Words and works of Contemporary Artist Keith M Ramsey

Author Archive

FOUNDPUNK! on FACEBOOK!

To see the latest works to come out of the studio, check out progress photos of projects and
get info on shows and sales, feel free to check out the FOUNDPUNK page on FACEBOOK!

https://www.facebook.com/artistkeithmramsey/timeline

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Thanx for viewing…
RAMSEY


FOUNDPUNK @ ARTWORKS RICHMOND, VA

In a time filled with digital technology and cyber-based relationships, I aspire to create art that reintroduces people to an alternative world of modernity called FoundPunk.

FoundPunk is an art form influenced by Steampunk, for which it embodies an era when inventions were designed and created by the human hand. It transforms mundane elements and random unrelated parts into aesthetically designed, practical works of art.

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FoundPunk employs a collision of various antique pieces repurposed into new objects fashioned with the Victorian and Industrial age aesthetics. These pieces are salvaged from various places ranging from auto junkyards to antique shops. Rusty weather-beaten metals, venerable glassware, worn vintage woods and burlap coffee sacks are collected and reconstructed into art. Excluding synthetic materials or mass production practices from the creative process is essential to maintaining the authenticity of each work of art.

In the beginning, this series was heavily influenced by the Steampunk art movement because of its courageous spirit to draw from imagination and literature to create tangible art. But eventually my artwork shifted slightly away from Steampunk. While Steampunk aesthetics remains, the works became less focused on the core elements that define the movement. The use of materials became more thoughtful in application. If something failed to make visual or practical sense, it wouldn’t be completed. The finished work was never forced to fit within the Steampunk art movement. Instead, I allowed the creative process to become fluid. As I began sanding or disassembling a piece, its texture, design and detail dictates the formation of the artwork.

This process became FoundPunk.

FoundPunk is based on a personal rebellion against today’s consumer-driven culture and brings awareness to how mass production stifles an individual’s creative spirit. It feeds the need to unplug from technology and persuades the viewer to become less digital and more physical. It is celebrates the inventor in all of us by encouraging re-imagination of the style and use of objects.

RAMSEY

 


Bullsh*t…and other observations.

I have to admit. I’ve gotten out of the habit of taking in art shows at any of the local galleries in Richmond. It’s not a commentary on the galleries, it’s just one of those things that don’t cross my mind…until it does.

When I see something that really sparks an interest and has the potential to inspire me within the work that I do, I jump at the chance to go see it.

So last week while searching the First Friday Art Walk (RVA) website I saw an exhibit that made me curious. While reading a description of a show boasting phrases like “….tests the structural limits of materials….” and “…engaging entropic forces such as tension and corrosion…” I was hooked. My first thought was “…whatever I’m doing on Saturday, it’s going to include a trip downtown to see this art!”

On some sub-intellectual level, I understood the artist’s vision working with rusting, worn and dented material. It was as if the artist (I’ll refer to him as “JeWil”) was inviting me to see how found object style of work and material is being accepted in gallery system that seems somewhat closed to me.

To my surprise…no, that’s not the word.

Dissatisfaction.

That’s the word.

…I walked into the gallery with my mind and my eyes wide open to experiencing “….conventional understandings of where art begins and ends.” I mentioned to the gallery member behind the counter that the show seemed “anemic.”

The “art,” being sparsely placed around the huge white-walled interior of the gallery with a massive piece of steel and wood straddling the entrance to the main space, was underwhelming to put it mildly.

The first piece the viewer encountered was impressive in size, but in the same vain, it was just as impressive as the construction project I pass going to work on a daily basis. Chalk writing on the side of the steel beams looked as though it was written by the steel yard that reserved the materials for the artist’s project.

I realize it, because I recognize similar chalk writing on the steel I-beams used to construct the hotel being built by my job.

While critiquing each piece on view as I walked through the gallery, I couldn’t ignore the feeling that some artist get away with persuading gallery owners and the academic crowd with fanciful phrases and long rambling sentences that seem to convince the viewer, as well as themselves, of how the creative process is abstract and simple but the meaning is oh, so complex.

An artist can pile a vast amount of thrift-store bought t-shirts to create some deep or elusive meaning and the viewer may accept the meaning as it is told to them. But, they shouldn’t be surprised if someone calls bullsh*t when they notice that the mound of t-shirts that is so pivotal to the meaning of your work is only a shirt or two deep and the rest is wooden construction.

If you’re going to do it, do it all the way or f*ck off!

As for the show by “JeWil,” the fact that one of the only few colors that he chose to include in his work was the industry standard yellow color for the canister of MAP gas. The blue of the almost new motor being used to spin a piece of marble statue on a chrome shaft, seemed less a creative color choice and more that the artist had not tried to make the work have a harmony. Deciding to phone it in and come up with an excuse, or concept, for why the parts of the work look store bought.

The one piece I did enjoy was a huge, heavy metal table that was bent, jagged and rusty. It was the only work that made the effort to fulfill the expectations I had when walking into the gallery, that is until I found out the gallery was responsible for applying peroxide to make it rust.

To that, I said that the gallery members were now collaborators on that piece.

And that is what pushed me to compose the observation you are currently reading.

Concepts vs. Passion

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conceptual art— noun:
Art in which the idea behind a particular work, and the means of producing it, are more important than the finished work.  _(Collins) World English Dictionary

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From about the 1960′s, conceptual art was viewed as anti-establishment art, through its use of unconventional materials and aesthetics that challenged the notion of traditionally accepted forms of art, like painting, sculpture or photography.

