Gnomen at six.

Today is the day that I mark as the one when I first joined the furry fandom and thus it’s the day I celebrate the arrival of Gnomen, my first fully conceived animal surrogate. A birthday of sorts. A naming day. Somebody is six years old.

Gnomen is something very distinct from the other ways that animals have cropped up in my work, even though I’ve used images of monsters and beasts for years. There was so much rabbit imagery in my work in the 90’s that in most people’s minds I became “The Bunny Guy”. Even today much of my drawing language stems from being a child absorbed by cartoons, comics and animation. I wanted to exist in the frames of a Bob Clampett cartoon as much as I wanted my work to hang on the walls of a museum, if not more so. Animation cells remain magic objects for me, especially ones that show weird bits of a sequence that you wouldn’t think to look at otherwise. I’ve thought alot about how the rebroadcasting of classic studio cartoons on TV in the sixties was a generation’s conduit to the legacy of disreputable American entertainment: burlesque, vaudeville and minstrelsy. Bugs Bunny cracks wise in a voice that includes immigrants, genderblurred and the dispossessed, even as he traffics in blatant  stereotypes.

Much of my earlier work was speaking through that imagery, using it to point to discourses of race and queerness. Furry seems to me to be about something very different. It is a kind of working, of identity formation that has more to do with embodiment, than it has to do with pure imagery. Gnomen is a character who has adventures that Nayland can’t. They undergo transformations and troubles and at the same time they embody my own sense of hybridity and mutability. Gnomen is a kind of working that rarely finds a place in galleries these days, but weirdly enough has landed on the cover of a magazine.

Owning my relationship to this fandom has brought some important things into my life, and I think this year is going to be about doing more of that. Here’s a picture I drew to celebrate Gnomen’s presence in my life. If you want to see me drawing it, I put this video up on youtube.

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Creativity requires a void. There has to be something missing for us to want to see something new. When life is two replete, where there is no blank wall, no empty space, the urge to make anew flags and ultimately stops.

Early on in your career, you’ve made no mark on the world, it all feels blank, awaiting your voice. As time goes on it can feel crowded, choked with all too much stuff, or a comfortable, affirming mirror. Neither possibility leads to working.

The abundance of infostractions dumped in my lap by my computer keeps me from feeling what I need to be working towards in the studio. Click by click I move away from the unquiet thoughts of my own lack that prod my arm to move the pen across the page. I know so much about so many things that ungraspable, shifting bits. Why do I like to see where a show of mine is going to happen? So that I can begin to play with that blank wall in my mind. It’s something to push against, so cozy up to or to reveal in an unexpected configuration. I have to make that something happen in my workspace if I hope to get anything done. I need to see a box to put the thing in.

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It’s taken iron determination, but I’ve done it: managed to get through another season without seeing a single complete episode of American Idol. I remember I saw about half an hour of an episode of the first season, and that was all I needed to convince me that I wanted nothing to do with the whole insane creepy enterprise. Since then it’s taken intrepid maneuvering to stay Idol free, given the relentless onslaught of William Hung, Sanjaya, et al. (I’m ashamed that I could even summon those names). So while I know that it my be frowny face time for many of you on my friends list, I also know that you can rest secure in the knowledge that the juggernaut cannot be stopped at this point and that we will be subjected to many more seasons of stellar fabrication before my personal revulsion becomes widespread enough to put an end to it. Till then I’ll cram my fingers in my eye-and-ear-holes and sit in the corner saying lalalalalalalalalala to myself.

In other news, I’ve done a little updating of my online bibliography page to reflect a couple of recent mentions in various reviews.

Last night was another interesting panel at TES, which brought in a crowd that is not often in attendance. It’s always helpful to see different faces, and as board member on duty, I unfortunately had to bring the discussion to a close way before we could have stopped. Here’s to hoping that we can have more of these kinds of talks especially since one unfortunate comment made it clear that people can sit in meetings for many years and still not hear what others are saying around them.

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Steps had to be taken to protect the art in Union Square from the rain.

Some folks on my frlist have been migrating to dreamscape or dreamworks or whatever it is. Which is all well and good, they seem like a nice company and all, but I’m the owner of a permanent membership here at LJ (silly of me, I know) so it will be a while before I totally jump ship.

As a precaution during the “LJ is dying” scare of the early part of this year, I did start mirroring this blog over on WordPress.com, (of course if you’re reading this on WordPress you already know all this) and in the subsequent months I’ve started to learn more about how to use that site, so much so that I’m using it to resurrect some of the functions of my supposed official site, naylandblake.net. The formatting is boring, but I am happy about getting some more content up there

All of this is to say that I’ve updated a couple of the pages on that site: the upcoming exhibitions page, the upcoming lectures page, and the selected works page. Because I have stuff coming up y’all. In particular, you Seattle folks might want to check out the group show at Lawrimore.

Closer to home, on Monday May 11, I’m one of the honorees at this benefit. Please, if you have the cash to do it, come and dance and bowl!

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The catalog from my show this past winter at Location One is finally available. Just click right here.

It’s like having me right in front of you offering incoherent explanations about what you’re looking at. And by buying it you help support a non-profit arts residency program.

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On the way to work today, the thought struck me that it’s hard to talk about not making art without it sounding like an alarm. I (and I think most of us) are used to thinking about the process of working as one of dramatic highs and lows, where every stumble is something to be dreaded and avoided.

I haven’t made much formal work lately. Yet I do not feel “blocked” per se. The camera is still always with me, pictures get taken, posts get made here, and the occasional drawing happens. Still, none of this seems to be adding up to much. Is it the notion of “adding up” itself that causes the problem? Or is it the temptation to make all of these posts little moments of problem posed, problem solved?

In all of my written journals, my default voice is one of complaint. And complaint is always safer than expressions of pleasure, because what do you say to Pollyanna? Friends are having a hard time, and I don’t want to go around plopping rainbows on them. I’m reading Reborn a selection of Susan Sontag’s notebooks, and at 16 years old she is intellectually intimidating and insufferable in the absolute nature of her ecstasies. I certainly don’t want these notes to end up in that pile.

So: I’m not working, much. It’s not a big deal, but there it is.

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Last night was indescribable. A standing room only crowd showed up to watch six amazing performers. I was surprised by a fantastic cake, and one of the grooviest gnome presents ever. At the end of it all, Jeff, one of my oldest friends, asked me what I thought and after fumbling for words I simply had to say that I had nothing left to wish for. To see all those brilliant people sharing their talent with each other over the past three months, to have been the catalyst of events where good will prevailed, where people had in the words of Tom Tom Club, “Fun, natural fun”, that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

I’m sure I’ll have more crabbing to do soon enough. But just not now.

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..I encounter stuff and I just can’t help feeling like an idiot.

Stuff like this.

I read about this fabulous loft this artist has and I start thinking, what am I doing wrong? Why am I still scraping from month to month? Why couldn’t I have bought property in 2000? Why don’t I live at that level? Why, why, why isn’t that me?

It’s ludicrous.

And it certainly isn’t about Shirin Neshat, who is an artist who makes work that I respect and who I’m sure is a lovely person. And it isn’t about any realistic assessment of my current life, because that would have to include facts like:

I rent a spacious and welcoming apartment in a neighborhood I enjoy.
I have many people in my life who I care about and who care about me.
I get to make work, and show that work to people with great frequency. I also get paid to do so on occasion.
I have a job where I can both teach and learn. One that shows no signs of going away any time soon.
With a simple request I can get my face licked for hours on end by Lehigh.

And yet and yet and yet I still haven’t been able to banish that stupid covetousness that I mix up with ambition; ambition for the trappings of a certain kind of worldly success. I still feel that twinge and for a moment think that because I’m not there I’m some sort of a stooge.

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…did it beautifully.

This just in: a very complimentary review of the current show in the Village Voice Blogs.

It’s humbling when someone takes that close a look at what you do.

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Five artists whose works I greatly admire have graciously consented to make or read something in relation to one of the pieces in my current show at Location One. Come by tonight at 8pm and hear from these supremely talented folks:

Carmelita Tropicana
Rob Fitterman
Sarah Schulman
Robert Gluck
Dominic Vine

It’s all happening at 20 Greene Street

Hope to see you there!

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Weekend working. I finished a piece for a show that opens on Wednesday and took it into Manhattan and dropped it off.

And here’s how I know I’m an artist: prety much nothing feels better to me than working on and then finishing this thing. When I got it done, I knew it was good. And deep down it felt right. Better than a workout, better than some kinds of sex, better than a good meal. It’s so easy for me to forget that it’s the most satisfying thing that I can do.

I’ve been around for almost half a century, and noodling around with wires and beads and stuff I picked up on the street six months ago makes me happier than almost anything else I can name. I’m happy that I’ve got a life where I can do that almost as much as I want. I wish that feeling didn’t slip away, because it’s the best rebuke to any and all procrastination.

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Last night Thor was gracious enough to accompany me to the opening of Catherine Opie’s exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum. The show was a big walk down memory lane, with many images of the the LA and SF queer scenes of the early 90’s. It’s shocking to think of the way that that time, so casual, so intimate and about its outsiderness, is now heading into history. Museums tend to do that. There were many old friends in attendance as well, notably my CalArts classmate Judie Bamber.

Judie and I got together for some lunch today and then popped in to the opening of a group show I’m in this weekend That’s her in the lower right hand corner of the bottom picture.

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OK Here it is: the big post on what’s new and upcoming for me in terms of work.

I currently have work on view in:

London: at http://www.isisgallery.org

Los Angeles: as part of this show at LAMoCA.

New York: as part of this group show.

There is also a dialogue between myself and artist Rachel Harrison in the current edition of Bomb Magazine.

This Friday I’ll have work in a group show called BOMB Scare.

Coming up:

Berlin: Penny Arcade organized by god_jr

Berkeley, CA: An event on October 19th.

New York: Brooklyn Museum, October

Group show at http://www.whitecolumns.org/ in November

Linfield College Gallery: Group show October 15th

Interview and Photo Spread in Vice Magazine.

New York: Solo show at Location One in December.

I am also participating in this benefit auction on October 3rd:http://www.artobama.org/

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After Thor and I finished with taxes, and with eating the fabulous burgers he cooked, we headed into Manhattan so that I could meet up with my friend Jonathan, who wanted to se my so and also to go se the new Richard Foreman show with me.

I was a little late, but I did arrive at the gallery just in time to help a very nice couple pick which of my drawings they were going to buy. They were trying to decide between three different ones, and I helped them go with the one that was perhaps the most difficult to handle, but which was most important in terms of the development of the work. I know; the more mercenary among you would say that I should have talked them into all three, but I just can’t be that forceful. It’s amazing enough to me that anyone is willing to buy the stuff.

Anyway, being in the gallery is a good way to run into people, I connected with two more former students just while standing there. And I leafed through the guest book.

The Jonathan and I started out for the play, and decided quickly that we were too tired to do it. Instead we sat in a cafe on 10th avenue and caught up on each other’s stories. Then, slice he was parked in the East Village, we walked over to the Strand, where I celebrated not paying taxes and also the prospect of a future check from the gallery by buying Volume one of the new Phaidon History of the photobook, something I’ve been salivating over for a few weeks. After that it was Korean food at Gama, a place on St. Marks that I’ve never eaten at before, but which is fantastic.