CHRISTMAS STARS ON DNA

In memory of Norman Yonemoto – by Rosanna Albertini

Human time has the power to run forwards and backwards, it’s erratic like a heart beat. Norman is sentimental. He loved the Christmas tree, maybe for the mingling of memories and illusions that shine among the needles. I hung this post to a branch hoping a bird will bring it to him, over there in the blue.

NORMAN YONEMOTO, Christmas Greetings from Tule Lake, 2004

NORMAN YONEMOTO, Christmas Greetings from Tule Lake, 2004

NORMAN YONEMOTO, Christmas Greetings from Tule Lake, detail, left corner.

NORMAN YONEMOTO, Christmas Greetings from Tule Lake, detail, left corner.

 

NORMAN YONEMOTO, Christmas Greetings from Tule Lake, detail, right corner at the bottom.

NORMAN YONEMOTO, Christmas Greetings from Tule Lake, detail, right corner at the bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I can’t see well” – he tells me from his chair while I cook our lunch. Of course, his glasses looked like an after-war relic, a grasshopper without a leg. Of course, Norman did not complain. I fixed the frame, washed the lenses. We laughed. Words, numbers reappeared. Oh, to persist with art making after a stroke hadn’t been easy. Especially after having been a well known video artist with his brother Bruce. He did it nonetheless, small scale, intimate, turning the lights on in the rooms of his mind, opening his own museum of innocence: tangible relics in a box around time machines (clocks) that we only see reflected in mirrors or captured by a camera. Always indirectly. As we talk about his last box about a murdered uncle of his, Norman’s head slowly reclines, absorbed by the enemy Norman fought for twenty years: Pain. A pill, some rest, and lunch restarts, and the mood is good.

Life after a stroke is like life after a bomb. Half body becomes the offender, the other half the resister. O and R share the same body machine. One leg moves, the other stalls like a pigeon in a cage; same with hands, as the brain continues to drive to the end of the tunnel. The offender must be fed with chemical donuts, sort of contemporary Cerberus, not the anti-theft application to recover stolen Android device, the mythological Cerberus: “multi-headed dog usually three-headed, or hellhound with a serpent’s tail, a mane of snakes, and lion’s claws.” He prevents the dead from escaping from the underworld and the living from entering. In Norman’s body the offender can’t get out, is prisoner as well, and the resister cannot evict him, only feed him. Norman accepted some devices installed in his body to fight this war, interested in such a physical relation to technology.

NORMN YONEMOTO, Uncle, 2002

NORMAN YONEMOTO, Uncle, 2002

On and off with a switch, art and life, personal and universal, natural history and family stories, play their boxed in comedy. Christmas Greetings came from the internment camp of Lake Tule, California. Before Norman was born his family had been transplanted there. Each box is a space of wonder, for the sake of art and the courage of loving art. The electrical resistance in the bulb burns like a flame. “There is a time in which progress seems to stop,” Norman told me ten years ago. Humans were on his mind, not machines. He was dreaming the advent of the Goddess, a turn of civilization to reinstate collaboration and friendship with nature.

I don’t know if ever this will happen, something of that kind I saw in Norman’s life with John and all the members of their families. For me, it was a spot of light as mysterious as the Goddess: a family truly happy and generous. It gave me hope, it gives me strength.

Photos: Peter Kirby

IN THE SPIRIT OF GIVING

Looking at KRISTIN CALABRESE’s Fear of the Poor, 2005, oil on canvas 78″ x 96″

by Rosanna Albertini

a masterpiece of contemporary renaissance that makes me think of Andrea Mantegna traveling in the land of the homeless

poor

 

They come from the guts of time as if history had never touched them. Reason, progress, humanity, necessity, follow them like ghosts, like clouds incapable of becoming rain. It’s almost Christmas, and they bring us presents, making us present in front of them. They came across time like the Three Wise Men offering precious things to a baby. I never knew where the Wise Men (Magi) were coming from. Now I see they came from the head of time, if we pretend that time wears a body. They burst out from the forehead. Their figures, even more than the objects they offer, are tangible images of a wealthy, powerful existence. I wondered, as a child, what a baby born from a virgin and protected by a stepfather who moves him and the virgin around on the back of a mule could do with gold, silver and myrrh, a substance the ancient used to apply, mixed with wine, on the skin of people in pain at the very edge of their lives, to calm down their disquiet.