But, these days it seems the moniker of “conceptual” is used as an excuse to not completely execute their art.

I’ve seen my share of pieces of paper thumb-tacked onto a wall of a gallery, unframed and unprofessionally hung.

Contemporary conceptual art, please “finish your f*ckin’ thought” before exhibiting it in front of the viewing public in galleries and museums.

Your work shouldn’t carry its merits by a translation on paper, the merits of its importance should be in its execution. Conceptual art is a sketch to an idea played out in the environment of a gallery or museum. It’s equal to a writer handing someone  scribbles on a piece of paper and saying to the reader verbally “…well, this is what I meant to say,” then proceeding to explain the thought that should have been written down in the first place.

If you’re not there to explain it, then don’t get upset when the audience can’t understand it.

Some people look at artists who criticize the academic art establishment and the gallery system as “angry and jealous failures” seemingly in defense of artists that play politics, did a stint at a grad school ending with a MFA or got lucky enough to be connected with the right people at the right time.

Time to end the piety about names, titles and political connections with institutions and it’s about time to start calling “bullsh*t.”

It’s true, art is subjective, but it seems like the acceptability of conceptual art is becoming more about how elaborate the written statement of the piece can be and less about the actual execution, the process or the willingness to communicate with the viewer, creating a work that is narcissistic in its existence.

While working in the studio, artist constantly push themselves to create work that communicate not only with the viewer, but with themselves as well. Creating and destroying elements within the art in order to produce a better, insightful and more honest work is what the artist owes to the people who choose to stop and have a conversation with the work.

Having a passion in the art can be understood through the completed piece and doesn’t rely on a lots of big and small words, rambling sentences and literary dreamscapes of what the artist meant to say.

The viewing public deserves honesty and not lofty bullsh*t that takes their time and intelligence for granted.

I’ll continue to work with integrity and honesty with every piece I attempt.
Because, art is a record of my life on view…and what a life it is.

Thanx for viewing.
k!


What’s the “what’s next” for 2014!

“Avoid the reeking herd! Shun the polluted flock! Live like that stoic bird, the eagle of the rock!”
_Elinor Hoyt Wyliestudio

With the new year comes a somewhat deep level soul searching, self-questioning and a lot of experimentation and hard work.

Last year was decidedly a transitional year, with the passing of my mom (Joyce Holmes Ramsey), my long time relationship becoming a long distance relationship, the completion of the studio at the “farm” and the, all important, evolution of the artwork.

Ahhh…the evolution of the artwork.

The artwork being created in the studio/workshop has become a practice in balancing between the aesthetic line that transverses steampunk and industrial, both of which are equally strong, meaningful and practical in its essence.
Seamlessly incorporating into the home environment as a piece of art that can be used
without much thought and appreciated for its unique visual statement.

The goal when all of this interest in steampunk started in 2011 was to find a voice in the work and a consistency of style and quality. I knew it would take a while for an aesthetic principle to form and become the normal approach to the art.

It has become the norm to look for materials that are worn, dirty and dented. Finding parts that work together to create a fascinating shape or form. Constantly searching for antiques that can reclaim its usefulness as something other than what the original purpose would have been. And, most of all, make work as interesting as possible without forcing it to be interesting.

The transitional year of 2013 is over, never to be forgotten, and understood
as the year things were bound to change.

This year will be a banner year for the creative spirit, the artwork and the artist. Time to explore and be seen. To venture unto paths that have never been traveled. It will be exciting, terrifying and wonderfully rewarding.

And I will try to be there every step of the way.

Thanx for viewing.
RAMSEY


In the GRID as a Renaissance Man

A few months ago I said openly, and assuredly, that one of my goals was to be in one of Richmond’s most notable social and cultural magazines.

To be truthful, I was somewhat in awe of the people that were featured in these publications. They seem to be the talented, the professional, the successful and, lets face it, there’s something cool about having your photo and story in a magazine for everyone in town to read. Unless its about a drug arrest, political corruption or holding up a convenience store.DSC_3191

The only drug I’m into is Alkaseltzer Cold Plus when I’m sick, I’m not an a**hole politician and I don’t spend time casing 7-elevens while driving around Richmond.

I didn’t expect for the universe to hear me talk to myself out loud and decide to give me a shot. But, It seems the “Year of Transition” has transformed my artistic ambitions into a very true reality.

The latest edition of GRID magazine came out in the last week and as I was enjoying an evening at my favorite coffee shop with my best friend and my god-daughter, I proceeded to thumb thru the pages. I had gotten hints from people that I was going to be in it for the “Pipe Dream #4″ Mural. (see the post below this one) I was stunned to turn to page #28 and see the photo of me in full-art mode on a scissor lift included in a full page article!

Written by fellow Southsider Richard Hayes of hillsandheights.org the article is titled “Southside Renaissance Man: A Mash-up Of Talent”. This is the first time I’ve been referred too as an “Renaissance Man” in a print magazine… Honestly, it’s the first time I’ve been called anything in a print magazine.

Although, there was a mistake made by giving me credit for the Crossroads Coffee truck (that was done by my friend and fellow artist Ted Sandersen), everything else offered a good insight of who I am and what I do as an artist. It was a huge pleasure to read.

Not only was the focus on the mural, Richard also pointed out the dancing I enjoy doing and, most importantly, the fact that I’m a serious steampunk artist!

