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  • 03/07/17--09:36: Artists Interrupted
  • Few people have the luxury of fantasizing about a career in the arts and having their dream come true without experiencing any demoralizing setbacks. Whether it means spending several years working as an office temp or waiting tables, the path to success is rarely a straight line with no obstacles.

    Even given such online options as YouTube (where a person can build a following, develop a brand, and attract a corporate sponsor), things can go wrong. Health issues, burnout, and family responsibilities can easily sidetrack a rising Internet star. Even an established personality with an international following who has been earning millions of dollars in advertising revenue  (like PewDiePie) can make a stupid move, turn toxic overnight, and have his online account cancelled, effectively cutting him off from his fans.

    When shit happens, precious momentum can be lost. A performer may spend years rebuilding a career without any guarantee of reclaiming the popularity that vanished into thin air. During that period, a crushing loss of confidence and questions about self worth (coupled with an overwhelming sense of grief and disbelief) can lead to problems with depression and substance abuse. Art isn't easy.

    San Francisco's 2017 CAAMFest includes several films that depict both aspiring and established artists struggling with the darker aspects of reality as they face challenges that can cripple an artist's ambition. Sometimes such setbacks occur before an artist has even had a chance to become known. At other times, a major setback can happen just as an artist's career is starting to peak. How an artist handles such a crisis was impressively depicted in three films being screened at the festival.

    * * * * * * * * *

    Christina YR Jun's six-minute short, Crescendo, is filled with contradictions. On the left side of the screen, the audience sees Amit (Albert Thakur), an accomplished, middle-aged violinist warming up prior to a 6:00 p.m. curtain call for his recital. After performing his solo in front of an enthusiastic, upscale audience, Amit lifts his hand in tribute to his beloved mentor.

    On the right side of the screen, the audience sees Vishal (Lavrenti Lopes), an immigrant from India who is working in an American restaurant, as he counts out his tips from playing violin during the restaurant's lunch shift. After he finishes placing his work clothes on a hanger in the employee restroom, Vishal places his violin back in its case and wonders if he has enough time to make it to a 6:00 p.m. audition.

    At that moment, an envelope falls on the floor in front of him. As he opens it, he sees a picture from the ultrasound which shows an embryo within his wife's womb. Will Vishal be able to pursue his musical goals while raising a family? Only time will tell.

    * * * * * * * * *

    The late Keo Woolford's 12-minute short, Song on Canvas, follows a particularly poignant plot line which has been shared by many writers and visual artists. Written by David Chan (who stars as Thomas Song), the film begins with a young Asian-American mother asking her young son to choose which item he likes the most: a paintbrush, a dollar bill, or a bowl of rice. The mother is thrilled when her son chooses the paintbrush.

    Years pass, and her son is stuck in a corporate job which offers him no artistic outlet and even less creative stimulation. Frequently teased by his teammates at work (whose biggest goal seems to be going out, getting drunk, and maybe getting laid), they have no idea what's going on inside Thomas's head. One Friday afternoon, when his cell phone rings and Tom's co-worker Eddie (Michael Evans Lopez) sees that it's a call from Sarah (Geraldine Uy), the smirks and sexual innuendo quickly begin. In answer to the loaded question ("So, who's Sarah...?"), Thomas looks up with a blank stare on his face and replies "My mom just died today.

    After the funeral, a visiting aunt and uncle ask Sarah to keep an eye on her brother, reminding her that "he's just like his father." What that means is that Tom basically has trouble opening up and sharing his thoughts with people. When Sarah suggests that he take up painting again, Tom brushes her suggestion aside, insisting that that part of his life is over and done with.

    In the middle of the night, he hears a noise and, in a dream, walks into the kitchen where he encounters a vision of his deceased mother eating from a bowl of spicy food. As she asks him to taste her cooking and feeds him with her chopsticks, she encourages Tom to pick up where he left off with his painting and to always remember the importance of being happy.

    After entering his family's garage, Tom approaches an easel with a tarp draped over the last canvas he had worked on. It's a portrait of his mother, looking very stern and almost disapproving. Inspired by his dream, he paints over the old image and spends the rest of the night creating a new, and much happier portrait of his mother.

    Song On Canvas benefits from a clearly-plotted story, an effective original score by George Gibi Del Barrio, and the subdued performance of Daniel Chan as Tom and Sharon Omi as his mother. Here's the trailer:

    * * * * * * * * *

    Born in Daegu, South Korea sometime around 1970, Jae Chul Bae graduated from the music program at Hanyang University in Seoul with a major in voice and traveled to Italy in 1994. After continuing his studies, he graduated from Milan's famous Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi in 1998 and embarked on a professional career as an opera singer. As the following two arias from Il Trovatore demonstrate, he had a powerful tenor and was on a promising career path.

    In September 2005, while singing the title role in Verdi's Don Carlo with a regional opera company in Saarbrücken, Germany, something went horribly wrong. A strange feeling in his throat led to a diagnosis of thyroid cancer.

    “As soon as I heard the news, I could not sit still and flew to Germany to help bring back to life that wonderful singing voice,” recalled music producer Totaro Wajima, who convinced the tenor to accompany him to Japan in the hope of convincing Nobuhiko Isshiki (a 77-year-old professor emeritus at Kyoto University) to perform a risky thyroplasty. Although the April 2006 laryngeal framework surgery successfully removed the cancer, Isshiki discovered problems involving a paralyzed vocal cord and a compromised diaphragm. In order to resect all of the tumor, the surgical team had to cut nerves in Bae's vocal cords which left him unable to speak.

    According to an article by Toshihiko Ishiyama in The Japan Times, Bae returned to Japan the following year to undergo treatment from Shigeki Aida, who specializes in voice maintenance for opera singers. As the Tokyo-based bone setter explained, “Small muscles controlling his voice functions together with nerves were cut. If I can find muscles for replacement and make them soft, he can possibly be back singing opera within six months."

    Bae returned to the concert stage in 2008 and continues to perform in Japan and Korea. A recent program bio noted that "With his vocal range only 70 percent of what it once was, Bae is concentrating on gospel and is the only tenor in the world who sings with the right half of his vocal cords totally paralyzed."

    The 2017 CAAMFest is presenting a screening of The Tenor (Lirico Spinto), a film inspired by Jae Chul Bae's experience. Ji-tae Yoo stars as Jae Chul Bae with Yûsuke Iseya as his manager, Koji Sawada. The cast includes Cha Ye-ryun as the tenor's wife (Yun-Hee Lee), Kie Kitano as Misaki Shinohara (a rock-oriented young woman who becomes Sawada's assistant), and Natasa Tapuskovic as the mildly villainous mezzo-soprano, Melina.

    Directed by Kim Sang-man, the film begins as Sawada is ushered into a German opera house to attend a performance of Puccini's Turandot in which Jae Chul Bae is singing the role of Calaf. Upon realizing that the tenor is Asian, Sawada (who is himself Japanese), balks at the suggestion that the tenor could really be that special. But upon hearing him perform, Sawada is easily converted to a fan.

    At a subsequent performance, the tenor is singing the role of Manrico in Il Trovatore when the theatre's impresario suggests that they open the upcoming season with a production of Verdi's Otello. Needless to say, Melina (who had been expecting to star in a new production of Bizet's Carmen) is pissed. When Jae Chul Bae starts to develop vocal problems, it quickly becomes evident that they will need to find a replacement for him.

    The screenplay for The Tenor has obviously been romanticized, with some moments that may seem a bit ridiculous to opera queens (leaping at a chance to sing Otello while in his early thirties, insisting on appearing with an aging Fiorenza Cossotto, backstage rivalries, etc.). However, "Nessun Dorma" gets constant exposure and, although every possible moment of melodrama is exploited, The Tenor stands head and shoulders above Luciano Pavarotti's 1982 fiasco, Yes, Giorgio.

    Because of budget constraints and problems raising funding, the production crew (which spent nearly 18 months filming in Korea, Japan, and Serbia), took nearly six years to complete the film. Production standards and art direction are quite impressive, as is the cinematography by Sung Lim Ju. Recordings by Jae Chul Bae in his prime are used in the film's soundtrack. For a two-hour operatic drama, The Tenor provides a good excuse to break out the popcorn. Here's the trailer:

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump has emphasized that a central focus of his administration will be to wipe the so-called Islamic State “from the face of the Earth.” Key presidential advisers like Steve Bannon have spoken of Islam as the enemy of the United States and the West. And now Trump has signed a second Muslim-focused travel ban involving six nations ― a list that could expand ― following his campaign pledge to ban all Muslims from the United States, at least temporarily. He desperately needs to reassess his mindset if he wants to be successful. 

    The president is aware, as he said in his address to Congress, of the need to work with “allies in the Muslim world” in order to genuinely combat the problem of global terrorism. Yet this will be impossible if Trump continues to antagonize the world’s Muslims, including American allies. Demonizing Islam and issuing bans on citizens from Muslim-majority countries are not only ineffective ways to fight terrorism, but they also alienate valuable partners who find such Islamophobic rhetoric and actions humiliating and counter to many of their cherished cultural and tribal codes of honor, dignity and hospitality.

    Instead, Trump and his administration should pursue a different tactic ― one that looks to win the hearts and minds of the larger Muslim community. Only then will he have the diverse scope to take on the threat posed by ISIS and groups like it. To do this, President Trump should draw from a relevant portion of history some eight centuries ago ― the acquisition of Jerusalem by the legendary Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II at the height of the Crusades through peaceful and diplomatic means. 

    Trump should pursue a different tactic ― one that looks to win the hearts and minds of the larger Muslim community.

    It is hard to believe today when extremist groups like ISIS openly declare war on Christians, that there was a time when the ancestors of the same Muslims in the region in which the group originated handed over one of the world’s prized cities and a key objective of the Crusades without violence. Why and how this occurred has important implications for American policy today.

    Frederick II, one of the most powerful rulers of Europe in his time who lived from 1194 to 1250, was a remarkable medieval monarch. Raised in Sicily, which had a significant Muslim population, he spoke numerous languages including Arabic, had a Muslim bodyguard and his coronation mantle, which bears Arabic inscriptions, became the coronation mantle for every Holy Roman Emperor until the 18th century.

    The emperor showed respect for religious minorities like Jews and Muslims, promoted the work of the great Andalusian Muslim philosopher Ibn Rushd, or Averroes, and was known to celebrate festivals associated with the prophet of Islam. He was fascinated by and committed to the pursuit of knowledge and greatly respected Islamic learning, often writing to the greatest rulers in the Muslim world to seek their responses to important philosophical questions. The unusualness of a Christian king seeking these kinds of relationships during the Crusades was not lost on the Muslim rulers. They answered Frederick in good faith and bonds grew between Europe and the Muslim world in spite of the tension and bloodshed of the clashes.

