Greetings from Artscape, Baltimore MD

Heralded as America’s largest free arts festival, Baltimore’s Artscape is a visual extravaganza, a riotous excuse for anyone who has an ounce of creativity to come out of the woodwork. Artscape offers a cornucopia of arts and crafts but to be honest, the people-watching exceeded the art in terms of interest and creativity. From punks to old hippies, to hipsters, to bizarre characters, it was a time to let it all hang out.

Although I did not discover any fine art which made any lasting impression, I came across some really different and creative sights. Take for example a Houseboat parked on the street and converted into a landlocked gallery. Very cool indeed!

I also enjoyed chatting with the bearded lady at A Feminist Tea Party – politics and conversation over a cup of tea. Now that’s taking art in a direction I never thought of….

An estimated 300,000 people mingled on Baltimore’s streets. Every square inch of space was taken up with a multitude of creative outpouring – art, music, food, dance. It made me feel grateful that we live in a society which fosters freedom of expression. While we are able to enjoy such an abundance of freedoms, artists in Russia (Pussy Riot) and China (Ai Weiwei) are being imprisoned and harassed by the state. And now news of Syrian sculptor Wael Kaston being tortured and killed by government forces. These incidents are a blight on humanity. It’s hard to believe that that sort of repression of artistic voices is still so prevalent around the globe.

One particular sculpture caught my attention just as I was leaving – a beautifully carved torso (alabaster I believe) by sculptor Corrine Thompson.

Word Play

                                                                                                                                  Cy Twombley  Roman Notes

I have always loved words. The power of words, the sheer enigma of the written word and its ability to conjure, to transport us to real or imaginary places, all this through the eye’s unfathomable ability to translate essentially hieroglyphic markings into impossibly complex electric brain firings which somehow distill into emotional and intellectual thoughts and feelings. Incredible, isn’t it?

I am quite a voracious reader and like to use words in my art. I am drawn to artists who use text as an integral part of their practice. The list is long and prestigious – Cy Twombly, Mel Bochner, Jasper Johns, Tracy Emin and Sol LeWitt and Ed Ruscha to name but a few of the greats. The Hirshorn Musuem and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC is exhibiting a very strong word-based show by Barbara Kruger entitled Belief + Doubt. But there are many lesser known artists (I place myself in that category) who find that incorporating text into a work of art adds a fourth dimension, a graphic highlight, or a counterbalance to the visual.

The image above is from a surprisingly succesful exhibition I held in Tel Aviv entitled Talking Heads. For this particular exhibition I paired my eclectic collection of quotations with paintings derived from images of antique dolls, who always strike me as having something profound to say. So I literally put words in their mouth! Talking about putting words in one’s mouth reminds me of another work from a different show in which I projected my open mouth onto the gallery wall, and at the base of my throat I embedded a tiny word: STOP! The piece was a response to the maddening tit-for-tat violence in the Middle East.

I also recently ran across two interesting text-based artists – Sean Joseph Patrick Carney – check out his art book below for the Amsterdam Biennial, and performance-based artist Joe Deutch’s I Have A Gun.

The impetus for writing a whole blog entry on words, texts, and art was a recent home decorating project I completed after putting it off for a year. I had read a line by Filippo Marinetti, founder of the Futurist movement. The quote captured my imagination: “There will be a very beautiful day after tomorrow”. I wanted to feature it in my home and realized that the number of words in the sentence corresponded to the number of stairs going up to my second floor so I stenciled the sentence directly onto my stairs. Hopefully the words will remind me to be positive and optimistic in this turbulent world…