The steampunk art inclusion is important because that has become the majority of what I’m creating in the studio.

My dad has always said “you don’t really know what kind of person you are until other people tell you.” This is one hell-of-a-way to find out what people think about me as an artist and a person.

I don’t know what 2014 is going to hold for me and my art, but if these past few months are any indication, sh*t is about to get big n 2014.

And if its going to be big, I’m sure its going to be covered in hard work, found objects and a good amount of paint!

RAMSEY in GRID Magazine

Thanx for viewing.
k!


Hitting the Big Time with a “Pipe Dream”.

Before last week the focus in the studio was on the two Danish Lounge Chairs purchased with the purpose of adding some steampunk style to them. The other thought that floated through my mind was if producing a painting would be possible this month.

Little did I know…

When I got the text from Ham? (Hamilton Glass) seeing if I wanted to participate in painting a mural at the RVA Street Art Festival.

I hesitated.

The thought of creating a painting on such a scale shocked me, plus, I thought I was going to participate by helping Ham(?) with his mural so to my surprise when I showed up he immediately took me Ed Trask. We discussed the location for the work and if one of the out of town muralist weren’t to show up, maybe I’ll be able to take it.

So on Wednesday, I took it.

“Before the storm..”

The two bay doors are made of 3 different materials, two of which worked well with the paint, the material (white) at the top was covered in soot from the buses and the paint rode on top of it instead of soaking into it, making blending color more difficult.

As far as the imagery, as soon as I got the “go ahead” I knew it would be the same imagery hanging in my yard and on the guitar case on display at Art180. It was time to make its presence known in its biggest way yet.

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“Changing times…”
After baking with the sun on Wednesday I thought it would be a good idea to beat the heat by getting out there early…real early. 4:30 am early.

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After working 9 hours, part of it in the blazing sun, it was time to cool down for a couple of hours. What I didn’t know was later that evening, a storm would keep me from coming back out to work @ 7 pm. So I took the opportunity to catch some more sleep and try again on Friday morning at 8:00 am.

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“Too cold & too tired…”
Saturday, getting up at 4:30 am, and not ready for the cold, I only lasted till 6am then went back home for some more sleep and some warmer clothes.

Obtaining a lift, thanks to Matt Lively, and now able to reach the top of the mural,
work began at 8 am ending at 6:30 pm.

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“The Big finish… A long way to go and a short time to get there.”

Back at it Sunday at 6 am to finish the largest piece of art I’ve ever created.

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“Reaching the goal…”

At just before 6 pm I signed “Pipe Dream #4″, completing the largest painting I’ve ever created (measuring approx 16ft high by 34ft long) and in the shortest amount of time I’ve ever had to complete a work.

I was tired and exhilarated because of the opportunity, the experiences and the support from fellow artist and the viewing public. Thanx to Ham(?) for the vote of confidence,  Ed for being willing to give me a shot, Matt for hooking me up with the lift when I needed it, Sir James Thornhill for throwing my stuff in the garage before the storm hit.

And a big thanx to Erin, Jessica and Mike at PUNCH for understanding how important this was and allowing me to take off from work to get it done.

You guys are the best!

What’s next?

I don’t know, but whatever it is, its only going to go up from here.
The studio is active, the work is flowing and a creative life is really, really good.

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Thanx for viewing.

k!


In Good Company…

This month a project I was honored to participate in, opened in Jackson Ward in downtown Richmond, VA (the RVA) and I was in good company showing with some of RVA’s most notable artist. Artist like RVA’s mural powerhouse Ed Trask, Skull-a-Day artist and publisher Noah Scalin and widely recognized abstract artist Heide Trepanier, had work on display as well as a number of other artist, filling the gallery with energy and life. Along with the adult artist there were works by “young people” that made for a great showing on opening night. 

I was proud when I was asked to participate, but me being as a.d.d. as I can be sometimes I kept forgetting to pick up the guitar case lid. Luckily, one of the directors came to my job for a meeting and left the lid at my desk. Image

Above is the imagery I drew inspiration from which I had begun working on earlier this summer and I thought it  would be perfect for this project because of the bold contrast between the monochromatic images of machinery and the colorful organic shapes it seemingly produced.

Although I had no immediate purpose for this imagery to become more than a combination of different styles of abstract art, when asked for an artist statement, my natural inclination was to be (f*#kin’) political…although I really tried to stray away from it, but because most of my art gravitates that direction, why would I think this would be any different?

So the statement became:

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“Imagine if our most influential industries found ways to make profit by helping the environment instead of harming it.”

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The guitar case will be a benchmark moment in which I can say my style has shifted and, from the comments on the piece from those that were there, it is a positive new exploration in the elements I’m beginning to use. 

And with the new studio in full operation, there is more and more exploring to do!

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Thanx for viewing…
k!


Aside

Steampunk Found Object Furniture!

Recently I’ve been thumbing through the latest Restoration Hardware catalog, getting inspiration for new work. In the vain of the latest body of work (making art that has a practical use), I decided to see what I can do on a larger scale.

This is the latest and largest piece to be created in the new studio. Built from an antique 1946 PHILCO 46-1203 Radio Cabinet purchased in the 90′s, a junked table base found behind a laundry mat and vintage sheet music from the Benny Goodman Orch. and Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess, this is the first of many furniture pieces I hope to build! Stay tuned!

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Thanx for viewing…
k!


