Outdoor Art : A Papel Picado Inspired by Mexico

 

We have spent considerable time in the Yucatan, Mexico. In that region almost any celebration results in the hanging of strings of “banderas de papel” called “banderitas” or, if referring to the traditional form of this art form, ”papel picado”, meaning “pecked paper”. I’ve always loved this idea of pecking and it brought to mind the many forms of “making” in birds. The pecking refers to the use of small metal chisels or blades that are struck with hammers to excise the open areas of the flags. The flags are piles in stacked layers and a pattern guide is used to ensure consistency across a large number of banderas. Tap, tap, tap, a flower blooms. Tap, tap, tap, a grinning skull takes shape. In our current times the flags are made of plastic.

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During our time in the #Yucatan Peninsula, #Mexico we could often hear the calls of the Ferruginous Pygmy #Owl. I used oil pastels to create this work on paper, celebrating the indominitable spirit of this small bird which is also, reportedly, an aggressive predator.

 

One day I came across a large rolled vinyl sign in the dumpster of a car dealership – about 5 feet in width and 20 feet long. It wasn’t long before I had this coiled languid tongue slung over my shoulder and, as many artists can relate to, I immediately felt both triumphant and apprehensive. One the one hand I had new art materials obtained at a great price. On the other hand I was wondering – where was I going to store it and what was I going to do with it? I had absolutely no idea. I counted on the fact that of the thousands of ideas constantly flowing through my head, one of them would stumble across a large vinyl log one day and fall face first into “art”. The coiled vinyl sign lay dormant, gathering dust for nearly two years.

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Dan Nuttall, #CACTUS MOB, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48″

 

The finishing of our new back yard this summer was a cause for celebration, we did all the design and implementation work ourselves. I thought of a party with small colourful “banderitas” but was daunted by the thought of finding and stringing a series of suspended lines in the back yard. Since art was always going to a part of our back yard, and space in downtown Toronto is always at a premium, I thought that a single large “papel picado” might suffice. It could occupy the far wall, serve as a focal point and lend an air of celebration and diversity to the setting. I would use the back of the vinyl sign as the front face, providing a thin white surface.

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Process: I created a digital drawing, printing it on letter sized paper (42 separate pages), taped them together and taped the completed image to the back of the repurposed vinyl banner.

It took a month to produce the flag including a week of cutting by hand with a small blade. The flow of memories in the form of plants and garden and insects kept my mind alive: zebra long-wing butterflies, cardboard palms, black-eyed susan vines, night blooming cactus, ginger plants, Plumeria. The content is all farmed from memory. Plants you see in the flag are actual species, done without further research, to the best of my memory as are the two owls called Ferruginous Pygmy Owls which we have often heard while in the greener areas of the city. The butterflies, owls and cactus have all been the subject of separate works of art.

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It took about 40 hours to excise all the tiny section within the papel picado (“pecked paper”). 

And so the “bandera de vinilo gigante ”, the “large vinyl flag”, has now come into being. Retrieved from the landfill, memories extracted, pecked from time. I feel like celebrating. Loteria!!

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The final artwork is 55 x 77″, made from material diverted from landfill, takes up little space and turns our back yard into a gallery. Also weather-proof though not approved for climbing critters!

You can see more of my work here: http://www.dandoesdesign.com

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HYDROLOGY : Art Reflects Change and Resilience in Toronto’s Gay Village

It’s not far from here, in 2016, that Black Lives Matter took a stand on the gay pride march and the participation of City of Toronto police. Within the same distance the body of a murdered young woman, Tess Richey, was discovered in 2017 in the outdoor stairwell of a Church Street building. More recently, the community has been rocked by the murders of men, all targeted by an alleged serial killer who is now in custody. To say the least, the last few years have been challenging and un-nerving for Toronto’s gay village. Toronto artist Dan Nuttall is creating art that reflects on these trying times. “I wanted to use nature to express the complexity of connection and change as well as resilience and optimism”.

 

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Dan Nuttall “Bruised Cloud”, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 40, diptych, available.

 

The art is on display in “The Window”, a storefront art gallery operated by ONE Properties at 558 Church Street, just a few feet from the Church and Wellesley intersection. The art is on display from August 28 – October 2, 2018.

