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Posts Tagged ‘art’

Decomposers of the Art World (Part One: Clothing Repurposed)

Monday, April 19th, 2010

I have contemplated trash many times before. In fact, it’s been a major sticking point for me since youth… since learning about the mass of it… the danger of it… the bulk. The non-human side of nature treats waste and decay so elegantly compared to clumsy man-made chemicals and plastic detritus that does not break itself down. Nature outside of man’s control reduces, reuses and recycles as a matter of course. Just think of the function of decomposing flies and worms and fungus as they turn dead flesh into vibrantly fertile organic matter.

In light of these tiny, tireless, indispensable workers, I thought it would be satisfying to highlight some human artists who have reused used things in particularly poetic ways, injecting them with new meaning, giving them a fresh life in the arena of the mind. This first article is devoted to artists who have reinvigorated used clothing.

Shannon Eakins cozies up to used sweaters donated by Goodwill Industries for an exhibition at the Tacoma Art Museum.

Robert Fontenot is midway into the project “Recycle LACMA.”   In his words:

On January 14th, 2009 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art announced that it was deaccessioning more than 100 items from its costumes and textiles collection. Once carefully collected, catalogued, and cared for, these items have now been cast back out in to the world. What will happen to them? Like any other useless item, they will need to be recycled or disposed of.

Recycle LACMA is a project of Los Angeles-based artist Robert Fontenot. At three separate auctions he purchased over 50 items deaccessioned by LACMA and is now trying to find new uses for these otherwise unwanted items.

The result of this ambitious project is bittersweet. If the original object was especially beautiful, it seems to demand a respectful reuse. But it was all destined to be disseminated and likely trashed… so isn’t any reuse better than a thoughtless demise?

Korean Coat (2nd reuse) from Recycle LACMA

And then there’s Nick Cave. Ah! Nick Cave. Not the musician, but the sculptor, who makes costume-totem-figures that can be worn by dancers. I like what this blogger has to say:

The Soundsuits are multimedia pieces made from items Cave has scavenged from flea markets, thrift stores, and garage sales over the past two decades [...] One of Cave’s philosophies is that his creations have been works in progress for centuries since all of the materials have been made by other people from other times and other places. He wants to showcase all of the craftsmanship of these unknown people together in a new, artistic, and functional garment. I love that.

Me too.

Nick Cave Soundsuit

Christian Boltanski made used clothes into spirit-holders, while Michelangelo Pistoletto piled them up for a bewildered nude. Shannon Eakins (pictured above) and Marc Dombrosky warmed up a courtyard in Tacoma, Washington.

My final example is from the brutally beautiful painter Anselm Kiefer. “Die Welle (Wave)” hangs at the Seattle Art Museum– a massive painting– earthy, encrusted, with cotton dresses of various sizes hovering over the surface. There are no good images of it online that I can find, and it’s just as well; most art is compromised by reproduction somewhat, but a pixel-made version of a piece with such tactile urgency and indefinable presence is useless. For reasons I may never understand, the painting moved me to tears when I first saw it in person. It makes me wonder at Kiefer’s own description of his goals:

“I don’t consider myself a Platonist but I think that the spirit is contained in the material and it is the artist’s mission to extract it.”


Gala Bent is a mother-artist-teacher living in Seattle who enjoys, among other things, this thought: between thesis and antithesis arcs the ever-loving synthesis. www.galabent.com

Interview: Flowerdrum Bags

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Rina  Matsui-Houghton is a Malaysian-born, Berlin-based handbag designer who focuses on creating beautiful handcrafted bags of unique distinction.

I met Rina a few years ago and was immediately blown away by her drive and passion for creating awesome bags and mini carry-alls, made from vintage fabrics.

Back in 1999 Rina felt that “Malaysia was ready for a unique label with underground roots and the design-ability to be sold internationally.” She started creating hand-embroidered affordable bags, and clutches for the fashion savvy consumer.

The company named Flowerdrum bags (www.flowerdrum-kl.com) was born, and now produces lines in batches of 12. Bags are created using quality fabric from all over the world; they aren’t mass produced, they’re fresh, different and  sport stand apart, clean-cut designs, a must have for any fashionista!

More recently Rina has been focusing on commissioned work, branching out to create custom-made items for her clients. Last year in Malaysia she took part in her first exhibit of embroideries and fabric collages, entitled 6 Words: Embroidered Stories. I caught up with Rina for an interview to find out more about her interesting grass roots company.

