Winter Night Moth

Winter Night Moth etching

It is the time of year when the moths die; when, on window sills all over the world, the first chill has laid them, on their powdery sides.  A perfect mirror of each other.

This fall I’m performing  my play, Stations Lost in Brooklyn, New York.  We’re performing it in The Boiler, a performance and exhibition space in the Williamsburg section of North Brooklyn.  It is kind of a perfect room for this show.  A one-time actual boiler where citizens of this borough worked for 100 years.  It is a grimy and hard-scrabble reminder of the hard labor done in this great city back when our country actually MADE things.

There is also an odd juxtaposition in that the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are occurring just across the East River.  I walked through the demonstration  on my first days in New York before we started our technical rehearsals.  My play is very much about the country we find ourselves in now, with its blighted economy and missed opportunity, greed, and unfocused bigotries.  As I walked through Occupy Wall Street, I was amazed that this was no ‘youth’ protest.  I saw all kinds of people; firemen, construction workers, teachers, mothers, veterans, and many, many more of the educated and unemployed new underclass created by the greed and mismanagement of our financial institutions. I feel, for maybe the first time, that I have a bit of skin in this argument.  I employ eight other artists.   I have a gallery and a printmaking shop in Chicago. My partner, Adam Seidel, and I have invested over six figures each to start a fine art company focused on  small edition etchings, as well as books and job creation.   My other partner, Stan Klein, and I have a theatrical production company and a publishing house.  After depositing 100,000 dollars in a business account we found out that even with this capitalization, we’d not be allowed to  borrow more money to expand our business and create more jobs.  In fact, this deposit did not even avail us to a line of credit.

I seem to recall the President telling the banks that in exchange for their TARP money–their bail-out–they were to lend money and stimulate the economy and, more importantly, create jobs.  These little etchings support eight people. And, truth be told?  They could support a whole hell of a lot more were we allowed to grow.

Performing this  show in Brooklyn has been a lot of fun.  Though our houses have been smaller we’ve had great audiences.  Last Saturday night while performing the first act, I noticed an elegantly dressed gentleman with white hair in the third row.  I took me a few moments to realize it was David Byrne, the true renaissance man of  New York–musician, visual artist, activist for biking and all around cultural catalyst.  It was cool to see him in the audience.

Our opening night we had the great Lou Reed, and the director of MoMA, Glenn Lowry, as well as a whole host of my fellow Brooklyn artists who’ve been amazingly supportive.

The Boiler is the performance and arts space fostered into existence by Pierogi Gallery, also of  Williamsburg.  They went through no small amount of bullshit getting this space up to code, so that we could perform this show and I appreciate it.  New York audiences are a little different than Chicago; a bit more reserved. . . quieter.  They really listen.

I’ve been staying with the painter, Greg Stone, the mordantly funny and exceptionally gifted visual artist who is the best roommate one could imagine.  He  is in possession of the dryest of wits and has a wise-ass, hard-boiled and no bullshit view of the world.  We’ve laughed our asses off.

One of the most lovely things is being in New York for autumn.  It is a season that loves this city.   Everything that seems timeless and classic about this city only seems more so, preserved in the amber of autumn light.  I went to a farmers market in McCarren Park in Brooklyn and the nip in the air, the changing colors of trees and the general goodwill were the ingredients of one of those perfect New York days that keeps people wanting to live here.

There is something to working as an actor in New York , that makes one feel more for real.  And that there is more at stake.  No matter what theater one works in, you are surrounded by the ghosts of giants.  This is one  of the places where people come to be measured against the best.

Published in: on October 26, 2011 at 10:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Tokyo Diary — Tokyo Giants Hat

I have walked like a goddamned Sherpa and eaten more tuna than Flipper.  I love Tokyo; its dreaminess, its civility, its attention to beauty and detail.  I wake up here and I am in a city with more people than almost any other on earth, yet, it is quiet.  You rarely here a car horn or a siren.  There is a premium placed on the idea of calm, efficient motion.  One does not expend an ounce of energy one does not have to; life is  lived in a kind of measure.

I went to some art galleries on the outskirts of Tokyo and saw some contemporary art and it was mostly stuff one could see in Chelsea last year.  I was surprised.  There were no Japanese artists in any of the four places I looked; only New Yorkers and Europeans.  I met a very opinionated American trust-fund brat with a gallery in Tokyo who, within the first 3 minutes of our conversation, trashed every artist in Tokyo and New York, and Murakam (the novelist) and Murakami (the artist),  referring to him as an “Orientalist” whatever the hell that means.  He was an annoying, pedantic, name-dropping, ass-wipe who also had nothing good to say about Tokyo, despite the fact he has lived here for nine years.  He also “had a gallery on the lower east side” and spent another 5 minutes trashing everyone and thing in NYC as well.  I wanted to compliment him on his ability to be an unwelcome asshole in TWO hemispheres , but it was clear we’d never get a word in, so we escaped the art district, having given it 40 minutes, and I decided my time would more productively be spent finding the dome where the World Champion Tokyo Giants play and get myself a hat.

I’ve wanted one forever and I suppose I could just snag one off the internet; but I have this memory of my father and uncle buying me a White Sox hat at Comiskey as a kid and I have this particular fetish for buying my hats at the stadium.  So I took the 3000-yen ride to Giants Stadium and found the coolest, most boss, fitted Tokyo Giants hat; and I look like a cool motherfucker in it.  I had to go all the way to Tokyo to get one.    Does that make mine cooler?  Damn skippy, it does.

I’ve had a lot of time to think while I’ve been here and I’ve come to the conclusion that while I love making my work, I don’t much care for the culture that surrounds me as an artist.  It’s like being on a bus full of mental defectives.  The art world’s culture is almost entirely about itself.  There is a curious lack of curiosity about the way rest of the world lives, and an appalling lack of  literate knowledge.  They don’t read much, other than magazines about art, fashion and movies.  They interview each other and they all talk like a roll of toilet-paper; the same banal platitudes wrapped the new buzzwords.  This season “contextualist” is a popular important sounding term that actually doesn’t mean anything.

I’m fortunate.  I have very good dealers who know it’s best to just let me be me and everything will be okay.   But still, I look around and listen to the conversation in the art world and when they discuss “the crisis,” they’re not talking about the huge percentage of our fellow citizens who are without healthcare or a job.  “The Crisis” is about slow art sales and galleries closing.  Really.  I hear this shit regularly.  Maybe it’s time the art world realized that it is part of the real world and embrace a larger set of priorities and step up to a larger responsibility in the community; have its artists mentor kids, do out-reach in the schools and the juvenile detention centers; the other world. . .beyond the  billboards.

Published in: on September 9, 2009 at 6:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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