Friday, May 29, 2009

Is Photography Becoming Painting? Duh.

When painter Paul Delaroche stood before an early Daguerreotype and exclaimed "Painting is dead!" he had no idea that one day a  little organization calling themselves "Adobe" would make him eat his words.  Nowadays, painting is far from death, and it's photography that is regressing back towards painting.  The images above, of Estonian model (and chess champion/entrepreneur/politician who's awful caught-with-her-mouth-open Wikipedia photo I don't feel bad about publishing since homegirl's got a zillion things going for her) Carmen Kass, are a perfect example. Start with a tall, thin, good looking girl who photographs well, add an Adobe Photoshop artist on a high-powered computer, and you end up with a digital painting of a supermodel (and a beautiful Dior advertisement).

When un-retouched Steven Klein photos of Madonna surfaced earlier this year, the blog-o-sphere exploded with criticism of the singer-dancer-adopter-of-African-babies' aging face as well as shout-outs to her well-maintained 50-year old face and form. Regardless of how you think she looked, it should really be shocking that "un-retouched photos" caused such a stir. Aren't photos supposed to be un-retouched? Wasn't photography invented as a way to preserve images of the world around us as it actually existed? Argue as much as you like about how photography even in it's purest form will always distort reality (and I'd tend to agree with you), we've entered an age where photography doesn't even resemble reality.

I'm not trying to tell anyone that re-touching that evil or otherwise.  I'm just saying that its interesting to think that photography, once thought to be the culmination of man's efforts in painting, is moving closer and closer back towards traditional painting every day. 

This New York Times Op-Ed piece thinks we should legislate retouching, as is being considered by the French:  http://video.nytimes.com/video/2009/03/09/opinion/1194838469575/sex-lies-and-photoshop.html

Was Abe Lincoln re-touched? See a History of Photographic Tamering:  http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/farid/research/digitaltampering/

Why I LOVE Yahoo Answers.

You find things like this--weird artwork and a bunch of people giving their opinions about it.

Cute and Affordable on Etsy: Kelly Neidig

All of a sudden, every artist I come across whose work I like is from Portland, Orgeon. Case and point: Kelly Neidig, artist and president of the Portland Open Studios. Ms. Neidig makes adorable little abstracted landscape paintings which are available on Etsy for under $100. These colorful, graphic squares give you big oil-painted bang for your buck.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cute and Affordable on Etsy: Rebecca Shelly

Looking at art on Esty is kind of like going to a thrift store: if you've got the energy to dig through all the junk, you'll find some really beautiful things.  Scrolling through seemingly endless mediocre (and worse) paintings of fruit still lifes, CUSTOM PORTRAITS OF YOUR PET!, and sunset and palm tree landscapes makes finding something really beautiful as exciting as finding a Prada skirt amidst racks of acid washed jeans and polyester suits.

Enter Rebecca Shelly, a young painter from Portland, Oregon creating beautiful, leafy abstractions which combine naturalistic description with biomorphic areas of flat color.  A number of her paintings are available for purchase on Etsy at wonderfully affordable prices. Currently featured on the Cover of the Portland Review Literary Journal,  Ms. Shelly is an artist on the rise!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Teachers Set Me Up for Failure: Kid Paints and Other Stuff

I am currently volunteer-teaching (ah, the great money-making options for artists) an art class for 9 year-olds where we are making Audubon-style bird watercolors. Things seem to be going well--let's just say that the Peeps are starting to look more and more anatomically correct--and we are now entering the coloring phase of the drawings where a we've come across a little snag. Unfortunately, it was not until now that I realized that watercolor sets for kids are like a cruel joke. Who came up with these colors?? I understand that kids are attracted to bright, primary colors, but how are you supposed to paint even kind of realistically with a basic set as a kid? Nothing in the world comes in these colors except for Grimace and Smurfs. And lets not start on the futility of the white watercolor... just to highlight the fact that you screwed up and can't fix it.

Unfortunate experience in hand, I am now proposing a new kids watercolor line up: venetian red, yellow ocher, naples yellow, alizarin crimson, ultramarine, cerulean, burnt umber, and cobalt violet. It might be harder to make fuchsia, but at least you (and/or your students) could botch your way through almost anything. I maintain that it would be better than the box pictured above.

