3-D Cash Sculptures Passing Each Other in the Mail

My brother turned 30 just before Christmas. He is an artist, jeweler, and gemstone enthusiast, so with a little inspiration I arrived at a novel way to send him his birthday cash: those decade birthdays call for extra recognition, right? 30 Dollar Polyhedron James Hough So here is the 30-sided polyhedron—constructed from 1-dollar bills—that I sent him as a late birthday gift. Late as in post-Christmas. Which means that my brother’s late Christmas gifts to my family must have passed my gift to him in the mail, because we each received our packages within a day of the other. Cash Origami by James Hough's Brother He sent us a cash butterfly and a cash elf boot! We were both shocked and thrilled that our minds had gone to the same obscure place when we decided what gifts to send each other. Neither of us had sent or—as far as I know—even made anything like these cash constructions before! p.s. I should note that though my gift to him was larger in volume, his was larger monetarily:)

Personal Statement

The world does not necessarily need more artists, but it always needs more people who are confident in their creative abilities, which are in fact inherent in each of us and able to be developed through practice. Particularly with a child, whose brain is still highly plastic and therefore able to learn new skills efficiently, practicing the visual arts is a fun and effective way to nurture her inventiveness and confidence in her own ideas. In all areas of life, whether personal or professional, people benefit both from developing and trusting their own creative skills and from having creative people in their lives. In the fields of science, medicine, education, and business, people who can generate new ideas, develop new approaches to established ideas, and who can trust their abilities to do so are poised to succeed personally and to benefit others. And certainly in our roles as parents and peers, creative confidence can improve the lives of our kids, our friends, and ourselves. Some of us will make art for a living, but all of us can make art for a life.

My Next-Door Neighbor and Me

On the day before the BUMP event I was making preparations in the driveway, and my next-door neighbor came by with his smartphone, ready for some photography. My hope was that we were doing the photo opp for a neighborly ink drawing, but instead he laughed and said something to the effect of, “Why would I want to look at a drawing of me?” We took turns snapping photos of each other in front of Bump. It was so nice to hear from someone in the neighborhood that he loves abstract art. I’ve had other neighbors tell me that they don’t have any experience with it and they don’t know what to do with it, as if abstract painting were a language that they didn’t study in college but they might eventually take in a continuing education course. I really need to figure out the right way to get these paintings outside where people can happen upon them and get a little more experience looking at abstract stuff. And here are the photos of me and my neighbor, who’s name is difficult and he tells me just to call him “1,” which I really enjoy, especially when I imagine the numeral as I’m saying it. "1" in front of Bump, by Jim Public, October 2011 Jim Public with his painting Bump, October 2011

Run Big Monkey, at Home

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I think I said this before, but Run Big Monkey hangs on the one large wall we have in the house. There is in fact a newer painting that is 1″ longer than Monkey in each dimension, making it the current largest Jim Public piece; but, as I finished the larger painting after Monkey had already claimed the one spot where it would fit, it currently resides against a wall out in the studio. I have four more large paintings like these coming up in my studio queue: where am I going to put them? I’ll worry about making them first.

Monkey has good company in Skull Platter, 2004, by Sean Slattery. JPS–shown above reclining with a noisy toy army tank–referred for a while to Sean’s painting as Ba Ba Boo Boo during the early part of this 3rd year. We don’t know how he came up with that nickname, but we haven’t heard it in several months. During that time he had mixed feelings about Ba Ba Boo Boo, some days laughing at his silliness, other days recoiling from him with a furrowed toddler brow. Now that JPS has a noisy toy army tank, perhaps no longer feels threatened.

Jormungand at Home

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Here is Jormungand Releases His Tail in its current natural habitat, which is directly in my line of vision if I look across the room from my side of the bed. I give it a good look for a few moments maybe every other day; I miss it much of the time because I take off my glasses and switch off the light when I retire for the evening, my eyes settled into the bliss of blurry darkness that is so welcome after a day of constant seeing. When one’s job is to make stuff look good one is always seeking more good-looking stuff to learn from and, through the act of sustained looking, trying to figure out how the good-looking stuff looks so good, in case one can use it in the studio. So, nighttime for the bespectacled artist is a welcome respite, and as much as I admire Jormungand, it’s daily absence from my visual field for hours at a time renews my fondness for it.

Life, with Art

It is said that when selling artwork online one should take nice photos showing the art in a pleasing environment, such as you would find in the pages of home design magazines like Dwell or Architectural Digest. Looking at photos and ads in these mags, I get the feeling that the usually fluffy decorative paintings, which occupy about 1/10th of the photograph’s space, are worth a similar fraction of the tastefully designed room’s value. Want to make a $15,000 painting look like it’s worth its price? Take a picture of it in a mouth-watering, $150,000 interior.

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(One quick note: the painting there on the left is a Will Cotton, who is a living master of fluffy decorative painting. I saw one of his oils at the Dallas Art Fair last spring and the gorgeousness of the paintwork made me cry; artists like him keep artists like me away from representational oil painting. I have nothing to add to what he’s able to do with the brush.)

Another type of luxury interior shot–usually more about furniture than art–features young adults lounging on a couch or the floor, sporting comfy footwear, engaged pleasantly in a book or laptop, or smiling contentedly at each other. The woman should be holding a ceramic coffee mug. And if a child is playing quietly nearby, you have a masterpiece.

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Ahhhh, isn’t that the life? Cleanliness and order, tranquility and contentment, good lines, feng shui.

I am a skeptic, which means I ask for evidence to support a claim, and which I guess makes me a realist, too. I like for my ideas and values to correspond as closely as possible to the actual state of things outside of my body, in the objective world we all presumably inhabit. And I find little evidence in my experience that supports the existence of the kind of lifestyle enjoyed by the characters in these photos. They remind me of sitcoms in which one of the characters has had her baby, but the story must continue, so when new mommy needs to act like the grown-up that her audience is accustomed to, she just lays baby down for a nap or puts baby in a playpen where baby coos softly, or not at all, and lets mommy do her thing. Photography like this, and really all photography in most every magazine, drives me nuts.

So, in my ongoing effort to brush aside delusion and fantasy and replace them with a more familiar reality, I want to share my installation shot of God’s Covenant at the Event Horizon, in the condition in which it actually exists.

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Our furniture is used and well-worn; our bed is unmade; our laundry is underfoot; our carpet is characteristic of a rental home. Our kids do not play quietly or alone. JPS had the fun idea of bringing all his Batman toys onto mom and dad’s bed, and he only played with them solo because he saw that a camera was pointed at him. He has the reputation around here for lying on his back, absentmindedly spinning our recliner with his feet, if no one will play with him. His mom and I encourage independence in our kids, but the fact is that unless a friend or cousin is in the house, they are either playing with us or engaged with some kind of electronic screen.

If JPW were to sit on the floor with a ceramic coffee mug, it would probably end up shattered on the tile and certainly end up overturned on her clothes, few of which are white, because she is the mother of young children and knows better. We read mostly on the toilet, which is the only place where we can occasionally find peace. If we were to snuggle up on the couch with the laptop, we would be assailed by the children, who cannot bear to be excluded from gazing at a monitor.

I find life an insane, unwieldy, improvised mess. We humans are animals, and serenity, while longed for (as millions of magazine photos show us again and again), is rarely achieved, and short-lived. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. Life is an adventure that is not to be tamed by the right couch or composite flooring material. And certainly not by art. I think the best art and photography embrace and celebrate the insanity around us, which is what my photo of a painting in a home with a child is going for.