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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve been procrasta-working lately and in the midst of it got hip to the app Splice via Kasumi. I went to film school at a time when to many students caused the Avid to crash, Final Cut Pro had only really just come out, and all of my films were on 3/4 tapes if not on actual film reels. It still blows my mind I can do editing on my phone with ease. I decided to play around and made this little time-lapse of a work on paper.
Of course, I didn’t get to finish it because what you can’t see if my cat booping my elbow the entire time! I had to stop at scratch his butt.
It is my first painting of 2018
From January 23rd through February 23rd, BoxHeart presents Almost 17 and #werestillhere in Pittsburgh. This large group exhibition features artwork by 60 artists that have exhibited with us over the past 16 years as well as 17 new artists with exhibitions approaching in 2018 and 2019!
I’ve been exhibiting with BoxHeart for a number of years and will be having a solo show with them in 2019. Here is some current work of mine they are exhibiting.
I’m pleased to say my show “Forma and Flora” at The Gathering Place his now on view at their Beachwood, Ohio facility through the winter.
There will be a public reception on Thursday, January 11th from 5-7pm and is on view until the end of March.
The Arnold & Sydell Miller Family Campus
23300 Commerce Park
Beachwood, Ohio 44122
You can also view a little spotlight here. I’ll be showing this new painting above, “Preacher” 16×16″ oil on panel.
I had opened this show in the fall at The Gathering Place newly built Westlake location, and the feedback has been great. I always get nervous especially when it is in a public space meant for healing — both the physical and mental. If you or someone you know resides in NE Ohio I highly recommend the programming for both adults and children.
As of this past September I am now 7 years out from my initial cancer removal surgery. I am still under the thumb of the US healthcare system due to subsequent procedures and surgeries that were related to my cancer, but my liposarcoma has not returned in any of the places it should have. It’s also almost 8 years since I began the series that changed my whole art game.
I still look over my shoulder, but not quite as often. I even learned how to go down a flight of stairs for the first time in 7 years! I’ve done a lot of genetic counseling and DNA testing, appeared in a few medical journal due to my anomalies, but no explanation or markers have been found. Maybe one day another test subject will be found, or it will be called “Proffer syndrome” after my dad and myself. I don’t consider “cancer-free” to mean that it isn’t still inside me (I was told it is) but that I am far out enough now to not go into a complete PTSD meltdown the second I find something a little off or don’t feel well. That maybe it will always be in me but won’t wake up again from the dormant slumber and create new tumors; new creatures finding their way through me again. Maybe someday a cure will be found.
From now until December 24th I’m offering free shipping and an assortment of goodies from my shop.
Prints, postcard sets, original sketches for a $teal, tiny oil paintings, and books!