The Mind’s I with Anne Harris

Over the last couple of days I had the great privilege and honor to get to work alongside Anne Harris on an iteration of her ongoing installation project, The Mind’s I (click here for more info). This version of the project took place at the University of Central Missouri. Two colleagues of mine who taught at Mizzou in the past and who earned their MFAs at Indiana University like I did – Melanie Johnson and Chris Lowrance – were involved as well, as were a number of other UCM faculty and students. I brought several of my grads along for one day of the project, then I went back to work again the next day. It was a great experience.


Anne Harris at work on the project on Saturday, November 4, 2016.


Zach Nutt and Nikos Karabetsos at work, November 3, 2016.


I focused on the abstract shaping of my head foreshortened in a mirror. The strange roundness of my neck was compelling; these are some of the first self-reflective observational/figurative works I’ve made since my heart attack in February.

Below: I also incorporated some linocut Cloud of Unknowing prints into a few of my works; I really like how they turned out.

Overall it was that bulbous shape I was interested in, and how the ceiling lights altered and occuluded what I could see of myself in the strange angle of the mirror.


All of my pieces are mixed media on paper, 11×10 inches, November 3 and 4, 2016.

As you can see in the panorama above, the works were arranged in a grid to fill the space, and each one included date and time information. The array of times were an important aspect of the installation, asking viewers to consider the ween and among the works and their makers. The sense of a shared space, with each person’s intentionality bent toward the question of perception and identity, was palpable.


My piece (center) is to the right of an Anna Harris drawing. Two Simon Tatum pieces project from the wall below.


It was particularly cool to see Anne working and arranging the installation of the works. On Friday, I got to spend several hours in conversation with her about tons of topics, from misogyny in art to adoption, from color theory to the goings on at SAIC (Anne teaches there, and I earned by BFA there in 20o1). It was an amazing time. Anne is smart, warm, and inclusive, and gave lots of attention to everyone who wanted to chat with her. It was such a treat to get to hang out with her!


Above are several more works by my students Nikos, Simon, Amy Meyer, and Guigen Zha.


Above: Honorary grad Simon at work. Below: our host, Melanie Johnson working a self portrait.


On Friday evening a group of us went to eat at Brown and Loe, a fantastic restaurant in Kansas City’s River Market area.


Thanks so much to Melanie for inviting me and my students to participate, and to Anne for the great conversation and generosity of spirit she has.

Becoming The Student: Jacob Luis Gonzales

“Right now I have a Left Ventricular Assistive Device (LVAD) helping my heart function. When the doctors at Barnes Jewish Hospital originally put this device in my body they said I had a 50% chance of living with it until July 2016, and I recently heard this a couple of weeks ago. This forced me to think about what I want people to remember about me if I do pass away. ” – Jacob Luis Gonzales, January 2016


Above: Conversations With Jake. Digital drawing, created in Procreate on an iPad Pro using an Apple Pencil. October 2016.

I’ve been wanting to work up a portrait of Jake for a while. The last year + of his life has been extremely hard. He went through 13 major (life-saving) surgeries over the summer of 2015, was resuscitated over 75 times, experienced fevers as high as 108 degrees, and has had to relearn how to do essentially everything. 

But I don’t want to just make some inspiration porn. Jake doesn’t need that. No one does.

I want to encourage you to hear his own voice, his own story in his own words. First, go read through some of that narrative at his blog. Second, consider donating to his on-going care. He needs help, from more complex stuff to just the basics. Go to his Go Fund Me page to directly donate. If you’d rather help out in a different way, I’m selling some artworks to help Jake and Ali: go here to see Situation and Circumstance Overcome – if you like it, order it, and I’ll give 100% of the sale to the Gonzaleses. Here’s what it looks like:


Lastly, if you are local and a friend, consider making time to go hang out with Jake and Ali. The time I spent drawing Jake was full of laughter, real talk, sharp wit, intense remembrances, and some solid sports and movie talk. They’re awesome people. 

Thanks for being a part of project, Jake (and Ali’s feet!).

Preparing for Halloween!

Once again we carved our pumpkins. It’s always a fun event and I look forward to it every year. Check out the kiddos’ works in progress:)


Atticus loved drawing in where to put the eyes and mouth for me to carve. Then I let him unleash the paint…


CaiQun really got coverage on her pumpkin!!


Finally, Miranda got hers underway with some intense primary colors, then some spray paint.

The girls did most of the gutting of the pumpkins themselves – a first for us! We also used LED lights in our pumpkins this year, which is also new. They look pretty epic:)

A List of Glorious Podcasts

A lot of people ask me what sort of aural stimulation I use in my studio. I have to admit that it used to be all music all the time for me. But roughly eight years ago I began to incorporate audio-books and educational materials (The Great Courses, etc). At this point I would say 90% of the time I’m listening to podcasts or audio-books.

Below are my favorite podcasts – and a few illustrations, created with love by me, for the best ones.

While the list certainly changes over time, and though this list doesn’t name every podcast I am subscribed to, the productions below are definitely my go-to audio accompaniments. I’m going to sort them into two groups. The first – Current Must-Listens – are at the top of the heap. The second group – Tried and True – are the ‘casts that always deliver great content and keep me coming back episode after episode, year after year.

Current Must-Listens

The Greatest Generation

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Benjamin Ahr Harrison and Adam Prancia bring joyful derision to our favorite Star Trek series – The Next Generation. To me, their repartee breathes new life into a series that has been endlessly parsed. Hilarious ongoing bits about Kevin Uxbridge, PiCosby, and Wesley (the boy? MY SON!) are the X factor. The quality of the production and the overall tone make this one my current favorite.

Highlight: Just start at the beginning. And don’t forget to check in with them on Reddit.

The Last Podcast on the Left

What’s got serial killers, conspiracy theories, and the greatest Jesse Ventura impression of all time? The Last Podcast on the Left does, “LIVE FROM YOUR GRAVE!” This one is not for the faint of heart. Really fun, very irreverent, and willing to make human monsters the brunt of brutal comedy, this podcast is a great mix of humor and information. This production should be considered rated R for language and explicit discussion of what serial killers – and various government entities – do. Kudos to Henry, Marcus, and Ben!

Highlight: The Illuminati with special guest, Jesse Ventura: http://cavecomedyradio.com/podcast-episode/episode21-the-illuminati/

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Undisclosed

Picking up where Serial (Season 1) left off, Undisclosed brought a granular investigation ethic and unique investigators to the ongoing case of Adnan Syed in their first season. Rabia Chaudry is an extremely educated woman and a person of distinguished accomplishments. She has advocated for Adnan and was the impetus for Serial to get off the ground. She and her team on Undisclosed – Susan Simpson and Colin Miller – have built a winning formula for compelling listening. I appreciate the sound of the podcast, the melodious voice and clear authority of Chaudry, and the sharp character of Simpson. Their second season is absolutely excellent.

See Rabia’s website here: http://www.rabiachaudry.com/

 

The Tried and True

West Wing Weekly

What else do you need to know? Actor Joshua Malina and Podcaster/West Wing expert Hrishikesh Hirway go in depth and behind the scenes with the amazing cast and production staff of one of the best television shows ever produced. If you love the series, what are you waiting for?

Reel Friends

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Josh Matejka and Jesse Slade host Reel Friends, an exploration of movies that is both highbrow and lowbrow. You can expect to hear as much about art house films and documentaries as you do about the latest super hero summer blockbuster. There is a nice mix of humor and serious analysis in this podcast, and a real sense of just a few friends sitting around talking about movies.

 To My Future Vinyl Collectors

To My Future Vinyl Collectors is Jesse Slade’s baby. He loves vinyl and loves listening to music with good friends over beers with a hearty helping of conversation afterward. I appreciate his commitment to conducting a full listen to the album in question, immediately followed by a conversation from those who heard it. A recurring mix of friends (including yours truly) stops by for these listening/recording parties, and the variety of voices makes it evocative. Definitely worth exploring.

Highlight: Listening Party #5: Fleetwood Mac – Rumors

TMFVC Blog: http://futurevinylcollectors.com/

Star Wars Minute

SWM makes the franchise both more fun and less impressive in an interesting way. What I mean is that when you see the weaknesses and plot holes and poor choices from a minute-by-minute perspective, well, it makes you question not only your own appreciation for the movies but also the sanity of those who made them. So on the one hand you get a wonderful glimpse into the mechanics of what’s happening throughout the scenes and with the characters. On the other hand you get to parse the idiocies and embrace them for what they are – entertainment.

Casefile

A true crime podcast with an international team, this venture brings a unique perspective to a genre that’s been so dominated by American voices and problems. Sometimes Rated R for descriptions of violent crimes.

Criminal

Phoebe Judge crafts a distinctive, beautiful podcast that is about much more than criminals and crimes. It’s about the human condition first and foremost, and it causes engaged listeners to question their assumptions. Highly recommended.

Revisionist History

Malcolm Gladwell explores history, meaning, sociology, economics, and so much more, all with his distinctive perspective. A challenging, forceful excursion into what is going on in the world.

Sawbones

This is one of the most fun podcasts out there. Geeky with a double dose of Pliny, Sawbones makes medical history – and in particular, the developments that brought us to medicine as it is today – super interesting and connected to every day life. Dr. Sydnee McElroy has a wonderful presence in this podcast, and she plays the straight man to her husband’s jokes with grace.

