Seeing the Work of my art-hero, Bill Traylor, in actuality at Newark Museum.
Warhol at the Newark Museum
Unknown artist, probably carved for a movie theatre premier of ‘King Kong’.
Purvis Young at Newark Museum
Newark street art
Warhol at the Newark Museum
However I just had to check out one of the most important places on my ‘must see’ list in between my usual wanderings, urban art spotting and architectural voyeurism.
Impoverished artist I may be but one of my indulgences is a subscription to RawVision magazine, and it was in there that I found reference to the American Folk Art Musem.
This Museum was both wonderful…and disappointing.
The exhibition presently being shown is ‘Fever Within: The Art of Ronald Lockett’ an African American artist who was born and raised in Alabama and died of an HIV/AIDS related illness at 32, after only ten years of working as an artist.
Running alongside this was a ‘compliment exhibition, ‘Once Something has Lived it can Never Really Die.’ This borrows its title from a large assemblage by Lockett, and contains work by other non mainstream artists which exemplify, resonate and echo Locketts themes which were most often centred around vulnerability, fragilty, and a feeling of being brutally trapped.
These compliment pieces are so pagan, so animist…works of madness, shamanism, tribalism,magic and prisoners of war… and succeed at surrounding and magnifying the voice of Locketts own work
I loved this exhibition, the use of found objects, the animism and the feeling that nothing ever fully dies, is a belief that is a constant in my own work.
I really appreciated the fact that the museum acknowledged the artist’s work which had addressed issues of racial political and economic unrest in his own time, as being particularly relevant and pertinent to America at this time.
So what disappointed me about the Museum? The exhibition was great, the Museum was free, and there is a constant stream of related events and activities going on.
Well the Museum was tiny, which confused me as I knew that they owned a definitive and huge collection of Folk art.
Talking to one of the curators, it seems that they were unable to maintain the upkeep on their original premises and their neighbours, MoMA , bought them out (and had the building knocked down for redevelopment) and the main body of The American Folk Art Museum collection is now archived elsewhere.
It is possible to arrange a visit to see the archives, but it’s appointment only, so that will need to be another visit unfortunately.
A continuation from last night’s ‘taster’ blog about my talk at The Museum of Morbid Anatomy in Brooklyn.
I’ve had a rest, eaten plenty of carbs to ground me, and can step away from the post performance high to write about the experience with distance and hopefully a bit of clarity.
The Morbid Anatomy Museum is a non profit space that is an extension of the Morbid Anatomy Blog and Library. Aside from containing a wonderful and odd exhibition area, the building has a cafe, store, event space and gives a home to an intellectual salon that brings together artists, curators and passionate amateurs dedicated to ‘the things that fall through the cracks’.
In many ways the Museum represents an aspect of New York art that I’ve needed to experience to get a more full image of’ ‘the scene’. Non profit, off the wall and dynamic, but run with a professional passion that ensures its funding, the Museum is inspirational.
I’d been both worried and intrigued how my presentation would go down with Americans and also was curious to know if a U.S audience would ‘get me’ more than the British public. As a New Zealander (albeit one that is lived in the UK for many years) I’m very aware that the way I assemble information and interpret reality often differs from the British methodology. Coming from a relatively young culture built onto an old land with an indigenous tradition and little assimilation of these facets, there is a distinct contrast with England which has had centuries of integration of traditions. Britain could be seen to have more accessibility to the treasures of the past, but also perhaps, more difficulty in subverting it.
My talk went down very well, and to an extent I was right in my ability to relate well to an American audience who were very open to my tandem spinning. The audience were also inspiringly multi cultural, something which I have felt is lacking in the places I’ve spoken in, in the UK.
One thing about New York, is it is driven. I work incredibly hard, but I must admit that the energy and passion that is thrown into projects here, is overwhelming. Everything is possible, everything is an opportunity, and sleep is not an option.
Well it’s late at night, New York time and I’m floating down to earth after a fabulous evening at ‘The Museum of Morbid Anatomy’ where I just gave a presentation.
I’ve attached a few taster images above, and an outline and description of the event below, and will head off to bed to sleep off the post event buzz. I’ll return tomorrow to write up the event in more depth.
Stripped to the Core on the Road to Madness – Journey of the Shaman, Artist, Magical Practitioner – An illustrated lecture with Charlotte Rodgers and Khi Armand
Date: Wednesday, September 14th
Location: Morbid Anatomy Museum, 424 Third Avenue, 11215 Brooklyn
In 1913, Swiss psychologist and physician Carl Gustav Jung embarked on what his biographers have termed an imaginative journey populated by a wide host of characters engaging him in a nocturnal work that would result in, among other things, the recently released tome The Red Book: Liber Novus. Calling it his most difficult experiment, some have found parallels between Jung’s harrowing pilgrimage through the unconscious and the crises experienced by medicine people within indigenous cultural contexts.
These papers explore the journey often taken on the road to becoming an artist, magician, or shaman (or psychoanalyst!), which often entails what modern Western psychiatry deems a psychotic episode or break but in many cultures is known as a rite of passage – the popularly termed Madness Road of the cross-cultural phenomenon known as shaman sickness. In many cultures, initiation is both an unavoidable and necessary aspect of the human experience and being so, a required and regulated experience within traditional cultures around the world. By exploring different spiritual practices in various non Western cultures and the use of art as a necessary expression of transformational magic, these presentations, both visual and verbal, examine how living life on the outskirts of what can be termed the ‘mainstream’ helped develop and strengthen a personal animist and magical belief system, and rather than suppressing inherent spiritual inclinations, strengthened them. By juxtaposing Jung’s mental crisis alongside the initiatory callings of contemporary spirit-initiated shamans in the industrialized West, there is a call for pro-active tending of the gates between childhood, adulthood, and life purpose toward resolving a culture of violence, denial, and separation.
