The American Museum of Natural History is full of gorgeous anthropological artifacts. These pictures from the Hall of Plains Indians and Hall of Eastern Woodland Indians show just a small bit of the fascinating and beautiful clothing and accessories the Native American peoples wore for protection from the elements, for fashion, and for ceremonial reasons as recently as 120 years ago.

According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs

The estimated population of American Indians and Alaska Natives, including those of more than one race, as of July 1, 2007, was 4.5 million, or 1.5 per cent of the total U.S. population and the total number of enrolled members of the (then) 561 federally recognized tribes was shown to be less than half the Census number, or 1,978,099.

From clockwise, upper left: A man’s headdress, known as a roach, made of dyed animal fur and an eagle feather, and necklace made of grizzly bear claws and otterskin. Plains indian holding a ceremonial battle stick. Woman’s woven rabbit-fur shawl. Penobscot tribe men’s hat made of moose hair, Micmac armbands (top) Penobscot cuffs (bottom). 

Good-bye August 2014! Your high and low tides, your waves were the best. Lunar/tidal calendar from a Rockaway paper by artist #santiagosalvador // #sciencesparksart

Good-bye August 2014! Your high and low tides, your waves were the best. Lunar/tidal calendar from a Rockaway paper by artist #santiagosalvador // #sciencesparksart

British artist William Utermohlen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1995. Utermohlen document the progression of the disease with his self-portraits. Alzheimer’s affects people’s memory, cognition, then motor coordination. The effects of the disease are seen in the artist’s loss of detail.


It’s a palpable wonder, the manual effort that Colorado artist Andrew Tirado puts into his sculptures. It’s no coincidence, either, that his subject is hands. He commemorates things that are man-made. He does so by showing the importance of craft. The further we go along in virtual realities, the less significant we find the hands. The human touch, that’s what he wants to preserve. Read more on Hi-Fructose.

I wrote a new post for Nautilus magazine! The full text is here.

My grandfather wasn’t a big farmer, but his small garden in Kentucky was a miracle. There was rhubarb, corn, and peppers a-plenty, but mostly I remember the tomatoes. He bred his own, saving the seeds of the best specimens every year. By the time he was getting well into life, his tomatoes were outlandishly proportioned, irregular in shape, and incredibly delicious.

I thought about his garden when I saw the latest paintings by Mia Brownell, in her show Delightful, Delicious, Disgusting. It is currently on view at Juniata College Museum of Art in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

Brownell has been painting what she calls “molecular still lives” for over a decade. She begins most works with a base of abstract, swirling forms inspired by the structures of proteins, and then adds foods typically seen in traditional still lives. Grapes are a favorite of hers, as their orb-like shape lends a cellular look. Brownell strives to raise awareness and evoke primal questions about our food supply, from how it is grown and how it functions in our bodies, to how it impacts society. 

“Besides the trees next to the sidewalk and maybe watering plants,” she posits, “the food we eat is the most frequent encounter we have with nature.”

Andy Warhol, Rorschach series, 1984

Happy Birthday to the original analyst of Pop! Warhol would have been 86 today. 

30 years ago Warhol produced a series of Rorschach paintings. Unlike his silk screens, Andy actually painted these images, albeit one side, which were then folded together to create the blots. 

The Rorschach test is a psychological test in which subjects’ perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analyzed using psychological interpretation, complex algorithms, or both. Some psychologists use this test to examine a person’s personality characteristics and emotional functioning. It has been employed to detect underlying thought disorder, especially in cases where patients are reluctant to describe their thinking processes openly. The test is named after its creator, Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach. -wiki

From the shoreside of Queens to the hilltops of Brooklyn, and right at the riverbanks of Manhattan, natural disasters are a pervasive theme in this summer’s New York art shows.

Fort Tilden, a decommissioned Army site at the Southern tip of the Rockaways, hosts a MoMA-sponsored group exhibit celebrating the rebirth of the peninsula in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Rockaway! includes Patti Smith’s wistful Resilience of the Dreamer, which is  installed among piles of detritus thrown out of countless flooded homes. Here she gives the dreamer a place to continue to live, to find new warmth, to seek refuge.

At the Brooklyn Museum, dissident Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei has several works that voice concern and grief over the hundreds of school children who were crushed in an earthquake in the Sichuan province. A snake made from schoolchildren’s backpacks writhes above viewers, while 150 tons of iron rebar, twisted by the quake, are re-straightened and placed systematically back into an order. The installation represents not only a rift in the Earth’s tectonic plates but also in the Chinese political system.

