DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


A Trio of Birthdays

Still from the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”, 1968, directed by Stanley Kubrick

1. This week, on March 15, Drawing Life turns three years old.

2. Minerva Durham’s Spring Studio, New York’s busy basement of figure drawing and one of the forges of my creative life, is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this month.

3. On the 12th, my brother Frank Hatt is celebrating another one of those decade birthdays.

Please indulge me as I share a few images and video clips to trumpet this triumvirate of things that matter to me.  (Note to email subscribers: embedded video and audio clips don’t work on the email versions of posts, so you’ll need to click the links or visit the blog on the web to see the things I’m talking about.)

Honestly, each of these three anniversaries merits its own post.  I’ll blame my jamming them together on cosmic conjunction.

Let’s start with Frank.  Long-time readers of Drawing Life may recall seeing some videos I made that featured Frank: “Subway Sax“, “The Silo“, and “Glossolalia + Katharsis“, all from twenty or more years ago.  Well, Frank’s still around, and still plays a sweet alto saxophone.  In January of this year, we filmed some of his improvisations on an animal farm/petting zoo in the Catskills – thanks to my great friend Alex for taking us to this beautiful place.

“Sax Stream” – saxophone solo by Frank Hatt, video by Fred Hatt

Frank has long been fascinated with “extended vocal techniques” such as overtone singing and vocalizing on the inbreath, both of which you’ll see in the clip below, as well as toy instruments and noisemakers.  Frank’s approach is playful, often frenetic, sometimes downright wacky.  Here his voice blends with those of chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys, and emus.

“Down on the Farm” – vocals and noisemakers by Frank Hatt, video by Fred Hatt

Maybe the best moment we got where Frank really seems to be vocally interacting with the birds is this brief improvisation on sax mouthpiece, without the rest of the instrument.  This one is presented as an audio-only file, as the visuals didn’t add much.


In the 1990’s I was mostly known for body painting, and Minerva thought body painting would be an effective way to demonstrate anatomy, so I shared a few pointers on materials and techniques, and Minerva took off with it.  Here she is painting the muscular system on the renowned dancer, model, and choreographer Arthur Aviles, a former dancer in the Bill T. Jones company and one of the founders of the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD).

Minerva Durham paints muscles on Arthur Aviles at Spring Studio, 1998, photo by Fred Hatt

Spring Studio also hosts art exhibitions, and I had a show there in 1998.  At the opening I did a couple of body art performances, including a blacklight body painting performance with Sue Doe, with whom I’d developed a nightclub act that we were then presenting regularly at the Blue Angel Cabaret.  Here’s a condensed version of that performance.

Art Underground from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.

This month, the walls of Spring Studio are filled with hundreds of drawings and paintings made in the studio by the many artists that pursue their practice there.  I love Spring Studio’s annual anniversary exhibitions, which reveal the incredible diversity of styles and approaches that flourish in such an environment.  The work of seasoned professional artists is hung cheek-by-jowl with the work of beginners, and somehow the juxtaposition makes both look better!  This kind of show also highlights the talents of Spring Studio’s great models, especially when you notice multiple artists’ interpretations of the same pose.

Next Sunday, March 18, starting at 6:30, Spring Studio will host an anniversary party with performances.  Here are the details:

Andrew Bolotowsky, flute,  and Mary Hurlbut, voice, Leon Axel’s compositions for flute and voice, 6:30 pm

We will paint muscles on Arthur Aviles, 7:00 with a backdrop of Andrew Bolotowsky’s flute, then Aviles will dance.

Dance, 8:00 pm: Kuan, Leticia and Esteban, Jason Durivou, Linda Diamond, Raj Kapoor, Nepali folk tune with Sherry Onna, and Anna Schrage painting a canvas to music played by Godfrey Daniel. Open MikeElizabeth Hellman, Flo Reines,  Nina Kovolenko, George Spencer, Susie Amato, Trevor Todd, Others. 

I’ll note that Kuan’s dance will be based on some of the poses she’s developed for modeling at Spring Studio, and that she’s using my drawings of her as choreographic source material, so I’m excited to see that.  You’ll notice too that Minerva is still painting on Arthur, and Arthur’s an incredible performer, not to be missed.  So if you’re in NYC next weekend, it would be a pretty interesting time to check out the studio!

[Late addition to this post, now that Spring Studio’s 20th Anniversary Party is past – a video I shot of Kuan’s dance based on her poses from Spring Studio:]

All right, so now I’ve gone on and on and bombarded you with pictures and videos and information about Frank Hatt and Spring Studio, and this post is also serving as Drawing Life‘s anniversary post.  In the first and second year anniversary posts, I highlighted the top articles, the ones that got the most page views.  This time, I’d like to thank my most regular commenters.  I know from the site stats that quite a few people alight upon these pages every day, but most probably don’t read much of what I write.  I’m sure there are some who read these posts regularly, but don’t comment.  There are also those who comment only by email or on Facebook.  I appreciate all of that, but I have a special affection for those who follow Drawing Life and join in the conversation with thoughtful responses, right here on the site.  Thank you, star commenters!

Jennifer, from the UK, a devoted student of figurative art

Andrew, author of the highly recommended “Art Model’s Handbook”

Jim in Alaska, always has great observations or reminiscences

Claudia (Museworthy blogger and star model)

Daniel Maidman (fellow blogger and master painter)

David Finkelstein (experimental filmmaker and performer)

I love you all, and the less frequent commenters as well.  Feedback is good, and when my writing threatens to dissolve into pompous monologue, you save it by making it a conversation!


Okie Troglodytes

Still from "The Silo", 1988, video by Fred Hatt

In the mid-1980’s I was living in my home town of Enid, Oklahoma, working as a video producer for a local ad agency.  I had access to industrial video gear (a Sony DXC-M3 camera and portable U-matic deck), a romantic identification with stone age cave painters, and some unembarrassable friends, one of whom lived on a farm with an abandoned grain silo.  So naturally we decided to do some cave painting in the silo and make a video about it.

The young guy seen playing saxophone and recorder is my younger brother Frank, previously seen on this blog in another old video, Subway Sax.  Frank is now living in Western Massachusetts, where he still practices improvisational  music and dance.

Frank, still from "The Silo", 1988, video by Fred Hatt

The guy who’s driving the pickup truck at the beginning of the video is our friend John, one of my favorite people from my Enid days.  He was from a well-to-do family who owned local office supply and farm implement businesses.  John was a naturalist and an adventurer in the Victorian tradition, and an out gay man long before it was common in Oklahoma.  He had traveled the world, making a living writing adventure journalism about drug smugglers and the like for Hustler and other men’s magazines.  He’d been living in California with a partner who was the leading expert on the California condor.  After John’s partner died of AIDS, and John knew he was positive himself, he’d returned to Enid.

John, still from "The Silo", 1988, video by Fred Hatt

I got to know John because he was in the local writers’ club with my wife and me.  John was writing a hilarious, sexually graphic and scathingly satirical account of a gay coming of age in Oklahoma.  John lived in a little stone outbuilding on a farm outside town.  His place was a regular natural history museum, with an amazing collection of specimens and artifacts including a giant anaconda skin and a Tibetan ritual cup made from a real human skull.  Sitting on a coffee table was an elegant curved bone that everyone who entered his home felt attracted to pick up and caress.  It was a walrus’s penis bone.

Outside the stone house, John had built a large pen and coop to keep his pet exotic chickens.  I never knew chickens had been bred into as many variations as dogs!  John used to take us on nature walks, where he’d make us wade through waist-deep swamps and crawl through brambles.  He could spot all sorts of things I’d never have noticed, including dry owl vomit containing mouse skulls, ancient bison bones in the banks of creeks, and the nests of packrats and possums.

John was an inspiration to me because coming from a small, conservative city never made him think he couldn’t live large.  He gave me courage.  A year after I shot this video, I was living in New York City, working at the media arts center Film/Video Arts, where I edited the piece.  On one of my first visits back to Enid, I was devastated to see John wasting away in the hospital.  I present this video to the world in tribute to John, because, slightly silly though the video may be, it’s all I have.  And after all, isn’t it kind of fun, and doesn’t it have moments of beauty?

The Silo from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.

Some of the fragments of music in the video are what was playing on our boom box during the event.  I believe the breathy brass is from Jon Hassell’s Earthquake Island, and the polyrhythms are from Rhythm Devils Play River Music, by Mickey Hart, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, and others.



Images from "Glossolalia + Katharsis", 1989, multimedia show produced by Fred Hatt

The tradition of the wild party for New Years probably has something to do with the idea of catharsis, an explosive releasing of pent-up emotion through acting out.  We want to exhaust the frustration, regrets and resentments of the ending year by burning off the lingering energy to awaken to a fresh new day.  Of course in real life it doesn’t work, and waking up to a hangover in no way feels like a clean beginning.  But perhaps an artistic experience can give a taste of liberating paroxysm.  In this spirit I present this little two minute primal scream made twenty years ago.

