Ahh, the pride and the pain, the elation and the emptiness…. Echo has been sold.

2 views of Echo (2011). Sculpture in green chlorite schist by Andrew Logan Haskins

Echo (2011)

I was awakened on Sunday morning by a call from the curator of the art sale where Echo was on display: a collector was interested in the piece, but he wanted to haggle. Less than ten minutes later, the deal was done. Echo was sold.

It was my first big sale and the excitement evoked a sort of manic euphoria–I was up and working for nearly 26 hours after I received the call–but it was not without a tinge of sadness. Echo was my second stone sculpture, and probably my second favorite, just barely trailing Hero. Now, when I walk by my sculpture shelf, there is a hole. The slick contours I would trace with my fingers, often many times a day, are now gone. Forever.

I came to grips a long time ago with the fact that, if I want to be a professional artist, I would need to sell my work. It’s kind of implicit in the whole “professional” thing. I knew that Echo would eventually sell; still, when the time came it was hard. Very hard. In fact, I almost backed out of the deal, but I knew it was what I had to do. I knew that Echo would find a new shelf–a new home. It would be well cared for, and would likely be seen by far more people (including prospective collectors) than would ever see it sequestered away in my apartment. So I sent my baby out into the world.

Echo‘s spot on the shelf will not remain empty for long. My current projects are all too big for that shelf (in fact, they’re too big for my apartment, so I have to sell them), but I’m always conceiving more, and so the hole will eventually be filled… until the new piece sells. And so it will go, with new works being driven, at least in part, by the vacuum left by their predecessors. And that’s the way it should be, but I hope you’ll indulge me as I wallow, if only for a little while, in some wistful reminiscence.

Hero and Nocturne, alone… but not for long.

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Get Your Blog On!

Are you ready to stake your claim in the cyber-world, but don’t have a clue where to start? Look no further! For a limited time only, Andrew Haskins (Editor-in-Chief of Mnemosyne magazine) will be leading a series of seminars called:

Get Your Blog On!
Setting up and maintaining your own web site…
for the complete novice.

What you need to know before the seminar:
Nothing (really!)
What you need to bring to the seminar:
A laptop or tablet with internet connection or WiFi access

In this seminar, you will gain a basic understanding of networks in general, and the Internet in particular, and of the safety, privacy and intellectual property issues that concern all netizens.

You will set-up your own hosting account as your instructor provides detailed, step-by-step discussion of the many available options and features. (Hosting plans are not included in the price of the seminar; we will be using Host Gator, which currently has special rates beginning at $3.96/month.)

You will install WordPress, and learn how to create posts and pages and administer your site through the WordPress Dashboard. You will learn how to customize the appearance and functionality of your site with themes and plugins. You will learn how to maximize the speed of your pages (nobody likes to wait for a slow-loading page), and how to increase your search-engine visibility to attract new visitors (Search Engine Optimization).

Finally, you will learn how to add posts and administer your site on the run, with Android and iOS apps.

All participants also have full access to our private Get Your Blog On! discussion forums, where you can share questions and ideas with other participants, and where you can suggest and discuss topics for future intermediate and advanced seminars.

… and that’s all in the beginners’ seminar. At the end of the seminar, you will have a basic WordPress site (like this site), and you will possess the tools to–with a bit of ambition–build more exciting and complex site, like this one:

Click on image to visit Mnemosyne

The beginners seminars cost $60 for a four-hour session which will cover all of the material described above at a leisurely, accessible pace. Seminars are strictly limited to six participants, in order to ensure individual attention for all, and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. The seminars begin in early November (first sessions are scheduled for November 11th and 18th), and will be held in the quiet, comfortable and well-appointed classrooms and meeting rooms of the Mechanics’ Institute Library in San Francisco. Register at:

We expect the sessions for 2012 to fill up quickly, so register ASAP to reserve your spot!

About the instructor:
ALH at Palace of Fine ArtsAndrew Logan Haskins has been teaching for over a decade, instructing individuals and groups on a variety of topics from psychology to computer programming. He conceived, designed, and (with a great deal of collaboration with dozens of artists and writers) executed the online journal Mnemosyne—which he built with WordPress.


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12/02/12 Update! Echo has been sold!

This sculpture was an attempt to interpret an object which can only be properly represented in four dimensions: the Klein bottle. It explores themes of recursion, and memory (the different views present similar, but altered elements, like distorted memories of one another).  Like a Klein bottle, the gross form appears to change as your perspective (in three dimensions) changes. The curves making up the form seem to intersect in different directions as you move around the piece.

Echo (2011)
Green chlorite schist
approx. 35cm x 10cm x 20cm; 10kg

2 views of Echo (2011). Sculpture in green chlorite schist by Andrew Logan Haskins

For more pictures, and more great art and writing, see it in our magazine: Mnemosyne.



Echo will be the subject of an upcoming post, detailing every step of the process of turning this…




…into this.

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Seven Hills of MUNI, #1: Russian Hill

Seven Hills of Muni #1: Russian Hill. (2011) Steel sculpture by Andrew Logan HaskinsSeven Hills of Muni #1: Russian Hill. (2011) Steel sculpture by Andrew Logan HaskinsThis piece was a response to a class assignment: “Make a landscape, but no pastoral scenes; something new.” It was the only time that I have ever been instructed: “sculpt this.” Every other work–before and since–has been whatever I felt like making; here I had to create something constrained by another’s wishes. When the teacher first announced this, it ticked me off. I’d had a great design in mind for my metal sculpture–a stainless steel wind vane, a very stylized representation of the geometry of the cerebral cortex, called Flight of Fancy–and I had to trash it (or shelve it, anyway). I took a break, had a cigarette, and this idea struck me. It took less than twenty minutes to shift gears from the design which had previously obsessed me to this new vision.

