Thursday, December 15, 2011

Breakfast - Final Project

My final project is a sound and image compilation titled 'Breakfast'.  This is my first attempt at a stop motion, and it really made me challenge myself with how to make a stop motion work cohesively. The work shows the cooking of breakfast, except all the items have minds of their own and are cooking themselves. I was inspired to create Breakfast after watching Jan Svankmajer's 'Meat Love'. My own work mimics Svankmajer's in the way the inanimate objects are animated and take on personalities, and both can be viewed morbidly as the living food starts cooking itself. The sound to Breakfast includes natural sounds of cooking, and the musical tract is one that I created in Garageband.

Wafaa Bilal - Artist Lecture

Wafaa Bilal is a multimedia artist from Iraq who gave an artist lecture presented by the University’s Department of Art on October 27th.  Bilal creates pieces that are sometimes interactive, and his work is highly based on the political conflicts between Iraq and the United States.
The first project he discussed was called Domestic Tension, which he started in May of 2007.  The basis of this project is that people can go online to shoot paintballs at Bilal at any time of the day.  Bilal wanted to portray the dehumanizing effect on US citizens about war and combat zones.  He said he thought of this project as being a combat zone versus a comfort zone.  I think this project shows the willingness of people to shoot at someone they don’t know for entertainment value if not for political grudges.  Bilal discusses that he was terrified during the project, each time the gun would click meant that someone was on the other end about to shoot him.  For me, this project acted as a small-scale reenactment of what the people in Iraq face.  Bilal’s purpose is to bring awareness to people who live their day-to-day lives not knowing what is happening elsewhere in the world.
Another project I found interesting was the video game Bilal created that was essentially a hunt for George W. Bush.  There was a lot of controversy over Bilal showing his video game on college campuses, and many people called him a terrorist.  His rebuttal is that art is not terrorism, and he is creating work to evoke thought that is not linked to terrorism.
Bilal also made an artistic and political statement with a tattoo on his back.  He got a map of Iraq, with dots in certain places to represent the number of Iraqi deaths in that area.  The whole tattoo was done in invisible ink, which is a comment on how Iraqi deaths seem to go unnoticed.
Bilal’s last project, which is an ongoing project, is a camera in the back of his head that captures images everywhere he goes from the back of his head.  One audience member raised the question that he may have started this project because of a sense of paranoia, and that he wants to keep a visual of what is happening behind his back at all times.  I think Bilal is trying to make a statement that he is watching you, even when his back is turned to you.  You can see Bilal’s latest project at

Morgan McAuslan - Artist Lecture

Morgan McAuslan is a mixed media artist whose installation in the Sheppard Arts Gallery was on display for the month of October.  His exhibit included sculpture and sound.  There were two windmill sculptures that stood in the middle of the exhibit, and an entire wall sculpture equip with motors that spun small corked hammers around to hit various metal containers.
McAuslan was in attendance at the exhibit to offer some of his thoughts going into the process of creating his works.  He likes to use non-traditional item to create objects that are easily recognized.  He said that he found a broken windmill near his home in Oregon, and rebuilt it entirely out of paper.
The piece of work that I found most interesting was the sound making sculpture.  The motor spun around wires that created a chain reaction until the wire the cork on the end was slingshot back to hit the container.  There was an assortment of different sizes of the containers, which made the room fill with various tones coming from the containers.
I think of this piece as recycled music.  All the materials that McAuslan used were found materials that he recycled into art.  The sounds coming from the sculpture are not quite music, because all the “instruments” are played at random.  The sculpture makes out of rhythm tones, similar to that of wind chimes.  You can also start and stop the motors at anytime, making the possibilities infinite for how many sound patterns can be made.
The aesthetic of the sculpture is also eye catching.  It is very geometric, with colored glass squares concealing the motors, and the long constantly moving lines the circle the wall.  The setup of the installation is very intriguing, and there is something to look at on every part of the wall.  I like that every aspect of his project is something old that has been renewed, and he found a different use for these object other than what they were originally intended for.

