Mary Cassatt, The Elements of Art. The Barnes Foundation

Mary Cassatt, Woman with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge, 1879, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Mary Cassatt’s Woman with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge: Creative Distortion and Audio Synesthesia in a Painted Portrait

DoN Brewer

Spring 2017

The Elements of Art, The Barnes Foundation

William M. Perthes, Senior Instructor

Woman with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge plastically synthesizes the musicality of attending a concert with repetition of picture facts in a multi-colorful artwork pulsing with liveness and exuberance. Illustrating a broad human experience, enjoying music, Mary Cassatt uses pictures facts based in repeated curvilinear lines, distorted shapes and optical illusions to portray a figure at once watching and being watched. Composed of radiating spokes of information rich components, the plastic qualities of each spoke are arranged in rhythmic shades of color with an aural quality.

Chromesthesia, sound-to-color synesthesia is a type of synesthesia in which heard sounds automatically and involuntarily evoke an experience of color. Colors can trigger ideas, memories and experiences synthetically; shared broad human qualities are coded plastically in the media. In color-graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored. Synesthetic art explores all the senses simultaneously, providing elicitation of multiple perceptual experiences to the audience.

Excitement of the narcissistic moment, when all eyes are focused on the lustrous figure, is dramatized with illustrative, compartmentalized units of information, creatively distorted, with an expressive, puzzling composition like a symphonic score, each element playing it’s own part. Decorative elements echoing throughout the design are like harmonic resonance in an acoustic space; line, color and shapes are arranged in dynamic patterns like a musical score.

Creative distortion distills the elements for the purpose of activating the picture with spatially driven composition facts: a floating perception point, scarcity of straight line, waves of repeating picture facts, and visual keys of colors. Mood is designed into the composition, the elicitation of perceptual experiences is developed plastically; some composers are associated certain keys with certain colors/moods/flavors. Color is this picture is instrumentation, a certain musical instrument tends to sound darker/richer in the low register and brighter/clearer in the high register, and Cassatt’s colors register specific information about the spatial atmosphere via creative distortion.

The figure in the painting is seated in a loge, a private box in a theater, with her shoulders, neck and back of her head reflected before a large mirror, a screen effect reveals the interior space, the high ceilings confined to the Paris Opera House, high up in a cozy, red velvet chair on a balcony, a fancy chandelier lights the picture creating a floating, fantastical view point of the pearl necklace. The nacreous colors are glossy, entwining the neck, reflecting the value, hue and tone of the decorative importance of the theme, and balance of intent. The string of pearls is the visual beat repeated like a fugue, a recognizable melody, throughout the picture.

Leaning towards the left with her upper body torqued, the figure’s right shoulder projects forward, the left arm leaning lightly, steadily, on the soft cushion of a wine red velvet chair; a pyramidal form is solidly established across the base, red velvet transitioning into a pinkish, pearlescent, shiny plane of colors that gives a sense of planted-ness across the lower third of the design. The left side of the figure is bright in reflected light, head facing to the right, gazing out into the audience illustratively reflected in the mirror behind her. The composition plays out in a symphonic, musical arrangement using color as notes, shapes as sounds and line as conductor.

The pyramidal design of the figure offers up a grand, comfortable, lush construct amplifying the picturesque arena like a spirited, uplifting, lilting compliment to the sophisticated setting. The figure’s reflection in the mirror barely reveals the lustrous pearls encircling the back of the neck, mere dabs of gray paint; instead the chandelier reflected in the upper left becomes an elaborate hat with the orbs like huge pearls and feathers, like a glowing halo above her head.

The elaborate, be-jeweled light fixture establishes the top of the main pyramidal composition, a plane extending down from top left to the right, parting her hair, to the adorned right shoulder, the arm reaching out of the picture, then back to the left through her gloved hand with the elbow resting on the red cushion prompting the viewer to look back up to the chandelier. The torso is an opposite triangle with the slope of the shoulders creating the pinnacle, the left arm leading to the lower third of the right side of the canvas, and the right waistline pointing to the illumination of the gown. The compositional construct of planes, fragments, and broken color establishes focalized areas with cascading circular units organized into interlocked dynamic balances of equivalents.

The mirror creates the illusion of deep picture space with the curving lines of the balcony sweeping across the vertical composition, wrapping around the figure like a delightful, festive, silken scarf wafting about the hall like pulsing sound waves. The color of the balcony reads from a fair distance as chartreuse, a saturated yellow/green color; on closer inspection the band of color is a color chord of yellow, blue, green and red. The smudged paint is trans-fusional with liquidy, indistinct lines, shapes and colors that create a floating atmospheric effect as if the viewer is hovering in the space before the figure. The point of view optically distorts the picture space resulting in a surprise, like a clash of a cymbal, when the viewer realizes the depth of the domed chamber is a reflection in a mirror.

