el sol sale para todos–the sun rises for everyone

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Latest | Comments Off

“Messages in Motion believes that media can be independent, community-driven and representative of diverse voices, perspectives and styles that reflect our uniqueness as individuals and speak to our needs as communities.  MIM activates relationships by networking people and promoting self-expression as a step toward social change.”

Laura giving a tour of her studio van on opening night.

I was born in the suburbs of Philadelphia, went through 12 years of schooling in the area, and ended up going to college only about 20 minutes away from the city.  I thought I knew Philadelphia pretty well.  But El Sol Sale Para Todo, Laura Deutch’s collaborative films with her two colleagues Leticia Roa Nixon and Carlos Pascual, introduced a part of Philadelphia that I have never seen or was aware of during the 16 years that I’ve lived here.

El Sol Sale Para Todo was screened at Haverford College about two weeks ago.  It is the exact embodiment of MIM’s mission statement, to represent the voices of a community that is often overlooked.  The film reveals the many stories of Hispanic immigrants living in Philadelphia.  The stories about hardship, linguistic differences, different travels before settling in Philadelphia, memories about Mexico, and dreams of a better life away from hard labor.

I was captured by this documentary.  Having decided to teach at an inner-city school in Philadelphia, I thank Laura for giving me a glimpse of the personal realities of families in the city.  The film has served its purpose in helping me, as a viewer, gain a better understanding of a community that is marginalized and overlooked.

a photograph may be worth a thousand words, but actions speak louder than words.

Posted: February 7th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Latest | Comments Off

Last fall, I had written a brief entry about one of our artists, Jorge Figueroa.  All I did was write a few amateur thoughts on how I felt about his work–things that I appreciated, little details I noticed at the time.  I wrote it and didn’t think much about it after I clicked “publish.” After finishing my semester, I packed my bags and was off to London.  To be honest, I didn’t think much about People’s Biennial while I was there (c’mon…I was in London!), until Matthew sent me an intriguing email asking for my mailing address in England.  He wrote to me that a visitor had stopped by at the gallery to drop off a gift for me.  To my disappointment, Matthew would not reveal the identity of the visitor.  I sent him my address so he could send the mysterious gift my way.  And then I forgot about that email.

One day, I received a large package in the mail.  I opened the box and found it filled with foam pieces.  I dug around and finally got a hold of something rectangular, carefully wrapped in bubble wrap (which I proceeded to pop immediately).  I peeled off the bubble wrap, curious about what could possibly be under all the careful packaging.  My fingers got a hold of a thin black frame.  As I slowly pulled the entire frame out, I think my body knew what it was before my mind fully realized it.  I say this because I actually started tearing up before I even took off the last bit of bubble wrap to see what it really was.  It was a print of my favorite photograph from Jorge’s collection!

Later, Matthew told me that Jorge had stopped by–just out of the blue one day–to drop off the print for me and comment on the blog entry I had written a few months earlier.  I was completely flattered and humbled by Jorge’s thoughtfulness, not just because he took the time to make a print for me, but also because he knew exactly which print I would want.

Since that day, I eagerly looked forward to meeting Jorge, and I finally did at our opening!  He was exactly as I imagined he would be–gentle, friendly, and warm-hearted.  Having finally met the man behind the camera, I am left with more thoughts about his work.  The moments captured in his photography feel like small, thoughtful gifts for his subjects and his viewers.  What I learned about Jorge was that he takes great care and humility in all that he does; Jorge took great care in thinking about what print I would love, and selflessly took the time to drop the print off for me.  His photographs clearly reflect this same care and selflessness.  He does everything he possibly can to capture the fullness of the moment, space, and time.  They are truly gifts for any viewer.

Jorge and his wife enjoying Sound in Color and Poetry in Motion by Joseph Perez


Posted: February 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Latest | Comments Off

Come join us for the screening of People’s Biennial artist, Howard Kleger’s self-documentary!

Global Positioning System

Posted: December 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Latest | Comments Off

“I have been trying very hard to see beauty.  I know I have seen it before but it is vague and exists as more of an idea than a reality…”

–Andrew Sgarlat

Do you have a GPS? What about a map? Are they only vague representations of our world, or do they accurately depict our reality? Andrew Sgarlat, one of our very own People’s Biennial artists from the Philadelphia area, tries to pinpoint beauty, whether it exists in reality, or just as symbols and illusions in our imagination.

