A New Advocacy

I began Cincinnati Art Snob with the interest in participating in the local, national and sometimes international conversations on art. The national art world was much more welcoming to me initially, but eventually Cincinnati’s art community allowed me to participate in reviews and interviews. Early blog pages reveal number of bitter battles, but in our local galleries everyone was very friendly to me.

I am most proud of my artists’ interviews. I will always treasure those conversations. So much I enjoyed spending time with artists and their work, that I’ve held out closing out this work in the hope for interviews I never got a chance to do. But failing to really engage the arts in the past year would make any interview I would do now, weak and sloppy.

In this past year, I remembered that my own scholarship in art history was housed in social justice as I focused on Critical Race Theory and Latino Identity Theory. While these conversations along with Feminist Theory and Queer Theory continue strongly in academic circles, their place outside seem to be in spaces of practice.

This space to do my work then is with Women Helping Women.

I still love and care for the arts so I won’t disappear completely. I will continue to offer my tours of art museums and galleries locally, though I don’t plan to actively market them, And I expect I will continue to post and comment on the arts periodically.  But my work now will be to advocate for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

When the art world considers art as a mere monetary investment.

The latest in the investigation of the artwork stolen from Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam reveals an art curator’s greatest fear: the paintings may have been destroyed.

Olga Dogaru, whose son has been arrested for stealing seven works of art signed by Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Gauguin, Lucian Freud and Meyer de Haan admitted to burning the paintings in order to protect her son from prosecution. Investigators have since tested the ashes of the incinerator and found evidence of nails, paints and other materials these artists were known to have used.

Olga Dogaru saw burning the paintings simply as a way to destroy the evidence. Of course those of us who love the arts may wonder how someone could throw these paintings into the fire. How could she simply watch these masterpieces burn? As a mother, I suppose I can understand the desire to protect her child from prison, but by burning works of art?

In the past year or more, the art world seems to have spent more time speaking about art as a mere monetary investment as a sole measure of value. Numbers, not color, line or form, has been the topic of too many art stories. This, I believe, is where to find the answer to the question of how does one incinerate works of art.

So when you read the story of Olga Dogaru this morning, pay attention to how you respond to this destruction.  Are you sickened by the possible destruction of art’s history or do you find yourself asking, “I wonder how much those paintings were worth?”  If it’s the latter, you too could probably be an art burner.

David Hockney’s Fake Diploma To be Auctioned

David Hockney’s fake diploma is expected to sell for up to $27,000.

I always thought it would be cool to commission an artist to take my art history degrees from the University of Kansas and the University of Chicago as mediums for a sculpture. In fact, I’ve refused to frame and hang my degrees because I really believe displaying them as a sculpted work by an artist is the best way to do it.

Honestly, if Hockney would do this for me, I think mine would be worth more than his.

But What Does the Art Historian Have to Say?

As much as I enjoy interviewing artists, I think I enjoy more reading what art historians have to say. I don’t believe this reflects the popularly perceived rivalry between artist and art historian. As an art historian myself, I learn so much more from many artists than I do from other art historians. But the writings of and conversations with art historians often reveal the aforementioned rivalry as myth with their words of genuine love and care for artists and art.

James Panero recently interviewed Art Historian Dore Ashton for Hyperallergic. This interview reminds me of the strong bonds between art historian and artist.

Yale University Art Gallery Open for Learning

An article in the NY Times tells of the reopening of the Yale University Art Gallery. The story focuses on the role of the academic museum as a teaching venue where “art appreciation meets education.”  The gallery houses a variety of works from different periods and genres curated for the purpose of teaching.  And its Levin Study Gallery invites professors from all academic departments to include pieces from the collection for their classes.  This gallery is also open to the public.

Educators and curators at all art museums have been working hard to encourage the public into seeing their museums as a place for learning about a number of topics other than art. Art education department in museums work with curators to create programming that teaches museum patrons as well as school students. The Cincinnati Art Museum (not a university museum) also has a wonderful series for educators. This series instructs local school teachers on how to use the permanent collection and visiting exhibitions to enhance their curricula.

In the past ten years or unfortunately, the trend to promote art museums as places of entertainment has shrouded this educational role  With this, too many art educators have had to include party coordinator as one of their skills.

It is wonderful to see this institution value their collection not only  as a financial investment, but as an educational one.  I do hope this is a sign or at the very least a cue for art museums to refocus their attentions to the curator and art educators as those important links to public education.  And the first thing to teach is that the museum is more than just party centers.

Living History of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls:  Life and Faith in Ancient Times at the Cincinnati Museum Center, opening today, presents hugely important and intertwining histories everyone should see and know. Since visiting the exhibition, I’m reminded again of the relevance of our shared human histories to our lives today.

As with many of the visiting exhibitions to the museum, the Dead Sea Scrolls opens with lots of drama and theatrics. This can be a bit annoying for a museum goer like me, who’s eager to see the artifacts, but I understand the importance of presentation and audience engagement to exhibition designers. I do have to admit however, introducing the Dead Sea metaphorically as a piece of antique pottery holding objects of our past, is very intriguing and truly a perfect visual for the place.

