Feminist Street Art Sparked by the Egyptian Revolution

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“Nefertiti” El Zeft Cairo, 2012

“Nefertiti”
El Zeft
Cairo, 2012

The Arab Spring that shook the Middle East saw two huge waves of protest in Egypt, both with nationalist and feminist undertones. The first in January 2011 overthrew President Hosni Mubarak whose 30-year reign saw a massive oppression of the Egyptian people perpetuated through overwhelming police brutality and corruption of power. The second began in June 2013 and overthrew newly elected President Mohamed Morsi whose rewrite of the Egyptian Constitution granted himself unlimited governmental powers. The Internet’s social tools gave these movements a global audience, and many women were directly involved in the organization and rallying of these revolutions. When the protests themselves transformed into a place of abuse and harassment for women — both by government forces and fellow protestors — outrage sparked a galvanized feminist movement desperate to protect Egyptian women from further harm. This movement was visualized on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, Mansoura and Suez, where images of powerful women were painted as a feminist voice amongst the revolutionary graffiti that gave the uprisings a uniting cultural vision.

The newfound unification of the Egyptian people against their tyrannical government erupted on January 25, 2011, and was fueled by women as much as men. Young bloggers like Asmaa Mahfouz and Esraa Abdel Fattah rallied all Egyptians to join the protest through flyers, Youtube videos and blog posts. In the days leading up to Mubarak’s resignation, the women protesting in Tahrir Square accounted for 40-50 percent of the activists, when in previous protests they had accounted for 10 percent at most. Following the overthrow of Mubarak, all sense of solidarity between genders, religions and social classes seems to have vanished. In March 2011 a march in honor of International Women’s Day in Tahrir Square ended disastrously. After weeks of protest groups numbering in the hundreds of thousands, only a couple hundred women and a handful of men gathered in support of giving women a voice in the formation of a new Egypt. The protestors were soon surrounded by swarms of men hurling insults and even sexually harassing and groping women. Sami Sade, a journalist for Rose Al Youssef said, “They were shouted at by some men who told them to ‘go back to the kitchen.’” The protesters were chased from the square and those who returned the following day only found more hostility. Amnesty International reported that on March 9, 2011, 18 women were detained and tortured by security forces. All but one were strip searched and forced to undergo “virginity tests.” Several received one-year suspended sentences for charges including disorderly conduct, destroying property, obstructing traffic and possession of weapons.

The abuse of women only continued throughout Egypt’s subsequent protests. On the second anniversary of Egypt’s revolution, 43-year-old freelance journalist Hania Moheeb went to Tahrir Square to join the celebration, but the atmosphere was remarkably different than it had been two years before. “Something was wrong. There were negative vibes in the air,” she told the BBC, “All of a sudden I found myself inside a very, very huge circle of men who were attacking every inch of my body.” Hundreds of men participated in and witnessed Moheeb being stripped, brutally raped and strangled with the scarf around her neck. The attack lasted for more than a half hour, and five of her attackers even followed her into the ambulance where they continued assaulting her. This is only one horrific example of the violence inflicted on Egyptian women by men who face no consequences for their actions — often security and government officers are the ones perpetrating the abuse, whether verbal or physical. Ninety-nine percent of Egyptian women have reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment, and 96.5% reported some form of physical violation. The 10 days of protests that ousted President Mohamed Morsi in June and July 2013 saw 186 reported cases of harassment and abuse. In 2013 Thomson Reuters found Egypt to be the worst country for women outranking Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria. The so-called “circle of hell” ambush Moheeb experienced has become so common in Egyptian protest environments that Researcher at Nazra for Feminist Studies, Masa Amir has identified the strategy as a premeditated trap where men comb the crowd looking for women to attack, and as many as three circles of men surround her and prevent her escape. The circle closest to her strips and molests her, the second circle acts as if they are trying to get past the innermost circle to help (but when and if they do only perpetrate more abuse), and the third circle distracts the other people in the square from realizing what’s happening.

More than three such circles surround the woman in Egyptian artist Mira Shihadeh’s mural depicting the trauma suffered by Moheeb in Tahrir Square in 2013. Titled “Circle of Hell,” the painting shows a saddened solitary woman gazing out at the viewer, surrounded by those three circles of attackers on either side, with the crowd of thirsting men appearing to continue endlessly in the background and foreground. Blood pours from the men’s mouths and two knives point toward the woman’s neck. A reminder of a horrific event that’s become commonplace and inconsequential, the mural speaks to Egyptian women as a warning, and Egyptian men as a cautionary tale, or in some cases a mirror. Shihadeh’s work might be syntactically simple and formally caricatured, but its basis in real-life events and the Egyptian flags that fly in the background reveal just how unsuccessful the Egyptian Revolution was for so many of the people who fought for change.

“Circle of Hell” Mira Shihadeh and El Zeft Cairo, 2014

“Circle of Hell”
Mira Shihadeh and El Zeft
Cairo, 2014

Shihadeh has painted other images of women suffering at the hands of men, but her most recognizable piece is a woman fighting back. A woman in heels with her hand on her hip uses a can of spray paint to drown miniaturized figures coming toward her. Shihadeh has painted multiple versions of this image; sometimes the woman is veiled other times her hair flows free, sometimes she’s dressed in red, other times in white, and in still others she’s just a silhouette. But in every iteration the words “no to sexual harassment” are written in Arabic beneath the outpouring of paint from her can.

