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The Overlooked National Museum of African Art

I think most visitors and locals in DC overlook the National Museum of African Art. I used to be one of them. With my husband, we accidentally one day passed from the Freer and Sackler Galleries of Art to the African Museum. These two museums are connected through the ground floor.

We weren’t expecting much, but decided to continue to walk. We suddenly arrive to a gallery that had black and white photographs. I had to make a stop to investigate the exhibition. The photography and video work was of Roger Ballen. Neither one of us knew about him. I was surprised that I hadn’t heard about his work before. Ballen mixes drawings and photography to create surreal work. The drawings are made of line and textures. These are sometimes shown as a single flat photograph. I think the drawings work best when they are used as backgrounds, almost as theatrical stages, for the objects and people on the foreground. The work feels very, very dark and mysterious. I almost read them as nightmares or the darkness in humans. At the same time, some of the photographs felt dark and strangely a bit calm.

Currently they have an exhibition with the Cosby’s private art collection. I know Cosby from the TV show and also the unfortunate allegations about him (be true or not). In any case, him and his wife have an excellent art collection, and I am very pleased we had an opportunity to take a peek at it. I again, left with new favorite artists to add to my list, such as Varnette Honeywood and Nontsikelelo Veleko.

I need to pay another visit to this museum because “The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists” exhibition up until the end of the summer looks like one that shouldn’t be missed. Check it out here.

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Chris Rock’s new movie was terrible.

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I went to see the movie Top Five on new year’s day, hoping for a real treat to start 2015 right! Based on the overwhelmingly glowing reviews on rotten tomatoes and the pretty awesome interviews that Rock’s been giving lately, I was pretty excited to watch what I thought was going to be a smart, a bit socially-conscious and sure, crass (it’s Rock after all) comedy movie. Well…what can I say except that so far 2015 is not looking that great from where I sit.

So many things were messed up about this movie. The total impression that I took away was that the movie was really more at the outline stage when they decided to make it—so many things just happened out of nowhere with barely any context or background information. Its as if they were trying to hit all their marks as fast as possible! There was really no evidence of any kind of art to the movie at all. It’s really like Chris Rock made this movie entirely by himself, with minimal input from anyone else that might’ve actually helped him to develop it into something watchable!

I felt really embarrassed for everyone in the movie, especially the black characters who I feel were given very stereotypical, and crudely drawn roles to play. Actually, just thinking about it, I have to say that I was pretty offended just as a human being about how shitty almost every person’s role was in this movie, whatever their race or gender. Everyone’s character was corny, lame, carelessly crafted. The whole story about Rosario Dawson’s white boyfriend who was painted as a disgusting and pathetic character because he enjoyed “butt stuff” and was fooling around with another guy (infidelity is not ok, however) was clearly homophobic and just so dumb and awful. Dawson’s character had some “quirky” twists and turns to her, but she was really just a hot-looking device for Rock to ramble on and on to who had very little to say herself. The character played by Rock, I guess an aging, rich comedian dude analogous to himself, was a mostly unsympathetic jerk and a lot of the movie was about how super hard it is for him to be a “successful” dude…I mean give me a fuckin’ break.

This movie was just not funny. This was a not-funny comedy movie and that in the end is its biggest crime.

Shitting and crying rainbows, dolphins, hearts and teddy bears.

Yesterday while I was procrastinating hard during the writing of a final paper due for my class, I took some time to read this truly remarkable article about Lisa Frank, the mysterious woman responsible for baroque levels of shiny, fuzzy, neon cuteness seen splashed across folders and trapper-keepers throughout my 90s childhood.

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This is Purrscilla, alter-ego of Lisa Frank.

As I pored through the article and its many salacious details and then took a deep dive into the comments, I entirely lost any will I had to finish my paper and so I write this post as a sort of guilty token and offering to the writing gods.

The article is truly epic in scale and takes you from Lisa Frank’s frilly but lonely-seeming childhood through her career as an enterprising businesswoman with a booming empire and all the way to the excruciating downfall ushered in by her bizarro tyrant asshole of a husband and his VP/mistress (though Lisa Frank is no business genius herself, nor is she a nice lady). It states plainly how horrifying and abusive management practices and personalities led to a nightmarish work environment that left hundreds of people emotionally scarred for having worked there.

