Here’s a shot of me in the studio reading a book about Rembrandt. Actually it’s a recreation of an earlier shot that I took of myself in the studio that I wanted to use for the Links page of my new website. I decided that I wanted to use the paintings that are behind me as Links to the individual websites that they belong to. To the top left are 2 paintings from Future Living Projects. The top one is From Dawn To Dusk and the bottom one is At the Gates of Dawn. As I was hanging them I remembered that I had originally planned to make identically sized horizontal paintings that would be stacked on top of each other. This included (OL) and NewDawn Fades which didn’t get made until many years later but this is where the format originated. To the right of me is A History of Progress, Violence and the Modern Spectacle which I just finished and belongs to the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research. To my left, underneath the 2 Future Living Projects paintings are 3 paintings that my grandfather made that I painted UFO’s onto. I have yet to blog about these and they belong to The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard. Here is the photo.
Monthly Archives: January 2013
I finished a new website today. Actually it’s a re-working of brianhigbee.net. I’ve been working on it for almost a week. I decided that I wanted to minimize the amount of information on it and reduce the number of art pieces that I show. Most of the small scale models didn’t make the cut, which is unfortunate, but I felt that they just didn’t seem that impressive as stand alone pieces. I’d love to do a show one day of all small scale models of my larger work. One of the things that I struggled with was how to break down the categories and , in the end, I decided to break it down according to “organizations” and not by medium (ie painting, sculpture). I felt that using project titles represented what I was trying to achieve artistically better than if I broke it down by what materials I used. Here is what I wrote:
As an artist I’m interested in the creation and development of ideological organizations that act as conceptual contexts for projects and large bodies of work. I developed these projects to act as a network of interconnected ideas that address the complexities of multiplicity as a basis for the re-contextualization of contemporary aesthetics. In this way, I am interested in creating a network of visual languages and open meaning systems that both cross-purpose and cross-reference several ideas and objects simultaneously. Each of these projects generally use a wide range of materials and mediums such as small-scale models, drawing, painting, sculpture, text and computer generated images so instead of making categories that separate my work by the types of materials that I use, I restructured it into categories according to project titles.
Here are the 4 categories and explanations about each one.
Brian Higbee shows most of my paintings that use personal experiences of loss and disappointment as a basis for meditation and reflection. These experiences manifest themselves in my paintings as both the imagined landscape/object and within the titles, as fragments of conversation.
Associated Artists for Propaganda Research has its roots in politics and disinformation. It is political by nature and explores themes of propaganda, political dominance, corporate control and U.S. military prowess. It offers a critique of the political and economical disinformation distributed by those intent on protecting invested interests.
The Future Living Projects is a concept revolving around architectural components and was created as a fictional yet defunct architectural firm from the 1970’s that re-imagines the possibilities of art and architecture in the distant future. In the future the struggle for space will be the struggle for survival.
The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard creates a fictional biography about an artist living in the late 70’s and 80’s. He’s a Vietnam vet who’s art explores notions of male masculinity and teenage fantasy, U.F.O.’s and space travel and ultimately, the horrors of the Vietnam War. He is a culmination of myself, my father and my grandfather.
Yesterday I finished my application for the New York Foundation for the Arts grant for photography. I apply almost every year and I’ve never gotten a grant. This year the only category that I could apply for was photography. I was hesitant to apply, not really considering myself to be a serious photographer but I figured why not. I have used photography as art before under The Lost Estate of Ed “Johnson” Shepard but I figured that using it for the grant application would be confusing. I decided to do it under my own name. I have a lot of photographs from Pennsylvania from when I go back to hang out. For the application I thought it would be a good idea to establish a theme for the photographs and worked an a working statement that would be a concise explanation of the project. NYFA stresses that an artist apply with a fully worked out body of work that can be easily identifiable. I have a real problem with this since I don’t generally work like this and feel that my practice actually rails against this type of tendency. I try to embrace a multiple range of techniques and ideas in order to counteract branding as a commonplace art making philosophy. I feel that it is inherent within my art making philosophy to develop a type of multiplicity that can only be accessed through a complex network of interconnected yet different kinds of working ideas. This of course has caused endless amounts of difficulties for me when applying for anything. It never seems to make sense and I tend to lump similar looking objects together in an attempt at creating, what I think, is an understandable “body of work”. I consider myself essentially to be an installation artist, but this is a hard proposition to sell, and I’m forced to sell myself as something else.
