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Brennen Cabrera: The Grit And Grime Of Art – Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO Weekly)

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Brennen Cabrera’s art is fluid, changeable and explores their interest in what is raw, textural, dirty and destructive. It analyzes life at its most base and atomic level. They don’t create without the audience in mind but much of the work explores issues personal to them. Audiences are given an experience that helps frame the concepts Cabrera presents. Cabrera is thoroughly modern, connected in the usual continuum of art’s legacy but working in a world, at large, challenged with diseases like COVID or, now, Monkeypox — illnesses that result from those diseases — and technology. Cabrera’s creative problem to solve, just like their contemporary artist counterparts, is also one created by modern living.

LEO: Talk to me about your art practice? 

Brennen Cabrera: I consider myself multidisciplinary, however, my main focus is mixed media painting with sculptural elements. Drawing, performance and my cellphone approach to experimental video are the other areas. I have a studio in Clifton, and I also work from my apartment that’s a healthy distance away by bike or foot. When it comes to mixed media, I commonly use acrylic paints and mediums, dry pigments, unprimed canvas and wood surfaces. Sometimes I use unconventional materials like dirt and human blood. I’m interested in rawness, texture, destruction and grime. I like things that faced the elements. I do a lot of layering, staining, distressing, mark-making, dialogue and occasionally realism. I look at a lot of things on my walks, like scratches, marks and residue on different surfaces. A lot of what I look for in those surface obstructions is subtlety, but they most definitely get a lot more obvious. I’ve been focusing a lot on a minimal color palette and incorporating vibrant colors when I feel it’s necessary. I find myself interested in black and white, colors associated with nature, and liminalist colors like muted tones and pastels. When I get to the studio, I put on some music or an arthouse film and get to creating. My work is both planned or unplanned. Planned, of course, comes with a drawing or reference on paper or a phone. If it’s unplanned, I do have a concept in mind, but no visual reference, and I go by observation of the piece over time. I apply these things when doing something performative/filmed as well.

When performing the piece, I must document through video and photography. I also have relics, which are the things I interacted with or wore during the performances. I make time to do computer work, social media, and of course, go out to support other artists in the community.

How do you use art as a way to tell a personal story? Do you try to reach others with it or is it more about catharsis and process for yourself?

As an independent queer autistic man, some of my work shares personal stories. I never wanted any of my art to be just for myself, even if it is cathartic. I think it’s important as marginalized artists to share personal experiences both pleasurable and painful to society to find relativity, understanding and artistic growth. I find that performance art can be an interesting and different ballgame when telling something personal. An example would be my most recent event, Come to Church. I snapped when I started working on it. A few meltdowns in the space where it was going to be. It wasn’t from building the set but more from what was on my mind.

I wanted something immersive. I wanted the audience to experience overstimulation and the horrors of ableism. I also felt that being vulnerable with my struggles and mistakes would show I’m just as human as anyone else. Dehumanization is common in the autism community. So, when I did this performance, I presented myself as the monster neurotypical society perceived me as, Dimitri Bellrock. Dimitri is shadow work and a vessel for expressing stigmatization, abuse and trauma. He’s also an outlet for my sexuality, comedic openness and rage. I never think of him as acting because everything feels real with him. I was going to confess things in this performance, so I thought a church environment was the way to go. The confession was quite long and was a welter of trauma, anger, sins I was sorry for, so-called sins I was not sorry for and justice sensitivity. After this confessional sermon, I unrobed myself, naked and covered in dirt. I lifted and rolled away a tire I sat in during confession, walked down an aisle of chain-link fencing to un-dulled barbed wire which I wrapped around my unprotected eyes. Then came continuous flagellation with a rope and electrical cord that I dipped in metal buckets of fake blood. With every lash to the back, I would return the blow to a canvas in front of me that was covered in layers of ableist and conflicting dialogue. The whole time this performance was going on, there was color changing and fluctuating light along with rumbling sound from two speakers. We increased the volume so that the room started shaking after the confession and Lord’s Prayer. I need to be accommodating so I made sure that earplugs were available and reminded people to bring glasses that would reduce light if it was too much. The audience was made up of neurodiverse, neurotypical, and ableists. That’s an intense example.

Who are the artists that you look to for inspiration?

I love Francis Bacon, Louise Bourgeois and Tracy Emin. Artists of my childhood would be Monet, Salvador Dalí and Alberto Giacometti. Artists who make things for the stage and screen are also artists I enjoy. Ingmar Bergman, Lars Von Trier, Gaspar Noe and Dario Argento are just a few for film. For stage, it’s a lot of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Any upcoming shows?

