They Left Their Hearts at Casa Azul: How The Frida Kahlo Emojis Came To Be

The spell of Frida Kahlo is like a beacon, drawing to her work those who see their anguish, heartache, resilience or celebration of life expressed in her paintings.  Under Frida’s hue, they find inspiration enough to keep, share or pledge allegiance to her memory on bags, t-shirts or pilgrimages to Frida’s beloved home, Casa Azul.

This year Snapchat devoted one of their International Women’s Day filters to Frida—just a click adorned you with her trademarks braids, a crown of flowers, and red lips underneath a proper unibrow.

The multi-generational Mexican artist with a devoted fan base is the inspiration behind 160 new emojis – called FridaMoji – available in App stores now.

Museumito — a father and son design team, designed the first Kahlo-inspired emoji last summer.  They run Cantor Fine Art and wanted to engage their Instagram audience in a fun and memorable way.  That’s how their Fine Art Emoji project came to be.  The Frida emoji was getting the most attention and the project snowballed from there.

We spoke to Museumito about the success of the FridaMoji app and what it took to make it happen.  Our candid conversation delves into the process and rabbit hole that led to an obvious crush on all things Frida.

“The art of Frida Kahlo is a ribbon about a bomb” – Andre Breton

 

Don’t mind me, I’m just going to barrage you with questions.

Why Frida Kahlo? How long did it take to bring this project to fruition? Did you experience any hang-ups along the way?

It was a long and winding path. I think it took 8 months in total with lots of hang-ups. The biggest of which was that we really did not want to do this project. Not with Frida. Not with any artist.

Larry, my dad, and I are just two art history nerds who run a fine art gallery without a ton of resources. To make emojis for someone like Frida would and should take tons of energy, and emotion, and research.

Here is a timeline of hang-ups:

We launched the fine art emoji project in July last year and it got all that attention online. The comments, emails, and phone calls just never really stopped for four months. It seemed the like the more we told people no, the more they pushed back and the more people reached out. Last week I had a meeting with someone who found the emojis for the first time last week. I wonder if it will ever stop.  After 3-4 months, and enough attention from the art history community, we decided we would entertain the idea…but we would give up a lot of control to make our lives easier and partner with a Korean company, whose name I will leave out, to distribute the emojis/stickers worldwide.

I created 25 animated Frida stickers for them, they showed them to the head of Kakao Talk, and that homie was smitten and said that this was no longer for worldwide release but exclusive only for Kakao Talk. Even though we had already signed contracts for worldwide release.  Frida is HUGE in Korea. There are like Frida stores and Frida makeup lines….

They also wanted me to cut out a bunch of references to Frida’s work and replace it with “more useable emotions.” Sooooo I was like naw. Our goal was to spread Frida’s message, not make a ton of money for a company.  So, through some legal ugliness, we yanked our images and started looking for a new partner.

When we found out that the people who make Kimoji worked in the same building as our gallery, we reached out. We were just about to dump the project but, they were like ‘no dude this is cool, and worth it’. They thought about taking it on, but like, one of the Kardashians was getting a divorce or something, and they decided it wasn’t for them and their brand. Those guys’ are really nice and smart and helped us a ton.  We were like, ‘Ok we said we would do this. Let’s just make it us. We will probably lose money on developing it, it will take a lot longer – but we have gone this far.’ I designed the apps and hired a freelancer — had a ton of learning along the way. However, it was really rewarding. Now we have the app that we own, and I didn’t have to compromise on any references that we were allowed to use from Frida Kahlo Corp.

In terms of why Frida… Frida painted around 143 paintings, 55 of those are self-portraits. Each of these self-portraits had its own emotion or style that we could reference for the emoji.

So why Frida? Because we are living in Frida Mania and there were already so many images of her iconic face expressing anguish, beauty, betrayal, love, happiness, passion, pain.

Plus people were already using this amazing FridaMoji around the world.
}:)   No joke. Fridamaniacs throw a unibrow on all their emoticons. I love it.

Frida Kahlo Emojis _The Two Fridas

I read that you spent some time in Mexico City studying up on Frida. Now that you have bonded with her self-portraits, what elements were the most important to retain when creating the corresponding emoji?

