On Knowing and Apocalyptic Stupidity

I realized that the topic I am currently most interested in is very topical. It is a question about hands on knowing versus book learned knowing. Many of Trump’s cabinet picks lack specific knowing of their upcoming job. For instance, Betsy DeVos has no classroom training. She has no specific degree involving education, she has a bachelor’s in business admin and political science. The difference with her might be that she is an administrator yet lacking classroom experience would suggest a lack of specific, and necessary knowledge her upcoming position. She has no experience with knowledge associated with the job. 
 
This lack of knowing appears to be the conceptual premise behind Trump’s choices. Trump’s choices are unskilled knowers. For Trump, the concept must be that their business background provides all they need to know. Or perhaps Trump’s confidence lies in his choices’ lack of cultivated knowing which would grant them some kind of child-like or neutral, outsider perspective.
 
This is a subject that interests me because I am curious about whether or not an artist truly needs training. Should artists read and research? Or should artists just approach the subject with a lack of knowing in order to bring their “maverick,” or outsider perspective? If I want to make an truly interesting painting, should I make but one? Should I just approach the painting with blunt ignorance trusting in the power of chance and luck?
Regarding education, it seems doubtful that a lack of hands on training would be a boon. I know that from experience while trying to teach linear perspective. When I taught my first drawing class I was at a loss of how best to elucidate linear perspective in the form of language. I could show how to do it by drawing on their drawing or by doing a demonstration, but the complexities of transferring an inborn knowing via language was beyond my understanding. I have the capability to just see and then draw, so I don’t really use linear perspective except to just check things after the fact.
Now I have more experience and I know how better to discuss linear perspective. It is still difficult to teach but my experience has led to more successful methods in teaching. For instance I show them videos, discuss specific experiential knowledge, and I give them demonstrations.
So on one hand this is a post about the fitness of Trump’s pics but on the other hand it is also a question about the crux of how we can know and what might be the most beneficial methods to know. It follows that knowing by doing and researching other peoples’ attempts at knowing would produce a more complete knowledge of a subject. The presence of Trump’s Gaggle of Ignorants suggests a potential zeitgeist of some kind of confidence in a lack of knowledge. Or perhaps it is a fear of knowledge. Or perhaps a fear of what knowledge does.
This is a topic I will continue exploring in the classroom, at the easel, and in upcoming workshops. The next workshop is a Joke Workshop wherein I will observe the logistics of designing comedy.
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Experiments in Pedagogy

I am doing a residency at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA. I will be doing several projects while here. The crux of each project pivots around learning. I learn from painting. I find that many lessons learned from painting have parallels in other disciplines.

I also teach Drawing and Design at Northern Virginia Community College. I am deeply invested in learning not only as some kind of day job, but as a world view. My “practice” as an artist revolves around the complexities of learning. To further this practice I am interested in exploring some questions that have arisen while painting and while in the classroom.

I wanted to do some experimental learning workshops and this studio, and the large Old Town tourist audience affords a great opportunity for me to dig into these ideas.

I am doing at least three such workshops. The first is a Skill Exchange.

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Skill Exchange

January 28, 2017 1-2pm (After the first workshop, I have decided to make the Skill Exchange a regular thing every Saturday, 1-2pm.

Participants are invited to collaborate in an experimental learning experience. Participants are asked to consider a skill or knowledge they believe they can teach in no more than two hours. Participants should consider the amount of space and time when conceiving of their skill. If the skill requires an unwieldy teaching reference, then participants should consider if a text or computer would be a functional representation. For instance, someone might want to teach how to skin a deer. This situation would be non-functional for the Torpedo Factory setting, however a text or youtube video could be a functional teaching tool.

Any skill or knowledge would be welcome. Possible skills might be include, but not be limited to: how to tie knots, how to choose a good avocado, the history of Pythagorean theorem, how to draw an orange, how to construct a model B-29, how to juggle, how to tie a cherry stem in one’s mouth, a pneumonic device to help remember every President of the USA, how to beatbox, how to tie an eldredge knot tie, how to calculate odds for horse racing, how to speed read, how to recognize Iambic Pentameter, how to interview well, or how to take good photos.

