Most of the art our culture celebrates is the same type of art that makes me yawn. See, I enjoy art that gets my blood racing. For me, good art needs to be both aesthetically appealing and make my brain hurt. Because of my intense predilection for this type of provocative eye candy, I was exceedingly pleased recently to discover the Visibility Project—a female, Asian American, Queer portraiture project by Bay Area Photographer Mia Nakano and Los Angeles collaborator Christine Pan.
The problematic policy of Don't Ask Don't Tell, implemented in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, has now been beautifully, if not dutifully rendered visible by LA-based photographer Jeff Sheng. That is, visible to the certain point his courageous subjects can be while in uniform.
February 3rd, 2010 marked the 116th birthday of Norman Rockwell. Google's clever inclusion of his art among the letters of the search engine's logo alerted me to the historic date. Oh Google! You went and did it again with your clever intertextuality.
Rockwell rose to artistic fame with his Americana paintings depicting everyday life and its sentiments. On May 29th, 1943 The Saturday Evening Post ran as its cover Rockwell's painting of "Rosie the Riveter." Norman Rockwell's painting was the first widely publicized visual representation of Rosie the Riveter. Rockwell's Rosie was a commanding figure decked in overalls and a matching work shirt. She is confident as she gazes out into the distance, all the while using as a foot stool a bruised and battered copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf. Rockwell's Rosie is undeniably a more potent image than that which has come to culturally represent Rosie the River, J. Howard Miller's "We Can Do It."
"The greatest thing is that I can never anticipate how people are going to react to my projects. Without fail, it's a hugely delightful experience and that's why I do any of the pieces I've done. I want to see the exchange with the people." ~ Keetra Dean Dixon
The recent Uganda death penalty bill for homosexuality has raised awareness of the inhumane treatment of LGBT people globally. The repercussions of rape, jail, and murder for expressing your sexuality are horrendous, but they sometimes make it easy to cast a blind eye to the way so-called first-world countries continue to foster homophobia, transphobia, and sexism. Gay women seeking asylum in the UK know all too well that homophobia does not stop at the border.
Through a new art project with Artangel, an organization that sponsors interactive art projects, some of these woman are able to express the dehumanizing and difficult process of gaining asylum.
"I like things that are handmade and I like to see people's hand in the world, anywhere in the world; it doesn't matter to me where it is. And in my own work, I do everything by hand. I don't project or use anything mechanical, because even though I do spend a lot of time trying to perfect my line work and my hand, my hand will always be imperfect because it's human. And I think it's the part that's off that's interesting, that even if I'm doing really big letters and I spend a lot of time going over the line and over the line and trying tomake it straight, I'll never be able to make it straight. From a distance it might look straight, but when you get close up, you can always see the line waver. And I think that's where the beauty is." ~Margaret Kilgallen, Art:21 (2005)
I saw Ginger Brooks Takahashi's work in the art auction for the Lesbian Herstory Archive. Although her work spans illustration, multimedia, wall hangings, and music, the themes of sexuality, gender, and community run throughout. (Rabbits also seem to be a motif).
Whether it's her involvement with the Mobilivre Bookmobile, where a super cute a 1959 Airstream Overlander trailer, interior-redecorated as a mini-zine and book arts store toured the country, or Butch in the Bog, a collaboration with Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, it's clear that aesthetic is as important as community building to her. As she told the New York City News Service, "As an artist, I like to create situations for people to come together and to have an encounter."
Ka-ching! Aw, did you hear that? It was the last of 80 raffle tickets sold off from the Lesbian Herstory Archives Benefit Art Auction! That means if you didn't pick up your ticket in time, you don't get to take home one of 80 works of art by 80 lesbian artists. The good news is that if you're in New York City this weekend, you can still view the works on display and support the archive at the door. (That way, it's like you won ALL of the art!)
The rest of us can view a few of the works online at Own This City, where I found the above photo, "Battaglia al Castello di Civitella Ranieri" by Patricia Cronin, and mark down a trip to the archives the next time we find ourselves in Park Slope.
As the American calendar rolls around to another historically-dubious holiday, it's comforting to know you can celebrate the righteous kind of history year-round with People's History posters from Just Seeds. At four bucks a pop, you can afford to load up on your favorite activists, or give them as presents to remind folks of the heroes that History-with-a-capital-H (not to mention present-day media) tends to conveniently forget. Click through for more posters...