I aim to create work that investigates the concept of self and its manifestations and permutations when presented in personal, inter-relational, and larger social contexts. I approach this inquiry through careful use of materials in multiple media - ranging from photography, performance, video, and site-specific installation. Working in an interdisciplinary method allows the work to be accessible and engaging to audiences on multiple levels.
My art projects are inherently personal and revelatory. By sharing my own experiences and explorations of the self, I seek to serve as a catalyst for others in their own self-inquiry. Doing so, I share in their journeys, and in the human condition as a whole.
A short essay I wrote for my Art History class. I could keep going on this work alone, but there was a 2-page limit.
On Felix Gonzales-Torres’ “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross, L.A.)
Perhaps one of the more curious works of art on display at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing is a small mountain of multicolored candy piled up in a corner. To the uninitiated, it serves a curious purpose, to highlight how strange and fun contemporary art can be, to remind us of its reach past the frame and into the viewer’s experience of an art work. According to the display placard, “adult visitors are invited to take a piece of candy,” (but “only one piece, please,” as a security guard alerted me). The viewer can interact with the art work in a multi-sensory form. Besides seeing it, they can feel it, consume it, taste it, enjoy it in multiple ways.
Upon encountering “Untitled”, the pile of candy gleams under the bright museum lights. The individual pieces of candy - in colors of green, red, blue, yellow, and metallic silver shine with opulence. They almost seem like precious stones: topaz, rubies, sapphires, bits of gold and silver. Piled into a corner, the mound can shift, and there is a mild sense of tension, as if the pile of candy will avalanche down and spread all over the ground. Ironically, this sense of impermanence, along with its location on the floor, and in the corner, where things are often haphazardly thrown, seem to suggest a throwaway quality - the opposite of preciousness. There is dynamic power in this tension, its ambiguity or paradox.
Their materiality - they are sweets, after all - can give a sense of joy to any viewer. Most museum visitors probably do not expect to receive free candy when going to the Art Institute. When tasted, each color corresponds to a predicated flavor (blue seems to suggest blueberry, while the orange orange, and yellow lemon), but all are typical, and are un-named, non-branded. These are nondescript candies, they could have been from any store in the world, or even made in someone’s kitchen. In their lack of embellishment, they become ubiquitous, and therefore, relatable.
We can look at “Untitled” on multiple sensory levels, its visual and sensory experience, but more importantly, we must look at its latent effect, which, like the aftertaste of sugar, an undertone, its meaning, is what truly stays. The title suggests a dedication - it is a “Portrait” of Ross Laycock, Gonzales-Torres’ partner who died of AIDS in 1991. The pile of candy, weighed each day to equal 175 pounds - “corresponding to Ross’ ideal body weight” (Art Institute of Chicago). It is replenished daily, as if to be born again. It is evident that the work is one of deep intimacy and devotion. In various interviews and reviews, Gonzales-Torres is quoted that “his primary audience was his lover, Ross” (Storr, Queer Cultural Center). Effectively, then, in our experience of the shining pile of candy, of its beauty, impermanence, and its lingering taste, we question our own experience beyond the sensory. Gonzales-Torres’ work “was always motivated by his fervent desire for dialogue and community” (Carnegie International). The work raises many questions, which often contradict one another. If this is a portrait, which we then consume, do we not, in essence contribute to the ultimate end? Or does the artist simply seek to share his love with the rest of the world? What does it mean to take in another person, a stranger, into your self? Who is your own Ross?
“Untitled” is a work of art that can be analyzed on its own accord, but is much more powerful, in the larger context of Gonzales-Torres’ ouvre. His works “combine the impulses of Conceptual art, minimalism, political activism and a chance to produce a number of ‘democratic artworks’” (Queer Cultural Center). He has also exhibited other piles of replenishable items including candy such as in “Untitled (Placebo)” as a more direct commentary on the AIDS epidemic that claimed his lover, as well as his own life in 1996.
The Art Institute of Chicago. Collections. About this Artwork.
Carnegie International. “Artists: Felix Gonzales-Torres.”
Queer Cultural Center. Felix Gonzales-Torres.
Storr, Robert. Interview with Felix Gonzales-Torres.
Good looking people get paid more, do less jail time and have more sex than ugly people, and beautiful people get all that but even more so, and if you try to say ugly people don’t exist because ‘everyone is beautiful’ I’d ask you to take it up with Sartre (were he not dead), who not only believed in ugliness as a definite trait but attributed much of his philosophy to his own lazy-eyed, freakshow face and near midget status yet still managed to date feminist icon and all-around social theory genius (and sometime lesbian pedophile) Simone de Beauvoir for years and years and years, not to mention blow minds on the daily, even now, 30 odd years after his death.
There are worse things in the world than being ugly, and most of the great minds of every generation got their thinking and writing done because they weren’t beautiful enough to waste their nights having meaningless sex with other gorgeous layabouts. Very few, if any, renowned scientists or philosophers were beautiful.
All people are somewhat interesting, and most of us have rich and varied intellectual lives or great stores of compassion or other attributes that, once discovered, can make us very wonderful and occasionally beautiful to those who know us, but some people are just plain beautiful, physically, in the fucking face, and that is neither a good nor a bad thing (although studies show it’s usually good for them). It’s just a fact.
(More to read when you click the link above)
I’ve been having this conversation with someone recently, and it’s gotten me thinking about what it means to be beautiful, attractive, or ugly. We can all say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and perhaps this is true in the deepest, truest extent. But here’s my theory, which I was explaining to a friend last night:
We create our own worlds, and we create this one too. Our minds and selves are universes trapped in physical form. Where does a thought go when you forget it, but somewhere in the wide black space of your own existence?