Mira Shihadeh Cairo, 2013

Mira Shihadeh
Cairo, 2013

“Girls and Boys are equal” Nooneswa Mohamed Mahmoud Street, Cairo, 2011

“Girls and Boys are equal”
Nooneswa
Mohamed Mahmoud Street, Cairo, 2011

The incredible increase in violence against Egyptian women since the Revolution has sparked the creation of dozens of murals and stencils painted in public spaces; works intended to humanize women, both by revealing the despair of their helplessness like in “Circle of Hell,” and by showing how powerful women are and have been throughout Egypt’s history. Many of the murals and street artworks created have been supported by newly formed graffiti and street art organizations, determined to foster social change with just paint. Artist and activist Merna Thomas cofounded the community NooNeswa (Noon El Neswa) in 2012 as a way to combat the graffiti that appeared during and after the January 2011 revolution that spoke just to men and were often derogatory towards women. On the one-year anniversary of the “virginity tests” that occurred the day after the failed International Women’s Day march, the group launched their project “Graffiti Harimi,” a graffiti campaign that created stencils of powerful Egyptian women alongside text advocating for women’s equality. One of the most popular stencils depicts iconic Egyptian actress Soad Hosny above the text “A Girl is just like a Boy.” In an interview for the documentary “Shout Art Loud,” Thomas said “Graffiti has this power to insert some images or some messages to people very subliminally or very unconsciously because if you’re passing by an image for a long time, for months, for a year, it starts talking to you, you start having a dialogue with it.” Another of NooNeswa’s stencils shows the outlines of three women’s faces: the first wears a niqab that covers her head and face, the second wears a hijab that covers her hair and the third wears no headscarf at all. Beneath reads the text “Don’t label me,” a powerful message that illustrates the choice of veiling as the personal decision it is, one belonging only to the women who choose to wear it.

“Don’t label me” Nooneswa Stencil design, 2012

“Don’t label me”
Nooneswa
Stencil design, 2012

Another influential street art group is the organization Women On Walls (WOW) which began in 2013 as women-empowerment graffiti initiative. Its first edition included a collaborative mural covering the inside of a cement garage in Cairo and additional murals in Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Mansoura. Prior to painting in Mansoura, the WOW artists engaged the local women in a discussion on the issues that concerned them most so that the walls could be a direct reflection of the community’s needs. While sexual harassment is at the forefront of women’s issues in Cairo, in Mansoura the women said they’re worried about money and the role their appearances play in attaining financial security. In response, artist Ghadir Wagdy painted three successive women’s faces with free flowing hair and their mouths wide open, tongues stuck out in an act of rebellion.

“Exorcism” (detail) Ghadir Wagdy Mansoura, 2013

“Exorcism” (detail)
Ghadir Wagdy
Mansoura, 2013

WOW has brought subsequent editions of its campaign to Egypt each year since its launch. In 2014, 20 Egyptian artists collaborated on murals for two additional Cairo walls that focused on the theme ‘Women in the Public Space.’ In 2015 they organized a week-long graffiti celebration called WOW Unchained, which included film screenings and a closing event of music and performances. Twenty artists from all over the Middle East and Sweden gathered to paint together on a wall at Cairo’s technology office park, the GrEEK Campus. The building’s face included an open graffiti wall that invited the public to write and draw messages and images in support of women and women’s rights.

Although most women unsurprisingly feel more comfortable painting in large groups with organizational support, many brave women go out to stencil or paint their work alone. Hend Kheera, a 28-year-old structural engineer and fashion designer first started stenciling during the 2011 uprising. She goes out early in the morning to paint before heading to work, “so no one gives me any trouble,” she told Rolling Stone in a 2012 interview. She’s painted many political works directly antagonizing Egypt’s disappointing series of failed leaders, but syntactically her works resemble NooNeswa’s “Graffiti Harimi” project. She creates portraits of famous Egyptian celebrities above text demanding that women be respected. Generally her work is more controversial, as the text she includes often forcefully demands or threatens men on behalf of women, taking an aggressive and some might even say masculine approach to address abusers and harassers. One of her most well-known works shows the back of a woman’s silhouette; she has one hand on her hip and another on her shoulder in an exaggerated pose, surrounded by the words “Don’t touch or castration awaits you.” “You write on a wall in the street to speak to people,” Kheera said, “[Artists] have a tool not many people have — to express themselves — and maybe they can capture something nobody notices, focus on it and somehow show it in a visually beautiful way.”

“Don’t Touch” Hend Kheera Cairo, 2013

“Don’t Touch”
Hend Kheera
Cairo, 2013

Another woman working to change how women are viewed through street art is Lebanese-Egyptian art historian Bahia Shehab who created the “A Thousand Times No” campaign during the 2011 revolution. “I am a quiet person, I don’t know how to scream,” she told Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in 2014. “My contribution to the revolution was to paint on the walls, was to be an artist.” The title of the series comes from a common Arabic saying that’s meant to confirm and emphasize rejection. She collected a thousand symbols that play on the word “no” in Arabic script and represent facets of oppression in Egypt’s long history. These she transformed into stencils that demand a stop to the tyranny, to the burning of books, to military rule, and to the stripping of women. That last one took the form of a stencil of a blue bra accompanied by the text “No to the stripping of people” — a direct reference to a video that surfaced during the 2011 protests of a woman being beaten by police who stripped her of her clothes and revealed her blue bra. “The blue bra is to remind us of our shame as a nation when we allow a veiled woman to be stripped and beaten on the street,” Shehab explained in a 2012 TED Talk.  The blue stencil is often accompanied by a footprint that reads “Long live a peaceful revolution.”  “My work is more concerned with memory, because of the intensity and speed of events people tend to forget,” she said.

