Michelle Obama’s New White House Portrait

March 1, 2009

The White House revealed the new official White House Portrait of Michelle Obama today. I’m working on a series of portraits right now and am obsessed with the subject. Even though I love her signature bare arms, I found the blue curtain exploding directly above the center of her head a curious choice of composition, as well as the white rose blocking her hand.

Michelle Obama Portrait

It reminded of John Baldessari’s “Wrong”, a photograph he made in response to a photography book telling would be artists that strong vertical design elements sprouting from people’s heads in a photograph or painting is wrong.
John Baldessari, “Wrong”
While he was surely mocking the idea of there being a “right” when you make art, I think this White House photographer needs a spanking.

Vee Speer’s Birthday Party- Bring Balloons!

February 6, 2009

“When I have something to say that is too difficult for adults, I write for children. They have not closed the shutters. They like it when you rock the boat.” – Madeline L’Engle

During a time when we are passing bills the size of mountains that our children and children’s children will have to pay, the haunting work of photographer Vee Speers seems doubly fresh as well as beautiful. Celebratory children in costumed dresses, beehive hairdos, and wings along with images of children in gas masks and silent pleading looks on their are starkly celebrated on a plain backrop. The washed out photos appear aged and recall a sense of timelessness, that makes them feel removed, but haunting nonetheless.

With these photographs (her daughter mostly) at play or war, Speers invites the viewer to celebrate and experience as a child. We dress up in costumes, we laugh, we cry and we remember what it is like to live in a complicated time with explanations that do not always make sense. With grace and quiet simplicity, we are invited to play “make-believe” and explore Speers’ heightened reality. And just like children, we like it when she serves up the unexpected, whether playful or dire. She has two upcoming shows, one starting tonite at Act2galerie in Paris, Feb 6 – April 10, and Jackson Fine Art Gallery in Atlanta February 13th – March 28th.

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?Vee Speers, Untitled #1, Cibachrome prints, 20″ x 24″

Kimberly Brooks: Your images are at once playful and disturbing. What was the seed of inspiration for these photographs?
Vee Speers: During my daughter’s 8th birthday party in Paris a few years ago, I closely observed the dynamics between the children, and the various levels of role-playing. It reminded me of my own childhood, and that anarchy and freedom of expression. I realized that as we grow older, we lose that sense of play and spontaneity so I decided to capture the last moments of childhood with an imaginary party.

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Vee Speers, Untitled #2, Cibachrome prints, 20″ x 24″, 2007

KB: I was fascinated to learn that a majority of your photos was your daughter. My mother is a psychologist and her dissertation was “Successful Women and Their Female Mentors.” I grew up with her writing it and interviewing women as she got her Ph.D. She was the inspiration for my “Mom’s Friends” Series where I made paintings of my mother and her friends in the 70s. How did your mother inspire you?

VS: My mother was a singer, and we grew up watching her sing in public, so it seemed obvious that I should include an image of my daughter–who also sings–performing. For me, this photo is very poignant, as it captures the nostalgia of my own childhood. I photographed my daughter blowing a bubble with her hands as this particular image expresses creation, and captures the essence of “The Birthday Party.”

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Vee Speers, Untitled #3, Cibachrome prints, 20″ x 24″, 2007

KB: Some of your works have a darker undertone than children at play as in “The Birthday Party” series. What about the images of your daughter wearing the nurses costume or gas mask?
VS: My daughter dressed as a nurse and holding a broken, dirty doll that was inspired by a scene from the war in Lebanon. I have used many symbols of war in this series (the child with gas mask is another) because we are exposed to the repercussions of war in everyday life, and sadly our children are also affected by this.

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Vee Speers, Untitled #4, Cibachrome prints, 20″ x 24″, 2007

KB: So, then do you consider your works politically oriented or is it more so about the viewer’s response?
VS: I like to evoke an immediate response that triggers off an emotion or memory, and perhaps more precisely a kind of empathy with the character I’ve created.
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Vee Speers, Untitled #5, Cibachrome prints, 20″ x 24″, 2007

KB: Tell us a little about your process.
VS: My work process is a very normal process–no magic tricks or ‘routines’. I keep everything simple, and work as quickly as possible so that I maintain the energy of the moment. Taking forever to take a portrait is a recipe for disaster. And in the case of “The Birthday Party,” the children wouldn’t hold the positions for long so I always had to work fast.