Tales of horrible workplaces really fascinate me because naturally, I’ve worked at horrible places. Also since Lisa Frank is a design shop basically, I was especially taken in by this story being a design foot soldier myself. To work in NYC is to have a high likelihood of working at a place with rather bad working conditions and/or with freakshow, narcissist bosses. I was schadenfreudily very glad to see that a particularly dreadful place that I worked (my first real NYC design job!) had gotten some frank reviews on glassdoor.com from ex-employees describing the creative director as a micromanaging and highly toxic individual and complaining of over-long working hours. All allegations that I can completely corroborate as true! Running a business is kind of like running a weird kind of family. Most people in general aren’t fit to be great parents and would end up psychologically damaging their children because they don’t know how to meet their needs/are really selfish and rude/have unresolved issues and most people in general aren’t fit to run a business either.

It was truly a bummer to hear that such a beloved American company was such a pile of shit that caused so much misery to so many people. Even more of a bummer to see that Lisa Frank and her husband James Green seemed to have learned next to nothing from the entire ugly experience. At least there were the dolphins………….

The wisdom of John Taylor Gatto

I stumbled upon this video of the educator John Taylor Gatto yesterday as I was hanging around in the “dark playground” and avoiding writing 1 of 2 remaining papers for the class I’m taking this semester. I’d never heard of him, but he was apparently a pretty well known dissident educator/intellectual, at least in New York City in the 80s and 90s. I really resonated with a lot of what he was saying about the nature of school systems as we know them, about how the learning experiences of the children in school are so abstract and unrelated to the world of work and real life that of course they will fail to be interested in doing the rote memorization and silly busywork that the adults would have them do. I thought it was really awesome how he helped to connect the kids back to themselves — their inherent wonder, curiosity and intelligence — by encouraging them to pursue their own interests and to take themselves seriously as future brilliant members of the world. It made me feel very inspired and really quite bummed out about my own education. Though I went to a well regarded “magnet” high school, I still felt that so many kids, including myself, were going through the motions of “excelling” in school in order to competitively move on to the next pre-ordained step in life without really considering what is uniquely brilliant and special about themselves. I do think that its best for all young people to exercise more control over their learning path as early as possible so that they and the world can benefit from their gifts in a more joyful and direct way.

a picture gift

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This polaroid-style (actually fuji instax) photo of a man and woman was handed to me by a very tall man dancer at the pina bausch dance company performance on halloween night! Apologies for the crappy phone picture of the photo. I think  he chose me because I was sitting with my feet up on my chair and my knees in front of my face and perhaps that struck him as odd because well, who the hell sits like that at the theater ha ha. The photo evokes a couple of things for me–first it brings to mind photos of models at a “go-see”, where a designer is just shuffling through dozens of these polaroided women–just the way that they are staring directly into the camera and looking so poised. They could also be people at a fancy party, like something given at an embassy somewhere except for the lighting in the picture is so dim that it really couldn’t be and is instead on the creepy side. The image is otherworldly, like a photo that you found on the street and couldn’t even start to imagine how it came to be. An artifact of a ritual that makes sense only in a real specific reality.

A bit late to post the IKEA Halloween commercial. But “The Shining” is always a classic!

Watching “The Shining” after taking my first photography class made the movie so much richer for me. I loved the way the frame was used throughout the movie to make us visually feel each scene. It truly became one of my favorite movies. Many years later, I also remember telling a student who was struggling with composition to watch “The Shining”. I thought it was a perfect suggestion for a film student. However, his responds was – The Shining is not even a great movie. It broke my heart (a little), but I was super excited to see that the IKEA team decided on a Shining-like commercial, and I think it turned out almost as awesome as the movie. Happy Halloween! (late).

A Week of the Mona Lisa Mustache#

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#mustache

The poster of the Mona Lisa painting by Botero is hanged on the entrance of my apartment. It was a gift from a cousin, who had very kindly taken me to the Modern Museum of Art in Bogota, Colombia to look at a photography exhibition. It took me two years to mount the poster on board and three more years to finally make the instagram project.