“No to the stripping of people” Bahia Shehab Cairo, 2012

“No to the stripping of people”
Bahia Shehab
Cairo, 2012

Some street artists refer to themselves only by their tag names, so there’s no way of knowing if they’re men or women. One such artist is The Mozza, a street artist working in wheat paste throughout Cairo. The Mozza’s work is exclusively portraits of women, usually done in black-and-white with intricate patterns inscribed within the folds of their clothing and veils. Some of the women are conversing with one another, some are solitary figures, but all of them are faceless — a circle of white devoid of a mouth to speak their minds and eyes to bear witness to what surrounds them. These works simultaneously speak to men and women, confronting men about the way they see women as objects undeserving of what makes someone human. Alternatively, the series allows both men and women to see themselves or their loved ones faces within the figures,  in a sense transforming them into representations of the every-woman. Perhaps the most important are images created of women in positions of power. In one piece completed in Cairo, a crowned woman seated in nobility is holding the abstracted framework of a building in her lap. Her air of authority and the fact that she’s not overtly female makes the image more approachable to men, while showing every girl and woman the queen she can be. 

The Mozza Wheatpaste Suburb of Cairo, 2014

The Mozza
Wheatpaste
Suburb of Cairo, 2014

“Marching Women / Women Climbing Ladder” Alaa Awaad Cairo, 2012

“Marching Women / Women Climbing Ladder”
Alaa Awaad
Cairo, 2012

Male street artists have also played a huge role in creating women-centric works in Egypt. Alaa Awad is an artist and Assistant Lecturer in Fine Art Luxor’s painting department. In 2012 he painted neo-pharaonic scenes of powerful women. “Marching Women/Women Climbing the Ladder” was compositionally based on a carving in the wall of the Ramesseum temple, the mortuary temple of Pharaoh Ramesses II constructed in the 13th century BCE. Awad’s large-scale mural painted in Cairo shows one group of women holding scrolls representative of knowledge walking forcefully in unison towards three women climbing a ladder. In the depiction in the Ramessuem temple the ladder leads to the afterlife where the deceased Pharaoh waits for them, but in Awad’s depiction the ladder leads towards progress, and only women see the necessity of reaching the top.

“Baheia, your voice is rising” NeMo Mansoura, 2013

“Baheia, your voice is rising”
NeMo
Mansoura, 2013

This and many of Awad’s other works visually express the importance women have always had in the fostering of Egypt: “We can’t know our future if we forget our past,” he said. Popular Egyptian street artist NeMo has also created works in support of women. A 2013 mural painted under a bridge in Mansoura is titled “Baheia, your voice is rising.” It shows the profiled silhouette of a woman with her head scarf and hair flowing out beneath her, the waves of black echoed in the leaf-like pattern surrounding the portrait. Baheia refers to a common Arabic name for girls that means “beautiful” or “brilliant.” Perhaps the most famous example of feminist street art in Egypt is El Zeft’s 2012 portrayal of 14th century BCE Queen Nefertiti with a gas mask on her face. He shared a photo of the work online with the caption: “A tribute to all women in our beloved Revolution. Without you we wouldn’t have gotten this far. Thank you.” Nefertiti stares straight at the viewer with a look of defiance, protected both against the tear gas unleashed on protestors and against the fumes from her own spray paint cans.

“Nefertiti” El Zeft Cairo, 2012

“Nefertiti”
El Zeft
Cairo, 2012

A small victory for this movement was won when sexual harassment was criminalized in June 2014, punishable by up to five years in prison. But unfortunately vaginal penetration is the only form of abuse that can be prosecuted, so women who are molested in other ways still have no protection. The rising violence against women has been combatted with art in numerous ways both indoor and out, but this essay samples the most well-known and widespread examples. The earliest works were direct references to specific traumatic events, like a visual memory bank reminding the Egyptian community that the 2011 uprisings brought suffering along with the success of ousting the Mubarak regime. Nearly all of the street art supporting Egyptian women is figurative, collectively working to visually separate a woman’s body and face as entities distinct from her value as a human being. The inclusion of text takes some of these works a step further, ensuring that the meaning isn’t misinterpreted. Some of the pieces use aesthetics to draw the viewer in to contemplate meaning, but all of them share the common message that women contribute value to society outside the home. “In our case, we are not trying to install beauty. We have not yet reached that level,” Bahia Shehab said, “We communicate ideas of change to society. Because we believe in change and we believe in art as a tool for change. We are still in survival mode.”


Sources

Alaa Awad — the artist —. علاء عوض. “The Missing Murals.” Accessed October 17, 2015. http://alaa- awad.com/the-missing-murals.

Amnesty International. “Egypt: Admission of force ‘virginity tests’ must lead to justice,” May 31, 2011. Accessed October 15, 2015. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2011/05/egypt-admission- forced-virginity-tests-must-lead-justice.

Biggs, Cassie. “Women make their power felt in Egypt’s revolution.” The National, February 14, 2011. Accessed October 14, 2015. http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/women-make- their-power-felt-in-egypts-revolution.

