Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

An afternoon with Dan Zimmerman

April 17, 2009

Howard the fail

April 7, 2009

Failure goes by many names. Waterloo. The Edsel. The ’62 Mets. Joey. These disasters can fairly be called upon to convey calamity on a large scale. But some reputations for failure are undeserved. Here’s one: Howard the Duck, a synonym for artistic and financial disaster since the premiere of a little-loved movie in late-summer 1986. Released with great fanfare and rejected emphatically by critics and audiences alike, Howard the Duck quickly became a favorite target of late-night comics (and even, in one episode, The Golden Girls). It wasn’t available on DVD until last month.

Howard the Duck, the movie, is as bad as you’ve heard. Actually, it’s worse. But its failings as a film have overshadowed the frequently brilliant 1970s comic book that inspired it. Using only the most superficial elements of its source material while discarding most of what made the comic interesting, the film serves as a textbook example of how to turn something into nothing.

Keith Phipps

Cassette tape art

March 29, 2009

Someone on Flickr who goes by iri5 has figured out one way to repurpose old cassette tapes as shown in the above image. 

You can check out six other cassette tape celebrity portraits in iri5’s Ghost in the Machine set HERE.

(Hat Tip: Boing Boing)

Long live gravity

March 27, 2009

By Matthew Ralph

“Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary
some in the wrong direction
Practice resurrection”

When I heard these familiar lines of poetry recited in the opening moments of a play celebrating the farmer, author, poet and activist Wendell Berry on Thursday, I felt a chill come over me like I have seldom experienced watching a stage production.

Practice resurrection. Two words of the 1973 poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” that, repeated while a hammer dulcimer played softly in the background, nearly moved me to tears as I pondered the deep meaning behind a simple, yet insightful turn of a phrase.

The poetry of Wendell Berry is full of moving moments like that, times where a simple phrase, a humorous anecdote or an observation of the natural world triggers the so-called light bulb of our minds to ever so gracefully turn on.

Wild Blessings, a new play based on Berry’s poetic works, is billed as a celebration of a faithful steward, a friendly neighbor, a loving husband and a kind of modern day prophet claimed by environmentalists, literature enthusiasts, Christians and conservatives alike. But the 75-minute play is as much a celebration of the things Berry has inspired readers for decades to appreciate, enjoy and protect. 

Aided by the lurid sounds of a hammer dulcimer and the striking photographic and video images visible through a large wall resembling a bay window in the middle of the stage and an even larger screen behind it, the play features four actors – an older couple and a younger one – dramatically reading Berry’s words. The actors march in circles, dance, play violin, guitar and percussion and sing. The hammer dulcimer player also sings, but the music mostly provides the soothing backdrop for the words that indirectly weave (using only words from Berry’s pen) a narrative of a slightly mad farmer, out of place in the city who falls in love, returns to the fields, raises a family and fights to hold onto the simple, beautiful things in life like family, friends and God’s creation.

Following along, even for someone familiar with many of his works, was somewhat dizzying at times. Unlike reading the words on a page, the combination of stunning visuals, soothing music and dramatic acting gives little time for you to completely digest. Breaks in the action do occur and the topically connected transitions are generally well played (he titles of poems flash on the screen as the images change), but as the play inches intermission-less toward the finish it does make you wish you could hit pause or maybe rewind on a few of the scenes.

An outline in the playbook might have been helpful as a guide, but in the end Wild Blessings succeeds in maintaining a lot of the subtlety, humor and vivid description that make reading Wendell Berry’s poetry such an enriching and life-giving experience. It doesn’t tell you how to think or lecture about why mountain top removal, conspicuous consumption or infidelity should be avoided. It shows you what you are missing when you trade in natural beauty, elegance and grace for artificial comfort, perceived safety and reckless convenience.

In other words, it shows you what it means to practice resurrection.

Wild Blessings is appearing until April 26 at The Actors Theatre of Louisville as part of the Humana Festival of New American Plays. Click HERE for more information.

Detroit’s beautiful, horrible decline

March 18, 2009

French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre took this and other harrowing photos of the motor city collected in a TIME photo essay.

YouTube remixed

March 13, 2009

There’s more remix magic from the one called Kutiman HERE.

(Hat Tip: Sink or Schwim)

Bad art you can believe in

March 3, 2009

I have a friend who attributes much of the bad art he sees to a “world famous artist” named Gary Gooper.

I don’t know Gary Gooper’s political affiliation if he even has one, but I’m pretty sure he approves of the staggering work of genius No. 44 has already inspired less than two months into his residency in the White House. 

Some of those works have been collected in an easy to click and view gallery at

Within heaven’s earshot

February 25, 2009

Long before Christian growly-voiced Creed imitators were populating radio airwaves across the Bible belt and CCM was short-hand for a profitable industry in Nashville, there was a creepy puppet named Little Marcy singing Sunday School songs and hanging out with Smokey the Bear.

There were also Pentecostal preacher A.A. Allen recording what he claimed was an honest to goodness demon spirit speaking the words “I am Lucifer” through a possessed woman, Captain Hook and his Christian Pirate Puppets and dozens of singing groups clad in their Sunday best like the Crawford family were on their album “Aboard Heaven’s Choo-choo.”

Many of these religious records were in short supply to begin with and have been out of print for decades, but collectors who have salvaged them from dusty attics, yard sales and dirty thrift store record bins have preserved hundreds of vinyl from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that, as an L.A. Times article previewing an art exhibit opening next month put it, wear “their religion on their record sleeves.”

Opening March 13 at the Synchronicity gallery in Los Angeles, the show entitled “Within Heaven’s Earshot,” will feature some 200 album covers in the vein of “Little Marcy Visits Smokey the Bear,” a record religious record collector Dan Bolles refers to as “one of the most twisted collaborations between fundamentalist Christians and a federal government fire prevention program (he’s) ever seen” in the L.A. Times piece.

Of course, no discussion or in this case art exhibit of bizarre religiously-themed vinyl would be complete without a song WFMU’s “Beware of the Blog” introduced me to several years ago – Lil Markie’s “Diary of an Unborn Child.”  

It makes even a grown woman singing with a creepy puppet named Marcy seem fairly normal. One can only imagine some of the kitschy company these records will have at an exhibit that is sure to be a hit.


February 23, 2009

If you managed to watch more than 45 minutes of tonight’s Oscar broadcast, you’re either far more patient than I or stuck in a studio apartment with a television that won’t turn off and only gets ABC. The appeal of the ceremony is along the same lines as the appeal of American Idol, and while I suppose I can understand it in some abstract way, it’s not something to which I can relate.

Peter Suderman

In A Dream trailer

February 20, 2009

Over the past four decades, Isaiah Zagar has covered more than 50,000 square feet of Philadelphia with stunning mosaic murals. In A Dream is a documentary feature film that chronicles his work and his tumultuous relationship with his wife, Julia. It follows the Zagars as their marriage implodes and a harrowing new chapter in their life unfolds.

For more on the film visit: