Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Superhero: You.0

I once was given the assignment to write a Gallery Guide for a magazine. It was right around this time last year when I was trekking around museums, checking out exhibits and writing reviews like it was my job. Well, it kind of was my job: a side job, really, but there I was, on a rainy Tuesday, playing hooky from my day job so I could get to these galleries during their business hours and check them out in person.

Of all the galleries, my favorites were the ones where you could touch, see, smell the art work; the ones you could browse around and get lost in, even if they were only the size of a standard bedroom. Even better were the galleries that rented out spaces to local artists, where you could peek inside the workstations and see their creations mid-development. Call me nosey, but I loved being up-close and personal, talking to artists, seeing where inspiration came from, and researching pieces of work. One of my favorite experiences was meeting Shaun El C. Leonardo, an artist who was doing a residency at the McColl Center for Visual Art. The McColl Center is converted from a church, and the place very much emits an eerie, mysterious vibe. The fact that churches in general freak me out does not help here, regardless of the fact I was brought up a Catholic (are you surprised?), and poking around on the desolate, creaky second floor did not seem to be doing me any good. I was just about to turn around and leave when one of the doors flew open, spilling light out into the dreary hallway. Out came Shaun. Instantly, the place was filled with life. His awesome work, paired with his excitement, brought a whole new energy level to the place and it was intoxicating. Once you learn a little bit about an artist, or an inspiration, the work of art comes to life and you can enjoy it from multiple levels, seeing past the surface.

Shaun takes superheroes and creates masterpieces out of them in the form of giant, bigger-than-life cutouts. He tends to be drawn to heroes that he sees a little of himself in, or those he wishes he could be like, and then breaks the mold with an outrageous, plywood portrayal that will blow your mind. There is something incredible when looking at a giant piece of art like Shaun’s creations that you wouldn’t get to experience if they were printed on a page. I loved the concept of taking traits that you would like to see in yourself, and seeing them manifested in this form. You could have an idea of what you’d like to be like, or know certain things you’d like to accomplish, but everyday life makes it very easy to put these dreams on the back-burner. But when it becomes tangible, it somehow forces the obligation to make it happen, and you can no longer run from your dreams - you now have a solid obligation to fulfill them. Even if we don’t have the materials at our disposal or the artistic instinct to create a masterpiece like Shaun’s, we can all take baby steps to help create the life we’d like to lead and the accomplishments we’d like to attain. So, create a “dream board,” with cutouts of inspiration: pictures, articles, or maybe the name of the restaurant you’d like to open one day that you scribbled on a napkin. Whatever it is, make it something you could see every day. Pin it up on your wall in your home office, or leave it out on a table near your workstation. It may not be a larger-than-life plywood cutout, but hey, it’s a start, and it’s a step in the right direction to have you become the superhero you know you could be.

--Ali Macaluso


Friday, March 18, 2011

Shaped by Time, Tempered by Fire

Singed. Burned. Branded. These words are typically associated with harsh experiences that leave a permanent mark if they do not destroy that which is touched by an instrument hot enough to do so. It is astonishing to see these words appear in the description of art work that seems to embody soft, delicate touches in muted shades of brown. Paired with the cool, softness of blue watercolor and the gilding effect of silver leaf it is easy to feel lulled into contemplation about the subject of the art.

North Carolina artist Stacy Lynn Waddell’s The Evidence of Things Unseen featured at the Weatherspoon Art Museum is reportedly a part of an ongoing investigation for the artist regarding the conflict of African American heritage and personal identity, and how individuals come to think of themselves through the generations. Images of ships and women that seem to emerge from them are used to convey this to a large degree in many of the featured works. However, the striking medium used in these expressive investigational pieces adds a sense of lasting effect.