Let me end this rant with a little story to tear at your heart strings: earlier this week, I watched a child get teary eyed realizing that she had to paint a song sparrow (made up of 6 or 7 different shades of pale but saturated brown) and there was no brown in her watercolor box. Yeah, I suppose that I could have sat there for twenty minutes to figure out all the nuances of the crummy little colors to come up with close to the necessary hues, but I am not getting paid to volunteer all day (insert diabolical laughter fading into crying jags).  All I am saying is, can't we do better? Think of the children.....(music swelling)

Giclee? How about Gi-cliche?

One of my BIGGEST pet-peeves in the reproductive fine art print world today is the use of the word "giclee" to mean "made on an inkjet printer." Why? Mainly because the term giclee gives us no information about the printing process, unlike older photographic terms like gelatin silver print, platinum palladium print, chromogenic print, and even some of the newer terms used to refer to prints made on inkjets like archival pigment print or digital c-print.

According to the ever-helpful Wikipedia, the word "giclee" is derived from the french "glicer" meaning "to squirt, spurt, or spray," and was coined by a printer wanting to differentiate Iris proof prints from the finer art prints being made on the same printers. The history here, however, is somewhat superfluous to me because I have absolutely no problem with the coining and early use of this term. My problem is with the fact that such a clearly nonsensical and euphemistic word has gained popularity over more clear and to the point terms (like the aforementioned archival pigment print and digital c-print). Is the public really that easy to fool? Would we really rather hear some bastardized French-sounding gobbledygook than a clear, concise description of the printing process?

In addition to all this, "giclee" just kind of sounds gross when you say it. And it sounds like that awful JLo movie "Gigli." Gross.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ishmael and Ahab's Wish List: Michael Cohen's Scrimshaw

Who watches Antiques Roadshow on PBS, because I must confess that I watch every week. Maybe once a month, a nice piece of scrimshaw appears.  For those who are not hip to 1800 sailor slang, scrimshaw is bone, teeth, ivory, shell, etc., etched by hand and then colored by rubbing has ink into the depressions. It is generally considered craft as it was historically done by sailors/whalers while on voyages during moments of idleness and sobriety (which may explain why there aren't tons of these things floating around).

As it turns out, scrimshaw is still alive and well and Artist Michael Cohen is generating some really marvelous versions. First of all, I just gotta say, it has to be very hard to create such fine detail and shading. Just looking at older examples from history, it is clear that Cohen's work is leaps and bounds above your average deck hand. As for subject matter, there are some departures but I would argue that its intent is still the same.  Maybe there weren't pin-up vixens on early mariners' pieces, as it wasn't socially appropriate to show full bloomers and exposed bustle just anywhere (luckily now you can pay a fortune to have Christian Lassen paint a babe snuggling with a tiger and a stallion on top of your Camaro). It's expected that tastes will shift over time and even the oldest of art forms will take on new subjects. What isn't expended is to see someone with all the skill that Michael Cohen has, really elevating a historical craft-form to fine art.

Pick one up for the man in your life: http://www.michaelcohenscrimshaw.com/

Holy Craft, Look Out!!!! It's Extreme Craft.

If someone asked you to define art as opposed to craft, what would you say?

That is one of those questions which I tend to roll over in my mind while showering (isn't that where all the good ideas come from?). I really don't have an answer to this question; I think it really all boils down to context. Dada's 'Readymades' are certainly very functional and Judy Chicago's Dinner Party is made up of traditional craft elements, and at the same time Tiffany & Co. make vases, lamps, and other chotchkies fabulous enough to be considered art. Maybe the only difference is in the price tag (not that Tiffany's is cheap...). Sadly right now, I can only afford to buy craft, and the non-Tiffany kind at that (yes, I am still waiting for my Obama-bucks).

What with these muddled definitions of craft and art and their mutant, degenerate love children, we need to consider the Extreme Craft Blog brought to you by one, Garth Johnson. Here "craft" is defined as follows: art masquerading as craft, craft masquerading as art, and craft extending its middle finger. Frankly, I think that covers a good chunk of what you see in a gallery or museumTara Donovan or Tom Friedman could fit into those categories on quite a few occasions, not to mention countless community based, guerrilla works. Extreme Craft covers all of this. It is an excellent read... not to mention a fount of information if you need to find a groomer who can make your poodle look like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (you can't handle the truth!!).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

If Penelope was a Painter: Dionne Simpson

Last fall, while working at the International Caribbean Art Fair in New York, two exciting things happened. One: I got to meet the famous director/Haitian Art collector Johnathan Demme, and two: I discovered the work of Jamaican-born and Canadian-bred artist Dionne Simpson. The fair itself was a poorly-attended let down, but Ms. Simpson's work was anything but.  Beginning with your average canvas on stretcher surface, Simpson doesn't simply pile on the paint, but rather pulls threads out of the canvas (thus, the classical reference in the title) and adds a variety of materials back into and on top of the screen she creates.  The photographs of her work simply don't do the delicate surface justice; let's just say they look so good in person I seriously thought about blowing a chunk of my savings on one, but sadly for me and my walls, poverty and practicality prevailed that particular day.

Ain't No Mountain High Enough for Ricky Allman

Being a painter myself, I have a special appreciation for painters who make their blacks and whites full of color.  I've discussed this very topic on F***ART before and my most recent Ffffound ffffind, Ricky Allman, is one such artist whose color-saturated whites I just want to live in.  Mr. Allman's colorful and mountainous work makes me imagine he's the Himalayan lovechild of Peter Doig and Jules de Balincourt, two of my favorite contemporary painters.  In light of the fact that Mr. Doig and Mr. de Balincourt have nature working against any attempts at making Sherpa babies, and because his work is really fun to look at, I feel extremely lucky to have come across Mr. Allman's website:  http://www.rickyallman.com/

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Drawings that Make You Want to do it: James Roper

Two of my favorite things in this world are 1. art, and 2. sex. So it comes as no surprise that I was immediately drawn to to James Roper's drawings of dis-robing (dis-bikini-ing?) pornstars and colorful explosions. In his series Rapture, Roper obscures the over exposed breasts and faces of some of our favorite adult entertainers with wild explosions of color. Eliciting far more genuine feelings about sex than your average silicon-enhanced porn-grimace, Roper's drawings depict the kind of eruption we all hope our partners feel when we start to take off our clothes. And they look cool.

See Mr. Roper's car crashes, hot babes, and visual references to Baroque art on his website: http://www.jroper.co.uk/

Or go to the Culver City Art Walk next Saturday, May 30th, to see some of his work in person courtesy of LeBasse Projects
http://lebasseprojects.com/
http://www.culvercity.org/articles/articles.asp?id=372

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Art We're Over: "Funny" Charts.

Yes, the "viral graph" had its moment in the sun.  The "Rick Rolled" graphs were kinda funny, as were the ones based on rap songs when they first appeared on Ebaums.  I'm not embarassed to say that I've spent my fair share of time on GraphJam.com, but now, artists and illustrators are taking these humorous charts and including them in their online portfolios.  Are we really supposed to believe that these one-note pie-charts and venn-diagrams are art?

I'm absolutely ready to call LOL Cats art because they take something that exists out in the world and breathe new meaning into it, often by turning it on its head (I can has Duchamp, anyone?).  But these charts and graphs I see all over town (aka the art+design blogosphere) are just too facile for me to really believe in.  There's no new meaning, no deeper read, nothing more than surface cleverness put down on paper (or pixels) in a few quick moments' time.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Practicing what he Preaches: Craig R. Norton

While we're speaking about art not being able to exist in a vacuum (see the last post about my digestive tract), I might as well introduce the work of artist/activist Craig Norton. Just when you start to believe the art world is full of scumbags and con artists (con 'artists' being the most appropriate term indeed), you meet someone like Norton who restores your faith in the whole crazy milieu; someone who actually makes work and lives his life in ways that complement on feed each other, and improves the state the the world for those around him.

