Jen Bekman Projects


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artist statements: :: Mixtape

Michelle Arcila

"Ginger Rogers" by Eivind
I made this photograph while on the southeast coast of Norway. I was staying with my boyfriend, Eivind, at his family's home as he was working on a record. I had been listening to it a lot and started to think about music in a visual way.

If music could weave itself visually into our surroundings, how might it happen? I thought of the balloons as these little creatures that would spring up in the woods every time a song hit a special moment or melody.

Ian Baguskas

"The Seductress of Bums" by the Raveonettes
As soon as we came up with the idea for the show, I knew I wanted to include Ian’s photograph. It had been hanging in a place where I saw it on a fairly regular basis. Every time I passed it, I would stop and spend a few minutes getting lost in the image. And, every time, the same Raveonettes song started playing in my mind. I connect the image with a drive through California where the radio played Raveonettes songs for days. In every passing of the image, the music starts back up and I am driving down that road again. - Jeffrey Teuton, Associate Director, Jen Bekman Gallery

Kate Bingaman Burt

It is official. Mixtapes are almost dead. Goodwills and Salvation Army stores don't want them, small thrift stores sometimes have them, but not often. People either nostalgically cling to their handmade tapes or they dump them in the trash.

I need your help. I want to draw your mixtapes. I want your sad songs, your love jams, your sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs car tunes, your break-up tape, your make-up tape and your BFF-4evah cassette.

I am only drawing the tape. If you want to participate, please snap a picture of the best side of your favorite tape and email it to

Christine Callahan

"Banquet" by Joni Mitchell
Some turn to Jesus
And some turn to heroin
Some turn to rambling round
Looking for a clean sky
And a drinking stream
Some watch the paint peel off
Some watch their kids grow up
Some watch their stocks and bonds
Waiting for that big deal
American dream

Christian Chaize

"A Sunday Smile" by Beirut for Praia Piquinia 06-8-09 14h01
Sunday is more of a family day, and well, Praia Piquinia contains many family narratives. Plus, it's a waltz, and it's funny to listen to music that evokes so much movement before a moment that's frozen in time.

"Landmines" by St. Vincent for Praia Piquinia 04-08-07 16h04
A beach can be a place where we find love. Sometimes, though, we must watch our step...

"Big Bird in a Small Cage" by Wooden Arms for Praia Piquinia 02-08-07 15h16 07
You put a big bird in a small cage, and it will sing you a song!

"Dead Flowers" by Muggs for Praia Piquinia 27-8-09 15h17
This image is a bit idyllic, but is it reality? As a French-speaking person listening to English songs, I sometimes can't decipher the specific lyrics. But I still respond to the rhythm, the melody, the mood. In the end, maybe my interpretation is all wrong! An issue that arises when we encounter art, sometimes, no?

I always listen to music when I am working on the photographs from Praia Piquinia. So, I simply chose my four favorite songs.

Jorge Colombo

"Déranger les pierres" by Carla Bruni for isketch842
I'm always listening to Carla Bruni records: understated, delicate, melancholic. This foggy longing falls right into the abyss of San Francisco's California Street.

"In the Land of Make Believe" by Dusty Springfield for isketch842
A song with lots of perspectives, levels, distances. Perfect for Potrero Hill.

"Home" by Jane Birkin for iSketch104
Her "Living in Limbo" would be a more obvious inspiration: it actually IS about train stations. But Johnny Marr's guitar in this one song brings a quasi-Smiths bustle that runs well with the crowds.

"Stop the Sun" by Elysian Fields for iSketch084
For all the sparkle and buzz of Houston and Ludlow, there are many sleepwalkers in the dark.

William Crump

"Rise Above" by Black Flag
The title of my piece, Black Flag, is borrowed from name of the early 80s American hardcore band fronted by Henry Rollins. A fan of hardcore since I was a teen, I admit to putting in on at times for inspiration, and to keep me awake at others. I always liked the idea for using the title Black Flag in a piece, but until now, it was just scribbled in my sketchbook. As this piece took shape, I was reminded of the song "Rise Above", and also took some liberties with the Black Flag logo to make it more relevant to my work and my theme.

