Gravity of Light: Mike and Doug Starn

From Art of the Peculiar, the Creepy, the Beautiful.  
”Light is thought, light has gravity, light is what attracts us. The sun is what we want, who we want to be, who controls us. It is the future and the past. A Light too bright to look at, although light itself is invisible. The collection of light is black, and contradictorily, black is the absence of light. Black is both the void and the reservoir of what we need.” — M+D Starn

Descartes claimed that the blind see with their hands; it is a positivist view that to touch something, to determine its contours, is to know it: I “see” it, therefore it is. But this idea does not so much redress but renew the gulf between seeing and knowing: the classic mind-body problem. Centuries later, the French phenomenologist philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty refocused Descartes’ analysis. “There is no vision without thought,” he wrote. “But it is not enough to think in order to see.” In other words, our bodies—our vision—are the permanent condition of our experience, and thought is born by what happens in and on the body. We are conductors; absorbers and emitters of the universe’s energy.

Since well before the Renaissance, light has been used for and understood as a metaphor for illumination, spiritual or intellectual; light is the opposite of dark. Pure light is the carrier of energy at once the message and the messenger. And the news is this: light can bring, in equal measure, life and destruction, energy and fear, illumination and obscurity.”

In their most ambitious project to date, Mike and Doug Starn present Gravity of Light. This exhibit is part art sculpture, part photography, and part scientific experiment that includes a carbon-arc lamp that mimics the sun. This arc lamp is very much the center of the show as it is brilliant and noisy. The 13-foot tall carbon arc lamp is so bright visitors must wear safety glasses in order to protect their retinas. 


The lamp is a facsimile of Sir Humphry Davy’s “voltaic arc” used in the first discovery of electric “artificial light in 1804. The peculiar thirteen-foot-tall mechanical structure at its center is titled Leonardo’s St. John or This is my Middle Finger (2005). In the painting by da Vinci, St. John the Baptist shrouded in darkness, is lit up and points his finger to the heavens, indicating the path to enlightenment.

da Vinci’s St. John

The Starn version of St.
John’s gesture has been digitally replaced by one of profanity. As Martin Barnes,
senior curator of photographs at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, writes,
this gesture “is like a rebuff, aimed at paltry human confidence in the
face of eternity. Pure light is the carrier
of this awesome power, at once the message and the messenger.”

So much about this installation is unique from the carbon-arc lamp illumination to the location of the exhibit. Although the Cincinnati Museum of Art sponsored this exhbit its location is not within the museum. Holy Cross Church at the Mount Adams Monastery is the place where you can view the Starn show.

Holy Cross Church is an old abandoned church. You can see the faded paintings and religious images on the wall. The whole building is in disrepair and the Starn imagery, large and beautifully photographed contrast with the crumbling bricks and faded religious iconography. Each of these photographs each deal with the theme of light’s effect. One of their large moth photographs shows the insect from a previous exhibit, Attracted to Light. The moth is attracted to the light which often leads to their own death, yet they can’t resist it. It is what human and non-human crave, the light, that which helps us to visually see or to see the spiritual light.

Another piece is of the Buddhist monk Ganjin, it towers over us at the opposite end of the church. Ganjin was blind yet with an inner vision. He saw the black is still filled with light and saw the light inside of himself, found through a form of Eastern religious discovery. He too like the moth was attracted to the light not in the physical sense but in the spiritual one. 

Light can be a blessing but can also bring death through the blinding light of the carbon-arc lamp. Light can bring, in equal measure, life and
destruction, energy and fear, illumination and obscurity.

The Starn exhibit is put on by the Cincinnati Museum of Art and closes on December 30, 2012. You can read about the show in the accompanying book Gravity of Light.



The Scariness and Brilliance of the Starns’ ‘Gravity of Light’

Books in the Art Division’s collection. Click to access the catalog.


Hallwalls: Buffalo NY Upstate Avant Garde


Many don’t associate Buffalo in western New York State as a place for the avant-garde in the art world.  Yet that is exactly what Hallwalls is, a place of art outside the mainstream. Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo, New York, which was founded in 1974 and is one of the first alternative art centers in the United States.

Hallwalls was begun by art students who attended Buffalo State College in an old warehouse. Some of those artists were Vito Acconci, Robert Longo, Cindy Sherman, Charles CloughDiane BertoloNancy Dwyer, Larry Lundy, and Michael Zwack — decided to transform the hallways between the artist studios there into a gallery — hence the name “Hallwalls.”

