Cold Enough For You?

Does that which doesn’t kill you really make you stronger?

During one of the worst weather days Toronto has ever seen,  1LoveTO suggested that if you found the weather too cruel, you might want to check out the AGO. They quite rightly added #Art and #Inspiration to their tweet, knowing that art can inspire us through tough times. And the Basquiat exhibition, in particular, (now on at the AGO) gives off a lot of heat.

But if spending some time at the AGO can help, would buying art be even better? And if you were buying art for warmth, what kind of art would you want?

So I thought I’d take a poll. Of the photos below, which one would you rather be spending time with today?

The Beach
The Beach

“The Beach” is where I’d be if I didn’t have a full schedule, so this photo of a painted one perks me up. I picked this one because there’s more to it than just another beach shot. There’s something odd and funny and lovely about how well the painter mapped his ideal escape onto a working stage. I love the door, the lights and the candy-colours he chose. And there’s something else that’s not in the picture but in my memory of it: It stands beside the boardwalk at Hollywood Beach, so it mimics the real beach just behind it. Unfortunately, I took this at night and never got back to capture that wider perspective.

aweandthensome,aweandthensomephotography, aweanthensome blog

“February Blues” is hardly the kind of artwork that most people want to buy. Yet everyone I’ve shown it to has said how it perfectly it captures the hardship of winter. When I ask if they identify with it, they all nod “Oh ya”, that’s me right there. <Men point to the man on the left; women to one of the hooded characters to his right> I’ve loved working on it because it reminds me of our toughness, of who we are and what we get through. And yes, getting through makes us tougher.

Art and drama are all about recognition. They were invented to connect us and to get us through. If you look at art buying that way, you may surprise yourself buying art that inspires and projects you.

And when you buy, you might want to hang it where you can see it when you most need to be reminded that you can make it through.

Embrace the cold! It’s making you tougher, stronger, better.

Salgado’s Genesis

How often do you go out with the intention of finding the good, the marvellous, the wonderful? That’s what Sebastião Salgado did over a period of nine years. Starting out in 2004, he’s travelled and photographed unspoiled terrain in 32 countries to restore in himself a lost trust in everything.

The results of those travels, the “Genesis” exhibition, will be coming to the ROM this spring and I’ve been honoured to be selected as a special guest to take part in a curated conversation around the show on the subject of “awe” later in May. It’s going to be an awesome May this year. Awe, and then some!

Above: A haunting landscape that carries echoes of the great Minor White, the father of spiritual photography

Tonight’s The Night

I’m incredibly excited about the opening of Art Miami, where my work will be seen by 55,000 top international curators, artists, dealers & buyers. The VIP Opening Night is slated to begin as I write this. My work is being presented in the Context Pavilion by Luky Cancio of Cancio Contemporary. The Context Pavillion is described, on Art Miami’s website, as an outgrowth of Art Miami that services “a select group of international art dealers by providing a platform, infrastructure and proven marketplace that engages and attracts qualified collectors to acquire the works of their artists who have achieved certain levels of critical acclaim and pricing for their works.”  !!!

                    Star Power

Star Power has an interesting history. When I was working at CBC, CTV was whipping us in the ratings. But that wasn’t enough. Ivan Fecan, formerly our boss, had “Canadian Idol” tapings held across Front Street, in the John Bassett Theatre. Not only were we losing to “that other network”, but we had to listen to the screaming of their rabid fans as we laboured into the dinner hour. It was summer, and I recall exiting the building on John Street, where the bad guys had also plastered gigantic ads for their other programming. It was ludicrous: John St. is a tiny street that gets little traffic, except when Blue Jays fans shuffle along to the (formerly known as) Skydome.  I took Star Power that night. That canvas, stretched across the top of a hideous power station, went on to do triple duty: It raked in good money from advertisers in a formerly dead space, it allowed CTV to taunt us even more, and tonight it makes its debut at Context Art Miami. My television wars are over now. Selling these will bury them.

Afro Jo
                    Miss Connect

Miss Connect, above, began life as Afro-Jo. Jo is my daughter’s name, and one of my favourite pieces of music is John Coltrane’s Afro Blue (Live at Birdland). It’s a portrait of my daughter checking out a photo in the Galleria of Brookside Place on Bay Street. When she stopped behind this portrait of a young African-American, I couldn’t resist. I then posed her behind several other photos, like this one of Putin. I call it JoJo Putinesca. Joanna’s patience soon ran out, but I got four shots out of her that day.

