Feminist Stories From Women’s Liberation: 1963-1970

Feminist Stories From Women’s Liberation: 1963-1970

Lee’s film yields a “complex and multilayered” account which she hopes will instruct her daughter, and future generations of girls, about the struggle that preceded them.

March 26, 2014 | 1 comment | Read More »

“Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life”

“Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life”

Adriana Zavala, guest curator, qualified Kahlo’s home as an “extension of her personal cosmology,” saying, “There are still things to learn about Kahlo.”

May 26, 2015 | No comment | Read More »

Air Pollution is Making Me Anxious

Air Pollution is Making Me Anxious

A new study proposes that air pollution may impact mental health.

April 23, 2015 | No comment | Read More »

American Petroleum Institute Ads Target Smog Rules

American Petroleum Institute Ads Target Smog Rules

The American Petroleum Institute is disseminating a series of ads that have an Orwellian quality about them.

June 11, 2015 | No comment | Read More »

Spotlight

American Petroleum Institute Ads Target Smog Rules

epa03556207 A undated image showing plaintiff Nigerian farmer Eric Dooh showing his hand covered with oil from a creek near Goi, Ogoniland, Nigeria. According to a report of UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), leaks in Shell pipelines in Nigeria occur regularly, causing harm to communities in the Niger Delta region. A group of Nigerian plaintiffs claim Shell is liable for the damage the leaks caused, while Shell claims most leaks are the result of sabotage. Reports also state fishponds and farmland have been destroyed, while most locals have no other option but to drink from polluted water. Eric Dooh from Goi (Ogoniland), Alali Efanga from Oruma (Bayelsa) and Friday Alfred Akpan from Ikot Ada Udo (Akwa Ibom), individual farmers from three different communities in the Niger Delta, have taken Shell into the Dutch civil court of The Hague in a landmark pollution case, asking for compensation for damages to their land. The verdict in the case is due 30 January 2013. EPA/MARTEN VAN DIJL +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++In a move that seems ripe for a John Oliver comedy segment, the American Petroleum Institute (API) has taken to radio, print, television, and social media to blanket Americans with the concept that our air is just fine the way it is — more specifically, that ozone pollution doesn’t require any further regulation.

They are disseminating a series of ads (one can only imagine what it cost to underwrite) that have an Orwellian quality about them. I could actually visualize the various focus groups they called in to come up with their strategy, determining how best to push hot buttons through key words and phraseology.

There’s a lot of psychology at work, and a lot of conflation. The American Petroleum Institute is suggesting that the bigger our economy, the cleaner our air will be (Guess they haven’t visited China or India.) They present the premise that along with population and economic growth, as well as the amount of energy consumed, the quality of air has improved in tandem.

Using statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency to illustrate the drop of ozone levels since 2000, the reasoning put forth is that the standards currently in place are doing the job and should be left alone.

To counter any doubts, they play the “economy card,” maintaining that the country “can’t afford unnecessary rules,” that the regulations would be the most expensive to date, and that it would be a risk to jobs growth. The top talking point that they are hoping will pack a punch is that the proposed Obama administration directives “could” cost families $2,040 annually. The print ad uses the patriotic colors or red, white, and blue to get their message across.

The website, Ozone Facts, is referenced for further information. The “About” page leads back to the American Petroleum Institute. “Energy Tomorrow” is a project of the API. It’s all about the oil and natural gas industry.

One of the quotes begins, “Reviews of air quality standards should be based on scientific analysis and conclusions, but too often EPA embraces an obvious politicization of the air quality standard-setting process…” This is situated almost directly across from a box on the left hand side of the page titled, “What they are saying.” This leads to quotes from Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI).