The poor painted by Kristin make fun of us, they try to look sillier than they are. Their look really isn’t different from everyone else’s look in Los Angeles. We can scan ourselves in the mirror … we are them. But the difference isn’t only a roof over the head.

We could be grabbed, touched by their fingers. Remember the magic flute? Should we follow them, stepping into the wild of the human forest? We are afraid. Their physical presence make us uncomfortable. In fact we call madness that secret part of us that would like to give up control, grace, good manners, whatever it is, maybe a simple octopus in our guts. The value they bring us for Christmas is their existence: they are here, alive, under the same sky, treading out their shadow on the sidewalks.

Sometimes, they ride the bus. A young woman steps in. She doesn’t need to do anything to expand her presence. The smell of dust and unwashed skin and clothes and devouring rotten vital mysteries hidden under fabric and plastic is so strong that it grabs everyone else’s senses. Another poor person screams ugly words to insult her feminine essence, his voices grows as if he was chanting. The girl gives back to him violently, only with words. She puts her power out. Such a pop opera! As in a theater, the driver sings the major aria reminding “people, she is entitled, she has the right to ride the bus like all of us, she is one of us.” A home on wheels, a small present for every season.

A few days after, multiple answers to my questions about the royal wonderers came from The Economist, Dec. 20, 2014. I transcribe here the conclusion of a thoughtful essay:

Balthazar, Melchior, Gaspar … the comedy and chemistry of three…

For those who feel deprived of the mystical significance of the kings, there is a more profound dimension to the rule of three to ponder. For three encompasses everything: past, present, future; here, there, everywhere; earth, sea and air; positive, negative, neutral; this, that and the other. Through these trinities the kings, who might be Tom, Dick or Harry, wander in search of answers (yes, no, maybe) to mysteries even older than that of Father, Son and Holy Ghost: the birth of light, the dawn of life and the primacy of love.”

Not Things, but Minds

 About JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL

(order is not for humans – dates are flags on the surface of time, they don’t stop it)

by Rosanna Albertini

This is a completely European story and Californian by accident: “Not Things, but Minds” is John Cage speaking, and I live in Los Angeles. Space and light have changed my mind. Yet here I am, forever European. The story is about Garnell, the French artist who has given his soul to photography for decades, and now paints and thinks and sometimes carves delightful little spoons from pieces of wood.

The forest isn’t far from the artist’s house. Paris is surrounded by a wilderness which is now largely tamed and embroidered by gardens and buildings, often empty shells that look as if they are waiting for the next exceptional person anointing their doors with fame. The forest floor is crowded, it sends back echoes of painter Jean Fautrier, of Karl Marx’s grandchild, as well as Jean Paulhan, Voltaire’s family, horses, Chateaubriand, and contemporary steps by Paul Ricoeur. Past heroes are all there, hung up among the branches. Good manners, chandeliers. Trunks are wounded by bullets from the last world war, and from hunters. Space has become the body of time like every square meter of Europe, soaked with history.