LQ: Where did the name for your bag company come from?

RMH: Unglamorously cribbed the name from a Flowerdrum Song poster at a local theatre!

LQ: Where do you find your vintage prints for the bags?

RMH: As a natural hoarder and digger, I started out with a fair collection of vintage fabrics from my childhood (curtains, mum’s dresses) which I supplement with pieces I find on my travels at markets, etc. There are also a couple of fabric shops in Malaysia that I have been going to for years, the sort of shops where stock hasn’t been updated since the ’60s!

LQ: When did you first start making embroidery projects?

RMH: Started a couple of years ago, to explore but also as thank you gifts for friends who have supported me on my bag endeavours for the last decade.

LQ: Suhana Dewi Selamat’s 6-word memoirs influenced your work for the embroidered stories project. What was it about the memoirs that struck you?

RMH: As a lover of words and the English language, I was struck first and foremost by the brutal honesty of her 6-word essays. How they were food for thought in their simplicity. I like my words on point and how much more “on point” could you be than 6-word essays!

LQ: What do you like most about your job?

RMH: Being the boss of my own time, the flexibility to travel/take time off, the independence of only being able to blame myself for cock ups!

LQ: What do you have in store at Flowerdrum Bags for this year?

RMH: Flowerdrum Bags works in mysterious organic ways! Along with the usual desire to push the label to boutiques in foreign shores, I am hoping to work on a new embroidery project. New bags will be up soon for spring/summer and I plan to drive more traffic to the web-shop. I’ll also continue my crusade to get more people to understand and appreciate VINTAGE fabrics!

Leanda is a writer based in Toronto. For the past 13 years she has hosted & produced music radio shows, managed bands & worked in online music PR. She now runs a music site & also writes for music & culture magazine `Relevant BCN`. Read more of her writing here - http://www.bloggertronix.com

72 Hours Gallery

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

The concept is novel and yet very appealing to me: an empty space is invaded by a group of artists that build and create new pieces of art over a 36-hour period. A temporary gallery is developed, and during the following 36 hours the public are invited to view the work produced.

So far the 72 hours gallery exhibits have taken place in Hamburg, where the first makeshift gallery was created, and more recently in Mitte, Berlin with host artists from the 44flavours arts collective.

In the words of “Sneaky” (aka Simon Houghton), who performed live improvisational music at the gallery’s launch in early February, “72 hours gallery is a breath of fresh air in the all too often stuffy world of art galleries and exhibition spaces.”

44flavours (www.44flavours.com) is an art collective based in Kreuzberg, Berlin. It consists of Sebastian Bagge and Julio Rölle. Combined, the duo have a great knowledge and understanding of many forms of art, creating unique and stimulating visual works using whatever elements are available to them. They grew up surrounded by graffiti, immersed in the sample and remix culture of hip-hop. This is evident in the style they have developed over the years, a look and aesthetic uniquely their own.

44flavours invited Sneaky to join them at the 72 hours gallery launch, hoping that his music would add another dimension to the event. Sneaky says, “I decided to bring along just my cello and an old wooden metronome that belonged to my grandmother. The timing on the old metronome was pretty abstract to say the least, and so playing along to it is an exercise in concentration but somehow the wonky clock sounds marking time and me scraping away on the cello trying to get lost in the ever temporary moment made a lot of sense at the time.”

The founder of the 72 hours gallery series and main organizer of the event, Kai Klinke, says, “Street-art, painting, photography or video, the artworks evolve free and spontaneous. Our goal is to give our artists as much space as possible. Whether our artists will work alone, in groups or with the audience is completely up to them”

Ben Seebode, a DJ with Hot Source, who spun records during the event said, “I loved it! We witnessed some nice painting and silkscreen printing on wood, glass, paper, the walls. One thing that stuck in my mind was how well the combination glass and the wood objects went. I think printing on glass can be very clean and cold, but in combination with the wood and 44flavours graphics it worked really well.”

All proceeds from the exhibition were donated to Licht für die Welt, a non-profit-organization providing eye surgery and therapy in third-world countries.

