Monday, August 31, 2009

Economist on the Torpedo Factory

The Economist visits Alexandria's Torpedo Factory.

Don't anticipate anything game-changing or jaw-dropping here. Expect plenty of cats and cows in different media, as well as watercolours of beach houses, ersatz Abstract Expressionist paintings, stained glass made for the walls of large suburban houses, baubles and knick-knacks and thingummies galore. All of it is skilfully done; most of it is pleasant.

The photography is an exception: the Multiple Exposures Gallery is first-rate, displaying not merely beautiful pictures but inventive techniques as well. On a recent visit the gallery showcased landscapes, including an especially arresting wide-angle aerial shot of a field in Fujian after a storm. Crops glinted in the rising sun like rows of wet sapphires, the scalloped grey clouds echoing the terraced farming beneath.
Read the whole article here.

The last paragraph of the Economist article:
The Torpedo Factory’s biggest draw, however (particularly for visitors with children), is not on what is sold but in the demystifying access visitors have to artists. While the galleries function traditionally, the artists work and sell out of the same studio; their raw materials and works in progress—the artistry behind the art—are all on display. Many of them are happy and eager to talk; one was soliciting the help of passers-by to complete a work (she wished to know how to say and write a certain phrase in Hebrew vernacular—a quest that might take time to complete in a yachty southern suburb). A metal sculptor sat on a stool patiently working a piece of metal back and forth in his hands. The centre of his studio was filled with a huge hollow sphere made from hundreds of cylinders of perhaps anodised aluminium. It seemed we were witnessing the first step in a thousand-mile march.

Tate in Neural

Europe's Neural magazine reviews Tim Tate.

Read the review online here in English and here in Italian.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Anderson Campello

Anderson Lennox Franklin Lars Timothy Angus Pict Eric Florencio Brude James Tiberius Campello Anderson Cruzata Jaspersen Alonso Zaar Marrero Karling Comba Noren Dalke Hartsell y Lennox. Circa August 28, 2009. Flesh and Blood. 20.5 inches by 8lbs 2 oz. NFS

Friday, August 28, 2009

It's a boy!

I am a father again! Welcome to the world Anderson Lennox Campello, born today, 28 August, 2009 at 0325AM after putting his mom through 41 hours of labor!

Anderson Lennox Campello
In the Cuban tradition I am giving him a ton of names... so although officially his name is Anderson Lennox Campello, his real name is Anderson Lennox Campello plus he also has these for the family record: (these are middle names following) Franklin Lars Timothy Angus Pict Eric Florencio Brude James Tiberius (and extended last names from his parents lineage in the right order) Anderson Cruzata Jaspersen Alonso Zaar Marrero Karling Comba Noren Dalke Hartsell y Lennox.

Wanna go to an opening at UM?

From Wednesday, September 2 through Wednesday, October 3, Profess: Department of Art Faculty Exhibition provides a glimpse into the creative research and professional activities of the University of Maryland’s Department of Art faculty.

The seventeen full-time faculty members included in the exhibition are: Audra Buck-Coleman, Patrick Craig, Dawn Gavin, Margo Humphrey, Wendy Jacobs, Patrice Kehoe, Richard Klank, Tadeusz Lapinski, Ruth Lozner, John McCarty, Brandon Morse, Jefferson Pinder, W.C. Richardson, John Ruppert, Foon Sham, Justin Strom, and James Thorpe.

The exhibition takes place in The Art Gallery located on the 2nd floor atrium of the Art-Sociology Building at the University of Maryland, College Park campus. A reception takes place Wednesday, September 2, from 5:00 to 7:00 pm.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mack, The Knife

I've always liked this song and always wondered what the hell it is about...

Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear

And it shows them pearly white

Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe

And he keeps it … ah … out of sight.

Ya know when that shark bites, with his teeth, babe

Scarlet billows start to spread

Fancy gloves, though, wears old MacHeath, babe

So there’s nevah, nevah a trace of red.

Now on the sidewalk … uuh, huh … whoo … sunny mornin’ … uuh, huh

Lies a body just oozin' life … eeek!

And someone’s sneakin' ‘round the corner

Could that someone be Mack the Knife?

A-there's a tugboat … huh, huh, huh … down by the river don’tcha know

Where a cement bag’s just a'droopin' on down

Oh, that cement is just, it's there for the weight, dear

Five'll get ya ten old Macky’s back in town.

Now, d'ja hear ‘bout Louie Miller? He disappeared, babe

After drawin' out all his hard-earned cash

And now MacHeath spends just like a sailor

Could it be our boy's done somethin' rash?

Now … Jenny Diver … ho, ho … yeah … Sukey Tawdry

Ooh … Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown

Oh, the line forms on the right, babe

Now that Macky’s back in town.

Aah … I said Jenny Diver … whoa … Sukey Tawdry

Look out to Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown

Yes, that line forms on the right, babe

Now that Macky’s back in town …

Look out … old Macky is back!!

Cuban art is caliente!

Because I am an art dealer, and because I have several art collectors that retain me as an advisor, I try to figure out the art scene from a commodity perspective as well as an artistic one; a key marriage often eschewed by most art critics because of their natural antipathy at admitting their symbiotic relationship with every facet of the art world, including the fact that art is everything, including a commodity.

How long have I been shouting "buy Cuban art!"? A long time... and not just because I may be a prognosticating commercial art genius, but because of the two great recent examples in the worldwide industry of making a piece of art climb in price: Russia and China.

Not just me, by the way, but also the Wall Street Journal, which looks at all things from a money perspective.

And of course, being self-serving because I'd rather people buy the artwork produced by the artists that I represent, I am always glad when they continue to do well, as they are "discovered" by the greater American art public in these three forthcoming exhibitions, all featuring the work of Sandra Ramos, whose amazing work I've pushing for years now and whose American solo gallery debut took place at my former gallery several years ago!

Sandra Ramos, Alumbramiento

Sandra Ramos, "Alumbramiento (Enlightment)" - Mixed Media Etching. 22 in. x 30 in. (56 cm x 76 cm). 2005.

The Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Connecticut has just announced a new exhibition, Ajiaco: Stirrings of the Cuban Soul, opening September 12, 2009 and on view through February 21, 2010.
Lyman Allyn Art Museum’s partner, the Hispanic Alliance of New London, has provided support for this exhibition with its coordinating programs and events. Cuban culture has been characterized as an ajiaco or a rich stew consisting of a vast array of ingredients. It is this synthesis that is the essence of Cuban art and the subject of Ajiaco: Stirrings of the Cuban Soul. The exhibition seeks to interpret the diverse social dimensions of Cuban art in a global context through the exploration of its relationship with African, Asian, European, and indigenous influences and belief systems.

This art incorporates the tales of the Orisha of Africa, the calligraphy of Chinese Tao Te Ching, and the rituals of indigenous peoples. The formats change, the materials vary, but the mix remains constant in both Cuban and Cuban American art. Ajiaco: Stirrings of the Cuban Soul is not only about Cuban art; it explores diaspora. In broader terms, this project addresses both the immigrant experience and the expression of cultural identity in a new place.

The curator, Dr. Gail Gelburd, a professor of art history at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, Connecticut, writes,
“Isolated and yet educated, restricted and yet heralded, the Cuban artist embodies the angst of their situation and yet embraces the loftiest of goals. Their syncretist tradition and heritage allows them to go beyond the monotheistic traditions in order to find the origins of their soul, the geist or inner spirit of their art.”
Gelburd has been conducting research on Cuban art and artists for over fifteen years. She travels to Cuba regularly and has lectured there for the Havana Biennale, Havana University, and Casa Africa. Gelburd has received numerous grants and awards, including a Rockefeller Foundation grant to conduct research on Cuban art and she is publishing a book on Contemporary Cuban art. Her article “Cuba: The Art of Trading with the Enemy" was published in Art Journal in Spring 2009.