Ya. WOOF. Have you been to Mexico City? That place is amazing. Everyone is so scared of it. I loved my time there. Never felt unsafe. Ate such amazing food. I cannot wait to go back.

The process was – we researched Frida, read books, studied all of her work, and watched the movies. I spent two weeks in Mexico City visiting Casa Azul and all the museums to see as much of the work in person as possible. It really is amazing seeing the work in person. Then spent six months working with the Frida Kahlo Corporation making hundreds of emojis.

I mean before really diving deep into Frida, I knew she had a unibrow, flower crown, a pet monkey, and parrot was married to Diego and was often sad. I think for a majority of people she is a unibrow and flower and they know they are supposed to like her. When I started reading about her and her work and her life, it is impossible to not get swept up in it. She was such a remarkable figure. She was so honest and so brave. She was so beautiful and so ugly. She was so tortured and yet found bliss. She was so romantic and always heartbroken. She was so secluded and yet so popular. I just fell in love with her character and her message, in a way I never really have with another artist.

I swear you can stand in front of Los Dos Fridas for days and still not take it all in. Then some of her work is so intimate and small. So when I went to Mexico I just gobbled everything up. Just tried to take in the overall messages and jotted down notes about recurring images or themes beyond a third of paintings are self-portraits. This might sound silly but before I went to Mexico I hadn’t grasped how prevalent or important watermelon was to Frida or what the monkey actually stood for.

Then I came back to the states with a head full of ideas, and I took in every image and painting the Foundation had. Each painting has its own emotion or style or story. So I took all of Frida’s paintings and photos, and thought about what people could actually use in conversations, looked at the most used emoji worldwide, and thought about what could open people up to more of Frida’s work. The process wasn’t necessarily easy. We ended up making over 400 emoji, and only 160 made the cut. Things were cut because they didn’t truly reflect Frida or felt like they wouldn’t be a useful emoji.

So now the question will be can we open up Frida’s legacy to more people?
Can we usher Frida and everything she stood for into this very new medium?
Can she become more than just the iconic flower and a unibrow to her new young fans?

If this is a way to do that….then awesome.

Frida Kahlo Emojis

You mentioned the art history community embracing the project. Could you share a few examples of that?

I can’t track it down because it happened so long ago, but LACMA reposted all the emojis on Facebook after the Artnet article came out and it just went gangbusters. It was as if everyone had to qualify their emails to me with “and you can trust me I’m a museum director” or “and this is coming from an art history teacher.” I loved it. Got lots of emails of die hard Frida fans.  Last week I helped a preschool teacher, and we were in someone’s master’s thesis in Europe.

Projects like this are sustaining new ways of educating and engaging a new generation – what artist is next in the emoji line?

Not sure. To do this right takes a lot of time, energy, and brainpower, and maintaining it takes some work. We have definitely been flirting with other artists estates that we admire, and there is definitely interest.  So we will see. Stay tuned to our Instagram, hopefully, there will be some news soon.

The Cross Stitch Lure of Ulla Stina Wikander

Cross-stitch is the oldest form of count thread embroidery where a stitch formed of two stitches crossing each other (x-shaped) in tiled, raster-like patterns form a picture. In the United States, Loara Standish the daughter of Mayflower passengers Myles Standish and Barbara Standish made what is believed to be America’s earliest known cross-stitch sampler.  Currently housed at Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts; it is thought to have been stitched while Loara sat in her doorway awaiting the return of a lover, lost at sea.

Artist, Ulla-Stina Wikander admittedly doesn’t cross-stitch; her work is helping uncover old stories set in thread, giving them new life within a different context. Ulla skillfully covers recognizable items whose functional use has evolved or been updated in found cross-stitching.  Some of her more popular pieces pair household items with cross-stitch – both, these unchanging symbols of domestication whose correlation is not unlike stitching – it has not faded away, though it has seen a transformation in the way that people view it.

 

The Cross Stitch Lure of Ulla Stina Wikander

We caught up with Ulla to discuss her process & maybe confess our cross-stitch crush:

I really enjoy how your work updates these older cross stitch pieces.  You’ve given them a new life, managing to keep the essence of them – they’re still a source of expression. What makes the perfect cross-stitch for your projects?

