astronaut

astronaut-michael james hawk, 2011

astronaut de michael james hawk, 2011

the head, made of vashon orange water clay, hollowed, 16x12x10in.

profile-astronaut de michael james hawk, 2011

the face: the grill : the mask

astronaut de michael james hawk, 2011

ancient? modern? hidden?

yours,
michael

beacon hill, seattle, washington state, usa

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Head

So much we take for granted in our waking lives: the world as it is, displayed for the 5 senses, as if this were the solid true reality from which to extrapolate everything (especially knowledge).

head, by michael james hawk, 2011

head, by michael james hawk, 2011

Of course, science has proved via many modalities that our human senses can only grasp what our biological sensory equipment is programmed for — there are other energies that the human being cannot grasp readily, if at all.

One aspect of reality that we take as a given is the human animal mammalian form, with the spheroid head on top of this skeletal weighty tree. It is from this body, this metaphor, that we, as innate logicians, compare everything. And it is from this body, with brain atop the tree, that everything else is coded as “the Other”.

head, profile view, by michael james hawk, 2011

head, profile view, by michael james hawk, 2011

How we love a beautiful head! The head, with the ovoid face, framed by the textured hair, with moist radiant eyes, offers quite a beacon to the rest of the cosmos. It, this beacon, says so much, expresses future intentions so brilliantly, communicates motive on all sensory channels.

Head. Tête. Cabeza. Kopf. 头. ヘッド.

I think of the heads we venerate most: Mona Lisa, JFK, Shroud of Turin, Angelina Jolie, Dick Cheney, Caeser. We take the head as a given, add our ethnic and locally historical imprint on it, give it a value as a descriptor in society, make it a meme.

Joseph Campbell, invoking anthropology, taught that our identifications with persona (the mask) is the Folk (Volke Gedanken) mythology of the Elemental Idea from which all cultures in time and place espouse, in this circumscribed human journey.

In my art, I often want to paint, or sculpt, or write even, the bones of the human journey, the Elemental Idea, before we cast our local mythologies and make unique Folk schematic categories and cultural memes.

head, 3rd view, michael james hawk, 2011

head, 3rd view, michael james hawk, 2011

With my latest work in progress, Head, midnight black water clay bust on armature, 24 x 11 x 22″, version one, I am invoking the monumentality of the Elemental head, the thing: bony, camera-like, a design miracle in a sea of surreal miracles. With lack of face, race, eye position, aka local Folk accents, we as audience must deal with the head as a curious erect thing which casts shadow. We must connect with the reality, not often thought about, that we ourselves are things on the tableau, objects of an experiment we are not privy to.

To that, this work is a tissue of earlier artists: those of Easter Island, of the Olmecs, of the Yoruba, of Henry Moore’s reformulations and Picasso’s concretizations.

Yours,
Michael
Beacon Hill, Seattle, Washington state, USA

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Michael James Hawk
“It is your duty in life to save your dream” – Amedeo Modigliani
New Art 2011 @ http://michaeljameshawk.com
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Jericho

Jericho de Michael James Hawk

LONG RUN : : DESTINO

Yours,
Michael
Beacon Hill, Seattle USA

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la mujer de forma amorfa

"la mujer de forma amorfa" + michael james hawk

The human form: imbued with sub-forms which bespeak their functions.

The form, too, moves, as the life engine, in the time lapse of moments.

Yours truly,
Michael
Beacon Hill, Seattle, USA

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psychopomp

psychopomp + michael james hawk

psychopomp + michael james hawk

Yours,
Michael
Beacon Hill, Seattle USA

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Sunday morning riff on Art

Art — that atom of a word, meant to mean so much in human culture.

Art — that special object, imbued with actionable will of the spirit, gifted by the specialist.

uma by michael james hawk

uma by michael james hawk

Born into art history, the nascent artist must take risks which are real in economic and social tradeoffs, in efforts to find underpinnings and hand-holds to make artful messaging genuine and well understood.

A nascent artist feels restless somehow: that the messaging is important, that actionable visual joy must be made. A child will draw and doodle in automatic mode to learn about her intellectual learning to date, going for mimesis, humour, drama, punning, and for relaxation and emotional release.

