Thursday, December 8, 2011

My 2012 Painting Portfolio Is... ALIVE!!!



It was supposed to be finished and en route to galleries by October 31. For that reason I dubbed the project "Halloween Massacre." I pushed to get the Xanadu painting finished in order for me to meet that deadline. I generally don't miss deadlines, but its been a crazy mixed up fall of 2011 for me.

I finally finished it tonight, although I don't anticipate having any completed packages ready to mail out until sometime next week. You can get your hot little hands on a PDF version right here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Legacy Of A Dead Planet



My work is a record of a personal journey of discovery and adventure. It's a deeper look into the conflict between Nature and Man. Studying this conflict requires complete honesty, and in order to fully understand the dynamic, an observer must accept the possibility that the side to which his sympathy is given may not be winning.

This is not such an easy idea to accept for someone who is a lover of Nature, because it should be obvious that Nature will most likely obliterate any of Man's accomplishments. That which Man creates is made of Nature's building blocks, and is therefore no greater than Nature herself. Buildings crumble and rot, images fade away, civilizations and their hopes and dreams fall to pieces as elements react with elements and molecules with molecules. Sublime natural forces such as rust or mold are as detrimental to Mankind as the atomic fusion that creates stars and galaxies.

So if Nature has so much going for it, how can Mankind possibly pose a threat? What efforts can humans bring that will overcome the powers of creation? These are questions that I have been exploring in my studies of abandoned buildings and polluted wetlands. The first look at a crumbling brick row home with trees growing up through the roof would seem to indicate that given enough time, Nature will get the upper hand. But something else is there, something sinister, something malignant, even depraved.

Picture yourself on a canoe, floating down a canal that cuts through a thick marsh, with the tops of foxtail grasses reaching fifteen feet above the water line. Their roots are planted firmly in an oozy, green and brown base of land that seems like an ordinary marsh bed when casually viewed as you drift by. Upon closer inspection, you discover that this miry substratum is more than muddy earth. It's also a tangled mesh of old shoes, bottles, cans, wires, fabric, hoses, and any other relic that Man can create and discard. You soon realize that this marsh is growing on a land base that is made entirely of garbage. Acre after acre of what seemed like a pristine aquatic wilderness is actually an old landfill.

I used to claim that my work was, at its very core, optimistic. I believed that by drawing attention to distressed environments, I could convey the need to address concerns about the natural world and what our species would do to reverse the devastation it had caused. I believed that ultimately, Nature would prevail and rid itself of the plague that Mankind had brought. As I do more research and observation I'm beginning to feel that perhaps I was initially misguided and wrongly idealistic.

My recent studies of the New Jersey Meadowlands have reinforced this feeling. There aren't many places on earth where an ecosystem has suffered so terribly from the wanton greed and selfishness of the human quest for wealth and power. With air, water and land tainted with the poisonous by-products of Mankind's material culture, there is little reason to believe that a place that was transformed from a living wetland into a toxic wasteland can ever return to its original form. The discarded refuse and contamination is simply too widespread and too deeply infused into the land to ever be cleaned out enough to support life. The available land continues to be consumed by the demand for real estate, and the behavior of the water is forever re-directed to comply with the requirements of Mankind.

The optimism that I thought was the core emotion in my work has revealed itself to be despair. The more I see, the less I feel that Nature can eradicate the inherited desolation of a pernicious human civilization. Solid waste and toxic chemicals could potentially remain as part of the Earth's surface forever. The self-destructive and suicidal behavior of a species which chooses to live in such a way that destroys the very ecosystem on which it relies for its survival is further proof that there is little chance for salvation from this fate. Even after our species vanishes from history, there will be a legacy, and I have chosen to record it in my paintings: the legacy of a dead planet.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

We Are The People And We Occupy

Corporations are entities which are comprised of two things: money and people. Without people, corporations don't exist.

Look around you and what do you see? A city.

There are those who would tell you that this city with all its buildings and roads and bridges were all brought to you by banks and corporations.

But banks and corporations don't build things. People build things.

Corporations don't provide jobs. People provide jobs.

When we work for a corporation, they need us.

Because Its people who lay bricks.
It's people who pave roads.
It's people who pull levers and push buttons.
It's people who mop floors and clean toilets.
It's people who are designers and engineers.
It's people who do accounting.
It's people who make decisions.
It's people behind a desk who hire other people.

If you ask me if we are slaves to corporations, I say "no!"
So why do they think they can treat us like slaves?
Why do they think we cannot survive without them?

If you ask me, it is they who need us.
It is they who cannot survive without us.
It is the corporations who are the slaves and we are the masters.

When I read our constitution, the first three words I see are "we the people."

It is we who control our destiny.
It is we who work and provide for ourselves and our families.
It is we who participate in commerce and trade.
It is we who should be governing and making laws.
It is we who can bring the system down when the system threatens our way of life.
It is we who have drawn a line in the sand.
It is we who have occupied public spaces in the name of justice.
It is we who say "we won't put up with this anymore!"
It is we who want to put things right again.
It is we who want to reclaim the power of our vote.

Without people performing work, there would be no corporations.
So stop telling me to apologize for financial criminals and irresponsible corporations just because they need people to work for them.
They are not entitled to break the law.
They are not entitled to destroy lives.
They are not entitled to bring a nation's economy to its knees.
They are not entitled to escape justice.

It is we who want the law applied to everyone equally.
It is we who want a level playing field where no one cheats their way to the top.
It is we who want a representational government where no one can pay to have a law written in their favor or bribe politicians.

Look around me and what do you see? A city.
A city build by people.

Who's city is it? It's our city.
Who's city? Our city.
Who's streets are these? They're our streets.
Who's streets? Our streets.

We Occupy. And we're staying.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Important Article Shared By Occupy Philadelphia

Now's a good time to get off topic.

This article posted on the Occupy Philadelphia Facebook page has some interesting charts showing the inequalities in our economy. Its all stuff we've heard over and over again, but somehow gets overlooked or scoffed at by Joe Average struggling to pay his mortgage. I liked what it said but I couldn't overlook the disconnect that it highlighted.

Here are the comments i left on the thread on the Occupy Phila FB page:

"My comments regarding this: while I personally agree that these charts show how unfair things are, most Americans consider it a right in this country to be as rich as you can be. However, what the average person is not understanding is that this kind of inequality and the financial crisis of 2008 and beyond was the result of crimes committed by the very rich…"

"…heinous crimes against the people which go unpunished, plus complete control and corruption of the political system. These things need to be explained to people in a simple way or they will dismiss the occupy movement as just a bunch of liberal socialist freaks behaving badly."

