Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cincinnati Art Snob Blog Moves to Wordpress

After a few years with Blogger, I've decided to move the blog over to Wordpress. Wordpress provides a template allowing me to better showcase certain features. I am particularly excited about the slide show featuring my Artist Interviews.

With this change, I've eliminated my arts calendar. While this may have been helpful to some of my readers and certainly to the art museums and galleries whose events I posted, this became too challenging to maintain. Frankly, there's lots of art happening here. You will be able to keep up with the events by visiting the museum and gallery websites directly. You will find a list of those links on the new blog.

You can visit the new site here:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cincinnati's Contemporary Figurative Artists

The Weston Art Gallery is now showing Narrative Figuration, which features five of the city's premier realists: Robert Anderson, Daniel O'Connor, Tim Parsley, Emil Robinson, and Tina Tammaro. These are easily some of my favorite local artists. Jackie Demaline's recent profile of Emil Robinson presents how influential they are to each other.

I had the opportunity to interview Robinson for this blog almost two years ago. Demaline's story reminds me of Robinson's genuine graciousness. Whenever you ask him about his work, he so often defers to those who influence him.

Narrative Figuration may suggest a short list of artists for me to interview in the near future.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Images of Resistance Reveal Contemporary Resignation

Let Your Motto Be Resistance is an exhibition of 68 photographs from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, which opened Friday at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. This inaugural exhibition of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is the first ever collaboration between the Freedom Center and the Smithsonian.

The title of the show comes from the1843 "An Address to the Slaves of the United States" by the abolitionist, Henry Highland Garnet. The premise of the exhibition is to present a more contemporary definition of "resistance." NURFC curator, Dina Bailey, correctly suggests when we think of resistance we think of images of violence or protests. Instead, many of the photographs in this show are of well-known (if not by face, by name) individuals who embraced Garnet's plea. Familiar names include Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Ella Fitzgerald, and Amira Baraka. The photographs are arranged around a stark white gallery and grouped in 3 categories: "Activists," "Performers and Athletes," and "Writers and Intellectuals." Each category is labeled with an explanation or definition of the category of resistance. Each photograph is labeled with an introduction to the individual, their challenges, and successful resistance.

What's most successful about the exhibition is that no matter how familiar the viewer may be of the subjects, the viewer may be surprised to learn the stories of resistance. While we can accept Ali as "The Greatest" and may see Lena Horne as one of Hollywood's most beautiful celebrities, their gifts did not protect them racism. Each of the individuals featured in Let Your Motto Be Resistance faced injustice

Unlike Without Sanctuary, these are not difficult pictures to view. The portraits are rather idealized and in some cases glamorize the individual. In fact, they look much like promotional shots of each of the individuals. The viewer must read the labels to learn and understand these as examples of resistance. And here may be where the Smithsonian exhibit may run into a problem.

Directors of the collaborating museums claim the following:

“As we examined the photographs that comprise this exhibition, it was clear that they revealed, reflected and illuminated the variety of creative and courageous ways that African Americans resisted, accommodated, redefined and struggled in an America that needed, but rarely embraced and accepted its black citizens,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“Powerful in its depiction of African American resistance, this exhibition speaks on a global level,” says Freedom Center CEO Donald W. Murphy.

While I agree the lives of the individuals depicted in the exhibition represent courage almost impossible to measure, the photographs themselves do not represent this at all. These photographs do not tell the story of resistance. These are beautiful photographs of successful people, most of whom are recognizable celebrities. What is creative is the way this inaugural exhibition of Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture tries to redefine images of 150 years of African American resistance in the U.S. Not included are photographs of actual resistance.

The exhibition goal to present new or more diverse images of resistance seems to flirt with rewriting of history of racism and failing to acknowledge contemporary racist tendencies. Bailey admits when she initially saw the collection group Muhammad Ali with the Activists, she thought it best to present him with the other athletes. Despite Ali's resistance to the Vietnam War and the anger people had toward him and Muslims, the curator felt this current grouping was more in line with how people think about Ali today. Further, within moments of entering the gallery, I noticed the largest of the categories was "Performers and Athletes." The smallest, "Writers and Intellectuals."

In the past few years speech writers and others have quickly adopted the saying "A Time to Move Forward." This contemporary motto has been embraced as an anti-historical approach to the most challenging issues. It permits us to wipe our slates clean and ignore our past wrongdoings. The Smithsonian is known for painting a pretty picture on our past. Unless the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center works hard to create programming courageous enough to honestly reveal and celebrate historical and contemporary acts of resistance, Henry Highland Garnet's call will not be heard.

Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will be on view until June 19.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The ArtsWave Impact Flip

City Beat's Jane Durrell presents the recent repackaging of the Fine Arts Fund into ArtsWave. In the middle of their capital campaign, the City Beat story provides a short history of the organization and the impetus for its recent rebranding.

Their new broader mission to financially support more and larger institutions outside of Cincinnati, a lack of support for the work of individual artists (Durrell quotes me on this point), and populism are some concerns of potential as well as past supporters of the Fine Arts Fund. The argument for continued support is the organizations newly defined mission to support art's impact on the community. Of course this is not the same thing as supporting the arts.

As you read the story, take the time to watch the 2 videos included. They provide perhaps the best illustration of the new ArtsWave marketing strategy: grant recipients singing the praises of ArtsWave.

With ArtsWave refocusing towards impact, the arts organizations and artists are left supporting ArtsWave.

There's the's your coin.

Monday, March 14, 2011

ArtWord: Corrine Bayraktaroglu

Embroidery Face

Corrine Bayraktaroglu was born in the Northeast of England, went to high school in London, married and came to America in 1978. While she has always done crafts and learned embroidery from her mother and grandparents it wasn’t until the age of 40 that she took her first formal art classes. She came under the tutelage and guidance of Marie Linnekin in 1996 at Anne Arundel Community College, Annapolis, Maryland. After a hiatus of 25 years from embroidery she picked up the thread again in 2009 using her own art and sketchbooks as inspiration.