For those unfamiliar with the records of both men, additional perspective is needed. Inhofe is an avowed climate denier who now chairs the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee (EPW). Upton is on record as having called the EPA’s Clean Power Plan “a train wreck.” According to the League of Conservation Voters, Inhofe has a 5 percent lifetime score on environmental issues; Upton has 29 percent. For the year 2014, they score 0 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

A chart on “Ozone Facts” that shows “Air Quality Progress” in the country since 1980, with ozone second on the list of “common pollutants.” The major problem is that there is no context.

Nowhere is there any mention of the health risks that are at the core of the EPA’s initiatives. Does the average citizen know that smog is basically ground-level ozone that has mixed with particle pollution and other gases? A photograph of a city enveloped in smog is visceral. It’s easy to draw the lines between a soupy haze and the fact that human respiratory systems can be impacted in a major way. Difficulty breathing, coughing, and throat irritation are all caused by ground-level ozone — which also affects the most vulnerable populations of children, the elderly, and those with asthma.

A graph on the EPA ozone website page shows a triangle divided into five sections, depicting the “pyramid of effects caused by ozone.” At the top, in red, is an area labeled “death.” It sits atop the layer devoted to “emergency room visits and hospital admissions.”

The thirty-two second TV spot put out by IAP shows a clear blue sky and features a voice-over by a woman earnestly intoning, “But bureaucrats want to change the current rules safeguarding public health, risking jobs and threatening the economy.”

Cue the Sen. Barbara Boxer quote, “If you can’t breathe, you can’t work.” She has always stressed, “Clean air is essential for a strong economy.”

Chirping birds, a love of crisp air, a blow to the lifestyle of families (who look like they came out of Leave It To Beaver), and job loss. The television ad closes with the tag line, “Don’t’ mess with success. Don’t change the strict ozone standards.”

Don Draper would be proud. He also would also have figured out a way to eliminate the all caps tag line, “PAID FOR BY THE AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE.”

Image: RVR Associates

This article originally appeared on the site Moms Clean Airforce

Tell Your Senators: Support America’s Clean Power Plan

 

 

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Jun 11, 2015 | No comment | Read More »

“Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life”

Frida in Front of the Cactus Fence, San Ángel, 1938 Nickolas Muray  © Nickolas Muray Photo Archive

Frida in Front of the Cactus Fence, San Ángel, 1938
Nickolas Muray
© Nickolas Muray Photo Archive

One might think that as the subject of innumerable books, a Hollywood movie, and status as a feminist and artistic icon, there wouldn’t be anything more to add to the conversation on Frida Kahlo. However, the recently opened exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden entitled, “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life” is proof to the opposite.

The New York Botanical Garden, located in the Bronx, has previously presented shows that delve into an examination of public figures and their connections to nature and gardens. The subjects were Charles Darwin, Emily Dickinson, and Claude Monet.

With the Kahlo exhibit, visitors not only experience what the staff has termed “an evocation” of the artist’s garden at the Casa Azul (Blue House), they have the opportunity to view artworks by Kahlo that specifically reference her relationship to the natural world.

Over two years in planning, a top-notch team was assembled to bring veracity to a replicated environment. Todd Forrest, Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections, spoke about efforts to “create a sense of place.” Kahlo’s vegetation imagery was “rendered with botanical specificity,” noted Forrest, who pointed out her “sophisticated understanding of plants.”

Adriana Zavala, Ph.D, was tapped to be the guest curator. Author of Becoming Modern, Becoming Tradition: Women, Gender, and Representation in Mexican Art, Zavala brought a specific sensibility to her focus. Moving away from the drama of Kahlo’s life and loves, her goal was to have attendees see Kahlo through “her plants and house,” and to comprehend her as the “exuberant, deeply intelligent” intellectual that she was. Zavala spoke of Kahlo’s work as being “charming and challenging — reflecting a sharp wit.” Qualifying Kahlo’s home as an “extension of her personal cosmology,” Zavala said, “There are still things to learn about Kahlo.”