When you source the cross-stitches – are you looking for any particular colors or patterns?

Ulla: The embroidery must be clean (and they usually are, because they are framed) I buy almost every embroidery I come across, but I do not use them if they aren’t well embroidered, good craft. I have some favorite motives and colors and I often use the same patterns for big installations. For example: Typical Swedish small red cottages in the countryside with blue sky and birches. It is a very common pattern in Sweden and a kind of national romanticism. Another type of pattern that I like is the wild animals, like elk, deer and birds, often placed in the wood.

Do you make any of the cross stitching yourself?

No, I do not make any cross stitching or other embroidery. I´m more interested in choosing embroidery and covering the items – to see what is happening with the objects, how they transform. It takes some time to dress up the items, so I don’t have much time left to embroider.

It’s difficult for me to wrap my brain around your thought process on this project.  I mean, I’ve never looked at an item and wondered how I could change the context of it by covering it.  Can you tell us a bit about the first time you covered something?

I started to collect cross stitches 10 years ago, but I didn’t really know what to do with them. I found them beautiful and I admired the work behind. Then my ordinary vacuum cleaner broke down and I had this idea to cover it totally, and then put it against the wall as if I just had walked away. Then I invited some friends and let the vacuum cleaner stay in front, and it was amazing to listen to the reactions. Every body just loved it and they were at the same time a bit confused. I decided to try to cover things from the 70`s, a sewing machine, a typewriter for example, and it went well. It was like you saw the objects for the first time, and you weren’t sure of what you were looking at …In 2014 I had “My previous sewing corner” at Liljevalchs Konsthall and it got some attention.

The Cross Stitch Lure of Ulla Stina Wikander

Did you realize the artistic impact the items would have, or did it start out as a design aesthetic?

I realized the opportunities in an artistic way and decided to continue to explore how the different objects would transform when I “dressed them up”. It had to be ordinary things, that were related to women. I was not sure if it was regarded as art and that was not important to begin with.  It was more important for me, what it aroused in the observer.

I imagine, based on the types of items you choose to work with, that you are a bit of a purist when it comes to design — does that carry over into your everyday design?

Yes, I am a bit of a purist when it comes to everyday design, my home and clothes are clean and simple. I think that the artwork I do, is more a bit like kitsch and sometimes ”to much”. It must also have a sense of humor and recognition.

 

The Cross Stitch Lure of Ulla Stina Wikander

Seeing the pieces in a gallery setting really opens up the interpretation of the work. Each item technically has new life in a sculptural form, showcasing its functional design.

Do you think that viewing it this way places more emphasis on the way you select items now or the way you’d like to exhibit them in the future?

I love the fact that ordinary obsolete things that nobody wants, can be placed in a new context and seen for ”the first time”. I build large installations as well, like armchairs, table, lamps and I would like to see my things in a large exhibition at an Art Gallery.

Can we talk about how seamlessly you cover these items? Where are the seams? How are you achieving that?

I am very meticulous when I cover the objects. If these women has made a perfect embroidery, I would like to make a perfect covering and I make that by sewing and gluing. It is my way of showing respect to these women whose embroideries I cut apart (that hurts, every time).

The Cross Stitch Lure of Ulla Stina Wikander

Ulla’s work is now at Paradigm Gallery + Studio  for “Stitched”, an exhibition focusing on artwork that makes use of embroidery and stitching techniques.

Enjoy these great links to more information on Wikander:

[Website] [Instagram]

Beauty In The Eye of The Beholder – The Embroidery Work of Hannalie Taute

South-African artist, Hannalie Taute’s contemporary take on embroidery happens on rubber stitched together from discarded inner tubes. Her work is dark and edgy. I can only think of words I would not use to describe it, like: sedate, subtle, or delicate.  The faces stitched into the abandoned materials scream at you from their tough leather looking exteriors – this is not your grandmother’s embroidery.

I’m a fan of Taute’s work.  She masters the askew – doming it under bell jars, framing it in silver serving plates, leaving threads to dangle out of her stitching, letting the danger seep into our realm.  I find it difficult to look away from her strangely beautiful things.

