Tuesday, March 27, 2007

That And This

Today was the really first warm day of the season, and when I got home from man hat tan the steam heat was going strong in my apartment. What’s going on. Has global warming affected my radiators, do they not know that its fucking warm outside. It’s like a steam room here, and I hate the warm weather anyway, so this is really unbearable. The warm weather brings out the worse in me; I get irritable and nasty. I’m a cold weather sort of guy, love the chill in the air, and the frost on my nose. Its been an irritable time for me anyway, computer problems, money problems, you name the problem and I have it. Turning 60 does not help things, and last night out of the blue a once best friend of mine from when we were 17 years old called me. He had found me of course on the net, and saw my blog. I have no secrets anymore. Ok maybe I still have a few, but Jim calling me up really threw me for a loop. Not a bad loop Jim if you’re reading this blog, but hearing his voice brought back so many memories. I haven’t seen him in I guess at least 30 years or more, think the last time I saw him was one day on the street. We met when we were going to a local junior crap college studying commercial art, and for the first year we didn’t really connect, but one day at the end of our first year we got talking on the bus and suddenly I had a new friend. For awhile after graduation we even wound up working in the mat room at the same big Fifth Avenue ad agency. I got the job through Jim. I left the field to become an artist and Jim stayed in the game. I think he made the right decision. After all these years as an artist I have nothing really to show for it except a lot of art that no one wants or gives a shit about. Ok you’re probably thinking I’m feeling sorry for myself, well so what. In any case I should stop for now before I get all misty and teary eyed. These images are my new collages made from a book I found on pig anatomy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fiction In My Attic

Fiction Attic The Journal Of Elegant Wit has just posted six of my drawings and paintings. Please visit at this link.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

My Own Private Holocaust

Today while browsing at the housing works thrift store in tony Chelsea which was once a run down, affordable and real neighborhood and where I first lived when I moved to Manhattan in 1967 I came across a pictorial book on Dachau. It was strange to find this book as I had just finished reading on the subway this very day W.G. Sebald’s arresting and moving novel “Austerlitz” in which the main character takes a voyage both literally and figuratively to the past looking for evidence of his parents who perished during the holocaust. Now this is a very basic and superficial description of this very deep and multi-layered book and my feelings and opinions about this novel could be a post all unto itself. I of course bought the book on Dachau. I carry the holocaust around with me like a folded note in my wallet. It comes to me at odd moments when I least expect it, like riding the subway which turns into one of the cattle cars that takes me to my death in one of the Nazi concentration camps. Or sometimes I conjure up images of my own family or dear friends in the camps. These images can come to me easily and casually sometimes as I walk down a street, or wait in line to go see a movie. I don’t go looking for these deadly and depressing fantasies and images they just come. I first became aware of the holocaust as a young boy watching a documentary about Hitler on television. Why would the Germans want to kill all those Jewish people? Why would they want to kill me? Luckily my father’s family left Europe in the 1920’s, but I’m sure distant relatives of ours must have perished. I knew a survivor of the camps, my childhood friend Marco’s father whose fading crude number tattoo I would sometimes see on his wrist as he worked in his laundry. Marco would tell me horrible stories about what his father and other relatives of his went through and sometimes his stories would give me nightmares. I once seriously asked Marco “Where were the Israelis when all this was happening” He laughed and said they were being butched. When I was 12 the film version of The Diary of Anne Frank opened at the Palace Theatre in Times Square and my uncle took me to see it. I had read the diary a year or so before and was both dreading and looking forward to seeing the film. Unfortunately the film as the saying goes does not stand the test of time, and upon a recent viewing I turned it off. The main problem I had was with the young lead actress Millie Perkins with her flat New Jersey accent and her stiff unappealing acting. The more recent 2001 TV. film version of the diary was a much better treatment and follows the Franks to the camps, which was graphic, harrowing and extremely disturbing. The other film from my youth that I recall, but not with much fondness is Judgment at Nuremberg with its all star Hollywood cast. Stagnant and dull the most moving part of this overlong self important film was the actual footage of the death camps that was used as evidence against the Nazi defendants. I don’t have many books on the holocaust, and the ones that I do have are visual records or books of drawings and art done by the inmates, such as “I Never Saw Another Butterfly which is a lovely (if that is the right word to use for such a horrible experience) book of children’s drawings and poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, The 2 vol graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman, the incredible book of Alfred Kantor’s concentration camp drawings, and Helga Weissova’s book of beautiful drawings “Draw What You See A Child’s Drawings From Theresienstadt.”