Klinke isn’t sure where the next event is going to take place, and is currently looking for new sponsors.  For more information and to find out where the gallery will be stopping next check out their site www.72hoursgallery.com

Leanda is a writer based in Toronto. For the past 13 years she has hosted & produced music radio shows, managed bands & worked in online music PR. She now runs a music site & also writes for music & culture magazine `Relevant BCN`. Read more of her writing here - http://www.bloggertronix.com

Delving into The Genius That Is David Sankey

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Whenever I click on a David Sankey sidebar contribution, my heart skips a beat because I know I’m about to fall in love with yet another illustration of the most uplifting aspect of life: Death. Yep, his illustrations always make me wish I were a dead animal because then maybe he would draw me and I’d look as beautiful as those dead animals that he draws. Honestly, I feel very honored to get to ask David Sankey, The Greatest Artist to Have Ever Lived Who Draws Dead Stuff for Fun, a bunch of questions because, obviously, he’s the greatest artist to have ever lived. I mean, I know that one guy, Michael Angelou, could sculpt a mean Pieta, but he’s not nearly as good as David Sankey. I mean, I know that one guy, Van Go, could paint a mean potato eater, but he’s got nothin’ on David Sankey. So, without further ado, here’s the man of the gory hour—David Sankey!

Megan Michelle: You’re the greatest artist to have ever lived. Who do you think is the second greatest artist to have ever lived? Why?

David Sankey: Impossible question. There can only be one. However, the first human that comes to mind is the Biblical Sampson, whose elaborate performance pieces included killing 1,000 men with a donkey’s jawbone and setting foxes on fire.

Q: How did you accrue your mad drawing skillz? To whom/what do you owe your genius?

A: I owe a fair amount of my mark-making ability to my parents, who forced me to find my own fun by forsaking television. In pining for cartoons, I drew Belle’s father, from Beauty and the Beast. I drew my favorite basketball players, because I could not watch them play. I drew on paper, on myself, drew in soap on the bathroom walls. I scratched runes with a dagger-shaped letter-opener into the bedroom doors of our home.

I owe almost as much to teachers who crumpled up my work, spat on it, fed it to me that I might taste my failure and produce only that which was beautiful. And without any irony, I am grateful to the powers that be for allowing me to participate, in a tiny way, in the holy and mysterious act of creation.

Q: If you could marry any piece of art, what piece of art would you marry? Why?

A: In any world where marrying art is okay, I would definitely be a polygamist and shack up with as much of it as I could. But if somehow it had to be just one, I can say with near certainty that I’d pop the question to the Anselm Kiefer sculpture Book with Wings. I had the pleasure of meeting her a few years back, and I’ve been head over heals since. I’ve been writing her letters, but they keep coming back, return to sender.

Q: Finding dead animals and drawing them must take a lot of energy and therefore a lot of good, nutritious food. What’s your diet like?

A: I wish I could tell you that I only eat the animals I come across, but my diet is fairly modest. I’m told that I make very good scrambled eggs. I like them well enough. I average three grapefruit a week, and as many scones. Trader Joe’s is a boon to my wallet and palate alike. I’ll never stop loving Taylor Ham, choice breakfast meat of northern New Jersey. I really like yerba mate (is it true that it gives you cancer?). Once, my sister and I unwittingly ate pepperoni made from a black bear that my uncle killed.

Q: (Yes, all naturally-occurring, herbal teas give you cancer.) Now, whenever I write a Pulitzer-prize-winning Sidebar contribution, I always listen to music to help inspire me. Do you listen to music to help inspire you while you work, too? If you do, what inspiring music do you listen to? Backstreet Boys, or Jonas Brothers?

A: I sometimes listen to music while I work, but it’s usually strictly background noise. Maybe it affects my work more than I’d like to think. There’s this great artist, Leif Inge, who slowed down Beethoven’s 9th, just edited it without altering the pitch so that it would take 24 hours to play. It’s great and cosmic. It sounds like the universe expanding and contracting. You can stream it online for free; I do that sometimes. Although, I’m always looking for inspiration in all sorts of mediums. I’ve decided it’s irresponsible to go more than two weeks without purchasing new music. I don’t ever want to not be in the middle of a book. There are too many smart people out there creating wonderful things that need an audience.

Q: I’ve heard that artists tend to not make a lot of money because they are busy being artists and artists tend to not make a lot of money. Are you rich, or are you poor? Have you been forced to take a second job, or are you able to live solely off the income you make from your dead animal portraits?