As time drew closer for me to call Hannalie for our interview, I imagined a husky sounding woman picking up, morosely explaining her work to me.  All of that dreaming, fell completely out of context when this sweet-sounding mother, who admits she sometimes patterns her work after pop culture offerings, greeted me with a cheerful ‘Hello’.

What we assume is not always so.  Hannalie owns many expressions of her personality which allow her to evolve creatively.  Just like embroidery is composed of more than feminine linens stitched with sweet sayings for butts to sit on.

Before we get started, Hannalie apologetically warns me that Afrikaans is her first language, so the interview might get a bit rocky.  She mentions this after we have gushed on about The Little Prince, Minecraft and an Andy Warhol penis.

I think she did just fine…

This is the first time I have seen embroidery on rubber. To your knowledge, are there any other artists that work with this material?

Hannalie: I know that there is another South African artist, Nicholas Hlobo – part of my inspiration. He works with rubber as well, but he uses it differently.  He takes ribbon and rubber, and makes sculpture & abstract works – but he doesn’t embroider per say. He works with the medium, but I said to myself, ‘I can get a lot of artists that use oil paint, and each one would employ it differently.  I can use rubber as well, but make it my own.’

It is a lovely medium to work with. Even though I’m inspired by his use of rubber, our process and concept is very different.

That is what’s lovely about inspiration; that spark you can spin into something else.

On average, how long does it take you to complete a piece? I want people to get a sense of how labor intensive your work is.

My huge wall hangings can take up to six months. A smaller work, like the one I sent for the STITCHED show at Paradigm Gallery took about 2 months – that includes sourcing the rubber, cutting the rubber, cleaning the rubber, stitching and framing the piece.

 

What a process … How do you prime the rubber to then begin working with it?

I get it in a tube from the company. Some companies just throw them away, so I go and collect them.  I wash, dry, and polish them before I draw on them.  I don’t have an assistant at the moment, so I do everything myself.

 

Woah.

Yeah.

 

Creep(er) embroidery on rubber, 2017  – now on display at Paradigm Gallery for the STITCHED group show. | Taute explains how Creep(er) self-portrait came to be: “Minecraft is a computer game and my children play it a lot. Apart from Zombies and Skeletons, one can also encounter a ‘Creeper’, and they normally explode. A Creeper can be recognized by its tall vertical structure, and green pixellated skin. I can relate to their need to explode, so I decided to embroider a self-portrait wearing a ‘creeper’ jacket, but instead of holding dynamite or some sort of explosive, I decided to embroider an Andy Warhol inspired-penis.”

 

I’m curious, are you constantly bending your needles trying to pull your thread through the rubber?

I’ve broken a couple of needles…the rubber is not that tough, its’ softer than leather actually. So I don’t need to make my holes beforehand, the needle goes straight through.  I’m struggling to work with fabric at the moment because I’m used to the thickness of the rubber.

How long have you been working with this medium?

I started in 2012 – so a short while ago.  My first Solo Show was called Rubber Ever AfterI’ve got so much to learn still.

There is something macabre about the aurora of your work, which I find quite interesting.  But then, I suppose it might be a bit difficult to go sweet with rubber.

Yeah, all the connotations to bondage and stuff. (laughing)

Maybe ‘sweet and leather is the perfect juxtaposition.

You also draw inspiration from books and your children’s interest. Does each piece start with a particular memory?

I love reading and listening to other people’s stories about their relationships, and such. Even if I don’t find my inspiration directly at that moment, I’ll collect those moments, write out my thoughts and revisit them later.  Mostly, its driven by how I feel at a certain stage.

‘What is essential is invisible to the eyes’ is on display at Paradigm Gallery for the STITCHED group show. | Taute on this piece: ‘What is Essential’ was inspired by The Little Prince – I read it every year at least once. The quote goes, “What is essential is invisible to the eye. It is only with the heart that one sees rightly.”

How has your work been received in South Africa?

Very good… I won my first art award working with rubber. I like it when people come up to me after a show to chat – I’ve had a few great discussions with them about ancient embroidery.

Ancient embroidery? Is this art form older than most realize?

Oh yes.  There’s a pretty good book called Subversive Stitch… you know, men used to do this too and not just women.  The book has a detailed history of how women used needlework in the 18th and 19th centuries. Stitching has such a rich history throughout the world. The origin of it is fascinating.

