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We revisited Grounds for Sculpture yesterday. A good time was had, but a massive retrospective of every mediocre sculpture by Seward Johnson is not necessary. I don't care that he owns the place.

He sculpts the ordinary, and also recreates famous paintings. In small doses it's cute. In large doses it becomes aggressive propaganda for normalcy. SIT ON A BENCH! KISS YOUR WIFE! BE GLAD WWII IS OVER! 30 FOOT TALL MARILYN MONROE! LOOK AT THIS FAMILIAR PAINTING! OR ELSE!

I wouldn't be so unkind if half of them weren't 30 feet tall.

Even Norman Rockwell engaged with civil rights issues, and he was painting his subjects while they were much closer to the present day. Seward Johnson is just... there, taking credit for restating the obvious, 30 to 100 years later.

One of his statues is accidentally meaningful: a bronze of a businessman with a briefcase sitting in lower Manhattan was buffeted by debris on 9/11. Johnson has, tastefully, refrained from repairing the original. He has also recreated the piece, surrounded by faux debris, at Grounds for Sculpture. I could quibble, but I'm going to give him a point for effort on this one.

Surviving WWII veterans have also adopted his giant sculpture of the famous VJ day kiss in Times Square. Hey, I'm happy to support anything and everything that works for surviving WWII veterans. Sincerely. But this strikes me as another accident. In the artist's window of reference, there's nothing remarkable about it. It gains its significance from the fact that living memory of WWII is slipping away.

Probably his best intentional piece is the Chamber of Internal Dialogue. Externally, it's a small house with sculpted reliefs of Munch's "The Scream" and Odilon Redon's "Silencio." Internally... it's a little bit clever. If he's going to relentlessly present the familiar, I much prefer he juxtapose it like this.

Grounds for Sculpture is still an awesome destination with a lot of fun pieces and an ideal place to chat with friends as you wander. Sandman fans will especially enjoy the muses garden and the triple goddess. But man o day, I'll be going again sometime after the RETURN TO YOUR NORMATIVE ROLES show closes.


Jun. 16th, 2010 11:50 am
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[ profile] kylecassidy wrote this up recently. I encountered it via [ profile] mrlich. I think it's excellent advice for artists in general, and for leading an authentic life in the world. Though poets might not want to sweat the equipment stuff quite so much...

Originally posted by [ profile] kylecassidy at FAQ
A Reader Writes: I want to be a photographer someday. Any advice?

Yes, lots.

Photography is a mixture of Artistic Ability and Technical Skill -- the magic of the mix isn't written in stone. The world is filled with technically proficient but artistically uninspired photographers, there seem to be a smaller number of artistically gifted but technically unsavvy artists, but they're out there as well. But the most successful people have a mixture of both -- they have an artistic vision, and they posses the technical skills to know how to make that a reality. The technical skills are the easy part, you can learn them from a book -- f-stops and shutter speeds and light modifiers, etc. The difficult thing to come up with is an idea.

0) Possibly the most important thing of all: Find creative people and make them part of your world. They don't have to be photographers. They can be writers, or musicians, or actors or puppet makers. Have a peer group of people who are doing things. They'll be your inspiration, your facilitators, your idea makers, your artistic partners. Do this for the rest of your life. Artists rarely survive in a vacuum.

1) Get a camera. It doesn't matter what kind. Eventually you'll most likely end up with a Digital SLR but in the meantime a point and shoot, your cell phone, a 1946 Brownie Box Camera, all these will work to start out.

2) Study photography -- this doesn't mean go to school for photography, but it means pay attention to photographs tear photos that you like out of magazines and keep them in a scrap book, get photography books from the library, from the bookstore, at yard sales. Learn what types of photography you like. Landscapes? People? Bands? Artificially lit? This will start to provide you with your visual vocabulary -- which will be important in figuring out what you want to photograph. Given a camera many new photographers are left baffled as to what they ought to be taking photos of. Subscribe to photography magazines, fashion magazines, travel magazines.

3) Take photos. What is it you're interested in? Enlist friends. Take trips, set up elaborate hoaxes, copy great works of art, copy not so great works of art.

4) Make a portfolio of your 12 best photos. these can be 4x6 1 hour prints. Every month try and replace at least one of these with a better photo. Do this for the rest of your life.

5) Evaluate your equipment. When you know specifically why what you have can't do what you want, it's time to think about upgrading. Do this for the rest of your life.

6) Find someone who will pay you to take photographs. It's always easier to learn on someone elses dime. It doesn't matter what the job is -- assistant to another photographer, part time local newspaper, photographing houses for a Realtor, etc.

