Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fair Game or Foul Play?

The art world is a mine field of potential plagiarism. There are only so many colors in the spectrum and only so many ways to really make use of different materials so the chance for pieces of art to look somewhat alike is fairly likely from time to time. A superstar artist was successfully sued recently by a “little guy” who happened to see one of his photos used in a piece by the famous guy. Artists throughout time have sought inspiration from other artists’ works. Styles and techniques of various artists, especially distinct ones like Jackson Pollock, are used in classrooms all the time to teach various principles of art. Pieces that are public domain, such as the Mona Lisa, become part of our pop culture having been used over and over in various reincarnations (I’ve used her too….). So one can see how artworks can by happenstance look “alike” every now and then. I am sure ideas are borrowed all the time and should be appropriately credited or attributed, or perhaps just even referenced by which I mean the creators could say…..”we saw something like this a few years ago by _____, and wanted to try our own version”, but I guess that might be assuming too much and what follows is perhaps just a cowinkydink.

Now mind you, I have no ability to remember faces all that well, let alone names, but a piece of art….now I can recall an image from 30 years ago, where I saw it and a lot about it. So a two year span is nothing. By the way, this incident is not about me or my work. It is about another artist in town. She will recognize herself in due time as I know she reads this blog. She and I did a luncheon together a couple of years ago that was about women and art (the theme for that year). She was the featured guest and did a large interactive piece/mural/painting/project on site as part of the event and the attendees all contributed a few thoughts on paper. Now said artist has a very distinctive style and a very distinctive and unique approach to this type of project especially when making a public art piece. Goodness do I sound vague or what! Yes, I do, I am trying to not make any accusations only a connection and maybe even a point at some point. So anyway, today, I got a newsletter type pamphlet in the mail and towards the back was a photo of 2 people standing next to a painting. I glanced only at the work, remarked in my head to myself (like who else is going to be in my head….well, okay, that is debatable for another time…) that said artist had made another piece, this time for the ____ group, and that’s cool. Glad to see another one out there.

I read the article, read it again, and still did not see said artist’s name….that’s weird. I know I have seen that type/style work before. Even the application of other people’s written thoughts on paper were apparent and mentioned. So just to double check my aging brain, I got on her website because the artist and the luncheon project I reference are on her home page. Matter of fact, I have it up on the screen as I write this with the newsletter image right beside it. Yeah…..I would call the one in the newsletter a direct rip off of the luncheon one, but probably not intentional. What probably happened is that someone saw the original piece, liked the idea and decided to use it. That is okay, if the intellectual property of the original (source of inspiration) artist is respected and acknowledged as such. One can’t say it is a copy by definition as the images are totally different, but the style and the technique are a bit too close for comfort. Hey, for all I know the newsletter artists asked the luncheon artist if it was okay to use her idea or to even give some advice, but that connection is not mentioned anywhere. If she did give the okay or the advice, well darn it girlfriend, they should have mentioned you! PR is PR no matter how we get it.

I am only making this point because as artists, we work hard to develop our “signature” work, the visual voice that becomes our recognizable style, and like it or not, like cellulite, it just hangs around us for the rest of our lives no matter what, even if we try and change every now and then. In a small town where one’s imagery is distinctive and hence associative, we have to be careful that it remains “ours”. Public art is a wonderful thing as long as it is only enjoyed by the public, for they are not entitled to it in any way beyond that.

Monday, April 26, 2010

No more Socials grace my pages…..

Whatever happened to the “society column”? I miss that Monday morning wrap up in my paper. When I first moved here, Monday was the day to find out about the past weekend’s big events. Usually a front page picture in the B or C section would show the décor, some of the attendees in their gowns, list who was in the crowd, what was served for dinner, any special things that happened such as raising a boat load of money for a worthy cause and so forth. Adjacent articles would cover some of the “lesser” but no less interesting doings as well. Maybe the PC police got to the newspapers and now we get to read about sports in full color every day…..every single day….with full page pictures of some kid flying over a hurdle.

