Archive for the art Category

The death of civilization as I know it

Posted in art, personal, political with tags , , , , , , on January 25, 2010 by barryshapiro

Went to the mall yesterday to catch a movie and buy a book. The movie (Up In The Air with George Clooney) about a guy who flies across America to fire people from their jobs is a terrific film. But the view of our society as a corporate dominated, uncaring, cold cruel world inhabited by lonely, disconnected people adrift in a sea of hopelessness. OK, it was also funny and clever but the message was clear, the country is in bad shape.

Then things got worse. Entering the mall we made a bee line for Waldenbooks. This is a customary stop for Patricia and myself. Since moving to Florida we have spent more time at the mall than I spent cumulatively my entire life. There are no book stores in Sebastian so we have to head south to Vero or north to Melbourne for a little culture and browsing a bookstore is always a pleasure. Nothing like spending an hour or two in the stacks. But this time something was tragically different. Waldenbooks was closing, all sales final.

In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal,  Waldenbooks, which is part of the Borders Group chain of bookstores, closed around 200 stores nationwide laying off over 1500 workers. The sign in the window said: “See you on the Internet!” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704013004574518023648503540.html. I am certain that Barnes & Noble will be shuttering doors around the country very soon.

We are witnessing a seismic shift in the way our consumer society functions. As corporations gain more and more control over our choices and processes, individualism will die. Some think there will be a reaction and a backlash bringing about a new spirit of entrepreneurism and individuality but I see little evidence to support that theory. I see downsizing and a people desperate to do anything to make ends meet.

Bookstores are disappearing and next it will be libraries (not profitable). Literary magazines will die off (not profitable). People and Us magazines will be considered examples of classic literature (profitable and popular in doctors offices).  More people will self publish but there will be fewer and fewer readers to buy their books. Many of these optimistic writers are one book wonders and just love the fact that they have copies to give the relatives at Christmas. As my friend Francine Worth says “The world is upside down. We are progressing in technology but we are losing ground every second in humanity, understanding and love for our fellow man, our arts and our culture.”

Art too, or at least perceptions of what constitutes art, is going through a radical shift. As art becomes more and more affected by digital media it becomes more accessible and more mass-produced. Therefore it becomes an outlet for just about anyone. Everyone is an artist! Talent, the ability to draw, paint, sculpt, becomes less important than the ability to conceive.  Masterpieces of art like the Pietà or the woodcuts of Albrecht Durer become a manufacture-able item created in a digital environment as opposed to a live environment by the artists hand. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? You don’t have to be able to draw the Mona Lisa, just be able to conceive it and a computer will do the rest. I have no doubt that artists of the future will create their art by telling a program what they want to see, feel or hear. The rest will be a digital process. “Hal, can you make her mouth a little more pouty?” “Yes Dave!”

When you combine that with the news about the Supreme Courts decision of this last week affecting political campaign contributions from corporations I can easily forsee a future where people’s opinions and tastes are completely watered down and dictated by corporate selection. We’ll  get our news from Jon Stewart and our idea of a great novel will be something culled from a movie based on a cable TV show inspired by a video game. Oh, gee, isn’t that the way it is now???

I decided to re-read Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) a book the bought on Amazon.com back in ’05 when it was first published. I thought it would be informative. Instead it’s a bummer. As the world changes faster and faster I want to believe that I have some control over my destiny, over my life. I may be kidding myself. I remembered that when I read his book the first time a had several “ah-ha!” moments of clarity. Perhaps that will happen again but after reading just the first chapter I am afraid my head is getting more muddled.

Perhaps it’s a generational thing but I want to get the technology out of my life and just read books and draw pictures all day and never have to read another blog.

A piece from the Art Basel exhibition in Miami 2009

Hot Mona

Things I’d like to know

Posted in art, personal, political with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2009 by barryshapiro

Tonight I saw a shooting star zip through the sky. It quickly cut through the stars in front of the almost-full moon and then seemed to break up and disappear. It happened so fast. I wonder if it was a meteorite or a satellite trying to return home? These days I often feel as if I am trying to find my way home. I feel as if I took a wrong turn somewhere and wound up on some strange asteroid.

