Birdspot. On the road. Drawing birds.


36 Responses to “apr 9”

  1. Catherine:

    Just interviewed LYNNE CHERRY (yet again) yesterday about her really fine new book for middle schoolers about climate change. She asked about you. Lynne will be here staying at the house in early May, while working on this major documentary on the children ” citizen scientists” of her new book. Good stuff.

    Nice lighting on this new landscape!


  2. OK, here’s a challenge. I am really tired of saying good things about your art. Can you post some kind of REALLY bad work for once, so we all can cop a break and let loose? I mean even your damned April 1 piece was funny AND interesting. Now when I write “Bad”, I mean like in EVERY way: execution, conceptual, morally, even bad for the planet….otherwise I have to invest in a new Thesaurus.

    Mark, “OK, already, you’re work is REALLY beautiful/interesting/I would kill to own it. Happy??”Getting weaker….must write something..cough….cough… sarcastic…and….ahhhh”

  3. I know – you would think that we are actually all NICE or something in here birdspot land…

    Let’s start a conservation conversation and get really depressed and angry.

    I’m wading through “green” blogs (the term “green” could get me started something fearful, for one, mainly because I love how people use it to justify buying more things they don’t need – as in JUST BUY LESS STUFF YOU MORONS). I have hopes of finding some to add to my blogroll. Any suggestions? The boutiquing of the greenies is a little more than annoying.

  4. Yeah, Let’s revert back to MFA graduate school land & be really evil and critical– Let’s shoot from the hip people! ;0) ;0)

    No really, I have the same thing as Mark does. What do you say about work that is so talented and who needs to be showing in all famous venues and more!

  5. Alina, you are correct (all wise guy ‘tude aside). But Catherine is NOT posting this stuff for it to be praised by friends who she already knows like her work..a lot. But it is cool to throw some compliments every now and then as we feel them, but Catherine HAS TO SCREW UP SOME TIME, right? Who knows? I am challenging her to purposely do something really banal. Just plain bad, not even spectacularly bad. I don’t think she can do it. At least, not un-ironically. She is SUCH a control freak. God, talking about art is exhausting.

    BTW: I am actually now BLOGGING on my WICN site. I am just not sure how you access it yet. But entries are there. No pictures. Just words. The pictures are like, “in your head”, man….Conceptual, dig it?


  6. Dunno what I can do right now – I have a major deadline & I’m just posting this stuff as I make it – but I love a challenge, and maybe in a couple of weeks I’ll post something truly awful…

    As a compromise, sad sack as it may seem, I’ll post a drawing tomorrow that, while not terrible, has been causing me some serious angst. More info on failure to come.

  7. I think this is an interesting challenge…
    It is one of the most difficult things for some artists to publicly put up work in general but to put up potentially bad work and to do it on purpose is a really really scary, wobbly thing to do… Esp. because there are serious vultures out there… it is not for the faint of heart. It is an uncomfortable experience– (from someone who has publicly put up really bad work.)

  8. Angst…angst is good. It’s a start. Hey, it’s going to rain long, hard and cold SATURDAY, that’s enough to put me over the edge. I’m takin’ tomorrow off to bird.

  9. Re: NICENESS, COMPLIMENTS, etc.: Some of my favorite quotes from grad school, directed squarely at me or at my work:

    “The wall is more interesting than your drawings.”

    “When I look at this painting, I really just feel sorry for the artist who would make something like this.”

    “Why would any one in this day and age bother to try and paint a landscape, when you know you can never approach the beauty of the real thing.”

    “You are so lucky to be up here and away from the art world, because it is really hard to come up with new ideas. I have no idea what I will be working on next, I’ve been in such a rut (flash forward to a year and a half later, when said artist had a high-profile one-person exhibit of work that was exactly like the work I had been making in grad school).”

