Friday, May 22, 2009


See how we learn from nature?  Have a great Memorial Day weekend.

Photos by Bob Airhart at TrekNature and Len Swartz via War Stories.

The Rabbit Kicks Back

...In his burrow, that is ...with a Memorial Day brewskie.  From holes to burrows to, well, caves – where we started as a species.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves, which is, as Thomas Hardy notes in his poem, The Milestone by the Rabbit-Burrow, something we humans do well.

(On Yell’Ham Hill)

In my loamy nook
As I dig my hole
I observe men look
At a stone, and sigh
As they pass it by
To some far goal.

Something it says
To their glancing eyes
That must distress
The frail and lame,
And the strong of frame
Gladden or surprise.

Do signs on its face
Declare how far
Feet have to trace
Before they gain
Some blest champaign
Where no gins are?

Poem and image via The Reader.

Nest Holes Are for Babies

Baby squirrels pic by Randy Mehoves.

Bird Chateaux



To adapt a well known saying about Englishmen and their homes, a bird's nest is her castle.  I've been thinking about nest holes, in particular, since early spring.  I started to see them everywhere in trees around that time.  I guess because I was getting ready to put my own human bird box, the Homeless Chateau, outside in the garden –something I finally did today (pix very soon). 

Around here, in the Hudson Valley, nest holes are, I think, mostly made by woodpeckers and squirrels.  That's fine with me, as long as they stay out of the eaves of my house.  Fortunately, the oaks and maples round about seem to suffice.  Comparing my house to those of birds, squirrels and other hole-dwelling creatures, and given humans' apparent excesses as a species, I can't help meditating on that word – that humble, yet efficacious notion – "suffice."

What does it mean to know what you need, and, at the moment you achieve what you need, leave it at that?  To improvise a home in the hollow of a tree or riverbank, or carve one out from scratch, but always – and only – as big as is necessary to safely raise a family and take shelter from the rain and the cold.  The indefatigable logic of nature has it that birds, squirrels and other home-building creatures know when to stop, instinctively.  So, why don't we?

Minimalist birdhouse pic from Birds and Blooms Magazine, and nest hole pic from Wanderin' Weeta.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Homeless Chateau in Thailand

We may need to call this Asian Week, here in Beacon, NY (see my last post about Big Bambú).  I've just received word that the Homeless Chateau has been written about in the "Technology, Gadgets and Geeky" section of My Siam.  And three is a charm:  Ran into a friend at the health food store, today, who wants some bamboo from my garden (it's big, but not that big).

More about the Homeless Chateau here.

PS:  The Starns' Big Bambú is not to be confused with (or is it) the 1972 Cheech and Chong album of the same name, or Big Bambu (no acute accent), the bamboo rolling papers made by a Spanish company, Bambu, which was recently convicted of using carcinogens in its papers to cut costs.  Bad trip.  

...But wait, are the Starn Brothers saying that their Big Bambú is like a giant spliff, or a stoner joke ...or could be made into rolling papers when the piece is deinstalled?  I'll keep you posted.

Starns Big Bambú/Bamboo Reception

In Beacon, NY this coming weekend, May 15-17, 11am-4pm, the Starn brothers' Big Bambú installation at the old Tallix foundry will be open to the public.  I've seen this piece a couple of times and it rocks – or, as the Chinese say, kicks tiger and dragon butt!  Reception party Sunday, May 17 at 3:30pm.

And the Antoni Tàpies show opens, in what was the Agnes Martin gallery, at Dia:Beacon on Saturday the 16th.  

Also at Dia:Beacon on the 16th, the last of the current series of Merce Cunningham dance performances (sold out, but you might catch glimpses from hallways and galleries adjoining the Imi Knoebel, 24 Colors-for Blinky gallery, and the live score is always interesting, from near or afar).

