Monday, May 30, 2011

Howling winds on this day of war remembrance

I'm briefly surfing the web today to decipher how to can and sell my homemade hot sauces. The wind is roaring outside; normal for a Kansas City afternoon. Some art of mine is going up on walls this week for an upcoming show. All around it's a good day.

On this Memorial day I'm reflecting on war in art, highlighted by a NYTimes article today; a theme also coinciding with my upcoming show. This Friday June 3rd in Kansas City will be my opening at Cara and Cabezas Contemporary, what I consider my first real show in Kansas City. I'll be accompanying an artist named Victor Cartagena; we both work in the print medium so it should be a great show in that regard. My small contribution of work is an intimate series of 8 etchings called Reasons' Monsters. These prints adopt Francisco Goya's Disasters of War series and re-set them during today's contemporary wars. As I realized today, when I created this series we were only fighting two wars, though it's three now...right? Does Libya count? What about our campaigns in Pakistan and elsewhere? Anyway, it's normalcy in the U.S. to be fighting somewhere else in the world.

Mostly I wanted to let people know that these prints will finally be on display, and if you're in KC stop by to see them on Friday if you can (they're also open on Saturdays or by appointment). Believe it or not, the drawings from this series, and the smaller set of prints have not seen many gallery walls. I've tried many times, and been rejected. As art goes, it brings up unsettling subject matter. Like Botero's Abu Ghraib works, or Otto Dix's images of atrocities, these pieces strike at the heart of the ongoing cycle of human conflict, tying contemporary events to historical similarities. Here's a quote from the press release,
"By conflating Goya's compositions with images from our current media, Naughton connects our present to the past, showing that history does repeat itself. Like Goya’s original etchings, Naughton’s series reflects things real and imagined. His creative responses differ little from our media, both being removed and only representation."

Here's the facebook invite if you're interested in coming.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Revolution Red

I spend many of my days running a fine art print shop called INKubator PRESS.  It's an amazing space with an unrivaled location in Kansas City's art district.  I work with a huge number of artists these days, both in collaboration and as a service provider.  One of these artists, Eric Lindquist (pressman at Hammer Press) works pretty closely with me and he always quotes a professor he had who had outlawed making prints in black and red.  It's a print cliche going back to Soviet, Chinese and Socialist poster works.  Constructivism used it too.  It's a simple formula using the white of paper, red ink for emphasis and black ink for graphic layout.  I'm guilty of using this; most printmakers are.

The thing is, it's a beautiful and effective formula.  Shepherd Fairey's work uses it over and over with great effect.  Other well known artists too.  On one side, printmakers can disavow it and not use it, while others use it with the authority provided by the history of prints on paper.  Artists set out to do something new, but often the newness stems from scraps and shards of things from our collective past.  We recontextualize the paths of our lives and research only to bring forth new-ish derivations, which hopefully some day contribute to the creations made by future generations of artists.  It's a great chaotic cycle.

Alas, this post isn't intended to talk about art, but more importantly my daily consumption and newfound love for the creation of....that's right, hot sauce.  I love it.  I'm a glutton for the endorphine rushes provided by my collection of red-chile condiments.  What I recently set out to do was deconstruct my favorites and land on a recipe of my own.  I've gotten pretty close.  The reviews thus far are fantastic.  I think the latest Batch #3 is my best work yet, and yes, it's called "Revolution Red".  I thought it was fitting and as things are still in turmoil in many parts of the world.  It seems poignant that the thing offering zest to my meals should be named for the process through which worlds are transformed.  Most food to me is better after a splash of red.  Revolutions re-write the maps of many cultures and civilizations including our own.  Here's my recipe so far for you to try it.  Read the whole recipe first for pointers and suggestions at the end.

Revolution Red
Batch #3


  • 120 chile de arbol peppers (chile japonaise also work just the same)
  • 2 garlic cloves
Smash the garlic cloves and throw in a 1 qt sauce pan with the chiles.  Add water to cover.  Boil the peppers in the large sauce pot for 30-45 minutes.  Stir every five or ten minutes as they tend to float and thus some will cook and others not.  

Allow to cool and drain the liquid.  It's bitter and not tasty in the final sauce so do not keep the cooking liquid. 

  • 1 1/2 c. water (add more for the consistency you like)
  • 2-3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp onion salt
  • 1/2 tsp corriander powder
  • 2-4 tbsp extra hot chile powder
  • 1/2 c. white vinegar (I use Hunts.  Cheap brands seem more acidic and crappy)
  • 1 tsp cayanne chile powder
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp mexican oregano (crumble it up in your  hand before adding it to release the flavor)
  • 1 fresh garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp honey

Place cooked and drained chiles in your food processor.  (If you used some bigger peppers, make sure to remove stems which can't be good to eat)  Pulse them a few times.  Add all the other ingredients and pulse the crap out of it until you have a smooth sauce.  In the end, it's a smooth mixture, but the seeds and skins of the chiles is left in the sauce as the pulp.  You may want a thinner or thicker mix, which relies on the amount of water you add.  My best batch had 2 c. water.  When it comes to salt, vinegar and water, the amounts can vary.  The other spices add little flavorful assets, but can be altered or traded out for flavors you like.