I had an opportunity to ask Bayraktaroglu about her work in various media and living in Yellow Springs, OH. She talks here about the role of feminism in the arts in general and explains how her experience as a victim of abuse from the age of 9 until 15 gives her an empathy/understanding that is useful in engaging some of the most challenging issues expressed in her work. Bayraktaroglu also discusses her public works with Jafagirls and the freedom of working within a number of genres.

1. Tell me a little about what motivated you to return to the needle after being trained in mediums more traditional to the fine arts. Was this return a simple experiment? Was this medium choice a conscious exploration of a feminist agenda? Or were you interested in making a connection with your own personal, familial influences?

I seem to have come full circle. I have always loved texture, and after doing knit graffiti and expanding into craft graffiti I wanted to explore embroidery and see if I could use it in a new and creative way now that I had the confidence and ability to create my own designs. In the past I had no art training and depended on kits and embroidery transfers. I got excited about the idea of seeing if I could translate some of my art into stitch and seeing if I could integrate it with other media.
I view the needle as just another tool for me to work with as an artist. I can see why others do (see needlework as part of a feminist agenda) because it’s seen and treated as a just a female craft/ hobby using kits and making pretty little doodads. Making a feminist statement with it is a reaction to that perception but I never regarded it a feminine craft/art even though it was historically foisted on women as the only artistic outlet we were allowed to participate in. To me that would be like saying painting is a man’s craft because historically only men were allowed to train for it and do it. I was excited by the idea of exploring another medium that I had always enjoyed in the past, and the challenge of seeing if I could integrate it with other mediums.

2. You say your work is created as a response to the world around you. All artists can make this claim. Further, I find that is much too simple a description of your creative process. Not only does your work require time, the results are simply exquisite. From your homage to artists like Frida Kahlo and Basquiat to your social commentaries as well as personal reflections reveal such a vast visual language that hardly reflects impulsiveness. With so many tools of art, how do you determine which to use? Describe this dance between the mediums.

Perhaps I need to add the word impulsive because generally my work is born out of an immediate reaction to something or idea that pops into my head and a primary need to express it visually. Just as people talk about what they feel and what is going on around them, I use my art in the same way. I have to scribble them down lest I forget because sometimes so many ideas/visions are popping up. The actual process, the implementation of an idea does take time.

The process really depends on the idea, if it comes in the form of a word or an image. Sometimes I am just in the mood to paint, or the weather permits me to work in my workshop and shelved ideas (that I had scribbled down) pop up that are perfectly suited for my mood. I will try to keep it short but here’s an example. I was reading about child trafficking and an image popped up of a young girl trapped in a small filthy room waiting for the next customer. I remembered how it felt to be in a room waiting for my abuser and how I wanted to fly away. I decided to use the wings of a bird I had in my studio and make this an assemblage with a box for the small nasty room. That determined the size of the piece. How I feel about the men who abuse and exploit women is manifested in the shape of a carrion bird who feeds off these young women/girls. That’s when I decided to do an embroidery version of the crow (above) since the stitches are soft like the feathers and a human eye to show that the bird is disguised and is really human carrion. Slowly how this piece will represent my initial thought has evolved and I processed how I felt about it.

Shiny Pretty Things

3. You mention a sense of freedom you have “to work between genres, disciplines, mediums, between fine art and craft, high art and low art.” This freedom comes no doubt from your ability to work in various mediums. But was there any pressure to choose a definitive genre or discipline? Does refusing to be categorized force your work in front of a smaller audience than you may wish?

There is a quiet pressure, and sometimes outright pressure by other artists/art school teachers/galleries who don’t feel you are dedicated to one medium and therefore don’t take you seriously. I had so many people asking me if I had quit painting or presumed I would because I started doing embroidery again which I found strange. I respect and understand galleries wanting a specific style etc, they are trying to earn a living and cater to a specific genre/
market/customer base. I am very lucky to be in a gallery (IN A FRAME) in Yellow Springs that uses my diversity as a selling point. It does limit the audience of my work, but since the compelling reason to create is influenced by internal needs rather than external concerns I don’t really worry about it.

4. I became more acquainted with your work by way of your graffiti knit projects I found around Yellow Springs. When did Jafagirls begin?

In 2005 with a friend who has since moved out of state. Now it primarily Nancy Mellon and myself along with what we call jafa cohorts or conspirators lol. It means just another F*&c*&^ing artist, and for me a humbling reminder that I am one amongst many just trying to do my own thing my way.

5. Unlike most graffiti and most cities, this work is accepted and even celebrated by the residents of Yellow Springs. Has this always been the case? Can anyone “scarve” a tree, pole, or bench in Yellow Springs?

Yes, from the get go we had so much support, but we live in a village that embraces creativity, which is not to say some people didn’t express concerns. We did our research and were able to address those concerns I believe. As for whether others can yarnbomb around town, that is not for me to say ;)

6. It is not only the various mediums and subjects in which you make art that reveal your expressiveness, you are an incredible advocate for the arts and the community of Yellow Springs. Through your blog you link to so many wonderful finds you encounter throughout the day. It is as if you are the community art curator of Yellow Springs, OH. Do you curate exhibitions for local artists?

Nancy and I have curated a few exhibits as members of the Yellow Springs Arts Council over the years. Nancy and I created a gallery in the local restroom for 4 years called the “chamberpot gallery”, and less formally we facilitated an exhibit in a local café, and the flower power street art project in June 2010. At the moment we are preparing a group installation of public art called the pub alley project.

Teef: Homage to Basquiat

7. With such a strong connection to the local art community, how do you make yourself part of national or even international conversations? I mean how do you as an artist connect with the national or international conversations on art. I'm referring to a possibility or tendency for one to remain cloistered in a small self-defined community while the art world rolls by. Perhaps you don't have this problem....I certainly don't see it in your work. I suppose this is why I ask.

