Thursday, October 16, 2014

Am I perfect?

It feels really uncomfortable saying  "I'm perfect" but maybe with all  my imperfections I actually am perfect. I've been tossing this idea around with a friend of mine and it still feels really odd to say it with conviction, maybe beacuse Im so much more comfortable finding fault with myself....but I'm going to try and convince myself that I'm perfect after all...

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Books In My Life

Mark Twain- The Innocents Abroad, James Baldwin - Giovanni’s Room ,  Roland Barthes - Camera Lucida, Jacqueline Susann - Valley of The Dolls, Shakespeare - The Complete Sonnets, Dante - The Divine Comedy, Patricia Highsmith - The Boy Who Followed Ripley,  Rachel Kushner - The Flamethrowers, 

I’ve always had a relationship with books and its always been changing, when I was a little kid in Minnesota I loved reading this book about a boy who lived with his single dad in a NYC apt and every evening he would have to put on a clean shirt to go down to the coffee shop for dinner with his dad, then there were the Boxcar Children books that I loved and the giant Art History book with the tipped in plates that I would lug around as a little kid to keep me company in the car as I accompanied my mom on errands.

Once I started making art in earnest as an adolescent, I had no time for books, it was always make make make, My high school art teacher, Brad Nuorola, gave me a little corner of the art room to call my studio and I was tearing through projects, jumping from one medium to the next, high school was amazing and somehow I got through it without passing Algebra or reading a single book. I’m not exaggerating, I did not read a single book in all of high school.

So when it came time for college and my Dad was pressuring me to attend his Alma Mater, The University of Minnesota, I grudgingly went for a year and got straight A’s in art and f’s and in completes in everything else. I came to NYC after my freshman year, that summer of 1981, dropped off my portfolio at Metro Pictures…and when I returned to Minnesota at the end of summer I found a letter from the University informing me that I was not welcome back… i worked as many jobs as I could, saved as much as I could then headed off with $2,000 to england, then europe and the middle east…hitchhiking, trains, youth hostels and lots of books….Mark Twain’s “The Innocents abroad” was a revelation, this most american of writers was wise and witty in his critique of american culture and most importantly, in pointing out that all we read is mediated, there is no such thing as neutrality, most especially in newspapers. I also tried reading the Koran when I was traveling through Syria, Jordan and Egypt but the people I met in those countries kept telling me you could only read the Koran in the original Arabic so I got discouraged but was blown away by the art and architecture I saw in those countries…When I can back to NYC in the summer of 1983 in addition to seeing sonic youth at White Columns, I was curious to explore another side of my sexuality, but with AIDS rearing it’s ugly head, it wasn’t a great time for exploring….I read as much as I could and Giovanni’s room by James Baldwin was the standout from that period.

To my amazement I was accepted into Columbia’s School of General Studies in the Fall of 1983 and took to Shakespeare voraciously….his way with metaphor and his meter in the sonnets made me see, for the first time that writing could be art. I took a class with the brilliant Rennaisance literature scholar Joseph Mazzeo who encouraged me to read Dante in the original Italian. Mazzeo became my mentor at Columbia and I was amazed  how deeply books could teach me about me and the life I was living. It was also then that I learned I have a touch of synesthesia….when Mazzeo discussed the concepts Dante was using in his art, I would nod my head ferociously and one day he called on me to interpret what he was talking about……I saw a yellow pyramid encircling a blue sphere and started to explain this to the class, their eyes grew wider and their stares were incredulous…….I got the idea that I might be different in ways I never knew. 

The way Dante was reinterpreting the teachings of the bible as stories of contemporary Italy was mind blowing and was what inspired me to photograph music and other non material phenomena.

When I was done at Columbia I ran away to the west coast. One day at a bookstore in Seattle I cam across Roland Barthe’s “Camera Lucida”. I had been photographing people places and things for around 10 years by that point and except for a few exceptions, photography was still at the margins of the art world. In this slim, modest book Barthe’s explained the power that photography had over him and how it worked…..I had never read such a brilliant dissertation on how one medium worked. I returned to New York and photographed voraciously.