7) Go to school. You can learn a lot more quickly this way. Things like advanced lighting techniques, gallery framing, etc. can be more quickly figured out in an environment like this.

8) Show your work. It doesn't have to be in a traditional gallery, it can be in your parents garage, or in your stairwell. Some friends and I used to have an open-air art gallery we called "Show up and Show" where we'd meet along a length of chain link fence, hang out photos up and stand around and talk to passers by.

9) Take lots of photos, throw out the bad ones, only ever show people your best. Do this for the rest of your life.

10) Stay busy. The opposite of busy is bored. Don't visit that place. Do this for the rest of your life.

Hope this helps.

Add me as a friend on LiveJournal, Add me on Facebook, Follow me on Twitter.

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Katie Henry is THE front-page featured seller on Etsy as of this writing! Holycrap! Her original sewn art is on my wall yo.

I better start keeping "Party Party Party" in a friggin specimen jar! Protected by alien laser beams!

Here's a permalink to her featured seller interview.

I am super proud of my neighbor.
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This kills me for some reason.

The front door of the Vagabond Boutique, where we saw Rick Banister's excellent show "My Documents" last night. The man has painstakingly hand-drawn copies of his social security card, high school diploma, birth certificate... I especially like the fact that the birth certificate forbids you to copy it by "photostat" but says nothing about pencil.

One of Rick's fellow conspirators drew copies of her CVS and liquor store receipts, right down to the blocky pixels of the cheap receipt printer, which I also greatly enjoyed.
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Rick is one of my coworkers here at P'unk. His comments on the show:

This Friday I have an opening at my friend Zoe’s boutique. I’ve been drawing my personal documents (the intricate ones with security patterns and laser-printed black letter). I have a folder full of these important personal things, they stay in that folder until I need one of them to apply for a new document.

I’ve started to treat the drawings with more care than my diploma, they become precious squinting over them. It’s a fun project.

The opening is 6 - 9, Friday June 20th, the show will be up for a month. Come drink some wine, and eat some dessert.

Eleanor and I will be there on the early side, partaking of cupcakes and beer. I get Eleanor's share of the beer. Rock.
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Not brand new, but very worthwhile: 500 years of female portraits in Western art in one video. Via [ profile] noisefootprint.
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I'm fairly cautious with the buxx0rs these days. I have a great job that suits my life but doesn't spew money out of the ground go-go-nineties style, not yet anyway.

This weekend, though, I splurged. Sometimes you gotta remind yourself why you live in the big city; sometimes you gotta enjoy it properly. Though in the end I wound up spending considerably less than I might have guessed.

Friday I hit La Luna Dance Studio for their fifth anniversary party. I got my ass properly danced off and competed in my first Jack & Jill competition, which was good fun and not at all the stressful experience I thought it might be. I got to bed around 2:30. Eep.

Saturday morning I ate a very tasty portobello hoagie at Cafe Ole, an excellent Israeli-owned coffee and sandwich shop in Old City. I had two hours to kill during my daughter's ceramics class, not enough time to get home and take a proper nap and get back again. They also serve an enjoyable "chocolate chai," which was not at all the cloying experience I feared it might be.

Saturday afternoon I shot pool and played foozball with [ profile] xtingu and [ profile] mrl24 and [ profile] ms_violet, [ profile] jeremym, [ profile] swingchickie and the LJ-less Vince and Jack. There was Jack-related cake involved.

Shortly thereafter I met mah pal [ profile] noisefootprint's Chinatown bus and we walked to the art museum, arriving just in time for the Frida Kahlo exhibit.

How is it? Well it's freaking incredible, yo; it's Frida Kahlo. In this woman's brilliantly creative life, an affair with Leon Trotsky was a mere footnote barely deserving mention.

Her marriage to Diego Rivera holds considerable fascination for me. So I think I'll have to see the movie or maybe even (gasp!) read a book.

Frida Kahlo was a lot of things but she was not an existentialist, that's for sure. The word "acceptance" doesn't appear to have been in her vocabulary. Heart on your sleeve? How about this:

Frida #2 is holding a photo of her husband as a small boy.

Then again, cathartic art is both therapeutic and... if you don't suck... beneficial to others. And acceptance can be a bullshit excuse for cowardice. Acceptance of death is one thing. Accepting your husband's charming decision to bang your sister is quite another.

Note to Diego Rivera: okay, so your wife was a maninizer and a womanizer in her own right, and she liked her drama served extra-large. But sleeping with her little sister? C'mon. That's just tacky.

