Tag Archives: Art

Draw Something, Picasso-style

Still from Visit to Picasso documentaryWhat I like about the mobile app/game Draw Something isn’t the game. As a game it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Should I try to make it hard for my opponent to guess what I’m drawing? If I make it too hard, he won’t guess, and then neither of us gets a point. But if I make it really easy, then where’s the challenge for my opponent/collaborator? What exactly are we doing here? Continue reading Draw Something, Picasso-style

Don’t know what it is, but I know what I like

What is it about art that makes us hate art lovers so very much? It’s
easy enough to love artists themselves, particularly artists who can
convey emotion beautifully on the canvas but who struggle to express
simple thoughts in conversation. I like that over-abstracting flavor of
awkwardness in a person. What I don’t like is the sorts of people who
speak fluidly and easily and steadily at art openings, stuffing green
grapes and Brie into their faces while deciding which painting will go
best in their guest bathroom. Do I hate their big, dusty piles of cash
that much? Or do I hate this urge to own something that came from such a
pure place, to frame it and show it off and use it to service their own
egos? But aren’t we all ego-driven louts?

That quote is from Heather Havrilesky’s column in Salon this week, reviewing Bravo’s new reality show, “Work of Art.” But it could well be a monologue from Yasmina Reza’s award-winning play “Art,” currently in a sharp, smart, entertaining production at the Pittsburgh Public Theater.

“Art” at Pittsburgh Public Theater. Pictured (l to r) Harry Bouvy, Rob Breckenridge and Darren Eliker. Photo credit: Pittsburgh Public Theater.

I don’t hate art lovers — some of my best friends are art lovers — but I do dislike the rarefied, condescending air that I feel hovering around a museum or gallery. Then again, is it the art lovers that are looking down at me, or is it me looking up at them, who have taken the time to understand the history and vocabulary of the art world? And what is art (or Art) anyway? Is it what I like, or what I understand the influences and framework of, or what I know cost a lot of money?

Reza’s play is a bit about these questions, and a bit about friendship. What value does one get from being a friend? How do you measure the ROI of friendship?

Yet as heavy and ponderous as all these questions are, the play itself is a hoot. At the Public, it’s fast-paced (literally, as it’s just 75 minutes long) and snappy. Harry Bouvy as Yvan delivers an extended monologue that brings down the house, but all three actors shine. It’s a perfect show to attend with close friends — whether they love art or not.

“Art” plays at the Public through June 27. Find details and buy tickets at the PPT website.

Pittsburgh Public Theater provided me with complimentary tickets for this production.

Kristen Hersh and CASH Music

Cover of Slippershell from Kristen Hersh

Radiohead have received a lot of media attention recently regarding the "pay what you want" release of their newest album. But other artists have also been exploring alternative ways for fans and listeners to help support creative endeavor.

Kristen Hersh, whom you may know as a member of Throwing Muses, is one of the founding members of an initiative called CASH Music, a Coalition of Artists and Stake Holders:

The community we hope to foster at CASH Music is participatory, supportive, and beneficial to listeners and artists alike. Via CASH Music you’re asked to interact with this output, assess it, be inspired by it, enhancing it’s value. Once that value is perceived you are asked to contribute accordingly — your money, your ideas, your effort, or all of the above.

You and the CASH artist are stake holders in common. You want the art to continue. The artist wants to continue creating. Your support keeps this flow moving, a read-write culture where all parties to the artistic experience enrich the experience. CASH Music supports artists, their audiences — and perhaps most importantly — this vital and emerging read-write culture.

CASH is intended to be more than a revenue-generator for musicians. It’s a framework for collaboration. Here’s what Hersch posted about this:

Art is by nature a conversation. I’d like us to make it a community. Think about what you have to offer. Read-only culture is not enough anymore. We’d like you to treat this stuff as read-write. I’d also like to hear your comments on the songs I post each month. I’ll read them all and reply too.

What does read-write mean? Maybe as you’re listening to "Slippershell", you’re inspired to DO something: paint a picture, write an essay, make a video, remix, or even re-record the song. Please do so. And share your work with me and the rest of the CASH community by uploading it somewhere and sending me a link. I’m offering my Pro Tools mix stems to make it easy to work with my recorded material. We will review all the links submitted, I promise. At some point, I’ll release the songs I post here in the form of a CD. It’s my intention that the CD release should also include lots of the stuff you send me. I think that would be incredible.

What we’re doing today is just the beginning. It is in the nature of a share and share alike community to grow. Gradually, over the next weeks and months CASH Music will be revealing it’s "real" self. Other artists will be involved, the final and fully-capable site will be launched and new features will be added — all incorporating your input and creativity. CASH is a community that in the end will be defined by itself.

The first tricky part of this, I think, is raising awareness. People need first to know that it exists, that artists want to hear and see responses to their work. But even if people know about it, will they respond? From the reactions I’ve heard and seen to my own little creative projects (NaNoWriMo, DrawMo, etc.), many people rarely think about creating anything. It seems to be outside their frame of reference.

I suppose that’s why a venture like this one is importance. If everyday people start creating, rather than just continue consuming, maybe this will change their perceptions of art and of life.

Live blogging the 24 Hour Creative Marathon

From 8pm tonight to 8pm Saturday is the 24 Hour Creative Marathon 2 at Creative Treehouse, Bellevue, PA. I’m going to be here for as much of the event as I can handle. Let me tell you all about it.

(Updates will be on top, so read from the bottom if you’re just starting.)

8:30am: Put a fork in me, I’m done. I’ve packed up and I’m ready to head back home for a little shuteye. I’ll be back in the afternoon. In the meantime, watch the creative marathon site for blog updates from others.

