Saturday, October 01, 2005

Love What I Love by Heidi M. Marston

Things I Love: The Many Collections of William I. Koch @ the MFA
Things We Love: Selections from the collection of Jim Smith and Rob Clifford @ Clifford Smith Gallery

The color was like the sky. It had a texture that changed from a soft brushstroke quality to a patchy more cloudlike look. It was 5’ x 5’ which at the time seemed huge. I felt like it could envelope me completely when I was in the same room with it. I loved it. I loved it so much I have it moved with me wherever I went, like one of William I. Koch’s paintings. “What was it?” You may ask, maybe I have intrigued you by the description to the object, or the love I have tried to convey. It was a blanket. When I was young I would carry it with me everywhere, it was patchy in spots where I would pull out the soft fuzz out on rub it on my face (a story for another time). Ii brought me joy and I thought it was beautiful. Would I hang it in a museum or gallery next to the sculpture I have by Deborah Giller, or the photographs by Bill Burke? No, probably not. I have a different relationship to my blanket then to my art collection.
Things I Love: The Many Collections of William I. Koch at the MFA is both intriguing and baffling to me. “How on earth did this happen?” I asked myself, “How did we end up with sailboats on the front lawn of the Museum of FINE ARTS?”. Well, we didn’t just get sailboats; we got great works of sculpture, paintings and historically significance objects. We got Fernando Botero sculptures. Where do we go from here? I wonder if my artwork became greatly desired, would my blankie end up next to my photographs or drawings in a gallery? The MFA exhibit leaves me perplexed, if we love it does that make it art?
If I happen to have an “art” collection does that include all of my collections? Should I now consider the15 stuffed animals I have won in the video game room claw machine as art? They are hard to acquire, they sometimes cost more than they should, they are rare, and I kind of love them. Part of what seems to be the trouble here might be that distinction between what we love and what we want everyone else to love with us. The boats are on the MFA lawn because the MFA loves William I. Koch’s Fernando Botero sculptures. And they are amazing. I love them. But I think this show sends the wrong message. It says that we should love everything in this collection the same way. Everything is presented in the traditional form of an exhibition from paintings on the wall to sculptures on the lawn. Mr. Koch has been given an opportunity to share what he loves and he seems to love everything in his collection the same way. If the point was to show things he loves at the Museum of Fine Arts, I end up getting the sense that he just loves things that are expensive, not necessarily that he loves great works of art. And that is a love I can’t relate to. And for me it has nothing to do with art at all. It feels like it has nothing to do with love, it is simply about value.
Now down to Boston’s South End we go to continue our journey into things people love. On view at Clifford Smith Gallery is Things We Love: Selections from the collection of Jim Smith and Rob Clifford. Normally this would just be a group exhibition with a great variety of work by their represented artists, but this exhibit has something very unique. On one wall hangs a painting done for Jim Smith by his mother. In all the things that I have seen that people are telling me to love, I understand why this is here. I can relate to that kind of love. Its personal, it has nothing to do with cost, but it does have something to do with value. Is it a Picasso or a Chagall? No, but It hangs in Clifford Smith for us all to share in. It has its place in the gallery’s list of works, and at the end of the description it says, “We love this painting”. For me, that is true love.
These two exhibits both inhabit venues where I go to find “art”, and in both places I found some things I would call art. I also found out what I think about love. I don’t love the boats, I like to sail, but just being “really into sailing” does not make a sailboat a work of art. Each piece in the collection of Jim Smith and Rob Clifford has been selected, they have a story for each piece and they love them all, and they love them all in different ways.
As a working artist, a curator, a writer and a teacher I love many things. But if I loved them all the same way in the same amount then they would all become meaningless and unrelateable. Would I like to someday have a show called Things I Love: The Many Collections of Heidi Marston, hell yes. Would it include my blue blanket? Probably not, would it include the Jim Dow photographs I have or the Andy Mowbray sculpture, yes. The things I love do have value, some monetary some personal, some both, and for me that distinction is what makes the love more true. So check out Carolyn Smiths painting at Clifford Smith, and see the things Jim Smith and Rob Clifford love. And go to the MFA and see the many Collections of William I. Koch, and you tell me what the difference is. I might have to go add my claw game animals to the installation on the MFA front lawn. Why not? I love them. Why shouldn’t everyone else?

