Blood on the Water

As seen in the Wall Street Journal‘s interactive timeline of the Deepwater Horizon Rig Disaster.

Published by Emily Duncan, on May 11th, 2010 at 1:30 pm. Filled under: Current Events,FYI Tags: , , , , No Comments

Hairy Situation

The recent occurrence of disasters – both made by nature, affecting men and made by men, affecting nature – have been of great interest to me.

Don´t know why exactly. I´m basically a humanist. I´m interested in people. That´s why I love to meet new people and I work in portraiture. However, I don´t have very much faith in the goodness of The Crowd. The Crowd is especially worrisome these days as people in developed countries become increasingly divorced from the sources of the things that they need the most. Almost no one farms, they´re dependent on “just in time” tranportation systems for things like food. On the whole, no one walks or bikes very much. Of course, there are many more examples of this, but I´ve been thinking about this concept of separation. I´ve thought about this as The Crowd seems to accept the daily press releases delivered on the behalf of BP by the mainstream media. Oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico, and I hear co-workers mumble about its affect on vacation planning. I´ll actually be going to the panhandle of Florida in a few weeks. I look forward to it. I´m not afraid of the effects of the oil as I´ll probably find myself standing on the beach, scanning the horizon to see if I can see anything. I´ve read in some places that the iron oxide laden oil resembles blood floating on the water. For a moment I wondered if that´s how the world will end.

In the Bible, during disasters / divine intervention / the End Times The Crowd always seems to be on the same page. They all seem to understand the situation that they find themselves in and they react to the plagues, the fires, the bugs, the illness at the same time. But the more I rack my brain, it seems that this assumption may be wrong. The stories detail the event, but the human effects are secondary. Well, during the events anyway. Thinking about the coagulated flow of oil sloughing out from the underwater epicenter, I imagine that if the world were to end then it may take a while to get everyone to comprehend it. In my mind, I could see someone not unlike myself. A person who doesn´t watch TV. They opt, instead, for occasionally checking their newsfeed. It´s a good way to gather information, but it´s rather lacking in terms of what the local weather will be like the next day.

The Individual may get up on a Monday morning, scramble to get dressed and make breakfast. They throw together a quick lunch and walk to their truck, their shoulder bag, lunch box, and gym bag cutting into their forearms as they carry a large excercise ball for their weekly ab class. This truck, for the sake of argument, needs the gas pedal pumped a few times before it will start. Trucks made in the early 80´s didn´t have fuel injection. That´s a point The Individual really didn´t appreciate until they started driving this truck. They set off for work and note the lack of traffic on the surface streets. That´s the good thing about this recession. When people started losing their jobs, they stopped driving in the mornings. Today seems a lot lighter than usual. Oh well. It´s probably some kind of holiday that other people observe but The Individual´s employer doesn´t.

The Indivdual arrives at work a few minutes early, but they´re annoyed to find no one is there. There are a few abandoned cars along the industrial parkway. A bit strange, especially considering they are stopped at abrupt angles, passenger doors thrown wide open, facing potential oncoming traffic. The Individual fishes around in their bag to retrieve cell phone. They think it´s best to call the staffing agency (that they still work for after almost two years.) They want to notify someone that they drove 40 minutes to work and the doors were locked. Perhaps The Company had finally gone under as everyone had suspected it would after the layoffs the year before. As The Individual begins to scroll through their contacts in the address book, they quickly compose a succinct announcment in their head. As The Individual presses send and sighs, the sun blinks and goes black. “Ah, shit. I should have called home first,” The Individual immediately thinks as the ancient metal connecting the frame of the truck becomes visibly electrified and the phone´s screen seizes and falls blank.

That´s how I can imagine the end happening. Not everyone will get a memo in advance, I guess. And who among the forewarned would react in a constructive way?

