Thursday, February 26, 2009

the reason I've been away for a while...

Blame it on the all-consuming task of sourcing items for the Doll Project. eBay is a trap! Here are a few of the things I've found. Soon you'll see them in the photos I'll take.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Featured Flickr Group: Black History

This group is open to all nationalities that have any type of photographs relating to "Black History" or "The Black Experience".

Feel free to send historical photographs of anything relating to African-American culture.

Members of the Black History Flickr group have compiled a great collection of images. Whether you are looking for a picture of Black socialites from an old black-and-white back issue of Jet magazine, or pictures of Muhammad Ali in the boxing ring, you can find them here. From Amiri Baraka to Barack Obama, from Josephine Baker to Eartha Kitt, to the numerous unsung heroes of the civil rights movement... The Black History Flickr group is an archive of photos that document Black American life from the late 1800's until the present. It is a great place to find pictures of famous African-Americans as well as a place where you can learn about the accomplishments of others who may not be as popular in history books.

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Arts funding will be included in the stimulus package after all

This Friday the 13th has turned out to be a very lucky day for the arts in America. Today the U.S. House of Representatives approved their final version of the stimulus package, and it includes $50 million to support jobs in the arts. So it looks like all the letters to the legislators and the press paid off.

Read more about it here:
Americans for the Arts

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Welcome to my planet [Widget Wednesday]

Okay, so this isn't exactly a widget. But this Google Map of Mars is gorgeous! Click the link to explore this very colorful rendering of the red planet.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Arts Stimulus Plan Petition

Want to make sure arts funding does not get cut from the stimulus bill? Sign this petition sponsored by The Institute for Policy Studies and Split This Rock. Then come back and check out this little video clip, brought to you by the Bill from Capitol Hill.

I'd like to thank Kit-Bacon Gressitt for bringing this petition to my attention.
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Monday, February 9, 2009

a silver painting to match my shoes

Silver Whisper - silver painted foam packing material recycled found object abstract painted sculptural assemblage avant garde art painting by Tiffany Gholar
Silver Whisper - silver painted foam packing material recycled found object abstract painted sculptural assemblage avant garde art painting by Tiffany Gholar
Silver Whisper - silver painted foam packing material recycled found object abstract painted sculptural assemblage avant garde art painting by Tiffany Gholar
Silver Whisper - silver painted foam packing material recycled found object abstract painted sculptural assemblage avant garde art painting by Tiffany Gholar
Silver Whisper - silver painted foam packing material recycled found object abstract painted sculptural assemblage avant garde art painting by Tiffany Gholar

So now it's silver. And it even matches my shoes! The decision to paint it silver came before the decision to wear silver shoes today. But it's still funny how things work out, isn't it?

When I return to the studio I'll add highlights and shadows. Also, not sure if I mentioned this before, but in addition to using recycled materials, I also use nontoxic acrylic paints. I do this because the environment I work in is just as important as the larger environment.

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my biggest painting yet

Made from the box that once housed the counter top of my Ikea Varde cabinet, this new painting is the biggest so far. I draped the cardboard with the foam that was wrapped around all the various furniture parts to protect it from scratches. The foam has a wonderful translucent quality. I definitely plan to use it in future paintings. This is the first one so far.

The painting is so wide that I had to let my window down just so it would fit on the back seat. But it's extremely lightweight, despite its size. When I got to school and took it out of the car, it was blown over by the tiniest of gusts of wind. And so I am thinking of calling it "Wisp" or "Whisper" or some other word that will convey its delicate nature. It is a steely grey for now. I added some Prussian blue to make the color more interesting. This is just the base coat. When I am finished, this one is going to be silver.

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Art [for Sunday Scribblings]

left: Shekinah | oil on canvas | 2001
right: Blue Water Bottle | oil on canvas | 2000

Art is something I can't not do. I have no choice in the matter. It is an important thing to me, as necessary as breathing. For years I tried to deny my need for art. I tried to ignore it. I tried to heed the unsolicited advice of well-meaning elders who insisted nothing good could come of a career as an artist. I decided I'd try to become a writer instead. Even when my painting professor asked me senior year about my plans after graduation and tried to encourage me to keep it up, I had already made up my mind to relegate it to a hobby. Writing would come first, I believed. How quickly I burned myself out and developed a crippling case of writers block, having relied too much on the pursuit of only one interest.

Writing helps me to keep my sanity, but art brings me immeasurable happiness. When I have a paintbrush in my hand, that is when I truly feel alive. Writing fiction is fascinating because it allows me to create characters and situations, but it distances me from reality. Art forces me to live in the moment. It is what makes my life worthwhile.

It took me a while to realize this. When writing didn't work out, I later returned to school to study interior design because I thought it would be a practical use of my talents. But I often found the rules too constraining. It required me to be far more meticulous and exacting than I am accustomed to. Eventually I realized just how much art mattered to me in my life and I gave myself permission to pursue it, culminating in my decision to go back to school to get a Master's Degree in painting. And my only regret is not doing this sooner.

Native Son Montage, 1997 [from the Archives]

"Native Son Montage" digital montage 11"x14" 1997

I remember seeing the movie version of Richard Wright's Native Son when I was about 12 years old. I found it incredibly depressing. A few years later, when I was 16, I had to read the book for English class. And then I had to read it again in college for a freshman year humanities class. For those of you who read last week's From The Archives, it was the same class that I did the Venus Hottentot Montage for. I once again had a chance to showcase my digital collage skills. Of course, I couldn't get away without writing about what I created. Here is what I had to say about this piece:

My Native Son montage depicts Bigger’s final contemplation of himself and his life. Up until the very end of the book, Bigger has no inner life. Like Fanon’s native, because he lacks an inner life, Bigger “does not commit suicide. He kills.” But there are a few fleeting introspective moments when, twenty years old and about to die, he begins piecing together elements of his life. This state of mind is portrayed in the montage by the shadowed face of the man in the foreground.

Etiological elements of Bigger’s development are pictured in the background, including a photograph of run-down depression-era Chicago tenement houses. At the top center of the picture is a Great Migration era “Social Base Map of Chicago,” which shows the racial makeup of neighborhoods around Chicago. This represents the extreme segregation of the so-called “City of Neighborhoods,” which resulted in the “locked-in life of the Black belt areas” that Wright describes in “How ‘Bigger’ Was Born.”

The images I selected of Mary and Bessie portray them both as living. At first I considered using pictures of them as corpses, primarily because of Bigger’s responsibility for their deaths. Yet I realized that Bigger spends little time at the end of the novel contemplating their murders. He is no longer haunted by the image of the severed head or the bludgeoned body. This was why I chose pictures representative of the two young women’s personalitiesMary carefree and smiling in a scene reminiscent of her newsreel portrayal, and Bessie looking downtrodden and miserable. To the left of Bessie and Mary is an image representative of Bigger’s job as a chauffeur. Above it, Bigger looks out of a broken window in an abandoned building as he hides from the law. The personage in blackface sweeping down upon him like the wailing ghosts of Picasso’s “Guernica” symbolizes the pervasive racism of the time. The burning cross at the top embodies Bigger’s struggle with racial hatred and his own hatred of Christianity and its cross. Lastly, the words “Fear,” “Flight,” and “Fate” are strategically placed in the montage. With his fear and flight behind him, the only thing that Bigger has ahead of him is his fate.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Featured Flickr Group: Black Media Art and Illustration

Since February is Black History Month, this month I will be featuring groups that display pictures from throughout the African diaspora. This week's group is Black Media Art and Illustration. The group's owner describes it as

a gathering place for artists of all races, colors, and ethnic backgrounds to share and celebrate themed African and African American commercial art. Work here primarily geared towards design, illustration, character design, comics, film, 3D, logos, and photography. Discuss how African Americans are portrayed in media today.

The group features a great array of art by many different artists and illustrators.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hold on, Spring is coming

Untitled | Paul Stephenson | 2009 | 8"x10" photograph

The other day while I was in the studio working, one of my classmates, Paul Stephenson, gave me this photo he'd just developed. With wind chills of -14 degrees today, I can definitely use a reminder that Spring is coming.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Solar Storm" is almost finished

Caution: due to the intensity of the yellow paint, you should not look directly at the painting below without first putting on sunglasses. You've been warned.

I am finally (almost) done with Solar Storm. Yesterday I went to school and picked up where I left off on Saturday. I added fluorescent yellow highlights and burnished it with yellow ocher. It reminds me a of a larger version of my painting Meringue, just as Horror Vacui is like a larger version of Raspberry Divine. Maybe it was because I was hungry, or because at some points I began to apply the paint with a silicone kitchen spatula, but the colors started to remind me of artificial cheeses or honey mustard sauce. Speaking of honey mustard sauce, I suppose now is a good time to share this great recipe I have for it:

just mix
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon distilled vinegar
together in a bowl. It's delicious!

Anyway, back to Solar Storm. Doesn't this part remind you of macaroni (or some other pasta) and cheese?

The most tedious part was filling in the honeycomb cells. I know I could have left them unpainted, but sometimes I think it looks a little too unfinished that way. And when I painted Katrina, I filled in each and every cell and was very pleased with the result. Of course, at 12"x16", Katrina is much, much smaller than Solar Storm. I probably should have thought about that. Fortunately, I had some good music to get me through the painstaking process of painting all those cells. Yesterday it was Digable Planets. Remember them? (Yeah, I am showing my age here.) Nothing like good early 90's hip-hop to help me stay focused. I take my painting music very seriously. I love creating playlists on my computer so I'll have the right songs to listen to in the studio. Another song I am really feeling right now is "New World" by Bjork. Outside the context of the relentlessly depressing film it came from, this song from the ending credits of Dancer in the Dark is actually one of great hope and soaring optimism. And what better theme music can a great big yellow painting have? Click the the button below if you want to hear it.

Get a playlist!
Standalone player
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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Venus Hottentot Montage, 1997 [from the archives]

"Venus Hottentot Montage" Digital Montage 11"x14" 1997

Since February is Black History Month, I will be featuring pieces from my archives that relate to that theme.

The subject of my first piece is not an African-American. Saartjie Baartman was originally from South Africa, but came to Europe as part of a traveling sideshow where she was billed as The Venus Hottentot. I read a poem about her for a humanities class my freshman year of college. It was the first time I'd ever heard her story. For our final project, we were given the option of writing a paper or creating a piece of artwork that illustrated the themes of the texts we had read for the class. Of course, I chose the artistic option. But I still had to write something to go with it. So you can read what I wrote about it below. And also, I have included the poem that this picture illustrates.

I found Elizabeth Alexander’s poem “The Venus Hottentot” interesting because, as we began studying the idea of what an object is and how it can be displayed, “The Venus Hottentot” explores the concept of a person being treated as an object. It portrays the young woman both as a curio who is destined to become a collector’s specimen and as a woman whose hopes have been unfulfilled. In my montage, I use images that show the young woman as an object and as a person. The chains symbolize her confinement, while the close-ups of her face are there to show her humanity. The African statues represent the woman’s naked body, which was put on display. I also included a small clipping of a medical illustration to foreshadow her ultimate fate. The text included in the picture is taken from the poem as well as from dictionaries. I felt it was necessary to use definitions of both “Venus” and “Hottentot” so viewers can examine more closely the meaning of the poem. I am also trying to illustrate the idea that the African woman is more than just something that should be defined and displayed, that she is a person. This is why the eyes stare out of the picture longingly. I think that this montage conveys my interpretation of the poem.

Copyright © Elizabeth Alexander, from The Venus Hottentot, Graywolf Press, 2004
The Venus Hottentot
1. Cuvier
Science, science, science!
Everything is beautiful
blown up beneath my glass.
Colors dazzle insect wings.
A drop of water swirls
like marble. Ordinary
crumbs become stalactites
set in perfect angles
of geometry I’d thought
impossible. Few will
ever see what I see
through this microscope..
Cranial measurements
crowd my notebook pages,
and I am moving close,
close to how these numbers
signify aspects of
national character.
Her genitalia
will float inside a labeled
pickling jar in the Musee
de l’Homme on a shelf
above Broca’s brain:
“The Venus Hottentot.”
Elegant facts await me.
Small things in this world are mine.
There is unexpected sun today
in London, and the clouds that
most days sift into this cage
where I am working have dispersed.
I am a black cutout against
a captive blue sky, pivoting
nude so the paying audience
can view my naked buttocks.
I am called “Venus Hottentot.”
I left Capetown with a promise
of revenue: half the profits
and my passage home: a boon!
Master’s brother proposed the trip;
the magistrate granted me leave.
I would return to my family
a duchess, with watered-silk
dresses and money to grow food,
rouge and powder in glass pots,
silver scissors, a lorgnette,
voile and tulle instead of flax,
cerulean blue instead
of indigo. My bother would
devour sugar-studded nonpareils,
pale taffy, damask plums.
That was years ago. London’s
circuses are florid and filthy,
swarming with cabbage-smelling
citizens who stare and query,
“Is it muscle? Bone? Or fat?”
My neighbor to the left is
The Sapient Pig, “The Only
Scholar of His Race.” He plays
at cards, tells time and fortunes
by scraping his hooves. Behind
me is Prince Kar-mi, who arches
like a rubber tree and stares back
at the crowd from under the crook
of his knee. A professional
animal trainer shouts my cues.
There are singing mice here.
“The Ball of Duchess DuBarry”:
In the engraving I lurch
towards the belles dames, mad-eyed, and
they swoon. Men in capes and pince-nez
shield them. Tassels dance at my hips.
In this newspaper lithograph
my buttocks are shown swollen
and luminous as a planet.
Monsieur Cuvier investigates
between my legs, poking, prodding,
sure of his hypothesis.
I half expect him to pull silk
scarves from inside me, paper poppies,
then a rabbit! He complains
at my scent and does not think
I comprehend, but I speak
English. I speak Dutch. I speak
a little French as well, and
languages Monsieur Cuvier
will never know have names.
Now I am bitter and now
I am sick. I eat brown bread,
drink rancid brother. I miss good sun,
miss Mother’s sadza. My stomach
is frequently queasy from mutton
chops, pale potatoes, blood sausage.
I was certain that this would be
better than farm life. I am
the family entrepreneur!
But there are hours in every day
to conjure my imaginary
daughters, in banana skirts
and ostrich-feather fans.
Since my own genitals are public
I have made other parts private.
In my silence, I possess
mouth, larynx, brain, in a single
gesture. I rub my hair
with lanolin, and pose in profile
like a painted Nubian
archer, imagining gold leaf
woven through my hair, and diamonds.
Observe the wordless Odalisque.
I have not forgotten my Xhosa
clicks. My flexible tongue
and healthy mouth bewilder
this man with his rotting teeth.
If he were to let me rise up
from this table, I’d spirit
his knives and cut out his black heart,
seal it with science fluid inside
a bell jar, place it on a low
shelf in a white man’s museum
so the whole world could see
it was shriveled and hard,
geometric, deformed, unnatural.

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yellow painting: further developments

Up until yesterday, I had only been working on my painting at night. Yesterday morning I finally got a chance to work on it in the daytime, and even take a few detail photo of it in the sunlight. And speaking of sunlight, I am thinking of calling it "Solar Storm." I just got the idea for the title a few minutes ago while watching a CBS Sunday Morning report about the Sun.

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