I was pleased to find unlike the Cleopatra show last year, many of the galleries are better lit making the artifacts leading to the scrolls much easier to see. Being able to see the markings on the pottery and the detail of some of the other sculptural pieces is so important to recognizing the cultural and symbolic significance of the artifacts.

The gallery holding the scrolls is perfectly lit. The scrolls themselves are protected and under dim lighting, but the translations and explanations are brightly displayed along side them in a large circular cabinet in the center of the gallery. The viewer is able to walk around this windowed cabinet to see the scrolls and read the translations very easily. More artifacts are included in this gallery as well. These and the signage continue to contextualize the scrolls in a very dynamic set of histories.

This is a huge exhibit with so much information to take in. While the shows does a good job of recognizing and reminding the viewer the Dead Sea is a cradle shared by Islam, Jewish and Christian beliefs and presenting them equally, all of this is really so much information to take in during a single visit. My concern is the average museum goer may walk away without learning and really being fascinated by these histories. There are really a number of “aha moments” in this show, but may require more than a single visit to experience them. I do recommend visiting this show. When you do, be prepared for lots and lots of reading. There is an audio tour available (I’ve not used it), but I think you would get the most out of it if you can view The Dead Sea Scrolls with a tour guide.

Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Ancient Times opens today, November 16 and will run through April 14, 2013. Plenty of time to visit more than once.

Flowers, 2012  8 1/2 x 11

ArtWord: Lori Ellison

 

 

“It is not important how the artists feel about their work while doing it, but how they think about it after it is finished.” — Lori Ellison

 

 

Lori Ellison is an artist and writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY.  Much of her work includes notebook paper drawings and gouache on panel paintings, but she has worked in enamels, egg tempera and glitter.  the intimacy of size and the precisioned focus of repeated patterns on an intimate scale (all works included here are 8 1/2 x 11).    The intensity of her visual work is found also in her written voice, particularly in her aphorisms.  These aphorisms can often be found on her Facebook status, inviting those of us to engage in a linguistic lyrical truth similar to that expressed on canvas.  Ellison says her interest is in “Proportion based on the lyric, not the epic – that is where the juice lives….Art that is the size and resonance of a haiku, quiet and solid as the ground beneath one’s feet…A discreet art, valiantly purified of the whole hodgepodge of artist’s tricks and tics.”

Lori Ellison has exhibited at the McKenzie Fine Art gallery in New York and her work is part of the Museum of Modern Art collection.

 

 

Eyecells, 2012 8 1/2 x 11

 

art snob: With such a meditative repetition, I wonder if contemporary viewers, forced to stop and spend time with your work, are willing. While beautiful to simply view, do you think the average viewer (whatever that means) or the contemporary eye for design is able to engage in the meditative quality of your work?

Ellison:  I have been told many times that they are meditative. I have no idea how much time they have invested in looking at them. I also get the word obsessive a lot. Isn’t it interesting that they call up two opposite poles of a frame of mind?

 

 

artsnob:  I’m not sure I see that as opposing poles as much as I find the term negative and perhaps offensive. I suppose this is why I question a contemporary viewer. Do you feel the need then to correct this notion of obsession? I wonder how many are willing to consider what you do instead of writing it off as an obsession.  Why not precision?

Ellison:  Precision is a good word. I have been at times a very obsessive though so I recognize those two poles and don’t really mind if people say obsessive. I was in a show at a space in New Jersey that was titled Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and thought that was an unfortunate title for a show. An even better word might be meticulous.

 

Geometrical Jazz, 2012 8 1/2 x 11

 

artsnob:   With each of your drawings and the aphorisms you post on Facebook, I am increasingly fascinated with the fundamentals of drawing and writing you employ in your work. I would even say I become nostalgic. While I am so excited, as a Facebook friend, to be able to see your work and read your aphorisms in “realtime,” I sometimes long for an intimacy your work celebrates. I do wish to share the space with the work. How do you think the fundamentals of drawing translate in the online media? Also, your aphorisms and the quotes included on your Facebook status come from an earlier form of textual messages….those of fortune cookies. As the artist, do you at all feel the disconnect I try to describe here?

Ellison:  I finally related the aphorisms to my drawings by coming up with a special way of writing them and drawing a repetitive motif and have them as a drawing series. I had never had much outlet for the aphorisms until Facebook with its status updates. Although I got them published three times on a blog run by James Geary, who has written and compiled two books on aphorisms. I don’t feel a disconnect having turned them into word art which I had done in the past in other ways. I also write poetry.

 

Strings, 2012 8 1/2 x 11

                                                                                   

artsnob:  Do you share your poetry online or have you had it published? Or do you read it as a performative art form? I imagine how all of these would become part of a solo show in the gallery. Do you see this work as translatable in more traditional art spaces?

Ellison:  I had toyed with the idea of making the poems into drawings like the aphorisms. But I will probably do it much later. I have been published in the upcoming issue of Gargoyle Magazine. I have also read aloud, but only on rare occasions. Facebook was very good for me “coming out” as a poet. There is a blog called Buddy of Work by Henry Samelson that matches artists’ main work with a passion on the side that published one of my paintings and one of my poems.

