Art and life and the holidays  

A reprise of thoughts on the holiday – enjoy!

Life & Art

This is an oldie but cherished memory – enjoy!

The holidays bring out the best and worst of all human characteristics. Art plays a big part of the memories we hold in our minds as we make our way through the season, and movies, in particular, have played a big part in our collective memory. Although the movie industry is one of the most lucrative creative careers today, I am sure that as the directors, producers, and actors planned out these movies they were not just thinking about profit. These movies are now an important part of our popular culture. After thinking about which movies I return to year after year, I noticed they have something in common: a story based on hope and a happy ending. Here are 5 of my personal must-see movies for the holiday season:

Trading PlacestrdingplacesimagesOne of my favorites – a story of…

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The Art of Photography Now

Every year The Center for Photography at Woodstock (CPW) invites a nationally known curator to create a contemporary photography survey exhibit utilizing their curatorial vision. This year they invited Elizabeth Ferrer, Vice President, Contemporary Art at BRIC, a major New York cultural organization to jury the exhibit Photography Now 2018: Still-Life, representing a variety of styles that contemplate a state of being, or a still-life. In her curator statement, Ferrer wrote: “Still-Life ventures into seemingly distinct territories – the realm of the inanimate, of things, and in tandem, of contemporary lived experience.”

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Rock, 2018; from the series A Place to Disappear by Pablo Lerma

Each of the thirteen artists exhibits several photographs, providing viewers the opportunity to see their vision and approach to photography. For instance, Pablo Lerma approaches his photographic practice by imagining what would happen if humans disappeared from the earth. His photo, Rock, from the series A Place to Disappear, shows rolling green hills, horizontal striations of the earth strewn with rock, where a single large rock becomes the focus of this landscape. Using a similar viewpoint, Cecilia Borgenstam photographed locations within San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. These photos showcase the natural beauty of the park alongside the detritus that people left behind. For instance, in Perego Stroller. Red Flowers, viewers will see what was once a luxury baby carriage abandoned beneath the dramatic tree branches.

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Perego stroller. Red flowers, 2017; Archival pigment print by Cecilia Borgenstam 

Artists using the urban landscape for their still-life include Ken Dreyfack, who captures the facades of buildings with dramatic lighting, reminiscent of a movie set. His photography series,

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Rear Entrance, 2015; from the series Silent Stages by Ken Dreyfack 

Silent Stages, is featured in this exhibit and each photo has a narrative quality. Jarod Lew’s works use Detroit’s urban spaces as a stage for the inhabitants to live their lives. Lew’s photo, Belle Isle, is a surprisingly alluring image of a young woman – her direct gaze is softened by a slight smile as she stands in water with the cityscape behind her.

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Belle Isle, 2017; from the series, Maybe I’ll See You There by Jarod Lew
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Jonathan, 2017; from the series The Land of Illustrious Men by Daniel Ramos

Daniel Ramos exhibits four photographs from his series, The Land of Illustrious Men, a family narrative about life experiences between the United States and Mexico detailing vignettes of memory as still-life. As an example, in Self Portrait, 2002, the viewer can experience a room with objects in the artists’ home. A decorative mirror captures a portion of his face as if he is but a small piece of these narratives.

Ferrer also selected photographers using images of people as a way to explore notions of social responsibility. She commented: “Whether in work interrogating social issues or embodying a more philosophical reading of humanity, I am struck by the persistent desire to represent what is real, true, and beloved.” Laurent Chevalier explores self-identity of black men and brings social justice into the conversation. Channell Stone’s photographs strive to reclaim “the Black body as a recognized aspect of humanity.” Soohyun Kim uses traditional family portraiture photography to put faces on families faced with immigration hardships.

This photography survey shows that artists are at the forefront of opening a dialog that validates what is real in their lives from a variety of viewpoints and artistic practices.


This article originally appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal Friday, November 16, 2018. Photography Now 2018: Still-Life was on exhibit through January 13, 2019. Featured artists include Ruth Adams, Keliy Anderson-Staley, Cecilia Borgenstam, Laurent Chevalier, Evan D’Arpino, Ken Dreyfack, Leah Edelman-Brier, Soohyun Kim, Pablo Lerma, Jarod Lew, Daniel Ramos, Niv Rozenberg, and Chanell Stone. 

Artists retain copyright on all photos. 

The Center for Photography at Woodstock (CPW) is located at 59 Tinker Street, Woodstock, New York 12498.

 

The Art of Cultural Remembrances

When I first learned about the customs around Día de los Muertos I felt surprisingly joyous, even though the holiday is focused on remembering family and friends who are no longer living. Celebrated in Mexico and many other Hispanic cultures, the holiday is similar to the Memorial Day in the United States including rituals around remembrances, stories, and family gatherings.

What better way to remember the quirks and family legends around the grandpa’s love of tequila, or Aunt Maria’s passion for cigarettes? These favorite items are placed on the graves along with bread of the dead, a sweet bread baked with a skull and crossbones into the dough, flowers, and candles.

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Bread of the Dead

img_20171101_1633024552371679130242658.jpgDuring this time, families gather at the cemetery to clean and refurbish grave sites. After the work is done, many will bring food and drink and make a night of celebrating the lives of these important family members. Storytelling and reminiscences play a big part of the gatherings. Copal incense is burned to help guide the spirits of the dead back to the gathering so they may partake in the celebration of remembrance. Markets are filled with Marigolds or cempasuchitl (flower of the dead), which are much taller and bigger flowers than the Marigolds seen in most gardens, which are purchased to decorate the graves. The flowers add color and scent to the altars, to guide the dead back to celebrate with friends and family.

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Decorated graves in a cemetery outside of Cuernavaca.

IMG_20171101_162442.jpg  El Día de los Muertos is recognized across the entire community with altars to remember those passed, not only in homes but in stores, local plazas and community centers. The altars are creative and personal: sugar skulls are embellished with colorful frosting spelling out the names of the remembered sit alongside photos of the remembered, festooned with papel picado, cut paper banners.

 

If you are interested in seeing more about this beautiful cultural celebration, there is a 1957 film by Charles and Ray Eames that shows more about Día de los Muertos through its icons and artifacts. http://www.openculture.com/2014/10/charles-ray-eames-short-film-on-the-mexican-day-of-the-dead-1957.html

 

Documenting the Art of American Roots Music

During October, music photographers who have captured the essence of musicians from acoustic traditions exhibited their work in American Roots Music at The Howland Cultural Center in Beacon, New York. Roots music, also commonly called folk music in the United States, are musical forms created without the use of synthesizers and electronics, incorporating early blues, country, folk, rhythm and blues. Music journalist Frank Matheis organized and curated the American Roots Music exhibit inviting twelve prominent and internationally renowned music photographers in this exhibit of black and white fine art photography.

We are all familiar with the folk music tradition led by world renown king of folk music, Pete Seeger. Fine art photographer and artist, Bibiana Huang Matheis, captured images of Seeger in concert and at his home. In the photo on display, Huang Matheis caught the moment when Seeger has one hand on his beloved banjo and one arm outstretched to the audience. Seeger’s expressive face is framed against the inky black background, capturing him in song.

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Pete Seeger in concert by Bibiana Huang Matheis. (2008) 

Bill Steber has documented blues culture in Mississippi for the last 20 years, chronicling the state’s blues musicians and traditions that gave birth to or influenced the blues. Steber’s documentary photography of guitar evangelist Flora Fluker perfectly captures her intense singing style.

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Bill Steber captured Guitar Evangelist Cora Fluker in Marion, Mississippi. (1996)

Many of the photographers that document the musicians also make music. Bill Steber performs with several bands and John Rocklin is the co-founder of the Honesdale Roots & Rhythm Festival, sings and plays guitar in several bands. Rocklin’s involvement with music started at a young age when his father took him to Washington Square Park exposing him to music. “I stood right next to Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.” Rocklin met and soon became friends with Little Sammy Davis, a blues harmonica legend. Inspired by his photographs of the musician, he pursued art photography and went on to capturing music legends such as B.B. King, Johnny Winter, and Odetta.5 LitteSammyDavisbyJohnRocklin

Douglas Baz is a freelance and fine art photographer residing in Dutchess County. The images in this exhibition are from a documentary project that he and Charles Traub photographed in Cajun Louisiana in 1974. A large exhibition and book of this work will be exhibited at the Historic New Orleans Collection Museum during 2019.

George Mitchell and Axel Küstner used a documentary approach to capture photography and field recordings of blues musicians; similar to a folklorists’ approach to documentation. Mitchell’s photo of Jesse Mae Hemphill on her porch shows that music was an everyday part of life. Axel Küstner is known as one of Europe’s blues experts. Küstner’s 1980 photo of Flora Molton sitting on a Washington D.C. corner performing to passerby depicts the essence of roots music – it is by the people and for the people.

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Flora Molton performing in Washington D.C., (1980) photographer Axel Küstner

The late Myron Samuels was a serious blues fan and photographer. Samuels was also a street musician playing blues harp at Portland, Maine area venues and farmers markets. His work in this posthumous exhibit includes photographs of Etta Baker, Ted Bogan, and John Cephas.


