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jjustillPresident Obama brings out the best in everybody! (Well, almost everybody.) This is especially evident in the creative community. It’s no secret that visual artists have been particularly captivated by Obama’s message and visage. But they are not alone. It seems that writers, poets, composers and musicians have been inspired as well.

I was happy to hear “Praise Song for Day” read by poet Elizabeth Alexander during the inaugural ceremony yesterday. It wasn’t the strongest poem I’ve ever heard but she did take up the limitations of language itself — a worthy topic for any self-respecting poet. It certainly was stronger and more well-crafted than Maya Angelou’s poem for President Bill Clinton. Continue Reading »

camouflage-46_liu-bolinI am reminded that what we “know” from day to day is truly known only through a glass darkly. Despite the digital information revolution and the development of more forms of information delivery than we can shake a stick at, we are no more enlightened by what we read and watch today than we were when life and ideas moved at a slower pace. In fact, we may understand less. If there is an art to journalism (and I do believe there is) it is in probing more deeply into the stories and “facts” made available to us through live feeds, blogs, cell phones, digital images and audio recordings; then turning that informative into a coherent whole that we can use for better decision making and action. Information, without thoughtful interpretation, is worse than no information at all. We might as well get our news over our neighbor’s backyard fence.

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Fall of the Rebel Angels (detail)I just finished Michael Frayn’s Headlong, a novel given to me by a friend. She and I saw “Top Girls” on Broadway last year, and we were both intrigued by Dulle Griet, one of the characters in the play, and the namesake of one of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s more bizarre paintings.

Headlong is an art history “who done it”; in this case the mystery is whether or not a supposed sixth painting in Bruegel’s series of seasonal paintings (of which only five are extant), might be languishing unrecognized in the country estate of an unsuspecting, down-at-the-heels landowner who’s looking to cash in on items he’s stolen from his dying mother. A college professor who’s just arrived with his scholarly wife and their baby to spend “a month in the country” thinks he recognizes the painting as the missing Bruegel, but keeps the thought to himself so as not to tip off the landowner. Instead, he plots to spirit the painting away and into the hands of a grateful art world, who will presumably heap laurels upon him. But first he must prove to his wife that the painting is indeed what he believes it to be. Continue Reading »

Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century"  by Donna HarawayIf I were writing a blog about Brad Pitt or David Archuleta (America’s former Really Cute American Idol), instead of a blog about political and intellectual territories re-envisioned through art practice, I would never mention Barack Obama. The sexiest man alive (meaning Pitt rather than Obama, though a strong case could be made for Obama rather than Pitt), might share with us the fastest way to lose ten pounds so I can outrun the tax collector in 2009, though President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama (Say it loud! Say it proud!) promises a refund and a tax cut since the economy’s wheels have come off, and who has money to pay taxes anyway? Certainly not me.

After referring to the news of a remarkable honeyed bandage curing one man’s rotting limb, I might launch into expletives about Bernie Madoff ponziing his way through a million-trillion-gazillion dollars while eating caviar and having his nails done. If my blog were not about art practices as they are affected by the constant re-drawing of geopolitical, socio-political and socio-economic states, I might report on the increasing number of cyborgs in our midst. They walk among us, blatantly, with their machine parts indistinguishable from their meat parts: pacemakers coupled to hearts, dental implants screwed and glued into jaws, injected “smart tags” barely visible under real or synthetic skin over a computerized titanium leg provided by the US government for your service in Iraq. Continue Reading »

Photograph by Shasti O'Leary SudantNot since Marie Antoinette uttered, “Let them eat cake!” (not!) have cake and politics been so closely related. Zilly Rosen, a cake maker and artist living in Buffalo, New York created a 1,240-pixel, er, cupcake portrait of Barack Obama to express her excitement and gratitude for the presidential election process. Interviewed by Cupcakes Take the Cake bloggers, Zilly explained the source of her genius idea:

“I knew I wanted to do something to be part of this moment in history. I wanted to send up my creative energy to the “ether” in the days preceding the election. I’m a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo, and they always have a bake sale on Election Day for the people voting at their polls. I first thought about making this installation for their bake sale, but then realized I couldn’t have an image of Barack within 100 feet of the polling place!” Continue Reading »

Photo by Robin Locke Monda

Pat Buchanan’s recurring role on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” has got to be some kind of border violation. And I mean that in the best possible way! It’s great to watch Buchanan trying to apply nuance to his irrational, nativist positions in the face of thinking, intelligent people from both the left and the right. The “Morning Joe” show is proof that, (1) not all Republicans are nut jobs, and (2) not all Democrats shoot themselves in the foot.

MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” models Democrats and Republicans communicating with intelligence, humor and a willingness to listen. Think what could be accomplished in a truly cooperative congressional environment! We could disarm the big mouths of the radical right while repairing America’s foundation and its vision for the future. Continue Reading »

© David Levinthal / The New York Times

© David Levinthal / The New York Times

I’ve written about artist-photographer David Levinthal on this blog before. Now I’ve discovered he does photo illustrations, too. Regular New York Times readers may have seen his soft-focus photos in the August issues of the Times Sunday Magazine, illustrating “Mrs. Corbett’s Request”, a serialized story by Colin Harrison. Levinthal captures the weary, down-at-the-heel atmosphere of Harrison’s tale perfectly.

Just last week I noticed another Levinthal photo in the October 26, 2008 Travel Section (page 1, top of the fold) accompanying an article on winter vacations. The scene of brightly colored skiers in a clichéd winter landscape feels like a snow globe diorama. Continue Reading »

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