Image via the Starns.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

River Series Catch-Up

Working on a group of "River" paintings the last couple of months.  More on my website, soon.  Tom Moore did some installation shots at the Firehouse Gallery, here in Beacon, last week and we got a bit punchy.  He surprised me with this little stop-motion movie (rough cut):

Photos Tom Moore.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Is Polyurethane Good for You?

As I've been using heavy-duty gymnasium floor polyurethane to weatherize the Homeless Chateau's structural panels these past few days, I don't actually know the answer to this question, or any questions.  In fact, I can barely count the fingers on my hands or remember my name.  Such is the effect of huffing poly in my basement studio.  Not intentionally, mind you (those days are over).  I do have the doors and windows open and an extractor fan on.  I don't think I'd be writing this, if I hadn't had some ventilation.

In the past, I've used polyurethane so green it was almost drinkable, for the Plywood Chateaux, for example.  But part of the "fun" (hah!) - or necessity - of the Homeless Chateau is doing it on the cheap.  And, as I had a five gallon bucket of gymnasium floor coating left over from another job and beginning to turn into Jello, I thought I'd do the right thing and save it from going in the landfill, and destroy some brain cells.  See how I ramble?  Entirely the fault of gymnasium floor poly.

Blessedly, the final coat goes on tomorrow, then it dries overnight and, hopefully, reassembly of the Homeless Chateau in its new artist residency location begins on Tuesday, weather and health permitting.

Friday, May 1, 2009

From Even Tinier Beginings

It's been a bit of a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride to get from the first inklings of an idea, more than a year and a half ago, to the Homeless Chateau finally being erected in its semi-permanent artist residency location.  A little known fact about the Homeless Chateau is that its original working title was Chateau for Homeless Artist.  It evolved into the Homeless Chateau to address and raise awareness about the broader issues of homelessness.  

With that mission accomplished (in a small way), and with no takers on my offer of the Homeless Chateau for free to anyone who could ensure that it would directly benefit a homeless person, the little building is finally going outside into the big wide world, where it will be, I hope, a laboratory for artists to explore the barest essentials of their environmental and creative needs.

Picture is of the Homeless Chateau scale model (G.I. Joe/Action Man 1:6 scale), 2008, plywood, vinyl, rubber, clear plastic, homemade sleeping bag and pillow, 9 x 8 x 16 inches. 

Homeless Chateau Artist Residency Program

Ground is broken and the foundation laid for the Homeless Chateau artist residency program, here in Beacon, New York.  Set in a private garden in the Hudson Valley, fifty miles north of NYC, the Homeless Chateau is ten minutes walk from Dia:Beacon, fifteen minutes from Beacon's Metro North train station, and five minutes from Main Street shops, restaurants and galleries.   

Artists-in-residence will live and work inside the 4 x 4 x 8-foot structure for up to a week at a time.  The Homeless Chateau is expected to be the smallest fully self-contained artist residency structure in the world.  It contains a sleeping mat, single-burner propane camp stove, shelves for storage and a (non-stinky) chemical toilet.  Power is provided directly to the structure and water is available from an outdoor spigot, nearby.  Artists must bring their own sleeping bag, food and art supplies.  Filtered drinking water is provided.

The Homeless Chateau is a three season structure with one four-foot square window and one four-foot square door for cooling and light.  Both are fitted with insect screens.  A compact electric fan is provided for the warmer months and an electric heater for the cooler months.  The structure is located in a shady part of the garden to aid natural cooling, and is also protected by an 8 x 12-foot tarpaulin.

Artists-in-residence have access to a shower inside the property's main structure, a converted 1900 school gymnasium.  There is an option to rent a 600 square-foot day studio in the main structure for $50/day ($350 for a weeklong residency).  This includes access to a utility sink, toilet, washer and dryer.  There is no charge for living and working in the Homeless Chateau.  At some point in the future, it is hoped that grants will cover the day studio fee and that stipends may also be offered. 

Coming soon:  The origins of a tiny residency program, and polyurethaning the modular components to make them ready for assembly outdoors.  Stay tuned!