Museum Industrial Complex

A while ago I was catching up with an old friend. We graduated from undergraduate school together. We had shiny new art degrees and headed off to find graduate programs.

We both had slight detours before grad school. I was missing an art history requirement and one philosophy requirement. I completed those during the first summer session after the spring semester. Since I wouldn’t make it in time for the fall semester I lucked into a job painting murals and faux finishing fancy homes around Charlotte, NC. On the weekends I worked as a gallery attendant. I rented a share of a garage from a rock band who never practiced and two artists who never worked and had a giant studio to myself. I put together a show and got my name in the paper.

My friend moved off to Austin with his new wife - at 21 that seemed so advanced to me - and she attended a graduate program for music while he worked and made artist friends and made art. Austin is much cooler than Charlotte.

In another year I was attending University of North Carolina at Greensboro for their Master of Fine Arts and in two years my friend and his wife had relocated to Houston to attend the University of Houston’s MFA program. By the second year of my friend’s program we had both read enough Arthur C. Danto and Dave Hickey to be done with all of it. He had the bravery to quit outright. I muddled through my second year, working in the computer lab and part time in an ad agency. I left art school with a job that paid money. Take that establishment.

He and I had rage-quit art-with-a-capital-A by this time and it was liberating. Outside of the just-grimy-enough art school and the white cube of the museum you knew your work was good if you got paid for it.

Now, years later, both of us are coming back around to making art (with a small ‘a’) because it’s nice and human to have a creative outlet. It’s also fun. But it’s hard to shake all that indoctrination. It keeps showing up in the back of my mind and saying dumb things. “But what should I do with this work. What am I getting at?” and other boring thoughts. The only thing you need to say with a painting is “hey, look at this”.

When we caught up the other day, we were grousing about our education and how it led us from things we loved and how rotten and false all of it was. I blurted out the phrase “Museum Industrial Complex” to describe it. My friend texted “omg copyright that”. I registered a domain nameinstead.

A silly fake web site

This was a good opportunity for me to build (There should really be a good name for silly fake websites.) I host the site using the GitHub Pages feature of my GitHub account, and I’ve made the repository public.

It’s a straightforward static website. Large blocks of content are written in Markdown which is included into a Pug (formerly Jade) template. This is all put together with a simple suite of Gulp tasks which build styles and compile HTML into a single page website. I had played with flex box layout and writing super minimal JavaScript without a framework. I played a little bit with the window.requestAnimationFrame api. It felt good to stretch my web design legs for fun. All the imagery are SVGs which are my very-favorite form of internet media.

Error 601: Wrong part of town

Error 601: Wrong part of town

I wrote the site imagining a cabal of art historians and curators meeting at a large conference table. They would sit under the conference table instead of at it because, you know, artists. This shadowy group would conspire on how best to spend donations from the rich and tax dollars from the government while persuading the potentially art loving public that they should never buy or love anything. Because that would be wrong. I imagined this group selling their services to the ultra rich, guaranteeing their social and cultural status for a price. These folks would need a website.

I included a snarky contact form which only rejects you. I needed some other effect. I thought about having the text become unreadable on mouseover, or the “arty” graphics obscure your view. Finally, I had the text fade away slowly leaving nothing but a tombstone.


Shawna ProCreate for iPad Pro

ProCreate for iPad Pro

Last Thursday our figure model was just excellent. She came to the studio with a clear vision in mind of the pose she wanted to, and held it, rock steady, for 20 minutes at a time, over the entire three hours.

She laid across one arm - the studio lights on her right caught the underside of her jaw and neck, illuminating the orbits of her eyes.

I started out intending to do an hour of warm up drawing. I chose the soft pastel brush and a palette of grey. After an hour went by I kept drawing the entire three hours. I guess I wanted a break from color.

I nailed down the placement of her features fairly well early on, but it wasn’t until the last 20 minutes or so that I really got the tone of the mouth correct - where the upper lip is lit from beneath, casting a shadow upwards to the nose.



A couple of weeks ago I was my morning train to work, tired and stressed. I didn’t want to nap on the train so I decided to close my eyes and try to focus on my breathing. It is very hard to keep random thoughts from trespassing your mind. I did ok for a bit. As I was starting to feel more rested, I recalled an image from a Nova series called Fabric of the Cosmos.



There’s a great little cocktail bar and restaurant on J Street in Tacoma, in the Hilltop neighborhood. Rose is a bartender there and she is mighty. She is blonde and striking. Tall and intimidating. She’s a Tacoma native and makes a good martini. One night in April, Caroline and I walked to the bar on J street, through the Hilltop neighborhood, about one mile from our home.

Paint it red

How big is a digital image? Yes.  

How big is a digital image? Yes.  

I have been thinking about scale in art. Not within a picture, but of the picture itself. All of my recent paintings have been very small; each under 12" in size. Drawings or paintings which I make on my iPad really have no scale. If I view an image on my phone it is tiny, but on my TV it is huge. I could project them on a wall, or print them on a billboard. Their scale is arbitrary.

There is an old art school joke: “if you can't paint it well, paint it big. If you can't paint it big, paint it red.”

Making a big thing is always impressive no matter how terrible it is. Like the portion sizes at Denny’s, bigger is better even if it’s garbage. But if that fails, you can use the color of blood to trigger an emotional connection.

I think this is still true in gallery circles. But those circles are tiny dots when viewed from street level.

In America, the smartphone has redefined pictorial scale. Height and width is now approximately 3" by 5" inches. But depth! Depth is infinite.

Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, are all infinitely deep. There's alway more that you missed, there's always more when you refresh. Always.

Artists who have successful Instagram accounts never stop producing. It's a constant stream or an infinitely deep well you can lose yourself in, one tiny square picture at a time.

When art lovers go to a museum they capture what they see and share it with their phones. The grand scale of a Pollock is reduced to an index card flowing by in the infinite stream.

Anything an artist creates now must work on this new scale or it won't be seen.