Contemporary artists I’ve been thinking about lately…
The scope of the undertaking is ambitious on all levels. The partnerships, installations, artist lectures, films, and beyond have aligned despite the bureaucratic obstacles one can often experience in the world of non-profit entities and arts organizations. Founded by art collector Fred Bidwell (whose Transformer Station I am a big fan of), with the creative direction of Chicago-based artist Michelle Grabner, FRONT Triennial is not about representing artists in the rustbelt region, and it never claimed to be. It is about showcasing the city itself as an arts and culture destination that can attract a wider gaze and international talent. A Republican National Convention and an NBA Championship, sure. Now how about a city-wide arts event? The process of selecting artists was to choose those who have started to ascend, or have already made a splash in other Biennials, Triennials, and various degrees of academe in the art world. The list of international artists is staggering for a first-time arts event in any capacity.
There was a stink about artists in Northeast Ohio not getting fair representation, although six artists from the region were selected: Elizabeth Emery, Dale Goode, Julie Ezelle Patton, Michael Oatman, Lauren Yeager and Johnny Coleman. However, much like SXSW or Art Basel Miami, FRONT has inspired rogue exhibitions by 78th Street Studios, Collective Arts Network, Lakeland Community College, Artist Archives of the Western Reserve, and Curated Storefront in Akron to name a handful. All affiliated and complimentary to FRONT. It’s an answer to the question of regional representation of which FRONT gladly included gallery and event listings in their own printed materials.
The marketing of FRONT and its choices of artists was to serve the purpose of bringing people in. In fact, almost all marketing efforts were targeted to those beyond a 250-mile radius of Cleveland. Does a gorgeous spread in Architectural Digest inspire a culture junkie in Seattle or a diehard art collector in Dallas to make a weekend out it? As though we are on a hamster wheel, always something to prove, Cleveland has a hurdle that most other cities with arts events don’t have: the stigma of being Cleveland. Let’s face it, Prospect New Orleans, Art Basel Miami, and the Venice Biennale take place in places people want to visit, anyway.
The theme for FRONT is “An American City” as artists created work that explores their sense of Cleveland, and cities like it. Several pieces in the Triennial speak to our current socio-political climate in America; immigration, racism, police brutality, the declining environment, and Wall Street greed are just some of the topics raised. Although these have always been problems, the spotlight has never been hotter in the wake of the Trump presidency.
The Thursday preview attracted visitors from the likes of Colorado, Utah, California, New York, Michigan, and Massachusetts. Still unfinished, the Julian Stanczak mural on Prospect Avenue was a wonderful way to see the process. As a part of Canvas City, 10 murals will stay up beyond this summer and be changed again in the coming years as a revolving outdoor mural gallery, much like Murals at the Market in Detroit.
The Saturday opening schedule was a grueling one; compounded by the fact opening gala was the evening before. If you didn’t have a ticket for up to $5,500 a plate at Public Auditorium, you could catch the wildly colorful and almost primal Asian Dope Boys performance on Instagram Live. In addition to tours and lectures, there is a large amount of programming of films, performances, and musical acts during City Stages. The planning around all locations was based on the assumptions one could walk to various sites, as well as hop on the RTA. Whether you love it or hate it, this is where ridesharing apps came into play for visitors in the summer heat or in a hurry to see as much as they could on opening weekend in a city where public transit is not exactly a strong suit. Shuttle tours that included the stops at the locations Oberlin and Akron aided, and inspired camaraderie. How this will develop over the summer with visitors remains to be seen. Frankly, many of these visitors for the opening weekend who were assigned by institutions and publications, were very annoyed they had to be in Cleveland despite whatever polite comments they offered. Some were open to exploring, while others just wanted to hit a checklist and retreat back to the area closest to their accommodations.
The popular Kusama exhibition at The Cleveland Museum of Art serves as an anchor for the Brutalist cinderblock city by Marlon de Azambujaand, the neon pieces developed using software by Agnieszka Kurantand, and works on paper of Kerry James Marshall (who also has an exhibition at The Cleveland Public Library) to name a few. Fred Bidwell referred to the giant hand created by artist Tony Tasset at MOCA as “selfie bait” but the real star of photos and social media platforms seems to be Yinka Shonibare MBE at The Cleveland Public Library. Even if you knew nothing of the context, as many visitors wandering from the nearby hotel conferences didn’t, the beauty of 6,000 colorful bound books on its own combined with the jaw dropping architecture made it hard for anyone to resist. If anyone took part in the interactive component, it didn’t seem to matter.