At first glance the three paintings in Nuttall’s show “Hydrology” seem to bear little relation to the complex issues facing this community. Two of the paintings capture clouds (“Thunder Cloud” and “Bruised Cloud”) and the other a stream (“Broad Stream”). On closer inspection however the metaphoric aspects of the works begin to relate more broadly – to personal and community cultural contexts. How is a cloud like a person? In his artist statement Nuttall says this: “Our celestial selves are made of light stuff – tiny things that come together to make us visible, make us feel solid, make us feel separate and distinct. Floating through life, it seems clear sailing. As much as we are able to see from our unique vantage points, we cannot see the small things rushing toward us nor observe their incorporation into our selves. Over time, small things accumulate and condense, are rendered visible and given form. An outburst allows part of the self to detach and return to the ground from whence it came. Turbulence keeps us aloft. Dialogue is a goddess of small exchanges.”

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Dan Nuttall, “Thunder Cloud”, acrylic on canvas, 39 x 47″, available

For Nuttall, incorporating the perspective of Black Lives Matter in the gay pride parade was a necessary way for the queer community to move forward, a way to change, a way to have turbulence keep the political aspects of queer and black culture alive: “I’m a product of the era of AIDS activism and I vividly remember the need for the political acts of groups like ACT UP in New York City. Who can forget “Silence = Death” and the confrontations that precipitated so much awareness?”

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Dan Nuttall, “Broad Stream”, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20″ each image, available

The themes of connection, changefulness and resilience are present again in his stream painting which is a quadriptych – the stream has been separated across four separate canvases – and requires the viewer to stitch together the stream in their mind, which Nuttall refers to as “an ecological act”. Again, Nuttall is again echoing the themes found in the cloud paintings but also pointing to something else – seeing nature as a source of peace, of healing and inspiration. “Nature is where we can seek healing and peace and for many it is a source of the mystical. For the queer community the last few years have meant challenging ourselves, re-embracing activism and the political, and dealing with new threats”.

Writing about his “stream” series of paintings, Nuttall states: “The emanations found in the paintings of artists like Emily Carr and Charles Burchfield used calligraphic brushstrokes to symbolize the unseen or unknown. Light, sound and the presence of a greater power float within their scenes of nature. In these paintings of streams the emanations, as crescent-shaped blades of white, draw our attention to nature, to the “in-between” of nature, and then beyond to the unknown and unseen. Life, as subatomic, both light particle and wave, illustrating the engine, the power, the mystery that drives it all.” In this moment, at this time, located at the crossroads of the queer village, these paintings both speak and listen.

You can find more of this artist’s work at: www.dandoesdesign.com

You can read about The Window gallery here: http://thewindow558.com/

Dan Nuttall may be reached at: dandoesdesign@hotmail.com

The Dreaming Bear, Ursus oneiros

Painting by Dan Nuttall of Ursus oneiros

For some time now I have been interested in the “level” playing field created through the use of the terms “human-animal” and “non-human animal”. Here, the level playing field is the consistent use of the term animal.

Related to this is another idea, that of  hierarchy in relation to dimensions of sustainability (e.g., political, economic, social, cultural, ecological), specifically the fact that the ecological dimension or “ecology” trumps the economical dimension or “economy”. Example: you can have ecology without economy but you can’t have economy without ecology. Ecology trumps economy. Taken together the above two ideas can be combined as follows: in a finite world with ever shrinking resources all animals will ultimately be subjected to ecological constraints, however those constraints arise.

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Ursus oneiros (Dreaming Bear) by Dan Nuttall, acrylic on wood panel, 36 x 48″ SOLD

As an artist and ecologist I see competition for space, the attributes and qualities of space, and the inputs and outputs of space as critical aspects of the global discussion about which animals and what kinds of spaces will survive. Such questions are independent of the debate about whether or not animals should be kept in captivity as, ultimately, ALL animals will face shrinking spaces, lower quality inputs (tainted food, water, air, vegetation), increased competition, and decreased access to mates (habitat fragmentation, forest destruction). The questions of “zoo” are also the questions of “planet”.