I am insanely curious person and love history and the arts/crafts . I think my years of exploring castles, antique markets and museums around the uk as a child and young adult and living and travelling in a variety of states in the usa I’ve been exposed to a very broad range of arts and crafts. I would say this has allowed for a more global view of the arts and given me an better understanding of the context. For example when I think of embroidery I think about in terms of the of the role it has played for centuries, socially, culturally and economically. What British child isn’t taught about 1066, and one of the most important historical documents about 1066 is the Bayeux Tapestry (which is actually embroidery and believed to have been commissioned in 1070). People who have never been exposed to this type of history or seen ancient textile arts may have more difficult time seeing embroidery as anything other than the stereotyped view, which might explain why I don’t’ see doing embroidery as a feminist reaction.

Corrine Bayraktaroglu has been doing her blog, Jafabrit’s Art, for about 5 years as well as the Jafagirls blog. She's been been doing the Yellow Springs Arts blog, which is also a support blog for the arts council, for about 4 years. She and Nancy have just recently started a blogtalk radio show called Bits and Bob’s with the Jafagirls.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Creating The New Century

There have been a number of turn of the century exhibitions. Most I've seen seem to be noted for the varied ways video other multi-media approaches have found a way into the art museum. For example, Younger Than Jesus at the New Museum a few years ago was made up of works, of which nearly all, implemented some kind of video installation. I could count on one hand the number of paintings in this show of artists 33 years old or younger. I enjoyed the show (or perhaps I enjoyed hanging out with my sister in NYC), but I missed the paintings.

This week I was invited to see Creating The New Century at the Dayton Art Institute. This exhibition features works created since the year 2000 and includes 70 paintings, drawings and sculptures (no video art!) by artists who vary in age and career length. Grouping artists like Francesco Clemente, Philip Pearlstein, Sean Scully, with Mark Bradford, Jun Kaneko. and Marilyn Minter was what excitedly drew me to make my first visit (yes, first) to the DAI.

Admittedly, I was initially suspicious of this show as yet another exhibition of a private collection. James F. Dickie is the Chairman and CEO of his family business, Crown Equipment. As he notes in an essay on collecting in the exhibition catalog, Dickie has been collecting art since he was 10. Of course this claim as well as the rest of the essay doesn't necessarily convince me of the value of the collection or his collecting. That Dickie served as chairman of the board of trustees at The Dayton Art Institute and The Smithsonian American Art Museum was not the clincher either.

In 1997, the DAI opened a new expansion by hosting American art from the Dickie collection. So this is the second time in less than 15 years the DAI has featured works from this collector. I did not see the earlier show, but Creating The New Century is not so much a collector's collection as it is a painter's collection.

James F. Dickie II is a painter and the exhibition wonderfully explores painting (and sculpture) in this 21st century. I was excited by artists like John Alexander (he spoke with us during this media preview), who is inspired by great art in history. His Ship of Fools is a response to the contemporary through the influence of artists like Bosch, Homer, and Gericault. New painting processes like those employed by Linda Besemer are for a non-artist like myself reason enough to see this show. Her Fold #71 is a pure painting in that it is made exclusively of a sheet of paint.

I was immediately drawn to this collection. While in the gallery, I spoke with a fellow writer, a painter who teaches painting. He too was excited about the show and we talked about the possibility of creating a painting class based on Creating The New Century. I know I could create a pretty interesting art history seminar. Of course it would be a history of contemporary art without video art.

But I think I would be okay with that.


The accompanying catalog includes and excellent essay written by New York Art Critic Ellie Bronson on each of the artists featured in the exhibition.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Have You Seen The Freedom Center Berlin Wall Monument?

Last summer is such a blur. With the ending of the school year, our kids happily retook command of our home and attention. This is my only excuse for not being aware of this permanent installation of a section of the Berlin Wall on the southwest lawn of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The fact the sites surrounding the NURFC seem to be under perpetual construction may have also contributed to my not noticing it.

This section of the Berlin Wall, a gift of the City of Berlin, honors those, past and present, who have died seeking freedom without walls. The wall was installed on June 23, 2010 and dedicated on July 3, 2010 at the Freedom Without Walls Dedication Celebration.

The dedication plaque reads:

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center stands as a beacon in the world, inspiring courage, cooperation, and perseverance in all global citizens. The City of Cincinnati and the Munich Sister Cities Association in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the relationship between Munich and Cincinnati, worked with the Freedom Center to commemorate the past while committing to a future where freedom is a basic right. Through the 2010 installation of Cincinnati's segment of the Berlin Wall, we bear witness to this symbol of the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

Berlin Wall Partnership:
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Munich Sister City Association
City of Cincinnati
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory
Cincinnati USA Sister City Association
Berlin Regierender Bürgermeister Klaus Wowereit
Munich Oberbürgermeister Christian Ude
Honorary Consul of Germany Richard E. Schade

Cincinnati needs more public sculpture and opportunities like this to make note of monuments to our history. Next time you are downtown be sure to stop and notice this historical marker of freedom.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's Official: CAS and CVB Are Partners

Cincinnati Art Snob is now member of the Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau. The CVB is looking at a pretty exciting schedule, including the National LULAC Convention, Tall Stacks. and the World Choir Games.

This partnership will allow me a better opportunity to showcase the work of our local artists to those visiting Cincinnati from around the country and the world.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Essex Studios Art Walk dates for 2011

Here are the 2011 dates for Essex Studios Art Walk:

March 4th & 5th
May 6th & 7th
October 7th & 8th
December 2nd & 3rd

All Art Walks take place from 6pm-11pm. They are all free to the public and there are plenty of free parking lots available.

Make a note of this....I put them on my calendar over there on the right.

Cincinnati's Artistic Legacy Continues.

Housetrends Cincinnati is now featuring a story on the Herman and Bessie Wessel House. The story tells of Greater Cincinnati's most well-known 19th Century artists. The Wessels were students of realist, Frank Duveneck. As teachers, they continued to pass on Duveneck's ideals.