Anyway here’s the working statement that I wrote and below that are a selection of photographs that I submitted as well as a description that I opted to write for each image which I thought added a narrative to each. None of it is a lie but I definitely thought about how to edit information in order to support the larger concept.
Being from rural Pennsylvania gives me personal access to experiences and situations that are simultaneously intimate and voyeuristic. Through photography I’m able to document the various people that I meet in my travels through rural Pennsylvania and capture the complexities of life as they exist for other people. The situations that I’ve been able to experience include the difficulties of aging, funerals, governmental eviction, destitution, celebration and fear. My photographs are accurate portraits of people as they exist in a particular place and time, and often, is the only remnant of a lost moment, a fragment that is long gone and never to return.
Jason is not a racist. This is a Halloween costume that his mom made for his dad many years ago. The story was that his dad wore it to a Halloween party and, in completion of his costume, set a cross on fire out in the front lawn as a joke. Jason’s mom looked on in horror. Her African American friends were not amused.
I met Rick through a friend. He liked to stay up all night doing work while high on Meth Amphetamine. Sometimes he wouldn’t sleep for days on end. He went to jail for many years for beating up a gay man who he said was “hitting” on him and then punched a cop during the arrest. Here he’s fixing his backho at about 3:00 AM.
Dale lost his arm when he was a teenager. In this photograph it’s 6:00 in the morning and he’s tired. He’s been working all night to try and salvage his pool from his house which is in foreclosure. The sheriff is coming in 6 hours to evict him and his family.
Allen retired from Chemistry in 1970 and spent the rest of his life painting landscapes. When he was young, he worked on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University before being sent to England as a bomb site specialist during World War II. He died in 2011 and left behind over 700 unsold paintings.
A History of Progress, Violence and the Modern Spectacle: The Trinity Test, 1945, Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940, The Hindenburg Disaster, May 6th, 1937 and The Death of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, November 24th, 1963
Last night I shot photographs of The Trinity Test, 1945, Police Officers Examining the Mountaineering Ice Ax Used to Assassinate the Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky near Mexico City in 1940 and The Hindenburg Disaster, May 6th, 1937. The first one in this series, A History of Progress, Violence and the Modern Spectacle, was The Death of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, November 24th, 1963. Each one is 24″x32″ and Acrylic on Canvas. This is what I wrote about them in a previous post.
They all deal with the advancements of technology in the last century and its relationship, either directly or as a subtext, to the “spectacle” of violence as seen through the photograph as media. The themes that are addressed in these paintings fall right in line with the progression of Modernism and its inevitable catastrophic failure.
Here they all are individually and the last two images show them all together as they would be scene on a wall either in a grid or lined up.
Today I made a small scale model of A Theory of Progress based on the gouache and pencil drawing that I made the other day. I decided to make it using half inch square pieces of wood that I found at the art store instead of out of mat board. I started by cutting the longest strip first at 2 and a half inches representing 5 squares. I lightly sanded the edges of my cuts and picked the best sides to leave exposed. I marked off my squares and labeled them according to the painting and painted them with the same gouache colors that I had previously used. When I was done with painting the squares I used a black felt tipped marker and a straight edge to make all of the black lines at the edges. Luckily I realized before I got too far that I shouldn’t put lines across the top except for the edges that are going to be butted up against another set of squares. That way I wouldn’t have to worry about the black lines not matching up and when it was all put together I could put my black lines across all of them at the same time. I did the same thing for both strips of 4 squares and again for both of the strips of 2 squares. I glued them together, clamped them and let them dry. In an hour I took off the clamps and finished by making my black lines across the top with a ruler.
Also I decided on the title this morning which comes from a category of Walter Benjamin’s The Arcade’s Project which focuses on a critique of the nineteenth century parisian bourgeois as experienced through the centers of consumerism, the arcade. This piece reminds me a little of some of Liam Gillick’s colorful plexi-glass pieces.
Here’s a shot of it in my studio on a home-made pedestal and another that will probably be the final photograph for this piece.