My mother-in-law does needle work as well. When she sees my work, she gets so frustrated because she believes it must be perfect. If she makes a mistake in her work, she will pull everything out and start again. I don’t allow myself that luxury, I keep on going and working.  Its’ ok to make a mistake and carry on.

Well then, your imperfections make for unique pieces. I really enjoy your sculptural work; they are fascinating and a bit scary. There’s one from your series Implanted Memories that I love – the pig face on the body of a young child.

That’s She Wants to Build a House with Thread.

It is interesting what people find scary.  My children watch monster movies; I remember scary monster stories from my youth. Compared to theirs, my monsters are cute and cuddly.  I’m wondering what is scary out there still?

She Wants to Build a House with Thread, 50 x 30 x 30 cm Medium: Fabric, found object, cotton thread and rubber

 

I don’t know.  Maybe we’re afraid of the ‘imagined threat’. I still get chills when I read older stories from The Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen.  That’s what I meant when I said I love the scare factor in your work, because they remind me of darker fairy tales – the ones without the cute moral endings. 

I had an exhibition called, The Grimm Needle. I asked people, ‘What did they fear? Could they name a fear for me based on the unknown?’ Their responses were quite interesting. I suppose there is a lot of fear around that – the unknown.

Because you don’t know what to expect. If you can’t prepare for something, then comes the onset of anxiety.

I guess that is why people fear death because it is the unknown.

So many questions swirling around that.

Wonder if I could stitch it…

“Heks/Witch” Altered photograph, cotton thread, rubber and wood. 61 x 42 cm

 

The More You Know:

Ask A Curator: Wassan Al-Khudhairi Talks About The Exciting New Exhibit Third Space At The Birmingham Museum of Art

 

The new contemporary art exhibit at Birmingham Museum of Art, Third Space  borrows its name from philosopher and Havard Scholar, Homi Bhaba‘s term ‘third space,’ which he defines as a space that “challenges our sense of the historical identity of culture as a homogenizing, unifying force, authenticated by the originary past, kept alive in the national tradition of the People.”

Wassan Al-Khudhairi is the Hugh Kaul Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art; as curator for Third Space, Al-Khudhairi is quite aware of the power of shared experiences.  Her personal experiences growing up in one place and traveling to others color the exhibition.  She reaches, through the selections to explore the commonalities that draw communities together and make them stronger.

Third Space is intended to create a dialogue that allows for the discovery of connections between the American South and the rest of the world,” Al-Khudhairi said. “We hope visitors walk away from this exhibition with the desire to have those important conversations related to the experiences we share.”

We put together a brief Q & A together for Wassan Al-Khudhairi – we hope this will allow the readers to understand some of job responsibilities of a curator and how Third Space came together. 

 

Wassan, can you tell us how the idea for this exhibition come about?

The exhibition idea was inspired by thinking about the Birmingham Museum of Art’s collection and its relationship to Birmingham, the American South, and the Global South. The American South is often discussed within the parameters of the United States of America and within a North-South dichotomy.  I was interested in thinking horizontally and creating an opportunity to have an south-south conversation.  The Global South refers to a loose geographical space, a space that is often a post-colonial space.  I wanted to explore the Museum’s collection through this lens of post-colonialism — a condition that is quite similar in many ways to other places in the Global South.  The exhibition title, Third Space, is a term borrowed from Homi Bhaba a philosopher and scholar who coined the term to describe another space, one where commonalities come together to create an alternative space.  The term felt like the perfect way to encompass the exhibition ideas.

 

What was the largest hurdle in pulling it all together?

Pulling it all together– being sure the exhibition ideas are being communicated to the visitor and creating the conceptual space for people to feel like they can reflect their ideas and experiences onto a work of art.

On another note, the exhibition is open for 2-years and within those 2 years we will have 3 changes in the galleries. The first one takes place this August– many of the large works will remain on view but photographs and works on paper throughout the exhibition will be replaced with other works from the collection.  This will happen 3 times in two years… it was a challenge to think ahead in planning the works that will be on view for example in Fall 2018.

But these changes every 6 months will mean that there will always something new to see for our visitors, so we hope people will keep coming back!

 

How did you go about selecting these works of art?

