Sunday, April 16, 2017


Two new issues of the zine Ach Ja have just been completed in an open edition. Where the first three didn't relate well to this blog, numbers 4 and 5 fit right in. The latest Ach Ja #5: The Awkward  Relationship Between Rock Music and Art is full of text with few images. The zine is a material record of a talk that I recently presented at the Center for the Arts at Bonita Springs. Ach Ja #4: Record Sleeve Selfies on the other hand has little text and lots of artwork. The content is a sampling of the record sleeve self portraits that I've been working on since the beginning of this year. Several new portraits (not included in the posts on this blog) feature in this 24 page zine including this Bengal: Songs of the Madmen

If you're interested in a copy of these zines, shoot me an email. These, as well as the first three, you can own for ten bucks (plus some postage). Ach Ja: Surrealist Techniques; Ach Ja #2: Art and Poetry in a Hostile Climate; Ach Ja #3: Shamanism, Artists, Healers, Priests, have been produced in 2015 and 2016. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

E.V.T. (Extended Vocal Techniques)

Shelley Hirsch
16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
The term E.V.T. (extended vocal techniques) bridges the gap between the contemporary avant-garde and indigenous (or prehistoric) musical practices. The larger umbrella term ethnopoetics covers the ranges of vocal expression tracing singing and poetry back to its ancient origins. As Jerome Rothenberg beautifully states on Ubuweb,com: "Poems performed are poems sounded, where the sounding by the voice or by instruments acting as surrogate voices can bring a new sense of power/empowerment to performers and auditors. The further extensions and transformations of voice move it closer and closer to "the condition of music," to the point where words and syntax — the common constituents of language — are obscured, subordinated, or totally abandoned. The push toward such a poetry has long been present at the far limits of the modernist project and with it the recognition of similar processes and works outside of literature as such." So we're dealing here with the "conditions of music" which ultimately is the goal for any serious musicologist or connoisseur. The "ethnopoetics" page on UbuWeb easily traverses eras and continents, from isolated cultures to the western avant-garde. Shelley Hirsch is not included in the sound recordings featured on Ethnopoetics but we do find her work on the UbuWeb site under a compilation curated by Barbara Ess and Glen Branca (Just Another Asshole #5). The Shelley Hirsch performance in the top 100 list this year however, does not come from UbuWeb but was found on YouTube. You see and hear Hirsch performing with the artist and DJ Christian Marclay, himself a veteran of the Top 100 in a concert for the benefit of Roulette TV.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Full Moon (The Green M.I.A. Portrait)

16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
Ever since Born Free hit the markets in 2010 I've been a fan of M.I.A. I first heard the the song in Believer: 2010 Music Issue magazine. It was brand new then, recorded in 2009. Later I bought the 2LP set Maya and later yet I came across my favorite version of the song when she performed it at Letterman's Late Show. It's been in the Top 100 every year since 2010 and at #1 from 2012-2016. The performance of Born Free at Letterman's features the keyboards of Martin Rev, co author (with Alan Vega) of the song Ghost Rider, that prominently features behind M.I.A.'s text and vocals. M.I.A. was "born free" in England but her parents were not so free as they went in exile being hunted by the Sri Lankan Army. The date of her birth was July 18, 1975, precisely 11 years after my own.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Residents

The Residents
12 x 16 inches, oil on canvas board, 2017
This year sees a resurgence of music from when I started the top 100 at the most intense music fan years of my life. I guess when people get older they tend to revisit the music with which they grew up. The Residents surely falls into this category. The song Hello Skinny from Duck Stab/Buster & Glen (1978) was listed in mid-eighties, and the Top 100 had never seen a Residents song in its list since. I had never painted The Residents before and they're notoriously hard to paint because their identities are not known. As a portrait painter I could not portray any of The Residents but could possibly revert to Snakefinger, listed on the song's credits, and whose identity is known but never was an official member of the Residents. The band members have always hid behind masks, most prominently in the shape of an eyeball. Now this landscape painting, a sunset, had been sitting on my shelves for almost a year, ever since I had to fill in teaching a painting class that would only use a palette knife. I had never painted with a palette knife before and decided I would be brave and do a demo anyways. I never liked palette knife paintings and the result of my demo was horrible, even though the students seemed to like it, and, when looking at it from a distance, it wasn't quite so bad. I didn't throw it out. So now when it was time to paint The Residents I saw an opportunity to use it. Sunsets make it that everything seen in front of it turn black, silhouettes. It took me a half an hour to paint the silhouettes of the Residents, eyeballs and all.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Penderecki once more

