Frida Kahlo Archive Drama

48901846The LATimesChristopher Knight reports on the archive of the “magnetic, self-mythologizing” Frida, little-known and drama enducing.

Barbara Levine displays the few pieces of ephemera by one of the biggest names in Mexico’s Modern art history here.

The findings include: “16 small oil paintings, 23 watercolors and pastels, 59 notebook pages (diary entries, recipes, etc.), 73 anatomical studies (some dated prior to Kahlo’s disfiguring 1925 trolley accident), 128 pencil and crayon drawings, 129 illustrated prose-poems, and 230 letters to Carlos Pellicer, the Modernist poet and Frida’s close confidant, many adorned with sketches — skulls, insects, lizards, birds… a small box holding 11 taxidermy hummingbirds. There are pistols, such as an ornate 1870 Remington; a tricolor Mexican flag, its central white panel altered to celebrate Leon Trotsky (“Troski”) and the Communist Party, to which Kahlo and Rivera belonged; hotel bills; photographs; receipts for sales of Rivera paintings; an embroidered huipil, a traditional Mayan blouse; an intimate diary, with one entry expressing Frida’s intense (and unrequited) erotic attraction to lesbian ranchera singer Chavela Vargas; a French medical text on amputation, painted over with blood-red pigments; and more.”

Saltz takes on MoMA

Louise BourgoisIn older news… The Guerrilla Girls may have their own count in protest of sexism in museums, but art critic Jerry Saltz confronts MoMA on their gender-imbalanced collection and curation on the 4th and 5th floors, via his Facebook page.  After his followers contributed to the conversation with over 500 comments and wall posts, Jerry had the opportunity to meet with Ann Temkin, the Museum’s Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture.  Edward Winkleman’s blog covers the original article by Saltz, which raises some important points in how to measure and evaluate the disparity at hand.  Do we consider just numbers? Or prominence of pieces, like Louise Bourgeois’s at the entrance of the 4th floor (which, on the 5th floor has long been occupied by Cezanne)?  And what about the artists themselves– even if Temkin intends to re-install the collection, does she actually solve any problem if the artists who are highlighted are as obvious as Joseph Beuys, Bruce Nauman, and Eva Hesse? Ahem.. that’s still just a one-to-three ratio of women to men… essentially no different from the 19 of 383 works currently installed on the 4th and 5th floors of the permanent collection– women representing just 4%.

I’m a bit bored by the conversation that was sparked after this about the value of art and how art made by women sells in auctions compared to how art by men does.  Saltz concludes that if we can’t rely on an institution and space like MoMA for refreshing art, it’s up to the little guys, the smaller galleries throughout New York to bring unknown artists into the scope of “good art.” As Saltz used Facebook as a venue for this discussion, we’ll use this blog to display the treasures of art created by women mined from the internet and local galleries.  Stay tuned.

Nudity? In an ART MUSEUM?

kathleen-neill-nudeThis is old news, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the hubub caused last week when a (live! nude! girl!) model posed for photographer Zach Hyman in the Met’s Arms and Armor gallery. Model Kathleen Neill was stopped by museum guards some 30 seconds after disrobing, and was arrested shortly thereafter.

On one hand, the photographer seems like publicity hound, and by posting this we’re playing right along with his plans. The lawyer’s statement: “There are nude sculptures and paintings all over the museum. It’s the height of stupidity accusing a live model of showing the same thing in a house of art” is spot on, except that Hyman has also posed his nude models in subways, so the “but there’s naked ladies EVERYwhere in a museum!” defense loses some credibility.

But look: fuck em if they can’t take a joke.

It’s a truism, but we’ll say it anyway. The history of art includes a long line of radicals challenging conservative tastes, often using sex and bodies. See: Lolita, Last Tango in Paris, Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, Manet’s Olympia, Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, and Sargent’s Madame X, which was considered so prurient in its day that the artist painted over an earlier version in which the model’s dress strap dangled from her shoulder. Oh, and Madame X hangs in–you guessed it–the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The fact that Neill is facing charges of public lewdness is disappointing. Will she have to register as a sex offender because of this? Come on, Met. You can do better than this.

A photo of Madam X as she originally appeared (1881)
A photo of Madam X as she originally appeared (1881)

In related news, the Gorilla/Guerrilla Girls’ take on female nudity at the Met:

“In 1995, a “weenie count” done by the Guerrilla Girls at the Metropolitan Museum showed that 85 percent of the pieces that depicted nudes depicted naked women while only five percent of the displayed artworks were created by women. This statistic prompted one of the Guerrilla Girls’ critiques, a poster asking, “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?”

Madame X as she appears today, with strap on shoulder (1883-4)

So the question is, do women have to be naked images to get into the Met?

Scienceblogs goes to the creation museum!

creo_tree-thumb-190x200-17223.jpegGod made dirt and dirt don’t hurt, right?
“Their first big exhibit is a perfect example of the principle in action. It’s a model of a dinosaur dig, with two men working away at excavating the bones. There is a video accompanying it in which the two views are presented. The younger Asian fellow in front says, and I paraphrase, “This animal died about a hundred million years ago. Its body dried in the sun for several days before being slowly buried under layers of sediment in a local flood.” Then the avuncular creationist says, “I see the same bones, but I believe this dinosaur was killed suddenly about 4400 years ago in a huge global flood, which buried it deeply all at once.” And then he goes on to explain that see, they have the very same evidence, but he understands it in the light of God’s word.”

ich verstehe nicht

men who knewCologne city officials knew the archives were sinking–taking in water for months and noticeably sinking in early february–but they didn’t notify the proper authorities.