It’s not such a linear or defined process as you might be imagining. It is more of a constant back and forth between building the framework for the ideas of the exhibition and selecting works that help shape and push those ideas further. It is a back and forth, back and forth until it feels like you have been able to find the right balance.

Wassan Al-Khudhairi Talks About Third Space At The Birmingham Museum of Art

Jose Bedia Mpangui jimagua (Twin Brothers), 2000 (Acrylic and conte on canvas with objects)

Assuming you had more pieces in mind than the show could contain, and how did you narrow your choices?

Its a juggling act– and many different things factor into how to make those decisions. You have to take a lot into consideration and one decision affects another so its a domino effect.  Which works speak to the exhibition ideas the strongest? How works relate to each other in the space? Will the work physically fit in the space? What works will our visitors respond to?

 

What piece do you think will receive the most attention (whether its via social media or conversation gold) and why?

It depends on who you’re talking to or what platform you’re looking at. Contemporary art has the ability to allow for multiple interpretations and what I hope Third Space will illustrate to our audiences is that there’s something very personal about what works you are most drawn to and that you may see something in a work that I don’t– that there are many interpretations and the hope is that all our visitors can find something to relate to in the works of art in Third Space.

 

I thought it was an interesting choice to use perspectives of the selected works for the audio guide, instead of the merely quoting the artist. How did you arrive at that decision?

This was a very deliberate decision that my colleague Angela May and I made– we wanted to include voices of people in the community speaking about the works of art in the exhibition. The hope is that by hearing a ‘non-art professional’ speak about a work of art our visitors will feel empowered to make their own interpretations and speak about the works in the exhibition as well.  We also wanted to weave into the exhibition the voices of people in our community to show that there is no one way to talk about these works of art and that the exhibition should be a place for conversation and sharing of ideas.

 

I noticed a mention for the upcoming video diary allowing for visitors to share their experiences with the exhibition. How will the museum utilize those perspectives?

We aren’t sure yet how we will use these perspective immediately– but including an audio guest book was a way to create another space for visitors to the exhibition to leave behind their story, their voice, their perspective. If we want the exhibition to be a space to share ideas and create conversation then we needed to keep our work by offering the space for that to happen…. we hope it will be ready soon, so if you’ve visited the exhibition already please come back!

If you’re still intrigued, please check out our 10 of our favorite pieces from the exhibition, they’re sure to provoke stirring conversation on the exploitation of people and land, identity and race relations.

THIRD SPACE, SHIFTING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART @ BIRMINGHAM MUSEUM OF ART : 10 ART PIECES THAT SPOKE TO US

THIRD SPACE, SHIFTING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART @ BIRMINGHAM MUSEUM OF ART

I travel to Alabama about once a year, one of my favorite places to visit while in town is the Birmingham Museum of Art.  A few weeks ago, I got a chance to experience their latest exhibition, Third Space: Shifting Conversations.  Third Space includes their visitors in the examination on the cultural crossing of Alabama and the American South’s relation to the Global South – the concept that the state of our cultural climate is not chained to a geographical location; that were are united by a connected past that defines our present. “It is an imagined place that ties cultures together by their common experiences and considers the voices of people who are often unheard.”

The exhibition opens up that dialogue with over 100 contemporary art pieces – most culled from the museums’ own collection.  A few of the pieces are on display for the first time, having been in storage, due to the museums’ lack of space. The works of art and the ideas that inspired them are meant to resonate regionally, as well as reach out on a global level. Photographs, sculptures, and paintings are just a few of the mediums represented here along with a rich multitude of artistic representation from Alabama, Brazil, Cuba and South Africa – to name a few.

“This important moment for the Birmingham Museum of Art and our collection of contemporary art extends an exciting opportunity to recognize and explore a shared human experience,” Gail Andrews, R. Hugh Daniel Director of the Birmingham Museum of Art, said. “Works of art offer ways to see the world from a new perspective, serve as points of discussion and can create empathy and respect, at a time when our country seems to need it the most.”

Your journey is tied to reference points that guide you in finding personal meaning within the art. The sections are: representation/agency/gaze, tradition/memory/history, landscape/nature/spirit, and migration/diaspora/exile.  Third Space will run for 2 years, during that time the works of art will change every 6 months, shifting your travels.  You can also use your iPhone or iPad provided at the museum to access the Smart Guide, an interactive feature that allows you to listen to different perspectives on selected works of art from voices of children, musicians, activists and a host of others from the Birmingham community.

