Friday, May 24, 2013


I bought a $20 pair of sneakers last week. And that is probably my shoe budget for 2013. My five-year-old boots will have to last until 2014. My frugality has a missionary zeal because I know that I can get this rowing project done by not spending money on anything but my art. Even so, this project will cost a lot. I've applied for several grants to help me cover the costs. But, so far, I have been turned down by all of them. One of the frustrating things about fundraising is that no one wants to be first. What if no one else funds a project, the budget isn't met, and the project doesn't happen? Then that first funder has wasted money. The second frustrating thing is that as much faith as I have in myself, this project is much bigger than anything I've done before, so I can understand why my proposal has been a difficult sell.

But I have come up with a solution to those two problems. I have broken this large rowing project down into several smaller projects. The scope of each component project is comparable to the scope of a previous project. And I decided to approach USA Projects, a non-profit that helps artists crowd-source funding. I figure that if I can get enough small funders to help me fund the current stage (a.k.a. a smaller project), then I'll have a much better chance of getting the attention of foundations and government agencies when I need funding for the next phase.

So right now I have narrowed my focus. Right now I am just building my boat. That's the project. I am trying to raise enough money to build an eighteen foot wherry, the surface of which I will inscribe with hundreds of pages of tiny, handwritten text. This beautiful, fast, light boat will be a sculptural memorial to my great-great-great-great grandfather, Gideon Dexter.

With the help of USA projects, I have come up with a budget. I need a minimum of $8,000. to get this boat made and to take it for a test run on the water. That will cover boat plans, wood, fiberglass, woodworking tools, woodburning tools, studio rent, the trailer that I'll need to transport the boat, the fees I need to pay for help from a professional boat builder (yes, this boat needs to float and be safe on the water), and updated video editing software. It's a super efficient budget. I'm hoping that I can raise a bit more to help pay for crew and to update my camera -- and to pay for renting a safety boat to use when I get this project out on the water. But $8,000. will get me there and will have the measurable result of a real boat being built.

USA Projects is a non-profit and they have vetted me and my project -- and they've concluded that it's doable and in keeping with their mission. They will require final reports and documentation from me that I have actually spent the money on the project as I said I would. This oversight also means that all donations through USA Projects are tax deductible.

Of course, funders of this project will get more than just a good feeling. I'm making several perqs  to give to people that donate funds, including a video and three new limited edition prints. Everyone who donates at least $25 will be invited to a reception at the first launch of the boat and will be able to download a new video work, along with a certificate of authenticity and exhibition privileges. Donors who give $75 will, in addition, receive a signed and numbered catalog from my recent show (only 25 are signed and numbered). The next three levels of support are invited to the reception, get the video download, and get a framed, signed print. Here's a preview of the prints:
Donors who give $150. will receive the above signed, framed print of a fisherman's knot: Acknowledgments (The New Industrial State, part 2). 2013. pigment on paper, paper size: 5"x5" edition of 25.
Donors who give $500. will receive the above signed, framed print showing a close-up of some lace: Foreward (The New Industrial State, part 1). 2013. pigment on paper, paper size: 8.25"x8.25" edition of 12.
Donors who give $2,000. will receive the above signed, framed print of a Bowen unknot: Change and the Industrial System (The New Industrial State, part 3). 2013. pigment on paper, paper size: 13"x13" edition of 5.

The text in all of these pieces is taken from John Kenneth Galbraith's The New Industrial State. Here are some details so you can see the words clearer:
 detail from Acknowledgments (The New Industrial State, part 2). 2013.
 detail from Foreward (The New Industrial State, part 1). 2013.
detail from Change and the Industrial System (The New Industrial State, part 3). 2013.

Donations of any amount are really appreciated. And, if you're in Southeastern Massachusetts and can volunteer to help me when I launch the boat, that will be appreciated as well!

Here's a link to the fundraising page on the USA Projects website:

Saturday, May 04, 2013


I got a copy of the May issue of ARTnews today. I've been excitedly waiting for the issue because it has a review of my January show. The show presented work that is a prequel to my 2014 row. The writer, Elisabeth Kley, did a great job explaining the show and its relationship to the larger project -- not an easy task. I won't try to put into words how supported I feel when reading a (good) review of my work. All I will say is thank you Ms. Kley and ARTnews.

ARTnews MAY 2013, page 100.

reviews: new york 
Michael Waugh
     Michael Waugh's dense and absorbing exhibition was dominated by a delicate series of representational drawings created entirely out of tiny flowing texts copied from Adam Smith's 1776 The Wealth of Nations. The largest, a triptych, featuring a sinking steamboat engulfed by enormous waves, took nearly 1,200 hours to complete. Other images here included idyllic scenes of rowers in front of country mansions and portraits of handsome young oarsmen. All were visually airy and evanescent in spite of the labor they required. 
     The show was intended as a fundraising prequel to Rowing Back, a future performance inspired by the 1827 death of Waugh's ancestor Gideon Dexter, who froze in a rowboat while attempting to recover his employer's drifting sloop. Waugh plans to hand-build a boat he will row from the place where Dexter died to the site from which he departed, reversing the journey to symbolically recuperate his life. 
     The Invisible Hands (2012), a video documenting Waugh's preparations for this project, was projected on a wall monitor hung over a pair of handmade oars. Shot from a camera attached to the handle of a rowing machine, the film shows Waugh's body moving toward and away from the lens as he trains, with an almost uncomfortable intimacy. Footage of the oars' creation is also included, along with documentation of the unsuccessful maiden voyage in a [racing shell] that immediately capsized, plunging [Waugh] into the water. 
     Another video records one of Waugh's eight-hour readings of Smith's book. Audible fragments of economic theories float in and out of the viewers' consciousness while they look at the rest of the work, enabling Waugh's romanticized Arcadias to dissolve into Smith's impersonal phrases. The arbitrary masochism of Waugh's entire artistic enterprise underscores capitalism's human cost.
- Elisabeth Kley
Michael Waugh, Money as a Particular Branch of Society (The Wealth of Nations, part 17). 2012, ink on mylar, 22" x 28". Winkleman.