Art students use NEXT exhibit to address political issues

Kim Jong Un

Oil painting of Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, by student Robert Yi.
*Photo courtesy of VOA

By Lanie Rivera
Editor

Art students from D.C.’s Corcoran College of Art and Design presented their final art projects at the college museum, on display until May 19, many of which have a politically charged meaning.

The students’ artwork has been compiled into an exhibit called NEXT, the name symbolic of the students who will receive their degrees move on from the undergraduate art program in May.

Robert Yi, a student from South Korea, presented many paintings in the exhibit, including one of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

He explained his intended message to Voice of America:

“My paintings are called Mask paintings. And it’s the idea that, in society today, no matter where you are, people put on a mask,” he said. “That idea is expressed in North Korea because the people of North Korea, the citizens, put on a face…they’re required to act happy.”

Other students targeted different political issues.

Jason Tucker, a fine art photography major, sought to reflect his homosexual identity in his artwork by researching the meaning of derogatory terms for homosexual people.

“I started doing a lot of research into words that have a specific meaning within a gay male context, and so I started with the word ‘faggot,'” he said. “The root of the word comes down to ‘a bundle of sticks.’ So I started with that and wanted to make a self-portrait. So I ended up collecting my exact body weight in sticks…I wanted to take something that I’ve been called before, that was an epithet, and make something beautiful out of it.”

Read more about the D.C. students’ art exhibit here.

Amid citizens’ anger about White House concert, educational purposes prevail

*Check out this video of the “Memphis Soul” concert on April 9, hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House.

By Lanie Rivera
Editor

Despite devastating budget cuts from the sequestration, the White House decided that their show must go on; the Obamas hosted a “Memphis Soul” concert, the 10th installation of the concert series “In Performance at the White House” on Tuesday, April 9.

While an article by Fox News cited that many Americans scoffed at the performance, angry that the exclusive star-studded show remained on schedule amid federal cuts, I have read other articles about the concert that lead me to believe this frustration is unjustified.

It seems that the event’s thoughtful purpose, private funding and student workshop (held before the concert) conflict with accusations that the first couple has become selfish, thoughtlessly spending federal funds on lavish parties while the closing the White House to the public.

The concert was an informative event that encouraged and promoted community through arts participation and appreciation; it was not a show that merely entertained the Obamas and their chosen guests.

An article by CBS quoted President Barack Obama’s comments regarding the importance of soul music:

And that was the spirit of their music — the sound of Soulsville, U.S.A., a music that, at its core, is about the pain of being alone, the power of human connection, and the importance of treating each other right … After all, this is the music that asked us to try a little tenderness …

And the Obamas’ said they hoped this Memphis Soul music event would inspire connection and respect, too. But their communal and educational intentions were not praised, or even recognized, by most citizens. Instead, many complained that federal dollars were being used for the concert.

One reader, under the name “Dry Chardonnay,” commented on the Fox News article about the concert to express frustration about U.S. spending. The commentator added that the concert was unwarranted amid a time of budget cutbacks:

When the furlough strikes in May, I will be one of the over 750,000 employees who will lose 20 [percent] of their paycheck … for goodness sakes stop throwing concerts, unless it is a fundraiser to pay down the national debt!

But according to an article posted on Red Alert Politics, the concert was funded by outside sources. “… these concerts are partially funded by private and corporate donations, [and] most of the costs are covered by PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,” wrote Laura Byrne, a writer for Red Alert Politics.

Additionally, the Fox News article reported that some federal employees have made several cries against the “First Couple’s” White House events because the “people’s house” was closed to the public, yet high-profile celebrities were invited to attend the concert.

Outcries also targeted the White House’s suspension of public tours to cut back on security spending, yet its doors still opened for an event that surely required a paid Secret Service security staff, according to Fox News:

Republican lawmakers ripped the administration for its decision to cancel White House tours, which affected school groups and others who had made spring plans to visit.

Jon Hart, a Republican spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), was one of these critics.

Although he did not specifically comment on the concert, he did bash the Obamas for discontinuing the tours, the Washington Post reported:

They can tour the country on the taxpayer’s dime but can’t allow taxpayers to tour the White House?  Seriously?

Contrarily, First Lady Michelle Obama hosted “The History of Memphis Soul,” an interactive, educational event for 120 middle and high schoolers across the country on April 9.

The workshop encouraged budding musicians and featured music industry legends such as Sam Moore, Mavis Staples, Justin Timberlake, Charlie Musselwhite and Ben Harper.

According to the CBS article, the First Lady offered words of support and advice to the students:

At the workshop, Mrs. Obama also tried to encourage the students, including some aspiring musicians, by noting that it took years of perfecting their talent for the artists perched on stools in front of them to get where they are.

