I’m now mentioning it a THIRD time for context, but Squarespace commissioned a interactive mural/ exhibit #AllOverThisLand from me for the Newport Folk Festival this last week. With the direction of Jessica Kausen and the visual flair of Kerri Yonkman, two large vaulted spaces inside Fort Adams were transformed into the Squarespace Studios. Next door to mine, was photographer Giles Clement‘s tintype studio and lounge. Over the course of 3 days, Giles shot scores of artists and performers using the nineteenth century method, called tintype, where actual tin is exposed and developed. Concert goers were invited to hang out and watch. The results are kind of astonishing; everyone –EVERYONE– looks better and more interesting in a tintype by Giles, and this bunch was already in cool-style mode. Giles, who gave up any home, is traveling across the country tin typing with his dog, Zeiss, seen here with the GINORMOUS – I mean four stories tall big – American flag he hung at the far end of the Quad inside 200 year-old Fort Adams. Next stop Brooklyn. I got “tintypes” but it was a test, and I put a top hat over my face, so I’m hoping – because I’m doing SUCH a nice write-up here – that he’ll photograph me with my dog, Lamonte (hint, hint.) – I found a Brussels Griffon tintype on his site, below and I think Lamonte and Zeiss need to meet. Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter & Instagram.
I just got back from 6 days in Newport, where I was commissioned by Squarespace to do an interactive exhibit and mural, All Over This Land, during the Newport Folk Festival. I was expecting a nice seaside town and a sleepy music festival, boy was I wrong. What a beauty spot Newport is. From the scenic coastline, the Cliff Walk, the incredible Mansions and a hopping’ tourist scene to the site of the festival, the 200 hundred+ year-old Fort Adams State Park. You hear “folk festival” and you think of music by the festival founder, the late Pete Seeger and some quiet Peter, Paul & Mary-fied sounds, and there was that, but SO much more. Five years ago, ticket sales at the festival had become pretty dry, then Jay Sweet – a journalist and music supervisor for filmmakers the Farrelly Brothers – wrote a proposal asking to book the fest. He got the gig and put together a smash lineup with acts like Iron & Wine, Deer Tick and the Decemberists along with veterans like Arlo Guthrie. It sold out. As the 22 year-old powerhouse Benjamin Boamsoker said this year, “This ain’t no folk show,”. It sold out in 2014 too, WAY before all of the acts were announced, so all of the “big names” were all surprises. I caught Jack White, Band of Horses and Conor Oberst on the main stage, among others. In the Quad, where we were stationed, we got to hear (and sometimes see) acts like Benjamin Booker, Lucius, Trampled by Turtles and Hooray for Riff Raff, none of which I had ever heard before but were amazing.
Under the radar superbands like Puss N Boots, which is Nora Jones, Catherine Popper and Sasha Dobson played beautiful sets, and along with Lake Street Dive featuring the one-and-only Mavis Staples (video below). Jeff Tweedy, who performed with son Spencer on drums, also had Mavis onstage for “Wrote a Song For Everyone”. Saturday was Mavis’s birthday and the whole weekend was one big party for her. I was walking through the Quad after it had shut down (during Jack White’s amazing performance, which I caught a bit of) I came upon Mavis and had a quick chat and got my photo taken with the legend. (SO happy that happened!) Mavis turned 75 – she first played Newport 50 years ago with The Staple Singers. Although during her killer version of, “I’ll Take You There” she informed us that she was NOT 75. “I’m 30, with 45 years experience!” She led the finalé with Lucius, Norah Jones and a good amount of the artists that had played throughout the weekend, with the song that Pete Seeger would always close the festival with, “We Shall Overcome.” Gotta say, I got a little teary then. We all hung out after the crowds had left and watched a beautiful sunset. We later made our way backstage for an after-party and some drinks. Mavis made a grand exit in her Mavis-mobile (golf cart) to wild applause from us the crew, organizers and the other performers. A nice send-off to an amazing weekend. You’ll see some of the bands above shot by the Wild Honey Pie shot for SS Squarespace On The Boat, here.
So, Squarespace, the awesome DIY website builder commissioned me to create an interactive exhibit during the Newport Folk Festival this year. Their events coordinator, the tireless Jessica Kausen and her Squarespace team + my assistants in New York and Newport (Nicole, Amy, Colin and Brett along with Kerri Yonkman and about 20 other talented folks) toiled away in the most beautiful setting; Newport, Rhode Island. The festival founded by the late, great Pete Seeger, is in its 55 year now. My mural, All Over This Land, in the specially created Squarespace Studios (which is photographer Giles Clement and myself…more on Giles in another post) is an homage to him, inside the 200 hundred+ year-old Fort Adams.
