“Bill Wants To Be The Bad Boy:” A Me-Too’d Art “Maven” and the Postmodern Abuse of Art

Circling The Drain:

Taking Advantage of the Decline of Artistic Expectations 

They say the way you do something is the way you do everything.

Here in Phoenix, Arizona, an all too familiar drama is playing out. An affluent influencer has been accused of sexual aggression towards multiple women. The details offered are lurid, and awful.

No charges have been filed. There is no proof I am aware of, beyond mostly anonymous statements given to journalists. In this country, we are all innocent until proven guilty. This must be a very difficult time for everyone involved. Pray for all of them.

Unlike Joe Biden, I was not there 3,000 years ago, when Isildur took the ring and the strength of men failed. But I was there in 2002, when landscape architect Bill Tonneson took the title of artist, and the integrity of the art world failed. I met Bill Tonneson at one of his first exhibits, at the old Paper Heart Gallery.

It was a poor showing. Mostly patterns of found objects mounted on wall hung canvases. But it turns out, these examples of bland decor were the opening moves of a grand strategy.

Back then, Tonneson had decided he would make himself the world’s third most famous artist in one year. In a Phoenix New Times interview at the time with art critic Robrt Pela, Tonneson explained his gambit. The article is full of telling quotes:

A year ago, architect Bill Tonnesen launched a career in modern art. His 12-month goal: to create 100 significant pieces, and to land a one-man show in a notable gallery. He chronicled his experience in the self-published Tonnesen: 12 Months to Fame and Fortune in the Art World. The book pictures many of his mixed-media assemblages (a frame filled with teacups, another jammed with hundreds of Bic pens) and is full of revelations (“As I surveyed the art world, there seemed to be a lot of paintings. Crazy abstract stuff that looked relatively easy to do.”)…

NT: There’s that old line that you always hear about modern art: “Hey, my kid could do that!” Your career as an artist strikes me as a big riff on that whole notion.

Tonnesen: That’s a subject I love to talk about: understanding art. The notion that one painting deserves a more important place in the history of art. It’s very convenient for uninformed people to think that their opinion is the equal of someone like [deceased MOMA curator] Robert Storr’s. What makes contemporary art so unique that suddenly everybody is an expert? Why can some idiot walk in off the street and think his opinion about a painting has any value?…

NT: …You actually made an A-list of artists in your book. What is that based on?

Tonnesen: Primarily on auction results.

NT: So for you, it’s all about the money artists make, and not what their work is expressing or how it moves you.

Tonnesen: Well, money is a measure of collectibility. So are references in textbooks, a presence in museums, and mentions in publications like Art News, which essentially make the art world. But the common currency is money. It’s the most concise way of determining an artist’s popularity.

NT: That’s a pretty arrogant position to take, to create a list that values artists based on how much money they make.

Tonnesen: The list is the least controversial aspect of what I’ve done. Essentially, it’s unchallenged, partly because if you survey the horizon of thousands upon thousands of artists, people like Jasper Johns and Gerhardt Richter are the ones who rise up, and it’s relatively . . . I can’t think of the word.

NTYou seem torn between saying that the art world is full of shit and wanting to be part of it.

Tonnesen: My goal is to point out that the art industry is a market, like any other. I am a libertarian, laissez faire capitalist. I believe in markets. What I’m interested in doing is studying how the art market works and competing there, but not at a regional level. I have worked now for one year in this regional environment, and now I’m ready to compete on a larger stage…

The interview concludes with this nugget of Tonneson analysis: “I don’t think people really have much insight into what is art and what is not art.”

Bill Tonneson has been relying that disconnect ever since.

In the interview above Tonneson expresses the perspective of a Postmodern partisan. The attitudes are all there: the relativisim. The appeals to authority. The derision towards the little people who dare to have their own opinions. The lust for money, fame and power. Tonneson states the values of the establishment art industry, which are of course the values of the establishment in general. Our elites are corrupt Postmodernists to the core.

