Jun 262014


1. I sign onto Facebook at something like 8 p.m. and there at the top of my feed is a picture of a friend with two other people I have decided it’s best to pretend not to pay attention to. I would probably like the picture if these two others weren’t in it, because my friend looks happy and great, but I’m concerned what liking it with them in it will convey – that I tolerate their presence in the world? that their slights against me are forgotten or, maybe worse, remembered but now set aside? I sign off before I have too much more time to think about it.

2. A few hours later I post something cranky but possibly funny – the humor in it making fun of my own crankiness, which becomes in my head a sort of impenetrable wall of sound at times and requires leavening – and people start liking it. I worry they might be liking it for the wrong reasons. I consider clarifying in some way but realize this could go on forever, counteracting the intended levity.

3. Eventually, an old friend comments on this post, in a way that seems to be calling me out for my crankiness. Can’t I just let people who say stupid things be, he seems to be saying, stupidly. I want to scream at him that he is clearly not getting the subtleties. Why am I so hard on people, he seems to be saying. Is that what he’s saying? I can’t decide. Why must people post this kind of shit right before I go to bed, giving me a first things first item for the following day? I feel very persecuted and misunderstood and stare at my dog like she couldn’t possibly understand.

4. I sign off then sign on again. I close my laptop. I open it back up again. I can’t let the whole thing go. If I respond too emphatically to his comment I’m revealing that I think about these things more than I’d like people to know I do. It’s important to me that people don’t get the idea I harbor things. I’m pretty obsessive about this. I decide again not to respond, and secretly vow to despise the old friend in my sleep.

5. The following day, just as I’ve gotten over the slight, the old friend posts a comment on his own page about a stranger who judged him in the course of a casual conversation, offering unsolicited commentary on a subject which had nothing to do with him. I am concerned that the old friend doesn’t see his hypocrisy.

6. Six people who never liked any of my pages have sent me invitations to please like their own. I feel, as I often do, that the world is very unfair, not because they didn’t like my page, and not because they ask that I like theirs, but because I want to point this out to them and realize I can’t, unless I want to develop a reputation as a malcontent. As I think about this an invitation arrives. Would I like to attend this event where I will see at least three people I have committed myself to never running into? I gaze fixedly at a tree outside the window, wishing to be that tree.

7. I post a photo on my page and my mother comments on it in a way which seems to me to be exacting revenge in a passive aggressive way for an old slight dating back to the time I was 25 years-old. I remember the time before my mother knew about Facebook, when I could visit her house and take a photo and post it on my page with text along the lines of “get a load of this”. I spend about five minutes missing that time like a friend who has died.

8. My mother tags me in a photo I would prefer people not see. I call my mother and ask her, in so many words, why she insists on acting like my mother in public. She responds by bringing up old slights dating back to the time I was 25 years-old. I picture in my head a place somewhere outside the range of Facebook where we could sustain the illusion that it’s possible for us to get along without picturing our younger selves fighting the good fight over old slights. I try to combat the urge to unfriend my own mother, which strikes me as very Shakespearean. I google Shakespearean to make sure I know what it actually means.

9. I do not like as many pictures as I should, I am told by a friend. She likes more of my pictures than I do hers. This at first seems very petty to me and I tell her so. I’m what seems to me sufficiently indignant. Later I post a picture that virtually everyone else we know likes and she doesn’t, and I see her point. It’s like going to a party where someone you know very well can see you but persists in pretending you haven’t entered the room. I want to apologize, but that would pave the way for possibly endless conversations about conduct on social media and the role it plays in our friendship. Instead I go to her page and like the first thing I see. I google Bette Davis’ history because it occurs to me this is kind of like how she was robbed of an Oscar several times then awarded one practically posthumously for a much lesser film, and learn that I’m thinking of some other actress.

10. I sign onto Instagram to get a break from Facebook, hoping to dwell in the almost purely visual where the slight of words won’t touch me, and every picture I see in my feed fills me with a hatred for humanity that shocks me a little, though not as much as I think I would expect. I have no words for this feeling, which builds as I move down the screen. How dare they, I realize I’m thinking. I decide I better sign off altogether before the hate builds into some kind of decision, followed by some action which will keep me up at night. Later I’m in bed staring up into the dark and think, over and over, “How dare they–what?” I fall asleep scrolling through the memory of my feed the way some count sheep.