This exhibition consists of more than fifty objects, including paintings, works on paper, photographs, sculpture, installations, and audio works by twenty-two artists. Ajiaco: Stirrings of the Cuban Soul will feature such major figures in Cuban art as Wifredo Lam, Manuel Mendive, Jose Bedia and Sandra Ramos, among others.

Following its time on view in New London, Ajiaco: Stirrings of the Cuban Soul will travel to the Chelsea Art Museum in New York City and then on to the Hilliard Museum at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, Louisiana.
And another one:
The Center for Contemporary Printmaking (CCP) in
Norwalk, CT heralds in the fall with an exhibition of Latin American prints, September 24, 2009 through November 07, 2009. The exhibition opens with a gallery reception on Thursday, September 24, 2009, 4 – PM, and is free to the public. Entitled “Creative Dialogues: Latin American Prints & Printmakers”, the exhibition focuses on the human figure and the interaction of different Latin American cultures to their environment and living conditions. Approximately 50 works of art are in the exhibition. Gallery talks and a workshop exploring contemporary Caribbean and Latin American prints and printmakers are planned to coincide with Hispanic Month, which takes place in October 2009.

Artists participating in the exhibition hale from many countries, and underscore the diversity of imagery presented at the exhibition. Gallery visitors will have the opportunity to review the work of two artists who create their images at a printmaking atelier in Cuba, images that are rarely exhibited in the United States; to review the work of Antonio Frasconi, an international artist who resides in Norwalk; or take in a lecture by Sandra Ramos, an internationally known installation artist, and Alicia Candiani, workshop owner and artist whose imagery emphasizes women and women’s issues. Sandra Ramos and Alicia Candiani are traveling stateside to create new prints at the CCP Helen Frankenthaler Printmaking Cottage and participate in the Artist-In-Residence program for several weeks during the “Creative Dialogues” exhibition.

On Friday, October 2, CCP is hosting a special gallery event, open to the public. Join guest Curator Ben Ortiz for a walk and talk of the “Creative Dialogues” exhibition at 6 PM, and listen to Sandra Ramos and Alicia Candiani talk about their images in the exhibition at 7 PM. Following the gallery talks, attendees will have the opportunity to view new works by Sandra Ramos and Alicia Candiani at the Helen Frankenthaler Printmaking Cottage.
And lastly, Wake Forest University is presenting "Cuban Artists, Books and Prints, 1985-2008." The exhibition gathers over 120 books, maquettes for unpublished projects, related prints, and printed objects. The books were designed for Ediciones Vigía, a collaborative artists’ press founded in 1985 in Matanzas. The only press of its kind in Cuba or perhaps anywhere, it began with a mimeograph machine and a borrowed typewriter. The show includes 120 works (handmade books, prints, sculptures, film about artists, digital frames, and mixed media) and it is curated by Linda S. Howe, curator and Professor at Wake Forest University, in conjunction with Paul Bright, Assistant Director of WFU Fine Arts Gallery.
Prints by Ibrahim Miranda and Sandra Ramos offer romantic, nostalgic views of the island or ironic interpretations of patriotism. Miranda superimposes fantastic beasts on old maps of Cuba. For her book Jabberwocky, Ramos mixes excerpts from Lewis Carroll’s text and John Tenniel’s images for Through the Looking Glass with her own on pages facing foldout mirrors (where they must be read). Other prints combine photographs of herself as a child with her illustrations of contemporary Cuban life, suggesting its fairytale quality, sardonically sketching the quotidian, and voicing her sense of loss.
The exhibition goes from August 26 - October 6.

And, remind me later to blog my mother's most excellent Ajiaco recipe!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Worst Nobel Peace Prizes ever

It has nothing to do with art, but this article is pretty good and cements something that I really believe: sometimes the prize just goes to the wrong bloke. Read the David Rothkopf article here.

My vote for the worst Peace Prize ever? Yasser Arafat.

Gopnik on Sanborn

"Terrestrial Physics," as the new installation is called, is possibly the most substantial work of art to come out of Washington since the 1950s, when Morris Louis stained his first canvases. Except Louis's fans had seen big, colorful abstractions before. No one has come across a thing quite like the new art Sanborn has made, working almost alone in his studio over the past three years.
Read Blake Gopnik's excellent profile on Washington area artist Jim Sanborn here; there's an interesting lesson for all artists in the last 6-7 paragraphs of the story.

And by the way, I was very glad to see Gopnik do something rare last Saturday: cover a couple of local DC galleries. Read that here. Gopnikism of that article: "Though boyish, the piece also is sober and adult."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Opportunity for Artists

Deadline: Postmarked by Sept. 18, 2009

The Workhouse Arts Center will present Poetic Art: a benefit for the Yellow Ribbon Fund. YRF is a non- profit organization created in early 2005 to assist our wounded troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and their families, while they recuperate at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center.

The exhibition on the second floor of Gallery W16 at the Workhouse Arts Center will feature both professional and amateur poets and artists working in collaboration to produce Poetic Art. The work of art will inspire the poet’s words, or the poem will inspire the artist’s creation. The exhibition will be open to the public Oct. 21 - Nov. 20, 2009. An opening reception October 25th, will feature a reading of some of the submitted poems.

The exhibition will feature both invited and juried artists and poets.

All work must be for sale. Artists and Poets will retain all copyrights. LAF will take a 50% sales commission from sold work. The artists/poets will establish a single price for their combined work and determine the division between themselves of sales proceeds. Artists/poets are encouraged to donate a part or all of their sales proceeds back to LAF & YRF.

A full color show catalog will feature the paired art and poem to be sold as part of the fundraiser. Each participating artist and poet will receive a copy of the Show Catalog. However, none of the proceeds from the sale of the Show Catalog will be paid to the artists/poets.

For more details and the prospectus, email

Wanna go to an art party on Thursday?

Pink Line Project

At the last Pink Line project (the Define Live-Work contest) you drank beer, hung out with a drag queen, and listened to opera. You ate sno-cones and played carnival games. You submitted really creative live-work ideas.

You voted.

And the winner of the Define Live-Work contest? Metasebia Yoseph. Congratulations!

Now come back and see the Solea space, which will be transformed by designers Fabian Bernal and Sarah Aburdene, who have been inspired by the winning idea.

*Thursday, August 27*
6 to 8 PM
@ Solea Condo Live-Work Space
1405 Florida Avenue, NW

But wait! There's more!

Soundscapes by DJ Gold and Riddle.
Art exhibit by Albus Cavus.
A raffle for art provided by Albus Cavus.

"Art Salon" brought to you by the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities
Featuring: DJ Iwah and Christylez Bacon

The ZIP Code show

The past, the present, entrapment, enthrallment, nomadism, nowhere and everywhere, drinking beer, making out, secret rooms, contentment, living hell, paint cans, and of course numbers all factor into The ZIP Code Show , happening August 29 - September 5, 2009.
The show, an and Art Outlet collaborative event, is being held in partnership with Halstead Arlington and the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization . It will take place at the Halstead Arlington, a new luxury apartment building at 1028 South Walter Reed Drive in Arlington, VA.

The ZIP Code Show will open and close with Saturday night receptions that will include art, artists, performers (see below), a cash bar, and hors d' oeuvres courtesy of Rincome Thai Cuisine . The work will be on display during the receptions and Tuesday, September 1 through Friday, September 4.

Erin Antognoli, Michael Auger, Jennifer Beinhacker, Stephen Dobbin, Cheryl Denise Edwards, Laura Elkins, Rita Elsner, Deirdre Forgione, Vickie Fruehauf, H.A. Gallucio, Ric Garcia, Eve Hennessa, Kevin Irvin, Mishka Jaeger, Jessica Jastrzebski, Angela Kleis, Tara Kocourek, Carrie Marie Lipscomb, Matthew Michael Malone, Stephen Mead, Bono Mitchell, Claudia & Sergio Olivos, Kelly Perl, Linda Plaisted, Caren Quinn, Tariq Rafiq, Jeremy Arn Ramirez, Rhett Rebold, Stephanie Elaine Robbins, Johanna Rodriguez, Lisa K. Rosenstein, Roy Utley, Jessica Van Brackle, Emily Voigtland, Alexandra Zealand

Show dates and times:
Opening Reception: August 29 from 5:30 pm - 12 am
Closing Reception: September 5 from 5 - 10 pm
Gallery Hours: September 1 - 4 from 5 - 7:30 pm

Performances by: Rhythm Worker’s Union (Djembe drumming), Parliament Hill (American folk), KUKU (Nigerian singer/songwriter), Saffron Dance (Belly Dancing), Margot MacDonald (American blues/rock), Wes Tucker (American folk/blues), DC Shorts (film)

Monday, August 24, 2009

When Artists Rip Off Other Artists

From Books By Its Cover

I wanted to take a break today from usual book posting to share something that happened to my friend, artist Lauren Nassef (the first artist I will be publishing as part of the BBIC press series). Yesterday she was alerted by someone who follows her blog that a graduate student from Falmouth University in the UK named Samantha Beeston had stolen her drawings and used them in her own work.

Once we starting doing more research, we found out Samantha won a huge award from Texprint for pattern designs filled with Lauren’s drawings which she claimed as her own. Even her website (which she has taken down since Lauren contacted her) had Lauren’s drawings on the home page and integrated thoughout her portfolio. She was even selling prints of one of Lauren’s drawings she had traced.

With the award she won from Texprint (sponsored by Pantone Europe), she received prize money and a chance to exhibit at two trade shows in Hong Kong and Paris where she can take orders for the (stolen) designs.

She even made a fake sketchbook with many of Lauren’s drawings traced or pasted in.

... Yesterday Lauren alerted everyone involved about what is going on, and since then most of the blogs have taken down or corrected their posts about Samantha’s work. The award and school have been notified so hopefully they’ll take the necessary actions soon enough.

I wanted to write about this today because I am completely shocked and disturbed. I wanted to spread the word, to help Lauren be rightfully credited for her designs. I’m not sure what the lesson here is. Should we be more careful about putting our work online? How can we protect ourselves from incidences like this? I’ve heard horror stories of artists getting ripped off by huge corporations stealing their work. And I’ve seen artists “be inspired” by other artists in manner that is borderline plagiarism. In my opinion all you can do is treat the minor cases as flattery, sue when appropriate, and keep making original work! I hope this whole mess will just draw more positive attention to Lauren’s work, which I think is brilliant and beautiful.
Read the whole post and see more images here and check out Lauren's great drawings here.

By the way, her big Texprint art prize award has been taken back... see that here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Six Most Common Mistakes Artists Make When Approaching Galleries

J. Jason Horejs, owner of Scottdale's Xanadu Gallery has published a book titled "Starving" to Successful | The Artist's Guide to Getting into Galleries and Selling More Art.

This book was written "to help you approach galleries in an organized, systematic and professional way." The book will also help artists avoid the six mistakes listed below.

I'll try to get a copy of this book and review it here, but meanwhile you can order the book here and below are the six most common mistakes according to Jason:

This book springs from my experiences with artists. Several years ago, I began to wonder why artists were inept talking to galleries. I quickly realized most were unsuccessful because there is very little information explaining the best strategies.

That lack of information leads to these blunders:

Mistake #1: Presenting an inconsistent body of work.

Artists generally love their freedom. They want to experiment. They love a challenge. They crave variety. All good things, except when you are presenting your work to a gallery.

The work you present to a gallery needs to be unified. It doesn't need to be repetitive or formulaic, but it must present you as a consistent artist with a clear vision.

Often I feel I am looking at the work of multiple artists as I review a single portfolio. To avoid this problem you need to find focus in your work.
If you work in several media and a variety of styles, focus on just one for the next 6-12 months. Create a body of work that feels like a "series". Once you have 20-25 gallery-ready pieces in this series, you will be ready to approach a gallery.

You can further create consistency by presenting the work in a consistent way. Use similar frames for paintings and photographs, similar bases for sculpture, similar settings for artistic jewelry. Make it very clear all of the work is by the same artist.

If you simply can't rein your style in, consider creating multiple portfolios, one for each style.

Don't confuse the galleries you approach with multiple styles in your portfolio.

Mistake #2: Producing insufficient work to sustain gallery sales.

Many artists create marketable work, but in quantities too low to make a gallery relationship viable. Successful artists are consistently in the studio creating artwork. You may be surprised to learn the results of a recent survey I conducted.

I asked artists how many new works they created in the last twelve months. Painters responded that on average they were creating 53 pieces every twelve months. Sculptors 31. Glass artists 500!

A gallery owner needs to feel confident you will replace sold art quickly and maintain high quality. They want to know if you are successful the can replenish their inventory.

Don't despair if you are far from reaching this goal. Rather, look at your creative production for the last year and set a goal to increase the production by 25% in the next 12 months.

Several suggestions to increase your productivity:

1. Dedicate time daily to your art. Maybe your schedule will only allow for two hours daily, but you will produce more by working for those two hours every day than you will by waiting for big blocks of time.

Treat your studio time as sacred. Train your family and friends to respect that time. You don't interrupt them when they are at work; ask them the same courtesy when you are in the studio.

2. Set a production goal. If I could tell you the secret to producing 50, or 100 pieces per year, would you listen? Here it is: create 1 or 2 pieces per week.

I know it seems overly simple, yet few artists work in a concerted disciplined way to achieve this goal.

(A common objection I hear to this suggestion is that quality will suffer if an artist works this quickly. In my experience, the opposite is true. A certain level of quality may only be obtained by putting miles on the paintbrush, spending hours in the darkroom, moving tons of clay or stone.)

3. Remove distractions from the studio. Move your computer to another room. Unplug the telephone. Nothing kills an artist's focus faster than the constant interruption of technology. Your inbox and voicemail will keep your messages safe while you work.

Mistake #3: Delivering a portfolio in a format inconvenient for gallery review.

Often your portfolio is your only chance to show your work to a gallery owner. Poorly formatted portfolios are rarely viewed. Your portfolio should be concise, simple, informative and accessible.

25 years ago, formatting a portfolio was simple. A portfolio was either a literal portfolio with sheet protectors and photos, or a slide sheet.

The choices have since multiplied. CD? Digital hardbound photo-book? Pdf file? Email? Which format is the most effective? None of these, actually. Each has drawbacks limiting effectiveness. They are either too much work for the gallery owner to access, too easy to delete, or too hard for you to maintain.

In my book I will show an example of a perfect portfolio. Easy to maintain, easy to share. Successful.

A couple of things to keep in mind with your portfolio:

1. Your portfolio should contain no more than 20-25 of your most recent works. You should not create an all-inclusive portfolio. A gallery owner does not want to see your life's work. They want to see your best, most current, most relevant work.

2. On each page you should include pertinent, relevant information about the art. Include the title, the medium, the size, and the price. Don't include the date of artwork creation.

3. Place your bio, artist's statement, and resume at the back of the portfolio, not the beginning. Your artwork is the most important feature of the portfolio, don't bury it behind your info. Limit press clippings, and magazine articles to 2-3 pages.

4. Include 2-3 images of sold artwork. You should try to include at least one photo of your artwork installed. These images will establish your credibility more rapidly than any resume ever could.

In "Starving" to Successful I will teach you how to create a powerful portfolio. Your new portfolio will end up in gallery owner's hands, rather than in the garbage can.

Mistake #4: Lacking confidence and consistency in pricing.

One of the greatest challenges facing you as an artist is knowing how to correctly value your work. Many artists price their work emotionally, and inconsistently. Galleries can't sell wrongly priced art.

Worse, nothing will betray an unprepared artist like not knowing how to price his/her work.

Many artists mistakenly under-price their work. They do this because they feel they are not established. They do it because their local art market won't sustain higher prices. They do it because they lack confidence in their work.

In the book I will help you come up with a consistent, systematic formula for pricing your art.

Is your work priced correctly?

Mistake #5: Approaching the wrong galleries.

