Sunday, October 22, 2006


My latest video


Steve Aishman
Statement for Detecting/Praying

I love finding money.
Find a penny, pick it up/then all day you’ll have good luck.
Well, yeah …
By definition you’ve already had a lucky day; you just found money.
Most people spend their whole day hoping to find a bag of money.
Most people spend their whole day hoping to find meaning in their life.
Just hoping to find meaning is an endless pursuit.

Stop hoping to find money.
Make a metal detector.
The making is the best part.

Douglas Weathersby @ Kingston Gallery, the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, and Solomon Projects

Douglas Weathersby @ Kingston Gallery, the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, and Solomon Projects

Douglas Weathersby’s current exhibitions at three different sites can each be viewed as individual exhibitions, but they can also be viewed as one large, multi-state exhibition. More correctly, all of Weathersby’s work for the past few years can be seen as one large piece that has frequently manifested itself within various exhibition venues, but Weathersby’s larger umbrella piece of artwork continues even when it isn’t being seen in galleries or museums. The cornerstone of Weathersby’s work is his company Environmental Services ( An over simplification of Environmental Services is that it is a company where individuals can hire Weathersby as a cleaning/art making service. Weathersby’s work, just like any company, continues to exist even if it is not currently involved in a job. Subsequently, only looking at individual exhibitions of Weathersby’s work denies the real analysis of what his company (artwork) is actually doing. And what he’s doing is far more complex than any one exhibition can entail.

For example, Weathersby’s installation in the center gallery of Kingston Gallery is called “Bartered Space / My Space” where Weathersby performed cleaning services for the gallery for a month in exchange for an exhibition in the space. His installation in the space is a photographic recreation of his home office for Environmental Services. The one of the more intriguing parts of the exhibition is that on the last day of the exhibition (10/28), Weathersby will shred all of the photographs he used to make the piece. Most artists view themselves solely as creators. The photography industry in particular makes millions of dollars convincing artists that archivability is as valuable as creation. How many artists make work so that it will be destroyed? How many artists understand that destruction is as important as creation? In the modern world, how many artists honor Shiva as well as Brahma and Vishnu? What separates Weathersby’s work is that it displays a wholly different philosophy and value system from what is mass marketed today.

Weathersby’s video piece at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center is part of a group show called “Louis Morris” that ostensibly is organized in response to Morris Lewis’ survey at the High Museum. However, while Weathersby’s work can be seen as a legacy of abstract painting (Weathersby does have his MFA in painting from Mass Art), his work is primarily concerned with the process of creating which frequently leads to abstraction rather than traditional abstract questions of composition, color, etc. In his video, Weathersby creates abstract images while cleaning cars. So his process is one where he takes dirt, moves it into abstract shapes and then washes it away. Weathersby’s work is form of contemporary Mandala making.
Watch Mandala sweeping

Weathersby’s work at Solomon Projects in Atlanta is a display of five photographs that he took during one of Environmental Services jobs. On the surface, the images are aesthetically compelling abstractions and they can be discussed in those terms. However, by displaying straight photographs, Weathersby also opens up a new dialog in his work that deals with freezing time. Weathersby’s photographs articulate a very specific, hyper-focused mental state that occurs when creating work during his Environmental Services duties. Athletes call it “the zone”. Tibetan Buddhist monks call it the “clear-light mind” that can be found in deep mediation. Artists don’t have a word for it, but they all know what it is.

Weatherby’s work is developing a visual philosophy, but the extent of the philosophy is difficult to see when only viewing one piece of the whole body of work. The totality of his work embodies too many complexities to list here. The relationship between art and commerce, creation/sustaining/destroying in the modern world, enriching perception, performance as installation, etc. However, seen in smaller, bite sized exhibitions, the work is more digestible. So, you should definitely go see Weathersby’s work in as many venues as possible. To start, watch him destroy his work at Kingston at the closing of the show.

