Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Jandek

Jandek is allegedly the pseudonym of Sterling R. Smith who was reportedly born on October 26, 1945.  That's about all anyone can say with certainty about the man behind the long-running outsider art project that has been consistently releasing some of the most challenging and hauntingly personal blues music for over 30 years, all without the aid of traditional distribution or promotion.  His example inspired a fierce devotion in my friend, Charles, whose enthusiasm turned out to be infectious and has shaped much of the aesthetic behind our own band, Wind & Ghosts.

Jandek released his/their/its debut album, Ready For The House ,in 1978 through a P.O. box in Houston, Texas.  In the decades since, literally dozens of full-length records have followed.  Through it all, Smith has refused all but two interviews and has balked at being linked by name to the project.  However, as he seems to have come out of his shell a bit in recent years (even playing a number of sporadic live shows beginning in 2004), perhaps a little commemorative portrait wouldn't be entirely unwelcome.

Jandek, the man the myth, as he (supposedly) appears on the cover of The Living End (1989, Corwood Industries #0756):

For a complete catalogue and ordering information, visit or write to Corwood Industries yourself at  P.O. Box 15375, Houston TX 77220.  More information is available on Seth Tisue's excellent fan site ( as well the 2004 documentary film, Jandek On Corwood.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Erminio Pinque

With most of these portraits I've been stitching personal heroes - all of whom I only dream to know or have said a casual hello. But Erminio is a close, personal friend and mentor. His performance group, Big Nazo, employs a cast of larger-than-human puppet characters. They show up at parties, parades, church bazaars, weddings, fireworks displays, concerts, festivals, banks, and even play in a band -  putting on shows all over the World.

As a person, Erminio is one of the greatest humanitarians that I know. I've seen him spend countless hours working with kids of all ages - giving them the skills they need to be self-expressive in positive ways. For his time, he never asks for more than he needs. And he runs his business virtually alone - able to be all functions. If you stop by the Nazo Lab (where everything is made - including creatures as big as 20 feet tall) you will be greeted warmly by him and even given a brief tour. And if you're really lucky, perhaps you'll see an impromptu performance that dissects the nature of man in puppet in World and World in puppet in man.

Erminio Pinque (with intensity):

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Spike Jonze

The music videos for 'Buddy Holly' and 'Sabotage' were two of the coolest ever (when I was a really cool High Schooler). And the name of the director? Spike? Man, such a cool name. Oh, and then Being John Malkovich? I had never seen anything like that before and I saw it so many times.

But it wasn't until Spike made the film version of Where the Wild Things Are that I truly fell for his work. It is a classic, way ahead of its time. In twenty years we will talk about it like we talk about The Wizard of Oz. And no other movie before it captured the inner turmoil of children as much.

Spike Jonze (w/ moustache, casual smile):

Monday, October 22, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Mary Blair

(b. Oct 21, 1911) Mary Blair made some of the sweetest, most colorful pictures of all time. I Can Fly *might* be one of the best Little Golden books ever and Walt Disney's visions just would not have been the same without her concept art. I think about her illustrations every time I add color to one of my drawings.

Mary Blair (striking):

Stitched Portraits: Charles Ives

"Stand up and face the full force of a dissonance like a man."

A precursor to modern experimental music, Ives (b. Oct 20, 1874) began his dissonant descent in the early part of the twentieth century, New England. His work mostly went unrecognized in his lifetime as he spent most of his working career as an insurance salesman. The use of polytones and polyrhythms in his compositions were strange in 1907 but became part of our musical lexicon over the course of the century.

John Cage writes about Ives with a respect and an admonishment. Although both composers worked in the realm of cacophonous noise, Cage's was born from indeterminacy, while Ives' were concrete images - memories of specific times. In his blog, Richard H Brown Jr. speaks of the dichotomy between Cage and Ives and likens them to their literary counterparts, Emerson and Thoreau.

Charles Ives (strength and stoicism):

Stitched Portraits: Divine

Really, all of last week was kind of leading up to the birthday of Harris Glenn Milstead (b. Oct 19, 1945). He was John Waters' darling, Divine - Glenn's most important character and alter-ego. She was special and lit up a screen. Her performances in Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Polyester, and Hairspray are enigmatic, sweet and so rewatchable.

Glenn could play male roles just as well too. In Female Trouble he has sex with himself. In Hairspray he was the evil station manager. He was good at layers - truly a divine actor and an original who paved the way for gay people and proved that you can love your body no matter the size.

"Eat Shit!"

Divine (in Pink Flamingos):

Stitched Portraits: Klaus Kinski

Last Thursday, October 18, Klaus Kinski would have celebrated his 86th birthday. I celebrated it by watching Werner Herzog's Nosferatu and beginning Kinski's book, All I Need is Love.