(Photo of Barbara Herman by Brian Pera; this post in no way illustrates Barbara’s social media practices or thought processes)

 Posted by on June 26, 2014
Jun 232014

LINE still3

I have incorporated flicker into a number of my short films, as a means to distress and distill found materials, and amplify moments of hysteria. Rupturing the normal illusion of motion created by 24 or 30 frames per second, flicker forces the viewer into an altered register of vision, pushing the limits of what our eyes can process. I find it has the potential to feel assaultive, soothing, and orgasmic all at once, and is most satisfying in a large theater, where the strobing light actually overwhelms the viewer’s spacial perceptions – making it possible to lose one’s bearings within both the image and the room. And I do this in editing, by masking away or coloring the film or video frames in simple patterns (i.e. two frames of black, one frame of green, two frames of image, copied and pasted forever).

My real attachment to the technique stems back to the final episode of Twin Peaks, which scarred me in all the best ways as an enthralled, terrified nine-year-old viewer in 1991. Somewhere between the collapse of the Miss Twin Peaks Pageant and the mid-2000’s, I also came to ingest a fair amount of flicker-heavy experimental cinema, and it was actually a 2006 projector performance by Bruce McClure that inspired me to throw some red and blue flicker at my then-in progress piece, Light Is Waiting. I hate to think that I have a standard arsenal of tricks, but given that heavy doses of flashing light have shown up in seven of the eleven films I’ve made since 2007, I think it’s safe to say I’ve developed a habit.

(Pictured above: A still from the short Line Describing Your Mom, and the short itself)


Michael Robinson (b. 1981) is an American film, video, and collage artist whose work explores the joys and dangers of mediated experience, riding the fine line between humor and terror, nostalgia and contempt, ecstasy and hysteria. His work has shown in both solo and group shows at a variety of festivals, museums, and galleries including the 2012 Whitney Biennial, The Walker Art Center, MoMA P.S. 1, The International Film Festival Rotterdam, The New York Film Festival, The London Film Festival, REDCAT Los Angeles, The Sundance Festival, Anthology Film Archives, The Images Festival, Whitechapel Gallery, and Tate Modern. Michael was the recipient of a 2012 Creative Capital grant, a 2011-2012 Film/Video Residency Award from the Wexner Center for the Arts, a 2009 residency from The Headlands Center for the Arts, and his films have received awards from numerous festivals. He was featured as one of the ’50 best filmmakers under 50′ by Cinema Scope magazine in 2012, and listed as one of the top ten avant-garde filmmakers of the 2000’s by Film Comment magazine. Michael holds a BFA from Ithaca College, an MFA from The University of Illinois at Chicago, and his work is available from Video Data Bank and Carrie Secrist Gallery.

 Posted by on June 23, 2014
Jun 212014



An ongoing collaboration with Lesley Young in which I choose one of her photos and imagine some part of a nonexistent film shot there


The woman who owns the house put signs up all over the place before the production arrived. Do not throw paper towels in the toilet bowl Do not hold flushing mechanism down indefinitely FRAGILE Do not leave this door closed you will lock our cat inside the room and she will starve we love our cat as you love yours Do not eat or drink in the house Do not Please Thank you please do not.

She has an agent in New Orleans and a long list of credits as an extra on IMDB. Had anyone bothered to look – and really who felt the need to, as much as she talked about it? – the aggregate of her characters’ names might have served as a warning sign of their own: Grumpy woman in store, Prissy mother of the bride, Indignant lady at pie sale, Tantrum thrower #2, Hot mess at Sunday picnic.

The story of the film is typical hipster stuff – inarticulate boy meets slightly more articulate girl, falls in love(??), has an argument which is more like a pregnant pause, kind of makes up – or smirks more benignly. Whatever. Events presided over by mildly snarky best friend, who would make a much better girlfriend if he weren’t a guy, rendering all this a little more unnecessary.

Everyone on the crew was a critic, which is to say they were the first to tell you, unless you were the director, that they hadn’t made it through to the end of the script. The grip didn’t read it, he said, but that didn’t deter him from arguing for the fog machine.