A: By day, I am a graphic designer. I am neither rich nor poor. I work at a small design firm not far from my home and put in some freelance time on the side. I try to spend as much time with illustration as I can. This keeps me clothed and fed, keeps my rent paid. While I’ve worked with some great clients and created some pieces I’m genuinely proud of, there’s a clear distinction in my mind between the commercial work I handle and the things I make on my own time. The two come from totally different places and mean entirely different things. I think the biggest difference for me is that when I’m working on a self-initiated piece, I feel there’s full potential for me to make a discovery. I think that’s the comically tragic and misleading goal of the artist, really—to happen upon something new, to actually create—that is, to make something from nothing. I’ll let you know when I’ve got that down. Through it all, though, I’m slowly learning to manage my time and productivity, prioritize. Not an easy task.

Q: Have you ever been able to travel to see famous art pieces? Like, have you ever been to the Cistern Chapel or the Lube? If you have, was it really, really great like everyone says it is, or was it just really, really boring like everyone says it is?

A: I haven’t left North America. Of course, I’ve been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Moma, the Guggenheim, the New York museums. I’ve seen all that the National Archives has to offer in lovely D.C. Plenty of things from art history books that are beautiful, significant and moderately moving. I never get bored in those places. A few years back, though, I was at a children’s illustration museum in Massachusetts that had some great work. I got to see some of Eric Carle’s very hungry caterpillars. That was a small pilgrimage I won’t forget.

Q: How much does one of your dead animal portraits go for these days? Do you take Visa, Mastercard and/or wampum?

A: These pieces haven’t been priced. I’m open to offers but I don’t think I’d like to split the series up; I think it would be a disservice. I believe they’ve found some companionship and a sense of belonging in their collective afterlife. I accept PayPal, check, cash, wampum, or beaver pelts. I have sold a few pieces in the last year or so for actual American currency. One was through a great gallery in Louisville called the 930 Gallery. I had the opportunity to show some work there on a couple of occasions, and during one of these shows, recording artists Herman Düne came through to play in the gallery’s listening room. Apparently, David, who sings, plays guitar and writes songs, purchased my print. I was really excited about that. I love his music and he’s also a very talented visual artist. That was a huge compliment. I haven’t met him or had a chance to thank him personally, so a big public thank you to David from Herman Düne!

Q: As you well know, a genius artist must acquire perseverance and courageousness to make genius art because it takes a lot of perseverance and courage to make genius art. Also, as you well know, a genius artist must perform a sort of self-incarceration to be able to acquire the aforementioned virtues because perseverance is only produced in the prison and courage can only be conceived in a cage. What’s your prison/cage-residence like, then? Do you have enough room in there for me? If you do, can I come live with you? (thanks)

A: Not long ago, the folks I live with and I set out to build ourselves an ice palace, a snow fort, an igloo. It comfortably housed the four of us, but it was cold. We had candles inside—four grown men, building a snow fort, and then hanging out inside, spending the longer half of a Saturday doing so. It was the very fuel I needed to sustain me for no less than three years of tortured productivity. The roof has since caved in, and I think grass is showing through the floor. I think we could work something out in the way of rent there, but it’s gonna cost you a pretty penny. We’ll have to fly snow in daily from the far north to maintain it. The ongoing construction costs will be huge. It might be worth it. Wireless internet is provided.

Q: It’s common knowledge that whenever an animal dies, a fairy comes to take its soul to Animal Elysium. Why do you always leave these fairies out of your illustrations? Do you have something against fairies or something?

A: I like to pursue in my work the suggestion of the fantastical and the metaphysical. I often think more can be said of the spiritual by way of omission, by abstract inference, than by reference…what I mean to say is, I post all of my fairy drawings exclusively on my page at deviantart.com.*

*For those of you who prefer dead animal portraits, visit David’s other webpage, www.davidsankey.net.

Miss Megan Michelle is a former Classics Major, greatly-skilled Goatherdess and full-time Romantic who has always loved The Living Logos.

Unfortunate Ends Part 3

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Green Frog (Rana clamitans melanota)

Place of Incident: South Main Street, Pennington, NJ. Date and Time of Death: Between the hours of 7 and 9 a.m., October 13, 2009. Cause: Contact with a motor vehicle or cyclist.

