Wednesday, December 10, 2008

60 and still Relevant!

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turned 50 today. We should all take a moment to count the blessings in our own lives and redouble our efforts to help those who are denied basic human rights right here in our own country and abroad.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What's Your Story?

I'll put in bluntly; Every School in the country needs to be doing a project like this one recently held at Anderson Ranch. I can count on one hand the number of writing assignments my kids have had in nearly 24 years of public education. Yet, those creative projects have effected them in profound ways. This project teaches empathy, it builds bridges across cultural and class divides, and it honors each student. It's a simple approach, like placing on bandage on a wound, it seems a shame we do it so rarely.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Living Up to Her Name

One of my long time heros is Saint Francis of Assisi. I respect so much about his life including his attempt to stop the crusades by walking to Egypt and petitioning both sides to stop. His mission began with helping the outcast and sick. I have a new hero in the person of Frances Hawthorne of Charlotte, NC. She is an artist who has worked with the homeless and those in prison for years on end. Her art and stories could fill a book. Unfortunately, she does not have a website or blog. She was very willing to share these pictures with me on her past projects. Frances is a great speaker and has engaging, provocative stories to tell. I will pass along any message you send her here.

Here is what Frances shares about the above picture:

"This is the mobile home project we called the Central Park Project. It came with an architectural sign which said "central park project. affordable in town living. by Red Line Realty, estb. 1936". These tents were at parking meters on Tryon Street (center city) between 3rd and 4th street, 2 blocks from the Bank of America building (in Charlotte). We parked them at parking meters and, of course, paid for the parking."

Here is another of her projects with her comments:

"Tiered Justice was exhibited at Blumenthal's Spirit Square art gallery in July of 2006. It is available for exhibition and can be resized to fit various spaces. (Participating) inmates were from the Mecklenburg County jail. Other artists who worked with me on the installation (walls etc) were Malena Bergmann and Ann Kluttz. Neither of them taught at the jail but Malena did come with me for 3 classes to help cast feet. feet are made of ashes and wax.

The words on the walls are the inmates' words--what they'd say if they could be there."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Eco Drawing Brings You Full Circle

Circular Painting from Fly on the Wall on Vimeo.

Groups like the Barn Stormers have made a name for themselves with time lapse drawing. This project was done on a circular wall and filmed with a rotating camera. Having done a smaller project like this I appreciate the effort and love its blend of good aggressive drawing, voice overs, great filming, and cool music.

I found this video on the Doodlers Anonymous blog.

Monday, November 24, 2008

An unstoppable force

Ahmed Fadaam, an Iraqi refugee working in Elon, North Carolina had his sculpture vandalized on Saturday Nov. 15th, 2008. Someone came into his studio while he was away and attacked a statue of women he was preparing to cast. It is too ironic that Ahmed was at the Visualizing Human Rights Conference in Chapel Hill when this act occured. Add to this that the statue is in honor of women in Iraq who are loosing their freedom through intimidation and violence. It is also too ironic that Ahmed had his art and University art program destroyed in 2003 during the looting of Baghdad. Most people would throw their hands in the air and give up.

Ahmed has repaired the sculpture, after documenting the violence leveled against it. He writes:

"I have fixed the statue and will cast it soon, nothing can stop an artist from doing his work and tell his message, art survived and will always do because of us, the artists. and a bunch of people like those who burned my school in Baghdad in 2003, or those who have attacked my statue now will not stop you or me. All the best and God bless you."

More on this event with pictures of the damage and repair can be seen at:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Project Orange: New Twist on Graffiti

My students love the graffiti art aesthetic. Here are some Detroit artists making a very different statement with orange paint.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Iraq, Paper, Scissors

I recently read a quote that said there are only two kinds of people; those who create, and those who destroy. I had been thinking about that statement a lot when I came across this project on my friends' blog Groundswell. These Iraqi veterans are reinventing themselves in a profound way. This is a touching and thought provoking project.

He Showed the Way for Others

Joseph Bueys showed the way for many activist artists. His belief in the healing value of art, his funny little performances that come with such wise content, and his life affirming narrative that buries the monster ego of war, are all sign posts that point us in the right direction. This video has dialogue that is hard to hear but is still worth watching.

Worth Reading

Found this on my friend Roch Smith Jr's website. Worth repeating.

The Mountain Disappears
By Leonard Bernstein

I believe in people. I feel, love, need and respect people above all else, including the arts, natural scenery, organized piety, or nationalistic superstructures. One human figure on the slope of a mountain can make the whole mountain disappear for me. One person fighting for the truth can disqualify for me the platitudes of centuries. And one human being who meets with injustice can render invalid the entire system which has dispensed it.

I believe that man's noblest endowment is his capacity to change. Armed with reason, he can see two sides and choose: he can be divinely wrong. I believe in man's right to be wrong. Out of this right he has built, laboriously and lovingly, something we reverently call democracy. He has done it the hard way and continues to do it the hard way--by reason, by choosing, by error and rectification, by the difficult, slow method in which the dignity of A is acknowledged by B, without impairing the dignity of C. Man cannot have dignity without loving the dignity of his fellow.

I believe in the potential of people. I cannot rest passively with those who give up in the name of "human nature." Human nature is only animal nature if it is obliged to remain static. Without growth, without metamorphosis, there is no godhead. If we believe that man can never achieve a society without wars, then we are condemned to wars forever. This is the easy way. But the laborious, loving way, the way of dignity and divinity, presupposes a belief in people and in their capacity to change, grow, communicate, and love.

I believe in man's unconscious mind, the deep spring from which comes his power to communicate and to love. For me, all art is a combination of these powers; for if love is the way we have of communicating personally in the deepest way, they what art can do is to extend this communication, magnify it, and carry it to vastly greater numbers of people. Therefore art is valid for the warmth and love it carries within it, even if it be the lightest entertainment, or the bitterest satire, or the most shattering tragedy.

