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:

Long Overdue

Posted: November 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Latest | Comments Off

David has left you. For Vienna.

While he’s been strolling around the Hofburg Palace or something, this blog has been bequeathed to yours truly, Rachel Lim—Haverford Junior, political science major, hailing from Vancouver, Canada.

The People’s Biennial (PB) won’t reach Haverford until January 2012, but a lot will happen between now and then, which is why I’m here to tell you all about it!

The opening reception for PB actually happened about a month ago in the green city of Portland, OR.  And at this very moment PB is already making its way to the second part of its journey, in Rapid City, SD.

According to Matthew Callinan, our gallery coordinator, the first thing you would have seen at the exhibit in Portland was Robert Smith-Shabazz’s wall of wooden plaques.  Born and raised in Philadephia, Smith-Shabazz carves and paints photographs or magazine clips on smooth, polished wood.  His finished pieces have a solid, bold look, fused with a touch of antique vintage.  On display at People’s Biennial were some of his wall plaques of famous African-American figures, such as (in order from left to right in picture below) Martin Luther King, Jr., Tupak Shakur, Elijah Muhammad, Miles Davis, Venus & Serena Williams, and the Obama family.

Viewers admiring Robert Smith-Shabazz's artwork at the People's Biennial opening night

His studio, the Wood and Music Lab in North 5th St in Philadelphia, is where he dedicates his time spreading the arts to members of the Philadelphia community in various ways, whether it is through teaching music as a saxophone and conga instructor, or carving wood for himself and for others.  His lifestyle and dedication in making others happy through the unique combination of music, woodwork, and community service in Philadelphia is an art in itself.

Check out Robert Smith-Shabazz’s homepage.

A review on the People’s Biennial Opening:

Happy Friday!



Maiza Hixson

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

Maiza is an artist who only recently moved to Philadelphia. She brought some video work to the open call at the Friends Center. She showed her short film “Men Are Much Harder.” It depicted groups of people reacting to erotic images. Maiza said the video was borne out of another art project done in Kentucky, where she worked as a curator. She is currently making a final edit for the People’s Biennial show.

Photo credit: Steve Magnotta

Andrew Sgarlat

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

We received Andrew’s work via email. He sent photographs of his paintings to our website. Andrew paints everyday objects – phonebooks, GPS printouts, maps. He tries to re-understand these objects as illusory. He notes, “Through painting objects that are both read as flat images (photography/print) and images with dimension (a calendar or book) one can make a distinction between our imagined reality prompted by a reproduction.  The subject of my work is about the presence of objects existing in their own right apart from the mind.  There exists a form of looking where we stop seeing our illusions; where our seeing eclipses our thinking or cultural references, a slow shift in the mind where the tunnel vision of symbols and ideas dissolve.”

Alan Massey

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

Alan brought his paintings and collages to the open call in Philadelphia. He works primarily on tiny swatches, the kind you get at hardware stores when you are trying to decide on the color of a room or what kind of rug to install. He covers these swatches in paint and other materials. His pieces are geometric abstractions, intriguing for their mix of dark and bright coloration and small size.

Photo credit: Steve Magnotta, Intrigue Photography

Cymantha Diaz-Liakos

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

During the Philadelphia open call we met with John Diaz, the former Associate Director of Facilities Management at Haverford College. He had with him a series of drawings done by his daughter Cymantha. John told us that she drew constantly as a child. When she was around 12, however, she mysteriously stopped pursuing her artistic abilities. She rarely drew throughout her teen years. Her childhood work will be featured in the Biennial.

Photo credits: Steve Magnotta

Howard Kleger

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

We visited the studio of Howard Kleger at the suggestion of James Weissinger who had seen his work at PIFAS place before. Howard works in a wide variety of mediums. He considers his work “living arts.” Howard writes, “The “living arts,” for me, also includes “multimedia,” meaning conceptually driven motifs in the format of film, sculpture, performances, staged events, environments, diagrams, conscious post-figured fine arts pieces, music, writings, and inventions.” His autobiographical film, “Howard2go,” will be included in the People’s Biennial.

Photo credit: Steve Magnotta, Intrigue Photography

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