                    JoJo Putinesca

Luky has two more pieces, though I don’t know which will hang when (or if). “Sorry“, below, was taken in Calpe, Spain.  The “context” is a lot more urban that it looks: I was standing in the parking lot of a grocery store when I took it.


If you find yourself at Art Miami over the next few days, here’s a pass on me

Art Miami Comp

My New Camera

My new camera is a dinosaur: A Crown Graphic press camera made in the ’50s. ImageThe film holders you see on the right are used to hold, expose, and protect 4×5″ cut film. These negs hold a massive amount of information. When scanned in a top drawer drum scanner, fine images can be printed all the way up to 60×40″!ImageThe park bench above is one of my first tests, and I’m thrilled with the quality. And what you’re seeing is the result of the cheapest, smallest scan I could buy. It will hold its detail when properly scanned and printed at size.

“Star Power” at 60×40″, in Miami with its fantastic printer, Derek Sanchez. 9 more are available.

There are plenty of large format cameras out there, but this one fits my shooting style – it has an early version of a rangefinder (see top of photo), so I can load the camera, focus and shoot – even when I’m off a tripod.All of this action is the result of having been chosen to exhibit large scale versions of my work at Art Miami, one of the top exhibitions in the art wold.

Can’t wait to create more pieces at this size in the future!

Must See: Frames Of The Visible

If there’s a contemporary “can’t miss” exhibition in Toronto this month it’s Sanaz Mazinani’s Frames of the Visible. Showing until June 9 at the Stephen Bulger Gallery, these wall-sized photo collages truly rethink photography as they rigorously explore new ways of seeing and representing conflict through photography.

                                                   Redacted, by Sanaz Mazinani, 2011

Until now, I admit to not being a fan of her work. I haven’t liked the form of it and haven’t felt that the photos conveyed what she wanted to say. She’s described her work as an exploration of “the relationship between perception and representation by drawing on concepts such as censorship, scale, and the body as a site of action or violence.” Honestly, I don’t get how her earlier works did that. But this set actually shows how we see and how photographers represent what we see – in reality, and not just in theory.

                                         Redacted, detail by Sanaz Maziani, 2011

These awesome sculptural pieces involve the use of two or three photographs shrunk down, duplicated, mirror-imaged, repeated and rearranged almost endlessly with a clear goal in mind: To revitalize and hence rethink the wars in the Middle and Near East. Redacted (above) uses imagery from a U.S. military funeral, including men on parade, coffins and black boxes, to contemplate the cost of war. Its perfectly ordered presentation, like the perfectly ordered men (their faces redacted), and the perfect, flag-covered coffins, mirrors how real deaths are reported/redacted in this well-ordered and distant war. I doubt there’s another image that shows how we report on war as well as this one. Not only that, but this singular image (seen from afar) has a forbidding muteness about it.  It looks to me like a child of Janus and the Sphinx, looking both ways but with eyes facing front that say little. And then there’s the colour and the sheen of it – really, I could go on and on.

               Together We Are, Sanaz Mazinani, 2011

Together We Are (above, with detail below), creates a butterflied mandala out of two incongruously matched icons: Paris Hilton and a female suicide bomber. I found myself reacting at first to Paris’ naked arrogance and then to her naked vulnerability; then from the bomber’s ferocious violence to her profound commitment. This one actually does demonstrate “the body as a site of action or violence”. It’s not just an idea. I can feel it. Afterwards I found myself thinking about how it is that our opposites frame the pattern of our lives. As an image, Together We Are is an explosion, hurtling it’s black and white shards from the middle outward, through bodies of flesh.

                                                      Detail, Together We Are, Sanaz Mazinani, 2011

I love that the act of exploring these works leads us inward to find out what each pattern is made of. That’s a perfect analogue for how we think, discover and process ideas. But the works also delve emotionally into feelings about violence, vulnerability and culture. We are a world apart and yet, we are all together. Brilliant. I can’t wait to see her next work.

If you’d like to read more, click here. If you’d like to see more, click here. But nothing will match the experience of seeing them live.