Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I spent Monday delivering and assisting in the hanging of my exhibition at the Margaret Harwell Art Museum, which opens this Saturday in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. I delivered roughly fifty paintings and will round-out the show this Friday, when I deliver and install the final three works, including two 70” tall oils and a six-foot-by-four-foot folding rice-paper screen. I had not had the opportunity to help in the hanging of my own show in a couple years and I found that my involvement in the process was nearly as invigorating as creating the works, themselves.

Today, I woke early to handle chores that have been overlooked for the past few months and found that the morning had been christened by the season’s first heavy frost. Freeze may be a better a description, as my deck and the path which constitute a short trek to the studio were completely frozen, with grass breaking crisply under each step. The moon was still in full wonder and I found myself trapped by its gaze. There are few locales that offer as much of an opportunity to experience natural originality as the moon or Luna as my children call it (due to their early indoctrination on “Bear in the Big Blue House”). There are certainly changes to the physical landscape… space garbage, if you will, from various moonshots. Though few have actually set foot on the moon, we have all left our slight footprint on the surface. Luckily, from this distance, we’re able to ignore the signs of imperialism and lunar landers and simply view the rock as our ancestors saw it.

My work over the past few years has searched for that same premise in the American west. While it is easier to imagine an open unoccupied territory in Wyoming or central Washington than say Ohio… the perfect illusion of naturalistic virginity is none-the-less gone from all of the places that one could visit. Then again who is to say that type of virginity ever existed? How much of the term “virginal” means abstinence and how much just describes any person, place or situation that has not been over-manipulated? - DN

Friday, November 23, 2007

Buy "Original" This Year!

As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in 1844: “... it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy me something, which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith’s ..."

I write this on "black Friday", the ultimate American shopping day of the holiday season. Before you blow your money at Wal-Mart or such, stop and consider purchasing original artwork. It doesn't have to be mine (though I won't complain), just consider supporting artists that concentrate on producing only original work. - DN

Friday, November 16, 2007

Laughter, Medicine, ya know....

A long-time fan of "Craigslist", I recently ran across a hilarious knock-off site called "Khraigslist".

Click here for a laugh. - DN

Thursday, November 15, 2007

When Intellectuals Collide...

A fun article from the NY Times opinion page...

Click here. - DN

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lost and Found

Nearly fifteen years ago, my closest friend gave me a small hand-written note-card on what was to ultimately be the last day we would ever see one another. The small rectangle of paper was no more than one and a half by two and a half inches. This is what it said:

In life you will be faced with many options or roads to choose. Just keep these 3 rules in mind while you are deciding – and always be true to yourself – no regrets.

Nietzsche’s system of how to judge if something is good.

1. Can you make it a universal law?

2. Treat everyone as an end, not a mean.

3. Every person must learn and choose his own system of beliefs.

After all these years, I still keep that note-card in my wallet. There has never been a day that I was without that piece of paper. I have a feeling that if I were robbed; the money would not matter nearly as much as losing those words. – DN

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

End of the season...

So after the upcoming Harwell Museum Show (50-60 paintings), I believe it may be time for a bit of a break. Time to reflect and paint half-naked ultra-conservative-types for a year or so, rather than continue my roller coaster ride of 200 annual landscape/abstractionist paintings for 6-8 solo shows and a handful of group exhibitions per twelve-month cycle. Sure, I have to keep my name “out there”, so I’ll still have a couple shows set for 2008, but nothing like the tumultuous painter’s endurance course I’ve been carrying for the past couple years.

Having said all that, I’m in the final two weeks prior to delivery of artwork for this last show of 2007. I’m measuring and re-measuring half a dozen times on every canvas, paper, mat and frame – a true test for my OCD behavior. Last night, I caught myself literally blowing on a 26”x70” oil painting in the hope that will dry enough to avoid cracking when I re-stretch it over wooden bars, next week.

All this work leads to one thing if sales are less than stellar in the course of a year’s exhibition – cheap scotch. I hate cheap scotch… I’ve been nursing bottles boasting the red label for far too long this fall, so here is my request everyone: come out and buy a piece, if you can’t make it to the show in December, than pick-out a painting online and place an order via e-mail... ‘cause Papa is craving some Johnnie Walker Blue, this holiday season. - DN

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Any takers for reasonably priced work with the possibility of increasing your investment over time?

