Thursday, December 15, 2016

Top 10 of 2016

I think we can all agree 2016 was a challenging year. The highs, the lows, and even the middles seemed to be a bit more intense than in previous years. I would be remiss if I only named the good parts of this past year because in truth a lot of it sucked, for a lot of people. Just to recap, our country experienced the worst mass shooting in history in Orlando, Michigan's water was poisoned by lead, a Hawaiian bee was added to the endangered species list, peaceful protestors in North Dakota were blasted by hoses in freezing weather, Prince, Leonard Cohen, and David Bowie died, a crazed gunman shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic in Denver, and - oh yeah - Donald Trump was elected President. These are just a few of the events I followed. Plenty of other foul events happened as well, and a lot of Americans are feeling lost, scared, and hopeless after a tough year. I certainly feel a bit nihilistic after all the trials we endured as a country. And as 2017 approaches, there is not much on the table that makes me excited for the future, either. A climate change denier is President? An Exxon CEO is Secretary of State? I might lose healthcare? Women's rights are on the chopping block AGAIN? I have had nightmares about these sorts of things. And now they are real.

So where does this put my silly blog and all this art stuff that seems so insignificant in the midst of all this chaos? My best answer is that now more than ever it is important to look for art and beauty in all the wrong (and hardest to reach) places. I anticipate that the next four years will be the most difficult some of us have ever faced, and it's important to not take on a nihilistic attitude. Writing this post has forced me to look back on the past year and extract all the good from it instead of fixating on the bad. Even when it seemed pretty clear to me that Donald Trump had a good chance at winning, and even as I watched the Dakota Access Pipeline grow and grow until it was almost completed, good things happened in the world. Let us not forget that a Muslim woman, Ilhan Omar, was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, that Bernie Sanders inspired many people in the primaries, and that the Dakota Access Pipeline, despite being almost completed, was halted because of the peaceful protests of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. I'm reminded of a cliche piece of art that every novice art student has probably painted at some point at some point in their career: a big pile of shit with a flower growing out of it. Yep, that was 2016.

All the shit aside, 2016 was a good year for art. Here's a recap of some of my favorite moments. 

#10: Modern Velvet at The Art Institute of Chicago
I accidentally stumbled into this exhibit with two fellow velvet lovers when visiting the Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibit displayed distinctive swatches of velvet from clothing, furniture, and unexpected of places like an old theater in Detroit. 

#9: The Golden Gate Bridge
Have you ever seen that episode of the Tyra Show where she interviews a woman who allegedly married the Eiffel Tower? After seeing the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time I can finally understand how someone could be in love with a world-famous piece of architecture. Although I saw a lot of good art in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge was my favorite piece of art (deco) the city has to offer. I have seen the Golden Gate Bridge in photographs a thousand times but when I saw it in real life I finally understood how beautiful it is. 

#8: Olympic National Park
I don't care what you say, or how much of a "tree-hugger" you think I am, I have always been a firm believer that nature was the first art work that was ever created, and is still the best piece of art we can observe today. I have been dreaming of a trip to Olympic National Park for a long time and finally got the chance to go when I visited my brother in Washington in September. Now more than ever it is important to respect and visit our parks and every time I visit a park I am reminded how lucky we are to have such a diverse park system to explore in this country.

#7: Polaroid film
Because I have an awesome job, I get free Polaroid film to play with once a month. I used to use Polaroid film in college, but because the film is extremely expensive, I was never able to buy enough of it to really experiment with the medium and feel comfortable using it. Now I can say I'm a confident Polaroid photographer and I have enjoyed crafting my own style with this supposedly antiquated medium.

#6: Dia De Los Muertos exhibit at the National Museum of Mexican Art
Exploring the National Museum of Mexican Art during my favorite time of year was such a contrast to all the blood and guts movies I usually watch around Halloween. The NMMA showed me that death can be colorful, vibrant, and even celebratory, and that the Western view of death I am so familiar with is not the only way to interpret the subject.

#5: Haunted Screens at the Milwaukee Art Museum
[Screenshot from Metropolis. Source:]
Whether or not the Milwaukee Art Museum predicted we were going to elect a fascist as our President, this exhibition of German expressionist film felt eerily reminiscent of what is happening in our country today. The Weimar Republic was one of the most enlightened societies in the world prior to the rise of Hitler. Could we compare this period to Obama's Presidency? Is Trump's rise the next Third Reich? We can only hope not. But this exhibit reminded me how important it is to study history and art history and learn from the mistakes of the past.

#4: Positions and Situations by Alex Arzt
Over the summer I did my first residency at the Wormfarm Institute in Reedsburg, WI and I overlapped with artist Alex Arzt from from Maryland (currently traveling and doing research). Alex is working on a project called Positions and Situations in which she writes to people in old classified ads from the publication Mother Earth News. In these letters she asks the person or persons what came of their ad in the paper. Since most of the ads were written in the 1970s, these people were titillated to be getting letters from her almost forty years after the fact. I was lucky enough to be able to read some of the responses to Alex's inquiries and was surprised to hear how some of the idealistic environmentalists she wrote to had changed their views over the years. 

#3: Full Moon Karaoke at Company Brewing, hosted by Sara Caron
What the heck is going on in this picture? I believe this was the night of the "trout moon," and trout were swimming around on a projector and floating around the room at Company Brewing while people sang their heart out on stage. Full Moon Karaoke is a brilliant combination of art, singing, and art therapy. Luckily it comes around once a month to coincide with the full moon and is a great way to let out some steam, hang out with friends, and sing away all your troubles. I went a handful of times this past year and I hope to keep going in the future!

#2: Temporary Resurfacing
I was a volunteer as well as a spectator at this awesome event. You can read my blog post about it here.

#1: Diane Simpson at the Museum of Contemporary Art

If you don't know who Diane Simpson is, you should definitely check her out. It's very rare that I see a show at a museum and am extremely excited about the potential of the artist I am seeing, but that's what happened with Diane Simpson. Her work is a combination of architecture, fashion, math, and craft, and is unlike anything I have seen before. Next time she's at the MCA I'd love to see her work in one of the main galleries!

Thanks for reading. Let's hope Donald Trump doesn't take away the Internet and I can continue to write this blog in 2017. Happy New Year, y'all!

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