Coletu, Ebony. “Visualizing Revolution: The Politics of Paint in Tahrir.” Jadaliyya, April 18, 2012. Accessed October 16, 2015. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/5136/visualizing- revolution_the-politics-of-paint-in-ta.

Downey, Michael. “The Writings on the Wall.” Rolling Stone: June 2012.

El-Rifae, Yasmin. “Egypt’s Sexual Harassment Law: An Insufficient Measure to End Sexual Violence.” Middle East Institute: July 17, 2014. Accessed October 21, 2015. http://www.mei.edu/content/at/ egypts-sexual-harassment-law-insufficient-measure-end-sexual-violence.

Guerin, Orla. “Egypt sex assault victims face long wait for justice.” BBC News: Cairo, October 24, 2013. Accessed October 14, 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-24657713.

Kearl, Holly. Stop Global Street Harassment: Growing Activism Around the World. (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2015), 41-45.

Khamis, Sahar. “The Arab ‘Feminist’ Spring?” Feminist Studies, Vol. 37, No. 3, Feminist Histories and Institutional Practices (Fall 2011), p. 692-95.

Louisiana Channel. “Bahia Shehab: Art as a Tool for Change.” Louisiana Museum of Modern Art: 2014. Accessed October 15, 2015. http://channel.louisiana.dk/video/bahia-shehab-art-tool-change.

NeMo .. Just Street Artist. “صوتك طالع يا بهية Baheia, your voice is rising.” Accessed October 20, 2015. http://egynemo.blogspot.com.eg/2013/10/baheia-your-voice-is-raising.html.

Pangburn, DJ. “Street artist El Zeft pays tribute to Egypt’s female rebels.” death and taxes, September 27, 2012. Accessed October 19, 2015. http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/189107/street-artist-el- zeft-pays-tribute-to-egypts-female-rebels.

Patry, Melody. Shout Art Loud. Cairo, Egypt: Index on Censorship, 2014. https:// www.indexoncensorship.org/shoutartloud.

Schultz, Colin. “In Egypt, 99 Percent of Women Have Been Sexually Harassed.” Smithsonian Magazine, June 13, 2014. Accessed October 14, 2015. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ egypt-99-women-have-been-sexually-harassed-180951726.

Shehab, Bahia. “A thousand times no.” Filmed June 2012, TED Talk. Accessed October 13, 2005. https:// www.ted.com/talks/bahia_shehab_a_thousand_times_no.

Sholkamy, Hania. “Women Are Also Part of This Revolution.” In Arab Spring in Egypt, edited by Bahgat Korany and Rabab El-Mahdi, 153-174, American University in Cairo Press, 2012.

The Mozza. “in the daytime….” Accessed October 20, 2015. http://themozza.tumblr.com.

Thomson Reuters Foundation. Annual Report: Inform. Connect. Empower. London: 2013. Accessed October 15, 2015. http://www.trust.org/documents/annual-report-2013.pdf.

United Press International (UPI). Activists: Rapists use ‘circle of hell.’  Cairo: February 21, 2013. Accessed October 14, 2015. http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2013/02/21/Activists- Rapists-use-circle-of-hell/UPI-61851361480254/#ixzz2LvSOXlfp.

Women On Walls. “About WOW 2013.” Accessed October 12, 2015. http://womenonwalls.org/in- mansoura-join-us-or-if-you-cant-follow-our-daily-journal-and-flickr.

Women On Walls. “Site 1: Boursa Cafe’ Area.” Accessed October 12, 2015. http://womenonwalls.org/ site-1-boursa-cafe-area.

Women On Walls. “WOW UNCHAINED.” Accessed October 12, 2015. http://womenonwalls.org/wow- unchained.

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Five Favorite Artists from the stARTup Art Fair

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This past weekend three different art fairs decorated the San Francisco peninsula. One of them, Art Market SF, comes around every time this year, but the two others celebrated their inaugural opening. The Parking Lot Art Fair let artists set up booths in parking spots on a first-come, first-serve basis, starting as early as 5am. They didn’t even announce which parking lot they’d be momentarily filling with art until the day before the pop-up fair opened.

But my favorite was the stARTup Art Fair, an independently produced contemporary collection of unrepresented artists. The fair was held in the open-air grounds of Hotel Del Sol, a 1950s motel turned boutique hotel, which housed one exhibitor per hotel room during the three-day event. More than 3,500 people came to browse the hotel filled up with art.

Here are a few of my favorite rooms:

 

Joshua Nissen King

Joshua‘s work breaks memories down into hues and shapes set against solid neon color. Because our conceptions of the memories that shape us can’t always be explained through smiling grainy photographs. A day on the beach is a chaotic pile of planets and geometric debris, a shovel lost in the mix and the beachball nearly out of sight. A cluster of palm trees are ringed like Saturn in blue, but they stand against a bright yellow backdrop, a line of ugly tall brown sand hiding not-so-conspicuously behind it.

How many our happiest childhood moments have been reshaped by the reflections of all the happy images we’ve seen in ads and TV shows since? The way Joshua paints them, I definitely prefer the messy bright amalgamations of color to fading, disappointing memories.