Housetrends focusses on the Wessel home as a scene for the art crowd during the 1920s. According to the story, the couple worked there as well as held large art-themed parties. For 20 years, after their deaths, the house was rented to art students.

While the story focuses on the house's past and it's possible future as a house museum and center for American Art, it also recounts a time in the city when artists (not p.r. handlers) maintained the artistic legacy of Greater Cincinnati. Herman and Bessie Wessel's preservation of artistic ideals, education, and conversation are keys to this end.

Best wishes to Carl Samson as he continues to preserve our artistic legacy.

Monday, February 21, 2011

CAC Dusts Off Street Art Swag

With the opening of Keith Haring: 1978-1982, the CAC will again be host to a party for local hipsters and others who support art parties. This show, like last year's Shepard Fairey show, will also give the CAC an opportunity to organize another summer public mural project.

The CAC claims major exhibitions and programs like these serve their mission to make contemporary art more accessible to a larger audience. It is true artists like Keith Haring worked to reach a larger audience by painting in public spaces. But this goal to engage larger audiences is not particular to street artists. All artists work to be part of a larger discussion.

And it is a discussion, not a spectacle for entertaining the masses.

Last summer's whitewashing of a couple of Shepard Fairey's murals I argued was the result of the CAC's refusal to lead any discussion on important issues surrounding Fairey's work. Large murals of child soldiers painted just outside a school was an opportunity for an important the CAC refused to lead.

Like last year, there is yet no indication the CAC has the courage to discuss those issues that find a place in Haring's work. Some of the fundamental topics found in many of his whimsical paintings and drawings include power and threat, death and deliverance, religion, sexuality, heaven and hell. The show is opening this week, though the CAC includes no indication these topics will be discussed.

Failing to engage these tough topics, opting instead for parties, Raphaela Platow's commitment to expanding audiences and making art accessible is a false one.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Rep. John Boehner Responds to Miami University Professor

Dr. Sara L. Butler, Professor of Art History at Miami University, emailed John Boehner encouraging his support for the NEA. Here is a portion of his reponse:

"The Founding Fathers established a federal government for the primary purpose of securing a common defense. Is continued spending on art programs an appropriate use of federal taxpayer dollars?"

Dr. Butler invites us to express our opinion. Here is his contact information.

Representative John Boehner.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


A fascination with Cleopatra can be traced throughout a history of painting as well as our own American cultural history. Picking up from where the ancient Romans left off, American cinema and television has recorded versions of the story of the seductress who lured both Julius Cesar and Mark Antony in an attempt to control Rome and Egypt. Ironically, myths like these are attracting large audiences to more recent research (Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra: A Life is currently #5 in the NY Times Bestsellers) about Egypt's most famous queen. While intrigued by her portrayal, many really do want to know the truth about her life. This search for truth through underwater archaeology, and not theatrics, is what's most impressive about Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt opening this week at The Museum Center.

The exhibition features the artifacts, statues, jewelry, coins, and daily items uncovered by a team of underwater archaeologists led by Franck Goddio, as well as an excavation on land led by Dr. Zahi Hawass. Goddio began this search along the Mediterranean coast of Egypt in 1992. The exhibition includes underwater footage of his team retrieving artifacts not seen in centuries.

The find is incredibly breathtaking. Recognizing these objects in the context of Cleopatra's rule is certainly interesting. The uncovering of two ancient cities, Canopus and Heracleion, which had been lost beneath the sea nearly 2,000 years ago reveals more to us about the life of ancient Egypt. And it is this last point about Egyptian culture, more than Cleopatra, this viewer found most valuable.

It is the seeing of these objects not so much as part Cleopatra's story, but in the context of what is happening in Egypt today that is most interesting. The excitement of unveiling and seeing these objects from history matched that which I shared with Egyptians today. At the same time, a realization that the Egyptian Museum is now facing the loss of artifacts, made the opportunity to see these objects, much more powerful to me.

Walking through the dark galleries at the Museum Center, I felt as though I was the one on the search for Egyptian artifacts. Perhaps this was the intent of the designers. The dark galleries are the setting for this exhibition permitting lighting effects as well as easy viewing of what seemed to be a total of about 10 flat screens mounted throughout the exhibition. In the dark, the artifacts themselves glow, making them easy to spot, but not always so easy to see. Detailed engravings, and stylistic elements on many of the sculptures are sometimes difficult to make out in the shadows that dance throughout the exhibition.

Despite the dark galleries the greatest impact of the show is undoubtedly the pair of colossal 16-foot granite statues of a Ptolemaic king and queen from the 4th-3rd centuries B.C.E. The video of unloading these was shown weeks ago as a teaser, but like all art, you must see these pieces in person. Goddio told me these stood at the entrance of a temple Cleopatra and each ruler before her would have entered to pay tribute to the gods.

Goddio was in the gallery answering many of the media questions about each of the artifacts. He was so incredibly animated. Certainly proud of his work, but seemed more excited about each of the artifacts as he tried to impress upon us the importance of each piece to Egyptian culture and history. When I asked him what it was like to see the colossal sculptures in particular in the museum, I hoped to pull from him at least some of the awe I felt seeing them for the first time. Pointing to the space behind the heel of the foot of the king, Goddio said this was the first thing he spotted. Because of the granite under water, he couldn't tell what it was until he found the king's toes. With eyes so big, he shared the moment he uncovered and realized the scale of these pieces.

It is this moment, facing Egyptian history that is the pinnacle of this exhibition. We do this the same way Goddio does it, by engaging the artifacts.

I understand the attraction to blockbuster exhibitions. I really do get the need to attract not only typical museum patrons but the hope to tap into a wider audience. Technology, music, lighting, and special effects work to attract newer and bigger audiences to museums. National Geographic and Arts and Exhibitions International certainly know how to use these tool to this end and the Museum Center has benefited well with past exhibitions like Real Pirates, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit, and America I Am.