Joke Workshop

February 9, 2017 6-8pm

Participants are invited to bring their unfinished jokes, jokes where they have forgot the punchline, or where they only have a punchline. Then participants will try to work out how to finish the jokes.

There is a strange thing that happens when a person becomes an artist, they begin to see the potential for art in any situation. It might come from many hours looking at a thing and drawing it. I wonder if comedians have similar experiences. Do comedians see potential for humor in any situation?

How to Build a Boat When No One Knows How to Build a Boat

March 9, 2017 6-8pm

Participants are invited to engage in an experimental learning process wherein no participant has specific knowledge on the subject. Participants will assist in creating a model boat that will be launched on the Potomac River. Materials will be provided.

I want to examine the relationship between learner and teacher. I want to examine the situation of learning when the teacher is seen less as an authority regarding the subject, and more as an ally who is also learning the subject along with the student. The approach is an attempt at a more symmetrical method for learning. This process can place both learner and teacher into a single category called co-learner. The hope is that co-learners will gain agency over the learning process itself and through this agency co-learners will be more engaged with the subject.

See more at:

http://torpedofactory.org

 

 

Diamonds in the Rough and Their Discontents

“Overall it is bad, but each painting is good.”

I just muttered that to myself. This painting will likely not be too great. It is patchwork, differing in approach in singular spaces. It has differing tones, differing values, differing form overall. In essence it will likely fail the unity component of design. It will contain variety, but too much. That lack of balance might make it stumble. Though it is being made by one person, and that person is using their general approach to painting, that does not seem to push the thing towards an overall balance between unity and variety.

This issue has occurred with previous paintings. When I have used this stretch/re-stretch method, the paintings have been disjointed or randomly generated.

 

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The overall compositions are generated mechanically, yet jumbled together. I rinse and repeat the square and rectangle stretcher, which maintains a sort of mechanized distance. Akin to Jean Arp’s torn paper and gravity combo generated compositions.

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Untitled (Collage with Squares Arranged according to the Laws of Chance)

By dropping and glueing he could step back from the urge to design. This occurred with Jackson Pollock drawing with drips. Letting physics make the painting.

So this process is akin yet curated. The issue is, is the overall work good? There are great individual paintings within the overall piece, but the greater painting together might be a train wreck. The following are paintings within the overall painting that I think are functional:

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The question is, why are these working and why would I think the overall is not? Because the overall is Jean Arping and the singular paintings are curating. Goodness is also occurring because the individual paintings are being made in ways I would not normally work. I wouldn’t normally make paintings like these. There are definitely recognizable Jay gestures present, but many are occurring purely due to the process.

Something to take from this is an analysis of my own judgements about painting. What is this urge towards design? Why must the painting be designed well? Why be concerned with a finished goodness?

 

Befuddlement, Labor, and Collaboration

Blogging about this process is difficult because there are ten trillion potential elaborations to elucidate. There are many things occurring in the studio and they all want attention.

On Homogeneity and Heterogeneity

The long, stretch/re-stretch process seems to want most of the attention. This process is a nomad, dragging me along. All the paintings interact with each other. A painter might have a career wherein each painting leads to the other. An idea occurs that leads to a new idea, and on and on. This process is similar but it is all happening at once and in one painting. Maybe time is conflated with this project.

All the paintings are touching each other. The stretcher is an artificial framing device to set up a singular working space, but the old paintings are still present. The history of the making is present with each painting because each “new” painting literally contains old paintings.

The painting (pictured below) is emblematic of this process. There are five previous paintings present. The top left corner, the violet one on the left, the one with red stripes, the one with the large pink portion, and the lattice green grid. All of those paintings interacting with the un-painted canvas. There are drips but it is alone and I need to find ways to deal with this mess.

