Archive for:January, 2011

Art o’ the Day: Nancy Howell, “Onion Avalanche”, date unknown

January 31st, 2011

       (click to enlarge)

       Nancy Howell, Onion Avalanche, date unknown, pastel on paper


     O man, this just made me happy the second I laid eyes on it. The tumbling profusion, the way you can almost feel those papery skins and firm contours as you plunge your hand in, rooting down for the perfect specimen. The way she captured the root tendrils, all wild and crackling like tiny electro zaps. The way the reds have the dark vein of skin-split painted in. The perfect spacing compositionally, with the reds in a ‘T’ dividing the yellows; the way the eye is guided around the highlights and shadows by the color placement. How the reds and yellows trade tint, start to resemble each other, as if their color was chalked on and transferrable. & the topmost red onion bleeding off the canvas, keeping the whole composition asymmetrical and kinetic, much more than just a static bushel. Still lives are sometimes so much better when they simply refuse to keep still.
More of Nancy Howell’s art at
All writing © copyright C. Way / 2011

[posted by: C Way at 5:10 PM]

[file under: ABOUT ART ||| ART OF THE DAY]

Art of the Day: Ai Xuan, “Strong Wind”, 2007

January 30th, 2011

       Ai Xuan, Strong Wind, 2007
     Here’s something a lil different from what I typically post for Art of the Day. Ai Xuan is a Chinese painter inspired by the Tibetan landscape & people for a lot of his works’ subject matter. I just fell in love with this painting as soon I saw it and wanted to write about it: the play of his hair in the snowy wind, the mottle on his coat, & how what seems like an initially limited palette reveals so much more variety & nuance the more you sit with the piece, revealing a rich world of blues & ices & bronzes & whites & muds & animal-hide browns. What nobility & strength in his face, chin, nose and gaze: tender, mournful, alert, expectant, defiant. And how much like an earthwork, a boulder, a hill he becomes armored in that greatcoat.
More Xuan art & info at The Hefner Collection

All writing © copyright C. Way / 2011

[posted by: C Way at 10:36 PM]

[file under: ABOUT ART ||| ART OF THE DAY]

Art of the Day: Carolee Schneemann, “Water Light / Water Needle”, 1966

January 29th, 2011

       Carolee Schneemann, Water Light / Water Needle, 1966
More Schneemann art, & info at

All writing © copyright C. Way / 2011

[posted by: C Way at 2:56 PM]

[file under: ABOUT ART ||| ART OF THE DAY ||| Ekphrasis]

How to Rebuild a City: Field Guide from a Work in Progress, Gisleson Thompson & Burke, Press Street (2010)