"This is why you get complaints such as "why don't you go out and start a business if you don't like how things are." Kind of amazing how average Americans don't realize how badly victimized they really are and how the transgressions of the rich and greedy have affected them directly."


Then I shared it on the news feed and here are the comments I added:

"Let me make one thing clear: These charts make perfect sense to me but I'm not against capitalism or banks or people getting rich. The issue is not who is making money and who is not. The issue is that banks like JPM and Goldman Sachs are STEALING from the people and the government REFUSES to do anything about it. The banks steered the risk of derivatives trading into the public domain while keeping the rewards for themselves, then asked the taxpayers for bailouts when it blew up in their faces."

The connection somehow needs to be made otherwise the mainstream media will succeed in mocking the movement and nothing will change. People are so blind that they can't feel the bankers hands stealing right out of their pockets. They allow this to go on as part of the American Dream. When they wake up, they'll be living in a tent city and will still consider it all to be fair game. Sad. Really sad.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Birth Of Xanadu

This video would go viral if it featured dancing babies or singing cats or some kid falling off his bike and smashing his nuts…



…but it doesn't. Its the story of my latest painting from start to finish, and I'm extremely happy with it. It's also making its public debut in 3 days, with celebration to follow.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Xanadu Lives

Xanadu, 30" x 48", oil on canvas, 2011.

This painting will be on exhibit at the Tenth St Laundromat beginning Saturday 10/1 until Monday 10/31. Be there on the 15th and you can see what I look like drunk.



Take a stroll through my posts over the past 6 months and you'll see each and every step of the process. There's a short film coming soon as well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Five Miles From Times Square at the Tenth St Laundromat



I'll start out by mentioning that the image on the left of the flyer is one of mine that a) was not going to be included in the show, and b) is at my brother's house. Whatever. What will be shown are 6-7 paintings from the series, Five Miles From Times Square, my painting study of the phenomenon and ecological disaster known as the New Jersey Meadowlands.

If you're reading this there's no excuse for you to not be at this thing on October 15th. Unless, of course you live thousands of miles away and can't afford to travel. If that's the case I'll have a drink in your honor. Seriously, Philadelphia is worth the trip wherever you come from, and this show would just be one more cool thing on your agenda.

If you can make it, expect an art show unlike any you have ever been to. Yes, Virginia, it is in a laundromat. No, Virginia, don't bring your dirty undies. You'll be having way too much fun for that.

I should also mention that I'll be showing alongside my very best friend and a world class painter, Don McPartland. I've known Don for over 20 years and have always been and admirer of his. His work has inspired me in many ways, and I'm always excited to show with him.

I'm looking forward to meeting Carla Hopkins & Nick Gleckman and to hearing Hott Tubb as well. And of course, DJ Jeffrey with The Magic Message will have all the ladies dancing on the dryers before the night is out.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Xanadu pt 43: Fini

43 individual sittings. Average about 1-1/2 hrs per sitting, putting me somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-65 hours. It all took place between April 19th of this year until tonight. It's been through renovation projects, hurricanes, child invasions and has occupied the 10 PM till midnight slot of most weekdays and has cost me a good bit of sleep.

I've taken a photo after each sitting, from start to finish, and posted it here. The news stories about the building featured in the painting, Xanadu, or The American Dream, or whatever you wish to call it have strung themselves together into an interesting drama which is far from over.

All of the photos so far have been taken on my phone in my studio under less that ideal lighting, but the real photo will be posted soon. I'm not sure what to blog now.

Here it is, the final installment, Xanadu pt 43

Monday, September 19, 2011

Xanadu pt 42: Misinformation Superhighway

One of the ways in which the media can mislead the public is to give the illusion of presenting something substantial while not actually doing so. This may be by intentional or not, but when your news story has the headline, "Triple Five executives discuss project, answer questions" and you only publish a few meatballs from the public, it leaves one to wonder how involved the public is allowed to be in a particular issue of importance.

Generally, when people skim through news articles they read the headline and the first paragraph or two. Anyone who read the entire article should notice that it includes a grand total of two softball questions from residents, preceded by talking points from T5 suits, proceeded by comments from local public officials (who's job it is to sell it to their constituents whatever the cost), and boiler plate about the Meadowlands Commission's transportation plans. It all leaves me to wonder what public input from the meeting wasn't published. Did they really only have time to ask questions of two people, or were they making sure that no one beyond the walls of the room where the meeting was held gets the impression that people are tired of having their world turned upside down by greedy developers.

The purpose of this event, it would seem, was to give the impression that they were inviting input from the public, but what the public thinks really doesn't matter. The purpose of this article seems to have been nothing more than an handy bit of PR for a developer who intend to press on with a project that's tanking in opinion polls, and they'll carry on regardless of what impact it may have on the local and state residents whose lives will be affected whether they like it or not.

I also love how they breached the issue of charging for parking. They wanted to assure the public that it will be "no more than $5." I guess that settles it. No followup necessary, even though it hints at one of two things: that they're trying to squeeze every last dime from people who simply want to go to a mall, or that they're anticipating cash flow problems when it comes to repaying the taxpayers who are going into debt on their behalf.

This project is underway, and will continue until it opens its doors or until, god willing, T5 goes broke. The only thing I can do about it is complain. And make a painting.

Part 42 (its almost done):

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Xanadu pt 41: Party Time at Tenth St. Laundromat

Before I tell you about what's going down at the mat, soak in Xanadu pt 41, which I have exactly 16 more days to complete:



And now some of the skinny on where this paining (once completed) and other paintings for this project will be shown and how you can get in on the action of the most unique, notorious and fabulous exhibition and dance party of the year:

October 1-31, 2011

Reception and Music
October 15, 2011
8-11 PM? I'll have confirmation of that soon

Artists:
Matthew Green (me)
Don McPartland
Carla Hopkins & Nick Gleckman

Featuring:
Live music by Hott Tubb
and DJ Jeffery (the magic message)


Tenth St. Laundromat
1141-43 S 10th Street
(one block south of Washington Ave on the corner of Ellsworth St)
Philadelphia, PA USA

Beer, wine and hors d'oeuvres by Sugarplum Stacy will be served. A small donation is appreciated but not required. You don't really need to bring your dirty laundry but it would kill 2 birds with one stone. Nudity is preferred by me but frowned upon by the management. Dancing on the machines is a little dangerous but oh, so cool.

If you live an airplane's flight away I would suggest getting on Expedia right freakin' now. Here's a little snippet of what you missed the last time DJ Jeffery made an appearance at the Mat.

Now, doesn't that sound like fun? An official flyer is in the works, and that will be posted when it's available.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Xanadu pt 40

Big 4-0. I can barely type again, my goddamn hand is killing me. Read what I wrote yesterday. Chris Christie is probably gonna send someone to my house to kick my ass.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Xanadu pt 39: Wham, Bam, Muni Scam

Why didn't I see this before?

After begging the state of New Jersey for tax exemptions, which really mean corporate handouts, Triple Five, the new owners of the shit sandwich formerly known as Xanadu are reportedly seeking up to $1bn in public money to complete the infamous unfinished megamall project. This has quietly crept into the news after the fanfare surrounding their supposed rescue of the project like white knights saving the damsel in distress. It appears that they really don't have enough cash to finish the job. They really just want to scam taxpayers into handing over parts of their personal income, promising jobs, in order to give Kubla Christie a big wet blow job.

A recent story by Michael Gartland of The Record discusses how they're now asking Bergen County to sell municipal bonds in order to raise $400m. Why? Can't they find private investors themselves? One might argue that T5 hopes munis would be more attractive to investors because of their tax-exempt status. The deal that's on the table right now between them and the county is that taxpayers would not be liable for any debt. If that's the case, why offer public debt in the first place?

I highly doubt that the deal is gonna fly if T5 has to be liable for the debt. Anyone who thinks that they're that altruistic is a fucking fool. They obviously don't have the cash they need, so how could they possibly guarantee the debt themselves? That's why you ask for munis in the first place: they're government guaranteed by tax revenue. They can't get investors on their own to raise the $1bn because no one in their right mind wants to have anything to do with the Xanadu shitpile. The taxpayers are going to be in hock for this thing. Getting tax breaks from the state was just a foot in the door.

Triple Five never had any intentions of committing their own funds for this nightmare. They're nothing but a company of hucksters and thieves surviving on empty promises and other people's money. This project stinks, and its now going to be a huge liability to taxpayers while the developers profit, have orgies, take expensive vacations and buy yachts and fancy cars. Enjoy your indoor fucking skiing, New Jersey. You're paying for it, whether you ever go there or not.

Here's fucking part 39:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Xanadu pt 38

July 6th I started painting the foxtails. Now mid september I can move past the tedium and get back to some real painting. Beck, The Doors, Kristen Hersh got me home tonight. I don't feel like writhing anything interesting. I keep making spelling mistakes and its annoying me. Crap it's 12:30. Sometime this week I'll have details about the Laundromat. Bring yer knickers.

Pt 38 for those of you keeping score at home:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Xanadu pt 37

My freakin hand is killing me from retouching images of pregnant ladies all week. Actually they're not pregnant, but they're made to look pregnant and I had 26 photos to retouch by tomorrow (today) and I finally got it all finished around 10:00 this evening, but after all that shit I still managed to bang out 2-1/2 hours in the studio. My hand and forearm are so dead right now its numb and shaking, but I gutted it out like a champ. Sept 30 is breathing down my neck and now this catalog thing at work is heating up and things on the home front are going to be insane for the next 2 weeks. This will be a true test of my will and fortitude and I'll really earn my stripes if I finish this thing in time for the Laundromat in October. Next week I'll have details about that. Just get your asses on a plane or a bus or whatever and come dance your pants off and see this stuff in person on 10/15.

Part 37:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Xanadu pt 36

Too tired to soapbox tonight. Its not Sept 1st and I want this painting done by the 30th for the Laundromat. I hope they get that same DJ for 10/15. I'm not making any promises but there might be disrobing. If I invite the right people. We'll see.

Part 36 blah blah...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Xanadu pt 35 And A Little Bit Of Austerity

So If you've been following the progress of this painting you'll remember that one of my complaints about the subject of the piece was the nice and cozy relationship between Chris "Kubla" Christie and Triple Five, the big Canadian developers of Mall Of America. They're the most recent entities to make a go of trying to finish the Xanadu project, or The American Dream as its now known. Christie has managed to fast-track tax breaks for Triple Five in exchange for replacing cops, teachers, social workers and firemen with janitors and retail clerks. In other words, at the same time he's been pushing through his agenda of spending cuts on police, education and job training, he's giving handouts to corporations.

This is by far my not my chief complaint, which has more to do with environmental issues, but it's pretty high on my shit list. It also fits in nicely with a story that was published today in Huffpost Business. In the article, Peter S. Goodman interviews my friend Joe Sangataldo, a former social worker who specialized in job training of welfare and unemployment recipients. Joe was laid off two years ago when Christie began his mission of cutting spending on things that invest in the future of our state, and instead decided to focus on pleasing his corporate friends, who I still contend will be contributing to his Presidential bid if and when he decides to run.

Joe's story is typical of many who have been victimized by rising unemployment with one exception: his job was to help people who are receiving government handouts get out of the system and get back to work. It seems illogical that Christie would want to cut funding to areas where it can actually go towards helping people build a better future. Instead it gets funneled to centers of corporate and commercial greed like Xanadu.

I'm not sure how people like Chris Christie sleep at night. I guess when you have powerful friends it doesn't matter that you're putting people on the street who were trying to help others get off the street and build a better life. This is congruent with the austerity measures that have sparked riots in Europe, and congruent with the indifference their leaders have with the plight of their citizens.

I can't wait for this painting to be done. Here's part 35:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Xanadu pt 34: Irene 1, Studio 0

Hurricane Irene got the best of my studio over the weekend, with the tiniest trickle of water that found its way through what I thought was my rock solid defense shield. There wasn't enough to damage anything, but enough to wash the floor and to force me to move the rug and other stuff to higher ground (on top of the dirty sofa where my dog sleeps). By last night the floor had dried and everything was put back where it belonged. So all is well. But there is another...

What I was secretly hoping for and didn't get was for the storm to damage my favorite mega-mall to be, which would have helped further my cause and support my hypothesis for this project. Xanadu still stands, and the painting continues.

With the arrival of September, its time to start thinking about really pushing the envelope so I can get this thing completed for October 1, when its scheduled to hang at 10th St Laundromat in Philadelphia, along with other selections from the series. As it stands, the exhibit will hang from October 1st to the 31st, with a reception on Saturday the 15th. I'll put up more details on that soon.

Meanwhile, here's Part 34:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Xanadu pt 33: Have A Rolling Rock

Since we've arrived at part 33 I thought I would pay tribute to another 33, Rolling Rock Beer. I don't have any, so a Yuengling Lager will have to do. You may be wondering what the significance is between the number 33 and a relatively inconsequential beer. So have many others. The inscription printed on the bottle may offer the only clue:
Rolling Rock. From the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe we tender this premium beer for your enjoyment, as a tribute to your good taste. It comes from the mountain springs to you. "33"

Still confused? Try this analysis from Snopes.

I may be on a small hiatus in the next week or so dealing with potential aftermath of hurricane Irene. Hopefully my basement won't flood and I'll be back in business on schedule for my usual Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday night sessions.

Until then, here's Xanadu pt 33:


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Getting Off Topic: Richard Dawkins

I very rarely go off-topic on this blog but I wanted to share this video of a Richard Dawkins interview at the University of Maryland back in April 2011. I'm so used to reading and listening to Dawkins discussing the evolution/creationism debate that I forget what a brilliant scientist he is. Hearing him discuss his areas of expertise and the science of evolution is a refreshing and rewarding experience.

If you have an hour and a half where you're doing something or can devote to listen to this, he discusses a variety of topics that are all easily understood by anyone.

Xanadu pt 32: As Gravity Pulls, The Plot Thickens

Its another sounds-too-good-to-be-true story. The ugliest goddamn building in the state and the most notorious promise never kept seemed just a few years and a paltry piece of legislation away from being completed and becoming the "center of the world." But now, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story.

A headline in NorthJersey.com from yesterday reads: Builder seeks $1B in public financing and tax breaks to complete 'Dream'. The last we heard, they were only getting $250 million from the State of New Jersey. This would assure them of having American Dream opened by 2013, in plenty of time for the 2014 Superbowl at neighboring MetLife Stadium. 55 million visitors every year would come, the money would be repaid, and a brand new attraction and economic engine would be purring like a kitten.

So what happened?

I used to work as a house painter and did many restoration projects in old homes. I've been burned more than once by relying on the best-case scenario in a job's planning stages. I own a house. I understand the principle of the can of worms. You never know what's behind a wall until you start tearing it down. You never know how rotten something is until you sink your teeth into it. New Jersey residents should feel like fools for allowing this to unfold this way. We voted for these fucknuts and they took us for a ride, all the while telling us that this kind of thing is good for us, that its something we need. By the time this demented and depraved project is finished, we'll be in hock for billions and sitting on a shuttered and boarded-up monument to over-indulgence and wish-thinking.

Xanadu was the original name for the place. The poem from which it gets its name came to Samuel Taylor Coleredge in a dream, and too often people have trouble differentiating dreams from reality. The real narrative is playing out exactly as it should. It started out as a brilliant idea, was overly ambitious, had financial problems, was planned poorly, and is now becoming a public quandary. In short time it will become a nightmare, a blight and a laughing stock, as if New Jersey needs any more of that. The evil presence in The Meadowlands is beginning to rear its ugly head.

The image of the unfinished painting at the end of this article will be the only true representative of what happenes when a society stands by and let its leaders dream off more than they can chew. Soon this painting will be done and it will truly express the errors of a civilization that places corporate profit above the needs of the living. We do not need another commercial orgy of excess, and we will not have one in East Rutherford for long. We will have an empty, functionless, dilapidating, Kafkaesque complex of structures on the horizon, rising out of the foxtails and fighting an un-winnable fight against forces of Nature and culture that are to be reckoned with.

The weeds slowly grow. The cracks begin to form. The swamp gently rises. The earth opens ever so gradually. Meanwhile, there's no sign of shoppers, skiers, diners, swimmers, performers, eyeballs, asses or any of the other fruits of anyone's labor or wonders of it all. There's just a lot of gravity methodically pulling down an empty mall.

Tonight, dear readers, I give you Xandu pt 32…

Monday, August 22, 2011

Concrete Straightjacket

Sometime in the future, after I'm world famous, I think I'll take up the iconic LA River as my next project. I've always been fascinated by it. The phrase "concrete straightjacket" really strikes a nerve inside of me as a wild, living body of water held captive by a selfish and destructive civilization. I lifted it from this blog post on Inhabitat.com. Now I wanna go there with a camera and waste 3-5 perfectly good years of my life turning them into paintings.

Check out the slide show and then do an image search on Google and see how awesome this catastrophe is. So many people have taken fabulous photos and I want in. I'm salivating.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chris Christie's Grandpa Weren't No Monkey

I've already declared previously that Chris Christie will run for president in 2012. I believe the perfect storm is brewing, in that all of the current candidates are unelectable. I have plenty of conservative friends who are complaining that they need a "real candidate."

The people of New Jersey are really starting to hate Christie, but that wouldn't matter. He can easily win an election without New Jersey or any of the adjacent states (RE: George W). The people in the midwest could give a crap less about corporate handouts, union busting and teacher layoffs. A tough-talking red politician who gives great soundbites is all they need.

Salon.com has provided a guideline by which you can tell if a state governor has presidential aspirations. One criteria is that they begin to publicly display doubts about evolution and climate change, both of which are extremely unpopular in the lesser educated parts of the U.S. In other words, places abundant in conservative voters. Chris Christie is beginning to fit the mold. He has until November to make up his mind.

Being relatively unknown across the country at a time when the Republican front-runners are making asses of themselves means that he's got good potential to win an election as long as there are sufficient voters who want to get rid of Obama. If you hate Christie, now's the time to think about moving to Canada.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Swamp Thing At The Center Of The World

Imagine you're offered an opportunity to travel to the center of the world. You can barely imagine what that might be like, full of wonder and discovery. It could be a spectacular, amazing experience and adventure like no other you've ever had. The only problem is your journey of a lifetime will be delayed a while because of traffic on Route 3.

There's a handful of people who think that The American Dream nee Xanadu will be a huge success and a financial windfall. Everyone else agrees that its doomed to failure before it even opens its doors. The Meadowlands has a reputation that is hard to ignore, and anyone who thinks that it can be developed into submission is in for a rude awakening.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Xanadu pt 31

Its one of those nights when I don't feel like writing anything. If you want to be entertained by me go see some of my older posts.

Here's part 31 for those of you keeping track:


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Xanadu pt 30 feat. The King, a Presidential Hopeful and Jersey Skeeters



What do Elvis Presley, Michelle Bachmann, The Megamall formerly known as Xanadu and a swarm of mosquitos have in common? Practically nothing. Or everything. It's barely relevant, but it adds up.

I started writing this post before painting tonight, because I find that generally I'm too frigging tired to write anything meaningful once midnight rolls around. By that point I've been awake since 5:45AM so it should come as no surprise that after a full day, then painting for 1-1/2 hours I really have no interest in communicating my thoughts. Time now is 9:24 PM EDST on Tuesday August 16.

I'll be listening to some Elvis (The Memphis Record) to commemorate the passing of the King on this date in 1977 (even though by the time I post this it will most likely be tomorrow – blows your mind, right?). Maybe follow that up with some MGMT, then concluding with a shuffle of my "Maestro Playlist."