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Dan Nuttall, “Shore Lines”, acrylic on wood panel, 4 x 8′

Which leads me to displaced animals in compressed life history volumes such as zoo exhibits. In a previous post on this blog, titled “The Mind Is A Zoo“, which addressed the painting shown above, I stated that the “…oneiric state of the painting provides an overarching serenity linking both the familiar and the strange. One wonders what animals dream when they are born in captivity and exposed solely to a single environment. Is there still something deep and rudimentary that can arise from a genetic or shared consciousness? Some archetypical memory?

In other words, can a bear dream of a forest if it has never seen one? If the dreams can only be comprised of things the bear has seen and experienced in its own lifetime does that mean the bear dreams only of the exhibit space and anything it may see from it? Does containment matter if one is born into it? Or, is it possible that the collective unconscious of the bear includes the hard wired dream of a leaping salmon and outstretched paw? And if the bears disappear who will keep this dream? Where can it be stored? And if the dream disappears can it ever be dreamed again?

Non-human animal sensing, experience and memory are components of non-human animal culture. In ecological terms this culture has four cornerstone requirements: food, water, hiding cover and mates. Even if these requirements are being met in what seems to be large unrestricted spaces or conservation areas the lack of any one of them or a reduction in the quality of any one of them can impoverish non-human animal culture and lead to population decreases and extinction. In this sense what we think of as “habitat” becomes the cage. In other words – thinking that non-human animals are “out there” in the “wild” and are “safe” is really just an illusion.

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Dan Nuttall, “Habitat Is The Cage”, acrylic on wood, 30 x 40″

Links to other posts in this blog on the subject of ecological art, non-human animals, otherness, animal sensing and animals and space HERE and HERE and HERE.

The painting above “Habitat Is The Cage” will be shown at Gallery 1313 in Toronto June 21-July 1, 2018, as part of the “Eco-Art 2018” exhibition curated by Phil Anderson. Like all of the other paintings in this post the lineworks or line patterns you see have been taken from abandoned polar bear exhibits at the Stanely Park Zoo in Vancouver, British Columbia.

 

Below, from the same series, but not focussing on bears but the Family Canidae, is “Future Ghost (Canidae)” which addresses domestication as both a form of erasure and conservation.

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Future Ghost (Canidae), acrylic on wood panel, 16 x 16″

More of my art work can be seen HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Path to Painting

On a recent trip to NYC we stopped in at Berry Campbell on West 24th, to see the Syd Solomon (1917-2004) exhibition – which was the highlight of my very limited time in Chelsea. An abstract expressionist, his work involves and energizes space.

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The paintings are perpetually sensuous and enigmatic – full of life, colour and questions. His paintings lingered in my mind – I loved their chunky organic vibrancy. See more of his work here on the Berry Campbell website: https://www.berrycampbell.com/

You can also watch a short film about Syd here: https://youtu.be/eogAWjbwcq8

And I would be remiss if I didn’t let you know that Syd’s work is rumoured to be shown this fall at Guild Hall, East Hampton. You can check in on Guild Hall’s listings as they arise here: http://www.guildhall.org/

Thank you Syd Solomon, I wish I could have met you!

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As with much of my work exposure to other artists, writers (at this moment critic Jerry Saltz comes to mind as does academic Arden Reed who recently wrote about “Slow Art”) theorists and curators plays a role in shaping future work. So I wasn’t surprised when Syd’s bold work began sifting through my brain, which is always, coincidentally, populated with ecocentric thoughts: Where are we going? What’s happening to the planet? How do artists and designers communicate ideas related to anthropogenic change and planetary fate?

Select articles by Jerry saltz here: http://nymag.com/nymag/jerry-saltz/

You can read the first chapter of Arden Reed’s book for free here: https://content.ucpress.edu/chapters/12925.ch01.pdf

The “cause” of charismatic painting would have us believe that nature, for the most part, exists in a perpetually unblemished state. Of course, in reality, anthropogenic disturbance has cast a pall over all of our planet’s ecosystems. Nature is not unhinged and separate but connected and affected.

