insights on art, culture, lifestyle, spirituality, travel, music, society and much much more from a jet-setter currently on "furlough"…

Archive for the month “December, 2007”

transforming museums

In light of the holidays, I thought I’d take a break from blogging about NKG’s artists and include a portion of thoughts that I’ve brainstormed for several upcoming paper proposals that my friend Emily and I are working on – the most recent being for the Transforming Museums conference that is due in less than 3 weeks. Feedback or any kind of constructive commenting is greatly appreciated as I piece this abstract together [that means YOU, the reader, has to comment and comment well]. Happy Holidays!

:: TOPIC ::

How do we transform museums? By putting together unconventional exhibits and display art that goes against the norm of typical museum practices – to have a healthy dose of resonance and wonder, to educate people, to address to the general public questions that are “politically incorrect”, that forces them to think outside the box, to tell the truth when presenting historical exhibits (such as the history of colonization), to extend beyond the visual interpretation and cater to all five senses of our human existence, to question the museum as a space and use it for other (more meaningful) purposes

Who is leading these transformations? Museums in the UK and Europe, and also in Asia. Most definitely NOT in the United States (although some can allude influence given in place such as NYC, Miami and California)… mostly contemporary art museums, though I believe this can also exist in other museums. The V&A in London is a great example of this. The Venice Biennale is an eve better example, though not a museum, was amazing in adhering to all of these transformations.

How do we define transformation? Transformation in museums perpetuates when these age-old institutions stops being “a colossal mirror where man finds himself literally an object of wonder” and visitors begin to experience liminality (which, characterized by ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy, can also be denoted as a period of transition, during which your ordinary limits to self-understanding, thought and behavior are relaxed) in the changes that are taking place.

Why are these transformations taking place? Because people like ME are sick and tired of seeing the same, boring, “Blockbuster” exhibits in museums worldwide… because art that thinks outside the box does no longer exists as a painting on the wall… because the mission of contemporary art is to act not only as a creative (or not so creative) form of human expression, but a catalyst to ask questions, to seek answers, to respond, to experiment, to instill meaning (or lack thereof) and to create a fluidity of meaning in order to exploit some kind of physical representation that links both the viewer and creator of the artwork together. On the international level, it is also accurate to state that contemporary art takes an even bigger risk not only in unconventional media, but also in subject matter that might be highly offensive to the general public (usually having to do with nudity, politics, religion, homosexuality and horrific events in history of humanity – wars, slavery, famines, genocide)… and because it makes things more interesting, as a breath of fresh air is always needed.

Are there discernible patterns in this change? There better be. It’s all a matter of time and how much money people have to re-create museums, and the response of the audience of course… as well as how many risks museums are willing to take without losing the sponsorship of their patrons.


Merry see, merry do…

In an age of technological advancement, it is difficult to remember that life can be lived without constant access to our ipod(s), computers and cell phones. The average person is bombarded daily with a million more images than those who lived during the Middle Ages. It also seems that today, many parents spoil their kids with all latest gadgets and promote little human interaction in return. Not very long ago, Mary Chiaramonte’s parents did the exact opposite.

Local artist Mary Chiaramonte was raised the old fashioned way in Harmony, WV, a remote town of no more than 100 residents in the early 1980s. Growing up, Mary and her siblings had no TV and lived off of and worked on the land. They were encouraged to entertain themselves with objects in nature, thereby turning twigs into toys. As a result, Mary was left with the workings of her imagination and observation of the world around her to produce amazing paintings and drawings.

For as long as she could remember, Mary’s interest was in the visual depiction of the human story. As a child attending a Ringling Brothers Show with her family, Mary paid more attention to the people in the audience than the performers on stage. She is the kind of person who enjoys sitting on a park bench and watching the world go by. The thing that drives her day to day is knowing about other people and the lives they lead.

Though some may consider her work to be more on the darker side (due to the artist’s choice of a melancholic color palate), Mary’s heavily lacquered paintings explore the most intimate moments of the human experience. In her unique oeuvre, she “rejoices with those who rejoice and weeps with those who weep.” Mary’s paintings are personal and represent both the reactions of the persons depicted, and her own. Obvious symbolism also occurs in her paintings, such as a heart cut in two, roses and a string of dead fruit. The best part is that no matter what feelings are conveyed, Mary always leaves an air of mystery and personal interpretation in each piece created. This happens when images are cropped, she emphasizes her graphic style and certain body parts are purposely not shown.

One of my favorite works by Mary Chiaramonte is currently featured in NKG’s Third Annual Attainable Art show. Daylights (pictured above: 2007, mixed media, 20 x 16 in.) shows a female torso wearing a black dress from chest down, walking in the middle of a double-yellow lined road. This story takes place at night, and the figure is surrounded by five small, illuminating balls of light. The bottom part of the figure shines while the top morphs into the dark of the night. Given the intriguing cropping of the figure at bust level and a brilliant imagination, one can only begin to surmise the powerful story behind this painting.

Mary once said that she hopes to successfully document the lives of those she comes into contact with in her paintings as a way of doing something worthwhile in life. I think she has done just that, if not more. Check out her extraordinary paper-cuts at her official website,

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