His take-over-the-art-world book is still available (Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,664,166 in Books). Needless to say, that initial scheme failed. But the marketing blitz made Tonneson a player in the lively Phoenix arts scene.

British artist Charles Thomson, co-founder of the Remodern art movement, has attributed the crisis of relevance in the contemporary arts to “…a Postmodern ethos that puts celebrity, cynicism and commerce above any spiritual or deeper human values.”I would add a fourth C to that list: controversy. Since 2002, Tonneson has worked those unappealing angles to keep himself as an artistic presence.

Like in 2012, when he plunked this beauty down in front of his house, so the nearby pre-school and church could take a gander at it:

 

“Arizona Man Feuds with Neighbors Over Statue of Obese Naked Woman,” reported the New York Daily News.

“I love it,” Tonnesen said. “I’m crazy about it.”…he wishes his neighbors could see it as a work of art, and not just a nude woman. His neighbors aren’t alone — Torrenson said his wife doesn’t like the statue’s placement and made him cover with a sheet.

“Until I can work something out with my wife, we’re going to leave it covered,” he told KNXV.

That poor long suffering lady. I read a later article which said Tonneson had added a bikini made out of money to the piece, but I couldn’t find an image of it.

He was at it again in Tucson in 2013: “Artist Hopes Nude Statues Cause a Bit of Outrage:

Tonnesen has created a pair of statues — torsos of nude women jutting out of a tower of truck tires — that sit in front of an apartment building at 2230 E. Fort Lowell Road.

In Phoenix, Tonnesen is a bit of a bad boy. Some of his large-scale pieces, often in prominent spots at apartment buildings, are in-your-face nudes. One, an obese nude woman sitting on a wall, faces a church. Another nude — it looks to be of the same large model — holding a urinal at her crotch (presumably an homage to Duchamp) is on display at the front of an apartment building not far from the Phoenix Art Museum. Protests to the works were loud.

Tonnesen, who solicits publicity, loves the controversy his art creates…Tonnesen calls the works, molded from a live model and made primarily of plaster and epoxy with a steel frame, “Domestic Totems.”

Two female torsos sit on top of 11 gleaming black tires, raising the works up to about 16 feet, nearly reaching the top of the second story of the two-story building.

The torsos are white. Each has large, exposed breasts.

The figures are draped with a shawl and have headpieces made of pots, pans, dishes and other accouterments of domesticity. One has an electric hand beater as a necklace, a mop covering her eyes as though they are long bangs, a baby sitting on top of the headpiece, and a mouselike figurine on top of that. The woman’s mouth is opened in a sort of shocked “O.”

…“My grandson doesn’t like them; he thinks they’re nasty,” says Marybeth Davis, who lives there with him. She, on the other hand, has no problem with the bare breasts. It’s the works themselves that bother her.

“I don’t call them art,” she says. “I call them gaudy.”

Tonneson’s controversies aren’t limited to art. Even before the recent allegations, in his landscape architecture business there have been some very vocal dissatisfied customers, and neighbors. His plans for a Phoenix Holocaust Memorial spiraled out of control (Illusions of Grandeur, New Times March 2005).  The project was not completed. And then there was the time he convinced the former mayor of Tempe to convert a local landmark into a Bill Tonneson theme park. (Bill Tonnesen, Contentious Tempe Developer, Aims for Immortality, New Times November 2012)The city council didn’t go along with that one.
Quotes from the linked articles paint an evocative picture:
On renovations:

…At first, the pair enjoyed getting to know the charismatic designer and his workers. They even bought a few pieces of his artwork, including one with orderly rows of coffee cups featured in Tonnesen. He assured them it would only grow in value as his art career took off.

But the piece hasn’t aged well; one of the coffee cups has fallen off its backing, and in its place, Dacquisto has stuck a movie stub from Kill Bill Vol. 1. Like the artwork, his relationship with Tonnesen also deteriorated precipitously, after the project dragged on for nearly a year…Worst of all, when the partners went to talk to a lawyer, the lawyer gave them a piece of information that caught them totally off guard: Tonnesen Inc. didn’t have a license to do electrical work, which it had done. Or a mechanical license. Or a plumbing license. Or a residential contractor’s license. Tonnesen never should have been allowed to redo their kitchen in the first place, their lawyer explained….