Craig Norton makes beautiful mixed-media installations/drawings/collages/paintings. He's completely self-taught and makes art about a cause, social justice, which drives him forward. He works to improve his community in his free time. He's really nice to people (even the meager assistants working at his galleries!)--no ego, no nonsense, just a burning desire to make art that will make people think.

The real point here isn't that Mr. Norton should win a Mr. Congeniality award, it's that his work is amazing. He collages pieces of paper and wallpaper samples with delicate ball-point pen stipple drawings to create figures and animals with a uniquely jarring beauty. Norton compiles these figures into allegorical tableaus of which criticize social injustices of the past and present.

Check him out though his gallery: http://www.shearburngallery.com/
or on his personal site: http://crnorton.tripod.com/

I'd Rather see a Doctor of Art History

While waiting on a cold exam table in paper robe today at the gastroenterologist, I was thinking two things: 1. Thank god I dodged the rectal exam, and 2. Why can't all these specialists think about my body like a painting, instead of a bunch of unrelated organs. Forget these doctors of "medicine," I want a doctor of art history looking at my symptoms.

To make a long story short, my body has been the unfortunate home to some minor but ongoing infections, allergies and other generalized problems that just won't go away. The real issue, however, is that no one will look at my body as a whole: I've got an allergist, an OBGYN, a dermatologist, and now a gastroenterologist on the case, but they're each only looking at one part of the picture. Why can't doctors look at my body the way we're supposed to look at art? How is it that the most educated individuals in the field refuse to think about the larger somatic implications of the things they study? If an art critic or historian only looked at one aspect of a picture, they'd be laughed out of town. Art, like the body, is a complicated, multi-faceted thing that cannot be examined in a vacuum.

So 'scientists', it's time to get with the program. And while you're at it, why don't you call my goddam insurance company and tell those bastards i'll see them in hell.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Paintings Even a Gallerina Can Afford: Harry Stooshinoff aka "paintbox"

What's small, fast, cheap, and beautiful? If you guessed a Thai prostitute, you're right, but that wasn't really the answer I was looking for.  I was speaking of the paintings of Etsy artist extraordinaire, Harry Stooshinoff, also known by his Etsy sellername, "paintbox."  A painter for over 25 years, Mr. Stooshinoff, makes art at an astounding pace--he currently has 274 pieces for sale on Etsy!  Maybe it was my time working with outsider art, but for me, there's something unbelievably seductive about an artist who makes and makes and makes work with some serious urgency and passion.  (Yeah, I know, it perpetuates that whole masculine 'myth of the artist' thing, but come on!  How can you not love a guy who feels compelled to make art 24/7?)

He paints quickly, using the natural and human altered landscape around him as inspiration. The paintings are fast and furious, combining just the right amount of letting paint naturally be paint and thoughtful paint manipulation.  His bold big-sky based paintings are sometimes reminiscent of Richard Diebenkorn, sometimes painting-collages, sometimes painted over old emails, and always affordable.

Check Harry Stooshinoff's blog: http://harrystooshinoff.blogspot.com/
And his Etsy store for great original art under $50 (and get your boyfriend to buy you one for your birthday like I did, shown above.)   http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=63720

Friday, May 15, 2009

Try Writing with this 'Fountain' Pen: Julius Popp's Bit.Fall

In the fall of 2006, artist Julius Popp exhibited his piece Bit.Fall at the Kemper Museum in St. Louis, MO, where I was living at the time. A fountain built with 'custom electonics,' Popp's piece used water droplets to spell out words.

At the time I thought it was so cool, even when a professor of mine at the time grumbled, "That thing's going to be in every mall in America in 10 years." Three years and a lot of you-tubing later, I grudgingly have to admit that my professor was right. The fountain has made its way to Japan, delighting locals and tourists by writing in English and Japanese and creating pictures of dolphins and stars.

