Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Community Artist Dizney Comes to Duke

Brett Cook Dizney is coming to Duke University next semester as a visiting artist. While at Duke he will create works of art shaped by the community. Brett's current work are colorful portraits that are initially colored by the community he is working with; like open coloring book images, Brett outlines the portrait on a large canvas and then lets the community have at it. Their coloring inside and outside the lines are respected by Brett who then takes the works back to the studio. There Brett finishes the works using his artistic training. The collaborations are inventive and striking. Brett also places a lot of importance on building community by adding food and music to his efforts. Artist and Duke art instructor Bill Fick turned me onto Brett by saying that he was full of energy and did a great job exciting Bill's drawing students. Brett will add a lot to the Duke and Durham community and will hopefully help build bridges between strained segments of that community post- and pre- Lacrosse mess. Welcome to NC Brett - I hope our community remembers how to show its classic Southern hospitality. More on Brett will be posted here after he arrives and gets to work. Visit Brett's website here.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Woodie Guthrie - The Artist

I have been enjoying Woodie Guthrie's music for some time now. Like most history, I received the cleaned up version of his life in school- singing "This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land" with my classmates and thinking nothing of it. Then as an adult I stumbled upon other, more activist songs like "Deportees" and my interest-antenna went up. The more I have read and listened to his music the more I have come to appreciate how far ahead of his time Woodie was, how much he placed his life in the hands of his art, and how much he tried to use his art to help others. Then I discovered this book written my his daughter that showcases the visual art he made. All in all, Woodie has risen to be one of my favorite artists in both mediums. I hope you can catch a glimpse of his art via this book either at your local bookstore or public library- like me you will hear different meanings in the lyrics of "This Land is Your Land."
Nora Guthrie summed up her dad, and I believe many of the artists featured in this blog when he said:
"Ever since the beginning of time there's always been the guys designated to carry the coal. Remember? See, when the tribe's fire went out, when they moved on, someone had to carry the last hot coal to start up the next fire with at the next campsite. They needed this fire to cook with, sleep near, and even for some good ol' talks and songs. Now, many of these coal holders, over time, became folk singers...... Like my dad, they do the work of carrying around the embers we still need to keep our present day tribes well fed, warm, still carin', still talkin' and still singin'. Sometimes it gets real cold out there (have you noticed) and it seems like the chilly wind is just going to blow us all off the map. A lot of people are feelin' the effects of the chill; no food, no shelter, no singin', no rights. And other people are chillin' inside; no warmth, no joy, no song, no tribe.
So these coal-holders are real important right now."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Puppets and Drums Make Impression

PaperHand Puppet Intervention, out of Chapel Hill, NC

Have you ever been to a public protest? If so, what was most memorable? I would bet that it was not the speakers, but the creativity on display in the form of banners, puppets, costumes, and music. The humor of David Solnit's Clown Army members, dressed in self-deprecating fashion help defuse the often ramped up emotions and mob mindset that can take hold even at Peace rallies. Groups like North Carolina's Cakalak Thunder create energy and unite the crowd in one common heart beat. Puppet makers like Bread and Puppet out of Vermont enlarge the human body to create focus, visual variety and humor. (Did you see their puppets in Across the Universe? Also check out their new book, Rehearsing with Gods.) North Carolina's own puppet makers , Paperhand Puppet Intervention, create unique performances that speak deeply and profoundly on the human experience. Be sure to check out these links if you have not experienced these groups first hand.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Challenging the Conventional Memorial

Jim Gallucci, a friend and artist working out of Greensboro, NC has been developing a memorial for years now called “The Gates” that honors those who died in the September 11th attacks. Jim acquired several pieces of mangled steel from the World Trade Center site. He then asked people to send letters expressing their feelings, prayers, and condolences. He incorporated quotes from those letters into the sculpture, creating a gate of sorts- a repeating theme in his work. The sculpture also references the architecture of the building and hints at the tumbling debris. Conceptually, Jim captures many feelings in this work, the overall sense of mourning, the act itself, the sense of national (world-wide?) sadness and heartache.

