Category — Art
The Cloisters/Arrezo Converters
Oil and gold leaf on panel in gold leaf frame | 60 x 64 7/8 x 1 7/8 inches | 2014
Bridging Life and Art
with Mike Foldes, Founder and Managing Editor
Ragazine: Thank you very much for agreeing to this e-interview, and for allowing us to share your unusual and thought-provoking (if not controversial) work with Ragazine readers. Most of the paintings included in your online portfolio are in the style you have developed blending the influences of both classical Japanese Ukiyo-e or wood block print tradition, and Christian iconography. Can you tell us a little about your painting before this style evolved, and what led you to it?
Masami Teraoka: While (Marcel) Duchamp’s conceptual art had been discussed when I was going to Otis Art Institute, I had thought this early on that I wanted to pursue a vision that was totally of anti-trendish LA art scene. While I was absorbing new energy from Pop Art, I said to myself re: content-wise, these inspiring artists such as Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, and (Roy) Lichtenstein made great sense. Basically what they were saying had been about consumerism culture in US.
Since I always had been fascinated by Ukiyo-e wood block print and it’s beautiful vocabulary coming from Japanese cultural background, what if I use my favorite vocabulary to create my work. I could make comments on Japanese culture and US culture in Ukiyo-e style work. I stayed with the vocabulary until the huge thematic series evolved, the Catholic Church’s historical clergy sex abuse. As I grew out from Ukiyo-e theme work, the next major evolution came with the concept that is all about history of western culture and current social issues. Although the basic approach toward my vision was strongly based on freedom of expression to investigate classical vocabularies and explore how far I can push the boundary of the ignored or totally abandoned vocabulary in the ‘60s, why not explore this path instead of focusing on breaking boundaries of materials and expressions. Classical vocabularies could give you enormous inspiration; perhaps, I thought… in order to tackle Catholic clergy sex abuse, I regrouped my thought about the medium and vocabulary.
There had been another inspiration, sort of a backward way – coming from the close association with Gutai Group in Japan. I used to live within a few blocks away from Jiro Yoshihara, the Gutai leader’s residence in Ashiya city. I often visited his son Michio Yoshihara, my buddy who was a Gutai Group member. We often got together for Mishio’s group jam sessions. I closely watched what Gutai had been doing and what the Gutai’s spirit was all about. This is a good way to start my freedom of expression concept, or vision. Gutai Group’s attitude was whatever you are inspired by, you do it with unconventional materials and take it freely to express in an unconventional approach, to express their feelings. I had lived through my college student time with the close associations, or perhaps closest associations, with them; it was great to learn what was going on in the USA. Gutai Group often had referred to Jackson Pollock, Sam Francis and Anthony Tapies. In fact I had met Sam Francis and Tapies in Ashiya city where he gave a public speech.
In fact one of the most significant and important Gutai Group’s performances, called “Happening,” was held at the Sankei Kaikan Theater in Osaka. I was asked to assist Michio’s concrete music for the happening’s background. In retrospect, I can describe it as John Cage-inspired sound effects for the background audio effect. Recently I was interviewed by Ming Tang who had co-curated a huge Gutai Group show in the Guggenheim. She visited me and I had given her Gutai Group’s catalogs that I had treasured for centuries. While I was growing up, I had such great opportunity to see what Gutai Group had been doing as to their own things, and in the meantime I was nurturing my own vision to evolve.
New Wave Series/Sarah and Dream Octopus
Watercolor on paper | 20-1/16 x 29-7/8 | 1992
Q: Many traditional Japanese works portray waves, and you creatively elaborate on that with your Wave Series and New Wave Series. Do you plan on doing anything influenced by the waves that led to the meltdown at Fukushima?
A: I’m not sure, but the inspiration for the waves theme were inspired by two reasons. I was trying to get used to being in the water. Since I moved to Hawaii, I was inspired to learn to swim. I actually had almost drowned when we had the field trip to Momoshima island. Shortly after that incident, I decided to be an artist. It was more like there were personal reasons that I was ready to teach myself swimming. The wave paintings I created are all about my respect for the friendly Hawaiian ocean.
Although Fukushima tsunami was horrendous, I think natural disasters may not have the same sort of personal complexity that I had been struggling with for ages regarding the fear of drowning. Plus, waves became my helping hand to deal with the AIDS theme painting series. It helped me to balance out the emotional issues. Social implications and historical edges as regard humanity issues always compelled me to paint, and I have wondered about this myself. I tend to be drawn toward humanity (and how people are) caught in complex cultural webs.
Q: What were your paintings/drawings like before your present “style” evolved?
A: My drawings/paintings are as precisely and closely inspired by Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, because they are stunning, fantastic and expressive! Beautifully drawn and articulate. Their vocabulary had a lot to do with the skills of artists who conceive figurative themes in abstract ways. Such transformation inspires me.
Drawings done by Ukiyo-e artists articulated unique narratives. Ukiyo-e artists’ strength is inspired by Kabuki stories. They considered themselves artisans, while depicting Kabuki actors and actresses in the stories is not tied down with rules or technique or theme. They had freedom of expression.
AIDS Series/Geisha in Bath
Watercolor on canvas |108 x 81 inches | 1988
Q: Who or What was the greatest influence on you as a developing artist, other than your father, whom you have said wanted you to do something other than take over the family’s Kimono store?
A: I learned a lot about waves and composition from Katsushika Hokusai. As to figurative drawing, Gototei Kunisada is my favorite artist, since he never went for stylized faces but brought out individual characters and faces. Conceptually, Hieronymus Bosch inspired me at the other end, since his vision is all about humanity. He created a timeless statement.
Burqa Inquisition/Chicken Torture
Oil on canvas | 100 ½ x 77 ½ inches | 2003
Q: Do you believe that art can influence culture, or vice versa? For example, paintings from the time of the Inquisition reflected the times, but did not necessarily change them. Your works frequently comment on the hypocrisy of the times, but are they are a reflection of the times or a force for change?
A: I’m certain art has such powerful realm where no one can deny when it works in poetic form. It reflects time and forcefully presents what we feel, think and face today. Art documents times and influences social attitudes if it is presented in highly evocative way. I hope to present my statement in high aesthetics and powerful visual poetry.
Q: What is your preferred medium? Why?
A: Currently I prefer oil. Oil is good for textual subject matter and watercolor for serene surface.
Q: Do you have a favorite piece or series? What makes it your favorite?
A: Yes. Every series that I created is my favorite one. By far Catholic clergy sex abuse had a lot heavy duty thoughts that involve many layers of social and cultural issues. Having a critical view about thematic issues, composition, drawing and how well it reflects the thematic motif and narratives − that means a lot to me. My favorite ones have abundant and richly profound implications.
The Cloisters/Venus and Pope’s Workout
Oil on panel in gold leaf frame | 119 1∕8 x 122 1∕2 x 2 3∕4 inches | 2005
Q: Why has the Catholic clergy sex abuse story become the biggest series you’ve committed to in the last few decades?
A: When I looked at the Catholic clergy sex abuse issues, I saw the institutionalized, long history… where the Catholic Church’s mysogynistic view, confessors, penitence, indulgence, authoritative prayers versus powerless believers, authority versus individual rights. And among others, the gay marriage, same sex marriage issue and the tendency to a totalitarian approach against individuals, the hypocrisy, (and issues of) celibacy, humanity, healthy sexuality, women’s equality, warped sexuality or prohibited conversations between nuns, the institution’s absolute secrecy versus transparent current culture – are all boiling in the same pot. However I looked at it, the clerical sex abuse became the focus, the core of western culture coming from Vatican history. There had been a lot to do with confession, baptism and all sorts of the church’s institutionalized rituals that have enhanced the institution’s financial mechanism. This is a profoundly amazing place to look into, the confessional room. The dark box or black box holds all of the secrets. And that is the driving force in the institution I wanted to investigate.
Q: You speak of human nature and repression of sexual instincts in the priesthood… Can there be hope for real change?
A: I believe there is hope if the Catholic Church recognizes that confession is the main gear that had a lot to do with misguided behavior. This is the engine that needs to be tuned up to current times, instead of harkening back to the male chauvinistic institutionalized structure.
Venus’ Serpentine Confession
Oil and acrylic on panel in gold-leaf frame | 38 x 44 x 1 ½ inches | 2003
Q: What inspired you to start the initial series you began in the early 1990s, right after your AIDS series?
A: Definitely many questions came up when I watched (President Bill) Clinton’s and Monica Lewinski’s trial. In a “Who was telling us what to do in bed” sort of the way. I was looking at the entire episode, it was such a ridiculous media circus. Then I wanted to know where the basic morality and politics were coming from. Eventually I traced it back to the Vatican.
Q: Why does Catholic iconography dominate your recent triptych paintings?
A: The thematic choice defines it into iconic images I really enjoy. I also feel many great artists are among the Catholic Church’s patrons and beneficiaries of the amazing Medici’s support. The Medici family had patronized great and phenomenal artists in the medieval times. What if we did not have those greats that enriched and contributed to human history in visual terms. In the meantime, the Vatican had erased all of the major documents about Catholic clergy sex cases… Am I correct to say this?
The Last Supper/Eve and The Giant Squid Hunters
Oil and gold leaf on panel in gold leaf frame | 199 x 122-1/2 x 2-3/4 inches | 2012
Q: What do the gold leaf and gold leaf frames mean to you?
A: The gold leaf frames imply the rigid Catholic Church as a formidable institution where individual rights are not respected, but squashed by a powerful institution. The gold leaf frame work addresses the sickening over-the-top symbolic wealth of the Catholic Church. Gold leaf is an uncompromising medium to me to use. But in order to address the serious historical background of the Catholic Church’s history, it became such a big challenge for me to tackle and work with it. Gold leaf is a tough medium. By contrasting concept against the framework of ancient triptychs allowed me to address the current socio-cultural issues more appropriately.
Q: Your answers to our questions are as revealing as your art about your concerns with thematic issues and narratives. Some artists say they cannot talk about their work, that it speaks for itself. What do you say to that?
A: All depends on how you want to see. That is their choice.
I personally feel conceptualizing my vision by verbalizing helps it to evolve into a powerful composition. It helps so much visually. When I get stuck visually, verbalizing becomes a handy tool. In the creative process, especially in a narrative work, I focus on the conceptual aspect focusing constantly on compelling issues as a mantra. I see talking about an art work has dual edges. The positive side may help enhance a viewer’s interpretation, but it can also work against as negative to limit how a viewer would interpret the work.
What viewers may not be able to specifically figure out would be the figures or characters and props that I intentionally choose. Since selecting the props and who I may be depicting have a lot to do with a mixture of personal, general, historical or current social and cultural contexts that have a lot to do with the narrative. There are many layers of congruent concepts that make all the stars in the narrative, and the props, work compellingly. Nothing is accidental in the end.
Q: What do you think about Anime’, and do you have any favored young artists you can identify by name or their work?
A: I’m afraid not. I cannot make much comment on anime content-wise, since I’m not into anime at all. I am much more a devoted Ukiyo-e woodblock print fan, which I have extensively investigated. In my view, Ukiyo-e’s vocabulary means so much as aesthetically profound and exciting. Those texts in Ukiyo-e prints are fascinating, since they depicted Edo people’s mind in beautiful way. What appeals to me about Ukiyo-e drawing is the figurative drawings created by feelings peppered with abstract interpretation and freedom of exaggeration. The figurative drawing and the poetry is so inspiring in aesthetic ways.
Q: Do you anticipate that we will ever see a feature-length film based on the style and content of your art work?
A: Definitely. I foresee it coming since the narratives that I have created are all about social and cultural issues that we are concerned about today. My work has reflected those thoughts in that particular time of the history I had lived. In historical context, my work has an abundance of philosophical implications regarding humanity, individual rights, oppression, totalitarian views and bringing out and asserting how important it is to have freedom of speech. Moreover, what art can do to help people to understand who we are – and the most important values (we) may want to have. These aspects will be, perhaps, needed to be examined in an historical sense.
The Cloisters/Birth of Venus
Oil on canvas in gold-leaf frame | 90 x 94 inches | 2002-2005
Q: You grew up in Hiroshima prefecture. You were a boy during WWII. How much of that do you remember and how much of that early experience influenced you to become the artist you are today?
A: I used to draw airplanes a lot. After the war a GI gave me a Coca-Cola. I had treasured the tin can, since it was so beautiful. I loved the way it looked and I made a fantastic pencil drawing. I wish I had kept it. Although it was lost, unfortunately. I still have a great American airplane drawing I did when I was 12 years old. In retrospect, perhaps this already might have set me going for Pop Art.
When my sister and I were just about going out to our school, we saw the two suns. One from the east and one from the west. They are exactly identical sizes and brightness. It turned out that day was the day the atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima city. I was 9 years old.
Q: How do you start a painting? Do you do study drawings or sketches before you paint? From Ukiyo-e watercolor and Renaissance style oil painting?
A: For my watercolor painting, I have to make so many study drawings and sketches. The drawing and the composition have to be finished and set to go before I start the watercolor. Whereas with oil, the process of painting is reversed. This is one of the reasons why I had switched over to oil painting. It was a big challenge mentally and physically.
I can start from a blank canvas or panel without any sketches. Then I continue to tweak the initial composition. While it is easily, perhaps, overlooked between the two entirely different vocabularies, there is the obvious undercurrent thematically that is so consistent about my work. There is a lot to do with sexuality, health of individual rights, equality and environmental concerns.
McDonald’s Hamburgers Invading Japan/Geisha and Tattooed Woman
Watercolor on paper | 14 ¼ x 21 ½ inches | 1975
Q: What made you evolve your Ukiyo-e painting style into Renaissance style painting? Their vocabularies seem vastly different from each other. Could you elaborate on that?
A: Largely the two vocabularies have reflected where I had been and am now. Plus, the thematic issues demanded a certain medium. For instance, I felt I could really use oil to address Catholic clergy sex abuse since the subject is textually a complex theme. Watercolor could fall short to bring out the richness of thematic concerns. Concept defines form and vocabulary, in my view.
While I was still learning about American life and culture, I felt my statement had been focused on my Japanese cultural background. Then later on I had realized I had lived in the States longer than in Japan. The experiences I had in America, I felt, my work should reflect. What should I say about USA as a statment in my work? When I was realizing the personal evolution sensing inside, it was getting close to the end of the 1980s. I asked myself what are the most compelling social and historical issues? After I did the personal research summarizing my early shunga series, AIDS, Clinton and Monica Lewinski’s scandal, I realized the most compelling related issue had turned out to be the Catholic clergy sex abuse. I felt it would be a large enough, and profound enough, theme.
Q: Have you done any other form of work in earlier days?
A: I have worked with sculpture such as stone carving, clay figures, resin sculptures in the ‘60s, and also I was really into abstract painting. As a matter of fact, I have loved the way Mondrian abstracted his Dutch landscape into New York Boogie Woogie abstract painting. I was so inspired. When I was a college student in Japan I painted seriously in the Mondrian style painting. I bet he must have loved jazz, imagining from his apartment that the New York streets looked like his paintings. Grids of the street, with exciting jazz. This is just my guess.
Q: What makes an artist significant in historical context?
A: In my view a great artist created art work that is identical with who she or he was. If an artist could articulate what is all about the person, history recognize them. However you looked at him or her, the artist’s being has been expressed in the consistent way – showing who they are. Very consistent about themselves. You know what they are all about. When an artist lacks this, the artist would drift away from history.
Adam and Eve/Web Site 2000
Oil and watercolor on canvas |83 1∕2 x 152 5∕8 inches | 1997-2004
Q: A common thread in your work is sexuality. Where does that come from? Why is it so?
A: I always wondered about this myself. Basically what had become controversial in society has a lot to do with sexuality. It seems we cannot get away from sexuality, since we were born from mothers. Adam and Eve started western history with such warped view about the genders. What if someone comes up with series that the artist presents a reversed view. Eve is a good woman in the reversed order? Adam is somewhat put into Eve’s position instead.