Sans Titre #7   2010   2 x (120 x 150) cm JEAN LOUIS GARNELL

Sans Titre #7      2010      100 X 67 cm   
   ©JEAN LOUIS GARNELL

But Garnell is a hunter of elusive images, trying to discover the musical score that light writes in each of them. When, where, are missing. Literally, we have abstractions, or moments cut out from life, old verbal definitions maybe worked for modern art, now they sound awkward. And history, a human-made divinity in the universe of written pages, is silenced by his art, although it’s always there, covered by the image, a hidden giant that breaths. The double portrait of the same garden — a garden designed like an open book of eighteenth century geometry —  speaks of human imperfection: a minor displacement breaks the visual continuity as if the scene were observed by two different eyes of the same person. The central figure of a woman turns her face away from the view. She seems lost in her thoughts, maybe despondent, or perhaps indifferent. We  live a time which often gets lost, and we idly move our feet, with no direction, in a stream of sensations. Thanks to them we love everything we can perceive, images become unexpected moments of discovery, they are not things, they are our working mind. Perfectly rational decisions have become dangerous. With Keats we could say, “I didn’t read any book, the morning told me I was right.”

En de rares endroits, quelque chose échappe à cette main mise des hommes. En ces quelques phénomènes.” (J.-L. Garnell)
( Something, in some rare places, escapes from manmade interventions, in these few phenomena. )

Diptyque #3     1998     2 x (120 x 150) cm JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL

Diptyque #3 1998 2 x (120 x 150) cm
©JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL

Phénomènes #10     1998      2 x (84 x 104) cm JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL

Phénomènes #10 1998 2 x (84 x 104) cm
©JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL

Phénomènes    #6       1998    2 x (84 x 104) cm JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL

Phénomènes #6 1998 2 x (84 x 104) cm
©JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL


MEMORY IS A TRIVIAL THING COMPARED TO THE SOUL

TEXTS AND IMAGES  from  S H U C H I   M E H T A  

(b.1987) Self-taught artist living and working in Mumbai, India. (I thank Nancy Uyemura who recently put me in touch with this artist, R.A.)

SHUCHI MEHTA, The Memory Slots  Pigeon holing different events, experiences and feelings in the brain  32" x 32" x 2"  MDF and automotive paint on wood Courtesy of the artist

SHUCHI MEHTA, The Memory Slots,  Pigeon holing different events, experiences and feelings in the brain
32″ x 32″ x 2″ MDF and automotive paint on wood
Courtesy of the artist

SHUCHI MEHTA, The memory Slots, Side View

SHUCHI MEHTA, The memory Slots, Side View

Need of the Hour (11th February, 2013)

In the midst of the crowd, / Quite a chaos around, / Getting harder to seek, / Real means for some peace

 Many things to distract us, / Shift our focus away, /  Leaving us with just nothing but, / Misery and pain

  In this ocean too vast, / Where we sail around, / Most of us lack direction, / To our “self ”-destination

  It’s the need of the hour, / To look for yourself,  / For the journey ahead, /  Is what you select

SHUCHI META, Barriers to Freedom, Intimation of vastness through the prison house of the mind  50" x 50" x 3" Wood, automotive paint and acrylic paint on wood Courtesy of the artist

SHUCHI META, Barriers to Freedom, Intimation of vastness through the prison house of the mind
50″ x 50″ x 3″ Wood, automotive paint and acrylic paint on wood
Courtesy of the artist

SHUCHI MEHTA, Barriers to Freedom, Side View

SHUCHI MEHTA, Barriers to Freedom, Side View

 

SHUCHI MEHTA, The Bubble  Photograph taken in Central Park, New York, 2013

SHUCHI MEHTA, The Bubble
Photograph taken in Central Park, New York, 2013

 

There are many things which I believe we tend to take for granted and don’t pay much attention to. We tend to talk about memories but don’t ever ponder as to how the memories are created and how the human brain functions. Out of so many things we encounter in our life, why is it that we tend to remember certain things very distinctly despite the longest passage of time? In everything that one does, one tends to give too much importance to everything else but the self – the one who is the know-er and the see-er. Memories are just the consequence but the source is more of an interest to me.

