Saturday, September 26, 2015


Danny Simmons and Oshun Layne are the curators of this ambitious show, with over 100 participating artists being exhibited in 3 venues - RUSH GALLERY Gallery, Chelsea, NYC; SKYLIGHT Gallery - Bed Stuy Restoration Corp.Brooklyn,  and SALENA Gallery on the LIU Brooklyn Campus. Since I am exhibiting in RUSH ARTS my focus is on that particular space, but I encourage everyone to go to all three. POWER PROTEST AND RESISTANCE comes straight outta the blaring tabloid headlines; many of the works address the anger of those who feel powerless in the fight against institutionalized control which is considered by many to be an entitlement - not to be examined or investigated. But there is a “tipping point” where a tsunami of voices can crash into the structures of government and demand to be heard - no longer guarded and blazing internally with rage in the face of the tactics of intimidation and fear.

Upon entering the gallery, the tone of the exhibition is set with Paul Deo’s black and white painting  of a disembodied head screaming BE HEARD quoting Martin Luther King: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal”; underscored by the artist Tafa’s futuristic abstract painting, PROTEST/MARCH-DOUBLE SYNTHESIS railing against a democracy that “incarcerates millions of its youth” implicating not only the brutality of the system but the silence of the majority. 

There is an immediacy and intelligence to many of the artworks; some are very direct - such as Kristine Mays’ wire hoodie, as beautifully delicate as lattice but referencing chain-link fencing to guard against the exposed tenderness of the flesh. On the other hand,  Shellyne Rodriguez creates a whimsical looking chandelier in the shape of an eye, made up of mousetraps titled THE PROTOTYPE FOR BELPHEGOR’S EYE.  Belphegor, a recurring character in her work “is the demon of SLOTH who imbues its prey with spiritual or emotional apathy…” Rodriguez is incriminating all those who exploit their brethren for their own predatory greed, trapping them through the temptation of wealth and meaningless displays of ostentation. 

Cey Adams touching 12”x12” silkscreen and enamel on canvas paintings titled “”4 Little Girls” references the1963 murders of  the young African American girls - Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley - in the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama. The faces in the works are almost invisible and as you move around and look closely attempting to grasp their appearances, we perceive ghostly images emanating in and out of the canvas referencing the chimerical function of memory - fleetingly out of sight but permanently etched into the weave of history.

Sol’Sax’s digital photograph THE BLACK POWER MOJO HEAD also invokes a seminal point in the fight for human rights, when Tommie Smith and John Carlos, both shoeless wearing black socks  to echo poverty raised their gloved fists, heads lowered, in the gesture of the black power salute during the playing of The Star Spangled Banner at the 1968 Olympics medal ceremony. In his statement accompanying the photograph, Sol Sax wrote: “I anchor Tommie Smith and Joh Carlos’s historic Olympic protest pose in Congo ancestral magic…Racism, Europeans magic means of supremacy is confronted with The Congo Nkisi Nkondi that means ancestral knowledge or spirit from heaven that hunts in this case the inequities of a racist society. By placing Minkisi Minkondi (the plural of Nkisi Nkondi) in the context of the black power movement I seek to point to the ancestral roots of this magical protest pose…”  

Che Baraka’s work, AN ANONYMOUS PAIRING, astutely shows the roots of cubism in African art by altering Picasso’ SEATED NUDE AND STANDING NUDE revealing that the beginnings of modernism is based on cultural imperialism without attribution to its sources. Baraka wrote “…that the piece also addresses the inherent value of brown bodies and suggests an interplay of different strategies for social re-envisioning as symbolized by the Elegba and Guy Fawkes masks.”

