September 2008


John Guliak & Band

John Guliak & Band

John Guliak is represented by Mint Records.  The bio that follows was taken from his page on their website:  

John had been a part of the “Prairie Folk Scene” most of his musical career, and after a five-year stint living in Vancouver, home to Mint Records, he returned to the Prairies where he is continuing to created his richly compelling cracked-leather country.

John’s music comes from a unique place, both physical and psychological. Much like his debut album, The Black Monk7 Stories and 13 Songs reflects the poetic and political observations John has made while living in various locales across Canada. These experiences are portrayed through songs that lament the displacement of our rural populations to the inner cities of our major metropolitan areas while celebrating the cultures that persevere.


CLICK HERE FOR MP3: John Guliak – “Easy To Fail”


Other places to find John’s music are CBC Radio 3 and his page on My Space.

In this YouTube video, Quinn Jacobson demonstrates the proper technique for protecting a collodion emulsion with a varnish consisting of gum sandarac, alcohol and oil of lavender.  If you watched the Sally Mann video (two posts back), you saw her scraping a collodion emulsion from one of her glass plates in the field.  Perhaps an initial pour did not go well and she wanted to recoat the plate; or she was not completely satisfied with an image and wanted to start over.  Collodion can be easily removed from an unvarnished plate.  Left unprotected, the emulsion will eventually begin to peel off and may completely disintegrate.  Varnishing is simply a way of ensuring the archival quality of the plate.    


Flux Factory is a non-profit organization in Long Island City (Queens), which produces some very interesting collaborative projects.  Living Room is the latest and opens next week in locations across New York City.  From the press release:



Flux Factory has invited ten artists to transform strangers’ homes into sites for interactive works. Domestic or historic locations throughout New York City will become arenas for exploring what it means to inhabit a space, to make it one’s own. In conjunction with openhousenewyork, “Living Room” locations range from private living rooms to historical sites throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.

Explore a wall of secrets, a room-cum-optical-device, and go rooftop camping, and other exciting projects!

“Living Room” is a continuation of Flux Factory’s interest in the urban experience, in New York history, and in the overlap between private and public space. As a live/work collective, we are fascinated by what it means to make a space one’s own. While satisfying our voyeur desires, this project is also an opportunity for the public to peek into private sites normally off limits.

Works will be on view throughout the 6th Annual OHNY Weekend on October 4 & 5, 2008 from 11:00 – 6:00 unless otherwise noted.

A free, 20 person shuttle will leave the Center for Architecture on Saturday and Sunday at 12pm to transport visitors to the sites.
Please email to RSVP for the bus tour.

openhousenewyork is a non-profit organization celebrating New York City’s architecture and design, culminating in America’s largest event of its kind, the annual OHNY Weekend.

Participating Artists: Emily Clark, Rodney Dickson, Kim Holleman, Prem Krishnamurthy, John Monteith, Jo Q. Nelson, Trong Gia Nguyen, Douglas Paulson, Tattfoo Tan, Lauren Wilcox

Curated by Chen Tamir

For more info and to view artist maps, go to: Flux Factory


Emily Clark
Teacher’s Lounge at P35M–Manhattan High School
317 W. 52nd Street between 9th and 10th Aves, Hell’s Kitchen
In the mind of every kid in school is a secret place sparking rumors and gossip. Clark has turned the abandoned teacher’s lounge at P35M into a functioning one, playing on the tropes of its assumed uses: relaxation, anger, frustration, gossip, lunchtime, union meetings, refrigerators, and (at one time) smoking.

Rodney Dickson
Romper Room
Public Toilets, 2nd floor of the Crane Street Studios, 46-23 Crane Street, LIC, Queens
Romper Room evokes a torture chamber, in which victims are held hostage, tortured, interrogated, and often brutally killed. This work alludes also to methods of interrogation currently used by the US government in the War on Terror. The title was taken from a popular children’s’ TV program in Northern Ireland during the 1970s, which terrorists adopted as a name for a room in which they tortured and executed victims during the worst days of conflict in Ireland.

Prem Krishnamurthy
Berlin/New York
772 Washington Ave, Apt #2, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
This projected slide installation concerns doppelganger cities, parallel interiors, and the unreliability of travel narrative.

John Monteith
Hide and Go Seek
The Arsenal, 830 Fifth Ave/ E 64th St, New York (Entrance on Central Park)
Sat – Sun, 2:45 pm
Participants will play “Hide and Go Seek” as a way of exploring the Arsenal and experimenting in new social settings. To participate, please RSVP to John Monteith at

Jo Q. Nelson
38-09 43rd Ave 3rd Floor, Sunnyside, Queens
Softbox is a completely malleable space where rooms are on wheels and entire environments can be changed around. The flexibility of this live/work warehouse space is due to its role as a testing ground for sculptural and interior architecture projects by Nelson and visiting artists. Focused on “hosting,” Softbox is both a laboratory and a social space where interactive programming takes place including screenings and performances. This will be its inaugural open house.

Trong Gia Nguyen
“The DUMBO Debates”
(formerly known as “A View to a Thrill”)

Barrack Obama and John McCain spend a weekend together on a secret
roof deck Garden of Eden in DUMBO. They talk taboo politics, drink
Bloody Marys, eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and
leave all inhibitions behind.

