Grace Jones, Shabba Ranks,Chaka Khan

 

Eccentric, groundbreaking, triumphant and tumultuous may all be words to describe Grace Jones, Shabba Ranks or Chaka Khan , at some point in their illustrious careers.

All have had long career breaks, but their enduring personalities remain a pull, and of recent all three are on the comeback.

When I saw Jones at JFK Airport this month, I did not immediately recognize her. She was dressed in all black, in an outfit resembling aviation pioneer Ameila Earhart – hat included.

It was true Jones. Whatever your views of her are, she knows how to make an entrance.  Immediately I thought of her movies ‘Conan the Destroyer’ and ‘Boomerang’. Of course I began to detail her movies to her and she was quite indulgent, repeating signature phrases from Boomerang. She told me to look out for her new documentary and to buy ‘I’ll Never Write My Memoirs’ her recent book and departed with a hand-shake.

And sometimes you have to pay your way to that celebrity access.

I could not pass up an opportunity to hear my feel-good song, ‘Through the Fire’ by Khan. So I paid the $60, after discount, for the May 13 fundraiser at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts. Khan is currently working on a series of mixed media visual works and a new CD for release this year, says the Center.

Well, I did not get to hear ‘Through the Fire’, but ‘Everlasting Love’, ‘Naughty’, ‘Tell me Something Good’, ‘Sweet Thing’, ‘Ain’t Nobody’, and the powerful ‘I’m Every Woman’ made up for it. I cannot say if the two unexpected restroom breaks prevented me from hearing my feel-good song. Or her heavy emphasis on her 70s songs. But my friend and her mother who were enjoying a pre-mother’s day outing enjoyed the experience. And being serenaded by the legendary 10 time Grammy winner who can complain.

And in April on his way to Trinidad and Tobago I met Jamaican Artist Rexton Rawlston Fernando Gordon aka ‘Mr Loverman’ also at JFK.  It was a fleeting contact that I made the best of. “I love your music,” I said, as he passed with his wife Michelle. ‘There is more coming,’ he said. I remember 90s hits like ‘Ting-A-Ling’ and ‘Twice my Age’ hits that define dancehall at the time. Of course he had hits like ‘Bedroom Bully’ and ‘Mr Loverman’, the question now is what lyrics can we expect. The legendary Ranks was the first to win a Grammy for his genre.

And so we wait!

Jamaican Ballet and Moko Jumbie

By Nicosia Smith

A story of folk songs, reggae and dancehall music is wonderfully told through graceful and skillful dancing.

When watching the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC) you get an authentic, down-to-earth Caribbean experience through dance.

Choreographer Renee McDonald, ‘Into The Blue’ (2015), revised 2016, reveals a beautiful mixture of Caribbean integration. Nineteen dancers in blue danced as if the ocean pursued. It was a scene of battles lost and won at sea. Their fluid movements created a lot of waves that took you through the waters with them. The powerful dance moves, although distinctly Caribbean got a twist with official soundtracks from the movies ‘Gravity‘ and ‘Kung Fu Panda‘. To become a ballerina it takes years of training, some dancers begin at 4-years-old. But after seeing this piece these dancers have what it takes for ballet. I believe it should be the next step the company takes.

However, this will take more than just will but on the ground support.

Dance, culture and the arts must become more meaningful to the Caribbean populous. Our love for dance must transform our focus to demand more from our entertainment than street corner parties. It means we must support formal dance projects.

But back to NDTC.

NDTC co-Founder Rex Nettleford choreographed ‘Gerrehbenta’ an all traditional Caribbean folk piece. The folk singing, dancing and drumming in Gerrehbenta is charged with traditions, namely African ones. This piece showcase’s to its fullest that part of the Caribbean culture that was adopted from Africa.

It reminds us of a people brought to the Caribbean against their will. And reflex the content of their minds and the fight in their spirits to survive. I like that even the cloth around the waist and necks of the dancers were interwoven into the piece, as skirts flared and pants waist were tighten. In the center of this dance is a long moko-jumbie like character, with a cow-like mask a-top the colorfully clothed stick frame. The NDTC noted that the dance takes its name from two of the major traditional rites practiced in Jamaica, ‘gerreh’ in Hanover and ‘dinky-mini’ which uses the musical instrument, the benta, in St. Mary.

We have some ways to go to have the Caribbean’s distinct cultural dance styles achieve global recognition but certainly the NDTC is doing their part. And the audience last month at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College felt the same, judging by the thunderous applauding.