    Frederick’s greatest triumph ― which should be taught in schools of strategy and diplomacy today ― was to use these tactics of cultural understanding and respect to successfully take Jerusalem for Christianity. In doing so, Frederick accomplished the dream of every Christian ruler of Europe since Saladin, one of the more prominent Muslim political leaders of the time, had recaptured the city from the Christians decades earlier, in 1187, ending nearly 90 years of Christian rule.

    As word reached Sultan Malik al-Kamil of Egypt, the nephew of Saladin, that a new Crusade was heading his way, he heard rumors about the emperor who was leading it. Al-Kamil sent his vizier, the Egyptian Emir Fakhr ad-Din, to visit Frederick and assess the situation. A close friendship developed between Fakhr ad-Din and Frederick that was enriched by the exchange of ideas and gifts. Frederick even knighted Fakhr ad-Din.

    While these friendships developed, negotiations over Jerusalem seemed to remain at a stalemate. But Frederick focused on building relationships with the Muslim leaders, and as the American historian Thomas Curtis Van Cleve, citing the accounts of medieval Muslim historians, wrote, “This scholarly exchange appear[ed] to have succeeded where other methods failed.”

    Frederick’s greatest triumph was to use these tactics of cultural understanding and respect to successfully take Jerusalem for Christianity.

    Through the exchanges with Fakhr ad-Din, Frederick and al-Kamil negotiated a deal, known as the Treaty of Jaffa (1229), whereby Frederick would obtain Jerusalem but the Muslims would control Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock on the site of Solomon’s Temple, which Christians could access to pray. Jews would be permitted entrance to the city to pray at the Western Wall on the Temple Mount, Muslims would retain a qadi, or judge, in Jerusalem and non-resident Muslim pilgrims in Jerusalem were to be protected. Muslims were also to be allowed access to Bethlehem, which passed to Frederick’s control. Nazareth, Sidon, Tibnin (Turon), Jaffa and Acre were also handed over to Frederick.

    Escorted by his Muslim bodyguard and accompanied by his tutor in Arab scholarly thinking, a Sicilian Muslim, Frederick arrived in Jerusalem soon after to be received with honor by Shams ad-Din, the eminent qadi of Nablus, who the sultan assigned to host Frederick. In his enthusiasm to honor his guest and not to disturb his rest, Shams ad-Din asked the local muezzins not to make the call to prayer. But the next day Frederick was not pleased and complained to the qadi, “O qadi, why did the muezzins not give the call to prayer in the normal way last night?” Shams ad-Din replied, “This humble slave prevented them, out of regard and respect for Your Majesty.” That, however, did not please Frederick: “My chief aim in passing the night in Jerusalem was to hear the call to prayer given by the muezzins, and their cries of praise to God during the night.” Frederick then reprimanded the qadi: “you have done wrong; why do you deprive yourself because of me of your normal obligation, of your law, of your religion?”

    Shams ad-Din later accompanied Frederick to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the emperor expressed his delight at its beauty, especially the magnificence of the mihrab, or arch that points toward Mecca. Affectionately holding Shams ad-Din’s hand, the emperor stepped out of the mosque only to be confronted by a priest holding the gospels and others attempting to force entry into the mosque. Frederick was furious and shouted, “What’s that you have brought here? By God, if one of you tries to get in here without my leave, I will have his eyes out. We are the vassals and slaves of this Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil. He has granted these churches to me and to you as an act of grace. Do not any of you step out of line.” The abashed priest made a hasty retreat.

    Frederick had accomplished the seemingly impossible in retaking Jerusalem for Christianity peacefully. In a letter to King Henry III of England, the emperor stressed the significance of his success: “In these few days, by a miracle, rather than by valor, that undertaking has been achieved which for a long time numerous princes and various rulers of the world … have not been able to accomplish by force.”

    After Frederick returned from the Middle East he continued to speak effusively of the Egyptian sultan, telling distinguished visitors that his friend was dearer to him than any person alive save for his own son. When the sultan died in 1238, Frederick mourned. In a letter to the King of England, Frederick lamented the sultan’s passing, writing that “many things would have been very different in the Holy Land if only my friend al-Kamil had been still alive.”

    While the 21st century is very different from the 12th, this episode from history is a lesson for President Trump, the United States and other Western governments that are interacting with the Muslim world and Muslims living in their own societies. Frederick had every reason to think like other Europeans of his time about Islam and Muslims. Yet by taking a drastically different route, he was one of the few, if not the only European ruler who was able to succeed where so many had failed, and to do so without a battle.

    Frederick had every reason to think like other Europeans of his time about Islam and Muslims. Yet by taking a drastically different route, he was was able to succeed where so many had failed.

    To be sure, Frederick had a powerful army and often did not hesitate to use it. But in this case he saw something that military might alone could not achieve. He established a rapport with the other side, laid out his own objectives and listened to theirs with respect. It was on the basis of this approach that the other side responded and both were able to speak with cordiality and arrive at a solution.

    Frederick’s strategy underscores the importance of those features that define the greatness of a civilization: knowledge, wisdom, respect and compassion for other human beings. In fact, the significance he placed on reason and on understanding people directly rather than through hearsay is a lesson that could not be more relevant in today’s age of “fake news” and xenophobia.  

    Such values should guide not only America’s relationship with the Muslim world, but also with the world at large. After all, these are the very ideals of America’s Founding Fathers, and it is well to remember their wisdom: Thomas Jefferson said, “Knowledge is power … knowledge is safety … knowledge is happiness”; George Washington wished for “peace with all the world”; and Benjamin Franklin believed that “to relieve the misfortunes of our fellow creatures is concurring with the Deity; ’tis godlike.”

    The task of defeating ISIS and eradicating terrorism is not an easy one. And the battlefields before us are far more complex than during Frederick’s days. It would be naive to believe that his tactics of friendship and cultural understanding could work with terrorists who seek dehumanization over humanization. But it’s not too late to reach out to real Muslims ― and not those who use the religion as a cover for a radical and violent ideology. These Muslims around the world have been victimized by terror, too, and they want to defeat ISIS just as much as any American (American Muslims included). It’s time to listen to them and take in their point of view as we create our own.

    President Trump must decide if he is going to use smart tactics to strengthen relationships with friends and allies, win the respect and favor of the Muslim world and thereby destroy ISIS, or demonize Islam, ban Muslims and exacerbate the already rising tides of hatred and violence around the world. He cannot do both.

    Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University and the author of the forthcoming book Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity, from which this article is adapted.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    On March 8, 1908, more than 15,00 women marched in New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. We’ve come a long way since then, but women still face unique challenges, including violence and human trafficking.

    Today, one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence, at least 200 million women have suffered female genital mutilation and 700 million women were married before they turned 18. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, a small Los Angeles-based nonprofit is promoting awareness of women’s rights in the hope of inspiring global activism. Women’s Voices Now (WVN) believes film can create real change in the attitudes toward women. In our society, the medium of film wields enormous power, regardless of language, culture, or the origin of the audience.

    WVN’s fourth annual festival is now live online, a celebration of uncensored and unapologetic voices from feminists and their allies under the theme Invincible and Unsilenced: Women in the World. The festival features 36 films chosen from 86 submissions from 24 countries on five continents.

    Among the films are Masoumeh, which tells the story of Masoumeh Atae, an Iranian woman attacked brutally by acid by her ex-husband’s father after their divorce. Despite severe burning and losing her sight, she tries to obtain the custody of her son.

    The documentary Women of Fukushima recounts how six brave women fought a government cover-up and protested the poor handling of the clean-up following the nuclear plant disaster. Save Gangamaya tells the heartbreaking story of how one mother went on hunger strike in Nepal to demand justice for the murder of her son.

    With a free online archive with over 200 international women’s rights films that can be viewed from anywhere in the world, WVN is effectively a “Netflix of feminist films” that has reached hundreds of thousands of online viewers in 192 countries. During WVN’s annual Online Film Festival, films selected from all over the world, appear for viewing and voting to anyone with Internet access.

    “We see women of all colors and walks of life protecting themselves and their communities from the adverse economic, social, cultural, and political challenges humankind faces in the 21st century,” says Heidi Basch-Harod, executive director of WVN. “Witnessing these stories through the medium of film creates solidarity toward the common goals of women’s rights.”

    Founded in 2010, the organization initially sought women’s voices from the Muslim community that were not getting mainstream media exposure, especially in the United States. The festival’s creators wanted to bring the unmediated voices of these women to international audiences that had a deep fascination with these women, their societies and their lives following the 9/11 attacks, the war in Iraq, and the Arab Spring. As the organization evolved, WVN became more inclusive to highlight the common struggles and triumphs of women all over the world.

    Women worldwide are making unprecedented gains in fighting for equal access to education, political representation, economic opportunity, and basic civil rights. However, this monumental work is nowhere near finished, and those fighting for advances in women’s rights still need visibility and support for their efforts. A simple place to start is by viewing and voting in WVN’s fourth online festival.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    Border Cantos: A Sight & Sound Exploration from the Mexican American Border is a compelling, bi-lingual exhibition that opened on 2-18 at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

    If ever there was an exhibit that warrants a legislative field trip, this is it. I want every member of Congress to pack a sack lunch and take an afternoon to look, listen and learn.

    Little did the curators know when they booked this exhibition a few years ago how timely it would be. Or how it would illuminate our collective ignorance about the actual border. How we don’t know that over 700 miles of walls (roughly 1/3 of the border) already exist, or that the need for a ‘wall’ is fading as more Mexican leave the US than enter it, or that Mexican illegal’s have declined by over a million since 2009.

    What photographer Richard Misrach and musician/composer/sculptor Guillermo Gallindo have done is make visible and ‘voiced’ what we never get to see or hear.

    For Misrach, Border Cantos expands on years of prior work, covering the entire length of the Mexican-American border, all 1969 miles, Pacific to Gulf of Mexico. He shows us the existing walls that bisect cabbage fields and communities, slice through individual back yards, extend mile after mile through desert and end in the Pacific Ocean. They are a hodgepodge: squat cement barriers, intimidating-towering steel divides, wire mesh, WW II Normandy-style fencing to prevent vehicles but not people. We also see the ‘digital walls’ (8000 or so cameras, 11,000 underground sensors, etc.) the ones that work.

    Galindo’s work mirrors the landscape, but through sound and sculpture. He captures in sound what we dismiss as the silence of the desert. Echoes of immigrant voices blend and fade. Scores appear on the lost-and-found objects. He transforms the abandoned into musical instruments.