Douglas Paulson
Urban Examination Initiative, Roofs Department
Locations TBA
Saturday night
This project is an open invitation to engage the city and OHNY from the outside. You are invited to join a group that will travel through sites by day, and camp on a rooftop by night. Participants are invited to join or leave at anytime. For more information and to RSVP to this urban adventure please RSVP to

Tattfoo Tan
Open Secret
393 17th Street #2A, Brooklyn
Open Secret is an intervention between the artist, Tattfoo Tan, a home owner, and the public. Open Secret investigates the junction between private and public by using invisible paint and black lights to reveal secrets in the privacy of a home.

Lauren Wilcox
An Instrument for Viewing the Contents of a Room
213 Montrose Apt 2 (2nd floor) Brooklyn, 11206 (Crossstreet Bushwick Ave.)
Sat 11 am – 6 pm, Sun 11 – 4pm
To paint perspective during the Renaissance artists used Alberti’s Grid, a device which projects a scene onto a flat screen. This installation is a version of that device, a box that captures a room’s elements, both actual and unseen, and translates them, inside, into objects both literal and abstract.

Kim Holleman
Trailer Park
Foley Square Sat and Sun: 10-8pm
This mobile living park, converted from a 14′ x 8′ x 7′ standard aluminum trailer, is an oasis surrounded by the bustling sights and sounds of the city.
“Living Room” is made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and Queens Council on the Arts,
as well as generous support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and Carnegie Corporation of New York.

For further information:
Phone: 718-707-3362


Among wet plate photographers today, there is perhaps no greater lightning rod for aesthetic and technical debate than Sally Mann.  Purists in the medium will tell you that her work is not up to par and is terribly flawed.  Others will say that she is a true artist, who willingly sacrifices some technical precision for the sake of her personal expression – what Mann calls “transformative accidents” that occur on the surface of her plates.  Although in this video, Mann refers to the work of early wet plate photographers as perfect, I strongly disagree.  One need only look at peeling emulsions and comets (black specs due to contaminated chemistry) from plates made in the mid-1800s to assess that accidents have always been part of the process.  The collodion medium is fragile and inherently flawed.  Sally Mann uses the flaws to her advantage, which tips my hand that I think she is an artist.


Great Aunt Gertrude by Maureen Duncan (6 x 6 India Ink on Embossed Aluminum)

Great Aunt Gertrude by Maureen Duncan (6 x 6, India Ink on Embossed Aluminum)


Maureen Duncan, a classmate of mine from the Parsons MFA Photography program, has work in Strange Figurations, a group show on exhibit through September 27th at Limner Gallery in Hudson, NY.  I haven’t seen this show yet, but came across it in looking up galleries in the Hudson River valley.  Congrats, Maureen!


Greenfield Main

Greenfield Main


Since writing about Tennessee Twin last week, I’ve decided to make a music post a regular part of this blog each week. Another of my favorite bands – which I also discovered through CBC Radio 3 Podcast – is Greenfield Main based in Ottawa, Canada.  Their primary influences were originally gospel and rockabilly.  They are represented by Kelp Records who sum them up this way:  “…the band now makes two distinctive sounds, playing equal parts oldtime truckin’ redneck country, and autumnal porch Appalachia drenched in harmonies.”  


Click Here for MP3: Greenfield Main – “Red River Valley”



From The Kelp Records Website



Originally conceived as a country recording outlet for Rhume’s Jon Bartlett, Greenfield Main took on a life of its own shortly after the release of 2000’s Hunting Tips for Everyone. A band formed to play out the CD’s songs, and has evolved to include John Higney (Two Minute Miracles, Adam West), Rolf Klausener (The Acorn, Recoilers) and Jon Lomow (Recoilers). Hunting Tips for Everyone was chosen by Exclaim! magazine as the #9 record of 2001 in the category of Country/Folk/Blues, cementing the band’s reputation as a new northern country-rock force to be reckoned with.

October 2004 saw the release of Barnburners & Heartchurners, a somewhat darker and punchier entrée steeped in country, blues and rock tradition. It’s an oft-sordid affair that is able to switch gears from trucker filth (“Matilda”, “Wait on Me”) to porch folk (“Formaldehyde”, “Have Mercy”) with lots of stops in between, loaded with memories of Bartlett’s New Brunswick years, lost loved ones, and the Lord. It has also been received with accolades; Exclaim! picked it as the #7 Country/Folk/Blues record of 2004 and was the most played record on CKCU during the year.

Taking cues from Lee Hazlewood, Gram Parsons (particularly his work with the International Submarine Band), the Louvin Brothers and new traditionalists such as Gillian Welch, Greenfield Main have graduated from their comedic beginnings and have proven that their country roots are well-intended and not a novelty act. Live, the band now makes two distinctive sounds, playing equal parts oldtime truckin’ redneck country, and autumnal porch Appalachia drenched in harmonies.


