IAM conference 2008…

Howdy folks,

So last weekend saw the coming and going of the 2008 annual IAM (International Arts Movement) conference. Overall, I would have to rate it a success. It wasn’t without its downsides, but I think it managed to succeed despite its shortcomings.

Highlights for me were:

Roberta Green Ahmanson – her presentation this year was another historical tour de force on the topic of the city. I’m actually re-listening to her 2007 address on faces to get more information for my Jesus Portraits series. Ahmanson’s lecture was a freight train of information and a good way to start.

Jeff Speck – one of New Urbanism’s poster children, Speck was witty and informative – an interesting continuation of Ahmanson’s address.

Joyce Robinson from the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation, who brought Tara Donovan, Barbara Takenaga and Jared Sprecher to present on the program was thoroughly fascinating. I was fortunate enough to meet Sprecher earlier in the conference and enjoyed both his work and getting acquainted with him. The panel discussion with this group was really informative and gave, I think, an interesting glimpse into the processes and stories of how these artists got to where they are in their careers. I was also thoroughly delighted to photograph both Robinson and Sprecher for my Jesus Portraits series (although I doubt it will help me get into the studio program).

Terry Teachout – I was unfamiliar with this acclaimed theater critic, but completely won over by his eloquent and imaginative presentation. I found his unabashed endorsement of beauty in art to be refreshing, if a little heavily anti-post-modernity. Normally, I would agree with this sentiment; but I can’t, of late, rule out the beneficial contribution of Derida and deconstruction to the general discourse.

I’m so pissed off that I missed the TM Sisters‘ performance…but I am completely grateful for a generously willing pose as Jesus.

viva bluegrass (a.k.a. old time)! the Varnish Cooks kicked it old school and well.

Last, but not least, I have to give props to Rob Mathis. Although I generally wouldn’t consider myself a fan of his genre of music, the guy was solid and his music was impressive. It may have also been his huge enthusiasm for Dostoyevsky that sold it, but for some reason I connected with it. If you have the opportunity to hear him, I’d highly recommend it.

Oh, well, I did also shoot almost 60 new Jesus Portraits, so keep an eye peeled for updates.

Well, that’s about it for now.




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I am IAM…

Hi folks,


Short post today.

The 2008 IAM conference (they’re calling it an “encounter,” but I’m not) starts today.

I’m shooting two series over the weekend – my Jesus Portraits and a new campaign for IAM called, I am IAM.

I think this is a good idea for them, if they can pull it off well.

If you’re in town, stop by and say hi.



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Upsetting the apple cart.

ok, this is totally off topic, but it had me crying from laughter at my desk.

Hi folks.


I’m knee-deep into John D. Caputo’s first officially theological endeavor, The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event and it’s having rather significant influence on both my conception of God and my conception of art (in a really indirect way).

My more traditionally orthodox and theologically conservative friends will want to throw me out with the liberal bathwater they might associate with Caputo’s arguments (although I’d urge them not to rely on reviews, but read it for themselves, thank you very much) but I’m really finding the exploration of St. Paul’s writing in I Corinthians to be fascinating. Caputo essentially launches his theology from this:

“but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

1 Corinthians 1:23-25 (New American Standard Bible)

Obviously, my summarizing is drastically simplistic, but the idea of God moving and working in and through human weakness rather than with a sort of “shock and awe” strength is something I’ve heard preached many times and that has really contradicted other notions tauting God’s omnipotence. Red flags go up. He’s messing with God’s omnipotence! Wait, he also argues rather convincingly that said omnipotence is a later, human, metaphysical assertion that isn’t consistent with a hebraic and logical interpretation of the bible. woah. Lest the torches are lit prematurely, I’ll let you know that Caputo neither approaches his argument lightly, nor does he point us away from our faith in God, rather, he seems to be pointing us more directly to the God who moves us to both do and be the good that He created – exemplified in Jesus Christ on the cross (ha! and you thought you could write it off so easily).

But what does my mid-point in a theology tome have to do with paintings in Chelsea?

I’m still working that out, but it seems to have profound implications for the motivation of the artist and the product the artist creates. If a person postures themselves in proximity to a deity that advocates for the weak, the lowly, the poor, then the art that comes out must, at least partially, reflect similar notions.

A theology of weakness begets an aesthetic of weakness.

…and that’s where I’m at – finishing the book and looking for others that might inform a research into an aesthetic of weakness.

Some people have suggested Richard Kearney – who seems to be working on it through the idea of stories.

Let’s see where it goes.

(See you at church)




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Cool Faces in New Spaces…

Last Sunday John asked if I wanted to check out a new space that his friend, Rico Gatson was showing at.

Of course I did.


The new space is Pocket Utopia, located in Bushwick.

Tomorrow–Sun noon–6pm.

Ongoing through Feb 24

Address: 1037 Flushing Avenue Bushwick, Brooklyn
Phone: 718-303-2047
Travel: Subway: L to Morgan Ave Plan Route

Time out Gave them a recommendation:

This show navigates identity politics through a series of sculptures, paintings, collage and video. Through Sun 24.

