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While the thought of a snow day during the waning days of summer seems absurd, please indulge me in this post because I’m going to share the most charming snow day you’ll likely experience.

The Skirball is wrapping up their 6 month retrospective on the art of Ezra Jack Keats. The Snowy Day is an homage to it’s namesake book about a day in the life of a young boy from Brooklyn who experiences the first snowfall of the year.  This delightful book captures the boundless energy, excitement and pure delight of a child exploring nature.  The book was originally published in 1962 and it made history by featuring the first non-caricatured African-American protagonist in children’s literature.  As a result, the Snowy Day was released amid tremendous controversy on artistic and socio-political levels.

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The exhibit features original artwork from the book alongside some of editorial ephemera (including letters that supported and lambasted the book) that accompanied its release.  In addition to the Snowy day, Keats’ work includes numerous works that reflect the cultural diversity of New York in the 1960’s.  He didn’t sugar coat economic conditions, yet as an illustrator his art deftly taps the heartbeat and spirit of the communities he portrayed.  Keats grew up as a Polish Jew living in tenement housing in the Bronx during the Great Depression.  He had trained as an artist before and after enlisting in the Army and became an illustrator in the 50’s.  The Snowy Day was Keats’ first solo authored/illustrated book and the inspiration to use an African-American child came from a 1940’s magazine clipping featuring a child who experienced the emotional roller-coaster of a needle prick blood test.  The child in the photos became his creative muse.  The hero in Keats’ book was named Peter.

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Excerpt from a Life Magazine shoot featuring a child who was given a blood test. The range of emotion expressed in the pictures served as an inspiration for Peter in Keats’ 1st book “The Snowy Day”.

I remember reading The Snowy Day, and as a black child in the 1970’s and I certainly had a visceral connection to Peter in the book.  I grew up an only child and related to Keats’ depiction of joy in solitude; to be able to see a Snowy Day through the eyes of Peter who looked like me this gave me a sense of belonging.  In addition to the Snowy Day, many of Keats’ other books were featured and the exhibit explores the depth and range of his artistic style which had been influenced by Japanese and Chinese art.  The works he produced during that phase of his career delved into spirituality and nature, with many of his paintings taking a sharp departure into abstraction (at one point he studied with Jackson Pollock).

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“The heavens declare the glory of God.. (Judiasm)”, Ezra Jack Keats

This exhibit is an absolute delight and one that I wished I had seen sooner (The Snowy Day closes in one week on September 7th).  As an auntie I bought a few copies of Keats’ books and cannot wait to gift them to the young Peters in my life.  While the book has a strong resonance with children of color, the basic theme at the core of this book transcends race.  According to Keats, the book simply shares “the joy of being a little boy alive on a certain kind of day, of being for that moment.”

http://www.skirball.org/exhibitions/the-snowy-day

More images from the exhibit:

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The Snowy Day will be on view at the Skirball Cultural Center through September 7, 2014.

 

Grump

Illustration Credit: Artist Noli Novak

File this in: “random knowledge that may impress”:

  • your 1%er friends
  • your boss
  • artsy folk that you would rather talk Pop Culture with but instead pontificate on the latest Christie’s auction…
  • people who read the Wall Street Journal
  • the one person you know that has been on Jeopardy

Alternative File:  “random knowledge that will likely render you a geek to most people which ok, because you like to drop obscure facts and non sequiturs on people and leave an air of awkward in your wake”

Anyway, I frequently read the Wall Street Journal and I love their use of illustrative portraits instead of photography.

Last week I came across a beautiful illustration of Thelma Golden, the Director of the Studio Museum in Harlem on Instagram.  The piece was featured in the September issue of the Wall Street Journal Magazine.

Photo Credit: Thelma Golden, Instagram

Photo Credit: Thelma Golden, Instagram

 

I loved it and quickly learned that it’s called a “Hedcut” (aka stipple drawings).  Hedcuts are the ink dot illustrations that are synonymous with the Wall Street Journal’s brand identity, but are also used in a variety of artistic mediums. While the picture itself is called a “Hedcut”, the process of creating dot ink illustrations using shadows and contouring is called “stippling”.

Literally within 10 minutes of learning these fun facts last week, I walked by this mural that looks like they used the same type of gradient shadowing, resulting in a short stroke, graf equivalent of stippling!

Mural by Zio Ziegler at the Standard, Downtown Los Angeles

Mural by Zio Ziegler at the Standard, Downtown Los Angeles

Consider me fascinated.  I now want a stipple avatar!

For more on Hedcuts , Stipple and the artists that create them, check out this article by the Wall Street Journal.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704207504575129961786135180

 

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The National Women’s History Museum isn’t even a museum.

