Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mostly Fanfare, Almost a Memory

Still from Mostly Fanfare, courtesy of Monica Bill Barnes.

The most engaging things always seem to be the fleeting ones, the ephemeral, the ones you can only grab at wistfully in your memories, and these eight short dance films, juxtaposed and mashed together in the most delightful way, are no exception. Created by dancer/choreographer and eponymous dance company artistic director Monica Bill Barnes and dancer/filmmaker Celia Rowlson-Hall, Mostly Fanfare is like a glittering dream tinged with melancholy, the way all the best dreams are. The 30-minute collaboration will only exist online for another week—it disappears August 24—so watch it now.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sidewalk Catwalk: Meet the Mannequins

The Fashion Center opened, "Sidewalk Catwalk," its long-in-the-making summer public art exhibition, today, and I was on hand to see the unveiling of 32 mannequins dressed by superstar designers--including Kenneth Cole, Betsey Johnson, Isaac Mizrahi, Nicole Miller, Rebecca Taylor, and Donna Karan--and local fashion students. The mannequins will posed in the plazas of the Fashion District, along Broadway from 35 Street to 42nd Street in Manhattan, through September 3.

The project, meant to highlight New York's fashion industry, is brilliant in several ways:

1) It presented a real and compelling challenge that many of the designers probably hadn't faced before: creating "outfits" out of durable materials that could remain outside and stand up to the city elements all summer long (some designers were successful at that, incorporating a variety of materials from a parachute to bricks, but I foresee a sad fate for others' garments). Essentially, the mannequins became sculptures and the designers, many of whom often use visual arts to inspire their clothing collections, had to turn the tables and use their vision for clothing as the impetus for an artwork.

2) It's the kind of public art project that, when stumbled upon by the unsuspecting pedestrian, is likely to provoke wonder, curiosity, and awe, in the much same way that this Sarah Sze sculpture did for me in 2006.

3) The custom Ralph Pucci mannequins were the perfect muses for the designers, given their streamlined shapes, faceless figures, and their already well-established connection to the art world.

4) The juxtaposition and close proximity of the mannequins to Antony Gormley's much less commercial public exhibition, "Event Horizon"-- 31 sculptures of the artist naked, standing in Madison Square Park and peering somberly down from nearby rooftops-- makes me chuckle.

5) It's for a good cause. All of the mannequins will be auctioned to benefit Materials for the Arts.

Pictured above is Prabal Gurung's mannequin design-- now go see the rest!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Save The City Reliquary!

Photo courtesy of E. Bartholomew, via Flickr.

The City Reliquary is one of those places that can make a Brooklynite feel smug about "discovering" one of the sweetest secret hangouts in the borough. Meandering down Metropolitan Avenue a couple years ago, I felt exactly that way when I ducked into this tiny museum and found, behind its yellow and red awning, the coolest, quirkiest, old-timiest collection of NYC ephemera I'd ever seen--everything from a crazy collection of kitschy Statue of Liberty replicas to chunks of long-gone buildings. But later, when I attended my first event at the Reliquary (a reception for the exhibition "76 Kisses " in February, 2008), I found out this hangout wasn't my little secret after all. The place was packed, bursting at the seams with revelers. Turns out that lots of New Yorkers were onto the spot waaay before I marched in, and all its parties, concerts and films draw a big crowd. In warmer weather, people even spill out into the backyard.

While its steady increase in popularity is a good thing, the Reliquary is also experiencing its share of growing pains, according to the museum's president, Dave Herman, who founded the Reliquary as a nonprofit museum--originally a single display window and recorded "tour"(which still exist) at his Williamsburg apartment--and civic organization in 2002. "Our needs are growing larger," Herman says. Among other things, the museum needs to hire an administrator to apply for larger grants and city funding, and if it doesn't raise $60,000 by December, it might have to consider moving out of its current storefront digs at 370 Metropolitan (where it has been since 2006). Although Herman says the Reliquary won't close, its collection might have to seek a home in a public library or other alternative space.

Besides the awesomeness of the Reliquary's permanent collection, rotating exhibitions (past shows have included giant pencils, an impressive display of copper Jell-O molds, and photos and interviews with former Miss Subways), and parties, its mission alone is enough to make anyone want to keep it alive: Connecting visitors to both the past and present of New York. "People have been here [in Williamsburg] for hundreds of years, and I think it's important to acknowledge that," Herman says. "We want to add to the culture and highlight its rich history."

So how can you help? Donate some money or head over to this benefit concert:

What: St. Patrick's Day Benefit Concert for The City Reliquary
Wednesday, March 17th 2010, Doors 6:00PM/Show 7:30 PM
Where: Knitting Factory, 361 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn
Who: Bands will include: Cecilia Brauer, Drink Me, Brian Dewan, Frankenpine, Lucky Chops and more.
How Much: $20

If you're too broke to do either, just visit and voice your support-- you'll be glad you did!

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's a Museum, Girl

George Clive and his Family with an Indian Maid, by Joshua Reynolds, 1765. Staatliche Museen, Berlin. WikiCommons, courtesy Girl Museum.

When arts writer Ashley Remer visited museums over the past three decades, what she noticed the most was girls-- more specifically, the lack thereof.

"[I have been to] literally hundreds and hundreds of museums around the world over the course of my life," says Remer, 35, who grew up in Gainesville, Fla. and has lived everywhere from New York to New Zealand. "I have never seen a show that exclusively looked at the point of view of the girl, or with the girl as its subject. Of course, there have been a few-- most notably at the McCord Museum in Montreal, the 2006 exhibition called ‘Picturing Her: Images of Girlhood,' which concentrated on Canadian art-- but having studied art history [at Florida State University and the University of Auckland in New Zealand], I always found it troublesome how women and girls usually come off as just decoration rather than subject matter."

With that in mind, in March, Remer launched her nonprofit, virtual Girl Museum, dedicated to research, exhibitions, and education centered on the simple yet complex subject of "being a girl." The museum recently unveiled its first online exhibition, "Defining Our Terms," including a broad overview of girlhood in art. Striking images are paired with insightful explanations that will make viewers see each work-- and the role of females in art-- in a whole new light.

Remer says each artwork is overflowing with visual clues to how girls and women have been included and perceived in different cultures throughout the ages. For example, "Reynolds’ portrait George Clive and his Family with an Indian Maid (above) is an amazingly informative image," she says. "There is just so much history overtly stated in the costume and setting and implicit on the physicality and gesture. To have a painted family portrait that includes your servant, engaged in an activity like holding the girl still, which was totally unnecessary, is such a quintessential imperial picture. The ayah’s averted eyes make the scene even more devastating. It should always be remembered when looking at portraits that these people existed. It seems obvious to say, but our visual lives are so inundated with fa├žade and manufactured Hollywood fictions that it is important to keep in mind."

"Defining Our Terms" serves as both the Girl Museum's inaugural exhibition and its future press kit, explaining its mission.

"Our mission is to explore and document the unique experience of growing up female through historic and contemporary images, stories and material culture," says Remer, who runs the museum with the help of volunteers. "We want to raise global awareness about the realities and issues, both nature and nurture, facing girls yesterday, today, and tomorrow. To achieve this, we want to do original research, produce exhibitions, build an archive, and partner with organizations that are already out there doing good work so we can support them and provide venues for girls themselves to have a voice."

The Girl Museum also opened its online boutique on November 27, and you can support the site and help the museum grow by scoring original art or Girl Museum T-shirts. You can also visit the Girl Museum store on Amazon to purchase some suggested reading.

Still want more? Connect with the Girl Museum via Facebook or check out Remer's blog here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Urban Love Daily Arts New York

Electric Heart (above) and Arty Heart (below, left), courtesy Christopher Frederick, via Urban Love Daily.

Nobody loves New York City like Christopher Frederick. Where most of us might just glimpse some gunk on the sidewalk or a smear on a window, this Brooklyn-based artist sees hearts--and he immortalizes them in photographs. His recently launched Web site, Urban Love Daily, is a collection of these images, and the clever combination of gritty and sweet is enough to make even the most surly city dweller crack a smile. Besides getting a daily dose of amore, you can also buy a copy of your favorite picture or upload your own heart image on the site. Here's what Chris had to say about the project:

1) Where did the idea for Urban Love Daily originate?

The heart photos began one day when I was walking around Chelsea and saw that someone drew a heart right on the crotch of a man in an underwear add on a bus stop shelter. It made me laugh so hard that I had to take a picture of it. I showed it to a friend who reminded me of a picture I took on the boardwalk of Coney Island years ago, of a Popsicle that was melting into the shape of a heart. Suddenly I started seeing hearts everywhere. Finally I broke out my good camera and began to hunt them down. To my surprise, the more I looked the more I saw. I knew the heart imagery would be too sentimental for the gallery scene, yet I wanted people to see these images because they really struck a chord with me. A blog was the natural solution. I think what compels me to keep taking them is that they are not typically saccharine. I search for hearts that feel smart or tough or raw.