The Holocaust Memorial:

Tonnesen claims, repeatedly, that Phoenix’s memorial will be the only one in the world to show six million objects. It’s a contentious claim: After all, schoolchildren in rural Tennessee recently collected more than six million paper clips to display in an old German cattle car. It was an improvised effort, without a master plan or a visionary architect, but the exhibit now draws thousands of kids from all over the Southeast….

But that doesn’t count, Tonnesen says, not under his criteria. Sitting in a big pile, the paper clips aren’t visually distinct.

Similarly, he doesn’t count the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, which shows six million numbers etched on six glass towers. “That’s different,” he says.

He can’t seem to acknowledge that any previous effort has hit the nail on the head. This, after all, is a guy who dismisses the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: “Beautiful idea, but immaturely executed.”

There goes the neighborhood, and the Tempe Flour Mill:

…And always, Tonnesen’s sculptures — many of them life-size statues of Tonnesen himself, in various guises: holding an umbrella, pointing at a giant thermometer, perched atop an air-conditioning unit. But his accolades…often are drowned out by the moaning of people who’ve had dealings with Tonnesen.

Like the employees worried that he talks too much about working without proper permitting. And the city officials who felt he was forcing his public art onto the Tempe Flour Mill site, after he sneaked two of his sculptures onto the site on the evening of its grand opening…

“The problem with Bill isn’t a lack of talent,” says a colleague of Tonnesen’s who refused to be named because, he says, any public commentary on Tonnesen leads to days and days of e-mails and phone calls and recriminations.

“It’s that he doesn’t listen, and he wants everything his way. So you ask him for a glass of water, and he brings you a swimming pool. And you say, ‘Put the swimming pool in my backyard, then,’ and he mounts it on your roof and plants 70 trees around it and then encases it in a big metal box made out of recycled refrigerator shelving, because it’s what he wants.”

…”His houses are ridiculous, and they don’t fit in on our street,” says one of Tonnesen’s Tempe neighbors, who won’t go on-record because she’s heard other neighbors complaining about Tonnesen screaming at them. “I got yelled at by people on the block, because I had seven wind chimes on my front porch. But this guy can have a giant metal box and a hundred trees in the front yard, and everyone’s thrilled!”

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“I’m hard to work with,” Tonnesen admits. “When I hire someone, the chances of it working out are tiny. I only care about two people’s opinions — my wife’s and my assistant’s. Everyone else is just workers, and I’m hoping they won’t screw everything up.”

“Bill does things first and asks permission later,” that ever-vigilant assistant, Samantha Staiger, says. “That bothers people.”

“You gotta make your own opportunity!” Tonnesen yells excitedly. He’s an imposing presence: 6 1/2 feet tall, wearing his signature uniform of pressed blue jeans and a white Oxford shirt with his last name stitched above the pocket. His smooth hairstyle recalls the blunt bob worn by Gloria Vanderbilt in the ’60s and ’70s. “I’m not sitting around waiting for permission. I try to be proactive and to make things happen…”

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“I had some grandiose ideas,” Tonnesen admits of his Flour Mill plans. “I want to do the unexpected. I want people to be curious and confused by the art things we put in. So I drew up an elevated walkway with a hole in it, and we would have someone sitting by the hole, and maybe spraying water on people or videotaping them as they walked by.”…the Tempe City Council wouldn’t go for a walkway with a built-in hooligan, so Tonnesen came up with a second plan: a giant Advent calendar-like cabinet filled with his own custom statuary.

“I had it dripping with my sculptures!” he bellows gleefully. “And of course no one had any money to do this. I would have done it for free! When it’s an iconic structure in my own town, I’m on board!”