Things I Love: The Many Collections of William I. Koch
Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - Sunday, November 13, 2005
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02115-5523

Things We Love: Selections from the collection of Jim Smith and Rob Clifford @ Clifford Smith Gallery
450 harrison avenue, 3rd floor . boston ma 02118
tel 617.695.0255 - fax 617.695.2255
gallery hours - tuesday through saturday - 11am to 5:30 pm

I Would Pay to See This One!

I Would Pay to See This One!
By Heidi M. Marston
Joe Wardwell at the Gallery@Green Street

The lights go down, everyone screams. We don’t see anything yet but we know what’s coming. The anticipation is almost too much. The smoke pours out onto the stage; the lights from below light everything up like something from out of this world. They walk out, the music starts, and they are almost in reach but always above you when you are in the front row. They begin to move wildly, their hair long, like Jesus, like the messiah, like gods. It’s amazing. It’s a religion. It’s Rock.
I remember being 15 years old and going to see the Ramones. I worshiped the Ramones. I had every album, I knew every word of every song, I had dreamed of the day when I would be front row. Looking up at my gods. It was all I had hoped for. When I went to the Vatican, I felt the same way. I know, I know it’s the dorky vow an art history lover. I couldn’t believe I was there. I couldn’t believe I was standing looking up at the Sistine Chapel ceiling. I wanted to cheer, and yell, “YEAH! I made it! I’m here! This is awesome!” but you’re not allowed to talk so it wasn’t as much fun as the Ramones.
I recently had an exciting experience at the opening of Joe Wardwell:Solo at the Gallery@Green Street last Saturday night. The lights came on, everyone piled in, the music began to play, and the work was awesome. I wanted to yell, “YEAH! JOE! YEAH!”, and I am sure that no one would have minded, but I held it in. Even though it was the Gallery@ Green Street, it was still a gallery and even here there are some social expectations. Wardwell’s works are beautifully executed paintings reminiscent of classical Baroque works. The figures of angles and heavenly hosts (in the traditional sense) have been replaced by a variable who’s who of heavy metal and rock’n roll history. There are women, there are men, and there is hair, instruments, tattoos and flames. It is like the Garden of Rock’N Roll delights, I think Hieronymus Bosch would have appreciated it. Sex, drugs, Rock n Roll, and great painting. I never thought that would be the new phrase. Also has included in the exhibit are paintings in the shape of guitars. I had to suppress the urge to pick one up and play “Crazy Train” on them like an air guitar.
As I get older going to see a live band has turned into thoughts of, “this ticket was really expensive, and its really loud in here, god I wish this sweaty guy would move over, anyone got hand sanitizer?”. I now look back on my Sistine chapel experience and think, “Thank god I got there before they restored it, it’s actually kind of ugly.” The opening of Joe Wardwell:Solo was a fun experience. I actively engaged in a game of find Brian Johnson, or Ozzy Osborne. I spent some time trying to figure out what famous composition they might have been based on and I watched other gallery goers as they looked on with fascination, confusion and excitement.
We all have some idea how to react to our surroundings. We don’t act the same at a heavy metal concert as we do at the MFA. But the feeling of being “star struck” is almost the same no matter what the situation. Many of today’s “Art Stars” have an almost “Rock Star” quality to them. I once met one of my favorite artists and I felt that surge of panic, “What do I say, oh my god there they are, I love their work” and the experience was not like seeing the Ramones. It was more like seeing Kenny G. The mystique fades so often when you meet the star in person. I expected more interesting conversation out of a meeting with Nan Goldin and I got more out of talking to Guy from Fugazi. The differences between the gods of the art world and those in the music industry are minimal. They only real difference is their medium.
Wardwell’s paintings has invaded the art worlds exclusive society with AC/DC and it’s awesome! He has merged the two worlds of the rock stars and the art stars into pieces that entertain me, intrigue me and most of all they challenge me. Pretty soon to be a real “Art Star” you will have to have been immortalized in a Joe Warwell. Or take up the drums. While I feel you may have missed out on some of the rush by not having been to the opening of Joe Wardwell:Solo I highly suggest paying the $1.25 to take the subway out to the Gallery@Green Street, you may want to get out your lighter and hold it up high, or just bust out into some good old fashioned air guitar. Either way there is something for everyone to enjoy. Joe Wardell, you rock!

