Monday, December 31, 2012

Walk it Off: The Photography of Nick Hance McElroy

Untitled photograph from the Thirteenth Month series.
You know those marvelously itinerant people who go to Iceland or Thailand after college and aren't afraid to ride a chicken bus around a mountain with no guardrails? Those people fascinate me. If I wasn't so PhD-student-broke and so prone to motion sickness, maybe I’d wake up one day feeling particularly ballsy and then I’d be one of them, boarding a train and a plane and a fishing boat and then riding a grizzly bear into the Alaskan tundra in search of Bob Ross's friendly ghost. But until that day, I'll continue to love photographers like Vancouver-based Nick Hance McElroy, who takes pictures the way I would on a tremendous adventure (whether or not he's on a tremendous adventure himself).
Untitled photograph from the Thirteenth Month series.

Most of his photographs are human-less, and the ones that aren't never allow more than a single road-trip companion or new-found friend to enter the frame. Dogs and ponies and snow-covered sheep populate his pictures, which are imperative or instructional, ordering us to "walk it off" or showing us "how to be alone."

Untitled photograph from the Thirteenth Month series.
Untitled photograph from the Great Divide series.
The photographs aren't always beautiful. A metal pail full of severed doe heads becomes the aesthetic equal of a tiny white house with red flowers and a red roof, or a blue car on a snow-blown hill. Each friend, vista, and carcass is treated with the same loving, unhurried attention. 

Untitled photograph from the Great Divide series.

Untitled photograph from the Thirteenth Month series
Untitled photograph from the How to Be Alone series.
Untitled photograph from the Great Divide series.

Hello Again Friends

Following a wretchedly long paper-writing hiatus, All The Little Houses is back back back! Expect epic arts, dreary poetic musings, sweet tunes, belligerent felines, pleasing prisms, life updates, and other blather.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Poetry Wednesday


You are no forest.
Your light is clear and without breaks.

There is a game, but you play it
(I am learning to play simply, too)

And I smell evergreens
When I am near you, I can smell them;
Not from you, but
      with you

                                An impossible

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd something not-mine that I love:

The Mermaid
by William Butler Yeats

A mermaid found a swimming lad,
Picked him for her own,
Pressed her body to his body,
Laughed; and plunging down
Forgot in cruel happiness
That even lovers drown.

Friday, October 5, 2012

My Knitted Boyfriend

Noortje de Keijzer's My Knitted Boyfriend is so lovely, and now I want to learn how to knit. 

I have a wonderful boy, but then maybe I could knit a dog for us.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Poetry Wednesday


A bully branch on the wind
took out the window, took out an eye and then
sensing above it
and weight
and weather.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd something not-mine that I love:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Poetry Wednesday


we started the fire; it was our rite
increased in the shoal mirror and even without
all things compounded/
double and dual like the world was retelling
its birth//


Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd something not-mine that I love:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Michael Flomen's Moonlit Photograms

Contact, 2001, ED. 4, 111cm x 88cm
As I mentioned last week, I'm TA-ing for a studio photography class this semester. It's completely uncharted territory for me, but I'm already reaping the benefits. For example, the professor I'm working with has introduced me to the work of Michael Flomen, a Canadian artist who does long-exposure photograms using the light of the moon and the flotsam and jetsam of the night.

The work is striking. Its recognizable forms (a bit of seaweed or the webbed transparency of an insect wing) inhabit topographies and cosmos that are entirely alien. The flashbulb of a firefly becomes a solar flare which--through the long exposure--becomes 40 solar flares. Strangeness multiplies, and yet an overall softness permeates the images and demonstrates that strangeness might coexist with benevolence.

Feeder, 2006, 122cm x 244 cm, U.P.