It is utterly human to use one’s full mental and physical capacities to voice the existential moments of reality — art is humanity at high performance.

Art is appreciated and monetized and propagandized and usurped. It is the backbone to marketing and advertising and all the signification engines of and within culture. Art forms the bases of metaphor and meaning. Art is the medium of the philosopher and critic, the poet and the shaman, who recognize the temporality (surreality?) of it all.

To make art is to express your being, before you reduce your being to the fragmented taxonomies and far-flung models of all those persons trying (arrogantly) to define you.

Express your being. Witness the outcomes. Work with that.

Art!

Yours,
Michael
Beacon Hill, Seattle USA

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la danza

la danza by michael james hawk

la danza by michael james hawk

knitting from 2 nites ago. masked trickster god in the time-lapsed dance of the universe — human, hermaphroditic, whirling, making worlds, akin to shiva, or legba.

yours,
michael
beacon hill, seattle

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Jizo (for Japanese Children)

Jizo is the Buddhist boddhisatva for protecting children both here and in purgatory. In Japan, Jizo-san is the most popular god. Offerings of toys and found string bring luck to children, as well as dressing the statues in red caps and mittens.

Jizo by Michael James Hawk (homage Nagare)

Jizo by Michael James Hawk (homage Nagare)

To quell the fears of Japanese children who experienced the latest quakes and waves, I created these Jizo and have been giving offerings daily.

These Jizo are an homage to the Japanese sculptor Nagare.

Yours,
Michael
Beacon Hill, Seattle USA

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Lord of Pull (& Push)

Lord of Pull (& Push)

Lord of Pull (& Push)

The vodun statement. Know what I mean?

Michael
Beacon Hill, Seattle

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Elizabeth Mae

elizabeth mae + by michael james hawk

elizabeth mae + by michael james hawk

As contemplated during a rather boring baseball game.

Yours,

Michael
Beacon Hill, Seattle, Washington USA

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tomorrow’s parties

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Life is clay.

You have one life to live. What to make of it, then?

Moral / celebratory?
Intense / relaxed?
Memorable / anonymous?

How about a lifetime’s worth of adjectives for life, discovered by you by experience, instead of compiling a list from the beginning, that linear construct? How about being okay with competing and contradictory descriptors — a non-seamless life, a grey hodgepodge, a sluff, a slog?

You have “the Life” as the hero has “the Journey”the whole enlivened thing is between you and yourself — you the human incarnate, yourself the creator that has fleshed you into existence.

You lean your body into the membrane which is your life, push it, weave it, give it shape, give it stories, and then you perish. No more pushing and pulling.

It’s as if the life is the sculpture of brutal reality, really raw, really big. It’s as if we create very tall tales of ourselves with our actions, earthbound to the sky, such are our ideas and dreams emanating from our magical brains. Sometimes it feels like shadowboxing, beating the clarity of the membrane, trying to steer it to avenues yet untrod.

Here is the life lain out this morning. It is yours as far back as your most accurate thought so long ago, and the inaccurate thoughts also, and the misreadings and misinterpretations, the whole damn unwritten autobiography, the remembered corpus, with islands of written detritus popping up through the continuum of years.

And from this continuum: ideas fleshed out from the leaders of culture (Paz, Lennon, Tolstoy, Baldwin, Picasso et al.) whom stretch our mind’s boundaries.

But remember too, you yourself are a citizen of culture, hence you really must stretch your own boundaries, with all the means of expression and communication at your disposal.

You are the poet in potentiality. The sculptor in waiting.

Happy new year, 2011 on the recording,
Michael

Beacon Hill, Seattle, Washington State USA

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The Masters In Fine Art — Journey Notes

I am starting the journey of visiting MFA schools as of tomorrow, to USC and UCLA, and I have very simple requirements:

That wherever I do attend, with the final goal to teach Art, they must think of painting and sculpture as Sacred.

angel -- michael james hawk

The program must have the Holy Creative Spirit reflecting somewhere in the Program.

The mission must contain sharing Experience and Knowledge.

The virtues of Painting and Sculpture are extolled often.