So now what? Is it still high art that's just been brought to the masses, or was it just a flashy gimmick all along? Maybe its not 'high art' any longer, but instead has become a viral-video-as-art kind of art?
Regardless of what it is, you can watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tP5Ays_eUk&feature=related
And see what the museum had to say about it here: http://kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu/grid.html

Saving the world with Bling Bling: Valay Shende is an Artist to "Watch"

On my never-ending trek through the internet art world, I recently came across the work of Valay Shende.  As an Indian-American myself, I am very excited (and proud) to see Indian based artists showing internationally in this increasingly global world (proving there's more to Indian art and culture than Slumdog Millionaire and that Freida Pinto is not the only beautiful thing coming out of India!).  Shende, a Mumbai-based sculptor brings an ironic and attractive eye to the social problems plaguing India and other developing countries.  His mastery of metal and the molding of found objects create pieces that depict the scrapings from the bottom of society in a glorified, luxurious and gilded extravaganza.  One of my particular favorites is the piece "Management Guru", a life-size rendition of a man and a bike in bronze, steel and wristwatches.  It's impossible to stop staring at life-sized "chai- wala" studded with wristwaches, and if people won't pay attention to poverty and filth, we might as well gild it. So if you happen to be in Zurich in the next month and a half, stop by the Kashya Hildebrand Gallery for Mr. Shende's show Indian Encounters running from April 2 - June 27, 2009.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Brightest Crayon in the Box: Christian Joseph Faur

See the photo at left? IT'S MADE OUT OF CRAYONS.  Yeah, I am for real.   One of my favorite art finds from one of my favorite websites, FFFFOUND.com, it's the work of Ohio artist Christian J. Faur.  Faur uses crayons as pixels, casting them in place by hand (he's cast over 100,000 crayons and counting!) into haunting photographic works.  Blue Boy, the work shown above, is composed of crayons organized by tone rather than color, allowing Faur to create the most colorful monochromatic image you've ever seen. These colorful monochromes probe ideas about light and optics--Blue Boy, for example uses thousands of tiny specks of color to create a monochromatic image the same way your TV does when you watch a black and white movie.  Get close to the TV, and you'll see all the tiny blocks of red, blue and green; back up, and everything is in black and white again.  Who needs to go to the Met when you've got that kind of a Monet in living room?

But, I digress.

One of the great things about Mr. Faur's website and work is his obvious zest for making art--his body of work includes collages, installations, sculptures, paintings, encaustic works on panel and more (I'm also a particularly big fan of his shredded paper collages). See it all at http://www.christianfaur.com/

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Sound of One Hand Painting: John Sarra's Tone Poems

Good art can be interpreted, but the best art does something more--it moves you. Both visually and intellectually, the viewer walks away changed. St. Louis artist John Sarra's work somehow manages to both sooth and challenge. His paintings are tenderly rendered with soft, distinct stokes that lend a very gentle rhythm to the paint surface. In a word, they are meditative. But the calm is short lived; in the reflections and silhouette, there is always a surprise. There is something lurking in the shallows or floating in the light, bringing your attention to an unexpected conversion of organic to man-made.

His show John Sarra: Tone Poems opens on Thursday (TODAY), May 14 and runs until June 20th at the Schmidt Art Center in Belleville, IL.
So you want to contemplate some more.... yeah, you do: http://www.johnsarra.com/

Snake on a Plain: Elsie Taliaferro Hill

While flipping through the New York Gallery Guide on the train the other day, I came across an ad for a show at Nabi Gallery feauring the work of artist Elsie Talieferro Hill. The image accompanying the advertisement (shown at left) was an unusal East-meets-West painting depicting a single snake surrounded by birds on a snowy ground, brightly colored and stylized sumi-ink-esque mountains rising in the background. The image felt immediately familiar to me; it was the kind of allegorical painting you feel like you've seen before in a dream. Like any good little blogger, I went straight home and hit the internet up for more information about the artist and her work.

What I discovered upon further investigation was not terribly shocking: Ms. Hill is an artist making beautiful paintings and showing at Nabi Gallery (OK, so maybe the internet really isn't all that informative and I really can find out everything I want to know reading those hard publications we used to rely on). I also discovered numerous examples of her other work, many of which contrast simple painterly washes with more worked up and detailed images of animals and nature. A painter myself, I really appreciate Ms. Hill's whites, which are hardly whites at all, but rather are subtly toned and shaded areas of color. With her beautiful washy paint, lovely images of nature, and whites full of color, Elsie Taliaferro Hill is absolutely a painter's painter, which is just one of many reasons why we here at F***ART are big fans!

