February 16, 2013

Down in the Bottom

On a late Autumn day in 1941, my grandmother, Hallie Mae Underwood, took her two children, Ray and Virginia, to look for pecans "down in the bottom” near the Mississippi River. Hallie Mae’s friend, Lynn Dennie, had come along with his rifle to hunt squirrels. Lynn had also brought a camera and at some point decided to take a picture of Mae and her children. In the photograph reproduced above, nine-and-a-half-year-old Ray stands to the left, wearing his aviator’s cap with goggles and possibly one of Virginia’s hand-me-down sweaters. Mae obligingly propped the rifle up on her shoulder while Lynn snapped the photo. Virginia stands to the right, her eleven-year-old face peaceful in the dappled afternoon sunlight and wearing what appear to be Mae’s dungarees that waft about her ankles like bellbottoms.

Within months of this idyllic Americana moment, Lynn was drafted into service after the attack on Pearl Harbor and our world changed. Virginia eventually met and married John "Jack" Andrew Boyd, and bore her first son, Mark Cameron. Two years later, Virginia and Jack had another son, Scott Clayton, my brother, best friend and loyal partner in many a musical adventure since our teenage years. Two younger brothers, Craig Sheldon and Emmet Jett, who came along a few years later, completed the Boyd family.

I always admired this photograph and when it came time to design an album cover for a collection of new songs Scott and I recorded last year, I asked my mother for permission to use it. The combination of rural Southern life, with squirrel hunting and pecan gathering, coupled with the innocence of childhood joys, suggest the ancestral past that Scott and I come from and those Tennessee and Arkansas roots we share as Boyd Bros. “Growing up Southern” in our formative years was at times stifling, with racial tensions bubbling just under the everyday surface reality, but also exhilarating, having discovered our emergent passion for rock ‘n' roll, R&B and country. We survived those years of slogging through late night gigs, cobbling this and that band of like-minded musicians together, later watching them and us drift apart to new chapters in our respective lives.

Scott and I now live on separate coasts, the vast continent of the United States between us, but we still manage to get together physically two or three times a year to play music, and continue to craft our songs "virtually" in this Brave New Digital World. 

Today, Scott and I are releasing our fifth “record” together; seven original songs recorded last year and available as digital download through iTunes, Amazon and other music streaming sites. We call this new album “Down in the Bottom” and it's a family affair; our youngest brother, Jett, a luthier, plays guitar on one song and brother Craig did the graphic design for the cover and limited edition booklet.  

The Boyd Bros dedicate this album to Mae, Virginia and Jack. It was and is a labor of love that bespeaks the humility and honesty of country folks, the empowerment and celebration of family that kept our passion for music alive and kicking these many years. 

Mark Cameron Boyd
Beltsville, MD

IMAGE: “Down in the Bottom” EP cover; original photograph by Lynn Dennie; graphic design by Craig Boyd; © Copyright 2013.

February 8, 2013

Back Against A. Walleston

In Aimee Walleston's rather sour reply to my published letter in Art in America (Vol. 101, No. 1, Jan. 2013) she recklessly claims that my critique of her misguided review of work by Nicolás Guagnini at Miguel Abreu Gallery (AiA, Vol. 100, No. 9, Oct. 2012) was "predicated on a false assertion."(1) Ms. Walleston goes on to firmly state that she "didn't write that Guagnini's paintings were an instance of détournement." Au contraire, Aimee, your exact words were: "Thus, the artist [Guagnini] détourned Debord's work, exploiting it for capitalistic purposes and forcing it to bite the hand of its master."(2)

Walleston goes on to dig herself into an even deeper hole by first rejecting my chief contention that Guagnini's paintings actually express the opposite "Debordian terminology" of recuperation - but then seemingly agreeing with me, and I quote: "I do think it superficially mimics the concept."(3)

Deeper still, Walleston attempts more weak defense of Guagnini as an artist "who makes critical work, often about capitalism." How utterly naive Walleston must be to believe that Guagnini's making of multiple paintings "to watch how quickly they sell" inherently expresses "implicit criticality in this gesture."

In January, when my AiA issue arrived and I read Walleston's defensive riposte, I immediately wrote to David Ebony, Managing Editor at AiA, to indicate my willingness to engage Walleston in her offer of a "lively debate." Certainly, I told him, further published discussion between us would clarify our differences of opinion (and art theory) and would be "undoubtedly beneficial for your readership and the discourse surrounding contemporary art issues." As I wrote Mr. Ebony, "I believe it's important to periodically address the historicity of art theory; relevance and precedence grants theoretical grounding in the narrative of contemporary art."

But that was three weeks ago. Having received no response from AiA, or from Walleston for that matter, I am back against Walleston.

First and foremost, the tone of Walleston's published reply suggests a "lively debate" between us would very well be disastrous; her idea of defending her intellectual position is to resort to the Philistinism of describing my critique as "trollish rhetoric." And she has the audacity to believe that I should hold myself to "a higher standard?" But we can't take expressions like these seriously from a woman who denies using Google, can we?

Secondly, if you review art for a national publication like Art in America then we hope you are ready to endure negative criticisms. My "rhetoric" may be perceived as sometimes harsh, I will agree. Yet my critiques of art reviews and my own original posts on this blog are healthily substantiated with art theory and history. My "nostalgic longing" is fueled by my defense of the critical hierarchy of theory and I am charged with correcting those lazy enough to practice a "studied ignorance." My purpose is ultimately educational, to enrich the discourse of a "Blogosphere" I find severely lacking in relevant facts and attribution.

Finally, I have uploaded a brief presentation on situationist theory, with acknowledgement that Debord's theories have been "dumbed down" and his radicality eviscerated in the Twenty-First Century. I hope readers of this blog enjoy it and will direct Ms. Walleston's attention to the link below:

 "Situationist Theory: for Dummies."


1. "Letters," Art in America; Vol. 101, No. 1, Jan. 2013; pg. 14. (I posted an earlier draft of my letter on Oct. 8, 2012.)

2. "Exhibition Reviews," Art in America; Vol. 100, No. 9, Oct. 2012; pg. 171.

3. Ibid., 14.