Finally, at Friedman Benda in Chelsea, the group exhibit “Duality of Existence” features several Japanese artists’ interpretations of the impact that the earthquake, subsequent tsunami, and nuclear disaster in Fukushima has had on their lives and imaginations. Motohiko Odani’s video installation, A Dead Man Sleeping shows huge iron globes being dropped into glass tanks. Some result in a simple reassuring thud while others split the tanks into terribly alluring shards.

What may be most surprising about all of this summer’s “disaster art” is that it does not terrify or depress. Instead it stands in defiance and represents the innumerable ways the human spirit continues to overcome, to hope, and create a better tomorrow. 

Perhaps this turn of fate, this process that makes beauty out of terrible circumstance, is better described by another New York artist, Henry Miller. From his later novel Sexus:

The act of dreaming, like a draught of fresh air in an abandoned house, situates the furniture of the mind in a new ambiance. The chairs and tables collaborate; an effluvium is given off, a game is begun.

To ask the purpose of the game, how it is related to life, is idle. As well ask the Creator why volcanoes? why hurricanes? since obviously they contribute nothing but disaster. But, since disasters are disastrous only for those who are engulfed in them, whereas they can be illuminating for those who survive and study them, so it is in the creative world. The dreamer who returns from his voyage, if he is not shipwrecked en route, may and usually does convert the collapse of his tenuous fabric into other stuff. 

Friedman Benda closes its show this Friday, Brooklyn Museum closes Ai WeiWei this Sunday, and Rockaway! is on view through the end of the month. 


Dennis Wojtkiewicz, Fruit Painting

Feast your eyes on these incredible fruit paintings by Ohio artist, Dennis Wojtkiewicz.

There’s nothing more integral to fruit flowering and fruit feasting than the work of the honeybee. However, honeybee populations are dwindling because of Colony Collapse Disorder. To that end, the fascinating periodical, Fruit Grower’s News presents a story about the new Bayer CropScience’s North American Bee Care Center in North Carolina.

The $2.4 million, 6,000-square-foot facility is now the hub of the company’s North American bee care research and outreach efforts. According to Bayer, the new center houses a full laboratory with a teaching and research apiary, a honey extraction and hive maintenance space, on-site honeybee colonies, pollinating gardens, and a screened hive observation area.

“We’ve got to make sure that these pollinators do function properly and have good health. This is a big step in that direction.”

(via rotiferola)

The Form of Color,  Robert Swain.

The Santa Monica Museum of Art is currently showing an immersive, site-specific installation by artist Robert Swain. It is the culmination of the artist’s forty-five years of research into the phenomenology of color. The Form of Color is comprised of hundreds of interlocking, modular square paintings created specifically for the museum and is meant to reflect the quality of light in sunny Santa Monica.

“Color,” says Swain, “is a form of energy that stimulates our perceptual processes and is instrumental in conveying emotions.”

His insights are aesthetically and scientifically correct. Research shows that color impacts emotion, perception, and performance. Just  a tiny list of scientific findings about color include: 

  • Warm-colored placebo pills appear to be more effective than cool-colored placebo pills
  • Installing blue-colored streetlights may help reduce crime
  • People who are warm tend to list cool colors as their favorites, while people who are cold prefer warmer colors
  • Exposing students to red before an exam has been shown to have a negative impact on test performance
  • Red helps people react more quickly and with greater force

The show is up until August 23.

Non-Objective Painting no. 80 (Black on Black)1918 Aleksandr Rodchenko

Suprematist Composition, White on White, 1918 Kazimir Malevich

British scientists announced this week the invention of the darkest material ever made. The carbon nanotube creation, called Vantablack, is able to capture, and thus obscure, 99.965% of light. It is the latest development in a long series of material innovations in which the ultimate goal is to achieve complete darkness. With it, astronomers are able calibrate cameras to detect the faintest flickers of light emanating from the furthest corners of the universe.

Almost 100 years ago Russian artists Alexsandr Rodchenko and Kazimir Malevich explored darkness and light in an entirely different way.

Rodchenko created several paintings with only black pigments. According to MoMA, he used black in a variety of textures and finishes to focus solely on the physical properties of the works, bringing attention to their surfaces and to the action of painting itself.

Rodchenko created these pieces in opposition to the all-white works of Kazimir Malevich. His paintings were meant to connote and explore “the infinite expanse of the ideal.”