Jessica Eaton

"Be Good to Them Always" by The Books
When I am stuck in an idea for a photograph, or about photography in general, I will often turn to music for inspiration. Inspiration doesn't necessarily come from a specific song but can come from thinking, if not outside the box, then in a different one. At times I consider what musical concepts, such as tonality, harmony, diminution, counterpoint, consonance and dissonance, might mean when applied to a photograph or to a body of work as a whole. Music and musical production have also served as a fantastic way to study the effects and possibilities within digitization. The photographs I am exhibiting in Mixtape represent two ways of dealing with photography. 108_06 is the original work, constructed inside of a large format camera. Over time, parts of the film were masked off, allowing sections to be exposed with pure red, green and blue wavelengths. Through controlled exposure, the additive colour wheel takes over an otherwise empty corner. When I work with the 108 masks, I diagram something akin to sheet music in order to guide the execution of the image. If I had a jazz band, red, green and blue might be a trumpet, a piano and double bass. The blacks that happen from a slightly off-kilter mask, prohibiting light from reaching the film, are moments of silence. The images that follow take the digital information from a scan of the negative for 108_06 and proceed, through a hex editor, to chop up, replicate and rearrange that data. The photograph has been remixed.

Scott Eiden

"Your Cheatin' Heart" by Hank Williams
I took this picture at the childhood home of Hank Williams, Sr. This was his boyhood bed, though the curtains were posthumously donated to the home (it's now a little museum/shrine). The curtains were handmade and show the lyrics and music to the song "Your Cheatin' Heart". There's a really wonderful lady who tends to the home and the souvenirs and things. Also, once a year out back, they have a concert of people singing like Hank Sr.

Clare Grill

"I Don’t Wanna Grow Up" by Tom Waits
When I look at my painting, When You Get That Old, I think of the Tom Waits song, "I Don’t Wanna Grow Up."  The song is about a desire to stay in the safe and simple bubble of childhood, and the corresponding anxieties about the sadness, hardness and boredom that come with adulthood.  It’s about wishing things didn’t have to be the way they are.

Chad Hagen

"Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes" by Johnny Wright
I grew up with a jukebox in my basement. It was a shrine to the 45 rpm record. It was full of hits from the 60s and 70s, country and western tunes, and an occasional single my brother or I may have brought home from the variety store. It was a big multicolored, over-lighted behemoth. Its sole purpose was to orchestrate the move of a single piece of vinyl delicately through a mass of heavy machinery. Around a carousel, it would rotate through a series of programmable switches until it rested upon the place it was told. By way of a large cast-metal arm descending upon its thin plastic, the record would arrive at its final, impressive moment of glory: spinning and playing. This series is an homage to these seemingly sacred objects that stood and spun so beautifully.

Nick Hardeman

"Mo Money Mo Problems," the 1997 music video from the Life After Death album by The Notorious B.I.G

The 1997 music video "Mo Money Mo Problems" from the Life After Death album by The Notorious B.I.G focused on monetary gains, with over-the-top scenes and flashy clothing. The lyrics of the song revolve around the problems that money brings.

This series explores the conflicting relationship between the message of the song and the music video. Evaluating and interpreting the visual content of certain sections in the music video, disconnected from the audio, generate the images in this series. The custom software analyzes the motion and color in the selected frames of the music video to create the images. The only imagery added manually is the background color. Render 00 is created from a selected scene where Puff Daddy and Mase are dancing in a black tunnel with white lights and are wearing red tracksuits.

Joe Holmes

Sergei Prokofiev's "Troika" from the Lieutenant Kije Suite
No melody in the world says "winter" to me better than Sergei Prokofiev's famous "Troika," from his Lieutenant Kije Suite. Indeed, it was originally composed to suggest a three-horse sleigh rushing over snow, and Prokofiev included sleigh bells among the instruments. To this day, I can't walk across a field of fresh snow without having the tune pop into my head, unbidden, to provide a soundtrack.

