Saturday, February 18, 2017

Eulogy From the Third Silo

One of the most talented artists I knew, Kris Strawser passed away recently. This is my Eulogy to her.

When I visited Kris Strawser in hospice I met her Sister, her partner, and her best friend for the first time. Kris was a very private individual, which I personally respect and appreciate, but meeting individuals who knew her in other contexts was equally heartening and saddening. We connected as Kris lay a few yards away losing her fight with cancer. If only we had met earlier, with Kris there to be the glue binding folks from the vastly different facets of her life. Meeting them gave me such a richer, broader, more complete image of who Kris was.

But again, as an incredibly private person myself, I totally get it. In fact, that's how Kris and I often related. When I saw her our interactions were marked with a simple, knowing nod. No need for small talk or catching-up, just a nod. I knew she was cool with that nod. We were often on the same page, whether politically or artistically, which is why I was drawn to her.

Her sister described this phenomenon as Kris' silos. She had a journalism silo, family silo, artist/grad school silo, and who knows how many more silos out there.

So here is my eulogy to Kris from silo number three, the artist silo.

I got to know Kris best when we exhibited together in the UAE along with 10 other artists from UArts. That trip was a defining moment for us and brought us all incredibly close. Ten ridiculous and amazing days we all now share. Kris being an integral part of my memory of those days in Dubai and Sharjah.

Kris also curated a show while in school and asked me to be in it. Again, a knowing nod to me and my work, an acknowledgment and validation that I can never thank her enough for.

Kirs is the type of artist that I just fucking hate. She's not just good at making things, she is better at things I also aspire to do. Her work walked that thin, thin line between politics and aesthetics. It succeeded and set the bar so high.

Her work was political without being alienating, clever without being snarky, subtle without being obtuse. And it was always nice to look at; graceful and powerful, imposing and engrossing. She really knew how to make a visual statement much like how she interacted with me, with a simple, knowing nod.

Just imagine what she would have made in the new politically climate. Man, fuck fucking cancer.

I will be returning to Dubai again with those who went before, all of us asked to contribute work to a show honoring another incredible artist who passed away, Hassan Sharif. I'm sure Kris had something in mind to send but was interrupted by her illness. 

Fuck cancer, by the way.

But I couldn't see this exhibit, essentially a sequel to our first trip, without Kris or her work. Her absence will be glaring. So I made something in her name (hope she doesn't mind). I couldn't begin to emulate her work, or succeed in making something that I could only assume she would have made. So I simply made reference to the work that she made for the first show which was a group of Mylar balloons with slinkies hanging from them, occupying an opening between two floors titled Trees of Liberty. Her statement about the work mentioned how humans so often get mulligans. My hope is that without seeing her name attached, people who knew her would recognize the mylar balloon I wrapped around a square piece of paper, and know that Kirs was there. Even though she doesn't get a mulligan.

I can't say it enough, fuck cancer.

Beyond the reference, I hope the work brings Kris to the exhibit. As the material is reflective people will see themselves in it, and see themselves in this new context that is missing Kris. Her presence will be felt,  her memory will enter the viewer's mind and she won't be completely missing from the world. Her last mulligan perhaps.

And my last, knowing nod to a remarkable person. 

Kris, I will do my best to make good art, and now that your silos are no longer isolated, keep your memory alive with the other incredible people so affected by your existence. 

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Mulligan (Kris Was Here)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Missing Objects: Edited

Official announcement:

I will be exhibiting with other artists at the Flying House in Dubai, in a show honoring the legacy of Hassan Sharif who passed away last year. He had a very specific and lasting impression on me, one that I have applied to my own students.

Joe Girandola, along with Cristiana De Marchi and Mohammed Kazem came up with the idea:
An exhibition of artworks created on 25cm x 25cm card stock to be exhibited at The Flying House in the UAE from March 1-March 31, 2017. The exhibition will feature works of artists/writers/poets from around the globe who have been mentored by or have been influenced by Emirati Hassan Sharif. At the close of the exhibition, the collection of artworks will be sealed and buried in the UAE desert site of Sharif’s first walking experiment. An archive of images will be created and be installed at the Flying House. In twenty years the "object" will be unearthed and exhibited again with other creatives invited by the original group presented in this exhibition to exhibit new works.
In preparation I combed through images I took during my first trip to the UAE, where my work hung with other artists including Hassan at the Emirates Fine Art Society's 29th Annual Exhibition. Searching for a reference to work from I found myself combing through memories using Hassan's influence as a filter.