Ecological art may be distinguished, in part, by its “ethic” – it’s trying to affirm a form of conduct that would have us behave in ways that do not harm the planet. How should such art inform? By capturing beauty? Or through direct reference to the threats we cause? Perhaps it is both. But can we live with art that hints at our future nostalgia?

How many of us have beautiful distractions on our walls – and is this enough?

Here, in this painting, the shadow of urbanity casts its long shadow on a distant coral reef.

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Dan Nuttall, CORAL REEF (right), acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24″
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Dan Nuttall, CORAL REEF (left), acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24″

The diptych, when the two images are put together, looks like this:

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Please feel free to get in touch or share your thoughts.

INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/dandoesdesign/

 

 

A Series of Gentle Shark Attacks

A SERIES OF GENTLE SHARK ATTACKS (U.S. Election 2016)

Dan Nuttall
A Series Of Gentle Shark Attacks (Nov. 13, 2016)
acrylic on wood panel
10 x 10″

I like to alternate more “serious” work with drawing and painting “exercises” that keep me limber and light. And, as with most of my work, I don’t always know where the art is headed. Painting is an act of bringing into being, of invention; a combination of intention, randomness and explicitness, accidents and purpose. Sometimes a single stroke of the brush is enough to make a painting depart in a entirely new direction. It is usually in retrospect, occasionally days, often months later, that intention and meaning come to the surface. And in the tradition of surprises in the process of “art-making” there can be reversals and revisions; light things can become heavy, slow things can have great mass, gentle things can be savage. Thus, it seems to me that these small paintings are about the last five days and my despondency over the electing of President Trump – who seems determined to gently, casually, chew away at the fabric of U.S. society.

#Trump #sharks #POTUS

You can find out more about Dan Nuttall and his art HERE

His current solo exhibition at Lee Contemporar Art HERE.

Dan Nuttall art painting a series of gentle shark attacks

Art As Area: What’s It Worth?

There are so many items that we pay for that charge by the area. The cost of a house is usually related to the number of square feet. Renting commercial space? Buying flooring? Paving a driveway? The cost will often be calculated in terms of the number of square feet or square meters. In short, area is a simple measure that can be correlated with cost. It’s easy to see how the pricing of art could follow a similar approach, particularly “two-dimensional” work like paintings.

 

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Detail of “Sex Cells 2” by Dan Nuttall,  at 144 square inches, what’s it worth?

The math is simple: take the price of the painting and divide it by the area. You can then compare the value you derived, in cost per unit area, to examples of art across a broad range of price points. For example, “affordable ready-to-hang” art costs at select retail sources are roughly as follows:

  • HomeSense                         $0.06/square inch
  • Winners                                $0.06/square inch
  • Ikea                                        $0.04/square inch

The pricing of a popular Toronto artist who has been successful at marketing their work through community or artist run galleries and some retail stores in Toronto (no, it’s not me):

  • Toronto artist                         $0.77/square inch

 

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Detail of “Balsam” a silkscreen by Charles Comfort priced at $0.825 per square inch

This silkscreen, “Balsam”, by Charles Comfort, is priced at $0.825 per square inch

Here is the pricing for a Canadian artist, with an education in art (BFA, MFA), who exhibited last year at a well known and highly respected art gallery in downtown Toronto (again, not me):

  • Trained artist $3.23/square inch

Let’s go all out and compare all of the above to some art “super-stars” Francis Bacon and Jean-Michel Basquiat, the cost per square inch for, respectively,  Three Studies of Lucian Freud  and Untitled:

  • Francis Bacon                         $10,492/square inch
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat             $22,486/square inch (info HERE).

Why think of art in these terms? For collectors who are just staring out it may be a useful starting point for organizing your thoughts around purchasing.

It’s obvious that there are many other variables that come into play. Are you a serious collector? Is it your expectation that a work of art appreciate in value over time? Are you changing your art every year? Will you gaze at the art every day or is it really about covering up that stain on the wall? Should you hire an art consultant?

