Monthly Archives: September 2011

Bill Gilbert – Physiocartographies Interview

Bill Gilbert’s show Physiocartographies is hanging in the Tahe Gallery through October 14th. Here’s a short description of the show: Using a GPS unit and a compass, New Mexico-based artist Bill Gilbert attempts to walk carefully pre-determined routes in both space and time across landscapes in the American West. His carefully-made plans are invariably disrupted by the realities of terrain and the limitations of the human body. In the tradition of British artists such as Richard Long and Chris Drury, Gilbert’s “Physiocartography” performances chart the distance between the map and the terrain, and are documented in drawings, video, and audio recordings.

I had a chance to interview Bill the night of the reception — click on the audio file below to give it a listen. You can see photos of the Physiocartographies in the slideshow below that. It was a real pleasure to talk to him — he’s a hyperarticulate person with a lot of fascinating things to say about our world, and the ways we orient ourselves to it.

Stop and Hear the Music

In Advanced Studio class, we recently had a discussion about value and the perception of value. Does raising the price of your art affect the viewer’s perception of its worth? It seems to; a piece marked for $2,500 has a very different impact than a similar piece marked for $25. A higher price seems to correlate with a higher status in the mind of the viewer; if it is expensive, it must be important. Later on I was discussing this with another member of the class, and we were both reminded of a perfect example, which I thought might be of interest: an experiment arranged by the Washington Post in 2007, in which Joshua Bell (one of the world’s leading violinists) appeared in the L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington D.C. disguised as a street busker and played classical pieces on his Stradivarius for 45 minutes during rush hour. Over 1,000 people passed him by; only seven stopped to listen to his performance, and only one person fully recognized him. The perception of his worth was next to nothing. Under normal circumstances, Bell is critically acclaimed and it is difficult to see him perform due to high demand and ticket pricing.

Here’s a time-lapse video of the event:

And a very interesting article about it by Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post, which won him the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, here.


So I thought I’d make a post about the graphic novel I put together last semester. It’s called “Monster” (weirdly, I stuck with the first title that came to mind) and it was probably the most fun I’ve had on a project, ever.

(Not pictured: my good qualities)

I had always been interested in doing something like this, but assumed I didn’t have the patience or the know-how. Then I had the opportunity to set up a project for Advanced Studio, so I started putting images together. Originally, the plan was to make a book about someone trying to make a book about something trying to make a book – the images would start out very realistically rendered, and degenerate more and more into childlike scribbling. To complete the joke, I thought the person trying to make the book should very clearly be me. I started drawing up pages of self portraits in which I would argue with a dead fly on the windowsill, who would act as a sounding board for story ideas, berating any plotlines I might come up with, angry that I had swatted it. This whole book-inside-a-book plan fell through pretty quickly, and I was left with lots of drawings of myself staring down a dead housefly.

I didn’t want to just scrap them. There was something about the wordless imagery that I really liked. When the dialogue was removed, the sort of absurdist element became something more serious. It reminded me of a child poking at a dead thing, trying to wake it up and slowly realizing that it won’t happen.

Not wanting to drop the comedic angle entirely, I split the book into three short sections that address the same issue in different ways. The fly section comes first. The second section is fairly abstract; it’s meant to address the same issues as the first, but in a more internalized way.

The third section is the only one containing any dialogue. Stylistically it’s much simpler and more cartoonish than the first two, and consists of an argument between an umbrella-headed child and a dying/dead fish, which made it the most fun to work on.

Which is all to say that it’s amazing what a little encouragement from professors and a deadline can help you come up with; I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have finished this project without those elements. I’m tentatively sending it around to publishers now, but in the meantime I’m self-publishing on If you are interested in filling up your eyes with sweet, sweet images, this thing is for sale here. You could also ask for a copy if you see me around campus. I’m usually somewhere around David Hall.

Fake Rocks and Botox Redux

Here’s a slideshow from the reception of the Fake Rocks and Botox II show last night, at the Tahoe Gallery, featuring work by SNC alumni.

Work by Nikki Ballare, Jonah Harjer, Rebecca Kerlin, Babs Laukat, Jeffrey James Mohr, Ya’el Pedroza, Samantha Shaw, Sierra Slentz, Bryan Stieger. That’s Bryan, Rebecca, Ya’el and Babs in the last few shots.

The New Xtranormal

As a starter project for the Intro to Digital Entertainment class, the students wrote scripts for an Xtranormal short — Xtranormal being a service where you can type a script for pre-built avatars to “act out,” giving them gestures, picking camera angles, and so on. The class picked these two as the best of the batch:

I Am a Cat, script by David Arslanian, directed by Victor Gutierrez

Coffee Shop Career Change, written and directed by Trevor Jackson

Coffee Shop Career Change
by: tbyrumjackson

2011 A+E Conference at the NMA – Ticket Sponsorship

Upcoming this month is the Art + Environment Conference at the Nevada Museum of Art ( from September 29 – October 1. The conference “brings together artists, scholars, designers, and writers for a dialogue that fosters new knowledge in the visual arts. During the Conference, the Museum’s galleries feature exhibitions that question our relationships with natural, built, and virtual environments, while serving as a springboard for Conference sessions
and keynote presentations.”

Art museums can be temples to culture or cultural catalysts. They can be passive and predictable or unpredictably idea-driven. Museums can watch the world pass them by, or they can shape the trajectory of its course. Art and ideas matter here. We see art that challenges minds, melds environments and cultures, and responds to the uncertainties of the future. Art has a point of view and it deserves a voice at the table. That’s what the Art + Environment Conference gives it.