What Happened At Sotheby's? Van Gogh wasn't the only artist getting no love from bidders at yesterday's Sotheby's auction. 20 of 76 lots failed to sell, including works by Picasso and Miró. Some think the tumbling stock market may have made buyers cautious, but a Christie's auction did better under the same conditions. The New York Times 11/08/07

No Takers For $35m Van Gogh "A Vincent Van Gogh painting has failed to sell at an art auction in New York. Sotheby's was hoping The Wheat Fields would fetch up to $35m, but it failed to reach its undisclosed reserve or attract a bid over $25m." The painting is believed to be Van Gogh's last completed work. BBC 11/08/07

Well, I’m certainly glad that urge to buy ancient art is over, I was afraid that the bulk of my collectors would spend all their winter money on these old pieces of canvas, and not have enough left-over to buy some of MY newer paintings. – DN

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Birth of a Lifestyle Leads to Birth of a Movement?

A number of years ago, I wandered my way to Wyoming, then Jenny Lake at the Tetons finally south into Jackson Hole for a shower, shave and some sourdough flapjacks from “Jedediah's House of Sourdough”.

I liked the look of the town and decided I had had enough of my past week of camping and wanted to sleep in a place that felt like home, despite my distance away from everything familiar. I was not quite yet the tourist-repellant anti-social butterfly of which you are now familiar. I soaked-up the glam and kitsch of the town’s cowboy culture for about a day, then searched out a week-long apartment rental. I found a space located upstairs from a restaurant on the main downtown drag. Boasting a kitchen, wrap around balcony and VCR, I settled into my first brief stint of acclimating myself to an unfamiliar town’s local culture. I shopped at the local grocery stores; I drifted in and out of the used book sanctuaries. I attended an opening, one evening and an artist talk on another, at the small contemporary Arts Council that was doing its damnedest to promote something outside the realm of “traditional western” art.

Spent half-a-day in a used record shop talking to a guy about Leo Kottke’s duet album with Mike Gordon, titled “Clone”. I learned that Krispy Kreme donuts cost $12 for a glazed dozen (don’t ask how much specialty donuts were) because they are delivered fresh every morning to a small convenience store in Jackson Hole, Wyoming from somewhere 200 miles northwest in Idaho. I discovered that the dollar menu at fast food joints is really a $1.33 plus tax (it is the same in Santa Fe).

I even visited a couple roadside flea markets and found that even the “junk” in Jackson Hole is over-priced. After a week of briskly cool mountain evenings spent on my private balcony, watching locals hide amongst tourists, I returned my apartment keys. I learned a few things about myself and traveling in that brief tenure: I could never afford to live very long in an over-priced tourist magnet of a town (I had to relearn that lesson in Santa Fe) and traveling somewhere to live like a local is so much more relaxing than walking around on an itinerary like a Japanese tourist. Hence, immersion travel was born…- DN

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

This could be interesting... not art-related, but.....

An Obama/Ron Paul ticket in 2008! I'm just talking out of my head, so don't get your hopes up. - DN

Monday, November 05, 2007

Making Art = Making Success Far from Home?

“A River Runs Through It” is a common stereotypical motivator for men wanting to return to the place they only knew they loved after reading the novella or watching the Robert Redford film.

The story of two brothers raised along the trout rivers of Montana, at the turn of the century; the tale presents two intellectuals… two artists with two decisions. Both writers, thanks to their minister father’s love of the written word; the older brother, Norman, leaves the land he loves to pursue his craft in far away cities and colleges of academia. During the remainder of his long life spent primarily in the Midwest, he only has time to return north for brief holidays and summer breaks. The other younger brother, Paul, remains in Montana, finding a way to utilize his intelligence to eke out a living as a reporter, in order to support his fishing, drinking and gambling addictions. Dying young, Paul is the epitome of the tragic artist, living only briefly (but in the place he loved), compared to Norman’s long life of respectability, outside the world of Montana and the American west.

My question is this: Which brother was right? When I think of the manner in which I left my northern home to search for success in the Southwest, I think of this story. Specifically, I’m reminded of that famous fortuitous line uttered by the character of Paul when Norman asks him to venture east, to Chicago, in order to work and live by his brother’s side – “Oh, I’ll never leave Montana, brother”.

Does making art depend on metropolitan dreams of promotion and success?

