Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

May to July 2008: Maugre at MOCAD in Detroit

June 30, 2018


“Echoes of the Jungle” my first large painting, borrowed back for this exhibit.


“Echoes of the Jungle” detail.

Part Three of Three Parts.

From May through July in 2008, I frequently went to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.  I lived in the area and could even walk there from my house.  It was nearly an hour walk but I’d walk it.  Sometimes I’d get there on the bus and walk home.  It was fun to talk about my work with any visitors who’d appear.  I knew that this was a unique experience.  It was yet another personal autonomous zone, a sort of temporary/ provisional utopia.

Considering Detroit was MOCAD’s first real large-scale look at local work.  It was mostly from Detroit proper with some of it being extended to the Detroit area. I’d enjoy looking at the other artist’s work while I was there.  I got to know the entire exhibition.  Including myself, there were five artists.  There was also a section in tribute to a local poet and a section centered around a cultural collective. *

MOCAD late July 2008 etc. 130b

An early wood sculpture and a metal wire sculpture.

Besides just hanging out there, I also got to do a few special performances.  I did a puppet show.  The Spaceband got to do a show there as well.

The puppet show played to maybe thirty or forty people, including some children.  It was funny as usual.  It was also a lot of work. **

The Spaceband were camped out in a makeshift Pup Tent.  We emerged to play a wild concert, including a light show.  I think it was a 6 or 7 piece band.

MOCAD Space Band etc. 001.jpg


The Spaceband performing at MOCAD

It was a lot of fun, having this large exhibit and getting my work out there for people to see.  It was a lot of work too but I threw myself into it. 

* Besides myself, the show included the late poet Jim Gustafson, the artist’s collective TIME STEREO, longtime Detroit painters Allie McGhee and Gordon Newton, then too artists Ellen Cantor and Heather McGill.

**These 26 photos include shots of my MOCAD puppet show:



I’d punch the time-clock, in and out, when I visited.


May 2008: The “Considering Detroit” exhibition opens at MOCAD

May 31, 2018

Part Two of Three Parts.

I had a good turnout at the opening event from friends, family and co-workers.  People even came in from out-of-town.  It was pretty hot in there yet it was a good time.

With my Aunt Pat and my Mother at the opening event.

It’s probably the largest retrospective that I’ll ever have.  There were over 400 of my works on display.  I borrowed back ten or fifteen pieces that I’d sold to collectors.  I was always prolific yet this show tried to show the variety of my work.  I just kept experimenting.


It was a fine show and I was in good company.  Besides this huge assortment of my own work, there were sections of works by a group of my peers.  None of the other artists shown were close friends.  The one I probably knew best was the late Detroit poet Jim Gustafson.


Jim Gustafson’s section, left and part of mine.

The following post includes more information on this exhibit.  I wrote it in 2009, around the one-year anniversary of the time when we started to put it together:

At the opening event, May 2008. Photo by Diana Alva.

Some of  these photo will enlarge if you click on them and hit the backspace to return to the post.

Installing an Exhibition at MOCAD in 2008

April 30, 2018


Part One of Three Parts.

It was a real adventure to select everything and to help haul it to  MOCAD.  The staff there did all the hanging and installing.    Yet my input and suggestions were welcome.  Putting the show on the walls turned into a collaboration.  There was quite a lot of work on display.  It was a lot of work to put it all together.

A group of curators and museum staff came to my house to meet me and to look at my work.  They decided to try to recreate some of the feel of my living space, but on a larger scale.

They even considered bringing my refrigerator!  I had a spare fridge in my kitchen which housed my entire puppet collection.  That didn’t work out, but they did bring in some of my other furniture


Hanging an oil painting.

There was also a section of my puppet movie playing on a television set.  I made that around 2000 with Dave Toorongian.  I brought in some of my toys, found objects and other household ephemera.

Mostly though, the show consisted of around 400 of my drawings, sculptures and paintings.  MOCAD (The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit) sponsored the show.  Considering Detroit was their first exhibit to feature local artists.  I was part of a group of artists which filled the entire museum.  There were four other visual artists, a poets and an artist’s collective.


Work lined up against the wall.

Further information on this exhibition:

The venue:



My large brush and ink drawings, unrolled and flat on the floor.

Some of  these photos will enlarge if you click on them and hit the backspace to return to the post.


Nearly ready to start hanging the show.


Graces/ Disgraces

March 31, 2018

Graces Disgraces (in pen and ink from November 6, 2001) and 8 by 10 inchesb

The graces flew the coop, gracefully, of course.  They were gone and they never really returned.  They’re somewhere else now.  They’re in the land of mystery, playing games with cobwebs, bubbles and star dust.  I hope to visit them there someday.  They might let me participate.  If not, I’ll just take notes.

Before their departure though, there were strange and horrible events.  This is what happened.

The disgraces rose to the top.  It was the nastiest sort of bully pulpit, with the bully always terrorizing the smaller, weaker ones.  These toughs were frightened of being mean to anyone equal to them or anyone better.  They loved to step on people, if they thought that they could do it safely.   They preferred to kick people from behind, or better yet, to kick them while they were down.  They were mean through and through, giddy on curdled cruelty, until the fall.

