Monday, March 26, 2012

7 Lessons From Artists

BY Suzanne Falter-Barns

“You cannot truly create something great unless you are willing to share your most tender, most vulnerable thoughts and feelings.”

“The fact is, when you're given total permission to get in there, be messy, use your intuition and make mistakes, the results can be incredible.”

Ten years ago, I was a frustrated, fed-up writer, sitting in a Starbucks in Times Square in tears. I'd gotten 27 rejections on my book—ironically enough, it was about how to live your dreams—and I was sure my own dream of being a successful author was dead.

At that moment, a little voice whispered in my ear that I would only become a writer when, and if, I chose it. Like really chose it—deep in that secret place we all have in our gut.

So I chose it, simply because there didn't seem to be anything else I could do at the time. I decided to walk out of Starbucks a writer, absurd as it seemed.

Two days later, I got fired from my temp job, giving me more time to write. Ten days later, I spontaneously got two assignments from a major magazine I'd never even considered writing for.

Three weeks later, I finally got a publishing deal on the self-help book. Another month later, Hollywood called seeking film rights on a novel I'd published eight years earlier that had died in the marketplace.

75,000 copies later, my self-help book, ‘How Much Joy Can You Stand?’ (Ballantine Wellspring) is a creativity classic, a major star is making a movie of my novel, and I am a successful writer.

But more than a writer, I am a coach. Through this process, I have found myself on a one-woman mission to move people to express themselves. I've discovered that the reason more people don't express themselves is not because they can't—but because they don't realize how universal their fears are, and how necessary their work is in the world.

In short, they suffer from a lack of information. It's the very same information all of us writers, artists, entrepreneurs, and other dreamers uncover as we return to our dreams, day after day, month after month, year after year.

So, in order to expedite that learning curve, I thought I'd share some of these hard won lessons with you, in hopes that you can pass them on to your own clients.


    If you're going to create anything in life, pray for flow but don't count on it. "Flow" is a much bandied-about buzzword that describes creating at max.

    You concentrate intensely on what you're doing, the words/images/ideas/thoughts tumble straight from your mind into your hands, the telephone rings unnoticed, and you look up three hours later, convinced only minutes have passed.

    Creating in a state of flow can convince you that you are, indeed, on the right track. Yet, the converse can be true, too. If flow is missing for too long, an artist will start to feel blocked and miserable, like a constipated fish out of water. And yet… no artist experiences flow all the time or even very often.

    I had to break this news once to a client I'll call Amy, who was angrily insisting that her speaking career should just fall in her lap, in a great sweep of synchronicity.

    ‘Sorry, Amy’, I had to say—there are good days and there are bad days, just like with anything else. The illusion is that if we're really doing our dream, the whole darned thing should flow. Yet, some days are downright tedious, just as some days are miraculous.

    Professional artists know that flow cannot be counted on, so they learn to create without it—putting their work together every single day, whether or not they're "in the mood".


    Out there in the rational, logical world, many people strive to get things right the first time.

    In an artist's studio, however, it's the mistakes that really count.

    In the book, ‘Mastery: Interviews with 30 Remarkable People’, juggler and performance artist Michael Moschen says, "My process works very well when I have time to try it and fail, try it and fail, try it and fail.”

    "Sometimes I'll try a piece for three months and get rid of it. Then I'll go back to it again and leave it several more times, because I have to fail a lot to find out all about what the piece wants and really needs. Once it clicks and I start succeeding, you can't stop me."

    Or, as Miles Davis said, "Do not fear mistakes; there are none."


    Over time artists become adept at sorting out which of their creations are true "keepers" and which are mediocre "also-rans". This distinction comes from no place other than your gut, and can only be learned by experience.

    These gut distinctions can be subtle at times, and take time to learn. After all, who really wants to admit the dark truth that the screenplay they've been writing for the past three months is actually a bore.

    Better to let the marketplace tell you this truth… and it will.

    Yet, you may also create something that you just know is a keeper—and the marketplace won't give it a break. The way you can distinguish what's truly a keeper is simply intuitive.

    Learning to make that distinction comes with learning your craft.


    It's a classic Catch-22. You cannot truly create something great unless you are willing to share your most tender, most vulnerable thoughts and feelings.

    Yet, once you do that, you may be racked with self-doubt and fear. Few artists are able to accurately assess just how valuable and great their work is—or how much it will be appreciated by its audience.

    In other words, insecurity is the name of the game.

    The problem is that it is hard to believe that anyone actually needs and wants what you create. And yet, this is patently untrue. Out here in ‘Audience Land’, we're all patiently waiting for the next great thing to love.

    Most of us (at least those of us who aren't professional critics) come from a place of appreciation and acceptance.

    This is why the artists who make it continue to produce, despite the dark sense of foreboding, which often accompanies their very best work.


    The dirtier you get, the more intimate with your work you get, whether you are messing around with sales projections or oil paints.

