Picking up the pieces

posted by on 04/16/14 @ 12:03pm

My senior year in high school, one of my classmates gave a presentation about monkeyspheres.  A monkeysphere is a theoretical maximum number of stable relationships we can have at the same time.  It is estimated to be around 150.  That’s why we don’t know half the people we are friends with on Facebook, and we only care to read about a fifth of the things on our news feed.  Think about all the bonds we’ve made and broken in just the past few years:  that guy down the hall from you in college freshman year that you chatted with every now and then but now hardly see him and it’s too inconvenient to catch up with him, the kid that sat next to you in class last semester, but isn’t in any of your classes this semester.

As someone that has moved a lot growing up and likes to dabble in lots of different interests, I’ve seen the population of my monkeysphere change quite drastically.  And with graduation coming up, oh boy, my monkeysphere will be getting a serious overhaul in the next few months whether I like it or not.

So what if we found our 150 favorite people in the world just a few days after we were born, and kept them permanently in our monkeysphere?  We don’t need anybody else right?

Okay, here’s my tie-in to art:
An art type in Japan called kintsukuroi involves taking a shattered piece of art such as a ceramic bowl or large vase that has plummeted to untimely destruction, and repairing it using gold and other precious metals as an adhesive.  It is a way of saying that the repaired piece is even more beautiful than the original for having been broken.  The breakage makes for an interesting story contributes to the history of the piece.  Rather than being cleverly disguised, it is illuminated so that it can be embraced for the flaws, imperfection, and past that define its character and personality.  The effect really makes you think twice before throwing away that favorite coffee mug you dropped as you were reading surprising news in the morning paper.

Now to tie-out of art:
So maybe keeping our original 150 people in our monkeysphere is perfect, but maybe perfect isn’t all that great.  Maybe after we pick up the pieces of a severed relationship, we use them to make something better.  Maybe that’s why How I met your Mother ended the way it ended (I’ll stop here because I don’t want to give any spoilers :) ).

Object Matter

posted by on 04/15/14 @ 2:07pm

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. To me, the MoMA is the Mecca of Modern Art, so I was delighted to peruse its vast galleries and experience iconic artworks in person, jostling amongst the other tourists for a good view. Among the many memorable exhibits at this stunning museum, I found myself greatly intrigued by the special exhibit Object Matter, a retrospective of the works by Robert Heinecken.

The exhibit began with a warning that some content may be disturbing to children. Well, I consider myself to be at least somewhat of an adult so I took my chances and entered. I instantly knew what they were talking about – explicit images of sex and war were everywhere.

Even though the subject matter was serious, I sometimes found myself giggling. There’s a dark humor in Heinecken’s images – something about the way he calls out thinly-veiled sexism and war-mongering makes the whole system seem silly. For example, the piece Tuxedo Striptease (1984) shows images of women wearing tuxedos in stages of undress ranging from fully clothed to pornographic. Among these women is a baby wearing a tuxedo! Seeing these images together brought a humorous quality to a dark subject matter.

I saw the exhibit as an eerie commentary on the images we mass consume as a society. Much like an anthropologist, Heinecken examined mainstream American attitudes toward gender, sex, violence, and consumerism. Then, drawing largely from ads, news clippings, and pornography, Heinecken created photo collages that provoked viewers to question the values of American culture. Heinecken realized that the images we see in magazines both reflect and perpetuate the ways we think as a society.

To learn more about Robert Heinecken and his retrospective at the MoMA, visit the MoMA website here.

 

Art of Anatomy

posted by on 04/10/14 @ 2:07pm

Psychedelic and textbook-inspired are two adjectives that don’t typically go together. But the works of Phoenix-based artist Travis Bedel manage to fully embody both of these disparate traits. Bedel – also known as “Bedelguese” – creates collages made from vintage scientific anatomy and botany diagrams.

Bedel’s works juxtapose human anatomy with lush florals, succulents, and birds, insects, sea creatures, or snakes. The result is strangely beautiful and enticing. With flowers sprouting from organs and butterflies intertwining with arteries, Bedel’s work evokes the connection between humanity and nature – literally. Many of his collages also have an erotic quality to them – note the blooming diagram of a uterus titled “Anatomy of a Female Orgasm.”

Bedel’s tools are paper, glue, and razor blades. There’s impressive skill in the preciseness of his cutouts and the intricate placements of paper on paper. Recently, Bedel has also started creating digital collages.