I'm also kind of enthralled by his process. The artist, whose images only quicken by the light of the moon, himself becomes nocturnal. Not a slave to the nighttime, but one whose moonlit activities border on ritual. I'm definitely going to need to track down La Nuit est ma Chambre Noire (The Night is My Darkroom), the film that documents that process. Here's a clip:

Untitled 41, 2008, 61cm x 51 cm, U.P.
Untitled, 2007, 51cmx61cm, U.P.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Fall Playlist

Sweet tunes for my favorite season : )

Sóley......................................................I’ll Drown
Sigur Rós...............................................Glósóli
Bat for Lashes........................................Laura
Wooden Sky..........................................Child of the Valley
Cat Power.............................................Metal Heart
CocoRosie.............................................Smokey Taboo
The Sweet Serenades.............................Die Young
Ramona Falls.........................................The Darkest Day
Carla Bruni............................................Quelqu'un M'a Dit
Bon Iver................................................Minnesota, WI
The Drums.............................................Down By the Water
Ed Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes........Kisses Over Babylon

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Poetry Wednesday


You pushed a button and
the world pinked up,
responded vitally and was far
far out on the sea;
smaller and discreet
from all things, clearly bounded and

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd something not-mine that I love:

by Molly Peacock

may favor obscure brainy aptitudes in you 
and a love of the past so blind you would 
venture, always securing permission, 
into the back library stacks, without food 
or water because you have a mission: 
to find yourself, in the regulated light, 
holding a volume in your hands as you 
yourself might like to be held. Mostly your life 
will be voices and images. Information. You 
may go a long way alone, and travel much 
to open a book to renew your touch.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Exposure: Antony Gormley's Crouching Man

There's this fantastic wave of land art I've been noticing recently that, with varying levels of subtlety, addresses climate change. Like so many of my favorite artworks, these pieces are very beautiful and very scary. Nele Azevedo's Minimum Monument project (better known as "the Melting Men"), which I posted about a few months ago, is just one of many such works.

Antony Gormley's 60-ton, 85-foot-tall Exposure sculpture is another. It takes the skeleton shape of a man as he crouches on a bit of jutting land in central Netherlands, surrounded on three sides by the sea. The sculpture's form is that of Gormley himself, taken as a cast and then digitized into a geometric framework by computers.

"The work cannot have a plinth," Gormley states. "Over time, should the rising of the sea level mean that there has to be a rising of the dike, this means that there should be a progressive burying of the work."

Time and the progression of global warming (massive, universal forces), then, will act upon the figure. But so does the movement of the individual. As the viewer gets closer to the sculpture, Gormley explains, "The nature of the object changes. You can see it as a human form in the distance. It becomes more abstract the closer you get to it. And finally it becomes a chaotic frame through which you can look at the sky." To make sense of the work, a change in perspective becomes necessary.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cristina Battistin and the Modern Portrait

January 2010, oil on canvas, 27x20cm
Painting is dead. So is portraiture. This is what we are told. Artists like Gabriel Orozco have spent years experimenting with media ranging from fruit to laundry lint to whale bones (the motley materials of modern artistic practice?) before moving on to paint in what seems to be a regression. But Orozco's paintings aren't about the paint. They're about formulas and geometric progressions. They're about color the way that Modrian's paintings were about color. They're mathematical functions. They are not about paint.

Artists like Cristina Battistin confuse and delight me. Painting is not dead, and there is a modern, relevant space for portraiture. The genre still holds the possibility of progressive movement. Her work proves this, or at least asks us to consider it. They are, indubitably, a celebration of the materiality of paint, and the materiality of the human form.

At first glance, her portraits seem to resemble those biology textbook diagrams of human musculature, where the skin is stripped away to reveal the tangle of rosy sinew hiding underneath. Her people seem raw and exposed. When you look again, you see that they're really just caught in a gorgeous process; dematerialization, or perhaps its opposite. The glitter you see isn't the shine of naked muscle, but of atoms arranged just so. Color and texture become part of a new, physical, painterly vocabulary that describes human materiality, rejecting the scientific and surrendering to an adoration of the genre that borders on religiousity.

Detail from 15 December 2009; Oil on Canvas, 27x20cm
I'm not talking about the Russian or Byzantine religious icons that, admittedly, Battistin's portraits do resemble. I'm thinking more about an obsessive, truth-seeking spirituality like Robert Smithson's, visualized as spirals and crystallization and mirrors. Something without boundaries, something understood as forever in progress. Transcendentalism without need for an endpoint.

All that aside, the paintings are gorgeous. Check out more of Battistin's work here.