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“The deconstruction of both form and subject reveals the fragile fabrication of the facade, as well as equating the surreal deterioration to our capacity to retain memory and the inevitable fleeting of the details. color and suggestive shape alone play a huge part in tickling the senses. Even the most gestural marks in context with each other can suggest something so real to our memory.”

 

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Theresa Morgan

Light touches Theresa‘s subjects the same way we imagine clouds splitting to shine down eternal wisdom. She paints skin with a soft, glowing brightness that gives way to all the tender muscles and bones struggling quietly underneath. And yet her faces and gestures are delicate and relaxed, thick brushstrokes interpreting each figure and scene through a silky haze, like when you first see the world with your eyes half-closed each morning.

“I aim to find what is interesting in what is ordinary; an appreciation for the every day experience. Through close observation, I use the versatility of oil paints to capture the interesting abstractions found in even the simplest of objects… My work is centered on drawing attention to what we might otherwise take for granted.”

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Rodney Ewing

Rodney‘s work uses black and white text and images to prove that the world could never be that simple. Splashing watercolors are dissolved away by salts that further fade each figure, as if these canvases held the histories we’re so in danger of losing. But the one part of each figure you can always see unmistakably is a pair of eyes peering out, sometimes with hope and other times with defiance, but always witnessing the circumstances that surround them.

Some in our country jump to say the roots of these problems don’t exist anymore, but the politics behind thousands of years of racial injustice should feel very real when our cities are rioting because sons and fathers aren’t safe.

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“While debating demanding topics such as race, religion, or war, it is simple enough to become polarized, and see situations in either black or white, right or wrong. These tactics may satisfy individuals whose position depends on employing policies or implementing strategies that promote specific agendas for a specific constituency. But as an artist, it is more important to create a platform that moves us past alliances, and begins a dialogue that informs, questions, and in some cases even satires our divisive issues.

Without this type of introspection, we are in danger of having apathy rule our senses. We can easily succumb to a national mob mentality, and ignore individual accounts and memories. With my work I am creating an intersection where body and place, memory and fact are merged to re-examine human interactions and cultural conditions to create a narrative that requires us to be present and profound.”

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Margaret Timbrell

Margaret‘s needlework pays homage to the art of sewing while relaying quips that definitely wouldn’t land as hard in another medium. Something about cross-stitched letters begs you not to take them seriously, and in this case that intuition happens to be exactly right. Motivational statements like “Life is short,” and “Eyes closed head first can’t lose” are funny stitched out, and intentionally silly pieces like “Bacon of light,” “There’s no crying in baseball,” “Hello? This is dog” and “Her?” are borderline hilarious.

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Jessica Kirkpatrick

Jessica‘s paintings play with reflection and memory in an art-historical way, using color schemes and scene framings to give her work a stunning voice. The line between what’s real and what isn’t doesn’t matter in a world where what’s tangible serves as the backdrop to representations of a memory or frame of mind.

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“In my pictures, I manipulate the body’s position in space to explore the dynamic between place and identity.   My paintings often reflect the decentered, placeless zones of suburbia or urban peripheral as a function of a dislocated identity or collective fantasy. I construct narrative clashes, where the protagonist participates in the pictorial space of the painting surface, residing in the logic of an allegorical perspective.”

 

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Smile, Laugh, Love: Amy Poehler’s Yes Please

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Amy Poehler has it together. And ‘it’ has nothing to do with fame, money or romance even if she does have all three. You have ‘it’ when you’re happy, which means knowing and loving yourself to the fullest — two things Amy does best.

When I started her new book Yes PleaseI still referred to her by her full name. But by the time I finished it, she was just Amy. It’s bizarre how close you can feel to someone you’ve never met, just by reading the stories they chose to share with the entire world. But Amy’s writing voice is so clear and simple that I can almost hear Leslie Knope’s actual voice reading her words aloud.

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Amy just seems so real. In the intro she talks about how hard it is to write a book — especially one about yourself — and how implicitly conceited and painfully permanent the whole memoir-publishing process is. So down-to-earth yet somehow sharp and hilarious. Some of the memories she retells are insane celebrity-only kind of stories, but my favorites are the everyday ones. The stories that remind me of my own misadventures.

When she played Dorothy in her fourth grade’s Wizard of Oz, she discovered “on stage” meant “in charge” and improv’d for the very first time. I played Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web in the fourth grade too, but my story ended in the audience’s disappointment instead of delight. I got distracted reading backstage, missed a cue, and realized crowds are the worst and words are my home.

Sure she writes about creating Parks and Recreation and what it was like giving birth to her first son while watching the SNL episode she had rehearsed to perform in days earlier (“Laughing to Crying to Laughing”). But she writes about those things from a perspective anyone can understand. No big words, no convoluted themes, just a girl telling her stories in different ways.

The book’s three parts seem to be in loose chronological order: “Say Whatever You Want,” “Do Whatever You Like,” and “Be Whoever You Are.” “Say” begins with The Wizard of Oz and her birth story while “Be” wraps it up with Parks and Recreation, advice on Hollywood, and the unfathomable love she has for her sons.

The chronology of the three parts align on a larger scope too, with their titles — kids say whatever they want because they just found out they can, teenagers do whatever they want just to prove they can, and adults have the freedom to be whoever they are (the only problem is a lot of people get distracted by shoulds and don’t know who that is).