Hallwalls was one of the first places to mix it up, that is fine art, film, performance art, video, music, anything visual, from Longo to Clough. You didn’t have to go to New York to experience an art happening, you could see one in Buffalo.

As I lived in Buffalo during the 80s, I remember going with friends to shows at Hallwalls to see the art and the fashion. Young people loved it, because it not just because of its alternative space but the gallery was open to new ideas that you just didn’t see in galleries back then. Back in the late 80s, it organized Buffalo’s first gay and lesbian film festival, and was almost closed down for allegedly displaying lewd material.

Hallwalls has always supportive of the avant-garde and the alternative and still is open to those ideas. You can visit them in Buffalo, NY.

Read more at ArtInfo

View the slide show

Zana Briski: Reverence: The Migrating Insect Museum

Zana Briski’s Reverence for Insects
Opens in New York December 21, 2012

The world of insects can provoke fear or curiosity in humans. Zana Briski hopes it is the latter. she wants us to look at this project as a way of confronting our fears ans those things that appear different from us.

Zana Briski is an award winning photographer and filmmaker who is best known as the director of Born into Brothels, the 2004 winner of the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. For her film, she photographed the harshness of life for those born into the brothels of India. In 2002, Zana founded Kids with Cameras and she published a book of the children’s photographs, Kids with Cameras. Her self-published book, is a collector’s edition of her own photographs, Brothel.

Briski’s first love is animals and the natural world. So for this project she turns her camera to an entirely different subject, those who live in the entomological world, those of the praying mantis. Her new project is called Reverence, named for the state in which she photographs and for that she wants to communicate through her work. Zana collaborates with living insects in the wild, taking their portraits in photographs and film. She makes the statement, “when I have eye contact with an insect, I am in a state of awe and wonder. It is this want to transmit through my images.” The project was mostly self-funded and she used Kickstarter that enabled her to raise funds to hire the architect to build the Reverence structure.
In this project she brings the exquisite world of the insect, music, and film together in a migratory museum. This temporary structure is inspired by the exquisite shape of praying mantis ootheca, or eggpod. This travelling museum will explore the human insect relationship in the world. It opens on December 21, 2012, in New York. This exhibit is housed in a 10,000 square foot structure that was designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. After its opening in NY this project will travel to parks around the world. Briski will also work with a master printmaker to develop unique large-scale photographs on handmade Japanese papers.

Briski sees a world that society often fears, that which it does not understand. Briski’s primary interest is to bring our relationship with nature and Earth to the forefront. She wants us to rethink how we as humans look at other creatures by bringing them face to face with us. For Briski, insects just don’t exist as scientific specimens but they exist as attentive, knowing, and curious beings. She also goes on to say, the emphasis will not be on a scientific or an analytical perspective, but an emotional and spiritual one. Any funds raised from ticket sales, book, movie and print sales will go back to support environmental organizations and organizations which support native peoples, such as the San of the Kalahari.”

Click below to watch her video
Some of the many books at the Central Library about Insects
DVDs and Blu-Ray
Disc 3 includes Insects

North Adams, MA: A Place for Art and Artists and the Band Wilco

In a valley at the foot of the Berkshire Mountains, a struggling industrial town is trying to make an artistic comeback. North Adams is now home to MASS MoCA, one of the largest museums of contemporary art in the world — housed in 26 former factory buildings.

There are many small towns across the country struggling to keep themselves viable as they lose business to overseas manufacturing. Marfa, TXBeacon, NY and North Adams, MA are three who are succeeding by making themselves a destination for art and artists.

This post concentrates on North Adams and the Berkshires. so if you are looking for something to do this fall head up to the Berkshires and the town of North Adams, MA. If you love art and the fall season, you will very much enjoy western MA. What is so great about the Berkshires besides being a lovely place to visit anytime of year; MASS MoCA old industrial buildings, pretty bike trails, covered bridges, Williams College and the artsy town of North Adams.

MASS MoCA is an old factory tuned into a extraordinary art museum. MASS MoCA is made up of 26 brick buildings: 600,000 square feet of sunlit space, equivalent to a mid-sized airport. The museum was created to exhibit large works of contemporary art that would not fit in conventional museum galleries.

One of the large galleries at MASS MoCA

An old textile plant, the museum houses 100 huge drawings by Sol LeWitt and a sound installation crafted out of a rusty interior bridge by Glenn Kotche, the drummer for the band Wilco. The museum is part of the revitalization of North Adams, MA., a mill town that crumbled when manufacturing moved overseas. North Adams also a location for numerous art galleries spread throughout the city old mills have been converted to lofts for artists to live and work in. Read more at NPR .