To rehabilitate his reputation, Tonneson worked with Alison King, a web designer and co-founder of Modern Phoenix.

Shining up Tonnesen’s public image was no easy task, King admits. “It was among the hardest jobs I’ve taken on,” she says. “Bill wants to be a bad boy. He can’t help it. It’s who he is. He would rather ask for forgiveness later than ask permission first.”

But then, in his most ambitious art move yet, Tonneson got his theme park. Thwarted by short sighted city bureaucrats, he installed his monument to himself, himself. Bill Tonneson went to the Lavatory.

The Lavatory is the name of Tonneson’s solo act art museum. Seriously, what is it with these elitists and their juvenile caca fixations? 

“Big Fun Art’ Spreads to Phoenix” City Lab December 2018

Illuminated by floor-recessed lighting, the bottom half of a 1,500 square-foot subterranean room is suffused in pink, slow-curling fog. By one wall is a life-sized plaster-cast statue of a bare-chested woman, head concealed in cloth, holding a naked infant upside-down. A gaunt female model with an alabaster face saunters languidly through the space, like a mute witness to some macabre ritual. The 50 or so patrons, who each paid a $30 entrance fee, tentatively explore the room’s perimeter, wading through the puffy fuchsia tide, when a baritone voice registers through speakers:
“Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to be buried alive.”
Following a New Year’s Eve-style countdown, a huge net tethered to the ceiling releases 120,000 three-inch plastic iridescent balls, eliciting instantaneous glee from the crowd. They now occupy the largest, most bizarre, adult ball pit playpen in the world.The “wizard” behind the curtain is 63 year-old Bill Tonnesen, who serves as MC at the Lavatory, a risqué, if not outright scatological, art exhibition housed in a 16,000 square-foot, two-story commercial building just north of downtown Phoenix…in addition to the “pit,” [it} includes other themed rooms (one requires a non-disclosure agreement to enter). Also featured are two claymation cyclorama booths with professional portrait quality lighting conditions; a claustrophobic ten-by-eight foot room filled floor-to-ceiling with 18 functioning toilets; and many, many pieces of artwork by Tonnesen himself.

“A traditional experience at a gallery or museum is to look at a painting on a wall,” the artist told CityLab. “We’re working on a mechanism to make that painting fall if you get too close. My goal is to confuse.”

There is some confusion going on here all right. Clarity can be reached by looking at the broader, top down goals being inflicted on our culture.

The Postmodern establishment is trying to exterminate the experience of art. As I state in my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization: 

Art is undergoing a crisis of relevance. Elitist malfeasance has marginalized the visual arts in popular culture. In doing so, the New Aristocracy of the Well-Connected block access to powerful resources. They deny our society the inspiration to live up to ideals, the encouragement to think and feel deeply, the yearning to harmonize with truth and beauty. As a result, the mass audience has turned away. People instinctually reject the superficial and nihilistic contemporary art championed by an imperious would-be ruling class.

Ruling class totalitarians use Postmodern art as a tool of oppression. Elitists have weaponized art into an assault on the foundations of Western civilization. This deceitful cabal seeks to destroy any principled perspective on the lies, manipulations, and abuses they commit. The scourge of Postmodern relativism as a cultural force is no accident; it’s a top-down driven campaign. Hyping soulless, unskilled art has a toxic, weakening effect on society as a whole.

There’s more than one way the elites have attacked art. The really prevalent one right now is to turn art into just another form of leftist activism. 

But the more insidious one is to replace art with the fleeting, tacky thrills and tawdry spectacles of a carnival midway and sideshow.  This is why you now get things like giant slides in art museums.

The Tate Museum’s Downward Slide 

Sure, that looks like fun, but is it art? No, it is not.

Depsite Postmodernism’s efforts to redefine words to suit the vast agendas of control, real art is the very opposite of the whirl and swirl of the county fair. Real art freezes a particular moment and makes it reverberate with timelessness and deep meaning. It doesn’t immerse us in sensations which drive us to distraction. Real art moves slowly in us, but with massive force. It is an enduring and abiding experience. Real art inspires  awe regarding human potentials, and takes us out of ourselves.