This is a big deal for me — to see where this Art leads. My great grandparents escaped civil war in Mexico to live in boxcars and have brooms as Christmas trees. My grandparents worked in the foundries of Detroit, picked Christmas trees in Texas, onions in Minnesota, climbed trees for limb removal, cleaned monkey cages at pharmaceutical companies. They cleaned kitchens, delivered gas. They toiled and struggled.

And now I attempt to promote Art out of the petty ashes of aesthetics into messages that will bring hieratic solemnity and dignity to the human experience.

I honor them with my work, as well as my wife, and daughter, and mother, and family and friends.

Michael

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Michael James Hawk
“It is your duty in life to save your dream” – Amedeo Modigliani
New Art 2010 @ http://michaeljameshawk.com
ARTblog Editorial @ http://michaeljameshawk.com/artblog
RSS Feed Connect @ http://michaeljameshawk.com/artblog/?feed=rss2
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Art Worlds

The institutional Art World –

A chronically (and possibly necessary) elite structure, it is composed of a group of experts and professionals world-wide whose daily function is to fully describe “good” Art (a valuation function) and to market this good Art (a sales function). The participants in this world are collectors, critics, gallerists and artists, as well as the institutions which support the participants such as museums, art schools, media outlets and auction houses. Entrance into this world is strictly controlled by a phalanx of gatekeepers schooled (groomed) in the conventional codes of what Art is and what it should do.

The power is top-down. That is, the purchasing power parity of works (price as it relates to value) is controlled by market players who collude to protect current values (in their current portfolios) as well as create new markets (speculation). Exclusive of the price mechanism is a codified Art History that describes creativity in universal sweeping terms, to determine the Art World’s role in affecting general history (and vice versa).

Modigliani -- of the Art World. Schooled at the Academy, extended the definition of beauty, marketed as an elite painter worth tens of millions of dollars per piece.

Modigliani -- of the Art World. Schooled at the Academy, extended the definition of beauty, marketed as an elite painter worth tens of millions of dollars per piece.

Artists who learn and participate in the Art World (upper case) have an insular context from which to create their artistic messaging: themes and subjects will be imbued with generalized learning and knowledge such as mythological, psychological, and technical memes, historical and literary allusions, or rarefied insights into the lives of the commensurate elite (a reportage function).

The non-institutional art world –

This is the group whose works have not benefited from expenditures in learning arts techniques or in arts education (the price of admission to the institutional Art World). As such, the Art produced by the participants is often described (by the Art World) in pejorative, non-majority rhetoric as being parochial, childish, idiosyncratic, outsider, street, naive, craft, commercial, or sub-cultural.

The power is lateral. That is, there are no phalanxes of critics or market makers determining the ultimate methods of creation, and the barriers to creativity are perceived to be low.

Thus young children, when they are schooled in art projects, are not part of an institutional art world except tangentially (vis-a-vis the classically liberal education tradition, an elitist concept, and the groomed biases of their art teachers). Children produce art for joy, diversion and relaxation.

Child Work -- not of the Art World, but rather good art in the context of humanity.

Child Work -- not of the Art World, but rather good art in the context of humanity.

When adolescent youth paint the walls of a city with graffiti, they too are not part of the art world — they break the laws of various institutions to express a nascent symbology. There are no costs to materials (canvas, clay) and there are no costs to market. They participate in the joy of art making regardless, or in spite of, the barriers to joining the institutional Art World.

When adults knit or create blankets or shawls or design their own clothes, or attempt any craft/hobbyist experiment, they are expressing themselves outside the Art World insofar as they are creating objects for personal use, not to be parlayed into the institutional Art World. The expectations are not to address the Art World at all, or adopt expectations set by the Art World, but to relax and find joy and possibly functional utility.

The way I see it, the best the institutional Art World can offer is the message of humanism – that we are all in this life together, as equals, to find meaning in that which is confusing (existence itself).

The best the non-institutional art world can offer is the message of just being human, without the “–ism” after it.

All else should be suspect.

