Art & Emotion: Mark Rothko

Orange and Yellow by Mark Rothko

How many people can say that they have had an encounter with a painting that made them cry right there in a museum or art gallery? Did it happened to be a Mark Rothko painting?

For those of you who don’t know who Rothko was, he was an American painter born into a family of Russian Jewish intellects in 1903. His full name was Markus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz which got abbreviated to Mark Rothko in 1940 due to anti-Semitism. In 1913, he immigrated to America with his Mom and sister, they eventually meet up with his father and 2 brothers in Portland, Oregon. Soon after arriving his father sadly died.

Rothko had a complicated relationship to religion and after mourning the death of his father for almost a year, made a conscious decision to move away from organized religion.

He believed that color was “primal, elemental, pure unconscious emotional resonance and response.”(Meditations on Mark Rothko) This emotional response or experience was the reason why he recommended viewers to position themselves as little as 18 inches away from the canvas to have that experience. He described his paintings as “…not a picture of an experience. It is the experience.” This experience is eventually described as a religious transcendence or spiritual transcendence. The barrier that you find in other paintings is gone when you view one of Rothko’s paintings and become a part of it.  It is essentially taking you on a higher plane.

This higher plane is the communication of emotion, that invoke the experiences of grief, ecstasy and destiny. Rothko famously wrote that “The people who weep before my pictures, are having the same religious experiences I had when painting them.”

As seen, his paintings invoked basic human emotions that allowed for the viewer to actually be felt as a human being, in an empathic way. One were the person is listened to and finally understood. It is something that is lacking in today’s world and is needed more and more in a world gone mad.

Works Cited:

Auishai, Tamar, host. “Meditations on Mark Rothko.” Episode 24. The Lonely Palette. 22 November 2017. http://www.thelonelypalette.com/episodes/2017/11/20/episode-24-meditations-on-mark-rothko

Art’s Impact on Politics and Society

Ai Weiwei, Law of the Journey

When was the last time a piece of art moved you? Was it a film, a painting or a street performer? Art in many ways can enrich the human experience and initiate change in society. These types of changes can be used to better society by not answering questions, but by asking questions.  

How can art be used for a political purpose? Well, it can be used to raise awareness and shift perspective. For example,  Beirut based artist, Lawrence Abu Hamdan asked 2 sheikhs in Cairo to deliver city wide speeches about the danger of noise pollution as a public health issue instead of their usual weekly Friday sermons. Cairo is the 3rd worst city for noise pollution, according to Worldwide Hearing Index. Another example is Definition, by Czech artist, Ivan Kafka, who placed 1,000 wooden sticks to block people from going to work. In order to understand this work of art, one has to understand that Prague at the time was under control of a communist government. Thus, Kafka created a critical dialogue that asked the local population to take a stand, one way or the other, to define their existence.  

How can art impact society? By translating experience across space and time. Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, does exactly this in his art piece titled, Law of the Journey. Which was to confront and question the west’s complicity in the refugee crisis in 2015. This piece is a oversized life raft (60 feet long) composed of faceless figures and is made from rubber that the manufactures use in the boats most often used by the refugees.

As you can see, art can be used to transform an experience through art. Finally, in the words of Eli Broad (entrepreneur and philanthropist), “Civilizations aren’t remembered by their business people, bankers, or lawyers. They’re remembered by their arts.”  

Works Cited:

Blanc, Nathalie and Barbara L. Benish. Form, Art and the Environment: Engaging in Sustainability. 2016.  https://books.google.com/books?id=8iMlDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA114&dq=ivan+kafka+wooden+sticks&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjqytLo5f3hAhUDP30KHT5vBPIQ6AEwAHoECAMQAg#v=onepage&q=ivan%20kafka%20wooden%20sticks&f=false

Larmon, Annie Godfrey.(2018, May 21). Can Art Change the World? http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180517-can-art-change-the-world

Eastham, Ben. (2015, September 22). Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s “The All Hearing”. https://www.art-agenda.com/features/237695/lawrence-abu-hamdan-s-the-all-hearing

Gray, Alex.(2017, March 27). These are the cities with the worst noise pollution.  https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/03/these-are-the-cities-with-the-worst-noise-pollution/

The Cynical Side of Art Censorship

Before diving into art censorship, let’s ask ourselves, what is censorship? According to the Oxford Living Dictionaries, censorship is: “The suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.” Censorship can shelter citizens from reality and infringe on their rights. Below are some examples of art censorship.

