Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Make Your Own Toys

My homegirl Sue Havens has a new book out this week! Make Your Own Toys is a strange and lovely guide to making soft animals from recycled fabrics.

Sue accurately describes herself as a "lifelong crafter," and she could have written a book on any number of crafty subjects - sewing, knitting, painting on porcelain, making beautiful things from found objects and raw materials. The projects in this new book are charming, but just as important, the book is a visual delight - filled with pictures, illustrations and patterns - put together by a skilled designer with a unique eye.

Get it! Read it! Make some toys!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Graffiti Gifs

Animated Graffiti GIFs out of the UK, lettering by INKIE and 4 different backgrounds (!) by INSA.

More where that came from at Today and Tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mr. Weekend

Seattle artist Mike Simi has been creating weirder and weirder installations since graduating with an MFA from the UW back in 2007. His public work has included the "Beef Stew Monster," a blue-eyed mechanical creature made of meat that reacted in different ways to viewers, and "Nightmoves," a circle of a dozen mechanical people hidden in dark clothing, lumbering through a space as if lost.

His most recent work is Mr. Weekend, a 15-foot tall interactive robotic sock puppet. More about Mr. Weekend, including a video on the making of the puppet, here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lewis Hyde

It's been 30 years since social critic Lewis Hyde published The Gift, his landmark work defending the value of creativity in a culture increasingly governed by money and overrun with commodities. He recently published a new book Common as Air, only his second book since then, following The Gift and Trickster Makes This World, a captivating study of the role that mythological tricksters play in bringing to life the disruptive side of human imagination.

Common As Air is a lively commentary on the present state of copyright and the public domain in America. Hyde invokes history back to the Middle Ages, when vil­lagers enjoyed collective rights to common lands, and warns us against a new movement that would fence off large sectors of the public domain — in science, the arts, literature, and the entire world of knowledge — in order to exploit monopolies. He cites plenty of examples from Hollywood, the pharmaceutical industry, agribusiness, and the swarm of lobbyists who transform public knowledge into private preserves by manipulating laws for the protection of intellectual property. Last week in the New York Times Robert Darnton called Hyde's latest book "an eloquent and erudite plea for protecting our cultural patrimony from appropriation by commercial interests."

The excellent culture vulture site BOMBlog recently published a rare interview with Hyde and writer Chris Wallace about information, art and the ownership of the intangible.

CW: Steven Soderbergh, the great film director, called The Grey Album—DJ Danger Mouse’s totally illegal mash-up of The Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s The Black Album—an “astonishing, amazing piece of work.” Will there be a bending of the system—if everyone starts working outside of the law, will the law have to curve to meet them?

LH: I guess I would go back to the question if The Grey Album is completely illegal and it is a puzzle. Reading the law literally it is a violation, however there is a tension in our legal history between the First Amendment and our copyright laws. Both of them are parts of the Constitution—the Constitution allows the congress to give exclusive rights to authors and so forth. But at the same time the First Amendment says we’re not allowed to make any law that interferes with expression. So these two powers are literally at odds with each other. Courts have thought that they way to reconcile this is through things like the Fair Use Doctrine. So, Fair Use is a set of rules by which you can use something without asking any permission or paying any fees. I mean, if you and I quoted a Beatles song in this interview we would not need to get permission because Fair Use allows for people to use it in the context of commentary and criticism. The problem with Fair Use is that it is not well understood. The people with money attack it, so we live in a culture of fear. And the law itself is vague as to what you can and can’t do.

Read more here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Abbey Lincoln

One death after another, that's all you get folks. Even if the recent passings of Harvey Pekar and Tony Judt hadn't been more than enough, and they were, I still would have been hit hard by the death of Abbey Lincoln on August 14. She was born Anna Marie Wooldridge in Chicago in 1930, the 10th of 12 children, and grew up in rural Michigan. Her first recordings, made in her early 20's, depicted her as a glamorous ingénue, but by the time she hit her stride in the mid-50's she was demanding respect by singing, howling, whispering and crying with saxophonist Sonny Rollins and drummer Max Roach, who she later married.

There are plenty of remembrances on the web, but really the best way to get a measure of this singular singer is by listening to We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite, an absolutely searing record released in 1960 that will reduce you to tears with its indictment of slavery and demand for civil rights. Lincoln was beautiful and powerful, a great singer and a force of nature, there will never be another like her.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

New Mural on Cap Hill

Mad mad mad props to the artists who painted the new mural on the wall surrounding the Sound Transit construction site on Capitol Hill.

The piece was designed by "Baso Fibonacci" and painted by Zach Rochstad and Japhy Witte. All of the artists involved have come out of the Seattle street art scene, and all of them have put in their time creating beautiful and memorable "unofficial" pieces on local walls, bridges and underpasses. It's great to see them getting their due, and I can only hope it's a trend that continues. Keep an eye on the ST site for the next few years as the work changes and progresses.