    Artists know the pure deliciousness of surrendering completely to their process. So don't worry about having to research things without a firm sense of where you're going, or whether you get some burnt sienna on your jeans.

    It's good to get dirty because it means you're closer to that exalted state of flow—a place where spelling doesn't count (for the moment), amazing synchronicities can take place, strokes of brilliance pop up out of nowhere, and things blend in new and unexpected ways.

    When I lead my ‘How Much Joy Can You Stand?’ workshop, I give everyone an unconventional material, like toilet paper, paper clips, or tin foil, and ask them to create something from it.

    I've seen people create entire wedding gowns from toilet paper, and exquisite wall hangings from a ball of string.

    The fact is, when you're given total permission to get in there, be messy, use your intuition and make mistakes, the results can be incredible. You want your coaching clients to think big and loose—to create with a sense of danger to what they're doing.

    That is how greatness always begins.


    I once heard an interview with a pop singer who had carefully dissected and repackaged the rhythmic patterns, vocal technique, lyric phrasing and dance moves of Michael Jackson, in an attempt to be Michael.

    You have never heard of this guy because—guess what? It didn't work. You can't buy success any more than you can duplicate genius.

    The key is to do the opposite. You want to begin with your own organic idea that is born out of who you are and what you are here to do in life.

    Start with a concept that sparks your passion, then follow that spark as it guides you through its development. It may even lead you into the slightly absurd


    Sometimes you go out there and dangle your creative product in the marketplace, and you get back a big, wet raspberry.

    Experienced artists know this has less to do with the quality of the work than what people are buying at this particular moment in time.

    I used to cast television commercials in New York, and this was always a dilemma. You'd get fifteen incredible Broadway actresses vying for the role of Mom in your toothpaste commercial. (Such ads can provide several years of income, so everybody wants them.)

    What it always boiled down to was not who was the best Mom, but which one was a redhead, or reminded the client of his wife.

    Arbitrary, yes, but unfortunately true in a crowded market. This is why artists never take rejection personally. They simply keep looking for the next opportunity to show their work, with the understanding that they are playing the odds.

    Sooner or later, someone's got to buy—and if they don't, then maybe that particular piece was not destined to sell at this time. (And that doesn't mean it won't sell later.)


    Saturday, March 24, 2012

    Heikki Leis’s Awkward and Intimate Drawings of Morning Rituals

    by .

    No matter how old you are, some mornings it’s a strange feeling to look in the mirror and find an adult staring back at you. The rituals we perform in the morning find us at our most unguarded, just us and our reflections, and Estonian artist Heikki Leis’s Everyday Reflections series of ultra-realistic drawings capture such moments in a manner that’s both endearingly awkward and also touchingly intimate — there’s people splashing their faces, squeezing zits, shaving, applying make-up, or just staring into the mirror at the person looking back. Leis apparently also works as a photographer, which isn’t surprising given the startling realism of these drawings, and also produces sculptures. Check out more of his work at his website.

    Image credit: Heikki Leis. Spotted via InspireFirst.

    Image credit: Heikki Leis

    Image credit: Heikki Leis

    Image credit: Heikki Leis

    Image credit: Heikki Leis

    Image credit: Heikki Leis

    Image credit: Heikki Leis

    Image credit: Heikki Leis

    Tate Modern Buys 8 Million of Ai Weiwei’s Seeds




    The New York Times reports that London’s Tate Modern has purchased eight million of the 100 million hand-painted, porcelain “sunflower seeds” that were on view as part of Ai Weiwei’s massive installation in the museum’s Turbine Hall last fall. To wit, “the mini-version was purchased directly from the artist, officials at the Tate said, and the remaining 92 million seeds have been returned to Mr. Ai.” [Editor's note: Emphasis on hilarity, ours.]

    What do you imagine the artist is going to do with the remaining 92 million “tiny sculptures”? The Times says that an anonymous bidder paid about $5.60 a seed for a smaller, 100,000-seed version of the sunflower piece auctioned off last year at Sotheby’s. That means Ai could stand to make $515 million in total from what remains of the original stash — not a bad deal at all considering that they’ve been known to release hazardous dust and contain traces of lead in the paint. There’s also the fact that the pricey seeds were actually “made” by a group of around 1,600 artisans Ai employed in the small Chinese city of Jingdezhen. I can’t help but wonder if they’ll be seeing any of the insane profits that their work has generated.

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    John Chamberlain’s Crazy Metal Sculptures Take Over the Guggenheim

    by . 


    Twisting brightly colored fenders, bumpers, and fins into compact beautiful objects, sculptor John Chamberlain gave trashed cars a glamorous second life. Chamberlain, who died last December at the age of 84, was also known for his continuous exploration of new materials and processes. “I think of my art materials not as junk but as garbage,” he once said. “Manure, actually; it goes from being the waste material of one being to the life-source of another.” In celebration of his five-decades long career, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum recently mounted John Chamberlain: Choices, a comprehensive exploration of his work, and the first retrospective in the US since 1986.

