Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Artist Talk with Michael Janis

When: Sunday, May 4, 2014, 2pm

Join the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Michael Janis, an architect-turned-glass-artist who has become one of the DMV's uberartists - he works with powdered glass, high-fire enamels, and decals to create dreamlike imagery, as he elaborates on his techniques, work, and career.

If you collect DMV artists and don't own a Janis, you have a big hole in your collection. He is represented locally by Maurine Littleton, the premier art glass gallery on the planet.

Location: Smithsonian American Art Museum, McEvoy Auditorium

Tickets: Free

Event Link:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Shame on Brandeis University

Below is a brilliant letter written to Brandeis president Fred Lawrence by historian and UM Professor Jeffrey Herf, who received his PhD from Brandeis, in regards to Lawrence’s decision to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the courageous Somali-born American who is perhaps the world's leading advocate for women's rights in the Islamic world - and shame on CAIR, for demanding this action and enlisting the drive to kick her to the side:
Dear President Lawrence:

As a scholar whose 1981 PhD comes from Brandeis, I read the news that you rescinded the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali with particular disgust and anger. Your decision is an act of cowardice and appeasement to those 85 faculty members who signed their document of intolerance, and it has done deep and long-lasting damage to a university whose very existence is predicated on redressing the damage that discrimination within the academy had done to American Jews for so many years. Unless you can find some way to repair the damage you have done, I will not identify with or support Brandeis as long as you are its President.

Ms. Hirsi has had the courage to say unpopular things about the religion of Islam and the ideology of Islamism. In two of my prize-winning books, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World (Yale University Press, 2009) and The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda during World War II and the Holocaust (Harvard University Press, 2006), I have had occasion to address the role of Islam and Islamism in fanning the flames of Jew-hatred. In publishing work that documents the role of the Islamist interpretation of the Koran in promulgating the most absurd and idiotic ideas about the Jews, I have faced intolerance from scholars working on the Middle East. They have denounced well-founded scholarship as “Islamophobia” or “Zionist propaganda” and denied that the Koran or Islamism could possibly have anything to do with anti-Semitism. 

Like Tony Kushner and Desmond Tutu, to whom Brandeis has given honorary degrees, they have erroneously argued that Arab and Islamist antagonism to Israel is exclusively the result of the alleged sins of Israel. As far as I know, neither has had anything of substance to say about the role of Islam and Islamism in fanning the flames of hatred of the Jews and of Israel. These critics have said that those of us who point to the anti-Jewish elements of the Koran and the Jew-hatred of modern Islamists are guilty of intolerance towards Muslims. I have seen this up close for years now. The last place I expected to find groveling, embarrassing appeasement of this rubbish was from the president of Brandeis University.

No doubt, Hirsi’s comments about Islam offend many believers. The same was true of Sigmund Freud’s Future of an Illusion. Freud, you will recall, dismissed religion as the product of a universal infantile neurosis of humanity. Yet I doubt that if Freud were alive today, those 85 faculty members would have protested his honorary degree. On the contrary, his criticism of religion in general, especially of Judaism or Christianity, would be seen as simply an entry ticket into intellectual respectability.

Your decision reflects a now-widespread double standard of broad criticism of Judaism and Christianity combined with fear—yes it is fear—to write and speak with equal critical spirit about Islam. We historians of modern Germany and Nazism know that the Nazi interpretation of Christianity as well as the core texts of the Christian tradition itself, were used by the Nazis to justify their mass murders. In our own time, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brothers, Al Qaeda and the government of Iran, despite their differences, all draw on phrases from the Koran and in the texts of subsequent Islamic commentaries to find theological justification for antagonism to Jews, Zionism and the state of Israel.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been willing  to point this out, something Kushner and Tutu have never done. That the president of a university founded by Jews in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust should have rescinded an honor to a woman who has had the courage to attack the most important source of Jew-hatred in the world today is a disgraceful act and a failure of leadership. Instead of appeasing intolerance in your faculty, you should have taken this moment to reaffirm the values for which Brandeis has stood for so long and reconfirm the place of universities as models of tolerance and enlightenment in our troubled society. Once a proud alumnus, I will be forced to disavow my relationship with Brandeis in the future.

Jeffrey Herf
Professor, Department of History
University of Maryland
College Park

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Free Ivan Fernandez Depestre

The brutal and racist Cuban dictatorship has once again shown its true colors.

Cuban political prisoner Ivan Fernandez Depestre has been brutally beaten and placed in a small, inhumane punishment cell (known as a "tapeada") in the infamous Guamajal Prison of Santa Clara.

Fernandez Depestre, held without charges or trial since July 30th of last year, has been designated by Amnesty International as a "prisoner of conscience."  

He had simply protested against the brutal beating of two fellow black inmates by the Cuban prison authorities.

Once again, I call upon the Black Congressional Caucus to stop treating the racist dictatorship of the Castro Brothers with kid gloves and step up pressure on the Cuban regime to release this brave man and all other prisoners of conscience!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Walk a mile

“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.”

 Jack Handey

Friday, April 11, 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Shared Universe: The Art of Comic Books

Since I have now been curating exhibitions focused on comic book Superheroes for the last four years for the Aqua Art Fair in Miami Beach, Scope Art Fair in New York, Affordable Art Fair, also in NYC and last December at the Context Art Fair in Miami, I am looking forward to this exhibition.
All it takes is more than 130 works and some Wham! Bam! Kapow! For Strathmore to explore the world of comic books—interstellar, terrestrial, and beyond—in A Shared Universe: The Art of Comic Books, on view in the Mansion at Strathmore from Saturday, April 12 through Sunday, June 8, 2014. 