The gown begins the procession of curving, sinuous shapes that lift up through the picture like a musical chord: the illuminated curve of her gown across her lap, the waist line extenuated by the shadow beneath the bust, the sweeping curve of the lace wrapping the shoulders, the strand of enviable pearls and the curve of her jaw line, the railing of the balcony swerving up to the right, curved wall and decoration above the balcony, the woodwork topping the balcony and the slinky, dangling crystals and lighted globes of the chandelier. The blobs of color representing people seated in the boxes create a melodic effect, with a staccato beat, soaring notes beginning at the left, at first softly with the multi-colorful hair reflected in the mirror, then up through the right in lifting, curving lines like an operatic aria. The woman’s face completes the strand of people/pearls with the rosy pop of a red flower in her hair; a low shadow color of the flower extenuates the size and importance of the floral toned note of the red ear canal. High notes of yellow hair, deep resonant tones of her eyes, cheeks and nose playing like a chorus, each character, facial feature and ornament representing musical and ambient sounds. An experience is lived vicariously through the sonic vibrations of the music in the hall represented in chords of color.

In opposition to the pearl necklace upward curves are curvilinear shapes and lines that drape downward like a mirror effect: the crown of her head, the bangs of her hairdo, the upper lip with light caressing her cupid’s bow, the drop of her shoulders, the dark reflection of the red chair, the bright red of the chair’s cushioned back and the brightly illuminated gloved hand holding the decorated folded fan are like the bass lines compared to the treble of the upward curves. The triangular fan acts as a repoisseur, decoratively illustrative, pointing into the picture from the right side like an orchestra conductor, leading the viewer into the symphonious, flowing musicality of the composition. The fan is decorated with creatively distorted dark colored shapes that mirror the color blobs representing the other concertgoers in the balcony boxes.

Across the top of the picture, like bars in a chorus, the repeated curving dividers between the box seats, thump as drum beats throughout the design: the curvilinear shape of the dividers are a repeated theme of her head and shoulder reflected in the mirror, the curls of her hair on the left side of the head, the highlight on the right side of the nose, the outline of her right brow and cheek and in the shape of her gloved hand resting in her lap. The recurring pattern creates unity with a variety of subtle notes in a unified plastic field of color, line and shapes playing in concert to define the composition.

Color chords play a musical role in the composition with a rise and fall of strong, vivid hues played against brilliant complimentary colors, and strident, iridescent multi-colorful notes imitating the throb of bassoon or tweet of a piccolo. The velvety reds of the chair flow from deep purplish plum to high key orange reds that match the pouty lips and flower in her hair, resonating against the low-key flesh tones composed of greens, yellows and purples, creating a lush foil against her figure with a solid base of dark color. The strawberry blond hair is golden, red and purplish, transfusing the tones into a coiffeur with the left edge, again, matching the curvature of the box dividers. The balcony units mix primary colors in muted tones that glow luminous in the chandelier light with the rectangular decorations pulsing like beats of the music.

In compartmentalized picture facts such as the upper right quadrant, the color play flows from shadow to light, sprightly colored paint blobs describe figures, flowing shades of reds, and pinks, multicolored units incorporating the palette in a luxurious fashion. Even the whitish lace of the bodice flows from pale yellows, to blues, purples and greens; against the rosy, glowing skin, the gown seems to radiate it’s own light, and brilliant red strokes shine like the luster of satin. The lower left quadrant, although cast with shadow from the torso, is colorful and high key, the elbow nestled into the velvety cushion with a solid mass of purple shadow reaching across her lap, extending the shadow line to the right reaching then incorporating into the decoration of the fan solidifies the figure.

Streaks of turquoise blue highlight the ribs of the fan, articulate the circularity of her gloved wrist and enliven the lace. The same blue, in a softer shade, runs behind the figure decorating the balcony. The upper left quadrant is the star of the show, the figure’s pose exuding glamour, excitement and enthusiasm; the reflection of her back and shoulder reveal the daring amount of exposed skin, which transfuses into the golden décor above the rounded shoulder and then into the neck and clavicle. The effect of the color ways gives the figure a sense of belonging in the scene, as if she is part of the show, the music and the architecture.

The lower left quadrant, a field of broken color composed of varied triangular, multi-colorful shapes, is a compositional design developing a superstructure for the base of the picture. The repeating patterns of brush strokes, wrapping her arms in upward strokes while the brush strokes on the arm rest point toward the elbow, projecting the shape forward, the dark reflected reddish hues wrap around her shoulders, the line of the reflected chair connects with the curved shoulder meets at the strand of pearls and then sweeps across to right and out of the picture plain. The repeated red shapes are a balance of equivalents, the triangularity of the shapes on the left and right combined with upward strokes of paint mirror the curves of the balcony, and deep saturation of the colors establishes a warm, comfortable environment, supporting the figure and picture idea.