Where do pelicans sleep at night? At 2 AM the beach is incredibly quiet. Hardly a sound except for the crash of the waves and a wisp of the wind. It occurred to me that there were no birds anywhere. During the day there are thousands of them: terns, gulls, sandpipers, plovers and pelicans. Where do they sleep at night? Is there some kind of pelican hotel? The encyclopedia says that pelicans often sleep under docks and piers but I cannot see anything under the only pier in the area. Where do they go?

Speaking of wild animals, why does Tiger Woods have to tell the world the reason he had a car accident? No one else was hurt, it wasn’t a crime scene and the police determined that alcohol was not a factor. So why is every media outlet screaming that he must step forward to save his reputation? Could it be because they want a juicy story to feast upon? Really, who cares? I don’t hear people on the street too concerned about what really happened. It seems that the media, which has created and feeds the cult of celebrity just has to have its expose of the week, leveling Woods to the level of Danny Bonaducci. They never really liked him anyway: too, “uppity”, too arrogant, too independent. I don’t think the guy has to answer to anyone except his wife and kids and the corporate sponsors that pay him zillions, and he can do that in private. Someone yesterday told me that Tiger  HAD to fess up and speculated that he caught his wife in a lesbian affair. Now that’s something I would like to know. Are their forbidden Polaroids somewhere? Still, if I were Woods, with his money, his prestige, his golf swing – I would just say it’s nobody elses business and leave it at that.

I’d like to know why State Troopers think they are so bad. I was pulled over for speeding last week and the guy was a complete dick. Here’s the kicker – I wasn’t speeding (I know that everyone says that but I have no reason to lie here – I had the car on cruise control so I know exactly how fast I was going) and the cop was coming from the other direction. If he had clocked someone speeding it could have been anyone of the several cars that had passed me in the left lane and he was crossing the median to pull up behind me. I think that once he saw out-of-state plates he just figured he’d have an easy day and nail my ass. I was so surprised when he pulled up behind me with his blue flashers going off like Grucci fireworks that I almost slammed on the brakes. I thought he was kidding when he said I was speeding but when he said he clocked me doing 85 I knew it was bullshit and that I was just a notch on his quota belt. I will go to court on this one but I wonder if it’s worth the effort or the stress. I don’t think I deserve a $235 ticket for something I didn’t do but I have to question the sanity for taking a day off to have my day in court. In America you are innocent until proven guilty – except in traffic court. And this cop was such a dickhead I question my sanity in wanting to confront him, even in a court of law – afterall, this jerk carries a gun.

I want to know when Obama is going to close Guantanamo and when we will have a truly decent health care bill in Congress or when the rich, smarmy, self-aggrandized, butt-lickers in Congress will ever do the right thing by the working man. Is that too much to ask?

I hate reality TV – except the news which is really reality TV and I wonder what Vince Manze is doing these days. He was majorly responsible for much of the way we view TV today from his days as a VP at NBC, back when NBC was a network that people actually watched. Grant Tinker must really hate watching NBC and wonder what the hell ever happened. I know I do. Vince, my old buddy, are you kicking back on a tropical island laughing at the world you left behind or are you sitting in a desk in Hollywood creating evil reality shows that rot peoples minds? Just curious.

Oyster Catcher - crayon on paper

So where do the oystercatchers go at night? Do you think they ever worry about how to pay the rent?

 

Rejection

Posted in art, personal with tags , on November 22, 2009 by barryshapiro

Pastel of Sunset on AMI

I sent some examples of my work to a couple of galleries in Sarasota this week and got back a couple of rejections. Sometimes I wonder why I do this. What do I see that others do not?  Rejection is always a bitter pill but the artist has to be thick-skinned. I guess I could just go out and take photographs and sell a ton of prints but that is not what I am about.

Well, my mother loves my work. I guess that’s something!

Great White

Posted in art, personal with tags , , , on November 20, 2009 by barryshapiro

The White Pelican

 The magnificent White Pelicans on the Indian River.

By the way, we discovered some beautiful music at the Holmes Beach Art Fair on Sunday and we’ve been wearing out the CDs. Patchouli is the folk duo of Julie Patchouli and guitarist Bruce Hecksel. check them out at www.patchouli.net. You think that’s her real name?

Bird of the day!

Posted in art, personal with tags , , on November 19, 2009 by barryshapiro

Plover

Here on Anna Maria Island the Plovers, Terns, Gulls, Sandpipers and Herons walk along the beach with the tourists and the sunbathers. This is a peaceful place – good for reflection and regeneration. I did this drawing after watching this guy chase the waves on the beach for about a half hour. It was amazing just to watch him tear up and down the shoreline.