Very truly yours,

Michael
Beacon Hill, Seattle, Washington state, USA

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tonight’s knitting

mexico +  mjh

mexico + mjh

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aixa

aixa by michael james hawk, SF CA

aixa by michael james hawk, SF CA

ah yes,
michael

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Mexican American Painting 2.0

The art I create, the literal graphical symbology, is abstract-figurative expressionist with “primitive” and “surreal” inflections: human being anthropomorphs with stern, stark features like hallowed or protuberant eyes, bony body joints, rotund sex organs, and skin of muddied quality, often with scarification (versus pristine naturalism) — on large canvases in bold palettes.

The work is heavily impastoed, or layered up, in bright hues, and often sprout avian and insecta features on naked human bodies. The subjects are presented in their psychic world, heavy in existence. They are energy sinks in the physical space they inhabit, powerful and not at all diminutive.

Devoid of sombreros, crucifix, skulls, calla lilies, purple dresses, colonial narratives and the litany of swarthy Chicano cliches, the subjects are Mexican American reality on the psychological level. The audience cannot fixate on race, or nation, or even the cliches of the erotic. The subjects are naked, sinewy, skeletal and flayed, true animals, but triumphantly circulatory and pregnant, alive and connected. They lay in solitary monochromatic voids, or backdrops, dark scrims with textural depth, protectorates of their interior worlds.

Persons have thought certain depictions of the work as ugly or fear provoking: the lines come across as too brutalized and disjointed (not like the clean terminations of Modigliani or Matisse), there is often no supporting narrative, the brutality of purpose goes contra to the expectation of what art should be.

To be Mexican in the American milieu means to strive beyond the ocular jail of housemaid, dirty gardener, Catholic breeder, and diminutive accented folk. In the work, the Other people are modeled beyond cliches: they are viciously powerful, lacerated somewhat, in central connection with their cosmos, mathematically presented, of the Dual world.

Very best,

Michael
Beacon Hill, Seattle, Washington State, USA

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The Yoke of Labeling & Contextualizing Art

Art, as it’s created, is a living-in-the-moment phenomenon: you do it, it is now here, next there — detritus of and for History.

Soon after, the critics come.

Their opinions rise quite naturally, off the brain, automatically, in the fore of consciousness, as a quick communication: no one thinks about the opinions they spout, they just do it. The audience, the de facto critic, knows what it wants, and is quick to find comfort or discomfort in the work.

The normal timespan for addressing a work of art is mere seconds. The artist, knowing this, attempts to make “good” art that will draw the audience into a more closer, longer look. This “good” art (created within an academic-idiosyncratic calculus) is usually a statement of the times, or from the times, and is thus historical at the very least, espouses an art theory at the most.

But often good art will not draw an audience. It may need more concentrated vehicles toward public exposure, and, concomitant to that, it may need basic contextualizing and packaging of itself, with labels, categorization and overarching narratives, to entice an audience to come nearer. This subtle, necessary marketing lies always in the purview of the stakeholders: artist, gallerist, collector, curator, and ultimately historian.

So how to frame, contextualize and thus package art? That language is the stuff of rhetoric, the art of persuasion. Writing a biographical narrative of the artist, writing a narrative of the process of making a particular piece, are powerful rhetorical options in that they give a work a story-line, a communication container that is easy to remember, makes the art-experience interesting, and contextualizes the work in social trends not necessarily grasped by an audience.

The artist or agent may also choose to employ a title, easily displayed on or near the work, to frame and reference a piece, and to commence an expectation that a special object, a.k.a. an Art Object, is extant and now available for viewing.

The artist, to the last, possesses the most powerful option in the arsenal: espousing the message, moral and intent of a particular work, in verbiage, to educate an audience thoroughly in a piece. If the artist does not abide this choice, some other stakeholder may fulfill this parsing option.

All of this marketing, educational and rhetorical wrapping seems helpful, on the surface: here is the work, here is what to look out for, here is the context, here are the considerations in the greater scheme of things. Unfortunately, this wrapping layer of contextual information may actually intrude on the raw power of the art, as a standalone piece, a power center.

I speak of this topic as I contemplate contextualizing my own art as “Mexican American” under the primary banner of “Mexican American Artist.”

Labeling myself as such presents a real risk of inviting instantaneous stereotypes and loose associations, and a perceived narrow-fication of my offerings, when my goal primarily is to expose and persuade large audiences on the tenets of humanism.

