Hey all, to start tonight off I have to apologize for my recent hiatus. There wasn't a major reason preventing me from posting, I just fully succumbed to the general funk that I've been in for months. Now granted this has been building for a while, honestly I'm sure most of you assumed I stopped posting a long time ago. This is again entirely my fault, leaving things go until the last minute and not putting these up on the internet at reasonable human hours. So I have been posting to the blog, just around midnight which obviously won't hit anyone's Facebook feeds. Although I will admit that what I've been posting hasn't been terribly in depth either. I haven't attempted an interview in months and while I always have plenty of photos to use, I haven't gone looking for new ones in a very long time. These past two weeks however were definitely the culmination of my recent down spiral. Even the hermit in me came out in spades, causing me to not even leave my apartment for two weekends in a row. For all of this, not that you really care about my hermit tendencies, I do have to say I'm sorry. I know I've done this before on here, apologize for the lack of quality and promise to make a greater effort, but I think this most recent fail has been my biggest one. So I'm hoping that with the promise of spring, I will be able to shake off the cobwebs that have collected around me and really get some things going. Much like tonight's photo, I have no intention of completely forgetting about the work that I've done thus far. It is all very interesting and serves as a strong foundation for what this blog is all about. But I do think that I need to get a bit a fresh start on things.
In slightly brighter news, there are a couple of good things coming along. I've recently hit a pretty solid 100 followers over on Instagram which is pretty amazing. I've gotten quite a few suggestions of places to look for new stickers and have been tagged in a couple of other people's posts with the stickers that they've found. I can't say how excited I am by the fact that I've caught this many people's attention and that there have been conversations over my feed. For anyone who reads this and follows me on Instagram I want to shoot you a quick thank you for the continued support. If you haven't seen the feed, I will admit most of it are items that you've seen before but I do occasionally share other finds on there that don't quite fit this blog. Along with the Instagram, I just want to say that I have every intention of participating in the upcoming Art All Night again this year. Starting on April 28 there will be a group of local artists who will be exhibiting their work for free for almost 24 hours over in Lawrenceville. Granted things are still in the works, so other than the date there isn't anything officially decided yet. As the date gets closer I'll give more substantial information about the event but I do hope you'll all go check it out. It's a fascinating thing and really gives people a chance to express themselves. If you've ever had even an inkling of artistic inclination, submit a piece of your own and have it put up on display. There's no real reason not to participate in this free show. But in the meantime, here's to turning a new page and getting things back on track.
I'll give you two guesses as to what kind of sticker this is, as a hint it is one more of the common uses for stickers. Have your guess ready? I'm sure this won't come as a surprise but the sticker belongs to a local band. Now can you guess the musical genre this band is in. With a name of Habitual Sins, the use of Personal Demons, and an image invoking a classic Roman or Greek style, it isn't a far leap to assume that this group is a Metal band. Habitual Sins is a Metal band from here in Pittsburgh and this sticker is actually an ad for their first album Personal Demons. It seems like this group has had an interesting start though, looking at their description on their Facebook page. The lead singer Matthew Bizilia actually got his start with the group Icarus Witch, another local Pittsburgh band. After achieving some recognition for his unique voice and gaining some success with the band, he amicably left the group in 2010 to partner with two guitarists that he had worked with in the past. Habitual Sins started to release singles from the album at the end of 2016 and then the full album went out early 2017.
