Caleb Powell – Photos

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The Elissa Washuta Interview

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Elissa washuta

Caleb Powell: You cite Maggie Nelson’s, book, The Argonauts, as influential. How so?

Elissa Washuta: There’s a passage where Nelson reflects on Alice Munro’s short story “Wild Swans.” Nelson writes, “Munro lays it all out: how the force of one’s adolescent curiosity and incipient lust often must war with the need to protect oneself from disgusting and wicked violators, how pleasure can coexist with awful degradation without meaning the degradation was justified or a species of wish fulfillment; how it feels to be both accomplice and victim; and how such ambivalence can live on in an adult sexual life.”

Besides admiring her prose, I really identify because I was trying to show that my first experience was complicated. After I was raped I continued seeing the perpetrator. I was terrified and repulsed, and I constructed a story as a response to rape. There wasn’t pleasure, but there was self-delusion that created a deep ambivalence…continue

Written by Caleb Powell

May 9, 2016 at 1:26 pm

U.S. Premiere at Hugo House: I Think You’re Totally Wrong

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Even If You Hate Writing, You’re Going to Love James Franco and David Shields’s I Think You’re Totally Wrong” – Charles Mudede, The Stranger

(From Hugo House site)
Film premiere at Hugo House – Buy tickets:  $8.92 w/fees, $7 at door

Hugo House will hold three screenings of James Franco’s film adaptation of David Shields’s and Caleb Powell’s book, I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel. The screenings will begin at 7 p.m. and be followed by a Q&A session with Shields and Powell.

Screening Dates:

  • Saturday, May 30, 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, May 31, 7 p.m.
  • Monday, June 1, 7 p.m.

The Hugo House screening will serve as the U.S. premiere of I Think You’re Totally Wrong, which had its international debut at the DOXA Festival in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada earlier this month.

The book I Think You’re Totally Wrong was published by Knopf in January 2015; in the Boston Globe, Saul Austerlitz called it “outrageously entertaining . . . a warm, funny, and charming book that questions not only what it means to live for art but what it means to live.” It’s the heavily edited transcript of an extended conversation between Shields and Powell, recorded during a weekend retreat in the woods. Powell, formerly Shields’s student at the University of Washington, chose raising his family over a writing career. Shields, meanwhile, is a prolific author and a professor of creative writing. (trailer here)

Written by Caleb Powell

May 28, 2015 at 8:02 am

The Shirts of Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell vs. Jackson Pollock

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血洗净城 - Blood Washes the Capital

血洗京城 – Blood Washes the Capital (鄧 =Deng Xiaoping)

“WHAT makes an artist great? Brilliant composition, no doubt. Superb draughtsmanship, certainly. Originality of subject or of concept, sometimes. But surely true greatness means that the creator of a painting has brought a certain je ne sais quoi to the work as well.”The Economist

In the tradition of Chimpanzee or not Chimpanzee, I’ve assembled  Jackson Pollocks. Certainly no child, chimp, or artist could replicate them? Or could they? Pollock’s defenders often claim that his works cannot be replicated. And to the naked eye this may be so, but what about the discerning critic, specifically, the art collector willing to pay millions of dollars to own an original. Well, turns out Pollock can be copied to the extent that even the “experts” can be fooled.

Yankee Pot Roast:  If Jackson Pollock Wrote Poetry.

The Economist: “(The) art market pretends that great artists are inimitable, and that this inimitability justifies the often absurd prices their work commands. Most famous artists are good: that is not in question. But as forgers like van Meegeren and Pei-Shen Qian, the painter who turned out Ms Rosales’s Rothkos and Pollocks, show, they are very imitable indeed…Expensive pictures are primarily what economists call positional goods—things that are valuable largely because other people can’t have them…Ms Rosales’s career is thus a searing social commentary on a business which purports to celebrate humanity’s highest culture but in which names are more important than aesthetics and experts cannot tell the difference between an original and a fake. Unusual, authentic, full of meaning—her life itself is surely art, even if the paintings were not.”

