the digital artist ships 2 paintings to NYC [ what? ]

After the single-shooter massacre in Orlando, a New York City-based artist started a painting project. Organized in a private Facebook group, this artist assigned Senators who have a track record of voting ‘no’ on reasonable gun regulation in America to willing artist-participants. These 54 Senators have helped prevent even the most mundane collection of data to understand how American citizens use guns. It’s a move that drives the American Medical Association bananas; medical personnel see guns’ bloody consequences in ER’s every day.

The organizer’s provided theme: blood on their hands. I signed up for Senator Howard “Ron” Johnson (R-Wi). I’m a Wisconsin resident. Ron has received an A rating from the NRA and 1.3 million bucks from gun rights groups in his single term as a Senator.

I come from a family of people who work in health care, including doctors. I’ve heard what bullets do to the body. I spent about a year working in a hospital in Pittsburgh, I loosely understand what a gunshot victim means to an ER’s workload, how it reshapes the staff’s ability to treat any other person in the ER that moment.

Its bizarre to me, the silence around the consequences of using guns. But / and then – in our daily news, we see and hear anectdotes and incidents which pile up into uncountable extremes very quickly. How many mass shootings? How many people injured?


Senator Ron Johnson blood on their hands

I guess Lutheran souls are expensive ’cause the gun lobby bought Senator Ron Johnson’s for $1.3 million ~

One phenomenon of the Internet is our new capability to cut through that silence. Two survivors of the Orlando shooting ~ Patience Carter and Angel Santiago ~ discuss their survival process in a media essay produced by the New York Times. I think the immediacy of personal survival narratives fuels calls for reasoned approach to regulating guns in America.

See all the portraits at Senator Portrait Project : Senators Who Have Enabled Gun Violence

New York Daily News ran many of the images in a piece on July 5 2016.


At the same time as the Daily News piece came out, our organizer was approached by a lobbying group, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV). NYAGV asked about portraiture of New York reps to the House in Congress. Our organizer asked for volunteers; Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) was included in the call. As a Wisconsin resident, how could I not?

I get Speaker Ryan’s lifestyle, the whole hunting-fishing thing. I grew up here. I only mildly resented those who got out of school for a week for hunting season because that week was easy peasy schoolwork and no tests. The call for discussion is simply that. A call for discussion. Who am I to attempt to control the outcome? Enforced silence gets us nowhere. That’s what each of these politicians has done, by refusing to consider discussion of something very important to the American public.



[ thoughts prayers ] House Speaker Paul Ryan

Each image started as a digital composite. Both politicians’ portraits include text layers naming their financial relationships to the gun lobby, as well as their ratings by the NRA. Those spiraling texts, created using Processing, were then composited into manipulated portraits of each man.

Scale set by the organizer meant that inkjet prints were made on 8.5″ x 11″ photo paper. I mounted each print onto firmer supports before varnishing and painting ~ I love any excuse to break out Sennellier pigments. In House Speaker Paul Ryan’s case, his role asked for gold leaf. . .


Leah Gunn Barrett delivering artists' portraits to the politicians who voted AGAINST universal background check legislation.

digital media : so very portable


[ thoughts prayers ] was also printed and delivered to the Speaker by NYAGV’s Executive Director Leah Gunn Barrett. She delivered artists’ portraits to the New York politicians who voted AGAINST universal background check legislation, and the Speaker.

So why the heck am I boxing and shipping these 2 paintings? They’re now finished, mounted on cradled wood 9″ x 12″ panels. Well . . .the organizer’s working on a show, a fundraising exhibition for NYAGV. And apparently now someone volunteered to make a film of all the pieces?

Let’s keep talking about guns and what’s going on with them, for all of us!

Want to see more work? Visit the public Facebook page for the group.

hey art wrrld PR peeps ~ wade guyton’s actually a printmaker

The computer is such an enormous toolset, one cannot automatically classify a work of art produced using a computer as “digital”. One must consider the software used to produce the work in order to define its medium. Images can be manipulated as photographs (Aperture/Lightroom), as printing documents (Photoshop/Quark/Indesign), as paintings/drawings (Scribbles/Drawit, Photoshop, The Gimp, Sumo Paint, Sketchbook).

