January 3


Despite the new surge of covid cases around the world, it’s a great time for art lovers in Seoul, and thankfully, I’m not talking about NFTs.

First off, there’s a great exhibition of around 200 pieces by Matisse on display. I remember spending a month studying his works in art history and finally seeing them in Minneapolis and Chicago. ‘La Danse’ is a favorite and I’ve seen it influence many artists. I even tried to do a poor version of it myself. Despite being a giant in the arts, I always feel like he’s unjustly overshadowed by Picasso and other artists. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I think everyone has seen a work by Matisse but only a few could name him as the artist.

Dali’s works are also being exhibited and I’ve seen his advertisements for his exhibitions everywhere. Maybe his famous looks are more famous than his works because they’ve been using his face with that ridiculous mustache to in the posters, which I guess is as he intended. He kinda became just as a famous as a celebrity as much as his art (a celebrity Picasso hated due to Dali’s support of Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator). His ridiculous imagery has inspired me through the years, and as someone who makes Dada-esque imagery, I can’t help but admire him. However, I kinda resented his celebrity persona and being one of the early “zany” artists. I think ever since him, many artists try too hard to look, dress, and act funny. Can’t we all just be normal? Just as trying to fit in can be tiring, being unconventional can be stressful as well.

Speaking of celebrity artists, Andy Warhol’s works are also on display, but I feel like his works are always on display in the city. Him, Picasso, and Klimt.

Lichtenstein’s works can also be seen in the city and is probably the one I’m most exited about. I’ve seen his works before, but apparently they’re showing a significantly large collection of his works. Seeing the blown up comic book pages in person is so much more impactful than just seeing it on screen. Another artist with a large number of works being shown is Chagall, but honestly, I don’t know much about Chagall. I find it interesting that on of the impressionist’s works (‘Over the Town’) just happens to look like the poster for a movie I’ve been hunting down and wanting to see, Roy Andersson’s ‘About Endlessness.’

Oh and speaking of Dadaism, a bunch of Surrealist works are on display at the Seoul Art Museum for three more months. It features works by Duchamp, Man Ray, Magritte, and other artists.

Anyway, it’s a good time to look at art once the covid situation calms down and I get boosted. I’m already scheduled for a shot in a couple of weeks and it seems that the recent covid surge in Seoul is finally starting to get under control, especially since tighter protocols have been reinstated. 

 

November 2


Been reading about Morris Blanchard, who goes by the Ojibway name Onagottay. He’s a Canadian artist who claims to be Anishinaabe and a survivor of the Sixties Scoop. For the uninitiated, Anishinaabe is a group representing indigenous populations of North America which include the Ojibway, Cree, Algonquin, etc. The Sixties Scoop was an initiative of the Canadian government of taking Indigenous children and assigning them white foster parents in order to integrate them into white society, remove Indigenous influence, and weaken the claims of land rights of indigenous communities in the future.

Unfortunately, despite being a celebrated First Nations artist and an “elder” teaching Ojibway in a local language program, it would appear that Blanchard is totally Caucasian. His brother and his ex-wife both claim that his autobiography of surviving the Sixties Scoop and living in the bush is all fiction. His brother says that their ancestry is Norweigan, English, and French. Now, like many Canadians, there’s a likelihood that there might be some First Nations in his bloodline, but not to the extent that Blanchard has carved and sold his persona.

Now, one can admire his visual works absent his misrepresentations, but it’s offensive to think that this artist has primarily used a First Nations story to make a career of himself, even being employed by Queen’s University teaching Indigenous language and culture. It’s one thing to steal and disrespect First Nations by misappropriating their culture, which I still think is oddly called “cultural appropriation.” But it’s another thing to steal the suffering minorities and claim it as your own. I find it more offensive than a thousand people wearing an Indian headdress as a fashion statement. He is actively stealing the history, suffering, and wisdom from other survivors.

He makes interesting visual works. Let him do that. I am fully on board with admiring works of art absent the vile character of the artist. That’s why I can still look at works of Paul Gauguin or occasionally watch a Woody Allen film. Blanchard can be just like Kirby Sattler, an artist who paints inaccurate realistic portraits of Native Americans. But just like Kirby Sattler, he must own up to his own history and say that he is an outsider admiring the beauty and culture of the First Nations, not claim to be First Nations himself.

I remember back in university. One of my first friends was First Nations. We hung out and met a local elder who was very friendly with us. He even invited me to a sweat lodge. I didn’t realize in the beginning that he mistook me for being First Nations as well, probably due to my complexion. I had to sheepishly admit that I wasn’t First Nations when he asked me what tribe I was from. Graciously, he still maintained that I’m welcome to the sweat lodge and visit his community.

Apparently, Blanchard would’ve gone along with the mistake and happily passed as First Nations throughout his university life.

Joseph Reyes

Artist

January 14


I started early applying for shows this year. Last year, I didn’t really do to many shows, but this year, I plan to be more aggressive. With most in-person galleries out of the question due to the omicron variant of the coronavirus, I’ve been more focused with publications and showing work online or either sending it to galleries overseas. What I do notice though is that North America and Europe to a greater extent is very open to international artists. There’s always opportunities for competitions, calls for submissions, and residencies. I’ve actually been accepted in a couple of residencies last year, but just before I’m about to commit, covid surges yet again and my plans have to be scrapped.

