Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Yellow Pages Are Jealous

I get so frustrated that time of year when the new phone books are delivered, laying sadly in a yellow plastic bag across the driveway. Not only are they heavy to lug to your house, but you have to throw out, cough, excuse me, recycle (let's be green here) and make room for the new ones. Sadly, our year-old phone books look like they are still hot off the press. And who uses phone books still? In the age of 411 and, isn't anyone who's anyone not listed in those 1 million page directory bibles anyways? Next year when I get my new ones I know right where to take them, right up to Mr. Alex Queral in good ole Motown Philadelphia.

Under the radar for an unbelievable fourteen years, The Telegraph recently brought sculptor Alex Queral to our attention. Alex makes portraits out of the bound pages of telephone books. How did he get started in phone book art? About 14 years ago, he was out searching for wood for a new sculpture and came upon a bunch of old phone books kicked to the curb for trash pickup. Alex obviously feels the same way about throwing away phone books as I do and decided to find another use for them, so he picked them up and began to practice carving on them.

Since he began practicing, Alex has developed his skills and is now known for caricature portraits of celebrities. Alex explains his reasoning for carving faces in his artist statement:

" I carve the faces out of phone books because I like the three-dimensional quality that results and because of the unexpected results that occur working in this medium. The three-dimensional quality enhances the feeling of the pieces as an object as opposed to a picture. In carving and painting a head from a phone directory, I'm celebrating the individual lost in the anonymous list of thousands of names that describe the size of the community. In addition, I like the idea of creating something that is normally discarded every year into an object of longevity."

I'm sure you're wondering, how the heck do you carve a face into a phone book? Is it magic? Alex first sketches the person's face on a peice of paper, then lays it over the phonebook. He uses a razor blade to then carve away the many pages of the phonebook to create a three-dimensional look.
These portraits do take time. Alex is able to do about two carvings per month. His work was recently on display at the Philadelphia Airport.

I'm totally digging Alex's work, are you?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What do you want always? The good news or the bad news?

I'm so sick of reading about sports betting....does anyone care for some parlay? joke, joke for Delawarean readers.

No, but seriously, media outlets are chock full of negativity. Back in January, I thought I'd never turn on a tv, pick up a paper or turn on a radio without hearing, recession ever again. Last summer it was gas prices. And just when we thought we might be seeing some positive stories, we get hit with a second wave of swine flu. So what's one to do to get some sunshine on a cloudy day. Go straight to the source.

In search of blogging topics, I've recently stumbled onto a couple of sites that are dedicated to none other than happy, optimistic, smilely face worthy news. So I thought I'd share some of them with you to make your Tuesday more terrific. What you see is what you get on Similar to a except a different picture of Obama isn't rotated on the homepage every twenty minutes. You can browse through the stories by different subjects such as health, sports, arts & entertainment and even environment. I just read about a Chihuahua in Oregon saving its owners from a fire. Now that pup is worthy of a Lassie meet and greet. Who the heck is Daryn Kagan? Daryn Kagan might have shared a news story with you in the past as a CNN anchor for many years. A few years back, CNN decided not to renew her contract. But that didn't get Daryn down. She opened up this on-line community to shared positive and inspiring stories. I was almost inspired to enter the restaurant industry after I read that Johnny Depp recently left a $4000 tip in a Chicago restaurant. I found this site the most whimsical and visually appealing. In addition to news and features, Gimundo features tons of videos for the YouTubers and a great Stuff we like section with places you can visit, things you can purchase and books you can read to make your world a bit happier. They also do a weekly giveaway. I'm definitely eyeing the Beau Bain Bath Bomb Collection they're giving away to three subscribers this week.
If those sites don't work for you, I know what will do the trick....a happy baby face!

How could you ever resist?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Talk About Some "Pop" Art

I can't decide if this story is intriguing, funny or just plain ridiculous, but the Chicago dailies have been burning with this story the past couple of days so I have to share it with you. Apparently Michael Jackson fans have been rushing to the Field Museum in Chicago recently to see a statue of a limestone bust, which dates from the New Kingdom Period between 1550 B.C. and 1050 B.C., (we're talking King Tut time period here) and has been on display at the museum since 1988. Why you ask? Because the bust has a striking resemblance to Michael Jackson himself. The limestone is currently on display in the "Inside Ancient Egypt" exhibit at the Field. The limestone statue has gaunt cheeks and - most strikingly - a tipless nose.

Since Jackson's death, mourners have rushed to the exhibit to pay tribute to him. Fortunately Field has the daily crowd of 4,500 visitors under control by placing the bust in a glass case, avoiding any kissing or touching of the Jackson look-alike.

