Wednesday, March 17, 2010

DAMage Report - A Horse is a Horse of Course...Unless it's an Artist

Carol Jensen, a multimedia artist, jewelry maker and musician taught her quarter horse Buggs to paint two years ago. Her intent is to fill a gallery with her horse's paintings one day, or possibly take his show on the road. The paintings sell for between $75-$125 each and the horse has produced around 30 "abstracts."

Mary Lou Schumaker points out "Let's not forget that Buggs' work is being made with a heavy dose of help by Jensen. She is selecting the palette, directing Buggs and moving the canvas. To call this a true collaboration feels like a stretch. One way to look at it -- she's turned Buggs into her own abstraction maker. And that's their real value -- their novelty, that they're being made with the help of a horse."

Intent is fundamental to art - the artist has to be intentionally setting out to create in order for the label or art, good or bad, to be applied. Everything else is happy accidents. So without intent can the horse be labeled an artist? Isn't it more accurate to label the horse, or any other animal as a tool or part of the process, while the artist would have to be the trainer - whose intention it was to create these pieces using her horse?

The article states that "Horse-produced art has attracted a fair amount of media attention in the last couple of years. Cholla the painting horse has had watercolors displayed around the world. The earliest documented art-producing animal may be Congo, a chimp that painted and drew in the 1950s and the Milwaukee County Zoo's elephant, Brittany, earned minor fame with her painting abilities. Cheryl Ward has coined the movement "interspecies collaborative action art" to reflect the partnership between human and animal.

I don't disagree with the novelty or even entertainment value of using these animals as tools to create art. It doesn't appear that they suffer any abuse to get them "trained" and as pets probably enjoy the attention. I do toss down the bullshit flag though and draw the line at calling these animals artists.
No insult to the intelligence of animals and it is acknowledged fact that some critters can be down-right creative in problem solving and behavior. But slapping the title artist on to them demeans Art... in my ever so humble opinion.
Abstract art is so often viewed with disdain by those that don't understand it nor understand how bloody hard it is to do an excellent abstract that captures and holds the viewer and says something more than "paint on canvas in random patterns." An excellent abstract, such as a Kandinsky is completely about intent, emotion and creative delivery of artistic vision in a way that is unique and inspiring.

The biggest irony is that true abstract paintings are so intellectually and emotionally based that it often does take a degree in art to fully understand them and walk away with an OMG epiphany after viewing some of the masters of abstract. Yet it is invariable the art that is most often slapped with the "oh my kid could do that, my dog,... my horse." In reality it takes an extraordinary amount of study, intellect and talent to produce a successful abstract painting. Throwing paint on a canvas in mimicry of Pollack doesn't cut it as original, outstanding art. He did it, he claimed it - it's done.

Now dress that horse in a tutu and get it to pick out paint colors on its own then slap them on the canvas without instruction, while neighing the theme song to Mister Ed and I will concede and be impressed.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

DAMage Report - Sexually Abused Toons

Christopher Handley, a comic book collector was sentenced to six months in prison for possessing manga drawings. Handley must also serve three years of supervised release and five years of probation. Handley must also participate in a treatment program as directed by the U. S. Probation Officer. The last provision is "intended to provide him with diagnosis and treatment for mental health issues."

Manga is a japanese form of comic illustration that includes sexually explicit graphics. The collection that the U.S. Post Office seized as it was being shipped to Handley included comics of children being sexually abused. 

Handley did not have any criminal history nor did he possess any real child pornographic images. 
Although the psychologist assessed that Handley was not "disclosing enough" Handley admitted he searched the Internet for manga with stories involving the sexual abuse of minors. The prosecution stated that "The works at issue do not even have arguable scientific, literary, artistic, or political value, such as Vladimir Nabokov's famed novel, Lolita, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, or even Alan Moore's recent, but controversial, graphic novel, Lost Girls. By the defendant's own statements, the works for which he was convicted of receiving and possessing are clearly obscene." Okay, so Handley, by his own admission, perved over nasty fantasies involving cartoon minors. Ick. 

Oh and by the way, for anyone wondering if looking at manga comics leads people to becoming sex offendors: "there is currently no risk assessment developed to estimate risk for future sexual offending for individuals possessing sexual images in Manga or Anime." In other words, it's illegal because.

One of my heroes, Neil Gaiman, who fought in defense of Handly, recommended that anyone interested in comic art look through their comic book collection. S. Clay Wilson's Underground Comix...even Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" series could be considered obscene. He said "I wrote a story about a serial killer who kidnaps and rapes children, and then murders them."  (The Doll's House) "We did that as a comic, not for the purposes of titillation or anything like that, but if you bought that comic, you could be arrested for it? That's just deeply wrong. Nobody was hurt. The only thing that was hurt were ideas." (

It comes down to the line. Where is the Perv line in art? Where is the art line in art? We've talked about what constitutes art on this show several times - this is an example of what happens when a legal system determines something is NOT art and is not protected under creative laws. 

I just posted several nude drawings I did on my facebook page, some of which explore bondage themes. If my friends network didn't consist almost entirely of erotic authors, artists, performers and art lovers - there is no doubt that my  ONLINE DIGITAL "ART" would offend some. But I'm protected because it's art. But for how long?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

DAMage Report - You're not Black So Give it Back

Let me start by saying this kind of shit burns my ass up. Intolerance, discrimination, elitism, narrow-minded weenies: they are all my biggest hot buttons and will inevitably bring out the ginger in me.

A white sorority team won an Atlanta Step Show contest and walked away with a $100,000 prize in what  has been a black-only competition.  The lily-white girls winning has caused an uproar on both sides of the discrimination issue. So much so that the sponsor, Coca Cola, has announced scoring discrepancies and also awarded a black sorority team with a co-win prize of the same amount. Controversy arose when some complained that step shows are supposed to highlight the black Greek tradition. (Think about the term black greek tradition for a moment will you.)

Are you fucking kidding me?

At what point in time will we stop with the stupid shit and quit qualifying people on their skin color, ethnic backgrounds, religious preferences and sexual orientations? Since when did any of that have a damn thing to do with artistic ability? Apparently not only can't white boys jump, white girls can't Step in some narrow minds.

I respect an ethnic group's right to dominate or focus on an area of the arts that is rich with cultural history, but it doesn't give any group an exclusive, nor should it. It certainly doesn't invalidate other artists' right to explore those areas and topics. Billie Holiday rocked the blues but so did Janis Joplin. Think of the loss if someone had insisted that Janis wasn't allowed to sing in a predominantly black genre of the arts.  Or if someone had told Jessye Norman she couldn't sing opera because that is only for fat white chicks. Native American made arts hold a higher value as they should because it reflects a direct line back to a rich cultural history. But that doesn't mean I can't paint a damn half naked warrior on a pony if I want. Or do african drumming (which i love), or belly dancing in turkish veils, or any number of other arts related activities that tie back into a particular culture. Exploring them and exploring the history or beliefs of any group of people is not only healthy, it makes us better people.

Stereotypes and moronic rules of who can and can't explore subjects and ethnic genres in the arts are debilitating to everyone. The barriers that keep being thrown up need to come down. People need to stop dictating what others can and cannot do - in the arts and in life.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

DAMage Report - Art and Sex

To see the Klimt, you gotta wade through the sex. Literally. It is highly entertaining and not a little ironic that a museum is forcing interested audiences to face the topic of sex and art without blinders. By displaying a renown work by Gustav Klimt inside a Swingers' Sex Club, they are reinforcing the subject matter that the artist addressed with his piece: sex.

Some artists and their works become so famous that often the initial impact of the work, the artistic intent is lost. Klimt was a controversial painter for his time and often addressed the topic of sexuality. But Klimts have become so popular that there isnt a dorm room in america that doesn't have The Kiss or one of his other famous works hanging from the wall. Just like musicans cringe at becoming musak, artists cringe at becoming sofa paintings. Fame is nice, but there is something nightmarish about having your creative efforts reduced to background noise and background visuals. We no longer SEE or HEAR the art.

The Secession - a world-renowned art venue in Vienna  has incorporated a sex club as part of an art project by Swiss artist Christoph Buechel. It is a bit of a shame that the swingers aren't there during the day, but their mattresses, erotic pictures, bar and whirlpool are, creating a hedonistic atmosphere that art lovers have to walk through in order to view Klimt's famous "Beethoven Frieze" which caused a scandal when first exhbited in 1902. "Considered one of the Austrian painter's key pieces, it was once thought of as obscene and pornographic because of the way women's bodies were depicted."

Museums around the world carry art that deals with the topic of human sexuality, but we often obfuscate or disregard the message of the art in order to maintain a displaced sense of propriety. We can shuffle past gorgeous Modigliani nudes in the museum and make appropriate sounds of ohhhh and ahhhh, without considering what the artist was trying to say with his sensual nudes and how it reflected a wildly bohemian era in Paris.

By forcing the public to trapse through a sex club, the artist and the museum are forcing eyes wide open. You might be able to view the Klimt in ignorance, but you can't step over the condoms without at least lifting your foot high.,0,5191713.story

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

DAMage Report - What is more important - the art or the artist?

"Banksy, the secretive British artist whose work has appeared on city streets around the world, said on Sunday he hoped his documentary film "Exit Through The Gift Shop" will raise the standing of urban art. But the anonymous graffiti artist with a cult following said in a shadowy video message to audiences at the Berlin Film Festival on Sunday before the screening of his film that it was possible it could have the complete opposite effect.
"My ambition was to make a film that would do for graffiti art what 'The Karate Kid' did for martial arts  As it turns out, I think we might have a film that does for street art what 'Jaws' did for waterskiing. There was no plan, there was no script and we didn't even realize we were making a film until halfway through. I think it's a good film as long as you've got very low expectations."

We've talked about intent being important to the artist in order for the creative product to be considered art. The whole graffiti art versus random tagging argument. Art is a means of communication - a way to express, to scream, to shout, to cry, to celebrate, to share a complex concept that can't adequately be conveyed with enough force using plain old conversation. Conversation can often be easily dismissed or forgot. Art on the other hand leaves a lasting impression... or tries to. Banksy is known for using the world as his canvas to convey his political and social messages. By remaining anonymous he initially drove the focus toward the art. The artist was invisible. The longterm results however is that the artist is possibly more fascinating than the art. And that more than anything else is what his film appears to be about. Whether the irony is intentional or not I'm not sure - but i suspect, given his propensity for ironic wit as shown in his art, that it is. 
From a small-time graffiti artist to a global star, Banksy's work has become so valuable that several of his street works have been salvaged and sold, including a painting on a London wall that fetched $340,000 in 2008. He's become world famous for illegal outdoor graffiti, including painting the West Bank barrier and leaving a life-size figure of a Guantanamo Bay detainee at the California theme park Disneyland -- both documented in the film. Banksy has had four exhibitions in Britain and the United States that attracted a total of over 550,000 visitors. For an invisible man he has cornered a nice portion of the art market that he disdains.
According to one critic "the story he tells is hilariously outrageous --somehow too implausible NOT to be true. It offers plenty of opportunity to poke fun at the art market, and intriguing insights into the ingenuity -- and agility -- of the street artists themselves."

I admit as far as generating curiosity about his film, Banksy has done that. I'm interested to find out if the film itself ends up feeling like a piece of graffiti with the early random film clips woven in with a haphazard autobiographical story line. 

The Banksy name and the urban myth developed about his artistic persona carries as much, if not more artistic merit and weight than the graffiti art that was initially his focus. Given some of his personal antics, I can see why. In 2004, Banksy walked into the Louvre in Paris and hung on a wall a picture he had painted resembling the Mona Lisa but with a yellow smiley face. Though the painting was removed by the museum staff, it and its counterpart, temporarily on unknown display at the Tate Britain, were described by Banksy as "shortcuts". He is quoted as saying: "To actually [have to] go through the process of having a painting selected must be quite boring. It's a lot more fun to go and put your own one up."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

DAMage Report - Scavanging for Arttention,0,1725808,full.story
Trying to make a name for yourself in the arts world isn't easy. Just getting someone to stop and look at your work can be a struggle for artists. Sometimes thinking outside the box and using technology along with a sense of fun can help as artist Patrick Skoff discovered. He wanted his paintings to be noticed so he started dropping them off in plain sight, free for anyone to grab and take home.

"A year and a half ago, Skoff, 32, began to leave his artwork around Chicago for others to take home because he realized how easy it was to ignore his artwork. He was not getting noticed. 
And now he is. At last count, Skoff figures 700 people — via Twitter, Facebook and texts, where he and Brown call themselves "Skoff and Sam" — were following his exploits, receiving digital hints about where and when he would leave new artwork. He created a market for himself and built a network of followers, many of whom wanted to know when he would leave some new art. So he made a game of it.

A game that raises questions: Is it about art? Or self-promotion? The thrill of the hunt? Or a sly comment on art appreciation? Is it generous or, considering he's unknown, desperate? Does it prove, as he believes, you don't need "a gallery light shining on a work to show art; the city can be your gallery"? Or the opposite — that context matters, and, considering how many people walk past his art without pausing, real art is gallery art?
Maud Lavin, chair of visual and critical studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, said Skoff's hunt is a "kissing cousin" of relational art, which deals in human contact and not framed pieces. Donald Young of the Donald Young Gallery said: "what he's doing is about the human story and the art is irrelevant."

What is fascinating here is that apparently the marketing strategy has become part of the art. Skoff's paintings have not only moved into the performance art realm, but are delving into the realm of mythos and urban legend development. By creating a mystique around his art and making the participants play active roles in locating them, he has made himself into a sort of Robin Hood of the Arts - giving free art to the masses.  It may not be great art... but it is good enough that Skoff can make a living (sort of) at it full time and has people actively pursuing him to acquire his work. Good art and good ideas don't always have a high price tag slapped on them. And all the people who walk past his paintings, leaving them untouched, are themselves still touched by art - even in passing or subconsciously. And that is a wonderful thing.

CATCH the show TODAY at at 2pm PST/ 5pm EST / 10pm GMT (Channel 1 - DAMage Report)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

DAMage Report - Dicking Around

It is ironic that overtly sexual art is frowned upon, yet human nature compels us to apply sexual associations to certain shapes in art. Phallic and vaginal symbolism in art is as old as the cave paintings. Little stick man...giant stick. Sometimes the iconic reference is intentional, sometimes not. The lastest giant phallic, titillating University of Alabama students, is a sculpture by instructor Craig Wedderspoon.  "Argyle" is part of his series of works intended to reference fabrics and textiles that some say looks oddly phallic. (It looks more like a pear to me but then maybe they grow 'em short and fat in Alabama.)

Famous phallic art includes the giant Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks by Claes Oldenburg, 
The Eiffel Tower is often considered phallic, as well as ANY public monument that is taller than it is wide. 

Famous vaginal art includes O'Keefe's flowers. Georgia O'Keefe adamantly insisted that it was not her intent to create flowers that reminded people of colorful cunts and people just read what they wanted into her art. That makes it even more fascinating to my mind.

Disguises in which the offensive and offending phallus has appeared include:

  • Banana
  • Horns (fertility symbol in ancient art)
  • Cigar
  • Gun - pistol, bazookas, cannons, spears, swords, etc. 
  • Maypole
  • Monument
  • Obelisk
  • Tower
  • Lipstick
  • Snakes
  • Trains, cars - the faster and bigger the better
  • Right side up triangle
  • Generally any long, hot thrusting.... ermmm never mind.

Disguises in which the offensive and offending vulva has appeared include:

  • Cup
  • Rose and other flowers
  • Valley
  • Cave
  • Heart
  • Upside down triangle
  • Various fruit
  • Oysters
  • Shells

Generally the phallic symbolism has the vulva symbol beat hands down for number of instances it appears in art. No doubt due to penis envy. What are some objects that looked phallic or vaginal to you - either in art or in real life?

NEA Call for artists:
Design the next NEA logo - concept theyr'e looking for is "reminder that art workers are real workers who are part of this country’s real economy.” Art workers “earn salaries, support families, [and] pay taxes,"