listening to the earth ii

painting sad penguins at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History
painting sad penguins at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History

Location: Santa Cruz Museum of History and Art
Date: May 26, 2012
Description: 14 hours painting sad penguins, card table, paper, sumi ink, watercolor, and tape.

On May 26, 2012, at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History(MAH) “sad penguins” participated in a multi-artist performance event called Listening the Earth II: Temporalities. This was the first presentational performance of “sad penguins.” I paint sad penguins with black ink and sometimes a few touches of orange, yellow and blue. I paint sad penguins who vary from cartoons to calligraphic ink marks. During the performances as I paint them I give them away to spectators and passersbye, and tape them up or lay them out in crowded grids.


The museum was arrayed with many artists; Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle performing an ecosexual reinterpretation of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s bed-in, Thingamajigs playing experimental music accompanied by poet Stephen Ratcliffe reading continuously, Kevin O’Conner’s “Hello Fukishima” was archepelgo of blue kitty pools overflowing seaweed which Kevin danced through, Nita Little multimedia dancing and dissertation writing, John Zibell live embodied collage montaging, and more. The entire day was slow contemplative repetitive work, almost studio work. In “sad penguins” I have paper, brush, sumi ink, tape, and watercolors orange and yellow. At MAH I used a small table and a chair to paint at. I begin by painting usually on an 8.5 x 1l or smaller piece of paper, my best attempt at a sad penguin.


At MAH , I re-used paper from the museum already printed on one side. First a circle or blob for the head, then a wedge shaped beak hanging down from the head blob, then up over the head a thick curving line for the shoulders and then down to the feet , and then a vertical line to mark the other side of the body. Then I place the paper aside and start again. After painting several monotone penguins, I introduce yellow beaks and orange feet.


I continue painting until the area around where I am working becomes cluttered and full of penguins. Then I stop painting and gather the penguins and start taping them up, usually in a grid on a surface near where I am painting. At MAH, I began by taping them up on the outside of the staircase railing overlooking the area where the poet and the musical group Thingjagigs where performing. Strips of 4-6 penguins , some dangling down over the bed where the ecosexual where performing. The staircase slowly becoming tiled into a tapestry of penguins, some fluttering in the wind.

Some penguins fell from the stairs, to be taped up below or draped across the ‘ecosexuals at rest.’

ecosexuals at rest
ecosexuals at rest

The painted penguins varied in size from filling the paper to smaller than a dime. As I painted I interacted and chatted freely with museum visitors inviting them to have a penguin to take home and to paint their own sad penguins to leave with me. Sometimes we conversed about why the penguins were sad. One small child thought they were angry. Several adults initially resisted the sadness until I gently dumped some climate heat on them.


Throughout the day, I frequently broke off from painting and taping for 5-20 minutes to eat, rest, and enjoy and participate in the other performances. Once the staircase was fully covered. I moved out into courtyard against a wall, parallel to line of kiddy pools of Kevin O’Connor’s sad and humorous “Hello Fukishima.” I painted and taped up a grid of penguins on the wall overlooking ‘Hello Fukishima.’ For the final several hours of the day I moved into the main atrium lobby entrance area where thingamajigs was playing. I attempted to paint along to the music and poetry. Taping a patch of penguins with each musician’s isleta of instruments. And outside along the museum entrance. Into the broken furniture of Morgan True’s dance peice. Sad Penguins slowly bleeding into the entire Listening to the Earth, lurking in every field of vision, the presence of the unpleasant promiscuousness of the anthropocene.