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detail of a work in progress

On Labor

There is also a question of labor. How much is enough? How much time spent makes a thing good. In the past, I have made very simple paintings. Single gestures. The idea might be that the simple painting could be good if that singular gesture can hold the viewer. If it has conflict. It if it dramatic enough. If it has unity and variety. The whole potential for how we might assess “goodness.” So with a “simple” painting the labor portion might occur before and after its making. The painter, with years of study, approaches the canvas, makes the singular gesture, then walks away. In its simplicity it is vulnerable. Perhaps empathy can be extracted from that moment. A little breath.

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Untitled, 2013, acrylic, graphite, and oil on wood, 6×6″

But the “goodness,” might occur in the long making. One-hundred hours on a painting. If a viewer sees Linn Meyers’ work at the Hirshhorn that viewer can discern that labor occurred. Time spent in making. Time spent might tend towards goodness.

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Linn Meyers, Our View From Here, photo by Jay Hendrick

I wonder if time spent equals goodness. That can’t be true. There has to be something in between the time spent. There has to be effort in the labor.

That is a concept that frustrates with this current painting. It has a certain momentum. It might just be a deadline, but this painting has an urgency. I want to make it. I want, not to finish it, but to maintain the erratic learning that is occurring. The painting is a conundrum – unstable and frustrating.

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It is further frustrating because I wonder how much work I should do for each painting. How much labor should go into each painting that will create the whole painting? My approach has been to make each painting good, as if it could be good on its own. That’s when I un-stretch then re-stretch. But none of them are ever truly separate form each other. It is artificial to think of them as separate.

On Collaboration

I have had several artists to visit the studio at VisArts. There have been painting exchanges  and discussions of where to go next. What I had hoped would occur has been occurring: I am learning from other people. It is very easy to become engaged in one’s own work. This process is disruptive, perhaps as much as the stretching/re-stretching.

I have made a few attempts at working with other people’s paintings. Becca Kallem’s painting has been leafed. Becca is interested in art history. It is present in her work. For me, I keep those things between my teeth, near the gums but this collaboration is bringing them to the fore, causing me to address my influences.

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Becca Kallem and Jay Hendrick, Greco (pink tag), 2016, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 30×27″

This pink painting is interesting. Becca told me she was working with El Greco, The Burial of Count Orgasz, for this particular painting. The triangles present in that work by “the Greek.” The triangle occurs often with Becca. The triangle might be taken as canonical when thinking about Becca’s work. And it reminded me of my art history courses. My professors pointedly speaking about the presence of triangles in the composition.

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El Greco, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, 1588, oil on canvas, 480 × 360 cm

This discussion bred new things in my own work. The appearance of the triangle.

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detail of a singular painting among many paintings within an unfinished work

This art historical quotation continued in the collaboration between Becca and myself. When I first began making paintings, the tradition of Byzantine icon painting became important as an inquiry and as a vocabulary in painting. There was a structure and methodology to making those paintings

This thinking has been borrowed by me and carried forward, put through many filters and come out the other end for me as a sort of signifier. I use burnt sienna. Not because it is yet another color, but because it links back to that icon painting, to the methods of my canonical lineage. Becca’s paintings made me think about those art historical influence and a tiny fleck of gold leaf on her painting was like a canonical lightning bolt. To leaf her painting would bring up her brush work yet it would also push everything back. The leaf would tug back to that icon painting, and to the lack of icons in my own protestant church upbringing.

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unfinished collaboration between Becca Kallem and Jay Hendrick, 2016, gold leaf, acrylic, and oil on canvas, 29×16″

This collaboration has me thinking of canon and I must address that canon of art. This project is working within that vein. I am wanting to collaborate with these people because they are themselves canonical to me. They represent different approaches to painting. They are now-ness. Living future subjects of art history. Somewhere within the local quotations is something good.

I have also begun a collaboration between Kathryn McDonnell. We exchanged paintings and she wants to try this stretching and re-stretching method.

http://kathrynmcdonnell.com

Linn Meyers: Our View From Here

 

Drips Drip

This painting project is pushing me around. I guess that’s what we want with painting. To be shoved down the stairs, launched from the cliff, sucker-punched with the unexpected. Therein will be the situation where learning can take place. Where the painting can become unstable – precipice walking. Wherein the painter can become vulnerable and thus relate to the viewer. There is something there about knowing, and how to know.

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On one hand, a person could be in an unstable place. “Travel broadens the mind,”is the saying. In that traveling the mind encounters the unexpected and unknown. In that unknown is the moment wherein the traveler can choose to adapt their knowing to the new experience, or disregard the encounter. Disregard the alien and continue with the present knowing. So be shocked and adapt or be shocked and disregard. There is also the knowing that abrades then polishes – shock and study.

Painting can operate in this same way. Josef Albers homage’d to the square over a thousand times. Over twenty-five years inquiring after color through the limited variable of a singular composition. Peter Dreher painted (kind of) the same painting for decades. So maybe Albers and Dreher were polishing their knowing of a thing. They had a subject and worried it for decades. They knew what they would be doing within a limited set of variables. They had to show up and work.

There are other approaches wherein art creates complete instability in the making and receiving. Many artists’ work is oppositional, retributive, and especially abrasively challenging. In that abrasion in the possibility to learn, or to disregard.

This project is pushing me to learn. Firstly there is the long painting that drips on itself. Secondly there is the collaborative component of this project wherein I paint on other peoples’ paintings. It has all been disruptive.

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Painting Painting at Both Ends, acrylic on canvas in progress, 60×21

This Painting Painting at Both Ends, has a wholly unexpected compositional gravity. Wherein I previously obsessed over the self-organizing system of the grid, this particular approach spins that fractally, looping, ouroborosian self-organizing method upon its head. The drips drip. They do follow gravity but the paintings are hung in wacky ways. They are all hung on the wall via hanging wires, but the entire painting is weighty, so each stretching causes drips in many directions.

Further, the knowing that the entirety of the painting will be interacting with each stretching causes each painting to occur in a non-standard Jay method of work. I know that each painting need not be the pinnacle of making. I also know that much of the paintings will be covered up by future paintings. I know that each painting will not be singularly alone. It will have many neighbors. The composition is legion.

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detail of the larger painting. Half of this has now been covered. Further, this painting will continue to be dripped upon, just like the rest of the work.

The collaborative portion continues. Mei Mei Chang visited today and I handed off a painting.

See more of Mei Mei Chang’s work at http://meimeichang.tumblr.com

 

An Aimed Shrug

I think everything comes down to knowledge. How to justify knowing and further, how to make choices. These are very frustrating issues for me.

When I was young I had two solid pillars of knowing: the church and the university. I grew up hearing church goers speaking with authority. Truth was present – present in the deity. I also grew up, almost quite literally, in the stacks of a university library. My mother was a librarian and so my babysitters were the books, college students, professors, and other librarians.

Professors always awed me. Professors always seemed to have justifiable answers to difficult questions and it was professors whom society always sought when faced with unknowables. The university was the place wherein knowledge was arbitrated.

As I grew older I began to see an erosion of my confidence in these knowers. Church and university represented knowledge but were just as prone to error yet I saw, and have continued to see, a fear of and inability to admit this potential error. And quite often I have seen fear replace knowing. So if authoritative knowers set aside knowing for the sake of their own fears, then knowing itself becomes problematic. Knowledge becomes uncertain. And the knowledge that led to that realization is itself uncertain. And thus knowledge, in all forms, appears to become unjustifiable. And in this situation is thrust a person who needs to choose – a person who needs to make value judgements. But the value judgements are questionable because the thing that precedes the judgement is the knowledge, and if that knowledge is unjustifiable, then making choices, about anything, is problematic. And in this situation I shrug. An epistemic shrug.

Because it does not seem as if I can trust anyone. Not my parents. Not my pastors. And especially, not my teachers.