Go ahead! Click and pick your Pollocks. To finish this mini-jeremiad on abstract work, I offer an abstract conclusion:  Pollocks may be more valuable or interesting than the T-shirts of Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell, but the T-shirts have gone much further on less.

Jagger

Jagger

James Franco Options I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel by David Shields and Caleb Powell

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PUBLISHERS MARKETPLACE ANNOUNCES:  December 4, 2013 – James Franco to direct I Think You’re Totally Wrong, based on the book written by David Shields and Caleb Powell. (Movie Finished – James Franco directs I Think You’re Totally Wrong)

I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel: A debate, nearly to the death, about life and art. Caleb Powell always wanted to become an artist, but he overcommitted to life (he’s a stay-at-home dad to three young girls), whereas his former professor David Shields always wanted to become a human being, but he has overcommitted to art.

Film rights – NYT bestselling author of Reality Hunger David Shields and Caleb Powell’s I THINK YOU’RE TOTALLY WRONG: A QUARREL, a debate about life and art, enacting an impassioned and ongoing “quarrel” between the two actors: Powell always wanted to become an artist, but he overcommitted to life (he’s a stay-at-home dad to three young girls), whereas Shields always wanted to become a human being, but he has overcommitted to art, optioned to James Franco for his production company, Rabbit Bandini Productions, with Franco directing, and Shields and Powell adapting and playing themselves, by Charlotte Gusay at The Charlotte Gusay Literary Agency.”

Written by Caleb Powell

December 6, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Posted in Art, Life

Tagged with ,

Tom Wolfe Sticks Piet Mondrian’s Stick Art

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“All profoundly original work looks ugly at first.” – Clement Greenberg

“All ugly work looks ugly at first.” – Anonymous

“Frankly, these days, without a theory to go with it, I can’t see a painting.” – Tom Wolfe

The surrounding lines and colored quadrangles are “works” by Piet Mondrian. They speak.

“The notion that the public accepts or rejects anything in modern art … is merely romantic fiction….The game is completed and the trophies distributed long before the public knows what has happened.” – Tom Wolfe

Observe the descent or rise of art from Modernists to Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art to Op Art to Minimalism. Take Neo-Plasticism, originating 100 years ago, Mondrian, and the De Stijl art movement. Then Pollock, Rothko, Frankenthaler et al, competent but not good enough, they explored other directions. Their ilk repeats versions of the same with “individual” flourishes, moving art, supposedly, as the elite collect and promote. The debate is whether this advances society. Tom Wolfe , to paraphrase from The Painted Word, noted that 400 art critics suffice to create enough steam for an artist to become absolutely rich, but for the literary artist, no matter how beautiful the written word, without mass appreciation there is little hope for financial success.

“But nobody is visually naïve any longer. We are cluttered with images, and only abstract art can bring us to the threshold of the divine.”― Dominique De Menil, The Rothko Chapel: Writings on Art and the Threshold of the Divine

Written by Caleb Powell

March 21, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Bruegel the Elder vs. Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell

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Tower of Babel

Brief Bio Part II – More Boring Stuff: (From Brief Bio I) While in New York my father, in the Navy Reserves, was called to active duty and sent to Taiwan and then Saigon. My mother, at the time, was a grad student at Columbia and writing her dissertation with perhaps six months of work to attain her Ph.D. She chose to postpone her degree and join my father in a decision that can be seen as a metaphor for much of her work. She never finished her dissertation.  My mother stayed in Taiwan, where she taught Mandarin at the Taipei International School.

Half-Castle

Competition: But how does having an “EBD” (Everything but dissertation) become a metaphor? Because my mother lacks the gene that drives successful artists to create until completion. In previous posts my mother has taken on Paul Doran, Helen Frankenthaler, and Clyfford Still, and her technique has handily defeated them. However, beating those three replicates an adult winning a tennis tournament against 8-year-olds. To paint better than Pollock or Rothko or Motherwell eludes the point. Their whole shtick depends on the shock value of not aspiring to the heights of technique. When it comes to abstract expressionism and similar disciplines, mental energy focuses on conceptual ambiguities that escape the interest of many, and thus comparing Beatrice Powell to them is, as I like to hammer redundantly and self-indulgently, comparing Apples to Orangutans. (Apples and orange are both round sweet fruit, they are similar, so why not compare apes to apes and fruit to fruit and find a new cliché?) I do not respond to Pollock & company, but I realize that many people do, thus the exorbitant pricetags of their work. And this pisses me off.