    They direct our attention to the unseen and overlooked. The ‘valuables’ of refugees and immigrants, whether children’s shoes (painfully evoking the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC), the torn pages of a copy of the Russian novel, “Dr. Zhivago,” in Spanish translation, or the contents of a child’s backpack… all become personal.

    Misrach and Galindo give shape and substance to people who must be invisible and remain invisible in order to survive… without showing the people themselves. There are no portraits. What images there are of people are often through fences, partial glimpses as if in passing.

    “We’re artists, we’re not politicians. We want to give people the experience of the border. And to get acquainted with the immigrant’s journey. To make it palpable. To make it human,” Galindo noted, referencing both himself and Misrach.

    While focused on this one border, the exhibit resonates with all borders that must be crossed for people to survive. It is not preachy, not overtly political, but inherently provocative.

    “While the topic of the US-Mexican border is challenging and even divisive at times, Misrach and Galindo seek to bridge divides instead of creating barriers. The art work in the exhibition creates a space for visitors to develop a deeper understanding of the complicated issues surrounding a border,” said Ali Demorotski, exhibition curator.

    It has been almost three weeks since I saw Border Cantos and listened to Richard Misrach describing the progression and meaning of their artistic work in the opening lecture. The impact of the exhibit has not faded.

    For more info, google Border Cantos: A Sight & Sound Exploration from the Mexican American Border or go to

    P.S.: For the under-informed, Crystal Bridges is a cutting edge museum designed by Moshe Safdie and set in a series of pavilions on 120 acres of Ozark woodlands. It is home to an ever-growing permanent collection, a meticulously reconstructed Frank Lloyd Wright house, miles of hiking trails with sculptures, plus provocative temporary exhibits. Founded in 2005 by the Walton Family Foundation, under the vision and direction of Alice Walton, Crystal Bridges opened on 11-11-11. Admission is free.

    Susan Kraus is a ‘nasty woman’ who longs for civil discourse. More of her work is at

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    Thirty-five years and one week ago today I had my entire colon (large intestine) removed (known as a “colectomy”). I was 11 years old. Six years earlier, I had been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. It was the first of what would be six surgeries. I had one each at age 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, and 21.

    When I had that first operation, part of what we were expecting was that I would be cured. That was the language and thinking used by the medical community and the CCFA (Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America), one of the primary funders of research for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD, which includes both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease). The idea is that you if you take out the colon, you can’t have ulcerative colitis. This didn’t work out for me, though, because when I was 20, I was re-diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Even if it did work out, I think the word “cure” used in the context of removing your entire colon, which alters your life permanently in big and small ways, is misleading to patients and their families. To their credit, some, including the CCFA, have stopped calling colectomies cures.

    When they told me I had Crohn’s, it meant that I was not cured, and I thought I was going to have to go through all the horrible things I went through in the first 20 years of my life again ― and I just really didn’t think I could. So far, it’s turned out that I had one more surgery at age 21 and haven’t had to have one since. I do have number seven coming up, but not for Crohn’s ― for a torn rotator cuff. One fear I have about it is that I will get sick again, as I did before my last surgery. I was so terrified of having another surgery that I think I stressed myself into sickness because I took a major downturn that began when we finalized the date and ended with the removal of more of my small intestine (some had previously been removed in other surgeries).

    This next surgery is nothing compared to my other surgeries. The first one was nine hours long. I have one scar which is about a foot long and runs directly down the center of my abdomen from an inch or so above and directly adjacent to my belly button down to below my waistline.

    IBD is very isolating. When I grew up, I didn’t know anyone else who had it and even anyone that had heard of it, other than my family, who has a history of IBD that spans at least three generations. I spent weeks and months at home sick and in the hospital. Since my disease is not cured, without going into all the gory details, my life is a lot more difficult. I must constantly monitor my what I eat (avoiding all dairy, refined sugar, gluten, alcohol and caffeine, and various other foods) and my hydration (I have to get IVs fairly often to supplement all the other fluids I take in). I live with a good deal of pain throughout my body all day, every day. I’ve learned to push it into the background most of the time, but sometimes, and not infrequently, it overtakes me and knocks me off my feet.

    Through all of this and much more not referenced here, I’ve learned to do the best I can with what is functioning well at the time. Through the great suffering I experienced, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the depth and darkness which lives in all of us, but is often only discovered during our most harrowing experiences.

    Exploring those inner frontiers has motivated me to strive to live my most fully realized life, to make the most of whatever time I have here and to transform everything I have gone through into something deeply meaningful.

    Thanks for reading... if you’d like to see more of my work, links are below.


    Instagram: @DanielLeightonArt


    Twitter: @DanielLeighton


    Daniel Leighton is a Los Angeles-based artist with Crohn’s disease, who paints emotional landscapes with an iPad and incorporates Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) through his app, Daniel Leighton Art + AR. Combining his backgrounds in filmmaking, storytelling, chronic illness, and technology, AR/VR makes Leighton’s paintings come alive with film, animation, sound and interactivity. Synthesizing mediums old and new with raw, emotional content, Leighton’s work creates a space in which to process physical and emotional responses to the constant stimuli that is now ubiquitous. Leighton has been programming since the age of 11 and graduated cum laude from UC Berkeley with a BA in film. His work has been called, “fascinating,” by Joseph E. Thompson, Director of MASS MoCA, and was selected by Timothy Potts, Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, for the POP ÜBER ALLES show at the L.A. Art Association/Gallery 825 in 2013. It was also featured by Mat Gleason in the Coagula Curatorial Video Lounge at Art Basel in Miami in 2014. LA Center for Digital Art (LACDA) awarded him first place in an international competition in March of 2015. His third solo show, Permission To Enter, opened in October of 2015 at the LAAA/Gallery 825 in Los Angeles. In April, 2017, Daniel’s work will be featured at the M.A.R.S. (Music and Art ReSound) Festival in Downtown, Los Angeles and in April, 2018, Daniel’s work will be featured at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art (SLOMA) as part of 3-person group show.

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    As a kid growing up in the ‘90s, all I wanted was to be a rockstar, have my music played on the radio, and make killer music videos for MTV.

    That’s what the music industry promised to provide the lucky artists and bands who got signed. My how things have changed.

    If you’re an artist or band trying to get your music out to the world (or even make a living) then you need to play by the new rules.

    Gone are the old days of the music industry where you would hope to get signed to a label and then become a star (i.e. everything would be done for you).

    Today you need to view yourself (and your music) through the lens of three very important truths. I call them the new rules of the music industry, and those who play by them will succeed.

    Rule #1 - You Are A Brand

    No longer are you simply a musician or artist. You are a brand. Knowing this distinction is critical to gaining traction and growing your fanbase.

    The word “brand” can come with a negative connotation for all the creatives and artists reading this but it doesn’t have to be that way.

    Being a brand as an artist simply means that you need to learn the art of promotion and entrepreneurship. You basically have to become a business person.

    Because music is still a business. Always has been. Always will be.

    It’s just that in the “old days” the business was handled for you by other people. Namely your label and their team.

    Someone still has to promote your music - these days that someone is you!

    Rule #2 - You Are A Content Creator

    The key to good promotion is to remember that we live in an age of content consumption.

    Whether it’s binge watching on Netflix or reading blog after blog, people these days want to consume content and they want lots of it.

    Your job as an artist is to give your fans a steady diet of content related to you and your brand.

    What could this content be?

    For starters, your music. This is the obvious one. Share your latest single or music video. Great.

    But there is so much more you can do.

    Why not share videos of you in the songwriting process? Or in the studio recording your latest album? Or snap some footage from your phone on stage?

    Do live Q&As with your fans. Talk about what you do for fun OTHER than music.

    Whatever it is, share something about you, your music, and your life. Your fans will love it and appreciate it.

    And here’s the key - to stay relevant in today’s world you must stay top of mind. You do this by creating regular bits of content - rather than only releasing an album or EP once a year or every other year.

    View yourself as a content creator and not just a musician and you’ll be in good shape.

    Rule #3 - Don’t Try To Be Perfect

    When I was growing up, all the bands I loved had perfect everything. Perfect-sounding albums, perfect-looking music videos, and perfect writeups in magazines.

    They were always presented as polished and untouchable.

    The problem with perfect though is that it holds many artists back from simply finishing new music or sharing a piece of content. This is a big no-no.

    Granted we don’t want to share crap - not at all. We simply want to be authentic and real, sharing our best stuff as best as we can.

    There’s a point at which your recordings as an artist will only be but so good. They won’t be perfect. Release them anyway and move on to the next project.

    Ironically this is how you improve as an artist!

    The age of glossy perfection is coming to an end for most artists. My generation (the millennials) prefer the raw, authentic you - so give it to them!

    Will You Play By The Rules?

    I still love the idea of becoming a rockstar and being able to focus purely on the art and craft of my music while other people do all the hard work of promoting me and growing my fan base.

    Who doesn’t?

    But the old rules don’t apply anymore. It’s a brave new world and those who play be these new rules will be the ones who build longevity and be rewarded with the chance to continue to make the music they love

    Are you an artist or musician looking to make your music sound as good as the stuff you hear on the radio? Check out all the free resources here to take the quality of your recordings up a few notches!

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    What do you call someone who can play the banjo, guitar, and harmonica? Talented.

    What do you call someone who can play the banjo, guitar, and harmonica who also happens to be deaf? Incredible. And that’s exactly what Patrick Costello is, an incredible example of what the human spirit can achieve when determination overcomes adversity. An incredible inspiration of the power of perseverance when it’s all too easy to give up. Patrick Costello’s story is the stuff Lifetime movies are made of.

    Joseph Patrick Costello III - or Patrick to his students - is a teacher, musician, and YouTuber. He uses YouTube as a platform to help teach the joys of music to thousands around the web, specializing in teaching five-string banjo and acoustic guitar.

    Music was a part of Costello’s life from a young age.  Perhaps it was his environment or perhaps it was fate, but a series of poignant events occurred before he was even eleven years old that solidified Costello’s musical destiny.  

    When Patrick Costello was young, his mother gave him a harmonica, igniting his passion for music after a few toots. His mom said, “This is music. If you have music you can go anywhere in the world and you will never be alone.” According to Costello, “Those words have been in my mind and imagination ever since.”

    As if those words were foreshadowing young Patrick Costello’s future, not long after, another significant moment occurred. “A young blind woman visited my third-grade classroom to talk to us about how she worked around her handicap in day-to-day life. By this point my hearing was bad so I didn’t pay attention to her presentation until she brought out a Guild guitar and got the class involved in a sing-along,” Costello explained.

    He continued, “It was a life-changing moment for me because here was this lovely woman who our teacher said was handicapped, but with a guitar in her hands she was so powerful. I knew right then and there that I wanted to be a musician. You see, music is a language. Not in terms of communicating data, but for sharing emotions. I can’t use music to order a cup of coffee, but I can use music to share how it feels to wrap your hands around a hot mug of coffee on a cold morning. There are only twelve notes, but there are infinite rhythms and there are countless ways to phrase a note to convey what I feel through my instrument.”

