DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


Creating a Masterpiece: Frank Moore

Frank Moore, 2011 photo by Sasha Cagen, cropped

Frank Moore, 2011 photo by Michael LaBash, cropped

One of my mentors, the California-based writer and performance artist Frank Moore, died last October at the age of 67. Frank was born with cerebral palsy and was unable to walk or talk, but he was determined to break out of his own isolation. Once he had done that, he kept on going in that direction, which led him to create a kind of initiatory performance art aimed at dissolving the artificial barriers between people, and between individuals and their own creative power. (Frank tells his own story in the classic autobiography Art of a Shaman.) I first encountered Frank’s writings in the MIT-published journal of performance studies TDR: The Drama Review, and in 1989 was privileged to experience “Journey to Lila”, one of his all-night participatory shamanic erotic ritual performances at Franklin Furnace in New York.

Frank Moore and his Chero Company at Franklin Furnace, NYC, 1989, photo by Eric Kroll

Frank Moore and his Chero Company at Franklin Furnace, NYC, 1989, photo by Eric Kroll

“Journey to Lila” was an eight-hour series of experiences, by turns silly, sexy, disconcerting, frightening, ridiculous, liberating, playful, warm, and bonding. By the end of it most of the audience was undressed and playing with each other like naked children. While some moments of it could be challenging, I never felt that I or anyone was unsafe or coerced or being exploited or laughed at.

When the World Wide Web came along in the mid-1990’s, I discovered that Frank Moore was a pioneer in using that new communication medium, with his extensive “Web of All Possibilities“. I was able to reconnect with him and his tribal extended family, got to know Frank personally, and participated in several other Frank Moore performance events over the years (I’m in the left background in the photo below). The first artwork I ever put on the web was on the Featured Artists section of Frank’s website. I consider Frank a mentor and one of the few genuine geniuses I have been privileged to know.

Frank Moore's "Free Tribal Hot Skin Passion Music/Dance Jam",  Surf Reality, New York City, 2002, photo by Michael LaBash

Frank Moore’s “Free Tribal Hot Skin Passion Music/Dance Jam”,
Surf Reality, New York City, 2002, photo by Michael LaBash

I’ve seen a lot of great performances and experienced many immersive theatrical events, but nothing has had such an enduring transformative effect on me as Frank Moore’s “Journey to Lila”. It came along at a pivotal moment in my life, and it opened my mind. I had recently moved to New York and was trying to figure out how to live my life as an artist. I was fascinated by magic and was reading about things like Tantra and alchemy, but magic remained a sort of abstraction for me. I had thought of it more as a subject matter for art, as symbolism or as fantasy, only pointing towards mystical truth. Frank showed me that magic can be the operational technique of art, that it is a completely practical approach to transforming reality or creating freedom, and that its materials can be utterly humble (a cup of water, a roll of aluminum foil, a Sonny and Cher song) and its actions very simple.

Frank Moore and dancers in the "Outrageous Beauty Revue", 1987, photographer unknown

Frank Moore and dancers in the “Outrageous Beauty Revue”, Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco, 1987, photographer unknown

Ever since, I have understood that people deeply desire freedom, that they want to live in a world of love and joy, and that if you invite people to play with you in such a world, many of them will. It has nothing to do with the harsh things our society uses to drive and motivate people – fear, envy, guilt, competition. The magical way is the way of a pure heart – which, in Frank’s case, provides the perfect complement to a dirty mind. Frank showed me a wild but gentle way of freedom, and I still try to follow it in my own artistic career and in my own life.

Americans always talk about Freedom and Liberty as our great values, but everybody has different ideas about what these words mean. I grew up in the American West, where the icon of freedom is the lone gunslinger, and where a common notion of personal liberty understands it as autonomy, or as having your own turf where no one else can meddle, protecting yourself and your family or community with fences and guns, and if you’re rich, with dollars and lawyers. Of course, everyone needs a place to feel at home, and fiercely defending that is important, but to really feel free, to have the kind of freedom you need to make art, to make love, to nurture people, requires trust and connection, not autonomy but interdependence. That is the kind of freedom Frank Moore wanted to foster.

For a disabled person like Frank, dependency is obvious and it’s impossible to believe in the delusion of autonomy. Frank had to gather helpers around him, and he would never have been able to do all he did without the support of his larger community and his intimate tribal group, which, at the end included Mikee, Linda, Erika, Alexi and Corey. Any tribute to Frank is also a tribute to Frank’s people.

Frank was a rebel of the underground, and his use of sexuality and messiness and a deliberately crude aesthetic helped to keep him in that place below the radar where magic can be safe. I am sure that many people were transformed by his work as I was, and that the seeds he sowed will be producing nourishing fruit far into the future.

Frank Moore communicating with his head pointer, U. C. Berkeley, 1984, photo by Mary Sullivan

Frank Moore communicating with his head pointer, U. C. Berkeley, 1984, photo by Mary Sullivan

Frank Moore’s publishing company, Inter-Relations, just put out a posthumous collection of Frank’s writings called Frankly Speaking. It’s full of great stuff, but I’d like to share here a brief piece that gets at something profound about the creative process, wisdom that is often neglected by teachers. Since many of my readers are artists or art students, this should serve as a good introduction to Frank Moore’s way. I’ve interspersed the text with some of my own doodle-like abstract watercolor sketches, not as illustrations of Frank’s essay but just as my tribute to Frank Moore, examples of my own attempts to work with the kind of freedom Frank is talking about here.

Pedestrian Surge, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Pedestrian Surge, 2014, by Fred Hatt

CREATING A MASTERPIECE, by Frank Moore, published in Lummox Journal, March 2000, included in Frankly Speaking: A Collection of Essays, Writings & Rants by Frank Moore, 2014, published by Inter-Relations

An artist starts, let’s say, a painting with a set idea of what he is going to paint. Sooner or later he makes a “mistake” – a color or a line which doesn’t fit in the original idea – which “ruins” the painting. When this happens most people give up, thinking that they are not cut out to be artists, and withdraw back into the common existence. Others try to pretend that they didn’t make the mistake, that the color or line isn’t there on the canvas. They go on painting as before. When they are done, they have painted the shadow of what they wanted. Morevoer, this shadow is covered with a haze. Others keep starting over whenever they make mistakes, not accepting any mistakes. They are rewarded for their endurance with the perfect copy of the thought form which they had held for all this time. They are rewarded by what they think they want to create. Their thought form has been brought down into the material plane. The creation is perfect. But it is not a masterpiece. It is perfect within the limitations placed around it by the rigidness of the artist. The work is perfect, but not free.

Wetlands, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Wetlands, 2014, by Fred Hatt

A masterpiece is perfect and free. The master artist paints an adventure in color, words, or notes. What others see as mistakes, he sees as challenges, boxes out of which he has worked as the basis on which he creates a totally new, fresh pattern. These challenges, boxes, keystones, keep appearing as he works, demanding the artist’s flexibility. If the artist looks back, trying to hold on to what he thought the painting was or would be, he gets trapped in a box out of which he must battle or be turned into a rigid, bitter pillar of salt. The artist has to keep his whole attention on the swirling colors in front of him in order to be the creator.

Burning Bush, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Burning Bush, 2014, by Fred Hatt

To create a masterpiece, the artist has to use and risk every bit of himself. But he also has to create with God, for God is the one who creates what most people call mistakes, and that the master artists sees as his tools and materials. God does not create for the artist. God just provides the tools, the guiding bumps. It is up to the artist’s free will whether he creates or gets dragged down by the weight of the tools. When the artist is creating, he feels no weight.

Growth Spurt, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Growth Spurt, 2014, by Fred Hatt

The most important masterpiece is a lifetime. This is a statement of hard fact. Creating a masterpiece in every day living is governed by the same rules as creating a masterpiece in paint, but much harder because the artist is also the canvas. In every period of time, in every land, there are a few masterpieces of art and writing. But a masterpiece lifetime is much rarer.

Orb, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Orb, 2014, by Fred Hatt

“Creating a Masterpiece” is on pages 64-65 of Frankly Speaking: A Collection of Essays, Writings & Rants by Frank Moore.

Photos of Frank Moore and his performances were found on the web. Clicking on the photos will take you to the sites where I found the photos.


Drawing (the Bow) and Releasing (the Arrow)

Archer, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Last week I reread a little book I first read around twenty years ago. This post is a look back at how that book influenced me in my art practice. (The illustrations between paragraphs are details of artwork that has appeared previously in Drawing Life, and clicking on the images will link you to the posts containing uncropped versions of the works.)

Sheen (detail), 2010, by Fred Hatt

Sheen (detail), 2010, by Fred Hatt 

Zen in the Art of Archery is German philosophy professor Eugen Herrigel’s account of his experience studying archery in Japan  in the 1920’s under kyudo master Kenzo Awa. Awa taught the traditional Japanese art of the bowman as a spiritual practice aimed at transcendent mastery. Herrigel’s terse and eloquent account, which can easily be read in an afternoon, was one of the first attempts to make Eastern philosophy accessible to the nonspecialist western audience. His choice to approach the subject through practice rather than theory helps to show the roots of mystical ideas in down-to-earth realities. The accessibility of the writing has made this book a popular and often-imitated classic, though Herrigel’s own reputation has justifiably suffered because he later embraced Nazism. It reveals the limitations of Herrigel’s understanding – he never got to the supreme Buddhist virtue: compassion. The book, though, makes no moral or political claims, remaining simply an account of a particular approach to the learning of a craft.

Centered on the Feet (detail), 2012, by Fred Hatt

Centered on the Feet (detail), 2012, by Fred Hatt

In my youth and young adulthood, I read fairly extensively (for an amateur) in the literature of mysticism and esoteric philosophies. The first book that set me on that path was probably the Tao Te Ching (or Daodejing), a 2500-year-old masterpiece of aphoristic poetry that opened my eyes to a way of being in the world utterly unlike the modern Western consensus reality. Zen in the Art of Archery introduced me to the tradition of teaching these perhaps unintuitive ways of perceiving via the practice of various crafts or artforms. The movies have offered a pop version of this teaching method through their portrayal of Kung Fu masters and Jedi Knights, but the arts need not be martial – the Way is also taught through the bamboo flute, the calligraphy brush, through dance, poetry, yoga, flower arranging, sand painting, or the tea ceremony.

Drawing (detail), 2012, by Fred Hatt

Drawing (detail), 2012, by Fred Hatt

By approaching these ideas through a practice in the physical world, we understand them not as doctrines that must be taken on faith, nor as mysterious metaphysical mumbo-jumbo that relies on awe for its power. We experience them in our own bodies, interacting with tangible objects and the immutable laws of physics. The practice of a craft, no less than the practice of meditation or prayer, cultivates the spirit.

Dance of Hephaestos (detail), 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Dance of Hephaestos (detail), 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

My early encounter with Zen in the Art of Archery convinced me that I could use the practice of art to transform my own perception of the world, to transcend the illusion of the separateness of ourselves and the things of our world. Science or philosophy can reveal the oneness of reality to our reason, but only the practice of an art can make us feel it in our bones. Herrigel’s book gave me important insights into how that might work. It sets forth a particular idea of what constitutes “mastery”, but one that can apply to various disciplines of art, craft, or athleticism.

Cathexis (detail), 2002, body painting and photo by Fred Hatt

Cathexis (detail), 2002, body painting and photo by Fred Hatt

Herrigel practiced archery over about five years under Master Awa. Mostly, the study involves endless repetitions of drawing the bow and releasing the arrow. The practice of shooting goes on for a very long time before a target is introduced, and even then the Master never looks at the target, but always at the student, at the quality of his attention and breath, at the relaxation of the muscles. He allows the student to struggle and fail to the point of despair before introducing any “zen” approaches to the seemingly insoluble problems the student faces, and even when such ideas have been mentioned it often takes a great deal more practice before the student begins to grasp them.

Claudia Quick Poses (detail), 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Claudia Quick Poses (detail), 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

“You must hold the drawn bowstring,” says the Master, “like a little child holding the proffered finger. It grips it so firmly that one marvels at the strength of the tiny fist. And when it lets the finger go, there is not the slightest jerk. Do you know why? Because a child doesn’t think: I will now let go of the finger in order to grasp this other thing. Completely unself-consciously, without purpose, it turns from one to the other, and we would say that it was playing with the things, were it not equally true that the things are playing with the child.”

Squat (detail), 2009, by Fred Hatt

Squat (detail), 2009, by Fred Hatt

The goal of the practice is to lose all self-consciousness, to let something act through you rather than to act from the ego. The Western approach to the arts is all about the ego – expressing one’s feelings, proving one’s brilliance, selling one’s brand. Westerners encountering these Eastern ideas about transcending the ego or becoming empty of self often interpret them moralistically, as “the ego is bad”. The real idea is more about getting your “self” out of your own way, getting to that state that musicians call being in the groove, that athletes call being in the zone, that Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi described in his famous book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

Ovum (detail), 2011, by Fred Hatt

Ovum (detail), 2011, by Fred Hatt

Those who practice improvisational music or dance with others know that when they are in the groove, changes and reactions happen spontaneously and without any reaction time. Suddenly the whole group modulates to a new key, simultaneously. If you were to ask them, not one of them “decided” to modulate, and no one had to notice the modulation and then react to it. Unconsciously, the “group mind” made a shift, and they were all there, together, instantaneously. Reaction or intention always has a delay, but in the groove there is no delay.

Arcs (detail), 2005, body painting and photo by Fred Hatt

Arcs (detail), 2005, body painting and photo by Fred Hatt

The state of being empty of self, as described in Zen in the Art of Archery is just such a state, except that there is no group. How can there be a group mind without a group? It works when you know that the world itself is the ultimate group mind, with which one can sometimes meld, especially while practicing actions one has repeated and repeated and repeated until they can happen without intention. On the path of mastery, one practices not to gain ultimate control, but to go beyond the need to control, to trust the natural flow of things. One practices endlessly not so that one may be fully conscious of every action one must perform, but to be able to perform the actions unconsciously.

Tropic (detail), 2008, by Fred Hatt

Tropic (detail), 2008, by Fred Hatt

This ideal of mastery as unconscious, effortless, and fully detached from the self is never perfectly attainable, but to keep moving it is important to have a goal that remains always just over the horizon.

Firesprite (detail), 2012, by Fred Hatt

Firesprite (detail), 2012, by Fred Hatt

“Your arrows do not carry,” observed the Master, “because they do not reach far enough spiritually. You must act as if the goal were infinitely far off. For master archers it is a fact of common experience that a good archer can shoot further with a medium-strong bow than an unspiritual archer can with the strongest. It does not depend on the bow, but on the presence of mind, on the vitality and awareness with which you shoot. In order to unleash the full force of this spiritual awareness, you must perform the ceremony differently: rather as a good dancer dances. If you do this, your movements will spring from the center, from the seat of right breathing. Instead of reeling off the ceremony like something learned by heart, it will then be as if you were creating it under the inspiration of the moment, so that dance and dancer are one and the same.”

Liquid Topology (Rereflection) (detail), 2007, photo by Fred Hatt

Rereflection (detail), 2007, photo by Fred Hatt

Zen in the Art of Archery introduced me to this ideal of mastery that has guided my practice of life drawing over the years. I am no master, but I travel on the path of mastery, trying more and more to let go and just let it happen, not to draw, but to be drawn.

Concave (detail), 2009, by Fred hatt

Concave (detail), 2009, by Fred hatt

All the images included in this post, with the exception of the first one, are details of works featured previously on Drawing Life. Click on any photo to be taken to the post where the uncropped version of the image can be found.


Working Big – Part 2: Weaving with Bodies

Explorer, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Explorer, 2010, aquarelle crayon on black gessoed canvas, 72″ x 72″, by Fred Hatt

In last month’s post, “Working Big – Part 1”, I shared a selection of large figure drawings done at or near life-size. Over the last decade I’ve also been doing large-scale drawings with multiple overlapping figures.

In the Drawing Life post “Time and Line”, I wrote about how I arrived at this approach, and how it relates to my earliest creative impulses. I wrote:

The cubists were trying to move beyond the limitations of the pictorial or photographic view by showing their subject from multiple angles simultaneously, suggesting the third spatial dimension not by the traditional way of projection or perspective, but by fragmentation. In these drawings, I’m fragmenting the fourth dimension, time, to bring it onto the plane and into the frame.

On my portfolio site I describe these drawings as “chaos compositions”, and briefly describe the process as follows:

Chaos Compositions emerge from a two-phase process: first generating a chaotic field through a response to movement, followed by working to reveal order hidden within this chaos.

I work on the floor, crawling over the large sheet and covering it with overlapping sketches of movement or quick poses taken by a model-collaborator. Once the drawing reaches a certain density, like a tangle of threads, I begin to work on carving a structure out of this undifferentiated energy field. I bring some of the layers of drawing forward by adding depth and weight to the forms, and push others into the background or into abstraction. I alternate between crawling on the drawing, where individual lines can be followed like paths, and standing back to get a sense of overall form and balance.

What is expressed in these works is not a concept or a personal feeling, but something unconceived, a spirit that emerges from the moment, from the interaction of artist and model and environment.

Several chaos compositions are included in the gallery “Time and Motion Drawings” on my portfolio site.

Still more posts about this process are linked in connection with some of the drawings below. As you can see, I’ve written fairly extensively about this way of working, and you can follow those links to read all about it if you wish. Here I’ll just share a selection of these pieces, with some unstructured thoughts about what these odd drawings mean to me.

End in Ice, 2012, by Fred Hatt

End in Ice, 2012, watercolor on paper, 38″ x 50″, by Fred Hatt

Each model embodies a certain particular essence, a range of qualities that express the way his or her self and structure exist in the world.

Follower, 2006, by Fred Hatt

Follower, 2006, aquarelle crayon on black gessoed canvas, 72″ x 72″, by Fred Hatt

The curves of the body in all its different attitudes become waves in a field of energy. My drawing surface becomes a sensitive membrane that receives these vibrations.

Colt, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Colt, 2011, aquarelle crayon on paper, 37″ x 48″, by Fred Hatt

Each piece is a portrait of one model. These are not different bodies sharing a setting, but different moments exposed on the same emulsion.

Ruminate, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Ruminate, 2011, aquarelle crayon on paper, 36″ x 60″, by Fred Hatt

To look at these drawings is not to look at a picture, but to fall into a vortex, a field of chaotic forces.

Biome, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Biome, 2011, aquarelle crayon on paper, 37″ x 48″, by Fred Hatt

By finding and following the lines that define the overlapping bodies and faces, we find our way through the maze of the drawing. For me this experience is metaphorical, for in the field of forces that is the world, it is our own bodies and identities that ground us and give us continuity.

Contain, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Contain, 2011, aquarelle crayon on paper, 36″ x 66″, by Fred Hatt

I want the viewer of these drawings to get some flavor of the experience I have when drawing them, an experience of surrendering to complexity but discovering clarity in the body and its life force.

Verso, 2008, by Fred Hatt

Verso, 2008, aquarelle crayon on paper, 48″ x 60″, by Fred Hatt

The chaotic nature of the world is inherent to its beauty. Geological and biological forms, clouds and galaxies, grow out of the infinite complexity of interacting energies and interdependent beings.

Hold, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Hold, 2011, aquarelle crayon on paper, 37″ x 48″, by Fred Hatt

To grasp the universe is to lose the self in the moment. It is an experience I seek again and again, with a crayon in my hand.

Twists, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Twists, 2010, aquarelle crayon on paper, 48″ x 50″, by Fred Hatt

(The image above is deconstructed into its component figures in the post “Reverse Engineering a Drawing”)

Awakening, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Awakening, 2011, aquarelle crayon on paper, 37″ x 48″, by Fred Hatt

I don’t tell my models how to move, but let them find their own poses. I am not concerned with realistic rendering, but with the qualities of the curves and the forms of energy they seem to call up from the potent void of negative space. I am attempting to see beyond the surface of things.

Hero, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Hero, 2010, aquarelle crayon on paper, 48″ x 60″, by Fred Hatt

(The drawing above is included in the post  “Finishing Touches”, where I explore the development of the negative spaces in several chaos compositions.)

Water Cycle, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Water Cycle, 2011, aquarelle crayon on paper, 37″ x 48″, by Fred Hatt

When I am drawing, I am close to the large paper and cannot see the overall pattern. I am down in it, exploring whatever passage I have found for the moment. Later, looking at the drawing from a distance, I see it abstractly, as veins of color in a crystal, or as objects in a whirlwind. Then the eye discovers a face or part of a body, and that is an opening into the image, which can be traveled like a path through the woods, or like a strand of thought through the din of the chattering mind.

Gaze Angle, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Gaze Angle, 2009, aquarelle crayon on paper, 48″ x 60″, by Fred Hatt

(The phases of development of the piece above are detailed in the post “Composing on the Fly”.)

End in Fire, 2012, by Fred Hatt

End in Fire, 2012, watercolor, oil pastel, and aquarelle crayon on paper, 38″ x 50″, by Fred Hatt

These works, even more than my other drawings, are products of close collaboration with great models who share their own creative expression in the work. The models who posed for the large drawings in this post are Kuan, Pedro, Stephanie, Jillian, Madelyn, Neil, Milvia, Jeremiah, Kristin, and Jessi.


The Doodle Abides

Nature Boy, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I drew this this morning after a session of Authentic Movement.  It’s a kind of moving meditation, a group practice of discovering the impulses to movement within your body, following them wherever they lead you, and responding in the moment.  The practice called Authentic Movement was developed in the 1950’s by Mary Starks Whitehouse, a student of choreographers Mary Wigman and Martha Graham, and developed in later decades by Janet Adler, Joan Chodorow, and others.  My friend Peter Honchaurk, who studied the form with Adler,  introduced me to it twenty years ago, and ever since then it’s been one of my essential practices.  Nowadays I’m part of a peer group of Authentic Movers, and we meet once a month in Prospect Park in Brooklyn to move and witness together.  Many people treat the practice as a form of somatic therapy, but for me it’s always been most essentially a way to stay in touch with the creative spirit that resides in the body and in the relationship between the inner world and the world outside.

The drawing above is an expression of the connection with elemental energies that I felt moving in the park.  The remainder of the pictures in this post will consist of a collection of my doodles, most of which are done while at work, riding transportation, or talking on the phone, not in connection with Authentic Movement practice.  Illustrations are in random order, so the relation of text to images is mostly coincidental.  (Earlier posts on the art of doodling are here and here.)

Score for Solo Dance, 2011, by Fred Hatt

In Authentic Movement we usually move with eyes closed.  For a person like me, extremely visually oriented and, if not quite intellectual, at least mental, consciousness tends to reside mainly in the head, with the body serving as the vehicle to move the head around in the world.  When the eyes are closed, awareness naturally shifts downward into the body.  Eyes-closed orientation relies not on visual cues, but on contact with the ground or floor.   Proprioception and tactility supplant visual/intentional navigation.

Analysis, 2011. by Fred Hatt

If you’ve followed this blog for a while you may have gleaned a central theme, that I treat visual art as an art of movement, like music or dance.

Curandero, 2011, by Fred Hatt

All organic forms, the bodies of plants, animals, and people, the shapes of clouds and of the land, emerge from dynamic processes of movement and growth.

Generative S;iral, 2012, by Fred Hatt

To draw is to feel form back into the movement from which it arises.

Forest Runner, 2011, by Fred Hatt

You can get to know a landscape by roaming about it, feeling its texture with the soles of your feet and its contours as gravity reveals them to you.

Floor Plan for a Happy Drunk, 2012, by Fred Hatt

A blank piece of paper is a fairly homogenous landscape, so roaming about it with a brush or pen or pencil is an exploration of the hills and valleys of your mind more than of the paper.

Cogitation/Constipation, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Authentic Movement takes place within a space defined by the “witnesses” who observe the “movers”, and with their attention create a protected circle where the magic can happen.  A doodle happens in a space defined by the edges of the paper provided for it.

Mountain Mouth, 2012, by Fred Hatt

The doodle grows into the two-dimensional space of the paper as a growing houseplant expands within the space contained by its pot.

Bacterium, 2011, by Fred Hatt

If you’re dancing in a space, of course you can keep going back and forth over the same little patch.  When you’re making marks, you have to keep moving into territory that hasn’t been marked yet, as a plant’s roots must penetrate the as-yet unoccupied dirt.

Wreckage, 2011, by Fred Hatt

In movement or in drawing or doodling, you are always responsive to sensory input.  Marks or gestures may arise from internal impulses of nerves or emotions or imagination, or they may come from hearing a bird or feeling the wind.

French Curves, 2012, by Fred Hatt

This approach eschews concepts and plans.  There is no preconceived idea one is trying to portray.  There is simply a flow of moments, shapes that flow into other shapes, images and impulses arising in the mind, in the body, or in the world.

Treasure Map, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Of course, shapes are seen as things, and the imagination picks up images and runs with them, so free improvisatory doodling or moving is not necessarily strictly nonobjective, but I try to keep representational elements ambiguous, so that I retain the freedom to reinterpret them.

Old King Lear, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Most of these doodles are made without any particular idea in mind, but once they’re done it is much easier to come up with descriptive titles than it is for my figurative drawings.  There is nothing like mindless abstract movement to inspire the imagination!

Stiff Salute, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Organic movement is all about curves and spirals, meanders and branches, echoes and fractals.

Fleurs du Mal, 2012, by Fred Hatt

How does electricity move?  How does blood flow?

Tesla, 2012, by Fred Hatt

How do a flower’s petals unfold?  How do a tree’s limbs reach out and out, penetrating a space of air?

Pagoda of the Hairy Eyeball, 2011, by Fred Hatt

How do you slip on the ice?  How does water carve a canyon?

Man on Wire, 2011, by Fred Hatt

How does the wind wriggle through a gap?  How does a weed expand a crack in concrete?

Bird Lizard Blizzard, 2011, by Fred Hatt

How do dividing cells accrete into a spine?  How does heat make light ripple in air?

Water Cycle, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Why do arteries look like trees?  Why do trees look like lightning?  Why does a river delta look like a tree?

Jazz Hands, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Why does the large scale structure of the universe look like neurons?

The Devil Toupée, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I want the movement of the hand to reflect the natural movement of  growing things.

Writhing T-square, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I want the movement of the hand to reflect the movement of the mind.

Cul-de-Sac Subdivision, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I want a drawing to grow like a plant grows.

Indomitable Weed, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I want random things to come into the drawing just as random things enter into any experience, any environment in the world.

Museum of Maladaptive Mutations, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I want to create not by fiat, but by adaptation.

Shaft, 2012, by Fred Hatt

The movement of the mind does not stand apart from the world.  Like the movement of the body, it happens only within a world that has forces and pressures and countercurrents and resistance.  To make is to engage.

Thorny Vessels and Tricky Steps, 2012, by Fred Hatt


Framing Absence

Filed under: Photography: Framing — Tags: , , , — fred @ 21:13

Window Wall, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

A frame makes a picture.  A frame that is around nothing makes something of that nothing.  Most people probably never look out a window with no view, but if you take the frame’s cue and view this brick wall as a view, it is a rather intense study in texture and light.

I’ve always found something compelling in “empty” frames.  Here are a few of them.

Now Showing, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

An empty frame is a memento mori, a reminder of mortality, a window on nothingness that tells us there was once something where now there is nothing.

Red on Blue, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt

A big red box frames something – maybe a keyhole? – and, combined with shadows from a scaffold, makes an abstract painting of a blank blue wall.

Dots, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Here was once a fine locking glass poster case.  Then it became a community bulletin board.  Then someone pulled down the bulletins, leaving behind scraps of tape.  Now it is a sad cabinet of glass, empty inside and marred outside.  Or you can look at it as a jaunty composition of colored dots and tape on a transparent surface.

Boutique, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

This storefront once attracted window shoppers with provocatively posed mannequins in garish urban fashions.  A sagging tarp, blue and dusty, hangs there as the flag of failure.

Billboard Support, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

A vivid golden sculpture rising into the gray sky is so much more appealing than would be another commercial message.

Caution No Floor, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Everything has been done to make this once inviting store entrance forbidding:  paint splattered on the inside of the glass, a steel gate, caution tape, and a spray-painted sign that says “Caution No Floor”.  Here is the gate to hell, it would appear.

Exit ACE. 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Peel, scrape, erase – all but a remnant of a baby’s face.

Glass Frame, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

This is a little vitrine on a Subway platform where the Transit Authority posts notifications to commuters.  Someone tagged the glass with some clearish substance, creating a piece of abstract expressionism in subtle tones of translucency on transparency, casting faint shadows on a dully reflective aluminum back plate.

Now Serving Soup!, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

This frame was not an empty frame until the clumping snow made it so.  You can still read the message “Now Serving Soup!” – just what you’d want on a blizzardy day.

Chalked Plates, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Some kids with street chalk clearly saw this textured steel access plate as a frame, and decided to fill it in with colors.

Wet Cardboard, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Here’s a double frame made of an upside-down box spring and a piece of blue-edged cardboard that maybe used to be behind a mirror or a picture.  In its demise, this piece of cardboard has finally become a picture itself, as the moisture has stained it with something that looks like a misty watercolor painting of mountains.  The hard-edged multiple framing really emphasizes the pictorial quality of the cardboard, as a fancy inset double mat might enhance a soft picture.

Triptych, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

A triple window of water-stained board becomes a holy triptych.  “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.  And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.   And God called the firmament Heaven.  And the evening and the morning were the second day.  And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.   And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.  And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.  And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.  And the evening and the morning were the third day.”

Red Rectangle, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Will humanity one day emulate and extend the act of creation, seeding life on Mars or other planets?  Or will we destroy ourselves in the fire of our own consumptiveness?

Blinds, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

Someone who likes to hide in shadows got a building made for putting things on display, and so they put their depression and decay on display.

Rectangles and Diagonals, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

The paper in these windows, raked with shadows from an awning frame, looks like a silken kimono decorated with delicate diagonal stripes.

You Us We Now, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

This scraped poster has remnants that suggest a landscape, with brown below and blue above.  The black shapes in the lower left seem to be figures sitting in the landscape.

Blue Rectangle, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

Here on a plywood fence the artistic battle between figuration and abstraction is being waged.

White on Black, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

I almost think I can read a message in this remnant in poster paste, but it’s illegible, a distorted echo, a white shadow.

Stone, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

An artificial texture reminiscent of coral, surrounded in a bold rectilinear frame, marks this stone.  From a distance, it’s just a random pattern, like camouflage, but looked at closely it has a great writhing energy.

Empty Display, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

This storefront window between displays is the stage of a shabby rundown theater in an entertainment district the cool people no longer frequent.

Antidepressant, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

I think maybe this window is supposed to be a conceptual art installation, but it doesn’t look much different from the definitely unintentional depressing empty windows elsewhere in this post.  I like how the neon sign casts its shadow on the plywood – the shadow of light.  This was a storefront window in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  The artist is unknown to me – let me know if you know.

Dusty Window with Rubber Cement, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt

This dusty window depicts an encounter between a rather rigid character whose plaid slacks are seen in the lower left pane, and an angel of anunciation, descending from heaven in the middle upper frame.

Restaurant, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

Paper is often used to block the windows of defunct businesses.  Fallen paper, rumpled and stained behind the glass, is an emblem of fragility and collapse, but the rest of the world goes on, and that outside beauty is also seen in the glass, in reflection.

Van Windows, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

Some kind of film has been applied inside these van windows to block the interior from outside peering.  The sun (?) has caused this fascinating pattern of cracks, both dark and light, to appear in the film.  It reminds me of the tessellation of a dried lake bed.

Pink Window, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Notice how much more cheerful satiny pink fabric is in a covered display window, compared with the dusty blinds, tarps, or collapsing paper seen in other images of this post.  But it doesn’t completely overcome the depressing aspect of a shrouded display case.  If the window showed us a colorful piñata donkey, or a tin man made of stovepipe, with the pink fabric behind, that would liven it up nicely.

Window, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

I think this one may be a bathroom window.  The glass is frosted and there seem to be little shelves and a towel up against the window.  The frames always make me see these empty windows as abstract or minimalist compositions.

Governors Island Window, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt

This is a view looking out from a window by the waterfront on New York’s Governors Island.  The simplicity of this view, with tree branches in front of silvery water, is another lovely minimalist composition, made so by its frame.

Niche, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Something – a bust or a plaque, perhaps, surely once occupied this niche flanked by cornucopias and wreathed with ornate floral decorations.  Now it is a beautiful monument to the mystery of the void.  The gaps are where imagination comes to life, where memory and potential coexist.  Sometimes our world is overfilled with stuff and messages and sensations.  I value the absences, the empty spaces, the shells left behind by things that are gone.  The frame around emptiness says here is art, contemplate this.  And nothing rewards contemplation as much as does no thing.

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