Friday, July 29, 2011

"Mark Wagner" Currency Collage

Mark Wagner, Pavel Zoubok Gallery, NYC, 2011.
There are a lot of things one can do with a dollar bill. Stuffing it into a stripper's G-string is just one thing that comes to mind. Spending it is another. And saving it is perhaps one that should come to mind more often.  The Brooklyn based artist Mark Wagner takes an altogether different approach - making art out of it. His "currency collages" are just that - patterns and images made exclusively from cutting up and collaging the U.S. Dollar Bill. But this is no ordinary cheap gimmick. On the contrary, the work he produces is both beautiful and thought provoking.

Currently on exhibit at the Pavel Zoubok Gallery in Chelsea, his subject matter spans from decorative to political, from tiny re-worked  Dollar Bills floating on the wall, to  17 X 6 foot monumental tribute to the Statue of Liberty, which is where the show gets its name, "Give Me Liberty of Give Me Death".

At first, a viewer might be drawn to a particular work just because of its intriguing portraiture. Then, upon closer inspection, it is revealed that the image is produced using various parts or the Dollar, usually in a repetitive fashion. ( It made me realize how complicated is the design on such an everyday object.) I particularly liked the works which incorporate George Washington doing various activities.

Mark Wagner, Pavel Zoubok Gallery, NYC, 2011.
Upon examining the collages closely, the various parts and pieces of the complex design of a Dollar are all brought into play, to illustrative and enlightening effect.
Mark Wagner, Pavel Zoubok Gallery, NYC, 2011.
While some of the messages are political, playing on the obvious stigma attached to currency, Wagner also seems to have a sense of humor as well, as in the peacock collage above.

Mark Wagner, Pavel Zoubok Gallery, NYC, 2011.
Being a big fan of the decorative arts, I loved the wallpaper he creates from currency, displayed on a segment of a wall, complete with outlet and kick-board.

Mark Wagner, Pavel Zoubok Gallery, NYC, 2011.
Some of his work also creates optical illusions, showing his resourcefulness with the medium, and an almost Escher-like appreciation for mathematics.
Customized Dollar Bill, Mark Wagner, NYC, 2011.
A paper artist myself, I am always fascinated to see artists using unexpected materials in creative ways. The Dollar is, after all, just a piece of paper with an implied value. (The paper stock for US currency is produced by Cranes, a stationer that also sells fine stationery and other paper goods.)  The same could be said about art on paper, a basic material with an assigned value. Fundamentally, is an artwork created out of currency worth more merely because of its materials? Or is the currency defaced, and rendered worthless? I will let you answer those questions for yourself. Whatever the case may be, the works created by Wagner are stunning in there engineering and subject matter, and he certainly has a promising career.

The artist happened to be on hand during the opening, and was doing demonstrations of some of his techniques. I quickly queued up and handed over my own crisp Dollar, a small price to pay for art. Right before my eyes, he transformed it into the beautiful lattice-work piece shown above. A great souvenir to take home from the gallery.

For more on Mark Wagner see his website:

And for more on the Pavel Zoubok Gallery:

And to see some other creative ideas of things you can do with paper, check out Paper Arts:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"René Magritte" at Matthew Marks Gallery

René Magritte, Matthew Marks Gallery, NYC, 2011.
There is a clever little exhibit currently on view at the Matthew Marks Gallery in Chelsea. Titled, "La Carte d'aprés Nature", the exhibit is curated by Thomas Demand, and it is the layout of the show that captured my attention and led me into the gallery.  Turns out that the exhibit takes its name from a journal published by René Magritte from 1951 - 1965. You can imagine my surprise, when I rounded one of the labyrinth corners in the gallery and came face to face with an unmistakable Magritte, hanging quietly in the corner.

René Magritte, Matthew Marks Gallery, NYC, 2011.
As I further explored the gallery, I discovered three such treasures, all hanging on the same main wall, as it winds its way around the space, hung with floor to ceiling "drapery" wallpaper. Turns out the Magrittes, are three rarely seen works from the famous surreal Belgian artist. (Two of which, I would learn from the gallery's press release, are on loan from The Menil Collection in Houston, one of my all-time favorite museums!)

Magritte has a way of combining the everyday and familiar with the completely unexpected. His imagery is almost believable except for the omnipresent wit and whimsy accessible through the freedom of surrealism.

