Recently, Apple has been running a commercial with someone singing in the background as the camera flashes clips of people using a Mac. I immediately recognized it as a song I first heard over 10 years ago when it was featured as KUT Song of the Day. The Austin radio station has since changed to KUTX but their Song of the Day feature is still a terrific place to hear new music.
The song is Story of an Artist, by Daniel Johnston. Daniel is a visual artist, songwriter, and musician who moved to Austin in the 1980s. He’s had a lifelong struggle with mental illness, but has found success and is fondly regarded here. He is the artist who, in 1992, painted the frog, Jeremiah the Innocent, in the iconic Hi, How are You mural in Austin on 21st street at Guadalupe.
The version of the song I heard on KUT was a recorded-live-in-studio-1A cover of Daniel’s song, performed by M Ward in September 2006. I liked it the first time I heard it. But it is a sad song, in my opinion, of an artist shunned by society for being different. And after having learned more about Daniel Johnston, I think it is autobiographical. A 2005 documentary about him called The Devil and Daniel Johnston reveals more about the man and his struggles.
The version of the song in the Apple commercial is performed by Johnston himself, originally recorded in 1982; just him, a cassette recorder, and a piano. In the commercial, the lyrics are chopped up and rearranged, so it comes off as a funky upbeat tune; you don’t get the whole vibe of the original song. Here’s a link to his entire original recording, if you want to give it a listen.
I think the M Ward version I first heard on KUT Song of the Day is beautiful….but when I heard it, I didn’t know the background story of the artist. Now I do.
I saw a white ceramic boot at a thrift store last week. It gave me a flash of inspiration; a vision of what it could be. It would become a colorful planter. Yes. That’s it. I brought it home.
First, I drilled a drain hole in the bottom. Slowly and carefully with my Dremel tool.
Then I popped over to Michael’s craft supply store for paint. I have a lot of acrylic paints, but I wasn’t sure what kind would work on already glazed ceramic. After shopping a bit I found one that sounded like it might.
Craftsmart multi-surface paint pots; you let dry for 72 hours and then bake in the oven.
I also grabbed a pen to help outline the design. I thought it would be easier than using a paint brush.
I chose a clear acrylic glaze spray-on finish to seal it from the elements.
I used rubbing alcohol to clean the surface first. I sketched a design on paper to plan it out. Next I drew it on the boot. Pencil worked great on the shiny finish. Then I let loose with color. I was trying to mimic Mexican glazed pottery designs, though not with real kiln-fired glazes. I was extra-pleased that it didn’t crack in the oven. After it cooled I sprayed on the glaze. Voila!
We popped over to free Thursday at the Blanton museum today. Ellsworth Kelly is an American artist who designed “Austin,” a stand alone art gallery, and artwork in its own right, for the Blanton art museum. He died a few years ago, but his building was recently finished. We visited the museum today to see this exhibit, and the other rotating collections on display.
Afterwards we celebrated National Margarita Day at Chuy’s. Cheers!
We watched the Seahawks game at a bar downtown today. Our Hawks won! On the way home we stopped in at Mozart’s coffee house to check out their Christmas light display. I’ve never been. But it definitely is a thing to see this holiday season. 🙂
Today Monte and I took a trip downtown to see the recently installed visiting art exhibit Forever Bicycles, by Ai Weiwei. It is sponsored by The Contemporary Austin and the Waller Creek Conservancy. Their material doesn’t cite an end date for the exhibit – it just says “ongoing.” But get yourself down there to see it. It is located at the “Waller Creek Delta,” which happens to be about where Trinity St runs into Lady Bird Lake. The Waller Creek Boathouse and its cafe are nearby, so you can catch a bite as well. And it is located right along the hike and bike trail.
I found the exhibit of hundreds of stainless steel bicycles to be teeming with motion, from every angle. Very cool indeed.
I made it to Laguna Gloria today. It’s remarkable that it is only my first visit, after living here over 20 years. It is the home of The Contemporary Austin, an art consortium. The grounds are beautiful, full of trees, and trails that will take you down by the (glorious) lagoon, as well as Lake Austin. A sculpture garden is spread throughout the grounds and trails. It made for a lovely afternoon of hiking, birding and art appreciation.
In a post earlier this year, I shared a visit to the Blanton Museum that we took, to see an Andy Warhol visiting exhibit that ended in January. When we went, we didn’t know that the museum’s permanent exhibits were temporarily closed, due to a total revamp of the permanent gallery areas upstairs. Even so, we enjoyed the visiting exhibit.
The museum’s permanent collection galleries are now open again, so I stopped by this week to check it out. They have an interesting mix of art – Latin American, early American Western, Contemporary, European, Native American, Modern, Spanish American, Ancient Greek and Roman, Film and Paper/Documents. The gallery remodel was nicely done.
I recommend a trip to the museum. I enjoyed it. Check out their website for days & hours. And keep in mind that every Thursday admission is free, and every 3rd Thursday the museum is open late – until 9pm. Parking is easy at the nearby Brazos garage. If you bring your parking stub into the museum, they can give you a discounted parking rate.
The Blanton Museum downtown currently has an Andy Warhol exhibit, running through January 29th. It is called “Warhol by the Book.” It contains his artwork associated with bookcovers, album covers, playbills, books that he published, and other of his works associated with authors. I enjoy Andy Warhol’s art, and saw things in this exhibit I’d not seen before.
There was another visiting exhibit by Xu Bing called “Book from the Sky,” which runs through January 22nd. I knew nothing about this artist nor the work, but thought it was interesting. Over 4 years, Xu Bing hand carved thousands of wood blocks with non-sensical chinese characters/words of his own design, and then crafted traditional-format chinese books and scrolls made up with his hand-crafted characters. So, if you know Chinese, it looks like gibberish. If you don’t know Chinese, it looks like, well, Chinese. 🙂 I guess it’s supposed to get you thinking about the power of words, and also the beauty of Chinese calligraphy. It was a beautiful exhibit, nonetheless.
Their permanent exhibits are currently not open, as the museum is doing construction on the 2nd floor. But those will reopen mid-February.
I enjoyed learning something new. After we fed our minds, we had lunch downtown. A nice day.