I included an update from NorthJersey.com on the progress that the new owners have made on their resurrection attempt of the Lazarus of dead mega-malls. A paragraph toward the end caught my attention, the one referring to architects and tenants. I'm waiting to see how that goes, since one of the main stumbling blocks so far for Triple Five has been attracting tenants, most importantly big name anchor retailers.

Also, I didn't realize they were planning an outdoor movie theater. I wonder how they're gonna do on warm summer nights when the infamous Meadowlands mosquitos come looking for blood to drink from unsuspecting movie goers. Just a thought. As far as the smell goes, I guess they assume that most of the visitors are pretty much used to that.

It is now 12:11AM Wed Aug 17. On to Xanadu pt 30:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

If You're Here, I'll Be There

If you followed my advice and trekked to Philadelphia, I should be at Dirty Frank's Bar on 13th and Pine by around 8:30 for the opening reception of the Mid-Summer Invitational exhibit. The show features the work of 6 carefully selected artists including me. I'm showing old work so if you see it please don't ask me if any of it is from The Meadowlands. They're both paintings of locations here in Philly. The new stuff will be at 10th Street Laundromat in October, and I'll post some info for that in a month or so.

There hasn't been any progress on Xanadu since Monday night, as I've been suffering from a toxic combination of stress and exhaustion brought upon by the demands I place on myself. I actually went to bed at 10:00 two nights in a row and felt like I slept for days. Work on Xanadu will pick up again next week.

Here's the text from the email blast Off The Wall Gallery sent yesterday, so you'll know what you're missing if you're not coming:

At OFF THE WALL GALLERY at Dirty Frank's (NE Corner, 13th & Pine), our MIDSUMMER INVITATIONAL SHOW, opening TOMORROW, AUGUST 11, from 7 to 10 PM, works the invitation process on two levels:

* YOU'RE INVITED -- as you are to each of the seven leading-edge exhibitions we present each year.

* And YOU YOURSELF INVITED THE ARTISTS whose work is on display through Friday, September 30.

You might ask, "Now, how did I invite the artists?" Well, the MIDSUMMER INVITATIONAL is our once-a-year opportunity to feature the work of talented artists who are relatively new to our community but swiftly won a following through critical response, often translated into sales, and awards and citations garnered in OFF THE WALL's biannual juried shows.

This year, three unintentional pairings take shape on our Wall:

* Two sculptors who are as deft at imbuing their ceramics with conceptual vitality, invention at the molecular level and connections to the world around them as they are at firing and glazing their sublime pieces: BERNADETTE CLADEK and BRITTANY SUNDHEIM.

* Two photographers whose mastery of black-and-white composition and printing serves to maintain the momentum of our recent B&W show while engaging us in new perspectives and, indeed, new worlds: RIIKKA SALO and BONNIE J. SCHORSKE.

* Two painters who pursue their craft to ambitious ends ― one exploring the complex palette of human emotions and subliminal messaging in society and the other using urban decay as a platform for exploring the timeless struggle of humankind vs. nature: KAT JOHNSTON and MATTHEW GREEN.

Please join us tomorrow evening to spend time with these gifted artists and their work; partake of light hors d'oeuvres and sometimes potent beverages, both provided by our bartender for the evening AND curator for every show, Jody Sweitzer; and enjoy the power of compelling art in a neighborhood enclave that never fails to host a good party. And if you're running late, just come ahead ― we'll keep the party going until you get here.


Don't you feel left out? I thought you might.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Xanadu pt 29

I don't feel like writing anything. In case you missed it, two of my older paintings are in a show that opens this Thursday.

Here's part 29 for those of you keeping track of such things. I need this done by September 30. I'm tired. Good night.


The Following Post Has Absolutely Nothing To Do With This Project

I thought I would do some shameless self-promotion that has nothing to do with The NJ Meadowlands or anything I'm doing regarding polluted swampland. This thursday August 11 there will be an opening reception for the Mid Summer Invitation show at Off The Wall Gallery at Dirty Frank's Bar in Philadelphia. If you don't live in Philadelphia, get on a plane and come have drinks in the happiest place on Earth while looking at some fine artworks, two of which were done by Your's Truly. If you do live in or near Philadelphia, you have no excuse, and you should be ashamed of yourself for passing up this opportunity to have a great night out on a weeknight. You owe it to yourself.

I can pass along an anecdote for those of you who may not know the great seductive powers that a place like Dirty Frank's can have. I was there yesterday to drop off my work and I brought along my 3-yr old son. It was a little mind-blowing sitting at that bar with my child on my lap, and then he needed to go to the bathroom.

I was beginning to wonder about what kind of parent I was bringing a young child to a bar while his daddy sat and had a beer, but anyone who knows the bathrooms at Dirty Frank's will understand what was going through my mind as we were heading back there. He was very amused by the flies and the graffiti on the walls, remarking that it wasn't a very nice thing to do (write on the walls), but on the way back he noticed the pinball machine and wanted to play.

After 6 games we had to go, and he was by that time completely hooked and didn't want to leave, and proceeded to throw a fit complete with kicking and screaming as I carried him out. I have to sympathize, as I feel like kicking and screaming anytime I have to leave that place. It has a tractor beam which draws you in and once you're there you're powerless to resist sitting there for 6-7 hours drinking cheap beer, watching bad TV and having great conversation. Now, doesn't that sound like a great time? I thought so. So come on down Thursday night.

The first two images below are the paintings I'll be showing. They're old, but that's what they wanted to show.

They are:
The Factory, 30" x 48", oil on canvas, 2003
Hamilton St, 30" x 48", oil on canvas, 2004

The third image is the show flyer, with the time and dates of the reception, as well as the dates the show is hanging.

So there, you have no excuse.





Thursday, August 4, 2011

Xanadu pt 28: Do I Think This Night Will Flame With Fire?

"if you’re going to try,

go all the way.

there is no other feeling like

that.

you will be alone with the
gods

and the nights will flame with

fire."

– Charles Bukowski

In case you may have missed it, or if you're checking this blog out for the first time, I "re-introduced" myself last night, and you can read all about that by clicking here.

I plan on pushing this night as far as I can, basically as long as I can stay on my feet. I get tired around 12:00, generally because of the rigors of working and family life, and my day starts generally around 5:45AM. There's almost always an 8-hour work day squeezed in there and on either side of that there's chores, children, meals, etc.

Nothing I do and no one I work for, family or employer alike, seem all that concerned with the fact that I plan on working at least 3 out of 7 days a week in my studio. By the time I get all of that out of the way it's usually 10:00 or 10:30 PM and I'm just drained, physically and mentally. I pride myself on the fact that I'm able to push that last hour or hour and a half and actually be focused enough to paint with skill and passion.

