‘Nasty Women’ Artwork Sells Out

A photo of a name tag that reads, "Hello, I'm a... NASTY WOMAN!"

Image credit: Shutterstock

“Nasty woman” was the term Donald Trump used to describe his former political opponent, Hillary Clinton. Shortly after using the phrase, it became popularized by women’s rights activists and anti-Trump groups. It’s crazy to think that what started out as an insult has now transformed into a movement. Just take the “Nasty Women” art exhibition, for example.

Nearly 700 artists and activists teamed up to host the ‘Nasty Women’ art exhibition, which took place at the Knockdown Center in Queens, New York. In just four short days, all the artwork featured at the event was completely sold out. The exhibition, which took place on Jan. 12-15, was a way for the community to speak out against misogyny and bigotry.

And the community certainly made their voices heard. Each piece of artwork was sold for $100 dollars or less, with all proceeds going towards women’s rights organizations. In total, more than $42,000 was raised for Planned Parenthood alone. To say the event was a success is an understatement.

Roxanne Jackson, who created the event, had no idea at the time that the exhibition would become such a hit. The idea came to her in a simple Facebook post:

“Hello female artists/curators! Let’s organize a NASTY WOMEN group show!!! Who’s interested???”

Within an hour of posting her status, she had almost 300 responses from people who were interested in participating. That’s when she teamed up with curator Jessamyn Fiore and studio manager Carolina Wheat to finalize all the details and put her plan into action.

“This show isn’t necessarily about highlighting individual artists,” Jackson said. “It’s about female-identifying artists coming together against the Trump regime.”

Jackson, who is a ceramicist and sculptor, was overwhelmed by the amount of support she received from the local community. She’s happy to learn that there are now other “Nasty Women” exhibitions being hosted around the country.

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How Museums Are Responding to the Proposed ‘Art Strike’

A photo taken from the inside of a museum.

Photo credit: Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock

Artists are using the power of social media to launch a strike against Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration. The campaign, called Art Strike, was initially started on Facebook. It calls upon artists, museums, galleries, theaters, and cultural institutions to close on January 20 in protest of Inauguration Day.

But for being so highly talked about, the Facebook event only has a mere 672 confirmed attendees. An additional 738 people reported being interested, and more than 4,000 were invited but have yet to respond. That’s pretty low engagement for an event that’s being spearheaded by some well-respected names in the industry.

Like much of the country, museums are pretty divided on the issue. Some have pledged to remain open, while others have vowed to close. A few museums are taking a more “middle-ground” approach by offering either free or reduced admission. The following comprises a list of museums as well as their policies for January 20:

Free Admission:

  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
  • The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis
  • Rhode Island School of Design Museum

Pay-What-You-Wish Admission:

  • The Whitney Museum
  • Museum of Arts and Design in New York
  • Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

Closed:

  • National Museum of Women in the Arts (offering free admission on Jan. 21 & 22).
  • National Museum of the American Indian and the Renwick Gallery (both part of the Smithsonian).

Open:

  • Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • Studio Museum in Harlem
  • The Broad, Los Angeles
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art

As you can see, there’s a pretty diverse range of policies. Personally, I don’t hold any ill will towards those museums that are retaining normal business hours and operations. I understand how closing or offering reduced admission rates could be interpreted as “taking a side.” From their perspective, they want to remain as non-partisan as possible.

Those are my thoughts. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the strike?

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Trump: The Indirect Subject of New York Satire

A picture of Donald Trump.

Photo credit: a katz/ Shutterstock

“The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” is a play written in 1941 by Bertolt Brecht. It warns about a demagogue coming to power in a democratic state. While Arturo Ui is a satirical story about nationalism in Germany, it bears a lot of resemblance to what is going on right now in the U.S. In true ironic fashion, Brecht wrote this play for the Americans he was hoping to join once he obtained a visa to escape the Nazis.