I have to admit that I was caught off guard when I was listening to the first track "Ravens" from Personal Demons. With a slow orchestral build and raven wings beating in the background, it is certainly out to capture your attention early on. As the song goes on, it begins to take on a more familiar feel that you would expect with a Metal band. Which isn't terribly surprising, considering their biggest influences are the 80's bands like Iron Maiden, Slayer, and Metallica. Now I'm not a good judge of this, as you know, so I don't doubt that their sound harkens back to a more traditional Metal style. Personally I was reminded of the band Sonata Arctica, one of my brother's favorite groups. Both have an interesting mix of a classic orchestra sound and the driving guitar you'd expect. While Habitual Sins doesn't have the full album available on their site to listen to, I was intrigued by the snippets they had and the titles. Clearly they draw a lot of inspiration from the supernatural, Gothic and religious traditions. You have the Djinn (otherwise know as genies) from Islamic traditions, the Inquisition from Catholicism, Hades from Greek mythology, and many other elements that can be seen throughout these traditions. You can tell from the snippets they have, that all of the songs on this album fit together and maintain a consistent style throughout. It also doesn't feel like they are out to overpower their listeners with their music, looking to invite them into their sound and style. From the name, to the album, to the music itself you know what you're getting into when you look at them and I'm sure this lends a lot to this group's appeal.
Ah, you know me...I'm a sucker for a gas mask. Actually thinking over my weekend, I had quite a few gas masks involved in it. Watched Repo! The Genetic Opera with my siblings the other day with their goth interpretation and then there was Wonder Woman with a slightly more creative look at the destructive forces involved in WWI. I think in the end what draws my eye to the gas mask is the dichotomy that is involved with its very nature. The mask is very much a life-saving device, created to prevent people from dying of toxins and poisons. While in development for centuries, it truly came to fruition with the first World War and its use of mustard and chlorine gas on the battlefield. At the start of the second World War, it became a staple in the British household and that particular version (with its exchangeable filters and plastic lenses) is what we think of today. But while the device is life-saving it is also a sign of the destruction that makes the mask even necessary. It was created to protect against chemical warfare and has come to be used to help with our more recent biologic and nuclear dangers. It is a symbol of fear and reminder of a possible apocalyptic future. The gas mask is such an important symbol of this fear that you can find it throughout our pop culture, especially in video games.
Much like my favorite sticker, the housewife in a gas mask that I've featured before, I don't really have link to the person behind this. I did find a couple of stickers and decals that use a similar version of this gas mask but nothing that was a clear tie to this particular image. What I enjoy about this image is that combined aesthetic of the gas mask, the flower, and the suit. It brings to mind such a range of possible stories. It could be a statement about the dangers of love, with the man protecting himself from the power of the sentiment. Or it could be that the corporations have taken so much control of the world that their drive for success has corrupted society to such an extent that the beauty of the old world is dangerous. That the price of progress means that we have to shield ourselves from nature. It can also be a story of the possible apocalyptic future and how we have poisoned the land. Whatever story you prefer though, it is certainly an image that allows you the chance to create a meaning of your own. So whether it's one of fear or a brief outlook of hope, the gas mask will remain not only a significant element in graffiti but within our society as well.
I'll admit that deciding to use this sticker tonight is a total cheat. Just by looking at it you know there is no real way to look the image up for a creator. True it is a very unique style and there aren't many graffiti artists out there that do what appears to be a self-portrait, but there also isn't enough detail in the image to narrow my search down. If there was even a hint of a signature that would help, although I guess in a way these are technically signed. Since they appear to be self-portraits, these stickers are quite personal to the artist behind them and it's unlikely anyone would be able to copy them. By not putting a name to these cap stickers, this artist makes them not only truly unique but also in a way fairly universal. This man could be anyone and in a way can be related to by all. Everyone knows at least one person who's look was defined by the baseball cap they used to wear growing up or are still wearing today. I know we couldn't go anywhere without my one brother's cap, still technically can't today although the hat has grown up a bit.
The main reason tonight's post is a cheat though is because I knew another local blog had already featured these particular stickers on their site without any success in determining the artist. Pittsburgh Orbit is a local blog and Instagram feed that looks at the unique and bizarre elements that can be found around the city. Their Instagram feed is updated daily with photos of the things they've found and once a week they will take a more in depth look at something in the blog. They feature a lot of graffiti, found objects, unique signs, and a plethora of things that can only be understood here in Pittsburgh. This is actually one of the few blogs I generally follow and am always intrigued by the elements of the city that they feature. If you haven't heard of them before this, I highly suggest checking them out for yourself.
