Expand your horizons exponentially at a new curated exhibit opening in Portland, Oregon today.‘LEAN In CLOSER’looks at artists who evoke visual narratives in their work, each telling stories with his or her unique vernacular. Through suggestion, color, repetition, and a familiar hand, these makers push their respective genres forward while honoring the tradition of folk. ‘Lean In Closer’ is hence a suggestion to look more closely at these stories.
Featuring : Ian Ferguson, Ryan Bubnis, Betsy Walton, Evan B. Harris, Andrea Joyce Heimer, Lori Field, Troy Lovegates, Stacey Rozich, Kreh Melick, Jaime Molina, and myself.
Lean in Closer opens this Friday, January 27that Stephanie Chefas Projects (305 SE 3rd Ave #202) from 7-10 pm. Hope you can join me and several of the artists then!
Follow these links for more information about the show:
PhanArt is pleased to announce two exhibitions featuring more than 30 artists over two days, both within a very short walking distance of Madison Square Garden.
On December 29th, PhanArt will be at The Hotel Pennsylvania for Skyscraper is Grander. This show will be held in the same room as the January 2, 2016 show, featuring two dozen artists, music and drinks, perfect for meeting up with friends before the show, checking out art made by fans, for fans, with a wide array of artistic creations available.
For the first time, shipping from the PhanArt show will be available, along with tubes to purchase. A station will be setup for fans to purchase postage and tubes, and ship items purchased at the show home. The show will run from 12-7pm and is located directly across 7th Avenue from Madison Square Garden.
On Friday, December 30th, PhanArt and Live For Live Music are excited to bring an afternoon of music, artists, and vendors to American Beauty for what will surely be a special edition of PhanArt. The event will feature two sets of music from up-and-coming funk jam band Formula 5, as well as a variety of posters, prints, apparel, pins and more from some of your favorite artists in the scene.
The event will start at 3pm and run until 7pm, so come out to American Beauty for an awesome afternoon filled with music, art, drinks, and free pizza (that’s right, free pizza!)
Lineups for both shows will be announced in the first week of December.
The next Artist Interview Project installment features Terry Werner, the artist behind Werner Art & Designs. The first part of this post includes a student’s reflective summary. It is followed by the full interview text.
Find more information about Terry Werner’s art on his website.
Phish Magnaball/Grateful Dead Fare Thee Well Matching Set. Image via artist’swebsite.
I interviewed a talented artist named Terry Werner for an assignment in my philosophy class. Terry is the owner of Werner Arts & Designs in Ukiah, California. Through his store, Terry sells his artwork, which is unique, beautiful, and eye-catching. I asked him many hard questions, which he answered thoughtfully.
In our interview, we discussed the nature of beauty and imagination. Terry’s description of what makes art beautiful is similar to philosopher Leo Tolstoy’s definition of art. Terry explains:
“As artists we all strive for our perfect expression of our vision. The beauty in the art is that struggle the artist goes through expressing his or herself. It is never perfect but almost always beauty appears somehow.”
Beauty is subjective; to one person Kandinsky’s art might be just a bunch of scribbles but to another, it may be a marvelous piece of art. Art is not perfect, but it nevertheless can be beautiful.
In his article, “What is Art?” Tolstoy argues that the purpose of art is to make us feel emotion. In fact, the transmission of emotion, for Tolstoy, defines what makes art beautiful. Terry’s answers were similar to Tolstoy’s perspective. In our interview, Terry said:
“I feel that art’s first purpose is to captivate the viewer’s attention even if it’s for just a moment… At this moment the viewer is feeling some emotion so in that respect an emotion is felt but I don’t think artists create art to make viewers feel an emotion.”
Terry’s opinion is like Tolstoy’s because he thinks art does give people emotion. However, his view departs from Tolstoy’s, because he doesn’t think emotion is art’s purpose. I appreciate Terry’s perspective, because he changed my mind! I now believe that I don’t have to feel something when I experience art; its imperfections make it beautiful.
Terry makes art for Phish fans, which certainly makes him an avid Phish fan. I noticed that his art recreates the sense of freedom and curiosity that Phish fans look for when they got to a Phish concert. In the essay, “Why We Come Back,” Mr. Miner’s blog explains:
“In their live concerts, Phish offers the promise that at any moment, anything can happen. And when they are at their best, “anything” often does. We come back to Phish because of this Freedom. Enmeshed in their live experience, this feeling returns us to a child-like state where our world is fresh and new and we are freed from the worries, obligations, responsibilities and ethical / moral compromises of our day to day selves. And like Peter Pan refusing to grow up, we crave to experience this “not knowing,” so that we may be able see the world anew, with fresh eyes and ears.”
