For a few dollars more...

SCORE ONE FOR Newt Gingrich and the guardians of public morals: Last month, the United States Supreme Court upheld the right of Congress to demand the National Endowment for the Arts consider "decency" as a criterion in allocating grants. Though "decent" may flush a work like "Piss Christ," that doesn't exactly guarantee quality. Consider the following excerpts from the Minnesota State Arts Board's 1998 visual-arts grant applications (winners receive $8,000 in return for completing a proposed project within a year). While none of the following grant rejects falls into the sphere of Robert Mapplethorpe, they do earn points for exploring the limits of what's considered art--and what's unadulterated bullshit. You decide.

Over the Past 10 Years, I Have Swum
If awarded a Minnesota State Arts Board fellowship, I would use the gift of time to further develop a body of work based on personal experiences with and in the "Father of Waters." Over the past 10 years, I have swum from the Mississippi River headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minnesota, over 2,000 miles to the Gulf of Mexico in a transcontinental intermedia performance and environmental statement, "Swimmin' the River." Swim strokes were used to mimic brush strokes as life became art and art became life. Transcontinental intermedia events from the start of river navigation down to the gulf are planned to simultaneously celebrate the "Final Stroke."

I Keep an Eye on the Ditch
This summer, while out walking, I discovered that there are at least two species of orchids growing in the highway ditch near my home. I've kept an eye on the ditch since then, and found all sorts of beautiful and interesting things happening there. I would like to spend a year watching the ditch and interpret in woodcuts what I see in a place I've previously sped past in ignorance.

Ferocity and Velocity
I hope to spend the time afforded by the fellowship painting with ferocity and velocity. My goal is to complete at least 100 paintings. This means 25 a quarter, or about eight a month. The direction of my work is simple. I want to express chaos by using bright primary colors in large bold paintings. I am inspired by the anxiety and stress of life in the last years of the 20th century. Painting is an event. I intend to immerse myself in it and let it lead me to the truth.

Motivated by Boredom
Motivated by boredom, at the age of 5 or 6, I started drawing. I decided that I wanted to be an artist almost to carve out a niche in my peer group; requests to illustrate textbook covers and school folders were a lot more gratifying than the fat jokes. I began painting en plein air two and a half years ago. I started working this way just for the process of applying paint to a canvas while waiting for my muse to strike.

Desire and Voyeurism
The subject of my art is the female figure. Desire and voyeurism are the themes of most of my paintings. When I was a kid the drugstore displayed racks of paperback books with lurid covers that fascinated me. Those covers have had a great influence on my artwork. Since my childhood, themes from old movies, paperbacks, and comics--such as gothic horror, science fiction, and crime stories with their scenes of taudrey [sic] sex--have become metaphors that resonate in me.

Jeffrey Dahmer In Reverse
I'm kind of like Jeffrey Dhamer [sic] in reverse; I take dead and decaying elements and put them together producing life. While in my studio things can get quite hectic. The energy level varies between a tantric choir and a Pentecostal faith healing. This is the arena that I allow my mental illness to find both sanctuary and a place to heal. I hit, rip, tear, and throw works around my studio. Picking up a claw hammer I have the impulse to engage in sadomasochistic fits and channel this destructive urge into my art. Afterwards I pick up the carnage and reassemble the pieces.

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