Ever since Superman kicked off the superhero comic genre in 1938, the medium has influenced fine and performing arts as well as pop culture. A Shared Universe charts the rise of comic book culture, the evolution of the art form and its influence on the visual art medium, and peers into the future. The show features a collection of original paintings, graphite and ink-based drawings, prints, comic book covers from the Library of Congress, web-based comics and works by undergraduate Sequential Art students who are shaping the genre in new and imaginative ways. 

A free Opening Reception will be held Thursday, April 24 from 7-9 p.m. For more information, call (301) 581-5100 or visit

Artists Inspired by Comic Book Culture
The first floor of the Mansion illustrates how comic books have influenced other visual artists who incorporate compositional attributes, stylization or heroic themes into their works. JD Deardourff creates abstracted comic book images by silk screening. Compositionally and in their coloring his works resemble comic books, though the pieces themselves lack words or narrative structure, leaving the viewer to prescribe their own story. Mark Newport knits colorful, multi-patterned superhero “uniforms,” complete with names, bios and narratives for the masked crusaders who would wear his clothing. In addition to his outfits, the exhibition features a film of Newport in the process of creating a piece. Inspired by COSPLAY and identity roles, DMV favorite Andrew Wodzianski projects a superhero persona onto everyday people in his Fanboy series of large oil paintings—a man wearing a Ninja Turtles mask or emblazoned with the signature Cobra logo from G.I. Joe—hinting that everyone has a hidden persona of some type.

Comic Book Culture: Past, Present, Future
The second floor of the Mansion is dedicated to ever-expanding comic book culture. Viewers are primed for their experience in the Reading Room, with more than 300 comic books to thumb through that provide a survey of different artistic and narrative styles. The reading Room is furnished by local retailer Beyond Comics, which is opening a pop-up shop in the exhibition beginning Thursday, April 24. The exhibition next features artists Bob McLeod and Joe Rubenstein, both famous inkers and members of comic’s old vanguard, having worked with the industry’s most recognized and celebrated publishers. On loan from Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, five works by the late Warren Kremer provide examples of a different rounded brush style of illustration that defined the appearance of characters from Richie Rich to Casper the Friendly Ghost—originals of Kremer’s character “Stumbo the Giant” will be on view in A Shared Universe.

Meanwhile, Kate Beaton and Phil and Kaja Foglio represent the evolving Web-based comic universe. Prints from Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant series and originals from the Foglio’s Girl Genius comic represent the changing, extended narrative that Web-based comics enjoy, as well as the trendy “steam punk” or “gaslamp fantasy” artistic style popular in this medium. Gene Luen Yang, author of the critically-acclaimed American Born Chinese graphic novel, represents this literary niche born from comic book art. Luen Yang’s was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award. Graphic artist and New Illustration Chair of California College of the Arts Owen Smith bridges the divide between illustration and narration with his cover images for The New Yorker, as well as Sports IllustratedTime, and Rolling Stone. Anthony Fisher, Dean of the School of Communication Arts and Chair of the Sequential Arts Program at Savannah College of Art and Design, melds comic strip and comic book art with an ink and colored pencil work that is humorous and ironic.

Smith and Fisher, both artists, administrators and educators, segue into a portion of A Shared Universe dedicated to the enterprising and imaginative young minds that will forge the future of comic books. Works by 26 students from Sequential Art degree programs will forecast where comic books might be heading, with the proliferation of Web-based comics, online marketplaces for comics, and independent presses allowing infinitely more freedom for these young artists. Four educational institutions are represented: California College of the Arts, Savannah College of Art and Design, the Center for Cartoon Studies, and The Kubert School.

Education Programming
Strathmore will enhance the visitor experience of A Shared Universe: The Art of Comic Books with public education programs. Strathmore brings together a panel of experts for Beyond Text and Line: A Discussion on the Art of Comic Books on Sunday, April 27, 2014 at 2 p.m. Moderated by Greg McElhatton, former Executive Director of the Small Press Expo (SPX,) a founding freelancer for Wizard, and a current reviewer on The discussion includes Emily Gillis of Wayward Studios; JD Deardourff, a local comic-inspired artist; Rafer Roberts of Plastic Farm Press; and Monica Gallagher of Admission is $5.

On Sunday, April 27, 2014 at 4 p.m., Strathmore presents Stripped, a feature film documentary illustrating the lives of the world’s best cartoonists. Admission to the screening is $10.

On Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 10:15 a.m., a Children’s Talk & Tour invites children to explore the exhibition and exercise their creativity through a hands-on arts activity led by professional comic illustrator Mark Mariano. At the 1 p.m. Art Talk & Tour, adults learn about the artwork in the exhibition from curator Harriet Lesser. Both events are free. Reservations are required for the Children’s Talk & Tour and can be made online or by calling (301) 581-5100.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Sperm Man

Remember that scene in Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask where the sperms are lined up and ready to "shoot" out?

Sperm Man. Charcoal and Conte on 300 weight paper. 10x8 inches. 2010 F. Lennox Campello
Sperm Man. Charcoal and Conte on 300 weight paper. 10x8 inches. 2010 F. Lennox Campello