More and more people I know are suffering with health issues, economic issues, personal issues and career issues and there is really not much left to say. Whether you are flush or not, you are still affected by someone who doesn’t have it as well as you. We all need to go inside and start taking care of our inner selves so that we can be stronger and more focused in the ‘real’ world.

It’s good to pull back a bit, reflect and regroup. A little solitude can go a long way.

An Unwelcome Surprise

Posted in art, personal with tags , , , , , on October 22, 2009 by barryshapiro
"White Flight" 2009

"White Flight" 2009

"Snowflake" 2009
“Snowflake” 2009

 

"Sun God" 2009

"Sun God" 2009

My rejection at the A.E. Backus Museum Best of the Best Juried Show came as a bit of a shock. Seeing some of the work they have displayed there in the past and a few of the entries that were brought in while I was there I was certain that at least one of my pieces would be in the show. I’m scratching my head in disappointment. Not only did I think the work was good but I also submitted pieces that I thought were perfect for that audience. Either I am not the artist I think I am or I am really missing something here. I invite your comment. The three pieces above were done in pastel with India ink on Arches paper.

Rating Movies

Posted in art, directing, personal on August 9, 2009 by barryshapiro

Last night we went to the movies. Since I was a kid watching a film on the big screen has been one of my very favorite things to do. More than a concert, a play or the opera, I enjoy sitting in a dark theater for a couple of hours watching some tale of adventure, some sappy love story or some politically poignant drama unfold. I can turn off my mind and lose myself in the characters. I love movies.

Last night it was Julie & Julia and we loved Meryl Streep transforming into Julia Child. Very enjoyable. As is my practice, when I come home from a film I enter it into a small book I have been keeping for years, tracking the films I see, the date, director, primary players and bestowing upon it a simple rating system I have devised.

One * means the film has at least one thing about it that made the movie going experience worthwhile. Two ** means decent to pretty good. Three *** notes a film I perceived to be very good and recommendable. Four **** is excellent and I would go see that picture again. The very rare Five ***** can only mean that the film is magnificent, a classic to be and a must see for all.

Then there are films, too many of them, that receive an NG which, duh, means just plain No Good. And finally there is the dreaded YUCK which is a nice way of saying SUCK, as in that film really sucked and how the hell did they get anyone to finance that piece of crap?  I also designate if the film is foreign, what country it’s from and if animated note the studio that created it, such as Pixar.

I have been keeping this scorecard since November 12, 1997. I was having dinner with my friend Brian Keller when I noticed he was making entries into a diary he kept. We had been to the movies earlier and he was making note of the film and the director in his book. I thought that I it would be a great idea to keep a movie diary myself. Brian notated all the events of his day but I just wanted to keep track of films, in part because as a member of the Directors Guild I would vote every year for the DGA Best Director Award and this would be a great way to remember what I liked and didn’t. At that time in my life going to the movies was a regular occurrence. On average I’d see about 90 films year. Every Wednesday I’d go to the DGA and see 2 films and during the ‘voting season’ I’d see a movie almost every night of the week. I have to admit that I am one of those people for whom the multiplex was invented. I would often go to see an early film and then, instead of leaving the complex, I’d sneak into another theater for a double feature. The movie notebook made absolute sense.

And so it was that on November 12 I made my first entry: Mad City directed by Costa Gravas with Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta. I gave it three ***. Two nights later it was The Jackal with Richard Gere and Bruce Willis directed by Michael Caton-Jones and rated by me as NG.  Two nights later it was A Life Less Ordinary directed by William Boyd with Cameron Diaz and Ewan McGregor (***) and two nights after that L.A. Confidential by Curtis Hanson with Russell Crowe and Kim Basinger (only ** for what was to be a Best Picture Oscar nominee).

Since moving to Florida my movie going has dwindled down to 20 or 30 films a year tops. It’s just not as easy to get to a theater from where we live and frankly the movies they show at the multiplex here are not ones I am dying to drive a half hour to see. Hardly any foreign or small independent films ever make it here unless they catch on with mainstream audiences the way Little Miss Sunshine did (8/24/06 *** 1/2 directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris with Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin and Steve Carell – no mention in my notebook of Miss Sunshine herself, the soon to be household name Abagail Breslin) or Juno (a rousing ***** on 1/12/08 from director Jason Reitman with Ellen Page and Michale Cera).