The director said no to the fog machine and it’s a real testament to either the grip’s arrogance or his stupidity that he tried to use it anyway. The director was in the bathroom. Do not use the towels use the paper napkins PLEASE. The fire alarm went off and because the woman who owns the house was in the shower – Do not come in! – where she couldn’t hear it – Knock loudly PLEASE – the fire truck was dispatched. Cost to production: 100 dollars.

The day the production finished shooting at the house the woman emailed something like 150 photos showing damages to the property. Infinitesimal scratches to the wood floor, blink and miss it stain on the carpet No Food In The Bedrooms PLEASE, slight wallpaper rip on the switch plate.

Tear the whole house down, the director muttered. Clearly it’s ruined. Rebuild it from scratch. The insurance agent assigned to the production told the director he’d experienced quite a few Koo Koo Bananas in his time. This woman took the cake and ate it.

Six months after production wrapped the woman who owns the house was awarded an insurance settlement of 10 thousand dollars – over twice the amount paid to the highest profile member of the cast, three times the cost of catering – making this a most expensive use of a free location.

The actor playing the hipster lead fucked a production assistant in the front yard of the woman who owns the house. This behind a bush no bigger than a pretty revealing bathing suit. He might have given the wardrobe guy crabs by the pool three days later. Please DO NOT lean sit or stand on the deck chairs thank you.

The crabs might also have come from the line producer, who spent a lot of time talking about communicable diseases and more than a little time flirting with at least ten other people, extras cast in a party scene, all of whom seemed exceptionally conversant in the signs and symptoms of gonorrhea.

Extras Do Not please do not under any circumstances enter the living room or the dining room or the bedrooms to the left rear of the house thank you. Damage to right rear bedroom: path worn on carpet from door to vicinity of king size bed.

The director yelled at the DP over whether or not to use a Dana Dolly for what seemed to the director like every other shot. The language of the ubiquitous signs posted by the woman who owned the house took over the thoughts and speech of everyone involved with the production, eventually, each conversation filled with the punitive ring of Do Not.

Later an attempt was made to counteract this kind of thinking by adding the spirit of Please, muddling things further. The signs won. The woman of the house ultimately felt vindicated, the much maligned diarrhea of signs she generated proven not just annoying but prophetic. Under every kind thought, a Do Not, gussied up by a feeble please.

The director said later he was trying to make a film people would watch because so many films are so unwatched by so many people. There is a great widespread problem of not watching and the film it was hoped would serve as a corrective to this affliction. The director’s strategy veered between total (if inarticulate) candor in the script and scenes of people not having sex but being nude in places where the possibility of sex seemed imminent or recently exhausted.

It was decided, consciously or unconsciously, that a dearth of male nudity has done very little to contribute to the phenomenon of not watching. Thus the actress playing the lead remained generally unclothed.

Because she wanted to seem like one of the guys, drawing attention away from her vanity, she continued to decline the terry cloth robe offered to her between takes. The crew later concurred that she really did seem like one of the guys, with the addition of breasts and a vagina.

Walking naked down to the first floor (nude descending a staircase) she tripped over a half finished styrofoam cup of coffee and so she is dressed in more of the film than originally intended, not to preserve her modesty, because after all modesty is not watched misspelled, but to conceal the cast on her left leg and the burn mark on her abdomen.

A picture of the resulting stain was among those submitted by the woman who owns the house for insurance purposes. In the meantime, three more signs were posted. Do not loiter on or around the stairs PLEASE please please no food or drink in the house including coffee someone has been injured and burned people please.

Later the director told anyone who would listen (in addition to a problem of not watching there is inarguably a hand in hand problem of not listening) that the failure of the film to be watched had everything to do with that fall from the stairs, a fall still called a descent so as to minimize the incident for liability purposes.

The still photographer and the caterer were probably the most interesting people on set. Did anyone else see the suitability of the balcony for enacting scenes from Romeo and Juliet, substituting Shakespeare’s scenes with choice dialogue from the film? This the still photographer and the caterer did in pidgin Spanish with Russian accents. The video went viral.

