Sam Birchman enumerates his seventh solo show at Form/Space Atelier December 14- January 5. Vernissage December 14, 6PM. Seattle native Sam Birchman studied painting at The Evergreen State College. and apart from a couple of years in France and a year in New York, has lived in Seattle his whole life. Birchman received his BFA from Evergreen State College in 2004, and was one of five recipients of a Senior Thesis in Studio Painting grant. Birchman keeps a small studio above a hair salon in downtown Seattle for about five years now, and that is where he spends his time painting when not working at his day job as a cabinetmaker for J.A.S Design/Build.
Layne Goldsmith, distinguished faculty at The University Of Washington School Of Art, presented “Tradition and Creativity: Innovations in Fiber Work” after a museum-led tour of the exhibition BAM Biennial 2012: High Fiber Diet in conjunction with Northwest Designer Craftsmen. Ms. Goldsmith, currently the author's professor at The University Of Washington, is uniquely qualified to weigh in on the traditions and innovations in fiber work. Her 30 years as UWSoA faculty have necessitated her continuing inquiry into fiber art, revealing the past and future of the discipline. Ms. Goldsmith, affable, even adorable, is one of the most well-respected persons in her field, and a world-renown designer of textiles through her own artistic practice Layne Goldsmith Studio , creating "custom carpets that honor, expand, and preserve tradition in contemporary interiors". Included in Ms. Goldsmith's presentation were Marcel DuChamp's "16 Miles Of String" and work by fellow UWSoA faculty Michael Cepress. Exhibiting at The Bellevue Arts Museum while Ms. Goldsmith made her presentation is the BAM Biennial, this iteration fiber, "High Fiber Diet".
Rock Hushka and the author sharing an art moment.
The star of the BAM Biennial is Rock Hushka. Hushka's "Counter-Practice (Candlemas)" is part objective, part performative artwork. Artist Rock Hushka performs in the gallery every Friday (1 - 5pm) and Sunday (12:30 - 4:30pm) through February 24, 2013. Hushka is performative artist as he embroiders in a recreation of his studio with music from his collection on the theme of salvation. Music will cycle randomly at all times during the exhibit and serve as a surrogate in his absence. The author, a colleague of Hushka, observed BLOODSTAINS on the embroidery whilst viewing Hushka's artwork. The author and Hushka agreed some amount of suffering is necessary for the process of art to occur.
The Beet-Dyed Brilliance of Allison Manch
Allison Manch's three three Biennial-exhibited objects are familiarly thought-provoking and remarkably well-constructed. Especially fantastic was the use of beets to stain one of her artworks being exhibited.
A towering Paul Komada installation honoring the Occupy movement.
Paul Komada's installation of knitted signal flag-looking squares paid homage to the Occupy movement.
Shelia Klein's evanescent scrim installation
Sheila Klein's interactive curtains provided obfuscation to viewers needing a little privacy.
Michael Cepress' wearable art showed incredible fit and finish, while increasing the profile of Dadaist absurdity themes.
"The Money Project" is the first solo exhibit of Megan Harmon at Form/Space Atelier. The exhibit consists of sculptural objects materially composed of uncirculated currency (attached image of money-coated apple), and a projected single-channel video exhibiting in Form/Space Atelier's luxuriously sumptuous Video Projection Cloister, a decadent, bawdy boudoir (behind black curtains) adjoining Form/Space Atelier's austere and impeccably deconstructed stairwell exhibit space. BAWDY BOUDOIR BEHIND BLACK CURTAINS. Megan Harmon received her BFA from Western Washington University. She is a principal of the Seattle art collaborative Pigeon Vision Studio and an employee of the Seattle Art Musuem.
The following press appears courtesy the writer, Amy Kepferle ·
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Megan Harmon isn’t in a financial position to destroy the funds she needs to pay her bills every month, but that didn’t stop the Western Washington University BFA student from utilizing legal tender in “Another Day, Another Dollar,” a one-day exhibit she’ll be showing at Lucia Douglas gallery on Mon., May 2, 2011. We caught up with the artist to talk about money, and why it matters.
Cascadia Weekly: How did you first become interested in using money as an artistic medium? Megan Harmon: While working in photography I shoot black and white nostalgic images reminiscent of the “American dream.” In printmaking, I use text and iconic imagery to create slogans that portray a modern view of value and worth. Working with paper currency, or the actual object I associate with as “money,” was the most natural next step in exploring my curiosity with value.