Plus some really good footage of the art in action right here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tina Modotti

Today (...or maybe tomorrow?) is the birthday of Italian photographer, model, and political radical Tina Modotti.

Modotti was born Assunta Adelaide Luigia Modotti Mondini in Udine, Italy on August 16 (or 17), 1896. Her father was a militant member of a banned socialist group, and was blacklisted from working when Modotti was a teenager. When she was 16, the family immigrated to San Francisco.

Attracted to the performing arts supported by the Italian émigré community in the Bay Area, Modotti experimented with acting, appearing in several plays, operas and silent movies. In 1918, she entered into a relationship with Roubaix "Robo" de l'Abrie Richey. Modotti moved with him to Los Angeles in order to pursue a movie career, and the couple entered into a bohemian circle of friends that included Ricardo Gomez Robelo and the photographer Edward Weston.

By 1921, Modotti was Weston's favorite model and, by October of that year, his lover. Ricardo Gomez Robelo became the head of Mexico's Ministry of Education's Fine Arts Department, and persuaded Robo to come to Mexico with a promise of a job and a studio.

Robo left for Mexico City in December 1921 hoping to mount an exhibition of his and Weston's work. While she was on her way to be with Robo, Modotti received word of his death from smallpox. In March 1922, determined to see Robo's vision through, she mounted a two week exhibition of Robo's and Weston's work at the National Academy of Fine Arts. The sudden death of her father forced her return to San Francisco later that same month. On July 29, 1923, Modotti set sail for Mexico City with Weston and his son Chandler, leaving behind Weston's wife Flora and their three children. She agreed to run Weston's studio free of charge in return for a mentorship in photography.

Modotti flourished in post-revolutionary Mexico. Living with Weston, she befriended and modeled for Diego Riviera and threw herself into radical politics, including the unsuccessful campaign against the execution of the Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti in 1927. She was constantly developing her practice as a photographer, using her connections to create an expanding portrait business. Kenneth Rexroth called her "the most spectacular person in Mexico City."

In 1927, Modotti joined the Mexican Communist Party and more of her work became politically motivated. Her photographs began appearing in publications such as "Mexican Folkways" and the radically motivated "Frente a Frente" and "El Machete." In December 1929, an exhibition of Modotti’s work was billed as "The First Revolutionary Photographic Exhibition In Mexico." Within a year she was deported from Mexico.

She moved around Europe for a while, finally settling in Moscow where, by most accounts, she joined a branch of the Soviet secret police. When the Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936, Modotti left Moscow for Spain, where she stayed and worked until the collapse of the Republican movement. In April 1939 Modotti left Spain and returned to Mexico under a pseudonym.

Modotti died in Mexico City in 1942 under suspicious circumstances - her death attributed by various sources to suicide, murder or heart failure. Her grave is located within the vast Panteón de Dolores in Mexico City.

Friday, August 13, 2010


I shared wine with sculptor, architect and draftsman Hans Nelson whose work is appearing in the show Fishtown and the Skagit River, currently showing in La Conner, WA at the Museum of Northwest Art. Hans lived in Fishtown from 1969 until 1973.

Gurldoggie: What was Fishtown?

Hans Nelson: Fishtown was a loose collection of like minded souls who lived in abandoned fishing shacks until the mid-80’s. There were poets and sculptors and some truly great painters working mostly in ink and water based medium. They were very influenced by Chinese and Japanese art, and were studying Chinese poetry, philosophy, Buddhism. People were meditating. The setting looked like a Chinese landscape and it inspired people.

Where was it?

On the Skagit River. Fishtown was a nexus of shacks on the river, with boardwalks between them, near the mouth of the Skagit. It was in the tidal zone, so at night the tide would come up.

To get into town you could walk four miles across the Skagit flats into LaConner, or take a little motor boat into town. Laconner was a dusty little fishing village. It felt abandoned and forlorn. None of the chi-chi bullshit you see now.

What was it that brought people there?

It was pretty easy to be autonomous there. A guy just could come up and set up a shack and get to work. There was no power, no phones, nothing. It was primitive man. And deep winter. We passed some deep winter up there.

I got there in 1969. More people were just starting to show up at that time. There were even some children soon after I got there. I dropped out of high school and finished my education at Fishtown, drawing and painting. I don’t even think I made a living then – I did some odd jobs and every so often my Dad would send a small check in the mail, but really I lived on nothing, barely kept body and soul together.

Who were some of the artists who came out of that time?

Charlie Krafft, you know his whole crazy, charming, bigoted thing. He was really resourceful and productive.

Paul Hanson was an amazingly gifted painter who was probably the most into Chinese culture. He learned perfect Chinese, and now he lives in China and actually teaches Chinese at Peking University. He was one of these funny looking guys who was always getting girls. That’s what keeps him in China I think, women respect old scholars there.