I noticed a kind of child-like curiosity in Terry’s drawings. Or rather, his artwork produced this feeing within me! Terry has many prints and I found myself wanting to know what each one means. Their variation and color makes me feel like a child discovering a whole new world.
Terry and I discussed where he gets his inspiration. I learned that a lot of his inspiration comes from Phish community. Terry described how he was inspired to create Phish-themed art:
“The first time I was inspired to do Phish Phan-Art I would have to say it was attending Superball 9 at Watkins Glen in 2011. I was camped near an artist that goes by the handle ‘Crazy Red Beard.’ He was selling a few of his watercolor prints and matching pins very low key around his camp. I ended up getting a print/pin set from him on the final day of fest. The very next year at Alpine Valley I put out my first event phanart. One strange thing with Phish festivals is that they are any vending of any kind. The colorful and friendly community.”
Terry’s account describes how the Phish community supported the development of his artwork. In fact, Terry noted how supportive the fan base is for artists like himself. He explains, “A big thing I LOVE about the Phanart community is the respect and positive support from all the artists to each other.”
Philosopher John Drabinski describes the importance of what he calls the “occasional community,” because such spaces help us escape the monotony of modern life. Describing the lot at a Grateful Dead concert, Drabinksi writes:
“We didn’t need to know anything about one another, except we occupied this space, at this time, and that this was sufficient community of the commuter or the occasional community of the Deadhead lot is akin to exiting much of what defines modern life.”
Phish’s lot is also a place of hope to escape modern life through art, music, and community.
I learned a lot from my interview with Terry and I would like to thank him for taking time to discuss his artwork with me.
Where do you get your inspiration? Your imagination?
My Inspiration comes from a lot of places… The music first and foremost, other art works, photography, etc… But if I were to look back and find the first time I was inspired to do Phish Phan-Art I would have to say it was attending Superball 9 at Watkins Glen in 2011. I was camped near an artist that goes by the handle “Crazy Red Beard”. He was selling a few of his watercolor prints and matching pins very low key around his camp. I ended up getting a print/pin set from him on the final day of fest. The very next year at Alpine Valley I put out my first event phanart. One strange thing with Phish festivals is that they are any vending of any kind. The colorful and friendly community that almost always finds a place in the parking lots at shows is banned from THE show. There are tons of people that have tried to contact them about getting a permit or finding a way to do things legitimately but Phish/Magnaball doesn’t even respond to communication attempts. I will be there this year for Magnaball 10 and have a wonderful unofficial print for it but will be staying very low key. I am going to be trying a promotional angle by handing out my card to promote my website/print. As to my imagination… I guess I always try to create my prints with animals of some kind and some way of reflecting the venue/city by including landmarks, flags, astrology, and local foliage and wildlife. I like it to be recognizable to children and adults alike.
What makes art beautiful?
The human imperfection in expression… That’s just my own view. Art is expression and as humans we are imperfect. These imperfections are in every artwork produced ever. Even the Mona Lisa can be argued is imperfect in someway. As artists we all strive for our perfect expression of our vision. The beauty in the art is that struggle the artist goes through expressing his or herself. It is never perfect but almost always beauty appears somehow.
Do you express your feelings by art?
Yes to a point. I think the expression of feeling or emotion appears more in fine art but there are small ways an artist can put personal feelings into there poster art work. In 2013 my dog Abbie passed unexpectedly just before Phish/Dicks and Further/Red Rocks and I was able to immortalize her in both of those print sets. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone about that but it meant a lot to me. The art form of performing music expresses feeling and emotion to a much higher degree than visual art… but again that’s just my personal opinion.
What makes your artwork response to Phish?
To describe my response to Phish in my prints I would have to say its kind of literal for the most part. Examples would be including characters from phish songs in my art or references to song lyrics. If a Phan can pick up on it the connection occurs and this person usually ends up supporting me by purchasing my artwork or turning on his or her friends to me. One thing I will say here is that the more artists try to hide or disguise the Phish references in their artwork the more popular said artwork becomes.
Which artist do you appreciate or feel inspired by?
Oh man the list is huge… Crazy Red Beard, Tripp, Isadora Bullock, Wilson, Ryan Kerrigan, Otto, Pollock, Taylor,… I could go on and on. A big thing I LOVE about the Phanart community is the respect and positive support from all the artists to each other. The scene has truly become flooded with artists but with all that competition the pressure is on to create the best artwork possible. You would think its competitive but it doesn’t feel that way. I am always excited to see what others are coming up with.
Do you believe that art’s purpose is to make you feel emotion?
