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.
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)
By Deb A.
In case you missed these highlights over your summer holidays (and the subsequent recovery period):
And finally, a big congratulations to our very own Contributing Editor: Literature, Linda Romano, for welcoming her first child to the world this summer! We wish you and your family all the very best.
By Deb A.
The many facets of the legacy David Bowie leaves behind as a musician, a writer, an actor, an intergalactic explorer, an icon, can all be subsumed under one broad thought: David Bowie was, in every aspect of his being, an artist. Beyond creating his own art, he was also an obsessive collector who surrounded himself with works that inspired and moved him.
This November, nearly 400 pieces from his private collection will go up for auction.
The incredible scope of David Bowie's diverse tastes as well as his insatiable appetite for art have resulted in an auction of three parts that will take place over two days: parts one and two for modern and contemporary art, featuring everything from Jean-Michel Basquiat and Damian Hirst to contemporary African art to outsider art; and part three for post-modernist design, focused primarily on Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis Group.
Highlights of the collection are on display at Sotheby's in London until August 9; the selected works will also tour Los Angeles, New York and Hong Kong before the entire collection is exhibited November 1-10 in London.
By Deb A.
It's technically not a paint, but that hasn't prevented Vantablack from exciting the art world--especially artists who no longer have the right to use it.
Vantablack (for Vertically Aligned NanoTube Arrays) was developed in 2014 for satellite imaging systems. It absorbs 99.96% of light. It makes shadows on its surfaces imperceptible, turning busts into black holes and making crumpled tinfoil seem two-dimensional. It is the blackest black.
The creator of the material, Surrey NanoSystems, recently announced that Sir Anish Kapoor's studio had secured the exclusive rights to Vantablack in the field of art.
"It's blacker than anything you can imagine... So black you almost can't see it," Sir Anish told the BBC.
"Imagine a space that's so dark that as you walk in you lose all sense of where you are, what you are, and especially all sense of time."
An artist famous for his work on voids and boasting a large portfolio of monochromatic pieces is a likely candidate for experimenting with Vantablack, but Sir Anish is not the only artist who wants to use the material. His monopoly on the purest black has caused ripples of outrage, with Christian Furr (who had planned on using Vantablack on a project) denouncing the move and Shanti Panchal telling the Indian Telegraph that he "had never heard of anything so absurd."
The real absurdity lies in the fact that artists could, in theory, still use Ventablack--as long as it's not for art. If their urge for creative expression can unfold in an ad campaign for body spray, they're in luck.
By Deb A.
Thirty years ago today, Georgia O'Keeffe died at the age of 98.
She was a pioneer of modern art, a woman unwilling to sacrifice her own innovative vision to trends in the art world. Her career spanned seven decades and gave the world fresh views of arresting landscapes, magnified flowers and bleached bones... and yet, to many she is best known as the woman who painted flowers that looked like vaginas.
Throughout her career, Ms. O'Keeffe denied the popular Freudian interpretation of her paintings of flowers. She even steadfastly rejected proposals of cooperation from feminists who celebrated what they believed was the inclusion of female iconography in her art.
Instead, she explained her approach to the paintings as a focus on a flower's essence: “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else… Nobody really sees a flower – really – it is so small – we haven’t time – and to see takes time… So I said to myself – I’ll paint what I see – what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it.”
If only they had taken the time to examine other ways of interpreting it. While the case can be made for there being an erotic aspect to her flowers, it seems strange that this would be the only interpretation, especially in the face of her outright rejection of the theory. It is also absurd to anchor her reputation as an artist on just one aspect of a full and vibrant career.
Achim Borchard-Hume, Director of Exhibitions at the Tate Modern, believes trivialization of a great talent would not have occurred had Georgia O'Keeffe been a man.
"O'Keeffe has been very much reduced to one particular body of work, which tends to be read in one particular way," he told The Guardian. "Many of the white male artists across the 20th century have the privilege of being read on multiple levels, while others – be they women or artists from other parts of the world – tend to be reduced to one conservative reading. It’s high time that galleries and museums challenge this.”
The Tate Modern is aiming to do just that this summer with an exhibition that will mark a full century since Ms. O'Keeffe's first exhibit in New York.
By Deb A.
This week, dear Reader, you get five posts in one.
X, Y, Z, &. Thank-you to Mairead Small Stead and The Poetry Foundation for a fascinating look at the ampersand.
