Monday, March 29, 2010

Communication as a Barometer of Culture

It’s odd how humans create technology to better adapt them to life: cars to travel long distances, the internet as a huge easily accessible database of information, cell phones so that people could communicate from almost any location. There is a second phase that follows the introduction of new technology, where people have to adapt to the technological environment they have created. For instance, we have courses in school that train students how to use the computer and or how to search the web for accurate information. Each addition brings it’s own set of consequences, both predictable and unforeseen. I wonder if anyone foresaw that people would alter Wikipedia sites therefore making that database unreliable, or that people would gab on their cell phones in the car so that some states created a law prohibiting cell phone use while drive, all understandable, but not results that were necessarily preconceived beforehand.

Digital communication has actually affected how humans interact with one another, how we live our lives, how we talk. Even people who disagree with cell phones and technology own one, because if they don’t there out of the loop. Cell phones have made it so a person is technically accessible at any time or any place, which is great when there is an emergency, but otherwise could invade ones personal space. The caricature of the woman at the bar aptly demonstrates this, where the woman let her cell phone die to get away from the demands it places on her. The irony of the caricature is that unlike school, which one is forced to attend we buy our own cell phone and willingly carry them everywhere with us, because if we didn’t we would lose our ability to communicate with our fellow humans. Our generation tends not to preplan meetings or events. We just text someone to ask them to come to lunch, or call them if were going to be 15 minuets late. Accordingly, communication is based on immediate gratification. There is generally not too much deliberation, thought, time, or even information expressed in a text. They are generally either fall into the category of comical or a question and answer dialogue (Speaker 1: Where is art history meeting 2day, Speaker 2: Library).

The practice of hand written letters is not obsolete but it has definitely dwindled over the years. In my American and English literature classes the earliest form of writing was in the form of a letter. Historians use letters not only to observe the dialect of that time period, but also to gauge the social climate and historical scene in which the correspondence lived. The letters of Abigail and John Adams are perfect specimens; history recorded with beautiful penmanship and a personal voice.

What would someone from the future read or gather form our culture by readings our emails and texts? Would the sheer magnitude and irrelevancy of them become tedious? There is only one person I know who makes texting an art, but for the majority of individuals digital messages are fast, to the point, and dispensable. How will members of the future gather material on our time period and if they do what kind of generalizations would they make about our current culture based on the way we currently communicate?

the Artist's Touch

As a young adult preparing for the future stages of my life, I've done a lot of thinking about my career path. Is it a viable source of income, why do I make art, what purpose does it serve in the world/society, how can I make an impact with the talents that I have, or what exactly determines art between craft? Why is that important? Needless to say, attending Alfred University for a BFA has only skewed my perception moreso, and raised an endless list of questions about my choices as an artist. We see it all around us, expression. It is clear that there is much to be said about an object, sculpture, or image that one has invested many hours into to produce. However, how can we discriminate between work that is truely invested in something meaningful, from garbage that was literally found from the garbage?
At what point does nude portraiture just become naked people?
The other day during one of my critiques, there was a piece of a broken glass object set upon a pedestal. Everyone crowded around it as everyone looked at each other questioningly, and someone says, "Who's is this? Is this someone's project?" Turns out it was just a piece of garbage that didn't quite make it to the trash can. I think this says a lot about where our work has turned and the fact that people can't even discern garbage from "fine art." Or perhaps the quality of our craftmanship needs to seriously be addressed.

Now, I began my art career in very traditional modes of artmaking. My ideals of fine arts are rooted from realitic imagery, oil paintings, charcoal and etc. So perhaps I'm a bit biased about all of this conceptual contemporary work that we find emerging today. I am just fascinated by the fact that words can morph into new meanings and become something completely different throughout the times. Studying artists such as Robert Gober or Olifur Eliasson makes me question where the fine art realm is going to, where they turn art into something not typically associated to the word. Moving away from the actual objects and turning the expirience or the phenomenon of being in a space into the art form is an interesting concept, however, these ideas only further confuse my perceptions of being a fine artist. I feel that the term "art" is far too broad and we need to start expanding on our vocabulary.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I would like to examine what I feel has become the "modern" or "conventional" caricature of our time. I am speaking, of course of the type of caricature the image T chose depicts, a caricature most likely created in some sort of theme park by an artist at a booth. The typical traits of these conventional caricatures mostly include an over sized head, a small body preforming some type of action that distinguishes the character, such as rollerblading or fishing, in this case riding a motorcycle, an action or hobby the artist usually inquires about. There is also a somewhat soft and realistic style to most of these caricatures, I believe that the artists of these type of caricatures are careful not to draw an insulting interpretation of their subject while still maintaining a playful exaggeration to some degree. What I wish to explore is the process through which the practice of general caricature went through to come to its current state, how is the typical caricature of today a conglomeration of techniques and styles of the past? Or is it in fact a mere shadow of the former craft as it has become more of a commercial and unsophisticated practice?