I feel that art’s first purpose is to captivate the viewers attention even if it’s for just a moment… At this moment the viewer is feeling some emotion so in that respect an emotion is felt but I don’t think artists create art to make viewers feel an emotion. One could go so deep when talking about arts purpose and emotional response but that’s all very relative to each persons specific experiences… I think that the artist and the viewer could agree that the purpose of art is to inspire imagination. Imagination to ponder the artists vision or there own personal reflection of imagination.
On October 28–31, Phish will round out their fall tour by taking over MGM Grand Garden Arena for their annual Halloween run, and the nearby Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas will host a couple of special events throughout the weekend in honor of the run, starting with a poster and pin art exhibition curated by PhanArt and continuing with a “Lunch You in the Eye” Bowling Tournament featuring Phish-themed offerings from the venue’s Blue Ribbon kitchen.
On Saturday, October 29, PhanArt will bring together two dozen artists for an art show featuring posters, prints, apparel, pins and more, plus Phish’s own Mockingbird Foundation. The full lineup of participating artists will be announced in early October.
The following day, the Lunch You in the Eye Bowling Tournament will have teams of 5–8 players gather on the Brooklyn Bowl lanes to vie for prizes including a $300 food and drink credit at the venue, access to a box during Sunday night’s Phish show, posters from the run and prize packs.
The first PhanArt show on the West Coast, a San PhranArt Show will be held at Mezzanine, a few blocks away from Bill Graham Arena. This show will be held on July 19th from 12-5pm and will feature more than 20 artists and vendors exhibiting a wide variety of unique and Phish inspired creations.
The doors open at 12PM with free admissions and tubes for sale.Featuring the art of The Art of Ryan Kerrigan, Super Rad Cape Co., TRiPPs Prints, Isadora Bullock, The Mockingbird Foundation, Ant Pharms Tour Pins and Designs, Fred Sutter, Level 42, Drivenpunk Glass and many more!
In preparation for my interview with musician Holly Bowling (see fig. 1) I constructed a series of questions reflecting a mixture of our course’s themes. In this reflective analysis I will highlight a few of my favorite responses from Bowling, and evaluate each for their unique philosophical relevance to the course.
But first, some background about Bowling. Holly Bowling is a pianist and avid Phish fan. In 2013 she was at one of their shows in Lake Tahoe—a concert now famous for its performance of Tweezer (see fig. 2). The music they played that night had her “absolutely captivated.” What particularly stood out to Bowling was a thirty six minute improvisation of the song “Tweezer,” now known as the “Tahoe Tweezer.” After leaving the show she couldn’t get the performance out of her head. She “listened to it maybe three more times that night, four more times the next day on the drive home to San Francisco… and the obsession only grew from there.” Eventually her “obsession” led her to transcribe the entire performance into a solo piano composition, which has since sparked interest and admiration from many in the Phish community. Her piano composition of the Tahoe Tweezer has been released on her album, Distillation of A Dream, and shared widely across the Internet.
I was curious to know exactly what Bowling experienced that night which made such a huge impression on her. And, I wanted to know how her experience reflected some of the philosophical concepts covered in our course, in particular Nietzsche’s Dionysian state. I asked her if she could describe in greater detail what being “absolutely captivated” by the music was like for her. She said, “I’d say it’s being completely absorbed in the moment, forgetting everything else, and letting the music carry you someplace. That’s really why I go see Phish, and the feeling I get when their improvisation is really on.” Her wording here, like “being completely absorbed,” “forgetting everything else,” and “letting the music carry you someplace,” indicates a Dionysian state. For instance, in The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche states:
The ecstasy of the Dionysian state, with its obliteration of the customary manacles and boundaries of existence, contains, of course, for as long as it lasts a lethargic element, in which everything personally experienced in the past is immersed. Because of this gulf of oblivion, the world of everyday reality and the world of Dionysian reality separate from each other (Nietzsche, sect. 7).
Another philosophic concept I saw evidence of in Bowling’s responses was Kant’s definition of the judgement of beauty in relation to the improvisational style of Phish. In section four of the Critique of Judgement Kant states:
To deem something good I must always know what sort of a thing the object is intended to be, i.e., I must have a concept of it. That is not necessary to enable me to see beauty in a thing. Flowers, free patterns, lines aimlessly intertwining—technically termed foliage—have no signification, depend upon no definite concept, and yet please. Delight in the beautiful must depend upon the reflection on an object precursory to some (not definitely determined) concept.
Important in Kant’s quotation is the idea that beauty is perceived prior to a concept about the thing being perceived as beautiful. Indeed the beauty of an object is perhaps even more striking if no concept has ever laid claim to it in one’s consciousness previously. Since improvisational music has the potential to defy the expectations of a listener through spontaneous creations, the perception of beauty upon first hearing it may enhance the ability to perceive beauty itself. “That’s the beautiful thing about improvisation,” states Bowling, “it’s there, it’s gone, the music is created in an instant, and never played the same way again.” Improvisational music thus defies our expectations of what is to come, and so slows the pace in which we can conceptualize our moment to moment experience, leaving only raw beauty to be perceived unfiltered by concepts.