Miss Representation - Exhibition Review

On Wednesday, November 16th, the Universiy’s Department of Art hosted a screening and panel discussion of the documentary, Miss Representation.  The documentary discusses how the media portrays the role of women, and one woman’s take on how this misrepresentation is affecting our society.
The filmmaker is actress Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and through interviews and examples, she explores how the media has misrepresented women in media, and how these misrepresentations will affect her unborn daughter.  There are big names in the film, such as Jane Fonda, Nancy Pelosi, Rachel Madow, and Katie Couric.
Being a journalism major, I found the section about the role of women as newscaster most interesting.  Women in news are more often than not beautiful and scantily dressed.  In contrast, male figures in the news are older men, dressed properly and mostly attractive.  This shows women in the news taking on the role of bimbos, who are not as credible a news source as the male figure.  Women like Katie Couric, Rachel Madow, and Barbara Walters.  Although these women do not take on the “bimbo” role, they are still discussed differently than a male news source is.  Things like Internet blogs discussing the length of Katie Couric’s skirt, or news articles of the top 10 most attractive women newscasters.  These standards are never seen with men newscasters.
The film discusses that women who are in positions of power and influence are often underrepresented, and the media doesn’t portray these women.  Women who are in power are often seen as “bitches” and more manly than those depicted as sex symbols.  The bottom line of the documentary is than change must start now with us, and that women need to be shown the same appreciation and same standard as men in the media.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

William Wegman

Alli Williams
William Wegman
William Wegman is described as a pioneer video artist, photographer, painter, and writer. Wegman started his art career as a painter at the Massachusetts College of Art.  He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1965, and two years later received his Master of Fine Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  While painting is what Wegman focused on in college, it is not the medium for which he is most famous for today.
After graduating from the University of Illinois, he began teaching.  He started at the University of Wisconsin, and in 1970 moved to Southern California to teach at California State College, Long Beach for a year.  Wegman’s work began appearing in galleries and museums worldwide in the early 1970s, including the Situation Gallery in London and the Sonnabend Gallery in Paris and New York (3).  Although he lived on food stamps for a year before people started to pay attention to his photographs and videos, by the mid-’70s Wegman’s work began receiving both critical and popular acclaim,” wrote Kevin Conley in his article on (5).
The most popularized work of Wegman’s are his photo series and video work of his Weimaraners.  While teaching in Long Beach, Wegman adopted his dog, Man Ray, who was the first of his many Weimaraners to become the subject of his photographs and videos.  “Our new puppy and my interest in photo and video as art mediums were practically coincidental,” said Wegman in an interview with Housepet Magazine (9).  Man Ray was the subject of Wegman’s first video titled Split Screen.  Man Ray died in 1981, and was named “Man of the Year” by a New York City newspaper publication, The Village Voice a year later (4).  Wegman didn’t get another dog until 1986, another Weimaraner named Fay Ray.  With Fay Ray, Wegman began using his Polaroid again.  The offspring of Fay Ray began the growth of Wegman’s subjects, and his portfolio of work expanded.  He took many pictures of his Weimaraner family, as well as video shorts and books (9).
Wegman began creating children’s books with his dogs, with stories like Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Mother Goose, and others (3).  Wegman has also published books for adults including Man’s Best Friend, Fashion Photographs and William Wegman, and Fay.  Many of Wegman’s video works have been featured on Saturday Night Live and Nickelodeon, and he has been creating work for Sesame Street since 1989 (3).  His videos like Alphabet Soup and Fay’s Twelve Days of Christmas feature his dog Fay Ray and other Weimaraners dressed up like people being put into human situations.  The dogs have a deadpan expression for the most part, and seem to be utterly disinterested in what is going on.  This adds to the humor of Wegman’s videos, which, in this case, cater mostly to children viewers.  These video works are very different from his earlier videos from the 1970s.
From 1970 to 1977, Wegman created short videos that were very dry in humor, and quick to get to the point.  His featured video on his website is Spelling Lesson which was created in 1973-74, and shows Wegman reading the results of a spelling test back to his dog.  The dog gives Wegman confused looks each time Wegman spells the word out.  The video works because Wegman is so serious in the situation, and his sarcastic nature makes this particular short funny.
Not all of Wegman’s work is focused on his Weimaraners.  Many of his video shorts from the 1970s are of just him, or of inanimate objects that he gives voices to.  The video, Randy’s Sick from 1970-71 shows lamps that are talking to each other, and one lamp is saying that ‘Randy’ is about to be sick.  Other early videos without his dogs are Stomach Song (1970-71), Massage Chair (1972 – 73) and Crooked Finger (1972-73) (3).  The video work without the dogs is the same type of dry humor that he uses with the dogs, and the quick comical pieces work together as a cohesive collection of work very well.
In an interview with Liz Béar, Wegman discussed the kind of artwork that he is interested in. “I tend not to like short things that are funny and quick, that are more like my own work.  The kind of art that I like and the books I like to read are usually long and involved,” said Wegman (10).  It is interesting that he tends to like work that is long and involved, and that he is indifferent in work similar to his own.  “In art school you’re required to study other art…Even if you didn’t want to.  I had always thought it was important not to have art references in my work, because it would limit the audience,” said Wegman in the book, Funney/Strange.  This shows that Wegman likes to branch out his interests so that he isn’t stuck in just one aspect of art, and also so that he can have a much broader audience with a variety of interests.
Wegman’s original artistic medium was in drawing and painting.  He has received many awards and grants for his work from some of the most impressive art institutions in the country (9).  His paintings and drawings are unlike any other work of his.  Some of his more notable paintings we created in the mid 1980s, and he is still creating paintings today in conjunction with his photographs and video.  His later paintings depict scenery, and tend to be surreal, such as Look at That, which was done in 2007.  His paintings are mostly oil paintings done on canvas.  Most of his paintings do not include his Weirmaraners, and are not seen to be outright comical like his video and most of his photographic work.  The paintings speak to his more serious side, and show his diversity in creating artwork.
While there are many parallels between Wegman’s video work and photographs, some things are different within the two mediums. “…The absence of that time element is what makes the photographs interesting for me to do which is why I do both,” said Wegman in his interview with Béar (10).  His photos are almost exclusively of his dogs, with the exception of some of his earlier photographs.  His videos include both his dogs and himself as the subject.  There are many videos unrelated to his dogs that Wegman has created, and these videos are all shorts either with inanimate object or Wegman himself.  There are several photos of Wegman’s dogs, most of which are juxtaposing them against human situations and dressing them up people.  In many of his videos, especially the early videos, the dogs are not human like.  However the video works he created for Sesame Street and other videos show his dogs with human limbs and acting in human situations.  Both his video and photography work share a common theme, and that is the comical deadpan humor seen both with his dogs, and with himself as the subject.
In a lot of Wegman’s work, he includes himself as a main or contributing subject.  Wegman included himself in his works simply as an extension of using domestic subject material. The effect of his using his own body is strong and is repeated later in his videotapes,” wrote Lavin in her Notes on William (12).  His choice to include himself in his art shows Wegman as a performance artist as well as a photographer and filmmaker.
            Today, Wegman is still creating art and showing in galleries.  His most recent solo exhibition was in Dusseldorf, Germany in 2011.  His prints can be bought in galleries and online, and prices range anywhere from $50 to $1000 for a framed photograph (7).  At the age of 68, Wegman is currently living in New York City, NY.  He continues growing his family of Weimaraners, and has a wife and children of his own.  Wegman’s work, old and new, has a vast audience.  His portfolio ranges from oil paintings, to video shorts, and black and white prints.  His work, which is not entirely cohesive, portrays who Wegman is as an artist and the vast recognition of all his artwork shows his importance in the art world.

