September 21, 2014

Step One.

It's really not such a bad job. It's time-consuming, but interesting. The box on the left contains 2000 slides. By rough estimation I am about half-way through moving the slides from their cumbersome carousels and boxes to their new home in archival slide sheets. I'm waiting for more sheets to arrive.  The next step is to scan them. That's going to be the heavy-lifting part of this gig. I'm taking this in steps, which allows me to think abut future projects that will inevitably come from this work and how best to archive and organize these images.

Someone recently gave me unsolicited advice that I might benefit from a group dedicated to Adult Children of Hoarders. Other people mistake my interest in personal history as nostalgia. I'm not sure how to answer either of those comments politely. I grew up as an only child and ever since I could remember I've considered myself an artist. It really didn't matter what media I used. Everyone in my family knew this about me and I know for a fact that much of what has been saved, as burdensome as I sometimes feel it is, was saved because of my appreciation of art, found images, and interesting objects. as well as my mom being somewhat of an amateur archivist and history buff herself.

The slides are primarily from my parents, and my aunt and uncle's cache. They date back to the 1940's. More than likely they will end in the early 70's. I remember roughly when my mom's 35mm Argus camera stopped working. Early 1970's after a trip out west. I don't know why they didn't fix it. Cost, likely, and maybe it had been discontinued by then. By that point, I was the family documentarian. I received a new Instamatic or Poloroid camera about every other year at Christmas. Eventually I had my own 35mm, and eventually I sold, re-bought, and sold them again. I no longer have any of my vintage camera equipment. Sometimes that extra 8 ounces of whatever is too much of a burden. You streamline. I did that again earlier this summer. I ditched most of my negatives from high school and college. And with good reason.

It's interesting the sense of detachment I have in looking at these photos. I'm not editing just yet, but in the process of physically scanning them as I insert them into slide sheets, I've made observations: My mother was raised in an upper-middle class family that made out okay during the depression. They appreciated nice things and liked to entertain. They wore tailored clothes that look nice in photographs. Based on what I know, my grandmother sewed many of the outfits, including suits, and my mother hand-knitted several things I've seen reproduced in photos. My dad had a full head of hair. There are rural scenes so at some point in time, my kinfolk came from small towns in the south. They owned cameras and flash equipment and took photos of everyday life. My aunt and uncle travelled frequently for professional reasons, and for leisure. I have photos of Istanbul, Greece, Morocco, Hong Kong, China, Tokyo, Cuba, Norway, Denmark and possibly other destinations I have yet to uncover. There were relatives in Florida. There are photos of small towns in the northeast and New York. Sunsets, oceans and boats; waterfalls, mountains and food. I notice I'm slightly jealous when I see other children being hugged by any of my relatives, even though I was not born at the time of the photograph and do not know who these urchins are. This must be an only child defense mechanism. I also wonder who exactly took the photos and by process of elimination, I make educated guesses. Some of the images are nicely composed. Some experiment with light and shadow. Some experiment with portraiture. I'm impressed by several. Some miss the mark, cropping an element in an awkward place, still lifes, usually. The majority are correctly exposed and I'm here to tell you that Kodachrome is remarkably archival. Effing amazing saturation after 60 years. Not all are labeled, and as I approached this task, I did so with the implicit understanding that I was not going to try to ID everything. Some slides are individually labeled, some have detailed liner notes corresponding to the carousel slot, and some carousels have notes, like

Palm Beach

hastily written on a scrap of paper and tucked inside the box.

I found a snow scene in the above box. A mountain with snow. I Googled "snow mountain Cuba" to make sure there was not some freak snowstorm in Cuba in 1950. There wasn't. There was a Great Appalachian Snowstorm in 1950. This would make more sense, but it was not documented as such.  After that I disregarded the notes. Truth in photography. Hah.

September 15, 2014

Nomadic Musing #1

If no one has done a critical investigation of armchair traveling through social networking, they should. Most of my network is still in California, with Chicago and the East Coast thrown in to balance it out. This means that the majority of images that cross my field of vision every day include clear blue skies, oceans, surfboards, palm trees, desert landscapes, sunsets, killer views of sun-filled studio spaces where you can practically feel the warm breeze blowing across your palette, and crowded openings filled with people I know or know of,  along with the occasional art-collecting celebrity or two if someone was shooting at Gagosian or The Broad at the Getty that night. (The John Currin-James Cuno conversation is making the rounds today.) And of course, on the west coast, everyone is bathed in golden light.  My east coast feed is notably more urban: Manhattan. LES, Chelsea, Brooklyn, openings of course, and snow. 

The outliers like myself, cover the burbs and beyond. The west coast dines well as does the east coast and I'm tempted a few times a week by the work of a local pastry chef. Dogs rule most of my feeds, but cats hold their own in any locale. The west coast never wears wool or coats or hats. They are tan and forever young. The rest of us are kind of fucked in this regard, but we knew this when we signed up for two or three other seasons. The New Year is  the only indication on the west coast that time may have passed. Everywhere else we brace ourselves for another extreme version of a new season.