My mural was painted by over a five hundred people from all over this land over the course of three days. (Brett wrote down where everyone was from!) Inside, there’s an exhibit of work I created just for this event, of Abstract Lighthouse and Abstract Sailboats on canvas, inspired by 60s color by number books and the area. There are chalkboards silkscreened with the lighthouse for people to temporarily alter and the same images on paper to be colored at will. We made an oversized postcard of the image and when guests address it, a lighthouse stamp was affixed and mail it for them. Everyone got a really great All Over This Land tote bag too. The whole thing was REALLY popular, needless to say. People really LOVED it. Plus, while all of this is happening, great music has been playing. Ryan Adams, Jack White, Jeff Tweedy, Conor Oberst, Lucius, Trampled By Turtles, Puss N Boots… and the amazing Mavis Staples. (More on the music in another post…)
I’m putting in a plug here for Squarespace (even though they initially said they didn’t want me to.) I’ve used them for the last two years for my site, and it is a FANTASTIC way to get a beautiful site. If someone makes a great product for a good deal (like Everlane, Warby Parker, Harry’s or even Apple, I tell people about it.) I’ve recommended it to a ton of people, but I have to be honest, I kinda slowed down doing that, with the thought, “if everyone has a great website” mine won’t look so special.” So, on second thought, DON’T check out my website, and DON’T use Squarespace.
On Thursday night, I was part of a panel discussing the life of Alex Liberman, who was Vogue‘s art director for twenty plus years and then the editorial director of Condé Nast for another thirty-two years. I met Lucy Sisman 30 years ago when I worked with her designing the first issues of Paper magazine and she was later my boss as Allure‘s Creative Director. She has written a terrific book Alexander Liberman; Way of Thinking About Design, that I contributed to. Joan Juliet Buck is a renowned writer, who is the only American ever to edit French Vogue (’94-01.) She is also an actress who famously (and fabulously) played the bitchy french cooking school marm opposite Meryl Streep in Julia & Julia.
Alexander Liberman began his publishing career in Paris with the pictorial magazine Vu, where he worked under Lucien Vogel and with photographers such as Brassaï, André Kertész, and Robert Capa. He fled WWII and emigrated to New York in 1941 and began working for Condé Nast Publications, first as Art Director of Vogue and eventually becoming the Editorial Director from 1962-1994. In the 50s, he bagan painting and later creating massive metal sculptures which are assembled from salvaged steel, often painted in primary colors. Examples of his work are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Storm King Art Center, Hirshhorn Museum, the Tate, the Guggenheim and others.
“I think many works of art are screams, and I identify with screams.”
I could scream right now – it freaks me out to say, I started at Vogue 33 years ago! I worked at 3 different magazines, besides Vogue, that Alex oversaw; Allure, House & Garden and Vanity Fair. Lloyd Ziff was originally scheduled to speak but had to cancel due to a heath issue. So, I filled in, as I joked “representing the little people”. (No one knows what the dead might think, but I feel I DO know what Alex would say about me if he were told I was speaking along with Lucy & Joan; "Who?") I was an underling, a junior designer in those days, not a writer, an editor-in-chief or creative director but I shared my stories and recollections of this most talented and intimidating man nonetheless. Lucy took us through his personal and professional life and then Joan recounted specific assignments and encounters with the difficult genius over the years. The audience was filled with the curious, our friends and former colleagues who listened intently, and asked interesting questions. It could have gone on for hours as the myth nor the man will ever be fully understood. Say what you like about him, but you cannot say that Alex Liberman didn't make an impact on popular culture in the 20th century.