Krzysztof Penderecki
12 x 16 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
The third Penderecki composition in this year's list and the second from The Song of Songs album listens to the title Canticum Canticorum Salomonis (also known as The Song of Solomon or The Song of Songs) and fills all of side A. Penderecki conducts the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra and the Krakow Philharmonic Chorus. The chorus consists of eight male and eight female voices, each with a soloistic part. Canticum Canticorum Salomonis is considered one of Penderecki's "finest works, notable for its subdued strength of expression." The Song of Songs is a favorite subject of many artists and composers throughout history for its unusual celebration of sexual love in the bible, which in the Christian Old Testament is seen as an allegory for Christ and His Bride, the Christian Church. In the Hebrew Bible this would be the relationship between God and Israel. It is also a prominent text in the mystical Kabbalah in which The Song of Solomon's esoteric interpretation of the Hebrew Bible is overtly erotic. The texts are (falsely) contributed to the legendary King Solomon.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Color Theory

Karl Heinz Stockhausen
Oil on found canvas, 18 x 14 inches, 2017
Last year I applied for a Florida Arts Council grant and was rejected in the first round of jurying. One juror was kind enough to provide well meant feedback to help me further my career. The juror suggested I should study color. Of course this juror could not have known I had written a lengthy chapter on color theory for an art textbook and for sure the juror was right in his observation that my colors are typically pretty dirty. But I took his (yes, the comment was signed) advise to heart and decided I would increase my awareness of how I use color. In investigating how I had used color before I ran into a major problem—I could not describe the colors on my canvases using the typical names that you would find on tubes of oils. I figured I could best make up new names and thereby personalize color theory. Syphilis blue, asphyxiation black, Dionysian red, green ocher, white pain, and so on. Once assigned I immediately recognize my own colors and am able to name them in the process of application. Each painting becomes a narrative apart from the subject matter. Oh, the subtle differences between the different whites, the pain, cocaine, the rabbit and orca whites. The colors now really enhance the meaning I get from my own paintings, I really feel the pain in painting again and the harm in color harmony. My color theory works best when superimposed of the work of another, preferably clean, painter. (The painting above was done on top of a macaw by a certain E. Tunes—what a great name!) Through comparison you see my color theory at work. The cadmium and vermilion reds of the original next to my scabies and Dionysian reds and throbbing pink in the face of the portrait. (The admixture of scabies red with syphilis blue and a touch of white pain creates this beautiful purple drain.) The green ocher and tainted yellow of the shirt work very well against the cadmium yellow of the bird's coat. The portrait is of Karl Heinz Stockhausen, the German composer whose work Zyklus für einen schlagzeuger features in this year's 100. I was delighted when I found his work Klavierstück X on record, a work that had featured in my top 100 a long time ago and hadn't heard since. The other side (the Zyklus) I found however more interesting.

Sunday, April 2, 2017


Kawabata Makoto, Acid Mothers Temple
Oil on canvas, 8 x 8 inches, 2017
After the frustrating painting I wrote about this morning, it was due time for some redemption. All the frustration of one came to the surface of another. The painting of Kawabata Makoto took about five minutes to complete. Five minutes of smearing around the few wet globs of paint left on a palette that had been in use for about two months. I had promised a painting of Kawabata Makoto, the main man in the Japanese acid-punk band Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O., as part of a Japanese avant-garde trilogy. The avant-garde in general is not known for its political correctness and in the case of the Japanese, this results in some old-fashioned misogyny. Despite the fact that some Japanese women contribute to the scene (i.e. Melt Banana), it is not a welcome place for them. Women in Japanese society, especially young ones, are the biggest marginalized group. Why am I bringing this up you may ask, well the records of Acid Mothers Temple, an all male group, are frequently adorned by exotic and nude females. I recently bought their album In Search of the Lost Divine Arc from 2013 (which happens to be an exception to the nudes on the cover—it's a boring cover mind you) for the allusions to some great rock classics. Born Free Stone Free being one of those, a lengthy jam with hints of Jimi Hendrix.