(By the way, those “folds” are painted in…this painting isn’t really folded.)


I Scream, You Scream, The People Scream for Ice Cream!

Posted: December 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Latest | Comments Off

It is good to be back on board with blogging for People’s Biennial. I had an incredible time in London last spring.  My time in Europe was 5 months of paradise, living out the daydreams I had as a young girl flipping through travel magazines.

Now that I’m back, I bring you great news: ice cream will be served at the People’s Biennial opening this upcoming January.  Too exciting!  The fantastic part is that the ice cream will be brought to you by one of People’s Biennial artists, Rudy Speerschneider.  This will not be your usual ice cream from the grocery store…

Hailing from Portland, Rudy Speerschneider creates an atypical but inspiring range of ice cream flavors.  One review showered him with praise, describing him to be “a mad food cart scientist. An evil gourmet genius. The Salvador Dali of the Portland food carts. A poet the likes of Ferlinghetti with a griddle. A cook who shares certain DNA with Alice B. Toklas. A man who basis his menu on dreams and premonitions. Inspired by the seasons and whatever force of nature artistic muse possesses his spirit.”  Basically, my friends, he is an ice cream guru.

The History of Junior Ambassador's Food Cart: A Mostlandian Venture, 2007-2009

Speerschneider’s statement as an artist reflects a man chasing after tastes that have yet to be discovered. He confesses his wild flavored dreams:

“I dream about orange paint, imaginary lands, and making ice cream…I feel a tug at the gut, a buzz in the head, a rousing energy pouring from the heart, all over the place, I see stars, I must live…The dream has to come alive, at once, or I die, so the metamorphosis begins—consuming, passionate, like magic, madness, and supernatural powers, it turns, twists, and infuses the sense of wonder in the palpable state of things (excerpt from The People’s Biennial Catalogue).”

The result? Flavors such as Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Ice Cream (served with crackers), Gingersnap Cookies & Basil, Maple Trip Tease, and Coconut Curry.

Have I peaked your curiosity yet?  Errr…rather, your appetite?

I guess I’ll see you at the opening then!


Learn more about his food cart adventures: http://www.foodcartsportland.com/2009/03/13/junior-ambassadors/

Learn more about Speerschneider and his fellow artist friends: http://www.mostlandia.com/pages/fun.htm

Hard Against Bodies

Posted: December 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Latest | Comments Off

Compared to the rest of the world, Americans are stiff when it comes to nude bodies.  This past summer, I became highly aware of this after checking out a public bath with some friends in a different country.  When living in the US, you just don’t see rooms full of people in the nude, casually stripping off their clothes, holding normal conversations, helping each other scrub their backs, and laughing while shampooing their hair.  In a similar way, you just don’t commonly have conversations about images of nude people, let alone go bathe with nude friends.  This is what drives Maiza Hixson’s art.  Why do we avoid talking about bodies so much?  In her short film, “Men are Much Harder,” Maiza explores the boundaries of how people react to pornographic, medical, and artistic images of nude bodies.  She records the wide range of reactions people have in viewing these images.  Below are screen shots of the film.  Can’t wait to see the whole thing when the show gets to Haverford!

Should you stumble upon a meaningful discussion on nude bodies, how would you react?

Nostalgic Beauty

Posted: November 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Latest | 1 Comment »

These are simply beautiful.

Self taught and having started his passion for photography since he was 8 years old, Jorge Figueroa offers frank and moving photographs of Philadelphians, elegantly printed in silver gelatin.

Racial features that are normally sharp in color are softened by his use of black and white, allowing our focus to zoom into the very being of the people, the subjects of the photograph.  Only after we familiarize ourselves with their faces (or the lack of faces!) can we slowly zoom out and notice the careful structure of buildings and people in the background (did you notice the slight mirror effect in the second picture?), and the patterns of dust/rubble/wall cracks.  When I view these photographs, I can’t help but feel gentle tugs of nostalgia, as if I shared the moment captured in the photograph.

Nostalgic beauty.


Posted: November 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Latest | Comments Off

The practical side of me demands for someone to explain and make sense of these diagrams.  The liberal arts side of me asks what the human concept and the limit of sense is.  The abstract side of me wonders whether art ever needs to make sense.  And the inquiring part of me asks you, what do you make of it all?