Two gripes about the show, one serious, one casual:

1. The museum gives out timed tickets... and then lets you enter the exhibit as late as you want, as long as it's after your ticketed time. Which means that a 4pm ticket is a ticket for painful overcrowding. This is stupid and it should be fixed.

2. Y'know those cheesy polarized photos that show you a different image depending on the angle at which you view them? Whose bright idea was it to fill the gift shop with these?

Floor to ceiling polarized Frida paintings, and every size down to wallet size.


I confess, though, I was tempted to grab a wallet size and hide it someplace unexpected. "Your underwear drawer," [ profile] noisefootprint suggests. But now you all know, so even if you should someday scrutinize my underwear drawer, there won't be any sense of surprise. So it's just as well I left it on the shelf.

Honestly, these are pretty cool if you're 17, and I wouldn't smirk at a college student for having one of these in their dorm room. But for grownups... shudder.

Saturday evening we splurged on, surprisingly, our one and only cab ride and hit Horizons, Philly's only foodie-grade vegan restaurant. My appetizer and entree were inspired reinterpretations of picnic food. I had at least one "I'm sorry I can't talk right now" moment.

[ profile] noisefootprint's appetizer was on a similar plane of awesome, but her pan roasted tofu failed to meet the life-changing standard set by the first course. For dessert, the chocolate cake and peanut butter ice cream were tasty without the overwhelming sweetness common to bad vegan desserts.

Saturday night we hit Japas, currently Philly's only dedicated karaoke bar, offering both private lounges and an open bar with a dollar-a-song policy. Although our party was smaller than hoped, we had good times. [ profile] noisefootprint put me up to singing "Sunshine on my Shoulders," which was my favorite song in the world at age four. So that was awesome for the first two choruses. By the eighth chorus I was making fun of the lyrics as a quasi-apology to my very patient audience. Those Japanese karaoke tracks do run on the long side.

I had the pleasure of meeting some charming friends of hers before we realized that the enormous party taking up the majority of the bar seating contained virtually no one with any intention of singing karaoke. Which, well, meant it wasn't that much fun.

So we lit out for Moriarty's Pub (1128 Walnut Street), where good karaoke can reliably be found Saturday nights on the second floor with DJ Bob.

(Note to Moriarty's: you guys rule. Truly. But I'm not gonna link to a web site that still advertises the wrong DJ three years after Bob arrived. C'mon now.)

(A friend who appreciates the value of all of the aforementioned activities? Worth vastly more than her weight in gold.)

Sunday morning I showed up for salsa class with the proper amount of sleep under my belt and shot a halfway decent video of the routine to practice with. Apparently all that 48 hour movie making is good for something.

Sunday afternoon I watched Star Wars with Eleanor. Really a lot.

Sunday evening I blogged. Hi.
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More awesome sewn paintings by Katie Henry (aka Hank). Also handmade bags, which Eleanor has waxed rhapsodic about, and that girl has taste.

This time at Cafe Estelle, 444 North 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA. April 4th through April 30th, with an opening reception on Friday the 4th from 6pm to 9pm. The perfect pre-salsa activity. (That's what everyone is looking for on a Friday night, right?)

Strongly recommended. Katie Henry's "Party Party Party" is on display in my dining room.

Quoth Katie, "there will be beer and snacks and probably mini cupcakes and mint juleps if i have enough time and if you get there early enough!"

Hot damn! The mini cupcakes! The mint juleps! It's a good thing I've trained for this level of awesome.
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A side effect of taking salsa seriously: other stuff is more fun now.

I was pining for a real artistic avocation in my life, and that came out in the form of taking other shit too seriously. I mean, I know people who take karaoke really seriously and I think that's a shame, but I was a bit prone to it myself.

I don't want to be that guy who won't just get up and goof off and sing something he maybe probably knows. This is supposed to be fun, people... this is my night off.
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Tomorrow night is apparently the next-to-last Benna's Second Friday experience. Nancy's not explaining further just yet, but I am given to understand that I needn't worry.

All the same, why take chances? Locals, come on out and see Heather Morton's stuff. And enjoy the free wine and cheese and live music by the Nite Lights. Festivities 7pm to 9pm. Benna's is at 8th and Wharton.
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Remember Nora the Piano Playing Cat?

[ profile] solestria and I met Nora this Sunday. Her house was on the POST (Philadelphia Open Studio Tour). Nora lives with Burnell Yow! and Betsy Alexander, a coupla wacky arteestes in Philly's Graduate Hospital neighborhood.