I grabbed some records and have them at the ready for listening, so it remains to be seen how far past midnight this session can last.

Here's what I have so far on Xanadu pt 28. Do what I do: cover the bottom area that is dark and unfinished with your hand and close one eye. You can imagine what its going to look like when done.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Xanadu pt 27 and A Little Re-introduction

For those of you newcomers to this blog, I've been posting updates 2 or 3 times a week of a painting I'm working on that features an unfinished mega-mall in the New Jersey Meadowlands.

Progress has been a little slow lately, or so it might seem. I say that because if you were the size of an ant, it would look like I paint the Sistine Chapel every goddamn night. I went out today and bought 2 more #0 brushes because the stage this painting is in right now is rendering every foxtail in a scene which features about 70% meadow. Its tedious and painstaking but its a labor of love. OK, maybe somewhere between love and hate, depending on my mood, but either way its a fucking obsession.

The painting is part of a larger project in which I'm attempting to demonstrate the relentless of Nature by studying human activity and its obstacles in a vast, polluted wetland a few miles to the west of New York City. The project's title, Five Miles From Times Square was taken from the website of the city of Secaucus, NJ, on which it boasts a small town atmosphere only five miles from Times Square.

Secaucus is located in the middle of The Meadowlands, which is still considered a wilderness. I found it ironic that a wilderness can still exist so close to what is pretty much the high holy ground of artificial, commercial culture: Times Square. This is so, I believe, because Mankind has met a formidable challenge in trying to develop the region.

The Meadowlands have been the target of several attempts to drain it, fill it and reclaim the swamps for usable land, and yet it still remains. In an area where real estate is in extremely high demand, it seems like it should have been a forgone conclusion that it be filled in and developed. Yet there it is, in all its polluted, swampy glory. And I've been taking trips up there over the last 2 or 3 years to take photos, do research, and make paintings of what I've found.

Now you are here, and I mean you who are reading these words, however you may have stumbled upon this post. I invite you to visit older posts, or perhaps go back in time in the Xanadu painting to see where I have been up to this point, this 4th day of August, 2011, just past the stroke of midnight. I was worried that people who happened upon this blog may not fully understand its purpose, and what I'm trying to accomplish.

So, please allow me to re-introduce myself. I'm not a man of wealth and taste, I'm an artist trying to find his place in the world, and one who has an unhealthy obsession with a swamp in New Jersey.

And lest I forget, here's Xanadu pt 27. Stick around and see how it ends.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Xanadu part 26

My plan is to have this painting finished by the end of September. Gallery kits go out on October 31. Its a plan I call the Halloween Massacre. Yes, a little macabre, possibly aggressive, but really its a simple cognitive trick for me to remember the date of the goal I set for myself.

Maybe a brush size bigger than a "0" would speed things up.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Xanadu part 25 and the Continuing Saga of my Search For Vindication

Its not often that my artistic fantasy world and its ideas are supported by scientific research. I found exactly that this morning in this article from the New York Times, courtesy of RichardDawkins.net

The ideas presented in an article like this form the foundation of all of the work I've done since 2003. The fact that evolutionary changes occur in response to the conditions forced by human civilization demonstrate how natural forces act in subtle and sublime but powerful ways. Changes to a species are no small potatoes. Its about as awesome and profound as the destructive violence of a hurricane or an earthquake.

The central theme in my work has been the conflict between Man and Nature, more specifically about how Man has never taken into account the absolute and relentlessness of the destructive natural forces exhibited on civilization. Man has never acknowledged that we live in Nature's world, but rather has arrogantly insisted that Nature lives in ours. Whatever Nature throws at us, we develop a strategy to stop or suppress it. Nature, however, continues to adapt and change, continuing its assault on all that we create.

The fact that wildlife has evolved in New York City is perhaps the most beautiful and vociferous statement that Nature can make in the modern world. The Big Apple is about as artificial, materialistic and civilized a place that humans have developed, yet instead of dying out, the animals, plants and insects continue to change and adapt to very brutal conditions (pollution, paved surfaces, etc.).

This is not to suggest that there's a symbiotic relationship here. Man certainly would wish to do without so many wild things living in its civilized concrete jungle. The thing Man forgets is that Nature always gets its way and always has the last word, and will not stop until human civilization becomes extinct.

As I moved along in the FMFTS project I began to doubt the idea that Nature had dominion over Man. The Meadowlands is an ecological disaster, and it sometimes seems that Man's "can-do" spirit is alive and well, until we arrive at the proposed mega-really-fun-super-mall formerly known as Xanadu.

Watching this embarrassing catastrophe in East Rutherford unfold is like watching a preview to the end of the world. Human civilization will plod along, thinking everything is going to be just great, all the while pretending that their hopes and dreams aren't being turned to mud.

Here's part 25 for all of you keeping score at home…

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Xanadu pt 24

Someday this will make a great movie. Tired now. Falling asleep as I type.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Xanadu pt 23

As time goes by I feel like I'm seeing article after article that seems to have been written by me. This Op-Ed piece from NorthJersey.com discusses a point that I made months ago.

The irony is that if things like Xanadu had never come into existence, I wouldn't have anything to paint.

Oh, here's part 23:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Only Kubla Christie's poll numbers are sinking faster

Every time I feel like I'm going off in a direction guided more by artistic wish-thinking than empirical evidence, I see an article like this…

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2011/07/xanadu_the_viet.php

It's like they were writing to me. I've been waiting to see some kind of folly where the swamp was just too much for some kind of pipe dream and swallowed it up. Triple Five has been downplaying the problem of Xanadu sinking, but I think we'll see more about that as time goes by. They can't just ignore it and make believe it isn't happening.

I particularly enjoyed the video from 2009. It all seemed so optimistic. It adds another layer to the Xanadu controversy, and that is the energy usage and carbon footprint issues. Never mind the increased automobile traffic and emissions, just think about how much energy you'll need to keep an indoor facility of that size at 20-28 degrees in mid-summer. This past friday in East Rutherford the high temp was 108. Climate change gets you coming and going.

The image at the bottom is a political cartoon from the Vietnam War era and I remember seeing it in one of my high school history textbooks. Since the article I mentioned above used the Vietnam reference I thought I would share it. Unrelated thought, I wonder how well that would go over in a history textbook today.

As Christie's political career continues its embarrassing tails spin, perhaps he'll look back with chagrin at not choosing to dismantle this nightmare and turn it into a taxpayer's problem. Apparently tearing it down would cost $100 million. That's small change compared the the billions it will take to complete the project. Its also less than the corporate welfare handouts ($350 million) that Triple Five is getting.

