The Best 23 Albums of 2011…

…a completely subjective, personal list that was based entirely on how much I played them and/or was inspired by them, and regardless of when they came out. So here they are – artist, album (conveniently linked for your perusal), and year of release.

m83 – hurry up we’re dreaming (2011) 

battles – gloss drop (2011)

broken bells – broken bells (2010) 

the national – high violet  (2010) 

doves – kingdom of rust (2009) 

tori amos – abnormally attracted to sin (2009)

bat for lashes – two suns (2009) 

beck – modern guilt (2008)

the shins – wincing the night away (2007) 

the national – alligator (2005)

radiohead – OK computer (2003)

the decemberists – castaways and cutouts (2003) 

yeah yeah yeahs – fever to tell (2003)

broken social scene – you forgot it in people (2002)

doves – the last broadcast (2002)

neko case – blacklisted (2002)

cake – comfort eagle (2001)

modest mouse – building something out of nothing (2000)

holly golightly – God don’t like it (2000)

soul coughing – el oso (1998)

alice in chains – dirt (1992)

the pixies – trompe le monde (1991)

tom waits – rain dogs (1985)

Now if I had to pick 3 absolutely essential recordings from this list, I think I’d pick the Tom Waits, the Neko Case, and the latest The National albums. But, then again, it seems to me that the whole “desert island list” thing is played out and – at least now days – ill-conceived. Right now I can carry pretty much every piece of music I’ve ever owned in the cloud… so let’s not say this is a desert island list, no. Let’s say it’s an electro-magnetic-pulse list. An EMP has hit the earth and YOU – you alone – have a way to play a select bit of music in our post-EMP world. What would you play?

Yes, I think I could survive with some Neko, some Waits, and some National. But, man, I’d really need some Shins and Radiohead…

What are your EMP essentials?

Keep rocking in 2012, folks! (image above taken by Jake Johnson)

Ghost Writing?

One of my favorite songs, from one of my all-time favorite albums (Blacklisted) and one of my all-time favorite artists (Neko Case), is called Ghost Writing. Click here to listen to the track – I suggest a late night and low light and the tension of strange memories to enhance the listening.

One of the song’s enduring aspects is the short, whispered sentence that precedes the opening bars of music. I had listened to the track dozens of times before I heard it, and now it’s something that I love to bend in close to hear – especially when traveling late at night on empty roads, or ensconced in my dark studio trying to suss out glory from paint. Below is the section in question, pulled out and enhanced. What do you think is going on here? I’d love if people left comments suggesting possibilities….

Ghost Writing Intro Whisper (mp3 format)

Peking Duck With Jackie and Jade

I’m so glad to know Jackie – one of our grads here in the Art Program at Mizzou – who recently finished her requirements for an MFA in Painting. Originally from Guangzhou, China, Jackie has been here in the US for about 4 years. Here’s an a short piece about her from Vox Magazine and another, longer piece from the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Tonight she (and Jade!) took my family out for Peking Duck at House of Chow. It was amazing!

And here is one of Jackie’s works for which I posed… Right or Left (“Not with that hand, my granddaughter!”) 40 by 32 inches, Pastel on Mi-Tientes Board.

Thanks for the meal, Jackie… and for all the good work!

Remembering Dancer in the Dark

The last time I saw a Lars von Trier work in the theater it was the single most devastating experience I have had with a film. My wife (then girlfriend) and I saw Dancer in the Dark in late 2000, and had to travel to see it since it had a limited theatrical run.

The movie stirred the sort of emotional tension to which most films can only remotely aspire. Bjork’s performance was so direct and full; a true lived-in reality for her. It was a performance for which she won best female performance at Cannes. It was also one she reported as being extremely difficult emotionally, uncomfortable intellectually, and nearly torturous overall. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I mean. Bjork has been widely quoted about her experience with von Trier and her feelings about the film, but one thing she has said sticks with me:  “Lars doesn’t consider it his responsibility to make sure people are psychologically stable after he’s worked with them in such an intense way.”

I expect he probably operates the same way in regards to his audience as well.

After the epic final scenes in Dancer in the Dark, so charged with emotion and a visceral sense of anger and hopelessness, Alison and I openly wept for minutes on end. Feeling the horror of what was to happen, our eyes streamed, but the silent tears were transformed to loud cries and groans as the credits rolled. Many others sat there in the dark as well; they were crushed and crying, too. I’ve never been as emotionally undone in public before. It was an unforgettable experience.

Kirsten Dunst in a still from Melancholia

So it is that I am filled with some trepidation… tonight I’ll be seeing von Trier’s Melancholia with friends. Will I find myself as torn, as moved? Will I have such an unforgettable reaction to this film as well? Great artworks are like this: so pungent, so evocative, that they literally precede themselves with palpable force.

An iconic, alchemical image from Melancholia

I’m looking forward to this experience.

Fall 2011 Color Drawing

Every semester I have to make more posts about how awesome my Color Drawing classes are. 

Above: Marissa Valentino’s amazing Colored Pencil drawing of a head from our group project.

Students assembling one of our large group drawings.

Hannah and Vincent hard at work on a final figure work for the course.

Emily Armstrong’s 44 by 30 inch figure drawing in progress on the easel. You can see our parachute stage setup there behind. We love that parachute!

Above and below: A selection of drawings from the second half of the semester we pulled out for a group crit – some in progress, others complete. Overall a great effort by my students this year!

India Watts working on her Matisse master study.

The final group project installed in one of the stairwells at the University of Missouri.