Ellsworth Kelly at the Barnes Foundation

Ellsworth Kelly in front of 'Sculpture for a large wall' at the Barnes Foundation. (Emma Lee/Newsworks) One of the best perks about working at a cultural institution like the Barnes Foundation is that occasionally I get to do something really cool. Usually, it’s something like visit the conservation lab to see what masterpiece is being saved from certain doom by the dedicated team of conservators, or listen to a guest lecture for staff only, from scientists who have been studying the pigments Continue reading

Snackaby Reusable Snack Bags (Review/Interview)

 

Snackaby reusable sandwich and snack bags

Snackabies reusable sandwich and snack bags were created by two moms as an alternative to disposable plastic bags. Available on Etsy.

If you’re anything like me, you feel a twinge of guilt every time you reach into that little box for another plastic zipper snack bag. And I usually justify using yet another new plastic bag by telling myself that I’ll rinse it out and reuse it. Even though I hate rinsing and drying them, and I probably only do it less than 10% of the time.  I really do want to do what I can to live a greener life. But the low cost of those little yellow boxes of convenience mean that almost every day I’m adding another piece of plastic to the waste stream that ends in a landfill. But not anymore… Read on for my review of the Snackaby Reusable Sandwich and Snack Bags, and the story of how their creators have more in mind than how to keep your apple slices from browning. Continue reading

How to listen to what a fish is trying to tell you

Last Friday, at approximately 4:27 am, my water heater decided to commit suicide. As luck would have it, I suffer from occasional insomnia and I happened to be wide awake at my desk which is next to the water heater in my loft. So I heard the telltale dripping and investigated before the deluge got to biblical proportions.

Zoe Strauss: 10 Years So, instead of spending a relaxing day immersed in artwork and a visit to the Philadelphia Art Museum to see the new Zoe Strauss exhibit, I toiled away at plumbing. This of course is much harder than it sounds… I had to make room to do the work by removing a huge metal legal-size filing cabinet that weighs about the same as a small Volkswagen even when it is emptied of all the files and drawers. Of course, I had help too. I hired some friends of a neighbor to make the connections, but I had to go and buy the replacement water heater, and somehow get it up to my loft by myself. You should’ve seen me trying to wrestle a 40-gallon water heater up the spiral stairs to my loft.  But I did it. Never underestimate the will of a poor artist who really likes a long soak in a hot tub.

And now, the weekend is over and I can finally take a hot shower again. I still have to dispose of the body, by which I mean the now superfluous old water heater tank. Which again, is much easier said than done. First, there’s the task of lowering the hulking beast to the ground level. The old one is much too big to go down the spiral stairs. I’ve bought some rope and pulleys and I’m going to construct some sort of rudimentary dumb-waiter for the task. But for now, the carcass is sitting between my desk and the new water heater, in place of my filing cabinet. Like a warning to the new recruit: the proverbial head on a spike. Or like the carcass of a giant dead whale…

But that’s not what this post is about… Continue reading

My Experience as a Censored Artist

from "Labels: One Fag Bashes Back"If you browse around the web today, you’re likely to notice something different… blackouts and censored photos in protest of two bills circulating in Congress right now (SOPA and PIPA) that threaten the Internet as we know it. I won’t write about these issues here now (but you can click my “stop censorship” ribbon in the upper right corner for more information).

But thinking about censorship today reminds me of a time when I was a young art student, and one of my art installations was censored by the University I attended. The controversy seemed to consume the student body, and threatened my grades, my reputation, and my personal safety. This post tells the story from my point of view… that of the censored artist. Continue reading

Text in Art (or, What an unwelcome horse taught me about art)

Horse painting © 1997 J. Thomson, all rights reserved

Ever since my early painting classes as an undergraduate in art school, I have been interested in incorporating text in my work. Using text in contemporary artwork is nothing new, and some artists use text exclusively. I’ve been inspired by the works of Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Cy Twombly, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, and the Dada collages of Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, to name a few artists who used text in some of their artworks. I am intrigued by the possibility of adding additional layers of meaning to a piece through the use of text. Such uses have the potential to support the main idea of a piece, or contradict it; either usage is valid. The use of text in visual artwork can also serve to make the piece more accessible to the general public.  I think of it as a way of giving the viewer another handle to hold onto when grappling with the piece.

One of my early painting professors, Erin Palmer, offered a critique of a text painting I made as an undergraduate by asking whether the painting could be successful if the text wasn’t readable (ie, if it were in another language, or if it were illegible text). Continue reading

Thinking big. Adding zeroes.

"blame" from Lorem Ipsum... © 2012 J. Thomson All rights reservedOn the (f)utility of labels in my studio practice

My studio practice differs from that of most artists I know in that I don’t simply go into my studio every day (or even every week) and just paint. And when people I’ve just met ask me what I do, the exchange typically goes like this: “I’m an artist.” “Oh really? What kind of pictures do you paint?” “Well, I do paint sometimes, but not exclusively, and when I do, it’s not usually pictures of anything, because I approach a painting as a three-dimensional object, not an illusion of space…” By this point, the person’s eyes are usually glazing over and darting around the room looking for an excuse to get away. Sometimes to save us both the embarrassment, I’ll simply say that I make abstract paintings (which isn’t really true). The typical response is “oh, that’s nice.” Or maybe, “My aunt was an abstract painter. She killed herself though.” Continue reading

Thanksgiving Isn’t Easy

turkey-and-santa-cartoon-november-my-month Thanksgiving used to be one of my favorite holidays. I can say that because I’m old enough to remember a time when it was a holiday free of commercial excess. Christmas decorations and holiday sales wouldn’t start for another week or so after Thanksgiving. It was just a time for all of the family to gather at my grandparent’s house for great cooking and family togetherness. Continue reading