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.