By Deb A.
Chris Ofili is arguably best known for creating art with elephant dung. Andres Serrano's Piss Christ was made with the artist's urine. Tracy Emin's My Bed hosted a range of bodily fluids, including one that has recently made headlines again in the art world: menses.
The first major movement in the West of using or depicting menstrual blood in art started in the 1970s, along with second wave feminism. And so it is no surprise that recent efforts to address the period taboo coincide with a reaction to the rise of high-profile misogyny.
In 2015 Rupi Kaur's photo showing the artist with a bloodstain at her crotch was removed (and subsequently reinstated following public backlash) from Instagram, leading Ms. Kaur to object to a world that "will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak."
Six months later, American artist and activist Sarah Levy used her period blood to create a portrait of a presidential candidate who reacted to tough questions at a debate by claiming the female moderator had "blood coming out of her wherever". He is now president, and the painting was purchased this year by the Museum of Military History in Dresden, Germany. It's hard to say which fact is stranger.
The latest controversial attempt to normalise a regular function of the bodies of half of the earth's human population can be found in an equally surprising place: the Stockholm subway. Its new exhibit by Liv Strömquist is a series of black-and white felt pen drawings that feature the occasional blotch of bright red between women's legs. Some have hailed it as a coup for womankind, while others have recoiled in disgust, angry at their newly uncomfortable commute.
For those who prefer to decide when they will be confronted with the reality of women's reproductive cycles--a luxury most women do not have--there's Period Piece in London, which "seeks to provoke critical dialogue about shifts in contraceptive technologies and constructions of the 'natural' around women's bodies." With music composed from ovulation cycles and poetry based on reactions to the Catholic church's rejection of birth control in 1968, the exhibit finds new, less confrontational ways of talking about periods. It is a pop-up event by the Science Gallery London, which opens officially in 2018.
For a brief overview of period art, this piece by Kristen Cochrane is a good place to start.
By Deb A.
Ursula Johnson, also known as Little Bear, is this year's winner of Canada's Sobey Art Award.
The prestigious prize recognises the country's most promising contemporary artists under the age of 40. This year's shortlist included a record number of women (four of five of the artists are female) and two Indigenous artists from the five regions.
Ursula Johnson, representing the Atlantic region, is a performance and installation artist of Mi'kmaw First Nation ancestry. She descends from a long line of artists, including Caroline Gould, her great-grandmother and master basket weaver. Often incorporating basketry traditions into her art, Ms. Johnson explores identity, community, colonialism, and her Indigenous heritage: she wove baskets around herself for her Basket Weaving (Cultural Cocoon) series (2003-2015), was symbolically scalped in Elmiet (He/She Goes Home) (2010) to draw attention to Nova Scotia's history of scalping, and collaborated with Soto Pow Wow dancer Bert Milberg for Hot Looking (2014), a commentary on the appropriation of indigenous culture.
"I will now have the tremendous opportunity to work on a larger scale and expand the reach of my work to a broader community while exploring more diversity in materials and content as well as beginning to create a network of collaborators internationally!" Ms. Johnson said of her win.
Her desire to work with and learn from others was just part of the reason Ursula Johnson received the $50,000 CDN award; the selection committee noted that she "was singled out for her strong voice, her generosity and collaborative spirit. Through her work, she redefines traditional materials and re-imagines colonized histories."
Ursula Johnson is a talented, insightful artist with a strong sense of community, history and social justice--in other words, a fitting representative for the nation's contemporary art scene in a year in which Canada's colonial history has come under the microscope and gender and identity politics dominate public discourse.
The shortlisted artists, Raymond Boisjoly (West Coast & Yukon), Divya Mehra (Prairies & North), Bridget Moser (Ontario), and Jacynthe Carrier (Quebec), will each receive $10,000 CDN. All five artists' works are on display at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto until December 9th.
By Deb A.
A book of poetry written by Leonard Cohen just before his death will be published next year. (Billboard)
We've talked about the Fearless Girl statue at length, and we wish we could be shocked that the firm behind it has a history of underpaying women and people of colour. (NPR)
Thirty publishers rejected Matt Cain's book on the grounds that it was too gay, but the general public disagrees: it's well on its way to getting published through crowdfunding instead. (The Bookseller)
505 new books were released during the UK's "Super Thursday". Which will you read first? (BBC)
Prize round-up: Kazuo Ishiguro won this year's Nobel Prize for literature. And the five finalists for Canada's Giller Prize have been announced. (Nobel Prize, Giller Prize)
The Guardian asked the art world about the biggest question currently facing artists. In one way or another, money comes up a lot. (The Guardian)
A school librarian rejected the First Lady's donation of ten Dr. Seuss books. (The Washington Post)
The Yayoi Kusama museum in Tokyo is open for business! (Yayoi Kusama Museum)
By Deb A.
