Monday, November 07, 2005

I Want Candy



I have been reading a few good books.

One is a new book called "Belushi". It is a book put together by his wife that is now out on the shelves. It is an oral biography, but is also a coffee table photo book with a bunch of images that have never been seen before. I would also recommend the controversial "Wired", the Belushi bio by Bob Woodward.

I have also recently finished "A Talent For Genius:The Life and Times of Oscar Levant". Levant was a concert pianist who was a better interpreter of his buddy George Gershwin than Gershwin himself. Levant was a composer who was admired by Aaron Copland, a radio personality, a film actor, a neurotic, a drug addict and raconteur whose fame prefigured post-Warhol celebrity for celebrity's sake. Hilarious, sad and wild.

I am also now reading "A Grand Guy: The Art and Life of Terry Southern". Southern was a novelist, essayist and screenwriter. Best known for his work on "Dr. Strangelove", "Easy Rider" and "Barbarella", Southern is was a satirical genius and the inventor of modern American humor. Even now it is hard to imagine a John Stewart a David Letterman or a Conan O'brien without Southern.



I have some new versions of songs in progress from the new CD that I am hoping to post this week.

In the meantime, I am going to post an article I recently wrote for "Number" magazine out of Memphis about an art show that opened at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN and is now at Rhodes in Memphis.

For those of you who have left Nashville, but still read this blog, I hope this will bring you a sense of home.

God Bless Us Every One.

(I think that's a quote from Tiny Tim, that ukelele guy with the hair and the nose)


Love, Joe Nolan

On Others

University Art Gallery, Sewanee: The University of the South

August 19-October 9, 2005

Clough-Hanson Gallery, Rhodes College, Memphis, TN

October 21- December7, 2005

Irongate Studios, Austin, TX

January 13 – January 29, 2006


“On Others”, a traveling exhibit curated by Greg Pond, Assistant Professor of Art at The University of the South, makes connections between a close group of artists: Patrick Deguira, Melody Owens, Jack Dingo Ryan, Steven Thompson and Pond himself. Engaging a wide-ranging discourse on the politics of identity, civilization and the natural world, “On Others” is the result of successfully creating, packaging and marketing a traveling show.

Pond envisioned the exhibit as “…the tightest show possible without having to be a “real” curator. I’m not a curator by profession. I’m an artist.”

In “Objects Possessing an Historical Past, That is Renewed By the Present and Persists Without End”, Pond sets two identical single-wide trailers face-to-face to both compliment and confront one another. This dialogue is reiterated in the mirrored windows and doors of the miniatures. Psychologically speaking, the mirror image reveals the unconscious to the conscious, bereft of the protective armor of the personality. “Objects” lays bare the secret that “the house on the hill” is a tenuous cultural construction futilely attempting to hold the irrational chaos of the natural wilderness at bay. “Sugar Candy Mountain: The Final Resting Place of Saint T”, consists of rivulets of audio wires leading to mountain peaks of aluminum matrices. Tiny speakers interspersed along the inclines while small branches sprout upwards and burst into blooms of artificial flowers. “Sugar’s” composition is punctuated by the interplay of artificial materials and their natural evocations. Pond’s sculpture reminds us that man’s utopian impulse toward artifice and technology is also an expression of the natural world. The title of the piece calls to mind the Harry “Haywire Mac” McClintock song “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and Pond’s use of a yodeling Bruce Springsteen on its audio track conjures the everyman’s yearning for the song’s hobo Paradise. Pond’s big-picture point of view is complimented nicely by Patrick Deguira’s more intimate work.

