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Washington's Brave Drummer, Molly

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For George Washington's birthday, I thought I'd post some images from an old hardbound children's book in my collection called, "Molly The Drummer Boy." The book was written by Harriet T. Comstock with illustrations by Curtis Wager-Smith. Copyright is listed as 1900.
The book's colorful cover

The story is about a girl named Debby who disguises herself as a boy, renames herself Molly and joins the Revolutionary army as a drummer. The author claims the story is based on historical fact, but Comstock doesn't mention where she first encountered records of the story.
A long-haired boy before Washington

The caption to this illustration reads, "For a moment Washington eyed the boy."

Return of Scrooge

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Bernie Madoff's head surrounded by written commentaryVia Matt Taibbi's blog, I discovered the website of artist Geoffrey Raymond. A dedicated portrait painter, Raymond creates drip paint portraits of Wall Street's wealthiest and most nefarious characters, then invites the public to write comments, or annotations, on them.

His portrait of Bernie Madoff, shown here (view hi-res version here), contains annotations such as: "'Behind every great fortune there is a crime.' --Honore Balzac," "It's a proprietary strategy. I can't go into great detail," and "Prick, you screwed your family, your friends, good people, sleep well!"

Raymond has solicited annotations from the public by standing on the street, attending events and through his blog. In an interview about his work, Raymond states why he chose to make his paintings using an interactive process: "One of the reasons I paint the way I do is the idea that I provide an opportunity for people to have a say in sometimes catastrophic events over which they have no control -- even if it's only a sentence or two on a painting."

Raymond further notes that the annotations give each painting a documentary quality, with insights into a particular period of time on Wall Street. He also likes the way the strokes of the pen look. I agree. With their contributions from the public, I think these paintings would be a good choice for display in an open setting. Next to the guillotine, perhaps?

A Pimento-Flecked World

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Drawing of a slice of cheeseVia Coolhunting, I was happy to discover the drawings of Stephen Floyd, whose work emits a cheerful ambiguity. Through drawn words and images, Floyd simultaneously captures and comments on artifacts of American culture, such as "American Cheese," shown here.

Floyd's work will be exhibited in a solo show called "I Love America and America Loves Me" at the Heist Gallery in New York through December 18. The exhibit appears to concentrate on his drawings, many of which can be seen here. However, I noticed from a visit to Floyd's website that he does work in other media, notably, panties. I recommend to you his work, "world's prettiest fuckin' panties," on view in the cut-outs section of the artist's website.

Billboard of olive loaf on snow covered mountainOn first viewing, I was very taken with Floyd's drawing entitled "olive loaf." Floyd has also created a pair of cut-out panties featuring the olive loaf pattern. Most impressively, Floyd has blown up his "olive loaf" drawing to billboard size, and situated his work on the side of a highway, as seen in the photo at right.

Floyd's blog points to a reaction to the billboard in a local paper, which observed, "Perhaps it is guerrilla art."

I sell, therefore I am

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Hello Kitty in costumeThe Cute-Little-Red-Headed Girlfriend and I have the flu, so we haven't been going out very much lately. Because we've been hunkered down, which we missed the start of the Hello Kitty 35th Anniversary Exhibition happening at Royal/T Artspace. It's a three week long event commemorating Hello Kitty's birthday on--mark the date--November 1. It seems Hello Kitty is 35, which means I must be 102.

I wish I could have gone to the VIP Gala opening event, so that I could causally drop it into conversation. "You were at the L.A. Opera last night? No, I couldn't attend. I was at the Hello Kitty VIP Gala." Although I couldn't attend the opening, I have been able to see much of the artwork online.

Among the pieces I particularly like are the figure pictured above, which shows Hello Kitty wearing a toasted marshmallow costume. I thought it was very appropriate for Halloween. It's actually part of a series of figures depicting Hello Kitty in various marshmallow regalia. You can view more here. I also like the below portrait of the Bigfoot family showing the heartwarming role Hello Kitty plays in their lives.