Jason Jägel

A soundtrack for Reading and Writing, 2007:

"Prelude and Dayscape" by Malik Flavors

"Can't You See" by The Impressions, 45rpm single

"Malcolm Little" by Philip Cohran & the Artistic Heritage Ensemble

"Joyous Joyful Exhaltation" (J.Rocc edit) featuring Bajka and Whitefield Brothers 

Unknown monster funk track off the 12" Raw Addict by Jaylib

"Two Can Win" by J Dilla

"Galwad Y Mynydd" by Galwad Y Mynydd

The time involved in making this piece and the time it might take to “read” it required me to give more than a single song for the soundtrack. Here, each song, different from the next, acts as a chapter in a tale made by the invisible thread and silence between the tracks. Rhythm, soul, righteousness, guts, transcendence, feeling and syncopation.

Malik Flavors is one of Madlib’s numerous jazz aliases stemming from the fictional jazz outfit, Yesterday’s New Quintet. He and J Dilla are natural artists for me to associate with this piece. As connoisseurs, they nullify the distance between hearing and creating / reading and writing / consuming and producing.

Dilla did something phenomenal with this track, a baffling edit of The Sylvers' "Only One Can Win." Dilla titled it, "Two Can Win," even though the lyrics state otherwise. I’m left with the pregnancy of contradiction. Knowing that he made this while close to dying from an illness whose result he had full knowledge of gives the titular correction of destiny a heartbreaking poignancy. My father died just a couple months after Dilla’s passing and after the release his album, Donuts (Stones Throw) that includes "Two Can Win." The album often fills me with a joyous melancholy and evokes the many contradictory feelings I had during and after my father’s end. In the center of this painting is an image of my pop’s hand touching my arm, in the act of making connection.

Tommy Perman and Roel Knappstein

"One Word Extinguisher" by Prefuse 73
Random Tapes is one of a series of seventy-two related prints by Tommy Perman and Roel Knappstein. The artwork was inspired by "One Word Extinguisher" by Prefuse 73. We created the work while on a two-month residency at the Daglicht Printmakers Workshop in Eindhoven, Holland, in 2006. We're both huge fans of Prefuse's music and tried to approach the creation of artwork with the same innovation he uses in the production of music. Prefuse constructs his music using many short audio samples sequenced together in different patterns. We created a collection of 'visual samples,' which we exposed on to silkscreens and used to compose prints. One of the visual samples we chose to use was the cassette tape. Eindhoven is an industrial town and the electronics company Philips has a big presence there. Philips invented the cassette tape in 1962 and manufactured them in Eindhoven.

Gregory Krum

"Well I Wonder" by The Smiths
Songs and poems conjure imagery. Images conjure words and sometimes un-expressable thoughts. It is this extra stuff that interests me—all that is floating around an image, unseen, and yet undeniably present.

"Well I Wonder" is a brilliant piece of economical melancholy and perhaps something of it is present in this image.

Liz Kuball

"It Never Rains in Southern California" by Albert Hammond
When I moved out to Los Angeles from back east, I didn't get aboard a westbound 747, but I pretty much didn't think before deciding what to do. This song nails the promise that Southern California represents, and the fact that it isn't ever what you thought it would be, which is a lot of what I think about when I'm working on my California Vernacular series.

Jeff Lewis

"Love or Confusion" by Jimi Hendrix
The actual painting was named after another one of my early oval paintings entitled, Inloveness. I read about the concept of inloveness in a book by the 20th-century Indian spiritual teacher, Krishnamurthi. He wrote that inloveness was a state of being in love without the projection of love inspired by another human being. Inloveness is a cultivated meditation of selfless or egoless love.

I feel that in a Jimi Hendrix solo. The manner in which I paint is an intuitive practice where I feel a timeless manifestation of selfless love.

Yijun Liao

"I Am Stretched On Your Grave" by Sinead O’Connor
I listened to Sinead O'Connor a lot when I was a teenager. I remember listening to this song over and over again before I went to sleep. It made me extremely happy when she sang, "when my family thinks that I'm safe in my bed, from night until morning I am stretched at your head." I've always been inspired by her courage and independence. When I first got to the U.S., I took a lot of self-portraits. Being alone in a foreign country kinda brought me back to my teenage years when I felt so lonely, but I felt I was OK being alone. I'm all that I need.