 

Vancouver Art Gallery Gumhead spike public interest

Passersby and gallery goers stick gum on Gumhead, installed adjacent to the Vancouver Art Gallery on Howe Street. (Nicosia Smith photo)

Passersby and gallery goers stick gum on Gumhead, installed adjacent to the Vancouver Art Gallery on Howe Street. (Nicosia Smith photo)

 

By Nicosia Smith

Whenever you chew a gum in public, in almost every case your next thought is where to stick it.

Well, Vancouver based international artist and writer Douglas Coupland has come up with an idea.

It is interactive and all it asks, is that you stick gum on a head – an image of the artist.

Now here is where it gets sticky, the gum-head head is located only at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

It is Coupland, Gumhead, a public art work commissioned by the Gallery.

No matter what your thoughts are about gum, it is intriguing.

This project makes you feel the need to explore in your head, how gum has served art.

And how exactly is gum serving art you are likely to ask?

Since this 7-foot tall sculpture only calls on passersby and gallery goers to chew gum and paste it on its head.

And that in it self, you can argue is art.

And here is another thought that was shared with me.

One gallery host explain that the public in many cases deface public art, so why not make their input apart of the art.

And a lot of people seem to agreed.  The public has not shied away.

For those of you who enjoy sticking gum in public, it is a dream art project.

For those that don’t, well there is the cringe effect.

Since it went on view May 31, this once plain black-head is now

Douglas Coupland: Gumhead, 2014 made from steel, milled foam, resin and gum. (Nicosia Smith photo)

Douglas Coupland: Gumhead, 2014 made from steel, milled foam, resin and gum. (Nicosia Smith photo)

sticky, multi-colored and almost covered with chewed gums.

I must admit I was not chewing gum and sticking it on Gumhead.

Nevertheless, I was fascinated by the numbers that came off the street to add to Gumhead.

Coupland, has described this work as “a gumbased, crowdsourced, publicly interactive self-portrait.”

Through September 1, the public can take part in this very unique work.

Coupland is also exploring the singularity of Canadian culture, technology and the power of language in Douglas Coupland: everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything. The artist is shedding light on what he terms “the 21st century condition.”

A glimpse of Douglas Coupland: everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything exhibit, at the Vancouver Art Gallery. (Nicosia Smith photo)

A glimpse of Douglas Coupland: everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything exhibit, at the Vancouver Art Gallery. (Nicosia Smith photo)

 

So my border friends go ahead, chew and paste if this takes your fancy.

 

 

Jean Dubuffet far from ordinary

 

jean dubuffet

A Jean Dubuffet sculpture with his paintings in the background at Sotheby’s, NY,NY. (Nicosia Smith photo)

By Nicosia Smith

Jean Dubuffet.

He is far from conventional or traditional, this French painter and sculptor.

Forty-four of his works are on display at Sotheby’s, Jean Dubuffet – A Fine Line.

This selling exhibit runs through June 13 and gives a very colourful depiction of Dubuffet’s (1901-1985) works.

His paintings carry a lot of wide-eyed ghost-like reflections and is a theme throughout the display.

It is hard to say what the images, which are spread out across the paintings, are trying tell us. At times they are still, drifting or just there.

It’s an exhibit that will certainly make you stop and ponder.

Sotheby’s abuzz with British Guiana stamp

stamp

The 1856 One-Cent Black-on-Magenta on display at Sotheby’s York Avenue, NY, NY. (Sotheby’s image)

 

By Nicosia Smith

There is a buzz in the world of stamp collectors.

And this is why.

The British Guiana 1856 One-Cent Black-on-Magenta will soon go on sale.

And it is estimated to be sold for between $10M to $20M when it goes on auction June 17  at Sotheby’s (On display until Friday).

All by itself, the stamp takes center stage on Sotheby’s first floor, far right corner.

A very wired guard at the entrance of the exhibit keeps a keen eye, before you reach the descending few stairs to the stamp.

The significance of the occasion rests on you.

stamp

The verso of the British Guiana one-cent magenta stamp showing the initials and marks of some previous owners. (Sotheby’s image)

In a darkly lit room, there it was, a small florence-like beam shining on it.

While a very knowledgeable attendant nearby gives you a history of the very famous and rarest stamp in circulation.

Such a small object, but holding so much significant history. I took a moment.

According to Sotheby’s, in July 1850 British Guiana form an inland postal service.

