Sideways to Heaven: A Baltimore Image Journal

Fig. 1

This is a pictorial journal of the past few days.  It began in Baltimore where I found this pizza box thrown up against a cinderblock wall and was provoked to imagery.  The box seemed to be saying, “Go to hell.”

Fig. 2

(Fig. 2) This is an image inspired by the Towson Town Center mall.  It was conceived across the street, in a lesser mall but with a good vantage point.  It seemed that telecommunications were the real power source along the street and feeding into the mall – it’s probably underground coaxial cable, but the wires and poles remain (which makes sense because these are the recent ghosts of 20th century technology).  Anyway, I had been fixated for some time in my work on ‘the pillar’ (as an over-invested image which stood so far apart from what it was claimed to represent) and so these old poles really dominated the tableau.  Towson is kind of a model for the way the new ruthlessly obliterates the old in this country – everywhere there is evidence of shoddily achieved replacement.  Thus, the recent and the old are pretty easily seen crumpled up beside or around the latest new (which in Baltimore looks like 1987).  Confronted with such glaring contradictions, would one not elect for the highest Roman distinction?

Fig. 3

(Fig. 3) This is a counterpane to Fig. 4 (“Philly’s Best Go to Hell Bell”).  It was meant to be the flames leaping off the menu of Philly’s Best, an Indian pizza sub hoagie restaurant in Baltimore.   But it became mired in amoebic dysentery.

Fig. 4

(Fig. 4) This is the bell from the cover of the Philly’s Best menu.  It reminded me of the fiery rhetoric of the 7-11 pizza box I had misread in Fig. 1.  “Go to hell.”  That’s what these things said, but in lovingly bereft ways.  They might have been on the side of those gone to hell – they were used up, left over, discarded.  Like the emotional currency of images like the liberty bell or the pillar of democracy.

Fig. 5

(Fig. 5) Here I hit my stride.  The various strands of the previous images – the provocations and brutal sadness that they broadcast – found a kind of redress in this picture.  The rupture appears to have come from within.  It contaminates the as-yet-unafflicted pillar to its right.  The sheer physicality of this work was a pleasure to produce – I was using a broken chopstick (from Asian Taste) to striate the drawing.

Fig. 6

(Fig. 6) Upon returning home I was haunted by images garnered in the other city.  A series of vanquished strivers ensued.  One begot the other, largely through the use of my favorite tool, surface and medium: the high quality paper towel.

Fig. 7

The images grew more Blakean and symbolically unstable as the impulse to reproduce became implacable.

Fig. 8

Fig. 9

I was running the stations of the cross: brush, paper towel, ink, iPhone, computer, palette knife, and back again, amidst a profusion of ghostly strivers.  The images became more confounding and spiritual.  It felt like the hyperspace that Fredric Jameson describes in his “Postmodernism” essay.  An essay you’ll want to have in hand should you ever seek to penetrate the beguiling veldt of the Towson Town Center Mall.

Fig. 10

Who is speaking here, the right-flying angel or a dubious god?

Fig. 11

This image reflects the beauty of the many people I saw and met in Baltimore.