Whatever it Takes – Games, Fans, Football, Art

•January 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’m a Steelers fan. I have been a Steelers fan for ages and I trust I will be one for many years to come. Tonight they will be destroying the New York Jets to win the AFC Championship on their way to the Superbowl. (This has extra joy for me as I really dislike the Jets and Mark Sanchez will probably cry.)

Now to get ready for the game I would like to share a special show. A friend of a friend is curating an exhibition at the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University  in Pittsburgh entitled Whatever it Takes – Steelers Fan Collections, Rituals and Obsessions. Focusing on how Steelers fandom is the dominant culture in Pittsburgh, which also unifies it’s citizens more than any other, it highlights bizarre rituals of individual Steelers fans, sports memorabilia collections and just some fun, interestingly creative expressions of Steelers joy. I would love to see this for myself but it wraps up on the 30th and I just can’t make it. If you can please send me a postcard.

All images from the Whatever it Takes exhibition site, except for the beer. That’s all mine.

CUJAH Submission Deadline

•January 20, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Listen up kids, the deadline for submitting to this year’s Concordia Undergraduate journal of Art History is in just over 28 hours! That’s right, January 21st at midnight is the cutoff. So pull out those dusty A papers and get them in for publication.

Really there is nothing too lose and it’s a good experience for all those looking to get published academically beyond their undergrad. It’s also a pretty good exercise in really editing a paper if it chosen for publication. The student staff of editors are brilliant and incredibly helpful in getting your work the best it can be.

I might be a little nostalgic, I was published in the 5th Volume. And that was my shameless plug. Send a 250-word abstract to info@cujah.com.

Liar Liar

•January 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Tomorrow night at the Belmont theater the Liar Liar show will be taking the stage.  Three comics, two truths and one big fat liar. Fantastic. Moving away from a traditional approach to stand up this comedy night will feature a nice amount of audience participation…guessing which of the three is full of lies, lies for laughter.

Check out the article in the Link about what this show will be all about.

I’ll be there and will write you up a review about the show, but I have a feeling it’s going to be something good I will want to go back to monthly. Starts at 8 at Belmont, 4483 St. Laurent. Tickets are 12$ advance and 14$ at the door. See you there.

A USWM New Years party

•January 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Would you like to start the year off right with some good music, good people and good whiskey? Had a bit of a holiday whirlwind or missed the whole shebang due to a job you couldn’t get away from? That’s what the Locals and Barworkers Holiday party is for. This annual two night affair is sponsored by local deliciousness St. Ambroise brewery and is led by United Steelworks of Montreal who are playing both nights.

This is local band has been ranked one of Montreal’s best acts in the Mirror, only ever behind the enormous Arcade Fire. Described as city grass, they are a brilliant blend of country, blue grass, rockabilly, just the right amount of punk and whiskey goodness.  Always a fantastic live show, they do not disappoint. Taking place at Sala Rossa, 4848 St. Laurent, January 7 & 8, each night starting at 9. Friday you can catch the Steelworkers with the ridiculous Bad Uncle as well as Washboard Hank and the Corn Pickles. Saturday brings out Irish Bastards, Notre Dame de Grass rounded out by the second Steelworkers performance of the weekend.  Check it out either night or both, you really can’t go wrong.


Birch Biting in the New Year

•January 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

So the holidays are coming to a close and the new year has begun, I hope all have had lovely and safe times. It’s the time of year to plan out goals for the year ahead and for me that includes some more devotion to the Ashcan. So to start the year off I would like to share something I came across while visiting out of town family.

Birch biting. When I first heard this it sounded like the oddest art form yet, but this traditional Native practice is truly stunning. Thin sheets of birch bark are literally bit to create intricate patterns and designs. Algonquin Native groups such as the Cree and Chippewa used this to experiment with new patterns designs that could be later transferred to fabrics and used as base patterns for beadwork. Also used as decorative additions, pieces of birch bitings were put on walls of homes, canoes, and as containers used domestically.

The pieces are small and delicate and really quite lovely. Traditionally the practice of birch biting was something done casually and in groups of women. This continues on today, though some of the work has reached a higher regard as a decorative fine art form. Canadian artist Angelique Merasty is one of the most renowned in the field. Taught the art form by her mother, the artists remembers it beginning when families came together and the women would gather and begin biting, sometimes leading to friendly competitions to see how original and intricate designs could be.

A sweet and delightful practice, birch biting is surprising in how interesting the designs can be. Who knew how talented some teeth can be?

Otto Dix

•December 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

In less than a month the Otto Dix exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts will be coming to an end. If you haven’t had the chance to good check it out yet, what have you been doing? One of the finest shows the museum has put on in some time. The often forgotten and under appreciated German artist Otto Dix is brought to front center and his beautiful, terrifying and brilliant work is displayed in one of the most complete collections seen anywhere.