If you want to use other peppers: 
Go for it!  Mix and match, but know that this recipe is formulated for chile de arbol.  I eat the seeds and skin in this one just fine, but other chiles aren't as tasty this way and need to be separated from the liquid which is below.  Chipotle chiles make a completely different sauce, as do others.  I've tried dried pasilla peppers, New Mexico hatch chiles, and others.  Hit up your local Mexican mercado and I bet they have giant bins of great chiles you could try. 
You can also run the whole mix through a food mill or cheese cloth, and have a completely different consistency.  I would not add nearly as much liquid if you do this as the body of the sauce won't be as good with no pulp.  I'll post my Batch #1 recipe which is more of a thick sauce made from different chiles and way more vinegar.  
If you have success with this batch, just know that it's the tip of the hotsauce-berg.  There are so many spin offs.  Think scotch bonnets, mango sweetness, asian spices, and even flavored vinegar concoctions. If you try this out, let me know how it goes.  What is your take on it, and what did you do the same or different?

Try it as a marinade, try (sesame oil, soy sauce, chinese chile sauce, hoisen, garlic, ginger, and revolution red) an asian derived sauce for dumplings.  Make it a bbq sauce.  Make it a pizza sauce.  Red chile hummus.  Eat it on everything and live with the satisfaction that you can always make more.

Good luck to you.



Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Art won't replace the power of people, but it helps

Egyptian revolution in 2011

With the revolution in Egypt at the forefront of many minds, I'm returning to an interview I did while in Boston a few weeks ago. I met with a freelance journalist and activist Dan Feder one night and told him about my project for "Work". I went into my reasons, my inspiration, and my thoughts on doing political art. Mostly he asked me for my motivations, and he also talked to Anabel Vázquez the curator and then the article came out the following day. Notably it's in spanish, written for an immigrant audience in the Boston area and to the people involved at La Galleria at Villa Victoria.

I'm aware of some of Dan's work in the past, he formerly wrote for The Narco News Bulletin which presents journalism on many topics related to injustice, the corruption involved within our government, the war on drugs, and political movements in central and south America and the world. I have read only a few pieces, but it's powerful stuff. Here's one link to an article by Dan in 2005 detailing research that uncovered the complicity of the CIA in funneling U.S. drug profits to fund a "contra army to spend the entire decade terrorizing the Nicaraguan people and their Sandinista government." Seeing what Dan wrote about, I can only imagine his reaction to my work, which is left-leaning but hardly revolutionary, and he asked my curator this question (strange he didn't ask me), "Do you think Naughton's type of work can replace popular activism?". At least it was something along those lines. For some time I have dealt with that issue wondering about the efficacy of art and it's power to sway people, governments or popular opinions. My conclusion has always been that my work is a part of a continuum of action and that it plays one part along side investigative journalism, protest rallies, community activism and mass media attention. Each segment of the whole does one part in getting ideas to the masses, and I don't see one having greater impact over others. Protests happen and the media doesn't cover them. Articles are written but not distributed nationally by major news carriers. Art shows are staged, and only a certain audience takes in the work. My conclusion is that raising the visibility of human rights issues is a collective effort and we all contribute in our own way.

Today on NPR I listened to a story about the musician Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes who held an activist concert responding to Nebraska immigration issues. He was reacting to a small town effort to alienate and force out immigrants who have moved to Fremont, NE to take jobs at meat packing plants. The law, which passed last summer, made it illegal to hire or rent to illegal immigrants in Fremont. Surely the legislation will be subject to court battles with the ACLU, and the concert that Oberst held was a benefit raising money to donate to that cause. Again it's an effort by an artist to use their voice to spread word about a human rights issue. The part of the interview with Oberst was the questions directed at the concert goers. NPR made the case that those in attendance at the show were there for their love of indie rock, and not for their support of the cause. This result shows how the powerful can utilize their influence despite the contrasting motivations of their adoring consumer followers. If only more of our rich and famous upper crust would use the great powers that they have in mobilizing people towards important causes. Actions in favor of human rights will probably never be a mainstream struggle, but the work of a few can make a difference.