My gallery is located in an art market dominated by Southwest and Western subject matter. My gallery stands apart from most of the galleries in Arizona because I have chosen art outside the norms. Yet I am constantly contacted by Western and Southwestern artists. They seem surprised and hurt when I turn them away. They could have saved us both some discomfort by researching my gallery before approaching.

Which markets should you approach first? How should you research the galleries? Is it safe to work with galleries in out-of-state markets?

"Starving" to Successful will teach you how to create a list of qualified, appropriate galleries to contact (I will also teach you how to approach them).

Mistake #6: Submitting art through the wrong channels.

Conventional wisdom, and even some highly respected art marketing books will advise you to send your portfolio with a cover letter to the gallery. You may also hear it's best to call a gallery and try to make an appointment to meet the owner. You might visit a gallery's website to learn of their submission guidelines.

In my experience, these methods all guarantee failure. I will share with you a more direct, simpler approach; this approach will tremendously improve your chances of success. The approach is no secret, and yet most artists don't employ it.

Find the solutions to avoiding all these mistakes in the pages of "Starving" to Successful.

In addition to learning how to avoid the mistakes listed above,"Starving" Artist to Successful Artist you will also see clearly how to effectively organize your work, build your brand as an artist, communicate effectively with your galleries, and much more.

I will give you concrete steps you can take to systematically prepare for gallery relationships.
Jason tells me that you may order the book at the pre-publication price of $19.50 (Plus s+h) through 8/25. The first printing is already 3/4 sold out. Learn more about the book and order your copy today at

Please email Jason directly,, or call him toll-free at the gallery at 866.483.1306 if you have any questions about the book.

I am interested in your thoughts about these six mistakes, which I think are dead on target. As a gallerist I have encountered (and continue to see) all of them. I'm going to think about six separate mistakes of my own experience as a gallerist and art dealer in dealing with artists and post these here soon. Meanwhile, post your thoughts or experiences in the comments section or email them to me.

Shelly Voorhees at BlackRock

Just a few weeks ago I reminded all of you that BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown, MD has one of the most beautiful and dramatic gallery spaces in the region, and the other day I happened to be in that area again and dropped in to see the new show there.

Currently on exhibition are the monochromatic ethereal paintings of Shelly Voorhees, on exhibition through August 28.

It's hard to describe this exhibition without using synonyms for the word "ethereal", and since I've already dropped that adjective once, plant that description in your mind and walk with me through words.

As one enters the very large and very tall space that is the gallery at Blackrock, Voorhees' paintings, most of which are very large, fit well into the space, not only because of sheer scale, but also because of the monochromatic uniformity that they present.

Shelly VoorheesUntil you look to your left, that is.

That wall hosts a series of very small, we're talking a couple of inches or so, very well done, and very attractive set of miniature portraits. See some of them here. Every single one of them is a jewel and showcases a very strong technical talent by Voorhees.

You see, as any painter will tell you, it is more often than not harder to create a small, in this case, tiny, work of art that carries a punch, than a larger one. Voorhees succeeds admirably and the wall of tiny works resonates in a visual paradox in this very large gallery.

Salvador Dali said it best when he said: "If you can't paint well, then paint big."

Voorhees has titled the exhibition "Apparitions" and writes about it:

This exhibition is a black and white mixed-media portraiture series of female spirits dynamically represented in moments of contemplation and emotional transition. Besides the apparitional theme, the incorporation of specific artistic elements of texture, depth, layers, luminosity, and motion, are equally important in the expressing of the merging of life's energy with the portraits ethereal.

In this series, I've incorporated the expansive landscape views from my window of Lake Champlain. The natural background of the lake balances the figures beauty with their emotions. The power of the waters help to calm the viewer, and the abstracted horizontal strokes reminds us of the life that moves through us. The women are painted thinly veiled so that you can see the abstracted landscapes through their bodily shapes. I found interest in the translucent figures appearing as if their souls still remain with us. I've exemplified my own take on the traditional idea of apparitions, attempting to humanize the spirits by painting them with simple gestures in unguarded moments of contemplation and transition. These moments are expressions of the duality between movement and the still,landscape and the figure, real and the ethereal. They are psychological portraits that reflect the emotional undercurrents present in even the most unremarkable moments in life, they give tribute to women and the essence of their spirit that is eternal.
While I was there looking at the show, I sat down and observed several families who were walking through the exhibition. The comments from the children seemed to imply that the artist had achieved her goal, as the comments all had a sense of the unusual, ghostly and transitory. The adults mostly commented on the beauty of the works themselves.

Therein lies the key to viewing all these works at once. Voorhees uses resin and acrylic skillfully to deliver a sense of atmospheric presence in the paintings that offer the women subjects as almost a transition in the fog of grayscales, rather than a physical object. She has also chosen a sort of 19th century romantic period "look" for her models, that gives us the kind of women who Julia Margaret Cameron would have loved to photograph.

Shelly Voorhees, Waiting

Shelly Voorhees, Waiting, Acrylic/Resin, 38x26 inches

And yet, as soon as I state this I am confronted by a sense of the opposite in the sense that there also seems to be a modernistic transition in the "look" of the women, trapped in my mind in a 19th century gaze and feel, to a sense of today looking from the past. This is perhaps most visible in "Waiting," which shows a very young 21st century woman lost in 19th century thoughts.

See the show online here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Alexandria Call for Public Art

Deadline: October 1, 2009, 4 pm (EDT)
Budget: $300,000
Eligibility: Open to all artists or design groups. No geographic requirements.

Description The City of Alexandria, Virginia seeks to commission public art for the new Charles Houston Recreation Center. The process will be managed by the Office of the Arts, a division of the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, with the Alexandria Commission for the Arts Public Art Committee. The City will conduct the search for qualified applicants through a Request for Qualifications (RFQ).

The art will be paid for by private donations.

The purpose of the project is to honor and memorialize Charles Houston and to recognize the historical importance of the former Parker-Gray High School, Alexandria’s first African-American high school.

Charles Hamilton Houston was a nationally-known civil rights leader and NAACP attorney who fought for equality in public education. He became involved with Alexandria when, in 1941, a group of concerned citizens began to petition for a new school and eventually appealed to the NAACP for assistance. Houston took on this challenge and used his knowledge and influence to aid the community in their fight. Their efforts were successful and a new Parker-Gray High School was built in 1950. When Charles Houston passed away one month before the school was dedicated, the community requested that the former Parker-Gray School be renamed the Charles Houston Elementary School in recognition of his important contribution. Years later, the school was demolished and a recreation facility was built that retained the Houston name. This building was later razed to make room for the new, state-of-the-art Charles Houston Recreation Center which opened in February of 2009. When plans for the new facility began, the community indicated their interest in seeking an appropriate way to not only memorialize Houston and his contributions to Alexandria but to also find a way to preserve the history of the Parker-Gray schools. The project's overarching theme is Education and Civil Rights.

Process: Three finalists will be invited to submit proposals. Each will receive a $2,000 honorarium.

Anticipated Award Date: May 2010

Anticipated Installation Date: April 2011

Web Site: - click on Charles Houston Public Art Project.

Artists or design teams interested in applying to the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) are encouraged to register with the City of Alexandria's e-procure system located online here. All inquires regarding the RFQ should be directed to Dominic Lackey at the City of Alexandria Procurement Department.

Questions may be sent by fax to 703.838.6493 or by email to

Please reference the solicitation number and title on the fax or email. For general question related to the solicitation, you may call Dominic at 703.838.4946, extension 600.

Forthcoming Frida Kahlo book denounced as fake

Finding Frida Kahlo

A collection of Frida Kahlo oil paintings, diaries and archival material that is the subject of a book to be published by Princeton Architectural Press on 1 November has been denounced by scholars as a cache of fakes. Finding Frida Kahlo includes reproductions of paintings, drawings and handwritten letters, diaries, notes, trinkets and other ephemera attributed to the artist. They belong to Carlos Noyola and Leticia Fernández, a couple who own the antique store La Buhardilla Antiquarios in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The publisher describes it as “an astonishing lost archive of one of the twentieth century's most revered artists...full of ardent desires, seething fury, and outrageous humor”.

