i’m amazed by what the sea belches up just bits & pieces nothing ever whole never complete
lobster traps boat parts broken shells crab clam scallop razor lady slipper whelk the devil’s pocketbook jingle shells nothing ever whole never complete just bits & pieces
they stroll the beach searching but for what they don’t know something that has meaning only to them
then something catches their eye they stoop pick it up turn it over skip it back onto the waves but sometimes they pocket it bring it home
puzzle pieces without the box to see the big picture
bits & pieces nothing ever whole never complete just their shells
--Prof. Arlo Kent
I do not have a high regard for humanity. We're destroying the planet through greed and neglect. We can't get along. We are a warring species. I think we should just die out, as it seems we're destined to do, and let another species take over for awhile.
These images are part of an assemblage or mixed media piece I'm working on. I still haven't figured out what to call what I'm making, trying to fit it into an understandable label, and that's proving a problem as I try to "explain" my work to gallerists and other gatekeeper types.
I'm amazed by what the ocean belches up on the beach. Just bits and pieces. These are not just bits and pieces of shells, they are bits and pieces of individual people on the beach. Just bits and pieces themselves, belched up by the sea. Searching, but for what?! They don't know. But there are just bits and pieces. And every so often they pocket something and bring it home. Just puzzle pieces. But they can't see the entire picture, so they'll never know. Just bits and pieces. Puzzle pieces.
And that's pretty much how I feel about humanity.
These images could be printed, framed, and hung on a wall, one after another. Or put in a book. But I don't see the point of that.
Prof. Arlo Kent
And explanation, and I suppose an apology, of sorts.
At the risk of being too on the nose, I'd like to give an explanation of my work. I know there are artists who are very much opposed to explaining their work, believing that the work should stand on its own, that if you have to explain it the work isn't successful. But I believe an artist should be able to articulate what they are doing, that it makes the artist and the viewer complicit, and that the viewer, quite frankly, needs all the help they can get from today's modern work.
If you approach my work and understand from the beginning that everything I do is political, you've won three-quarters of the battle. Starting with subject matter, coyotes are not the cuddliest of animals. They're not the pretty birds and cute animals people want. They're a step above rats, in terms of animal subject matter. Even Indigenous People don't look that kindly upon them. The Hopi--and someone correct me if I'm wrong--believe that coyotes can be spirit animals, but a real coyote are few and far between. Embracing a coyote as a subject flies in the face of everything in the bougie art world. Also, the subject matter of a poor woman, probably a single mom, isn't in the same vein of the heroic woman that Hollywood like to depict.
Nor do I make "pretty" art; it's not part of my sensibility. I show the marks, the splotches, the "mistakes">
Black and white. A white coyote against a white background, and a black coyote against a black background--does that really need explanation??
Higher Than Normal Call Volume
My work constantly addresses the lives of the ordinary individual against the greater forces in our society.
I'm changing my images intentionally. Even more painterly. I see the world fading, decaying. But that's not a bad thing at all. When I first came to Portugal I was so anxious and hurried. Now it's as I keep saying about the country: Portugal is hard, then she smiles and she reveals herself. I love this country. The pace of life, and how they live it.
Today I ordered canvases to be delivered to my studio so I can begin work when I get back to the United States. I don't want to go back, but if I have to I might as well begin work. I have so many ideas I want to try out, to execute. I want to combine the words in my head with the images I'm making here. With the work I began earlier this year. Because here, even here, the syphilitic voice of Trump can be heard. This is the only way I know how to respond to what is happening.
September 21st, 2022
Untitled (Head of a Man)
Life ain't nothin' but a bowlful of Tango Bango.
Details from a work-in-progress. Self-portraits. Still questioning, What is/constitutes a photograph? What is a photograph's role in a piece of artwork? (And also, text's role, too?) What is a portrait and its role? What is pretty/acceptable? What does a self-portrait convey? What is Tango Bango?
Self-Portrait With Grandparents
JP’S PARENTS EMIGRATED FROM SICILY TO THE UNITED STATES IN 1911. I NEVER MET THEM; THEY BOTH DIED LONG BEFORE I WAS BORN. SICILIANS WERE NOT WELCOME IN AMERICA, OR EVEN IN ITALY. IN AMERICA, THEY WERE CALLED THE N-WORD. EVEN TODAY, SOME OF MY MOST INTELLIGENT, LIBERAL FRIENDS HAVE MADE DEROGATORY REFERENCES ABOUT SICILIANS. THEY’RE NOT REALLY ITALIAN. THEY’RE ALL CRIMINALS. I KNOW THIS IS NOT WHAT THEY THINK OF ME, THAT I DON’T MEASURE UP TO SOME HIGH STANDARD OF WHITE, EUROPEAN HERITAGE. STILL… SOMEDAY I’LL BE DEAD, TOO, JUST LIKE MY GRANDPARENTS AND JP.
ALICE ANNE’S PARENTS WERE BORN IN AMERICA, BUT THEY STILL SPOKE GERMAN AT HOME. GERMANS WORKED HARD TO ASSIMILATE INTO AMERICAN LIFE BECAUSE GERMANS WERE THE ENEMY IN TWO WORLD WARS. ALICE ANNE TOOK THIS PICTURE OF JOSEPH AND JOSEPHINE. THEY ARE SITTING ON THE PORCH OF THE “OLD HOUSE,” A TWO-STORY LOG CABIN JOSEPH BUILT. ALICE ANNE EVEN INCLUDED HERSELF IN THE LOWER RIGHT. ALICE ANNE WAS BORN IN THAT HOUSE IN 1917. (THEY COULDN’T GET TO THE HOSPITAL IN TIME.) ALICE ANNE WAS EDUCATED ONLY TO THE EIGHTH GRADE, BUT SHE WAS VERY SMART AND SENSITIVE. SOME DAY I’LL BE DEAD LIKE JOSEPH, JOSEPHINE, AND ALICE ANNE.
Sometimes I Wonder...
You have stumbled upon the web site of Quincy-based artist, John Greiner-Ferris. Thank you for visiting.
I have 1,019 “friends” on Facebook, down from around 1,200 before I began culling people on their birthdays. If I didn’t have a clue who they were, yes, I unfriended them on their birthdays.
I have 661 contacts on LinkedIn (659 followers.)
1,328 contacts on Gmail, 1,889 contacts on Apple Contacts,
1,206 on a theater mailing list on MailChimp,
And I have to ask: Who are you? Many of you I have never met. We connected through some common interest on social media. Or if I do know you, mostly I have only the vaguest remembrance from some long ago time in my life. I know this because I have only a handful of people in my close, inner circle. Between friends and family, I imagine that number is around twenty.
And I do wonder, just how well we really know anyone. Even ourselves.
So, it’s only through social media that I still have even the thinnest connection to seemingly ninety-five percent of the people I ever engaged with in my life. And I just wonder, do you ever think of me? At all? Do you remember me during my worst of times? (and there were a couple of doozies!) Or some time when I actually rose above being an average human to act like the person I’d hope I’d become?
I guess what I'm asking is, what is my legacy.
John Greiner-Ferris is an artist in the Boston area. Sometimes he makes images. Sometimes he writes. Sometimes he does both.