You could say labeling anyone a “local” artist is akin to calling them a provincial artist. Perhaps Cleveland Artist, Rustbelt Artist, or even American Artist are labels we can begin to use more often despite not being a metropolis. It might be a long road, but FRONT could be yet another turning point in the perception game when it comes to Cleveland. Magazine features and online listicles can only do so much. Perception, of course, is one of the most minor problems the city faces.
Here’s a little painting video (to Lazerhawk) while I was working on “Gratis” oil on linen. I don’t like to give away the whole process, but you get the idea.
What seemed most appropriate ahead of my birthday? A trip to my favorite place in the USA: New Orleans! When it was sprung on me, the feeling was that perhaps this trip I’d stay in the French Quarter — which I’ve never done. And, stay on Bourbon Street — which I would normally run away screaming from the idea! Since it is the middle of June and 40 was a big deal for me, I decided I’d find the best hotel with the fanciest pool, and experience the full insanity that is the worst part of Bourbon Street on a Saturday night where you might catch a disease by standing still too long or wearing open toe shoes.
I knew what to expect, so to find a man pissing himself on the front steps of the hotel didn’t really surprise me. Ah, how nice it was to be transported then, to an amazing lobby, with wonderful courtyards and a splurge on room service. I even had a side street balcony room where the 2nd lines go down.
It was so nice to meet up with friends at places new and familiar while not really leaving the Quarter except to go to our usual neighborhood for my tattoo session. Yes, I finally got the James Jean tattoo that Shawn Dubin and I had discussed a few years earlier, and it’s perfect. I didn’t drink nearly as much as I thought I would, and I even pooped out on going to a dance party on the Saturday night (well, I was still sore from the dance party on the Friday put on by DJ Soul Sister). The saddest thing is food is always such a letdown when you leave New Orleans. It just is.
They say that 40 is the new 30, but I find that in my case especially, turning 40 has been like what most men experience when they turn 50. It’s been very hard this past month. I know everyone older than me has been shaking their heads and rolling their eyes about it, but the fact remains I am not handling it well. I didn’t think I’d care at all: then the day actually came.
This might be in part because most of my life I had a strange feeling I wouldn’t live past 31, and that feeling would prove prophetic in a most unexpected way. Due to other medical complications I’ve been forced to age a certain way, very prematurely. I’m still adjusting to that even thought it’s been a few years because I was never given the time and space I needed to fully deal with it (2016 was a horrible year). What then, is one to think when they didn’t die young as expected, but also been forced to age prematurely biologically? This, I am still reconciling.
Sorry to be Captain Bringdown, I suppose I’ll get over it soon enough. It really was a fantastic weekend.
Oh look it’s my next exhibition! This will be opening at the tail end of FRONT
Cleveland West League is proud to present a new body of work from visual artists Jenniffer Omaitz and Arabella Proffer in the exhibition, “Illustrious Decay”. Cleveland West Art League Gallery (CWAL) is located in 78th Street Studios at 1305 West 80th Street, Suite 110, Cleveland, Ohio 44102. The opening reception will be from 5:00 to 9:00 pm on Friday, September 21st, 2018 and the closing reception will be Friday, October 19th, 2018 from 5:00 to 9:00 pm.
“Illustrious Decay”, represents an investigation of form, biology, and environmental decay. Arabella Proffer’s painting brings together her interests in nature, disease, and the evolution of cells. The paintings explore the roles that organisms, medicine, DNA, and hybrids play in response to our current age of genetic revolution. Flourishes of familiar landscapes as their environment, add to their story.The sculpture of Jenniffer Omaitz reacts to the macro environments in Proffers’ paintings by creating interior spaces and exposing exterior structures that house decaying parts, miniscapes, and combining meta realities as if they were a invented surreal landscape.
The mission of the Cleveland West Art League is to foster an inclusive artist community in Greater Cleveland by providing exhibition and collaborative opportunities, resources and education.
I had never been to Scotland, and an opportunity came up to visit as well and stay with friend in Middlesbrough aka Cleveland and take in the sights. I enjoyed Glasgow a lot more than I thought I would, and the same goes for York (despite the crazy number of tourists). If I had taken this trip a few years ago I would have been miserable, due to the amount of hills and stairs that would not have been very compatible with being on a cane — let alone any other physical disabilities. So I am very glad the timing worked out. We spent a few weeks filled with train travel, art museums, museums, carb loading, tea, cats, nightclubs and meeting-up with friends. The history of Scottish rock was a common theme throughout the trip, and funny enough this issue of The Skinny had come out. Ah, what timing indeed.