Flashback! The Diluted Loss Style Weekly interview….

While picking through some old files and updating my resume’ I found this article from a few years ago. It was during the DILUTED LOSS series run at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center in 2011 and I thought it provided some good insight into my thoughts on the work and why I created it in the first place. So why not post it to the blog, right?

Well, here it is…enjoy.Image

Loss in Translation
Keith Ramsey pays “dangerous” tribute to those left out of history.
by Mike Dulin
Vernon Baker led a heavy-weapons platoon from the 92nd Infantry Division, an all-black outfit into a battle near Viareggio, Italy, during World War II. It was 1945. During the battle he and his men killed 26 enemy soldiers and destroyed six machine-gun nests, two observation posts and four dugouts. But it took more than a half-century for Baker to receive the military’s highest award for battlefield valor, the Medal of Honor.

“I have to talk about this,” artist Keith Ramsey says about his discovery of the systematic discrimination against black men during World War II. “It was like black soldiers were being left out of history and left out of a celebration. And that is how it was when they got back from war. They basically were [told to] go fight over there for the United States, and then come back and go back to your place.”

Ramsey’s new show, “Diluted Loss,” at the Black History and Cultural Center, takes into account this overlooked subject. At the peak of the war thousands of black soldiers signed up to fight against one of the most racially oppressive enemies of their time. Meanwhile they fought alongside fellow Americans in an entirely segregated army. Some were even lynched when they returned to their hometowns.

Ramsey, a 1998 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s painting and print making program, works with mixed media to produce pieces charged with the internal battle waging inside him about these issues. His work provokes conversation and emotion. The pieces can anger as well as validate. A mix of newspaper scraps, collaged photos, American flags and burned picture frames encase his artist conception of black military experiences during the Good War. His influence shifted from the brush and canvas to the asymmetrical media he shows today after being introduced to the creators of a former Richmond artists’ collective known as the Ground Level Railroad.

“These cats painted. It was so loose and they threw stuff in their work and damaged the canvas, and I was looking at it like, ‘Man, that really brings on a different feel to it.’ Because they have taken that plane of color and brush strokes and turned it into something that looks like it is dangerous. It looks like you could touch it and cut yourself. And so I started [work] that creates that kind of feeling.”

That feeling comes not only from the initial stories he heard firsthand about the racial in-differences of World War II, but also from the present history he’s personally witnessed.UNTITLED-TIME

On Jan. 13 1997 President Bill Clinton belatedly awarded Medals of Honor to seven black soldiers who fought during World War II. The medals were finally awarded after a 1993 study commissioned by the U.S. Army showed conclusive evidence of racial discrimination in the criteria for awarding medals during World War II. When Vernon Baker came to Washington, for the award ceremony, he was 78 years old and the only one who lived long enough to receive his medal.

“It is something I really think about a lot. Sometimes I got to turn the radio off because I am yelling at it,” Ramsey says of his political spirit. “Like, I am at home by myself. Who am I yelling at? But, as soon as I have an argument I’ve got to get it out of me. So I put it in my work.”

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Thanx for viewing.

k!


The Confession of a “Lazy Artist”.

I try to rationalize my current artistic state as best I can every time I think about what I’m doing…or not doing. Which is often. Its not really a “me” problem so much as my situation has been in transition for over a year now.

The transition? A creative career.

Don’t get me wrong, my new job is awesome and if anyone asks, I’m quick to characterize it as “the job I’ve been training myself for since middle school.” I love my job (corny…I know but, its true). And it affords me the financial stability to see a nice future for myself.

But, as many artist will attest to, It leaves little creative room for my fine arts after hours.
An more times than I would like to admit, the couch and the reruns on cable look pretty good on most nights during the week.

After a day designing on the computer and thinking of color, text, shapes and pixels in attempts to make an image that not only I’ll like, but one my account manager will like (and his client will love!) its sometimes hard to shift into “painter mode” and create something where the primary tool is a brush not a mouse and monitor. Its easy to forget your creative spirit is with you when you leave the office.

Hey there cable! What do want to show me today?

In all honesty, I was already designating a good portion of 2013 as a “hiatus” year, so this low point is only temporary. I have a few major projects going on at home that are going to make things work for the better in the long run. One of which is converting my outdoor shed with the collapsed roof into a studio.

The pull create is still there…so much so that at times it feels a little hard to breathe. When this pseudo-psychotic impulse of creativity hits, I become a scatterbrain. Ideas and projects burst inside my head with full knowledge that most of them will never become anything.
For instance, the latest project I’ve immersed myself in is shooting video clips of trains
and trains and trains (a stupid amount of train shooting) lights and whatever else I find
mildly interesting on my daily lunchtime walks.

The project is to shoot everything in digital black & white.

The project goal? I have no f#*kin’ idea….at all.

The only thing I know is I like shooting videos and stills, but that’s as far as I can go with explaining why I’m doing it. There’s a final project somewhere buried in the back of my mind, there’s the poetry I’d like to add to the video these clips might find themselves in and then there’s the guitar music I practice, so that’s where the soundtrack comes into play (excuse the pun.) But, given I hate the way my voice sounds on tape and I’m still yet to learn cords, I’m no closer to finishing this project than I was in October 2012 when I thought this thing up….sux.

I’m guessing I’m going to have to deal with this low-energy flow of creativity outside of the office for at least a while longer. In the meantime, the studio will be completed, the videos will be stored on the hard-drive and the “pseudo-psychotic impulse” will have to keep nagging me with full understanding that its only a temporary thing.

