Sunday, February 27, 2011


Does the man or woman exist who doesn’t think that breasts are beautiful – in the abstract, or in person?
You may like them small and perky, or pear-shaped and voluptuous. Perhaps you prefer them natural, or go ga-ga over ecstatically enhanced E’s. Certainly, in the privacy of our homes (or a French beach?), gazing online, and wandering the hallowed halls of our museums, we pause to admire the bodacious and the demure. The beautiful breast.
Take a look at this photograph by Alfred Stieglitz, from 1907. This is art. I find it exquisite. But tell me – does it offend you?
Now let’s try another question. Would you hang this photograph in your bedroom, proudly? What about your living room? Would you worry if more conservative friends come to call, or do you not give a damn as long as you love it?

Naked Truth

Are you embarrassed by nudity in general? Do you simply subscribe to the belief that there is a place and time for baring all, literally?
What about art – fine art – the eloquence of the human form, as captured by the lens or the painter’s brush, and offered to the viewer for our interpretation?
Apparently, there are still places where a skillfully painted nude that is part of a sophisticated narrative is cause for consternation. And controversy. And I stumbled upon one such instance, very recently.

Not in front of the children, Dear

From time to time I venture out into the world, generally to see art. I’ve popped over to Paris to view shows (and write about them), and no, not lately. I’ve zipped to New York to indulge my soul (MOMA as Nirvana), and traveled the highway headed to Atlanta (no passport required).
Atlanta is a lovely city, albeit one in which it seems the Real Housewives can strut their stuff with bouncing breasts, beholden to their surgeons, but a gorgeous work of art on a gallery wall?
Not in front of the children, please.
At least, so sayeth a handful of morality gatekeepers, who claimed that the 1960s-themed work of contemporary painter Sharon Shapiro had to be moved to the back, so the ostensibly offending nude would not perturb shoppers in a nearby store – shoppers with children in tow.
And the gallery complied.

Art stirs the soul; and what of the Savage Beast?

I am an unabashed fan of Shapiro’s work, and have been since I first saw it in the 1990s. Her evolution as an artist (and keen observer of cultural contradictions) has yielded almost 20 years of work that exposes the complex inner world of women, societal expectations, and the murky mix of sexual ambivalence directed toward children as well as adults.
Among the works I find most compelling are those in which she addresses the disturbing awareness of budding sexuality in young girls – its purity, which we as adults perceive with wistfulness, and a tinge of (legitimate) worry.

Feminism and Sex

Equally troubling in Shapiro’s work is the issue of child as woman, and woman as child (and implicitly, those men who seem drawn to both). Shapiro’s paintings touch on a range of feminist dealing with sex and power, though all so subtly crafted that it is in looking at Shapiro’s body of work as a whole that we come to understand the questions she challenges us to consider.
For example, is feminism anti-sex? Is adoration of the female form necessarily exploitation? Is there such a thing as the gently erotic?
In Shapiro’s alluring imagery, feminism and sex collide, coincide, and reside together as a celebration of the uneasy confines of physical beauty, without denying the need to belong to ourselves. The strong woman is not an unfeminine one, nor is the sexual woman anti-feminist.
Perhaps the artist’s embrace (and fondness) for our collective memory of the 1960s pin-up is just the sort of spark we need for an important conversation. And  isn’t this the very same visual and verbal material we’ve come to adore inMad Men woman rebelling against body image while recognizing its power, not to mention its eroticism?

1960s Womanhood

The Virginia-based artist has been nudging us to examine these themes for years, long before our contemporary fascination with Don Draper’s women.
In her examination of admiration for (and attraction to) woman’s inherent sexuality, it’s hard to deny the pleasure of her palette, the contradictions of its confectionery tones, and equally, the contradictory nature of our prudish American sensibilities which are apparently alive and well, and living in Atlanta. Even on a gallery wall, in a sophisticated commercial district, in a contemporary city – which ought to know better.