Excerpts from Glossolalia + Katharsis from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.

There’s a good story behind the making of this film.  One of my housemates at the time, Mike Montgomery (now known as the lounge singer Monty Banks) was planning a tour of the Fringe Theater Festivals in Canada with Buck Duke’s Wild Sex Show, a potpourri of dirty jokes, puppets, magic tricks and R&B music with audience participation.  To attract media attention, Mike planned to stage public confrontations between his character, Buck Duke, a profane cowboy mountebank, and a pompous European artiste named Lorean Dauphine, who would be portrayed in the faux showdowns by different actors hired in each Fringe Festival city.

Mike felt Lorean Dauphine needed his own show, and approached me about producing a multimedia extravaganza that could be presented in the festivals as Dauphine’s work.  I would have just two weeks to complete an hour-long show that could be shown without my having to tour with it.  I suppose I should have been offended that Mike thought of presenting my work as the oeuvre of a pretentious twit, but I thought it was an interesting production challenge and decided to take it as an opportunity to make something experimental.  Mike suggested basing the work on themes from Georges Bataille’s Erotism:  Death and Sensuality.

I put together a slide show with 280 images photographed from my own collection of art books:  depictions of heroism, death and horror, eroticism and enlightenment from many cultures.  The slides were ordered according to a classical hindu theory of Rasas, the gamut of moods or flavors in the arts.

To record a sound track we threw a party where we taped musicians improvising, under the direction of my brother Frank.  I still have his notes for the different phases of the improvisation, which read, “Mirthful glee – righteous rage – sexual ecstasy – wailing & bemoaning – military pride – all falsetto – sustained chanting – percussive noises – tribal trance – everybody improvise poetry at the same time.”  Frank and I had been doing what we called Glossolalia – freely improvised group sounding, mostly vocal – for several years by that time, and for the recording Frank led a large and, I’m afraid, unruly group in this.

We threw another party that filmmaker Eve Heller filmed in 16mm, at which “without rehearsal or preconceived structure, vocal and physical taboos were lifted and the resulting chaos became the ground on which the collective unconscious of the performers could realize itself,” as explained in a statement I wrote for a showing of the piece.  One hour of film was shot, to be presented unedited.  Around this time, I had first experienced the shamanic work of California performance artist Frank Moore, and his influence may be seen in the performance party.

That’s me in the film, juggling sheets of silver mylar and carrying a woman in a slip on my back.  Frank is the guy with a mustache making magic hands at the beginning, and Mike is seen in a wheelchair.  Party like it’s 1989!

The film, slide show, and sound track were created separately, to be exhibited simultaneously, with correspondences occurring only by chance.  The show was presented in New York and at the various Canadian Fringe Festivals.  One reviewer wrote, “Definitely in the running as the worst Fringe show of the year, this combines slides and experimental film in a way that goes beyond baffling. . . redefines self indulgence.”  I figure it’s always good when you can redefine something, and if the critic thought it was so awful I suppose it met Mike’s requirement to represent the work of fictional Lorean Dauphine.  April Panzer, director of TuCCA, the Tulsa Center for Contemporary Art, where the show was also presented, described it as “A cloud of chaos out of which periodically drop gems of insight.”

I felt there was a lot of good stuff in the piece, especially the slide show, but it was a bit long at an hour, so the following year I made this much shorter distillation of a few moments from it, and present it to you now as your cathartic New Years’ party.  All the best to you in 2010.

On my Vimeo page you can see the full credits for the film and music.


Subway Sax

Filed under: Video: Music — Tags: , , , , — fred @ 23:30

Subway Sax from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.

In honor of my brother, Frank, and in celebration of his moving back to the Northeast after a sojourn in Oklahoma, I’m posting a video we made eighteen years ago. This is Frank improvising on his alto saxophone in the West 4th Street Subway Station in Manhattan on a late evening in 1991, filmed with the new technology of the day, an 8mm video camcorder. I observed Frank as I would observe an unknown Subway musician, sometimes watching him, sometimes watching other things going on in the station as a dance to the saxophone’s wail.

This became a piece about the rhythms of crowds and loneliness, trains and people coming in and going out like waves on the shore, an urban surf that goes on ceaselessly through all the stations of the Subway.

I made new titles for it and changed it to monochrome as the original color wasn’t very pretty.  Otherwise this is the same as the original edit I made in 1991, edited on U-matic at Film/Video Arts, where I worked at that time.

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