Article by Jon Bauer | SAT, JUL 13, 2019, 8:00PM – 2:00AM
Article by Jon Bauer | SAT, JUL 13, 2019, 8:00PM – 2:00AM
From the moment you pull down 5th avenue in Wynwood on a not so chilly December night you are instantly transported into a living breathing art exhibition unlike any other. From the local artists scraping for some first time recognition on the corner to the coveted photographer with 700k instagram followers who has drawn an international audience taking up space in the chic warehouse across the street, Art Basel is not an event to miss out on.
Red Dot Miami took things up a level this year, hosted in the famed Maya Studio in the heart of Wynwood Red Dot featured over 75 galleries and 500 artists in the span of four nights. From the moment you enter the sprawling studio space the bump of some trendy New York DJ can be heard playing in the background. But before you even have the time to pull your phone out and Shazam the song you are whisked away by the sheer amount of eclectic works splayed out in front of you. As you breeze through gallery after gallery with a chilled lychee martini in hand it is hard not to get swept up in the whimsicalness of an art exhibition of such grandeur size. It was hard to remember that outside of these walls we were still in the middle of Wynwood and not at some underground art show hosted in Berlin. The sheer amount of international artists featured in this exhibition was enough to take one’s breath away. From the contemporary to classic, to down right extreme there was something for everyone’s taste at Red Dot Miami. As always Art Basel has managed to blow my mind even more than the year before. If you have yet to check out Art Basel for yourself, keep an eye out for the dates for 2019’s Art Basel to be posted.
Article by Małgorzata Stanek
Lublin’s Old Town, a bustling historic centre, is home to many outdoor events and festivals, such as the Jagiellonian Fair in mid-August. The Old Town is lined up with ancient tenements, each with its own story to tell, they show that Lublin has always been a city of writers, poets, and artists.
At the heart of this historic quarter is the main square, the market square. Located centrally is a building known as the Crown Tribunal, dating back to the 14th century. The building has served many functions over the years. It was a town hall, then the crown tribunal. Today, it serves as a wedding palace and it’s also the entrance to the Lublin Underground Route.
The main streets fork from here. There are several entryways to the quarter: the Cracow Gate, the Trinity Gate, and the Grodzka Gate. The Cracow Gate is one of the most recognizable monuments of the city. It was a part of 14th century fortifications. It houses Lublin History Museum. The Trinity Tower is one of the highest viewing spots in the city. If you are not afraid of heights and love great panoramas, this is a good place to start hunting for great vistas of the city.
Maria Wirtemberska (15 March 1768 – 21 October 1854), was a Polish noble, writer, and philanthropist. In 1816 she published Malvina, or the Heart’s Intuition, considered Poland’s first psychological novel. [Wikipedia]
Adam Bernard Mickiewicz (24 December 1798 – 26 November 1855) was a Polish poet, dramatist, essayist, publicist, translator, professor of Slavic literature, and political activist. He is regarded as national poet in Poland, Lithuania and Belarus. A principal figure in Polish Romanticism, he is counted as one of Poland’s “Three Bards” (“Trzej Wieszcze”) and is widely regarded as Poland’s greatest poet. He is also considered one of the greatest Slavic and European poets and has been dubbed a “Slavic bard”. A leading Romantic dramatist, he has been compared in Poland and Europe to Byron and Goethe. [Wikipedia]
Julian Fałat (30 July 1853 – 9 July 1929) was one of the most prolific Polish painters of watercolor and one of the country’s foremost landscape painters as well as one of the leading Polish impressionists. [Wikipedia]
Article by Miranda Caravalho
Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana – MACLA is a squat building on the tail end of the SOFA District in San Jose that’s painted in shades of steel grey and fluorescent pink. In the first half of the building you’d find the headquarters for MACLA’s programs, from which over 30,000 children, families and young adult get indispensable experience in visual, performing and literary art. But if you go past the first set of doors and onto the second, you’ll find MACLA’s studio with their current solo exhibition: Carlos Rólon’s Classic Tracks: Migrating Rhythms.
Enter the room. It’s not big, but it’s very open, with white walls and vaulted ceilings. But most of the white has been covered up by a mosaic of vinyl record covers, affixed to the wall in lines of faces and names that tower up to make a barricade. They’re mostly Spanish artists. Perhaps you recognize some of these album.