Ambrotype by Bryan Hiott (2007)

Ambrotype by Bryan Hiott (2007)


This is a 1/2 plate ambrotype I made last fall in the Center For Alternative Photography Workshop, which was led by Eric Taubman and assisted by Keliy Anderston-Staley.  After shooting a few portraits, during the first day of the workshop, I moved outside and worked for a while.  

Visible on this ambrotype are what is known as “lines of pouring,” ridges that form as the collodion is flowed onto the plate and begins to dry.  As this was one of my first ambrotypes, I wasn’t in the habit of rocking the plate or tapping it gently as I poured off the excess collodion.  In later plates, I had the technique down and was able to avoid these lines forming.  Quinn Jacobson demonstrates proper pouring of collodion in the YouTube video below.

The Center for Alternative Photography has examples of images from their previous workshops on the alumnae gallery.  One of my images from Eric’s workshop is included on that page.


Historical Comparison of Glass Plate Lines of Flow



Above:  1865 view of Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee River near Savannah, Georgia (half of a glass-plate stereograph by Samuel Cooley).  Below:  detailed section of Cooley’s image with lines of flow from his plate plainly visible – similar to those on my CAP Workshop ambrotype.  The technical challenges of wet plate photography have not changed in the intervening 143 years.




Quinn Jacobson Demonstrates How To Flow A Plate





In the Flatfiles at Pierogi 2000, which include a portfolio of my photographs, I came across a color image, entitled Bloody Lane, by Lee Etheredge IV.  The image was taken at the National Military Park in Sharpsburg, Maryland, where the Civil War battle of Antietam occurred in September of 1862.  Etheredge combines the image with repetitive text in a manner that might signify the quickening thoughts of a soldier marching to battle or, alternatively,  the breakdown of historical narrative and the reliance on one vivid incident to define a complex sequence of events.
Bloody Lane by Lee Etheridge, IV.  C-print 18.5 x 19 (2002) Bloody Lane by Lee Etheredge, IV. C-print 18.5 x 19 (2002)

Description of Lee Etheredge’s Work from Pierogi 2000

Etheredge continues his investigations in breaking down language from a practical perspective and reformulating it through conceptual and visual experimentation using a typewriter.

At times Etheredge develops the work as concrete poetry but more often than not he uses the 26 letters of the alphabet as elements in subtle drawn patterns. In this exhibition, in addition to the typewriter marks, he incorporates photography referencing history and place to create an historic narrative element.

Taking the Roman alphabet as his raw material and the IBM Wheelwriter as his fundamental tool, Etheredge teases out spirals of signification that range from a mathematical or “chilly” fascination with pure order to a “warm” or sensual tang that clings to language as a matrix of human thought. Arrays of letters chosen for their ink-density or curvilinear shape determine certain images. But others are constructed around text fragments drawn from specific sources and connoting quite particular narratives. (Frances Richard, 2002)


Historical Note

On the fields surrounding Sharpsburg, the single costliest day of fighting in the Civil War occurred on September 17, 1862.  Bloody Lane was the location of some of the most intense fighting of that day.  By nightfall across the entire battlefield, there were more than 23,000 combined Union and Confederate casualties (dead, wounded and missing).  The battle became known as Antietam, which refers to a creek flowing near the town of Sharpsburg.  Abraham Lincoln used the repulse of the Southern invasion of the North to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

Alexander Gardner and his assistants arrived at Sharpsburg shortly after the end of fighting to begin photographing the carnage. He used the wet plate collodion process to make glass negatives from which he later produced albumen prints.  During this period, Gardner was employed by Mathew Brady, who held an exhibition of images from Antietam in his New York gallery in October 1862.  The exhibition, entitled The Dead of Antietam, shocked the American public, which had never before seen war depicted in such a graphic manner.  Reproductions of artists’ renderings had always been the primary visual means by which the public formed impressions of battles.  The immediacy and accuracy of the Gardner’s images would forever change the public discourse on war.

Bryan Hiott

Confederate Dead in Bloody Lane by Alexander Gardner

Confederate Dead in Bloody Lane by Alexander Gardner (1862)

Confederate Dead in Bloody Lane by Alexander Gardner

Confederate Dead in Bloody Lane by Alexander Gardner (1862)

I’ve been catching up on posting about some of the excellent exhibitions in Williamsburg, Brooklyn during the last few months. Kim Holleman’s The Law of the Land, which was up at Black and White Gallery through June 30th, was one one of them.


Post-Apocalyptic Parking Lot by Kim Holleman

Post-Apocalyptic Parking Lot by Kim Holleman



From The Law of the Land Press Release

Black and White Gallery (March 14 – June 30, 2008)


Are we living on the cusp of an Age of Extinction or an Age of Restoration?  Are there sophisticated ways of designing aspects of the human enterprise – buildings, vehicles, technologies, cities, parks, etc.  so that they intelligently interact with living systems?  The works of Kim Holleman reveal an interest in the following natures operating instructions to build environmental scenarios that can lead to healing the earth and supporting all beings in asymbiotic harmony, while also investigating where we have gone wrong.  In this site-specific multi-media exhibition occupying both the interior and exterior spaces, such conceptions are put under scrutiny and given visual representation.