According to an interview in the forthcoming book, and to emails from Noyola to The Art Newspaper, the couple acquired the items incrementally from 2004-07 from a lawyer who in turn had acquired them from a woodcarver who allegedly received them from the artist. Noyola tells The Art Newspaper he has more than 1,200 Kahlo items in all.
Read the story in AN here and check out the book here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hitler Watercolors Hit the Auction Block

A series of three paintings by Adolf Hitler will be sold on September 5 at Nuremberg’s Weidler auction house. Bidding for the three signed watercolors, made in 1910 and 1911, will begin at €3,000 ($4,270).
Read all about it at AFP here and see the watercolors here.

When actors bite write

Claire Forlani"Actress Claire Forlani is accused of wielding a pen that is indeed mightier than the sword ... and killing the reputation of an art dealer in the process.

The former "CSI NY" star is being sued for allegedly crushing the "fragile and intangible" reputation of art dealer Paul Rusconi in a mass email she sent out to a bunch of her friends."

Read the TMZ story here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Artists' Websites: Grant Silverstein

If my memory serves me right, the second or third show that we ever did back in our first gallery in Georgetown was the amazing work of Grant Silverstein.

Her brother's arrest. Intaglio Etching, 8x8 inches by Grant Silverstein.

We sold a lot of Grant's gorgeous etchings (they are priced as low as $35) and we thought naively, "hey! this gallery business is gonna be easy!"

Tribulations of a Childless Couple. Intaglio Etching, 5x6 inches by Grant Silverstein.

This self-taught artist is a throwback to the masters of printmaking who toiled along and discovered, step by step, the secrets of the printing press. His meticulous etchings have the look and feel of the 15th century but the resonance and dialogue of the 21st.

See his works here and his prices are a great deal for the money.

The Franz and Virginia Bader Fund

Deadline: September 15, 2009

The Franz and Virginia Bader Fund welcomes applications from visual artists aged 40 years or older, who live within 150 miles of Washington, D.C. and can demonstrate that they have the potential to benefit as artists from a grant.

The Franz and Virginia Bader Fund does not, however, accept applications from filmmakers, video artists, and performance artists.

The deadline for applications is September 15, 2009. Application forms may be downloaded from the fund's web site: or may be requested by sending an email to or by sending a request to:

Bader Fund
5505 Connecticut Avenue, NW #268
Washington, D.C. 20015

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Opportunity for Artists

Columbia Journal is an arts and literature annual publication that is edited, designed, and produced, entirely by graduate students at Columbia University. The Journal was founded in 1977 and has published work from such writers and artists as Raymond Carver, Jorge Luis Borges, Lorrie Moore, Louise Gillick, Phillip Gourevitch, Noam Chomsky, Kara Walker, Wayne Koestenbaum,and many others.

They are currently extending an open call for the arts section of their next issue

Please find a sample below:

"How do you create a warning system to prevent an accidental unearthing of 200 million pounds of radioactive nuclear waste? A simple sign, some chain link and a military post might work today. But what about 10,000 years from now? In 2002 the U.S. Department of Energy brought together engineers, archaeologists, anthropologists and linguists and asked them this question. What type of warning system can be put in place so people, 370 generations from now, won't open the glowing door?

What they came up with is hardly inspiring: a large earthen mound with a salt core and two identical Dr. Strangelove-esque control rooms with a warning message written in the six official languages of the U.N. and Navajo. Construction of this Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is scheduled to begin in less than three years.

What if an artist designed the system?

Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art is asking artists, architects, cartoonists, computer engineers, graphic designers, scientists-and anyone else up for the challenge- just that question.

Design a warning sign or create a work, a system, that speaks to the nuclear gravesite issue. Graphic novelists might translate the project and solution into story panels.

Architects may offer a blueprint for the facility itself. The artistic focus may be as narrow as an image on a sign, or as broad as a full-scale vision of the future. The Journal is encouraging maximum interpretation and creativity.

Further Information: or email to

Job in the Arts

Deadline: August 30, 2009

The Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association is seeking applicants for an Administrator of the Torpedo Factory Art Center. This person will manage daily operations of the facility and its staff as well as also promoting the objectives of the TFAC by enhancing its reputation among both the Washington arts community and the general public.

The Administrator will report to the TFAA Board of Directors through its President, working closely with Board committees and ensuring that all activities further the goals of the TFAC.

Requirements include: Bachelor’s degree (Master’s preferred), with 5 to 8 years’ management experience working with a board of directors, preferably in an art-related organization; Experience including personnel management, time management, and oversight of financial operations; Excellent verbal and written skills assumed; Familiarity with computer applications and website control a plus.

Qualified applicants should apply in writing by August 30, 2009. No phone calls please. Please send letter and resume to:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Jaws or Nessie?

Put me in coach...

I may have to start watching baseball again... click on cartoon below for a better view.

Stephen Strasburg by Lenny Campello

"The Nats signed Stephen Strasburg, probably the most heralded young pitcher of the last 50 years. Who knows what portion of his collegiate and Olympic fame will prove justified. But not only did the Nats sign him for a fair price of $15.67 million, despite the howls of his crusading agent Scott Boras, but Strasburg also did what has been unthinkable in baseball until now.

He chose here.

No 21-year-old deserves such responsibility; but Strasburg has put the Nats squarely on baseball's map, on the list of can't-miss attractions in the game that must be seen. Does he really throw 100-102 mph with command? Or is that partly scouts' mythology? Is his slider really his best pitch, so sharp it actually seems to hit something in mid-air and deflect?"
Centerfield - John Fogerty

Well, beat the drum and hold the phone - the sun came out today!
We're born again, there's new grass on the field.
A-roundin' third, and headed for home, it's a brown-eyed handsome man;
Anyone can understand the way I feel.

Oh, put me in, Coach - I'm ready to play today;
Put me in, Coach - I'm ready to play today;
Look at me, I can be Centerfield.

Well, I spent some time in the Mudville Nine, watchin' it from the bench;
You know I took some lumps when the Mighty Casey struck out.
So Say Hey Willie, tell Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio;
Don't say "it ain't so", you know the time is now.

Oh, put me in, Coach - I'm ready to play today;
Put me in, Coach - I'm ready to play today;
Look at me, I can be Centerfield.

Yeah! I got it, I got it!

Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat, and brand-new pair of shoes;
You know I think it's time to give this game a ride.
Just to hit the ball and touch 'em all - a moment in the sun;
(pop) It's gone and you can tell that one goodbye!

Oh, put me in, Coach - I'm ready to play today;
Put me in, Coach - I'm ready to play today;
Look at me, I can be Centerfield.

Oh, put me in, Coach - I'm ready to play today;
Put me in, Coach - I'm ready to play today;
Look at me, I can be Centerfield.


Colleen Henderson at Multiple Exposures

Colleen Henderson, Chatham Light Beach

Colleen Henderson, Chatham Light Beach

If you're a photography fan in the Greater DC area, then you know that Factory Photoworks Multiple Exposures Gallery on the second floor of the Torpedo Factory is one of the best photography galleries in the Mid Atlantic region and they rightfully boast in their website a very cool recommendation by my good friend Kathleen Ewing:
Multiple Exposures Gallery is a showcase to view quality fine art photography produced in our community. I have always been impressed with the professionalism, variety, and quality of photographic images exhibited at Multiple Exposures.
So I'm never surprised when I wander into MEG and discover yet another strong show.

But this time the photographs by Colleen Henderson... the set on the red wall of the gallery, floored me! It is the mastery and simplicity that she has achieved with the work that faces the viewer as one enters the gallery that merits this glowing adjective.

This is as close as painting with a camera as a photographer will ever get. How Henderson has managed to dilute and trap color, and then use her magical photography skills to re-hue them and present us with works that suddenly become a photographic cousin to the legendary colors of the Washington Color School and even would have drawn a gasp from Mark Rothko... is beyond my understanding of the mysteries of the camera at the hand of a master.