Leading several trips to Mexico, Zavala steered the exhibition team to resources needed for immersion in the sphere of all things Kahlo. This included researching archival materials and photographs of the garden at the time it was being developed. Scott Pask, a Broadway design veteran, implemented his digested analysis to formulate the “scenic design” he then staged in the Bronx. One of his stunning contributions was translating the organ cactuses situated at Kahlo’s and Rivera’s home In San Ángel to an “organ cactus wall” abutting the outside of the Courtyard Garden.

D-F Casa AzulWEB

Photo: mgyerman

Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera, is sharply felt in the Casa Azul, specifically in a regeneration of the pyramid that Rivera had built to house his pre-Hispanic collection. This structure is front and center, with each individual step showcasing flowering plants and and a vast array of succulents and cactuses.

Pyramid FrontWEB

Photo: mgyerman

The Mexican pots were hand-dyed with tea and coffee to capture the exact hue sought by Francisca Coelho, who designs and installs the major exhibitions in the Conservatory. At the base of the pyramid, are additional specimens.

Photo: mgyerman

Photo: mgyerman

In the Casa Azul setting, we see Kahlo’s work table with paints, brushes, and books on botany. She regularly pressed flowers and leaves in the pages of her volumes of reading material. It was not surprising to learn that she observed specimens of insects and plants through her father’s microscope.

Photo: mgyerman

Photo: mgyerman

Another feature of the exhibit is an installation by artist Humberto Spindola. Originated at the Museo Frida Kahlo in 2009, Spindola used the painting, Two Fridas, (1939) a quintessential Kahlo oil on canvas, as the premise for his creation. Building mannequins structured from reeds, hemp, yarn, and wax, and dressing them in acid-free tissue paper colored with special pigments, Spindola incorporates traditional Mexican folk art techniques to fabricate the dresses from the painting. Kahlo’s two outfits, one of European derivation and the other from her mother’s region of Oaxaca, share equal power in the balanced halves of Kahlo’s personal character.

In a performance piece, two male models in wearable versions of the clothing, walked in opposite directions circling the sculpture. The use of men to embody both Fridas operates as a subtle nod to Kahlo’s fluid sexuality.

Photo: mgyerman

Photo: mgyerman

The daughter of a marriage between a German father and a Mexican mother of Spanish and indigenous descent, Kahlo strongly identified with the melding and fusion of disparate cultures — particularly as they evolved toward a new nationality unity. This concept was encompassed in Kahlo’s work as a manifestation of unified differences: the Mesoamerican and the European, the sexual and the emotional, the life force and the decay of death.

Duality and “hybridity,” as Zavala repeatedly underscored, are primary in Kahlo’s world outlook. With these premises in mind, Zavala made her selection for the paintings and works on paper in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library’s Art Gallery. It is this backstory and the context of Kahlo’s horticultural passions that inform a reading of her fourteen showcased works.

Small Life (II) is an observational watercolor that records organic forms scrutinized by Kahlo. At the time she signed this piece, Kahlo used the German spelling of her first name.

Small Life (II), c.1928 Private Collection Courtesy Galeria Arvil © 2014 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS),  New York

Small Life (II), c.1928
Private Collection Courtesy Galeria Arvil
© 2014 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust
Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Preparatory Sketch for Portrait of Luther Burbank is displayed in tandem with the resulting oil painting. Burbank was a horticulturalist who pioneered food development through grafting and cross-breeding. In the drawing, there are literal items referencing Burbank’s work, such as hands planting seeds and wielding a spade. Burbank rises from a tree trunk, while the roots envelop a corpse-like figure. (He was actually buried under a tree in his garden.) The painting is simplified, with greater emphasis on the cycles of growth and decomposition, along with imagery commemorating Burbank’s achievements.

Portrait of Luther Burbank, 1931 Museo Dolores Olmedo, Xochimilco, Mexico © 2015 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust  Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Portrait of Luther Burbank, 1931
Museo Dolores Olmedo, Xochimilco, Mexico
© 2015 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust
Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The lithograph Frida and the Miscarriage is a diaristic recounting of Kahlo’s angst about her lost pregnancy, imbued with her knowledge of biology that came from her early medical studies. The child that might have been is rendered in totality, down to the male genitalia.