KB: Has one particular artist or genre of art influenced your work?
VS: Not one artist in particular–I have a broad appreciation of art, although I am particularly inspired by the cinema, and am a big fan of directors such as David Lynch and Peter Greenaway.

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LEFT: Lost Highway Film Poster, Written and Directed by David Lynch, 1997.
RIGHT: Drowning By Numbers Film Poster, Written and Directed by Peter Greenaway, 1988.

KB: Goodluck with your opening this weekend. Give Paris a french kiss for me.
Vee Speers was born in Australia and has been living in Paris since 1990. Her portraits have been exhibited and published world-wide and are part of important private and public collections. Speers’s most recent work The Birthday Party, is a series of short stories linked by the theme of an imaginary birthday party. The concept is very streamlined and simple, as are the visuals–lone children against the same gray wall staring openly at the camera, the elements working together to create these timeless portraits. Speers is represented by: Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta, Galerie Beckers, Frankfurt. Acte2galerie, Paris.

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Artist Vee Speers

Electric Kool-Aid Art Test: Mike Quinn

October 7, 2008

This week is the 40th Anniversary of Tom Wolfe’s famous “Electric Kook-Aid Acid Test” and I thought it would be high time we take a small moment to reflect upon the influence of drug use on art and culture. In an interview with Time Magazine, when asked if Wolfe thought that the drug culture had been stripped of its intellect, he replied:

“Ha! That’s assuming that it had an intellect—particularly in the case of LSD, which everyone assumed opened the doors of perception. We’ve since discovered that it does the opposite.”

I have to say I heartily disagree. For better or worse, there are ample byproducts of drug culture’s intellect, including, according to Israeli researchers, the Old Testament, where the drug in a popular drink of the time called ayahuasca induced “the seeing of light and profound religious and spiritual feelings.” And anyone who thinks that the Disney illustrators who created Mickey Mouse’s frantic repetitive broom exploits in Fantasia weren’t on anything are frankly, as we say affectionately to someone who is clueless, “smoking crack”.

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Charlton Heston as Moses and Timothy Leary In Photocollage

Certain art, if done properly, can induce an effect reminiscent of a drug trip just by the experience of the space. Rhythm via repetition can imbue art with a rave-like electronic effect and make the viewer feel like a small part of a larger continuum. It can even recreate the weird battery taste that happens in ones mouth after taking hallucinogenic mushrooms or L.S.D…. not that I would have any idea what I’m talking about with regard to such an activity.

But it’s not all bright and technicolor and this is highlighted in recent work of the artist Mike Quinn. Quinn creates installation pieces, sculptures, and paintings using pain killers, pills, anti-depressants, cigarettes (and cigarette packaging), alcohol, soda and more to literally chart the eternal search for happiness and betterment that often plays out through hindrances and impediments while attempting to diet, get happy, move forward, and progress.

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Mike Quinn, Keeping Up Appearances Can Be A Drag (Installation Views), 2007 – 2008,
Cigarette packs, varsity basket ball pins and paint pen, Dimensions variable, Courtesy of Perry Rubenstein Gallery.

Kimberly Brooks: You’ve recently been creating large wall installations. What do they signify to you?

Mike Quinn: They both have a very rational component (the math /physics element) and a very chaotic component (the addiction / the drugs / the need to escape). Using the inherent rationality of math and physics as a way to look at and depict the irrationality of addiction and chaos in life has been successful. In “March Mad Addiction Descent,” there are 31 panels, all with pages from sports sections painted with drugs, installed according to the way a basketball would fall to Earth. It’s kind of math in a vacuum though, so we take some liberties – my dad is a physicist and he helps me with the numbers. We make it work for the idea or the space that we have.

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Mike Quinn, MARCH MAD ADDICTION DESCENT (Installation Views), 2007, Mixed media, 31 framed panels: 14.75 x 11.75 inches- each PRG 979-08, Courtesy of Perry Rubenstein Gallery.

MQ: March Mad is about waiting for something great and exciting to happen and then watching as it ends how your life goes back to how it was and you have to find ways to cope again. In the “Keeping Up Appearances” piece, I had a gravity line that went around the gallery. I used USA Gold cigarette packs to represent this ever-present force that keeps things grounded. Then we calculated the drag force on a basketball as it falls to earth. This was represented by small gold varsity basketball pins with the prescription code for Welbutrin, an anti-depressant, written on them. The reason I like this work is that it makes loss appear like gain. The drag force increases as the ball falls. And drag and gravity are the two forces that impede things from going up which I think makes sense with my work. Things that impede progress. Here there is also a dialogue about self-medication and prescription medication to achieve happiness.

