Archive for August, 2010

Historic trade banners saved for Maine

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Sixteen Maine institutions and individuals pooled their money to purchase a rare set of 19th century Maine trade banners for $125,350 on Aug. 26 and keep them in state, after they were put up for auction by their longtime owner the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association of Portland because it said it needed money. The 17 historic, hand-painted banners will be housed at the Maine Historical Society in Portland. It’s a great victory for the preservation of the state’s history and art.

The association commissioned the linen banners in the early 1800s to promote skilled trades. “The majority of the banners were painted by decorative painter William Capen and many have fringe and were attached to wooden arms for hanging or carrying in parades,” according to the Portland Museum of Art.

“The focus, hard work, and unselfish generosity of the cooperating museums was unprecedented in my experience,” Richard D’Abate, executive director of the Maine Historical Society, said in a prepared statement. “I think we owe that to our common recognition that the banners were one of the state’s true artistic and historical treasures. They had to be saved.”

The following organizations contributed funds for the purchase: Maine Historical Society, Portland Museum of Art, Maine State Museum, Maine Maritime Museum, the Maine State Historian, Bates College Museum of Art, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, and Colby College Museum of Art. Corporate and individual support was provided by James Julia, L.L. Bean, Diana and Linda Bean, Chris Livesay, Elsie Viles, Libra Foundation, and an anonymous Boston foundation.

“The beautifully illustrated banners recall the ideals of a community based on values of productive citizenship and industry. They are a true national treasure,” Harry Rubenstein, chair of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History’s Division of Political History, said in a prepared statement. He attended the auction. “I can think of no better result than having them preserved and remain in the state.”

NEJAR’s Honk photos in exhibit

Monday, August 30th, 2010

The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research is digging into our photo archive to participate in a group exhibit of photos of the annual Honk festival of activist marching bands in Somerville.

The exhibition features work by Greg Cook of The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research, Tiffany Knight, Mark Dannenhauer, Aaron Donovan, Jesse Edsell-Vetter, Dennis O’Reilly, Benjamin Greenberg, Chris Yeager and Akos Szilvasi on view at the Inside-Outside Gallery (aka the CVS windows in Davis Square, Somerville) from Sept. 2 to 30, 2010. Join us for an outdoor, street corner opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. this Saturday, Sept 4th. The show can be considered an appetizer for the fifth annual Honk fest, which runs from Oct. 8 to 10.

For more information, contact exhibit coordinator Michael Rome at

Photo by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Providence mayoral candidates talk art$

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Candidates for mayor of Providence will gather for a public forum to discuss the future of the “Creative Capital” at the University of Rhode Island’s Paff Auditorium, 80 Washington St., Providence, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010. The forum will be hosted by RI Citizens for the Arts and moderated by Mark Murphy of Providence Business News. Organizers plan “a lively discussion on how the candidates plan to grow and capitalize on Providence’s creative assets to benefit the city at large.”

Boston Caribbean Carnival Parade

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

The Boston Caribbean Carnival Parade danced through Dorchester this afternoon.

Previously: Our photos of the Caribbean Carnival Parade in 2009 and 2008.

Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Neelon: Ten short memos to young Boston artists

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Cambridge artist and writer Caleb Neelon sends along “Ten short memos to young Boston artists” just in time for back to school season.

Caleb Neelon: The following memos are for Boston area artists who are in their twenties. I don’t claim to have it all figured out or anything, but hopefully this is a bit of collective wisdom that can help you on your way to do your thing and make a living at it, all while living here in the Boston area. Doing so is really hard to do, and a lot of people leave town, thinking – sometimes correctly – that it’ll be easier to live a creative life elsewhere. But hopefully, these little bits and pieces will be of some use in staying.

A quick note: I don’t address the ‘should you or shouldn’t you’ of art school or higher education. Chances are your own economic background has determined that for you, and it also doesn’t really make much difference in terms of your future success. Except if you take on crippling amounts of debt. That’s really bad. Onward:

1. Economic freedom is artistic freedom – This means learn a marketable hustle. Every artist needs a money-making hustle to keep their bills paid. As a young artist, you should be learning how to do something that makes good money in short hours which you control. You don’t want a full time job here – you want something that makes the most money in the least time with the least effort. If you are going to wait tables or bartend, for example, this means learn how to do it at a good place, and not necessarily one where you go with your friends. Learning a marketable trade that not just anyone can do is a very important part of surviving as an artist. Examples include but are not limited to teaching, web and graphic design, copy writing, and other professional services. The key is to learn how to do something that pays well, that requires little commitment, and that doesn’t tire you out such that it interferes with your art-making time.

2. Your friends are your movement. There is a lot of strength in numbers. If you have a couple of art buddies, you have a group show ready to happen, plus one of your group probably knows someone with some weird space that you guys can run wild in as a venue for that show. If you have a couple of art buddies, you can do things like go in on a studio or live/work space together. You can each bring a skill like carpentry, photography, or graphic design to the table. Everyone can invite buddies to everyone’s shows and events and stuff. The other thing that your buddies will do over time is move around and meet new people. Your buddy who moves to San Francisco or wherever can set up shows there and put you in them. You can put your San Francisco (or wherever) buddy in shows you are doing here. Presto – you’re now showing in two cities, and so is your buddy. As you get older living in Boston, one of the more depressing things can be the constant departure of your friends for greener pastures. It’s important, however much it sucks, to think of this as your world just getting bigger and broader.

3. Make your movement bigger by scanning the world for more friends and collaborators and being a part of something bigger than you. You don’t have to get off your ass these days to learn who and what is crushing it in art these days. Make it a part of your daily routine to find some mind-blowing new art on the internet somewhere. I have my tastes, and you will have yours, so I won’t tell you where to start looking, but the important thing is that you do look. It’ll keep your artistic fires burning and hungry, and it keeps you abreast of what’s going on in art, which, make no mistake, is a global game. You need to be up on what you are a part of.

Chances are, you have some niche art interest that has a global community. Comics. Graffiti. Street art. Puppets. Rock posters. Papermaking. Skateboarding. Whatever. These niche interests with global followings are really important, and if you’re a part of them, they are your community, regardless of what’s going on for you locally. When you do find artists or venues you like, holler. Friend ‘em on Facebook. Email ‘em and say hi and show them some of your art. I can certainly speak from experience that it’s pretty cool to get an email from some young artist in some random city, even if they suck for now. So what if you don’t get responses sometimes. So what if some of them turn out to be assholes. Sooner or later, you’ll find people who might be fun to show with, and maybe the strength of having an out-of-towner in the mix will be solid enough for you to secure a venue here, or the other dude to secure one in some other city. Art relationships last for a really long time, and the networks they bring expand a lot over time. Something awesome may pan out in eight years from now.

4. Document. You already should know that the most important thing an artist can do is to document. Take really good pictures of everything. All your shows, all your installations, all your art. Good documentation makes that crazy installation you made in your buddy’s parents’ garage look like a museum show online. The photos will last far longer than the show ever will, and far more people will see them. They’re a part of the art. Take them seriously.

In this era of digital cameras, documenting is basically free, so you have no excuse. Digital cameras are so good today that you can do pretty well yourself with a little learning, but you also should make friends with someone who can photograph all your stuff really well, and trade them some art or help them move or whatever for their troubles. Do the same for the guy you know who does nice websites. As an unknown artist, if you can’t get it together to document your work well and get it online in a way that’s easily visible, you’re fucked.

