As the world's eyes are on the passing of one of the biggest icons to date, the reaction of his fans, foes, and the media offers a fascinating insight into the nexus of American culture. A prodigal performer from day one, Michael Jackson grew up alongside America with the promise of greatness, churning out hit after hit and literally lighting up the floor with innovation. But our expectation of Jackson fell short of reality as he collected as many disturbing rumours as he did animals for his Neverland Ranch; our icon became the personification of misguided talent.
Fifty years ago, American culture was similarly perceived through the lens of photographer Robert Frank, who thought he would capture candid scenes of life in the young and exciting US of A, beginning the project as documenting a young, growing country fulfilling its unbounded potential. What resulted however was the pervading sadness, both of the much American urban environment and the people who strode upon it. Behind all of the glitz and shiny exterior, there is a gritty alley and a lost gaze, or sometimes, a scene of pure weariness. Thus the seminal book, The Americans, was born and it is celebrating its 50th with an exhibition in San Francisco. I spoke with the co-curator Corey Keller. Both these stories represented how beauty and tragedy rest side by side.
Frank documented the seemingly banal during the 1950s and when the advent of the video camera became available, conceptual artists in LA started recording their own banal actions, tracking their own processes and those of their colleagues. One of the pioneers was artist John Baldessari who turned the lens towards himself and others—painting, moving, walking, sitting, making art. He has an exhibition coming up in San Francisco and I will be speaking with in in mid-July. Stay tuned!
On April 22nd, Pop-Up Magazine had their first event and I was delighted to be involved as one of the performances of the night with my friend and partner Ahri Golden. We filled out the "Society" section of the night, showing material from "Born," our piece about the postpartum experience in America. Here is the clip we played.
Also in attendance was Larry Sultan who entertained the crowd with his fictional family history that he devised from images in a photo album he found years ago. Above is Sultan's photograph (not from the photo album) titled, "Mom Posing By Green Wall And Dad Watching TV."
I interviewed Larry Sultan several years ago, lovely man.
The ever-brilliant Kitchen Sisters who produce and host the NPR series, "Hidden Kitchens," showcased their new piece "One Big Soul" which looks to reveal the secret life of girls.
This weekend, I went to the DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park, a building designed by Herzog and de Meuron that is changing color over time. I went with my Mom and Grandma, a tradition we seem to be creating, weekend excursions together to places we enjoy. Last week was Half Moon Bay, this week, the museum. We went there to see the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit, be all girly and decide which outfit we would most want to wear (I chose a brown dress). While there, we saw the work of artist Maya Lin. I had the opportunity to interview her but turned it down. When I saw her extraordinary work, I regretted that choice. She creates landscapes from plywood, almost as if she has filled The Grand Canyon with carefully carved birch wood. Some pieces could be held in our arms, others were massive. My Grandma particularly liked the work and I trust her opinion, especially given that she was impressed by contemporary art. She is an artist in her own right and her painting hangs on my bedroom wall. The Lin pieces reminded me of another artist who depicts landscapes, these being real and, according to him, manufactured ones. That's Edward Burtynsky and I interviewed him earlier this year. You can find that here. I then remembered another interviewee that inspired me—Jennifer Fox—who traversed the landscape of this world asking women about being women in Flying: Confessions of Free Woman. Here's that interview. The idea of landscapes just leads to so much! (Oh, and what inspired this whole posting was the bottom image that I saw on one of my favorite sites.)
Art Basel Miami is like a mini city of artists, designers, photographers, curators, journalists and collectors that just springs up in the middle of Balmy Miami for a week, and it's extraordinary. A couple of the pieces shown here are works that I especially appreciated from the show (particularly Charles Guice's Gallery and Josee Bienvenu) except for one, the one of the boat on the water. I just happened to fall upon it because it's by fellow journalist and Armenian, Nubar Alexanian (who also shares his name with that of my Grandpa, Noubar).
Today I was spraying water on one of my plants and I noticed a tiny little spider scurrying under his tiny little web, as a sudden downpour of water came to surpirse him under the morning sunlight. A few years back, I did a story on massive sculptures, bigger than life, that accentuated the more mundane aspects of our experience. A large squrrel made of collected images of squirrels, a ship made out of manila envelopes. Questions of sapce and the relativity come to mind, like being a child in a place and revisiting that same place and thinking how small everything now seems. The little spider's world is so much smaller than mine and yet I can easily place myself into his experience, knowing what small felt like to me before.
This week I am doing an interview about the photographs of (and love affair between) Edward Weston and Tina Modotti. The images were taken during the several years they lived together in Mexico. They're very pretty, very quintessential Mexico. And an insightful friend asked, "What are these images NOT showing?"