Friday, February 13, 2009

Life Has Not Even Begun

Prayer by Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons

Prayer for Obama I (detail), 2008, Polaroid prints by Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons

One of the most important artists to emerge from post-Revolutionary Cuba, MarĂ­a Magdalena Campos-Pons creates multimedia installations, large-scale Polaroids, sculpture, painting and performance that investigate history and memory, and their roles in the formation of identity. Drawing from her personal narrative as an Afro-Cuban woman living in the United States, Campos-Pons’ work transcends individual experience to explore crosscultural, universal phenomenon. Issues such as cultural hybridity, displacement, ties to family and home, and the dualities present in each individual are themes that continue to permeate her work.

In this new body of work, Life Has Not Even Begun captures the anticipation and tension inherent in exploring the unknown. From the artist re-discovering her Chinese ancestry, to her intensive study of midnight-blooming flowers, to the unexposed horrors of war, to the future of an imagined peaceful world, each work in this exhibition makes its own unexpected revelation.

Life Has Not Even Begun is curated by Neysa Page-Lieberman. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies this exhibition at the Glass Curtain Gallery at Columbia College Chicago (1104 South Wabash Ave., 1st Floor, Chicago, IL 60605). The exhibition goes through March 6, 2009.

Vagina Monologues at Theatre Widener

Theatre WidenerOne of the great benefits of living in any area with lots and lots of universities and colleges (like DC or Philly) is the terrific and affordable opportunities to enjoy the theatre and the visual arts at most of them.

Because I live so close to Widener University, I go to a lot of their plays and have nearly always been impressed by them, although I did get one harsh email once from a director (when I was a little tough on a particular play).

Theatre Widener at Chester, Pennsylvania's Widener University is currently producing The Vagina Monologues, the well-traveled Obie Award winning play by Eve Ensler that has been raising eyebrows and making people laugh and cry for over a decade.

The Vagina Monologues has been described as a "hilarious and poignant tour of the last frontier, the 'Ultimate Forbidden Zone.'" At is core, to many people it is often just a very diverse and entertaining celebration of female sexuality. Eve Ensler now classic play delivers real women's stories of the most intimate nature, sometimes funny, often revealing a surprising vulnerability, and nearly always some sort of sexual self discovery.

The Widener production is directed by Bohdan Senkow, the Director of Theatre Widener, and this production features an outstanding cast that includes Heather Astorga and Lauren Greenberg, two undergraduate seniors, Lisa Eckley-Cocchiarale, a staff member who directs the Widener Fresh Baked Theatre Company, and Roni Cibischino, Shanna Tedeschi, and Jennifer Woo, three graduate students from Widener University's Human Sexuality program.

All six performed superbly at opening night, and Senkow made some great choices in the assignment of individual monologues to specific actors, and the chemistry between them was palpable and added a very positive effect to the overall production. This is not your typical play, there's no plot or music and a very austere set, so the production's success is almost all based on the actors' ability to grab your attention with their stories and interaction with each other.

Cibischino and Greenberg were terrific and nearly flawless in their delivery and interpretations of their specific monologues and Lisa Eckley Cocchiarale had the audience cracking up from the beginning. Jen Woo easily had the hardest and most difficult monologues, especially the one dealing with the "C word," which she delivered in a funny and valiant performance.

Shanna Tedeschi was also surperb and often very funny, especially when she donned a hat and scarf and related an old lady's experiences with her "down there."

Also superb was Heather Astorga, who delivered two of the most moving monologues of the evening, one dealing with wartime rape and another with a young woman's discovery of her sexuality. For some constructive criticism, the very pretty Ms. Astorga should refrain from biting her cheeks during her colleages' monologues. I suspect that she's not aware that she's doing it (neither is this writer when he does it), but it is very distracting once you see her doing it in the background of someone else's monologue.

Profits from this very well done production will be contributed to support organizations that combat abuse against women.

The Vagina Monologues opened on Thursday, February 12 and will be presented on Friday and Saturday, February 13, 14 at 7:30pm, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, February 19, 20, 21 at 7:30 and Sunday February 22 at 2:00pm. Widener Students and Staff are invited free of charge, Staff Guests are just $8. Adults are $15 and Non-Widener Students are just $8. To make reservations please call Theatre Widener at 610-499-4364.