The elites don’t want us to have those profound moments. Too much risk of uplifting, transformative wisdom occurring. The ideologically driven artifice they favor can’t provide the moving qualities actual art delivers. So, using their hold over our cultural institutions, they are doing a massive bait and switch. Call something art, but then deliver cheap, lewd variations of Chuck E. Cheese attractions. They substitute the intensity of traditional art with an empty buzz of quick hit one-liners.  That will keep the ignorant proles in their place!

The Future of Art? 

The Lavatory fails the achieve art. It might pass as a fun house, but it doesn’t really look like much fun. It’s over burdened, trying to prove its art cred by dragging in stale Duchamp references. The images from it suggest a sinister, sleazy vibe, which recent reports only amplify.

Scenes From the Lavatory. Ick.

After the Me-Too style allegations surfaced, the Lavatory has gone dark. Tonneson shut down his Instagram account, and from the vicious commentary left showing on his Facebook page, it seems to be untended as well. Venues have started removing his works from display.

Tonneson’s come back before from scandal. He may be back again. If so, we can hope he will be able to deliver an authentic artistic experience, rather than just another tacky destination for selfies.

Bill Tonneson: Say Cheesecake 

 

 

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other articles for more commentary on the State of the Arts from a Remodern perspective. 

STUDIO: Scenes from the Studio, Part 1

My Better Half

Michele Bledsoe’s Studio Set Up 

 

In my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, I include a description of our current artistic working conditions:

 

Michele and I now share a studio in our home. We’ve spent countless hours together making art. We work back to back, with the stereo in the middle to play the music which inspires us.

She sits at her easel. I pace around in front of mine.

Michele uses tiny, soft brushes. I use big house-painting brushes for much of my work.

She discovers her imagery through stream of consciousness dreaming. I am replicating the vision I was assigned.

She likes to focus on one work at a time, and linger over it. I have multiple pieces going at once, at different stages of completion, and I compulsively push them towards resolution.

Michele doesn’t know what she is going to paint when she begins, but she applies her masterful technique to it. I know the image I need to present, but I don’t know how I’m going to paint it out.

We are both wholly committed to our art, and we show it in our own different ways. Remodernism encourages dedication to individual expression, and the pursuit of excellence.  

 

I’d written before about our shared art space. Back in 2015, i did a blog post on “The Mystique of the Artist Studio:”

There is nothing like having the dedicated space just for art. There is great pleasure in not having to pack up and move all materials at the end of a session, to have the needed tools within reach when an idea strikes. The magic in artists’ studios is in the sense of purpose, a Zen-like meditation on process.

It is an exotic environment. Many strange devices and substances are used there. Simple everyday needs like lighting and storage take on whole new urgency. And in the studio there is the artist, a person who puts appearances onto ideas. Might seem like an anachronism in these technological times, but the artist fulfills a deep human need.

It occurred to me that our studio spaces are full of wonderful moments, where our tools and inspirations blend together into intriguing vignettes. Why not share the excitement that is happening there, even we we are not working?

Michele Bledsoe has created a whole magical world to surround herself while she paints. In her blog post post “Art and the Proximity of Curious Objects,” she wrote:

My husband is always telling me to take a picture of the weird collection of items I have on the tray of my easel.

I’m not exactly sure what the actual purpose is for this little shelf-like area..

but it is where I keep all my favorite stuff.

Polished rocks, glass marbles and rusty keys.

Floppy-limbed Micronauts, the metal license tabs from Gunther’s collar

and my father’s college ring.

My art studio is filled with strange little objects that have captured my attention..

but you can tell how much I like something by how close it gets to my easel.

Here are some other special moments from Michele’s half of the studio. I will show mine in a future post.

