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The camp, run by Drew Garza and Scott Pauli (who have a local design business, Art & Sons) and co-conceptualized with Phil Busse, teaches kids cutting-edge skills in computer-aided graphic design, yet also uses old-fashioned paste-up techniques on the sides of local buildings.
At the same time the kids are building technical skills, they're expressing themselves and engaging with thorny social issues like racism and environmental damage--issues raised by the teens themselves, not foisted on them by adults. As one of the kids quoted says, "Don't be scared. Just show yourself, be yourself." To encourage people to seek out these works, an art "scavenger hunt" was organized.
The article, with accompanying video, is definitely worth a read. Hats off to Busse, Garza and Pauli for designing such an intriguing program for teens, and to the City of Madison for helping support it through a BLINK! grant (small grants for temporary art projects).
So it's onto the (erstwhile) Motor City and back to car life, where I'm hoping cheaper real estate and a growing creative community will make all the difference. While the cost of gas and carbon-footprint guilt loom, I've been won over by the arts. In Detroit, you can afford to do what you really want and will likely find a community of support rooting for you to succeed instead.While I'm sure some may dismiss Cox as naive, I like her hopeful tone and her desire to be part of something positive and growing in a beleaguered city. Cities are a lot like people: they need someone to believe in them, and I think optimistic, creative young people moving to Detroit can only be a good thing.
As a former Michigander, I wish Cox well, and I'll stay tuned to see how things develop for her. If you're so inclined, you can follow her on Twitter here.
Again, here's the link to Cox's post: "Imported to Detroit"
Though I've enjoyed his columns for years, I never knew much about Cunningham himself--though, in that respect, I'm not much different from most in the fashion world. The film reveals Cunningham to be steadfastly private and governed by a deep sense of personal morality. His egalitarian spirit and humility exist alongside sheer, exuberant joy in what he does.
review films, but seeing this movie made me wish I had brought along my
notebook; there were so many memorable observations from Cunningham that I
wanted to remember. Among them [to
paraphrase]: "Lots of people have taste,
but few dare to be creative." That
fashion, rather than frivolity, is a kind of armor that makes our daily lives
bearable. And, perhaps most important,
"Those who seek beauty will find it."
line, part of his remarks while accepting an honor from the French Ministry of Culture,
seemed like the ultimate summation of Cunningham's approach to life. Part of what appeals to me so much about
Cunningham is, quite simply, attention:
his rapt attention to something that feeds his mind and his soul. Nowadays, that's rare, due partly to omnipresent
first Richard Press' documentary seems to have little to do with the subject of
this blog--about the arts in smaller U.S. communities--it finally
occurred to me that it does. While every
bit a creature of New York
and a brilliant chronicler of urban life, Cunningham has an attitude that suits
him well wherever he goes. He doesn't
assume that something bigger and grander will necessarily be more
imaginative. Something spotted on the
street any given day might leave a more lasting impression than the latest
kind of attitude that I think informs the work of artists, writers, actors and
others living in smaller cities and towns.
Creativity and daring are not what someone else tells you they are; they're
where you make it or find it, and sometimes that's in the most unlikely places.
If you have
a chance to see this film, by all means, do, whether or not fashion interests
you. Cunningham's joy in his life's work
is something from which we can all draw inspiration.
[Photo credit for image above: First Thought Films / Zeitgeist Films]
L.A., you're in for a treat. Madison-based artist Jennifer Angus is currently exhibiting at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. Angus' show, "All Creatures Great and Small," runs through Sept. 11, 2011. Her main medium? Bugs, and lots of 'em.
Angus is one of a number of Wisconsin artists doing intriguing work that bridges art, science and the natural world (others include Martha Glowacki, whose long-running installation at the Milwaukee Art Museum, "Loca Miraculi / Rooms of Wonder," is a must-see.)
Angus, who teaches textile design at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is fascinated by patterns and the cultural meanings they convey. As she told me in a 2007 interview for Isthmus, "Pattern is a sophisticated, wordless language which we understand regardless of learning or awareness."
Her unusual medium is beautiful, colorful, and walks a fine
line between mesmerizing and repellent (at least for many of us raised in
bug-phobic cultures). She re-uses her
specimens from one installation for the next.
This was my favorite quote from our chat: "The bugs are very individual. I'll be
putting a weevil on the wall [during an installation], and I'll be like, 'I
If you're near L.A., don't miss her show.
But rather than focus on gloom and doom, I want to think about what's next for Michigan. How can it envision a better future? A friend who works for the state's office of historic preservation turned me on to the site "Let's Save Michigan," which just did a blog post on the role that the arts play in creating cities people actually want to live in.
My brother, who lives in Ann Arbor (site of my alma mater), sent me a link to a PBS NewsHour segment with Ray Suarez on that city. Suarez investigates what has made Ann Arbor more recession-proof than the rest of the state (though, as Ann Arbor's mayor points out, the recession can't be kept at bay indefinitely).
Not surprisingly, it's investment in education and technology--and being a place that people actually want to relocate to--that has helped Ann Arbor. Suarez doesn't really delve into the cultural scene (the closest he gets is foodie paradise Zingerman's), but any A2 resident knows that a steady diet of concerts, films, exhibitions, etc. is part of the town's appeal. You can live in a city of manageable size and still have plenty to do. In my college days, I went to poetry readings, saw The Replacements and Billy Bragg, attended my first opera and saw performance artist Karen Finley (whose "We Keep Our Victims Ready" I still remember as ludicrous, for what it's worth).
Other good stuff in Michigan includes the "Kalamazoo Promise," a program funded by anonymous, private donors that offers paid college tuition to students who graduate from Kalamazoo public schools. The benefit can be used at any of Michigan's state colleges and universities.
I don't have any answers for Michigan; I haven't lived there for 17 years, although I occasionally think about moving back. But I'm glad there are smart people thinking about Michigan's future and ways to make it brighter.
October 27, 2009
He was affable, humorous and generally seemed like an all around great guy. Not exactly the typical description you might expect to hear of an artist's lecture in a formal academic setting like a university museum. But then again I'm talking about Fred Wilson, an artist who thrives on the unexpected, and whose lecture I attended this evening at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. I believe it is no small part of Wilson's success as an artist that he is a likable and engaging character. This good-naturedness allows him easier access to a rather privileged world he loves to tinker with, the inner workings of museum culture, in order to produce work that reframes, rethinks and challenges the status quo.
Wilson's work explores curatorial practice itself and often relies solely on existing artworks in museum collections as subject matter which he rearranges and displays in unconventional and compelling ways. Working in this manner allows him to produce startling exhibitions which provoke and confound our expectations of museums, their role as cultural arbiters, and their interpretation and presentation of artworks themselves. This working method has in fact become Wilson's main methodology especially since his exhibition "Mining the Museum" at the Maryland Historical Society in 1992 - a breakthrough event he concedes changed his life forevermore afterwards. After this landmark show, recontextualizing works of art (and in turn our interpretations of them) through bold curatorial juxtaposition became Wilson's signature. Just one look at the well known image from "Mining' of Wilson's display of slave shackles and elaborate silver tea goblets together in the same display case is really all you need to start reconsidering the notions of historical accuracy, authenticity, and truth. History is written by the winners as they say.
In the years since "Mining the Museum" Wilson has gone on to produce other provocative displays in museum and galleries worldwide. Representing the U.S. in the 2003 Venice Biennale afforded an opportunity for international cultural exploration and Wilson fittingly explored how the Moorish culture and Africans exerted and continues to play such a large part in the cultural life of Venice. His large ebony chandelier entitled "Speak of Me as I Am" became a metaphorical exploration of Africans' impact on the culture of this particular city through one of their rich traditions- glassblowing. His large chandelier was rich in form and seductive in its understatement of its medium.
Wilson spoke of how he loves the idea of bringing two differing things together to produce a third thing - namely some unexpected concept or rethinking of the work itself - and this notion is one that continues to drive much of his artistic production. His work reflects his own perspective of course so his reworkings of museum collections still provide a highly personal take on history and how it's been told- a fact the artist readily acknowledges. Yet he does it with such gripping force that it has the effect of stopping you in your tracks.
The fundamental core of Fred Wilson's art is the idea that historical accuracy and representation are not all they are cracked up to be. There's more than one way to organize a show he tells us. And in that telling, Wilson's art explores not only how strongly museums impact and shape our cultural view but more importantly how we consider and understand ourselves.
Fred Wilson, "Mining the Museum" Maryland Historical Society, 1992
courtesy PBS, Art:21 and PaceWildenstein, New York
As it wound down its run towards its final weekend, the group show
entitled "The Conquerors" at Artspace seemed to be crying out for a final close
look. So I was more than happy to oblige.
