Archive for Art

Infographic Maps

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on October 26, 2009 by thebibliophile

The 2009 CSS awards have been given, and I’m particularly interested in the winners for  the “30 Best Infographic Maps.” Above, is a map that looks at both the location and gross income of McDonald’s and Starbucks. Not only do McDonald’s and Starbucks make billions in the U.S., but their placement globally has spread – even in locations that have a rich history of coffee bean cultivation; though this I imagine has stymied much of Starbuck’s growth. You can see a larger version of this interactive map here.

The map looking at health care costs by state is particularly pertinent giving all the debates about health care costs. Two words: public option.

To see a larger version of this map, check it out here. What I like about these maps is that they both tell a story, deal with a great deal of information, and do so over a large geographic area. Which is great for visual learners and those who need more guidance or support when looking at and understanding data. It makes the information more accessible, and I would argue, easier to digest and convey.

Yinka Shonibare Mbe

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on October 22, 2009 by thebibliophile

Artist Yinka Shonibare Mbe will have an exhibit up at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC.  In an interesting new move for this particular museum, they’ve posted a blog, Yinka Shonibare Mbe at the NMAfA, about the installation of the show. You can check out the blog here.

You can learn more about Yinka Shonibare Mbe , via the great Art 21 blog, here. This looks like its going to be a good exhibit.

The Swing (after Fragonard)," 2001. Collection of Tate Britain (purchased 2002). Courtesy the Artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.

Social Hierarchy In America Captured, Robert Franks at the Met

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 26, 2009 by thebibliophile

"Trolley" by Robert Franks, 1955


What a great example of James Sidanius’  nuanced theory of social dominance, which establishes a quadrant system to understand race, gender, and class hierarchy.  In the image, by Robert Franks, we see the hierarchy of race in mid-century American (and some would argue the hierarchy continues today. Seated in the trolley care in New Orleans in order of the hierarchy is: a white man, a white womyn, a white male child, a white female child, a Black man, and seated in the last seat, a Black womyn. The quadrant theory of race and gender holds that white men have the privilege of race and gender, yielding a ++, white womyn have the privlege of race juxtaposed with the disempowerment of gender (+-), as do Black men (+-), while Black womyn experience the hierarchy as a double negative of race and gender (–). This photo seems to capture that hieararchy perfectly.

Robert Franks was a German-Jewish- American photographer who came to the United States and began his career. An exhibition of his work entitled, “The Americans,” is being shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’m not very familiar with his work and am excited to check out the exhibit.

Kifwebe Mask

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on August 12, 2009 by thebibliophile

 The Kifwebe mask is generally associated with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has been used to police society and establish and enforce norms. Kifwebe masks with lighter faces are generally understood to serve as female representations – though they would be worn by a male. The mask to the left, is from the Songya People, it’s provenance is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was made in the 19th – 20th century, and is made of wood and pigment. This Kifwebe mask is in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

The detailing and craftsmynship of the Kifwebe mask is what draws me. The face is so evocative, the features stylized and the pattern of carving so beautiful. Indeed, in it’s particular cultural context, the kifwebe mask isn’t intended to be seen as “beautiful.” It’s function is to serve as a reminder of social norms and ideals. When considering African objects or art, one must consider function first – what purpose was this object used for?; what meaning is it intended to convey?; how is it used and in what context? – and beauty comes after context and meaning. In other words, African objects that in the West, we call art (and indeed are beautiful, artistic, and considered overwhelmingly as art) were in many cases with older African objects, first created to serve a function. The fact that the object is also extraoridinarily beautiful, created with exquisite form and wonderful lines, is part of the effortless integration of beauty and art into daily life, that I see in African art.

I love the Kifwebe mask at left. The one below and to the right is also wonderful.  I’m struck by the alternating color, the elegantly shaped and prominent stylized eyes, and the harmony of the work. The sense of geometry, form, and placement is superb.  This mask from the Songye people of Zaire is made of wood, pigment, cord, beading and polychrome.

Here is an up close detail of an eye of the Kifwebe mask – in this view you can see the preciseness of the carving, and the use of pigment.

Below is another Kifwebe mask, with much darker pigment and raffia for hair. It has a decidely different look than the other masks – is less streamlined, and offers a diverse look at the Kifwebe style. 


Peggy Cooper Cafritz: World Class Art Collector & The Tragedy of a Lost Collection

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on August 1, 2009 by thebibliophile

Peggy Cooper Cafritz in her doorwayOn July 30th, a fire engulfed and claimed the home of famed collector, artivist, and prominent Washingtonian Peggy Cooper Cafritz. Cooper Cafritz is responsible for the creation of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts (which boasts alumni like Dave Chappelle) and has led the support of the Ellington Fund. Cooper Cafritz is a tireless and well known advocate for the arts, and she has a spectacular, one-of-a-kind collection of work, which it appears sadly due to incompetence (WASA) and lack of ingenuinity (DC Fire Department) has been lost.