 

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PAINTINGS: “Do the Work,” a New Collaboration by Michele and Richard

Michele Bledsoe and Richard Bledsoe “Do the Work”

acrylic on canvas 12″ x 6″

 

Michele Bledsoe and I have completed the third piece in our ongoing collaborative series.

As we develop our art and our lives together, we have found inspiration in a book by Steven Pressfield:

Do the Work.

“A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate. Don’t think. Act.”

-Steven Pressfield

Michele and I both created our own painting in our own unique style, but allowed a dialogue to form by the interaction of our individual efforts.

Michele compared it to having an intimate conversation.

The process of working on a piece together was so enjoyable that we will continue to collaborate. We hope to someday have a show of just our shared pieces. Watch this space for future updates.

 

Previous Collaborations:

Tusk

Blind Mugwump Johnson 

BOOKS: The Cthulhu Blues and Other Stories-by Richard Bledsoe

Richard Bledsoe and Michele Bledsoe

“Blind Mugwump Johnson” acrylic on canvas 10″ x 8″ 

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“We were led away from the others and sat under the shade of trees in the cemetery. As he arranged himself, sitting rather irreverently on a crypt, it gave me a chance to consider the hardships he must have suffered to reach such a condition. He was exceedingly tall but thin to the point of gauntness. His coloration could be described like that of an albino’s but instead of a pinkish tone, his pallor displayed a greenish tinge, with mottlings of purple. His unseeing eyes were squeezed shut, bulging behind lids that almost seemed to be sealed over. Unmindful of facial expressions, as the blind often are, he seemed to have a terrible snarl always about his lips, exposing his gums and a surprisingly strong looking set of teeth.

“Once he started to play his talent was evident, but it was not to my liking at all. The sounds he produced on his guitar I can hardly credit as music; his voice fluctuated between an eerie falsetto warble and an impossibly low croaking or gasping sound. Many of lines were delivered in some harsh language or dialect completely unknown to me. Those words which he sang that I could discern have shaken me to my very core.”

From the short story “Blind Mugwump Johnson and the Cooloo Blues” 

August 20th is the birthday of horror author H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). I have been a fan of his writings since I was a teenager. It’s amused me to watch his influence spread over the years, becoming mainstream commercial to the extent you could go on a Cthuhlu-themed shopping spree, if you wanted to.

Lovecraft invented an underlying myth for a series of short stories he produced during the early decades of the twentieth century. In his nightmare world, prehistoric Earth had been colonized by monstrous demonic aliens. These evil beings were still here, slumbering under oceans and desolate wastelands, waiting for their time to rise again. Encounters with these creatures or their human accomplices led to madness, death and destruction.

Many other authors have built on the haunted universe Lovecraft suggested. Here in Phoenix, H.P Lovecraft’s Birthday was a performance art event for many years, held at various venues. I took part in these shows, doing readings of a series of short stories I wrote, my contributions to the Lovecraftian Mythos.

These stories are collected in an ebook available on Amazon. The Cthulhu Blues and Other Stories.

My wife and I made a book trailer for it, which had us shrieking – with laughter.

The painting currently on the cover is a Lovecraft inspired painting I made in 2001; “Tendrils of the Dreamer.” However, when Michele Bledsoe and I first conceived the book, I decided I was going to create a new painting for the cover design.

I was going to produce a portrait of the character Blind Mugwump Johnson, the mysterious and sinister Delta blues singer. I started right away. However, as Michele assembled the e-book, I couldn’t get the painting right. It happens sometimes. Here is an earlier version, long before I quit working on it:

 

I covered this base coat with purples and unbleached titanium and then piled on more green, and redrew the mouth. It just wasn’t happening. Rather than delay the book, we went with another image, and the work in progress hung on the wall of our studio for months, unfinished.

Recently Michele and I started collaborating on paintings. After we finished our first one, she had another idea of how we could share a work. She asked if she could put her hand to finishing “Blind Mugwump Johnson.” She didn’t want to change it, just tweak it a little. I loved the idea.

She brought it to a wonderful resolution. With a light touch, she brought substance and subtlety to the image, and made it complete.