This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal Enjoy!, October 5, 2018. American Roots Music was on display at The Howland Cultural Center, 477 Main Street, Beacon, New York;  October 6-28, 2018.

 

The art of the community mural

Public artworks are part of the public realm, and the public should be part of the process, which was what happened over the last 18 months in Poughkeepsie, NY. The Poughkeepsie Route 9 underpass at Main Street was a dark, stained, gray concrete place that all visitors to the city had to pass under, is now embellished with a mural created by Risa Tochigi, known as half of the BoogieREZ artist team. Boogie and her partner REZ (T.C. Weaver) are the dynamic duo that are creating some of the most original murals and artworks in the region. Boogie creates the concept and the realization of the murals with REZ lending the critical support that every creative artist needs, while documenting the process. A gifted photographer, REZ provided the photos that accompany this article.

4. Enjoy! planet brz 5_96463This mural was named The Poughkeepsie Gateway Project and began with a public call for artists to envision what they could create on the underpass, which serves as one of the major gateways to Poughkeepsie. The collaborative effort included The Poughkeepsie Alliance, who sponsored the majority of costs for the project. Arts Mid-Hudson served as the organizing partner and O+ Festival brought in connections of mural artists and paint sponsor, Golden Artist Colors. Boogie is completing the mural with paint donated by Golden Artist Colors, using a combination of custom-mixed paints in buckets and spray paints. The City of Poughkeepsie and the New York Department of Transportation actively worked to ensure the project was complying with municipal and state regulations through the work of numerous staff from these offices. Local business Baxter Construction assisted with lifts and preparation of the site, which included the concrete spaces directly under Route 9 on each side.

These collaborations were critical to making the project move ahead. Boogie commented, “Without everyone you can’t do big projects like this.” REZ added, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Boogie mentioned the positive energy that is created in doing a large-scale public artwork like this: “I feel like I am not doing this for me, but for the community.”

And the community approves – in the times I was present at the mural location, people stopped by to thank Boogie for the beautiful reimagination of the space. Many parents have been bringing their children to the site and encouraging them to meet Boogie and thank her for the artwork.

Boogie’s signature style blends joyful, bright colors with a hip-hop cartoon vibe. The yellow background serves as a cheery base color for flowers and imaginary animals with big googly eyes marching across the expanse. Boogie’s world includes ducks with bunny ears, flowers with eyes and other creatures straight out of the artist’s imagination. Uplifting messages, such as “Aspire to Inspire” are woven into the composition. Boogie mentioned that one aspect of her job as an artist is to “continue to inspire the youth in our community to pursue their passions. Everyone has different ways to express themselves.”

Katherine Hite, a neighboring resident was passing by during my visit and commented, “We’re so excited to see this uplifting and affirming project for Poughkeepsie – it makes me happy to be a homeowner in the city.”

This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal’s Enjoy Magazine on August 10, 2018. 

The Poughkeepsie Gateway Mural Project is located on Main Street at the Route 9 underpass in Poughkeepsie.

All photos are copyright and courtesy of Rezones/Boogierez 2018.1.Enjoy! planet brz 5_96454

The Art of Pushing Paper

Paper has been in use for over two thousand years, first as a surface for important writings and then becoming more commonplace for printed materials available to the general public. As the uses of paper have evolved, artists have turned to paper for drawings, prints, and paintings; pushing the medium further by folding and deconstructing paper into three-dimensional objects or using paper pulp. Barrett Art Center’s current exhibit explores the medium of paper as an artistic medium through a national juried show, Pushing Paper.

Paul Wong, master papermaker and former artistic director of Dieu Donné, served as the juror for this national exhibit selecting 45 artists from 700 submissions. Wong described the process in his juror statement: “I looked at the intent of the exhibition and didn’t want to exclude in my selection any media that was submitted, hoping to represent the best of what I found exemplary, albeit attractive to my vision.”

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Memory is a Ghost, Leah Hamel’s paper re-creation of a bed and coverlet;

As you enter the first room in the exhibit, you cannot miss Memory is a Ghost, Leah Hamel’s paper re-creation of a bed and coverlet; or Emanuelle Schaer’s, paper mâché sculpture, An Isolated Perspective. Thom Williams repurposed folded photo paper for Catch The Wave. There are also a number of smaller pieces exhibited salon style that deserve attention, for instance, Christine B. Miller’s narrative graphite drawing on paper featuring skulls and hands, brings to mind outsider artworks.