Fernando Botero with one painting from the series Abu Ghraib

My thoughts relate this story to the works of Francisco de Goya, Woody Guthrie, Kathe Kollwitz, Bob Dylan, Elizabeth Catlet, Judy Chicago, Fernando Botero and countless others. Artists have long used their creative voices to speak out, their medium serving as a megaphone to address injustice in any number of ways. Does this effort have any effect in the end? Do we live in a more just world than the world our grandparents knew? Has some injustice simply moved from one part of the world to another? Ultimately it's hard to say, but the fabric of how the world works is constantly changing as we can see in Tunisia and today in Egypt. Are these revolutions something we should support, after all the U.S. empowers many of the dictators who are seeing their grasp on their regime slipping. It's possible that we will lose favor in parts of the world if revolutions create vacuums of power that are filled with anti-U.S. governments. Time will tell, but in the end it seems that gradually our nation will continue to fall from dominance. The influence of our empire will fade only to be replaced by another nation that will exhaust itself to maintain its hold on the power that ultimately destroys from within. Thoughts or reactions?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

If you pay me, I'll ignore your ideology

When I had arrived at YJ's snack bar last night I met Carmen Moreno and Lee Piechocki. We were there to talk about art, but before the discussion began we checked my blood sugar, and the good news is...I'm not a diabetic! A random and welcome discovery (not that I was really worried). They are currently meeting with potential contributors about a grant funded publication they are curating called ASP/SPA/PAS. If you want to check out what it's all about, check out their blog.

I've been thinking about my idea for a few weeks now, mulling it over while driving cross country recently. My idea began as thoughts on art and systems of power (if you know my work you're not surprised by this). I'm talking about the art market, commerce, but also sustainability; the ethics of how an artist is sustainable, and how economic conditions today effect the creative class. Especially interesting is the intricate web of relationships that we artists have to navigate through. These could be the chats with potential buyers, ranting with other like-minded broke creatives over rum drinks, or relationships that we forge with non-profits and granting organizations. These potential financial systems may only meet us through the written paragraphs we submit in applications. They know our work by a series of 20 digital representations with accompanying image information such as size and descriptive terms. If we are lucky, not to say it isn't often deserved, the deciding committee will deem our ideas worthy to receive money, and that we are recognized for our hard work with sustenance to continue making and doing things for a short time.

The discussion with Lee and Carmen began to weave its way towards a form of this investigation that might deal more directly with Kansas City. I love the idea of reigning in my interest in this subject to reflect directly on the grant that is making this publication possible, ie. a Rocket Grant partially funded by the Charlotte Street Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation. Local relevance will help me understand the dynamics of the scene I'm not rooted in, the players, and where the money trail leads. I can't say how the final form will reflect my findings, but it could be a flow chart, a website, interviews, and a huge paper trail. How on earth do journalists do this type of investigation? I'm sure that not all the findings will be pretty, that politics will be revealed beneath the positive philanthropy taking place in KC, but I'm thrilled to have found a project that aligns with my ideals, and something that will take new form and relevance in future work I'll do while living here. I'll be posting more of my research here and if anyone has suggestions on artists or writers to look at for this work (Haacke, social practice artists, or thinkers in any field) do let me know.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Transfer iPhone voice memos to computer

So as I've been travelling, I have found voice recording to be a super useful tool in recording my thoughts while driving or it can also serve to create bootlegs of insane underground experimental jazz metal. I'll post those soon after giving them a quick edit. So as it happens, iTunes won't allow for me to transfer these audio files and since they are sticks in the mud in allowing people to use the device as they wish I had to search for a workaround to retrieve my files off of my iPhone. I found this program for my computer called iPhone Explorer and it seems like the way to go. FInally a way to search files and transfer things to and from the phone. Why Apple chooses to not allow us to access our device as a portable drive in any normal way I will never know but I'm happy that there are people out there designing ways to use our phones as we see fit. If you dig the program, throw a little money to the dev team as it helps keep people doing things like this.

Friday, January 14, 2011

What the hell do comedians know about art anyway?

WTF, the podcast, features Mark Maron's comedic talents. I'm familiar with Maron from over the years seeing his work on TV and apparently his career has found new life online with this great podcast where he interviews comedians of all types from Bob Odenkirk to Robin Williams and everyone in between. Williams, as I found out, was a pretty crazy guy back in the day and he swears like he's from my home town which is refreshing.

Maron begins his podcast by unloading his quick-witted mind on air, talking about Ikea, art, coffee, rodents, whatever really. His thoughts on art were interesting and honest, and when first hearing them during my drive towards Boston last week, I was interested in what he was saying. Over time however, my motivation to respond has waned and now I'm unsure if my initial reactions were that compelling after all. Still, he hits on subjects that at times can be relevant to anyone, and for someone just looking for interesting/hilarious off the cuff conversations, WTF is worth a look. It's ranked #1 on iTunes and it's free!

Monday, January 10, 2011