Sunday, February 12, 2017

Replicas - Alternative Memorabilia of Apolitical Presidential History….what?

First, it has been far too long. Second, I must apologize for a little promise I made with regards to the presidential election.  It didn’t seem possible and believe me, I am still in denial.  That is how I am managing.  I would love to hear what you think about what is happening in our world.  We need art now more than ever.  Let me know when you next want to meet and where our discussions on Contemporary Art should take us. 

The primary upside to the current state of things is that many people I have talked to have been awakened and pushed to DO something. The rise in activism and volunteering will be a good thing. 

David Rubel's Collection/Archive of presidential
Campaign memorabilia.
So what does the title of this blog refer to? I recently installed local resident David Rubel’s collection of presidential and political memorabilia in the window at 9 Main Street, (check out the George W. Bush action figure!) Stone House Properties has graciously allowed me to showcase locals collections in the window since 2013. 

Through a series of fortunate events and chance
conversations my thinking about current politics lead me to consider past presidential history. I found and verified apolitical historical presidential information on at least two separate websites with names like “41 Fun Facts about the Presidents,” so we can be sure it is irrefutable.  Specific “facts” about presidents were selected from which artifacts could be “crafted” though craftsmanship was not the point. These “artifacts” serve as a reminder of past history we have lived through and survived, while hopefully provoking a chuckle or two for those who read all of the fine print.   
Replicas...on display downstairs at the
Chatham Public Library.

Below are two particularly interesting tidbits to whet your appetite, but for the rest you just have to stop by the Chatham Public Library, downstairs, bottom shelf of the display case.  Don’t forget to leave your comments in the Replicas booklet:
Booklet with more info and a place to
write your comments.

1. Did you know that President Coolidge loved having breakfast in bed….while having his head rubbed with Vaseline?

2. Once President Clinton accepted the honor of appearing on the NPR quiz show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me and received a perfect score on the “Not My Job” quiz….though the topic was My Little Pony. (listen/read the entire transcript here.)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Out and about in our region, looking at, talking about... ART

Garnett Puett's work on display at the School.

Digesting the works at the end of our visit.

Summer art field trips started out strong and local with a visit to The School in Kinderhook, NY. This old public school turned gallery was opened by Jack Shainman two years ago. Our community is extremely fortunate to have such a thoughtful and beautifully renovated art space just down the road.

Three of us carpooled over from Chatham and upon arriving learned that two more folks were waiting for us. Through an impromptu conversation with a young woman who greeted us at the door, we were offered a wonderful tour. Rachel Fainter, a collections manager at the School provided us with wonderful insights about the artists and their works.  She was very informed as she had written much of the information printed next to the artist works.

The group show: A Change of Place: Four Solo Exhibitions includes four artists, Pierre Dorion, Hayv Kahraman, Richard Mosse, and Garnett Puett “converge on themes of transformation, environment, and remembrance,” as the website states.

Several very interesting threads of conversation emerged as we looked, listened, and discussed.  How beauty can bring the viewer in and then create a space for contemplation and unpacking big or sometimes difficult ideas our society is confronted with. Or, what is collaboration and can humans successfully coexist with other creatures or the environment and what this might look like. This show is up until October 29th. The School is open on Saturdays from 11am-5pm, and by appointment.  The address is 25 Broad Street, Kinderhook, NY 12106   tel. +1 518-758-1628 

Where will the next art field trip take us?  Would you like to go with us? Come along and enjoy the company and have an interesting conversation about Contemporary Art. Stop by the Chatham Public Library (11 Woodbridge Ave, Chatham, NY 12037 Phone: 518-392-3666) to learn more and leave your contact info for upcoming trips.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

S’mores for our final and OE 2016 in Oakland

S'mores as our final class activity.

The semester is over up at Siena and in lieu of a final, we made S’mores in the lecture hall, over sterno! A fitting end for a great class and wonderful group of students.  Thanks to ALL OF YOU for your enthusiasm, generosity, curiosity, and open-mindedness. 

Out in front of Oakland Museum of California, where the conference was held
and for the first time ever, there was a charge to attend the keynote talks.

The end of the semester signaled another Open Engagement Conference.  

This year the conference was held in Oakland, California and the theme was POWER.  There were many great moments at this year’s conference including a guided walk in Oakland lead by policylink,  a talk by Precarious Knowledge Collective (Dipti Desai and Jess Hanlin both NYU professors) about artists creating maps and using mapping systems to broadcast and make visible vital information, and a presentation by the San Quentin Prison Arts Project.

During one lunch hour I met several Canadian women wrestlers who provided some materials to help us develop our wrestling personas and I learned how to do a head lock. I also learned to hip hop (well, sort of.) from an Oakland organization called Destiny Arts.  They use hip hop as a framework for creative youth development and empowerment.

This year’s first keynote talk was given by Suzanne Lacy.  After a very long day on Saturday, I raced back to where I was staying at 10:30pm, edited the 1:45 minute talk down to 1 hour and uploaded it to dropbox so my students could listen for their last class.  And you can listen too, the link is on the right. Here is her website to learn more about all of her projects she talks about. 

And last but certainly not least, the final event at the conference was a keynote talk by Angela Davis.  All I can say is it was excellent and POWERFUL!  I recorded this talk as well and there is a link on the right.  Her talk included many interesting artists, musicians, philosophers, and political activists.  I have created a page with links to some of them here.  

Stay tuned for more updates and images on all of the intellectually engaging, aesthetically pleasing, and fun field trips planned for the summer!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Students Teach...each other and me!

A student-frisbee-enthusiast teaches class members how to throw
and catch a frisbee in our generously sized lecture hall!
In an effort to put some of the ideas of progressive thinkers and educators that influence many socially engaged artists - into practice, my students were asked to teach something to the class that they are passionate about and can be taught in under 10 minutes (lots of time constraints with 24 students and 1 hour class time.)
Some of the topics taught included: how to play Xbox (using our 9 x12’ screen, very impressive,) how to catch and throw a frisbee (inside our 156 seat lecture hall,) and how to ‘properly’ eat a cupcake (so that the frosting is evenly distributed with each bite.)

This was a very enjoyable way to for us to better consider some of the key points that a socially engaged artist thinks about when working with a community:  having genuine interest and developing trust, while sharing knowledge, expertise, and agency.  Also what some of the ‘materials’ available to a socially engaged artist might be such as how to repurpose available physical space to create a new mental space with different or unexpected outcomes.  To continue the conversation about this and related topics, our next meeting will be Wednesday, March, 30 6-7:45pm at the Chatham Public Library! (Please note the changed time/date!)

The titles of the two themes we covered were: Philosophers, Monuments and Historical Reenactments (talk 3,) and Dialogical/Skillshare: Putting the ‘Social’ back into Socially Engaged Art (talk 4).  These themes were a way to loosely group together some really interesting and exciting artist projects.  Many wonderful artists were spotlighted such as Paul Ramirez Jonas, Harrell Fletcher, Carmen Papalia, and Mark Allen.  Check out the links to the right for more info.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Moved You, and sometimes ambiguous

Concepts students found moving in some way from the first Chapter of Helguera's book.
Up at Siena, as my class and I enter our fourth week, students are engaged and impressing me everyday as they offer thoughtful responses and ask on target questions.  We have had our first guest, spoken word poet and artist Daniel Summerhill. And, I am learning to squeeze in everything I can in our one-hour class segments.
I have created a dropbox folder with lots of materials I am using in the course   And now you can have access to this info too. So far I have added pdfs of the first 3 chapters of Pablo Helguera’s book: Education for Socially Engaged Art (please buy his book by clicking here.)  There are questions, slide presentations, notes and links to learn more about various artists and related movements. I will add to this folder as the semester proceeds.
For our next meeting at the Chatham Public Library on Wednesday, February 17th 6:00-7:45pm, we will start to look at chapter 2 of the book and look at artists I have loosely categorized under “useful art,” to borrow from a term Tania Bruguera uses to talk about her work.  Other artists we will look at include:  Rick Lowe, LAPD (Los Angeles Poverty Department,) Suzanne Lacy, Michael Rakowitz, and PepĆ³n Osorio.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Our first day of class....