Punk in the Netherlands

Vitamin X
Oil on canvas paper, 12 x 16 inches, 2017
In 2016 Eye Amsterdam, a film archive and museum, organized a festival to celebrate forty years of punk culture. Films, events, and concerts were scheduled and an LP called Fury! was published for the occasion. The LP is a remarkably exciting collection of Dutch punk music featuring, among others, the best known Dutch punk band The Ex. The first track to secure a spot in the Top 100 2017 is however by the band Vitamin X, a hardcore punk band formed in Amsterdam in 1997. The painting was frustrating to complete as it was intended to be a transparent gestural oil sketch on top of a gestural texture study of the palms and bamboo in my backyard. Three out of the four musicians of Vitamin X (drummer Danny, second from left, singer Marko Korac, second from right, and bassist Alex Koutsman, right) went as planned but number four, guitarist and songwriter Marc Emmerik, didn't work out and kept me messing with the painting much too long. The song by Vitamin X that opens side b from Fury! is called About to Crack.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The New Eternity Rhythm Orchestra

Don Cherry
16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
Two days ago I talked about The New Eternity Rhythm Orchestra, a free jazz combo led by Don Cherry. The group was formed for the performance of a composition by the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. I created a portrait painting of Penderecki for the occasion but this is replaced now for this portrait of Don Cherry because Penderecki now is listed with a different piece. The text accompanying the Penderecki painting will now be updated to reflect his work Threnody for the victims of Hiroshima. The following text was originally assigned to Penderecki: In 1971 the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki teamed up with free jazz trumpeter Don Cherry in a composition Actions for a free jazz orchestra. The New Eternity Rhythm Orchestra was organized by Don Cherry (1936-1995) for the performance of this piece. The orchestra featured a number of the big names of free jazz: Peter Brötzmann, Han Bennink, Willem Breuker, Terje Rypdal, and many others including, of course, Don Cherry himself.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Japanese Avant-Garde

Masami Akita (Merzbow)
16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
The contents of the Top 100 2017 so far: avant-garde, punk rock, and ethnopoetics, areas that overlap one another on occasion. The history of the Japanese avant-garde is as important as their French, American, and other western nations is. Recently I've written about Tashiro Mayuzumi and soon I will paint a picture depicting Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso UFO, probs a portrait of Kawabata Makoto, the lead guitarist of the psychedelic jam band. Pictured here is Masumi Akita better known under his stage name Merzbow (from Kurt Schwitters' Merzbau). Merzbow is a one person noise band from Tokyo, an extreme one too. Merzbow is considered the most important artist in noise.

Krzysztof Penderecki (updated)

Krzysztof Penderecki
16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to browse through a wall of classical records and take whatever I wanted. I was not hoggish and didn't take more than what I could comfortably carry in one arm. Obviously I was looking for modern classical and avant-garde. There wasn't a whole lot of it but surely worth going through all the boxes piled up high to the ceiling. They did not disappoint, the records that I took home. Favorite so far: Krzysztof Penderecki – The Song of Songs. The album holds four compositions by Penderecki performed by the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra led by Penderecki himself. Included in the four is his most famous composition Threnody to the victims of Hiroshima composed between 1959 and 1961. The record is from 1976. Penderecki was born in Dębica, Poland in 1933.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Charlotte Qamaniq and Kendra Tagoona
20 x 16 inches, oil on reproduction on canvas, 2017
They look like angels, Charlotte Qamaniq and Kendra Tagoona, in their traditional Inuit outfits. They are, however, not the two singers heard on Katajjait on "Hamma" that I found on UbuWeb performed by an anonymous female duet. Katajjaq is a form of throat singing performed as a game by Canadian Inuits, mostly women. The painting is done on a reproduction of a painting situated in what looks like the Mediterranean, the worst kind of commercial art. The piece was produced to fake out the customer. Even though it is a reproduction, someone was hired to, with a clear gel medium, go over the reproduction to give it texture, to make it appear as if it were a real painting. Over the years the colors have faded into blue, as photographic reproductions tend to do. A giveaway is the so called "gallery-wrap" in which the painting continues around the edges. In this reproduction the texture does not continue around the edges, the reproduction of the painting, cropped of course, is flat when goes around the edge. It's a bone of contention, the bane of my teaching at cultural art centers. To my great annoyance a number of teachers teach their students to adopt the 'gallery-wrap." The students learn to lie to their customers for the sake of selling their work. OK, I got that out of the be aware!