FRONT opening weekend

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 PattonMichael 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.

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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.

www.FRONTart.org

Fancy in the French Quarter: Turning 40

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.

 

Illustrious Decay at Cleveland West Art League

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 is 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.

Jenniffer and I will also be unveiling a collaboration installation, which I haven’t done in ages and am quite excited about.

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.

The North: A Trip to Scotland and Yorkshire

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I had never been to Scotland and an opportunity came up to visit as well and stay with friends 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, medical 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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We stayed directly across from the Sir Walter Scott monument….

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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.

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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?

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York Minster is perfect for photoshoots — especially if you are pretending you are in a band.

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This is the seat for the Cleveland clergy in the York Minster Chapter House. Cleveland UK that is, not Cleveland, Ohio.

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My first 99!

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The Glasgow Necropolis!

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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?

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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. 

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Mel Butler took this of us in the Chapter House, and I love it!

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In any event, here are just some of the hundreds of photos that happened….

Goodbye Horses: A Song and a Mystery

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.

The 80s Wave in Art, Now

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.

Jaime Treadwell

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Signe Pierce

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Kristen Liu-Wong

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Annie Vieux

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Chad Wys

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Justin Mays

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Brian Willmount

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Scott Listfield

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Ben Jones

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“Beeple” Winklemann

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Francesco LoCastro

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Dan Perkins

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Jen Mann

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Lisa von Hoffner

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Hilary White

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Justin Friedman

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Manuel Fernandez

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Dirk van Lach

Dorian Legret

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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.