Lastly, I wanted to know Bowling’s views on the nature of art; what it is, and what it’s not, for an artist. Her answers were surprisingly similar to Tolstoy’s definition of art. Bowling said, “Good art makes you feel something. Bad art doesn’t make you feel anything. Good art doesn’t necessarily make you feel good. It could be disturbing or scary or sad or joyful. Art is about connection and good art is art that makes one.” Now, compare this statement to Tolstoy when, in What is Art, he writes, “In order to correctly define art, it is necessary, first of all, to cease to consider it as a means to pleasure and to consider it as one of the conditions of human life.” Here both Bowling and Tolstoy reject a definition of art where it’s merely a source of pleasure; in fact it may even evoke states of sadness, fear, or distress. Instead Bowling proposes that, “art is about connection.” This is similar to Tolstoy’s view:
Speech, transmitting the thoughts and experiences of men, serves as a means of union among them, and art acts in a similar manner. The peculiarity of this latter means of intercourse, distinguishing it form intercourse by means of words, consists in this, that whereas by words a man transmits his thoughts to another, by means of art he transmits his feelings (Tolstoy, Ch. 5).
Both Bowling and Tolstoy are saying that the purpose of art is communion. Art communicates. It transmits feelings and makes connections through its transmissions. This is not at all unlike the connection felt by Bowling when she heard the Tahoe Tweezer for the first time.
Note: The following transcript was cut, pasted, and edited from Facebook Messenger. Student’s name has been removed for privacy.
Student: Hi Holly! Hope you’ve had a good morning! You ready to get started?
Holly: Hey hey! Ready when you are!
Student: Great! Let’s start with something easy! What made you want to transcribe the Tahoe Tweezer, in specific, into a piano composition?
Holly: Well, it didn’t really happen as something I intended to do, at first.
I went to the show in Tahoe and was absolutely captivated by the Tweezer jam that night. I think everyone there was. It was incredible. I listened to it maybe 3 more times that night, 4 more times the next day on the drive home to San Francisco… and the obsession only grew from there.
I listened to it a ton and would find myself walking around singing little bits and pieces of it that were stuck in my head. Then I started playing those little bits and pieces on the piano… and then that turned into wanting to put the pieces together. So I decided to transcribe the whole thing. I was just writing out the melody line at first but once I finished that and sat down to play it, I realized I really wanted to do it justice and needed to work it into a full piano arrangement that took all of the parts into account. So it was a gradual process that grew out of a love of the music.
Since then I’ve done other jams that I really love as well. But that one was the first one that was so spectacular it made me want to spend hours upon hours with pencil to paper J
Student: To make this easy (I never want to interrupt you) how about a code when there is a space in the conversion? How about we type PHISH when we are done?
Student: Great! Can you describe the experience of being “captivated” in greater detail? Any unique feelings, thoughts, or physical sensations?
Holly: I’d say it’s being completely absorbed in the moment, forgetting everything else, and letting the music carry you someplace. That’s really why I go see Phish, and the feeling I get when their improvisation is really on.
But then, listening to the jam later, when I’m not present at a live performance, it’s that same feeling, but also I think a more analytical type of appreciation as well. As I listen back again and again and become more familiar with the music, I notice things I didn’t notice the first time around, and those things can be captivating too.
Student: Great answer! Leads into my next question!
Do you think anything about the “jam” experience itself is lost in a solo transcription of the song? Is there anything gained?
Holly: Well of course – they’re really different. Great question. I mean the Tahoe Tweezer is an amazing piece of music no matter what, but the fact that it was improvised rather than composed makes it even more incredible. And obviously when I transcribe a jam, there’s no improvisation at all, so that element is lost. There’s no unspoken communication happening between band members, no tossing musical ideas back and forth and playing off each other… no question of “where is this going to lead” because it’s just me playing, and I’m playing something that’s already been created, and we all know where it ends. But… I’m not trying to do what Phish does. I’m basically exploring and studying what they do, by picking apart their songwriting and their incredible improvisation. That part of the process is really interesting for me. There’s so much to learn. And then I’m putting it into another form, where I hope it gives people another angle to appreciate and understand Phish’s music from.
So I guess that’s something that’s gained. In the same way that I understand a jam or composition differently when I’ve studied it and listened to it a hundred times, picked it apart and transcribed it and arranged it for piano, and my appreciation and understanding of the music deepens through that process, I think (I hope!) that there’s something gained for the listener when they hear a jam in a new instrumentation or arrangement.