CW: What were the primary things you wanted to get across when you started working with currency? MH: I am trying to convey to the viewer that money is an object. I am exploring how we identify with money as an object and questioning my relationship to it.
CW: Can you explain in further detail how you get a hold of the money? MH: I am a college student, and am in no position to shred my own money. I buy shredded money from eBay and the Bureau of Printing and Engraving in Washington D.C. All of the money I use has been shredded by federal authorities.
CW: I saw the “apple” image and “grapes.” What other images are there in the exhibit? MH: I will be displaying photographs of the objects I have covered in money––apples, grapes, pears, and silverware––large screen-printed text pieces, mixed media with money and gloss medium, and small installations of the money-covered objects.
CW: How much legal tender did you go through? MH: I used roughly three pounds of shredded money for the purposes of this show.
CW: In your press release, you wrote that “money in its physical form is merely paper, and electronic money is intangible.” What other epiphanies did you have in the course of putting this exhibit together? MH: The most interesting things that have happened are the conversations I get into with people who see me carrying, or working with, shredded money. The first question is always, “Is that real?”
Some of the people that have approached me about my work are complete strangers, but seeing shredded money compelled them to ask questions about it. It is this response that people have to my work that interests me the most. Money is a symbol that evokes a strong feeling in the viewer, especially when they start to see a relationship between my work and the currency they use on a daily basis.
CW: Is money an easy tool to use? MH: Shredded money is shredded at 1/16 of an inch and is as long as a regular bill. It is a very tedious task to cover objects in this material. However, it is an act I find pleasantly repetitive and therapeutic.
CW: Will the art be for sale, or is that adding a whole other layer of monetary mischief to the mix? MH: Yes, the work will be for sale.
CW: If you were super-rich, would you use “real” money in your art? MH: I am currently using real money. The shredded money I receive is real U.S. currency.
Installation Text Future Forest: Stump, 2012, a collaborative artwork by Iole Alessandrini, Hannah Viano and Vaughn Bell appeared August 31- September 3 as part of the Jana Brevick-curated Bumbershoot Visual Arts exhibit Skyward. Brevick and Shelly Leavens organized this year's Bumbershoot offering to be narrated by artwork that reference the Seattle Center's 50th Anniversary, and the future to come. As impossible as this might seem, a story with art being told about a 50-year old Seattle landmark, given the short aggregate history of presence in the Northwest of the participating artists, the exhibit was thoughtful and had visual impact across a variety of mediums and disciplines. Particularly, Future Forest: Stump, 2012 does what it can to emphasize going forward, rather than attempting to understand a Seattle past that very few practicing Seattle artists can tell from personal experience. Going forward is what Future Forest: Stump, 2012 does impressively. One is transported to a place of austere future-era sterility, gazing at the stainless-steel cabling draping languidly a fathom above the installation deck. At the top of these cold cables, a blue-kelvin lamp interrogates the viewer with inhumane vigilance. Some solar system's yellow dwarf will become a blue dwarf, by and by, an eventuality millions of lifetimes in the future. The unblinking azure lights, blue eyes in the sky, beam several omniscient oculus over this installation. The crowning glory of each lighted cable tree is an adornment of what one must assume is the handiwork of paper artist Hannah Viano. A three-person art collaboration often has trouble saying what it means, a garble of conjoined dialects. Not so with this shining glory of sculptural installation with light. Each contribution by the three participating artists creates a unified magnificence and an awe-inspiring majesty of creative expression. To coin a Native American phrase, when the tide is out, the table is set. This might be a metaphor for the easily found artistic sustenance present in Future Forest: Stump. The overall shape and sweep of the installation is a forest of obelisks. And the most regionally-famous of these obelisks is the Space Needle. It begs the question whether the artists are foretelling a time when there will be more than one, a plenitude of Space Needles to accommodate an unabated, ever-burgeoning appetite for groves of steel timber. As a final homage to light beam suspended tree-like objects, triggering an ET similacrum, Nazca Plain lines are bestrewn with arcane mathematical ordination over the installation deck. The UFO chickens have come home to roost in a Future Forest: Stump tomorrow. We are not alone, and with every new development breaking ground throughout the once-quiet city, more aliens proliferate in wave after wave after wave after wave after wave.
Despite unseasonably cool weather including a steady 10-knot north wind ripping across Lake Union, dozens of denizens of night art outdoors circulated between the various site-specific artworks comprising Push Arts Festival's debut event.