Anyway, I diverge and die…gress. I’m trying to pay homage to the greatest painters. How would my mother fair against, say, Pieter Bruegel the Elder?

Caricatures

Bruegel suffered to paint. His life was his art, it was not a hobby, a part time whim or fancy; art consumed him 100% of the time. He kept painting, seeking an illusive redemption. There is no romanticizing or exaggeration, in the 45 years or so that he lived, and by the less than 50 canvasses that remain of his work from the 16th Century, he became, without hyperbole, a master.

My mother, ah, my mother. Look at her two paintings sandwiched between the Bruegels. The “Half-Castle” illustrates her unfinished “finished” painting. “Caricatures” is a hoot, but the white spaces remain. These watercolors show how she often loses the fire and hunger mid-painting.  My mother has not suffered to paint. She is happy. This can lead to complacency and, dare I say, laziness. She has had moments of dedication and hunger and study, especially in her youth, but as with her Ph.D., art was never that important too her. She chose family and happiness, and I love her for that. Who could blame her? I admire her talent, and yet, the artist in me wonders where she would be if she had been consumed more by art.

Dulle Griet

Art Criticism: Vice Magazine vs. Big Other

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The mug of beer represents Manu. Now that’s art!

The fact that the latest round of proposals for the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square included Tracey Emin’s idea for a little group of sculpted meerkats as “a symbol of unity and safety” reconfirms what everyone already knows: that it is possible to gain a reputation as a serious and important artist on the basis of work devoid of seriousness and importance.” – Geoff Dyer

This is a Tracey Emin…

              

Manu vs. Tracey Emin

The other day at 24-Hour Fitness we’re warming up shooting hoops, and my friend Manu walks in, bouncing a ball, gyrating his hips, doing his best Sir Mix-A-Lot, saying, “There’s a girl outside dribbling a ball like she’s practicing for the bedroom. Woo! Woo!” My man Jerome starts cracking up as if this is the second coming of Eddie Murphy. I tell them, “I don’t know who I’m more pissed off at, Manu for telling that turd, or Rome for laughing at it.” Now, Manu’s a cool dude, he has game, and on the humor side his delivery ain’t bad, he’s got a certain shmoo quality worth a chuckle, but he’s a long way from auditioning for comedian. But Rome or anyone laughing at such schlock only encourages more schlock and gives Manu the illusion he is funny. Don’t encourage schlock!

…and this is another. Seriously. Manu is funnier than Emin, and probably a better artist, whatever that means.

This same dynamic is at work in art such as that by Tracey Emin and her posse of overrated artists, the weird, rich, anti-talented doofs that somehow garner attention and money. It goes back years, to the befuddling success of  Warhol, Pollock (Yankee Pot Roast captures my opinion), Frankenthaler, Still,  etc.  I classify Tracey Emin as a parallel mystery.

Vice Magazine, an international site read by millions, satirized Emin: I’m Sick of Pretending: I Don’t “Get” Art. The visuals displayed didn’t need captions, and the finale cogently illuminated the difference between art and “art.” (See: I Still Don’t “Get” Art & OK, Do It: Teach Me How to “Get” Art)

Big Other, a literary “agree-fest,” questioned Vice author Glen Coco with:  “I Don’t Get Art.”  Basically, Vice Mag demolished Tracey Emin, and Big Other man James Todd Adcox volleyed with a “don’t make fun of art unless you try to understand and engage” shtick balanced with a “people take pride announcing that they don’t get art. It’s a particularly easy way of being culturally brave.” No. It’s a way of being fucking sane. Now, I enjoy the crew at Big Other, and drop in on the blog every now and then, but really bad art needs to be called out.

