Friday, August 01, 2008

Massachusetts Artists Leaders Coalition forms

A new artist-advocacy group, the Massachusetts Artists Leaders Coalition, announced its formation yesterday. “We’re getting artists at the table on policy stuff,” coalition member Kathleen Bitetti, a Boston visual artist and executive director of the Artists Foundation, tells me. “It’s really about individual creators and the people who feed the creative economy.”

The group’s press release explains: “MALC will help ensure that Massachusetts artists of all disciplines have a voice in current dialogs and decisions that are shaping the creative economy, as well as other key public policy initiatives that impact the artists community.” The coalition could address issues ranging from health care to making sure artists are paid on time to copyright and intellectual property rights.

The coalition aims to develop policies, methods and models that can be shared across the state – and nationally. And it hopes to mentor future artist leaders.

The coalition grew out of town meetings the Artists Foundation has held across the state, as well as Artists Under the Dome, a meet-up of some 100 Massachusetts artists with state officials at the State House last November.

But it’s also a response to government creative economy initiatives, in particular recent legislation that would create in Massachusetts a “first in the nation” state Creative Economy Council. “Look at who’s on the Creative Economy Council; look at who’s not on it,” Bitetti says. “There are no slots set up for working artists whatsoever.”

The Artists Foundation expects to provide administrative support for the coalition. In the press release, three people speak for the coalition: Bitetti; Ja-Nae Duane, an opera singer and president and founder of Wild Women Entrepreneurs; and Jeff Carpenter, a visual artist and co-founder and president of Arts United/Fall River. Bitetti says other coalition participants include photographer Craig Bailey and artist Liora Beer, both of whom serve on the Artist Foundation board; artist Chuck Lathrop of Pembroke; Nathan Bennett of Martha’s Vineyard; Mary Bucci McCoy of the Beverly Cultural Council; Ian MacKinnon, a Cambridge “theater prankster” (according to the Globe); and Paul Horn, president of the Boston branch of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. They’re looking to recruit more people.

Senate approves Creative Economy Council

Bill does not guarantee representation of artists

Massachusetts would create a “first in the nation” statewide Creative Economy Council under a bill approved by the Massachusetts Senate on Tuesday. It’s a notable achievement, but in an outrageous omission the bill has no requirement that artists be included on the 23-member council. Nor is there any explicit requirement for representation on the committee of galleries, museums, theaters and the like.

The bill (full pdf text here) was approved by the state House of Representatives on July 16, and is expected to soon be signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick. The council, the bill says, will operate out of the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development and “shall develop a statewide strategy for the enhancement, encouragement, and growth of the creative economy in the Commonwealth, and to promote through public and private means responsive public policies and innovative private sector practices.”

Though the bill does not guarantee a place for artists on the council, it does require representation from the state Legislature; the Massachusetts Cultural Council; MassArt; Massachusetts Advocates for the Arts, Sciences and Humanities; the restaurant and tourism industries; and state agencies and executive offices devoted to these business sectors. (The relevant section from the bill is excerpted at bottom.)

The omission of artists in particular highlights a problem among creative economy advocates: they can be so focused on the economy part that they neglect the creative folks. The bill should be immediately amended.

An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Creative Economy Council
House Bill 4965, Section 1 (b):
“The council shall consist of 23 members 3 of whom shall be members of the senate, 2 of whom shall be appointed by the senate president and 1 of whom shall be appointed by the senate minority leader; 3 of whom shall be members of the house of representatives, 2 of whom shall be appointed by the speaker of the house and 1 of whom shall be appointed by the house minority leader; and 17 members to be appointed by the Governor, 1 of whom shall be the secretary of the executive office of housing and economic development, or his designee, who shall serve as chair of the council; 1 of whom shall be the executive director of the Massachusetts office of travel and tourism, or his designee; 1 of whom shall be the executive director of the Massachusetts cultural council, or his designee; 1 of whom shall be the director of the Massachusetts office of business development, or his designee; 1 of whom shall be the executive director of the Massachusetts Advocates for the Arts, Sciences, and Humanities, or his designee; 1 of whom shall be the director of the John Adams Innovation Institute, or his designee; 1 of whom shall be the president of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, or his designee; 1 of whom shall be the chairman of the Massachusetts Lodging Association, or his designee; 1 of whom shall be the president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, or his designee; 1 of whom shall be the president of the Massachusetts College of Art, or her designee; 3 of whom shall be directors of a regional tourism councils; 1 of whom shall be a representative of the Salem Partnership; 1 of whom shall be a representative of the Salem State College Assistance Corporation; 1 of whom shall be a representative of the Berkshire Creative Economy Initiative; and 1 of whom shall be an owner of a sole proprietorship in the creative economy.”