January 29th, 2011

    The other night I attended a reading held at Fair Folks & A Goat, a lovely gallery/performance-space/design & crafts shop up near the Guggenheim. The speakers were artists & editors from New Orleans there to speak about two publications: Constance, a lushly-curated photography/art & literary journal in two volumes, & How to Rebuild a City: Field Guide from a Work in Progress (Gisleson Thompson & Burke, Press Street, 2010), part how-to instruction manual, part compilation of stories of New Orleans residents restoring order and dignity to their lives & to their community.
    Both projects arose from the devastation Katrina delivered to New Orleans (& in particular the lower ninth ward, which the editors of both projects counted as home); both are powerful testaments to what people banding together can do to re-define themselves & their neighborhoods when disaster unravels & rearranges everything. And while both volumes of Constance are gorgeous — full of striking artworks & writing submitted by locals after the storm — I hope it’s no slight to the editors of that project if I now turn my attention to How to Rebuild a City.
     So much of the post-Katrina literature & reportage focused on the travails & horror stories, the looting & desolation, the corruption & inefficiency of FEMA/NOAH and any number of governmental acronyms (an enormous swath of which is amusingly & creepily displayed in a periodic table of elements-esque graphic in the book) that vulture-swooped upon the wreckage to pad pockets. These are all vital stories to tell & re-tell, don’t get me wrong. But it’s easy to cross the line separating sober truth-telling from sensationalistic bad-news mongering, and many people writing about/reporting on post-Katrina New Orleans often — knowingly or unthinkingly — crossed that line over & over.
    ”How to Rebuild a City” does not cross that line; it isn’t preoccupied with the tragedy, the pathos. Its voice is something else entirely: an engaging mix of humor, how-to-guide homage & celebration of stories of average folks taking matters into their own hands and making dignified life possible again. The dark stuff is here, no doubt — I think in particular of Karen Gadbois’ story of old beautiful New Orleans homes being prematurely condemned & slated for demolition, & her research into the corruption & mismanagement of the New Orleans Affordable Housing Agency — but it’s not worried over & never delved into except to highlight how people did positive things in response: stories of teenagers getting together to demand that their school bathrooms have lockable doors, toilet paper, soap; folks banding together to clean up and stop people from dumping post-storm debris & garbage into a local bayou; a single woman who loses her business and home, turning tragedy around to become a successful demolition contractor; citizens making their own street-signs out of shutterboard & debris; fund drives to bring back New Orleans blues & jazz musicians who had left the suddenly tourist-less town for paying gigs elsewhere.
    That’s what moved me most: how people fought to restore the cultural & art forces that make New Orleans so vital. So many stories of that process: activists organizing to hold a 24 drawing marathon for everyday citizens, recognizing the need to provide expressive outlets for an emotionally pent-up community (which drew 700 hundred people!); the “Roots of Music” program, which aimed to restore marching band music education to middle school kids (marching band music being so integral to New Orleans’ musical identity) — programs which had come undone after Katrina; Local efforts to restore the rich culinary arts of the city which had been devastated by the storm. And that’s just the beginning.
    Even more striking was how all of this art & culture rehab was done in the face of occasional local opposition: one of the editors spoke eloquently about how some residents didn’t get it, wondering why people would focus so much energy and time on rehabilitating art and culture? There were, after all, houses to rebuild. But the way the editors of How to Rebuild saw it, there was no good reason you couldn’t restore your cultural heritage as a community concurrent with reconstructing homes, streets, bridges, walls. After all, what makes a city? Are its structures really more vital than its music, its sculpture, its carnivals, its poetry, its food, its art, its dance, its soul? What do we live for if not these things?

Learn more about “How to Rebuild a City: Field Guide from a Work in Progress” here
Buy “How to Rebuild a City” at Amazon here
Learn about & buy volumes of “Constance” here


All writing © copyright C. Way / 2011

[posted by: C Way at 2:02 PM]

[file under: non-fiction & essays]

Art of the Day: Two Lamps by Hermann August Weizenegger

January 28th, 2011

       Hermann August Weizenegger, Lameto (Pendant Lamp), 2010, latex & plexiglass

       Hermann August Weizenegger, Loop (Pendant Lamp), 2010, bronze & alder wood

    Something of Louise Bourgeois in both, especially the melty, slightly menacing clump/gloop of “Lameto” (& the somewhat bronzey tint probably calls L.B. to mind even more, since she favored that material for a lot of her biomorphs, hanging or otherwise). Where Weizenegger shines is with his lovely texture of underlit layers, all that carving, that thin-leaved baklavaing, evoking so many things: spinal column, dented up air-conditioner vents, segmented worms, drapery, pupae, deli cuts of meat, etc. So many spheres of existence gathered together by virtue of his simply (no, not just simply, precisely, meticulously) venting up the density. Luscious, scary, amazing. I may not want these hanging over my dining room table, but I’d obsessively run my fingers along their venetian-blind bodies if I had a museum-guardless moment with either.
More Weizenegger art, & info at Artnet

All writing © copyright C. Way / 2011

[posted by: C Way at 12:59 PM]

[file under: ABOUT ART ||| ART OF THE DAY]