A Poem: Rain In June

“Rain in June”

I should ask a hydrology expert
Or perhaps a creative geologist
Why the rain darkens where it lands
On the flagstones and soil
Traces of expression
Gatlin the sidewalk
Congregating as one shadow
Encircling the underwood

Could they convincingly explain
Each speckling stain
And how with enough of them
I turn toward a book
And not my easel
Thunderheads gathering
Until my bones feel the pitter-patter

They warned me about this place
And vitamin D
And wishful thinking
But then, the solstice is imminent
And tomorrow maybe sun

White Supremacists Survive Gruesome Night of Torture

Jefferson County, Ala.

Two Birmingham men have miraculously survived in critical condition after a being kidnapped Friday night in what the Jefferson County Sherriff describes as a gruesome night of torture “right out of a horror movie.” The two men, self-proclaimed white supremacists Jedidiah Harris, 38, and his brother Joseph Harris, 32, have no doubt that their kidnappers were ANTIFA supporters bent on revenge. After a heroic escape in the early hours of Saturday morning, the brothers have begun a slow and difficult recovery at St. Andrews Hospital. A national manhunt is underway to stop their captors before they strike again.

“It was like a nightmare come into reality.” describes Joseph Harris. “We was bound up and tortured, just for defending our first amendment rights… It was pure hell. Those people was the Devil.” Local County Sherriff Ted Shephard took statements from the two men in their hospital beds late Saturday evening, surprised that the two brothers were so willing to tell-all about their horrific experience. “At one point, I looked over at Jed,” recounted Joseph Harris, “and his head looked like, cracked open, you know, from like a screw driver, or an ice pick. I thought I could see his brain… it was like his mind was just opened up, all over.” Jedidiah nodded in confirmation, and added with his own memories from the gruesome struggle. “And later when I woke up, I could see those ANTIFA [expletives] on Joe, just working him over. It was like they had took a pair of pliers to his toes, and was slowly just peeling off one toenail at a time, asking him to defend his reasons for being the way we is. No matter what Joe said, it was like it wasn’t enough.”

Sherriff Shephard has called together a local and regional task force aimed at tracking down the assailants. “We don’t have much to go on,” admits Shephard, “ANTIFA isn’t a big or historically political organization. It’s made up of individuals… ‘progressive thinkers,’ if you will, and they don’t organize the way we- er, people like the Harris brothers do. It’ll be hard to pin this on any specific radical group, as ANTIFA supporters can be anyone that takes action against fascist organizations and individual supporters like white supremacists and the Alt-Right political types. Anyone with a progressive and moral compass could be one of these monsters.”

When asked to describe more of the events surrounding Friday night's kidnapping, the Harris brothers had quite a bit more to tell. “We was grabbed from the Walmart parking lot over off 17th. We’d had our trucks blocking either side of some [Leftist]’s station wagon, cuz he was giving us grief about some flags we was flying off the beds. Well, we was both knocked out somehow, and woke up a while later tied up in a university classroom of some type.” When pressed on details about the room, the memory of their surroundings was ‘too unfamiliar’ for the men to really remember what they’d seen. “Maybe some books and stuff…” offered Jedidiah. “And some kinds of ‘culture articles’ strewn about… We got some right here…” Jedidiah presented a short stack of photocopied essays and writings. He and his brother had taken some of the readings as ‘police evidence’ when they’d made their harrowing escape. The papers where folded and torn, with innumerable lines of text marked with bright yellow highlighter, and notes scribbled in the margins. “Whoever they was, they was educated.” Claims Joseph Harris. “They told us all kinds of things we ain’t never thought of before.” Jedidiah then chimed in, “Like, did you know that our government has been systematically oppressing certain races like [Blacks] and [Hispanics] and [Asians], and they been doing this under our noses for hundreds of years?” Joseph followed with, “And us white guys been living The American Dream all this time, takin' whatever we wanted and not needin' to think about what others might not have. We been given every chance we ever wanted to make somethin’ for ourselves, without fear of persecution or profiling, and without a least bit of thought to how our gals, or sisters, or mothers done had it all this time. Or how Ol’ Chang down at the laundromat been getting called all sorts of names all his life, and he just trying to make a living for his family just like me… That ain’t right.” “You know,” said Jedidiah, “it even says in the Bible to treat foreigners as equals. Right there in Leviticus, you can read it for yourselves. I been calling [Islamic] people all sorts of things, not wanting them in this country just because I can’t get my own [expletive] together.” The two brothers shared a quiet moment in their hospital beds. “You know, when they was takin that blowtorch of truth and just burnin’ Jedidiah all over, I knew he was in some real pain. I thought to myself: ‘He ain’t never gonna be the same after this.’” Jedidiah nodded in agreement. “They took my brother Joe here and strung him upside down from his legs, just hangin’ and swingin' over a school desk. They started reading stuff by some Jamaican named Kincaid or somethin’. Them words cut him open like a hog in a slaughterhouse. It was like his guts was just spilled all over that table for everyone to see. It was downright embarrassing, but that Jamaica lady was right. We done lived a multitude of lifetimes conquerin’ folks and erasin’ their culture, and we was out there on Friday just doin’ the same thing all over again.” When asked what they would do after recovery, the two brothers shrugged. “My whole world has been shaken up.” admitted Joseph. “I didn’t think that one night in a college classroom could open my eyes the way it did.” Jedidiah wiped a tear from his eye. “I’ll probably go back to my old job, but the fellas won’t look at me the same. I guess I’ll have to try to explain to them how things should be different. I’ll never really get my old life back, but maybe I can make lemonade from lemons or some [expletive] like that.”

