Family Album: Mixed-race and Alternative Family Portraits by Gwyneth Leech at The New York Public Library

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Great news from my friend Gwyneth Leech, educated in Scotland, where I shall be sampling Scotch whiskeys not many months hence. She's got a terrific show going on at the New York Public Library. Check her out, she's got kind of a sweet Alice Neel kind of thing going, muscly brush strokes and a delicate color sense. I love in particular the way she treated the sulfur area in the painting above, its faint hints of structure consumed by the yummy heat.

Here's the info, gleaned from the email she sent me. Check it out now.


Mixed-race and Alternative Family Portraits
The New York Public Library
Columbus Branch
1st and 2nd floor
10 Avenue between 50th and 51st
New York, NY 10019

I am pleased to mark the beginning of Barack Obama's presidency with an exhibition of paintings of mixed-race and alternative families, at the New York Public Library, Columbus Branch.

The exhibition opened on Inauguration Day and will run through March 30th
Open library hours:
Mon /Wed 10 AM - 8 PM
Tue/Thur 10AM - 6PM
Fri/Sat 10AM - 5PM

The paintings are dedicated to the memory of Mildred Loving, who died in 2008 (of Loving Vs Virginia, the 1967 landmark Supreme Court case which finally ended all laws against inter-racial marriage.)

Mildred Loving was black and her husband was white. After a lifetime of keeping out of the public eye, Mrs. Loving issued a statement on the 40th anniversary of Loving Vs Virginia in 2007, which ended:

"I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about."

Further information from

Gwyneth Leech
gwynethl at earthlink dot net

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Artist's Memo: We're Showing in Boutiques Now (or "Clean-Up on Aisle Five - No, Wait, That's a Sculpture")

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Showing your work may have just gotten a whole lot easier, or harder, depending on how you want to look at it. In her NYTimes.com article"All Dressed Up Like Art Galleries," Ruth la Ferla tells us about a trend resulting from galleries closing their doors. It's kinda funny:

ANNIE PEDRET eyed a standard-issue sawhorse improbably dressed up in fleece. “I’d love to have that in my bedroom to put clothes over,” she said, apparently prepared to part with $750 to turn that conceptual artwork into a high-ticket coat hanger. Ms. Pedret, an associate professor of architectural history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, could have been forgiven.

Wall sculptures are a backdrop for shoppers at Robin Richman.

The sawhorse, one of several by Cheryl Pope, a local artist, was on view, after all, not in a gallery, but at a fashion boutique on North Damen Avenue, a mercantile thoroughfare that is home to the likes of Marc Jacobs and Club Monaco. That it vied for attention with satin cocktail dresses and oversize cardigans was fine with Robin Richman, the owner of the shop that bears her name. She is mounting the works of emerging artists to fill space once reserved for fashion labels she can no longer afford to sell, and to pique the interest of her worldly clientele.

I'd have figured paintings, figurative sculpture - sure. But Conceptual, selling alongside clothes and apparel? When is a belt just a belt, and when is it a compelling reflection on the ironies inherent in Capitalist societies?

Regardless, this is yet another interesting development in the amorphous world of art. Big players are involved, too:

Andrea Salerno, a curator, organized an exhibition last summer at the Tahari boutique in East Hampton, N.Y., in advance of the Scope Hamptons Art Fair. She recalled that the collectors stopping at the store didn’t raise an eyebrow. Nor did the artists, prominent figures including Alice Aycock, Lynda Benglis and Bryan Hunt. On being approached, “the artists were all ears,” impressed perhaps by the location, Ms. Salerno said. “You can’t turn your nose up at Main and Job’s Lane.”
Hey, if it's good enough for Lynda Benglis, it's good enough for me. And it's good enough for you, too. Even so, there's a definite 'sick joke' factor here.

I remember being about 20 years old, and feverishly working away at a holiday installation in a discount clothing store -- Marshall's, in Watertown, Connecticut. Thinking the whole time, "When you're really good, you won't have to show your work next to clothes and mannequins."

Guess that worked out.

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Brooklyn Arts Council Presents Dancing the Dead, 6th Annual Folk Feet Showcase

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From Renee Fidz:

Sunday, March 1, 2-5pm
Dance traditions of China, Korea, Grenada, India and more. Featuring Aeilushi
Mistry, Dean Maitland, Euston James, Iván Dominguez, Vongku Pak, Brooklyn
Chinese-American Association Senior Dance Group and Erhan Yildirim.