And in 1852, British Guiana began receiving regular postage stamps, manufactured in England by Waterlow & Sons.

But in 1856, a shipment of stamps from England was delayed and threatened a disruption of postal service throughout British Guiana.

Colonial postmaster, E.T.E. Dalton, got local printers Joseph Baum and William Dallas, to print a contingency supply of postage stamps

Baum and Dallas were publishers of the Royal Gazette newspaper in Georgetown, British Guiana at the time.

They attempted to mimic the appearance of the Waterlow stamps and produced a series of three definitive stamps for the colony: the One-cent Magenta, a four-cent magenta, and a four-cent blue.

The one-cent magenta stamp is the sole survivor from its series.

I was told that the printing press for the one-cent magenta still survives in now Guyana, formerly British Guiana.

Tilton Gallery challenges you to find the joke

Egan Frantz, Sicca Purgiato Sublime, 2014 (Nicosia Smith photo)

Egan Frantz, Sicca Purgiato Sublime, 2014 (Nicosia Smith photo)

By Nicosia Smith

So how do you get an audience to take new contemporary works seriously.

You give it a serious title like, “but that joke isn’t funny anymore….”

Seriously.

This is the name of the exhibit at Tilton Gallery, 8 East 76 Street, for a group of 12 titled and untitled contemporary pieces.

I must admit that my initial thought was, I was going to get a good laugh. Simply put, that was not the case.

Luca Dellaverson, Untitled, 2014, (Nicosia Smith photo)

Luca Dellaverson, Untitled, 2014, (Nicosia Smith photo)

JPW 3, HIVE CITRONE 2014, 2014 (Nicosia Smith photo)

JPW 3, HIVE CITRONE 2014, 2014 (Nicosia Smith photo)

 

I found my self in a very intense engagement with the works of the eight contemporary artists on display.

The untitled 2014 work of Luca Dellaverson, had me staring partially at the red coat I was wearing, in this Epoxy resin and mirrored glass with wood support.

This work on the second floor of the two-floor exhibit, had my imagination running wild.

I kept thinking how did Dellaverson got the smashed glass to remain so intact.

And how this smashed effect made light move through the work, even as most of the piece remain black.

At the same time allowing me to see my red coat.

Artist JPW 3, HIVE CITRONE, 2014, an offset ink transfer in citronella, peach, and paraffin wax on canvas, was also nothing to laugh about.

Simone Leigh, Untitled 2014 (Nicosia Smith photo)

Simone Leigh, Untitled 2014 (Nicosia Smith photo)

While looking at this work I tried to understand what JPW 3 wanted us to know about the separation of wax from ink. I kept staring at the piece to see if there was some encryption in it that I should see or a pattern of some sort. I saw nothing to decipher.

Simone Leigh, untitled, 2014, Terra cotta and porcelain stood alone, being the only sculpted piece.

That is, if you consider the Sicca Purgiato sublime, 2014, (above) aluminum, rebonded foam, laser-etched acrylic, and hardware, by Egan Frantz.

Nine of the 12 pieces were made this year, two from 2010 and one from 2013 and are on exhibit through June 7.

All mainly new works, proving that there was nothing to laugh about.

It is just too cold to be Spring

(Google Image)

 

By Nicosia smith

Spring arrived weeks ago, but walking the streets of New York City you would think otherwise.

It is a frigid Spring.

Just when I thought it was ok for the extra layers to go. I find my self debating whether I need that extra jacket or tights.

And sling back slippers will have to wait awhile longer, as my socks do overtime.

That aside, you still have to get out there and be on the move.

So if it’s still too cold outside for you as it is for me, warm up at this indoor event.

Spring Masters New York, a Park Avenue Armory Fair staged by Architect Rafael Vinoly opening April 30 at the Armory.

And open to the public between May 1-4.

This international show will showcase art and antiquities from galleries across the US and is sure to pique your appetite.

Contemporary furniture, art, bronze and metal sculptures, paintings and jewellery.

And check out the Tribeca Film Festival as well ending April 27, if you can get tickets.

And you may still be able to, with its slogan of ‘never say sold out’.

Certainly, a mixture of international and local films will keep things interested.

 

From Jukebox to Haitian Jazz

Emeline Michel speaking with fans after performing at the Brooklyn Public Library. (Nicosia Smith photo)

Emeline Michel speaking with fans after performing at the Brooklyn Public Library. (Nicosia Smith photo)

 

By Nicosia Smith

In great weather, what does an art and culture lover do, get out.

