Archive for Art

National Endowment for the Arts, Institution Building, & People of Color

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 18, 2012 by thebibliophile

Guest contributor to Racialicious, Tiffany Bradley, wrote a thoughtful piece on why the National Endowment for the Arts has such a limited impact on artists of color. Her essay is entitled, “Kickstart This: Why the NEA Is Irrelevant to Artists of Color.” In her piece, Bradley astutely notes that the NEA is designed to fund institutions, and that many artists of color are not necessarily working within institutions.  More than that, Bradley points out that the work that many artists of color are doing, and the cultures from which we come, do not easily fit within the frameworks of largely white-run or white-funded organizations – adding a level of pressure and tension – to how and when artists of color enter (“with their whole race too”) into arts organizations.

Rather than rely on the NEA, Bradley suggests that we turn to fundraising campaigns like those run by Kickstarter which allow artists to crowdsource their fundraising for specific projects. There are in fact a couple of Kickstarter projects that look interesting to me, including:

1. The Uptown Collective’s East WillyB

2. Magic The Gathering The Musical

Bradley is making a lot of really great points. Instead of relying on government institutions to fund projects, or even simply relying solely on giving to large institutions that then funnel money, Kickstarter allows you to give directly to work that you are passionate about. And its time, I think Bradley is saying, for us to use the power of our wallets to fund directly what is meaningful to us as people of color; we don’t have to wait for our cultures to be recognized of the doors of the canon to be opened in welcome. In fact, I think implicit in this, is that institutional networks and funding, while wonderful can also sometimes hinder an artist if they are dealing with tropes, figures, and themes which the institution is not invested in exploring.

It’s true that Kickstarter, like any other organization, probably has issues of privilege and politics to navigate. Yet, the model, I think is quite interesting – as is Bradley’s larger point about how artists of color are funded – and where and how those artists can be supported. There is another point to be considered. The NEA is a very different institution now, than it was twenty-five years ago, as a result of conservative attacks on culture and art programming. The 1990s saw the peak of the assault – instigated by the NEA’s funding of exhibits that included work by Damien Hirsch and Robert Mapplethorpe. The inability of the NEA to meet the needs of artists of color or to adequately fund communities of color engaged in art education, is also related to a broader attack by conservatives on art and culture programming. Perhaps the NEA might consider doing things differently, but the structures now in place, are there precisely to prevent the NEA from reaching its previous stature or of challenging the status qu0 (as much as a government institution is able to that is),

I agree with Bradley that the NEA cannot fully meet the needs of artists of color or communities and cultures of color vis-a-vis some of its current funding structures, however, I also think that this is directly linked to the ways in which the NEA itself has been attacked and gutted. There is something, also to be said, I think for supporting the NEA – because in truth, privatization of arts funding, crowdsourcing – that is what conservatives want. They do not want publicly funded art programs. If you have Kickstarter why do you need the NEA? In truth, I believe that we need both kinds of structures, however, I think that people of color invested in the arts, must also remain committed to organizations like the NEA; pushing back against them, holding them accountable, holding up the ideal of what a diversely funded, dynamic cultural and arts support can look like. One that doesn’t push people, communities, and artists of color – not to mention working-class folks, LGBTQI, or people with disabilities – to the margin.


323 Projects Presents

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on October 20, 2010 by thebibliophile

Los Angeles based artist Tucker Neel has launched a fantastic audio art project, entitled 323projects. Currently 323projects is working with artist Yann Novak on a collaborative art project. It’s simple, you call 323, listen to a simple recording with instructions and then use your phone as a recording device, to capture the sound around you.

It’s a great way to capture and consider your own soundscape.

Learn more about 323projects here, learn about Yann Novak , and find out about Tucker Neel and 323.

The Book as Sculpture: Jacqueline Rush Lee

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on August 12, 2010 by thebibliophile

Jacqueline Rush Lee creates sculpture using books – among her many other talents as an artist. It’s quite lovely. The below piece is in the collection of Ms. Inger Tully, and is titled, Red Cube.