The lower right quadrant of the picture is delineated with a zigzag of triangular shapes. The shiny, surface of the gown flowing out of the picture like a rippling stream triangulates with the point of the décolletage revealed as a triangle above the bodice the right side reaching to the right lower corner, is decorative, marks of interest scratched in with blue paint illustrate the twitch of the fan, poised to snap open. The triangles that form the stable, planted torso, patches of broken color, long strokes of descriptive lines support the long stable, line of the swishing fan, connected to the left shoulder to the point of disappearance of the lustrous pearls, the top plane passes across the red triangle delineating the curve of the torso, with the reach of the right arm extending down right, out of the frame of the picture into space outside of the picture.

The dark color field of the red chair plays an important role in the composition, defining the curvilinear sweeping line of the right arm pointing into the center of the painting. Connecting at the hub of pearls, balcony and red chair, actively, in straight lines, plastic elements spoke out from that point to the top right corner of the picture. The box seats radiate out across the top of the picture completing the zag of the zigzag, a complex arrangement of lines, colors and distorted shapes within the ambiguous space defines a picture fact about the whispering voices of the audience resonating in the atmospheric, spatial, spherical design of the theater.

Rows of red curved shapes composed of interdependent streaks of broken color form the foundation, the score, instrumental to the composition in a swirl of atmospheric luxurious, animated colorfully descriptive paint dabs, vibrating like bass notes from the orchestra. The hub and spoke composition, separated into picture facts, is actively expressive. Thrumming activity and operatic harmonic colors relies on the curvature of the three reddish shapes of the chair, their colors rolled back into space, the deep red/purple triangle of the reflection in the mirror describing the figure’s right shoulder, pointing intentionally towards the pearls, a moment of transfusional, compartmentalized, colorful, cascading, serpentine, curvilinear movements radiates outward through the picture like a visual concert of facts.

The color notes flow up and out of the picture plane in points of brightness, lilting, out of the picture into memory and imagination. The curve of the box seat divider lines with the oval clusters of figures, transfers the value of the shapes into music notes; the broken colors in similar bright tones of gray, aquamarine, purple, dabs of white, orange/brown shapes, annotates color chords with unity, and tonal syncopation. Synesthesia experiences occur, as cultural memes are released like color virus’ into the pictorial environment, leading to automatic, involuntary stimulation of cognitive pathways to memory through plastic experiments in tones as if the colors are making musical sounds.

In the painting, by musically accentuating the curvature of the figure and the atmospheric spatial relationships of the picture, illustrative coasters, units that are made decorative and expressive, position the figure in space. The right shoulder is decorated with a pinned corsage, a deep red rosette and a white flower, a construct of green paint daubs separates and defines the floral units with a ribbon of leaf shapes, balancing the red rose with a sweep of color that shares the same shape as the balcony box dividers. The deep green foliage of the corsage is repeated in softer tones of green in the crystals of the chandelier. The repeating patterns of shapes, colors and composition, functionally orchestrate the picture. The resting elbow and the point where the gloved hand interacts with the fan is a faceted diamond compositional element, creating a pivoting movement of the torso, balanced by the extended fan quills, as pearly and opalescent as the beads around her neck.

Pearlescent luster is a decorative element unifying the composition with shapes, colors and proximity to other elements in the picture design. The decorative bow on the right shoulder is luminous and reflective, the pinkness of the shiny fabric glows on the tones of the skin with multi-colorful strokes of paint. The bright light reflecting off the decorative bow on the left shoulder gleams as it connects the figure with the reflection in the mirror and with the curvilinear lacy ribbon encircling the bodice harmonically with other circular elements like the gloved hand. The glove incorporates multiple picture facts within the shape and promotes the idea of lustrous, luxurious, lively glamour. Painted with colors found throughout the picture, the curved brush stokes of the glove define the form and texture, supports the torso, and connects the repoussoir of the decorative fan with the figure and the tone of the painting.

Through the use of broken color, descriptive lines, and repeating, shifting shapes the painting illustrates broad human qualities, and describes an environment that is musical in it’s illustrative-ness. Painted with intentional decorativeness, the picture is activated with a flowing, floating, and rhythmic dynamism punctuated with staccato points of interest and intriguing depth of tone to indicate space, situation and dimension. Brushwork throughout the painting unifies the picture and directs the viewer through the design; descriptive paint stokes shape the composition through curves of color, directional lines, and mixing unusual tones, hues, and keys.

For example: the left side of the figure’s face shares the same hues as the pearls, and the purple red hues of the velvet chair develop the shadow shed by the artificial light on the cheeks and nose, the high key orange red on the cheeks and lips extenuates the warmth of skin, the creatively distorted upper balcony transfuses into the hair which is a mixture of soft low key purples and bright high key yellows, while the citron colors of the decorative lower balcony transfuse into the left side of the column of the neck with soft curving stokes of broken color. The effect of the multifaceted patches of color is illustrative in the use of directional paint strokes, descriptive lines, and information rich shapes forming a vibrant experience of opulence.

The soaring, curves of line, atmospheric light effects, multiple harmonious tones of color, sensuous warm hues, descriptive idealized design, and chords of multi-colorfulness support my thesis that Girl with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge is synesthetic. Certainly, a painting does not make music, but a musical experience is expressed with plastic qualities in a sophisticated, controlled, orchestrated, multifaceted composition that atmospherically conveys the perspicacity of attending the opera.

Picture idea: Expressive of picturesque animated figure units, brightly luminous with broad, richly colored shadows in creatively distorted moderately deep space, compartmentalized units of multi-colorful, multi-directional, contrasting color masses of paint, composing a visually rhythmic, illustratively melodic, euphonious visual experience.

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Doomsday, Plays and Players Art Gallery

Alex Mosoeanu, Moment of Inspiration, metallic Sumi-e ink, metallic markers and colored pencils on drawing paper, 2016

Dooms Day, Group Art Show, Plays and Players Art Gallery

Interview with Dooms Day curator Alex Mosoeanu:

“We’re in the Plays and Players Theater in the lower lobby are in the Plays and Players Art Gallery. We are having our first group show here with over fourteen pieces with nine artists; we’re very excited to have them, and they’re all local Philadelphia artists.”

Doomsday, Plays and Players Art Gallery

Katherine Roll, Playing with Survival, mixed media assemblage

The art show is called Dooms Day?

“The show is called Dooms Day, we’re basing the exhibition off the play Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grille. The play is about a group of friends who are talking about their last day on Earth. As a curator, we wanted to really think about what the space is going to have in relation to the play. So, we provided a few art pieces that have to do with, you know, either death, or emotion that would have to do with your last day. How would you see that? We asked our artists,’You have one day left, what would you do?’ Through their art pieces they answered those questions.”

Doomsday, Plays and Players Art Gallery

Seamus Tyler, My Invisible Identity\\Front Page Tragedy, linoleum and acrylic

I just heard an interview on PBS Newshour with a hospice counselor. She said a lot of people ask her, ‘What are the last words most people use?’ Her response was, ‘If you have last words, you should say them now’. Because on your death bed you may not be awake, you may be drugged, so if you have something to say, you should say it. So, what would your last words be?

“Oh, wow. That’s a hard one. Definitely. This World is definitely crazy, I’ve tried my best to come to a conclusion of some sort of understanding. Every day I’ve always pushed myself as if it’s my last, definitely. If I had any last words to my loved ones I would say, ‘You know, I love you so much. Thank you so much for all your help in everything I’ve done. I appreciate you. Whatever is left to come, it doesn’t matter, we’ve spent our time together, and that’s all that matters’.”

Doomsday, Plays and Players Art Gallery

Alexander Shanks, Bone Dry

That’s so sweet, you’re going to make me cry.

“That’s OK. We’re all going to die, might as well not scream about it, or be scared.”

It’s nice that you reached out to people.

“Yeah. You should always be nice to people that you love, even the assholes.”

Doomsday, Plays and Players Art Gallery

Alexander Trosko, Starving Artist

So, tell me how you selected the artists?

“I picked the artists based off of, because it’s our first show, I really picked the artists off of who was making artwork that I knew, for sure, would go in the show. And, so, those were my closest friends, but, that’s not to say in the future we’re not trying to have other artists that I do not know. We’re always looking to expand as a gallery, this is our first group show. I chose the artists based off of who I knew immediately would definitely be able to have their work in a crunch for time. But, this is our first show.”

Doomsday, Plays and Players Art Gallery

Doomsday, Plays and Players Art Gallery

Jason Justice, Untitled, oil on linen

This is a great space. How did you hook up with Plays and Players?

“Well, I’m just cool like that. But, um, you know, it just happens. You meet people, they’re interested in your work and they just want to support you. Show them what you’re able to do and how you really want to bring people in , and they’re really excited about that, so, that’s kind of how we got this thing started.”

Doomsday, Plays and Players Art Gallery

Caitlin Tschanz, Rise, acetate, acrylic and graphite on panel

A couple of the artists I talked to are from Moore College of Art. Are you an alum?

“Yeah, of course. We tried to grab mostly Moore students, that’s where I knew most of my artists and they’re always making real quality work, so we went to Moore for our artists, but, we’re always looking to expand, too. It’s not just Moore.”

Doomsday, Plays and Players Art Gallery

Sara Cocchi, Law of Conservation, mixed media

That’s good. I’m always proud of Moore students, I get invited to the Senior shows and the fine art department there is amazing. The competition is tough, right? You don’t get in for no reason, you have to be good.

“I agree. You have to be good at something, you have to have a message, or at least show that you’re willing to push yourself to find your message, But, I always knew I had to do art.”

