resource review: pablo helguera workshop, talk and book ‘education for socially engaged art’.

a couple of weeks ago i had the great pleasure to see pablo helguera speak at my school.  he is a social engagement artist, director of adult and academic programs at MOMA and the author of many books including ‘education for socially engaged art’.  as i prepared for the lunch seminar he would be leading by reading his book, i was immediately intrigued.  he mentions in his introduction that he wants this book to act as an introductory reference and i appreciated the fact that he offers up his definitions and criteria for art that is termed socially engaged or social practice.  he dismisses the term social practice because it doesn’t claim art explicitly and proposes instead socially engaged art because it makes it clear that the work is first and foremost art and not say, anthropology or social work.

i found that super interesting coming as i do from a family of social workers and from my planned parenthood background.  i love social work and i love ‘doing service’ to borrow (perhaps inaccurately) from bell hooks.  and i love doing art work and am interested in where these seemingly disparate trajectories can come together.

for his lunch seminar helguera focused on a critique of social engagement art.  in fact we literally critiqued three projects that he presented to us (just to name one, he proposed a “poverty project” in which the artist would spend no money what so ever but would live in a gallery and/or a fancy all expenses paid residency in france.  hilarious).  the majors criticisms of the projects were that they were self-centered, indulgent, not really helping or bring attention to the cause they purported to, etc.  totally valid and i was glad to hear him critique this kind of arty behavior but then i was even more surprised to see his own artist’s talk.  it was kind of a snore and i honestly didn’t see where his work really intersected with anything social.  his work was in my opinion self-centered and self indulgent.  in one project he didn’t have childcare so he took his daughter with him and performed a reading of a play, while holding his daughter and comforting her when she fussed.   in the second he has created this elaborate system of envelopes that will be mailed long after his death.  i wasn’t really sure how they enriched society at all or how they might “affect the public sphere in a deep and meaningful way” to quote his book.

not that they had too or that it was his intention but after reading the book and sitting in on the lunch seminar that is what i was expecting.

field trip.

meal that another american artist and i threw together the other night.

i’m on a mission to learn some proper japanese cooking, this is my attempt at miso soup.

some in progress works, i think i will have a pretty substantial installation or these by the end…

saturday i headed out to kyoto with 2 of the other artists. i had seen some of these sites before (with parents, benny, masa) but despite the droves of us tourists they are still amazingly beautiful and great to see again.

kiyomizudera, i think that translates to pure water temple, but don’t hold me to it. you can, intriguingly, pay a couple hundred yen to take off your shoes, walk into the temple and into complete blackness (you have a rail to hold which leads you around), around a spiral and into a room with a large stone. if you place your hand on this stone you can make a wish. this dark place is considered the womb of the temple. 🙂

star leaves.


shopping street.

meaghan, an artist from cali, with some maikos on the streets of kyoto.

shizuka, who is working at the togei no mori for a whole year, modeling a hat in a small shop.

kinkakuji, the golden temple.

ship shaped giant bonzai…

cool trees.

after the golden temple we went to another famous site, ryoenji, which is a temple and a zen rock garden.  i didn’t take any pictures, because i was busy talking with shizuka about art and happiness.  i hope to post pics and some discussion with several of the artists working at the togei no mori in this blog so keep an eye out.

anyway, on the way back to the car…wait for it…..

2 words, cat cafe.

CAT CAFE!? i didn’t go in. but i wanted to …..

new favorite podcast:)

i have spent the last decade or so hearing the word podcast and not really knowing what it meant.  how does it relate to the ipod?  it’s all such a mystery to me.

but thanks to my studio mates this semester i have finally grasped the concept and can even find radiolab episodes on my own now.  wow!

last night, i came across this cool podcast, the partially examined life.  the premise is that these three dudes who used to study philosophy at school together read a text and then discuss it.

I listened to a segment on youtube about arthur danto’s the philosophical disenfranchisement of art .  his book the abuse of beauty is in my bag, ready to read, so it was great to hear the discussion of one of his earlier books.  there are episodes on merleau-ponty, my neurotic boyfriend schopenhaur, and more.  though i got a lot out of listening to the talk with out reading the text, i think it will be really fun to read some of the texts before listening.  and they even link to a lot of the texts online.

living with art at st. croix apartments.












st. croix apartment complex houses about 10 of uf’s mfas/recently graduated.  Last night they opened their doors and invited the public into their homes to look at the art that they “live with” on a daily basis.  some apartments transformed into pristine gallery spaces and some transformed altogether.

