Month: April 2014

Free Humanity

posted by – 04/24/14 @ 11:16am

On a recent trip to Los Angeles, I was walking through the downtown area when a utility box caught my eye. Usually, utility boxes are plain and uninspiring – one might even say they’re an eyesore – but this one was different. Each of the four sides of the box were colorfully stenciled with artworks that made religious references.

One side was a portrait of Audrey Hepburn wearing what seemed to be a multi-colored hijab. Another side of the box featured a portrait of the Virgin Mary holding paintbrushes and a can of spray paint. A third side featured red, blue, and green letters that spelled out, “The Miracle is not to walk on water but to Walk on the Green Earth.” The last side was a picture of a hand holding a lotus flower with a diamond growing out of it.

I’m not sure quite what to make of this utility box, but it’s certainly got me thinking about world religions and American culture. Hepburn was not only an actress and American icon, she was a generous philanthropist and an advocate for peace. Showing an American sweetheart in a hijab distorts some of the assumptions about Muslims and violence that have been increasingly prevalent post-9/11.

In a sense, seeing a heroine of the Christian faith portrayed as a street artist reminded me that Christianity was once a subversive peace movement. Maybe it’s suggesting that creating street art is the new way of prophesying peace?

The quote appears to reference Jesus’s miracle of walking on water. Walking on the earth would certainly have been the norm for people in Jesus’s day. But what about for us? I started to think about the last time I walked on something that wasn’t pavement or an indoor floor. I’m sorry to say that it’s been a while.

In Buddhist ideologies, the lotus flower commonly represents purity and enlightenment. But what does it mean when it’s paired with a diamond, a symbol of luxury?

After some googling, I discovered that the utility box was painted by the prominent Los Angeles street artist known as Free Humanity. He has many other artworks throughout LA and each one critiques or promotes different issues in American society. On his website, Free Humanity states that the mission behind his art is “Taking back the Humanity stolen from our minds by social manipulation and planting seeds of positivity through art and consciousness.”Although it’s a bit dogmatic, the activist art on the utility box struck a chord with me – and I suspect I’m not the only one.

Click here to learn more about Free Humanity.



Happy Earth Day! A Profile of Pam Longobardi

posted by – 04/22/14 @ 1:28pm

Happy Earth Day! It’s the time of year to celebrate nature, spend time outdoors, and consider the effects we as humans have on the environment. So it’s the perfect time to highlight an artist whose works you may have seen at the gallery – our very own Pam Longobardi!

After encountering a beach full of garbage in Hawaii, Longobardi started the Drifters Project in 2006. Along with a team of assistants, Longobardi removes plastic debris from oceans and beaches around the world. She then uses the debris to create art meant to spark an interest in reducing ocean debris and overconsumption. In this sense, Longobardi’s art is both activist and educational. In 2013, Longobardi won the Hudgens Prize for her work.

In June 2013, Longobardi was one of 5 artists and 5 scientists who spent a week travelling along the Alaskan coastline. The team travelled over 450 nautical miles by ship, collecting, researching, and documenting marine debris along the way. Throughout the journey, their efforts were recorded by National Geographic filmographers and photographers. A documentary about the expedition, Gyre: Creating Art From a Plastic Ocean, has been selected for several film festivals, including Australia’s Byron Bay International Film Festival, Washington State’s Big Water Film Festival, and the San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival.

A museum exhibition featuring artwork from the expedition is currently on view at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska. A book about the expedition titled Gyre: The Plastic Ocean is available to order on Longobardi has written a chapter for the book titled “Wilderness and Invasion: Plastic place-makers of the anthropocene.”

Here at Tinney Contemporary, Pam inspires us to be conscious of the ways we impact the environment. Even though Earth Day comes only once a year, we should strive to celebrate the earth everyday.


Picking up the pieces

posted by – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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!