Tuesday, April 28, 2009


The University of Victoria’s Visual Arts Department presented ‘Declaring Space’ - an art show held from April 18 to 26, 2009 by the students of the Bachelor of Fine Arts 2009 graduating class. The event attracted a large turnout and proved to be a success for all involved and a delightful time indeed. The ambiance during the first show was one of excitement as this was undoubtedly a momentous occasion for all students and faculty involved. There was much preparation beforehand by the students and faculty—walls were cleaned and painted where paintings, drawings and photographs were hung—cement floors were foundation for various installation works—sculptures carefully mounted on blocks to reach eye-level—a unfinished totem carving, with wood chips and carving tools, could be seen outside of the building from one of the windows. The enthusiastic crowds wandered from room to room, chattered with one another, sipped a beverage or two and eagerly explored each new room with its contents. From simplistic to eccentric, the variety of colour, form and content was certain to please the eye and senses—even to the novice art enthusiast. Through various creative techniques and no lack of imagination, the students successfully put together a wonderful show. The event was certainly an occasion for the students to celebrate and share with family and friends their successes and accomplishments. These past four years for students in BFA have certainly encouraged creative and original thinking, problem solving and ingenuity—traits not only applicable in the arts and design—but requirements for life itself.

University of Victoria, BFA graduating student Danielle Noel, presented five art pieces for the ‘Declaring Space’ show. Danielle has been an artist since a toddler. She was enrolled in drawing and painting classes from the age of seven years. Her love of drawing and painting, photography, reading and writing are to this day her main hobbies. She also paints illustrations for children's books. Attached are a few photos from the U.Vic. ‘Declaring Space’ event and a link showing a few pieces of Danielle’s art work.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Claude Cahun:Artist, Writer, Freedom Fighter

In my reading recently I have come across mention of Claude Cahun at least twice. Once in a Guardian art article about Cindy Sherman, and once in an article about Aboriginal art that ran in the Globe and Mail. I'd never heard of Claude Cahun, so of course after so much Cahun buzz I thought better look him up.

Claude Cahun is a "sexually ambiguous psuedonym" for a lovely little lady by the name of Lucy Schwob. She was a French artist and writer who died in the mid 50's after living a very inspiring life that included working for the Resistance during the German occupation of France during WWII.

Claude and her lover/wife/partner Marcel Moore, otherwise known as Suzanne Malherbe, lived and worked in Paris, and later Jersy, becoming well known mostly for the Surrealist self portraits of Claude, Claude's published writings and for their artists' salons.

Claude is the original Cindy Sherman, although there are forerunners even to Claude. She began photographing herself, with Marcel as the camera woman, when she was 18 years old, in a series of elaborate and always seriously deadpan disguises. And she continued to do so for the next 20 or so years.

The photographs, many of which you can see on the web, are fabulous. They look so homemade and human. Claude and Marcel did not even develop their own film; they sent it off. There is something so vulnerable in that kind of small art making. The point was not to create a colossal plastic industrial piece of art, the point was the human being in all her/his/our complexity and bravado and self importance.

I think it's sometimes easy to scoff at the artist, to think of the work as being silly. I think even artists can and do turn against themselves and each other in this way. It's like the gay man who has internalized a perceived cultural homophobia and who hates himself and his lovers because of it. Looking at Claude's photos after reading about her reminds me of the first time I was introduced to Frank Zappa. I heard the music and I thought it was funny. Kind of sick and over the top but funny. Period. And then I saw a video of Zappa and the Mothers, and I suddenly realized that these guys were deadly serious. They were artists completely engaged in making art. And it changed the music for me. It became something to consider, to discuss, to be concerned about.

Just reading about Claude and her lady Marcel and the idea of dressing up like men and other creatures for the camera, really struck me as a little bit, I don't know, cheesy, maybe. I mean it has been done a lot. Role playing for cameras. And then I looked at the photos and I saw that sincerity, that earnestness that makes the art more than role playing. It's real. Claude in all her forms is real. And she opens the door for us, the lookers, to feel for ourselves our own shapeshifting possibilities. Our range. That is what artists do. That is what Claude and Marcel have done.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Grange Prize

The Grange Prize is an annual photography competition with an award of 50,000 being given out to one of 4 contemporary and international artists.