Scott Listfield

"Touch Me" by Spank Rock
I had been thinking a lot about Thundar the Barbarian, a cartoon I watched as a child in the early 1980s. In it, Earth had become a post-apocalyptic wasteland after a runaway planet crashed into the moon in the distant year of 1994. I wondered if people would still go to art museums when global nuclear war had ravaged our planet and dinosaurs came back for some weird reason. During the time these ideas were floating in my head, the song "Touch Me" by Spank Rock was the most played song on my iPod. It’s characterized by a post-apocalyptic bass, some crackling noise that sounds like electricity, and the repeated (and surprisingly effective) use of a lion’s roar. So I painted some lions into Post-Nuclear Guggenheim Visit, and I think of this song now every time I look at this piece.

Paul Madonna

"Turn On Me" by The Shins for Album 01
"Houston, TX" by Deer Tick for Balsa Plane #3
"Went To See the Gypsy" by Bob Dylan for Balsa Plane #4
Though I've been drawing and writing for as long as I can remember, music is the medium that has influenced me the most. The mood and feeling of music and the message of lyrics are what I strive to emulate with images and text in my work. I've always loved the idea of an album being a thematic collection, encapsulating a period of ideas, work and life into a tidy package, then moving on to the next. Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello are two of my biggest influences here. Both of these artists are prolific and, Dylan especially, create a path of personal creative history by producing a record a year. Though some albums in their collections are stronger than others, I find that I can appreciate each more by hearing it in context of the albums that precede and follow it. A collection of songs defines one album and the collection of albums defines the artist. It's an organization of a life's work.

Myself, I like working in series, and though I resolve each individual piece on its own, pieces feel complete only when they come together in a collection. I've been making zines since I was a kid, and in my twenties, I began thinking of each zine I produced as an album rather than a book. This led to my newest project, a yearly publication titled Album, as an overt homage to that idea. To write and draw on a theme and collect those pieces as that year's album, including a section of liner notes about the body of work. The individual pieces are not directly influenced by specific songs, but the process of producing them, then collecting them into a yearly book, is infused with the larger concept of music as a medium and how it's distributed. I step into the role of being a recording artist who works with images and printed words rather than music and sung lyrics. This approach has allowed me to redefine for myself the idea of producing books and series. Rather than having the work in each book be the same in theme or medium, the books themselves are the series. Each year I can work with whatever themes and mediums I choose, with no connection to the previous collections. As long as I honor the approach that the collection of work is akin to making a music album, that is the thread that holds the series together. Currently, I see this as a ten-year project that will map creative development in ways I can't yet know.

Sarah McKenzie

"Fake Plastic Trees" by Radiohead
Her green plastic watering can
For her fake Chinese rubber plant
In the fake plastic earth.
That she bought from a rubber man
In a town full of rubber plans
To get rid of itself.
It wears her out, it wears her out
It wears her out, it wears her out.

I generally use the Genius function with iTunes when I listen to music in the studio, and this particular song by Radiohead is one that seems to show up a lot on the playlists that Genius generates for me. Because my construction site paintings often address issues of suburban development and re-development, I particularly love the line about "a town full of rubber plans... to get rid of itself." I thought of this song immediately after I took the source photograph for this painting.  It's an image of a generic high-rise office building that is under construction near Denver, Colorado.  The crazy distortion of the trees in the lower left corner, as reflected in the glass of the new windows, offers such a perfect commentary on the implausibility of anything truly "natural" surviving in our suburban landscape, where even trees become a design element.

The Radiohead song is ultimately about artificiality and superficiality, in the external world, and in our relationships with others.  My painting is about the disconnection between exterior and interior—specifically, how the outer surface of a thing often masks the internal structure within.

Exterior 1 (Plastic Trees) is also inspired by the work of Mondrian, but I'm fairly sure that that has nothing to do with Radiohead.