The room can be easily experienced in about twenty minutes. You can circle slowly around the murals and the checkerboard walls of record covers, or maybe stand in strange reverence in front of the sculpture made from working speakers. Or maybe you stray to the back of the exhibit and discover the small party that awaits there.
It’s a traditional travel cart with a spinning disco ball hanging from the woven roof and casting moving fish scales of light across the walls. And below that, embedded into the wood of the cart, is a turntable. There are more covers in small shelves, Ray Barretto, Roberto Blades, and De Todo Un Poco. It’s a weird intimacy, as if you’ve broken into someone’s house for the sole purpose of leafing through their music collection. Eventually you find the record that’s already placed on the turntable – Prince’s Purple Rain.
Play it. Turn it to side B and put it on the blank space in between “When Dove’s Cry” and “I Would Die 4 You”. With such a small space the music fills the room in a massive wave of sound. Others might stop to look, and some might even twist their faces slightly at the sudden noise. Or maybe you’re alone, just you and Prince.
I hope thats the case. I hope you’re alone with the music as your eyes drift again across the towering walls of album covers. These are the songs and artists brought from the culture of migrating immigrants. Every album has countless memories stuck to them like ghosts. A record that may mean nothing to you may have been someone’s first dance at their wedding. It could’ve been what their mother sang to them as a child, or what they heard through a open window as they left their home for the very last time.
When you’re immigrating you’re leaving everything you’ve ever known behind. But the things you’re able to take with you – your music, your clothes, your food and your language – that becomes the type of home that lives in your blood.
My grandmother is a first generation immigrant that spent time as an infant in a Japanese internment camp. Her parents refused to teach her or her siblings Japanese, and when their radio was on it was almost always playing country-western music. With the politics of the time they thought it would be best to keep their heads down and make a new life for themselves.
But when I was a child, she used to take me to the annual Cherry Blossom Festival held in San Jose, where I’d eat shaved ice and pet the dogs under clouds of pink petals. And even now she still makes inari sushi better than any restaurant I’ve ever been to. It’s impossible to miss – she’s definitely held onto something.
And what about you? Do you remember the meals your family made, the ones you learned to make yourself and for your loved ones? Think about the words you spoke to each other, the ones of sorrow and joy, and the stories told to you at night when you couldn’t sleep. And maybe it was a rainy morning, or starry night, or a warm afternoon like the one it was right now – but there was music, wasn’t there. Whether it was a radio or the tinny headphones of an old walkman, it was there and it left a shadow on your heart.
That’s not what’s playing now, though. Right now the synth of Prince is fading, and before the next track starts you lift the needle and put it back in its place. And with nothing else to explore you walk back out into the day, the words that song in your head making your mouth shift into long-lost shapes.
Article by Małgorzata Stanek
Imagine spending a sunny August afternoon in the streets of a charming Old Town filled with colourful stalls, the hustle of bustle of various languages (Polish, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Slovak) and traditional music. This is what happens in mid-August in Lublin, Poland.
Lublin is a charming city in eastern Poland that has much to offer. Beautiful sites, places of remembrance, pleasant, calm atmosphere, residents passionate about their heritage and many fascinating events that take place all year round when many of the residents as well as tourists gather together in celebration of culture, art and tradition and of a sense of age-old community.
One beautiful annual event is the Jagiellonian Fair, now in its 12th year. The Jagiellonian Fair is, broadly speaking, a meeting with traditional culture of Central and East European countries in many forms: concerts, workshops, presentations but also direct meetings with another person. The event historically refers to 15th century fairs that took place in Lublin. Lublin, located on the crossroad of trade routes, attracted traders and merchants from various corners of Poland and Europe. The event aims at showcasing the most beautiful, authentic aspects of traditional culture of this area and how it inspires more contemporary forms of art, or how they can engage in a dialogue and draw inspiration from one another.
The event focuses around a craftsman’s fair – wooden stalls scattered around the Old Town erupt with colour. The organizers highlight that unlike in many other similar events, the stalls at the Jagiellonian Fair cannot be simply bought – the artists are hand-picked; the organizers strive to invite only those artists who represent genuine local or family traditions. We meet around 300 of them from various countries (Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Hungary, this year even Sweden), always kind and eager to tell us about their craft, what drove them to begin, to show and explain the skills. They are happy to answer any questions, they are happy to demonstrate and explain their work, including at various workshops they run.
