Social Fabric

Atherton Palimpset Scultpure

“Palimpset,” Brooke Atherton. Courtesy of the Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc.

Quilts?  As punchy, in-your-face, contemporary activist art? Absolutely!  When it comes to that sort of thing, we typically think of, say, Ai Weiwei or whichever artists are basking in their fifteen minutes of blazing glory or infamy at the Brooklyn Museum.  So I initially didn’t expect to be particularly moved by Earth Stories, an exhibition of quilts on display at the Michigan State University Museum, where I wandered in mostly out of intrepid curiosity. But it turns out the world of art-quilting is much more textured, artistic, and activist than I ever realized.  Furthermore, these quilters aren’t just making a statement, they’re making a difference.  Continue reading

Beauty in a Former Ghetto

Heidelburg Project- Street View,  Photo credit: The Heidelburg Project.

Heidelburg Project- Street View, Photo credit: The Heidelburg Project.

It’s faced intense criticism from neighbors who thought it an eyesore, and large parts were bulldozed by the city twice.   Even Oprah Winfrey called it a public nuisance.  Admittedly, it doesn’t translate well in photographs; it must be experienced, and those that actually visit Heidelburg Street can vouch that artist Tyree Guyton has worked nothing short of a miracle in a former ghetto.  His is art with a purpose, and it’s made a difference.  Continue reading

L.A. Artist Gary Simpson


Gary Simpson Sculpture

Current mix of all 193 countries magnified 125 times.

Ever since September 11th, 2001, when the World Trade Center complex in New York was struck by al-Qaeda terrorists and collapsed, killing almost 3,000 people, artist Gary Simpson has been making artwork  that sifts through the trauma of those events , visually underscoring  our human responsibility  to care for the planet we all call home. Indeed, according to today’s astrophysicists, amidst the planets in our solar system, earth alone supports what we call human life.  From the vantage point of our ‘aloneness’ in our solar system, it is intriguing and knowing that Simpson’s choice artistic material is the soil of the earth itself. Continue reading

Disobedient Objects for Obedient Subjects

Disobedient Objects Sculpture

Installation Image, Disobedient Objects, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Approaching this particular post has proven to be a lot more difficult than previous entries, for a number of reasons. The first, arguably, is that a show such as this with its highly loaded subject matter is bound to draw a wide range of impassioned responses from many different quarters. There are just too many political and ideological speaking points which arise for there not to be a groundswell of debate and consideration which I feel a degree of hesitancy in adding to. Continue reading

Not Just History

Michelson Sculpture

Alan Michelson, Phoenix, 2012 (detail), Handmade paper, archival board and ink, wood, Photo courtesy of the artist, From the exhibition Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 3 organized by the Museum of Arts and Design, New York

“Kill the Indian and save the Man” was the catchphrase at Carlisle Indian Boarding School, where Native American children were assimilated into American culture, given new names, and punished for speaking their native language. The school ostensibly didn’t view Native Americans as inferior, but Cherokee artist Shan Goshorn argues otherwise.  In Cultural Genocide, she revisits this systematic erasure of Indian culture with a large, coffin-shaped basket inscribed with the names of some of the 12,000 students who attended between 1879 and 1918.  It’s sharp commentary on a part of our history that should make us uncomfortable. Continue reading