Index cards, envelopes, pencils, fish bowl, and archival ink on 9″ x 12″ canvases. Dimensions variable.
Presented at “Tell Me How You REALLY Feel: Diaristic Tendencies”, The Center for Book Arts, New York, NY, 2012; “Operating System”, Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Art Gallery, New York, NY, 2012; and “Index”, Part of the Borimix Festival, CSV Center, New York, NY, 2012
This is a simple participatory artwork where people are invited to write down a sexual secret in pencil, on an index card, put it in a small envelope, and deposit it into an empty fish bowl.
Secrets pulled from the bowl are turned into text paintings on canvas, and a small set of these canvases are displayed above and around the station for writing.
The structure of display is intended to suggest that these shared secrets are like beautiful little fragments or gifts, thus diffusing lurid or unsettling qualities in the massage and encouraging the reader to focus on the humanity of the truth revealed.
Inspiration for the project comes from a number of sources. Many artists have worked with the idea of secrets, and there are numerous websites devoted to sharing anonymous confessions of one sort or another. I have also been intrigued by the jpeg and gif messages left by people for one another on line, often showing some cheesy romantic or sexy image along with a simple text message. (The kind of images that were to be found on My Space, Pinterest or other social interactive sites, and not infrequently covered with dancing sparkles, or animated water reflection effects.) Other sites encourage people to take photos of themselves holding paper signs with messages or promotions, or invite others to write letters or postcards and mail them anonymously to the site, where the most interesting ones will be posted.
The project is also influenced by the many short form writing technologies currently popular, including texting, IM, and Twitter.
Most of the canvases for “My Secret” are messages of only 15 to 25 words or so. Use of the index cards, rather than say a sheet of paper for participants to share secrets on, is intended to encourage this kind of short form writing.
Though the project is largely inspired by internet and digital phenomena, I chose to invite people to participate though old fashioned chirography, in part to suggest the feeling of writing in a diary, and also to evoke the long lost art of the writing of love letters, and notions of secret paramours, and found physical traces of the intimate lives of others.
Two works from this series appeared in the group exhibit, “Anthropology: Revisited, Reinvented, Reinterpreted”, at Central Booking, Brooklyn, NY, November 2009. The work is intended to explore the Brooklyn neighborhood of Dumbo, and is available in two forms:
As individual 44″ x 66″, or 22″ x 33″ prints, archival ink, on acid free 100 percent cotton paper.
As individual images without text in the form of 38″ x 54″ archival ink prints on canvas.
Dumbo Comic (Print Work) takes 30 Washington Street as its starting point, to explore Dumbo’s unique history, and its architectural and sociological development. The artworks, in the form of comics, take inspiration from the factories built along the East River waterfront, and from Robert Gair’s position in the end of the 19th century as an inventor involved in industrial printing, cardboard box manufacturing, and real estate.
The work includes reference to the idea of the “Walled City”, a nickname for Brooklyn in the time before the bridges, when there were so many warehouses along the river that it created the look of a walled fortress from the water side. The name can also be interpreted as a reference to the subsequent isolation that Dumbo suffered from, following the construction of the bridges and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. The bridges and expressway not only made it hard to pass directly into Dumbo from the rest of Brooklyn, but also, because of the length of the exit-ways off of the bridge actually made all the Brooklyn/Manhattan traffic bypass Dumbo, traveling several stories above it. This (at first) tragic walling off, ultimately helped to preserve many of the historic qualities of the neighborhood which are valued today.
Dumbo, New York City’s 90th historic district, is bounded by John Street to the north, York Street to the south, Main Street to the west and Bridge Street to the east, and includes 91 buildings that reflect its industrial heritage. The Brooklyn waterfront region was one of the premier industrial areas in the United States, and at the turn of the 20th century, Brooklyn was the fourth-largest manufacturing center in the country.
Dumbo Comic (Print Work) looks at the historical development of this area through the use of line drawing, and the comic. The line is a simple yet powerful visual tool. Greek legend has it that the first drawing originated from someone using a stick to copy shadows in the sand, and line drawing has long functioned to allow a kind of caricature, or portrait of a person or thing. Comics use a simplified, or iconic visual language to explain complex ideas and narrative structures – a kind of “amplification through simplification”. The form tends to be democratic in nature, and readily accessible to a broad spectrum of society.
The origins of the modern single frame political cartoon can be traced to Britain in the 1800′s and is distinguished by the use of caricature. Throughout much of the United States’ history, political cartoons have held a prominent place. In the Civil War era, Thomas Nast invented the “Donkey” and “Elephant” that remain today the standard signs for the Democratic and Republican parties. They help us focus on the metaphors used in societal discourses.
Comics (or multi-frame cartoons) developed in the late 19th and early 20th century, alongside the similar forms of film and animation. The history and development of comics is directly linked to the development of 19th century manufacturing, to newspapers, and to the re-invention of printing as a large-scale industrial process. Robert Gair was a part of this movement, and the development of serial frame comics was happening at exactly the same time he was building “Gairville” in what is now Dumbo. Further, Gair’s newly developed process of industrial printing on cardboard, and his industrial production system for cardboard boxes was likely inspired by newspaper industrialization. Gair’s former factory was located in Manhattan near the Puck building, an historic area in the development of industrial printing.
Dumbo is a place of outsized architecture. Everything is at the scale of elephants or super heroes. In addition to its rich history, it is currently the site of some of the most intense gentrification in New York City. In Dumbo Comic (Print Work) the neighborhood and the buildings themselves are characterized through the visual language of the comic book, in order to provoke thought on issues of urban planning, quality of life, and the visual impact of the street level built environment. The project acknowledges the scale of the area and the special place which architecture and development holds here.
Dumbo Comic (Print Work) consists of two series of works with images starting from 12 megapixel digital stills shot on the streets of Dumbo. These images are then individually run through a variety of different types of desktop printing software and extensively reworked and elaborated, resulting in a set of “Technicolor” schemed cartoon prints, capturing architectural detail, and the street level build environment.
Text has been added by doing a Google search for the word “Dumbo” and culling bits of text and actual quotes from the search results. Part of the byproduct of this method is that elements of text treating the 1941 Walt Disney Animated feature by the same name also make their way into the work, serendipitously adding to critique of issues within the neighborhood.
Working with the form of the comic, this project attempts to provoke thought on issues of urban planing, quality of life, and visual impact of the street level built environment.