Some commenters have gone so far as to suggest Jackson used the bust as a model for his own face. However, a museum spokeman said he had no idea whether or not Jackson ever visited the museum.

So what is up with the nose? James Phillips, curator at the Field, states, " We believe the model is missing a nose because early Christians or Muslims removed noses from paintings and models to make them non-human. "This was because it was against their religion to depict human beings."

Who knows, but I promise you I'm closing the book on Michael Jackson entries. What's the phrase, "laid to rest" ?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Rome Prefers Not To Paint The Town

I'm going to refrain from turning this entry into an ode to my most favorite place in the entire universe, Italy (in particular, Roma), because I could go on and on and on and on and on. There's something majestic about that country from the olive oil, limoncello, abundance of Pucci scarves and Fendi bags to very beautiful monuments and landmarks that bring us back to a time when the thought of a lightbulb or even an ipod didn't exist. I studied in Rome in college (once again, I'm not going to rant on about my love affair with this country) and was flabbergasted at the idea that you could enjoy a cappuccino (or a gelato if you so please, and who doesn't?) outside a cafe in a piazza directly across the street from the Colosseum, bringing you from the 21st century right back to the 1st Century. Michael J. Fox wouldn't need a Delorian in this city.

To my delight on my most recent trip to Italy this past May, not much had changed. However, I was disappointed in the worsening of the graffiti problems in Naples and Rome, and all over the country for that matter. So many people work day in and day out to preserve and protect this history for our future generations and then someone with an aerosol can comes through in the night and "tags" (slang for partaking in graffiti art) it. But graffiti isn't just covering my Spanish Steps, it's all over the city, which has caused frustration for both Romans and tourists. People often attribute graffiti with bad neighborhoods and crime, which can cause discomfort for many roaming the city day or night.

Italian government officials have long recognized graffiti as a problem, but Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno is getting fed us from just fining caught "can-handed" artists. He wants them to clean their act up and their street art-literally. A national law he's proposing would force those who deface monuments and private property to remove their scribblings and tags instead of paying fines. Earlier this year, an amendment was made to the public safety bill stating that graffiti writers caught for a second offence face a possible jail term of six months to two years and fines ranging from 1,500 to 10,000 euros. However, the Italian legal system is already overflowing with delayed court cases and the prisons are full, leaving most of these graffiti artists off the hook. Gianni believes that forcing a cleanup will kill two birds with one stone.

Street art has long been a topic for debate. I applaud government efforts to provide designated spaces for graffiti artists to work, but I strongly believe a majority of graffiti artists out there have too much free time on their hands. I look at it this way, I wouldn't go into Michael's and start using their Plaster of Paris to make myself a wall hanging. Why? Because it's not my property, and those walls aren't those artists own either. And there ya have it. Enjoy the weekend, stay out of trouble!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

You Wanna Piece of MJ?

Better empty out your pockets, but I doubt they could hold $800,000; which is the starting bid for Andy Warhol's portrait of Michael Jackson, titled Green Michael Jackson.

Starting Wednesday, the Vered Gallery of East Hamption NY will display the Warhol MJ portrait in Beverly Hills, CA. The piece, will be available for private viewing by appointment only (and if you do call, I wouldn't say, "Oh, we're just browsing.") Bidding ends on August 18th at 8 PM EST.

The piece is legit, with not one but two stamps of approval by the Estate of Andy Warhola nd the Andy Warhol Foundation. With all the "pop" art (nice pun) out there of Michael Jackson, why is this piece so important? It was made in 1984 (my birth year, fancy that?) after the wild success of his Thriller video. It features a green background with Michael in a red shirt. Time Magazine commissioned the portrait for a March 1984 issue cover, that included a yellow background. It's a warming piece of Michael's history, depicting him at the height of his career in a way we all wish to remember him, smiling and entertaining.

It's hard to say at what price the bidding will end, but I know it'll be far from $800,000. The most ever paid for a Warhol piece was $71.7 million for “Green car crash - Green burning car”.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Shedding A New Concept

Many people probably have the same picture in mind when they think of an art gallery. White walls, hardwood floors, wide open spaces. Focus on the art not on the place right? Well over in Berlin, Germany, the largest city in the country has just opened the smallest gallery in the country. And what better to call this 1.5 square meter sized gallery but The Smallery.

