Friday, October 09, 2009

Giant pumpkin regattas are Oct. 11 and 18

One of the awesome outgrowths of the boom in giant pumpkin growing over the past generation has been giant pumpkin regattas. At least three are planned across New England this fall: Damariscotta, Maine, and Burlington, Vermont, on Oct. 11; and Goffstown, New Hampshire, on Oct. 18.

The classic-type giant pumpkin regatta involves hollowing out the giant gourds, strapping on outboard motors, sometimes decorating the pumpkins, and definitely racing them in your local body of water. Though there are also paddle versions for more gentle souls.

Damariscotta began holding it regatta on the Damariscotta River with one vessel in 2005 . The following year, there were two. In 2007, it was 8. Last year had 14 pumpkin boats in two divisions: paddleboat and motorized.

Burlington is holding its second annual regatta – a paddle version – on Lake Champlain. The Goffstown Main Street Program has been organizing a regatta on Piscataquog River since 2000.

Photos provided by Goffstown Main Street Program (top three) and Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta (all the rest).

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Rose budget increased?

Brandeis reports that it increased the operating budget for its Rose Art Museum by $200,000 this summer. A spokesman for the Waltham school says that’s on top of the $400,000 that was budgeted for the current fiscal year, FY 2010, which coincides with the current school year.

That sounds like a big increase – but it still leaves the budget down by more than 40 percent from previous years. It might be more accurate to say that Brandeis is not slashing the Rose budget by as much as it says it planned to slash.

Any Brandeis budget numbers are difficult to come by, but Rose “operating budgets” seem to have been around $1.1 to $1.5 million in recent years. However, these numbers may under-represent the entire annual cost of running the Rose as it seems that they may not include Rose utilities costs and the cost of insuring the museum’s collection.

The school’s Future of the Rose Committee seems to be speaking about this “new” $600,00 Rose budget when it wrote in its Sept. 18 report: “At approximately half of the 2009 Rose budget, the 2010 budget is projected to support the current Rose employees, with a modest sum for exhibitions and other operating expenses, and with about $200,000 available for the implementation of the recommendations contained in this report.”

The committee’s key spending recommendation is to rebuild the Rose’s staff, which is down to two people from six or seven (two people were pushed out this summer, another left on her own at that time, other positions had been left open last year).

“There has not been a decision about specifically earmarking this additional funding,” Brandeis spokesman Dennis Nealon tells The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research. “The university, knowing that the Future of the Rose Committee was going to be issuing recommendations, added the funds to the museum budget proactively. The Board of Trustees later this month, during its regularly scheduled meeting, will take up the committee report and, together with the administration, will review the committee's recommendations and the administration will decide on a course of action for those recommendations.”

Whatever you want to call the change in the Rose budget, it seems that in the short term Brandeis is having to cover more of the cost of running the Rose itself as donations from Rose Overseers and outside gifts to the Rose have fallen off. Some say donations for the Rose have disappeared completely, while the Future of the Rose Committee reports that Brandeis leaders are more optimistic: “The current budget projection for the Rose for fiscal 2010 is for income of about a quarter of the approximately $1,000,000 Rose income for fiscal 2009, plus a University subsidy that will bring the fiscal 2010 income to almost half of the fiscal 2009 income.”

Photo by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Dan Moynihan

The art of Dan Moynihan, a cartoonist and illustrator (and friend of mine), often features magically transforming characters and visual puns in which, say, Princess Leia’s hair buns somehow become space stations under attack by Tie-Fighters. It speaks of unseen possibilities in the world – and unseen possibilities in drawing. “I would say that’s a big theme for me,” Moynihan tells me, “believing that there’s more possibilities than seem obvious or that you would usually think of.” I recently interviewed the Brookline, Massachusetts, artist about his paintings and drawings which were on view at Somerville’s Sherman Café in September. Here are some excerpts:
  • “I carry around a little sketchpad that I can just stick in my pocket. And I’ll just sit and doodle somewhere on my lunch break. From work [as a graphic designer at Candlewick Press in Somerville], I’ll go sit somewhere and doodle and sometimes just start drawing a line, not knowing what it’s going to be. And it turns into something. That’s mostly where I get the ideas from. There were a few in that show that actually were inspired by this website called IllustrationFriday. They post a topic each week, just one word, and a bunch of people will illustrate that topic. So I’ll look at that each week and if the word sparks an idea for me I’ll do that. It’s kind of nice to have an assignment.”

  • “Sometimes I get stuck in a rut for a while, I don’t have new ideas. The last couple years, I feel I’ve gotten better at generating ideas and just drawing a lot. I think part of it is not being critical with my doodles. Just drawing whatever comes out. Not caring if it’s good or not. Then finding ideas from that.”