Edinburgh is so gorgeous I will have to make another trip back to do everything I wanted. My husband Ben, and I, did the full tea service at The Balmoral Palm Court and even skipping lunch and dinner, it was an insane amount of food. It was all very royally done, and I think the Rose tea was my favorite. A side note: I enjoyed haggis and blood pudding in general, they don’t deserve the bad rap they get in the USA.
We met with Kevin of the legendary Avalanche Records at an art gallery; it appears live music venues in Scotland are experiencing the same problems as anywhere else. We went to an indie disco underneath Old Town. It was a very interesting study in anthropology.
I was very happy to finally make it to the Surgeons’ Hall Museums (we left early as my husband got a little too grossed out at things in jars) where I found many early examples and variants of my liposarcoma cancer and ways of infusing the femur with metal.
One thing I signed up to do was get over my strange fear of birds. Not too far from the city center is Dalhousie Castle, a hotel and spa, as well as the home of a large amount of birds of prey. Each one of them named for a David Bowie reference. Owls, hawks, falcons, and eagles. Want to get over your fear of birds? Hold a 9 pound eagle and flight a hawk for several runs! I’m addicted to falconry, now. There’s a few videos at the end of this post.
Our elevator broke in Edinburgh and we were in the attic on the 7th floor. It was like Crossfit that I didn’t sign up for, but with tartan.
We stayed directly across from the Sir Walter Scott monument….
And then, goth night anniversary in Newcastle with The Butlers! Mel Butler was one of the DJs. Thanks to them, I’ve been turned onto some newer goth bands that I really like. They drove us all around to old viking sites, cemeteries, seaside towns, and more for a great Bank Holiday weekend. It was a fun reunion after our adventures in Dublin a few years back.
They met for the first time in this exact spot in York, back in the 80s. Did I ever tell you kids about the 80s?
York Minster is perfect for photoshoots — especially if you are pretending you are in a band.
This is the seat for the Cleveland clergy in the York Minster Chapter House. Cleveland UK that is, not Cleveland, Ohio.
My first 99!
The Glasgow Necropolis!
Laz from the excellent Bubblegum Lemonade took a series of photos of Ben and I where we look like we should be in an indie/electronic duo. Laz gave us a walking tour of Glasgow indie music history, and we even ran into Mr. Love of Teenage Fanclub while out seeing Gospel Beach do a gig. The 25th anniversary of Oasis being signed to Creation Records after their gig at King Tut’s happened to fall on my last night; a documentary screening and cover band were a nice way to celebrate, and I’m always up for seeing venues in other cities since they might not always be around. I’m not the biggest Oasis fan, but what were the chances I’d be in the very spot where it happened on the night?
We visited the Glasgow School of Art because I was supposed to attend there for a semester as a sister school to CalArts. This photo was taken of Ben on May 30th and it blows my mind, that now weeks later, the entire place was wiped out in a fire.
Mel Butler took this of us in the Chapter House, and I love it!
In any event, here are just some of the hundreds of photos that happened….
A new article has been written about Q and the now storied song “Goodbye Horses”. I can tell you for a fact it wasn’t until after my friend Bill passed away almost a decade ago, that all of the real interest sprouted. He did enjoy some recognition in the early 2000s thanks to various outlets like Toxic Airborne Event, Family Guy, and Grand Theft Auto. Let me tell you, Bill would have LOVED all the lore and mystery! But it’s true, no one has been able to find Q for years, and he presumed she passed away ages ago.
I should clarify (this is the problem when journalists email with no follow-up questions or don’t suggest a phone conversation, I get emails almost monthly about Goodbye Horses from various magazines) that his oldest sister was estranged up until his second coma when the hospital told our friend Veronica that she needed to find his family after all those years because it was not looking good. He beat hospice too, by the way, and even got an invoice for not dying! He would later pass away just as things were looking up. Veronica and I are very amused the article says she disputes me. I should also clarify that the use of the song he would have been angry about are the random bootlegs I’ve seen get released on vinyl.