Sometimes I do part time work for a book dealer who specializes in the holocaust and when I go there I literally drown in the books that document this horrible period in world history. I don’t know how she does it. Maybe being so close to the subject allows her to remove herself so that she is able to be objective. You see her and her family barely got out of Germany in 1941 when she was just a child and she now devotes her life to selling books on the holocaust and Judaica. Some of the books that she has are so disturbing to me that I cannot bear to look at them. The piled up bodies, the thousands of pairs of shoes and eyeglasses and other personal belongings, its just too heartbreaking for me to look at. I have not yet gone to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and I can’t even bring myself to go to the Holocaust Museum in downtown Manhattan. I keep telling myself to go, and someday I will, when I can find someone to go with me. I couldn’t bear doing it by myself.

I Go To Germany

In January of 1971 I went to Germany to install an exhibition of my sculpture at a gallery in Cologne. It was a long plane trip to Luxemburg, and then a long bus ride to Germany, where M and me were taken off the bus at the border and our bags searched. We both had long hair and beards and this immediately was a red flag to the German border guards that we might be carrying drugs. I nearly freaked and you can imagine the images that went through my mind. I’m a Jew in Germany and I’m about to be interrogated by the German police who to me looked no different than the S.S. We were taken to a room and the bastards had big smiles on their faces as they went through our luggage. I had brought with me small bags of dyed sawdust to use in case I had to make repairs to my sculptures and the fools actually tested them to see if they were drugs. M kept saying “kunst kunst (art, art) but the pigs did not listen. Meanwhile back on the bus the good Germans were laughing as they were the ones with the contraband liquor, perfume and what not. I wanted to spit in their fat faces. A great beginning I thought as the police finally realized that I was not a drug courier and let us get back on the bus. I hated Germany the minute I arrived and could not wait to get the fuck out of there. But I had to install the show, and put myself through the rituals of being an artist. I was interviewed by a German art critic who actually had the audacity to ask me if I was Jewish. I was so appalled that I couldn’t react fast enough to tell him to go fuck himself, so all I said was yes. Cologne is an ugly city, that was mostly destroyed during the war, and except for the ugly black restored cathedral that looms over the place it could have been anywhere U.S.A. Here and there one could still see some of the old buildings that escaped our bombs, and you could see bullet marks and scars along the facades of some of them. I just knew I shouldn’t have come, I hated the Germans and had trouble hiding my contempt and disgust for them even though they loved my art, and were buying it left and right. Never underestimate the ego of an artist. However to my credit I was not an easy guest and tried to be as difficult and demanding as I possibly could. The evening of my opening the gallery was full of people and after I had a little too much wine I bellowed out for all to hear “Isn’t this interesting, 30 years ago you would have put me in your ovens, now you’re putting me in your museums.” The gallery suddenly got very still, and I could hear M giggle nervously. The Germans who were speaking English suddenly started to speak German; I had really upset them. M loved it, and years later I would sometimes overhear him telling people at drunken parties about what I had said at my German art opening. But even though I got out of Germany, I had trouble getting my art out. The gallery owner kept the pieces for nearly four years, and I finally had to get German lawyers to get my work back and some money owed to me for pieces sold. I documented the whole sorry mess in a special issue of TriQuarterly 32, which was devoted to conceptual, and idea art. This issue is around on line and can be had for around 50 bucks or less. Looking back on this unpleasant experience I suddenly realized that in a way my art and me were put into a German concentration camp of the mind.

Illustrations used in this post are from the top left,One of the heartbreaking photos from my book on Dachau. page from TriQuarterly showing some of my missing work. Piles of shoes discovered after the war at Auschwitz, The cathedral in Cologne and a drawing by a child from Terezin concentration camp.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Right Hand Pointing At Foliate Oak

Foliate Oak has posted some of my drawings and paintings in their latest issue and you can check them out at the link below.

Also Right Hand Pointing Literary Magazine has posted several of my drawings and paintings in their most recent issue. You can check out at the link below.

Its been a good week for my art being seen on the net.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Brew City Magazine has just posted six of my drawings/paintings. You can view them here.


Friday, March 02, 2007


Ascent Aspirations Magazine has just posted 8 of my collages. You can view them at this link.