Weathersby in his installation at Kingston Gallery

Douglas Weathersby
JCAL Project, Urinal, 2005
Chromogenic print
24 x 18 inches
Solomon Projects

Video still of Weathersby working on dust outline

A monk begins to destroy the mandala

Art Show Down

Click here for images from the Art Show Down Semi-finals 10/14/06 afternoon

Click here for a video (3.5 MB) of the Art Show Down

ARTcetera Auction images

Click here for images from the ARTcetera auction

Friday, October 20, 2006

My experience at the ARTcetera Auction

I have a friend who is a pastry chef. I, of course, think it is fantastic that she is a pastry chef because I get lots of free pastries, but apparently her parents do not think being a pastry chef is a good life choice. One time she told me a story about how when she was at culinary school, her parents expressed that they were worried about her making a living as a chef. Her father took her to McDonalds and ordered a Big Mac. He then told my friend that if she wanted to work with food, she should consider cooking something like the Big Mac because clearly it was what people wanted since it was one of the greatest selling food items in the history of the world. He said that with hard work and luck she could open a chain of restaurants that were as popular and made as much money as McDonalds. My friend responded that she was not interested in making a lot of money by cooking food that everyone liked, like McDonalds does, but that she just wanted to cook for the few select people who have a similar taste to her own. Her father said that was exactly why he was worried about her.

I have tried explaining to lots of people why I’m not interested in making work that everyone likes, but most people don’t seem to understand what I’m saying. My personal reasons for making and showing artwork are hard to explain in a capitalistic society because most of my art making process is inherently anti-capitalistic. In a capitalistic society, if you have an idea, then you should immediately copyright the idea and try to make money from it. This is the exact opposite of what I want to do. If I have an idea, I have burning need to share it with anyone. I make my ideas big, red and shiny so people will look at them and then I put them on display anywhere they can be seen. If people want to buy them, great. If they don’t, it does not effect what I will make next in the slightest.

However, this past weekend I was faced with an unusual interaction with the monetary value of art work at the ARTcetera Auction. First, let me say that the ARTcetera Auction is fantastic and everyone should support it. The proceeds of the auction go to support the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts who are trying to stem the tide of the global AIDS epidemic and any group that is trying to stop AIDS should be supported. Period. I have been honored to be allowed to participate in the auction for the past six years in the way that I can help best, by contributing artwork to be auctioned off.

Subsequently, I suddenly cared about the monetary value of my artwork because I wanted my piece to help the AIDS Action Committee. I talked to a number of my artist friends who were also at the auction and we came to one resounding conclusion: We have no idea why people buy art.

I certainly have no idea why people pay certain prices for certain pieces and not for others. ARTcetera proved to be a fascinating venue for me to just watch people buy art in mass, which I rarely get to see. Some pieces, like Thomas Gustainis' beautiful and thoughtful piece "Perambulations" sold for an appropriate value. However, it quickly became apparent to me that the more digestible work was clearly more in demand, while work with any risk or edge was selling at far below value. David Hilliard’s dynamic and visually demanding piece “Winter Months” sold for a song as did many other great pieces that actually challenge the viewer rather than placate them. Even virtually guaranteed collector pieces, like Doc Edgerton's "Pigeon Release Multi-Flash" dye-transfer print sold for half of what I expected. Everyone kept telling me that it was because of Boston’s conservative attitude, but I’m not even sure I know what that means. On a broader spectrum, isn’t the Boston community known for fostering cutting edge thinking? Especially in fields like scientific research, economics, political theory, etc. If you Google “top liberal cities”, Boston is at the top of every list. So why does Boston suddenly become conservative when it comes to buying art? If anyone has an opinion, I’d love to know …

The auction was also fantastic because it was the one time I got to see so many great artists all together in one place. It was like one fantastic group show where unknown artists, like me, get to hang in the same venue with well known artists like Abelardo Morell or Kahn and Selesnick. The auction itself invited fascinating comparisons of different styles of work that had unintentionally been put together by virtue of the artists' last names. Where else can you experience a show like that?

In the end, the ARTcetera auction is one rare case where I do care what my piece sold for, because I really want to help the AIDS Action Committee. While my piece did sell for far less than I expected, I'm still proud that I did my best as an artist to show support for a great cause. I hope that in two years when they have the next ARTcetera I will be asked to donate a piece again. I also hope that other artists will continue to support not only ARTcetera and the AIDS Action Committee, but other causes around Boston as well. There are lots of great causes in Boston that can use the support of the artistic community. If you run a program like ARTcetera, please let me know about it because I know that I and my friends would love to help out.

Me with Heidi and my piece "Bubble Gum Love"

To see more images from the opening click here

To see a video (2 MB) of Thomas Gustainis' piece being sold click here