Both feet were flattened, one partially severed. At present we are led to believe that it was not the immediate impact of the vehicle that proved fatal to the frog, as his vitals appeared to be intact. More likely, trauma or perhaps even eventual starvation as a result of immobility ended the fellow’s life.

DAVID SANKEY graduated with a degree in Graphic Design from The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State) in the Spring of 2008. He is getting used to splitting his time between north and central New Jersey. He enjoys art making of all kinds. He is a founding member of and frequent contributor to The Fir Coat. For more of his work, visit www.davidsankey.net

The Visual Haikus of Hitoshi Toyoda

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Last fall Japanese photographer Hitoshi Toyoda presented two silent outdoor slide shows as part of the Time-Based Art Festival in Portland, Oregon. Toyoda only presents his images in a live setting—shot on and projected as 35mm slides, his photographs are almost entirely out of print or web circulation. The images are simple and incredibly sentimental: a seedling on a NYC windowsill eventually reappears as a vine of Chinese Lantern plants climbing along the fire escape; walks with the family dog along Tokyo side streets are shown through various seasons; or the single image of a fat cat in mid-air leaping across a tiny studio apartment.

I had picked up Hitoshi from his hotel room to take him to set-up for that evening’s screening. “Is this David?” he asked in reference to the music as an old tape of David Bowie’s Changes rumbled from the car stereo.

His “feature-length” shows, Nazuna (2003/2004) and spoonfulriver (2006/2007), are constructed from over 500 slides, which he manually advances on the slide projector. Sitting atop the 15-foot scaffolding I noticed he was wearing headphones, so I asked what he listens to during the “performance.” No music, in fact, a metronome, to keep his pace in case he gets nervous and starts moving too fast through the slides.

On our way to the second night’s screening, we noticed a black cat and white cat roughhousing on the sidewalk. There was a pause in our conversation. We looked at the cats and they paused too, peripherally aware of our attention. Obviously up to no good we agreed smiling.

A self-taught photographer, Toyoda has been working in the medium of slide shows for the past ten years. He writes, “I am trying to bind three dimensions of time together with delicate thread: the time, or the period in my life I photographed, the time passing inside of me while looking back at it, and the time the audience experiences while watching images.” The narratives that arise from Toyoda’s work are loose and suggestive and, like the material status of the images, unfixed. These are visual haikus, but long, meditative, and surprisingly familiar.

Mia Ferm currently resides in Portland, Oregon where she is a collective member of Cinema Project. She is a writer, photographer, and videographer and holds an MA in Cinema Studies from NYU.

Art for the Tender of Heart

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Danielson Heart (Via)

The scales of contemporary art, in all of their massive tentacled complexity, are not tipped in the direction of sincere pathos. And no wonder… it’s really difficult to make work that is tenderhearted and not cheesy. In honor of Valentine’s Day, a mini-list of artists who have ridden that line gracefully:

Harrell Fletcher: His whole oeuvre can be considered to be a celebration of the peculiarities of being human–individually and in community–but one of my favorites is his video “The Sound We Make Together.”  A description from his website:

I had various groups of people from Houston: a baptist choir, a meditation class, a break dance group, dogs from a dog park, and ten other groups doing what they normally do but in the gallery space. The video projection sort of recreated them being there one after another.

Nola Avienne:  In a recent project, The Donor Wall, Nola gently and expertly drew blood from a long list of artists and made lovely monochromatic paintings out of each sample.  Straight from the heart.

Lee Mingwei:  I appreciate the simple and poetic effect of pieces like The Mending Project, in which gallery guests brought ripped items that the artist mended with brightly colored thread, or The Dining Project, where he made a meal for and dined with one stranger per day.

Lee Mingwei. The Dining Project. 1997. Installation view. Lombard-Freid Fine Arts, New York. Photo: Charly Wittock

You Are Beautiful: I wrote about this collective endeavor here, a little while ago.

Peter Bonde Becker Nelson:  PBBN’s video performances are an exercise in empathy.  Nine Monologues, for example, has him carefully lip-synching the voices of women describing femininity.  If the truest of true love is being other-centered, the proverbial walk in someone else’s shoes is a step in the right direction.

Gala Bent is a mother-artist-teacher living in Seattle who enjoys, among other things, this thought: between thesis and antithesis arcs the ever-loving synthesis. www.galabent.com