I am currently working on a solo exhibition for Surface Noise on Baxter. I look back at everything I have compiled in the studio, and I am very happy with what I have. Some pieces have not been seen yet. I also have more performance art ideas that I’m looking forward to working on.

What is your background with art and how did you get started?

I believe around 3 years old was when I started drawing. I was also doing pottery classes around that time. I grew up in the Presbyterian church. I didn’t like many of the reasons I attended, so I would run away to the library or workroom during services or events to make things. You would never find me without a pencil or paper. I started painting in watercolor in middle school with the church elders. I immediately stopped after the instructor passed away. Then one of my mother’s friends gave me her mother’s paints and pastels when she died. I started painting as soon as I got them and continued focusing on painting ever since. I attended atelier classes and workshops on and off in my childhood and teens. When I graduated high school, I only did art school for a week. I love teaching, so I did workshops for developmentally disabled adults and children at the library and for other organizations in the Louisville area. Then I did some interning, summer camp counseling, and volunteering in the Speed Art Museum’s studio programming, Art Sparks, and after-hour events. I was a private artist mentor and tutor a few times.

What themes are you exploring right now?

I use stimulation and overstimulation to explore mental health and environmental factors, ableism and accessibility, emotionality and eroticism. But ableism has been a big word on my mind for quite some time now. There is still plenty of stigma and structural issues when it comes to the lives of disabled people. I think it’s a very important subject society still overlooks. On a more stimulating note, I’m exploring eroticism and intimacy. Sex is a spectrum that I want to explore more of and how it affects the mind and body.

How does the duty of the modern artist differ from some artists in the past? What do you think we still have in common with previous artists?

Technology. Technology is a big difference I see in the duty of a contemporary artist compared to ones of the past. I think it’s vital for communication and getting your work seen to a wider audience. I think what artists have in common is that we look at the world through a philosophical lens, where art depicts the nature of knowledge, reality, and existence.

Have you had shows outside of Louisville? Where?

One of my first shows was a group show in Rosemont, Illinois. It was the gallery space in the Chicago O’Hare Intercontinental Hotel. I had the opportunity to have my work featured in an on-set interview on ‘Good Morning Chicago’ along with other amazing artists. I was in another group show titled, “Hidden Truths” in Cosa Mesa, California at The Gray Matter Museum of Art.
I have some acquisitions in public spaces in the boating village of Cape Vincent in Upstate New York and had some work shown in their local gallery The Breakwater. It’s a lovely little area with a lot of history.

Any collaborations with other local artists?

I do have plans to collaborate after this exhibition and I’m looking forward to what we make.

What’s on your creation playlist?

Diamanda Galás and plenty of metal. Also ambient electronic and classical music.

“Don’t Push, Pull,” by Brennen Cabrera.

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Want to own a piece of original artwork for just $5? You should play this lotto – CBC.ca

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Left: an acrylic and oil painting by Montreal-based painter David Bellemare, titled 21st Century Nagual. Right: handblown glass vase by Kayla Francis Della-Nebbia. (David Bellemare/Kayla Francis Della-Nebbia)

We all know original art can be expensive. But what if I told you that for just five bucks — and a little luck — you could buy an original work of art, while also supporting the artist as well as an important cause within the community? If that sounds too good to be true, well, then you just don’t know about ArtLotto yet.

Like so many artists, ArtLotto’s founder, Gabriel Baribeau, has struggled with an existential matter throughout his career. “Why am I doing this?” the artist will ask himself. “What is this for?” 

He wonders: “How can I make my art serve the people? How can I make my art politically powerful?” And, at the same time, he wonders: how can he make his art accessible?

Primarily known as a painter, Baribeau has had success in commercial settings before — but he doesn’t want to sell his work only to the wealthy. He wants to share it with friends and family, he says. But his labour requires compensation.

“I’m sitting there often feeling absurd, having multiple people say, ‘Oh, I wish I could own your art.’ And it’s like, ‘Yeah, well, here’s my hilarious price. Can you meet that?'”

So, disenchanted with traditional models of art commerce, Baribeau has come up with what seems to be a winning DIY solution: what if you raffle the art?

A sculptural jewelry holder with earrings by artist Jesse Hiss. (Jesse Hiss)

The Hamilton-based artist began ArtLotto in January 2021, launching the experiment with an oil painting of his own. (It pictured a person bobbing for apples, which, if coincidence, is an apt one.) ArtLotto has since raffled the work of some 20 other creators, raising thousands of dollars for the artists as well as thousands more for community causes close to their hearts. Entry tickets to win the artworks — some of which could fetch hundreds or even thousands if sold by a dealer — cost just $5 each. 