So why has he not found a sponsor, someone to finish paying for its construction and a place for it to rest? It is not because of the lack of publicity- it has been featured in Life Magazine, Southern Living, and National Geographic. Not for the want of a good place to put it, it was on display for a time at the 82nd Airborne Museum in Fayetteville, NC. Not for it’s artistic merit. Many an aesthetically dead memorial exists around the country- most are poorly designed stone monoliths with little more attention paid to design than the font of the lettering. I think the reason why Jim has not found a home for his work lies in why we make memorials the way we do-even the bad ones- and how Jim’s does not fit into that mold.

Most memorials, even the great ones, are designed to exclude any visual representation of the event. Let’s consider the Lincoln Memorial, the grand-daddy of them all. Walking up the steps and peering up at the seated Lincoln and then turning to look out over the mall is a mountain top experience. But nowhere do you see a visual reminder of the tragedies of that war; the trenches filled with the sibling-dead of Confederate and Union soldiers is never referenced. Only the over arching nobility of the brooding, wise, Lincoln sitting as Zeus sat in his temple eons ago. That brings us to the Greek Temple surrounding Lincoln, it was not solely chosen to match to architectural decor of the mall. An alternate design considered would have made it a Pyramid to match the Washington Monument’s Egyptian roots. I think the Greek Temple was chosen because it visually spoke of the Greek’s passion for order, balance, and universal proportion. It works. I never feel better about my country, democracy, and the world than when I stand on those steps, reminded of our highest ideals, with the ghost of Martin Luther King Jr. thrown in for good measure.

The Greek temple works because it makes our own the Greeks’ desire to find order in a world filled with chaos. In comparison, Jim’s memorial freezes the act of destruction, of chaos. This is not a criticism. I am only pointing out a difference in his work vs. the many other memorials we create. Look at the other memorials in Washington; the Vietnam Memorial (Maya Lin’s), the WWII memorial, the Koran Memorial, even JFK’s eternal flame. All of them erase the chaos and add in its place order. Maybe we need this in our memorials. Maybe we need to feel a sense of nobility, peace, and order in these holy places. But there is the rub; war and conflict are not noble, peaceful, or ordered. Just ask any veteran. Beneath my sense of awe when in these places sits a critic with an ironic smile. It asks “Why do we build memorials filled with our highest ideals to events that represent the worst in human nature?” Does creating such moments insure that the horror of the act will be forgotten and more easily repeated?

Jim Gallucci’s memorial challenges these conventions. It puts the chaos in our face. It quotes the broken hearts of all of us who lost so much on that fateful day. It includes a relic from the battle field. It captures the moment of collapse. This makes Jim’s sculpture good, even profound, art in my book- but maybe not the best memorial.

Maybe we all need to follow Jim’s lead and leap over the concept of the standard memorial to human conflict, making them artistic reminders of the chaos they really are- would we then work harder to make our highest ideals real and lasting?

Friday, November 23, 2007

What? Be Happy?

Vincent Fichard and Matthew Jones remind us all with this video that joy and happiness reside in being creative. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfPTGTGLA3E

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sheila Pree Questions What is Female Beauty

Atlanta based artist Sheila Pree is coming to Winston-Salem State University to share her art on Tuesday, November 13, 2007, 7 PM @ Diggs Gallery. "The Plastic Bodies series ... examines the authenticity of female beauty projected by media and advertisers, who create illusions of the body by way of technology. Pree's work presents an explorative portraiture of women transforming into dolls and evaluates projected images using the Barbie to create a mysterious visual of metaphors. " - from flier.

This event is billed as "Ladies Only!" My wife says my idea of going dressed as a women is not funny. In all seriousness, this is an important issue that Sheila and other artists are addressing. For a touching, tragic, documentary short on the subject check out this film made by high school student Kiri Davies.

Friday, November 9, 2007

This one is a heart breaker, too.

Iraqi children at play, photo by Hadi Mizban

As I look over the entries in this blog I see some pretty sad pictures, Hadi's included. I guess Michelangelo said it best when criticised about some tough imagery of his in the Sistine Chapel. He said "Make the world appropriate and art will soon follow."

