into your process, your composition, and your colors. A recognition of the transformation that inevitably informs a successful piece as it’s being made makes it easier to deal with the fact that the story of a given work of art often doesn’t end when it goes into a frame and onto a gallery wall.
I’m not sure how many Summer Art Markets I’ve done, but this year’s must be close to 25, if not there. I’m in booth #100. I’m entering the final week of preparations, and I think it’s going pretty well. Some years- especially the earlier ones- were frantic. There have been a few like this year where I had a good start, and though it’s always work, it’s been pretty calm the whole way.
The Art Students League #SummerArtMarket2019 is one of the better shows for artists, and many long time shoppers believe, for art buyers. It combines experienced artists, many of them, like me, on the faculty at the school; with newer artists doing their first festival show, many of whom are students at the school. It has a real community feel, and tends to emphasize the art, rather than the food vendor and sponsor booths, and it is the school’s biggest fundraiser. Only media taught at the school can be exhibited in this show, so various ‘craft-ish’ items are not allowed, giving the show a real focus that true collectors have learned to love.
A nice feature of the Summer Art Market for buyers- Giclees and other reproductions that represent themselves as ‘fine art prints’ are not allowed, so one can shop for original art with confidence. At some shows, you might see these offered in “limited editions” at inflated prices, as if they themselves were art. At SAM, you can buy actual handmade art, often for prices as friendly as others charge for their Giclees. It’s worth pointing out that at any of the many printmaking booths at this show, only true, hand-pulled fine art prints are for sale.
You’ll probably find art bargains there. The beginning artists, many of them quite good, tend to keep their prices very low, whereas the more well known need to protect themselves from the competition in this large show, and many probably also try to keep prices as low as they can, or offer smaller more affordable pieces as I do. Many of us are trying to maintain a consistent, gallery price level, so higher prices from established artists are not a surprise, either, though Denver in general has low prices for art, so it can be hard for a full time artist to generate sustainable sales in a year. Great for buyers, though. This is the balance an aspiring art community must attain.
Haggling is a personal issue with artists, though a show of this type, especially on Sunday afternoon, would probably be as good as any a place to try it . Some artists seem to see it as an insult. I personally don’t mind it, though it should be reasonable, for the issues of consistent and sustainable prices mentioned above. Even galleries offer discounts, especially when a multiple, or larger sale is being considered. Repeat buyers also get nice prices. Be respectful, is my advice. Again, if you’re shopping for art in Denver, you’re probably getting a deal, anyway.
If you’re just looking, that’s fine, too. Questions about process and philosophy are fun for me, anyway- they break up a long day; and questions about my classes are certainly encouraged (you can register there too!). But be mindful of monopolizing an artist’s time for too long, as this may be a major source of income for their year, so they must make sure they don’t miss the opportunity to speak with any potential buyer. If you are a buyer, monopolize all you want. Enjoy being a hero. Not only have you paid some nagging, distracting artist bills, or even launched a career, but you’ve put money into the creative economy, money proven to be beneficial to a region’s economy and quality of life, especially as it tends to be returned to the economy quite quickly!
Other situations call for common sense: Solicitations for donations for your group’s charity auction, or for your new framing business or whatever are not that welcome if they’re going to take up valuable time. I certainly don’t mind if you leave your card or a flyer. No artist is going to make room in their crowded booth for your ad flyers for CFE’s, shows, etc.
The real value of the show is interaction and feedback from peeps you wouldn’t normally meet in a gallery, so don’t be shy. I certainly enjoy it- all conversations about art are more welcome than say, any conversation about the Broncos. Stop by and introduce yourself, make a comment about the art, get to know the community.
Search: #sam2019, summerartmarket2019, #asld, #artstudentsleague, and my personal favorite, #sambooth100.
I’ve tried to explore composition in my workshops. I’ve talked about the importance of color in prints, but it can actually be ignored, at least at first, as black and white prints are not unusual, and to some quite distinctive and attractive. But basic composition skills are hard to do without. I’m reading a book by Molly Bang called Picture This. It’s been around awhile, though this is the first I’ve encountered it. The 25th Anniversary edition’s cover blurb calls it “The Strunk and White of visual literacy.”
Never mind that Strunk and White has been often challenged as too rigid for some writers. I’m enjoying Picture This, which in some ways mirrors things I’ve emphasized in classes, and which in others mirrors only its author’s favored methods. I’m sure I’ll add parts of it to my own discussions. Her simple cut-paper illustrations seem tailor made for graphics, where much is accomplished with little in the way of detail. Her emphasis is on the emotional content of a composition, which I think beginners are often unaware of.