You can learn from them – they are happy to teach us so that the tradition and awareness of it live on. Their stories are varied, interesting and usually do highlight one fact – they carry their crafts in their heart. This openness, honesty and authenticity strongly resonates. As I walk among the stalls, listening to their stories, observing the skills and admiring the meticulous work, work that is the result of absolutely pure passion and love, I feel moved to tears. It is pure delight to meet them and learn what it means to have a genuine passion and love of traditional handcraft, to be reminded of a certain lifestyle, values and to feel like a part of a warm-hearted community.
The variety of items on display (and available for purchase) range from traditional pysanky eggs, lace and embroidery, through decorations (including pająki traditional, spider-like ornaments that used to be hung in households), toys, unique instruments, blacksmith’s wares – and many others. There is much to feast your eyes on – and the stories of the artisans fill the hearts too.
Every year, the festival focuses on a different theme. This year, the main theme was lace.
There were several exhibitions dedicated to this delicate and meticulous craft. One, entitled “Her majesty Koniaków lace” featured lace from Koniaków, a village in southern Poland known for its lace-making traditions and even finding new applications for this meticulous art, including g-strings. There was a lace umbrella and lace wedding and cocktail dress on display, among other things. Another lace-focused exhibition was a presentation of the organizers’ field research trip and their interviews with lacemakers. Lace was also the inspiration for a mural that adorned one of the event’s locations – the building where the office of the organizers is located, a delightful, peaceful, green-filled patio where workshops were held during the event. Moreover, a pająk referring to this year’s theme was hung in the ancient entryway to the Old Town – the so called Cracow (Krakowska Gate), an architectural symbol of the city built as part of its fortifications during the reign of Casimir the Great in 14th century. The pająk hung at homes was the guardian of good fortune and providence of the household; hung in the Gate, it brings joy to the city.
This year’s pajak was made to reflect the theme of the Jagiellonian Fair – lace.
The Jagiellonian Fair is also very much about celebrating traditional music. There is plenty of music! As we walk among the stalls, for instance, a traditional band may suddenly gallantly surprise you with a spontaneous mini-performance. One of the projects associated with the Jagiellonian Fair is the Jagiellonian Fair Orchestra – open to all enthusiasts of traditional music who also wish to hone their music skills. The Orchestra hold rehearsals throughout the year and perform at the dance parties during the event.
The dance parties are a fantastic opportunity to dance through the night to the tune of lively, fiery music. Sometimes, the band starts going so fast, it becomes hard to keep up! If you feel insecure about your dancing skills, you can always join dance workshops that teach the repertoire played at the parties, but it’s also fun to just hop spontaneously as you like. Trying to keep up with the rhythm can be a real challenge though! Aside from dancing, there are also presentations and workshops dedicated to traditional singing techniques and old song repertoires from various corners of eastern and central Europe.
Furthermore, the bands perform not just at dance parties or in the streets. There are also concerts. One of the concerts is called re:tradition, during which popular performers meet with traditional village musicians, practising authentic traditional music. They rehearse together and learn from one another. The result is an absolutely arresting dialogue between tradition and more modern sounds.
The village singers stand in the highlight, not quite used to stage performances, evident in how microphone-shy they can be at times. They present their musical skills, telling various tales through their art. This year, one of the ladies sang out the haunting, tragic story of the Ulma family – her own relatives. The Ulmas were a family living in south-eastern Poland during the Nazi occupation. They gave shelter to Jews, were denounced and subsequently murdered one early morning – first the Jews, then the Ulmas, including the pregnant mother of the family. Reportedly, she started giving birth at the moment of execution and the baby died too. The song, performed in a traditional singing technique, was a genuinely heart-rending experience.
It’s worth noting that re:tradition was performed in the courtyard of the Lublin Castle that served as prison at various times, most infamously during the Nazi occupation. Just before the Nazi withdrew from Lublin in July 1944, the remaining prisoners (around 300) were murdered.
There are also individual concerts featuring foreign bands playing their roots music, or mixing it up with personal ideas and arrangement. This year, the festival introduced the Norwegian Raabygg – a trio of delightful girls. The girls spun folk tales illustrated with their enchanting music. It was an intimate affair performed on a small stage in the Dominican Monastery, a quiet setting, slightly removed from the hustle and bustle of the main artery of the festival. The big stage in Lublin Castle courtyard also featured the Cypriot Monsieur Doumani whose simple but energetic, honest arrangements easily reached the heart and Violons Barbares consisting of musicians from Bulgaria, Mongolia and France who swept us along on a musical journey featuring a combination of music traditions from their countries. All concerts during the Jagiellonian Fair are unique experiences, an opportunity to take in an incredible richness of themes, techniques and approaches. Most of all, it’s always full of heart.
Other than concerts, workshops, exhibitions and meetings with people and tradition, there is also a place for families to spend quality time together, playing traditional games. The Jagiellonian Fair Playground, located in a huge green area directly below the Lublin Castle, offers a variety of large-scale games, some more familiar than others. Among others, you can play tic tac toe using large wooden noughts and crosses, but there is a variety of other traditional games all families can enjoy – together.
Article by Miranda Caravalho
Imagine this: you and your friends are walking through the farmland of North Vietnam. It’s a warm Summer day, the type that makes that air hot and thick. Then you hear it – the familiar guttural stutter of blades cutting against air, and the new and angry wind that has cut through the calm of the afternoon. You know what’s coming, and your friends do too.
Without saying a word you all grab the nearest leaves and branches, and you drop down to the dirt with the foliage covering you. With the jets screaming above you, you begin to crawl through the grass. The noise is ringing in your ears and vibrating the inside of your skull, but you keep crawling. As you move the noise slowly fades away, but you’re too terrified to get up. So you stay where you are, on your hands and knees under your makeshift, and you continue to crawl, further and further, for miles.
Dinh Q. Lê and his family were forced to flee their home of Hà Tiên in 1978, along with a wave of others from a country suddenly ravaged with war. Lê lived for twenty years in the United States until he followed the path of many other refugees and returned to his country to live in Ho Chi Minh City. where he soon started work on the pieces that would eventually make up True Journey is Return the newest exhibit at the San José Museum of Art.
I wasn’t expecting this to be what it was when I walked in. And if I’m being honest, when I found out about the subject manner I hesitated to write about it, mostly out of fear of saying the wrong thing. But after taking some time I couldn’t help myself. True Journey is a touching exhibit, one that commands your time and attention, and yes, your words.
When you walk into the second floor main exhibit, all of which has been dominated by Lê’s work, the first thing that catches your eye will probably be Crossing the Further Shore. It’s these four structures made entirely of loosely-connected photographs. The pictures are ones that Lê has been collecting in antique shops and thrift stores for years. They’re taken from the 1940’s to the 1980’s, mostly from the pre-war era of Vietnam. They’re photos form wedding days and dinner parties, childhood portraits and pristine landscapes. Everyone looks beautiful. If not beautiful, than happy. If not happy, then alive.
The photos form a net. There are more of them scattered under the makeshift buildings. And the ones along the walls that face inside instead of out have writing on the back of them.
“From the field I watched my house burn,” one reads, “late in the afternoon it collapsed. I did not know what to feel then I heard that my husband had been killed, but the French would not let me search for him.”
Another one just reads “Hai cha con”, which means, translated into English, “Father and son”. You can’t see the photo, but something about the words on their own stir up a wistfulness I can’t exactly explain.
But maybe that’s the point that Lê is trying to get across, isn’t it? Once back in Vietnam he searched for the family photographs of his childhood, the ones they’d been forced to abandon as they left to the country. Instead he found these fragments of these people, these other families connected to him through circumstance as opposed to blood. Where are they now? And what memories did they abandon to the storm of war and chaos? Whatever was gone is here again, strung up on display, these private snapshots filled with a potent emotional force. If you stand close enough to the structures your vision starts to spin, like a physical optical illusion of faces and faces.
We have Dinh Q. Lê’s true journey to return laid out in three rooms. But going through those rooms, especially when you take your time, you leave feeling as if you have embarked on a journey of your own. I was in a daze for a long while after I left, deeply touched by what I had seen. I had to mull over the work for days, and as I did I couldn’t help but think – what is my journey? I – and you as well, reader – what do we have to return to?
The answer differs for all of us, but regardless of who you are, you will see your journey as you see Dinh Q. Lê’s work. And it might be sad, or even dizzying, but no matter what I promise it will be beautiful.
Article by Khatija Hussain
The Queen’s House is one of London’s most historic buildings and one of the only few remaining in Greenwich, London. This beautifully creamed stone paved palace brings the rich history of the lineage of the royals and how the monarchy was passed onto the Queen today. Some visitors have reported of a ghost that lurks in the Queen’s House, a photo was captured in 1966 of a hand but nothing further has been discovered until 2002, when a worker reported a figure dressed in a grey/white dress passing though the walls.