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Thom Williams, Catch The Wave

In the next gallery room, Michelle Samour’s piece, Eye Aggregation, was created using pigmented abaca fibers. The sculpture features layers of the fibers bound together in circular shapes, resulting in an object that appears feminine, including the glass case that could belong in a boudoir.

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Jessica Elena Aquino’s wall-mounted paper sculpture, Abundance II,

Jessica Elena Aquino’s wall-mounted paper sculpture, Abundance II, was created with recycled paper towels. The organically shaped piece rises up the gallery wall like a cyclone.

Tayler Allen-Galusha received the Juror’s Award for Boundless, an installation that takes over the far gallery wall. What appears to be a castle door and brick archway has been created with a set of deconstructed National Union Catalogs.The door is shut and locked, perhaps to safeguard the secrets held within. In his artist statement, Allen-Galusha commented that, “books are much more than just the paper and glue that makes them, they are places to be, puzzles to solve and portals to knowledge.”

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Lennox Commissiong’s portrait, 2pacalypse

The back gallery continues the exploration of paper. One of the standouts in this space is Lennox Commissiong’s portrait, 2pacalypse, made with mosaic-size color aid paper. The artist on this series: “These African-descended men lived by strong ideals, faced great adversity, and refused to bend to the demands of societal power structures… My homage in small dots of color represents the many lives they have touched across various races and cultures and their political legacies.”

Curator Paul Wong commented on this exhibit: “Paper can be a material we take for granted in our daily routine; something that is becoming invisible; or at best, where we appreciate and collect it in the form of these aspiring artistic expressions.”

This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal Enjoy! magazine August 24, 2018.

Pushing Paper was on exhibit at Barrett Art Center through September 22, 2018.

All artworks are courtesy of the artists and copyright remains with the artists.

 

The Art of Eco Materialism

Unison Arts Center and SUNY New Paltz students have collaborated to create installations responding with ephemeral sculptural installations using an Eco Materialism theme. Inspired by Linda Weintraub’s forthcoming book, What’s Next? Eco Materialism & Contemporary Art, this exhibit responds to the urgent environmental neglect we witness in the world today. The exhibiting artists present their artworks as thoughtful responses, including the selection of materials.

The exhibit, What’s Next, also provides an ideal opportunity for a summer stroll with time to pause and consider each of the 29 stations where work has been constructed onsite, many times with items sourced from the Unison property. Michael Asbill, Visiting Lecturer at SUNY New Paltz involved students in his Collaborative Constructions course in this exhibit. Amanda Heidel, participated as a student and commented, “Starting with reading and interpreting Linda Weintraub’s text to form a proposal, to developing a list of artists to invite to respond to the text, contacting artists, reviewing of proposals, preparing the site at Unison, and assisting artists with installing their work, students were involved in every aspect of mounting this exhibit.” Visitors to the site will experience artworks that are about process, while some project a utopian viewpoint of beauty. At the gateway to the installation pick up a walking guide to get additional information on the artists’ process in approaching Eco Materialism in their pieces.

Enjoy! Moira Williams Matters of CareMoira Williams exhibits Matters of Care, featuring a stack of cannon-ball size soil filled with positive bacteria. The artist has researched Mycobacterium vaccae, known as the ‘happy bacteria’ living in soil and invites all who pass to take one home to share. Beth Haber’s installation To Be Written shows four paired slate tablets placed on podiums supported by the remains of four ash trees in a compass formation. Visitors have the opportunity to write messages, which will then be wiped clean by the natural process of rain, wind, or over-writing, suggesting that we have the power to start a new movement that considers nature first.

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As you meander further down the path you might be drawn to the sound of water where Susan Togut’s Emergent Wisdom is installed above the Unison pond. Togut’s statement reads, “this environment seeks to evoke an appreciation for change, transformation, uncertainty, the magic of the unknown as in creativity, and the ephemerality of life.” Most of the pieces in the show focus on the transient, from the materials, used that naturally change over time, to the concepts presented in each piece. Jan Harrison and Alan Baer created Halcyon, a mythical nest-world for endangered and bird-like creatures that floats above in the tree limbs. The artists stated this is a “refuge and a place of rebirth in the global world of the sixth extinction, the Anthropocene.”Enjoy! Jan Harrison and Alan Baer's Halcyon

Exploring the exhibit heightens our sense of awareness towards the natural world. Perhaps this will extend our views on Eco Materialism as a life practice and new art movement that could change our world for the better, ensuring that we have a say in what’s next.

This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal Enjoy! section July 27, 2018.