Mascot Wars

I found recently that I liked the art of Jarod Hodges and Lindsay Cibos while going through their website a little while ago. I especially found their comics quite interesting and entertaining, as well as a prime example of a parody of both the mainstream and the not-so-counterculture. This one in particular, Breakfast Brawl!, is poking fun at Nintendo and their Super Smash Brothers’ francise way of thinking: IE game and company mascots duking it out, and in turn, advertising the game or company that they come from, possibly opening them up to an entirely new audience. This is is a clever form of advertisement, I will admit. However, I do agree with the point heavily implied by the comic, being, people are basically paying to be advertised to.
There is also the implication that games are being made by corporations for corporations, and not so much the people who play them. This may or may not be the case, but, this is made clear by the “game” being news on a business website. The gaming industry is, as the name states an industry, and can be to some people a very important business investment. There is, however, a bit of irony in the fact that the game industry is, has, and always will be first a business.

(Link to picture:

Symbolism from an outsiders perspective

Luz and I are trying to paint a mural on the graffiti wall. As I have thought about truthful misrepresentation and I have discussed it with Luz we decided to use our cultural background in our mural. Both of us have been raised in America, but come from different cultures. I am Korean born and Luz is Mexican American. I have struggled to represent myself as an American, since that is the only culture I know. However because of my looks people believe that I am a foreigner. For example I was asked today if I could speak English. In our mural I chose symbols that have to do with Korean folklore and Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian ideals. The crane on the left represents a scholar and happiness. The image on the right has the Korean symbol for longevity. The lotus on in the center represents creativity. Each of these are characters that are part of Korean culture and are truthful to my heritage. However they misrepresent me because the only cultural history I know is American/ Scandinavian based.


This comic is from Toothpaste for Dinner, a daily online comic. The cartoon depicts a glass blower, I assume he is in the production field because his boss is telling him to make more mugs. I think that what the boss is saying( ass blowing) to the gaffer is related to using the term "Glasshole". This term refers to one that blows glass who thinks they are above everyone because they have such a talent and there for, is an asshole. This school is filled with many of them. I think it is interesting to see the boss being such a jerk to the gaffer because he is not doing the work himself, so he may not know how hard it actually is. However, if this takes place in a production factory, the gaffer should be more than able to whip out these mugs since you have to make everything PERFECT in production. In the end, the gaffer will get no recognition for his work.
This reminds me of Dale Chilhuly's work. One of my final project ideas is to do a caricature of Chichuly.
Dale Chihuly is a glass artist who currently does not create his own work. Earlier in his career, he did actually blow his own glass, but after loosing sight in one of his eyes, he no longer gaffs. He now has other glass artists to create his work for him. He will draw horrible pictures of what he wants, and then he will order the glass artists to create them. The artists who actually create these forms will have no recognition in the final product. They are labeled with Chihuly's name because they are his ideas.

What's that supposed to mean?

Quote from He's just not that into you
Mary: He MySpaced me.
Nathan: Ouch!
Mary: Oh.
Joshua: Oh girl I don't know about that... My trampy little sister says MySpace is the new booty call.

Don't let todays technology disconnect you from the community. Sending a text message is about 10 times easier than actually picking up the phone. Remember those days when someone would call you and you were not home and they would leave a message or perhaps physically stop by for a visit? Now we have technologies like call waiting, caller ID, texting, email, facebook and IM to improving so it seems are ways of communication with each other. However, because of all these forms of communications comes all the variables with can hinder the interpretation of a virtual conversation.
When we talk face to face with someone, we are getting so many physical cues as to the true meaning behind what they are saying, you can hear their tone and dynamics of their voice carry out a phrase like , " I love you" or " your a jerk sometimes"
Our excessive dependance on cellphones has created a handicap in regards to our experience of community and interaction with each other. Our sense of feeling can go out the window and totally out of register when reading a tone absent text. How we react depends entirely on what we assume we should feel.
I once had a friend text me the lyrics to a song, which read, " Just when I think I am not strong enough, you reach out and you lift me up" however, I was unaware that these where meant to be textually "sung" or that these were just lyrics. I assumed that these were words of flattery and was well quite flattered. When I in turn responded with an appropriate ," awe thanks" I received back a very awkward," huh?" These were lyrics to a Christian song about how God lifting a man up through times of trial. How was I supposed to know. If this was in person I might have picked up on the tune when they were sung or from his body language that would have made it clear that he was not flirting with me, but do to the cellphone text this wonderfully awkward moment was made possible.