Like these exhibitions, Cleopatra has a built in intrigue. The flat screens may draw people into the exhibition, but in another level of irony, the theatrics keep us further away from the stories the artifacts try to tell...further away from Cleopatra. These tools to engage instead keep Cleopatra on "the big screen." In fact, the exhibit ends with examples of paintings depicting Cleopatra throughout history and finally, a series of film clips of Elizabeth Taylor, Vivian Leigh, Claudette Colbert, and more recently Lindsey Marshal.

Though as a whole, Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt does provide a wonderful opportunity to learn more about her, Egypt, and the continuing excavations. The Museum Center is hosting a number of programs for children and adults, including a discussion with Franck Goddio about his work. This talk is tomorrow, Friday, February 18 at 7:30 pm and is free and open to the public.

The exhibition continues through September 5, 2011. While there seems to be plenty of time to see it, the tickets are timed and dated. You will want to order your tickets in advance.

For information on the exhibition and the accompanying programing, please contact The Museum Center.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Essex Studios Opens Logo Contest Rather Than Pay for Art

Logo contests have become a rather popular tool of marketing on the cheap. These contests promise artists recognition (for winning a contest?), an audience, but almost never money. I've seen a number of non-profit organizations and for-profit companies use this tool as a way to save money. In the end, companies and organizations own a logo for which they didn't have to pay. The benefit to the artists is nothing more than being able to say, "See that? I designed it....for free."

As unfortunate as it seems, I've come to expect such strategies to avoid paying artists for their work here in Cincinnati. But even in this pool of cynicism, I was disappointed to learn Essex Studios has just opened a call for submissions to a logo contest.

Essex rents studio space to artists and has events like Art Walks, in which artists can participate for a fee. With access to artists and artist's money, I would think Essex Studios would consider switching things up a bit and pay an artist for designing a logo.

Since when does supporting the arts mean artists supporting us?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

UC Can Support the Arts By Making a Pledge to CCM

As ArtsWave celebrates this first Sampler weekend and marks the first million raised, the Enquirer reports the College Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati is facing debt that may prove debilitating to their status as an elite institution.

While this weekend may be the official launch of the ArtsWave capital campaign, the fundraising push began at least a week ago with an email blast to UC staff, faculty, and administrators. Dean Robert Probst from DAAP and Dr. Thomas Boat of UC Physicians are both UC Campaign Co-Chairs urging the entire University of Cincinnati community to donate to ArtsWave with a list of incentives.

In their work to support ArtsWave they argue,

"A thriving arts sector makes for a better place to live, work and raise a family. That’s why the University of Cincinnati proudly participates in ArtsWave’s Annual Community Campaign (formerly known as the Fine Arts Fund). Music, dance, theatre, museums, festivals, and more – create lively neighborhoods and revitalized communities, attracting residents and businesses. They also bring people from across the area together to share meaningful experiences."

With its students and faculty, programming, and the Preparatory Department, CCM can make the same argument but with a further, more international reach than ArtsWave.

Perhaps the University of Cincinnati should refocus its fundraising efforts to benefit CCM. As part of the university community, faculty, staff, students and administrators already have a vested interest in the Conservatory. What's more, UC, CCM and the Preparatory Department students are already lending themselves to ArtsWave during their capital campaign.

UC support of the the arts should be a pledge to their own CCM.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wexner Center Wins Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant

The Wexner Center for the Arts and Ohio State University will use the largest programming grant in the center's history to launch a four-year initiative on the South American country's arts and culture.

A $782,300 grant from the New York-based Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will help support exhibits, lectures, conferences, a film series, performing-arts events and educational projects about the emerging nation.

Starting with the 2011-12 season, OSU and the Wexner Center will forge relationships with key Brazilian artists, academics, critics, teachers and cultural organizations through trips, residencies and commissions.

See the Columbus Dispatch for more on the grant.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

ArtsWave Should Be Having this Discussion

As they launch their capital campaign, ArtsWave is continuing to hone its mission and defining its future funding guidelines. They should be considering artists grants. As they've told me recently, they are not in the business of competitive grants for individual artists. But during a brown bag lunch, Ms. Mary McCullough-Hudson suggested that such grants may be something for ArtsWave to look at in the future.

Art in America has a good story on funding of individual artists. The article presents the challenges of setting up guidelines for such grants as well as some solutions.

As the article notes, when the NEA killed artists' grants in 1994, it pulled significant financial support and recognition of our artists. But the story neglects to point out though is that yanking was a powerful gesture to the art world that funding artists is simply not a worthy effort.

ArtsWave should reconsider its cue from the NEA and work to establish artist grants with the community support they hope to gain in the coming weeks during the Sampler.

Ohio Liberal Arts College Deaccessions to the Tune of $1.4 Million

A Roy Lichtenstein and works by Whistler were donated to Baldwin-Wallace College decades ago, but few saw them until they hit the auction block last March.

With a small storage space on the Berea, Ohio college campus, the artwork was at risk.

"We were one sewer backup from having the collection destroyed," said spokesman George Richard. "It would be irresponsible for us to do not do something." "They were quality pieces, but we had trouble preserving and maintaining them," said Richard. "We had obligations to protect it."

Protecting it by way of selling it to the highest bidder.

These donated pieces to Baldwin-Wallace were like cash under a mattress. Of the $1.4 million, $100,000 was placed as an endowment for the college art department and the rest will fund capital improvements.

College President Richard Durst said selling the collection was the right thing to do.

"It is a shame when you have works of art that nobody ever sees," Durst said. "Art is supposed to be used by people who appreciate it. There was never that opportunity here."

Though it seems as though Baldwin-Wallace appreciated the opportunity to use the art.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Want to Create a "Ripple?" Cut Out the Middle Man.