In 2011, Facebook closed the account of Frédéric Durand without warning after he posted an image of Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde (The Origin of the World). For those not familiar with the painting, it showed a woman’s genitals.  Durand took it to French court and sued Facebook for violating his freedom of expression. After a 7 year battle, a French court ruled that Facebook was wrong to censor Courbet’s painting. However, the social media network did not pay the $25,000 in damages, due to the fact that he was using a pseudonym and opened up a new account on the same day his previous account was deleted.

Another example of art censorship involves low-level detainees at Guantánamo Bay and their artworks. 32 works of art by 8 detainees are now owned by the US government which were previously on exhibition at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. The reason for this is that the US government suspects that their potential sale would go to supporting terrorist activities. This new policy is a no-win situation when ownership is taken away and barbaric, especially when the art poses no security threat.  

As you can see, censoring art does more harm than good. It makes society less accessible and open for citizens. Finally, in the words of Ai Weiwei (artist and activist), “words can be deleted, but the facts won’t be deleted with them.”

Works Cited:

Rea, Naomi. (2018, March 15). A French Court Rules Facebook was Wrong to Censor Gustave Courbet’s Provocative ‘Origin of the World’. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/facebook-censorship-gustave-courbet-1245458

Thompson, Erin. (2017, November 27). Art Censorship at Guantánamo Bay. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/27/opinion/guantanamo-art-prisoners.html

Toor, Amar. (2015, March 3). 19th Century Vagina Sparks French Lawsuit against Facebook. https://www.theverge.com/2015/3/6/8160721/facebook-censorship-vagina-painting-france-lawsuit

Rosenberg, Carol. (2017, December 1). U.S. Military May Archive Guantánamo Prison Art Rather than Burn It.  https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article186891663.html

(2018, February 1). Facebook to French Court: Nude Painting did not Prompt Account’s Deletion.https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/feb/01/facebook-nude-painting-gustave-courbet

(2015, May 3). Court to Rule that Facebook can be Judged in France in Vagina Painting Case. http://en.rfi.fr/americas/20150305-court-rule-facebook-s-can-be-judged-france-vagina-painting-case

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/censorship

How Many Greens Do You See?

Scorpio Moon With Sirius by Concetta Antico

Any one thought that the mutants in the X-Men series were cool?

What if I told you that there is this really cool mutation existing in today’s world called tetrachromacy. What is tetrachromacy? Tetrachromacy is “The condition of possessing four independent channels for conveying color information or possessing four types of cone cell in the eye.” Basically, a person has an extra cone that allows them to see the differences in colors that appear identical to others.

This type of condition has so far shown up only in women. Maureen Seaberb and Concetta Antico are the only two known functioning tetrachromats in America. Antico was tested positive for tetrachromacy in 2012, when her daughter was tested for colorblindness. Her perception for color allows her to excel at being a tetrachromat artist and oil-painting teacher, since she can see more than a trichromat. For more information you can check out her website at https://concettaantico.com/.

Maureen Seaberb is a journalist and author who finds matching tops and skirts a different shade to her. Seaberb has also had some disagreements over colors, such as rejecting 32 sample colors that were part of a house remodeling project.  She tested positive in 2013 after hearing about the subject on a Radiolab podcast.

So, could you be a tetrachromat? Had any recent arguments about an object being beet red?