Following Shapiro’s opening of her show, “California” at Atlanta’s Tanner Hill Gallery, and (to the best of my knowledge) three complaints about the large canvas given a prominent position on the front wall, the gallery did indeed cave to public pressure. The painting, (ironically) entitled Ease, was moved.
Oh, it doesn’t take many voices to stir up a fuss. Andthis fuss seems oddly anachronistic, when a partial nude that is part of a series painted several years back causes controversy, and a form of passive censorship in a city that could do with better PR than the likes of the Housewife franchise.
Incidentally, this is a particularly tender showing of Shapiro’s artworks, andEase was originally exhibited in a Charlottesville, Virginia gallery. Without a flap, I might add.
Last I heard, Charlottesville, with its population of less than 50,000, remains more “small town” than Atlanta. At least, one would think so.
However, Atlanta (population 5.4 million) appears to be hanging on to some very small town tendencies. All it takes is a pair that is bare, and this southern city will rise again – calling for the painting to be moved or removed, as it is – or should I say, was – visible from the street and a nearby store.

Sunning and stunning?

I have seen this painting; in fact, I brought my son with me to the opening. Shapiro’s color sense and brushwork are delectable, the image is bold without being brazen, and its context – well, one can quickly imagine this statuesque woman about to sun herself by a private pool in an intimate exhibition that conjures a dream-like version of mid-century California.
I admit that my children have grown up around art, including nudes which hang on our walls and lean against our (uncensored) overcrowded bookcases.
We don’t walk around our house in the buff (though I have no issue with those households that do); I have encouraged a realistic and healthy attitude toward the emotional and physical aspects of human sexuality. I hardly consider the nude form as prurient, inappropriate, or dangerous. Particularly as part of a fine art exhibition.
My issue is largely with those who object; I understand that galleries are fighting for survival in many cities around the country.
My advice to those parents who were concerned about their children viewing the partial nude?
Worry about drugs and alcohol in the middle schools, not paintings on a midtown gallery wall. Better yet, teach your sons and daughters to love their bodies as they are, and to treat them with respect.

Fame as a Feminist Issue?

I won’t belabor the point any longer except to say: close-minded throwbacks, one, art patrons, zero.
But the real question for me is why a painter of this caliber isn’t hanging in the permanent collections of our museums, though clearly, Atlanta may not be a contender for a Shapiro piece, and more’s the pity.
Still, is it the fact that her feminist message is not facile? Not sufficiently “feminist,” and likewise, not pop culture enough to accommodate easy classification?
Why aren’t we encouraging our men and women of any age to revisit our social constraints and human ambiguities? And why does the machinery of the art world continue to favor its men?

Stieglitz image: Clarence H. White and Alfred Stieglitz. Original uploader was Dustingc aten.wikipedia
Shapiro images: Courtesy the artist, and Poem88, Tanner Hill Gallery, Atlanta.

Friday, February 25, 2011




Matthew Daub is a nationally known artist and educator whose watercolors and drawings have been exhibited in over twenty solo gallery and museum exhibitions. His watercolors have been included in over one hundred and fifty juried and invitational exhibitions in institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The American Academy of Arts and Letters. The Metropolitan Museum featured a Daub watercolor in their 1991 engagement calendar, “American Watercolors.” Matthew’s work can be found in public and private collections throughout the United States and Europe. He is represented by ACA Galleries in New York City.
Daub Solo Exhibition at ACA in New York City

March 19 - 23, 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A TRIP BACK TO THE FUTURE (Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy)

                         (Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy)
          We decided to revisit mega-collector Howard Tullman’s newly-renamed college, now called Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, to catch up on what new artists and works of art he’s added to the constantly rotating displays at the Academy which he selects from his own personal collection. We also wanted to see what, if anything, has changed since Robert DeNiro and his partners became major investors in the school and when we could expect to see a branch of Tribeca Flashpoint in the Big Apple.

          Tullman was his usual energetic self and he was quick to point out that many of the newer pieces on the walls were paintings by artists prominently featured in issues of the American Art Collector magazine which he continues to rely upon as a regular source for identifying new artists and selecting work for his extensive collection.

Tullman says that Alyssa Monks’ work continues to amaze and impress him and that he thinks she’s an important new voice in the New York arts community and tremendously dedicated and talented.