Law of the Land is structured in three ‘acts’.  The first act, Trailer Park installed on the street in front of the gallery and open to the public, examines the paradox of inner/outer space by sheltering the completely functional real park from environmental dmage by placing the park inside a mobile Coachman Travel Trailer.  


Trailer Park by Kim Holleman

Trailer Park by Kim Holleman


Trailer Park (Interior) by Kim Holleman

Trailer Park (Interior) by Kim Holleman


In the second act, Playing, God, installed in the indoor space, Holleman simulates natural environments to question humans’ attempts to dominate the earth and play at being gods.  Detailed miniature landscapes that are playable vinyl records spinning and stopping, atop turntables standing in the space, reinforce the playing God theme.  In the pastoral landscape wall-mural entitled The Layers, Holleman rises to the challenge of establishing a human connection to the earth’s most interior and vulnerable layers. This work  draws on the analogies of various soil substrates to the emotions of human psychology, suggesting an allegorical Earth-Body interface to help bridge the human-soil divide.  Creation myths and origin of life theories aside, it is obvius that our own fertility, and indeed survival, is inextricably connected to the fertility of the soils we live upon and how we treat them.  Creating life is a provocative series of glass microscopy slides.  When shown blown up, the look unmistakably like the beautiful micoscopic imagery we have seen of living organisms:  protozoa, bacteria, blood cells, spores, mold, ice crystals, etc,, but are all created out of artificial substances.  Holleman is asking how far we want to go in creating a better life.


Playable Landscapes (from Playing God) by Kim Holleman

Playable Landscapes (from Playing God) by Kim Holleman


Crash (from Playing God) by Kim Holleman

Crash (from Playing God) by Kim Holleman


Playing God (Installation View) by Kim Holleman

Playing God (Installation View) by Kim Holleman


In the third act, Future Mountain, Holleman appropriates the monumental format typical of earlier earth works to reclaim the outdoor space.  Sculpting with chicken wire and colorful, yet ubiquitous and un-recyclable plastic bags, the artist constructs a startling 360-degree mountain range foliated as a life-like landscape.  Future Mountain does not offer solutions to difficult environmental dilemmas.   It communicates and connects environmental realities to a social and cultural context.


Yellow and Blue Landscape (from Future Mountain) by Kim Holleman

Yellow and Blue Landscape (from Playing God) by Kim Holleman


Future Mountain by Kim Holleman

Future Mountain by Kim Holleman


Bio:  Kim Holleman was born in Tampa, Florida in 1973 and raised in the suburban area of Palm Beach Gardens.  She attended The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York and The Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, Holland.



Bomb, Issue 99, Spring 2007


I met Robert Polidori through a photograph he had taken of the Versailles restoration. It captivated me. Seeing so many layers of history in one image was astonishing. So was being spurred to imagine Versailles as a real dwelling defined by the remnants of its inhabitants, and all the changes in history they and it had undergone.

This was the ’90s, when many photographers making art were constructing their own subjects or creating intellectual images that involved visual sleight of hand. The straightforward voluptuousness of Robert’s photo stood in stark contrast to all this. It was this originality and this lushness that enchanted me.

Later, after I got to know him, I invited Robert to visit North Dakota and photograph a town that had once belonged to my grandfather and is—now that the celebrated territories romanticized through legends of the Wells Fargo are a virtual desert—nearly gone. I wondered what his lens would uncover in that supernatural barrenness. Robert accepted. On the first day, we were so busy talking in the airport we missed the plane. On the second, I discovered that Robert fully expected me and Leaf, my Native American driver, to meet him for breakfast, totally awake and smiling, in the motel restaurant at 5:30 am, and to keep going until we lost the sunset’s last ray. To say that Robert is passionately focused is an understatement. He was so intense in his search for images that the final night, while we were having dinner in the same motel restaurant, a man came over to him and said, “I know who you are. You’re the guy who was taking pictures in my backyard this afternoon. I’m the mayor of this town.” I don’t think Robert had even realized we were trespassing.

The Metropolitan Museum commissioned Robert to take pictures of the New Orleans flood disaster. A friend who had grown up there cried when she saw them. She was not alone. The Fall 2006 show in the Howard Gilman Gallery was the most attended photography show in the history of the Met. Robert’s work has an extraordinarily wide, visceral appeal.

Robert’s focus and intensity made him very easy to interview. The difficulty was in deciding where to edit the generosity of riches in all he had to say. And despite the bleakness of his conclusion, I think that Robert transforms the sorrow of his subject with the compassionate beauty he discovers in its form.


Marat De David, RDC, Aile Du Midi, Versailles 1985.


Michèle Gerber Klein You were a filmmaker before you were a photographer.

Robert Polidori I used to work in avant-garde film, or what was known as structural film. It all started in 1969, when I was a freshman in college in Florida. Annette Michelson came and showed some films, including Wavelength by Michael Snow, and that changed my life. When I came to New York a couple of months later, she was kind enough to let me stay with her for a brief period. Through Annette I met Jonas Mekas and then I worked at Anthology Film Archives, even before they opened their first location at the Public Theater.

MGK So how did you start making still photography?

