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

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 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…

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.