But with that said, it’s not like I set out on a mission to start transcribing and arranging phish songs and jams in order to give people a new way to appreciate the music. I was just doing it for myself, because every song and jam is a game, or a puzzle waiting to be unlocked, and I wanted to play.
I just really, really, really like their music.
Student: I certainly gained something from hearing it in a new form!
Holly: Okay I guess there’s something else
Student: Oh okay, go ahead
Holly: And this goes for just the jam transcriptions. Phish never repeats a jam. You get to hear it live once, if you’re lucky. That’s the beautiful thing about improvisation – it’s there, it’s gone, the music is created in an instant and never played the same way again. And that disappears in my arrangements. BUT… I think it’s really cool to have a live setting where people get to hear a jam they love recreated once more. Obviously it’s very different from being at a Phish show. But if a little bit of that energy from a really beautiful jam is captured and lives on and gets out there again in a room full of people who love that moment of music… I think that’s a good thing
So that goes in the “something gained” column I suppose.
BTW were you a Phish fan going into this project? Or was this your first time hearing the music, for this class?
Student: I’ve never been to a show, but I’ve listened to their albums on and off for years.
I really like them but I have always been more of a casual observer/listener.
What I have been most impressed with in this class, and learning about the Phish experience, is the level of community that is involved. I knew it was big, but hadn’t fully understood how, big and welcoming it was.
Holly: Yes!!! So glad you’ve gotten a glimpse of that! It’s amazing. It’s the most positive, welcoming, creative scene I’ve ever been a part of. People look out for each other in a way I don’t think you see very often these days. It’s so cool.
Student: Can you tell me a little about the relationship your music has to the Phish community? How it is influenced by it? Or how you envision it giving back to it?
Holly: Well, it definitely got spread around thanks to the Phish community – people are very passionate about everything Phish related and are pretty active online, and I’m not sure it would have gotten the reach it has without that. One thing that has been really cool is meeting all kinds of people I didn’t know before who are really into Phish for the same reasons I am. The Phish community has people from so many different backgrounds and fields that there’s a lot of angles of interesting musical discussions to be had. As far as giving back to the community – I’m doing my initial release of my album through PledgeMusic and a percentage of the album sales through that are going to the Mockingbird Foundation, which is a nonprofit founded by Phish fans that funds music education programs for kids. They’re really awesome and are tied in with a lot of phan events and projects. [Note: Interview was conducted before release of album, Distillation of a Dream.]
Student: That’s rad!
Holly: They’re really an amazing organization. Pretty cool that they’re fan founded and have done SO many awesome projects. Check ’em out. Very good people over there at Mockingbird!
Student: I don’t want to take too much more of your time. But I wanted to ask a somewhat abstract question.
Student: What roles do you think silence and chaos play in music at large, and in your own music?
Holly: Oh man.
That’s quite the question.
Student: Too much?
Holly: I could talk about that for a long time, but to try to sum it up –
I think a lot of what makes music work is the balance between order and chaos, and the movement between these two. It’s the tension and release. Setting up patterns of predictability, and then breaking them. Creating dissonance and then resolving it. You really need both. All chaos with no order and there’s nothing to grab onto. All order with no chaos and it’s boring and static. Same goes for silence. The notes you don’t play are as important as the ones you do and sometimes space with no sound in it at all – in one musician’s part, or in the music as a whole – can be a really powerful thing. You need both – sound, and the absence of it.
Actually if you want to talk about silence in music in the context of this project, look at the rests in the Tahoe Tweezer at the peak of the song. They’re so powerful. They’re just as integral to the signature section of the jam as the notes are. And, the rests created a space for the crowd to join the band and participate in the jam.
The jam would not be nearly as cool without the silence. You gotta play the rests! That silence is filled with intent focus from the entire crowd and the band both. Everyone is locked in. Those have gotta be some of my favorite moments of the band not playing. Epic rests!!!
Student: Speaking of that moment, did you make the unicorn animation during the “woo”s in your YouTube video?
Holly: Haha. That was my husband’s doing.
Student: Loved it!
Holly: I don’t know where he got it from but it certainly belongs at that moment in the video.
Student: Last question if you are still game? It has already gone over an hour.
Holly: If it’s quick! I do have to run… I have another interview scheduled in a few.
Student: Do you think that there is such a thing as good art versus bad art? Do you think art needs to be pleasing?
Holly: Good art makes you feel something. Bad art doesn’t make you feel anything. Good art doesn’t necessarily make you feel good. It could be disturbing or scary or sad or joyful. Art is about connection and good art is art that makes one.
Student: Great (and quick) answer!
Student: Thanks so much for your time! It’s been really fun!
Holly: Pleasure to meet you! Good luck with your class and hope you make it to a Phish show sometime!
Student: BTW I really enjoyed your version of the Tweezer!
Holly: Awesome!!! So glad to hear it. If you get deeper into Phish, check out the other jam transcriptions I did, and compare them next to the originals. Fun project! Good way to get acquainted with the band
As part of a PHL 360 assignment, I interviewed photographer Andrea Nusinov. In this Q&A we grapple with the meaning of time, the effects of technological change on her work, and the importance of communal and personal memory. The first section is the interview text, which is followed by my analysis.
I find photography to be a melancholic medium. Photographs are invaluable resources that allow humans to look into the past. One picture shows one moment in time. String photographs together and see an era unfold. Because we are viewing what was, photography is always of the past. A photograph simultaneously shows humanity’s conquest of time (we captured a moment!) while acknowledging our ultimate, pending defeat (the moment ends).
Why do you photograph and what makes photography an artistic endeavor?
I agree – there IS something sad about looking at a snapshot in time – especially an amazing moment that you know will never, ever return. However, when I look at the alternative (possibly losing that moment in my memory), I choose to strive to capture it. That way I can hold on to it (however desperately) and at least somewhat relive it whenever I look at the pic.
I began taking photographs at shows for this precise reason. I have a terrible memory and I always have. For some reason, events and time seem to get lost in my subconscious and it’s very difficult for me to retrieve them. After a show, I often have hundreds of photographs. Many of them are terrible and I’d never share with the world. But for ME, they help me to piece together what was usually an amazing experience.
Photography is an art form because it’s a form of self-expression. I don’t just click a few shots and post them online – I spend at least a few hours on each pic I post. My goal is to try to recreate not just the reality of what happened, but the experience of what happened. Because honestly, even with today’s advanced camera equipment, photos don’t look the way they do in real life. The vividness of Chris Kuroda’s colors combined with the intensity of the music, the buzz and energy of the crowd…all of that I try to capture when I not only take the photo but enhance it.
Is there a photographer for whom you have high regard? What makes this artist special?
I love Scott Harris’ work and he’s a good friend of mine. He has a great eye. Like me, he loves to push his photos a little over the top- they are never boring. Jay Blakesburg is an amazing photographer who is excellent at capturing people in the crowd who are completely in the moment.
What other events and landscapes do you photograph?
I like to photograph anything that inspires me. Any beautiful day with great clouds makes me want to go out and take pics. The problem is that I live in the suburbs and there’s not a lot of interesting things to photograph. I would love to be able to travel more but our budget is tight.
Does your experience photographing Phish influence how you portray other events and landscapes?
Yes, I’ve realized that everyone loves vivid colors, unusual points of view and even some distortions. People want to see the world a little differently than they see it every day with their own eyes. Truly “in touch” people realize that our 5 senses are LIMITING – that if we had extra senses we may be able to see the world in completely different ways. I try to suggest that in my pictures.
Sometimes you distort a photograph. Other times you produce a “regular” photo. Here are a couple examples:
What inspires your different takes?
I don’t love distorting people’s faces (in general) – it often makes them look creepy. I always put myself in the person’s shoes- would I want to look like that in a pic? I have taken amazing yet unflattering pics of band members that I’ve never shared for the same reason.
Therefore, when I distort pics it’s usually of the entire stage or the crowd, lights, etc.
How do you go about creating such vibrant images?
I use photo apps- in some cases I bring up the saturation but often I’m just lifting shadows and brightening things up to reveal what was already there.
I don’t use Photoshop (I don’t have it and don’t know how to use it). When I first started, it was really fun to use apps to insert things that weren’t there (like a lightning bolt or a fireball, etc.) but I don’t do that anymore.
Are there times when distortion is appropriate (artistically), and times when it isn’t? How do you determine that action?
Again, I don’t like to make people’s faces look weird so I avoid that. Honestly, I will often distort a picture if the original just wasn’t that great. When you distort it, it hides some of the flaws.
But the main reason I generally don’t distort pics anymore is because photoapps lower the resolution of the original photo. It’s very frustrating- almost all photoapps do this. If it’s a photo that I may want to print/enlarge someday and the resolution has been lowered, the photo will pixelate.
How have you grappled with recent technological changes?
I have not updated my Ipad to the new iOS because it will automatically change one of my favorite apps and render some of its key features useless. It is very frustrating!
I am not a trained photographer. I use a little Sony rx100 point and shoot camera at shows. I do not get photo passes and I have no special access. I attend shows for the experience- the music, the lights, being with friends. I take pictures to record the experience. I share them with others because people have told me that it too helps them to relive sacred experiences at shows. I think that is why people buy my prints/canvases. And it gives me such happiness to know that my pictures are hanging in people’s homes!
Do technological changes peddle or limit your photographic endeavors?
I am much more artistically inclined than technologically inclined. I’m not highly motivated to learn all I need to know to be a professional photographer. When people start to talk about camera settings, tech equipment, etc. my eyes begin to glaze over!
What new skills had to be learned as a result of technological change?
I do keep on top of the latest apps. However, like I said, most of the apps lower the photo’s resolution and are therefore not attractive to me. I generally use those types of apps on pictures I have no intention of enlarging/selling.
Are there photographic methods/lessons/skills that transcend time?
Absolutely – form, composition, lighting, etc. These things will always be crucial. Color and balance are the two things I focus on the most.
On every pic I experiment with saturation, contrast, shadows, warmth and highlights.
Ultimately I think some “skills” can’t be taught – it’s a gut instinct when to click that button and which photo of your bunch to work on and present to others.
What is the role of photography in the Phish community?
Photography is important for a few reasons. The obvious one, as discussed above, is that pictures help us to preserve the memory of the experience of being there. People describe phish as a sacred experience (some call it “church”) and they want that moment captured. Bloggers who describe and review the shows want photos to accompany their words. People want photos to share with their friends but they don’t feel good about their photo skills or they are too busy dancing to stop and take pics.
Pictures also help to connect those who weren’t there to the experience of being there. Technology in general helps bring our community closer together. I’m active on Twitter and when phish is playing, we all stream/webcast and discuss the show live. It’s pretty incredible that we can do that. People live tweet pictures of the show and, again, it helps the rest of us feel in some way part of the experience. However, I will clearly say that NOTHING ever truly replaces the experience of actually attending a show.
The genre-blending music quartet Phish has attracted numerous artists over their thirty-plus year history. In the Phish culture, “phans” have created shirts, posters, pins, publications, and a near limitless variety of other trinkets that reflect their appreciation and understanding of Phish. The band has responded in kind, producing similar items, even decorating ticket stubs with tour-varying designs. Andrea Nusinov participates in the production of Phish fan art through her photography. Her sense of community, sense experience, and time reveal something universal in the Phish experience.
In his Critique of Judgment, Immanuel Kant discusses notions of sublimity, beauty and profundity. He knows that reason alone cannot grasp the totality of existence, sensory experience can deceive, and imagination illuminates ideas. Nietzsche drives at a similar point in The Birth of Tragedy when he discusses Dionysian experiences:
Dionysian excitement [traditionally associated with music] inspires a whole mass to see themselves surrounded by a host of spirits with whom they know themselves to be essentially one (Section 8).
Phish music is designed to create this feeling. It is easy to get lost in a jam. Reason is subverted as one gives oneself up to the sway and rhythm of the music. Dionysian ecstasy, or connection with the sublime, develops as fans “merge with the music” (Bicknell, Why Music Moves Us, pg 51).
The Phish festival is the most potent example of this feeling. Most recently, Magnaball allowed me and thirty thousand others participated in an artistic utopia – exploring art installations, listening to improvisational music, and discussing the meaning of life. A temporary city was developed and we lived for a weekend in tune with art and in harmony with each other. Fans often speak of a sense of freedom embedded in the music. At Magnaball, we lived it. Phish has fun with their music, constantly toying with fans and themselves as music emanates from stage. It is easy I am sure, to dismiss Magnaball and the playful ethos of Phish as having little to no “real world” value. If your mind trends that way, please consider the following.
No matter how hard we try, humans without aid of technology could never soar through the atmosphere and explore the subatomic world. We are limited not only by our senses, but the laws of nature too. If you don’t believe me, toss something, preferably inanimate, into the air. Did it fall? Of course it fell. It always will. It is this consistency in the natural world that allows humans to figure things out, to know and to “advance” civilization. As happy a thought that may be to some (did you see the photos of Pluto!?), it does ring of rigidity. This oxymoronic mode of existence, humans simultaneously growing and being held back by the same forces that shape the cosmos, spurs philosophers to ponder whether or not there are other ways to know the universe.
A great leap forward in human understanding occurred when mathematicians began to play with Euclid’s Elements, particularly the axioms (common sense definitions) that he presents and builds upon in each of his geometric proofs. The book provides a thorough and decisive examination of two-dimensional space and can be effectively applied to human endeavors in 3-D. No one thought to tinker with that reality until the nineteenth century when someone(s) dared to ask, “What are the properties of a line drawn on a sphere?” Fast-forward a few decades. Einstein is troubled. His theory of relativity is not holding up to scrutiny. Did he make a grave error? Would the tyranny of Isaac Newton continue? No! Einstein was alerted to the new, playful geometry that asked “what if space is curved?” by his buddy Marcel Grossman. Through their partnership a new way to conceive and explore the cosmos was opened! Good friends with a sense of play and curiosity changed the world.