This year the short list includes Lynne Cohen, Marco Antonio Cruz, Frederico Gama, and Jin Me Yoon.

You can see their work and actually vote for your favourite by going to The Grange Prize.

I voted for Frederico Gama, who's super colourful images of kids hitting the streets in full punk and gangsta regalia brings to mind a lost nation of tribal warriors, among other things. The images are surprisingly timeless and sociologically complex.

My second choice was Marco Antonio Gama who's black and white photos of the blind are obviously poignant and meaningful. The best image is of a small boy in the swimming pool. The shot is half submerged and the child is an ethereal little creature, not quite of this world. Very lovely.

Lynne Cohen doesn't appear to do portraiture. Her photos show some really funky and unusual interiors. It looks like she built them herself for the sake of the photo, but no they are real places that she has been fortunate enough to find.

Last is Jin Me Yoon, who's work on the Grange prize site consists of stills from videos and so is probably not well represented here since videos are meant to move. Her work seems to be concerned more with action and experience rather than the more traditional subjects, by which I mean landscapes and portraiture. It also seems a lot less accessible and is therefore probably well worth investigating.

Any hoo, you can vote too. And you can leave a comment on the Grange Prize blog explaining why you chose who you chose. Have fun! It's not everyday that these fat cats bother to ask our opinions, is it?

The prize is sponsored by the Art Gallery of Ontario and Aeroplan.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

art on art and Jerry Saltz

A couple of months ago I sent a proposal for a show out to several galleries. Within days of mailing my stack of envelopes I received a reply from one Liz Wylie at the Kelowna Art Gallery. A rejection. I emailed her to ask Hey! Why the rejection? She replied that far from being good the proposal lacked "intellectual underpinnings". Although I was totally pissed and also a leetle disgusted by the academic non-speak, I pressed on, pointing out to Ms. Wylie that indeed the proposal had plenty of underpinnings in the form of ideas! several layers of them, but no no no, that wasn't what she meant. She meant that I hadn't gone full circle by referencing art history with my art. It wasn't enough to make art about current issues surrounding climate science and biology and human psychology. The work needed to more than art, it needed to be about art. ha ha.

Later I took a closer look at the work they were showing at the Kelowna gallery and low and behold, there was one fellow who had drawn the route of his recent motorcycle trip onto a series of Matisse prints. Neat hey? And it had Matisse in there too!

Now I'm not saying that my proposals were any good or anything. I'm just saying that maybe there is more to art these days than Matisse or anyone, actually, who isn't living and working in the here and now. There is a lot going on these days. It's not really boring rich times anymore. Everything is under threat. And artists, I thought, were historically people of visionary talent. People able to absorb and communicate the danger and the beauty of our shared lives. What good is art when it's about nothing relevant to now, especially when the only people who appreciate it are the academic baby boomer generation?

Anyway, enough from me. The point of this post is to turn interested readers onto Jerry Saltz, a New York art critic writing for Vulture. His last article deals with a show called The Generational: Younger than Jesus, which was showing in N.Y. city @ the New Museum. Among other things he says about the artists, " they're investigating the whole world, not just the art world. Their work is less about how we affect time and people than about how time and people affect us". He says a lot more and he says it well, so check it out!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Eggery by Jocelyn Beyak

Welcome to the Eggery by Jocelyn Beyak. Eggery is a poignant take on the traditional Ukrainian Easter egg called pysanky. Instead of decorating the eggs with wax and dyes, Jocelyn has annointed a series of hollow duck eggs with what appears to be family portraits. The images are of old fashioned ladies and gentlemen in the bridal costumes and elegant finery of long long ago. Rather than displaying the eggs whole and in the gallery, Ms. Beyak chose to first break the eggs and then to record the result on a flat bed scanner. The final images, of which there are probably 20 or so, have been framed in very simple black and hung side by side on the gallery walls.

Eggery as a title is an interesting comment on the past traditions involving work and family and lifestyle, because as a word eggery suggests a factory like production. It conjures the old manner of shared labour where members of a community or a large family would gather together to create and celebrate everything from egg dyeing to pyrogy making. Also there is the baby making that went on amongst married men and women (and unmarried men and women) before the age of birth control, the egg of course being a very ancient and powerful symbol of fertility. And then there is the lifestyle itself which would most certainly include the manufacture of homegrown food, like duck and chicken eggs.

