Saturday, November 20, 2010

On the prowl to recognize what Lyndsey Scott is worth

In search of lost texts, I did a major league email archaeology project this fall, tunneling all the way back to June 2008, deleting and archiving one personal email at a time.

You find a lot of things doing something like that. One of the things you find is that you have lost a lot of things. I found that I had lost touch with the artist Lyndsey Scott. I was struck by the level of personal engagements in the emails we used to trade that we don't trade anymore.

I wrote to her about this, and she responded as one would want the old friend to respond in that situation, with the assurance that we were always connected, even when we didn't have time to act like it.

Given all this, I was pleased to receive the other day from Lyndsey a message that shows her going through a similar process, and thinking of me in the midst of it.
I am totally enjoying the scrupulous bellybutton-gazing process of recollecting and remembering pieces of that which I've scattered to the wind for the past 3+ years in STL....  I am on the prowl to live what I'm worth, part of that is recognizing it -- which for me means a bit of backtracking since I typically didn't see it, record it, or embody it fully when it came through the first time. To that aim, I'm creating a website that helps me archive and process my work so far, in this juncture of "What next"..........

My computer ate the images of late 2008 --- so I don't have a good shot of "The house of God is also a black hole" - which I believe you own. Would you be willing to snap a fresh one and send it my way?    
Lyndsey has been a regular contributor to the annual Poetry Scores art invitational, when we invite a mad pack of artsists to make work in response to the poem we are scoring that year, then title the work after a verbatim quote from the poem. "The house of God is also a black hole" was Lyndsey's contribution to our invitational for Nailed Seraphim by the great K. Curtis Lyle.

I do indeed own that piece, and I have indeed photographed it.

And a detail:

Tried shooting a detail with the flash:

 Here is a slightly closer look at the eponymous "black hole":

I think it is fair to see some intimate contours of the feminine anatomy in this detail.

In that connection, any girl-crazy person would recall that Lyndsey (who is strikingly beautiful, apart from her many talents) really dolled up for this show. I would swear she was wearing eyelashes from the same set of material as she used for this intimate detail on the work of art I now own.

Back to our girl herself, from her "archive and process" email.
Also - I can't remember or find the title of the 2006 image?? I know that's asking a lot of archiving precision, but if anybody has that you do!
The 2006 image? That is asking for a lot of archiving precision. I thought it might be the goliath installation she made for the Go South for Animal Index invitational, but a little imprecise researching places that show in 2007.

That means 2006 had to be the invitational for Blind Cat Black, and how could I ever forget her piece for that show? It walked out in the arms of a man named Chad Ivins. It was while I was talking to this tall, craggy-faced man that I was told he was a filmmaker, and it was out of that chance meeting that Poetry Scores came to make a movie to Blind Cat Black and the name of Chad Ivins, aka Chizmo, came to appear in Turkish media about its screening in Istanbul.

We flat burned out old Chizmo in the process of making that movie, but I will circle around now and try to find him to ask him about Lyndsey's piece from 2006. I hope he still has it.

I don't have far to seek to find Lyndsey's contribution to the 2009 Poetry Scores art invitational, for The Sydney Highrise Variations by the great Les Murray. For that piece Lyndsey did an exquisite drawing exquisitely titled "They answer something in us," which also is my collection now.

You can't tire of digging into its details.

Good luck there, Lyndsey Scott, on your prowl to recognize what you are worth, and to live it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Starring as Lost Almost intake site: Donny's dilapidated ranch house

The silent movie we are making, Go South for Animal Index, is a fable of Los Alamos, the secret military site where the nucleur bomb was invented and first tested. The actual Los Alamos had an intake site (in Santa Fe, actually, rather than Los Alamos proper) where all personnel reported first and received their identification. This site was ruled by the executive assistant of Los Alamos, a woman nicknamed The Atomic Lady. She regularly burned secret documents to destroy them, an irresistible piece of stage business in a silent movie. So one sine qua non for our Lost Almost intake site is a stove where we can burn documents.

And here you have our stove. It is in a dilapidated ranch building on some property owned by the family of Donny Blake in St. Clair, Missouri. We have permission to shoot there.

Here is a bit more of the room. We will put the Atomic Lady's desk just in front of the stove, so she can turn around from her desk and burn documents. In addition to the intake scenes,we will shoot solos of The Atomic Lady here, typing documents and burning others. She also will be visited by the lonely, desperate scientist wives for a moonshine klatch here.