This brings me back to separation from The Source. This event is so big that it´s hard to wrap one´s head around it. Very few people know how to access this oil beneath the seafloor. No one could do it alone even if they wanted. It´s so complicated that it takes waves of specialized teams for each step of the process. Once it is tapped, millions of gallons are supposed to flow in a controlled way to the top. The depth at which the drilling starts and then the depth beyond the seafloor to which companies drill is also hard for The Individual to comprehend. So The Individual gives this responsibility away. They hand off the responsibility of carrying out the work as well as planning it, observing it, enforcing rules which make it safe. This is compounded by the fact that BP appears to be spinning the numbers and information about the incident. Independent scientists estimate that the renegade wellhead at the bottom of the Gulf could be spewing up to 25,000 barrels a day. If chokeholds on the riser pipe break down further, up to 50,000 barrels a day could be released, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration memo obtained by the Mobile, Ala., Press-Register. The oil released is now the size of Jamaica and swirling like an underwater hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP had permits to drill to about 20,000 feet, but there are indications that they went below 22,000 feet. Who knows what they have unleashed. This volcano of oil could have far reaching effects which go far beyond damaging fragile ecosystems lining the Gulf of Mexico. It may not be crazy at this point to speculate about the effect this event may have on the world´s oceans.

Faced with this level of uncertainty, many groups have been moved to action. A fan of creative problem-solving, I was very excited to see the proposal made by the San Francisco based group, Matter of Trust.Matter of Trust makes mats and “booms” comprised of human and animal hair.

The AH-HA! moment for making these mats and booms (usually pantyhose or netted tubes filled with hair) was when someone realized that we shampoo because our hair collects oil.

The great thing about making these booms is that they are easy to construct. Children and students often help to make them. What´s more is thatMatter of Trust is working to bring green jobs to their community. At the moment the absorbant mats made from recycled yarn and hair are woven in China, butMatter of Trust hopes to bring the facility to the US and encourage the growth of green jobs in their community.

Not only that, but the need for these mats and booms along with the simplicity of the materials involved may even spur growth in the textile industry in the US. Growing up in the south it´s always been a bit sad to drive through and see once thriving textile communities. Seeing the photos of of the warehouses filling with hair clippings and recycled yarn makes it definitely seem possible. Please consider donating. I have collected a bunch of hair from brushes and the velcro rollers I occasonally use to tame my curly hair. Hopefully I can get that in the mail soon.

Published by Emily Duncan, on May 11th, 2010 at 12:34 pm. Filled under: Current Events,FYI Tags: , , , , , , No Comments

Heart Project (1)

Recently I visited my storage shed and pulled out a few portfolios of work from college and the time before I lived in Japan. Among these is an example of the paintings I did on wood which incorporated carving. I had to abandon this kind of work when I went to Japan and shortly after I returned because I had no space to work in which would allow for woodcutting and gluing cradleboards. Not only that, transportation and shipping were also problematic.

When I found the work, “Up My Sleeve” from 2004, I was pretty excited.

I found this square of plywood at Lowes. It was so ugly, discolored and filled with cracks and worm holes. But once you cut below the surface, there was a yellow-ish layer. Very exciting! It is almost like a yellow cake with chocolate icing. I put it away in storage and have not touched it in almost six years!

I picked it up and carried it back to the apartment last weekend and placed it where I could see it every day. After thinking about it, I want to better incorporate the carved elements and the painting into a unified plane. At the time I made this I was very interested in wood block printmaking. More specifically, I was interested in the wooden matrix left over after the printing was done. I began a few projects exploring this idea, but I could never quite get the two to mesh.

Hopefully I will be able to re-work this piece. I plan to chronicle the process here. In this post you can see the state of this work as I type this entry. This is the first time I´ve done this, but I´m hoping to make this a kind of warm up for my upcoming painting vlogs. The videos should be coming along shortly as we have started assembling a station of sorts around the eMac in the kitchen.

Published by Emily Duncan, on May 9th, 2010 at 5:51 pm. Filled under: Crafts,Painting Tags: , , No Comments

Living with a Star

Last week NASA released new hi-def pictures of the sun. These were taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory(or SDO), launched in February 2010, the SDO is part of NASA´s Living with a Star (LWS) program. How great of a name is that?! The mission of LWS is to “study those aspects of the connected Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society.” Pretty interesting stuff.

Between this and the launch of the super secret X-37 this past week has been pretty crazy regarding space news.

To pull this back to the subject of art, it´s interesting to see how far NASA has progressed in terms of their photographic technology. In fact, they have created a handy chart to show the difference in resolution between technology civilians have access to as well as previous things they’ve used for space photography.

I wonder what kinds of photos NASA would be able to take of Earth with the Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Published by Emily Duncan, on April 25th, 2010 at 1:08 pm. Filled under: Current Events,FYI Tags: , , , No Comments

Griffiths / Desiderio

Oil painting is a nasty business. I personally admire people who can do it. People who have the patience to deal with the stickiness, the solvents, the fact that their work doesn’t simply dry are of a far more patient ilk than I.