Alessandrini and Mannery sited a new-media work on the pedestrian bridge which spans the Central Cove, a small inlet from Lake Union resembling a pond. The non-objective artwork comprising the imagery of the installation involves the use of brilliant green lasers. This projected light figures significantly in the preceding works of art by Alessandrini, employed creatively a number of times, including a breathtaking site-specific installation in an empty, enormous Volunteer Park water tower. To contrast, a quaint, petite installation in a stairwell of the Seattle architecture firm Mithun , is memorable for the past use by Alessandrini of this type of laser new media in her artistic expression.
Using the salient angularity of the South Lake Union Park pedestrian bridge as a grid from which to accentuate various geometric patterns, Alessandrini/Mannery evoke a contemporary homage to Cubism, substituting Braque and Picasso's earthy hues for the brilliantly blinding beams of the l.ight a.mplification s.imulated e.mission of r.adiation (laser). Using planes of light in place of planes of pictures, Alessandrini/Mannery turn the functional fixture of a bridge into a space-age dimensional portal. The Ponti Vecchio becomes the Ponti Nuovo.
Added to this stabile accoutrement of light is an idiosyncratic, costumed artist performing, at first unrecognizable as the admittedly attractive, raven-haired Alessandrini. We hear Alessandrini's voice occasionally speaking instructions to collaborator Mannery from behind a costume boundary. The performative image is disorienting, Alessandrini's costume- Venice Carnival mask and orange fright wig- conceal Alessandrini's usual beauty. The viewer is instead enchanted/annoyed by the costumed Alessandrini catwalking across the bridge/installation, as she creatively manipulates a hand-held laser. In this way Alessandrini is providing a spectacle of extemporaneous theatre to support the sculptural aspects of the fixed light elements of the installation. The repeated procession of Alessandrini through the installation with gyrations of the hand laser, produces each time a new moving light projection, and by extension, a new work of art, each pass she makes through the bridge installation is unprecedented and a wonder to behold.
The combined elements of this site-specific installation distinguish the ever-inventive artwork of Alessandrini as assisted by Mannery, as that like no other. In witnessing the team effort presented by Alessandrini/Mannery, it becomes apparent the collaboration is a very rare gem, the two artist seem to anticipate the thought processes of the other, and the unified mind of two yields an entertaining and original product of non-objective art which plays enormous.
The window of Push Arts Festival has shut, and the short exhibit schedule (one night only) of Alessandrini/Mannery's installation, only increases the value of this time-based installation/performative. One is in hopes additional impending exhibits of new media can not be far off.
Ms. Alessandrini and Mr. Mannery met in 2001 at the Bellevue Arts Museum. Mannery was artist in residence. This is their first collaborative project since “Between Spaces” and focuses on creative and technical innovations involving optics and the exploration and perception of space with light.
Splitting time between Seattle Art Museum's ReMix and PushArts Festival at South Lake Union Park made for a full itinerary August 24, 2012. ReMix featured Julie Alpert's sunset sketching workshop, Sarah Bergmann and Riz Rollins providing captivating programming, the ever-vivacious Sandra Jackson-Dumont hostessing ebulliently, and a crowd of beautiful personages hobnobbing in a quasar of flashbulbs, fashion and flirtation.
Kimberly Clark curates the artwork of Glenn Rudolph, Helen O'Tooleand others in the theme of environmental change for PROGRAPHICA gallery's "Commentaries: Artists Respond to the Land". Clark also adds her own vital painting to the exhibit.
Just this side of Snoqualmie Pass on I-90, there is a wooded park visible from the highway. Seattle Savant Richard Peterson and I made one of the last trips to this park in the Buick Regal which had been donated to me by Glenn Rudolph's close confidante Steven Schrock . Mr. Peterson had been perseverating on the idea of a trip to Tradition Lake, what he called "the haunted woods" of this park and also made mention of a "ghost bus". Richard's idea of using video footage taken by me as part of a new movie he envisioned, meant squeezing the last gasps of my automobile addiction, the head gasket had blown on the Regal, I knew how to limp a car for YEARS if necessary. Soon after the ghost bus trip, I opted to participate in the City Of Seattle's One Less Car program, and I still have a pretty good supply of transit vouchers, being that I ride a bicycle everywhere I need to go. Turning from that perhaps morally righteous self-disclosure to the topic of ghost bus footage in the haunted woods of Snoqualmie Pass, Richard led me to the abandoned bus, which if memory serves, is the selfsame bus which appears in my sister's boyfriend's confidante Glenn Rudolph's photograph in the Prographica exhibit curated by Kimberly Clark (understand?). If it is the same bus, pending an inquiry to Rudolph, it will give me a great sense of unity and community in the art cosmos I orbit within, and the world of the mundane can accompany the story if it so happens. Keep watching this space for an update on the potential relativity of ghost buses my friends know. I always like to tie things together. UPDATE: Turns out the buses are two different machines. Rudolph answers the inquiry into the location of his bus: "This is up Silver Creek enroute to Mineral City. Not too far from Index. Miners use it as a shelter. The road and bridges are washed out and collapsed. A great place to hike." Rudolph refers to Mineral City and Index, Washington. Richard Peterson's bus resides near I-90 in close proximity to Tradition Lake at High Point Way Trailhead.
I attended the lecture "Evolving Interpretations Of Wilderness" given by Phillip Govedare August 16,2012 in conjunction with Prographica's exhibit Commentaries: Artists Respond to the Land. Mr. Govedare, UW SoA Faculty, a two-time recipient of NEA recognition and represented by Francine Seders Gallery, is a painter composing images of post-apocalyptic landscapes and alternate palette representations of brownfields and scarified environments. Mr. Govedare's lecture was framed by the stifling heat of a 90-degree evening and the confinement of a full space. Often during the lecture, global warming was mentioned, and so cued, the audience would mop a soggy brow, eyelids drooping. A slideshow accompanied the lecture, and featured images from landscape artists Albert Bierstadt (German-American, 1830-1902) and Frederic Edwin Church(American, 1826-1900). The premise posited by the images presented by Mr. Govedore in his febrile mutimedia spectacle was that of the historic legacy of artistic depictions of civilization's attempt to dominate nature, a standpoint which hurtles unflagged, and certainly has intensified in relation to the steady march of conspicuous consumption and the depletion of natural resources therefrom. Following the lecture, dialogue was expanded to include the perspiring audience, and one fellow (positioned smack in front of an electric fan) disgorged the frantically amusing chestnut that global warming wasn't yet proven. I laughed into my hand and sipped a little water.
In summation, Ms. Clark shows courage in organizing this exhibit, boldly uttering the mention of climate change and the resulting imminent mass extinction of humanity; now certain, scientifically assured and true, verifiable and foregone, the veracity of which cannot be refuted, except mockingly, conspiratorially, shamelessly attempted by the stark raving mad, the "fascist avaricious fossil-fuel death's head deceivers" as they are sometimes referred to. We are all dead, our bloodlines blotted out by bloated black oil insanity, obliterated by a bathtub brimming over from an annual buildup of FIVE BILLION METRIC TONS OF CARBON INTO THE ATMOSPHERE EVERY YEAR, year in year out. Mass extinction !X STINK SHUNNED! from driving cars, and burning coal to run hair dryers and tingling-finger massage chairs, for our massive, corpulent asses. I, for my part, can vouch for Curator Clark, she owns no car and rides her bicycle at least as much as I do. She is a wonderfully talented painter, also.
Artist Ari Graynor, second from left, recently debuted as a lead in the romantic comedy For A Good Time, Callgiving her audience a more significant expression of her art in film. Ms. Graynor's considerable skill as a comedic actor is well-suited to the literary content of the story, and tempts viewers to draw comparison to Bette Midler.
Previous works of art by Ms. Graynor include Holy Rollers , where her characterization of Rachel Apfel as party girl shows her range of expression as an actor, relative to the smaller parts which comprise her art thus far. An animal magnetism resides with Ms. Graynor, as plain as the nose on one's face, being revealed in this film importantly, marking perhaps a benchmark in the throughput of the artist's portfolio mid-point.
In conclusion, Ms. Graynor's acting in Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist , shows the nascent underpinnings of talent and potential greatness which has now begun to aggregate Ms. Graynor to artists of her ilk; Scarlett Johansson, Michelle Williams and Elizabeth Banks.