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Dan Nuttall, “Halo”, acrylic on wood panel, 36 x 48″

Here are some of the advantages to the “art as area” approach:

  1. From the perspective of the purchaser it allows you to establish a ballpark figure for what you might spend on a piece and to compare prices across several different artists and different paintings. If you look at the yawning empty space above your sofa for example, and feel a 36 x 48” piece of art would be ideal you know that (36 x 48” = 1728 square inches x $2 per square inch = $3456. From this point you can begin to play with the variables – How does changing the size of the piece affect your decision-making? Do you feel that your unit area prices need to go up or down to meet your budget and aesthetic goals? When you visit a gallery or art website how do the prices of paintings you like break down to cost per unit area? What do you consider to be a fair price to be charged for services rendered?
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Dan Nuttall, “Fall Stream” (diptych), acrylic on canvas board, 16 x 20″ each
  1. From the perspective of the artist it allows the artist a quick and surefire method for estimating the price point for their work on the spot. If you charge $5.00 per square inch and have a 10 x 10” piece of art in front of a potential collector it’s easy to do the math in you head – no running for the price sheet – 10 x 10” x $5/in2 = $500. As well, “art as area” thinking also provides a baseline for changes in prices. Had a good year? Great reviews? There is a waiting list for your work? It’s easy to take your $5.00 per square inch price and edge it up to $5.25 and relate this price increase to the aforementioned variables or the rate of inflation or increases in the price of art materials or life expenses. Feeling that your painting price point is strategically situated within the art market and defensible in terms of your efforts can provide a sense of confidence to your practice. Keep in mind that artist materials start at $0.03/square inch (e.g., wood panel) and can skyrocket upwards at an alarming rate depending upon the type of materials used.
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Dan Nuttall, “Diving Loon (Gavia immer), acrylic on wood panel, 16 x 16″

This is just one approach and, admittedly, it’s superficial. Hidden behind any marketing and pricing strategy are living, breathing artists who create highly original and engaging works of art – and who need to make a living. Will you avoid the lower end mass marketed prints that clutter our landfills? Will you support local living artists? What would you be willing to pay to support a local living artist whose work might accrue in value? What did the artist’s materials cost and what is a fair wage for an artist who spends a month on a painting and experiences the same cost of living as you do? Thinking of art as area may be just the right starting point for your art collection.

Dan Nuttall is a Toronto Artist who charges about $1 per square inch for his paintings.

You can find his web site here: http://www.dandoesdesign.com/

And his FB page HERE.  

Inquiries welcome. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine That

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Dan Nuttall, Benthic Creatures, oil pastel on archival paper, 11 x 14″ each

How one ends up at a particular intersection in a piece of work always fascinates me. Have you ever completed a piece, left it for some time, come back and seen something unexpected but recognizable? Or seen a collision of past moments?

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These works, Benthic Creatures were, ostensibly, created as art for children. They’re about 10 years old. They were my imaginings of creatures sitting on the ocean floor (the benthos) in perpetual night, waiting for a sound or a pulse of bioluminescent glow, a constant snow of fine debris from above, silent. I wanted something a bit magical to activate the imagination. I wanted the mind to stretch, to imagine the furthest reaches and to think that life could exist there. They were images for a bed-time story.

And now?

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Today, I see some obvious things like my time in marine biology and my job at The Vancouver Aquarium. But I also see a bit of Francis Bacon in the twisted calcareous coral of one image and the lines in all three that seem to demarcate corners or the intersections of walls and floors. I see that the settings are somehow domestic, that these creatures are surviving against the odds, hidden or isolated in the deep blue. They are both soft and pulsing and hard and sharp.

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I also see the edges of a larger, untold scene – a fourth creature – sensing his way in the dark, hoping that one day someone could imagine him.

The Artist Project 2016

I am very pleased to be exhibiting my work at the juried art show:

THE ARTIST PROJECT

February 18-21
Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto
Booth #105

Please feel free to share this post with anyone you know that likes art and might be intrigued spending a few hours with 250 of the finest!

Here is a brief video highlighting a few of the works I will be showing…

 

 

More of my work may be seen HERE on my web site: http://www.dandoesdesign.com

 

Sprung For Spring

Winter compresses. The shorter days. The weight of snow. The cold that slows. Things dwarfed and pressed together. Flesh. Scales. Earth. Feathers. Buds.