I believe that my country is the place where all these things I have been speaking of are happening in the most manifest way. American is at the beginning of her greatest period in history--a period of leadership in science, art, and human progress toward the democratic ideal. I believe that she is at a critical point in this moment, and that she needs us to believe more strongly than ever before, in her and in one another, in our ability to grow and change, in our mutual dignity, in our democratic method. We must encourage thought, free and creative. We must respect privacy. We must observe taste by not exploiting our sorrows, successes, or passions. We must learn to know ourselves better through art. We must rely more on the unconscious, inspirational side of man. We must not enslave ourselves to dogma. We must believe in the attainability of good. We must believe, without fear, in people.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Slum Dog Millionnaire

Every now and then a movie comes along with a window into another world. In the US, we usually expect space ships and aliens to take us to a new place. This movie does it with a mix of Hollywood, Bollywood, and documentary approaches to show the rest of us life in modern India. When plane tickets to travel overseas are rising out of reach for most, a ticket to this movie is a bargain passport.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No Message, Just Cool to Watch

By Black Dice.

Our Daily Bread

Official Website for Our Daily Bread

Director Nikolaus Geyrhalter has made a film that is as cool and unblinking as the machine that is our industrial food production industry. Cute little chicks are seen moving on conveyor belts like so many soda bottles, pigs legs are lobbed off and intestines separated by bored, machine like workers. Devoid of dialogue the films moves from one scene to the next engrossing as it is gross. In some ways this film shows just how natural our abuse of the natural world is; actions taken without remorse, just one life form feeding on another. Whether we fit into the web of life is another question. Watch this for a window into a world that ends on all our plates.

This excerpt starts out slow but stick with it. You will be surprised at what emerges from this sterile lab-like room. More excerpts are available on You Tube.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Speech as Art

This "special comment" transcends its medium to become art- pure and simple. I place it beside MLK's "I have a Dream" speech.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Prix Pictet Contest Winners- Photos on Global Water Crisis

Photo by Roman Signer

Check out this powerful video that shows the winning photos from the new sustainability photography award:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Long Silent Voices Uniting in Chorus

I took a group of students to DC this October and one of our stops included The Torpedo Factory. Wandering through the complex and around the thousands of children and their parents actively making art during an open house, I discovered woodcut printer, Rosemary Covey, and her 0 Project (That's "Zero" Project.) Starting with a single image of a person speaking out / howling in protest / or being silenced - you choose, she has created an ever evolving installation and performance piece that is inspiring and exciting. She writes that the projects goals include:

." voicelessness but also the inverse, a howl of protest. The project demands response and response has come from sources worldwide—from musicians, writers, artists, photographers and others. In a very real way, their reactions are extensions of the artwork itself. And as the project develops, their reactions build on each other as well as on the artwork. One response is modified or amplified by another, and so on. Inevitably the project multiplies in the same endless manner as the original 0 art work. The project is designed to demonstrate that when art acts as a catalyst and invites responses, the ensuing dialogue becomes a form of art in itself."

I hope Covey can bring this project to the next Visualizing Human Rights Conference at UNC-Asheville next November. Until then check out the project's progress at

Visualizing Human Rights Conference

The Center for Global Initiatives at UNC Chapel Hill is hosting a conference billed as an anti-conference on Human Rights and the Arts. Called Visualizing Human Rights #1, this event will bring together artists whose work addresses human rights issues in unique and profound ways. A wide variety of media will be featured including documentary film, printmaking, performance, painting, installation, and photography. Go to to register. If all goes well we will hold a bigger event next year at UNC-Asheville.

1,000 doors!

I have neglected this poor lonely blog for months now. My wife and I have been busy volunteering for the Obama Campaign every weekend. We have been part of a group that has knocked on over 1,000 doors, encouraging and speaking up for Change. My wife canvased one last time this past weekend while I was out with a youth group I help advise. Next we plan to help with driving folks to the poles, and voting, and holding our breath to see if it falls our way on November 4th.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My first Movie

I would appreciate any feedback you would like to give on my first imovie attempt. This one is an overview of my art projects. I plan to make more that document specific projects and will also incorporate video. Thanks for your feedback here.

Lost and Found?

Right after September 11, 2001 I wrote a short creed of what I believed in most. It was my best effort to pull myself out of feeling of despair and depression over a world gone mad. I tacked it to my office door and went on with life. I lost it after several years and recently found it again. I share it on this anniversary of 9/11 with a question or two weighing heavily on my mind; have we as a nation declared what we most believe in, or have we lost something?

My Creed

To always live a life full of love,
wonder and enthusiasm.

To listen for God's voice within me and
follow in Christ's example.

To be thankful.

To nurture others.

To create art that speaks to truth and beauty.

To be a faithful husband and parent,
inspiring teacher,
and lasting friend.

To be the best at what I do
and to learn from life.

To live my life without regret, fear, or malice
and to always remember
that love alone will carry me
across The Great River.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Fresh, Wild Eyes

Catherine Chalmers creates fresh, insightful, sometimes disturbing and always beautiful images of animal life. I saw her installation Safari at a recent show title "In and Around the Garden" at the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill, NC. This video enraptured myself and those around me as we traveled along at a bug's eye level with creatures like salamanders, spiders, roaches, flies, and frogs. Better than any National Geographic Special from my childhood, I was transported into a wild world so foreign yet filled with such "familiar" characters. Reading the documentation on the exhibit I discovered that all the scenes were shot in her New York City loft; what a conceptually cool addition to a visually well made work of art. Check out her Website for more.

Update: Catherine has informed me that she has a larger show titled the entire American Cockroach project, of which Safari is a part, showing at the Boise Art Museum. You can see Safari in context with the rest of her workby taking a look at

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Meeting Ourselves in Meeting David Wilson

Searching the dial, I heard the familiar Tarheel accent come across the radio speaking of slavery. My back tightened uncontrollably. "Great." I thought "another argument on how the Civil War wasn't about slavery." Quickly, another voice entered the discussion, an African-American voice. Soon I learned both men had the same name, David Wilson, and were related historically as the relatives of an enslaved family and the family of their owners. What followed was a considered and balanced discussion on our heavy heritage we all carry in South.