Here’s a basic summary: Ui is a gangster who sets his sights on gaining control of Chicago. He eventually does this through a series of less than reputable maneuvers and a lot of charisma and manipulation. He then sets his sights on taking over the rest of the country.

The play has been referred to as a “theatrical roller coaster ride that rivals the best CNN has to offer,” by Broadway World. Director Noam Shapiro leads a cast of eight actors, including: Matt Biagini, Aurora Heimbach, Alexander Rafala, Amanda Thickpenny, Matthew Van Gessel, Malka Wallick, Brittany N. Williams, and Kyle Michael Yoder.

To set the scene, audio clips of Trump are played, as well as references to his phrases and speech patterns. The colors of the campaign are red and white (with bright red hats) similar in style to that of the Trump campaign. While the play makes no direct claims to be referencing the current political climate, the timing and artistic choices speak for themselves.

It’s incredible that a play written in 1941 can still hold true more than 75 years later. It just goes to show that not a lot changes over time. As human beings, we never can get this whole “learn from history” thing down. And so it is, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

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Celebrating 40 Years of the New York Public Art Fund

A banner that reads, "40th anniversary."

Image credit: Shutterstock

In 1977, Doris Freedman, Director of New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, founded the New York Public Art Fund out of the merging of two foundering organizations, CityWalls and the Public Arts Council. Since then, with public and private support, the PAF has stood behind hundreds and hundreds of public art installations, gallery shows, and performance spaces around the city.

Throughout 2017, the PAF will be celebrating their 40th anniversary all over the place, with a series of exhibitions that dip into their amazing history.

In January, their year-long retrospective will begin with a callback to the 1980s. Back then, the PAF funded artists like the Guerrilla Girls and Jenny Holzer displaying their messages on one of the Spectacolor billboards in Times Square. Now, “Messages to the Public” will air again.

For February, “Commercial Break” will open, a citywide group exhibition with almost two dozen artists. In contrast to “Messages,” these will all be new artists using new technology. Public Art Fund’s chief curator, Nicholas Baum, calls them “the heirs to that dawning moment of digital innovation.”

In March, they move on to “Open House,” a new exhibition by Liz Glynn. The Fund commissioned her to turn the Doris C. Friedman Plaza in Central Park into a baroque ballroom, with delicate Louis XIV furniture made of concrete for public lounging.

Art will keep coming as the year moves on. Artists like Anish Kapoor and Katja Novitskova are in the queue, both planning to transform parks with immense sculptures, exactly the sort of thing most in keeping with Baume’s vision for the current reality of the Public Art Fund.

“We transformed the East River with Olafur Eliasson’s manmade waterfalls in 2008 and more recently built a living room around the statue of Columbus in Columbus Circle… We give artists that chance to reimagine a site, and they give us the chance to see our city through their eyes.”

That two-sided symbiosis, of the Fund supporting artists and learning from them, is what the coming year will celebrate, and will invite the people of NYC to celebrate with them.

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NYC Aids Memorial

A photo of a red ribbon, symbolizing World AIDS Day.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

In 1984, a special ward was opened in St. Vincent’s hospital in New York City for people suffering from HIV. In the 80’s, the little-understood disease was considered a death sentence.

Today, HIV and AIDS are still frightening, but are no longer the killers they once were. New treatments and preventatives have changed “dying from HIV” to “living with HIV.” Many doctors are now considering it a chronic condition closer in impact to diabetes.

One of the councilmen who attended the ward’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Corey Johnson, is himself HIV-positive. But it cannot be overstated how lethal HIV once was. By the mid 90’s, more than 100,000 New Yorkers died in that ward, and their loss must be remembered.

To that end, a new memorial was unveiled in West Village on December 1st. The New York City Aids Memorial, a plaza featuring a white sculpture and a text piece, now stands near the site of that early ward at St Vincent’s Triangle.

The sculpture, a white geometric canopy nearly twenty feet tall and made of triangular lattices, was designed by Studio ai, an architecture practice studio in Brooklyn. It centers the small plaza, hovering over a granite bench.

