Naomi Okubo and Self-Esteem

Recently I began volunteering as a “gallery babysitter” at a tiny space in the middle of the Essex Street Market in NYC. When I first wandered in to see the space, I was ecstatic to see one of the contemporary artists they’re currently featuring has been a favorite of mine for some time.

Continue reading “Naomi Okubo and Self-Esteem”

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We, Together

With everything that’s been going on in the world as of late and so many emotions stirred up, it’s important not to let one of the most powerful modes of expression go to waste- art.

“The future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create.”

–Former President Barack Obama

This past week we bid farewell to a president who, although not without glaring faults, made history and overall did well for this country as a whole. Unfortunately, in his place we face a man who has glorified sexual assault, appointed individuals who are laughably ill-suited for major positions, and has recently made it known that he plans to completely cut the funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities- as well as the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Rise Up Thy Young Blood, collaboration between Illma and INDECLINE, donated human blood, 2017

All the money (Shy of $150 million for the Nat’l Endowment for the Arts in 2016) that currently goes to supporting artists and critical art education through grants provided to both individuals and organizations would be completely removed from the federal budget. It’s not like cutting the two will make much of an impact on it either, together they made up a minuscule 0.006% of the total federal budget in 2016, which begs the question- If it makes such an incredibly small impact on the budget, why cut it- especially when schools around the country have already cut arts funding? …Well, honestly, why wouldn’t he? Generally speaking, the art world is particularly left-leaning, and artists themselves can often possess fairly radical ideologies including Marxist, Anarchist, Stalinist, and even Maoist thought, very foreign and likely unsettling to such a staunch businessman and capitalist like himself. So, once the general media is discredited and can no longer speak out against him, it only makes sense to attempt to do the same with the arts.

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We the People triptych, Shepard Fairey (whom I’ve mentioned previously) – created specifically for the inauguration and following protests.

Obviously, we can’t let that happen. The arts- writing, painting, theater, dance, and music- must continue to express the thoughts of the general populace whether the government wishes to support them or not. We as a global community have proven merely two days ago that we are able to band together and look past our differences to stand up for each other, and that can’t end here. There has already been a movement of artists creating art to react against our newly inaugurated President, putting together ‘Nasty Women’ art exhibitions from Portland to Amsterdam- many of which donated the proceeds to Planned Parenthood.

Get out there and pour your heart out. We need your voice.

Eric Rhein and the Shadow of HIV/AIDS

In honor of National Coming Out Day, I want to discuss something largely forgotten by the LGBTQ+ generation of today- the AIDS crisis.

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Ken and Me – Noon – June 5th, Eric Rhein. Eric had recently made an incredible recovery, whereas his then boyfriend, Ken, was not doing so well.

 

Eric Rhein was a young artist living in the East Village of Manhattan in the 1980s, where he witnessed many  friends and lovers go through the struggle of living with HIV and AIDS. And then, in 1987, he found out he was HIV positive. Out of fear for his career, he kept the information secret for years until he found a few people he felt he could trust, and they helped him become comfortable enough to be open about his fight. Unfortunately, shortly after his courageous step he took a turn for the worse and ended up hospitalized for a stretch of time.

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Uncle Lige’s Sword, Eric Rhein. Rhein’s uncle Lige was a gay rights activist.

Referring to the time he spent at St. Vincent’s Hospital as his “Artist Residency”, the whole experience was brimming with creativity and inspiration. He felt the presence of everyone he lost to the disease around him, particularly in the leaves he found on the ground outside during his walks. Thus, his internationally collected and ongoing Leaves project began, in which he dedicates a wire silhouette of a leaf he traced to a friend with AIDS who passed away.

In his own words, “One by one, I picked up leaves until a host of kinsmen was gathered in my arms. In death, they continue to be the teachers that they were in life, generously sharing with me the gifts of their individual attributes.”

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A small selection from Leaves.

Currently, there are over 250 portraits.

We lost almost an entire generation to the AIDS crisis, and since there are so few left to tell their stories, it feels like few talk about it. Please, take some time to remember the history as you celebrate today.

(If you’re interested in learning more about the AIDS crisis in the LGBT community, I highly recommend the documentary We Were Here, available to stream on both YouTube and Netflix.) 

The Kult of Koons

Yeah, I’m really not a fan

Anyone who has had a discussion with me about modern art knows that I dislike Jeff Koons’ work, and from more recent talks with friends of mine, I am far from alone.

Jeff Koons has built himself a following beginning in the 80s by trying to be like the Dadaist Duchamp, yet injecting his sculptures with consumerism and marketing them to the rich instead of attempting to make them mean anything. His sculpture is about aggrandizing the mundane- recycling the idea of a simple balloon dog, for example, onto a much larger scale for the purpose of profiting off of them. Color temperature is foreign to his paintings, which often come off as flat, cut and paste collages. Although his Made in Heaven series is not in the same style, it only serves to glorify himself and his sexual conquests. To be honest, it’s almost repulsive to look at, complete with overt narcissism and run-of-the mill depiction of sexuality.

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Made In Heaven by Koons, 1989 “Starring” himself and his ex-wife.

His following is incredibly large despite all this, and the only reason I can really think of is his reliance on consumers. There’s nothing to be learned from his work, and quite frankly, I’m disappointed that Gaga chose to work with him as opposed to someone like Richard Macdonald, who has done incredible work for Cirque du Soleil. The only thing  keeping him relevant is his marketing and working with the large galleries of the world, who pander to rich, influential patrons.