Bigfoot family with Hello KittyThe first time I encountered Hello Kitty merchandise was in a department store. I remember being confused by it because I didn't know where the character originated from. I thought I must have missed some new cultural manifestation, like a series of Hello Kitty children's books, or a Hello Kitty animated television show--something that gave birth to the character. It took me awhile to understand that Hello Kitty exists purely in reference to her own merchandise.

A Celebration of Free

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Miniature vintage disneyland signFor my birthday this year, the Cute-Little-Red-Headed-Girlfriend and I went to Disneyland for the day. We considered attending the annual unofficial Gay Day at Disneyland earlier in October, which we had attended in the past. But the park is running a promotion this year where guests receive free admission on their birthday, and this persuaded us to make a mid-October birthday trip instead.

It had been several years since my last trip to Disneyland. Many of my favorite rides were closed for rehab work the last time I went, and several attractions were looking downright shabby. I have not always been a fan of Disney's rehabs, but I'm happy to report that nearly every attraction I visited had been thoughtfully renewed. The clarity of the audio on the rides was outstanding, and the Pirates of the Caribbean had been restored to a state of glory.

The Girlfriend and I had a good time dining in and outside the park. We began with a breakfast of pancakes at the River Belle Terrace in Frontierland. For lunch, we ducked out to the Storytellers Cafe at the Grand Californian Hotel. The wait staff served me an adorable strawberry cupcake, pictured below, and sang to me when they discovered it was my birthday.

left

While walking along Main Street U.S.A., I was excited to run across the Disney Gallery, which showcases archival Disney artwork alongside newer artwork and merchandise created by contemporary artists. We saw, for example, several original pieces created by Shag to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Haunted Mansion.

We had been on the Haunted Mansion ride only an hour earlier. In anticipation of Halloween, the mansion was decked out with a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay. Although I had seen the overlay before, I left with the impression that the decorations were different and better this year. This impression was later confirmed through a visit to the DoomBuggies forum, where I found Haunted Mansion fans offering similar observations.

Miniature version of teacup ride

My favorite part of the Disney Gallery was a section containing marvelously detailed miniature versions of various attractions, including the old Disneyland entry sign, seen at the top of this post, and the Mad Tea Party ride, pictured just above. Since miniaturism is already built into many Disneyland rides and attractions, the effect was redoubled in some of these sculptures.

Once the Girlfriend and I left the gallery, we found ourselves back on Main Street U.S.A., where a parade was in progress. In keeping with the birthday promotion, the parade was called "Celebrate! A Street Party." An announcer encouraged guests to join in the spirit of this "celebration of you" while costumed performers danced down the street.

Continuing the shameless pandering, the announcer called out to all the guests who had come to Disneyland for their birthday. This had been on ongoing theme inside the park. When I entered Disneyland that morning, I was given a huge button to wear that read "Happy Birthday, Teresa!" All day long, I was greeted with "Happy Birthday" by every ride attendant, food worker, shop keeper and cleaning staffperson I encountered.

In other times, I might have removed the button, embarrassed by all the fuss. I'm usually not the type that likes to receive that kind of attention. In fact, I had had concerns about going to Disneyland prior to our visit. With unemployment and underemployment in California at 23%, I wondered if Disneyland might feel empty because few people could afford to attend. I worried the trip might seem too frivolous and maybe I wouldn't be able to enjoy myself.

But that wasn't the case. The park was wonderful and filled with people. I cherished each "Happy Birthday!" I heard. I thrilled at the rides. I celebrated me. I firmly put aside the fact that the country is now held hostage to corrupt business interests hell-bent on squeezing the lifeblood out of everyone I know and care about. For this one day, I forgot about all the problems looming and enjoyed my goddamn cupcake.

Some Familiar Witches

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The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles has free admission on Thursdays, so The Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend and I took advantage of the policy to see their current Houseguest exhibition. "Houseguest" is a series of exhibits curated by artists. For this show, Los Angeles-based artist Francesca Gabbiani selected works from collections housed at UCLA.