RP Well, my films were about the temporality between still and motion. But it really came about because I read a book called The Art of Memory by the late Frances Yates. This book was about ancient mnemonic systems, and rooms play a central role in “memory theaters.”

MGK How?

RP Say, for example, in the Pythagorean School—Pythagoras was into math and spirituality. He used to teach math by sounds—by fractioning lengths of strings or ropes. The students there were not allowed to speak for two or three years. They were taught to memorize empty rooms. A room was a locus for memory. They would memorize the color, doorways, windows, and halls.

MGK They would memorize the landscape of the rooms, develop a visual memory?

RP Yes, and they would place imagenes agentes, roughly translated from Latin as activated images, in the loci. These would be theatrical tableaux. The idea is that the mind has the hardest time remembering banal everyday things, but can more easily recall things that stand out of the ordinary. So they would compose these tableaux in order to remember something. I will give you an example. A lawyer had to memorize the facts in a case where a doctor had poisoned an old man to get his inheritance, and there was a witness. So the lawyer creates an image of two men in a blue room: an old man, semi-reclined in bed, and another man standing over him, who in his right hand holds a cup placed to the patient’s lips. The right hand indicates volition—that is, the doctor willed it, it was not an accident. Between the doctor’s fourth and fifth fingers were the testicles of a ram. The fourth finger was known as the medicinal finger, hence the doctor, and in Latin, testicles and witness are practically homonyms. The image is easier to remember than the facts, and by using a consistent deciphering language you could extract all the facts you might forget because of, say, your busy caseload. Memory was just one of the seven parts of classic rhetoric.

This particular example comes from the Ad Herennium. A Latin copy of that text from antiquity is dated 64 AD, and only fragments of it were still in existence just before the Renaissance. The Ad Herennium is an example of memory systems meant for practical usage. Later philosophers developed memory systems as theistic paradigm theories. Giordano Bruno, the last Catholic heretic burned at the stake, is a notable example. All of this is explained in Yates’s book. This is how I got into rooms, rooms as metaphors for states of being. And practically speaking, rooms simply don’t look that good in films; they look better in photography. When there is nothing else moving in the room, the grain effect of cinema makes the walls buzz as if they were composed of a swarm of bees. It doesn’t look right to me.

Metaphorically speaking, photography does to time what a wall in a room does to time. It’s a kind of slice of time that is transfixed and only very slowly degrades its semblance. Curiously akin to the quantum of time it takes to forget something. I would say that the emblematic photographic image is a picture from inside a room looking out. I think this defines photography. It’s the metaphor for the notion of first sight. What one saw first.

MGK Well, the camera is like a room; the shutter is like the window.

RP Yes, and camera in Italian means room. Anyway, when I realized the psychological importance of rooms and my commitment to them, I wandered away from cinema. There were other books too, Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space talks about rooms and beehives and a set of drawers, all these receptacle kinds of images, and their metaphorical and psychological undertones.


For full text: go to Bomb, Issue 99, Spring 2007.

Visiting the Glyndor Gallery at Wave Hill the other day reminded me of another exhibition there last fall that I really liked:  Poe and Twain Projects, curated by Jennifer McGregor.  That exhibition featured the work of Simon Leong, Allison Smith and Amy Yoes.  Of the three artists, Allison Smith was the most engaging for me with her installation By the by and by.  She used the installation to reinterpret the forms of 19th and 20th century military encampment, communication and weaponry, investing them with a symbolism of her own that was at once familiar and disorienting.


By the by and by (Wood, paint, textiles and mixed media)

Allison Smith: By the by and by (2007)


From the Exhibition Catalogue:  


Poe and Twain are seldom mentioned in the same breath, but toward the end of their lives they both lived in what is known today as the Bronx. Samuel Clemons resided in Wave Hill House from 1901 to 1903. Edgar Allan Poe lived in a small farmhouse, from 1846 to 1849, that is now located in Poe Park on East Kingsbridge Road and the Grand Concourse. As part of our series to explore 19th-century American writing through the lens of contemporary art, three artists were invited to develop projects based on contemporary readings of these masters’ work. In each writer’s vast oeuvre, the artists have discovered writings that speak to their own concerns as artists. Collectively, these projects play with ideas of site-specificity and expectations about what might be found in this Georgian Revival house.


By the by and by (2007)

Allison Smith: By the by and by (2007)


By the by and by (2007)

Allison Smith: By the by and by (2007)


From the Exhibition Catalogue:


Allison Smith is interested in Twain’s use of time-travel as a way of holding up the past to the present. Her reading and research drew on novels, stories and sketches such as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and “The Tournament in A.D. 1870,” “Prince and the Pauper,” “Joan of Arc,” and “The Private History of a Campaign that Failed.” She has created a group of sculptures based on useful objects and presents them together in the form of a period room. In creating this arrangement she was guided by the care Twain gives to the description of clothing, costumes, props, interiors, and detailed settings. Like Twain, Smith is interested in forms of performance that elucidate deeper concerns, such as walking in the shoes of others in order to understand injustice, or exploring feelings toward war and the role one plays in it. The objects that she has created are drawn from historic forms and employ age-old craft techniques but offer a springboard for time-travel through subtle references. The linen rag rug employs a target pattern, a woven coverlet uses a pattern called “Lee’s Surrender” with a field of proliferating oil barrels, some of the hand sewn hats, hoods and masks are based on gas masks from The Great War; provisional camp furniture and the standing rifles are inspired by those used in the Civil War.