Thomas Demand, the curator, uses Margritte's work as a starting point, and expounds upon Margritte's philosophies throughout the exhibit, weaving together a tale of abstract believability. And although all of the work presented has its merit, I found myself repeatedly returning to the three shining stars of the show - Margritte's paintings.
René Magritte, Matthew Marks Gallery, NYC, 2011.

 The other feature of the show that really impressed me, was the papered wall.

Wallpaper, Matthew Marks Gallery, NYC, 2011.

From floor to ceiling, a main undulating wall had been covered in what appeared to be red velvet curtain wallpaper. The impact is impressive, adding a sense of scale to the height of the gallery, and adding drama to the gold gilded frames Margrittes. 
Wallpaper, Matthew Marks Gallery, NYC, 2011.

 The effect of the wallpaper had me wondering where I can incorporate this technique into my own décor.

For more on Matthew Marks Gallery, visit the website:

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Sol LeWitt" at City Hall Park, NYC.

Sol LeWitt, City Hall Park, NYC, 2011.
This summer in NYC, you can see more than birds and squirrels and the occasional intrepid sunbather at city parks. Currently on view in the City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan are "structures" by the American artist Sol LeWitt (1928-2007). LeWitt, who practiced with a variety of materials and mediums during his long career, had a life-long fascination with the cube, which appears in much of his structures. (A term he preferred to "sculpture").

Sol LeWitt, City Hall Park, NYC, 2011.
The exhibit at City Hall Park includes 27 works form this series, which examine the cube in various combinations. The playfulness of some of his work is a perfect compliment to the park, with fountains bubbling and children playing. Plus the stark, white, geometric forms perfectly contrast the abundance of summer flora all around them.
Sol LeWitt, City Hall Park, NYC, 2011.
It's always fun to see art in public places, to see how people react to it, appreciate it, or ignore it. But the beauty is the democratization of it - world class art right there for anyone to see, or for a pigeon to rest upon.
Sol LeWitt, City Hall Park, NYC, 2011.
It is really taking the museum to the street, or to the park in this case, which fits right in with LeWitt's artistic mission. In his career, he not only taught art, but published over 50 artist books sharing his work and ideas. Along with others, he helped found "Printed Matter", an artist's book store in Chelsea.

Sol LeWitt, City Hall Park, NYC, 2011.
As I made my way through the park, each turn produced another crisp white work or art. And in case your wondering, Yes, there is an app for that. You can download an app for iPhone that explains what each piece represents and meant in this collection. I learned that his original art studio in NYC was in the Lower East Side, on Hester Street, which was where my first apartment was in Manhattan, on Orchard Street at Hester. 

One of the many art exhibits this summer in parks and other public places, it just proves that you don't have to go far to see art in NYC!

Frank Gehry Tower, NYC, 2011.
Sometimes all you have to do is look up, which is what I did when leaving the park. There, the trees parted and gave way to a sky pierced by an enormous gleaming tower. The new Frank Gehry tower is the tallest residential building in the world! Its undulating facade catching and reflecting the light in multiple directions all at once, combined with its height, really make a statement in the skyline. Indeed, art is everywhere, if you want to see it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Inner Course" at "Honey Space"

"Inner Course" at Honey Space, 2011.
"When is the last time you had inner course?" That is one of the questions on the application all participants are asked to fill out before taking part in the performance at Honey Space in NYC. And while I found the question perhaps a little personal, being no stranger to performance art I answered (This afternoon.) as if it were the most casual of questions. Really at that point I would have said anything to be granted access to the inner sanctum of the alternative art space located in the Chelsea Arts District.

Of course it helped that I was familiar with the space and recognized a number of the names in the list of contributing artist and special thanks. (Daphne Park, Lisa Lozano, Tora Lopez, Louise Riley, Rio Del Valle, Alf Naman, and etc.) 

After the lovely host, Hellen Mathers, took our information, I was led, along with my date for the afternoon, the adventurous Holly Ward, into a dark room, where by faint light I could make out only a large red satin covered bed, the hum of a fan gently circulating the air. We took our places on the bed, and the next "performer", Amanda,  began the process of "softing", a light body massage, something similar to Reiki.
Inner Course at Honey Space, 2011.
And while "Fun, Fast, Cheap, Easy" might describe me in many ways, this interaction was actually soothing and relaxing. It was also hot and sweaty, but again is a heat wave in NYC, so I surrendered to the heat and the experience.