Two Nudes in a Forest is emblematic of the ongoing theme in Kahlo’s pictorial vocabulary of her European and Mexican roots. Set off to the left of the canvas, rather than centered, the sky and the knotted branches have a foreboding aspect. As in other paintings, it is the Mexican figure that is nurturing and giving succor.

Two Nudes in a Forest, 1939 Collection of Jon Shirley © 2015 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Two Nudes in a Forest, 1939
Collection of Jon Shirley
© 2015 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust
Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Securing the widely reproduced Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (which is also the face of all the exhibition’s material), was a major coup. It is always a revelation to see, in person, a work well-known through reproduction. In this contemplative presentation of self, Kahlo brings into the picture plane personal iconography through the use of favored pets and plants. Situating herself in front of a curtain of huge elephant ear leaves with various veined patterns, Kahlo places an animal at each shoulder. The monkey appears almost childlike. It is engaged in its own thought process, while examining Kahlo’s necklace — which recalls Christ’s crown of thorns. The black cat, in a stalking position reminiscent of a leopard about to pounce, is watchful and protective. Despite the allusion to pain and mortality that radiates from the lower two-thirds of the painting (including the inert hummingbird), the delicately rendered butterfly pins in Kahlo’s hair and the fused winged insects and flowers suggest hope. Their palette tonalities tie in with Kahlo’s shirt, as well as the lone white leaf behind Kahlo’s head — speaking to her unique individuality.

Self-¬Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940 Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin ©  2014  Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust  Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940
Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin
© 2014 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust
Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

A group of still life paintings from 1951-1953, the last years of Kahlo’s life, are intense studies of fruits and vegetables that emphasize seeds, ripeness, sexuality, and fecundity. Inserted are totems and objects from Mexican culture from a miniature flag to Kahlo’s favored hairless dog, the xoloitzcuintle, rendered here as a piece of pottery. Despite her failing health, Kahlo was firmly entrenched in capturing the vitality of life.

Still Life (For Samuel Fastlicht), 1951 Private Collection, Courtesy of Caleria Arvil, Mexico © 2015 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Still Life (For Samuel Fastlicht), 1951
Private Collection, Courtesy of Caleria Arvil, Mexico
© 2015 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust
Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The New York Botanical Garden has supplemented the exhibition with programmed activities — music, dance, film, poetry, and lectures. There is a top-notch catalogue (Included are photographs and information on relevant plants, with the American and Mexican names as well as the Latin nomenclature.) and a mobile guide. All labels are in English and Spanish.

Photo: mgyerman

Photo: mgyerman

The museum has projected that 300,000 visitors will experience the exhibit. With the riches to be discovered, that may prove to be a low estimate.

 

Base cactusWEB

Photo: mgyerman

Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life
New York Botanical Garden
Through November 1, 2015

 

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May 26, 2015 | No comment | Read More »

Ellen Weider: Drypoints in a Digital Age

The impact of an increasingly digitalized world has affected all areas of our lives, including the arts. As many creatives embrace new technology to enhance or supersede mediums that are centuries old, others continue to find inspiration in the tactility of pencil on paper, oil on canvas — or in the case of Ellen Weider, the technique of drypoint.

Weider has been engaged with the print medium for over thirty years. Her work is in the print collections of the New York Public Library, Rutgers Print Study Archive at the Zimmerli Museum, the Newark Library, and the Free Library of Philadelphia. Her solo exhibit at the Manhattan Graphics Center in Manhattan showcases twenty-five black and white prints.

