Friday, December 11, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Check it out!

I've got a new website.

I'm also offering a new line of high-quality prints professionally mounted on bamboo by Plywerk.

They make great Christmas presents.
Order now! Operators are Standing by!

Bottom image used with permission from Plywerk

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Milo Russell: A brief note on Integrity

I received an unexpected email this evening reminding me of this comment, which was originally posted on Hungry Hyaena 12/8/05:

I had a venerable teacher that gave me a solid lesson in the life of the blue-collar artist. "I've seen more movements come and go than someone who took Exlax," he began. He is an obscure painter--an old widower whose work has never garnered wide acclaim. He has been painting since the early part of the last century, and his work has a strange searching quality to it-- an obsessive, ritualistic groping like someone that repeatedly scours the same patch of earth for something irreplaceable that was lost. His name is Milo Russell. His painting is always the same: a man or a woman seated in a room, perhaps a table and a plant, a window or a painting on the wall. Over and over and over.
He is a shy man that cringes at the thought of openings. He is the antithesis of the scenester, hype-artists.
His lesson was this: All that matters is to maintain one's integrity. Know what you are about and do it unrelentingly. Do it when it is unpopular. Do it when nobody else understands or believes. Do it when they love it. Do it, but keep your integrity (To me this also evokes the structural definition of the word integrity, not just the moral/ethical meaning. In this case it means 'soundness' and without it boats sink and buildings topple).
Perhaps you will die lonely and destitute, but, really, what philosophy can save you from that possibility?
As a workaday painter myself, I hold this advice as I would a jewel.
Fame? Glory? Wealth? Vain aspirations of an over-indulged populace.
I want only to make a living.
Right now that means peddling my wares in the common market. As I struggle to pay the rent, I dispatch my creations to desktops, kitchens, and bathrooms. There they will be groggily stared at while urinating or inspected while waiting for the water to boil. They will be tiny bridges between me, the viewer, and the great unknowable.
I may never Make It Big or Blow Up, but I don't need to. In dirty pants, with cold fingers, I am content to crawl in the bilge and patch my leaky hull with modest, little paintings. Perhaps I will make it through another month. Perhaps, someday, I will be able to simply float.

Image via Savedge Art & Technology LLC

Monday, September 28, 2009

From my fortune cookie.

"Don't be fooled by first impressions."

Fake bricks, N. Williams Ave, Portland, OR

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cityscape Paintings

Somewhere, sometime ago, I signed up for some mailing list. You know the story.

For some reason I never unsubscribed because, well, I figured I must have had some reason to sign up in the first place... even if I can't remember it now. Usually, these emails go straight into the trash along with all the others like them. Today, however, I read one on a whim.

The email instructed me, among other things, to spend one hour a week researching the competition. To watch them and learn from them. To Google terms that I associate with my own artwork and see who comes up. Good idea.

Below are an assortment of artists whose work came up using the simple search terms "cityscape painting." Obviously, I have selected for taste.

Paul Balmer

Mike Hernandez (wow... check out these dog drawings)

Kim Cogan

Anonymous Argentine Painter from here

I could keep going. There are so many talented painters out there that it can get a bit daunting. I suppose that it is a solid reminder to work harder... and then work some more... and then keep working.

Monday, August 31, 2009

It Out-Herods Herod. Pray You, Avoid It.

Tonight my children hunch
Toward their Western, and are glad
As, with a Sunday punch,
The Good casts out the Bad.

And in their fairy tales
The warty giant and witch
Get sealed in doorless jails
And the match-girl strikes it rich.

I’ve made myself a drink.
The giant and witch are set
To bust out of the clink
When my children have gone to bed.

All frequencies are loud
With signals of despair;
In flash and morse they crowd
The rondure of the air.

For the wicked have grown strong,
Their numbers mock at death,
Their cow brings forth its young,
Their bull engendereth.

Their very fund of strength,
Satan, bestrides the globe;
He stalks its breadth and length
And finds out even Job.

Yet by quite other laws
My children make their case;
Half God, half Santa Claus,
But with my voice and face,

A hero comes to save
The poorman, beggarman, thief,
And make the world behave
And put an end to grief.

And that their sleep be sound
I say this childermas
Who could not, at one time,
Have saved them from the gas.

Poem by Anthony Hech via Poetry Foundation; Photo by Michael McDevitt.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Walk Through History

It's kind of embarrassing to confess, but it never really occurred to me to consider the historical context Michael Jackson. I mean, sure, thinking about the Jackson Five invokes a certain amount of history, but I never seen Michael Jackson as being part of a long tradition of entertainers. He's simply been a ubiquitous, if often absurd, pop presence for as long as I've been alive. It's kind of like how I grew to be 19 before it even occurred to me that there was a person inside the big dog on Sesame Street. I'd never really thought about it. Dumb, huh?

Well, this video does a great job of establishing that link and without added clutter of words.

Thanks once more to the folks at Monkeys For Helping for dishing out another serving of the good stuff.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Daily Compulsion

Some little birdie thought I'd like this... and that birdie was dead right.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Profound Whatever

Burned all my notebooks--
What good are notebooks?
They won't help me survive

I've been on a bit of a Life During Wartime hiatus, but I'm getting used to "the sound of gunfire off in the distance," so I'm back.