This American Life

The original and still one of the absolute best, TAL has one of the incredible and comprehensive back catalogs. It simply has something for everyone. My favorite episodes?

John Hodgman on The Phantom Menace, Sarah Vowell on guns, and an abandoned house in the woods.

~

There are many other podcasts I could throw in this list (I’ve got 22 on my device), but I think this grouping gives the best overview. What are your favorites?

With Jane In Mississippi

I was in a fun show last month with one of my former grads, Jane Jun! Matt Ballou and Jane Jun: Identify featured self-portraits investigating our sense of self and projection of meaning. Though I really enjoyed many of Jane’s works on plexi that were in the exhibition, I personally love this one that has been hanging in my studio for years:

scanA sketch by Jane Jun that she gave me right before graduating a few years ago.

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Above you can see installation shots from the Columbus Art Council’s Rosenzweig Gallery in Mississippi. Jane Jun and I had a two person show there through the month of August. Jane was one of my grads, and she was wonderful to work with. I’m really grateful I got to be a part of her story.

2014-05-18 23.02.38Us, pointing off into the distance…

Though Jane lives in Korea now, I was able to arrange to put on this show of small works about identity and self-portraiture using many of the pieces Jane had in her Thesis Exhibition. Aislinn Nolte, a former student of mine as well, is now the director of the Columbus Art Center and helped us make connections. I’m pleased with how she hung the show and glad to have gotten to show some strange works that I made in 2015 with this exhibition in mind.

Ballou - Self Portrait With HaloSelf Portrait with Halo, acrylic on canvas, 2001.

The pieces I showed were reinterpretations of self portraits I had made as an undergraduate nearly 20 years ago. You can see the two new versions of my Self Portrait with Halo at the top of this post. My method was to take images of these older self portraits and rework them digitally in my iPad. After satisfied with the digital states, I printed the works out onto canvas using a large format printer here in the Mizzou Art Department. Finally, I mounted the prints onto panel, sealed them, and then worked back into them in acrylic or oil.

These new versions of the older works – as well as the multi-stepped process I used to create them, were intended to critique and transform the meaning of the original works in the light of my life experience since they were first created. The process mimicked my physical and intellectual changes, and resulted in pieces intended to be funny or poignant.

ballou-selfwithcandleSelf Portrait With Candle, digital state, 2015, after a work made in oil on panel in 2003.

 I had a good time preparing these works for exhibition and hope to show them again at some point. I’m sure Jane won’t mind!

JJ!

Post-Heart Attack Drawings

My recent work, titled WHENEVERWHEN, is a series of abstractions. A few days after I awoke from my heart attack I began to make drawings; from then on I worked almost exclusively on the WHENEVERWHEN series. The first images I created are below. I made them laying in my old room in my mother’s house while convalescing. I worked on them within two weeks of my cardiac arrest. All are available at $75 each, unframed ($100 gets you one custom framed). Email me at mattballou(at) gmail (dot) com to purchase. Click to enlarge the works.

img_0734Untitled WHENEVERWHEN drawing, crayon and marker on paper, 9 by 8 inches, 2016. SOLD.

img_0733Untitled WHENEVERWHEN drawing, crayon, white-out, and marker on paper, 7.5 by 9 inches, 2016.

img_0732Untitled WHENEVERWHEN drawing, crayon, white-out, and marker on paper, 8 by 9 inches, 2016.

img_0731Untitled WHENEVERWHEN drawing, crayon and marker on paper, 8 by 9 inches, 2016.

img_0730 Untitled WHENEVERWHEN drawing, collage, adhesive tape, ink, crayon and marker on paper, 10.25 by 9 inches, 2016.

My Little Brother Started College This Semester

destin4Destin, striking a pose…

I’m proud of the guy. He’s strong, smart, and pretty thoughtful (although it’s hard to find a picture of him that’s not a selfie taken in the bathroom). I know pursuing higher education is going to make him an even better thinker and doer in this world. His matriculation this semester is not only about his abilities and drive, but also about the vision that our mom had many years ago, as well as the guidance and mentoring our older sister provided. I think Destin would thank everyone – Walt, Stacey, and Denya, our Mom and Pastor Dan – for their efforts. I know he’ll make us even more proud.

destin2Stacey and Destin on a walk back in the day…

One of my favorite memories of Destin’s early years was when I’d come home from college to spend a few days with family and sometimes things would devolve into sword fighting…

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destin3That’s some glory right there!

Destin, I hope your first semester is rolling along amazingly well. When things get weird, strike a pose with a plastic sword like the old days.

It’ll help, brother.

~

Ground Zero

In 2004 my cousin Chris and I made a trip to New York City. We visited Ground Zero and toured around the site, getting a view of the excavation, and seeing how the very early stages of construction were going. This was before any of the current layout for the area was even agreed upon. There was an impromptu memorial set up in the early days of the recovery – a cross made from some of the material left after the obliteration of the Twin Towers. By the time Chris and I arrived it was set aside, lit, and visited by many thousands of visitors. Here’s one of the images we took.

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The aftermath of 9/11 is, unfortunately, mostly related to our National response to the events of that day… we can pretend that it’s about terrorism and extremism, but the negative changes are much more about the ways our leaders chose to articulate themselves  – and us with them – in the world. The world in which we have lived for the last 15 years is a result of those choices. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have been killed. Millions are displaced. The electorate of this country is fractured and disheartened. ISIS rose from the ashes of those we killed. A cross should stand for redemption and hope. Unfortunately, we can see after all of these years that we are more scared, more disrespected, and more disrespectful as a country than we were back then.

I hope we regroup and regrow. There were moments of passion, good faith, and love in the days, weeks, and years that followed 9/11. We must nurture those better angels. I hope we will, for my children and for my children’s children.

There’s still a chance to look at what we once refused to see.

There’s still a chance to come back and no longer “become the evil we deplore.”

~

 

 

Recent Publications

13725109_10154344363709491_3439759102298509937_oCollaborative digital artwork featured in the neotericART piece. See below.

I’ve had the great pleasure of having a few publications this year. I’ve always got 2 or 3 pieces in the works, so it makes sense that they’d come out from time to time. This year sees a brief but prestigious invitation and two wonderful panel discussions that I coordinated. If you’d like to check them out, see below:

Nerdrum Bio for Grove Dictionary of Art

Dr. Judith Rodenbeck of the University of California invited me to write a biography of Norwegian painter Odd Nerdrum for the Grove Dictionary of Art, an imprint of Oxford University Press (online version is here). Dr. Rodenbeck is the lead editor of the 2016 Grove Art update. My piece will be published in the next couple of months. I’m pretty excited about this!

A Non-Verbal Debate: Digital Collaborations

This piece, created for neotericART (where I have contributed for many years), is a discussion of online, live collaboration tools – digital whiteboards – and how artists are beginning to adapt them into their work. Just the tip of the iceberg on this developing practice!

You Make The Work By Performing It: A Roundtable Discussion on Oblique Perspective

The Finch is an amazing online publication co-edited by Richard Benari & Lauren Henki. They invited me to lead a group of my graduate students in a panel discussion about some of the ideas that Dorothea Rockburne brought up in a recent interview. Our far-ranging conversation was one of the best I’ve had in a long time.

Becoming the Student #29: Aarik Emerging

SMALLbecomingstudent-aarikAarik Emerging. Oil on canvas on panel, 13 by 84 inches. 2014-2016. Click the image above for a large version.

My friend Aarik Danielsen is a writer, a preacher, a father, a reader, a thinker, a worker, a lover of his wife and of his life and of the small joys that can pass between people who strive to connect. He’s a willing participant in art and music and making of all kinds. He wants to tell the truth about time and meaning and God. He wants to be thoughtful and honest in all that he does. He is a gentle, genuine soul.

aarik-lipdetailAarik Emerging, detail. Click for large view.

Two years ago I began a project to bring Aarik into my Becoming the Student project. He was willing to go along with my strange request to turn off all the lights in my studio and press my ancient flatbed scanner against his head… for 30 minutes. These scans became the basis for the painting that you see here.

Above: A shot of Aarik from the studio when I was making the scans…

aarik-plaiddetailAarik Emerging, detail. Click for large view.

aarik-detailhairAarik Emerging, detail. Click for large view.

Usually I have an interview to go along with these posts. The thing is that it seems to me that an interview – short, minor, without range – would minimize who Aarik tries to be. This observation isn’t meant to degrade my other Becoming the Student posts. I know they are limited. But I guess with Aarik’s what I wanted to do was focus on his emergence as a father. This painting is a celebration of his transformation – a chosen transformation – into a father. All that being a dad entails is strange and hard. None of us who are dads really know how to do it. And we all deal with issues we never thought we’d have to. So this image of a man appearing out of thick darkness, his characteristics manifesting in tenuous and tenebrist ways, is symbolic of every father’s attempt to become what he believes he ought. The multiplicity of it; each situation bringing about change and instantaneous adaptations… It’s where I find myself and where I imagine Aarik finds himself. It’s a holy discombobulation, fatherhood. One in which we fail moment by moment. By grace we try again.

Thank you for doing that, Aarik – trying and trying again. By grace.