Beyond Average Color Vision: An Interview with Tetrachromat Artist Concetta Antico. https://munsell.com/color-blog/tetrachromat-artist-concetta-antico/

Robson, David. (2014, September 5). The Woman with Superhuman Vision. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140905-the-women-with-super-human-vision

Lewis, Ricki. (2016, December 25). A Good Mutation: Seeing the World with Extra Cones https://www.raredr.com/contributor/ricki-lewis-phd/2016/12/a-good-mutation-seeing-the-world-with-extra-cones

Shearer, John. (2012, March). Tetrachromats. http://www.wonderfulcolors.org/blog/tetrachromats/

A New Change on the Horizon: Representation in Art Galleries

Raise your hand if you have ever been on an artwalk. Good. Now tell me: why are trans and queer artist of color, people with no BA’s, and people with disabilities left out of the picture, or not pushed to the forefront? Because the gallery owners are either rich, white, or male. Here are three galleries that are redefining the art world for the better with owners who are not rich, white, or male.

One of these art galleries is on the other side of the world, in the thriving metropolis of London. The gallery is called Sid Motion, which is also the name of the gallery owner and curator. The gallery opened up back in June 2016 with the intent “to bring a range of fresh vibrant artists working in different media to this new gallery space” as stated on the gallery’s website. For example, for her opening show she chose to exhibit a group of unsigned artists in the UK who work in various mediums. Her shows range from solo shows to two-­woman show and group shows. She presents a  spectrum of artists from the established artists to lesser­ known and difficult-­to­-track­-down artists. These exhibitions “aim to introduce a forum for conversation, education and development.”

Back on the West Cost, there is the Ori Gallery that “seeks to reclaim and redefine ‘the white cube’ through amplifying the voices of Trans and Queer Artists [sic] of color, community organization and mobilization through the arts”, as stated on the gallery’s website. Co­-directors Maya Vivas (ceramic/performance artist) and Leila Haile (tattooer and community organizer) are not fazed by “limiting” those who can participate in the space. The most marginalized identity is being reflected and, unlike most galleries, they are being direct about it. Since they opened last February the gallery has been seen eight exhibitions that directly connect back to the gallery’s goal. So far, the gallery has done group exhibitions such as Emergent, which featured eleven young queer /trans /artists of color and two­-person exhibitions such as Linoleum Flowers . These exhibitions show the work as is and leave the “diversity representation” behind which connects to one of the gallery’s goals to “hold institutional power.”

Finally, the Wolff Gallery, run by Shannon O’Connor and Zemie Barr (visual artist themselves) seeks to “broaden the Portland art scene by prioritizing the exhibition of work by traditionally underrepresented artists.” These include exhibitions that focus on being “dedicated to a feminist, collaborative organizational model.” This means “rejecting certain things women have been told to believe.” Their grand opening, Now I am Myself exemplified this specifically through five female photographers, and focused on eliminating the male gaze and leaving the viewer with non-sexualized subjects. The five artists used softness and vulnerability in their works to shift the narrative and communicate strength.

As you can see, these newfound galleries challenge the status quo and make the viewer question society as a whole. These types of independent galleries are being brought to the forefront to instill curiosity and thought in this chaotic world. Therefore, the world is in a dawn and it is up to the owners/directors of these galleries to make a difference in society.

Notable Mentions:
Access Gallery
Medium Tings

Works Cited:
Skidmore, Maisie. (2016, October 10) A Beginner’s Guide to Opening an Art Gallery. http://www.anothermag.com/art­photography/9154/a­beginners­guide­to­opening­an­art­gallery

McCann, Fiona. (2018, January 30). A New North Portland Gallery Gives Space to Queer and Trans Artists of Color. https://www.pdxmonthly.com/articles/2018/1/30/ a­new­north­portland­gallery­gives­space­to­queer­and­trans­artists­of­color

Rabin, Jennifer. (2016, April 12). Now One Called Koons “Masculinist Art”.
https://www.wweek.com/arts/2016/04/12/no­one­called­koons­masculinist­art/

Rabin, Jennifer. (2016, September 6). Portland’s Newest Gallery Is Only Representing Female Artists. Rabin, Jennifer. (2016, September 6). Portland’s Newest Gallery Is Only Representing Female
Artists. https://www.wweek.com/arts/2016/09/07/portlands­-newest-­gallery­is-­only-representing­-female­-artists/

Women Taking Down the Street Art Boys Club

Forget Banksy for a second and let’s focus our attention on the women taking on the male dominate world of street art. Here are 5 female street artists making headlines and giving new meaning to street art.