Researching Howard Kleger’s background was a challenge.  Aside from the fact that there isn’t too much written about him, the big challenge was trying to digest his work in order to say something/comment on his work.  But alas, words chose to avoid me this time.  For me, I found myself just staring at his work.  It was enjoyable simply staring at one piece and moving to the next.  Fortunately, Howard has some friends who find him to be fascinating enough to dedicate a corner on the internet about him. One of his friends, Brandon Joyce, writes:

“Squinting sense was his forte. His thoughts and observations always straddled the limits of metaphor, the same boundaries between sense and nonsense that’s traced by the comedic. Remember waking for school with a head full of dream remnants? Churning them over in the shower, wishing you had pen and paper. By the time you toweled yourself dry, the thoughts had evaporated like morning dew, leaving only the softest impression of their world-historical brilliance.

Howard is without this regret. These brilliant little patents are just as vivid and accessible in his waking life. Clear as the noonday day, and coming out of his mouth, a-mile-a-minute. Microphone microscopes. Ladybug backpack 8-track mixers. Audiosnakes. Concept sculptures. A periodic table of energies. Midgets dressed up like children serving drinks from behind a screen. A bottomless reservoir of dopaminic ideas that Howard is hellbent on seeing realized.”

The thing about Howard’s work is that it may come off as nonsense.  But at the same time, his work radiates exciting sensibility; he has a keen appreciation for exploring the limits of mental and sensory perception.

Read the rest of what his friend had to say here.

A listening experience.

Have a great week!

Empowering Voices

Posted: November 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Latest | Comments Off

This semester, I’m taking a course called Human Rights and International Development. Just two weeks ago the class was assigned to read and browse through the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign homepage.  The goal of the assignment was to comment on and critique the organization’s use of human rights language, to explore how international human rights law is translated and played out on the grassroots level.  Coincidentally, while googling for more information about local artist Laura Deutch, I came across PPEHRC once more, but this time through a completely different medium—locally made documentary videos.

Laura Deutch, creative director of Messages in Motion (MIM), is a media artist in Philadelphia who combines the power of the arts with social justice work.  MIM has this basic idea—to travel in their van (a fully equipped studio), empower the voices of individuals and community-based organizations in the Philadelphia area, and start conversations.

There is a wonderfully blunt and raw voice in each of the videos featured by MIM.  As an artist deeply interested in social justice work, Laura helps these voices–voices that often find themselves marginalized, forgotten, or ignored by mainstream America–experience the art of storytelling.  MIM provides a venue to share their individual and community stories through their own personal documentaries. Follow the van on its interactive journeys!

Once an artist, always an artist?

Posted: November 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Latest | Comments Off

We all go through phases in life.  One day we love doing this or that, and the next day we chase after something else.  But when we “finish” with a phase, are we completely through with it?  Or does each phase leave some sort of stain?

Cymantha Diaz, one of the artists in People’s Biennial, drew throughout her childhood.  I was browsing through some of her pieces and came to a few conclusions (click on the picture for a larger view!):

#1. She loved hair—to the point where she dedicated an entire drawing on hair and wigs.  Blond hair, orange hair, rolled-up-granny-hair, curly hair! Great hair is a signature motif in all of her pieces.

#2. Even at a young age, she had an eye for detail. (Please keep in mind that she was younger than 12 years when she drew all of this).  Here’s what I mean by detail…

The golden poodle hiding behind the armchair is pretty cool but did you notice the picture within the picture within the picture? Oh, and the great hair??  It gets even better…

All of these school children have fabulous clothes on! And they all are wearing different shoes! (And different hair)

#3.  She wasn’t afraid to draw old people.  In fact, she was pretty awesome at it.

This piece is by far my favorite.  It’s hilarious!  The priceless evil expressions, their high-end slippers, their tightly rolled up hair, the steam floating from the coffee pot, the crazy portrait of yet another old lady, and the reflection of the lady looking in the mirror never fail to amaze me every time I look at this one.

Then one day, when Cymantha turned around 12 years old, she just stopped.

So tell me–Was it just a silly phase she went through as a child?  Or would you consider her to still be an artist if you met her today?




Another review of the People’s Biennial opening in Portland:


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