So every time I would see this sticker when I would go through my collection, I already knew that it would be unlikely that I would find anything new about the mind behind it. Actually in the end Pittsburgh Orbit featured this sticker twice, once in the summer and then they did a follow-up to it in the fall. In their pieces they speculate that the artist behind these was most likely a student and frequent bus rider since the stickers seemed to be localized along Forbes avenue and the Oakland area. I can't say I disagree with this thought process, I'm pretty sure I've only seen this particular sticker style in the Oakland area. In their follow-up, they say that they're pretty sure "Cap Man" has left the area though since there really haven't been any new additions to the stickers. But whether or not this artist is still in the Pittsburgh area, whoever they were they have certainly left their mark here on the city.
When I look at this sticker tonight I have two very distinct thought processes come to mind, the first of which is how this is clearly influenced by Frankenstein. Whenever you hear the name Frankenstein, I'm sure the first image you think of is a tall green monster with bolts sticking out of his neck. Obviously the famous movie monster, first brought to life by Boris Karloff in the 1931 film, has greatly influenced our collective consciousness, although it's rather impossible for it not to. It is such an iconic portrayal that I in no way fault people for thinking of his monster first. Even tonight's sticker is using that particular image as the main influence. But if you look at the original nameless monster, it was quite a different creation. He was described as a tall ugly creature whose skin was yellowing and thinly stretched across his body, causing him to shunned by society. While he is in hiding, he comes across a small family and through his eavesdropping he learns how to speak and eventually read. And this is the biggest difference between his original portrayal and the iconic image that everyone has, this fact that he is not a simple minded creature. Eventually he even confronts Victor Frankenstein, his creator, for his tortured existence and loneliness. Yes he is vicious and kills others without too much thought but he is also something that never fully understood what it is to be alive. While his body was brought back to life, he is still very much dead to the world and the sentiments around him. He is embittered by the rejection of others and believes the only way to become truly alive in the world is to remove his loneliness by making a mate like himself. Sorry I could continue to wax on about this favorite character of mine for a while, but I have a feeling that it's time to move on. Besides this year apparently marks the 200th anniversary since the novel was originally published, so I'm sure I'll stumble across more articles like this New Yorker one that will influence these posts again.
The second idea that this image invokes for me is Schrodinger's Cat. Now I'll admit this is a bit of a stretch, since the only thing that really ties this idea to the sticker is the use of the phrase "dead alive." However I can't say I'm alone with this connection, since that was my main Google image result. While I've always been a bit of a science geek, physics was never my forte. There was something about the visualization and the higher theoretical nature of this field that I never could quite wrap my head around. But if there is one thing that ended up sticking with me, and I'm sure a fair amount of you as well, was the idea of Schrodinger's cat. As a brief overview, the thought experiment of Schrodinger's cat was created by Erwin Schrodinger as a way to prove how ridiculous the direction of the current quantum theory discussions were headed. In this experiment it is proposed that a cat is trapped in box with a radioactive material, a geiger counter, a hammer, and some poison. If the radioactive material deteriorates, it will set off the geiger counter which will release the hammer on the bottle of poison thereby killing the cat. However if the material doesn't deteriorate then the cat would "technically" remain alive (I mean it is a cat trapped in a box after all.) So until you open the box to reveal the result, you therefore have to assume that both possibilities exist meaning that the cat is both alive and dead. This goes back to quantum physic discussions because it is generally thought that until you measure an atom, it exists in multiple states and by measuring it a state is then decided. Obviously this brief discussion, using just two sources and my little bit of comprehension on the subject, is certainly hazy but it is still an interesting thought process. Firstly because I love the fact that an the idea that many, including myself for a while, used as proof of the larger physics theory was actually created to disprove it. And secondly because this idea has gone on to create so many other thought processes, like the idea of multiple universes.