1.    Wegman, William. William Wegman: Polaroids. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2002. Print.
2.    Simon, Joan, and William Wegman. William Wegman: Funney/strange. Andover, MA: Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, 2006. Print.
3.    William Wegman. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. <>.
4.    "William Wegman | Art21 | PBS." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. <>.
5.    Conley, Kevin. "William Wegman." 08 Feb. 2000. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. <>.
6.    "William Wegman." Sperone Westwater. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. <>.
7.    "20x200 | Artists - William Wegman." 20x200 | Affordable Art Prints. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. <>.
8.    Ayata, Asli. "William Wegman's Weimaraners." House Pet Magazine. Nov. 2005. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. <>.
9.    Eason, Antonio. "William Wegman Biography." People.WCSU. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. <>.
10. Béar, Liza. "Man Ray." Vasulka. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. <,William/ManRay.pdf>.
11. Keller, Katie. "Featured Artist – William Wegman – December Daily #14." Katie Keller Photography. 14 Dec. 2010. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. <>.
12. Lavin, Mauv. Notes on William.  06 Dec 11.

Electric Straw Flute

The Electric Straw Flute is an instrument unlike any other.  The cut tip of the straw provides the reed for the straw to vibrate and make sound.  The funnel attached to the straw will amplify the sound, and the microphone attached to the funnel that is plugged in to the amp will cause the sound of the straw to be played through the amp, making the flute electric.  The electric flute omits a tone similar to a kazoo, and the  sound can be changed by varying the length of the straw.

Electric Straw Flute by aewilliams