Jeff Koons’ Puppy

January 22nd, 2008 by roblog · 11 Comments

Given that most of the conversation around the sculpture studio lately has been about animals, topiaries, large scale works and Post-Modernism, it brings to mind the ultimate confluence of all such subjects:

Jeff Koons’ Puppy

It seems that every time I bring up the topic of “Jeff Koons, My Dislike Of”¹ around a fellow Art-Viewing-Person, the response I get is something along the lines of “No matter how much you hate Jeff Koons, you have to admit, you like Puppy.”

Undeniably, Puppy is gosh-darn likable.³ It’s also a good example of how monumental scale can add a sense of magic to an otherwise uninspired idea. (Claes Oldenburg probably made the best use out of this principle). On the other hand, Puppy can emblemize gimmick and the vapidity of the artistic vanguard of the last twenty years.

On the other, other hand, who criticizes a giant flower dog?


¹ A little known fact about me: I index and cross reference all conversational topics. Really.²

² Not really.

³ So likable, in fact, that I predict that in the year 2019, the likability of Puppy will be used to distinguish human beings from the robot-people, who will then be killed by Harrison Ford, blade runner.

→ 11 CommentsTags: Art · ARTS 331

Liberty Leading The Professionals

December 1st, 2007 by roblog · 1 Comment

Liberty Leading The Professionals

Professional Practices in Studio Art

Annual Presentations

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

5 PM, Melchers 107

featuring presentations by the following artists:

Beth Wilkins, Robert Lynn, Richard Jones, Matt Czapiewski, Katherine Arens, Molly Sheldon, Christina Falcone, Daniel Roberts, Christina McGovern, Michael Mosely, and Davette Leonard

And a faculty panel including the esteemed Lynda Sharpe (Assistant Director, UMW Galleries), the magnificent Dr. Joseph Dreiss (Professor of Art History), and the inimitable Jim Groom (all-powerful creator of UMW blogs).


Special thanks to Matt Czapiewski for his excellent photo-editing work and Professor Garmon for letting us recreate Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading The People during class (and doing a great job of playing a dead body). Also, to avoid any accidental false advertising, I should note that I will not be topless like this during the presentation.

→ 1 CommentTags: Art · ARTS 474 · jim groom sightings · Melchers

Okay, Finally I Have Baroque’n The Silence

November 30th, 2007 by roblog · 3 Comments

So, because of my extended absence from posting on UMW blogs, I’m sure all kinds of rumors have started swirling about what could possibly be the cause of this negligence. Am I looking for WMDs in Iran? Have I been singlehandedly commissioned to replace the entire screenwriters union? Am I testing the waters for a possible Presidential run?

Well, the answer to all of those reasonable questions is no; there is only one thing important enough, serious enough, change-your-life-and-make-you-run-off-to-see-the-Maharashi enough, to tear me away from UMW blogs, and that, my friends, is painting myself in a Rusty Wallace t-shirt:

Rusty Wallace

This is the first of three major paintings for my Caravaggio individual study, and I will be discussing it, and others Monday at 5 PM in Melchers 107 as part of the Professional Practices In Studio Art Annual Presentations.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Art · caravaggio · Individual Study Painting

Abstract Expressionism and the Making of a Heroic Art: Outlines

October 22nd, 2007 by roblog · 4 Comments

My week 9 presentation Abstract Expressionism and the Making of a Heroic Art documents Greenberg’s assertion of the all-american machismo of Abstract Expressionist or “American-Type” painting in his 1955 article “‘American-Type’ Painting” as well as the repercussions this had on the female artists associated with the New York School, exemplified by Lee Krasner’s struggle with her engendered artistic identity as “Mrs. Jackson Pollock” in Anne M. Wagner’s “Lee Krasner as L.K.”
Mrs. Jackson Pollock?

Outline: Lee Krasner as L.K.

Outline: ‘American-Type’ Paintings

→ 4 CommentsTags: Art · ARTH460 · Women and Art

Heroes and Housewives: The Language of Kitsch

October 22nd, 2007 by roblog · 1 Comment

Jasper Johns’s subtle manifesto Painting With Two Balls (1960)

The most interesting findings of my research to date for my “Gender and Kitsch” paper have been, surprisingly, more connected to vocabulary than painting. While women were, at different times, admitted to the highest circles of Greenbergian painting, the language used to discuss those that were and those that weren’t was uniformly tied to gender. For instance, the male Abstract Expressionists are invariably depicted as archetypal struggling artists, supported by the workaday wages of their wives, while all women attempting the same effort were described as housewives or hobbyists. (Janet Sobel, a female painter from Long Island in the 1940’s served as the primary inspiration to Jackson Pollock’s distinctive mark, and yet, was disregarded as a housewife). Meanwhile, even the Abstract Expressionist women artists such as Helen Frankenthaler were labeled second generation Abstract Expressionists even when their work premiered at the same time as some “First Generation” male painters. Similarly, in a husband-and-wife painter exhibition, the women were described as “tidying up” their husbands work.