Chagrin indeed.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Xanadu pt 22

So in case you missed it, here's some upcoming show dates:

Off The Wall Gallery Mid Summer Invitational
Aug 8 – Sept 30, 2011
Opening reception Aug 11 from 8 – 10 PM
Dirty Frank's Bar
13th St and Pine St
Philadelphia, PA

10th Street Laundromat
Oct 1 – 30, 2011
Opening reception Oct 8 from 8 – 11 PM
1141 – 43 South 10th Street
Philadelphia, PA

Bring your drinkin' hat for August and your soiled drawers for October. If they get that DJ from last time, the Laundromat will be a night to remember.

Below is the next in the series. I'm starting to migrate left.

Wanna have a drink or wash your undies while looking at art? Me too.

I guess its a good time to start promoting upcoming exhibitions where you can see my work IN PERSON and completed, unlike the 20 or so snapshots of the still unfinished Xanadu painting. So far my plan is to have that completed by the end of September to show it in October.

If you're reading this blog in France, or China, or even somewhere not on the east coast, mid-Atlantic region of the United States, get your travel plans in order now. Philadelphia sounds good this time of year, and any other time of year,* and you'll be able to come face-to-face with famous works of mine, new and old. You can also have drinks at the legendary Dirty Frank's Bar or have your soiled knickers washed at the hippest laundromat in the Western Hemisphere while you enjoy the fruits of my labor and pontificate over what it means within the context of the Nature vs. Man argument.

Oh, you want the show dates? Here they are:

Off The Wall Gallery Mid Summer Invitational
Aug 8 – Sept 30, 2011
Opening reception Aug 11 from 8 – 10 PM
Dirty Frank's Bar
13th St and Pine St
Philadelphia, PA

10th Street Laundromat
Oct 1 – 30, 2011
Opening reception Oct 8 from 8 – 11 PM
1141 – 43 South 10th Street
Philadelphia, PA

What is noteworthy is that the laundromat show will be the first public unveiling of new work from the Five Miles From Times Square project. Five of the proposed 12 paintings will be displayed in public for the very first time, so its a real test for something that I've been working on for over 2 years.

Here's the flyer for the Mid Summer Invitational. I'll have the Laundromat flyer in about a month or so. Hope to see you there.



*The City of Philadelphia owes me for the free tourism promotion. Lord knows I've spent a hefty chunk of my personal income on fines for parking violations. Fair is fair.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Xanadu pt 21: A Little More

Job, child care, chores, late night painting and then reading scientific papers are a lethal combination for one's ambition. I'm reading the NJMC's 2005 comparative study on fish populations between the late 80's and early 00's. Just skimming through I noticed an emphasis mainly on water quality (pollution, temperatures from cooling water usage, etc.), with only a little attention to the impact of the Oradell dam. I consider the construction of the damn to be the turning point in the health of the Meadowlands, which cannot properly recover unless the dam is removed.

Damming the river significantly changed the tidal flow of the region and alter the salinity of the water. I'll have to read this study more thoroughly when I'm not drop-dead tired. I'm not even going back to proofread this post. I hope there's typo's.

And oh, here's step #21 in my flip book, a.k.a. painting:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Xanadu pt 20 with a little vindication

I found 2 really excellent papers on the Meadowlands. One is a study of fish populations and another is a study of the availability of food for ducks. It sounds really boring, right? Actually, I plan on reading them both, and even without a science background I think I should find something meaningful in them. I'll report back in a future post one I've finished and provide links.

After just skimming I noticed some comments in each about the hydrology of the area and its effects on the findings in the respective studies. So I was right, it really is about the water, stupid.

Below is the result of tonight's hour and a half. Go back and compare it to each of the preceding steps. Then print each out and make a flip-book. That's what I'm gonna do when they're all done.

Monday, July 18, 2011

All Kinds Of Tired

The family and I just got back from wrapping up some important business this weekend and I can barely type. I should start painting again tomorrow night, but for now, I'm going to reflect on something I did with my kids. We visited the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, NJ and my 3-yr old really enjoyed it. I think if I reinvented myself I would probably want to study biology with a focus on wetland habitats. Look for future posts discussing the importance of wetlands and how they fit in nice and snug with this project. I've always been drawn to aquatic environments and I love the salt air from a salt marsh. I'm fascinated by how important wetlands are to the whole cycle of life on Earth. And I really like fish. I want to learn more. How do I find out more?

I'm starting to sound like Elmo. Goodbye.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Xanadu pt 19

I told you this was the boring part. There's weeks of slow, steady progress to be made. Right now I'm dead on my feet and I feel like I've been sleepwalking for the past 2 weeks. I was literally falling asleep standing up in the studio a little while ago. No more painting until next week.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Xanadu pt 18

I consider this hour that I worked tonight to be an accomplishment in that I didn't fall asleep standing up.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Trust Me There's Progress Here (Xanadu [formerly known as The American Dream] pt 17)

What can you expect, I only get time to work at like 10:00 at night. I only have an hour or so before my knees finally give out and I fall asleep standing up. Tonight I started at 10:45 and finished up around 12:15. I'm spent. I'm falling asleep typing this.



I think the title of this is going to change back to "Xanadu." It's just better and more poetic. Besides, people in the press still refer to the infamous magnanimous-mega-mall-to-be as Xanadu. American Dream just doesn't seem to fit. It doesn't stick in one's memory.

I've been thinking about Derrick Jensen's 2006 book Endgame and his 20 Premises and I realized that the Xanadu affair is a perfect example of #20:

Within this culture, economics—not community well-being, not morals, not ethics, not justice, not life itself—drives social decisions.

It was a foregone conclusion that Kubla Christie was going to get the NJ Legislature to rubber stamp his exemption for tax breaks for Triple Five. No one doubted that. Most of the Legislature is far too gutless to even suggest that they let the project die, even though it's an environmental catastrophe on a long list of environmental catastrophes in the Meadowlands.

It's hard enough keeping my house comfortable in 90-degree heat. I can't imagine the amount of energy that's needed to keep a ski slope frozen in those conditions. The whole thing is just one big energy black hole, plus a massive generator of solid waste, nonpoint source pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

One might say that the area is already so bad that adding this thing really won't make a difference. Again, I refer you to the 20 Premises.

It has to stop somewhere.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Marshes Are Coming

I ran across this article about some of the little problems that are beginning to surface as Triple Five begins its initial assessment of the work that will be needed in getting their Xanadu/American Dream to become a reality. As a homeowner who is heavily involved in DIY and a former contractor who worked on renovation and restoration, I can attest to the fact that there is always more to the story when you begin work on an existing building. But there may be a little more than just a can of worms here.