I believe memories are too limited a storage in comparison to the soul’s power and capacity to know. The property of the soul is to simply know and in such a case it doesn’t have to remember but everything effortlessly reflects. This state is that of a spiritually advanced, self-realised soul. Currently the state of most of us is the one without self-realisation. We are all caught in a dark room trying to find a ray of light. ( Dark room used as a metaphor for the life full of sorrow and the ray of light as a metaphor to finding that one solution to happiness ). In the process, some become desperate to find their way to brightness while some accept the darkness. The ones with an intensity to find their way to brightness are the ones who will sooner or later realise their selves. While the one who accept darkness tend to become immune to darkness and forget their need to encounter brightness.

Once one realises ones true self it is not about the efforts to remember but it is all about effortless reflection of pure knowledge. One then becomes like a mirror. A mirror doesn’t make efforts to reflect the image. When the water is churning, it is tough to see one’s own reflection but once the water becomes still, it is possible to see the reflection. So is the case with us. We tend to churn ourselves with insane number of thoughts that does not allow us to connect with our true self. Till we do not realise the true self, the whole life is spent being the false self- one’s ego.  

Memory is too trivial a thing to focus on in comparison to the soul’s power to know the unlimited. I too am stuck in various thoughts of my own that are an obstacle to realise myself ( my soul ) and hence every opportunity I get, I try to analyse its relevance to overcoming the hurdle.  

http://www.shuchiumehta.com

TRAVELING MYSTERY MUSEUM

MICHAEL C. MCMILLEN’s  TIME TRAVELING CARAVAN

Could we also call it a TIME MUSEUM ?

Time is the invisible wizard bringing change, an invisible witch maybe, energy that doesn’t have a body on her own, and shows her passage in a fading curtain, as well as in rotten teeth and crumbling rocks.

As she comes and does her job on leaves and objects, causing effects we see and touch, we are dragged by lady time as if she were a comet, and us her tail.

Thoughts and dreams and instant perceptions fly in the cosmic dust confusing whom with what, mistaking present for past. Thoughts and dreams and instant perceptions are the scent of our lives.

Time is just a word. Join Michael and me in the tail of the comet.  (Rosanna Albertini)

Michael C. McMillen, The World 's Most Dangerous Chair, 1973 Courtesy of the artist

Michael C. McMillen, The World ‘s Most Dangerous Chair, 1973
Courtesy of the artist

The mouse mummy in Hannah The Fortune Telling Mouse was given to the artist by a neighbor, Kenneth Strickfaden, when he was eleven years old. Strickfaden was the inventor/creator of the electrical apparatus in the original 1932 Frankenstein movie and countless science fiction movies that were to follow.

Michael C. McMillen, unknown Courtesy of the artist

Michael C. McMillen, unknown
Courtesy of the artist

Michael C. McMillen, Hannah the Fortune Telling Mouse, 1969, refurbished 2014 Courtesy of the artist

Michael C. McMillen, Hannah the Fortune Telling Mouse, 1969, refurbished 2014
Courtesy of the artist

IMG_7513_1

Michael C. McMillen, J.H. The Mystery Mummy, found on a chaise lounge in the Upper Mojavi Desert, 1973 Courtesy of the artist

Michael C. McMillen, J.H. The Mystery Mummy, found on a chaise lounge in the Upper Mojavi Desert, 1973
Courtesy of the artist

 

THE DECAY OF SWEETNESS

O  B  J  E  T S      D’  A  F  F  E  C  T  I  O  N

P1040113

P1040106

 Paul McCarthy as I know him: André Gide wrote it so well that I won’t change a word.

It could be Paul’s voice:

“I maintain that what an artist has to believe in is this: that there is a special world, to which he alone has the key. It’s not that he must contribute something new, though even that would be an enormous achievement; but that everything in him must be or seem new, transmitted through a powerfully coloring idiosyncrasy.

He must have a particular philosophy, aesthetic, morality; his whole work tends only to show it. And that is what makes his style. He must also have a particular wit — his own sense of fun.” 

(Photos: R.A.)