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Mike Quinn, A Few Minor Victories in a Year of General Failure, 2007 – 2008
Cigarette packs, coffee, Sominex and Benadryl packets & streamers in custom plexiglas vitrines, Diptych- Overall Dimensions: 23 1/2 x 45 1/2 x 3 1/4 inches

KB: Was there a single moment that you were inspired to pursue the idea of escapism in your work?

MQ: In 1987, when Jordan was 24, he won the NBA dunk contest. The next year, during the 88 season, the All-Star game was held in Chicago, which must have added another emotional component to the equation for #23. He came out and won it again, this time with a dunk that has become legendary. The image of him taking off from the foul line and soaring has sat in the front of mind since. I remember the next morning going to the basketball court behind my house. Familial dysfunction is difficult, especially to children, and I would go there to escape. I remember being conscious of something, maybe for the first time – that my life and life in general was not fair – that there is hardship and pain and suffering, and that you have to find things to escape into in order to make it all tolerable. Jordan was that for me. While I have several different, concurrently developing bodies of work, they all, in one form or another, began with what Jordan did in ‘88, that image and how I have processed it since then.

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Michael Jordan, NBA Dunk Contest, 1988.

KB: Do you have a process of working that might be unique or curious?

MQ: My practice is not relegated strictly to the studio as I’m sure is the case with most artists. I suppose it is less a traditional practice then most however. It sort of takes place at my therapist’s office one night, Madison Square Garden the next, then a bar, then alone in front of the TV watching a game, my parent’s house. The work happens inside all of this. The materials I use in the work are not traditional either. They are the things I use or abstain from. Things we all use. Vodka, codeine, crushed benadryl and sleeping pills, diet coke, beer, robotussin, tobacco, coffee, Mylanta. And I use the left over packaging too. I paint with this stuff, use it in sculptures. Keep it around and see what happens over time.

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Mike Quinn, Jordan Addiction Painting- Steep Decline, 92-96, Four Years As an Indian (For Kevin), 2008
Mylanta, vodka, gouache, pva and crushed sleeping pills on museum board, 23 x 16.5 inches

KB: Which artists inspire you the most?

MQ: I love and hate a lot. I am a sucker for painting in NY from the 40’s through the 60’s. Larry Clark. Fred Tomaselli. If there is someone whose body of work has helped me see that it is OK to make work about the things you love and that it is OK to talk about losing it is Werner Herzog. He is so passionate about his ideas and his subjects. He sees value in struggle and how beauty can be terrible. I find the main characters in his movies to be the kind of losers that I appreciate. Tragic men who are trying to achieve, usually end up failing, but inside that failure something else happens. That is a lot like the discourse that I try and develop in my work.


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FRED TOMASELLI, Airborne Event, 2003, mixed media, acrylic paint, resin on wood, 84 x 60 x 1 1/2 inches

Mike Quinn was born in Hartford Connecticut in 1978 and he received degrees in Art History and Studio Art from NYU. Quinn has had two solo shows in the past year—one at Vanessa Buia and one at Perry Rubenstein. Most recently, he showed his work with Perry Rubenstein at Art Brussels and he is currently in a summer show “Opportunity as Community: Artists Select Artists” at Dieu Donne in NYC with a Closing reception: Friday, Sept. 5, 6-8 PM.

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Artist Mike Quinn

Sarah Palin First Impressions

August 29, 2008

Before I had even a moment to recover from the history making of last night and Obama’s incredible speech, my cup overfloweth with excitement about McCain’s vice presidential announcement this morning, a visual bonanza! So much to see, so much to chew on, I don’t even know where to begin!
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I will try not to dwell about lame TV producers of McCain’s announcement this morning.. God knows what screens to the left and side of his head that made everyone behind him look like they were either shifty or channeling Ramtha. Nor McCain, whose peeps can’t get it together to use a teleprompter and look us in the eye. (Hello, McCain.. there’s new technology out there…Google much?) Today’s on screen gaffe was almost as bad as when Hilary had every member of the Clinton administration standing behind her when she was defeated in Iowa vs. Obama’s endless sea of admiring smiling faces.
Nor am I going to talk about the fact that Sarah Palin just plunked out a baby IN APRIL. This is the profile of pro-life “my friends”. How about being a pro-mother? I know people make babies and go back to work. I am one. But this ain’t no nine to five job. This is the vice president of the the United states whose running mate had cancer and just turned seventy two today. I can’t wait to see the debates and know she’s lactating and has cheerios in the bottom of her purse.
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What I really want to talk about is her hair. Can someone please get this woman to a SuperCuts? What is that thing on her head? I admit, I am completely jealous of her flawless Linda Carter Skin. And I fully expect her to take out that plastic hair clip, pull off her glasses, rip off her blazer to reveal either Wonder Woman or Demi Moore in Disclosure. But the hair has GOT TO GO.
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Story continues below