XI, May 2006; Oil on Canvas, 39x31 cm
X, March 2006; Oil on Canvas, 39x31 cm

Poetry Wednesday

The Load

I like to watch films by myself, it is
I know,
but I cannot share.  I do it very
the posting of ‘Oversize’
on the end of the truck that carries houses
is a reminder
as though the undersized people
and I
are incapable
of sensing our relation to it.
I kept stories of selkies in my head
as a child;
they overwhelmed me

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd something not-mine that I love:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Rochester Update

There’s nothing like brand new Moleskine notebooks and the promise of daily purpose. I love the first few weeks of school; I don’t have any papers to write (YET) and I don’t have any papers to grade (YET). I’m just soaking up all that good book-learnin’ and soaking up the warm weather while it lasts. Also, I enjoy that bi-monthly paycheck. Oh yes. I do.

This semester, things might be a little bit different, since I’m TAing in a few studio photography classes. All of the classes I’ve previously taught or assisted with have been hard-core theoretical ones, so this will be quite a change. I’ll admit, I don’t know a whole lot about practical photography. In fact, even my art historical background has very little photography in it, so this is probably going to be either a fascinating introduction to the subject, or three months in which I demonstrate, flamboyantly, how little I know about it. Adventure!

I had my birthday about a week ago, and I can honestly say it was the loveliest one yet. Fruit, flowers, Italian food, balloons, cheesecake, AND kisses? I am a very spoiled 23-year-old. That being said, 23 is closer to 25 than it is to 20, and I think I hear my bones creaking.

Despite having a prettttttty lazy summer, I remembered a couple of important things that I always seem to forget during stressful semesters:
  • Reading for pleasure is da best. Literally da best. 
  • Having time for exercise will KEEP YOU SANE. 
  • Sunshine exists, and you can have it. 
  • I really, really, really love school.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Little Lacuna

All the Little Houses will be taking a brief hiatus for the next couple of weeks while I get my shit together for year two (!!!) of PhD-ing. In the meantime, you can visit my tumblr where, inevitably, I will be posting pretty pictures and delicious music.

See you soon!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Poetry Wednesday

The Oranges

Our fingers are thick with citrus
and a grey face has risen high over the kitchen clock
and fallen low again.
We are celebratory         .
Crashing through the wet air, we
take off our blankets and celebrate again
our nakedness, thrown forward,
puzzling, and bright.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd something not-mine that I love:

by Bianca Stewart

Last time we went swimming
the sea stood up and hugged you
as though you were responsible
for keeping it blue

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Little Tree Music

Bartholomäus Traubeck's Years piece tells us what trees sound like when they sing. Nature and technology and art and music meet and mix and make a haunting tune. Using a PlayStation Eye Camera and a stepper motor, a computer running Ableton Live reads the grain on the cross section of a tree trunk and converts it into music.

I love the idea of finding voices for those things around us we pretend are mute.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Poetry Wednesday

Yellow Hair/Without List

I was a tree upon which moss and mushrooms had grown overnight
Something was sucking up my sunlight, and I was hungry
Every piece of hair that fell was a meal
I would pay no one to cut it
I hated it in July, and had not before
The ends first, which were yellow
And had grown furthest from the roots
My mother’s sisters were crying; I was the last yellow-haired child
I cut them away
And then cut away that which they were cut from.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd something not-mine that I love:

The Armadillo
by Elizabeth Bishop

This is the time of year 
when almost every night 
the frail, illegal fire balloons appear. 
Climbing the mountain height, 

rising toward a saint 
still honored in these parts, 
the paper chambers flush and fill with light 
that comes and goes, like hearts. 

Once up against the sky it's hard 
to tell them from the stars— 
planets, that is—the tinted ones: 
Venus going down, or Mars, 

or the pale green one. With a wind, 
they flare and falter, wobble and toss; 
but if it's still they steer between 
the kite sticks of the Southern Cross, 

receding, dwindling, solemnly 
and steadily forsaking us, 
or, in the downdraft from a peak, 
suddenly turning dangerous. 

Last night another big one fell. 
It splattered like an egg of fire 
against the cliff behind the house. 
The flame ran down. We saw the pair 

of owls who nest there flying up 
and up, their whirling black-and-white 
stained bright pink underneath, 
until they shrieked up out of sight. 

The ancient owls' nest must have burned. 
Hastily, all alone, 
a glistening armadillo left the scene, 
rose-flecked, head down, tail down, 

and then a baby rabbit jumped out, 
short-eared, to our surprise. 
So soft!—a handful of intangible ash 
with fixed, ignited eyes. 

Too pretty, dreamlike mimicry! 
O falling fire and piercing cry 
and panic, and a weak mailed fist 
clenched ignorant against the sky!