When I say Bill, and not “Q” people get very confused. Let me put it this way; Q was used as an instrument (I believe paid as a one-time deal) but the song was written and composed by Bill, he even came up with the name Q Lazzarus. The demos of himself doing the vocals are still around, as is the original Casio he used. He did remixes up until the mid 2000s.
I know everyone wants more information about Diane (aka Q) but as far as we know, the consensus was that she moved to the UK and thus disappeared.
Of course, I found Bill to be fascinating and an underachiever in so many ways that I could relate to. But, he new that song was good, and would make sure you knew it upon meeting him! That’s how we became friends when I met him in a bar in Cleveland; I practically hugged him “that song was you?! I tried forever to find it but it wasn’t on any soundtracks!” and off we went!
Collabortation could always be tricky with him, but we managed to do a great art exhibition together, and he worked with Veronica Red a lot. I always wonder what he would have gone on to do. It’s so hard for me to hear that song — which gets played a lot in various places from a night club to a grocery store. I think about him just about every day.
I’m so thrilled that my painting “Outcast” has made another cover! This time it is literary magazine, The Journal. They also did a very in-depth interview and you can read it over here.
Noticing the trend the last 5 years for nostalgia of 80s design come about in web design, fashion, and graphics, inspired me to throw together a brief list of artists who are doing the same. I had asked about this phenomena and more than a few people cited Vaporwave as an inspiration or possible conduit.
So would this “New Futurism” (not to be confused with Neo-Futurism) be considered Vaporwave art? I’m not sure since Vaporwave itself relies heavily on aesthetics paired with the music.
The Dorito chip shape, swiggle line, and cube grid has made a hot comeback as well as neon colors and acid wash jeans. As a child of the 80s I thought these things were hideous, but I suppose when enough time goes by anything is bound to get recycled and reworked. It is very interesting to see it trickle into fine art. Several of these artists have been at this vibe before Vaporwave became a thing — some of whom I have exhibited with — and some it seems, are have adopted it for newer bodies of work.
Either way, it makes me think of all my old Mead notebook covers and Trapper Keeper art with fondness. Supposedly, Vaporwave is “dead” but I was told over and over that painting was “dead” in art school 20 years ago.
Lisa von Hoffner
Dirk van Lach
These are just a handful of artists working today I thought of off the top of my head. There’s so many more working in installations art, animation, GIF art, and so on. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a strange urge to go listen to saxophone solos while staring out venetian blinds.
After the very first surgery when my leg was sliced and diced, I came-to prematurely from my drug induced state, and I knew, this was not going to be my first and only time in this hospital. I wasn’t sure how soon or how many more times, but I knew within three seconds — in the most pain I have ever endured in my life — I knew this wasn’t over. I would not get out of having cancer this easy.
This same sentiment had occurred with my father, almost 30 years prior. In a morphine state after one of his brutal surgeries acting as a guinea pig at NIH, he saw the hallucination of neon words fall from the ceiling onto him YOU ARE GOING TO DIE. On his flight from Michigan back to NIH for further treatment, his plane lost two engines. The passengers panicked, and the woman seated next to him began to scream that they would all crash and die. My father sat calm and unmoved, he told her he had terminal cancer, and he wasn’t getting out of it this easy. She was stunned, but the plane made an emergency landing safely.
For seven years, I’ve been in bed enough against my will, that I have had a lifetime’s worth of vegging out to Netflix and scrolling social media feeds. But if you need advice on what to expect if you’ve never had to stay in a hospital, I can give you the lowdown on that. Welcome to Hell, I’ll be your tour guide!
In one surgery I tried to get off the table; in another I tried to pull the breathing tube out — which I vividly remember choking while the team of doctors kept slapping my hand away. In the recovery room after another surgery, I needed water desperately and tried to scream for help. I realized the room had emptied out because Oprah was on the floor and everyone wanted to see her; maybe they thought she’d give them a free car. Due to the fact I kept waking during surgery, I was then at times given too much anesthesia, which would result in my expelling black bile for up to ten hours. Around the sixth surgery, the portions were finally just right, and I was Goldilocks.
If you think you will sleep in a hospital, I can guarantee that you will not. You will wake up every half hour if not more so. If you think you will even get two chapters into a book without being interrupted, you are also wrong. Vitals, tests, prescriptions, lung exercises, drainage tubes, and blood clot boots that I like to pretend are leg massagers, are just some of the things that await you. You’ll be woken by the gossip of nurses, the cleaning staff, and even hear screams in the distance from other patients having a rough go of it. You will be woken for meals you don’t want, and by counselors who ask an array of questions that you still can’t understand in a drug induced haze that never quite controls the pain.
