During the last week of May, I stayed a week with my uncle Karl and Aunt Jeanie in the beautiful city of Santa Fe. As I got off the plane, I realized the city was not like anything I had ever seen. The airport only had room for one plane. It was such a tiny airport, it felt like a large prop for a movie set, not to mention the structure of the building styled to look adobe. Emily, my fabulous cousin picked me up and we headed to the house. I was amazed at the sprawling desert and adobe style buildings everywhere! I adored the home of my uncle and aunt, along with the winding and cozy neighborhood. It was great to see them since it had been a year after visiting them in New Jersey.
I have known about the gallery, shop, and studio space Santa Fe Clay for many years, so it was a destination at the top of my list. It was in proximity to our house, and it was great to show my family around an eccentric clay place. I met and talked to one of the owners, Mark, who is a pretty cool dude. He and his partner had recently gained ownership within the last two years and are doing a great job with the place. It was nicely organized and laid out. I ended up buying two pieces of pottery, a Birdie Boon plate and a Wesley Harvey cup with saucer. I’m excited to use them once I return to the south, after my journeys this summer.
I rode my uncle’s bike all around the city. I went to Meow Wolf, a fun and trippy little adventure. It was certainly like an interactive art exhibit playland, but once the end came, a great sense of commercialism came over me when I entered the gift shop. It was great seeing roadrunners and prairie dogs around the bike trails on the way there.
I attempted to visit the galleries on Canyon Hill, but after going to a few, it didn’t seem to pique my interest. Quite frankly the most interesting art I saw was at the Spanish Colonial museum on Museum Hill and the all the work at the Folk-Art museum. It made me question how I am creating in clay and why I choose to use clay specifically all the time. There was an enormous amount of sculptural work made from wood there, and I enjoy working in wood. Why I don’t do it more often is a mystery to me. After pondering about it more, I had realizations that I have been admiring wooden artwork since childhood, stemming from my recently deceased grandfather who used to whittle miniature statues and set them on a shelf less cabinet built into the wall that had a mirror in it, above and behind the couch. I loved admiring the little pieces, picking them up and asking questions about them. I remember a little shoe that had fabric laces, a tiny and oddly shaped puppy, and a horse. I know he created others, but my memory fails me on those.
It is amazing how objects and art can trigger childhood moments and take us back to direct locations where we used to sit, play, and wonder with our little brains.
I did a lot of other things in Santa Fe, but the trip itself ended up being more adventurous and eye opening than I had imagined.
On Saturday, May 20th, I traveled to Toronto so that I could see one of my favorite bands, ADULT. at The Velvet Underground, in an interestingly consumerist hipster neighborhood.
ADULT. has been diligent at making music since the 90s. Not only that, but Nicola, the lead vocalist creates each album cover by the hand of her own photography, with each album having a cohesive connection to the other aesthetically. I'm so fascinated with Nicola and Adam's band because of the originality of their work, sound, dedication to their art, and overall look. They are truly a Detroit gem! Their electro-techno grim style of music is what my heart and brain feed off of most of the time when I am in the studio or a creative mindset. Seeing them live was the icing on the cake, because they exceeded my expectations. Keeping up their mysterious allure, ADULT. sets the tone with a mainly foggy set, all black wardrobe, occasional strobe lights from the base of the stage, and a majority of the show being Nicola's beautiful silhouette wrapped in the black microphone cord. She keep the listeners and viewers in check with her stark black hair, high contrasting red lipstick, black eye liner, and her dance like movements of waving and swinging the microphone around the stage, while Adam keeps up the electronics beating heaving in the back wearing his large black framed glasses, and beautiful skunk like hair in a perfect pompadour. They sound just as great in person as their digital music, if not better. Even better, their performance was a wide array of music they have created from the last decade and a half, not just from their new album, "Detroit House Guests", which I suggest looking up on Spotify and having a lil sample. Nicola even loved getting off the stage and interacting with the crowd. ADULT. was 110% worth 6 hours of round trip driving and being exhausted for 24 hours. It could also be that I was going to museums and riding a bicycle around Toronto the whole damn day too. Anyway, they are one of the most underrated bands that I know, and I wish they would get more credit. Enjoy their album art.
On the night of June 9th, I was delighted to see a performance of the awesome queer band PWR BTTM (https://pwrbttm.bandcamp.com/). Actually, I couldn’t wait to blog about it that weekend, but something else distracted me. The show was so amazing, powerful, colorful, genuine, and unconventional that tears of overwhelming happiness poured down my face during most of the performance. I didn’t take any photographs or videos of the event at the Bug Jar (http://bugjar.com/) because I wanted it to be more personal. The memory will always be dancing in the back of my head, and I wish people would put their phones down at performances for that reason. Yes, I’ve been guilty of doing it, but I have quit.