I bring this to your and my attention because I'm restless. A few days ago, a friend was selling a condo in Florida and I tried to imagine myself making art among the white tile floors and split level contemporary surroundings. The a/c would be on 24/7 and the main bedroom and living area are carpeted  so I'd be barefoot. At 2 pm, I'd break and walk or ride my bike (a cruiser, of course) to the beach, just like I never did in LA. (Okay, so when I lived in Venice, I did, but that's different). I wasn't into the Miami Vice color combo, but I was already repainting everything Eucalyptus with Acorn and Latte. I should note that my imagined life in Florida was brief, and more along the lines of where I'd be if I were forced into the Witness Protection Program. 

This morning, an Oakland studio crossed my feed. Huge windows, tall ceilings, sunlight and fantastic paintings by an artist I've recently discovered, Anna Valdez. In real life, I know three people in Oakland. They are artists, of course because I only know artists. This is what happens when you are an artist of a certain generation. Your core group consists of artist, writers, and maybe a musician or two, who started out as an artist but made the switch. Next circle: curators, dealers, and critics, followed by collectors and appreciators of art. Eventually you might have some fashion, foodie, or stylist friends, but to get to that level, you'd have to be fashionable and most of us barely manage to pull together an outfit that didn't accidentally brush against the cadmium red, so, for me that's a stretch.  And of course, the advertising and post-production film world was a huge subset in my life, but I lost most of them when I went back into the studio and I lost the rest of them through a divorce, so we don't talk about that. 

Oakland sounds nice today. 

September 14, 2014

If you hang around long enough, everything comes full circle.

©M. A. Hackett. Video Still. In My Mother's House, 1995

"Domestic ethnography is a kind of supplemental autobiographical practice; it functions as a vehicle for self examination, a means through which to construct self-knowledge through recourse to the familial 'other." —Michael Renov, Domestic Ethnography and the Construction of the "Other" Self.

I recently rediscovered the above quote from an artist statement I wrote in 1995 while working on a documentary with my mother. That same year I received a workshop grant from POV television to develop the documentary and got to hang out with some sharp filmmakers in Minneapolis-St Paul for a few days. I vaguely remember being on the street and tossing my hat in the air Mary Tyler Moore style, because well, of course you'd do that in Minneapolis-St Paul. The 1995 video took place in the same home I have once again been investigating— this time through the act of painting. For a moment I'm going to avoid the psychology of all this and just be grateful I've had the last few years to have my art and my life catch up with one another in a double helix flying camel sort of way. 

I sold my video and audio equipment last week to help fund a decent digital camera for documenting the work. I hadn't shot, directed or cut anything in almost 15 years and when I went back to painting I swore I'd never leave...
Mary Addison Hackett, Flocked, 2014 oil on linen, 10 x 8 in. 

To be continued...

It's almost funny.

September 13, 2014

Win some.

I'm 24 minutes late for expresso, but Facepalm Man was a good find so it was worth it.

Post-espresso update:

I've been thinking about past openings and all the great people I've met. Truly amazing, really. I used to blog more and every so often I would meet another painter who had been following my blog at an opening. It meant, and still means a lot to me to meet people who dig the art. It''s not an ego thing, it's a connecting thing. I communicate through my art. I feel less alone in the world when my art is out there in the world. I can't really explain it. You'll either get or you won't.

The last of the large paintings is going well. I still have about 2 1/2 weeks and today it finally started coming together. In case you're just checking in, I've been working on a show for a year. Eleven months, but who's counting. Day in, day out. Thick and thin. I lost some faith a few times along the way. If you've been at this for any length of time and haven't led a fantasy life in an alternative universe, you probably know that everything that prevents you from creating work under optimal conditions is a potential roadblock. Optimal conditions is subjective of course. For some it might be having a track light burn out. To others it might be having to prioritize the cost of a camera over framing expenses or choosing to eat Trader Joe's organic popcorn for dinner. (Who, me?)

Nonetheless, every so often your vision becomes distorted and you start thinking— wait, what was I thinking? I'm in this all alone. Where's my safety net? My posse? And then you get over it, because in order to manage this career you need to practice some form of denial and you  keep working knowing that thousands of hours in the studio, a few headaches, the trip to the emergency room when you slashed your finger, the dog's near-death experience, your rockin' special topics class that cancelled because no one got it, the grant you thought you bagged but didn't, ALL the chores you ignored—would disappear into stardust for one evening where for two hours, all the self-scrutiny goes away, and you can pretend you made a difference. 365 days crunched down to two hours. Year after year. It's crazy, but it's what we do.

So, good people, the show will be at David Lusk Gallery in Nashville. October 11th. Save the date. 

September 09, 2014


If the rest of my hood wasn't hell-bent on manicured lawns, painted shutters and keeping weeds in check, it wouldn't be such a bad view.