Some of my understanding...

The idea behind my final- has something to do with the idea of truthful mis-representation. Based off my cultural up bringing and being raised in America, the constant struggle of being Hispanic- Chicano- Latino is hard. The definition is in constant fluctuation. Never fully Mexican- but lacking the American Caucasian physique and American customs. The way I think and go about my eveyday life is different in some ways from those around me- my final is going to be a personal statement about who i am, where I come from and society.
I chose this mural because the skeleton touches on a topic also present in my ideas- that underneath it all we are ephemeral. We live and die- and it is our culture that defines us.


So for my upcoming final project I am considering reformating and improving a short comic book I completed earlier this semester. The piece is title "The World" and is a just a simple comedic poke at creationism and conception of art. The main character is based on BFA student here at Alfred but I will keep his identity secret and he doesn't know the character is about.

The story is bascially a washed up painter in a boat and a series of events that leads to his mental decay. I won't spoil much because I will eventually post some images of the comic once they are scanned.

More over I intend to scan the comic and print it on watercolor paper on an ink jet printer. I will color the comic with ink and paints and probably bound it with staples. I think part of this project was also influenced by a childrens book I can't recall the title. It featured a sailor swalloed by a whale and then somehow ecscapes by painting the walls of his mouth and stomach. Except that in my comic revolves around seagull poop.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

We need a change or I am going to vomit in the hands of uncle sam

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the dysfunction of our society. There is so much happening lately that has actually been giving me hope, but it seems that there has also been so much to make me loose faith in humanity. There have been death threats coming to the people who voted for the healthcare bill. The reason this bill was proposed was to give people with less a chance to be healthy and get help when they need it. There are so many people that have conditions that go untreated because they simply couldn’t afford to get treated. So how does it make sense that these people who voted for the bill are getting harassed? There was one man who is a democrat that was going to vote against it because he is pro-life and the bill supports pro-choice, but he changed his vote because he realized that this bill is meant to help the living and breathing people. The old and the young that can’t afford to receive treatment. He is now getting threatened because he stood up for those who seriously needed help. I have come to the conclusion that what is really wrong with this world and our country is the dysfunction of greed, gluttony, pride and envy. These are only four of the seven deadly sins, but they are the ones that seem to be plaguing our world the most. Of course, wrath, lust and sloth have their place and in large amounts, but I am leaving them out for now.
Only one percent of the nation’s population holds ninety nine percent of the wealth, and when you try to tax them, regulate, they get angry because they “deserve” it. People who are against are Obama are calling him a socialist because he wants the wealth to be shared. He wants universal healthcare and for everyone to have to right to a decent life. This is greeted with anger from many of the upper class because, if this was to happen, their “quality of life” would go down. They might lose there private jet, three of their six houses, they might have to fire a couple maids and do their own yard work. They might have to cut their 60,000 dollars a year clothing budget (that number comes from an episode of Wife Swap, yes it does happen). God forbid.

Gluttony (waste, overindulgence) —Thoughtless waste of everything, overindulgence, misplaced sensuality, uncleanliness, and maliciously depriving others. Marked by refusal to share and unreasonable consumption of more than is necessary, especially food or water. Destruction, especially for sport. Substance abuse or binge drinking. Dante explains it as “excessive love of pleasure”. Associated with pigs and the color orange.

Greed (treachery, covetousness) —A strong desire to gain, especially in money or power. Disloyalty, deliberate betrayal, or treason, especially for personal gain or when compensated. Scavenging and hoarding of materials or objects. Theft and robbery by violence. Simony is the evolution of avarice because it fills you with the urge to make money by selling things within the confines of the church. This sin is abhorred by the Catholic Church and is seen as a sin of malice; Dante included this sin in the first poem of the Divine Comedy (the Inferno). Simony can be viewed as betrayal. Thomas Aquinas on greed: “it is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.” Greed is represented by the frog and the color yellow.

Envy (jealousy, malice) —Grieving spite and resentment of material objects, accomplishments, or character traits of others, or wishing others to fail or come to harm. Envy is the root of theft and self-loathing. Dante defined this as “love of one’s own good perverted to a desire to deprive other men of theirs”. Associated with the dog and the color green.

Pride (vanity, narcissism) —A desire to be more important or attractive to others, failing to give credit due to others, or excessive love of self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God). Dante’s definition was “love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one’s neighbor”. In Jacob Bidermann’s medieval miracle play, Cenodoxus, superbia is the deadliest of all the sins and leads directly to the damnation of the famed Doctor of Paris, Cenodoxus. Pride was what sparked the fall of Lucifer from Heaven. Vanity and narcissism are good examples of these sins and they often lead to the destruction of the sinner, for instance by the wanton squandering of money and time on themselves without caring about others. Pride can be seen as the misplacment of morals. Associated with the horse, the lion, the peacock, and the color violet

Sound familiar. I think all of us know these people. We’ve seen them on the news, in classes, on reality TV and even on movies, where their behavior is validated.