Working through his work chronologically starting with his experiences of World War I as grotesquely depicted through his print series, his realistic and ghastly depictions of the aftermath of those who survived the war,  through to his forays into Dada, Surrealism, and German Expressionism.

Never quite fitting into any one category or movement in art he was very much his own man, with his own style and never allowing for his critique and visions of the world he encountered in the early half of the 20th century in Germany. During the German depression he never showed people the way they had hoped to be seen, persevering and keeping up appearances, but instead was inclined to show lower class children in ill fitting clothing, veterans, limbless and disfigured begging on the streets, forgotten by the people they served to protect, and almost most commonly the women who turned to selling their bodies on the streets.

Prostitution came up often in his work in varied ways. From showing the paid love the disfigured men returning from war turned to, tot he unhappy women who had no other means to feed and clothe themselves, to displaying the shocking danger of the sex trade in the form of his series of murder scenes that had strong sexual overtones.

I am a big fan of traditional paintings of female nudes and different variations that have been executed throughout art history, particularly Manet’s Olympia which has been a long time favourite. Dix tries his hand at this with his 1926 Half Nude, the painting that captivated me the most throughout the exhibit. The uncomfortable, confronting stare of the poser and her shamed covering of her body takes the traditional idea of the nude and creates and off putting yet intriguing image. His works have underlying stories that the viewer can’t quite get at, but they create a conversation that can not be ignored.

The bulk of his work was destroyed by the Nazi regime and he was an ostracized artist and his work was part of the Nazi degenerate art show before it’s destruction. It is a shame that so much of his long career has been lost, but what is left is representational of a 20th century genius. He is someone to be known and seen.

Inside his Dreams

•October 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So, after being an ass and neglecting the Ashcan for too long it is time to touch base, only long enough to share and experience you must partake in. Dustyn Lucas of local band the Unsettlers is having his lone art show at Gallery Art Neuf in the heart of Parc Lafontaine. It will be on until the 24th of October and if you are in the area I would strongly recommend dropping by. I went up for the opening and was not disappointed, except maybe in how small a show it is. There could not be enough of his eerie, interesting and beautiful.

His beautifully executed paintings are derived from his dreams. Lucas describes the images and renditions of those he comes across in his lucid dream states, waking to sketch and create the paintings. They are surreal and tease at your subconscious, with strange but somehow familiar images reaching out to you. Check it out while you still can and get an intro from his website.

Montreal Film Fest

•September 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The Montreal International Black Film Festival open this Wednesday, the 22nd. It will run through to the 3rd of October. In this, its sixth year, the festival will open with the Canadian premiere of Jean Van de Velde’s The Silent Army at the opening gala.

A press release describes the relatively young annual festival as a “dynamic, refreshing and audacious festival whose ambition is to encourage the development of the independent film industry and to promote more films on the reality of Black people from around the world.”

Check out the festival events here and see some fantastic films.  Also check out the below synopsis found on The Silent Army.

The Silent Army – Synopsis

Life as a restaurant owner in an eastern African country is not easy for the 40 year old, African born and bred Eduard Zuiderwijk after the sudden death of his wife. He now stands for the task of raising his 9-year-old son Thomas all by himself.

The young Thomas seeks and gains support from his friend Abu, son of Mafillu, one of the female black staff members in the restaurant. One day Abu disappears suddenly together with at least ten other children, after a nightly and violent raid of his village by the rebel army. Abu’s father and many other villagers were killed and the missing children are nowhere to be found.
Young Thomas cannot be consoled. He wants Abu back, and Eduard, who feels he is failing as a father, decides to try to find Abu and save him from the hands of the rebel leader. While Eduard proceeds to an IDP camp in the middle of the conflict-infested area to gather information about the possible whereabouts of Abu and the other abducted children, Abu himself is undergoing harsh child soldier training in the rebel army of Michel Obeke. No means, either physical or psychological, are being withheld in order to transform the children into ruthless killers.
Against the advice and will of the aid workers that Eduard meets, he persists in his plight towards finding and saving his son’s friend, and after a dangerous and irresponsible search through the jungle he manages to reach Michel Obeke’s camp. Obeke demonstrates to Eduard that all of the children in his camp are there of their own free will, and that neither Abu nor any other child wants to leave the rebel army and go with Eduard. When Eduard is an unintentional witness to a secret weapon delivery his troubles become even more immense. The arms dealers as well as Michel Obeke want to rid themselves of this inconvenient spy. Eduard now not only needs to save Abu but also his own life.

Internships, exposure, volunteering, oh my

•September 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Hey kids, back to school time and if your one of those lucky folks not tethered to a repetitive draining job and looking for a little experience in the art world maybe an internship of some cultural volunteer work is something you may nod yes to. The things we do for free…

Here’s a contemporary gallery internship that could do you good at the Parisian Laundry.

“Contemporary Art Gallery  month advanced Professional Internship, unpaid

BA / BFA required, with primary study in one of the following areas: Art History, Museum Studies, Arts Management, Curatorial Studies, or Studio Arts.

