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 façade 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

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, 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.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

UMove: A New Step for Dance Video

The Web and other digital technologies are changing the way we look at dance. In the words of Anna Nuse, director of Movement Media (a New York City-based company that helps dancers realize their visions in film format), "Web video has ushered in a new era of exhibitionism, where ordinary people feel able to let down their defenses and show off their moves. The web has allowed dance to come out of the closet."

Nuse and two other dance filmmakers, Kriota Willberg and Marta Renzi, are helping push dance video even closer to the forefront with the first annual UMove Online Videodance Festival, running Oct.1 to Oct. 31. The focus will be on short movement-based videos created for the web and other new media, such as cell phones. The festival will include programming on YouTube and Movement Media's blog, Move the Frame, as well as a launch party and screenings in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and the UK. In the meantime, the organizers are taking video submissions for the festival. Deadline is August 15.

I recently caught up with Nuse to chat about the festival, the kinds of films they're looking for, and the future of dance video.

1) How did the UMove festival come about?

My friend and colleague Kriota Willberg approached me with the idea of UMove last spring. I’ve been fascinated with the explosion of videos on the Web, and specifically the popularity of dance in web videos. To us, it seemed like there was a treasure trove of content out there just waiting to be mined! There are dozens and dozens of dance film festivals around the world that seem to show the same handful of dance films and videos every year. Meanwhile Web dance videos get virtually ignored. We decided it was time to celebrate this genre and design a festival that would highlight the best qualities of dance videos on the Web – their accessibility, humor, conciseness, resourcefulness, and relevance to this day and age.

2) Why is it personally important to you to be involved with putting the spotlight on this underrecognized art form?

I believe everyone should have opportunities to see great dance. We are in the midst of a gigantic sea change in the way we communicate and experience media, and I want to see dance be part of that. I’m very excited to see so much dance video online, but it isn’t being recognized, studied, or appreciated by the current dance film community. My organizers and I saw that an online dance film festival was something we could do relatively easily. The platforms and the content are there, the form just needs some people to point it out and make it easier to follow and study.

3) What are the most important qualities you are looking for in festival submissions?

We seek work that is strong in concept and execution, rather than sporting fancy production values or large budgets. We want to see how dance can still pack a kinetic punch on intimate viewing devices such as laptops, mobile phones, and iPods. We also welcome work that was created using new media technology, such as Web cams, cell phones, and through interactive processes.

4) What is the most innovative thing you have seen so far in terms of dance and kinetic focused video?

Lately on our blog, Move the Frame, we’ve been writing quite a bit about pop dance phenomenons online. I’m continually amazed by videos of mass dance movements that have been taking hold around the world as a result of the internet and networked communications. The death of the great Lindy Hop legend, Frankie Manning, inspired huge crowds of dancers to take to the street and dance in tribute to him, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller was all ready a mass movement starting last year with the 25th anniversary of the album’s release. I find it so moving to see videos of people from all over the world dancing together, in ways that were never possible to do before.

5) How do you envision the future of dance video?
I imagine in the future that every dance company and every dance-maker will make videos and integrate media work into all of their artistic activities. The art form of dance for screen will develop into a sophisticated discipline, which is studied and practiced with as much rigor as dance for stage. I also envision that dance video will bring dance to greater prominence in our culture, so that a majority of people regularly watch dance, and dance themselves at any age and ability.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Five New Ways to See New York

Photo courtesy of Mikeleeorg, via Flickr.

Even if you live in New York--actually, especially if you live here--you know there are parts of the city you haven't seen. Or, you might have seen them, but not like this.

Founded in 1998, Soundwalk creates New York walking tours, but not the cheesy, touristy kind. These are works of art: Sound-sculpture audio tours you can slap onto your iPod while you wander the streets solo. As the producers put it, they're "cutting-edge audio guides in which the listener is able to step into the life of a narrator as they guide you through their neighborhood streets and local hang-outs. Soundwalks mix fiction and reality in a cinematic experience, giving the listener the impression of actually being in a film." Best of all, you can get them cheap (or sample for free) on the Soundwalk Web site. My favorites are the Bronx Graffiti tour, an award-winner, and the Times Square tour, led by Timothy "Speed" Levitch, who happens to be the subject of one of my favorite documentaries, "The Cruise" (1998).

Here are the five Soundwalk tours you should take while it's warm! (Descriptions are from

1) Times Square
"Relive Times Square's golden era, stroll through the neon lights of Broadway with a backstage pass to West Side Story and the VIP rooms of the once glitzy restaurants and jazz clubs. Enchant your ears with music while feasting your eyes on billboards and marquees, feeling the cultural clash and fickle mood of this iconic landmark. Dare to venture in the sleezy world of peep shows and sex shops, but be careful, you might like it."

2) Bronx Graffiti
"For some, it is called vandalism, for most, it is art, yet graffiti art has cemented its place in urban culture, our culture. Appreciate it, recognize the styles, learn what tagging really stands for, where it comes from. The 5 train will lead you to this neighborhood, which was once avoided. Walk past old-school music stores and barbershops and indulge in art, graffiti art, your own street museum."

"Fade in. Glistening cobblestone streets flow between factory warehouses and huge artist lofts. Our protagonist walks through this discreet and empty neighborhood, observing Manhattan's skyline, the silence deafened by a train on the Manhattan Bridge. The sun is trying to hide behind Manhattan, causing long, oblique shadows. Through a crack in a boarded window is a sculptor, passionate about his work..."

4) Ground Zero
"Forever synonymous with courage, solidarity and resilience, Ground Zero is the nickname of the area formerly occupied by the Twin Towers. Voicemail messages, interviews, eyewitness accounts, live music, audio artifacts... this intense, not-to-be-missed memorial tour will take you through the lobby's revolving doors to the piano bar at Windows on the World to St. Paul's Chapel... Old and new stories from the World Trade Center and its neighborhood."

5) Women's Hasidic Walk (For all the dudes out there, they also have a Men's Hasidic Walk)
"Shalom and welcome to the Jewish quarters of Brooklyn. Hipsters have brought a new interest to this neighborhood but had it not been for the faith and tradition of Hasidic Jews, it would barely exist. This fascinating walk will give you the opportunity to see their customs up close and personal..."

P.S. If you're headed to China, France, India, or Germany, Soundwalk also has some sweet tours for those. Next, I'd like to see some for Italy...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Quay Brothers Reminder

Still from Street of Crocodiles, via Gothamist.

I told you about the Quay Brothers coming to Parsons a while ago--and the exhibition has finally arrived! Get more info and check out this sweet photo gallery on Gothamist before you go.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Marie Antoinette

Inside the Domain of Marie Antoinette.

It is difficult to say exactly what Marie Antoinette means to me, but her story is profound: a woman whose fate was the unimaginable fall from utter opulence to unspeakable degradation; a woman who was given very little power, yet was blamed for the ills of an entire nation; a woman whose story is still mulled over, misunderstood, mythologized, and debated hundreds of years later. Add to that Antoinette's connection to the arts--her appreciation for and patronage of everything from theater to painting--and I'm fascinated, breathless. So, when I visited Paris for a couple days a few weeks ago, I couldn't leave without strolling the halls of Versailles and paying tribute at Saint Denis, the queen's final resting place. If you have any interest in Marie Antoinette, these are the places you should seek out in and around La Ville-Lumière:

1) Versailles
If you can choose only one of the places on this list, go to Versailles. Just outside Paris, the huge, lavish former home of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI offers an intimate look (if your imagination can overcome the crush of tourists) at how French royalty lived in the 1700s. The best things to see are the king and queen's separate, private chambers, the chapel (where Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were married), the jaw-dropping Hall of Mirrors (restored in 2007), the huge gardens outside the chateau (in the summer, stay to see the huge fountains erupt to classical music) and the Domain of Marie Antoinette (Marie Antoinette's private country residence, a bit of a walk, or a short ride on a rented bicycle, from the chateau). Get a nice look at the some of these sights here.

2) Saint Denis

In a suburb a short Metro ride from the Paris center, Saint Denis is one of the city's best-kept secrets. Mercifully untouristy, the beautiful Basilica, dating back to 475, contains exquisite monuments to French royalty, and the body of almost every French king. Most important to see if you are a Marie Antoinette devotee is the Memorial to King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette (upstairs), with spectacular sculptures by Edme Gaulle and Pierre Petitot, and both of their graves in the crypt (downstairs). The couple's remains, originally buried unceremoniously in the churchyard of the Madeleine, were not moved to Saint Denis until 1815.