Anyway, during those moments in the concert, I was so happy and proud to be gay. It was thrilling to be surrounded by the Rochester LBGTQ community and allies around me. The vibe in the room would make anyone emotional. Ben, the [shirtless] guitarist, had his face filled with bright bits of teal glitter and makeup. Liv, the drummer, wore a delightful floral blouse with dangling earrings. With jestful turns, they both sang their songs. Fortunately, I was able to have a little chat with them after the show and they both did Sharpie doodles on my Ugly Cherries cassette tape. I thought about how much this music will help current generations of queer people and many more to come. I thought about how much I could have used it in high school, and shoved it in the face of the homophobic assholes I had to deal with on a daily basis.
With all of that joy aside, I wasn’t able to post about the concert because that following Sunday, June 12th, the Orlando Pulse massacre happened. For the whole week, like the rest of the LGBTQ community around America, I was in pain physically and mentally. I couldn’t stop crying anytime I thought to write about the show. Here I was just 3 days before, celebrating my sexuality with great artists and people from Rochester, very proud to be living in 2016 safe and sound as a gay man. That comfortable mindset came crumbling down that Sunday. I still can’t write about this without a few tears sitting here in the Equal Grounds coffee shop (http://www.equalgrounds.com/) I’m glad there is finally a moment for me to talk about how this concert was tied into the Pulse massacre. It is important to remember that as LGBTQ citizens, we are still not safe from the typical American heteronormative mindset, especially transgender members of our community who are murdered on a weekly basis. (http://www.advocate.com/transgender/2016/8/11/these-are-trans-people-killed-2016) We have to have everyone’s back in our community. Pulse will always be a historical event to remind us that we must not get terribly comfortable with our rights and that we have to keep being creative, beautiful souls, and fighting for our civil rights. In the meantime, I’ll continue to give my support for my community, protest American gun laws, and live my queer life!
My one year ceramics residency is ending this week at the Genesee Center for the Arts and Education. The past year has gone by so quickly and I have tried my hardest to cherish every important moment! With any ending is another beginning because we all know there is something next, unless you’re dead. During the past year I have had a great amount of personal growth that I am thankful to have experienced. I am also very thankful for the kindness of people who have met me in the past 365 days.
Moving to the north has been quite the crash course in living in the real world. It has made me appreciate the friends I have before moving here and love them so much more. The people in the north are not as welcoming, the parking situation is ridiculous, vehicle laws are nonsensical, and there is a lot of hustle bustle over nothing. Everyone is just too “busy” to invite you out or have you as a part of their crew. I have made a few good friends who have been very great and helpful. After all, we all need somebody to lean on at some point in time. I have fought so hard to be independent all these years, and Rochester has made me realize it is ok to rely on people when you are having difficulty picking yourself up. I’ve also been able to help others in need which is great too.
Anyway, the art show’s over, and I have to take the next step. By January, I will be applying at my top 3 picks for a Ceramics MFA, which are Alfred University, LSU, and University of Georgia, and then researching more from there. I have to find more information about Ohio State University, Ohio University, VCU, RIT, Cranbrook, and others. I want to be accepted into a MFA program that has work exchange for tuition or scholarship of some sort. Why would anyone want to pay for grad school if they don’t have to? I still need to have professional photos taken of my current work in an individual piece setting. I also need to begin the professional connection and paperwork that is partnered with MFA applications.
Currently, I am keeping my head above water working at a great bakery, Get Caked(http://www.getcakedroc.com/ ) and living with my good friend Mark. It is my goal to march onward and not let everyday life get in my way, and to stay focused as I always do!
You better keep on truckin’ and tryin’ too!
Tonight, I modeled for Main Street Arts in Clifton Springs, NY (mainstreetartsgallery.com) It was their first figure drawing session and I am so proud to have been a part of it. The gallery is very professional with a wide variety of good art. In addition, the people who work there are wonderful! I couldn't ask for a friendlier group to work for .