My favorite essay was “Plain Girl vs. the Demon.” She perfectly captures and personifies the self-doubt that wreaks havoc within all of us:

“And then one day, you go through a breakup or you can’t lose your baby weight or you look at your reflection in a soup spoon and that slimy bugger is back. It moves its sour mouth up to your ear and reminds you that you are fat and ugly and don’t deserve love.

This demon is some Stephen King from-the-sewer devil-level shit.”

Coming to the realization that the negative parts of me don’t have any real control is one of the best epiphanies I can ever remember having. And Amy Poehler knows what that feels like.

Thank YOU Amy, for writing a book for everyone.

amy poehler yes please quote

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“Allegory of No Region” at the Taubman Museum of Art

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Bill Rutherfoord has been painting surreal scenes of animals and people in stark, arresting actions for decades, but his gallery at the Taubman Museum is the product of eight very reflective years spent working in the basement of his Roanoke home. Allegory of No Region is comprised of 11 huge, terrifying works that merge folk, myth, metaphor, science and symbolism at once.

This collection can’t be fully appreciated without understanding the story within the paintings, and I don’t think I can explain it any better than the Museum itself:

“The reclaimed character Brer Rabbit leads the viewer on an epic journey across three centuries of heroism and trickery both comic and tragic ultimately creating historical and contemporary allegories and conundrums that lead to an investigation of the very nature of identity, culture and history – personal and public, regional and national, high and low.”

 

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Each painting’s placard includes a diagram letting the viewer know the exact meaning behind the work, so that everyone can follow the twists and turns in Brier Rabbit’s path as he travels from the 18th century to present time, tackling every topic from Jamestown to the BP oil spill.

A lot of the symbolism deals with the New York School of art, and the break between the elites in the high-brow Northeastern art market and the equally legitimate styles being pursued in the rural U.S. Rutherfoord’s own career battled against the art market’s supposed trendiness, remaining figurative and refusing to bend to the ever-popular abstract styles.

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The gallery’s second room contained two collections of Rutherfoord’s past work to contextualize the Allegory of No Region series. The first was a set of Apocalypse paintings inspired by the Bible’s Book of Revelation, but my favorite was the set of five painted wood sculptures completed between the early ’80s and the early ’90s. Their silhouettes’ have life and rhythm but their small size and abstract faces make them feel like dolls propped up.

“Wacky Woods” takes Dr. Suess seriously — a one-eyed cartoon lumberjack BZZZing his chainsaw.

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“Guitar,” 1984

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“Wacky Woods,” 1991

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This show closes on Saturday, September 13th so if you live in Virginia, make the trip this weekend!

For more on Bill Rutherfoord, check out this incredible profile video created about him and this exhibit by William Sellari on Vimeo:

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Richard Stone’s ‘gleam’ in London

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If you live in London, this post is for you! An incredible contemporary sculptor is opening a new solo show titled gleam at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery next Thursday, September 11th.

Richard Stone‘s sculpture morphs art historical motifs into relatable figures, creating a new image from repurposed contexts using antique media like bronze and marble.

The artist is most interested in abstracting and breaking down contemporary representations of universal ideas that might be found more easily in painting and photography but not so much in sculpture:

"the rescuer," 2014  bronze, patina  approx 57x23x23cm

“the rescuer,” 2014
bronze, patina
approx 57x23x23cm

How has your process of molding and sculpting works changed as your art has developed? 

I’ve started to find a new and more focused language in bronze and marble, working more directly with preparatory wax models, that has opened up many more possibilities.

I’ve long been interested in how I can recast classical themes in contemporary light and these materials are enabling me to do that, not least because, in essence, they’re such beautiful, beguiling materials, ancient in origin, but utterly contemporary and limitless in scope.

 

When did you first begin experimenting with the abstracted human form in three dimensions, and why? 

It really started with looking to describe and make physical, the space around existing figurative objects, often in heroic poses, applying layers of wax to create an amorphous, contrasting form.

This not only enabled me to evoke a duality of form and material, but importantly, to think through the idea of representation and it’s conventions, more keenly, exploring the increasingly contemporary point at which representation begin to blur, dissolve or fall apart.

 

What is it that usually sparks the initial idea for a new sculpture? 

It can be anything, visual or literary, historical or contemporary, a found object, a work of art, a place, but quite often a line from a book or poem.

 

What do you hope your work communicates to the viewer? 

I think any intention on the part of the artist has to remain open, but the hope is always that the work is resonant enough to meet people where they are, in that moment, or be powerful enough to form a memory.

 

Which part of your upcoming September show are you most excited about?

For me, these works represent years of thinking and making, but it’s really now, that they’ve come together, in the form and mediums that best express them. The classical materials I’ve returned too have been updated and for me, represent a much stronger visual and contextual statement.

The exhibition in that sense is both a consolidation as well as a departure, I would say it’s a new statement of artistic intent.

 

"only in the ruins will you be free," 2014 statuario marble  approx 91x57x10cm

“only in the ruins will you be free,” 2014
statuario marble
approx 91x57x10cm

 

 

Richard’s show at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery will be on view until October 12th.

Interested in going to the opening? Find the details here. 

And see more of Richard’s work on his website and Twitter feed

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Paul McCartney’s Farewell to Candlestick Park

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Paul McCartney is a pretty indescribable human being, and tens of thousands of people gathered in Candlestick Park last week just for him.

All our hearts collectively melted when he tenderly sang the ultimates he helped create like “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be,” but he switched guitars after every single song so he could go back and forth between those Beatles classics, Wings hits, and the songs on his latest albums.