Colleen Henderson

Colleen Henderson, Blue Clearing

And in "Blue Clearing" she traps that scene that all of us have aimed a camera at; that sudden instant when the marine clouds and the beach light and the ocean all become one lazy dreamscape that re-enchants us with our blue planet. We all get crappy pictures that look good to us. Henderson gets a photographic painting that belongs in a Richter exhibition.

Colleen Henderson

Colleen Henderson, Cambridge Dawn

In "Cambridge Dawn" we're brought back to Earth a little, as she offers us more hints of real life, besides dazzling us with color and fantasy, as the dark marine forms in the water anchor an otherwise ethereal scene.

There's an artists' reception on Sept 10th 6:30 - 8:30PM.

Multiple Exposures Gallery
Torpedo Factory Art Center
Studio 312

Tolbert on the Torpedo Factory

I asked for input on the issue facing the Torpedo Factory and I continue to receive good constructive comments and suggestions and opinions.

Norfolk artist Susan Tolbert has the following to contribute:

I have been following the discussion about the Torpedo Factory
and Kevin Mellema’s observations seem right on the money.

Though I have never been to the Torpedo Factory, I did have a studio for several years in Norfolk’s original D’Art Center, which claims to be modeled after the Torpedo Factory, and am familiar with the problems. So here's my two cents.

Professional artists have degrees and resumes and after browsing their website, the work of the Torpedo Factory artists sure looked to me like that of “Professional Amateurs” -- artists interested in producing work that would sell to the tourists.

In fact, the work at the Torpedo Factory was remarkably similar to that of Norfolk’s D’Art Center.

I think it would be safe to say that most of the artists showing in the Target Gallery have degrees and resumes while the Torpedo artists, like those at the D’Art Center, have taken a class here and there but have avoided any real intellectual discipline and rigorous criticism.

Kevin hit the nail on the head when he by described the studios as little commercial stores. And that’s a problem, as stores are not studios. The word studio implies that there is creative work in progress — ideas are being played with, risks are being taken, things are in a constant state of flux.

If the city is subsidizing the Torpedo Factory, it would seem that the best artists should have subsidized studio space rather than the merely mediocre. After my experience with the D’Art Center, I don’t think you can have a small shakeup and achieve any real change. It’s not a matter of getting in a few younger artists—will they just be younger Professional Amateurs — degreeless wonders. The same boring work would be produced by younger versions of the artists that are there now.

Norfolk’s D’Art Center did give studio spaces to younger artists with degrees and most left in about 16 months, though the ones without art degrees did seem to last longer.

Having the artists re-jury for studio space every two years on a point system would change the dynamics of the spaces dramatically. The best studios would go to the artists with the highest number of points, with major points being awarded for BFA and MFAs.

Artists would be required to have their work selected in a state or national juried exhibit at least once every two years.

Will this idea be popular with the artists at the Torpedo Factory? My prediction would be hell no, and I hope I’m far enough away so they can’t find me for even suggesting this. But then change is never easy.


Susan Tolbert
Norfolk VA
What do you readers and TF artists think?

Monday, August 17, 2009


2009 White House OrnamentTo my good friend Margaret Huddy, as the 2009 Christmas ornament sold by the White House Historical Association incorporates her painting of the White House.

She tells me that she's been also selling them in her studio, and that they're going like hot cakes. They are $17.79 with tax and can be picked up at her studio (Studio 203 at the Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union Street, Alexandria, VA 22314, 703-683-1081).

If you live far away and can't make it to her studio, then you can order them directly from the White House Historical Association here.

Jansen on the Torpedo Factory

I asked for input on the issue facing the Torpedo Factory and so far have received loads of comments and several key inputs from both artists and critics.

Torpedo Factory artist Deb Jansen (whose Artomatic installation was the hit of the recent AOM) responds with a very in depth opinion and commentary and a specific response to my Star Trek suggestion:

One of the first things implemented by the new TFAA board in June was to open the doors. The front doors are automatic sliders, so the board arranged to have the side entrance and the back doors open to the public during business hours.

Counts showed that leaving the doors open increased foot traffic into the building by 20%.

Several visitors who made it up to my studio on a back hallway on the 3rd floor were grateful the doors were open and said it made them feel welcome. One was a homicide detective from the Bronx. He started the conversation by saying that as a detective he had learned that people don’t go through closed doors unless they are sure what is on the other side.

Our signage is old and faded. Things aren’t clearly marked. Visitor’s Guide in hand, even he wouldn’t have come in if the doors hadn’t been open.

That one simple change was really working.

That did not stop a couple of building artists from complaining about “wasting our air conditioning and raising our energy costs and in turn our rent.” I personally watched one long-term lease-holding artist go back and close them more than once.

Someone in the building complained to the City. The City then sent someone over to review the matter and told us we COULD NOT leave the doors open. We increased traffic like the City had wanted and they were the ones who ordered the doors shut.

The TFAA board has asked the City for parameters, so that when the weather is reasonable we can leave the doors open but have gotten no response. The board has offered other suggestions to work around the City’s concerns but has so far heard nothing back. The doors aren’t open not for lack of trying. We know most businesses along King St. already do this to draw customers. We know the shuttle boat waiting area, under the Chart House Restaurant, funded by the City blasts air conditioning while leaving the doors open so that people will be drawn in.

The TFAA board has offered to paint the back doors and make them more inviting but the City who owns the building said that was their responsibility. They would look into it. The board has checked back with the City on any progress. Still no response on that.

Two exciting projects that were designed, approved and funded by the City have been dropped by the them with no explanation. The first, to replace the back doors all together with something more inviting and visitor/traffic friendly. The second, a complete redesign of our back entry area with new lighting, flooring, display and educational information. Why were they dropped after they were funded we haven’t been told. The TFAA board has since taken a grassroots approach, come up with a plan and painted it with the help of artists.

Even with the doors to our studios open, I am well aware of the force field you spoke of. Some visitors will stop and literally lean through the doorway but won’t come in unless I invite them.

I kind of thought that if they had made it to the 3rd floor they would have figured out that the doors are open for a reason. I have gotten more traffic in my studio since starting to bring my dog to work. I work in fiber and find that people who might not understand or be familiar with fiber work, at least cross the threshold to greet the dog. More common mediums like painting or photography might not have that problem. Once they come in I can turn them into fiber art lovers. The dog is just the loss leader, of sorts. Hey, if it works, my dog is up to the challenge of unstoppable belly rubs to help me bring visitors through my door.

As for bringing edgier art into the factory, I’m as guilty of that as anyone here.

My installation for Artomatic that got so much press is a departure from the work I show here. I wanted to do it at Artomatic because I thought I could be more creative there. I felt that if produced the piece the way I wanted to, it would never be seen inside these walls.

Now, to my total amazement, there is even talk started by one of the oldest members, of bringing it here and displaying it in one of the public areas. I never thought I would see the day where Catharsis & Karma would be in the halls at the Factory. I have lost track of the people who have come in to my studio here specifically to see more of the same and are disappointed I haven’t taken such a risk in my other work. That is all going to change.

Most of us in the Factory ARE striving for change. Most of us. We want to be the best art center possible for 2009 and are well aware that we can’t rest on 35 year old laurels.

Unfortunately we also have some people here who don’t welcome or want to recognize the impending and necessary changes, some who might want to hide in their studios and ignore the situation because they think the City would never kick us out, or people who, I think would rather the current board fail than the building as a whole succeed. It isn't split along age lines as you might think with the younger members wanting change and the older members resistant. Some of the most active and vocal for change have been here the longest. Our troubles come as much from within as from outside forces.

You have already posted statistics supplied by Margaret Huddy of the Factory. It shows the continuous turnover we actually have and the enormous number of artists who have juried in. Even with that it is hard to get new, up and coming artists to either jury or once they get in, to stay because a studio doesn’t guarantee you make a living and most people I know need to make a living. There are rules about how many hours you have to be here and what you can and cannot do. A lot of those rules are from the City. Not everyone can work within those guidelines. If you can, it is a wonderful place to be. A safe refuge where art is made and the public is educated in the process.

