Friday, January 29, 2010

River Apocalypse

c. David Grim (taken 3/24/09)

It's crazy how quickly I come to miss my daily walks. Obviously it's too cold now to make them a structured part of my life. Besides putting on extra pounds that I'll inevitably have to work hard to shed, I find my mental stability threatened through lack of movement. It may not even be a conscious process of intentional reflection, but somehow things seem to find their proper order after a 45-minute walk.

This shot was taken last year, around the time when it first became possible to enjoy walking around the city once again. I had started to make loops around Lawrenceville, and was on the look-out for a different path with new stuff to look at. This interest brought me to the path that skirts the southern bank of the Allegheny. As I made my way through the thick darkness of the trail, I heard human voices along the bank and went to investigate.

What I discovered was a rocky outcropping upon which a few local teens had built a fire. They were trying to immolate a door, and I paused in consideration of the poisonous fumes that must be emanating from this detached portal. I turned down their offer for a beer, but they still graciously allowed me to capture them with my camera. I love the otherworldly suggestion of post-apocalyptic Pittsburgh that came as the result.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mulling it Over.

c. David Grim (taken 7/4/09)

Here's a shot I took of my friend Kurt last Summer. We were at a 4th of July party over in Larryville, having a good time. I had picked up a big pack of those crappy fireworks we are relegated to if we don't want to break the law here in Pennsylvania. People were playing horseshoes in the dark in the fenced-in yard, and I would periodically light some multi-staged thing that was thrilling enough for the state that most folks were in.

I was really happy to be in the company that I was in. i liked everyone present a lot, and there was plenty of conversation around the fire. We talked about comics, art, and politics. We ate great food in bursts throughout the night. It could have gone on for days, and I would have remained content.

It was the perfect space for me to roam around in with my camera. No one had any problem with being photographed- in fact, the mood was so high that they welcomed it. The funny thing is that the images tell a completely different story, to the point that I could completely question my entire memory of the night. What DID happen last July 4th?

Swan Fire.

c. David Grim (taken 8/29/09)

Probably if you look close enough at the framing of this shot, you'll be able to tell what type of event I was attending. But obviously it's not really about that at all.

To me the image suggests the Great Manichean Struggle, and the resulting fates one can encounter in the afterlife. Not that I put a lot of stock in the traditional conception of good/evil, but I do recognize this dichotomy as THE underlying theme in virtually every story told by mankind.

The funny thing is that I don't believe that this particular scheme was consciously formed by the event designers. The lights depicted were alternating intermittently between many colors.

That's what makes the end product so much fun. Sometimes I feel like my own authorship is in question, and I'm merely channeling from somewhere else. Rather than getting caught up in the process of analyzing my own intention, I'd rather just enjoy these fortuitous messages whenever they arrive.

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Vrindaban

c. David Grim (taken 8/27/09)

If you had never been to the place pictured above, you might think that it was probably in Asia. That would be a reasonable assumption, unless you knew that I've never traveled abroad. But if you knew me well you might be able to guess that I shot this at New Vrindaban, in the mountains of the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

This is Prabhupadha's Palace of Gold. It was built to honor the Indian holy man who made it his mission to spread Krishna consciousness throughout the West. It's not very well known that A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada first settled in Butler, PA (of all places). Shortly after arriving there he found the funds to start a temple in the Lower East Side in New York City. The ashram in West Virginia was founded by his first American disciple- Keith Ham, better known as Kirtanananda Swami, along with his former lover Howard Wheeler (Hayagriva).

Ham experienced amazing success in growing his "intentional community", and at his peak he had well over 500 followers living with him. Unfortunately he went rogue in the 80's, and drew the attention and the ire of the local authorities. He wound up being incarcerated, and then expelled from his own domain.

Today the Krishnas have gotten past the controversy of their early beginnings. New Vrindaban is a fascinating and beautiful place to visit, and is only about a 90-minute ride from Pittsburgh. Hindi pilgrims from all over the world travel to see it. If you need a refreshing escape into the wild, I heartily recommend you make the drive, and tour the property.

Self-Portrait in Moundsville.

c. David Grim (taken 8/27/09)

This self-portrait was taken outside of West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville, WV. I was across the street visiting the museum that accompanies the great mound (Grave Creek) built thousands of years ago by the true "early Americans".

I had been to the prison before. In fact it was the very first penal institution that I photographed. I took the tour, but I was so wrapped up in the visuals and the ambiance that I didn't even listen closely to what I could tell were fascinating tales told by the guide (who had been a guard when the place was still in operation).

Since my initial visit, I've learned a fair amount about the West Virginia penitentiary. Much of what I've gathered about its recent history came to me by way of a series of documentaries directed by the excellent filmmaker Jacob Young. As part of his Different Drummer Series (which he did for the West Virginian affiliate of PBS), the director interviewed and featured Donald Bordenkircher, who had been brought in to get the prison under control after a bad riot in the late 70's. It's definitely a must-see for anyone in spitting distance.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dinner with Uri Geller

c. David Grim (taken 8/19/08)

This image is a result of a trip I made to Lily Dale in Western New York. It's one of the few large spiritualist communities left in the United States. I was on my way to Buffalo, and found mention of the place on the internet.

The idea that you can manipulate the material world by channeling energy is common to quite a few religions throughout the world. Discoveries in the field of physics in the Twentieth Century seemed to reinforce the belief that unseen forces have their effects on everything around us. Psychics who worked through the spiritualist movement tried to develop methodical procedures to harness these energies.

However, it strikes me as somehow trivial that these spiritualists would use tableware as a demonstration of their mastery over things. It would have been a lot more impressive if they were able to make their summer bungalows appear simultaneously with their own wishes. Instead they ended up having to eat with their fingers because they ruined all of their cutlery.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Night Follies.

c. David Grim (taken 12/31/08)

It's not often that I dream about being somewhere other than Pittsburgh. Despite what you might hear about this city, it's got a lot in its favor. It's cleaner than anyone who's never visited could possibly expect. It's cheap to live here. You can buy decent property on a middle-class income. And its cultural offerings are more abundant than any comparable urban center.

Still, on a Friday night shortly before midnight, it's easy to wish there was a vibrant cafe scene. Despite its many assets, it remains a hard-drinking town. Ask a friend to join you at a coffee shop instead of a bar, and you're likely to get a perplexed look in return.

I've heard that there are more liquor licenses here per city block than anywhere else in the nation. That's probably apocryphal, but I can understand why others perpetuate the idea. Something in the blood of a population of a post-industrial rust belt town screams out for the obliteration of alcohol. So the typical choice is hitting the saloon or staying on the couch for another marathon of bad television. Maybe my circle of friends is too wild. Anybody know anyone who isn't in AA that feels the same way?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pittsburgh Art Events: 1/ 22-23/10.

c. David Grim (taken 2/8/09)

This photo depicts Rick Byerly of the Pittsburgh Galleries Blog. He has a photo in the Crawl in the basement of the Harris Theater.


The Downtown Gallery Crawl for the winter is upon us, and the Cultural Trust is offering attendees a melange of stuff- some of which has been up for weeks, and some that is being newly unveiled for the event itself (5:30-9PM).

Space Gallery (812 Liberty Ave.) still houses the "Behind our Scenes" exhibit (curated by Laura Mustio & Nicole Rosato), which showcases the work of artists affiliated with local art institutions like the Mattress Factory and the Carnegie Art Museum. I attended the opening, and would suggest that the show is worth a quick run-through. The Pitt News has a write-up of the show here.

I've also seen PCA curator Adam Welch's collection of large assemblage pieces and other works at the 709 Penn Gallery. Welch has been quite busy trying to reconcile the perplexing dichotomies within himself and society (here's a review by Kurt Shaw). You'll have to see for yourself how he's managing. While you're at it, stop by next door (707 Penn) for a display of works by Anjali Srinivasan.

Wood Street Galleries hosts a genuine opening reception for a retrospective of works by Argentinian artist Martin Bonadeo, and Future Tenant has Do You Understand?, a multimedia exhibit on online communication, curated by Kim Rullo. Even though they opened this thing last weekend, you can get a "Sneak Preview" online at their official site. Meanwhile the 937 Gallery (on Liberty Avenue) has three full floors of stuff to take in, including Robot Resolution for the tech geeks, and the For Real For Real storytelling series for the literate nerds.