During one of my painting studio classes at UGA my professor, Margaret Morrison, was able to have a visiting lecturer, Vincent Desiderio, come to our class and speak about rendering figures in oil paintings. I liked what he had to say. If you have a look at his paintings, it´s quite obvious that he is devoted to creating oil paintings in a classical style.

Super simple summary of the process: first, the painter lays down a ground on the canvas. These days painters generally use gesso, a thick, chalky paint. Gesso works to prime the canvas and seal it, protecting it from the oil paint which, if given enough time, will eventually eat through the fabric. (To visualize it, think of the effect a greasy burger and fries have on a brown paper bag.) After this, a traditional painter will begin to build their painting by painting a thin layer of color. Usually a brown or an umber. Then the painter will build up color by painting in layers. Paint a layer of shadows, wait for it to dry. Paint some midtones, wait for it to dry, etc. This is why so many classic oil paintings (and the works of those inspired by the old masters) tend to have very dramatic lighting. They´re often building the lightforms emerging from the darkness.

Even though I don´t like using oil paint, I enjoy the work of skilled oil painters. Every time I see a traditionally rendered oil painting, it reminds me of Desderio’s comments about the importance of light. He referred to the the point where a curved shape shifts from light to dark as “the turning.” Capturing The Turning makes all the difference.

I was reminded of this the other day when I was introduced to the work ofMitch Griffiths.

According to the press release for his upcoming show, The Promised Land:Griffiths uses a traditional, almost forgotten style of painting, inspired by the light and composition of Old Master paintings, but he uses this style to depict the issues concerning 21st-century British society. His main subject is the transient and throwaway nature of contemporary culture, which is held in stark contrast to the permanence and indelibility of oil paint on canvas.

Griffiths says: “Once you paint a MacDonald’s burger box in oil paint, it becomes important and immortal. It’s a permanent mark of the disposable.”

This exhibition references 21st-century Britain and, taking the Union Jack as the recurring theme, it explores the inflammatory nature of what the flag represents alongside what Griffiths perceives to the overriding concerns of today’s society: consumerism and self-obsession followed by the need for redemption.

Griffiths cleverly employs the painstaking method of traditional oil painting to chronical the downfall of an empire. He builds these beautiful narritives about the middle class using a medium which was once exclusively reserved for capturing the idealized likenesses of royalty.

Desiderio, on the other hand, uses the uses traditional oil painting to elevate his subjects and the moment in which they exist. His investment of time and materials express the depth of emotion within the picture plane.

Seeing the works of both painters makes me want to get better at painting and rendering the human form while telling a story.

Published by Emily Duncan, on April 25th, 2010 at 11:59 am. Filled under: Art News,Painting Tags: , , , , No Comments

Circle Sushi

Last Friday I went to Circle Sushi, a local and highly reviewed sushiya-san in Sandy Springs. It may be silly, but I had been looking forward to that dinner all week.

In addition to kabocha tempura, tofu and makizushi, we ordered not one, but two small bottles of Yaegaki Nigori sake. For those unfamiliar with sake,nigori-style sake is unfiltered. Instead of being clear, nigori sake is cloudy because the the solids which are created by the fermentation process are not filtered out. And it´s a much sweeter drink because of this. I was especially excited because on their sake menu,Circle Sushi has Yaegaki Nigori and in tiny Japanese font 兵庫 was written next to it. 兵庫 = Hyogo, the prefecture (or state) I used to live in in Japan. Once we got the bottle I read the copy on the back. The English was quite different from the Japanese. In Japanese the manufacturer made a point of mentioning that this sake was made in Himeji (姫路), the exact city I used to live in. Local specialities are not as big of a selling point in the U.S., so the English played up the “Japaneseness” of the product.

Drinking the sake made me miss Himeji and my friends who are still there. In terms of Japanese cities, Himeji isn´tthat large. Its population is a smidge lower than that of Atlanta. (To put it in perspective, Tokyo has a population of about 13 million and Osaka has about 3 million people, making the 530K-ish populations of Himeji and Atlanta quaint.)