Inner Course at Honey Space, NYC, 2011.
After an indeterminable amount of time, we gathered our things and were led into the next room, where two beautiful women in full regalia met us sitting behind a long glass table, containing only our questioners and two matching tubes of red Chanel lipstick, which the hosts, Tora Lopez and Rya Kleinpeter,  applied with some regularity. (Turns out I knew Tora from my days in New Orleans and had actually worked with her before in a fashion show.)

The entire space thus far had been predominantly beige with the occasional burst of red. The two striking performers before us where perfectly coordinated in amazing one piece lingerie, highlighted with long red fringe in a rather controversial spot, over the top wigs, and the aforementioned Chanel painted lips.
Inner Course at Honey Space, NYC, 2011.
Not wanting to risk giving too much away, I will say the what happened next was not what I was expecting, though I didn't know exactly what to expect. I will say that it was cathartic, and therapeutic, and has nothing to do with the similarly spelled inter course, unless that was what you were going for, which none of us were, at least not on this balmy evening.

After the interview process, which was filmed, we did some related exercises, some sound therapy, and were even given homework, before the ladies escorted us to the final door, opening out onto the blazing noise and blinding light of 11th Avenue.

Tora Lopez and Rya Kleinpeter of Inner Course, NYC, 2011.
The ladies invited us each back for solo-sessions, should we be interested, as well as the closing event schedule next week (28 July 2011), bid us farewell, then Holly and I made our way out into the neighborhood to several other art openings.

Inner Course is a conceptual installation and performance event that has appeared in various locations and cities across the US. I would recommend you check it out, should it come to a gallery near you.

Check out Tora's blog on Inner Course at:

Honey Space is an alternative art space in Chelsea, Located on 11th Ave and 22nd Street.
Check them out at:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Marriage Equality" and "Gift Wrap Inequality!"

The Tuxedo Wrap by Alton DuLaney, 2011.
Summer is here, and for those of us in NYC, it is full blast. Of course, along with the heat and humidity (a veritable formula for a bad hair day!) comes the joys of summer: sun and fun, beaches and ballgames, pools and parks, and the most romantic of all, Summer Weddings.

And while a large slice of New Yorkers are celebrating "marriage equality", as it is being touted, let's not forget that there is nothing equal about a marriage recognized in one state and not in another, and that comes with none of the federal rights granted to opposite sex couples, but my point here is not to get political.

No, my point is to embrace inequality in an altogether different form, and that being Wedding Gift Wrap Ideas to blow away the bride and groom, or bride and bride, or groom and groom, or any combination thereof.

Pictured above is my "Tuxedo Wrap" a nifty party trick when presenting a gift to the groom, or when the happy couple is showing their appreciation to the Groomsmen (or male officiator) at the big event. This look is created by first wrapping an item in a paper resembling the look of a tuxedo jacket. For mine I have chosen a predominantly black, hand-made paper, mostly because I am a fan of formality. Next, I add a pleated strip of a lighter paper, which has been folded to resemble the front of a tuxedo shirt. Adhesive back rhinestones are added to resemble  shirt studs, and finally a grosgrain ribbon, tied in a neat little bow, resembling a bow tie. A handsome gift for the right guy, or perhaps the right lesbian, on your shopping list. Great look for graduation, weddings, Father's Day, etc.

The Purse Wrap by Alton DuLaney, 2011.
For the bride, or more traditional ladies in your life, why not consider this snappy Purse Wrap? (pictured above.)  This one is tricky, but is basically, a standard wrap with the main flap folded into a shape resembling a purse closure. Before finishing off the ends of the wrap, a strip of the same paper is inserted into both sides creating the purse handle. I have embellished this one with some adhesive pearls. Hey, I'm classy like that! Again, great for weddings, Mother's Day, etc. etc.

The Pleat by Alton DuLaney, 2011.
Sure, all the wraps I am showing here look extremely complicated, and to the untrained eye they are, but just think about how impressive your gift will look. I like to call it: Putting the Present in Presentation! Basically, taking a little extra time to make your wrap look fantastic. It now only shows that you cared enough to make the effort, but the proper wrapping turns any item into a striking present.

A simpler version, is the standard pleat, shown above. Done here on an embossed foil paper, it adds class and elegance, almost replacing the need for ribbons and bows.

