Michael Garfield – How To Live in the Future: November 2009

30 November 2009

Mile High Meltdown & New Timelapse Video

> Imagery

Last Saturday night I painted for my friends in the local music and art collective, The Mile High Sound Movement, at the newly-refurbished Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver. I played a fierce-but-brief setbreak jam as well – another delicious opportunity to paint and perform music at the same show – and if any of the recordings came out, I'll have those posted soon as well. But for now, suffice it to say that I had a blast and highly encourage everyone to keep their ears to the ground with these cats, because they all have entirely too much talent and goodwill to be as unknown as they are for much longer. And I'm delighted to share my newest work:

What Now
2009 11 28 Cervantes (Jeff The Box, Project Aspect, Unlimited Gravity, Earth Tones)

18"x24" - opaque pens on masonite
original and signed 11"x17" prints available
I've recently gotten myself on an ambigram kick, which is probably the most interesting way I can start working more lettering into my designs. Words that exhibit some kind of visual symmetry not only bend the our normally-rigid rules of typographical perception, but also allude to deeper symmetries in mind and nature (at least for me) and how we bring multiple perspectives to bear when trying to make sense of our world. Plus, I wanted to come up with a kickass logo for my embryonic new instrumental electronic music project. So here it is.

Chromatin Research
2009 11 xx - 28 Studio & Cervantes (Contraband, Jeff The Box)

20"x30" - opaque pens on masonite
signed 11"x17" prints available
This was one of the most satisfying projects I've ever had the pleasure to tackle – a commission for the new homepage of Colorado State University's Chromatin Research Lab, courtesy of professor Jeff Hansen. I met Jeff at the Alex Grey show back in October and both of us could scarcely believe the other exists. A live painter who specializes in his area of expertise? A molecular biology professor with a love for downtempo electronica and psychedelic imagery? Needless to say, it was a match made in heaven, and this hybrid studio/live painting was the result.

But wait, there's more! I managed to mount my camera on a microphone stand behind me at the show and get a new timelapse video. Check it out, below – and turn up your audio, because I've narrated it with a mini-lecture on the biological science and artistic technique that went into this painting.


24 November 2009

Rediscovered Mini Studio Painting

> Imagery
The Tenderest Moment Of Our Lives - 2009 06 ?? - studio
8"x12" - opaque pens on canvas
original and 11"x17" prints available for sale

I accidentally left this piece at a friend's house in Kansas City when I left for Colorado and forgot I'd taken this picture of it to share with everyone. But here it is! This painting was completed on my friend Rick's couch back in June sometime. The background is a layer of semi-metallic blue dry pigment marker, which gives the original a lovely dull sheen that shifts in changing light kind of like interference pigment (which I LOVE).

This piece captures very simply the yearning and poignancy I so often find myself striving to express in my work, be it (examples:) art, music, or writing. Behind all the bold colors and flashy technique is the same sentiment that drew a plaintive howl from all of us at the Temple Burn this year at Burning Man, when the final stairwell collapsed in flames...not a raging against the dying of the light, but a simple cry of the heart. It's what connects you and me.

21 November 2009

My Time Has Come (Jeff Buckley Tribute)

> Imagery
My Time Has Come - 2009 11 18 B Side Lounge
Jeff Buckley Tribute Night:
Jeffery Hyde Thompson & Band, Dechen Hawk, Ramaya,
Katy McNeill, Greg Isakov
, Kendra Current
18"x24" - opaque pens on masonite
original & signed 11"x17" prints available

Last Tuesday, Jeff Buckley would have been 43 years old. Instead, the legendary singer and songwriter accidentally drowned in Tennessee's Wolf River in 1997, the day his band was convening to record a second album...and now, I like to think, he's up there with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Miles Davis kicking out the jams. So it's left to his adoring fans to carry on the tradition of his music. Last year I played in a Jeff Buckley Tribute on his birthday (17 November) at Lawrence, KS's Jazzhaus, but this year I didn't hear about it until the bill was full. So I do what I always do in that situation, and squeezed in at the last minute as a live painter.

The night was great...everyone sang their hearts out (you have to, in order to even approach Jeff's passionate virtuosity), and Jeffery Hyde Thompson's newly-formed tribute group played Buckley's entire album Grace and passed the Turing Test with flying colors. Jeff's 13-year old guitar student Aaron Kirschner kicked off the night with Jeff's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and blew everyone away. Dechen and Ramaya did a stellar version of "Everybody Here Wants You," my favorite from the album that never was. The B Side was packed, people were cheering, the whole thing was a blast. My only regret is that I should have talked with the band about setting up on the side of the stage, because there were so many people that nobody could get to me...might as well have made myself more visible to the audience.