    They are patient with me when I stop to listen to rain or crickets.

    Part of the reason these past experiences were so impactful for Costello is because of his near deafness. “I have conductive hearing loss. That means the inner ear mechanics that transmit sound from the eardrum to the auditory nerve have failed,” Costello explained. For any burgeoning musician, you’ll know that hearing is fairly essential to developing technical skills.  Feeling particularly frustrated one day, he rested his head on the instrument in despair, and realized he could finally hear the instrument. Costello explained, “After some trial and error I found that my teeth gave me the best results. I worked around [near deafness] by resting my teeth on the upper bout of my guitar. As I played the sound, vibrations of the instrument would travel through my teeth, through my skull and eventually wind up reaching my auditory nerves through bone conduction,” said Costello.

    In addition to using bone-conduction, Costello had a lot of support from his immensely talented family. “Music brought me closer to my father. He let me lean on him at jam sessions and performances by playing rhythm on the tenor banjo. Even when I couldn’t hear myself playing I could watch the rhythm of my father’s hand and use that as a reference point. We have been through so many adventures together [from] performers, festival organizers, theater managers, disk jockeys and now Internet-based music teachers.”

    However, by 2007 Costello was nearly completely deaf, and struggling to hear any of the music he was playing.  In 2009, Costello decided it was time to pursue surgical options, and had a bone-anchored hearing aid installed at Johns Hopkins. “In my situation, the surgery was abnormally difficult. In addition to the bone-anchored hearing aids, the surgeons at Johns Hopkins had to deal with the infections that had destroyed my hearing. It took five operations and I got so sick it nearly killed me.” Costello continued, “it took a long time to recover from all of that, and on top of everything, there were other medical issues in addition to my ears. So right now I am just getting back on my feet. The support from my wife and family has been amazing. They are patient with me when I stop to listen to rain or crickets.”

    While Costello’s musical journey is incredible, it’s a reminder to us non-musical people that those ‘stop and smell the roses’ moments in life are not to be taken for granted. It’s also a reminder of just how amazing modern technology can be outside of our constant social media streams. “I love being able to finally hear bass lines. I have a little Bluetooth device that allows me to stream music directly into my bone anchored hearing aids.” Technology is incredible. Costello continued, “Hearing in stereo is amazing. I listen to a crazy mix of music, bouncing from hard rock to Ray Charles to early jazz and back to the headbanger stuff. I love it all.”

    So what’s next for the phenomenon? “Since posting my first video back in 2006 I have been able to help an amazing number of banjo and guitar students. Now, more than ten years and over 700 videos later, I am starting all over again so that folks beginning today have a resource that will walk them through the early stages all the way up to advanced musical concepts and techniques. I have learned so much over the past ten years, so I am thrilled to continue teaching and sharing the joy of homemade music.”

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    It’s no secret that Islamophobia is at an all time high in the United States. This is (at least in part) thanks to President Trump, who has made an enduring promise to enforce his travel ban against Muslims seeking entry to the United States. While the ban doesn’t fully comprehend the vast majority of facts around domestic terrorism, it instills an air of animosity in Trump’s most die-hard supporters.

    For everyone else, the ban is a violation of human rights. We’re hoping that if you’re here reading this article, you already knew that. But just in case, take a look at this. Aside from the reductive reasoning that everyone who belongs to a certain religion could be suspect, the ban doesn’t take into account the various contributions of Muslims to America and the world.

    So allow Question Time to break it down for you. In the above video the YouTuber makes it very clear that some of your favorite pieces of technology, people, and food come from Muslim descent. iPhones and Coffee? Yup, those wouldn’t be here without Muslims.

    Next time someone brings up the idea that Muslims are just terrorists maybe give them some of the handy information in this video. Although anyone who needs further convincing against the Muslim ban other than “it’s inhumane” might be a lost cause.

    Either way, enjoy the knowledge folks.

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    Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to Southern California delivering magnificent works and debuting exciting new pieces. The revolutionary modern dance company has been a force in the dance community for decades. Ailey began his career during the civil rights era in the 50’s when opportunities were extremely limited for African American dancers. His goal was to spawn a company that granted African American dancers a chance to perform and express themselves, their cultures, and experiences. Fast forward many years later to when he created one of the first professional companies where diverse dancers were welcomed and highlighted. The Music Center hosts the Ailey Company for a dynamic week of performances from this incredible company.

    Kicking off the evening was the stunning and vibrant new piece titled r-Evolution, Dream. A piece comprised of several excerpts from dynamic poems about identity and self worth speaks to the struggles of marginalized groups in America. Recordings from works such as The Negro’s Complaints and the constant presence of Martin Luther King Jr., delivers a striking message about being black in America and the movement doesn’t disappoint on that front either. Choreographed by veteran member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Hope Boykin, r-Evolution, Dream is a beautiful combination of strong staccato movements intertwined with elongated powerful phrasing that makes for a dazzling display of dance.

    The show only gets better from here. Untitled America, choreographed by Kyle Abraham, was a show stopper that explores the negative effects that the American prison system has on families. This piece transcends race and time and provides relevant and poignant commentary on the status quo in this country. After that heavy piece of art, audiences will be able to have a bit of fun with the spunky and lively piece, Ella, choreographed by Robert Battle who happens to be the Artistic Director of the company. My knees are still hurting for the two formidable dancers in that piece. (You will have to see the show to know why.) The bread and butter of the Ailey repertoire is the piece, Revelations. This soul stirring collection of pieces set to remastered Negro Spirituals and blues will send you into a cultural revival. Produced by Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in 1960, Revelations takes viewers on a journey navigating African-American vigor, struggle, and faith during the transition from slavery to the path of freedom.

    Tickets for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performances at The Music Center start at $34 and are available online on The Music Center website; at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Box Office, 135 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA, 90012; or by calling (213( 972-0711. For groups of 10 or more, call (213) 972-8555 or email

    Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation's mission is to further the pioneering vision of the choreographer, dancer, and cultural leader Alvin Ailey by building an extended cultural community which provides dance performances, training and education, and community programs for all people. This performing arts community plays a crucial social role, using the beauty and humanity of the African-American heritage and other cultures to unite people of all races, ages and backgrounds.

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  • 03/10/17--11:27: If These Walls Could Talk
  • Setting: A loft in 537 Broadway, 2nd Floor, now home to the Emily Harvey Foundation.

    On the morning of November 9, 1975, SoHo founder and creator of the Fluxus Art Movement George Maciunas met some men there who were interested in buying a loft in 537 Broadway. As it turned out, the meeting was a trap since the men were Mafia thugs sent by a New Jersey electrician whom Maciunas had refused to pay because his work was shoddy. Maciunas was beaten with iron pipes, destroying one eye, collapsing his lung, and breaking several ribs.

    Maciunas was quick to turn the beating into art, creating several handbills with the headline “BOYCOTT PETER DI STEFANO THE BONEBREAKING ELECTRICIAN” (Illegal Living: 80 Wooster Street and the Evolution of SoHo) and he began designing a Hospital Event of six boxes that was never completed.

    Three years later, after Maciunas was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer, he married poet Billie Hutching in the same loft. The wedding on February 5, 1978, was the Fluxus event of the era. There was a Flux feast of erotic foods, including a penis-shaped pate brought by sculptor Louise Bourgeois. For the ceremony, Maciunas and Hutching both wore bridal gowns, while their bridesmaids Jon Hendricks and Larry Miller were dressed in drag and their best man, Allison Knowles, wore tails. Geoffrey Hendricks who wrote the script for the program, conducted the ceremony and officiated as the priest.

    The Flux cabaret after the ceremony including Ben Patterson’s Lick, where Olga Adorno was covered with whipped cream and the crowd licked it off and Maciunas and Hutching performed a piece called Black & White. The pair entered the space, he in black tails and she in a white satin gown with long white gloves and a wig. While a recording of Monteverdi’s madrigal “Zefiro Torno” played, they proceeded to undress and put their clothes on a chair, Then, down to their underwear, they redressed in each other’s clothing. According to Christian Xatrec this took place on the exact spot where Maciunas was beaten.

    Six years later, in 1984, the Emily Harvey Gallery opened an exhibition space in the historic loft, presenting exhibitions that showcased Fluxus’s quirky, innovative initiatives in poetry, music, dance, performance and the visual arts. After Harvey’s death in 1993, her foundation took over the space as a center for experimental art.

    Currently up for two weeks in the gallery (March 7-18) is a new exhibit curated by Alice Centamore, Danielle Johnson, Agustin Schang, and Christian Xatrec of the Emily Harvey Foundation (EHF). Among the surprises included in the show, according to the curators, are sound elements, such as Yoshi Wada’s Alarming Trash Can and Peter van Riper’s recording Flux-house Plumbing.

    One highlight of the exhibit is Robert Watts’s Fish (c. 1964-5), a chrome on plaster work on a metal platter. Admiring the work, Sara Seagull, executor of Watts’ estate said that, “Watts loved chrome because it was so reflective and it was hard to photograph.” Nearby, hangs George Maciunas U.S.A. Surpasses All The Genocide Records, 1967, a silkscreen on paper. The red stripes on the American flag in the piece include statistics chosen by Maciunas, such as “U.S.A. SURPASSES ALL GENOCIDE RECORDS!, JOSEPH STALIN MASSACRES 5% OF RUSSIANS, U.S.A. MASSACRES O.5% OF SOUTH VIETNAMESE & 75% OF AMERICAN INDIANS. FOR CALCULATIONS & REFERENCES WRITE TO: P.O.BOX 180, NEW YORK, N.Y. 10013.” The language and politics: so typically George and so relevant in this Age of Trump!

    Side by side are two Charlotte Moorman cellos, one made from cut wrapping paper (1988) and the other from Plexiglass (1987). Ben Patterson’s Husband and Wife, 1987, made of a found plastic headboard, paper, metal frames and electric light fixtures, with birds nest finials, paint, plastic doll, silk and plastic flowers and fruit, and a wood snake and leopard anchors the exhibit. The work, just a headboard and not a bed, was first shown at the Emily Harvey Gallery in Patterson’s solo exhibition Ordinary Life in 1988. Although previously known for his music and performance, the show, according to the EHF curators, “backed a new side of Patterson’s artistic practice.”

    Ambitious programming accompanies this EHF exhibit including a preview screening of George, a film on George Maciunas by Jeff Perkins on Saturday, March 11, at 7:00 PM, and tours of the EHF Archive on Sunday March, 12 at 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM (RSVP:

    Catch the show before March 18th: It’s definitely worth seeing!