This video is a real whopper too. One judge I use to decide to share something on this blog is whether it breaks my heart or lifts it up. Kris Kristofferson's song "In the News" does both. The images and words are a heart breaker. The song is mostly about the war. But there is something in his voice that lifts my heart. Maybe it is the age in it, maybe it is the restrained power and conviction or the wise lyrics. If God is a man, he sounds like this right now- old as the hills, and tired, so tired at our deadly games.

I write this just after having walked outside on a beautiful fall afternoon. God is out there too, smiling in the sunlight, giving us all a second chance. Watch the video, then take a walk outdoors- I hope that helps strike a balance.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Place a Candle in Protest

La Vela - The Candle Project launches nationwide protest against Immigrant abuse.

Weary and sickened by the growing anti-immigrant hysteria and the multiplying of cases of violance and abuses levied against undocumented immigrants, a grass-roots protest has been launched to spread the word that many American Citizens are against the current unfocused, mean-spirited, attempt to address our broken national immigration policy. By placing one electric candle in their window (or a digital one on their website or blogs) this holiday season, participants will signal to others that they are taking a stand against the hate and xenophobia growing in the nation.

A blog site http://thecandleproject.blogspot.com has been set up to gather evidense of participation (photos and statements of participants) , to share evidence of abuse against undocumented immigrants, and spotlight other ways to take action.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Attend Talk on "The Social Responsibility of the Artist"

Drawing by Malaquias Montoya, titled: Cristobal Colon, Charcoal, 1992

Time for a field trip to Chapel Hill! Malaquias Montoya, artist and activist, is coming from the University of California Davis to speak on "The Social Responsibility of the Artist" Sponsored by the Latina/o Studies program at UNC and held at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History on Tuesday, November 13th, at 6PM.

Malaquias is a silk screen artist. Check out his work at his Web site. I have posted a few of his drawings here. Montoya will most likely give a lively presentation- his work looks passionate and wide ranging in content. Come and network with other artists / activists. I will be there.
Contact Maria DeGuzman, Director of Latina/o Studies at UNC, email: deguzman at email.unc.edu for more information.

Untitled, Charcoal, 1996

Thursday, November 1, 2007

10 Years of Art for the Masses!

I've known Clark Whittington for years. Since 1997, he has been the constant energy and spirit behind the Art-o-mat phenomenon; converted cigarette machines that dispense small, one of a kind, art objects for reasonable prices. Always the encouraging couch, Clark has helped save the reputation of contemporary art- at least in my book. If you have ever entered a high scale gallery and been greeted like you trailed in sh** on your feet, then you will recognize the value of this user friendly approach to selling contemporary art. Clark has made the art world a kinder, gentler place by setting his machines up worldwide and selling art for at affordable prices. When I sold work through him, I would get a monthly check with my share of the sales, enough to buy myself lunch usually. Clark has a large community of artists he works with now and he splits the sales price between the artist, himself, and a donation to non-profits and children's art programs. All good. Clark has also been an inspiration to me over the years to never stop sharing what you love with others. Visit his website and consider joining his force of good artists, doing good worldwide! Congrats on your tenth birthday! May you never grow old!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Simple, Insightful, Inspiring

This is a touching, well made documentary video. It starts with a specific tragedy and ends in awe of a greater, unending tragedy; two son return to El Salvador to remember their recently passed father who had adopted an impoverished village there. Soon their focus, and their camera, turn to an unblinking look at bone grinding poverty experienced daily by members of this community.
Watch this to find one answer why undocumented immigration will not end until it becomes possible to live with dignity in all worlds, not just the first.