I was reminded of this long lost staple of the print media when I realized that a really fun event had occurred last week, a costume party benefiting mental illness, and no follow up has ever appeared. Now before anyone gets their shorts in a snit, I know that a local magazine was introduced a few years ago to cover this “social” aspect of our community, which it does to an extent, but the reporting is not the same. The section that covers events, benefits, fundraisers, openings and so forth, only has pictures of faces, closely cropped faces, that don’t show décor, costumes or gowns, and lists nothing about the event itself other than the time or place. Faces are good but they don’t tell the story. The pictures are submitted by people who are at the event most times and not from some reporter with a camera that blinded you with his flash, asked your name and moved on. Now that was fun, no posing for the camera, few staged groupings, people in the background who did not know they were in the photo, things like that made the pictures interesting and the story relevant.

I miss knowing how many events served rubber chicken. I bet the event I wonder about did not as it was headed up by a local chef. So what was on the menu? Who came dressed as whom? Who won the contest? If I find that info in the next issue of the local magazine, I will apologize and stand corrected. If I don’t, I will have to rely on feedback from people at the next big event who may have attended the previous one. Oh wait, maybe that was one of the problems which prompted the switch from newspapers to a monthly magazine, that it was the same people every time. But no, I find that in the faces at the back of the magazine as well, which is okay, because I keep them and can see how we all age (gracefully or not) year after year.

It has been many years since I did my tour of duty as a volunteer decorator for big events in town, now I just attend one or two and call it a calendar. But I know how hard those people work, how many hours go into designing, making, gathering and setting up of props and centerpieces while navigating a cat fight or two. I know how much discussion goes into just what meal to serve to provide both value and taste, but still make a profit. I know that tuxedos and gowns are prepared with care (face it, benefits are just proms for grownups) and that an evening on heels will be paid for with Motrin in the morning. Wallets will be opened and generous attendees will support the cause at hand, even if they had done so already at another time just because it is the right thing to do. I miss reading about this stuff. Call me shallow, but it was better than another picture of a dog wearing a funny hat or a whole column of snookypoo’s having their 2nd birthday.

So I will wrap it up by saying thank you to all those people who have attended and supported the following organizations’ events these past few months….Domestic Violence, HIV/AIDs, Mental Illness, Catholic Charities, College Scholarship groups, and the list goes on.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fast Facts

Just a reminder that posts concerning new work, upcoming shows, demo appearances and even some rumors can be found at my other website (link is on the upper right of this page).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dis-connected from reality

Being “connected” has left us disconnected in ways that are not good. I know, I bring this up a lot, but those hand held devices used to keep everybody in touch, are leaving a generation out of the loop.

On Tuesday, the AU student newspaper had an article by Ashley Pifer about being a “fan” of various things on Facebook. One line stood out, “I am beginning to think that most people have begun making pages in order to make up for the lack of friends that they have outside of the Internet.”, and my reaction was YES!!! Somebody finally gets it! While on break from class, I wandered up through the lounge area. This is a gathering spot with old sofas, a few tables, art on the walls, vending machines nearby and today a platter of free cake was set out for everyone to enjoy. Every seat was taken and yet it was deadly silent. Each one of the students, EVERY ONE of them, had a hand held thingy out and was texting or scrolling or listening, completely engaged in their own laps, and not one of them paid the least bit of attention to those around them. No conversation, no interaction ….nothing, just a big void of humanity in a room full of creative people. What a waste. A waste of time, a waste of talent, a waste of ideas, a waste of friendships, and a waste of inspiration….I could go on, but why bother, nobody is listening. Maybe they were busy becoming fans of something so as to a feel a sense of belonging.

In class itself, during a group critique where students are to discuss their work and learn from each other….about half had a hand in their pockets scrolling something or were just plain rude and sat there texting while the instructor tired to explain why their drawing was less than successful…. I would have just said it sucked, but then I don’t teach right now. I don’t think I could. I would require that all hand held items go into a box to be retrieved only after class. When will it sink in that they are paying for the class time that they are not using?

This leads me to the issue of privacy. Remember the big stink about government listening to some potential terrorist conversations? Goodness gracious did people get all bent out of shape about their right to privacy, yet on their own web pages (World Wide) is everything you could possibly want to know and more. Pictures taken of you that you don’t even know about (remember those hand helds now have cameras!), comments or lies about what you may have said, did, went or believe, lists of preferences accessible by any stalker or identity thief and so on….something else I could go on about but it won’t make any difference. I have had a painting in mind for years now based on the proverbial “Power Couple” which was more appropriate when the economy was robust. I have since renamed it the “Power –Outage-Couple” because though the two figures may still be “in control, top of their game, important movers and shakers”, they are totally clueless (or oblivious) to the world around them. Like those art majors in the lounge, all that talent and inspiration being shared with no one of flesh and blood. Instead, it is getting sucked into a machine much like Dorothy in Oz. It seems real, but it is not, and the lesson to be learned is that there is no place like the here and now of our flesh and blood friendships. (A second lesson is that one should be careful in partaking of food left around art lounges…sometimes the ingredients are not listed in the recipe….)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Women always have issues......

My signature work is about women as many of you know. Therefore, I spend a lot of time going through fluff magazines, watching insipid television shows, and following the goings on of the younger generations in order to keep tabs on the pulse of women's issues as they relate to how we as a gender are depicted in society. This is a fancy way of saying that reading Vogue is work related and reality TV is research. One finds the oddest stuff in the fine print (or in the case of TV, between the lines) of such media.

Case in point, one religious group has blamed the recent rash of worldwide earthquakes on women dressing inappropriately in public. So… come no earthquakes in Nevada recently? Another article was about a woman who raised 900 million dollars for the MoMA and got a Jasper Johns painting in the process. Hell honey, for that amount of money, you should have gotten not only Jasper’s, but one of Andy’s, Pablo’s and a Koon’s just for kicks.

Another article was all whiny about how fashions are not in the stores during the season we wear them. Okay, that one I agree with, but isn’t 4 pairs of black boots a bit excessive? Obviously she lives someplace where the black does not become a grayish sludge due to salt residue. This brings me to the idea of manikins. I did my share of dressing them and the rule was to put on as much expensive stuff as possible because some women come in and just buy what is on it from head to toe thinking that is the “in” thing. Maybe that is where my ideas first started. On that note then, how often do you ever see anybody (around our area mind you) really wearing all that stuff being sold in stores? The “teen” stores are full of little skirts and fluffy blouses, but I have yet to see a teen wearing them even though bags of goods leave the stores each day. I find it all very strange. I wore a dress the other day due to having 4 events back to back with no time to change, well goodness gracious, one would have thought an earthquake was imminent!

Fortunately I have returned to my Women series of paintings because the amount of material I have to deal with is growing by the day. Interesting enough, the source of much of it is in my own backyard so to speak. Who needs Hollywood or New York when I can open a local rag mag and have to go find a roll of duct tape to keep my head from exploding? While in the basement, I may have to get a wrench to turn off a faucet or two as well…..hmmm…what did I say in the first paragraph about fine print being between the lines?

Friday, April 16, 2010

“Form, Figure and Function…”(and Furniture) at the CMA

Yesterday I bought a new snazzy notebook with lines so as to make better notes for writing about shows. Nice try, but I still write all callywupass up and down and sideways on the pages with or without lines. At least the cover is better than the ratty sketchbook I was using before so as to remain unobtrusive. I did not do that well either (remain unobtrusive), must have been the zebra striped heels which happened to match one of my favorite ceramic pieces in the show, “Z” by Jack Moulthrop. His black and white patterned spherical vessel is reminiscent of some much larger ceramic sculptural works I recently saw by Jun Kaneko at the Morikami Museum in Florida. I am not much of a ceramics person so this part will be short.

I liked the back part of the galleries better than the front. As you may have garnered by now, I am not into artists statements that shovel a lot of BS and I found several of those. Maybe it is my adult version of ADHD, but too many words in big run on sentences referencing esoteric influences…..sorry, but you lose me. It is a teapot. It is a nice teapot. It has glaze like millifleur tapestries and here is how that happened….. The tea cup comic book strip is great but I would have liked some way to see the backsides too. The installation lacked a Paul Harvey moment because I could not see the “rest of the story”. It is a wonderful piece for children, but it will frustrate them. Speaking of kids, I enjoyed the interaction of the “Degrees of Separation” by Jim Bowling and could picture it being featured in school gallery talks until my husband pointed out the statement. Well okay then, moving on kids…….

I guess I should explain my issue with ceramics. My studio experience with them never went beyond an intro class because I find them so time consuming. And with that, I can’t control the outcome because of how glazes work. When an artist can produce a wonderful result strictly by trust or skill, I’m impressed. William Brouillards’s Majolica style platter is one such piece, more painterly than pottery and one to which I can relate. My other problem with ceramics is the firing experience. Every darn time I put my students’ work into the kiln to fire overnight, some yahoo had an air pocket locked inside (usually by intent) and it would explode, shattering all the pieces on the same shelf. Then I would have to comfort some poor kid who had lost their pot after hours and hours of work because of a bubble bully. Therefore, to avoid tears, I avoided making it to the end of my curriculum each year….were the ceramics unit was conveniently placed by me. I did find one other thing that bothered me in the ceramics portion of this show….it was the dust on Eva Kwong’s Octopus Leg Vase (which did make me feel more at home however). I took a lot of notes in these main galleries and my overall view is that it is a well done representation of fine art ceramics.

Furniture is more my thing. I grew up in a house full of finely carved antiques and have a cousin who is sought after for his furniture pieces. The Smithsonian uses him and his private client waiting list is 5 years long. Kurt sports the three foot blonde pony tail, lives in a log cabin he built piece by piece and grows a lot of his own food. Only 2 hours south of where we live, one would never know he is out there in the woods even though his work graces many famous places. But his work is not here and two local craftsman/artists pieces are so let’s talk about them instead. First big bummer was not to find the Red Bookshelves in Kevin Anderson’s gallery. It is in the program so where is the work? The second was to not find the title for the Mahogany Cabinet. Why? It was in the North Canton show in 2008 and entitled “Bushy Mahogany Cabinet”. The construction and design obviously represents female anatomy so why the lack of a title on the card? Please don’t tell me the CMA is getting gun-shy on sexuality. The same occurs with the NOLA piece which was in the Blind Date show and has to do with Hurricane Katrina. Why no statement or reference to that? I guess that makes it a Mystery Date now. I was glad to find a bio on him by the door however so as to put into context the pieces in the show with his background in industrial design.

The next gallery had the work of John Strauss. I was doing really great in the unobtrusive department until he recognized my husband. (So much for stealth). We ended chatting about one of my favorite groupings, the Vide Poche which I learned is French for “contents of your pockets”. They are small three legged tables with one drawer for holding one’s stuff each night when emptying out pockets. I loved the red one of dyed wood even though I would still lose my keys every time if had one in my house. The gallery was beautifully done with wainscoting and two toned taupe walls giving his pieces a well deserved regal air. The craftsmanship is impeccable and the surfaces and textures fascinating. The turquoise dye on the screen piece is immaculate, not a brush stroke or tonal shift anyplace I could see. I had never heard of zebrawood before and find it striking (like my shoes). The inclusion of a sample chair, like a dress maker’s pattern, next to its finished companion is a smart way to make the sculptural aspect more relevant and tone down the functional. I may have to drag Kurt out of his hermit hole to come see these two galleries.

On my way out, I passed the ceramic pieces by Scott Dooley referencing oil cans and muffler parts and immediately thought of Dr. Seuss. This show is on view until July 25 which overlaps the first National Juried show by the Canton Museum although it is a tent show like Boston Mills and not a gallery show and held over a two day period May 22 and 23. Kevin and John will have more work on display at that time as part of the show.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mount Union Fine Art Majors "Studio: Problems and Solutions" On display April 9 - May 16, 2010

Friday night I went to the opening at Studio M which featured the work of art students from Mt. Union in Alliance. I went to support my long time friend and former college classmate. We reconnected a couple of years ago and found that our studio lives have gone in far different trajectories that oddly enough circled back around to find us as the other person 30 years later. Alliance is still in the county, though at the very far edges of it, but I have yet to see any real PR for the exhibition. Yes, it is a student show and their college is on the far fringes of the “district”, but at least one newspaper photo would have been nice in addition to the several I saw for the weekend party over the past 5 days or so. Speaking of which, where were the photos for the IlluminArts Festival that happened a few weeks ago? It was not too far outside of the “district” but not one real article or any follow up photos that I could find have yet to appear in the three papers I read every day. (Little 4 line paragraphs don’t count). Perhaps it was all in online galleries or articles but I don’t dip into that addiction. Back to the show….Oh wait, one more side note, Studio M fulfills a big cog still missing from the main machine, a venue for artists to show their work on their own terms for a period of time. Many young artists don’t want to commit to a permanent gallery space and therefore must seek out venues for their work when a new body of images is ready for exhibition. Okay, now about the show….

The gallery is beautifully hung (by a student from Walsh U.) with 30 works of art by 22 students. A posted statement at the door provides the viewer with a context by which to appreciate the selections in the show. The pieces are displayed in groupings, all photos together, all prints together and so forth which is the best way for me to hit the highlights of this hidden gem of a show. Mt. Union is a small school of about 2200 students that offers a full range of majors and a complete art department and a full scale gallery on campus that shows work of established artists. Therefore, this is no step child to the larger campus art departments that surround our area. As a matter of fact, the work in this show is in many ways superior to what I have been seeing in the halls of my alma mater over the course of this past year. I am glad to see that the college took advantage of Studio M to bring their work to our side of the county.

The 6 photographs in the show are stunning in my limited knowledge of darkroom (now computer) technology. They are colorful, crisp and professionally presented. Far too often I see dull images of places that have no real context. These are portraits or spaces that reach out to the viewer and draw us back in. “Failure” by Cong Nguyen won a Dean’s Purchase Award. I would have voted for him too.

Moving on down the wall are the paintings. The chosen pieces are studio still life material that should be the foundation of any painting program so as to build a student’s “eye” for the understanding of the basic building blocks of art. Too often this step is skipped over in favor of abstracting imagery so as to find an artist’s voice. Well if the kid can’t hum a tune in key early on; forget having a hit song later on. I too favor the method of “see that teapot? Now paint it just as it appears….” One of the students painted a great teapot, it was sold too.

On to printmaking, this must be a very good department at Mt. Union as the pieces were consistently strong yet delicate and showed sensitivity to subject matter. No hearts and daggers or weird worm shapes in this bunch thank goodness. Jenny Peteya’s print “Walking in Circles” was a favorite of mine and matted in pebble mat board, something I have not seen in years. I liked that it added to the texture of the print. Rachel Keyser’s “Flowers” also won a Dean’s Purchase award. Two titles caught my eye (I like titles!), one was “Woodblock” which was also the media and a far better solution than “untitled” and the other was “My Tree’s Garden” which I found intriguing. Often times a tree is just in or around a garden (unless one is oriental and then it becomes a whole other issue), but this tree was just a good old standard deciduous elevated to the status of being a centerpiece.

Drawings, design projects and graphics make up the remainder of the show. Basic 2-D design book-like projects have statements that explain the process of the imagery. If one has no understanding of color theory, these are a good place to get a quick lesson. Above two of these strips are a long time basic and near to my heart project I call “words”. This project can be done from elementary school on up as a way to get youth to think and then have to think again. Dirty, Solid, Scream and Confined were favorites.

My best in show goes to Douglas Laubacher and his black construction paper cut out, “Lauren Harris Tribute”. Yeah, I can hear you lament…construction paper in college?.... sure, any material used in just the right manner can make a mini masterpiece. I saw Douglas’s work right away and was drawn to its simplicity and presentation over and over. He is dead on in his tribute to the work of Lawren S. Harris (1885-1970), a Canadian painter whose landscape paintings are spectacular and one of my personal favorite artists of all time. Interesting to know that this young artist was home schooled prior to attending Mt. Union. The work of Harris is probably never mentioned in the public schools.

Time to wrap this up; I get some feedback from you readers that I am too long and wordy. Just a final reminder to all of you that Stark County is a lot bigger than one would be led to believe and worth the visit to the closer Studio M at the MassMu (love that nickname) and to the further out (a whole 25 minutes or so) Crandall Gallery at Mt. Union.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The 800 Pound Gorilla

I wonder if the antics of the “Guerilla Girls” are discussed in art history classes anymore. This group of New York based female artists formed in the early 1980’s with the intent of evening the playing field in the male dominated art scene. For more detailed info, check out Wikipedia, Facebook, Google and so forth as they are still an active group now gone global.