I hope.

Thanx for viewing.
k!


Unlikely Inspiration…a Familiar Path.

kmrfa_stmpk paperclip holder #1

I don’t know what happened, but it fell on me like a dump truck falling from a downtown building.

As an artist, I realize change in direction is a part of the gig. As soon as you think you’ll do “this,” it’s already turned into “that”…whatever “that” may be.

My latest change in focus was inspired by talk of “steampunk” around the office driven by sketches and renderings by my co-workers/designers. The best way to describe steampunk is: if the Victorian age had technology without the use of modern materials such as plastic, what would it look like?

If you’ve seen the movie “Wild, Wild West” featuring Will Smith and a giant mechanical spider, you’ve seen steampunk.

As a life-long painter, I’ve never tried working in functional art. Although, I’ve tried to create paintings that would be thought provoking and political in nature, the only functional aspect to the work was being able to spark conversation. It wasn’t something that could literally light up the room or even keep your hat off the floor.

As I looked over one of the designers shoulder at his computer monitor, there was a mixture of antiques, old metal, and machine parts. Handcrafted creations, interestingly formed and, best of all, functional. There were images of some of the most beautifully designed and exciting works of art I’ve seen in a while, and I wanted to make some. The introduction of steampunk lit a flame under my creative stove and it was starting to burn red hot!

That evening, I began collecting bits and pieces of machine parts, nuts, bolts, springs, copper piping, and other items scraped together from my outdoor shed. I put it all in boxes and plastic bags and went to the studio to start working on something…..anything.

After viewing and studying images found online, the ideas began to flow. Steampunk encompasses everything from small, bug-like sculptures and figurines to laptop computers and custom motorcycles. After getting a handle on the aesthetics of steampunk, the focus became, “What do I make?”

I realized approaching it like a painter, which was “eh…whatever happens, happens,” seemed to work best with the miscellaneous items at hand. And, because of the random nature of the materials, sketches and preconceived ideas were out of the question.

I started putting parts and materials together and stood back to see what the “thing” was telling me it wanted to be.

After a few nights with a torch and solder, some wood, copper, and an old alarm clock, my first steampunk functional artwork turned out to be… (drum roll, please!)

A paperclip holder.

The materials that made it into the final piece were a combination of copper piping screwed to a wooden base, an old alarm clock that still makes a cricket-like rattling sound when turned on, and some foreign currency to add
to the aesthetics.

The paperclip holder was the first stop on the steampunk path my creative mind is traveling on; the second was a desktop pen holder made from copper piping, springs, and a Campbell’s soup can. Currently, there are three lamps in the works at the studio.

Steampunk is the natural progression for the direction my work is moving in, and there is no telling where it’s going to lead.

But, what I truly understand is that sometimes inspiration is a whisper in the breeze and sometimes it shouts through a bullhorn.

I’m just glad I was close enough to hear it.

thanx for viewing…
k!


“HOURTIME” GALLERY TALK SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2011

A conversation about the latest political works with the artist (RAMSEY) from 1-2pm with music by My Son the Doctor 2-4pm Refreshments and wine.


Anger on the walls…

“HourTime” the new series is making its debut at the VISUAL ART STUDIO at 208 Broad Street, in Richmond, VA and so far I have realized one thing.

This work needs a broader audience…more so than what Richmond can provide.With it’s one night a month during the First Friday Art Walk, for the most part, art viewing in the River City is fairly pedestrian. With most of the public being directed to the arts only on the few nights they’re told art should be viewed.

It’s not the fault of any one person, place or thing, but as an artist who has worked hard at his craft for many years, I need more…much more.

Yeah, sure, some people may say to me that my work doesn’t warrant the attention of a wider, more consistent viewing public and they have that right to that opinion. But, I’m  not going allow that bullsh*t to keep my work from reaching beyond the bubble of a RVA and a public that only values art part time.

Just as I’ve heard over and over again:
“Live in Richmond, but make your living somewhere else.”

So, it maybe futile, pining for shows in the River City.

Maybe, politically charged works are not what people want to see or invest in. Which is unfortunate for an artist prides himself on the ability to illustrate political issues that can be interpreted in a variety of ways by the viewing public.

Maybe politics have dominated so much of peoples lives that art needs to have less meaning to it so people don’t have to find meaning in a piece and it can serve as just a “pretty….something” on the wall.

I don’t know what the answer is, maybe a pseudonym and pedestrian work maybe the ticket….something to think about.

But with the art viewing in RVA being as it is, it seems this body of work gets angry on the gallery walls when it’s shouting and no one is willing to listen.

Thanx for viewing.
k!


The U.S. UnJustice System: Troy Davis and I

I wonder if the day will come when a cop with a chip on his shoulder or, a stick up his ass, will pull me over and arrest me just because I ask him why(?).

I wonder if that cop will be anti-Obama enough to take out his frustrations, with a president who’s black, and will threaten my life.

I also wonder if that cop will choose to kill me on the spot like Oscar Grant and make claims of why he did it.

Would that cop be believed?

Or will that cop take me into the station, gather other officers and beat me to death.

Or, because they’re angry, will they  find a crime to fit a black man, who lives on south side, in the “wrong” neighborhood and who lives by himself.

Will the prosecutor (who can’t ever be wrong because of personal political aspirations) convict me with no evidence and a white family that wants SOMEONE, anyone to pay for their pain?