At a glance they appear soft, elegant works of dripping brown watercolor, but leaning in you can begin to see how the heat has marked the paper. The darker browns, almost black from the burning and branding are scars upon the paper. That this harsh method leaves its mark in beauty seems at odds with logical understanding, but add to communicate the emerging self that the artist also depicts in the images. Even the tools and material are a part of the artist’s investigation.

-Veronica Monique Ibarra


Friday, March 11, 2011


Sometimes you find art in the damndest of places. I was out looking at a town home with a realtor. Right from the initial step through the front door, I knew this place was going to be elegant and fresh. At first glance the home had the feeling of being staged, but as we went from room to room it became apparent that it belonged to a very neat owner who had impeccable taste. Every room we entered had an interesting, lived in feeling that warmed the place up. The paint colors were serene, the furniture was placed just-so, and there were vacuum marks in the rug. But you can always tell the difference between a staged home and home that is truly loved by its owner: a staged home looks excellent and will help sell to potential buyers, but it has a very general feel to it that will appeal to almost anyone. An owner with great taste, on the other hand, will take excellent care of their home as a stager would, but there are small details that give way to the fact that you have entered into someone’s private sanctuary, and you are reminded that you are a guest. A welcome guest, at that, but no doubt, you are a guest. And while there were some hints along the way, the ultimate sign was hanging right over the kitchen table – the focal point of the most common room of the home. It was a painting of Donald Trump.

I don’t know what drew me in first. Maybe it was the red eyes, or the funny spelling of the word “toupee,” or the sarcasm in the “nice comb-over” comment, but this painting suddenly became my favorite detail of the place. I was wondering if a potential buyer would offer more just to keep it. “Yes, we’re interested in your apartment. We will agree to pay our own closing costs if you will agree to leave all fixtures, as well as the painting of the Donald. And that’s my final offer.” A closer look at the work of art revealed hidden messages, which made it even more intriguing. While everyone else had already moved onto the master bedroom, I was still stuck in the kitchen questioning the motives of the artist. Was this a child who painted this, given the misspellings? What do those hidden messages read? Where did the owner even find this painting, and how much did he or she pay? And, most importantly, does it come with the unit? Because as we all know, a great piece of art is what truly makes a house a home.

-Ali Macaluso

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Art never sold me anything...

I’m all about saving the world, really. I consider myself radical, you know, as radical as you can be, hunch-backed, typing away in front of a computer screen. I have these radical thoughts, in the creative space of night or behind the wheel, watching fragments of society flick by like channels. But, I’m not radical enough to be revolutionary.

Radical changes require radical individuals.

So, there’s no wonder why I’m drawn to the work of an artist I found somewhere in the hollow span of the Internet, someone vaguely referred to as “JR.” I was probably stumbling or something. He’s a French guy. A street artist, they call him, from Paris.

His game is simple: publicize massive portraits on the sides of urban architecture. Take a subject, a person that’s just a face among the crowd. No, a person that represents the crowd, the mass, the everyday, the you and I. People in their natural emotional habitat, real people being…real. Take a picture, blow it up and slap it on the side of a building so people can see it from a plane. Then, disappear.

It all feels like “V for Vendetta” without the explosions. What’s most revolutionary about the artist is his inability to play by the rules. He sometimes doesn’t ask permission, he doesn’t blog about his ideals, he doesn’t have a full name and he probably doesn’t care what you think.

Recently, he won the TED prize, a handsome sum awarded annually to one person to help fund a change they wish to see in the world. His mission: to create a site in which users can upload images of themselves. Then, he and his team make posters of the image and mail it to back to the user in hopes that they display it publicly.

Detractors of the artist claim he doesn’t have property rights for many of his murals. Some might say it is too in-your-face and obtrusive. Others might claim it’s downright illegal.

All right, fair enough. But be honest. When you turned on the television this morning, the radio, when you logged into your e-mail, checked your favorite sites in the morning, did anyone ask you permission to sell you objects you supposedly need in your life?

When advertising does it, it’s “the nature of the beast” but when an artist does it, it’s wrong?

Art never sold me anything, other than a good time, a mute button on life, and a connection to self-worth.

-Alex Clark


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Where Does the Journey of an Artist Begin?

The journey of an artist begins differently for each one you ask.  Though there may be some commonalities, each artist is unique.  Artists are shaped and molded by their experiences, but exposure to art is key.

When schools cut funding to programs it is usually the arts that suffer.  Art is often times thought of as a luxury to those that merely enjoy its aesthetic quality, but for those that engage in the passion to express and create through art, it is essential.  Sharing that with the young is a good way to help them begin their journey.

The Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art in Greensboro features Art Quest as a hands-on art studio for all.  It is a welcoming environment for kids to learn firsthand about the various materials and how they can be combined to create their own expressions.  One of the truly magnificent aspects of Art Quest is that each of the twelve hands-on art stations was designed by local artists.

Watching the children can also be inspirational as they push up their sleeves and dive in to play.  They ask questions, and try to emulate the styles and techniques they are shown.  Anyone of them can be an artist in the making, and it’s thanks to artists today getting involved.
-Veronica Monique Ibarra 


Thursday, March 3, 2011

March 15 Artwork Promotion Event

Persepolis Arts Agency is teaming up with Hhgregg and Alia Kitchen and Bath to create selling opportunities for artists.  Please share this with fellow artists who need help selling their artwork.  Artists who are interested in representation should send an email to info@persepolisagency.com

Baring It All

There I was at the Light Factory, taking in their new "Body & Soul" exhibit. The display features works from artists Jock Sturges, Joyce Tenneson, and Mona Kuhn. All of the pieces in this exhibit are photographs which feature a single nude individual as the subject. The artists each illustrate the human body in a different light: Sturges, who captures the innocence of his subject, Fanny, coming into her own over a period of several years; Kuhn, who shows off the soft sensuality of her subjects in her native land, Brazil; and Tenneson, whose subjects exhude a mystical, spiritual air. All of the subjects in these photographs have something remarkable about their eyes. They are intense, innocent, confident, and no matter what else is going on in these photographs, the eyes grab the attention and represent the focal point in them all. An old saying comes to mind, instantly: "The eyes are the windows to the soul."

As I stroll through the exhibit I take note of the fact that when your body is free, when there is nothing to hide behind, your soul becomes bare, open, vulnerable - beautiful. It's sad that many people, particularly in our culture, will disagree and criticize this form of art. As it is with words, everything must be taken into context. With words, it's how you use them, the tone you give them, the feeling you put behind them. We tend to make too big a deal about something that really shouldn't be, and as a result, that very thing becomes even more threatening.

In terms of our bodies, relatively speaking, we are all the same and have nothing to be ashamed of. (I can just hear my mother calling me a "little hippie" as I type this.) But maybe we should appreciate the beauty, see past the surface, and relax, because it is okay to accept ourselves as we are and experience the beauty of being "open". It's like makeup: wear too much of it, and people will suddenly wonder what it is you're trying to cover up. Now, I'm not suggesting that we all prance around town naked. And if you do, as you are being cuffed, please don't tell the officer this was my idea. All I'm saying is that it's perfectly okay to just be ourselves - we are all beautiful, and we are all works of art. 

-Ali Macaluso 


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Stars fell down from the sky and became films on a screen

Go to the Mint Museum Uptown. Don’t waste time; ask someone, anyone where the Janet Biggs’s exhibit is. You will find Biggs’s timeless video “essays” encompassing a thousand themes. Her newest, “Duet,” solely at the Mint, focuses on perfection amid frenzy in NASCAR’s pit crew subculture. You might see them at surface: films in a museum. But, these are modern meditations on control, chaos, the indelible spirit, the locus where you lose an identity. So, go, transcend in the flicker and pulse of a television screen. See, enthusiasts find something in a painting but voyeurs find everything in a film. 

-Alex Clark