I didn't know anything about Francesca Gabbiani beforehand, but I was attracted to the theme of the show: witchcraft and sorcery. The collection was immaculately arranged in a small room, giving the exhibit a jewel-like setting. The works Gabbiani collected suggested a dreamy meditation on the themes of witchcraft and sorcery. As a viewer, I felt I needed to let my mind wander in order to make associations between the images.

Some of the artworks were specifically about witches, such as the one shown below, but many were not. I noticed that several of the works with witches had a similar composition to the one reproduced here: a witch is placed prominently in the picture, surrounded by objects and scenes associated with witchcraft.

In this image, one can see human and animal skulls, vials and potions on the floor and on shelves, animals playing instruments and acting as if they were human, and a naked woman standing before a cauldron.

A witch and her cohorts

One of my favorite macabre details in the picture above is the skeletal hand sticking out from above the doorway in the top righthand side of the image. I was also intrigued by what appear to be chicken feet belonging to the badger-like creature sitting on a bench in the foreground.

Many of the artworks on display contained some form of bird imagery, such as a raven or an owl. I marveled at the persistent association of some natural objects with womanhood. My favorite image from the exhibit, for example, was a woodblock print, depicting the surface of the water far out at sea. All that could be seen were lines of waves: rough, mysterious, implacable.

Attractions of Conceptual Art

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I've long had an attraction to conceptual art without fully understanding what it is that draws me to it. So when I saw that a local art gallery, Cardwell Jimmerson, was putting on a show called "San Diego and the Origins of Conceptual Art in California," I thought it would be a good opportunity to explore my reactions to this form of art.

According to the Tate Online Glossary, the term conceptual art "came into use in the late 1960s to describe a wide range of types of art that no longer took the form of a conventional art object." That broad definition encompasses happenings and other event-based works, installations and unconventional art objects.

Once inside Cardwell Jimmerson, the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend and I found many types of art on display, including video, audio, photography and mixed media. I was drawn to the displays that combined words and imagery, such as "The Double Articulation of Disneyland," a combination of 36 captioned black-and-white photos documenting a trip to Disneyland, which were displayed along with 36 typescript pages of philosopher Louis Marin's essay "Disneyland: A Degenerate Utopia."

Disneyland's Main St. crowded with peopleThe photos show artist Fred Lonidier on a trip to Disneyland with friends. The focus of their trip was to document corporate presence at Disneyland and the ways that corporate messages were deployed throughout the attractions. For example, in the photo shown here of Main Street, U.S.A., the artist muses "Corporate possession of public myths must be natural to this public."

The Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend was interested in "North American Waitress" by Martha Rosler, from the "Know Your Servant Series #1." This work consisted of images of waitresses in typical uniforms along with printed instructions and training information on how waitresses should act. The photography in "North American Waitress" and "The Double Articulation of Disneyland" dated these pieces, yet the underlying "concept" of these works was remarkably relevant to the present.

Another work that seemed especially timely was Phel Steinmetz's "Oil, Profit, Control" from 1973. This hardbound book contained original photography of abandoned gas stations and related imagery from the 70s oil crisis, along with clippings documenting the oil companies' manipulation of the markets for their own profit.

Seeing this show made me realize that I like conceptual art that has a political aspect to it. The definition of conceptual art that I found at ArtLex emphasizes the political and especially noncommercial leanings of the movement: "Art that is intended to convey an idea or a concept to the perceiver, rejecting the creation or appreciation of a traditional art object such as a painting or a sculpture as a precious commodity."

However, resisting commercialism doesn't necessarily mean giving up on beauty, or on the art object itself. I was deeply impressed by the display of "Book of Lagoons," by ecological artists Helen and Newton Harrison. This awesome work on the life of lagoons represents to me what a concept or an idea looks like as a developed art form. You can find links to large .pdfs containing the complete "Book of Lagoons" here.

