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Analysis by Peterson


Dear Artists, Musicians, Comedians, Philosophers

For a fee, I'll bump your name to the top of my "to do" list of written reviews. I'll write about your art, music, joke, you name it. See samples below.

Send me a digital file or something. I'll write my impressions about one item. The price is 20 cents per word and the procedure is noted below. For a general statement about multiple images (5 or less), there is a $40 minimum fee.

ATTN. Inventors: I can provide all artwork and complete written specifications needed to patent your invention per the strict guidelines of the USPTO. I will also reduce to plain, simple language, any legal brief, legislation, or scientific treatise for you. Inquire for pricing.

Gary Peterson

Intellectual Handyman


"You call the tune and I'll write about it."


It has been my distinct pleasure to review and critique your splendid works--your art and music and ideas over the years, but I've reached a stage in my life where I can no longer promise to deliver the goods in a timely manner. Therefore I must retire the writer-for-hire service described above. I'm honored that you deemed my opinions worthy in the past and I still hope to provide occasional, unsolicited commentary if and when I feel so inspired. --GRP

$20 per 100 words
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(some posted reviews are gratis and were not necessarily solicited by the artists).


Tommy Beavitt - song link
Tommy Beavitt's song Half Filled Cup from his Holding Water album has an early Donovan sensibility except that Tommy Beavitt has the high lonesome wail suited more for a drinking song than a sonnet. He occasionally fits more words into a stanza than syntax allows but makes it work well. His voice has a Gaelic twinge and his lines like, "It takes experience if we're to gain wisdom" are philosophic like Locke or Hume. The backup voices are smooth and sound like The Roches without the sarcasm, or something from a Grandpa Jones cult - a naive wholesomeness that makes the ironic world melt away.

This half Celtic/Appalachian sounding hymn in the key of A has a couple of refreshing twists in the chord progression that flows down the tonic-dominant stream, namely an F# minor that provides a stepping stone between the D and E chords. Then the musical bridge, "This cup of life is a half-filled cup..." leads to the unflinchingly sincere homily of "'s always half way full" harmonized and sung a cappella with maximum smarm following the sub-tonic shot of B major. Sweet! This leads back into the sparse but now familiar twang of the guitar and bass accompaniment of the main chorus all steadied by the meter of a kick drum, snare, and a touch of tambourine jangle in standard time.

The heartfelt honesty in the strain of Beavitt's quavering voice chokes me up. My soul soars like the eagle of which he sings while my feet walk on solid ground. This tune spins melancholy into a positive emotion, but one that is transportable because you can never really go home again. "My innocence was lost when I met you" is the bittersweet skew of his earlier proclamation, "There is no comfort without feeling sad and blue" and with this song, feeling sad and blue never felt so good.

Gary Peterson


Ellen Phelan - artist link
In her work Far Field II, a large iris print on paper, Ellen Phelan extracts an ethereal essence from the snapshot imagery of a backyard landscape. A fluid wash dissolves the underlying scenario into a dense color field while the mechanics of her process imparts a streaky surface tension to the composite. The emulsified view is swiped into a minimalist narrative - a dreamscape in which visual acuity dissipates rapidly beyond that threshold. To run a squeegee across this plasmatic flux one more time might only clarify things better left to the imagination.

Visual interest expands to the white margins of the picture where the off-register translucent layers expose themselves. Like crystallized gestures of capillary action, the tree line gravitates upward into the liquid blue sky imbued by the artist's deliberate hand. Brush-like striations visually rhyme with the silhouette of trees.

Light spills in over the treetops and spreads in a foggy wave as it hits the picture plane flattening the depth of field. This cool envelope contains the warm colors otherwise exempt from gravity like an inert gas that anesthetizes the forms but not the spirits residing in a purple haze so thick you want to cut it open and climb inside - to penetrate the curtain wall and see how things looks from the inside out.