  • “Skateboarding is still a big part of my mind. That was my big obsession when I was a teenager. Most of the characters – like the cowgirl – that just comes from me doodling. And there are recurring characters that keep happening. There are certain animals that I tend to draw, like giraffes, cats, of course, ducks. I guess it just comes from a lifetime of influences that I can’t quite put my finger on one single thing. It’s just what I see and think about and then it comes back out of my hand when I start drawing.”

  • “I’ll do some pencil sketches. Then I’ll just lightly draw it in pencil on the watercolor paper. Usually I’ll trace one of my sketches. Then I’ll ink it with a dip pen. Then I do the watercolors. I definitely want it to be spontaneous and lively. And somewhat happy, I guess. It makes me happy to draw when that feeling comes out.”

  • “My big thing is I’ve been working on a graphic novel for kids, it’s called ‘The Lint Fairy.’ I’ve been working on that for a few years. I drew a whole draft of it that was 176 pages. I just finished redrawing the entire thing. It’s all in pencil. I wasn’t happy with the drawings and I wanted to work on the compositions more, work on the story a little more. So I drew a second draft which I just finished. It’s a big project.”

  • “It’s about the Lint Fairy and she comes into your pocket and she collects the lint and she leaves a coin for you. Sort of like the tooth fairy. It’s about a couple kids who meet the Lint Fairy and go to her magical world.”

  • Is it very linty there? “Yes.”

  • Is it full of allergies? “No, magically there’s no allergies there.”

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Joe Wardwell

From my review of Boston painter Joe Wardwell’s exhibit “Die Young” at LaMontagne Gallery in Boston:
One of the great themes in America is nostalgia for the "good old days," which flame into being and then fade into the distance. It's the anxiety that we've just missed the cool party, that paradise has been lost. And it's twinned with the idea that you better rush out and seize the day, because tomorrow it will all be over.

It's often been tied to nature. It courses through the American landscapes of the 19th-century Hudson River School painters, canvases filled with nostalgia for a wild, "pure" America that the artists fear is being eaten up by the Industrial Revolution. It percolates through 19th-century Transcendentalism, as when Henry David Thoreau dashes into the Concord woods in the 1850s to "learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

It's what F. Scott Fitzgerald is talking about at the end of The Great Gatsby when he writes that "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us." It's what Neil Young sings about: "It's better to burn out than fade away."

It's that theme — racing forward to get to the paradise in the rear-view mirror — that Boston painter Joe Wardwell taps in "Die Young" at LaMontagne Gallery. The canvases show rock lyrics (Black Sabbath, Slayer, Def Leppard) flaming across romantic landscapes — pictures like the bastard children of swooning Hudson River School scenes and swaggering rock-album covers.
Read the rest here.

Joe Wardwell, “Die Young,” LaMontagne Gallery, 555 East 2nd St., South Boston , Sept. 10 to Oct. 10, 2009.

Pictured from top to bottom: Joe Wardwell, “Burn Out,” “Fade Away,” “Out There,” “Any Wonder” and “untitled (speaker painting).”

Institute for Infinitely Small Things “Digging for Happiness”

The Institute for Infinitely Small Things enacted “Digging for Happiness” in the lawn of a Cambridge home (which the Institute lined up via Craigslist) on Sept. 26. As the Boston-area art collective described it beforehand:
“A while ago we have talked of doing this project. Now that we have done some projects that took a looong time to finish, now that we have done some projects which forced us to do a lot of negotiating, we felt the time has come to do a day of Institute type hard work and fun. We posted an ad online asking for someone to donate a patch of land 5x5 feet in order for us to dig for happiness. And we got a response :)

“A nice house in a nice hood. A very fine family and kids. So kids are welcome. A small event. A party. As a gesture. An action that allows us to explore the futile work of measuring the impact of art and its actions on our lives. A fun day. A day where we can all dig for a reason. We can dig for happiness. At last!”
Some Instituters involved tell me that they did find happiness – in just getting it to happen, and in doing it just the way they wished without any compromises that, say, sometimes happen with museum exhibits.

April 24, 2009: Institute for Infinitely Small Things’ “Origami Stimulus Package”
April 8, 2008: Profile of The Institute for Infinitely Small Things
Dec. 23, 2006: The Institute for Infinitely Small Things “The New American Dictionary (Security/Fear Edition)," etc.

Photos by Instituter James Manning.

Maine College of Art president to depart

James Baker, president of Maine College of Art in Portland since 2006, has announced that he will be leaving the job at the end of this school year in May 2010. Baker, who previously served as executive director of the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado for 11 years, says in a prepared statement: “I am excited about pursuing my own art — specifically my photographic practice — as well as exploring new directions and opportunities.”

Baker’s most public achievement has been the consolidation of school facilities into its Porteous Building on Congress Street after the sale of the Clapp House on Spring Street to the Portland Museum of Art in 2008. The school is in the process selling its Baxter Building on Congress Street.

The board of trustees is expected to begin searching for Baker’s replacement this month.