Be conciencious of your actions!

"Seven Deadly Sins". Faust. 3/27/10 .

Fashion Plates

Fashion plates are an interesting example of the ways in which caricature can represent the values and ideals of a society and, or time period. In the 19th and 20th century, these images/caricatures of women were printed in popular magazines such as Lady's Home Journal. They served as a template for women of society, depicting ways in which a woman should dress, act, and the activities she should carry out. The first drawing really represents the value of domesticity and family life, presenting women as a mother and a nurturer, holding the most value within the home, caring and providing for her family and children. Since women of the time were not believed to have the logical ability and intelligence needed in order to carry out important jobs such as a doctor, lawyer or running any sort of business, her 'proper' duties were mainly carried out within the home. The inclusion of a musical instrument in both the first and third caricature also represent another way in which women were valued at the time. Having some knowledge and involvement with music was seen as being proper and important for women. The second and third caricatures represent a common belief of women being very passive. This passiveness is shown in the expressions on the women's faces and their body with a sense of confidence or authority. The woman playing the instrument looks somewhat hesitant in her abilities. She is also somewhat over sexualized in her dress, representing the portrayal of women in art as sexual objects of the male gaze. At the time, women were scene as inferior to men, and these indications within the fashion plates of the time period hold true to this idea.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


The meaning and significance instilled through choice of media is the topic. This particular art piece was created from old skateboard decks, which adds an entire sub-culture of significance to the piece, bringing to mind the sort of lifestyle and attitude held by skaters, punks, the colors give it a pop art like quality. In this particular case the medium almost holds more meaning than the content or subject of the art itself, however from the cartoonish depiction of a skull sticking its tongue does add to the playful and lighthearted nature of the work; another piece in the same series depicts the video game charter Mario which also supports this idea. The rounded shapes and shiny gloss are also characteristic of the genre. Not only in this particular work but in many does the choice of artistic media hold such significance as to warrant its own distinct interpretations and analysis.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

...And back to healthcare. The subject of health care reform has been common topic for political cartoons in recent history. This drawing is sketchy in style. It uses scribbly hatch-mark like shading. The background is gray and white, while the two men depicted are shown in color, drawing attention to them. The bright red of their ties especially draws the eyes- conveniently bringing attention down towards the names labeling each. On the left, House republican leader John Boehner, and on the right senior United States Senator from Kentucky. Both faces are drawn to look hostile, not to mention that they're about to smother a baby with a pillow- the metaphorical "baby" being the much-debated health care bill. However despite all of the Republicans voting against it, the bill has been passed by the house.

Absolute Power corrupts Absolutely

Government is and will always be a touchy subject. Are you a democrat or a republican- or are you liberal? Government and the constant promise to ensure a better future is always the campaign. The reading based on Philip Guston and his spoofs on Richard Nixon made me think about government problems and solutions that have resulted from artistic and societal need for change.
This mural was painted by David Alfaro Siqueiros, a Mexican painter. The Mexican Revolution was the result of frustration under the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz and the revolution was inevitable. While the bourgeoisie became wealthy, the rural societies and working classes were forced to make due with the severe exploitation due to the "promise" of a more industrial Mexico.
The image above shows Diaz sitting, along with his military advisor to the right, and his advisor to the left. The crowd surrounding him seems to be enjoying themselves- the women dancing while wearing extremely extravagant hats. The gentlemen in the back seem to be awaiting Diaz's next decision or next plan of change. However the crowd of men that engulf him seem to be persuading him, offering ideas and influence.
The revolutionary soldiers at the bottom represent Mexican blue- collar workers, those who had been taken advantage of and those who refused to be run by a selfish dictator. The energy between the two images is completely different. The first seems carefree- through Diaz is conversing with his party, the movement of the dancing women and even the rounded crowded up top appears to move and allow the viewer's eye to move throughout the piece. The crowded soldiers on the other hand seem to be so static in place, that the viewer cannot help but be engulfed in the seriousness throughout all of the soldiers faces. As if they are on a mission to make a change!


The smurfs were first introduced to the world in 1958. They were blue with white hats, and led rather simple lives. Though this may be a stretch in relating the smurfs to the reading I am going to try. It may not be intentional but since these creatures were not human, they had the same effect as animals do when it comes to addressing some more somber issues. They were Comical characters and like animals the same quote from Edward Koren can apply to these things " I think, too that animals can be understood by anyone at any time and usually at any age."