A WALK ON THE SKY

 LES BILLER, a Los Angeles painter, and his most recent painting: VETERANS AFFAIRS

by Rosanna Albertini

BEWARE THE IMMEDIATE IMPACT, il colpo d’occhio we say in Italian, as if pupils could shoot at the painting. “To see a painting requires time. One enters the space and stays there for a while, like reading a novel.” Les Biller’s words. He lets each of his canvasses grow and change through time, accepting the simple reality that all the physical sensations hitting his mind in the moment have the right to be in the painting: a smell, a sound of helicopters over the studio… and the flying machines will be in the mental scene he is observing and painting. Hard to drive words into a painting without crashing them against the wall of common sense. Or avoiding the search for a meaning, the truth of which is there, and not in art history, not even in Les Biller’s history as a painter. One painting, this painting.

LES BILLER,   Veterans Affairs  2014  48" x 52" Courtesy of the artist

LES BILLER,    Veterans Affairs    2014     48″ x 52″
Courtesy of the artist

HERE IT’S A LOS ANGELES CORNER, West Adams near the artist’s studio. A geographical note, but in the painted reality it’s transfigured. The artist peeps out from the door just slightly open, his ghost behind the scene, maybe curious to see what the other self is painting from the other side, spectator in front of the scene as we all are. A veteran, a black man sitting on the sidewalk, some garbage. Lady Justice, naked and blindfolded, gropes for something to touch. Only air. Missing the man, she heads to the pile of garbage. Miserable story nailed to the literal. Wrong way.

Meantime, the voice of my old professor of Latin at the University of Milan keeps speaking in my mind: “Do you know what Lucretius did in his De Rerum Natura? He removed the underpants from Venus.” (Venus = Nature) And I keep mumbling that here Les Biller removed the underpants from Edward Hopper’s paintings of urban corners. He gave life to the street. No more nice houses wrapping the intimacy of life in the interiors. There is no home for the black veteran.

Reality is ugly. I walk in Los Angeles, and ride the bus. A homeless man stretched out on a bus bench screams and screams, “It is not right ” — his head, the face, are hidden by a cylinder of cardboard. An inner space of some sort. There are streets invaded by people protesting against a bad use of “Justice” still, and again, against black humans. The artist has antennas, he made his portrait of these moments of urban life, in the least conventional way.

A TRIUMPH OF GENTLENESS, the painting gives back to the veteran a grace that only colors can build: his feet with no shoes, covered by strips of fabric, rest on the blue, the clear blue of the sky that, for a moment, fell on the asphalt and made it soft. The man’s windbreaker is pink, maybe a faded red, the garbage is the cleanest I ever saw: a despondent garden of Eden. Everyone can see and read many stories in this painting. As for me, I’m touched by the fluid strokes and the luminous street Les Biller has imagined, as if giving back to the veteran dreams and feelings he has probably lost. An open air home clean and pleasant. We call them soldiers, homeless people, we don’t know anything about them. We see them, that’s all. And the best thing an artist can do is what Les did, shameless and candid: he let’s us see them as human, walking on the sky. WHAT A WONDERFUL PAINTING!

 LOS ANGELES IN LES BILLER’S EYES

LES BILLER, Alvarado Corner, 2014, watercolor, ink, crayon  10 1/4" x 14 1/4" Courtesy of the artist

LES BILLER, Alvarado Corner, 2014, Watercolor, ink, crayon 10 1/4″ x 14 1/4″
Courtesy of the artist

LES BILLER, South L.A., 2014  Inks   7" x 10 1/4" Courtesy of the artist

LES BILLER, South L.A., 2014,  Inks  7″ x 10 1/4″
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LES BILLER. Sunset, 2014 watercolor  10 1/4" x 14 1/4" Courtesy of the artist

LES BILLER, Sunset, 2014, Watercolor 10 1/4″ x 14 1/4″
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LES BILLER, Rainscape, 2014, Suminik, watercolor, acrylic Courtesy of the artist

LES BILLER, Rainscape, 2014, Suminik, watercolor, acrylic
Courtesy of the artist

(Click on the images to see them bigger)