i started at the door which had the biggest crowd when i arrived.  gleefully that crowd seemed to shift organically around the the complex through out the night.  galen olmsted’s monolithic wooden structure covered in porcelain poops stood surrounded by kalina winska’s large ethereal paintings.

next i moved upstairs.   drew avakian’s cut and reassembled, structured pots contrasted nicely with donna flanery’s soft, painterly cups and teapots.   rob kolhouse’s futuristic busts held court alongside them.

back downstairs i found that varian wolf and charlie cummings, both big advocates for the florida springs, had filled their apartment with water and fish in order to allow us to experience life under the water for ourselves.  luckily we were able to enjoy it without getting wet from the comfort of chairs outside, where we could observe the underwater goings on through the front windows.  their projections of spring life at times presented compelling narratives that we wouldn’t otherwise be privy to.

down a ways, in jen clay’s apartment, large, long legged birds had taken over the everyday living room scene.  they seemed to be jumping on everything, their blue, white and black feathers leaving a puffy trail.  In the kitchen, one of clay’s “friendly unknowns” seemed to be having a fit over spilled milk and dry cereal.  though clay’s apartment itself was the least changed, her creatures inhabiting the space transformed it into a wild unknown.

kate helms’ door was closed but in her absence she had placed a sculptural replica of herself, complete with overalls and a conductor’s cap.  one of her works memorializing the cabbage palm was also displayed.

lastly, i visited the apartment of one of the organizers.  several 2d works were hung, and when you ventured back into one of the bedrooms turned gallery you saw Jessika Normington’s light and string installation.  The bright cacaphony of color and light against a fluffy white cotton clouds turned x-mess lights into firefly crackles of electricity.

after popping our heads up into the light scape some of sat on the floor and chatted.  eventually the night died down.  doors closed.  a pie-zilla and coke showed up upstairs. good times were had by all.

unfortunately i didn’t get pics of everything but here are some pics from galen’s facebook.

nice night team st. croix!







i’m reading a lot right now about beauty and wonder.  i’m interested in understanding more about beauty’s role in art and nature and the separation of beauty and aesthetics.


i probably should have listened more in undergrad when they were talking about greenberg and modernism right?  some of the sources i’m looking at talk about beauty being removed from aesthetics way before modernism by philosophers drawing a stark like between anything that elicits desire and anything aesthetic.


i’m more inclined to side with plato’s take on the whole thing (which i am currently interpreting as) beauty makes you feel all awesome and that makes you want to understand and that leads to knowledge.  or something.


i think work should be able to hold up criticism or evaluation that can take longer than an instant to be fully realized.


but is that hook so bad?  (schopenhaur thinks so)  maybe beauty can be the neon sign that brings somebody in closer, a means to an end.  but where does beauty end and wonder begin?


“the wonder of the aesthetic state of wonder is the play of te mind over the details of the object itself.  aesthetics is part of the mobility of attention, interest and delight.  its lingering over the widest range of details so as to prolong its pleasurable contact…”  phillip a. fisher


thanks to mia familia for all this green inspiration.



i put a test of the blue porcelain in the gas kiln last week.  didn’t look so hot.  the body didn’t melt which was good but it got a little burned/dirty looking in reduction.  in the electric it stayed a nice bright blue.  the particular mason stain i used had vanadium in so it has a little yellowish hue which really came out in the reduction firing.  i decided to go ahead and fire the little blue wall pieces to cone 6 oxidation with a wash of gerstley borate since it had worked so well on the white piece.  the next day, while i was at work, one of my studio mates sent me a phone pic of the piece finished.  i couldn’t totally tell what was going on but i was pretty excited.  it looked amphibious……

i finally got to see it yesterday in person:

weird huh!?  i wondered if it was some kind of anomaly so i sprayed the other piece and slid it in the test kiln and this morning i pulled this out:

so now i’m wondering, is that what happens to gerstley borate at cone 6, or is some kind glaze forming between the gb and the mason stain components.  lot’s of questions.  love it.  especially love to see the BRAINS surface.

get it poppin’

last week i got to help install and attend a sweet little show called “get it poppin’ “, pop up paper sculptures by shoog mcdaniel.  shoog is a friend of mine from back in the day, florida, and was practically the only person i knew in philly when i moved here.  there were several performances during the evening in addition to shoog’s colorful, intricate landscapes.  here are some pics from my phone.

and the star of the show:

and some details:

the boat moves!


today i spent the day helping install a show at a gallery in old city.   it was great to spend the day with 3 such well established, interesting and very amicable artists.  i find it very important and inspiring to be around people you respect, especially really amazing women.  i wish i would have thought to take a picture or two of installation but anyway, if you’re in the area, definitely check out the show at the rosenfeld gallery.