So given two choices, in this time of travel and rapid region jumping across the nation, I occasionally stop and wonder – would any of us if we found the perfect spot early on in life, but chose to leave for dreams of greener pastures… would we return to that place? Would we really go back? Would I really go back to relive an old life? If we leave and return is it ever the same? – DN

Friday, November 02, 2007

Interesting, but genius? C'mon, really?

A list was compiled in the UK that “decided” the top 100 living geniuses throughout the world. Created by a consulting firm using email, I have to wonder who exactly they decided to contact via email phishing.

While I understand and may even agree with a number of entries, I have to question the inclusion and placement of a few “winners”… I mean come on I like the old country song “Jolene” as much as the next red-blooded American, but Dolly Parton included in a list of the world’s greatest living geniuses?

Mohammed Ali is there too… but he can't keep that top fifty spot of the treasured number 43 all to himself, he’s tied with that genius of cultural evolution: Osama Bin Laden.

Click here to laugh, cry and scratch your head at the results. - DN

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Reason to Live, Reason to Make Art... One and the Same?

Is there a heaven… is there a hell? Paul Tibbet, pilot of the plane that dropped the Hiroshima atomic bomb, died today at the age of 92. Does he now know the answer to the ultimate question regarding afterlife? Does it really matter? I really like the following article, because it drops the pretensions of afterlife and capitalistic intentions and asks the very basic question – in the single opportunity at the life that you've been offered, do you want to be an artist or citizen? - DN

“If you want to be an icon of virtue, this is the moment because you’ll stand out”
Dave Hickey 29.10.07 Issue 185

The question of how to sell without selling out is especially relevant in the contemporary art world and there are few people better qualified to grapple with this thorny topic than Dave Hickey.Not only is he Professor of English at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Hickey is also one of America’s best known art and cultural critics, admired for his aversion to academicism and his robust analysis of the effects on art of the rough and tumble of the free market.Last month he delivered a keynote speech at Frieze: “Schoolyard art: playing fair without the referee.” Here we present an edited transcript.

The title of this talk comes from a legend about the great basketball player Julius Irving, Dr J, who was famous even in his schoolyard days; he wanted to be a professional player so much that he always played by the rules even on the school yard. He would call fouls on himself. Any of you who have been around the art world for the last few years will realise the aptness of this comparison because whatever rules there may have been, no longer apply.

There are people out there who like art more than money. The only bad thing is that there are a lot of artists who like money more than art. This is a problem but consider the benefits. There has never been a better chance to draw attention to oneself by behaving honourably and honestly and meticulously. If you want to be an icon of virtue, this is the moment because you’ll stand out.If you behave well, if you behave correctly, if you make art that will still matter in 200 years, all you can lose is money.

Did anyone get into the art world to make money? I got into it for sex and drugs but not for money. Why is everyone worrying about money? What are you going to do if you get a lot of money? Are you going to buy a boat? Are you going to buy an apartment in Paris? Jesus, stop it! Unless you have an incredible drug habit, I don’t really see any reason to have money at all.I really don’t care about money, as my wife will tell you. I do care about being right.

My rule is Leo Castelli’s rule and a lot of what I’m telling you today comes from Leo.Leo said: “You can’t be right all the time but you can never be wrong.” If you go by that rule, you’re going to be ok.Leo’s idea of being wrong was to sell something for too much money.

The example he gave was a painter named Jennifer Bartlett, who was represented by Paula Cooper Gallery. Jennifer had a little bubble moment, she began selling her pictures in the high six figures—they really deserved to be sold in the low twos. So I asked Leo what was wrong with that and he said: “It hurts Carl Andre’s prices.” Which is to say, the prices of everybody’s work are compromised by selling art for too much money. For a dealer, this is virtually impossible to avoid these days.

My friend Bob Shapazian, who was director of the Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles, quit. And why did he quit? He said: “I’m not an art dealer anymore. I sit around, a crate comes in, I see who the crate’s from, I go to the waiting list, I make up this outrageous fucking number and send it out. That’s not being an art dealer. I am creating value but it is not real value.”What we have here is a strange moment which is the return of primary practice.In the 80s and 90s, you had one of the biggest hypocritical moments in the history of art. You would walk into a gallery and in the front room would be the work of somebody called something like Hernando which was completely composed of confetti and dog turds. There would be a serious essay about confetti and dog turds—their interchangeability, their social relevance, the way they relate to late capitalism. And then, if you could get into the back room with your shoes clean, you would buy the Donald Judd that was back there.