7:12am: Sorry for the radio silence during the wee hours. I have neither slept nor napped. Instead I made a nifty collage, and then may have ruined it by trying to put a protective coating on top. Am currently too tired to fret about it. The point wasn’t so much the end result anyway; it was the act of making, and the experience of creating something along with others.

We’ve had a nice group of folks here this evening. The bulk of the participants were here from about 10 until about 2. The paintings they created are propped against the walls around the room.

Right now about a dozen people are dozing or seriously sleeping on couches and in corners. Another dozen are still working, either completing the piece they’ve spent the evening on or starting on something new.

10:00pm: More people continue to arrive. So far I’ve consumed just a cookie and Burn energy drink. Any surprise that I’m a little frizzy? None at all.

Art is being created, video is being filmed, code is being discussed. Thinking about the theme of “lost and found” — how to break free of cliche?

9:20pm: Spaces are filling in. The Something To Be Desired crew is arriving — they’re filming an episode here tonight to air Monday. An art class has also arrived, their teacher gaining big coolest-ever points by bringing them here. Next to me a young man is making a frame and canvas, with Exacto knife. Overall vibe: Anything is possible.

8:40pm: I’ve arrived. Over an hour late, but everyone is kind about it. The vibe is energetic, expectant. Those who were here at the first marathon are pacing themselves on the Burn energy drinks, but (significantly) they’re not holding back really.

Myself, I’m on my first Burn and thinking about the “lost and found” theme. What’s lost? What’s found? What comes now?

A Picasso at the City Theatre

One of my little Picassos1. I have two Picassos. Of course they are reproductions, and small ones at that, little prints in beat-up frames. My grad school roommate Sharon gave them to me — she found them in an antique shop. They depict two harlequins, one on a horse and one with a black mask in hand. The one carrying a mask seems to be a self-portrait: the face is detailed and realistic and resembles a young Picasso, the hands look strong. On the back each bears a sticker, "Made in Italy." Why it would be an advantage for such a print to be made in Italy isn’t clear; Picasso was Spanish and created his great works in France.

2. Last Wednesday I attended the opening night of A Picasso at the City Theatre in Pittsburgh. Being an opening, there was free wine available for all before the show, and an afterparty at Folino’s Ristorante afterward with more free wine and delightful snacky appetizers. It would seem that the theatre was trying to sweeten up the crowd, dispose them to like the play. Such tactics weren’t needed, because the show was excellent. Striking set design (I especially liked the sidewalk grate in the ceiling, through which we heard the sounds of the street above), invisible lighting (which is the best kind — when you don’t notice the lighting, it means it was done exactly right), perfect sound (see street noises above), spot-on costuming, excellent direction, and strong performances by both actors.

3. I should note that without the gratis wine and appetizers, I might still have been disposed to enjoy the show because I had been invited to attend free, as author of this blog. It is now my strong hope that all the theaters in the area will consider blogs — or at least My Brilliant Mistakes — as real press, and they’ll all send me free passes to lots of shows.

Like any reviewer, I shall endeavor to maintain a sense of duty and write truly, not allowing myself to be influenced by free tickets or food or drink or delightful small but elegant gifts.

At it happens, the City Theatre doesn’t want me to review their plays. The newspapers do that already, following time-honored formulae for reviews. So instead, the theatre invited me to attend and maybe write about it, and thereby to expand the conversation and see what would happen.

So, let’s continue this post and see what happens.

4. What is the play about? It’s about the meaning and value of art, and the relationship of artists with their art, and of society with art and artists. Was Picasso’s Guernica a political work? An emotional reaction of anger and sadness to an event, or a protest to an unjust act of war?


Some notes from the program:

I’m not exactly sure that art is terribly effective as a form of protest, but I do think it is effective as a form of reaction and reflection…

I don’t think Guernica stopped World War II, but it certainly was an expression of war…

It’s as if finally all the disparate parts of [Picasso’s] artistic instincts, his style, his concerns, finally roar up together in one thing. The mere fact that Guernica comes to people’s consciousness when you talk about art and war shows just how powerful it is.
–Jeffrey Hatcher [playwright of A Picasso], interview for Philadelphia Theatre Company

Does art matter? Does it matter what a work of art means? Is a person worth more of less than a piece of art? What is vulgarity? Can anyone be truly non-politcal? Is art a lie?

The play asks these questions and doesn’t tell the audience what the answers are. This is part of what makes it a great play — a work of art.

5. Implicit in these questions is another: What is art? I’ve thought about this often lately, as I’ve been sketching almost daily for DrawMo. The sketches I’ve made, particularly the ones created late at night, dashed off before heading to bed so I don’t fall behind my goal of 30 by the end of the month — these are not good drawings. Some look a little like the things they represent, some show something about what I think of the things I’m sketching, but none look like anything I’d hang on my wall.

I’m accustomed to writing badly. The first draft of anything — a short story, software manual, even a blog post — can be quite lousy without hurting the final version, because the good stuff comes in the editing and rewriting. Drawing so far doesn’t feel like that. I can’t revise a drawing the way I can revise writing. I also feel I’m lacking basic skills and techniques that I could use to make things look as I see or interpret them.

So I might expect to feel that these DrawMo sketches are a waste of time. But I feel quite the opposite. The end results are icky, but the process of making them is really interesting, different from other processes.

It helps a lot that there are other DrawMonauts, struggling to get their sketches done each day and posting them. The others’ drawings look terrific to me — some extremely accomplished, others raw but done with charm and wit. Some people post without comment, others complain about where they feel the work fell short. I’m reassured to know they’re like me, I’m like them, and we’re all trying this hard thing for no reason other than to do it. Is that art?

6. Another quote from the program to A Picasso:

To me, there is no past or future in art. If a work of art cannot live always in the present it must not be considered at all.
–Pablo Picasso