2) What's your
favorite find so far?

I tend to get most excited when I find hearts formed accidentally, like Electric Heart, where I literally almost stepped on a broken cord laying in the middle of the street before I realized it was strewn in the shape of a heart.

3) What is the coolest submission you've received?

My favorite so far is Beet, an accidental heart formed when a red beet touched a gold beet. I think they were in love. Poor root vegetables getting separated like that. I imagine the joy that filled the photographer when she suddenly saw a distinct blood red heart reveal itself in the midst of the daily task of cooking.

4) What makes NYC the ideal place to find these little expressions of "Urban Love?"

I'm in love with New York City. New York's motto is the famous Milton Glaser rebus I ♥ NY. It's a city of passionate people and tourists that catch the buzz. Because New York is so dense and encourages walking, there's pedestrian traffic everywhere, so there's a lot of opportunity to see the traces of the people who have passed by, from litter and graffiti to self-promotion, decoration, and lost treasures. Within all of that there are lots of hearts to be found. At the same time, the sheer volume of people and activity can be ironically isolating. It can be hard to make deep connections, to find romantic love. I think there's so much heart iconography in this city because we all long for love more than we feel it. It can take a daily reminder not to focus on the darker side and all the irritations that come along with being here, though I have a huge appreciation for the dark side of life. I guess that's why my imagery tends to be gritty and atypical of what one normally associates with a heart. I'm more interested in the complex realities of love than any romantic delusion.

5) So what is it that you love the most about this crazy, beautiful, lonely city?

Anything is possible in New York. If you name it, you can find it. Such abundance has really helped me define myself and choose how I want to see the world.

Want more? Connect with Urban Love Daily on Facebook.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Craziest Crafts Ever

Aerial view of Gelitin's "Rabbit." Image courtesy of Rbeforee, via Flickr.

Finding Five recently Googled and ogled to find the coolest, craziest, most outrageous craft projects on the Web. Many of the wildest creations turned out to be knitted and crocheted and, best of all, some link to patterns! You're welcome--I know you've always wanted a toilet paper scarf.

The 200-Foot Pink Bunny

This ridiculously huge knitting project can be spotted from outer space--for real! Knitted over the course of five years and placed on a Piedmont, Italy mountain as a collaboration between some “giant grandmothers” and the art collective Gelitin, it measures 20 feet high on the sides and comes complete with its knitted “guts” spilling out on one side and a horrified look on its face. People are also allowed to climb around on this bunny (pictures even show people sleeping on it). Want to see it in person? Take your time: The “decaying corpse,” as Gelitin calls it, will be languishing in Piedmont until 2025.


A few years ago, Knitta started "bombing the inner city with vibrant, stitched works of art, wrapped around everything from beer bottles on easy nights to public monuments and utility poles on more ambitious outings." This group, one of my favorite things ever, boasts a membership of “ladies of all ages, nationalities, and… gender.” Now, art collectives all over the country have taken a cue from Knitta and created their own knitted public art, including the JafaGirls’ KnitKnot Tree in Yellow Springs, Ohio that garnered national news coverage.

Crocheted Coral Reef

A combo of crafting and environmental activism, the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef is the brainchild of Christine and Margaret Wertheim, directors of the educational organization Institute for Figuring. The reef—a community project completed by volunteers at workshops around the world—is meant to explore math as well as draw attention to global warming, pollution and endangered sea life. The project stretches thousands of square feet and is currently traveling around the country for exhibited at art galleries and civic centers. It has also spawned “satellite reefs” in the UK, Australia, and Latvia.

Car Cozies

Live in a cold area and don’t have a garage? Maybe you should just knit your auto its own sweater. If you own a Volkswagen Bug, there’s a pattern here. New York-based artist Cynthia Ruse also made a cozy out of acrylic yarn, fishing line, and thread for her vehicle as part of the artists’ group COlab’s window display in February. She got a shoutout from the knitting gurus at Lion Brand Yarn.

Knit Ferrari

Don’t have a car to put in cozy? Never mind, you can just knit the whole car. That’s what English art student Lauren Porter did for her final university project. She created a life-size replica of a Ferrari, consisting of 12 miles of yarn stretched over a steel frame. It took Porter 10 months to complete the project, and a London newspaper dubbed the finished product a “Four-Wool Drive.”