For Of Recollection And Collection, Allison Hyde will be creating a site-specific installation at Form/Space Atelier that investigates ideas of memory and recollection, in reference to domestic interiors and the history of the photograph. Her work seeks to elicit a conversation with the viewer about desire for preservation of self-identity, our physical and psychological connections to spaces and objects (see attached image), and about individual and collective experiences of memory. Of Recollection And Collection will be referencing site-specifically Form/Space Atelier's most salient architectural feature; the majestic stairwell. The stair, as the symbolic spine of the house, provides throughput for other visual components of the exhibit. Stairs, as a narrative device, appear frequently in literature, cinema and painting due to their extraordinary image power. The staircase is simultaneously a stage and an auditorium. It is also a vertical configuration of the labyrinth with consequent associations of vertigo, and getting lost. To simplify, the artist has established an interactive domestic zone near the street-level entrance to the exhibit, where viewers are encouraged to sift through hundreds of photographs; found and self-disclosed by the artist. A scrapbook is available for visitors to place a chosen photograph, and viewers are encouraged to add a caption, just like we've dreamed of in the New Yorker. We finally get our chance to write the caption, have it seen on the most irreducible of scales. Ms. Hyde's now-familiar (10th Northwest Biennial) jumble of burnt furniture (ever a catchy phrase), is installed over Form/Space Atelier's stairwell; jumbled, tumbling down, frozen mid-tumble askew. A tertiary component of the exhibit is a projected video on a panel overhanging the highest height in the architectural space afforded by the stairwell. The projected video is tricky; the scale of the action in the video fools the eye if one starts viewing in the middle of the loop. As usual, the curator or his assistant is present to engage visitors to the exhibit in a discussion of the installation, or any other reasonable topic which should arise. Allison Hyde was selected for the Tenth Northwest Biennial,Tacoma Art Museum. Born and raised in Tacoma, Washington, Ms. Hyde received her Masters of Fine Arts in Printmaking from the University of Oregon in 2011. Themes of Ms. Hyde's artwork center on ideas of memory and loss, personal objects and traces of history. using works on paper, sculptural installation, digital media, and painting.
Meeting Avantika Bawa while she was creating the site-specific installation At Owner's Risk for Suyama Space was fortuitous, closing a recently established circuit with the Portland-based, India-born artist. Ms. Bawa and legendary Suyama Space Curator Beth Sellars had been coincidentally visiting The Tacoma Art Museum May 6th at the very moment I was exhibiting a performative of my yoiking-influenced vocal experimentation.
Our meeting again at Suyama Space sometime after my May 6 TAM performative had the earmarks of a studio visit, without the formality nor difficulty of driving to Oregon to accomplish. Ms. Bawa had a particularly timely shade of Cerulean Blue paint on her hands which presented a problem in shaking hands. Instead, we looked into each other's eyes and established a connection which comes when two artists meet in the theatre of the creation of artwork. I kept my visit as short as possible, as the artist was in the throes of adding some finishing touches to her artwork, additionally, the installation at Suyama Space was being photographed by the wildly-talented artist Mark Woods. I made a cursory viewing, and bid the artists adieu.
My cursory viewing provided a foundation for critical writing about At Owner's Risk. The installation had a formidable connection to the historic harmonies of Suyama Space, beginning with livery commerce circa 1890 and the chapter of the merch book ending with the building finding use as an edifice for the warehousing of motorcars. Ms. Bawa's salient sweep of shapes and choice of Ford blue (used by Ford Motor Company to paint the engines in their autos since the Model T), rang true, blue, yet anew. The inclined plane. Car lifts. Oil. The key artistic decisions which make this installation a masterpiece are the subtlety, thoughtful austerity and understated minimalism which encourages the viewer intervening in the installation to remain, persist in the artwork, be thorough in the absorption of the artist's handiwork. Somewhere after the vernissage for At Owner's Risk, it became apparent the oil that Ms. Bawa had chosen to represent a facet of Suyama Space's bygone era wasn't going to be acceptable, as it really stunk up the place. The oil was immediately supplanted with a viscous substance redolent of nothing. I am reminded of the conceptual process which plays out; like unacceptable-smelling oil pans, or, in my own recent experience as an artist, the failure of a DVD platform in a major museum exhibit of my artwork, and how the response to those challenges allow artists to continue to meet and surpass challenges and accumulate artistic achievements. Ms. Bawa has earned her commission at Suyama Space by virtue of this simple yet poignant premise. What do we do when art fails? Back to the drawing board, and draw, as artists should. Ms. Bawa understands this, and does this. Ms. Bawa effortlessly solves problems with her art.