Joe Wardwell: Solo

September 10 - October 15, 2005

Reception: Saturday, September 10, 7 - 9pm

Artist's Talk: Saturday, September 17 @ Noon

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Jowhara Alsaud Photography: Solitary Confinement is not so Lonely (or so it appears) by Heidi Marston

Photography has always borrowed aesthetics from painting and drawing, and then depending on the trend of the time, Painting has returned the favor. I have always been interested in that intersection in artists like Gerhard Richter, Sandy Skogland, and many others. I encourage you to check out this site if you are also interested in this kind of work:

  • . . Jowhara Alsaud is a recent MFA Grad from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Her work uses photographic composition with the look of drawings that have dark outlines and have then been colored in. The images are both playful and tense, though the figure is never unmasked and seems forever to be alone; she never seems to have a gesture of loneliness.
    In one series of images, the character in these small visual skits is playing solitaire. Now we have all thought at one time or another, "only lonely geeks play solitaire.", but at the same time we have all tried it, and probably have gotten really into it, but would never admit it. Here is a series of 30 x 40 prints of playing solitaire set up in a public gallery. There seems to be a feeling of waiting, we have all played spoliator at some point in our lives while waiting: waiting for someone or something. In Alsaud's installation at the Aidekman Art Center I got the feeling that this character was waiting for me to get it, you know, get the joke, get the point, get something. Here in this exhibition is, maybe the artist herself, actually there in front of me, playing solitaire and waiting for me to figure out the story, or maybe the relationship between the stories. In an almost graphic novel style Alsaud has taken a form of "drawing" that has long been considered "comic book" style and turned it into "narrative photography" considered by some a more acceptable format for a gallery exhibit. The point is Alsaud made interesting imagery combining several mediums and whether someone wants to see it one way or another, there is no way to not be interested in some part of the story. But somehow I felt that the only way I was going to get it was to let go of any preconceiveded notions of photography, so I got out my deck of cards and began to play along.