Both David Wilsons had participated in creating a unique documentary titled "Meeting David Wilson" on the still lingering effects of slavery. The black David Wilson had uncovered his roots to slavery in Rokingham and Wilkes Counties, North Carolina and had the courage to come back and confront that heritage. What he found was a man that contradicted his own stereotypes. The White David Wilson is a thoughtful, kind, and carefully considering participant in this rediscovery. His qualified love of his family and his hope for a better world come across in this video. The Black David Wilson is equally intelligent and searching as he experiences unfamiliar territory and crosses lines drawn by race all too old and ready for erasing.

This is a ice breaking documentary worth buying, seeing, and sharing. That it happened in my own back yard makes it intriguing without lessening its universal importance. Its bravery and obvious longing for a better world make it eternally appealing.

Happy Birthday - What's Your Favorite?

This blog is one year old this month. I started it as a way to reach out and decrease my own sense of insulation I often feel as an activist artist. Searching for other artists making art with a social or ecological focus became a hobby. Soon I found other many wonderful things going on, some in my own back yard. Today, I have friends and contacts all over the world and do not feel so alone.

That community has resulted in good things;I am currently working with a group from across the state of North Carolina to pull of a conference of Human Rights and the Arts. Called an Anti-conference on Visualizing Human Rights it will be held on November 22nd, 2008, in the Global Education Center at UNC Chapel Hill. Artists from a wide range of mediums will share their activist art and working processes; students will share their own efforts, and face to face networking will abound. We hope to make this an annual event and move it to a national scale next year. I will provide links to the conference here as soon as they are created.

So what is your favorite entry on this blog from the past year? Mine is the kindergarten class dreaming for a better world.

I look forward to taking this blog into its "terrible twos", a year energized by new beginnings (only four more months!) and new focus on making the world a better place. Thanks for fulfilling the important role of reader.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Unconditional Love.....

"On September 11th, 2006, I packed my bags and headed to New York City for the 5th Anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Knowing that emotions would be running high on all sides of the political spectrum, I took a sign that encompassed the only thing I knew to be true: Unconditional Love is Global Security." - Bri Olson

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Octavio Jones Photo Story on NC Migrant Conditions

Octavio Jones is a student at Randolph Community College and has taken some moving photos of migrant workers living conditions in North Carolina. Great job Octavio of showing the side on North Carolina that most of us never see. Click here and then press the play triangle to see and hear his photo essay.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

287g: 1900 style

Watch this sad excerpt from Marko William's Documentary "Banished" on You Tube.

This Trains Gotta Stop!

The Quaker Service Committee's protest against the War, Eyes Wide Open, came to Greensboro several years ago. I along with my family visited the Old Downtown Depot ( recently remodeled ) to see this moving and sad installation. I just found a panorama online of this installation. The singing in the background makes it seem like a holy place. As each US death was marked with one pair of boots, today it could never fit within the depot. Along the outer edge children's and women's shoes were stacked in chaos to represent the civilian deaths. Today, they would need a mountain of shoes to do justice to their memory.

Be sure to direct your mouse upward to look upward at this amazing train station. I have been here to say goodbye to my son as he boarded the train to go to college. I cannot fathom the sadness of the parents who came here, to this memorial, to say goodbye once more to a loved one. This trains gotta stop, Mr. President.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Making Art, Not War, in Afghanistan

German artist Luis Berrios Negron traveled to Afghanistan in 2006 to hold a workshop with young artists and conduct an architectural performance in a notorious location, a Russian built, but never used, swimming pool and accompanying billboard. The location was used by the Taliban for executions including pushing victims to their death off the high diving boards. Check out this interview on to see what he and the students pulled off.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Liberty Wall? Eye Sore? Embarrassment?

Gaudencio Fernandez of Manassas, Virginia, has created a wall that expresses his frustration and anger over the treatment of undocumented immigrants in his community. Watch the below You Tube video to see the emotion and debate this wall has created. Here is what the wall , in its current state (it has been fire bombed and vandalized over the last year) says:

" PWC AND MANASSAS CITY THE NATIONAL CAPITAL OF INTOLERANCE European American(s) exterminated millions of Native Americans in order to steal America, they were the first illegal aliens. European Americans have a 500 year history of rape, theft, murder, slavery, articial borders, "Jim Crow" laws and deportations of Native Americans. Since 1866 THe KKK rode at night to torture, lych and kill blacks, native americans, and other people of color. Today the actions of PWC and Manassas city council, are similar to the colaboration between local governments and the KKK in the 1900's. On 2.25.08 Manassas city mayor Douglas S. Waldron said Iam proud that finally we came to an agreement with PWC to implement 287g because we care about our community. What community!? 287g is an agreement will immigration and customs enforcement to detain and question native americans by police officers at their discretion. PWC and Manassas city persecute us with our own tax dollars, because European Americans would rather hava ghost town than live among native americans. They ignore our voices, they ignore our civil and constitutional rights, there is no democracy.. stop the persecution, we demand equality, and justice for all. WE WILL NOT BE YOUR SLAVES OF THE 21st CENTURY. "

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Our Time Has Arrived!

Art Activists! Our time has arrived. ArtVenture, in association with ARTICLE 19, has proudly launched the inaugural ArtVenture Freedom to Create Prize. The US$ 100,000 prize consists of three categories and is designed to recognise artists whose works promote human rights, free expression, empathy, equality and understanding.

"The winner of the main prize, open to artists in the visual, performing or literary arts, will receive $50,000, half to be donated to a group that furthers the artist’s cause. A $25,000 prize will be given to an artist younger than 18, with $10,000 for a scholarship and $15,000 to be donated to a cause. A final $25,000 will be awarded to an artist who is imprisoned for his or her work." - Sarah Lyall, New York Times Article

Submissions for the prize close on 31 October, 2008

Documentary Photographers at Their Best

Verve Photo's by line is "A new Breed of Documentary Photographer" and each entry has a freshness and strength that is refreshing. It has quickly become one of my must visit sites to regularly check out. Holly Wilmeth's kiss series is one of my favorite. Visit Verve to find your own.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Windpowered Dynamic Skyscrapers Oh My!

Architect David Fisher is building a moving skyscraper that generates its own electricity using built in wind turbines. It will be built in Duabi. This idea changes the whole paradym of building. Artists rock the world!!!!

Click on the title above to see another video on these new buildings.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Empire = Treasure

Empire Books is a treasure. This small, used book store in the shadows of Guilford College on W. Friendly Avenue is filled with beautiful art books, refreshingly uncensored and challenging texts, walls of paperbacks, and antique-cool books from the 20th Century. Owners Shane and Mark obviously love their collection. Many books that they take in are quickly covered in a protective clear covering. Like a Vet caring for sick kitten Shane commented "There, that's better" after covering one book I was buying today. The owners make selection like knowledgeable antique dealers cherry picking books that are small jewels whether for their content, imagery, or style. Each owner has their favorite topics. Their wall of art books is the best I have ever seen. I forever imagine that it is the complete collection of some blue chip artist or curator. Why Guilford students are not lined up to browse and buy from this treasure chest baffles me. Good for me and my semi-regular visit to look and leave with new treasures for my own collection.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

I never even knew...

...did you, that our government banned certain books from being printed in the United States? Words without Borders has compiled the best of writing from places our government would prefer we did not think of as harboring humans. Here is a lesson plan for teachers. Buy it here.

"Not knowing what the rest of the world is thinking and writing is both dangerous and boring." -Alane Mason, Editor

Thursday, June 5, 2008

James Carroll's Constantine's Sword

You may have heard about this documentary like I did, on NPR today. If not, take a moment to listen to this trailer and visit the Web site. Carroll's book by the same name has been made into a documentary by Oren Jacoby that traces the roots of religious violence to Christians' hatred of the Jews. I had been a Lutheran for many years before I learned of Martin Luther's rantings against the Jews. A truth never mentioned in my congregational church until I brought it up. I look forward to seeing this documentary- if it comes to my community. Right now you have to be in New York or LA. The rest of use can catch the DVD if nothing else.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sister Wendy: The Heart of the Value of Art

"We know great art by its effect on us. If we are prepared to look without preconceptions, without defenses, without haste, then art will change us." - Sister Wendy Beckett

Before you skim over this blog entry give me a moment to explain; this video interview of Sister Wendy goes way beyond the expected to the heart of the value of art. I know some of you may not have a spiritual based world view, and may find the first two parts hard to take, if so skip to Part 3. I recommend watching the whole series posted on You Tube; 1 through 6. It gets better and better as Bill Moyers carefully listens to Sister Wendy and gives her room to unfold her truest thoughts about art. It's a sacred experience.

When I show it to students I ask them to start paying close attention at Part 3 and usually stop at Part 4 - attention spans are short late at night and in those hard seats, But Part 5 and 6 are great too. I hear the actual three hour interview was cut to one hour, the way it ends seems a little trivial but Wendy's insights into how to approach art and its importance to ALL of us has changed lives- I've seen it first hand in the eyes of my students. Take some time and watch all 6 You Tube postings. If you want to share it with your own students, buy the video on Amazon.

Although Sister Wendy would probably not agree, I believe art saves souls. Sister Wendy comes as close as anyone of our time to showing us all The Way.

Click here to watch Sister Wendy in Conversation Part 1. The other parts (1-6) will show in the box to the right on the You Tube page.

The Cats of Mirikitani

A colleague of mine at Guilford College first told me about this artist and the documentary being made about Jimmy Mirikitani, an artist in his 80's living on the streets of New York. I had forgotten about Mr. Mirikitani and this project until today when I was doing research on the phrase "Make Art, Not War." This was Mirikitani's favorite saying- not sure if he gets credit for starting it. Never-the-less, the man's life story is a testament to the consequences of our forefathers' wrong headed thinking and fear ( not be to confused with our own.) Thankfully, Mirikitani, with the help of others, was finally able to rise above what the world dished out and has left us with the gifts of his spirit and art.

Here is a link to the trailer.

And here is a link to the website where you can purchase the DVD of this work.

Thank you Linda Hattendorf for this wonderful work.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Excellent Speakers Coming to Guilford College

Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, and Sir Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, and the new Enchantress of Florence (released May 27, 2008) are two of the speakers coming to Greensboro next fall via the Bryan Series at Guilford College. Get in line to buy tickets, behind me!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Progressive Rhymes

I first stumbled upon Flobots when I was listening to a late night talk-radio show. They are a hip-hop group based out of Denver. I found them interesting because they seemed to break the stereotypes of typical hip-hop groups. There are six members of the group. There are two emcees, one bassist, one drummer, one guitarist, and one viola player.

I also found it intriguing that the group was a multi-racial, and multi-gender group. The band has just recently signed with Universal Republic Records, and have just released an official video for their first single "Handlebars." They have many other very powerful songs such as "Stand Up" and "Iraq Rap."

I really admire this group because of their progressive stance. I feel like they are addressing issues that most hip-hop/rap groups or artists are not. I strongly advise you to check out this group. Feel their rhythms, listen to their rhymes, but most of all hear their message.

Guest Blogger,
Reid Drake

"Stand Up" by Flobots

Kevin Sites' In the Hot Zone Book and DVD

My Memorial holiday was spent in bed, sick. I was too ill with a head cold (yes, I'm a wimp) to move around, but not sick enough to just sleep. So I wrapped my head in pillows to press against a dull headache and read most of Kevin's book "In the Hot Zone." A fitting memorial day activity.

David spent a year covering all the world's war zones. The documentary DVD that accompanied the book (a pretty cool mixing of mediums that convinced me to buy the book) is almost overwhelming in its' imagery. What makes the book a valuable addition is all the background information it includes. We not only "see" the African women who have been raped by insurgents but learn of Kevin's struggle over whether to show their faces. (He does not.)