Mike Monteiro

"Shady Lane" by Pavement
They are lyrics from the song.

Jane Mount

"All Is Full Love" by Bjork
Two tiger attacks at the San Francisco Zoo occurred on December 22, 2006 and December 25, 2007, both involving a 243-pound Siberian Tiger named Tatiana. In the first incident, a zookeper was bitten in the arm during a public feeding. During the second incident, in which two people were injured and one killed, police officers fatally shot the tiger. Both these things make me cry every time I read/hear them. Okay there's more to it than that, but that's the basic idea.

Gary Petersen

"Cherry Chapstick" by Yo La Tengo
I always have music playing whenever I am in the studio, usually some type of alternative rock (from Joy Division, the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, to Wilco). It keeps me focused, tunes out the world and allows me to get lost in my work. The music sets the atmosphere. Yo La Tengo has been one of my favorites and I chose "Cherry Chapstick" for its fast-paced catchy pop, grinding guitar and bright “color” – a perfect companion to my painting, Mixup.

Colleen Plumb

"Le Prisonnier De La Tour (The Prisoner in the Tower)" by Edith Piaf
When I listen to an album in its entirety, the bookmaker in me is inspired. Moving from song to song, sensing the reason and intelligence of the edit, and how the whole piece works together, feeds me with ideas for how I want to sequence my work. In thinking about a pairing for Cabrini Green Rug I thought: what song would want this singular image as its 'cover'? I went through my music and stopped at this song because of the title. I think of how big cats are at the top of the food chain (in 'the tower'), many threatened, with little habitat left. They are prisoners of human encroachment. Also, Cabrini Green has become a symbol of the problems associated with public housing. I see the animal embedded in the rug as a witness to the lives of the tower's inhabitants. The song is beautiful, sad and mysterious and conveys for me the essence of what I saw when I made the photograph.

Jason Polan

"Crazy In Love" by Antony
I have been listening to a cover of the song "Crazy In Love" by Beyoncé a lot lately.  This version is sung by Antony.  I made this piece with the song in mind.  I liked making the weird connections in my head between the two versions of the song and relating them to the drawing, while piecing the work together.

Tyson Anthony Roberts

"Hola adios" by Café Tacuba
“Hola, adios” are the fading lyrics to the song of the same phrase by Café Tacuba, a band from Mexico that incorporates a variety of genres within their music. The Spanish words hola and adios translate to hello and goodbye and these words are what come to mind when I look at The Gardens, which was painted while listening to a lot of Café Tacuba.

The easy melody of the song comes and goes, and like the painting, interweaves streams of muted tones and articulates those with blasts of colorful accents. Within this, a direct narration conducts the assemblage of multi-directional patterns that leave not one side untouched. The painting and song equally explore the dichotomies of good/bad, happiness/sadness, and ultimately hello/goodbye. The painting accomplishes this by requiring the viewer to remain at arm's length to fully interpret the abstraction, and the song through the useage of a fleeting aural backdrop accompanied with clear and focused vocals. Hola adios.

Mike Sinclair

"Wonder of the World" by Last Forever
When I took this picture, my sister was living in Las Vegas and I was going out pretty regularly to visit her. I had a routine of photographing in the late afternoons and often my sister would go with me. We liked discovering her new town together. Usually, we’d start at Las Vegas Boulevard and slowly drive out to one of the edges of the city. The town was growing like crazy – its population almost doubled between 1990 and 2000. We listened to Last Forever a lot on those drives, its merging of old and new melodies seemed comforting in a place changing so fast that much of what we saw would be gone by my next visit.

