Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Going dark

Is your going "dark" part, or a result of, the art project? Just curious.


Yeah, D. Busy. Partly the gallery project, for sure. Tonight we continue the installation. It opens next Thursday.

I've also taken on an idiotic creative assignment in the lobby of the Goldsmith Bldg. Last year, building owner David Gold installed a frame in the lobby for a giant mural that goes up on the first Thursday of each month. A few months ago, I signed up for July.

This was my original idea. I love large type, words, questions, uniting ideas. But as it hung on my studio wall, I got tired of it, and spurred by a comment from my wife, I decided to let the mural unfold over the month - create something new every day without knowing where it's going.

We divided the wall up into 35 rectangles for the 35 days that the mural will be up. Each day I'll put up something new. I started with the original idea.

On day 2, I decided to reproduce this graffiti that I spotted on a very active stoop on the side of the building. Take a good look.

I've already had stress dreams about this assignment. It's an exercise in letting go, trust, discovery. We'll see. I'm halfway finished with today's.

I've also been dark because of a lot of other studio work. Finishing up a self-promo poster, took on an Oregon Humanities project that was too fun to pass up, and I'm leaving next week for Poland to produce a series of films for Wikipedia at their annual gathering of Wikimaniacs. I'm also participating in a fund raiser for Write Around Portland where a artist/writer creates a personalized writing journal and they auction it off.

So D., some of it is about being busy, but I am also going to use the month of July as an experiment where I do all my expression/creating in the real world, and give Facebook, Twitter and the blawg a little rest. See what happens. Documenting it/talking about it less, and concentrating on experiencing it.

I'll be back. And I'm still on email.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


In January, when Aaron started, he mentioned that he had a show scheduled for the Littman Gallery in July, and wondered if it should/could be a project for the studio. Sure, I said. An art show. That'll be fun.

I went to check out the space, and it's gorgeous. It's on the PSU campus and its huge windows face the park blocks. Great.

We thought about what we had to say, how we'd construct a show, what theme we might address. Aaron was telling me about the brainstorming he was doing while washing dishes, but instead it came out, "I was brainwashing the other night," and that malapropism became the name of our show. Brainwashing. Later shortened to Brainwash.

We liked the positive connotations of brainwash. It sounds kind of nice. I'd like to have my brain washed, get all the barnacles and crust off of it.

We explored that for a few weeks, and got nowhere. I thought, we have so many talented friends, why are we trying to figure it all out ourselves? Why don't we gather a group of people and make something together?

Aaron was game, so in April we sent out a call to participate in group show called Brainwash, and we got a great response.

We gathered in my studio to decide what we wanted to get out of the show. Fourteen people were there: Aaron, Damion Triplett, Mike Giepert, Kate Bingaman-Burt, Jeremy Pelley, Fritz Mesenbrink, Mathew Foster, Chris Hutchinson, Scrappers, Patrick Long, Marco Kaye, Jennie Hayes, David Neevel and me. Later, one dropped out, and Driscoll Reid, Jason Sturgill, Jim Lasser, Taylor Twist, Julia Oh and Julia Blackburn joined us.

So, an incredible group, but pretty unwieldy too, especially at arriving at a POV. So on that first night, we decided that our best bet might be getting behind a singular idea.

We set up a second night in the studio to create together. Inspired by an event that my wife hosts in my studio called SHARE, the group came together to create. We worked off of a prompt, and worked in teams and solo for a couple of hours generating thoughts.

That's the backstory. Part of it anyway.

The show opens on July 8, and is now called OVER IT. Come see what we make.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Client update: O. Hm.

Last fall, after all the work we made for Oregon Humanities, I met with Kathleen, their editor and communications director, to formally hand over the work and talk about what happens next. We met over coffee, and it was a little sad. It was something of an ending to one of the best client relationships I'd ever had.

I encouraged Kathleen to make the stuff their own, use it, break it, experiment, try new things themselves. I told her about how I liked the storytelling from PS1 and MoMA. Feels like they are creating it themselves, and not speaking through a 'branding agency.'