3) Carnavalet
This eye-candy museum with a fabulous garden focuses on Paris history and includes substantial documentation of the French Revolution, as well as some of Marie Antoinette's furniture and other possessions.

4) Tuileries
The palace where Marie Antoinette was forced to live after the royal family was taken from Versailles during the French Revolution no longer stands (it was looted both the French Revolution and burned during the Paris Commune), but the 63-acre Tuileries Garden (by the Louvre) where she used to roam looks much like it did when it opened in the 1660s, despite recent renovations. It was designed by Andre Le Notre, who also created the gardens at Versailles.

5) Conciergerie
This is the saddest stop: the prison (now a museum) where Marie Antoinette was kept during the last days of her life. Today, it's a little kitschy--with hordes of tourists and Marie Antoinette's cell filled with mannequins and sparse furniture meant to reconstruct the scene--but the spot, haunted by its bloody history if not the ghosts of dead inmates, is still worth seeing.

Want to know more about Marie Antoinette? Read the book Marie Antoinette: The Journey or watch the PBS documentary Marie Antoinette. Also great: Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution, and The Private Realm of Marie Antoinette.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Knit Me Again

Knitted street art in NYC. Photo courtesy of Divine Harvester, via Flickr.

I hadn’t heard much lately about Knitta Please, so I was super stoked to hear the crew of ‘guerilla’ knitters that has been tagging up city light poles, signs, benches, and whatever else they can get their stitches on since 2005, is still at it. The group ‘of ladies of all ages, nationalities, and… gender,’ headed up by Magda Sayeg, who lives in Texas, will be covering 69 parking meter poles on Brooklyn’s Montague Street with bright, hand-knit sleeves on May 13, as part of a public art project commissioned by the Montague Street Business Improvement District. Knitta Please did a similar installation in Paris in 2007.

Gothamist has a great interview with Sayeg, who talks about this project, plus some of her favorite past creations–including throwing a knitted pair of sneakers over a power line, tagging the pedestal of an organ grinder in Mexico City, and covering an entire New York phone booth in stitches. ‘I like to stay connected to street culture, and what it inspires,’ she says.

Rock on, Magda.

If you’re a knitter in New York and would like to get involved with the Montague project, Knitta Please wants you! Call the Montague Street Business Improvement District at 718-522-3649 or visit the Web site. You can also get more info about the installation or Knitta Please and see more images of their work on their Web site or Facebook group.

(Note: I originally wrote this post for, where it appeared first. Yep, still multitasking...)

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Girl Project: Five Questions for Kate Engelbrecht

Photo courtesy The Girl Project.

New York-based photographer Kate Engelbrecht is on a mission to empower teenage girls through pictures. She started The Girl Project, a national collection of photos taken by American girls ages 13 to 17, in 2008. Each participant gets a disposable Kodak camera to capture self portraits and anything else that matters in her life. Then she sends it back to Engelbrecht, who is including the most compelling of those on The Girl Project Web site and in an upcoming book and a traveling exhibition scheduled kick off in 2010. Some of the results are heartbreaking, some are uplifting, and others are hilarious--but all the images are surprising and touching.

I recently chatted with Engelbrecht via email:

1. How did the idea for The Girl Project come about?
I became really curious about how much I "knew" about teenage girls regardless of the fact that I didn't know any and had not been one myself for a long time.

2. What was your goal for the project?
In the beginning I set out to explore whether or not if what I knew, or thought I knew, was true. Today its less about a question; it has become my own little mini mission to help share girls' perspectives of themselves. My goal is to compile the images in a high-end photography book as well as a traveling exhibition.

3. What are some of your most favorite/interesting photographs you have received so far?
Hmm... thats difficult to answer. There are so many images. The most interesting to me (in general terms) are those that reveal something really personal... where the girl completely goes for it emotionally and puts herself out there.

4. How many girls have participated so far?
Around 800. I hope to have 5,000 by the end.

5. What is the most surprising thing you have discovered doing this project?
For certain it is how innocent these girls are. They are so much more real than the world unconsciously leads us to believe.