    Born in Rochester, Indiana, in 1927, Chamberlain studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago for a year and a half before constant fighting with “narrow-minded” professors drove him to seek out the avant-garde Black Mountain College in North Carolina. There, he worked with Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, and Charles Olson, poets who would greatly influence his art. Chamberlain moved to New York in the late ’50s heyday of Abstract Expressionism, and became one of a handful of artists who pioneered the use of industrial and vernacular materials in sculpture, transcending earlier notions of sculptural beauty. Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning became his drinking buddies, and as the artist’s recent New York Times obit describes it, Chamberlain developed a reputation as “an art-world hellion, especially during the heyday of Max’s Kansas City… At six-foot-four, with a broad, toothy smile full of mischief and menace, he looked, and sometimes acted, like a character from a Sam Peckinpah movie.”

    Chamberlain remained relevant to the art scene up until the last year of his life, selling one of his pieces for a record $4.7 million and making news last spring when Larry Gagosian poached him from blue chip rival Pace Gallery — the two galleries held competing simultaneous exhibitions. For now, at least, it seems the Guggenheim has the last word presenting a range of work from Chamberlain’s earliest through his last works — and it’s not all car parts. Click through our gallery below for a look at what to expect at the show, which is up at the Guggenheim through May 13th.

    Dolores James, 1962. Painted and chromium-plated steel. 72 1/2 × 101 1/2 × 46 1/4 inches (184.2 × 257.8 × 117.5 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York © 2011 John Chamberlain/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: David Heald/Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

    Fantail, 1961. Painted and chromium-plated steel. 70 × 75 × 60 inches (178 × 190.5 × 152.4 cm). Collection of Jasper Johns © 2011 John Chamberlain/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Jerry L. Thompson

    HAWKFLIESAGAIN, 2010. Painted, chromium-plated, and stainless steel. 106 1/2 × 122 1/2 × 87 inches (270 × 311 × 221 cm). Private collection © 2011 John Chamberlain/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Mike Bruce

    Lord Suckfist, 1989. Painted, chromium-plated, and stainless steel. 83 3/4 × 57 × 56 inches (212.7 × 144.8 × 142.2 cm). Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Sammlung Brandhorst © 2011 John Chamberlain/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Courtesy The Pace Gallery

    Penthouse #50, 1969. Watercolor and resin on paper. 5 × 6½ × 4½ inches (12.7 × 16.5 × 11.4 cm). Dia Art Foundation. Photo: David Heald

    Shortstop, 1957. Painted and chromium-plated steel and iron. 58 × 44 × 18 inches (147.3 × 112 × 45.7 cm). Dia Art Foundation © 2011 John Chamberlain/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: David Heald/Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

    Ultima Thule, 1967. Galvanized steel. 64 × 44 × 36 inches (162.5 × 111.8 × 91.4 cm). Private collection © 2011 John Chamberlain/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve

    Untitled, ca. 1960. Paper, metal, painted and printed tin-plated steel, printed paper fabric, and paint on painted fiberboard. 12 × 12 × 5½ inches (30.5 × 30.5 × 14 cm). Private collection. Photo: Kristopher McKay

    Dolores James, 1962. Painted and chromium-plated steel. 72 1/2 × 101 1/2 × 46 1/4 inches (184.2 × 257.8 × 117.5 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York © 2011 John Chamberlain/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: David Heald/Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

    Incredible Cut Paper Artworks Look Like Dissected Stained Glass

    by . Posted on 7:00 pm Monday Mar 5, 2012


    Eric Standley‘s incredible cut paper pieces — which we fist spotted on Illusion — incorporate drawing, laser cutting, and careful planning that considers perspective, space, and a seemingly mathematical precision. We get major hand cramps just looking at them, and we love it. The amazingly intricate works take months for Standley to draw and compose, and hours upon hours of laser cutting to bring to life. Inches deep and with multiple floating surfaces, the stained glass-style drawings are created from hundreds of pieces of paper. Backgrounds contained within are made with drawings on top of drawings. Some of the gorgeous pieces even have hidden “rooms,” which can only been seen by viewing extremely close and shifting your perspective. Standley’s cut paper masterworks await your perusal in the gallery below.



    Eric Standley‘s incredible cut paper pieces — which we fist spotted on Illusion — incorporate drawing, laser cutting, and careful planning that considers perspective, space, and a seemingly mathematical precision. We get major hand cramps just looking at them, and we love it. The amazingly intricate works take months for Standley to draw and compose, and hours upon hours of laser cutting to bring to life. Inches deep and with multiple floating surfaces, the stained glass-style drawings are created from hundreds of pieces of paper. Backgrounds contained within are made with drawings on top of drawings. Some of the gorgeous pieces even have hidden “rooms,” which can only been seen by viewing extremely close and shifting your perspective. Standley’s cut paper masterworks await your perusal in the gallery below.

    Image credit: Eric Standley

    Image credit: Eric Standley

    Image credit: Eric Standley

    Image credit: Eric Standley

    Image credit: Eric Standley

    Image credit: Eric Standley

    Image credit: Eric Standley

    Image credit: Eric Standley

    Image credit: Eric Standley

    Image credit: Eric Standley

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    Arts groups divvy up the money


    Ten local arts organizations have been awarded grants totalling $441,010 from the Ontario Arts Council.


    Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci made the announcement on Friday during a press conference at Theatre Cambrian on Eyre Street.

    "We've applied many times before and we've always been unsuccessful," Theatre Cambrian's executive director Mark Mannisto said. "It was frustrating because there are hours and hours that go into filling out an application and really, it's all a big guessing game; sometimes you're successful and sometimes you're not.

    "(We) really had to persevere and (we) really couldn't give up on these funding applications because they're so important to the cultural fabric of our community."

    Theatre Cambrian received $10,000 toward its 2011-12 season.

    Mannisto said the money will help with the hiring of some of th musicians who play in Theatre Cambrian's main stage musical season.

    "The biggest project Theatre Cambrian has on the go is renovating the theatre space (on 40 Eyre St.) from a church into a fully functional community arts centre that's not going to be open just to Theatre Cambrian, but to all the community arts organizations here in Sudbury.

    "That's the big picture, as for an artistic level, we want to continue to support professional artists here in Sudbury and find opportunities for artists to make a living, to become professionals, and to train them along their ways so they can further their careers."

    Bartolucci said having an arts scene is good for the city.

    "It develops the total community," Bartolucci said. "It provides a venue where the cultural components of our community can display incredible talents and so the $441,010 investment to ten different arts and cultural groups, enhances the opportunity of and for the community to view the arts in a positive way and it allows a very real sense for our definition of Greater Sudbury to be enhanced because of the excellence of the ten groups that were funded today."

    Mannisto has been Theatre Cambrian's director since 2006 and said the future is bright. "It's pretty much baby steps and we continue to grow," he said.

    "Theatre Cambrian has been around now for 27 years, so we're quite excited."

    Also getting money are:

    . Art Gallery of Sudbury/Galerie d'art de Sudbury received $47,700 towards its current operations.

    . 5-Penny New Music Concerts $10,000 towards its 3-concert series.

    . Galerie du Nouvel- Ontario, Centre d'artiste received $12,000 for various programs as well as $55,000 towards its operations.

    . Les Concerts La Nuit sur l'etang received $30,000 towards its operations.

    . Le Salon du livre du Grand Sudbury received $45,000 for operating costs.

    . La Slague due Carrefour francophone received $13,800 in support of 'Junesse musicales du Canada.

    . Music and Film in Motion was awarded $9,000 towards its Northern Ontario Musical and Film Awards Conference 2012.

    . Myths and Mirrors Community Arts received $5,510 in support of its 15th Anniversary Retrospective Festival, plus $33,000 towards its operations.

    . Theatre du Nouvel- Ontario received $170,000 to help with operations and other projects.

    Twitter: @keith_dempsey

    Sunday, March 18, 2012

    Kim Adams Wins 2012 Iskowitz Prize at the AGO

    Swing Space: Kim Adams


    Prize includes $50,000 award and solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario

    (TORONTO – March 1, 2012) Sculptor and installation artist Kim Adams is the winner of the 2012 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) for his remarkable contribution to the visual arts in Canada over four decades


    The AGO and the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation will celebrate the award with a reception and exhibition of Adams’ work to be held in December 2012, marking the artist’s second solo showing at the Gallery.


    Combining prefabricated industrial hardware and consumer goods, Adams’ idiosyncratic and often humorous works reflect the artist’s own fascination with models, machines and playtime. Inspired by street culture and the philosophy of the readymade, Adams’ work focuses on turning many parts into wry and meaningful wholes.


    Currently based in Toronto, the 61-year-old artist was born in Edmonton and has studied at the University of Victoria and the Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson, B.C.. His work has been shown in solo exhibitions in Toronto and Europe (Zurich, Switzerland; Krems, Austria; and Utrecht, the Netherlands) as well as in group exhibitions in France, Spain, Mexico, Finland, the Netherlands and the U.S.


    “Kim Adams is a vibrant and innovative contributor to the Canadian art world, and his energy and vision have rightfully earned him a space on the international stage,” says Matthew Teitelbaum, AGO Director and CEO. “The Art Gallery of Ontario is pleased to collaborate with the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation to present this Prize to a truly deserving Canadian artist.”


    Adam’s work was last featured at the AGO in 2007 with a solo exhibition entitled Bugs and Dragons. The installation was a popular element of the Swing Space series during Transformation AGO, and included Dragon Wagon, a colourful and inventive travelling contraption that contained art supplies and activities for families and youth. The AGO collection currently contains two of Adams’ works: Decoy Homes (The Moon), an installation of sheet metal sheds, fluorescent lights and garden furniture, and Sleeper, a sculpture of steel and fabric.


    Jeanette Hlinka, President of the Iskowitz Foundation, praised Adams as “a sculptor of great invention and originality. He has investigated the use of playful yet formally brilliant reconfigurations over many years, yet remains fresh. Adams is known around the world for this work.”


    In 1986 Gershon Iskowitz created the prize and the foundation which bear his name to recognize and support Canadian artists. Twenty-one years later, the Foundation joined forces with the AGO to carry on the tradition through the Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the AGO, awarded annually to an artist who has made a significant contribution to the visual arts in Canada. The Prize recipient is selected by a jury comprised of Iskowitz Foundation trustees and an invited external curator or artist. For the 2012 Prize, the jurors included Ihor Holubizky, Geoffrey James, Margaret Priest, Jay Smith and Matthew Teitelbaum.

    Celebrated Canadian multidisciplinary artist Michael Snow was awarded the 2011 Gershon Iskowitz Prize. An exhibition featuring Snow’s abstract sculptures from the late 1950s to the early 1980s, drawn primarily from the AGO’s collection, will open at the Gallery this summer.

    Contemporary programming at the AGO is generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.


    The AGO acknowledges the generous support of its Signature Partners: American Express, Signature Partner of the Conservation Program; and Aeroplan, Signature Partner of the Photography Collection Program.




    The AGO and the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation joined forces in 2007 to raise awareness of the visual arts in Canada, renaming the annual award initiated over 20 years ago by Canadian painter Gershon Iskowitz (1921-1988). Iskowitz recognized the importance of grants to the development of artists and acknowledged that a grant from the Canada Council in 1987 enabled him to formalize his distinctive style. The AGO is home to the artist’s archives, which include early works on paper, sketchbooks and memorabilia, and holds 29 paintings by Iskowitz spanning 1948 to 1987 in its collection.  Previous recipients include Vera Frenkel, Betty Goodwin, General Idea, Stan Douglas, Murray Favro, Françoise Sullivan, Shary Boyle, Brian Jungen and Michael Snow.

    Saturday, March 17, 2012

    Toronto Fashion Week: Is fashion art?

    Robin Kay, executive director of Toronto Fashion Week.

    Robin Kay, executive director of Toronto Fashion Week.

    aaron Harris file photo for the toronto star
    Anita Li Staff Reporter

    Designers are artists but fashion is not art, says show boss

    Is fashion art?

    “No,” according to Robin Kay, president of the Fashion Design Council of Canada, and executive director of Toronto Fashion Week.

    But, she adds, fashion designers are artists. “It is impossible to create a collection without the gift, the genetic makeup, the talent that I put in the category of artist.”

    Despite the creativity involved in designing clothes, fashion is still a money-making industry, Kay says. “The artist designer must perform the business components to have success,” she said in an email.

    The question of whether fashion can exist within the same sphere as paintings and sculptures has long been up for debate. It was the focus of discussion at Fashion as Art: Exposed, a fundraiser at Toronto Fashion Week for the McMichael Canadian Art Collection’s new exhibit, Fashionality: Dress and Identity in Contemporary Canadian Art.

    The fundraiser, which celebrates the fusion of art and fashion, honoured seven designers, including D’Arcy Moses.

    For his part, Moses is a firm believer that the two are inseparable.

    “It’s no different than doing a marble sculpture . . . just the whole creative process,” he said. “(Fashion) is an industry that’s an art form.”

    Moses adds he is frustrated by the lack of government funding given to fashion projects. The Canada Council for the Arts, a crown corporation that supports dance, music and other art, has repeatedly rejected Moses’s grant applications to fund his gallery shows, he says. “I’ve gotten responses back saying, ‘Sorry, we don’t consider fashion as an art. It’s an industry.’”

    Julia Pine, curator of Fashionality, says the question of whether fashion is art is complex.

    “Fashion is a very wide concept and art is a very wide concept,” she said. “Art does have a lot of parallels with fashion.”

    Although she declined to give an unequivocal answer, Pine conceded that, “The worlds are definitely colliding more these days.”


    Friday, March 16, 2012

    Arts impact outweighs auto industry, MP says

    By Kristie Pearce, The Windsor Star February 27, 2012



    What do most people think of when they discuss great civilizations?

    Quebec MP and heritage critic Tyrone Benskin says art.

    "When we look back at history and look at all the great civilizations - the Egyptians, the Byzantines, the Phoenicians - we don't sit there and talk about their economic plan," he said at an information session Saturday at the Artspeak Gallery on Wyandotte Street East. "We talk about the architecture, the painters, the great writers and how we learn about those - how archeologists, scientists, anthropologists learn about it - are primarily through the works that are left behind."

    The MP (NDP - Jeanne-Le Ber) was visiting Windsor for the first time for Black History Month.

    He also took time to address the Art Council Windsor and Region, giving advice on how to access federal funding for arts and culture.

    Benskin created an access guide that listed more than a dozen Canadian programs that fund artists.

    "The fact is that the art community is one of the pillars of society and always has been," he said.

    Benskin, who lives in Montreal, said art needs to be taken more seriously.

    In Canada, about $85 billion is generated by the culture community yearly, Benskin said.

    "That outweighs the automotive industry, the mining industry and the forestry industry together."

    Benskin said people who think government funding of art is a waste of money need to realize it's an investment.

    "For every dollar that the government puts into the arts they're getting over $10 back," he said.

    "What other industry has that kind of turnaround?"

    A small crowd, including NDP MP Brian Masse (Windsor West), attended Benskin's talk.

    "The reality is many artists are struggling out there," Masse said. He said Benskin's talk was encouraging. "And it was fun for me because I get to highlight and show off our arts community in Windsor that's very strong and unique and has great productions."

    Masse brought Benskin to NAFTC Studios, a state-of-theart film studio being constructed in Lakeshore, and a Canadian Mental Health Association gala held at Overseas Motors before Benskin returned home Sunday.

    "I think in Windsor we're naturally shy about ourselves. We don't brag about ourselves as much as we've earned it, in my opinion," Masse said. "The more I travel, the more I see the strength of our local community here."

    The Ontario Arts Council's Artists in the Community and Workplace program in Windsor and Essex County offers up to $10,000 in funding to develop community-based arts projects.

    For more information about the arts council go to www.

    To view Benskin's access guide to funding go to>


    Banksy quote

    People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.



    You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

    Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.


    You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.




    Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    Picasso's Guernica Gets Robot Inspection Before Historic Renovation

    By Anthony Myers



    Picasso's Guernica painting turns 75 years old this year, and in order to have it restored, Madrid's Reina Sofia museum has designed a robot capable of scanning the entire painting for signs of wear and places where restoration is needed the most. The museum teamed up with Spanish telecommunication company Telefonica to build Pablito, as it's now called, and the robot goes to work every night taking thousands of high-resolution pictures of the famous black and white anti-war painting.

    Normally, when a painting the size of Guernica needs to be restored, it is taken down and worked on in a laboratory. But, because Guernica has been moved so many times, and even altered, curators thought it would be best to leave it hanging in the museum, and turn the first part of the job over to a technological master. The oil-on-canvas painting depicts tormented and distorted human and animal figures, a representation of the horror of modern warfare. It was inspired by the Italian and German bombing of a Spanish town in the Basque region during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. Start the slideshow to see Pablito hard at work.

    Picasso's Guernica

    Technician Humberto Duran checks pictures taken by a camera mounted on a mobile robot-like structure as its moves across Pablo Picasso's 'Guernica' painting at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid February 28, 2012. Experts have long been concerned about the health of Picasso's "Guernica," one of the world's most iconic paintings but one which is diagnosed as extremely delicate after a hectic life. A mobile, robot-like structure, using advanced infrared and ultraviolet photographic technology, is taking thousands of microscopic shots of the painting to allow analysts to penetrate the work like never before and see its real condition. The mechanism has been constructed precisely so that the "Guernica" is not endangered in any way by having to be moved to a conservation laboratory, where normally such investigative work would be done.

    Source: Reuters


    A camera mounted on a mobile robot-like structure moves across Pablo Picasso's 'Guernica' painting at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid February 28, 2012.

    Source: Reuters

    Guernica and Pablito the robot.

    Pablo Picasso's 'Guernica' painting at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid February 28, 2012.

    Source: Reuters


    Picasso masterpiece

    Source: Reuters


    Robot aided restoration of painting.

    Source: Reuters


    Pablito gets very close to scan the iconic painting.

    Source: Reuters


    Huge painting won't be moved for restoration.

    Source: Reuters


    Men talk beside a camera mounted on a mobile robot-like structure as its moves across Pablo Picasso's 'Guernica' painting at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid February 28, 2012.

    Source: Reuters

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Another Art Fair!

    Think Armory Week is overload? Frieze in May will be yet another gathering place for the global elite

    The Armory Show. (Courtesy Getty Images)

    Brace yourself. Here comes another art fair! This time it’s Frieze. In London’s Regents Park every October for the past nine years, Frieze has gathered nearly 200 galleries that strive to present their most attention-grabbing artists, like Tue Greenfort, whose 2009 entry, Condensation, consisted of viewers’ breath collected in plastic bottles.

    O.K., it’s been fun, but why is Frieze coming to New York? Do they think we can’t wait until next October? Or are they looking to grab the captive audience that converges the first week in May for the big contemporary art sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s? That could expand their franchise as well as their net worth. Since the evening sales are filled with stratospherically priced works most of us can’t afford and the day sale stuff is often a little tired, Frieze, which comes just before those sales, may offer the perfect solution. You can take home something fresh, edgy and modestly priced, rather than leaving New York empty-handed. 