Reading Hazard occured June 28, as a happening response and adjunct to At Owner's Risk, a reading of the poetry of organizer David Abel and fellow poets Lisa Radon, Niko Vassilakis and James Yeary. Comprised of this quartet of poets simultaneously delivering uttered language, in a effort to evoke a feeling of linguistic sculpture, stationed at each corner of the installation, Reading Hazard had all of the messy loveliness of art which is difficult, disastrous, soaring, muddled, and incomprehensible. The Flaming Lips produced artwork like this; Zaireeka, a four cassette mindblower meant to be played all four tapes at the same time in four different boom boxes. The four poets made a formal congress and chataqua of the fingers-in-ears-la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you tome, and with the success of such an idea, the silent smartphone hand-gazer becomes a stony insignificance.
The event was well-attended by art people and the cognoscenti affiliated with cross-disciplinary experimentation, including Suyama Space affiliates Emma Schultz, Beth Sellars and George Suyama himself. Trenton Flock, John Boylan, Rick Araluce and Steven Peters (Peters recording ambient sound/poetic hubub in real time) were present, accounted for, and created an atmosphere of a sálon, which enhanced the experience for me greatly. When one of the audience's cellphones went off during the happening, Peters followed the unsuspecting caller outside with his mic, capturing the spontaneous event for posterity. A pleasing admixture of masterful installation and inspired performative. Congratulations all mentioned artists and organizers, deserving of praise!
No Man's Land is an exhibit of ceramics and mixed media by Jennifer Emily Dwyer. This is the first exhibit by Ms. Dwyer at Form/Space Atelier. Hubris distinguishes itself from more altruistic aspects of human nature through Ms. Dwyer's narrative. Reminiscent of taxidermy, the objects created for No Man's Land parallel the abject disregard for anything that might organically exist on the face of earth, or anything that falls outside of the ever magnifying realm of commerce. Animal life is a source of food to the vast majority of the earth's population. And yet, poignantly, pets are enslaved for other hungers that serve to portrait the dysfunction of a mentally-ill bourgeosie, characterizing the proverbial lapdog which suckles the breast of barren women and their hare-brained brethren.
Jennifer Emily Dwyer studied at Columbia University and The University Of Washington, where she graduated from the School Of Art, 3D4M Department. -Paul Kuniholm Pauper, Curator, Form/Space Atelier.
Jennifer Emily Dwyer's Statement Narrates No Man's Land:
So for my show I have/will make taxidermy heads out of ceramic and glaze. I intend to have eight mounted pieces on the wall; male and female human heads, antelope, and rhinoceros, tree, plant, and snake and scorpion heads. The intent of the exhibit is to consider the connection between all living species. I want to highlight the human ego, and how people view the world in terms of themselves. My idea involves exploring the theory of holism, which states that all life is connected and dependent on one another. I want to use humor to show case how humans break the connection we have with everything around us. An example of this is taxidermy of animal heads, which some see as nothing more than a trophy to be mounted on their wall. By placing different parts of the earth’s interdependent system onto plaques, I want to take a step back from the human ego and narcissism and explore the deeper and critical connection all beings have with each other.-Jennifer Emily Dwyer
With a little more than a week to go until Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture is removed from Tacoma Art Museum, I felt an urgency to convey the impressions of this very important exhibit of artwork before the images fade from easy reference.
First, we begin with the censorship of an artwork. A censorship which inflamed lifestyle and cultural circles when while exhibiting at The Smithsonian, Hide/Seek was targeted by the Catholic League and several members of Congress, which is always an enigma, the misunderstanding of art by laypeople who have the power to dictate content. We've seen it before, the usual case of finding a political football (a well made piece of art) too tantalizing to lose possession of, a political object transubstantiated from an art object. Jesse Helms and The Catholic League screeched for the removal of a video by David Wojnarowicz (pronounced voy-nah-ROH-vitch). The Smithsonian pulled a bullfighter and let the cape fly, failing to back up the exhibit when the time was right to defend the organizers and artists participating. Looking harder at Wojnarowicz' artwork critically, we see Mexico City fire eaters, amputees and other images which bring to our awareness the inhumane allegory of HIV/AIDS and how apocalyptically this disavowed virus ravaged the gay community. To my mind, Mr. Wojnarowicz is painting a picture of how cheap life is, to the public at large being kept unaware of the HIV/AIDS atrocity, a government policy that denied HIV/AIDSfor years. His finger points to those deniers. He attempts to bring to our collective attention how it all went down. Wojnarovich's video the victim of one more punitive cheap shot with the screeching of the Catholic League and those certain congressional dis-members. My take. I've pasted the salient chronology of the controversy that surrounded Hide/Seek's initial exhibition below.