So, we didn't create a traditional "style guide." Remember style guides? Life moves too fast for style guides anymore. Instead, I made a little hand-drawn map with thumbnails of the work and possible ways it could be shared with different audiences.

We talked about voice, the personality of Oregon Humanities. We talked about how believing in the power of new, bold, surprising, lively ideas as an organization means your storytelling should be bold and surprising and lively.

We talked about not overplaying "Oh, Hmm," unless you wanted to be super annoying.

We talked about finding good partners to help create things, how to encourage them to not feel locked in a system, but have freedom to make it their own, which will keep the voice human and alive.

"It's gonna be awesome," I probably said.

We hugged and said goodbye, Kathleen went off to have her baby, I moved on to other projects/relationships. That was probably 9 months ago.

Any lingering sadness went away the other night when I went to a simply outstanding event they hosted. I have a smile on my face as I'm writing this. It's another chapter in my case study of an Ideal Client. They not only had absorbed the storytelling and made it their own, their new communication materials created without me were possibly better than what I made for them. Everything about the event reflected an aligned organization with clarity and confidence around its own purpose, story and voice. Super powerful, and inspiring.

First of all, the event was simply art directed very well. It was held in a cool space, the AIA building in the Pearl, the food and wine were great, and the women of O. Hm. looked spiffy.

The visiting guest was a heavy hitter. Remember Denver in 2008, when a Republican congressman appeared at the Democratic Convention and endorsed Barack Obama? That was Jim Leach, a 30-year congressman from Iowa. Now he's Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. His focus at the NEH has been a "civility tour" where he talks about the importance of dialogue and humanity in civic engagement. It's been called the opposite of a Tea Party. Pretty awesome.

As tempting as it would be to simply put him behind a lectern, Cara, O. Hm.'s executive director, took a risk and set up the evening as a moderated conversation between Jim and Alison Carey, director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival American Revolutions play cycle, and co-founder of the Cornerstone Theater Company, an experimental, community-based, collaborative theater.

"This arrangement reflects what we believe," Cara told us, "that through dialogue and different ideas colliding, we move forward.

"We believe in the transformational power of new ideas, for communities, and for people." Terrific.

I can't remember the question that Cara used to kick off the conversation, but it was something along the lines of, What is the relevance of the Humanities in this whatever-the-hell-it-is-that's-going-on-out-there, the chaos, the struggle, the divisiveness?

Deep breath and silence as everyone seemed to absorb the weight of the question.

Jim talked about personally being most struck by the acceleration of change, how that raises the critical question of whether we see that other person we are forced to confront as our neighbor or as our enemy. Our answer determines whether we frame the other person's POV as an opposing idea or something we are curious about and seek to develop an understanding of.

(Made me think of Pifkin's take on Empathic Civilizations.)

Alison also talked about curiosity. She talked about the insights that happen when we take a deep breath and ask ourselves, "How do I feel about this? What's my understanding of what's happening here?" We don't give ourselves time for deep breaths anymore, she said, but art gives them to us. Art makes us curious, and it's nearly impossible to condemn something or someone we are curious about. Curiosity is the gateway of understanding.

So, yeah, awesome, the whole evening, so thoughtful and provocative and stimulating, and then they brought out the cookies. Conversation cookies.

Instead of fortunes, each contains a question designed to spark thinking/conversation. The Oregon Humanities staff made them. Great!

They also handed out their tasty new re-branded magazine, designed by Pinch.

An energizing evening. I'm so proud of those guys, inspired. I've learned so much that's relevant as I seek to begin new client relationships.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Art works

This morning at coffee I looked out the window and saw something I hadn't seen before, a a giant metallic phallic sculpture stuck in the ground just north of my studio.

"It's an acupuncture needle," my coffee guest said. "They're putting them around Portland different places." Ha! What a great idea. Old Town Chinatown could use a little acupuncture. I could.

How do we preserve the history and raise the new energy? How do I preserve the history and raise the new energy?

I can see this needle from the window of my studio and I am so glad.