Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Special Event: The Fringe Wilmington Festival

If you, dear readers, are like me and giggle every time you see that commercial with the zombie who's about to eat the ballerinas (I can't imagine he'll get a very filling meal out of them), you absolutely need to attend the Fringe Wilmington Festival. The festival is devoted to bringing the best in delightfully off-beat art, music, theatre, and other potentially fringy things to the City of Wilmington. Though the festival has already begun, it runs until October 3rd, so there's plenty left to see and do.

If you were already planning on stopping by the DCCA for Art on the Town tomorrow, you'll get a taste of things (the festival, not ballerina flesh) while you're here. The DCCA is hosting two performances of "Crypto-Anthropology" by Phantom Limb Productions. Halloween enthusiasts will find that this show is an ideal way to kick off the countdown to the big day. The Festival Website describes it as "a highly interactive fun house freak show of scandalous proportions." Yes, you read that correctly, "scandalous proportions." Add in a Skunk Ape and a Muck Monster and good times are guaranteed.

It should be noted that the show is not free, but at $5 per ticket the admission price is certainly a bargain for all that you'll see. "Crypto-Anthropology" will be performed a grand total of three times at the DCCA: twice on Friday night (7:30 and 9:30) and once Saturday afternoon (2:00).

For more information about "Crypto-Anthropology" and the Fringe Wilmington Festival in general, visit the official website.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Special Event: Art on the Town

It's that time again, DCCA fans!

Come join the DCCA for a night of culture and revelry this Friday, October 1st. The DCCA, along with other galleries and studios around Wilmington will be staying open late just so you art enthusiasts can feed your passion. Oh, and, did I mention that it's free? Bring your friends, bring your friends' friends, and be ready to party! The City of Wilmington is hosting our re:FRESH party, and, in case you haven't heard, the DCCA is known for its shindigs. Since we're hosting the after party, we'll be open until 11:00 PM, but other venues around the city will be closing a little bit earlier.

For a full list of the venues participating, as well as how long they'll be open and a schedule for the Art on the Town bus route, go visit the official web page.

Panoramic View: The Morris Kitsch Exhibition

Mug, Detail from the Morris Kitsch Archive,
2009, Laminated Digital Print, 8.5" X 12",
Photograph David Mabb
Next Thursday will mark the beginning of the international symposium, "Useful and Beautiful: The Transatlantic Arts of William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites". It may seem strange for me to mention this symposium on a blog about a contemporary arts center, but, as it turns, out, the DCCA is housing an exhibition that was created in honor of the symposium. The exhibit in question is none other than the Morris Kitsch Archive, designed by British artist David Mabb.

I must confess that the first time I entered the Kitsch Archive I was decidedly underwhelmed. You see, the exhibitions section of the DCCA website features images (like the one at left) of actual objects. This lead me to suspect that the archive would, therefore, contain actual objects. So, the first time I saw the exhibit, I thought for a moment that someone had robbed the DCCA. There were no kitschy  mugs, or shirts, or pens...or anything at all, for that matter. Clearly the authorities  needed to be informed.

Fortunately, I was mistaken. It is only at first glance that the exhibit seems empty. Instead of bringing objects to the DCCA, Mabb has placed hundreds of photographs of objects on the walls and arranged them into several massive grids. The effect of this decision is to give the impression of emptiness and a vacant room, for the images are flat and lack even the minimal protrusion of a canvas on the wall. The impression of emptiness doesn't last long. It is soon replaced by an unexpected but powerful feeling of sensory overload. As I walked around the perimeter of the room, trying my best to look at every single solitary individual object pictured in every single solitary individual row and column, I soon felt my eyes glass over and my mind go on autopilot.

When I realized that I had no idea what I was seeing anymore, I berated myself severely. "Are you or are you not an Art History major," I asked myself, "and do you or do you not cringe when people walk by art without really looking at it? You mademoiselle, are a hypocrite!" I was suitably ashamed of myself and tried once more to take in every single image. The thing is, try as I might, I just couldn't do it and, gradually, I began to suspect that my inability to absorb, well, anything, might just be the point of the exhibition.

David Mabb say this about his installation: “The archive illustrates how Morris’ designs have been appropriated for a mass consumer society. The designs have become widely available at the expense of the qualities and values inherent to Morris’ original utopian project, which offered in its vision of the fecundity of nature the hope of alternative ways of living in the world.” Morris, it seems, was in favor of the early forms of communism and was deeply disdainful of the capitalist phenomenon of mass production. Indeed, he greatly valued the beauty of hand crafted, artistic objects. The title of the symposium even comes from a Morris quote on this subject, "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."