As for this unusual painting, the first in my third year of live art, it's a little more rigid and formal than I'm used to because I wanted to put something together to honor this specific man and his work. The microphone is the one he's holding on the cover photograph to Grace. The text is a past-tense paraphrase from the title track, his uncanny song about intuiting his own demise, which also mentions waiting in the fire (hence the ring of fire). And the wings are the "black feather wings" that unfurl from the "dark angel...watching over them" in "Dream Brother," Grace's closing track and my personal favorite.

The red ribbon was supposed to allude to the red thread of life and give the whole image a bit more dynamism (red is a color Jeff used frequently in his imagery, being a Scorpio and all). But I think it ended up making it look kind of like a Christmas ornament. Which is okay. One thing I know that wasn't lost on Jeff was how it doesn't always come out the way you expect.

More about the concert itself, including photos, in my write-up at Colorado Music Board.

17 November 2009

New Live Art From Re:Convergence

> Imagery
Euphonic Conceptions just put on Re:Convergence, a two-night rager at Cervantes in Denver. It was not only a program of some of the sweetest electronic music producers in the US (including Bluetech, Mimosa, and two nights of Ana Sia); it was also yet another in an accelerating stream of massive Denver live art throwdowns. Inspired by the half-dozen or so other painters that surrounded me at any given moment, as well as some delicious muffins and cookies, here are the two pieces I churned out of the kosmic art mill (when I wasn't taking a medicinal nap in the back of the theater or gorging on brie and fruit in the unusually well-stocked green room):

2009 11 13 Cervantes (Boombox, Two Fresh, Grown Folks)
18"x24" - opaque pens on masonite
original and signed 11"x17" available
Unlike the typical DNA polymers and ideal orbs, I think this one looks like someone threw a sabotage-sausage into the poinsettia factory. Or an eel discovering wormhole travel. Gaming geeks can rejoice at my not-so-disguised icosahedrons in the background (aka, twenty-sided dice)...

2009 11 14 Cervantes (Jason Sterling, Evol Intent, Mimosa, Bluetech, Octopus Nebula)
18"x24" - opaque pens on masonite
original and signed 11"x17" available
I haven't been doing enough work with windows and gateways, so this was an attempt to correct that. One thing I really try to communicate in my work is the duality of what quantum physicist David Bohm called the "explicate" and "implicate" orders – the apparent world, and the secret, deeper world behind it. The silence under the noise. The pattern under the chaos. Every painting is the universe in a nutshell. In this one, the endless fabric of creation and destruction underlies the clustered crystals of material form, which in turn underlies the dynamics of life. A reminder to look past the surfaces of things...

Three New Studio Paintings

> Imagery
2009 10 28 - Snowday Vajras
18"x24" - opaque pens on masonite
original and signed 11"x17" prints available
This is the sequel to my piece Vajrayanarama...the feminine counterpart, the little sister. Getting twenty three inches of snow in one day meant cozying up at my friend's house with some pens and trying new techniques. This one started with a trellis of the Islamic Breath of the Compassionate pattern on naked masonite, covered by a semi-transparent layer of fat-tipped green marker. It inhabits a weird liminal zone between rigid geometry and curvaceous floral persuasion.

2009 11 08 - Hypnagogic Dream Tunnel
18"x24" - opaque pens on masonite
original and signed 11"x17" prints available
Start with a fake-woodgrain brushed dichromatic background. Fill with semi-regular tesselating geometric "cookiecutters." Bake for six to eight hours on your friend's couch. Presto: a breathing molten fountainscape.

2009 11 11 - Your Heart Sings Renewal
20"x30" - opaque pens on masonite
original and signed 11"x17" prints available
I couldn't get enough of the style so I came back for more. There's something simultaneously trendy-graphic-design and eyes-closed-on-psilocybin about these in a way that has always eluded me... Given my tenaciousness this will probably end up being the second in my first actual themed series of paintings. Semi-metallic purple and intense lime green pigments really make this glow in person, and if you look closely the hearts have little fountains running out of them (hence the title).

12 November 2009

New Video: "Spokes" (Live At The B Side)

> Music
Here's my solo acoustic tapping piece "Spokes" from last week's show at The B Side Lounge in Boulder, the encore from my opening set in support of The Floozies & Fresh2Death. There's a short exposition about Bicycle Day and Albert Hofmann, to which this song is dedicated (after all, his discovery of LSD most likely saved the human species from nuclear annihilation).

Then I shred.


Spokes - 2009 11 07, The B Side Lounge, Boulder CO
(This song was originally featured on my 2008 EP Double-Edged Sword, which you can find for free or pay-what-you-want at Bandcamp.com)

11 November 2009

The Joy Of Completion

> Imagery
Ah, the joy of circling back around to tie up loose ends. Here are two paintings I prematurely declared complete, then stared at their missing elements until I had no choice but to take them back out into the field and finish what I'd started.
2009 09 10 & 11 07 Trinumeral Festival & Boulder Farmer's Market
(Pnuma Trio, M80 Dubstation, Conspirator)
18x24 - opaque pens on masonite
available for sale (email me with an offer)
signed 11x17 prints available for $15

I circled back around to take the fractals to an additional dimension, clearing up some inconsistent fillspaces. Nothing radically different about this piece from its original iteration...just cleaner and more coherent.