American artist Caledonia Curry, aka Swoon, known for her wheat pasting, is also an activist and humanitarian. Her projects/work include: Konbit Shelter, which helps to rebuild communities in Haiti and the Braddock Tiles project that enables local employment and arts training in North Braddock, Pennsylvania.

Shamsia Hassani, who is the first female Afghani graffiti/street artist, is also a associate professor of sculpture at Kabul University. Her art depicts women as “strong, independent figures.” The figures can be seen with musical instruments, inside of which they either play or carry, and which act as a vehicles for self­-expression.

Nina Wright, aka Girl Mobb, who hails from Oakland, California, creates work that expands on the theme of “urban girly grotesque,” where her figures display their hairy legs as they lounge. She has been doing graffiti since she was a teenager in her rural hometown in Ohio. When she moved to Oakland, although she found community through street art, she also found herself as the only female in her crew,  This lead her to create a graffiti camp for girls to hopefully shift the gender imbalance in street art. Her graffiti camp proved such a success when she launched it 2017 she has since been asked to bring the camp to other cities around the country.

Vexta is an artist from Australia whose theme gravitates towards feminine forms that are painted with bright colors. Her thoughts on inequality in the street art world: “Often you’re [sic] doing a project there’ll be the inclusion of one girl. Or people go to the other extreme and make it all girls. There’s no middle ground, which to me highlights the inequality.”

As you can see, many of these artists focus on inequality in the art field and society. These artists want to be considered on the basis of their works alone, and not their gender, for this to happen there needs to be a change.

Other notable mentions:
ELLE
Bambi
Lady Pink
Clare Rojas
Maya H
Olek
Lady Aiko


Work Cited:
Ryzik, Melena. (2014, Aug 6) Life Wonderment: Swoon Blurs the Line Between Art and Activism. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/arts/design/swoon­-blurs­-The­-line­-between­-art­-and­-activism.html

Burke, Sarah. (2017, Aug 14) Dismantling the Street Art Boys Club at an All ­ Girls Graffiti Camp. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/wjj5yq/dismantling-­street­-art-patriarchy­-graffiti-­camp­-girls

Henry, Roland. (2015, Jan 7) Meet the woman redefining street art. Retrieved from https://amp.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jan/07/street­-art­women-elle­-swoon­-vexta

Graham ­ Harrison, Emma (2012, Feb 24) Art in the Streets of Kabul. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/feb/24/graffiti­-street­-art­-kabul

Suing Public Art?

Yes, a billboard company actually sued the city of Portland back in 1998. In order to understand the law before 1998, one has to understand that in 1986, Portland exempted murals from billboard advertising restrictions. This meant that the murals were not regulated as signs and were seen as art. The reason why Clear Channel Communications (Portland’s largest billboard company) sued the city was because content-based regulation of speech was unconstitutional. With this change in law, it made murals almost impossible.

Fast forward to 2004, the city’s mural sign codes were being challenged by Joe Cotter and other artists. The result of this fight was the Public Art Murals Program that is administered by the Regional Arts and Culture Council. At the time, Clear Channel took the city back to court and argued that the program was unconstitutional. This unfortunately brought it back to the previous court ruling.

In 2009, the court ruled that murals exist as an art form. With a new mural policy in place all a muralist needs to do is pay $250 for a city permit or go through the RACC (Regional Arts and Culture Council), get permission from a building owner and notify the neighbors. Murals may be dropped from the sign codes, but still have regulations and have to meet certain requirements.

