Monday, March 29, 2010

Richard Flood on art bloggers

"Blogs are like being out on a prairie and one prairie dog pops up; none of the others can see it, but they can feel the movement in the earth. So another pops up. And another. They are not communicating with each other. They have no idea. History means nothing to them. Truth means nothing to them. They have no mechanism in place for checking [facts]."
Read about it here.

Calling all teaching artists‏

The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities is currently gathering information on DC teaching artists to advance Arts Education in our schools and to promote life long learning.

Please take just a few minutes of your time to complete their survey, or forward it to someone you know who is a teaching artist. Their goal is to amass a Teaching Artist Roster. Take the survey here.

McKaig on Mayorga

By Bruce McKaig

Walk into the OAS General Secretariat Building on F Street NW, head down the stairs to the Terrace Level Gallery, round the corner and look down the hallway space housing this exhibit -- a space that looks somewhat like a path to a launching pad for the Starship Enterprise. The windowless, sterile architecture is flawlessly clean in proportion, line and light... and ends at a company cafeteria.

The setting could not be better for Carolina Mayorga’s site-specific installation of videos and photographs, Love Me, QuiĆ©reme, Buy Me.

Last fall, Third Root Aesthetic, “a female owned art consulting and management business that collaborates primarily, but not exclusively, with artists, collectors and scholars of color,” approached Carolina about doing an exhibit in March 2010, National Women’s History Month. They also made a pitch to Fabian Gonclaves Borrega, Exhibit Coordinator for the Art Museum of the Americas (AMA) that includes the Terrace Level Gallery. He accepted the proposal and Carolina began conceiving and producing the works now installed at the museum.

Carolina Mayorga

Baby Doll 2010 by Carolina Mayorga.

Mr. Gonclaves first met Carolina in 1999 and has seen the evolution of her work over the past decade. He describes her installations ten years ago as more politically themed and geographically related to Colombia, her country of birth. At some point, he noticed her political themes had become less geographically specific. In the most recent years, he describes her shift to themes of individual identity, specifically feminism and consumerism: “Her work is often very sexually charged, and she herself wears make-up and has dyed her hair. That’s an interesting contrast to some performance artists in the 1960s, who wore little or no make-up, very drab clothing, had a cruder, rawer presence. Carolina knows who she is and, though she herself poses in her works – not a model-for-hire – the works are not really about her identity but about identity in a much more general way.”

Carolina wanted to use photographs and videos of herself to look at issues of culture and identity. “If I am wearing make-up, does that mean that I am stupid? If a woman is plain, does that mean she is intelligent?” These and other questions about stereotypes and cultural expectations are some of the thoughts Carolina explores in this installation. From front to back, the sequence of images moves from more local, DC scenarios to large mouths and more private imagery as the exhibit proceeds. Some of the still images are draped on the walls, curving in a sculptural way. “That was not the original idea,” she explains, “but as we installed, the people I was working with at the museum thought it might be a stronger presentation to leave the organic look. Sometimes, you just want to control everything, but as I thought about it, I thought they were right. It’s all about trying to discover a new way of thinking about or doing something.”

Those words about relinquishing control and thus discovering something new resemble words by the performance artist Marina Abramovic, currently exhibiting at the MOMA in NYC: “If you do things that you like, you never change, you always do the same thing again and again.”

The various video works are on two screens, one at the head of the exhibit, the other suspended along side the still images. One video shows close-ups of the artist applying lipstick, very unforgiving close-ups that visually straddle the fence between hyper realism and comic book animation. Likewise, the still images of hair or boots or mouths retain all the reality that photographs are expected to portray, but their content and garish print qualities manage to blur distinctions between hysterically horrific and comic slap-stick.

This odd blend is present in much of Carolina’s work, something like Vaudeville skits directed by Quentin Tarantino. In October 2009, she performed “The Miraculous Artist” at the Washington Project for the Arts. In that performance, she sat, robed in religious regalia, inside a confessional to give out one-on-one advice to the curious public. Her advice to me? “Since you are entering the golden years of your life, you should definitely buy several of my prayer cards.” That performance included a video playing testimonials from satisfied customers. In 2004, Carolina built a snow sculpture on a beach in Sweden that spelled out, ”by the time this sculpture melts 45,000 children will die in war.” During her Newspaper Soup performances, she gives out cooking tips about food for the destitute.

  Love Me in DC, 2009 by Carolina Mayorga

Love Me in DC, 2009 by Carolina Mayorga

How does Carolina describe the AMA installation?
"You get it out of your system kind of thing, using both photography and video, to experiment, even if people don’t see it. The feet, the sequence, the female thing, I’ve been using feet for many years, feet or shoes tell a lot about the body. I am not a photographer. I use photography to produce my installations, but I don’t want people to think of me as a photographer. Is there an international message? Its pretty open… beauty and identity are issues in many cultures… baby doll, lips, Photoshop'd to look unrealistic, using stereotypes… Language is important, not exactly in English, not exactly in Spanish, using words in the language that I think of them… why translate, if that ends up with a version that is not the way it happened? Its not just questions about gender, I also have questions about my Latina heritage. I don’t ignore it, but I try to avoid submerging into any subculture."
Love Me, QuiƩreme, Buy Me by Carolina Mayorga
The Art Museum of the Americas
March 12-April 30, 2010

Terrace Level Gallery
OAS General Secretariat Building
1889 F Street, NW
Washington DC 20006
Hours: 10 – 5, Monday through Friday

For more information about Carolina Mayorga click here.

For more information about the Art Museum of the Americas, click here.

For more information about the author, click here.