Sure, Vice was unsophisticated, but so? The artist needs to hone in on what should be taken seriously, what promotes culture and humanity, and what doesn’t. What Geoff Dyer said. Tracey Emin lowers the bar, her work should be execrated, desecrated, and eviscerated. Vice didn’t go far enough.  I’m angry at Big Other in the same way I’m angry at Rome. Don’t encourage schlock!

Further:  Brian Sewell’s best cutting critiques – in quotes

Art:  John Martin’s “The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah”

Written by Caleb Powell

June 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm

“Ai Weiwei Loves the Future” at The Evergreen Review

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Evergreen Review

RIP to Barney Rosset (1922-2012), founder and editor of Grove Press and The Evergreen Review.

Ai Weiwei has had a tough year. He was arrested and mistreated in detention by the Chinese government. Time Magazine nominated him for Man of the Year, and his story of promoting humanitarian causes through art continues. Last spring, shortly after his arrest, I wrote two poems about him, one published at Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, “Double Fuck the Party Central Communist.” The second is now at Evergreen Review. Thanks to managing editor Aliya Tyus-Barnwell and everyone at Evergreen for selecting my poem:

艾未未 – 中國藝術家

Ài Wèiwèi Loves the Future

艾未未

刘晓波 Liú Xiǎobō

December, 2009: The Chinese Communist Party Central Committee sentenced Liú Xiǎobō to eleven years for inciting the subversion of state power. In 2010 Mr Liú received the Nobel Peace Prize, the fourth recipient awarded the honor while in detention. Ài Wèiwèi publicly denounced the Chinese government’s treatment of Liú. April, 2011: Ài Wèiwèi is arrested.

i. ài

ài  a common surname…(continue)

FRONTLINE VIDEO: 谁在害怕艾未未 = Who’s Afraid of Ai Weiwei?

Helen Frankenthaler vs. Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell

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This post has four pictures, two of them are painted by Helen Frankenthaler, an abstract expressionist who achieved no small amount of attention. She passed away on December 27, 2011. And here are two self-explanatory examples of her art, which I’ll call “Blue” & “Yellow.” Pleasant, indeed, but worthy of greatness? The paintings above and below are the work of one of her unknown contempories, Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell, aka Cove Loon, aka Mom. Frankenthaler achieved fame and attention, yet comes from a period that I simply do not get. She counts artists such as Jackson Pollock among her influences. This is problematic, Pollock is not great. Certainly, he is among the many of her contemporaries that have changed & influenced art, but I would argue that they have not advanced art. They’ve lowered the aesthetic bar, added elements that take away from pursuits of beauty and meaning and replaced them with simplicity. Often I think the art world has gone nuts, and rewarded people not on skill or talent or aesthetic but on random chance and marketing. Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Paul Doran, Arshile Gorky, Damien Hirst, Lee Krasner, Dale Malner, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Andy Warhol, et al somehow managed to replicate pop culture or fill a niche or fund bizarre projects as they spread globs of paint on canvas or as they manufactured junk into a visual display; their art is craft or promotion. Am I an unsophisticated lout who has no appreciation of art? That usually is a defense artistes wage against detractors, fair enough, but I have grown up amidst art, am familiar with the art historians, and think that for an artist to be great, one of the criteria is that they must have talent.

As far as Frankenthaler’s art, intuitively and with a further and deeper glance, I do not see why her paintings have value. Her art does not interest me, I pass it by and look for something else.

This brings me to my mother, and do not think I imply that she should be famous. Her talent is worthy of greatness, but her output, ambition, drive, complacency et al have hindered her overall body of work. She is exactly where she should be in the art world, someone who is appreciated by family and friends. Nevertheless, take a look at the art within this post. What would you rather have on your wall?

The Copenhagen Review

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The Copenhagen Review, edited by Faulkner Faculty poet Gordon Walmsley, has published a watercolor by my mother, Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell, in their Fourth Issue.

My mother studied Fine Art at Cooper Union in New York City, and has painted oil and watercolor all her life.  She started visiting Copenhagen during the four years her daughter, my sister, lived off Fredericksburg Alle, and painted many scenes of Copenhagen. Here is another – Havfruen, Nyhavn 2005:

Written by Caleb Powell

May 24, 2009 at 4:11 am