    EHF Collection: Fluxus, Concept Art, Mail Art,

    Emily Harvey Foundation, 537 Broadway, NY 10012

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    Many know me as the host and Executive Producer of Bravo’s Top Chef. Or, they know me as the founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America.  But few know me as Padma, an immigrant.

    I was four years old when I came here and joined my mother, a nurse who’d left me back in India two years prior. Despite the stigma of divorce, she ended an abusive marriage and with exactly $100 in her pocket, she arrived here in America. It was the 1970s. Inspired by the feminist movement, my mother wanted me to have a better life than she had: one with equal opportunity.  She sculpted the mist, in the way those who have no other choice do, willing a life into existence. I love this country for allowing that to be possible. America has shaped our dreams, our values, and our insecurities for three generations: for my mother, myself, and now my daughter. But what if my mom and I had been turned away?

    What makes America great is our culture of inclusion. We’re a superpower because we’ve managed to take the best of each immigrant culture and create our own uniquely, American culture. For all its faults and felonies, our country has been admired the world over, as a beacon of hope, because of our tradition of welcoming people, from all walks of life — until now.

    What makes America great is our culture of inclusion.

    Forty years after my mother arrived, our nation is now again in a state of emergency. Rights and freedoms we’ve taken for granted, are now being eroded and repealed daily in Washington. We’re squandering our goodwill and reputation, both globally and at home. What happened to “Give me your tired, your poor/your huddled masses”? What happened to that American dream?

    I am alarmed by the hatred in our political rhetoric and by the recent rise of violence against our communities of color. But for several — and far too many — years, I have also been horrified, by videos and reports of our young Black and Latino boys and men, bludgeoned to death in the prime of their lives by the very system, we were told would protect us.  

    Our system seems to really be two systems: one for the white male establishment and another, for those of us, “unlucky” enough to be born brown, black, gay, female, trans, or just somehow different.

    Now I’m a mother. I too want my daughter to have something different.  I want my daughter Krishna to live in a country whose policies aren’t governed by fear but by compassion. We tell our kids to share, play fair, that everyone is equal in the sandbox. Shouldn’t our policies reflect this too?

    I don’t have to be Muslim or Mexican to be offended by Muslim bans or I.C.E. raids. As Americans, we should all be offended.

    Tearing undocumented parents from their children helps no one. Giving refuge to a displaced Syrian family doesn’t diminish our families’ safety. Instead, it teaches all our children the very American principles of empathy and tolerance. I don’t have to be Muslim or Mexican to be offended by Muslim bans or I.C.E. raids. As Americans, we should all be offended. We shouldn’t have to walk in someone else’s shoes, to see that those shoes must hurt terribly.

    All my life I have tried not to feel powerless. In January, I protested for the first time at the Women’s March, holding all the while my daughter’s hand. And this past weekend, I joined the People’s Power Resistance Training. We cannot forget that we are all powerful and we must exercise our power now.

    Now is not the time to close our eyes, and hope that this too shall pass without much harm. We must do more than just march. We must consistently resist discrimination of any kind. We must not tolerate the intolerance.  We must use our power to say: enough is enough. Because to do nothing is a crime against our nation. The time for any of us to be silent is over.

    We owe it to those suffragettes in Seneca Falls, those who marched for equal rights, to those who refused to sit at the back of the bus, to those beaten by Billy clubs. We owe it to our fallen soldiers to preserve what they fought so hard to defend.  Democracy is an ever-evolving organism.  We must not let it devolve.

    Yes we are brown, and we too are American. And yes we are Muslim. We are Hindus, and Jews. And over half of us are women. And we deserve equal pay. We deserve the right to choose what we can do with our bodies.

    We too are the United States of America. Let us remember who we are. Let us remember the first word in our country’s name: UNITED.

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  • 03/12/17--12:58: Tondo, Tondo, Tondo

  • The Tondo or circular format in painting and relief sculpture has been around for centuries. When researched, you will find examples of masterworks by Botticelli and Michelangelo in Renaissance times, to Damien Hirst’s Spin paintings in more recent times, and what will inevitably become clear is the fact that this type has both the staying power and the diversity to meet the aesthetic challenges of any age. What I find particularly demanding, being an artist myself, is how difficult it is to maximize the focused force of a circular composition. Artists are most used to the square or rectangle canvases that can suggest either a portrait or landscape just in the way one uses it. The Tondo is a completely different situation. There is one endless side. And as a format, it has a much more focused configuration that has less to do with incorporating a background and more to do with presenting a subject.

    For this exhibition at the Walter Wickiser Gallery in NYC, I have selected seven artists who approach the Tondo configuration in new and challenging ways that greatly expand the field. Laurel Garcia Colvin’s What’s a Girl to Do, I Can’t Believe I’m Still Protesting this Shit, Tondo series (2014) focuses her attention of socio-political, feminist related issues that are truly meant to open eyes. Her vision, her agenda and her technical prowess culminate in a potent narrative that will surely force reaction regardless of which side of the aisle you stand on. Created in 2014, her art is more meaningful now than ever, as our nation’s politics and policies are sadly being bent backwards, but hopefully not breaking, under our new administration.

    Alexis Duque’s Disk (2015) melds abstraction with representation to create an intricate menagerie of hypnotic forms and hazy functions. Duque’s work is about the multiplicity of thoughts and ideas that somehow coalesce into a working system. But look closely, see every little detail and all the nuance, and you will begin to sense an endless, continual consciousness with no beginning or end. Life, like anything else, is a cycle, and with each generation comes the next learning curve. The only thing that grows is the mountain of debris.

    Karen Fitzgerald sees the Tondo as a chance to “convey an essence of interconnection, wholeness and metaphysical purpose.” And surely, her intention comes through the moment you see her work as your spirit rises and your thoughts move to a better understanding of the universe as both a micro and macro phenomenon. All natural elements are equally important, and everything is universal in its makeup. One of the things I find most fascinating about Fitzgerald’s work is the focus of her vision through the finesse in her technique.

    Renee Magnanti combines bold patterning with a suggestion of spirituality in her distinctive, colorful and highly textured encaustic reliefs. In looking at her work, you will get a sense of both Eastern and Western aesthetics as your eyes travel across seductive iconic forms shaped by cut-away caverns of color. Above all, there is a reverence for design in nature – how it stirs in us an understanding of the timeless powers that are greater than our own, while we are reminded of the uncomplicated splendor of life and culture.

    The multi-media Tondi of Creighton Michael express the subconscious connection between human impulse and the language of technology. As we struggle to find a comfort zone with an ever-changing world, a cerebral transformation must occur that may conflict with our instincts. Michael smoothes those transitional moments with a mix of sinuous pours over cryptic patterns balancing them like yin and yang. As a result, this ‘complementary’ pairing forms a universal aesthetic that crosses boundaries, making what was once awkward elevated.

    Margaret Roleke’s mixed media work puts a dark spin on the state of the world. She reveals, that from a very early age, we are brainwashed, to some extent, to act and think a certain way through fear tactics and false comfort zones. By combining cute Disney imagery with objects of war and aggression, Roleke reveals how pervasive and long standing this approach to social governing is. I am reminded of a quote by Noam Chomsky: “The United States is unusual among the industrial democracies in the rigidity of the system of ideological control – ‘indoctrination’, we might say – exercised through mass media.”

    Zane York’s hyperrealism is both magical and mesmerizing. The intense and relentless detail in his paintings and drawings is softened by a highly perceptive touch while his subjects reveal both their physical and spiritual sides. In some ways, York’s art is more akin to classical, high art, but with an earthier, more naturalistic narrative. At times, he can capture what at first seems near impossible with works like Untitled (2013), where nesting birds see a young woman’s hair and clothes as nesting materials. It is only after a few moments of looking that the scene becomes believable, even normal as its naturalistic detail takes hold of your subconscious.

    Tondo, Tondo, Tondo opens April 1, 2017. There is an opening reception on Thursday April 6 from 6-8pm, at the Walter Wickiser Gallery located at 210 Eleventh Avenue, Suite 303, New York City.

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    Originally published on


    “When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his 'proper place' and will stay in it.”

    --Carter G. Woodson The Mis-Education of the Negro

    Get out for your safety. Get out of this neighborhood. Get out of Black minds. There’s so much symbolism to unpack in Jordan Peele’s film Get Out. The psychological thriller is about how a black man’s visit to the estate of his white girlfriend’s parents turns into a trip from hell. Mental health and African-American trauma is one of the film’s major themes.

    Chris Washington rides to upstate New York with his girlfriend Rose Armitage to meet her parents in a secluded, rural area. Rose’s mother Missy is a psychiatrist and her father Dean is a neurosurgeon.

    I watched the film with a majority Black audience in Oakland. During the scene where Missy offers to hypnotize Chris in the middle of the night to “help” him kick his smoking habit, the audience yelled, “Noooo!” The hypnosis is actually the Armitages’ trick into trapping Black victims for enslavement. I’m a mental health advocate and live with depression. That scene and the audience’s reaction reminded me of our history with medical racism and why some African Americans distrust the mental health system.

    In 1851, a physician published a report claiming that runaway slaves who sought freedom were mentally ill and called their “sickness” drapetomania. Today, the National Association of Mental Illness reports that African Americans are misdiagnosed more than white patients and over diagnosed for schizophrenia. This results in Black patients not receiving the correct treatment for what’s really ailing them.

    Investigative stories from a few years ago revealed that providers are giving children in foster care psychotropics at disturbingly high rates. Black children account for 26 percent of kids in foster care, according to the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Our prisons are filled with many who should be in psychiatric care, not behind bars. And there’s a serious need for diverse health providers. The American Psychological Association reported in 2013 that 84 percent of psychologists are white, while 5 percent are Black. Having culturally competent providers who understand our challenges is important.

    I can personally attest that receiving quality mental health care and community support, understanding mental health and having a therapist who understands my culture makes a difference. We need the help because studies have shown racism causes stress, depression, anxiety, PTSD and other health issues.

    For Missy to prey on Chris’ trauma from losing his mother and use that pain to enter his mind, demonstrates the psychological oppression of racism. She sends Chris to the “sunken place,” a dark space where he sees Missy seeing him. It’s a reference to many things, including W.E.B Du Bois theory of “double consciousness” where we see ourselves through the eyes of the dominant culture. Double Consciousness is an internal struggle that affects the Black psyche. We carry this in our minds constantly. Which makes sense why the horror in the film is the Armitage’s surgically transferring parts of white brains into Black skulls.