Back in 2001 and 2002 I started thinking about how I wanted installation shots of some of my work in a gallery space even though I had no space to do this in. I hit upon the idea of making my own miniature gallery that I could shoot my work in and set out making it using foam core. I fantasized about purchasing a tiny light socket to enhance the realness of the situation but after going to several doll house stores found that they really don’t make them. For the initial project I wanted to use photographs that I had made and I wanted to make them look larger than they really were. They were photographs that I had taken off of the TV and were from the ATARI 2600. When the cartridge isn’t put into the console properly the result is a glitch of vertical bands of color that can be altered depending on how you manipulate the cartridge. I liked the randomness of this process and the “abstractions” that it created. I cut all of my photographs to the same size keeping the most interesting parts of the photograph. I made my gallery using tape to keep it together and made sure to make a glass door for it. I called it 011010101010011011 or something similar and even though I lost all of the original information for it, I’m pretty sure that this was an early Future Living Projects piece and may have been the first to use its name in the title. I installed the photographs on the walls of the gallery and took a series of installation shots of it. I never did anything with the resulting documentation and shelved the idea thinking that it was a dead end road. Recently I’ve been thinking about digging it out and using it to shoot some miniature work in. Here are the photographs that I took of it.
I took a picture of an interesting looking light when I was in the Catskills earlier this week. The light caught my eye (actually there were 3 of them) because it was made of colored cubes that had mostly faded over the years due to neglect and sun bleaching. I decided that I wanted to make a painting out of the photograph and thought that maybe I would use gouache paints; every now and again I like to use gouache because of its vivid colors and flatness of texture. I printed out the photo and traced it onto a piece of thick watercolor paper by rubbing graphite on the back of the printout, putting the watercolor paper underneath and taping it, and tracing on top. I plotted out which cubes were going to be which color so that the same color wouldn’t be next to itself. I decided that I wanted to use 4 colors: red, yellow, orange and blue. There were 16 squares showing which was the perfect amount to have 4 of each color. I started to paint using the red gouache but when I went to go paint the orange I had an idea that it looked like a brightly colored sculpture. I decided to make it a sculpture instead so I erased the post that was attached to it and filled in the cubes where the post used to be. I adjusted my colors again to account for the new cube by making 5 blues and finished painting the rest of the colors. When I was done with the colors I used pencils to fill in all the lines and shade the sides. I experimented with making a shadow on the ground but decided against it in the end. I also didn’t bother to shade the colored squares on the shadowed sides since I like how it looks the way it is.
This is definitely going to fall into Future Living Projects territory. It’s funny because I’ve been thinking lately about how the human eye is so attracted to color and vowed to make colorful pieces just to make a point about how gullible we are. I thought that this would be a good proposal for Socrates Sculpture Park but the deadline was last week. I’m going to make a small scale model of it and paint it to see how it looks;I’m thinking that I’ll probably make it out of mat board. I think that the final large sculpture will be made using plexiglass that’s painted on one side and steel if I ever get the chance to make it. This is similar to an idea that I had back in 2001 to make color panels in the same way but only made one before moving on to other things. I’ve been thinking that I’d like to make these panels again but make them so that they exist somewhere between sculpture and painting.
Here’s the gouache painting and pencil on paper.
I ‘m planning on making a series of collages that use the paintings from the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research within photographs from real estate magazines. The series is called A.A.P.R.’s Ideal Model Homes for Living in the 21st Century and will be used by both Future Living Projects and AAPR. I sometimes like to cross reference my projects and for this one I thought that it would be interesting to have Future Living Projects making artwork for the AAPR. SInce the AAPR will most likely never be shown in a fancy home like the ones shown in the real estate magazines, I thought that I could create my own “mock-up” installation showing how they would look. Here is the first one that I made. This one shows Corporate Freedom in the Age of Reason.
I finished the night sign painting today. It will take about a week or 2 to dry to the touch and another couple of months to be fully dry. I’ll have to wait until the weather is nice out before I can varnish it. After it dries the blacks should darken and the black from the background and the black from the sign casing and legs should blend together. Also the Matte Varnish that I use will flatten it even more. I anticipate that the only way to differentiate between the sign and the background will be from an angle and will only be noticeable at the edge by the strokes made by the brush as it meets the flattened background. I also plan on putting more Cadmium Red into the lights after it dries to help brighten the lights. Here it is in my studio. You really can’t see the greenish-yellow color of the sign in the photograph.