Tag: branding

Counting From One To Ten (But Not In That Order)

books collage mine

#7BooksILove (Photos: mine. Please do not reproduce without permission)

#HBD is probably the most common hashtag I use online. I use it to mark birthdays of artists, musicians, poets, and others whose work I admire. Overall though, online trends are not things I tend to engage in. I know about them, working for myself and needing to be aware of what’s popular when, but rare is the moment when I feel inspired to partake, partly out of a fierce desire to protect my non-online life , partly because the trend will fall a little too far outside my interests; also, my style simply doesn’t fit the compact style social media promotes. (My #SaturdayThoughts are here, and they are more than 280 characters.)

The pullback in personal online shares has been gradual if needed; I tend to agree with a blunt assessment on the Facebook/Instagram/Twitter triumvirate made to me last year, that their nature is essentially “vampiric.” I will only add that one can play the vampire as much as the victim here, and I have certainly drunk more than my fair share of digital blood, in the form of music, movies, history, and art, as well as an unfettered love of Mariella Frostrup columnsBBC Food, and cat pages. (A million thanks to Curious Zelda.) Curation — of what I share, what I imbibe, how I do both, when, and in what spirit — matters, and is largely a private matter.

nigella favorite books

#7BooksILove Day 3/7. (Photo: mine. Please do not reproduce without permission)

So I surprised myself in choosing to partake in a recent revelation of favorite books on Twitter. Nominated by Washington Post classical journalist Anne Midgette with #7BooksILove, I shared a variety of titles from different points in my life, with no explanations and no respective personal histories. (A similar nomination took place on Facebook a while ago with music albums, and I am still mulling participation; my Instagram is full of record covers, after all. ) The photos are not perfect; I don’t care. For those wondering, “why all the legs? Don’t you ever wear pants?!” — again, the answer is spontaneity; I grabbed a book, flopped on a chair, and took the photo. (Also I largely favor dresses in my wardrobe; for days off, large shirts.) The pose was semi-planned (you have to see the covers somehow) but also intended as a simple reflection of my life and ethos — one integrating curiosity, intellect, sensuality, the vividness of living. This vividness is something I admit to currently finding difficulty in keeping and cultivating lately, perhaps an important reminder to myself, that amidst so many changes and challenges of late, it’s important to keep (nay, cultivate) the parts of my identity where beauty, wonder, and the ever-present sensuality so central to my life and being can eat, drink, dance, and also stop, embrace, and inhale, free and unencumbered.— well, as free as I choose to be online, that is, in my big shirt, on my big fancy chair, feet up.

Doing this list was ultimately a useful cosmic reminder of  accepting what was and what is, a notion applicable to method as much as to content; it took more than seven days to complete this task. It was once said about director Francis Ford Coppola that “he can count from one to ten, but not in that order.” I relate to a similarly scattershot, non-linear, non-conventional thinking and approach to living. In learning to navigate a life free from maternal influence and its concomitant harsh judgement, it is liberating to give one’s self permission to explore the unorthodox person within (the artist? I wonder this), a figure who forced into the shadows for so long. In my teaching life, lessons do go from A to B to C as they must, but they might incorporate A flat, C sharp, diminished fifth, dominant seventh (and so on) along the way, and my students might tell you (I hope?) it makes for a rather less dry learning experience. Explorations across the digital realm (and that includes my professional writing work) move in similar ways — the greatest difficulty has been in sustaining the tone. Ah, the ever-present digitally-inspired attention deficit; combine it with the weighty responsibilities and ever-expanding anxieties of older age, and one is sometimes left with impatience instead of enlightenment , impotence in place of inspiration — cracked eggs over Kandinsky, you might say. The course of any serious study requires diligence, dedication, and concentration, even (or especially) voyages within the creative realm. Clarity can emerge from chaos, but that chaos has its own kind of order and definition and schedule that can (and probably should) change with every experience.

books mine

Photo: mine. Please do not reproduce without permission.

That shouldn’t mean leaving spontaneity by the wayside, however. As I wrote, the photos of the books were done spontaneously, and the choices made as to which books I’d share was equally unplanned. Still, I admit relishing the mystery folded into this entire process: Here’s a little slice of my life; no, I’m not telling you more; here’s a bit of me but no more than that, hurrah! There is a great value and power to mystery, particularly in this reveal-all, tell-all age, which leaves little if anything to the imagination — notably when it comes to the lives of women. I am aware of this reality, and have learned to deal with it in different ways since my first posts on social media more than a decade ago. A mix of spontaneity and mystery seems like the best recipe I can muster when dealing with the sometimes welcome, sometimes-unwelcome nature of the digital realm. You can hit “delete” in your online life, but technology has a memory; there’s a reason the word “branding” has become so popular. Similarly, there’s no “delete” button in life. The consequences of choice can be dire, but they can also be surprising, strange, beautiful. Sometimes it’s worth the effort and the inevitable mess to apply a pure color, to scrape it off, to reveal something entirely new; to take away a note, to add a pause, to leave unsaid what escapes mere language —  each act a mystery, a prayer, a stab at grace. There are no hashtags for such moments; there is only the beautiful silence unfolding between the bleeps and bloops of new, unfolding life.