Driving around town looking for kitchen chairs, my husband and I were talking about some of the public art in town. I said that I thought it would be funny to see the “Screaming heads” as I call them, suddenly sprout a pair of bunny ears and eventually some light up red noses in the winter. As a matter of fact, bunny ears would look pretty funny on some of the big animal pieces scattered around town. Public art is meant to be interactive and bunny ears would more fun than picking the trash out of their bellies. Seems some of the “public” find it fun to push trash through the holes.

Why not a giant fish hook coming off of a nearby building to lure (pun intended) one of the outdoor fish sculptures. By the way, I want one of those for my front yard. I just added a cactus with a sombrero to our front garden which I assume will be stolen by next weekend so space will be available.

My younger son had a great idea for an exercise in public reactions. We were going through the round-about on Wales road and he pointed out how hilarious it would be to get a line of cars, maybe 8 or so, and keep going around and around the inner circle road without exiting on one of the spokes. Nothing says one must exit. Each time one passes the fire station, yell “wwweeeeeeeeeeee” and keep on going. At the first sign of an aggravated driver on the spoke roads, everybody split off and keep driving. We figured the group could probably get three full rotations before anybody caught on to the intentional turning.

The Jerry Pert outside of the local Museum….oh I have had lots of ideas for that one. But I don’t relish spending a few nights in jail so best to keep my ideas to myself. A little detergent in the fountain at AU (a looooooooooooongg time ago) is about a daring as I get, unless I buy a gorilla mask…

Saturday, April 3, 2010

First Friday Fun

Just a super quick post for my CAL buddies to say thanks for allowing us to draw on First Friday. It was a blast! These ones are for you Nancy!

Stations of the Cross at Anderson Creative

First impressions are always the make or break of any situation. After 30 some years of living by the beeper, one learns to take in a lot of info in a short span of time, say about 6 minutes or so. My husband and I literally breezed in, about and out of this wonderful show at Anderson Creative. Reviews have been already written by other bloggers and the local rag so no need to really dig deep on my part. One of his patients was in dire need of his attendance at the big house, and with one car downtown (dummies); we could not spend the time needed to really absorb the impact of this exhibition. The full show is online at the gallery’s website.

The owner and I actually belong to the same church, as a matter of fact; I was probably babysitting him in the nursery during our active years in the pews. Now our family finds reverence in the “church of the woods” so our time actually spent inside real stone walls is done north of here on rare occasions.

So back to first impressions…..two standout pieces are by Tiffany Marsh (Station 7) and Tom Megalis (Station 6). Both works are intense, direct and tactile. I was pleased to also see some multimedia incorporated into a couple of creations, specifically Kevin’s (who should really be in the shoebox show rather than turd girl) but without my reading glasses, the faces were a bit on the fuzzy side for us AARP members. Many of our local talents were represented, including Erin, Joseph, and Marcy who are frequent exhibitors. Unfortunately, as I said, our time was limited and I did not have any reading glasses so the writings that accompanied the works were too far away for me to see and we did not have the time to devote to the devotionals. I suggest, from reading other reviews that one spends the time to do so as well as reading the statements posted online.

The crowd inside the gallery was large and reverent; many people were reading the words with a hand on their lips in concentration. Kudos to Craig and Joseph for using faith as a subject avoided by many “artists” and art venues unless it is from an “anti” standpoint because Lord knows we can’t be spiritual and artists at the same time. It seems to violate some rule in the big book of artists’ personas (the same one where we all wear black berets and hold brushes with the pinky finger up).

If you happen to be Jewish or Sikh or Hindu or even atheist, forget the words if they offend you or hold no meaningful value, experience the show for the art itself. Look at the frames, the textures, the scale and dimensionality of the works on display. My favorite aspect of the 6 minutes…...the tiny chair perched on a light switch box or something like that. It reminded me of one of God’s greatest gifts of all, humor.

Friday, April 2, 2010

10th International Shoebox Sculpture Exhibition 2009-2011

Looking for something fresh and different in the art exhibition world? Why not venture 20 minutes north and stop in at the Emily Davis Gallery on the campus of the University of Akron until April 17th because this show has some gems and some real stinkers. Organized primarily by the University of Hawaii’s Art Gallery and a bunch of other foundations, this collection has works from 15 countries and 24 states for a total of 81 pieces with 5 of them being interactive. To activate them however, you must ask a white gloved gallery sitter to do it for you.