Two places I’m having the most trouble in trying to break into are Hong Kong and Japan. I’ve always loved Hong Kong. I used to go there quite frequently before China started cracking down on protesters. What I noticed in galleries is that they’re mostly interested in Chinese artists and not much else. I realize there’s a great trend for Chinese art, but what about locals looking for other artists? It’s very difficult to get my work in the city. The same goes for Japan. It seems that galleries, at least the ones looking for artists, are exclusively interested in those that make Japanese-style art or art about Japan. I don’t make either. I don’t make anime/manga, nor do I feel qualified to make any serious work related to Japanese culture. Heck, I don’t even think I make Canadian art! If anyone knows of any galleries in these two places interested in work that is more in my vein, please let me know.


It’s my mom’s birthday today. She was a wonderful woman. I’m not sure if my dad realizes how lucky he was. I know I didn’t truly appreciate her when she was still alive.


My book is almost done and am now ready for test printing and perhaps even selling them locally. With the postal services being devastated by the pandemic, it still won’t make sense for me to sell them overseas, but I still plan to meet my schedule of making another book this year. I’m thinking of printing next month once I’m less busy with my taxes and getting my car fixed. And no, I really don’t plan on making money out of these publishing projects. It’s just a way for me to mark my artistic progress. 

December 21


A year in review.

First off, covid has gone up, gone down, and gone up again in South Korea. I got my two jabs and will be ready for my booster next month. Despite the high numbers, I managed to not catch the virus. The tracing and tracking in the country as well as the treatment has been good, so the death rate has been quite low and the numbers are believable. The country also has a vaccine pass rule everywhere, and no, it’s not tyrannical. If anything, it’s liberating to know that everyone in the establishment I go to has been vaccinated and that I will be warned if anyone got covid anywhere I went to.

This year, I started regularly seeing a therapist and have been religious with my drugs. It’s helping and I do look forward to each of our sessions. I feel like I have too much control over our sessions sometimes, but I’m glad that he’s helped with my anxiety, depression, and addictive personality. I had a public nervous breakdown last summer while I was arguing with my wife, and I vowed not to revisit that bar again nor put myself in similar situations. It’s just too triggering.

I also started to study more Korean by myself. It’s difficult, but going to class has been impossible. I miss meeting people and making friends in class, but I guess that’s part of being older. Making friends is difficult.

I haven’t gone to the gym for two years now. I miss it. I try to work out more at home and climb stairs more, but it doesn’t compare going to the gym. But it doesn’t matter really. It’s not like I’m going to the beach anytime soon. I’ve eaten way too much Burger King this year. My favorite Subway Sandwich place has closed down, and now due to laziness and me often eating lunch at my dek, I just grab a burger from the Burger King next door. In other food news, my new favorite place for dining is this Japanese lamb place in Yeonnam-dong. Good food, good price, great Japanese ambiance, friendly staff, decent sake. One of the servers is a kickass tattoo artist as well.

I used to not be a driver, but this year I became a motorist. I can’t travel outside of the country so I might as well travel outside of the city. I got a car, it’s an Audi A4. It’s already in need of some body work, not my fault, but I’m going to ignore it for now. I think it adds some character, plus, I can sense that it won’t be the first scratch my car is going to get in the next few months. In a country filled with Hyundai Avantes, it’s a bit slicker than the average 4-door sedan. But in the words of Marv from Sin City, “Modern cars- they all look like electric shavers.”

I didn’t travel outside of the country but I did go outside of Seoul and had the worst sashimi ever. Never eat machine-sliced sashimi. Aside from a lack of TLC, it’s simply disgusting.

Artwise, I’ve been consistently producing works. It’s therapeutic and very calming. It’s been very difficult to get my work shown and I imagine it’s going to be the same next year. I didn’t apply to too many shows this year, which was disappointing, but it doesn’t make much financial sense to me to send my work overseas with the way covid has devastated postal services and made sending works exorbitantly expensive if not impossible. Sales have been dismal as well, but that’s the same throughout my art career. I don’t really care much about sales. I did publish a second book last February, a plan from 2020 which I actually followed through on. Now, I’m contemplating publishing another book next year. And no, I’m not making nor buying any NFTs. The only people who are saying NFTs are good are usually ones who are already invested and shilling NFTs. It’s rare to find NFTs actually uplifting artists. And even funnier, I found a post asking, “What is a good way to print or display NFTs on a wall?” Haha!

Unfortunately, I’ve stopped gardening. I moved to a new office and I no longer have the space to cultivate plants. I’m glad to have maintained it for a while and even given out several seedlings to people. I’m hoping at least half of them are still alive. Oh, and I also learned that cherry pits are not toxic. Not two cherry pits, not thirty, not sixty. They are simply not toxic.

Family’s been okay, but I haven’t been seeing eye to eye with my dad this year. I haven’t called that often and when I do, he often frustrates me. I really should try harder, but I keep thinking why? Why do his children have to try harder to get along better with him? Why is the effort seemingly always from our side? What about him? I don’t see him making things better for himself? This is the year I gave up caring too much.