Nina & Joni at Tea: Meklit Hadero Puts Sugar in the Bowl

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on March 24, 2010 by thebibliophile
Singer Meklit Hadero has been described as “if Joni Mitchell were East African and met Nina Simone for tea in San Francisco’s Mission District.” The description could not be more apt. As a general rule, comparisons to these two greats (nina and Joni) are wildly over used and often misplaced. But when launched to explain the lovely tone and powerful timbre of Hadero’s voice, it’s just perfect. The description is accurate.
Hadero, the children of Ehtiopian immigrants, raised in part in Brooklyn, NY and the West Coast. She is a TED Global Fellow and a really lovely talent. Know about her.
Listen to her interview on Tell Me More here and bask in the loveliness that is her voice here.
**Photo Credit: Sarah Peet


Posted in Uncategorized with tags on March 10, 2010 by thebibliophile

Each day, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, posts an object of the day. Today’s object is a photograph by  Myron H. Kimball entitled “The Emancipated Slaves.” Kimball was an artist, apparently specializing in photography, who was active in the 1860s. The photography was taken in 1863 and features 8 formerly enslaved people from Louisiana. and is part of the Line Gilman Collection at the Met.   

The image, the possible story behind it, gave me so much to think about. We know two of those pictured and their names, but who are the other people in this photograph? What are their stories? What happened to them? How did they survive? The male in the back left of the photography has had his forehead branded by his former “owner.” The photographer enhanced the brand to make it more visible.  And yes, all 8 of the people featured in this photography were enslaved – all 8 of those pictured were of African ancestry.   

 Kimball was hired as part of a publicity campaign to capture the images of recently emancipated enslaved people. 

Myron H. Kimball (American, active 1860s) "The Emancipated Slaves"


Crochet Me: The Art of Jo Hamilton

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 16, 2010 by thebibliophile

Portland based artist Jo Hamilton creates portraits using crochet. Her portraits are innovative, accurate and photographic in their accuracy. Hamilton was recently profiled in Interweave Crochet’s Winter 2009 magazine.  Hamilton crochets her portraits from photographs. She first learned to crochet at the age of 6 from her grandmother. Originally trained as a painter, she  was inspired to begin potraiture and work in crochet after seeing an exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Craft  (the website is great by the way) in Portland in 2006. The exhibit, “New Embroidery: Not Your Grandma’s Doily,” was designed to explore “contemporary approaches to embroidery, revealing surprising, humorous, even subversive imagery executed in thread upon vintage fabrics. The curators have carefully selected artists who explore this innovative approach to a traditional handcraft and its intersection with a third wave of feminism that often rejects the movement’s moniker.”

The detail, vibrancy, texture and suggestion of light and shadow which Hamilton is able to achieve fascinates me. Both the Museum of Contemporary Craft and Hamilton’s art raise some interesting questions:

1. What separates craft from being recognized as “art”?

2. In that separation why are womyn and people of color so often placed on the “crafters” side of that divide, even as our work influences mainstream and accepted “art”?

3. If crafts, like needlepoint, stitch work, require time, skill, and technique, why are they called crafts? If this is because “crafts” are understood to be for personal and daily use, then I think there is an interesting parallel between how Western thought imagines and structures “art” and how the Western canon imagines and positions non-Western art, particularly African and Latin-American art.

4. When craft art is practiced by white artists, what is the process whereby the work created becomes “art” or a “statement on society”?

“The Beginning” by Jo Hamilton

I’m very interested in “craft” art that is in fact, “art,” in other words, works that require, skill, design, technique, and that represent the expression, vision, or tradition of an individual artist or community. Here , Ithink specifically of the Gee’s Bend quilts, which inspire my own crochet work. Gee’s Bend is located in an isolated region of Alabama, and many of those who lived in Gee’s Bend are direct descendents of the enslaved people from the Gee plantation. After emancipation, many of the former enslaved people became tenant farmers on Pettway land. As the area developed these womyn “developed a distinctive, bold, and sophisticated quilting style based on traditional American (and African American) quilts, but with a geometric simplicity reminiscent of Amish quilts and modern art.” While the website is quick to link the quilts of American styles, even going as far as to cite Amish quilting patterns, it is clear that the patterns in the Gee’s Bend quilts reflect a uniquely African-American aesthestic sense that is directly linked to African art, patterns, and symbology.

The distinctive colors, geometric patterns, shapes – particularly the triangle, are articulated in an African-American context even as the design echoes an African aesthetic.

Lucille Clifton, In memory

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 15, 2010 by thebibliophile

Lucille Clifton, poet

come celebrate

with me that everyday

something has tried to

kill me

and has failed

– Lucille Clifton, “won’t you celebrate with me”

Recently I wrote that quote from Clifton’s poem “won’t you celebrate with me,” down so that I could always keep that reminder nearby. Then today, I learned that Lucille Clifton passed away. This makes me sad.