I was lucky enough to be involved with a very active group of creative people in Himeji. While it´s on my mind, I thought I would give a bit of space here to promote a few of these folks:

Ryoko Ami: International traveller and educator. Ryoko is a prolific photographer and craft artist. At the moment she is currently charged with teaching the childen of Japanese employees working abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico.

She is quite dedicated to journaling and keeping an up-to-date blog. She created a new blog to chronicle her experience in Mexico. In her free time, Ryoko makes many different crafts. A short time ago she created a series of handmade books.

Hiroko Fujimoto: Small business owner and graphic designer. Her small speciality shop, Horn, imports interesting items from all over Japan and the world.

Kaori Hasegawa: Graphic designer / small business owner / creative facilitator. Kaori owns and operates Nayakobo, a full service graphic design and web design business. Naya also incorporates a large inner space which is often used for teaching, exhibitions, creative meet-ups and networking sessions. Centrally located, Naya has an amazing view of Otemae Park and Himeji Castle.

Emiko Yamada: Photographer. Emiko works primarily in digital photography, focusing on portraiture and building narratives through several series of photos. Emiko and I collaborated on the EMerge exhibition before I left Japan.

A Quick Translation Note: Most of these pages are presented in Japanese. This shouldn´t deter you from checking them out. If you use Firefox, there is a great application called Rikaichan. I use it almost daily. As you float the cursor over different words a bubble with a translation of the Japanese text will pop up on the screen. If you want to translate large blocks of text, I suggest using Monash University´s WWWJDIC site. It will not produce whole paragraphs like babelfish or google translate, however, it will help you to avoid weird machine translated English.

I hope to return to Himeji some time in the next year or so. In the meantime, I’m brainstorming ways to create international projects with the Himeji group via the web.

Published by Emily Duncan, on April 21st, 2010 at 3:14 pm. Filled under: FYI Tags: , , , No Comments


My obsession with volcanoes rivals my obession with trees. I loveunusual trees and unassuming volcanoes.

From what I´ve read, the Eyjafjallajokull wasn´t dormant, but it was/is usually quiet enough that people feel comforable living near it and getting close enough to take amazing photos.

When the eruption happened a few days ago, I frantically searched for high resolution photos of the event.

This week The Boston Globe covered the breaking story on their weekly feature, “The Big Picture.”

I highly recommend adding this RSS feed to your reader or just adding this site to your regular rotation because they always cover interesting stories and they are true to the name: the pictures are always quite large. It´s a welcome relief after reading most mainstream media websites which always attach small, low-resolution snaps to their copy.

The Eyjafjallajokull eruption reminds me of when I visited Mount Aso volcano in Japan. The soil surrounding the volcano is great for planting, so the area is rather rural and full of farms. There are also lots of hot springs. Making it a popular place for tourists. Aso-san (“-san” being the moniker attached to volcano names in Japan – this is not the same as “your name-san.” Rather it is the Chinese character for “mountain”) is an active volcano. But it´s pretty quiet. There are kiosks with gift shops and restrooms and parking built on the side of the mountain. Once you´ve parked you can walk to the top and look into the crater. All that is separating you from the acid green liquid below is a series of wooden stakes with ropes connecting them. Compared to the green at the foot of the mountain, the sides of the volcano look like the moon and stink of sulfur. Next to the ropes stand small shrines where one can make wishes or offers to the spirit inside the mountain.

With all of the earth-changes this year, I hope everyone will become more mindful of their surroundings and stay safe. If you happen to have a camera on you, chronicle the event with lots of pictures.

Published by Emily Duncan, on April 21st, 2010 at 12:19 pm. Filled under: FYI Tags: , , No Comments


This weekend I was doing some reading and came across the British grafiti duo, Bestever. I was mesmerized by the level of photorealism these guys have achieved by simply using spray paint. I have read that one can push the medium by doing things like using specially designed tips which change the flow of the paint coming out of the can. Still, it´s a treat to see such beautiful works rendered in spray paint.

According to this interview, the works tend to center around the theme of the fragility of the human body:

[I]t´s an anatomical and surgical way of looking at human figures. It´s mainly about death and disease. [P]ainting the things that you don´t see in a human but we know they are there; different angles, bones, blood and cells; even working out calculations that occur by just keeping a body alive. [This reminds us of] how fragile the human body is and how weak we all are as forms.