The choice is such a transparent attempt to get the Hillary votes. Some said that when Obama chose Biden, it was a sign of the party’s feeling Obama’s weakness on his foreign policy experience, but this is far more dramatic and cynical. No offense to older men, but sometimes they make bold moves just to let us (and themselves) know they’re still alive. I think this is the case with the with the Republican Party in general. Hey, let’s start another war!
She’ll probably do well in the debates. She’s likable, women rule in general and she’ll be underestimated. Having never seen nor heard of her before except her speech just now, even I like her…for PTA president. As a former Hillary supporter, I have to admit, the first thought when I saw Joe Biden up there with Obama, was “Darn… There’s no more girls up there.” While I love seeing a woman in the fray, this is indeed an unusual pick. I just learned that she’s a die-hard creationist. Can you imagine? Someone a heart beat away from the presidency who doesn’t believe in science? I’m dumbstruck.
All I know is that I’m more excited about television watching this fall than when Mel Gibson got outed as an anti-semite or when Rielle Hunter curiously declined to get her infant’s cheek swabbed (DNA test) twelve hours after John Edwards offered a paternity test to prove that he wasn’t screwing around on his wife. This is going to be the gift that just keeps on giving.
Don’t touch that remote.

Artist as Exhibitionist

June 14, 2008

2008-06-13-nytimescover.jpg Much has been made of the recent Memorial Day Weekend Issue of the New York Times Magazine displaying, not a war veteran, but former Gawker editor Emily Gould languishing on a bed sporting a wife-beater and tattoo. It is not about the blog culture so much as an 8,000 word autobiographical tale about her experience in it. She paints a portrait of herself as a compulsive over-sharer where she describes, in great detail, how she blogged about her every thought, told amusing stories of boyfriends, skewered media insiders and experienced total humiliation by Jimmy Kimmel on live television before being ousted from New York’s subculture and media world. Aside from babes on beds selling more magazines, the repentant pose begs us to pity the entire generation of bloggers who expose too much of themselves online. “Poor, poor generation…“, say the editors “See how naughty you’ve been? Just like the tattoo, you’re gonna regret it!” Meanwhile, there she is, the “recovering exhibitionist” lying half naked on the bed. The joke’s on us and especially the NY Times. In fact, I think this picture I found of Emily is far more apt:
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As an artist, I was captivated by the piece on several levels. The narrative details Emily Gould’s journey piercing through the event horizon of celebrity culture and going from being the observer to the observed. What fascinated me most, however, was the x-ray view inside the mind of someone who craves the attention of strangers. As the entire spectacle of her feature betrays, Emily Gould is a masterful exhibitionist. In a sense, the second picture summarizes the ideal attitude you need to have to be an artist– act like you don’t care, but do it half-naked and look hot (i.e: express/expose yourself and make great art).
For fine artists, often solo creatures, it’s easy to get lost in the monastery of the studio (except for those artists with factories of people who paint for them, such as Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami or Kehinde Whiley) and frankly shocking to suddenly then have to lift one’s head above the walls and care what other people think. I suspect there are more artists of talent and skill uncomfortable exposing themselves than artists with less talent that are and the latter always gets more action.
I am not an exhibitionist by nature. Yet writing here has taught me a great deal about getting over the fear of vulnerability. I started writing this column on an intellectual dare from Arianna Huffington, a friend and collector, who always told me “Dahling, I love the way you think, you have to write it down, you should blog about it!” “But I’m not a writer, I’m a painter,” I would protest. Writing is hard for me. Unlike painting — which I can get lost in — I don’t get lost in writing. I squeeze out every sentence. If I do get lost, it might be for a paragraph, but then I have to bludgeon it into spontaneity until my arms ache.
Although I certainly don’t write about my shampoo or my dog, writing online gets easier each time I do it and I start to understand the compulsion. I think of it like this: if I could take all the pages and pages of confessional material on the web and plaster it on the interior of a gigantic dome, I can envision this universal mind, and I start, by putting something out there weekly, to feel my place in it — as if I represent a couple of neurons or glands and if I stop I might make the mind lose the abliity to see the color red or find its keys.
2008-06-13-firstpainting.jpg Kimberly Brooks. “The Conversation.” First picture at an exhibition.
I painted for years in silence before showing my work. The first time I hung a painting at a group exhibition, I was as nervous as if it were a first date. I arrived late and saw people standing around and talking about it. I blushed and laughed behind them. I assumed that they would know it was me who did it, like they could tell. The Internet was far more terrifying. The first time I uploaded my art work, I created a password-protected website. I then handed out postcards with the password on it and attempted to control who viewed the work. The thought that anyone could look at it anytime was akin to someone watching me take a shower. I finally took it off for the world to see.
I keep relearning the concept of the artist’s impulse and the need to share; that the desire to express and loving the Zen of process are separate from seeking and desiring the admiration of strangers. Now I’ve come to see acquiring an ease with attention itself as just another tool of the trade, like turpentine or a good studio space. As an artist I remain an exhibitionist-in-training. As for Emily Gould, in that regard, anyway, I tip my hat.