    Saturday, May 07, 2005

    5 DEGREES OF INSPIRATION (featuring Ben Sloat, Curator of Fresh Fiction)

    Author(s): CATE McQUAID, GLOBE CORRESPONDENT Date: May 6, 2005 Page: D26 Section: Arts
    Art schools are the breeding ground for tomorrow's hot new talents. Boston, home to three strong art schools - Boston University, the Massachusetts College of Art, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts - has been the launching pad for many brilliant careers. All three programs have MFA thesis shows up now. We took a look around and found five up-and-comers.
    Cole finds magic in the ordinary: a snuggling couple, scenes from the driver's seat of her car. Her paintings have a spooky realism, heightened by her dusky palette and eye for the luminous. Look out for her work at Alpha Gallery's New Talent show in June.
    "I'm interested in the habits and rituals and the mundane things that people do, the times you lose awareness of yourself," Cole says. "There's the painting of my boyfriend and I brushing our teeth: You don't think about it, but being there in the bathroom together is so intimate. With the car paintings, the windshield is a metaphor for painting. It's a window into the world outside. The car becomes a frame for the world.
    "At BU, I've worked harder than I've ever worked in my life. What I've come to understand is that art is fundamental to all humans. You can be more educated about it, but no one can have a more human response to it than anyone else. I'm attracted to non-abstract art because it connects to people. The beauty is an entrance into the work." BEN SLOAT, 27, PHOTOGRAPHER
    "Inside the Whale," Sloat's photo installation, leads the viewer into a darkened room to witness two projections of sequential images: one of boys around a bonfire, the other of gulls wheeling through the blue sky. The two subjects strike a balance between the contemplative and combustible. Sloat's work will be in a group show at Bernard Toale Gallery in June.
    "My mother is from Taiwan," Sloat says. "When I told her about this, she said, 'That's a combination of yin and yang: Yin is the heat, the fire, the dark, and yang is the cool blue in the sky.
    "I think of the allegory of Plato's Cave. Plato had this idea that people are bound, and watching shadows on the wall of a cave cast by the fire behind them - and they think it's reality. Unbound, you can turn around and see sunlight and move toward liberation. It's about seeing and how you gain knowledge through sunlight.
    "I went to college at UC Berkeley. The undergrad school had 30,000 people. At the Museum School, you have intimate relationships, you're sharing ideas, learning different ways to approach art. Being an artist is having the ability to say something. It gives us a way to confront issues. But I don't want to offer any answers. I want to ask questions. That's about as empowering as it gets."
    Karatzas has created the installation "Proximity Lab." It's a platform loaded with antennae that uses psychedelic optical effects to track how close people get to one another and identifies the least interactive member of a group. Fun and provocative, "Proximity Lab" prods viewers to work together and to reflect on their own socialboundaries.
    "The idea was to look at how we use proximity to communicate," Karatzas says. "We use it subconsciously all the time. We interact with computers all the time - you click on a button and you know what will happen. But in physical space, you can be interacting with a system in degrees. How close you get to the system and to the people opens up nuances. You're put in a situation where you have to think about what's happening. You want to see users come and create new ways of interacting with the system. That's the Holy Grail.
    "New-media artists work on so many levels - conceptual, visual, sound, sensors and electronics, programming, physical fabrication. It's a very steep hill. No one person can develop systems at this scale. You need collaborators.
    "At MassArt, I was part of the Dynamic Media Institute, the graduate design program. Boundaries between disciplines are not as clear as they used to be. Technology is seeping into all of them."
    Anderson has been shooting and showing photos for more than a decade; her black-and-white images have had a film-noir edge and a persistent, bruised vulnerability. In her thesis show, she's moved into color to explore the depth and rawness of mother-daughter relationships, focusing on the women in her own family. The photos have a potent, fairy-tale mix of succor and threat.

    "People said your work is going to change when you go to grad school," Anderson says. "I had a baby at the same time. Change isn't the word it was explosive. My work got more personal about the psychology of being a mother and a daughter, the archetypes of women. I was thinking about early Renaissance paintings of the Madonna and child, and moving into color photography. My father was a minister, so I was around these paintings growing up. Having a kid made me think of them again.

    "A lot of this work is about vulnerability. It's so scary to be responsible for this child. There are so many more worries. The pictures have this weightlessness, a floating quality, a feeling like a dream. There's this sense of being separate, but being together."

    Coolidge fashioned "Container Cottage" completely from packaging material; even the lumber comes from old crates. There's a lovely tension between its scathing commentary on a disposable society and its dollhouse charm.

    "The US has 2 percent of the world's population, but I believe we use 25 percent of the world's resources," Coolidge says. "This tries to address that. And homelessness. We've gotten out of control with the notion of home, of what people buy and put into their homes. The wall covering inside is all from the Home and Living sections of the Globe and The New York Times, and catalogs from Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware.

    "I've been making assemblages since I was 12 or 13, although I didn't show them. I worked in business for 20 years. I was happy in the evening, putting things together from things that had been thrown out. I couldn't tell my colleagues I'd been scavenging in a Dumpster the night before.

    "I came to a point where I could continue, or get formal training as an artist. It was a bit of a shock to be in art school, it took a little time to get acclimated. I learned what I do isn't all that odd. It fits into the contemporary art world."