ArtsWave is launching their capital campaign by allowing Macy's to sponsor six weekend days of art activities and events throughout Cincinnati and surrounding communities. Promoting parties, plays, talks, concerts, and even an online game (?!), ArtsWave hopes to raise at least $11 million.

ArtsWave introduced a new name and a new and larger mission that includes supporting arts and cultural institutions based on impact. However, they are not sure yet how this $11 million will be dispersed. This year they plan to determine the new funding criteria before NEXT year.

So where will your money go?

If you want it to go to the arts, simply become a member of an arts organization of your choice or purchase art from local artists. Use the Arts Sampler to help determine which neighborhood arts organization you wish to support and fill out a membership form before you leave.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hotel Art Goes Pop

I left Where We Are Now at the Cincinnati Art Museum wondering if all contemporary art is pop art. The works come here from the 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville ahead of the opening of the boutique hotel in Cincinnati. Accessibility to contemporary art is perhaps first and foremost to a hotel collection, and what's more accessible than popular culture?

With Batman, Superman, a hip hop artist, American flags, music from the 80's this collection is certainly accessible to just about anyone who would stay at 21C. In a museum though, I grew tired and for a moment wished I was in a hotel so I could nap. Perhaps that's the catch; "Where Are We Now" may not be a rhetorical but a trick question. As a 21C collection, the answer is a hotel. At an art museum it is an endorsement of hotel chain.

And that's where we are.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Contemporary Art CANNOT Mean Anything You Want It To.

Admittedly, there is much in mainstream media media regarding the arts that frustrates me, but the notion that Contemporary Art is open to mean anything the viewer wishes simply pisses me off. I read this claim again recently in a story introducing an upcoming collaboration between the Cincinnati Art Museum and the 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville, KY.

Prefacing stories about Contemporary Art with this claim permits reporters with no art knowledge to feel their way into the story, and gives them license to say whatever the hell they want about art. Oftentimes, this means omitting any meaningful or even basic information about Contemporary Art from the story. Deborah Dixon continues her story by singling out "cool" pieces of art in the show without offering a single attribution to an artist. One is a French artist, another is a "young artist who invited black men into his Harlem studio..." And the third? We don't know, but according to Dixon, the work looks like a Rice Krispie treat.

I'm sure the museum provided all of the artists' names to Channel 12, but if Contemporary Art can mean anything, the names of the artists mean nothing to Ms. Dixon.

The truth is, Contemporary Art deals with a number of very important themes and forces us to respond to not always so easy questions. It is becoming more common here in Cincinnati for Contemporary Art to be presented as a mere party favor for the masses.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Home Is Where the Art Is

Last week I had the opportunity to interview local advocate and writer, Gregory Flannery after visiting Isolation and Togetherness at The Carnegie. While I continue to engage the subject of homelessness and the arts, I wanted to also highlight the work by a few other artists showing as part of this show. Like the photographs in the main gallery, these artists explore images and notions of home through painting and sculpture.

Marcia Alscher is easily one of my favorite local artists. After 25 years as an architect, she began painting. Her small paintings of houses are expressions of color and geometric form. But while they are minimalist in style and exhibited together they may seem to be exercises in abstraction, each of these paintings are portraits. By eliminating the decorative elements of a building, Alscher reveals through color and line its core beauty. Normally we tend to look at architectural ornamentation that offer hints of history and culture. However, Alscher's precisionist approach exposes a culture of everyday life. This becomes much more apparent with this group of paintings that include not only 19th Century buildings in Covington, but also portraits of buildings in Italy. Architectural elements such as the dome of Florence, Italy set these buildings apart from those found near her studio. But the palette also changes. The colors recall for me the glow of the 17th Century Italianate landscapes. In these paintings, the color as much as the line help us to see the essence of home.

The work of Mallory Feltz also deals with notions of home and space. These works center around the familiarity of the two places the artist has lived, Cincinnati and Baton Rouge. Noting each city's tie to waterways, images and symbolism of bridges dominate the gallery. Her focus on familiar spaces though recognizes that home is not just the architectural building. Her assemblages are made of found pieces that reinforce the domestic space. Embroidery, yarn and fabric are elements highlighting the homemade. Feltz is also interested in our movement and interactions in these spaces. This is highlighted especially well in the repetition of bridges as symbol as well as actual spaces in both cities. Moving through the gallery space from images of Cincinnati and those of Baton Rouge seems to be an invitation by the artist to join her as she makes connections between the two cities, between objects and space, thus forcing a new familiarity on our connection to home.

These artists and others like Dominic Sansone, Sherman Cahal, Patrick Meier, and Alan Grizzell as well as the photography exhibit make Isolation & Togetherness at The Carnegie a remarkably engaging show exploring our connection to home and each other.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Cincinnati Artist Spends Time with a President

Cincinnati's history of art patronage is grounded in recordings of relationships between politicians and artists. The venerable Taft Museum of Art stands as perhaps the grandest link between the arts and a president even if in family name only (Charles Phelps Taft, who lived in the mansion from 1873 until his death, was the half-brother of President William Howard Taft).

But before Taft there was a relationship cultivated between a Cincinnati artist and a President-elect. Until now, I don't believe I've ever heard of Thomas Dow Jones. In the NY Times you can read a wonderful story of the sculptor's work on a bust of Abraham Lincoln. It is an interesting bit of history that captures a relationship between an artist and his subject and the importance of portraiture. Interesting too is the dance between the mediums of sculpture and photography.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art Sends 32 Paintings to the Auction Block

In three sessions over two days starting Jan. 27, the Cleveland Museum of Art will offer more than two dozen European old master paintings in the largest sell-off from its collection in more than a half-century. The 30 lots from Cleveland, with 32 works overall, will be part of an auction of "Important Old Master Paintings" at Sotheby's in New York.

"These are pictures that probably don't have a place in the Cleveland Museum of Art context, but could have a happy life elsewhere," C. Griffith Mann, the museum's chief curator, said of the works to be sold.

