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Cormac in the Gallery of Modern Art.

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More thoughts from me on art for kids (everyone).

Small child in the art gallery.

Play to your strengths.

Overheard in an art gallery.

Black people don’t go to art galleries.

More of December takes a strange turn.

“simple criteria when buying art: it had to be inexpensive, small enough to be carried on the subway or in a taxi and it had to fit inside their one-bedroom flat”.

When she turned 9.

I die of love.

Inspiration for your own plastic bag collection.

There’s been a lot of talk in the social media era about the end of authority — how networks of friends, say, have replaced experts, and Yelp taking over for food critics. That’s definitely part of what’s happening here with Kim, and so it’s tempting to see the phenomenon as sort of democratic. But I can’t help thinking the opposite is also happening — that we haven’t been liberated in the way we think about some cultural product or other, we have just learned to defer, just as totally, to a different authority — some sense of conventional wisdom.

Which makes me wonder: What do you think it means that it’s now a kind of conventional wisdom that Kim is someone worth thinking seriously about?

JS: Here’s where it may start to get really interesting. What might it mean that collective critical thinking, such as it is, in this case, the acceptance of Kim not as a freak show, huckster, or something sold, but instead as something self-created, self-aware, and sincere, with its own essences and vulnerabilities.

I think that we may be turning a corner away from what I think of as takedown culture. Of writers, commentators, critics, or those in authority taking to the airwaves or wherever and laying people low, grousing, snipping, passing all sorts of extraordinarily general disparagements of whole professions or trying to take someone out altogether. It all comes from cynicism, the feeling that the system is corrupt and that everything is rigged and nothing is what it seems. We all love a good critical catfight, but somehow, with these catfights and cynical demonizations becoming the way of mainstream media, I perceive the wider culture and the art world slowly trying to separate out and isolate this behavior for what it is: Headline-grabbing, grandstanding, gasbags, people scared of change, or afraid of going deeper. I saw a critic review the entire NADA art fair with two words: “I’m disappointed.” Other critics duck the issue altogether, preferring instead to just gripe about what another critic says. We have so many people using their energy now to attack how other people use their energy. This is the new nullity.

From Jerry Saltz and David Wallace-Wells “Jerry Saltz: How and why we started taking Kim Kardashian seriously (and what she teaches us about the state of criticism) in Vulture.

This piece is about art, poverty, classism, compassion, curiosity, commitment, reinvention, re-purposing, racism and rage, community and individualism, craftsmanship and capitalism, ritual and habit and some of how they all intersect:

If you walk along Dorchester Avenue it looks, as Gates says, like a decent street “but sometimes bad things happen. I have to say to my friends, violent things sometimes happen in this neighbourhood, and all the cleaning and sweeping in the world is not going to change the fact that among certain groups of young men and women here, rage is an entirely sensible reaction to their world. I get that. It is not always pretty, it is not always square.”

Gates says there has been no hostility to his efforts to revitalise some formerly “no-go area” blocks. “Well,” he qualifies, “the windows of my studio have been shot out four times by kids – you know, target practice. But I think part of that is a desire to know what is happening on the inside and there being no obvious way to ask. Part of me wants to just catch these brothers to invite them in. In general I’m a co-worker with my neighbours here. And though maybe they don’t have the platform of the Observer to talk about it, they have stuck with this place through many more dire moments than me. My hat’s off to them. They got on with it. They had no leveraging mechanism but they stayed here, and most tried to do the right things.”

And..

There is always a part beyond what man owes man. It’s like: some decisions, most decisions I make, are not the right smart market decisions, but they are important to me.”

Lately, along with a determined return to his potter’s wheel, Gates has been making – the headline act of the White Cube show – large-scale “tar paintings”, which are as they sound, canvases coated with whorls and geometries of viscous black. He made some of them with his father, now 80, who bequeathed him his tar kettle.

“I could make another kind of work,” he says. “But how about I just really lean into my dad’s tar kettle?”