Q: How was the most recent show at the MAC/McKinney Avenue Contemporary received in Dallas, Texas?
A: It was of the fantastic reception! Since showing my large triptych pieces in one huge gallery was more than the dream I was hoping for. I had six large triptychs, each about 10 feet x 10 feet, and one medium Gothic triptych piece. People responded so enthusiastically. They were excited and inspired by the exhibition. Plus, a Pussy Riot member showed up at the opening, since I had been talking about Pussy Riot lately. Actually one of my friends in Dallas had dressed up like a Pussy Riot and showed up. Cheers! There was also the beautiful ballerina among the opening crowd.
Q: Are you preparing the next show now? And where are they going to be exhibited?
A: My solo show opens at the Honolulu Museum in May 2015 for a few months. Then another solo show opens at the Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco October 2015.
Q: What can you say about the new work? Do you already have a vision of what it will be?
A: I do. I’m writing a Kabuki narrative for the new work. I will feature Geisha Momotaro, Pope Francis and Pussy Riot and Putin. The story should reflect current global socio-political issues.
Q: What are you working on?
A: I’m still working on the new triptych paintings, and also several triptychs in progress that had been in the incubation period for more than a few years. Perhaps several years. Soon they will hatch! Fingers crossed!!!!!
Lacquer on resin/1966-1970/
Size: 3-3/4 x 29-15/16 x 5-1/8 in. (9.5 x 76 x 13 cm)
Courtesy of the artist and Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco
Q: Your scope of work from 1966-2014… it’s a vast work expressed in different media and conceptual visions, but what ties it together? What do you feel is consistent about your work?
A: Working with sexual and erotic subject matter, empowered women predominate in the narratives. My triptychs focus on equal rights, gay rights, gender issues and health issues, and examine environmental and cultural issues that are pitted against authoritative institutions and power hungry people.
Q: Are you religious person?
A: I am not, but more like I lean toward art power as my guidence for life. Poetry and visual richness in arts are the ones that I value the most.
Q: Thank you, Masami Teraoka.
Catharine Clark Gallery
248 Utah St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Samuel Freeman Gallery
About the interviewer:
Michael Foldes is the founder and managing editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.
November 9, 2014 Comments Off on Masami Teraoka/Artist-Interview
Street scene in New York City
The World As I See It
on the streets of New York City
with Chuck Haupt, Photography/Layout Editor
Gene Lowinger’s career began as a musician, transitioned to author, and then photographer whose work captures the faces of NYC, out on the streets….
* * *
Q: You had quite a career as a musician, fiddling with Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe. How did you develop your passion for photography?
A: In the 1980s I began to SCUBA dive and loved the underwater colors and shapes, so I bought a Nikonos V camera and strobe. The Nikonos 35mm lens was also good for land photography, so I photographed the exotic locations to which I traveled to do my diving. After developing a bad case of pneumonia with residual lung problems, I had to discontinue my diving. But I’d already been bitten by the photography bug. I took a few courses at the New School in NYC, including b/w darkroom. I had some inspiring teachers.
Q: How did you happen to concentrate on being a documentary street shooter over other styles of photography?
A: My darkroom teacher, Mario Cabrera, was a stringer for Associated Press and he talked a lot to me about photojournalism. His teacher, Ben Fernandez, who was the head of the photo department at New School, was a documentary photographer. Between the two of them they got me interested in documenting life and times. I did other types of photography also − landscape, nature, macro, etc., but it was documentary/photojournalism that really gave me goosebumps.
Gene Lowinger / Streets Scenes from the streets of NYC
All photos © Gene Lowinger. Used with permission.
Q: The tone of your black & white photographs is very rich. Why do you like it over color?
A: I originally shot color slide film – especially Kodachrome. But I really enjoyed the darkroom process of b/w (except for developing the film itself, which I really hated). Making the manipulations and seeing the prints come alive in the developer was very exciting. I try to create images that tell a story. When someone looks at my image I want them to see the story, not the pretty colors of the clothes or the scenery. With b/w I have much more control over how the viewer’s eye moves through the image. And I like the abstraction of using just tones of gray, black, and white for my work. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate others who work in color. B/W is just the way I see when I shoot.
Q: How do you decide who to photograph while on the street? Ever get confronted by a person after you photograph them? If so, how do you handle it?
A: I don’t think about it. When I’m out walking around I let my intuition take over. All the thinking is done beforehand. I have in the back of my mind the kinds of situations and/or subjects I want to shoot. I look for people with interesting expressions or interesting juxtapositions with their environment. I try to catch interactions between two people. I’m usually pretty close to my subjects and I use wide to ultra-wide lenses – 35mm equivalents of 15mm, 21mm, 24mm, and 35mm. Rarely longer than that unless I’m doing a portrait or a performance. I’ve been confronted, but not often since I’m very unobtrusive (sneaky). When a person becomes confrontational I just keep walking. If they follow me I go into a store and they never follow. Sometimes when people have asked why I’m taking photos, I tell them I’m working for the FBI or NSA. That gets a chuckle and breaks the ice, then I can have a pleasant conversation with them. I give them my card which has my website and blogsite on it.
Q: What cameras do you shoot with? How do they help with your style of photography?
A: At first I used a Nikon D700. But when Fuji came out with the X-Pro1 I jumped on it. I love the optical viewfinder. The size of the camera and lenses make it easy to carry around for long street walks and they don’t draw attention like the big ‘howitzer’ Canons (get it?) and Nikons. I also like the Fuji X-T1 very much. It’s smaller than the X-Pro1, but doesn’t have the optical viewfinder. The amazing quality of the EVF makes up for that. And I especially like that everything I need to change or control on the fly is available to me on the top of the camera with analog dials. I can see in an instant how the camera is set and make changes if I need to. No menus to scroll through. I shoot with zooms and prime lenses, depending on my mood and the particular situation. The Fuji 10-24mm zoom is a wonderful lens that allows for great flexibility on the crowded streets of NYC. But it’s a relatively large lens, so sometimes I take my 14, 23, and 35mm lenses with me. But I don’t obsess about equipment. Learning to work with what I have to get what I want is more important.
Gene Lowinger / The Jewish Diaspora, NYC
All photos © Gene Lowinger. Used with permission.
Q: You spend a lot of time on the Lower East Side documenting the Jewish neighborhood. What do you hope to become of this project?
A: I began that project over 20 years ago as a self-exploration. I’ve expanded the scope of the project now to cover areas of Brooklyn, upstate New York, and New Jersey. I’ve had several shows of the work as it developed, and eventually I will try to get a book put together.
Q: Which photographers have and still do inspire you?
A: The two at the top of my list are W. Eugene Smith and Garry Winogrand. I’ve been looking at their work for many years and every time I revisit them I see something new. It’s like playing a great piece of music by Bach. I’ve studied his solo works for violin for over 50 years and every time I practice one of the pieces I see and hear new things in it. Beyond those two photographers, I really like Robert Frank, Walker Evans, all the FSA photographers, the New York Photo League. More modern photographers such as Tim Hetherington, Joao Silva and Greg Marinovich of the Bang Bang club.
Q: What more can we expect to see from your photography in the future?
A: The Lower East Side project has a ways to go yet. It’s expanded into much more than I originally thought, so there’s quite a bit of work to do with it. I hope to start traveling, especially to Israel, next year. It’s an oasis of development and growth in a part of the world that always seems to be falling apart and in conflict. I’ll probably always stay with b/w, but maybe experiment a bit with color.
See more from Gene Lowinger at:
About the interviewer:
Chuck Haupt is Photography/Layout Editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.
This interview was conducted via email in October 2014.
November 6, 2014 Comments Off on Gene Lowinger / Photographer
Retro Video Club Collection
Retro Video Club
by Fred Roberts
Contributing Music Editor
Today Youtube is filled with video sessions of high definition digital pristine perfection. They are beautiful documents of culture, featuring, as they do, the best of various bands, musicians, performers: The Emery Sessions from my home town of Cincinnati, Hamburg’s Küchensessions, the Furious Sessions in Barcelona, Balcony TV from all around the world. The sessions are lovely and document an important aspect of musical culture, but they are all too perfect, in the sense of digital music to vinyl. Moreover, with HD video a feature of nearly every smartphone and camera, artistic uniqueness is nearly impossible to achieve.
In the midst of these trends, artist Marq Lativ Guther plunges into the past with a project that couldn’t be further from the contemporary idea of digital perfection. Armed with a repertoire of professional video cameras of late ’80s’ vintage, Marq set out last year to document a selection of concerts at venues in Hamburg. The result is an insider’s archive of Hamburg’s subculture: The Retro Video Club.
I first met Marq last year at Gagarin Records’ 15th birthday celebration in the club Westwerk, several weeks after he began his project, discovered that he had taped one of the concerts I’d already seen, a set by Holger Hiller, founding member of the German new wave art band Palais Schaumburg (1980-84). The concert at Golden Pudel Club had multiple layers of charm. Holger Hiller practically grew up in Pudel Club, he told the audience, and for this concert his son had flown in from London to support him on drums. When Marq told me he had prepared a small, handmade, numbered, DVD edition of the evening, with original artwork, it sounded too good to be true.
Since then our paths have crossed at numerous other events and I have became a regular subscriber of the DVD edition. The discs are wonderful memories of the events, but more importantly, many years from now these recordings will represent an important historical document of avant garde culture in Hamburg.
Marq’s art is subtle. It does not overwhelm with visual effects but rather presents the performances in a way that comments and accentuates the live experience. In the case of Mary Ocher’s concert at Pudel Club, Marq demonstrated the compelling presence of the artist by relying mostly on close-in shots during the performance. The mix of Felix Kubin’s set at Westwork on the other hand, using three cameras, supported the psycho-surreal tone of the music. In general the visual dynamic is always there, the camera(s) following the action with intrigued curiosity, drawing the viewer along on a fascinating visual and audio journey.
The selection of musicians in the Retro Video Club represents a cross section of important countercultural acts in Europe today including Adi Gelbart, Eli Gras, Felix Kubin, Holger Hiller, Mitch & Mitch, Peter Um, Tellavision, also Mary Ocher and Schnipo Schranke, captured while still under the status of well kept secrets. A pearl of the collection, and according to Marq, the most requested so far, is the reunion of Palais Schaumburg at HFBK’s 100th birthday celebration. My two favorite concerts of the collection are “L.A. Sued” and “Frau Kraushaar”.
“L.A. Sued” (German for L.A. South) is a collaboration that defies imagination. It includes Ray Buckmiller “Fred & Luna,” who over the years has built up an impressive repertoire of unpublished electronic compositions, the enigmatic “Putzmiester,” who in the early ’80s worked with Brian Eno and engineered the sound of bands like the B52’s, then lived off the grid for many years, and veteran musician Chris Cacavas, one of the founding members of Green on Red, who settled in Germany about twelve years ago. The music they produced that evening at Hafenbahnhof was transcendental. Ray playing as if in a trance, Chris in determined concentration and Putzmiester doggedly bending the strings. They were the three spirits of music. Marq’s cut of the concert alluded to this spirituality by superimposing different camera angles, also a symbolic statement that the music was more than the sum of all its parts. This concert is definitely one of the highlights.
The visual masterpiece is the concert of Frau Kraushaar and the Hairy Girls at Golem, April 10, 2014. Marq himself labels it “the most radical look of all films made till now.” The music is sublime, a concert of Frau Kraushaar’s album on Rough Trade “The Power of Appropriation” in which she interpreted forgotten folk songs from around Europe, sung in eight different languages. Marq’s handling of the recording, probably due as much to the low light situation at Golem as anything else, is endlessly intriguing. Combined with the timeless musical interpretations − guitar (Sasha Demand), stand-up bass (Andrew Krell) and chorus of sirens (The Hairy Girls), the strong personality of Frau Kraushaar announcing the songs, and the near black and white appearance, it feels like an experimental television broadcast out of another dimension, Frau Kraushaar as an alternate Carmen Miranda appearing with her band at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, but of another time. At one point Frau Kraushaar alludes to the political situation in Ukraine, adding the feeling of a concert taking place under the sceptre of serious political threats. The video reminded me of sitting in front of an early 1960s’ floor model Zenith TV watching out-of-town broadcasts, but that’s as close a comparison as I can come up with.
On September 8th at Westwerk, Marq introduced the Retro Video Club project to the world, along with a concert by post noise band LXMP from Poland and a showing of Felix Kubin’s concert from last year’s Gagarin Records birthday celebration. A Website is in preparation and Marq is currently searching for a label to officially issue the series. Independent of that, more releases are on the way, including a documentary of Tellavision filmed with four cameras. Marq granted me a sneak preview, and it is going to be incredible. Ernie Kovacs would be proud.
The collection so far:
- Holger Hiller @ Golden Pudel Club (21.9.2013)
- Palais Schaumburg @ HBFK (11.10.2013)
- Gagarin Records 10th Anniversary party @ Westwerk, 16.11.2013 (Peter Um / Adi Gelbart / Felix Kubin). Exerpts and promos:
- Felix Kubin with Mitch & Mitch @ Uebel und Gefaehrlich (3.12.2013)
- Schnipo Schranke @ Golden Pudel Club (29.1.2014). Full concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soAKOwyDZ6w
- Mary Ocher @ Golden Pudel Club (29.1.2014). Full concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGgQeHb6-Ns
- Frau Kraushaar and the Hairy Girls @ Golem (10.4.2014). Concert excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4J8MFOA2B0
- L.A. Sued @ Hafenbahnhof (27.4.2014). Full concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwypACIUarc
- Eli Gras @ Kunstverein (10.5.2014)
- Tellavision @ MS Dockville (9.8.2014) Bonus Feature: http://www.bostonhassle.com/2014/10/17/fresh-vid-tellavision-betony-world-premiere/
About the author:
Fred Roberts is a contributing editor and music editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us. Photos by Fred Roberts.
October 31, 2014 2 Comments
Grégory Sugnaux :
A germ of doubt into “classical” sculpture
By Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret
Waves, webbing, truncated shapes : Gregory Sugnaux bends and manipulates the volumes – thicknesses and blocks – and disrupts boundaries between outside and inside. Thus the images are never simple or obvious. Corners bring to mind the torn canvases of Lucio Fontana. Sugnaux, with trapezoidal or other shapes, clearly enjoys betraying moderns values by introducing an element of doubt.
Something always upsets the principles of totality end homogeneity.
The artist has developed his thinking through close contact with artists such Daniela Droz, a precursor of relational aesthetics. Gergory Sugnaux likes to undertake partnerships that challenge sculpture’s symbolic authority. The swiss artist uses variations “on the motif” by making openings. With “support-/surface” Vialat invented the disappearance of the frame and provoked crisis in the apprehension of the material delimitations of painting. This stratagem transposed to the scale of a sculpture kills the question of proportion by the modification of constructive and symbolic hierarchies. Plasticity takes over giving the opus a new identity. The critical mission is what drives his work.
That’s why his sculpture thinking is based on a dialectical principle closely linking ethical and aesthetic orientations in a quest for a human equilibrium, a reality-based hypothesis renewed and further differentiated with each new project that creates poetry of reflection.
About the author:
Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret contributes the On Location/France column to Ragazine. You can read more about him in About Us.