Bandits With a Cause

This past weekend the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend and I went to the Autry National Center for the American West to see the exhibit Bold Caballeros y Noble Banditas. I became interested in going to this show after seeing a painting of a gun-slinging woman, Adelita by George Yepes. The image is being used to promote the exhibit.

The theme of the exhibit was the tradition of virile heroes and heroines fighting for social justice in Latino and Latina culture. Drawing examples from the historical record as well as from popular culture and the imagination, the exhibition ranged from the Old West to the Mexican Revolution to Hollywood and the Mexican cinema.

Film poster for the Bandit Queen

As I've mentioned here before, the Autry Museum has an impressive collection of material artifacts from Hollywood cowboy movies and Western serials. Many such pieces were put to use in this bilingual exhibit, in effect shifting the focus towards American (rather than Mexican) and non-Hispanic (as opposed to Latino and Latina) contributions.

For example, while there was some interesting illustrated matter dating from the Mexican Revolution on display, the larger narrative of the exhibit emphasized the way Hollywood was inspired by revolutionary leaders and events. I would have rather seen more historical artifacts pertaining to Pancho Villa than see the costume worn by the actor playing Pancho Villa in a Hollywood production.

The section of the exhibit on outlaw champions of social justice in film contained a wall devoted to macha women in Mexican cinema. I especially enjoyed the material related to the life and career of movie star Maria Felix. Although the images and posters related to Zorro and other Hollywood creations were fun to look at, I felt the presentation willfully ignored Hollywood's history of racism in depicting Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.

Despite these reservations, I enjoyed the exhibit overall and am happy to see such cross-cultural, cross-border offerings. The theme of the show has special resonance now, when a Robin Hood or two would be most welcome.

2D Robot Art

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A cleaning robot follows Wall-EThe Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend and I went to see Wall-E over the July 4th weekend. I recommend staying for the closing credits, which shows the history of Western art in 2D animation, with robots. Beginning with cave paintings of robots, the history passes through ancient forms such as mosaics to wall frescos to impressionist works and right down to present day pixel art. Wall-E is a demonstration of the state of the art of CGI animation, but the ending is a sweet reminder of the pleasures of 2D. After you've seen the credits, stay for the movie's final frame for an extra joke right at the very end.

The Browser as Art Gallery

Based on a post found on the blog MAKE, I decided to try out the Firefox extension Ad-Art, which works in conjunction with another Firefox extension I use, Adblock Plus.

I often help my less technically inclined friends and family set up and maintain their computers. I love to tinker and tweak and add new things to my own computer, but when I set up a computer for someone else, I usually follow the maxim "less is more." I'm happy to have four or five different browsers on my machine, but I understand that most people only want one.

Still, I always wind up installing Firefox with the Adblock Plus extension. Because in addition to blocking advertisements, Adblock Plus solves common computer problems like slow load times on Flash-heavy web pages.

Adblock Plus is very flexible. I usually choose the option to collapse ad space, which means text and images flow into the space where an ad would be shown. The result is usually seamless--the page looks like the ads were never there to begin with. Alternative settings include replacing ads with a blank box or a box that reads "Ad."

Ad-Art replaces ads on web pageThe Ad-Art extension offers users another possibility: replacing ads with a selection of curated art works. Anyone can sign up to curate an Ad-Art exhibit, and artists are welcome to submit their own work for display. The project is free and open source.

To use the Ad-Art extension, I had to disable the option in Adblock Plus to collapse ad space. Then I began to see images from the current Ad-Art exhibit, Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, curated by Joan Cummins of the Brooklyn Museum. I found it very relaxing to encounter the images sprinkled across the page. I've included a screenshot, above, showing how the extension looks on the web site Gizmodo.

I liked Ad-Art even better on the GameSpot web site, which has one of those annoying full-page interstitial ads that pause for about 30 seconds. But with Ad-Art enabled, Hiroshige's work appeared alone on the page in place of the ad, framed by a dramatic black background, and lingered there restfully before the page I sought appeared.

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