Whitman Theater, Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at
Brooklyn College (BCBC), 2900 Campus Rd. and Hillel Pl.

Sacred Hearts and St. Stephen Church Virgin of Sorrows Procession
Friday, April 10, 5:30-8:30pm
Join BAC folklorist Kay Turner for the annual Italian Catholic street procession
re-enacting Mary’s mourning of the dead Christ. 20 participant limit.

*$30/person (includes dinner). Call BAC for further information and to reserve a space beginning March 15.

Waking the Dead: Afro-Caribbean Funerary Expressions
Thursday, April 23, 6-8pm
Traditional artists, scholars and funeral directors explore
pan-Caribbean mourning traditions.

Brooklyn Public Library, Flatbush Branch (CLCC) 22 Linden Blvd. (near Flatbush Ave.)

Undertaking Death: A Conversation with Brooklyn Funeral Directors
Wednesday, May 20, 7-8:30pm
Local undertakers provide insight into the folklore of death and remembrance as
practiced in Brooklyn’s diverse communities, including Russian, Polish, Lebanese
and Dominican.

Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza, Dweck Auditorium

All events are FREE unless otherwise noted.
Tell us your
traditions. Submit your memorial traditions and stories online at www.brooklynartscouncil.org

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Stand still too long, kid,
I make one call?
And you disappear.
Like so many before you.

I watch from middle of midway
while you set up, arrange the concession,
clean in front sweeping all trash
cigarette butt from front there.

See, you wear blue polo or green tee shirt my wife give to you when she pick you up at Newark Airport.

I wear clothes I buy myself at Nordstrom’s, green shirt gray slacks red tie and also please note:
one white diamond on tie for each ungrateful asshole kid who did not bring in a good till,
who break my balls with getting sick, coming late to work, sneak out early, or taking a piss without first asking permission
from Yuri my son and midway manager.

Now I tell you this while lighting second Davidoff cigar this morning:
You shut up your shitty complaining,
you smile for customers,
you be here until shift ends at midnight,
and in three more weeks I hand you back your passport,
my wife drive you back to Newark Airport with your shirt you may keep,
and you ride Aeroflot back to that shithole of a farm village
and your life of fucking goats that God smile down to you with,
only now, this time,
you understand what the real power is.

Not like the stories of Stalin and Khrushchev your illiterate, shit-licking parents told you,
but real God’s Balls power.

This I have given you here in America,
wisdom such as you could not pay for if you were as rich and successful like me:
a taste for the bottom of the shoe,
bitter rage at fat, grinning Americans who play your concessions,
love for edge of starvation from two three-dollar food vouchers a day and the greasy scraps from my snack concessions here on midway,
the cold embrace from deep, black hatreds strong enough to squeeze the stupid from you,
drive you through this life
and even drive you out of it
if you ever so much as
about a better life
than that

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The sea robin

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head all bone
big spine bayonets
Bat Copter wing-fins
glows in the dark
can bite through steel cable
a school of them shut down the Internet in most of Europe
will probe your mind with thought waves
understands German, Dutch, Gaelic and Farsi
recently awarded a Fulbright
just stole your wallet

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The maitai

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was cold water, colored red,
hardly any fruit flavor and no hint of liquor.
A sample taken by The Professor, whose alcohol sensitivity runs to one half-part per million,
confirmed it.

“I can’t pay for this,” I told Deanna, the Ecuadorean waitress.
“It’s watered down. Someone’s watering your booze.”
The newcomer to English smiled and said, “I get the bartender.”

His fifty-five-plus blue eyes,
rage-blown from his volcano face,
confronted me eight seconds before the bounding body,
scab-jammed voice the obvious veteran of countless conflicts, cigarettes, benders
and jailhouse thrusts.

“I been doing this thirty-five years,” he croaked.
“There’s two shots of booze in that drink.”

I smiled and launched my always-ready salvo of take-it-easy chill.
“No sweat, Buddy,” I sang.
“Just letting you know: someone’s putting water in your booze.”

“There is no water in my booze.”

“Here, take a sip.”

“I will not take a sip.”

“Look, I’m guessing that one of the kids working here is swigging your booze and watering it. That’s all I’m saying.
And I’m not paying for this glass of red water.”

“Watering booze is a ten thousand dollar fine in the State of New Jersey, I will make you another drink but I do not water the booze.”