My next book is going to be “Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization.”  We are in the final editing stages now, we want it out this summer if possible.

But once that’s all complete, I look forward to returning to the shadowy depths spawned by Lovecraft, and discovering some more stories to tell about them.

 

 

EXHIBITIONS: International Stuckism-Quintus Gallery, Watkins Glen, New York

Richard Bledsoe “Petrified Forest” acrylic on canvas 20″ x 24″ 

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International Stuckism

October 13, 2017 – November 12, 2017, opening reception Friday October 13 

Quintus Gallery 65 Salt Point Rd. Watkins Glen, NY

Featuring artists from the UK, Spain, Greece, Russia, Iran, France, the Czech Republic, Australia, and the United States 

New York artist Ron Throop continues to make things happen. His latest project has been coordinating over thirty artists from around the world to share their visions in the latest display of the global art phenomenon of Stuckism.

The great analyst Carl Jung understood what art does. He stated, “All art intuitively apprehends coming changes in the collective unconsciousness.” Before the rejection of elitist presumption and incompetence became the consuming political topic it is now, in 1999 a group of UK artists started waging the same fight against the corrupt and out of touch establishment art world. The Stuckists were a harbinger of the dynamic which is remaking society. They are the first art movement of the Remodern era.

I’ve had the privilege of hosting a Stuckist exhibit here in Phoenix, with 2014’s International Stuckism: Explorers and Inventors. I’ve also participated in other international shows, like 2015’s Stuckism: Remodernising the Mainstream, University of Kent, Canterbury England.It’s an honor to show with these committed creatives. Stuckist free expression brings connectivity and joy back into a contemporary art world too often stifled by alienation and a sense of unjustified superiority.

Ron Throop sees art as a means for bringing people together. As he explains, “Communion has been one of my artistic goals for as long as I can remember. Expressive painting is a very powerful connector to people. We are an image and story-loving species.” To spread the word he has also assembled a book about the show, “International Stuckist Invitational at Watkins Glen,” available on both Createspace and Amazon.

Michele Bledsoe and I have both contributed to this show. It’s an exciting time, being involved in the renewal of the fundamental human activity of art making. We are very grateful to Ron Throop for his diligence and vision in creating this opportunity that demonstrates the grassroots are global, and growing. 

Michele Bledsoe “Assemblage” acrylic on canvas 7″ x 5″ 

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Richard Bledsoe “In the Trenches” acrylic on canvas 12″ x 16″ 

 

EXHIBITIONS: The Stuckists at Cass Art Islington, London England

Richard Bledsoe “The Portrait of Emmeline Grangerford” acrylic on canvas 30″ x 24″

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The Stuckists at Cass Art Islington

April 18 – 28, 2017

The Cass Art Space

66-67 Colebrook Row

London N1 8AB

Mon-Sat 10am-7pm (Wed 6pm)

In April, I am honored to be included in an exhibit with an international group of artists. In “The Stuckists at Cass Art Islington,” I will be showing alongside artists from the UK, USA, Spain, France, Australia, China, Russia, Greece, and the Czech Republic.

There are a lot familiar names participating in this exhibit. Many of the same artists were featured right here in Phoenix, Arizona’s 2014 exhibition International Stuckists: Explorers and Inventors. In this blog I’ve previously featured Ron Throop and Alexey Stepanov in their collaborative project, Round Trip Stuckism. And I’ve been fortunate enough to interview Charles Thomson, the co-founder of both Stuckism and Remodernism.

The ideas Thomson documented in his writings have inspired artists from all around the world, as this show demonstrates. Along with co-founder Billy Childish, they created manifestos which describe an open source art movement entirely different from the corrupt, elitist art market status quo.

Their passionate articulation of art practices based on authenticity, revelation, and connectivity changed my life when I stumbled across them so long ago, during some random late night internet surfing. They communicated in bold, frank language observations I had also made, mostly to myself, about the failures and potentials of the contemporary art scene. I never was able to present my thoughts in such a concise fashion before though. I learned much from their example. Stuckism/Remodernism has been inspirational to me not only as a painter, but as a writer and an arts activist as well.