I think, too: are we not all progressing into an unified global populace anyways, so that a subdomain label is no longer needed?

Whatever pride I may have in the historical thread of this label, however well-researched the couching of my work is in relation to Chicano art, regional California art, Chicago and Detroit art, Southwest art, Native American art, current and archaic Mexican art, the art of colonialist Spain, and modern Latin American art — even with the notable lack of Chicano and muralist cliches in my art — I run the real risk of closing the door on those I wish to initiate. This is problematic: I yearn to reveal my secret learning and artistic growth in this art journey, but the more I expound on this backstory, the more potential there is to be misunderstood as a primarily ethnic, sexual, political or polemical artist.

I am not fearful of putting an ethnic tagline out there in mainstream American media with its structural penchant for subconscious racism (easily proved) — I am still quite tempted to go that route, and pursue and promote an art theory not just universalist, of every man and woman, but one also anchored in the traditions that have influenced me. However, I am cognizant that I am much more than just a member of “Mexican American Artists,” I am of other groups as well: male, 21st century, reformed religious, existential, philosophical, and so on.

This Derrida-like deconstruction can go as far as any critic wishes it to go, and always illuminates the real and hard-fought discovery of the Self (that modern journey).

Still I wonder: what would Tamayo‘s stature be in world history, vis-a-vis Picasso, if his works were presented to the public devoid of nation-state, politics, skin color or ethnic surname?

Could that ever have been possible?

Very best,

Michael
Beacon Hill, Seattle, Washington state, USA

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Obsession, Fixation & Narcissism in Making Art

I have noticed obsessive, and possessive, tendencies in making art.

It usually goes like this: you dive into a piece, the piece gets invested over a long period of time with your skill and passion, sweat and blood (and precious dollars). You begin to identify with the piece as a parcel of your thinking, your intelligence; an extension of your corpus. Pride swells on the brain: pride of creation, pride of ownership.

The symbology (content) itself may be gripping or stunning enough to send you, the artist, into otherworldy states (artist as audience). Anthropomorphic pieces further trick the brain into subconscious attachments and associations, such is the power of mimesis of the human face, body and gestural expressions.

When it’s finally time to divest of the piece — when that decision has been made — often it is difficult to let it go, so great are the attachments.

Consider: how can one give up so much in prototypical discovery? How can one let go of a work that may be wholly destroyed, ignored or misunderstood by another owner? How can one let chapters of one’s life be wholly expunged from the studio?

This sense of danger, this potential sense of loss, is often what it feels like in the guts of an artist.

Koan for the day: when an artist gives away her Art, into that dry arms-length marketplace, remember the pain of her bodily spiritual divestment.

Yours,
Michael
Beacon Hill, Seattle WA USA

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planes of discovery

it’s not that i even put credence into art object making anymore as being valid or not, as a worthy vocation on its own merits. it’s the actual life lived under the banner, the blanket, of being connected to the creative force within.

if this force comes from without, from some teleological being, from some scripted purpose, so much the better.

art comes from all quarters within my studio, my household, as rights of passage to progress to the next plane of discovery. i touch all my roots, all my influences, feeling my way through the processes of those i deem great artists. i do this as an exercise, as a diversion, as a learning into regions unknown. it is not always fruitful — some days i have an uneasy feeling that the work was somehow wasted. but i eventually come to recognize that bad work begets good work, even if it’s just keeping the studio practice disciplined.

i have met other artists, and collectors, and gallerists, who have “made it.” i do not wonder how they did it much anymore. i can see the tradeoffs of my life to theirs, and am quite happy of what i could achieve in a similar time frame. my ambition to care about being understood by a large coterie of critics has left me. i am left to be an artist, or that person that looks for the graphic as a celebration of sight, and of thought, conceived and conscribed by creative theory.

if the theory harbours a holy ghost, a creative spirit, a bodhisattva, a guild of helping hands, maybe i am a participant. if there is a syndrome, genetics based, hormonal based, that makes me a creative, so be it. if i was socialized to act out expressively through media, then i guess that happened, to the point of theorizing about it in blogs, on some future internet, where electrons vibrate signs in perpetuity.

signs. our cultural manifestations. cross-infecting our learning.
michael

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