Thursday, October 30, 2008

Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton at The New Museum

I wish I could be the fourteen year old version of myself a hundred years from now, walk into a museum, and discover Elizabeth Peyton's paintings; I would love to see them with uncynical eyes far enough in the future that the slightly disreputable poppiness will have evaporated.  

I saw the midcareer retrospective currently mounted at The New Museum and just loved it.  I don't pay much attention to contemporary art these days, and I had forgotten all about her.  I saw the Kurt Cobain exhibition in the mid-nineties and I liked it, but I remember being really snotty about it.   Oh, she paints from photographs. She paints rock stars.  I was wrong. I mean, yes, Elizabeth Peyton does paint from photographs and she does, indeed, paint lots of rock stars, but after seeing the exhibition yesterday, I'm not the least bit snotty. I think she might be the real deal.

Writing about painting isn't much better than dancing about architecture, so still the best thing I can say is to go see it.  She paints mostly people: rock stars, people from history, friends and lovers.  She also has one extraordinary street scene, Seventh Avenue looking uptown to St. Vincent's Hospital.  Her colors are beautiful, the pictures are really lovely and compelling.  

I went to art school for a time about twenty years ago, and I really liked painting people.  It never even occurred to me that I could major in fine art, as fine art at that point wasn't at all about painting pictures of people.  People who painted representationally became illustrators.  In an interview, Peyton articulated something very well: "If it [art] can be understood, it [is thought to be] somehow dumb."  I think she's right, and it's something that has pervaded theater, too.  

I think she's a brave artist.  She paints pictures of people.  There's nothing not to get.  If you don't like one of her paintings, you don't like her work.  If your work is more conceptual, I think you have more barriers between yourself and what people think of you.  People might not understand your work, they might not have the context to appreciate it, they might be a little stupid.  I'm not saying I don't like, or find abstract or conceptual art interesting or worthwhile, I just think there is room for both.  And I've always found people to be more interesting than ideas.

There is a kind of aching romanticism in Peyton's work that I haven't felt before in contemporary art.  I'm jealous in a way, as I think this is the sort of work I would like to be doing if I still painted.  Seeing this exhibition of portraits of pop stars, and film stills, and artists and people she loves made me want to paint again.  I like pictures of people.  I think lots of people do.  That doesn't make it a bad thing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

An Open Letter To Chris Rock

Dear Chris Rock,

I watched your most recent HBO special, filmed in NY, London & Johannesburg. I live in NY and the last two places I've travelled to were London and South Africa, so I was all like "Yay!"  Then I watched it.

Please note:  When you asked the question, "Can white people say [the "N word"]", your answer was, "Not really".  Later in your show, you explained the broad circumstances where it was okay to call someone a faggot.  You explained it was okay "if they were acting like a faggot."  Hilarity apparently ensued.  Substitute [the "N word"] for [the "F word"] in the previous sentence.  See my point?  Hate speech is hate speech.  Proposition 8 is being voted on next week.  You're too fucking smart for this.  It's just not good enough.

Respectfully yours,


Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Message From My Dad Who Feels He Has Been Misrepresented

I was probably overly flip in my comments, from my Dad:

"I never said Muslims are crazy. There are good things about Islam. There are also things I don't like such as their literal reading of the Koran, their treatment of women and their jihad to convert everyone. But, they are still a young religion. How many years did it take for Christianity (at least most of them) to accept women as equals, to recognize the Jews, and to stop killing each other. I may be an agnostic, but I see the good in religion as exemplified in Mom and others."

Unlike my Dad (who is probably a much nicer person than I am), I really don't think Christianity accepts women as equals. All that aside, I really do think I misrepresented his views though, and I apologize. I think I took maybe an outburst of "these people are crazy!", in response to, say, crazy jihadists, rather than ordinary people who practice Islam.

In completely different news, the greatest photo in the history of American elections:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Middle Name Is Hussein

I have really weird feelings about the facebook Hussein middle name thing (if you look at my friend list there are lots and lots of Husseins). I mean, I get the solidarity thing, but as someone who was raised Catholic and walks around with a Moslem last name, like, all the time (my agnostic Dad's family was Albanian Moslem, Mom is Irish Catholic), I'm having a little trouble parsing all the implications. I know all the Hussein-ing is coming from a happy place, but...but..argh.

Something about it bothers me, I guess as a meme, without the fact of any individual doing it bothering me, if that makes sense. Perhaps it's the inherent racism of the necessity for it, or the insistent cries of "hey! look! he's not a Moslem" that I hear over and over again, as if the fact of Obama being Moslem would make him, de facto, a bad person not worthy of his impressive record and stance on the issues at hand.

If this blog post falls into the wrong hands, Obama is not Moslem, any more than I am, although, for the record, we had an Imam at my grandmother's funeral, I was baptized and confirmed, my dad thinks those practicing Islam are crazy people, the world is messy and interesting, etc.

Please let me know your thoughts my delightful, intelligent and politically engaged readers. I mean it. Cheers and kisses.

See you at the polls!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


This is kind of exactly what I've been thinking. Frank Capra was a Republican, but, like, not this kind of Republican. To quote Megan Carpentier "the party of motherfucking Lincoln". I think I've been reduced to incoherence by the past few weeks of gobsmacking current events and this stupid cold. I'm tired of staring at the news and wondering when someone is going to pop up and yell "SURPRISE SUCKERS!" and discover we've all been gotten good in the most elaborate practical joke in the history of the world. That's about as ranty as I'm going to get. I decided when I started this blog that politics wasn't going to be one of my subjects, that I would leave that to the pros. But as the great Hunter S. Thompson so memorably (and possibly apocryphally) said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro".

Rules are being broken, all bets are off.   I raise a shot of NyQuil to the world.