“It is built to be a disruptor of the single-wealthy-buyer model that the art world runs on,” Baribeau says. He emphasizes, though, that it doesn’t dispel the idea that art ownership is mainly for the rich. The raffle can only give people a small chance to play in the game.

Beyond its novel luck-of-the-draw feature, what really sets ArtLotto apart is the way it splits the revenue pie. Typically, galleries take half the sticker price of an artwork, leaving the other half for the art-maker. ArtLotto, on the other hand, takes 20 per cent (or $1 from each ticket) of raffle proceeds to cover base costs, like shipping and website maintenance. The remaining 80 per cent is then split between the artist and a social initiative of their choosing.

Left: an acrylic painting by Montreal-based artist Katie McDonald titled Release. Right: a diorama by Hamilton-based artist Andrea Flockhart, titled The Sin Eater. (Katie McDonald/Andrea Flockhart)

This added dimension seeks partly to answer that ever-present ache: “What is this for?” The act of art-making alone “isn’t in any way altruistic,” Baribeau says. “That’s the problem that leaves a lot of these artists who want to be good people squirming.” Giving the art a social mission, as ArtLotto does, enables the artist’s work to do good directly in their community — and do it without costing the artist their livelihood. Some of the causes ArtLotto has benefitted thus far include the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, Sex Workers’ Action Program Hamilton and Resilience Montreal. One of the first questions Baribeau asks any prospective raffle artist is who would they like to help. 

As for the art on offer, ArtLotto’s curatorial tastes are eclectic, with an inclination toward the psychedelic and the adventurous. Baribeau selects the artists himself, featuring creators whose work he admires with nary a concern for CV highlights or exhibition credentials. That means a wildly talented high school student might star in one lotto, while the work of an MFA who’s shown internationally might comprise another. Baribeau invites the artist to contribute whatever work they want, whether it’s their most saleable, something new and challenging, or a piece they’d just really like to liquidate. Some works would be gallery darlings, while some would never make it through the doorways of a traditional commercial space. But ArtLotto “levels the playing field,” Baribeau says.

Usually, I’m at a market and I’m talking to hundreds of people and I’m really hustling to get that sale…This process involved none of that.– Sonali Menezes, artist

Without the white cube’s high art context, ticket buyers respond to raffle items simply because they admire them, and appreciation alone establishes value. A charcoal drawing by the London, U.K.-based artist Sara Anstis, for example, inspired another Londoner — “presumably a collector,” Baribeau says — to snatch up a ton of tickets. “They were buying the win,” he says. But ArtLotto’s randomizer favoured a different admirer. When Baribeau reached out to congratulate the winner, he shared a bit about the artist’s impressive background with them. And they said: “I’m glad you told me, cuz I was gonna Scotch tape it to my kid’s wall…. I just liked it.”

Perhaps ArtLotto’s biggest success, however, is the fact that it’s more or less sustainable for artists. Participants are not offering up their works at a painful discount — the raffle model often raises roughly the target price they would regularly receive for the item, Baribeau says. “And, in some cases, it hits way above that mark.”

Sonali Menezes, whose interdisciplinary practice includes printmaking, zinemaking, performance, video and poetry, was one of ArtLotto’s very first artists. “Usually, I’m at a market and I’m talking to hundreds of people and I’m really hustling to get that sale,” she says, “to make up the tabling cost and the transportation costs, the printing costs, my lunch. There’s a fair bit of stress and anxiety around ‘Will I break even? Will I make a profit?’ And this process involved none of that.” Her print, The Hairy Bather, raised more than double its target price. 

Another successful lotto featured Hamilton-based painter Kareem-Anthony Ferreira, whose star has grown internationally over the past few years (yes, that’s his work hanging in LeBron James’ dining room). Ferreira contributed a print portrait of his Aunty Pam with raffle proceeds supporting the Hamilton Youth Steel Orchestra, the local steelpan band his mom co-founded nearly 20 years ago. The art was about family and the raffle supported a cause dear to the family, so the Ferreiras and their community supported the lotto enthusiastically.

“It’s this kind of continuous thing,” Ferreira says, “giving back to the community, using my talent and heritage to give back to that program, which is itself giving back … I’ve already told Gabe to slot me in again.”

A silkscreen print by Hamilton-based artist Kareem-Anthony Ferreira called Aunty Pam. (Kareem-Anthony Ferreira)

Baribeau considers this a rare example of a “closed loop” — when all stakeholders (the artist, the social cause and the audience) are intimately connected. It is a powerful dynamic, and one he’d like to emulate in future raffles. In fact, as the project grows, Baribeau would like ArtLotto to do less of the sort of philanthropic work that simply airdrops one-time donations to area charities and organizations and do more direct service within the community that ArtLotto is itself building. He can imagine classes, workshops, grants and sponsorships all funded by ArtLotto. This sort of social development, after all, is the true strength of the project.

