By Deb A.
She calls herself "the spinach in the teeth of the art world." Alice Procter, a.k.a. The Exhibitionist, draws attention to the colonial, whitewashed stories behind some of London's best-known artworks and the galleries in which they're found.
On Uncomfortable Art Tours through the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain, and the Queen’s House (National Maritime Museum), Ms. Procter offers her guests a viewpoint that is not likely to be part of a museum audio guide anytime soon. Her art history lessons, which began as part of Antiuniversity Now, pull no punches, covering everything from how colonialism helped build the collection to how the way in which the artworks are displayed lends credence to a very specific imperialist understanding of the world. Her own website features reproductions of classic portraits with labels like "thief" (Queen Victoria), "white supremacist" (Horatio Nelson) and "invader" (James Cook) scrawled across them in red graffiti, and she passes out buttons that read "display it like you stole it" at her tours.
The museums and galleries she examines have been quick to distance themselves from Ms. Procter's activity, but she notes that her ultimate goal is to encourage institutions to openly engage with the colonialist narratives behind their art collections and their own histories.
"Museums are institutions of memory," she wrote in The Guardian. "They must stop pretending there’s only one version of events, and be willing to own up to their role in shaping the way we see the past."
Uncomfortable? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely.
By Deb A.
This Earth Day we join NASA in looking back at a single iconic photograph: Pale Blue Dot, taken in 1990 from Voyager 1.
While it still looks the same from this vantage point, that single speck now contains more microplastics than there are stars in the galaxy.
Here's how the Earth Day Network is working to ensure that our pale blue dot doesn't get choked by plastics.
By Deb A.
The Nobel Prize for Literature is embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal. Bring back the pussy bow! (New York Times, Refinery29)
Women, how would a male author describe you? Katy Waldman at the New Yorker follows the trend started by Whit Reynolds and eagerly embraced by thousands of women. (Electric Lit offers a handy guide for women who are stumped.)
Ronaldo Schemidt's haunting photo from the Venezuelan protests has won this year's World Press Photo Contest. (World Press Photo)
Somaliland poet Nacima Qorane is the latest artist to receive a jail sentence for promoting reunification between Somaliland and Somalia. (BBC)
"We have assumed that a thing by him has to look like his late works, and that he therefore had no beginnings. That, of course, is totally implausible.": Laurence Kanter from the Yale University Art Gallery explains why Leonardo da Vinci is only now being credited for his work on an altarpiece panel. (The Observer)
From an unknown da Vinci to perhaps the best known--Mona Lisa's only smiling if you are. (artnet)
By Deb A.
Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Inspired by her Tibetan Buddist practice, Hildy Maze uses her art to inquire into the nature of mind.
Her collages are made with environmentally friendly materials and rooted in a deep connection between mind and heart that allows her to begin her works from a pure uncertainty. Hildy's "an investigation of mind through art" is featured in Agave Magazine's upcoming 5-Year Anniversary Edition.
AGAVE: What does your collage-making process entail?
HILDY MAZE: All of these things, color, texture, tones are developed in various stages of the process. It begins with making drawings and paintings on paper using various colors and tools, like branches brushes, anything that will make a mark. There’s play involved, experiment, sometimes a specific image. I let the creative mind roam free, a state of uncontrived creativity where I step out of my own way. I call it making paper. Some of these drawings and paintings are put aside as complete. Others are strewn on the floor to begin a ripening process meaning the paper becomes a part of the existing tapestry of paper already spread across the floor. The haphazardly strewn paper reveals combinations I would not otherwise think of that attract me, and from this a collage begins, with pinning, ripping, cutting, folding, and so on. It’s a conversation without words or thoughts, preconceived ideas or attachment. The natural aging of the paper along with the wrinkling, stains, drips and casual handling of the already painted and drawn upon paper lends much of the texture. Out of this the colors, textures and tones arise. From this the image takes form. An instinctual energy seems to be doing it all. The images create and conclude themselves naturally. I have no idea what the finished piece will look like, its size or shape. I trust my instinctual knowing, the clarity of mind’s basic nature. I find the paper more beautiful and inspiring as it ages, adding texture and depth. then when it is freshly painted and drawn on. The aging paper reminds me of ancient ruins, old fabrics. There’s an earth quality to the paper that’s attractive to me. It displays impermanence and imperfection, which is part of life.
What techniques do you use to persuade the viewer to go beyond the image presented?
Touching on combining symbols and emotions that could possibly persuade the viewer to see in a personal way beyond the image. Also naming the work which evolves when I’ve arrived at that point of leaving the work right there without trying to improve or manipulate it. Once it’s completed I distance myself and quiet my mind to allow some kind of essence of the image to speak. The title may arise immediately, other times it may take a few days. I don’t make an effort to walk the viewers through their visual experience since I have no idea what that may be. I just point in a direction of possibility.
The titles of your works are often stark and provocative: her emptiness, unknowing the confusion, unrelenting, when coping strategies fail... what do you believe is the importance of a strong title?
Strong titles are important if there is something I want to share or discuss with the viewer. Titles help select what that discussion could revolve around. Of course this may not happen and I don’t consider audience reception in making the work. I have an abiding belief in the titles and the ability of oil, paint and paper crumpled, torn, aged or flat and the genre of abstraction to best communicate and possibly seduce the viewer to make their own journey into their humanness. It’s not a requirement, more like an invitation.
What can you achieve through collage that is more powerful than with other mediums, and when do you prefer to rely on another art form?
My relationship to collage is somewhat magical and indescribable. What I achieve through collage I don’t think I could achieve in any other way. It seems to be instinctual for me. An endless dialogue. Also the process involves painting and drawing so I don’t have to rely on any other art form since the process, covers it all. I do work with clay from time to time, but that’s a completely different story…..