Howbeit my umbrella was necessary towards the end of the day.

My first stop was at the Schomburg Center in Harlem to view ‘Motown: The Truth is a Hit’. It was like treading on familiar territory.

Last year I attended Motown, the Broadway musical, which is the same name of the label founded by Berry Gordy Jr., in 1959. This exhibit traces, chronologically, the growth of the Motown sound, complete with songs playing in the background. While the musical gave a much wider spread of the events leading up to the creation of Motown, the exhibition gives snippets. Life size photos of the Supreme, Marvin Gaye, Jackson 5, Mary Wells, the Temptations and many others told this Motown story.

However, the exhibit did delve into the latter years of Motown. That is, showcasing pop singers like Vanity and Lionel Richie. If you can, it’s best to see the musical and also view the exhibit which runs through July 26.

Then it was off to Brooklyn.

To an evening of intoxicating lyrics, that took me from the American Jukebox, to the Caribbean island of Haiti.

International Haitian Jazz singer Emeline Michel kicked off the Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival at Brooklyn Central Library. Jazz is not her only genre; she combines Haitian compas and rara, in pop, samba and bossa nova.

Michel sings in French and Haitian Creole combining these rhythms to create her unique sound.

It is an intoxicating soulful infusion of instruments (piano, guitar, and drums) that gives a powerful yet smooth blues/jazz feel. This is complimented by Michel’s voice – that takes you up to a high or simmer you down low. And at times leaves you within yourself to contemplate. It’s the type of sound that makes you want to sing, dance and listen all at once.

And if you do not know Haitian Creole or French, no problem, you will feel as if you know what is being said. Michel is also very good at explaining the concepts behind her songs, which covers from the personal, social to the political. And moving to her lyrics comes natural, as I found out.

Both the Schomburg and Central Library have continuing events and I will be keeping my ears to the ground.

It’s a blessing when you can absorb your surroundings and learn from things around you.

 

 

Art for Depression

Painting by Else Blankenhorn (1873-1920).

Else Blankenhorn 1873-1920 (Spiegel Online International Photo)

 

By Nicosia Smith

Immersing your self into thoughts and feelings apart from your own is a helpful tool to free the mind.

When you step into a gallery or museum or observe a painter at work,  you are agreeing to a journey.

Out from where you are at the moment, to another place. And at that place you are the manager in charge and the judge in the court.

Your opinions and suggestions are all your own and largely block to anyone else.

Although, the creative mind behind the piece on display, will likely explain what the art is saying or means in brief.

This is open-ended. It is not written in stone, as they say.

Or except of course, you become an influential art critic, and even so, art lovers are not easily dissuaded by critics.

Because art is all about going against the grain, so to speak.

But back to art as therapy.

Last week and this week several artistic associations celebrated the healing power of art.

One such institution was the Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.

More than 30 folk art works by psychiatric patients were displayed in the hospital’s lobby.

All part of a celebration of Creative Arts Therapy Week. Yes, that’s right.

Creativity is not only for economic gain but it provides fulfillment for the mind.

As these and other psychiatric patients have shown us.

That is, expressing one’s self through art is also a powerful form of treatment, together with traditional treatment.

As someone who loves the escape that art and other things cultural provide, I will continue moving towards the art epicenters.

A Facebook post or Wall Art?

What is your social media wall saying about you?

Is it a chart of how you are to be remembered?

And there is no shame in thinking about it while you post on Twitter or Facebook.

And look at it this way – you may not be consciously pondering it, but you are posting it.

Think about it.

All those dinner outings, evening sessions, birthday parties, vacations and upset moments posted for all.

A memento in your online album. Of your feelings and thoughts to be liked or disliked.

All saying these are things to remember me by.  A very interactive way.

If you happen to get famous over night, yes that too can happen. The first place the media is likely to look for information about you is on social media.

And all of your post and bantering becomes who you are. Even that one post you hope would disappear over time.

No they do not.

But for those of us looking for a more subdued  and less interactive way.

Well, there is always the services of a painter. That is one that can paint a portrait.

The artist can make you look the part whatever part that is.

Fit for a fireplace mantle or for a living room wall.

So while your post will be a little more off the wall or unpredictable, your portrait is not expected to be.

Unless the artist is told otherwise.

Curators are always preoccupied with this question, because it is a part of their jobs.

That is, how to best present a subject or someone.

So as you come across your next post-able moment, remember, that’s your art on the wall.