Will the jury be of my peers or will it be all white? Will my lawyer be competent?

Will my State of Virginia set me to die despite my obvious innocence and the international outcry at the injustice.

Will the state kill me on a Wednesday…or Thursday night?

And years later…will the prosecutor call my mom and dad and tell them he made a mistake…and that he’s sorry.

Its all too real.

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In the recent weeks  America has shown the world its true face. The blood-lust of the Republican right (Reich) was on full display when Texas Gov. Rick Perry said, so assuredly to a crowd of Tea Party supporters, that Texas has an un-failing justice system and no innocent man has been killed. The presidential candidate said in no small terms that if Texas killed you…you deserved it.

And oh, how they cheered.

Georgia is set to murder Troy Davis tonight. Although, the overwhelming evidence supports his claims of innocence, if something doesn’t give, they will kill him.

I don’t pray often…but, I pray for Troy today that his life is spared, and that this country will begin to realize what it has become. Some people just want to see a nigger die. Those people vote Tea Party and they have a presidential candidate that speaks their language, rising in the “polls”.

Personally, I feel guilty that I hadn’t said anything or added my voice to the call to save Troy’s life and its all too obvious now, injustice will happen again.

Looking at this situation as an artist who works more on political themed works that any other subjects, I never thought about the death penalty for inspiration. But now it seems there’s much for me to think about on this subject.

Race, class, politics, religion, justice and death will begin to work its way into my art in the style of Diluted Loss.

And its going to be dangerous.

thanx for viewing.

k!


New Works & the Challenges of Change….

In the past couple of months, I’ve had some time to think about what I’m doing as an artist and suffering thru frustrations of those internal battles. But I do consider my time in ( and out of ) the studio to have been very productive over the past month.

The latest work features a change in direction for my art. Being inspired by street art, employing the use of stencils and ,influenced by my experience with the “Theater Row” mural project ,  I’ve begun the challenge to my artistic ability by doing something I’ve never done before. Thanks to the shed in my yard, the left over paints from the mural and some salvaged wood, my first mural is on its way to completion.

Please view the 6 latest works from the studio that will have a few changes to them prior to the next public showing, but here they are for now.

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Thanx for viewing…

k!


Finally….Public Art via the RVA Banner Contest…

A few months ago I entered four designs in the RVA Creates banner contest and although I didn’t win the big cash, the next best thing was to get my work around downtown Richmond.

Out of the four banners I submitted, here’s the two winners in a few of their locations.

Honestly, I have to admit, it is pretty cool to see something I created hanging as public art…

even if most people downtown don’t look up.

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Thanx for viewing…

k!


The Residue of a Show’s Lost Opportunity….

First I’d like to start by saying Diluted Loss is one of the proudest achievements of my life when it comes to my art, so it’s probably normal that I feel the profound heartbreak I felt on Wednesday June, 1st when I took it down, probably for the last time in Richmond,VA.

I don’t mistake that feeling as some anti-euphoric depression that its going be put back in the studio and stored away till next time a show falls my way.

The real depression creeping into my mood comes from the fact that this is the first year that I can remember since 2004 that it was showing on Memorial Day. Unfortunately, the Richmond Public Library was closed on that Monday. As well it should have been, being a national holiday, I can understand that.

But the fact is, for the entire day, and even now while I’m writing this, I feel like Diluted Loss missed a great opportunity to be relevant on a day or event that was much larger in scope and the point of the series has once again been lost in the wind due to my shortsightedness. Maybe not that, but for some reason or another I feel like this series has a lot to say and it once again missed a chance to be heard.

Damn, left out once again.

Realistically I know the show was under cut by the library being off the beating path Richmond’s monthly art event the First Fridays Art Walk promoted by Curated Culture, and most of the gallery activity is two blocks away on Broad Street.

Another thing that hampered the exposure of DL to the public was the show didn’t have the media coverage it should have had. It didn’t show up on the public radio arts calendar for the day, although it did get a off-the-cuff shout out from Ana Edwards on the Defenders Live program on WRIR, which was pleasantly unexpected.

Because of the subject being about black soldiers, racism and WWII, I thought I would surely get support from Richmond’s leading African-American weekly newspaper. Although, I could easily have provided them with photos and copy, they claimed to  have no one to cover it because of budget cuts and suggested I buy advertisement.

Unless I was Picasso at VMFA, Diluted Loss would get no support from the paper. Awesome….

Maybe they thought I was selling the show, but clearly I’m not and the subject matter was about black history, and its goal is to educate the public about racism and the issues black soldiers had to face during the “great war”….. but to no avail.

The conversation came to a swift end.

It wasn’t a total loss. During its run some friends took their own time to go and view the show and had an inspiring response to the art. A few collectors were there on opening night to see the new work and lend support. With its 4 new pieces, the show was clearly at it’s best! I heard good things from individuals who have seen the show and hopefully some people walking thru the marble hall that served as the gallery for the show, stopped to take a look at the work, showed their kids and had discussions about the subject of race, America and war.

Diluted Loss ready for a museum presentation outside of the boundaries of Richmond, VA, there’s no question about it. I’m aiming for next year in the Washington DC area and during Memorial Day Celebrations.

It may happen or it may not happen, but the prospect of having a more successful public viewing of the series makes me feel like there’s a future for Diluted Loss and the message it’s trying to promote.