    The audience sees the internal struggle of double consciousness with all of the Black characters held captive. A few times Georgina, the house servant, is looking at her reflection. She sees herself through the gaze of Grandma Armitage, the white matriarch whose mind she carries. During the powerful scene where Chris tells her sometimes he’s afraid of white people, Georgina tears up. Then she contradicts herself and says, “No, no, no, no.” The real Georgina is trying to emerge, but Grandma mentally wrestles Georgina back into her place.

    The “sunken place,” is where we’re weighted down by lies we’ve internalized about our history and image and racial trauma. Educator and researcher Dr. Joy DeGruy is the author of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS). On her website, PTSS is defined as “a condition that exists as a consequence of multigenerational oppression of Africans and their descendants resulting from centuries of chattel slavery. A form of slavery which was predicated on the belief that African Americans were inherently/genetically inferior to whites. This was then followed by institutionalized racism which continues to perpetuate injury.”

    Like Chris, this “sunken place” paralyzes us by impacting both our mental health and physical health. But Chris escapes once he blocked out the hypnosis trigger of the silver spoon and teacup. His physical freedom was dependent on his mental freedom. Other victims became “woke” when they “saw the light” from Chris’ camera. Light therapy is a treatment for depression.

    The comic relief in the film reflects how Black folks use comedy to cope. You know that saying, “I gotta laugh to keep from crying.” Sometimes the messages in the film were so deep and real to me, I almost cried. The suicide of Walter the groundskeeper reminded me of captured Africans who jumped off slave ships because the middle passage voyage was so inhumane. And more recently, the suicides of Kalief Browder and Black Lives Matter activist Marshawn McCarrel came to mind. Walter possessed Grandpa Armitage’s brain. He knew he could not be free with the mental shackles. It was no surprise he shot himself specifically in the head. As for Chris, he made it out alive but probably with even more post trauma issues. How will his friend Rod support him in the aftermath? How do we as a community support each other mentally and emotionally in a racist society?

    Jordan Peele brilliantly addressed so many issues in Get Out without overwhelming the audience. It’s a disturbing reminder that Black people carry these issues every day, all day and all at once.

    There’s an African proverb that says, “Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.” Jordan Peele calls out the hunter, validates our pain, and let’s his Black audience know that our racial oppression is not a figment of our imaginations. We are not crazy. We are traumatized, constantly.

    Jenee Darden is a journalist, public speaker and mental health advocate. She speaks about race, gender, her personal experience during the O.J. Simpson Trial and mental health.

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    Our new President, Donald Trump, has decided that building a Mexican Wall and increasing the U.S. military budget by $54 billion (over the present military budget of $596 billion) are the most important early steps to take in his first term. But building the Wall might cost as much as $40 billion and adding this to the $54 billion military budget increase comes close to adding $1 trillion more to our cost.

    Something has to be cut!

    Republicans and conservatives claim that they are the party defending American culture. But the fact is, they are not culture saviors. They have been at war with the Arts for some time now.

    Donald Trump’s people talk about dismantling the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

    Let’s examine what’s at stake now.

    The Corporation for Public Broadcasting

    The invention of radio and later television created a revolution in public information and entertainment. These two broadcast media grew rapidly with little regulation. Their growth was left in the hands of private enterprise. Private enterprise saw no reason to charge for radio and television listening and viewing. Growth was more than adequately funded by advertisers seeking to get the public interested in their products.

    On November 7, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 creating the Corporation of Public Broadcasting (CPB). CPB was created as a non-profit U.S. corporation to promote and help support public broadcasting. In 1970, CPB formed National Public Radio (NPR). NPR is a radio network consisting of public stations. NPR produces as well as distributes programming.

    The aim of CPB is to provide universal access to non-commercial, high-quality content and telecommunications services. CPB seeks to distribute more than 70% of its funding to more than 1,400 locally owned public radio and television stations. These public broadcasting stations are also funded by private donations from individuals, foundations and corporations. Government funding traditionally has supported half the CPB budget.

    Trump’s administration will have the power to reduce or eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as he searches for cost cuts to build the Wall and build a larger military empire.

    National Public Radio’s role is to produce and distribute news and cultural programming. Most public radio stations broadcast NPR programs and content from rival providers and locally produced programs. NPR is well known for its Morning Edition and the afternoon All Things Considered.

    Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is the most prominent provider of television programming to U.S. public television stations. PBS has distributed series such as Keeping Up Appearances, BBC World News, NOVA, PBS News Hour, Masterpiece, Nature, American Masters, and Antiques Roadshow.

    One of the most popular PBS TV shows was Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, an American half-hour children’s television series that was created and hosted by Fred Rogers. The series aimed primarily at preschool ages 2 to 5, but PBS stated it as “appropriate for all ages.” The series ran for 30 seasons and endeared American kids and families to this gentle man, Rogers, who wore a red sweater and catered to the “inner needs” of children.

    Many things contributed to the government setting up a public broadcasting system. In 1961, Newton Minow, who headed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), characterized the TV landscape as “a vast wasteland.”

    “You will see a procession of game shows, violence, audience participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, Western bad men, Western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endless commercials—many screaming, cajoling and offending. And most of all boredom.”

    Minow felt that viewers deserved a “wider range of choice.” Many cities had only one or two television stations. This was before satellites. The aim was to bring more programs with higher quality to more U.S. cities.

    Public broadcasting has not been without problems. Occasional charges have been leveled that the programming has become too liberal or too conservative. The U.S. President is obligated to select nine members to govern CPB, with at least four Republicans and four Democrats. Yet there are pressure groups calling for reducing CPB’s budget or eliminating CPB entirely.

    Trump’s administration will have the power to reduce or eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as he searches for cost cuts to build the Wall and build a larger military empire.

    The National Endowment for the Arts

    The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was created in 1965 to invest in culture much the way the country had invested in science. The NEA is an independent federal agency “dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education.”

    The annual NEA budget has varied between $150-$180 million, not much when you consider our military budget of $54 billion. Over the years, the NEA has distributed grants to hundreds of thousands of artists and artistic groups in such categories as artist communities, arts education, dance, design, folk and traditional arts, literature, local arts agencies, media arts, museums, music, musical theater, opera, theater, and visual arts.

    The NEA partners with state, regional and international agencies. Forty percent of NEA funding goes to state and regional arts agencies. The NEA sponsors three Lifetime Honors programs: NEA National Heritage Fellowships awarded to top folk and traditional artists, NEA Jazz Masters Fellowships awarded to top jazz musicians and advocates, and NEA Opera Honors awarded to individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to opera in the United States. The NEA also manages the National Medal of Arts, awarded annually by the President.

    Yet pressure often comes from conservative groups to cut the budget further. In 1981, the new President Ronald Reagan sought to abolish the NEA completely but this was halted under much protest. In 1994, Newt Gingrich called for eliminating the NEA along with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Some Congress members attacked the funding of controversial artists and others argued that the NEA was wasteful and elitist. Gingrich managed to push deep cuts in NEA’s budget and ending grants to individual artists but he failed in his effort to eliminate the NEA. In 1996 the American Family Association criticized the agency for using tax dollars to fund highly controversial artists such as Barbara Degenevieve, Andres Serrano, and Robert Mapplethorpe.

    Now with President Donald Trump’s election, arts groups across the nation are battling to preserve the funding that NEA grants to state and local groups.

    Americans for the Arts is mobilizing 5,000 local councils, agencies and funders and 300,000 “citizen activists” to flood Congress members with calls, sign a petition to the White House and get the message out about the importance of the arts and federally funding them. Trump needs to know that federal support for the arts creates jobs and stimulates economic growth. Trump’s main goals are jobs and growth. So far the White House has not stated that arts funding is in jeopardy, but anonymous sources have said that Trump’s team is considering eliminating the NEA in the proposed budget.

    Much rests on how the NEA is governed. The President appoints the NEA Chairman to a four-year term. The NEA’s advisory committee, the National Council on the Arts (NCA) advises the Chairman on policies and programs, as well as reviewing grant applications, fundraising guidelines, and leadership initiatives. The President appoints 14 individuals to the NCA who are chosen for their expertise and knowledge in the arts, in addition to six ex-officio Congress members who serve in a non-voting role. The future of the NEA lies in their hands.

    The National Endowment for the Humanities

    Another key cultural group calls for a greater role for the humanities in public life. In 1965, Congress established the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act whose purpose is to support research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities.

    The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) runs as an independent federal agency that provides grants for high-quality humanities projects to cultural institutions, including museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, radio stations, public television, and to individual scholars. NEH awards grants that (1) strengthen teaching and learning in the humanities in schools and colleges, (2) facilitate research and original scholarship, (3) promote lifelong learning, and (4) provide access to cultural and educational resources. NEH supports a network of 56 humanities councils in U.S. states and territories.

    President Obama nominated Jim Leach, a Republican, to chair NEH in 2009. Leach developed the American “Civility Tour” to restore reason and civility back into politics, a goal “central to the humanities.” Leach visited 50 states, and spoke at university and museum lecture halls and veteran hospitals to support civil exchange and rational consideration of other viewpoints. When the Civility Tour ended, others pick up the cause, such as Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity.

    The NEH is directed by a presidentially appointed Chair who approves all recommendations and awards grants. The Chair is advised by the National Council on the Humanities (NCH), a board of 26 distinguished private citizens who also are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate and who serve staggered six-year terms. The Chair’s recommendations are passed on to peer-reviewers who read each project proposal submitted to the NEH.

    The NEH runs several grant-making divisions and offices. One awards grants to preserve and improve access to humanities materials. Another brings humanities to large audiences through libraries, museums, radio, TV, and digital media. Another awards individuals, research teams and institutions that support original scholarship in the humanities, Another works to support and strengthen the teaching of the humanities. And another collaborates with 56 state and territory humanities councils to strengthen local programs.

    NEH runs several initiatives including “Bridging Cultures” (supporting multicultural understanding), “Standing Together” (supporting returning veterans), and “We the People” (understanding American history and culture). Among their noteworthy projects are the “Treasures of Tutankhamen” (seen by more than 1.5 million people), “The Civil War” (1990 documentary by Ken Burns seen by 38 million Americans), “Library of America” (novels, essays and poems celebrating America’s literary heritage), “United States Newspaper Project,” (cataloging and microfilming 63.3 million pages of newspapers dating from the early Republic), the “Jefferson Lecture” (awarded annually to an individual who has made significant scholarly contributions to the humanities), the “National Humanities Medal” (honoring individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities), and Humanities Magazine (published six times a year).

    The Need for Government Support for the Arts

    Some politicians continue to desire to eliminate the big three: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). They regard these agencies as bastions of “liberalism” and prime targets in the culture wars. They use the flimsy argument of cost savings, and yet running all three agencies cost only about $741 million which is a miniscule percentage of the $3.9 trillion U.S. government expenditure. One only needs to remember that during WWII, Winston Churchill was asked to cut funding for the arts. His alleged reply: “Then what are we fighting for?”