(Image by Lesley Young, whose Instagram page inspired this ongoing collaboration. Follow her there:mississippihuckleberry or on Facebook)

 Posted by on June 21, 2014
Jun 202014



Details from “Selfy Portraits”, Brian Keith Jones

I met Brian Keith Jones at the closing of a Chuck & George show at Southfork, a gallery run here in Memphis by Lauren Kennedy.

Jones and partner Brian Scott, the other half of Chuck & George, had reinvented a room there, parasitically taking it over with their own peculiar visionary sensibility. The effect was like walking into the room of a house an animator has turned into a cartoon. Everything was outsize or miniaturized – a big TV, a tiny TV (both broadcasting static-fueled fever dreams), cloth patterned wallpaper, vinyl floor boards. I imagine this installation would be fantastic in a white cube gallery space. At Southfork, which is also a home, it was a genuine head trip.

A week or so ago I started seeing some pretty wonderful drawings on Brian’s facebook page, so I wrote to ask what he’s up to:

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a small series of “Selfy Portraits” for a group show at my Dallas gallery RO2 Arts. I also have two ‘big’ shows brewing with my partner Brian Scott under the collaborative pseudonym of Chuck & George.

Where do you usually work and what are ideal circumstances for you there?

I will usually work at my desk in my shared studio in Dallas Texas. It’s a cruddy little slum house with no plumbing but it’s next door to my home. Unlike my house it has air conditioning so Summer tends to be very productive for me. As long as I have a small organized clean space with fabulous music I’m free to go. I have even produced a small series of work in Central Park while on a Summertime ‘Paupers” trip to New York.


Selfy Portrait, Brian Keith Jones

Is there a different headspace doing self portraits? What’s the shift in perspective or is there one?

I have been told over the decades that I have a monumental puppet head. Traditional self portraits are as much vanity projects as they are just simple painting exercises. Usually I use a mirror but for my “Selfies” I used my phone camera. Strangely enough my last solo show was 48 paintings of myself as the giant puppet “Big Tex” that greets the fairgoers of the Texas State Fair. He had a Hindenburg moment and burned to the ground on his 60th birthday. The 48 paintings also acted as cels in an animated loop. I spin and burn…repeat.

How long does a drawing usually take you?

I am shockingly fast when I get going. The drawing part can take maybe 5 minutes and then I move on to the ‘coloring’. Sometimes on a small painting (under 8 inches) I set maybe a time constraint of 4hrs to keep myself from overworking it. I try to have many small affordable pieces during a show so I appeal to a wider fan base. I like to collect art too so I appreciate something in my price range that wont take up too much wall space.


Selfy Portrait, Brian Keith Jones

What’s the medium of these latest pieces?

I have in my solo work taken to water colors. They are efficient, quick, brilliant, yet unforgiving. I don’t use them in a traditional prissy sense though. Often I paint on a homemade absorbent ground on a birch panel and give the work a good Ultra Violet protective varnish. I don’t really like looking at art behind glass.

What do you want from someone who looks at your work?

2-3 minutes would be nice. I really like audible reactions like laughter, gagging or some of those sounds people make when they look at an ugly baby and pretend that it is adorable.


Brian Keith Jones has a BFA from University of North Texas in Denton. He has been producing art and showing in various established Dallas galleries since the early 90’s. In 1990 he and his partner Brian Keith Scott created Chuck & George and have been collaborating since. Brian Jones’ work is more whim and fancy, often focusing on the bloated flesh, nipples, a trail of hair, humor and hopefulness. Often these paintings of doll-like figures are put to simple animation. Occasionally the artist will don a costume for a live version of his characters simply to test the endurance of the costume or even of himself. His collaborative work as Chuck in Chuck & George is more complex, and often more narrative. Together the two Brians will create a painted, drawn, animated and sculpted environment complete with characters, furniture, walls, and floors. Large complex murals, set designs and window dressing lie easily within their artistic reach. For fourteen years they have operated the Oak Cliff Visual SpeedBump Art Tour that annually opens the homes and galleries in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas. This has helped in the urban revival of that area which is now growing and vibrant. The whimsical ‘over the top’ home and studio of Chuck & George (the Brians) is often open to private or group tours and is sometime the host of various fund raising events. This for the most part has given them a beloved art historical presence and earned them a Dallas Observer Mastermind of Arts award in 2013.