And hopefully, a future for me as an artist in a world outside of the River City.

Thanx for viewing…

k!


A Serious Conversation & Real Life Implications

I’ve been itching to do serveral things in the past few months to shake this annoying drought of creativity and a build up of frustration with myself as an artist. It really comes to head in my post “A Flood of Creativity & Questions” from a few weeks ago.

Although, I had no idea my words would actually become a tangible event in my life, I knew a change would have to happen or else it was “clock-out time” in the studio.

It all started one afternoon in downtown Richmond on Broad Street. As I was driving up and down the street, looking for a place to park so I could go to Lift Coffee and get my first cup of the day, I noticed a flurry of activity in a few places that seemed to be out if the norm for the typical pace of people walking up and down the street.

Altria & City of Richmond had created a public arts/mural project and this was the day volunteers were helping the artist get a start on their work.

After getting my coffee and spending a few minutes online at Lift, I took a stroll down the sidewalk. To my surprise I ran into Hamilton Glass, supervising his site that composed of two huge walls in which murals were to be created on panels that were fixed to the buildings. We shook hands and talked a little about the project and the road ahead for the work. He let me know the Altria volunteers were only there for the day and without even thinking about it, I told him to call on me if he needs the help.

Two days later, he did.

At the site, working on the erected scaffolding, I realized this was the event that I so desperately needed in my life. The specter of working with other local contemporary artist I respected (the artist, David Marion is also working on the mural), helping to create public art and volunteering was the “perfect storm” to shake me loose from the suffocation that was strangling my creativity.

All the things I needed to happen had come true in a months time!

The project is coming to a swift end, and there is lots of work to be done to bring the piece to completion and I’m happy to say, not only do I help with the painting, I was able to provide water when we were briefly cut off and , to my surprise, with the help of my best friend, I was able to locate a generator and lights when they were needed.

(Truthfully, I always wanted to be “that guy”, you know, the one who could make things happen….and damn if that didn’t come true too!)

But, the most rewarding side if the whole experience is Hamilton has asked for my opinion, as an artist, on some key elements within the work.

These things have made me feel as though the stagnation in my creative outlet has broken loose. When Ham(?) told me I was helping him out, I made it clear that he was helping me out as well by allowing me to help on such a grand piece of art.

The experience has made me understand what I’m capable of and has help me find what I was searching for in my career.

And the best part about it…. I feel excited about being an artist once again.

Thanx for viewing…

k!


Picasso and the Parallel Paths Between Us…

I am an artist than can be compared to Picasso.

Yep I said it…

After being treated to the huge Picasso exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on Friday by a dear friend of mine, I came to the conclusion that me and the world-famous artist, timeless historical figure and cultural icon have approached art in similar fashion.

Although his work has ultimately changed the way millions of people view art, while I was taking it in, I wasn’t in awe by the name (and the astronomical dollar amount) associated with the collection.

Not being blinded by the fact that it was Pablo Picasso helped me enjoy the pieces that struck me, walk pass pieces that didn’t impress me and look critically at a few I really didn’t like.

The great painter is known primarily for his innovation and daring approach to try imagery that defied the convention of his time.

My friend and I saw the work past the other museum patrons milling around the art and talking to each other or listing to the audio devices, and the experience lead me to reflect back on the many different approaches and experimentation in my artistic history. I began to remember paintings in my past that suffered a lost focus and were either stripped or “whited-out”, only to have new images created in their place.

Sculptures in steel and wood, oil paintings and found objects, I tried it all and I realized, if my whole artistic “career” was put on display in a retrospective showing, from the time before my college education up to the present, there would be a long line of successes, missteps and out right failures scattered along the path to the artist I am today.

Having that in mind made me appreciate his work even more, especially the pieces that looked like he tried a technique, then moved on to another piece with different material and style while only glancing backward.

As long as I’ve known about the great artist, I never thought I would have the opportunity to see his work in real life, even more so, I never thought comparing my own path to his would be possible. But, chances are, I’m not unique in feeling that way. The evolution of artists continue to follow similar lines with each other in trying new techniques and styles with success or failure behind each approach to their work.

As long as we continue to work and evolve without giving in to societal pressures that get in the way of doing what makes us exist as artisans, we’ll continue to innovate, stretch the imagination and display the human experience in a multitude of mediums.

I enjoy imagining, if he were alive and living in Richmond, Picasso would frequent my favorite south side coffee shop. He and I would sit down over a cup of joe and we’d have casual conversations, a few laughs and could relate to each other thru the experiences with our respective arts.

And quite honestly, that feels pretty good.

Thanx for viewing…

k!


“Tortured by self doubt & tormented by anxiety.” —Frank O’hara


The Flood of Creativity & Questions…

For the past couple of months I’ve become brutally honest with myself, from questioning my choices to become a professional artist in the first place, to the increasingly disparaging thoughts of why I went to school and drove my future into personal debt crisis.

Starving artist? Not yet, but…

Although I love the creative voice this talent and education as afforded me, the fact is the majority of our society has discounted the arts as something that is not important enough to apply a financial worth to it.

I can’t help but to feel duped by the university arts program.

There should have been a greater focus on the business of art, the marketing and management of the talent. I could have done without some of the required history courses and AFO.

But, now I’m becoming angry, and that burn swelling inside is starting to focus my attention on the work’s evolution to a new way of looking and thinking about my art.

The fact is, I can’t “shut up”.