How is that possible?  On Saturday I attended L.A.’s “Women Making History” Brunch to support and bring awareness to this museum’s heroic efforts to be recognized on the Mall in Washington D.C. Whenever I attend events like this I try to do my homework beforehand:  I pulled the website and scanned the list of trustees, board members, honorary board members and ambassadors to see how they are raising awareness and funds for the museum.  While doing so I was stunned…  The NWHM isn’t a museum yet.  (more importantly, I was embarrassed that I wasn’t aware of this fact). During the brunch the hosts showed a video featuring the hilarious duo Frangela, who wryly made the same observation.  Turns out I was in good company. Among the professionals, documentary film makers, actresses and writers that I met this weekend, many were unaware of the fact that a quiet political battle was being fought to break ground on an important historical cultural institution.

The Mission of the National Women’s History Museum is to “educate, inspire, empower, and shape the future of women by integrating our distinctive history into the culture and history of the United States”.  This got me thinking about how poor my knowledge of Women’s History is.  I grew up going to very conservative schools where African-American and Women’s History were completely ignored in my textbooks.  In college I became a sponge making up for lost time by learning and embracing my history as an African-American, but I never gave significant thought to the fact that I hadn’t done the same with Women’s History.  Sadly in the 25 years since I’ve graduated from High School, not much has improved. In fact, only 10% of the historic figures represented in history textbooks are women, despite women comprising 51% of the population.

While this disparity is daunting it need not be debilitating.  I am encouraged by the inroads the STEM community has taken to reach out to girls and encourage them to explore careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  While our girls need to be encouraged that they CAN do whatever they want, they also need to be shown that they DID. They need to know about those that paved the way like Grace Murray Hopper, the creator of one of the earliest computing programming languages, COBOL, or 30’s Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr who had a surprising side hustle of creating anti-jamming communications technology that served as a conceptual foundation for WI-FI (enabling wireless communication technology used today).

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Back to the museum.

In order for a museum to be built on the National Mall, it must pass through Congress. For the NWHM to even be considered, a commission must be formed to establish site specifications, organizational governance, operational protocols and fundraising (coincidentally the NWHM would be solely funded through private funds without taxpayer dollars).  A bill to create the commission was overwhelmingly passed by the House, yet is apparently stuck in the Senate with two holdouts.

While the brick and mortar efforts appear to be in temporary stasis, their digital repository is robust and includes bios of pioneers in Education, the Arts, Politics, Civil Rights, Activism, Technology, the Military, etc.  This effort should be celebrated on its own.

I’m a firm believer that roadblocks present opportunities and I think the NWHM has a unique opportunity to leverage technology to encourage dynamic engagement and exploration of its site to fulfill the museum’s mission.  In the meantime I applaud the efforts to expand awareness through the museum’s ambassador network, and yesterday’s event honored 3 women who have made history in their own unique ways, with each one making a difference in the lives of others.

Why do we need a Women’s Museum?  Because we are organizers, innovators, supporters, moguls, trailblazers, soldiers and creators whose stories and contributions to the world deserve to be told, heard and never forgotten.

For more on the museum and how you can get involved, click the link below.

http://www.nwhm.org/about-nwhm/

I’m dedicating this Rewind to someone who despite the gravity of recent days, had a GREAT week.

Jeff Goldblum has had a bit of a Renaissance of late.  For me I guess it goes back 10 years when he played Alistair Hennessey in “The Life Aquatic” wearing that fabulous “I’m a Pepper” shirt.

From then on, I’ve been utterly smitten with the quirky, campy roles that he convincingly plays with unbridled enthusiasm.

I’m still trying to find artisan knots…

Earlier this week I came across the picture he took with the wedding party that re-created Jurassic Park. Classic.

Today, NPR’s Morning Edition re-aired a piece about Goldblum’s Jazz band that regularly performs in Los Angeles.  Of course he’s a Renaissance man!  I’m now on a mission to catch one of these performances!

http://www.npr.org/2014/08/14/340289238/you-know-him-as-an-actor-but-jeff-goldblum-is-a-musician-too

Cheers to Jeff Goldblum!

 

Photo Credit, NBC Washington, and @The_Blackness48 on Instagram

Photo Credit, NBC Washington, and @The_Blackness48 on Instagram

I am not alone in feeling the weight of this week. I don’t think there are enough words to express my frustration with what is happening right now in Ferguson, MO, however when I see this picture today taken at a Freshman orientation at Howard University, I am reminded of the realities of the unspoken burdens we bear just by living in our beautiful skin.  My post is not meant to be political or racial, but I would be remiss if I did not express my feelings through this forum.  I am seeing too many eerie reminders of our inability to learn and grow from our past.  Generations before us worked too hard and sacrificed too much.  It pains to me see History repeating itself in subtle ways.