Beneath canopy and bench is the text piece. Long excerpts from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” (1885) are set in spirals in the granite paving stones. This is a poem about the ways in which identity is both tied to and free of the body, in health and infirmity.

“The Whitman poem is a beauty from a man in full and glad possession of his body,” said Jenny Holzer, the artist responsible for the pacing stones. She is also developing an app that will link the text installation to more relevant works of literature.

While the memorial was unveiled on World AIDS Day (December 1st), with attendance from Mayor Blasio, it isn’t expected to open to the public until the end of December. The last component, two long lines of granite benches, are expected to be delivered and installed over Christmas.

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The Beginning of Neo-Expressionism

Graffiti drawing of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol.

Street art depicting Jean-Michel Basquiat (right) and Andy Warhol (left).
Photo credit: catwalker / Shutterstock

Andy Warhol? Surely you’re familiar with the name. Most people know him as an artist. But what about Jean-Michel Basquiat? Most people have never heard of him. Although he’s not a household name like Warhol, he was also an influential Neo-Expressionist painter in the 1980’s.

This NYC native was born in 1960 in Brooklyn, NY. His parents were Haitian-American and Puerto Rican, and he drew lots of inspiration from his heritage and cultural background. He was fluent in French, Spanish, and English.

From a young age he loved to draw and was constantly doing so. His mom in particular encouraged his interest in the arts.

He originally attracted attention under the alias SAMO for his graffiti. He sold postcards and apparel with his work featured on it as a way to fund himself after he dropped out of high school. And although he was a high school dropout, he was well educated in anatomy and the human form after he read “Gray’s Anatomy” following a surgery he underwent after being hit by a car.

After three years of street art, his work was featured in a group exhibit. His work received attention for its “fusion of words, symbols, stick figures, and animals.” Shortly after, he had a following in the art world that was willing to pay up to $50,000 for his original work. This ushered him into the beginning of his career and the beginning of Neo-Expressionism.

After he started gaining notoriety, Basquiat moved on to work with Andy Warhol. Shortly thereafter, he began his travels along the Ivory Coast and Germany.

Unfortunately, like many artists, Basquiat suffered from substance abuse problems, and as his popularity soared, so did his addiction. A drug overdose claimed his life in 1988 at the young age of 27. Though a young man, his work is said to be incredibly influential in the rise of Expressionism. It’s certainly had a great impact on the art world of New York City.

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Using Sculptures and Sound to Convey Touch

A photo of the inside of a grand piano.

A grand piano, as shown from the inside.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Kevin Beasley just had his first solo art exhibition in New York City at the Casey Kaplan gallery. It was the first exhibition in their new gallery space. Beasley grew up in Virginia but moved to New York City for his art. He received his BFA in Detroit and continued on to receive an MFA from Yale. He has had his works displayed in several New York City museums.

Beasley prefers to play with the sense of touch. He is both a sculptor and a musician, but he is particularly concerned with the tactile effects of his art. For his solo exhibition, he put small microphones in every single key of an old Steinway piano from the late 1800’s.

These microphones pick up more of a piano performance, things that would normally go unheard. All the microphones are connected to a soundboard that can be manipulated during the performance. All of this is done to create a unique interaction between Beasley, the piano performers, the audience, and an extraordinary old piano.

Most of his sculptures feature one specific object or material. Beasley then “gives structure to these materials using a mixture of polyurethane foam and resin” in the finite time he has before the resin hardens.

In this resin, one can see the movements used to create the various shapes and figures. It’s a physical history of the sculptures creation. It is important to him that each object used in a sculpture has some sort of personal connection to him. He describes how he makes each piece:

“I have some story of where everything came from and why. That’s the starting point, and the work sort of opens up from there,” Beasley explained.

He also considers the process of creation to be just as important as the final product. Even if all steps or parts aren’t evident to the viewer, they all contribute to the reception and interpretation of the work of art.

Keep an eye out for Beasley, as he as one of New York City’s artists to watch.

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