Jerome Lagarrigue painted a triptych- BATTLE FOR AREA X and GAS#2 and BACK OF A PROTESTER’S HEAD - that graphically portrays the universal gestures of violent protest occurring  all over the globe depicting heaving bottles, molotov cocktails, throwing of stones, etc. against rulers who have access to tanks and tear gas to squelch dissent. Other artists address domestic issues - familiar staples of recent news media - that slip in and out of our consciousness - names change, soon to be forgotten, but the iconic images of art contradict this burial of awareness. Taha Clayton’s SATURN paints a portrait of Kalief Browder who at age 16 was wrongly arrested and sent to Riker’s Island Correctional Facility for 3 years for stealing a backpack - 2 of those years spent in solitary confinement. He was eventually released and shortly thereafter killed himself. Clayton shows Browder, eyes shut, flying into the vastness  of the atmosphere, enveloped in peace. He includes a quote from Stevie Wonder’ s lyrics to Saturn.

In her mixed media piece, FOR TITO (IN HOMAGE TO SANDRA BLAND,) part of a series exploring issues of police brutality, Sophia Dawson did not forget Sandra Bland whose questionable suicide days after being stopped for a supposed traffic infraction, landed her in jail for questioning the arresting Officer’s authority. Watching the  incident on video reaffirmed the deplorable complacency of authority placed in the hands of people whose beings are often permeated with ignorance  and contempt. And then we have a painting by Jas Knight titled RAY’S GAZE of former officer Ray Tensing who shot an unarmed Cincinnati motorist, Samuel DuBose in the head, after being stopped for not having a front license plate on his automobile. Jas Knight wanted to show the face of hatred and incise it into our cognizance letting the world know that the perpetrators of malevolent actions are going to be remembered.

Regrettably I have only written about a few of the pieces that are up in these provocative exhibitions, I urge you to attend all three venues.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


I do not like to drive; actually I am scared of driving. My father used to say being behind the wheel of a car meant that you had one foot in the grave (or was it  jail?) and the other in heaven. Those words still resonate with me loud and clear - the aberrant background of my fears. On the other hand, I love to be driven around and rely on the “kindness” of friends. My greatest wish would be to have a chauffeur at my beck and call - ahhh that would be divine!  So the title of director Isabel Coixet’s new lightweight comedy brought me into the theater to see LEARNING TO DRIVE

I like Patricia Clarkson (Wendy), the heroine, an accomplished literary critic whose husband, a flat emotionless Jake Weber playing Ted the unsatisfied and straying husband, walks out on Wendy and their daughter Tasha (Grace Gummer) to again fulfill his dreams/libido. LEARNING TO DRIVE becomes a metaphor for becoming self-sufficient and not needing jerks to be part of your life. Of course there is a catalyst, the wise, calm, driving instructor/life tutor, Darwan (an always wonderful Ben Kingsley) to lead her on the path to liberation; a pretty straight-forward predictable romantic tale with some detours and insights tossed into the mundane mix. 

We do get to see the social inequities in life-styles between the upper class, brownstone dwelling Wendy, and Darwan, a Sikh, who lives with three other landsman in one room, sharing the little space they have with camaraderie and resignation. Darwan had been a Professor in India, but was forced to flee, receiving political asylum and becoming an American citizen, earning a living as a cabbie and driving instructor.

I was dismayed to see Patricia Clarkson in an impassioned, frenzied moment, begging her errant husband to return to the hearth. I did my usual audible moaning and groaning in the theater - not having the heart to watch these appalling scenes of desperation. I restrained myself from shouting - It will get better, girl - it will! 
And it does! Meanwhile Darwan’s sister in India arranges for him to marry a middle aged woman Jasleen (a lovely Sarita Choudhury,) self-conscious and unsure of herself, having no knowledge of English, who travels to the United States, where we witness the adjustments both she and Darwan need to make in order to fuse their mutual loneliness into an affectionate, respectful relationship.

I did get a few driving tips - my goal in seeing LEARNING TO DRIVE - but none as great as the crime fiction novelist Elmore Leonard’s recommendation to never come to a stop too close to the car in front of you always leaving enough space to maneuver in case you are hemmed in - one never knows when one needs to exit quickly,  particularly at night!  Advice I have heeded and dispensed while sitting in the passenger seat -imperiously giving directions  - having developed into an accomplished back seat driver.

Friday, September 11, 2015


Thank you Peter Hart of National Council Against Censorship for referring to my article in Women's Voices For Change. Click on the links in blue - they show the extent and ludicrousness of FB's Standard Policing Policy.