Billy Childish moved on to follow his own idiosyncratic path, but Charles Thomson has stayed to do the hard work with the movement. He has lent his organization skills, encouragement, and enthusiasm in creating opportunities throughout a worldwide community, currently listed as 236 groups in 52 countries. He has made the grassroots go global.

Some day I hope to be able to make a personal appearance at one of Stuckism’s international shows, wherever it may be.

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The Stuckist gives up the laborious task of playing games of novelty, shock and gimmick. The Stuckist neither looks backwards nor forwards but is engaged with the study of the human condition. The Stuckists champion process over cleverness, realism over abstraction, content over void, humour over wittiness and painting over smugness.

-The Stuckist Manifesto

 

 

EXPLOITS: The 2017 48 Hour Create-A-Thon – Two Gardens

Richard Bledsoe “Two Gardens” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 30″

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It was that time again. For the last three years I’ve taken part in Camelback Bible Church‘s 48 Hour Create-A-Thon. Starting on Friday night February 24, a group of artists gathered at the church, where we were presented with our inspirational theme. By 4pm on Sunday February 26, we needed to have a completed artwork created on site, ready to share at a reception. Throughout the weekend, the public was invited to visit with us to see the artistic process unfold.

This year I had a different experience than how the 2016 Create-a-Thon started. For 2017 we had two juxtaposing inspirational passages: Genesis 2:8-17, the description of the Garden of Eden, and Matthew 26:36-46, the story of Jesus’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane,  where He prayed to escape his destiny if possible, but put himself in God’s hands.

This year, as soon as I heard the subject matter, the vision came. I saw the image in my mind; now I just had to bring it out so everyone else could see it.

I immediately laid in broad planes of textured colors. I don’t like working straight off a white canvas. In this shot I’ve actually flipped the canvas over to get better access to the blue area; in the completed work, it’s the upper right corner. I stayed until about 9 pm that night, just getting the under painting laid in.

A fast start

I was there around 9am the next morning, and stayed until almost 5pm, a good solid working day. I didn’t even take a break for lunch, as the church provided us lots of good snacks, and cup after cup of coffee.

No time to lose, had to get the drawing in right away

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The first thing I did Saturday was crudely block in my two essential elements: Christ and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Then, with wide swoops from the shoulder, I dragged loops of white paint over the blue, and gray over the yellow. These were the faint beginnings of Eden’s hazy atmosphere and Gethsemane’s tangled branches. The rest of my time spent on this painting was spent revising and refining these loose beginnings.

An action shot from the 48 Hour Create-A-Thon

My wife Michele Bledsoe was there for support. She wrote her own blog post about the experience, “Marathon Painting and the Art of Sitting on the Sidelines.” She spent her time drawing and taking pictures and videos. Michele spends a lot of time on her art. She jokes if there is ever a 480 Hour Create-A-Thon, she might take part.

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Finishing touches

By the time I came back Sunday morning, I was well positioned on the painting, and I spent time on all those little details and touches that can make or break a painting. One of my ongoing quotes about this stage is “That’s why painters go mad.” Anyone who has ever seriously engaged in painting has probably had that experience when the most minuscule adjustment or mark can make a work spring to life-or crush it into a mess. As an intuitive painter, I never know in advance what mark that may be. I have to discover it.

To see my art is to see me, performing my role as a conduit for something else 

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So the question for me becomes, if the Create-A-Thon shows I can complete a resolved and meaningful painting in really less than 48 hours, why do I normally work on them for months?

In that environment, in that experience, the Spirit really moved me, I suppose.

The Remodernist’s job is to bring God back into art but not as God was before. Remodernism is not a religion, but we uphold that it is essential to regain enthusiasm (from the Greek, en theos to be possessed by God).

-The Remodernism Manifesto