art

Southern gothic photography - Ralph Eugene Meatyard

this is the first of a few posts this week about the work of photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard rem102

Untitled, (Red River Gorge #21: fog on stream) c. 1967-71

I first ran into his work while in undergrad at the University of Kentucky.  Meatyard was a local Lexington, Kentucky optician who became interested in lenses and photography and continued to take photos on the weekends up until his death in 1972.  At the University of Kentucky, I uncovered negatives and prints by him, beautiful and disturbing, in the university photo archives.

His work was varied and his explorations with the camera were wide-ranging though his photos were mostly taken in and around northern and central  Kentucky, with his family and friends as often-used subjects.

rem05

Untitled (One-armed man with mannequin and mirror), c. 1958-62

This week I am going to post photos by Meatyard that span his artistic career from the 'zen' nature photos through the disturbing mask portraits.

All the photos this week are scanned from the excellent book on Meatyard, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, An American Visionary published by the Akron Art Museum in 1991, editor Barbara Tannenbaum.

ReSource Wars!

 RW NQWT sign

RW NQWT sign

This past weekend we were part of a team that participated in ReSource Wars, a two-day design-build competition in service of the local building materials resource center here in Boulder.  The event was great fun and gave us the opportunity to design and build a quick project with a team of super talented friends and colleagues.

 RW elevation

RW elevation

ReSource has been around for quite some time and they recently acquired a new building that needed some work.  The ReSource Wars event singled out 8 locations within the facility and assigned 8 teams to compete to make the most interesting, functional and awesome solution.  The team the we participated with - Not Quite White Trash - designed the Tool Library display wall.

 RW bay

RW bay

The Tool Library allows residents to peruse from a large selection of common hand tools and power tools and borrow them much like a book from a library.  Challenged with fitting a lot of tools along a wall only 25 feet long, we quickly realized that we would need more wall space.  Using only recycled building materials from the ReSource yard, we created a series of doors that are hinged and project out from the wall adding over 30 feet of more tool hanging space and can be flipped through like pages of a book.

 RW screwdriver sign

RW screwdriver sign

All the various hangers for the tools were made from items we found in the yard, from recycled old tools to welded brackets and shelves.  Like Grandpa's old tool shed with the painted outlines of tools on pegboard walls, we utilized the tools themselves, in full 3D form, to hold the tools of the Library.

 RW saw rack

RW saw rack

The result we hope is a functional and funky display of the tools and their usage and will serve ReSource well.  However, maybe the greatest success of the two-day event was the forming and working of an amazing team.  The basic plan allowed for everyone to exercise their creative and technical skills and we completed the project with great camaraderie and only a little head-bashing.

 RW initial sketch

RW initial sketch

Great and special thanks to ReSource to inviting us and to our SuperHero team mates:

Jim Walker, ACI Design Build, architect and builder

Mitch Levin, artist, metal worker extraordinaire

Aicha Menendez, landscape architect and designer

Brian Laak, furniture design and cabinet-maker

Mark Gelband, artist and builder

Guido Densler, master welder and metal worker

 RW award

RW award

the architecture of heros - Goodness, Nature and Vengeance

 fortress-of-solitude-superman

fortress-of-solitude-superman

I have written a post about evil lairs a while ago and wanted to follow that up with some thoughts on the special domains of superheros.  Of course we are not talking about real heroes here, but the pop culture protagonists of comic books and movies.  My initial impression was that these places were not as interesting as their counterparts evil lairs, as Dante's Inferno is significantly more interesting than Paradiso.  However, some repeating themes in these places are quite intriguing.

Whereas the villain's evil lair is often a secretive place brimming with technology, the hero complex (?) is most often dominated by the natural environment.  It is Nature herself that seems to be the well-spring of the superhero's powers or at least the space created by the natural world becomes both solace and solitude for the world-weary, misunderstood protagonist.

 Batcave

Batcave

Even the Bat Cave, thoroughly techy as it is, is still very much a cave, all dripping stalagtites and gloomy expanses.  Like Superman's Fortress of Solitude, it is within the belly of Mother Earth herself, secretive, mysterious and another world away from the evil urbanity of the city.

Even the most technological of good guys, Ironman's Tony Stark, lives resplendent in nature, perched atop a stony precipice, tapping into the elemental earth, water and sky.

 Ironman house

Ironman house

In the latest episode of the Bond franchise we even get a glimpse into 007's maudeline past in a visit, and of course subsequent destruction of, his ancestral home.  No London Regency townhouse of course, but an isolated Scottish manse, surrounded by endless moors and made of the stones of the earth.

 Duntrune Castle Skyfall

Duntrune Castle Skyfall

These are all maybe uniquely American responses to the heroic genesis problem, positing the natural world in a Romantic American viewpoint.  Simon Schama's Landscape and Memory speaks eloquently about these perceptions of nature and the role of the imagination in Western thought.  The villainous bad guys resort to weapons and the lying deceits of mankind, but the superhero's ultimate power resides in Nature, stems from its dark, mysterious elements.  I will step over the Oedipal Mother Nature aspect of this for a future post.

 Xavier's mansion

Xavier's mansion

The final photo I have is from X-Men - Xavier's stately mansion set in a typically English park-like setting, maybe the ultimate example of both the fundamental goodness of Nature and a rejection of Modernism, its rationality and anthropocentric dominance.  The X-Men afterall are not from outerspace or even some kind of unique genius, rather they are simply genetic modifications of us, a product of the same biology, same DNA, maybe some other stuff thrown in as well, but certainly not "foriegn" or "unnatural".

The hero is a man(usually) of action, he is not at home in the world of men, in fact, he should avoid the domestic sphere as much as possible as traditionally female roles of nurturing, cooking and cleaning are kryptonite to the male superhero.  He may be seduced by the sexy villainess, but he fights for everything good, apple pie (as long as someone else makes it) and Mom (but no Mamma's boy).

The man-cave trend in recent years has it right - it is not merely a private study, but a den or a cave, ensconced in the earth and the primal forces barely contained within. Where the villain may have a lair of high-tech toys and Modernist hipness, the hero's retreat is associated with nature, part of the Good Earth, unsullied by progress and the creations of mankind.

Jen Lewin exhibit, CU Art Museum

For a few more weeks there is an interactive light/movement/sound exhibit of some works by Boulder artist Jen Lewin at the CU Art Museum. Jen Lewin exhibit at CU Art Museum, blue field

The exhibit "It's Electric", has a number of works, all of which beg for interaction from the public.  The largest, poorly photographed by myself above, is a large field of plastic lily pads that have various arrays of lighting colors and patterns.  Walking across the pads, they respond by changing colors and patterns, sometimes simply reacting to your movement, sometimes prompting you, Twister-like, to make the next move.

Another piece looks like a set of fancy pendant lights over a chaise lounge.  The lights dim in a tight pattern as you move around the piece, making your movement cast a kind of reverse shadow on the lights.  The chaise is ironically placed directly below the lights, a icon of placidity and the lack of movement.

Jen Lewin exhibit at CU Art Museum, motion activated lights over chaise

There are a few other works that surprise and are at once whimsical and poetic so I won't play the spoiler and describe them.

The CU campus is fairly sleepy as it is summer, but hopefully your visit will be accompanied by enough other visitors that you can see their interactions with the works from a distance.  These works are pleasurable in the most basic, sensory ways that you you can't help but be in wonder at the simple joy of color, light and shadow.  I highly recommend a visit and take a crowd, especially kids, and have fun at the museum.

Jen Lewin exhibit at CU Art Museum, red field