    There is more, oh yes, so much more…

  10. ALLright ALLright, let’s keep the chatter down in here! I want all flattery and flowery language down RIGHT now!! Keep to your guns people! We MUST be alert to catch even a glimpse of “bad” here. Mark, you started this thread with your challenge…WHAT were you thinking man?? Maybe it’s best if we stick to the more oblique, philosophical, and “heady” thread that keeps most “readers” coming back for more. I, for one, like the tangential relationships and experiential diaspora of ideas that come from visual stimuli. Somehow I kind of need that “something” to anchor me down, keep coming back to, and provide me with a focus. It really doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, it only matters that there are possibilities.

  11. Making bad art, like writing bad poetry, is the easiest thing in the world. After all, most people do it…with ease, even unintentionally. Alina/Catherine: you two are so waaaaaaay overthinking this.

    Everyone, just read ON THE DEATH OF MRS THROCKMORTON’S BULFINCH, by William Cowper:


    “Just then, by adverse fate impress’d,

    A dream disturb’d poor Bully’s rest;

    In sleep he seem’d to view

    A rat fast clinging to the cage,

    And, screaming at the sad presage,

    Awoke and found it true.

    For, aided both by ear and scent,

    Right to his mark the monster went—

    Ah, muse! forbear to speak

    Minute the horrors that ensued;

    His teeth were strong, the cage was wood—

    He left poor Bully’s beak.”

    ESSAY: is this (1) a bad poem; a (2) good poem; (3) a GREAT poem, (4) a silly poem. Bonus: what are the consequences of posting it? (Alina?)


  12. Cathrine – It seems the issue you are constantly grappling with is the concept behind your work. The execution is always brilliant (as we can all attest). Its interesting that you brought up the ‘one person exhibit that was exactly like the work you were making in grad school’ because that work was nothing like your work. That person stole your concept (which incidentally was good enough to be gallery worthy), but the work itself was poorly rendered and shoddy at best and yet somehow it “made the scene”. I see your work as open to interpretation which is the conceptual strength.

  13. “On the Death of Mrs Throckmorton’s Bulfinch” by William (ever depressive) Cowper (pronounced “cooper”) is in fact BRILLIANT, a mock elegy that is so over the top that many critics don’t really know where to place it’s “mock heroics”. Crazy serious or crazy like a Romantic Calvinist fox? Who knows? I would have just loved to perform it in some crowded drawing room and watch the Mrs Throckmorton types nervously finger thier ringlets. Context and intent is critical as in all art.

    Up and out well before dawn this AM, to one of my study blocks: managed (41) displaying Woodcock; (8) owls of three species; Ruffed Grouse and Wild Turkeys en display, nesting Bald Eagles and Pine Warblers on territory. Spring Peepers everywhere and (1) stunning Red Fox.
    Later you art-types,

  14. Sounds fantastic.

    I do like myself a tidy concept-based work, when I’m out looking at shows, that’s for sure, brilliant execution or no. As long as it’s not too banal and one-liner-ish.

    In my own stuff, all those long hours of making lines would never work for me without some serious (stherious) thought behind the work. I grapple with trying to make sure that some of those thoughts get to the surface of the work, so that other people can see what I’m thinking.

    Re: birds: FOS Louisiana Waterthrush in Central Park the last couple of days – SPRING!!

    I’m off for birds…

  15. Point taken! I just have the don’t want to be perceived as a ‘hack’ hang up. ;0) That was the catch phrase at Bennington… remember Cathy? ;0)

  16. Catherine/Alina:

    So was that part of the art school “experience”, ie: being heartlessly trounced by friends, colleagues and profs, all just considered part of your “education”? Trial by fire? Cuz frankly, from this end, it sounds really unproductive, juvenile, egoist and has obviously left both of you with strong negative memories. There has got to be a better way to critique. Those quotes sound like out-takes from Art School Confidential. The easiest criticism to make is a harsh one, you need so little to back it up, few will question it, and it immediately puts you in the one-up position. Classic cheap ploy. Any yahoo can give a bad review. This brings me to my original point: it is MUCH more difficult to say something postive and , well, NICE, about a person’s work and made it credible.