We know we have a gem that is in serious need of polishing to regain its glow. The new TFAA board has all kinds of new projects in the works to prove to the City how serious we are to save our home. The number of events and activities has increased substantially, there is art in the hallways now, there is live music, projects and events are being co-sponsored with younger, hipper arts organizations and with King St. hotels.

But, change doesn’t come without major growing pains. Change won’t come without the cooperation and understanding (that we are first a working art center, not a mall) of the City, who is demanding these changes in the first place.

It won’t come without the help of ALL the Torpedo Factory artists to see these changes through successfully. Those who think – either artist or city official - that dragging their feet isn’t going to end up hurting both sides in the end is mistaken. Otherwise I fear the doors, at least for the Torpedo Factory Artist Association will be permanently closed and the City will move a slicker more profitable tourist attraction into the space. The City will lose an important cultural landmark, arts, education and tourist destination and we the artists will lose our studios and the daily joy of getting to share and educate the public about art.

Thanks for bringing the situation to light. Light is good. Our problems won't be solved in a vacuum. The Torpedo Factory is too valuable an asset to the greater DC art community to see it die of old age without a fight.

deb jansen
studio 344

Sunday, August 16, 2009

District 9

Film critics all over the place have been raving about District 9, and the trailers and storyline behind the film really sounded and looked good, and thus I made some time last week and saw the film in a packed theater in Germantown, MD.

District 9Let me reveal a secret, not about the film itself, but a little secret code that us geeks who have always enjoyed science fiction, since childhood, through the demise, rebirth, re-demise and re-rebirths of Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, etc. have devised since the mid 1960s.

This code lets true SF insiders know immediately who really knows what Science Fiction is all about, besides the usual drivel that Hollywood pumps out, with the occasional gem thrown in the mix, almost like a visual arts group show.

Whenever you read or listen to anyone writing or talking about science fiction, listen or read closely. If they say "SF" or "science fiction," then they are part of the brotherhood; if they say "sci-fi" then you immediately know that they're outsiders peeking in.

"Sci-fi" is politically incorrect and word suicide in the world of the genre's true aficionados and followers. Nerd code for "has no idea."

And what film critics all over have been raving about, is the interesting and (to them) unusual storyline in this "sci-fi film" about the tried and true "man meets alien" storyline.

The D9 storyline stands out not because SF hasn't got a rich and diverse set of ideas and novels about the subject, but because when dealing with aliens, Hollywood has repeatedly followed one road when giving us a movie about us meeting them. There are some exceptions, of course, but generally speaking... well you know what I mean.

District 9 will be the blockbuster of the summer season. This is by itself an unusual thing, since the movie has no stars in it, and was made by a 29-year-old South African director whom nobody ever heard of (Neill Blomkamp), and was filmed mostly in a garbage dump/landfill in that ghastly and ugly city that is Johannesburg.

The back story is that decades ago a massive alien ship appeared over Johannesburg and just sat there motionless. They didn't attack, or make contact, or anything. They just floated there, above the city. Once humans got curious enough, we broke into the ship and found a million starving aliens, apparently helpless and clueless.

First contact is not a pretty or as impressive as we expect it to be, and soon humans lose patience with the ravenous and violent aliens and segregate them into a ghetto outside Johannesburg which is called District 9.

As the present day storyline in the movie begins, a multinational corporation, seeking to profit from the alien war technology, assigns a geeky employee (Sharlton Copley, who does a spectacular job in the part, even though this was his first acting job, ever) the task to begin a massive re-location of the aliens to a refugee camp far from the city.

Geeks will be geeks, and my first issue with the movie storyline began as soon as I learned that the aliens had much more advanced technology that humans.

And yes, I do understand the interesting facets of the film addressing social issues through metaphor (although it is by far not the first time that SF has addressed social issues, often ahead of all other genres). The aliens are segregated, humans refer to them in a derogatory (racist?) manner as "prawns" because of their appearance, and everyone dislikes them, and they have no rights, etc.

But technology rules every time that two civilizations meet. In 1571, Don Juan de Austria led the Spanish Armada and ships from the Holy League against superior numbers from the Ottoman Empire. Outnumbered by almost 50 ships, Don Juan had superior technology and new tactics on his side, and the defeat of the Turks probably saved Europe from force conversion to Islam.

Just a handful of years later, in 1588, as an aging Armada approached England, it was English technology (better cannons, faster, smaller ships) and new tactics (run instead of fight, fireships) that saved the day for the British.

And it was technology that allowed a handful of Europeans to conquer much larger Native American empires, as Cortez in Mexico and Pisarro in South America did.

And it was technology and tactics that allowed the evil Nazi war machinery to sweep across Europe in the early years of WWII. Never mind the brave Polish horse cavalry charging against German tanks.

In D9, the aliens have ass-kicking war technology that only the aliens can operate, as the weapons are genetically matched to them. Humans can pull the trigger, but nothing happens.

So, how did we humans manage to corral a million technologically superior, often-violent and definitely ravenous aliens into a ghetto? The movie doesn't address this key point. We just fenced them all inside a nasty, ugly ghetto outside Johannesburg.

In the alien ghetto, Nigerians are depicted as evil profiteers who trade in alien weaponry for cat food, which apparently is a delicacy for the aliens. The Nigerians mistreat and insult, kill at random and even eat the aliens. Meanwhile the aliens just walk in and trade superior weaponry that only they can trigger, for canned cat food.

In a real life scenario: point, shoot, kill, take the canned food.

Makes my head hurt.

I'm sorry, but I am pedantic and this issue really blows the storyline for me.

Anyway, once we get past this, the main character goes to the alien ghetto to inform them that they are being relocated, runs into an alien scientist-type and his son, gets sprayed with some alien technology matter and things begin to change for him real fast.

It is an entertaining, fast paced movie full of great special effects and action. As such it is a good SF movie, but definitely not worth all the unusal accolades that it is receiving as a high brow, spectacularly intelligent, different "sci-fi movie."

You want intelligent, socially-relevant SF? Start making movies out of the stories by Harlan Ellison, Phillip Jose Farmer, etc.

By the way, at the end, the aliens do get moved, by then there are almost 3 million of them, and they now live in District 10.

Sequel en route.

Lee-Lange on In the Flesh II and thoughts on Cazón

The current show at Alexandria's Target Gallery is getting good critical attention. I reviewed it here, and Kevin Mellema reviewed it here.

And now Shauna Lee-Lange pops in with a new review here.

A nice thing to do this Sunday: go see this show at Target Gallery, then wander around the Torpedo Factory and get your own impression of the range of work being done there, and then walk up to La Tasca for some really good tapas (try the gambas al ajillo and their Buey al Jerez).

Speaking of Spanish tapas, I've noticed that my all time favorite tapa (Cazón) seems to have dissapperaed from Spanish restaurants in the Greater DC area.

I recently asked one the bartenders at Jaleo why Cazón was no longer on the menu and was told that it was removed because the owners were receiving some complaints about having shark on the menu.

Deep breathing...

I'm not going to get into a diatribe here about caving in to the squeaky wheel of possibly misinformed do-gooders (I can't figure out from some quick Googling if dogfish is on the endangered species), but, having lived in Andalucia, while Cazón is usually made with dogfish, a kind of shark, any solid-fleshed fish, such as monkfish, is also quite good. It's the marinating in garlic, olive oil and vinegar that gives the fish that really good flavor.

So if either monkfish or dogfish are endangered or possibly endangered, then switch to another abundant solid-fleshed fish and give me my Cazón back!

I'm going to cook some tonight. The Andalucian recipe is here.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What happens in Vegas

Lenny Campello, US NavyOther than the hell known as Navy bootcamp, I've had a moustache since High School (and from 1974-1983 a full beard).

When you've had face hair most of your life, it sort of defines you in a way that no other "thing" in your body or clothing does.

It also sort of defines the way that one conducts their daily routine.

Lenny Campello's glorious moustache
Last month when I was returning from the California desert via a weekend in Las Vegas, the moustache came off.