 Posted by on June 20, 2014
Jun 192014


I like to start with endings. Not moving backwards from there, not a trick of revelation about a story that’s already over, but what’s born in the pain of goodbye, the mess of aftermath, what happens next. In the Life/Death/Life cycle, I’m somewhere around th/Li, prose-wise. Not too worried about your first rodeo. I get antsy, I like change, but I’m sentimental, I like scars, and ceremony, and souvenirs. I Used to be Darker begins with the end of a divorce. There’s nothing left to decide, but there’s a lot to get used to. Reinvention is required. Maybe that’s it? But it’s also that what happened, even if it went to shit, isn’t wasted. My characters say: Yes, mourning was required, and hair-shirts, and champagne. Or: Just when you think you’re out of the woods, you’re still in them. Or: Missing is like having, but easier to pack. Or: Baby, it ain’t over when it’s over. Or: I feel this happiness, this tenderness, like a moment in a movie that will end, in a theater I will leave. Because that is what I can afford.


Amy Belk is a screenwriter living in Los Angeles. She received her M.F.A. in fiction writing from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where she was awarded the Richard Yates Prize for Fiction. Her first feature, I Used to be Darker, premiered at Sundance 2013 and is distributed by Strand Releasing.

(Photo by the author)

 Posted by on June 19, 2014
Jun 192014


Barbara is the author of Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume.

We were staying a few days in Nashville for a reading she had scheduled at Parnassus Books. We went to Princess Hot Chicken, tracked down books by Edward St. Aubyn and Jane Bowles at a used bookstore among an Amish family of five, drank an iced coffee drink with rose water and lime (very good, like drinking perfume).

We stayed at an airbnb basement addition rented out by a couple named Linda Ray and Matt, both women. The first morning, we walked outside and saw the backyard for the first time, everything very green, and in the middle of the green this bright red bucket that matched Barbara’s striped shirt. Let’s take a picture, I said.

Had we been talking about George Hurrell? We’d talked about so many things, I can’t remember. He was on my mind. I asked her if she remembered that famous picture of Jane Russell by Hurrell with the straw in her mouth. She said she’d need lipstick first, if we really wanted to seize the opportunity.

 Posted by on June 19, 2014
Jun 162014

Detail of the work: the glitter tears of Rudolph Nureyev

1. The bacon someone might be cooking when you arrive. “Hot stove!” “Watch it! That stove is hot!”

2. The book on the bookshelf published by Linda Simpson, a tribute to her friend and fellow East Village legend Page, full of pictures taken at places you remember being in the nineties.

3. The conversation you have with Lauren Kennedy – the hostess, who is also the curator – about the time she visited Linda Simpson’s apartment in the East Village, years after you did, where the crowd was almost exclusively gay men, except for the hostess/curator and another woman who said to her, “We are going to be best friends!”

4. The fact that this apartment and this time is tied to that apartment and that other time through the mind and friends in common, among whom the woman at Linda Simpson’s party did not ultimately in fact number.


Artist Joel Parsons and the brunch spread

5. The artist is eating bacon next to you as he explains the work to someone who is eating the quiche you made.

6. The show is called An Emergency of Feeling: Groping after Nureyev and Platforms for Excesses of Desire (Stages are Beds) with The Devouring Darkness, Deep and Blazing Sweetness, Sticky Stump, and Faggy Melt. The artist is Joel Parsons, and the art depicts, among other things, jewel encrusted images of Rudolph Nureyev as only someone who happens to be hitched with a dancer and was barely legal when Nureyev died could see him, or so someone your age imagines.


Joel Parsons: “The photos are groping, the drawings are platforms, and the curtain is devouring.”

7. You can stand there listening to the artist talking about his work and the history of Nureyev and his public as opposed to private lives while the artist’s dancer/choreographer partner sits in the other room, at this private gathering which isn’t about hiding anything, or certainly doesn’t mean to be.

8. The art, as in this show, might be up for only one day; is fleeting, and sort of fragile. Gone tomorrow, like Rudolph and Page.