He felt far away, one of the greatest musicians of all time becoming an assemblage of magnificent tiny specks on the stage. But the 72-year-old lit up the entire stadium with his energy, and the huge screens that formed the stage’s backdrop changed dramatically for every song which kept the momentum moving fast.

Paul gave loving shout-outs to “John” and later “George” before performing songs that they wrote, and the crowd sent both of the legends long cheers, straight up to music heaven.

The Beatles played their last concert in Candlestick Park in 1966, so it felt important for Paul McCartney to be the last to play on the field before the stadium is demolished, now that the 49ers are moving to Santa Clara.

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"Blackbird"!

“Blackbird”!

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15 Mind-Bending Looped GIFs

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Looped GIFs are like “The Song That Never Ends.”

They visually lead into and out of themselves in a dizzying, mind-blowing way that makes me so excited to be living in this new digital age of art.

GIFs are my new favorite medium because they blend design, graphics, video and fine art together — four things I am learning to appreciate more and more in my everyday life, and four things that come alive in short looped spurts of color.

Plus, the amount of time it takes to create a looped GIF explains why it most definitely deserves its own classification as a new media artform. Welcome to the party, GIFs!

1.  “pulse 6gons rainbow” by 12gon

"pulse 6gons rainbow" by 12gon

 

2.  “drawing a drawing drawing a drawing” by Tim Schreder

"drawing a drawing drawing a drawing" by Tim Schreder

3. “Rocketship 3” by INKAXIS

"Rocketship 3" by INKAXIS

4. by Giorgio Malvone

by Giorgio Malvone

 

5. from Jami / Gemini

from Jami / Gemini

 

6. “Moon” by INKAXIS

"Moon" by INKAXIS

7. “No Wifi.” by Tyler Haywood

"No Wifi." by Tyler Haywood

 

8. “grid lines” by david whyte 

"grid lines" by david whyte

 

9. by Melhores Gifs do Mundo

by Melhores Gifs do Mundo

 

10. “The Eye” by Matthew Stone & Joe Currie

"The Eye" by Matthew Stone & Joe Currie

 

11. by Sam Alexander Mattacott

"fg_TR_01" by Sam Alexander Mattacott

 

12. “Duplicates” by INKAXIS

"Duplicates" by INKAXIS

 

13. “childhood game” by leszczynska

"childhood game" by leszczynska

 

 

14. “Mover” by INKAXIS

"Mover" by INKAXIS

 

15. “Triangles” by INKAXIS

"Triangles" by INKAXIS

 

For endless GIF art, browse Tumblr >>

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Ripples at Rest: Fredrik Skåtar’s Vibration Mirror

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Fredrik Skåtar is a Swedish architect, artist and researcher exploring and manipulating natural forms. He created his “Vibration mirror” in 2010, a polished aluminum sculpture that expanded on a previous work “Wave table.” “Wave table” was made of acrylic glass so you could see ‘through’ the water instead of your own reflection.

The ripples in the ‘water’ of “Vibration Mirror” reveal a distorted view of what’s before the piece, bringing the viewer into direct interaction with the work. Two half-circles radiate out, as if two people standing in front of the work each created their own stir in the flat mirror. The mirror’s flat top contrasts its busy bottom, where the two sets of scattered wrinkles intersect to create a loose grid of waves.

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Fredrik writes, “Shapes of water are constantly generated all around us, too fast for the human eye to perceive. The Vibration mirror is a sculpture where time has been stopped to materialize the complex geometry of intersecting water ripples.

The Vibration mirror is a part of the projects ‘From animation to sculpture’ and ‘Matter of sound’ that was funded by The Swedish Arts Grants Committee (Konstnärsnämnden) and The Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in 2010 and 2012.”

 

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For more from Fredrik, follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr.

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Levitating Paint: Pawel Nolbert’s Atypical

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Pawel Nolbert is a graphic artist in Poland, whose work with digital visuals began 13 years ago. He’s created for Adobe, Google, Disney, the Grammy’s and a lot of other names you’d recognize, but it’s the work he makes for himself that blows everything else out of the water.

His latest project, Atypical is a part-typography, part-contemporary art series that features bright, elegant swishes of paint dancing through the air, freed from their usual canvas prison.  Most of the eight prints have some semblance to a letter or number, which contradicts that freedom-feeling that comes from working in four dimensions. But there is one spiraling tunnel of blue-purple that really lets loose.

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Nolbert created Atypical by actually painting what you see in the works on clear plastic panels that could be twisted and manipulated. The photographs of that painted plastic were then perfected and assembled digitally so that the paint became it’s own entity — thick brushstrokes waltzing in the wind.

 

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To see more of Pawel Nolbert’s work, find him on Facebook, Twitter, Behance and his amazing Instagram.
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The Impact Cézanne Had on The Impressionists

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by Alison Lansky

Paul Cézanne was a French artist perhaps most famous for his ‘Bathers’ and who is often credited with having bridged the gap between Impressionism in the late 19th Century and Cubism in the early part of the 20th Century. Like many artists, his work can be defined by a number of distinct periods each with its own style. The four most commonly recognised periods in terms of Cézanne’s work are his post-impressionism period; his cubism period; his impressionism period; and his modern art period. However, the period that I want to look at today is his impressionist and post-impressionist period and more specifically how his work impacted the impressionist movement.