Jessica Snow

Glenn Gould playing Bach’s "Aria Variata alla Maniera Italiana"
To attempt to compare my painting, Amplitude, to Glenn Gould playing Bach’s Aria "Variata alla Maniera Italiana" would show hubris at the very least on my part, but it is this work which perhaps most closely relates to the clarity and contrapunctual chromatic harmonies and dissonances which I wanted to achieve with this piece. The curving lines are meant to be fluid and tightly structured simultaneously, which Gould achieved in his playing. The dream of pure disembodied color is hinted at but unachieved, the painting being anchored incessantly in its materiality. This, too, is how I listen to Gould. The desire for a dimembodied experience of pure melodic polyphony, of celestial harmony absent the day-to-dayness of living within the body, is never quite achieved. But this is why his playing is wonderful. Transcendence is rooted in bodily experience, for that is what it is to be alive, and Gould’s odd humming while he plays reminds the listener that he is there, living and breathing, while our minds drift in unknown spheres.

Trey Speegle

"I Am Mine" by Pearl Jam
I make word sketches in books as ideas and phrases come to me and then I usually combine them with a vintage paint-by-number from my rather large collection. These words and affirmations sometimes hang around for a while before they find a home. "I Am Mine" is a fairly recent song by Pearl Jam that struck me, not really the lyrics, so much, but the title and the refrain, "I Am Mine". It is a theme of personal power that reoccurs in my work with some regularity and doesn't require any explanation or much thought, really. I use flowers in my work a lot too. These are somewhat lurid, and a bit sad but that is probably because the only place that flowers can "live" forever is in photographs, paintings and our own memories. Otherwise, like an old movie or a faded picture, we know that what we are looking at is now long since dead.

William Swanson

"Lixus" by Keith Fullerton Whitman
I am able to work better with certain types of music. One genre that enables a flow in the studio is melodic electronic music. A recent find that has been in my rotation is the song "Lixus" from Keith Fullerton Whitman’s album Schöner Flußengel. Whitman has the ability to compose music that simultaneously harkens back to early Krautrock while remaining fully engaged in a present day ambient/electronic sensibility. The analog drone of guitar and synth flood and loop into a blissfully dark soundtrack that serves as auditory sustenance to my visual practice.  

Amy Talluto

"Beulah Land" by Gillian Welch
When making Hermaphrodite, I recall listening often to a song named "Beulah Land," performed by Gillian Welch as a tribute to Mississippi John Hurt, the creator of the song. The lyrics pine for those who have passed away, imagining them as "way beyond the sky." The idea of "Beulah Land" has since stuck with me, both as a metaphor for a secondary plane of existence—an unknown landscape beyond the sky, and also as an evocative image of lonely solitude, as the singer is orphaned and without family. The imagery in this painting was inspired by an eerie fogged-in view of Two Medicine Mountain in Glacier National Park. The scene is silent and vast, both dead and living trees coexist under a heavy ceiling of clouds. Blackfoot Indians had once walked there, seeking vision quests. In this place, one feels "Beulah Land" close at hand: questing alone in a new landscape for a memory of those who had come before.

Matthew Tischler

"Fake Plastic Trees" by Radiohead
I strongly associate Untitled #9 with Radiohead’s "Fake Plastic Trees". The song conjures themes of mass consumption, artificiality and loss of identity. Untitled #9 suggests a synthetic landscape that is both tranquil and disconcerting. The idyllic setting, saturated colors, shallow depth of field and imposed grid create a deceptively appealing “billboard” advertising an ambiguous paradise. The water drops and hazy blurriness of Untitled #9 remind me of the haunting strings and keyboards in “Fake Plastic Trees.” Thom Yorke’s vocals are stirring but also sorrowful. I aspired to capture this sense of beauty and sadness in the Screen Series. I sometimes think of these images as painted canvases left outside in the middle of a rainstorm.

Ann Toebbe

"Ich Weiss Nicht Mehr Genau" by Stereo Total
Ich weiss nicht mehr genau—it means, I don't really know anymore. I heard the band Stereo Total for the first time when I was in graduate school in New Haven. I was studying German to prepare for a year in Berlin on a DAAD scholarship. One of my professors helped me write the grant and burned German music CD's for me to listen to while I painted. We started dating a year later and one evening in his apartment he played Stereo Total's "Ich Weiss Nicht Mehr Genau" for me on his guitar. Naked. We are married now and have an 18-month-old daughter and are expecting our second baby in April. We argue sometimes about who put the move on the other one first. Ich weiss nicht mehr genau!