The video's design is beautiful; good music, smart editing, creative filming-all with a simple hand held camera. Anyone contemplating going overseas and wanting to film their experience for their own documentary should watch, and study, this video. Good job People not Profit. I hope you get your new line of T-Shirts out in time for my Christmas list.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Everything you need to know is in this first grade class's wishes

Our Wishes

Liisa Ogburn has crafted a simple but profound documentary video of 1st graders answering the question "If you had one wish for yourself, your family, or the world, what would it be?" The results reminds us all that we all too quickly dismiss the wisdom found in innocence. You will see your own dreams here, ones that may have been packed away, others that you wake daily trying to reach. Take a moment out from your busy day and listen to accompanying music and watch the words and the faces of these children. Only the most jaded will leave with dry eyes. Thanks Liisa for reminding many of us why children are so priceless, why they are the gift that front end loads this life we live and become so accustomed to- slowly forgetting the wonder that should be found in each day, first to last.

Call for Entries - Experiencing the War in Iraq

click image for close up of one of the venues for this show

This multi-media art exhibition, curated by artists, will bring together diverse expressions of the War in Iraq, opening in several venues in Pawtucket and Providence, from March 5 to March 30, 2008. It will then travel to Fall River in April and to Boston in May.

In these times of extreme political division and inadequate or biased media coverage, the exhibition will engage the American public in a broad-based dialogue that promotes awareness, understanding, and healing. Through the universal language of art, the exhibition seeks to give a human face to the complex conflict in Iraq and to engage those who have unconsciously cocooned themselves from the fearsome reality of the war. We ask the questions: What does it mean to experience this war firsthand, in combat, or as an Iraqi civilian? What does it mean to experience it from a distance, or on television? How can we in America reconnect to the reality of war? Are there shared visions of peace despite cultural and religious differences?

The work will be selected purely on artistic merit and look to include as many perspectives as possible, beyond politics. The call goes out internationally to both soldiers and civilians for video, audio, photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, installation and the written word. The show will open simultaneously in the Arts Exchange (Pawtucket Armory), Machines With Magnets, Blackstone Valley Visitors Center, AS220 and the Cable Car Cinema, in Pawtucket and Providence, RI.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My Armor Feedback Sought

Giving voice to the often unheard or overlooked is one of the themes that artists Todd Drake and Cathy McLaurin regularly explore in their community involving art projects. Cathy and Todd have a new project in the works that seeks to give voice to the children of US Military personel currently deployed in areas of conflict. They are in the final stages of firming up their proposal and are seeking feedback from others; art therapists, military personal, mental health professionals serving this community, other artists, and others.
Please visit this project's blog, read over the proposal and post your comments there.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Devil Ignores Halloween, Rides in Africa


Why do we spend millions to see fake horror and wear scary costumes? I do not get the appeal of slasher flicks and always got sick from trick or treating. The film "The Devil Came on Horseback" looks truly horrifying and should make all of us sick at our stomachs when we admit this has happened on our watch. We can blame the Holocaust on others, but we cannot say "never again" without being hypocrites. Marine Captain Brian Steidle traveled to Darfur, Sudan, and in this documentary we hear his first hand accounts and see the damning photos that helped alert the work to the human tragedy unfolding there. I am not sure when the film will be out for general viewing, but you can watch the trailer for now.

Enjoy Halloween, but when you are out walking in the dark do not be afraid, the devil has found a place to ride in broad daylight, with our permission, and it's called Darfur. How clever.

For readers living in major US cities, also check out : http://www.darfurdarfur.org/main/ Wish these type shows came to smaller venues!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

6 Billion Others Project Puts Humanity in Our Face

Yann Arthus-Bertrand has created a profoundly impactful yet simple project, called 6 Billion Others, that challenges us to see "the other", our fellow human kind, in an apolitical, non-religious, non-terrorist, way. He simply asked people world-wide elegantly humane questions; What is Love? What did your parents teach you? Who are you? What is happiness? That's it. But watching the flash video for the first time filled me with awe, then looking at the close ups of those interviewed, listening to their voices, reading the translations of their statements, filled my face with a smile that I think challenged the small but growing deep-seated heartache brought on by the thought that living in a humane world is somehow slipping outside our reach. Thank you Liisa Ogburn for sending this site my way.

Enjoy :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Symbol of "Strange Fruit" blooms again

Jacob Lawrence, plate 15

What is going on in America? Why have so many people chosen to tear open old wounds that should be long forgotten. Why are nooses appearing all over the country? (Click here to see updated map)Maybe it's that too much forgetting has occurred, the tragedy of those events have not been taught to newer generations. Leonard Pitts' A History of Rope essay drives home this point with full on horror.
Though I never saw a lynching, I have heard stories through my family of lynching in which people brought children and picnic baskets. Luckily artists like Jacob Lawrence, Joe Jones, Samuel Brown, Robert Colescott, Larry Rivers, Melvin Edwards, and others have in the past engaged their art to speak out against lynching and racial terrorism. Dora Apel's book "Imagery of Lynching" does a good job of covering these artists' efforts, though not enough of the images are in color- maybe a cost thing. Rather than documenting photographs, artists have the ability to document human tragedy while giving full breadth to human dignity and hope, ex: Plat 15 above. There used to be a bumper sticker that read "Fear no Art." It should be read "Fear = no Art." It's time to put art back into our educational system, before we loose all our humanity.

What artists among us today will speak out? To be continued......

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Americans who tell the truth, how refreshing!

Lily Yin by Robert Shetterly

Robert Shetterly has made visible the old saying, "If you cann't say something nice, doen't say anything at all.", in his series Americans Who Tell the Truth. Rather than rail against the modern habits of "double-speak" and "spin", Robert has quietly created his own pantheon of heros who speak truth to power and make the world a better place. It is valueable to spend some time looking at the quotes and background stories on these folks. I found the old faithfuls there; Sojourne Truth, Abraham Lincoln, and Rosa Parks, but also many new individuals like artists and community activist Lily Yeh, who has started Bearfoot Artists.
Also of note is who is missing.

“When I see brokenness, poverty and crime in inner cities, I also see the enormous potential and readiness for transformation and rebirth. We are creating an art form that comes from the heart and reflects the pain and sorrow of people's lives. It also expresses joy, beauty, and love. This process lays the foundation of building a genuine community in which people are reconnected with their families, sustained by meaningful work, nurtured by the care of each other and will together raise and educate their children. Then we witness social change in action.”
-- Lily Yeh

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rural Studio still hammering together a better world


Samuel Mockbee's legacy lives on as Rural Studio, the progressive architectual school program that takes architectual students out of the classroom and into the rural American South to design affordable, useful, and beautiful structures for low income communities. New staff and students are finding their way forward without their inspired leader. This December 4th, 2007, current participants from the program will give a presentation at NC State Univeristy. Also, be sure to read "Proceed and Be Bold: Rural Studio after Samuel Mockbee." Amazon has very affordable used copies on sale.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

"Chat the Planet" Much More Than Chatter

Chat the Planet is a web based project that uses video and the internet to connect people young and old from all around the world. I just finished watching two episodes of "Hometown Baghdad" and my mind is blown by what they are doing; showing us the lives of 3 young Iraqis struggling to live in a war zone. This is hard stuff, be prepared when watching the next to the last episode, but important. I am reminded of a Spanish saying "Eyes that cannot see, heart that cannot feel." See this site-now.

Dias and Riedweg got it right!


A good friend of mine and a fellow artist sent me this quote today. I initially thought she had written if for the project we are working on, then I realized it was by two contemporary artists I had not heard of. These guys are making video installations built around interaction with communities. I hope you find their artist statement as inspiring as I did:

"We consider interaction to be a form of artistic expression. We base our work in the philosophy that art, as a creative experience, has enormous potential as a communication vehicle among people. We work exclusively through interactive processes in which the representation of themes and issues directly involves concerned people or groups. Our work is not necessarily designed as community-oriented projects but as art realized with communities as part of the larger society, delving into the relationship between these communities and society.
More important than knowing or stating is asking. By exposing fragility or even ignorance we have a possibility of establishing contact with groups of people to which we ourselves do not belong....For us, art (especially contemporary art)...is the best tool for achieving communication and establishing interaction between disconnected territories in society. We work mostly with social groups that are left out of the art world; in this, we have a special interest in youth. Thus, we seek to reaffirm art as a necessary experience outside of the political and cultural definitions of society - art as a subversion of culture and politics."