This week we offer you a simple concept: admire artworks by Puerto Rican artists, then click on the accompanying links and make a donation to support Puerto Rico's recovery.
José Campeche (1751-1809)
The Daughters of Governor Ramón de Castro
United for Puerto Rico
Livia Ortiz Ríos (1985-)
Lorenzo Homar (1913-2004)
Image © the Estate of Lorenzo Homar
Antonio Martorell (1939-)
Vigilance from The Wake (Blue Curtain)
Center for Popular Democracy
Collection: Dr. José Cangiano
Francisco Oller (1833-1917)
La Hacienda Buenavista
Rafael Tufiño (1922-2008)
Carlos Dávila Rinaldi (1958-)
Angel Otero (1981-)
Save The Children
By Deb A.
A man rappelled down a building to thumping electro music while a troupe in rainbow sweatshirts waited solemnly underneath the subway overpass, flanked by Art Mile sculptures and throngs of art enthusiasts. The opening of Urban Nation, the world's first major museum dedicated to graffiti, marked the emergence of just one of several landmark museums and galleries this season--here's a look at some of the art world's upcoming institutions.
Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art in Berlin, Germany
Status: Opened September 16, 2017
Notable: Urban Nation is the world's first major institution for street art and graffiti. But tearing art out of its original context is not how it operates: instead, Urban Nation features works created on canvas or as sculptures specifically for the museum.
Major names: Shepard Fairey, Ron English, Blek le Rat, Cranio
Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, South Africa
Status: Opened September 22, 2017
Notable: The MOCAA is the world's largest museum of modern African art. Its nine floors house over a hundred galleries featuring 21st-century African and diaspora art, including the entirety of Jochen Zeitz's personal collection.
Major names: Wangechi Mutu, Chris Ofili, Julie Mehretu, Glenn Ligon
Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara in Jakarta, Indonesia
Status: Opens November 2017
Notable: Museum MACAN is Indonesia's first museum dedicated to international modern art. About half of the museum's works are by Indonesian artists, with the other half coming from Europe, North America and Asia. Founder Haryanto Adikoesoemo has donated art from private collection to help fulfil his proclaimed dream of creating a museum for Indonesians.
Major names: Affandi, Raden Saleh, Gerhard Richter, Anish Kapoor
Louvre Abu Dhabi in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Status: Opens November 2017
Notable: This will be the first Louvre museum to open outside of France (a satellite museum exists in Lens). Originally scheduled to open in 2012, the museum is as known for its delays and human rights scandals as it is for its exquisite architecture and the works it will house: between 200 and 300 artworks will be on loan from France over the course of a decade.
Major names: Titian, Claude Monet, Jacques-Louis David, Francesco Primaticcio
By Deb A.
By now you've heard that Agave Press will be launching its children's magazine, Prickly Pear Kids, in winter. That isn't the only exciting development in children's literature recently...
If you want your child to learn a lesson, those bunnies and bears just won't do. Researchers at the University of Toronto have discovered that only stories that feature human beings can increase children's altruism.
Speaking of bears, A.A. Milne was desperate to escape his own creation, Winnie-the-Pooh.
This year's Klaus Flugge Prize for the most exciting and promising newcomer to children's picture book illustration has been awarded to Francesca Sanna for her book, The Journey, which tells the story of a mother and her two children fleeing war at home to find a new life in a foreign country.
You've read Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and you've probably seen at least one of the films, but what you never realised was that Charlie Bucket was originally black.
There are boy heroes, there are (significantly fewer) girl heroines. But chances are they aren't playing together. Amelia Hill takes a fascinating look at gender equality in children's books, and even offers a few titles for starting your non-sexist kids' library.
By Deb A.
We've been dazzled by gold and bowled away by blues and we've stared deep into Vantablack; this week it's time for the colour of royalty, creativity and peace to take the spotlight. It's Pantone's new hue, and it's in honour of Prince, The Purple One himself. Dear readers, here is Love Symbol #2.
By Deb A.