The reason I am posting this book here is because of the way Kevin mentions art throughout the book. Whether a Haitian cutting beauty from an oil drum can, or a couple painting idyllic landscapes inside a bombed out apartment building, Kevin peppers his retelling of all the misery he saw with acts of creation. Not mentioned in the documentary, they are a counter to the act of destruction. It's not an even draw but it does show the power of art to heal, provide hope, and save us from our worst selves.

This weekend some friends gave me a new bumper sticker that says "Make Art, Not War." I smiled when I first saw it and thought immediately of Kevin and his project.
I will display it with conviction strengthened by the art Kevin has given us in his writing and documentary. Visit his site.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

5 Notes, just 5 notes.......

My great-grand mother used to hide my great-grand father's banjo telling him that it was "darky-music". He would always find it and keep playing. I think my great-grandfather understood in his soul what Wintley Phipps is saying in this video.

Check out this You Tube video and see what pathos can be packed into 5 simple notes, just the black keys on the piano.

Click on green title above to view video.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Running the numbers

The above depicts 65,000 cigarettes, equal to the number of American teenagers under age eighteen who become addicted to cigarettes every month.

Viewing Chris Jordan's series of works called Running the Numbers inspired awe then anger in this viewer. As Chris says in his artist statment these works should be seen in person.

Click on above title to view Jordan's website.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Drop All for Carolina Chocolate Drops

With the energy of old tent revivalists, Carolina Chocolate Drops brought audiences to their feet this weekend at Merlefest. Even though they are from my hometown of Greensboro, I had not heard them before yesterday at Merlefest 2008. My wife and I stood in the rain with others outside their too small tent venue. But who cares, the energy, talent, and joy they gave off spread like sunshine over every isle and then outside the tent where it warmed those of us with rain soaked souls. I left the festival dancing in the mud and rain thanks to them and other inspiring groups like The Wilders, The Bearfoots, Donna the Buffalo, and the Lovell Sisters.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops are single handedly saving a part of Americana that deserves new life; the black string band. Drop what you are doing the next time they come to your community and go see them. Until then enjoy this video from the recent European tour. (They are also featured in the Movie The Great Debaters, and will appear on the Grand Old Oprey in June, 2008.)

Click on the headline here to go to their website.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Take an afternoon off from work and go see this movie!

The new documentary "Young @ Heart" is a must see. It's the story of a group of seniors who take on modern Rock 'n Roll hits to heartwarming affect. Take a moment to view this you tube video of their version of Cold Play's Fix You. As someone with a loved one on oxygen I cannot express the impact. Take a mental health afternoon and go see the whole movie.

Bob Seven and Ambulance Ready to Respond

Check out this video on North Carolina artist Bob Seven and his Emerge-N-See Ambulance Installation.

Friday, April 18, 2008

From the Invisible 5 Website:

Invisible-5 is a self-guided critical audio tour along Interstate 5 between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It uses the format of a museum audio tour to guide the listener along the highway landscape.
Invisible-5 investigates the stories of people and communities fighting for environmental justice along the I-5 corridor, through oral histories, field recordings, found sound, recorded music, and archival audio documents. The project also traces natural, social, and economic histories along the route.
The tour follows I-5 between San Francisco and Los Angeles, with additional routing via I-580/I-880 to San Francisco. Sites along the tour, which can be driven in either direction, include Livermore, Crows Landing, Kesterson NWR, Kettleman City, and Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

El Systema Changing the World through Music

Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra

El Systema takes poor kids from the slums of Venezuela and trains them as classical musicians. You may have heard about this program like I did on 60 Minutes on Sunday April 13th, 2008. Here is an article on the program as well. I have long felt art could help save the world. Here is a country saving their easily lost youth (Could we save ours?) through music that "takes them to a different world" in more ways than one. This is a movement we as educators in the USA could learn much from. They have so much participation they are makeing their own instruments. Here are some inspiring facts: 800,000 children have been through the program, $80 million dollars from 8 Venezuelan governments has been spent towards helping these kids. Their National Youth Orchestra (they have hundreds of others) travels world wide. Check out this You Tube on Gustavo Dudamel (one of the program's super stars) and the Simon Bolivar youth orchestra. I am so glad I am a teacher and will be dreaming and instituting ways to light the same fuze in my students as El Systema.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Look on the sunny side.......

This Table of Honor to Hispanic Immigration is available for installation on request.

This past Sunday I attended a conference on the effects of policy changes on Undocumented Immigrants and came away convinced that our nation is drifting head long into another mistaken reaction (Iraq was the first) that makes villains of Hispanics and Latino regardless of their status. I have seen "immigrant" come to mean the same thing as "illegal alien" in my own church. I have heard of local law enforcement racial profiling and fishing for "illegal aliens" at road blocks and in diners and in schools ("Gee thanks Mr. SRO for catching that dirty illegal alien!") and listened to politicians, Democratic and Republican, jump on the "What part of illegal do you not understand" band wagon for the sake of votes. I have neighbors who have attacked and robbed Hispanics without fear or prosecution, know of police that decline response based on status. I see Hispanics that are suffering mental illness and stress and read of attempted suicide rates unacceptable in a humane world. I have watch the national news focus on the most divisive and simplistic aspects of undocumented immigration and I AM MAD about it all.

Rather than simply rage on I have created a " Table of Honor to Mexican / Latino Immigration" to remind us that their are good people hidden behind these labels we so easily apply to dismiss so many of our neighbors.

Anyone can donate an item in honor of a loved one or friend from Latin America- regardless of their status; citizen, legal immigrant, or illegal. Flowers, letters, pictures have already been given. This table has appeared in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem. It was disassembled without my permission in the latter two communities.

Searching for the brighter side of human nature is an idea that cannot be disassembled- at least in my home and at this table.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Sleep Through the Static Gets My Vote as Best Anti-War Song

Jack Johnson's new album Sleep through the Static is excellent. The best song on the album is by the same name. (Click here to hear it on You Tube.) A roller coaster ride of words and ideas, this song points at our and Bush's war making mistakes without being shrill or obvious. A thinking person's song you'll find yourself trying to sing along while simultaneously thinking "Damn right, Damn right." Here are a few lines:

Who needs sleep when we've got love?
Who needs keys when we've got clubs?
Who needs please when we've got guns?
Who needs peace when we've gone above
But beyond where we should have gone?
We went beyond where we should have gone

Check out this Youtube to hear Jack talk about his album.