The smurfs generally displayed communist behavior in that they lived in a community where there seemed to be an emphasis on equality in sharing. There was also the aspect of anti- Jewish remarks or stereotypes. this may have been on accident, but since it could reach a vast audience with the comical look and funny language it was more influential. I chose the smurfs because they could reach and be semi understood by anyone at any time.

dick head≈ bush face

The reading about "Poor Richard" by Phillip Guston talks about a series of caricatures he did depicting Richard Nixon as a "dick head" or "dick face". This is largely making fun of Nixon's abnormally large nose, but also on the account of his incompetence, hypocritical nature and how he "unwittingly set himself up for mimicry and caricature". He was indicted for the scandal of Watergate that he was apart of. There are many idiotic things that he said, such as; "The only place where you and I disagree … is with regard to the bombing. You're so goddamned concerned about civilians and I don't give a damn. I don't care." He was completely reckless, just like the today's equivalent; George W. Bush. George Bush is a part of a potential scandal of lying to Americans about the real reason for the war in Iraq, and it is becoming clearer and clearer that this is true. He is very easily caricatured and so easy to make fun of. He says so many stupid things. Nixon's said things that are way more toothless than what Bush has said, but they are both equally incompetent. Bush and Nixon both claimed that a President may violate Congress' laws to protect national security and they both wiretapped illegally. The comparison of Bush and Nixon is a rather common one too. Th cartoonist Mike Luckovich does many depictions of Bush usually showing him as a small, insignificant looking creature. His reasons and interest in making fun of Bush is similar to Guston’s enjoyment of making fun of Nixon. Guston speaks of the "discust" he has for Nixon although he combats it with humor. It is the same with Bush. There are so many cartoons just making fun of how stupid he is and how incapable he was as president, but it really is all out of discust. It is easier to deal with the ugliness by belittling the person rather than getting angry I think. It seems like a laugh, but it's really a cry.

Socks and Barney

Socks and Barney is an online comic strip created by Steve Conley that utilizes animals as human stand-ins to debate the current political activities. Each character is based on one of the white house pets. The main characters are made up of the Clinton’s pet cat Socks, who is the democratic voice, while Barney, George W. Bush’s dog acts as the republican, as the two re-enact various renditions of our political parties’ interactions.

Conley states that he started this strip by “looking at the presidential nomination and election process through the most appropriate lens available: buttsniffing, dumb animals.” The use of animals in his comedy is threefold, first it allows for the unexpected “which only the use of animals will make funny” (Koren 382), secondly though his characters are not as recognizable as the donkey and the elephant they still stand in not only for political parties, but also for specific presidents, and lastly that he still allows the characters to mingle in between human and animalistic qualities. While Socks and Barney watch TV, chat about capital hill, go to bars to enjoy a pint (or in Sock’s case a milk cartoon with a straw) Conley allows them to switch back to their animal habits effortlessly by allowing them to “buttsniff”, purr, scratch, and so on. In this particular cartoon Barney is making fun of Socks who happily purrs for Obama, and Socks tries to cover up his animalistic slip up.

honest food labels

Some people will ingest food without thinking twice about what they are actually eating. It doesn't help that when one actually looks at ingredients or a food label, it is impossible to decipher what one is eating due to the massive amount of chemicals and preservatives that are in the food. But if they actually knew what they were putting into their body, would they still eat the things they do?
This cartoon portrays a mother shopping in the grocery store. She looks extremely distraught but it's unsure if it is from her child's tantrum or if it's from reading what is on the food labels. I imagine the child picked out the ADHD Flakes and the mother does not want to purchase them for her child, the end resulting in a tantrum. Perhaps the ADHD flakes are to blame for his behavior.
If food was truly labeled, I'd like to think that perhaps America would be a less fat country. Things like All Natural Obesity Pop and Colon Cancer Dogs would make the consumer more aware and would probably inspire him or her to eat healthier.
However, even if the food was labeled truthfully, I am sure a decent amount of people would still purchase things like For Sure Diabetes Drink. Notice the prices of these foods. They are relatively cheep, and I a sure someone on a low budget could feed their family with this food as opposed to buying expensive healthy food such as fresh vegetables and fruits.

One Piece

The manga known as One Piece is currently my favorite in reading series. The illustration style draws a lot from early 20th century drawing and possesses a zany caricature element in its characters and enviornment. But I'm writing about toady is that in the 313th issue of One Piece the characters discuss the great prowess of a blacks at fighting.