To see a collection of Bedel’s collages, visit his website here.

Defending Pakistan from drone strikes

posted by on 04/09/14 @ 11:32am

Every couple weeks, we see another article about an American drone that bombs a small village in rural Pakistan based on a slight inkling that there might be a terrorist living in the area.  Civilian casualties and deaths number in the thousands, but what can they do?  The Drones are way up there, and the victims are way down there.  A new art project called “Not a Bug Splat” is a clever new tactic used to combat these drone strikes.  From the drone’s cameras, people look like tiny white dots–not like people.  ”Not a Bug Splat” changes that by placing massive images of children that have been affected by previous drone strikes. That way, when drone operators are scanning the land for potential targets, they will see a child instead of a small white dot.  Adding this human element to the equation plays on the sympathy of the drone operators and will hopefully deter them from unnecessary bombings.

 

But is this enough to cause drone operators do disobey orders from the higher-ups?  We’ll just have to wait and see.

This kind of reminds me of the British defense of the German air raids back in World War II.  An integral part of their strategy was to simulate an already destroyed city by using well-timed, controlled fires and creating images of  destroyed military installations so that the Luftwaffe would pass over thinking the job was already done.  I’m always a fan of these creative solutions.

To read more on “Not a Bug Splat,” click here!

Hyper-realism…because babies are only cute because they’re small

posted by on 03/28/14 @ 12:00pm

Have you ever looked at artwork that so accurately reflected the subject that you had a hard time telling whether or not it was a photograph?  Or maybe you’ve seen those street performers that cover themselves in paint and stand super still, but scare you when you stand too close or try to take a picture with it.  Ron Mueck is a hyper-realist sculptor who creates sculptures that bear an uncanny resemblance to their muses.  But it’s not too challenging to tell the sculpture apart from the real person– usually because the sculpture is either scaled up or scaled down to a ridiculous size.  The change in perspective it provokes is very powerful.

Take babies for example.  I was telling my friend the other day that there is no such thing as an ugly baby.  Why else would every new mother post so many pictures and videos of her child on Facebook, and why else would those pictures and videos get so many likes.  But after looking at this specific piece by Mueck, I realized that ugly babies might actually exist.  We just don’t notice because they are small and anything that small is automatically categorized as “cute.”

Oh man!  When a baby is that big, it looks frightening!  She’s no longer that cute little person who depends on you for love and nurturing.  Then again, if you stand really, really far away, she starts to look cute again.  Some things are just all about perspective.

Simplification

posted by on 03/26/14 @ 12:21pm

In the real world, things can get a bit complicated.  Think of that time when you opened this huge can of worms by asking your friend about his or her love life.  Sometimes, all these complexities can be hard to comprehend and we don’t really know what to do with all the different variables.  There are a couple different strategies to simplify such a crazy, chaotic world.

1.  Ignoring complexities:  as an engineering student, I accept the fact that I will never have an exact answer to my problems and always have to settle for “good enough.”  I’m happy with it.  I don’t mind assuming the earth is a perfect sphere, materials are perfectly rigid, and air resistance is negligible.  It makes my homework a whole lot easier.

2.  Systematic reconstruction of the universe in a more organized way:  Meet Ursus Wehrli.  He authored a book called The Art of Clean Up that details his attempts to create order within his surroundings.  The concept is kind of crazy, yet beautiful at the same time.  Looking at the “tidied up” scenes is like listening to an extremely loud silence– even the smallest disturbance will propagate and amplify to disrupt the tranquility of the environment.  His art preserves that fraction of a second where everything is sorted based on similar characteristics and there is no conflict or competition in the universe.  See for yourself.

Before

After

It’s interesting because both images have their own beauty to it, yet they are complete opposites.  We find one type of beauty in what is natural, and another type of beauty in patterns and predictability.  Here’s an interesting blurb by Wehrli himself about his perspective about the world and motivations behind his art.