See-Through Predator

Lizette Greco and her two children collaborate to make some bizarre creations they call “sewn art”: The kids sketch out designs, Greco turns them into stuffed animals. One of my favorites is the See-Through Predator, a recycled fabrics and foam wolf with a transparent belly that holds its “prey”— a little girl, a pig, a bird and a bunny. Another of the family’s wacky projects is one they call South Park Quality Meats, stuffed replicas of butchered meats including frankfurters, hams, a leg of lamb, a tongue, tripe, a goat and two pigs heads.

Childbirth Education Set

Have you been wanting to talk to your kids about the birds and the bees but can’t find the words? Cozy Coleman’s crochet Childbirth Education Doll is meant to do the talking for you. She comes complete with maternity clothes, a baby (the sex of the baby is a surprise) and a detachable placenta. You can buy the doll at Cozy’s Etsy store or if you’re feeling ambitious, just purchase the pattern and make it yourself. But beware: This anatomically correct doll isn’t for the faint of heart—or the inexperienced crocheter.

Toilet Paper Scarf

Want to look like you’re wearing a roll of toilet paper around your neck? Get the free toilet paper scarf pattern here and you’re in business. The “paper” is a white crocheted strip, while the “roll” is plastic needlepoint canvas with brown yarn.

Jessica Polka’s “Specimens”

Jessica Polka sells her crocheted squid, octopus, prawns and other sea creatures inspired by Alertus Seba's 18th-century natural history book Cabinet of Natural Curiosities on Etsy. She also crochets other awesome, nostalgic forms like moustaches and offers several of the patterns on her blog.

Coraline’s Clothes

The amazing film Coraline might be animated, but the title character’s miniscule sweaters and gloves are real. They’re knit by Indiana-based Althea Crome on impossibly small needles (she makes them herself from stainless steel wire). In addition to Coraline, Crome’s work also has appeared at the Museum of Arts and Design. Her creations are one-twelfth the size of regular garments, or even smaller. Crome calls it “extreme knitting,” (sometimes she goes ultra-tiny for “nano knitting”), and each piece takes months to complete. If you want to buy one, it’ll set you back several hundred dollars or more. Want to try making your own? Crome offers patterns on her Web site.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How to Afford Art

Image courtesy of Charmingwall, from "Solo Show: The Hidden World Wakes," by Jordan Bent, running through Sept. 2.

In this economy, where even being gainfully employed is a feat, buying art can seem hopelessly out of reach. But you don't have to have a wallet that's busting at the seams to put something meaningful on your wall. This ARTINFO article, co-written by me, gives you the lowdown on how--and where--to start:

Tips for Novice Collectors
By Jacquelyn Lewis, Marisa Rindone, Reposted from ARTINFO.com

You love art, and you know what you like, but you don’t have a financier’s funds. So is it still possible to be a collector? The answer is an overwhelming yes. And if you have any spare cash, an economic downturn is an excellent time to buy. With fewer buyers in the market, there is actually a wider variety of interesting, affordable pieces available.

“A lot of galleries are working with their artists to try and meet this market need. Economic and political crisis always shakes things up and creates a more interesting dialogue,” says Helen Allen, executive director of the Pulse contemporary art fair, which runs annually in Miami and New York. “It’s a difficult time, but it’s a time when people can really think outside the box and be a little bit more creative in their outreach.”

The Art of the Risk

Invisible Exports’ Artist of the Month Club is one such nontraditional endeavor. The young, Lower East Side gallery offers a program in which members of the club get a dozen original, exclusive pieces for $2,400 a year. “You can sign up for a year’s subscription, and every month you get a new work,” explains Allen. The catch? Collectors won’t lay eyes on the purchased pieces until they arrive in their homes. “The club involves a wonderful element of chance," adds Risa Needleman, the gallery’s co-owner. "When you sign up, you know all the curators but none of the artists. You make a leap of faith, and a 12-piece collection is curated for you and dropped at your front door.” Essentially, subscribers have professionals begin their collection for them, with each piece costing only $200 (shipping and handling is included in the price of membership).

The World Beyond Chelsea

If you’d prefer to wander out on your own, however, “art fairs are a fantastic place to start,” Allen says. “They offer a level playing field. As a beginner, you can come in and see 30 or 100 or 200 galleries,” as well as take advantage of programming like a lecture or a demonstration that might be useful when you’re just beginning to learn your tastes. Pulse, which hits Miami December 3-6, offers a lot of lower price points. Art Forum Berlin stands out as a staple when it comes to finding great emerging work, as it features galleries under five years old. The fair runs September 24-27 this year.