This year, Gallery Club has sponsored the purchase of 5 student tickets to the conference. They are opening up eligibility to receive these tickets to all current Sierra Nevada College students. Any interested students can submit a 1-page, double-spaced paper addressing why they would like to attend the conference and what benefit it would have to their work. Submissions are due Tuesday, September 20 and selections will be made by the Fine Arts faculty. Please send all papers to Logan Lape ( Notifications will be sent out later that week.

Due to the limited number of tickets available from Gallery Club, they and the Fine Arts Department invite any students not selected to purchase their own ticket join their fellow students at the conference (

TOCCATA, Elizabeth Pitcairn, Donna Axton

I’m behind the curve presenting the direct SNC connection to this event, but thought it would be of interest beyond the purely local angle. Elizabeth Pitcairn will be playing her Red Stradivarius Violin with TOCCATA in a series of performances from Sept. 11-17 in the Reno/Tahoe area. Pitcairn gave a wonderful recital at SNC two years ago, with Donna Axton, our music Prof, on the piano. Pitcairn is in fact playing with Donna as I type this, for a TOCCATA fundraiser in Gleshire/Truckee. The concert series will take place as follows:

Sunday, September 11 at 3:30pm at St. Theresa Catholic Church in South Lake Tahoe
Tuesday, September 13 at 7:30pm at St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral in Reno
Friday, September 16 at 7:00pm at Trinity Episcopal Church in Reno
Saturday, September 17 at 3:00pm at the North Tahoe Events Center in Kings Beach

A copy of the press release, with more detailed info, can be found here.

And here’s a video of Pitcairn playing Op. 14 Samuel Barber Violin Concerto with TOCCATA last year, with Donna accompanying her on piano:

Masereel, Herriman, Maggots

Well, clearly I didn’t make good on my promise to keep the blog humming over the summer — I ended up jealously guarding my writing time for the graphic novel I was working on. I did have a small handful of pieces published elsewhere during the summer, so I might as well get the ball back rolling again with links to those — a couple short appreciations of some “art heroes” of mine, and a look at a graphic novel I admire very much.

The two appreciations were for, for their daily “HiLo Heroes” feature, which gives a tip of the hat to a wide variety of people (artists, physicists, actors, and on and on) on their birthdays. On July 31st, it was Frans Masereel’s birthday, of whom I wrote:

Belgian artist FRANS MASEREEL (1889-1972) raged against the stupidity of war as an illustrator for a series of pacifist magazines and books. He was a propagandist, the clarity of his high-contrast style suited equally well to the crude printing-press and the ideological punchline, but his agitprop kept strong strains of slapstick and poetry.

Read the entire piece here.

Then, on August 22nd, it was George Herriman’s birthday:

GEORGE HERRIMAN’s (1880-1944) comic strip “Krazy Kat” spun its three-point wheel for thirty years on the axis of a perfectly balanced love triangle (or masochism triangle — same difference). Much has been written about that triangle’s principals: Ignatz Mouse, a napoleonic id; Offisa Pup, upholding the prosaic squareness of Authority; and Krazy Kat, embodying grace as blank abuse (laid out by the missile of an Ignatz-hurled brick, Krazy might’ve said, like Swayzee, “Pain don’t hurt”).

Read the whole thing here. The piece also includes a link to a full-page comic appreciation I did for “Krazy Kat” back in the day, on the back page of the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review.

And lastly, I had a short piece in the brick-sized The Comics Journal #301. It was a look at Brian Chippendale’s graphic novel Maggots — which took a very distinctive approach to showing the passage of time. There’s a nice overview of The Comics Journal #301 here at Win Wiacek’s blog; and here’s a paragraph from my article, contrasting the way time functions in classical painting, and the way it functions when we have access, through film or video, to the brief split-seconds:

This traditional pictorial surface doesn’t so much freeze time, as to put time in abeyance. This is not a snapshot record of an event, but a memory of an event, reconstituted after the fact, all its pertinent details congealed in an authoritative simultaneity. The duration of time there is not measured by moments, but by experiences. This is in contrast to the way an animator must reconstitute time – or the way one becomes conscious of time when scrubbing through a video clip, looking to isolate from the stream a representative still. The weirdness of time there is most evident in facial expressions – the way human visages are distorted into strange grimaces when motions become moments. A visual stimulus does not always rise to the occasion of an image; an image or a gesture is something that sustains itself beyond the imprint of the moment – something that lives as an echo in the mind after it’s vanished from the gelled chamber of the eye.

The article isn’t available online, so you’ll have to actually shell out for a copy (or, you know, just swing by my office and ask nicely to borrow mine).


Hello! My name’s Jessica, and I’ll be your student blogger for the month.

I thought I’d start by talking about an ongoing blog series at Book By Its Cover. The site manager, illustrator Julia Rothman, has built up some extensive documentation of working artists’ sketchbooks. Many of the contributors to the series are illustrators, but there are also sketchbooks belonging to painters, collage artists, and sculptors. I’ve always been very interested in artists’ sketchbooks, sometimes as much as finished work. It’s fascinating to see where ideas begin, and there is a real sense of intimacy when looking at these more private objects.

Below are a few examples; for the whole series, go here.

Anders Nilsen:

Mattias Adolfsson:

Lars Henkel: