Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Silent Blues

For this week’s piece I told a story about silence, about the beauty of emptiness. It just so happened to line up directly with a storytelling party a friend was holding. The theme of her party was silence, so I started thinking about silence and what it means to me. 
For me, silence is like exercise: I believe it’s important and would make my life better, but I fill my life too full of other things to actually do it. I started thinking about times in my life I’d experienced silence, or almost experienced silence, or should have experienced silence. I took those stories and found 4 minutes worth of them and strung them together into a narrative. Like in “I Stand Here Ironing” the experiences i related were not a narrative originally, only in hindsight and with greater understanding of the situation was I able to assemble it. 
Finally the song. I wrote the song instead of listening to silence, but it wasn’t until I thought of it in this context that I saw any other connection to silence and my aversion to it. The song was originally written to the beat of my clapping hands and based on Son House’s “Grinnin’ in Your Face,” it’s a blues song, to which I later added a slide guitar. What better way to express my feelings about silence than through the blues? 
Through this project I realized a lot about what I believe and found something I can use to change my own life for the better. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Zac Whitmore

This week we were assigned to make a short documentary about a concerned citizen, some one who cares about the community and is working to help it in some way. 
Because bing a concerned citizen can be a straight forward type of helping out, just living right and doing what you’re supposed to do to support the people around you, we chose to make a very straight forward documentary. We went in, shot the space, asked some questions, and left. 
Zac is a very concerned citizen. I met Zac because of his efforts to help people become better bikers. I always thought biking had three main benefits, physical (health), financial, and environmental. It turns out there’s even more to it. One benefit Zac hopes everyone can better understand is the effect on the community. Zac loves bikes, but he is not just trying to build something because he loves it, he is using his love of bicycling and his love of people together. He understands what Arlene Goldbard means when she says “We understand that anyone who wishes to make significant headway on a social problem or opportunity must engage with people’s feelings and attitudes about it.” Like he says in the doc, he could have traveled around presenting his ideas in lectures, explaining what he thinks will happen and why, but until he put the principals into action it would be difficult to show others and help them change their own behavior. He works carefully and slowly to test and refine his theory so that in the end he will have not only a philosophy, but a success story! And more importantly, a happy community. 
Our film was also inspired by filmmakers like The Scout (on vimeo) who finds interesting people who are doing important and great things and then interviews them and makes short films about them, allowing them to explain their process and philosophy. 
This video is a very short, very incomplete introduction to an important and wonderful thing that is going on right here in our community.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I feel strongly about food. To me it is one of the most important topics. Everyone needs it, some have a lot, some have none, and some have a lot of food they shouldn’t have. 
My poster focuses on this problem which is at home for us in America, like Chimamanda Adichie talked about when it comes to stories. This is not an enormous, foreign, insurmountable problem, it’s a problem that has arisen from proposed solutions to problems.
I compare this problem to Pornography. in my poster there is an old, fat gentleman, apparently very rich. He represents some of the problems that are caused by so much corn, the rich getting richer and the poor getting fatter. The corn which can be a great asset is being misused for the benefit of the wealthy man. 
Documentaries like Food Inc also take on issues like these. The food industry is huge and a lot of decisions made in it are more about money than food. In a capitalist market like our that is to be expected, but any government involvement should be about producing the right kinds of food for our needs, not about helping anyone make money.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Portrait of a Potato, Printed

My father is an oil painter, but in college he studied print making. I’ve always me fascinated by the way prints are made, whether it’s by carving or etching some other way, I love the idea of creating reproducible images non digitally. I have recently studied letterpress, I love to see the parts moving together, rolling the paper through and creating an image, often text (it all comes back to typography). I recently heard of potato prints, where you carve a flat image into a potato and use it as a stamp for whatever you are making. 
I started to think about that idea, a potato print. If I wanted the image of a potato on a page, I could carve the image of a potato into a potato and print it. People would recognize it, they would say, “that’’s a potato.” They would not, however, recognize that it was actually made with a potato, and indeed, that is because the potato would have been compromised in order to depict itself. 
So I started thinking about what a print is. Some kind of paint or ink applied to a surface and then transferred to another surface via pressing or rolling. Wouldn’t it be a more accurate representation of a potato to use it’s own natural skin as the thing doing the printing? 
Stan Brakhage did a similar thing in his piece “Mothlight,” a four minute film created by placing things, leaves, moths, sticks, on a strip of film to create the image. There is no story told, no linear narrative, it is simply images of things created by those things. Rob Buchert has also done similar work by creating the texture of fabric in a print by putting real fabric on the block, inking it up, and printing. 
What passes for a depiction usually has little or nothing to do with the actual thing. Here is a portrait of a potato as a potato tells it. An inanimate self portrait.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Ronnie The Riveter