Eggery speaks of an organic, physical and human factory. Of lives spent creating families and children and art and food. Of living with and of struggling with nature, not so much for domination but for survival. Of course back in those days, before science found better ways to live and before the advent of Safeway and The Gap, before even giclee prints, men and women had everything to work for and to strive towards creating for themselves and their people. Looking back, one cannot help but think of the work, but also of the sense of purpose and how that must have infused those long ago ladies and gentlemen with an awesome sense of optimism and promise.

Do we, the post baby boomer generations, have that same sense of purpose and optimism? In general our struggle is not physical or organic. In this, the digital age, it rarely seems human. The pre boomer generations are all dying off now. My own grandfather, aged 97, died just two years ago. Our connection to that long ago way of living is disappearing. How can we continue to be human when being human has changed so drastically since our grandparents and great grandparents worked the earth and themselves? How do we continue? Do we fully embrace our technological evolution or do we reinvent the old ways of living through environmental activism and the slow food movement and etsy?

Jocelyn Beyak's Eggery project is conceptually vital to our future. She has delicately reworked an ancient and beautiful form of folk art and called into question some very serious modern concerns, all without forsaking that old promise.

A broken egg is still an egg.

Eggery is showing at Xchanges' new gallery space at 2333 Government St., suite 6E, until April 25th.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

No Doilies for Dollhead

By zendotstudio 
I've been hanging out in a place where people have names like Dollhead and CrayonMonster or there's my lovely friends Pogo and Crazypillow.  It's a place where your age or what you're wearing (or if you're wearing anything), or if you're cool or where you live or if you have ketchup on your chin doesn't really matter.  People there sometimes address me as "Zen",which I quite like and find flattering, or if they're being formal they might call me Zendot.  And to get there I don't need to ingest anything or bang my head on anything disorienting.  It's Etsy, kids, whatever the heck that stands for.  Your guess is as good as mine.

It's an online market with a nice cachet (no doilies) well maybe a few but they're called vintage now.  It's cheap, it's easy to set up and there's an interesting community aspect to it.  I won't say it's the best place to sell your art online (I haven't found that spot yet, let me know if you have)  but if you want to put on the book keepers visor and little rubber thimble thing, it's a pretty cost efficient arrangement.   And there are some amazingly talented souls cruising around out there in Etsy land.  I've seen some really impressive work.

It's grassroots, so there's no gallery snobbery crap going on there, no pretension, just people trying to make a living doing what they love and customers who'd rather shop for unique hand made things than Mallwart shlock.  It's kind of fun because people are out there trying to help each other out.  There's a thing that's called a "Sneak Attack".  Sounded kind of ominous when I first heard about it.  Oh no I better put on my flack jacket while I sit at my computer.  It's a swarming of the nicest kind where a bunch of Etsians descend  on a shop that has only a few sales and swarm them with purchases!  How cool is that!  And the cynic in me loves the Etsy Bitch Website where people get to complain about the admin stuff that goes on at Etsy.  I don't go there much, but I like the name and the idea that it exists.

And if I had to say a couple of  "other" things about Etsy I would say that visual art is the hardest sell out  there in the Etsysphere, but who's surprised there, it's just the internet mimicking real life.  A lot of trade goes on in jewellery  and silk screened Tshirts.  That being said art sells some and hey for 20 cents a listing who's complaining.  My other glass half empty observation is that there is an "Etsy look" which seems to sell.   I thought I was just being old and crabby and cynical but I saw someone banging the same stick on Etsy Bitch (see I do fit in somewhere, mom). 

So I really prefer to be zendotstudio and I like hanging out with people who call themselves Wry&Ginger or lotuseater.  Come visit me in my strange little world, you might even want to buy yourself a felt moustache or a soap from "Shineyourhiney"

Monday, April 6, 2009

ART INK is the newest collaborative art writing site on the web!

ART INK is all about writing about art, artists, art openings and art closings.

ART INK is open to everyone, everywhere.

If you'd like to become part of the ART INK team, contact xtineclark@shaw.ca for details.