Shall we do gems or stinkers first? Since personal opinion plays a major role in what is good and what is not so hot, perhaps it best I give out some “awards” instead.

Winner of the “Cute but Campy” award is to a ceramic Chinese garden gnome entitled “Chinese Gnomes are taking over the world”. It looks just like the lovechild of the Travelocity gnome and a Keebler elf. I’d put one in my yard. I should point out that all pieces in this exhibition are supposed to be the size of a standard shoe box. Some of them must have feet like my youngest son (size 17) as the sculptures are a bit bigger than “standard”.

Winner of the “That’s Just Sick” award is to the brick of human hair. Again, an entry from China (just what are they doing over there?) this brick (under plexi) is about 18” x 9” x 4” and looks like an interesting surface until one reads the card. Then it is just gross. I thought stuff like this went out of fashion after WW2.

The “Just Plain Stupid” award goes to the box painted black with blobs of acrylic paint applied here and there. An artist from NY (and remember people, just because you are an artist in NY does not mean you are any good) did this piece and entitled it “Box of Blobs found at the Edge of Space 08”. Personally, I think he found it on his studio floor, but it could be he “travels to outer space” a bit too often (huff huff).

Let’s throw a gem in here shall we? “Autumn Sentinels: Kyoto” by Reiko Brandon of Hawaii is a wonderful piece of sculpture that utilized skill, scale of materials, vision, and craft to create three mini towers of visual delight with meaningful overtones. A common thread in the show is the use of found objects (mostly discarded toys) upon which to build a piece. Ms. Brandon did not fall victim to this device. Okay, back to the stinkers, they are much more fun.

The “Are You Kidding Me” award goes to Kamila Szczesna (which took me three times to write correctly in my notebook) who basically presents a white ceramic turd in a velvet lined wooden box complete with brass plaque. Her statement concludes with ….”Sometimes I reduce the work to a mere mark left to prove my own existence.” Okay… shall I be really snarky and point out that lots of dogs do that in my yard and I’m not presenting it in a velvet box as a gift of reverence.

The “Bit Twisted” award goes to a miniature metal wheelchair in which the spokes are female figures spread eagled on the rims. I will look for this guy in the upcoming “Uncensored” show. It has good craftsmanship and obviously took time and effort, but in my personal opinion (highlight that), I find it just a bit disgusting. Maybe I still hold on too tightly to the belief that talent needs to be tempered with discretion. Now if you don’t have any real talent, then go ahead and bronze your waste and put it in a box!

The “Nice Piece But Your Title Gets You a Squint of Distain” award goes to the intricate box entitled “I’ve given you my arm to break again”. Okay, why the negative? Can’t the piece exist without this? There are no interactive parts which make any reference to this title; it is almost used to just get you to look at it longer, which I did, to find some relevancy. Which reminds me that I hate artist statements which do no justice to the work at hand, when an artist has to resort to the “I made this ‘thing’ and now I have to justify it as art” crutch, it might as well be a turd in a box.

Only a few more to go….
The “Best Leave it to a Master” award is for all the beaded pieces that attempt to recreate the technique of Lisa Lu, the all time queen of beaded objects. The “Okay That is Funny!” award goes to a plastic elephant in a crocheted mouse costume standing on petit point balls. The long pink tail echoes the elephant’s trunk which sounds silly until one sees it. “Best Social Commentary” goes to the botox compact kit. And finally, the “What is That?” goes to something that looks to be carved out of butter from the county fair, but I am sure it has something significant to offer. I won’t comment on the pieces that are right out of a high school art curriculum (make something out of another material so it looks just like the real thing, take something small and recreate it bigger, and tie up some rope and put it on a shelf….) oh wait, that last one is not from HS, that is from another place altogether, my garage.

So by now you must think I hated the show. Nope, I loved it. I spent a good hour or more reading all the cards and examining all the details. It kept me entertained, expanded my appreciation for minute detail and good craftsmanship where it existed, and does a fine job of covering the global survey of shoebox sized sculptures. Makes for easy shipping too, that’s for sure.