“I didn’t say it was you...” But he’d turned and left, no interest in reconciliation.
Apparently a Seaside Heights mixologist’s honor is beyond question.

In the traditions of Japan, where honor is of less consequence, such a mistake might bring an admission of guilt, sometimes followed by seppuku.

In New Jersey it’s yelling and the casting away of all rational argument, quickly followed by prissy storming-off.

The next drink was loaded. My head was spinning the third time I picked it up.
He’d have to serve at least three tap-water martinis to make up for it.

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Sky Coaster, Seaside Heights

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Her face was too big for her head.
High cheekbones,
inverted triangle jaw,
wide lips,
no smile,
greasy dirty-blonde braids,
stick-built marionette trunk and limbs under a Wal-Mart frock of purple, black and lavender.
She skipped ahead of her family, mom dad normal-looking sister,
tossed herself onto the chain-link fence surrounding the Sky Coaster,
and there she stuck, cast-off twelve-year-old toy girl.
Dad and normal-looking sister took the picnic table behind us
and watched as familiar victims were strapped in to the Coaster’s sling.

“Microcephalic.” My faintest whisper.
The Professor humphed consideration. Diagnostic wheels turned.

Mom sashayed to the fence near her broken toy and relaxed onto the cool bar.
A fall of spider web wafted from her doughy lump of head,
and a larger swelling, medicine-ball-hard,
pushed out the middle of her gauzy peach shirt.
She was too old to be pregnant.

“FAS.” The Professor’s verdict.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Genes DUI in the zygote mangling all development,
often severely disrupting the brain.

It was then
that the girl
her strange

Her adult-sized lips writhed angrily at the buzz of a dim thought,
and I waited for the skin-crawl that usually follows
the distorted vocalizations of severe mental impairment –

until she
away from the fence,
white PVC-pipe
legs striding
angrily, puppet-
like, hand
braids whipping in her wake.

She stopped three inches before me and glared.

As her skirt caught up she flung a pair of cheap sunglasses over my head
to her sister.

“I’m sick of holding these for you,” she said.
“Take care of them yourself.

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Julie Evans -- Art Blogger

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I've watched Julie Evans' work online for some time now, and some of her images are in my expansive COOLEST_ARTISTS folder. I'd known about the India-like works that go full-bleed, you know? Right to the edge -- but I didn't know about her work on paper, "new drawings" she calls them, which, while definitely related to the other paintings, have a lighter, airier feel to them.

They really take flight in comparison to the effervescent carnival bustle of the other works.

Here's an image from her blog -- (which I hope she doesn't mind my posting.)

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POSTER GIRL by Jasper Goodall -- Electric Blue Gallery, from February 7th 2009

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This hot off the wire from my good friend Sam Oxley:

The hugely influential graphic artist Jasper Goodall will exhibit a series of new works at Spitalfields’ Electric Blue Gallery throughout February.

Entitled 'Poster Girl' the exhibition explores the sexual conflict between fantasy and reality, a subject which has permeated much of Goodall’s work.

Whilst the work immediately appears to be fetishist erotica it also offers a commentary on erotic art and its themes. Goodall explores the notions in sex and fetish that result in clichéd roleplay - the naughty nun, the kinky policewoman, the sexy shepherdess – to distil the themes of innocence corrupted, mothering turned sexual and power bent and discarded in passion.

Although sexualised, the work remains playful and riffs on ideas of disguise, decoration, identity and assumed persona. Prints of fantastical illustrated bodies obscure those of real models resulting in a piece that is fantasy and reality, illustration and photograph.

Goodall first came to the public’s attention with style-defining work for The Face that introduced illustration to fashion shoots, influencing a generation of illustrators and helping pave the way for illustration's resurgence and reinvention.

Goodall cites pop artist Allen Jones as an inspiration for his new body of work - "I love the images he made for the Pirelli calendar where he painted on top of photographs of models, imposing his fantasy world onto the reality of these women"

"Sexual attraction, I believe is almost entirely down to our fantasies, after all - when you first meet someone you don't know them, but you make up and idea about them in your mind and it's this fantasy that you are attracted to. Once you get to know them, all too often the fantasy doesn't match with the reality, I think it's why such a large proportion of relationships don't really get off the ground!"

POSTER GIRL is Jasper Goodall’s first solo show of personal work in a gallery environment. The show will run throughout February at The Electric Blue Gallery, 64 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EZ

Electric Blue Gallery is a new concept gallery, which opened its doors in January 2008. Influenced by a mixture of Collette in Paris and a lifetime of London’s fashion and art underworld party scene.