October 31, 2014 Comments Off on On Location/France
“Mary Ross – Video Artist”
Interview with Eric Ross
The late MARY ROSS was a fine art photographer and visual artist. In 1975, she began using video and computers to produce still images on film, one of the first fine art photographers to do so. Her images provide some of the earliest examples of the convergence of photography, video and computer technology. Recognized as a pioneer of digital photography, her photographs and video art have been featured in hundreds of multimedia performances she has produced in collaboration with composer/performer Eric Ross. She exhibited extensively at galleries and museums in the United States, Europe, Israel and Japan. Her photographs are in private collections and in the permanent collections of the Kunsthaus, Zurich; International Polaroid Collection; Herbert Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University; King’s Library, Copenhagen; Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; and the Lincoln Center Library Dance Collection. Her archive is at the Rose Goldsen archive for New Media Art at Cornell University and at LIMA in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
ERIC ROSS, musician/composer. Ross has presented concerts of his music at Lincoln Center (NYC), Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.), Disney Redcat Center (LA), Newport Jazz, and Berlin, Montreux and North Sea Jazz Festivals, among many others worldwide. He performs on guitar, keyboards and is a Master of the Theremin, one of the earliest electronic instruments. The New York Times calls his music “a unique blend of classical, jazz, serial and avant-garde.” He began playing the Theremin in 1975, and has performed on radio, film and TV. Since 1976, with his wife Mary Ross, he has presented multimedia performances with video, music and dance. Recent projects include an Ultimedia Concept program at UNESCO World Heritage sites including the Guggenheim-Bilbao Museum, Spain; Residenz Palace, Wurzburg; Bauhaus- Dessau, Germany; and Casada Musica, Portugal. He was a friend of Theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore, and electronics pioneer Robert Moog. In 1991, he met and played for the inventor of the Theremin, Professor Lev Termen.
Q) How did your multimedia Pieces develop?
A) Mary and I started working together in the 1970s. In 1976, we first used live and pre-recorded video in my Songs for Synthesized Soprano (Op. 19). There was immediate synergistic energy to our combined work. Mary wrote, “In 1977, I began to use video in live multimedia performances in collaboration with my husband, composer/performer Eric Ross. At first I used live video cameras in closed circuit installations during performances of his original electronic and acoustic music compositions. Two or three video cameras were mounted on tripods and focused on him as he performed, inside the piano, and I manipulated video camera imagery with a glass prism. The results were displayed on two color TV monitors which faced the audience. Since then, I have produced pre-recorded videotapes and now DVDs which are designed, composed and edited to his music. These tapes, with accompanying video stills and digital images, have been displayed and projected as he performed concerts of his music worldwide. I wanted to create a parallel in the music to the video which would reflect and comment upon the action in different, distant and often remote ways. I like to set up contrasts with the music and images on the screen – fast when slow, bright when dark, dense when sparse – to create unexpected relationships and meanings. Eric’s music has led me deeper into this non-literal, non-narrative form. Musically there are specific themes for some parts and other sections open to improvisation. In performance, the music and the emotional relationship to the video, which is fixed, is ever-changing depending upon time, place and mood.”
By the 1980s, we were performing our pieces in major venues in the US and Europe. We worked with the space and equipment situations available. We performed in big rooms like the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Berlin, Montreux and Pori Jazz Festivals as well as smaller, more intimate rooms like the mirrored ICC in Belgium, the Munch Museum in Oslo and loft spaces in NYC.
Mary’s work evolved steadily. She was a darkroom printer in black-and-white and color film, and in other media including gum bichromate, silkscreen, and Polaroid. She saw video processing as an extension of the technical possibilities of print-making, or an “electronic darkroom.” She included slide dissolves and video during this period. She said, “The video synthesizer functioned as a type of electronic darkroom. My own slides, negatives, prints, movie film and videotapes provided source material.” At a certain point, technique and aesthetic merged and became intuitive.
In interviews we were asked, “Which came first: the music or the video?” Usually, we would work simultaneously and at a certain point of progress, would come together for editing sessions. From that point on, we would stay in close collaboration. Mary preferred to edit to my music – I would give her track to edit to, and then I would orchestrate the final versions for “mixdown.” Other times she would work alone on a piece until it was nearly complete and then I would compose music to it. We were open to different approaches and each piece shaped up differently. Our works were never experimental – Mary and I knew exactly what we were after in each piece and worked hard to get it right.
MARY ROSS V10N5
Mary Ross photo gallery. Goes with Eric Ross Interview on Mary Ross.
Q) Were there artists she was influenced by?
A) Mary knew the great European and American painters, the classic black-and-white photographers and all kinds of visual references. She was commissioned by universities to photograph art galleries and museums across the USA and EU. Thus, she was familiar with the works of the major artists as well as many other painters, graphic and visual artists, photographers, sculptors, etc. She had a “photographic memory” regarding images. She never forgot a picture and could recall names, places and details of photos or prints she had seen from decades before. Joseph Buemi, a classic black-and-white photographer, gave her occasional help and some darkroom tips and the two remained good friends despite their work being very different. She kept in contact with a network of video and film makers and was aware of work and tech developments in her field. She was an avid reader, writer and prose editor. All of these things formed background to her own work. She never wanted to be copy artist, a clone or from the “scuola de” style artist. She always sought her own identity and vision in art.
Q) What were the themes of her work?
A) The major themes that Mary worked on all her life included: People Real and Abstract; Dance; Self-Portraits; and Imaginary Landscapes. She received a National Endowment for the Arts Grant for her work with dancers. She was very aware of “negative space,” the spaces between things. Most of her images fit into these categories, although she would take a photo of any subject if it pleased her.
Q) Did she storyboard her videos?
A) Almost never. She improvised in the camera, in the studio, and in her editing, mixing and finished work. She knew what she was after, recognized what she actually had, and went with the work where it took her. Because of her great visual memory, she could find and combine edits from materials that were perhaps years or miles apart. She could work on different sections, or from the inside out, to shape the materials. It was a process as well as a product. Mary knew what she wanted in the final print. I don’t think anyone else could have predicted from the source material, or even mid-stream, how the final images would look.
Q) What was her working method?
A) Mary was constantly shooting, editing, evaluating, filing, re-evaluating and re-editing. She shot a lot of film and later digital images, but she was often a one-shot picture-taker. Even her video shots were mostly single-takes. Editing was her forte. She edited herself – always selecting, refining and mixing. Sometimes she liked to let the computer make random mixes, putting together images like musicians “jamming,” and then remix that. Her final edits were always carefully chosen. Mary seldom took the first version of a shot. If she liked something, she would keep working it, sometimes over the course of years, changing things minutely or entirely – adding, subtracting, changing in different media, etc. She liked to work on many projects at the same time and this helped to “cross-pollinate” her ideas.
Q) What were your last collaborations?
A) Mary and I created dozen or so works for video and music. By our last pieces, the Blvd Reconstructie (Op. 54) and Rimn Vornl (Op. 37, 2011 Edition), she had a real sense of the architecture of her time-based art on the micro, middle, and macro levels. She used her own autobiographic materials as a girl, a woman, a wife, a mother, a cancer patient and an artist, with concert footage, travel, dance, human abstractions, family, friends, black-and-white stills, Cibachrome color prints, super 8mm films, gum bichromate prints, silkscreens, Polaroids, watercolors, distressed images, images with text, hand-drawn and hand-colored prints – everything relevant to her life – all in the mix. Ideas that she had worked on during her entire career came together and were interwoven in these last pieces.
Q) How do you see Mary’s artistic development?
A) I think all of the elements of her vision were present early on. She refined her vision by focusing in on the ideas that she loved and that would convey her artistic objectives. She acquired technical mastery over her tools as well, and these tools (home computers, video cameras, etc.) became simpler and more easily accessible over time. In the early years this was not always the case, but she had always “worked with what she had,” or as she might say, “fought with what she had.” Mary had periods of time that were real growth spurts and others that seemed fallow where she did many different things but were in fact “in developmental” stages ready for the next artistic endeavor. She stayed true to her art and her last works were a combination of her ideas with many layers of energy going on, both simplifying and gaining in complexity.
Q) Why do you think her is work important?
A) Mary had an aptitude for getting a great shot or sequence of shots that spoke to the viewer on different levels of interpretation. She said, “The images create a narrative that can be supplied by the viewer’s imagination.” Her mixing of imagery was precise, yet free, strong and beautiful. Her vision was unique from a woman’s point of view without being self-consciously so. Her sense of composition and drama within a shot was enhanced by an expressionist palette, which makes her images even more striking. There is a timeless quality about her work. Some figures in her shots seem to be floating or in suspended animation. Her work was never totally “abstract.” She said, “The human form is a recurring motif…along with many images of dance. Though often abstracted, my photographs and videos usually contain recognizable elements. In recent work, I continue to explore abstract renditions of the human form in imaginary landscapes.”
In some of her pieces, there is a calmness and quiet of infinite spaces, where time seems suspended and there is an air of tranquility. In others, she deliberately introduced chaos, noise, glitches and other random elements to create a sense of real and unreal; there is movement, the action is in flux, and she went for the vital significant energy of the moment. She liked to capture energy, mood, setting, characters, time and place. She was not fascinated by technology for its own sake – she was interested in the human aspects of art and art-making.
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c.MMXIV. Tyava Music. BMI. Used with permission.
Eric and Mary Ross Ultimedia Concert
$12 general/$10 students & seniors
Advance tickets available at: CornellCinemaTickets.com
Friday, September 12th at 7:00pm
A special electronic music performance with composer and master thereminist Eric Ross and his Avant Ensemble, including Trevor Pinch (Moog Synths), Peter Rothbart (EWI), John Snyder (theremin, digeridoo, waterphone), and Joseph Perkins (bass). The evening will feature music on the theremin, as well as Analog and digital synths, guitars, percussion and electronic wind instruments, and will be accompanied visually with work by the late video/computer artist Mary Ross, whose work will be deposited in Cornell’s Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art. The event is cosponsored with the Cornell Council for the Arts, the Rose Goldsen Lecture Series and the History Center of Tompkins County.
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August 29, 2014 Comments Off on Mary Ross/Video Artist
Icon for an Unknown Religion | Oil on Canvas | 39″ x 33″ | 1999
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But Not Sublime
with Mike Foldes
If to describe Hawk Alfredson’s paintings as dreamlike goes without saying, why did I bother? Because they’re his dreams, not yours. To those of us simultaneously inside and outside this Swedish-American painter’s world, the images reach far and wide, as far back as Scandinavian and European legend, as far forward as tomorrow when an understanding and appreciation of his craft and skill blend seamlessly with the work itself. Easily recognizable are the armored knights and stone castles, but why then mix that into a visual cacaphony occasionally interrupted by the cold calm of river stones and embellished vortices. These images derive from a wide-ranging portfolio of influences the artist says often come to him at the threshhold of wakefulness. It is this “awakening” we are fortunate to observe in Alfredson’s art.
Alfredson was born in Orebro, Sweden in 1960. He arrived to New York City in 1995. From 2001 to 2010, he and his wife, photographer Mia Hanson, were residents of the Hotel Chelsea, where his work was commonly seen in staircases and hallways. He was interviewed by Abel Ferrara in “Chelsea On The Rocks”, and many of those paintings can be seen throughout the film. Hawk and Mia moved to Washington Heights; the hotel closed in 2012. Neither of them has a studio at the moment; Hawk paints in a small area on the floor in the apartment, and Mia works where the jobs take her. Each has numerous commercial pieces to his/her credit, including book and album covers, magazine covers and advertising.
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Ragazine: What was your work like as a child, and how long did it take for you to actually develop drawing skills?
Hawk Alfredson: I just returned from Sweden two months ago and in my mother’s attic I found an old suitcase filled with childhood & teenage drawings. Early on, I remember it was in school at about age six or seven years when I realized that I was more advanced at drawing than the other kids my age and I really enjoyed doing it. Every year in school thereafter the teachers would pin my work up on the wall and the other children would crowd around to look at my work. Relating to this somehow, I’ve believed in reincarnation since I was 16, and feel today that I must have been an artist in one or several of my life-times. I guess it took a couple hundred years or many more to develop my skills, but I finally believe that I have become in this life the artist that I was always striving to be.
Q) Did you receive a lot of encouragement from your family? Were they interested in your art, or did they direct to other pursuits?
A) My father was a hobby painter and my mother and I spent a lot of time drawing and painting watercolors together when I was very young. When I was around the age of six, I vaguely remember watching a documentary about artists and realized then that this was to be my path…my calling. When I was seven or eight years old I announced to my parents that I wanted to be an artist after previously wanting to be an archaeologist. It was at this time that I finished my first oil painting, a black & white whale jumping out of the ocean. My father helped guide me through this. I remember thinking how much more difficult it was to paint well than it was to draw. It was a bit intimidating so I went back to drawing on my own for a couple years. Throughout school my teachers would often encourage my artistic skills to the point that it became natural for me to expect that I would move north to Stockholm to attend art school after finishing my compulsory education. And so this is what I did when I was 16. I left my small village in the south of Sweden and never returned.
Tight Antic II | Oil on Canvas | 59″ x 79″ | 1992-2007
Q) Your paintings remind me of Albrecht Dürer; perhaps that’s the Old World influence some reviewers have spoken about in your work. Was that an evolutionary or conscious process to arrive at that point?
A) I was never interested in artists who basically just throw some paint on a canvas & then smear it out with a broom or something. I’m always drawn to painters that work with a skillful technique. Because of this, very few contemporary artists really affect me. Visiting the great classical museums of the world, you come across great older works that share a commonality: technique. However, sometimes a painter might have “it” but they might fall short on technique. Technique in general isn’t everything. Many times the most important quality an artist must have is a life experience that comes across lucidly upon the canvas. I enjoy being surprised by work like this even more. As Dali once said, “An artist must have hands that are guided by an angel,” or words to that effect.
Q) With which of the classical surrealists did you or do you most closely identify?
A) Back when I was in art school in Stockholm in the late ’70s, it was Dali and Magritte. Today, Magritte doesn’t do much for me anymore, but Dali’s strongest work (from the ‘50s and ‘60s) is still fascinating on many levels.
While in art school I traveled all throughout Europe. And in my early 20s I had a very profound experience in Paris when I saw a Giacometti painting. It totally mesmerized me, and put me in a ghostly, dreamlike hypnotic state of mind where time and space disappeared. No other painter has ever managed to do this to me. What is absolutely unbelievable to me is that he is better known for his sculptures.
V10N5 Hawk Alfredson
Hawk Alfredson Paintings, V10N5
Q) How much a part does music play in the formulation of your work?
A) Music of all kinds has always influenced me. If I hadn’t become an artist, I probably would have found my way creating weird, uncategorizable music. The past years I don’t listen to music very often while I paint. I’ve found it to be too distracting, especially if there’s lyrics. However, if I do listen, it’s usually ambient music. The painting process needs total focus. Sometimes I get into a deep space within and nothing is of a distraction. It takes a good run of a couple days of intense work to get there, though. Generally, I’ve noticed the surrounding cacophonous noises of NYC are enough of a distraction and take the place of music. Paintings are sensitive objects. I believe they act as mystical recording devices soaking up the surrounding energy and music of their environment. If anyone can hear music seeping through my paintings, which some have said they can, then it’s most likely from all the sound energy involved in the painting process.
Q: I would imagine any artist coming to NY trying to make it in this scene would have great dreams, and unfortunately not everyone can make a living at it…. Who is your dealer now, and what would you say to someone just coming to New York who’s looking to make that kind of connection?
A: This question is actually quite complex. Basically, things have changed dramatically in NYC since I first got here in 1995. For instance, back then I had a show going on every day of the year for the first two years I was here. I would hop from one show opportunity to the next. The underground art scene was vital and still alive in the 90’s, especially in the East Village. And SoHo was of course going strong with established galleries. The neighborhood wasn’t overrun with fashion boutiques and aggressively competitive rents. These days, it seems artists have no place in a city that is desperate to make money simply to feed a machine. It’s an entirely different situation for the young artist coming to NYC now. For success, the young artist depends on an art establishment that is open to fresh ideas and is capable of taking a chance on an unproven talent. This is not the NYC we have post 9/11.
Q: Who are your current dealers?
A: I have kept an affiliation with my private art dealer in Stockholm since 1994. His name is Jan Linder. Here in the states, I’m represented by Limner Gallery in Hudson, New York. I also work closely with a couple other private art dealers here in New York City.