Wait...what? What is going on here?  Our first meeting of the new year is my first day back at Siena College where I have been teaching since fall of 2015. It is also the first day of my new class:  Intro to Visual Studies: Socially Engaged Art, in theory and practice.  And you can join in!  I will make this new class curriculum available to all of you interested, in a slightly condensed version.  I should mention that this will not be a typical lecture course.  I take the work ‘practice’ in the title very seriously.  There are many progressive educational ideas and theories that Socially Engaged Art borrows from. We will learn by doing. Here is your big chance to participate!  Up on Campus we have the opportunity to meet and interact with some very interesting people.  And you are invited!  Details to follow....

Reading assignment:  Read Chapter 1 of Education for Socially Engaged Art: A Materials and Techniques Handbook by Pablo Helguera (look for a pdf on the left in readings.)  This chapter is just 8 pages!  The entire book is only 90 (wonderful) pages brimming with information.  Hope you will give it a try. I realize that there may be references and ideas that are unfamiliar to you. PLEASE, make a list of everything that is confusing to you (and look up what you can.)  During our meeting we will review and have a lively conversation about what you read.  In the readings section I have also provided some background readings/video on the progressive educational ideas of John Dewey and Paulo Freire.

1st assignment - (same as for my Siena students*)  
Please be prepared to tell us the following:
-10 artists or artworks you like/dislike or know of.  
-any prior art “education” going back to high school.   
-Describe special interests/abilities or talents that you feel may assist you in learning in this class such as: a sense of humor, art-lover, excellent critical reading skills, or open-mindedness.  
-Something you are passionate about outside the sphere of art that you enjoy doing.  (This could be just about anything.) 
-Describe your learning style: for example, a note-taker to cement the ideas, or a procrastinator who uses the adrenaline of the final days and hours to get it done, or? 

*I left off the questions about whether you live on campus and what class obligations follow immediately after class.  More on the ‘why’ of these questions coming up!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Gift: Art as exchange/participation in collaboration with the public

Participant in the "Chalkboard Collective" as part of
Heather Hart's Bartertown, People's Economy held
at the Brooklyn Musuem in October 2014
For our final reading group meeting of 2015 we will look at a few artists who make work that offers an exchange or participatory component to the public as part of their art practice. This work falls under the larger theme of socially engaged art, a form of art that I practice.  Although my own practice is not object-based anymore, I am essentially a maker. The act of making something for someone (though now this might be intangible or even dialogical,) is a natural impulse for me.  I think this is true for many artists, at least at the starting point of their careers.  For this reason I have also included a review of The Gift by Lewis Hyde.  This is a very interesting book all creative types may find interesting and is available through our library.

The artists we will look at are: Lee Mingwei, Heather Hart, and Pablo Helguera.  We will focus on specific projects by each artist that mesh with our theme of the gift. All three artists have made many other interesting works that diverge from our specific theme, so check them out!  There are many more wonderful artists and projects we could have looked at, but there simply isn’t enough space or time here.

The good news is I was asked to teach an Intro to the Visual Arts course at Siena College and they have given me free rein to develop the course.  So the title of this course is: Introduction to Socially Engaged Art.  For those of you interested, I will continue our monthly meetings into 2016, using the same curriculum I have developed for this college course. We will be using a small but very thoughtful book by Pablo Helguera titled: Education for Socially Engaged Art: a materials and technique handbook.  Since he is also one of the artists featured for the gift, I have include a pdf of the first chapter to wet your appetite. You can purchase this slim volume for just $9.95 through amazon (or I can loan you a copy.)