Drypoint is a type of intaglio process, frequently used in combination with etching and acquatint. The former presents line, and the latter creates areas of tonality. Weider uses solely drypoint. With a diamond point stylus, she achieves a range of depth and density by her manipulation of the metal burrs raised by her incisions on copper plates. For those familiar with the world of printmaking, Weider’s offerings bring to mind the anticipation of seeing how incised lines will translate after a proof is pulled. By making a decision to leave a definitive plate tone, Weider ensures that all native markings endemic to the plate remain intact. These elements add an additional layer to the final imagery.

The majority of Weider’s plates are circular. This serves to stand either in contrast to rectangular and angular constructs, or as a repetitive iteration of spherical elements within.

Top motifs for Weider embrace the use of organic forms that speak to the mysteries of nature, and an ongoing vocabulary of geometric, architectural, and personal iconography.

In To-Do, Weider places an oval shape containing concentric lines within the lower two-thirds of the space. The black furry dots, when viewed en masse, read less as pattern and more as components of a unit larger than themselves. There is a compulsive, repetitive quality. In their sameness, they yield an individuality of the whole — resembling a slide viewed under a microscope or an enlarged fingerprint.

9129WEB4"High
To-Do

2014 
Drypoint on Rives BFK
15” x 11”

New Year suggests the cross-section of a plant or fruit form. A distinct three-dimensionality emanates from the central flat core to the edges, which resemble a raised beaded border. The result has a meditative quality, as well as the stimulation of optical illusion.

Ellen9127WEB

New Year  
2015
Drypoint on Rives BFK
15” x 11”

In The Plan, Weider combines signature symbols into one composition. Three are pure line, the fourth is shaded. The bed, chair, and staircase record elemental objects that in Weider’s hands become mysterious and laden with metaphor. Repeatedly, the pictograms co-exist with a visual background that originates from the plate’s unpolished surface.

Ellen9123WEB

The Plan
2014
Drypoint on Rives BFK
22″ x 15″

That Way invites the viewer to contemplate a modern riff on formal structure — both ancient and contemporary — that we interact with every day. Whether a reflection on the staircases the Mayans built to the gods, a way out of the depths to a higher place, or just as basic building blocks of rectangle upon rectangle — Weider mines the subconscious, both hers and the observer’s.

Ellen9135WEB
That Way

2014
Drypoint on Rives BFK
15” x 11”

With a sensibility similar to Elizabeth Murray’s preoccupation with an examination of domestic objects, Weider’s terrain is repeatedly populated with diaristic contemplations of ordinary furniture: dressers, chairs, tables, beds. Frequently there is something off about them. They are presented in an isolated, existential setting, stripped of their utility — as if objects in a dream. In Wish List, Weider places totemic hieroglyphics onto the façade of a chest of drawers. A series of scratchings evocative of the female body inhabit the center panel.

Ellen9131WEB

Wish List
2014
Drypoint on Rives BFK
15” x 11”

The nervous energy and quirky, tactile lines of Expand reference the ironic humor of a New Yorker cartoon. Contained within the impression, here is a chair without a sitter. Weider has conveyed the absurdity and ordinariness of every day life.

Ellen9141WEB
Expand 

2014
Drypoint on Rives BFK
15” x 11”

A companion piece, Balance, offers the viewer another piece of ambiguous minimalist furniture — a table without a fourth leg. The subtext hovers between a metaphysical interpretation of a concrete structure and the question of, “When is a table just a table?”

Ellen9152TABLE3
Balance

2014
Drypoint on BFK Rives
15” x 11”

Weider — like all artists — dating back to those who scrawled the first primal characters on a cave wall, demonstrates the desire to visually narrate her thought process, and to comment on the world around her.

The immediacy and spontanaiety of the drypoint process has served her well.

Ellen9143WEB TICTACTOE
Excerpt

2014
Drypoint on BFK Rives
15” x 11”

 

ELLEN WEIDER: RECENT DRYPOINT PRINTS
Printed in collaboration with Kathy Caraccio
Manhattan Graphics Center
Fifth Floor
Through May 31

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