 If you have not done so already, please click on my petition and sign it.  I am almost at 1000 and would love to get there.

Here is the article:

As we've pointed out before, there are some things Facebook doesn't like you sharing with others. Especially things that involves nudity. 
A few weeks ago, visual artist Grace Graupe-Pillard wrote a piece called "When Women’s Bodies Get Censored on Facebook: An Artist Responds." She described the ways Facebook's policies breed a certain kind of self-censorship:
I decided to post my self-portraits and quickly got a notification from Facebook’s Standards Policy on Nudity to desist. Intimidated, I devised a strategy of bypassing their provincially narrow definition of nudity and decided to self-censor by covering my breasts (particularly nipples) and genitalia with black rectangles — aesthetically a distraction, but crucial to being permitted to stay in the Facebook community. Since that time, I have feared Facebook’s imposing anonymous “watchers,” and whenever I conceive of a new composite photograph, I sense their hot sighs on my neck, ever vigilant.
She posted a new image on August 9, part of a series of nude photographs of Graupe-Pillard engaging with other pieces of art. 
Shortly thereafter I receive an email from Facebook saying that my photograph was anonymously “reported,” and that I would be spared any problems if I deleted the image. Otherwise, the work was “under review.” I did not wipe out the artwork. Consequently, it was removed, along with a letter saying that I did not meet Facebook’s Community Standards and that I had to promptly erase all images containing nudity. I was presented with a page of thumbnail vignettes for me to check off as being expunged.
What Graupe-Pillard really wanted was a way to register her frustration with Facebook over how they handle such complaints: "I had no means of redress against anonymous 'reporters' airing grievances." She's even launched a petition to Facebook, "Stop Banning Artists' Images of Nudity on Facebook Without Access to Redress."
Her story seemed like the kind of thing that anti-censorship organization might want to share with its readers– perhaps even on, say, Facebook. But after we did that, someone at Facebook had a problem with that. After receiving a complaint from a user– "I feel that this post is sexually explicit and should not be on Facebook"– our post was removed and we received this notice: 
We removed the post below because it doesn't follow the Facebook Community Standards.
This was not our first time this has happened to us, and there are numerous artists who have run into the same problem.It should be said that, whatever you think of Facebook's standards, some of Graupe-Pillard's images arguably violate them. They read in part:
We remove photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks. We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring.
Facebook also warns that their own actions might not always conform to their rules:
our policies can sometimes be more blunt than we would like and restrict content shared for legitimate purposes. We are always working to get better at evaluating this content and enforcing our standards.
Lemiure by Tina Garrett
That would seem to be what happened to Missouri artist Tina Garrett, whose semi-nude oil painting Lumiere was flagged as obscene several times by Facebook– leading them to temporarily suspend her account. This is curious, since Facebook's policies suggest that Garrett's work should be perfectly acceptable, since the site says it will "allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures." A photo of an oil painting would clearly meet that standard.
Garrett has received support from other artists, but she's reportedly had trouble getting anyone at Facebook to explain why they acted the way they did. As she told the newspaper Lee's Summit Journal:
I would like Facebook to set very clear standards for artists for what is and what isn’t acceptable to post… and I want them to protect us.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


I saw AMY and THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL two evenings in a row; both involve young teenage girls 16 and 15 respectively, raised by single mothers in the 1970’s; their fathers were gone before they were 10 years old; “abandonment” issues with all its profound psychological baggage forced them to crawl out from under the darkness of loss, employing whatever outrageous means necessary to survive and barricade their emptiness with the sweetness of “love.”  Amy Winehouse and Minnie ( a sensuous Bel Powley) kept diaries as teenagers are wont to do - drawing floating hearts up and down the brisk white paper interspersed with a teenager’s awkward handwriting jotting down lonely adolescent  yearnings for desire and attention.

