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.
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.
By Deb A.
Argentine photographer and Agave Magazine contributor Ivi Tello has been curious about art since she was a child. Her endless list of influences spans film, music and literature; with photos like those from her series On the surface everything is beautiful she aims to counter our overstimulated sense of sight with soothing pastels. Ivi's images can be found in the 5-Year Anniversary Edition of Agave Magazine.
AGAVE: How did you get started in photography?
IVI TELLO: As an adolescent I started to teach myself to take pictures. I entered the Faculty of Fine Arts (Design in Visual Communication); dissatisfied with the content and after resolutions of my personal life I decided to finish there after two years. I did not cease to create images, so I decided to venture into the professional knowledge of photography while pursuing a new career, journalism. Within that framework, plus a few existential crises, always with fear but always walking, I discovered that my taste and vocation belonged to the light, the movement: photojournalism and the love of cinema. So now I'm dedicated to illustration and photography.
What kind of gear do you use for your photography?
I use Canon since I like its gamma more.
Is there a particular subject matter that interests you most?
Within my works, those that I personally highlight are those where I was traveling. Although I use post-production for those images I like the naturalness and sometimes the possibilities with which they were taken.
How would you describe your style?
From dirty realism to magical realism, I am now using softer and more pastel colours. Personally I think that the aesthetics and the content of a photo go hand in hand, and in the current times it is necessary, due to the massive and harmful excess of visual advertising pollution, as a countercultural tool, to soften the world, giving beauty to the viewer.
How do you want to affect the viewer with On the surface everything is beautiful?
Within this miniseries, I try to provoke the coexistence of the aesthetically correct and that which, like death, generates a contrast that people are inclined to reject.
Agave Magazine's 5-Year Anniversary Edition is on presale now in the Agave Press shop.
By Deb A.
Agave Magazine's 5-Year Anniversary Edition is a retrospective of the last eight issues, combined with some new highlights that nestle comfortably amongst past favourites. Divided into three sections—Art, Literature, and Photography—this issue contains the essentials of Agave's past and present, and demonstrates the magazine's evolution through the years.
The 5-Year Anniversary Edition is available for pre-order now in the Agave Press shop. Issues will be shipped in May.
By Deb A.
Here's a roundup of just a few examples of beauty in the world this week.
Yinka Shonibare's Wind Sculpture has arrived in Central Park.
'They want to read books that engage with their everyday experiences, featuring characters who look like them." Denene Millner wrote in the New York Times about finding books for black children that celebrate daily life rather than extraordinary 'firsts.'
Hot on the heels of his own attempt to show that things just keep getting better, Steven Pinker recommended books to make you an optimist in The Guardian.
March 8th was International Women's Day, and the CBC celebrated with a list of 30 incredible women to inspire you with art...
...while Bloomberg highlighted female photographers around the world.
A book of lost poetry by Lou Reed is set to be published.
Canada's new Heritage Minute is for everyone who grew up with Anne of Green Gables.
By Deb A.
Four Olympians are in Pyongchang right now as artists-in-residence. A runner/filmmaker, a javelin thrower/artist, a biathlete/artist and a fencer/artist will all lend their creative skills to the Olympic Art Project, a programme created to "bring the Olympic values to life through art."
There are perhaps only a handful of professional athletes who are also known for their creative endeavours. Here's a look at three individuals who can be found in the middle of the Venn diagram of artists and athletes.
Ernie Barnes claimed to have always been more interested in art than football. He gave this account of ending his football career to paint:
One day on the playing field I looked up and the sun was breaking the clouds, hitting the unmuddied areas on the uniforms, and I said, 'That's beautiful!' I knew then that it was all over being a player. I was more interested in art. So I traded my cleats for canvas, my bruises for brushes, and put all the violence and power I'd felt on the field into my paintings.
(via the New York Times)
His most famous painting, Sugar Shack, graced the cover of Marvin Gaye's album "I Want You."
Christoph Finkel became world champion of sport climbing in 1992, the same year he began studying at Nuremberg's Academy of Fine Arts. He later coached the German national team, and bowed out of the sport completely in 2000. He continues to work as an acclaimed artist, incorporating his climbing skills and his reverence for nature into his works: carefully carved wooden bowls and sculptures created from fallen tree trunks that he drags out of the southern German mountains. Mr. Finkel's art can be found in prominent collections and museums around the world.
Erik Boomer is both a world-class kayaker and a renowned outdoor photographer. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Outside and National Geographic.
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.
Prickly Pear Issue 1: Desert/Water
Agave Press is thrilled to announce our newest quarterly publication, Prickly Pear Kids, debuting in print this winter. Inspired by colours and contrasts, textures and senses, culture and the natural world, Prickly Pear brings an accessible community of learning and creating to children aged 5-12 across the globe.
Calls for submissions are open until November 1st.
Agave Magazine is read in over 75 countries, and readership continues to grow thanks to the immensely talented writers, artists and photographers who fill our pages. Vol. 3, Issue 3 is titled Best of Agave--keep your eye out for its release later this year. In the meantime, calls for submissions for the following issue close November 1st.
We are looking for manuscripts, artistic portfolios and mixed-genre work to bring to print in our 2018 series. The deadline for submissions is December 1st. Further information can be found here.
Agave Press is pleased to offer a range of services, from book design to editing, writing and even website customisation. Get in touch!
Considering a collaboration with Agave Press? For details about our publications, including reviews, stats, and prices for our integrated support services, please send us a request for our 2017 media kit.
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.
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