2009 08 08 & 11 07 Dancin In The Streets Festival & The B Side Lounge
(Hot Buttered Rum, Steve Kimock Crazy Engine, Head For The Hills, Cornmeal & The Floozies, Fresh2Death)

18x24 - opaque pens on masonite
available for sale (email me with an offer)
Hard to tell from this picture, but the middle coil hanging from above is outlined in yellow, and the rest are outlined in gold. In "real life," the contrast makes it look as if one is incandescent and the rest are illuminated by it. I've been getting more and more into sheen-based subtleties that I can't adequately photograph...that said, I'm all for inspiring people to give their sleeping imagination a kick in the pants. Painting for The Floozies and Fresh2Death after opening the show for them was a lot of fun, but The B Side's doorman stole about $300 from the bands so we'll be boycotting that venue until they get things sorted out.

09 November 2009

Review: Edly's Music Theory For Practical People

Originally published at Performer Magazine.

I am a guitarist – one of a notoriously stubborn class of musicians known for kicking and screaming all the way to the treble clef.  Cadences?  Transposition?  Chord inversion?  Forget about it.  I have a fakebook.  I can read chord charts and a little tablature…after all, even The Beatles couldn’t read staff music, so why should I?

The truth is, that voice is just shouting over the other one that says music theory is important and that any practical person would recognize how essential basic literacy is to earning my credibility as a musician.  It’s not the content of music theory that puts off so many people, but the style of presentation – and no knowledge deserves to be locked up in stuffy, uninteresting textbooks, inaccessible to the very sense of fun that makes music worth learning in the first place.

Thankfully, the solution has arrived:  Edly’s Music Theory For Practical People, now in its revised and expanded third edition.  Author Ed Roseman has written an introduction to the occult universe of diatonic triads, modal discovery, whole-tone scales, and open voicings so bouncy and colloquial it’s hard not to smile while reading it.  Rife with Peter Reynold’s cartoon characters and a double helping of adorably geeky “Can you believe this guy?” professor-humor, Edly’s Music Theory is about as engaging as any introduction to an arcane and elaborate system like Western Music can be.  Lessons (although they’re not called lessons) are well-summarized at the end of each section; focused and brief workbook exercises keep the blade sharp; and all of the information is embedded in application (e.g., he introduces tritone substitution by discussing its importance in jazz improv). 


For those of us afraid to tackle the intellectual intricacies of this material, Roseman peppers the text with inspirational reminders such as, “If it is any consolation, know that you will be alive and well and playing for years to come – whether or not you take it upon yourself to learn transposition, any of the concepts in this book, unicycle riding, juggling, or gardening.”  He’s not in the game to cram information into the heads of unwilling captives – time and time again, he reminds us of the fascinating relevance and the minor cosmic importance of learning to read music, understanding the innards of seven flat nine chords, or writing slash-chord voicings.  In so doing, he takes the teeth out of a topic that for many people is too intimidating to approach.

02 November 2009

Halloween Painting: The Sweet Release Of Death

> Imagery
2009 10 31 Hyatt Regency (Haunted Hotel Colorado)
18"x24" - opaque pens on masonite
original available - 11"x17" signed prints for $15

In a dramatic change of scenery, I decided to bow out from my plans to paint for The Motet on Halloween and instead perform at a huge costume party hosted by Kevin Larson Presents. Larson does a lot of swank, high-budget mass-soirées around Denver...and indeed, this was reflected in the amazing costumery I saw that night (including a too-real Iron Man suit, the guy from Tron in full el-wire glory, Mr. & Ms. Pac Man, a seven-foot hookah, a stilted puppeteer with marionette, a stilted Thriller Michael Jackson, a female Colonel Sanders and male bucket of chicken, a score of fake cops, and about a half dozen neck-twisting examples of body painting). Metromix.com did a full write-up with 107 pictures, if you're curious, including me in my "I'm Going To Burning Man" costume (unfortunately, he didn't get the skirt in the shot):

Image courtesy of photographer Alex Jimenez, Metromix.com

If it wasn't the sexiest party I've ever attended, it was in the top three (temporary cities don't count). And I was having trouble concentrating on my work. So of course I did the only thing a compulsive balance-seeker can do: I drew a human skull. Because after all, we can only party THIS hard when we're trying to laugh in the face of the yawning abyss. Sex IS death, really. (If you don't believe me, read Annie Dillard's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterwork of modern nature-mysticism, Pilgrim At Tinker Creek.)

Quote Of The Night came from some guy who stopped to watch me paint for a second and then quipped, paraphrasing Shakespeare, "I KNEW him! ...I TOLD that sumbitch to stop doing acid."

And yes, that's a moustache. Maybe if I can stick with it, I can hit Halloween 2010 as Salvador Dalí.