Category Archives: Art Working

Lunar Souls

Artist, writer, photographer and fellow blogger Art Browne has a unique – and sometimes twisted – view of our universe.  Which is why I know, without a doubt, that he is my long-lost twin brother!  When not tormenting spiders or ridiculing helpless cats on his blog, “Pouring My Art Out”, Brother Art captures some truly fascinating visions of the natural world.  In a recent series of simple cell phone shots, he photographed the moon in various stages and from various angles over San Diego, California.  A few of them are presented below.

I have to concede these lunar photos make me feel incredibly sentimental.  Every time I look up at the sky and see that glorious moon, I – sniff – always get homesick.

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Booth Blooms

Well, at long last, someone has found a good use for old phone booths*. Botanical designer Lewis Miller ambushed the streets of New York City recently to adorn an otherwise ordinary corner in swaths of floral color and energy.  A few years ago Miller transformed the notoriously banal empty garbage cans into vases of sumptuous flowers.  In this most recent endeavor to make a gritty urban area appear palatable – a project he dubs “Flower Flash” – Miller and his crew filled a Manhattan telephone booth with a plethora of flowers and greenery.

“What initially began as a Lewis Miller design experiment to reinvigorate and reconnect us to our craft, turned into a beautiful shared experience in a city of millions,” the group stated.  The “reactions to our flower flashes emphasizes the basic goodness in all people and prioritizes compassion”.

The results are more than a little impressive, and I feel we need more of Lewis Miller’s works in our increasingly crowded and convoluted world.

*To the under-30 crowd, phone booths are tall glass structures where people would have to make phone calls if they weren’t at home, at work or in jail.  You’d put a quarter into a little slot towards the bottom of the actual phone; wipe the receiver as best you could so you wouldn’t catch germs like herpes or gingivitis; and press little buttons on said phone to make the call.

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On Wings and Light

Hummingbirds occupy that rare place where tenacity, beauty, grace and mysticism collaborate to create something extraordinary.  Australian photographer Christian Spencer has used his camera to capture all of that in a new manner.  A longtime resident of Brazil’s Itatiaia National Park for nearly two decades, Spencer has photographed many of the region’s natural wonders, including hummingbirds.  Recently, he discovered a unique way to combine his love for the birds with sunlight.  In a series entitled ‘Winged Prism’, Spencer photographed light filtered through the wings and tail of a black and white Jacobi hummingbird.  In a Photo Shoppe world, this is truly unique and breathtaking.

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Barring Trump

Donald Trump’s star on Hollywood’s legendary “Walk of Fame” has been vandalized too many times to count in the nearly two years since the cantankerous business tycoon was selected by the former Soviet Union to be our president.  The City of Hollywood – trying to perform its civic duty – has been willing to consider any reasonable idea of how to protect “The Donald’s” star.

A street artist known as “Plastic Jesus” has devised an ingenious idea: put the star behind bars.  Literally!

“There have been calls to jail Trump since the day he was elected, and today he was certainly put behind bars – or at least his now infamous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was caged,” PJ wrote in a recent email to Artnet News.

The London-born Los Angeles resident has become known for ambushing the public – and specifically, public figures – with graffiti-style street art combining humor and irony to express his criticism of current affairs.  In other words, he’s a true artist who tackles weighty subjects in order to piss off people who believe everything is just fine with the world.  In this case, the pissed off would be Trump supporters, as well as those who merely shrug at the sight of Trump’s star on the “Walk of Fame”.  It’s obvious (to those of us not been enamored with celebrity) that Trump’s placement in the White House is the most blatant act of fraud since Bill Cosby was labeled “America’s Dad”.

“Artists are able to connect and convey opinion in a universal way,” PJ notes.  “So I think it’s important for artists to speak out.  I think art encourages dialogue and debate like no other media.”

My advice?  Keep pissing people off, brother!

Just another typical day on the “Walk of Fame” in Hollywood, California.

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Sweet Visions

Last week I posted a haiku writing from a close friend, Preston*, who I’ve known for more than 20 years.  Haiku (or hokku) is a Japanese verse form of poetry that follows a very strict composition of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables and is often a prelude to a longer poem or a story.  The terse nature of haiku verbiage always challenges the writer to capture what is absolutely necessary for that particular moment.  Such brevity is more difficult than most imagine, but just a few carefully chosen words can evoke extraordinary visions in the minds of an audience.