9. The art, as in other shows here, might be up for longer than one day, and in those cases arrangements must be made with the hostess/curator to see the work.

10. Seeing the work on such occasions means dealing with the hostess/curator as a person named Lauren Kennedy and seeing art as something you experience in the real world, as opposed to her pretending to be peripheral, like for instance a realtor who arranges for you to see a house then slips into the background to allow the fantasy of living there unbothered by the reality of interaction.

11. The art show, which is arguably pretty queer, is also a brunch, the gayest meal of the day.


Detail of the work

12. The art in fact hangs right beside the table, so that as you are eating quiche, also pretty gay, and strudel (borderline), you’re encouraged to make some connections.

13. Being in this house which is also a gallery called Southfork involves seeing art in a different way, calling into question the ways art is customarily shown. Not that this dawns on you at the time.

14. Calling into question the way art is shown happens over drinks and quiche and all kinds of acting out very few gallery spaces would make room for or realize maybe they should make room for. What dawns on you at the time are the drinks and the quiche and all kinds of acting out, and the art is experienced inside this cluster of sensation.

15. There is no separation between the tastes and agendas of the hostess/curator and the art she has selected and is presenting because in opening up her home to you she has made all that very visibly and concretely one thing.


Detail of the work: groping Nureyev’s backside


16. You might be moved to make a connection between the words quiche and queef and queer while staring at what looks like an eruption of pink rhinestones from or along Nureyev’s backside.

17. Later, you might look up queef online and find a sample sentence which reads, Julia coughed loudly to drown out her queef as Brian pulled out, and feel awkward, because your name is Brian, and there’s another connection, and another erasure: a queef is regarded by the urban dictionary as an exclusively vaginal phenomenon.

18. The artist poses for pictures with a porcelain poodle which belongs to the hostess/curator and a dish of strudel – and the hostess/curator, while appreciating the word play, warns those involved that someone will need to wash the poodle’s backside.

19. No one here seems particularly determined to pretend there is no such thing as a backside. No one here would fault you for looking at one.

20. You are encouraged to make yourself comfortable, and there are actually places to do so.

21. The hostess/curator was busy cooking when everyone started arriving – she is wearing an apron when you get there yourself, navigating bacon. She doesn’t change to present a different persona, any more than she would clear out the furniture in her house to make it look more like what you think a gallery is supposed to be.

(Photos by Lauren Kennedy and Joel Parsons)

 Posted by on June 16, 2014
Jun 142014



When she saw this picture, Jessica (J.B. to her friends) said: “Look at that. One of my eyebrows is always raised.”

I don’t see her as much right now as I used to. We used to meet regularly for coffee. I’d be at the coffeehouse first thing before work, and she’d walk up on foot or with her bike. We’d sit there smoking and talking and my day was filtered somehow through our conversation.

When I was planning the second episode of a series I do called White Shoulders, and told her I wanted to make finger puppets, she made copies on fabric of vintage doll faces for me to glue on white gloves.

She was going to Italy at some point and we talked beforehand, then once she was back. Like a lot of people who go to Europe she came back slightly changed, re-energized or something. Her perspective widened a little.

Right before shooting on Only Child began a few years ago, she made a doll for me. I ended up using it in a scene she did with Grace Zabriskie. J.B. played a waitress named Betty at a diner Grace’s character frequents.

J.B. was nervous and we tried to bring real life into the scene to relax everyone. We pretended Betty made dolls as a hobby and sold them out of the diner. Betty brought the doll out and Grace’s character liked it so much she let her keep it. The doll pops up in the movie in a few other places. It’s like having a friend there with me for keeps in the film.

Her last day of shooting, J.B. presented Grace with a doll inspired by her character. She had black clothes and a colorful scarf like Grace wears in the film.

 Posted by on June 14, 2014
Jun 142014

Grace’s “destroyed” workshop

Recently, Grace Zabriskie wrote to tell me that her wood shop had been ‘destroyed’. She’d been doing a lot of work in it, and gathering wood for new projects. It didn’t look too destroyed to me in the picture she sent but I understood what she meant: the tornado of creativity had hit and she was sorting through the mental and physical after-effects. I’ve written about Grace Zabriskie’s wood shop before. It’s an amazing place, a puzzle of nooks and crannies, drawers and shelves and cabinets storing hundreds of tiny to less tiny tools and implements that I guess are totally routine to her but endlessly fascinating to me. It looks like the art department for a Brothers Quay film down there. I asked her what she’d been making.