As a brief conclusion to tonight's theoretical and literary discussions, I clearly didn't find any clear links to tonight's sticker. I did come across a piece of graffiti on Hiveminer that was also located here in Pittsburgh that used the phrase "kids dead alive" though. If I had to guess I'd say they were by the same person, it's not exactly a common phrase to see out there. I just don't have any real links to give credit to the tagger/artist. So if you happen to know who's behind this particular tag, I'd love to hear it. But in the mean time I hope you aren't too throw too much by tonight's thought processes.
I'll be honest, I haven't the foggiest what this sticker is supposed to be. I didn't even bother trying to look anything up on Google for tonight. This is mainly because I don't even know how I would even try to break this image down into keywords, let alone describe it. But it's an intriguing enough image that I couldn't keep in hidden away in the collection forever. It's one of the few that caught my attention on a regular basis when I would walk home from my job in the Strip District. Every time I came up to this Parking sign I would always look up, trying to deduce what exactly it was I was seeing. So bear with me while I attempt to pull my thoughts together on this and come up with things that this sticker reminds me of.
Starting with the bottom of this image, the first that has always popped in my head was that these legs belonged to a wrestler. Not a WWE wrestler but an Olympic or high school wrestler. Now I've never really had any exposure to wrestling, it was kind of a big thing in my high school but being in the same sports season as swimming I ended up paying it no mind. I really know nothing about the sport but that image of the wrestler is certainly one that gets ingrained. Now I guess it could realistically be any sport, especially since this image seems to be running which isn't involved in wrestling, but there is just something that screams wrestler. Maybe it's just how the sticker has that appearance of a unitard ending mid-thigh, it is one of the few sports I know of that has that particular look. But after that initial feeling of something familiar and well human, this sticker then goes off on it's own bizarre direction. At first I thought it was man getting devoured by a faceless monster but the more I look at it, the more I realize that there is no break in form. The legs do gradually morph into that undefined mass on top. Every once in a while I think I can make out elements of a man within the mass but for the most part it just feels like a blur of line and shape. In many ways it brings to mind the classic depictions of Lovecraft and his night terrors, with their writhing misshaped bodies, the tentacles, and that sense of madness. Along those lines I also think of things like Doom or...well any Guillermo Del Toro movie really, since they clearly draw inspiration from Lovecraft. For me these classic creature design elements can be seen in this image. Although I will admit that this also kind of reminds me a naked mole rat. But either way this nightmarish creature is certainly not something you would want to have come running at you on the street.
There are a few things that are quintessentially American: Nascar, football, the love of our flag, our general overindulgence at every meal, and I'm sure a couple more items that would be highly debated by some. You can find lists upon lists of things on the internet that different people believe define us as a culture. One thing that is truly a classic piece of our culture though is the Western. Whether it's a book, a film, TV show, or even a radio drama, this genre has captured our imaginations for decades. Generally focused during the time period between the 1850s to the early 1900s, these stories look at the world of the white settlers and their gradual journey across this country. Often they are romanticized ideas of the strength and perseverance of the settlers and towns, the bandits that ran rapid, the noble cowboy, and vilified Native Americans. Now granted this is an extremely broad generalization of this important genre, there are quite a few examples that look at the darker side of our history and some that have redefined our notions of what a Western can be. But if you ask anyone what a traditional Western is you'll probably get something about cowboys fighting Indians. What I find interesting about the Western is just how truly American it is. There really aren't too many other genres or types of stories out there in the world that have same feeling to it. The Western always looks back to a grand ideal time of progress, where men were men and you could make a name for yourself through luck and hard work. Sure you can see where this genre had its influence on other cultures or a few examples of similar expansion stories, but we have it far more ingrained into our collective consciousness. I mean my generation grew up dying of dysentery on the Oregon Trail. Obviously the Western has lost some of its appeal as time has gone on but that doesn't stop the occasional resurgence of interest in them. At least once a year Hollywood tries to create a film that will rekindle interest in the genre, although it generally only gets a lukewarm reaction on release. Over the past decade though a more successful breath of life has been brought back to this genre by adding in that element of Sci-fi. Things like Firefly, Westworld, and I would even say The Expanse, to an extent, manage to combine those essential elements of the Western with futuristic ideas to create shows that feel new and familiar.
