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Art (60 posts)
There was once a man who hated potholes. And why not? They're ugly, they're nuisances, at their worst they signal urban blight and decay. Who hasn't spewed NSFW invectives when a pleasant drive is jolted by an obscenely large crack in the street? Who hasn't attempted a graceful cab-hail and twisted an ankle in a sneaky pothole?
Well, one Brit named Steve Wheen, aka The Pothole Gardener, has taken the irritation that is the pothole and turned it into an art form by filling them with miniature gardens. Here is one of my favorite things that happens in this world: someone sees something grim and ugly and finds a small, good way to transform it. Flowers, moss, a few teensy props, and suddenly a mismanaged road is an enchanted other world. If only we could all be so creative and constructive with life's many annoyances.
Visit The Pothole Gardener blog for tons of these whimsical little plantings, including can't-miss videos! (via buzzfeed)
Guerilla Grafting Makes Decorative Trees Bloom
The Art of Trees
To convey creative spirit of this issue on our cover, we invited Brooklyn-based chalk-lettering designer Dana Tanamachi to run wild on a blackboard. The artist, who had previously worked at a high-end graphic design firm, found her calling at a housewarming party two years ago. "My friends had a chalk wall, so I grabbed a piece of chalk and started drawing the word Brooklyn on it. Pretty soon people were saying, 'This is awesome.'" Her first commissioned design was for a small SoHo furniture gallery. "I'd been making chalk designs for friends and around my community, so discovering that I could do this professionally was exciting."
Typically, Tanamachi finds inspiration in typography. "For an Americana-themed piece I looked to stamps, old currency, and documents." The O cover called for something dynamic and fun. So Tanamachi grabbed a box of bright chalk—a departure from her usual white—and got to work in the Chelsea studio where we were shooting. She doodled and sketched before taking her work full-scale. "Chalk is so temporary. I can make big, messy strokes, then erase and add. I just carve away and embellish until I end up with my final design."
In this fascinating segment, musicologist David Huron explains why so many of us (50% of the population!) love to listen to sad music. As Huron mentions, usually people try to avoid negative emotions like sadness. So why do we turn to dramatic string adagios and mournful Chris Isaak ballads when we could be listening to Cee Lo Green in a constant, bouncy loop? Part of it, says Huron, is the contrast. When you feel sad for a few moments, particularly what he calls "pseudo-sadness," where there's no real reason for the emotion (crucially differentiated from grief or depression), it feels even better when you stop. Writer Amanda Stern weighs in too, describing the difference between the music that makes her sad and the music that makes her cry. The way I see it, a tale of woe like George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today," is brutally, wonderfully sad, but it's the soaring melancholy of the music that makes the Reciitar! aria from the opera Pagliacci a tear-jerker.
So just why is it so delicious to cry to a song? It's that same residue-free release one gets from crying to a book or movie. I love to read Edith Wharton novels and weep. That doesn't mean I like to be sad in my life—as Stern says, we are always trying to avoid unpleasant emotions in real life. But when you can experience the catharsis without the personal pain, live through powerful emotions without having to actually, you know, live through them, it's a powerful moment, perhaps the very reason we seek to create and experience art in the first place. So in answer to the question, am I listening to sad music because I am depressed—No, I'm listening to it because I'm not depressed, and because in 3 minutes or so the exquisite sadness will end, and go back to being someone else's pain.
Listen to the entire Soundcheck clip to learn how sadness is like an allergy, the scientific explanation for why some music elicits tears, and to hear the saddest song of all time.
Movies to Bawl To
It's Okay to Cry
One artist has come up with a brilliantly simple way to face his fears: writing them all down. Brian Rea has created two large-scale murals by listing all of his many fears, from debt to head trauma. As he told Fast Company, "I discovered like most people I had a lot of fears...I began to catalog them: physical fears, natural fears, political fears, random, emotional." One of the murals resembles a large diagram, listing Rea's many fears grouped into categories, while the other features illustrations of one of his main fears. (Visit Fast Company to see the striking images of the murals and to learn what Rea's main fear is!)
It's a great idea for an art exhibit, but I also think we could all learn something from Rea's technique. As journallers everywhere can attest, sometimes all it takes to start feeling better about something is to write it down. Anyone can put up a chalkboard, grab some chalk, and start scribbling away. You could even invite everyone in your family to join—that's sure to inspire some interesting conversations. And maybe those really scary things (like Ricky Gervais) will start to seem less scary after all.
6 Ways to Conquer Your Fears
Advice For Living Without Fear
If one of your resolutions was to be more creative, perhaps you should take part in a large-scale art project and have your work exhibited in New York City. No, really! All you have to do is sign up for The Sketchbook Project, an exciting community arts initiative. Thousands of artists, from novices to seasoned veterans, are participating, and there's still room for more to join. When you sign up they send you a blank sketchbook and a due date. You then traipse through daily life buoyed by inspiration, seeing the beauty in everything. (I mean, I'm assuming that's how it works.) Then, starting this summer, all the sketchbooks will be archived and displayed at the Brooklyn Art Library, where the public can view it and proclaim your creative genius. (Again, I'm assuming.)