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jon Sarkin's studio

I stopped by Jon Sarkin's Gloucester studio last week. Sarkin, who was featured in the 2006 DeCordova Annual, has been painting portraits lately. He explains:
When I started going to a portrait drawing/painting group, about five years ago, I mentioned to my dear friend and fellow artist, Susan Erony, that I had decided to learn to draw people. She said that she loves to draw the human face/figure because it's the only thing we draw where we know how it feels like to be that thing, and we can bring our feelings of being a fellow human being to our art. I mean, when we draw a picture of the ocean or a tree or whatever, we've no idea what it's like to be that thing, so whatever feelings we bring to THIS subject are anthropomorphic and un-genuine, no matter how objective we try to be. Yes?

Thanks, Susan.

Anyway, I guess this is why I draw portraits, especially self-portraits, because I REALLY know how it feels to be me, and not you or whoever.

I work from other artists work - I especially like drawing self-portraits by other artists, e.g., Van Gogh, Degas, Rembrandt and Tintoretto. I do this because it makes me study very, very closely how these guys did their magic, and I start to feel like they must've felt. This makes me feel important in regards to my art, and I like this feeling.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

RISD grads fashion future in Esquire

RISD grads from the Class of 2008 talk about the future of art and design – and serve as hip fashion models – in the August issue of Esquire.

Leo Livshetz, here decked out in Armani, tells the magazine:
“I think there’ll be an explosion of technology in the next decade that will trump the Industrial Revolution tenfold. We’ll see smart materials that can change shape and color with a shift in temperature or ultraviolet radiation, and it’s all going to lead to new design possibilities across the board.”

"Wedded Bliss" at Peabody Essex

From my review of “Wedded Bliss: The Marriage of Art and Ceremony” at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem:
Picture two wedding dresses. On the left is a slinky Vera Wang number from 2004. It’s a sleek, strapless couture creation in satin and silk jacquard, with white-on-white stripes that wrap around it and show off the lady’s curves. It looks like something Cat Woman would wear on her special day.

On the right is a prim, pleated, hand-sewn white cotton dress that Sarah Tate wore when she got married, probably in the 1840s, maybe in Texas. It’s as plain as the Wang dress is flashy. What’s extraordinary about it is that Tate was an African-American slave. It’s a rare surviving relic from a time when slaves could not legally wed but some owners allowed them to marry informally. Wow.

What we have here in the opening gallery of “Wedded Bliss: The Marriage of Art and Ceremony” at Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum is a show that stretches from va-va-voom to the solemn roots of marriage in our culture. And maybe says a bit about — if I dare be so grand — the magical, irresistible force of love.
Read the rest here.

“Wedded Bliss: The Marriage of Art and Ceremony,” Peabody Essex Museum, East India Square, Salem, April 26 to Sept. 14, 2008.

Pictured from top to bottom: Cile Bellefleur Burbidge, “Architectural Fantasy Cake,” photograph by Dennis Helmar, courtesy of the artist; Sarah Goodridge, “Beauty Revealed (Self-Portrait),” 1828, Sarah Goodridge, ©The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Christian Lacroix, “Wedding Cake Dress,” from the collection of Sandy Schreier, photograph, courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art Photography Department; 19th century Chinese bridal headdress, Peabody Essex Museum, gift in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Austin Cheney by their daughters; wedding dress of Mary Copley Greene, ca. 1837, Dennis Helmar photographer, Peabody Essex Museum.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Nicholas Hlobo

South African artist Nicholas Hlobo performed "Thoba, utsale umnxeba” at the Institute of Contemporary Art tonight, in conjunction with his new exhibit at the Boston museum. He’ll perform again from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Thursday (the museum’s free night). I’ll be reviewing all this soon.

The museum describes the performance thusly:
“Translated to mean 'to lower oneself and make a call,' the title describes how Hlobo will sit in a meditative posture with a headdress of multiple ribbons and hair extensions fastened like suction cups to the gallery walls. The performance introduces fresh perspectives to the space were the private body, public ritual, and cultural engagement align.”

“Lovesick/Seasick” at Yes Gallery

From my review of “Lovesick/Seasick” at Yes Gallery + Studio in Warren, Rhode Island:
I recently drove out to Warren to see YES Gallery + Studio, which opened at 146 Water Street in April. It was my first visit there, but the inspiration for the gallery’s name was a promising sign.