The character Luffey is preparing for a boxing match and his mate Ussop informs him that an Afro wig will increase his strength. Ussop also says scientically it is a mystery why blacks are champs of fighting. Luffey even talks more ethnically as a black American saying "Hell Yeah!" While it is a ridiculous plot point its a little strange to think about.

Now I don't know much about how Japanese view Africans but author Oda Eichiro clearly seems to be making some point that black people are inherently athletic and he probably is drawing the boxing idea from great fighters like Joe Louis, Ali, and Tyson. An era in the 60's of the 70's when black Americans began dominating sports is shown in the prized Afro wig too.

Reading this reminded me of the past text on characterising the Irish as nasty and brutish created by Thomas Nast. Whether Oda's images or supposed to be celebratory or insulting doesn't seem to be clear. It could either be an exaggerated comedy or misinformation based an exterior view of America culture. Similarly Nast viewed the Irish as invaders and barbaric, they would disintegrate the nation. He only viewed from within his own American heritage and the Irish were aliens. Even the Yellow Kid is hard to pin down as a negative depiction or a play on native assumptions of immigrants in America.

Writing about foreign cultures can complicate authors because of the ignorance they may have of the culture they are studying.

Impersonation as caricature.

Comedians often impersonate well known people, often exaggerating their behaviors, to get laughs and/or to comment on that person. John Stewart, on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, does impersonations every night, and it is the majority of his comic routine. Impersonating almost everyone in politics and news media, his past favorites include Dick Cheney, who he caricatures as the Penguin from the Adam West Batman Series of the 70s, and George Bush, as constantly giggling to himself. Currently Stewart has gone on a much more elaborate impersonations of Fox News show host Glenn Beck.

Stewart has been doing entire segments on his show where he impersonates Beck. The parody involving Beck eccentric behavior, wild conspiracy theories, and the use of a chalkboard. He impersonates Beck very closely, not much need to exaggerate on the crazy, but Stewart uses it to point out Beck's flawed logic and counter his arguments by going to opposite extremes. Its hilarious to watch, but frightening to know that Beck acts like that seriously. Its not a matter of agreeing with Beck's politics or Stewart's, Beck acts like a lunatic conspiracy theorist, and Stewart mocks him expertly.

Ren & Stimpy

The conversation about animal imagery in Judith Wechsler's interview with Edward Korean got me thinking about all the old cartoons that i watched growing up. In answering the question of why Korean used animals in place of humans at times, he states "These animals throw the situation into relief in a way that people would not. They say the exact same words that would be said by us, but since they are clothed in fur and fangs, the whole situation is turned topsy-turvy and becomes ridiculous."
In looking back at images from the cartoon, Ren and Stimpy, I saw surprised to see how ridiculous and grotesque these cartoon caricatures that i once laughed at and with, really were. I remember some of my friends were not allowed to watch his cartoon, among others, and i never really understood why. Looking at these images now, i can not believe the use of sexual implications and drugs in a cartoon once aired on Nickelodeon!! Ren and Stimpy were animals, who carried out human activities, making the situations they were put in comical to viewers. Considering the fact that the audience of this cartoon was children and teens, if humans were put in the same situations, would the cartoon be just as funny/appropriate? I'm pretty sure if this cartoon displayed humans in the place of these two animals, it would not be allowed to be aired on a children's network. I also think that if humans were put in place of animals, this cartoon would appeal to a completely different audience. It would probably still be funny, but for an entirely different reason. It would appeal to people who could relate to and had a knowledge of the situations the cartoons were put in. Although i do not remember much about this cartoon, as far as what occurred, i do remember thinking it was funny, and i now wonder if it was mainly because they were these ridiculous little animals, creating mischief. Does the use of animals in this cartoon really change it's meaning/appropriateness?
I believe this cartoon was able to get by the censorship of the media, and be exposed to children due to the use of "fur and fangs," and I'm pretty sure it is not alone. I'm curious as to how many more children's cartoons today are actually borderline appropriate, and have used the application of animals in order to slip by censorship of the media. I know, from babysitting, many parents are trying to prevent their children form watching any cartoons at all. Although i now understand why, this idea is crazy to me. I couldn't imagine my childhood without cartoons! Have children's cartoons always been this way, and people are just becoming more aware of it? Or is a change in the values of our society that is creating this increased need of censorship?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"The Funnies" seriously funny