One summer I went to a friend’s cabin in wisconson and picked up “Valley of the Dolls” I loved the campy movie but the book was something else entirely….it was about a society coming apart at the seams….it was about the upheavals of the pre hippy sixties in the US….how new it was for women to have power and how everyone was renegotiating this new landscape…it helped explain why adults seemed so shaken in the ’60’s.

In 1991 I read a review of Patricia Highsmith’s last Ripley Novel. I didn’t know it at the time but I was already familiar with Ripley. My Favorite movie “The American Friend” By Wim Wenders was based on “Ripley’s Game” so I picked up the first Ripley book I could lay my hands on and it was “The Boy  Who Followed Ripley” . This stylish, bisexual criminal lived in the south of france with his galmerous French wife and ran off to Berlin on the weekends to listen to David Bowie in gay clubs and cabarets….I read all 5 Ripley books and numerous short stories. I love her stance and point of view.

This past winter I picked up “The Flamethrowers” by Rachel Kushner so it doesn’t have the benefit of time…..but I loved this book. The protagonist is someone a lot like Donald Judd and he navigates the 1970’s soho based art world smoothly just as his relatives must create futurism in pre and post war Italy. Art is life and death to these characters and I did not want this book to end. Even though I checked it out of the library I slowly savored each page, finally paying way more in overdue fines than a new copy would have cost.

Books have scared me and caused immeasurable comfort pleasure and euphoria in me as well…..

Sunday, August 24, 2014


I just ran across this photo of me at FRIEZE art fair on QUI-STYLE working my MONITALY jacket and 20th anniversary SUPREME Tee. I' can't believe I've been shopping at that store for 20 years, they're still really nice to me there....that's loyalty


This may have been the first time I saw this artist's work, still one of my favorite Chinese artists.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Museum of The City of New York

I started working at this museum last month giving a talk, teaching visitors about New York. When I was a little kid I told my parents that "when I grow up I'm going to move to NYC and be an artist"  and that's exactly what I'm doing. With 7 solo shows under my belt and inclusion in a group show at the museum of modern art and positive reviews in the New York Times I would have to say that my life is kind of a dream come true and living in New York City is a big part of that dream so it's really fun to be working at this museum. I never would have guessed that I would enjoy standing in front of a large crowd every day and speaking to them would be so rewarding but it really is and the visitors have a lot of questions for me too, sometimes they look at me in awe and say 'What's it like to be an ARTIST in New York City???""

I realize it is kind of amazing and I love sharing my experiences. Some people recognize the building as the set of the old TV show "Gossip Girl" which I used to watch too a long time ago. So much has changed since then, all for the better.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Week of Pride....

My friend Philip Faustino has been posting these messages daily on Facebook

Philip is  a Sergeant First Class In The United States Army and I think he's a very wise man

I collected these and am posting them here so I can have easy acesss to them to read whenever I'm plagued by self doubt or any of the other demons that rob me or any of my friends from living full, rich lives....

Pride is when you stop hiding & pretending and start accepting & living.....

Pride is knowing that if you can't love yourself, how the HELL you gonna love somebody else...

Pride is learning to stop making excuses & stop feeling sorry for yourself

Nobody wants to be invited to your self-pity party.......God doesn't make mistakes; you are who you are for a reason - embrace it!

Pride is remembering & acknowledging those who walked the walk and fought the fight so we could live a little more comfortably today....

Pride is knowing that acceptance & tolerance is a two-way street; it goes both want to be treated fairly & equally, then that attitude needs to be reciprocated towards everyone else......

Pride is not just a Sunday afternoon parade, celebrated once a's celebrated every day, every minute, every second........learn to love yourself & be proud of WHO you are, not WHAT you are......

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Normal Heart

I thought it was so cool that the recent HBO production of "The Normal Heart" used 2 songs from Roxy Music's "Avalon " album.....Roxy Music is the first ever band that mattered to me....when I heard "Love Is The Drug" on the radio in high school it was as if some spirit from some nether region was speaking to me gave me chills. they were the first band I ever saw live and Ive since seen them at least 3 times, same for Bryan ferry solo. The Ironic thing is that when "Avalon" was released I was living in london and they played the title track on radio constantly and I had no idea who it was. I didm't really even pay attention to it....I was so much more into punky, new wavy sounding bands so this very adult sounding album didn't register with me at first, but now.......I love it