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/