Off-the-beaten-path galleries are also a likely place to find bargains, since they’re often committed to supporting newer artists. Galleries in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn may be slightly more accessible than those in Chelsea. Small art blogs and Web sites with the same aim, such as Etsy.com, are good places to look.

“It doesn’t have to cost $100,000 to be good,” says Rob Kalin, founder of Etsy, which offers hundreds of thousands of artworks and other handmade items, many with a price tag of less than $100. “Our big goal is to enable people to make a living making things. There are probably artists on the site whose work will be very collectible in 10 years, but it’s more about what art should be about: surrounding yourself with work that you want to see and experience in your everyday life. It’s great to know you’re supporting the artists too.”

Buy Direct

Of course, some of the best prices can be had by going straight to the source. Get to know the artist and you’re more likely to get a deal.

“Find art walks and open studio events in your area where you’ll have the chance to meet artists and buy directly from them,” says Cris McCall, director of the Hollywood, Calif.-based Tinlark gallery, which specializes in affordable art and offers lots of diminutive pieces.

She also recommends M.F.A. shows and school Web sites. “Graduating artists are affordable and keen to sell their work,” she says. “If you see a piece you like, call the school — they should be happy to pass along your information to the artist.”

Use Your Intuition

Tap into the sense you get about the person you’re purchasing a piece from, be it a gallerist or a painter. “Make sure you have an open line of communication,” says Allen. “If you don’t have a good feeling about it, that’s an indication that something’s not right.”

And don’t let the current economy influence your choices, Allen warns new collectors who aren’t necessarily familiar with the market. “Don’t try to buy for financial investment. The market is very fickle. It’s highly risky to be betting on a fourfold return. It’s more important to buy what you love.”

Here, some great places to start building your collection:

Invisible Exports’ Artist of the Month Club

The Artist of the Month Club "is a wonderful way to start a collection — or to add to a growing one — with the help of a dozen of the country's most plugged-in curators, a kind of dream team of art advisers. It's a perfect way to acquaint yourself with the work of great living artists, many just on the verge of real breakouts and others who have already received wide acclaim,” Needleman says. She adds that new collectors don’t have to wait until January to sign up; late subscribers can still join and receive the full 2009 collection.

6671 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, Calif.

ARTINFO stumbled across this Hollywood gallery during last year’s Armory week at the satellite fair Red Dot. “Carefully curated, affordable art — that’s what I do,” gallery director Cris McCall told us, and she has the prices — starting at $25! — and selection to prove it. If you can’t make it to Hollywood, look for Tinlark online or at smaller art fairs.

191 West Fourth Street, New York

This little gallery, standing alone amid the tattoo and novelty shops in New York’s West Village, offers a curated selection of quirky, open-edition prints that never go above $80 — and that includes framing and matting. How does Charmingwall maintain such affordable prices? The owners are in the boutique printing business, so production costs are minimal, and the gallery maintains personal relationships with all of its artists, who approve each print, according to gallery director Katie McClenahan. The prints are available online too, and the gallery has small monthly exhibitions of original art priced anywhere from $50 to a few thousand per work. “We’re trying to get up-and-coming artists out there and provide affordable art for the masses,” McClenahan says. Less than two years old, Charmingwall has already attracted media attention from the likes of New York magazine and DailyCandy.

(FYI: Charming Wall is opening a new gallery, Six by Six, featuring 6" x 6" original works of art, in October.)


Rob Kalin dropped out of art school and founded Etsy in 2005. The result is an addictive online marketplace where you can buy anything from original artworks to handmade jewelry and clothing. According to Kalin, art is the third most popular category on the site and accounts for 10 percent of Etsy’s overall sales. “This is about the idea that art is a craft,” Kalin says. Etsy’s selection isn’t curated, so quality is hit or miss, and it can be time-consuming to page through its thousands of offerings. Still, the site features some great finds.

Tiny Showcase

True to its name, the four-year-old Web site Tiny Showcase showcases prints that are, well, tiny. You can sign up for its newsletter and snatch up a limited-edition piece each Tuesday for minimal dough — from around $20 to $100. But you have to be nimble — the works usually go within hours. Imagine covering an entire wall with these exquisite little pieces, all printed on archival paper in ink. And the best part is that a percentage from each work sold goes to a charity of the artist’s choice.