Be sure to catch the Peace Seminar, TIME TO BREAK THE SILENCE: SOUTHERN CHURCHES AND WAR on Saturday, April 5th, at New Garden Friends Meeting in Greensboro, NC.

Altarpiece Inspired by AIDS and Art History

Keiskamma Altarpiece

Beauty and hope cannot be beaten. Whether it is the plagues of Medieval Europe or the AIDS Pandemic of today, death cannot overcome the vessel of hope and beauty; art. In fact, art making is one of humanity's core responses to the realization of death. The Keiskamma Altarpiece is a wonderful example. A work created by over 120 South Africans, mostly women, who live in the AIDS decimated community of Hamburg, South Africa, this work of art standing 13 feet high and 22 feet wide. The multi-layered altarpiece takes its form from Grunewlad's Isenheim Altarpiece. Itself an earlier example of triumph of the human spirit over adversity as it was commissioned in the 1500's by the order of Saint Anthony in Alsace for hospice patients dying from ergot poisoning.

The Keiskamma Altarpiece was instigated by Dr. Carol Hofmeyr, a South African doctor and artist. The Keiskamma Altarpiece is a must see while it is still touring the US. It is currently in Chicago. See their website for more images and tour information. source: April 2008, Art in America

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Worth Crying Over?

I have struggled over what to say about these photoshoped photographs by Jill Greenburg, aka the Manipulator. A student of mine suffering the loss of a loved one by their own hand showed me these images as a potential influence on her painting. They are deeply affecting- at least for this old sap of a father. I cannot view them without hearing my own children wailing over some insult or injury to their small selves.

The question I struggled with was over their value. Beyond a striking image, how do these pictures "make the world a better place"? When in doubt, I usually do some research and often find some background information that helps. In this case it did not help. (Jill's political based reason for making them seem trivial in comparison to the overarchingly universal, timeless quality of these images- as does the process she underwent to make them, however conceptually uncomfortable.) My answer came rather from a colleague of mine who teaches psychology. When he saw these photos for the first time he commented that these were children in need of adults to protect them. He then shared a figure on the number of children that die at the hands of parents every year in the US.

Want to guess the number?

It is 1,000/year. (On tonight's news the CDC reports that over 905,000 infants are victums of neglect. That's 1 in 50 infants. )

At that point I saw the value of Jill's series. It is not for their beauty, but for the content they deliver at a gut punching level- that children feel deeply and profoundly, and suffer in our midst. The feelings in their faces are also our own, unfiltered. How can these pictures help? By reminding us that many, many children suffer at the hands of adults. What child is born ready for prison? They are molded into such -by adults. A friend of my son's said once "There would be no racism if all the old folks were all dead." True-but considering that I am an old folk in his eyes I prefer work like this that remind us of the suffering that should, that must, be addressed. It's a situation worth crying over -then fixing.

(Go to Jill Greenburg's website and select the "End Times" series to view more from this series.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


My mother has a fear of dead birds, she has over the years found them on her porch preceeding the death of more than one loved one. A similar dread fills me when I see Amy Steins work. Growing up, I could sleep with my window open and hear a chorus of insects singing in the forest just beyond my suburban home. Today, those woods are more suburb and the singing has stopped. Amy Stein most likely grew up similarly.

She has made this series Domesticated showing that border between man and nature. Unlike the fertile zones that nature often creates when one environment transitions into another, our man made zone often bears only road kill, broken necked birds, and fear filled animals fleeing across perfect lawns and concret. Amy memoralizes those moments we all experience but only fleetingly as we see deers just past our headlights or navigate over road kill.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dixie Queen floats but is not a river boat

What would it feel like to be an illegal immigrant and gay? It's a double trouble that has resulted in suicide in my community here in the American South. I learned this from a brave couple (straight) who have helped start a support group for gay hispanic men and women. Although there is not a documentary out yet showing the reality of their lives, I have found an interesting documentary out since 2003 by Miles Christian Daniels called Dixie Queen. It shows the life and community of a drag queen living in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Warning: This documentary contains graphic scenes not suitable for all viewers

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Broken Heart in the Form of Poem

Update this picture.
Join the Peace Vigil tonight, 7:30PM Wednesday 3-19-08
at Guilford College. Bring Candles.

This poem was sent to me by Pastor Linda Faltin. It's funny, the most outspoken, activist pastors I know are the ones without a "church." For example Pastor Kristina Johnson and Pastor Brady Faggort who has begun La Vela, a spiritual counseling center for Latinos. Pastor Linda is retired and now an author. She regularly sends out emails of her poetry that always speak the truth. Send me your email address if you would like to added to her distribution list; Here is her most recent emailed poem.

five years...and counting

Five long years...
one thousand eight hundred
twenty-seven days...
countless thousands of
lives lost...
thousands more changed
forever in ways we cannot
even imagine by head injuries
and lost "post-
traumatic stress disorder"-
and even our language has
changed, as "disorder"
cannot begin to describe
a life forever misshaped
by the horrors seen &
families destroyed- here and
in Iraq,,,children without parents...
parents losing children...husbands,
wives ripped away... all in the
name of- what?
Our American appetite for it
continues insatiable...and we
dare descry the loss of our
"American way of life" as the
stock market plunges & banks
close & property values plummet &
jobs are lost... while on distant
shores, a "way of life" has been
held in abeyance for five long
Lord, have mercy.
And our government continues
to speak of "Iraqi freedom"...but
surely it cannot be about
freedom, since in this dreadful
"War on Terror" we have lost
so much of ours...allowing it
to slip through our fingers
like sand on the Iraqi desert...
since our government keeps
"terror" alive within American
hearts & minds to justify,
to gain support for, this
oxymoronic war-
which is destroying us
as surely as it is
destroying the Iraqi people.
Lord, have mercy.