This quote is actually rather famous among Pre-Raphaelite enthusiasts and is included, many times, in the Kitsch Archive. It is this inclusion that underlines how much Morris original intent has been distorted by "a mass consumer society," for many of the objects that feature this slogan are, to be blunt, ugly. The quote appears on plain white tee shirts, not-particularly-ornate pillows, and other assorted, boring, mass produced items. Morris's love of beauty artistic substance, and originality has been eaten up by mass production and spit out in the form of...kitsch.

Mabb seems to be suggesting that, by transferring Moriss's designs onto endless, mass-produced objects, we are contradicting everything for which Morris stood.


*Useful and Beautiful: The Transatlantic Arts of William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites - Official Symposium Website

*The Morris Kitsch Archive will be exhibited at the DCCA until December 5, 2010.

"Panoramic View" is a series of posts dedicated to stepping back and looking at exhibits at the DCCA in their entirety.

In Depth: The Temptation of the Penitent Medusa by Carrie Ann Baade

Carrie Ann Baade, The Temptation of the
Penitent Medusa
, 2010, oil on panel,
12" X 18"
If ever there was a painting dedicated to examining the role of women in art, this is it.

Carrie Ann Baade's  The Temptation of the Penitent Medusa is not only a technical tour de force (the surface of the painting is incredibly smooth), but a multi-layered allegory that is likely to send one's head spinning so fast that it will...leave your head spinning. Medusa, famous for turning men into stone with a glance, paints the virgin Mary while demons and chimeras climb over her and a tear slides down her cheek.  The demons, the title tells us, are tempting Medusa, pulling at her hair as if to make her look at something. She, however,  looks steadfastly into the distance and doesn't even see her painting. She does not look out at the viewer but, instead, seems to resign herself (although unhappily) to be the object of observation instead of an observer herself.

The implied narrative that Baade has given us is one of reluctant reform, subversion of the self, and the persistent objectification of women in the arts. Greek mythology tells us that Perseus decapitated Medusa as punishment for her wicked ways and then placed her head on his shield. The latter precaution allowed Perseus to turn his foes into stone (strange, isn't it, that Perseus shouldn't be punished for turning his fellow men into stone). Baade has presented us with an alternate punishment for our snaky-tressed friend. Instead of spending her time changing live men into stone sculptures, she acts out her penitence by painting the image of the most pious woman in the history of  the Western world, the virgin Mary. The studio Baade gives to her Medusa is empty and rendered in blues so cold that I can't help but wonder if the tear on Medusa's cheek is frozen there. It seem that, in Baade's opinion, Medusa may have been better off dead. Instead of exercising her super-human abilities, she paints a formulaic depiction of Mary and the baby Jesus while staring sadly into space.

Medusa has not only abandoned turning men into objects, however, but has become an object herself. The direction of her gaze, and her determination not to look at anyone, prevents her from interacting with the viewer. Her profile, however, is meticulously rendered and available to be observed by even the most casual passerby. It is almost as if the viewer has adopted Medusa's powers for, though we can continue with our lives after seeing this painting, Medusa will forever be frozen in the act of depicting a woman who is not only her polar opposite but also, according to mainstream society, an ideal to which she may  not wish to aspire.

One really can't help but hope that one of those demons will succeed in turning her head.

As long as that same "one" is far away when it happens.


*The Temptation of the Penitent Medusa is a part of the DCCA's "In Canon," an exhibit that will run until January 2, 2011.

*"In Depth" is a series of posts dedicated to taking a closer look at (and maybe completely misinterpreting) individual paintings exhibited by the DCCA. If you would like to nominate a painting at the DCCA for an "In Depth" feature, feel free to write a comment and let me know!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Official Self-Referential Post

Hello there, readers, and welcome to Artistic Novelty, the new blog dedicated to the life and times of the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. Assuming a lack  of biblical plagues, tragic exhibition installation accidents, or other unforeseen circumstances, I will be your blogger and guide to the comings and goings at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts for the next year or so.

"Who are you," you may ask with suspicion in your voice, "and what did you do with the other blogger?" Fear not, gentle readers, Meagan's blog still exists and, though not as frequently, she will still be updating it with her take on events at the DCCA. Of course, that still doesn't tell you who I am. At the risk of under-thinking things and thus angering any existentialists in the audience, I'll simply say that my name is Alissa. Since that isn't awfully informative, I'll tell you more: I am the new Development Intern at the DCCA. What that means is that, in between paperwork and epic battles with the copier, I'll be able to  give you up-to-date information about the DCCA and all the shenanigans that go on behind our walls.

Intriguing stuff, eh? With any luck I'll be able to tell you about some of the fun, behind-the-scenes magic that goes on here on South Madison Street.

Stay tuned, dear readers. It's going to be an interesting year.