He believes art, if it matters, has to have roots in autobiography.

“This is the thing about the art market. If a young kid isn’t invited to know what they have inside them, and how to unlock that, then what they have is just devices. And you pretty quickly run out of devices. I had a life before all this. The lights were off for me, I was out in the shed, but that was a really useful way into this world.”

From Tim Adams’ “Chicago artist Theaster Gates: ‘I’m hoping Swiss bankers will bail out my flooded South Side bank in the name of art” in The Guardian.

And the same message underpins private school scholarships; the idea that only the very gifted can attend such schools for free has the paradoxical logic of both validating the high fees and creating an illusion of meritocracy or superior moral worth. Still, if I had a dollar for every parent I know sweating on the outcome of their child’s scholarship exam, I’d be as rich as the elite schools themselves. Interestingly, the private school lobby likes to say that parents choose these schools  for their “values.” I’m not sure what values are at work in the scholarship system. The private schools would say they’re bequeathing opportunities to less advantaged kids. But these schools cherry-pick kids whose achievements will advantage the institution by attracting yet more fee-paying students. The only “value” exemplified is the value of commerce, with students analogous to high-yield investments.

These schools are in the business of sowing doubt, gutting state high schools of aspirational families and shredding egalitarianism. That’s not surprising; most businesses are driven by self-interest. But where Australia takes the cake for stupidity is paying these businesses for the privilege of undermining educational equity, and by extension, our nation’s economic growth.

We’ve heard time and again private schools claim an entitlement to public funds on the basis they’re “taking pressure off the public system.” In truth, they’re doing precisely the opposite. Luring high-performing students from the public system – whether by scholarship, other inducements or guilt-laced promotion – weakens the cultural mix at government schools, lowering expectations of the remaining students and transforming these schools into options of last resort.  And these “residual schools” are punishing on the public purse, requiring more equity funding to compensate for the concentration of kids from low socio-economic backgrounds, and more money for remedial and other interventions.

From Julie Szego’s “Private schools and their bankrupt propaganda” in The Age.

There was only one group of unmarried women for whom the birthrate increased in recent years: those 35 and older. In many cases, they are having babies outside of marriage by choice, with more resources and education than the typical single mother.

They are still a small minority. But if these trends continue, single motherhood could become less of a sign of family instability. It could increasingly become one of the new ways people are choosing to form families, in an era when both marriage and divorce are declining.

From Claire Cain Miller’s “Single motherhood, in decline over all, rises for women 25 and older” in The New York Times.

I just want to say… single motherhood has always been a sign of “the ways people are choosing to form families”.

In my opinion, we do an enormous “let them eat cake” disservice to our community when we obfuscate the circumstances that help us write, publish and in some way succeed. I can’t claim the wealth of the first author (not even close); nor do I have the connections of the second. I don’t have their fame either. But I do have a huge advantage over the writer who is living paycheck to paycheck, or lonely and isolated, or dealing with a medical condition, or working a full-time job.

How can I be so sure? Because I used to be poor, overworked and overwhelmed. And I produced zero books during that time. Throughout my 20s, I was married to an addict who tried valiantly (but failed, over and over) to stay straight. We had three children, one with autism, and lived in poverty for a long, wretched time. In my 30s I divorced the man because it was the only way out of constant crisis. For the next 10 years, I worked two jobs and raised my three kids alone, without child support or the involvement of their dad.

I published my first novel at 39, but only after a teaching stint where I met some influential writers and three months living with my parents while I completed the first draft. After turning in that manuscript, I landed a pretty cushy magazine editor’s job. A year later, I met my second husband. For the first time I had a true partner, someone I could rely on who was there in every way for me and our kids. Life got easier. I produced a nonfiction book, a second novel and about 30 essays within a relatively short time.

From Ann Bauer’s “”Sponsored” by my husband; Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from” in Salon.

riding

How I celebrated my birthday at the beginning of this year.

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