    RE: Lousiana Waterthrush. They are in the Valley, and I was listening for them today, but no such luck. Nice one!


  17. PS- That is a wild image in of itself, thoughts being transmitted into ink lines…

  18. Thanks for your comment, Mark, BTW… Mark, meet Mark Lynch (fabulous Marks all around).

  19. Mark L.,
    You hit the nail on the head. When I explained my experience as a grad student to my father in law and his girlfriend they replied by saying that kind of experience could lead one to commit suicide… and when I heard that, I felt pretty strong that I survived the program with out jumping out of the window. I owe much of that to Cathy, Mark B. & Heather & others. It was my gracious collegues that saved ‘us’ from the madness. Being married to a computer scientist has in turn balanced my universe! :0)

  20. “No one in his right mind looks at a pile of dead leaves in preference to the tree from which they fell.” -excerpt from “The Serpent”, chapter in “In Search of Nature” by Edward O. Wilson.

    After reading the blog-comments posted here, I came across this sentence while reading said chapter during intermission of a concert by the Dorian Wind Quintet, who had just played George Perle’s Wind Quintet #1.

    The music, the quote, and this discussion all seem to fit together, somehow…(you’ve got to have heard the, ahem, music!).

  21. But Betty:

    If Wilson is right (and I really admire Wilson), then you should not have been at that concert, BUT outside, in a field listening to the wind itself.not a wind Quintet….and maybe a bird or two..perhaps some Peepers.This also refers back to the comment Catherine got on representing landscapes.

    Me? I find the twittering sounds of towering woodcock at twilight or (better) pre-dawn (no wind) just as much fun as Ghostland Observatory. Not as danceable of course, but just as hip.


  22. Alina/Catherine/Mark:

    I am glad you all “survived” the equivalent of severe aesthetic social-Darwinist hazing. Some frat! It is so obviously an insane way to go about this, I am really surprised someone has not (1) seriously protested (2) come up with an alternative. I am not talking about all sweetness and light by any means; but something more about education and less about one-upsmanship.

    I have to admit I go completely apoplectic about the kind of language your friend Carol highlighted on her blog. I have to deal with this both on my show, but also at the museum, mostly from curators and exhibiting artists. And don’t get me started about the carefully tended bratty/snobbish attitudes that SOME artists exhibit in such a setting. I have never been so close to whacking someone upside the head with a two by four. I consider that aspect also a by product of the same “systemic” attitude that spewed forth those nuggets of “criticism” you all put up with. Hey, you can be a jerk with friends and relatives, but when you are invited, paid even, to talk for 30 minutes to a group of docents who really want to hear something they can use in the gallery, for gods sake don’t be a jerk. I am not talking about being entertaining or channeling Deepak, but just be CIVIL. I really consider CURATORS and secondarily art reviewers and writers to be the enablers of this bad behavior.
    Being a teacher and lecturer, I am constantly facing a public that a certain segment sincerely believes an awful lot of contemporary art is a joke or worse, foisted on a gullible public. I really want to change that ‘tude. Then when some artist shows up who so perfectly fulfills their idea of the spoiled petulant artist, my blood pressure goes through the roof.
    I don’t know how any of you feel about this, I do know many of my curator friends don’t agree, but after I meet an artist who is a total ass, it causes me to re-evaluate the work. The excuse I always hear is that the work is somehow separate from the artist. To me, this is subscribing to some kind of muse concept: that art springs forth untainted from the artist. I am sorry, but it is a product of the person, and if the person is the type that is the personality equivalent of fingers being slowly dragged across a chalkboard, then the work is a result of that. I believe that thinking otherwise is again enabling bad behavior.