Just recently Peggy Cooper Cafritz’s house was featured in Oprah’s magazine O, a dazzling spread that showed a beautifully appointed home filled with unique and stunning collection – with the womyn who surveyed and selected each piece featured; a womyn at ease in her wonderful home.

All Photo Credits: O Magazine, Sang An for O Magazine.

Peggy Cooper CafritzPeggy Cooper Cafritz living area

I Heart Break Out in Song

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on July 28, 2009 by thebibliophile

I love this! Commercial. Gimmicky. A displacement of the fourth wall. Yes, all of the above! I love it. A group called Break Out In Song, stages live, seemingly spontaneous performances of musicals in the midst of the city – from Columbus Circle to Pier 17. I’m particularly fond of their performance of “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”

These kinds of performances have been happening for some time in NYC and throughout the country, as the New York Times reported in a recent article. I wonder, however, if the recent economic downturn makes gorilla theatre more attractive, feasible, and an easier sell to advertisers (notice how prominently each locatio and its “unsuspecting” corporate sponsors are featured) and actors/dancers alike. Times are rough, for real.

Consumption politics aside, it’s what I always imagined is possible in NYC, spontaneous singing, dancing, and outrageous talent in every person you meet – who knows you could literally bump into a star.

Smarthistory: Training the Gaze

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on July 9, 2009 by thebibliophile

Flavorpill one of the sources that keeps me in the know, recently shared a new website called Smarthistory, a website that describes itself as ” a free multi-media web-book designed as a dynamic enhancement (or even substitute) for the traditional art history textbook. Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker began smARThistory in 2005 by creating a blogfeaturing free audio guides in the form of podcasts for use in The Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” It’s great! It has tutorials, information about art, links and a blog….

It would be nice if Smarthistory expanded to include more African, African-American, and non-European focused art, in the meantime, it’s a really helpful resource for looking and learning about art, thinking about the gaze, and beginning to understand and contextualize how Western art has evolved and how it uses (and socializes) looking at and appreciating art.

 Of particular interest to me was the tutorial of  Édouard Manet’s, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, completed in 1882 (Courtauld Gallery, London). It’s informative and raises some interesting questions, while providing some information about the social history of the era. I think I’ll revisit this – particularly as I discuss the meaning and representation of whiteness in posts next week.

A Brief Comparison: Kahlo & Ferguson, Ability, Gender, Race and the Structure of Conveying Difference

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 30, 2009 by thebibliophile

The Broken Column, Frida Kahlo; 1944.

Frida Kahlo was an amazing, daring artist, who I, like many others admire. I find myself over the years, returning to her paitinings, and finind something new, meaningful, and insightful in her work.

Yesterday, I posted about artist Laura Ferguson, a newYork-based artist, who uses her own medical expeeriences, in a visual autobiography, to examine the ways in which her body as object is subject to manipulation and the gaze. Ferguson’s work is detailed, highly technically skilled, and moving. This is is large part, because it is so accurate. Ferguson took pains to render a realistic portrayal of the body and its inner workings. In this way she argues, she takes something flawed, and shows its beauty.

Yesterday, I thought a lot about intersections, particularly of race, (dis)ability, gender, and class. Today, in thinking more about Ferguson’s work, and how the work of Frida Kahlo, a womyn of color, is really the progenitor/ancestor of Ferguson’s concept and work.   

Kahlo managed (dis)ability her entire life. According to biographies of her life, she was diagnosed with polio at the age of six. As a result she had some paralysis in her right leg. As a young womyn, she was in a devastating bus accident that had life long consequences.  Like Laura Ferguson, Kahlo sustained injury to her spinal cord. Ferguson’s spine has a curvature of her spine, while Kahlo’s spine was  broken (along with her leg, foot, and three ribs) in three places. for the rest of her life, Kahlo would suffer from chronic pain and illness for the rest of her life. 

I’m struck at how you can see a difference in the way that Kahlo represents her (dis)ability and the way that Ferguson  represents her difference.

The Broken Column, Frida Kahlo; 1944


What I am struck by is the fact that Kahlo looks directly at the viewer, through and amidst her preceived brokenness. She shows her pain in a bold and direct way. We do not know what Ferguson’s expression is and we cannot guess at the pain, because her face is hidden. It’s odd but Kahlo seems powerful to me in The Broken Column  – even through her pain.