Interested in more? (You should be.)
Elsie Taliaferro Hill: http://elsiethill.com/
Nabi Gallery (Where her show Pangaea runs until May 30th): http://www.nabigallery.com/

Sunday, May 10, 2009

That's For My Windshield!!! The Art of Polly Morgan

Just because she doesn't hunt down the flying rats and tree climbing, disease bags that plague our fair land, there is no reason that that higher mammals can't rejoice at Polly Morgan's spectacular taxidermy scultpures/installations. From a technical point of view, her craft is flawless; every feather is perfectly in place. I've been known to get a bit squeamish around the macabre, but Morgan's works are a tasteful and poignant takes on death, and even the most squeamish of us will see their beauty. 

Morgan's creatures are not specimens, but beautiful beings who we are witnessing passing from one world to the next; she emphasizes how precious life is, and the preciousness of each of her animals. Each creature is lovingly interred in a thoughtful pose, including in the work above, "To Every Seed His Own Body." This particular work reminds me of Snow White; actually, it makes me understand Snow White. I never really had a visual connection with the idea of a glass coffin to mourn the passing of beauty (what can I say, all the open casket funerals that I have been to were for relatives long past the whole beauty phase). But when I look at this little bird, I must confess that I am overwhelmed with a desire to cry about this exquisite little life's blossom fading to rot.

More sentimental moments:http://www.pollymorgan.co.uk/

Oh McGrew, You've Done it Again!

Unlike the myopic old cartoon character with a similar last name (Mr. Magoo for those who aren't getting the reference), Emily McGrew is a cool young painter living and working in Austin, Texas.  Her charmingly cockeyed landscape paintings are based on chopped-up and slightly crookedly reassembled photographs.  Often featuring sinuous and swirling greenery, these paintings are impossible to not like!

Want to see more? Of course you do! Check out her website http://emily.mcgrew.googlepages.com.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

F***ART gets called out for calling out David Bonetti for calling out Cindy Tower.

The saga continues! Drink it up ya'll, drink it up.


For the record, no, those were not 'girls in the locker room' I was referring to, but rather the opinions of several arts professionals (sometimes there isn't much difference). Also, why are we targeting women here! Can't men talk shit too? And I realize that I may be calling the kettle black about the writing thing--I find plenty of typos on F***ART--the difference is I write for a tiny art blog that makes flatulence jokes while Mr. Bonetti is the lead art critic at the biggest publication in a major city.  My point was simply that his work is not my personal favorite when I compare it with that of his professional peers, and I have never been awed by his command of the English language.

But for real, Mr. Colin of shawart blog and Mr. David Bonetti of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I respect you both for sharing your opinions so honestly. That's really what F***ART is all about--calling it like we see it and keeping the dialogue open! (Also, let us all please note that I personally did not call Mr. Bonetti "a dick" or "racist"  but that rather, I know people who have--and I really honestly do!)

The real question here is who is going to call out Colin for calling me out for calling out David Bonetti for calling out Cindy Tower? Somebody keep this thing going (if only to increase F***ART's hits!)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Art Critic Bitchslaps: David Bonetti vs. Ivy Cooper

Anyone who's ever been to St. Louis, MO knows the name David Bonetti, the city's one and only art critic. Personally, I don't think Bonetti is much of a writer. I've heard others call him a rascist, a dick, and totally glib.  Recently, Bonetti was part of an art critic smack-down after writing a scathing (and again, not very well written) review of artist Cindy Tower's show of paintings at Sheldon Galleries. Cindy fired back with a YouTube video promoting a device she called the "Bonetti Cheese Cutter."  The local papers had a field day, publishing articles like the point-counter-point which appeared in the Riverfront Times.  Most recently, Art in America published a glowing review of Cindy's show, just to round out the criticism.


But don't let ANY of these jerks tell you what to think, see Cindy Tower's work for yourself: http://cindytower.com/  (We here at F***ART may be a little biased.  It's no secret that we like flatulence jokes.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Model as Muse? The Metropolitan Museum celebrates clothes hangers.