The Harris brothers are expected to make a full recovery from severely mutilated ideologies and a few minor scrapes and bruises, but the perpetrators are still out there. Sherriff Shephard confirmed later that they have no leads, and no other witnesses stepping forward. “It’s hard to admit, but I don’t think anyone expected these young ANTIFA individuals to take such a bold stand. The state's been under a lot of pressure to step up police presence in light of so many people’s willingness to act on their values and moral code… It’s despicable.”

September 15th, 2017.

A Short and Sweet Interview with uBe Art Gallery

From uBe Art Gallery's "Drive-By Interview" series, in conjunction with their MyScape group Exhibition. Nov/Dec 2016, in Berkeley, CA.

magic wizards, mighty creatures, and valiant heroes

12/09/2016    uBe Art

Launching our next round of Drive-by Interviews is artist Amory Abbott--one of 26 artists featured in our current exhibition, MyScape.

What are you presently inspired by?

My recent work has been inspired by the theme of Darkness, and I draw creative influence from three main sources that meet at darkness: Gothic Romanticism, Dark Ecology, and Black Metal.

Words to live by?

"The answer is in the studio."

Do you encounter misconceptions about being an artist?

Quite a bit. A frequent misconception I run into is people perceiving me as some sort of special genius, as if I was someone with other-worldly talents that are off limits to normal people. While that can be flattering, I think it ultimately devalues the artistic profession, insinuating I was lucky enough to find a shortcut in life to success, rather than face the trials and tribulations of other traditional professions.

Person: "Wow, you're such a great artist!"

Me: "Well, I've got a masters degree in art and I've been practicing for over 20 years." 

Person: "Yes, but you're so gifted!"

Me: "No, I've got a masters degree in art and I've been practicing for over 20 years.

What I'd like to make clear to those people is that I've been devoted to learning a skill, a trade, and a craft, for a long time to get where I'm at. Anyone gets better at anything when they do it for a long time, and higher education only fortifies it. I may have a knack for art, but everyone has a knack for something. Like any other struggling professional, I've had to be self-disciplined, follow my passions, find my best outlets and most compelling interests, properly educate myself (and take on massive student debt), and have years upon years of practice to become good at it. 

When you are in need of inspiration are there particular things you read, listen to or look at to fuel your work?

When I need inspiration, I go to the woods. I look at the trees, the rocks, listen to the water, the mountains. I let the wilderness tell me what it needs, and when I find it, I go home and research like crazy. 

In an imaginary world where your artwork could speak, what would it say?

My landscape work typically depicts the world in a state of cataclysmic change, as a realization of our planetary future through the lens of Dark Ecology. I suppose my world would say something along the lines of "Dear selfish humans, you did what you did, and regardless of right or wrong, it's over. You will not live to see what follows, but it will be ok. The earth will right itself, and life will begin again."

Describe a quality have you retained since childhood?

Since I was young I've been an advocate for wild places. I've always lived close to nature and have certainly retained a healthy fascination with the wilderness as a place of power, or ancient magic. I credit my childhood obsession with J.R.R. Tolkien and his fictional world of Middle Earth. Listening to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings being read to me, and reading through the picture books, my fascination with fantasy realms with magic wizards, mighty creatures, and valiant heroes has kept my sense of wonder alive and active.

What does creating art provide for you?