This is why I paint. This unjustifiable situation. The painting is that epistemic shrug. There are many ways to make paintings, but none seem better than others. The variables are endless, like axiological choice in daily life. There are many ways to paint, and many ways to live.

This is a major component of why I am making this Painting Painting at Both Ends. Each painting is yet another attempt at knowing – an attempt at making a judgement. Yet continuously the attempt is yet another shrug. One painting atop the other, wetness touching every attempt. Each painting dripping on formers and latters until the thing is done, stretched, and hung. But until then it is just unity and variety of waking up in the morning.

Maybe the painting is more of a directed shrug. Pointing painting in a direction and depending on the action itself to produce some viable situation.

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Painting Paintings at Both Ends, in progress, acrylic on canvas, dimensions variable currently

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Painting Painting at Both Ends all strung out

This situation of knowledge is also present in the collaborative project I am working on. Each person who contributes is doing whatever they are doing for their own reasons. There is some kind of world view (and thus value judgement) behind each person’s choices to make a painting. This project is attempting to squish those approaches and world views together. Perhaps in their co-mingling will be some knowledge that will satisfy this epistemic shrug.

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unfinished collaborative painting with Becca Kallem and Jay Hendrick, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, dimensions vary

The collaborative component of this project is proving to be vastly difficult. How do I make choices? Should it occur like an exquisite corpse? Should I respond to the previous painting? How can I not?

This collaborative component is a real mystery but I think I will likely learn the most from this portion of the residency.

Also, here are some works on paper.

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talking heads paintings

Playing with Others/ Sharing is Caring/The Unknown :Interlocating the Interlocutor (the many possible titles for this blogpost)

For this residency I proposed two tandem projects – firstly I would continue exploring my “stretch/re-stretch” method of painting. The following is an example of this method. Four  separate paintings to create a single painting. This was a sort of proof of concept that I submitted.

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Four Paintings, One Stretcher, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 29×18″

When I arrived to VisArts, I began making a work I am calling, Painting Paintings at Both Ends (working title). This work is still in progress. This painting is following that stretch/re-stretch method of painting.

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Painting Painting at Both Ends (working title), acrylic on canvas, 60×216″

The second component I proposed for this residency was to enact this “stretch/re-stretch” method with other local painters. A participant makes a painting then un-stetches, then re-stretches into a new register, then the next participant paints as normal – rinse and repeat. I may expand this process into a mail art project in the future, but for now I am specifically interested in exploring local artists of the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area. These are my local peers and my local influences. Locality is a significant component.

The first participant is Becca Kallem. I am interested in Becca’s work because I get a similar sense of a struggle. I can empathize with her paintings. They don’t seem to just occur – there is some hill to climb, or river to ford, or some inexplicable unknown to ponder. Becca’s work is also very diverse. It is observational and representational, even when falling into the category of abstracted.

Becca brought me several of her paintings to work with. This collaboration is beginning with her works, and now I need to respond. She said that some are unfinished or some are not where she wants them to be. They are paintings that might fit well into this project.

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assorted acrylic and oil paintings on canvas made by Becca Kallem

This is a complex proposition. I have begun and I am already seeing a vast gulf of impossibility. If I “just make a painting,” then I think I am making something very formal. As in, it is just paint, it is just design. Becca’s paintings obviously have a context. See the following.

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unfinished Becca Kallem painting, acrylic and spray paint on canvas

This pink painting has tape with the words “Greco (pink tag).” The painting has arcane appearing marks. A sort of greco shield design – the triangle. An aries curling horn. There are significant symbols present. It is a pink philosopher’s stone. There is some kind of alchemy present and I have little access. Sans understanding, how I could I possibly paint on top of this painting? So right off the bat, this project befuddles me. And I feel completely lost. Which I think is what I want with this project. Stay tuned for updates.

See more of Becca’s work at

http://beccakallem.com/home.html

and

http://projectdispatch.virb.com/becca-kallem

and

https://www.arlingtonartscenter.org/resident-artists-aac