The previous builder of the Xanadu project cut a few corners here, saved a few pennies there, all the while ignoring the reality of the land and the culture that they were developing. I know I'm not an engineer, and I'm certainly no expert in science or sociology, but I can't help but think that we're seeing the beginning of another historic folly in the Meadowlands.

It's always a combination of factors, and New Jersey is a complicated place. Corruption, pollution, sordid local history, strange geography (The Meadowlands certainly is that) all come together to weave a fascinating bit of lore around a fascinating place. I've quoted this before, that the Meadowlands is the place where dreams go to die. I think we're watching another one succumb to the will of the marshes in real time.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

American Dream pt 16 (ho-hum)

This is a really boring phase now, as the changes will really not be very dramatic. It's going to be tedious painting all of those foxtails, and I have to be continually aware of changes in scale as I plod along. I've done this before on a past work* and I didn't go batshit crazy so there's hope for me. I have all summer to finish this off so happy painting mothaf#cka!

Well, Kubla Christie got his illegal tax breaks passed through the very willing New Jersey legislature. The whole thing is barely news anymore, and the outcome was expected. Governments and corporations generally get their way and the natural world is only a resource to be exploited so a few can get rich. Thus, the majority of my posts will be boring, tedious and barely noticeable updates to the painting. Sounds fun, eh?

I'll post updates as closeups so as not to confuse anyone into thinking that I posted the same image more than once. Actually, if you follow and really care you'll notice a very gradual and sublime change from post to post that will have its own subtle drama. At least that's what I'm telling myself.




*bite me, UPS

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

American Dream pt 15 (been a while)

I'm back after a small hiatus. You be the judge as to whether or not I brought my mojo back with me.

I'd have more to say but its late. Strange to say, I have a sudden craving for White Castle chicken rings which almost makes me hate myself.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The American Dream pt 14

And then there was… dark!

Actually its underpainting for the next big step.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The American Dream pt 13

Lucky Number 13. The vibrations are starting. The light is being carried through just right. Its all a matter of execution now.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Who Speaks For The Water?



Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

– Samuel Taylor Coleridge


You live in China. Why should you care about a wetland in New Jersey? How about if you live in Idaho? Or even Philadelphia? Why should it matter that one living wetland is now one dead wetland? Its just one wetland. And its in New Jersey, and you probably don't even live in New Jersey.

In the town of Oradell on the Hackensack River there's a dam.

The population near the upper Hackensack River grew as people were drawn to an accumulation of wealth created by banks and corporations. The dam was built to create a reservoir to supply water to an area where the water demand was exceeding the capacity of the local portion of the river. The water in the upper river was captured by the reservoir for the use of the locals. A water company was formed, and they sold the water to the people for a profit. Below the dam was deprived of a living river.

The effect on the river system below the dam was profound. It changed the salinity and tidal flow of the lower Hackensack, transforming what was once a pristine inland estuary into a brackish swamp. Creating this dam was a transformative event on the wildlife, fish and plant life and human life in the area. People familiar with the Meadowlands today know that they are dominated by the infamous foxtail reeds. This is considerably different than the spartina grass, wild rice and cattails that used to blanket the region.

The Oradell Dam created two Hackensack Rivers. One above the dam and one below. Above the dam the more important areas kept the water for themselves. Below the dam the wetland died. But its just one wetland.

Prior to the construction of the dam, the living wetland known as the Jersey Meadows or the Meadowlands was determined to have no monetary value as a living wetland. It was decided that it was nothing more than a wasteland. Many people desired to drain it and fill it in and use the new land to build factories and cities. Factories and cities have monetary value. It was decided that one of the simplest ways to create commercially valuable land out of a wetland was to fill it in with garbage. New Jersey had lots of that.

New Jersey also had lots of toxic waste from the factories and power plants. And plenty of toxic street runoff from the all of the cities and towns. This stuff found its way into the living wetland. And once the dam was in place and the river was divided in two, the upper river was clean, fresh water surrounded by big homes and golf courses and the lower river had become a sewer.

But its just a wetland. Why do you care, especially if you don't even live near it?

Whether you live in New Jersey, China, Idaho, Philadelphia or anywhere else, your culture does this to every living wetland. Just like in Oradell, the local inhabitants in a civilized culture denude the land base of resources, in this case water. They then must take that water from somewhere else. If that somewhere else is just a wetland, or a wasteland, why not use it to dispose all of the by-products of the culture there as well. After all, its just a wasteland. Just a wetland.

But its living. Or was living. So what?

The tidal flow of the Hackensack River is a strong one. During a rising tide the river many miles from its terminus in the Newark Bay is seen to flow backwards. The outgoing tide is a force to be reckoned with, as can be testified by boaters, especially those with oars and paddles. The poisoned water of the river and the surrounding Meadowlands has created numerous problems for over the years. These problems are, of course, economic.

Various engineering projects have been hampered by cost overruns or simply have been damaged by the relentless tides on the Hackensack. So instead of fighting greed, corruption and destruction, people fight the river, with dikes and dams and landfills and bulkheads. These things are put up to prevent the river from doing what rivers do.

But what about wetlands? What do they do?

Think of your spinal cord as a river, and all of your arms and legs and organs and blood vessels as tributaries that flow into that river and marshes that flank it. Imagine if someone came along and started removing your limbs and vital organs. That's what has happened and is still happening along the Hackensack River. Important pieces are missing.

Signs along the banks of the Newark Bay warn people to not eat the fish they catch. The water is no longer drinkable and barely supports life. It wasn't always this way. But really, what's so important about a wetland? Why does it need to be a living wetland?

If you want to know why, go to the Meadowlands. Get out of your car. Look around, find some water. Would you swim in it? Would you eat anything that lives in it? There was once a time when you could have done those things. But not anymore. The water is poisoned. One living wetland is no more.

The story of the Meadowlands begins with the water. Its the same story with any other wetland. It gets filled in and the water diverted, but the land becomes real estate. This may seem like a good idea at the time, and may look good on someone's balance sheet. But once its gone its gone. The land dies and the air smells like Jersey City, and some town on top of a hill somewhere gets nice fresh water to drink. And a water company gets rich selling the one thing thats needed the most by every living thing.

We may not all understand the importance of wetlands, but we understand the importance of water. If we can't drink it or cook with it or bathe in it, what good is it? How to we keep it flowing freely? Who will speak for the water?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The American Dream pt 12

Water = resolved. I thought I'd be painting it forever. I'm so tired my elbows hurt.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The American Dream pt 11

I'm drowning in this water. I feel like I need to get past it.