Smiling was easy

When our eyes were bright and clear

We were so naïve.

 

– Preston

 

*Name changed.

Image: Faunaimage

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$1 and a World of Art

Never judge a building by its facade.

Never judge a building by its facade.

 

What can you buy for a dollar these days? Maybe a pack of gum, or a single doughnut. In Chicago, it can buy an entire building. Okay, said building is a 1920s-era former bank on the city’s south side. Long-abandoned and crumbling from one end to the other, it’s the type of structure where the best residents are birds and rats. Artist Theaster Gates, however, saw something else: a world class arts center. The Chicago native, an urban planner with a gallery of prestigious art awards and even more creative vision, literally purchased the 20,000-square-foot edifice for a single U.S. dollar in 2013 from the city and began transforming it into a conclave for exhibitions, artist residencies and the headquarters for the Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit organization he established in 2010 to foster cultural and artistic development in forgotten and underprivileged neighborhoods. Earlier this month the former Stony Island State Savings Bank was reintroduced as the Stony Island Arts Bank. Among other artifacts, it contains the book collection of John H. Johnson, founder of “Ebony” and “Jet” magazines; the record collection of Frankie Knuckles, the “Godfather of House Music”; and slides of art collections from the University of Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Gates described the center as a “a repository for African American culture and history, a laboratory for the next generation of black artists,” and “a space for neighborhood residents to preserve, access, reimagine and share their heritage, as well as a destination for artists, scholars, curators, and collectors to research and engage with South Side history.”

As a writer, I’m naturally attracted to the slew of books the place houses. But it’s obviously much more than a glorified library. It’s a people’s center; far removed from the ranks of high society cocktail parties and stuffy art museums. Gates has connected the beauty of art and literature – hallmarks of a progressive nation – with communities that some thought worthless. In this volatile election season, where self-proclaimed saviors of the masses regurgitate their ideas of revolution and the future, that’s simply extraordinary.

Theaster Gates

Theaster Gates

 

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Food for the Soul

Paraguayan artist Koki Ruiz poses for a picture in front of an altar he built using corn and pumpkins, where Pope Francis will give the main mass on July 12.

Paraguayan artist Koki Ruiz poses for a picture in front of an altar he built using corn and pumpkins, where Pope Francis will give the main mass on July 12.

As Pope Francis returns to his native South America for the first time since becoming head of the Roman Catholic Church, Paraguayan artist Koki Ruiz is ready with an edible altar. Composed primarily of thousands of ears of corn and pumpkins, Ruiz’s giant art piece conveys the mixed Indian and Spanish heritage of Latin America. It’s no accident he chose corn and pumpkins: both are indigenous to the Americas. Probably originating from an archaic plant called teosinte, corn was first cultivated in what is now central México as far back as 5,600 years ago. It migrated into North America around A.D. 200 and remains a staple of the Indian people’s diet. Seeds related to pumpkins found in México have been dated to 7000 B.C.

Ruiz’s altar is 131 feet (40 meters) wide and 45 feet (14 meters) high. I don’t know if its presence had an impact on Francis. After arriving in nearby Bolivia last week, the Pontiff did something no other pope – or any well-known Christian leader – has done. He acknowledged the Church’s role in both decimating the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere and subjugating the survivors.

“I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offense of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America,” he said.

I don’t anticipate we’ll hear anything similar from the Church of England or U.S. evangelical Christian leaders in our lifetime. Those clowns never want to admit they’ve done something bad, especially if no White people got hurt. But it’s a nice gesture on Francis’ part.

Corn and pumpkins survived the European conquest of the Americas and – despite what U.S. history school books say – so did the native peoples. On that note, let’s eat!

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Detail of an altar, made of corn and pumpkins, where Pope Francis will give the main mass on July 12 during his visit to Paraguay, in Asuncion

Detail of an altar, made of corn and pumpkins, where Pope Francis will give the main mass during his visit to Paraguay, in Asuncion

Workers put the finishing touches to an altar, made of corn and pumpkins, where Pope Francis will give the main mass on July 12 during his visit to Paraguay, in Asuncion

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