Clearly my brief exposition on the Western was brought on tonight because this sticker just has that traditional cowboy feeling to it. Well it at least has a stetson, which is generally all you need to make something a cowboy. This was definitely one of those images where I was at quite the lost on what keywords to even try. Cowboy is too vague, cowboy stencil doesn't quite mean the same thing, cowboy stickers are a popular item out there and this apparently isn't a frequent subject people use for graffiti. What did catch me by surprise was how many of my image results were just hats and mustaches. I guess if you need to condense a cowboy down to the most essential bits, its a person in a stetson with a mustache. Then again one of the biggest names in the cartoon cowboy world is Yosemite Sam, who is ultimately just an angry hat and mustache. Since the mustache is such a prominent part of the image, I did do a quick search to make sure this wasn't a local barbershop's odd logo but no luck. Now it could obviously be by someone outside of Pittsburgh, however it's just too frequent a sight around the city for me to really be confident in that. I have a feeling that this sticker is local artist that enjoys classic ideas of the cowboy and simple designs. Either way this simple design definitely shows its love for an American classic.
Well tonight has certainly been an odd collection of results, unfortunately nothing that actually involves this particular sticker. I had my doubts that I'd find a definitive answer, since it is common enough of a phrase, but you never know. Obviously the most frequent result I kept getting were the movies with this name House of Wax. For the horror aficionados out there I'm sure you're already well aware of the film progression but I thought I'd work backwards for those who aren't into horror. In 2005 a horror movie starring Jared Padalecki, Chad Michael Murray, and Paris Hilton was released under the title House of Wax. The story revolves around a group of 6 teenagers who accidentally stumble into an abandoned town, who's main attraction is a run down wax museum. This movie was very loosely a remake of the 1953 film House of Wax staring Vincent Price. This particular story revolves around a talented wax artist who is thought to have died in fire earlier only to come back with a new exhibit that reveals his peculiar method of creating the wax statues. What I found surprising when I was looking into these films was the fact that this 1953 film is actually a remake of an even earlier film. Mystery of the Wax Museum from 1933 is about an artist who was injured in fire set in a previous museum and the reporter who starts looking into the mysterious disappearances that start to occur when he pops up in New York City. Now I've only seen the 2005 movie, which I admit I found to be generally unremarkable except for the scene with Jared Padalecki and his cheek (shudder), but seeing the progression of the story through the summaries was fascinating. You can see how the main components of this story carries through all of the iterations of the movie, the mysterious wax statues and the tortured artist behind them, as well as the updates studios felt audiences wanted. Over the years the movie goes from a slightly more psychological thriller surrounding a drug addict and his obsessions to a talented but drunken artist's obsessions and search for vengeance to a maladjusted artist who's creations mainly serve the purpose of ridiculous jump scares more than anything else. I kind of want to watch all three of these now to really see what this progression is actually like, maybe if I find this sticker again I'll discuss the result.
Looking for a slightly more relevant find, I also thought I'd just look into nearby wax museums in the off chance there is a House of Wax. While there are a couple of wax exhibits in the local museums, there really isn't a dedicated wax museum. Looking through the list on Wikipedia (I know not the best source) it seems like the closest ones would be over in New York City and Washington D.C. I did find a bar and attraction called House of Wax located in Brooklyn that I think I'll have to check out if I ever make it to the city. They specialize in cocktails and have a selection of macabre wax works they've collected on display. Along with these interesting displays of the bizarre and touristy, I also found plenty of waxing parlors that use this as their name. One called The Original House of Wax not only removes people's hair but they also apparently create beauty products and candles as well. I also managed to stumble across a site from the UK that specializes in hair pomades. So while I may not have figured out what tonight's sticker is in regards to, I definitely dug up an interesting collection of possibilities.