Next, I must explain that I have been infatuated with the woman-child beauty of Edie Sedgwick for many years. My opportunities to commune with her likeness as a work of art has been confined to disappointingly few times Andrieu Warhola's artwork has been exhibited in the Pacific Northwest. Exactly twice to be precise, first, during Marisa Sanchez' love fear pleasure lust pain glamour death — Andy Warhol Media Works in 2010 at Seattle Art Museum and now; Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture at Tacoma Art Museum. It was plain to all who attended and witnessed both exhibits, that I was nearly worshipping the tragic figure by undertaking an audience with Edie Sedgwick, in public, and whatever the cost to my image. I viewed both filmic portraits, as Mr. Warhola coined them, but which are popularly known as screen tests very thoroughly, at least an hour for each viewing. With relish. Build memories of her inescapable appeal. Ms. Sedgwick, sadly, died of a very treatable disease. A loss to those who knew her, and my condolences all round.
Which brings me to the enigmatic Romaine Brooks, Self Portrait, a well-made oil painting which conveys the strength and power of it's subject, the wealthy socialite Romaine Brooks. Her kingly attire, including a fine top hat and cane, sheath Ms. Brooks in armor. Her gaze is resolute at the viewer. She is the king. We are the subject. This is a woman who will dominate her environment. The entire picture is done with a study in value toward the melancholy end of the gray scale. The landscape behind her is hauntingly familiar, as the song goes, reminiscent of some setting overlooking Puget Sound in keeping with the epoch of the composition. Gray Puget Sound or Nantucket something. But a hyptnotic attraction to this woman and her seething power. I believe I looked at this painting for about a half hour. Ask the docents at Tacoma Art Museum. A long, long look.
The conclusion to my summation of the exhibit Hide/Seekrests with Ventriloquist, by Jasper Johns. The painting is by the great Jasper Johns, who once wrote me a reply to my inquiry for him to lecture at Form/Space Atelier “Paul, I don't do lectures. Best, Jasper Johns” on the postcard verso of a Thomas Eakins painting (Eakins is also included in Hide/Seek). The time frame for his execution of Ventriloquist, created perhaps for my hero, Johns, the opportunity to create a therapeutic artwork, as was theorized by the curator of Hide/Seek, Jonathan Katz, in a lecture I attended on the subject of the exhibit. I have to believe the very bright and insightful Mr. Katz might of course be accurate in his reading of Ventriloquist which is to say, nothing further need be said. To me, the making of a work of art is often the admixture of component thought processes, and even if my mark making begins at a small number of these component thought processes, the potential for proliferation and multiplication of thought processes will inevitably happen. To varnish the topcoat, Johns might have begun to paint his way out of sadness and bitter feelings, but as masterpieces will, prolonged study reveals Mr. Johns eventual victory through artistic reconciliation which happens. Happens.
Synopsis courtesy Wikipedia:
In November 2010, after consultation with Gallery director Martin Sullivan and co-curator David C. Ward but not with co-curator Jonathan David Katz, G. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, removed an edited version of footage used in Wojnarowicz's short silent film A Fire in My Belly (available online) from the exhibit "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" at the National Portrait Gallery after complaints from the Catholic League, Minority Leader John Boehner, Rep. Eric Cantor and the possibility of reduced federal funding for the Smithsonian. The video contains a scene with a crucifix covered in ants. William Donohue of the Catholic League claimed the work was "hate speech", against Catholics. Gay historian Jonathan Ned Katz wrote:
In 1989 Senator Jesse Helms demonized Robert Mapplethorpe's sexuality, and by extension, his art, and with little effort pulled a cowering art world to its knees. His weapon was threatening to disrupt the already pitiful federal support for the arts. and once again, that same weapon is being brandished, and once again we cower.
Response from Clough and Smithsonian
Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough later in interview states that although he stands by his decision, it "might have been made too quickly" and he describes making the decision was "painful." Clough mentions that because of heated controversy surrounding the footage and the possibility that it might "spiral out of control", the Smithsonian might be in the end forced to shut-down the entire "Hide/Seek" exhibition, and its "something he didn’t want to happen." The "Hide/Seek" exhibition "examines representations of homosexuality in American portraiture", and Clough states "The funders and people who were upset by the decision, and I respect that, still have an appreciation that this exhibition is up. We were willing to take this topic on when others were not, and people appreciate that."