5. Keep your expectations reasonable when it comes to what success in Boston will mean. Let’s get this out in the open: Boston is, at best, an okay art town. If you’ve relocated to Boston from somewhere else in New England, you may be a bit wide-eyed right now at the variety of cultural stuff going on. But you should proceed under the assumption that the cultural activity here in Boston simply won’t be enough to make an art career for you. Even the best-known local artists have side jobs in something else that pays their real bills. In fact, it’s a challenge to come up with names of Boston artists who I know support themselves solely through their art sales. Boston is not a great place to sell art, and Boston art venues don’t get the visibility we would hope. There may not even be a venue in town here that shows art anything close to what you do or even what you like, and it’s important to remember that that isn’t your fault, it’s the fault of the narrow scope of what’s financially viable for venues here. Part of succeeding here is figuring out a way to get your work visible out of state and in front of the broader community of taste that digs what you do. If you go to enough art openings in Boston, you’ll see the same 100 people over and over again. It’s also worth noting that plenty of Boston galleries make more than half their sales to people out of state. Making your art a road warrior means putting it in front of new people in new places. If all your checks are coming from in-state, it’s a bad sign.

So how do you get the ball rolling on shows and such outside of Boston? This is where your buddies and your niche art interests come in. Your buddy who moved to L.A. might be able to organize something there. They should at least be able to let you sleep on their couch while you go visit the city and try to make a few connects. And by being a part of the global community of skaters, graffiti writers, papermakers, rock poster makers, whatever, you are dialed into a network of people all over the place. These niche art interests all have their own followings, collectors, and fans – and these are all assets that, when you are a part of them, you bring to the table when you work with more standard-issue galleries and venues.

6. Don’t get sucked in to the idea that everything has to be done through an institution or organization, but also understand that it has its place. Old cities like Boston have lots of organizations, institutions, associations, and such. Yet as an artist, you’re an entrepreneur, and this immediately presents a conundrum. Boston is a tough place for entrepreneurship in the arts because of the presence of these many organizations, institutions, and associations. Why does this make it tough? Well, as arts organizations get older, they develop a kind of brand, style, and image. And chances are, as a young artist, you don’t fit that brand, style, and image. The older the organization, the more likely, also, the longer the line will be for the opportunities that they can hand out. The older they are, the more likely they are to have more formalized (read: stupid) processes for how they take on projects. Don’t rope your hopes to anyone but yourself, and for damn sure don’t change your art to fit in. Making opportunities for yourself on a truly DIY level is the most important thing you can do. Paradoxically, you may find that there is nothing that will make institutions pay attention to you like proving that you don’t need them to make your voice heard. And sometimes those stupid barriers to entry come down unexpectedly.

7. Put the pressure on Boston by succeeding outside of it, but also know the advantages to living here that aren’t obvious. Yes, Boston is one of those lame cities that wait for its own artists to succeed elsewhere before it recognizes them. So go do killer shit in other places. In fact, I bet you’ll actually find that it’s actually easier to hook up opportunities elsewhere, because your being from here, to someone not from here, is something new and different. And when people from Boston see that people from outside of Boston are paying attention to (or just paying) someone from here, they’ll gradually wake up. But even if they don’t, you’ll still be doing your thing. And doing your thing, regardless of how, is what proves to people that you are for real and in it for the long haul.

While you’re out of town doing great stuff, take comparative notes on what it’s like for artists who live elsewhere. New York, for example, is the obvious place where many of Boston’s young artists are drawn to move. Take a good hard look at what life is like for them there, though. There are plenty who are ambitious, talented, and lucky, and find gallery success, but look carefully at everyone, not just the few who you may have heard of. What’s the success rate? Are people able to afford a decent place to live and a place to make their art? Are they able to afford these things on their own, or is there family money involved? What kind of side jobs do these relocated artists have? There’s plenty of stories of artists who have headed off to the Big City and have made it in the art world, but dig more deeply and you’ll find far more of people who have moved, only to find that a room in a crap apartment and a tiny studio cost so much there that they have to work long hours at side jobs to keep them up. Here in Boston, things aren’t cheap by any stretch, but cheaper perhaps to the point where you can leverage more time to work on what matters, which is your art. And time to make the best work you can is the most precious commodity you have.

8. Understand that this town is fantastic at providing education, but terrible at providing mentorship – and know the difference between the two. When you are in your twenties and getting rolling as an artist, you have a lot of questions to ask. That’s good. You should ask shitloads of questions of anyone who looks like they have the game figured out. That’s how you get lots of information, and the more people you ask, the better a sense you’ll have of what’s real info and what’s bull. But something you need to know about Boston is that its population is, by age, a pretty old one. There are lots of people in college. There are lots of people in their fifties and sixties. There are comparatively few people in their thirties and forties. And what young artists need are older sisters and brothers, not parents.

Here’s why that matters: when you are in your twenties, people in their fifties and sixties aren’t really going to be able to give you the advice you need when it comes to getting your art career rolling. They came up in a different era. They probably will have no clue about where you fit in within what’s going on in young contemporary art. They probably won’t be able to connect you with people and opportunities that are logical next steps for you. They will be great at asking you the broad questions that help you step back and reflect on your life as a whole. But what they won’t be, in all likelihood, are people who can best direct your next move. It’s looking for mentorship that drives a lot of people to go to grad school, and certainly it’s a good way to buy some mentorship. But grad school is either financially feasible for you or it isn’t.

That’s where it’s really important to find mentors, and by this, I mean people who are five and ten years ahead of you on the career curve – not twenty years ahead. This is a town full of people old enough to be your parents, but what you really need are cool older brothers and sisters. These are the people who are going to know the guy who is opening a venue, the woman whose marketing firm needs to look young and cool, the guy who is putting together a show you might fit in, the galleries that might be worth stepping to and the many, many, many venues in town that will be a total waste of your time. They will know the right people in the media to contact. They can help you brainstorm sponsorship ideas in a meaningful way. They may need a hand for some project coming up, and that can help you meet more people. And Boston’s demographics being what they are, these mentors are gonna be few in number. Look hard – and simultaneously, look for them outside of Boston.

9. Pay attention to the people who pay attention to you. You may have a fixed idea in your head of where your art career will take you. You definitely need to be headstrong to get an art career off the ground, but at the same time, be open. Boston’s not a great art city, but it is a great city in other disciplines, and disciplines cross boundaries all the time. A totally unexpected audience may be out there, and it might be a source of bucks you never would have foreseen.

The other thing that paying attention to people who pay attention to you means is that you need to become something of an educator: people who reach out to you from unexpected places both want and need more information about what you do and what it needs to be successful. Every artist needs to be good at explaining what they do, but here in Boston, you will need to be better at it than in other cities where art is more a part of the everyday experience and discussion.

10. The only sure way to know that your dream of artistic success will fail is if you stop pursuing it. As young people, you have something that everyone older than you ignores at their own peril: youth and coolness. Don’t ever let older people get you down when they shut a door in your face, but burning bridges is always a bad move. Never slow down, never stop, and never stop pushing the best work you can possibly do.

And by the way, the one sure way that Boston’s creative scene will get worse is if you leave it for greener pastures.

Photo by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Brenda Atwood Pinardi has died

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

“Art of the human condition is the most important to me.” – Brenda Atwood Pinardi

Boston artist Brenda Atwood Pinardi, who taught art at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, for more than three decades, died Aug. 21, after a battle with cancer. She was born in 1941. “In numerous images,” her good friend, the critic Francine Koslow Miller writes, “hauntingly beautiful mermaids float in cerulean seas, often surrounded by shimmering fish and framed by hundreds of meticulously glued-down sea shells.”

Pictured: Two details from “Beyond the Triangle,” a 14-foot-wide faux quilt inspired by travels to Bermuda that she made with Candace Walters in 2009 and ’10.

Bread and Puppet’s “Decapitalization Circus”

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Bread and Puppet Theater‘s summer “DeCapitalization Circus,” which runs each Sunday afternoon at 2:30 from July 11 to Aug. 29, 2010 at the troupe’s farm in Glover, Vermont, satires our current economic troubles, with jokes and dances and jaunty songs like: “The NASDAQ’s down a crushing 10, while BP’s out and Google’s in. … Goldman Sachs has duped us all, so let’s go shopping at the mall.” We caught the show last Sunday, when the rain moved the performance indoors.

Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.
The ringmaster opens the show – then gets his head knocked off.

Economic clowns, led by the S.E.C., chop off the head of Bernie Madoff.

Giant puppets tell how newly strict border enforcement at Derby Line, Vermont, is cutting the town off from its Canadian sibling, Stanstead, Quebec.

A machine helps Mother Linda [Elbow] tame her unruly brats – with help of zombifying standardized testing.

Memorial dance for the dead of our Afghanistan war.

Clowns trap an American Dreamer with the bait of owning a home.

The old tom cat breaks up the proceedings at the end of the song and dance number “Froggie Went A-Courtin’.”

The American economy strongman, rejuvenated by an injection of $787 billion, dances to the surf tune “Wipe Out.”

A sheep protests the decline of farming and the rise of prison work.

Bread and Puppet founder Peter Schumann, now 76, dances atop giant stilts in the circus finale.

Peter Max speaks

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Peter Max was one of the most brilliant designers of the psychedelic late 1960s. These days he’s best known for his booming business making sloppy expressionist paintings. We called him at his Manhattan studio in advance of his exhibit at Gallery 17 Peck in Providence to chat about his day-glo life.

SUDDENLY, WITHIN TWO YEARS I was on the cover of Life magazine and that same year I was on the Johnny Carson show. 1969. That same year, Ed Sullivan did a one-hour TV special on me. It was wild for me. I couldn’t believe it. I was on every magazine cover. I was excited, overwhelmed. I was worried it was going to go away soon and it never left, it’s still happening today. I’m very, very grateful to this life.

AT A YOUNG AGE I started licensing my name the way Ralph Lauren does. That was extremely, extremely successful. Hundreds of millions in such early days as the late ’60s. Now I’m thinking of doing licensing again because it’s cool to do.

I WAS IN PARIS one day — a friend of mine [Conrad Rooks] took me over there to help him with a movie — and he said, “Let me call the swami and invite him to lunch.” I thought swami was a name like Sammy. I didn’t know. Then suddenly I look across near the elevator. A man comes out all in orange. I was fascinated by the way he looked, but I didn’t know he was coming to see us. I was just watching him as he was probably looking around to see where we sit. I thought he was maybe a Turkish businessman. And then next thing I know he’s leaning over the table and he reaches out his hand and he goes, “Hello.” And Conrad, who by the way is the heir of Avon cosmetics, he said to me, “Peter, this is Swami Satchidananda.” So I figured: Swami Satchidananda, Turkish businessman.

Then I sat opposite him and we talked for a while. All I heard was gold coming out of his mouth, everything was golden, everything was like the greatest things you want to hear about life, about the future, about the present, about living in the heart, being good to others. All those things you learn at yoga. And I said to the swami, thinking he’s a Turkish businessman, I said, “Swami, what do you do?” He said, “I’m a monk from India. I belong to a group of monkhood.” I suddenly said, “Oh my God, he’s an Indian teacher, like a guru.” I flipped out and then I said to Conrad, “Conrad, he’s a monk.” He says, “Yes, Peter, didn’t you know?” I got so fascinated by it. It was beyond belief.

Read the rest here.

Peter Max’s art is at Gallery 17 Peck, 303 Atwells Avenue, Providence, from Aug. 19 to 29, 2010. Max is scheduled to meet with visitors on Aug. 28 from 6 to 9 p.m. and on Aug. 29 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Pictured above: Peter Max painting Statues of Liberty at OpSail in New York City in 2000. Pictured below: Peter Max, “Liberty,” 2000. All images © Peter Max 2010.