          As we started our walk through the main campus building (about 100,000 square feet of newly-renovated and very “green” space), it was immediately apparent that there were an astonishing number of additional works and many of which would be familiar to our readers as well as to anyone active in the arts markets and national fairs over the last three years. We recognized artists from the Midwest and both coasts and Tullman pointed out that there were also a number of new works from international artists – particularly Germany and Mexico which were major acquisitions.

Tullman says that this very large painting by German artist Jorg Lohse works on multiple levels – first it’s just amazingly well painted and then the students connect with the pop culture references as well.

          We were struck again by the fact that substantial works of art are literally everywhere your eyes wander and the fact that the views are simply amazing. A new initiative now includes printed and framed artists’ statements and comments about their work which are posted alongside a number of the pieces. As our tour continued through the various floors, we took extensive notes as well as a couple of rest breaks because there’s a real risk of simply being overpowered by the sheer size and scale of the presentations. In fact, we’re not sure - for pure stomach-wrenching visceral impact – that there’s a museum we’ve seen anywhere which can match the power and emotion of the Tribeca Flashpoint space. It just oozes energy and excitement.

          So much art and so little time. While he wasn’t especially interested in giving us a firm number, we learned that there are now more than 1400 individual paintings and drawings in the overall collection with more than 200 large-scale works on display at Tribeca Flashpoint alone. Several recent articles have noted that The Tullman Collection is now among the five largest collections of contemporary realist work in the United States even after giving effect to more than a million dollars of recent donations to museums and foundations throughout the country.

Cameron Gray’s “Oops! I Did It Again” with its prominent Britney Spears image is actually a collaboration organized over the Internet by the artist with hundreds of other artists. Tullman says it’s both iconic and also perfectly consistent with Tribeca Flashpoint’s emphasis on collaboration and team work.

The Stefanie Gutheil piece called “Birdcage” is somewhat of a departure for the collection, but Tullman says that the artist has so much imagination and such a special world of her own creation that it just felt like it belonged here with the animation students.

          But the simple numbers don’t begin to describe how the environment and the electric atmosphere of Tribeca Flashpoint surrounds you from the first instant you step into the space. It’s also immediately apparent that the students, staff and faculty share this energy and enthusiasm for great and beautifully-executed work in their everyday activities. The range and diversity of the collection is quite substantial, but almost every piece also seems to be a highly-focused reflection of Tullman’s very critical eye.

In examples like this Tim Okamura painting called “The Conversation”, the students are challenged to imagine and/or supply the narrative and try to explain the piece in their own words.

         As we continued walking through the space, Tullman mentioned specifically that powerful narrative continues to be an important consideration in his selections of new work. But, most importantly, each piece still needed to be executed in a fashion consistent with Tribeca Flashpoint’s overall theme of excellence.

         Tullman said that storytelling has always been and will always be a central concern of the visual arts (noting also that it’s become an increasingly important tool in education) and it’s really no different at Tribeca Flashpoint. He laughed and said: “I like to say that all the technology in the world won’t save a story that sucks.” But, he went on to say: “Even more crucial from an education standpoint – and especially for younger students – is how the requirement to “tell a story” engages students and gives them a sense of ownership and responsibility that simply talking “at” them will certainly no longer achieve – if it ever did.

         At Tribeca Flashpoint, working in constantly-changing teams across all four of the main digital disciplines, the students essentially construct their own learning approaches (aided, guided and abetted by the faculty) since everyone believes that it’s absolutely clear, in any creative group, that you’ll have a variety of people who learn at different paces and in different ways.

Tullman pointed out this striking Austin Parkhill painting and said that he expects that there will always be paintings that are confrontational and very much “in your face” just to keep things interesting.

          The real bottom line and the primary outcomes they look for from the graduates at Tribeca Flashpoint are pretty simple. Tullman says that they’re trying to build creative problem-solvers with great people skills for the next digital generation.

The main lobby at Tribeca Flashpoint features this large painting by Canadian artist William Lazos

          He continued and noted that “In many ways, our students and graduates will face the same kind of challenges and issues that every artist confronts each time he or she sets up in front of a blank canvas. The fundamental questions never really change regardless of the medium of expression. They will always be:

What do I want to say?

How can I best say it?

What will it take to get the job done?

Do I have what it takes?

Total Pageviews


Blog Archive