-Mauricio Dias and Walter Riedweg

Monday, October 8, 2007

New Word, New Art

photo sources: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/7033619.stm

Look up the word shibboleth (noun) and you will find the byline for world events. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as "a word or pronunciation that distinguishes people of one group or class from those of another." Doris Salcedo has created a conceptual work titled Shibboleth 2007, that is not unlike Maya Lin's Vietnam War Monument in DC. This work' form is a giant, real, crack running the length of the Tate Modern in London. It's content comes from Salcedo:
" It represents borders, the experience of immigrants, the experience of segregation, the experience of racial hatred. It is the experience of a Third World person coming into the heart of Europe."
Check it out, look for the conceptual reflection of our world in it, and do not fall in. Imagine the insurance on this piece!

Tips to Grants Equals Art

Josh Greene hedges a little when he says helping others is not that interesting, but his unique project provokes and inspires non-the-less. Josh takes one nights tips (~$250) from his waiter's job and donates it to an interesting project he receives as a "grant proposal" from someone else. Visit his service-work website to learn about the various projects he supports. Although the site and his work shows a certain Duchampian coolness that is so popular in art these days, his project should inspire others to start and execute grass-roots projects, art based and otherwise.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Gees Bend Quilters to Perform at WSSU

Quilt by Linda Pettway

From Press Release:

In an ongoing effort to help preserve African-American culture and to support the African-American community, AT&T has partnered with Winston-Salem State University's Diggs Gallery to bring the Quiltmakers of Gee's Bend to WSSU's campus as part of a multi-city college tour on Thursday, Oct. 11, in Dillard Auditorium of the Albert H. Anderson Center at 7 p.m.
Widely known for their spoken word and a capella performances. "The women of Gee's Bend have been recognized by everyone from New York's Whitney Museum to the U.S. Postal Service, and AT&T wants to help deliver the women's inspirational story and ensure it is preserved" said Tracy Brown, AT&T multicultural marketing manager. The event, which is free and open to the public, includes performances by five women from the Gee's Bend quilting collective.

Conceptual Beauty from Home Depot

The Hexayurt people must have seen that quote "All the solutions to our problems are already within our reach, all that is need is the resolve." This building may not at first appear beautiful, but when you listen to the advantages of this design for emergency shelter; high R value, waterproof, light, long lasting, cheap, and can be put up in minutes, the design takes on an elegance that Frank Lloyd Wright would have appreciated. Check out the second video on the webpage, it's more informative. Then join me at Home Depot to buy the materials and build your own. Seriously, I am planning to recommend this design to my Scouting group.
PS- Here is a video describing a folding design.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

An Open Window into Lives of Women in Iraq

Open Shutters Iraq is a photo project that provides a window into the lives of ordinary women suffering under the effects of the war in Iraq. In photos and narratives we can experience just a bit of the pressure and fear that invades their daily lives. These images and their narratives are moving. If you are in London you can see the exhibit now. Hope it comes to the US.

Monday, October 1, 2007

M.C. Richard's Spirit Still Burns

photo by Jonathan William

Watching the spirit of M.C. Richards unfold like a flower in this video was inspirational beyond words. I found my muse for growing old without artistic diminishment in her. M.C. was a Black Mountain College faculty member who went on to make pottery, create poetry, and pen the book "Centering" after BMC closed. (She participated in the first ever "happening" at BMC.) In this video we see her discussing the joys of living a creative centered life and gain insight into her life's work from friends and colleagues . My favorite segments include her interaction with her mentally handicapped students and her dancing in the kitchen while patting her bottom and singing about God having a sense of humor. M.C. inspired hundreds if not thousands of artists in her lifetime. This documentary keeps the momentum alive. You can order the documentary at http://www.kanelewis.com/mc/

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Postcards from Home: Confronting Racism

From Post Cards from Home Series
courtesy of art, Susan Harbage Page.