I thought it was a solid show. Not too familiar with Gatson’s work, I liked the formal qualities of the sculptures and how he used them in creating a conversation about identity and politics.

There was a constructed stage that reminded me of a Felix Gonzalez-Torrez performance piece I’ve read about. It was small and silver with blinking lights at the base, really making you want to shout something profound to the audience (whoever was there) or sing karaoke.

A small edition of a Nina Simone print is on display, giving younger (and less wealthy) collectors access to a Gatson piece for a slim $200. This is a deal, considering the sculptures begin around $5K (that’s purely from memory).

Overall, I’m excited for new and interesting spaces popping up around the city.

I hope Pocket Utopia can keep it up.



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Convincing arguments on Super Tuesday…


This post is for Super-Duper Tuesday-ers.

I’m not sure if I’ll leave it up after tonight, but it impressed me and I thought I’d post it for today, at least.

Keep in mind that this is not a faith-based argument – perhaps then think about how similar a faith-based argument would sound.

I don’t know much about Lawrence Lessig, but I do know a strong, thoughtful, and intelligent argument when I hear one.

“20 minutes or so on why I am 4Barack”

…and this one’s just for fun:


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Getting it done and Basking in the sun…


Hi everybody!

Upcoming shows: If anyone’s in Grand Rapids, MI next week, I have two pictures going up in their alumni photography show opening Feb. 8. Check local listings for details.

***Note – A short political opinion follows***

Next Tuesday is the super one. Don’t forget to vote. If you’ve participated in my Jesus Portrait series, perhaps that will help you make a decision – vote like you would if you were Jesus (He’s got my official endorsement in every election). What were His concerns and who represents them? How did His kingdom compare with the direction of our country and the candidates?

Also, I highly recommend reading “God’s Politics” by Jim Wallace. Indeed, God is not a Republican or a Democrat and shame on those who ascribe God to one or the other party, exclusively.

***End political opinion***

Back to business…

I happen to be in the extremely fortunate position of being friends with a lot of people who I would easily put in the category of “doers.” People who know how to get things done and prove it to you before talking to you about it. I think I’m more in the category of “people who talk too much about their ideas before actually doing anything,” but I’m working on it.

I’ll give you a few brief examples.

1) My wife gets more done than any of us. Working full-time, writing like madness and freelance editing – she sets the bar high.

2) My friend Matt decides how he wants his life to happen and makes it so. A couple of years ago he told me that he wanted to move out of NYC to a house on a lake, near a college that was in a progressive area where he could ride his bike to work (which would be as a preschool teacher) and have a studio.

My response was basically “go for it and buy me some mouse-ears while you’re there.” Three months later I was helping him move into a house on a lake, in western Massachusetts, near 5 colleges, where he has a studio, a sweet teaching gig (that he rides his bike to) and a farm coop nearby. I ate my (locally-grown, organic) words and drove home.

Matt gets it done.

3) Another artist friend of mine, John, decided that he wasn’t satisfied with how his life was structured. He was working at an unsatisfying job as an art consultant and felt rather stagnant (his art was cruising along steadily, meanwhile). So he decided to change things by starting a school – funded by his alma matter in MN for art students to live and study in New York. 3 or so years later, the school is a huge asset to art students that don’t live in New York or LA and has hosted shows in its gallery that anyone in Chelsea would be jealous of. John gets it done too.

4) My last example is a rather new friend. He is someone I haven’t known very long, but is none-the-less, extremely inspiring in his ability to make things happen.

His name is Thom.

BASK is his company.

Renewable energy solutions.

Dig it.

This is the kind of creativity, ingenuity, and determination I get inspired by. I thought I’d pass it along.




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Bag it 2.0

Hi folks.

Sorry for the hiatus. I got a little overly nerdy about teaching and basically wiped my schedule clean for a while. Well, back in action.

Starting the year a little slow, but hopefully it will ramp up nicely.

Upcoming events:

IAM is having their annual conference (calling it an encounter this year) at the end of February. I have a tendency to be skeptical about these things, but every single time I go I’m really impressed with a lot of what goes on (the keynote speakers have been excellent every time I’ve been there). This year they have some interesting people lined up, including a recent favorite – artist Tara Donovan. It looks like I might be doing a collaborative project with them during the event, so if you’re coming out, drop by and say hi (and participate!). They seem to be moving specifically to re-brand themselves as an organization that’s not specifically evangelistic. I know they’ve technically been a non-religious institution for a while; but, anyone familiar with IAM is also probably familiar with Mako and his ties to college ministry. This seems like a good move for them, as it broadens the scope of the conversations they can have and lends them credibility with those unfamiliar with or unenthusiastic about certain college ministries.

I mean, I like the college students as much as anyone (my first class went relatively well yesterday, btw), but campus ministries have left a lingering bad taste in my mouth and if IAM wants to be serious about its stated mission of encouraging artists in creating “the world that ought to be” well, they need to focus a little more on the artists, because they’ve already targeted the art-students. We’ll see how it goes, but my recent conversation left me hopeful.

word. I’m going.


Here’s a bag I started just before the Christmas break and finished a couple weeks ago. It’s inspired by this Make Magazine video.

Recycle, yo.



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