Identity is made up of a million different things that come together to make a person. These things start out basic, vague, & general, (I’m a boy, I’m white, I’m 22 years old) then get more and more specific (I like to eat chocolate pudding, I like to create things, I have a hard time with relationships and so on) until you have a unique person. 
Some aspects of identity carry a lot of baggage, for example, being a boy. It’s probably the first aspect of my identity that is apparent, and one of the most influential factors in how my life plays out, and yet doesn’t say much at all about who I am. 
I feel that the role of a man in society is being challenged. Many women are fighting for equality and even, it seems, supremacy. Some men fight back, believing that males are and should be the dominant figures in society. But more and more men are responding by losing all sense of responsibility, as if to say, “well if girls can be the head of the home and provide and do all those things the same as men then why should I have to do anything?” 
Rosie the Riveter is a campaign launched during World War II that emphasized women’s ability to do hard labour in the place of men, many of whom were off at war. Like Jenkins talks about in his article “How Texts Become Real,” Rosie has become an icon in our society that is bigger than it’s original intent, she stands for the empowerment of women everywhere. But is the empowerment of women unempowering men? Should it? Admittedly women’s rights, the glass ceiling and other gender issues are real problems, but why should men step down from ambition? Is there only room on the ambition platform for one gender at a time? Shouldn’t everyone be able to have the courage to work hard for moral causes and help everyone else to do the same, regardless of gender? 
I took Rosie and made here a boy. I also changed her famous saying “We Can Do It” to a question, “Can We Do It?” thus emphasizing the apathy that I see in so many men around me. This remix of an older picture is much like your-ecards, which similarly takes old pictures and juxtaposes them with witty (funnier than mine is, usually) sentences that comment on modern society. 
It’s sometimes hard to “be a man.” It has a lot more to it than shooting things or picking up heavy objects. Supporting women in their ambitions is just as manly as anything.

Monday, February 4, 2013


I was a large boy. Not the tallest, but bigger than the other boys (not the fat one, but I felt fat too, so I never made fun). Once a boy tried to get me to come and play football for the school, “My dad’s the coach, he says you’re a natural. You should play, even though you don’t go to real school.” The invitation made me feel valued as a sportsman. My mom talked me out of it. I really didn’t like sports.
I remember being vaguely aware that after church activities some of the boys would go to the park to box. It was exciting to think about secret nighttime boxing matches––like thinking about being a pirate. Also like being a pirate, it was a nice idea but a scary reality, so I never joined in. I never said I was afraid, any more than I would willingly admit that I was afraid to be a pirate. Assuming any fear was cowardice, I pretended I wasn’t afraid. I was actually more afraid of making an ass of myself than anything. I often assume that there’s a way to do things, and that everyone knows that way except me, and so I feel a fool, and then I act foolishly. I didn’t want to be a fool.
One day I was invited to go along and had no ready excuse. Instead of fabricating one (I was an honest child), I joined the party of nervously excited boys walking down the dark street to the park. We hadn’t gone far when one boy said, “Hey, let’s fight.” I didn’t know him well, but he was nearly as big as me, and an athlete. I laughed, hoping it was a joke and that he’d go away, but he began to to say it over and over, “I’m going to fight Noah, I’m going to fight Noah!” I didn’t know what getting pumped was, but it unsettled me.
When we got to the park the older boys decided we would fight first. Saying no to them scared me more than boxing, so I put the gloves on, trying to think if I knew what a boxing match was even supposed to look like. They told us to tap gloves and then start. I reached both hands out, not sure what would happen next. 
I felt his gloves hit mine and then something hit my face. I blinked in confusion at the Russian olive trees and the stars beyond. I had to ponder a long time before I figured it out: he’d hit me. No time to prep or think, just tap and hit. I got really mad, and I looked back at my assailant, who grinned at me from behind his gloves. Adrenaline exploded into my brain and fists. All I wanted to do was hit him back. 
I didn’t stop until I heard them calling out. I handed off the gloves and wandered away. “Who won?” I asked, unsure what had happened. “Oh, you won,” came the reply, “you’re a natural.” I didn’t know what to do, so I started to run. I ran all the way home. My mom asked what I’d been doing. 
I went back outside and ran around some more, drunk on my success and on epinephrine. I’d go every time. I was a natural. 
Sunday, in front of the whole congregation, the bishop banned boxing after any church activity.
I could have been a contender. 