Lenny Campello sin bigote
More big news later... my upper lip is cold.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mellema on the Torpedo Factory

My good friend Kevin Mellema, the art critic for the Falls Church News-Press, and one art critic who really gets around all the galleries in the DC area, has the following to say on the issues discussed here.

... As for the Torpedo Factory situation... All I know about it is what I just read on your blog. So I can't make any definitive comments about what has, or is likely to happen based on any inside info, etc.

I must say, that I'm hesitant to speak up at all. This is one of those thankless situations where you can make few friends, and a lot of enemies fast. Having said that I'll toss in my two cents worth on a general level. Maybe some of this will help the process..

I whole heartily agree with you on your comments about the Target Gallery within the Torpedo Factory. My beat being based in Northern Virginia, Target Gallery is one of five or six key venues that I try to cover on a regular basis. After that I get to travel around the area and cover other venues.

The Target Gallery regularly hosts international open call shows. Due to shipping costs and the like, they're functionally national shows with maybe one or two small international pieces thrown in. I don't know of anybody else in the entire DC metro area who is doing this. Virtually every other open call show in the area concentrates on the DC metro area, or if they get really open minded about it, the Mid-Atlantic region. Which is fine, but you know that there is valid art being made outside of a 200 mile radius from the Capitol Building. It seems to me that the art world in DC has taken on a bit of that 'inside the Beltway' blinkered viewpoint that DC is known for politically.

DC regularly gets sandpapered when some journalist writes about the fashion vacuum in DC. They stop just short of saying we're all dressed by LL Bean, or J. Crew. You could say DC is intellectually, and stylistically, a 'safe' town. People who work for the government don't particularly like having their political view points known. Keeping in mind that the government, traditionally speaking, has been the main employer in town. Some days I look around while driving, and it seems like they don't make vinyl siding in any color besides beige.

In short, DC can in many ways create it's own beige bubble. I may be alone in this view point, but I see some of that in the arts community around town as well. The one absolute exception being the Target Gallery. If you get around town enough you'll see the same 100 or 200 folks reconfigured in show after show after show. You walk into the Target Gallery and if you're really up on everybody in town you might pick up on one or two local artists, and the rest will be completely new to you... and likely never to be seen again.

For what is essentially a tiny gallery space, the Target Gallery is doing a magnificent job.

What goes on around the Target Gallery, within the Torpedo Factory, is the polar opposite of that. The Art League puts on an endless series of member shows, with the core room dedicated to featured solo exhibitions.

The artists out in the studio spaces seem to never change at all. I know they change, but for the most part it's imperceptible. The artists at the Torpedo Factory are in effect running small stores. In many ways the facility has more in common with Tyson's Corner Mall than probably any of us would be comfortable admitting to.

I poke my head into some of the stalls from time to time. It often seems as though I've seen it all before. Painting the same picture over and over again, as you said. Which is not to say that some of these folks aren't doing fabulously skilled work. However it is commercial work almost universally geared to sell to tourists, and I would imagine interior decorators. 'Blood and Guts' art it is not.

I can distinctly recall asking one artist if they showed anywhere else. The response was a rather gruff no. Elaborated on by pointing out that to do so would mean having to give up half their profit to someone else. Valid point taken. Distinct disinclination to experiment, expand their horizons, etc. also duly noted.

The Torpedo Factory is a very safe environment for artists, who generally speaking turn out safe art which anyone would be comfortable hanging on their dining room wall. All fine to a point. But too much of one thing makes for a boring scene.

I'm a big believer in artistic cross pollination. I think the process feeds on new ideas and view points. I don't see that happening there.

I'd support some degree of shake up at the Torpedo Factory. I think it would be good for them, and good for the DC arts community at large. I don't want to see people tossed out on their can, but some middle ground seems worth seeking out. Old Town Alexandria isn't exactly the edgiest part of the Metro area. Can they really hack having 'blood and guts' artists in there?? As you've pointed out, it's a can of worms.

Art Whino seemed to be doing OK on St. Asaph Street a dozen or so blocks a way, before they moved. Then again, that was safely away from the waterfront area.

People who seek out pithy art tend to avoid the Torpedo Factory. It's one reason I keep hammering on the notion that the Target Gallery really is one of the best gallery venues in town.

As for ink jet prints, by whatever name... I must say that when it comes to color photography, in many ways the computer prints exceed the quality of traditional wet bath prints.

A) Color prints have a notoriously short life span. You hear all sorts of numbers thrown around, and it always depends on light exposure, humidity, and temperature... but 20 years is about it for a C print. Archival computer prints are now claiming 100+ years.

B) Photo images tend to get nastier and nastier the bigger you make them. Where as computer interpolation software can hold resolution as the print size grows. Suddenly big prints have the crispness of smaller ones.

C) I have an intuitive sense that the tonal range and color intensity is now better on digital prints. C-prints can often come out dark and muddy where a digital print would retain the snap of say a transparency. While I always loved the look of transparencies on a light box, I was almost universally disappointed in the print versions. Color photographic images always seemed to suffer an unacceptable degree of degradation when they went to print.

Early Iris Inkjet prints had a nasty D-Max problem with their blacks. You could see through them to the paper support underneath the ink. To my eye those things were a visual version of fingernails run across a blackboard. But once that problem was solved, it was as if those light box images could finally be seen on paper, and hung on the wall.

On the other hand, I'm not a great fan of digital reproductions of prior art work. It can be done well, but befitting its cheaper price tag, often isn't.

What you really don't want to see at the Torpedo Factory is digital print sales making the place even more commercial and safe than it already is. The Thomas Kinkade-ing of the Torpedo Factory. Shudder the thought.

In short, an edgy component thrown into the mix at the Torpedo Factory would be a welcome relief to many of us. And hopefully expand the viewer base that comes to see work there. Win-Win. How you go about doing that fairly is a political maze someone else will have to run.

- Kevin Mellema
And then a second set of thoughts from Kevin:
Given a couple of days to think about it....

I think that if the Torpedo Factory took a block of say three studio stalls on the ground floor (high visibility spots), and turned them into artist in residence stalls, it would go a long way towards changing the flavor of the place.

Figuring that each stall houses two artists, as it pretty much does now.... three stalls would give you room for six artists in residence spots at any one time. If you rotate out one studio stall a month... artists in residence would be there three months. Enough time to settle down, make some art, show it, and sell it. Also give the general art hopping crowd a three month window to see the work.

On a yearly basis, you're talking about bringing in 24 new artists a year... hopefully many from around the country, and even internationally.

Rotating them once a month should cut down on a mass exodus chaos scene if you rotated them all out at once... not to mention that the folks who have already been there a month or two could help orient the newcomers in a way the natives would find difficult.

Then you get into housing issues and the like.... everything has its complications.

As for the 'studio space for life' situation that currently seems to exist... I suppose you could implement a policy for new arrivals, which would have them as a sort of underclass status. It would take decades for the new order to be the prevailing one.

I imagine even talking about changing the status quo will stir up a lot of bad blood.

I do think that the place needs a vital influx element thrown into the mix. For Washingtonians there isn't a lot there drawing you in past the Target Gallery. How many times would you go to the National Gallery, the Corcoran, or the Phillips, if they displayed nothing but the permanent collections? We all know it's the traveling shows that draw us in there. Once in the house, we'll wander around given enough time, and see the permanent stuff as well. But the permanent stuff doesn't, generally speaking, draw us in. Same goes for the Torpedo Factory.

I also think the local DC art scene desperately needs more connection to the hubs in LA, NY, and Chicago. An artist in residency program at the Torpedo Factory could be a key part of that. We're all a little too comfortable here in DC.

DC's claim to semi-fame is a small disjointed band of artists who played with color 30-50 years ago.... That should make us all squirm in our seats a bit. There's resting on your laurels, but this is getting to be a case of basking in the glory of your forefathers.... they aren't even our laurels any more....

Artists in residency program at the Torpedo Factory.....not the final word on the topic, but it's my best idea.

- Kevin Mellema