I think I've mentioned it before but I grew up around a very eclectic collection of music. My dad is a big classic rock fan with groups like the Beatles and the Doors, loves jazz and the crooners, and was my general introduction into Alt Rock with Green Day, No Doubt, and Weezer. My mom on the other hand was more of a pop fan; loving disco, singers like Madonna and the Pointer Sisters from the 80s, and general gravitates towards the happier sounding songs on the radio. She was also a huge musical fan and played a big role in making three out of her four children into the musical nerds that we are. And while I know there's plenty of musical tastes that my parents share, there are definitely the mom approved stations and the ones you can find my dad listening to. But for all of the various music you could find in our house, the one thing you really didn't hear much of was country. My mom had a couple of artists she enjoyed, usually the slightly more goofy ones like Toby Keith and Shania Twain, but it was rare to find country playing around our house. Which is a bit funny considering a good portion of her family are big country music fans, although not a terribly surprising trait considering I did grow up in good old Pennsyl-tucky. I'm pretty sure most of the exposure I really got to country was from visiting my grandparents' house. Now I don't know if my mild aversion to country stems from a lack of exposure to it or if I was just emulating my dad's disdain for the genre, but I have to admit there aren't too many artists or songs I enjoy from it.
Going through my posts, I'm fairly certain that tonight's sticker is the first country group I've come across in my research. Quite a few indie/alt rock bands, a couple of metal-ish groups, and a rapper or two but no country until tonight. Cordovas is a four (maybe five) man group out of the Nashville, TN area. They've been around since 2014 but are clearly starting to come into their own. Last summer they were not only featured on NPR's Songs We Love, they also made the Rolling Stone's list for the 10 New Country Artists You Need to Know. While they are still big fan favorites here in the states, they are also starting to tour over in Europe. Now I am certainly not a country expert but after listening through the album that's available on their site and the song that has been catching people's attention, I can see why they are a group people are keeping an eye on. For being a small group, they manage to create a very large presence that harkens back to a more classic country rock. Three of the members harmonize together in most of their songs, creating a very rich and complex sound around their lyrics. They play around with the music just enough to make it feel unrehearsed and like something you could just walk in on over on someone's back porch. This group does have a bit of that twang that has always defined country to me, but it's overall a very clean and streamline feeling. They don't quite fit that folky rock sound you'd find with Nathaniel Ratliff and the Night Sweats or the early Mumford & Sons but it's right along that border. I'll admit that if there was country group I'd start listening to, Cordovas would probably be it.
For whatever reason I'm feeling a bit cynical tonight. No particular rhyme nor reason for it, I was just looking through my stickers and this one felt right. I'm sure for a lot of you the same thought pops up after seeing this sticker, little brother from the opening of Mulan. I know I can't help but think of that adorable little thing running around, doing Mulan's chores while he's chasing after the bone. At the same point though I'm also reminded of the futility of these "dangling carrots." There are two related idioms out there that this image brings to mind, "offer someone a carrot" and "carrot and stick." To "offer someone a carrot" means that you are looking to persuade someone to do something with the promise of a reward while the "carrot and stick" pertains to a reward and punishment system to get results. Ultimately both of these phrases come from the same overall image, a driver attempting to encourage a donkey forward through the use of a carrot in front and a whip in the back. This sticker may not have the implied punishment of a stick within it but there is something slightly sadder about this promised carrot or bone. The dog is given the promise of a bone if he continues forward, a goal that always remains in sight. So he runs along, chasing the object of his desires because it seems within his grasp. But no matter how hard he tries it'll always remain elusive, even if he changes his method from time to time. He is forever trapped within that promise that things will get better for him. Sure he may get lucky and outsmart the system or someone may take pity on him and just give him the bone, it just doesn't seem likely. I have to admit that I've had plenty of moments that felt like this. There is always that hope that the next step will bring meaning to the work I've done, that something will actually come from the decisions I've made. That my promised bone isn't just a futile daily exercise. Although I've definitely had to wonder if the things I've been chasing are things I want or if I was just after it because it was dangled out there in front of me. Maybe this sticker isn't as bleak as I seem to think it is but it's definitely one that makes you wonder about what you're chasing in your life.