Theatre Widener is at 15th and Potter Streets at Widener University in Chester, PA.

The Fifth Annual Bethesda Painting Awards

Deadline: Submissions must be received by Friday, February 20, 2009

The Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District is currently accepting applications for the fifth annual Bethesda Painting Awards. Eight Finalists will be selected to display their work in an exhibition from June 3-July 4, 2009 at the Fraser Gallery in downtown Bethesda, and the top four winners will receive $14,000 in prize monies.

Best in Show will be awarded $10,000; Second Place will be honored with $2,000 and Third Place will receive $1,000. Additionally, a “Young Artist” whose birthday is after February 20, 1979 may be awarded $1,000. Artists must be 18 years of age or older and residents of Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C. All original 2-D paintings including oil, acrylic, watercolor, gouache, encaustic and mixed media will be accepted. The maximum dimensions should not exceed 60 inches in width or 84 inches in height. No reproductions.

Artwork must have been completed within the last two years and must be available for the duration of the exhibition. Each artist must submit 5 slides, application and a non-refundable fee of $25. Digital entries will be accepted on CD in JPG, GIF or PNG format.

For a complete application, please send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the Bethesda Painting Awards, c/o Bethesda Urban Partnership, 7700 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda, MD. 20814, visit or call 301/215-6660.

Arts get their cut

Just moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives approved their final version of the Economic Recovery bill by a vote of 246-183. We can now confirm that the package does include $50 million in direct support for the arts through the National Endowment for the Arts grants. The exclusionary Coburn Amendment language banning certain arts groups from receiving any other economic recovery funds has also been removed. Tonight the Senate is scheduled to have their final vote, and President Obama plans to sign the bill on Monday - President's Day.

We all hope that these art funds make their way down to artists and are not swallowed up by art burocrats lest I rat on them and have them sitting in front of Barney on the same seats still warm from all those banking moguls.


My good friend Mark Coetzee, who for the last eight years has been directing the Rubell Family Collection in Miami is moving on.

Mark will soon become the Program Director for PUMAVision and Chief Curator of PUMA.Creative and work out of Nairobi, Kenya.

Artomatic 2009: Tenth Year!

Time for DC area art critics to roll their eyes: Artomatic is back!

The tenth version of the massive art shows that artists, collectors, gallerists and the public loves and most DC art critics hate (but would love if it took place in NYC, or Berlin or London) will deliver over five weeks of art, music, theatre, workshops and more this year in Washington, DC's Capitol Riverfront neighborhood from May 29 - July 5.

The 2009 Artomatic will be held at 55 M Street, S.E. - atop the Navy Yard Metro - celebrating its tenth anniversary in a newly built 275,000 square foot "LEED Silver Class A building", whatever that means.

Registration for Artomatic 2009 will begin in March, and is open to all artists - including painters, photographers, sculptors, graphic designers, musicians, poets, actors and dancers. Artomatic is an unjuried open event, so all artists are welcome and that is precisely the reason that makes Artomatic great and unique and precisely the reason that most art critics, art writers and some art bloggers hate it, in their odd need to have art shows curated, trimmed and ruled.

Held regularly since 1999, Artomatic transforms an unfinished building space into an exciting arts event that is free and open to the public. In addition to displays by hundreds of artists, the event features free films, educational presentations and children's activities, as well as music, dance, poetry, theater and other performances.

Artomatic 2008 attracted a record-breaking 52,500 visitors and 1,540 participating artists. Visit their Flickr site to see over 4,000 photos captured at Artomatic 2008 or check out the below video.

Who will be the emerging art star of this AOM?

Who will be the artist who cracks us up?

Will "The Collector" make a comeback?

Who will be the prima donna?


Jack Rasmussen

The Washington Project for the Arts has selected my good friend Jack Rasmussen as the 2009 recipient of the Alice Denney Award for Support of Contemporary Art.

The award will be presented on Thursday, February 26, 2009, at 6:30 pm during the WPA Auction Preview Night event in the Abramson Family Recital Hall at American University’s Katzen Arts Center.

The event is free and open to the public but a RSVP is requested by February 25 to (202)234-7103x4 or

Rasmussen's work as curator and director of the beautiful Katzen Museum has been nothing short of spectacular and a lesson on how a museum can combine local, regional and international shows.

A well done to Jack!