    Art fairs are mushrooming like film festivals. Remember when there was only Cannes? Now every town has its festival—including Malibu and East Hampton.

    Similarly, there’s an art fair almost every weekend of the year somewhere in the world—Dubai, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, Cologne, Brussels, Miami, Paris. I checked my calendar, and found a two-week break in August, just enough time to have my clothes cleaned and shoes polished before I hit the road again. For many on art fair overload, one more fair could prove to be some sort of tipping point. This week the Armory Show, the Art Dealers Association of America’s the Art Show, and many satellite fairs, are upon us. The mere mention of Frieze, which comes with its own satellites (so far, Nada and Pulse), may send fairgoers into paroxysms. How will they get to Randall’s Island, where Frieze will be held? Is there a private helicopter pad? Those who think Frieze is that one fair too many will moan about it like film industry veterans, “Can you believe it’s already time for Cannes again?”

    Of course, not all art fairs are created equal. There are the giants—the two Basels, in Switzerland and Miami (the latter of them for art and fun), and Maastricht, with its Old Masters, for the ultra-serious buyers. But even these are being questioned.

    And yet, art fairs don’t hurt anyone. The organizers make a bundle, galleries and artists sell or at least brand themselves, and collectors get to look at interesting things and take some of them home. And what’s so bad about the parties? They’re part of every trade show. If you sell refrigerators in Winnetka and go to an appliance trade show in Chicago, where you hang with supermodels, how bad can that be? Aren’t these art fairs pretty much just trade shows for art insiders or those who want to be? Publicity flacks tell us art fairs are sexier, but frankly I’ve never been to an appliance convention. Maybe they throw some pretty good parties. Anyway, I can’t criticize. I’ll go to a party for the opening of a new handbag.

    The bottom line is people go to art fairs less to buy art than to be part of a new social order. In the late 19th century, when Mrs. Astor gave balls for “the 400,” the only way to make it in society was to be born into it. Later, even Mrs. Astor had to accept the arriviste Vanderbilts, because they made too much money to be excluded. After that, entrée eased and you didn’t even have to be loaded to get in—it became meritocratic, you could get in by writing the great American novel or curing a disease. By the ’60s, society was on the move, jet-set style: Gstaad in February, London for “the season” in June, Saratoga for the races in July and so forth. These days, it’s unrelentingly global.

    Now there’s a whole new “society” based on art collecting, and the pilgrimage route is littered with art fairs. A few weekends of perspicacious buying gets you behind the velvet ropes, but whether you buy or just browse doesn’t make much difference. All you have to do is learn the names of a few hot artists, who the players are (meeting them is even better), who’s collecting what, and you’re in. It’s the new lingua franca of those who are, or would like to be seen as, cultured. As Becca Cason Thrash, a Texas socialite, told The New York Times a little over a year ago, “We all collect art. We all love to travel. We all love being together on the circuit. You see your friends and it’s like, ‘Same time, next fair.’”

    At a recent dinner, a Frenchman of my acquaintance told a German he’d never met, “You have a Mike Kelley; I have a Mike Kelley.” This meant, “You have a million dollars to piss away; I have a million dollars to piss away. You got to the head of the line. I got to the head of the line. We can be friends.” It’s a secret handshake. If all it takes to get a membership in this elite club is several million dollars, for people who have tens or hundreds of millions, it’s cheap at twice the price. And the more esoteric works they buy, the better. Hanging and preserving an expensive piece no one understands provides not only the aura of wealth but also the impression that the owner is one of the rare intellectuals who really “gets it.”

    We may be entering the era of online art fairs, like last month’s VIP, where we can cruise the galleries in our pj’s with a cup of coffee in hand, but these virtual ventures don’t really replace experiencing the art in person. If Frieze’s coming to New York provides another opportunity to do that, I’m thrilled.

    For now, let’s all muscle through Armory Week. Pace yourself, wear comfortable shoes, keep your eyes open, ask a lot of questions, and bring some PowerBars and maybe a hired gun (like an art adviser). Whatever you do, enjoy the parties.



    Monday, March 12, 2012

    Obscenity inspires rage in Spain

    Works by Canadian artist Bruce LaBruce targeted by religious zealots

    The day after Obscenity opened at la Fresh Art Gallery in Madrid, someone smashed the front window of the gallery and tossed in an explosive device.


    The bomb failed to go off and no one was injured, but the threat of violence over his religious-themed photography show unsettled Toronto artist Bruce LaBruce enough that he decided to talk about the meaning behind his art; something he rarely does.


    “I don't think an artist should necessarily have to go about justifying his work, but because of the controversy I've been kind of pontificating about it,” says LaBruce, on the phone his Berlin apartment.