This filtration left one image, which I pulled into Photoshop as is my usual starting point. Because of the size limitation (25cm x 25cm) the image was immediately cropped. To fit in the square, a compositionally difficult size, it was moved, enlarged, adjusted and edited.

This process of editing the image led me to think on how my memory of the event captured in the picture evolved over time, and how the act remembering was influencing my formal choices. I was emphasizing things that seemed more evident in the memory and cropping other less important things. So not only was creating a formally satisfying composition my goal, I now wanted to make my memory a primary component of the editing process.

Hassan's hands clasped, his mid-thought expression, and the can of Heineken on his desk dominate the memory. I don't remember what he was saying nor the questions coming from the 15 or so other people there, nor even the people themselves.

Once done composing the image I had to impose it on the required surface. I  experimented with Gouache as my default is to paint. However remembering Hassan redirected my choice. His biggest influence on my practice is to only do what is necessitated by the concept and to not bound by traditional art practices; painting, drawing, drafting. I had an image that needed to be transferred. So I simply transferred it using a color laser print and gel medium.

Transferring the image led to more editing. Flaws in this process only added to the sense that the memory was filtered, malleable, and plastic. Areas that weren't transferred led to a second image transfer Aspects became vague, sharp, completely missing, some purposefully and others accidental. I further edited using collage, taking an earlier photo-transfer experiment and pasting bits of it in areas that needed editing, basing my choices on formal needs as well as memory.

My earlier Gouache experiments were also added. They contained marks I had made. Our memories contain as much of ourselves as they do the subject, a feeling of our bodies in space in relationship to the subject. Plus, when contemplating the passing of a person, it is often with oneself in mind, how we exist in a new context that now lacks that person. The marks are additional edits, the means to include me in the memory, as well as considering myself in this new context.

Our memory is always edited and filtered via our emotions at the inception of memory, changed at the times of remembering, evolve over the passage of time and even be altered by what we choose to remember. The image, voice, and influence of Hassan Sharif will thankfully continue to be a part of my memory as I continue to make art.

Thank you, Hassan.

Edited, 2017. Collage, Photo-transfer print, paper, Gouache.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Stay Tuned

Exciting news coming soon! Some hints: I may be traveling and exhibiting soon. I also may be using Gouache for the first time. Wish me luck.

Stay tuned...

A photo posted by David Chatfield (@riotbus) on

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Under $100 Official Poster

WPhila Pink & Blue #1 (click for larger)
I dropped off my piece WPhila Pink & Blue #1 at Off the Wall Gallery today. The work will be for sale for under a C-Note, so come to the opening next Sunday.

And W Phila #1 has a twin, and possibly more in the near future, so if you're interested in purchasing one come to the show, or contact me for details.

Click for larger PDF version

Share the event with your friends!

Old News is Good News

Migrating my websites "news" section to the blog. So here's some old news:

Save The World, UPDATE

This Machine...
I am glad to announce I was awarded Best In Show for my piece, This Machine..., by Off the Wall Gallery's community jury. What makes this a real honor is the overall strength of the show. There are some great artists who came up with a diverse array of answers to the show's theme. It will be up all summer, I encourage you all to go check it out.

Save The World

I have been accepted into the Off the Wall Gallery's community juried show, How Would You Save the World? Click here for event details and to RSVP.

Opening Reception is Thursday, June 9th, 7–10pm at Dirty Franks.

'A' Is for Adjunct

I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of great artists through the United Academics of Philadelphia (AFT Local 9608), including artist and activist Jennie Shanker. She put together a show at the Pennsylvania State House in Harrisburg comprised of artists who also work as Adjuncts. The title, Plan A: Artist Adjuncts in Academia was based on a piece I wrote on my adjunct experience (found here). The show aimed to educate State Legislators about the plight of Adjuncts who at the time were fighting against Temple University, which was arguing against their right for an election to Unionize before the PLRB.