Five long years...
one thousand eight hundred
twenty-seven days...
and-irony of ironies- we
stand here in the middle
of Holy Week...
commemorating the unholy
slaying of the man called Jesus
by the powers of his day...
commemorating the unholy
slaughter of peace and justice
by the powers of our day.
Lord, have mercy.

Fall to your knees, friends &
foes, Red states & Blue...
hang heads in shame for what
we have permitted in our name...
then rise up with a mighty
"No more!" resounding...
No more war!
No more fear!
No more lives for oil!
BE the peace for which
you long!
BE the hope for which
our nation craves!
BE the loving compassion
which is the path
to justice this world

Lord, have mercy,
and strengthen us
to live the truth.
Amen & amen

For those of you in the greater Greensboro area, there will be a peace vigil at the corner of Guilford College Road and Friendly Ave., right in front of Guildford College at 7:30p.m. tonight. Bring candles...and any signs you might have. And for the rest of you, MoveOne is sponsoring similar vigils across the country, as, I imagine, are any number of bold churches. Let us not be so paralyzed by fear or the perception of partisanship that we lose sight of being the peace that this world so desperately needs. Blessings, Linda
Also, be sure to watch the Front Line Documentary Bush's War. Viewable online.

Monday, March 17, 2008

An Amazing Discovery

I was amazed to learn that most of my students in one of my classes do not believe in Global Warming or believe that it is not man made. Wow. How to respond?

I came across these websites in searching for artists who address the issue of Global Warming: Global Warming Art which is filled with insightful and shocking graphs-not exactly what I call art but then again.... Green Museum is a great clearing house for artists working on this issue like Buster Simpson and for projects like the above Environmental Art Calendar.
Do you know of others? If so, please share them with me. I have a new syllabus to write! ;)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Praying for Tibet

Wind horse prayer flags.

A dear friend of mine from China once told me that they had been taught in school that Tibetans ate from human skulls. While he may recognize this now as so much cultural propaganda he still expresses the opinion that Tibet should remain a part of China. "How would you feel if Alaska wished to succeed?" he asked me. I see his point.
I also pray and worry that Tibet will loose its religious identity as China presses for integration. It is possible to now take a fast, cheap train ride from Beijing to Tibet but will it be possible to keep hold of Tibet without erasing its culture and religion? Maybe that's not the point.

As the news of today reports protests, deaths, and deadlines, I hope you take a moment to pray or meditate for Peace. Then check out Tibetan Aid Project, an organization dedicated to preserving the art and writing of Buddist Tibet. Here is an informative video on their efforts.

Tales of Water by Taco Anema

I found this book while browsing a used book store and immediately feel in love with it. When looking it up on Amazon to provide a link here, I was met with a promotional for Amazon's new digital book. Though it will save trees, I doubt that new devise will provide the pleasure this book does in paper and card board. Each page is filled with photos taken by Taco Anema of the two most important elements in our world; children and water. The relationship between the two that he captures takes me back to my own prehistoric (at least pre-digital) childhood when I spent hours exploring the creek bed behind my house, I still remember the crawdads and insect larva I discovered in its still clear and clean water. Sadly, those creek beds are now polluted as are many water sources around the world. Rather than depress us with pictures of a fallen Eden, Taco reminds us of the possibility of a cleaner, friendlier world, one we should devote our time here to preserving.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Art to the People

John Hitchcock, a printmaker that teaches at the Univ. of Wisconsin at Madison has organized a unique project in Argentina that takes activist themed printmaking out into the public and onto public transportation. This may sound trival to the art focused but think of the unique experience it may provide to the everyday person who experiences this stimulating gift. I know of another artist in Winston-Salem that put poetry on that city's buses and I am planning a mobile sculpture show wih my students that will follow the college crowd where I teach. That said, this type of activity is way too rare. Check out John's blog Hybrid Press for more on this project, other efforts, and some great printmaking links like Drive By Press. Thanks Bill for these links!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Go, See

Janet Jarman. Matamoros, Mexico, August 1996; color print. Courtesy of Janet Jarman

Maybe it is the big heavy doors, or the silence that greets you when you step into the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill, but visiting carriers a certain weighted expectation. On my most recent visit I discovered "Picturing the World" a photographic group show pulled from UNC School of Journalism's alumni. There are pictures there that still haunt my memory. Like an unassuming picture of a building-nothing special until you notice a few small figures falling, then you notice a whiff of smoke and you realize you are witnessing the 9-11 Twin Towers Attack, but without the sound, or fury of the memories we all share as a nation. The scale makes you feel like a god standing next to the building- oh but we could have been god's and caught those poor souls falling like leaves of a pin oak. This picture disturbs me still.......

Then there is the picture above; a beautiful young child, illuminated by the morning's sunlight. But the dirt on her face betrays her as not from our safe, clean suburban world, rather she is a poor child living with her family on an Mexican trash dump waiting for the mornings delivery.

To see this works, like traveling, is to have your heart stretched to new dimensions. Be sure to see it before it closes in April, 2008.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Artist Pair Provokes Thought with New Show

I have admired Juan Logon's work for some time. I remember his abstracted Klansmen images from some years ago- tucking them into my visual memory filed under "respect." Shamefully, I just learned that another artist-friend Susan Harbage Page was married to Juan. Susan and I had met as photography jurors and developed a professional friendship which I also filed under "respect." So it goes without saying that I recommend their concurrent shows of new work at Dalton Downtown Arts Initiative (DDAI) titled Postcards from Home by Susan Harbage Page and Unintended Relations by Juan Logan on display from January 22 - March 14, 2008 at Clinton Jr. College, Dalton Gallery, Dalton, SC. Both artists explore the issue of race and racism from their own unique perspectives - an issue still embedded in the American Psyche. Take a moment to read Duke University Dr. Laurel Fredrickson's essay on their work. Then Go see their work in person and open your own files.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Restless, Searching, Hard Charging Mind

A Moment by Phil Hansen

Phil Hansen is one of the most innovative, hard working, thoughtful artists I have come across in my search for content for this site. Phil has had his 15 minutes of fame on an after-the-news entertainment news show, but his lasting value is in his search for meaning (there is some) and the bounderies of art (there are none.)