Note: If you're a teenage girl who wants to participate in The Girl Project, sign up here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Graffiti Queens

Photo courtesy McCaig-Welles Gallery.

Women have always been an imperative part of the urban art scene, with legends like Claw Money and Fafi making their mark on cities around the world. And although the man is making it more and more difficult for artists of both sexes to put up their work in public places, these ladies have still found ways to stay relevant and continue creating compelling art. Claw Money has her eponymous, ultra cool fashion line , Fafi did a collaboration with MAC Cosmetics, designing some insanely awesome, drool-worthy makeup bags, and Swoon, one of my all time favorites (not technically a graffiti writer but the consummate street artist), has launched her Swimming Cities expeditions and is represented by Deitch Projects. One of the best things about all this is that these artists have managed to break into the commercial world without selling out.

I’m really excited that the art and fashion worlds are starting to recognize truly talented graffiti writers, especially women, so I’m super stoked for this upcoming exhibition at McCaig-Welles Gallery in Brooklyn. Queens Arrive: International All Female Graffiti Artists Exhibition runs April 10-May 3. Artists featured include Fafi, Claw Money, Klor, and a whole lot more. The works of Martha Cooper, who photographed NYC subway graffiti during its heyday in the 1970s and 80s, also will be part of the exhibition.

(Note: I originally wrote this post for, where it appeared first. What can I say? I gotta multitask these days!)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Where You At, Jax?

Photo courtesy of Michelle Brea, via Flickr.

You might have noticed that I'm a little slow to post these days. I'm currently working on my grad school thesis -- three more weeks! -- as well as doing two internships, plus a freelance magazine project. Needless to say, Finding Five posts will be sporadic at best for the next few weeks. Bear with me and I'll get back to daily posts by mid-May!


Monday, March 23, 2009

The Quay Brothers!

Film still from the Quay Brothers' Street of Crocodiles (1986).

Maybe it's too early to write about this-- but maybe I just wanted an excuse to mention the Quay Brothers. Parsons is mounting "Dormitorium: An Exhibition of Film Decors by the Quay Bros." July 15-Oct. 4, and you should mark your calendar because this will be the first time the tiny, macabre sets from the twins' shatteringly beautiful, spooky stop-animation films have been displayed in North America. The show will also include continuous screenings of some of those works.

"Exploring the design process in relation to how we construct narratives is an important part of a Parsons education, and Dormitorium is an exhibition that goes beyond retrospective to really investigate the nature of creative work," Parsons dean Lydia Matthews said in a press release. "This exhibition gives our students an opportunity to see how the Quay brothers create intricate fantasy worlds, from set design to finished film through their compelling engagement with literature, their command of sound and lighting design, their uncanny use of focus, color and texture, as well as their mastery of digital editing processes."

You don't have to be a student to go: The exhibition will be up at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, which is open to the public, and admission is free.

The Quay Brothers-- born in Pennsylvania in 1947 but living in London since the 1970s-- seem to scrape the cobwebs from the darkest corners of our minds, harvesting shreds of Eastern European literature and lore, fairy tales, and childhood nightmares, mixing them up, and pairing them with haunting music and sounds that hang and sparkle in the air. Disassembled dolls, lonely specters, and twisted storybook animals slink silently through enchanted shadow worlds. It's pretty much perfect.

Stephen and Timothy Quay described their films best in an interview with Paris Premiere, caling the works "an alchemy of silences and objects and things inhabited... They're frozen. They're caught in the last breath of Victoriana ... the beauty and sweetness of an epic that suddenly died... "

You have to see the films to appreciate them. Luckily, you don't have to wait until July to at least get a taste: Good excerpts from Street of Crocodiles (their most famous) and Are We Still Married (my personal favorite), are on YouTube, along with that Paris Premiere interview.

...Pleasant nightmares.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Women and Art

Sotheby's announced on Friday that it is mounting an exhibition April 2-14, focusing solely on women. Let me clarify. The artworks --everything from Andy Warhol's Turquoise Marilyn silkscreen to Henri Matisse's bronze Figure Decorative sculpture --all depict females. They are on loan from mega-collectors Steven and Alexandra Cohen.

