Archive for July 2010

Bravo's Work of Art: In Defense of Jaclyn Santos

Much ado has been made of artist Jaclyn Santos' sexuality on Bravo's Work of Art this season, so much so that it has become a running secondary theme throughout each episode. As the remaining artists inch closer to the finale, it's been something of a missed opportunity for Bravo that the show has not chosen to open a real debate about female provocation and feminist ideas in art, particularly in regards to the television format, where the exploitation of women is a constant. Instead, they have often edited the show for maximum titillation purposes, even taking clips of Ms. Santos working in various states of undress for frequent teaser ads and showing the other contestants discussing her incessant need for attention through nudity and suggesting that she is incapable of her own ideas.

I know Jaclyn Santos personally, and she is cerebral, thoughtful, immensely talented and incredibly knowledgeable about fine art. One only needs to read her blog to see this. ( She has worked as an assistant to master pop artist Jeff Koons and is very sensitive to the use of sexuality in art. Santos' genius (and the main reason why I believe she continues to advance on the show with a strong possibility to win) comes with her quiet awareness that her body is a medium in and of itself since it stirs up so much controversy. Yes, she is an attractive woman. And with that comes a lifetime of learning how to personally deal with the infamous "male gaze." As a good feminist artist, she refuses to separate this essential part of herself from her work. She has been successfully able to let this attention on the show fuel around her, and then harness it back into her pieces.

It is mainly a male perception that an extremely attractive female artist would revert to nudity as an act of overt power or "control" (such as contestant Miles Mendenhall has suggested)...rather it is only through personal vulnerability that she can finally gain control of the male gaze. One only has to be in the room of a Vanessa Beecroft performance piece to understand the massive power of that kind of female exposure. There is a difference between the creation of the work and the final piece itself. She is not undressing for the camera/television audience but rather for the ultimate artwork.

I am reminded of Gustave Courbet's 1866 graphically sexual realist painting, "L’Origine du monde" and then subsequently Serbian feminist artist Tanja Ostojić's 2005 satiric "EU Panties" poster, suggesting that "foreign women are only welcome in Europe when they drop their underwear." They both still have the uncanny power to shock even though they are over 100 years apart, and both are still discussed as pornographic. This is because a woman's nude body will continue to be seen as a controversial and political statement artistically as long as our culture continues to treat it as such, still debating about what are her acceptable moral choices as an individual, and debasing it for entertainment's sake. Bravo's Work of Art could have taken that theme and educated. Ms. Santos is aware of this and for that she is on her way to becoming a feminist artist to watch.

Heide Hatry: Imagine It Thick In Your Own Hair

Imagine It Thick In Your Own Hair: I received an invite today for a benefit and silent auction for the victims of the Gulf Coast oil spill, by German visual artist and curator Heide Hatry, in conjunction with a silent auction of work by numerous artists. At the Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge, MA through August 1, 2010.

With strong support from artists Marina Abramovic and Joel-Peter Witkin on Hatry's site this is sure to be an interesting show.

The exhibition includes paintings, sculptures and artist book and some of the work will include actual animals such as birds, opossums, rats and mice.

Using road kill and found animal corpses, Hatry creates scenes suggestive of what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico today. Her pigments are actual oil and tar and other “organic” materials that are the substance of the disaster. Life is a circle. Even the repugnant oil that is responsible for destroying life and land was once living animals and plants itself.

Drawing: "Dreams climb other dreams and then pass right through" by Liz Insogna

Tasya van Ree...this time it's photography.

Another beautiful invitation from Tasya, and even though i know I just posted about her, this show seems too delicious to pass up as well. August 11th at 345 N. Canon Beverly Hills 9 oh two one oh.

Princess Hijab's "Veiling Art" in Paris.

A "graffiti artist" in Paris has been going around the city incognito late at night and painting face veils over models displayed in posters and billboards. The woman, who calls herself "Princess Hijab", says the so-called "hijab-ising" of the models is just art and not a religious statement. Al Jazeera followed her one night.

Tasya Van Ree

I recently discovered Los Angeles artist and photographer Tasya Van Ree. Her paintings are dreamy and lyrical, evoking fairy tales and fantasies. See her "rapturous and romantic" pieces for yourself at her upcoming exhibit: "Birthmarks of the Feminine," this Friday, July 9th at 6432 Santa Monica Blvd. For more information see her website.