Check out his site and take a moment to read the background on each unique piece. While his search for content needs to continue pushing forward, his website and technical ability has arrived and is among the best out there.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Learning to Talk (and listen) Across Oceans

Imagine talking across the English Channel to someone without the use of a land line, cell phone, or satellite phone. This ability has existed since WWII. The Sound Mirror Project is working to make it possible once again.

I found this project on Social Design Site and found it amazing and engaging. I have seen something like this at Discovery Place in Charlotte but never imagined it would work across an ocean.

Wouldn't it be great if these could be constructed across all kinds of barriers and walls to allow people to talk- free and naturally-without censor, cost, or control. I hope this project gets its needed funding. Check out the other projects linked into the small pictures in Social Design Sites Banner.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Like a Time Capsule

Like capsules of lives, the still images of documentaries move across the top of this site, . Pick one and you are likely to see yourself reflected; college lovers learning to be parents, a soldier realing from the after shock of war; middle aged adults caring for a father while their children watch. There is more, much more here. Listen to John Prine and blow up your TV, then turn onto the artists here, people like you and me brave enough to make art from the strings and stuffings of our collective soul.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Barn Stormers Paint Up a Storm

Artist David Ellis and the North Carolina rooted Barn Stormers create time lapse movies of their massive group paintings. This one has a polical edge and is engaging to watch. I wonder if these guys still come back to NorthCarolina to paint up barns outside of Raleigh. My favorite part comes at the end when Ellis uses white contour lines on a black background.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Art made from lost items of Undocumented Immigrants

Valarie James, an artist and art teacher in Amado, Arizona makes art from lost and discarded items she finds on walks in the desert. In doing so reminds of us of the tragedy that is on going along the US / Mexican Border; 3,000 plus deaths since the 1980's. Check out her slide show and article in this Wall Street Journal article.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Contemporary Kenyan Artist Speaking at UNC

Wangechi Mutu, a critically acclaimed Contemporary Kenyan-born artist, is speaking at UNC's Global Education Center on Tuesday, March 4th at 6PM. Mutu's works are collage based and use fashion magazines, National Geographics, and books about Africa to express the tension of modern Africa as it struggles to emerge from preconceptions, ancient tradition, and modern forces. Mutu's work is a evolutionary jump from the equally powerful collages of North Carolina's own Romare Bearden. This is must catch lecture brought to us by the Hanes Lecture Series and UNC's Art Department.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Finding a Land Called Paradise Starts Here

Film maker Lena Khan has made an outstanding short video set the music of Kareem Salama's song "A Land Called Paradise." This video shows Muslims in America in a new light that stands above the stereotypes becoming so fixed in our mind's eye. I must admit that something like a tight coil unwound inside of me as I watched this video. I sat smiling and crying afterwards. As an artist working on the very same subject, I was inspired by the quality, honesty, and humanity on display in this piece. Watch, think, and share.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Building Community Through Art

Thought bubbles made for The Talking Mobile

What's the best way to address fear and share hope? Artists Todd Drake and Wade Billeisen believe it is to talk about it. Their project, The Talking Mobile, attempts to get the fears and hopes of students coming together at a new high school out in the open. Why? They believe that by sharing these thoughts students will find common ground between seeming differences. "We believe that everyone coming to Northern Guilford High School has hopes for a better education and worry whether they will be safe, successful, and accepted." Principal Joe Yeager approved the project and provided funding because he believed it would build community, a central goal of his leadership role at the new school.

After asking every student coming to Northern High School to share their hopes and fears about coming to the new school, Wade and Todd read through the responses and selected 40 questions asked by the students. Their selection seeks to represented the mind set of the students. "A lot of students, on both campus's wrote about concerns over getting along and blending the two communities, others expressed concerns over being accepted whether because of race, looks, or income." says Drake. By putting these concerns out in the open Todd and Wade believe the concerns and hopes of the students will be honored and considered. "Some of their questions, like "Will they hate me?" break your heart, others like "Will I be 'that dude' at the new school?" were humorous, but all were insightful." said Drake. Every single student question will be included in a note book for review by anyone. "This note book of student questions should be read through by every teacher and administrator at Northern." said Drake.

After displaying the "thought bubbles" on both campuses of the soon to be merged school, Todd and Wade will hang all the questions at the new high school to greet students on their arrival. After a month of living and learning together, all the students will be asked to respond to the questions posed in the mobile and the most provocative and insightful answers will be displayed beneath the questions as "speaking bubbles." Some class time will be devoted to discussing these questions and responses.

By giving voice to the students in this unique way Todd and Wade hope this project will make the new Northern High School a stronger, more accepting community. Though all of Drake's art is community based, this project is very personal; "My school did nothing like this when we intergrated back in the 70's. The only fight I got into my life occured as a result. I hope this project helps these students learn to respect each other and see past stereotypes that, along with fear, often blind us to making friends of strangers."

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Lucy Talks about Art and Death :)

Paul Klee, Ancient Sound

Lucy Daniels and her foundation have worked for years to give a unique voice to mental health and the arts in our community and beyond. On February 9th , 2008, (2:30 PM, NC Museum of Art) her foundation is sponsoring a workshop on creativity and self-repair as it relates to cancer. Their release states " The healing power of art is a complementary, active approach to illness.. (that can create)...a unique dialect between illness and health, between despair and new hope." Rock on Lucy! The foundation is also sponsoring a lecture on the art of Paul Klee called "In the Shadow of Death." Apparently 1/4 of Klee's best work was created in the last years of his life as he struggled with a terminal illness. (Why do they not teach this in school!) Fill in what you probably didn't know about Paul Klee by attending this lecture on Sunday, Feb.9th at 2:30 at the NCMA. Thanks Lucy! RSVP at or call 919-677-9888 x 123