Allison Smith has developed elaborate projects that explore craft traditions, living history and social activism. Her work has been exhibited extensively including recent solo exhibitions at UC Berkeley Art Museum/MATRIX Program; Artpace, San Antonio, TX; Bellwether Gallery, New York, NY; and Studio Voltaire, London, England. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA; Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA; and PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, NY. Her interactive Muster project posed the question “What are you fighting for?” Participants responded to her call on Governor’s Island in 2005 that is documented by a book produced by the Public Art Fund. She earned an MFA from Yale University and a BFA from Parsons School of Design and a BA from the New School for Social research. She participated in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program.


Paul Miller, also known as DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid, internationally recognized musician, writer, and conceptual artist, recently performed at the Dallas Museum of Art in celebration of the exhibition Societe Anonyme: Modernism for America. Before his performance, he spoke with Museum staff about the influence of artist Marcel Duchamp on his work and career.


Additional information on DJ Spooky’s interpretation of “Erratum Musical” can be found in:

On The Record: Notes for the “Errata Erratum” Duchamp Remix Project at LA MOCA

In researching 19th photographic equipment, I found an example of a tintype camera with 16 lenses attributed to Roberts of Boston, a company that began manufacturing multi-lens (multiplying) cameras in 1857.  During the election of 1860, multi-lens cameras were instrumental in making small, identical tintypes that could be used to circulate a candidate’s actual image to the public.  Abraham Lincoln recognized the importance of this new technology and capitalized on it to gain wider recognition, much in the same way that John F. Kennedy recognized the importance of television to political image making 100 years later.   


Button Tintype Camera (Attributed to Roberts of Boston)

Front View: Multi-Lens Tintype Camera (Attributed to Roberts of Boston)


Button Tintype Camera (Attributed to Roberts of Boston)

Rear View: Multi-Lens Tintype Camera (Attributed to Roberts of Boston)



Political Collectibles:  History of Political Campaign Buttons

By Ron Wade (


It wasn’t until the 1860 campaign of Abraham Lincoln, along with other major party nominees for President, that the likeness of a President was available for use on campaign buttons and devices. All because of the advent of the tintype or ferrotype photo process.

Extremely Rare 1864 Political Campaign Pin for President Abraham Lincoln’s re-election campaign during the midst of the Civil War. 1″ x 1 1/4″ with hole at top from which wearer used a ribbon to wear on lapel. Has some lightness – Valued at $650.

For the first time a voter hundreds of miles away from Washington could actually see what a candidate for President looked like. The 1860 ferrotype buttons for Lincoln are easily distinguishable from his 1864 re-election buttons as his famous beard was by then on all official photos of the Civil War President. And calling these “buttons” is stretching it a bit since most of these were made of a metal ring surrounding a round tintype picture with a hole punched in the top, from which a ribbon was used to hang the picture on a supporter’s lapel.

What we now know as a campaign button didn’t come about until 1896 with the patent by the now famous Whitehead and Hoag Company. The device was made of 4 pieces sandwiched together — a piece of metal on which was placed a printed image with a slogan or photo of 1896 candidate for President William McKinley or his Democratic opponent, William Jennings Bryan. On top of that printed image was a thin piece of see-through celluloid and all of this was placed together by a machine with a small metal pin attached on the reverse. The 1896 discovery of campaign buttons was so popular that now, some 106 years later, buttons from the McKinley-Bryan race are still fairly common and can be bought for as little as $10, although most buttons are much more than that.


For full text:  Visit About.Com

Another interesting article on campaign buttons appered in Frieze Magazine on 8.29.08.

I met wet plate photographer N.W. (Nate) Gibbons at John Coffer’s Jamboree last month and watched him at work on some impressive mammoth tintypes.  Today I got to see some more of his work in Surprisingly Natural:  The Nature of the Bronx, a group exhibition at the Glyndor Gallery of Wave Hill in Riverdale, NY.  Gibbons is showing a series of subtly composed 11 x 14 tintypes of very rich tones that explore the intersection of nature and urban environment in the Bronx.

Surprisingly Natural is actually the title of three concurrent, but separately curated exhibitions occurring across the the borough this fall at the following locations:  Bronx River Art Center (Sept. 12th to Oct. 18th), curated by Jose Ruiz; Lehman College Art Gallery (Sept. 9th to December 15th), curated by Susan Hoeltzel; and Wave Hill (Sept. 9th to November 30th), curated by Jennifer McGregor.

Formal Opening Reception at Wave Hill:  Sunday, September 14th (1:00-4:00 p.m.).