*                             *                             *

Post Script
This week in film class we discussed the role objects can have in narrative and memory. Certain objects can become associated with a time or an experience. For example, all my childhood I played with lego. It was a part of my growing up, and because it was ever present, it is now inseparable in my mind with that time of life. 
Boxing gloves on the other hand were not very common in my life. I have only one strong memory involving boxing gloves. The fact that they are not an object that I was used to seeing or handling makes them very strongly connected to just the one experience, one day, one story. 
The nature of my interaction with lego makes it difficult for me to remember specific experiences with it, while it is very uncommon for me to see boxing gloves without the one story of my victorious boxing match at least crossing my mind. 
Lego blocks, boxing gloves, and many other things combine to help me reconstruct the story of my childhood. Like in Pablo Neruda says in Ode To Things, “Many things conspired to tell me the whole story.” (full poem here
This is my story of boxing gloves. While writing this story I was conscious of a certain amount of nostalgia influencing my writing, as it will when recalling a happy time. I am reminded of the films of Wes Andersen, specifically of Moonrise Kingdom, in which he creates such a beautifully stylized picture of childhood, which is so relatable, despite it’s being not strictly realistic. There is a certain magic in the past, especially in childhood, that is hard to capture.
In this story I tried to capture my feeling of childhood, ancient and current and timeless. It is a true story, but for me it is also a true feeling, and that is even more important.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Process Piece

This week our project is an audio documentary.

Our piece is documents the process of changing the strings on a banjo. It starts with the removal of the old strings, followed by the attachment and tuning of the new, and ends with a very short tune.

I love the sounds a banjo makes. The drum held in such tension really makes for a some interesting and unique noises. For this piece we explored the sounds from a rather uncommon perspective, from within the instrument. The recording device was placed inside the drum during the process, simulating, in a way, the sounds as the banjo would hear them. Beautiful and strange new sounds can be heard from this new vantage point that give added insite and intrigue to an already cool sounding process. Mercadante's "Routines" has a similar effect, where he takes these routines and alters them a bit (where we changed the vantage point he changed time, sounds, etc) to create a more interesting process.

For me the sounds fill a certain place in my brain in a way that music cannot. Music is confined to beats, rhythms, chords progressions, etc. which are all very wonderful, but it works my brain's subconscious differently to hear sounds that do not have the same kind of structure. These ideas come to me from Rob Buchert, a local graphic designer and letterpress artist. Rob also does a lot of conceptual art using sound, and recently had an exhibit in Gallery 303 of the Harris Fine Arts Center at BYU with a large sound machine that would produce random ambient sound. It was Rob's search for a sound that was random to fill his subconscious that lead me to these ideas about that nature of this sound.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tiny Stories: Epitaphs

The assignment is to write five "Tiny Stories" (you say t-ee-knee, I say t-ai-knee, zhong says 體你,chang says 特愛妮), each story less than 30 words and including an illustration. @veryshortstories is a great example of these kinds of stories. Because they are so short it is hard to give satisfying answers, so instead they ask stimulating questions. With just a tiny slice of life we are left wondering about the people in the story, which hopefully stimulates creative thinking on the part of the reader as they fill in the blanks. 
Epitaphs are similar to these stories. They are tiny glimpses into the lives of people long dead, often along with whoever it was that made the tombstone ofter their death. Like the opposite of a blink, we get this little glimpse into the lives of real people who used to be alive.

Robert Clay Allison
He never killed a man
that did not need killing

B.P. Roberts
I told you I was sick

For my project I wrote fictional, rhyming, epitaphs that try to suggest ideas and let the reader fill in the blanks. I accompanied the short poems with ink drawings of the tombstone it could have been written on. These drawings are also very simple, stripped down to they're most basic outlines, once again allowing the viewer to accept it how it is or fill in some of the empty spaces with something more.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Music Mosaic

Here is the first CRV post.  
       The assignment was to choose a piece of music and then create 8-12 image to compliment the piece. I chose Sting's "Saint Agnes and the Burning Train," Which, for me, has always created visuals of a whimsical Mediterranean world. Interestingly I find myself populating this world mostly with jugglers and acrobats. Perhaps this has to do with my efforts as a youth to learn the art of juggling and magic tricks. 
      As I thought about the lives of these imaginary entertainers a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti came to mind. "Constantly risking absurdity, and death, whenever he performs." Read the whole thing here.
      I find this risk of absurdity (or death in some sense) that accompanies any artistic pursuit to be quite terrible. I constantly fear that people will not notice or appreciate my art, and in turn I worry that  do not adequately acknowledge the hard work of others, whatever their chosen field. 
       I began to draw these jesters performing their craft, with or without an audience to observing. These "fools" are self portraits. They are also portraits of all artists, of anyone willing to fly in the face of complacency and create something, despite the risk of absurdity and death.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Handmade Bow Ties & Weeping

Hello everyone.
I made seven bow ties yesterday to raise some money for Weeping; a student film I'm working on. You may not know that I am a film student here at BYU, but I am, and I am head of wardrobe for this film.

To celebrate or something I made these bow ties to sell.

These are straight bow ties, which creates a lovely pucker when tied. They cost only $30 each, and if you order one within the next 2 weeks $10 on each tie will go toward the film.

There are 4 possible lengths, with vintage shell button fasteners. 

Here's one in action. 

And another.

I'm also thinking I'll make some out of this nice raw silk I've had laying around.

If you are interested you can email me at madebyknoahk@gmail.com