Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Assignment #6: Public Poetry

Stephen Knight, a notorious art history/drawing professor of mine was very vocal of his discontent for using text in art. In his opinion, including text was a way to make up for a lack of strength in your visual imagery. While this was not a terrible lesson to learn, I have since learned what an important place language can have in art. Zach Houston, our latest featured artist, knows this lesson quite well.

From Houston, we can glean not only the beauty of arranging words in an off-the-cuff fashion, but the power in publicly sharing those words. The artist does so in a way that almost releases them from his ownership, letting them belong to someone else, anyone else. This idea inspired our next assignment.

Assignment #6: Public Poetry

Write a short (around 5 lines), impromptu poem or verse on a random topic. Then, create a vehicle with which to share your words publicly and capture and image of what you create.

Sound confusing? Let me explain. What we're looking for is an image of the words you write (therefore, don't worry about making them super-personal or involved...although they can be!) once you have written or posted them somewhere for others to see. Maybe you write them in Sharpie in a bathroom stall and snap a photo (but I cannot recommend that). Maybe you make a message in a bottle and toss it into the Pacific (though I don't condone littering). Maybe you write it with your finger in a foggy mirror. Get the idea? Also, your poem can be anything from a little ditty about your favorite snack to a sentimental verse for a loved one. Doesn't matter. The point of this project is sharing your thoughts, releasing them into the world. Below is the project I created for this assignment. When looking for inspiration for my poem (which I wrote in about 3 minutes on the back of an envelope), I looked no further than my desk where an old pair of reading glasses lay. Then I scrawled my words crudely onto a balloon and let 'er rip. It's not my fault it got stuck in a tree. :(

Also, please notice the new format for submissions. Make sure to write your name, assignment, and materials. I can't wait to see your creations! Xxxxx.

Picture maker: Ashley
Assignment: #6 Public Poetry
Materials: Brain, sharpie, balloon, ribbon

Friday, April 24, 2009

Featured Artist: Zach Houston

Oakland-based artist/poet Zach Houston refuses to be another starving artist. His ongoing project "Poem Store" is hardly ironically titled: Houston sets up camp (handmade sign, manual typewriter and all) at any number of public places to write impromptu poetry for donating patrons. For Houston, no given topic is too too precious or too banal, and he writes his cogent, free-verse poems with genuine sincerity and touches of humor, the resulting white sheet of minimal type equally charming in its own right. Suffice it to say, customers rarely ask for their money back.

This former Sonoma State University student is hardly your run-of-the-mill street performing eccentric. In addition to "Poem Store," Houston has been involved in exhibitions at Johansson Projects in Oakland, New York's White Columns Gallery, and the current inaugural exhibition in Berlin's new Golden Parachutes, the majority of his work dealing with "language and trope" as well as reacting to an economy with little sympathy for artists and writers. Thanks to the help of our dear friends Paul and Jesi of Golden Parachutes, Zach agreed to answer our "12 Questions," enlightening us to a bit of his style and inspiration. Learn more about Zach Houston at

12 Questions with Zach Houston

Q: At what moment did you first feel like an artist?
A: birth

Q: What has been your biggest art faux pas?
A: birth

Q: Whose style do you most admire?
A: universe

Q: If your work had a soundtrack, what would it be?
A: sound

Q: What is your trademark?
A: money

Q: Name your dream collaborative team.
A: every living and dead

Q: How does where you live affect the art you make?
A: very well thank you I live in California

Q: If you could travel back to any era for its art and lifestyle, what
time would you visit?
A: utopian future

Q: Sum up your aesthetic in 3 adjectives.
A: person place and everything (adsictives)

Q: What is your must-have when you're at work in your studio?
A: "if you want everyone to have work you are part of problem" Di Prima

Q: If money was no object, what major project might you take on?
A: end war starvation poverty money

Q: What work of art that you've personally seen has most moved you?
A: psychedelics

*All images courtesy of Golden Parachutes except for heading photo of Zach, which comes from Johansson Projects' Flickr album. Other images include a photo of Zach's "Poem Store" by Casey Bisson, the drawing "Advertising Rienhart Descending a Staircase to Another Woman" (Johansson Projects), and the ink on paper drawing "It's Not a Choice, it's a) moral quantity b) the war" (2007).