The raffle will not overturn the way the larger art market does business, but that was never its mission. Instead, ArtLotto emphasizes that “there are artists everywhere in your community,” Baribeau says. “Its goal is to show that and to better connect artists to their community.”

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Was Warhol's Transformative Art Transformative Enough? – New York University

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NYU Law’s Amy Adler examines the role of fair use in contemporary art law ahead of the Supreme Court hearing of Warhol Foundation v. Goldsmith

Andy Warhol popularized the notion that everyone would eventually experience 15 minutes of fame. But even he couldn’t predict that someday, posthumously, he and Prince would be the headliners in a case headed to the US Supreme Court.  

Litigation in The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. v. Goldsmith began in 2017, when the art foundation preemptively sued celebrity photographer Lynn Goldsmith, who alleged copyright infringement by Warhol on a portrait she took of Prince. Goldsmith photographed the musician  in 1981, and licensed the black and white portrait to Vanity Fair for an article titled “PURPLE FAME” in 1984. Warhol then cropped and colored the image , and its edited version appeared in the magazine. Before Warhol passed away in 1987, he created 15 more images from  that  same original Prince photo. 

When Prince died in 2016, Vanity Fair printed one of them, which prompted Goldsmith’s claims of copyright infringement. Much of the litigation focused on whether or not Warhol had transformed Goldsmith’s photograph to give it new meaning, which  is central to the Foundation’s argument that Warhol’s design is legal under the fair use doctrine. 

So what constitutes fair use? Fair use doctrine permits third parties to use copyrighted work without an owner’s permission. The work may be used for news reporting, teaching, research, and other purposes. 

Under the Copyright Act, four factors are considered in determining fair use: (1) the purpose and character of the use; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used, and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

In 2019, Judge John G. Koeltl of the Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled in favor of the Warhol Foundation, saying that Warhol had adequately transformed the photograph “from a vulnerable, uncomfortable person to an iconic, larger-than-life figure.” But shortly thereafter, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York reversed Judge Koeltl’s ruling.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear this dispute in its new term, which begins in October 2022. In the past, the  court has deemed a work transformative if it “adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning, or message.”  

NYU News spoke with Emily Kempin Professor of Law Amy Adler about fair use in contemporary art law and the implications of this dispute’s elevation to the Supreme Court. Adler is a leading expert on art law and the First Amendment.

After the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed Judge Koetl’s ruling, the Warhol Foundation argued that the ruling “casts a cloud of legal uncertainty over an entire genre of visual art” and would threaten “a sea-change in the law of copyright.” What makes this case novel? 

As with so much of Warhol’s art, the paintings in this case were based on an underlying photograph taken by someone else. Here Warhol’s works were based on a photograph of the musician Prince, taken by Patricia Goldsmith, a well-known rock and roll photographer. Warhol’s traditional working method in painting and prints relied on underlying photographic images. The images of Prince at issue in this case fit into his genre of paintings based on photographs of celebrities; his most famous works in this genre are his portraits of Jackie Kennedy and Marylin Monroe. One of his Marylin Monroe paintings sold at auction this spring for $195,000,000.

At stake in the Supreme Court case is a fundamental question pivotal to contemporary art: how much can an artist build on previous work to create new work? So much creativity, not just in art but across all fields, depends on the answer to that question. The implications of this case are not just for visual art; the implications are for creativity itself.  Everything is up for grabs right now.

What is fair use and why does it matter?

Fair use is a defense to copyright infringement.  In this case, the Andy Warhol Foundation is arguing that Warhol copied the underlying image—of course he copied that image—but he did so for reasons that go to the very heart of why we have copyright in the first place. Copyright law exists to stimulate the production of new works, new ideas, new messages, new meanings, and new creativity. The Warhol estate argues that Warhol used Goldsmith’s copyrighted work in a way that did not violate copyright law, but instead fulfilled copyright’s very goal: to further new creativity for the benefit of the public.  

It’s important to see that fair use—rather than a minor exception in copyright law—is instead at copyright’s center. It ensures that creators can create new works by building on old works, a process that is essential to creativity itself and thus to the very goal copyright exists to promote.

Fair use is also urgent because it’s one of the only two places in which the First Amendment provides a check on the limited monopoly that copyright affords to creators. The Supreme Court has explained that fair use is a First Amendment “safeguard.” The fair use check on copyright is essential to ensure that copyright functions as an “engine of free expression” rather than an obstacle to it. 