But we have also all corroborated on creating this physical manifestation of a world we live in. The rules of physics exist because someone thought it, and we have all since agreed upon its reality. This goes for everything, even beauty. There are standards of beauty, which may change from generation to generation, but the concept of it remains the same. And it is why, as linked text mentions, beautiful people receive more privilege. They fit certain standards to which we ourselves have subscribed.
So what happens when you don’t fit these standards of beauty? I would consider myself a fine example for this. I’m short, bald, and I am not an owner of six-pack abs. I do not fit the criteria for what the Western world considers as objectively beautiful - and here we can also agree that different cultures have different standards as well. But in this increasingly globalized world, the Western standards seem to be winning out. However, I’ve learned to love myself regardless. I’ve learned to cultivate other qualities that make me a good, interesting, and perhaps somewhat attractive person.
Something that used to frustrate me as a gay man is how shallow of a culture “the Gays” seem. It always comes down to looks and to another degree, race. Years ago, while browsing through Craigslist personals, or on Adam4Adam, I would lose count of how many times I would read “no fems, fatties or Asians” or something to that degree. Do you know how demoralizing that is? Of course you can brush it away and simply say, “Wow, what an asshole.” But it doesn’t erase the fact of its existence. To be told that you are unwanted cuts to deep degrees, and makes you question yourself, no matter how much you’ve built yourself up. The ego will take a fall.
So is there a solution to this? Depends on what the problem is. For me, the issue was that I felt like a powerful, beautiful, interesting person inside, only limited by this body I was born in. What I’ve done is try to stay true to myself, find people who are willing to corroborate with me in creating a world in which our inner selves speak more to our beauty as humans than how we fit certain criteria, forced upon us by the masses, and to which we, as I’ve mentioned, have subscribed, as well. Unsubscribe! Write your own standards of beauty. Live your own reality. When you can believe in your own truth, it translates to how you operate in the larger sphere, and people take notice. I’m living this philosophy daily.
An excerpt of Malia Jensen’s Salty.
from member, mgallagher713:
“Having a military that discriminates against a portion of our population for no reason is a civil rights issue that effects everyone. It speaks to the value that our society places on individuals and how a person’s sexual orientation effects that value.
People in the armed forces were against allowing African Americans to serve equally the military. Some well-meaning people were afraid for their safety if they were allowed in as equals. We desegregated the military, not to make our soldiers happy, but to promote equality based on the belief that everyone should be allowed to serve their country.
And by the by, the way we get the world we have to be closer to the world we want, is by pushing for the changes that we want to see.”
WOOOHOOO! Privilege Denying Dude is back! With a brand new look!
I was really sad to hear about how Privilege Denying Dude was killed because of the model’s complaints, or possibly because of some conflict with iStock. Either way, the moral is: don’t mess with white dudes. They’ll send you a Cease & Desist. Or delete your Tumblr blog.
Anyhow, I read comments on several blogs (namely Tiger Beatdown and Jezebel) asking for some willing feminist dude to stand up and volunteer to be the new Privilege Denying Dude. To this end, I humbly submit that I, one of the most privileged members of society, might be that face you are looking for.
I snapped a shot of my most smug face, and recreated a few of my favorite Privilege Denying Dudes, as seen below.
Also, at the top is a downloadable template, so you ladies and gentlemen can run wild with it should you see fit.
Note: I do not endorse the words of Privilege Denying Dude in any way. A long time ago in a land far away, I was that dude. Sometimes arguing with said Dudes can be a terribly frustrating experience, and the only thing a sane person is left with is the ability to throw their hands in the air and laugh. Since I’m a cis-gendered, white, heterosexual male, I don’t really think I’m very qualified to jump into the “feminist conversation” proper, so instead, I offer my support for the cause, and my smug face for a good laugh.
Another Note: For those who don’t know about Privilege Denying Dude, please refer to this wonderful article. For those looking for information about why Privilege Denying Dude is so funny, or more about feminism in general, I highly suggest the following blogs: Pandagon, Tiger Beatdown, and Feministing.
Philippine Pride, an ongoing discussion
This is one of the topics I’d like to start addressing on this blog, as it is deeply important to me. I am a Filipino, born and raised there for the first 10 years of my life. When I left, I thought I was leaving forever, that I would become “American” in every way. But some things do not leave you, and the culture I thought I abandoned has remained with me throughout my life, and shaped how I think and see myself and others. I am currently living in Spain, a country that once ruled the Philippines for hundreds of years.
Attached is a documentary from Pre-World War II Manila, made during US occupation. It still shows Spanish influence over Philippine culture at that time. Many will say that the Philippines “was once a great country” and it is true. These days, I am ill-informed of the current socioeconomic and political state of my home country, but from what I’ve read recently, the country is still as I left it. Crowded, dirty, impoverished cities, greed and corruption, and on the other end, family-oriented culture, beautiful countryside, welcoming neighbors, a group of people perpetually stuck between the past and the future. Then again, we all are.
Here is a comment from one of the viewers, written in Spanish. It mentions one of Spain’s lasting legacies on the Philippine culture is free education, something we still value to the highest esteem.
Antes que los americanos, los Españoles ya habían proporcionado educación gratuita a todos los filipinos desde 1863.
Antes ya lo habían hecho los Jesuitas, quienes fundaron las Universidades mas antiguas de toda Asia, Santo Tomas en Manila y San Carlos en Cebu. Mas antiguas incluso que Harvard University, que es considerada la universidad mas antigua de los Estados Unidos.
Según el censo militar americano de 1901, el 45% de los Filipinos hablaba español como primera lengua
(to be continued)