A Foreign Country Part II

My driving was improving, but I would still gag and dry heave every morning before getting into the car that was lent to me by my landlord Stu. He had warned me that the car had problems, but it was working and that’s all that I asked for. Every morning I would take the long and winding road down the hill from my little house and turn on to the coast highway. I was getting familiar with the trip, where to turn, what bumps to avoid etc, and the view as I drove to the university was magnificent. “Holy fucking shit” I would murmur to myself as I gingerly glanced out my window at the Pacific and the beautiful landscapes that flew by me. Parking at the university was a big pain and it would take forever before I would find a space and then when done for the day, I usually couldn’t remember where I parked the damn car. I was teaching drawing and sculpture, and I was told by the chairperson, Selina Porch to “do what I liked.” This was quite a difference from the boring syllabus I had to follow when I taught for a semester at Rocky Point and I really came up with some good problems to throw at my students. The first project I gave to my drawing class was to do a self-portrait but I had to also be in the drawing. I knew I was taking a chance with this loaded project, as I might come out looking like a monster. The drawings were indeed quite revealing and in most cases the students made me look quite attractive. I knew from these drawings who had crushes on me, and a few of the drawings were outrageous. One female student drew a portrait of herself undressing and there I was peeping through her window, another female drew me herself and a baby. Ok I thought this is getting really scary. One of my male students did a lovely drawing of himself with me smiling at him. This is the one I used for the announcement for our student show. I led a very quiet life in California, basically going from home to the University and back. At night after a few beers I would sit on the patio and watch the spectacular sunsets and then come inside and cook dinner and maybe watch my little b&w TV. One night as I cooked I noticed a terrible smell. Sniffing around like Devine in Polyester, I opened the broiler of the over and discovered a roasting mouse. Puke. Needless to say I skipped dinner that night and told my landlord about this the next day. Traps were put down and I never cooked another mouse while in California. Sometimes at night I would turn the patio lights on to watch the skunks and raccoons that would climb onto the patio looking for food. One night some kind of creature which I guess was an Amarillo came creeping around and that was very strange for me to see for I had never seen such a creature so close-up. Life for me was pretty uncomplicated. Some of my students got cozy with me, and we took trips, sometimes to the desert or to the mountain town of Julian that was famous for its apples. Apples everywhere, the whole town was one big apple, but boy the apple juice and pies were the best I ever had. One of my male students came out to me, and we developed a careful but friendly relationship of course devoid of any sexual contact. The students were sweet and very talented. They worked their butts off for me, as I was a very demanding teacher. The campus was very large and spread out. The landscape was pretty with tons of Eucalyptus trees all over the place. The trees were not native to California and I was told that they were imported from Australia. Most of the buildings scattered about the campus were ordinary and rather worlds fair 1964 looking, except for the library, which looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. It loomed over all the buildings, and was my favorite building on campus.

One day I was having lunch with Lonnie outside among the Eucalyptus trees when he suddenly announced to me that he had once killed a child. I just looked at him waiting for him to continue with this amazing story. “Well one night, I had a little too much to drink, this was back when I was living in Chicago, and I hit a child with my car, and she died.” I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even know if I wanted to hear this, but he obviously needed to still talk about this horrible incident. “You know I also once burnt down Rebecca’s studio, luckily she didn’t lose much stuff, but God did I feel lousy about that.” “I bet you did, but thank God nobody was hurt.” “I gave up smoking after that one, and I can’t have any booze anymore.” Lonnie said. “Well you’re probably better off anyway,” I stupidly said. I mean for Fucks sake, he killed a kid and burnt down his wife’s studio, but what could I say. “Better luck next time”. “We all make mistakes”. “Life must go on”. I took a deep drag on my cigarette as Lonnie got up from the table. “I have a class Ira Joel, I’ll catch you later.” And with that He lumbered off. One of the graduate students was the lesbian daughter of a famous Oscar winning actress. I don’t think she got along well with her mother, and one of her “conceptual” pieces that she came up with was a series of photographs using her mother’s Oscar in various not very nice situations. One was of the Oscar with a cord around its neck hanging from a hook. Another was one of Oscar lying in the middle of a road with a car approaching and another was one of the poor thing floating in a bathtub full of water. “Does your mother know what you were up to with her Oscar?” I asked after looking at them. “Are you kidding, she would kill me if she ever found out.” One day my landlady asked me if I would like to go to Tijuana with her and her daughter Tanya. She had to return a dress that she didn’t like anymore and she would love to have my company. Since I hadn’t been to Tijuana yet I jumped at the chance and off we went. My landlady had bought the dress in a rather dumpy crummy department store and it surprised me that this rather elegant woman would be buying her clothes in the bargain basement of a Tijuana department store. She was so worried and nervous about returning the dress that she started to cry and I had to calm her down, as Tanya looked on in total embarrassment. Of course the tears were not necessary as they took the dress back with no questions asked. We then went to a safe Spanish restaurant that everyone on the faculty ate at when visiting the town and we ordered the trout, which was the recommended dish to have. On the way back home we sang songs.

The photos used in this post were taken by me in Tijuana and California.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

My Second Broadside

Broadsided has just posted my newest broadside. You can view it here at this link. Hope you like it.

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