Q: How did you meet your wife, Mia?
A: We met at a gallery in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in 1997. I was having a solo show there and she walked in one day when I wasn’t around and took a good look at all the paintings hanging from floor to ceiling. She was immediately hooked and tracked me down. A couple years later we were living together in Stockholm. A Swedish journalist wrote about our meeting: “It was love before first sight. Mia felt Hawk’s presence, his language, yes his entire being just through studying the detailed paintings.”
Q: Your N.Y. history includes a long stint living at the Chelsea Hotel. In an artistic sense, I can only imagine it was a creatively communal experience. While you grew and prospered there, would you agree, “It’s not for everyone”?
A: Nine years at the Hotel is very difficult to put into a nutshell. We had insane neighbors sometimes. One actually accused me of painting her breasts when I had never even seen her naked… ever! I had a couple of my “Circling” paintings hanging in the 4th floor corridor where we both lived and she complained to the management that I was painting her breasts. The “Circling” paintings I had started long before I ever met her and honestly, I don’t even associate them with any part of the human form at all. For all of those nine years I had paintings hanging in the staircase, as well. Also in the lobby and in a few V.I.P. rooms. There were over 50 paintings of mine displayed in the Hotel. It was an amazing and very unique situation. The owner of the Hotel, Stanley Bard, encouraged me to hang as many paintings as I wished throughout the Hotel. And so I did. Unexpectedly, I noticed it wasn’t too long after I started hanging my oil paintings in the open spaces in the staircase that other resident artists did so, as well. There were some few paintings throughout the 10 floors of the staircase before Mia and I moved in – this was in 2001 – but it was sparse and uninspiring to be honest.
Q: Do you have any shows coming up?
A: I have work showing at Minerva Gallery, however outside of this I’m pretty open right now. I’m interested to hear from anyone who has an offer!
Q: Anything you would like to tell our readers that you always hoped someone would ask about but never did?
A: Verbal communication is not something I usually put a lot of effort into when it comes to my own artistic process. You will never see me giving a lecture or teaching a class on the subject of art. It’s difficult to talk about the intuitive artistic process so I’m glad I haven’t needed to delve into that too deeply here. To be honest, the more time advances, the more reticent I feel toward verbalizing my art. What I can say about my artistic process is that I am always hunting for the mysterious while I paint. When I begin a painting I have no definitive destination. Rather, while I work I encourage subliminal ideas and cosmic forces to collaborate with the process. In any case, I’d like to circle back to one of my favorite quotes from any artist- it’s from Jean Cocteau: “An artist cannot speak about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture.”
For more images, see www.hawkalfredson.com, and facebook:
To purchase a copy of Alfredson’s book, click on this link:
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About the interviewer:
Michael Foldes is founder and managing editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.
This interview was conducted via email between February and May 2014.
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August 29, 2014 1 Comment
Ida & Disa, photo by Mia Hanson
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Hotel Chelsea Girl
Artful existence lets the light shine in
with Mike Foldes
Mia Hanson is one of those photographers who seems to sense the aura that surrounds her subjects, and then seeks to capture it with her camera. While many of her images are portraits, what separates her from so many portrait photographers is her ability to go beyond the mechanics of finding a location, setting up lights and filters, and pushing the shutter release. It’s evident she’s looking for more and finding it. No “same old, same old” there. A California native who grew up taking the daily dose of sunshine for granted and then living in the narrow canyons and uncertain weather of New York, Hanson’s experienced eye readily goes to light and shadow – principally light, as seen in the connectedness of Ida and Disa, the pale fluidity of “Victorian Kiss,” and even the sky seen through a matrix of bare limbs.
Hanson’s credits include a number of album, magazine, and book covers, as well as extensive work in fashion photography and commissioned portraiture. Some of her experiences living in the illustrious Hotel Chelsea are documented in an interview that took place in 2006, three years before the hotel closed. Hanson lives with her artist husband Hawk Alfredson, whom she met in 1997. They live in Washington Heights, New York City. An interview with Alfredson, and a gallery of his paintings, appears here:
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Ragazine: To begin with, how did you happen to move into the Hotel Chelsea?
Mia Hanson: Hawk and I met in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in 1997- four years before we moved into the Hotel. We lived in Sweden two years after we met and decided to come back to NYC in 2001 since we soon missed the charged energy of the city. For our homecoming week, we decided to try out being Hotel Chelsea guests since we hadn’t nailed down an apartment of our own yet. It took about a day for me to realize that I didn’t want to live anywhere else in NYC but the Hotel.
Everyone we knew just assumed this wasn’t possible since we had little money and knew not a soul in the building. But I grew attached to the place quickly and knew the Hotel wanted us there. It’s a sentient building. Everyone who lives there will agree with this. If the building doesn’t like you, you will be driven mad. After the firm decision that the Hotel would be our new home, it was obvious that the next step would be to talk to owner and operations manager Stanley Bard. “Talk to Stanley about it”- that was the catch-all phrase for everything Hotel Chelsea. One day we made an appointment to show Stanley our respective art portfolios and he then immediately showed us a couple rooms from which we chose #421- located on the north-facing side, with the balconies out front. Then, we may have spoken briefly about monthly rent…and before we knew it we had the keys and were hanging up Hawk’s paintings sporadically on all 10 floors wherever there was open wall space to be found!
© 2003 Barbra Walker
Hawk & Mia, Room 421, Hotel Chelsea
Q: What was it like when you first moved in?
A: Day One kind of felt like all the Hotel days to me which was generally friendly, with an overall upbeat busy energy to the place, bordering on the chaotic at times. Even if there was a Hotel resident on the 9th floor and you lived on the 4th…they were still your neighbor in every regard. We got to closely know so many of the people who lived there and we still keep in touch with many. Everyone had a unique and diverse story. Film composers, fashion photographers, musicians, even a trans-gender cabaret performer, a U.N. associate diplomat and a kabuki knife-wielding expressionist painter!
Mia Hanson Photography, V10 N5
All images copyright Mia Hanson. Used with permission.
Q: How did the Hotel affect your photographic work?
A: There were two scenic aspects of the Hotel that I really liked to work with. The Hotel’s top floor skylight and the rooftop private garden that belonged to an eccentric cabaret raconteur for many years. The sun energizes me creatively and I like to work with it. While growing up in California, I took varying degrees of sunlight for granted most times and created photo shoots that utilized theatrical lighting both indoors and out as a way of separating myself from the sun-loving culture. It didn’t take long to realize that my most poetic images were photographed outside, in nature, utilizing sun and shadow. While at the Hotel I realized that the sun is my best creative partner. My photographs really started to feel more sensual and personal because of this, I believe.
Terezka, Hotel Chelsea rooftop, 2004, photo by Mia Hanson
Q: What do you look for through the lens when setting up a portrait?
A: I try to find the soul of the person in front of me. I try to find the essence of what makes them unique.
Q: Do you approach different people in different ways during a shoot?
A: Yes, every person requires a different approach. Not only are they entering my visual world but I am being allowed to enter theirs as well. Usually, this requires delicacy. Some I approach carefully if I know they are usually reticent with exposing themselves intimately either physically or emotionally. Others I can play with freely and guide them into uncomfortable positions. It all depends on what a person might be looking for while being photographed. The person in front of the camera has needs and goals for the shoot, too.
Q: What has been Hawk’s influence on you as a person and photographer? Can you imagine how your life and career would have evolved if you had not met?
A: We have been together now for 17 years and he has definitely helped to develop and sharpen my creative eye in many ways. We like to play a game of observation sometimes. He will ask me to study a newly finished canvas. Then a day later he will put a singular dot of paint somewhere unexpected and I must find where he placed it. (Hawk comments: She almost always find it, or if I change the colour in an area, or change the shape of something, even if it’s very subtle… she’ll usually finds it.)
Q: If you were able to work with any photographer living or dead, who would it be, and why?
A: First I would take the living. French fine-art photographer Sarah Moon, for example, or Italian Paolo Roversi. I feel these two photographers greatly exemplify the achievement of the elegant, mysterious and the sublime when photographing a person. They always maintain a fierce standard of authenticity while continuing to mystify their audience in beautiful ways.
To go back in time and visit the era of Weimar Germany through the lense of Baron Adolph De Meyer would be unforgettable. Sarah Moon has looked closely at De Meyers work, I believe.
The iconographic ideal of the feminine woman is represented by De Meyer and Moon with great ethereal glamour. Sarah Moon was a fashion model in the ’60s and became an influential fashion photographer by the mid-’70s. She’s known for bringing the “gamine-look” (of the turn-of-the-century) back into style with the pale-faced make-up, shadowy eyes and red doll-like lips. De Meyer was a homosexual man living and working in Germany at a time when being gay was a death-sentence for many; invalids and homosexuals were targeted for death camps in the ’30s along with people of of Jewish descent. I think both Moon and De Meyer are/were searching for their idealized feminine self with every photograph taken.
Q: The feminine form is well represented in your work…?
A: Most likely this can be attributed to the former situation. A search for the idealized feminine self. Now that I am in my mid-40’s, that search has narrowed to simply include a poetic representation of the idealized feminine self. I’m not searching for the mysteries of femininity any longer. There’s a wider angle to the “Unknown” as we mature. Can any camera capture this? That is a realm worth exploring.
Q: What camera equipment do you shoot with?
A: For my personal work, I shoot film. The cameras I have that accept film are a Mamiya (twin lense) that was purchased in Sweden by Hawk’s father in the 1950s. Also, I like working with the lenseless Holga camera – for it’s uncomplicated poetic nature.
The camera is just the groundwork of a photograph. The photographer from there must establish a sense of his or her own presence in the choice of diffusion lenses or diffusion materials as well as printing techniques.
Q: What is the best professional advice you have ever received as a photographer?
A: The best piece of advice took me nearly 20 years to assimilate and it came from a prominent gallery owner in Los Angeles, who only now I recognize as a wise man. The advice was to understand myself as a photographer who methodically works for the long-term to develop meaningful work. At the time I was 25 years old and had moved to NYC from San Francisco to continue my photographic studies while simultaneously landing commercial work. I took his words to be cryptic and unhelpful. But in retrospect, I am living the life he told me I would have. And it’s not a bad life at all. I set my own pace. I follow my own path.
Hawk Alfredson’s page can be seen here:
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About the interviewer:
Michael Foldes is founder and managing editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.
This interview was conducted via email between February and July 2014.
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August 29, 2014 Comments Off on Mia Hanson, Photographer/Interview
Surprised in a Paris Galley | Paris, France | 2000
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Life’s Work Not Over Yet
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A quick look at Stephen Verona’s website and you soon find out you’re standing on the front porch of an archival history of 20th Century art, film, video, advertising, and more. From his groundbreaking film “Lords of Flatbush”, which propelled Verona to heights seen by few filmmakers, to his tenure as one of Madison Avenue’s advertising “Mad Men,” to an invitation to the Vatican in 2009 for Pope Benedict’s Address to Artists held in the Sistine Chapel, Verona not only made his mark, but has lived to see it recognized and appreciated. Verona’s creative drive remains alive and well even today, as he works to find funding for a documentary film that contrasts the poor, agrarian China he visited and photographed in 1980 with the thriving world class industrial and commercial setting of 2014.
We trust you’ll find his work here and on other websites to be worth investigating, and representative of the effort and attention to the human condition you can expect to see when MAO to NOW finally comes to a theater near you.
Stephen Verona / Photography
Stephen Verona / Paintings
All images copyright Stephen Verona. Used with permission.
A brief exchange with Stephen Verona
with Mike Foldes
Q) Who would you like to have worked with in film or on stage, but never had the chance to do so?
A) Then Marlon Brando, now Meryl Streep.
Q) What painter’s work do you like most, or an artist/teacher has influenced your art the most?
A) Picasso, Warhol, Rembrandt – How’s that for eclectic.
Q) Which of the arts do you think can best address politics?
A) Can? I think film has the potential, but hasn’t made a major statement because the Studios are still part of the giant complex that frowns on individual voices. That would leave posters as they seem to always creep into our lives and I believe shed some influence on our thinking. I don’t think of painting when I think of political statements. Although Picasso’s “Guernica” was a monumental exception. Even if that was more War than Politics.
Q) What is the next major project for Stephen Verona?
A) In 1980 I was in China to prepare for a movie that sadly never happened. I wish to return to photograph and video the changes for a traveling exhibit I now title: “MAO to NOW.” I wish to produce a coffee table picture book as well as a photo exhibit and video.
Q) What’s your favorite restaurant in LA?
A) As a foodie, that’s more difficult. We love Chinois on Main, but Mr. Chows in Beverly Hills is probably our favorite. We eat there regularly and I have since they opened in London and then New York and Beverly Hills. It’s hard to find a place in three cities that you know will always satisfy your taste buds. I used to have my table at the old Ma Maison where Wolfgang Puck started before Spago. I even painted the image for their menu as did David Hockney and Francois Gilot (Picasso’s Mistress). Good company.
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GOSSIP AT THE BEAUTY SHOP | 40” X 40” | 1980
Up Next: “MAO to NOW”
“In 1980 I went to China to work on what was to be the first American/Chinese Co-Production of a motion picture since WWII. Sadly the film was never made. The good news was that I was able take lots of photos. When I returned home I spent the next year painting, drawing and printing the photos. What I wish to do now is to return and capture those extraordinary changes. Then to produce a traveling exhibit as well as a Video and coffee table photographic book.”
— Stephen Verona
Find out more about Verona’s project: http://youtu.be/KMizZLblNYw
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About the interviewer:
Michael Foldes is founder and managing editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.
The preceding miniview was conducted via email in July 2014.
August 29, 2014 Comments Off on STEPHEN VERONA / Photography
At 3 Rue des Saints Pères on the Left Bank, Maman became a renowned art dealer during and after the war. She was heartbroken when she had to sell the gallery in 1946 when we moved to Larchmont, New York.
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PARIS ART GALLERY
At the end of summer 1941, having left us in Brittany under the kind auspices of the Mother Superior and her flock of devoted nuns, my parents continued to live in occupied Paris in du Plessix’s grandiose apartment on the third floor of 6 Rue de Longchamps, facing the quiet sloping street in the front and the busy courtyard in the back.
Maids and cooks would dump their garbage in dark gray bins and take time out to chat, their voices echoing around the walls past the sixth floor up to the clouds. Rubbing their chafed hands on rough cotton aprons, they complained about everything, compared notes about their employers, commiserated about their own families far away in the country, and then went back to their jobs.
Free of children or housekeeping responsibilities since Arthur and Léontine took care of everything, my parents enjoyed a lot less pressure and even some measure of quality of life. While still complicated, provisioning requirements were minimal for just the four of them and so much easier in this quartier. Whatever came on the table satisfied them easily.
Often they rode their bikes over to see Bon Papa at Rue de la Trémoille, where Hortense surpassed herself in turning bland ingredients into delicious concoctions. Balancing leftovers on handlebars, my parents returned home quickly by the small streets before curfew.
Nonetheless, Maman was miserable knowing that to avoid a repeat performance of the terrible winter of 1940, her children had to stay put. Only thirty-seven years old, Maman began to think she should acquire some kind of occupation. Paris was at half-mast yet safe in so many ways that there must be some work she would find fulfilling. She had learned much running the show in Mimizan, surely there was someone, something, where she could apply her savoir faire to some benefit. With many empty days and nights she grew restless, especially as Papa was away on business much of the time. When he was there, she was as impassioned as she had been in the first days of their marriage; the strength of their love was so profound it couldn’t be plumbed or punctured.