One thing you will get very comfortable with after you’ve been a habitual patient is nudity. It’s hard to be bashful when dozens of people have had their fingers in every hole and crack in your body. The hospital gown that DvF designed for Cleveland Clinic patients is the least intuitive design that would confuse an origami artist let alone a medical professional. I had mooned my caretakers on multiple occasions and at one point limped along a hallway with my entire backside showing. This must have been a sad sight wearing my bright yellow hospital issue socks with slip grips that were two sizes too big. By the way, if you’ve ever considered yourself a fashionably dressed person, prepare yourself for those socks.
Nothing makes you feel worse than not being able to use the restroom on your own. It is a special act of humiliation no matter how many times you’ve been through it. The alternative of course, is a bed pan, but if you’ve been stitched up, this is hardly a painless act and you will opt for moving at a sloth pace to use a real toilet. After a few misfires – one of which ended with me peeing all over the floor – I learned to ease myself into hovering, which was a huge victory. The day you can use the toilet at will is the best day ever for one’s self-esteem.
When staying in a hospital overnight, be sure to have a plan of attack for when the food — and most importantly — the coffee, arrives at your bedside. If you think any of this is edible or that this coffee won’t destroy your insides, you are sorely mistaken. I learned to have a network of family and friends bring me Starbucks, milkshakes from a reputable source, and takeout from somewhere with a real chef. How are you to begin recovery if you are given a package of Dole fruit cocktail shipped in from China? I had learned to pack a small assortment of cosmetics, lip creams, and hand moisturizers. My nurses often wondered how it was I looked like a decent human after 3 days in a hospital bed on drugs. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s dry shampoo!
It took 3 hospital stays lasting 5 days each to finally get my cocktail right; a constant flow of Oxycodone, Valium and morphine. One nurse dubbed me the Morphine Rhino as my tolerance was ridiculous. In a morphine state I’d watch Bravo TV shows where everything was a fashion crisis. On one episode of The Rachel Zoe Project, the world was literally going to end because it would be raining during the Golden Globes red carpet event, and Camera Diaz might need a man in a tux to hold an umbrella. You would have thought this was worse than genocide, and I started laughing uncontrollably, “Your problems are HUGE!”
When your cocktail is figured out, you can finally be comfortable enough to concentrate on your other problems. For me, it almost always came down to one: The Roommate!
I had a succession of roommates who irked me enough that I wanted to smother them with a pillow but killing a patient in a hospital probably wouldn’t go over very well, and besides, I am usually marked as a fall risk.
Sometimes you luck out and have a solo room. I was once installed in what I called “The Donatella Versace Suite” a room so large that I could have thrown a party ala Breakfast at Tiffany’s. However, this is an exception not the rule. When I hear the that Saudi royalty will reserve entire floors at Cleveland Clinic I think, man — they are really onto something. I wonder if that’s what the Kardashians do?
There was the roomie who had a parade of family members in our tiny space at all hours. A snaking line of teenagers slouched over texting, cousins and in-laws, most who clearly didn’t want to be there but felt a deep Protestant duty while wondering where the nearest McDonald’s was. There was the roomie who ignored every warning and instruction, then fell in the night rendering her new knee replacement useless — and earning herself another replacement. There was the roomie who wouldn’t stop talking about her ailments to me through a curtain; how many times her hips, knees, and ankles had been done and she had no intention of going on that diabetic diet. A salad?! What were they crazy?! My roommates wouldn’t stop asking for food, even straight from surgery screaming for chocolate cake, tapioca pudding, and salted crackers. It was sun up to sun down –- I mean, Jesus did these people ever stop eating?
My favorite roomie of my tour of hospital stays was the nurse. As you can probably imagine, nurses make the worst patients. She had decided she hated the entire hospital staff, and me. She blamed my regular vitals as the reason she couldn’t sleep. Everyone was wrong, and everyone was out to ruin her life. To say she was combative with medical professionals would be an understatement. When I dropped a pencil and her sweet mother picked it up off the floor for me, you would think her mother had committed treason! Though I was sleep deprived, I delighted in her misery as I showed off my good coffee, French hand cream, and agile ability to scoot to the toilet all by myself.
Your hell might be better or worse during your hospital stay, but at least now you can be prepared. I wish I could tell you that doing it often makes it easier.