I recently read David Byrne’s post, “Cultural Spaces: No Separation Between Art and Life” on MADI art (which I’m unfamiliar with), and the Museum of Geometric and MADI Art in Dallas; some say that MADI stands for “movement, abstraction, dimension and invention,” but apparently that hasn’t been confirmed. The movement was founded in Argentina by Carmelo Arden Quinn and continues as a global art movement. The focus is on abstraction and the concreteness of the art object, but it also seems to branch out expressively into other dimensions of movement and form, such as dance,  sculpture, and architecture. Arden’s impetus for the movement was subversive — to escape or undermine the censoring and/or propagandistic machinations of the dictator Peron’s government.

One of its curious, and some might say disturbing, characteristics is its emphasis on beauty of form—given that “beauty,” of a kind, is often utilized as propaganda to lure the vulnerable into its fold. Counter this with some of today’s cutting-edge art that aims to disturb, to draw attention to the horrors of modern life, with its invasive technologies, and governmental authoritarianism. For example, Childish Gambino’s  recent video, This is America.

There is a lot of disturbing art around these days, and–given recent successful attempts to polarize the U.S. population, I sometimes wonder if such strategies help or hinder real solutions to our problems. In many ways, such art of protest seems like the obvious way to express our conflicts — but is it now becoming a tool for propaganda? What is the role of beauty in art today?


Continuing with my collage experiments, now using wood panel instead of paper. Ahh, much better. “Brett’s Last Dance.” Collage, haptics, and acrylics on wood. 12 x 12.”

Collage by Jean Vengua
Brett’s Last Dance. Collage by Jean Vengua


Death of a Friend

Death of a friend

The death of a friend — even one you haven’t seen for awhile — always brings you back to that which is frustratingly incomprehensible, the mysteries. He, the believer, died dancing, near the shore of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala; assumed the whole, gobsmacking, psychedelic thing was right there in our hands. From this side of the divide, I, the skeptic, continue to see only the parts. But often the parts are beautiful. And there is hope — which is yet another mystery. Dance in peace and joy, Brett Greider.

Digression re: Junot Diaz

A response to a response: “What do we do now?” referring to Junot Diaz and other writers whose work the responder loves, but who have misogynist or downright abusive tendencies; this was asked by a self-identified “feminist” who said she didn’t want to “stop reading literature altogether,” as though there were no other writers out there besides these guys). I wrote: “Everyone has flaws, bad that goes with the good. You have to keep all these elements in mind. At the same time, talent or insight in some areas doesn’t give anyone a pass for abuse. One of the reasons Diaz’s fall from grace is such a big deal is because he was used as a token representative. Many others were ignored because the institutions had their token guy, so they didn’t look closely at the situation, nor did they care to make room for more. What’s to be DONE about him? It’s already being done. Take your eyes off him, and read the many, many other writers waiting in the wings (many of them women). He’ll have to find his own way through this shit.” Actually, though, I’m not prescribing that anyone stop reading Diaz or any other writer. Just saying: be aware of what he’s about, and more importantly, read the many others who are producing writing that’s worth reading.

See also Shreerekha Subramanian’s article, “In the Wake of His Damage.”

#Poem for Marthe Reed by Eileen Tabios

I mentioned in my last post that I’m doing a reading at Studio One today in Oakland with other Black Radish Books writers. Sadly, the beloved Black Radish poet/publisher/editor Marthe Reed passed away several days ago. The reading will go on tonight, and will include readings of her work. You Brought Me to the Mangrove Forest is a recently written poem for Marthe by Eileen Tabios. Click on the link for the poem and images.


#Poetry Reading: Black Radish Books

I’m looking forward to doing a poetry reading on April 13 at Studio One in Oakland for Black Radish Books. Other poets reading on the 13th are Carrie Hunter, Barbara Tomash, Mg Roberts, Dana Teen Lomax, & James Maughn. I’ll be reading from my book, Corporeal, which will be published in June by Black Radish. My book opens up with this quote:

“The natives of the islands of Pintados, especially the women, are very vicious and sensual. Their perverseness has discovered lascivious methods of communication between men and women.”  —Dr. Antonio de Morga, Alcalde of Criminal Causes, in the Royal Audiencia of Nueva España, and Counsel for the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas. 1609. In The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898: Volume XVI, 1609, by H.E. Blair.

Here’s a copy of the cover design for my book, by M.A. Fink (my name has not yet been placed on the image). I love it!

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Book cover image by M. A. Fink.


Two Small #Paintings on Paper

I recently did two small paintings (see below). Actually, both are older works that I didn’t like much, but I worked them over again recently and like them better. Both of them incorporate text, or at least a letter — or the absence of a letter…

Because I write as well as paint, sometimes I try to incorporate langue [oops; I meant to write “language,” but mistakenly used the French term I learned in linguistics class long ago,  often used to refer to a community’s shared linguistic system], that is, language or letters into my paintings.

“Broken Bridges.” Acrylics and collage on Khadi handmade paper. 8 x 8 inches. 4/2018

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“Broken Bridges”


“Night Stalking.” Acrylics, ink, and collage on Khadi handmade paper. 8 x 8 inches. 4/2018

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“Night Stalking”