The Queen’s house was built in 1616 by Inigo Jones for the Queen Anne of Denmark, but it was put on hold once the queen had passed. In 1635, the Queen’s House was finished for Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles I.
Although, Henrietta lived here until 1642, she was able to experience the house before she was sent into exile as her husband Charles I was executed for treason and starting the civil war.
The House holds over hundreds of paintings collected over the years and artwork created recently to celebrate the house’s 400th anniversary. The Queen’s House was closed off in 2016 to be refurbished to match the style of the original décor of the house. Inigo Jones’ architectural design was inspired from his journey from Italy and designed one of the first geometrical floorings along with the stunningly blue Tulip Stairs, which was the first geometric self-supporting spiral stair in Britain. This is where the supposed Queen’s House ghost was reportedly seen.
Each room in the Queen’s House presents paintings of the members that once stood in the house and the finest seaman in Britain. The King’s presence chamber is decorated with royal blue walls and outlined with a rich gold plated carved designs throughout the ceiling and corner of the room. This room hangs the portraits of the king and his courtiers who were royals, philosophers and naval officers.
The top left is a portrait of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Teddeman. The canvas below is of Vice-Admiral Sir William Berkeley. The top right is Vice Admiral Sir Joseph Jordan and the portrait below is Sir Jeremiah Smith. They were created in 1665/1666.
The gallery has many beautiful artistic works, some created were described as pen paintings displayed in the King’s antechamber. The pen paintings were drawn by the famous Dutch artist Willem van de Velde, the Elder. He was one of the artists to sketch naval battles that he had witnessed. The small room was darkened with grey walls to enhance the sketches and give the viewer a clearer visual of what each detailed mark of the naval ships looked like.
The pen paintings by Willem van de Velde, the Elder were of ‘The First Battle of Schooneveld 23 May 1673’ This was sketched in 1684 (the bottom left). The second sketch was of ‘A Kaag and a Galjoot Close to the Shore with Witte de With in the ‘Brederode’ Leaving the Vlie, 9 June 1645’ (bottom right). The pen painting above was of the ‘The Battle of the Sound, 8 November 1658’. This was fully drawn in 1660.
The Queen’s Privy chamber is filled with portraits of the Tudor Family, the Stuart Family, and the Hanoverians. Each royal family had their turn in ruling England in their own way whilst working with parliament.
The gallery hosted a talk in the Queen’s Privy chamber by a volunteer named James Ears. He delivered a fantastic detailed and informative talk on these three bloodlines. Discussing how each member in these families came to power. The Tudors time was before the Queen’s House and Queen Elizabeth I was just shy of her 70th birthday before she had passed away and remained childless with no one to pass the throne onto. James I of England (6th of Scotland) was next in line for the throne. He was known for being influential and was quick with settling deals with parliament and others. James I was the transition from the Tudors between the Stuarts. The story of how the Hanoverians took the throne continues to be how the monarch is run today by her majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
The Queen’s House last room ends with a very detailed painting on the roof of many influential figures in history. This gallery has so much to offer, it is a lovely day out for taking the family and learning something new about England. The queen’s house is not the only place to visit, with this historical site, the Maritime Museum is nearby along with the Royal Observatory. These monuments are the last original historical buildings left in Greenwich that make up some of the history of London and the current royal family.
Article by Miranda Caravalho
I don’t dream well.
It’s a side effect, I think, of one of six medications I take. When I go to sleep my dreams are usually loud and fast and vaguely upsetting. To put it kindly, a dream journal was never something that interested me. But my close friend has spent the past six months messaging me when she wakes up just to tell me, in whatever detail she can remember, whatever she dreamt about the night before. It’s how, she tells me, she chooses to say “good morning”. So recently, I’ve been inspired to do the same.
But there’s an important quality of dreams: they erode, very slowly, until you’re left with a cupped palmful of rock and silt. As I write this, I had a nightmare earlier in the week that left me shaken for the whole day – and now I can’t remember a single detail about it. I had another dream, a better one, but as hard as I think I can only remember the dining table from my childhood and the color yellow. Dreams dissolve, they evaporate back into the clouds of your subconscious to be mixed up into another strange rain the next time you set your head on the pillow.