At 820 Liberty, Urban Tree Forge and Moxie Dada has its closing reception for Resolutions. Evidently the curators there are trying to get you to think, as they are advertising an "Exhibit challenging viewers to think about environment, sustainability, self government & control". Finally, you should make a point of stopping by Pittsburgh Tribune Review art critic Kurt Shaw's relatively-new gallery (805 Liberty Ave.). He's featuring "rare original prints" by French Expressionist Georges Rouault.

If you'd rather simply avoid the hustle-and-bustle of Downtown on a Friday evening, you can choose instead to go to Paper - series on paper by Kelly Blevins, Seth Clark, Joren Dykstra, Maria Mangano & Andrea Muha at the Gallery on Baum (4643) in Oakland. I've been tracking events there for a bit, and it seems like this is their first show that features local artists, so come out (6-9PM) and reinforce this new direction. There's a nice preview (and a couple of images) of this over at The Pittsburgh Galleries Blog.


Your options seem kind of limited for Saturday. All I could find is Now & Then and Cubism Revisited, featuring the work of David Lewis and Terry Shutko respectively, opening at the Mendelson Gallery in Shadyside (2-5PM). It should be worth checking out.

(EDIT: There's also a show of drawings at the Panza Gallery: 115 Sedgwick Street in Millvale from 6-9PM. I feel terrible for forgetting this because it's an exhibition by folks I draw with most Thursdays. Hell, I might even have something in the show.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Broken Record.

c. David Grim (taken 8/9/09)

You can forget about all the hype surrounding the Massachusetts special senatorial election. Just put Scott Brown and his Cosmo centerfold history right out of your mind. Who cares that this is only one more in an interminable series of obstacles to health care reform? Did you really think it ever had a chance anyway?

Apparently this nation has bigger fish to fry (and I'm not talking about banking regulation, or the two wars wars are mired in, nor even the poor state of the economy). Because gay marriage is once again on the national agenda.

The great struggle to preserve the sanctity of marriage is ongoing. California is about to be witness to a high-profile state supreme court case to decide the constitutionality of the recent referendum that banned gays from the great eternal bond that is matrimony.

Thank God our nation's leaders can keep focused. Because heterosexuals have had unchallenged success at proving the sanctity of marriage. No one needs the gays mucking it all up.

Seriously though, the whole thing disgusts me. People need to stop worrying about others' household arrangements. Everyone deserves the same legal protections and rights. If this is a government issue at all, then it is surely about giving everybody equal access to tax breaks and hospital visitations. Ask yourself if you'd accept anything less for your family.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bedizened and Bedraped.

c. David Grim (taken 8/23/09)

I have decidedly mixed feelings about fashion. On one hand, I have no inner drive to put a lot of time and energy into projecting a specific image using clothing. That's obvious to the people that have day-to-day interactions with me. If anything, I try to keep things as simple as possible. There's too much that can go wrong with elaborate costumes. Even when I wear a tie, it's likely to be turned around, or the small end is poking out the side. When I step out, I prefer comfort and durability. It helps too if the material masks stains.

But from an aesthetic standpoint, I have to admit to an appreciation for the elaborate looks some women cultivate. I can see the art in fashion design. So I've gone to a couple of shows, always dragged along by someone who's more excited about the proceedings than me.

One things that strikes me when I see these things is how impractical the designs are. Let's face it, these outfits are not the type of thing that are going to be worn often. They require a special occasion. Even a night out at a fancy dinner precludes all but the most conventional of apparel. And the more adventurous attire costs A LOT of money. So first you have to have the discretionary income to purchase some pieces that you will rarely don, and then you have to have the audacity to pick something bold, and finally you have to identify an occasion to wear it appropriately. It seems like much more trouble than it's worth. But God Bless those that step out in style.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ignorance and Privilege.

c. David Grim (taken 2/22/09)

I'm not going to claim to be among the more charitable members of society. I do get around to donating art for various fundraisers and benefits, but I rarely (if ever) write a check for a cause. I recognize that I am selfish in certain respects, and that this is one of the best proofs of this claim. Still I try to shy away from coming up with justifications for this attitude. I could make a case for not having the extra funds to contribute, but I realize that sacrifice is an inherent component of true charity. My excuses would not be compelling if I heard them come out of the mouth of someone else.