While it's great that the Cohens are willing to loan works for a free show, it's always tricky mounting a show that focuses on gender, and it should always be done with deep consideration for context. It irks me that Steven Cohen's explanation for the "Women" theme is that he simply finds "focusing on one theme intriguing," and Sotheby's explanation, via The New York Times, is that it helps build the auction house's brand and relationship with the Cohens. What we have here is a huge missed opportunity to take a serious, in-depth look at how females have been depicted in art and how this has shaped our attitudes about women, sexual roles, sterotypes and attitudes toward gender. Given that Sotheby's announced the upcoming exhibition during March, National Women's History Month, it almost seems like a no-brainer.

Speaking of Women's History Month, the New York Public Library's blog has a month of great posts about female writers, artists, and others who have made a difference.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ain't Your Granny's Embroidery

One thing I saw quite a bit of at this year's Armory Week fairs was embroidery. Embroidery, knitting, crochet, and other fiber crafts have, in recent years, busted out of the realm of grannies' parlors and into the cool girls' and boys' clubs. They've also gone even further, making their mark on serious contemporary art. Works like Alicia Ross' cross-stitched nudes (pictured above, at Black & White Gallery's booth at Pulse) create tension and dialogue between the traditional and avant-garde.

If you want to get in on the action, try your hand at embroidery for art-- Etsy has its "Embroidery as a Drawing and Narrative Tool" class coming up on March 29 at 3rd Ward in Brooklyn.

I'm also a fan of the group Knitta Please,"guerrilla knitters" who take fiber arts to the streets, tagging up city street furniture, poles, and anything else they can get their stitches on. You can get involved by contacting them through their Web site.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Life Imitates Art Imitates Life

All photos courtesy of Marc Lafia.

At the Pulse art fair on Saturday, I came across Marc Lafia, who was asking people to pose in front of various artworks in the booths. Turns out, Lafia is an artist himself, and he was photographing fair visitors who resembled people in paintings they happened to be walking past. Some of Lafia's subjects look remarkably similar to the portraits he paired them with, and the resulting images riff on identity and individuality. Check these out:

Monday, March 9, 2009

Reasons to Love Swoon

Detail from a Swoon paste-up in Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of Trois Tetes, via Flickr.

The artist Swoon is having a benefit party for her next project on March 14, and you should go. Why? Because Swoon is awesome. Why is she awesome? Well...

Because of the fragility and toughness of her paste-ups that linger around the city, getting better as they disappear, decaying exquisitely and suggesting layers of stories with each crack and peel. I love that her art is both unabashedly feminine and unapologetically raw.

Because of this honest, straightforward interview she did with SWINDLE a few years ago. When I first read it, I was just learning about street artists and had developed a particular fascination with women making their mark on the city. Since then I have come back to it again and again, not only for background on Swoon but because it makes me think about context, living with art, and overcoming failure.

Because she's really, really nice. I happened to be in the middle of interviewing Swoon just when the Great T-Mobile Blackout of 2008 struck, and she was very laid back and went waaay out of her way to make sure we cobbled together answers to my questions through email, texting, and what spotty cell service we could latch onto. All this while she was floating down the Hudson on a raft (See #5)!

Because Swoon manages to straddle the line between street artist and gallery artist without selling out or compromising her work. Her gallery exhibitions are as contextual and meaningful as her paste-ups. See? And I already showed you this.

Because of her boat projects. Swoon first gathered a group of artists and creative-type friends in 2006, made some rafts, and floated 800 miles on the Mississippi River-- giving art workshops along the way. Then in 2008, she took the idea a step further with a fleet of floating sculptures that carried 40 artists down the Hudson River. They stopped to perform music and a play about the imagined origins of the boats, written by the multidisciplinary artist Lisa D’Amour. I love the comparison Swoon made between the boats and her more stationary artworks when I interviewed her last year: "They are hugely different kinds of artwork, but they function in the same way, showing up where you might not expect them and speaking to the landscape they are in as well as to the people who see them. I try to create artwork that lives in a daily setting and has relevance outside of art institutions and doesn’t depend on them for context."

Next, Swoon and crew will navigate the Adriatic Sea from Slovenia to Venice, Italy on three intricately crafted vessels.They plan to crash the Venice Biennale in June, and that's where you come in. They need your help raising money to make it happen, so go to this auction, dance a little, listen to some music, and bid on some art if you can.