Muskrat Cove, Bronx, NY (11 x 14 Tintype) by N.W. Gibbons

Muskrat Cove, Bronx, NY (11 x 14 Tintype) by N.W. Gibbons

Text Below:  From Surprisingly Natural Catalogue

Surprisingly natural grew out of a desire to explore the importance of nature as an essential element in the fabric of the borough, particularly when the urban landscape is rapidly changing through development and ecological restoration efforts.  In planning this exhibition we realized that as venues we all have distinct and ongoing relationships to the nature around us and have been active in the stewardship of our surroundings.

New York City offers many opportunities for iconic and recognizable views and vistas and not surprisingly Brooklyn and Manhattan have a greater pull for contemporary photographers than the Bronx.  Indeed photography of the Bronx has focused on either its blight or vibrant street scene and family life.  Many of the views presented here are known primarily to residents who frequent these places but all deserve to be better known.

About N.W. Gibbons

Over the past  year, N.W. Gibbons has been photographing the Bronx River as part of his River Series that follows the course of a river from its source to its mouth.  Using the antique tintype process, he searches out isolated pockets where there is clearly a push and pull between the urban and the natural.  The technique gives the image a historic quality, but clearly these are images of the contemporary river.

View of Hudson River from Wave Hill.  Photographer Unknown.

View of Hudson River from Wave Hill. Photographer Unknown.


Amid the controversy surrounding the Sotheby’s auction, Robert Hughes explains why he has taken a stand against Damien Hirst’s ‘simple-minded’ works, and an art world where prices bear no relation to talent

Robert Hughes for The Guardian

Saturday September 13 2008


Damien Hirst at Sotheby's.  Photo by Felix Clay.

Damien Hirst at Sotheby's to promote his work. Photo by Felix Clay.


By now, with the enormous hype that has been spun around it, there probably isn’t an earthworm between John O’Groats and Land’s End that hasn’t heard about the auction of Damien Hirst’s work at Sotheby’s on Monday and Tuesday – the special character of the event being that the artist is offering the work directly for sale, not through a dealer. This, of course, is persiflage. Christie’s and Sotheby’s are now scarcely distinguishable from private dealers anyway: they in effect manage and represent living artists, and the Hirst auction is merely another step in cutting gallery dealers out of the loop.

If there is anything special about this event, it lies in the extreme disproportion between Hirst’s expected prices and his actual talent. Hirst is basically a pirate, and his skill is shown by the way in which he has managed to bluff so many art-related people, from museum personnel such as Tate’s Nicholas Serota to billionaires in the New York real-estate trade, into giving credence to his originality and the importance of his “ideas”. This skill at manipulation is his real success as an artist. He has manoeuvred himself into the sweet spot where wannabe collectors, no matter how dumb (indeed, the dumber the better), feel somehow ignorable without a Hirst or two.

Actually, the presence of a Hirst in a collection is a sure sign of dullness of taste. What serious person could want those collages of dead butterflies, which are nothing more than replays of Victorian decor? What is there to those empty spin paintings, enlarged versions of the pseudo-art made in funfairs? Who can look for long at his silly sub-Bridget Riley spot paintings, or at the pointless imitations of drug bottles on pharmacy shelves? No wonder so many business big-shots go for Hirst: his work is both simple-minded and sensationalist, just the ticket for newbie collectors who are, to put it mildly, connoisseurship-challenged and resonance-free. Where you see Hirsts you will also see Jeff Koons’s balloons, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s stoned scribbles, Richard Prince’s feeble jokes and pin-ups of nurses and, inevitably, scads of really bad, really late Warhols. Such works of art are bound to hang out together, a uniform message from our fin-de-siècle decadence.

Hirst’s fatuous religious references don’t hurt either. “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever”, the sale is titled. One might as well be in Forest Lawn, contemplating a loved one – which, in effect, Hirst’s embalmed dumb friends are, bisected though they may be. Consider the Golden Calf in this auction, pickled, with a gold disc on its head and its hoofs made of real gold. For these bozos, gold is religion, Volpone-style. “Good morning to the day; and next, my gold! Open the shrine, that I may see my saint!”

His far-famed shark with its pretentious title, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, is “nature” for those who have no conception of nature, in whose life nature plays no real part except as a shallow emblem, a still from Jaws. It might have had a little more point if Hirst had caught it himself. But of course he didn’t and couldn’t; the job was done by a pro fisherman in Australia, and paid for by Charles Saatchi, that untiring patron of the briefly new.

The publicity over the shark created the illusion that danger had somehow been confronted by Hirst, and come swimming into the gallery, gnashing its incisors. Having caught a few large sharks myself off Sydney, Montauk and elsewhere, and seen quite a few more over a lifetime of recreational fishing, I am underwhelmed by the blither and rubbish churned out by critics, publicists and other art-world denizens about Hirst’s fish and the existential risks it allegedly symbolises.

For more of the article, go to The Guardian.

Missing Hero Monument, Gettysburg, PA

Missing Hero Monument, Gettysburg, PA.  Image by Bryan Hiott (2006).

The pedestal of the Missing Hero Monument, located in a parking lot adjacent to the Travelodge at 613 Baltimore Street in Gettysburg, PA, was poured in 1968 to honor all potential heros of American wars, who refused military service on the basis of pacifist philosophy.