During the 3 hour modeling session, on the second floor gallery, there was a large oil painting by Marisa Bruno. It was a portrait of a young man. There was a wide variety of purple tones, which I think is what drew me into the piece so heavily. His slightly messy amethyst and maroon hair was the perkiest part of the image. After staring at his face for at least an hour during my frozen stances, I began to think about entering the picture. My fingers would slowly run themselves around the curves of his beautiful large nose until they reached his angular ears and softly pinching his broad earlobes. I saw myself tracing my fingers around the bumps of his lips and embracing the angular jagged lines of his jaw, chin, and eyebrows. Would I be able to put my arms around his shoulders with a hug and rest my head on his left side? Is he actually angry, and possibly homophobic? Why is he so bewitching and melancholy at the same time? This must have been how humans thought before photographs and television! Oh, how romantic it is to find a connection through the vivid brush strokes of oil.
Today at work, I told one of my workmates, whom is quitting, that I'll miss him. He replied, "Why, is it because you love me?" To which I couldn't reply because I soon realized that maybe I do kind of love him. Love comes in so many forms.
In connection, I was reading the end of Keith Haring's autobiography where he discusses having a wonderful platonic [nonsexual] relationship with one of his male best friends towards the end of his life, and how fulfilling it was. He was basically explaining the love he shared with this man emotionally. It moved me, possibly due to being in a similar situation, or yearning for a platonic relationship in my current location, with another intellectual male without anything physical. It's amazing how words from others can hit you right in the head and heart.
On October 9th-12th, at Genesee center for the arts, we hosted the Flower City Pottery Invitational and it was a pottery whirlwind of an experience! At RIT, Mark Shapiro did a demonstration on the 7th and Liz Quackenbush had a pottery round table discussion on the 8th to coincide with the activities. It was great to meet Jane Shellenbarger and Peter Pincus, the ceramic professors in the RIT art department; they were quite welcoming. Their ceramics facility is wonderful. I loved sipping tea and eating scones with the students at the round table discussion. We touched on a variety of modern pottery topics, including making work based on your on diet and eating habits, which I connected with the most.
Of course, Audrey, Kate, and Lynn, the main coordinators of the invitational, were already checking in the potters while professionally displaying the pots throughout the whole building starting Thursday. That evening, Jenny Mendes hosted a workshop on the second floor. The class participated in a terra sigillata process after she gave a presentation on her work. She is such a kind and great soul. I got emotional as I carved into the terracotta tile brushed with layers of chartreuse terra sig I had painted on. I knew at that moment, my next pots had to have carvings.
Once the 9th came, the preparation got more intense. Kate and I made a wild trip to Wegman’s grocery store to buy all of the horderves and drinks for the opening reception. The largest Wegman’s in Rochester is like going into the BassPro in Springfield, MO: fucking crazy. We got back and began helping more potters unload. The exhibiting artists were Mark Shapiro, Dan Finnegan, Jane Shellenbarger, Kristen Kieffer, Jenny Mendes, Forrest Lesch-Middelton, Mary Barringer, Bob Briscoe, Julie Crosby, Peter Beasecker, Ryan Greenheck, John Gill, Doug Peltzman, Liz Quackenbush, Bryan Hopkins, Kenyon Hansen, Matt Metz, Tony Clennell, Carolyn Dilcher-Stutz and Richard Aerni. It was fun getting to meet each and every one while seeing their personalities as they arrived and unpack their work. Kelly (the other resident), and I also helped in getting all the boxes of pots to every room. The rickety wheel chair elevator was quite the experience. It’s like what an elevator was before they were completely invented. If you ever have to go up in one of these, take the stairs!
On Friday night the show opened. Each room had its on feel, lit to perfection with pots galore! I made sure to scope out and put the pieces I wanted to purchase to the side before people arrived. Once the sun went down, the building was packed in every room with people from all around the state of New York and nearby areas. Kelly and I had the task of pouring the champagne for the opening toast. It was an interesting attempt to get a glass in each person’s hand before Pincus, Beasecker, and Metz gave a great toast. After everyone left that evening, there was a little chit chat between the staff, and I slept like a baby!
Saturday came, and I worked with wrapping pots that people were purchasing, worked as a pot carrier when someone had a purchase, and ran the raffle table. I got to see Trevor and Amy Blackwell-Bennett, old friends from the ceramic world of UALR. They live in Alfred, NY at the moment. There wasn’t a slow minute the whole weekend. Everyone involved worked their butts off. Saturday evening, all of the potters and staff got to eat dinner catered by Han Noodle Bar around 6:00. Gosh, it was nice to chill out after the hubbub. Co-workers and I were able to chat and mingle with the artists. They were all so engaging and fun to be around. I especially enjoyed the company of Peter Pincus, Kristen Kieffer, & Bryan Hopkins, who were so kind.