On weekends when Paris was somnolent and Papa wasn’t working, they whipped around on bicycles in the deserted city that was practically free of motorized traffic. They loved ferreting through semidark antique shops and art galleries on the Left Bank. Wobbling on their bikes around the small cobbled streets of the old quartiers one Saturday, they stumbled on a sign A Vendre (For Sale) posted discreetly in the bottom corner of the window of a small gallery. They stopped and, hands cupped on the window to shield the glare, they saw misshapen piles of artworks strewn around a somewhat dilapidated shop. Stepping back, looking up through years of dirt, they saw a dark green sign with gold lettering: Galerie André, 3 Rue des Saints Pères. They looked at each other, entered the gloomy space, and unknowingly changed the course of their lives.
The weary proprietor showed signs of frustration as he described his situation. His story was no different than many others’. His mistress had been in charge, but she had died a few months back. He was leery of hiring anyone new. He still went to a boring day job as a bank clerk on weekdays, so could open only on Saturdays.
Maman started to daydream.
This man confided to my parents that he would gladly sell the gallery and retire if he could only find a buyer. He talked about the stock he had accumulated for the past thirty years. More than three thousand drawings, etchings, prints, and lithographs were asleep in cardboard portfolios, with prices that seemed ridiculously low. There were piles of these resting against the walls, on tables, on the desk, in the back room, haphazardly placed in such a way as to make it impossible to even sell one if he wanted to. In other words, the place was a shambles and needed an entire makeover.
Maman’s excitement grew as they began to look through some of the pictures. There was artwork of every kind, from the worst to the best.
“Who would be interested in this kind of business at a time like this?” he complained.
His question hit her like a lightning bolt. It was her eureka moment, and from that day on she could talk about nothing else. She was convinced that this forlorn art gallery was the perfect remedy to pull her out of her loneliness, and she made it clear to Papa that she would use her own money to acquire it.
The following Saturday morning, on their bikes from Rue de Longchamps to Rue des Saints Pères, through the Trocadéro, along the right bank of the Seine, flying over the Pont des Arts, my parents covered the two miles in record time, fueled by resolution. Breathless and flushed, they sat down with the owner to get more details and to inquire about his terms.
The owner was taken by surprise. He never expected to see that eager young couple again. He never even asked why my parents were interested, or what background in art had led them to want his gallery. Making a fast deal was foremost on his mind. He presented an irresistible bargain with very reasonable terms. He was anxious to retire. He needed only a little capital to help cushion his bachelor life-style, unencumbered by family or children. He wanted 100,000 francs for the business, including the lease transfer, and 50,000 for his stock.
Ever the wary executive, Papa had reservations about the value of the stock, which looked like a mess, even though the asking price was ridiculously low. He rummaged through some of it again and agreed to buy the whole lot at 40 percent off the list price. To his surprise, this turned out to be quite a bit more than the original asking price but, without haggling, he paid the required sum.
Maman was ecstatic. Right in the middle of the war she became the proud owner of an art gallery a few steps from the Seine, on the Left Bank of Paris, which cost her all of 400,000 francs ($4,000 at the time), an inconceivable deal.
Maman couldn’t believe her luck. Her mind veered quickly from somber news of the war and worries about the children, which were always tormenting her, and turned her focus to her gallery. She quickly hired a couple of day workers from the neighborhood and, with an innate sense of creativity, gave the place a modern, clean, and stylish look. Having never signed a check in her life, and with not the slightest notion of accounting, she went headlong into the ownership of a business and, somehow, succeeded brilliantly.
Her first working tool was an eraser. She carefully removed prices marked on works of art and increased them appreciably. Without revealing her new calling, she found out what their current values might be by visiting other galleries. She said that often she didn’t even erase a number but would just add a zero at the end, or even two. She had a genius for switching from etchings and lithographs to paintings and aquarelles, discovering young painters and changing her exhibitions often so she could expect a bigger turnover.
At 10 Avenue de Messine, in the prestigious eighth arrondissement, was a renowned dealer, Louis Carré, who had founded a first-class gallery in 1938. Known for representing and exhibiting modern masters — Gris, Klee, Matisse, Calder, Léger, Delaunay, Kupka, and Picasso — Carré also showed the works of Jean Bazaine, Maurice Estève, Charles Lapicque, and Jacques Villon, lesser known artists at the time. He was considered one of the great Parisian art dealers. Papa knew him well from handling difficult requests for deliveries of special papers.
Just a few months earlier, Carré wanted to print a limited edition of lithographs by Raoul Dufy on rare and hard-to-get art paper that Papa had been able to procure. As a way of thanking him, Carré offered to put Maman in touch with promising painters who did not yet deserve their consecration with an exhibit in his own gallery. She launched a few, while making her own discoveries: Dubuffet, who was to become very famous, Jean Dufy, the brother of Raoul, whose following was growing steadily, and several others. These artists became the beacon that brought fame to the Galerie André before long.
In those days, some Parisians had quite a bit of disposable money but had trouble finding safe ways to spend it. In a time of war, spending on luxuries was highly distasteful and suspect. Artworks and jewelry were considered safe private investments. If you had the means to find food first, often on the black market that was thriving behind the back of the Germans, then you could luxuriate in an oil painting or a diamond bracelet and keep them hidden easily. Maman was an expert at keeping secrets and, being a dealer, had every right to strap a painting to her bicycle to drop it off “somewhere,” no questions asked. Her books showed sales to names like Smith, Brown, and Jones.
In the back of the gallery, beyond the ground floor space open to the public, was a little office leading to a toilet and, beyond, a closed door. A tiny stairwell behind this door led six steps up to a small loft and bath, with only one window on the courtyard, therefore very dark. Maman fixed it up very simply with a desk, a chair, an armchair, a swing-arm lamp for both, a single bed, and, to break up the monotony, a colorful Moroccan rug. Except for the rug, it was just like a monastery room. Her intention was to be able to sleep there should she work too late to ride her bike home after curfew and to save time commuting back and forth when Papa was away.
But this room wasn’t to be her cocoon of safety. One day soon after she opened her doors, a tall, stooped, skinny man walked in with some paintings under his arm. He was dejected, tattered, and looked gaunt and desperate.
“Madame,” he said, “help me. Please…”
Moving him away from the front door toward the back of the gallery, she let him line up his paintings against the wall, while he said, “I will give you these…” His voice quavered and his eyes were alarmed and weary like a frightened animal. Maman was at once repelled and touched by his condition while very attracted to his art.
“And your name is?”
“Non, I don’t have a name anymore. I have no family.” He trailed off.
“Are you hungry?” Maman asked maternally. The haggard young man paused for a moment, then quickly nodded, his head down, looking at the floor.
“Please, sit down,” Maman said softly, pointing to the back office. The young man hesitated, his eyes darting back and forth in fear and suspicion.
He finally lifted his head up and looked at Maman.
“It’s OK. You’re safe here. You can trust me,” she said. The young artist finally followed her back to the office. He winced when Maman turned on the light. She turned it off with a sigh.
“Perhaps it’s best to keep the light off. Eyes are everywhere these days,” Maman said and nodded to the desk chair. He slowly sat down, heaving a sigh of relief as if he’d been standing for years.
“I’ll be right back,” she said, walking to the front of the gallery, drawing the nightshades, and locking the doors. She hesitated, it was still early, someone might question her closing at this time, but then she firmly flipped the sign to read FERMÉ on the street side and glided back to her unexpected guest. She quickly sliced some bread and a small wedge of cheese, adding half a tomato. She walked the small plate back to him.
“It’s not much, but…” she began to say when the young man quickly grabbed it and began to devour the food ravenously, licking it from his soot-crusted fingers.
“Merci, ah, merci Madame,” he repeated, muffled by mouthfuls of bread and cheese. The sight of him so helpless strengthened Maman’s resolve to help him.
She learned he was a Polish Jew on the run from the army and from the Gestapo, a target for raids by German soldiers and French police. She asked again but he wouldn’t give her his name, said it was too dangerous, had lost track of his family. She feared the repercussions that could befall our family if she helped him; she could be shot on the spot if discovered. She knew she should just give him some money for the paintings and let him out in the street. She had relatives who were prisoners of war at that very moment and thought of them. He looked so forlorn and lonely, her mind whirling with apprehensions, but eventually her decision was made though it went against the tide of safety.
All his answers to her questions were no. No food, no room, no money, no relatives, no one. He was truly a fugitive with nothing. She gave him some money for the paintings, which she deemed were quite good, and in an act of folly and faith, she also offered him the studio as a hidden shelter. He moved in with not much more than what he was wearing on his back and slept for hours that first day. She told me much later how his presence elated and scared her to the same degree, like having an illicit affair. But once embarked on saving him, she could never change her mind.
Little by little, her life took on an unusual rhythm of exhilaration and anxiety. Strict rules were set for his safety. She showed him an emergency exit through the courtyard and instructed him, “You must never go out in the street. If you smoke, blow it out the window but keep the shade down so people around the courtyard can’t see you from their windows. Don’t smoke when there are servants in the courtyard, they would notice right away and set off an alarm thinking it might be a fire. If you need something, you must write a note and slip it out under the door. You must never come out unless I knock on the door.” They established a knock-knock code. He spoke good French and that was helpful. He readily agreed to all her conditions; with her he felt safe for the first time in months.
Maman’s exhilaration at saving a life was tremendous, but her anxiety intensified. She was hiding a Jew from both the Germans and her husband, who she knew would harshly reprove her. She snitched some cigarettes from Papa as they were found only on the black market and sold only to men. She brought food to the artist that he would consume cold and return the plate immaculate, as if he had licked off every last crumb. She scoured the occasional church jumble sale for a sweater, a shirt, underwear, a pair of pants, to make him more comfortable.
Thus she fell into an unusual pattern of running the gallery up front, dealing with her artists, new friends, visitors, making sales, going to openings, becoming a successful Parisian art dealer, and, on the darker side, making sure her fugitive was alive, comfortable, entertained with newspapers and magazines, while patiently waiting for deliverance.
This fragile relationship held steady for almost a year, from the fall of 1941 to July 1942, without any mishaps. This was a miracle considering his close quarters, her multitude of activities, and raids for Jews in every corner of the city. No one ever denounced him because no one ever knew of his existence.
While Papa worked hard at the office, he was relieved that Maman thrived at Galerie André, until the day he found her filching cigarettes and she confessed about the perilous arrangement with the painter. He was infuriated about her dangerous position. How she ever got the nerve to hide a Polish Jewish painter escaping from the claws of the Nazis he’d never know. The thought of how she wavered for months before telling him enraged him. Years later, Papa admitted that part of him always knew that Maman had more courage and heart than he would ever know. But then, faced with a fait accompli, he had to accept the poor man’s presence while his concerns about the situation kept him from ever broaching the subject.
Papa simply refused to talk about him, fearing the echo of his voice might carry to the nearest Nazi, who would arrest them. It was impossible to think of the consequences that would have befallen Maman, the family, their children, should she have been caught by a patrol canvassing the streets. Papa would describe the situation later with disdain draped in so much love and pride for Maman’s bravery. He said she had a beauty of spirit and a certain presence of character that he could not transcend while it always seemed to protect her.
Without warning, this precarious balance was shattered one day in July, when the artist was attracted by an advertisement in one of the old newspapers scattered on his floor. Men’s shoes were on sale at a very advantageous price only a few blocks away. The money from selling his paintings was burning in his pocket and cramps were hurting his feet. These shoes had to be his. Exactly in the way I had been drawn to that mushroom bollard, he couldn’t help himself. He stared and stared at those shoes in print and eventually succumbed to their appeal.
Maman had not arrived yet that morning. He broke the rules. He left through the emergency exit and, quickly crossing the courtyard, turned south down the street toward Boulevard St. Germain. His collar turned up, his hat down on his face, he tried to make himself invisible. But transparency is intangible; just like magic, it disappears.
His tall, lanky body was visible to anyone nearby. His luck turned when a French police patrol, always on the lookout for fugitives, stopped him.
“Are your papers in order?” they asked.
He could not show any papers and was arrested. He had gone out just when raids were more intense than usual that July as there was a quota to fill for arresting Jews. Nazis strictly supervised the French police in various districts of Paris, during which more than four thousand stateless and foreign Jews were arrested that month. Even more devastating was the fact that he was reading an old newspaper. Had he had a more current issue, he would have known about the intensified raids and certainly would have stayed in his hideout.
Somehow Maman got word he was being held in the internment camp of Drancy, in a northeastern suburb of Paris. Built by the government in the late 1930s, this camp of dreadful high-rise residential apartment buildings was poetically called “The Silent City.” The Germans had requisitioned it in 1940, thrown out all the residents, mostly poor blue-collar workers, and set it up as a detention center to hold “undesirables” until their deportation. Without Papa’s knowledge, again, Maman took the grave risk of going on her bicycle to bring the artist some care packages— not just once, but twice. Soon he was deported to Auschwitz and was never heard from again.
Maman was lucky and blessed to avoid any kind of retribution from the police. The artist never denounced her and, bit by bit, with gloom in her heart, she erased all traces of his existence, keeping only one of his paintings for herself. On the order of Papa, unimaginably upset at her for placing the safety of a stranger over the family, she followed the trend of all Paris and closed down the gallery to come to Saint-Servan for the month of August.
By September the whole thing had blown over. Keeping his memory in her heart, Maman carried on as if this interlude had never happened. The Galerie André was for her an excellent occupation, a full-time job, a fascinating learning curve, and the center of her life while we children were under safe care elsewhere. With a very low overhead, she brought in an excellent increase in revenue for the household. A year later, at the end of 1943, she was proud to prove to Papa, statements in hand, that her profits had that year surpassed his income.
They sold the gallery after the war for 3.5 million francs to a Madame Ducret, who knew nothing about art and shortly had to let it go to an expert, who soon restored its reputation under the name of Galerie Framont. That storefront has retained its clean-cut prewar appearance that, with an occasional coat of paint, looks exactly as it did when Maman owned it.
About the author:
Hélène Gaillet de Neergaard is a self-taught photographer and artist born in France and raised in Larchmont and New York City. Her passion for photography developed early when she used her babysitting money to purchase her first camera at the age of 14. After successful careers in advertising and public relations, she was able to go freelance and turned to professional photography in her mid-thirties. In a field where she quickly excelled, it didn’t take her long to leap over boundaries in her ability to explore beyond the limits of cameras and films.
Her photographic archives have been acquired by the HILLWOOD ART MUSEUM on the C. W. POST CAMPUS of LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY which exhibited a retrospective of her work September to December 2008. She is also painting in watercolors and acrylics, creates conceptual art pieces and writes books on various subjects. She lives in New York City and Naples, Florida.
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August 29, 2014 Comments Off on I Was A War Child/Helene Gaillet
“East Village” Painting by Raphael Soyer. Poleskie is in the foreground.
MY SIXTIES, Part One
by Stephen Poleskie
I was lying in the chair, her hands in my mouth, when she asked the question. What did I think about my sixties? At least that’s what I thought I heard her say over the gurgling of the water rinsing out my mouth. We broke for air and I hurried to answer her before she began to pick and scrape again.
“I retired from Cornell when I was sixty. . . .” was all I got in before she went back to her task in earnest. Why do dental hygienists always start a conversation and then leave you hanging? “Snz den I kp bsy . . . I rt bks,” was the best I could manage, hoping she would ask me what kind of books I wrote.
“I meant the TV show,” she responded to my garbled response.
“Oh?” I mumbled, disappointed, and then had to listen while she described to me the television series about the 1960s that I had not watched.
As she turned to get something from the table behind her, my mouth momentarily my own, I asked if she had seen the episode about the Kennedy assassination. Yes, she said and asked had I. I told her that I had planned to as I was a bit of a conspiracy theory buff, having read Mark Lane’s “Rush to Judgment” when the book first came out. I remarked that I vividly remembered where I was the day the assassination took place.
“And where was that?” the hygienist asked, seemingly becoming interested, even briefly delaying her attack on my tartar.