The co-owners Jessica Tibbles and Olivier Bernay want to showcase the very best in the industry has to offer but also with an edge, promoting the new talent coming through is at the top of the agenda, a non-pretentious, all inclusive art gallery. Along with one of Berlins top fashion and art features editors they’ll be sending out a gallery of style of the best from Europe.

A flexible creative space not seen since the 1980’s San Francisco/New York era, being free is the underlying speech behind all communications. Predominately across art but with a huge respect and love for fashion, styling, the only place in London you can see high-end art or couture fashion and get a new life changing look at the same time. www.electricbluegallery.com

Henry's House: winner at 2008 PRCA Awards – Best Technology PR Award, double award winner at the 2007 Green Awards - Best PR Campaign & Grand Prix

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Durham Press Blog

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Well, the last entry was on late October, but I hope this will be updated soon. The images, such as this image of a Polly Apfelbaum piece, are excellent.

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Andrew Wyeth is Dead

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When I was a teenager and knew I was going to be an artist, Andrew Wyeth was the artist I wanted to be.

Other kids worked on cars, went to concerts, played in bands, drank, smoked dope, got laid, scouted, skied, camped, boated, built things. I spent my time in the woods and on Henry Church's farm, drawing and painting anything that could seize my distracted attention long enough to fill a page, learning to listen to that gut-level voice that tells you something in front of your eye-holes deserves further scrutiny.

I bought wholesale into Wyeth's insistence that his work was powered by abstraction. I bought into the possibility of living a life broken off from society, while coaxing that society into buying my armloads of scribbles and paint. I bought into the profundity of old shit: rotting barns, horse bones, rusting, abandoned cars, the timeless undulations of pelt-like fields where houses sprouted, baked in the sun, sagged beneath relentless rain and ice storms, and tumbled into brittle gray slivers before blowing away.

I bought so wholly into anachronism that I became a stranger to my own time. I preferred walking to driving, deep empty woods to the city -- feared cities, in fact -- menial labor over anything that required decision-making and responsibility, folk religion above theologies requiring structured knowledge and discipline.

I didn't figure it out until well into my 20's that the world I wanted to make art for was, on the day I was born, as dead and distant as the kingdoms of the pharoahs. By that time most of the 80's had past me by, along with the opportunities that only come to young, hungry and crazy uninhibited artists.

Sure, I'm disappointed and even a bit befuddled at the bizarre stodginess and melodrama of my young adulthood. But I must admit that it wasn't a complete loss. Truth be told, if you had to miss an entire decade in art, the 1980's was a good one to miss.

And I learned a lot during the long, strange sojourn of my late teens and early twenties. There are some things that can only be discerned from society's fringes.

I learned for example to be suspicious of simplicities such as good and bad, black and white, and to always interrogate them as they arise. I came to understand the viewpoints of people raised
by animals in the guise of parents, whose circumstances drip wretchedness and who can only dream of the freedom I enjoyed as someone who could hold a job and complete a thought. I learned how tiny deceptions breed and multiply until they coat perceived reality and misguide every thought and action. I came to see my culture as desperately sick and self-destructive, but the people living in that society as malleable beings capable of learning and of empowering themselves, who will usually, often at the very last moment, recoil from the precipice of self-destruction.

I can still enjoy "Christina's World," the watercolor reproductions in the book "Wyeth at Kuerner's," vast empty fields in late winter after the leaves have been carried windward, when starlings shoot into the cold sunlight and crow signals echo across the frosted hills. But I deconstructed the man long ago. I saw through the Arches paper and films of watercolor and egg tempra emulsion to the rich kid raised at home under tutors and a doting father. The young man who lived in opulent comfort far from the demands of a job and a world briskly ripening into, then eventually beyond, Modernism. I saw spacious summer and winter estates, sailboats, tweed jackets and turtlenecks, dinner parties with elites whose names are carved into the facades of buildings and monuments across America.

For me Andrew Wyeth and his art have been dead for decades. The moment I finally shoveled dirt on it all so many years ago marked the point at which I began to understand the vitality of my own time, the importance of a critically engaged art that's never satisfied and never rests, and my ability -- my responsibility -- to accept no givens of heritage or circumstance, to open my life and my process to chance, to take control of my relationship with a world of accelerating change.

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