I sat down after a good dinner and a glass of wine and gave the internet a gentle poke. It promptly proffered up this well-executed clip.

In 1969, a 14-year-old Beatle fanatic named Jerry Levitan, armed with a reel-to-reel tape deck, snuck into John Lennon's hotel room in Toronto and convinced John to do an interview. This was in the midst of Lennon's "bed-in" phase, during which John and Yoko were staying in hotel beds in an effort to promote peace. 38 years later, Jerry has produced a film about it. Using the original interview recording as the soundtrack, director Josh Raskin has woven a visual narrative which tenderly romances Lennon’s every word in a cascading flood of multipronged animation. Raskin marries traditional pen sketches by James Braithwaite with digital illustration by Alex Kurina, resulting in a spell-binding vessel for Lennon’s boundless wit, and timeless message.

Nominated for the 2008 Academy Award for Best Short, I Met the Walrus is a visually compelling accompaniment to John Lennon's words. Like a good accompanist, the film adds to the meaning of the audio, fleshing out and improvising on the dialogue. I particularly enjoy the seamless interweaving of artistic styles and modes of graphic representation in the film.

I do wish, however, that the sound quality of the audio had been improved slightly. Due to the crude recording, I occasionally had difficulty following the dialogue. While I can appreciate the authenticity provided by using the original, I thought it detracted more than it added.*

Unsurprisingly, I Met the Walrus has a well-designed website, which is worth checking out-- if only for the smooth animation.

So thanks for stopping by and apologies for my disappearance.

My chest is aching, burns like a furnace
the burning keeps me alive

*Of course, this may not be an issue in a proper movie theater

Lyrics from Life During Wartime by the Talking Heads. Film blurb from

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nothing ever went quite exactly as we planned...

Was it ever worth it? Was there all that much to gain?
We knew we'd miss the boat and we'd already missed the plane.

Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault.  Lyrics from Modest Mouse Missed the Boat.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Invisible Mobile

Personally this song makes me remember staring down into the murky water of the Hudson River, but I enjoy this video well enough. I think it's a fan video and not from THT, but I'm not sure. At the very least, just listen to the exquisite music.

I do wish that the end was not simply the beginning in reverse, but I'll give the director the benefit of the doubt and accept that as a conceptual choice.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Steampunk Robotech

A Gentleman's Duel
by Blur Studios

Monday, January 26, 2009

If I have ever heard Gospel

it sounds like this...

you shall above all things be glad and young
For if you're young,whatever life you wear

it will become you;and if you are glad
whatever's living will yourself become.
Girlboys may nothing more than boygirls need:
i can entirely her only love

whose any mystery makes every man's
flesh put space on;and his mind take off time

that you should ever think,may god forbid
and (in his mercy) your true lover spare:
for that way knowledge lies,the foetal grave
called progress,and negation's dead undoom.

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance

-ee cummings

 ...and looks a lot like this...

Kohler’s Pig by Michael Sowa via this blog.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


This site displays a sun and cloud map of the Earth, which includes city lights. I'm not sure how often it refreshes, but I love it. Check it out.

Thanks to Thisbe for the link.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ethological Miscellany

Walton Ford
"Loss of the Lisbon Rhinoceros"
Watercolor and Gouache on paper
95 1/2 x 39 3/4 inches

- This past year, more reports of young bull elephants attacking rhinoceroses and turning on members of their own clans appeared in international papers and journals. Biologists believe that this rise in unprovoked violence is the result of prematurely elevated testosterone levels in the elephants. Because older bulls are not present in many elephant herds, the social hierarchy necessitates that younger males fill the role many years before they would normally be expected to do so. As they assume the mantle of seniority, they experience chemical changes, including a marked increase in the production of testosterone. The absence of older bulls is attributed to federal culling programs. These well-intentioned programs were instituted to reduce the stress of overcrowding within African elephant (Loxondonta africana) populations, but because the professional hunters usually kill the larger, older animals, they have unintentionally upset the social dynamic.

- In July 2008, a 61-year-old White Plains, New York, resident was found deceased after she consumed wild mushrooms that she had picked alongside a nearby highway. The mushrooms she unwittingly ate are called "death angels" (Amanita sp.).

- In May 2008, biologists reported that wild three-toed sloths sleep 9 1/2 hours a day, whereas their captive counterparts sleep an average of 16 hours a day.

- I recently learned of a Jamaican man who, highly regarded as an artist in his home country, decided to move to the United States in the 1970s. He settled in Baltimore, Maryland, where he would live for many years. Yet, for some unknown reason, the man was no longer compelled to make art. Although he continues to reside in Baltimore, he only paints when he returns to Jamaica to visit family and friends.

- Biologists report that epaulette sharks (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) living in and around Australia's Great Barrier Reef shut down most of their nervous system and go blind when their environment becomes starved of oxygen. Because the sharks live on shallow parts of the reef, at low tide they can become isolated in large tidal pools, temporarily cut off from the ocean. These tidal pools commonly are hypoxic (having very low oxygen levels). To prevent suffocation, the sharks' electrical activity ceases. Because electricity consumes fifty percent of nervous system energy consumption, shutting down the nervous system allows the animal to survive.