    Some argue that private philanthropic sources will emerge to sustain the budget. This is unlikely. What would be lost is all the structure and selection by experts of worthwhile programs. Overlooked is the fact that government funding itself drives private donations in the first place. If federal cuts were made, museums would be much smaller and many would not survive. Access to American art would be reduced not only for cultural elites but to low-income individuals, the handicapped, and to children.

    My friend and co-author of Standing Room Only, Joanne Bernstein writes:

    We know that cutting cultural budgets has nothing to do with saving money, but rather it is the reaction of philistines in the Executive branch and Congress who are somehow immune to the power of art to move the soul, lift the spirit, and expand the mind.

    The famous psychologist, Viktor Frankl, said that people have enough to live on, but many have nothing to live for; they have the means but no meaning.

    As the U.S. shifts from a focus on material values to a focus on purpose and meaning, Americans need the soul food of the arts and humanities.

    Let’s end by considering a statement by President John F. Kennedy who said:

    “Art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstones of our judgment.”

    Now, more than ever, we need good judgment.

    Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Learn more at >>

    Citations: “Top Hat: A Brief History of the United States” by Clark Fox; “Untitled” by Lee Krasner, 1948; and “Dread Times” by Christian Sarkar, 2016.

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    For Architectural Digest, by Eric Allen.

    Parking garages, arguably the most mundane of all the civic structures, usually skew heavily toward the functional end of the architecture spectrum. There are some, however, that buck the trend with downright artful designs which prompt us to rethink what role these buildings can play in our lives. Parking can be a pleasure when it’s in a Brutalist masterpiece or a space whose facade features paintings of our most beloved novels. AD rounds up a selection of the strangest, most innovative, and most beautiful parking structures around the world by the likes of such luminaries as Herzog & de Meuron, Bertrand Goldberg and more.

    Welbeck Street Garage (London)

    This 1971 parking garage in London was designed in a Brutalist style by Michael Blampied and Partners for the department store Debenhams on Oxford Street.

    1111 Lincoln Road (Miami)

    Completed in 2010, this parking garage in South Beach, Miami was designed to look like a house of cards by Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron.

    Marina Towers (Chicago)

    Known as Marina City, these two iconic scalloped-edge towers by Bertrand Goldberg are residential buildings in Chicago, but the lower sections of each serve as parking for the inhabitants above.

    More: 10 of the Most Beautiful Streets in the World

    Santa Monica Civic Parking Structure (Santa Monica, California)

    This colorful building by Moore Ruble Yudell Architects is the Santa Monica Civic Parking Structure, built in 2008 as the nation's first LEED-certified parking garage.

    Parc des Celestins (Lyon, France)

    This underground parking garage in Lyon, France is the Parc des Celestins. Designed by Michel Targe and Jean-Michel Wilmotte, this structure can be viewed through a kaleidoscope from the town square above.

    Kansas City Library Garage (Kansas City, Missouri)

    The public library in Kansas City, Missouri boasts a parking garage completed in 2004 that resembles a shelf of classic literature.

    More: This Map Shows What the World Actually Looks Like

    Autostadt (Wolfsburg, Germany)

    Comprised of two towers, the Autostadt in Wolfsburg, Germany is a parking and car storage facility for a Volkswagen factory. Customers receive their new car after a robotic arm retrieves it for them.

    New Carrollton Parking Garage (New Carollton, Maryland)

    This parking facility in New Carollton, Maryland is anchored by a column covered in a colorful glass mosaic artist Heidi Lippman in collaboration with architect Ben Van Dusen.

    St. Louis Garage (St. Louis, Missouri)

    Located in St. Louis, Missouri, this concrete parking garage is adds mid-century style to the cityscape with its corkscrew design.

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    For Architectural Digest, by Adam Peterson.

    From the food we eat to the tables we set, 3-D printing is revolutionizing what we can make in our own homes. So why not take things a step further and print the house itself? San Francisco–based start-up Apis Cor recently built an entire house from scratch in less than 24 hours using a special 3-D printer. The 400-square-foot dwelling was crafted near Moscow using no prefabricated sections or pre-existing structure in place. And best of all, perhaps, is that the process cost just over $10,000.

    The key is the unique design of the company’s mobile printer. With a cranelike arm that rotates around a base, the device builds the walls from its position at the center of the site, efficiently adding layer upon layer of a special concrete mixture. Once the walls are complete, the printer is removed and human workers install the finishing touches, such as the roof, windows, doors, electrical wiring, and insulation.

    Apis Cor founder Nikita Chen-yun-tai argues that “the construction process needs to become fast, efficient, and high-quality as well. For this to happen we need to delegate all the hard work to smart machines.” 3-D printing has been employed before in construction, but only to create prefab pieces that still required assembly at the building site. Making the printer portable offers greater flexibility and accessibility while at the same time supporting more intricate and innovative designs without sacrificing stability.

    Most proofs-of-concept aim to reduce costs in the future, but Apis Cor has managed to keep costs competitive with current traditional construction methods. The company’s mission is “to change the construction industry so that millions of people will have an opportunity to improve their living conditions.” What's more, Apis Cor hopes to offer affordable construction where resources and skilled labor are scarce, support disaster relief, and even tackle the ultimate untapped real-estate market: The company boasts that it is ready to be the first to build on Mars.

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    For Architectural Digest, by Megan Johnson.

    The 3,600-square-foot Citgo sign that towers over Boston’s Kenmore Square is embroiled in a controversy that poses one question: Can a company’s logo be considered a work of historic public art, or is it always merely an advertisement? To Bostonians who hold a special place in their heart for the illuminated orange-and-white sign — a beacon over the city since 1965, when the current sign, designed by Arthur King, replaced a 1940 version that read “Cities Services” — the answer is both.

    Can a company's logo be considered a work of historic public art, or is it always merely an advertisement?

    “It has transcended its utility as simply advertising,” says Greg Galer, executive director of the Boston Preservation Alliance. “In the mind of Bostonians and others outside the district, it’s superseded its perspective of an ad, and it’s seen as an icon of the city. People say ‘the Citgo sign’ as if it’s one word, and don’t think about buying gas or oil.”

    And it’s not just New Englanders who think that way.

    “Ads have always been art,” says Nancy Maren, executive director of the United States Sign Council, which is based in Bristol, Pennsylvania. “I would say it’s not just art, and an ad, but it is a symbol that the city has come to identify with.”

    So why the uproar over a sign? The debate heated up last October, when Boston University sold the building that holds the Citgo sign, 660 Beacon Street, along with eight other properties to Related Companies, a New York-based real estate development firm, for $134 million. Citgo was paying B.U. an annual lease of $250,000 — a price that’s considered significantly below market value. Related Companies started negotiations to increase the yearly lease to a number around $2.5 million per year, sources close to the matter told AD. (Related Companies disputes this figure.) With only a few gas stations in the metropolitan area, Citgo claims they can’t justify spending that much money, in addition to the nearly $250,000 per year it costs to operate and maintain the illuminated sign. Since then, a public campaign has sprouted to get the sign named as an official landmark, with a petition comprising over 14,000 signatures in support of keeping the sign as and where it is. But critics claim the the Houston-based, Venezuela-owned petroleum company is simply tugging at the heartstrings of Bostonians who have sentimental connections to the sign in an attempt to avoid ponying up the escalated rent price.

    “The previous lease for the privately owned commercial sign on the rooftop of 660 Beacon Street expired in 2016 and we have since been executing short-term lease extensions as we negotiate a longer-term lease,” Related said. “We remain in active, good-faith negotiations with Citgo — the state-owned oil company of Venezuela — and have offered them a long-term lease at significant discount to market, as determined by an independent, third-party appraisal.”

    Meanwhile, Citgo considers its deal with Boston University to have been merely a lease of roof space, not a major media play.

    “Our agreement with B.U. was a simple lease of the rooftop of 660 Beacon Street,” the company said. “It was never a marketing agreement whose value was based upon advertising impressions. The new owner, Related Companies, seeks to re-characterize the roof lease into an advertising agreement and to increase the rent nearly tenfold.”

    However the debate unfolds, it’s safe to say that most of the public will continue to express their adoration for the glowing North Star of Kenmore Square. One of those admirers is Abington, Massachusetts, resident Ellen Delany. Every September when she participates in the Jimmy Fund Walk, she says she looks up at the Citgo sign and cries in memory of her father, William Byrne, who was one of the sheet metal workers with Local 17 who built the original Cities Services sign in 1940.

    “Every time I went to a ball game I took a picture of it for him,” says Ellen, whose father died six years ago at age 98. “It’s art for sure.”

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    For Architectural Digest, by Stephanie Strasnick.

    Through its 1960s counterculture movement to the present-day tech culture boom, the Golden State has given rise to some of the 20th and 21st century’s most recognizable — and sought after — product, logo and fashion designs. “California,” an upcoming exhibition at London’s Design Museum, celebrates these pioneering California-born products — ranging from self-driving cars to personal computers to pocket-size Snap Inc. smartglasses — that are feats of form and function and promote personal autonomy and self-expression.

    Though California’s achievements in midcentury modernism have been thoroughly chronicled through exhibitions and scholarship, the state’s more recent global design appeal is being documented for the first time in this exhibition.

    Divided in five thematic parts, “California” showcases designs that promote movement and escape, bend perceptions of reality, inspire self-expression and rebellion, breed collaboration with community and encourage users to rely on themselves.

    While some of the 200 objects in this presentation are to be expected — such as the Apple I computer and the first consumer GPS device — there are some surprises in store, too. Among the show’s more unexpected objects are psychedelic LSD blotting papers, an at-home genetic engineering kit and Twitter’s interface design.

    "California" is curated by Justin McGuirk and Brendan McGetrick and opens May 24.

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    For Architectural Digest, by John Gendall.

    Perched on the edge of the Chino Cone, overlooking Palm Springs, lot lines have been marked out for what will become a new subdivision, Desert Palisades. At this point, the boulder-strewn slope is sparse: a guardhouse, designed by California architecture firm Studio AR&D, a posthumously realized home by midcentury master Al Beadle, and, most recently, an impossible-to-miss suburban ranch house clad entirely in mirror, better known as artist Doug Aitken’s latest installation.

    On the heels of "Doug Aitken: Electric Earth," a major retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, this newest project, called Mirage, has been much anticipated, so AD sat down with the artist in the shade cast by the structure to discuss how he arrived at this particular form. Buildings have long been a part of his portfolio. Back in 2007, he covered MoMA’s façades with projections, and, in 2012, he turned his focus on the Hirshhorn Museum, in Washington, D.C., transforming its iconic circular façade into a sound and video installation. Mirage, a sculpture in the form of a house, is very much a part of that conceptual arc.