What are you proudest of so far in your career as an artist?
I’m proudest of embracing the challenge of actually doing my work consistently with curiosity and enthusiasm everyday.
Agave Magazine's 5-Year Anniversary Edition is on presale now in the Agave Press shop.
By Deb A.
Do you know what Thingstaetten are? Agave Magazine: 5-Year Anniversary Edition contributor Daniel Mirer does. From Nazi-era amphitheaters to the American Southwest, Daniel's photography documents "architectural idealism and the interpretation of power and influence in political ideology." Firmly committed to the deadpan aesthetic, Daniel includes Lewis Baltz, Wim Wenders, Thomas Struth, Ed Burtynsky, and Candida Höfer amongst his greatest influences. We spoke to him about the American Southwest, architectural photography, and how his teaching informs his own work.
AGAVE MAGAZINE: You list architectural photography and portfolio photography as specialties; do you have a favourite type of subject?
DANIEL MIRER: My interest is and has always been in space, whether architectural or within a landscape. I am perpetually intrigued by architectural space and how we create these environments to navigate. I suppose it all stems from my father, who was a construction worker in New York City. I would often get dragged along to work with him and assigned some task to help out and stay out of trouble. Later when I was in college, I worked on large construction sites in Manhattan on weekends and in the summer to help pay for my tuition and film. It was during these years of working on skyscrapers, seeing the city from different perspectives and at different times of day, with light gleaming off the glass towers, that I began to have a different appreciation for architectural space and started to figure out new representational strategies that have set the course of my artwork.
The photographs in my architectural art portfolio ArchitorSpace display my specific interest in the banality of urban spaces. I seek locations that are dense with absence; forgotten, deserted non-sites are entirely familiar but reveal no history or functionality, and yet are commonplace within the redundancy of blandness within postindustrial space.
I recognize the individual makeup of the depicted environment, and its diverse intrinsic textures in open foreground and background collapse, reducing the structure to a flat and simplified arrangement of pure line and color. By highlighting form rather than function, I wish to challenge the essence of these non-places. By extracting spaces from their ambiguous nature, I am providing these sites with a new and subjective identity that is separate from pure functionality.
The pictures I create are of spaces in which a building’s facade, alley, or corridor is virtually indistinguishable from another. I enjoy the redundancy of surface materials when collapsed into an architectural singularity of banality. Within my images, the subjects who might otherwise occupy these spaces appear engulfed in the void of here-could-be-anywhere, in the monumental dissolution of space in contemporary architecture.
What drew you to document the American Southwest?
As a boy from the Bronx, Hollywood westerns were always influential to me. My imagination transported me out of my parents' small apartment to the romanticism of open spaces free from the confines of the city. I still enjoy Hollywood westerns, which I now view with a critical eye: They are full of kitsch, Americana nostalgia, and nationalistic self-reference. But growing up in a vast metropolis such as New York, the romanticism of freedom and bright sunlight in a big sky has always drawn me to look westward.
Traveling through the American West, I am an outsider, a tourist in my country seeing snippets of background stage scenes from Hollywood movies. The American West is itself a loaded signifier of Americanness, full of falsehoods and political and economic flux. What interests me as an artist is this loaded metaphorical space.
Indifferent West highlights a part of America that has, in a way, become a parody of itself. What do you think has been gained or lost through this recontextualization?
A parodic contradiction has always thwarted the American West; it continues to be a space of national identity and a site of exploited natural resources built around the mystique of a dangerous barren wasteland. My strategy is to be the tourist photographing topographical landscape and the Americana kitsch with visual sarcasm.
Indifferent West is the perfect vehicle for me to create visual criticism of the photographic process and deconstruct accepted romantic notions of landscape as a recontextualized, post-industrial space that exists in my images. This contradiction is intentional; structures are flattened, horizon lines are invisible, and found signage diverts attention away from the visual aspects of traditional landscape definition.
Do you enjoy teaching, or would you prefer to be taking photos yourself?
My teaching informs my artwork and my photography career informs my teaching, which has become an instinctive impulse. I think I would not have as successful or as satisfying an art career if it were not for the teaching responsibilities I have undertaken. It’s the community and camaraderie of my colleagues I seek.
Teaching in an art program is to approach every class and project with dedication and enthusiasm to inspire students and represent an industry I genuinely care for and have dedicated my life to. I am passionate about teaching and working within an academic environment because of the fulfillment and joy it brings me, but also because it enables me to help shape a new generation of artists and professionals in other areas who have an appreciation for and understanding of the complexity and powerful influence of media art.
What do you believe is the key to teaching photography well?
I believe there is no higher calling for artists than to give back to their community of artists. Dedication and genuine enthusiasm for the medium that you have chosen and that best represents your creativity will always be apparent to your students. Educators must have a willingness to learn and expand their skill sets and theoretical models in their artwork.
My pedagogical approach to a visual arts program is to enable and empower students to engage in theory, practical exploration, and artistic production. Theory and practice in art and photography are dynamic and ever-changing, and the challenge is to connect technical and visual skills with human experiences through individual interpretation, thus allowing for new creative possibilities. I believe it is essential for students to learn the theoretical, historical, and technical aspects of photography and the fine arts so that they can explore from a broad, well balanced, curriculum. I use digital technology and critical theory as hybrid platforms to expose students to their vast creative possibilities.
My aspiration and responsibilities are for students to emerge as skilled and eloquent professional artists and image-makers. For this to happen, I too must always improve my art skills to remain current within the industry. I received a teaching grant at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco to continue my professional development and update my technical skills so I may better serve my students.
Agave Magazine's 5-Year Anniversary Edition is on presale now in the Agave Press shop.
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