In an effort to increase tourism revenue, the Missing Hero Association, which maintains the pedestal, recently voted to commission a bronze statue of a current pacifist to be erected on the site.  The statue will be cast in the likeness of one individual chosen through an open audition process (Oct. 15 – 31) that includes a YouTube video essay and phone interview.

Three finalists in the comptition will be invited to Gettysburg on on the 154th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address:  November 19, 2017.  There each will complete the final requirement of the selection process:  standing atop the pedestal to deliver a three-minute monologue outlining his/her belief in peace and the futility of war.  The length of the monologue corresponds to the length of the Gettysburg Address.  Finalists must arrange for their own travel, meals and accommodations.

Those interested in entering the competition should contact The Missing Hero Memorial Association by email:


Not long ago on the CBC Radio 3 podcast with Grant Lawrence, I heard Tennessee Twin performing a song called “Free To Do What?”   I’ll leave the biographical info. to Charles Spano below.  Let me just say for now that I was intrigued with Tennessee Twin’s determination to set themselves apart from punk rockers in Vancouver by incorporating unexpected older musical styles.  Those of us doing wet plate collodion photography – as opposed to digital or film – should be at home with that sort of reverse-rebellion.  We have been called the “antiquarian avant-garde.”


Tennessee Twin

Tennessee Twin


From All Music Guide

The Tennesse Twin play ballads, barnburners, and hillbilly social tunes in the old style of country & western music. Cindy Wolfe, founder of the Tennessee Twin, is the identical twin sister of acclaimed riot grrrl act Bratmobile’s Allison Wolfe. Born in Memphis, Cindy Wolfe, who sings, plays mandolin, and is the songwriter for the Tennessee Twin, found inspiration from her Southern roots, and desired to perform in ways that stood out from her punk rock contemporaries. Wolfe began this effort by writing, directing, and staging puppet shows in Olympia, WA. But fearful of being pigeonholed as a puppeteer, Wolfe began to plot out the course of the country band that would become the Tennessee Twin and moved to Canada. In 1998, when Bratmobile came to Vancouver, Allison Wolfe convinced her sister to get her band started, and the Tennessee Twin were born. The band has played festival shows, including YoYo a GoGo and Ladyfest with fellow alt-country crooner Neko Case. Mint Records released the Tennessee Twin’s first single, “These Thoughts Are Occupied,” in 2001. The next year they finally released their debut album, Free to Do What?, and Wolfe starred in the film Low Self Esteem Girl.

— Charles Spano


On September 11, 2001, my wife and I were living in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY.  From our  balcony, we had a partial view of the World Trade Towers.  I took video footage of the towers before their catastrophic collapse as well as footage of the seemingly normal activity on the streets below in the aftermath.  In the days following 9/11, we went into Manhattan, where I filmed the spontaneous gatherings at Union Square as well as various other scenes that caught my attention.

On August 6, 2006, The New York Times ran a feature article by Joyce Walder on wet plate photographer John Coffer, entitled “Born 150 Years Too Late.”  Walder explored Coffer’s off the grid rural lifestyle rather than his photographic work.  In conjunction with the article, Fred Conrad conducted an audio interview of Coffer and spent some time learning the wet plate collodion process.  Conrad’s tintypes were part of a slideshow that accompanied the audio interview on the newspaper’s website.   


Audio: John Coffer Interview by Fred Conrad


Tintype by Fred Conrad (2006)

Tintype of John Coffer by Fred Conrad (2006)


Tintype of Coffer's cabin by Fred Conrad (2006)

Tintype of Coffer's Log Cabin by Fred Conrad (2006)

Billy McCune by Danny Lyon

Billy McCune by Danny Lyon



On October 1, 2007, an ex-convict named Billy McCune—one of the most important subjects in the history of documentary photography—died in a half-way house in Kansas City, Missouri. He was 79 years old.

McCune, who was mentally ill, was convicted of rape and sentenced to die in the electric chair in 1950. A song he wrote on death row caught the ear of the governor, who commuted his sentence to life in prison. It was there, four decades ago, that McCune met a young documentary photographer named Danny Lyon. Lyon had been granted unprecedented access to photograph inside the Texas prison system. He published his photos in the seminal 1971 book,Conversations With the Dead.

Over the course of the project, Danny Lyon got to know Billy McCune, who had also become an artist in the penitentiary. Lyon included so many of McCune’s drawings inConversations With the Dead that he subtitled the book“Photographs of Prison Life With the Letters and Drawings of Billy McCune #12-20-54.”

While Lyon’s prison photos are today legendary, what’s not known is that he also made reel-to-reel audio recordings of his conversations with Billy McCune in prison. Never before heard, these tapes are an extraordinary artifact—providing a rare glimpse inside the Texas prisons of the 1960s, and documenting Lyon’s historic partnership with the late Billy McCune. Photographer Danny Lyon tells us the story.

Producer: Matt Ozug / Narrator: Danny Lyon / Executive Producer: David Isay / Production Assistant: Maisie Tivnan / Music: Nick Yulman / Special thanks to: Andy Lanset, Donna Galeno and the StoryCorps MobileBooth team, Kimberly Wells and the Ft Worth Public Library, and Aminur the Cabby / Funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

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