Begins early September

Friday | Saturday 10:00 – 5:00 + occasional evening receptions.

PL is seeking a general gallery intern prepared to commit to an intensive, hands-on, gallery training internship. This internship offers the right candidate an opportunity to obtain and develop professional experience in multiple aspects of a gallery business, and to offer a hands-on educational experience. This internship is ideal for positioning oneself for a position as a gallery assistant, registrar or archivist in a gallery, arts organization or museum; as well as aiding in individual aspirations towards curating or gallery ownership.

Candidates must posses a friendly and professional manner with strong organizational skills; passion for contemporary art; excellent communication skills; be detailed, personable, well-presented, outgoing, be able to practice discretion, follow procedures accurately and have an exceptionally strong and rigorous work ethic and focus.

The internship entails performing and learning in small staff environment on a wide range of duties, including visitor services; staff support; maintaining art inventory database; maintaining artists’ exhibitions records; maintaining website and Facebook image content; use Photoshop (non-extensive) to color-correct and crop images; interface with artists; participate in evening opening receptions; assist in exhibition installations; maintaining clean appearance of gallery and office.

Computer skills are absolute: fluency in Mac platform with MS Office and/or Apple Pages. Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and gallery management software is a plus.

Email resume with cover letter, clearly labeled with your name to:


No phone calls or in-person inquires; email only.”

Maybe a little volunteer time would be better, well Les Journees de la culture needs volunteers for September 24th-26th. Check the positions below and contact Intern Coordinator Assistnat Gabrielle Lefebrve at 514-864-7918 or at projets@culturepourtous.ca.

Give the website a look around too.

  • Cultural mediator on guided tours of galleries, dance studios and artist centres.
  • Guide on the free TD shuttles on Saturday, September 25* ( http://www.culturepourtous.ca/vivayiti/ )
  • Guide on the free TD shuttles on Sunday, September 26 (family route)

Knitting Graffiti

•August 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I came across a post from Bis Films Blog about s little known form of street art and graffiti, Knitting Graffiti. Noticed around town on Bixi bikes and on the poles of street signs, this very unique form of street art brings the heart homing home craft of knitting to the street, mixing with the grit, grime and wear of more commonly known forms of graffiti.

Knitting Graffiti has been casting around the world over the past five years, sprouting from a small movement in Houston. The group, known as Knitta has copy cat groups in cities the world over, including here in Montreal. While the original groups numbers have dwindled over the years, the popularity the world over is keeping the spirit of Knitting Graffiti alive.  The idea is that wrapping public elements such as hydrants, trees, poles, meters, is a way to beautify the public spaces of the urban landscape around them. A sweet and novel idea, the soft threads appear cozy and homey when mixed with steel and concrete. It warms up cold urban spots. Yes warms them in yarn. Puns don’t seem off base when speaking of Knitta, with members using tags like PolyCotN and AKrylic, Knotorious N.I.T., SonOfaStitch and P-Knitty. Describing their tags a sort of connection to hip hop and graffiti culture, but seems a little too much of a novelty to be taken seriously in the realm of street art. But there lies the discussion, what is street art? Is graffiti art? Do the works of Banksy, Roadsworth, Invader, Knitta and countless street artists deserve to have the same recognition as ‘fine’ artists? Maybe.

It may be difficult for people to consider street as something worth paying attention too, and yes there is a lot of bad street art, often there are some great tags and stencil works that liven up the urban landscape, adding character to buildings that blend together in the banality of some urban blocks. Adding to our visual culture street art has a value in the eye of the beholder. Some may consider it a nuisance and vandalism, others as a nice touch to the look of a block, but it is always an attempt by someone to add something the world we will live in, a contribution to the visual culture that provided by our surrounding world. Knitted poles and treehuggers may be difficult to be considered art, but if they can open up a discussion about the world of street art. Knitta may not have the same effect that Banksy has had in the world of street art reaching the main stream, but it is part of the same discussion.

Where is the line of art? Does the amateur street artist have the same credibility as the amateur oil painter? Does medium alone affect the overall opinion, is it that simple? Can a renowned street artist like Banksy and Montreal’s own Roadsworth  be considered high art form? One comparison I read when reading up on Knitta was to Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Particularly how their wrapping of large structures in fabric was both loved and despised, but regardless of the opinion of the person, everyone had one and people became passionate when discussing large-scale conceptual art. Graffiti and this Knitting Graffiti can be considered in the same way. Talk about it as art or not, but at least people can start talking about it.

Personally I’m not sure where the art line should be drawn. I suppose the old argument of I can’t give you a definition but I know it’s art when I see it, isn’t sufficient, though I really wish it were. There is bad graffiti and good graffiti, like any form of art. It adds to the art vocabulary already handed down from academies and it adds to the visual experience of daily life. That must give it some credit. But really, who doesn’t enjoy walking down the street only to stumble upon the tongue and cheekiness of Roadsworth’s latest stencil. I know I do, and I think that counts for quite a bit.