Fortunately I would travel alot, mostly on business and whenever possible, especially on trips to New York or L.A. I would try to catch some films that I knew wouldn’t get to the mall at Vero Beach. That’s how I got to see some gems like Once (2/16/08 by John Carney – who also wrote the screenplay – from Ireland with Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova and ****) or The Wackness (8/15/08 by Jonathan Levine with Josh Peck and Sir Ben Kingsley ****). Every once in a blue moon a small interesting film does get down here and I always make an effort to see it, which is how I caught a film on May 11, 2008 by one of my favorite directors, Wan Kar Wei. That film, Blueberry Nights with Norah Jones and Jude Law and rated it ****.

There are a lot of ones *, twos **, and threes *** on my list of course and many fewer fours **** or fives *****. Surprisingly though, there are also fewer NG’s than you would think. Perhaps this is beacuse  as someone who considers himself sort of a film maker, I intentionally look for the craft and often find at least that one thing the director pulled off. I have to give him or her credit at least for that. And there are some films I just won’t go to see because I know that I am going to hate them. Going to the movies is a special experience for me and I am not going to intentionally waste it on something I know I will dislike but will probably wind up watching anyway on TV in 3 months.

I have only walked out of a film once as far as I can remember. That was Stepmom, with Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts by Chris Colombus (12/18/98 NG). I have sat through many stinkers but that one I just couldn’t take for another minute. Even though I hate the European Dogma movement, finding it pretentious and over-hyped, I have sat through The Celebration from Denmark (12/11/98 by Thomas Vinterberg *) but didn’t bother writing down the names of the actors. And I even stayed to the painful end of At First Sight (1/20/99 Director Griffin Dunne with Mira Sorvino and Val Kilmer NG). In that one Kilmer plays a blind guy and believe me that movie made me want to pluck my eyes out. In retrospect, I should have given it a YUCK. Even Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ (3/3/04 with Jim Cazaveizel, which I found appalling on several levels got  one * from me because he dared to shoot it in Aramaic.

Of course it’s all subjective but that’s what makes going to the movies with a friend so much fun: you can argue later over a bottle of vino. I fondly remember seeing Pretty Woman when it first came out with my friend Allison who was at the time the editor of now defunct SHOOTmagazine. She was appalled by the film and thought it objectified women. I liked it alot and saw it as an updated version of Pygmalion. I think we argued over two bottles and a great meal at LaCojou (pardon the possible misspelling but the restaurant doesn’t exist anymore either).

Looking back, here’s a list of the best and worst. Only my five ***** films followed by my absolute YUCKs.
*****s:
The Grey Zone by Tim Blake Nelson
Amadeus (director’s cut) by Milos Foreman
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring by Peter Jackson
A Girl With A Pearl Earring by Peter Weber
Whale Rider by Niki Caro
Farenheit 911 by Michael Moore
The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Micheal Gondry
Hotel Rwanda by Terry George
Vera Drake by Mike Leigh
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Tim Burton
Good Night and Good Luck by George Clooney
An Inconvenient Truth by David Guggenheim
Babel by Alejandro Gonzalez
Flags of Our Fathers by Clint Eastwood
Hairspray by Adam Shankman
Sicko by Michael Moore
Juno by Jason Reitman
Stop Loss by Kimberly Peirce
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Julien Schnabel
La Vie En Rose by Oliver Dahan
Gone Baby Gone by Ben Affleck
Wall-E by Andrew Stanton
Slumdog Millionaire by Danny Boyle

Yucks:
Waking the Dead by Keith Gordon
Save The Last Dance by Thomas Cater
The Wedding Planner by Adam Shankman
American Outlaws by Les Mayfield
Devine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood by Callie Khouri
8 Femmes by Francois Ozon
Gigli by Martin Brest
The Other by Brian Helgeland
Beyond Boarders by Martin Campbell
King Arthur by Antoine Fuqua
The Longest Yard by Peter Segal
Apocolypto by Mel Gibson
Stepbrothers by Adam McKay

I know there is a lot to argue with here and that’s the fun of it. Also, I know that some would argue that there are three docs, two by Michael Moore on my best list and how can you compare a doc to a feature? Well, I saw them all in the theater and they were significant enough to me that I gave the my highest rating. Also interesting is that Adam Shankman  made both lists, the only director to do so.