I decided to represent Russian Hill–a feature every San Franciscan knows–the way most locals experience it: through the MUNI public transit system. Round rod represents the electric coaches; flat bar represents the diesel coaches; and  threaded rod represents the cable cars. It’s pretty close to accurate scale–the vertical scale is exaggerated 20 times relative to the horizontal–but a little license was taken here and there.

Seven Hills of Muni, #1: Russian Hill (2011)
approx. 75cm x 90cm x 75cm
scale: 1:1700 horizontal ; 1:85 vertical

This piece was displayed at the ArtSeed year-end exhibition: ArtSeed and the Golden Gate: 75 reasons why we are the bridge, in July 2012.

ArtSeed is a San Francisco-based art-education charity that works with disadvantaged youth throughout the city. From their website:

Youngsters with learning differences, financial obstacles, and/or discipline problems learn practical skills and professional habits that give form to their own unique, creative gifts.

The year-end exhibition featured art by ArtSeed students, mentors (mostly professional artists and art educators), and a few unaffiliated artists (like me).


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oblique view of Nocturne

This is my first ever sculpture in stone. It’s a nod to my parallel life as a neuroscientist. A sleeping head is cut away to show the discrete memories of waking life being woven into the holistic entity we know as “mind.”

Nocturne (2011)
Silver Cloud alabaster
approx. 25cm x 15cm x 10cm

sagittal (profile) view of Nocturne

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Elegy for Renaissance

There was a time, not that long ago, when the term Renaissance man was invoked in admiration.  The generalist genius was recognized as an innovator, a problem solver, a—dare I say it?—game changer.  No longer; this is the era of the specialist.  The catchword of the day is branding.  Whether you are selling a product, pursuing academic research, creating art, or hunting for a job, the message is the same: “Do one thing,” they say, “and do it well.”

There is an advantage to this.  If a task is within your area of specialty, others can feel confident you’ll accomplish it; if it’s not, they’ll ask somebody else.  No surprises.  Everybody knows what to expect.  Many humans are by nature risk-averse, and tough times like those we’re currently experiencing make them even more so.  The fewer surprises you offer, the more comfortable they’ll be.

However, this kind of hyper-specialization has costs.  There is the personal cost when we deprive ourselves of the richness of experience which makes us interesting, creative, self-fulfilled individuals.  There is also the cultural cost of depriving our society of so many potentially interesting, creative and self-fulfilled individuals.  It creates an intellectual impoverishment, a diminishment of who we are as a people: it produces a film industry where a potential filmmaker practically has to guarantee a franchise and product tie-ins in order to secure studio funding; it produces a consumer goods market where even a manufacturer which built its reputation on thinking differently—you know who you are—now simply waits for a technology to mature and then polishes, repackages and markets the hell out of it.

I’ve always agreed with Robert Heinlein when he wrote that, “specialization is for insects.”  Flexibility and creativity are characteristics which have set humans apart from many of our fellow travelers on this spaceship Earth.  It’s what allows us to develop new tools—both physical and cognitive—which help us to thrive in an ever-changing environment.  It’s what gives us the gift of serendipity—the talent for taking advantage of random chance—which allows us to make our own luck.

I’m a generalist and proud of it, but I no longer call myself a Renaissance man.  Rather than take ownership of this now pejorative term and attempt to return it to its former glory, I have decided to adopt another label.  I am a dilettante.  The term is no less defamed but I find it more descriptive, and so more worth the effort of reclamation.  It has come to conjure images of the idle rich, tinkering away out of casual interest with no real training, talent or commitment; I think the word could mean so much more.

Dilettante is a conjugation of the Italian verb diletari, “to delight.”  It’s the perfect word for me; I do what I do out of delight, out of the joy I attain through the endeavor.  There are many pursuits which give me such joy.  In all of these, I have always remained an outsider in the sense that I haven’t spent my life committed to that one passion—I’m not part of the “club”—but I have in every case worked alongside those who are members of the club—the passionate and committed specialists—and I’ve earned their respect and admiration.  I manage this because I share their passion for the work—be it sculpture, research, writing—and I pour enormous intellectual and creative energy into it.  When I write, my characters take over my consciousness, always there in the background, chatting, quibbling… growing.  The work is not what I do; it’s what I am.  Likewise, when I sculpt I am in constant motion, constant interaction with the stone.  I rise from chiseling every few seconds to sweep around the piece, orbiting it, stroking it, absorbing it from all perspectives before I return to carving.  I bring the same passion to research—immersing myself in a problem; poking, prodding, exploring data—and to teaching.  In all these cases the sheer ecstasy of participating in a work’s becoming is, for those few moments (or days, or weeks, or…), a constant fixture in my reality.

These are not casual interests.  Every one of these activities is an essential part of who I am; but no one of these interests is the entirety of my world.  If I show talent in all of these pursuits—if I produce work valued by myself and by others—why should I choose just one for my “career?”

So dilettante I shall remain, and proudly so.  When the dark ages lift and the renaissance returns, I’ll be ready.  In the meantime, I will work when and where I can.  I’ll do many things.  I’ll enjoy them.  And I’ll do them well.

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