  • What: Benefit Silent Auction
  • When: Saturday, March 14th--- 7:30pm - 10pm, Dance Party 9pm - 3am
  • Where: Secret Project Robot--- 210 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn, NY (at Metropolitan)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Break from the Fairs

Greg Haberny's art in McCaig-Welles space at Fountain. Photo courtesy of Art Comments, via Flickr.

Gothamist described this year's Armory Show as "the usual small percentage of memorable work scattered throughout the vast shopping mall of unremarkable crap," and I have to agree, having spent Thursday afternoon wandering forlornly through the booths. Hopefully we'll all have better luck at some of the smaller fairs, but if you've really had enough, you can escape to any of these other events and exhibitions:

Fountain: Fountain might technically be an art fair, but the guerilla-style show is not like any of the others. With only nine galleries in 12,000 square feet (on a barge!), the exhibitors have a little more breathing room. You'll feel it in the laid-back atmosphere, and you'll see it in the edgy design of the spaces.

NYU Open Studio: If you've been to any of the fairs this week, it will be interesting to contrast those artworks with the ones students are producing. Plus, the opening reception has a live performance by Chairlift's Caroline Polachek at 8 p.m., and a dance party. What more could you want?

Vanessa Beecroft Performance at Deitch Projects in Long Island City: Vanessa Beecroft is doing her first public performance in New York since 2000. Beautiful and austere, "VB64" juxtaposes live models with identical gesso sculptures.

Kick My Heart's Ass: Short Films About Love
: Curated by FOUND magazine creator Davy Rothbart, this film exhibition has the same voyeuristic appeal as the mag.

Artists' Books as (Sub)Culture and INTROspective: If you need a little peace and quiet after all that, head over to the Center for Book Arts for these shows. One explores book arts as a social mission, while the other features tomes transformed into mysterious, layered sculptures.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Armory Week Art Fair Madness

Photo courtesy of pt, via Flickr.

Art fairs can be overwhelming-- the sheer number of works almost guarantees fatigue and makes it nearly impossible to have a meaningful experience with any one piece or exhibition-- but they can also be a fun way to explore the scene. I like the feeling of excitement that hangs palpably in the air during a big event like Armory Week, and I enjoy taking the pulse of the art world: Seeing the trends, finding out what is generating the most buzz, and brushing elbows with some of my favorite artists. And this year's events in NYC should be especially telling, revealing how the economy has affected all kinds of artists and galleries.

If you get as confused as I do about what events are held where, what you should skip, and what you should absolutely NOT miss, the following Web sites have some great tips:

1) Art Fag City's interactive map and event guide

2) The Armory Show's official Web site

3) New York Magzine's guide to "This Week's Six Unsnobby Art Fairs"

4) ARTINFO's Armory Week coverage

5) Time Out New York's Arts Week Miniguide

P.S. I would also appreciate hearing about your favorite events, most coveted artworks, and general impressions of this year's fairs.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Honey Space Turns One

Installation shot from Tiberius. Photo courtesy of Chadwick Tyler.

When Honey Space opened last year in New York's posh Chelsea district, the scrappy new art gallery raised more than a few eyebrows-- mostly because its founder, Thomas Beale (who is also an artist), announced it would run sans staff most days. Yes, Beale and the other artists who planned to show work at Honey Space were going to do the unheard of: They were simply going to trust visitors not to steal or vandalize the art. In fact, that was the whole point.

"This is kind of a radical idea for New York City, where we have such a security-conscious culture," Beale told me when I interviewed him on opening day for ARTINFO. "To do something where you put complete trust in people, and to see whether people end up respecting it or not, is a powerful idea."

A year later, Beale still thinks the idea is powerful, and, besides a few minor incidents (someone stole the guest book and Beale once discovered a confused man sleeping off his hangover behind one of the exhibits), people have generally behaved themselves.

Honey Space has hosted some amazing exhibitions by top-notch artists during the past year, including my personal favorite, this creepy-fabulous installation by Swoon and Tennessee Jane Watson. The current show, "Tiberius," a collection of haunting and achingly beautiful portraits by Chadwick Tyler (running through March 14), is also one of the best.

I recently caught up with Beale, who said Honey Space will most likely close within the next couple of months. The leaseholder, with whom Beale currently has a deal to use the warehouse space for free, is planning to develop the building. If you haven't checked out Honey Space yet, this might be your last chance to experience one of the most heartfelt, innovative arts endeavors in the city.

