Ursula Andress in TODD-AO

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Here’s a quick one — a sketch portrait of Ursula Andress as Vesper Lynd in the technicolor carnival that was the original Casino Royale. The one where Peter Sellars seduces her behind the fish tank. When I cut the painting I had accidentally done it in almost the exact aspect ratio of TODD-AO, hence the title. Best to click, it’s a long one, so it shrinks tiny. Cheers

Mermaids & Space Cuties

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So one day I ask my pal, the enormously gifted tattoo artist Steve Fawley, if I could paint me some flash of a mermaid who looks like Jane Russell. Because such a thing may not have exist in the world, it seemed like a fine thing to bring into it. And he says, sure — paint me a space cutie in exchange. So here they are — certainly I’m on the rich side of this deal. What a stunner. Perfectly fetching & a prime example of Steve’s masterly of the traditional form. My cutie was the buildup of a forgotten sketch in tribute to Wally Wood & based on Robert Bonfils cover painting for pulp paperback Nautipuss. Check out Steve’s kung fu here.

Tom Pfannerstil

[RERUN] A few months ago couple of years ago I was in Vegas for that Matador @ 21 shindig… Funny thing about Vegas for the occasional Logan’s Run/Disneyland casino-plex rooted visitor – when you head out into the actual, dust-whipped city you get that slight shifted-reality feeling, like when you travel abroad. That slightly off-kilter disjointedness is one of my favorite things about wandering around Vegas. My pal & I were returning from a few hands of profitable mid-day blackjack in grubby/glammy old Vegas when we spotted an old storefront window filled with poppy pop-art looking art. We docked the Prius and headed inside.

The Trifecta Gallery is a marvel, a sharply curated mix of figurative art. The prevailing sensibility is a mix of deft technique and topical whimsy. As I was scanning a particularly dense clump of work I paused on a painting of an over-sized, flattened Sun Maid raisin box. I’m an easy mark for this kind of thing, and have always found the Sun Maid herself pretty fetching. I peered in close, to take in the detail of the piece when I noticed that the shadow it cast had dimension to it. Damn thing was a sculpture. The owner, the open, warm, enthusiastic Marty Walsh, noticed me noticing the work and came over. We got to talking and after we established our mutual fondness and amazement for the piece she took me back to look at more. Two flat files drawers full – Blistex Tubes, popcorn boxes, notepads, lip balm, and a host of to-go cups. Each one slightly larger than life, and carved into soft block of wood.

They are the work of Tom Pfannerstill, from Louisville, Kentucky. Pfannerstill retrieves “trash” from the street, or as he puts it, “markers of a time… a tiny part of the fossil record, a small archaeological artifact.” He then crafts meticulous recreations which “touch on issues of commercialism and consumerism, but are mostly intended to be subtle reminders of the temporality of all things.” That they do, quite powerfully, and they impress with their sheer bravura technique as well. The pieces are modestly priced, and available through Trifecta. Just wonderful. And if you’re in Vegas, stop in. Walsh is a delightful host, and the place is part of a ramshackle series of interconnected galleries all work poking about in…

Local Pop

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Some recent moments of pop happenstance wandering around Philadelphia — Ellsworth & Broad, and shop windows on Bainbridge and 4th street respectively. Topmost iPhone, the others digital SLR — Enjoy.

Nicola

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Was poking around the internet looking for a hi-res cover for this Bert Jansch double album I was digitizing. On the original twofer CD it was the size of a postage stamp. Gorgeous piece of work when you can really take it all in, no?

Seeing Clearly

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Ocean, 1975 Vija Celmins / drypoint on paper

What we call seeing a thing clearly, is only seeing enough of it to make out what it is; this point of intelligibility varying in distance for different magnitudes and kinds of things, while the appointed quality of mystery remains nearly the same for all. Thus: throwing an open book and an embroidered handkerchief on a lawn, at a distance of a half a mile, we cannot tell which is which: that is the point of mystery for the whole of those things. They are merely white spots of indistinct shape. We approach them, and perceive that one is a book, the other a handkerchief but cannot read the one or trace the embroidery of the other. The mystery has ceased to be in the whole things, and has gone into their details. We go nearer; and can now read the text and trace the embroidery, but cannot see the fibers of the paper or the tread. The mystery has gone into a fourth place, where it must stay until we take a microscope, which will send it into a fifty, sixth, hundredth or thousandth place. —John Ruskin on the picturesque sublime

Juxtaposition by Dave Hickey25 Women: ESSAYS ON THEIR ART, 2016 / Univ. of Chicago Press

Love Hulten

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When I look at these absolutely breathtaking handmade made-to-order objects by Swedish fabircator Love Hulten, I covet.

In fact I covet three ways. At first I covet crassly, wishing I could afford these hand turned masterpieces. Then a little more thoughtfully, I covet the skills & craft to build these kinds of things myself. Then, finally, I covet philosophically, wishing that this was a genuine commercial aesthetic — that as we chase the geewhiz we’d take the texture and soul of what worked before and roll it in as we roll foward. We’ve left so many beautiful things behind.

Specimen

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A fine specimen of Trashius Romanticus Novelus, circa 1977, excavated at the Goodwill on Rt. 73 in Maple Shade, New Jersey.

Regency

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Coxsackie Antique Center, Rt, 9, Coxsackie, New York

Blackstar

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So, Bowies’ Blackstar arrived, finally — ordered while Bowie was earthbound, listened to when he wasn’t. Let me see if I can get this exactly right — it’s the first & last classic Bowie record since Let’s Dance.

Bowie played rock like Duchamp-ian chess. Each classic Bowie album occupied & held a square on the board. The records are “about” the move, so they work as self contained experiences — they point inward, ultimately.

This is why the whole “best album since Scary Monsters” critical framing misunderstands Bowie. Although he released some great salvos since Let’s Dance, they didn’t represent moves to a new square. Sometimes, like Earthling, he deftly rode a cultural or aesthetic wave, othertimes like Heathen or even The Next Day they were grand & vital reprises of old glories.

Blackstar is, before it is anything, a bracingly new statement. The avante-jazz hybrid he’s synthesized here is — once again, like all classic Bowie — an occupying move. The album refers, thrillingly, only to itself. There’s a new sound & vision here — skronky, sinewy, dubby… What a triumph!

Honestly, I was wary of listening, & crabby that I hadn’t the opportunity to hear it at at least once as the work of a living artist. I shouldn’t have fretted. Rather than a melancholy encomium, a stately funeral parade, it was the best & most unexpected gift of all — The last classic Bowie album: Space Oddity, Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Station to Station, Low, Heroes, Scary Monsters, Let’s Dance, Blackstar.

Turn and face the strange

English singer, musician and actor David Bowie, 1974. (Photo by Terry O'Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

There’s a reason when the news hits that so many of us instinctively reach out and gather our memories of first hearing ChangesOneBowie / Because that wasn’t a record, it was a door. A magic door. Here’s how it was magic. Because if you knocked on it, it opened easily, and you could go in and just boogie. But. But. If you pushed on it just right, if you were bent, just so, you tumbled through — and you never stopped falling. And as you fell, year after year, your freak flag just kept unfurling. And as you fell & flew you wondered — when do I get to the bottom? And there is no bottom. It’s just Bowie all the way down. Today every freak flag flies at half mast. Goodbye David Bowie.