The sumac-red mottling in the foreground resists the acid-green substrate like oil and water, stimulating the viewer's retinas in the process. There is a palpable sense of synthesisia: a bittersweet color-taste of cranberries and lime in the cinnamon scented lavender smoke stirred up in this protean stew. The misty veil whispers white noise in the gambit of pseudo-sensory stimulations. This picture is impressionistic - not just visually in a Monet meets Frankenthaler sort of way - but musically like a Debussy symphony or a travelogue with a Mixoydian modality wafting across a mellifluous meadow.

Gary Peterson


Perrin et Fils - winery link
My wife and I were in France. One evening we sat on the patio of a chateau in a vineyard near the town of Vacqueyras, enjoying a meal and a bottle of red wine. The gazpacho was a stone cold knockout as we watched a field mouse scurry about. These are some memories in a glass of Vacqueyras: the sights, the fragrances, kids playing, bells chiming. But even back at home in the burbs, a glass of Vacqueyras can make my neighbor's lawn mower hum like a hurdy-gurdy and the crows on the power line look like cockatoos.

Vacqueyras is near Gigondas and not far from Chateauneuf du Pape in the Cote du Rhone region of Provence. The earth is hard, chalky, and sun-baked on the slopes of the Dentelles Mountains, and yet everything grows abundantly: grapes, olives, lavender. The red wine of Vacqueyras is made from Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre grapes. Wines from there may have higher alcohol content due to the way the Mediterranean sun radiates on this unique landscape. It's the same sunlight that inspired Vincent Van Gogh's to paint.

I won't explain the chemistry, the molecular fingerprints in the soil that impart the various tastes in the grapes that it touches, but the French call it terroir. I get how the flavor of Vacqueyras wine can suggest blackberries or licorice and even chocolate to the palate, but why are coffee, tobacco, molasses, or asparagus revealed in fermented grapes? In a word: radioisotopes. I detect unusual flavors in some wines, everything from carnauba wax, to latex, to gunpowder - but in a GOOD way! It's just how my brain interprets what my taste buds propose. Vacqueyras has limestone and flowers in the equation, like Gigondas but at half the price - say twenty bucks, U.S.

Let's open a bottle. I'll put on some music first; maybe some south-of-France troubadour or, say, Eric Satie. Yeah, that's quirky enough. Open the shutters and let in some light. We'll just taste for now. It's too early for pork chops or steak au poivre, but maybe some olive pate or Gruyere cheese for you. I'm fresh out of black truffles but frankly a pretzel with peanut butter works for me.

This bottle of Vacqueyras is a Perrin & Fils - Les Christins, 2005 vintage. Bless its pointy little head. I caress the tapered neck of the sloped-shoulder bouteille (sans the customary embossed glass). Strip the foil; pop the cork. Butterflies and bumblebees issue forth. Kidding. Let it breathe. Now pour.

The color is deep garnet with a trace of copper at the edge. Swirl the glass and watch the long liquid legs extend slowly down the inside. I park my nose on the rim. The bouquet suggests black cherries and molasses, then tulips in a weathered flowerbox on a Provencal window sill, sprinkled with artesian well water from an old tin watering can.

The first sip is flinty, almost abrasive on the palate - but in a good way. It's like diamond dust or limestone in liquid lavender, slightly astringent with tannins. These grapes were thick-skinned to take the heat. It's slightly musty. I like musty. Another sip and hints of licorice emerge. The flavors are a dialog: a conversation between the taproot and its fruit as told to my tongue. There is a peppery essence and something woody but not too waxy, like tulipwood sawdust and steamed mahogany (I'm an acoustic guitar builder). Lovely liquid utterances tickle my tonsils as they slide down the old pipe. I'm not one for spitting. Vacqueyras has a firm body that finishes with a full-figured flourish and a high-pitched whine. By the time it hits bottom, it has warmed my soul. The heat expands like the lofty view from atop Mt. Ventoux that rises up between the Alps and the Mediterranean. It makes me want to ride a bike in the Tour de France - or just kick back and look for faces in the clouds. Yeah, it's good stuff alright.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth makes a gourmet pizza chicken, broccoli, bleu cheese, etc. That works fine with Vacqueyras wine, but the real bell-ringer is a chocolate truffle for dessert. Now there's a marriage made in heaven.