“I was living in New York City, in a loft on Jefferson Street,” I began. “At the time I was a poor, struggling artist and couldn’t afford a telephone. I used to go down to the bar on the ground floor of our building to make calls. On that day I walked in to use the phone and found everyone glued to the TV screen.
“’Hey, hippie,’ the bartender yelled to me, at the time I had long hair and a beard. ‘Have ya heard? Someone’s shot da president. . . .’”
“Wow!” the young lady said, shoving her tools back into my mouth.
“n wnre wer u? . . .” I struggled to get out
“Where was I when Kennedy was shot?” she replied, a hint of incredulity in her voice, “I wasn’t even born. Neither was my mom and dad.”
I suddenly felt all of my full seventy-six years.
My “Sixties” actually began in 1959, the year I graduated from Wilkes College, where I had majored in extra-curricular activities. Nevertheless, in the middle of my senior year I had had a one-person exhibition of my paintings at The Everhart Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania. For a young man from a small town across the river from Wilkes-Barre who had only been making art seriously for about three years, this was a big deal. I was sure my destiny was to be an artist. But first I had to experience a number of other jobs, which I must admit I didn’t try very hard at, and in a number of diverse locations.
In my early life, in the order they have occurred, as best as I can remember them, I have been: a stock boy, automobile repair shop assistant, sign painter, shoe salesman, men’s clothing salesman, summer stock actor, State Farm Insurance agent, designer of party favors, screen printer, and high school art teacher.
There were some high points. Working in the auto body shop, I learned to weld and after hours, made a series of steel sculptures, a few of which remain today, one in a museum collection. My “Whoopee Loot Bag” was a huge commercial success, sold in stores like Woolworths and stayed in production long after I had left the party favor company. As an artist for an outdoor advertising company in Miami, I had all the public swing-top garbage cans decorated to look like giant cans of Tropicana orange juice. This was years before Pop Art became the fashionable mode in the Big Apple. And teaching in Gettysburg High School, I had David Eisenhower as a student.
Leaving Gettysburg I went Mexico, thinking that there I might live cheaply on what I had saved. But the student art was so bad at the art school I had planned to attend that I left and drove to San Francisco, where exciting things were supposed to be going on. But, I couldn’t find anything interesting there, so headed back east. Why I went by way of Canada I cannot remember. At the time I had all my possessions and a young wife in my small car, an Austin-Healey Sprite.
I had a friend back in Pennsylvania, Thaddeus Rutkowski’s father, who at the time showed in a gallery in NYC and had gotten me accepted in several group shows there. Living near Wilkes-Barre, just two hours or so away, we often went down to “the city” on weekends. At the time the dominant art movement, Abstract Expressionism, was also referred to as, “The 10th Street School,” since most of the galleries that had shown this work in its early days were on East 10th Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. There was no place else I considered living. I would be on 10th Street.
Rutkowski, who had lived in Manhattan for several years, told me it wouldn’t be easy to find a place in NYC. I looked in the paper and immediately found a “studio” on East 10th Street, near Tompkins Square Park, just where I wanted to be. I rented it over the telephone, without even looking at it. After all it was a “studio” which was what I wanted. So naïve was I in those days that it was only when I got to the place with all my stuff and the super opened the door, did I discover that “studio apartment” was a euphemism for a small apartment that had the kitchen in the bedroom. But all was not lost. I moved in and the decision became one of the most fortuitous things in my early days in Manhattan, for reasons I shall relate in a later episode.
I signed up for some art classes at the New School: painting with Raphael Soyer, drawing with someone whose name I forget, and Aesthetics, with a professor who I remember well, except for his name. Although I was in the middle of the abstract expressionist’s neighborhood and my show at the Everhart Museum had been abstract paintings, I wanted something else. I wanted to paint “realistic” pictures.
I painted in the morning, worked at construction jobs in the afternoon, and went to classes in the evening. My wife, my first wife, worked as a doctor’s assistant. We occasionally hung out at an artist’s bar on Avenue A called Stanley’s, and frequented The Thomas Cinema, which showed experimental and indie films. One day driving down the East Side Highway, I had stopped to help a driver who was having car trouble. It turned out that the man was one of the owners of The Thomas. As a token of his appreciation for my help he gave me a lifetime pass for two to his cinemas.
I became very good friends with Raphael Soyer. One of the first things he told me was how to pronounce his name, explaining that he was not named after the great painter, but was a Jewish kid from New Jersey who preferred to be called “Ray-feel.” He came often to our apartment and did drawings and paintings of my wife and me. I also did a painting of him which you can see on my web site. My wife sometimes posed for his life drawing class.
Things were going well. I was learning a lot and making some nice paintings, quite different from the drip and splatter canvases that I had shown in Scranton. But money was becoming a problem. It is hard to believe that back then we were having difficulty paying the $85 per month rent.
The juried student show was coming up. Looking around I considered that my work was far superior to the other students, most of whom were not serious artists but house wives and professional men pursuing their hobby. I was sure that I would win one of the prize scholarships for the next semester.
Alas, it was not to be. My wife and I went to the opening only to discover that not only had I not won a scholarship, but also I had not even had my work accepted by the jury.
Raphael Soyer saw me standing there; he recognized the look of frustration on my face and knew what it was about.
“I voted for you,” he said. “But the two other jurors were abstract painters, so they rejected you.”
“But I need that scholarship. . . .”
“Don’t worry,” Mr. Soyer reassured me. “Go home and paint; I will come over and critique your work.”
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About the author:
Stephen Poleskie is a writer and artist. His artworks are in the collections of numerous museums, including the MoMA and the Metropolitan in NYC, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. His writing has appeared in journals in Australia, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, and the UK, as well as the USA. He has published seven novels, the most recent being Foozle Runs. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his wife the author Jeanne Mackin.
Web site: www.StephenPoleskie.com
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August 29, 2014 Comments Off on Now and Then/Steve Poleskie
with Valentin Magaro
Digital & Analogue Explorations
by Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret
Valentin Magaro fills up sketchbook after sketchbook, and many days he lets himself drift almost on automatic pilot guided by the image banks in his mind. He makes his compositions rapidly. They are inexhaustible exploratory pathways, sometimes pursued, sometimes abandoned along the way. Romanticism contrasts sharply with the thrilling styles of the scenes. Each of his images works autonomously, but at the same time they irresistibly form a series and a narrative.
Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret: What makes you get up on morning?
Valentin Magaro: Our son. He wakes up early.
Q) What happened to your dreams as child?
A) I can’t remember.
Q) What did you give up?
A) My virginity.
Q) Where do you come from?
A) From the tummy of my mother.
Q) What is the first image you remember ?
A) The little forest in the garden of our house.
Q) And the first book ?
A) Wenn Kubaki kommt (a Swiss book for children).
Q) That is what distinguishes you from other artists?
A) An individual picture language.
Q) Where do you work and how?
A) I have a studio for my big acrylic-paintings and a little studio at home for my drawings ans my architectural models.
I create complex compositions. Every work always starts with a drawing in pencil. Later I transform the picture in many different technics.
Q) To whom do you never dare write ?
Q) What music do you listen to?
A) I listen to different kind of music. Music from the last 40 Years.
Q) What is the book you love to reread?
A) “Wahrheiten und Weisheiten”, a book from Beat Imhof with a collection of symbolic stories from the whole world.
Q) When you look yourself in a mirror who do you see?
A) A friendly young man that would help every old woman to cross the street.
Q) What city or place has value of myth for you?
Q) What are the artists you feel closest?
A) Hieronymus Bosch, Willi Sitte, Hans Memling, Felix Vallotton, Michel Erhart.
Q) What film makes you cry?
A) Brokeback Mountain.
Q) What would you like to receive for your birthday?
A) That’s my secret (and the secret of my wife).
Q) What do you think of the sentence of Lacan: “Love is giving something that we don’t have to someone who does not want”?
A) Do you like Italian food?
Q) And Woody Allen: “The answer is Yes, but what was the question?”
A) Is there life after death?
About the interviewer:
Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret contributes the On Location/France column to Ragazine. This interview was conducted in April 2014. You can read more about him in About Us.
August 29, 2014 Comments Off on On Location/France
Road Rage #46
Stuart Lehrman’s Road Rage
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All behavior consists of opposites… learning to see things backward, inside out, and upside down. For me, painting is a form of theater and dance that seeks to unify the seemingly contradictory. Like the thread in a window blind that opens and closes to those opposites night/day, love/hate, fear/joy, youth/maturity, inside/outside, life/death – I make one gesture/mark then another, cutting space and shape with color and then re-unifying them as a coherent whole. The shapes, the color, the marks are the voices I strain to hear; an interior alphabet that leaks out; a language that I have to relearn and translate every time I start on a new work.
My process involves working to a place where I am losing control of the painting, then struggling back from that moment to achieve an emotional balance that is spontaneous and natural.
My Road Rage photography series tackles these same problems and attempts to capture this same dynamic through the lens of the camera. I am always on the lookout for ambiguous accidents of beauty and power, ground into the common pavement. Photographs were shot with a digital camera and printed with archival inks and dye on paper and aluminum.
– Stuart Lehrman, Philadelphia, 2014
Stuart Lehrman / Photography
All images copyright Stuart Lehrman. Used with permission.
See Lehrman’s other works at: http://www.stuartlehrman.com
August 29, 2014 Comments Off on Photo Editor’s Choice / Sept-Oct 2014
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Pleasant Company Excepted:
Allison Berkoy’s Installation
Review by Barbara Rosenthal
Harvestworks Digital Media Arts Center
596 Broadway, Suite 602
NY, NY 10012
Exhibition Dates: May 2 – 4, 2014
Enter a sparsely furnished parlor alone or with friends. Strangers may enter and leave around you, but one figure is certain to dominate the space, the conversation and all possibility of self-determination. You’re a good sport?! You try interacting on normal, polite, social terms, choosing your words carefully, but thwart thrust stab, you are under the spell of a character pinned as bas-relief, high on the wall. You are in the “company” of Allison Berkoy’s strikingly mummy-gauzed electronic female figure with animated video-projection face, directing you in no uncertain terms.
Allison Berkoy, with degrees in Theater from Northwestern, Performance from NYU and Electronic Arts from Rensselaer, creates original, personal, visceral hidden-high-tech installations which invite participation and self-reflection by viewers at galleries, stages and unusual spaces. Harvestworks, long a NY technological resource, presents works by artists alone or in collaboration with their in-house Technology, Engineering, Art and Music Lab (T.E.A.M.).
Keeping company with this personality-from-Hell, observing you through her hidden camera, reacting to your own body language and words, then speaking to you through her moving mouth, is a test of everything you hope will and will not be the upshot of meeting anyone. And thus Berkoy’s point is driven home: that when we are in anyone’s company, we are en garde, facing ego-piercing lances every minute. And the more personalities in the interaction, the more dangerous is the field.
About the reviewer:
Barbara Rosenthal is a New York artist and writer of existential themes. Four of her books have been published by Visual Studies Workshop Press.
August 29, 2014 1 Comment
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We Are You Project International
at the Galleries of Contemporary Art,
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
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by Tara Dervla
For fall 2014’s seasonal national celebration of Hispanic Heritage, University of Colorado – Colorado Springs (UCCS) welcomes from September 4 through October 11, 2014, a revolutionary exhibit of contemporary Latino art, featuring thirty world-renowned We Are You Project International (WAYPI) visual artists. This unique Ibero-American transcultural art show was coordinated by acclaimed scholarand authorDr. Andrea Herrera, Professor, Department of Women’s and Ethnic Studies, UCCS in collaboration with Ms Daisy McConnell, Director, Galleries of Contemporary Art (GoCA), UCCS, and with ancillary curatorial assistance from Raúl Villarreal, Chair, WAYP’s Exhibition/Events Committee.
The thirty exhibiting WAYPI artists were socio-aesthetically motivated to participate in this illustrious fall 2014 Colorado exhibition for the following pressing socio-cultural reasons: 1). For over three years, no US Congressional legislative action has been taken to pass fair and comprehensive Immigration Reform; 2). Over the last few years over 50,000 undocumented Central American refugee children have trekked into the USA in a desperate attempt to escape escalating chaos, violence, poverty and hopelessness within their native countries. Sadly, this child-refugee problem has been turned into a political game (“hot potato”) by both sides of the US political spectrum. And lastly, 3). an increasing wave of anti-Latino injustices and ethno-racist violence is manifesting throughout the USA, marked by unfair laws that specifically target Hispanics in an ethno-racist manner in states like Arizona, Alabama, as well as others. Thus, as America heads toward its inevitable Latinization after 2045 CE, the above onslaught of traumatic angst-filled dilemmas currently confronting 21st Century Latinos prompt grave trepidations and anxieties — today, which UCCS’s GoCA galleries’ WAYPI show spotlights.
In this regard, for the WAYPI exhibit, UCCS’s Galleries of Contemporary Art (GoCA) plans an array of academic and cultural activities, commencing with a UC Student Preview Reception, on Thursday, September 4, from 3:00 – 7:00 pm; along with a ongoing series of “free” and open public events scheduled for Saturday, September 13, 2014, including a We Are You Project Symposium, a Panel Discussion, and an Art Reception. These events will run from 10:00 AM until 8:00 PM. First, the WAYP symposium will occur at Centennial Hall room 201A, where acclaimed scholar Dr. Andrea Herrera, UCCS Professor, Department of Women and Ethnic Studies, will greet the audience and introduce the participants, including Raúl Villarreal (Chair, WAYP Exhibitions and Events Committee), who will talk about the history of the We Are You Project. A short film titled We Are You directed by Duda Penteado, Brazilian-American artist and filmmaker and produced by Jinseng Productions (Jimmy Santiago, Lucy Santiago, and Robert Rosado) will be screened. Around 11:00 AM, Dr. José Rodeiro, artist and art historian from New Jersey City University will provide a general focus on Latino art. In the afternoon, from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM, participating WAYP artists: Raúl Villarreal, Monica Camin, as well as three prominent Colorado Hispanic artists: Tony Ortega, Quintin González, and George Rivera will discuss their work, followed by a Gallery Tour led by Dr. Rodeiro from 3:00 to 4:00 PM of the We Are You Project Exhibition within UCCS’s GoCA galleries. Then an art reception will ensue from 4:00 to 8:00 PM.
Founded in 2005 by Duda Penteado (Brazilian-American artist and filmmaker), Dr. Carlos Hernandez (Puerto-Rican American, former President of New Jersey City University (NJCU)), and Mr. Mario Tapia (Chilean-American, CEO and President of The Latino Center on Aging (LCA)), the We Are You Project is the first comprehensive 21st Century coast-to-coast Hispanic arts initiative, analytically focusing on current Latino socio-cultural, political, and economic conditions, reflecting triumphs, achievements, risks and vulnerabilities, affecting all Latinos “within,” as well as “outside” the USA. Led by Lillian Hernandez, the current elected We Are You Project President, WAYPI represents the first 21st Century art movement that cohesively combines Visual Art, Poetry, Music, Performance Art, and Film making, amalgamating these diverse art-forms into one (“united”) socio-cultural artistic Latino voice, which utilizes ART to confront current challenges and opportunities that are faced by contemporary Latinos and Latinas throughout the USA and Latin America; these concerns include: 1). Latino immigration, 2). Latinization (a term invented by Dr. José Rodeiro in 1991), 3). the current Anti-Latino backlash, 4). the rise of Pan-Latino transcultural-diversity, as well as 5). revealing the diverse fusion of Latino identities in the 21st Century, assiduously forging, nurturing, and evolving a “new-Hispanic” persona armed with an “innovative” aesthetic world-view, which Villarreal christened, “Neo-Latino” in 2002. All the above-described WAYPI events are sponsored by UCCS Women’s and Ethnic Studies Department, the UCCS Center for Government & the Individual, and The Matrix Center for the Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion.