 

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What Is Impressionism?

Impressionism was a style of painting which emerged in France during the 1860’s. The main characteristics of the impressionist style were the need to capture a visual impression of the moment and the effects of light and color. It has often been said that impressionists are more concerned with capturing the feeling or the experience rather than creating an accurate reproduction of a scene. Nature played a big role in the impressionist movement with most artwork focused on the outdoors. One of the hallmarks of an impressionist painting is the use of short brush strokes and thickly applied paint along with a lack of fine detail. If you want to try your hand at impressionist style painting then you should be able to find a selection of useful books at most leading art supplies stores. There are several interesting titles available from JacksonsArt.com.

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Cézanne’s Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Works

Cézanne’s impressionist period was at its peak in the 1870’s. Some of his most famous impressionist works include ‘House of the Hanged Man’ and his series of ‘Bathers’. While Cézanne exhibited his paintings alongside other impressionists such as Claude Monet, over time his style began to change setting him apart from the other artists of the time. He was plagued by the feeling that the impressionists were lacking in one of the most important hallmarks of classical art : structured composition.

This deviation from the normal impressionist style was met wit criticism. Where other impressionists captures a delicate and sensuous feel in their work, any felt that Cezanne’s brush strokes were forced or strained due to his insistence on creating a more unified structure between color, surface and brush strokes. It was Cézanne’s experimentation with planes of color which led to other artists including Pablo Picasso being influenced to create the style we now know as cubism. It is because of this that Paul Cézanne is often thought of as one of the fathers of modern art.

Overall, it is clear that although Cézanne initially came under fire upon deviating from what was expected in the art world at the time to the point where he was routinely rejected by the Salon, his distinctive style certainly developed over time and went on to influence great artists including Manet, Picasso and Renoir to develop a more modern style. In fact, Pablo Picasso is quoted as having said, ‘As if I didn’t know Cezanne! He was my one and only master. […] It was the same with all of us – he was like our father.’ Modern art would not be where it is today without the likes of visionary artists like Paul Cézanne.

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Alison Lansky loves blogging and art. She is also the mother of 2 beautiful children – her own works of art!

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Carlos Ortega’s 3D Cast of Characters

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“Policarpio,” 2010: “Policarpio is a little swimmer birdie who is visited by his 3 fairy godmothers …”

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“Simon The Dog,” 2009: Character modeled for a marketing agency.

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“Erasmo the plesiosaur,” 2008: “I created this character for a challenge at 3DTotal.com. My concept was simple: to make a cute and colorful animal with a grumpy and annoyed attitude.”

"Quetzalcoatl's Rage," 2008

“Quetzalcoatl’s Rage,” 2008: “The aztec god Quetzalcoatl waking up in his stone body and facing the enemy, waiting for the battle…”

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“The Weeping Woman,” 2012: “Created for the Collective Exhibition in Mexico: “Ilustrando para” as homage for the mexican Rock Band ‘Caifanes'”

 

Spunky animals take on personalities to match in Carlos Ortega‘s 3D artwork. Similar in style to Pixar movies and Frozen, his women have teeny tiny button noses and huge almond eyes that rest in their perfect round cheeks. But it’s his birds with goggles and imagined sea creatures that open the gates of possibility.

If you’ve seen the 2012 CocaCola short, “Crabs & Penguins,” Carlos designed the soccer-playing penguins in the video!

 

See more of his work on his website, and like his 3D creations on Facebook here.

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The Use of Art in Advertising

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The common form of advertising is a form of communication used to persuade viewers or listeners to purchase a new product. But did you know that an outstanding radio or TV ad can also be referred to as a form of art?

When people hear the word “art,” they usually relate it to paintings and sculptures, like Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” or Michelangelo’s “David.” Art is used to chronicle events, tell a story, create statements or convey emotions. Art, when used effectively in radio and television advertisements, can influence a person’s feelings, attitudes and ideals, and even persuade the audience to purchase a product or service. A Super Bowl Pepsi commercial may not have a place in the Louvre but the ad fits this definition of art.

Audio Art
Despite the fact that it only appeals to our sense of hearing, an excellent radio ad utilizes various art forms such as music, script writing, sound effects and vocal talent to create visual images in the listener’s mind and to bring the ad to life. After the writer finishes the script, sound engineers would then manipulate the sounds to capture the perfect pitch, tone and volume. One of the best radio ads of 2012 is Earphone Bully. It even won a Gold Radio Lion at Cannes the same year.

Visual Art
With all the advanced technology available on the market, graphic artists are able to create remarkable visual effects through computer-generated graphics and animation. The famous 2006 Coke commercial from the Netherlands was shown worldwide because of its brilliant use of animation.

Cinematography & Photography
A simple concept may result to an explosive TV advert with the amazing use of cinematography. Just like Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” commercial from the recent Super Bowl season. It is a simple concept but the sequences and how the entire commercial was shot plus the music accompaniment appeals to the masses.

Even online gaming companies know the importance of a great cinematography. Online bingo game Iceland Bingo may have used two simple ducks walking down the road, but how the commercial was executed really gets the point across: Play bingo and you will have fun.

Same thing goes with photography. A plain food and beverage can turn into a visual masterpiece with just the right lighting and positioning of the camera to capture the perfect angle. All these artistry can contribute to sell a product successfully.

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Disclaimer: This is a guest post! 

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