Emirates Fine Art Society's 29th Annual Exhibition 2011

Sharjah Art Museum
While attending Graduate School at the University of the Arts, I had the pleasure of befriending visiting artist Mohammed Kazem. He had casually mentioned bringing students from UArts to the U.A.E, and possibly set up a space to show our work as an excuse to spend time in his home country.
Little did I know that a few months later I would be submitting work to the Emirates Fine Art Society's 29th Annual Exhibition, curated by Layla Juma Rashid. Twelve of us, including myself, were accepted and present our work at the Sharjah Art Museum with 24 other artist form the U.A.E., Germany and Italy including Hassan Sharif, Cristiana De Marchi and Maisoon Al Saleh.
• Blog by the University of the Arts artists documenting our experience in the U.A.E.

• Write up on WHYY's news site
• Write up on the Art Blog.
• Sharjah TV interview during the opening featuring myself and Lauren McCarty.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Under $100

Under $100

I have just been accepted into Off the Wall Gallery's juried exhibition, Under $100. The theme was open to any medium and subject, so I painted some nice little West Philly cityscapes. WPhila Pink & Blue #1 was selected and will be up for sale. Drop by Dirty Franks to purchase it, the show opens November 20th.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Unacceptable New Normal

While organizing on Temple's campus last semester, the FBI issued a blanket warning for a possible shooter somewhere in the Philadelphia area.

The very next day, while driving to one of my Adjunct jobs, this story came on the radio, where an actual shooting occurred at the Community College of Philadelphia.

As nothing happened the day before, my fears reemerged as I though the previous day's threat could still be in effect.

After my initial shock and political indignation over America's irrational gun-boner, I attempted to rationalize away my fear with the fact that I work an hour outside of the city, and the likelihood of my small school in South Jersey falling under the warning was slim to none.

But as I prepped for my students' arrival I found myself planning a defense from a shooter, fretting over the fact that my door doesn't lock, the largest barricade large enough is too far across the room, and the window openings may be too slim to escape through (and may lead to more danger).

My response to both events can be found over at the Drinking Liberally Blog.

And today, I am reassessing my grading policies because now if a student disagrees with a grade I may get shot.

I have given my fair share of bad grades over my short teaching career. And those students most certainly deserved them. I was once called "tough but fair" by one student (an awesome one at that) so I feel confident in my grading.

I take a lot of time developing grading standards that are transparent and fair. My rubrics are clear, and my students are asked if thy agree to my standards at the beginning of each semester. I've found that as long as I can show a clear system to them, they don't argue. The understanding is that if assignment X has predetermined value of Y, then they know exactly what to expect when they slack.

Even attendance has an assigned value.

But even with all that, I've been challenged by students who clearly cheated, even after I presented them with evidence of their infraction.

So now do I inflate my grades to avoid dying? Do I reward cheating so as not to be murdered?

The fact that I have to ask these absurd sounding questions (as well as set up my classroom like a doomsday prepper) is more than problematic, it's deeply troubling.

Now I understand that I do not teach a high-pressure subject, and it seems the UCLA shooter was in a high-pressure career track, under a great deal of pressure to succeed, and whatever grade he received made him crack. And whatever that grade was, I have a feeling it would have been perfectly acceptable to some of my students.

But I have also been told that, due to a failing a student, that I have ruined careers. And I'm certain I've ended Academic careers with one grade. So I am again left to contemplate certain death for giving an F.

What is worse is how facts about gun control are ignored like Global Warming or Vaccinations (that's right anti-vaxers, you're as bad as Lamar Smith!).

The evidence is clear,  more gun regulations means fewer shootings, lax rules means more shootings. Just look to Hawaii and Alaska for proof. To over-simplify, the more guns the more shootings. You don't need to be a scientist to understand this, but sometimes it helps to ask one.

I easily found that source from one the most reliable fact-checking organization out there, They were founded right here in Philly at an academic institution, the University of Pennsylvania, and importantly are not beholden to profit.

 They say the same, that more guns do not equal fewer shootings.

And if you are not into "science" or "facts" and respond more to heart-tugging issue based arguments to make this point clearer, here you go.

As an Academic I tend to avoid sources that reinforce my bias, as the article does. But the article makes good points and includes personal stories of teachers including one that would rather leave their job than accept Campus Carry laws.

And don't you dare tell me that I should carry. There's even more evidence that suggests, unless I am a highly trained member of  law-enforcement, with hours and hours of constant firearms training, as well as exposure to high-stress live-shooter simulations, I am as useless with a gun as my Dad is with Twitter.

It's time for evidence-based, reasonable gun laws, universal background checks (supported by most Americans), fewer guns on the streets, and zero in the classroom. I will likely be giving out a few more bad grades in the future and I'd like to live through them.