Owner Leigh Medeiros named it after Yoko Ono’s 1966 Ceiling Painting (YES Painting), which invited viewers to climb a step ladder and use a magnifying glass to discover the word “YES” printed on a panel on the ceiling. Ono’s relationship with John Lennon began after he wandered into a London gallery and up that ladder.

Medeiros writes on the gallery’s blog: “This is a quote by Yoko that I think is great, ‘There have been so many negative elements in my life, and in the world. I had to balance that by activating the ‘Yes’ element’ ... I also loved the idea of someone driving down Water Street, mulling over a decision, then looking up to see the word ‘YES’ on the gallery building. Who knows what things could come of such a bold ‘sign’?”
Read the rest here.

“Lovesick/Seasick,” Yes Gallery + Studio, 146 Water St., Warren, Rhode Island, July 11 to Aug. 8, 2008.

Pictured: Kana Ito’s painting “Winter.”

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ernest Morin

Watching my Gloucester photographer pal Ernest Morin’s “Sight Lines” slideshow at Gloucester City Hall Thursday night, I was struck again by how comprehensively and richly and honestly he has captured the city of Gloucester. It starts with his sharp eye (note the careful arrangements of lines and shapes, the use of signs to comment on the scene) and technical excellence, and winds up with him getting so deep into the marrow of the community that his photos, as a group, seem (even to Gloucester’s residents) like some essence of the city itself.

We don’t have artist laureates, but if we did, Morin would have to be the artist laureate of Gloucester. It is rare for an artist to be so thoroughly and successfully engaged with the nature of a community. In Gloucester, it’s something of a tradition – from painter Fitz Henry Lane to poet Charles Olson to photojournalist Charles Lowe to poet laureate Vincent Ferrini (a great character, excelling more as a laureate than as a poet, who died last December). There is something about Gloucester being big and complex enough to be a city, but also finite because it is ultimately an island (there are only two roads – bridges – in or out of the place) that make it seem both intriguing and possible for a person to know it in its entirety (or at least feel they do). Its artists are drawn to take up this challenge.

Morin grew up in Gloucester, lives downtown, and haunts its streets. He’s come to know the city as a boy and as a man, to know it with his feet and his camera. The result – if I may be allowed a pretentious literary allusion – reminds me of a passage from T.S. Eliot’s (who summered in Gloucester while growing up) “Little Gidding”:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Alyse Emdur

“Show and Tell” is a funny-sad collection of videos by Alyse Emdur now on view at LaMontagne Gallery. (Watch a sample here.) She recorded first-graders presenting show-and-tell items in their fumbling endearing way to classmates at schools in New Jersey, Oregon, Florida, Washington, Maryland.

A boy shows off his yoyo. Girls snuggle dolls. A boy struggles with his squirming cat. A girl presents an aluminum baseball bat. A boy brings in his dad’s bowling trophy –“but I’m going to say it’s mine anyway.”

Emdur, who’s in the process of moving to LA, is one of those collecting, cataloging, anthropological artists, coming out of the tradition of August Sander or Mike Disfarmer or Bernd and Hilla Becher. Her cinematography is deadpan rudimentary. She pretty much just sticks the camera on a tripod, turns it toward the front of the classroom, and lets it run. What makes her work interesting or not is her subjects.

At first “Show and Tell” feels like a joke, a lark. But as you watch, it deepens, becoming something about keeping up with the Joneses. And then something about our stuff as talismans, good luck charms, relics.

A girl with big brown floppy stuffed dog says, “My name’s Emma and this is my stuffed animal named Paco and he’s important to me because I can talk to him when I’m feeling sad and also he’s my favorite toy.

The shown-and-told objects are tokens of friends and family, of missed loved ones. A girl with a mood ring says, “It’s really, really special, I got it on my birthday, which was a few days ago. I got it from my friend Maggie, which is in the second grade.”

A boy shows a sports jersey that was a gift from his dad whom he doesn’t see much. A doll was a gift from a now dead grandfather. And then there’s a shaggy-haired boy who haltingly describes his phone book: “This is my Marquette-Haunton Yellow Book that my dad sent to me. Um, it’s like maps in the state where I used to live.”

It’s heartbreaking.

Alyse Emdur “Show and Tell,” LaMontagne Gallery, 555 E. 2nd St., South Boston, June 25 to Aug. 2, 2008.