Some of their stuff is quite good. I regret I have only this overexposed cellsnap of their "Robotic Transport" to share with you:

Nora did not deign to play for us on this particular occasion, but I am told it is a frequent occurrence. We also saw a photo of Billy Joel which arrived unsolicited one morning, signed "To the Piano Cat — From the Piano Man."

And now the trick-or-treating.
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The Philadelphia Open Studio Tours are taking place this weekend and next.

How this works: artists open their studios. Many are in homes, others are in converted warehouses, some with upwards of 20 artists in a single building. You show up and check out the awesome art. All day, if you want. For free.

This weekend: artists east of Broad Street. Next weekend: artists west of Broad.

Eleanor and I are setting out shortly to check out stuff within easy walking distance of my place in South Philly, which translates to roughly ten artists. Maybe more. I love this neighborhood.

There's a warehouse in North Philly somewhere with something like 50 or more artists, go find it!
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Claes Oldenberg fabric art. Very bunnycomic, isn't it. On exhibit in that new fabric art gallery on Arch Street between, oh, 12th and 13th maybe. Go see it properly.

Philadelphia street artist VinG is back. He seems to have returned to his Bat-period.
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Totally unauthorized bad cellular snaps of Mike Bukowski's "Eldritch Stygian Horror," a show of Lovecraft-inspired illustrations now hanging at Benna's Cafe. Want to see these up close and without squinting? Of course you do. So get off your shiny white goth butts and come down to Benna's. These will be up until the second Friday in September. Reasonably priced prints are available.

Not shown: "Illustro Obscurum," a disturbingly wonderful book collecting these illustrations. Also available at a price that won't immanentize your eschaton.

Benna's is at 8th and Wharton in South Philly. Check these out and maybe, just maybe, Yog-Sothoth will eat you first.
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By popular demand, Katie Henry is hanging a second show of sewn paintings at Benna's - and a second reception tonight! The new stuff looks edgier:

"conjoined: the sequel to partypartyparty

all new sewn drawings, bags, and wine and cheese reception with average sized cupcakes and probably miniature beers

opening on friday june 8th, 7pm-9pm

benna's cafe 8th & wharton (1236 south 8th)

up from june 8th through july 12th."

I will miss the reception on account of the DC Salsa Congress. Yeah, I suck, but don't be a loser like me. Run don't walk.
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Katie Henry's monthlong show opens tomorrow night at Benna's Cafe, here in South Philly. Her sewn paintings are the bomb.

And oh yeah, the food and drink are guaranteed to be awesome. We're NOT talking about a bowl of Costco pretzels and a bottle of seltzer kids. Because this is Benna's. And Benna's is always awesome.

Also: free.

I quote:

"Tomorrow (Friday) May 11th, 7pm-9pm

At Benna's Cafe' (which is located on the north-west corner of 8th and Wharton st.)

Katie Henry will be having a party and you are all invited.

There will be mint juleps and miniature dinosaur cupcakes and miniature fruit tarts and wine and cheese and balloons and good people.

Oh and there will also be Katie's beautiful sewn drawings and handbags.

Please come if you can, and tell your friends to come as well.



May. 5th, 2007 07:32 am
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Ranjit Bhatnagar was a talk.bizarre regular back in the day. These days he lives in New York City. And he's been busy.

An exhibit of his photographs, "Brooklyn in Color," is on display in the Atlantic Avenue subway station in Brooklyn.

More recently he created his own artist's interpretation of the minor planets. With lentils. Just... just go look. It's much too cool.

That's just scratching the surface though. There's lots more on

You can keep up with his hijinx by adding [ profile] moonmilk_com to your friendslist.

Thanks to [ profile] ronebofh for pointing out Ranjit's LJ feed.
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One of my favorite neighbors, Katie Henry, has had a show running at the Padlock Gallery since mid-December.

Katie is a seamstress... and no, not in the early-twentieth-century-Seattle term of the word. In the past Katie's work has been fairly functional stuff - purses, backpacks, and so on - but this show is made up of "sewn drawings." I missed the opening, but I get another chance and so do you: her closing party. Which is totally cheating, because I've already heard plenty of great buzz. And she's added new work for the closing party.

The Padlock Gallery is at 1409 Ellsworth Street in South Philadelphia (a block or two south of Washington and a few steps west of Broad). The closing party runs from 7pm to 11pm and features a wine and cheese reception. And since Katie also works with Nancy Trachtenberg of Benna's... I have a very good feeling about the quality thereof.

When: Friday January 26th, 7pm-11pm
Where: Padlock Gallery, 1409 Ellsworth Street
What: Hand-sewn brilliance by Katie Henry
Plus: Tasty wine and cheese

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