My original idea was to quote Duchamp by drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa and hang it on my wall. All of these years, I kept contemplating about the type of mustache I wanted on this version of the Mona Lisa. For whatever reason, I didn’t want to draw the same mustache Duchamp drew. I remember thinking that Ohr’s crazy over the top mustache was perfect, after we looked at his work in a history of modern design class.

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#cantinflas

The mustache has been a trend for years now. I can’t remember when it came into mainstream. When did we suddenly start putting a mustache on everything? When did it also become funny for people to sport a fake mustache at parties? A quick google search tells me that men started to wear a mustache in the Victorian time as distasteful and it a trend that comes and goes. The mustache now is used more as a funny symbol we put on everything. Who doesn’t like a coffee mug with a mustache on it? There are, of course, guys who grow all sources of mustaches and there are clubs and there are events. I’m not sure if this is a new phenomena or if the mustache came back with vengeance in the 21st century.

My intentions are really different than Duchamp’s commentary on art back in 1919. But in a way, I have to thank Duchamp and many artists before me that believe art is not static, but always evolving with time. My project doesn’t have this direct goal or trying to change anything. My project is an escape from my every day job. I wanted to do a piece with humor. Ever since the day I saw Boteros’ Mona Lisa, I thought that all it was missing was a mustache to complete the piece (I’m sure Botero does not agree with me). Finally I had the idea to use instagram to play with different mustaches and just see how people reacted.

The actual poster continues to be free of a mustache. Maybe it will take me a couple of years until I can decide on one looks. I’ll keep everyone posted.

Knowledge Common DC – Bike Tour of Typography

I recently took a free class with KCDC. It was the “Making Places: A Bike Tour of Typography and Vintage Signs in D.C.” taught by David Ramos. I enjoyed going to places in D.C. that I have never seen before, while looking at often overlooked signage.

I even heard another classmate say something a long this lines “DC is small. I actually thought I’ve seen most of it”. This is not an official quote because I’m not good with remembering word by word. But I couldn’t agree with his overall statement.

Also, the ladies at Typecase Industries were awesome and very inspirational. They made me have flashbacks of being in the printmaking studio back at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I hope Dave teaches the class again!

 

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I finally went to a…NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium

I’m on the email list for the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium, a weekly series of slide-show lectures given by rather big-deal artists in the comics community. Its organized by Ben Katchor, a great comics artist himself who I remember   from his imaginative and sketchily-styled back page comic in Metropolitan magazine, which I subscribed to for awhile around 2006.

The evening of Sept 23rd featured the artists Michael DeForge and Patrick Kyle, both from canada and Simon Hanselmann from australia in that order! I was particularly interested in Simon because I read a random interview with him the week before and he seemed very hilarious and what I saw of his art in that article (and my subsequent googling) made me laugh and got to me ~ a wacky world that made me feel strange feelings. Innocent and sometimes creepy, gross characters living out weird/boring episodes, like a warped sitcom where people do drugs a lot and are filthy but also with gags and zingers! the art is all painted, which is kind of rare for a comic – no real thick black lines – which makes the colors take on a bigger role. The colors are all so odd and good, a dungeony fun palette.

Simon himself is really a funny dude in person as well as it turns out and is kind of a showman. His talk was definitely the most entertaining out of the three and featured several different types of info/images besides just slides of his work including a tour of his hometown showing what a shithole tasmania is, images of jocks fist fighting as an example of “local culture”, a photo of his mom and him when he was little where he explained that his mom was in rehab for meth and he hoped she was doing alright while he was off touring the world (he seemed very bummed out about that understandably).  He also broke down why Megg, Mogg & Owl are so popular, pointing out that its “entirely unoriginal” and therefore appealing with elements like big bird legs (owl), penis noses (megg), berenstein bear faces (werewolf jones is a blurry berenstein bear) and “classical design” like silhouettes – all very hilarious. Also some photos of him dressed up like a lady in different outfits and his Wedding to Comics, where he, dressed like a girl, shared a kiss that  was at least 30 seconds long (according to the agreement with the other dude, a cartoonist) and I guess married comics at that point. These dudes were all so cool. I really loved seeing them and their work. Life sucks a lot of the time but thank god for cute dudes (and girls) and art.

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here are the dudes