Mark Bodnar wins the Tim Burton award for his figures set in generic, yet seriously strange landscapes. Bodnar's subjects are typically involved in a kooky and mysterious contemplation of their next move in any given scene all the while casting a wary eye about with Betty Boop-like beepers. His observations stand as an eccentric looking glass into a world in which your own emotions take flight couched in disowned, unloved cartoon characters trying to find their own place in the world.
Mari Inukai's paintings are
sumptuous in their technique and direct expressive qualities. Her underlying sense of sentiment and desire
stand like beacons to ground her painterly figures in a realm which seems as
influenced by Vermeer and John Currin as Manga and Anime. I felt mesmerized by her tactile paint
handling and strong emotive yearnings.
Bonnie Brenda Scott produced "Reactor"
a large mural which dominates a full wall in the gallery. The work is composed of writhing figures rendered
in cerebellum-like matter that wind their amoeba shapes across the wall's expanse
in a flurry of orange, pink, and blue. Smoke like shapes flutter up above and her
shapes seem at once to be menacing and contemplative as if engaged in some
weird conversation to which we are not fully privy.
Bill McRight sticks to black
and white imagery exhibiting a loose amalgamation of monsters hanging out and
doing scary beasty things. They also cavort a little though and also do things
like ride motorcycles. He purposefully
leaves the work a bit vague so that you're forced to fill in the blanks. Yet the
strong graphic presence of his pieces (probably the boldest in the show) propels
you into a dialogue that leaves you feeling like the work is always going to somehow
win the battle on its own terms.
Liz McGrath has the only sculptures
in the show exhibiting a trio of flying bunnies elongated in mid-leap (ala
Barry Flanagan style) though hers are clothed in odd, hand-stitched, quasi
military uniforms. She also has a pair of boxed relief works which depict an
elephant and a mosquito in an elaborate ceramic framed and velvet lined animal
reliquary. They stand out like some sort of carnival sideshow attraction at
once mystically repellent yet so elaborately crafted that they command
The Conquerors at Artspace
September 4 -
Picasso and the Allure of Language
I will be the first to admit that I approached this show with caution and also a bit of trepidation. The thought crossed my mind that the jig was up and it's just that our museum-going selves haven't caught on as yet. I mean, can there really be that much more to be said in a Picasso exhibition that hasn't been said already? The blockbuster shows, of which there have of course been many, have effectively worked over the terrain of Picasso as artistic genius to the point of exhaustion, but "Picasso and the Allure of Language" the current show at the Nasher Museum at Duke proves there is still fertile territory to be plumbed. This show's perspective takes a beguiling multi-faceted approach with the primary aim of exploring the role and influence of language and writing in Picasso's work.
Organized by the Yale University Art Gallery in conjunction with Yale's Beinecke Library and support from the Nasher, the show displays manuscripts, letters, book projects, catalogues, and poetry both from Picasso himself (I have to admit I didn't know he had written such a large amount of poetry) and his contemporaries such as Georges Braque and particularly writer Gertrude Stein. Surprisingly, fewer paintings are on hand than might be expected though the show includes a multitude of prints, drawings, and various illustrated book editions. There are also archetypal cubist-style Picassos included that were either created on newsprint or utilized newspapers as source/ subject material such as the work "Pedestal Table with Guitar and Sheet Music" from 1920. One of the more intriguing works is entitled "Dice, Packet of Cigarettes, and Visiting-Card" from 1914 in which the artist remade one of Gertrude Stein's and Alice Stoklas's calling cards (left at Picasso's door when they called on him in his absence) into a collage work itself regifted by the artist and left at Stein's and Stoklas's door shortly afterwards.
It is a natural that this show emanates from Yale in that
the literary influence of Gertrude Stein on Picasso's work can be directly
traced from and supported by the Beinecke Library's vast archive of her
writings. An early benefactor of Picasso,
collector of his work and his primary patron during the crucial formative cubist years of
1905-1914, Stein was a larger than life expatriate figure with an enormous
influence in Parisian artistic life of
It is to the show's benefit that it possesses such
strong multi-media appeal (a snazzy touch-screen video display with digitally turning manuscript pages kept many viewers' rapt attention while I visited the
show) and is quite interdisciplinary in nature. In this sense, it is in keeping with our
media enthralled age to a degree and yet also able to strike some common ground with appeal for lovers of the visual image, the written word and the printed page- vintage bibliophiles, art fans, and Twitterers alike.
While the chronology of the show is vast - exhibited work spans across Picasso's life from age 19 to his 87th year - the intimate feel of the show in the Nasher's gallery gives it the feel of a retrospective in miniature form. One in fact will likely leave feeling a bit dazzled by it all... but also refreshed.
(author's special thanks to Thornton Wilder for his suggestion to Stein to donate her literary archive to Yale in the first place. Who knows how much longer we would have had to wait before some intrepid scholar would have tracked down these literary linkages otherwise?)
(image courtesy the Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University)
Using a box of Froot Loops and some Go-Gurt as props, Michael Pollan--looking natty in a sportcoat and tennis shoes--spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of about 7,000 people last week at the University of Wisconsin's Kohl Center. Not too shabby for a weeknight author event.
Yet I wasn't surprised in the least by the turnout: here in
As one of the speakers introducing Pollan noted, about 10% of Wisconsinites work in agriculture-related jobs. While no one in my family farms anymore, my grandparents (now both deceased) raised hogs and Angus beef cattle. My aunt and uncle ran a family dairy farm and still live on that land. As for me, I don't even garden and hay makes me sneeze like you can't believe--but I'm truly proud of the farming my family members have done. Farming is physically demanding and financially risky. If you like to eat, you should appreciate what farmers do.
But back to Pollan:
part of what I appreciate about both his book and his talk at the UW is
the way in which culture has not been left out of the equation. In fact, one of the big drivers behind Pollan's
Just as food is a big part of
Local visual artists have also engaged in food-related
issues. I still remember an excellent
show the James Watrous Gallery of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and
Letters did on the theme of farming in 2007, "Wisconsin's People on the Land" (my review is archived here). And, timed to coincide with Pollan's
multi-day stint in
While I've never been completely disconnected from my food, Pollan has inspired me to make the extra effort to buy local food more frequently and do "real" cooking more often. (Yet I'll never, ever, give up the occasional donut; life would no longer be worth living.) It's not just about me and my health or quality of life--it's about being invested in this place where I live, in many senses of that word.
The web-based culture magazine The Curator kindly published this piece on mine in August exploring the future of music magazines and the difference between them, the music industry they cover, and all the buzz over the fate of newspapers. Thanks to AW.
Few things get Quincy Jones riled up like death.
First, it was Michael Jackson’s. Then, it was Vibe’s.
The monthly magazine covering black pop culture was shuttered suddenly last month 16 years after Jones co-founded it. The private equity firm that owned it failed to find a buyer. That was the only way to keep it solvent. The next day, after the news emerged, Jones vowed to revive it: “They just messed my magazine all up,” he told the Associated Press. “I’m’a take it online because print … is over.”
The problems facing newspapers right now have convinced some, like Jones, to think print is over. But what newspapers are facing seems categorically different from the current plight of music magazines. Significantly, newspapers haven’t had to deal with piracy, which over the past decade has reconfigured the entire recording industry and by extension reconfigured the landscape that music magazines cover. For newspapers, news is news, whether in print or online. Distribution is the problem, not the nature of journalism. For music magazines, the problem is existential. What is the purpose of a music magazine in light of the dramatic shifts of the past decade?
In 2000, CD sales, having survived Napster 1.0, continued their decline, but slowly. By the middle of the decade, they were in free fall. Just two years ago, estimates ranged from 1 to 2 billion illicit downloads a year. That figure is surely low now. The marketplace value of music has cratered. It’s expected to be free. Few really expect paid downloads to match, much less surpass, former profits. Most industry insiders, including musicians themselves, consider CDs to be a marketing device for live concerts. To have a hit record, furthermore, is almost meaningless when that means selling a few hundred thousand copies. Meanwhile, those able to top the charts are fewer and fewer in number. When people say Michael Jackson’s death signaled an end to an era, they in part mean there won’t be superstars like him ever again.
Bloggers We Love
Bridgette Redman and Lansing Theater
Drew McManus' "Neo Classical" at the Partial Observer
Marc Moss (Missoula, MT artist)
Mary Louise Schumacher's "Art City"
Other Great Sites
American Composers Orchestra
Arts & Letters Daily
Center for Arts and Culture
Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive
National Arts Journalism Program
NEA Arts Journalism Institute for Dance Criticism
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater & Musical Theater
New Music Box: American Music Center
USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program