Some of the hottest recent controversies in the art world have involved cash-strapped institutions selling artworks to pay operating or other expenses. But the Cleveland sale is unlikely to cause a ruckus. Most of the individual works to be sold are by minor masters; few have been exhibited in recent years.

Sotheby's estimates the total value of the Cleveland works to range from $706,000 to $1,022,000. The auction could attract bargain hunters; out of the 30 lots, 21 are priced with low-end estimates of $10,000 or less.

For more about the this sale and the CMA collection, see The Plain Dealer.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Who Sees (Portraits of) Homelessness?

There is no doubt that art allows us to address societal issues by providing a perspective that is often overlooked or simply ignored. Isolation & Togetherness at the Carnegie Arts Center is one such exhibition. The show includes a number of beautifully shot photographs, portraits of homeless individuals throughout Greater Cincinnati. The programming accompanying this exhibition include artwork by local artists dealing with definitions of home, awareness and advocacy for the homeless, and collecting non-perishables for Be Concerned. While events like this one are admirable ones, I wonder if such portrait exhibitions really work to draw the attention the artists hope.

In order to address my questions of social value of such exhibitions rather than aesthetics, I’ve asked Gregory Flannery to participate in a discussion with me. Here, I am less an art critic than a cultural or social theorist interested in learning more about how we look or don’t look at our communities and define our notions of home and homelessness.

Gregory Flannery has worked in local journalism in Greater Cincinnati for 30 years. He is the former news editor at CityBeat and the former editor of Streetvibes, published by the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. His work exposed illegal wiretapping by the Cincinnati Police Department and led to the successful prosecution of three Catholic priests for sexually abusing children. Among the awards he has received is "Best Feature Story," from the International Network of Street Papers in 2009.

1. Greg, first I want to thank you for engaging in this conversation with me. I wanted to start by saying the portraits are very nice. They add monumentality to each of the individuals and even a dignity that is not often associated with homelessness. Each photograph captures well the individuality of the subject, the person. As such, the photos avoid presenting homelessness as a simple or single definition. These photographs and those like them reveal a various images of homelessness. Would you agree this is the ultimate goal of such exhibitions?

Capturing the individuality of the subjects and avoiding presenting homelessness as a monolith are goals that I support. It’s also worth noting that the opening reception was a benefit for the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, and visitors were encouraged to donate food.
This matter of dignity is interesting to me in that homeless people live such undignified lives, exposed to public view, denied privacy, prosecuted for doing in public things that people do everyday indoors (drinking alcohol, evacuating bodily waste, sleeping). Is dignity inherent in humanity, or is it a cultural construct? Should one be embarrassed (i.e., feel undignified) for sleeping on a park bench? Should one feel proud for being able to endure? Do mental illness and addiction, which often attend homelessness, diminish dignity?

2. There are a number of local art events like this one that devote time to the subject of homelessness. Do you see the visual arts being particularly effective in drawing attention to homelessness? Are there events or projects you would like to see sponsored here? Are there programs in other cities you see working or healthier dialogs we could engage in here?

I am working on a project that involves documenting conditions in homeless camps in Cincinnati over the course of a year. The project is somewhat controversial among social workers who serve homeless people because they fear that our work will either ennoble homelessness, lead to hate crimes against people living outdoors or lead well-meaning persons to provide assistance (food, water, blankets) to people living outdoors, thereby enabling them to stay outside longer, instead of accepting help in obtaining treatment and housing.
I think the visual arts are effective in drawing attention to the issue of homelessness; but the larger issue is how accurately the photographs capture the essence of homelessness, which is, of course, a complex and multi-faceted phenomenon. The goal of imputing dignity, for example, runs the risk of prettying up a condition rife with hazard, disease, isolation and deprivation.

3. While visiting the show and recognizing the beauty of the each of the photographs, I was still concerned as to how this helps the viewer rethink homelessness? In other words, while the photographs are beautiful, how does this show or help us to be aware of see homelessness?

I don’t think the photographs by themselves can accomplish either of these things. Beauty has no place in the daily lives of most homeless people, whose daily routine is defined at best by the struggle for sustenance and at worst by the desire to escape through substance abuse.

4. One of my favorite film quotes comes from Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King. The scene takes place in New York’s Grand Central Station. The character played by Jeff Bridges is speaking with a homeless Vietnam Veteran when someone in the crowd tosses a quarter only to miss the homeless man’s cup. Jeff Bridges’ character says, “He didn’t even look at you.” The homeless veteran responds, “He pays so he doesn’t have to look.”
Do photo exhibitions like the one at The Carnegie really bridge this disconnect or simply accept this tendency to ignore the issue as an ill of humanity hoping to capture a single moment or attract at least one more advocate for the homeless?

We tend to fear that which we don’t know. I think there is value in capturing the individuality of homeless people but I’m skeptical that this does much to change other people’s behavior toward them. If some of the homeless people whose portraits are in the exhibit were present to tell their stories to visitors, that would more likely humanize them to the public at large and perhaps motivate people to interact with them in meaningful ways.

5. One would think the visual arts would be a perfect medium to draw attention to our homeless population. Though while the photographs are beautiful, I cannot help but to recognize the gallery as a safe place to address images of homelessness. In the gallery, visitors can view the photographs while enjoying a glass of wine, food, music, friends, and then maybe stop somewhere for dinner before heading home. I suppose my greatest concern is the possibility these exhibitions permit us NOT to see homelessness. Do these photographs shield our eyes? Do they permit us to look so we don’t have to see?