New England Museum Association director stepping down

Kate Viens, the executive director of the New England Museum Association, plans to step down early next year, after five years leading the Arlington, Massachusetts,-based nonprofit. Viens, who previously served as NEMA’s deputy director, says she has taken a part-time job at the Massachusetts Historical Society doing writing, research and editing projects. A search committee has been formed with the aim of filling her position by early next spring.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Food art at Topsfield Fair

One of the highlights of the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts each year is the “veggie creatures” and “decorative pumpkins” exhibition in the Fruit and Vegetables barn.

Sara Wong of Topsfield sculpted the astonishing giant “Wolf Spider” (above and immediately below) from corn, potatoes, parsnips, peppers, phragmites and gourds. Pictured below the spider are from top to bottom: “Goat Devil” by Sam Wong-Rupuano, 9, of Atkinson, New Hampshire; cow by Nicholas Terranova, 13, of North Andover; “Mr. Porcupine” by Natalia Knowles, 9, of Boxford; ram by Andrea Mank, 28, of Newbury; cyclops battle by the Carmer Family of Topsfield; “Celebrities Gone, Yet Not Forgotten” by the Greenslade Family of Topsfield; swan by John Abend, 11, of Danvers; and “Take it to Heart” Health Ministry by Seventh-Day Adventist Church Youth Group of Topsfield.

Jim Victor of Pennsylvania (pictured at very bottom) is sculpting a cow out of butter in a trailer outside the main arena.

Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Honk! is this weekend

The fourth annual Honk! Festival, featuring performances by 30 activist marching bands from around the world, runs from Oct. 9 to 11 in Boston, Somerville, Cambridge. The main event is the spectacular Honk parade of all the bands, plus hula hoopers, tumblers, Bread and Puppet Theater from Vermont, Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Club, Veterans for Peace, Food Not Bombs and many more on Sunday, Oct. 11, from Davis Square in Somerville, down Mass. Ave., to Harvard Square in Cambridge. If you’ve ever felt that parades didn’t have enough marching bands, this is the event for you.

Nearly all Honk events are free. Bands perform at Boston Common, Roxbury, East Boston, East Somerville, Jamaica Plain and Cambridge on the afternoon and evening of Friday, Oct. 9. Twenty-five bands perform around Davis Square from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10. In addition to the parade Sunday, bands will perform that day on the Honk! Stage at the Harvard Square Oktoberfest from 2 to 6 p.m. followed by a final blow-out show from 8 p.m. to midnight at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square ($10 admission).

Satellite events include Pronk!, featuring performances by 13 bands at India Point Park Wickenden Street and South Water Street, Providence, from 1 to 11 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12, and Brass Mayhem in Northampton and Amherst on Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 13 and 14.

Honk! Festival, various sites around Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Oct. 9 to 11, 2009.

Our coverage of Honk 2008 and Honk 2007.

Photos of last year’s Honk! Parade by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Yokelist Manifesto Number 3: Hire locally

Wonder why locally-made art isn’t featured more prominently in our most prominent local museums?

One reason is that if you work in a Boston-area museum, your previous job likely wasn’t around here and your next job most likely won’t be around here either. You climb the curatorial ladder by moving Away. And Away doesn’t give a damn about art made in Boston. In fact, Away thinks curators who pay much attention to Boston-made art are crazy.

How can we Yokelists change this? Push for hiring and promoting more local curators here.

Hiring and promoting local curators doesn’t guarantee that we’ll see more local artists on local museum walls. But hiring and promoting local curators is more likely to promote the representation of local artists in local institutions than our current system. Because finding and championing good locally-produced art begins with developing local relationships and leads, it begins with local on-the-ground research.

How much can we expect curators recruited from out of town and heading back out of town for their next job to care about art made here? Local roots don’t have time to develop. And what would be the incentive to develop them if they won’t be sticking around for long? So, of course, they’ll primarily be connected to the Circuit of jet-set biennials and art fairs plus Chelsea, New York. How could they not be?

Yokelist Manifesto Number 1: Boston lacks alternative spaces?
Yokelism at the 2008 Boston Art Awards.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 2: Montreal case study.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Fiesta Shows carnival at Topsfield Fair

Fiesta Shows of Seabrook, New Hampshire, has been presenting the carnival midway at the Topsfield Fair since 1950. At the fair yesterday, we surveyed the art decorating this year’s attractions, which include (pictured here) the “Haunted Mansion,” “Arctic Blast,” “Earth Quake,” “Mardi Gras” (note the two versions), “Sea Dragon,” “Lucky Lizzy,” “Thunder Bolt” and “Wacky Worm.” The carnival company’s history goes back to amusements that Eugene Dean and Jack Flynn launched at Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts, in 1935. The firm bought Fiesta Shows in 1967.

The Topsfield Fair, Route 1, Topsfield, Massachusetts, Oct. 2 to 12, 2009.

July 11, 2009: Reithoffer carnival at Brockton Fair.

Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.