Doomsday, Plays and Players Art Gallery

Matthew Vacante, Into the Light, digital photography

I think it’s great to be in school and know that you’re surrounded by good artists.

“It only makes your art better. You need people that can be your competition so that friends, not somebody that you would look down on. You want people to bring you up on board when they know what they’re doing.”

I’ve been going to the Moore Senior shows since about 2012 and I make new friends every year.

“Moore has some really fabulous people that come there, it’s always a great community.”

Doomsday, Plays and Players Art Gallery

Alex MosoeanuThe Keeper’s Secret, Her Infinite Grace 

Last question. Today was the Women’s March. On the way here there were crowds of people in the street from the protests. Do you have any comments?

“I wish I could be there! Oh, my goodness! Unfortunately, I’m having this opening right on the day there are marches, but, I support all the women that are going out there to support us, Especially, as a woman curator, I know that that there’s not many of us, but, it’s very important to push women artists, I have mostly women artists in the show.

So, to all of them, especially those marching in DC, we’re happy about that, we’re in difficult times right now so we need all support we can possibly get. Please come check out the space, we’re always looking to have political and socially active work. We’re not just making pretty art, we’re looking to make a message.”

Doomsday, Plays and Players Art Gallery

Matthew Vacante, digital photography

Dooms Day through February 17th, 2017

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Call the Staff Office: 215-735-0630

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Plays and Players Theater1714 Delancey Place, Philadelphia PA, 19103

Written by DoN Brewer

Photographs by Jimmi Shrode

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How Do I Look? DVAA

Eppchez! Abstract Packer #1 Eye Bulge #2 Big Queer Ice Cream #3 Pocket Rocket, foam and fabric, 1st Prize, How Do I Look?

How do I Look? Shifting Representations of Queer Identities, Da Vinci Art Alliance

by DoN Brewer

Queer is a difficult word for me to use as a signifier; when I was a teenager my Mom would sometimes say I looked queer when I went to school. I didn’t know it was a gay slur, or that she was concerned for me because of the way I liked to dress. In the 60s I grew my hair long, wore bell-bottom jeans and idolized Rock Gods like Jim Morrison and Robert Plant. Rock music was the soundtrack of my life but actually I was obsessed with the bulge in their jeans. By the time I graduated from high school the Gay Rights movement had begun in earnest; after Dr. Martin Luther King came to Philly there was a gay rights protest outside of Little Pete’s Diner on 17th St. because of the cops harassing drag queens and later a grand march of hundreds of gay people that started in Rittenhouse Square, marching proudly down Walnut Street, ending at Independence Mall. And then the Stone Wall riots caught the nation’s attention like a queen in daytime drag.

How Do I Look? DVAA

Stiofan O’Ceallaigh, Decisions Decisions, photo collage

Young people today don’t know about the ‘pretty police’, cops in tight white jeans, who would hang by the urinals at The Allegro nightclub on Spruce Street and then bust someone for cruising them. Punishment could range from your name being printed in the paper to being beat up and thrown in the Schuykill River. The word ‘gay’ had a rough start, too, with jokes and insults attached but the label has maintained it’s significance. Righteous religious zealots used the radio to bash the gay civil rights movement and TV always portrayed gays as nelly queens with lisps and limp wrists.

The Declassification of Homosexuality by the American Psychiatric Association happened in 1973, before that being gay was considered a mental illness. Words like degenerate, sodomite, pervert, pederast, faggot, dyke and queer were used to define gay behavior, yet still there was a vibrant homosexual community in cities across the world. In 1890, Émile Zola‘s book Nana described the goings-on in the balconies of the Théâtre des Variétés. In the early 1900’s artist Charles Demuth was introduced to the avant-garde and fellow artist Marsden Hartley, both artists portrayed gay life in house parties, bath houses, alley sex and masculine images of gay men. Their art is now part of the pantheon of New American Modernism in painting.

How Do I Look? DVAA

Thom Duffy Fine Art, Dion, oils

Art has documented homosexuality as far back as the ancient Greeks, yet terms like ‘queer’ are still used to insult, harass and malign people for being the way they were born. The show at Da Vinci Art Alliance, How do I Look? Shifting Representations of Queer Identities, reclaims the word with a sublime exhibition of art and language describing the modern state of gay identity.

How do I Look? Shifting Representations of Queer Identities
Exhibit runs through Sunday, January 29, 2017
Da Vinci Art Alliance Gallery Hours: Wednesday, 6:00 – 8:00pm; Saturday + Sunday, 1:00 – 5:00pm

Juror: Craig Bruns, artist and Chief Curator at the Independence Seaport Museum

ArtistsAaron Kalinay, Alden ColeBennet ShipmanCatriona GunnCorliss CavalieriDavid Meade WalkerDevon ReifferEbony Malaika CollierEppchez!Gabriel MartinezGeorge ApotsosJoseph Arnold, Kevin BroadSantiago GaleasStiofan O’CeallaighSusan DiPronioThom DuffyThomas Sonnenberg, Willard Johnson

How Do I Look? DVAA

Devon Reiffer, Bound to Barbasol, charcoal, 2nd Prize, How Do I Look?

Devon Reiffer and I first met at her PAFA student exhibition in 2014; large scale charcoal drawings revealing lesbian and homosexual identity stood out from the rest of her class. Bound to Barbisol describes the rituals to subdue femininity and heighten secondary masculine traits in female to male trans-sexual with a strong narrative and perspective that captivated the gallery goers. Revealing secrets, the drawing is daringly feminist of the artist in the mundane ritual of gender expressionism, a term which refers to the ways in which we each manifest masculinity or femininity.

How Do I Look? DVAA

Joe Arnold, Phil, photograph, How Do I Look?

In the 21st Century gay people now can search each other out through smart phone apps. Personal ads in The Philadelphia Gay News are gone and replaced with Craig’s List ads. In the 1960’s Drum Magazine publisher Clark Pollack was arrested for sending obscene materials across state lines even though the erotica is tame by today’s standards; it was the concept of gay people hooking up that was obscene. Now, not only can one locate a desirable sex partner but can determine exactly how far away they are before meeting. App developers become rich, their inventions downloadable from the libraries of giant corporations. Artist Joe Arnold experimented with gay dating apps for his photography by inviting users to pose for him in their homes. Phil is frank in it’s lurid decor, but the character study reveals an air of detachment to the sexuality in the age of Truvada, PrEP and sexual consumerism.

How Do I Look? DVAA

Aaron Kalinay, The Mean Reds Not The Blues, watercolor and acrylic, 3rd Prize

Curator and Juror Craig Burns, in his remarks following the award ceremony, reminded the younger members of the crowd gathered to celebrate the exhibition that many people before them fought for their rights to be out of the closet. But the fight isn’t over; the passing of same sex marriage laws only makes gay people acceptable to a hetero-normative culture. To be queer means that accepting the status quo is not enough to satisfy the desire for self actualization and may make the majority squeamish in the pursuit of happiness. Just today, January 20th, 2017, the new Republican administration removed the LGBT page from the White House website.

We’re Here. We’re Queer. Get Used to It.

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Written and photographed by DoN Brewer

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Alonzo Troy Humphrey

Chief Teefie, marker on Strathmore paper, 24″ x 24″, Alonzo Troy Humphrey


Alonzo Troy Humphrey, 12th Annual Juried Art Show and Sale at Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Frank’s

Today I really screwed up at work. I told my art partner I’d have the money, I knew where the money was but I had spoken too soon. My boss says if it’s not going to have an impact in five years, don’t worry about it; the adrenaline rush is a trip, though. My art partner, Alonzo Troy Humphrey, is creating images in a stream of consciousness, to interrupt with mere monetary concerns while he draws stories of Chattanooga, Philly and Africa in sweeping lines from a sharpie marker is counter-productive. Alonzo is well known for his marker drawings of thoughtful memories and cultural metaphors. Going into Alfred Pennyworth mode, I contacted the guy at the place with the money and we all synchronized our our watches for the ritual business exchange of culture for commerce.

The place with the money is Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Frank’s, and the man is Togo Travalia. Wearing a grey suit and melon hued tie, Togo met Alonzo Troy Humphrey, along with Katy the Art Dog and I, at the 12th Annual Juried Art Show and Sale on the corner of 13th and Pine Streets on a chilly afternoon the day before Thanksgiving. The famous dive bar has hosted art shows since 1978, the juried art shows and special exhibitions are inevitably mind blowing. And Alonzo’s mind was blown with the show. The place wasn’t crowded except for a few day drinkers so we could really see the exhibition of 44 outstanding works, and Alonzo’s art really pops in the heady mix. Both of his entries had sold and he won the juries #BlackLinesMatter award, a topical pun with real world relevance, the exchange between artist and gallery manager went down in the booth by the vitrine in the corner.

alonzo1

Miss Timma, marker on card stock, 11″ x 8.5″, Alonzo Troy Humphrey

Togo, the business man, thanked Alonzo so sincerely for his participation in the show and told him how proud he was of his accomplishments I was moved to tears; Alonzo has been exhibiting and selling at Dirty Frank’s for over five years. Explaining how by creating, making, marking and participating, his art was contributing to the community at large, Togo encouraged Alonzo to continue his pursuit. Alonzo told Togo about a new drawing he’s working on about boxers duking it out in the ring. The drawing of Chief Teefie sold before the show was even hung and Miss Timma sold the first day. The Under $100 theme offers a unique opportunity to purchase art by Philadelphia artists that is affordable and professionally curated. Full disclosure, not only am I Alonzo’s art partner, I participated in the jury.