What does the band Wilco have to do with North Adams and MASS MoCA? On April 6, 2010, Wilco announced during their Boston performance that they would be headlining and curating a festival in North Adams, Massachusetts, dubbed Solid Sound Festival. The event ran at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and featured various Wilco side projects, including The Autumn Defense, Pronto, The Nels Cline Singers, and Jeff Tweedy solo. Wilco has helped North Adams become a premier cultural destination for art and music.

For more art there is also Williams College about 7 miles west of North Adams. When you imagine old college towns in New England in the fall, Williams College is what you are imagining. Old buildings surrounded by brilliant maples and a main street full of art shops, hippie shops, and coffee shops. It is full of students and is very friendly. Visit Williams College Museum of Art where 13,000 objects and growing, from Assyrian reliefs to contemporary photography are housed.

Williamstown, MA.
If you are going to to go up to the Berkshires you may as well travel to Brimfield, MAfor the largest antique show in New England.

Then you can end your Berkshire visit by driving on Route 2 filled with hairpin turns and spectacular fall color. It was America’s first scenic automobile route.

So grab some Wilco to listen to and head up to Western, MA.
Below are some items in the Central Library to help you with your trip. Click on the images to access our catalog.

American Dreams :American Art to 1950 in the Williams College Museum of Art

Google’s Online Art Project Expands

Another wonder of the world?  It’s  possible that the Google Art Project will someday join the list.

The greatly expanded second iteration of this online compilation of self-selected art museums and artworks was unveiled last week. It makes available images of more than 32,000 works in 31 mediums and materials, from the collections of 151 museums and arts organizations worldwide, forming a broad, deep river of shared information, something like a lavishly illustrated art book fused with high-end open storage.

Read more at:

An Online Art Collection Grows Out of Infancy

RPO’s 2012–13 Bravo Program Artwork Covers

Have some artistic talent you’d like to share? Submit something to Rochester Contemporary Art Center’s International Small Art Phenomenon —your artwork could be chosen for one of the RPO’s 2012–13 Bravo program covers. RoCo is currently accepting artwork for its annual 6×6 exhibition. All entries will be displayed by RoCo, and six will be selected to appear on RPO program covers throughout the 12–13 season.

Each submission must be 6×6 square inches (15 cm) or mounted on a 6×6 board, and signed only on the back. Entries should be submitted by May 6, and mailed directly to Rochester Contemporary Art Center, 137 East Ave., Rochester, NY 14604. Click here for more information.

Work It: Artists Address Labor & Unemployment

Work It at Rochester Contemporary presents the works of 4 artists who document and explore employment, work and related current issues.

Kathryn Clark
Clarke Conde
Morgan Craig
Jonathan Stewart

Work It will also explore the local history of labor and employment law as according to a group of educators, attorneys, and labor advocates.




Raw Vision: Outsider Art, Art Brut, and Contemporary Folk Art


Raw Vision is a new arrival in the Arts Division. Come take a look and get acquainted with the world of the self-taught artist.

” Raw Vision was first published in 1989 with the express purpose of bringing the phenomena of Outsider Art to a wide public. The first edition of Raw Vision presented works known to just a handful of people around the world. Raw Vision has since continued to feature new discoveries of Outsider artists and unknown places such as sculpture gardens and extraordinary self-made buildings.

Raw Vision remains the world’s only international journal of the art of the ‘unknown geniuses’ who are the creators of Outsider Art. Untrained, unschooled and uninfluenced by the art world, the work of these artists continues to stun and amaze. They invent their own forms, techniques and create private worlds. Only in the pages of Raw Vision can readers discover for themselves the world of Outsider Art.

This high quality quarterly publication takes a fully international view of events and presents all the latest news of exhibitions and publications in this fascinating field. It features artists from every continent and its news pages cover many different countries around the globe.

Raw Vision can give art lovers a unique insight into the power of ‘raw’ creativity which contrasts completely with the prosaic world of conceptual and institutional contemporary art so prevalent in our museums and galleries today. It is not for nothing that Outsider Art has been termed ‘the hidden face of contemporary art’, like the hidden face of the moon.

Enter the world of Outsider Art through Raw Vision, the unique journal that alone among regular publications can introduce readers to an art that is pure, exciting, raw, an art that that has real meaning and integrity.”

Arts Division magazines do not circulate.