And it’s not just dreams, it’s memories too. Think about Won Ju Lim, the artist who made the leap from living in Los Angeles to Berlin, Germany, and found herself almost madly homesick for the place she left behind. So from almost six thousand miles away, Lim made herself another LA from basic materials like glass, light and shadow. But in doing so she made something that wasn’t quite a city, and not exactly a complete work of imagination. What she had done was an amalgamation of dream and memory, a collection of the basic sense stimulation of what, to Lim, made up Los Angeles. That’s how California Dreamin’ was brought to life.
You enter California Dreamin’ through a black curtain. It’s about half the main gallery of the San Jose Museum of Art, which has been completely blocked off from any light or sound from the outside world. What that results in is the chance to walk through someone’s mind and step foot into Won Ju Lim’s own perspective. You can see her city through her eyes, and feel the sheer power of her wanting, her pining for something that may or may not have ever existed.
The exhibit is not without the foggy unreality of dreams. The piece that stuck out the most to me was “Piece of Echo Park”. Its a multimedia sculpture that depicts the mountainside of Echo Park. There are houses. Trees. It’s a fairly realistic topographical depiction of the region, that is, until you circle the mountain range and see it slowly dissolve into what looks like dripping wax. It gives the appearance of the mountain being alive, with a skin of greenery and architecture that covers flesh and blood. It’s both haunting and strangely reminiscent. I think we all know a certain place that just seems to pulsate with life.
California Dreamin’ isn’t a big exhibit, but in its narrowed scope its managed to create a very vivid and refined experience. Though sculptures and projections she has created something that gives the chance for anyone to experience living in another country and longing for your home. There’s no way of knowing how much of what she chose to represent made itself known through the sounds and smells of Berlin in 2002, but it’s undeniable that she focused on what she did for a reason.
And after sixteen years that experience has been brought to America for the very first time. In that time period, things have changed. Lim is now and Assistant Professor and the Chair of Sculpture in Graduate Studies at Boston University. She has homes in both California and Massachusetts. It would be fascinating to take another walk through her mind right now and see what shapes and colors now make up her vision of Los Angeles.
Lim has created in California Dreamin’ a small trip that is absolutely worth taking. It’s one of the first exhibit’s I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing that allowed me to just stand there, looking at nothing in particular, and still be absolutely immersed. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. So why not experience it for yourself?
You’ve spent your whole life living in your dreams, it’s about time you visit someone else’s.
Here’s the thing: I came out at a pretty young age.
It wasn’t the grand and dramatic story people hear about in movies and the like. My immediate family was supportive, and my more distant relatives responded with a murmur and an empty stare that was neither with me nor against me. I was here, queer – and, evidently, everyone was used to it.
But that’s not to say things weren’t without tension, even if just within myself. I tottered into a group of young queer activists during high school. These were radical, brilliant kids who were marching in protests and putting bills into action that would protect generations. Then there was me. My modus operandi? I wanted to get married to a lady. I may have been accepted, but inwardly I felt wholly inadequate.
So when I saw Rise Up! Social Justice in Art open at the San Jose Museum of Art, I was reluctant to go. I felt that taking space there would be an act of fraud, like someone would notice my presence, point an accusatory finger and shout “That woman! She hasn’t called her congressperson!”.
Still, I went. Maybe it was for the review, maybe it was the seductive siren song of Pride Month making me bold. Whatever it was, I’m glad I went, because Rise Up! is a small but truly spectacular exhibit.
This collection is a variety of mediums – from sculpture, to intricate watercolor, to massive mixed media pieces that literally command space in the room. A good example of this is Mickalene Thomas’s Portrait of Qusuquzah #5, a giant work of enamel, oil and rhinestones that depicts one of Thomas’s many muses in her passion for depicting strong black femininity. Each sequin is placed by hand, adorning the model’s eyeshadow and lips, and her deep, dark eyes stare out at whoever passes her with unquestioned self-assurance. There’s no other way to say it, Portrait of Qusuquzah #5 is a shrine to power that glitters as you approach it from every angle.
I was also drawn to Chris Ofill’s Untitled (Couple E), two portraits that depict an African-American couple dressed in royal regalia. This is a work that grows the more you watch it, as you take in the detail of the watercolor, the precision of the lines in the clothing and the way the colors seep and bleed into each other. It’s strangely soothing, almost cooling in a way. And once more it comes with two more pairs of piercing eyes.