    Museum School/Tufts MFA thesis exhibition (the MFA is a joint degree from both schools). At Tufts University Art Gallery, Aidekman Arts Center, 40R Talbot Ave., Medford, through May 22. 617-627-3518,,

    Massachusetts College of Art MFA thesis exhibition. At MassArt's Bakalar Gallery, 621 Huntington Ave., through May 7. 617-879-7333,

    Boston University MFA painting thesis exhibition. At BU's 808 Gallery, 808 Commonwealth Ave., through May 8. 617-353-3371,

    Saturday, April 09, 2005

    Fresh Fiction at the MFA by Heidi Marston

    There are only ten days left to see the exhibit "Fresh Fiction" curated by Ben Sloat, on view at the MFA, Boston in the education gallery. This exhibit includes many of my colleagues and a wide range of perspectives on personal narrative. From color photographs of things in someone’s refrigerator to black and white images of a single person in a room that could almost be still life, Ben has selected a group that all takes the traditional notion of narrative out of narrative. The works of the artists in “Fresh Fiction” don’t tell you the whole story, they don’t really tell you a story at all, and then again sometimes they do.

    In Liza Corsillo’s photographs, a young girl makes elaborate theatrical sets in her backyard. She becomes a trapeze performer in a circus, and queen of the tea party. Upon closer inspection you may begin to see that these photographs look like illustrations for a children’s book, or maybe they are the grand delusions of a person who doesn’t want to grow up. With a “Big Fish” kind of stage they could be anything. For any of you who did not see “Big Fish” one of the prevailing ideas was that sometimes “Fiction” is the truth. Corsillo’s work looks like a story that was once based in truth and as it has been told over and over again until the original narrative is lost and the fun of story telling becomes the focus.

    This reminds me of an article I read recently about choice. While we are no longer limited to being either a landscape photographer or taking portraits, what kind of photogrpahs do we take? The article was about the state of younger generations and thier infinate opportunies. Having so many choices oftern leads to no choice at all. Corsillo's character looks as though she has been given many choices and has chosen fantasy. When once apon a time we had to take one tyoe of photograph or the other, now we can chose to not chose. We can chose to simply make it up as we go along. Today I am going to run off and join the circus, tomorrow maybe I will do something else.

    When I look at the work of Guillermo Srodek - Hart the narrative is the opposite of fiction. It is a story that we can all recognize: life and death. The color photographs of a small lamb in the foreground with a man walking behind in the background. At first glance is comical and kind of cute. The tag on the ear of the lamb is a bit disconcerting, does this man own him? Is this lamb being raised for food or wool? As I look at this photograph the life story of this little lamb unfolds in my mind, he is well fed, well taken care of and then he produces good wool so he lives to a grand old age. The other ending to this story is too sad to think about, and all the time in the back of my mind I realize I have been creating these narratives with little or no information being given to me by the artist. I guess because the lamb is cute I am compelled to finish his story.

    Also included in Fresh Fiction is an image by Boru O’Brian O’Connell, recent recipient of the MFA Traveling Scholarship. His work in the Traveling Scholars exhibit was a group of portraits of young boys shot in the environments of their posh private schools. With all of the dramatic lighting and saturated color of an episode of the O.C. there was no way to not impose narrative upon these portraits. His image in Fresh Fiction is quite the opposite: a man alone on a small boat, nothing but sea around him, and he has a bag on his head. This is probably the loneliest photo I have ever seen, but then, it is staged, it has to be, right? To me it has an "Old Man and the Sea" reference while still looking very contemporary. Unlike his portriats that have many complex layers dealing with social class, privilage, wealth, youth, and famliy, the image in Fresh Fiction appears so simple. Simply, "what the Hell?" and then maybe "Oh I feel that way sometimes..."

    Fresh Fiction gives me an overall sense of internal narrative that the audience gets to look in on, maybe we can relate, maybe we can't, but the stories read as fictional because I make them up in my mind. There seems to be a hint of truthfulness in some of the photographs: I believe that the things in that refrigerator would be there if I looked, but I don’t believe that a guy would row a boat with a bag on his head. So go check it out before “Fresh Fiction” ends on April, 18th, and you never had the opportunity to take a look and decide for yourself, do you believe that the lamb lived happily ever after? Do you think that guy ever buys groceries? Or is this all just made up?

    Fresh Fiction – A Photographic Exploration of Narrative (Closing)
    Education | Fine Arts
    April 18, 2005 - 12:00pm
    Curated by graduate student Benjamin Sloat, this exhibition presents work by SMFA students and recent graduates Steve Aishman, Liza Corsillo, Amber Duntley, Matt Gamber, Heidi Marston, Boru O’Brien O’Connell, Benjamin Sloat, Guillermo Srodek-Hart, and Youngsuk Suh. Rather than documenting the real, these artists use the camera primarily as a tool for creating artifice and inventing a story.

    Click here to see Guillermo Srodek-Harts work:

  • Friday, March 25, 2005

    Lalla Essaydi at Howard Yezerski Gallery

    LALLA ESSAYDI: Converging Territories
    March 18 - April 19, 2005
    Opening Reception Saturday March 19, 3:30 – 5:30pm

    Howard Yezerski Gallery is proud to announce Converging Territories an exhibition of photographs by Lalla Essaydi. In this series of large format color portraits of Arab women and children Essaydi continues to address the complex reality of Arab female identity from her own unique perspective of personal experience. Returning to an unoccupied family-owned house in Morocco, Essaydi painstakingly covers the space with cloth covered in Islamic calligraphy written in henna. She then paints the clothes and the bodies of the women with the same calligraphy before photographing them in front of the background.

    Much of Essaydi’s work is about her cultural identity and the journey that she has undertaken. With a quiet dignity and pride in her culture she deals with complex cultural issues including Western stereotypes of Arab women. “In my art, I wish to present myself through multiple lenses --- as artist, as Moroccan, as Saudi, as traditionalist, as Liberal, as Muslim.”

    Essaydi began her art training while living in Saudi Arabia. She attended the L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris in the early 1990’s and then received her BFA from Tufts University in 1999. In 2003 she received her MFA from Tufts University/ The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Her work can be found in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, Williams College Museum of Art, The Kodak Museum, The Fries Museum; The Netherlands, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and The Columbus Museum of Art.

    Friday, March 18, 2005

    Heidi's Favorites

    In the first installation of "Heidi's Favorites":


    Reminiscent of children's storybooks, cartoons and beloved stuffed animals, Rebecca Doughty creates a complex and evocative world featuring a cast of psychologically charged animal characters. Both playfully humorous and strangely dark, her deceptively simple imagery touches upon our joys and fears, our fondest and most painful memories, while exploring the various adventures, journeys, challenges, and predicaments of modern life.

    Doughty's work has been exhibited widely in galleries and museums throughout the east coast, including the Allston Skirt Gallery in Boston, the DeCordova Museum, the Fuller Museum, Massachusetts College of Art, Mills Gallery at Boston Center for the Arts, and The Drawing Center in NYC. She has received awards from the Blanche E. Colman Foundation, the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, and the Artists Foundation, Boston, and a “2002 Best Show Award” from the International Association of Art Critics, Boston. Her artwork is included in many permanent collections including the DeCordova Museum, Simmons College, Fidelity Investments, and the Ritz-Carlton, Boston.

  • Birds that make Art!

  • An Odd Bird
  • The Mating Game
  • Resources


    A female bower bird considers her options.

    Scientists know that the amorous architects of the bird world build three basic kinds of bowers: "maypoles," "mats," and "avenues." But only now are they beginning to discover the reasons behind the existence of these different forms. Mat, or platform, bowers are among the simplest: thick pads of plant material ringed with ornaments. One mat-builder, Australia's Tooth-billed catbird, builds what is known as a "circus ring" by arranging silvery leaves around the mat, like the petals of a disheveled flower. The bird constantly removes withered leaves in favor of fresh, shiny replacements. The more ambitious maypole bowers are twig towers built around one or a few saplings in a carefully groomed courtyard. The Golden bower bird even perches on a roofed bridge suspended between towers. And four other kinds of maypole builders surround their creations with lawns of moss. Avenue bowers, such as the Satin bower bird's, featured on NATURE, have two close-set parallel walls of sticks that sometimes arch over to create a tunnel. In a rare example of a bird using a tool, Satin and Regent bower birds may use a leaf or twig to paint the inner walls of their bowers with a stain made from chewed plants, charcoal, and saliva.

    A bower bird builds his "bachelor pad."

    Gerald Borgia, a University of Maryland bower bird expert, believes the different kinds of bowers all serve essentially the same function: to make visiting female bower birds feel comfortable by protecting them from overeager males. Courtship rituals, he notes, almost always involve males and females standing with the bower between them, like a fence. In the case of the maypole-building Macgregor's bower bird, for instance, the courting pair warily circles the central tower. Only when the female chooses to stop and allow the male to approach can mating occur. "The bower probably started as a protective device," Borgia concludes. "It allows females to get close enough to get a good look without feeling threatened. The male that builds something that makes the females feel most comfortable is likely to see more females." Borgia has also detected a relationship between bower type and intensity of the male's display. The male Spotted bower bird, for instance, builds a wide straw wall and performs a relatively energetic display full of dance steps and dramatic poses. In contrast, species building smaller barriers have toned-down displays that are probably less threatening to females.

    Other researchers have noticed a link between the showiness of a bower bird's plumage and the intricacy of its bower: in general, the drabber the bird, the fancier the bower will be. Some believe this reflects an evolutionary choice: drab birds compensate for their dull appearances by building flashier nests.
    Borgia has also noticed that bower complexity sometimes varies with topography. For instance, species living on hilltops build more modest bowers than those living in valleys. The explanation, he says, may be the amount of light that penetrates the forest in the two kinds of habitat. Ridge tops are often shrouded in clouds, allowing only dim light. Hence, to best show off their decorations, bower birds living here may build more open bowers to make best use of available light. In contrast, light is less of an issue in the valleys, so bower birds can afford to have more elaborate roofed structures.

    Surprisingly, Borgia has found that bower birds that build similar-shaped bowers aren't necessarily closely related to each other. Using a DNA fingerprinting technique, he and his colleagues drew a family tree for bower birds that showed their evolutionary relationships. It suggested that species that evolved at different times have independently learned to build similar kinds of bowers, possibly because they faced similar kinds of environmental conditions.

    But close observation can reveal important differences in the seemingly-similar structures, Borgia says. Where one species may build its bower from the bottom up, for instance, the other may start a similar structure at the top and build down. Similarly, some species put the entrance to their bowers on the uphill side, while similar structures built by other species face downhill. Nobody knows whether young bower birds learn such practices from their elders, or whether they are encoded in their genes at birth. It is a much-debated question that Borgia hopes to answer in future studies by rearing native males in captivity with and without mature tutors.


  • Note: This was a very cool PBS special! Makes us feel a little less special huh? We aren't the only species interested in purely aesethic creations.

    David Hilliard at Jackson Fine Art

    David Hilliard, one of my favorite photographers will be opening a new exhibit "David Hilliard Embellish", tonight at Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta GA. The exhibit will be on view March 18 through April 30. If you are going to be in the area I highly suggest checking it out!

  • Indepth Arts News:

    Indepth Arts News:
    "Lalla Essaydi: Converging Territories"
    2005-01-06 until 2005-02-26
    Laurence Miller Gallery
    New York, NY, USA United States of America

    Laurence Miller Gallery takes pleasure in presenting Converging Territories, the first New York one-person show of Moroccan-born artist Lalla Essaydi. Converging Territories is a series of large-format color portraits of women and children taken in a large, unoccupied, family-owned house in Morocco, the same house that as a young woman Essaydi was confined to for a month at a time whenever she transgressed her permissible roles.

    Revisiting that house, Essaydi creates a mysterious and timeless space with a cloth background, entirely covered with Islamic calligraphy that she herself has written in henna. She then painstakingly covers the women and children with henna before photographing them in front of the cloth. Essaydi's intent is to explore cultural patterns within both Arab and Western societies, to reach beyond stereotypes, and to convey her own experience as an Arab woman. She states: "Through these images I am able to suggest the complexity of Arab female identity - as I have known it - and the tension between hierarchy and fluidity at the heart of Arab culture."

    Representative of the show is Converging Territories #21, a four-part sequence showing the progression from childhood to womanhood and from public to private identity. Converging Territories #29 shows a single woman, completely hidden except for one foot covered in henna, about to step into the background. Converging Territories #10 shows the artist from behind, seated on the henna-covered cloth while writing in calligraphy. After a childhood spent in Morocco , Lalla Essaydi spent many years in Saudi Arabia , where she began her basic art education. She attended the L'Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris during the early 1990's, then received her BFA from Tufts University in 1999. In 2003, she received her MFA from Tufts University/The School of the Museum of Fine Arts , Boston .

    Essaydi's photographs are currently on exhibit at The Art Institute of Chicago in About Face, in NAZAR: Photographs from the Arab World, presented by the Noorderlicht Foundation, Holland , and at Williams College Museum in In the Company of Women. The DeCordova Museum in Lincoln , Massachusetts , will exhibit a selection from Converging Territories in their Annual Exhibition this summer. In conjunction with the current exhibition at Laurence Miller Gallery, powerHouse Books will publish an illustrated monograph under the same title, and Aperture will publish a portfolio of images in February.

    Converging Territories # 9, 2004
    33 1/4 x 40 3/4"
    chromogenic print

    Tuesday, March 15, 2005

    BOSTON-ISM by BIG RED BOSTON-ISM by Big Red and the Boston Community


    One of the reasons we have so many "-isms" to talk about artwork is because 9 times out of 10 we are trying to give enough information to someone or a group of people so that they can have some kind of tangible experience. When I think about going to galleries in Boston I don't usually find myself with a lack of vocabulary to describe what I see or a way to experience it. However, there are many artists and galleries that challenge the notion the art can be described enough to give someone the impression that they have experienced it themselves. Recently at the Gallery @ Green Street the local artist and ICA Prize winner Douglas Weathersby "exhibited" his Cleaning Projects: an ongoing exploration of site-specific installations that are the result of everyday rituals like cleaning and home repair.

    Now from this description alone, one may find it hard to have an idea of what it could be. I would describe it as one part performance, one part installation, one part cleaning and the result is a visual cornucopia of "stuff" that looks like sculptural, photographic, documentation-like interior remodeling. Most of Weathersby's work--not unlike the cleaning he performs--is extremely impermanent, living on only as long as the optimal conditions allow or until the dust is swept up or disturbed. Because of its ephemeral nature, many of his works are documented and mediated through a variety of photographic and digital means. His exhibition at the ICA included a combination of video and live-feed images of works that Weathersby created in the museum workrooms in addition to a dust drawing created in the gallery space. One of the things that I really like about Weatherby's work is that when you walk by the space where he is working and you aren't sure if you should interrupt him but curiosity can get the better of you. It can invite a type of discussion that would be hard to have about a series of paintings hung in a row, simply by the nature of working with an everyday activity like sweeping. At his gallery talk many of the questions were about the response people have had or what people asked him when they came in, that alone is unusual since most gallery talks are about an artists method to working with their medium or what artists inspire them. The dialogue around Weathersby's work incorporated the usual 'hows' and 'whys' but it also included 'what did other people think'.

    The Gallery @ Green Street, in its 6 years in Boston, has shown work that blurs the boundaries between mediums, forces its audience to engage with the art community in new and interesting ways and allows gallery goers to have fun at the same time. By showing work like Weathersby's Cleaning Projects and other performance, photographic, installation type work like the 1/2 Asian Portrait Studio, (where people in the community came and had their portrait taken then the portraits were hung in the wall continually throughout the duration of the show), the elitism of the art in Boston has become obsolete. More people are coming to galleries like Gallery @ Green Street and the Thayer Street galleries than ever before, why? Maybe it is because work like Weathersby's is allowing the community to take part in the dialogue around new work instead of the discussion going on without audience participation. On a very positive note it seems that the existing structure of the art community in Boston has enough elasticity to expand and incorporate the work of artists like Douglas Weathersby, thanks to Gallery @ Green Street, the ICA, others like Allston Skirt, Samson Projects, the Mills Gallery, while still encouraging more to come.

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