In “Precarious Stack”, DeGuira stacks 20 green teacups into a tower balanced on a crimson volume of “Joy of Sex”, that is in turn sitting on a plain white chair. Although the eponymous precariousness of this piece lends it an immediacy that captures the attention, this unease quickly gives way to the realization that, of course, the structure is not about to topple. Deguira’s recent work is concerned with parents, and domesticity. In “’Stack” he is able to reflect opposing points of view: the sometimes vague and fragile nature of family and home and the assurance that these are our constant, most dependable connections to the world and ourselves. Likewise, in his “Untitled” piece – a quotation in orange acrylic that states “Come in…I want to hurt you!”- Deguira presents the dichotomies of voluptuous invitation and hidden threat implicit in the human urge toward intimacy.

Arlyn Ende, Director of the University Art Gallery at The University of the South, feels the traveling show is part of a trend among entrepreneurial artists, “Is there any other profession you can think of in which the individual has to do everything for themselves?” Her interest in the “On Others” came from her feelings that “We live in such a materialistic and martial culture. I feel like we are totally absorbed with the self. Thinking about others subverts this whole idea.” The underlying political implications of her observation are on display in Melody Owen’s work.

“The collages are about both the encroachment of one society upon another and the encroachment of civilization upon the natural world”, explains Owen in her statement. Owen uses images of the United States, Canada, the Middle East and Russia appropriated from the scholastic social science encyclopedia “Lands and Peoples”. In Owen’s puzzle-like compositions, East and West entwine in complimentary embrace and constricting threat. Disparate juxtapositions force the viewer to make decisions regarding figure and ground, becoming aware of the participatory nature of realities, both political and personal. Her use of a schoolbook as source book is a deft comment on the learned nature of patriotism, racism and xenophobia.

Hamlett Dobbins, Director of the Clough-Hanson Gallery at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN will be hosting “On Others” in late October. Acknowledging the difficulty of juggling the logistics of a traveling show, Dobbins points out that most gallery spaces have “…no storage and up to two years advance booking. That really puts a damper on it…Greg did a really good job of working with me and Sewanee on dates.” Dobbins was attracted to the unique sculptural work in the show.

With “Deerstalker Hat”, a green, fur-lined hunting cap with fuzzy earflaps, Steven Thompson explores the human impulses that lie behind the mythic fictions of the pioneer. Thompson’s sense of humor is evidenced by the fact that the tweed, British cap associated with Sherlock Holmes was designed by Henschel Deerstalker. Thompson’s titular pun calls attention to the human process of “trying on” different identities, beliefs and values as we search, like detectives, for the “right fit”. Both “Deerstalker’” and “The Aegis of the Green and Bold Cooperative” – a stunning full suit of cloth and leather armor inspired by Homer’s “Odyssey” – remind us of the ritual capability of a costume to bestow characteristics and powers upon the wearer.

In his statement, Jack Dingo Ryan notes that “At the root of my ideas is an interest in the human experience.” His sculpture “Skull Shelf” consists of an upright human skull balanced on a white shelf facing the wall. Visitors must ascend a spiral staircase and walk to the far side of the gallery’s balcony to view it. Ryan’s lively skull refuses to represent death and rejects any number of necrotic clichés, bringing to mind the buoyancy of memories and the endurance of experience. Evoking notions of perpetuity and timelessness, “Skull Shelf” can also be seen as a fossil from one of the avatars Ryan employs in his exquisite drawings: “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, or the empty space of his landscapes.

Pond acknowledges the efforts of the Ende, Dobbins and Elizabeth Spear, cofounder of Irongate Studios in Austin, TX, the third stop for “On Others”, “They’ve let me do part of their job.” In additon to trusting Pond’s curatorial savvy, both the venues in Sewanee and Memphis are cooperating to ship the exhibit.

There is a remarkable integrity to the collage, sculpture, drawing and video pieces in “On Others” and to the whole of the exhibit as well. Whatever difficulties Pond, the artists and venues have surmounted, the Southeastern audience hungry for bold, sincere contemporary art is the ultimate winner.

There are tentative plans to travel “On Others” to Arizona, California and Oregon.

Joe Nolan

Joe Nolan is a poet, musician and freelance writer in Nashville.


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