Before you freak out, this practice is not uncommon since the juries are usually made up of artists and entrepreneurs who have participated in Philly arts, no deference was given to Alonzo’s work, my influence on the jury was literally one of five votes. Two of his three entries survived the cut from 175 artworks vying for some of the available 45 spots. The elimination process is simple, five jurors vote on each entry, majority rules. When a participants work is reviewed they leave the room and Togo or Jody add their voice. This winnows out the most popular pieces as voted on by a group of contemporaries attuned to the Philadelphia art scene. The process takes hours and each piece is considered carefully and fairly. Being included in the jury is such an honor, the team at Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Frank’s assembled a group of Philly’s art influencers, social practitioners and artists to create an art show that is beautiful and inspiring.

Since I had already entered the show before I was asked to be on the jury I felt comfortable that my prejudice for Alonzo’s art would be balanced, although, I must say that Alonzo Troy Humphrey is a unique and special voice in the art conversation of Philly that deserves to be heard. He’s been participating in art shows for years, his drawings speak in a language of marks that leave a trail of time, whether it’s a swift sure handed swipe with the marker, or deep layers of ink driven through liminal space into the paper until the surface nearly shreds and the markers are worn to nubs. As the shadow lines grow, his images of the solitary woman on the porch in a rocker, the homeless man, the black cowboy, the African chieftains by the sea emerge with liveness from the lines then over time fade to black. Humphrey’s drawings are about telling a story in symbols, signs and metaphors; moments in time expose episodes in the artists life that are serene, poignant and exciting.

Written and photographed by DoN Brewer

Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Frank’s 12th Annual Juried Art Show and Sale through December 26th, 2016.

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CORRESPONDENCIA, Community Futures Lab

#CORRESPONDENCIA, Community Futures LabLuz Elvira Torres, México

#CORRESPONDENCIA at Community Futures Lab

Alien Architect, Cohen Asher reached out to me through social media to attend a pop-up event at Community Futures Lab, 22nd & Ridge Ave. The thing was I had my own event, a large group show of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia at The Plastic Club, that Sunday afternoon and I wasn’t sure I would have the energy to go. But, he showed up at The Plastic Club with his guest from Mexico City, artist Rebeca Martell, in town, and I had the pleasure of describing the history of the artist run gallery/studio to her. Rebeca expressed her admiration of the long history of the art club and it felt special to introduce an international woman artist to the space. Cohen Asher, like an alien architect, is so ebullient and full of vibrant energy, and love, I knew I’d spring for an Uber ride to Sharwood.

Both Cohen and Rebeca produce Social Practice art events, the #CORRESPONDENCE started at 5:00, but since the duo visited me downtown the show was still in the process of being popped up when I arrived. Being the pushy snoop, I let myself into the gallery space and sat on the floor while Rebeca installed the group show of international artists. Photographs were aligned along a light box, watercolors and prints arranged informally, a relaxed installation of artworks to entertain and inform the viewers. We talked about being an artist in Mexico City, with a population of twenty two million people, and how funding for grants is controlled by the government. Creating social practice events that expose inequity and spotlight social disinformation through art is not going to win grants. It does however create a spirit of community that transcends doctrine and dogma.

Community Futures Lab is a store front space that brings together artists and thought leaders in the community of Sharwood. Being on Ridge Ave. reminded me of when the housing bubble popped and artists were asked to install galleries in the empty stores along the once bustling South Street. It seems to me that artists rise to the challenge time and again to raise awareness, energize spaces and communities, inspire the neighbors and bring together people to promote quality of life. Being part of a global community by being involved in the arts is inspiring and transcends speech and language with visual code, color and narrative that some don’t understand. Those that ‘don’t get’ art still benefit even if they don’t consciously realize it, believe in art’s value or understand why it works so well.

#CORRESPONDENCE

The universe of art connects along an ocean of dots. Each dot is a workstation, where a mind takes brushes or chisels to trace the vortex where the shape, texture and color are aligned within an idea.

Correspondence, Community Futures Lab

#CORRESPONDENCIA, Community Futures LabRobert Weissenbacher, watercolor, Germany, and Olivia Eliash, Chile

Each station fulfills its part in the concert of symbols. Each symbol has its pair in another mind, each bet resonates in many others, choral singing aesthetic, adding tunes, basting the syntax in which the iconographic manifesto of a time is recorded.
The artist is immersed in an inner search of that sign to consider the transferable moment of its uniqueness, correspondence waits in some other unexpected point in the universe of the creators.
A small town in deep Hungary, joins some of those dots generating unexpected correspondences, here’s a symbolic tribute to those open doors.

Correspondence, Community Futures Lab

#CORRESPONDENCIA, Community Futures LabDevin Cohen Asher, Alien ArchitectEstados Unidos, paintings

El artista se sumerje en una búsqueda interior de esa insignia que considere el momento intransferible de su singularidad, la correspondencia aguarda en algún otro punto insospechado del universo de los creadores.
Un pequeño pueblo en Hungría profunda, une algunos puntos generando correspondencias inesperadas, he aquí un homenaje simbólico a esas puertas abiertas.