The tabloids were abuzz this week with details and dresses from THE social event of the year, The Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute Gala, a prom-like gathering for the rich and famous.  Apparently student council president Anna Wintour fell asleep at the  prom committee metting this year and her cronies came up with the theme "Model as Muse." Regardless of how such a false and empty theme came into being, the stylistas of this city decided to run with it. There was an issue of Vogue devoted to fashion models as muses.  An exhibit at the museum where mannequins hung like corpses from the ceiling (perhaps dead from malnutrition?), a fancy ball, and a plethora of windows at Bergdorf's also celebrated the emaciated giraffes as being catalysts for greatness (see above).

The infuriating thing about Vogue & Co's seizing of the idea of "model as muse" is that it's a beautiful and old idea; one with history and depth.  Artists'  models have traditionally been unusual figures on the fringe of society (yes, I am talking about that guy in life drawing with the pierced ball sack).  They were often artists' secret lovers, prostitutes, free-spirits, and hooligans of the best kind.  They inspired passion and desire and love and creativity, and the idea of valuing a fashion model as a "muse" is an absolute slap in the face to this history.  Fashion models are valued for extreme thinness and the ability to slink into any garment on the planet.  They are supposed to shut-up, look-pretty, and let the clothes do the talking--hardly the thing to inspire greatness.  While there is indeed the occasional Irving Penn and Lisa Fonssagrives artist-model love story in fashion, these anomalies are hardly the torrid affairs the term "model as muse" brings to mind.  We all know from watching Tyra that models can have plenty of personality (or at least daily ego-centric manic episodes that approximate a personality), but your average fashion model simply isn't the kind of exotic rebel "Model as Muse" should refer to.

So, Anna W, what's on tap for next year? "Mannequin as Muse?" How about "Wire Hanger as Muse?"

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I Thought That She Was Bigger: The Traveling Art of Michael Hughes

I think we are all guilty of taking cheap touristy pictures, despite knowing how tacky they are.  Michael Hughes, however, is elevating the tourist photo to high art, and making a career out of those snapshots.  Having captured the Leaning Tower in ice cream and the Eiffel Tower as a key chain, Hughes has trotted the world and has the pictures to prove it.  By utilizing tourist goods as the stand-ins for the landmarks we all know and love, Hughes takes a light-hearted jab at cultural imperialism and the whole superficial notion of a tourist's view of a foreign land.  The pharaohs would have been mortified that their monuments to immortality are now reduced to dinky, plastic, pyramids for slack-jawed visitors, and Hughes makes us realized that maybe we should feel the same way.  In the end, these photographs are as transient and fleeting as the crummy trinkets and renderings that serve as props.


What's that a prescription for? Tangled Alphabets at MoMA

The current MoMA exhibition, Tangled Alphabets, is a kick in the ass for anyone who's ever debated the primacy of the fine arts vs. the literary arts.  As this untitled, 1967 piece by Mira Schendel suggests, the distinction is illusory.  Schendel's work touches upon the archaic nature of text and it uncanny ability to find expression "in between the lines."  The Argentine Leon Ferrari is also featured in the exhibition.  A contemporary of Schendel, Ferrari experimented with thin metal wire, deriving sculptures that appear to be 3-D text, or a blown-up microscopic view of a letter's DNA.  Schendel and Ferrari write next year's language; and, as we all know, next year never comes.  (image taken from theartnewspaper.com)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Your Mom Goes to Art School: Is deviantART the new BFA?

Do you suppose that there have always been so many artists out there making work and that the internet just allows us to see them? It seems to me that the last few years, particularly with the launch of websites like deviantART, that more people are making art without having studied it.  DeviantART in particular seems to be the place to be for young artists with little or no formal education. It's always a fun site to browse, full of teenage angst pictures and 'Twilight' paintings mixed in with more conventionally 'good' paintings. The piece above, "The Local" by Artistwilder, is a pretty "good" painting: nice colors, correct perspectives, successful composition, and good drawing--certainly the kind of painting that you'd see made by someone with some formal art education.