Published by Emily Duncan, on April 19th, 2010 at 6:22 pm. Filled under: Art News,Painting Tags: , , No Comments

Sustainable Art

Fuseproject is participating in the Salone del Mobile in Milan this year and their team has created these amazing “crystals” made from recycled paper and LED lights.

According to the Fuseproject website: For our 4th collaboration with Swarovski debuting at Salone del Mobile we wanted to try something a bit different. While our previous large scale lighting sculptures have showcased the crystal in a grand scale, with this latest project we wanted to bring the notion of accessibility and sustainability to crystal lighting.

It is a pursuit in our work to try to achieve the maximum effect with the minimum amount of materials and energy: we want to create consciously and conscientiously and yet there is a need for beauty. So the challenge is to re-think how to achieve the magical effect of many crystals on a chandelier: can we amplify a single crystal and create an entire chandelier?

Traditional chandeliers are made of numerous lights and crystals, we wanted to change this equation: 1 crystal + 1 low energy LED light + a faceted paper shade = AMPLIFY. Resulting in multiple beautiful reflections and rainbow color bursts…Just what is expected from crystal, but this time the effect is amplified to get the most out of just one crystal.

AMPLIFY is a beautiful single crystal light, or it can be grouped to create a bigger effect.

We designed 6 different shapes, each one carefully crafted to maximize refractions on the inner surfaces. This effect can be seen on the faceted shade material, thus emulating the cut and reflective nature of the crystal inside. Each chandelier becomes its own large glowing crystal.

The AMPLIFY chandelier’s aim is to put the Swarovski crystal effect into the hands of more people through the simple construction, easily accessible light source and sustainable material. Each of the chandeliers will be available in production from Swarovski in the next year. To continue to amplify the concept of accessible crystal, each of the six unique lantern shapes are housed in a flat package that echoes the shape of the chandelier it contains. The packaging graphics are simple and illustrative to reflect the different shade shapes and components contained inside.

The Swarovski Crystal Palace Milan AMPLIFY launch exhibit will present 50 AMPLIFY chandeliers, contained in a black lacquered room as a large sculptural cluster, emerging from the dark with blazing crystal effects, yet sustainable.

Fuseproject blog

Published by Emily Duncan, on April 16th, 2010 at 1:31 pm. Filled under: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , 2 Comments

Eric Robert Parnes

Yesterday I stumbled across a series of paintings by Eric Robert Parnes. I read a little of his blog.

According to his CV:

The multi-media work of Eric Robert Parnes incorporates both his background as an American Iranian male and the history of images from the millennium forward. His two and three dimensional works all align themselves with an intentional revision of the ways in which grapheme have driven war, religion, and fashion through time. By appropriating and re-contextualizing these symbols and signs, Parnes has inverted their meaning; and by doing so become a provocateur of the highest order. Parnes resides in the Lower East Side in New York City.

Parnes´ work can next be seen at Seattle´s Center on Contemporary Arts as part of the group exhibition: I RAN Home (In America). In my online stumbles, I came across his series of works centered on the theme of shopping. In terms of the imagery, I understand what he´s trying to do. It´s clever. I appreciate it, but I´d like to review it simply in terms of imagery and execution.

I´m reminded of when I first started using photoshop. I loved he images that could be produced by applying certain effects. I was enamored of the feedback loop a painter could create: artist takes photo → manipulates photo → paints reproduction of manipulated photo. It´s quite sexy. One keeps the altered imagery, but they can also add the physical texture of something which has been made by a human hands. I find myself less interested in such works these days, though. I hope this trend of painting things which are obviously copies of snapshots will come to an end soon.

That being said, I like these studies. I like the use of text. As a person who cannot read the languge, my brain doesn´t automatically jump to assign it a meaning. It becomes another piece of the picture.

The internationally known logos are unavoidable. But I enjoy how he captures their blocky, blownout glare.

My most favorite element of the paintings, however, is the women. Without the normal ports of emotional entry: faces and hands, they become almost dehumanized. They too become design elements within the painting. Small dark machines interacting with garish signage and buildings. It´s quite exciting.

If you have the chance, definately stop by to take a look at I RAN Home (In America) at Seatte´s CoCa: Artists´ Reception, Thursday, June 10, 6-9pm / On View Weekdays 10am – 5pm, June 10 – July 5, 2010.

Published by Emily Duncan, on April 16th, 2010 at 12:27 pm. Filled under: Art News,Painting Tags: , , No Comments