"I knew it wasn't going to last forever," Beale told me, chatting by phone a few weeks ago. "And that's okay. I still think it's one of the best things I've ever done."

For more information about Honey Space, also take a look at this article from The New York Times.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Subway Art Tour

I’m a sucker for public art, for the most obvious reasons: For the way a strategically placed piece can rise up to startle and greet you out of nowhere, take your breath away, and change the course and mood of your entire day. The subway is one of the best places for this scenario, but in the crazy, annoying, smelly hurry of the day, I hardly ever stop to notice that almost every station houses some amazing artwork. A few of my favorites are listed below.

Taking a little tour just to see this work will change your whole view of the train system. Plus, it’s perfect timing for an underground expedition, given that it’s still too cold to really enjoy walking the streets above ground, and subway art is free--perfect for all of us who are broke and/or unemployed.

If you want more, there’s a pretty complete list at (but look out for temporary exhibitions that are no longer up), or you can check out these books.

NOTE: If you want to see all of the following on one trip, start at 14th Street-Eighth Ave. Then take the L heading to Union Square. From here, take the Q heading downtown/Brooklyn to Atlantic-Pacific. From here, take Q again, this time heading uptown toward Manhattan (don't forget to look out the window starting at the next stop!). Get off at Union Square, transfer to the 6, and head waaaay up to Westchester Square.

1) 14th Street-Eighth Avenue (A, C, E, L)
I used to work in the building above this station, and Tom Otterness’s bronze sculpture series, “Life Underground,” was one of my first experiences with subway art. Otterness’s whimsical, moneybag-bearing creatures that comment on capitalism manage to be both whimsical and foreboding, and are especially symbolic today. I wrote about these for ARTINFO in 2007.
Photo Courtesy MacRonin47, via Flickr.

2) 14th Street-Union Square (4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R, W)
This station is full of more obvious art, but you have to look closer to find my favorite—Mary Miss’s “Framing Union Square” installation that incorporates pieces of the original 1904 station. Look for red frames and eagles wearing the number 14.

3) Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street in Brooklyn (2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, M, N, Q, R)
The Museum of Modern Art recently installed its “MoMAAtlantic/Pacific” advertising campaign at this stop, but more than an promotion for the museum, it serves as a mini-installation previewing all the midtown museum has to offer. More than 50 reproductions of works in MoMA’s collection—including those by Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol—are interspersed throughout this station through March 15. The works look somewhat different than they did when they were installed, however, after the street artist Poster Boy got his hands on them.

4) DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn (B, D, M, N, Q, R)
The MTA recently restored Bill Brand’s 1980s optical illusion piece, “Masstransiscope,” so head back toward Manhattan on the B or Q and look out the windows on the right side of the train. Budget Travel’s blog has good YouTube video.

5) Westchester Square-East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx (6)
Caught at just the right moment, in just the right light, legendary artist Romare Bearden’s stained glass “City of Light” stained glass cityscape will stop you in your tracks.

Other stations to check out:
  • 14th Street-Sixth Avenue (F, L, V)
  • 191st Street (1)
  • South Ferry (1)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Welcome to My World

Finding Five is here to create a community dialogue about art, culture, and all the random, crazy, heartbreaking, ugly, beautiful New York City happenings that fall somewhere in between. I'm not interested in talking about the art market (okay, maybe once in a while when it veers into the eyebrow-raising absurd). What I am interested in is people, art, and creative endeavors that make a difference in this city (although the occasional pissed-off rant is de rigueur).

So why "Finding Five?" Five keeps me focused. Five keeps me searching for more. The five art events you must attend this week. Five museum shows you should see NOW. Five questions for my favorite up-and-coming artist. Of course, every Finding Five post won't center on five--I'm not even promising that I won't wander into crazytown from time to time--but I'll try to keep a fairly consistent thread that you can keep coming back to, and hopefully even USE as you traverse the city's cultural landscape.

Finding Five came about because there are so few media outlets that present art and culture from an approachable perspective. I won't break down the latest auction percentages for you; I'm not going to dissect technique. What I am going to do is entertain you, start a conversation with you, and hopefully inform you, too.