It has been an atrocious year for the arts. For artists, it has been the worst not just because of logistic inconveniences and failed opportunities, but also – or frankly, especially – because of the sudden loss of hope. Questions and questioning has been brutal. Some of us have asked ourselves if things will ever go back to normal. Others, if the institutions our art world was built on will survive. And the worst question: “what is the meaning and the significance of what I do? Does it matter at all?” So now that the light at the end of the tunnel is almost visible, here is something to use our remaining time on before the grand reopen and help find that meaning to start again. Here are 5 books that can be guides in finding one’s way across the rocks.
Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland came out years ago, but it is still one of the most recommended books for artists. It is not about professional development, how to put oneself out there or working with a gallery, but the most underestimated obstacle there is: the fears and anxieties within the loneliness of the studio. Continue reading
One of seven Vogue Italia cover options, a painting by Vanessa Beecroft, January 2020. Vanessa Beecroft uses painting as well as performance as her chosen medium to change our perception of the body in public spaces. This is her first artistico format into fashion, in her words.
When the news of the latest Vogue Italia issue came out, everybody shared it on social media or, at the minimum, read about it. It made that momentous splash due to the promise that no photography was employed in its making – and that was an added feature to make its production environmentally sustainable.
It is frankly the first time anyone has made the case of photography being an environmentally unfriendly medium. After all, it doesn’t employ harmful chemicals anymore, nor does it necessarily waste paper. If it does, that applies to art photography, not the commercial means of diffusion of information and persuasion. However, as director Emanuele Farneti explains in his editorial statement, a Vogue photoshoot implies hundreds of people traveling thousands of miles to make it happen. Painting, drawing and other tabletop artmaking only requires staying put. Continue reading
The textbook for the Art Appreciation class I taught last year offered a chapter on protest art, an umbrella term encompassing artwork related to contestation – from caricatures of the 18th and 19th century to Pussy Riot performances. I asked students: why do the first examples of protest art – according to the textbook, at least – came into existence only a couple of centuries ago? Was conflict not there before, or perhaps it didn’t employ art? While this depends on the definition we choose for conflict and for art, what is normally conserved and transmitted through time is institutionally sponsored art; if it expresses conflict, that will be with other institutions and it would definitely not be considered protest art today. This led to an interesting discussion on how conflict and art intersect and how protest can be even identified in past cultural phenomena.
When American troops disembarked in Sicily (1943), some soldiers stationed in Palermo had their portrait done by local painter Benedetto Zangara. They also brought their military-ration powdered milk and hard biscuits for his baby son. Then the war ended and the baby grew with the stories that he owed his life to those biscuits and those soldiers. He also grew up to be an artist and today is one of the pillars of the international MADI movement. Continue reading
Popular Photography from February 1954. Click on the image to view it large.
If you know my experience with old photography books, it is only logical to turn to magazines next and see how they fare at the distance of time. Do their topics seem outdated now? Their perspective silly? Do they provide a unique glimpse into what photography is, while giving us all a real-life demonstration of what endures? After all, magazines are meant to focus on the current and the fleeting, so this kind of fading of significance can only be expected. And it could help distill the significant out of the passing and lead us to a conclusion on the meaning of timeless art.
That’s how I started going through a stack of photo magazines dating from the 50s on. Continue reading
West Texan News, a section of Star-Telegram focused on North Tarrant County, published an article on September 22, 2010 featuring my work with Holga. Thank you 🙂