Memphis Sanitation Worker's Strike, 1968.  Photo Credit:  Huffington Post

Memphis Sanitation Worker’s Strike, 1968. Photo Credit: Huffington Post

In using art as some form of catharsis, this piece by Glenn Ligon is an apropos nod to Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”.

Glenn Ligon, "Invisible Man".  Photo Credit: MoMA

Glenn Ligon, “Invisible Man”. Photo Credit: MoMA

 

Text:

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe; nor am I one of those Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids–and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.  Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination–indeed, everything and anything except me.”~ Ralph Ellison

 

Garry Winogrand

There’s so much wrapped up in this one picture, I don’t know where to begin.  His quote is priceless and it brings so much depth into the shot.  If I taught a creative writing class, I’d have my students write a story stemming from this one picture. Alternatively, if you had to sum up this picture in four words what would they be?

 

My Answer?

Ten minutes on Facebook.

Happy Monday!

 

Here’s my weekly recap of my favorite discoveries found online this week.

Duro Olowo's "More Material" at Salon 94. Photo Credit: Vogue

Duro Olowu’s “More Material” at Salon 94. Photo Credit: Vogue

Duro Olowu’s “More Material”

I’ve been so preoccupied with work, life, drought-proofing our yard (we removed 2/3 of our lawn, *self-aggrandizing pat on back*), that I’m having gallery withdrawals.  If I could transport myself to any show, here’s where I’d go right now.  Designer Duro Olowu pulls from many inspirations in music and art in his fashion which is why his show “More Material” at Salon 94 in N.Y. is a sensorial parade.  Olowu’s group show features a collective of artists, photographers, designers, and entertainers whose work touches on the duality of femininity and rebellion. I love how this show assembles a diverse group of artists whose work connects to Olowu’s vision for the show, while also serving as a platform showcase for the designer’s Spring 2014 line of intricately designed capes.  Anyone who knows me knows how much I love a cape!

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“Disco Bomb” by Martin Kippenberger, MOCA, 2014. Photo Credit: CultureShockArt

Panic in the Disco

“Let’s Dance-How we turned DJs into Superstars” by Ian McQuaid

I spent my 20’s in underground clubs, where in the 1990’s in San Francisco there were an overabundance of house, hip hop, techno and acid jazz venues.  During that time the DJ was the architect of the evening and these “inscrutable masters of records” held the power to levitate a room.

Tank Magazine recently published this fantastic essay on the state of dance music and it’s transformation from group transcendence to performance art.  In a technological age of social media that enables detachment from the physical world, I am not surprised that the role of the DJ has been recast from the behind the scenes “experience maker” to becoming the experience themselves.  “Silent Disco” is a perfect example of detachment while the proliferation of the celebrity DJ plays into shift in focus over music (I was so tempted to name names here, but you know).  Music no longer becomes the shared experience, the shared experience comes from the uniqueness of the delivery. Speaking of experiences, I suggest playing Barbara Tucker’s “I Get Lifted” while you read this article and you may get a feel for the good ol’ days this piece transported me back to.

http://tankmagazine.com/issue-60/radio/let’s-dance

No Touching!  Ovation’s New Web Series “Touching the Art”

Ovation TV just launched a new web series that tackles the ever vexing question, “What’ is Contemporary Art, and why don’t people get it?”  In an irreverent, tongue in cheek format, Ovation’s new series attempts to bring humor and accessibility to pressing issues in Contemporary Art, bridging the gap between art insiders who deal with these themes and outsiders who may be intimidated by the art world.  The premier episode aired today, and I loved that the all female panel (particularly their reasons for it).

As an outsider who loves Contemporary Art, I really loved the show; I think it will resonate with “Franconian” millennials who would like the pacing and dry wit of the moderator who shifts between the roles of artist and skeptic (plus it’s only 5 minutes; why are web series so short?).  The themes were solid and the topics entertaining.  While they tried to appeal to multiple demographics, you could tell Ovation wanted to keep the show self-aware enough to avoid dumbing down the content. As a result, there’s still quite a bit of insider art world lexicon that will likely turn off people not following Contemporary art in Los Angeles or New York, on the flip side it’s rapid pace and quick fire responses will give outsiders a glimpse into the evolving dynamics that shape the artistic landscape of L.A., and it just may encourage people to do a deeper dive on their own. I think it’s a fantastic forum that delves into the many topics I see explored by my favorite arts writers on Twitter, and I think it’s great that they have a new forum for them to share their ideas.  Can’t wait to see more!

http://www.ovationtv.com/touching-the-art/

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