Here, a portrait (with burning dark eyes):

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Erin McKeown

There was this one night in Providence, years ago (over a decade), when my cousin and I were early for a show at Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel. I don't remember what band we were going to see, but I do remember our visit to a local art space, AS220, to kill some time. We walked into the beginning of this guitar player's performance and we were awestruck. Her skill with the instrument was commanding, but in a "who gives a shit how good I play?" kind of a way, the songs were sweet and completely memorable, and she was this just this little thing, completely owning the stage and our attention. She only had tapes at that performance and I kick myself for not getting one (my cousin did...)

Yesterday was her B-day.
I celebrated with a portrait.

Erin McKeown (Mick YONE):

Stitched Portraits: Paul Simon

On Saturday it was Paul Simon's 71st birthday. My family and I listened to Simon & Garfunkel and my 2-year old daughter danced to her favorite song, their version of Peggy-O.

Paul Simon (who taught me about Afro-Caribbean beats):

Friday, October 12, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Eleanor Roosevelt

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams"

"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people"

"Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't."

- Eleanor Roosevelt (narrowed eyes):


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Thelonious Monk

I thought that it would be a birthday portrait of Ed Wood yesterday, but upon an in-depth listen and read into his life, Thelonious Monk gained a new fan (Thanks you Charles Crowley). This quote from Wikipedia immediately grabbed me:

"His compositions and improvisations are full of dissonant harmonies and angular melodic twists, and are consistent with Monk's unorthodox approach to the piano, which combined a highly percussive attack with abrupt, dramatic use of silences and hesitations."

Thelonious Monk (distant glance):

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Harvey Pekar + PJ Harvey

A tale of two Harveys

Pekar (b. Oct. 8, 1939) was a friend of R. Crumb through their shared love of Jazz music and place  (Cleveland, Ohio). Seeing his friend's work in underground comics, he was compelled to write serialized renditions of a working man's tales called American Splendor. His life story was made into a film of the same name in 2003 and in 2010, he passed away at the age of 70 - a man who brazenly shared his misgivings and didn't ask much for it.

PJ (b. Oct.9, 1969) is an English musician who plays music, seemingly, to make you feel uncomfortable. This is what I like about her. Throughout her career she has been both MTV accessible and almost outsider distant. She plays everything, moves around like a snake, and describes herself as "extremely quiet." Steve Albini said she ate nothing but Potatoes during their work together. I'd suggest White Chalk for any first listeners.

Their portraits:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Desmond Tutu

First of all, you cannot deny that name. The images it conjures are worth the look up alone. But other that his anti-apartheid stance, I knew little of this man. What I found solidified the need to honor him on his birthday. He is a firm proponent for human rights even and especially when he is relatively alone - from his statements on Israel and Palestine to his vocal criticism of Mugabe for the atrocious treatment of Zimbabweans. On the latter, I am appalled that this has not been challenged further by the International community. We all know that Mugabe has caused much suffering and needs to be stopped. I applaud Tutu for his efforts

A former Archbishop who has won countless awards for his humanitarianism, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, Desmond Tutu (in robes):

Stitched Portraits: Glenn Branca

He came to New York in the late seventies for the theater and he decided to just plain kill it in a punk band called Theoretical Girls (amongst many other projects). His style veered on the experimental and he gave guitar playing a punch in the face. Consistently he has been a force for the Avant-Garde, even acting as a mentor to Sonic Youth in the earlier part of their existence. Over the past decade he has composed music for his 100 guitar ensemble (Heroes such as Annie Clark spent a stint). I can't believe it's taken this long for us to have met, but I feel our kinship. It's real. And drawing him felt natural.

Glenn Branca (string focus):

Friday, October 5, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Susan Sarandon

What is there to say about someone who is excellent in everything and somehow manages to look fabulous at every age and in every image? Dammit Janet!

Susan Sarandon (and the smolder):

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Carl von Ossietzky

With the first Presidential debate of 2012 happening yesterday I thought that a Nobel Peace Prize winning Nazi dissenter would be an appropriate choice for a Birthday Portrait. Born on Oct. 3, 1889, Carl von Ossietzky was amongst the few Germans to stand up against Nazi Party.

A journalist and a pacifist, he warned against the danger of militarism and in 1931, was arrested for high treason after publishing proof of Germany's neglect of the Treaty of Versailles. A couple of years later (1933) the Nazis arrested and put him into Spandau Prison for speaking out against them. And in 1935 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize but was barred by the Government to receive and told that if he were to accept he would relinquish his German citizenship. He accepted and promised to "encourage understanding between peoples."

Marked a criminal to this day,
Carl von Ossietzky:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Stitched Portraits: Shel Silverstein

Hello people between the ages of 4 and 64. This man changed your life and reminded you that you are still children. He did it with his run-on, lyrical poetry where he waited for you to get through it with closed breath until you reached
the end
and blasted big laughter out of every pore.
He did it with line drawings that bore
no color - just mouths and heads and heads coming out of heads and heads playing guitars made out of a head
(and teeth.)
He did it with stories like "a Boy Named Sue" sung joyfully by singers like Johnny Cash and himself too. His voice, like a witch, screeched loud and with whimsy. I thank God and the Devil for this lovely little demon.

Mr. Shel Silverstein (b. Sept. 25):