Here is a great video made by one of the participants, documenting the evolution of his sketchbook's cover:
One collaborator, a retiree from Australia, says of the project, "I was inspired by previous sketchbooks that participants have made. It gave me a purpose, a deadline, and a challenge." Another says, "Knowing that my work will be out there for people to people is an amazing feeling."
If the idea sounds daunting, let me just say that even an amateur like me can vouch for the transformative power of
keeping a sketchbook. I took an art class in college where one of the
assignments was to keep a sketchbook in which you would draw or paint
the same thing—I chose the view from my kitchen window—a different
way every week, and I can still viscerally feel the deep satisfaction I
got from my crappy oil pastels of pigeons. The teacher assured us that
tackling the same subject again and again would help us to see the thing
more deeply and what do you know, she was right! I haven't lived in
that apartment in almost a decade, and yet I can picture the view from
that window precisely. Seeing things more deeply, and having your artwork on display? Whether you're an artist looking for community or a creative person seeking a an assignment, The Sketchbook Project might be just the thing to get you through the winter.
Maybe I read too many haunted house books as a kid, but there's always something about an abandoned building that makes me shiver. It's so sad to see a storefront, once some entrepreneur's hard-won dream, empty and shuttered; depressing to visit a city neighborhood and realize there's nowhere to buy an apple. So I love this photography project envisioned by Emily Schiffer, called See Potential.
A public arts initiative, See Potential seeks to take vacant lots and abandoned buildings and transform them with large-scale photographs portraying healthy food shops or community gardens. According to the website, "In the South Side of Chicago, a lack of access to affordable, healthy foods is holding a community captive to circumstance."I love the idea that these large photo installations not only create striking images, transforming dilapidated buildings into art galleries, but also encourage the community to appreciate the potential of where they live (and get involved themselves by contributing photographs and ideas). Here is art that not only comments on a problem but seeks to transform it. It's gutsy, it's exciting, and it's a call to action to see the potential in even the most depressed of places.
Or guerrilla fruit grafting. As the Huffington Post reports, "For the past year, the renegade group has been secretly splicing San Francisco's strictly decorative apple and pear trees with fruit-bearing grafts, causing the city's previously barren trees to become heavy with fresh apples and pears. The group aims to use the city's preexisting trees to provide 'delicious, nutritious fruit for urban residents,' and basically feed anyone who is hungry in the process." The group's open source code site offers advice on finding graftable trees and tracks how the grafts are going. Okay, so some San Francisco city officials may be symbolically throwing their wet rags to the ground ("The City considers vandalism a serious offense," Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru told the Examiner). But really, how upset can anyone be over beautiful, delicious fruit?
Art is Everywhere:
Lunch Bag Art
So Haslip—who trained as a painter in her native Alabama—started inviting local kids to her basement for art workshops she called the Little Black Pearl (LBP). "People thought I was crazy," she admits. But she soon received a $466,000 grant that helped her recruit local artists as teachers. Her goal: to help kids imagine a future for themselves beyond their blighted blocks. "I wanted them to see people who look like them, making a living as artists," she says.
By 2005 LBP was so popular that Haslip, aided by the city, opened a 40,000-square-foot art and design center, complete with ceramic and painting studios and a darkroom. LBP now serves hundreds of kids each year (many of whom are wards of the state). Students learn to market and sell their work in the space's gallery; proceeds go to support LBP's programs.
In September Haslip, now 46, realized her latest dream: an on-site high school, which welcomed 175 kids, most of whom are academically challenged or at risk of dropping out. She says she hopes LBP's unique resources will help them "want to go to school again." As she notes, "Art touches kids in ways that other things can't."
9 great ways to connect with your world
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Artists can find beauty in the most unexpected places. A piece of steel. A length of rope. An online mapping service. Yes, Mashable has highlighted five artists who use imagery found on Google Maps to create unique and in some cases uniquely moving works of art. Want a mini-vacation? Click through Aaron Hobson's Beautiful Images of Remote Locations. Then there's "Address is Approximate," the sweet stop-animation film about an adventurous desk toy who drives off into the sunset, courtesy of, what else, Google Maps. There's a darker side to the Google Map world, too -- compilations of sneaky views into impoverished areas of America or screengrabs of prostitutes in rural Italy. The images possess a strange, blurry beauty. Technology can be such a drag, the computer screen such a drain, but here's a reminder that even the most mundane tools can create art.
More art in unexpected places:
Lunch bag art
An artist with multiple personalities