 

 

 

 

Millefiore, 2012 8 1/2 x 11

 

artsnob:   Similarly, it is difficult to recognize your work as small when presented online. So much of the writing about your work stresses the diminutive size of all of your pieces. Until I looked around at gallery images, I wouldn’t have realized this. The size of your work seems to be an incredibly important element in what you are trying to achieve. How do you maintain this conversation online? Or does exhibiting your work online permit a different or more welcome discussion about form and pattern?

Ellison:  People online do not tend to discuss the work they see. They tend to use one word like Nice! or Wow! or free associate. One of my friends on FB started a group called Critical Analysis to remedy this situation. It was lively and refreshing at first but has been inactive the last week or so. People frequently ask me what the size of my work is.  As to working small, I prefer the intimacy – and have written an artist’s statement/essay on it titled On Humility.

 

 

 

artsnob:  I suppose this is the weakness of Facebook to which I refer in the previous question. I’ve not seen the Critical Analysis group (though I may look for it), but to push this issue again, does your work with aphorisms, language, text, even conversation find Facebook ironically unfit for discussion of your art?

Ellison:  There have been some very good discussions of art on Facebook and some worthwhile commentary on the drawings and paintings I share. I was reviewed by James Panero of The New Criterion and he noted my use of social media. I am so pleased with who I have met and what discussions there are since joining Facebook about two and a half years ago. And it is a good break from my incessant drawing and painting.

 

artsnob:  I see your abstractions as so incredibly connected to a sort of spirituality in process and form. Many have compared your forms to Eastern or tantric styles. I see similarities as well in medieval church decorations of stained glass and mosaics. Each of these aesthetics point to what I see is pure form and a path to truth (for the viewer). Does your process reflect similar ideas for you, the artist? Keeping with the religiosity of the comparison, do you see your work as prayerful or communal?

Ellison:  One of my aphorisms is Spirituality is in the inner eye of the beholder. If someone finds spirituality in my work I am delighted and even moved by it. I believe it is not my place to claim spirituality for myself, as many would also see no connection, or don’t believe. All of the sources you mention above I have loved to look at. My mother was a medievalist.

 

 

Tangle, 2012 8 1/2 x 11

                                                                                        

artsnob:   More about your process. I mentioned to you earlier about how as a knitter I find yet another access to your work. The repetition of knitting is very meditative, yet the required precision of the stitches point to something that is far from random. Do you find truth in combining these elements of art making or perhaps you seek truth in this way?

Ellison – There are many truths but it feels true to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sunsets

Clifton Cultural Arts Center at Sunset

The Clifton Cultural Arts Center is opening a new series of events called Sunsets at the Center. This series celebrates the arts in Cincinnati, including music, literary, visual, and culinary arts.

Check out the series on their website.

These may be the best tickets to an artful autumn.

Shepard Fairey Gets Two Years’ Probation and $25,000 Fine

I wonder if we could get a local artist to create large wheat paste stamps and tag all of these murals around Cincinnati with “$25,000 Fine.”

Akron Art Museum Director to Step Down and New Chief Curator to Start August 20, 2012

After 26 years as director, with one of the longest tenures of any art museum leader in the country, Dr. Mitchell D. Kahan announced to the Akron Art Museum’s Board of Trustees that he will leave January 2, 2013 and assume the title of Director Emeritus. In addition, Janice Driesbach will join the staff on August 20, after a year-long national search, as the museum’s new Chief Curator.

Under Kahan’s direction, the Akron Art Museum enjoyed significant institutional growth: from a 25,000 square foot facility to 83,000 square feet; from an endowment of just over $2 million to well over $­­20 million following three endowment campaigns; from a collection of 2,000 objects to over 5,000; from a staff of 22 to over 50; and a capital campaign that raised $44.8 million surpassing the final goal of $42 million. Most significantly for future generations, Kahan raised almost $5 million in permanent endowment funds for purchases of art; there were no funds for art purchases when he arrived in1986.

Kahan plans to continue living in the Akron area with his partner Christopher Hixson and will focus on foundation management, arts journalism and making art.

Driesbach, a native of Lakewood, Ohio, has worked as both a curator and museum director. After an undergraduate degree in art history and political science from Allegheny College, she received her M.A. in art history from University of Iowa, where she studied with art historian Frank Seiberling (son of Goodyear founder F.A. Seiberling). She later worked at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento as Curator of Art and held two museum directorships, at the University of Nebraska’s Sheldon Museum of Art and The Dayton Art Institute.

Her specialty is American art, and she has spearheaded numerous collaborations among cultural institutions on a variety of topics. Driesbach helped to develop the collection of American contemporary sculpture at University of Nebraska and in Sacramento expanded institutional holdings of regional art, a dual approach that mirrors Akron’s commitment to both regional art and developments elsewhere. She is delighted to return to her first love, curatorial work. Her husband John is a printmaker and is a retired professor of art from California State University-Sacramento, where he earlier served as chair of the art department. Their two daughters live in Chicago and Fort Collins.