The smoking gun, however, is in Greenberg and Rosenberg’s writings, where the former defined the feminine as the tendency to employ the elements of great art for practical uses, essentially his definition of kitsch, and the latter derided the pop artists for being afraid of a “masculine” struggle.

The painter Jasper Johns, perhaps Rosenberg’s arch-nemesis, in turn retaliated with the wonderfully tongue-and-cheek Painting With Two Balls, which satarized the gender roles of Greenbergian art while committing all of the mortal sins: corrupting abstraction, including words, employing symbolism (and in a vulgar way!) and most of all, denying the messiah of painting, flatness.

→ 1 CommentTags: Art · ARTH460 · Women and Art

Caravaggio: Evil Genius

October 21st, 2007 by roblog · Comments Off on Caravaggio: Evil Genius

As many of you know, this semester I have based my Individual Study in painting off of the work of Italian baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, who was described by Spanish painter Vincenzo Carducho in 1630 as an “evil genius, who worked naturally, almost without precepts, without doctrine, without study, but only with the strength of his talent, and nothing but nature before him, which he simply copied in his amazing way.”¹

Self Portrait, with nostrils
So far this semester, most of my time has been spent exhaustively researching the unfathomable laziness of Caravaggio’s working technique (in hopes of learning from the master). Which meant that, besides venturing out briefly to paparazzi UMW faculty, I had to spend my fall break holed up in a Daniel street studio coaxing the beginnings out of a big ol’ painting,² (also churning out this purdy little test) in time for this Thursday’s Forum on Undergraduate Research.

So, if you’re curious to learn about Caravaggio’s unorthodox use of egg tempera (or just want to see my nostrils projected at a massive scale), come to the Department of Art and Art History’s Forum on Undergraduate Research on October 25 at 5 PM in Melchers 107.


the ever unflattering Roblog


¹ Evil genius? Man, if anyone ever described me that way, I’d put it on my business cards.

² So what’s in this big painting you ask? Well…Nascar…tiki torch fuel…I’ve said too much already.

Comments Off on Caravaggio: Evil GeniusTags: Art · caravaggio · Individual Study Painting

Where in the World is Jim Groom?: National Folk Festival

October 15th, 2007 by roblog · 6 Comments

a fella on the 5 string banjo at the National Folk FestivalWhen me and the little lady attended the National Folk Festival in Richmond this weekend, while watching the inimitable Campbell family band―featuring Mary Washington’s own Molly Campbell on mandolin (and a studio art major no less)―…

The Campbell Family Band

…we had a rare Jim Groom sighting. (Always the consummate professional, he was wearing a WordPress shirt to keep UMWblogs close to his heart even while recreating):

Jim Groom, the consummate professional, wearing a WordPress shirt to keep umwblogs close to his heart even while recreating.

Other highlights of the festivities include:

a little impromptu old time

Phil Wiggins teaches a childrens workshop on the harmonica

Bluesman Phil Wiggins of the piedmont blues band Cephas and Wiggins leads a children’s harmonica workshop.

Linda Lay and company sing bluegrass

Linda Lay on the autoharp for a bluegrass rendition of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

More photos:

A crane on the JamesSome beautiful ground artThe Jerry Grcevich Tamburitza OrchestraThere were a lot of banjosThe fiddlin’ really brought out the crowds

Until next time,



(While it is true that this post is of questionable academic value to my art/poetry blog, it does feature Guatemalan folk art, piedmont blues, and of course, Jim Groom.)

→ 6 CommentsTags: jim groom sightings · music · Richmond

The Biennale and ARTS 474

October 9th, 2007 by roblog · Comments Off on The Biennale and ARTS 474

Documenta, photo: New York TimesMonday’s Professional Practices class attended VCU’s symposium on the 52nd Venice Biennale, Documenta 12 and the 4th Sculpture Projects Munster, which included a raging debate on the relevance of left-leaning political art and the weird power vacuums involved in curating massive, major exhibitions (pitch black exhibition spaces? really?). Afterwards, I brought up some of the larger criticisms of Robert Storr, and kept mumbling things about a New Yorker review on the subject, which is located here if anybody is curious or wants to get all prepped for next Wednesday’s discussion.

Now if only I can track down all the controversial Felix Gonzales-Torres selection theories that were floating around these wild internets ’bout a year ago at this time…¹

Until then,



¹…there were an awful lot of dead artists presented. Coincidence? Deliberate choice? Evidence of a vast, elaborately concealed artist killing conspiracy? You decide, next time on Roblog!

Comments Off on The Biennale and ARTS 474Tags: Art · Art Exhibitions · ARTS 474

Louis at the Hirshhorn, Hopper at the National Gallery, and arachnids in between

September 28th, 2007 by roblog · 1 Comment

If you’re the type that keeps on listening when I get all worked up about abstract expressionism, you’ve probably heard me say some pretty hyperbolic things about Morris Louis’s artwork, the kind I’m sure I’d never repeat when properly composed.

Morris Louis exhibition at the Hirshhorn

Morris Louis probably made the most beautiful paintings of all time.

Ok, so, I’m not properly composed. Its only been five days since I saw the Morris Louis exhibition at the Hirshhorn. I don’t plan on getting properly composed be for a long time.

This really is a magnificent exhibition, although the first paintings are undoubtedly the most spectacular, so if you have any sense of occasion, do a U-turn when you get off the escalator and visit the exhibition backwards. Most of the time I get the feeling that Morris Louis was the first painter to elevate Abstract Expressionism to something that was visually compelling even if it was divorced from all that theory that Greenberg loved to talk about. Quite an accomplishment. It doesn’t hurt that ol’ Mo was based out of D.C.

(Granted, he did steal his whole concept from Helen Frankenthaler, but, hey, that just relates this back to Women and Western Art right?)
Speaking of that fascinating topic, when Molly and I left the Hirshhorn to go catch a lecture at the National Gallery, we went through the sculpture garden, (past Jeff Koons’s war on art, which is almost as offensive to the soul as it is to the retinas¹) whereMolly and LaChaise’s bug Molly and I had a discussion about how Gaston Lachaise’s concept of an idealized woman (physically empowered, sexually dominant but still an object of male gaze) relates to the patriarchal, which is generally based on weak subserviant woman. Plus, she found something interesting right in the center of his composition:

I also got to see the Edward Hopper exhibition, which was fascinating and comprehensive and one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen. Still, woowee, Hopper’s women are certainly rigid, and voyeristically sexualized. (Heather Carey has a great paper topic.)

When I was 10, Hopper was why I wanted to become a painter, but I have to admit, standing there in that crowded gallery, surrounded by polite middle aged ladies talking about how much they like Cape Cod, this painting gave me the willies.

¹ I mean this. It’s so shiny that it’s physically paintful to look at.

→ 1 CommentTags: Art · Art Exhibitions · Women and Art

Self Portrait of the Artist as a Creepy Man

September 27th, 2007 by roblog · 2 Comments

This post comes in response to the self portrait question on the ARTH 460 blog.

Last year I painted my “Self Portrait of the Artist As a Creepy Man” for my Painting I class, and, disappointed with the results that came from my classmates’ efforts to photograph themselves in alluring, idealized or profound poses, I decided to work from a mirror, making the same vapid expression I make when I paint. When I realized how creepy and uncomfortable the painting was, I decided to emphasize the smaller flaws in my face: crazy-man hair, zits,nosehairs, stubble, a uni-brow. I painted myself in my everyday work clothing, what I am most comfortable in: my favorite plaid shirt, undershirt and corduroy jacket. The background, which I am least happy with, was the actual setting of the painting studio.

The result was a creepy frontal stare from a crazy-looking mountain man, not an altogether incorrect portrayal, but perhaps an ironic exageration of my more controversial (but just as real) features.

Portrait of the Artist as a Creepy Man

The audience question, though, is an interesting one: for painters today, audience theoretically isn’t supposed to change the work. Therefore, I decided I would stand behind my painting for any audience, which worked until my grandparents came to look at the painting. Pappy looked at it closely for a while, then turned to Gramma and said “Remember, its not how we see him, its how he sees himself.” It was the only time I have been uncomfortable presenting myself as my self portrait. Which brings this post back to the topic at hand: much more so than today, baroque and rococo self-portraiture, especially for women, was governed by a need to present oneself at his or her very best. Artists were forced to choose the elements that they wanted to emphasize in their own character, which for women was very much defined by their own appearance. Luckily, in today’s art world, I can comfortably present myself in an uncomfortable way without risking dismissal as an artist.

I’m going to do another self portrait this year for my Caravaggio series. We’ll see how it changes.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Art · ARTH460 · Women and Art