Robert Sund was a bard who literally lived on nothing and went around “singing light” like Dylan Thomas said. He was a true poet. He had a little shack that we called “shit creek,” but really it was a beautiful little place with homes for swallows. He called the area “Ish River Country.”

Arthur Jorgensen, a local guy, a brawler and a bohemian and a drinker and a mad dog sculptor and painter. He put so much energy into his work it was nuts. You knew at some point in the night he was going to start throwing furniture around, you had to either get the booze or the furniture away from him. He died a few years ago sailing, which was always the thing he loved the best.

There really was this constant creative thing going on. Everyone was doing something.

So what happened?

By the 1980’s the family who owned the land that Fishtown was on decided that they wanted to log the entire property and chase the artists off. People weren’t exactly squatting at that time, they were paying rent of $10 a month, so they felt they had some rights.

We staged the biggest protest we could, and called Earth First and hired a totally rinky-dink lawyer whose car would never start and we had to push it. We lost that fight of course and they “won” the right to destroy this old Indian land that was in a pristine state. And they came and destroyed all the cabins and chased everyone out. There was nothing left.

Nothing at all?

There’s ONE holdout artist who’s still living there, Maggie Wilder. She’s an amazing painter too, and really private. They didn’t destroy her cabin for one reason or another, so she stayed on. She has this fear that Fishtown is going to be “discovered” one day and popularized, but it’s gone man.

The show Artists, Poets Scholars: Fishtown and the Skagit River is up now at the Museum of Northwest Art at 121 South First Street in La Conner, WA. The show runs until October 3.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Sign Painters

Film maker Faythe Levine has a new obessesion. Levine, who directed the DIY documentary Handmade Nation has recently turned her attention to the lives and craft of American sign painters. Nearly invisible, there are still hundreds of men and women in this country who carefully paint signs and advertisements on shop windows, sandwich-boards, boats, cars, billboards, playgrounds, farmers markets, hot dog stands and theme parks. Levine, along with co-director Sam Macon is in the midst of creating The Sign Painter a documentary film chronicling the stories of modern day painters and legends of the craft. The film includes interviews with contemporary sign painters like Seattle's own Sean Barton, and also meets artists like Rey Giese who has been a sign painter for 75 years and continues to work.There is no release date yet for the film, but Levine is maintaining both a blog and a Flickr account to document the process.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Seattle's Monkey Wrench Puppet Labs once again bring the extraordinary puppet show "Frankenocchio" back from the dead, this time under the direction of puppet master Brian Kooser, the hard-working madman recently responsible for "Bloody Henry" and "Dracula: A Case Study."

The show opens a window on a fever vision of a decrepit circus populated by drunk clowns, has-been fortune tellers, pinheads and geeks. Into the midst of this depravity falls the angel Frank, who brings a stark and shining light into the darkness. It's a wild show, full of terror and beauty, and filled with some of the most beautiful puppetry you will ever see. The show features live music by God's Favorite Beefcake, three members of the now defunct Circus Contraption band.

Frankenocchio shows at the Lee Center for the Arts, 901 12th Ave., on the Seattle University Campus. Opens August 12 and runs through September 4, 2010. Tickets are available here.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Visual Art of Specs One

Anyone reading this blog for any length of time knows that I'm a fan of local renaissance man Specs One, (aka. Specs Wizard, Mic Mulligan, Capstan Media, the Green Lover, etc.) Specs is a rapper and hip-hop producer of great renown, a cartoonist of no small talent, and a visual artist with a unique sense of design, humor, and inter-galactic perspective. A new show of Specs' visual art opens this Thursday, August 12, from 5 to 11pm. At Throwbacks NW with DJ sets from 100 Proof and Swervewon. Free of charge.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bikes Is Beautiful

Back at home after a month away, and simply too much to catch up upon. It may take until for the Gurldoggie to get truly up to speed.

In the meantime, there are still infinite small wonders to enjoy. For example, the London Transport Museum recently asked illustrators to come up with images that portray the links between cycling in London, environmental issues, the health benefits of biking, and fun. More than 1,000 artists responded, and fifty of the best entries are now on display at the museum, in London’s Covent Garden, until August 22. Check out a selection of the posters on the Guardian site.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dead Baby Downhill

Dammit, I may be out of the country, but I'd be a fool not to be back in town for the Dead Baby Downhill. This annual race/party/ choose-your-own-adventure - billed with only gentle hyberbole as "The Greatest Bike Race the World has Ever Known" - takes place on August 6th. This race itself, "organized" by the febrile minds at the Dead Baby Bike Club - heads straight downhill from the Barrel in Top Hat, WA and ends at as yet unnamed party spot in Georgetown. You have to register in order to win prizes, but you just have to show up to party with the chaotic crew that surrounds the DBBC.