That's why I find some reactions to the vast scale of tragedy in Haiti so troubling. Check out this thread of comments on a hockey fan board- it's a site that I've been visiting (somewhat self-consciously) for years. This particular thread had its start as a commentary on the fact that the NHL only gave 10% of what the other major sports leagues donated for relief in the beleaguered island country. The initial poster seems motivated mostly by appearances.

As other folks chime in, it becomes apparent that quite a few resent the idea of contributing any money to help the homeless victims of Haiti. At the same time people mention the need in the United States, and the seeming disregard our government has toward the poor in our own nation. I would submit that this point of contention would only arise from these sources in the context of trying to explain why they thought the government should keep its coffers closed in this instance. I doubt if you would find the same people arguing that universal health care should be considered a right in the United States.

I find the depth of ignorance conveyed here startling. You can read the thoughts of some bemoaning the (mistaken) belief that no foreign countries offered assistance after Hurricane Katrina, as if that would be a valid reason to turn our backs in Haiti if it were true. Anyway, I don't understand how anyone can sincerely liken the two situations. When it comes right down to it, I think this demonstrates that ignorance is not only a right in the US, but also a luxury... and even a privilege.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Otherworldly Creatures

c. David Grim
(taken 2/08/09)

Sometimes the appearance of a large spectral animal-costumed figure can portend huge changes on your life. I urge you to keep this in mind, as I have learned the lesson personally.

I once went to the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society's annual convention. It was held in a town East of Pittsburgh at a place called Pitzer's. My friends and I were regaled with fanciful theories about the mythical beast. One of my favorite gems from that day was the suggestion that UFO's, Bigfoot, ghosts, and all manner of unexplained bestiary were all manifestations of the same interdimensional beings. Apparently you only ever see what you are uniquely prepared to see. I found that an elegant explanation of the unknown.

Anyway I urge you to note the eyes of the rabbit in this image. I did no post-production or digital manipulation after I took this shot. It is in the exact form it was taken in. Later in the night I believe that I saw a human being reveal himself by removing the creature's head. However, I didn't get a photograph of that. Draw your own conclusions about the nature of my reality.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Sun at Midnight

c. David Grim (taken 4/11/08)

Years and years ago I dated a girl who fancied herself a priestess in a cult. For awhile it was fun to learn about an entirely different belief system that I was previously unfamiliar with. There was prophecy and the suggestion of arcane knowledge that might help me manipulate events in my life and fulfill my interests. But one night I was at a party with this group and as it approached midnight, the house began to empty out quickly. People filed out the front door in pairs.

As it was summer, the windows were open and I could hear a strange chanting coming from the front. At this point I was alone with a guy in a wheel chair who I had never spoken to. We looked at each other in wonderment as some sort of weird ritual in an odd language filtered into our ears. As we bonded over this shared experience, we speculated upon the prospect of human sacrifice and questioned whether we were being set up for something horrible. I relaxed with the unspoken realization that I could outrun my new friend.

After ten or fifteen minutes everybody came back in and pretended that nothing had happened. My "girlfriend" and I never mentioned the strange interlude, and our time together was subsequently short.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Baby Krishna

c. David Grim (taken 8/27/09)

I'm in the middle of reading Felipe Fernandez-Armesto's "Truth", which to be completely honest, is a bit of a slog. Armesto's operating assumption is that such a thing as truth does exist external to individual human beings.

It's been a long time since I've made my way through a philosophical treatise, and I wouldn't have initiated such a task if I knew what it would entail. The author is a historian by trade and habit, but he seems to be stepping a bit out of his depth on this one.

More than anything else, the book seems to be an attack piece on postmodern relativism. But instead of presenting a reasoned argument against it, he seems rather to revel in his nostalgia for a lost time when things were more clear-cut. His professed affiliation with the Catholic Church seems to weigh heavily with him. He is clearly lamenting the erosion of moral authority in our society.