Once, when I was a child my mother and I stumbled upon a gathering of the Klan burning a cross. All I remember was the worried look on my mother's face, the golden flickering light, and cars parked all along the road. This was in the early 1970's in rural North Carolina. Looking at Susan Harbage Page's photos of self-made Klan Hoods brings back those memories and must unfortunately compete in my mind with the recent spat of hangman nooses that have re-spread like a virus out of Jena. They have appeared in high schools in my community as copy cats and were mis-used at a local college in protest. These symbols are powerful and often over arch their intended meaning when used by good intentioned persons. When asked about this Susan responded that she has only positive feed back from viewers of her Post Cards from Home series. The title of the series reminds me of the awful photos of Southern lynchings I have seen made into postcards. Susan has super imposed onto the pattern of the hood contemporary versions of racism, from Wal-mart bags to professor's tweed, to Oriental designs. I believe Susan is pointing head on at an ever living problem by pointing at the varied masks of racism that all of us wear. Susan's Post Cards from Home Series can be seen at Sumter County Gallery of Art in South Carolina.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Misadventures in the Middle East" not what you think

When The Master Calls
(Three Years On, Part 1), Mixed Media,
35cm x 29cm x 8.5cm, Henry Hemming, 2007

Browsing my favorite used bookstore recently I came across a book that first caught my attention because of the loose orange paint beneath the title Misadventure in the Middle East . Written by painter Henry Hemming, this book is a travel story of two young British artists who buy a pickup truck and head to the Middle East to paint. A challenging trip made all the more when you consider this occurred post 9/11 in 2002 and 2003. Hemming and his partner Al give the reader a fresh, honest, insightful look at people we so easily assume live in a different world than ours. At turns hilarious and insightful I find this book so relevant I plan to recommend it as the freshmen read at Guilford College. Hemming and Al also produced a book of their images and Hemming maintains a website at http://www.henryhemming.com/. If you have an hour look at the Front Line Club Interview of Hemming. The intelligent questions from the audience and Henry's honest answers will impress you as it did me. What a better place it would be if more of us followed these two artists' approach to engaging the world.

Check out graffiti in Iran at http://irangraffiti.blogspot.com/

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Young women leads way to "Tikkun olam" repair the world.

Little good news greets me as I unfold my paper every morning. Today, I opened the paper to discover a story on Maital Gutterman, a twenty-something who is working to make the world a better place. My spirit soared as I read about her adventures in Kenya, Bangkok, Toronto, and Africa. No simple-minded tourist, Maital has the heart of an artist. Rather than simply enjoy the pleasures of travel she engaged with the world and took the time to think about and finally share with others the issues she saw that divide us one from another. Her documentaries, "Mechina: A preparation" ,her first film, is on the lost innocense of six Isreali youths and "Three in a Million" is on AIDS in the South African township of Nekkies where one in four are HIV positive. A Duke graduate, she has lived with an Arab family, and is soon moving to LA. Truly, Maital is a light in the seemingly unending sea of darkness that sometimes blankets our morning papers and our world. Keep up the repair, Maital, and may we all pick up our own hammer!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"Dying to Get In" looks past stereotypes

If you are tired of the stereotypes being pushed on mainstream media of immigrants from Mexico; DWIs, Identify Thieves, and gangs, expand your perspective on the issue with this documentary by Elon University Alumni Brett Tolley. I have seen this documentary and it does justice to the struggles of those who are labeled illegal "aliens" for the want of a simple visa and whose labor is actively sought by US companies. Go to http://www.bretttolley.com/dying-to-get-in/