Artist Porn: 10 Things That Turn Me On

June 8, 2008

Writing a weekly column about artists that turn me on omits a gigantic portion of what turns me on as an artist. The truth is that more artists don’t turn me on than do— there are a hundred for every one I feature. But there are certain things, not by fine artists, per se, that really turn me on and I affectionately refer to them as “Artist Porn”.

Note, the dictionary definition of porn is: “obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, esp. those having little or no artistic merit.” I certainly don’t use the word by this definition. One of my friends insisted that I was describing a “guilty pleasure.” But, no, that is just not the case. Dark chocolate is a guilty pleasure. Making love before breakfast is a guilty pleasure. Doing it during a conference call, well that’s just plain kinky, but I digress. No, this is clearly “artist porn.” These are things that light up my brain like a hormone-addled teenager gazing upon some moaning glistening assemblage of limbs. Behold this partial list that I encounter in daily life that visually rock my world:

TV Commercial Porn: Ads by Target
These consistently overshadow every program they appear next to. Eyes turn into roses turn into vacuums turn into ballerina dancers. I never know what’s going to happen next and I never tire of watching them.

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Couture Porn: “The Tudors”
The first time I laid my eyes on this Showtime series, I was just undone by the beauty on all levels that just spilled out of my monitor onto the reflection of my living room floor. The costumes are insane. The sets—every scene is worthy of a painting— and did I mention the costumes? The most beautifully embroidered and bejeweled I have ever seen. That the ungodly gorgeousness of the cast (Jonathon Rhys Myers as King Henry VIII, Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn, Peter O’Toole in red velvet as the Pope) holds a candle to it as well is just too much. I almost licked the monitor it was so hot. Natalie Dormer, who I had never seen before, has the most incredible face. Natalie, if you ever Google yourself and read this, please let me paint you, I beseech you.

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Architecture Porn: 15 Central Park West
I read the Sunday New York Times religiously and often find myself dawdling endlessly on the blueprints of a $Bazillion (and up!) apartments splayed as advertisements in the magazine section. In my minds eye, I walk through every room, the galleries and gaze upon the views of Central Park. This is how I discovered and fell in love with the building and website of 15 Central Park West. This paean to prewar New York architecture includes jaw-dropping views of Central Park, interviews with the cuddly architects and developers who belabored every detail of resuscitating the eminence of the era though a building. In fact, I think I’ve developed a small crush on architect Robert A.M. Stern. Hint: go to the “Film.” One day I plan on posing as a house attendant or valet to get a glimpse in real life. Check out the website and blueprints here: www.15cpw.com

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Set Design/Opening Credits Porn: “Mad Men”
What a spectacular show. It is not only fantastically written , but the sets and the details of capturing the Madison Avenue in New York in the 60s are riveting. Nailing England hundreds of years ago, as in the Tudors, seems like a cake walk compared to what they accomplished here. All you’d need is some horses, castles and killer threads. But this is absolutely a not to be missed show for the visuals alone. The opening credits ranks up there with the credits of Six Feet Under, which is sadly off the air. And all on AMC, who knew?