What are you working on now in your wood shop?

I’m just finishing the two bedside tables for my daughter Marion’s airb&b space. Marion’s friend Peri made a lamp I bought from her at her last lamp sale, I donated it to Marion for the room, then used it as part of the inspiration for aspects of the first bedside table. Now I’m hoping she (Peri) will make the tall lamp to go on the short table. The tables I see as fraternal twins, and the lamps should be, as well. The lamps and tables are all cousins.

Peri made the first lamp from a piece of mahogany that is unique. A variety I’ve never seen before. There’s no more of that – or not enough of it. I found stuff in my shop that I could donate to her for the new lamp. But of course, here I am, playing with it, as though I don’t have 17 projects lined up already.

You sent me an email with pictures of your ‘destroyed’ wood shop, after much work in it. What do you require out of the space in order to do your best work, and when it isn’t in that shape how does that influence your approach or execution?

A destroyed workroom is the signal for an important time. Sorting through the mess, discarding things, saving things, putting tools away, and, mainly, FINDING things that have been lost for days or weeks. The challenge is getting through this project without getting excited about some new idea and starting on that, instead of finishing the cleanup. Everything that I “require” of my workspace to do my best work is, I’ve decided,  either a reason to get to work making it what I need, or a delaying tactic, or both.

Can you tell me one small decision or discovery involved in making the bedside tables that had a large impact?

Think thrice before starting another project using reclaimed wood that is cupped, bowed, and wanky in general. Or, on a more positive note, the pleasures of collaboration, or even imagined collaboration, are great. Which got me thinking that perhaps all creative work involves imagined collaboration. (Which, I believe, has been said before, come to think of it.)

Your wood shop is in the basement. Descending into the space always gives me this feeling of entering another state of mind. It’s an adjustment I go through from the upstairs area to the wood shop that takes place on the stairs down. I used to feel this kind of thing when I worked in a little attic office. Walking up the stairs was part of the process, not just in terms of “getting” there physically but also mentally. Does anything like that happen for you?

Going downstairs, past all the wood collected there on the stairs against the walls, is definitely part of the re-immersion.

What happens for you when you show this work you’re doing downstairs to people in the upstairs world? Anything much?

What tends to happen, often enough, is one of my favorite things. People stand there sometimes and begin thinking in some new way about something that they have wanted to dare to do. The spark.
I can see it when it happens. It makes me happy.

(photo of Grace Zabriskie’s wood shop by Philip Horowitz)

 Posted by on June 14, 2014
Jun 132014


An ongoing collaboration with Lesley Young in which I choose one of her photos and imagine some part of a nonexistent film shot there


Billy was raised Bill but friends, and others who hear them, call him Billy. He’s never bothered to express his disdain for the nickname, mostly because he has so few friends, so few of whom actually truly know him, that the familiarity of Billy (the affection in it?) registers as some sort of balm, even as it seems like they’re all talking to someone else who isn’t him.

You don’t know how long he’s been living in Omaha, or whether he was even born here, but he seems like the kind of guy who wouldn’t waste too much time in a town where people knew what he was doing or looked like, say, ten years ago.

He’s smoking outside this building while a woman across the street pushes a shopping cart five feet this way, five feet that. She has a wig on. There’s a dog in the shopping cart and the dog wears a wig too. This woman is talking to this dog. Billy’s behind a column where he can’t be seen, so he watches the two pretty openly – the woman seems to think she’s in an argument – until a guy wearing the same white scrubs Billy has on approaches, asking him for a cigarette.

Billy lights it for him and looks at his own cigarette, wondering how much longer he could reasonably be expected to stand out here and talk. The guy settles into a stance that says You and I are hanging out here, This is a moment.

Guy: I’m so hungover.