This is the room facing off to one side of it. We probably don't want this in our shot and will have to do something to block it off. Some filing cabinets and soldiers seem in order.

Here is the room on the other side. We want it in the shot even less. (Though we could put a bed against that wall to the right and shoot bedroom scenes here.) We will probably have to create a very limited little range of motion for our camera and actors when we shoot the intake scenes. It's not bad at all if the intake scenes have a slightly claustrophobic feel. After all, people are losing their liberty when they enter here.

Our stove from behind. I love this stove. The pipe going outside means we can't move it though.

After the stove and the bare ruined nature of the place, the next benefit is this: a good clean exit. This scene is all about our scientist characters entering a new world, and we need to shoot exits after they have been fingerprinted and officially identified. This door is so much better than the other one, so we will probably use it for entrance and exit. I am pretty sure the actual intake site at Los Alamos was like that, though we are telling a fable and fact need not be our guide.

The front of the ranch building is workable. It will be a relief to have the interior and the exterior be the same physical location. That is becoming a rarity in this production, since we need things to look bare and either period (mid-1940s) or timeless. It's hard to find exteriors and interiors, let alone in the same place.

Another look at front. We can shoot a nice long walk-along the wall if we need one.

The ranch building sits up a on hill, which makes for nice shots. Here is a look up the hill.

Another look up the hill. Other than battling the cold, for many reasons it would be better to shoot these scenes when the trees are bare. The intake scenes are at the beginning of the movie. Also at the beginning is a funeral scene. We have shot one of the scenes right after the funeral. I need to see that footage. It's an interior scene, and if there is no green in it outside the window, then I think we should shoot the intake scenes this winter when the trees are bare.

Those steps down with the railing are a big plus. We need to shoot a transition scene where the scientists, carrying hunks of the lab, and their wives, carrying luggage, move from intake to lab and lodgings. This will be great for that. 

Another limitation: we can't shoot down the steps very freely. We don't want to see that house or the lake in any Lost Almost shot. We will use the lake extensively for a completely different storyline, the People of Peace, and it is essential that these worlds - Lost Almost and the People of Peace - are distinct geographically.

Those steps end at this car port, which we will use for the nuclear physics lab (without the cars). So we can shoot pretty much in real space and time when moving from intake to lab set-up.

It will be easy to clean this space out and turn it into a mad scientist's lab.

We will be able to shoot wide without anything else in the shot but the warped world of the lab -- and have natural light from one side.

Pretty good sightlines shooting both ways, side to side, inside the shed.

We also can establish the relationship of the lab to the footpaths people will use to navigate the world of the movie. The other side of the road, though, is the house and lake and can't be in any lab shot.

Usefully, there is a stack of those wooden gates that can be used as false walls.

I love the butt ugly side of the shed / lab. We need a place for the zombie uranium couriers to drop off uranium to the nuclear lab. I pictured a nasty wall for General Graves and solider to stand against and take delivery. This will do until something better comes along.

The ranch and shed have plenty of junk lying around that will look good in our lab. Like this.

And this.

The intake scenes will be a bear to shoot. We need General Graves (Ray Brewer), Opje (Michael R. Allen), the Atomic Lady (Suzanne Roussin) for all of the intake scenes. In installments, we also would need the first lab scientist (Richard Skubish) and his family (Stefene Russell, Claire Eiler), the second lab scientist (John Eiler) and his wife (Natalie Partenheimer), the first bomb scientist (Neal Alster) and his wife (Barbara Manzara), the second bomb scientist (Paul Casey), the Feign Man scientist (Tory Z. Starbuck) and all the soldiers we can get our hands on (John Parker, Thomas Crone, Tim McAvin, Thom Fletcher).

That might have to be two days of shooting, rather than one. It would be frustrating to set up the scene and light it two separate times, but perhaps I can get the crew to shoot in St.Clar two days in a row. They have not liked the idea of shooting at our other great location in Cuba two days in a row, but St. Clair is an hour away from St. Louis rather than 90 minutes. A bit easier to accept as a day trip.

Hopefully we can block off a weekend and spend one day shooting  intake at the ranch house, and the next day shooting exits and walk-downs to the path and lab, followed by some initial lab set-up scenes.

This is tricky stuff!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

If you want to know the truth, don't lose Alexa Hoyer's piece

When Poetry Scores first began hosting art invitationals, the artist Robert Goetz was on our board. Robert is a brilliant, versatile, experienced artist, and at the time he also made a living preparing installations at the world-class Laumeier Sculpture Park. He brought a professionalism to the project that was in direct conflict with my amateur approach.