CORRESPONDENCIA, Community Futures Lab

#CORRESPONDENCIA, Community Futures LabFiczek Ferenc, Hungría

Olivia Eliash, Chile
Luz Elvira Torres, México
Gerardo Nolasco Magaña, México
Robert Weissenbacher, Robert Weissenbacher – Kunst Alemania, Germany
Ficzek Ferenc, Hungría
Devin Cohen Asher, Alien Architect / Cohen Asher Estados Unidos
Rebeca Martell, México

CORRESPONDENCIA, Community Futures Lab

#CORRESPONDENCIA, Community Futures LabFiczek Ferenc, Hungría

Rebeca Martell (MX), who earlier this year exhibited her incredible solo exhibition “Always Somewhere” in Fototeca Juan C. Méndez on June 2nd in Puebla, Mexico, is currently engaged in documenting cultures as she works as freelance photographer and international correspondent for music magazines. Rebeca Martell, along with Devin Asher Cohen (also known as Alien Architect or Cohen Asher) have a gallery named Liliput in Puebla, Mexico which has an amazing artist residency.

Correspondence is a touring international contemporary collective group art exhibition. All of the artists’ who’s pieces are in Correspondence met in Hungary. Thus far the exhibition was first in Puebla, Mexico at Liliput September 3rd, 2016. Then traveled here to Philadelphia’s Community Futures Lab October 2nd, 2016. And soon travels to the upcoming exhibition spaces, which shall be announced soon.” – Cohen Asher

CORRESPONDENCIA, Community Futures Lab

#CORRESPONDENCIA, Community Futures LabLuz Elvira Torres, México

“Community Futurisms: Time & Memory in North Philly” is a social practice, collaborative art, and ethnographic research project exploring oral histories, memories, alternative temporalities, and futures within the North Philadelphia neighborhood known as Sharswood/Blumberg. The area is currently undergoing a major redevelopment project after years of deep poverty, educational inequality, and high crime. “Community Futurisms” will document the redevelopment of Sharswood/Blumberg, through an multidisciplinary community art project that explores the intersections of futurism, literature, visual remixing, sound, and activism as art.

The goal of the Community Futures Lab is to collect, preserve, and share the Sharswood-Blumberg community’s memories and stories for future generations. We are looking for anyone who has ever lived in the neighborhood, and people who still live in the neighborhood and surrounding areas.

A project of The AfroFuturist Affair/Black Quantum Futurism Collective, supported in large part by A Blade of Grass
http://www.abladeofgrass.org/fellow/black-quantum-futurism/
BQF Collective is inspired by afrofuturism, quantum physics, and african traditions of spatial-temporal consciousness. They weave science fiction realities with african concepts of time, ritual and sound to present innovative works that offer practical ways to escape time loops, oppression vortexes and the digital matrix.

This project is not affiliated with the Philadelphia Housing Authority or the City of Philadelphia

For more info, please contact: ab@gmail.com

CORRESPONDENCIA, Community Futures Lab

Philadelphia’s volunteerism is extraordinary, authentic curiosity and experimentation has always been the blood that runs through the heart of the art scene. Philly is that rare city with rival art schools, rival art clubs, rival artist studios and a multitude of opportunities to show art in bars, coffee houses, restaurants… City Hall even has an art gallery. Philadelphia is a great place to make art happen.

Social practice is an art medium that focuses on social engagement, inviting collaboration with individuals, communities, and institutions in the creation of participatory art.” – Wikipedia

Written, photographed and SEO by DoN except where noted.

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Embracing

August 13, 2016

Gerhard Richter, Piz Lagrev, 1995, oil on canvas. Promised gift of Keith L. and Katherine Sachs. Embracing the Contemporary, Sachs Collection at Philadelphia Museum of Art DoN confessed his love of Gerhard Richter to Katherine Sachs, sharing how being a Richter apologist for some folks can be difficult. I asked her, as a collector, if she gets that kind of push back from […]

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Reality

June 30, 2016

Lilliana Didovic, Written Walls, acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 30″, Main Line Art Center Perceptions of Reality and Dreams, Lilliana Didovic, Main Line Art Center In the land of gods and monsters is a secret place that only the believers can go. If you suspend imagination and ride the gravity waves, the world is beautiful in […]

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June 17, 2016

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May 26, 2016

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Momentum

May 10, 2016

Tilda Mann, Wave (Paradise Cove), oil on paper mounted on wood, Creating Momentum, Cerulean Arts Gallery Studio Creating Momentum, Cerulean Arts Gallery Studio At a recent award ceremony, where I was one of the photographers, I overheard a comment from a voice behind me. The man said to his companion, “I miss those days when […]

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