Andrea clearly understands that nothing humans know is final, and that having a sense of play when thinking is crucial to a healthy mind and life. Photography allows her to play with reality, presenting previously unseen visions of Phish to her audience, the Phish community. Her photography allows viewers to alter the way they think about their experiences. A Phish show, and reminiscing about one’s favorite show(s) and moment(s), is a completely subjective experience. Fans discuss and deepen their appreciation of Phish by being open to new experiences, new knowledge, and new interpretations. This openness is can be construed as the single most important lesson Phish and the Phish community provide. We grow together through a willingness to play, to be exposed to new perspectives – through discussion or direct experience –, to wrestle with and incorporate new ideas into our ways of knowing and being. When Phish is on stage there is a “latent potential for any moment to become meaningful.” (Blau, A Phan on Phish, pg. 4). As those moments pass they get strung together by artists like Andrea, the individual and collective memory of fans are developed.
How did Phish grow to the point where they not only affected their audience but encouraged nearly a cult following? I think the answer is two-fold: 1) the music resounding from the stage consisted of experimental instrumentation and abstract poetry tossed together in an often hodgepodge way (not always! But from my vantage point the music seemed to say it all, lyrics were merely a formality) which allowed for the 2nd stage of the answer – fans are encouraged to interpret the tunes in anyway. The fact that Phish fans are so passionate about their Phish experiences “points to the power of affect to fuse our bodies and our senses and our minds… to bring forth a new articulation of self-understanding” (DeChaine, Affect and the Musical Experience, pg. 83).
 Thomas Levenson, The Hunt for Vulcan…And How Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relatvity, and Deciphered the Universe (New York: Random House, 2015), 152.
The PhanArt Coloring Book, Vol. 1, is a a collaboration between Jamie Huntsman (Artistic Director, Headcount) and Pete Mason (PhanArt), bringing together artists Andrew Abis, Bryan Boj, Eric Hanson, Jiggs, Ryan Kerrigan, Lizzy Layne, Drew Suto and Terry Werner to create an all ages coloring book of Phish-inspired drawings. The coloring book for all ages costs $5
All proceeds from the sale of The PhanArt Coloring Book after Etsy/Paypal fees benefits The Mockingbird Foundation. Get your copy today!
Reid Genauer, long known as the voice and guitar behind Strangefolk and Assembly of Dust recently published his first children’s book, Jeffery’s Jungle.
The 24 page book for kids ages 4-9 was written by Genauer and illustrated by Alan Close and tells the story of a young boy who turns up the thermostat while his mother is off running errands and a jungle sprouts in the midst of his living room.
Reading through the book, the rhyming story builds in a Jumanji like way, compounding the jungle that grows through his house with each creature that appears while the temperature increases. The excitement and suspense of the book is perfect for reading to kids and allows their imaginations to take the story to another level.
The illustrations are vivid and perfectly visualize the story and convey the emotions expressed in the story. The art pops off the page, evoking AJ Masthay through his animals plants and Bob Montana’s ‘Archie’ through Jeffery.
A natural story teller through his music, Genauer channels Shel Silverstein, Jerry Garcia and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter through the origins of Jeffrey’s Jungle:
“All of that said at a young age I found that creativity – for me specifically writing – is a place where sensitivity is rewarded. It’s an activity where you can unleash your senses and let them scream. I would not have had the words to describe it back then but after reading Shel Silverstien’s “Where The Sidewalk Ends” at about age 9, I was inspired to start writing. Even though most of Shel’s writing is funny, there is emotional presence within the playfulness that I found familiar and inspiring. So at the age of 9 I started writing Shel Silversteinian rhymes as a creative outlet and I’m still doing it.
“With Shel, Hunter and Garcia as role models I have spent most of my life trying to channel myself into my writing as a way to connect with the world with the intent of being emotionally present but stylistically relevant. For 20+ years I have focused publicly on expressing myself through song and I intend to continue. But my journey started with trying to imitate good ole Shel Silverstein.”
PhanArt is proud to announce three PhanArt shows this summer, held in Chicago, San Francisco and Burlington.
The first show will be held on June 25th brings PhanArt to Wrigleyville and The Cubby Bear for PhanArt in Harry’s Hood. Located right across the street from Wrigley Field, this show will be held on the second day of Phish’s two-night run at Wrigley.
The first PhanArt show on the West Coast, a San PhranArt Show will be held at Mezzanine, a few blocks away from Bill Graham Arena. This show will be held on July 19th from 12-5pm.
Finally, PhanArt will head to Burlington on July 30th for a show at Metronome, above the famed Nectar’s. More details of this show will be announced in coming weeks.
Artists and vendors interested in taking part in any of these PhanArt shows can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.