Which of the four “fair use” factors do you anticipate will be the hardest part of making a ruling for the Supreme Court?

The first factor, the” purpose and character” of the use, presents a challenge. In the past twenty years, this factor, which generally turns on a determination of whether the new work “transforms” the previous work, giving it new meaning, message, purpose, or character, has generated huge amounts of litigation and legal scholarship.

When evaluating what makes an Andy Warhol painting of the musician different from Patricia Goldsmith’s photograph, we must consider the “meaning and message” of his art. Warhol’s entire body of work was an inquiry into questions about the nature of art itself, and into a world that was increasingly dominated by photography, celebrity, and pop culture. He was asking questions such as: What is the difference between pop culture and “high” art? What is the nature of photography? How should we think about originality and authorship in mediums like photography which are capable of unlimited copies?  Coming on the heels of mid-century abstract expressionism in art, Warhol was destabilizing the idea of an original, authentic work of art. He was ultimately a philosopher of art, perhaps even more than an artist. This is why Warhol changed the history of art. If the point of copyright law is to promote creativity, then it seems obvious that we would want to protect an artist like Warhol. 

But this presents a huge problem for courts. We certainly don’t want courts to play favorites and to value only famous artists. But there’s a deeper problem: To understand what makes Warhol’s work different from Goldsmith’s for purposes of fair use requires courts to adjudicate the “meaning and message” of art—and that is a preposterous position for courts to be in. But the danger is that if courts don’t do so or don’t find some way to find a proxy for the meaning and message of art, then art and creativity will be eviscerated. Of course Warhol was creating a new meaning and message— but how should courts understand that this is the enterprise he was engaging in and how should the Supreme Court guide lower courts. This is such a difficult line to draw, and yet drawing it is essential for copyright law and for the free speech values it promotes. 

The other most prominent factor is the fourth, which examines the effect of the use upon the potential market for the copyrighted work. If the second work acts as a market substitute for the first, thus usurping demand, that weighs against a finding of fair use. 

What makes this case and its elevation to the Supreme Court unique?

It’s the first time the Court has considered fair use in an artistic context in almost 30 years, when the Court explored fair use in music, and will be the first Supreme Court case addressing fair use in the visual arts. Last year the Supreme Court decided a significant case involving fair use of computer code, but the question of fair use in the visual arts has been an extraordinarily prominent and vexed problem for lower courts for years. People are holding their breath awaiting the outcome of this case. I know I’ve been holding my breath for a long time waiting for the Court to make a pronouncement here.

Several groups of art and law professors, as well as the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, and Brooklyn Museum have filed amicus briefs in support of the Warhol Foundation. What will the Supreme Court be looking for when reviewing them?  

One thing foundations and museums have emphasized in their amicus briefs is that the Court must understand how important copying is to creativity in visual art. The museums want to protect artistic progress and they recognize that to do so, artists must have some room to build on, allude to, and transform works that came before them. 

I also co-authored an amicus in this case, weighing in on the First Amendment implications of this decision because, as I mentioned previously, fair use embodies not just notions that are central to copyright law itself and to creativity, but also to the First Amendment. The right to express yourself sometimes requires you to draw on existing images or existing ideas. I think it’s so important for the Court to consider that fair use fulfills not only copyright values, but First Amendment ones as well. This case therefore has significant implications not only for the future of creativity, but also for free speech. 

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MOCAT hosting community art dialogues ahead of art show on Overdose Awareness Day – Mission City Record

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Ahead of International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD), the Mission Overdose Community Action Team (MOCAT) is hosting a series of community art dialogues throughout August, dubbed Beyond Abstracts: Do You See What I See.

They are inviting Mission residents to join the sessions at the Mission Friendship Centre and other locations, where colourful abstract artwork will be created connected to the topic of B.C.’s toxic drug poisoning health emergency.

Art materials are supplied and no art experience is needed.

“People’s thoughts on abstract art can be quite diverse, we all see something different. Much the same with concepts like harm reduction, which can also seem abstract, and are often misunderstood” says Judith Pellerin, co-chair of the MOCAT.

“The sessions are a good way to connect people from different walks of life, learn other perspectives, and discover common ground.”

On IOAD on Aug. 31, the artwork will be on display at different businesses along 1st Avene for the Beyond Abstracts Community Art Show. The show is being held with the support of the Mission Downtown Business Association.

Live music, resource tables, refreshments, naloxone training and more dialogue on the topic will also happen at the event, which runs from 4 to 7 p.m.

For more information on the art sessions, contact MOCAT Coordinator Kat Wahamaa at 604-679-4463.

B.C. overdosesMission

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