Sunday arrived. I worked all day, then helped Liz Q pack up her plethora of pots, and finally purchased a teapot from her. All the potters quickly loaded up. The only one who was shipping work was Forrest Lesch-Middleton from California. All the others gave warm hugs and drove off in the distance. Forrest did a demo Monday morning; his screen printing process on pots is mesmerizing. Forrest, the staff, and I ate at Dogtown, gave our goodbyes to him and called it a day. Somehow, I made it back into the studio to do more work that afternoon. I think the adrenaline and inspiration put a spark in me. We were all recovering from the event for a good week. Kate and Audrey had a cold nearly the whole time, but held up through the event. The weekend was filled with energy, love, and community. I had lots of fun and took away much than just pots from the experience! I am beyond thankful to have been a part of it all.
My residency position officially started 12 days ago. The ball has started to roll and it's only gonna roll faster from here on out! In the past couple weeks that I've worked here at (rochesterarts.org/), I have helped open a gallery show in our Firehouse Gallery featuring artist Richard Nickel (https://richardnickel.wordpress.com/ceramics/), reclaimed over 200 lbs of clay for the intro classes, mopped the hell out of the studios, worked in the office taking calls and payments, co-taught a Friday night fling with 12 beginning wheel throwers, met tons of people, thrown a few mugs, continued my brainstorming, and had a good number of beers.
One gal, whom I'm becoming friends with, took me out for drinks at a 1920s speakeasy themed bar named Cheshire. (http://www.yelp.com/biz/cheshire-rochester) It was very dim, they only played music from the decade, and the bartenders dressed to the nines. I discovered a delicious cocktail that I believe is called a whiskey over easy. It had frothed egg white which caused a delightful custard taste. Needless to say, everyone has been very welcoming!
Office work has been great because I can read, network, edit photos, write, eat, chit chat, and even work on art!
Coming up October 9-11, the art center will be hosting the Flower City Pottery Invitational. Rochester is known as The Flour/Flower City (https://www.rochesterarts.org/special-events/pottery-invitational-2015/) This will be a big event for the center and a number of great ceramic artists will be exhibiting here in addition to demonstrations. I can't wait! Doug Peltzman will be doing a demo and I absolutly love his work. I'll have to snag one of his cups in addition to absorbing any info he has to give.
I am off work in 10 minutes from here and I am gonna go sling more clay. Woo hoo!
The week before last, after a few grueling days of travel through some beautiful lush states, I arrived in the quirky city of Rochester, NY. (aka The Four City)
It has been quite an adjustment living with roommates, riding a bike more so than traveling via car, and the difference between Rochester and Little Rock. Rochester has a bigger city feel without as many problems. There are numerous murals, good street art, and it has that certain city smell down Monroe Ave. Like usual, there is awkwardness with the roomies, but what can one expect while living with complete strangers? I've already displayed my cleanliness tendencies spending hours tidying up the place and letting my personality be known.
Like any good move, I lost my wallet within less than a week while riding my bike to the studio. I've already applied for new cards and didn't have any cash in ther, so what the hell! Murphy's law, whatever. I have some dough in my Starbuck's account if I really need to treat myself.
I was able to meet my coworkers last week and everyone is great! The building and facilities are larger and more eclectic than I thought. I may even take a letter press class if time allows. Today, I threw a dozen bowls of our November chili bowl fundraiser and will head back tomorrow to trim.
My car is packed to the brim, including the passenger side. I'd say it's as full as a Vino's calzone. You don't realize how high maintenance you are until you live out of your car for a few days. I'm so thankful for the friends and family who have let me crash at their place until I leave. It's been full of laughs and tears, and I love it.
I'll start my two day trip in the middle of this week and hope to arrive in Rochester to pick up the keys to my housing. I'll be living with roommates again in order to afford my living situation. Sacrifice is such a large part of reaching goals and I think it is one of the biggest lessons I'm learning from this experience so far. I find myself thinking about what I'm giving up in order to gain. If your giving up something and not gaining what you desire, then what is the point? Life is such a crazy balancing act; no need to go to the circus when we all live it everyday!
As usual, the summer went by in the blink of an eye. I taught a wild month of ESL art summer school in addition to working at the wonderful Rosalia's Family Bakery. Now, I never imagined how stuffed my car would be or the emotions that would arise from this whole thing. People have been moving for thousands of years though, so it ain't nothing.
Like my Grandma Ag said, "I'm not worried about you. When I was 27, I was on my second child and my second marriage!"
In other words, this trip will be a breeze compared to that.