The comic strip has been used by many newspapers to gain a wider range of readership, attract younger readers and to offer comic relief. The motives behind many comics are various, but usually attempt to poke fun or point out the ironic mishaps of life. We are expected to relate to these comics through out own experiences, and knowledge of mass culture.  
Comics and this genre of art take the temperature of the times and acts as a healthy diagnosis as well as prescription of what our culture is healing from, going through and thinking about. However, many of today's comics that I find in the papers tend to not be as harsh or "loaded" as they once were. With all the "political correction" and restrictions going on  I find it more likely to see a comic which is numb and safe. It is less frequent that I see a comic that tries to point out a cultural issue of which the artist can not remain anonymous ,which hold the same impact as The Yellow Kid.
The comic today I feel is more trapped than comics when they first began. Although comics are still powerful, there are certain things which papers will not publish. The freedom of speech once held through comics like The Yellow kid became a way to release tension on cultural isolation. The Yellow kid was easy to read given that it did not require knowing English to read it.  It had more salt to it and caused more of a stir and created unity with its readers. 
Today's comics at times do not even prick the surface. Some are not even funny or suggestive of anything.  They are "safe comics" which are pre-ordered by the press and society.  What I mean is that art has become what it was back in the 16th c in a sense that it is control ed. 
The Fiat Lux paper on campus works the same way. Even though we are a newspaper and free to publish what we wish, we are still funded by the school and other words controlled into favoring the school. In the past, issues have been pulled and hidden on perspective student days in order to hide a particular story which featured made the school look unfavorable. 
The comics in the Fiat are sometimes watered down or nonexistent. Some comics are paid for. Comics and good comics at that can get costly. We are not a self sustaining paper although we receive our budget from the school  we prefer to find things for free when and where we can. The comics you see most in the Fiat are free, and the comics we accept from students are free for the most part. Still The Fiat must choose and sensor which comics to publish. Anything that is against the school or members of faculty will most likely be denied.  Considering that many of the comics we receive have school slandering content we are many times forced to instead publish comics which are not relevant to our local AU culture.
  In this sense comics are becoming soft and irrelevant and the comics which are worth publishing are censored and suppressed. Comics may pack a punch, but whether they get to the front page is up to the ones who control the news which many times happen to be the things of which the comic features. 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Body As Caricature

So far I've been focusing on examining and discussion caricature mostly in relation to the face/head as is the traditional form. However now, considering the body in relation to this image certain ideas are suggested. The woodcut aesthetic of the piece suggests and extenuates curvature and mass of the body while retaining a hyper realistic appearance. The larger than life size also serves to command attention towards the depiction of mass. The piece's existence as a form of graffiti also serves to add a tone of social commentary. As a type of caricature the portrayal of the body differs from facial variety in this difference in foci is distinct. This aspect of caricature is often found in political cartoons, the stature and mass, thickness, width of the body in relation to prevalent political figures serves to comment upon public and personal opinion of the standing of the character.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

There are monsters, and there are MONSTERS

When I was looking for a caricature to write the last paper on, I was struck by the images of The Seven Deadly Sins portrayed by Paul Cadmus. I feel like these images are also comparable to Burn’s journal, Party Animals.

Paul Cadmus’s work involves satiric, sensual imagery often painted with a medium called egg tempera. His style falls into the category of magic realism, where illogical scenarios are inserted into an otherwise rational scene.

Cadmus’s Seven Deadly Sins are real monsters compared to Beard’s animals. Cadmus’s monsters are not portrayed committing acts of gluttony and corruption; their physiognomy: dysfunctional bloated limbs, over exaggerated musculature, extra eyes, skin oozing off, stomachs ripping at the seams, hideous claws and teeth are in themselves symbols of human failings. Their structures defeat their purpose. Lust for instance is too aggressive to be remotely attractive, her makeup is gaudy and almost clownish, and her exaggerated vagina seems like gapping wound. One is disgusted, horrified, intrigued by their forms, however like the animal imagery used by Beard and Nast we can relate to these creatures. They process enough similarity to the human physic that we can read their message and relate to them on some level. Indeed, they are so grotesque one wonders if the artist is playing off societies' condemnation and fears regarding these sins. For, it is human nature to process some sort of lust, greed, and sloth, but not to the excess of Cadmus’s creations.

Paul Cadmus is also similar to Beard, in that their art bridges a link between caricature (social criticism) and high art. Both are skilled artist able to render both humans and animals in a very realistic way. However, the subject matter, Beard’s bears gorging on melons and Cadmus’s erotic, sometimes homosexual, themes create disgust, discomfort, and even censorship in their audience. The subject matter that these two artists chose to pursue caused their art to be challenged and question, consequentially pushing the boundaries and broadening the definition of high art.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The beasts that Plague Man and Beast Alike

Have you ever seen the movie Watership Down? Well, it’s a pretty violent movie considering the main characters are these animated (in the Disney style) bunnies. I remember seeing it when I was a young child, and it being pretty horrifying. In fact, it stuck in my mind with such resonance, that I immediately thought of it when I was reading Burns’ journal, of how Nast and Burns used animal imagery to portray the high emotions, corruption, and crudeness that characterized the political atmosphere (particularly the stock market) of the late 1800s, early 1900s. I watched Watership Down once again today and it’s still pretty horrifying.