I’ve finalized all the fall workshops and it’s a busy autumn. I start with Monotype Portfolio, my newly renamed intermediate class, on September 11, and go to Schlessman Family Library for my first DPL drop-in workshop two days later. The session continues through mid-December.
All are built around conversation and creative growth. All have spaces left, but some are filling fast. You can go online to register here.
Art Students League Workshops:
Monotype Portfolio: Intended for those who’ve had a previous printmaking class, or perhaps some art school experience, and who need to work out a series or new idea, or just a print room refresher. Next one starts Sept 11 and is filling rather quickly.
Monotype Starter: Intended as a step-by-step tutorial on the basics of printing and print room protocol. You will be certified to use the room independently upon completion. Two sessions, a Tuesday morning, 9-12:30, beginning October 9; and a Thursday evening, 6-9:30 that runs for 4 weeks bookended around Thanksgiving and is filling quite quickly), beginning November 9. It ends in time for the busy holidays.
My Monotype Blast workshop, November 11, 9-4 PM, comes just in time for Denver Arts Week, as well as holiday giving: it’s possible for some to get 6-8 small prints done for use as creative stocking stuffers.
I also have a very affordable three-hour Moxie U sampler on November 2 that’ll help you decide if the whole squishin’-ink-onto-paper-with-a-press-thing is right for you; it’s light on technical procedures as I do most of that ahead, so you can just make monotypes. Register by Election Day.
Denver Public Library Workshops
Library workshops are drop-in style, kept very simple because I get a lot of kids-I encourage family participation, as the kids really do well when Mom or Dad is there. Again, this is a good sampler event, especially if you are curious about water-based inks, which we use. They are free and open to the public, so c’mon down and say hello.
A full schedule of the Fall dates is here, on my workshop page. They’ll continue in Winter/Spring 2018. I’ll post more info on these and other events, such as demos and talks, as soon as they get scheduled. Feel free to email, or comment here, if you have questions about any of them.
I’ve spent the last few weeks either working long hours at my temp job at DU, or on the couch reading under a blanket in the frigid, dark days. I got a lot of reading done, so I’m posting more mini-reviews today. Now it’s getting noticeably brighter, the job is done, and I’m getting back into a creative routine.
Free Workshops at Denver Public Library
I’m catching up on the blog and posting my next few free DPL workshops, including the first, this week at Ross-Barnum Branch, 3570 W. 1st Ave from 6-7:30 PM. These are open to the public, with children above 8 yo to adult probably getting the most benefit. They are drop-in style, so don’t worry if you are not there at the start, though that’s when I demo the process. The schedule confirmed so far is posted here.
8-Week full Workshop at the Art Students League
Still haven’t found a part time job, but will push on with the workshops and making larger work. My regular Spring 8-week workshop begins February 24, so don’t miss out. This is a far more comprehensive class, intended to walk you through not only basic technical processes, but the creative process as well. You can avoid dead ends and find fresh ideas through the use of multiple variations of “ghost” prints, second impressions of the remaining ink on a monotype plate- it’s like getting a free print and another shot at your original idea. You can get a small preview and ask me questions at one of the free DPL sessions. Or register here.
On to the books:
You’ll notice quite a few comics in here. First, the DPL has really upped its game on carrying interesting, literary comics, so one can catch up on intriguing titles without busting one’s budget. Browse when you come to the monotype workshop! There’s been a lot of publishing activity in this category, and it’s hard to find cash for anything but my absolute must-haves. When I do buy, I find Kilgore’s Books on 13th Avenue to be my go-to stop (at the risk of ruining my ‘favorit fishin’ hole’, but they really do deserve credit for knowing and buying the best publishers and authors!) Some of my thoughts on comics history in general are here, and I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of Richard McGuire’s Here, which looks to be another breakthrough for comics into the publishing mainstream. I’ll review it next month along with some other items which didn’t fit here.
New School by Dash Shaw
Few artists in any visual medium are pushing boundaries like Shaw. His raw brush work is often superimposed on acidic, free-range color fields, untethered to any specific imagery; or even photos of clouds, flowers, etc. This has the effect of creating unexpected emotional vistas in a story that hovers surreally between sci-fi thriller and teen sexual awakening drama. If this one just looks too odd for your taste, try the earlier BodyWorld.
by Andreas Campomar
This book, like “The Ball is Round”, seeks to explicate a cultural history of a people ( in this case, South Americans) through the story of their football. To a lover of both football and cultural histories, this story is meat and potatoes, and well told here. To casual footy fans, there may be a bit too much of the various tournament summaries, though the tale of tiny Uruguay’s supremacy in early World Cups and before that, in Olympics, which then served as football’s world championship, is essential.