I think you nicely summarize the limitations of this kind of exhibit. The artist’s stated purpose is telling: “The purpose behind making these images was to illustrate the humanity of these individuals, as well as to provide an opportunity for the observer to gaze upon those who are often rendered invisible in plain sight.”
The problem, of course, is that homeless people aren’t invisible at all; the opportunity to “gaze upon” them is manifold, but we are unwilling. We avert our eyes precisely because what we see is not beautiful, not dignified. Homeless people are poorly dressed, have unpleasant odors, are gap-toothed, ask us for money and often display the disturbing effects of mental illness: These are not the kinds of characteristics that make “normal” people want to engage with them. Yes, putting their photos in a gallery makes it safe to look and perhaps to feel compassion from a distance. At best, that makes the viewer feel a certain self-satisfaction, but it does nothing to help the people who are the subjects of the exhibit. If the subjects were cancer or AIDS patients, would viewers be inclined to go out and do something to help? Unlikely. If the subjects were children orphaned by war, would viewers rally to cut the defense budget? I think instead what this exhibition does is make people feel a kind of detached sympathy that ultimately produces no practical change in their behavior.
Art for its own sake is a worthwhile pursuit but it isn’t usually a tool for changes in public policy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cincinnati Art Snob Featured Art Tours

Cincinnati Art Snob will now make available a selection of featured tours. Unlike the tour series, these tours are generally a single-venue events lasting 2 hours or less. Of course you are welcome to pair them up to create your own tour series package.

You can make reservations right now for either The Art of Love in February or Art for the Foodie in March and April.

See the Cincinnati Art Snob website for descriptions, times and dates for each of these tours.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Taft Show Again Draws Intense Emotion, Wonder

The last two times I was moved to near tears in a gallery, I was at the Taft. This is a good feeling that lasts well after the visit, well after the exhibition closes.

Since finally seeing Francisco Goya: Los Caprichos at the Taft Museums of Art, I've been haunted by the challenging subjects illustrated in the show. Critical of the ruling class as well as common societal practices that victimize women, children, and the working class resulted in a series of images that are either horrific (Todos caerán)or in some cases comical (Asta su abuelo). While walking through the gallery I found myself either turning away in knowing disgust, looking more closely (the gallery provides guests with magnifying glasses to better look at the detailed prints), or uncomfortably laughing at Goya's commentary.

I shouldn't be surprised by the mixture of emotion this series draws. I've seen many of these and taught about Goya and his struggles late in his career over the realization many of his earlier paintings celebrated the very class he grew to dislike. But Goya's questioning of humanity itself is most jarring. Ironically, even the most cynical person walking through the gallery recognizing similar societal ills as part of contemporary American culture would be moved to wonder and perhaps hope things are better now.

Even with the threat of the Inquisition, Goya faced truth, even if privately, and continued with his account of the atrocities of war with his Disasters of War series. This viewer's hope is that cynicism does not bar today's artists from an honesty that may even draw tears.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Art Tour Packages at Cincinnati Art Snob

With the new year I've included a list of art tour packages I will offer throughout the year. While I am still happy to custom design tours to your particular interest, these packages are ready and available to reserve for your group immediately. Tour descriptions are here.

Cincinnati Art Snob will also feature specially designed tours beginning next month. Watch for February art tour offerings soon.

Architectural Drawing Contest

The Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati has issued a call for entries in an architectural drawing exhibition. The juried competition is open to architects, architectural students, landscape architects, interior designers, and individuals associated with the architectural discipline in the Cincinnati region. Students must be currently enrolled.

Selected works will be shown in an exhibition at the AFC Race Street Gallery, which opens with a reception and awards ceremony February 23, 5 p.m. until 7 p.m.

AIA, Cincinnati Chapter, joins AFC in sponsoring the competition. Prizes include best in show, $500; best student work, $250; and best professional work, $250. Entry fees ($15, student, $40 professional) include admission to the reception.

Competition rules and entry materials are available here. Entries must be delivered to AFC headquarters, 811 Race Street, on February 9 or 10, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Reservations for the February 23 reception ($50 patron, $10 regular) may be made on the Web site, by email to or by telephone (513) 421-4469.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

If the CAC Doesn't Want to Listen to Me, Perhaps They'll Listen to ArtNews

Robin Cembalest's letter, Between a Cross and a Hard Place in the current edition of ArtNews recounts the controversy surrounding the removal of David Wojnarowicz from Hide/Seek and calls on art professionals to be more proactive in this debate:

"But arts professionals need to be proactive now if they want to forestall a new culture war. Anti-censorship statements on websites are fine—the AAMD released one condemning "unwarranted and uninformed censorship from politicians and other public figures"—but does the general public read such statements? So far, the opponents of "Hide/Seek" are getting most of the media attention. While bloggers and newspaper cultural critics have kept the story alive online, why aren't museum directors showing up on op-ed pages and talk-show stages? After all, Ellen DeGeneres herself is a protagonist in the controversy. If museum advocates want to change the public conversation, they have to become part of it." (my emphasis)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Art also Separates These Two Speakers

A comparison in the Enquirer between two speakers from Cincinnati, John Boehner and Nicholas Longworth is clearly meant to paint Boehner in the wonderful light of the common man. Unlike Longworth who was "as elite as they come," Boehner "toiled as a janitor among other things..." to work his way up.

Though as may be expected from the Enquirer today (which devoted 6 pages to Longworth's life when he died) the story neglects to mention the other difference between the two speakers. Nicholas Longworth is from a family of Cincinnati's greatest patrons of the arts. His grandfather's (also named Nicholas) support of the arts helped propel Robert Duncanson and Hiram Powers to international success. Frankly, strong patronage to the arts by the Longworth family is the foundation of the arts in Greater Cincinnati. John Boehner, on the other hand celebrates a series of actions meant to undercut the arts. Most recently was his call to pull the work of David Wojnarowicz from the National Portrait Gallery.

So while the Enquirer does what it does to celebrate its conservative golden boy, a man who works against the arts is not a man of the people.

Happy New Year: Women and Their Food

As I begin designing new tours to offer this year that include topics like female bodies, love, and food, I see this set of stock photos of Women Laughing Alone with Salad.

I guess salad is funny....or fun.

What's more, pictures of women with candy usually show women eating candy as we see here.

Good luck with your New Year's Resolutions.

I'm laughing my way off to the gym.