Worst Public Art: Irish Famine Memorial

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Mark Favermann of Berkshire Fine Arts nominates Boston’s Irish Famine Memorial for our Worst Public Art in New England project (submit your own nominations):

This is easy. The Boston Irish Famine Memorial on Washington and School Streets in Downtown Boston is the worst piece of public art in the area. Here, literalness and figurative art sculpture at the end of the 20th Century (1998) underscore the bad in public monuments/public art. Not only are the figures poorly sculpted, but the 2 by 4 smack you in the head literalness of the memorial is so aesthetically unappealing that it is embarrassing. all emotion is lost to the blatant and poorly-wrouight sentimentality of the installation. To make matters worse, some Philistines at the Boston Redevelopment Authority insisted that they be placed on pedestals or plinths that raise the figures to an odd height. This is a me-too memorial with no subtlety or artistic flair. The artist should be embarrassed. BTW, The Cambridge Irish Famine Memorial in the Cambridge Common may be a close second.The Irish Famine deserved better to be commemorated.

Our new motto…

Friday, August 20th, 2010

When you think of lousy public art, think of The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Submit nominations for ourWorst Public Art in New England project.

Worst Public Art: Irish Famine Memorial

Friday, August 20th, 2010

George Fifield nominates Boston’s Irish Famine Memorial for our Worst Public Art in New England project (submit your own nominations):

It’s the Irish Famine Memorial, no question. It’s the most cheezy memorial to a human tragedy in Boston. As I remember … the “benefactor” Thomas J. Flatley basically ramrodded the process through City Hall without due diligence that legally, public sculpture usually went through. The two tableaus make no sense. Are the healthy family the before or after? Why are they (the after) shoeless? Why did the little girl turn into a boy?

Artistically it marks an embarrassing visual statement. The “Disney” realism is a joke. Remember this is the same artist who made the F.A.O Swartz Teddy Bear, now in front of the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts-New England Medical Center. And that was not only a decent sculpture for what it was, but also had a plaque, when it was at F.A.O Swartz, declaring it not to be public art, but private art.

Christine Temin said it “reduces a great tragedy to a sentimental cartoon.”

The Polish horse riders on the commons, by Pitynski were great art compared to this atrocity and that was removed for being too depressing.

We at The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research would also like to nominate Maurice Harron’s Irish Famine Memorial on Cambridge Common (pictured below).

Worst Public Art: Birds, Irish, Horses

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Charles Giuliano of Berkshire Fine Arts nominates three Boston artworks for our Worst Public Art in New England project (submit your own nominations):

The flight of birds dedicated to Martin Luther King in front of Marsh Chapel at BU [pictured above]. Of course the Irish Famine thing on Washington Street and the group of Polish Riders on Boston Common. How about that bronze nude in front of the Prudential Center. Yuk.

Worst Public Art: Porter Square

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Caleb Neelon, a Cambridge scholar and artist, nominates the following Cambridge artworks for our Worst Public Art in New England project (submit your own nominations):

The Porter Square mall shit [by Toshihiro Katayama in Cambridge]: The fuck is it trying to be? A construction site/don’t skateboard here/please randomly run into me and bark your shins trip over me or hurt yourself? Shit is awful.

I’d also like to nominate pretty much every non-David Fichter mural in Cambridge that neither me or my contemporaries did. Yeah, I said it.

Worst public art: Horses, Appeal to Spirit

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Kanarinka nominates the following two Boston artworks for our Worst Public Art in New England project (submit your own nominations):

  • The horses circling each other outside the Copley Mall entrance on Dartmouth St. [Debroah Butterfield's "Paint and Henry"] – particularly because they were at first alone but then someone landscaped a weird garden-circle around them and it makes no sense why abstract horses would stand in a landscaped garden to have a fight.
  • I really just don’t know about the Indian statue outside the MFA [Cyrus Dallin's "Appeal to the Great Spirit"] … There’s something just weird about it. Maybe it’s that the history of museums is so tied up with the history of the obliteration of a group of people that there is some terrible irony to the noble savage -heroic-tragic- interpretations of American Indians. There’s some kind of weird other-ing happening that feels very anachronistic and sort of wrong now.