Spending time on deviantART always leaves me with mixed feelings. While it's a great option for young people to post their offerings to the art gods and get some feedback, it seems unfortunate that such sites may be replacing more formal and traditional art schooling. DeviantART is both democratizing and lowering standards; now everyone can display work in a global forum, but can one really get quality education, critique, and exposure online? Yeah, yeah, I get the irony here--I'm writing this on an art blog, blah blah blah. Regardless of where this whole internet-as-art-school thing takes us, I will be interested to see if in 20, 50, 100 years from now, artists of international fame will say that they got their education from sites like deviant.

For more art by Artistwilder scope this: http://artistwilder.deviantart.com/

I'll Have a Salome on Rye, Hold the Mayo: Paintings by Erik Gecas

I LOVE THIS PAINTING!!

Maybe I've been watching too many Vincent Price movies lately, but when I saw this painting, I literally cooed---- tell me this chick doesn't look like she fell out of a 60's campy, horror flick! And what a nice grisaille! That red is just perfect! This lovely piece, Erik Gecas's "Salome Losing Her Charm" is just beautifully painted. I can't help but admit that it really does my shriveled, bile filled heart good to stumble upon a masterfully dark and campy painter like Mr. Gecas from time to time.

The icing on the cake here is that Salome is one of my favorite ladies of all time, not that I'm advocating Saint murder, I just think she's an interesting femme fatale. (Yes, I will likely be one of those mothers who names her daughters after notorious whores from literature.)

More drool worthy pieces: http://erikgecas.com/home

This Shit is made out of Eyeglasses: Richard Klein

Check the sculpture at left: it's made out of ashtrays and eyeglasses and it's gorgeous.  The work of Richard Klein, represented by Caren Golden Fine Art, I realize it's uber-trendy, part of this whole "recycle your shit" green-movement, and might as well be sold in home-decor mall stores.  But I like it because it's beautiful, and deep down in my myopic little heart, I secretly want eyeglasses to be cool.  And when the mass-produced version with suction cups for your window starts getting sold at Pier 1, I am totally buying it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Save the Stones and Gather Moss: Ciao Birdie and Etsy

There is a shop in Portland on Mississippi Ave. called Flutter; Currently, it is home to a lovely installation of miniature moss gardens compiled by Barb, the artist behind Ciao Birdie (with a Wordpress and an Etsy following). These little beauties are spectacular. Yes, they are aesthetically pleasing, but the care and love that went into them are their major selling point. They elicit the same feeling that I get when I look at a little old man and his model train set (that guy who built a miniature landscape in his basement). There is just such an earnest outpouring of thoughtfulness into the placement of each rock and green clump, as if each terrarium was lovingly whispered to each day.

I am SO SO smitten with these Indie Arts and Crafts objects. Conceptually, you could say as much about one of these gardens as you could about a rotting cow head in a box of flies (you know the piece, don't you?), but the informal setting and mundane presentation underscore the soft spoken aspects of this new art genre. These pieces and the artists are quiet, content to find and stay in their niche and put out an excellent product. Philosophically, I think that there is something wise about that. It seems like a private pursuit of individual excellence and continual refinement is much more soulful than a push for fortune and branding.

So here is the question: Is Fine Art ready to redefine what an art piece, a gallery, and an artist look like?

Shear Genius: Extreme LED Sheep Art.

If there's one thing that should be clear by now about F***ART, it's that we love animals in art.  So it comes as no surprise that today's post features the internet favorite "Extreme LED Sheep Art." If you have yet to see it, you're probably not spending enough time on the internet. 

Feeling sheepish? Go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2FX9rviEhw

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Matthew Tischler's Rigourous SCREENing Process

In the spirit of my last post, I'm going to use this forum to promote work by an artist whose art in is my collection, thus increasing its value and making me FUCKING RICHER.

So check it: this past Thursday's 20x200 from blog-o-sphere fave Jen Beckman featured a return by New York photographer Matthew Tischler. Tischler is known for shooting images through screens and other fabrics, focusing in close creating a gridded out image of blurry figures and landscapes. They're awesome, and you should check him out (and try to snatch up a $20 print from Beckman before they're sold out!).

http://www.matthewtischler.com/