“I went to see Alex in hospital when he was recovering from bypass surgery. it was not a social visit. He was lying flat, attached to various machines, but had still wanted me to bring layouts for him to see. He waved his hand for the viewing to begin. The hand went up, ‘My dear, how can I say this… your work is banal.’ I laughed.” -Lucy Sisman
“When I went to French Vogue he was full of advice. The best was ‘beware of visions of loveliness’. He was appalled when I told him I slept with mocked-up magazine covers on my bed. ‘Don’t ever take your work to bed,” he said. ‘That’s fine,’ I answered. ‘Right now I sleep alone.’” – Joan Juliet Buck
“I always wanted to be an artist, but I found myself working for magazines. Alex had one foot in the art world and one foot in the publishing world – both these worlds resented him for that; but I don’t think he gave a sh*t... he just did it because that’s what he wanted to do.” -Trey Speegle
Yes! I just posted about Mr. Mraz last week, but his new album (Yes!) just came out (#1 on iTunes!) and this week has been Jason Mraz Week, practically. One week ago, he was on CBS Sunday Morning, on Thursday, The Tonight Show, Friday AM, The Today Show and that same night, an I Heart Radio concert for maybe 200-300 people in lower Manhattan. I’m exhausted just thinking about doing all that. He makes it look easy. He just announced that in September, on the Yes! tour with Raining Jane, they will play all 5 boroughs, in mostly smaller venues, finally winding up in probably the best house in a city which has many great ones – Radio City Music Hall. You can get concert info for those shows and the rest of the tour here.
Last night, after that amazing private concert – that was broadcast across the country – we hung out a bit backstage with Raining Jane and a few friends and then headed uptown to have a bite to eat. New York seemed almost deserted for a Friday night but it’s mid-July and everyone had already gotten the hell out of town for the weekend. It was an exceptionally beautiful summer night, catching up on life with Jason and his girlfriend –who won’t be named or pictured here, they keep that private, you can understand. There is almost nothing nicer than cocktails with friends, an impromptu dinner and a nice conversation about life, art, travel, love, cats, dogs – and most importantly, gelato. After dinner we walked over to THE best gelato place in New York City (and am I’m assuming, THE WORLD) Grom. Is there one in your town? Seek it out. It’s life-changing. Am I overstating it? No. Walking back to their hotel on a perfect summer night, with NYC at about 60%, it seemed, SO still, not dead (it’s still New York) but just about as low key as it gets. It was long, LONG ass day for Jason (going on 20 hours and two concerts) but like the title of the short film below, “We can take the long way…”, we did. It takes a bit more time, but it makes for a better memory. Get into it. Yes!
I’ve known photographer Arian Camilleri ever since he started shooting my artwork installations about 5 years ago. He shoots all sorts of work, fashion, portraits and his own fine art pics. I remember seeing the beginning photos from a series he was doing with his friend, artist Rodney White. Last year they were invited to document the music scene Afropunk as part of that ongoing art portrait series called Human°. Among those concert goers and musicians they shot were Chuck D, Big Freedia, Saul Williams, Vernon Reid, Unlocking the Truth and Jada Pinkett Smith to name a few. Click here to see the entire collection on their new website.
I drove my old Volvo station wagon with my dog Lamonte out to see ArtHamptons and hang out with my friends at the beach this weekend. I was discussing with one of my old pals who lives out here year ’round how much the Hamptons have changed in the last two decades. Originally, it was primarily farm land and a way to escape to the beach from the heat of the city. But as more money started to pour in, more of the people who came for the beauty of the place have started to exit. Artists have always worked out here. Famously, Pollack, DeKooning and further out in Montauk, Warhol, who really played more than worked. A few years ago the Parrish Art Museum moved into a new space and around the same time ArtHamptons arrived. This was my first year and it was sort of what I expected. There’s always a lot of money out here, so to spend a few thousand on some art in an afternoon is comparable to me going to Target for a shopfest. There was some good work, but more mediocre to bad, in my opinion. I ran into painter Peter Reginato, who had some nice work (we are currently in a group show in Chelsea together) but there wasn’t enough other good work to make a story, so famous faces became my theme. You know it’s not a great show when you are taking pics of Mr. Brainwash, the subject of the great documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop. He does his best to be pop and splashy, but with limited success. There were multiple Kate Mosses and Marilyns’ throughout the fair. Celebrity culture was aptly represented by the patron saint of just about any fair these days; Andy Warhol. Richard Pettibon did these tiny, 2 x 2″ portraits years and years ago and they serve as a reminder of how clairvoyant Andy was about pop culture, celebrity and the media and how out of control his Pandora has gotten. When the Kardashians flock here to film their show, you kinda know the party must have been over a while ago.
Right next door to ArtHamptons was the party for the Empire State Pride Agenda where legendary Lady Bunny DJ’d and posed her way through an afternoon of dancing and fun with hundreds of supporters and friends. This event was inclusive to all as the kids (gaybees or otherwise) got in on the action with play area sponsored by Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams. So, needless to say it didn’t get too wild, as it was over by the time the sun went down. But Bunny can bring the old school (and apparently, even the PRE-school) together under the big tent that is the LGBTQ community in 2014.