Show & Title

It’s hard to know where or when I first heard the name “Mark Kostabi”, but I am sure it was on television.

I recall seeing the California-born artist on both Oprah and Eye To Eye With Connie Chung in the 1980s, when the art world was buzzing over his bald, smooth figures and his Warhol-esque Kostabi World. I remember admiring both his personal style as well as his attitude; equal parts intelligence, sneer, smirk, and sulk, he was so much more of a badass than any of the music-world idols my friends liked at the time.
So it’s probably fitting that I got the chance to meet Mark Kostabi in-person at a taping of his own television show recently.
The Kostabi Show is a funny, profane, profound, and a fantastically timely comment about the nature of art and democracy. Also, it takes the piss out of the whole idea of ‘high art’ and what that means for the average individual. Intriguing? Yes. Boring? Never. Infuriating? Occasionally.
Indeed, that could sum up Mark Kostabi’s life. Having studied painting and drawing at California State University, he moved to New York in 1982 and quickly became a leading figure in the burgeoning East Village art scene. In 1987 his works were exhibited internationally and in 1988 he founded Kostabi World, where he employed numerous paintings assistants and ideas people who would contribute to (and sometimes entirely paint) Kostabi works. He’s done designs for Swatch and Bloomingdale’s bags (one of which he gave away during last week’s taping), and his work is part of the permanent collections of some big-name places: MOMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, the National Gallery (in Washington), and many more. He’s done a bronze portrait of Pope John Paul II and had several books written about him. Oh, and he designed the album covers for (among others) two little bands you may have heard of: Guns n Roses (yes, he did Use Your Illusion) and the final release from The Ramones, 1995’s Adios Amigos. Not too shabby.
This engaging mix of high and low (and Pop) art is reflected in The Kostabi Show. It started as a series of phone calls – literally. Bored by the business meetings he’d have to be part of as a young NY artist and inspired by the films of Andy Warhol, he began taping the conversations, and broadcasting them on public television.
“I thought, if I filmed these (conversations), they’d be more fun, like a kind of performance,” he explains. “I had a lot of business meetings on the phone, so I put up a camera and filmed me at a desk talking to real art dealers who were haggling with me. Every phone call I had, I recorded. People were getting hooked the same way I got hooked on that phone call, just knowing it was real.”
Inside Kostabi was a big hit with the art world crowd, and was, says the artist, “a precursor to reality TV.”
Part of the show involved titling sessions with a variety of Kostabi’s friends and associates, including art critic Robert C. Morgan, who inspired the idea for the first formal competitive-titling show. Name That Painting, as it was called, began in 2007 a legal threat from the Name That Tune people forced a change and it became Title This, but when people would refer to it, they’d say simply “the Kostabi show.” It stuck. Talk about branding.
Airing Wednesday nights at 8.30pm, the show features competitive titling rounds as well as musical interludes, provided by an in-house band that features a talented ensemble, including Kostabi himself on piano. (More on his musical journeys in an upcoming post.) It’s a fascinating mix of people and ideas, with one over-riding theme: paintings should have names. How and why those names are arrived on is a big part of what makes up the show. A panelist of three celebrities gather to be presented with a series of Kostabi works. Past panelists have included jazz musician Ornette Coleman, Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, and the inimitable Tommy Ramone. Once the panel has suggested titles, the assembled studio audience holds up panels, colored red on one side and green on the other, to vote on the titles. Whoever wins gets cash from the erstwhile host and wild applause from the voting public sitting in the bleachers.
Watching the show was funny, amusing, frustrating, emotional, mind-boggling, and more than a little absurd, as Kostabi, ever the showman, jumped between panelists to audience members in desperate attempts to nail down titles for his gorgeously sleek, voluptuously elegant works -which, like Kostabi himself, are still the subject of both passionate adoration and scathing criticism.

For all the fun (and free pizza at intermission!), I had to remind myself to look forwards, at the show, and not around me, where those debated works hang like so many colorful drops in a gorgeous, smooth waterfall of shape and form. This isn’t about contemplation, I told myself, this is about diversion. And yet it’s an important kind of diversion -isn’t it? Was I being conned?

Beautiful paintings came and went with breathtaking speed, and the questions kept coming: Who does art belong to? Who cares? How does originality matter (especially in the digital age)? How does a title shape a work, a painting, a TV show, or indeed, a person?

As Kostabi himself reminded me when we recently met, Picasso didn’t think titles were of any great import, while Marcel Duchamp thought they were of huge significance.
“I’m somewhere in the middle,” he said, flashing a brilliant smile.
In the middle, maybe. But never, ever mediocre.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén