It rained all week in Northern New Jersey. The entire Passaic watershed is saturated and as it drains the Great Falls roars with the swelling volume of racing water as the river makes its way to its ultimate release into the Atlantic. Its a good metaphor for the surging rebirth of Paterson as a revitalized center of commerce and culture.
Long a typical neglected northeastern industrial city in decline, Paterson is experiencing a vibrant transitioning and repurposing of it’s heritage as a manufacturing center thanks in part to The Art Factory.
The Art Factory is an incubator encouraging the formation and growth of the creative arts industry. Tourism and cultural enterprises that attract tourists are critical economic drivers necessary for the rebirth of Paterson. The Art Factory’s offering of working space for artists and commercial enterprises is a critical initiative seeking to build on The Great Falls Historic District’s recent National Park designation that anchors the city’s hopes for a long awaited revitalization.
The Art Factory is busy renovating the once dilapidated Dolphin Jute factory space and filling it with the creative energies of up and coming professional artists looking for commercial acceptance of their art.
Memorial Day weekend, The Art Factory’s Art Walk showcased a torrent of local artistic talent. The volume of exhibits compliments the range and scope of quality art that met and exceeded the expectations of the many patrons and enthusiasts eagerly exploring a labyrinth of cavernous exhibition rooms located throughout the century old industrial complex.
Indeed half the fun of The Art Walk is making your way through the multiple floors of exhibition space. The thrill of walking stairwells and darkened brick laden passageways opening into old shop floors flooded with art, bathed in the light of industrial windows framing cityscapes of surrounding street life, wooded hills of Garret Mountain and historic skyline of Paterson. Or descend into the bowels of the old factory’s basement storage areas carved out of granite bedrock bleeding water, showcasing multimedia sculptures divined from the subterranean strata of broken bricks, steel scrap, rubbish bins, wooden pallets, cardboard packaging, dexterous hands and fluid imagination.
One of the great pleasures of The Art Walk is experiencing how the art interacts with industrial space. A virtue of The Art Factory is its mission to repurpose dormant manufacturing space and refill it with the creative energy of artists. A great portion of the art on exhibit in The Art Walk addressed the idea of repurposing, industrial stasis and the human and ecological cost of industrialization.
The idea of repurposing industrial artifacts and disposable waste to portray the human cost of rampant consumerism was intelligently portrayed by conceptual artist Aleksandr Razin and his bold installation Jurassic Park.
Comprised of 4 extensive installations filling a large basement space; The Mosquito, (68’x 20’ x 12’); The Paterson Butterfly (51’x54’x12’), The Grasshopper (35’x45’x13’) and The Fly (54’x55’x20’); Jurassic Park was fully constructed from materials culled from the excessive waste of our throw away consumer society. Each installation appears as though its belongs in the dank basement of an industrial complex.
One piece, The Caterpillar, is a boxed construction of corrugated cardboard enclosing an inner lighted workplace of benches, machines, tools and cabinets. One can look inside the caterpillar through windows or enter the piece from an hidden doorway. From the outside the cardboard construction looks like its about to collapse from flimsy construction materials. A caterpillar suggests transition but once inside the caterpillar I imagine a shift of workers trapped in a dangerous workplace at risk of imminent collapse. Certainly a timely observation given the recent catastrophic collapse of a Bangladesh textile factory killing over 1,000 workers manufacturing high end clothing for some of the leading western fashion brands.
The Mosquito installation was equally unsettling. Inside The Mosquito we find outdated school rooms. We can only surmise how school systems are challenged by obsolete teaching methods and institutional distress. Are schools like a mosquito, sucking the life blood out of society’s young minds? To paraphrase the artist statement, Mr. Razin asserts, the size of the installation suggest extinct dinosaurs and that out of control consumerism and toxic waste is threatening life on earth.”
Another large subterranean installation offers a complex tube structure of air blown inflated denim. A haunting soundtrack of industrial sounds echoes through the room; as sparse lighting casts long shadows of the piece and patrons onto walls of bedrock and weathered brick. The patron assumes the role of a consumer who becomes complicit enablers trapped in the denim web of global trade built on the exploitation of third world textile workers.
Jonah The Prophet and The Gates of Hell completed a trinity of subterranean social commentary installations. Jonah, a suspended wire piece portrays a figure devoured by a fish. The room’s floor was covered in broken brick. Scattered cubicle panels lined the walls. Here in the lowest level of The Art Factory we have been consumed, entrapped in the prison of industrial monotony.
The upper floors of the show mostly featured portraiture, photography and small sculptures. An installation on Industrialism portrayed the hard edges of industrial capitalism. An oil painting, Made In China sympathetically portrays a child attached to a sewing machine. Its a striking depiction of western consumerism complicity in enabling child labor.
With the exception of the basement installations, for the most part politics and social commentary was absent from the Art Walk. The pieces were clearly positioned for sale; and as I said earlier the quality and subject matter of paintings make this art highly marketable. Refreshments, bands and a wedding added an air of festive lightness to the day and set a consumer friendly atmosphere to The Art Walk.
And that’s how it should be. Though I couldn’t discern any major artistic breakthroughs, commercial development and the art of capitalism is the star of this show. Bravo The Art Factory and The Paterson Art Walk. The journey back from economic doldrums has begun in Paterson and The Art Factory and The Art Walk is a big first step in that journey.
Music Selection: Fats Domino, I’m Walkin
risk: urban renewal, small business, tourism, culture
This little ditty on NPR this morning about the Smithsonian Exhibit, Hide and Seek, an exhibition of Gay portraiture. Seems Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor and Bill Donahue, President of the Catholic League is upset that taxpayer money is being used to showcase what they consider to be unacceptable art. Here’s the link:
Its a doubled edged sword when government underwrites the creation of art. Exhibitions can confer a type of sanction that promotes censorship in service to state sponsored propaganda. From my perspective that is not the issue at stake here; but if you listen to the audio Bill Donahue condemns museums as “liberal elite institutions”. Mr. Donahue probably considers Hide and Seek as the latest subversive initiative by Obama’s Politburo to undermine American Family Values.
Mr. Donahue, still smarting from Andreas Serrano’s Piss Christ gets off his best shot in America’s escalating culture war by asserting that “working people, like himself, (read real Americans) don’t go to museums. He says they go to WWF wrestling matches.” He sarcastically suggests that perhaps government funding of the arts would be better spent underwriting WWF ducats for the masses. Beholden to his dogma, Mr. Donahue fails to recognize the difference between pedestrian commercial camp and artistic pursuit. He confuses the spectacle of bread and violent circus with aesthetic encounter, discovery and contemplation.
Mr. Donahue’s insistence that his position should be viewed in the same light as Muslims reaction when depictions of the Prophet Muhammad appear in visual art presentations is disingenuous. Muslims prohibit all visual representations of the Prophet Muhammad. The same prohibitions of promoting visual images of Jesus Christ is not a common practice of Christian denominations. Secular democracies also do not sanction fatwas and post bounties for jihadists to take out apostates and infidels. That is a unique blessing of secular societies that fundamentalists, religious zealots and Mr. Donahue fail to perceive.
File this one under the dumbing down of America Series, Triumph of the Willfulness.
Walt Whitman: Calamus Poems
You Tube Music Video: Aaron (Gay American) Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man
Risk: culture, censorship, homophobia
Bristol Palin is tap dancing her way into the hearts of Americans. The Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) gamboling Gidget seems poised to surpass the celebrity status of her political superstar Momma Grizzly in Chief Sarah. Despite consistently low scores Bristol and her dance card partner Mark Ballas tip toe over the competition each week due to the outpouring of support from devoted fans of Sarah’s sashaying youngster.
Last night to the chagrin of discerning DWTS affectionados, Bristol and her partner dispatched the elegant and clearly more talented Brandy and Maxwell to the loser circle. DWTS judges awarded Brandy and Maxwell higher scores then Bristol and Mark. In response to this misjudgment of the liberal mainstream media machine, Palin’s peeps overloaded the telephone banks and text message tally boards with a landslide of support for Bristol’s bouncy ballet. The will of the electorate would not be denied. The voice of the people will be heard and heeded.
The well oiled machinery of the Tea Party is suspected of stuffing the ballot box to aid Bristol, Sarah and ultimately country through the precise execution of Operation Bristol.
Operation Bristol is an example of the dangers of plebiscites and a good lesson about the perversion of the democratic process and the illusion of democracy. Tea Party zealots text their DWTS votes along party lines failing to consider the dexterity, skill and artful presentations of the other contestants. The pernicious political pursuit of Operation Bristol undermines the honest contemplation of aestheticism and defiles the artistic purpose of art to exclusively serve the bombast of politics. It is the hallmark of fascist culture that dresses up the banality of pedestrian art in service the higher ideals of idealogical purpose. Not that I consider DWTS even remotely connected to art. But you just gotta love those freedom loving, liberty for all Tea Baggers selling out their DWTS vote for a bit of political satisfaction. Operation Bristol is good practice for 2012. Yeah I know all about Woody Guthrie’s “This Machine Kills Fascists” slogan on his worn guitar. So in the interest of balance and in service to transparency Bristol should consider a “This Machine Kills Democracy” tattoo across her provocative thighs.
You Tube Music Video: Dizzy Gillespie, Things To Come
Risk: art, democracy, culture, entertainment, politics, political theater
Morning Haiku: an exploding bud / heralds the arrival of / a seasons color
You Tube Video: Max Roach Clifford Brown Quintet: Joy Spring
Today marks the anniversary of abstract expressionist painter Paul Jackson Pollock’s birth. He made significant contributions to modern art. Pollock’s was one of the many creative voices expressed by advant garde artists in post WWII America. The poetry of the Beats, Be Bop and later the Free Jazz movements drew inspiration and influenced each other in an explosion of creative fervor.
You Tube Video: Thelonious Monk, Evidence
risk: creativity, advant garde
President Obama has rescinded the Mexico City policy which seeks to block funding to foreign family planning organizations that also provide abortions. The Mexico City policy was first signed into law during the Reagan administration. It was rescinded by Clinton, reenacted under George W. Bush and will now be rescinded by Obama.
Pro Choice supporters hail the move, while the Right to Life proponents are dismayed about Obama’s decision to continue this Democratic party legacy. Protesters voiced their concern during the The March for Life demonstration in Washington DC. The protest is an annual event that is usually held on the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
The fight to maintain legalized abortions, the right to choose one’s reproductive rights and the Right to Life movement continue a struggle where opportunities to find common ground and compromise seems forever elusive.
You Tube Video: Mariachi, Viva Obama 2008
Risk: civil rights, respect for life
No longer a nation comprised of real Americans and the others.
No longer a nation of us and them.
No longer a nation ruled by fear.
No longer a nation steeped in suspicion and xenophobia.
Now One Nation Under God.
Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.
Now a government answerable to its citizens.
May strength through peace be our watchword.
May freedom from fear be our blessing.
Let liberty and hope be the lamp that lights our path.
May knowledge, forbearance and faith
be a grace we confer upon a dark world.
May America rejoin the community of nations
as a practitioner of peace.
We salute our 44th President.
We wish him God Speed.
We pray for his success and his family’s safety.
May God bless the work of his hands and guide his mind.
May our nation cherish this blessed day.
You Tube Video:
Bruce Springsteen Seeger Session Band,
Risk: failure, partisanship, fear
We mourn the death of the American Realist artist Andrew Wyeth who has passed away at the age of 91.
Wyeth was famous for his renderings of interior still life’s and sparse landscapes of rural Pennsylvania countryside. Wyeth is also well known for the Helga series of paintings. I’ll always remember Wyeth’s painting “Master Bedroom” because a good friend hung a print rendering in their dining room after Mo their beloved White Lab passed away.
Wyeth was an important American artist who enjoyed considerable commercial success due to his popular and accessible style. Mr. Wyeth’s style seemed to convey the psychological stasis of post WW2 America.
The cannon of American art was richer due to his contributions.
God speed Mr. Wyeth.
You Tube Video: The Lettermen, A Portrait of My Love
The day is as long as the night. The cosmic scales are perfectly balanced. The yin is a sweet muse to the yang. I like to think that everyone’s got an equal shot. All people are equally loved by God. Women should have equal rights. Grace is offered evenly to all that can perceive the miracles of the day. The chance of success has improved to equal money. The glass is just as full as it is empty but the main point is that there still plenty to drink because our blessings truly runneth over.
Don’t get even, look to straighten things out. Its the Equinox.
On the 23rd it will John Coltrane’s birthday. Reason alone to celebrate.
That is enough.
Music: John Coltrane Equinox
Risk: Support 50 50 fund raisers.