Creating art provides me a visual context to explore my interests in history, the environment, and contemporary issues. It's also a profession that allows me to focus on practice, discipline, research, philosophy, and whatever else makes it in. It's also deeply satisfying to see how feelings come out on paper, and to share those visceral experiences with others through my work.

 

MFA Visual Studies Thesis Paper

 

The following is the abstract of my thesis research. Below you can find a link to the whole paper.

Darkness, in historical notions of the sublime, is the visceral experience of the unknown. Darkness is nature on its own terms–an intricate system at work outside of our understanding. For humanity to experience this greater concept of nature, each area of this thesis research works to recover a bigger picture of human history as it relates to ecological history. What is needed is a reintroduction to the natural world around us–to witness, simply, the awesome, unfathomable power of the wild.

This thesis supports the work titled The Dark Sublime, a series of large charcoal landscape drawings that depict the natural world in states of cataclysmic change. By exploring the common theme of darkness in American Romantic literature, Metal music, Fantasy, and Dark Ecology, The Dark Sublime offers a more complete experience of the sublime in the natural world, and in contemporary landscape art. 

You can download a copy of my Thesis paper HERE.

Caldera Residency - Written Statement

For this post I've copied my written statement for the Caldera residency application. I'm so happy to be making work that was informed by my experience there, as it is some of my strongest work yet. The following is the plan I created for my week at Caldera:

Over the first year in the Visual Studies program I’ve pushed my art practice away from the narrative habits of having a background in illustration. The challenges I face now are how to maintain the authenticity of my traditional style without trying too hard to tell stories. Breaking from traditional illustration has let me consider more of the involvement of the viewer in narrative choices. My most recent work allows the viewer to step into the place of a character or witness in my work, and that conceptual approach is an unfamiliar and intimidating new direction for me. This is where I see my greatest artistic growth happening. After creating a strong series of urban cityscape drawings in charcoal this spring, I’ve felt a need to return to natural imagery, and to explore the medium of oil paint. I pull the most inspiration and imagery from the natural environment. Many of my paintings and drawings have been inspired by trees, and my spiritual experience of the wilderness. The Caldera Residency would give me a one-of-a-kind opportunity to approach my current research with a complete immersion in the natural environment, and bring new perspectives and ideas to my practice.

While at Caldera, I’d like to create a series that uses the landscape around the camp to facilitate a more authentic experience with my practice. The reference imagery I’ve used for my recent work have been photos from my own hikes in the pacific northwest, but the fleeting moments of experience as I make my way down the trail do not provide me with a greater sense of the space, the location, and my place in it. This kind of work attempts to reveal the sublime in a place, to distill an image down to the most basic emotive, natural representation and leave the exploration to the viewer. On my hikes, I get to experience this exploration, but the artwork is created out of only photos and memories. I feel that having a week in the wilderness, with the primary intention set on making art and expanding my considerations in my practice, the resulting work will be more immediate, interactive, and fresh. This experience would introduce a new process of making that I feel would greatly benefit my future as a working artist.

Becoming a Man - Words of Wisdom for my Nephew

My Nephew Caden recently turned 13, and for a rites-of-passage ceremony our family held for him, the men in his life were all asked to write in their two cents about what it means to be a man... Here's my piece:

Dear Caden, 

I’m hesitant to say there is a monumental event that turns you into a man. There have been moments in my life where I felt like an adult, or realized that i was doing something an adult would do- holding the door for an elderly person, buying my first car, paying my own electric bills, etc. But anyone can do those things provided they have a means and the need. There are no big occasions in my life, save for maybe proposing to my wife, or then actually getting married, that I felt that I was achieving goals a “man” would typically set for himself. But regardless, I don’t remember a specific moment where I said to myself, or had someone tell me: “You’re a man now.” 

I’m not the best example when it comes to traditional characteristics of manliness. My voice still cracks from time to time, I pick my nose in public, and I only now, at 35, grew my first legit mustache. (My dad’s had a full mustache since he was 17!) I’m scrawny and can’t really lift heavy stuff, I have bad posture from hunching over a drawing table for years, and I have very little skill in any sports. I’ve never been in a fight, I’ve never really had to stick up for my friends, and have been flat broke for a big chunk of my “adult” life. 

So with that said, people somehow still think of me as a man, and at least I mostly feel like a man. So what qualities truly make someone a man? Here’s a short list of what I think make someone a Man:

Character. 