Not being able to paint just for the sake of painting, the work produced seems to always speak with some sort of “message”.

And this society doesn’t fuckin’ want to hear it.

If I were to completely flip and become an “abstract expressionist”, I’d be fooling myself and lying to the public just to try to sell art. I’ve been doing this work too long to change from being the artist wanted to be, to become something I’m not.

Employing the use of stencils in the current work has the effect making me excited about working again. Combining the use of my graphic design skills into the process has altered the way I paint, at the same time, helped me design differently as a graphic artist!

The deeper side of this evolutionary track, is what interested me in becoming an artist in the first place was the graffiti art in New York in the early 1980′s. For “street art” from the U.S. and Europe to begin influencing the work in 2011 has made a 360° turn to my creative life.

Although, to some it may seem like I’m jumping on the “street art movement” to create “salable” art without having the credentials of a criminal vandalism record. And even though I asked myself about the real reasons for the change, the conclusion is, if this is what I have to do to keep from abandoning the arts, it’s what I’m going to do.

I don’t need nor want a police record.

But now, when I see a piece of “public art”, graffiti, tag or a paste-up, I look at it differently. The person who took a chance, did not wait for a gallery to approve them to show their work to the public. Their mark is out on a wall, a fence, a train or on the side of a box van, being seen by society.

Like it or not, it “exists”.

As for the new direction, I welcome the inspiration from the “vandals”. I’m tired of waiting and sick of feeling suffocated, so damn the criticisms…from others and especially, from myself.

thanx for viewing…

k!


Facing the Very Real Impact of Boredom…

I’m bored…

That sums up the change to style and subject matter in my art, although, I wouldn’t classify it as a “whole sale” abandonment of my current work, but I do realize in order for me to want to create, some new elements must be explored to get a the result in the work that makes me exited about painting again.

In all honesty, I find myself asking if the work is “too deep”, as in if the public doesn’t react to it or it they miss the point of what the work is communicating because I’ve drawn on subject matter that is obscure and too political to immediately understand.

After over a decade of being topical with my art, its hard for me to shut-up in my work, But I do recognized the social value of “pop art”, and its at this point I find myself at a crossroads.

Do I continue doing work that express political topics or do I let go for a while and explore “pop” and create it under a pseudonym?

Still seen as contemporary expressionism, elements of my past are really starting to emerge and take form in the way of stencils and basic more simplified elements and color. The evolution of my creative expression is also attributed to being stirred by “street art”. Its inspiration has also drawn me in because of the fact that it is art that doesn’t sit in a studio waiting for approval by a gallery to be approved or denied to hang on their walls. I feel like I’m suffocating looking for approval from other people to show my work and I seriously asking myself if it’s worth the wait.

While trying not do anything “illegal” to get my work out in public environment, the pull to “just fuckin’ do it” is almost like a constant scream in my ear, a tug at my heart and a shove at my back. With so much the work wants to say, it’s shouts to “stop waiting and get on with it!” has kept me up at night thinking about the “what if’s”.

Not to disparage the artwork created over the more that 20 years as an artist,  I continue to be so very proud of it, but I think its kept me a little too grounded, so much so that I’ve became afraid to take off and see what flying feels like.

Maybe this frustration waiting for clearance is going to force me to take flight without waiting for someone else to allow me too.

Thanx for viewing…

k!


DILUTED LOSS: THE EXPLANATION

I used the accompanying text to the Diluted Loss and created a video in honor of the men & women the series is dedicated to. The show opens (First) Friday, May 6th 2011 at 7pm-9pm @ Richmond Public Library: Main Branch Downtown Richmond, VA.

thanx for viewing.

k!


NEW WORK: Capt. JIM CROW, Civ. JIM CROW

The latest edition to the Diluted Loss series brings in focus the military and civilian aspects of the Jim Crow laws that insured a white dominated society rule by suppressing the lives of the black american population as well as the black soldier and sailor.

According to law.jrank.org:

By the start of WORLD WAR I, every southern state had passed Jim Crow laws. Becoming entrenched over the next few decades, the laws permeated nearly every part of public life, including railroads, hotels, hospitals, restaurants, neighborhoods, and even CEMETERIES. Whites had their facilities; blacks had theirs.

The white facilities were better built and equipped. In particular, white schools were almost uniformly better in every respect, from buildings to educational materials.

States saw to it that their black citizens were essentially powerless to overturn these laws, using poll taxes and literacy tests to deny them the right to vote. Jim Crow even extended to the federal government: Early in the twentieth century, discriminatory policies were rife throughout federal departments, and not until the KOREAN WAR (1950–53) did the armed forces stop segregating personnel into black and white units.”

“Capt. JIM CROW Civ. JIM CROW” is created as a reminder of the trials the black american soldier had to overcome to become some of the nations finest warriors. With the overall image of a painted american flag transitioning to burned, the photos of black men and women in their military roles.

What makes this a powerful and telling piece about the history of the county’s racial strife is the inclusion of, not only actual Jim Crow laws, but also the words of former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) speaking in front of the 2008 National Tea Party Convention who advocated for “LITERACY TEST before people can vote “, which pointed straight to the will of some politicians to stoke the fires of racism to further their own selfish political careers.

What the Diluted Loss/ Capt. JIM CROW attempts to accomplish is for the viewer to realize the racial issues of the past and recognize it when the same segregationist drum beat is pounded into national policy to this day.

Thanx for viewing.

k!


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