Those investigating how the building packed with unique cultural treasures collapsed, killing two people, heard on Friday night that the ground underneath the building had started letting water into the foundations last September – and the building was shown to be subsiding in February.

That’s some sad shit, let’s hope it doesn’t happen to the world economy.

(our mention of the archives collapse a few weeks ago)

kipple: a thoroughly polite dust up

dustWe were cleaning out under our bed the other day, throwing out broken stereos, some adult videos from the mid 1990s, a VCR, when we got thinking (and breathing and sneezing) dust. We worked in a museum once that was so dusty that our bags were literally covered in a few millimeters of it whenever we picked them up from the floor under our desk at the end of the day. Our workstation was just outside the registrar’s office, very close to a large table where documents were handled every day. At least they washed their white gloves. Obviously an enemy (and yet ominipresent force) of collection houses everywhere, we went and wikipedia’d that shit.

Here are some wonderful factoids:
+ Dust ain’t dust if it’s diameter is more than 500 micrometers
+ Much of indoor dust comes from skin cells — and your body sheds its entire outer layer of skin once every two days!
+ According to the German Environmental Survey, approximately 6 mg/m²/day of house dust is formed in private households
+ Nearly 1000 dust particles per square centimeter settle on domestic surfaces every hour
+ If dust gets airborne its categorized as an aerosol–which we just figured out means a solid thats in the air! Brill.
+ Space Dust! The zodiacal light seen in the dark night sky is produced by sunlight reflected from particles of dust in orbit around the Sun
+ Most obviously awesome and gross, dust mites: they are everywhere, in all dust, and they eat it and poop it out, creating even more dust. Yum.

Much to our delight, we discovered there’s even an online Museum of Dust, with some really, really cool posts. Huzzah!

See also, Kipple, and the Fun Science Gallery’s dust scans.

chickens: no sympathy for empathy museum

petaVia New Curator, this wonderful bit about the latest PETA attention grabber, a proposal to turn an old poultry plant into a Chicken Empathy Museum of Feelings and Emotions. Look, we’re against animal cruelty as much as the next progressive-guilt-ridden urbanite. Free range, organic, of course. And yeah we know, it’s not enough, but, ethical and political and nutrition arguments aside, we just have to say, much like a chicken, this museum ain’t gonna fly (ZING).

Oh, and good luck getting this approved by Bobby Jindal, who will surely want to rebound from his Kenneth-the-page rebuttal speech by funding a PETA museum. Oh, funding, we forgot, he’s rejecting $98 million for the unemployed in government stimulus funds. Way to bring it home, Bobby. What a mensch!

An extra tip to New Curator for the highly literate “this reminds me of Artaud” reference.

Oh, we’ve tried so many times to be a veggie. But bacon…tastes…so…good.

*REMINDER* non-profit workers unionize tonight!

unionizeDon’t let that micromanaging Director push you around any longer!

Nonprofit Happy Hour
Thursday, March 12, 2009, 6pm – 8pm

Revival Bar, near Union Square

We know it’s not easy times for nonprofit organizations right now.
And that means it is not easy times for those of us who work for nonprofits.

Come find out about starting a UNION at your workplace.
Strategize with nonprofit workers about how they are using their UNION to address job security, layoffs, hiring freezes, transparency, and workload issues that are affecting all of us right now.

For more information about unionizing at CWA 1180, visit

Library Murder on the Orient Express

library destructiconOh, they shut down the mighty Donnell library, where we used to research term papers in the eighth grade*, to make room for a boom-era hotel owned by Orient-Express Enterprises Incorporated LLC. Now the economy’s gone all bust and the hotel is high-tailin’ it back to the Orient Asia. So what now? The original plans called for a scaled-back mini-library, from 42,000 square feet of public space to 19,000.

What will become of the gutted building? Affordable housing? Archive-style lofts? Spiraling Skyscraper Farms?

*100 note-card minimum, and oh, they had old copies of Playboy at periodicals circulation!

The Times has some decent reporting of the original reaction to the Library’s closing (woops, we missed this one back in the sleep days of early Suggested Donation), including a link to a decades long battle over who should have these old flea bitten winnie the pooh dolls. Go away, Britons, we got this. You can have Christopher Robin.


free science

gentleman or scientistWell this is some bullshit, John Conyers, D(issapointing), MI, who used to busy himself fighting quixotic but honorable battles to impeach BushCo, is now trying to block open access to science journals.

And yes, the bill’s sponsors are getting donations from journal publishers. What a world!

Recently, government-sponsored agencies like NIH have moved toward open access of scientific findings. That is, the results are published where anyone can see them, and in fact (for the NIH) after 12 months the papers must be publicly accessible…
John Conyers (D-MI) apparently has a problem with this. He is pushing a bill through Congress that will literally ban the open access of these papers, forcing scientists to only publish in journals. This may not sound like a big deal, but journals are very expensive. They can cost a fortune: The Astrophysical Journal costs over $2000/year, and they charge scientists to publish in them! So this bill would force scientists to spend money to publish, and force you to spend money to read them.

Discovery Blogs