On the plus side, he also argues against a pro-Western bias that suggests the cultural superiority of Europe and its legacy. Still I have a hard time when he insists that it is folly to measure the maturity of a society, while simultaneously decrying a widespread absence of a moral anchor.

Anyway, it's in that spirit that I offer today's image.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


c. David Grim (taken 8/3/09)

I don't often take photos with a political agenda. In fact photography has been a healthy escape from such compulsions over the years. And I want to avoid becoming overtly political on this blog. Yet when I decided I wanted to upload this particular image and write whatever came to mind while looking at it, I couldn't help thinking about the crusades, and that led me to think about the United States of America.

I honestly thought that our current president would downplay the role of war-making in the life of the nation. I know that it was naïve of me, but before the election of 2008, I truly believed that Obama would seek peace in the Middle East. While it's true that commentators and other political observers insisted that the Senator from Illinois was not a pacifist, I somehow refused to accept reality. I'm sure I wasn't alone in my assumptions.

Anyway, here we are investing more energy and treasure into military adventurism, making the world safe for global corporate control. There are folks getting rich off these operations, but I don't know any of them.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


c. David Grim
(taken 6/17/09)

Now that Hollywood has referenced the 2012 phenomenon, the Mayan calendar has entered into the American pubic discourse. Far be it from me to clutter my new blog with "new age" esoterica... but I have to mention that we here in the 'Burgh have been associated with this particular millenarian event by actual Mayan scholars.

Apparently those ancient luminaries believed that anywhere three rivers converged was a sacred portal. In their mythos there is a special place where FOUR channels converge, and this constitutes the location that the transition into the next stage of existence is centered. How many folks realize that there is a fourth (underground) river that flows from the point of the Golden Triangle itself?

Anyone can postulate an end-of-the-world scenario. But it takes some serious imagination to conceptualize another phase of human evolution. Regardless, if one must speculate upon momentous occurrences that change everything we know about life on Earth, we might at least inject some hope into our reflections. And that's something that the denizens of Southwestern Pennsylvania have been intimately acquainted with for a long time.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ravenwood Castle

c. David Grim (taken 8/3/09)

Looking for a romantic location for a weekend getaway? The Hocking Hills is only a short ride from Pittsburgh, in the southeastern region of Ohio. For my money, the best and most interesting bed-and-breakfast option in the area is Ravenwood Castle. I've always wished more lodging proprietors would inject some wild creativity into their facilities. Because if I'm going to spend in the $100-300 range for a room, I want atmosphere. Seriously, I want to be transported. And I'm willing to spend hours researching inns.

My stay was a b-day present, and we chose the "Woodcutter's Cabin". It had a two-person jacuzzi, a gas-fired fireplace, a deck overlooking the woods, and a king-sized bed. It also had some medieval costumes waiting for the fortunate in the closet. The one thing it didn't have was access to the outside world, which could be a good or bad thing depending on what you're after. Personally,I didn't want to be bothered. I'm all about the suspension of disbelief.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Timbeleza in Polish Hill

c. David Grim
(taken 7/19/09)

Last winter I had the opportunity to check out the "Brazilian Samba Funk" of Timbeleza at the now defunct Your Inner Vagabond in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Aided by the refreshments I picked up down the block, I was moved by the driving rhythms to exercise my kinesthetic aptitude.

With twenty (or so) percussionists plying their trade, the band overwhelms its audiences with booming waves of punctuated sound. So when I heard that they'd be appearing at Polish Hill's annual arts festival, I made a point of dragging several of my friends with me to experience the glory in person.

The consensus was that this is a group that we are lucky to have in the 'Burgh. In a town dominated by blues and classic rock traditionalists, it's refreshing to hear something a bit different. When I was a wee lad I remember attending drum-and-bugle corps competitions at the local private college stadium. While I wasn't necessarily captivated by the compositions themselves, I recall being struck by the energy of the performances. I feel a bit of that same drive with Timbeleza... plus I can get behind the flavor of music they offer.

I did get a bit carried away on the Hill. I was even told that I'd be appearing in a YouTube video documenting the event, and I was naturally apprehensive about that prospect. Still, sometimes you just have to let yourself be taken into a cathartic reverie.