Billy: Yeah…

Guy: I told this girl I didn’t want to see her again but she shows up at ten and I’m like… And she had this really good wine. I’m not gay or anything but it was fruity and I don’t normally like wine because it’s so…dry? Or whatever. This was like, not dry? Really fruity. I guess that sounds gay. It’s not like I have to have sweet drinks, with little straws in them. I’m basically a beer guy. I keep my pinky pretty firm on the glass.

Billy: She’s your girlfriend?

Guy: We fooled around.

Billy: Last night?

Guy: (nods) And a couple times before. I feel like she was out at Target after the first time, registering for our wedding. You can feel it when they’re like that, right? Like they go to Target for soap and stuff and they see a frying pan on the way over and they’re like, This is what we will cook our breakfast on, me and The Guy.

Billy: Yeah…

Guy: You’re usually afternoon, I thought. What are you doing here so early?

Billy: I traded shifts with Angela.

Guy: I’m so hungover, man. Like, can I even find a vein today? I don’t know.

Billy: Are you still drunk?

Guy: Possibly. Do I smell like it?

Billy: I can’t smell you.

Guy: You’re not very close, though.

Billy stares at the guy.

Guy: I’m not gay or anything, but I’ll be closer to the patients than I am to you, you know?

Billy: Yeah. I don’t smell anything. The wind’s blowing you over here and I’m not getting anything.

Guy: Do you drink?

Billy: Sometimes.

Guy: Cause I said I was hungover and you went, Yeah, like you are too.

Billy: I’m not hungover.

Guy: You’re really quiet. I didn’t realize you were so quiet. I heard you’re leaving.

Billy: Who told you that?

Guy: Moving to…Africa?

Billy: Alaska. I guess my cigarette’s done.

Billy and the guy stare at the butt.

Guy: You should light another one. It’s not even ten to seven yet.

Billy: I’m not finished with this one.

Guy: You just said you were done.

Billy: I mean, it’s still lit, though.

Guy: I’d smoke another one if I had a pack.

Billy: Are you… Do you mean you want one?

Guy: Oh. Sure. If you’re offering, man.

Billy removes the pack from his pocket and extends it to the guy, who takes another cigarette.

Guy: You’re not going to have one?

Billy stares at the pack. He goes to take one and has this little thing for a second where the unfinished cigarette is still in his other hand and it’s like he’s stupid and can’t figure out what to do without a third hand. The guy acts like this happens to him all the time. He reaches over, takes another cigarette, and waits for Billy to stub the butt out against the column. He hands Billy the other cigarette and Billy lights it.

Guy: She has tattoos and a piercing down there.

Billy: Angela?

Guy: The girl from last night. Are you high, or you’re just…quiet?

Billy: I’m not high.

Guy: It’s way too complicated down there. Not generally, you know? I know what I’m doing. I don’t need a road map. But it’s like, aargh, way too much going on.

Billy: The girl from last night…

Guy: (nods) What are you doing in Alaska? Do you know anybody there?

Billy: I got a job on a boat.

Guy: You’re leaving benefits for a job on a boat? Do they have benefits? How much does it pay?

Billy tries to think which question he will answer if it turns out he’ll have to pick one.

Guy: Just want to get away?

Billy: A friend died a few months ago.

Guy: In Alaska?

Billy: Here. A couple of blocks away.

Guy: Hit by a car, you mean, or…?

Billy: She was in her apartment.

Guy: Wow. That’s… Okay. I don’t know what to say. Were you guys close?

Billy: She was a friend of mine, yeah.

Guy: Wow…

The two stand there, smoking. Billy watches the woman across the street, who has switched wigs with the dog in the shopping cart and is retracing her steps over and over along the sidewalk. She doesn’t even turn around. She just walks backwards – and starts over again.

Guy: I guess it’s time to go in.

He puts out his cigarette.

Guy: See you inside?

Billy: Sure.

Guy: Don’t tell anybody I’m hungover. You can’t smell it on me?

Billy: You’ll probably just smell like smoke.

Guy: Good point, bud. You gonna finish your cigarette?

Billy: Yeah…

The guy smiles and turns to the door, enters and leaves Billy standing out with his second cigarette.


(Image by Lesley Young, whose Instagram page inspired this ongoing collaboration. Follow her there: mississippihuckleberry or on Facebook)

 Posted by on June 13, 2014