The Guardian is commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death by commissioning leading actors to perform some of the playwright's most famous soliloquies. Go on, let Adrian Lester (as Hamlet) or Ayesha Dharker (as Titania) mesmerize you in Shakespeare Solos.
Jacoba Urist at The Atlantic takes a look into how the AP art history course was revised to tackle cultural and racial bias.
Warning: Reading Sarah Lyall's article on Heywood Hill might make you yearn for the custom library of your dreams. (Or you could just join the bookstore's A Year in Books subscription.)
And finally, Agave Magazine contributor and former Poet Laureate of Texas Larry D. Thomas has released an expanded print edition of his chapbook, The Circus.
By Deb A.
It inspired leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Thomas Jefferson over the course of hundreds of years, and its legacy resonates throughout the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the United States Declaration of Independence. And yet the physical dimensions of the Magna Carta offer a surprising contrast to the breadth and depth of its impact: one of the world's most important symbols of liberty, it fits on a 38 cm x 51 cm parchment.
Magna Carta (An Embroidery), however, is nearly 13 metres long. Created to celebrate the document's 800th birthday, British artist Cornelia Parker's tapestry features the handiwork of 200 contributors, including activists, politicians, lawyers, musicians, and Ms. Parker herself, as well as nearly 40 prisoners, who stitched the bulk of the text.
It is, in a shift from analogue to digital and back again, a near-perfect replica of the Wikipedia entry on the Magna Carta.
"I wanted the embroidery to raise questions about where we are now with the principles laid down in the Magna Carta, and about the challenges to all kinds of freedoms that we face in the digital age," explained Ms. Parker.
With the aim of creating a "portrait of our age," she carefully selected the words for her more notable contributors to stitch: each individual embroidered a word or phrase that was significant to them (embroiderers handled the illustrations and other tricky bits). Edward Snowden tried his hand at "liberty", and "user's manual" came from Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder. Moazzam Begg added "held without charge" to reflect his time as a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay. The editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, provided "contemporary political relevance" as well as a few small blood stains after an unfortunate run-in with his needle. Philip Pullman got "Oxford". Ms. Parker gave "common people" to Jarvis Cocker, and chose "prerogative" for herself. Julian Assange and a former Director General of MI5 were not the only ones to stitch "freedom"--a host of prisoners also added it to the final piece.
Magna Carta (An Embroidery) is on display at the British Library until July 24th.
By Deb A.
Stained, littered, unflinchingly honest, Tracey Emin's My Bed debuted at the Tate in 1999 to reactions as messy and visceral as the sheets it put on display. The piece is now back in Tate Britain, this time surrounded by Francis Bacon paintings rather than her own drawings, and starkly lacking its original shock value. Now that our collective fingers have loosened from our pearls, it is possible to take a deep breath and more clearly examine the work's true power: what is the meaning of this rumpled pile of bed linens, cigarette butts, contraceptives, bodily fluids, and vodka bottles, now that so many taboos around women's sexuality have been broken, or at least repeatedly dented?
Emin's answer is clear: "Back in the '90s, it was all about cool Britannia and the shock factor and now I hope, 15 years later, people will finally see it as a portrait of a young woman and how time affects all of us."
The bed, in which Emin stayed for several days during a period of depression triggered by relationship issues, is part of a wider tradition of exposing an intensely private element of an artist's personal life. Toward the end of the twentieth century, this became known as confessional art.
Louise Bourgeois is generally recognised as the mother of confessional art. One of her best-known works is Maman, a giant sculpture of a spider that she described as an ode to her mother: "She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother."
Mona Hartoum's Light Sentence grew from her sense of dislocation after being unable to leave London to return to her home in Lebanon after war broke out there in 1975: "The movement of the light bulb causes the shadows of the wire mesh lockers to be in perpetual motion... you have the disturbing feeling that the ground is shifting under your feet."
Yoko Ono does not shy away from exposing her personal struggles, including her fight for custody of her daughter in Plastic Ono Band's "Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)". Ono herself is clear that "if you go back to all my albums, they're all confessional."
By Deb A.
Over four centuries, the British royals have amassed one of the most significant art collections in the world. The Cumberland Art Gallery (named after William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland; the rooms of the gallery were originally built for him in the 1730s) opened this month, making some of Queen Elizabeth II's finest works of art available for public viewing. It is plain to see, even with just the handful of images below, that while the age-old debate around the value of the monarchy will continue to swirl, there can be no debate about the value of its art collection.
(The Cumberland Art Gallery houses a comparatively small selection of gems collected by the British monarchy. The entire Royal Collection can be found here.)
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