A quote I like is: Character is who you are in the dark. I think that means that it doesn’t matter what you look like, what clothes you’re wearing, how your hair is styled, or the color of your skin. It’s your personality. It’s who you are when there’s no one else around.

Dignity.

This includes kindness. People will remember how you treated them before they remember what you looked like. The world cannot be the way it is without every single one of us. A man has respect for everyone he meets, and puts others before himself when he’s able. He sees others as his equal. He does not discriminate, subjugate, or oppress. He advocates for humankind. Every boy in the world will face becoming a man, and will be feeling the same as you. We deserve each other’s understanding. We’re earning it right now.

Authenticity. 

This turns out to have a strong connection to Honesty, and Humility. Be yourself. Nothing more, nothing less. Understand your strengths, and don’t be afraid to share them. Understand your faults, and don’t be afraid to own up to them. People will respect your willingness to admit when you’re wrong, and appreciate your efforts to learn and grow. Being authentic means not having to lie to anyone, it means being proud of all parts of you. It's about being sensitive, caring, and fully present. If that’s not enough, women also think it’s sexy as hell.

If I could make up an imaginary event where I became a man, it would be this:

There was a fire at a pet store. I strode confidently out of the flames, shirtless, clutching a dozen helpless kittens, weeping simultaneously from both their unbearable cuteness, and their fearful escape from the deadly flames. A bystander turned to their friend and whispered “Now that’s a man!” I knew at that moment that I wasn’t just a Man because I was a total badass, ripped and heroic, it was because I wasn’t afraid to risk my life to save a bunch of kittens.

With Love, Amory

High on Art: Artistic Integrity and Marijuana Use

In light of Oregon decriminalizing the recreational use of Marijuana on July 1st, I’ve had some good discussions with art friends about the use of pot when making art, and decided to write out my thoughts on the subject. I am first and foremost drug free, and I admittedly soapbox against the use of recreational drugs (caffeine aside) in the creation of fine art. Here’s why:

First let me say that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the use of medicinal substances to benefit a lifestyle in a way that allows people to be more productive, feel happier, treat chronic pain or illness, and overall enjoy themselves. As a medicinal substance, people will need marijuana to cope with issues I am lucky to not have. However, one cannot walk into a doctors office and complain of a lack of creative inspiration and walk out with a prescription for mind-altering drugs. 

My issue is with a dependency that develops for many artists to summon inspiration when they can’t just be honest with themselves and get their life right. I think what many artists find is that their greatest inspiration and ideas unravel out of just that struggle to find, and face, the self. 

My argument is that in the creative world, there is a threshold that can be crossed where the dependency on a chemical substance - pot, heroin, caffeine, pills, etc - begins to negatively impact the author’s ownership over the work. If one simply cannot claim to be a successful artist without the use of a controlled (or uncontrolled) substance, then they are compromising authenticity, and ultimately lying to themselves and others who appreciate and purchase their work. When this happens in the world of fine art, music, dance, etc, ones ability to express themselves honestly is lost and the work loses credibility, and worse- perpetuates the debilitating label continually placed on creative arts as an inferior profession for druggies, stoners, and all-around slacker culture. 

I was told by a frequent marijuana user working in a creative field that people take art way too seriously. In response, I’ll say that I think people take a need to escape their reality way too seriously, but saying that art is being taken too seriously is like saying lawyers take the law too seriously, or that an architect takes load-bearing walls too seriously. Art is a valid profession, and it is especially hard to make it in an industry that values artists less because art is still seen as a “talent” or a hobby that anyone with a blunt and a sketchbook can get into. We work hard, and HELL YES art should be taken seriously. 

What I’m getting at is that art will always be tied to self-expression, and appreciated for that. If one depends on a drug that compromises who they are because they think people won’t like the real them, then they’ve got a lot more problems to deal with than just not feeling inspired. Artists have to lead by example. It’s our job to feel, to fear, to fail and to be honest. We are one of the last professions that still values individuality, and what does it say if we can’t even be our real selves?

The Creative Benefits of Rap Fandom

I’ve been drawn to creativity all my life, and ultimately I don’t think I could say life would offer me much without the presence of creativity. Life experience is the source of creativity. It’s an ink well, a paint palette, sixteen bars, a concerto, a pose, Blue Steel, a slice of pizza.  An artist sees life around them, finds subtle and profound meaning in what can be seen, and what is rarely seen, and translates that into imagery. The imagery is sometimes visible, sometimes on in the mind; it can be audible, felt in vibration, picked up, held, consumed, and animated. The complexity of creating imagery — composition, conceptualization, history,  metaphor, and execution — when done well, is something to behold, and something inspiring.

An area of creative experience that has always fueled my work has been that of rap music. I’m not tied only to rap, and many days and many works in my studio are fed by several types of music. I will say first that working to black metal always seems to darken my palette when the work needs to go there. But when I think about rap music, I’m very particular. I’m not a fan of the entire genre and aspects of the more violent, sexist, and downright ignorant group of rappers that dominate the radio I have no interest in. I was introduced to a specific group of artists in the late 90’s that were doing something different. They were mostly white men from New York,  doing something completely new altogether. Two rappers/artists that I’ve followed closely are Aesop Rock, and Rob Sonic.

When I was introduced to them seems like ancient history, but I can specifically remember asking a friend where he’d bought the album The Sanity Annex by Sonic Sum, and going and getting it that same day. I can also remember the first time I heard “Delorean” by EL-P in my friend’s car on the way to the grocery store and had to know who the guest featured rapper was on that track. Over my years in college I followed Aesop and Rob, inspired by their ability to create such visually rich imagery in their music, as well as producing their own tracks. Alongside their music practice, I truly respect their collaboration with fine artists and illustrators in the generation of album artwork as a visual component of the audible work. They were, and have remained, a culturally relevant and of-my-generation example of artistic relevance, and mastery of craft.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet these two several times over the years at live shows around the midwest Indianapolis and Chicago, and last winter in Portland, Oregon where I’ve moved for graduate school. I’d consider myself a super-fan, sometimes to a nerdy degree. My wife and I stopped in San Francisco on our honeymoon and I dragged her to Grubstake just to buy a t-shirt for the Mallon Boys to sign at their next concert I went to. I’ve illustrated unofficial gig posters for shows of theirs, entered work in twitter contests, and framed signed posters from their album sleeves. Now I have no claim to say that I know these two as individuals, and we have certainly not had more than a few exchanges over handshakes, pats on the back, photos, and twitter replies, but being an artist, and a keen listener, it’s not hard to deduce quite a lot about these men as artists through the analysis of their lyrics and music. Any work of art can be a life story. Every word is truth in experience to some degree. Visual and verbal imagery leave traces, big and small, of the personal narrative behind it. While my focus in master studies is moving away from illustration, a need grows in my work for coded ideology, insight, and communication. I turn to rap music often to analyze the layering effect of metaphor and composition. Aesop and Rob seem to fold imagery in over itself, buried in layers, like rap inception. Their rap duo Hail Mary Mallon has been a delight to hear and witness. While solo work, as any artist can agree, tends toward a more serious and introspective experience, HMM takes a more playful approach to collaboration and pays homage to the early days of NYC rap. The metaphors and imagery that unravel out of each track are a time machine, an inside joke, a conversation over hamburgers, a breakdance party on a beach, a fundraiser concert. What I find is a confidence in skill, a mastery of verse and production, a complete authorship, and a willingness to ask new questions with and from the work. Over the years, like any group of visual, performative, or musical artists, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing an ongoing evolution in their work, a refinement of style and approach, and a deepening relation to that of fine artists. 

So if you’re an artist, of any kind, listen closer to your music. For me, there is something powerful to be gleaned from a rap song. Not imagery to appropriate, but as an example of the potential of experience, of the way a thing can be said, photographed, danced, or painted. I consider my fandom of Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic a valuable asset in my artistic practice. Just as any painter may study the work of Gerhardt Richter, Edward Hopper, or Claude Monet, There are also contemporary artists in a wide variety of fields and disciplines that are influencing the evolution of art. These two men are true artists, and an inspiration to me and many many others.

Here are some works of mine related to the article:

"The Wind-Blown Way Home" inspired by lyrics from Aesop Rock's track "Gopher Guts" -  Amory Abbott  ©2013

"Live from the Burgundy Camry" Unofficial Gig Poster for Hail Mary Mallon's Portland show. Amory Abbott ©2015 

 

"The Isle of Astonishing Motherfuckers" Fan Poster for Hail Mary Mallon - Amory Abbott ©2014

 

"Whiskers the Undead" 1st runner up for a twitter contest to draw a character from Aesop Rock's album Skelethon. Amory Abbott - ©2015

 

And finally here are some dumb/fun photos of me with the Mallon Boys. Thanks for reading!

New Website

Ok here's my Grad School website project. New Portfolio website, managed by me! Enjoy!