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Dan Nuttall, “Abstract in Cool Blue”, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36″

Summer expands. Things get further apart, lighter, and movement is freer, further ranging, we seek the spaces in between, allowing some delight in the disorder.

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Dan Nuttall, “Blue Socks 2″, oil pastel on archival paper, 16 x 20”

And in between. Spring. Unfurling, tumescent, sensing. Our forays expose both old and new surfaces, as if for the first time, to the available light. Spring is a time of year for expectation, for hope, for fresh exposure, new light, and perhaps anticipation of some kind of charming chaos. Entropy here we come – I’m sprung for spring.

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Dan Nuttall, “Butterflies”, acrylic on archival paper, 20 x 30″

I see spring as a chance to be “out and about”, me as molecule,  entropy of one, escaping the bonds of an isolated system and joining the fracas and fray to bounce off others. One of these feel good spring events is SNAP!

SNAP! is ACT’s annual photographic fundraiser featuring a live auction of art, a silent auction, and a photo competition.

Over the past fifteen years, SNAP! has provided patrons with an opportunity to support ACT’s programs and services, increase their awareness of HIV/AIDS, and add to their art collections. The event provides a great opportunity for both established and emerging artists to showcase their work.

SNAP! has raised over $2.5 million since its inception in support of the important programs and services at ACT.” (quotes denote information from SNAP! web site).

Check out this amazing event HERE.

The photographs donated by local and international artists are included in a Live Auction and a Silent Auction at the GALA opening.

SNAP! 2016 will take place on Thursday, March 31st, 2016 at the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library. Public previews will take place from March 18 to 20.

On March 31st, the doors open at 6:00 pm, and the live auction begins at 7:00 pm sharp! SNAP! 2016 includes a live and silent auction, complimentary h’ors d’oeuvres, and a host bar.” (quotes denote information from SNAP! web site).

I’ll have  a photograph called “Brothers in Brown”, featured in the Silent Auction and I invite you to seek it out alongside amazing work by some very well known and emerging artists. Spring into action, spring into auction, get out and about, and find the sun in a fresh exposure!

 

 

The Black and White Ball

If the title of this post was, “A Black and White Ball” you might think: soccer. You’re not too far off the mark, there IS a sports theme here. But as soon as I utter the next two words, you’ll either remember something, or think something is awry:

Truman Capote.

I have loved him ever since “In Cold Blood” and, of course, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. I wish he’d written more. I walked to 70 Willow Street once, not far from where I lived in Brooklyn, to stare at his house, willing his ghost to come to the window.

At the height of his fame he threw a party for Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham. A masquerade ball with the theme of black and white, it was held on November 28th, 1966 – my birthday. I was turning four and definitely NOT invited. Held in the Plaza Hotel in New York City, the party was as famous for its guests as the images that emerged. How often does a single party, serving a single cocktail, enter the American consciousness and remain embedded?

Back to sports.

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In sports, many aspects of “maleness” are underpinned by “femaleness”. Some men acknowledge these underpinnings while others eschew them. I find it hard to ignore femininity in a world of spandex, padding, cups, straps, clips and girdles. In and of themselves these design “elements” are “neutral” – materials, shapes, degrees of rigidity, support, protection and wicking. Historically, these neutral design elements have been sexualized when it comes to men thinking about of women. However, it is anathema to most men to think of them as erotic when applied to other males, especially in the locker room. In the gay world all these suspensory elements are celebrated – exploited as “hyper-male”. Many a well-swung gay fantasy has rotated around the fulcrum of a jock strap.

How is it that we fetishize in both positive and negative ways inert elements attached to human bodies? Here, in this piece, the strange attractor of flower, as pansy, draws the inquisitive bee of attraction in, offers its stigma, styles and ovaries. And releases the bee to rejoin its community.

This pansy is comprised of jock strap cups and hockey girdle straps. A pair, in black and white, would look great above your bed. Erotic art that honours the continuum, not just the poles.

“Pansy For Jocks”, 16 x 16″, will be for sale at “The Black and White Ball” at Propeller Gallery, opening Thursday, February 4, 6:30 – 9:30, all works in black and white, and you should be too! A night of masquerade and sports perhaps? Two alternate versions of the piece on sale are shown here:

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