The Smallery is a small, purpose-built garden shed that manages to fit 24 pieces of art in its space. All of the pieces are small, like the space. The concept of The Smallery comes from PULK Berlin, a creative network team of professionals working on advertising, design, architecture and more. The Smallery's first exhibition opened this past Saturday, featuring pieces by internationally successful illustrators from NY, Toronto, L.A., Barcelona, Hamburg, Munich, Vegby, Sweden, and Berlin (obvi). The Smallery is sitting on one of the last empty pieces of land in the city.

If you don't plan on visiting Berlin this month, you can still get your hands on one of the pieces being shown. All pieces are going to be reproduced in 50 high-quality prints and available for a great deal of 30 Euro (X1.4 =$42 USD).

I firmly believe the Euros get it right everytime. Take out the overhead of a large space and make it pint size and intimate. The idea of the Smallery makes me want to clear the Miracle Grow out of my backyard shed and throw an art party. Granted your max capacity is going to be small, and might cause some long lines if the Smallery turns out to be popular (which I have every belief it will be), the best clubs are always hard to get into, right?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Annie Get Your Checkbook

If you have ever picked up an issue of Vanity Fair magazine, chances are you've seen photographer Anne Leibovitz's work. Between the infamous nude photograph of a pregnant Demi Moore to a young promiscuous looking Miley Cyrus, and who could forget the first photos of Tom and Katie Cruise's daughter Suri (that hair, those eyes!), Anne has taken some serious shots in her day. Her career started in the 70s with the Rolling Stones and she's still hot today with a recent book "At Work" making best-seller lists everywhere. NYT's describes her work at best saying, "Her pictures do not denigrate or disparage. Instead they document the celebrity circus with an acutely literal vision, submitting the famous to playfully acrobatic postures and various acts of clownishness."

However, being good with the camera doesn't translate to being good with the finances. Leibovitz is facing serious money troubles. Art Capital Group has sued the famous photographer over a sales agreement and a 24 million dollar loan. The loan was initially taken out for "tax liens, mortgages and unpaid bills." Leibovitz pledged collateral for this loan and faces the possibility of losing her Civil War-era town houses in Greenwich Village, a home in upstate New York and the rights to decades of her work. Her archives are valued at over 50 mil and Art Capital Group is already shopping the rights around.

Leibovitz isn't know for luxuries in her personal life and the extravagances (elephants anyone) required for many of her shoots are paid for by the employers and publications. So why the need for such a big loan? Noone from Leibovitz's camp has comments on this, so we're stuck without answers.

Finance troubles seem to always loom over the art world, especially professional artists. It takes more than just a camera (and probably a very very very expensive fancy schmancy camera) to take those photographs we see in the checkout aisle at Acme. It takes staff, equipment, space, processing, time, energy, all of which aren't free. It's unfortunate that a successful photographer, Leibovitz, who commands tens of thousands of dollars for a shoot is in this sort of predicament. Maybe she should take my mother's advice, "Don't spend beyond your means." 24 mil is alot of means though...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Wild Things Lurk In Philly

“That’s the best fun in all of this—the layers of meaning, the layers of storytelling.”- Maurice Sendak
I don't think anyone in our generation hasn't been on an adventure with Max in his wolf costume through the wild forest conquering the "wild things" by staring into their yellow eyes without blinking once. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, was a staple in our household, my brother's favorite ( I even bought him a t-shirt with the cover illustration on it for his 21st birthday last year) and was read over and over and over again. So many people enjoy this story that Mr. Spike Jonzes made a feature film of the book, which is supposedly hitting theatres this October.

But enough with the movie talk, since we've already got Lorax on our to-do list. Maurice Sendak is one of the most famous illustrators/authors of our time, having over 80 books to his name and winning almost every children's literature award . As much as the story of the Wild Things was entertaining, it was the whimsical and large illustrations that captured your imagination. But where are all of these manuscripts, drawings and illustrations? I found out today, they aren't too far away at Philadelphia's Rosenback Museum of Art. Sendak chose the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia, PA to be the repository for his work in the early 1970s thanks to shared literary and collecting interests. His collection of nearly 10,000 works of art, manuscripts, books and ephemera, has been the subject of many exhibitions at the Rosenbach and has been enjoyed by visitors of all ages.

Unfortunately, we all missed a huge exhibition of his works, There's a Mystery There: Sendak on Sendak (which I believe is heading to San Fran) , however, a new show of Maurice's illustrations, A Sendakian Sample: Drawings A to z,. This exhibition features 26 different themes (as in the 26 letters of the alphabet, duh), from Acrobatics for A and Zilch for Z. Something is featured from almost all 80 of his books and offers great insight into the themes that ties his works together. It's only on view through September 13th, so be sure not to miss. On that note, I think I might have some Chicken Soup with Rice for lunch today.