The WAYPI artists exhibiting in UCCS’s GoCA Galleries during fall 2014’s Hispanic Heritage Celebration are: José Acosta, Nelson Alvarez, Josephine Barreiro, Hugo X. Bastidas, Monica S. Camin, Jacqui Casale, Pablo Caviedes, Carlos Chavez, Williams Coronado, Laura L. Cuevas, EfrenAve, Ricardo Fonseca, Roberto Márquez, Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo, Lisette Morel, Gabriel Navar, Isabel Alvarez Nazario, Julio Nazario, Joe Peña, Duda Penteado, Mel Ramos, Ana Laura Rivera, José Rodeiro, Patricio Moreno Toro, Sergio Villamizar, Marta Sanchez-Dallam, and Raúl Villarreal. Also exhibiting are Quintin Gonzalez, Anthony Ortega, and George Rivera, three prominent Colorado contemporary Latino artists.
For further information about this exciting Latino visual arts exhibition and related UCCS WAYPI artistic events contact Ms Daisy McConnell, Director, GoCA Galleries at 719-255-3504 or email@example.com .
At the top:
Laura L. Cuevas, Lo Que Está Prohibido, Oil-on-canvas, 30”x 40,” 2013
Cuevas’ painting Lo Que Está Prohibido is an allegory based on her personal iconography, which fuses Afro-Caribbean, Taino, and Mediterranean symbolism, revealing a unique Post-Colonial and feminist perspective nurtured by her fundamental focus on Latino identity-empowerment. At times, Cuevas appropriates allusions that derive from recognizable Western icons, juxtaposing them with imagery and patterns from both Taino and African cultures, which for several centuries shared a brutal subjugated experience in the Americas.
— Dr. Jose Rodeiro
BelowRAGAZINE. CC. places images from GoCA’s WAYPI exhibition in iconological context:
José Acosta Higher Education
Acrylic on Canvas,
37” x 29” x 2,” 2014.
In the 1990s, the Neo-Latino Art Movement argued that, for Latinos, “higher education” often provides a key, which opens the door to “The American Dream.” In Acosta’s Higher Education, the Cuban painter asserts that higher education is very important for Hispanics as they endeavor to be successful in a host of 21st Century enterprises. In his painting, symbolically and abstractly much of human knowledge manifests: History, Geography, Biology, Art History, Philosophy, Physics, Mathematics, Communication Skills, Art, Music, etc., etcetera. Acosta’s Higher Education depicts feelings of self-assurance; hopefulness, enlightenment and preparedness for the many unexpected things that happen in life; because higher education makes people better able to cope, succeed, and triumph in whatever they attempt.
Josephine Barreiro , Divided We Stand
Acrylic and paper on plywood panel.
30″ x 40,” 2011.
Barreiro’s poignant mixed-media image entitled Divided We Stand depicts a crouching figure reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s The Scream (1893). Also, Barreiro alludes to Vincent Van Gogh’s duende-filled ink-and-pencil drawing of Sorrow (1882), portraying tragic isolation, unbounded despair, and heartbreaking sorrow, which in the present dark and chaotic political milieu more-&-more pervades the Hispanic world-view. At present, it is a negative worldview caught in the current immigration struggle and growing anti-Latino whirlwind sadly permeating most of right-wing politics, as indicated by the upside down US-flag, which traditionally signifies either distress or surrender.
Hugo X. Bastidas BEARING GIFTS
Oil-on-canvas, 24″ x 36,”
The Nohra Haime Gallery. 2009
Hugo Xavier Bastidas’s Bearing Gifts reveals a discarded toy bear accidentally dropped by a child on a patch of cacti during traumatic run across the Rio Grande, while being pursued by border guards. The word “bearing” also connotes “conveyance,” since undocumented-aliens frequently carry all their prized-belongings on their journey. Lastly, the word is a pun on the name of Vitus Bering, the Danish sea-captain employed by the Russian Navy of Czar Peter the Great. Captain Bering was ordered to find a Pacific Ocean route from Russia to Mexico. In 1725, he accidentally discovered the Bering Straits, the lost prehistoric passageway by which the vast majority of ancient Amerindians presumably arrived throughout The Americas. Meanwhile the word “Gift” refers to the inestimable hours of hard work undertaken by (both documented or undocumented) migrant-workers in difficult backbreaking industries; jobs eschewed by most US-citizens. Moreover, by their excruciating work, migrants bolster the “American Dream” for everyone.
Monica S. Camin
Stamp: John Paul II
Mixed Media (Oil on Canvas, Wood, Graphite, Fabric)
46″ x 48,” 2010
Argentine born, New Jersey and Texas-based artist, Monica S. Camin experienced her upbringing in Latin America as a first generation Argentine of German-Jewish descent. The questions she examines in much of her work straddle her experiences as the daughter of immigrants in Latin America and the experiences of personal immigration as a Latina in her adulthood. Stamp: John Paul II is a reference to the power and the imagery of holy cards, pervasive in Camin’s memory of this largely Catholic country.
Jacqui Casale, LATINO
Acrylic mixed-media painting/collage,
2” x 3’ (six modules 1’ x 1’ each), 2014,
Casale’s “LATINO” addresses the negative terms, stereotypes, and epithets used to describe Hispanics in American culture. The work incorporates a stream-of-consciousness text of pejorative words associated with the term: “Latino.” In her piece, the name “Latino” is contrasted with sacred images from Latino art, depicting Jesus, Mary, Moses, The Virgin of Guadalupe, St. Rose of Lima, St. Martin of Porres, along with skulls and masks from Aztec art.
Pablo Caviedes, For the Fallen Immigrants
Acrylic-on-board/canvass (comprised of 32 square-sections).
41” x 68,” 2014.
This segmented image is a symbolic monument to the pain and suffering of Latino immigrants, focusing on the dozen, who die daily, attempting to cross, dying from exhaustion, illness, starvation, thirst, or murdered by right-wing border vigilantes. Via a metaphorical one-point-perspective symmetrically lined with empty burial-crypts awaiting tombs, Caviedes poetically describes their tragic and remorseless path northward. However, the irony is that the bodies of dead immigrants often remain unburied devoured by animals or obscured by the harsh terrain.
Carlos Chavez Trabajadores de la tierra, (“Farm Workers”)
2011, Oil on canvas, 14″ x 42″
(Collection of the artist).
In his metaphoric image entitled Farm Workers, Chávez symbolically and poetically reveals the abstract nature and conditions surrounding heroic migrant-workers. In the image, there is a yellow sulfuric atmosphere ornamented with greenish-hues enriched by grays, wherein distant roiling ironworks toil, stirring molten-steel. In their passionate longing to attain “The American Dream;” without fear of the obvious danger, migrants dance on the roof of a speeding De Chirico-esque railway-cars; as the locomotive dashes across the dramatic landscape. The arriving migrants arrive during a dynamic change of seasons; the field’s verdure transformed as manufactured artifacts furrow the land, while a little red dilapidated truck (signifying “pain”) drives away, conveying an enigmatic phantasmagoric load, which fills its cargo-space. Everywhere, the writhing land reveals its inherent sexuality; while the artist’s wife wears her magic-expression, communicating her hopeful dreams for the future
Eye. Oil on canvas
10″ x 10,” 2014
Coronado’s work explores physiological and psychological states of awareness using the human body as a vessel for his investigation. He utilizes the human form not for its representational qualities; but for its inherited ability to allow painterly exploration, concerning metaphysical and philosophical thoughts that divulge the existence of multidimensional realities. Coronado’s paintings are infused with the dual existence of consciousness and the external material appearance of the body. In his paintings these two forces dissolve into a strange visual experience where the meaning is in the mind of the viewer. For example, the image of a large eye “could” conceivably fit the We Are You Project’s growing concerns about unwarranted prying, excessive surveillance, vigilantism, spying (espionage) and other “Orwellian” scenarios; although innumerable iconological interpretations are possible, depending on each viewer.
Laura L. Cuevas, Lo Que Está Prohibido
Oil-on-canvas, 30”x 40,” 2013
Cuevas’ painting Lo Que Está Prohibido is an allegory based on her personal iconography, which fuses Afro-Caribbean, Taino, and Mediterranean symbolism, revealing a unique Post-Colonial and feminist perspective nurtured by her fundamental focus on Latino identity-empowerment. At times, Cuevas appropriates allusions that derive from recognizable Western icons, juxtaposing them with imagery and patterns from both Taino and African cultures, which for several centuries shared a brutal subjugated experience in the Americas.
“Juego de la Esperanza”( “The Game of Hope” )
Mixed-media, 8′ x 8,’ 2014.
EfrenAve created a brand new version of “Juego de la Esperanza” (“The Game of Hope“), utilizing many of the same rules used during WAYPI’s California Show, Oakland, California, 2012. Except this time, hopefully, the entire piece would be on the wall, instead of the floor, although both views have unique or distinct visual-advantages.
Ricardo Fonseca, Faces of America
Digital Photographic Manipulation, printed on vinyl banner (ready to hang w/grommets).
5′ x 20,’ 2010.
In Ricardo Fonseca’sFaces of America, an intricate grid-system activates the entire surface, creating a dynamic mural comprised of 100 distinct life-size human faces (or “portraits”) peering-out from the cranium ofFredericBartholdi’s Statue of Liberty, forming a dramatic pattern of shifting faces, with countenances emblematic of allAmericans. Likewise, via ornamental Whitman-esque repetitions of “Liberty’s” shifting visage, Fonseca’s work alludes to Peter Max’s famous series titled Liberty and Justice for All, as well as echoing Andy Warhol’s omnipresent Marilyn Monroe series.
Roberto Márquez El Niño Arbol
oil-on-canvas, 20” x 16,” 2014.
Márquez’s El Niño Arbol is a metaphoric visual response to recent tragic events involving thousands of children wandering the Southwestern border areas, walking mainly up from Central America into the United States. These children are being sent alone by their families with the hope of escaping socio-economic iniquities, misery, desperation and terrible violence. Their arrival into the U.S. is being politicized by both the right and the left, creating a sort of limbo for these vulnerable adolescents, who resemble the innocent idealistic children in Marcel Schwob’s The Children’s Crusade, which are being sent to conquer an elusive “Jerusalem;” but, are instead condemned irrevocably to failure. Like in Schwob’s book, we are relegated to be mere phantom witnesses of their heartbreaking migration, incarceration, and, at times, death or deportation.
Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo, Zemanahuak
Acrylic and ink on wood, 35.5” x 17.25,” 2014
Montelongo’s Zemanahuak is named after the Nahuatl word for Earth. The work focuses on the nature of human interaction within our world and how it affects our physical and spiritual experience. The iconography is inspired by the glyphs in ancient Mesoamerican painted books, or amoxtin, commonly known as “codices.” In Zemanahuak, figures are depicted as trees that communicate their instinctive emotion, feelings, and thoughts, which join together in the form of a butterfly. The butterfly transforms into the symbol ollin [O-leen], movement, which multiplies into strands of DNA resembling serpents that encircle the figures. And, as a physical consequence of their interaction; their union sheds water, a strong yet flexible force attracting the attention of others, who are then able to break free from the illusions that limit them: borders, race, fear, and time…so they are able to finally see the flowering of their existence.
Lisette Morel, Kisses For Your Soul
Lipstick, artists’ lip prints, nails on map on wood, 18″x 24″
In order to depict the landscape of her everyday life, Lisette Morel’s mapping-piece “Kisses For Your Soul” juxtapose contradictory and opposing forces. As an iconic symbol of love, or as mere residue (i.e., signifying Derridean traces) of intimate affection, the above image depicts ubiquitous lipstick kisses strewn across a map’s surface. Morel examines a unique binary, consisting of lipstick kisses contrasted with nails, which can be used to puncture and crucify. Kisses off-set the violent action/aggressive desires implied by repeatedly hammering nails into a surface, not for any purpose (or function), other than release. The historic and religious overtones of this project can be traced to the artist’s interest in mortality, faith, and power, particularly reflected in the African nailed sculptures of the Nkisi nkondi and of crucifixion wounds. The map represents space as location — our sense of place of belonging.
A diptych comprised of two images:
1). “app 4 sweet survivals,” from The Selfie Series.
Acrylic, pencils, ink & oil on canvas20” x 16,” © 2014.
Acrylic, pencil, ink & oil on paper,
15” x 20,” © 2012.
Navar’s unique diptych reexamines contemporary “dehumanization,” alienation, and fear of outsiders, which “our” current Postmodern technological age fosters and encourages, as varying forms of Neo-Habermasian “Communicative Behavior(s)” that presently are rapidly reducing every Indo-European language down to merely one essential word, inexorably conveying meaning by myriad inflexions, like Tristan Tzara’s “Roar.” More and more, technology determines 21st Century human identity, while furtively fertilizing humanities current de-evolution into machines, vegetables, appliances, animals, insects, and other non-human entities, as revealed in Navar’s “app 4 sweet survivals.”
On the other hand, the blazing orange background in his “youtube.com/parallel2” signifies the intensity of the USA’s ongoing racial prejudice, antagonism, and fear of “aliens.” The image depicts an enraged, distraught, and infuriated man swinging a bat (as if about to hit a baseball or piñata), attempting to whack an ascending ephemeral green-being. As an element of the composition, the irate man’s thoughts are imprinted on the image: “Go back to where you came from . . . .alien!” Thus, Navar’s diptych perfectly captures the two overwhelming extremes governing contemporary life throughout the Post-Industrial America: 1). B.F. Skinner-esque Ultra-Dehumanization and 2). US Tea Party Hyper-Paranoia.
Isabel Alvarez Nazario Turbulent Waters
Drawing/collage Mixed media
22″ x 28, ” 2012.
Isabel Alvarez Nazario’s Turbulent Waters stands as a symbolic reverie, bravely reexamining past struggles, perils, and turmoil, which she, as an intrepid and gifted Latina artist, triumphantly persevered.
Julio NazarioVietnam “1960”
Mixed media,black and white photography, and handmade paper
20″ x 24,” 2013
Increasingly, the rank-and-file of the US Military comprises an ever-growing cohort of Hispanic personnel. Often, in myriad theatres of war or in numerous armed conflicts across the globe, where Latino soldiers fight for rights, opportunities, and privileges for others, which are frequently denied or unattainable to many Hispanics in the USA. For example, Julio Nazario’s art work indicates his lingering trauma, concerning his Vietnam service, effecting both Nazario’s and America’s “Vietnam War recollections and experiences.” In his piece titled Vietnam “1960,” the red handmade paper represents the blood of those that were killed or wounded. As the veterans of the 3/8 – 4th Infantry Division website reveals: “All gave some, some gave all.”
‘The First Mexican on Mars”
Oil on paper
6 ¾” x 7 ½” (paper size), 2014
Peña’s “The First Mexican on Mars” is a portrait study of the artist as an Astronaut, who is on a mission to Mars. In his youth, Peña was fascinated by the achievements of Astronaut Rodolfo Neri Vela, who in 1985 became the first Mexican (and second Latin-American) to travel into space. Since then, three additional American’s of Mexican decent (Ellen Ochoa, John D. Olivas, and José Hernandez) have followed in Vela’s footsteps into space, as well as seven others of Latin-American heritage. As a comment on the increasing population of individuals with Latino roots in America achieving great success in so many varied fields, despite the negative perceptions of so many uninformed Americans, who imprudently support of such laws as Arizona’s SB 1070, which should be challenged, reexamined, and repealed.
Mixed-media on canvas
36″ diameter, 2012,
Penteado’s tondi titled IMMIGRATION – EMIGRATION is a “Mapping-work,” with allusions to Clyfford Still’s jagged 2-D informalist topology imbued with Greenbergian flatness, which masterfully utilizes amnesis to depict forgotten Ice Age migrations across the Atlantic Ocean made by Prehistoric seafaring Ibero-Solutreans (22,000 BCE), characterized by Penteado in a unique push/pull of Dubuffet-esque “boat-beings” initiating the first human settlements along the Atlantic Coast of North America at places like Cactus Hill (Virginia); Paw Paw Cove (Tilghman Island, Maryland), as well as Topper (South Carolina), etc. Thus, Penteado’s astute We Are You Project masterpiece IMMIGRATION –EMIGRATION proposes that the United States of America has a deep-rooted profound “Ibero-Latino” heritage furtively rooted in Ibero-Latino DNA, which ironically challenges the current onslaught of “clearly” outrageous, incongruous, and foolish right-wing ethno-racist attacks against US-Latinization. Since, Latinization might just be something inherent, primordial, as well as endemic to America.