Burn’s journal discuses how human behavior in the late 1800s sometimes conflicted with the bourgeois' high standards regarding social codes of conduct and the practice of restraining one’s emotions in a social setting. It was a time of high stakes for the American economy. An unregulated market allowed people to take out risky loans or, like Gould and Fisk, advantage of the market. The fluctuation of money and politics is closely linked to fluctuations of human emotions, and during a crash, or in the fight to get one’s party into power, man is never seen at his most civilized or best. The artist Burns, in particular, was a master at depicting the chaos of wall street as well as the corruption of politics using animal figures to represent the primitiveness of human nature. Using animals to represent humans is an effective choice because creatures like Bares and Rabbits are similar enough to humans in physic, as well being mammals, and having some sort of social structure within their colony, that they can be personified doing human activates. Humans can relate to the imagery. However, one can also distance them self enough from the animals, and on a certain level feel superior to their primitive ways. What is being ridiculed are the vices: gluttony, greed, and violence, rather than specifically human’s acting on or carrying out these vices. The generality of the imagery has the effect of being less offensive to the viewer. However, the inference that humans are wild and animals at heart is more offensive, and leads the viewer to the conclusion that civilization is fragile, as well as a construct.

The movie Watership Down is a commentary or allusion to government. The characters Hazel, Blackberry, Bigwig, and Fiver set up a democratic colony on a hill, which at the end of the movie is threatened by a more anarchistic colony. Actually, there are three monarchies they encounter throughout the film, each with it’s own problems. The one they originally escape from is ineffective, the other deceitful, and the third barbaric. The film and relationships of the Rabbits demonstrate the values of loyalty, courage and cunning as well as the less honorable, indulgence, mutiny, and stupidity. It portrays the atrocities that occur when a ruthless government comes to power, along with the horrors and sacrifice of war. All very human like emotions and activates, yet portrayed by rabbits. The audience is able to recognize the social structures of government, as well as the honorable and not so honorable qualities of each rabbit. It is clear which side should win, and one gets caught up in desiring, the welfare and survival of the main characters. However, the film in generalizing monarchy as a structure, as well as the criticizing nameless brutes who run it, Watership Down is not any specific government, leaving the audience free to criticize the actions and emotions without too much self comparison.

Monday, March 1, 2010

I'm doing a simple posting this week by just featuring Claude Monet's caricatures. Not many people know Monet for his caricatures. He made them early in his life during his teenage years. Of course later he abandoned drawing for oil painting as his focus. I an exhibit on his drawings at the Clarke Institute and was astounded by their excellent portrayal. They reflect the style of western illustration in the 1800's with large heads and small bodies. Often Monet drew members of parliament or celebrities he knew of. There was little politicization behind the images and were mostly aimed at humorous renders.

This is a mobile wire sculpture of the French dancer/performer, Josephine Baker constructed by Alexander Calder in the early 1900s. When turned by a crank in the back the sculpture seductively gyrates her hips, which causes subtle vibrations in her upper body and arms. Among other things, Baker was famous for her seductive often almost nude erotic performances. Alexander Calder was a genus at creating graceful, sometimes comic, moving sculptures (or that eluded to motion). Some of his work includes his miniature traveling circus, his mobiles, and in his latter year his larger (more) permanent steel structures.

This particular piece is a caricature in the sense that it portrays a person in one opinionated still, in the stylized lines of the wire. However, being three dimensional as well as mobile, adds another element to the work. We can look at Alexander’s take on how Josephine Baker moved as well as what she looked like. I was thinking about this sculpture in terms of flat and round characters, and I feel this sculpture is pretty flat it the sense that it is not attempting the show Baker's relationship to her time period and other figures within the time period, or making a particular statement. However, there is still something very intriguing about it. It captured her way of moving, her mode of expressing herself to her audience. It is complex (round) in how it is an expression of an expression. It’s almost as if the complexities of it’s structure make up for the lack of information one can draw about Josephine?

It’s interesting in reading about Baker’s history; one can place a unintentional (on the artist’s part) Feminist interpretation on the sculpture. As I mentioned earlier in this blog, in order to make the Baker sculpture move, someone has to rotate the crank in the back. In the video I watched on Calder, I saw Calder rotating the lever. If one were to generalize Calder down to the meager level of a man, one could interpret the piece as indicative that Baker was manipulated by men, and in turn manipulated men by dancing in her seductive way. Josephine Baker was taken advantage of by several men including male producers, especially considering strong evidence that she was a lesbian.