    Aitken’s muse for this project came not from the iconic forms of major museums, but instead from the anonymous suburban houses that glutted the American landscape through the second part of the 20th century. “In a lot of ways,” he explains, “the inspiration for this as a sculpture is the architecture you don’t remember. I was interested in what you had driven by thousands of times and you don’t even register its presence because it’s just so much a part of the pattern.”

    Not meant for occupation, the house is simply the form of a house. “I wanted to take that form and drain it — drain it of narrative, drain it of history — take all the texture, surface, history,” he says. Mirrored, it directly reflects the landscape back at anyone who visits it, shifting the narrative away from those meanings carried by the suburban house and back at the landscape itself.

    Overlooking Palm Springs, the house features carefully crafted views of its surroundings. “All the corridors and rooms are designed specifically for this location,” he says. At the openings, where views are framed, Aitken included faceted mirrors. “It’s like a human-scale kaleidoscope.”

    Part of the newly launched Desert X exhibition, Mirage, on view through October 31, is open daily from 3:30 p.m. until sunset, except during full moons, when it's open until midnight.

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    Being able to identify with one or more minorities is much more of an asset than some people realize. Describing myself as "a healthy, happy, Jewish homosexual atheist" is a handy-dandy conversation starter (especially when meeting religious zealots, closet cases, and homophobes). Whether reading Milton Stern's delightful autobiography ("The Gay Jew in the Trailer Park") or Moises Velasquez-Manoff's recent Op-Ed piece in The New York Times ("What Biracial People Know"), being able to assess different aspects of a situation from a variety of cultural backgrounds can lead a person to surprisingly simple insights.

    I was recently reminded of this curious phenomenon when, over the course of two successive evenings, I attended performances that were intensely focused on a woman's need to control any decisions about her reproductive system.

    During my lifetime, the women's rights and pro-choice movements have continued to gain steam and suffer setbacks. I continue to be appalled and ashamed of the flatulent stupidity by which politicians and religious leaders (who don't even understand how sex leads to procreation) continue to wage war against women's rights.

    Following a series of idiotic insults to biology by Republican legislators, the latest piece of inanity came from Congressman John Shimkus of Illinois, who wanted to know why men should have to pay for maternity services that are currently part of the Affordable Care Act. Having fathered three children (David, Joshua, and Daniel), does Shimkus not recall how he got his wife pregnant? Does he not understand that, having penetrated her during sexual intercourse, it was his ejaculation that donated the genetic material responsible for creating their children (therefore making him responsible for at least half of his wife's maternal healthcare)?

    As they say in religious circles, "For shame!" Or, as Joseph N. Welch famously said to Senator Joseph McCarthy on June 9, 1954: "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

    A lack of human decency haunts two new dramas in which women struggling in vastly different cultures (as well as in times of war and peace) must fight for their dignity against the unsympathetic legal structures and uncaring patriarchal practices of the fiercely misogynistic societies in which they live. While there is much humor to be found in each play, the fact remains that it is still a struggle for women and girls to get an education and gain control of their futures. The guilt for so much of their failure to thrive should be profoundly embarrassing to the other half of the human race (see "Man In Suit Humping ‘Fearless Girl’ Statue Is Why We Need Feminism").

    * * * * * * * * *

    I would strongly urge anyone attending a performance of Danai Gurira's drama, Eclipsed, to read Natasha Chart's essay, "This Is How They Broke Our Grandmothers," before heading to the theatre. Armed with a better understanding of how women came to be treated as witches and bitches by men; how the kidnapping, rape, and subsequent ownership of children became institutionalized; and how gang rape and sexual slavery became accepted practices, it will become much easier for them to understand the misery of the characters they see portrayed onstage.

    Written in 2007, Eclipsed had its New York premiere at the Public Theatre in October 2015 before moving uptown to the John Golden Theatre, where it opened on March 6, 2016. Eclipsed became the first play to premiere on Broadway with a cast and creative team consisting entirely of women of color (in 2016, Liesl Tommy became the first woman of color to be nominated for the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play). With the show's director having been born in South Africa and its playwright of Zimbabwean descent, Gurira doesn't hesitate to state that:

    "I think I have a mission to tell stories of my people and the stories that I feel are often untold. There are so many amazing girls and women in the world who are being blocked. All the things that these women are capable of are being snatched from them. Their light is being blocked. The hope is that an eclipse is temporary, and it is on us to make sure this is so."

    Set in an impoverished rebel camp in 2003 (during the Second Liberian Civil War), the five unfortunate African women portrayed onstage exist in the menacing shadow of the putative "C.O." (commanding officer).

    • Helena/Wife #1 (Stacey Sargeant) is the oldest (25), weariest, and least fertile. Although her seniority may count for little, she relies on her rank as a means of demanding respect from those who have replaced her as sex objects. After 10 years of sexual slavery, she regards the C.O. as the one and only man in her life.

    • Maima/Wife #2 (Adeola Role) has left the shelter of the wives' primitive shed to become a soldier. Assertive, aggressive, and determined to maintain her independence, she looks to her weapons as a source of strength and protection. In order to avoid being raped again, she recruits other women into the military and teaches them how to scour the field after each battle, gather up the children, and bring them back to men who prefer to rape young virgins.

    • Bessie/Wife #3 (Joniece Abbott-Pratt) is in her early teens, newly impregnated, and about as mature as a 12-year-old.

    • The Girl/Wife #4 (Ayesha Jordan) is first seen hiding under an overturned rubber bathtub. After she ignores Wife #1's warning not to leave the shed at night -- and is promptly raped by the C.O. -- she becomes strangely quiet (probably in shock) and antisocial. She is the only one of the C.O.'s sex slaves who knows how to read.

    A late arrival in the plot is Rita (Akosua Busia), a well-dressed, articulate member of the Liberian Women's Initiative for Peace who is searching for her daughter (who was kidnapped and may be living in the rebel camp). Rita's way of trying to break through to women who have been degraded, dehumanized, subjugated by soldiers, and stripped of their former identities is to keep asking them to say the name they were given by their mothers and fathers. In a tense confrontation with Wife #2, she tries to explain that guns are not the answer to poverty and rape. When the war ends, all Rita can do is try to get Wife #4 (who has been recruited into the military by Wife #2) to consider the possibilities presented by the assault rifle the young woman holds in one hand versus the book she holds in the other.

    With scenery and costumes designed by Clint Ramos (and lighting designed by Jen Schriever), Broken Chord's sound design and original music help to create a sense of living in a war zone where food is scarce, depression and fear are rampant, and there is little hope for the future. Under Liesl Tommy's astute direction, the cast (especially Adeola Role) delivers powerful and deeply affecting performances.

    There is one structural problem, however, which handicaps the production ― the fact that, in order to lend authenticity to the dramatic experience, the cast speaks in heavily-accented English. As a result, nearly 30 percent of the dialogue was incomprehensible on opening night.

    At the end of the performance I was less deeply affected than many others in the audience. Ironically, the final scene (during which each woman must decide what to do with her life after the war) made me feel like I was watching the Liberian version of the “Anatevka” scene from Fiddler on the Roof.

    * * * * * * * * *

    The atmosphere was much rowdier at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre's opening night performance of Roe, a rambunctious dramedy about the fight to protect a women's right to have an abortion. With the action centered mostly in the Lone Star State, the thickly-accented cast brought back memories of 1978's popular musical, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.

    Written by Lisa Loomer and directed by Bill Rauch, Roe is part of a fascinating project by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. In 2008, OSF launched a major program entitled American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle. OSF's goal was to commission and develop 37 new plays inspired by moments of change in American history, with the writing and development process designed to last through 2027. Of the plays that have premiered to date:

    Working on a unit set designed by Rachel Hauck with lighting designed by Jane Cox and projections designed by Wendall Herrington, Roe tracks the relationship between the free-wheeling Norma McCorvey (Sara Bruner) and Sarah Weddington (Sarah Jane Agnew), the young attorney who recruited McCorvey to become the anonymous Jane Roe in the case of Roe v. Wade (Weddington ended up arguing the case in front of the United States Supreme Court at the age of 26).

    In describing the challenges she faced while trying to dramatize the societal impact of Roe v. Wade in the United States, playwright Lisa Loomis explains that:

    “I take the issues very seriously and write about very serious issues, but my plays often have an unusual theatrical style. I was not interested in doing a play about a case or a courtroom drama. But when I did the research, the real story of Norma McCorvey (who was Roe) was so amazing, so inherently theatrical, so... bent...that following this fascinating character allowed me to tell the story from a unique point of view.”

    “I see theatre as people sitting together in the dark to look at the human condition. If we can open our minds enough to even consider a position that is different from the one we brought into the theatre, that is the beginning of compassion. Compassion and curiosity are, I think, great things to leave the theatre with. If we go to the theatre just to encounter what we already believe, what’s the point, really?”

    With 45 years of history to cover (not to mention McCorvey's relationship challenges, erratic behavior, and hunger for publicity), director Bill Rauch keeps the action moving at a rapid clip. From an early gathering of Texas women who are struggling to view their vaginas to McCorvey's surprising conversion to a born-again Catholic, Loomis's script is like riding a roller coaster through four decades of the women's movement as seen through the eyes of the people who were at the center of a pivotal legal case.

    As key women orbiting around the stormy winds of Norma McCorvey's life, Catherine Castellanos portrays Norma's loyal lesbian lover (Connie Gonzalez) while Amy Newman shines brightly in her scenes as feminist attorney Gloria Allred as well as the devout Christian who tries to lure patients away from the abortion clinic where McCorvey works. Kenya Alexander makes a strong impact as a young African-American student (Roxanne) while Pamela Dunlap creates an indelible impression as Norma's bullying and verbally abusive mother.

    Several cast members appear as multiple characters:

    Costume designer Raquel Barreto rises nicely to the challenge of demonstrating how Weddington and McCorvey's bodies and fashions changed over the course of four decades. Sarah Jane Agnew follows a more conservative path in life, moving from an ambitious young attorney to a childless legal professor while Sara Bruner's highly energetic performance captures the restless spirit of a woman who, in her never-ending quest for approval, develops a perverse talent for using anyone who crosses her path (at one point, I found it amazing how much Bruner resembled Imelda Staunton's portrayal of Mama Rose in Gypsy).

    After a first act that moves with the furious momentum of a freight train, the second act of Roe gets bogged down in moments when Norma's betrayals of the people in her life become painful to witness (as well as whenever a religious zealot enters the scene and starts to proselytize with the zeal of a drooling velociraptor). The audience responded enthusiastically when Norma called one such woman a "cunt Christian" and spat in her face.

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