We went through two decades of what was mostly a secondary market in which the front room was just a place to put up installation art with popcorn machines, that nobody had even the faintest interest in selling, as a loss leader to lure people into the back room to buy the Donald Judd and the Claes Oldenburg.

With the collapse of this moment, a lot of things happened. The public funding disappeared. With public funding gone, the power of the museum receded. Kunsthalles closed like little violets across the country. At the same time we have seen the development of a business world which benefits from a condition of borderline hyperliquidity.

I was talking to the president of the Venetian Resort hotel and casino in Las Vegas. He said: “You wouldn’t believe it. We are bringing money home by the bucketful, we bring bucket after bucket of money. We are running out of buckets.” When you run out of buckets, when you run out of places to put your money, that’s hyperliquidity. And I needn’t tell you that hyperliquidity is good for the art world because if you really want to piss away some money, the art world is the place to do it. There is so much money out there at the moment it just makes you cry. And it’s harder and harder to get hold of it unless you’re selling art.

So we have a bubble. Art bubbles are great. Art bubbles suck money into the art world. Who gets hurt in an art bubble? Greedy artists; stupid collectors. Who else? Nobody with their wits about them gets hurt in an art bubble.Also institutions today have the power of sucking all the money available in the community into the museum.

I said to a friend of mine who runs a museum on the West Coast: “You’ve had 17 installation art shows, are you ever going to show any objects again?” He said: “If I show objects the people on my board just buy them, and then they don’t give me the money.”

What has changed is the whole format of the art world as it existed before 1970: you had artists who worked in their studios; they took their work to galleries; the art galleries sold this work to members of the community. When a community had purchased a critical mass of this work it was presumed that it had some aspect of public virtue and you had to show it in a museum. So what we’re dealing with for most of the 20th century is the transformation of objects of private delectation into icons of public significance.

This is what happened when I was growing up in Fort Worth. There was a moment, and I’m ashamed to admit it, in which every mid-century modern dining room in Fort Worth had a Maurice Lewis on the wall. So, quite naturally, the museum had a Maurice Lewis show because it presumed you could look at a Maurice Lewis and figure out something about Fort Worth—which you could but you didn’t want to know it. And the presumption is: We don’t have style development anymore because history is over.

I date the end of history to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in 1968. When they shot JFK everybody said “Oh God, it’s so terrible it’s the end of the world.” When they shot Bobby, everybody said: “Oh no, not again.” And the end of history is pretty much marked by: “Oh no, not again.” The problem is that even though history may be over—time keeps on going.

I am bored with giant cibachrome photographs of three Germans standing behind a mailbox. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means I’m fucking bored with it.This is the crisis that happened, with the death of installation art, with the enormous escalation of available capital, with the collapse of institutional authority; all this created the world that we live in today and the art fair is the embodiment of it.

Another appropriate analogy: a couple of years ago I was at one of those hotel art fairs, where you walk down the hall and every door is open and there are little sculptures sitting on the bedspreads and light works stuck up on the walls. I was walking through one of these, and I was thinking it was kind of strange, it was like Amsterdam without the prostitutes. You’re walking down the hall and looking into all of these rooms with all of these things. Then I went home that night and turned on the television. This was two days after Americans had entered Baghdad and overthrown Saddam Hussein. There’s a guy with a camera, walking down the hall of the Baghdad Hilton and every door is open. In here you can buy Xerox machines, in here you can buy ancient Sumerian artefacts, in here you can buy everybody’s medical records in Iraq. Every room was full of stolen shit.

And the analogy between that little moment in the hotel and the little moment in Baghdad put a special spin on the art fair phenomenon for me, the idea of absolute, raw, rapacious capitalism.I have no problem with it, I love it when people buy art. When I walk through Frieze looking at everything, I’m saying to myself, “Does this meet my standards?” My standards for any gathering of art are: is 99% of this bullshit? Yes. But, is 1% of it interesting? Yes.That’s about your percentages for anything in the world. Eventually some dealer will think, “I’ve got this great idea. I’m only going to show art I like.” Everybody else will go, “Oh, no, don’t do that. You’re fucking kidding.