Fraulein French Fries
Lithograph, signed and numbered in pencil.
17 3/4 ” x 17 ¾,” 2002 (Collection of the Artist).
In Ramos’s Fraulein French Fries, an alluring blond nude female figure emerges from a pack of McDonald’s™ French fries, indirectly alluding to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus or Andy Warhol’s tongue-in-cheek insistence that, “The most beautiful thing in all the world is McDonald’s.”
In the base of Ramos’s Fraulein French Fries, the McDonald’s “Golden Arches” peek out, traditionally these bright yellow arches represent a pictographic-stylization of the letter “M,” which is the first letter in McDonald’s name; but, they also abstractly intimate the nude model’s hidden breasts. We learn from the title that the young woman is a “fraulein,” which in German designates an “unmarried woman.” In terms of the We Are You Project’s focus on Latino ethnicity and nationality, ambiguity always vexes ascriptions of national attribution, e.g., French fries were invented in the Spanish Netherlands in the 16th Century. Also important to the We Are You Project are the socio-economic implications that Latinos confront in the United States. For example, founded in San Bernardino, California in 1954, today McDonald’s (along with other fast-food companies) offers entry-level jobs and a modest livelihoods to thousands of Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking young people living in several continents, affording them opportunities for earning salaries, obtaining health-care, nourishment and work. By and large, teenagers from the Latino underclass furnish most fast-food restaurants’ labor force. Nevertheless, Ramos’s art historical reference to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus connotes in the flamboyant young woman the sanctity of Venus, Goddess of Love, and consequently adds a new “divine” meaning to McDonald’s slogan, “I’m lovin’ it!”
Ana Laura Rivera Talking Bones
Etching, 6 ½ “ x 23.” 2010
Ana Laura Rivera’s image is inspired by Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican iconography. Rivera’s etching (titled Talking Bones) provides a delicate heartfelt testimony that honors the remains of hundreds of hopeful undocumented immigrants, who died trying to cross the US/Mexico border. Everyday Latinos die in Northern Mexico’s harsh deserts, alone and silent, in search of a better life. In the same way, many Pre-Columbian cultures documented their history and their achievements with glyphs upon walls, pottery, or codices, Ana Laura Rivera uses Pre-Columbian symbols and images to document the tragic loss of all deceased illegal immigrants, whose stories are rich, vast, and consequently deserving of more than just vanishing (disappearing) or being sent to the public morgue where they are often labeled “Jane Doe”/”John Doe.” Rivera’s Talking Bones etching reminds us that the human remains of migrants found in the desert between the US and Mexico are not unknown, because if their bones could talk, they would describe heroic human beings willing to risk their lives to reach a dream.
HIPS DON’T LIE (“Sonoran Dawn”) 2012,
Oil-on-canvas, 40″ x 30″ (Collection of the artist).
José Rodeiro’s HIPS DON’T LIE (“Sonoran Dawn”) is a duende-filled image inspired by Goya’s Black Paintings and Goitia’s mystic-images; wherein Colombian pop-star Shakira and the Hon. Phil Gordon (the mayor of Phoenix) lead a Pro-Latino protests in April 2010 against the racist Arizona law: SB 1070. This celebrated protest sparked the “Anti-Wall” movement, and drew 200,000 Latinos to hear Shakira advocate for human rights, civil rights, and freedom. Cunningly, Rodeiro’s image alludes to Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People (1830).
Patricio Moreno Toro
Mixed media on canvas
53″ x 58″ (approx.), 2013
While living in Mexico in 2013, Toro created Permissive Transgressions. The work describes how, for émigrés, intangible borders (both real and imagined) impose their will on individual choices: always self-questioning, whether to take a calculated risk to exercise his/her inherent freedom – or, on the other hand, to merely survive, hide, subsist, prevail or thrive. For émigrés, hunger, despair, and finally nihilism should never become their life’s goals. The marathon endeavor involves constantly risking everything, even one’s life, for a chance to make something better: a desire for something more, which is the ultimate transgression.
Sergio Villamizar Saint Patriot,
Digital Hatch Drawing, 24” X 30”
One of Four – Limited Edition (signed on the back), 2012.
Villamizar’s Saint Patriot (The Patron Saint of Patriotism) represents our alleged need to protect our way of life, to fight terrorism, and ultimately to get rid-of “the other(s).” The duende-filled image questions our foreign policy of war and our domestic policy of harassment and discrimination, i.e., The Patriot Act and Arizona’s anti immigration law SB-1070. Villamizar’s image Saint Patriot questions what it is to be a patriot, and questions such rash “right-wing” statements as, “Real Americans,” “Good Americans,” “Take back our country,” etc. Villamizar asks, “What are we willing to accept in the name of patriotism? Can we stomach the loss of our civil rights? Must we have microchips embedded in our hands?”
Raúl Villarreal “Superman Where Are You Now?”
Oil on canvas, 48″ x 108″ (three panels 48″ x 36″ each)
Villarreal’s “Superman Where Are You Now?” derives from a photograph of the artists during his third birthday party in Cuba. Additional metaphoric popular symbols of the 1950s and 60s period emerge, reinforcing and reactivating Villarreal’s childhood memories. These reveries endow present emotion(s) by simultaneously blending past and present. The artwork also deals with issues of immigration, identity, and the assimilation of other cultures. It depicts a child assimilating into a new culture, embracing the American culture, characterized by the Coca-Cola logo, as well as the Japanese culture represented by “The Great Wave of Kanagawa” by 19th Century Edo master, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849).
For more information about We Are You Project, WAYP artists and poets, including images of the WAYP art and artist biographies, please visit the following sites:
August 27, 2014 Comments Off on We Are You Project/Colorado Springs
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The Life and Death
of Timothy T. Trout, Artist
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by Bill Dixon
I met Tim Trout perhaps twenty-five years ago, while walking the halls of the Fine Arts Department at The Ohio State University, looking for a young Chinese artist I had just met at a group art show in the “Short North” Arts District of Columbus, Ohio. We were in the show together; I had liked his work, and asked if I could see more of it. We’d scheduled a date and time to meet and I’d arrived early, as I almost always do. As I was walking to the rendezvous, I noticed a gaunt, tormented-looking fellow sitting on a table in the hallway. He was studying me, peering over a copy of The Lantern, the OSU student newspaper.
He asked if he could help me find what I was looking for and we fell into a conversation about art. It turned out he was attending art classes at the University on a scholarship. I later learned he worked as a janitor and, therefore, was eligible as an employee to attend some classes for free. He chose art classes. We agreed to meet later when he could show me his art. He tore off a piece of the newspaper he had been reading and scrawled his name, Tim Trout, and his phone number.
My afternoon appointment showed up and I left Tim to his newspaper. I went with the Chinese artist to see his paintings in a location farther down the same hall where I’d met Tim. We had a good chat, but after review, I decided the two paintings in the show weren’t typical of his current work. I was collecting art then, as I still do, but didn’t really care much for these efforts. The prices he had on the ones I did like, back at the Short North gallery, seemed too high, and we never did do any business.
I ran a real estate sales and management company at the time and the mid-Fall quarter was traditionally a slack time. With little to do, I found myself a few days later calling Tim to see when we could get together. He was home, and told me to come on over. He was living in a tiny efficiency apartment above a popular Greek restaurant on North High Street, in Columbus. It was in a largely student-populated area. I found his door, and knocked. The apartment looked like a bomb had just gone off. There was a grubby mattress on the floor, open boxes of food scattered around, dirty clothes, empty bottles and cans, dirty dishes, junk and bags of trash here and there. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a roach scuttling to cover behind a stack of art materials. There were paintings everywhere, too. Some were hung, but most were strewn around the walls, leaned up, or set on top of his modest furnishings, which were mostly discards he’d found over time in the alley behind his apartment.
There was one chair in the room, a dilapidated, unsteady-looking armchair, that also held several of his paintings and a partial six-pack of beer, still held together by its plastic harness. Tim was sitting tailor-style on the floor, and gestured for me to sit down on an inverted plastic milk crate. I did so. We talked for some time. It became gradually apparent that he was either under the influence of alcohol or some other family of drugs, or just plain nuts. It also became clear, after several later visits and the passage of time, that it was probably all of the above. Well, I didn’t have any problem with any of those things. As a child of the ‘sixties, a time I loved, and about which I wrote what I consider my best book, I could deal with all those things. It was old hat for me and I felt right at home in Tim’s place. Alcohol, drugs and insanity? Hey, no problem, dude.
I purchased several paintings that day. Tim was fascinated by violent weather and many of his paintings depicted storms and natural disasters. There also was a little semi-nude, crudely self-framed painting titled, “Bustle.” It was reasonably priced and was the very first piece I bought from him. Loosely composed and colorful, every brush stroke was easily visible, bold and confident. There was no reworking or blending anywhere in the piece. Tim himself was not at all a confident person, however. He was, as a person, conflicted, unfocused and random. His paintings were the exact opposite of his outward persona. You could tell at a glance that he had painted rapidly, but with a vision of the final product in every stroke of his brush and in the application of every color he selected. It was amazing to me, his artistic creations were so totally different than his own outward appearance.
Several weeks later, I watched him paint a piece. It was a much larger work. He set the canvas on a crude easel he’d made from scraps of two by four lumber, and selected the oil paints to apply to his canvas, all in a rush, squeezing them onto his palette as if his life depended on the speed at which he worked. He attacked the canvas! He slashed and lunged at it in a frenzy, and I could see that in his mind, it was already composed as a finished work. It didn’t take him long to complete that vision. He used lots of oil paint, and it would obviously take some time for it to dry enough for him to seal it with damar varnish. He finished in a flourish, and turned toward me. For a moment, he was confident, bold and triumphant. Then he receded into his usual character again, a timid, disoriented fellow, weighted down and transformed by his troubles, doubts and fears.
Over the next few years, I bought more than two hundred pieces from Tim, and still have almost all of them. They’re in a temperature- and humidity-controlled storage facility, until I decide what to do with them, and when. Tim was what current parlance refers to as “high maintenance.” He never knew what day it was, or what time it might be, and as a result, he’d call me at three o’clock in the morning to tell me that he had some pieces that he wanted me to buy so that he could pay his electric bill, or deal with some other personal crisis that had presented itself. Transportation was a major problem with Tim. He called me in the middle of the night once to tell me that someone had stolen his bicycle. He was obviously drunk , or otherwise impaired when he called. The bike was his only means of transportation and obviously very important to him. I got him a replacement and soon after, took it to him. Within a couple of weeks, although I’d also furnished him with a bicycle lock, it went missing. A friend of Tim’s told me that Tim had lost any number of bikes. He’d get drunk or stoned and park his bike somewhere and by morning, forget where it was. I bought him three bicycles before deciding it was a problem I couldn’t fix.
I started arranging art shows for Tim, too. I’d even price his pieces. He’d forget about the show dates, and I’d end up hanging his shows by myself, after transporting his work in my van to the show. When the shows closed, I would haul them back to his place. Sometimes, he’d forget where the show was, and never visit. The extra money that came from sales at these shows didn’t benefit him. He’d drink up the proceeds, or buy various drugs when he had the ability and opportunity to do so. With liver problems or psychological swings, his visits to the hospital increased. It turned out that this wasn’t a new problem, just one I didn’t know about before, and the availability of the extra cash from sales of his paintings just shortened the time between hospitalizations.
Tim eventually acquired a similarly directed girlfriend. As unstable as Tim, she was younger and somewhat healthier, physically. They had met in a bar in the University area. He tried to protect her from her destructive proclivities, but that helped destabilize Tim further. She, like Tim, was also mentally ill, and would periodically cut him with a kitchen knife if they quarreled about something. It seemed that Tim couldn’t help himself and no one else could help him, either, as trips to the hospital became more frequent.
A friend and fellow patron of Tim’s, a professor at OSU, tried his best to help Tim out of his downward spiral, but the situation was hopeless. We kept one another up to date on the situation, but that was about all we could do. Then, disaster! A local bank sent Tim a credit card. He immediately used it to buy a broken-down car. Then, using his new credit card, he took the car to a garage to get it running. He had no driver license, of course, and shouldn’t have had one. Shortly thereafter, he parked the car in a bus stop to go into a bar, and it was promptly towed away. He thought it had been stolen and called the police to complain. Since he hadn’t registered the title, a further mess was created. Then he maxed out the credit card on the purchase of a new radial arm saw and an expensive violin he didn’t know how to play but appreciated its beautiful appearance. He set up the radial arm saw on the floor of his tiny apartment. He told me that “now, he could make his own frames and stretchers, right there in his apartment.” He would fire up the saw at all hours and cut wood that he found in the alleys. Neighbors in adjacent apartments complained to the landlord, who paid Tim, generally a month or two late on rent, a visit. There he discovered not only the source of the noise but a persistent roach infestation and promptly tacked an eviction notice on the door. Hapless Tim was terrified.
Somehow, Tim got reinstated, probably because cleaning out the place to re-rent it would have cost a lot, not including the time it went empty without income and would likely take two years to recoup the losses. The landlord took the violin and and radial saw in payment. But a couple months later, Tim called in the middle of the night to say he needed money desperately. Could I come over right away. He was being evicted again, and wanted me to buy the art he had left, specifying a dollar amount he needed as his price for everything left. He said he was going to stay with his mother in Marion until things straightened out. I drove to Tim’s place the next morning, and bought the last of his art, mostly works on paper. The place was crawling again and I offered to spray, but he told me he had acquired a cat to kill the roaches and was afraid roach spray would kill the cat.
I took the last Trouts to an unheated garage, sprayed, and let everything sit for the winter. I got word a short time later that Tim was dead. He never left Columbus; I suspect he never intended to stay with his mother, that perhaps that she didn’t exist, in Marion, or anywhere else. He’d made it one last time into University Hospital, where he died in his sleep, his suffering over. The last time I saw him alive, he tearfully said he was Jesus Christ, that “he hadn’t asked for the job, but would now have to die for the sins of others.” He showed me a new signature he would use on his art: “t.T.t.,” which would symbolize the three crosses at the crucifixion, and his Christian name, timothy T trout. He also told me his Indian name was “Little Trout,” and that he might begin using that signature on some “special” pieces.
Tim was a splendid artist, but so mentally unstable that unless he was institutionalized and drugged, he would continue to suffer the indignities and torments he experienced as a free man. He was in his thirties, I believe, and had somehow served in the United States Navy, on board ship. He implied the government gave him some sort of monthly income, on which he could survive, but you could never tell fact from fiction with Tim. Neither could he, I suppose. He described the world, on canvas, as accurately as he was able. It was a world of violent storms and unending tragedies, but sometimes, with graceful nudes who emerged from gardens of blooming flowers. I lived in a far different world, and tried to understand Tim’s world to the best of my abilities, as he had tried to understand mine. Sometimes, we both missed the mark. He was a good person, gentle and generous, loyal to his friends, forgiving of those who mistreated him. He was marooned in a frightening, alien world, finding power in the paint brush he used to communicate with his demons, and the small group of fortunate people who understood and appreciated his haunting messages. Paraphrasing Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Each day, do the best you can, and tomorrow, put it behind you.” I think, no matter how things turned out, that was what timothy T. trout attempted to do.
About the author:
Bill Dixon is a contributing columnist to Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.
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July 15, 2014 Comments Off on From the Edge/Bill Dixon