I think it was very important to cut off the dialogue that was headed towards, in essence, hijacking the exhibit away from us and putting it into the context of religious desecration. This continues to be a powerful exhibit about the contributions of gay and lesbian artists. It was not about religious iconography and it was not about desecration. When you look at the news cycles that take over, their [the show's critics'] megaphones are this big [making a broad gesture] and our megaphone is this big [a small gesture]. We don't control that. And when it gets out of control, you can't get it back.
—-G. Wayne Clough
Clough states "But looking back, sure, I wish I had taken more time. We have a lot of friends who felt left out. We needed to spend more time letting our friends know where this was going. I regret that."
Response from artists
The curator David C. Ward said: "It is not anti-religion or sacrilegious. It is a powerful use of imagery".
In response, The Andy Warhol Foundation, which had provided a $100,000 grant to the exhibition, announced that it would not fund future Smithsonian projects, while several institutions, including SFMOMA and Tate Modern, scheduled showings of the removed work.
On December 2, 2010, protesters against the censorship marched from the Transformer Gallery, to the National Portrait Gallery. The art work was projected on the building. On December 5, Michael Blasenstein and Michael Dax Iacovone were detained and barred from the gallery for holding leaflets. On December 9, National Portrait Gallery Commissioner James T. Bartlett resigned in protest. The artist A. A. Bronson sought to withdraw his art from the exhibit, with support from the lending institution, the National Gallery of Canada, unsuccessfully as of December 20. The curators appeared at a forum at the New York Public Library. A protest was held from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. On December 15, a panel discussion was held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. On December 20, a panel discussion was held at the Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Center. On January 20, 2011, the Center of Study of Political Graphics held a protest at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. Secretary Clough issued a statement standing by the decision, spoke at a Town Hall Los Angeles meeting, and appeared at a public forum in April 26–27, 2011. Several curators within the Smithsonian criticized the decision, as did critics, with Newsweek arts critic Blake Gopnik going so far as to call the complaints "gay bashing" and not a legitimate public controversy.
Gardner, Massachusetts was a stopping point from Vaasa, Finland, birthplace of my Great-Grandfather Johan Emil Kuniholm, enroute Seattle. He and Carlson built the First Lutheran Church
late in the nineteenth century. By the time Johan left Gardner, it was the furniture capitol of the world, no less than twenty furniture factories. Johan brought his wicker furniture skill to Seattle in 1890, opening the shop Queen Anne Reed Art Furniture at 315 McGraw.
Pictured above: Justin Mata, Wheels Wallpaper, 2012, gel medium transfer.
Rare Medium Gallery, at 1321 East Pine, is located on the meridian of my near-daily travel to my home. The gallery is currently exhibiting collective member Justin Mata's Wheels Wallpaper, a series of gel medium transfers of motorcar hubcaps and wheel images. Exhibiting with Mata is Cory Verellen's prints of umbrellas. The imagery of this show was to me today associative two things in the largest sense, and as usual for art experiences, many smaller things. Mata's sculptural transfers, using an exhibit system that produces a time-based effect on the gel transfers, drooping them like so many Dali watches, or the gloopy-gloppys that I made from elmer's glue on the palm of my childhood hand. The choice of a hubcap started me on my own hubcap flashback of last summer in the Klamath National Forest, when I was searching for hubcaps for the raw material for an exhibit I was selected for, at the Kentucky Museum Of Art And Craft, Louisville. I found my lode in the tiny hamlet of Etna, California, in knee high grass behind a decades-abandoned filling station. Salvation arrived when I found a complete set of four Chevy New Process truck hubcaps waiting for me to liberate them, which I did, I painted a swine face on two, one of which was exhibited at The Kentucky Museum. The second associative reaction to the Rare Medium exhibit was in response to Mr. Verellen's umbrella images. I was transported back to the filmic portrait (commonly referred to as Screen Test) of Andriew Warhola's Edie Sedgwick, which I had worshipped brazenly at The Tacoma Art Museum as part of Hide/Seek over the course of repeated visits. I have been fascinated with the tragic story of Edie Sedgwick and quite possibly hopelessly infatuated with her charming beauty. In Warhola's portrait, Ms. Sedgwick is wearing a scarf over her hair that is embellished with -wait for it- umbrellas. The proximity of Rare Medium to my home is fortunate. If one can make the distance traveled, it is well worth a visit. Good times.