Have you ever wondered what happens to the items that get confiscated before you board a plane? I have, but only when a TSA agent took away the yoghurt I was planning to eat for breakfast, because he considered it a liquid and it was over the 3 ounce limit. I suspect it became his breakfast... However, I hadn't given much thought to the objects that are confiscated -- all the scissors, razor blades, pocket knives, etc. But Michele Pred has.
She asked the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) if she could have the confiscated items to use in her installation art work. I recently saw a show called (IN)Security at the Thompson Gallery on the San Jose State University campus featuring some work from her series Homeland Security. The work is partly about curiosity, wondering how dangerous the tiny (formerly travel-size) sewing scissors could be, or to whom all of these pocketknives belonged? Did they have sentimental value, and have they been saved from a death in oblivion by being on display, in the shape of heart, in this exhibit?
The show also has more serious undertones, though, as a social commentary on how our culture views danger and threats. Michele uses color and placement of objects to create an American flag out of razor blades, pocket knives, or, as in this piece, a combination of objects carefully placed in their own containers as if logged for evidence by a forensics expert or scientist.
Michele speaks about how she is capturing a moment in history, the feelings of threat and danger that has prevailed since 9/11, and the above piece certainly has the feel of creating a time capsule. Check out more of her work at her website.
A couple of years ago I helped teach a class with Zach Pine who specializes in nature sculptures and has designed a "create with nature" program using things found in the great outdoors (sticks, rocks, leaves, etc) to make temporary sculptures which can then "recycled" to create something new. It's eco-friendly, simple enough for any age group, and fun! This is an easy and great way to get inspired and refreshed through creativity and play, something that everyone - not just artists - needs to be encouraged to do more and more. It's also an opportunity to collaborate and to create community. Such a simple, beautiful idea.
Get it? I didn't the first time I glanced at it, even though I read the title. It wasn't until I read the description that I realized that that motorcycle is made out of super flexible yogis with body paint. It's really amazing to see how they do it:
Traveling and moving across country have kept me from posting on my blog over the past few weeks, but it's also thrown into sharp focus all that I have learned, and come to appreciate, about the art scene in Central Texas. Having only lived there for a year, I feel like I've barely scratched the surface, but none-the-less I will share a few of my (paired down) recommendations: First and foremost, check out www.glasstire.com. They are your artist resource in the region, providing information and commentary about shows, artists, jobs and more.
Despite having a relatively small art scene by some standards, there is actually a lot going on in Austin at many different levels, so I have just made a few selections from my favorites:
Women and Their Work, a non-profit gallery where you will find friendly and informative staff in addition to some very innovative and diverse works, largely installations, by contemporary female artists. They also host a lot of performances, info sessions and social events and are a good place to learn the who's who in the Austin art scene. One of my favorite exhibits from the 2011-2012 season was Laurie Frick: Quantify Me.
The Austin Museum of Art/Arthouse is a mixed experience for me, but with three venues you can definitely find something you like. I suggest the shows at the Jones Center and Laguna Gloria; the latter is located in a French riviera-style house with beautiful grounds and gardens to explore, plus the museum's art school.
Although most people know about the Blanton Museum of Art on the UT campus, which I also highly recommend, it seems the Visual Art Center (VAC) in the middle of campus is less well-known, yet with 5 galleries housed in an impressive building, it has a lot to offer, from both the art department and outside artists. My favorite this year was Diana Al-Hadid: Suspended After Image.
For something a little off the beaten path and for those of you into contemporary and experimental art, I highly recommend Co-Lab. Primarily run by the amazing and innovative Sean Gallagher, this is a non-profit performance and art venue that always has something good going on.
I only made it to Houston for one day, so despite it being an art hub with many attractions, I am going to simply recommend the Menil Collection - "A museum and a neighborhood of art. Free of charge, always" as their website so aptly states. Residing in a quiet residential neighborhood surrounded by trees, it is an oasis great for picnicking in between seeing some fantastic art. It is home to the Rothko Chapel, an architectural feat and meditation spot open to all religions that houses Mark Rothko's black paintings and was founded by philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil.
Although I loved visiting this peaceful spot, I actually preferred the 6 or so black paintings housed in the Menil Museum that didn't make it into the Chapel. Among other things, the Museum includes a fantastic collection of Surrealist art featuring mainly works by Max Ernst and Rene Magritte, but also some Yves Tanguy and Roberto Matta, two of my favorite artists from this movement. Behind this building stands the Cy Twombly Gallery, which houses a retrospective of the artist's life works, which really opened my eyes to both the immense scale of many of his paintings and to the subtleties hidden in his brash style.
Also recommended is Artpace, which "serves as an international laboratory for the creation and advancement of contemporary art", according to it's mission statement. They do this through their support of established and emerging contemporary artists via international residencies and exhibitions, and through their education programs.
FORT WORTH (Dallas)
I am sad to state that I didn't actually make it up to Fort Worth, mostly because I missed two amazing shows that I would have loved to see: Caravaggio and his followers in Rome at the Kimbell Art Museum and Lucian Freud: Portraits at The Modern, the latter of which is up through October 28, 2012. These are two artists that I have great respect for, mainly for their very different, but equally impressive, painting styles. Of course I'm talking about Caravaggio's use of chiaroscuro (light/dark) effects and that wonderful deep yet bright red that shines out in many of his paintings; and Lucian Freud's use of thick, tactile paint and bizarre color combinations.
Art made with recycled items interests me and Leticia Bajuyo's installation at Women and Their Work gallery in Austin (open through August 30th) is no exception. Featuring over 8,500 CDs, its scale is enough to be profound, while the theremins placed on either side of the gallery add an eery soundtrack to this sci-fi inspired show. An "event horizon", according to Bajuyo, is a boundary in space time, the point of no return, such as the moment right before one is sucked into a black hole, and her twisting vortex shapes that emerge out of the walls of shiny CDs include such moments of in between-ness.
I like that the CDs create two solid free-standing walls of reflections as you walk into the gallery, enclosing you in this curved hallway. The visual serenity of the reflective walls is broken by two vortex tunnels, one on the left directed up and one on the right directed down, that draw you towards them and yet you cannot climb in.
Instead, you continue around to the backside of the walls, revealing the outside of the vortexes which look horn-shaped, and the titles of all those CDs, discarded and almost obsolete in this digital age.
I was lucky enough to work with Leticia helping to install part of the show, after countless hours stringing hundreds of CDs together with fishing line (and I contributed some of my CDs too). Here's me installing:
(You can see more photos from installation week, including some with the artist, at Women and Their Work's blog: http://womenandtheirwork.wordpress.com/)
During the opening (on June 30th) there were two professional theremin players (I think they were called The Autobots, but I'm not positive). Now, while the show is open, viewers are encouraged to play the instruments themselves, adding an interactive element to the show.