If you're in need of some inspiration to begin your week, look no further:
Art is good for us: On Wednesday the British Parliament will announce the results of its two-year inquiry into arts, health and wellbeing. In anticipation of the report, Nicci Gerrard offers an eloquent account of the role of arts in helping people with dementia. (The Guardian)
Beware the selfie: A single snapshot was to blame for the domino effect that knocked over a row of plinths holding $200,000 worth of art. Too perfectly awkward to be true? (The New York Times)
Sketching the unknown: How artists and researchers teamed up to find and introduce new species to the rest of the world. (The Atlantic)
Illustrator, cartoonist, trailblazer: Canadian artist Jillian Tamaki's new book of graphic short stories marks her emergence as a "consummate storyteller". (The Walrus)
Visual activist: Photographer Zanele Muholi highlights racism, homophobia, and hate with Somnyama Ngopnyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, a series of self-portraits she took every day for a year. The Guardian dedicates two spaces to her work, and rightly so: a striking photo gallery and a compelling article.
When is a Modigliani not a Modigliani? Twenty-one artworks have been confiscated from a major exhibition in Genoa after several were confirmed as fakes. (The Telegraph)
The Commuter Pig Keeper? You still have time to vote for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. (The Bookseller)
Agave alumna: Agave Magazine contributor Karla K. Morton's twelfth book, Wooden Lions, is now available.
By Deb A.
The museum-going experience is generally a fairly standard one: Go in and look. In most cases, the act of experiencing art relies heavily or even exclusively on sight. Anyone wishing to contemplate something particularly fascinating might get close enough to see the tiny details, or sit for awhile to gaze. There might be something to listen to, but touching or tasting are generally frowned upon, and smelling is often wholly irrelevant altogether.
Peter de Cupere is a preeminent olfactory artist whose works include a fake fuel station smelling of grass, candy and exhaust fumes; a house made of pleasantly scented garbage; real flowers that smell like smoke; and a dome containing an old black tree on a white ball that makes visitors' eyes water with its intense peppermint and pepper aroma.
"When you walk into an installation with scent, you cannot hide. Your body starts to react," Mr. de Cupere explained to the New York Times. He believes that so little art is olfactory because smells "act directly on the limbic system and don't give you the necessary time and chance to translate things like you do with sight." Odours have an immediate physical impact on us, whereas even our first visceral impression of a painting can be considered and evaluated and refined.
The immediacy of smells extends to how we experience them. Unlike visual and aural art, scents must be encountered in person. They are not available online. As Scent Art, a network for olfactory artists, explains, "The resistance of odour to digitisation makes it one of the aspects of an artwork that still demands the physical presence of its audience in order to experience it." Klara Ravat has taken advantage of this fact to examine how human interaction changes after visitors have exchanged body odours with someone else—a feat that could only be realised in person.
Artist and smell scientist Sissel Tolaas thinks that scent affords us a deeper understanding that is more likely to remain fixed in our memory. Her installation for Beauty--Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial in 2016 examined the beauty of smells--in particular, decay. She captured autumn odours in Central Park, then reproduced them and mixed them into paint that is activated by another sense: touch. She aims to help visitors understand that there is beauty to be found in odours.
Scent is the only sense that triggers our emotions, our memory and our adrenaline. Why, then, aren't more artists using aromas in their works? For one, smells can be difficult to control—in 1902 Sadakichi Hartmann's 'scent concert' was upstaged by tobacco smoke. Smell is also temporary, although artists like Anicka Yi have used it to reinforce the idea that "maybe, all art shouldn't stick around forever in its object form."
Perhaps the most important barrier to scent art is that we simply don't care as much about our sense of smell as we do about our other four senses. It has been shown that the ability to smell is the sense we would be most willing to sacrifice. Hopefully the growing ranks of contemporary olfactory artists (if you'd like to become one, here's a helpful resource) can help us acknowledge the value of what's right under our noses.
By Deb A.
After Senator Kamala Harris was accused of being hysterical for the (professional) way she questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the world-renowned Strand Book Store posted a list of "strong feminist voices you need to listen to" under the title We Are Not Hysterical.
If you'd like feminist books like those delivered to your door every month you might want to keep an eye on the Card Carrying Books and Gifts Indiegogo page.
Enormous portraits of inspiring black women now grace the streets of London thanks to artist Neequaye Dreph Dsane and his You Are Enough series.
New York City will also look a little more interesting as of June 26th, when works by female artists will take the place of ad space on Lower East Side billboards thanks to SaveArtSpace.
Meanwhile, Emma Watson is up to her usual tricks: hiding feminist books around a major city. After leaving copies of Maya Angelou's Mom & Me & Mom around London and New York, she's now stashing The Handmaid's Tale in Parisian nooks and crannies.
Joanna Moorhead of The Guardian rightly asks: Why isn't Anna Atkins famous?
Shikha Sharma spotlights feminist Indian authors we should get to know for Youth Ki Awaaz.
Grace Meets Matisse: Coming to a NYC billboard soon. (via Elise R. Peterson)
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