Dans La Rue

posted by on 03/21/14 @ 3:37pm

The Street Museum of Art (SMoA) is a museum unlike most others. Established in 2012, this young museum employs “guerilla curating.” Instead of bringing street art indoors, the works in each exhibition are left on the street, where they can be observed in the contexts they were created for. The works are labeled with informative placards like those found in traditional museums, but they are integrated into the city rather than removed from it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based in Brooklyn, the museum travels to various cities to curate street art in its natural habitat. Their most recent show, “Dans La Rue,” is currently on view throughout the streets of Montreal. The museum encourages its visitors to explore the city as they view the art, deepening their experience and understanding of the works. “Dans La Rue” showcases 12 prominent local artists – Bfour, Gawd, Labrona, Listen Bird, Omen, Produkt, Rage5, Scaner, Stikki Peaches, Waxhead, WIA (aka whatisadam) and Wzrds Gang. These artists use a variety of mediums, from spray paint and wheat pastes to installations and wax drawings.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Guerilla curating” stays true to the sentiment of street art – the shows are public, ephemeral, and constantly interacting with their environments.

Click here learn more about “Dans La Rue” and the Street Museum of Art (SMoA).

 

Permission to be Global

posted by on 03/19/14 @ 12:15pm

is the name of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts first Latin American contemporary art exhibit.  It features artists from Argentina, Peru, Guatemala, Cuba, and other Latin American countries.  I think the name of the exhibit says so much about Latin America’s role in the rest of the world.  When I was in elementary school, we had a couple lessons on the Mayans, Aztecs, Incas, and not much else because European countries conquered and colonized the continent.  When you look at how much the United States has meddled in Latin American affairs, you would think that those countries would have at least some presence in our morning coffee discussions.  Nashville’s own William Walker even led several private military expeditions in Latin America and established himself as president of Nicaragua for a brief period of time.  And a more recent example is Plan Colombia, a controversial program between the United States and Colombia to nominally eliminate drug cartels while protecting American oil interests.

It’s no wonder that most Latin American countries feel sequestered from the rest of the world, which is why this art exhibit is so huge for them.   Camilo Alvarez, one of the featured artists, says, “The fact that white America is now learning to absorb another culture is great.  Mind you, that other culture was always here.”  I think this art exhibit does an excellent job in assimilating Latin American art with the rest of the art world and it is an important stride in bringing Latin American issues to the attention of the rest of the world.  You can find more information about the exhibit here.

Danmalas in Springtime

posted by on 03/06/14 @ 3:11pm

Spring is approaching here in Nashville! We’ve had a cold winter, but this weekend is expected to be sunny and warm. As the weather heats up, I look forward to spending more time outdoors, strolling through Centennial Park or hiking around Percy Priest Lake. Spring is my favorite season because it’s a time when we can enjoy nature to the fullest.

Artist Kathy Klein celebrates the beauty of nature by creating “danmalas” – mandala-inspired patterns made from flowers and other plants. Exuberant and bright, Klein’s works take full advantage of the shapes and colors found in our natural world.


Spirituality is a key part of Klein’s creative process. First, she meditates to draw inspiration from the environment around her. While in a meditative state of mind, she collects flowers and other natural materials and uses them to form the intricate danmalas. Once the danmalas are completed, Klein photographs her work. Then, she leaves the danmalas on the ground to be discovered by passersby.

Most of Klein’s works can be found in Arizona, where she lives. However, Klein often travels around America in order to use a greater variety of natural materials. Perhaps one day I’ll be lucky enough to stumble upon one of her danmalas myself.

For more information about Kathy Klein and her danmalas, visit her website here.

Stardust

posted by on 03/04/14 @ 2:58pm

The National Portrait Gallery in London is best known for its stunning collections of Tudor, Elizabethan, Georgian, and Victorian-era art. But now, the most talked about exhibit at the museum is totally contemporary. The show “Stardust” features the works of the king of contemporary portraiture, photographer David Bailey. In this retrospective show, we see David Bailey’s photographs from the 1950s to 2013. The subjects of his photographs range from fashion models and icons of pop culture to close family members and people encountered in his travels. In an homage to his roots, the exhibit also includes photographs taken in London’s East End over the years. Impressively, Bailey is not only the artist of the exhibit – he’s also the curator.

Often playful and sometimes serious, Bailey’s portraits create an aura of glamour. His vision captured and helped define the style of the swinging sixties, and his works continue to influence style today. But Bailey’s photographs also strive to uncover the person in each photograph – they have a depth and beauty that transcends the fleetingness of pop trends. If you’re lucky enough to be in London between March and June 2014, this is a show worth visiting.

Read more about “Stardust” here.