  23. Thanks for changing me to Mark B so Alina will now know who’s writing and sorry I spelled your name wrong in my first blog ever Catherine. I think the only thing worth while about the grad experience, besides the friendships, is a thick skin. Just do what you do and let the criticism roll of your back. And the reason I brought up the idea of “concept” vs. execution is because the academic standard is that the idea is always more important than the skill with which its rendered. Isn’t that the only way that Jackson Pollock can compete with Raphael?

  24. Mark B,
    Where’s my ‘deer head’ painting? :0)

  25. The ‘deer head” brings the conversation back to making bad art. And if you’ve got the wall space Alina, I’ll dig it out of storage.

  26. Mark B:
    Ok, I really hate to get really serious here, BUT: Why is Jackson Pollock “competing” with Raphael? Are you talking for wall space in a general art museum? Having worked at WAM for now 35 years, I can honestly say we do a really poor job of explaining to the public why all this “stuff” is hanging together in one building, AND (more complicated) how you are supposed to view it. In other words, do you use the same criteria/mindset to judge (1) a Somaskanda bronze from 17th India (viewed in the museum without the clothes and paint it would have when being paraded down the streets), (2)A Franz Kline black and white abstract (3) a Rococo chair (4) a Dutch Republic clock (5) a Chapter House installed from an 11th C French Abbey (6)a Mapplethorpe photo (7) a Piero di Cosimo neo-platonic fantasy (8) a plate from 14th Century Iran. ALL of those pieces are in our collection, and much much more besides, and visitors wander from one room to the next with no explanation as to why all this stuff is together. Frankly, I don’t know why all this stuff (throw in a few dozen netsuke too and much more)are in the same building and how they are related. Is it more akin to a cladistic tree than a linear family? That may make sense to me, at least a bit. Certainly, Some areas are more closely related than others. To me, Raphael: when I look at a work, I ask: is it a great example of High renaissance painting or not. A Pollock: is it a great example of AbEx? Pollack and Raphael seem to exist in very different worlds. The function of the artwork within the context of the histories and societies of their times was very different. The very function of painting within those two cultures are so different. Yeah, they are both paintings, but that is a very flimsy peg to hang any term on. I believe the differences are vastly more important than the similarities. Does “painting” also include pigments smeared on the enormous escarpment of the Northern Territory by Gagadju native Ozzers 2400 years ago? I saw that stuff in person, and met the “still living there” Gagadjus, and I tell you, there is only the fact that a pigment was involved to connect their amazing work (and still being made too) to Raphael. I sometimes wonder if art people are too all encompassing, way too general in the way they talk about “art”, whatever that means.

    Mark (back from the field on to a Breeding Bird Atlas get together)

  27. True so true… I have a bit of skin now… I try not to be bitter about the experience, but sometimes in the middle of the night I’ll have a flashback to that time and sometimes mistake the flashback for a horrible nightmare.

  28. Hey Mark L.,

    I can see where you’re coming from on the “High Art” tip. It’s true that the mashup in the museum can be a little confusing if you don’t have the contextual information with regards to the continuum of history to give its birth rite meaning. But what is interesting, and perhaps a little disheartening to purists, are the new meanings that are allowed to percolate within the bounds of these spaces. When you can “sample” history, and when an object’s new context supersedes the old one, new readings become available that weren’t originally intended. We live in an age when all possibilities are available, we only have to choose what aspect of the object’s inherent information we want to enhance by virtue of its context. While it’s true that the original context of a work might well be extremely distant in time and place from another object, from another time and place, it’s also true that it is a physical object in actual space, coexisting with all other objects within its gravitational pull, influencing a visitor’s reading of all other objects surrounding it. This process has many names outside of the museum, including “Globalization”, “Japanism”, “Hip-Hop”, “Post-Modernism”, “Sampling”, and others. I think it’s a wonderful process of discovery and creates magical moments of association that have never before existed, and may never exist again. If one needs to have the historical context, then the audio tours do a great job of it (depending on the author). As an artist who is just looking for the sake of looking, I enjoy skimming the surface and seeing what impressions I can leave with. Almost as fun as birding.