Bomb after Bomb becomes Unsettling Art

Elin O'Hara Slavick, artist and art professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, has created a body of work that is worth a close look and a deep consideration. How is it that few of us really knows and understands the extent of our military escapades overseas? Elin draws attention to the sadly long list of countries we have chosen to bomb that can be seen in book format now in Bomb after Bomb. Go to http://www.artbook.com/8881586339.html Some of these works can be seen in the faculty show at Akland Museum through October 2007. I enjoyed seeing these paintings in person. Like much contemporary art they work equally well on the printed page. Elin's use of bleeding spots of paint, often red, may seem overwrought but they are one of the lasting elements that stays within the viewer's psyche. That and the long list of bomb sites listed on her website page for this project. Go to http://www.unc.edu/~eoslavic to see this work and other projects of Elin's. Worth mentioning is her Day laborers dreaming set of photographs, recently displayed in the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. Elin has paid a price for her activism, receiving death threats for a teach- in she organized post 9/11. Keep up the good work Elin and keep the faith. Your efforts give others courage and hope.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Voices from the Dissappeared

Santa Fe is an artist's haven. I would move there in a minute. It's a dangerous place; the landscape is so wonderful it can be overpowering to an artist's own vision. Rain storms walk slowly across the high desert, looking like great Chinese watercolor washes, and are themselves "happenings." SFAI, Santa Fe Art Institute is doing its part to make content filled art part of the cultural landscape. Their current multi-event focus is on the theme of "The Disappeared." Their focus seems to be mostly on Latin America's long history of oppression. I do not see mention of the undocumented immigrant amongst us that is also suffering, and slowly being pushed to the margins. Maybe it is too close and too soon an issue. But check them out at www.thedisappearedsantafe.org. If you can visit some of their exhibitions, lectures, films, workshops, and panel discussions you will not be disappointed. And take time to go up on Museum Hill, if to do nothing but watch nature's ever present exhibition.

Coffee, Culture, and Cherokee, NC

Crush all your stereotypes about Native-Americans while sipping on great tasting coffee in the Qualla boundary (Cherokee, NC.) Drive past the god- awful looking high rise casino, the ugly generator of some good things for the Cherokee people, and find the old but soon to be remodeled Cherokee Museum in the historic section of Cherokee. Across the street and near the river that runs through Cherokee is Tribal Grounds Coffee House, run by Leon Grodski and Natalie Smith. These guys are great and have made a go for many years now of mixing great coffee with support of the arts (visual and musical.) While their website is lacking (www.coffeewithculture.com) nothing is lacking in their ability to bring together the diverse community that is now Cherokee for some inspiring contemporary art and beautiful music. My wife and I will never forget the open mike night we experienced there. Check it out for yourself.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Secrets that Bind

Artist Cathy McLaurin from Lawrence, Mass., is breaking new ground with her art as she reaches out to others while maintaining an artist's focus on the visual. I first met Cathy when she was bringing her "Secrets" installation to North Carolina. Check it out at http://www.cathymclaurin.com/SecretsMain.html Since then Cathy has related to me some of the provocative responses it has created. While there are other artists working in similar direction, Cathy's works maintains a raw honesty that comes from a place of caring. Cathy has recently conducted a residency in Texas where she worked with teenage single mothers. I look forward to seeing more on this project when it is posted on her site.

If you live in the Boston area be sure to catch her current show, Swaddled Babies and Dead AnimalsSeptember 15 – October 12, 2007, Opening Reception: Saturday September 15, 3-6pm
250 Canal Street, Lawrence, MALocated in Washington Mills, 4th floor Gallery hours: Fridays September 21–October 12 10-3Additional hours by appointment: 978-387-2947

Doing good in the UK

Have you heard of Banksy or the Date Farmers? These hot contemporary artists exhibit at Leonard Street Gallery in London, run apparently by a company called Novas Group Homes. This company sounds to good to be true. Check them out at www.novas.org. From their website: "The Novas Group was established in 1998 and over the last three years the organisation has transformed itself from predominately a provider of large hostels for homeless people to be at the cutting edge of tackling social disadvantage through social enterprise, innovation and positive impact. " I've been told that they donate their gallery sales commission (50%) back to their non-profit projects. This company deserves a closer study. What a template for doing good while doing business in the USA.


Welcome to this bog on art and activism. Be prepared to be challenged and provoked as the definition of art and community involvement are stretched and mutated into new forms-some worthwhile and others elegant mistakes.