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 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

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

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 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 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 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 ( 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.