On an unexpected day, the graces met the disgraces in a dirty alley at 3 a.m.  It was no contest and over, nearly before it began.  Yet the damage had been done.  The repairs would take a long time to complete.

The Free Port as Art Penitentiary

February 27, 2018


The poor art works are hidden or hiding.  I think that it’s terrible to have art hidden away so that no one can ever see it.  It makes the art works seem like prisoners are hostages!

They lock it away in crates stored in warehouses.  Beautiful art is reduced to pure commodity.  It’s punishment for being sold to rich collectors is similar to its being locked up in a penitentiary.

If it’s taken out of the crate and displayed, then its monetary value might go down a bit.  The cautious greedheads would be happy if their precious art collections remain hidden.  They’d like these works to never be seen by any human eyes.

If they were on display in a private home, at least someone would see them.  Sometimes these collectors are kind and generous enough to allow the works they own to be seen in a museum show.  They loan them out.

Yet this hoarding and hiding is a real crime.  This system is a mockery and  an insult to every living, working artist.  Free the art!

From the previous link, a New York Times piece:

“It is a shame,” Helly Nahmad, a London dealer whose family is said to store 4,500 works in the Geneva Free Port, told The Art Newspaper in 2011. “It is like a composer making a piece of music, and no one listens to it.”

Art Free Ports:

Coming to New York City:

The Geneva Switzerland Free Port:

An audio report:

Back in Bumbleton Corners

December 31, 2017


The mayor’s always smiling and when you least expect it, you’ll get a handshake.

Down at the general store, the men hang out and exchange wise-cracks.  Some of them are innocent and some of them are guilty.  Once a week, on Tuesdays, it’s free pickle day.  Goods sold there include blades, dry goods, notions, cheap fabric, toiletries, traps, noise-makers, candy, smokes, booklets, tools, novelties and gunny sacks.  There are a number of other unusual retail establishments scattered about.  They cater to the sportsman, the collector, the grease monkey,  the home-maker and to the ne’er-do-well.

The children roam the streets and parks.  They play terrible and wonderful games.  The officers often have cause to regret that these little ones are too young to arrest.

Once in a great while, you’ll see a horse, or even a horse and wagon.  Sometimes there’s even a buggy.  The motor vehicle is here to stay however.  They continue to appear and to disappear.  You may also see scooters, pogo sticks, go-carts, roller-skaters and numerous bicycles.  There are plenty of pedestrians.  There’s even a dirt road and too, a gravel road.  Concrete and asphalt aren’t everything.

There are several lovely restaurants.  Crabbles is probably the best of these.  You can also receive a good turn at Mack’s Diner, over on the edge of the city.  They serve everything you’d expect and more.  The dishes and silverware are always extremely clean.  Over at Aunt Aggy’s, they cook the meat twice and the vegetables are always fresh.  The area also sports several lovely taverns and even a few dives.

Bumbleton Corners is a very strange little town.  It’s known to take normality into places where it usually never goes.  It reminds me of a wolf in sheep’s clothing or of broken things which mysteriously repair themselves.



What Time Is It? Time to Move!

November 30, 2017

I’m tired of inertia and fatigue.  It’s time to move and to shake things up as they’ve never been shaken up before.  Now’s the time?

Everyone’s so busy, so strapped and tapped.  Working two or three jobs is more and more common.  There aren’t a lot of lazy people out there.  Does boredom even exist anymore?  The world seems to be set up to keep us distracted from the most important things.  For many of us, the trivial and the trendy becomes central.  This leads to trouble.

These are urgent days.  Some of us refuse to embrace the confusion.  We insist on attempting to see clearly and to feel without being ruled over by our emotions.  Artists often find ways to enter the mystery.  All of this is very difficult to do.  One keys is to network and to connect.  In union there is strength.

What’s So Funny?

October 30, 2017

One essential question is rarely discussed: “What is the role of humor in art, as it relates to reality?”  In these dire and dangerous times, humor may have an important and unexpected role.  If so, it needs to play its cards right.

We’re in trouble but we don’t have to love it.  All hail wise-cracks, mockery, ridicule, satire, puns and jokes.  Hurrah for giggles, titters, guffaws. howls and belly laughs.

Making fun of things can put the fun back in life.  That said, it not always easy to take humor dead seriously and, at the same time, still be extremely funny.  I’m going to try to add more humor to my own work.  I look at it as an essential spice.  Sometimes laughter can make you think of things differently.  You see them in a fresh light.

In my own work, humor comes to the fore in my puppet performances.  I can really get people laughing.  It pops up in my poetry, cartoons, visual art and musical performances as well.

When things become extremely bleak and seem fraught with peril, it’s hard to see the humor in life, in the world.  Yet it’s always there.

For awhile, people were saying not to make fun of DT aka 45.  Yet the fact that he hates being made fun of makes it tempting.  The whole bad crowd in his cabinet calls out for fumigation with laughing gas.