Not to mention the Obamas invited the public to their recent Easter Egg Roll event on April 1.

While most people criticized these White House events, some did praise the Obamas for their efforts to promote education.

One Fox News reader by the name “xybann” wrote:

I am SO impressed that the first lady is going to talk to bunch of students about the history of Memphis Soul.  That is so important for young, eager minds to hear about from the most influential woman in America!

[WC: 776]

Street artist Hanksy sneaks into Easter Egg Roll

hanksy-white-house-egg-3

Photo courtesy of Hanksy (tumblr)

By Lanie Rivera
Editor

Although it hasn’t been confirmed, evidence of the pun-loving street artist Hanksy attended President Barack Obama’s Easter Egg Roll at the White House, according to Blouin Art Info.

What evidence supports this claim?

Well, photographs of graffitied Easter eggs filled with puns have exploded across cyberspace, posted on the artist’s Tumblr and apparently confirmed by his gallery coordinator Benjamin Krause.

Photo courtesy of Hanksy (tumblr)

Photo courtesy of Hanksy (tumblr)

Some are skeptical, though, because the rumors of Hanksy’s work began to spread on April Fool’s Day. Could it be a hoax?

Well, examine the convincing photos and see if you think they’re authentic.

One Million Bones installation to speak for over a million stories

*Check out this video of a similar project (50,000 bones) in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2011 

By Lanie Rivera
Editor

An art installation made of one million bones is scheduled to be displayed at the National Mall in June; the goal is to make a minute but powerful representation of the people who have suffered from mass genocides and atrocities across the globe.

Photo courtesy of www.kearneyhub.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.kearneyhub.com

The One Million Bones project demonstrates the strength of art as a social call to action against injustices.

The bones, created by art students and teachers of Kearney High School, Horizon Middle School, Kearney Catholic and Sumner Public School, are ceramic.

Residents of central Nebraska were invited to participate in the project on April 6 at the Museum of Nebraska Art by molding bones themselves.

To learn more about the project, visit the project’s website. Read the full article here.

Philanthropic salsa dancing

Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities

Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities

By Lanie Rivera
Editor

A night of salsa dancing in tempo with musical tunes from a live DJ pulled the District’s fun-loving philanthropists together to support the local Latino community.

On March 22, D.C.’s Catholic Charities’ Spanish Catholic Center hosted Música y Sueños (Music and Dreams), a Latin-style salsa dance party held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Over 400 locals attended the event and were provided salsa dance lessons by Ricardo Loaiza, a professional D.C. salsa dancer.

The proceeds benefitted the Spanish center, which has served the District’s Latino community for 45 years by providing health clinics, food pantries, employment, legal aid and language classes.

Continue here to read more about the event.

Washington Post’s “Peeps Show”

*Check out this video of a 2010 Peep Show submission, a tribute to “Up.”

By Lanie Rivera
Editor

The Pope reigns in the world of Peeps, too.

This year’s grand prize winner of the Washington Post’s seventh annual Peeps Show was a submission called “Peeps Mourn Their Peeps: Twinkie, Rest in Peeps,” by Lani Hoza and Leslie Brown.

The diorama featured a scene in which the Peep Pope returns from his retirement to conduct the funeral for Twinkie.

Every year, the Post urges readers to hone their artistic skills to create a diorama made with America’s favorite Easter treat.

Out of this year’s 650 entries, five finalists were chosen. One memorable finalist was “Peep’s Chili Bowl,” a reproduction of the District’s very own Ben’s Chili Bowl restaurant created by the staff of the Corporation for Enterprise Development. 

Check out more of the finalists’ work here.

One million grains of rice

Photo courtesy of High Fructose Magazine

By Lanie Rivera
Editor

Artist Saeri Kiritani has defied all traditional sculpture mediums of marble, granite, clay and wax with her recent life-size self-sculpture — Kiritani used upwards of a million grains of rice for her piece, according to this press release.

Kiritani earned her spot at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery  when the 100 pound, five-foot tall sculpture won the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. Kiritani is one of 48 artists who were selected to showcase their work in the gallery.

The New York native used rice as the medium for her sculpture, titled “100 Pounds of Rice,” because she wanted to reflect her Japanese culture, bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase, “you are what you eat.”

“I grew up in Japan, where rice was the biggest part of my diet. It still is. You could say that the cells of my body are made mostly from rice,” Kiritani said, according to an article in Hi Fructose Magazine, a contemporary art publication.

Kiritani’s rice sculpture will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery from March 23, 2013 until Feb. 23, 2014.