And as we are invited to share our perspectives and interact with the art, in no particular order, here are 10 art piece gems in the exhibition that spoke to us:

  1. Dennis Oppenheim’s Slow Clap for Satie, 1989 (Acrylic, wood, steel, motors. ficus trees, pots, turntables, vacuum formed masks, loop recording of Erik Satie piano music)THIRD SPACE, SHIFTING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART @ BIRMINGHAM MUSEUM OF ART
  2.  Jose Bedia Mpangui jimagua (Twin Brothers), 2000 (Acrylic and conte on canvas with objects) – Jose Bedia’s years studying and experiencing Afro-Cuban and Native American spirituality are reflected in the two representing men drifting together in the boat communing with and pulling their collective spiritual forces.  Is it a representation of Bedia continuing to pull the spirit and traditions of his heritage along in life?  As your eye pulls away from the boat and notices the figures on the large canvas, you have to wonder…are you staring at two figures or do they represent a blending of one?THIRD SPACE, SHIFTING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART @ BHAM_Glenn Kaino, Bridge
  3. Skylar Fein See You at the UpStairs Lounge, from “Remember the UpStairs Lounge”, 2009 (latex on wood) – This is a recreation of original sign from The UpStairs Lounge,  a gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  In 1973 a fire broke out, claiming the lives of 32 men.  The fire was set intentionally, and the 15 survivors were persecuted afterwards for being at the bar. A more in depth history of the event can be heard here.  THIRD SPACE, SHIFTING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART @ BHAM_Ebony G Patterson
  4. Ebony G. Patterson Among the weeds, plants and peacock feathers, 2014  (Mixed Media) – It wasn’t until we looked through the lens of the camera did we see the body scattered among beaded tapestry.  Patterson’s work explores themes of identity and class, race and gender in the media. Among the weeds draws the viewers in, revealing a heartbreaking discovery.  Too often we bypass the crushing and Patterson calls our attention to a prevailing attitude.  Third Space at BHAM_Nick Cave
  5. Nick Cave Soundsuit, 2009 (Fabric with appliqued crochet and buttons , knitted yarn, and mannequin)Third Space at BHAM_Glenn Kaino
  6. Glenn Kaino Bridge, 2014 (Fiberglass, steel wire, and gold paint) – Made from a cast of Olympic athlete Tommie Smith’s arms and fist, the sculpture harkens back to that iconic moment when, along with John Carlos, Smith raised his black gloved fist in the Black Power Salute during the metal ceremony in the 1968 Olympics.  Do yourself a favor and listen to Chenoia Bryant, Social Justice Advocate and Feminist speak on the audio companion about the larger meaning behind this piece.Third Space at BHAM_
  7. Whitfield Lovell Rise of the Delta, 2013 (Conte on wood, silver plated platters, penny, wrought iron scone ) – Lovell was commissioned by Birmingham art collectors Norm and Carnetta Davis to create this piece from of photograph of Carnetta Davis’ mother. I love the halo of silver and pewter serving plates placed around Davis’ mother.  They symbolize her mothers’ love of hosting guests in her home, while the pewter piece at her feet is reference to ‘Birth of Venus’.
  8. Kerry James Marshall As Seen on TV, 2002 (Enamel on plastic vase, plastic flowers, framed video still, wood and glass shelf with steel bracket and chain)
  9. Glenn Ligon Runaways, 1993 (Lithographs) – This series of prints are inspired by advertisements for runaways slaves from the early 1800s.  Ligon makes use of the advertisements bearing physical descriptions and personal details, wording that humanized people perceived as property, standing in opposition to the advertisements obvious lack of humanity 10-must-see-pieces-at-third-space-birmingham-museum-of-art
  10. Esterio Segura La historia se muedre la cola (History Bites its Tall), 2013 (Painted fiberglass) – Using a bound Pinocchio as a metaphor for the history of lies told us by our governments was brilliant.  Even more stinging when you think how apropos it is when applied to the lies we tell ourselves.