Straightened Out: The Art Work of Laura Ferguson, Body Politics, and Gender

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on June 29, 2009 by thebibliophile

Laura Ferguson   is a New York-based artist whose work focuses on the intersections of medicine, art, the body, sexuality, and femininity. Her most famous work is The Visible Skeleton Series, a visual autobiography of her experiences with her self-concept and body, as a womyn with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, which you can learn more about here. As the artist explains, “Scoliosis is a flawed model of the beautifully designed human musculoskeletal system, but I wanted to portray it as having its own more complex beauty, one that viewed deformity as differentness, and differentness as individuality.” I find Laura Ferguson’s work evocative, powerfully touching, and beautiful.  I think she challenges the gaze and understanding of beauty, particularly at a time, when our society so quick dismisses, erases, and loathes bodies that represent difference.

Ferguson uses x-ray film of her own spine, and incorporates them into her multi-media work.  Her images are carefully constructed, intricate, and Ferguson pays special attention to the anatomical accuracy of her representations. Not only is her work medically accurate, but it is also techinically skilled. Ferguson uses a techique of “floating colors,” that give her work a powerful and unique look. Ferguson combines thinned oil paint with bronze powder, so that the paint on the paper has near glow, further enhancing the viewer’s sense of being inside the body, observing an organic beauty.

Ferguson’s work has traveled widely - in 2004 she had an exhibit at Walter Reed’s Medical Museum, and she’s written a great deal about her experience. On her website she says:

I have scoliosis, a deformity of the spine. My body’s asymmetry creates the need for a subtle effort of balancing, in my physical relationship to gravity and space, as well as in my psychic sense of centeredness and wholeness. The conscious awareness of walking, moving, breathing – bodily processes that usually unfold by themselves – has made me attuned to my bones and muscles, nerves and senses, like a dancer. Drawing my body, I focus on this heightened awareness and transform it into visual imagery.

Much has, and rightly so, been made of the ways in which womyn’s bodies are depicted, (re)imagined, (re)purposed, and exploited, but less has been written – at least in the blogsphere, about the complexity of (dis)ability, the body, and femininity; even less about those intersections when race, class, and sexuality are considered. What does it mean, and how does it feel, to be a womyn who’s body can never conform to the desired form? When exercise, eating disorders, surgery none of it can be utilized (and arguably perhaps shouldn’t) to create the desired body, because the body itself, at its core has resisted and denies any form but the very one it has taken. In other words, how does a womyn claim beauty when (dis)ability is deemed so crippling and ugly? Even by other womyn, who are (at least for now) able-bodied, or who can inhabit a less different sphere because they are white or have resources, or a less threatening disability?

There are of course, many womyn who have discussed these intersections: Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, Octavia E. Butler. In The Disability Studies Reader, an anthology edited by Lennard Davis, writer Danquah says, “I am black; I am female; I am in immigrant. Every one of these labels plays an equally significant part in my perception of myself and the world around me.”

Ferguson is unique because she is overtly tackling and answering this question through a different medium: art. Nancy Mairs, one of my favorite writers and essayists, and who has multiple sclerosis, candidly  and eloquently writes about the intersection of class, (dis)ability, and gender in her works, such as Carnal Acts  and Waist-high in the World. I think, Ferguson captures through her visual autobiography, what Mairs illuminates in her writing. Both are interpreting and negotiating how a womyn’s sense of gender is impacted: of what kind of womyn you might be, of what your body can and cannot do, and how your body will be perceived – by those who love you, and those who do not,  art,  and how that calls for a different invention, protection, and understanding of the self.

Water & Womyn: The Art of Alyssa Monks

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on April 18, 2009 by thebibliophile

Alyssa Monks, Laughing Girl

Alyssa Monks, Laughing Girl (right), Monks’ show is currently up at DFN Gallery in NYC. Check out Flavorpill’s interview with Monks, and what they had to say about the show.  I love the simultaneous abstraction and detail of her work.  Her paintings feel alive – as if I’m watching a real moment in time that the artist has captured. I appreciated Monks determination to feature womyn in the way that she does. Monks reminds me of one of my favorite artists Artemesia Gentileschi , who also painted womyn with a loving, detailed and realistic eye – always managing to create lumniscent skin, while capturing powerful, sophisticated, and facial nuances.

 Monks often features womyn shown throught the filter of water or shower curtains. In her interview she talks about the challenge of rendering water on canvas and how it can disrupt the male gaze.  Kehinde Wiley  is another artists who disrupts the classical male gaze in his work. What interests me both about Wiley and Monks is that they fuse the modern with classical skill, building wittily on the artists that have come before them.

I’m particularly struck by the similarity between Gentileschi’s Danae and Monks Fragments, Monks seems to be having a conversation with Gentileschi and its so interesting to see how the works speak to each other across generations and nationality.


Danae by Artemesia Gentileschi

Fragment by Alyssa Monks

The most famous of Gentilieschi’s works is her representation of Judith, there’s a cool post about gender and the history of art here. Gentileschi, who was the daughter of a famous painter, under whom she trained, had a masterful understanding of light and shadow. I think this painting is amazing.


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