It’s late but I think the ‘The French Dispatch’ is the best movie I’ve seen this year. Wes Anderson is a treasure. I’m still upset that my bestfriend back in the 90s couldn’t appreciate the genius of ‘Rushmore.’ Other movies I enjoyed; I was surprised with Nicolas Cage’s ‘Pig’ and delighted by “The White Tiger.” I couldn’t think of anything too remarkable on television. I’ve see quite a few Korean dramas but nothing stands out. Everyone was raving about ‘Squid Game,’ but frankly, I didn’t think it was that special. Videogame-wise, I enjoyed ‘Persona 5 Strikers’ and ‘Resident Evil: Village’ the most. Otherwise, I haven’t played too many video games this year. Also, I’ve yet to get a PS5. I wish I could read more books, but most of the books I’ve been reading are Korean learning books. No fiction this year. I’ve fallen behind on Chuck Palahniuk. Music, I’ve given up on anything new. I’ve been listening to a lot of Sparklehorse and Vic Chestnutt, which I realize is not really the best for my mental well-being.

There’s been a couple of close calls, but I almost died twice this year. Each day, I’m grateful that I’m still breathing air. Tired of living, but grateful that I am. Dying is scary. Here’s to 2022, which I suspect is going to be exactly like 2020. I’ll be moving houses, renewing my contract at work, trying to get into a Speedo before summer, get into more art shows, and hopefully improve my relationships. God help me.

November 26


 I finally saw the latest James Bond film and the last of the Daniel Craig movies for the franchise. I normally don’t post movie reviews here, but there’s nothing much art-related stuff I could talk about at the moment and I have a three-hour lecture tonight which is making me nervous, so I thought I would do some writing to calm me down, just some random thoughts about the franchise and the latest film.

A few years ago, I decided to watch all of the Bond films in chronological order. I’ve seen it go from semi-serious, to campy, to more grounded, back to campy, and then back to the grounded semi-seriousness of the Craig films. I gotta say, Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond. Purists will always give the title to Sean Connery, but I can’t help but see him from millennial’s perspective, the casual misogyny and perhaps even downright rapiness is hard for me to get over with. Others enjoy Pierce Brosnan’s turn as Bond, but I never really enjoyed the franchise during that era. I found Brosnan a bit too cheesy and the writing of the movies too silly. Also, before he became 007, he didn’t realize that his wife’s ex-husband was disguised as their elderly nanny. You gotta be sharper than that, James!

The latest film was good. It didn’t really feel that long as things kept on moving. In fact, it kept moving so fast that the main villain’s motives barely registered. He was out for revenge? But once he got his revenge, why did he want to kill so many people? What’s going on? It’s sad to say, but the main villain is actually the weakest part of the movie for me. He just wasn’t that interesting. And for Spectre to be built up as this massive organization overshadowing so many evil plots across the movies… for it to be undone by a boring villain that seem to come out of nowhere, is really unsatisfying. Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva was a great villain in the Craig films and wasn’t really matched by Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld. Then it was followed by Mr. Robot. I now appreciate Christoph Waltz’s performance (and 'Spectre’s' writing) much more.

Lea Seydoux was great as Madeleine Swann, but I actually found her quite forgetable in the film prior, so I was surprised to see her back in this film. If anything, what stole the movie was Ana De Armas’ performance and action sequence in Cuba. The first time I saw her was in a regretable Eli Roth film and I didn’t really get her appeal even after I saw her a couple more times in ‘Knives Out’ and ‘Blade Runner 2049.’ In ‘No Time to Die,’ I finally got it. Consider me a fan. I thought having a black female 007 was a smart little wink as well. It would be interesting to see more adventures of Lashana Lynch as a secret agent, but I think it was all just a cinematic coño to the obnoxious man-o-sphere who insists that 007 should never be black nor female.

It was not the best film among Craig’s Bond turn but it was a good enough ending. It had great sequences, the score was great as usual, and it left me wondering and excited at who the next 007 will be. It was a very utilitarian movie and it served its purpose, much like Craig’s Bond has been described as a “blunt instrument.” I think the best Craig film would either be ‘Casino Royale’ or ‘Skyfall.’ So for the uninitiated, go watch the first Craig film instead. But for those who enjoy the series, this movie should be fun.

For the longest time, I never really cared for the James Bond franchise and thought it was a relic of a power fantasy meant to be enjoyed by dads and uncles. Maybe that’s still true since I didn’t really truly enjoy it until I was in my mid twenties. These days, I see it more as my “Fast and the Furious”… my Marvel Cinematic Universe film, my super hero film on steroids. As much as I enjoy spy thrillers, like 2019’s ‘The Spy’ starring Sacha Baron Cohen (surprisingly!), it’s always good to see a fantastical secret agent do his mission with so much finesse and with a catchy blaring orchestral melody.

Oh and as for best theme. I love the original ‘Dr. No’ theme and it’s many reincarnations. I also think “Goldfinger” is great. But truly, the best and sexiest song ever written is “Nobody Does it Better.”