    Obscenity, which opened on February 17, is a collection of 50 pictures which, using religious iconography and symbols, explores themes such as censorship, sexual repression and pop culture. One image depicts a priest wearing red high-heels, lifting up his robe to reveal his junk. Another shows a bare-breasted nun with communion wafers covering her eyes and nipples. Most of the other photos wouldn't look out of place on billboards or in fashion magazines. LaBruce, whose works have explored gay sexuality using everything from skinhead punks to zombie porn, says the controversy surrounding Obscenity has been surprising.


    “For me the works are totally toned down,” he says. “Normally my work is much more pornographic.”


    That apparently wasn't enough to placate his critics. The show has attracted protests from Catholic and conservative groups across Spain, including supporters former dictator, Francisco Franco.


    The Francisco Franco Foundation, whose website says it works to “spread knowledge of the figure of Francisco Franco in its human, political and military dimensions, as well as the achievements and projects carried out by his regime,” issued a press release prior to the show’s opening calling LaBruce's work “a virulent and morbid attack on the Catholic religion.”


    On February 24, the Eucharistic Ministry, a Catholic group, hosted a demonstration “in defence of our Christian roots and the Catholic faith.” About 50 protesters waved placards and played Christian rock music outside la Fresh.


    Spanish conservative group, Make Yourself Heard, called the project a “blasphemous provocation.”


    The models who posed for LaBruce, who include well-known actors and musicians, have faced backlash for their participation. Mario Vaquerizo was allegedly fired from his hosting duties at Catholic church-managed radio station Cadena COPE after he posed with his wife, Spanish singer and gay icon Alaska, in an erotic re-interpretation of the famous Michelangelo sculpture Pieta, in which the Virgin Mary holds the body of Christ.


    Alaska's father was exiled by the Franco regime during the Spanish Civil War. The singer herself was part of La Movida, a progressive artistic movement that flourished in Spain following Franco's death in 1975.


    The legacy of the Franco dictatorship and its relationship with Catholicism continues to be a source of division in Spain — the church in Spain sided with Franco against the Communist-aligned Republicans in the Spanish Civil War — but LaBruce says he doesn’t believe Franco supporters represent mainstream Catholic opinion.


    “There are large segments of the Catholic Church that are mortified that the Franco Foundation is acting as its mouthpiece,” he says.


    He also argues that his work has many layers of meaning and isn't meant to be “offensive or sacrilegious.”


    “I'm not strictly against religion,” says LaBruce. “I think organized religions in general, especially the big ones, can be repressive at times, but I respect people's right to express their spirituality in any way they see fit. However, I was born into Christianity and I have the right to make work that... raises issues around religious iconography and modern worship.”


    The boundary-pushing native of Toronto says Obscenity has Canadian roots. LaBruce says he chose the name after Canadian border agents confiscated a number of his photographic negatives last year, citing Canadian laws against importing obscene materials.


    The exhibit will be on display until the end of March at la Fresh. LaBruce says he has no plans to showcase the artwork anywhere else after that.


    “Taking it to another Catholic country could be dangerous, now that everybody knows about it,” he says.

    Saturday, March 10, 2012

    RIP Moebius (Jean Giraud)

    French comic-book artist "Moebius" dies



    PARIS | Sat Mar 10, 2012 6:01pm GMT

    (Reuters) - French comic-book artist Jean Giraud, alias "Moebius", best known in France for his gritty Wild West character "Blueberry", has died at the age of 73 after a battle with cancer, according to his publisher.


    Giraud also ventured into cinema, working with director Ridley Scott on the visual effects for "Alien" and the computer-effects-driven movie "Tron".


    His death was confirmed by publishing house Dargaud on Saturday, which said the comic-book world had lost "one of its greatest masters".


    Author Paulo Coelho paid tribute to Giraud in a blog post, saying he had the "honour" to work with him on an illustrated edition of his 1988 novel "The Alchemist".

    Giraud, who also crafted science-fiction epics under the pen name "Moebius", gained cult status in the European comics world after a 50-year career that saw his anti-hero Mike Blueberry endure almost as long as Herge's (Georges Remi's) Tintin.

    Working with writer Jean-Michel Charlier, Giraud in 1963 created the Blueberry series about a headstrong, rugged, poker-playing soldier fighting for the Union in the U.S. Civil War.

    A far cry from the cliché of the clean-shaven heroic cowboy, Blueberry went against the grain and often rebelled against his superiors. The series portrayed Native Americans in a more nuanced way than film or comic stereotypes of the past.

    Vincent Cassel took the lead role in a film based on the Blueberry books, released in the American market as "Renegade".

    In the 1970s and 1980s, Giraud developed his experimental side by branching out into science fiction under the "Moebius" name.

    Former French Culture Minister Jack Lang said: "Moebius has become a comic-book icon. In the '70s and '80s he was the figurehead of this unique art form in France."