Gary Peterson


The following is a Stephen Wright anecdote:

"Last night I played a blank CD at full blast. The mime next door went nuts."

I used my Laf-Graf Model #1300 humor detector to analyze this quip starting with the obvious question: Can a mime hear a blank CD played at any volume? Unlikely. But if the premise is reduced to "Mime Hears Big Nothing," we can assume - by the Kantian principle of contradiction - that "nothing is something," which provides the necessary neural conflict of perceptions to generate laughter as the concept "morphs" around the pivotal brain cell switching operands from "noise" to "silence" while subordinating the "neighbor / mime" association for an added kick in the mental pants.

"Full blast" is like "going nowhere fast." Despite poetic notions of pantomimes, this specimen is a practical joke because the scenario isn't plausible in the real world without attributing E.S.P. to the clown who detects sound where there is none - live, Memorex or otherwise. Yet, considering the philosophical underpinnings of all humor, one recalls the rationalist Rene Descartes' admonition not to trust the physical senses, but rely on the axiom "Rideo Ergo Ridiculum" (I laugh, therefore it's funny). An empiricist like John Locke may have laughed even louder while the ever transcendent Immanuel ("Shecky") Kant probably "heard that one before," a priori of course. But the chuckle at issue is symptomatic of reverse entropy - as if silence causes deafness instead of vice versa.

Two wrongs don't make right, but emotional and familiarity factors are high for those who've ever encountered mimes on the street (or in a bistro, airport, night terror, etc.), prompting us to accept the flawed syllogism - a.) blank CDs are silent; b.) mimes are silent; therefore c.) mimes listen to blank CDs. The overriding comedic principle is scorn which brings the revenge factor into play. By associating mimes with noisy neighbors (not to confuse with nosey neighbors), the protagonist has invoked poetic justice. The pun ascends to the ranks of irony when a mime becomes a victim of his own device - deafening silence. This puts the mime at the bottom of this conceptual johnny-pile, a game that needs a loser more so than a winner. Then again, maybe Mr. Wright is flat-out lying about the whole incident, which makes us the butt of the joke. But it's worth it to think that a mime "went nuts." The peripatetic (rhymes with pathetic) behavior of a mime under said circumstance is beyond the scope of this joke. Yet such concepts are sustainable as in the landmark (some would say landfill) film "Shakes The Clown" featuring Bobcat Goldthwait examining the social strata of contemporary clowndom, from mimes to rodeo clowns.

Meanwhile, the vengeful little paradox critiqued above registers a respectable 75-80 lgs (Laf-Graf units) on the Laf-Graf humor detection instrument.

Gary Peterson


(Letter published in Art in America magazine - April '09):

I look forward to reading each new issue of A.i.A. more than ever, and Dave Hickey's column has become a destination for me. His recent comparison of the art market to the stock market (Revision 5 - Quality, Feb. '09) was engaging and only a tad snarky in its old-school renitency towards the flaccid foibles of "fairness" regarding art criticism and valuation. Anyone who can parlay a Fabulous Furry Freakism into a market barometer has my attention. Then again, I am one of those who might mistake a Titian for a Tintoretto.

I found his checklist for evaluating art to be quite utilitarian but there does seem to be one curious omission in his liturgy, namely, who is the artist of any given piece under scrutiny? I would like to think that it doesn't matter, but it must. I suppose a "name brand" work of art is assumed.

Though it's now clear that self-regulating markets don't cull the clinkers, I think the Wall Street parallel is encouraging. The market abhors uncertainty and it's on the incalculability of art, like voodoo economics, that its market has tanked. The upside is that if and when the fair values are finally determined, there's a good chance that they won't be as bad as feared and - with a field narrowed by judicious selection - investors and collectors alike could be in for the mother of all rebounds. Meanwhile, I'll just hunker down and enjoy Hickey's ruminations and await further word from this streetwise arbiter of quality.

Gary Peterson - Troy, Mich.

(Read Dave Hickey's reply in A.i.A. magazine, April '09)