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 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 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. 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 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


you will be alone with the

and the nights will flame with


– 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.