(Code-based art, which creates unique tools or subverts conventions or human behavior around computing, or the product of hacker culture – this is the new breed of art, the art of our time theorists haven’t caught up with yet. The opacity of process created by its technicality perhaps camouflaging its genius. Code-based art is not the domain of this post.)

A NYT PR piece on Wade Guyton reminded me it’d be a good idea to clarify forms of art making that involves computers. [article over here]

I’m interested in this work as a consequence of Sol Lewitt + Andy Warhol rather than Carol Vogel’s romantic re-articulation of Jackson Pollock. Mr. Guyton’s self-described perfectionism and refusal of a bodily means of making the work directly contradicts Pollocks’ self description of ‘no error in my gesture’.

Vogel writes . . .

There is no smell of turpentine, no haphazard array of easels, no cans of paint or stacks of used canvases. In fact, there are none of the things one would expect in a painter’s studio. Instead all the creating is executed on computer screens and printers.

There’s no messy evidence of the body in the production process. Inexactness in the result a consequence of the physical limits of the large-format ink-jet printers doing the making ~ there’s no ‘failure of the hand’.

Ann Temkin, MOMA’s painting & sculpture curator, describes his process thus:

“You tap a keyboard with one finger and this very large painting emerges,” she said. “It’s gone against everything we think of as a painting.”

Right, Ann, because it’s not actually painting. Its printmaking presented in the language of painting.

Mr. Guyton presents aesthetic decisions articulated via Photoshop. Photoshop, a design/layout/color separation/drawing tool whose vernacular is a consequence of the publishing industry, itself a child of traditional printmaking. This activity somehow classified by MOMA as . . . painting.

“I chose the computer because it was right there,” he [Guyton] added. But he says he’s not very sophisticated when it comes to technology: “I don’t do Facebook. My Photoshop skills are rudimentary. I’m lucky to download my e-mail.”

An aesthete who only uses a computer to produce artwork ~ this aligns the artist with audience members who don’t like having to use technology. Cool. Its about his decisions, not the facility with the tools ~ again, Lewitt, Warhol.

I find the erasure of printmaking from the work curious until I remember that museums have prized painting as high art for a few reasons. First, painting becoms an unique artefact of artist’s vision, particularly after the invention of ‘reproducible photography’.

Second, so the myth of media goes, painting remains unspoiled by having a use in the world aside from being art, carrying meaning or vision. Printmaking made newspapers. Lithography gave us political cartoons. Computers deliver pornography to the masses as Gutenberg’s naked lady playing card sets funded his bibles. Yet Guyton’s computer-aided works are . . . paintings.

Guyton’s strategy of blowing up small/hidden patterns (the endpaper strips from a book as described in the review) isn’t new, either. There’s a long tradition of magnifying the gorgeous & overlooked, across many media. Jasper Johns designed paintings sourced from the  patterns published on the interiors of envelopes.  Johns also works as a bridge artist between painting and printmaking. A sibling to Rauschenberg’s pre-Warholian pop, Johns physically painted forms again and again with a printmaker’s discipline. Guyton pushes the button, letting his studio assistant make the work.

Is it the uniqueness of errors in the large format print process that turns them paintings? In printmaking, that’s the ‘monoprint’.  The glitched print as ‘gesture’? Well, glitch artists tend to love their tech, so I don’t think that’s what’s going on here.

I see Guyton as Sol Lewitt replacing museum workers with a large format printer. Not a big deal. Museums make their bread and butter perpetuating the painting tradition. To place these works in that tradition fails the work and the audience. The brush used here is so broad – we’re in a place where artmakers are working so specifically, we need to pay close attention to the way they make to see what they are doing.

Mr. Guyton makes some fucking amazing prints.