Nor can these stylish triumphs be separated, Campomar argues convincingly, from Uruguay’s prosperous democracy of the time. Similarly, the advent of brutal military dictatorships in Latin America often went hand in hand with the continent’s dark turn toward cynical, negative “anti-football”.
Read it before the Centenario tournament ( celebrating the 100th year of South American championship), to be held in the US in 2016. At some point, the two Americas may merge, in a football sense; and this is yet another book to explain why football is really the only game that matters in the world.
V for Vendetta
by Alan Moore, David Lloyd
Hacker collective Anonymous’ appropriation of the Guy Fawkes imagery, plus Alan Moore’s complex legacy as comics’ greatest auteur, made this early 80’s graphic novel essential reading for me. I had waited far too long to pick it up, and wondered how coherently it dovetailed with Anonymous’ libertarian/anarchist representation, and how well it fit in with Moore’s own very original, often metafictional ouevre. It does not disappoint, in the same way that “Watchmen”, “From Hell” and “Promethea” do not disappoint: they are all brilliant, though eccentric, examinations of the relationship of man/woman to the State.
The difference in this early effort is in the pacing. It was mostly completed in Britain before Moore arrived on these shores to begin his ground breaking Swamp Thing run at DC, and prior to “Watchmen”, where a fascination with metafictional storytelling (i.e, “Superheroes as government-regulated vigilantes”, “Super heroine as goddess of storytelling”, etc) set in. This sometimes has lead to overwrought, didactic story lines, and over-designed illustration. Here, though, the story is direct and driving, with David Lloyd’s stark, stripped down panels, awash in blacks and crepuscular violets giving the whole thing a noir-ish Golden Age Batman sort of air. Moore’s crank-ish comic book libertarianism is here too, but tidily contained in a near-future fascist England, though an Orwellian computer system has jumped the pages and can definitely be seen as an inspiration for real world Anonymous.
Convoluted politics aside, it’s a great read.
Why Read Moby-Dick?
by Nathaniel Philbrick
A nice little book of short ruminations on various aspects of Moby-Dick. There are nuggets about Melville’s career, including a running discussion of his friendship with Hawthorne. Themes of the book are raised, and though not an exhaustive examination in the manner of a critical essay, they are thought provoking enough, and free of the academic/critical jargon that sometimes clots discussion of literary landmarks such as this. It’s hard to resist a book like this.
White Cube by Brecht Vandenbroucke
I had completely missed this early 2014 release and was glad I spied it on the coldest night of the year when no one (wisely) attended a workshop I was hosting at Ross-Barnum Library. These faux-primitive 1- and 2-page cartoons concern two guys coming to terms with, or sometimes cleverly modifying, even hilariously destroying, the modern art they encounter at the White Cube, a typical modernist gallery. Very witty, even conceptual gags about the art, but also about social media. The pair are seen running from the security guard after painting a Facebook-style thumb’s up ‘Like’ sign on a critically-approved White Cube acquisition.
The General and the Jaguar: Pershing’s Hunt for Pancho Villa: A True Story of Revolution & Revenge
by Eileen Welsome
A book that gets to the heart of the long-running enmity between Mexico and the USA. It is all here- the violence and savagery that seems to plague the Mexican people, and the prejudice and high-handedness of Americans and their government. The story is grippingly told. Pancho Villa’s campaign against Mexico’s military government found favor in US circles until pre WWI exigencies compelled Woodrow Wilson to recognize Carranza, the dictator. Betrayed, Villa vowed to take his forces against US citizens. The result was a brutal attack on Columbus, NM, and a punitive expedition into Mexico led by John Pershing, later to lead US forces in WWI Europe.
Conceived as a face-saving gesture by Wilson, but as a prelude to US expansion into Northern Mexico by Pershing and the Manifest Destiny adherents, the invasion into Chihuahua quickly turned into a misadventure. Porfirio Diaz, whom the revolution supplanted as Mexico’s leader, once said “Poor Mexico- so far from God, so close to the USA.” Pancho Villa seemed to embody this tragic irony, though it was not Pershing or the US that finally defeated him.