Photographer Gregg Segal shot these people lying a week's load of trash, in an on-going project called “7 Days of Garbage”. People from different social backgrounds were enlisted to reach a wider audience. I'm sure we wouldn't look any better with our own trash. Multiply this times 7 billion X 52 weeks a year.
I can tell you first-hand, he’s a nice guy. We met 4 years ago when he was performing at The Trevor Project‘s annual gala (Trevor is a teen LGBT suicide hotline) He has bought a lot of my work, rerouted his tour bus to come to an opening reception and flown in from day off touring to host a dinner for another exhibit of mine. I’ve met up with him on tour in Europe in ’12 and we collaborated on a piece from my last show. The reason I’m telling you this is not to say I know a cool guy –a famous musician, who collects my work – but rather just to illustrate what a good guy and a great friend he is. And not just to me. I’ve seen his kindness in action, for the sake of it, not for PR. He has thousands fans screaming his name but he is as grounded (more so) than most people I know. I’ve just asked him to borrow his huge framed piece we collaborated for another exhibit and home just one day from his summer tour, he just texted me to say he’s happy to get it ready to ship out across the country. I love the guy. So, it was no surprise to me to see these quotes in The Advocate. His new album “Yes!” (a word we both love that I’ve used in my work, one that he owns) The album, recorded, written and performed with Raining Jane, is out July 15. But the coming out quotes are what is getting attention.
In addition to music, Mraz has said YES to many philanthropic endeavors. In 2011 he established the Jason Mraz Foundation, which supports charities working in areas Mraz considers personal passions, such as environmental preservation, education, and worldwide human equality. LGBT civil rights are a component of that human equality and Mraz admits it’s a view that formed the moment one of his best friends came out to him during his senior year of high school.
“When [Steven] came out to me it blew my mind. I thought that was so courageous, because of the potential for abuse and the potential for violence — it was something that I worried about for him. But I also thought it was the coolest thing anyone could do, and from then on I knew I wanted to support him and anyone else who was courageous enough to just be themselves.
“Steven was a huge Madonna fan. So, I may know all the words to “Bedtime Stories”, “Erotica”, and a few more of her albums – and we may have watched Truth or Dare a thousand times. I thank him so much for turning me on to all of that, because it may have influenced me big time in who I’ve become now that I’m onstage, and since here I am now, with a bit of a platform and a microphone, it’s a no-brainer. I should be speaking up for some of my best friends, my management team, my employees, and many of my colleagues. We’re all in this together.”
“By the time my children are born, I know it’s possible that they can grow up in a world where they don’t understand that there were ever any dividers between people and why we have the issues we do today. That’s my goal in this life. To just clean it all up so that by the time my kids are born and they’re adults they’ll only read about it in history books.”
When I grow up, I want to be like Jason Mraz. Seriously, he’s one of my heroes in this life. (You can get tour and album info here)
George Quaintance was an artist ahead of his time, he was a man who forged several successful careers, yet he never enjoyed what we would call today, “mainstream fame”. Had he been born a few decades later, we might know him today as a multi-tasking celebrity stylist, a Dancing with the Stars judge, or maybe the fine artist he always wanted to be. Quaintance, who died in 1957, lived in an era when homosexuality was repressed, and his joyful, sexy paintings and physique photos couldn’t EVER depict a penis (but he showed lots of ass!) Before Stonewall, the sexual revolution, gay rights and the AIDS crisis, Quaintance and his stylized and erotic art existed in a borderline legality. Half a century later, the masculine fantasy world created by Quaintance, with his Latin lovers, lusty cowboys and chiseled ranch hands, still holds its allure. His highly prized paintings — numbering just 55 in total — rarely come up for auction, instead selling privately for undisclosed sums. As one of the preeminent “male physique” artists of the 40s and early 50s, his work for Physique Pictorial, Demi-Gods and Body Beautiful inspired a generation of artists like Tom of Finland, Harry Bush and Etienne. Raised on a farm in Virginia, Quaintance, was a Vaudeville dancer, the favored portraitist of Washington’s smart set, and a celebrity hair designer — though he never actually touched hair. Taschen’s new book,Quantaince, traces this remarkable life and splashes out his colorful paintings for all the world to see.