Product Design Porn: Voss
So sleek, no frills, feel like I got thirsty on the set of “Logen’s Run.” Many products designed by Michael Graves for Target fall under the same category.

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Fashion Porn: “The Devil Wears Prada”/“Sex And The City”
Of course the original fashion porn extravaganza was the HBO’s “Sex And The City.” “The Devil Wears Prada” is no different. Fashion is undeniably a huge inspiration for artists. Matisse, for example, was heavily inspired by the works of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel. Every outfit is a living changing work of art and I am as or more enthralled to see what colors/textiles/fabrics they’ll be sporting next as I am in the plotline. Regarding the new ‘STC’ movie, if you’re reading this on Saturday, I’ll allegedly be surrounded by women eating popcorn and watching it tonight.

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Auto Porn: Jaguar XKE
There are great newer cars to be sure, but there’s nothing like a XKE Jaguar 12 cylinder in British Racing Green. My dad had one growing up and it almost never worked but, who cared? Sliding into it and taking it for a spin with the top down when I turned 16 (shhhhhh, don’t tell him) felt like wearing God’s velvet pants.

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Animation Porn: Prada’s Trembled Blossoms Video
In yet another example where art and fashion merge, this collaboration with artist James Jean is delightfully strange and an absolute must-see.

Technology Porn: The iPhone
Too much and not enough has been said of how seductive this gadget is for artists. Enough Said.

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Tom Ford Perfume Ads
These shocking ads practically are porn and cause double takes in the magazines they appear in. I stumbled upon them flipping through Art Forum and I think this, along with some amazing German painter, is all I remember. But Tom Ford has always been a master Artist Pornographer.

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This list is partial and I’m always adding to it. Please show me yours in the comments section.

Artist Angela Dufresne On Recreating History

June 1, 2008

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Angela Dufresne, The Bruno S Island Acting School and the S House, Paris, France, 2006, oil on canvas, 66 by 108 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Monya Rowe Gallery, New York.

Committing oneself to being an artist is fraught with uncertainty on so many levels —the subjectivity of success, the schizophrenia of the solitude needed to create and then the exhibitionism needed to reveal— but within the act of creating, the artist exerts total control. She plays God. And if that means rewriting history too, all the more powerful. Given the last seven years of this administration, where we’re more likely to spot bumper stickers that say “He’s Not My President” than flag pins, it is refreshing to encounter artists who also take history— any history— into her own hands.

In Angela Dufresne’s work, she uses art, literature, architectural, and geographical references to recreate history with oil paints and canvases. Her enlivened, bold pastels and rapid brush strokes overhaul the Louvre with new architectural and geographical features as in the “Bruno S Island Acting School.” Liz Taylor ascends Dufresne’s painted staircase, replacing Duchamp’s famed nude. Tonite, with her show “The Twilight of Mice and Men”, she takes on John Steinbeck. With humor and fluidity, Dufresne’s paintings recreate the present and past so that we (or she) can handle what the future brings.

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Drawing of Versailles, http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/history/dfg/core/c4-iv.htm


Kimberly Brooks: How did you personally come to reworking and rewriting history in your work?

Angela Dufresne: It was 1999- I was in Paris at Versailles and was nauseatingly looking around at the Coat of Arms everywhere-the room restorations turns out are paid for by American Investors- another layer of the Skull and Bones classicist need for [Americans] to belong to the European Aristocratic image… Anyway, I realized at that moment: “Screw the cultural history that has been shoved down my throat- I’m making my own.” That meant creating my own coat of arms, my own genealogy….populated bastardizations of people and moments I deemed important. It also meant formally- a new set of criteria for meaning and balance.

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Angela Dufresne, DETAIL: The Bruno S Island Acting School and the S House, Paris, France, 2006, oil on canvas, 66 by 108 inches. Courtesy Monya Rowe Gallery, New York.

KB: So this “bastardization” led you to erect and paint the Bruno S Island Acting School into the blueprints of the Louvre?

AD: Definitely. “The Bruno S Island” is a renovation of the Louvre with new buildings dedicated to the actor Bruno S of the Herzog Films. I say renovation because it’s an improvised alteration- intuitively altered with Bruno S in mind—with the forms of the Louvre in mind. Out of the marks came the acting school and residence plopped onto the courtyard and a new island over the Seine with modern architectural improvements not to mention a palette overhaul.