Before you throw your hands in the air, giving up and grabbing the gift bag...WAIT! There is hope. I teach these techniques and more in my gift wrap classes now available as part of my Paper Arts Course on With step by step instruction, you will be wrapping like a pro in no time.

Now, not just to promote myself, I want to add in a plug for a friend and colleague. Remember, once the big day is over, it is over, and it is all just a (hopefully) pleasant memory. But if properly documented, the event will not only live on in your memories but you will also have the photos to prove it! Point being, never underestimate the importance of having a good photographer capture the event, the dress, the cake, the rings, the guests, the space, the gifts, and of course the outstanding gift wrap.

Alton DuLaney by Jillian Bisinger Modern Photography, 2010.
I have worked with and modeled for Jillian Bisinger of Jillian Modern Photography. The above image was part of a same-sex photo shoot promoting her services. She is an equal opportunity photographer with a sharp eye and a great style. I like the work she did with me so much, that I have used the image over and over during the last year.

For more on Jillian, check out....

And for more creative gift wrap ideas, check out Paper Arts on

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Blue Chip" or "Just Call Me Andy"

Blue Chip Andy by CM@BDG 2011.
It was a summer Saturday in NYC and the exhibit looked both cool and inviting so I stepped inside the Bertrand Delacroix Gallery and was quickly captivated by the title and content of the installation "Blue Chip" by Christa Maiwald, now there on view. It was only recently that I had discussed this modifier often attached to artist's work. I even wondered aloud if the term comes from gambling, with the blue chip having the most value on the poker table. Makes some sense, as it all is indeed high stakes gambling, especially when tossing around names like Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, Duchamp, and Hirst, just to name a few. The BDG Project Space was kind enough to provide a definition on the press release quoting none other than Webster's Dictionary: "a stock issue of high investment quality...".

Delightfully entertaining is the inside joke that Maiwald has assigned value to her own "stock" by attaching it to these top tier artists. Which brings me to another of my favorite topics to ponder, that being the ownership of art, (or, for that matter, if the act of an original creation is even possible . Can one artist add value to their own work by associating it directly with another artist? Even when it goes so far as to appropriate an iconic reference of said established artist?

Certainly Andy Warhol would be thrilled to have his image included here in the pantheon of great artists, rendered delicately and gaze-worthy in pop embroidery techniques. More likely, he would have surely felt snubbed to be left out.  But again it is Andy Warhol we are talking about here, who excelled at adopting iconic cultural references into his work. With the Campbell Soup labels, we beg the chicken-or-the-egg-question by asking which put which on the iconic map. Then again, perhaps it was just a clever example of early art product placement. Touche' either way.

What I'm waiting for is some savvy performance artist to change his or her name to Andy Warhol and begin creating, signing and selling work as such. What would that do to art economics? Just call me Andy!

"Blue Chip" installation by Christa Maiwald, 2011.
Or any of the other names that are represented here, in this really quite beautiful installation. Each piece of fabric is stretched within an embroidery-hoop with needle-work expertly applied. The portraits are impressive, each in its own way, capturing the spirit and the likeness of Cindy Sherman or Chuck Close.

Blue Chip Merce by CM@BDGNY 2011.
Gladly, even Merce Cunningham is there, smiling down from on high, with eyes and lips eerily appearing life-like. Of course Merce loved chance as much as the next guy, as well as a good collaboration. With John Cage and Robert Rauchenberg, the three explored wild collaborations, where chance or the I Ching contributed just as much as any of the other participants to the final outcome of the project.

Blue Chip Bob by CM@BDGNY 2011.
Raushcenberg, or "Bob" as I have of late taken to calling him, was known to collage all kinds of found objects into his work. Along with his buddy Marcel Duchamp, they claimed that the object was art just because labeled as such, be it wicker chair or urinal.  Both of their creations are considered blue chip. Maybe all artists should sign their toilets now!

Blue Chip Laurie by CM@BDGNY 2011.
But again, is an object the art or is the artist really the art. Is a photo of a photo a piece of original art? Who owns a graffiti mural - is it the first artist to paint it, or is it the last to tag it? Each layer adding something to the whole. Is the musician the artist or the instrument? At the Laurie Anderson exhibit I saw in Rio, she had violins on display.

"Andre" embroidery on denim shirt by Alton DuLaney 2003.
The answer is we are all the artist and it is all art, every last part of it, especially the stuff I love, (like this collection). Each artist takes it and makes it theirs and then shares it with the world. Think of it as an ongoing collaboration. Even the great masterpieces are ours as we view them in the museums of the world, adding our own voyeuristic experience. And if we take a snap shot? Art begets art just as much as artists do.