Yet it’s not just the United States that’s in trouble.  The whole world needs a good laugh!

From 2009:

From 1995:

Hidden Nests

September 30, 2017

The aroma of the ugly anti-culture hangs thickly in the air.  Now and then, it disperses.  It lurks around corners, in little curls of fog.  Its greatest enemies are absolute love and absolute truth.  It has no use at all for any sort of authentic art or artist.

Death culture seems to be ascendant.  In many cases, it’s as it’s if they’re poetry vampires.  They try to suck the poetry out of the world and replace it with its opposite.

It still believes that it will emerge triumphant.  Yet thousands of us, maybe millions of us are standing in line to give it a kick in the pants.

Magic and mystery meet up with a deep and complicated sort of hyper-awareness.  We want to see what truly is, both in the shadows and in the light.

There are pockets or nests of magic, love and resistance.  Some of these are large.  Some are small.  We need to connect the dots to make the picture complete.   People need to come together and work, struggle and fight: for poetry, for art, for truth, for love, for future generations and for the fate of the planet itself.  Now’s the Time.

A Warning to the Others 001

The Life and Times of the Heidelberg Project, a Postscript

August 31, 2017

June 2017

Thanks to all of those people who came out to see my extensive Summer exhibit, The Life and Times of the Heidelberg project at the Detroit Mercy library.  It was a lot of work to put it together.  I still need to sort through the papers, photos and clippings which I removed from the showcases.

Thanks also, for checking out these three blog posts.  I’ll write more about the project, eventually.


Circa 1991


I learned a lot about the Heidelberg Project by curating and installing this exhibit.

It’s early days are special to me.  When Sam Mackey was alive, it was still so new and fresh.  It’s been difficult to keep it magical, strange and beautiful.  Considering all the obstacles and setbacks that they’ve faced, I think that they’ve done a good job.

I got to help with it, in those early days.  Later in the 1990’s, the Heidelberg Project helped to inspire me to create my own massive street art project, in the heart of downtown Detroit.  I got to see what it’s like firsthand.

This was the J.L. Hudson’s Building Project, which covered all four sides of the abandoned Hudson’s Building.  Over several years,  I drew over 500 chalk drawings on the black plywood which covered up the display windows.   I never got permission, never got arrested and most people seemed to like it.

It was tough to keep this project up, for 2 or 3 years.  It has to be even tougher, to keep something up for over 30 years.

Woodward 15too

Some of my 1990’s artwork on the J.L. Hudson’s Building


In doing this exhibition, I was able to explore some of the sources and influences of the project.  These include the work of Rosetta Archie.  I remember going to see her amazing assemblage on Beaubien near Grand Boulevard.  Tyree Guyton was also a fan.  He used to go there when he was a student at College of Creative Studies.

I’ve long sensed a connection between the Heidelberg Project and spontaneous and make-shift memorials.  You frequently see these set up in spots where people were killed in automobile accidents.  In the exhibit, I included some of my photos of the memorials in lower Manhattan in 2002.

One series in the early 1990’s involved hundreds of shoes in the street.  On Heidelberg Street, cars would drive over the shoes.  This was a strange sensation.  Once, I was part of a crew who went with the project to a dumpster at a shoe warehouse.  We shoveled out shoes into the back of a pickup truck.  Later, we helped throw some of them back into the street.


Shoes on Heidelberg Street, November 1991

In 2011, Mr. Guyton brought back the shoe collection for an installation called Street Folk for Art Detroit X.

February March 2011 046too

The “Street Folk” installation, 2011.

There’s a history of using shoes as symbols of gun violence and to protest against gun violence.  It was a nationwide movement here in the United States.  This seemed to reach its peak in the 1990’s.  Yet I’ve found other examples of this in the 2000’s.

Also, the Heidelberg Project always seemed to be sympathetic toward the homeless people.  Using the cast-off and disregarded houses and objects had a connection with the cast-off and disregarded people.

Placing art onto abandoned houses calls attention to them.  Sometimes, it was done as a form of direct action.  They wanted a dangerous house to be torn down.  Houses were being used for criminal activity.  When they were turned into art houses, the crime would usually move somewhere else.  They didn’t want the attention.

Now, many houses that they didn’t want torn down have been torn down and/or torched.

The Heidelberg Project has always had an activist side to it.  This seems less true now, yet this may not be so.


On the Rooftop, circa 1990


Back in the 1990’s, I wrote ten or twelve statements and manifestos in support of the project.  Some were handwritten, while others were done on a manual typewriter.  I’d photocopy them and distribute them.  I also signed and helped to fact-check a long statement of support from the Surrealist movement.

Writing these blog posts brings me back to those days, some twenty or twenty-five years ago.

The Heidelberg Project continues and I wish them well.  It’s often attacked, smeared and misunderstood.  This is a good place to find out the latest news about it:

It’s very difficult to keep something like this going.  The city government seems hostile or, at best, ambivalent toward the project.  It’s a major tourist attraction but maybe “it sends the wrong message.”

I’ll keep watching and keep visiting.


The Fun House, shortly before it was destroyed, 1991.