Mason Jennings (Featuring Zach Gill) - Don't Touch My Stuff - Live in Studio C from Eric deNeui on Vimeo.

...a song by someone who understands.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Perhaps we really are that small...

Winter. from Passenger Productions on Vimeo.

...Just little model people in tiny model towns.

Monday, January 12, 2009

And every single morning by 10 AM I'm dressed.

My rehearsals last for hours and hours,
With diligence I have been blessed.
-from Opera Singer by Cake

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Little did I know I was helping the Revolution...

Say what you will about Communism, but they sure did make some bitchin' posters.

So it was all about the proletariat after all.  As a kid I always figured it was more like this.(VERY NSFW)  Also, this is a surprisingly decent rap about Mario.  Who knew?

Thanks to JMTWXYZ for the spreading the word about the rise of the worker.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

On Task!

I'm swamped with work, hence the lack of posts.  With heaps of stuff piling up and deadlines bearing down, the last thing I need is to find out about this...

Crayon Physics Deluxe from Petri Purho on Vimeo.

It looks awesome and like it would eat hours of my life.  Using every shred of my self control, I have not downloaded it. (yet)  If you do, please let me know how it is.

[Ed. Note: This game does not currently support Macs. The site says that a Mac version is coming out when they are done with the PC version, but that they "aren't making any promises."   If you use a Mac, or are sympathetic to those of us that do, please head over the their website and leave a comment. The more people ask for it, the more likely it is to actually be made]

Thanks to Brian for the link.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Introduction + The Castle Builder

Michael has kindly invited me to become an (ir)regular contributer to Letters From the Inquisition. At his request, I'll preface my first post with a brief introduction.

My name is Christopher Reiger. I am an artist and writer currently living in Queens, New York. I've known Michael as a friend and professional peer for over a decade. We met in 1996 at the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia. During our time at William and Mary, we co-founded Synoddity, a cross-disciplinary arts organization. Synoddity championed generalism over specialization but, acknowledging that our current body of knowledge is increasingly divided and sub-divided, encouraged conversation and exchange across fields. In many respects, Letters From the Inquisition is similarly inclined, and I'm pleased to be a part of it.

I have a blog of my own, Hungry Hyaena, that explores art, ecology and related (or somewhat related) miscellany. I also contribute art writing to ArtCal Zine and MyArtSpace>Blog.

A selection of my drawings and paintings can be viewed on my website.


The Castle Builder

A co-worker and fellow artist, Adam Ogilvie, turned me on to this terrific 5-minute video in December. Entitled "Bishop's Castle," it is a well-edited introduction to Jim Bishop, an under-known contemporary artist.

Working alone on weekends (and four weekdays during the summer), the high school drop out and iron worker has constructed the eponymous Bishop's Castle in the Rocky Mountains, just outside the tiny, central Colorado town of Beulah. He began the project in 1969. Then, he only intended to build a stone cabin. Forty years later, that cabin has grown into an incongruous marvel.

In the first two minutes of the video, Jim Bishop seems the very picture of artistic heroism. Bishop works for the "glory of God" and for himself, and he characterizes his efforts as those of an honorable "peon." His astonishing creation is a "one-man project, donation box basis." The artist is justifiably proud of his remarkable accomplishment. The castle is not a funded public art project, yet it is far more impressive than Christo's Central Park "Gates" or Eliasson's "Waterfalls."

The castle construction has been fraught with legal battles (over insurance, material use and zoning) and even tragedy. In 1988, Bishop's four-year-old son, Roy, was killed at the castle site, apparently crushed by a tree that Bishop felled. One of the castle's towers is named after Roy, and Bishop says that he will inter his son's ashes there.

A rough-worn, but charismatic man, Bishop tosses off memorable quips: "Engineering without money is ingenuity."; "I'm building this for myself. Basically, I'm an egotist." Early on, this rugged individualist act is endearing but, as the video advances, a darker side of Bishop is revealed. He rants about our nation's eroding morals and civil liberties. Although his convictions are not entirely without merit, his attacks on big government seem increasingly irrational. Near the video's end, he yells from one of the castle's towers, seemingly possessed by a God-given vitriol. "I'm about to pass out. I'm getting...I'm....I just gotta get the blood in the right place now. Get that camera rolling! I'm doing work! I benefit everybody!...I'm the anti-devil!" Come again?

Still, like Jean Dubuffet, I believe that (with the exception of Sunday painters) those artists wiling away in obscurity, whatever their reasons, are often producing exceptionally exciting work. Bishop is one such outsider, and his astonishing project deserves more attention.

Photo credit: ripped from Milewalker's Flickr photostream

Thursday, January 1, 2009

He's not; he's from Pittsburgh...

I often find myself in arguments in which I want to simply turn to the other person and say. "With all due respect, Marshall, you're wrong about the beards."  The other person is usually a bureaucrat, customer service representative, or just a plain old customer.

It is true though, beards cannot grow in space.