    Best regards,


  29. Catherine,
    Do you think you’ll make it to this exhibit?
    I’m curious your opinion on this show. If I was in NY I’d go see it.

  30. Jed:

    Make no mistake, I know and ENJOY exactly what you are talking about. My point is that as an educational experience to the general public, museums fail to explain well why all this stuff is there. FURTHERMORE, there has been a lot written and heatedly discussed about subtexts of Euro/North American museums showing the plundered loot of the cultures of the world all under one insensitive roof. A good example is the Somaskanda bronze I mentioned. It is exhibited in a state no Hindu would ever see it. It is a processional piece that would be covered with paint and festooned with flowers and carried through the streets for very specific ceremonies. At WAM, isolated under a glass case it becomes an object separate from it’s cultural purpose. Furthermore, it is “mashed” in a gallery with sacred objects from the following faiths: Muslim, Buddhist (several types) and Jain. It becomes a bunch of weird objects mixed in with utilitarian stuff too. Labels may cover some ground, but frankly few musuem goers read labels. Theer is something akin to showing the “treasures of the world” aspect to it. Very Victorian British.

    As for mash-ups, go to my station’s archive site and check the list of guests on my show: This week it’s Ethel Merman and Golden Books! The Poky Little Puppy meets Annie Gets Yor Gun. Now THAT’S a mash-up!

    Mark L

  31. You know it’s a funny thing, “to the victor go the spoils”. Did you know that in the Roman era, a slave was always in the General’s chariot, standing next to him and whispering in his ear that the victory celebration was only temporary. We are a waning civilization, with other cultures on the rise. Our penchant for isolating an object’s “art” qualities from its historical religious history is peculiar to only our Euro/North American existence due to the psuedo-philisophical intellectualism that reigns supreme amongst Scholars and perpetuates an imaginary context for the production of “art”. Should museums spring up in other cultures as a result of emulation or some other drive to house “objects of antiquity”, I would be very surprised if they didn’t cover them with their own cultural context, again altering their meanings and reasons for existence. On one hand, I really ENJOY the possibility of learning about past (present) peoples through the objects that are left behind, (or stolen(not that I condone such activities)) and exhibited in museums. On the other hand, it might be high time for, gasp, a good spring cleansing. Whatever magic was breathed into these objects at the time of their making, has been sucked out of them the moment they exit their intended functions. What we see in the museum/mauseleum, are apparitions of these objects sans context. If they, the objects, were to cease to exist, what then would we be forced to do by way of understanding our past (present) world? Perhaps we would be forced to reconsider our future if we had not the baggage of the past.

    I’m not saying this is the most desirable path (present day cultural value), but a future culture may eventually take such steps if the collective will of those people finds it necessary to advance their own civilization. Interesting to think on what that would be like….

  32. Future culture? Now that’s a pleasant thought. Friday I am interviewing SUSAN JACOBY about her AGE OF AMERICAN UNREASON. What a rant! But after reading it, at the mo I am not in the best frame of mind to think about what passes for American culture. It’s all MTVs and E!’s “reality shows” fault. That and fundamentalism. But I’m just quoting.
    Mark L.(off to record American Idol for future generations)

  33. Catherine:

    What owls are found in Central Park? Obviously Eastern Screech, but Great Horned? Barn? All the owls around here are well into or just starting nesting, and are vocalizing like no tomorrow. Great Horneds are feeding young in the nest, and are really out at dusk trying to nail hapless rodents. It’s a great time to hear owls.

    Mark L

  34. The old engineer in me is compelled to do something to put an end to all this high-falutin’ philosophizing. Cath, have you filed your taxes yet?

  35. Catherine’s Mom:

    Many thanks for “high falutin’” and thanks for making us move on, and you are right. Sorry!

    “high falutin”=very Yosemite Sam of you too.

    Mark L, whose taxes are done professionaly

  36. Touché, MOM. At least taxes aren’t rocket science. But you would know all about that..

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