Friday, January 8, 2016

So what's with all the Kim Gordon?

Reality Check

If I told you how long I've spent writing this blog, you might be surprised. I haven't been punching a clock, but it's definitely been more than three, 4-6 hour blocks. Trouble is, as I write about this stuff, I keep slipping into art speak. Making connections as if I had executed a well thought out plan, which it is not. Using big words. Stroking my brilliant ego. SAIC style. Then, as I look back on hours of writing and rewriting I think to myself, "This has morphed into something that isn't true. It sounds good and make sense, but it's not how it all went down." This very tendency to change, accentuate, and glorify what is speaks directly to the subject at hand.

Getting On With It Already

5 color screenprinted poster of Kim Gordon

Maybe you've seen this image or another iteration around Chicago over the past several months. The woman from the original image is Kim Gordon, bassist for the band Sonic Youth. My use of this image began with an invite to come up with a portrait of an iconic female in music to benefit Girls Rock! Chicago.

Quick Story

I met Tracy Lemieux in the basement of the Kinko's on Lasalle by the board of trade. I was 2nd shift production and she took over on third shift. She was in a band (Silverado) with her best friend Angenette on drums, and some dude they found in the Reader on bass. 

I loved their music and went to all their shows. The dude wasn't about the band like they were. I used to like to jump on stage with them and when they complained about homeboy I was like, "well, get a friend to play bass then." Before too long, they handed me a blue pawn shop Ibanez bass and invited me to play with them. Oh shit. I'd never touched a guitar before in my life.

back cover, Silverado 7"
Teaching myself to play and learning the songs, I had yet to play out when Silverado was asked to open for a sold out Local H show at the Metro. This speaks to how good these ladies were and what kind of work they'd already put in. The Metro ended up being the 3rd live show I ever played. 

We played around Chicago a bunch and even toured the midwest. As much as I loved music and Silverado, I was terrified and self conscious each and every time I got on stage. Really bad. But I did it each and every show. I did it and lived. I did it and messed up on stage and still lived. I did it and kicked ass and lived all the same.

The Takeaway

One may think it brave or confident to embark on such an adventure. Truth is, the confidence Tracy and Angenette had in me carried me as I slowly developed my own. Now that I'm in a better position, I can support kids with opportunity and confidence. Organizations like GR!C can funnel this intention with that of others to reach a heck of a lot more kids. Not all will get out of music what I did, but at the very least some will. Some may go on to change music as brilliantly as Sonic Youth.

That Look

Photo by Pat Blashill, 1986
Let's look at the original photograph. What most attracted me to this image in particular is Kim's expression. Focused, intent, seemingly detached from the world but connected to the music. I see this look often in artists doing their thing. You know the word presence? That's what I think is happening here. It happens most identifiably when someone is doing what they love, something that uses their mind, body, and spirit. No past or future. No mind chatter. I don't mean to make it sound like some enlightened meditative state, if I am. It simply is.

I think Tracy was probably the first artist I ever knew in real life. She got this look when she played and I'd never seen it so close up. Ultimately, I realized that I was not feeling what she was feeling. There was innate and critical difference between she and I when it came to music. Music was breathing for her.

A Closer Look

I'm intrigued by presence. I want it. Oops. I didn't just say that. It can happen when I'm printing, but it happens more when I'm painting. It's easy to go on autopilot once I'm set up to print. The repetitive process opens my mind for chit chat. Creating a painted original requires focus that leads to presence. I felt it important to put a lot of time, effort, and yep, presence into creating this original.

7' painting = lots of present moments

A Different Look

Context changes meaning. Thusly, repetition can deepen contextual circumstance. I'm interested in what happens to meaning when the location changes. Size. Stylistic approach. When I talk about meaning, I'm not necessarily speaking to big heady ideas and philosophies, either.

Meaning can reference the purpose of a piece in the company of others.
At Renegade Craft Fair
Meaning can be derived in the personalization of hanging a piece in your home.
In the home of a GR!C supporter.
Meaning can be an observation or fleeting thought as you walk by.
Chicago's West Loop
Small or big, color or black and white, night or day can all affect a viewer's perception of an image.

That which surrounds and image can influence meaning.

And how might meaning change when a viewer actually knows the conceptual background of a piece?

After finally getting this written honestly, I have a lot of questions about what exactly I'm trying to achieve. Why am I doing this? I believe the image and it's creation has strong roots, but use of the image seems to dissipate arbitrarily. It seems to lose any clarity of meaning. Instead of observing and speculating on how meaning can change, a more purposeful strategy will likely result in more definitive conclusions. 

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