This event is part of a series exploring the intersection, integration and application of psychoanalytic theory, the arts, and the occult, curated by psychoanalyst, Dr. Vanessa Sinclair. Throughout the series, Sinclair hosts a variety of psychoanalysts, psychologists, artists, writers, and occultists from a range of backgrounds and theoretical orientations. Presenters discuss their work, personal experience, and areas of research interest, opening up a dialogue between practitioners in fields of study that rarely have a chance to engage with one another yet often operate in similar and complementary ways.
Khi Armand is an interdisciplinary artist and a spirit-initiated shaman holding initiations in such New World medicine traditions as Haitian Vodou, Afro-Brazilian Quimbanda, and the Unnamed Path. He holds a Masters in Performance Studies from New York University and a Bachelors in Ritual Anthropology from Hampshire College.
Charlotte Rodgers is an animist and magician. She is also a writer, artist, performer and public speaker. She has contributed to many magazines and anthologies and wrote the books, The Bloody Sacrifice and P is for Prostitution: A Modern Primer. She conceived, introduced and co edited A Contemporary Western Book of the Dead (all published by Mandrake of Oxford). The Sky is a Gateway not a Ceiling (illustrated by Roberto Migliussi) published in Italy, is a recently published collection of her work. She has exhibited her totemic, talismanic art work, which incorporates bones. road kill and elements of death, in numerous galleries including London’s Chelsea Gallery and the Bath Royal Institute and has given presentations at Edinburgh and Leicester University.
Vanessa Sinclair, Psy.D. is a psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City. She is a founding member of Das Unbehagen – A Free Association for Psychoanalysis, which facilitates psychoanalytic lectures, classes and events in and around New York City. She contributes to various publications including The Fenris Wolf, DIVISION/Review: A Quarterly Psychoanalytic Forum, the Brooklyn Rail, and Eris Magazine.
‘Visual AIDS is a haven for me and my contemporaries, nurturing, honouring, protecting and utilizing our work. Its intergenerational approach to activism through visual art gives my 28 years of mercurial survival a historical significence, and contemporary vitality.’ Eric Rhein, Visual AIDS member
‘Visual AIDS formally appeared in 1988. It was preceded by six months of informal and sporadic discussions among four gay, white men: myself, William Ilander, Thomas Sokowalski and Gary Garrels. Between us we’d volunteered and buddied up at the GHMC, ACTed up, raised funds for Art Against AIDS, and would continue to do these things…we were also tracking a growing body of artwork about AIDS and trying to give it visibility.’ Robert Atkins, critic and co-founder of Visual AIDS.
Six years ago I wrote a book called The Bloody Sacrifice about contemporary blood rites, with particular emphasis on their creative and spiritual applications.
I was told about a U.S based group called Visual AIDS and I contacted Nelson Santos who worked within this organisation. Nelson helped me by connecting me to various artists who worked with their HIV positive blood in their art, and he also spread the word about the book once it was finished
Ostensibly this trip to New York was focused on my presentation at The Museum of Morbid Anatomy, but for me the chance to finally connecting with the Visual AIDS organisation was the real highlight.
Nelson Santos was incredibly gracious about meeting me especially as he didnt really know what I wanted, but then neither did I, truth to tell. I’d told Nelson that I had an a-n travel bursary and I wanted to coincide my speaking event with immersing myself as far as I could in a short space of time, in the art of New York but in reality I simply wanted to meet him and chat a bit. Hopefully I could gain insights into this organisation which works with art and artists in such a powerful and effecting way.
The person who had first referred me to Visual AIDS received a grant from them for art equipment that emotionally and creatively enhanced a life that was incredibly difficult as a long term HIV postive artist whose partner had recently died from the same illness.
Okay, I’m an idealist (the day I met Nelson was also the day I staggered around the corporate conveyer belt high end art galleries in a fug of disillusion), but art that effects change is what it’s all about for me, and an organisation on this scale, that has survived for so long, is something incredibly valuable and special.
Nelson trod carefully around some of my conversation, such as possible divisive influences in the group due to gender politics (as I suspected HIV positive women and black women tend not to be as high profile in the network, personally I’d say some of this is an indication of societal attitudes towards women…I know with my own HCV status I still get asked, ‘how did you contract that’ and these judgements can be more problematic for women to live with) but all groups that have a high political profile need to work hard to be cohesive if they want to be successful.
The artists involved in the group are both formally trained and not, and their work spans all mediums. There is a constant range of events and exhibitions being run, which is all the more astonishing considering how small the core team of Visual AIDS workers are.
No art or artist is forgotten, it’s all archived.
Basically this is a creative organisation, dealing with great art and intensly emotional and political issues that survives and thrives because of an innately professional attitude that successfully manages to staddled all these worlds, without getting dragged down by any of them.
Visual AIDS is unique, and although they have worked on affilate events in England, there really is nothing quite like it anywhere else, which is a great pity.