Any number of things that seemed fine by me were a violation of a professional code that Robert held dear. I still remember one that I have thought a lot about lately.

When you have a large number of local artists making work for a show, it is quite a trick to get it all in time. As Robert worked out art drop-off at the gallery for our first art invitational, I blithely suggested people also could just get their work to me when it was finished, and I could drop it off when the time was right. Right?

Wrong. Robert said something like, "So, is Poetry Scores getting into art storage now? Art moving?" He didn't like it at all. There are professional standards for storing, moving, and handling somebody else's art. It wasn't something you just jumped into.

Robert moved on from Poetry Scores after a few invitationals, having professionalized our curatorial techniques dramatically for the better. Some time after Robert moved on, I went back to collecting art early for the annual invitational and holding onto it untilofficial drop-off time. For the Jack Ruby's America Art Invitational this Friday, Nov. 12 at Mad Art Gallery, for example, I accepted an early mailing of Alexa Hoyer's submission, "But if you want to know the truth, all you have to do is ask".

Alexa is an artist of European nativity currently based in New York, who spent some time here in St. Louis and left some vivid, positive impressions here. Another former Poetry Scores board member, the artist Jenna Bauer, brought Alexa into our fols, and last year at the Sydney Highrise Variations Art Invitational, I spent all night accounting to people who asked about her what little I knew.

So, Alexa is in. Cool. That's one piece I don't have to worry about now, I thought, when I received it at work. And then I put it ...

I put it ...

On my desk? ... No.

On the counter at home? ... No.

In The Skuntry Museum, Archive & Prop Shop (my basement)? ... No.

Left it in my VW's hatchback? ... No.

Where the hell was it? It was time to hang the show!

Sure it wasn't on my desk? On the counter at home? In the museum in my basement? Buried in my hatchback?

No, no, no, no.

I was depressed. Really depressed. It was a print she could have duplicated, but at hassle and expense, especially with short-notice mail fees. And I was anyway a rat to have lost it. The spectre of Robert Goetz haunted me.

"So, is Poetry Scores doing art storage now?" Goetz's spectre said. "Art moving?"

I moped around, a demoralized curator.

Then, I was moving stuff around in my hatchback to make room for the art I had taken in early that I had not lost and there it was, the package Alexa Hoyer had thoughtfully sent early from New York, nested in the papers buried in my hatchback, where I guess it always had been (despite the fact that I had sifted through those exact papers looking for it 749 times).

Tonight, as we prepare for the show tomorrow, "But if you want to know the truth, all you have to do is ask" by Alexa Hoyer is displayed on the wall at Mad Art Gallery. Her title is from the part of David Clewell's poem Jack Ruby's America with perhaps the biggest WOW factor, "Jack Ruby Talks Business with the New Girl," where Clewell ventriloquizes Ruby laying down the rules of engagement to a dancer who was new to his burlesque club.

In a Poetry Scores art invitational, 50 (or so) artists make work to the same poem we are scoring, they title their work after a verbatim piece of language from the poem, and then we hang the work depending on where in the flow of the poem the language used for the title appears.

It so happens Alexa's piece hangs next to a real novelty item. Back in September, Poetry Scores produced a live jazz burlesque score of Clewell's poem that features Lola van Ella dancing a burlesque routine to the Dave Stone Trio, immediately following Clewell's performance of "Jack Ruby Talks Business to the New Girl". (John Eiler videotaped the reading and the burlesque act and has edited them both into a slightly bowlderized version.)

For her routine, Lola choregraphed a cowgirl act in homage to Candy Barr, who worked the burlesque scene in the Dallas of Ruby's era and knew the man. Lola worked with Becky Simmons, who does her costumes, to craft a cow-girl get-up, with the understanding that they would later title it after a piece of Clewell's poem and let us auction off the costume at the art invitational.

And, thus, due to the flow of the poem and the titles these women chose for their work, Alexa Hoyer's print hangs beside a dress form adorned with a work of costume art titled "And you dance. With class." At our urging, Lola did not launder the costume after taking it off in her act. The piece even includes the gold star pasties that obscured her nipples during her act, because when she tore them off and threw them into the crowd, they landed at my feet and I kept them for the show!


Image is "But if you want to know the truth, all you have to do is ask" by Alexa Hoyer.