Work Cited:
Hu,Ev. (2009,July 16) Muralists ready to tackle the
big picture. Retrieved from
https​ ://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/200
9/07/muralists_ready_to_tackle_the.html
Jenniges,Amy. (2005,December 29) Standing Up for Art: Mural Painter Intervenes in Clear
​ Channel Lawsuit. Retrieved from
https://www.portlandmercury.com/news/standing-up-for-art/Content?oid=35807

Community Blog: Disorder and Ecstasy in the Creative Process

One of the most neglected topics in discussions of the artistic process is the internal state of the artist, and how it can either facilitate or obstruct the act of creation. The successful invocation and use of states of intense concentration and passionate release are tools that can be as critical to the artist as brushes or pallet knives. Even when such aspects are considered, the focus is most often relegated to highly refined states of productive focus. Far less frequently discussed, and perhaps less frequently invoked, are the states of disorder, dissociation, and frenzy.

Ultimately, the tempests of the unconscious mind are the source of the well-spring of creativity, and in the realm of the spirits there are muses aplenty eager to speak to the attentive listener, or else howl in discordant fury. While the hidden interplay between feeling, symbol, and desire is, by definition, difficult to consciously navigate, it contains the keys to unlocking fire in its depths.

One of the clearest representations of this source is found in the Greek god Dionysus. Often miscast as the ‘god of wine’, this portrayal mistakes the method for the source. A far more revealing descriptor of his essential character would be ‘god of intoxication.’ Considered dangerous and subversive to the social order, before its brutal repression by the Roman state cultic worship of Dionysus centered on the embrace of states of altered consciousness through intoxicants, forbidden sexual practices, and omphagic frenzy. Despite the diversity of these rituals, they shared a common purpose as a bridge to states of ritual madness.

While sparagmos is possible as well, for the artist such states of divine ecstasy may instead manifest themselves as a surrender to the pure expression of creative energy. While application of this passion often takes the form of wild extremes of expressiveness, it can also result in sparsely proficient application of familiar techniques in subtly radical ways. This should come as no surprise when one considers that the physical skills governing artistic practice are almost always most effectively subconsciously learned and applied. It must also be cautioned though that the creative potential inherent in these unstructured states is balanced by the danger of a work being overtaken by its chaos.

When this chaos emerges in a greater context however it can fulfill a direct aesthetic necessity. Even in works whose emphasis is harmony, the contrast provided by discord may elevate a work to new heights. The Nietzschean aesthetic framework for instance considers that for an artistic endeavor to reach its highest potential it must embrace both the frenzied passion of Dionysus, as well as the subtle harmony associated with the god of light and beauty: Apollo. Indeed, just as imperfection is a necessary component of the perfect phenomenon, it is ultimately the fusion of states that permits the greatest realizations of beauty.

For a culture that consistently emphasizes the rational and orderly at the cost of the intuitive, often to the point of suffocation, utilizing the disordered madness of Dionysus can seem foreign and uncomfortable. However, the use of ecstatic states has by no means been a limited experiment. Examples of similar practices are familiar enough that their absence appears as the aberration, rather than than the norm. Sufi mystical dancers and poets, accounts of viking-age berserkers, indigenous shamanic ceremonies, and Buddhist Tantric practice; all share similar of states of intoxicated passion. Indeed, even the earliest known human story is suffused with the motifs of ecstatic ritual; as Gilgamesh attempts a resurrection he does so with shamanic drumming and a ritual invocation to the spirits.

Regardless of whether the artist chooses to directly commune with the spirits of Dionysus, the dynamic life of the discordant can not be ignored. Even as a subset of the creative act, all outpourings of feeling originate in the movings of the psychic depths, and creative endeavours that lack feeling fail the most basic task of art. In the creative deserts of rationality, it is the leviathans of our own abysses that offer us water.

To see more of Noah’s work, visit NAStein.com