Of course I am singing to the choir while looking in the mirror, as a self-declared artist who enjoys craft-work such as embroidery, sewing (fashion, anyone?), and even quilting, as much as sculpting marble, oil painting, or great modern dance. I used a sewing machine to stitch out the portrait above, on the back of a denim shirt that I wore out to a party in NYC in 2003. Now it is framed on the wall, but its humble beginnings were on a hanger in the closet.

It's true freedom of expression, the Art/Life equation, whereas it is what it is and it is because it is. Or as my parents often told me as a child, "Because I said so."

Check out "Blue Chip" by Christa Maiwald at Bertrand Delacroix Gallery.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

"Lunch at Bob's."

Mr. Rauschenberg Himself
Because of the kind generosity of one friend and the insistent organizational efforts of another, I spent Friday afternoon on a private tour through the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in NYC.

The Foundation, housed in a former Catholic orphanage, is located in lower Manhattan. Since acquiring the space in the 1960's, it has been used for his studio, gallery, sometimes home, and most important, to house his foundation. Upon entering the building, I was first struck by the simple grandeur of it all - high ceilings, beautiful wood work, and the feeling of entering a somewhat sacred space.
One of the Rauschenberg private galleries.
Next, I was overwhelmed that one of the art giants of the last century actually walked these halls and created the original art works hanging throughout, including in several private galleries.
Robert Rauschenberg
Here, for my private viewing are some of the pieces I had studied in art history, read about in books, and seen in museums.

Rauschenberg Chapel Gallery
Next, my gracious host escorted me into one of the most impressive rooms of all, the former Chapel of the Catholic Orphanage, with soaring 30 feet (or higher!) ceilings, and unbelievable arched windows. The wall graced by an over-sized Rauschenberg ceramic piece. Rauschenberg worked with Japanese ceramist to perfect this exclusive technique.
Robert Rauschenberg
As we meandered through the foundation, each turn held a visual treat, revealing yet another of Rauschenberg's works from his long and prolific career.
Robert Rauschenberg.
A fellow Texan, (from Port Author, Texas), Rauschenberg experimented with a number of mediums throughout his career, from paper to ceramics, from found objects to etchings, leaving behind close to 8000 original pieces when he died in 2008.
Robert Rauschenberg.
His "combines", as the name suggests, combined numerous found objects, like this piece with two chairs and a typewriter, giving new meaning and importance to everyday objects.
Rauschenberg's coat.
Equally impressive to an fawning fan such as myself, were the personal artifacts scattered within the foundation. Above, his coat still hangs on a hook. From the front door all the way to the roof-top (with its gorgeous views!) I witnessed first hand Rauschenberg's creative genius.
Rauschenberg Book.
After feasting on the visual delights, we relaxed in the kitchen and enjoyed lunch and a glass of wine, chatting with my small group of friends. With a mental and aesthetic buzz, we bid adieu to our host, and when the large wooden door closed behind me, I found myself back out on the streets of NYC.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Rio de Janeiro - Parting Glances"

Ipanema Art in Santa Teresa 2011.
Rio de Janeiro really is a marvelous city, full of beauty of all kinds, from the bodies on the beach, to the beach itself, from the plentiful nature, to the abundant graffiti, from icons to saints. Here are a few of my favorite images as I review my Rio trip, from back in NYC.
Alton in Flamengo Park, (Sugar Loaf) Rio, 2011.

The grave of Carmen Miranda, Rio, 2011.

Cristo Graffiti, Rio, 2011.

Monument in Flamengo Park, Rio, 2011.

Alton in Lapa under Arcos do Lapa, Rio, 2011.

Portuguese speaking parrot in Gloria, Rio, 2011.

Andre' at Praca XV flea market, Rio, 2011.

St. Sebastian stained glass, Rio cemetery, 2011.

Graffiti and "Bonde" in Sta. Teresa, Rio, 2011.

Botafogo, Sugar Loaf, Rio, 2011.

Amor do Brasil, Rio, 2011.

Sunlight at CCBB, Centro, Rio, 2011.

Guarana Champagne, Rio, 2011.

Sta. Gloria, Gloria Church, Gloria, Rio, 2011.

Boys of Ipanema, Rio, 2011.