What I went to see, though, and what got me to come back to the exhibit a second time, was Robert Arneson’s Five Times for Harvey, a collection of five portraits depicting Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, from his start in office to his eventual assassination. When I first saw these portraits I stood in front of them for a long time. The drawings are all based on the same smiling photo of Milk, but they’re depicted in these frantic, scratching lines and colors – except for the third one. The third portrait is all black and grey. If you look closely you can see the words NO DAN NO scrawled along his upper lip, a reference to Milk’s killer. And in the one following that the colors return with an explosion, blacking out Milk’s eyes and mouth. You can see BANG BANG BANG faintly running across his forehead.
In the final portrait Milk’s face is once again smiling and serene. There’s a gold star painting over it, a nod to the legacy the man left in his wake. It’s a legacy that can’t be shot down, one that rises with each wave of a rainbow flag. I found myself moved to tears right there in the museum.
I left Rise Up! with a sense of pride – who would’ve guessed. I could see my identity displayed in physical form, and it was beautiful. For all the queer persons and POC reading this, let me just say, your humanity is powerful. It is sequins and shadow, and so many colors. It doesn’t matter if you take part in every march or hold yourself more quietly, you deserve to see yourself made into art. Allies too, you have a chance to open yourself up to the souls and minds of your fellow Earth-mates. I don’t know how often I’ll be able to say this without hyperbole, so I’ll say it now – everyone should see this exhibit. Just to entice you I’ve left a few treasures unsaid, so you have a surprise or two in store when you come.
Now, if you excuse me, I have to call my congressperson.
Five Times for Harvey, 1982
Mixed media on paper
30 × 24 inches
Gift of J. Michael Bewley
© Estate of Robert Arneson, 2018, licensed by VAGA, New York, New York.
Article Review by Lydia Bell (photographs) and Jordan Miller (writing)
Thank you for the tragedy. I need it for my art.
– Kurt Cobain
Inside every creator, every artist, there is a purpose. A mindful thought or reason for what they’re birthing to the world. Some artists know this precisely, while others find inspiration in not knowing. It builds a sense of mystery or longing, which fuels the soul process to an elevation only few have had opportunity to exercise. Luckily for us, our society tends to preserve the life of these creators for our later generations to learn from or better understand; how or possibly why they were capable of reaching that rare and organic place.
Cornered in the Lower East Queen Anne section of downtown Seattle, a distinctive and vivid building sits just a handful of steps away from the iconic Space Needle. The Museum of Pop Culture holds within it, a modernized style of exhibits that depict some of our greatest cultural pioneers. Rooted deeply around music; Rock n’ Roll in particular, two exhibits hold true to this non-profit museum. Whether you were raised on MTV or listened to an FM radio in the hills of Carolina, chances are you’ve heard of the band, Nirvana. In the late 80’s, the rock band made a name for themselves during the boom of the Seattle grunge scene, that led to a cultural movement amongst many. “Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses”, is one the museums most treasured exhibits that showcase the bands existence. The exhibit features passionate photography of images that will bring a behind-the-scenes moment to present day; along with emotional memorabilia that truly shows exactly how powerful music can be. Nirvana’s music.
Dating 20 years prior to Nirvana’s call to fame, a young Jimi Hendrix was paving a path by reaching elements of music and playing that none had experienced before. If you ask any guitarist today, to name a few of their inspirations, you are more than likely going to hear Jimi Hendrix on the list. He was a mysterious, yet calm and cool figure amongst the music scene, and was not afraid to experiment with sounds that had yet to be presented to the public’s ear at that time. To some, he is considered heroic or godlike, but the museums “Wild Blue Angel: Hendrix Abroad, 1966-1970” exhibit will leave you with a sense of knowing the person behind the sweat covered bandana and wicked guitar riffs.
There’s an argument that could be had, emphasizing Kurt Cobain (lead singer of Nirvana) and Jimi Hendrix hosted personal similarities that only the two of them could reveal if they were to have a conversation in present day. Did these two artists truly ever know what their purpose was when creating music? Did they realize in those creative moments, that what they were doing went beyond the music and would live well beyond their life? Both are left handed guitarists, Seattle natives, and sadly, both left this world at the young age of 27.
If you are planning a trip to the Seattle area, music lover or not, these two exhibits at the Museum of Pop Culture is a must-see, and will inspire you through pure muse emotions. Still to this day, and even more so, we lose some of our greatest artists only to find they dealt with internal demons that came with searching for their purpose. When, in reality, they were living their purpose the entire time. This museum reveals that.