AMY directed by  Asif Kapadia is a biopic - using previously unseen movie footage, stills and media clips after she became the frenzied paparazzi’s favorite “shooting star.” AMY portrays many aspects of Amy Winehouse’s short life - beginning with grainy black and white home movies of a wild- haired girl partying with close, lifelong friends - mugging  it up for the camera - tongue whipping out of her gap-toothed full mouth, eyes wide with the reckless innocence of youth. We first hear her amazing voice singing Happy Birthday belted out like a scream rising above all the other carolers, trailing off after every other partygoer had expelled their last breath - evidence of her control and bravado. The power of her sound is already palpable.

THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL directed by Marielle Heller who also wrote the screenplay adaption based on a graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner focuses on Minnie Goetz, a wide-eyed, large lipped, neatly clipped and deceptively passionate brunette wearing oversized T shirts and pants, desperately wanting to be touched - finding solace in sex. We first meet her  in a state of exuberance at having f-cked Monroe, (a terrific performance by Alexander Skarsgard,) a lanky 35 year old man who hangs out all day on the couch - the boyfriend of Minnie’s mother Charlotte (Kristen Wiig,) who is supporting the family by working at the library coming home to an apartment electrifyingly alive with friends drinking, smoking weed, amped by cocaine and booze. It is in this chaotic environment that Minnie and her younger sister are figuring out how to function basically on their own - attracted and repelled by the precarious foundations of their surroundings.

Minnie’s relationship with Monroe is wantonly sexual and their chemistry is explosive; age differences and the exploitation of a young girl more than half his age is buried beneath the intense, erotic steam of mutual lust. Often in THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL,  Minnie’s guilelessness - a confused child in a  budding woman’s erotic psyche surfaces, and we are brought back to the hard reality that this is a 15 year old kid struggling to adjust to the distinctions between intimacy and a desperate need for genuine affection.

Amy Winehouse expresses the oscillations of unfettered freedom and the agony of indifference and despair through musical intonations and verse; Minnie on the other hand, draws her fantasies limning strong lascivious sketches reminiscent  of her idol - the wonderful Aline Kominsky-Crumb  of Twisted Sisters comics fame, whose oversized female alter ego struts alongside Minnie deep in conversation - an admired and imaginary playmate who is a source of comfort and companionship.

The movie AMY, through previously “unseen footage and unheard tracks” describes the trajectory of a willful child maturing into an individual who is  extreme not only in appearance - beehive hairdo sitting atop eyes that are outlined with mascara wings, facial piercings and tattoos adorning a thin, fragile body, but a person whose determination to write compositions that are authentic to personal experience;  singing with attitude, bold beyond her years, relentlessly educating herself by listening to black female, jazz vocalists - those “greats” were her mentors. Strumming on the guitar Amy mesmerized the power-brokers of the Music Industry who helped catapult her into a world of glamour, fame and fortune.

Amy Winehouse’s voice is like none that I had ever heard before employing calculated phrasing, and a staccato range which is akin to a brutal caress. Why is it that the biopics of amazing artists follow the trajectory of a cliche? Daddy's Girl is tattooed on her arm having spent her short life worshipping a Daddy who left and returned when she was on the fast lane to success; his own financial interests taking precedent over his daughter’s well-being. Amy like the fictional Minnie has  love relationships based on need and destructive devotion. The love of Amy’s life, Blake Fielder, with whom she was inseparable, breaks her heart, and then he too returns, linking romantic turmoil with an already reckless life-style, which escalates once they wed. Blake introduces her into a world of drugs and  the magic of oblivion, bringing both euphoric rapture and endless despair to a delicate physique which coupled with alcoholism and  Bulimia, has to fight to endure - sadly a losing battle.

Both films show the development of precocious teens; THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL is limited to an invented character who ultimately  achieves an awareness of the difference between urgent indiscriminate sexual couplings, and an awakening to the fact that she has more control over her body and her fate than she realized. On the other hand the Amy Winehouse’s “star is born” bio is a heartbreaking ode to a performer whose career had just begun; though she had completed only two albums in her lifetime, she won accolades and awards from her peers, and was idolized internationally. Grievously the world watched a comet dissipate into the ether.
R.I. P. 
September 14, 1983 -July 23, 2011