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Elizabeth Taylor in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”


KB: What inspired you to replace the Du Champ’s Nude with Liz Taylor?

AD: I don’t think Du Champ should be exempt from bastardization…anymore than anyone else- actually I think he’d enjoy it- he is after all the master of bastardization- I mean, I consider him kin, not to be arrogant- but he gives all of us permission- so I wanted to acknowledge that I have taken his lead seriously. But also this is from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”…there’s a politically progressive connection between Du Champ and this William’s play though I am sure it’s too tedious to describe here…

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Marcel Du Champ “Nude Descending Staircase”

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Angela Dufresne, “Liz Taylor Ascending the Staircase”, 2007, oil on canvas, 60 by 108 inches, Courtesy of the artist and Monya Rowe Gallery, New York.

KB: As a painter married to a filmmaker, I love that kind of tedium. When did you start painting scenes from films anyway?

AD: Basically there’s has always been a cinematic connection to the work; it’s a bridge I have perceived from Giotto to Antonioni, from Bacon to Haneke, from Vuillard to Ozu. Framing, light, psychology that certain paintings have that translate back to film and vice versa. One could also say a documentary spirit that cross-pollinates from Alice Neel to films like “Grey Gardens” or “Harlan Country USA”. Film and painting, though profoundly different, have been having a feeding frenzy with/on each other for the past century. To me film is like still life, its more real than most of our reality. Officially, just to answer your question, I did my first full-on painting from a film in 2002, but the work has its arteries in cinema.

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Angela Dufresne, The Two Ladies in The Jewelry Store From Fassbinder’s ‘Veronika Voss’ – AKA ‘The Oath, 2007, Oil on canvas, 54 by 84 inches. Courtesy Monya Rowe Gallery, New York.

KB: If you read this column regularly, you know that any artist that mentions arteries and cinema in the same sentence is just trying to butter me up. So I must know more: what genre of film intrigues you most as a source of inspiration for your paintings?

AD: There is no one genre- I try to avoid genres. I like maverick directors, Joseph Losey, Haneke, Fassbinder, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Cassavetes, Gus Van Zant. Those who are willing to take on issues like class, sensuality, neurosis, perversion, fear, love, self consciously but without inhibition…. Also films that are less refined or packaged, but I feel the same about paintings. For all these things Fassbinder is god, he above all understood how to transport his audience into the real time of human emotion, but self-consciously, so he’s Brechtian and Aristoltlian together at last. I hope my paintings achieve something similar. I still don’t think anyone has come along that has made a more interesting cinematic achievements than him, the Zant may surprise us all…

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Angela Dufresne, “Man-Boy at Fence” (from ‘The Yearling’), 59 by 97” (5 by 8 feet), Oil on canvas 2008, Courtesy of Monya Rowe, New York and Kinkead Contemorary, Los Angeles

KB: In a clear nod to Steinbeck, you have a show opening tonite at the Kincaed Gallery in Los Angeles “The Twilight of Mice and Men”. How is the current series different than your last?

AD: There is a sort of “Grapes of Wrath”, Great Depression feel to the paintings, the light in the work has gone full on twilight, but this was an organic process, unplanned. I titled the show after taking a bird’s eye view of the works in the studio. I can’t really say how “different” it is, the work is always evolving, changing, but these paintings have their strength in their raw power, their immediacy, their execution is hyper-raw and visibly present, they are unrefined assaults on the senses, perhaps even more so that prior bodies of work. It is also a very figurative show, which to some may seem different but in fact I have always been making paintings of the figure, though some of these pieces are paintings made immediately from life, in combination with film stills. But as I said before, these are the priorities I have, it seams essential to me that paintings have such immediacy.

KB: Do you have a favorite artist or work of art?

AD: Too many- but I saw this painting by David Park recently in D.C. and thought- now that’s love.

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David Park, National Portrait Gallery.

Angela Dufresne’s work has been the subject of numerous international solo and group exhibitions. Her recent and upcoming group exhibitions include “Painting The Glass House: Artists Revisit Modern Architecture” at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, CT; Yale School of Architecture, CT; and Mills College, CA in 2009. She is currently part of a group show “Get up off our Knees” at the Monya Rowe Gallery through June 7th. Her solo show “Twilight of Mice and Men” opens today at the Kinkead Contemporary.”