I was working for an Isreali Gender Theorist in the early 90’s and was tracking down one of her pieces on feminist geographies when I happened apron a photo by Jack Pierson, “Angel Youth.” It was simple washed out and I knew that I wanted to be wherever that sign was. At that point I couldn’t find a monograph of his work, but gradually I was able to piece together his work.
Palm trees, hustlers, celebrities some washed out some over saturated. Aesthetic interpretation that now we can tap into all of our photos in Instagram but at that point they could only really represent what I believed living in Los Angeles would be like.
In fact, LA in my mind still is best captured by Jack Pierson’s work. When I think back on my life there I see hyper green tree’s washed out by sunlight, hyper bleached sand hills. I remember walking down Vermont in the eats side turning the corner and facing the real Angel Youth sign, a remnant of a storefront church, it was faded but not as faded as the blue of the sky and I realized that I was living in Jack Pierson’s world.
Foundational Aesthetics pt.3: Street Style Photographers
I’m not sure I’d wear the outfit above (I probably would) but what’s most exciting to me is that the photo was taken on my street. In fact I know EXACTLY where the photo was taken, right in front of that new restaurant, next to the made in Massachusetts fashion store. I love street fashion photography. I follow amateurs, semi amateurs and pros (though I find the pros a bit less interesting.)
I have a real obsession with New York look book and once came across them shooting people against a white drop in Union Square. I was late for a lecture that I was giving but it took everything in my body not to stop and get in line in the hopes.
I admit I dress every day in the hopes… And I’ll also admit that watching street fashion in New York is one of the real pleasures that exists here and does not exist in California (sorry California I love you.)
And for real joy there’s Vice Magazines street fashion critique, which I can easily lose my mornings too.
My first opera was La Boheme (maybe that’s ever bodies first opera) I saw it in 6th grade. The story didn’t stick really and it took a long time (years and years) for me to like the music, but one thing I’ll never forget is the sets. Parisienne city streets and attic bowers. Mostly attic bowers.
I’ve been home sick this week so spending more daytime in our New York apartment than usual. It’s small, crooked but bright and high ceilinged. The other day I was sitting at the table, actually listening to La Boheme, in the middle of a hard core polar vortex snow storm when I looked up to see a small silver slice of light catching snow falling through our skylight. I guess I should have been alarmed and I did in fact call our landlord, but at the same moment I realized then that I’d rebuilt the attic bower here in New York. As I watched the snow fall gently onto our leather chair I felt a tremendous sense of aesthetic peace.
In high school in the 80’s I discovered what was then called Andy Warhol’s Interview, a magazine which I suspect for many in my generation became a beacon. It established a way of understanding and interpreting celebrity pop culture that made it feel like an important piece of contemporary culture.
I don’t think I realized even then that it was also establishing a wild, vibrant and distinct aesthetic that to this day I still respond to in my gut. I was recently at an installation at the Whitney and came across a short film about fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez, who in addition to illustrations for Missoni, amazing Polaroids also did work for Interview. Though by the time I was reading the magazine Lopez had died his aesthetic pervaded and somehow had attached itself to my own.
I’m afraid of the dark. I wake up in the middle of the night to a creak and I have the relentless terror of an Edgar Allen Poe protagonist: “it’s only the wind in the chimney…” I look in the mirror late at night and am always afraid of what I might see over my shoulder. BUT I live in a house where a horror film about a family of cannibals was filmed and it thrills me more that alarms me (though I still don’t go to the cellar.)
I’ve read scary stories since I was a kid and love horror movies (David won’t watch them so I binge watch them on planes where people clearly think I have problems.)
There are many who suggest that fear as a genre (the ghost story) was really perfected by Victorians who had to grapple with the sudden rapid shift of the way their worlds had changed. Servants especially had to understand the move from village to town, from the understood cottage context to great electric lit homes. Scary stories (often told on Christmas Eve) were a way to interpret the radical change they were experiencing.
At the bedside in every guest room in our house there’s a copy of M.R. James’ stories because nothing quite captures the uncanny so quickly. Whistle and I will come - A story with a figure approaching from a distant landscape has no intricate story telling devices, it relies on the immediately understandable horror of a distant approaching figure and nothing more. True horror arises for immediately understandable context.
Monk on the beach by Caspar David Freidrich takes the glory of humanity, alone in nature, to a place of despair and horror that is similar to the best of M.R. James. A simple trope that once seated in your mind won’t leave. It’s the reason looking in the mirror still holds fear, it’s so easy to believe that there will be someone right behind you.
I was having dinner with an interesting mix of media folks and academics in Miami recently and we discussed the notion of “dark play,” games and gaming that allow children to play all roles, victim and victimizer. These can be as diverse as astronaut and alien or video war games which allow you to play all parts. This dark play doesn’t turn out dark kids - rather kids with surprising empathy.
If there is a role for dark play, then what is the role of dark memes in our lives? While the Victorians may have crystallized it - not just in fiction but in the new medium of photography - the web has made dark memes more prevalent more wide spread. Scares have gotten shorter, easier to convey, and more visceral.
Websites like creepy pasta. http://www.creepypasta.com take short text based horror into the world of horror memes. Whether it’s 1 line terror…
There was a picture in my phone of me sleeping. I live alone.
Or one image terror (which has been around well before Photoshop):
We’re still looking for fear as a way to interpreted and re-interpret our world.
I’m curious to spend more time thinking about why and how fear helps us interpret and understand the worlds we live in.
This gazelle (or is it an Ibis)now sits above our dining room table and represents an obsession I’ve had with taxidermy for years. It likely started with my first visit to Le Musee du Chasse et Nature, my all time favorite museum which focuses almost entirely on taxidermy. It’s an artful and playful place that somehow let’s impressive wild beasts though long dead hold sway over the visitor as though they live. You can’t help but be awed.
Maybe it’s a momento mori effect the idea that we invite death into life that attracts me. Even at dinner after all death awaits. Maybe it’s the vaguely comic ways taxidermy shows up. From surrealist art…
To the ubiquitous fox with a bird in its mouth…
I’ve really struggled with the idea of owning my own taxidermy until we moved to the farm upstate where taxidermy is real. It’s a profession, it matters and is an art. I was speaking to an expert recently who was talking about how in the past great taxidermists carved wooden forms as the support for the animal, now it’s all done with spray foam and styrene which has no art to it at all
Of course at present the only person who’s yet to like my gazelle/ibis is from France.